Hark! Before you lies the entrance to the Wheel of Time Re-read. Abandon all free time, ye who enter here.
Today’s entry covers Chapters 33 and 34 of A Crown of Swords, in which we study the negative effects of emo upon personal hygiene, and the positive effects of being a walking plot device on haggling. Whee!
Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index is here, in which you can find links to news, reviews, and all manner of information regarding the newest release, The Gathering Storm, and for WOT-related stuff in general.
This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels, up to and including Book 12, The Gathering Storm. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
And now, the post!
Chapter 33: A Bath
For days after Perrin’s departure, Rand holes himself up in his rooms, telling the Maidens to allow no one to enter, and ignoring their disapproval. He tries to distract himself with books, but can’t concentrate. At least once a day, he checks the hiding place behind the wardrobe, where he has hidden the two access key ter’angreal.
His hand would stretch toward the bearded man, the only one of the pair a man could use, stretch out and stop, shaking. One finger touching, and more of the One Power than he could imagine could be his. With that, no one could defeat him, no one stand against him. With that, Lanfear had said once, he could challenge the Creator.
“It is mine by right,” he muttered each time, with his hand trembling just short of the figure. “Mine! I am the Dragon Reborn!”
And each time he made himself draw back, reweaving the Mask of Mirrors, reweaving the invisible traps that would burn anyone to a cinder who tried to pass them without the key. The huge wardrobe wafted back into place like a feather. He was the Dragon Reborn. But was that enough? It would have to be.
He rages, silently and aloud, against those who oppose him, but knows that he is just avoiding thinking of something else. He tries to sleep, but his dreams are filled with nightmares: of Colavaere, and all the other women who have died because of him, of killing Perrin instead of just throwing him, of being locked inside the chest again, of attacking the White Tower with the Asha’man and seeing everyone, even Egwene and Nynaeve and Elayne, arrayed against him, of Cadsuane talking about madmen hearing voices. He screams, awake and asleep, for Lews Therin to talk to him, but there is no answer. On the fourth day, he wakes and goes into the anteroom to find Min there, reading a book. She says brightly that there is a feast in a few days, and wants to know if he will dance with her. Rand stammers something, and Min tells him he looks like “what the dogs fought over,” and now she understands why Alanna was so frantic, if not how she knew. She adds that she had to do a little begging to get in here, and he owes her.
Rand flinched. Images of himself flashed in his head; him tearing at her clothes, forcing himself on her like a mindless beast. He owed her more than he could ever pay. […] “Min, there’s no excuse for what I did. If there was any justice I’d go to the gallows. If I could, I’d put the rope around my neck myself. On oath, I would.”
Slowly, she asks what he’s talking about, and he answers, what he did to her, and that he never imagined he was such a monster; the only excuse he has is madness, and that Cadsuane was right, he had heard voices. Min stares at him a moment.
“So that’s why you’ve been keeping me away,” she said finally. “You listen to me, you wooden-headed numbskull. I was ready to cry myself to dust because I’d seen one death too many, and you, you were about to do the same for the same reason. What we did, my innocent lamb, was comfort one another. Friends comfort one another at times like that. Close your mouth, you Two Rivers hay-hair.”
Rand splutters, and Min angrily wants to know if he thinks she’s incapable of letting him know if she didn’t want to be touched; she recalls ripping his clothes off, not the other way around.
“I did with you what I’ve never done with any man—and don’t you think I was never tempted!—and you say it was all you! As if I wasn’t even there!”
She shoves him into a chair and threatens to thump him till he “squeals for mercy” if he tries to say different, and informs him he needs a bath. Rand envies Perrin’s “serene” marriage for a moment, and tells Min in any case there’s only one thing he can do: send her away. Anyone close to him is in danger, from the Forsaken, but also from Rand himself. He tells her he nearly killed Perrin, and Cadsuane was right, that he is going mad. Min wants to know who this Cadsuane everyone is freaking out over might be, but then decides she doesn’t care, and dismisses out of hand the notion that Perrin was ever in any danger from Rand; she also doesn’t think Rand can be all that crazy, if he’s worrying about it so much.
She bent until those very big, very dark eyes were level with his, not a great distance away, and suddenly there was such a light glaring in them that he seized saidin, ready to defend himself. “Send me away to be safe?” she growled. “How dare you? What right do you think you have to send me anywhere? You need me, Rand al’Thor! If I told you half the viewings I’ve had about you, half your hair would curl and the rest fall out! You dare! You let the Maidens face any risk they want, and you want to send me away like a child?”
