Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Long Journeys and Painful Emotions in Robert Jordan’s The Fires of Heaven (Part 6)

You know, I really miss traveling. I don’t do a huge amount of it, but I try to get away every couple of years, and maybe make a trip to a relative’s house now and again. This year, of course, we’re all hemmed in and holed up, which for me means camping out in a little studio in Brooklyn with my counterpart and dog. It’s home, but it’s a little cramped, too.

So there is something very escapist about reading an epic fantasy full of travel across different lands and to different nations. I get all the enjoyment and excitement of the changing scenes without any of the discomfort of the heat and dust everyone in the series seems to currently be experiencing. This week, Rand and his Aiel are on the move, and we get to check in with both Egwene and Moiraine to see how they feel about everything that’s unfolding as He Who Comes With The Dawn prepares to leave the Waste. Then we’ll swing over to the border between Tarabon and Amadicia, where Nynaeve is alternately vexed and afraid, as per usual. More traveling by wagon, too.

But first, the recap.

Chapter 7 opens with Egwene trying to get her mare under control. Mist hasn’t been ridden for weeks, and Egwene isn’t looking forward to the journey west, the cold nights without the shelter of tents and the fact that she doesn’t really think that her Aiel skirts are designed for riding. She shares a smile with Amys—she managed to make it into the Wise One’s dreams after all, and they’d shared tea in the dream of Cold Rocks Hold. Egwene had found she was too excited about her achievement to resist looking at some other dreams, although she’d avoided Melaine and Bair’s, as the Wise Ones would have known at once if she entered there.

She’d tried to enter Rand’s dream, of course, only to find herself blocked. It was like running into a wall made of nothing and she’d been unable to dismantle it because she couldn’t find anything to work on. Still, she intends to keep worrying at the problem until she solves it.

Kadere’s dreams had been dark as well as lewd. Egwene avoids looking at him as she passes the long line of wagons that are filled up with the artifacts Moiraine has the man taking back to the White Tower. When she passes the area where the Maidens’ pack mules are being loaded by the gai’shain, she’s a little surprised to see Isendre laboring among them, dressed in a black robe instead of the gai’shain white. Egwene is glad the Maidens have at least put some clothes on her, but it seems unnecessarily cruel to put her in black under the torturous sun of the Waste. Still, she knows that the affairs of the Maidens are none of hers—as she had been roundly told by several of them. Egwene had been a little vexed that, while Aviendha and the others may respect her as an Aes Sedai, they don’t see her as a Wise One but merely as their pupil. Egwene spurs Mist on though, not wanting to think about Isendre’s dreams.

They had been nightmares of torture, of things being done to the woman that sent Egwene fleeing in horror, and with something dark and evil laughing as it watched her run. No wonder Isendre looked haggard. Egwene had started up out of her sleep so quickly that Cowinde had jumped back from laying a hand on her shoulder.

She catches sight of Rand, wearing the shoufa and blue silk coat with gold embroidery. The sight of it and his new Dragon belt buckle makes Egwene think that Rand really has begun to think well of himself—that and the sight of the gleeman in his even fancier outfit. She overhears some of what Rand is saying to the Aiel traders who are staying behind and realizes that he is having them sent to a stedding for Ogier to rebuild Rhuidean. Egwene approves of that, and of the fact that Rand is advising the Aiel to give the Ogier as much of a free hand as possible with their work.

Mat was already up on his gelding, Pips, with his wide-brimmed hat pulled down and the butt of that odd spear resting on his stirrup. As usual, his high-collared green coat looked slept in. She had avoided his dreams. One of the Maidens, a very tall golden-haired woman, gave Mat a roguish grin that seemed to embarrass him. And well it should; she was much too old for him. Egwene sniffed, I know very well what he was dreaming about, thank you very much! She only reined in beside him to look around for Aviendha.

Mat tells her, sounding impossibly pleased, that Rand told Moiraine to be quiet and stand aside until he had time for her, and she did as she was told. They can both see how furious Moiraine looks, and Egwene is tempted to embrace saidar and teach Mat a lesson about his smugness. Instead she sniffs disdainfully, which only seems to amuse Mat further. Still, Egwene is perplexed—Moiraine obeying Rand without question is like one of the Wise Ones obeying, or like the sun rising at midnight. She can’t imagine what would have produced such a reaction from Moiraine, and she doesn’t like not knowing.

