What ho, gentle WOTtites! It is Monday, and therefore time for a Wheel of Time Re-read! Huzzah!
Today’s post covers Chapters 49-50 of Lord of Chaos, in which there are incidents and accidents, there are hints and allegations, and I discover a need for hot chocolate and Advil, respectively. Sigh.
Previous entries are here. This and all prior posts contain spoilers for all currently published novels of the Wheel of Time series up to and including Knife of Dreams, so if you haven’t read, don’t read.
The Prologue of The Gathering Storm, “What the Storm Means,” is available for download here on Tor.com or at multiple online vendors. Chapter 1 is still available as well, and Chapter 2 is available in audio format. Please refrain from posting spoilers for either the Prologue or Chapters 1-2 in the posts for the Re-read, in order to protect those who have not yet read them, or do not intend to before the release of the entire book. Spoiler discussion is going on at the respective posts announcing the releases, linked above; please keep them there. Thanks.
And... yes. The post!
Chapter 49: The Mirror of Mists
Perrin and Rand sit in a courtyard in the palace, puffing on pipes and relaxing. Rand asks Perrin again if he won’t consider Tear; Perrin asks, what about Min’s viewing? Rand asks if Perrin really wants to be “tied to [his] belt”, and Perrin replies dryly that what he wants hasn’t seemed to matter since the day Moiraine showed up in Emond’s Field. Suddenly he looks to their left, and a long moment later Loial enters; Rand and Perrin both spring up to greet him, and usher him to sit and rest. Loial is puzzled at their solicitousness, and insists he is fine, telling Perrin that he owes Loial a gold crown for getting to Caemlyn even faster than they wagered; Perrin grins and informs Rand that Gaul has gotten Loial into gambling, to Rand’s amusement. They both want to know if he stayed long enough in the stedding, and Loial answers that he’s good for another ten years. Rand replies that’s not what his mother says, and Loial is appalled to learn that she had been in Caemlyn with Elder Haman and Erith. He says it means he has to get married, and he moans that now he won’t be able to go with Rand or finish his book; it’s all very well for Perrin to grin, since Faile does whatever he wants (Perrin chokes on his pipe), but in Ogier society it is considered “very rude” not to obey your wife, and she’ll make him settle down to something respectable.
Abruptly he frowned and stopped pacing. “Did you say Erith?” Rand nodded; Perrin seemed to be getting his breath back, but he was glaring at Loial in a sort of malevolent amusement. “Erith, daughter of Iva daughter of Alar?” Rand nodded again, and Loial sank back to his place on the fountain coping. “But I know her. You remember her, Rand. We met her at Stedding Tsofu.”
“That is what I was trying to tell you,” Rand said patiently. And with no little amusement himself. “She was the one who said you’re handsome. And gave you a flower, as I recall.”
“She might have said,” Loial muttered defensively. “She might have done; I cannot recall.” But one hand strayed toward a coat pocket full of books, where Rand would have wagered anything that flower was carefully pressed.
He continues that Erith is very beautiful, and listened to him very attentively when he explained one of his theories about the Ways. This reminds Rand of his project to put guards on all the Waygates, and he tells Loial that he needs someone to talk to the Elders and get their permission for it. This angers Perrin, who tells Rand that he’s already sent Mat off to face down Aes Sedai, wants to send Perrin to fight Sammael, and now wants to send Loial off when he just arrived; is there anyone he won’t use?
Anger welled up in Rand, a tempest that made him shake. Those yellow eyes stared at him grimly, but he stared back like thunder. “I will use anybody I must. You said it yourself; I am who I am. And I’m using myself up, Perrin, because I have to. Just like I’ll use anybody I have to. We don’t have a choice anymore. Not me, not you, not anybody!”