“I don’t love the Maidens.” Floating deep in the emotionless Void, he heard those words spring from his tongue, and shock shattered the emptiness and sent saidin flying.
“Well,” Min said, straightening. A small smile added more curve to her lips. “That’s out of the way.” And she sat down on his lap.
Harshly, Rand adds that he also loves Elayne, and Aviendha, too, but Min is unfazed, and points out that Rhuarc and Bael both love more than one woman, and she hasn’t noticed Trolloc horns on either. She continues that she loves him, and will not go away; reluctantly, she adds that Elayne and Aviendha both love him too. Incredulously, Rand demands to know how she can know that, and wants to know what viewings she is talking about.
“You dare take that tone? Like you don’t believe it?” Suddenly her voice began to rise by the word, and she augured a finger against his chest as though she meant to drive it through him. “Do you think I’d go to bed with a man I did not love? Do you? Or maybe you think you aren’t worth loving? Is that it?” She made a sound like a stepped-on cat. “So I’m some little bit of fluff without a brain in her head, falling in love with a worthless lout, am I? You sit there gaping like a sick ox and slander my wits, my taste, my—”
“If you don’t quiet down and talk sense,” he growled, “I swear, I’ll smack your bottom!” That leaped out of nowhere, out of sleepless nights and confusion, but before he could begin to form an apology, she smiled. The woman smiled!
She congratulates him on not sulking anymore, and reiterates that she will not go; Rand wonders aloud how she makes his troubles shrink even while discombobulating him. Min asks if there’s any chance “this Aviendha” is bony and scarred, like Nandera, and Rand laughs.
Light, how long since he had laughed with pleasure? “Min, I’d say she is as pretty as you, but how can you compare two sunrises?”
For a moment she stared at him with a small smile, as if she could not decide whether to be surprised or delighted. “You are a very dangerous man, Rand al’Thor,” she murmured, leaning toward him slowly. He thought he might fall into her eyes and be lost.
He puts her away from him, though, and asks again about the viewings. Min grumbles, and tells him Berelain left her a letter asking Min to make sure Rand doesn’t neglect the Sea Folk, which he has been doing, as Berelain thinks he is the fulfillment of some prophecy of theirs. Rand thinks that he had wanted to leave the Sea Folk out of it if possible, and then realizes that Min had won; he couldn’t send her away. He tells her, fine, he’ll go see the Sea Folk that day, and they can “kneel to the Dragon Reborn in all his splendor”; he supposes it has to be, that either they are his, or his enemy. He asks again about the viewings; Min hesitates, and then tells him she was exaggerating, there was only one she hadn’t told him:
“I saw you and another man. I couldn’t make out either face, but I knew one was you. You touched, and seemed to merge into one another, and... ” Her mouth tightened worriedly, and she went on in a very small voice. “I don’t know what it means, Rand, except that one of you dies, and one doesn’t. I—Why are you grinning? This isn’t a joke, Rand. I do not know which of you dies.”
He tells her she’s given him good news, and thinks to himself triumphantly that this must mean Lews Therin is real, and he wasn’t insane after all, or at least not too insane. Min tells him he’ll need a bath if they’re going to see the Sea Folk. The Maidens are delighted when informed, and lug in the tub and water themselves, and then insist on undressing and bathing Rand as well. He’s more or less used to this behavior from the Maidens, but not to Min watching the whole thing in fascination, and openly discussing his “beauty” with them while they’re washing him. Then she makes him get out of the tub and come to her for a towel, while all the Maidens watch gleefully.
He had never been so relieved to pull on clothes in his life.
By that time, all his orders had been carried out, and everything was in readiness. Rand al’Thor might have been routed in a bathtub, but the Dragon Reborn was going to the Sea Folk in a style that would send them plummeting to their knees with awe.
Yay, Rand and Min! *applause*
Other than the bit with Rand seizing saidin to “defend himself” (which is eye-rollingly over the top), this scene never fails to crack me up, featuring as it does some of the most inside-out and backwards logic ever to confuse a poor guy. But, you know, it does actually make a (hilarious) kind of sense, that Min would take Rand’s harsh self-criticism as an insult to her good taste.