Then Egwene spots Aviendha and rides over to her, watching as Aviendha turns her ivory bracelet over and over, apparently unconsciously. Egwene knows that that bracelet is somehow tied to the difficulty Aviendha is having with Rand, but she doesn’t understand how. She herself has a flame-carved ivory bracelet that Aviendha gave her as a gift, and Egwene gave Aviendha a silver necklace in return, to seal their bond as near-sisters. Egwene had to borrow money from Moiraine to purchase the necklace, but the pattern—Kadere said it was a Kandori pattern called snowflakes—had seemed a good gift for a woman who would never see snow. Although now Aviendha might, given that she is about to travel beyond the Dragonwall with Rand.

She asks if Aviendha is alright, and they discuss the request the Wise Ones made of Aviendha the night before. Egwene still thinks Aviendha is upset about sleeping in the same room as a man, while Aviendha can’t understand why the notion bothers Egwene. She insists that she is not afraid of Rand, or any man, but Egwene thinks of Aviendha’s dream in which she was running from a giant version of Rand, who slowly but inevitably was catching up to her no matter how fast she ran.

But you could not simply tell a friend that she was lying. Egwene’s face reddened slightly. Especially not when you would have to tell her how you knew. She would box my ears, then. I won’t do it again. Go rummaging about in people’s dreams. Not in Aviendha’s dreams, anyway. It was not right to spy on a friend’s dreams. Not that it was spying, exactly, but still….

Rand mounts, followed immediately by Natael, and one Aiel woman asks Rand if he means to leave the Three-Fold land for good. Silence falls after the question, and Rand is silent too, looking back at all the faces watching him. Then he says that while he hopes to return, he cannot say for sure if he will. But he will leave them something to remember him by.

He slips a hand into his pocket, and suddenly all of the still, empty fountains of Rhuidean spring to life, water flowing freely, to the stunned admiration of the Aiel. Egwene hears Rand say, apparently to himself, that he should have done that long ago. Egwene is struck anew by this reminder of who Rand is; it seems like every time he channels it’s like learning about it all over again. He’s still Rand, but Egwene was always taught growing up that the only thing more dangerous than the Dark One himself is a man who can channel.

She thinks perhaps Aviendha is right to be afraid of Rand, but when she looks down at Aviendha she sees only delight at the presence of so much water. Then Rand announces that it is time to depart, and turns his horse westward, Natael just behind and Aviendha falling in beside Rand’s stirrup.

Moiraine sits in her saddle atop Aldieb, watching Rand lead the column, Kadere passing in his wagon and nodding respectfully. Moiraine finds herself thinking that she should have made him take that wagon apart and fill it with artifacts from the square, as she’d had him do with the others. The man is scared enough of her, an Aes Sedai, that he would have done it. And Moiraine would have taken every single item back to the White Tower, if she could have.

For countless years the second test faced by an Aiel woman who wanted to be a Wise One had been to enter the array of glittering glass columns, seeing exactly what the men saw. More women survived it than men—Bair said it was because women were tougher, Amys that those too weak to survive were winnowed out before reaching that point—but it was not a certainty. Those who did survive were not marked. The Wise Ones claimed that only men needed visible signs; for a woman, to be alive was enough.

But the first test, taken before a Wise One initiate is given any training at all, is to step through one of three gray metal rings that are currently roped off where they stand in the square. Through that step, she would experience her life over and over again, in all its possible permutations. The mind can’t retain all that information, of course, so the details mostly blended together and faded away. But when a woman emerged from the rings she was left with a vague sense of things that might happen in her life, including things that must, and things that must not, happen.

Lan, looking down at her from atop Mandarb, tells her that he doesn’t like seeing her like this, and Moiraine can read the worry in his eyes. She realizes she has been sitting and staring a lot longer than she thought, and turns her horse to follow the wagons as she asks what Lan means.

