Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Rumors and Fate in Robert Jordan’s The Shadow Rising (Part 10)

It is a time of transition in The Shadow Rising, and everyone is finally making those decisions they’ve been putting off for eleven chapters. I suppose we all got lulled into a false sense of security by everyone’s position in the Stone. The looming threats of the Black Ajah and the Forsaken notwithstanding, this time spent in the Stone is the most secure our heroes have been for a long time. They’re even all together! But of course that couldn’t last, and now it looks like everyone is going to be scrambling to finalize their plans and get this story moving again. I can’t really blame them for wanting to hold onto this time, and each other, as long as they could! And now Perrin is going off on his own, and even the Elayne, Egwene, and Nynaeve dream team is going to split up.

Just a note, last week I said that I would be covering Chapters 12 and 13, but given the short length of this section of chapters, today we will also be covering Chapter 14, which is a dumb chapter that I hate. Seriously, the whole hurt someone to save them trope is one of my least favorites. But more on that later, first, let us recap.

Elayne, Nynaeve, and Aviendha are relieved when Egwene finally opens her eyes; they’ve been trying to wake her for several minutes, and Nynaeve was on the point of throwing a pitcher of water in Egwene’s face. Setting it down heavily on the washstand, Nynaeve suggests that, if the World of Dreams has the ability to hold Egwene like that, perhaps it is too dangerous for her to continue going there, at least until she is able to learn more about it. Elayne is surprised when Egwene meekly agrees with Nynaeve’s assessment of the dangers.

Egwene tells them that she met a Wise One named Amys, who told her to come to Cold Rocks Hold, and asks Aviendha if she knows the name. Avihenda tells them that Amys was once a Maiden of the Spear, before she gave it up to become a Wise One. Egwene asks if Avihenda knows Cold Rocks Hold.

“Of course. Cold Rocks is Rhuarc’s hold. Rhuarc is Amys’s husband. I visit there, sometimes. I used to. My sister-mother, Lian, is sister-wife to Amys.”

Still confused by the complex relationship systems of the Aiel, they ask her what a sister-wife is, and are shocked when Avihenda explains that it means that the two women share a husband. Avihenda is, in turn, surprised at their confusion.

“But you and Elayne care for one another as first-sisters. What would you have done had one of you been unwilling to step aside for Rand al’Thor? Fight over him? Let a man damage the ties between you? Would it not have been better if you both had married him, then?”

Elayne looked at Egwene. The thought of … Could she have done such a thing? Even with Egwene? She knew her cheeks were red. Egwene merely looked startled.

“But I wanted to step aside,” Egwene said.

Elayne knew the remark was as much for her as for Aviendha, but the thought would not go away. Had Min had a viewing? What would she do if Min had? If it’s Berelain, I will strangle her, and him too! If it has to be someone, why couldn’t it be Egwene? Light, what am I thinking? She knew she was becoming flustered, and to cover it, she made her voice light. “You sound as if the man has no choice in the matter.”

Aviendha answers that of course the man can say no, but if he wishes to marry one, he must marry both. She remarks that she finds their customs, that a man can ask a woman to marry him, shocking, and insists that a man should let his interest be known and then wait for the woman to ask. But she also adds that she doesn’t know much about these things, as she has always wanted to be Far Dareis Mai.

Aviendha tells them that Amys is “hard as the mountains and pitiless as the sun” and that only Rhuarc is able to stand up to her. Even the other Wise Ones are cautious around Amys. But she is a Dreamwalker and Aviendha is confident she can and will teach Egwene. She also assures Egwene that Amys is quite fearless, and wouldn’t have been put off by finding herself in a strange place.

Egwene explains to the others how Amys sensed an evil in Tanchico, and that it could be the Black Ajah. Nynaeve looks ready to argue but Elayne steps in, and everyone agrees that while the evil Amys sensed very well could be the Black Ajah, it could also be something else. Egwene says that this is why she has to go to Amys. She doesn’t know what she is doing, and while she would go with Nynaeve and Elayne if she was certain the Black Ajah were in Tanchico, she believes that she can be most useful by learning from a real Dreamwalker. Nynaeve and Elayne can take the ring with them, and then Egwene can come to them and teach them what she learns from Amys. Nynaeve and Elayne reassure her that they agree with their choice, and that Aviendha will escort Egwene and look after her. But before Aviendha can answer them, the door opens and Moiraine comes in.

