Friends! Romans! WOTrymen! Lend me your ears!
Welcome back to the Wheel of Time Re-read, y’all! Today we start a brand shiny new novel in the series, El Nombre I mean Número Seis (I speak fluent Spanishese!), otherwise known as Lord of Chaos, which is the first novel in the series whose title doesn’t begin with “The”. Not that this means anything, but you know.
What? I notice these things!
This post will be covering Part 1 of the Prologue. Yes, that’s right, this post will only be covering half of the Prologue, because that’s how freaking long it is. LOC’s going to be a lengthy haul, you guys.
Previous entries are here. Please be aware that this and all other posts on this blog contain spoilers for all currently published novels in the Wheel of Time series.
And now, the post!
Prologue: The First Message [Part 1]
Demandred arrives on the slopes of Shayol Ghul, and notes that the Myrrdraal must be very upset at how few slaves there were at Thakandar, to make their deadly black blades with. His musing is interrupted by a Fade taller than any he’s seen before, which introduces itself as Shaidar Haran (“Hand of the Dark”, in the Old Tongue), and leads Demandred into the mountain. Inside the tunnel, Demandred notes that the jagged spikes above which always almost brush his own head clear the Fade’s by a good margin, which indicates it stands high in the Great Lord’s favor. They reach the Pit of Doom, and Demandred tries to dismiss the Fade, but it ignores him.
Demandred opened his mouth—and a voice exploded in his head.
To call it a voice was to call a mountain a pebble. It nearly crushed him against the inside of his own skull; it filled him with rapture. He sank to his knees. The Myrddraal stood watching impassively, but only a small part of him could even notice the thing with that voice filling his brain.
The voice asks for news, and Demandred thinks he is always surprised both by what the Great Lord knows and what he doesn’t. Sweating, he answers that Rahvin died the day before, and Lanfear, Asmodean, and Moghedien have vanished.
THE CHOSEN DWINDLE, DEMANDRED. THE WEAK FALL AWAY. WHO BETRAYS ME SHALL DIE THE FINAL DEATH. ASMODEAN, TWISTED BY HIS WEAKNESS. RAHVIN DEAD IN HIS PRIDE. HE SERVED WELL, YET EVEN I CANNOT SAVE HIM FROM BALEFIRE. EVEN I CANNOT STEP OUTSIDE OF TIME. For an instant terrible anger filled that awful voice, and—could it be frustration? An instant only. DONE BY MY ANCIENT ENEMY, THE ONE CALLED DRAGON. WOULD YOU UNLEASH THE BALEFIRE IN MY SERVICE, DEMANDRED?
Demandred hesitates, remembering the consequences the last time balefire was openly used in battle, but replies that he will obey as ordered. He begins to explain that he believes the Dragon can be destroyed, but the Great Lord brings him up short by asking if he would like to be “Nae’blis”, which is the title for the one who would be first among all his followers. Demandred answers he only wishes to serve, and screams as the voice gives him the knowledge of “who will die and who will live”.
Nynaeve tells Siuan and Leane to stop fidgeting, irritated that she is sweating buckets in the heat and they are cool and dry. Siuan repeats her belief that this is a complete waste of time, but they promised, so Nynaeve should get on with it already. Nynaeve probes at them with the One Power, though technically she is not channeling; she’s using the saidar flowing through the woman with a careworn farmer’s face sitting in the corner, with a silver collar around her neck that matches the bracelet Nynaeve wears. Nynaeve thinks in some ways it would be better if the woman were already dead. She mutters that something is “torn, or cut” in the two stilled women, and “Marigan” pipes up that it was once called “severing”. All three of the other women glare at her, and Nynaeve tells her to say useful things or shut up. Marigan shrinks back, and Nynaeve feels her fear and hatred through the forced link, the intimacy of which she loathes. She unclasps the bracelet and hands it to Siuan, telling her to put it on.
Siuan eyed her stubbornly for a moment—Light, but the woman could be obstinate!—before closing the bracelet around her wrist. A look of wonder came onto her face immediately, then her eyes narrowed at Marigan. “She hates us, but I knew that. And there’s fear, and . . . shock. Not a glimmer on her face, but she’s shocked to her toes. I don’t think she believed I could use this thing, either.”