“Worried,” he said bluntly, no readable expression on that stone-carved face now. “Afraid. I’ve never seen you afraid, not when we had Trollocs and Myrddraal swarming over us, not even when you learned the Forsaken were loose and Sammael was sitting almost on top of us. Is the end coming?”

Moiraine starts, then wishes she hadn’t. She tells Lan that a redbird in Seleisin knew as well as she when Tarmon Gai’don might come, but hopefully it will not as long as the seals remain unbroken. But Lan presses on, insisting that she, a woman he has seen wait patiently for weeks for one small scrap of information, has become impatient. And then he asks what possessed her to give such an oath to Rand.

Moiraine answers that Rand was pulling away from her, that she needed to make sure that he accepted her guidance, and would try anything short of sharing his bed to make it happen. Privately she thinks of how the rings had shown her that it might be something she considered in the future, and that it would be a disaster if she tried it. She can’t remember the specifics, but her mind retained only that much.

Lan remarks that it might help Moiraine’s humility grow if Rand tells her to fetch his slippers and light his pipe for him.

She stared at him. Could that be a joke? If so, it was not amusing. She had never found that humility served very well in any situation. Siuan claimed that growing up in the Sun Palace in Cairhien had put arrogance deeply into Moiraine’s bones, where she could not even see it—something she firmly denied—but for all that Siuan was a Tairen fisherman’s daughter, she could match any queen stare for stare, and to her arrogance meant opposition to her own plans.

Moiraine also thinks that Lan is changing, if he’s making jokes now. He has been her Warder for almost twenty years, and Moiraine has always known that he didn’t care much for his own life, valuing it only as much as it is useful to her. He had always denied having a heart, but Moiraine knows that he has found one, and given it to Nynaeve. Still, he denies the idea that they could ever be together, considering himself a man with no future but war and, eventually, death. But that last bit, at least, Moiraine has taken care of, though she can’t let him know about it yet. If he knew, he’d probably try to change it.

She responds to him that his own humility has withered in this dry land, and that she’ll have to find some water to make it grow again; Lan counters that she never lets his humility grow too dull. He wets a cloth for her to tie around her temples and she takes it silently.

The sun is rising behind them, and the long column of peddlers’ wagons and marching Aiel snakes up the mountain of Chaendaer and over its crest, down into the hilly flats on the other side. The air is so clear that Moiraine can see for miles; there are great natural arches and mountains rearing on all sides of them. The sun is baking everything like an oven.

A hard land that had shaped a hard people. But Lan was not the only one changing, or being changed. She wished she could see what Rand would make of the Aiel in the end. There was a long journey ahead for everyone.

Meanwhile, Nynaeve, Elayne, Thom and Juilin are also suffering in the heat as they travel by wagon from Tarabon into Amadicia. They have just escaped a horde of bandits under the cover of a dust storm Nynaeve’s anger whipped up. She and Elayne had both been surprised at the size of it, but even though Nynaeve can see how much her strength has increased, she still has the limitation of only being able to channel when she is angry.

Nynaeve is disguised as a merchant and they are riding in a merchant’s wagon—it, along with a deal of expensive jewelry, had been a gift from Amathera, ostensibly to thank them for their service, but Nynaeve expects it was also meant as a bribe to get them to leave Tanchico. Amathera had even been willing to buy them a ship, but no one in the docks had been willing to sell, and Nynaeve had felt that leaving by ship was too obvious, that the Black Ajah would find them there and ambush them. Still, she’s starting to regret the choice to take a wagon across lands torn by war and anarchy.

She climbs to the front of the wagon, over the barrels stored in it, to slide into the wagon seat beside Thom and Elayne. Nynaeve rather wants to give Elayne a thump over the way she’s behaving towards Thom, but she settles for tugging her braid and telling Thom it’s safe to slow the wagon down now. Thom does, with Elayne gushing about how wonderfully he drove, but Thom only points out that they have more company coming.

