All right, youse mugs. Sitcherselfs down, ’cause this here’s the Wheel of Time Re-read, and you’d better not forget it.
We’re covering Chapters 1-2 of Lord of Chaos today, see? And I don’t wanna hear no backtalk about it, see?
What, you’ve forgotten the plan already? Why I oughta… There’s the old program, ya dumb mook, catch up! And don’t come cryin’ to me if you learn stuff you shoulda oughta known before comin’ in here, see? The noive.
Oh, and I gots a note here from a dame what calls herself Virginia, who says she’s got herself some kinda shell she’s throwing, with me on it. I dunno about that, but I do say anything she’s got on tape will never hold up in court, see? You’ll never catch me, coppers!
…Yeah, I have no idea. Let’s just move on, shall we?
Chapter 1: Lion on the Hill
Wheel/Time/Age/legend/myth/wind. The wind blows through Cairhien, ravaged by both war and drought, to Andor and Caemlyn, where Rand’s two banners fly atop the Palace. In the courtyard, Rand spars with five men, the best fighters he’s found since Lan left. Rand swiftly takes out three of the five, but as he defeats the fourth, the fifth manages to crack him on the head with his practice blade.
Shaking his head in an effort to clear his eyes, he used the practice sword to push himself to his feet. Panting hard, the shaven-headed man watched him cautiously.
“Pay him,” Rand said, and wariness left the shaven-headed man’s face. Needless wariness. As if Rand had not promised an extra day’s coin to any man who managed to strike him. Triple to any who defeated him one-to-one. It was a way to make sure nobody held back to flatter the Dragon Reborn.
Sulin tosses the men gold coins, grimacing over their swords, and a ripple of applause comes from the courtiers watching. The fighters leave, and the Andoran nobles (including Arymilla Marne, Elenia and Jarid Sarand, Naean Arawn, and the addled Nasin Caeren) all gush over his prowess with the sword. Rand despises them all as bootlicking toadies of Gaebril’s (though he doesn’t believe any of them knew who Gaebril really was, judging by their reactions when he told them), but thinks to himself that he will use them anyway. He also thinks they are not nearly as skilled at the Game of Houses as either the Cairhienin or Tairens are. Nasin declares that Rand is another Jearom, and Davram Bashere, who’s lounging in a chair, cuts them all off to ask Rand why. Rand asks what he means, and Bashere returns, why practice against five? It’s foolish and will get him killed eventually, even with practice swords. Rand answers tightly that Jearom once defeated ten; Bashere laughs and asks if he thinks he’ll really live long enough to match the greatest swordsman in history. Without warning he flings a dagger straight at Rand; Rand seizes saidin and stops the dagger with Air. The Andoran lords and the Maidens all move to skewer Bashere for attacking him, but Rand shouts for them to stop, and plucks the dagger out of the air.
Turning the dagger in his hands, he walked slowly to Bashere. “Had I been an eyeblink slower,” he said softly, “I’d be dead. I could kill you where you sit and no law in Andor or anywhere else would say me wrong.” He was ready to do it, he realized. Cold rage had replaced saidin. A few weeks’ acquaintance did not cover this.
The Saldaean’s tilted eyes were as calm as if he lolled in his own home. “My wife would not like that. Nor you, for that matter. Deira would probably take command and set out hunting Taim again. She doesn’t approve of my agreement to follow you.”
Rand is momentarily distracted with contemplating the strange Saldaean tradition of the lords taking their wives with them on campaign, and Bashere’s composure dulls his anger. He sighs and asks why, and Bashere replies that Rand is who he is, and can do what he did with the dagger every time; in addition, any assassin would have to get through all Rand’s Aiel and nine thousand Saldaeans. He says if Rand wants to practice the sword, fine, but don’t get himself killed doing it. The Andorans are plainly disappointed that Rand is not turning on Bashere after all, and Rand thinks he can’t wait to get rid of them.
The only way to live is to die. The thought came into his head suddenly. He had been told that once, in such a way he had to believe it, but the thought was not his. I must die. I deserve only death. He turned away from Bashere clutching at his head.
Bashere jumps up and asks if he’s all right, and Rand says that he’s fine. To himself, he thinks that there is no pain, just the shock of having another man’s thoughts in his head. The Andorans are watching him fearfully, no doubt wondering if he was going insane right in front of them, and Rand repeats that he is fine.
It had come on him slowly, but the more Rand learned of the One Power, the stronger he became with saidin, the stronger Lews Therin’s voice became, and the harder Rand had to fight to keep a dead man’s thoughts from taking him over. That was one reason why he liked sword practice; the absence of thought was a barrier to keep him himself.
