Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so, but the Wheel of Time Re-read, man, that’s for reals.
Today’s entry covers Chapter 11 of Winter’s Heart, in which Lessons Are Learned, Lines Are (Finally) Crossed, and I get all horological on your ass.
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, post, incoming, six o’clock!
Chapter 11: Ideas of Importance
Trying not to vomit from holding saidin, Rand steps through the gateway into a thankfully empty storeroom in the Caemlyn Palace. Lews Therin begs him to let go of the Source, comparing it to being in the Pit of Doom, and he does so as soon as Min steps through. Min immediately has a sneezing fit from the dust they’ve kicked up, and he wishes she had been willing to stay in a dress, as her outfit will unquestionably draw attention. She demands to know why he’s thumbing his ear at her “like a loobie,” and he replies that she’s beautiful, to which she snaps back that she gave up everything else for him, so forget about the dress; and anyway she needs to be recognized, since Rand won’t get anywhere with the ugly Mask of Mirrors disguise he’s wearing. He acknowledges her point, and says as long as they finish quickly before anyone suspects he’s here.
“Rand,” she said, her voice soft, and he eyed her warily. Resting a hand on his chest, she looked up at him with a serious expression. “Rand, you really need to see Elayne. And Aviendha, I suppose; you know she’s probably here, too. If you—”
He shook his head, and wished he had not. The dizziness had still not gone completely. “No!” he said curtly. Light! No matter what Min said, he just could not believe that Elayne and Aviendha both loved him. Or that the fact they did, if it was a fact, did not upset her. Women were not that strange! Elayne and Aviendha had reason to hate him, not love him, and Elayne, at least, had made herself clear. Worse, he was in love with both of them, as well as with Min! He had to be as hard as steel, but he thought he might shatter if he had to face all three at once. “We find Nynaeve and Mat, and go, as fast as we can.”
Min lets it go, and they exit the storeroom quietly, and Rand thanks his ta’veren-ness that the hall is empty. They don’t get far before running straight into Reene Harfor, who recognizes Min. Min is delighted to see her, and asks if Reene can take them to Nynaeve al’Meara or Mat Cauthon, as “this fellow” has something to deliver to Nynaeve. Reene gives Rand’s unsavory disguise a suspicious look, and answers that she doesn’t know any Mat Cauthon, but offers to take the package to “Nynaeve Sedai” for them.
Rand jerked upright. Nynaeve Sedai? Why would the others—the real Aes Sedai—let her play at that still? And Mat was not here? Had never been here, apparently. Colors whirled in his head, almost an image he could make out. In a heartbeat it vanished, but he staggered. Mistress Harfor frowned at him again, and sniffed. Likely she thought him drunk.
Min frowns, but replies that she thinks Nynaeve… Sedai wants to see “Nuli” (meaning Rand), and asks Reene to show him to her rooms while Min takes care of something. She sprints off before either of them can say anything, and Rand thinks furiously that she is going for Elayne, and might ruin everything. Reene is very distrustful of “Nuli,” but agrees to take him to Nynaeve, giving him a sharp look when he forgets himself and walks next to her instead of behind. As they head through the corridors, Rand senses a large number of women channeling, and asks Reene how many Aes Sedai are in the Palace; Reene reluctantly replies that there are five, counting Lady Elayne and Nynaeve Sedai. Rand is disappointed that there are only three “real” Aes Sedai, as he’d hoped there were more perhaps ready to follow him here. He wonders where Mat is, and again sees the colors, this time accompanied by what he thinks might be Mat’s face, and he stumbles again, which doesn’t improve Reene’s opinion of him. He’s beginning to regret coming here.
