Haaaaay, party people. It is time for Yet Another Wheel of Time Re-read!
Today’s post covers Chapters 26-27 of Lord of Chaos, in which we avert assassinations, lengthen lists, investigate incest, and manage meetings. Whoo!
Previous entries are here. This and all posts prior contain spoilers for all the novels in the Wheel of Time series through Knife of Dreams, so if you haven’t read, don’t read.
And that about brings us up to speed, so whyn’tcha click on through, eh?
Chapter 26: Connecting Lines
Rand watches Bashere’s Saldaean horse go through their paces, trying not to look south toward Alanna; she had bruised her heel and scraped her hand that morning, though Rand is not sure how he knows this. He circles the valley with his Aiel guard in tow, and it occurs to him that he had not seen Sulin since Shadar Logoth, eight days ago; he wonders if he offended her in some way. He surreptitiously checks for the two white stones on the field Bashere had placed four paces apart. Bashere’s wife, Deira, rides through the Aiel to him fearlessly, and asks icily if her husband is amusing him.
He could well believe the stories of Saldaean women taking up fallen husbands’ swords and leading their men back into battle. Being pleasant had gotten him exactly nowhere with Bashere’s wife; Bashere himself only shrugged and said she was a difficult woman at times, all the while grinning with what could only be pride.
He tells her to tell Bashere that he is pleased, and turns away while Lews Therin giggles about the folly of provoking a woman. Rand mentally demands to know if he is really there, but Lews Therin doesn’t answer. He returns to Caemlyn, worrying about Lews Therin and the prospect of going mad; he thinks he’s seen no sign of it yet, but is not sure how he would know if he had.
He had never seen a madman. All he had to go by was Lews Therin maundering in his head. Did all men go mad alike? Would he end like that, laughing and weeping over things no one else saw or knew? He knew he had a chance to live, if a seemingly impossible one. If you would live, you must die; that was one of three things he knew must be true, told to him inside a ter’angreal where the answers were always true if apparently never easy to understand. But to live like that… he was not sure he would not rather die.
In the city, Rand tries to ignore cheers proclaiming him the King of Andor, and notices a white-cloaked man raise a crossbow on the roof. He knocks the bolt out of the air with the Power and sets the man on fire, but a second later is knocked off his horse by Desora, who dies in his arms with a crossbow bolt through her back. The rest of the Aiel haul him up and wall him in while they take care of the rest of the assassins; Rand sees five more bodies in the street. Four of the attackers are captured alive, all with grimy Whitecloak uniforms. Rand asks if any of these wielded the crossbows, contemplating balefire (Lews Therin shrieks “No”), but the Aiel shake their heads, and Rand tells them to hang all but one; the fourth he tells to go back to Pedron Niall, and tell him Rand will hang him too for what happened here. The man collapses weeping, and Rand walks over to Desora’s body.
Lifting the veil, he memorized Desora’s face. She looked as if she were sleeping now. Desora, of the Musara sept of the Reyn Aiel. So many names. Liah, of the Cosaida Chareen, and Dailin, of the Nine Valleys Taardad, and Lamelle, of the Smoke Water Miagoma, and… so many. Sometimes he ran down that list name by name. There was one name in it he had not added. Ilyena Therin Moerelle. He did not know how Lews Therin had put it there, but he would not have erased it if he knew how.
One of the bystanders who had died in the ambush is also a woman, and Rand memorizes her face too, though he doesn’t know her name, and tells Nandera to find the woman’s family and compensate them. He notices all the Maidens are watching him, and has no idea how they feel about his behavior. He gets back on his horse and gallops back to the Palace, leaving his guard behind, which infuriates them when they catch up. First Maid Reene Harfor approaches and tells him a Wavemistress of Clan Catelar of the Sea Folk has petitioned for an audience with him; Rand thinks a Wavemistress sounds fairly important, and tells Reene he will meet with her in the afternoon. Reene adds sourly that Elenia Sarand is here to see him as well, and he tells her to send Elenia to his rooms. Reene suddenly asks if he really means Elayne Trakand to have the throne, and Rand replies that he swears it; he can’t tell if she believes him or not. He goes to his rooms to meet Elenia, who is delighted that Rand wants to talk about the history of Andor, which she thinks will give her a chance to enumerate how her ancestry qualifies her for the throne. She babbles about the founding of Andor and its first queen, Ishara, and Rand is surprised to learn that Ishara’s husband Souran Maravaile was the general under Hawkwing who had besieged Tar Valon toward the end of Hawkwing’s reign. Rand asks if all the Andoran Houses are descendants of Ishara, and Elenia answers yes, of course. He says, so Tigraine and Morgase, for instance, were related? Elenia says they were cousins.