She tells them that Joiya and Amico are dead. It’s unclear if this murder was the purpose, or part of the purpose, of the attack, but they were both found dead with their tongues nailed to the doors of their cells, despite the cells remaining guarded the entire time. Nynaeve and Egwene wonder if this means that both women were telling the truth, or that they were killed before they could talk, but Elayne offers another answer, that the women were killed as punishment for being captured, and that since only one of their theories involves the Black Ajah knowing what Amico and Joiya have said, Elayne feels like they can assume they don’t know.

“Egwene and Nynaeve looked shocked. “To punish them?” Nynaeve said incredulously.

They were both tougher than she in many ways—she admired them for it—but they had not grown up watching the maneuverings at court in Caemlyn, hearing tales of the cruel way Cairhienin and Tairens played the Games of Houses.

“I think the Black Ajah might be less than gentle with failure of any kind,” she told them. “I can imagine Liandrin ordering it. Joiya surely could have done it easily.” Moiraine eyed her briefly, a reassessing look.

The others agree, and tell Moiraine that Nynaeve and Elayne are going to Tanchico, while Egwene and Aviendha will go to Cold Rocks Hold. But Aviendha declares that she would rather go to Tanchico. This clearly hurts Egwene’s feelings, but Moiraine tells Aviendha that she is not going to Tanchico, or Cold Rocks Hold, as Moiraine has been given a letter signed by a number of women who Aviendha identifies as Wise One Dreamwalkers. They have instructed Moiraine to send Aviendha to Rhuidean, and to show the letter to Rhuarc. Aviendha’s reply is both defiant and sulky, but she clearly feels outmaneuvered and leaves the room, banging the door shut behind her.

Moiraine refuses to give the others any other information, although there is more in the letter, saying that it’s Aviendha’s business, and that she would have told them herself if she wanted them to know. Nynaeve accuses her of trying to manipulate Aviendha, but Moiraine counters that it is the Wise Ones and Rhuarc who are doing so, not her.

Elayne points out that at least now Egwene and Aviendha can travel together, since Amys can’t be at Cold Rocks Hold if she is waiting for Aviendha in Rhuidean.

“But I do not want her to,” Egwene said sadly. “Not if she doesn’t want to.”

“Whatever anyone wants,” Nynaeve said, “we have work to do. You will need many things for a trip into the Waste, Egwene. Lan will tell me what. And Elayne and I must make preparations to sail for Tanchico. I suppose we can find a ship tomorrow, but that means deciding what to pack tonight.”

“There is a ship of the Atha’an Miere at the docks in the Maule,” Moiraine told them. “A raker. There are no ships faster. You did want a fast ship.” Nynaeve gave a grudging nod.

Elayne asks Moiraine if Rand is going to start the war now, and Moiraine answers as she leaves that Rand intends to tell them all his plans tomorrow. Elayne wonders to herself if Rand will understand her choices when she tells him, and the three set about making plans.

Meanwhile, Mat is holed up in a tavern in the Maule, ignoring the dice games and the serving girls for once as he nurses a glass of wine. He’s remembering the events in the Stone, how he killed the Gray Man that had been hunting him only to be confronted by a Myrddraal, which had called him Hornsounder and would certainly have killed him, had not a group of Trollocs suddenly appeared and attacked it, while leaving Mat entirely alone. Mat has no idea what to make of Trollocs coming to the rescue, and wonders what Rand has gotten him into now.

Mat catches himself drawing an open doorway with droplets of wine from cup, and rubs it away, even as he also pushes away the urge in the back of his head, telling him it’s time to return to the Stone.

He overhears a conversation in which a Lugarder man is comparing Rand to Logain and finding Logain the more impressive. Mat is scornful over the idea that someone would still think Rand was another false Dragon, even with the Stone and Callandor under his control, but his attention is soon caught by a different conversation, and he goes over to a table of people to address a man with a forked beard and a large ruby earring.