Speaking of which, wow, self-flagellation much? I know everyone is their own worst critic, but there is such a thing as taking it too far. Of course, this would be a vastly different series if Rand wasn’t always ready to beat himself up at the slightest provocation, so there’s… that, I guess? I’m not really sure what I’m trying to say here.
Anyway! The Maidens and the bath was also very funny, albeit in an eyebrows-rasied, “ooookay” kind of way, maybe. You have to kind of wonder at Rand’s inconsistency here: he completely freaks out over having non-married sex with Min, yet is just kind of resigned to an entire horde of women undressing and washing him. I mean, really? That doesn’t seem sort of backwards to anyone else?
Though okay, I’m being at least a little disingenuous here, because I do get why making love to Min was such a big deal to Rand – and it wasn’t because of what the Women’s Circle would think of it. Nor do I think it was because Rand really believed he had forced Min; maybe he had a little bit of genuine delusion on that score, but I tend to think that was just camouflage for the real issue.
Which is, coming to terms with being in love with more than one person. When your entire culture and upbringing tell you very firmly that this makes you a Bad Person, having to recognize this about yourself is probably even less fun than I imagine it to be.
There’s a whole discussion to be had here concerning the ramifications and moral quandaries presented by polyamory vs. monogamy that I don’t know I really have the emotional fortitude to get into at the moment. I’ll simply state that for me personally, I don’t have a problem with polyamory from a purely moral/ethical standpoint – I figure, as long as everyone involved is a consenting adult, who am I to judge? – but I do acknowledge that from a larger societal outlook, it presents… issues (legal and logistical ones, if nothing else), and there are some fairly unpleasant historical consequences of the practice that do not thrill me, either. Let’s just say, harems are not exactly a phenomenon that shouts Yay feminism in my mind. Still, modern polyamory is quite a lot more egalitarian in this regard, at least in theory, so there’s that.
All that being said, however, this does not seem to be the case in WOT. Even though there are societies in Randland, like the Aiel, which allow for non-monogamous setups (as Min points out to Rand in this chapter, in fact), I continue to be vaguely bothered that they are all still of the one-man-multiple-women variety, as far as I am aware. If it were portrayed as being even occasionally the other way around I would be happy to shut up about it, but I can’t think of any, myself. If anyone can point out an example that proves me wrong I would be most grateful.
This is leaving aside, of course, the whole Rand-specific issue of whether you’re off the hook ethically when your polyamory is apparently mandated by prophecy. Heh.
Lews Therin: well, you guys already know what I think about what Min’s viewing means; at this point I don’t see much reason to rehash it. But feel free to go to town on it yourselves, of course.
Chapter 34: Ta’veren
The huge cavalcade of armsmen, drummers, trumpeters, Maidens, and other Aiel are assembled in the Sun Palace courtyard as Rand had ordered, along with Dashiva, Flinn, and Narishma. People cheer Rand from the balconies when he appears. Merana, Rafela (Blue), Bera, Faeldrin (both Green), and Alanna come to meet him, and Rand demands to know where Kiruna and Verin are. Bera curtsies, to Rand’s surprise, and answers that Verin is off questioning the… prisoners (Bera stumbles over the term), and Kiruna is “consulting” with Sorilea over “a matter of protocol.” Rand doesn’t know what that means, but dismisses it. He notes that Alanna and Min are off talking about something that’s making Min blush, and also that Alanna’s presence in his head seems calmer than he ever remembers her being. He also sees that the Aes Sedai have arranged themselves with Bera in the lead, and tells them from now on Merana will speak for them. He doesn’t understand why this shocks all of them, even Merana; she had been the ambassador for their original party, after all. Rand and Min mount up and the procession heads out to a thundering roar from the crowd gathered in the streets to watch.
Now and then a few flowers were hurled at him. Maybe they did not hate him. Maybe they only feared. It had to do.
“A train worthy of any king,” Merana said loudly, to be heard.
“Then it’s enough for the Dragon Reborn,” he replied sharply. “Will you stay back? And you, too, Min.” Other rooftops had held assassins. The arrow or crossbow bolt meant for him would not find its target in a woman today.
