Greetings and salutations and alla that jazz, WOTish ones! I have a shiny new Wheel of Time Re-read post, just for you! You’re so special.
Today’s post covers Chapters 18-19 of Lord of Chaos, in which I am confused, annoyed, and philosophically dazzled! Just like every Wednesday!
Or, you know. Something like that.
Previous posts are here. Please note that all posts contain spoilers for all currently published novels in the Wheel of Time series, so if you haven’t read, don’t read.
And that, I trow, puts us square with the house, so without further ado, I give you the post!
Chapter 18: A Taste of Solitude
Rand glares at Rhuarc and Berelain and tells them to set Mangin’s execution date for tomorrow, and that he’s going to the school, refusing to see the Wise Ones and Cairhienin nobles on their way to see him. He quickly has a horse saddled, and leaves the Palace with only two guards in tow, Jalani and a Red Shield named Dedric, which shocks everyone who sees him; Rand enjoys the relative amount of solitude as much as he can, though he is a little impatient that the throng on the streets do not give way for him like they normally would. He reaches the school (which used to be Barthanes’ manor), and is greeted by the headmistress Idrien Tarsin and dozens of other scholars.
Time and again he had heard how much had been lost in the War of the Hundred Years and the Trolloc Wars. How much more must have vanished in the Breaking of the World? If he was going to Break the World again, he meant to create repositories where knowledge could be preserved. Another school had already started in Tear, though just barely, and he had begun seeking a place in Caemlyn.
Nothing ever goes as you expect, Lews Therin murmured. Expect nothing, and you will not be surprised. Expect nothing. Hope for nothing. Nothing.
Idrien tells him they have prepared a display for him, and politely ignores his query about how many spies she has in the Palace. He follows her into the entry hall, which is filled with bizarre contraptions: a machine for making linen paper, an improved printing press, a prototype combine harvester (Rand especially likes this idea), models for aqueduct systems, and plans for paving roads. Kin Tovere has made a giant lens for looking at the stars; Rand is not sure what use that is, but he likes Tovere, so tells him to build the looking glass to hold the lens.
The lanky young woman whose display was mainly a shell of paper moored by strings and kept aloft by the heat rising from a small fire in a brazier. She mumbled something about flying—he was sure that was what she said—and birds’ wings being curved—she had sketches of birds, and of what seemed to be wooden birds—but she was so tongue-tied meeting the Dragon Reborn that he could not understand another word, and Idrien certainly could not explain what it was about.
A heavily bandaged man named Mervin has built a large contraption of brass tubes and cylinders, which emits steam and shrieking whistling noises, and almost blows up. Rand politely compliments the brasswork, and asks Idrien what that was all about as they move off.
She shrugged. “Mervin will not tell anyone. Sometimes there are bangs in his rooms loud enough to make doors tremble, and he has scalded himself six times so far, but he claims it will bring a new Age when he makes it work.” She glanced at Rand uneasily.
“Mervin is welcome to bring it if he can,” he told her dryly. Maybe the thing was supposed to make music? All those shrieks?
He asks after Herid Fel, and Idrien sighs and says he is in his study, as always. Rand is obliged to make a speech to the scholars, and leaves them pleased, though he wonders why none of them besides Idrien had thought to invent a weapon. At Herid’s study, Rand tells Jalani and Dedric to wait outside, and abruptly figures out what is going on when they agree immediately.
“Enjoy yourselves,” Rand said over his shoulder, producing two startled stares, and went inside.
Inside, Herid is very disheveled and vague, and can never remember that Rand is the Dragon Reborn, which suits Rand just fine. He asks Herid about Warder bonds, and whether they can be broken, but Herid doesn’t think so, unless the Warder or the Aes Sedai dies, of course. Rand sighs, and asks about his question from last time; Herid mumbles that the Last Battle can’t really be the Last Battle, and maybe every Age has them. Rand prods him to explain.
