Hello and welcome back after our little one week hiatus from Reading the Wheel of Time. I hope everyone had a wonderful week, and I have brought you a belated holiday gift of finally getting to the chapters I’ve been promising for two weeks now, “Into the Heart” (21) and “Out of the Stone” (22).
Chapter 21 opens with Moiraine and Egwene arriving in the Heart of the Stone, which Rand has summoned them to, along with all the High Lords and Ladies as well as the rest of the Tairen nobility. The crowds move aside to let the Aes Sedai pass, but Moiraine is more concerned with the fact that Lan is not there with her. It isn’t like him to not be at her side, although their bond lets her know he’s not too far away. Moiraine is aware that Lan has done his best to resist “the strings Nynaeve [is] tying to him” but that he has become about as bound to Nynaeve as he is to Moiraine, albeit in a different way. Moiraine isn’t jealous, exactly, but she is reluctant to give up her longtime companion, protector, and sword arm. She silently reminds herself that she has “done what must be done,” and that Nynaeve will have Lan if Moiraine dies, and not before.
Neither Moiraine nor Egwene have any idea what Rand is planning; Moiraine is relieved that Egwene hasn’t heard the rumors about the Whitecloaks being in Emond’s Field, but is worried that Rand might be planning to go there. She tries to suggest that Egwene get Rand to confide in her, but Egwene is visibly suspicious of Moiraine’s motives behind the suggestion.
But Egwene assures Moiraine that Rand will not confide in anyone, and that he hides even his pains, hoping to deal with them before anyone notices. Moiraine feels some sympathy for Egwene’s irritation, suspecting that Egwene is hurt by Rand and Elayne cuddling in corners when they think no one can see them. But Elayne is out of Moiraine’s hair now, as are Nynaeve and Thom Merrilin, and Moiraine is satisfied with that. She is much more inclined to believe Joiya’s story about the plan to free Mazrim Taim than Amico’s tale of an unspecified threat in Tanchico, and is confident the girls will be able to deal with whatever they find there, with Thom’s help.
She only wishes Egwene had gone with them, and inquires again if Egwene is sure she wants to follow through with her plan to go to Rhuidean. Egwene does, and while Moiraine would rather have her back in the Tower continuing her training, she’s at least somewhat satisfied that going to Rhuidean will get Egwene out of the way as well. Also, Moiraine had been astounded by the letter from the Wise Ones, and supposes that there might be some benefit to Egwene learning from them, in the long run.
Moiraine is determined to make herself Rand’s only support. Now that she’s gotten rid of Thom—who had too much influence with Rand, and appeared to be settling Rand down to rule Tear—all Moiraine has to contend with is Rand running off to Emond’s Field to help his village. That and the possibility of Mat running off again.
Mat is in the crowd, now, but both Moiraine and Egwene note that Perrin is nowhere to be seen. And of course it’s unclear if Lan is there, either.
Frowning, Moiraine scanned the crowd, not that she could make out much beyond the front row. Lan could have been back among the columns. She would not strain, though, or jump up on her toes like an anxious child. Lan was due a talking-to he would not soon forget when she laid hands on him. With Nynaeve tugging at him one way and ta’veren—Rand, at least—seemingly pulling another, she sometimes wondered how well their bond still held. At least his time with Rand was useful; it gave her another string to the young man.
Egwene is certain that Perrin’s strong sense of duty means he must be around, even though Moiraine tells her that Faile has been trying to get him to leave. Moiraine thinks of how blind she was not to realize the connection between the three boys—three ta’veren, coming from the same village, and the same age as well. But it has made everything more complicated, trying to manage all three of them, and the Prophecies never mentioned the Dragon having any companions.
They have a bit of a disagreement about Faile and whether or not she’s good for Perrin, and Moiraine is about to tell Egwene off for assuming that just because they love each other, they should be together, when Rand arrives, carrying Callandor in his arm like a scepter and followed by about a hundred Aiel, all wearing their veils. He announces that the High Lord Sunamon has guaranteed a treaty with Mayene, which will result in ships to take Tairen grain to find new markets. He tells them that Sunamon has guaranteed this treaty with his life, and agreed to be hanged if he fails. He also announces that the army will march, drawing great excitement and cheering from the crowd until he qualifies that it is not Illian they are going to, but Cairhien. Moiraine is impressed with how Rand outlines the campaign and the roles of the various High Lords—clearly Thom had given him good advice—but the rest seems strange and impossible to her, and indeed to the High Lords as well.