“The talk ceased and all eyes swung to Mat when he stopped at their table. “I heard you mention the Two Rivers.”

The man looks Mat over and quickly decides that he is a young nobleman, and answers that he was just saying that there would be no tabac out of there this year, and offers to sell Mat a cask of it. But Mat demands to know why the man thinks such a thing, and learns that there are rumors of Whitcloaks in the Two Rivers. The rumor, the man respectfully tells him, is that the Whitecloaks are there hunting the Dragon Reborn, although he is quick to add that it of course can’t be true, since the Lord Dragon is in Tear. He suggests that rumors can run quite wild—the other rumor is that the Whitecloaks are hunting a man with yellow eyes, which is, of course, not a real thing.

After establishing that these two are the only ones the Whitecloaks are looking for, Mat tosses a gold coin to them.

As he turned away he heard mutters from the table. “I thought he’d cut my throat. You know these lordlings when they’re full of wine.” That from the fork-bearded merchant. “An odd young man,” the woman said. “Dangerous. Do not try your ploys on that kind, Paetram.” “I do not think he is a lord at all,” another man said petulantly. The Cairhienin, Mat supposed. His lip curled. A lord? He would not be a lord if it was offered to him. Whitecloaks in the Two Rivers. Light! Light help us!

Mat hurries through the streets and back to the Stone, where he finds Perrin in his room, packing. Perrin confirms that he has heard the rumor while he was looking for something to tempt Faile. Mat asks if Perrin believes the rumor, and if Rand knows, and Perrin answers that it is all very close to the truth. Mat asks what Rand said.

Perrin paused, staring at the folded cloak in his hands. “He started muttering to himself. ‘He said he’d do it. He said he would. I should have believed him.’ Like that. It made no sense. Then he grabbed me by the collar and said he had to do ‘what they don’t expect.’ He wanted me to understand, but I’m not certain he does himself. He didn’t seem to care whether I leave or stay. No, I take that back. I think he was relieved I’m leaving.”

“Boil it down, and he’s not going to do anything,” Mat said. “Light, with Callandor he could blast a thousand Whitecloaks! You saw what he did to those bloody Trollocs. You’re going, are you? Back to the Two Rivers? Alone?”

“Unless you are coming, too.” Perrin stuffed the cloak into the saddlebags. “Are you?”

Mat turns away, pacing as he tries to decide what to do. He doesn’t think the Whitecloaks have any reason to target his family, since there is no rumor about Mat and even the Coplins like his father. And he’s afraid that if he does return, he will never be able to leave again, that his mother will marry him off before he can stop it. Some part of him still wants to go, but when he tries to say as much to Perrin, he can’t even get the words out.

Mat asks Perrin if he feels something trying to hold him back, to keep him at the Stone, and Perrin answers that there are many reasons he shouldn’t go, but that it all boils down to Rand and ta’veren, even if Mat won’t admit that. But the one reason to go outweighs everything, even though Mat doesn’t understand how the Whitecloaks could know who Perrin is, or who his family are. Mat again tries to say that he will go and can’t, and Perrin acknowledges that they are being sent down different paths.

“Different paths be bloodied,” Mat grunted. “I’ve had all I want of Rand, and Aes Sedai, shoving me down their bloody paths. I want to go where I want for a change, do what I want!” He turned for the door, but Perrin’s voice halted him.

“I hope your path is a happy one, Mat. The Light send you pretty girls and fools who want to gamble.”

“Oh, burn me, Perrin. The Light send you what you want, too.”

“I expect it will.” He did not sound happy at the prospect.

“Will you tell my da I’m all right? And my mother? She always did worry. And look after my sisters. They used to spy on me and tell Mother everything, but I wouldn’t want anything to happen to them.”

“I promise, Mat.”

Mat leaves the room and wanders the halls, thinking of his family and memories of his childhood, until he runs into Berelain, which perks up his spirits a bit. He sweeps her a low bow and greets her cordially, but when she attempts to pass without even acknowledging him he snaps that he “is not a carpet to be walked over” and that he expects civil words in response to civil words. Berelain stops and looks him over, then turns away, muttering something to herself. Mat catches the words “too much like me.” He’s angry at her arrogance for a moment, then tells himself that this is what he gets for speaking to the likes of Berelain and Elayne, his thoughts already turning to a cook’s assistant that he likes, and that likes him.