“What? Yes, exactly the point. It can’t be the Last Battle. Even if the Dragon Reborn seals the Dark One’s prison again as well as the Creator made it. Which I don’t think he can do.” He leaned forward and lowered his voice conspiratorially. “He isn’t the Creator, you know, whatever they say in the streets. Still, it has to be sealed up again by somebody. The Wheel, you see.”
“I don’t see… ” Rand trailed off.
“Yes, you do. You’d make a good student.” Snatching his pipe out, Herid drew a circle in the air with the stem. “The Wheel of Time. Ages come and go and come again as the Wheel turns. All the catechism.” Suddenly he stabbed a point on that imaginary wheel. “Here the Dark One’s prison is whole. Here, they drilled a hole in it, and sealed it up again.” He moved the bit of the pipe along the arc he had drawn. “Here we are. The seal’s weakening. But that doesn’t matter, of course.” The pipestem completed the circle. “When the Wheel turns back to here, back to where they drilled the hole in the first place, the Dark One’s prison has to be whole again.”
Rand wants to know why it couldn’t be that they drilled a hole through a patch, rather than the prison being truly whole, but Herid counters that it had to be whole at some point, unless you suppose the Creator made the prison with a hole in the first place, so it must be whole when the Third Age comes around again; it may not be the Dragon who makes it whole, but it has to happen at some point, and long enough before the Second Age comes around again that no one will remember the Dark One’s existence.
“Any Age where seals weaken must remember the Dark One eventually, because they will have to face him and wall him up again.” Sticking his pipe back between his teeth, he tried to make another note without dipping the pen.
“Unless the Dark One breaks free,” Rand said quietly. “To break the Wheel of Time, and remake Time and the world in his own image.”
Herid agrees there is that, but doesn’t suppose there’s much he or Rand can do about it. Rand asks if there would be any reason to break the seals; Herid is shocked at the notion, and asks why he would even think such a thing.
“I don’t know,” Rand sighed. In the back of his head Lews Therin was chanting. Break the seals. Break the seals, and end it. Let me die forever.
Egwene wanders through the Sun Palace, irritated at being lost and wondering why the Maidens in the corridors seem to be avoiding her. She’s also a little grumpy that Aviendha had finally come back only to barely acknowledge her and closet herself immediately with the Wise Ones, a meeting from which Egwene had been specifically excluded. She runs into Sorilea, who demands to know what she is doing there.
A good head taller than Egwene, as most Aiel women were, Sorilea stared at her with a green-eyed gaze that could knock a bull off its feet. That was a relief; it was Sorilea’s normal way of looking at everyone. Had she a bone to pick, the walls would have been crumbling wherever she looked and tapestries catching fire. Well, that was how it seemed, anyway.
Egwene tells her she has come to see Rand, and Sorilea tells her he’s gone to the school, and Berelain Paeron thinks it is not a good idea to follow him at the moment. Egwene cannot for the life of her figure out why the Wise Ones like Berelain so much when she is, in Egwene’s opinion, a lightskirted flirt who behaves outrageously. This brings back a memory of Gawyn’s dream, and she tells herself firmly that dreams don’t count. Sorilea observes that when young women blush for no reason, a man is involved, and wants to know who it is. Egwene tells her loftily that “Aes Sedai seldom marry”, which Sorliea finds absurd, as Egwene’s “hips were meant for babies, and you will have them”. Egwene considers the notion of having Gawyn’s babies, but does not see how it would be possible.
In truth, Aes Sedai almost never married. Rare was the man who wanted to marry a woman who, with the Power, could handle him like a child if she chose.
Sorilea continues digging for who it could be, but finally leaves Egwene alone in Rand’s rooms. Egwene tries to convince herself that Sorilea wouldn’t really manhandle her to the Aiel equivalent of the altar, but is not so certain the Wise One thinks of her as anything but Aiel anymore. Niella (Aviendha’s sister) comes out of the bedroom with laundry, and Egwene embarrasses them both by asking if Niella will put off gai’shain white when her time is up (Niella says of course she will). Niella leaves, and Egwene ponders Aviendha’s situation until Rand arrives, whereupon she bounces up and says he has to help her with the Wise Ones. Rand is like, nice to see you too, Egwene. Egwene notices that he is not sweating in the heat, and that he seems harder than ever even while smiling. Egwene offers him a bargain: she will carry messages from him to Elayne if he will convince the Wise Ones to let her return to her studies. Rand asks where Elayne is; Egwene hesitates, but thinks that he cannot be allowed near the rebels without a buffer to prevent the conflict that is sure to follow, and replies that she can’t tell him, it is not her secret to tell.