Nynaeve is teaching Talaan shielding techniques, furious that Sareitha had ditched her turn, forcing Nynaeve to take it instead. She gets past Talaan’s defenses, and tries not to be upset that Talaan already matches Nynaeve’s strength and hasn’t even reached her full potential yet. The other Windfinders in the room (and Zaida, who attends every lesson even though she cannot channel) interrupt Nynaeve, discussing what she did and ordering her to try again; Nynaeve is just grateful Renaile is not there. This time Talaan succeeds in shielding Nynaeve, to her shock, but only Nynaeve bothers to congratulate her on her success. Nynaeve tries to end the lesson, but Zaida commands she do it again, and Talaan succeeds in shielding Nynaeve a second time. This time Zaida commands Talaan to hold the shield, and decides to test Nynaeve’s claim that it was almost impossible to break a shield without being much stronger than your opponent by threatening to flip Nynaeve upside down at the count of five. Nynaeve ends up struggling with every ounce of strength to break the shield and prevent that humiliation, but is unsuccessful, even though she notices for the first time that there is a “soft point” to the shield.
“Did she truly try as hard as it seemed, Kurin,” the Wavemistress asked finally, “or was all that thrashing about and whimpering just a show?” Nynaeve tried to summon an indignant glare. She had not whimpered! Had she? Her scowl, such as it was, made no more impression on Zaida than rain on a rock.
“With that much effort, Wavemistress,” Kurin said reluctantly, “she could have carried a raker on her back.” The flat black pebbles of her eyes still held contempt, though. Only those who lived at sea got any respect from her.
Zaida orders Talaan to release her and dismisses Nynaeve abruptly, telling her same time tomorrow; Nynaeve points out that it is Sareitha’s turn, but Zaida replies that Nynaeve’s teaching is “more edifying” than the others, and if she doesn’t show she will be fetched. Constrained by their terrible bargain, Nynaeve forces herself to make the ritual obeisance of a Sea Folk teacher before leaving, though she does make a point of slamming the door behind herself. In the hall, she runs into Alivia, who gives her the message that Mistress Corly and three other Kin would like to see Nynaeve at dinner, and it is not phrased as a request. Nynaeve demands to know what Alivia is doing without an escort, trying not to be uneasy in the extremely powerful former damane’s presence, but Alivia has stopped being obsequious to anyone a few days ago, and just shrugs.
“There wasn’t anyone free, so I slipped out by myself. Anyway, if you always guard me, you’ll never come to trust me, and I’ll never get to kill sul’dam.” Somehow that sounded even more chilling, delivered in such a casual tone. “You ought to be learning from me. Those Asha’man say they’re weapons, and they aren’t bad, I know for a fact, but I’m better.”
She repeats Mistress Corly’s “invitation” and strolls off. Nynaeve knows that the “dinner” is nothing more than an excuse for Reanne et al to criticize how the Aes Sedai are allowing themselves to be treated by the Windfinders, and is wishing she’d never thought of teaching them to have backbone when Talaan dashes up to her to beg breathlessly to be taken to the White Tower, as she will never be “chosen,” referring to the token (and weak) Sea Folk channelers who get sent to the Tower in order to keep Aes Sedai away from their people. She tells Nynaeve that she cannot stand it anymore, being twice as harshly driven as anyone else simply to avoid showing favor to her clan, which is very highly honored already. Amazed, Nynaeve replies that she can see Talaan wants it very badly, but—Talaan takes this as agreement and thanks her profusely before dashing off, ignoring Nynaeve’s shouts that she hadn’t promised anything. Lan appears, and comments that she looks like she ate a “rotten plum.” Nynaeve hugs him, thinking of the utter disaster Talaan was going to create, and thinking that soon everyone would be ordering her around like the Windfinders.
“Do you remember how you kept me in our rooms yesterday morning?” she murmured, looking up in time to catch a grin replacing concern on his face. Of course he remembered. Her face grew hot. Talking to friends was one thing, but being forward with her own husband still seemed quite another. “Well, I want you to take me back there right now and keep me from putting on any clothes for about a year!” She had been quite furious about that, at first. But he had ways to make her forget to be furious.
He threw back his head and laughed, a great booming sound, and after a moment, she echoed him. She wanted to weep, though. She had not really been joking.