Bashere wishes that they had not let the young Aes Sedai staying in Caemlyn leave, even though she had literally run screaming when she found out who Rand was, but Rand asks if he can trust any Aes Sedai, even to Heal a headache. Bashere replies he’ll have to trust them sooner or later; otherwise he’ll never unite the nations behind him without fighting. Rand counters that there will be fighting anyway; the Whitecloaks don’t care what the Tower wants, and Sammael won’t give up Illian without a fight. Arymilla falls down in a faint at the mention of the Forsaken, and the other Andorans don’t look much better.
At least he was telling the truth. The Aes Sedai were all trying to keep it secret, the Forsaken being free; they feared that knowing would just bring more chaos and panic. Rand was trying to spread the truth. People might panic, but they would have time to recover. The Aes Sedai way, knowledge and panic might come too late for recovery. Besides, people had a right to know what they faced.
Bashere opines that Illian will not hold out long; Rand answers that he and Mat worked out a good plan, and thinks that Mat had provided more of it than Bashere. Bashere calls Mat “an interesting young man”, and observes that he never would say who he studied under, or whether he found a library or what. Rand supposes Mat might have read a book at some point, but only answers that he doesn’t know. Bashere drops it and moves on, commenting that Rand ought to go to Cairhien and bring back that Green sister there, Egwene Sedai. He could trust her, couldn’t he? Rand laughs, and says Egwene has other duties, but Bashere reiterates that he needs the Aes Sedai, and cannot afford to have them against him. Rand asks, what if there are hundreds of Aes Sedai ready to support him? Bashere makes the connection, and says in disbelief that he must mean the Tower has really split. He steps near and says softly to Rand that he might be able to strike a better deal with the rebels, but they will still not have the weight of the Tower behind them. Rand replies that they are still Aes Sedai, regardless, and squashes down Lews Therin’s muttering about “Servants of All”. He thinks if he had an Aes Sedai he trusted to ask about that, he would, but the one Aes Sedai he had trusted (by the end) had advised him against trusting any others.
“I’ll never trust any Aes Sedai,” he rasped softly. “I will use them, because I do need them, but Tower or rebel, I know they’ll try to use me, because that is what Aes Sedai do. I’ll never trust them, Bashere.”
The Saldaean nodded slowly. “Then use them, if you can. But remember this. No one resists for long going the way the Aes Sedai want.” Abruptly he barked a short laugh. “Artur Hawkwing was the last, so far as I know. The Light burn my eyes, maybe you’ll be the second.”
They are interrupted then by one of Bashere’s soldiers, who tells them uneasily that a man has presented himself at the gates; he says his name is Mazrim Taim.
I think Bashere is my new pretend boyfriend. I heart him.
Although, I have to suspect that under all the “it’s cool, maaan” façade, the man’s got a daredevil streak a mile wide. I mean, damn. That dagger stunt would do Evel Knievel proud.
I don’t think we’ve ever gotten a POV from Bashere (not that I recall, anyway), so I guess I just have to wonder whether he would deliberately provoke a man who is possibly going crazy and is definitely extremely powerful because danger is fun, or because he really has such a good read on Rand’s character that he accurately judged his reaction. We’ll talk about this more in the next chapter.
Andoran nobles: Ugh. Make them go.
I’m remembering a story I read once, where a Good Guy is of necessity playing the role of the villain (for reasons too complicated to get into), and reflects that she finally understands why villains yell at/smack around their minions, because all that toadying and cringing and insincere bootlicking gets REALLY ANNOYING when you’re just trying to get shit done. I am deeply amused by this observation.
Lews Therin: LOC is where our favorite loony head-invader really gets going, and it is deeply unpleasant for Rand, understandably so. It also marks a distinct shift in how the Lews Therin phenomenon manifests; previously Rand more often spoke as Lews Therin, and only occasionally heard him “speak for himself”, so to, uh, speak, but from LOC on Lews is almost exclusively a voice in Rand’s head, talking to Rand. In other words, there seems to be much more of a separation between the two than before.
If you recall, the Lews Therin theory I’ve always personally favored is that the memories are real, but the voice/personality is not; rather it is a defense mechanism constructed by Rand’s subconscious to separate himself from his growing taint-induced madness. Rand’s quote above, about the correlation between the length of time he’s channeled (i.e., sucked taint into himself) and the increasing strength of the Lews Therin voice matches this theory, as well as my observation about the growing separateness of the two. I think it is also supported by the fact that Lews Therin not only gets louder, he gets progressively nuttier as well.