He stops suddenly, realizing that he’s already behaving as though he has made a decision, telling Perrin to look after his sisters and turning his thoughts to flirting with women. But he hasn’t made a decision, yet and refuses to just slide into one. And he knows a way, maybe, to make that choice.

Perrin, meanwhile, is finishing his packing and thinking about the difference between him and Mat. He wishes he could avoid going home, too, but he knows there is no way. And unlike Mat, he accepts that fact.

He’s getting ready for bed, working stiffly with a bruised shoulder from the battle and making plans to find Loial in the morning, when suddenly the door opens and Berelain comes in. Perrin is surprised, but does his best to be courteous as she asks if he is leaving, and reveals that she, too, intends to depart for Mayene in the morning. She claims that she hoped that she could work things out, but the events of the night have convinced her otherwise.

Perrin asks why she is telling him, and is dissatisfied with her answer that it is so he can tell the Lord Dragon. He instructs her to tell him herself, or give the message to a servant, and Berelain is surprised that Perrin will not do as she asks, and changes tactics, complimenting his eyes. Perrin suddenly becomes aware that he’s standing there shirtless, and quickly grabs one, telling her he wants to go to bed. But Berelain doesn’t take the hint, and instead begins to tempt him to come with her, saying that she could use a blacksmith to make ornamental ironwork for her bedchamber.

And then, Faile comes in.

The First ignored her. Stepping close to Perrin, she ran a hand up his arm, across his shoulder. For an instant he thought she meant to try pulling his head down for a kiss—she certainly lifted her face as if for one—but she only trailed her hand along the side of his neck in a quick caress and stepped back. It was over and done before he could move to stop her. “Remember,” she said softly, as if they were alone, “I always get what I want.” And she swept past Faile and out of the room.

He waited for an explosion from Faile, but she glanced at his stuffed saddlebags on the bed and said, “I see you’ve heard the rumor already. It is only a rumor, Perrin.”

Perrin points out that the detail of the yellow eyes make it more than that, and can’t understand why Faile is being so cool. She asks if Moiraine will let Perrin leave, and then points out the time it will take to reach the Two Rivers, although she supposes she doesn’t want to discourage him, given how long she’s been trying to get him to leave the Stone

Perrin tells her that he intends to travel via the Ways, and, after receiving a lecture on the impossibility of such a feat, explains how he has traveled them before, and that Loial can guide him.

“Well,” she said, rubbing her hands together briskly. “Well, I wanted adventure, and this is certainly it. Leaving the Stone of Tear and the Dragon Reborn, traveling the Ways to fight Whitecloaks. I wonder whether we can persuade Thom Merrilin to come along. If we cannot have a bard, a gleeman will do. He could compose the story, and you and I the heart of it. No Dragon Reborn or Aes Sedai about to swallow up the tale. When do we leave? In the morning?”

He took a deep breath to steady his voice. “I will be going alone, Faile. Just Loial and me.”

She ignores him, planning out what they will need for the journey and wondering if the farmers of the Two Rivers will be willing to fight the Whitecloaks. But as Perrin continues to insist that she cannot come, Faile breaks, asking if he thinks Berelain will watch his back, or wondering if he just wants her to sit in his lap, and if she likes the dim lights in his room. Perrin takes the opportunity and agrees that any man would want Berelain on his lap, and suggests that he might go to Mayene after he finishes in the Two Rivers. Faile looks at him for a moment, and then runs from the room.

“In spite of himself he started to follow, then stopped with his hands gripping the doorframe till his fingers hurt. Staring at the splintered gash his axe had made in the door, he found himself telling it what he could not tell her. “I killed Whitecloaks. They would have killed me if I hadn’t, but they still call it murder. I’m going home to die, Faile. That’s the only way I can stop them hurting my people. Let them hang me. I cannot let you see that. I can’t. You might even try to stop it, and then they’d … .”

His head dropped against the door. She would not be sorry to see the last of him now; that was what was important. She would go find her adventure somewhere else, safe from Whitecloaks and ta’veren and bubbles of evil. That was all that was important. He wished he did not want to howl with grief.

