With impetuous recoil and jarring sound, it’s a Wheel of Time Re-read!
Today’s entry covers Chapter 25 of Winter’s Heart, in which I rather unexpectedly have a homily, and out myself as possibly not-savior material. Well, at least it takes the pressure off!
Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index is here, in which you can find links to news, reviews, and all manner of information regarding the latest release, The Gathering Storm, and for WOT-related stuff in general.
This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels, up to and including Book 12, The Gathering Storm. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
Scheduling note: With the now swiftly-approaching release of Book 13, Towers of Midnight, times in WOT-land are about to get kind of wacky, you guys. Rest assured Tor.com (and I) have some yummy ToM-related tidbits for you coming up very soon, so be sure to watch this space, but I’m uncertain at this point how it will affect the schedule of the regular Re-read.
I do know, however, that there is a hiatus in our near future; I’m just not sure when I’m going to have it yet. I will keep y’all posted once I get things a little un-discombobulated and have a better idea of how it’s all going to go down.
And now, the sermon post!
Chapter 25: Bonds
Rand sits in his room at the inn and plays his flute while Min paces back and forth angrily.
The tune was called “Lament for the Long Night,” and he had never heard it before in his life. Lews Therin had, though. It was like the skill at drawing. Rand thought that should frighten him, or make him angry, but he simply sat and played while Lews Therin wept.
Min is both furious and worried that Alanna is here and coming toward them; Rand thinks of how his bond with her and Elayne and Aviendha feels natural as breathing, while Alanna’s has never felt like anything but an intrusion. Rand can tell through the bond that Alanna is nervous and determined, but mostly furious, and Min is fearful, though she tries to hide it; she suddenly hurls one of her knives into the doorframe. He switches to a cheerful tune (Lews Therin snarls at him), and Min abruptly changes the subject.
“Rand, I like Alivia. I do, even if she does make Nynaeve have kittens left and right.” One fist planted on her hip, Min leaned forward and pointed a finger at his nose. “But she is going to kill you.” She bit off every word.
“You said she was going to help me die,” he said quietly. “Those were your words.” How would he feel at dying? Sadness at leaving her, at leaving Elayne and Aviendha. Sadness for the pain he had brought them. He would like to see his father again before the end. Aside from those things, he almost thought death would be a relief.
Death is a relief, Lews Therin said fervently. I want death. We deserve death!
Rand points out that helping him die isn’t the same thing as killing him, but Min is not appreciative of the distinction. Rand tells her quietly that sooner or later he has to die.
He had been told by those he had to believe. To live, you must die. That still made no sense to him, but it left one cold hard fact. Just as the Prophecies of the Dragon seemed to say, he had to die.
He apologizes again for bonding her, and Min informs him that she won’t let him die, and if he does, she will follow him and bring him back and make him live in Far Madding as punishment. Rand smiles, amused, and then someone knocks on the door. Min confirms silently that it is Alanna, and promptly jumps into Rand’s lap before calling “Come in.” Cadsuane enters, looks at the knife in the doorframe, and asks dryly if they’ve been fighting; Min jumps up in embarrassment, and Alanna enters behind Cadsuane. Rand feels joy from her the moment she sees him, which he does not understand at all. Rand wonders aloud if he should be surprised to see Cadsuane, and asks who taught her to Travel; Cadsuane observes that he still has “no more manners than a goat,” and she hardly needs his permission to visit her birthplace, and it’s none of his business how she learned anything. She accuses him of saddling her with an overabundance of traveling companions, who all insisted on coming along to find him, and supposes she can dump them on him now. Rand jumps up with an oath, and snaps to keep them away from him; Cadsuane warns him about language, and asks what makes him think he can tell her what to do. Rand struggles with himself and grudgingly asks her politely to keep them away from him until his business here is finished. Cadsuane accepts his improved “manners,” and supposes she can keep his secret for the time being.
“Oh, yes. I should tell you, Merise has bonded Narishma, Corele has Damer, and young Hopwil is Daigian’s.” She said that as though it were just a casual bit of information that might easily have slipped her mind.
