Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Galad sees in Black and White in Robert Jordan’s The Fires of Heaven (Part 11)

Good morrow, friends, and welcome back once again to Reading The Wheel of Time. I don’t even know where to start my analysis this week. My enthusiasm over seeing Aludra again? Questions about Juilin’s newfound fear of heights? Worry about more mentions of Pedron Niall and his schemes? Long, long paragraphs dissecting Galad’s personality? The weird suggestion that Nynaeve is just about as upset about bad tastes as she is about nightmares of Rand collared like a dog by Moghedien?

There’s just so much in these chapters, even though they are actually pretty short. So let’s get started!

Nynaeve wakes to morning sunlight, feeling sweaty and uncomfortable. She’s been having nightmares, in most of which she was back in the Tower and being dragged before the Amyrlin, who was sometimes Elaida and sometimes Moghedien. In some dreams, Rand had been lying on the floor by the Amyrlin’s desk, like a dog, wearing a collar, leash, and muzzle. In others, she’d been forced to drink the nasty catfern and mavinsleaf concoction by Egwene.

She gets out of bed and cleans herself up, noting the scratches on her neck and chest. She’d told Elayne they came from encountering brambles while looking around the Tower grounds after Egwene left, but she suspects Elayne does not believe her. Nynaeve had been too upset to think of a better lie.

Elayne wakes and they discuss which of their plans is a better idea: Elayne wants to take a river boat to Ebou Dar where they can catch a boat for Tear, while Nynaeve wants to keep using the coach to get there. They can’t go back to the Tower, so Tear is their best bet now. She tells Elayne they have no way of knowing how long it will take to find a ship, but she’s also aware that a coach isn’t going to sink with her on it, or make her seasick. Nynaeve is also thinking of the gathering of the Blues, but since she still can’t remember the name of the city she read in the document, she can’t come to a definitive decision on that front. They go down to breakfast, and Nynaeve tells herself there’s no reason to think that the Whitecloaks in the room will notice or care about them.

They eat in silence—no one is sitting particularly near them, but there is no reason to risk being overheard—until suddenly a man comes and sits across from them, telling Elayne that he thought it was her, but that the black hair put him off at first. It’s Galad, and as shocked as Nynaeve is, she’s also struck anew by Galad’s beauty. She manages to ask what he’s doing there, while Elayne demands to know what he is wearing. Only then does Nynaeve realize that he’s in the cloak and mail of one of the Children, two knots of rank beneath the flaring sun on his breast.

He smiled, and Nynaeve had to take a deep breath. “I am here because I was one of the Children recalled from the north. And I am a Child of the Light because it seemed the right thing to do. Elayne, when you two and Egwene vanished, it did not take long for Gawyn and me to find out that you were not doing penance on a farm, whatever we were told. They had no right to involve you in their plots, Elayne. Any of you.”

Nynaeve tries to divert the conversation by noting that Galad attained rank very quickly, but he dismisses the comment perfunctorily. Elayne asks if their mother knows what Galad is doing, and although he looks a bit uncomfortable and admits that “there has been no good time to write to her,” he also tells Elayne not to be so sure that Morgase will disapprove. She is not as friendly with “the north” as she was, and there might soon be a ban “made law.”

Elayne is confused as to why the letter didn’t clear things up, thinking that Morgase must understand, since she trained in the Tower, too. Galad hisses at her to keep her voice down and remember where she is, and Nynaeve realizes that he has been very careful not to mention the Tower or Aes Sedai at all. He asks if Egwene is with them, and is disappointed to find she is not.

“I had hoped… Gawyn was nearly unhinged with worry when she disappeared. He cares for her, too. Will you tell me where she is?”

Nynaeve took note of that “too.” The man had become a Whitecloak, yet he “cared for” a woman who wanted to be Aes Sedai. Men were so strange they were hardly human sometimes.”

