Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: A lady, a Lady’s Maid, and an Archer in Robert Jordan’s The Fires of Heaven (Part 9)

Welcome back to Reading The Wheel of Time. This week we’ll be covering Chapters 13 and 14, in which Nynaeve is stubborn and cranky, Birgitte is awesome, and Elayne sees some elephants. Sorry, I mean boar horses. Also I rant about dresses, and make some predictions about Gaidal Cain.

Chapter 13 opens with Elayne and Nynaeve riding together in the coach through Amadicia. Nynaeve has been passing as Egwene’s maid, since they realized that it would look strange for a lady or two ladies to be traveling without maids. Elayne, raised in a palace and aware of the habits and attitudes of the nobility, was the obvious choice to play the lady, but while they both agreed that it made sense for Nynaeve to play her maid, after an encounter with an innkeeper who insisted that Nynaeve take care of Elayne’s every need, the former Wisdom had taken on a sour disposition, bombarding Elayne with simpering, sarcastic comments, doubling down on her role as servant even in private, calling her “my lady” and making observations about Elayne’s needs and how ladies are used to certain conditions and luxuries. Elayne has tried apologizing, even though none of this was her fault, but eventually she snaps and tells “Nana” firmly to be quiet, and that if she pulls her braid at Elayne again she can ride on the roof.

Nynaeve made a strangled sound, trying so hard to talk that nothing came out. Quite satisfactory. “Sometimes you seem to think I am still a child, but you are the one behaving like a child. I did not ask you to wash my back, but I would have had to wrestle to stop you. I did offer to scrub yours in turn, remember. And I offered to sleep in the trundle bed. But you climbed in and wouldn’t get out. Stop sulking. If you like, I will be the maid at the next inn.” It would probably be a disaster. Nynaeve would shout at Thom in public, or box someone’s ears. But anything for a little peace. “We can stop right now and change in the trees.”

Nynaeve is cowed, if still sulky, and conversation turns to the fact that they have no idea what awaits them in Tar Valon and that neither of them intends to set a foot inside the Tower until they find out. Suddenly the coach comes to an abrupt halt, and Elayne embraces saidar. A glance out the window shows that it is only a traveling menagerie. There is a giant lion with a black mane, a creature like a boar but with a long snout and pointed claws, black bears with white faces, and many other animals. There are also human performers, two jugglers, a few acrobats, a woman with dogs who did tricks for her, and men with long poles. But what has stopped the coach isn’t any of these things—the horses have balked at the sight of two huge, wrinkled gray animals with long trunks and tusks, and a smaller one that Elayne judges to be a baby. A dark-haired man with a red silk cloak comes over to greet them, apologizing for the “boar-horses” and apparently struck by Elayne’s beauty. He tells them his name is Valan Luca and that the “boar-horses” are from Shara, although Elayne doesn’t believe that, both because Shara is inaccessible to everyone, even the Sea-Folk, and because she and Nynaeve had seen the creatures before, during the Seanchan invasion.

He tries to entice them to stay for a private performance, an opportunity that will be gone tomorrow as they depart for Ghealdan. Elayne asks why Luca would go there, given the disturbances over the Prophet who preaches about the Dragon Reborn, but Luca assures her that the rumor of trouble has been greatly exaggerated. Elayne has no time to see the show, even though she is interested, but instructs “Nana” to give the man something—helping the poor and struggling is a duty Elayne takes seriously, even in foreign lands. Nynaeve digs something out of the purse and hands it over, telling Luca that he wouldn’t have to beg if he took a decent job, before instructing Thom to drive on.

She admits to Elayne that she only gave Luca a silver penny, and Elayne groans that the man probably thinks they were making fun of him. Nynaeve counters that a good day’s work wouldn’t kill him.

Elayne kept silent, though she did not agree. Not exactly. Certainly work would not harm the man, but she did not think there was much available. Not that I think Master Luca would accept work that didn’t allow him to wear that cape. If she brought it up, though, Nynaeve would probably argue—when she gently pointed out things that Nynaeve did not know, the woman was quite capable of accusing her of having an arrogant manner, or of lecturing—and Valan Luca was hardly worth another altercation so soon after smoothing over the last.