Siuan sighs that she cannot channel through her, though, and abruptly orders Nynaeve to get it off her; Nynaeve gently points out that the fact that she can feel Marigan at all means there must be something there to be Healed, but Siuan isn’t buying it. Nynaeve shakes her head and complies, and Leane holds her wrist out eagerly. She reports the same effects as Siuan, and Nynaeve takes the bracelet back. Elayne suddenly barges in, furious, scaring the wits out of everyone else in the room, especially Marigan. She informs them that “they” are sending an embassy to Caemlyn, and will not let her go with them! Siuan asks if she really thinks Sheriam and the others would allow the Daughter-Heir to go anywhere near the Dragon Reborn, with her mother dead? Elayne snaps back that she doesn’t believe that, but Siuan counters that she doesn’t believe Rand killed her, which is not the same thing. Elayne doesn’t buy any of it, but leaves the matter to return to the point that regardless, her place is in Caemlyn. Siuan snorts that she knows better than that.
“True, they’d not mind you taking the throne sooner than later; there hasn’t been a Queen who was openly Aes Sedai in far too long. But they won’t let you go until you’re a full sister, and even then, because you are Daughter-Heir and will be Queen soon, they won’t let you near the Dragon bloody Reborn until they know how far they can trust him. Especially since this . . . amnesty of his.” Her mouth twisted sourly around the word, and Leane grimaced.
Elayne refuses to back down, and reiterates that it is her duty to be there, and in any case she would be a far better candidate to approach Rand than anyone the Hall in exile might send. Leane is very dry about this, since they all know exactly what Elayne will do if she gets within kissing distance of Rand, and points out that if Rand has the Daughter-Heir, he has not only Caemlyn but all of Andor, and he is growing too powerful too fast, especially now that Moiraine is dead. Siuan adds that she is trying to “balance a live silverpike on her nose”, keeping up support among the Rebels for Rand when half of them secretly want to gentle him and the rest want nothing to do with him, so Elayne can just let it go. Nynaeve is struck by a sudden thought, and asks how many Aes Sedai there will be in this embassy; to her relief, Siuan answers nine, “not enough to frighten him”. Leane adds that Min will be accompanying them, and Elayne says flatly that she has things to do, and leaves. Nynaeve rounds on Leane angrily.
“I thought Siuan was the mean one of you, but that was vicious!”
It was Siuan who answered. “When two women love the same man, it means trouble, and when the man is Rand al’Thor . . . the Light knows how sane he still is. Or what course they might send him off on. If there’s any hair-pulling and clawing to be done, let them do it now, here.”
Siuan and Leane go to leave as well, ignoring Nynaeve’s protests; Leane says sadly that it would be nice if anything were to come of her trying to Heal them, but maybe she should try Logain instead. They leave, and Moghedien observes that they bite each other like “rats in a sealed box”. Nynaeve tells her to be silent, and thinks of the regretful necessity of keeping the captive Forsaken alive and secret from the Aes Sedai. Digging information out of her was difficult, but what they had learned had gained her and Elayne a lot of credit among the Aes Sedai in Salidar.
Guilt and revulsion stabbed Nynaeve, not for the first time. Could any amount of knowledge justify keeping one of the Forsaken from justice? Turning her in meant punishment, probably dreadful, for everyone involved, not just herself, but Elayne and Siuan and Leane. Turning her in meant Birgitte’s secret would come out. And all that knowledge lost. Moghedien might know nothing of Healing, but she had given Nynaeve a dozen hints of what was possible, and there had to be more in her head. With those to guide her, what might she discover eventually?
She tells Moghedien that they will discuss the weather, and Moghedien sighs and says she knows nothing about controlling the weather, except that the heat is the Great Lo- the Dark One’s work, and there’s nothing to be done about it. Nynaeve tries not to grind her teeth, and settles down to drag what she can out of the woman.