He leaned forward intently. “I know she’s with Aes Sedai. You told me those Aes Sedai support me, or might. Are they afraid of me? I will take oath to stay away from them, if they are. Egwene, I mean to give Elayne the Lion Throne and the Sun Throne. She has claim to both; Cairhien will accept her as quickly as Andor does. I need her, Egwene.”
Egwene opened her mouth—and realized that she was about to tell him all she knew about Salidar. Barely in time she clamped her teeth shut so hard her jaws ached, and opened herself to saidar. The sweet feel of life, so strong it overwhelmed everything else, seemed to help; slowly the urge to talk began to ebb.
He sat back with a sigh, and she stared at him wide-eyed. It was one thing to know he was the strongest ta’veren since Artur Hawkwing, but quite something else to become caught up in it herself. It was all she could do not to hug herself and shiver.
He sighs, then notices she is holding saidar and becomes angry, asking if she really thinks he is such a monster that he would force her to tell him? She replies as calmly as she can that she does not think that, and lets the Power go. She asks him again for his help, even though she cannot tell him what he wants to know.
His anger was swallowed by a maddening grin; it was frightening how quickly that could happen with him. “ ‘A cat for a hat, or a hat for a cat,’ ” he quoted.
But nothing for nothing, she finished mentally.
She tells him he can shove his cat where the sun doesn’t shine, and leaves, wondering what to do. She is eager, though, to tell Elayne that Rand said he needed her.
Rand stares at the door, and thinks of how much Egwene had changed. She had always thrown herself wholeheartedly into whatever she did, and he reflects that he must remember that she is Aes Sedai now, and think of her that way; now she was one of them.
In the courtyard below, Sulin lets out an oath as a signal goes out that Rand al’Thor has left his rooms again. She and three other Maidens begin to search the corridors for him; she is determined that nothing should happen to the only son of a Maiden to come back to them.
Rand’s visit to the school is one of my favorite little interludes in LOC. Like most people who are into speculative fiction, watershed moments in history (whether real or invented) are fascinating to me, and the school is Jordan’s clear signal to the reader that Randland is at the tipping point of their own version of the Industrial Revolution. Assuming they don’t all die in the apocalypse, of course.
Since the real Industrial Revolution is considered from many perspectives to be the most profoundly world-changing event in human history, this is pretty darn significant. And of course, as Proto-Steampunk Guy Mervin points out, this ties in with Randland coming to the end of the Third Age; whether Rand wins the Last Battle or not, the world as the Third Agers knew it will be gone. I hope they like soot!
This also ties in with the assumption that many readers have made that the Last Battle and the end of the Third Age will also involve the end of channeling. Since the general presumption is that the Fourth, presumably industrialized Age is our own (or maybe we’re the Fifth, I forget), it goes without saying that humanity has to lose the ability to do magic at some point, and a potentially world-shattering apocalypse seems like a good candidate to cause such a fundamental shift in… well, reality, I guess you’d have to term it.
This is a perfectly logical, natural, and story-appropriate event to suppose will occur. It also completely pisses me off.
In non-sulky news, I thought it was a nice nod to Rand’s farming roots that the invention he was most interested in was the combine harvester. I personally would have been all over the woman with the flying inventions, but of course I have the benefit of knowing that mechanical flying machines are actually feasible, or will be. (Although, technically Rand knows this too, given that he took a trip in the Wayback Ter’angreal in Rhuidean and saw the sho-wings and such. But, you know.)