Loial mutters anxiously for them not to fight, and Rand finally apologizes. Perrin makes an off-handed gesture, but does not apologize in turn. They are interrupted by a highly agitated Min, who dashes into the courtyard to tell Rand the Aes Sedai are coming. There are seven of them, not three, and they intend to enter the Palace and go to the Grand Hall before Rand knows they have arrived; Min galloped all the way to beat them here. Lews Therin begins whimpering about not being able to handle seven, and Rand thinks of the fat man angreal, which calms the voice a little. He calmly asks Min if she thinks this is her viewing, but Min doesn’t know. He asks Jalani to get things ready for him in the Hall, making a joke when she tells him it’s all under way already; Perrin and Loial laugh, but Min punches him in the ribs and tells him it’s no laughing matter. Insisting Min stay with Perrin and Loial (and rather surprised when she agrees), he hurries to the Grand Hall, which is crowded to bursting with Aiel, all veiled, and barely gets settled before Mistress Harfor comes in to announce the Aes Sedai. They enter on her heels, decked out in their shawls, and Rand seizes saidin before Lews Therin can beat him to it. Rand figures the one of the seven he does not recognize must be Demira Eriff, and wonders why she is leading the others; he senses that they have embraced saidar, and they appear to be growing taller as they head toward him. Lews Therin is incredulous that they expect “the Mirror of Mists” to impress him, but it’s unnerving the Aiel, except for Melaine.
Demira Eriff began to speak, and plainly channeling was involved there too. She did not shout, but her voice filled the Grand Hall, seeming to come from everywhere. “Under the circumstances, it was decided that I should speak for all. We intend you no harm here today, but the strictures we accepted before, that you would feel safe, we must now reject. Obviously you have never learned the respect due Aes Sedai. You must learn it now. Henceforth we shall come and go as we please, saving only that at our choice, we will still inform you first in the future when we wish to speak with you. Your Aiel watchers around our inn must be removed, and no one is to watch or follow us. Any future insult to our dignity will be punished, though those we must punish are as children, and you will be responsible for their pain. This is how it must be. This is how it shall be. Know that we are Aes Sedai.”
Lews Therin screams about striking now, but Rand makes himself lean back casually, wondering what “circumstances” could make them feel they could threaten him now, and remarks that the Tower embassy in Cairhien accepts the same restrictions, and offer gifts, not threats. Demira replies contemptuously that they will not buy him, and Rand fights down anger. He then wrestles with Lews Therin, who thinks Rand waited too long to shield them, and instead uses saidin to shatter their illusion; they look shocked for a moment, but recover, and Demira says they expect their requirements to be met. He holds off Lews Therin, who is screaming and clawing for the Source, and stands.
“The restrictions stand,” he said quietly. “And one more requirement of my own. From now on I expect to see the respect I deserve from you. I am the Dragon Reborn. You may go now. The audience is at an end.”
They stare at him a moment, then leave without a word; Melaine opines loudly that he handled them well. Rand stares after the Aes Sedai, wishing he understood what was going on.
Min leaves her hiding place where she had observed the audience, and tries to figure out how to smooth this all over, but knows she can’t unless she learns what ticked off the Aes Sedai in the first place. She heads back to the inn, where she finds Rafela’s Warder, a Kandori man named Mahiro Shukosa who seems to fondly regard Min as a younger sister.
“So, cabbage,” he said with a grin, “back with your neck unbroken, not kidnapped and not married.” One day she was going to ask him what that meant; he always said it.
She asks him if anything happened, and he tells her, other than the Aes Sedai returning from the Palace looking like “a storm in the mountains”? He advises her to stay out of business that isn’t hers, but Min cajoles him for just a hint. While he considers, Min freezes to see two more Aes Sedai, Bera Harkin and Kiruna Nachiman, enter the common room; she sees an aura around them that makes her “stop breathing”. They don’t notice Min, and she overhears them disgustedly discussing Alanna’s failure to “bring him to heel” before they head upstairs. Min tries to stay calm, thinking of how there are now thirteen Aes Sedai in Caemlyn, and asks Mahiro for her hint.
He hesitated another moment, then set the puzzle down. “I will not say what is or is not, but a word in a good ear. Maybe you should expect al’Thor to be upset. Maybe you should even consider asking if someone else can deliver any messages, perhaps one of us.” He meant the Warders. “Maybe the sisters have decided to teach al’Thor a small lesson in humility. And that, cabbage, is maybe a word more than I should have said. You will think on it?”