When they reach the village of Sienda, they find one of the two inns has a huge hole in the wall—Luca had alluded to trouble with one of the boar-horses and having to pay for damages. As a result, the other inn—the Light of Truth—is quite crowded, and they are dismayed to find the inn full of Whitecloaks. Still, Elayne plays the part of a haughty noblewoman, and even manages to secure a proper second bed for Nynaeve by insisting that she needs her maid in the room, but not so close as in a trundle bed, since Nana snores. Nynaeve bristles, but holds her tongue.

Elayne tells the innkeeper she would like to retire early, and is shown upstairs to the small room. The innkeeper babbles the whole way about the crowding, about the animals that had passed through and done so much damage to the other inn, and about how there was even a Hunter for the Horn who had passed through the day before. She calls the desire to find the Horn a horrible wickedness and wishes aloud that they will never find it.

“The Horn of Valere?” Elayne said. “Why ever not?”

“Why, my Lady, if they find it, it means the Last Battle is coming. The Dark One breaking free.” Mistress Jharen shivered. “The Light send the Horn is never found. That way, the Last Battle cannot happen, can it?” There did not seem to be much answer to such curious logic.

Thom and Juilin come in with the baggage, grumbling about having to sleep in the hayloft until they see how small the room is. They unload everything, leaving barely enough room for Elayne and Nynaeve, and then tell the girls that they are going to go down to the common room to see if they can learn anything, and maybe walk around the village. Elayne is charmed by their dedication to being of more use than just for carrying—of course they have been many times, and might be again, but she’s certain it won’t be so in this place. Still, she tells Thom fondly that she can’t wait to hear what he learns. Nynaeve gives them a little money and tells them not to disturb them until the morning for anything less than Trollocs.

Nynaeve undresses to her shift and accepts the stone ring from Elayne, hanging it about her neck along with her Great Serpent ring and Lan’s. Elayne reminds Nynaeve to tell Egwene to tell Rand that she is thinking of him, and then settles down to keep watch. She hates waiting, and briefly considers the idea of going down to the common room where Thom is. But he is supposed to be her coachman, after all, so there is nothing to do but sit and wait.

Nynaeve appears in Tel’aran’rhiod in the Heart of the Stone. As always, she has the sensation of being watched, but she reminds herself that it is not Moghedien. She changes from her shift into a dress, surprised when it appears in the clinging Taraboner style. She supposes she got used to wearing the revealing garment, but tells herself there is nothing wrong with it and determines to leave it on.

“Birgitte?” Silence answered her, and she raised her voice, though it should not have been necessary. In this place, this particular woman could hear her own name spoken on the other side of the world. “Birgitte?”

Birgitte steps out from the columns, dressed in her yellow silk trousers and short white coat, and carrying her silver bow and quiver full of arrows. Nynaeve asks if Gaidal Cain is around, since the man makes her nervous, and Birgitte answers that she hasn’t seen him in some time. She suspects that he has been spun out by the Wheel and reborn, which means that she herself will soon leave Tel’aran’rhiod and be born again as a baby in the waking world, with no memory of her past but destined to be a new hero and make new legends, shaping the Pattern as the Wheel dictates. Nynaeve asks how long Birgitte has, but the archer explains that time does not pass the same way in Tel’aran’rhiod as it does in the waking world; it could be days or months to her in the Dream but years in the outside world before she is born.

Nynaeve asks if Birgitte has seen any of “them” recently, meaning the Forsaken, and Birgitte replies that she has seen too many. Lanfear is often in Tel’aran’rhiod, of course, but Birgitte has also seen Rahvin, Sammael, Graendal, Demandred, and Semirhage. Nynaeve notices a tightening in Birgitte’s voice at that name—she’s not visibly frightened even of Moghedien, who hates her, but she is of Semirhage. Nynaeve is worried that Birgitte might be caught.

“I am not so unskilled—or so foolish—as to allow that.” Birgitte leaned on her silver bow; legend said she never missed with that bow and her silver arrows. “They are concerned with each other, not anyone else. I have seen Rahvin and Sammael, Graendal and Lanfear, each stalking the others unseen. And Demandred and Semirhage each shadowing them as well. I have not seen so much of them here since they were freed.”