Moving on from that, also here in a nutshell are the two big themes of LOC and WOT as a whole. Miscommunication is one, as noted by Rand in his thoughts about his campaign to spread the truth about the Forsaken (and the reader’s probable note of the total fruitlessness of such an attempt).
The other theme is explicated in Rand’s conversation with Bashere about the Aes Sedai: trust. Or, rather, the lack of it. The two themes, obviously, are closely related, but they are not exactly the same thing, and I think it takes the two of them together, interacting with each other and fueling each other, to create the kind of colossal FUBAR situation we are soon to end up with in this novel.
The problem, of course, is that Rand is actually completely correct in not trusting Aes Sedai, but the bitch of it that he’s only right because they don’t trust him. Ah, irony.
Chapter 2: A New Arrival
At the mention of Taim, Bashere grips his sword hilt and Arymilla faints again; one of the other Andorans throws up. Rand takes his hand out of his coat pocket and reminds Bashere about the amnesty. Bashere asks what if Taim still thinks he’s the Dragon Reborn?
“If he thinks that,” Rand said firmly, “I will disabuse him.”
He thinks that he needs men like Taim, no matter what he’s done; he won’t turn away anyone short of the Forsaken. Lews Therin starts reciting the names of the Forsaken until Rand shuts him up. Bashere finally says that he agrees to the amnesty, but if Taim ever sets foot in Saldaea again he dies. Rand promises to keep him out of Saldaea, and orders Taim brought in. He tells the Andorans they may leave, and after a token protest or two they are thrilled to obey. After a long while, Taim enters, escorted by five of Bashere’s men with bared blades. Rand estimates his age as “at least fifteen years older than himself”, or around thirty-five, and thinks that itself was worth something, as it meant that Taim must have managed to keep the madness at bay for at least ten years, maybe longer.
Rand opened his mouth, but before he could speak, Lews Therin rose up in a frenzy in his head. Sammael and Demandred hated me, whatever honors I gave them. The more honors, the worse the hate, until they sold their souls and went over. Demandred especially. I should have killed him! I should have killed them all! Scorched the earth to kill them all! Scorch the earth!
Face frozen, Rand fought for his own mind. I am Rand al’Thor. Rand al’Thor! I never knew Sammael or Demandred or any of them! The Light burn me, I am Rand al’Thor! Like a faint echo, one more thought came from elsewhere. The Light burn me. It sounded like a plea. Then Lews Therin was gone, driven back into whatever shadows he lived in.
Bashere asks the newcomer if he is Mazrim Taim, sounding doubtful, which confuses Rand, and Taim almost smiles and tells him he shaved. He asks if Bashere wants proof; should he channel? He glances at Rand, and says perhaps not. He mentions instead the fates of “Musar and Hachari and their wives”, who tried to kill him under a flag of truce and now will only want to “serve and obey”. Bashere growls and goes for his sword, but Rand grabs his arm, stopping him. To Taim, he says if he taunts Bashere again Rand will let Bashere kill him. Taim studies Rand, ignoring the Saldaeans drawing his blood with the points of their weapons, and says he’s here to see him; Rand is the one from the vision in the sky, fighting the Dark One. Still holding Bashere’s wrist, Rand replies that he thinks it was Ishamael, actually, and he killed him later, in the Stone of Tear. Taim says he’s heard Rand killed a number of Forsaken; does he mean to kill them all? Rand thinks this is getting ridiculous, but doesn’t dare let go of Bashere yet.
“Whatever your crimes are, Taim, they pale beside the Forsaken’s. Have you ever tortured an entire city, made thousands of people assist in breaking each other slowly, in breaking their own loved ones? Semirhage did that, for no more reason than that she could, to prove she could, for the pleasure of it. Have you murdered children? Graendal did. She called it kindness, so they would not suffer after she enslaved their parents and carried them away.” He just hoped the other Saldaeans were listening half as closely as Taim; the man had actually leaned forward slightly in interest. He hoped they did not ask too many questions about where all this came from.
He goes on, listing other crimes, and sums up by saying if Taim submits to him and helps Rand hunt down the rest of the Forsaken and battle the Dark One, he’ll have earned his pardon a hundred times over. Finally Bashere relaxes, and Rand lets him go and orders the Saldaeans to put up their weapons, which they do. Taim answers that he’d thought of it as more of a compact between them – with Taim the lesser partner, of course, but there is much he could teach Rand. Rand literally sees red, and doesn’t even silence Lews Therin when he starts raving to “Kill him!”
“No compact!” he growled. “No partners! I am the Dragon Reborn, Taim! Me! If you have knowledge I can make use of, I will, but you will go where I say, do as I say, when I say.”
