Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Cracks in the Wall in Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt (Part 12)

So it’s official friends: I totally ship Nynaeve and Lan. I was pretty much on board with it before now, despite being cross with Lan for his rather selfish handling of the situation. But if I was at all on the fence, Moiraine’s observations about them in Chapter 22 have sealed the deal for me.

As those have been following this read know, I have a lot of empathy for Nynaeve, particularly for her insecurities and the often terrible way she handles them. Though she is someone who really struggles to control her temper, she is also in many ways a very repressed person–in fact I believe the latter trait actually informs the former. This repression is due in part due to her unconscious suppression of her channeling abilities, but also is due to her intense sense of duty towards those in her charge. As a healer, Nynaeve must always face the fact that failure, be it her fault or entirely unavoidable, can mean loss of life for those who rely on her and for whom she cares. After all, her first instance of channeling came about when she couldn’t face (what she thought was going to be) the death of Egwene, and we’ve seen her get angry to the point of irrationality when faced with the inability to protect the people she wants to protect. Granted, she’s channeled all this into her unfair and unhelpful hatred of Moiraine, but the human impulse to turn one’s inner frustrations outward is a flaw I think many can emphasize with.

After all, it’s far easier and less painful to be angry at someone else than it is to deeply examine one’s own feelings of vulnerability or guilt, and the people who feel the most deeply are often the most likely to have developed some less than perfect coping mechanisms. The world, be it Rand’s or ours, is not often kind to the sensitive sort. And the fascinating thing is that this same struggle of deep emotion and sense of duty is also an intrinsic part of Lan’s character. It’s no wonder they are drawn together.

But I can tackle those thoughts after the recap, and after we also tackle Chapter 21 and poor Rand’s slightly uncomfortable stay in The Nine Rings.

Entering the common room of The Nine Rings, Rand finds a group of men drinking and playing dice and another sitting alone eating, and although they don’t wear any armor or weapons, the read to Rand as soldiers, and they all take notice of him when he comes into the room. The innkeeper comes up to him, introducing herself as Maglin Madwen, greeting Rand and Selene as Lord and Lady, and, unfazed by the presence of the Ogier, asking Loial if he is from Stedding Tsofu. He tells her that he has come from the Borderlands, and after being similarly questioned, Rand explains that he is from the Two Rivers in Andor and that Selene is from Cairhien. Mistress Madwen starts to talk to them about their rooms and asks if they are hunting the Horn, startling Rand. He quickly corrects her, and they sit down for a meal. Madwen is apparently surprised that Hurin speaks freely around Rand and Selene and that he sits down to eat with them.

Rand is pleasantly surprised how good the food, pork served with peppers and vegetables he doesn’t recognize, tastes, and eats with relish, as do Hurin and Loial, although Selene picks at her plate. Madwen asks if Rand will allow “his man” to play the flute she spotted among their belongings, but is surprised and apologetic when Rand explains that he is the one who plays. She hastily withdraws the request, saying that she meant no offense and would never dream of asking Rand to play somewhere so common.

Rand hesitated only a moment. It had been too long since he had practiced the flute rather than the sword, and the coins in his pouch would not last forever. Once he was rid of his fancy clothes—once he turned the Horn over to Ingtar and the dagger over to Mat—he would need the flute to earn his supper again while he searched for somewhere safe from Aes Sedai. And safe from myself? Something did happen back there. What?

Rand has Hurin hand him the flute, thinking that it is actually ornate enough to be played by a Lord if that were a thing that Lords did, and begins to play. Everyone enjoys his music, the soldiers stopping to listen and even to sing along, although they know different words than Rand does. Selene seems perplexed by Rand.

When the soldiers, laughing and teasing each other, finish singing, the officer sends them away abruptly, and comes over to Rand to apologize for their conduct. He introduces himself as Captain Aldrin Caldevwin, and Rand notices the man’s careful interest in the heron-marked blade. His accent reminds Rand of Moiraine’s and he cautiously gives Caldevwin a description of them, but the Captain doesn’t recognize it.

