Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Death Cannot Be Healed in Robert Jordan’s The Fires of Heaven (Part 5)

This week in Reading the Wheel of Time we get to learn so much more about the One Power. Chapter Six is the only chapter we will cover today, but like Rand, we’ll have a busy time of it. There will be Darkhounds and balefire, Mat and his foxhead medallion, and Lanfear will show us more of herself than I believe we have seen thus far. I have feelings about Moiraine, and Rand has feelings about death. It’s going to be a real roller coaster.

(A note: I previously said this was Chapter Seven, not Chapter Six! My bad, friends.)

Rand awakens in the dark, and it takes him a moment to realize what has woken him.

Then it came again, like a faint whiff of a foul miasma creeping under the door. Not a smell at all, really; a sense of otherness, but that was how it felt. Rank, like something dead a week in stagnant water. It faded again, but not all the way this time.

He rolls out of bed and goes out into the corridor, illuminated by moonlight. Noting that the presence, whatever it is, feels like the taint that coats saidin, he touches the angreal in his pocket, but he doesn’t think he’ll need the extra power he can channel with it. Whoever has sent this attack doesn’t know who they are dealing with now.

Rand decides that it will be safer to draw whatever attack is coming away from the floors where the Maidens are sleeping, and heads upwards, to the highest floor of the building where the ceiling is domed and there is dust on the floor. It’s perfect.

Striding to the center of the room, he planted himself atop the mosaic there, the ancient symbol of the Aes Sedai, ten feet across. It was an apt place. “Under this sign will he conquer.” That was what the Prophecy of Rhuidean said of him. He stood straddling the sinuous dividing line, one boot on the black teardrop that was now called the Dragon’s Fang and used to represent evil, the other on the white now called the Flame of Tar Valon. Some men said it stood for the Light. An appropriate place to meet this attack, between Light and darkness.

The sinking feeling grows stronger, and then three dark shapes separate themselves from the darkness, black dogs as large as ponies. With the Power, he can hear their hearts beating but he can’t hear any breathing. Rand creates a sword for himself with the Power and waits until the dogs are upon him before moving, effortlessly flowing through the forms Lan has taught him and severing the dogs’ heads from their bodies. He has let go of saidin when he realizes that the bodies are pooling into liquid shadow and merging back together until the three dogs stand in front of him once more.

Rand is surprised, but not alarmed. He channels again; a thick white beam of light shoots from his hand. He sweeps it across the dogs and they become strange shadows of themselves before dissolving into nothing. Behind where the dogs had been there is a slash cut into the wall and one of the columns topples down.

Moiraine’s voice startles him as she asks if any of the dogs bit or bled on him. He realizes that she would have felt the dogs the same way he did, but she must have run to get there so quickly. She tells him that the dogs were Darkhounds, and explains that the bite will kill faster than she could Heal such a wound, and even the blood or saliva is poisonous enough to bring a slow, agonizing death. She tells him that he is lucky there were only three, unless he killed more before she arrived—the packs are usually consist of ten or twelve.

Rand realizes that this could mean that there are other Darkhounds in Rhuidean and immediately runs off, ignoring Moiraine’s insistence that they need to talk about what he just did. He ignores the sleepy Maidens whom he wakes as he runs by, ignores Lan standing outside, and even ignores the pain in his side from the half-healed wound. He runs into the building where he knows Mat is staying and finds three more Darkhounds, up on their hind legs clawing and chewing at a bronze door.

Rand channels the light again, trying to contain it more this time as he destroys the Darkhounds. He does put a hole in the wall, though, and resolves that he needs to find better control of this weapon.

He pounds on the door, which is torn and shattered in places, calling out until Mat opens it. Mat is naked except for the foxhead medallion around his neck, and there’s a golden-haired maiden behind him, wrapping herself unconcernedly in a blanket. Rand averts his eyes, asking if they’re alright, and Mat says that they are now that Rand has killed whatever it was. He doesn’t want to know what was tryin to kill him, and insists that it’s hard on a man, being Rand’s friend.

Not only a friend. Another ta’veren, and perhaps a key to victory in Tarmon Gai’don; anyone who wanted to strike at Rand had reason to strike at Mat, as well. But Mat always tried to deny both things. “They’re gone, Mat. Darkhounds. Three of them.”