Faile rushes through the halls, her thoughts whirling in pain and anger, furious in equal measure with Perrin and Berelain. She catches up to the First of Mayene, and cuts her off, snapping that Perrin Aybara belongs to her and Berelain can keep her hands off. Berelain suggests that she didn’t think farmgirls could lay such claims, and Faile is enranged, although she doesn’t tell Berelain who she is, and although she is furious with herself for fighting this way over a man.

She draws her knives and threatens to shave Berelain’s head, but Berelain catches her wrist and takes the knife, throwing Faile onto the floor. Berelain promises Faile—Ogier’s oath, she says—that she will take Perrin away from her and keep him “as a pet” as long as he amuses her, and that Faile can have him after, if he still wants her.

Finally managing to draw a breath, Faile struggled to her feet, pulling a second knife. “I will drag you to him, after I cut off those clothes you are almost wearing, and make you tell him you are nothing but a sow!” Light help me, I am behaving like a farmgirl, and talking like one! The worst part was that she meant it.

The two square off, but right as they are about to come to blows again, Rhuarc appears between them, snatching the knives away and telling them both off for seeking out more bloodshed after so much has already been spilled. Faile tries to hit him, but he moves easily out of the way and wrenches her arm up painfully, before calmly instructing Berelain to return to her room and stay there until the sun is above the horizon, adding that he will make sure no breakfast is brought to her. When Berelain protests, he tells her that if she does not do as she is told “we will repeat our first talk together, you and I. Right here,” and counting to three when she still hesitates.

Rhuarc releases Faile after that, but tucks her blades into his own belt, telling her that losing the knives she prizes is her punishment for breaking the peace. He won’t tell her what first conversation he had with Berelain, but promises that if either of them cause any more trouble, he’ll put them both to work carrying offal, as he did for some of the Tairens who wouldn’t stop fighting duels.

When he’s gone, Faile nurses her arm and thinks about how Rhuarc’s commanding nature reminds her of her father. She’s tempted to try to bait Berelain into something, in the hopes of seeing her sweating among the refuse carts, but Rhuarc did say both of them.

Something Berelain had said was tickling the back of her mind. Ogier’s oath. That was it. An Ogier never broke an oath. To say “Ogier oathbreaker” was like saying “brave coward,” or “wise fool.”

She could not help laughing aloud. “You will take him from me, you silly peahen? By the time you see him again, if you ever do, he’ll be mine once more.”

Chuckling to herself, and occasionally rubbing her shoulder, she walked on with a light heart.

 

I mostly put that last bit in verbatim because I don’t quite understand it. Faile is making this very sudden about-face in how threatened Berelain makes her feel, all because the phrase “Ogier’s oath” amuses her? My best guess is that realizing how serious a claim it is, referencing the Ogier’s oath-keeping ways, makes Faile realize the ridiculousness of the situation, and that she either decided that Berelain is messing with her or that Berelain is over-confident, making Faile feel more confident in her own ability to keep Perrin for herself. But I’m not sure.

There’s a lot in this section about women feeling possessive over men, from Berelain and Faile’s fight (and we’ve been told previously that Aiel women will also duel, sometimes to the death, over the right to a man) to the explanation of the concept of sister-wives among the Aiel. And of course we know that Min’s viewing has told her that she would be sharing Rand. Elayne’s encounters with this concept from Aviendha here are perhaps preparing her for that kind of relationship to Rand, later.

The Aiel sister-wife relationship does feel a bit more modern than the traditional concepts of polyamory—historically the idea of one man having more than one wife is usually because he is entitled to them as possessions. The idea that two women, who are friends, would decide to share a husband, suggests that that idea of possession (or at least authority) runs in the other direction amongst the Aiel, as does Aviendha’s insistence that only women have a right to propose marriage. I’m still waiting to find out if there are brother-husbands too, and if this polycule-style relationship manifests itself in a variety of ways, or if it is only in this single sense, that two women would be such close friends that they decide to marry the same man.