He does ask Rand’s name, and Rand gives it, along with where he is from. Caldevwin is interested, mentioning how good Andormen are with a sword, and that he once met the Captain-General of the Queen’s Guard, though he cannot remember the man’s name. Rand, feeling like he is being purposefully questioned, answers that it is Gareth Bryne. When the Captain asks Selene’s name, the conversation is suddenly interrupted by one of the serving girls crying out and dropping a lamp. The girl and Mistress Madwen quickly put out the small fire, and she responds to Madwen’s scolding for carelessness by explaining that she had a sudden twinge in her arm. Madwen apologizes for the commotion then, and Selene abruptly asks to be shown to her room, saying she doesn’t feel well, though to Rand she appears fine. She also insists on having a room to herself, surprising Mistress Madwen.

Once they are gone, Caldevwin apologizes to Rand for staring at Selene, and Rand tells him he took no insult, then asks about the crystal he saw in the pit.

The Cairhienin’s eyes sharpened. “It is part of the statue, my Lord Rand,” he said slowly. His gaze flickered toward Loial; for an instant he seemed to be considering something new.

“Statue? I saw a hand, and a face, too. It must be huge.”

“It is, my Lord Rand. And old.” Caldevwin paused. “From the Age of Legends, so I am told.”

Rand felt a chill. The Age of Legends, when use of the One Power was everywhere, if the stories could be believed. What happened there? I know there was something.

“The Age of Legends,” Loial said. “Yes, it must be. No one has done work so vast since. A great piece of work to dig that up, Captain.” Hurin sat silently, as if he not only was not listening, but was not there at all.

Caldevwin explains that the king has commanded that the statue be brought to the capital, and he has men at work excavating it and then will have it taken there. Loial observes the immense difficulty of such a task, and Caldevwin grows a little testy, saying that the King has commanded it, and so it shall be done.

Finding that Rand and his company are leaving for Cairhienin the morning, the Captain “offers” some of his men to travel with Rand, saying that they were being sent that way anyway and then leaving before Rand can have a chance to decline the offer. Mistress Madwen arrives to tell Rand that Selene is settled, and to cautiously advise him that, while he may think that his Lady his angry and never wants to see him again, Madwen suspects that if Rand knocks on her door and says it was all his fault, whatever happened, she will forgive him and let him in. Rand flushes at the thought, then thinks of Egwene and feels guilty. He thanks Mistress Madwen as neutrally as he can and asks that he, Loial, and Hurin be put up in one room.

Once they are alone, Rand asks if the others have any idea why Caldevwin seemed so suspicious of them.

Daes Dae’mar, Lord Rand,” Hurin said. “The Great Game. The Game of Houses, some call it. This Caldevwin thinks you must be doing something to your advantage or you wouldn’t be here. And whatever you’re doing might be to his disadvantage, so he has to be careful.”

Rand shook his head. “ ‘The Great Game’? What game?”

“It isn’t a game at all, Rand,” Loial said from his bed. He had pulled a book from his pocket, but it lay unopened on his chest. “I don’t know much about it—Ogier don’t do such things—but I have heard of it. The nobles and the noble Houses maneuver for advantage. They do things they think will help them, or hurt an enemy, or both. Usually, it’s all done in secrecy, or if not, they try to make it seem as if they’re doing something other than what they are.”

Loial adds that as an Ogier he doesn’t really understand it, and that humans are odd, but Rand is more concerned with whether the soldiers that Caldevwin is going to have escort them are part of the game. But neither Loial or Hurin can answer that, and Hurin advises Rand to ask Selene in the morning.

But in the morning, Selene is gone. Mistress Madwen brings him a sealed message, repeating that Rand really should have listened to her and knocked on his Lady’s door, but the message that Rand reads merely explains that Selene felt there were too many people around, and that she did not like Caldevwin. She tells Rand that she will meet him in Cairhienin, and that he should never think that she is far from him. He will be in her thoughts, as she knows that she is in his.

Outside, Rand finds an escort of fifty armored soldiers and a junior officer who Caldevwin introduces as Elricain Tavolin. Rand pretends to be glad to accept the escort, and Caldevwin’s sharp eyes note Loial’s chest and the fact that Selene and her mount are nowhere to be seen. Rand explains that she had to leave quickly during the night, which surprises Caldevwin greatly. As he has a hurried, quiet conversation with his officer, Loail remarks that the inn must have been watched during the night, and Caldevwin doesn’t understand how Selene got past his men undetected.

