It’s a Wheel of Time Re-read! Either that, or it’s its own grandfather. Dun!
Today’s entry covers Chapter 44 of The Gathering Storm, in which I fail some more at philosophy and logic, and Rand fails some more at not being a giant poopy head.
We’re having one chapter this week so that the remaining chapters pair up all pretty. And because I said so.
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!
Also, scheduling note: JordanCon 2012 is a-coming! I will be there, and speaking on some panels, and meeting people, and generally having the blast I always have whenever I go to this shindig. You should come, too!
Coincidentally, it looks like I will be polishing off TGS in the Re-read right before I go. Therefore, your Auntie Leigh will be taking her traditional between-book break starting the last week of April, before starting Towers of Midnight. How long that hiatus will be, I ain’t for sure yet, but I will let you know as soon as I do. And in the meantime, I will have some fun JordanCon-related blogging for you!
Chapter 44: Scents Unknown
Rand, Nynaeve, Narishma, and Naeff are riding with a company of Aiel guards over the Plains of Maredo, heading to a meeting with the delegation from the Borderlander armies. Nynaeve is arguing with Rand about his plans for the Blightborder; she wants him to reinforce Lan’s forces at Tarwin’s Gap, but Rand replies that it would be “a waste of resources.” Nynaeve tries to swallow down her anger and speak calmly, even though Rand had been ignoring her reasoned arguments for days now.
Each day brought Lan one step closer to a fight he couldn’t win. Each day made her more anxious; several times, she’d nearly abandoned Rand and ridden for the north. If Lan was going to fight an impossible battle, then she longed to be at his side. But she stayed. Light take Rand al’Thor, she stayed. What good would it do to help Lan, only to let the world fall into Shadow because of a stubborn sheepherder’s stubborn... stubbornness!
Nynaeve yanks her braid and points out that Ituralde has said the Blight is “swarming” with Trollocs, and she bets the bulk of them will be at the Gap, the easiest point to break through. Rand tells her coldly that that is exactly why he won’t go there; he has no interest in letting the enemy dictate the battlefield. He intends to jump directly to Shayol Ghul instead. Nynaeve counters that there is no way Lan can hope to hold the Gap alone; if Rand does not aid him, he will be overrun. Rand replies that this is good; it will keep the Shadow’s forces occupied while he makes his move.
“Rand,” Nynaeve said, her anger fading to horror. “Lan will die!”
“Then who am I to deny him that?” Rand said. “We all deserve the chance to find peace.”
Nynaeve found her mouth hanging open. He actually believed that! Or he was convincing himself to believe it, at least.
“My duty is to kill The Dark One,” Rand said, as if to himself. “I kill him, then I die. That is all.”
“That is enough, Nynaeve.” Rand spoke softly in that dangerous voice of his. He would not be pressed further.
Nynaeve thinks of what will happen to the people of the Borderlands and beyond if Rand’s plan goes through: that the Seanchan and the Trollocs will meet in the middle eventually, and turn all the lands between them into a massive battleground, crushing everyone before them. She tries to think of something to turn Rand away from this course of action, but cannot think of anything. In desperation, she turns back to Cadsuane’s instructions for her mysterious “plan,” even though she resents being kept in the dark, and asks Rand if he knows where Perrin is. When he asks why, she says she is worried about him, but Rand doesn’t believe her. He tells her that he and Mat and Perrin are “connected,” but refuses to elaborate further.
Nynaeve settled back, gritting her teeth again. The other Aes Sedai spoke of being in control of their emotions, but obviously they didn’t have to deal with Rand al’Thor. Nynaeve could be calm too, if she weren’t expected to manage the most bullheaded fool of a man who had ever put on a pair of boots.
Nynaeve falls back to ride with Narishma, and asks if he, as a Borderlander, has any idea why the Borderland monarchs left their posts. Narishma replies that he was a cobbler’s son, and has no notion of the ways of nobility. He adds, though, that any Borderlander would die before breaking their word, and doesn’t know what to make of the armies abandoning their posts the way they have. Nynaeve thinks of Lan’s sense of honor and how it frustrates her even as she admires him for it, and vows again to find some way to help him. The Aiel scouts return; Rand asks if they complied with his restrictions – no more than two hundred men and four or fewer Aes Sedai. The scouts reply that they have, for they only sent one man, by himself. They come to the crossroads where the meeting is set to find a man waiting for them; Nynaeve is shocked to recognize Hurin, the thief-taker and “sniffer” from Shienar. Hurin begins to greet Rand with enthusiasm, but is cut off as Rand picks him up on flows of Air and holds him in midair.
“Who chased after you and me, Hurin,” Rand called, “the time when we were trapped in that distant shadow land? What nationality of men did I fell with the bow?”
“Men?” Hurin asked, voice almost a squawk. “Lord Rand, there were no men in that place! None that we met, beyond Lady Selene, that is. All I remember are those frog beasts, the same ones folk say those Seanchan ride!”
Hurin asks if Rand doesn’t believe it is him. Rand says that he supposes the Borderlanders sent Hurin because of their history together. Nynaeve feels sorry for Hurin, knowing how he had idolized Rand, and supposes this must be “unsettling” for him. Hurin is then distracted by the “smell” in the air, saying he’s never smelled it before.
