Happy honorary June 17th, WOTers! This here is a Wheel of Time Re-read!
Today’s entry covers Chapters 47 and 48 of The Gathering Storm, in which we have fathers, sons, rage, sorrow, thoughts on bullying, and the worst parent-teacher conference ever.
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!
Once again, scheduling note: JordanCon 2012 is almost here! I will be in attendance, and speaking on some panels, and meeting people, and generally having the blast I always have whenever I go to this shindig. I hope to see some of you there!
Also, I will be polishing off TGS in the Re-read next week, hooray! 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 by next post. And in the meantime, I will have some fun JordanCon-related blogging for you!
Chapter 47: The One He Lost
Feeling unsettled from his failed meeting with the Borderlanders, Rand sets out to wander around the Stone in no particular direction. He compares himself to the unnaturalness of the Power-created fortress, and feels as unnatural. He thinks that just as the Tairens try to camouflage the Stone with tapestries and decoration, so did people with Rand by giving him crowns and finery.
Never mind his much more alien nature, hidden beneath the crown. Never mind his heart of a man long dead, his shoulders created to bear the weight of prophecy, his soul crushed by the needs, wants and hopes of a million people.
Two hands. One to destroy, the other to save. Which had he lost?
He wonders why, when he has finally accepted what he must be, that there is a voice in his heart that disagrees, whispering that something is wrong. He realizes it is his encounter with Hurin that is bothering him, and Hurin’s connection to what Rand now thinks was a simpler life; Lews Therin comments that it is better to run from the past than to face it. He enters the Heart of the Stone, which reminds him that Cadsuane has Callandor hidden somewhere. He tells himself that Callandor is inferior to the power the Choedan Kal can give him, and a trap besides, but he is bothered by the fact that while Callandor is explicitly mentioned in the Prophecies, the Choedan Kal are not.
I told them... Lews Therin whispered.
Told them what? Rand demanded.
That the plan would not work, Lews Therin said, voice very soft. That brute force would not contain him. They called my plan brash, but these weapons they created, they were too dangerous. Too frightening. No man should hold such Power...
Rand wonders if that was the answer, that Lews Therin had made the wrong choice, but he remains uncertain. He wonders if he should cast Cadsuane out from the Stone, and grows angry again as he thinks of all those who are trying to tie strings to him or defying him or both. He wonders if it is not time to ensure the Seanchan cannot harry his rear when he goes to fight the Last Battle.
He had given them their chance. Several chances. He had warned Cadsuane, told her that he’d bind the Daughter of the Nine Moons to him. One way... or another.
It would not take long.
He looks around and finds the corridor he is in familiar, but can’t place it until Lews Therin tells him their first failure wasn’t fighting the Seanchan, but right here, where they had tried to resurrect the corpse of a little girl. He thinks that Moiraine had been right then, and wishes she were here. He tells his Maiden guards to gather their sisters, as they are going to battle, shouting at them when they do not go quickly enough. He returns to his rooms, and sees there is someone inside.
“What—” Rand began.
The man turned. It was not a stranger. Not a stranger at all.
It was Tam. His father.
Rand reels, his immediate sense of comfort at seeing Tam clashing with everything that had happened to him since Rand had seen him last. Tam seems hesitant, and Rand assumes it is because he knows that they are not related by blood.
Just the man who had raised him. Just the man who had taught him everything he knew. Just the man Rand loved and revered, and always would, no matter what their blood connection.
He asks Tam to sit, and they do. He sees that Tam glances at the stump of his hand, but says nothing. He is overwhelmed with nostalgia for a moment, and asks how Tam found him. Tam explains that he was with Perrin’s army, and Rand assumes that Nynaeve must have contacted them. Rand feels awkward, yet reassured that unlike everyone else, Tam seemed just the same. Rand starts asking questions about Perrin’s movements, but then stops himself, saying he can get a report from Perrin later. Tam chuckles.