Rand mounts, thinking that Selene has now ensured that Caldevwin will be suspicious of them, and muttering to himself about how there will be even more people in Cairhienin. “Nothing is happening the way I expect,” he tells Tavolin, when the man asks him to repeat himself, and they ride off down the road to Cairhienin.

Meanwhile, nothing is happening the way Moiraine expects either, as she mutters to herself while going through a mess of brooks and scrolls. She tells herself there is nothing to do but to clear her head and start over.

Moiraine and Lan are hidden away in the house of two Aes Sedai, who live on the edge of a small farming community called Tifan’s Well. Since the villagers have no idea that the two women who live there, Adeleas and Vandene, are Aes Sedai, and since they have lived there in voluntary retreat for so long that even most in the White Tower have forgotten about them, it was the perfect place for Moiraine to hide away for a while. But she can’t find the piece of information she needs.

Turning to Lan, Moiraine asks him if he remembers how they met. She’s carefully watching him so she can see the slight shift of expression that means he’s surprised by the question; they rehash that early meeting together, how Moiraine, young and threatened by the large Borderman, tried to separate Lan from his sword, resulting in him dumping her in a lake. How she didn’t want to tell him that she was Aes Sedai, thinking that he would be more likely to open up to her if he didn’t know, how she got back at him every night by dumping the lake on him, sending ants after him, and other torments. Moiraine asks if, in the weeks that followed their meeting, Lan ever suspected that she would ask him to bond with her. He says he had not.

“And does your bond chafe after all these years? You are not a man to wear a leash easily, even so light a one as mine.” It was a stinging comment; she meant it to be so.

“No.” His voice was cool, but he took up the firetool again and gave the blaze a fierce poking it did not need. Sparks cascaded up the chimney. “I chose freely, knowing what it entailed.” The iron rod clattered back onto its hook, and he made a formal bow. “Honor to serve, Moiraine Aes Sedai. It has been and will be so, always.”

Moiraine sniffed. “Your humility, Lan Gaidin, has always been more arrogance than most kings could manage with their armies at their backs. From the first day I met you, it has been so.”

Lan asks why she is suddenly bringing up a past they never speak of, and Moiraine explains that she made arrangements before they left Tar Valon so that, should she die, his bond will pass to another Aes Sedai. She explains that she wants him to know ahead of time, so that when he finds himself compelled to seek this Aes Sedai out, he will not be surprised. Lan, clearly angry, responds that Moiraine has never before used their bond to compel him to do anything, that he thought Moiraine disapproved of such things. Moiraine explains;

“Had I left this thing undone,you would be free of the bond at my death, and not even my strongest command to you would hold. I will not allow you to die in a useless attempt to avenge me. And I will not allow you to return to your equally useless private war in the Blight. The war we fight is the same war, if you could only see it so, and I will see that you fight it to some purpose. Neither vengeance nor an unburied death in the Blight will do.”

Lan asks, his voice and expression one that Moiraine is accustomed to seeing when he was on the edge of violence, if Moiraine has made some kind of plan, without telling him, in which she foresees her own death. She answers that she always sees her death as a possibility, given the path they follow, and Lan admits that he never considered that he might outlive her, but cuts himself off in the thought ask, if he is to be passed off like a pet lapdog, who he is to be given to.

“I have never seen you as a pet,” Moiraine said sharply, “and neither does Myrelle.”

“Myrelle.” He grimaced. “Yes, she would have to be Green, or else some slip of a girl just raised to full sisterhood.”

“If Myrelle can keep her three Gaidin in line, perhaps she has a chance to manage you. Though she would like to keep you, I know, she has promised to pass your bond to another when she finds one who suits you better.”

“So. Not a pet but a parcel. Myrelle is to be a—a caretaker! Moiraine, not even the Greens treat their Warders so. No Aes Sedai has passed her Warder’s bond to another in four hundred years, but you intend to do it to me not once, but twice!”

“It is done, and I will not undo it.”

“The Light blind me, if I am to be passed from hand to hand, do you at least have some idea in whose hand I will end?”