Elayne tells him firmly that they will not tell him, and asks after Gawyn, who she cannot believe has also become a Whitecloak. Galad answers that he remained in the north, although Nynaeve assumes he can’t mean the Tower, that Gawyn can’t be supporting Elaida. Galad explains to them that all “the corruption and vileness in that place bubbled to the top, as it had to,” and that “the woman who sent [them] away” has been deposed. Dropping his voice, he adds that she was stilled and executed. He tells Elayne that it was never a place for her, and that he is certain that his captain will give him leave to escort her to Caemlyn where she will be safe. And she can tell him where Egwene is and he can do the same for her.

Nynaeve feels numb at the news about Siuan, the confirmation that it was no accident that removed Siuan from the Amyrlin Seat. She knows it has to be because of Rand, and that they have lost any hope that the Tower might not oppose him. Galad acknowledges the look of shock in both their faces, and tells them they are free of that woman and her plots now, and that no one need know that they had any more contact with her than the other girls who came to train in the Tower. Again he asks to take them to Caemlyn, and Nynaeve tries to smile while Elayne tells him that she needs time to think. Galad is just saying that he can give them a little time, but not much, when another Whitecloak comes up behind him and asks to be introduced to the ladies.

Galad dissembles, telling the man—Trom—that he’d thought that he knew them but his charms weren’t working on them the way Trom believes they should, and drawing him away with talk of practicing swordplay. As they leave, Galad looks back at them, his expression full of indecision and frustration. Elayne immediately commands Nana to pay for their meal and asks for her coach and driver and footman immediately. Nynaeve pays as Elayne disappears upstairs, then hurries up after her to find her hurriedly packing. Surprised, she asks what’s wrong.

“We must leave immediately, Nynaeve. At once.” She did not look up until the last article was crammed in. “Right this minute, wherever he is, Galad is puzzling over something he may never have faced before. Two things that are right, but opposite. To his mind it is right to tie me to a pack horse if necessary and haul me to Mother, to salve her worries and save me from becoming Aes Sedai, whatever I want. And it is also right to turn us in, to the Whitecloaks or the army or both. That is the law in Amadicia, and Whitecloak law, too. Aes Sedai are outlawed here, and so is any woman who has ever trained in the Tower. Mother met Ailron once to sign a trade treaty, and they had to do it in Altara because Mother could not legally enter Amadicia. I embraced saidar the moment I saw him, and I won’t let it go until we are far from him.”

Nynaeve is sure she is exaggerating—Galad is Elayne’s brother, after all—but Elayne responds angrily that Galad is not her brother, that they had the same father but she will not have him as her brother. She reminds Nynaeve that she has explained this before, that Galad always does the right thing, no matter who it hurts, even his family or himself. She points out that Galad never outright lied to Trom, never said that he didn’t know who they were, and that if he decides the wrong way they will find Whitecloaks lying in ambush for them before they reach the edge of the village.

Juilin and Thom enter the room. Elayne tells Thom that Galad is here, that he must remember what a monster he was as a child and that he is no better as an adult, and he is now a Whitecloak as well. Thom is struck by her words, and after a moment admits that he thought he saw a Whitecloak watching the inn, and that he did look like a man the boy could have grown into. Sure enough, when Nynaeve goes to the window she can see Galad sitting across the street.

Elayne asks if Galad recognized Thom, and Thom is sure he didn’t, but remarks that he thought Elayne didn’t recognize him either. She admits that she remembered in Tanchico, and reaches out to tug his mustache. Nynaeve and Juilin have no idea what is going on, but Nynaeve tries to redirect the conversation to what should be done, and they discuss the impossibility of leaving by coach or of taking Galad out somehow. Nynaeve starts to get frustrated.

She leaned over and yanked Thom’s nearest mustache. “Do you have anything to add? Any brilliant plans? Did all your listening to gossip yield anything that might help?”

He clapped a hand to his face and gave her an offended look. “Not unless you think there’s help in Ailron laying claim to some border villages in Altara. A strip the whole length of the border, from Salidar to So Eban to Mosra. Is there any help in that, Nynaeve? Is there? Try to pull a man’s mustache out of his face. Somebody ought to box your ears, for once.”