Herid Fel: I totally swear I had this guy for English in college. Well, except that my professor was also kind of a lech who spiked the punch at the Christmas party he threw – for his freshman classes, I might add. Blagh.
Anyway, Herid is pretty obviously Jordan’s mouthpiece to get across more of the basic cosmology of the WOT universe. Calling something “exposition-heavy” is usually a way to say it was bad, but in this case there was no real way around it, and plus is fascinating enough (especially on first reading) that it’s worth it.
I have to say, I still don’t see how exactly breaking the seals is going to lead to making the Dark One’s prison whole again, which is obviously what this dialogue is leading up to. I mean, yes, clearly you have to get rid of the seals in order to get to the patch (like removing stitches from a wound, sort of), but it’s the part after that – the sealing it up like new part – which puzzles me. How do you not leave a scar, metaphorically speaking? Create a whole new prison, I suppose, but that seems a little above even Rand’s paygrade.
Well. We Shall See, I guess.
Way to go, Captain Diplomacy. Your honorary UN Ambassadorship is in the mail.
Seriously, could she possibly have handled that worse? Well, yes, actually, but Holy Christ, y’all. It doesn’t help that her motives for offering her bargain to Rand were essentially selfish ones, either.
Why, why, WHY does it never occur to anyone to explain anything in this series? Although I suppose in this instance Egwene might be reasonably leery of telling Rand about her “buffer” notion, at least then he would know she’s not keeping the rebels away from him just to be obnoxious obstructionist. Gah. Yes, chaos, mistrust, part of the theme, WHATEVER. Am annoyed!
Sulin: Am… also confused. See commentary for the next chapter.
Chapter 19: Matters of Toh
Rand has very strange nightmares that night, which he realizes are Lews Therin’s dreams, of cities from the Age of Legends burning, and a golden-haired woman whose loving look turns to terror. He wakes shaking, and is afraid to go back to sleep. He refuses breakfast in the morning, and exits his room to find a crowd awaiting him: Wise Ones, Aviendha, Maidens, Red Shields, Berelain, and most of the ranking Cairhienin and Tairen nobles. Rand notes Selande, one of the young women Colavaere had had try to seduce him, now wearing the uniform that says she is studying the sword; she is terrified of him. They all watch each other as much as they watch him. Rand tells them he’s honored, but he is returning to Caemlyn. Berelain says his orders regarding Mangin are to be carried out this morning, “so he may witness it”; the Wise Ones, surprisingly, look disapprovingly at her.
“I don’t mean to be a witness to every murderer who’s hung,” Rand said coldly. In truth, he had forgotten, or rather shoved it out of his mind. Hanging a man you liked was not something anyone would want to remember.
This makes quite the impression on the Tairens and Cairhienin; Berelain looks rueful, while Selande looks more scared than ever. They all accompany him to the room he uses to make gateways, and Berelain promises to tend Cairhien for him “without fear or favor” until his return, and adds for him to give her regards to Perrin, and Mat, when he sees them next. The other wetlanders give flowery and insincere speeches, and Rand is glad to escape them. To his surprise, Melaine is coming along; he assumes it is to reestablish the Wise One’s influence with Bael. As Aviendha watches him form the gateway, she is apparently reminded of the one time she had made one by accident, and reddens; Rand remembers too, and is anxious to get away from her. He goes through the gateway first, which infuriates Sulin; she comes up to him on the other side.
“The great and powerful Car’a’carn gave his honor to Far Dareis Mai to carry,” she all but hissed in a low whisper. “If the mighty Car’a’carn dies in ambush while the Maidens protect him, Far Dareis Mai has no honor left. If the all-conquering Car’a’carn does not care, perhaps Enaila is right. Perhaps the omnipotent Car’a’carn is a willful boy who should be held by the hand lest he run over a cliff because he will not look.”