High Lord Meilan, to whom Rand has given command, says as much, pointing out the complications of intervening in a civil war, the numerous factions vying for the throne, the bandits and the starving peasants. Rand counters that he has plans for who will sit on the Sun Throne of Cairhien, and that they do not go to conquer but to restore peace and feed the hungry. Beside Moiraine, Egwene murmurs that she knew Rand would not start a war, and Moirane replies that there will be no less bloodshed in this than in going to Illian.
“Attacking Illian and Sammael would have gained him time even if it grew into a stalemate. Time to learn his power, and perhaps to bring down one of his strongest enemies, to cow the rest. What did he gain by this? Peace for the land of her birth, starving Cairhienin fed; she would have applauded another time. It was laudably humane—and utterly senseless, now. Useless bloodshed, rather than confronting an enemy who would destroy him given the slightest opening. Why? Lanfear. What had Lanfear said to him? What had she done? The possibilities chilled Moiraine’s heart. Rand would take closer watching than ever now. She would not allow him to turn to the Shadow.
Moiraine hopes that Rand has finished being clever, but Rand has one more surprise for them all. He is not going with them to Cairhien. Announcing that the Stone will once more hold Callandor until his return, he lifts the blade, sweat running down his face.
Suddenly the transparent sword blazed in his hands. Whirling it hilt uppermost, he drove it down. Into the stone floor. Bluish lightning arced wildly toward the dome above. The stone rumbled loudly, and the Stone shook, dancing, heaving screaming people from their feet.
Moiraine pushed Egwene off of her while tremors still reverberated through the chamber, and scrambled erect. What had he done? And why? Going away? It was the worst of all her nightmares.
The Aiel get up again at once, but everyone else lies stunned and confused, except Rand. Moiraine watches him force himself to let go of the sword’s hilt, leaving it there with the blade driven halfway into the floorstones. He tells them to look at it while he’s gone, and that if anyone wants to take his place, then they only need to pull it out. “But remember,” he admonishes, almost playfully, “the price of failure.”
With that he strides from the chamber, the Aiel following him. Egwene and Moiraine hurry after them and fall in beside Rand, the Aiel ranks parting to allow them by. Rand demands to know why Egwene didn’t leave with Nynaeve and Elayne, and Egwene explains that she is going into the Waste with Aviendha, to Rhuidean to study with the Wise Ones, and Moiraine notices that Rand misses a step. She asks about his decisions, and then about Callandor, and Rand admits that it’s a relief not to have to carry it for a while. He also quotes a bit of the Prophecies at her.
Moiraine reminds him that anyone can pick up the sword now, not just him. Lanfear could take it, or Sammael or Rahvin or any of the male Forsaken could take and wield it. But Rand only responds that he almost hopes they will try.
“There is a surprise awaiting anyone who tries to channel Callandor out of the Stone, Moiraine. Do not think of taking it to the Tower for safekeeping; I could not make the trap pick and choose. The Power is all it needs to spring and reset, ready to trap again. I am not giving Callandor up forever. Just until I…” He took a deep breath. “Callandor will stay there until I come back for it. By being there, reminding them of who I am and what I am, it makes sure I can come back without an army. A haven of sorts, with the likes of Alteima and Sunamon to welcome me home. If Alteima survives the justice her husband and Estanda will mete out, and Sunamon survives mine. Light, what a wretched tangle.”
Both Moiraine and Egwene are shocked when Rand admits that he is going to Rhuidean. Moiraine asks if this decision comes from the questions he asked in the ter’angreal, and reminds him that misunderstanding the answers could prove fatal, to more than just him.
“You must trust me, Moiraine. As I have so often had to trust you.” His face might as well have belonged to an Aiel for all she could read in it.
“I will trust you for now. Just do not wait to seek my guidance until it is too late.” I will not let you go to the Shadow. I have worked too long to allow that. Whatever it takes.
Rand leads the procession out of the Stone, but he’s enjoying the fact that, despite the fact that he is at the head of the column, he is less remarkable to the Tairen they pass than the long rows of Aiel, or even Moiraine and Lan. No one knows that he is the Dragon Reborn, and he decides to enjoy the feeling for a little while.
He and Egwene have a conversation about the loot the Aiel have taken from the Stone and the custom (or perhaps it’s a law) of taking one-fifth of a conquered enemy’s possessions, except food. The Aiel haven’t actually taken a fifth of what lay in the Stone. The tone of the conversations reminds Rand of old times, and she asks about his new horse, who Rand has named Jeade’en after the horse of Jain Farstrider, whose steed could always find the way home.