Min and Merana brief him as they ride on the Sea Folk and the Jendai Prophecy, and Rand notes that the Aes Sedai are obeying his orders not to embrace saidar, and then reflects it would be a fine irony if that order got them killed by assassins. Merana doesn’t think his laughter is appropriate for the occasion, but Min laughs with him. They reach the docks, where the captain of the longboat who is to carry him out to the Sea Folk ship (Elver Shaene) bows and scrapes and murmurs about the honor he’s being given; Rand thinks the man would clearly rather have had his ship “brim full of live vipers.” Rand, Min, the Aes Sedai, the Asha’man, and forty Aiel board the boat, and they head out to the White Spray. On the way, he gives out his orders, which do not make the Aiel happy, but the Aes Sedai again surprise him by accepting without a quibble, and he wonders if he can actually begin to trust them.
“They will keep their word,” Min murmured abruptly, just as if she had read his thoughts. With an arm wrapped around his and both hands holding his sleeve, she kept her voice for his ears alone. “I just saw these five in your hand,” she added in case he did not understand. He was not sure he could fix his mind around that, even if she had seen it in a viewing.
They reach the Sea Folk ship, and Rand makes a bridge of Air and Fire from his boat to the other, and walks across with Min on his arm. He is momentarily shocked by the Sea Folk’s appearance, but then announces himself:
“I am the Dragon Reborn. I am the Coramoor.”
The woman with the most jewelry introduces herself as Harine din Togara Two Winds, Wavemistress to Clan Shodein, and says that she speaks for the Mistress of the Ships, and invites the Coramoor aboard, then starts in surprise for some reason. Wishing he had not waited for permission, Rand steps aboard, and the Asha’man and Aes Sedai soon join him; at the sight of the Aes Sedai, the four Sea Folk women go into a huddle to confer. In the meantime, Merana whispers to Rand that the Sea Folk are great bargainers, but she thinks Harine gave away something when she called Rand the Coramoor. The Sea Folk break, and the other three women introduce themselves. Harine invites Rand below to discuss matters, but Merana again whispers that the two Windfinders can channel, and he should not go alone lest they feel they’ve gained the upper hand. Rand tells Harine he’s happy to go below with her, but Min, Dashiva, Merana and Rafela go with him. Harine doesn’t look pleased, but agrees, and they go below. Rand quickly discovers the cabin is too small for him to stand upright, and begins to have flashbacks to being locked in the chest, which makes him edgy; as soon as they sit, he gets to the point, saying that all the aspects of their prophecy have come to pass, he is the Coramoor. Harine demurs.
“What is it that you don’t believe, Wavemistress? That Aes Sedai serve me? Rafela, Merana.” He gestured sharply.
All he wanted was for them to come to him and be seen to come, but they set down their cups and rose gracefully, glided to either side of him—and knelt. Each took one of his hands in both of hers and pressed her lips to the back of it, right on the shining golden-maned head of the Dragon that wound around his forearm. He just managed to conceal his shock, not taking his eyes from Harine. Her face went a little gray.
Harine recovers, and says there is the matter of the Bargain; the Jendai Prophecy says Rand will bring the Sea Folk glory, but if she does not make the Bargain well, she will be “hung naked in the rigging by [her] ankles” and replaced as Wavemistress. As she speaks, a look of horror comes over her face, and the other Sea Folk try their best not to gawk.
And suddenly, Rand understood. Ta’veren. He had seen the effects, the sudden moments when the least likely thing happened because he was near, but he had never known what was going on before until it was finished. Easing his legs as best he could, he leaned his arms on the table. “The Atha’an Miere will serve me, Harine. That is given.”
“Yes, we will serve you, but—” Harine half-reared out her chair, spilling her tea. “What are you doing to me, Aes Sedai?” she cried, trembling. “This is not fair bargaining!”