“They are up to something.” Nynaeve bit her lip in vexed frustration. “But what?”

Birgitte does not know. She remarks that in the old days, the Forsaken were after each other as often as anyone else, but that their plotting never boded well for the world in any case. She is amused when Nynaeve tells her to keep watching but also be careful, and then admits that she hasn’t seen Moghedien or been able to detect her. Either Moghedien hasn’t returned to Tel’aran’rhiod since Nynaeve beat her, or she knows Birgitte is looking for her, hiding like the spider she is named for. Still, Birgitte agrees to try to find her.

Birgitte has to leave before anyone else arrives and sees her with Nynaeve, but Nynaeve really wants to tell Egwene about her, in order to pass on the information Birgitte has gleaned to the others, especially Rand. But Birgitte has made Nynaeve promise not to tell anyone and intends to hold her to her word; involving herself with Nynaeve’s fight is already breaking the rules, and she doesn’t intend to violate any more of the precepts than she has already.

Once she’s gone, Nynaeve tires to find something to think about that’s not Moghedien, and ends up thinking about her dress, and how she wants Lan to see her in it. She brings up a mirror for herself, enjoying the way the dress clings suggestively even as she scolds herself for it. Then she thinks about the dresses Domani women wear and how even the Taraboners found those indecent, and then suddenly she is wearing one.

The gown certainly did more than suggest. If Lan saw her in that, he would not gabble that his love for her was hopeless and that he would not give her widow’s weeds for a bridal gift. One glimpse, and his blood would catch fire. He would—

Suddenly she hears Egwene’s voice asking what in the world she is wearing, and Nynaeve jumps, mortified, changing instantly into a proper Two Rivers dress, then flashing back to the Domani dress for a moment before settling into the Taraboner one. She is horrified at being caught in such a position, especially with Melaine beside Egwene. Melaine, who is quite beautiful and who had, in Nynaeve’s mind, taunted her about Lan, complimenting his shoulders, hands, and eyes. Egwene insisted that it was not taunting by Aiel standards, leaving Nynaeve angry at the thought of Lan with Melaine. She doesn’t doubt Lan’s faithfulness, but she also knows that he’s far away from her, and beautiful Melaine is right there.

She’s unable to stop herself from asking if Lan is well. Egwene tells her that he is fine, and also worried about her. Nynaeve thinks that’s ridiculous, but her involuntary sigh of relief just makes her more angry and self-conscious. She fills Egwene in on what she and Elayne have been up to and how they’re doing, including what happened in Mistress Macura’s shop. She alters the story, however, to claim that she tasted the forkroot and figured out what was happening before they could be drugged. She is surprised at herself for lying to Egwene.

The supposed reason—the return of a runaway Accepted—certainly could not be mentioned, not in front of one of the Wise Ones. They thought that she and Elayne were full Aes Sedai. But she had to let Egwene know the truth of that somehow. “It might have to do with some plot concerning Andor, but Elayne and you and I have things in common, Egwene, and I think we should be just as careful as Elayne.” The girl nodded slowly; she looked stunned, as well she might, but she seemed to understand. “A good thing the taste of that tea made me suspicious. Imagine trying to feed forkroot to someone who knows herbs as well as I do.”

“Schemes within schemes,” Melaine murmured. “The Great Serpent is a good sign for you Aes Sedai, I think. Someday you may swallow yourselves by accident.”

Egwene interrupts hurriedly, clearly afraid Nynaeve will get angry again, to tell Nynaeve about Couladin and about how Moiraine has been obeying Rand. Melaine says that it is no more proper for a man to tell an Aes Sedai what to do than to tell a Wise One what to do, and Nynaeve agrees. She’s surprised at herself again, thinking that she should be glad to see Moiraine get taken down a few notches. But she still doesn’t think it’s right. Egwene goes on to talk about how full of himself Rand has become, and Nynaeve insists that Egwene needs to bring him back down to Earth, that kings and queens need someone to remind them that they are still just humans.