“I see.” Cousins. Rand drank deeply, half-emptying his goblet.
“We are all cousins. All the Houses.”
[…] Rand blinked. “You’re all cousins? All of you? That doesn’t seem poss—” He leaned forward intently. “Elenia, if Morgase and Tigraine had been… merchants, or farmers… how closely would they have been related?”
“Farmers?” she exclaimed, staring at him. “My Lord Dragon, what a peculiar—” The blood drained slowly from her face; he had been a farmer, after all. She wet her lips, a nervous flicker of the tongue. “I suppose… I should have to think. Farmers. I suppose that means imagining all the Houses as farmers.” A nervous titter broke from her before she drowned it in her punch. “Had they been farmers, I don’t think anyone would consider them related at all. All the connections are too far back.”
Rand feels much more relaxed as Elenia natters on, but then suddenly half-catches something she said. He asks her to repeat herself, and she says she was saying he bore some resemblance to Tigraine himself; perhaps he has some of Ishara’s blood hims – she cuts off with a squeak as he jumps to his feet. He tells her he is tired, and she should leave; she takes a look at his face and fairly runs from the room.
Tigraine had not been related to Morgase. His mother had not been related to Elayne’s mother. He was not related to…
“You’re worse than a lecher,” he said aloud, bitterly. “You’re a fool and a… ” He wished Lews Therin would speak, so he could say to himself, That is a madman; I am sane.
He jerks the door open and tells Nandera he is going to Cairhien, and not to tell Aviendha.
I find it deeply ironic that Rand is all “I wonder when I’ll start going crazy?” in the same breath that he’s thinking about a dead man’s voice in his head. The thing is, however, if you go with the “Lews Therin is not real” theory, Rand is actually right, in a weird way. The Rand personality is perfectly (well, mostly) sane; that’s what Looney Tunes Lews Therin is there for, to be insane for him. In My Opinion, Of Course.
Speaking of Lews Therin, his crazy ass can bite me on this quote:
Never prod at a woman unless you must. She will kill you faster than a man and for less reason, even if she weeps over it after.
Um, over-generalize much? Also, what?
I mean, all gender politics aside, this literally makes no sense to me. Most of the time when people make asinine blanket statements about 50% of the entire human race I at least usually get where the stupid comes from, but this one doesn’t even seem to connect to a stereotype I recognize, either in the real world or in Randland. Women are more prone to senseless murder than men? Since when? I’ve never heard of such a statistic. So I guess this either makes me charmingly naïve, or Lews Therin even nuttier than previously supposed. Guess which one I’m going with.
All that being said, while I obviously refuse to accept Lews Therin’s maxim as applying to the female gender in general, I certainly don’t have a problem believing it’s true of Deira in particular. Not at all unrelatedly, I’ve never liked her. There’s a difference between being assertive and being a bulldozer, and someone forgot to get her the memo. I’m glad for Bashere’s sake that he seems to find it a big turn-on, but otherwise, let’s not extrapolate her individual character traits to apply to the rest of the female population, mmmkay?
The ambush: We find out in a couple of chapters that the “Whitecloaks” behind this assassination attempt were Fain’s, but it was pretty obvious immediately by the fact that their uniforms were so dirty. Real Whitecloaks are a lot of icky things, but “slovenly” is not one of them. I’ll talk more about this when we get to Fain.
As for Rand’s list, sigh. At this point I simply have to consider his inability to regard women as people first and women second as a debilitating pathological condition, on par with, say, obsessive-compulsive disorder. I get the feeling I’m supposed to find it noble or maybe endearing, or something, but I don’t, sorry. It does make me feel pity for him, but that doesn’t change the fact that I cannot condone it.
Kissin’ cousins: The main association I have with this whole passage is rather meta, in that it never fails to remind me of a particularly obnoxious troll on Usenet back in the day who would tell anyone who would listen, at great length, about how Elayne and Rand were related and therefore committing incest. The amount of willful stupidity on display was impressive even by Internet troll standards, as I recall.
Aside from that, though, I did find Rand’s concern over being related to Elayne rather puzzling; a smidge anachronistic, almost. It would be one thing if he were worried about them actually being siblings, but historically marriage between cousins, even first cousins, has never had much of a stigma associated with it, and I’m not sure why Jordan would have Randland take a different tack on it.
In fact, if I recall correctly, up until the twentieth century marriage between cousins was even rather common, especially in insular communities with a limited population pool. Like, say, the Two Rivers? I mean, c’mon, a group of villages that small and isolated and you’re going to tell me no one ever ends up marrying a cousin? I find that difficult to believe.