“Ah, son,” he said, shaking his head, broad hardworking hands clasped before him, “they’ve really done it. They’ve gone and made a king out of you. What happened to the gangly boy, so wide-eyed at Bel Tine? Where’s the uncertain lad I raised all those years?”
“He’s dead,” Rand said immediately.
Tam nodded slowly. “I can see that.”
Rand tells him he knows that Tam is not his real father. Tam awkwardly asks if he should not call him “son” anymore; Rand wants him to, but thinks to himself that the Dragon Reborn cannot afford to have a father, or be seen to rely on the strength of a mere shepherd, and keeps silent, ignoring the screaming of the voice in his heart. He says instead that Tam’s failure to tell him of his real parentage probably saved his life as a child, and promises him somewhat pompously that he will be rewarded for his great service to the world by raising Rand. Tam says that it seems so funny to think of Rand as the Dragon Reborn, but Rand says it is not funny at all.
“My life isn’t my own. I’m a puppet for the Pattern and the prophecies, made to dance for the world before having my strings cut.”
Tam frowned. “That’s not true, son. Er, my Lord.”
“I can’t see it any other way.”
Tam says that a simple soldier doesn’t have much choice over what happens to them either. Rand points out that a soldier can always desert, but he cannot. Tam wonders if it matters that you can’t run when you know you won’t do it anyway. He insists that Rand does have a choice: he may not be able to choose what he has to do, but he can choose why he does it.
“When I was a soldier, there were some men who fought simply for the money. There were others who fought for loyalty—loyalty to their comrades, or to the crown, or to whatever. The soldier who dies for money and the soldier who dies for loyalty are both dead, but there’s a difference between them. One death meant something. The other didn’t.”
[…] “Why do you go to battle, Rand?“
”Because I must.“
”That’s not good enough,“ Tam said. ”To the crows with that woman! I wish she’d come to me sooner. If I’d known—“
”Cadsuane Sedai,“ Tam said.
Rand is nearly overwhelmed with rage at learning that Tam had been sent by Cadsuane, and demands to know what else Cadsuane had said. Uncertainly, Tam says that she said Tam should remind Rand of his youth, of better times, and Rand hisses that she manipulates him again. He seizes saidin, and screams at the nausea that hits him. Tam tries to say something, but Rand roars at him to be silent, throwing him to the ground with Air. He shouts that he is the Dragon Reborn, and not Tam’s pawn, and accuses him of faking his affection, of colluding with Cadsuane to tie strings to him.
He had lost control. But he didn’t care. They wanted him to feel. He would feel, then! They wanted him to laugh? He would laugh as they burned!
Screaming at them all, he wove threads of Air and Fire. Lews Therin howled in his head, saidin tried to destroy both of them, and the quiet voice inside Rand’s heart vanished.
He weaves balefire, but then sees Tam’s face, terrified, and begins to shake.
What am I DOING? Rand thought again.
No more than I’ve done before, Lews Therin whispered.
Tam continued to stare at him, face shadowed by the night.
Oh, Light, Rand thought with terror, shock and rage. I am doing it again. I am a monster.
Still holding tenuously to saidin, Rand wove a gateway to Ebou Dar, then ducked through, fleeing from the horror in Tam’s eyes.
Oh, poor darling.
That was pretty much my thought at reaching the end of this chapter. It’s kind of completely inadequate to express everything I was feeling about this meeting, but it was the primary response at the end.
And at the beginning, well. I think many others were wildly excited to see Tam and Rand in the same room again after, um, twenty-plus YEARS in reader time, and I don’t blame them, but I won’t lie: my immediate reaction was nothing but dread.
Because oh, you just knew this was going to go straight to hell, the moment Rand walked in and saw Tam, even as I was absolutely agog at finally seeing them together again. I read the whole scene, with Tam being the sensible and kind and common sensical über-father figure he is, and I was just cringing in wait for the inevitable mistake he would make, the wrong word or sentiment he would express that would trip Rand’s Crazy and make it all go to shit.