Melaine folded her shawl around her, seeming unsure whether to agree or not, but Egwene said, “I try, but sometimes he doesn’t seem like himself at all, and even when he is, his arrogance is usually too thick a bubble to prick.”

“Do the best you can. Helping him hold on to himself may be the best thing that anyone could do. For him, and the rest of the world.”

Nynaeve then explains her suspicions about the Forsaken, making it sound like she is the one who has been spying on them. Melaine gets angry about this, telling Nynaeve that she is taking on too much, and that unschooled women should not be allowed in Tel’aran’rhiod. Nynaeve points out that she learned to channel on her own and that Tel’aran’rhiod should be no different—though inwardly she acknowledges to herself the limitation of that learning. She had even created her block by hiding the truth about her channeling from herself, because she had been so very afraid of it.

Melaine observes that Nynaeve is one of those that the Aes Sedai call wilders, making Nynaeve bristle even as she is reminded that, according to Egwene, there are no wilders among the Aiel. The Wise Ones apparently are able to find every woman born with the spark as well as every one who might be taught. Melaine says that, if Nynaeve really wants to learn then she should come to the Wise Ones and be taught properly, that they will “tame her zeal” the way they have Egwene’s. Nynaeve tells her that she does not need taming, but Melaine responds that Lan will die the day he learns that Nynaeve is dead. Stricken, Nynaeve observes that Melaine fights dirty.

Melaine quirked an eyebrow. “Do we fight? If we do, then know that in battle there is only winning and losing. Rules against hurting are for games. I want your promise that you will do nothing in the dream without first asking one of us. I know Aes Sedai cannot lie, so I would hear you say it.”

Nynaeve refuses, however. She’s not bound by the Three Oaths and could lie, but saying the words would be acknowledging that Melaine is right. Egwene observes that Nynaeve won’t budge, not when she has that muley look on her face.

Then the two leave, and Nynaeve catches an amused wince on Egwene’s face before she disappears. Looking down she finds herself dressed as an Aiel child with a doll at her feet—Melaine changed Nynaeve’s clothes in the dream. Furious, she kicks the doll away and changes back to the Taraboner dress again. She thinks furiously that Melaine probably has her eyes on Lan, and her neckline grows lower and lower as she thinks about it until she catches herself and fixes the dress.

Fuming over the idea of asking permission from the Wise Ones to do anything, she decides that she just may be able to use Tel’aran’rhiod to find out what is going on in the White Tower.

 

I suppose it was too much to hope that Nynaeve would hang onto that reasonable mood a little longer. I have so much sympathy for Elayne, cooped up in the carriage with her, and for Thom and Juilin, although I imagine they are used to just brushing off her grumpy abusiveness, at this point. I suspect that Nynaeve and Elayne’s relationship, their friendship, is going to come out of this experience very strong, and that they themselves will be very different people by the time they are able to rejoin Egwene, or the Blue Ajah, or whomever they finally reunite with. But I also suspect their friendship is going to take more than a few more bumps and bruises along the way.

It’s understandable, really, given all that they are going through, and the fact that they have no one else but each other to turn to, and are without a specific goal besides getting back to the Tower. They have just gone through quite an ordeal with their hunt for the Black Ajah and encounter with Moghedien, and now they are being hunted by the very person who sent them on that quest, or so it looks to them at the moment. It’s no wonder that they are feeling a little thrown, and when you add the discomfort and close quarters of wagon and coach travel, that’s basically a recipe for bad tempers and short fuses all around.

That being said, though, I imagine there is something more behind Nynaeve’s most recent fit of pique. As Elayne observes in this section, Nynaeve agreed that it made sense for her to play the maid, and her rational, practical side seems to see the need for the subterfuge and that it’s hardly Elayne’s fault that Mistress Alfara acted the way she did. Nynaeve had little difficulty playing humble in front of the Whitecloaks, so we know she can do it, and I think Nynaeve is probably behaving worse because it isn’t Elayne’s fault. She has a habit of lashing out when she feels trapped by circumstances, and of making people scapegoats for situations—just look at her relationship with Moiraine.