They return to their rooms to find Reene Harfor there with an extremely ugly man carrying a scrip on his shoulder. Reene tells Nynaeve that the man claims to have something Nynaeve needs urgently, and Nynaeve embraces the Source immediately as Lan goes on guard, alerted somehow by her face. Then the man tells her Mistress Thane sent him, on “Women’s Circle business,” about Cenn Buie. Nynaeve stares at him, and slowly says she remembers now. Reene is highly suspicious, but leaves. Nynaeve begins to demand to know how he knows those names, and the man ripples and changes into Rand; Nynaeve is astounded that he knows how to disguise himself with the Power.
“I see you didn’t take your own advice,” Rand said to Lan, just as if she were not there. “But why do you let her pretend to be Aes Sedai? Even if the real Aes Sedai let her, she can get hurt.”
“Because she is Aes Sedai, sheepherder,” Lan replied quietly. He did not look at her either! And he still seemed ready to draw his sword in a heartbeat. “As for the other… Sometimes, she is stronger than you. Did you take it?”
Rand looked at her then. To frown disbelievingly. Even when she pointedly adjusted her shawl so the yellow fringe swayed. What he said though, shaking his head slowly, was “No. You’re right. Sometimes you’re just too weak to do what you should.”
“What are you two blathering about?” she said sharply.
“Just things that men talk about,” Lan replied.
“You wouldn’t understand,” Rand said.
Nynaeve sniffs, and lets go of saidar, knowing she doesn’t need to protect herself against Rand, even though she thinks he looks harder than she remembers. She tells Rand they know about Cairhien, and tells him Egwene can help him; Rand replies he’s not hiding exactly, just until he kills some “men who need killing,” and doesn’t see what Egwene can do, assuming she’s in the Palace as well. Nynaeve growls back that Egwene is the Amyrlin Seat, and has an entire army with her; she thinks there’s no safer place for Rand to be than with her and three hundred sisters to protect him. Rand stares at her in surprise, but then rather dryly disagrees. He asks if Mat is with Egwene’s army, then clutches his head and staggers. Nynaeve jumps up and Delves him, discovering the new wound on top of his old unHealable one, and a shield on them both which she realizes must be saidin. She backs off uneasily.
[Rand] looked down at her calmly, and that made her shiver. He seemed another man entirely from the Rand al’Thor she had watched grow up. She was very glad that Lan was there, hard as that was to admit. Suddenly she realized that he had not relaxed by a whisker. He might chatter with Rand like two men over pipes and ale, but he thought Rand was dangerous. And Rand looked at Lan as if he knew it, and accepted it.
Rand turns to his leather scrip and pulls out two heavy statuettes of a man and a woman holding crystal spheres aloft. He asks her to keep these safe for him until he sends for both them and Nynaeve, after he takes care of his men. He explains what they are.
“I was told by… someone… once, that a man and woman using those sa’angreal could challenge the Dark One. They might have to be used for that, one day, but in the meantime, I hope they’re enough to cleanse the male half of the Source.”
If they can do that, Lan asks, then why wasn’t it done in the Age of Legends? Rand snaps back that he doesn’t know, or care; it has to be tried. Lan points out that it could get Nynaeve killed, and is clearly not about to allow that. Nynaeve has already made her decision, however, and knows neither of them will like it.
“I think it is a wonderful idea,” she said. That was not exactly a lie. It was wonderful, compared to the alternatives. “But I don’t see why I should sit here waiting for your summons like a serving maid. I’ll do it, but we all go together.”
She had been right. They did not like it one bit.
I remember when I first read the beginning of this chapter, and realized Rand was in the Caemlyn Palace, that my reaction was to physically sit up straight, in an “oh holy crap” kind of way. Because, did this mean that two of the myriad relentlessly parallel-for-centuries storylines of Our Heroes were actually about to cross?
Liek whoa, y’all.
It really says something about the structure of the later WOT books that even the mere possibility of Rand meeting up with one of the Supergirls, let alone Mat or Perrin, felt like such an event to me. An event named FINALLY, GOD.