Ahead of them is an approaching column of Whitecloaks, perhaps fifty men in their shining armor, followed by wagons. Nynaeve finds herself worrying about the great serpent ring hanging under her dress from the cord that also holds Lan’s ring, and about the danger they would be in if the Whitecloaks saw any evidence that she and Elayne are Aes Sedai. But there is nothing to reveal them, and Elayne, Thom and Julian on his horse beside the wagon pass easily as no more than what they are trying to appear as.

Thom pulls the wagon over and a few Whitecloaks detach from the column to come over to them. Nynaeve greets them politely, trying to sound like the sort of person who would be relieved to see Whitecloaks and mentioning the bandits, but their leader cuts her off bruskly, remarking that few merchants are coming out of Tanchico these days and sending a man to inspect the barrels in the wagon. Nynaeve plays the part of a merchant concerned about her wares, hoping Elayne will keep quiet and not start telling the soldier off for his manners. Then they are grilled about the state of Tanchico and whether Andric was still on the throne when they left.

“Yes, Captain.” Obviously, rumor said someone had taken Tanchico and supplanted the King, and perhaps someone had. But who—one of the rebel lords who fought each other as hard as they did Andric, or the Dragonsworn who had pledged themselves to the Dragon Reborn without ever seeing him? “Andric was still King, and Amathera still Panarch, when we left.”

His eyes said she could be lying. “It is said the Tar Valon witches were involved. Did you see any Aes Sedai, or hear of them?”

Nynaeve assures him that they did not, all the while thinking of the ring hidden beneath her clothes and of the fact that a dust storm won’t help against so many well-armed and well-trained men. If she’s being honest with herself, she’s more scared than angry anyway. Desperate to change the subject, Nynaeve asks if they have crossed over into Amadicia yet, and the soldier begrudgingly tells her that it’s five miles east, for now. There is a garrison of the Children at the first town, Mardecin, and if they obey the law then all will be well.

“Have you come to move the border?” Elayne asked suddenly and coolly. Nynaeve could have strangled her.

The deep-set, suspicious eyes shifted to Elayne, and Nynaeve said hastily, “Forgive her, my Lord Captain. My eldest sister’s girl. She thinks she should have been born a lady, and she can’t keep away from the boys besides. That’s why her mother sent her to me.” Elayne’s indignant gasp was perfect. It was also probably quite real. Nynaeve supposed she had not needed to add that about boys, but it seemed to fit.

The man looks them over for a moment, then tells them that the Lord Captain Commander sends food into Tarabon, to keep “Taraboner vermin” from coming over the borders and “stealing anything they could chew.” He bids them to walk in the Light and then leaves.

Thom gets the wagon moving immediately, but they all sit quietly until they are past the column, at which point Nynaeve rounds on Elayne, demanding to know what she thought she was doing and pointing out that they aren’t in Morgase’s throne room. Elayne counters that Nynaeve was groveling, that merchants don’t have to be lickspittles. Nynaeve tells her that they don’t look down their noses at fifty Whitecloak lances either.

“Why did you tell him I could not keep away from boys? There was no need for that, Nynaeve!”

“I was ready to tell him anything that would make him go away and leave us alone! And you—!”

“Both of you shut up,” Thom barked suddenly, “before they come back to see which of you is murdering the other.”

Nynaeve looks behind, assuring herself that the Whitecloaks are too far away to actually hear them, while Elayne immediately snuggles into Thom again, apologizing. Juilin, wisely, keeps his distance.

They pass the border, marked by a stone pillar on either side of the road, and reach Mardecin well before noon. It’s a lot bigger than its name suggests, and Nynaeve observes that they need to buy supplies. She intends for them to do so quickly and cover a lot more ground before nightfall, but Thom counters that they are wearing out, traveling from dawn to dusk every day for nearly a month. Nynaeve privately thinks that Thom just wants a chance to play his flute and harp in a common room somewhere, but Juilin adds his voice, saying that he’d very much like to spend a little time out of the saddle, and Elayne joins in to say that she’s tired of sleeping under the wagon and would really like to sleep in an inn instead. She adds that she’d love to hear Thom tell stories in the common room, irking Nynaeve further.