When Elayne asks why Ailron would want a strip across the border, Thom explains to her that it isn’t the king, but Pedron Niall. He’s explaining why but Nynaeve isn’t interested, even if Elayne is. Something in what he said has tickled Nynaeve’s memory, but she can’t quite place it. Instead, she turns to ask Juilin if he knows any thieves or low types that might be useful to them. He doesn’t have much to offer, but when he mentions that most of the thieves and smugglers just want to talk about the rumors that the Prophet is coming to Amadicia and whether or not the traveling menagerie might be allowed to come to town to put on a show.

This gives Nynaeve an idea. Luca said he wanted a patron, and Nynaeve is sure that even after he was insulted by her single silver coin, he will accept them. They will still have to sneak out of the inn, though, which means abandoning the coach and team and going out the back way. She gets out the purses from their trunks and gives Thom a handful of gold as Elayne praises the idea. She remarks that not only will Galad not look for them amongst a troop of jugglers, but that he will never think they would head for Ghealdan. Nynaeve had intended to make Luca head straight for Tear, but she tells Elayne that this was the first thing she thought of, trying to ignore the phantom taste of catsfern and mavinsleaf.

As they pack, Nynaeve asks, as casually as she can, about Elayne’s relationship to Thom, and learns that he was Court Bard in Caemlyn when Elayne was little, as well as her mother’s lover. This explains Elayne’s behavior to Nynaeve, but she isn’t sure how to discourage it. She tries to liken Thom to a father to Elayne, as well as to point out his age, but neither suggestion lands and Nynaeve gives up for the time being.

They set their plan in motion. Elayne pretends to be taken with headaches from the heat, and Nynaeve informs the innkeeper that they won’t be traveling today after all. She obtains two of the traditional bonnets worn by lower class ladies in Amadicia, and after making sure a maid saw Elayne lounging asleep on the bed with a cloth over her eyes and Nynaeve mending a hem with her hair down, they quickly dress in wool dresses and the face-hiding bonnets, Nynaeve leaving her hair down so that Galad won’t see and recognize her long braid. It irks her to leave so much behind, but they can only take what they can carry, so Nynaeve’s bundle has her scrip full of herbs and the money, while Elayne carries the gilded caskets and the box with the recovered ter’angreal and the seal. They leave by the back staircase and through the stableyard without anyone remarking on them, making it about five miles down the road until the men catch up with them, driving a green wagon. They climb aboard, and Thom mentions that he has learned that Pedron Niall is trying to unite the nations against Rand. Elayne assures him that her mother will support Rand and that she has just as much influence as Niall, but Thom shakes his head and Nynaeve is well aware that, even though Andor is a strong nation, there are Whitecloaks everywhere, and in every land. She tells herself that she needs to start taking Thom’s knowledge more seriously.

Nynaeve asks if Elayne wishes she had let Galad take them to Caemlyn, and Elayne assures her that she thinks no such thing. If Morgase has really turned against the Tower, Elayne intended to only talk to her mother by letter, for the time being. She doesn’t want to try going up against Morgase until she is full Aes Sedai, and maybe not even then.

“A strong woman,” Thom said pleasantly. “Morgase would teach you manners quickly enough, Nynaeve.” She gave him another loud sniff—all that loose hair hanging over her shoulders was no good for gripping—but the old fool only grinned at her.

Luca is certainly not happy to see them, and suggests that “Lady Morelin” was perhaps not a lady at all, and that the carriage and clothes had been stolen. He reminds her that they brand thieves on the forehead in this country, and suggests they hurry on their way. Nynaeve tells him that they can still be his patrons, and although he is adamant that he won’t accept stolen money that won’t be enough anyway until Elayne tells him that they can pay all his expenses and give him a hundred gold marks extra once they cross the Ghealdan border. Luca asks how much they stole, insisting that he doesn’t want the army or the Whitecloaks throwing him in jail as an accomplice, but Elayne tells him a story about running away from an arranged marriage and that seems to settle him.