Min asks him to tell Merana she is sightseeing for the next few days, and leaves again, to gallop back to the Palace for the second time.
“Thirteen,” Rand said flatly, and just saying it was enough for Lews Therin to try seizing control of saidin from him again. It was a wordless struggle with a snarling beast.
Min says it’s not just that, it’s the aura she saw: blood, death, the One Power, the two Aes Sedai, and Rand, all in the same place. She adds that Bera and Kiruna do not like Rand at all, and together with her other viewing it’s all too much. Rand thinks about how Merana had decided to challenge him on the very day their number reached thirteen, and wonders if maybe Lews Therin is right about a preemptive strike. Rand tells one of the Maidens to have Nandera meet him in Perrin’s rooms with as many Maidens as she wants to take, and sends for paper and ink, and for someone to find Perrin, Faile, and Loial. Min asks where they going.
“Cairhien.” With the Void around him, that came out cold as a slap in the face. “Trust me, Min. I won’t hurt you. I will cut off my arm before I hurt you.” She was silent, and he finally looked down to find her peering up at him with a strange expression.
“That’s very nice to hear, sheepherder.” Her voice was as odd as her face. The thought of thirteen Aes Sedai coming for him must have really frightened her, and small wonder.
Rand promises to send her from harm if it comes to facing them, and Min flourishes her knives, declaring she can take care of herself. In Perrin’s rooms, Rand explains about the thirteen Aes Sedai to Perrin, Faile, Loial, Gaul, Bain, Chiad, and Sulin; Bain and Chiad announce they are accompanying Faile, whereupon Gaul immediately declares he is coming with Perrin, while Loial goes to pack, and Sulin leaves and reappears with more servants’ dresses, growling that she had been commanded to serve them wherever they are. When the paper and ink arrives, everyone sends notes: Perrin to Dannil to tell him to follow them to Cairhien (Rand and Faile talk him out of trying to get Bode and the others away from Verin and Alanna), Faile to her parents, Min to Mahiro (who she makes a point of telling Rand is an old man), and Loial to Erith, though he tries to hide the name. Hands shaking, Rand writes to Taim to warn him about the thirteen and to repeat his orders to stay away from them.
And to Merana, a different sort of warning, and an invitation of a kind. It was no use him trying to hide; Alanna could find him anywhere in the world eventually. It had to be on his terms, though, if he could manage that.
He barely reacts to Nandera’s decision to bring over five hundred Maidens with them to Cairhien, concentrating on tamping down Lews Therin, and when they finally all arrive in Cairhien is so exhausted from the struggle that Loial has to carry him to his rooms.
Merana sits quietly with al’Thor’s letter in her lap, which she already knows by heart.
Merana, it began. Not Merana Aes Sedai, nor even Merana Sedai.
A friend of mine once told me that in most dice games, the number thirteen is considered nearly as unlucky as rolling the Dark One’s Eyes. I also think thirteen is an unlucky number. I am going to Cairhien. You may follow me as you can with no more than five other sisters. That way you will be on an equal footing with the emissaries from the White Tower. I will be displeased if you try to bring more. Do not press me again. I have little trust left in me.
The Dragon Reborn
At the end, his pen had pressed so hard that it nearly tore the paper; the last two lines almost seemed a different hand from the rest.
Everyone else is there in the room except for Verin and Alanna. Bera, Kiruna and the others express disgust over al’Thor daring to write such a letter, and marvel over the existence of Traveling. Verin enters, and confirms Perrin Aybara’s departure as well, managing to mention the Two Rivers men’s banner of Manetheren, which makes Kairen gasp. Merana reflects how foolish it had been to worry about Verin taking over, now that Bera and Kiruna are here; all Verin had done was guide Demira into suggesting today’s “unfortunate” confrontation. Merana supposes she started it by deferring to Verin, but now the embassy is well and truly crumbling.