Without a pause Taim slipped to one knee. “I submit to the Dragon Reborn. I will serve and obey.” The corners of his mouth quivered again in that almost smile as he rose.
Lews Therin keeps raving to kill him, and Rand softly asks what would make Taim give up so quickly; Taim shrugs and replies that his choices are limited; he can be hunted on all sides, or follow Rand and at least get part of the glory. He adds that it could have been him, to be the Dragon Reborn; all he had to do was fulfill one of the Prophecies. Rand asks, like managing to be born on Dragonmount? Taim points out that the victors write the histories; if he had taken the Stone, he’s sure the legends would have said he was born wherever he needed to be. Rand tells him to think of what’s happened to the others like him if he’s starting to feel put-upon; he will forget about honors and remember the Last Battle. Taim agrees; Rand is the Dragon Reborn, they march toward Tarmon Gai’don, which the Prophecies say Rand will win. And the histories will say Mazrim Taim was at his side. Rand answers, perhaps.
He had lived too many prophecies to believe any of them meant exactly what they said. Or even that they insured anything. In his opinion, prophecy set the conditions that had to be met for a thing to happen; only, meeting them did not mean the thing would happen, just that it could. Some of the conditions set in the Prophecies of the Dragon more than implied that he had to die for any chance at victory. Thinking of that did nothing for his temper.
Moving on, he asks whether Taim can teach others to channel, or test for the ability; Taim is incredulous that anyone has actually shown up for Rand’s amnesty, but answers that he can do both. He adds that he’s found a few over the years, but only one went beyond testing, and he went mad after two years; Taim had to kill him. Rand points out that Taim’s held it off quite a bit longer than that, and asks how. Taim asks if he’s worried, then shrugs again and says he doesn’t know how, but he’s still sane. Observing the total lack of concern Taim shows for the people in the courtyard who would like to kill him (i.e. everyone), Rand is uncertain of this. After a moment, Taim observes that Rand doesn’t trust him yet, and says he’s brought a gift to help with that. He hands Rand a rag-wrapped package which proves to be one of the seals on the Dark One’s prison. Stunned, Rand thinks of the other two in his possession, and the three he knew were broken already, and wonders where the seventh seal is, and whether it is still whole.
Lews Therin’s voice came up like thunder. Break it break them all must break them must must must break them all break them and strike must strike quickly must strike now break it break it break it . . .
Rand shook with the effort of fighting that voice down, forcing away a mist that clung like spiderwebs. His muscles ached as if he wrestled with a man of flesh, a giant. Handful by handful he stuffed the fog that was Lews Therin into the deepest crannies, the deepest shadows, he could find in his mind.
Abruptly he heard the words he was muttering hoarsely. “Must break it now break them all break it break it break it.” Abruptly he realized he had his hands over his head, holding the seal, ready to smash it to the white pavement. The only thing stopping him was Bashere, up on his toes, hands raised to grip Rand’s arms.
Bashere says he doesn’t know what that is, but he thinks maybe Rand should hold off on breaking it just yet. Everyone is gaping at him, even the Maidens, and Taim looks shocked. Rand lowers his arms and agrees with Bashere, and demands to know where Taim got it, and whether he had another. Bashere finally gets what it is, and gasps. Unsteadily, Taim replies no to Rand’s latter question, and says that he was given the seal by a farmer in Saldaea who thought Taim was the Dragon Reborn, and claimed his family had guarded it for two thousand years. Rand figures that unlikely things must happen even when he was not around, and hands the seal to Bashere, telling him to guard it carefully, who agrees reverently.
For a moment Rand studied him. “Everybody’s waiting for me to go mad, afraid of it, but not you. You must have thought I finally was, just now, but you weren’t afraid of me even then.”
Bashere shrugged, grinning behind his gray-streaked mustaches. “When I first slept in a saddle, Muad Cheade was Marshal-General. The man was as mad as a hare in spring thaw. Twice every day he searched his bodyservant for poison, and he drank nothing but vinegar and water, which he claimed was sovereign against the poison the fellow fed him, but he ate everything the man prepared for as long as I knew him. Once he had a grove of oaks chopped down because they were looking at him. And then insisted they be given decent funerals; he gave the oration. Do you have any idea how long it takes to dig graves for twenty-three oak trees?”
Rand asks why no one did anything about him, and Bashere replies Cheade was crazy, but he never lost a battle; he could “out-general” anyone Bashere ever saw. Rand laughs, and asks so Bashere follows him because he thinks Rand can “out-general” the Dark One?