Mat repeats that he didn’t want to know, and observes how strange it is that he had thought one of the Darkhounds had broken through. The mind plays tricks, he says, though he had sworn he could see the Darkhound through the door and that Melindhra’s spear didn’t even faze the thing. Before Rand can answer Moiraine and Lan run up, followed by Maidens in various states of dress but all veiled, ready to kill.

Mat ducks inside to grab at his breeches, fumblingly hauling them on and trying to scratch at his arm at the same time, while the Maidens—unveiling themselves now that the danger seems to be past—laugh at him. Rand asks what’s wrong with Mat’s arm and Mat repeats that he thought one of the Darkhounds broke through the door and slobbered on him, and now it itches, and even looks burned.

Moiraine pushes past at once, but Rand can tell the Healing isn’t going to plan, and Mat grumbles and lifts the medallion away from his chest, complaining that it’s cold. He asks Moiraine what she’s doing, tells her to Heal the itch already, even as they can see his whole arm has gone red and puffy. Moiraine calmly tells him to take the medallion off, and is then able to Heal him properly. When Mat complains about how it feels, Moiraine threatens to go find Nynaeve and sic her on him.

Melindhra tells Moiraine that she will keep Mat in bed tomorrow, remarking that he is her little mischief maker now, prompting horror from Mat and amusement from the Maidens. Rand shoos them out of the room, though they linger and call back to Melindhra that she should teach Mat to sing, until Moiraine comes out behind them and shuts the door. She asks to speak to Rand alone, and the Maidens start to wander off, still laughing about Melindhra and Mat.

Rand stopped Adelin with a hand on her bare arm; others who noticed stopped as well, so he spoke to them all. “If you will not go when I tell you to, what will you do if I have to use you in battle?” He did not intend to if he could help it; he knew they were fierce warriors, but he had been raised to believe it was a man’s place to die if necessary before a woman had to. Logic might say it was foolish, especially with women like this, but that was how he felt. He knew better than to tell them that, however. “Will you think it a joke, or decide to go in your own good time?”

Adelin tells him that in the dance of the spears they will of course go where he directs, but that this is not the dance. Another woman reminds him that even the Car’a’carn is not a wetlander king. Rand thinks he’s getting a bit tired of that phrase.

The Maidens resume their joking and meander out, leaving Rand with Lan and Moiraine. Again she tells him that they must speak, and Lan looks angry when Rand cuts her off and says they can talk tomorrow. He turns to leave, but Moiraine says please and the pleading in her tone stops him cold. He’s never heard her sound like that. Lan seems offended on her behalf, observing that he’s behaving like an arrogant boy, not a man.

But Moiraine continues to use that tone, telling Rand that she will not be with him forever, that she could die in the next attack. She reminds him that she has given up her entire life in search of him, to help him, and that he doesn’t understand half of what he does. She even apologizes for any offense, and although the words sound almost dragged from her, Rand knows she cannot lie. She begs him to let her help him, while she still can. Rand answers that it is hard to trust her, that she has used him like a puppet.

Her laugh was as silvery as the moon above, but bitterness tinged it. “It has been more like wrestling with a bear than pulling strings on a puppet. Do you want an oath not to try manipulating you? I give it.” Her voice hardened to crystal. “I even swear to obey you like one of the Maidens—like one of the gai’shain, if you require—but you must—” Taking a deep breath, she began again, more softly. “I ask you, humbly, to allow me to help you.”

Rand is shocked—he can see Lan staring at her too—but despite a lingering feeling that he is still being manipulated, he declares that he will accept her help, and apologies in turn for all the rudeness he has shown her.

She relaxes, and immediately begins explaining to him that what he just used on the Darkhounds is called Balefire, and that its use has been forbidden since before the Breaking of the World. The White Tower, she says, forbids learning that particular weave; during the War of Power even the Shadowsworn only used it reluctantly. Whatever is touched by Balefire isn’t just destroyed, it ceases to exist before the moment of its destruction “like a thread that burns away from where the flame touched it.” And the greater the power of the channeler, the farther back in time the erasure goes. This is what just happened with Mat—only the memory of the dog breaking through and slobbering on him remains, but the event was erased from the Pattern entirely. Instead there were only a few tooth marks and a single drop of saliva on Mat’s arm.