Elayne hurries out in search of Min, barely pausing to wave at Birgitte, and ignores the bustle in the streets, even when Bryne rides by, ignoring her as usual. She is intercepted however, by Anaiya and Janya Frende, a Brown sister; Janya gushes to Elayne over all the marvelous discoveries (like invisibility, though you have to stand still for it to work) she and Nynaeve have made since arriving in Salidar, and Anaiya adds that she should be proud. Elayne thinks that she doesn’t feel very proud, considering the source of their “discoveries”; even worse, they had been forced to keep some techniques (like inverting weaves and how to hide the ability to channel) secret, lest Moghedien’s disguise be uncovered. And then there are the really repulsive things, like Compulsion. But at least the ter’angreal had been her achievement alone; after the a’dam to hold Moghedien, she had made a disc that allows someone not strong enough to work the invisibility trick alone to do it. She comments to Anaiya, though, that she hadn’t done as well with them as she’d like, and both Janya and Anaiya remonstrate with her for “sulking”; Elayne apologizes and makes her escape.
There was so much subterfuge here in Salidar. Not just Birgitte, and Moghedien. One of the Oaths kept an Aes Sedai from lying, but what was not spoken of did not have to be lied over. Moiraine had known how to weave a cloak of invisibility, maybe the same one they learned from Moghedien […] Most Aes Sedai, maybe all, kept back at least part of what they learned; most had their own secret tricks. Those might become common knowledge taught to novices or Accepted, if enough Aes Sedai learned them—or they might die with the Aes Sedai.
[…] Knowing did not make her own deceptions more palatable, but maybe it helped a little. That, and remembering necessity. If only they would stop praising her for what she had not done.
She finds Min by the river; Min takes one look at her and knows she’s heard. She tells Elayne that Siuan wants her to spy on Rand for her. Elayne immediately replies, but she won’t, and Min gives her a grateful look. Elayne asks why Min was afraid to come to her about it; hadn’t they agreed a man was not going to come between them, even if they both loved him? Min points out that that was when they were both far away from Rand, and Elayne tries not to contemplate ways she could keep Min from joining the embassy. She asks if Min will carry a letter to Rand for her, and Min agrees immediately. Elayne then warns Min that she should not tell Rand about her viewing concerning him and them; Min agrees, but they disagree on what the effect will be if she did tell. Elayne thinks it would induce Rand to “decide to be noble” and “save” them by keeping away from both of them.
“Maybe,” Min said doubtfully. “Men are strange. More likely, if he realizes we’ll both come running when he crooks a finger, he’ll crook it. He won’t be able to help himself. I’ve seen them do it. I think it has something to do with the hair on their chins.” She had such a wondering look that Elayne was not sure whether or not that was a joke.
Elayne feels near-despair over the situation, and decides to change the subject. They briefly discuss Birgitte, Elayne carefully avoiding anything that would give Birgitte away, and Min offers her condolences over the news about Elayne’s mother. Elayne idly tries to affect the broiling heat with the Power, to no avail, as Min opines blithely that Rand is defeating all his enemies handily, and thinks the Last Battle “will be a walk”, and that they are winning.
Releasing the Source, Elayne sagged back, staring at a sky as empty as her mood had become. You did not need to be able to channel to see the Dark One’s hand at work, and if he could touch the world this much, if he could touch it at all . . . “Are we?” she said, but too softly for Min to hear.
So I guess it’s LOC where the Prologues get officially out of hand, because damn.
It always seems to be where evil is most… evilish that Jordan really seemed to go all out with the description. You should definitely go back and read the bit with Demandred, because I mostly left out all the creepy imagery, and it is really well done.
Probably the most interesting thing about this bit is how it firmly establishes that the Dark One, while generally very impressive and scary and stuff, is in no way an omniscient being. (That he is not omnipotent is self-evident, seeing as all-powerful beings are probably pretty difficult to keep imprisoned.) This is in concordance with the general Western version of dualism in that the Satan figure, while powerful, is never actually the equal of the God figure. This being presumably to reassure us all that evil doesn’t ever get to really triumph over good.
(This is as opposed to the Eastern version of dualism (i.e. yin-yang), which is really nothing like the Western version, and yet Jordan manages to use concurrently with the God/Satan=Creator/Dark One parallel. Theological mashups FTW!)
I will confess, by the way, to a certain amount of deliberate mental hand-waving when it comes to the Dark One thing, because if I think about it too long I start to get really annoyed with the arbitrariness of his existence and seriously why create some ultimate evil dude and lock him up at the very moment he’s created just so some dumbass can go and let him out sooner or later and then the rest of humanity has to spend all their free time trying to stuff him back in his box, like, thanks, jerk.