Chapter 27: Gifts
Egwene walks back toward the Aiel camp, grinning foolishly over the extended canoodling she had done with Gawyn, though she is concerned over the fact that he had told her the Tower embassy was looking for someone “like her”. She tries to convince herself that it wasn’t her specifically they were looking for, but resolves to be extremely careful in the city from now on. Several of the Wise Ones’ apprentices invite her to join them, as the Wise Ones have given them a rare day off while they confer about the Tower Aes Sedai. Surandha (Sorilea’s apprentice) tells her that the Car’a’carn is back in Cairhien, and will meet Egwene’s “sisters” that afternoon, and Egwene quickly decides to go back to the city. On her way back to the Palace, she sees evidence that Rand is in the area, as chance goes wild. Outside Rand’s rooms, she is stopped by a very tall Aielman named Maric, but the Maiden Somara vouches for her, and Egwene assures her as a joke that she will make Rand wash his ears, and asks her not to mention Egwene to the Aes Sedai. Inside, she thinks that Rand looks like a king, and “one about to do murder”, and tells him Somara says to “wash his ears this minute, young man”. He looks outraged for a moment, then grins, turning her to face a mirror so she can see how dirty her own face is. Embarrassed, Egwene changes the subject, saying she hopes she does not have to remind him the Tower Aes Sedai are dangerous.
“They aren’t all coming. I said no more than three, so that is what they’re sending.” In the mirror his head tilted as if he were listening, and he nodded, voice dropping to a murmur. “Yes, I can handle three, if they aren’t too strong.” Abruptly he noticed her looking. “Of course, if one of them is Moghedien in a wig, or Semirhage, I may be in trouble.”
She tells him to be serious; even if he really believes Alviarin and her friends will kneel to him, these are from Elaida, and what he really should do is send them away. He asks, and trust your hidden friends instead? He continues that he cannot trust any Aes Sedai; they will try to use him, and he them. Egwene becomes more convinced than ever that he cannot be allowed near the rebels, and tries some reverse psychology on him, berating him to treat the Tower embassy with respect. To her surprise, though, he thoughtfully agrees that perhaps he should try to be respectful.
She was not really sure her eyes were popping, but she thought they must be. Her whole life, any time she pointed out that right was a better way, he stuck out his chin and insisted on left! Why did he have to choose now to listen?
She changes the subject to the Sea Folk, and reminds him a Wavemistress is waiting to see him; he replies that if this Harine din Togara Two Winds’s temper is as bad as Berelain says, she can wait. He continues that Berelain seemed uneasy about something, and asks if Egwene has been giving her a hard time; Egwene replies that she’s barely spoken to Berelain. She is interrupted by Somara, who enters to tell Rand that the Aes Sedai are here. Rand is angered that they came early, no doubt trying to catch him off guard, but Egwene is more concerned with her own presence, and how to keep the Tower Aes Sedai from taking her without putting herself under Rand’s protection.
“Rand, is there another way out of here? If there isn’t, I will hide in one of the other rooms. They mustn’t know I am here. Rand? Rand! Are you listening to me?”
He spoke, but definitely not to her. “You are there,” he whispered hoarsely. “Too much coincidence for you to think of that now.” He was staring at nothing with a look of fury, and maybe fear. “Burn you, answer me! I know you’re there!”
Egwene licked her lips before she could stop herself. Somara might be gazing at him with what could be described as fond motherly concern—and him not even noticing her joke—but Egwene’s stomach was turning over slowly. He could not have gone mad as suddenly as that. He could not have. But he had seemed to listen to some hidden voice just a little while ago, and maybe spoken to it then too.
Hesitantly she feels his forehead and asks if he’s all right; he shies back from her suspiciously, and then pulls her over to a corner of the room and tells her not to move. She realizes that he has woven saidin around her to make her invisible, and tries not to panic; he tells her that maybe she’ll see something he doesn’t, and laughs that maybe she’ll even tell him if she does, before telling Somara to admit the Aes Sedai. Coiren, Nesune, and a third Aes Sedai Egwene does not know enters the room, followed by a dozen more women carrying two heavy chests. All three sisters are holding saidar, and Rand immediately strides up to the serving women and inspects them for ageless faces, then turns to the three Aes Sedai and tells them he will not allow them to channel or hold saidar around him, and to let it go. When they do, he tells them that’s much better, and suggests they start over; Coiren and the others react with shock at this evidence that he could tell they were holding the Power. Coiren regains her poise and floridly introduces herself and the other two; the third turns out to be Galina Casban.
“I am Rand al’Thor.” The simplicity was a marked contrast. They had not mentioned the Dragon Reborn and neither had he, but somehow his leaving it out seemed to make the title whisper faintly in the room.