Rand observes that this is hardly a bad thing, if Mat would have died without the event being erased.

“It is terrible, Rand.” An urgent note entered her voice. “Why do you think even the Forsaken feared to use it? Think of the effect on the Pattern of a single thread, one man, removed from hours, or days, that have already been woven, like one thread picked partly out of a piece of cloth. Fragments of manuscripts remaining from the War of Power say several entire cities were destroyed with balefire before both sides realized the dangers. Hundreds of thousands of threads pulled from the Pattern, gone for days already past; whatever those people had done, now no longer had been done, and neither had what others had done because of their actions. The memories remained, but not the actions. The ripples were incalculable. The Pattern itself nearly unraveled. It could have been the destruction of everything. World, time, Creation itself.”

She warns him that he must be careful—there is no telling how much damage he could do using Balefire while holding Callandor, for example—and that he could wreck such destruction within the Pattern that he might even disrupt his own place in the Pattern. Being ta’veren could be the difference between success and defeat in the Last Battle.

Rand thinks bitterly that while most heroes in the stories face a choice of death or victory, the best he can hope for is death and victory. But he promises to be careful before telling Moiraine that he has someone else to check on and bids her goodnight. He calls up a doorway for himself, a Gateway as Asmodean has told him it is called. Moiraine is shocked, asking what it is, but Rand doesn’t explain. Instead he tests her vow, telling her that she isn’t allowed to try to take Mat’s medallion from him. Moiraine argues, insisting that it should be taken to the White Tower for study, but Rand holds firm, and eventually she curtsies and agrees. She reminds him of the dangers of learning balefire by himself, and that Death cannot be Healed.

Then she and Lan leave—the Warder giving him an unreadable look—and Rand steps into the gateway.

The disk Rand has made for himself to ride is shaped like the ancient Aes Sedai symbol. The method of traveling through this gateway, he has learned, is called Skimming. There is a faster way, called Traveling, but Asmodean has not been able to teach it to Rand. It also requires that you know your starting point very well, apparently, though Rand doesn’t understand why that should be more important than knowing your destination.

In any case he doesn’t have far to go; the disk only moves a foot before a new gateway opens and Rand steps off of it and into the corridor outside Asmodean’s room. Through the doorway he can see Asmodean, can hear his heartbeat and sense troubled dreams. On the floor he finds the mark of Darkhound feet. He can’t tell if they were held back by the weave he used to trap Asmodean inside or if they were merely scouting, spying like the ravens and rats the Myrddraal sometimes employ.

He uses the Power to remove any trace of the Darkhounds’ presence from inside the building and outside too, erasing any sign that Darkhounds went near Jasin Natael the gleeman.

He uses a gateway to get back to his room, too, avoiding all the Maidens, and goes to open a niche he’s hidden with the Power. Inside he finds the two ter’angreal that can connect a channeler to the great sa’angreal figures.

The male figure could link him to a huge replica of itself, the most powerful male sa’angreal ever made, even if he were on the other side of the Aryth Ocean from it. It had only been finished after the Dark One’s prison was resealed—How do I know that?—and hidden before any of the male Aes Sedai going mad could find it. The female figure could do the same for a woman, joining her to the female equivalent of the great statue he hoped was still almost completely buried in Cairhien. With that much power… Moiraine had said death could not be Healed.

The memory of that time in the Stone when he tried to return life to the dead little girl comes back to him, and even though he’s still in the Void, it hurts to remember how he’d tried to make her heart beat, to make her lungs work. He remembers Moiraine telling him that he is not the Creator, and he knows that he can’t be trusted with this much power when Callandor alone made him believe that he could turn back the Wheel. He thinks that he should destroy these figures, but instead he puts them back in their niche.

Lanfear arrives in his room as Rand is putting the figures away. Rand hastily ties off the flows he’s weaving to protect them and turns to face her, demanding what she wants and wishing he could remember how he once blocked Elayne and Egwene from the True Source. Lanfear is realizing that he has the female ter’angreal as well as the male, and is delighted to see that Rand is “beginning to consider [her] plan” to use the two to challenge the Dark Lord and even the Creator.