Still, he points out that they will have to work, so that they don’t stand out among the others, and since they have no skills they can be in charge of cleaning out the animal cages. Nynaeve is furious at the idea of paying so much and working, but Thom forestalls her saying anything by showing off his juggling skills, impressing Luca and adding that he can also eat fire and throw knives and some other things. Then Elayne claims to be able to walk on the highwalker’s rope.

Luca barred her way, though. “Listen, Morelin, or whatever your name is, your forehead may be too pretty to brand, but your neck is far too pretty to snap. Sedrin knew what he was doing, and we finished burying him not more than an hour ago. That’s why everyone is in their wagons. Of course, he drank too much last night, after we were chased out of Sienda, but I’ve seen him highwalk with a bellyful of brandy. I will tell you what. You do not have to clean cages. You move into my wagon, and we will tell everyone you’re my ladylove. Just as a tale, of course.” His sly smile said he hoped for more than a tale.

But Elayne insists that he get out of her way, and though Thom and Juilin look on anxiously, Nynaeve realizes what Elayne is doing—using saidar to make a flat path of Air as hard and secure as a stone street as she walks across. She even sees Elayne’s skirts seem to brush some flat surface after Elayne turns a cartwheel, but she catches them up before anyone can notice. She even ropes Juilin into the scheme, leaving “Nana” out of it when she sees Nynaeve shake her head. Luca is pleased by the act, enjoying the way Juilin “pretends” to be frightened while Morelin makes it seem so easy. Finally, he asks what Nana’s skill is.

“I dole out the money,” she told him, slapping the scrip. “Unless you want to offer me your wagon?” She gave him a smile that wiped his clean away and backed him up two steps besides.

They are introduced to the rest of Luca’s crew, including a woman named Aludra…

…who was supposed to be an Illuminator, might even have been one. She did not wear her dark hair in Taraboner braids, not surprising given the feelings in Amadicia, but she had the proper accents, and who could say what had happened to the Guild of Illuminators? Their chapter house in Tanchico had certainly closed its doors.

But Nynaeve and Elayne are mostly interested in the boar-horse handler, Cerandin. After Elayne rejects some proposition from Luca by slapping him in the face, Nynaeve leaves her to angrily unpack while going over to ask Cerandin about the boar-horses, and what they are really called. She answers that they are called s’redit, but that Master Luca thought a name more easily said was better. Nynaeve asks if there are many s’redit in Seanchan.

Cerandin tries to play innocent, but Nynaeve insists that she is Seanchan, and part of the invasion on Toman Head, left behind after Falme. Elayne arrives at that moment, adding that they heard Seanchan accents in Falme and promising that they won’t hurt Cerandin. Nynaeve privately thinks she’s not willing to promise so much, but she also reminds herself that a Seanchan helped her when she needed it.

Cerandin sags with the weight of keeping that secret suddenly lifted from her shoulders, and admits that they are right. She has not encountered anyone who knew the truth about Falme and the Return, only wild rumors, though that is just as well for her since she was left behind, along with many of the s’redit. These three were all she could gather. Nynaeve asks if she was a sul’dam. Ceradin answers that she was tested, like all girls, but she had no ability with the a’dam. She says she was honored to be chosen to work with the s’redit, which are noble animals, and remarks upon how much Nynaeve and Elayne know.

Nynaeve wonders if she is lying, but answers that they know a little and want to know more. She tells Cerandin that she “would do well” to answer their questions truthfully.

“I promise that nothing will happen to you,” Elayne added. “I will protect you, if need be.

The pale-haired woman’s eyes shifted from one of them to the other, and suddenly, to Nynaeve’s amazement, she prostrated herself on the ground in front of Elayne. “You are a High Lady of this land, just as you told Luca. I did not realize. Forgive me, High Lady. I submit myself to you.” And she kissed the ground in front of Elayne’s feet. Elayne’s eyes looked ready to leap out of her face.

Nynaeve, shocked and worried that Luca or someone else will see, tells Cerandin to get up, but she ignores Nynaeve until Elayne commands her to stand on her feet. She explains that no one in this land requires people to behave that way, and, once Cerandin is up, says that she will teach Cerandin the proper way to behave in return for answers to their questions.