And of course he did. The ironic thing is, Cadsuane’s involvement is what made it go to hell, but if Tam had just actually listened to Cadsuane and not mentioned her, it wouldn’t have happened.
Well, no, I take that back. It still would have happened. If it hadn’t been Cadsuane, it would have been something else. There are several ways to set off a landmine, but the end result is still the same.
The other ironic thing is, for the first half of the chapter I was having some hope that things were getting better. Yes, Rand was mentally yelling about going back and smashing the Borderlanders and the Seanchan and lots of other psychotic crap, but I didn’t miss the first mention of that “quiet voice” that was finally beginning to be like, Uh, wait, maybe this is kind of completely insane?
So, I had hope that things were turning around. But, it turns out, we weren’t quite done with our Hero’s downward spiral to absolute rock bottom. This is because Team Jordan have evidently taken the proverb “it is always darkest before dawn” about as literally as humanly possible. I don’t think it gets much darker than almost killing your own (completely innocent) father.
Well, except maybe committing genocide. But that’s next week’s chapter, whee!
I hope it is clear how painfully insincere that “whee” is, by the way. I winced just to type it.
Anyway. Other more meta things:
With all the fraught drama going on here I’m pretty sure I missed it the first time, but this time around I definitely blinked at Tam’s passing comment to Rand that he knew who Morgase really was (which I left out of the summary). I was like, wait, what? Doesn’t that happen later?
And then I remembered, of course, that we spend most of ToM catching Perrin’s timeline up to everyone else, so we the reader are way behind where Perrin’s story arc actually is at this point. So, okay, but I’m really glad I didn’t notice that pre-ToM, because otherwise I would have spent quite a chunk of time being pissed, thinking that it meant that whole reveal had taken place off-screen. I like reveals, and I want to see reveals, dammit. No skipsies!
I was gratified, in a grim way, that Rand singled out his treatment of Hurin as the main thing that was bugging him about the Borderlander fiasco – mostly, I admit, because that’s what also bugged me the worst about that scene. I’m, like, all validated now. Go me!
Of course, we won’t mention that Rand had a far more logical reason for that to have gotten to him than my rather pouty reaction of “You stop being mean to poor Hurin, Mr. Meanie!” We’ll just skim right by that, shall we?
I remember, when first reading Rand’s thoughts wondering why the “inferior” Callandor was mentioned in the Prophecies but the Choedan Kal were not, that it was kind of a big light going on, like, “Ohhh.” Because, of course: Half-Crazed Rand thinks of Callandor as a box, a trap, but what it really is, is balance. It’s always been a central theme of WOT that things never work right, in the Power or otherwise, unless men and women are working together – in concert, instead of at cross-purposes.
Which is something Callandor requires, and the Choedan Kal do not – especially not now that the female access key has been destroyed, but even before then it was perfectly possible to use one without the other. So perhaps the meaning is not so much that no man or woman should wield such power, as that no man or woman should wield it alone.
Very clever, that.
And there is no mention of the Choedan Kal in the Prophecies – which, as Min has established a few chapters ago, only apply if the result of the Last Battle is either a win for the Light or a draw. So the obvious implication here is that if the Choedan Kal are used instead of Callandor, the Light will lose and the Wheel will be broken.
And that, I think we can all agree, would be bad. Insert obvious Ghostbusters quote here.
Chapter 48: Reading the Commentary
Min sits in Cadsuane’s room with Cadsuane, Nynaeve, Corele, Merise and Beldeine, reading a book called Commentary on the Dragon while waiting to hear how Tam’s meeting with Rand went. She thinks to herself that she had regretted allying with Cadsuane at first, what with Cadsuane’s relentless interrogation of her re: her viewings of Rand, and also her unwillingness to share information in return, but Min is resigned to it now. She is intrigued by one particular sentence in her book:
He shall hold a blade of light in his hands, and the three shall be one.
[…] A blade of light almost certainly meant Callandor. But what of the ”three shall be one“?