“You were always ambitious, Mierin.” His voice grated in his ears. “Why do you think I turned away from you? It wasn’t Ilyena, whatever you like to think. You were out of my heart long before ever I met her. Ambition is all there is to you. Power is all you ever wanted. You disgust me!”

Lanfear’s eyes go wide with shock, but she hesitantly says the name Lews Therin, assuring him that she loves him and always will. Rand does his best to hide his own shock, snapping out that he’s Rand al’Thor. Lanfear seems to take this in stride, deciding that the words were Asmodean’s doing, that he’s told Rand things, that he lied about Lews Therin’s love for her. She even tells Rand that Asmodean Severed (what the Aes Sedai now call Stilling) his own mother, and let Myrddraal drag her off. He is only teaching Rand because he knows that his lot is inevitable cast with Rand’s—even if he convinced the others he was being held prisoner, they would still tear him apart.

She tells Rand that Rahvin sent the Darkhounds against him, and Rand asks why he would do that, since Asmodean claims that Rahvin would prefer to look to his own interests and wait for the Dark Lord to destroy him. But he is infringing on Rahvin’s interests now, Lanfear says, explaining that Rahvin now rules Caemlyn in all but name, has Morgase simpering and dancing for him. Again Rand has to hide his shock—he doesn’t want Lanfear to have any reason to be jealous of Elayne, and he knows that he can’t rush off to attack Rahvin anyway.

He tells Lanfear that the Two Rivers is a part of Andor in name only, and that he’s hardly going to rush to defend a woman he met once. Lanfear counters that it’s not Andor, but Cairhien that Rahvin expects him to defend. He means to put Morgase on the Sun Throne so he can rule both, and he knows that Rand has sent Tairen soldiers into Cairhien, too.

Rand thanks her for her warning, giving politeness to one of the Forsaken because he has no choice. There is nothing he can do about the information, though he tells himself that she could be useful like this again.

Lanfear asks about the warding of his dreams, and mentions that she could break through his warding, and that he wouldn’t like it. She keeps pressing, despite his feigned indifference, talking about the Wise Ones’ dreams and about Egwene’s, and Rand can tell she’s trying to test his jealousy. Rand assures her that the Maidens guard him closely, mentioning Isendre, but then realizes that Lanfear might think he’s actually interested in Isendre too, and quickly covers by implying that he only helped Isendre to keep her and Kadere’s mouths shut about Asmodean.

There’s a knock at the door, and Lanfear opens a gateway, reminding him that she is his only hope of surviving before leaving. Rand finds the Maiden Enaila on the other side of the door, who complains that everyone has been looking for him and tells him that the clan chiefs have come to speak to the Car’a’carn.

As soon as he reaches them outside the Maidens’ Roof, Rand is informed that the Shaido are on the move, and every other clan as well. It’s unclear if the others are going to join the Shaido or He Who Comes With The Dawn, but Couladin and his lot are heading towards the Jangai Pass. Rand has been determined not to react to others and let them force his actions he knows he has to move. They won’t be able to catch Couladin, but Rand means to be right behind him into Cairhien. He gives orders to rouse the spears—they will leave at first light.

 

Well, that certainly was a roller coaster of a chapter! So far I think The Fires of Heaven might be my favorite book since The Great Hunt, and there’s every chance that it will be my absolutely favorite book so far if things keep going as they are. Jordan’s writing has really leveled up in The Fires of Heaven; the prose is tighter, the imagery is more evocative and more original, and the characters’ thoughts and feelings are more complex. There can be a lot of downsides to having a series continue for so long; ideas can be stretched too thin or marred by a lot of filler, and there’s always the chance that the readers (or the author) might get bored before the series is completed. But on the other side of that danger is the way an author gets to learn and grow with their work. Writers can often look back on their early creations and be annoyed at how inexperienced they were, noticing all the things they could have done better or with more nuance. With the kind of long running series you see in epic fantasy, however, they can get another chance to bring that greater experience and talent to bear within the same universe.

And of course, now that he has four books worth of thoughtful, solid foundations laid, Jordan has a perfect place to stand while he expands on his characters and his world building. We’ve already learned more about how the One Power works in these few chapters than we learned in the past few books, really, and I’m fascinated by the development of that.