Nynaeve tells them that merchants with only one wagon can’t afford to stay at inns in towns like this, though she doesn’t really know if this is true or not, but she compromises, telling them to find a place to camp. Still, she is now fervently wishing she had insisted on a ship instead—in a Sea Folk raker with a channeling Windfinder, they could have gotten to Tear in a third of the time, and as friends of Rand they’d easily have gotten a carriage from the Tairen. They could be in Tar Valon by now.

 

For a pair of chapters that are about people on the move, there is an intense, even tangible sense of impatience in this section. From Egwene’s frustration over not having answers, to Moiraine’s anxiety about her time with Rand running out, to Nynaeve’s restless musings over whether or not she should have taken a ship out of Tarabon instead of the wagon, the sense of urgency is high despite the fact that things are finally moving, literally. It’s a reminder for me that traveling by horse and wagon, especially in the heat of summer or the Waste, isn’t as pleasant for our heroes to experience as it is for me to read about in the chill October air while sipping my coffee.

I continue to enjoy getting the sections from Egwene’s point of view, and I was struck this week by her strong self-awareness. Other characters have observed how she always does things the “right” way, how stubborn she is, and how she throws herself fully into any task she chooses to undertake. But here we have several instances of Egwene observing her own behavior. She acknowledges that she doesn’t like not understanding things, and we see her certainty that she can eventually figure out how to solve Aviendha’s difficulty with Rand. When she’s thinking about her determination to figure out what was blocking her from Rand’s dreams, she even considers herself to be as “persistent as a badger.”

That doesn’t mean she recognizes any of the flaws in her determination, however. There is something deeply invasive about going into someone else’s dreams without permission—it is understood that the Wise Ones do this as a way of communicating messages, but in that case consent to such an intrusion is at least implied, since this is an established custom. Also, when a Wise One delivers a message she isn’t concealing her presence or her intent, while Egwene’s trips into other people’s dreams are merely for her own pleasure and entirely a secret. I’m not saying she deserves what she saw in Kadere and Isendre’s dreams but… she did go prying into other people’s minds.

I actually feel for Isendre. I know she’s a Darkfriend, and maybe she has done terrible things. But as it stands, she isn’t a very fleshed out character and she seemed to have been the least powerful and influential of the Darkfriends of Kadere’s party. Rand isn’t warning anybody about her dangerous eyes, after all, even if he did consider that she might be Lanfear in disguise. All we really know about Isendre other than the very harsh treatment she is receiving is that she is a bit of a thief and kind of slutty. I can’t interfere with the business of Far Dareis Mai any more than Egwene or Rand can. But I don’t set the kind of store by personal property the Maidens do (or maybe it’s the insult, more than the items themselves, that the Aiel care about?) so their choice of punishment seems awfully severe to me. And while the narrative wants to judge ladies who are too sexually forward, I certainly don’t, so it’s hard to continue watching her suffer like this. Knowing the pain and fear of her dreams just makes it that much worse.

Rand’s world is a brutal one in many respects, and it’s not just the Aiel who give out that kind of punishment. After all, we saw what happened to Siuan, Leane, and Min, as well as how much worse it could have been for them. There is the cruelty of the Children of the Light with their zealotry and black and white thinking, the cruelty of the White Tower and its corporeal discipline. But Egwene’s trespass reminds me of a different harshness in the world of The Wheel of Time—that of those with power towards those who don’t have it.

We have been told from the start that Aes Sedai are power-hungry, that they see themselves as better than others, and while some of this is fear mongering and distrust born from the Breaking, a lot of it is true, too. The Aes Sedai certainly think they know better than others in most respects and act accordingly; the whole conspiracy about the White Tower as puppet master isn’t entirely unfounded, and they aren’t only doing it in the name of Tarmon Gai’don and the battle for the Light, either. But more than that, there is the suggestion that the One Power itself makes a person ever more hungry for it, that channelers have to fight the impulse to draw more power than they can handle. We’ve also seen the way Egwene and Nynaeve, especially, are quick to use a bit of power to lash out at someone, or at least are tempted to, knowing that person couldn’t fight back on an even playing field. Even with Rand, who can channel in turn, Egwene had intended not to let him know that she was the one who smacked him with saidar, and someone like Mat would be helpless if she ever decided to teach him “a lesson right there in front of everybody.”

