It’s hard to believe we’re already on part 22 of The Fires of Heaven. It’s difficult to judge the pacing of a book when you’re only reading it a few chapters at a time and then pausing to muse over it for days, but there is definitely a density to The Fires of Heaven; I always finish these posts with the sense that I forgot a few important themes or plot points that I wanted to address, or that I’ve missed something that is going to be important later in the story.
Speaking of missing things, I’m so excited to see some Shienarans again! I find Masema a fascinating character, and Uno’s cursing is growing on me, I think. Let us pick up where we left off last week, in Chapter 37, just after Nynaeve has her conversation with Birgitte and exits the wagons.
Nynaeve finds everything quiet outside, only a few horse handlers standing guard by the canvas fence erected to contain Luca’s show. She can see the city of Samara in the distance, and the shanties and huts of the Prophet’s followers like mushrooms sprouting outside the walls. The grins of the guards stationed on either side of the entrance remind Nynaeve of the dress she’s wearing, and she gives them both a hard stare, only covering herself with her shawl after their grins drop. One of them holds the canvas flap aside for her to enter, and she steps through into the bustle of the show.
There are people milling about everywhere, while the performances occur on raised wooden stages. The largest crowd is around the s’redit, the three “boar horses” balancing on their hind legs and curving their trunks up. Nynaeve notes that all the women have collars right up to their chins. She also notes that Thom is wearing his own brown coat, despite Luca giving him a red one sewn with sequins, as he juggles flaming batons and swallows fire. She glares at him as she passes.
But Nynaeve is intent on a different crowd, and pushes through a throng to find Luca. She steps up beside him, noting the man standing on Luca’s other side.
The shaven-headed man had a villainous look; a long scar sliced down his left cheek, and a patch over that eye was painted with a scowling red replacement. Few of the men she had seen here were armed with more than a belt knife, but he wore a sword strapped to his back, the long hilt rising above his right shoulder. He looked vaguely familiar for some reason, but her mind was all on the highrope.
Luca smiles and tries to put an arm around her waist, but Nynaeve elbows him in the gut. Then Juilin comes staggering out, pretending to be a very drunk man and performing on the highrope as Luca pretends to be concerned about this inebriated stranger and the crowd laughs at Juilin’s antics. When the act is over and revealed to be just that, the crowd is terribly amused, and Luca is quite proud of himself. And then Elayne comes bounding through the crowd and strikes a pose beside Juilin. Nynaeve is scandalized by the white sequined coat and breeches, but more than anything she’s painfully anxious watching Elayne perform. With Moghedien and the Black Ajah searching for them, it’s too dangerous for Elayne to channel—she’ll certainly be sensed by them. Luca can’t understand Nynaeve’s fear as she watches Elayne walk the rope and do cartwheels across it, as well as a handstand and backflip that Thom taught her to do.
One last passage of cartwheels, white legs flashing and glittering in the sun, faster than before. A passage that had never been mentioned to Nynaeve! She would have eviscerated Luca with her tongue had he not muttered angrily that Elayne adding to the act just for applause was a good way to break her neck. One last pause to pose for more of that applause, and Elayne at last climbed down.
Luca’s men arrive to protect Elayne from the enthusiastic crowd, and Nynaeve can’t understand how calm and regal Elayne looks, dressed as she is and after the feats she just performed. Then her attention is drawn to the man in the eyepatch, who mutters to himself that Elayne has the “face of a bloody Queen” and is brave enough for one as well. Suddenly, Nynaeve remembers where she has seen a one-eyed man with a topknot who can’t say a sentence without cursing, and rushes to follow him as he strides away through the crowd.
The man barely pauses to look at anything until he comes to the s’redit, which are performing near the entrance, their big heads showing above the canvas wall every time they stand up on their hind legs. She has to elbow and push to get to the front of the crowd basically parted for the big man with a terrifying eyepatch and a sword on his back, but at last she makes it and says his name, Uno. He turns, but there is no recognition in his face.
“I saw you in Fal Dara,” Nynaeve said. “And again on Toman Head, briefly. After Falme. You were with…” She did not know how much she could say with people cheek-by-jowl around her; rumors of the Dragon Reborn had circulated all through Amadicia, and some even had his name right. “With Rand.”
Uno’s real eye narrowed—she tried not to see the other—and after a moment he nodded. “I remember the face. I never forget a flaming pretty face. But the hair was bloody well different. Nyna?”
She corrects him, and he looks at her for only a moment, then grabs her and starts drags her out the entrance. Luca’s men standing guard start to come after her but Nynaeve waves them away, and after a few yanks Uno releases his grip and the men go back to guarding the money box and making sure people pay. Nynaeve demands to know what Uno thinks he is doing, but he only motions for her to follow.