He did not bother to mutter his oath this time, and Cadsuane’s full-armed slap almost unhinged his jaw. Black spots shimmered in front of his eyes. One of the other women gasped.
“I did tell you,” Cadsuane said placidly. “No more warnings.”
Rand keeps himself under control, and demands to know why Flinn et al would accept being bonded; Cadsuane answers that he’ll have to ask them, and leaves, taking a reluctant Min with her. Once they are alone, Alanna comments that she dislikes being parted from a Warder so long, and that she’d thought it would be better when she was closer to him, but he’s still like “a stone in [her] head.” Rand ignores this to observe that Cadsuane didn’t even ask why he was here, and asks Alanna what happened to her oath to him, since she obviously was the one who told Cadsuane he was here. Alanna snaps back that she doesn’t think Cadsuane cares “two pins” about Rand. She says she keeps the oath as well as she can, but doesn’t know how to serve a man who walks off and leaves her behind. She demands to know what he did that left her unconscious for three days.
“I decided if I was going to be bonded, it might as well be by someone I said could.” He barely caught her hand before it landed on his face. “I’ve been slapped enough for one day.”
She glared up at him, teeth bared as if ready to bite out his throat. The bond carried only fury and outrage, now, distilled to daggers. “You let someone else bond you?” she snarled. “How dare you! Whoever she is, I’ll see her before a court! I’ll see her birched! You are mine!”
“Because you took me, Alanna,” he said coldly. “If more sisters knew, you would be the one birched.” Min had told him once that he could trust Alanna, that she had seen the Green and four other sisters “in his hand.” He did trust her, in an odd fashion, yet he was in Alanna’s hand, too, and he did not want to be.
Rand offers to release her from her oath if she releases him from the bond. Alanna answers that she’d dreamed of being free of him; she’d even asked Cadsuane to take it, but Cadsuane was outraged, and refused to consider it even with Rand’s consent. She continues that therefore Rand is her responsibility, “however I acquired you,” and she will not release the bond unless she is sure whoever bonded him can “handle him properly.” Horrified by the mere notion of being bonded to Cadsuane, Rand ignores her question to ask why she thinks Cadsuane doesn’t care about him; Alanna replies that the whole world wants to know where he is, but Alanna didn’t know for certain where Rand was until Cadsuane brought them here. She adds that Cadsuane showed Alanna how to Travel, too, so he won’t be able to evade her so easily in the future.
“And Damer and the other two allowed themselves to be bonded? Or did those sisters just take them the way you took me?”
A faint flush stained her cheeks, but her voice was steady. “I heard Merise ask Jahar. It took him two days to accept, and she never pressured him that I saw. I cannot speak for the others, but as Cadsuane said, you can always ask them. Rand, you must understand, those men were afraid to go back to this ‘Black Tower’ of yours.” Her mouth twisted sourly around the name. “They were afraid they would be blamed in the attack on you. If they simply ran, they would be hunted down as deserters. I understand that is your standing order? Where else could they go, except to Aes Sedai?”
She adds excitedly the news that Damer has discovered how to Heal stilling, and Healed Irgain and Ronaille and Sashalle, who have all sworn fealty to Rand, along with all the other sisters from Dumai’s Wells, even the Reds. She adds that Cadsuane doesn’t trust Nesune and the other four who first swore, but Alanna thinks he can trust them. Rand is rather astonished by the news that even the Reds swore to him. Alanna tells him intently that he needs the support of Aes Sedai, or even the nations he’s already conquered will eventually turn against him; but Elayne and the rebels in Cairhien and Tear will listen to the White Tower.
“The White Tower has stopped wars and ended rebellions for three thousand years. You may not like the treaty Rafela and Merana negotiated with Harine, but they got everything you asked for. Light, man, let us help you!”
Rand nodded slowly. It had seemed just a way to impress people with his power, that Aes Sedai gave him fealty. Fear that they might manipulate him to their own ends had blinded him to anything else. He did not like admitting that. He had been a fool.
A man who trusts everyone is a fool, Lews Therin said, and a man who trusts no one is a fool. We are all fools, if we live long enough. He almost sounded sane.