“What?” Rand asked.
“I don’t know,” Hurin said. “The air... it smells like a lot of death, a lot of violence, only not. It’s darker. More terrible.” He shuddered visibly.
Rand doesn’t seem to care about this, and wants to know why the Borderlanders only sent Hurin. Hurin tells him he’s here to set the terms for the actual meeting. He explains that the Borderlanders are in Far Madding, and want him to meet with them there inside the protection of the Guardian ter’angreal. Rand cuts Hurin off and opens a gateway to a short distance away, then another to Far Madding; Nynaeve is confused by this until she realizes it lets Rand skip the step of learning the place he’s starting from, since Traveling to a place teaches someone that location well enough to create gateways from it, and is embarrassed that she never thought of that herself. The Borderlander army is camped all around the lake surrounding Far Madding, within the bubble of the Guardian’s influence. Rand comments that they expect him to “ride into their box,” but they do not understand that no one controls him anymore. He takes out the access key ter’angreal.
“Perhaps they need to be taught,” Rand said. “Given encouragement to do their duty and obey me.”
“Rand...” Nynaeve tried to think. She couldn’t let this happen again!
The access key began to glow faintly. “They want to capture me,” he said softly. “Hold me. Beat me. They did it once in Far Madding already. They—”
“Rand!” Nynaeve said sharply.
He stopped, looking at her, seeing her as if for the first time.
“These are not slaves with their minds already burned away by Graendal. That is an entire city full of innocent people!”
Rand replies that he would only strike the army, not the townsfolk, and Nynaeve counters that the Borderlanders have done nothing except ask him to meet them. She tells him that if he does this, there is no turning back. Rand replies it is already too late for that, but backs off, to Nynaeve’s relief. Rand gives Hurin a message for his leaders:
“Tell them that it will not be long before the Dragon Reborn rides to battle at Shayol Ghul. If they wish to return to their posts with honor, I will provide them with transport back to the Blight. Otherwise, they can remain here, hiding. Let them explain to their children and grandchildren why they were hundreds of leagues away from their posts when the Dark One was slain and the prophecies fulfilled.”
Hurin looked shaken. “Yes, Lord Rand.” […] His reunion with “Lord Rand” had obviously been far from what he expected.
They Travel back to Tear, and once there Rand surprises Nynaeve by telling her to look for Perrin camped with an army in the shade of a huge statue “shaped like a sword stabbing the earth.” She asks how he knows, and he says he just does. She asks why he told her, and he replies that he owes her a debt, “for caring when I cannot,” and leaves. She hurries into the keep, getting lost twice in the changing hallways, and finds Cadsuane in her room with Merise, Corele, and Min. Nynaeve feels sympathy for Min, who she doesn’t blame for seeming to avoid Rand lately. She informs them that she’s found Perrin, and Cadsuane praises her for being “of use” after all; Nynaeve is intensely annoyed that she is pleased by such a backhanded compliment. She refuses to tell, however, until Cadsuane tells her why Perrin is so important, and whether the information will end up hurting Rand more. Cadsuane is annoyed, and asks how the meeting with the Borderlanders went. Nynaeve replies it went as badly as could be expected, and relates what happened. She adds that she only barely stopped him, and that it might be becoming too late to do anything with him.
“That boy will laugh again,” Cadsuane said quietly, but intensely. “I didn’t live this long to fail now.”
Corele asks why it matters, to Nynaeve’s shock, and explains that Min’s viewings include things that clearly can’t happen until after the Last Battle; ergo, she thinks, since Min’s viewings are never wrong, that indicates that their side must prevail. Min informs her that she is mistaken, for if Rand loses, there is no Pattern; the Dark One will destroy it, and all prophecies related to it will fail. The others are silenced, and Nynaeve reluctantly concludes that assisting Cadsuane is of paramount importance. She tells them what Rand said about Perrin, and Cadsuane recognizes the statue, which is near the Jehannah Road. She tells them they are going there, right now.
She hesitated, then glanced at Nynaeve. “In answer to your question earlier, child, Perrin actually isn’t important to our plans.”
“He isn’t?” Nynaeve asked. “But—”
Cadsuane raised a finger. “There are people with him who are vital. One in particular.”
ObligatoryUghTGSRand: Ugh, TGS Rand. You hurt my heart, you really do.
It just keeps getting worser and worser, don’t it? Natrin’s Barrow to Arad Doman to this is just putting whole new dollops of lube on that slippery slope Rand’s rocking. We’re going to break the sound barrier at this rate.
Although, true, I personally found the first two incidents to be more appalling, but I think that’s mainly because (a) nothing catastrophically bad actually happens here, unlike the other two things; it’s just the fact that it so easily could have, and that this time Rand doesn’t even have the flimsy excuse of “(massive) collateral damage while engaging enemy,” because these are his own fucking allies he’s about to slaughter.
And (b), by this point I was just kind of numb to the shock of Rand’s increasing horribleness. It was like, oh, look, it got worse. Sigh, slump, wish I was reading an Egwene chapter instead.