They leave the menagerie, passing two others as they head towards the town. Nynaeve sees two contortionists performing on a framework of poles that elevates them above their own canvas walls—no doubt to compete with the draw of the “boar horses”—and is uncomfortably reminded of Moghedien’s torture. Finally they pass both menageries and make their way outside the crowds of people and onto a dirt cart path.
“What I am flaming trying to do,” he growled then, “is to take you where we can flaming well talk without you being torn to flaming bits by flaming folk trying to kiss your flaming hem when they find out you flaming know the Lord Dragon.” There was no one within thirty paces of them, but he still stared around for anyone who might hear. “Blood and bloody ashes, woman! Don’t you know what these flaming goat-heads are like? Half of them think the Creator talks to him over bloody supper every night, and the other half think he is the bloody Creator!”
She responds that she will thank him to moderate his language and to slow down, and Uno responds that he does remember her, and her mouth. He does try to cut off some of his cursing, telling her that they are headed into town, and that he doesn’t know what she’s doing in this place but he remembers that she was “mixed up with that blue woman.” He insists that this is no place for her, and that he can scrape together enough coin to get her to Tear. Nynaeve is annoyed that men’s first impulse is always to assume a woman needs saving, and tells him primly that all they need is a boat going downriver. Uno asks if the “blue woman” is with her.
“No. Do you remember Elayne?” He gave a blunt nod, and a mischievous impulse seized her; nothing seemed to faze the man, and he obviously expected to just take charge of her welfare. “You saw her again just now. You said she had a”—she made her voice gruff in imitation of his—“face like a bloody queen.”
After a moment’s astonishment Uno starts muttering about the daughter of a queen showing her legs that way, and how southerners have no decency. Nynaeve thinks of the Shienaran custom of men and women bathing together, and asks Uno if his mother taught him to speak decently. Then she asks what he is doing here. After looking around to make sure no one can hear him, he explains that the blue woman sent them to Jehannah to wait for instructions, but the woman whose name she gave as a contact was dead when they arrived. Then Masema started talking to people, and since there was no point in waiting for orders that would never come, they stayed close to him. He gives them enough to live on, but no one “except Bartu and Nengar listen to his trash.”
Nynaeve notices that he managed not to curse once, and offers that he might curse once every other sentence, earning a ridiculously grateful look from Uno. She asks how Masema has money when they don’t, and Uno responds that he’s the bloody Prophet they’ve all come to hear. He also asks if she’d like to meet him, and Nynaeve realizes that he’s taking her literally about cursing every other sentence. She considers his suggestion that the Prophet will probably find a boat, or even have one built, for anyone who comes from the same village as the Dragon. She is hesitant, thinking of the rumors about riots and deaths around the Prophet as Uno instructs her not to remind Masema that she has anything to do with “that bloody island” and Nynaeve remembers that he doesn’t know her exact connection to Tar Valon.
There are Whitecloaks at the city gate, and Nynaeve asks quietly if they cause any trouble, and Uno tells her about how a mob tore apart a traveling show because there was a woman performing sleight-of-hand tricks. They thought the woman was Aes Sedai and a Darkfriend, and although she was killed in the attempt to capture her they still hung her corpse.
“Masema had the ringleaders beheaded, but it was Whitecloaks whipped up the bloody mob.” His scowl matched the red eye painted on his patch. “There’s been too many flaming hangings and beheadings, if you bloody well ask me. Bloody Masema’s as bad as the bloody Whitecloaks when it comes to finding a Darkfriend under every flaming rock.”
“Once every other sentence,” she murmured, and the man actually blushed.
He stops walking, observing that he can’t take her in there, that it isn’t safe. Of course that makes Nynaeve’s mind up for her, and she hurries ahead, instructing him to keep up or she’ll leave him behind. Samara is packed almost shoulder to shoulder with people from every place and walk of life. She sees the occasional Whitecloak or city guard, but they seem overwhelmed and struggle as hard to get through the crowd as anyone else. Nynaeve is relieved when they come to a quieter, narrower street and the crowd thins. Here they are joined by another Shienaran, Ragan, who greets her cordially and promises to see her safely to Masema and wherever she goes after that. He, too, urges her not to mention Tar Valon, as Masema thinks that the Tower will try to control the Lord Dragon. Uno explains that they are going in the back way, because there are too many people out front trying to catch a glimpse of the Prophet. Still, there are rough armed men in the alley that make Nynaeve very nervous. Their eyes are “too intent, almost feverish” and as she watches them finger their weapons, she thinks that for once she’d almost like an honest leer instead.