It was the sort of thing that would never have happened when the White Tower was whole, when an ambassador had the full power of the Tower and the Amyrlin Seat behind her, and no matter if she had taken thirty years to reach the shawl and barely had enough strength to keep from being sent away. They were only a collection of Aes Sedai now, slipping into their relative places without thought.
Alanna enters, and Bera and Kiruna immediately swoop on her, demanding confirmation that Rand is in Cairhien; Alanna defiantly answers that he is somewhere to the east, which could well be Cairhien. Kiruna wants to know why, if she were going to bond someone without asking, she hadn’t gone ahead and used the bond to “bend him to [her] will” while she was at it; Alanna replies, to Bera and Kiruna’s shock, that she tried, and it was like “trying to uproot an oak with her bare hands”. She supposes that it might be because of the fact that he can channel. Bera and Kiruna recover, and tell her no matter, she will still come with them to Cairhien. Merana decides to make one last effort to reassert control, and reminds them of the embassy’s original mission, pointing out as neutrally as possible that the fault for his flight must be laid on Bera and Kiruna’s arrival, however accidental. Bera and Kiruna shut her down and go right back to discussing who should come with them to Cairhien.
Merana trembled, the folded letter crumpling in her fist. “Don’t you see?” she shouted. “You talk as if we can go on as before, as if nothing has changed. There is an embassy from Elaida in Cairhien, from the White Tower. That is how al’Thor must see it. We need him more than he needs us, and I fear he knows it!”
Everyone except Verin looks shocked; Verin nods thoughtfully, with a small smile. Then Bera tells Merana to sit down; she obeys automatically, and Bera and Kiruna decide that Verin, Faeldrin, Masuri, and Seonid will come with them to Cairhien, while Demira, Berenicia, Kairen and Valinde will escort the Two Rivers girls to Salidar, along with Merana. Merana feels cold, and weakly points out that they could use a Gray with them in Cairhien to negotiate; Bera stares at her a moment, and then allows her to come along condescendingly. Merana prays that the rebels have elected someone strong to be Amyrlin, and that they find al’Thor before he decides to acknowledge Elaida, or nothing would save them.
I have a feeling I ought to be headdesking a bloody groove into my computer table right about now, but honestly at this point I’m just reduced to my patented weary sigh of You Make Me Tired, You Stupid, Stupid People. Which is nice for the furniture, I suppose. I’m just going to curl up with my hot mug and my ennui in the meantime.
So, the Snit Heard Round the World. This is the problem with righteous anger, a lesson I learned on Usenet, of all places. Quite aside from the Salidar embassy’s complete (and thematic) misinterpretation of information making their Smackdown of Virtuous Justice ring quite hollow, the thing about striking back is that even if you’re in the right to do so, it rarely produces the effect you think it ought to. In fact, in my experience nine times out of ten it only makes things worse.
It’s the whole “fight or flight” thing; when people are attacked, whether verbally or physically, the impulse to either retreat or retaliate is virtually automatic. Whether they deserve to be smacked around is nearly always subsumed by the instinct to defend themselves anyway, and in fact more often than not the knowledge that they are in the wrong will induce them to counterattack that much more fiercely. In Rand’s case, paranoia, stress, and mistrust take the place of actual guilt quite nicely, so at the end of the day it was six of one, half a dozen of the other from a results point of view. Basically there was just about no way in hell for the Salidar embassy’s facedown with Rand to end any way but badly. (And given the titanic battle Rand was having in his own head with Lews Therin, they have no idea just how badly it could have gone.)
Should they have known this? Well of course they should have, but that’s the thing about righteous anger: we so badly want it to work that we rarely pay any attention to the fact that it hardly ever does. The human race has historically displayed remarkable stubbornness in our refusal to admit the unfair truth, of the just response’s tendency to obtain the unjust result.
And that, boys and girls, is why we have wars – or at least why we have wars that span years and decades and even generations. Ain’t it grand?
In fact, usually the only place the Righteous Smackdown ever works is in fiction. Except, of course, when it doesn’t.
Loial: Is still adorable. And, oppressed by the matriarchy. Yay, not.