Moiraine, annoyed at Rand for letting Perrin run off to the Two Rivers, not to mention irked by the fact that Rand hasn’t told them the full extent of his plans, demands to know the next part of his secret, reminding Rand of how much of the world’s fate rests on him. Rand assures her that he knows his duty, and, when pressed, admits that they are on their way to find a Portal Stone.
Mat is horrified, remembering their last experiences when Rand took them through a Portal Stone, and declaring he’d rather ride back to one of the dilapidated farmhouses they’ve passed and get a job feeding the pigs. Rand tells Mat that he can leave if he wants, drawing disapproving looks from both Moiraine and Lan, but Rand is reluctant to force his friends the way he feels forced himself by duty and fate. Mat comments that he does have to come, but cuts it off with a cryptic comment.
Rand explains to Moiraine where he got his knowledge from: books in the Stone’s library and stories from the few people who have had encounters with the Aiel. Moiraine is skeptical of all this rumor and cobbled-together information, but Rand brushes her off with a flippant remark, content to make her follow him for a while, after all the times he has had to follow her on blind trust. Egwene also asks if he means to risk their lives on such a dangerous chance, but Rand holds firm, even though he feels guilty about frightening his friends.
When they reach the rough area the map indicated, Lan delicately suggests that he employ the Aiel to search for the stone. Without explaining what it is, Rand describes the Stone, and a worried-looking Rhuarc chooses some of the Aiel to assign the task to, including the Maidens.
Rand picked out Egwene’s friend, Aviendha, a tall, pretty woman with a haughty unsmiling stare. Maidens had guarded his door, but he did not think he had seen her before the Aiel gathered to leave the Stone. She looked back at him, proud as a green-eyed hawk, then tossed her head and turned her attention to the clan chief.
Well, I wanted to be ordinary again, he thought, a touch ruefully. The Aiel certainly gave him that. They offered even the clan chief only a respectful hearing, without any of the elaborate deference a lord would exact, and obedience that seemed between equals. He could hardly expect more for himself.
Rand voices aloud his curiosity as to how so many disparate Aiel clans have been able to keep peace with each other, and Rhuarc explains that the Wise Ones made them all “swear water oath to treat any Aiel as of the same society on this side of the mountains.” But it is not easy, and even Rhuarc struggles with his own clan’s animosity towards the Shaido. He says that it is helpful, now, that they are heading towards Rhuidean, as it is forbidden to spill the blood of anyone who is traveling to or from Rhuidean.
Just then Aviendha finds the Portal Stone, and Rand and the others ride over to meet her. Much of the writing and many of the symbols have been worn away by time and the elements, but Rand begins searching for one in particular, and, as he is searching, he asks Aviendha why she does not like him.
“Like you?” she said. “You may be He Who Comes With the Dawn, a man of destiny. Who can like or dislike such? Besides, you walk free, a wetlander despite your face, yet going to Rhuidean for honor, while I…”
Rand prompts her to go on, but instead she tells him that it is his treatment of Elayne that has her miffed. Since Elayne is near-sister to Egwene, who is Aviendha’s friend, she cares about this. But Egwene still likes him, so Aviendha vows to try to do the same.
Rand finds the symbol he was looking for, the one for the Portal Stone on Toman Head, which helps him orient himself on the Stone. Now all he needs is luck, the ta’veren pull, to help him find the symbol for the Portal Stone in Rhuidean.
A hand reached over his shoulder, and Rhuarc said in a reluctant voice, “These two are used for Rhuidean in old writings. Long ago, even the name was not written.” He traced two triangles, each surrounding what appeared to be forked lightnings, one pointing left, one right.
“Do you know what this is?” Rand asked. The Aielman looked away. “Burn me, Rhuarc, I have to know. I know you don’t want to talk of it, but you have to tell me. Tell me, Rhuarc. Have you ever seen its like before?”
The other man took a deep breath before answering. “I have seen its like.” Each word came as if dragged. “When a man goes to Rhuidean, Wise Ones and clansmen wait on the slopes of Chaendaer near a stone like this.” Aviendha stood up and walked away stiffly; Rhuarc glanced after her, frowning. “I know no more of it, Rand al’Thor. May I never know shade if I do.”
This leaves Rand with a 50-50 shot at choosing the right symbols. The rest of the party gathers round. Egwene nervously asks Moiraine to stop Rand, but the Aes Sedai asks what Egwene expects her to do and remarks cryptically that they might be about to see how useful dreaming really is.