The woman bowed, hands on her knees and head down. “Yes, High Lady. It will be as you say. I am yours.”

Nynaeve sighed heavily. They were going to have a fine time traveling to Ghealdan.

 

Okay, let’s start with Aludra. Like any good nerd, I love Easter eggs and callbacks, so I really enjoy how she’s popped up yet again, and how I had to think for a few seconds before I remembered exactly who she was. Also I love how Luca’s circus now has at least four refugees—six if you count Juilin and Thom. Wonder if the rest of those folks also have secret identities, too, that will come out in later chapters. Maybe even Luca himself harbors some dark, plot-relevant secret.

And Aludra may very well be more than just a fun callback to earlier books. She might have another role to play in events, as she did back in The Dragon Reborn when she gave Mat the roll of fireworks he used to break into the Stone of Tear. Perhaps she’ll be a character like Bayle Domon, continually drawn into the narrative by seemingly chance encounters with our heroes and heroines. The Wheel weaves and all that, and after all, she was put on her path by the Dragon Reborn himself. Rand didn’t know what consequences would come from him setting off those fireworks—he was just trying to escape the Trollocs and had no thought for Aludra either before or after—but such is the nature of ta’veren. Even things that seem random may very well be dictated by these driving agents of the Pattern.

And once again Nynaeve and Elayne have encountered a woman from Seanchan. If Cerandin proves as helpful as Egeanin, they are quite lucky to have found her, and at the very least, they will be able to learn more about the coming Seanchan invasion and how very far from over it is. It must be so disorienting for the Seanchan left behind at Falme—their culture is so rigidly hierarchical that they can’t have much idea of how to function on their own, how to make their own choices and navigate these very different societies. Cerandin certainly seems relieved to get rid of her free will as soon as she could, putting herself entirely in Elayne’s hands the moment she realized Elayne really was nobility.

I had a lot of feelings when Nynaeve had to leave behind so many of their possessions. There has been a focus lately, by the narrative and by certain characters, on the fact that Nynaeve has grown more accustomed to nice things, and that she is stingy with their money and judgmental of other people’s financial statuses. This chapter is a reminder that Nynaeve is not just being elitist or stingy for no reason—she is a woman on the run, and although they have plenty right now, they have no way of knowing where circumstances will take them in the future. Nynaeve did not grow up with want, as far as I can tell, but we’re reminded that she is regularly dealing with sums of money that would equal a nice house in the town she grew up in, while simultaneously being surrounded by economic downturns, refugees, wars, and uncertainty. I think maybe it’s time I cut her a little slack—also, one notes that some of that stuff she saved came in very useful. Just like the napkins and bits of string I keep in the drawers of my house despite my counterpart’s pleas not to stash away so much crap. So there.

Also, is it just me or does Juilin’s fear about the tightrope seem a little intense for a man who spends a lot of his time running around the rooftops of Tear? I mean, I get that the rope is more than what he’s used to, but that guy definitely can’t have  fear of heights, and those roofs were quite a lot, going by Mat’s experience. I suppose that it might be trusting Elayne’s power that threw him—it’s a bit like that scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when Indy has to walk across the disguised chasm. Even once he finds that there is a solid surface there, he still has to trust that it goes all the way across, because he can’t verify it with his own eyes. And that reminds me that Juilin is from a culture that doesn’t like Aes Sedai very much, though he personally hasn’t show much prejudice against them, despite his experiences with Liandrin. It would be really funny if it turned out that he actually was acting, though.

Anyway, let’s backtrack a little because we need to talk about the most important part of this section, which is Galad.

So as much as Galad irks me personally, I have to say that I love him as a character. I don’t know why he’s presented as some kind of male version of Lanfear, with the ability to addle women’s minds with his physical appearance, but putting that aside, I really do love the character trope. It’s fascinating to see him in the middle of a story about the battle between ultimate Good and Ultimate evil, a battle which has interesting characters and a mix of moralities on both sides of the conflict. There are characters who act for the Light accidentally, their motives impure but the results helpful, and who believe they are acting for the Light but are ultimately motivated by selfishness and self-interest, such as Elaida. And although the high-acting Darkfriends are pretty universally monstrous, there are also those who fall to the Dark from motives that began well, as we saw with Ingtar. And in between these two we have Galad, a character who on the D&D alignment chart would fall squarely into the “lawful good” camp, and whose very existence shows us how this alignment is unsustainable.