The speculation in the book is that it refers to uniting three great kingdoms, but Min is not so sure. She feels a surge of pain and anger through the bond, and tries to ignore her worries. She comments to Cadsuane that she thinks the interpretation of the phrase in the book is wrong. Beldeine remarks that she finds Min’s attempts to imitate a scholar “amusing”. Cadsuane invites Min to explain why she thinks she knows more than the author. Bristling, Min replies that Rand only holds one crown, and it makes even less sense now that he has given away both Andor and Tear. She thinks it refers to something concerning how to use Callandor. Cadsuane then casually remarks that Min is actually quite right, and that passage is how Cadsuane came to discover that Callandor can only be used safely in a circle of three.
“But that would imply that Rand had to use Callandor in a circle sometime,” Min said, looking at the passage again. He’d never done so, as far as she knew.
“It would,” Cadsuane said.
Cadsuane then broadly implies that Beldeine owes Min an apology, but Beldeine instead stands and leaves; Cadsuane sniffs. Min notes that Nynaeve is obviously irritated that no one else seems as visibly anxious as she, and sees a viewing of Nynaeve “kneeling over someone’s corpse in grief.” She can’t interpret it any more than she can the black knife that spins around Beldeine’s head lately. She goes back to the book, and reflects that she doesn’t think it makes sense to suppose that Rand is going to fight the Dark One while in a circle that someone else will have to control. She says that she thinks there is something more to Callandor than they have discovered, and to her surprise Cadsuane agrees with her. Before they can discuss it further, though, the door slams open to admit a furious Tam al’Thor. He demands to know what Cadsuane has done to Rand; Cadsuane replies that she did nothing but “encourage him toward civility.”
“Something, it seems, other members of the family could learn as well.”
“Watch your tongue, Aes Sedai,” Tam snarled. “Have you seen him? The entire room seemed to grow darker when he entered. And that face—I’ve seen more emotion in the eyes of a corpse! What has happened to my son?”
“I take it,” Cadsuane said, “that the reunion did not go as hoped?”
Tam seems to abruptly swallow down his anger, and tells them levelly that Rand, once such a “gentle and faithful” son, just tried to kill him with the One Power. Min is almost panicked by the news, but Cadsuane asks Tam coldly if he had used the words she prepared for him. Tam replies that he abandoned her “Aes Sedai script” once he realized it wasn’t working, and demands to know what she did to make Rand hate her so. Cadsuane picks him up with Air and reminds him about civility. Nynaeve protests, but Tam tells her it is all right.
Tam stared [Cadsuane] in the eyes. “I’ve known men who, when challenged, always turn to their fists for answers. I’ve never liked Aes Sedai; I was happy to be rid of them when I returned to my farm. A bully is a bully, whether she uses the strength of her arm or other means.”
Cadsuane snorted, but the words had irked her, for she set Tam down.
Nynaeve points out they had warned him that Rand was unstable, but Tam retorts that he is closer to insane, and asks what has happened to him. Cadsuane says this is irrelevant.
“You realize, child, that might have been our last opportunity to save your son?”
“If you’d explained to me how he regarded you,” Tam said, “it might have gone differently. Burn me! This is what I get for listening to Aes Sedai.”
“This is what you get for being wool-headed and ignoring what you are told!” Nynaeve interjected.
“This is what we all get,” Min said, “for assuming we can make him do what we want.”
The room fell still.
Min suddenly realizes through the bond that Rand is far away, to the west, and Tam confirms that he had left through a gateway. He adds that he would have sworn that Rand meant to kill him, from the look in his eyes, but something seemed to distract him, and he’d grabbed “that little statue” and left. Cadsuane asks if Tam could see where the gateway led, but Tam isn’t sure.
“Ebou Dar,” Min said, surprising them all. “He’s gone to destroy the Seanchan. Just as he told the Maidens he would.”
“I don’t know about that last part,” Tam said. “But it did look like Ebou Dar.”
“Light preserve us,” Corele whispered.
Indeed, Corele. Indeed.