Rand considers this going too far by half, and tells Sulin that he thinks from now on two guards are sufficient for inside the palaces, though the full contingent can accompany him outside them, and turns away leaving her gaping. Aviendha follows him into his rooms silently, but when he asks what’s wrong, suddenly grins and says she doesn’t think she’s ever seen Sulin set down like that, even by Rhuarc. He remarks that he’s surprised she’s on his side; she gazes at him a moment, and replies that he troubles her. After a brief fight with Jalani, he gets her to leave Liah and a Red Shield named Cassin to guard him and goes into the sitting room, Aviendha following. He asks if the Wise Ones told her where Elayne is, and Aviendha says they do not know, but they have had dreams about Rand. He thinks he knows what two of them mean, but Aviendha is not convinced. She goes to leave, and he asks if she wants to go back to the Wise Ones; surely she’s taught him all he needs to know about Aiel by now. Aviendha peppers him with questions that prove he doesn’t know nearly as much as he thinks.
“Sometimes ji’e’toh makes for very great jokes. I would laugh my sides apart if I were not the butt of this one.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “I will meet my toh.”
Rand tells her if she means Lanfear, it wasn’t him who saved her, it was Moiraine; she has no toh to him there. She smiles and thanks him for reminding her that men do not know everything, and leaves. Rand stares after her, confused; Lews Therin laughs that he destroys what he loves, and Rand tells him to shut up.
In the hall, Aviendha tries to calm herself, and thinks that however much being around Rand al’Thor tortured her, her toh to him was nothing beside her toh to Elayne. Liah smiles at her knowingly, and Aviendha flares up and asks in handtalk what Liah thinks she’s looking at. Liah signs back that she thinks Aviendha will “put [her] soul in a wreath to lie at a man’s feet”, a deliberate insult among Maidens. Aviendha steps toward her furiously and stops, knowing Liah could take her in skirts. Watching them stare, Cassin remarks idly that he must learn this handtalk one day, and Liah breaks the impasse by laughing he would look well in skirts. Aviendha is grateful, and signs that she has toh; Liah signs back that it is very small. Aviendha strides off.
Killing Rand al’Thor would meet one toh, killing herself the second, but each toh blocked that solution to the other. Whatever the Wise Ones said, she had to find some way to meet both.
So, wait. Why was Sulin saying that Rand had left his rooms in Cairhien at the end of the last chapter, when we start this chapter with him in his rooms, in Cairhien, having nightmares, with no indication he went anywhere between the time Egwene left his room and him going to sleep? Did I miss something, or is this a gaffe, or is this a Subtle Clue? And if a clue, a clue to what? Where did he go? Is he sleepwalking or something? Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot, over?
Other than that, this chapter basically involves Rand walking about two hundred feet, subjectively. Objectively, of course, he went about six hundred miles, but even so, sheesh. The only two things that really interested me in this chapter, other than my Sulin-induced confusion, are the Wise One dreams and Aviendha’s last line.
Dreams: Have all been pretty much fulfilled long since, though you could still argue over whether the unseen dagger man was Taim, Dashiva, or a literal Gray Man, the latter two of which show up shortly in the narrative and all of which of course present a danger to Rand. At this point it’s fairly moot, though. As for what the “treasure” associated with the Bowl of the Winds is, I always liked Rich Boyé’s notion that it was the Kin, rather than the *greal stash, that was the treasure. But again, it works either way. I liked that Nicola’s Arthurian boat imagery is backed up here, too.
Aviendha: I also liked the little Aiel/Maiden cultural vignette between her and Jalani, but I’m still confused as to why killing Rand would meet any toh of hers. Killing herself, I get. Well, I don’t get it, because it’s insane, but I understand why it would expiate her sin against Elayne for sleeping with Rand. The other, though, I don’t get at all. The exact quote is:
She had toh toward him, but much more toward Elayne. All he had done was save her life. Lanfear would have killed her without him. Lanfear had wanted to kill her in particular, as painfully as possible. Somehow, Lanfear had known. Beside what she had incurred toward Elayne, her toh toward Rand was a termite mound beside the Spine of the World.
Seriously, how does killing Rand for saving her life make the slightest amount of sense? I ask you.
No, really, I ask you. Esplain!
And, Done! Bring me another pie! I will eat it on Friday. Have fun till then, kids!