Mahiro: I don’t know why him calling Min “cabbage” amused me so much, but it did. I like him. Does he survive Dumai’s Wells? I hope so, but I can’t remember at the moment. Well, I’ll find out soon enough.
Min: We used to never be sure if her reaction to Rand’s line about cutting off his arm before hurting her was a viewing or not, but KOD pretty strongly indicates it was, since the reason Rand didn’t just dodge Semirhage’s fireball (after failing to seize saidin) was because Min was behind him. So, that settles that, I guess.
Perrin: The thing that sucks about his argument with Rand is that they are both right. And yet, that’s not going to do anything to help mend the growing rift between them. It’s only just starting here, but it’s going to get worse. Like everything else.
Merana: I feel genuinely sorry for Merana here, not only for how much it just generally sucks to be undermined and dismissed like that, but also because as Aes Sedai go, she is one of the clearer-headed of the bunch, and if she had actually been able to maintain control of the embassy things would most likely have turned out differently. Unfortunately, Merana was the patsy here, both of circumstance and of Verin.
Of course, she’s smart but not that smart, since she thinks that Verin “only” maneuvered Demira into the confrontation with Rand; uh, Merana, that was pretty much the pivotal event here, didn’t you notice? Merana seems to think the key point was Bera and Kiruna’s arrival, which I guess it sort of was from her personal perspective, but that seems to rather miss the larger picture if you ask me. Ah, well.
Verin: Have I mentioned she is sneaky? I might have mentioned that a couple of times. As usual, it’s not really clear here what her larger objective was in engineering the breakdown of relations between Rand and the rebels, and is yet one more mysterious things to add to the mystery of What Is Up with Verin. Y’all feel free to have fun with it in the comments.
Also, Bera and Kiruna suck. That is all.
Chapter 50: Thorns
Rand spends the day being mothered by Sulin and Min until he chases them out. He finds his flute in the back of the wardrobe, and when Min returns she is delighted and insists he play for her, amused at his lack of practice.
A mischievous light appeared in her eyes, and she slowly leaned closer, pursing her lips as if for a kiss. “If you put them like this,” she murmured when they were almost touching his, “it might help. There were bits in that last piece that almost sounded like ‘Rooster in the Gumtree.’ ” It took him a moment to understand, with her eyes filling his vision, and when he did, his face must have been a sight, because she collapsed on his chest laughing.
They are interrupted by the Wise Ones, who insist on examining him (and call him stubborn when he refuses to jump up and down). Min is amazed to learn about how they communicate in dreams, and sees something about Colinda but won’t tell Rand what it is. He receives a note from Coiren, inquiring after his health, and offering Healing; Rand can’t help comparing this with the Salidar embassy’s behavior, but sends back polite thanks and refusal, with an invitation for Gawyn to come see him. Gawyn does not appear, and Rand sadly concludes that Gawyn must believe the stories saying he killed Morgase. Coiren writes twice more every three days, asking for an audience, but he makes excuses for those as well; he can feel Alanna coming closer, and is determined that both embassies should be on equal footing, which means Coiren must wait. Rand and Min go to visit Herid Fel at the school; Fel is so flustered by Min’s presence that he says nothing of any substance about his research on the seals, and the next day sends Rand a note on a torn-off corner of parchment:
Belief and order give strength. Have to clear rubble before you can build. Will explain when see you next. Do not bring girl. Too pretty.