Nynaeve has also been reminded, for the first time really, that Elayne is more than a fellow Accepted masquerading with her as a fully-fledged Aes Sedai. Elayne is the future Queen of Andor, technically Nynaeve’s future Queen, which is something Nynaeve has been able to ignore until now. If anything, Nynaeve has used Elayne’s station against her, pointing out the ways that upbringing makes Elayne naïve or separated from the real world, as though Nynaeve were not just as inexperienced, or more so, with the lands outside her home. In this moment, however, Elayne’s upbringing has been an asset to them, and Nynaeve is reminded also of Elayne’s royal poise and equanimity, something that Nynaeve knows she lacks, even if she can’t really admit that to herself.

It is the same reason Nynaeve bristles against Melaine and the Wise Ones, why she holds so much hatred towards people like Laras and Siuan. The more out of her depth she is, the more anger she pours out towards the nearest woman who seems more in control than she, then siphoning off the rest towards whatever man happens to be handy. Honestly I find it a very understandable problem, but it’s so tremendously self-destructive. I don’t think Nynaeve can progress very much farther in her development as a person, and a character, without at least beginning to tackle this issue of hers. I also suspect that doing so will help her with her channeling block.

But it does seem that she might be approaching such a turning point. Between Elayne’s handling of her and the way Egwene called her out on some of her behaviors Nynaeve is seeing more constructive pushback against her tantrums than she often does, and from people she respects and views as her peers and friends. There are also several moments in Chapter 14 where she acknowledges, or gets close to acknowledging, what she is doing, and how she is lying to herself. Sometimes it feels like what Nynaeve really needs is a taste of her own medicine, someone who lashes out at her and teaches her what it feels like to be made a scapegoat for someone else’s problems. The thing about Nynaeve that is both endearing and incredibly frustrating is that all her feelings and fears are so understandable and relatable, but the way she handles them is so often exactly wrong. It’s gone beyond just a character trait and fully into a real skill, and I’ve been waiting for some time for her to finally have to confront the problem.

I think what I like most about Nynaeve is that this character type is one that is more often given to broody male heroes and anti-heroes. It’s refreshing to see a female character wield this particular brand of brashness, anger and aggressiveness as a shield against her own insecurities.

All that being said, it is also important to note that Nynaeve has changed a lot, and isn’t quite as no-nonsense and simple in her tastes and attitudes as she would like to believe. We continue to see how she struggles with her emotions when it comes to Lan, how her feelings distract her from the things she wants to focus on. We’ve also seen that she’s developed a taste for nice things, for jewelry and fancy dresses, even to the point of occasional impracticality. It may be that being treated like a maid chafed more because Nynaeve is starting to get used to the idea of being an Aes Sedai, of being an important lady in her own right.

I continue to have a lot of thoughts about how Nynaeve and Elayne’s relationship compares to the friendship of Moiraine and Siuan. In Chapter 7, Moiraine remembers Siuan telling her that her upbringing had made her arrogant, and yet recognizes that the woman born to a Tairen fisherman has just as much stubborn pride as a queen. This holds true for Elayne and Nynaeve as well. We see Elayne struggle to find even a fake humility in the face of certain situations, like the encounter with the Whitecloaks on the road to Amadicia, yet of the two she is much calmer and more flexible than Nynaeve. In the same section of chapters in which we watch Siuan struggling to accept being treated as someone small and powerless, and Moiraine agreeing to follow Rand’s every order, we are watching both Elayne and Nynaeve struggle with what it means to do what must be done, regardless of how humiliating or uncomfortable it might feel.

We’re also watching both of them struggle with the pain of having the men they love be so far away. It’s all well and good for Nynaeve to upbraid Elayne over her behavior towards Thom, but we can see in Chapter 14 that she isn’t exactly clear-headed herself when it comes to boyfriends off in the Waste. She even uses some of the same language, about how she trusts Lan, and yet recognizes that he’s so far away and that there are hot Aiel women within arm’s reach.