The men hand over their weapons to a man who looks like he might have once been a shop keeper—he clearly recognizes them and after frowning at Nynaeve for a moment he lets them all in, wordlessly. Nynaeve is shocked that such precautions would be used against Masema’s friends, but Uno tells her that it is the only reason they are let in at all. Nynaeve notes that he’s speaking carefully again, and not using Masema’s name but merely saying “the Prophet.”
It is a grand house, but empty and covered in dust, with only one old woman cooking in the kitchen. She doesn’t see any other servants until they reach a small man wearing a too-big red silk coat sitting outside an open door. The man tells them that the Prophet is busy and they will have to wait, and Uno and Ragan seem to take this as expected.
Whatever Nynaeve had expected from the Prophet, she hadn’t anticipated filth, and she’s curious about the simple soup and two rustic servants in the house of a man who has an entire city dancing for him. She moves to where she can see through the open door, where she can see a man and a woman whose appearances could not be more different.
Masema had shaved even his topknot, and his coat was plain brown wool, heavily wrinkled but clean, although his knee-high boots were scuffed. Deep-set eyes turned his permanently sour look to a scowl, and a scar made a pale triangle on his dark cheek, a near mirror image of Ragan’s, only more faded with age and a hair nearer the eye.
The woman, on the other hand, is elegant and well-dressed, with dark hair and a lot of jewelry. Masema appears poised on the brink of an attack, but she is stately and reserved as she explains to him that his numerous followers create disorder wherever he goes, that people and their property are in danger from thieves and muggers, and the fact that many of his followers believe they have the right to take whatever they wish without permission or payment. Masema is more concerned with talking about the Dragon breaking all bonds and seeking his protection from the Shadow, but he eventually concedes.
“There is justice in the hereafter, when we are born again. Concern with things of this world is useless. But very well. If you wish earthly justice”—his lip curled contemptuously—“let it be this. Henceforth, a man who steals will have his right hand cut off. A man who interferes with a woman, or insults her honor, or commits murder will be hung. A woman who steals or commits murder will be flogged. If any accuses and finds twelve who will agree, it will be done. Let it be so.”
The woman replies that it will be as he says, but she looks shaken. She brings up the matter of food, but can’t get Masema to recognize the problem as he goes off on a rant about people’s preoccupation with gold, and how the Lord Dragon has been reborn and only submission and obedience to the Lord Dragon will save them. When the woman makes the mistake of addressing Masema as “my Lord” he grows angry with her, telling her that there is no lord but the Lord Dragon and that she must remember that, as blasphemers earn the scourge.
“Forgive me,” the begemmed woman murmured, spreading her skirts in a curtsy fit for a queen’s court. “It is as you say, of course. There is no lord save the Lord Dragon, and I am but a humble follower of the Lord Dragon—blessed be the name of the Lord Dragon—who comes to hear the wisdom and guidance of the Prophet.”
Masema tells her that she wears too much gold, and she immediately begins divesting herself of all her jewelry. The man at the door goes in to take it from her, and Uno and Ragan explain quietly that every penny goes to the poor, and that Masema would be living in a stable or one of the huts outside the city if some merchant hadn’t given him this house. Nynaeve is baffled.
The woman curtsies and bows to Masema, blessing the name of the Lord Dragon, but he seems to have forgotten about her as she sweeps out of the room like a queen, despite having just given up her jewelry on demand. They go into the room.
“Peace favor your sword,” Uno said, echoed by Ragan.
“Peace favor the Lord Dragon” was the reply, “and his Light illumine us all.” Nynaeve’s breath caught. There was no doubt to his meaning; the Lord Dragon was the source of the Light. And he had the nerve to speak of blasphemy from others! “Have you come to the Light at last?”
“We walk in the Light,” Ragan said carefully. “As always.” Uno kept silent, his face blank.
Masema gives them a sort of tiredly patient look and tells them that only those who have seen the Lord Dragon and not come to see the truth are those swallowed by Shadow; since he knows they are not like that, they will come to see as he does. His conviction is so strong, so fanatical, that it makes Nynaeve very uncomfortable; Whitecloaks seem mild in comparison. She finds herself answering him as carefully as Ragan had when he asks if she is ready to come to the Light of the Lord Dragon, but grows angry when he looks over her shawl and tells her that she is too concerned with the flesh.