This makes no sense to Rand, but it highly amuses Min, who asks if she can keep the note. She spends a great deal of time with the Wise Ones, and Rand is puzzled at how irritable it makes him when she is not around, even as he thinks it is a good thing that she is not near him too often. He wants her to view the nobles, though. Min suggests laughingly that she pretend to be his “lightskirt”, but Rand thinks even that would be too dangerous for her, and tells her that he won’t have people thinking that about her in any case, which seems to please her greatly. Rand is depressed by the things she does see around the nobles: Maringil will be poisoned, Colavaere hanged, and Meilan knifed, while Aracome, Maraconn and Gueyam are all going to die “bloody deaths, in battle”. Min is so upset by this that she takes to bed herself for a while, but she never lets up teasing him, pinching his bottom, snuggling in his lap, etc. He pretends to weep and stammer, but she laughs and tells him it’s not good enough. Min gets interested in a book Rand had found “heavy going” (Daria Gahand’s Essays on Reason), and keeps it with her. Rand is puzzled by the coolness between Min and Faile whenever they are together, and the open animosity between Min and Berelain at their first meeting makes his hair stand on end. While Lews Therin starts humming in his head at the sight of her, Rand chastises Berelain for neglecting her duties; he does not want a riot if Cairhien starts believing he left an Aiel in charge (Rhuarc). Berelain replies obliquely that “rumors grow like weeds” since the Aes Sedai came, and asks who he means to rule here; Rand tells her he intends for Elayne to have the throne, and Berelain replies thoughtfully that she would be a good choice. She mentions, though, that the word is the Aes Sedai are here to escort him to the Tower, and Rand tells her to leave the Aes Sedai to him. After Berelain leaves, Min sniffs and wonders why she bothers to wear any clothes at all, and adds that she saw nothing useful around her, just “a man in white who will make her fall head over heels”. Then she engages seamstresses to make her new coats and breeches in silks and brocades, and spends time practicing with her knives. Rhuarc is not concerned with the rebels in the hills, but is worried about the Shaido, who are reported to be stirring in Kinslayer’s Dagger. Upon discovering that Sevanna had actually been in the city, Rand asks why she wasn’t captured, since she can’t truly be a Wise One, but Rhuarc says if the other Wise Ones agree she is one, that’s the end of it. Rand sighs (ignoring the strange disapproving byplay between Rhuarc and Berelain), and tells him that he’ll have to stop sending spears south to Tear, just in case the Shaido decide to move on Cairhien again. Ten days altogether pass in this fashion, and Rand actually finds it all rather pleasant.
Perrin is not having nearly as good a time. The very first day Berelain walks in on him while washing, and though he bundles her out as fast as possible, calling Faile “wife” every other sentence, Faile somehow knows she had been there the moment she walks in, and begins reeking of jealousy.
It was very strange. Faile smiled. Not one untoward word passed her lips. She was as loving as ever, and even more fierce than usual, raking deep furrows into his shoulders with her fingernails, which she had never done before.
Afterwards, examining the bleeding gouges by lamplight, she nipped his ear between her teeth, not at all lightly, and laughed. “In Saldaea,” she murmured, “we notch a horse’s ears, but I think that will do to mark you.” And the whole while she fairly reeked of jealousy and rage.
The next day he sees Faile and Berelain talking in the hall, smiling fit to split, and hears Berelain tell Faile that she always keeps her promises, and makes the mistake of asking Faile about it, which earns him another set of furrows. He soon realizes that Berelain is stalking him, appearing near him seemingly by chance, always managing to touch him lightly. He’s also plagued by a number of nobles, some older (like Colavaere, Maringil, etc.) who try to pump him for information about Rand, and other younger ones who keep getting in his face for no reason Perrin can discern. All this distracts him enough that he can’t always avoid Berelain, and Faile of course happens to catch them on one occasion right as Berelain pats his cheek and before he jerks away. She immediately turns and heads away; he catches up to her and apologizes, insisting that nothing happened, but this seems to make Faile even angrier. He later overhears Bain and Chiad discussing whether to help Faile beat him, and that night Faile refuses his advances, smelling furious.
He could not sleep with that smell, and the longer he lay there beside her, studying the ceiling in the darkness, the angrier he became. Why was she doing this? Could she not see he loved her and only her? Had he not shown her time and again that what he wanted more than anything in life was to hold her forever? Was he to blame because some fool woman got a bee up her nose and wanted to flirt? What he ought to do was turn her upside down and smack her bottom till she saw sense. Only he had done that once before, when she thought she could hit him with her fist whenever she wanted to make a point. In the long run it had hurt him a lot more than it had her; he did not like even the thought of Faile being hurt. He wanted peace with her. With her and only her.