Although, I looked it up, and Perrin was actually the last one of our Hero Starter Kit who saw Rand in person, in ACOS a little over a month earlier. At this point Rand hasn’t seen Mat, Aviendha, or Egwene since the middle of LOC (or, almost three months), and he and Nynaeve haven’t been together since the end of TFOH (or almost five months). In reader time, that translates to four years for Perrin, six years for Mat/Aviendha/Egwene, and seven for Nynaeve.
But the winner is Elayne, who at this point has not been in the same room with Rand since the Stone of Tear in TSR—or, in other words, almost nine months for the characters and eight years for the reader.
That is some crazy shit right there.
Of course, post-TGS the “winner” for “goes longest without seeing Rand” is up for grabs between Egwene and Mat, neither of whom (unless I am very much mistaken) have been in the same room with him from mid-LOC through the end of TGS. I have, to my surprise, been unable to locate even a summarized chronology of TGS online, so I don’t know how much in-story time it encompassed, but KOD ended six months after the last time Mat or Egwene saw Rand in LOC, so we’re at six months and counting at the bare minimum—for the characters.
And while this (probably) doesn’t beat Elayne’s record in internal chronology, in reader time that is—wait for it—FIFTEEN YEARS. AND COUNTING.
I know, right?
So… yeah. Anyway, given all that it is probably not too surprising that the idea of Rand and Elayne meeting up here had me bouncing in my seat, more or less literally.
Of course, then what happens but we cut to Nynaeve getting humiliated, at frickin’ length, by the goddamn Windfinders, which in my opinion may qualify as a violation of the Eighth Amendment. That was a low blow, WOT.
Seriously, could I hate them more? I think I could not! What kind of lame-ass culture believes that teachers should literally be punching bags? Or, for that matter, believes in treating anyone as if it’s acceptable to test them to destruction? I mean, yes, okay, in America we don’t exactly treat teachers with the respect they deserve either, but at least we only underpay them and overwork them and keep them in horrible and sometimes dangerous working conditions and force them to adhere to arbitrary and absurd standards and…
…right, moving on then!
So I didn’t get my Elayne reunion in this chapter, but I did get a Lan-Nynaeve-Rand one, which was almost as good. It made me happy that Nynaeve still automatically trusts Rand enough to release saidar around him, though perhaps incongruously I don’t blame Lan for remaining on guard at the same time. His and Rand’s semi-cryptic exchange about weakness was great even as it made me roll my eyes a tiny bit. I disagree with the female characters on a lot of what they call Rand a woolhead about, but this isn’t one of them.
And, I SUPPOSE the Windfinder interlude in this chapter did a pretty good job of justifying (certainly in MY eyes) Nynaeve’s determination to basically drop everything and run for the hills with Rand. If I had been her I would have been on his heels like white on rice, y’all. Talk about getting the hell out of Dodge… And it’s not like she won’t have Her Man with her.
Mr. Kinky Lan, HAHAHA. Naked games in the bedroom, eh? That is completely awesome. It’s always the quiet ones, man!
Alivia: Is much creepier than I remember her being. But I guess being a slave and forced to blow shit up for four hundred years might screw with a person’s head just a tad. Hell, I have to imagine just living that long no matter what you’ve been doing has to skew your perspective to some extent. This has always been a thing I’ve kind of wondered about in stories where people live triple or more a standard human lifetime. I mean, watching everyone you knew growing up get old and die while you still look like you’re in your twenties; how can that not mess with your head?
Ta’veren Telepathy in Technicolor™: Reception’s getting clearer, I see. A little more tinfoil on those rabbit ears and we’ll be good to go!
Also, nice little grace note in this chapter, with Rand forgetting himself and walking next to Reene instead of behind. It’s a little thing, but it’s the sort of detail that jumps out at me, as an indication of just how much Rand’s changed since the self-effacing farmboy we met almost exactly two years ago (in internal chronology; for the readers, a decade). Just throwing that in there.
And having thrown that in there, I am also throwing in the towel on this a-here post, for I is slippin’, slippin’, into the future! Enjoy your weekend, chirren, and I will see you on the flipside!