“And what do you mean by that?” Uno’s eye widened in startlement, and Ragan made small shushing motions, yet she could as soon have flown as stopped. “Do you think you have a right to tell me how to dress?” Before she quite realized what she was doing, she had untied the shawl and looped it over her elbows; it really was much too hot, anyway. “No man has that right, for me or any other woman! If I chose to go naked, it would be none of your concern!”
Masema’s gaze is icy cold, and Nynaeve regrets not holding her tongue. She thinks she might be angry enough to channel, though of course that is too dangerous; on the other hand, given Masema’s earlier pronouncement of justice, she might have too. She tells herself not to let stubbornness get in the way of good sense, but still meets his gaze defiantly. After a moment he starts talking again, ranting about preoccupation with flesh and with drink, saying that all taverns and such should be burned down, and how everything but the Dragon is an illusion and a snare set by the Shadow. As soon as he pauses for breath, Uno breaks in to tell him who Nynaeve is, and that she comes from Rand’s village. He says that she was with the Lord Dragon at Fal Dara, that he rescued her at Falme, that he cares for her as a mother. Nynaeve is more than a little angered by the description, but she keeps it to herself this time.
“Nynaeve. Yes.” His voice quickened. “Yes! I remember your name, and your face. Blessed are you among women, Nynaeve al’Meara, none more so save the blessed mother of the Lord Dragon herself, for you watched the Lord Dragon grow. You attended the Lord Dragon as a child.” He seized her arms, hard fingers biting in painfully, but he seemed unaware of it. “You will speak to the crowds of the Lord Dragon’s boyhood, of his first words of wisdom, of the miracles that accompanied him. The Light has sent you here to serve the Lord Dragon.”
Nynaeve thinks to herself that she’d hardly count what happens around ta’veren miracles, and that even what happened at Falme had a sort of rational explanation. She remembers spanking Rand for throwing rocks at people, and she’s not heard anything else from him that could be considered wisdom since he promised never to do it again. But even if Rand had been giving advice from his cradle she wouldn’t have stayed with Masema.
She tells him that she must travel down river, that the Lord Dragon has called her to him at Tear. She hates calling Rand that, but she knows that Masema will require it, and reminds herself of an old saying that men are oaks and women are willows—the willow bends to the wind and thus survives it. Masema has heard that Rand is in Tear, and starts talking about how he will eventually bring his people to see the Lord Dragon and where he will send his disciples. Nynaeve carefully tells him that it’s a wise plan, but that she can’t wait, that “when the Lord Dragon summons, mere mortals must obey.”
Masema stares at her for a long time, his gaze one that Nynaeve thinks would make even Moghedien sweat, but at last the zealous light fades from his eyes and he just looks dour again, agreeing that if she has been summoned, she must go. He tells her to dress more appropriately and to meditate on the Lord Dragon and his Light, but Nynaeve presses about the boat and although he says he doesn’t concern himself with such things, he agrees that when one is summoned by the Lord Dragon one must come within the hour. He agrees to ask, and tells Ragan and Uno to keep Nynaeve safe in the meantime. She must be protected, like a wayward child, until she can be reunited with the Lord Dragon.
Nynaeve bit her tongue. A willow, not an oak, when a willow was needed. She managed to mask her irritation behind a smile that had to carry all the gratitude the idiot man could wish. A dangerous idiot, however. She had to remember that.
The men make their goodbyes quickly and hustle her out of the room and back the way they came. She waits until they are out of the alley and then rounds on them, complaining that if she’d had another five minutes she could have had Uno finding the boat immediately. Uno counters that in another five minutes Masema would have lost his patience with her. Both men stalk off, forcing her to follow, as Uno continues to rant about Masema and the mobs willing to do whatever he says. He talks about Masema having a Lord of the Crown High Council flogged for “contempt for the word of the Lord Dragon,” and that he saw that Nynaeve was about to start laying into him again if they hadn’t dragged her away.
Ragan tells her about a noblewoman that Masema nearly had beheaded for saying something about “this Rand al’Thor,” and he urges Nynaeve to understand that theirs would not have been the first heads Masema put on spikes, and that she is not safer than anyone else.
Nynaeve is shocked, and can’t understand how Masema can have such power. She knows that lords and ladies can be as foolish as common people, but wonders about the ruler of the land. She asks if he really meant it about stopping men and women from looking at each other and burning down taverns; Ragan tells her that Masema often forgets what he’s decided to do, but that she’d be surprised what his followers will accept. Uno adds that Masema isn’t against marriage—sometimes he’ll pick out a few hundred men and a few hundred women and marry them, even if they’ve never met before that day.