Rand tells her to go back to Cairhien and send Rafela, Merana, Bera and Faeldrin to the rebels in Haddon Mirk to negotiate a peace; he doesn’t care about the terms as long as Darlin stays his Steward, and the laws Rand enacted remain in place. Alanna is disappointed that he is sending her away again, though she’s rather glad she won’t be in close proximity to what Rand and Min are doing all the time. Rand clears his throat and tells her she can return to him after if he’s still here, which causes her to feel joy again. Alanna gives up on getting him to tell her who bonded him, and prepares to leave, but stops and asks why he is here; Rand thinks he could actually trust her with the truth, but also knows she would insist on helping, so he refuses to answer and sends her out. He returns to the issue of Cadsuane.
Min said he needed Cadsuane, but Cadsuane was not interested in him except as a curiosity. A bad-mannered curiosity. Somehow, he had to make her interested. How in the Light was he going to do that?
Verin arrives at Aleis’s private palace and tips the sedan chair “boys” even though she’s not supposed to, because “Eadwina” would not know any better.
Verin sighed. A boy in his middle years. It had not taken her long back in Far Madding to begin thinking as if she had never left. She had to be careful about that. It could be dangerous, not least if Aleis or the others discovered her deception. She suspected the warrants for Verin Mathwin’s exile had never been suspended.
She enters the palace and finds Cadsuane calmly embroidering while being confronted by a furious Elza, who demands to know how Cadsuane could let Alanna go, when this place could be a “deathtrap” for the Dragon Reborn. Cadsuane kicks Elza out and asks Verin to make some tea. As she does so, Verin asks if it was wise to let Alanna leave, and Cadsuane replies she could hardly stop her without giving too much away to “the boy.” Verin asks if she has any idea why he came here, and suggests that they might want to stop him if it is dangerous. Cadsuane answers that he can do anything he wants, as long as he makes it to Tarmon Gai’don, and if Cadsuane can stay with him long enough to make him learn to laugh and cry again.
“He is turning into a stone, Verin, and if he doesn’t relearn that he’s human, winning the Last Battle may not be much better than losing. Young Min told him he needs me; I got that much out of her without rousing her suspicions. But I must wait for him to come to me. You see the way he runs roughshod over Alanna and the others. It will be hard enough teaching him, if he does ask. He fights guidance, he thinks he must do everything, learn everything, on his own, and if I do not make him work for it, he won’t learn at all.” Her hands dropped onto the embroidery hoop on her lap. “I seem to be in a confiding mood tonight. Unusual, for me. If you ever finish pouring that tea, I may confide some more.”
“Oh, yes; of course.” Hastily filling a second cup, Verin slipped the small vial back into her pouch unopened. It was good to be sure of Cadsuane at last. “Do you take honey?” she asked in her most muddled voice. “I never can remember.”
Back in my younger Catholic school days, I used to be deeply confused as to why “pride” was one of the seven deadly sins—and not just one of them, but generally considered to be the worst of the bunch, to boot. I’m not kidding, this used to seriously bug me. I mean, lust, envy, sloth, gluttony, wrath, greed—it was pretty easy to figure out why those were bad. Those, I got. But why pride? asked my young self. Why is that bad?
Aren’t we supposed to be proud, to have pride? Isn’t everyone always going on and on about the importance of pride—school pride, civic pride, national pride, yadda? Didn’t my mom tell me she was proud of me for getting good grades or actually managing to remember to clean my room or failing to chew all the erasers off every pencil in the house or whatever? (I was a strange child. Shut up.) Was she sinning when she said that? How is it a sin to be proud, to take pleasure in the ways in which you or your family or your team or your city or whatever does not suck?
I just didn’t get it, man.
Of course, the problem was that I hadn’t yet twigged to the fact that there could be more than one kind of pride; nor had I considered that even positive things can be warped into terrible ones, taken to sufficient excess. Youth, you’ve probably noticed, isn’t often all that big on subtleties, or ambiguities either. That’s the unhappy provenance of maturity, to be able to argue semantics.