I don’t want to keep belaboring my observations about the amount of time the narrative spends hinting at ladies’ bodies, at nudity, at having their bodies witnessed without their consent. But I do want to acknowledge that my complaint isn’t only that I find these descriptions gratuitous, but that they are also very repetitive. There’s almost 600 words in this chapter alone devoted to Nynaeve thinking about revealing dresses and experimenting with making them more revealing, a moment when she gets caught by others in something she would never want them to see her in, and an assertion by the narrative that the more Nynaeve thinks about the man she loves the more unconsciously her neckline lowers itself. None of these moments is that problematic on its own, but it’s all a repeat of moments and thoughts we’ve already seen in other books and other chapters. Elayne was caught shirtless by Egwene when she was curiously trying on the Sea Folk garb. Nynaeve has lost control of her appearance in Tel’aran’rhiod while thinking of Lan and ends up wearing something terribly revealing that makes her feel humiliated and self-conscious. Both Nynaeve and Elayne have had thoughts in other chapters about the difficulties of adjusting to the clothing styles of other nations and how they feel more revealing than the dresses they are used to. This continues to be a theme, actually, with our female protagonists encountering societies where they must dress in a way that makes them feel exposed and vulnerable. In Tel’aran’rhiod they are robbed of their bodily autonomy by other women or their own fleeting thoughts. Egwene is forced to dress like a child by the Wise Ones, which includes a skirt that ends above her knees. Siuan is forced to expose her legs in a room full of jeering men. That isn’t to say that some of these moments don’t have narrative value. However, as a whole the pattern becomes something that sticks with me as I read, and stands out in a way that makes me quite uncomfortable. Even without the examples from previous books, the fact that we spend all this time on Nynaeve considering her body and what it means to a man, right after a chapter in which Siuan experiences sexual harassment and degradation, lends an uncomfortable flavor to everything. And speaking of men, Nynaeve’s thoughts are the same narrative we’ve been seeing from Min, which I complained about last week—“If the man I liked saw me in the kind of revealing dress I have always at least claimed to dislike, he wouldn’t spend so much time looking at other women, and maybe I should just start dressing like a Domani woman already.” Which is not a narrative I like very much when there isn’t anything to offset it. Min and Nynaeve aren’t considering anything else about themselves and what they have to offer a relationship, and the narrative continues to boldly insinuate that the only thing a woman needs to do to make a man love her is be naked.

Jordan has created a world where he tries to present a different power dynamic between men and women, but although much of the specifics of channeling are quite interesting, I don’t see much difference in Randland from any other fantasy narrative, even considering the fact that only women can channel without being affected by the Dark One’s taint. Men are still in charge of this world, and the Aes Sedai are mostly different from the Women’s Council of Emond’s field only in scope.

But let’s move on to what I really like about this section, which is a lot. Like the boar-horses! I mean, they’re just elephants, right? If my memory serves, there was an observation by someone several books ago that no one knew where ivory came from, but that it was traded from lands beyond the Aiel Waste, so that makes me wonder if maybe there are elephants in Shara too. Like Elayne, I doubt these elephants come from Shara, but perhaps Valan Luca has heard rumors of such creatures that might have been glimpsed in the distance by Sea Folk or Aiel trading at the Sharan borders. I can’t help wondering if the lady in charge of the boar-horses is a Seanchan spy now, though. I wouldn’t put it past the Seanchan to have agents in place even in such an unlikely position. Then again, she could also be an escaped slave or prisoner.

Luca is exactly the sort of character who, in another book, I would believe was only added for flavor in the world, and therefore would not expect to see again. However, this being Robert Jordan, I’m pretty convinced we’ll have another encounter with the strange circus master in the future. He does serve to show us a little bit more of Nynaeve’s classism, though, and it’s a reminder that, just like in our world, prejudice towards the idea of “real work” doesn’t come only from upper classes, and can actually be worse among the working class sometimes. I think Nynaeve might be a bit snooty about all entertainment jobs, which annoys me even more given what’s going on in our world right now. Lots of art and entertainment jobs are currently falling apart due to current COVID-19 restrictions, and far too many people are making comments like the one Nynaeve makes to Luca, about getting a “real” job and doing “real” work. At least Nynaeve is a health professional so I think she would take the pandemic seriously, but Elayne has a more salient observation about there not being much other work to be had.