Elayne has said many times that Galad always does what is “right” but it might be better said that he always does what is “lawful.” His conflict in this chapter illustrates that perfectly: He is torn between the rules of familial duty, which require him to protect his sister and return her home to their mother, and the laws of the Whitecloaks and of Amadicia, which make her presence illegal and require him to turn her in. Someone else might, when faced with those two conflicts, turn to their own personal morality and consider such questions as whether or not the law against Aes Sedai is fair, whether Elayne deserves to have some say in what happens to her, or even his own feelings of affection (if he has any) towards his sister. But for Galad, it is only the external rules that he has chosen to align himself with in that matter.

The hilarious thing is that he believes this to be a rational decision, when it really isn’t. I certainly understand and empathize with how he and Gawyn responded to their sister’s disappearance; in their position I, too, would have felt distrust and hostility towards Siuan. But I think it’s pretty clear that Galad let that distrust and anger shape his decision, and I think that the lack of a clear path made the Children of the Light look even more appealing to his black-and-white way of thinking.

Nynaeve picks up on this problem when she observes that Galad has become a Whitecloak and yet still cares for women who want to be Aes Sedai. He seems to have settled this discrepancy in his own mind by painting Elayne and Egwene as hapless victims swept up in Siuan’s plot; if that’s the case, then he can escape the letter of the Whitecloak and Amadician law by regarding them as not truly part of the White Tower. This means that there is only one rule for him to follow, since there is no law demanding that he turn over victims of the Aes Sedai. But in thinking of the girls this way, Galad has removed any sense of personal agency from Elayne and Egwene, which is hardly moral, and makes me wonder how things would be different for him if Morgase was still aligned with the White Tower, or if Elayne suddenly became Queen. Would his duty to his sovereign outweigh his choice to follow the Children? Would he decide to continue believing that the Aes Sedai are corrupt and turn away from the Throne of Andor instead?

Galad is lucky that things are going the way they are in Caemlyn right now, but sooner or later he’s not going to be able to rationalize himself out of this conflict.

And after all, the Children of the Light have the same problem as Galad; their organization is based on a blind certainty that they have found the correct rules to follow, and that those rules are to be held to, inflexibly, rather than examined and adjusted over time and different situations. It may be a bit redundant to point this out, but laws and rules are only as good as those who make them. Even good and wise leaders are fallible, and even good and reasonable rules may need to change for the times. Just last week I was observing how Egwene is learning to walk this balance, to pair the Wise Ones’ rules about Tel’aran’rhiod with her own judgment about the urgency of the situation and the need to take calculated risks. Galad has no such skill, and it is no surprise at all that he ended up in the organization that favors blind assurance in righteousness above all other qualities.

Finally, all these hints about Pedron Niall and his doings are a constant reminder that this threat is growing. I’m not sure if I should be writing down and keeping track of every mention of his doings or if I just need to have the gist of it, but I did go back and look through his part of the Prologue of The Dragon Reborn to remind myself of his goals. Niall is the one who wanted Rand, the “false” Dragon, to spread chaos and problems throughout the land. His whole deal with the Whitecloak armies is trying to rebuild the nation of Almoth—similar to Artur Hawkwing—because he wants to be the leader of the forces of Light in the Last Battle. So what Thom is picking up on is part of that plan.

Next week we have a really fun chapter (Chapter 19) with Liandrin and Moghedien, and then a really painful one (Chapter 20) with Morgase confronting what’s been done to her and then with Padan Fain doing his Mordeth thing. Oh, and we answer all our questions about Alviarin, too.

Sylas K Barrett will probably never learn not to spell mustache moustache, like it belongs on a mouse. Or is made of mice? Either way, that’s too many vowels, Sylas.

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