Let’s start with the Shadowspawn. We’ve seen the Darkhounds before, but there is a line here in Moiraine’s explanation of them that really caught my attention. Rand references the stories that Darkhounds run in the Wild Hunt with the Dark One, but Moiraine assures him that they “are only another kind of Shadowspawn, something that should never have been made.”

“Only” another kind of Shadowspawn? My understanding has always been that the Dark One made the Shadowspawn, that they are his creatures sent forth to do his bidding. Most characters in fiction who are proxies for the Devil cannot create life, only twist and corrupt it. This is suggested in Tolkien’s The Silmarillion in the fact that Melkor cannot create life on his own and that orcs are corrupted elves, for example. I have been assuming, therefore, that the Myrddraal and Trollocs and Draghkar and Darkhounds were creatures that the Dark One made by twisting and mangling other beings. I believe it has been said outright that Trollocs and Myrddraal are of the same stock, human-animal hybrids that sometimes present as the one, sometimes the other, which supports this assumption.

But something about the way Moiraine says they “should never have been made” gives me pause. It seems like a strange thing to say of a creature created by the Dark One—not untrue, but so obvious as to be a ridiculous statement. Is it possible that some or all of the Shadowspawn were created by someone else, perhaps by the Forsaken? I suppose they are powerful enough to twist life for their own purposes, to make soldiers or servants for themselves. We’ve seen them do some pretty horrible twisting to human beings already in the series. If this is true, it seems like an almost shocking level of power. But then again, I suppose we’ve seen and learned some other things about the Power this week that make it easier to believe.

For example, I’ve been writing off Lanfear’s “we can use the giant sa’angreal to overthrow the Dark One and maybe the Creator too” as a power-mad fantasy. But now that I know what balefire can do, I have a new appreciation for how channelers can affect the Pattern. Actually erasing something from existence—not just killing it but taking it out of the Patten back through time—is an absolutely wild concept. I had no idea that a channeler could have that kind of ability, even considering what I know they can do, like affect people’s dreams and travel to parallel worlds and dimensions.

Balefire’s destruction of part of a thread of the Pattern isn’t the power of creation, exactly, but feels adjacent to it. It is a touching of the Pattern in a real, concrete way. And while Death cannot be Healed, it apparently can be undone, since Mat would have died if Rand hadn’t erased that Darkhound from existence back past the moment it slobbered on Mat’s arm.

This makes balefire feel a bit like a weapon of mass destruction. Both Moiraine and Rand acknowledge that they may have to use it at some point, but they can also see how its use can be as harmful to the channeler who makes it as it is to those who are destroyed by it. And Rand has an intense difficulty accepting death at the best of times. What will he do if he loses someone close to him and knows that a proper application of balefire against their killer will bring them back to life?

We see him thinking about this when he’s looking at the two ter’angreal in his room. His desire to give life to that little girl is still haunting him, and he knows that the temptation to try and restore life remains within him. He barely trusts himself with the extra power of Callandor, and he knows that having the connection to the greater power of the sa’angreal is an even more dangerous temptation. I shivered when he thought again about how death cannot be Healed—I’m pretty positive Rand is going to try to do just that at some point before this series is over.

But if balefire is analogous to a WMD, I think it’s worth noting that the giant sa’angreal are also. Perhaps even more so. It’s fascinating to learn that the giant male sa’angreal was finished after the Dark One’s prison was resealed—I assume that both it and its female counterpart were begun because of the War of Power. The Aes Sedai of that Age were facing the possibility of the Dark One breaking entirely free of his prison, fighting against some of the most powerful Aes Sedai of their time, and possibly facing new types of Shadowspawn for the first time too. War had been unknown in their time before the hole was put into the Dark One’s prison, as we learned from Rand’s time in Coumin’s memories.

His father’s greatfather, Charn, claimed there had been no soldiers once, but Coumin did not believe it. If there were no soldiers, who would stop the Nightriders and the Trollocs from coming to kill everyone? Of course, Charn claimed there had not been any Myrddraal or Trollocs then, either. No Forsaken, no Shadowwrought.