Merana replies calmly that they do nothing; Rafela reminds her that she is in the presence of the Dragon Reborn, and inquires blandly if Harine’s word is binding on all the Sea Folk. Harine confirms it hoarsely, and Min tells her that she will be punished for what happens here today, but not as bad as she might be; one day she will be Mistress of the Ships. Rafela asks Min if she is the girl she heard of who can “see things,” and Min nods reluctantly; Rafela remarks to Harine that from what she’s heard, what Min sees always come true, and therefore must mean that Harine will agree to what the Coramoor wants. Rand tells her he doesn’t require anything “onerous”: he wants the Sea Folk to provide transportation when he needs it for men and supplies, and to keep him informed of happenings in other lands. In particular, he wants them to keep watch for a people called the Seanchan who may be coming across the Aryth Ocean some day, and warn him when they come. Harine replies bitterly that he asks for more than he knows; no ship that has sailed west has returned from there in months. Rand feels a chill, wondering if the Seanchan could really be returning this quickly after the trouncing they received at Falme, and suddenly cannot bear being inside the small cabin any longer. He breaks his chair when he cannot get it to unlatch quickly enough, and tells Harine that Merana and Rafela will finish the Bargain in his stead. Merana tries to convince him to stay, pointing out what an effect he’s already had, but Rand brushes her off roughly and goes above, finding relief in the open air. Min joins him, and he apologizes for leaving her behind; she laughs and tells him she thinks Merana and Rafela will do well.
Rand nodded. The Sea Folk were his, or as good as. What matter whether the Horn of Valere was in the White Tower? He was ta’veren. He was the Dragon Reborn, and the Coramoor. The golden sun still burned well short of its noon peak. “The day is young yet, Min.” He could do anything. “Would you like to see me settle the rebels? A thousand crowns to a kiss, they’re mine before sunset.”
This is simultaneously a very cool and extremely frustrating chapter.
Very cool, in that watching Rand’s ta’veren-ness go full bore in his favor for once is very gratifying, at least in the short term; not to mention the pleasure of watching everyone (well, mostly everyone) on Rand’s side work together for a change. But extremely frustrating, in that we have to watch Rand’s psychological problems derail that advantage.
Not that I am blaming him in the slightest for having PTSD claustrophobia issues after his adventures with The Box – it would far more upsetting if Jordan hadn’t had Rand react in a realistic way to the trauma he’s been through. But that doesn’t change what happens as a result, and even the first time I read this I knew it was going nowhere good.
And that’s leaving aside his whole attack of How You Like Me Now Ta’veren Pride. Cause we all know what goeth before a fall, don’t we? Why, yes, yes we do. Too bad someone didn’t get the memo to Mr. Dragon Reborn. Blargh.
Harine: Also blargh. Not so much for what she does at this point, but oh, the annoying on the horizon. It would help if the Sea Folk do anything else besides be annoying for the next five books, but nooooo!
Grumble, grump, etc. (This is the other reason this chapter is frustrating, but only in retrospect; at the time, I thought making the bargain with the Sea Folk was actually getting us somewhere. Silly me!)
Aes Sedai: Now New And Improved! It is frickin’ astonishing, the difference it makes once the Aes Sedai (well, these particular Aes Sedai, anyway) stop working against Rand and start working with him. Or maybe “for him,” considering the nature of their relationship, but either way the contrast is like night and day. As Vandene pointed out to Elayne, one admirable thing about Aes Sedai is, once they’ve decided to do (or be) a thing, they commit to it, by George.
Of course, the kneeling and kissing the hands thing was a little much (or a lot much), but fortunately for my opinion of him, Rand completely agrees on that count. I was amused at his reaction even as I was mildly appalled at the excessive subservience thing.
Though apparently the Pattern doesn’t think it’s too outré at all. WTF, Pattern? I thought we were buds!
And heh – so very convenient that Verin happened to not be there for Min’s viewing, eh? On the other hand, I actually have no idea what happens to Kiruna in the long run (was she even in TGS? I can’t remember), but I don’t think anything comes of the fact that she wasn’t there either. Of course, as of this post we still have two books to go, so…
Alanna: It is one of my disposable WOT wishes (“disposable” in that I would like to see it happen but I won’t cry me a river if it doesn’t, because ultimately the story has larger fish to fry) that we get a POV from Alanna at some point, because I would really like to know what her Deal is. Her reactions and motivations as a character are some of the most obscure of all the WOT cast, in my opinion.
Like for instance, I would have predicted from her previous possessive behavior (however unjustified, but that’s a different rant) that she would go up in flames when Rand and Min slept together, but clearly, that is not the case. And I suppose one can reason she’s just thrilled that the sexing made Rand less of a giant ball of stress (well, until he started stressing about the sexing, anyway, sheesh, but then Min calmed him down again, so), but I would really like to hear firsthand what her logic is. Because I gotta say, thus far I can’t really detect any. Logic, I mean. Maybe that’s the point?
And… that’s all I got on this one. Join me Friday, when things go straight to hell for Rand. Whoo?