“What I do is for your own good, and perhaps it may be for another’s, as well. It may be that Myrelle will find a slip of a girl just raised to sisterhood—was that not what you said?—who needs a Warder hardened in battle and wise in the ways of the world, a slip of a girl who may need someone who will throw her into a pond. You have much to offer, Lan, and to see it wasted in an unmarked grave, or left to the ravens, when it could go to a woman who needs it would be worse than the sin of which the Whitecloaks prate. Yes, I think she will have need of you.”

Although Lan, as always, keeps his face stoic, Moiraine knows him well enough to see how shocked and off-balance he is. He starts to ask another question, but Moiraine cuts him off, asking again if his bond chafes him, pointing out that he could end up with anyone, with someone who he hates or who doesn’t care about his skills, and he can have no more say in it than the parcel he compares himself to. He asks if that’s what this is all about, if it is some kind of test to see if she can make him resent the bond they’ve shared all this time. Moiraine says that it is not, that she spoke plainly, but that after Fal Dara, she began to wonder if he was fully with her, and asks why he taught Rand the way he did, to come before the Amyrlin Seat with talking and acting like a Border Lord and soldier. Lan, clearly not expecting that this was the question she was going to bring up, answers that it felt right, comparing Rand to a wolfhound puppy that must know how to act in front of the wolves.

“Is that how you see Aes Sedai? The Amyrlin? Me? Wolves out to pull down your young wolfhound?” Lan shook his head. “You know what he is, Lan. You know what he must become. Must. What I have worked for since the day you and I met, and before. Do you now doubt what I do?”

“No. No, but….” He was recovering himself, building his walls again. But they were not rebuilt yet. “How many times have you said that ta’veren pull those around them like twigs in a whirlpool? Perhaps I was pulled, too. I only know that it felt right. Those farm folk needed someone on their side. Rand did, at least. Moiraine, I believe in what you do, even as now, when I know not half of it; believe as I believe in you. I have not asked to be released from my bond, nor will I. Whatever your plans for dying and seeing me safely—disposed of—I will take great pleasure in keeping you alive and seeing those plans, at least, go for nothing.”

This explanation mollifies Moiraine somewhat, being reminded of Rand’s ta’veren nature points out to her how tentative her control over any of these events truly is. She tells Lan that she will not be unhappy to see her possible death thwarted by him, and then asks him to leave, so that she can be alone to think. As he leaves, she thinks to ask him one last question, if he ever dreams of something different. Lan responds that all men dreams, but that he knows the difference between dreams and reality, touching his sword to indicate what reality actually is. And then he is gone.

For a time after he left, Moiraine leaned back in her chair, looking into the fire. She thought of Nynaeve and cracks in a wall. Without trying, without thinking what she was doing, that young woman had put cracks in Lan’s walls and seeded the cracks with creepers. Lan thought he was secure, imprisoned in his fortress by fate and his own wishes, but slowly, patiently, the creepers were tearing down the walls to bare the man within. Already he was sharing some of Nynaeve’s loyalties; in the beginning he had been indifferent to the Emond’s Field folk, except as people in whom Moiraine had some interest. Nynaeve had changed that as she had changed Lan.

Moiraine is surprised to find she’s jealous of this connection. She’s never been jealous of women who showed interest in Lan before, but she has shared a deep connection with him for a long time, and they had both been married to their battle against the Dark. Now Moiraine sees a different future for Lan, and she wonders how it will change him. Wonders when he will decide to ask her to release him from his bond, and what she will do when he asks.

Vandene, the Green Aes Sedai who lives in the house with her Brown sister, comes in with tea. She observes that she would have had her own Warder, Jaem, bring the tea for her, but Lan’s presence seems to have inspired him to remember that he is a swordsman, and he is out practicing. Vandene asks Moiriane if she has found what she is looking for and Moiraine admits that she doesn’t even know what she is looking for. Vandene observes that, judging by the multitude of different books on different subjects, that Moiraine doesn’t even know where to look. She starts to ask more, then remembers that Moiraine asked for privacy.

But Moiraine stops her as she goes to leave, and asks if Vandene can answer some questions. Vandene seems pleased and tells her to go ahead.