Coiren goes into her spiel, inviting the Dragon Reborn to accompany them to the Tower “in all honor as deserved,” promising the Tower’s full support and protection if he does so. In token, they have brought gifts, and the servants open the two chests to reveal they are chock full of gold and gems. Rand looks at the treasure with a near smile, and suddenly the lids snap down by themselves, and Egwene realizes he had done it with saidin.
Suddenly it occurred to her that so far he had shown nothing of that “humble as a mouse.” He had never intended to. The man had been toying with her! If she were not too frightened to be sure of her knees, she would go over and box his ears.
“A great deal of gold,” Rand said. He seemed relaxed, his smile taking in his whole face. “I can always find a use for gold.” Egwene blinked. He sounded almost greedy!
Coiren is most satisfied at this; Rand goes on that he looks forward to the day he stands in the Tower, but they understand that he has obligations he must meet first, of course. Coiren tightly replies that they have no objection to waiting “a few days”, and offers one of them as an advisor in the meantime; Rand returns that it would be too dangerous, and for their own safety he must insist that none of them come within a mile of him without permission. He then dismisses them; they are not happy, but go to leave.
As they turned to go, Rand spoke again, casually. “I forgot to ask. How is Alviarin?”
“She is well.” Galina’s mouth hung open for a moment, her eyes widening. She appeared startled to have spoken.
They leave, and Egwene charges over to him to demand to know what he thinks he’s doing; Rand replies thoughtfully that Galina is one of Alviarin’s friends. Egwene thinks this is nonsense; Galina is a Red if she ever saw one. Rand is skeptical that Egwene could know that just by looking at her, and adds that besides, even Reds may end up following him.
“They know the Prophecies as well as anybody else. ‘The unstained tower breaks and bends knee to the forgotten sign’. Written before there was a White Tower, but what else could ‘the unstained tower’ be? And the forgotten sign? My banner, Egwene, with the ancient symbol of Aes Sedai.”
Ignoring her further protests, he turns to the issue of how to get her out of the Palace undetected; she counters that it wouldn’t be a problem if he would just try to explain to her how he gets about so quickly. To her surprise, he explains seriously to her how Traveling works for a man:
“I bend the Pattern and bore a hole from one to the other. I don’t know what I bore through, but there’s no space between one end of the hole and the other.”
The idea makes her queasy. She had thought of trying something she had worked out in observing Tel’aran’rhiod, something about making a similarity between places; she asks him about it, but he replies that that sounds like “changing the weave of the Pattern”, and thinks it would tear him apart if he tried. She leaves soon after, observing him seemingly talking to himself again as he goes, and hopes desperately that he is not already going mad.
In the coach on the way back to Arilyn’s manor, Nesune reflects that al’Thor was a fascinating study subject, thinking of her specimen boxes she never went anywhere without. Coiren notes that she didn’t know Galina was friendly with Alviarin; Galina pooh-poohs the notion, but Nesune notices how quickly she changes the subject, and notes it for further reference. They discuss whether al’Thor could truly have sensed that they were channeling or if he was guessing, and speculate on the identity of the channeling woman who shared their interview. Galina is convinced it was Moiraine, but Coiren is not so sure, and opines that in any case they must not let their investigation of that interfere with the larger plan. On this, Nesune thinks, they are all in agreement.
Well, so much for my assumption that no one’s noticed Rand having conversations with a voice in his head. That’ll learn me!
Speaking of which, the theme of this chapter could be one of my favorite stupid jokes: “When you make an assumption, you make an “ass” out of “u” and “mption”.
Everyone here, including Egwene, is making assumptions about what kind of person Rand is and how he will react to a situation. And no one, including Egwene, comes out looking very good as a result.
Coiren and Co. come off worst, of course. Seriously, gold? The man is in control of two nations and three major cities, and you think he’ll be tempted by two chests’ worth of baubles? Wow. I don’t know if that’s more insulting than it is stupid, but I suspect you could probably shave with the difference.
At the same time, I confess to a certain amount of irritation with Rand for playing into their assumptions about him. I understand why he did it, of course – always better to have your potential enemies underestimate you – but nevertheless it bugs me when characters I like are not appreciated as they should be by other characters. Yes, this is missing the point, I know, thank you.
Of course, Rand makes an assumption here himself, one which will turn out to be utterly disastrous for him, so it ain’t all on the women’s side, either. Have we learned our lesson about assumptions yet, boys and girls? See that you do!
Traveling: I’m not a fan of the saidin/saidar:fight/submit dichotomy, at all, but I do like the facility with which Jordan came up with different magical ways to do the same magical thing, and this is one of the best examples.
As a last note, Nesune’s reference to her little specimen boxes was a very nice bit of foreshadowing, that made me bare my teeth at the book. Grr. Smash.
And that’s all there is, there ain’t no more! Go forth and weekend with abandon, y’all. See you Monday!