“Do we have to do it this way?” Mat said. “What do you have against riding?” Rand only looked at him, and he shrugged uncomfortably. “Oh, burn me. If you’re trying to decide…” Taking both horses’ reins in one hand, he dug a coin from his pocket, a gold Tar Valon mark, and sighed. “It would be the same coin, wouldn’t it.” He rolled the coin across the backs of his fingers. “I’m… lucky sometimes, Rand. Let my luck choose. Head, the one that points to your right; flame, the other. What do you say?”
Rand agrees, and Mat tosses the coin, but before they look at the results, Rand reaches out and touches one of the symbols, without looking, and declares that it is the one Mat chose. Mat doesn’t understand how Rand could know that, no one does, but Rand supposes it doesn’t matter. He pulls a small green stone, carved in the shape of a man, out of his pocket. It’s an angreal, one for men, that he found in the the Great Holding. He instructs everyone to gather as close as they can, because they are going to Rhuidean, right now.
Egwene questions Rand’s abilities, and Moiraine expresses surprise at his knowledge of Portal Stones. Rand answers that Verin told him about them, but leaves the truth about Lanfear’s teachings out of it. He raises the angreal, wraps himself in the Void, reaching out for the True Source. He fixes on the symbol and reaches through the angreal pulling more and more power, determined to carry them all, even the horses, safely through.
And then he world seems to wink out of existence.
I am always happy to have a Moiraine chapter. I feel like I spend as much time trying to figure out what she’s thinking as the Emond’s Fielders do, and have only marginally more success at it, so it’s great to get another glimpse into her head. Even with everything that has happened, it’s somehow easy to forget how cold and calculating Moiraine can be. Just a few chapters ago I was feeling like Mat was being terribly paranoid about her, but here we have confirmation of her spying and the extensive eyes-and-ears network within the Stone that Mat has been working hard to avoid, as well as the ones that Moiraine sent to spy on Rand and the Aiel. They must have been fairly intense about their information gathering for the Aiel to “disappear” the one man and hang the woman by her ankles over the ramparts like that. I mean, the Aiel can often be pretty dramatic about things, but Rhuarc always keeps a cool head.
The reminder that Moiraine missed the importance of all three boys being ta’veren and being connected is an important one. It’s also reminder that, for all that she has so much more knowledge than Rand, she still has very little to go on. I feel like Moiraine, accustomed to being an authority and to carrying this great secret of the identity of the Dragon Reborn, tends to forget that fact. It’s something I’ve mentioned before, but this chapter in particular shows her still regarding Rand as rushing about headlong without a thought, even though he’s clearly done a lot of planning. I get that he isn’t making the decisions Moiraine wants, and even if he opened up to her she still might not think his decision was a good one, but that’s different than not thinking things through at all, or acting impulsively and emotionally.
This line of thinking brings my mind back to the conflict between Nynaeve and Moiraine, which Nynaeve has hung onto so bitterly. Nynaeve has made Moiraine the symbol of all the things that frighten her, the One Power, her own lack of control of saidar, and the fact that she can no longer control and protect those who were once her charges. Now, ironically, it is Moiraine’s turn to struggle with feeling like she doesn’t have the control that she’s accustomed to—and Moiraine’s charges are not just one village, but the entire world. Even more so than the Amyrlin, who is carrying the other half of Moiraine’s burden but whose primary focus still has to be the White Tower and its affairs, Moiraine is always terribly conscious that the fate of creation basically rests upon her shoulders alone.
Of course, ultimately that role will be taken up by the next generation. I wonder what will change for Moiraine when Egwene and Elayne and Nyenave eventually show that they can keep up as full Aes Sedai, and when Rand comes fully into his own, and Mat proves that he won’t actually run away, not when the chips are down. Moiraine will always be integral to the fight against the Shadow—unless she dies? which still might happen—but perhaps eventually she will start to feel more like a part of a team, rather than someone who stands alone in the (ahem) shadows, fighting a secret war all on her own.
Well, alone with Lan. But even then, there was always a distance there. Moiraine counts on Lan explicitly, but there is much she doesn’t tell him. And now we find out even the bond between them is straining.
I had deduced, of course, that Moiraine’s plan to pass Lan’s bond on to Myrelle upon her death was to have him eventually end up as Nynaeve’s Warder. Moiraine told Lan that it was because she didn’t want the world to lose him, as he is such an important tool in the fight against the Shadow, and of course that is true; she can’t lie, after all. But although Lan missed it, Nynaeve was clearly a part of it too, and we now have confirmation of that within the text. Right now Moiraine is only willing to pass the bond on if she dies, but that could change in time. Nynaeve probably hasn’t learned enough to be able to create or maintain the Warder bond yet, anyway, and that skill might be a long ways away yet.