Marriage generally seems to be viewed as a trap by most of the men of the Wheel of Time, even if they only have one wife trying to pin them down and whip them into shape, and that association definitely carries over into the reader’s understanding of the sister-wife arrangement. I’m curious to hear what Rhuarc’s perspective on his marriages is, and I’m also wondering how the story will acknowledge female sexuality and how it is affected and expressed by these women who have such deep relationships with each other.

I mean, you can’t tell me that women in such a triad never feel romantically and sexually towards each other. That is nonsense. It all kind of gets back to my complaint about the use of “love him like a brother”/“love her like a sister” from a few weeks ago. Of course some of these women do have platonic love for each other, and feel like family, but the exclusive use of the word “sister” does tend to put up a pretty solid barrier against the sexualization of these women’s relationships to each other, and more aggressively than the spear-sister title does, since usage of “brother-in-arms” has never stood in the way of soldiers developing romantic relationships with each other.

I suppose this concept of possessing men is why Faile went after Berelain instead of focusing on the person whose opinion actually matters here. I’m annoyed with Perrin right now, and Faile’s emotional, in-the-moment reaction is somewhat understandable, but hopefully now that she’s come to her senses she’s realized that it’s Perrin who is important, not Berelain. Given how she basically forced him to accept her as a companion, Faile is probably thinking that Berelain could force him too. But insisting on accompanying Perrin on a journey (or insisting that he come make decorative ironworks in Mayene) is a lot different than actually finding a place in his heart. Faile and Perrin’s romantic feelings for each other seem to have blossomed naturally over time, and although I fully believe that Faile has a core of inner self-doubt under all that loud bravado, hopefully she’ll be able to get her focus back on what’s important.

Hopefully she’ll follow him all the way to the Two Rivers, save his ass from the Whitecloaks, and give him a sound ‘I told you so.’

Not that I don’t understand Perrin’s fear, and pain. It was almost easy to forget, in all the other dangers cropping up, how important that first encounter with the Whitecloaks was for him, and how much it still defines Perrin in his own mind. Even after all his experiences, after the Shadowspawn he’s faced and killed, the Children of the Light still loom as large and threatening as ever for Perrin. He hasn’t even considered that he might be able to stop them, it seemingly never occurred to him that he could ask Rand to command soldiers to help him stop the Whitecloaks, or that there might be other ways his friends could aid him in this. Did he even think of telling Egwene and Nynaeve? Perrin has apparently done so much work resisting the wolves, he really has come to think of himself as completely alone. Well, except he will ask for Loial’s help.

Still, I really hate the “break someone’s heart to save them” trope in fiction, and it’s no better here. Understanding Perrin’s motivations doesn’t change how this trope is always dismissive of at least one character’s intelligence, if not both. I can understand that Perrin believes that he is going to die, and that he is aware that Faile would try to interfere with that plan if she knew the truth. But it’s silly that he believes that a few sentences about how he thinks Berelain is sexy would counteract everything about the bond that he and Faile have established, that she’d be so foolish as to not even consider that what Perrin just said was completely out of character. Even with Faile’s insecurities about Perrin’s interest in her, even with her temper, she’s bound to question this strange behavior, once she’s had time to calm down. Perrin has never shown any interest in women like Berelain, and Faile has even remarked a time or two on his innocent nature. She should know better.

And if she doesn’t, then the story has now dismissed her intelligence, which I really don’t care for at all.

Seems like a lot of these characters are still running from something, even if they think they’re making strong choices. Mat is still pushing back against his own destiny, which honestly might be a good thing? I don’t think it’s possible to deviate too far from the path the Pattern directs, but there might be some wiggle room, and as I’ve observed before, Mat himself seems to be a bit of an agent of destiny himself, his luck-powers driving events around him and shaping the Pattern in their own way. It feels like the three Two Rivers boys have each taken a different level of acceptance to their ta’veren nature. Perrin has more or less accepted that his fate is out of his control. Mat pushes back at every impulse, every directive that the Pattern tries to put him on. And Rand has accepted the broad strokes, accepted that he is the Dragon and that the prophecies outline his future, but within that certainty he has decided that there is a lot of choice, and finds himself driven to make his own way, to do those things no one expects, and in ways no one can predict.