And Egwene doesn’t seem to consider for a moment that it might be unethical to invade someone else’s dreams without permission, even just to look. The Wise Ones don’t either, as far as I can tell. It’s almost as if she feels entitled to it, just by virtue of the fact that she has the ability to do it. But she doesn’t always understand what she sees, either—she didn’t interpret Aviendha’s dream of Rand correctly, for example. And I’m willing to bet Mat wouldn’t have been dreaming of what Egwene assumes. She may be getting more powerful all the time, but like the Wise Ones say, she still has a great deal to learn.

The block she encountered trying to enter Rand’s dream reminded me of the way Lanfear was able to pick apart Rand’s weaves. Despite not being able to perceive the flows, since they were made with saidin, Lanfear must have known what flows were used in the weave, and so was able to affect them even without perceiving them. That is a highly impressive skill, and I wonder how difficult it would be for Egwene, or any of the modern Aes Sedai, to figure out how to interact with Rand’s channeling this way. Presumably in the Age of Legends, this was how all the great works of collaboration were done: Male and female Aes Sedai knew exactly what the others were doing and so could interact with and complement each other’s channeling without being able to actually see or sense what the other half was doing.

And Egwene and Aviendha are near-sisters now. One of my favorite things about Aiel society is how many types of familial bonds there are, and that there doesn’t appear to be any more significance or importance given to actual bonds of blood lineage than to those that are chosen connections. Adoption appears to be this way as well, based on the little we have learned about how the child of a maiden is placed by the Wise Ones with a new family. There is secrecy around the placement, but the suggestion seems to be that this has more to do with the mother giving up all connection to her child, as she cannot keep that connection and remain married to the spear. Even the sister-wife bond carries a legal and social implication outside of the women’s relationship to their husband.

Now that we’ve learned about Moiraine’s trip through the metal rings, we know a little more about what Aviendha might be struggling with. The rings show all possible directions your life might take, so it’s possible that Aviendha not only saw that she was fated to marry Rand, but perhaps also saw a variety of painful outcomes if she refused to marry him, or even if she did marry him. Perhaps marrying is both necessary and brings suffering. We can see that it’s more complicated for her than it is for Min, even outside of the fact that Aviendha loses her last connection to being a Maiden by marrying someone, even outside of the the fact that she feels she is betraying Elayne by being a romantic prospect for Rand.

I can’t help thinking about how Aviendha’s situation is an exaggerated, fantasy version of the way compulsive matrimony affects women in our own world. So much of Aviendha’s life is outside of her control at this point: Her fate has been decided by the fact that she can channel and now by the arrival of He Who Comes With The Dawn. She has already given up the life of a Maiden, which she loved, but being bound to someone in this way is more than just duty, it is a deeply personal experience. And it may be that the reason for Aviendha, Min, and Elayne’s romantic connections to Rand are compelled by the Pattern, by his ta’veren nature. Even their feelings of love may be a product of that power, rather than genuine to themselves—indeed, Elayne is the only one who really seems to come by it honestly and naturally. Min seems to have come to love him mainly because she knows that she is fated too—her visions always come true, after all.

And Aviendha may have been developing natural feelings for Rand back when she was still Far Dareis Mai, but at this point it seems unlikely that she would welcome such emotions even if she hadn’t traveled through the rings and learned that she had no choice in whom she would love and be with. It’s hard, at least right now, not to feel like Aviendha and Min are anything more than tools to the Pattern and the fate of the Dragon. Maybe Elayne too. It’s kind of like that fan theory that Anakin and Padmé were drawn together by the Force (or maybe by Palpetine) rather than their own natural inclination.

Rand’s girlfriends aren’t the only tools in the hands of the pattern, of course. Mat can’t leave Rand’s side either, as much as he wants to. Still, at least he’s allowed to have his own feelings about the matter, and he isn’t compelled to become romantically entangled with someone against his will.

