Greetings on this All Hallows Day, peoples! How about a Wheel of Time Re-read?
Today’s entry covers Chapter 11 of The Gathering Storm, in which we discuss bad choices in leadership, relationships, and houseguests.
Today’s entry is a little short because, well, Halloween weekend. I trust I need not explicate further.
Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index is here, which has links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time in general, including the newest release, Towers of Midnight.
This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels, up to and including Book 13, Towers of Midnight. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
And now, the post!
Chapter 11: The Death of Adrin
Aviendha pretends not to “hear” the Maidens hand-talking about whether they should beat Rand again for going off to meet Ituralde without them; she considers that she probably has toh to the Maidens for not teaching Rand properly, but thinks that she must figure out her larger toh to the Wise Ones first. Her current punishment is to dig large rocks out of the riverbed and carry them back and forth across camp, which Aviendha finds deeply shaming. She reaches the manor end of her route and overhears the two wetlander soldiers guarding the door. One of them (Adrin) is complaining that he is too hot, and Aviendha muses that she has decided that complaining must be a strange way to show honor among wetlanders, even though Elayne only laughed when she’d brought it up. She is also frustrated at her inability to solve her issues with the Wise Ones.
She needed to approach problems as Elayne did. That was the only way she was going to get her honor back, and only then could claim Rand al’Thor and make him hers as much as he was Elayne’s or Min’s. She could feel him through the bond; he was in his room, but was not sleeping. He pushed himself hard and slept too little.
On her next trip back, she hears the other guard tell Adrin that he doesn’t look good, and then:
The man reached up suddenly, scratching at the skin of his temples. His eyes rolled up in his head and his fingers tore gashes in his flesh. Only, instead of blood, the wounds spat out a black charcoal-like substance. Aviendha could feel the intense heat even from a distance.
The other guard gaped in horror as his friend ripped lines of black fire down the sides of his head. A blackish tar oozed out, boiling and hissing. The man’s clothing burst into flames and his flesh shriveled from the heat.
He didn’t utter a sound.
Aviendha pulls the other guard away with Air as Adrin dissolves into a pile of molten tar, which sets the wall of the manor on fire. Aviendha attempts to draw out the heat, and then to smother the fire with earth, but cannot; finally she thinks to use water, and draws a massive column of the river to extinguish the thing. Another column of water joins hers, and she sees one of Rand’s Asha’man, Naeff, channeling from the second floor of the manor. Together they finally put out the fire and cool the tar, and Aviendha is exhausted as she examines the remains.
“Burn you!” a voice bellowed. Aviendha looked up. Rand al’Thor strode through the broken hole that now formed the front of the mansion. He stared at the sky, shaking his fist. “I am the one you want! You will have your war soon enough!”
Rand continues to shout that he is coming, and Aviendha calls his name. He stops and looks at her, but then just walks away. One of Ituralde’s officers who had returned with Rand asks her shakily if this kind happens often around Rand, and Aviendha tells him yes, and that the Dark One’s prison is weak. She can tell through the bond that Rand has actually gone back to bed as if nothing happened, and thinks his moods are getting as erratic as a pregnant Elayne’s. Merise approaches her, and comments it is “a shame”; if Aviendha was in the Tower, she’d have been Aes Sedai by now, even if her weaves are a little “rough.” Melaine appears and sniffs at Merise until Merise walks off. Melaine mutters about “insufferable” Aes Sedai, and points out that no Aes Sedai there except perhaps Cadsuane could come close to doing what Aviendha just did.
“You have such great talent, child.“
Aviendha swelled with the praise; from Wise Ones, it was rare, but always sincere.
”But you refuse to learn,“ Melaine continued. ”There isn’t much time!”
She quizzes Aviendha on what she thinks of Rand’s plan to kidnap the Domani merchant chiefs. Aviendha answers that it is a good plan, but Rand should not have phrased it to the chiefs the way he did; if he had put it in terms of “offering protection” for the merchants, the chiefs would have responded better. Melaine points out that it is still the same thing, but Aviendha counters that what you call a thing is important. Melaine seems pleased. Aviendha ventures that it is her fault that Rand still thinks the Car’a’carn is the same as a wetlander king, but Melaine disagrees, pointing out that the Wise Ones have failed there against Rand’s stubbornness as well.
So. That wasn’t the reason for her dishonor before the Wise Ones. What was it then? Aviendha ground her teeth in frustration, then forced herself to continue. “Regardless, he needs to be reminded. Again and again. Rhuarc is a wise and patient man, but not all clan chiefs are so. I know that some of the others wonder if their decision to follow Rand al’Thor was an error.”