“I follow you because you are who you are,” Bashere said quietly. “The world must follow you, or those who survive will wish themselves dead.”
Rand nods slowly, thinking that he was not yet mad enough to believe that Tarmon Gai’don would be a one-on-one battle between him and the Dark One, and Bashere therefore was right. He tells Bashere he’s taking Taim to “the farm”; Taim asks what farm, but they ignore him. Bashere dryly declines the offer to come along, and reminds Rand that he is to inspect his men that afternoon. Rand agrees to be there, thinking he mustn’t change that routine, or let anyone besides Mat, Bashere and himself think it was anything but a casual and useless ceremony. He has another visit to make today too, but that one he only wanted people to think he was trying to keep secret. Taim asks what farm again, and Rand tries to figure out if his dislike of the man is due to Taim’s personality or jealousy at no longer being the only man who could channel around. He doesn’t think the latter is very likely, though.
Kill him! Lews Therin shrieked. Kill them all! Rand pushed the voice back down. He did not have to like Taim, only to use him. And trust him. That was the hard part.
He tells Taim he is taking him where he can serve him; Taim only watches him, with his almost-smile.
First of all, I will not be discussing the Taimandred thing; that theory is dee ee dee Ded. Taim is not Demandred. Deal. Know it, own it, love it.
I will further comment that I have never had the slightest amount of patience with the asinine theories that Taim used to be Demandred until the fans “found it out”, and Jordan changed the story later out of pique, or something. Nor would I ever believe that he would violate the integrity of his own story just to play a mean joke on his fanbase. That’s total crap.
Jordan is just not that lame, you guys. Sorry, but no. Taim is not Demandred, and Taim was never Demandred. Deal.
Having said that, I do absolutely believe that Taim was written to make us think he was Demandred, and that this was a perfectly legitimate red-herring plot for Jordan to use. (Anyone being angry about Jordan misleading his readers about Taim’s real identity really needs to relax.) In lieu of me rehashing all the ways in which Taim is dodgy here, please read this section. The FAQ is out of date with regard to events in KOD, but it certainly covers Taim as he appears in LOC, so let’s all get on the same page with that much at least before discussing.
(Guess, if you can, which part of the FAQ was the most annoying to update after Asmodean. I bet you’ll never guess.)
And… I don’t really have much else to say on the subject, honestly. Taim is definitely a Darkfriend as of KOD, but whether he always was or it was a more recent development I decline to speculate. Mostly because my memories of Taim’s antics in the latter books are too fuzzy for me to want to risk sounding like an idiot on the subject. You guys feel free to knock yourselves out in the comments though. I’m interested to see what you think.
(On a random Taim note, though, I totally forgot that Taim straight-up confesses to using Compulsion here, or near enough as to make no difference, and I kind of wonder why that never got brought up (that I noticed, anyway) sufficiently for it to be included in the FAQ. I mean, that’s pretty significant, if you ask me, especially since it sounds rather like Taim used almost Graendal-level, brain smushing-style Compulsion, as opposed to the half-assed version Liandrin worked out on her own. Of course, it’s possible Taim could just be better at working things out than Liandrin, but, well.)
break it break it break it: I have to say, this episode freaked me right the hell out when I first read it, and further deepens my mystification re: Bashere’s calmness. Yes, he’s worked with crazy before (I’ve always loved the Muad Cheade anecdote – heh), but daaaaammnn, you guys. After seeing that, my ass would have been Oh gee lookit the time gotta take off I got this thing in, uh, Shara, yeah that’s the ticket kthxbye. I mean, yikes.
Of course, later we find out Lews Therin (or rather, his memories as manifested in Rand’s split personality, ha ha!) may actually have had a reason to want to break the seals – a reason other than I’m a barking loonybar, that is – but still. I remember being fairly upset over the notion that this would cause Rand to possibly lose followers. Except Bashere, who is apparently impossible to freak out.
You’ll note that even as Rand marvels at Bashere’s trust in him, he returns that trust almost unconsciously; he doesn’t even hesitate to hand off the seal to Bashere to guard. This is an example of trust done right, y’all.
Except for those of you who believe this all means Bashere is a Darkfriend, of course. I don’t personally subscribe to this theory, myself – I think the nasty aura Min sees around him later refers to his necessary demise (necessary, since both Bashere and Tenobia have to bite it in order to clear the way for Perrin n’ Faile to live Royally Ever After) – but I can see the rationale for it, because it would be Just That Ironic.
As a final exercise, I double dog dare you to diagram that last sentence, because I do love me a run-on. Alternately, you could do something fun, like comment! So enjoy, and see y’all Friday!