So, I have been trying (with, I think, at least some success) not to be a total hater when it comes to Cadsuane, but I’m sorry, when Tam called her out for being a big old bully I about stood up and did three snaps in a circle AND the cabbage patch, because EXACTLY, YES, THANK YOU, SOMEONE FINALLY SAID IT, PRAISE TO BUDDHA.
The problem with people (she observes, grandiosely) is that ultimately they need to be led, and someone (or group of someones) needs to be the leader and the others the followers. A hierarchy, in other words. The problem, though, isn’t that there needs to be some kind of hierarchy; the problem is that everyone has a different idea of what that hierarchy ought to be, and where everyone’s place is in it and why, and how it is to be enforced, and, you know, just about every other aspect of the bloody issue that could possibly be thought of.
And this disagreement, in the end, is where bullies come from, because regardless of the ethical validity of violence as a means of establishing a hierarchy (political, social, or otherwise), it’s pretty hard to deny that violence (or the threat of it) is definitely the easiest way to do it.
This ties into a thought Min has in this chapter, which – well, here, I’ll just quote it:
Nobody could humiliate one more soundly than an Aes Sedai, for they did it without malice. Moiraine had explained it to Min once in simple terms: Most Aes Sedai felt it was important to establish control when there was no great conflict, so that if a crisis did happen, people would know where to look.
This philosophy has the remarkable quality of being sensible from one point of view and contemptible from another. The difference between the two being dependent, of course, on whether you agree that Aes Sedai are automatically the best people to be in charge of a crisis situation. If they are, then the sentiment is kind of sucky but logically sound; if they aren’t, then it is tyranny. DISCUSS.
Getting back to Cadsuane, I think it’s been said before that she is kind of the quintessential Aes Sedai, in all the negative ways that implies as well as the positive ones. That may not be completely true, but it’s true enough. I think, therefore, that the impulse to judge her the most harshly of all Aes Sedai for her bullying ways makes a lot of sense.
And regardless of whether you buy any of the above, I seriously doubt anyone out there does not applaud the awesomeness of Tam al’Thor for having the balls to say it to her. You go, girl. Dude, guy, whatever.
Although, and this is not at all to impugn the basic awesomeness of Tam here, I’m pretty sure just about any parent would have been ready to tear someone a new asshole after having a reunion like that one. Hell’s bells.
“The three shall be one”: Well, this one seems pretty obvious to me – which, granted, might be a sign that it is definitely the wrong answer, but shaddup, I’m talking here. The first thing I thought of is that it means that the three in the circle have to be Rand, Aviendha, and Elayne. After, all they sort of already are “one”, from a certain point of view, because of the bond.
The only reason this bothers me is that it leaves Min out entirely. And yes, she can’t channel, but she is part of Rand’s three women deal, and without her involved it just ain’t symmetrical and shit. I dunno. Maybe the thing they haven’t discovered about Callandor is that it can jigger the circle thing so Rand can lead instead of one of the women… but that doesn’t seem right, and it still leaves Min out. Bah, I don’t know.
Min’s other two viewings in this chapter are pretty well useless to try and interpret, in my opinion. We’re obviously supposed to dread that the corpse Nynaeve is kneeling over will be Lan’s, but there is a whole slew of other people who Nynaeve would be genuinely grieved to see die, so blah. And as for Beldeine’s black knife, I don’t know what that would be referring to (I don’t think the Seanchan Bloodknives use black blades, but I could be wrong), and as far as I know we don’t see Beldeine in ToM, so that’s a *shrug* too.
And of course it suddenly occurs to me to wonder if any or all of these prophecies get answered in ToM and I just made myself a big idiot for not remembering. If so, in my defense it’s been quite a while since I read ToM, and that only the once-or-twice-ish, so there. I will Read And Find Out!
And, yeah. All that aside, we’ve pretty much reached the darkest hour here, haven’t we? And yet. And yet.
And yet, that’s about what I got for this one, kids. Join me next week when we see this through to The End For Now!