Perhaps this is why there was a divide among the Aes Sedai about whether or not to march into Shayol Ghul and confront the Dark One there. It may be that the women (and some men?) wanted to wait and use the great sa’angreal to seal the prison and stop the Forsaken, while Lews Therin and his Companions believed that it was better to go in and face the Dark One head on. It’s hard to say who was right—Lews Therin was successful, albeit at a terrible cost, but the great sa’angreal seem to represent their own kind of awful danger.

Lanfear believes that they will give her and Rand enough power to become the new Dark One, so to speak. She wants to overthrow him and challenge the Creator, which is basically the Dark One’s whole thing. It’s a little wild to me that she’s so cavalier in saying things like that—I would have thought there would be danger in the Dark One knowing her thoughts. It’s not like she can deny him out of her dreams the way that Rand was trying to do with Ba’alzamon in The Eye of the World, and we know that all the Forsaken are tethered to him in some way. I would have expected that to give the Dark One more control over them, more insights into their thoughts and actions. But apparently not.

It’s also worth noting, again, the ways in which hunger for power drives so many of the Forsaken. In Lanfear it is coupled to her love of Lews Therin, but we’ve learned now that Asmodean dreams of following Rand to victory and power the same way he once wanted to follow the Dark One. Indeed, if only he believed that Rand could triumph, this would be a better deal for him; it would remove a lot of the competition from the other Forsaken. I wonder how many others would swear to Rand, or to anyone else for that matter, if they truly believed that he was more likely to give them what they desire. Power. Immortality. Wealth and prestige. Are there any Forsaken who see their Great Lord as anything more than a means to an end?

Speaking of Lews Therin, we’re getting bits of his thoughts again, and more than that, he’s apparently speaking out of Rand’s mouth now. Calling Lanfear Mierin and reminding her of why they broke up in the first place. I’m deeply curious about how much the memory of Lews Therin is affecting Rand. We know that the ability to replicate a weave after doing it or seeing it done is not singular to him; we’ve seen Nynaeve do it a lot, and even Egwene and Elayne. But it may still be that Rand is helped along by memories of his former abilities. And I wonder if this applies to other things like strategy (the same way Mat remembers old battles from his previous lives) or swordplay. If Lews Therin was a Blademaster, that would explain how Rand has reached that level so quickly; I know Lan’s a great teacher but it’s only been a few years, after all.

And Lanfear’s response to Rand/Lews Therin is incredibly telling. I’m not sure what “Graendal said…” was in reference to, but if it was the accusation that Lanfear was desperate for Lews Therin’s love rather than the other way around, I can see some evidence here. She seems almost desperate to remind Lews Therin of her love for him, despite her pride and her claim that Rand is not really Lews Therin. And she didn’t even correct him for calling her by her old name! It was interesting to watch her go back and forth in this chapter, vying for Rand’s affection, testing his loyalties, warning him about Rahvin, deciding he doesn’t know as much as he thinks he does. I can’t tell if Lanfear is more off-balance now than she was in their previous encounters, or if Rand is merely more perceptive about her moods and thoughts. Perhaps it’s a bit of both.

Rand’s relationships to women sure are getting complicated though. Egwene may be dreaming of someone else (Gawyn more than Galad? Interesting.) but she still has a lot of opinions and investments in Rand, both as a former friend of his and as an Aes Sedai, which we will see more of next week. And there is Aviendha and that whole mess of fate and love and Rand’s desperation to be seen as a person. And then there is Moiraine.

Oh my Light, Moiraine.

I’ve complained quite a lot about Moiraine’s refusal to compromise with Rand or try to reach him where he is, pointed out how obvious it is that pushing him will never work, but I did not expect this complete about face from her. How desperate must she be that she isn’t just begging him but promising this intense level of obedience? I’m intrigued to see what comes of the new tactic, but honestly, my heart was breaking a little for her, too.

Way back in The Great Hunt I formed the theory that Moiraine was going to die, or at least appear to die. As half of the wise guide/Gandalf figure of the early books (with Thom Merrilin making up the other half) it seemed likely that she would have had that same journey and be removed from the hero’s story at a relevant point for Rand’s development. Thom has already had his seeming death, and now I think it might be Moiraine’s turn after all. There is evidence for it in the way she has arranged for Lan’s bond to pass to Myrelle (and presumably eventually to Nynaeve). And the way she speaks to Rand in this chapter about how she might be killed in the next attack definitely sounds like more than a theoretical worry. Given that Aviendha appears to have witnessed her future on her journey into Rhuidean, it seems likely that Moiraine did as well. She is aware that she is running out of time with him—she mentioned it last week and it has come up again now.