Moiraine’s first question is that if there is any link between the Dragon and Horn of Valere, to which Vandene replies that there is not, except the Horn is predicted to be found before the Last Battle which the Dragon will fight. Moiraine’s next question, if there is a link between the Dragon and Toman Head, yields more results, as Vandene explains how a difference in translation may suggest that the Dragon will appear over Toman Head; a translation she believes to be correct but that Adeleas, her Brown sister, does not. Moiraine also asks if Vandene can think of any reason that a Fade would take carry away an item that belonged to Shadar Logoth, to which Vandene replies certainly not, citing the knowledge that Moiraine already has, the history of Mashadar and how it will destroy Shadowspawn as eagerly as anyone else. Finally Moiriane asks about Lanfear, someone who Vandene knows no more about than any novice, but thinking of Lanfear’s link to the Dragon prompts her to ask if Moiraine has had some clue about where the Dragon will be reborn, or if he has been reborn already.

“If I did,” Moiraine replied levelly, “would I be here, instead of in the White Tower? The Amyrlin knows as much as I, that I swear. Have you received a summons from her?”

“No, and I suppose we would. When the time comes that we must face the Dragon Reborn, the Amyrlin will need every sister, every Accepted, every novice who can light a candle unguided.” Vandene’s voice lowered, musing. “With such power as he will wield, we must overwhelm him before he has a chance to use it against us, before he can go mad and destroy the world. Yet first we must let him face the Dark One.”

At Moriaine’s surprised look, Vandene points out that she knows the Prophecies as well as anyone. She knows as well as Moiraine that the seals on Shayol Ghul are weakening, that the Hunt for the Horn has been called, that there are more and more false Dragons. She knows that the Dragon must be reborn soon, which is why she feared that Moriaine had seen some sign of him.

Vandene starts to go, then stops to add one more piece of her mind, that Moiraine should do something about Lan. She has noticed that Lan is “rumbling inside worse than Dragonmount” and will eventually “erupt.” She suggests that perhaps he has finally started to see Moiraine as a woman, as well as an Aes Sedai, to which Moiraine replies that Lan still sees her as what she is, and hopefully as a friend.

“You Blues. [Verden replies] Always so ready to save the world that you lose yourselves.”

When she has gone, Moiraine gets her cloak and goes out to the garden, struggling with the sense that there had been an important hint in something Vandene said, an answer to a question Moiraine hadn’t even thought of yet. Lost in thought, she is caught unawares when something comes up behind her; she turns, thinking that it’s Lan, only to find herself staring at Draghkar.

She opens herself to saidar, but it’s too late to stop the croon that the Draghkar makes, a sound which saps her will and leaves her only with a vague sense of sadness as it comes nearer, knowing that it will suck the soul and the life from her. The Draghkar is bending its head down to give her that deadly kiss when suddenly a sword stabs over Moiraine’s shoulder and into the Draghkar’s chest, followed swiftly by another sword over the other shoulder.

Lan and Jaem are there, pushing the Draghkar away from her with their swords, and for a moment they have it before it begins to croon again, this time to the two Warders. Moiraine is gathering herself, ready to touch the Draghkar so as to kill it with saidar, but at that moment Lan shouts “Embrace death!” and Jaem echoes the shout as they drive their blades home. The Draghkar goes down, buffeting Jame with its wings as it falls, and the two men sag, Jaem going to one knee.

Vandene and Adeleas appear to investigate that noise, shocked to find the body of the Draghkar. Moiraine, as Vandene feeds her strength through saidar, assures them she was not touched by the Draghkar and they turn to see to Jaem.

Adeleas asks how a creature of the Dark could get so close without any of them sensing it, and Moiraine says that it was warded. And given that only an Aes Sedai could do such a thing, she says the words they are all thinking. The Black Ajah.

The sound of villagers coming to investigate the racket prompts them to focus on the moment, Adeleas sending Jaem to stall the villagers while they hide the body of the Draghkar.

Adeleas turned to study the Draghkar as if it were a puzzling passage in one of her books. “Whether Aes Sedai are involved or not, whatever could have brought it here?” Vandene regarded Moiraine silently.

“I fear I must leave you,” Moiraine said. “Lan, will you ready the horses?” As he left, she said, “I will leave letters with you to be sent on to the White Tower, if you will arrange it.” Adeleas nodded absently, her attention still on the thing on the ground.

“And will you find your answers where you are going?” Vandene asked.

“I may already have found one I did not know I sought. I only hope I am not too late. I will need pen and parchment.” She drew Vandene toward the house, leaving Adeleas to deal with the Draghkar.