Aviendha goes on that the chiefs will not accept offense after offense forever; they might not rebel like the Shaido, but some might choose to simply leave. Melaine agrees, and assures her that the Wise Ones are working to smooth things over. Aviendha wonders if Rand realizes how much of Aiel loyalty is owed to the Wise Ones’ work on his behalf behind the scenes. Melaine muses aloud about the “remnant of a remnant” prophecy, wondering what will happen after the Car’a’carn is done with them, and Aviendha is startled to realize she hadn’t even thought about that before.
She was centered on the now, upon regaining her honor and being there to protect Rand al’Thor at the Last Battle. But a Wise One could not just think of the now or the tomorrow. She had to think of the years ahead and the times that would be brought upon the winds.
A remnant of a remnant. He had broken the Aiel as a people. What would become of them?
Melaine then tells her to go rest, but adds that they will discuss her punishment tomorrow, for not finishing with the stones, and “not learning quickly enough.” Aviendha is astonished, and sure there is some correlation between the questions and the undeserved punishment, but cannot think of what it is. She finds herself thinking of going to Rand, but rebukes herself that she cannot go to him “as a beggar,” not until she has her honor back and figures out what she is doing wrong.
So there are quite a few sucky ways to die, but “dissolving into a pile of ultrahot tar” is… well, certainly it’s one of the more original ways to die, but actually I don’t know if it would be one of the suckier ways. It kind of depends on how much of the process poor Adrin was around to be conscious of. I think, though, all things being equal, we can probably assume it was very sucky indeed. Yuck.
And again, just like with the bug guy Perrin watched die in KOD, it’s the random, unforeseeable pointlessness of the death that is the worst part, in my opinion. A death in battle is not exactly a barrel of monkeys either, but at least then you had a chance to have your death mean something.
Randomly: I don’t remember the name of the guy who owns the manor right now, but I bet you millions of dollars that this was not the way he wanted to get the place aired out. I’m hardly going to make an exhaustive study of it, but I would be amazed if there’s a single place Rand has stayed for any length of time since leaving the Two Rivers that hasn’t ended up sustaining massive property damage as a result. Rand al’Thor: worst houseguest since termites!
I forgot to mention this icon when it first appeared a couple of chapters ago, but I like it, even if it took me a while to figure out what it was. But: Lace of the Pattern fraying, I get it now. Nice.
I’m not sure how I feel about Aviendha’s self-imposed exile from Rand in TGS. On the one hand, sure, I see the reasoning. And I can get behind wanting to prove you can be your own person and have your shit together before getting further into a relationship. Yay for lack of co-dependency drama, and alla that.
On the other, there’s a bloody apocalypse coming, girl. Like, any minute now. In which your boyfriend is fated to die, even if ambiguously. Maybe in this particular case, your self-esteem issues should not actually be the top-priority item on the relationship agenda at this juncture, hmm? Just a thought.
But, at least Aviendha got to be a little badass with the water thing here. It’s kind of interesting that of the Supergirls, I feel like Aviendha overall has had the least number of chances to display her channeling prowess; the last time I recall was in TPOD, with the unweaving gateway thing, and before that we hardly ever got to see her channel in practical situations at all, it seems like. Of course, maybe there’s a whole slew of them I’m just forgetting currently, but then that kind of proves my point, doesn’t it?
Melaine and Aviendha’s musing on the “remnant of a remnant” prophecy didn’t make much more than a passing impact on me the first time I read TGS, but in the wake of what happens in ToM, I have to say their conversation in this chapter was a very nice set-up for the Way-Forward Ter’angreal scene in the next book.
I also remember I found their conversation about the Aiel chiefs not taking Rand’s shit forever to be very worrying, because I had frankly been thinking the exact same thing. There’s a fine line to be walked as a leader between respecting your followers’ opinions and knowing when to ignore them and make your own stick, but by this point Rand has increasingly lost interest in walking that line at all.
Which doesn’t just make him a douche, it makes him a bad leader. And since he’s kind of supposed to be the Head Honcho in Charge of, you know, the entirety of Team Light, that’s kind of a problem.
It goes hand in hand with the thoughts Aviendha has about the work the Wise Ones do behind the scenes on Rand’s behalf. Any leader who’s anything more than a flash in the pan is only as good as the team he or she relies upon; you alienate your own people and you’re not only screwed, you deserve to be screwed.
Not to mention that frankly, the Aiel just deserve better. They’ve been Rand’s one rock-solid ally from the beginning, and no other people can claim to have sacrificed more on his behalf. But I guess it’s always easier to take for granted what you’ve never had cause to be concerned about.
And on that unsettling note, we out! I hope you all had a lovely and revelry-filled Halloween, and I’ll see you next week!