And she is right about Rand, even if he is also right about some things that she cannot understand. He isn’t quite flying blind, but the Prophecies of the Dragon and some information from Asmodean are hardly a map to anywhere. He has been throwing balefire around without knowing what it can do, and who knows what other aspects of his channeling might be nearly as dangerous. He is struggling with the temptation of his strength in saidin and taking most of his advice about it from people who are even more power hungry than he is. He does need Moiraine, and he needs Aviendha and Egwene and Lan too. My heart is breaking for Moiraine this week after what she’s sacrificed, but it broke a little for Rand, too, when he noted that Lan has been teaching him and seems to like him, but that he would kill Rand in a heartbeat if Moiraine told him to. Last week Rand thought about Lan as one of the few people who sees him as a person, so that stung quite a bit.

I’m fascinated to see how Rand behaves with Moiraine now that he has her promise not to try to manipulate him. How much will he listen to her advice, or take her into his confidences? I feel he’s unlikely to tell her anything about Asmodean or Lanfear or the ter’angreal he has secreted away. But he might take her advice on how to conduct his new war, or perhaps on some aspects of channeling. I’d really like to see him share a few of his fears with her, but that’s probably even more unlikely than Moiraine getting her hands on Mat’s medallion.

I’m so stressed that Rand knows about Rahvin and isn’t able to do anything about it. We’ve known about Morgase’s predicament since Mat encountered it while delivering Elayne’s letter, although things are clearly getting worse. It sets my teeth on edge waiting for something to happen. Will Morgase break free of his hold? Will the Aiel’s journey into Cairhien disrupt Rahvin’s plans, and will he think that this is Rand responding to the Darkhound attack? I need to know!

I’m also stressed about the revelation that Rand doesn’t intend to use the Maidens in battle. Not surprised, though. This thing about not being able to kill women, even Darkfriends, is starting to come up more and more and I wondered how he would reconcile that with the fact that the Maidens function as his honor guard. You know they aren’t going to let him take away their identities as warriors, not without a fight. And they’d be right to fight him, He Who Comes With The Dawn or not; he has no right to deny them and take away their free will, anymore than he would be right to tell any Aes Sedai she could not stand in the Last Battle, or to tell Egwene she has to go home to the Two Rivers.

And now Couladin is on the move! We have sat in Rhuidean since Chapter One, watching Rand plot and watching Lanfear plot and wondering who is going to make the next move. Of course it was Couladin, that hothead. I suppose I should be grateful to him for getting Rand pointed in a direction.

Next week we’ll cover Chapter Seven and Chapter Eight. Not much happens in these chapter, but like Chapter Sic, they reveal a lot to the reader about how characters are feeling. We’ll learn more about things that Egwene knows and things that Moiraine knows. I’ll have some more feelings about Aviendha, and about Lan. And we’ll get the first Moiraine POV in a while, which I am always here for, before heading over to check in with Nynaeve, Elayne, Thom, and Juilin. In the meantime, I’ll leave you all with my final thoughts.

  • This chapter confirms that Wise Ones are allowed to pass under the Roof of the Maidens. (Perhaps they are extended this courtesy under all Roofs?) It may be that the Maidens are treating Isendre like a prisoner of sorts, which might grant her permission to be in the space, sort of like the gai’shain are. This answers my questions about that from last week.
  • Somebody really should tell Nynaeve about balefire, since we’ve seen her use it before. Who knew that the balefire-producing ter’angreal Jeaine Caide tried to use on her and Moghedien was even more dangerous than it seemed? I wonder how far back the things Jeaine obliterated were removed from the Pattern.
  • I am fascinated by the metaphysics of the fact that one can remember events that have been erased from the Pattern. I find myself as flummoxed by this suggestion as Rand is by the idea that Traveling requires you to have a strong familiarity with where you are, rather than where you are going. But the very fact that these things seem counter-intuitive by normal standards seems to be what makes them feel more believable.

Sylas K Barrett is rooting for you, Moiraine.

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