Anyway. Pride, I’ve since learned, isn’t always about having a happy glow from taking first prize in the science fair, or having good self-esteem, or singing the school fight song at the top of your lungs. Pride can be a drive for achievement, but it can also be an adherence to impossible standards, and a refusal to extend leniency or mercy to those who fail to live up to those standards—even oneself. Pride can be a healthy self-esteem, but it can also be narcissism; self-love taken to the point where nothing can possibly be of greater importance than oneself. Pride can be loyalty to a group, but it can also be letting that loyalty override any and all objections raised against that group, regardless of their legitimacy or urgency.
Pride can also be about holding grudges; the refusal to forgive a slight to that pride, and the inability to acknowledge the importance of looking beyond those slights to the greater purpose at hand. At its absolute worst, pride taken to its logical extreme can be the downfall of those who would otherwise be among the greatest of men or women; pride as the sin of Milton’s Lucifer, once the highest of the angels, who so famously declared it was better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.
The parallels between Lucifer and Lews Therin, Lord of the Morning/Rand, He Who Comes with the Dawn have been made very obvious by the names alone (Lucifer originally meant “light-bearer,” and was commonly translated as “Morning Star” or “Day Star”), and Jordan has throughout the series had a great deal of fun playing around with the host of ambiguities and conflicting or accreting legends surrounding the character of Lucifer/Satan/Shaitan/Iblis/I could go on but really, and applying that to the uncertainty of the Dragon’s role in Randland: is he a savior or destroyer? Agent of good, or evil? Angel, or demon?
And so on: obviously you could write a whole research paper on this alone. But my point in bringing this up is that it becomes increasingly clear over the course of the series that one extremely important (possibly, the most important) parallel between Lucifer and the Dragon Reborn is that they both share the same besetting sin: pride. Pride in all the senses I mentioned, and more.
It also becomes clear that the answer to the above questions—is Rand going to end up a force for the Light, or the Shadow?—banks on whether or not he will allow that pride to consume him, as the Lucifer of Paradise Lost did, and turn what should be a good thing into the very worst of things.
So there’s all that. And now you’re probably thinking, well yes, this is very interesting and all, Leigh, but what does it have to do with the chapter you just recapped specifically?
Well, sez me, nothing directly—except that this chapter made me realize that I was spending the entirety of it thinking at Rand, why are you putting up with this bullshit and not smiting the crap out of these people? Cadsuane just slapped you—for cursing, no less, because that’s a high-priority item during an impending apocalypse, for Christ’s sake—and yet you’re wondering how to make her interested in you! Alanna is sitting there and daring to give you attitude after she mind-raped you, and WON’T TAKE IT BACK, yet you agree to work with her! What is wrong with you? How can you just let all that go? Have you no pride?
…Ah, perhaps now you see.
Because, you guys, it turns out that pride might not be just Rand’s besetting sin, here. And in fact, since it seems that his taint-addled, multiple-personality-having, stressed-to-breaking-point, weight-of-the-world-on-his-shoulders-(literally) self is apparently better at setting his pride aside for the greater good than I would be in the same situation, the disturbing conclusion to draw is that my pride issues may be even worse than Rand’s are—at least at this point in the story, anyway.
Which is, shall we say, a somewhat sobering realization to make about oneself.
Of course, I don’t intend to blow this out of proportion (heh), because there’s honestly no way of knowing how I (or anyone) would genuinely react to this type of situation until you’re actually in it, but, well. I’m feeling a bit sheepish just now, let’s just say.
“Who overcomes/By force, hath overcome but half his foe,” as some English dude once said. Worth remembering, methinks.
…And all that went on a great deal longer than I intended it to, so I’m going to wrap this up, even though I didn’t get to several items of interest, most particularly Min’s viewing about Alivia and the circumstances of the Asha’Warders’s acceptance of their bonding. Another time.
Except, I can’t let this chapter go by without a quick nod to the (as usual) creepily sneaky awesomeness of Verin and her almost-poisoning of Cadsuane, until she determined that Cadsuane had (more or less) the same goals as she did re: Rand. Which, incidentally, convinced me more than ever that no matter how ethically shady she might be, there was no way in hell Verin could be Black Ajah.
Heh. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Clever Author.
And that’s a wrap, laydees and gennemun! See you Friday!