Still, I was surprised to learn that it is possible to put such a strain on the bond that it actually weakens, even to the point where Moiraine is somewhat concerned about its viability. Lan’s connection to Nynaeve isn’t based in saidar—at least I don’t think it is—merely in regular human emotion, and yet that is enough to challenge an Aes Sedai/Warder connection, which is pretty fascinating. I wonder if it’s kind of the reverse of that thing Liandrin did to Amalisa way back in The Great Hunt, where to establish the connection that allowed her to manipulate Amalisa, she first had to break her down with terror. Maybe certain emotions can affect how people experience One Power-driven connections.
Speaking of connections, I also hadn’t considered that Lan might be drawn to help Rand specifically because he’s ta’veren. It’s easy to see why Lan might relate to Rand, given his own unresolved sense of duty towards his lost kingdom, and the restraints that the Aes Sedai have placed upon him, even if he did accept them willingly. As we know, Lan’s begun to chafe under those restrictions, both from Moiraine’s threat to pass on his bond and from the fact that Lan never meant to fall in love with someone.
I just wish we could get a chapter of one of those dinners he and Nynaeve had back when everyone was hanging around in the Stone pre-Trolloc attack, and she was trying to figure out how to cook him meals. (A side note: Shouldn’t someone so good at medicine and potions be able to follow a recipe?)
Getting back to Moiraine, I can’t help noticing how worried she is that Rand will fall to the Shadow. Not just that he won’t make decisions, or that he’ll make the wrong ones, but specifically that he’ll join the Dark. Without more Moiraine pov chapters it’s hard to say for sure, but it seems to be the arrival of Lanfear that has triggered this specific worry, which makes sense, given that Lanfear just spent a whole chapter trying to tempt Rand to join her. Sure, Rand rejected her, but we know that something she said helped him finish formulating his current plan. Rand doesn’t think she meant to give him helpful information in that regard, but Lanfear is certainly sneaky enough to have snuck something in there to manipulate him to her own ends.
I’m not sure what it is that Lanfear said, though. Maybe the thing about Callandor inspired Rand to make the trap for potential rivals? Or maybe it was something about his need to learn channeling that led him to consider what Rhuidean might be able to offer? Without knowing what questions Rand asked inside the redstone ter’angreal, it’s hard to say for sure.
And now everyone is heading to Rhuidean. I was actually surprised that the narrative would keep Rand and Mat together with Egwene, Moiraine, and Aviendha this way, but on reflection, I shouldn’t have been. There are obviously a lot of secrets waiting in the Waste, and particularly Rhuidean, and the Wise Ones seem to have knowledge that other Aes Sedai don’t. Perhaps Rand can find guidance in the prophecies of He Who Comes With The Dawn. Perhaps he can also learn more about his past and his mother, where he comes from.
What Mat has to learn in Rhuidean, I’m not sure. It may be that it’s part of his own journey, as seems to be implied by the answers he got in the ter’angreal, but it may be tied with Rand’s fate, too. Once we find out what Rhuidean actually is, perhaps more will become clear. This question of the Jenn Aiel, who they were and what they have to do with Rhuidean, may also be answered soon, and I have a feeling that this will have to do with the Breaking, and perhaps also the fate of the Dragon.
I noticed a lot of little asides with Aviendha in Chapter 22, and Rand seems very drawn to her even though he doesn’t know anything about her other than that she is Egwene’s friend. He wants her to like him, too, and although you could put this down simply to Rand’s affable nature, I wonder if there isn’t a pull there, too. It just seems too pointed, somehow, the way Rand is so aware of her and where she is. Perhaps, also, there is some sense of Aviendha’s secret. Channelers of different genders can’t recognize the power in each other, because of the differences of saidin and saidar—he’s not feeling a kinship the way Elayne and Egwene felt it for her—but there are other ways of noticing, I think.
Next week we make it to Rhuidean, and some of these questions will be answered. Rand and Mat will set off on an adventure, and Moiraine will have to spend even more time chafing under other people’s control. Lucky her. Stand by for Chapters 23-25 next week!
I wish all of you a wonderful start to the new year, and may all your hopes for 2020 come true.
Sylas K Barrett is very tired, and has had entirely too much eggnog lately. It was really good, though.