Speaking of Elayne, it looks like she has gotten over the fact that her mother had a boyfriend and has moved on to cozying up to the man whose mustaches she used to pull. Nynaeve’s reaction to Elayne’s attentions to Thom was hilarious, given that we know the reasons for it and Nynaeve does not. I’ve always enjoyed Nynaeve’s observations and thoughts; she can be really annoying when she gets stuck on certain vexations or vendettas against Moiraine and the Tower, but she’s also quite sharp, and even her annoyed thoughts are pretty funny. Like when she thinks that Juilin’s hat looks like he’s wearing a cake on his head. Or when she goes back and forth about whether or not she should have gotten them a ship after all.

I also appreciated Nynaeve’s level-headedness in the face of the Whitecloaks. For all that she can be haughty and self-important, Nynaeve is very focused and goal driven. It was interesting to see her handle the Whitecloaks so differently from how Elayne was willing to. I don’t really think Elayne’s concern was that Nynaeve would come off as too deferential, and therefore suspicious—of course Elayne hates Whitecloaks, not just as an Aes Sedai but also as her mother’s daughter. We know what the situation was like in Caemlyn when Rand and Mat arrived back in The Eye of the World, the strife that existed between the Whitecloaks and Morgase, and the division in the city that resulted. Of course Elayne wouldn’t want to grovel before them, even in disguise.

The difference between Elayne and Nynaeve’s approaches here matches with that little aside about Siuan’s observations about Moiraine’s upbringing, how it had put arrogance deep into her bones. I think Moiraine’s right in observing that Siuan is no less full of pride than she is—but that doesn’t mean they carry their pride the same way. Similarly, Elayne is much more even-tempered and flexible than Nynaeve, generally speaking, but in this moment we see her struggling with that palace-bred hauteur, whereas Nynaeve is capable in this moment of looking past her own fear and hostility and doing what needs to be done. I see a lot of similarities in Nynaeve and Siuan right now, in their stubbornness and their willingness to put their cause before all else.

But let’s get back to Moiraine for a second, because her conversation with Lan was my favorite part of this section. I enjoyed the reminder of who they used to be before we met them in The Eye of the World, and the traded comments about humility reminded me of the story of how they met and threw each other into ponds. They are both so stoic within the narrative, experienced and patient, and even more so in comparison to all the young hotheads from Emond’s Field. In this moment, I was reminded that they are both of royal blood, and that they share a sense of duty that is affected by their heritage. Lan’s kingdom was lost when he was an infant, and he carries a particularly painful and burdensome sense of duty that can’t be fulfilled, since it belongs to a country that no longer exists. Moiraine carries some of the dignity and arrogance of her upbringing, but she forsook that life to dedicate everything to the White Tower and to the fight against the Dark One. I agree with Lan that Moiraine should not have had to make the sacrifice she made to Rand, even as I agree with her that it was probably the right move.

I find myself wishing they could be happy. I don’t know what fate lies in store for Moiraine, though she clearly sees a grim one that probably involves her death. I don’t really know what lies in store for Lan, either, although there is more light there, knowing what Moiraine has arranged to happen for him if she dies. There is a deep feeling of love between them in this segment, I think, in the way she observes the changes in Lan and in the way his protectiveness manifests itself in a moment when he can’t actually do anything to protect her.

So yeah, I’m worried about them. And I’m worried about Aviendha too. Duty is heavier than a mountain, as Lan would say, but I’m holding out hope for a little easing of their hearts, even if their work remains heavy to the point of near impossibility.

I’ll be taking next week off over the holiday weekend, so we will resume the Read on the 20th as we get into Chapters 9 and 10. I can’t wait to see what mischief Elayne and Nynaeve are going to get themselves into this time; I really hope they find out about the White Tower coup somehow before they actually get there! It’s been agony knowing what I know, while watching Moiraine fret over getting the Rhuidean artifacts back to the White Tower, and watching Nynaeve and Elayne’s hurry to get back to deliver the seal they found and to get new orders from Siuan. Robert Jordan why do you do this to me, specifically?

Sylas K Barrett got a little nostalgic, reading about those mountains and the clear air of the Waste. He’d love to go for a good hike, though preferably somewhere not quite so hot.

citation

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