Mat needs to watch it, though. He’s so caught up in his frustrations with the pull to Rand, to the Dragon Reborn and the associated fate, that he keeps forgetting that he, too, has a pull, and that he, too, is affecting the world. He can’t blame Rand for everything! And he seems to have forgotten the target that blowing the Horn of Valere has put on his back. Until now it has been safe to assume that only the Amyrlin and a few Aes Sedai knew about the Horn (along with his friends, who were there in that battle) but the Myrddraal called him “Hornsounder,” so the word must be out now. Everyone is going to want control over the Horn, and the first step to that is getting Mat out of the way. I don’t think he’s taking this face as seriously as he should.

(And a side note: How does the Shadow know about the Horn? Other than Mat’s friends, I believe only Moiraine, the Amyrlin, and Sheriam knew he was the one who sounded it, and that it is now in the White Tower. Of course there are always ways to spy out these things, and we know of at least one Aes Sedai—Elaida—who’s been snooping on the Amyrlin, but it is still pretty suspicious.)

But when it comes to that, I don’t really think anyone is taking Mat very seriously. Moiraine and some others have acknowledged that he is ta’veren, that he is just as tied into events as anyone else, but no one really treats him that way. They assume that he can still dodge his way out from under whatever destiny is shaping for the rest of them, and I can’t decide if they think it because Mat just talks a really good game, or just because the gambling and carousing makes him look bad to the others. I know, as they do, that he has a strong impulse to run, but every one of them is struggling in some manner or other with the conflict between their desires and their duties. The girls’ fear of the Black Ajah didn’t stop them from interrogating Joiya, and isn’t stopping them from going to Tanchico. Elayne’s love for Rand isn’t stopping her from following her duty, even though it means leaving him behind. And Perrin is determined as ever, even though he keeps much of his internal struggle hidden from everyone.

If anything, I suppose Mat’s journey relates more to Rand’s than anyone else’s. Everyone is putting their own experiences in terms related to Rand, whether it be ta’veren pull or the need to make sure the Dragon is able to fulfill his destiny. But Rand himself is unsure of what to do, and while a lot of people have a lot of opinions about it, ultimately many of his decisions are still uncertain, and the path that he might follow is still unclear. Mat has the same problem. He feels that ta’veren pull, he knows that some choices are out of his control, but he still resists, and there is no saying for sure that he’s wrong, even though everyone is convinced that he is.

I suppose that my instinct is to trust Rand, and to trust Mat too, even though I know what a problem Mat is, even though I understand Moiraine’s reservations about letting Rand run free in a world where almost everyone is more prepared than he is. You could point out that part of that is my reader’s privilege, but I think also I have a natural distrust of fate and destiny, and I appreciate when characters do too, even if the narrative is telling me that it’s fruitless to resist.

But our three ta’veren are not the only ones struggling with fates outside of their control—Aviendha has clearly been running from something too. In the letter they sent to Moiraine, the Wise Ones call her “a willful girl” and say that “there can be no more waiting or excuses” so we know that this isn’t the first time Aviendha has resisted some kind of summons. Elayne notices the sullenness in Aviendha’s response as well, and we’ve seen, both in that conversation and in others, that Aviendha is militant in her insistence that being a Maiden of the Spear is the only thing she wants in her life. Given that she’s being summoned to Rhuidean and given that we know that women must give up the spear to become Wise Ones, it seems logical that Aviendha has the ability to channel, and has been commanded to come to Rhuidean in order to learn. I don’t know if all potential female channelers would be forced to become Wise Ones, but given the dangers posed to those born with the spark, I can imagine that at least some Aiel women might be compelled to come to Rhuidean, despite their own personal wishes.

Of course, there could be other answers, other destinies that Aviendha might be called to, but if it is channeling, hopefully her friendship with Egwene will he helpful to her now.

Next week we will see Mat (and some others) visit the doorway ter’angreal and get what appears to be a glimpse into another world. The Two Rivers folk will part ways again, and we’ll find out what Thom has been up to, too. Tune in next time for Chapters 15-17, same Tor.time, same Tor.channel.

Sylas K Barrett would very much like it if heros stopped pretending that they can only do things alone. He gets that every story can’t be She Ra, but still.

citation

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