 

Rand’s conduct while staying at the Nine Rings once again throws into relief the discrepancy between how he sees himself and how others see him, and also suggests the way in which his own understanding of himself is going to change going forward. He is still fixed on the idea that, once his task with the Horn and the dagger is done, that he will return to a simpler life, and that he will be able to get away from the Aes Sedai and from people that he might someday hurt. But he is also starting to realize, even if he hasn’t acknowledged it yet, that this prospect is not such an easy one. His encounter with the strange orb on the statue has clearly shaken him, and reminded how little control he has over his use of saidin, even in his choice of whether or not to touch it. In the questions he is starting to ask himself, he is already beginning to acknowledge that the simple idea of running away is not perhaps, so simple after all.

The Shienarans thought Rand was a Lord because of his name, others take him for a Lord because of the clothes he wears or the sword he bears, but although Rand still thinks of these things as coincidental or deceptive trappings, he is already making them a part of himself. He doesn’t think so much about the coat, he wielded the heron-marked blade against the Trollocs in Fain’s camp like a true swordsman, and he has learned to speak like a leader from Lan, from necessity, from a sense of duty. The more he wears these traits the more they will stop being a guise and start being a part of him. I think he will hang onto his identity as a shepherd who likes to play the flute and has no desire for power and fame, but I think the other part will become intrinsic to him as well.

I wonder if that is what Selene is seeing in him as she watches him play the flute. She has just witnessed the incident with the orb and no doubt had at least some idea of what was happening to Rand with saidin, and now she is seeing that same man perform on a gleeman’s instrument in the common room of an inn. No doubt these two things seem impossibly incongruous to someone as haughty and power hungry as Lanfear. But for myself, I find I have never liked Rand more than I do in this chapter. He feels calm and in control, he’s not being gross about Selene as he has been in the last few chapters, he’s not as ignorant as he was in The Eye of the World and yet he retains some of that innocence and naivete. I guess… he kind of reminds me of Tam, and suddenly I can imagine Rand like his father, having finished his adventures and gone home to be a simple shepherd, maybe with a family of his own, maybe living by himself but coming into town to play at the inn and tell incredible stories based on his adventures (but with himself carefully edited out). It’s unlikely that fate will be so kind to him as that, even if the Dark One is defeated and Rand somehow finds a way to control or get rid of the taint (Bilbo rather got his happy ending but Frodo could never go home again), but it’s a nice thought all the same.

Even if Rand does get a happy ending twelve and a half books from now, here in this town he’s starting into some proper political intrigue that is no doubt only the beginning of much worse things to come. I wonder if King Galldrian has any idea what the statue really is and what it can do, or if this is a show of power based solely on the fact that the thing comes from the Age of Legends and is so huge that moving it and being in possession of it is quite the feat. Caldevwin’s consideration of Loial suggests that perhaps he thinks Rand has brought the Ogier for his knowledge of old things. Perhaps the King has an Ogier or an Aes Sedai nearby who could also give him information about the statue.

Also, it’s amusingly hard not to think of Game of Thrones whenever someone mentions the Game of Houses. I’m not up on my George R.R. Martin knowledge, but maybe he’s a The Wheel of Time fan.

And of course, Selene isn’t really who she says she is so she had to avoid answering Caldevwin’s questions, by using her power to make the serving girl drop the lamp. The mistress of the inn wouldn’t know every noble family in Cairhien, but someone like Caldevwin certainly might.

That’s sneaky Selene. Very sneaky.

Is it just me, or does the way Lan and Moiraine met make their early relationship sound a little bit like the rocky start Nynaeve got with Lan? Because I can totally imagine Nynaeve being stubborn or sneaky and getting tossed in a lake for it, then using her abilities to punish that person not just once in retaliation, but every night for an entire journey. I can imagine the Benedict/Beatrice style arguments as they travel, and the swift way that irritation turns to respect to the point where after a few weeks Lan is ready to bond himself to her in a profound and lasting way. The difference lies in the fact that the bond between Lan and Moiraine is forged from their common battle against the Dark, whereas the bond between Lan and Nynaeve is born from a commonality of spirit.