But then again, I get the same way once I start contemplating why the damn apple tree had to be in the damn garden in the first place if A Certain Somebody didn’t want people eating them, so it’s not like Jordan’s version isn’t being faithful to the leaving hats on the pavement with bricks under them subtext there. Yay?
Also, not to totally ruin the scene for you, but if I have to suffer SO DO YOU, because thanks to a certain unnamed poster on Usenet lo these many years ago, I cannot read the Dark One’s speech to Demandred here without hearing it in the Governator’s voice: VOULD YOU RELEASE DE BALEFYUH IN MY SERVICE, DEMAHNDREHD?
…Ow. You’re welcome.
I’m trying to remember now, does anyone (besides Rand) actually use balefire in LOC? And if so, on whom, and was it ever Demandred? I’m realizing, as I think about this, that though I remember the broad strokes of what happens in LOC, my memories of the details are actually a lot fuzzier than I thought. Well, that’ll make it more interesting, for sure.
Anyhow, more on Demandred later, when we see him in cahoots with the Dames Forsaken Finally Appearing In This Series. And by the way, I’m ignoring all the Asmodean-related hints and stuff from here on out; I’ve already covered all that, and I ain’t gonna no more, and you can’t make me. Nyah!
Nynaeve: I love how she and Siuan are so completely oil and water, and yet manage to work together anyway. Siuan continues to be awesome, as usual, and I have so much sympathy for her and Leane both.
Cue the usual fight over whether Siuan and Leane’s failure to perspire in LOC is a gaffe or not, considering they were sweating like pigs while journeying from Tar Valon to Salidar. I kind of tend to agree it probably was a little bit of a mistake on Jordan’s part, but one that was nicely rationalized by saying that they were so upset and traumatized initially by their stilling that they couldn’t maintain the concentration necessary to ignore the heat. Makes sense to me (as much sense as a completely imaginary mental discipline technique is going to make, anyway), and either way I do not propose to lose sleep on it.
I kind of disagree with Nynaeve’s calling Leane “vicious” for telling Elayne about Min going with the embassy; I see Nynaeve’s point, but at this stage I’m just happy when anyone is honest with anyone about anything in WOT, cause we’re about to see even less of that than we have previously.
On the Moghedien dilemma: people have complained variously about Nynaeve’s (and Elayne’s, and Birgitte’s, and etc.) failure to kill Moghedien on any number of occasions, but I really can’t agree with that. For one thing, killing in cold blood, no matter how evil the victim, is a surefire way to make significant headway towards crossing the Moral Event Horizon, and none of us wants that.
(By the way, I really would not click on that link unless you’ve got some serious free time at the moment. Consider yourself (belatedly) warned.)
For another, knowledge is power, my friends, and given what I just said about no one being especially keen on sharing knowledge round these parts, especially with the Supergirls (and I temporarily include Siuan and Leane in that group) being so low on the totem pole in Salidar, I can’t really fault them for seizing the unique opportunity presented by having a captive Forsaken to interrogate. If all your options are crappy, at least you can take the one where some good may be wrested from it.
The theme of the importance of knowledge is reiterated in Elayne’s POV, in her thoughts about the Aes Sedai’s “secret tricks”, and sets up what will be the major theme of LOC: the malignancy of misinformation. Indeed, the eponymous “chaos” is the direct result of everyone either not knowing enough about what’s going on, being deliberately or accidentally misinformed on what’s going on, or not believing what they do know about what’s going on even when it’s the truth. And not-so-wacky hijinks ensue!
Min: Sheesh, girl. Way to jinx everyone. Why don’t you just break a mirror and kill a black cat with it while standing under a ladder? And then spill some salt on it? On Friday the Thirteenth? AND THEN DON’T KNOCK ON WOOD? Huh?
…yeah, I don’t know, it’s been a long day. So the madness, she stops here! FOR NOW. Have a golly-gee-willikers good time this weekend, kids, but watch that williker intake, because otherwise reentry can be a bitch, y’all. See you Monday! Peace out, yo!