Perrin spends the next few days hunting with Gaul, trying to stay away from the palace as much as possible, but this backfires, as Berelain lies in wait for him no matter how late he returns, and Faile is always asleep when he returns now. He knows he’s blundered, though not how, and wishes for one word from Faile to explain it to him.
On the tenth day Rand receives another polite request for an audience from Coiren; he estimates it will take at least another ten days for Merana’s party to reach Cairhien, and decides to meet with Coiren twice more before she arrives, so as to give each embassy the same number of audiences. Merana couldn’t know he would “as soon stick his hand into a viper pit” than go anywhere near the Tower with Elaida as Amyrlin, and thinks this may goad her into throwing Salidar’s support to him with no more nonsense about “guiding”. He writes to tell Coiren that she may bring two sisters with her to the palace the next afternoon.
Oh, there’s Rand’s flute.
This chapter is mostly an interlude, which serves as a “calm before the storm” kind of thing, and also an opportunity to set up plot points for further down the line, with Min’s viewings about the various nobles and Herid Fel’s note.
Oh, and the setup of the Faile/Berelain/Perrin semi-triangle, which I forgot gets started in LOC, and makes me realize, oh, look! Seems I do have a headdesk or two in reserve!
Lord give me strength. I was tempted to go back and find my comments on the last time I clocked in on this mess, to see if I’m still blaming the same person, but hey, I’ll let whatever my earlier sentiments were stand, and if I now contradict them, tough titty. People change. Whatever they might have been before, for the LOC edition of the Argh Leigh Hates You Contest, the winner is definitely Berelain.
Now, I like Berelain in a lot of ways. As a political tactician and survival expert, she is awesome, and I really enjoyed her relationship with Rhuarc as long as I ignored some of the formative aspects of it. But girl has got a vindictive streak a mile wide, and cherishes a grudge like nobody’s business, and that is not pretty at all. And the thing that is so very ugly about her behavior here is much less her determination to get Faile (though that’s hardly admirable), and much more how little she apparently cares about the collateral damage – namely, of course, Perrin.
Faile is not exactly covering herself with glory here either, of course, but at least her behavior is culturally induced idiocy rather than active malice. However silly we may find it, Faile is genuinely hurt here by Perrin’s failure to understand what it is she needs to be assuaged, and is acting out accordingly.
And as much as Perrin is obviously the injured party here, I am also annoyed at him for not at least trying to sit Faile down and saying something like “Look, I know this is hurting you, but I am not Saldaean, so please just tell me what I need to do in order to make this right.” I’m not saying this would necessarily work, but at this point it certainly couldn’t hurt. But of course, that requires open and unambiguous communication between characters, and God knows we can’t have that. But then again, this may be a little bit of blaming the victim, and I try not to do that, because that is Muy No Bueno.
(It is really interesting, by the way, to swap the genders of everyone involved, and note how the resulting plot is a hundred times more familiar. Two guys fighting over a girl, with a total lack of concern over what the girl wants? Yeah. May have seen that a few billion times. Think Jordan might have been making a point?)
Bah, moving on. The significance of Fel’s note has been discussed ad nauseam, both here in the comments and elsewhere, so I’m not going to dwell on it overmuch except to say that I’ve always agreed that in general it meant that Rand will need to break the seals on the Dark One’s prison. Of course, it is rather maddeningly vague on what he’s supposed to do after that. “Belief and order give strength”, I’m certain, is the key clue on that, but what the hell that’s supposed to actually mean is beyond me. I guess we’ll find out!
Also, I forgot that Rand actually tries to meet with Gawyn. It’s really no surprise that Gawyn ignores the invite, given that staying away from Rand was probably the only way he considered himself able to keep his promise to Egwene about not trying to kill him, but I’m kind of wistfully curious to imagine how differently things might have gone if Gawyn had met him. I’m not sure why, since there’s no real reason to think it would have gone well, but you never know.
And that, I think, about puts us ready for the Imminent Fit-on-Shanning we are about to be treated to. Yay? Sort of! Wednesday, ho!