Moiraine is just as duty-focused as Lan and Nynaeve, but for her it is a practical thing, a commitment she made long ago and will follow to the end because it is what she chose, and because she is perhaps more aware than anyone of exactly what the danger of failure truly is. Hearing the foretelling of the birth of the Dragon set the entire course of Moiraine’s life, and no doubt she sees this as the will of the Pattern. But if it hadn’t been she and Siuan who were with Gitara Moroso, Moiraine’s life could have been very different. And I think she does view this destiny as a choice she has made, a burden she has taken up because she was the only one who could. I don’t think ideas like nobility or heroism even enter her thoughts when she thinks about where her duty lies.

Nynaeve on the other hand, has a strong sense that duty is not just what you do, but how you do it. Nynaeve’s anger at the burning of the inn at Baerlon, for example, and the resulting argument, shows the difference in their perspectives. Of course, Nynaeve is quite naive (say that three times fast) in comparison to Moiraine, and has never had to make the sorts of hard choices that by now are as familiar to Moiraine as the presence of saidar, but I think that even after she has been in the game for a while, Nynaeve will always struggle with the idea of the ends justifying the means, of choosing the lesser of two evils, of accepting the burden of being the one who puts other’s lives in danger to save the world.

And then there is Lan, who has that strict Borderlands nobility about him that we saw was so prevalent in Shienar. There are rules to things, proper etiquette that must be followed, deeds that cannot be noble no matter your motivation. This is one of the things that sticks for him when Nynaeve confesses her feelings; he cannot fathom that turning her away might be a worse or more cruel act than accepting what they both want, even in the face of the fate he fears for the relationship. It is not right, not done, no matter how it might hurt Nynaeve or how she might profess that she doesn’t care about those risks. For Lan, this is beyond a choice for either of them, and I think it is very telling that it is this, rather than his bond and duty to Moiraine, that he focuses on. And it is clear that he feels the pain of the decision very deeply, although Nynaeve is too wrapped up in her own feelings to see it. Where she reacts by throwing her pain outward in the form of anger and disdain, Lan keeps everything he feels tightly inside, behind the wall that Moiraine describes so eloquently in this chapter. But through Moiraine we get to see more of the true Lan; she knows him despite his walls, and in this chapter breaks them down enough to get an even better sense of what he is feeling. Lord Agelmar also gave us a glimpse of the depths of Lan’s emotions back in The Eye of the World, when he told Nynaeve the story of Lan’s heritage, and one can see how much Lan’s life pre-Moiraine was shaped by a sense of duty he felt to a kingdom and a people that no longer existed. It must have been such a relief to allow himself to be bonded to Moiraine and to be given a new purpose, a reprieve from the feelings of duty that drove him uselessly into the Blight every day.

So, yeah, I guess that pretty much sums up how full of feelings I am for Al’Lan Mandragoran. I really want him to end up with Nynaeve. Now that Moiraine has made all these plans for what will happen to Lan when she dies, Chekhov’s-bond-transfer basically guarantees that she will, in fact, die. Such are the rules of storytelling. Maybe Lan’s bond will eventually get transferred to Nynaeve, and she’ll choose Green and they can get married. (People keeps saying the Greens are the only ones who marry.) That would be kind of amazingly romantic. Not that I want Moiraine to die, mind you, but given that she’s the Gandalf of these stories I have a feeling that she’ll come back from death stronger than ever. Just like I am still waiting for Thom Merrilin to do.

Next week is a doozy of a section, as I’ll be tackling Chapters 23 and 24, and learning all sorts of things about the White Tower that I’ve been itching to learn. Not really looking forward to figuring out how to recap it all, but I am very much looking forward to analyzing it, and if I thought I’ve had a lot to say about Nynaeve now…. Well. You all know.

For now, I’ll leave this post with two questions I haven’t figured out how to answer yet. The first; who are the “watchers” are in Chapter 22? Is that a reference Adeleas and Vandene, with the complete history of the Age they are writing? Or is it whoever sent the Dragkhar after Moiraine? Someone else? The second; what is the question and answer that Moiraine almost found in her discussion with Vandene? My best guess is it’s something about Mordeth, given the fact that the chapter icon is the dagger, but that’s all I’ve got.

Sylas K Barrett is a believer in true love, and he’s only slightly embarrassed to admit it.

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