Of course, in light of what happens when the monarchs do actually meet with Rand, I’d venture to speculate that this outcome was, in fact, by far the best that could be hoped for at this stage. Rand himself tells the Borderlanders in ToM that it was a damn good thing they didn’t pull their bitchslapping crap on him the first time he went to Far Madding (and seriously, what the hell with that whole thing, I am still just flabbergasted, but more on that at the proper time), and re-reading this scene now, I’m prepared to state that that just might be the understatement of the Third Age.
Possibly the Fourth, too, for good measure, because daaaaaamn. If you think Shadar Logoth in WH looked like a smoking crater…
Thank God for Nynaeve, yeah? Which just makes it all the more terrifying that she’d almost run off to help Lan (not that I blame her for wanting to), because I think it’s safe to say that Far Madding (or at least the area around it) would have been a smoking crater if she hadn’t been there, and that’s even without the bitchslapping incentive! So Nynaeve saves the day, if less pyrotechnically than is her usual saving wont, and that’s nice because it feels like it’s been a while since she’s gotten to do that.
Speaking of Lan, once again, WHAT THE HELL, RAND. Again, I tend to think Nynaeve actually underreacted to what Rand was saying, which was, basically, “not only am I not going to help your husband, I am basing my battle strategy on his certain demise! Yay!”
Well, okay, not “Yay.” Rand is not exactly in a “Yay” place at the moment, even a sarcastic “Yay.” So, yeah.
Anyway, Nynaeve. I guess she is just more practical than I am. I mean, it’s not like she didn’t know already that the chances of Lan coming through this alive were rather astronomically low, and it’s not like planning battles don’t involve planning on how to use the deaths of your own forces to your tactical advantage.
But it’s not so much the sentiment itself, it’s the callousness of the way he says it that would have had me seeing red; the fact that he just – doesn’t – care. Not even about Lan, his teacher, his first real ally (yes, even before Perrin and Mat), and the closest person Rand’s had to a mentor since he left Tam behind in the Two Rivers. Rand is the guy who, four books ago, fell off a roof to his certain phobia-triggering capture rather than let Lan fall on his own, and now he’s… this.
Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh.
But I think the part that got me the worst in this chapter was how Rand treated Hurin. That really upset me, because while I was angered on Nynaeve’s behalf, Nynaeve is a big girl who is more than tough enough to take what even Semi-Evil Rand can dish out. Whereas (and possibly I am making this up in my head, but whatever) poor Hurin was all so excited to see “Lord Rand” and was all hopeful that Rand would be pleased to see him, or at least, you know, was probably expecting that Rand would be capable of being fucking civil to him. And instead Rand is the biggest jerk to him ever.
It’s probably hypocritical of me, considering how indignant I’m going to be over the Monarch Bitchslapping Incident of ToM (and how mad I got at Cadsuane for doing it, too), but if I had been standing there I might have slapped him. You be nice to Hurin! He is awesome and was nothing but your friend, and he does not deserve to deal with the giant steaming pile of assholery that is Rand al’Thor right now!
Speaking of Cadsuane, DUN! I honestly can’t remember if I’d guessed at this point who she was going to retrieve from Perrin’s entourage. Going by my general track record, though, probably not. Also, I’m not sure I actually remembered Tam was with Perrin’s party at this point anyway.
Other random things from this chapter:
Traveling trick: I’m pretty sure I’ve said it before, but to reiterate for the record: Traveling makes NO SENSE. At least not to me, because I just cannot get my brain around the idea that you don’t actually have to know where you are going to get there. That is straight-up Lewis Carroll Red Queen deranged-making physics fail right there.
That said, I don’t particularly mind that it doesn’t make sense, for much the same reason warp drive technology doesn’t really bother me in Star Trek, because I tend to view both things as much more of a literary device than anything that needs to make actual physical sense. Someone once said that stories are life with the boring parts cut out, and instantaneous travel methods of any stripe contribute admirably to helping us all skip the boring parts, so why worry?
Yes, I am aware this is a little bit insane. But hey, it’s not like y’all don’t know what you’re in for by this point.
Also, ha ha, Corele fails at…
*three hours later* AGGGH. The entire field of logic and philosophy is fired. And so is Wikipedia. And Google. (Or, possibly, my online research skills. Shut up.)
So, I don’t know exactly what you call the thing Corele fails at, but she definitely fails at it. (Predestination paradox? No, that’s the Terminator thing. Newcomb’s Paradox? No, that’s not it. The paradox of free will? Not exactly. The problem of future contingents? Uh. Maybe? Determinism? Um… Syllogism? Er… Post hoc ergo propter hoc? MY HEAD ASPLODE)
The problem is not understanding what Min is saying, because it makes perfect sense to me: prophecies work as long as reality exists, otherwise they don’t. Duh. The problem is that I don’t know what you call that. Or if it actually has a name in the first place. Anyone who actually remembers their education in this stuff is more than welcome to help me out here.
And since I now have a splitting headache, this is where we stop! Philosophize away in the comments, and come back next week for some more yummy Egwene-y goodness! Ciao!