A lot of the conversations in these two chapters are characters informing each other of things we, the readers, already know. It can be interesting to see how this information is interpreted by different people, but it perhaps isn’t as interesting to recap. What is terribly interesting, however, is that Nynaeve and Elayne are conspiring with Birgitte now. I am so here for this awesome lady archer, who is so much of a hero that she can’t even obey the laws of her own existence, whose commitment to the Light and to justice is so strong that she cannot stand by and wait for the time when she is meant to be called to the Last Battle. In a section in which many of the characters, especially Nynaeve, are reminded that they are being reckless and bad for breaking rules around Tel’aran’rhiod, it’s nice to see that Birgitte is on the other side of that judgment.

That isn’t to say that Nynaeve is entirely in the right. She is 100% being reckless and stubborn, and she had no idea how in over her head she is when it comes to the World of Dreams. But it is also true, as Egwene has observed before, that Nynaeve doesn’t have much choice but to try to learn on the fly. Every one of our heroes is outgunned and under-prepared for what is coming, and honestly if the Forsaken could stop fighting themselves for five minutes and be a real team, I’m not sure the Light would stand a chance. Putting aside the observation of how often Evil contains the seeds of its own destruction (I can hear Aziraphale’s voice in my head right now), the fact remains that the side of the Light is desperate enough that they need to be taking great risks, and to be using every arsenal at their disposal no matter how dangerous. Moiraine has observed this before, and Rand too. The thing with Nynaeve is that she needs to learn how to be reckless in a smarter, more controlled and more self-aware manner.

Speaking of the battle against the Dark One, I am quite worried about Gaidal Cain. Birgitte seems convinced that he has been born again, but if I understand the relationship between time in Tel’aran’rhiod and time in the waking world, I don’t think that’s what happened. The difference doesn’t seem to be great enough to allow Cain to grow up in time to participate in the Last Battle, which I imagine the Wheel would intend him to do. If he has been born again he won’t be summoned by the Horn, and yet he’ll still be a child when Tarmon Gai’don comes. Birgitte too, potentially, and that just seems like poor planning all around.

So I think it’s much more likely that Cain has potentially been caught and/or destroyed by one of the Forsaken. Perhaps he was more willing to risk breaking, or at least bending, the prescripts than he let Birgitte to believe. He may have risked it for her sake. Or perhaps one of the Forsaken (we know Moghedien can hide when she wants to) realized Birgitte was stalking them and went after him for information or revenge. It’s a chilling thought, since his destruction in Tel’aran’rhiod will be much more complete than a death in the real world. And it makes me worry that Birgitte might be the next target.

I was vastly amused by Melaine’s observations about the Aes Sedai symbol being apt. Both because she has a real point, but also because it’s an example of Nynaeve coming up against her own foibles and bouncing off the wall of self-delusion. She knows that Egwene is hurrying to distract her from the comment, and why, but she denies to herself that there’s any truth to Egwene’s worry that Nynaeve might not be able to keep her temper. She’s so close to self awareness, to learning something, but she just can’t take that last step. It’s almost funny to watch.

Egwene is misinterpreting Rand’s behavior as arrogance and self-aggrandizement, but I think Nynaeve’s advice about him is sound. It might be the wisest thing anyone has said about Rand since his true identity has been discovered. Rand is carrying an impossible burden, is called to do impossible, sometimes horrible things, and is also in danger of losing his sanity to the taint on saidin. More than anything, he needs to remember than he is Rand al’Thor, not Lews Therin, and more than just the man destined to Break the world a second time. I’ve observed in previous posts how desperate Rand is for someone to see him as just Rand, how much he responds to anyone who can stop seeing him as the Dragon Reborn even for a moment. And Egwene has been one of the worst, because she knew him so well before, and now, from his perspective at least, seems to see him only as the threat the White Tower believes him to be. Really, I want that renewed connection for Egwene as well as for Rand.

Next week we’ll cover two more chapters, and Nynaeve will finally find out some things I’ve been waiting for people to find out already! Until then, I hope you all have a lovely week, and I hope those of you in the U.S. take extra good care of yourselves. Remember, not looking for the Horn of Valere won’t stop the Last Battle from coming.

Sylas K Barrett is quite tired, but he cheered himself up a little remembering that quote from the Good Omens tv show.

citation

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