But Nynaeve’s biggest shock comes when she asks who the woman who gave him her jewelry was, and learns that she’s Alliandre, the Queen of Ghealdan. Nynaeve exclaims that this is how Masema has such control: The Queen herself is fool enough to listen to him and allow him to do whatever he wants.
“Not a fool,” Uno said sharply, flashing a frown at her before returning to watching the street. “A wise woman. When you bloody find yourself straddling a wild horse, you bloody well ride it the way it’s bloody going, if you’re smart enough to pour water out of a bloody boot.”
Ragan explains that Alliandre is the fourth person to rule Ghealdan in half a year. The first king didn’t worry about Masema until his crowds grew too big, but when he did try to move against Masema he died shortly after in a hunting accident.
“Hunting accident!” Uno interjected, sneering. A hawker who happened to be looking at him dropped his tray of pins and needles. “Not unless he didn’t know one bloody end of a flaming boar spear from the other. Flaming southlanders and their flaming Game of Houses!”
The Queen who came next had her army dispersing the crowds until there was an actual battle; she’s said to have killed herself with poison, and the Queen who came next sent two thousand soldiers against ten thousand followers who had come to hear Masema outside of Jehannah. When those soldiers were routed she married a merchant—possibly against his will—which meant giving up her claim to the throne. After Alliandre was crowned she summoned Masema to tell him he wouldn’t be bothered anymore, and inside two weeks she was coming to him. Ragan isn’t sure if she believes in Masema’s preaching or not, but she took the throne while the land was on the edge of civil war, and she stopped it. That to him is a wise queen, and one a man could be proud to serve.
Then Uno casually informs Nynaeve that they are being followed by a Whitecloak. Nynaeve stiffens, then tells Uno to turn down an alley. He wants to lose their tail in the crowds, but Nynaeve insists that she needS to get a look at him. Uno glares but does as she says, and as they turn Nynaeve manages to catch a glimpse out of the corner of her eye. As she expected, it’s the only Whitecloak who would have any reason to follow her. Galad.
There is something very poignant about Masema’s fanaticism when you consider it in contrast to his initial distaste for Rand. At the time, back in The Great Hunt, his hostility was mostly a useful plot device, a clue for the reader about Rand’s true heritage as half Aiel. But now, several books later, it’s interesting to consider that an intense and unfounded bias—I mean, Masema was right about Rand’s heritage, but Rand’s appearance is more usual among the Aiel, not unique to them—should swerve so completely to unadulterated religious fervor. Masema is clearly a man who thinks in black and white, and who doesn’t really know how to address his own emotions rationally.
Or rather, he thinks he is being rational, when in reality he’s mistaking his feelings for a clear-eyed awareness of facts. He doesn’t have the warrior’s respect for the Aiel that Lan or some of the others do, like Ingtar did, to temper his anger and fear against them. And in the same way he doesn’t seem able to temper his feelings about Rand. After all, Masema was not the only Shienaran to swear loyalty to Rand after seeing him in the sky battling Ba’alzamon. It was Uno who declared that the coming of the Dragon was prophesied to break all oaths and shatter all ties. I suspect that fear is a driving force in Masema (not that he would call it that) the same way it is in Couladin. We’ve seen people react in a variety of ways to the suggestion that the Dragon has been Reborn and Tarmon Gai’don is near—everything from fainting to denial to fanaticism. Masema comes from a nation whose very survival against the encroaching Dark depends on rigid structure and rules, and requires every man to be willing to stand against the Shadow.
I remember what Ingtar told Rand when he informed him that he was to be second in command of the lances that were sent after the stolen Horn of Valere.
“When we Shienarans ride, every man knows who is next in line if the man in command falls. A chain unbroken right down to the last man left, even if he’s nothing but a horseholder. That way, you see, even if he is the last man, he is not just a straggler running and trying to stay alive. He has the command, and duty calls him to do what must be done.”
The prophecy that the Dragon will break all bonds and oaths doesn’t leave much room for certainty, or knowing where one stands in duty. So it makes sense that Masema would struggle with knowing his place in this new world, especially without any direct commands from the only person he recognizes as having any leadership authority. Rand has broken his world order as completely as he has broken the Aiel’s, but while those Aiel who can’t handle it react by running away or by denying the truth, Masema has chosen fanaticism instead.
“You battled the Dark One,” Masema said. Masema, who hated him. Masema, who looked at him as if seeing a vision of the Light. “I saw you, Lord Dragon. I saw. I am your man, to the death.” His dark eyes shone with fervor.
I wonder if, when everyone went through the portal stone with Rand and saw a million versions of their lives, Masema saw any possible futures in which he reacted differently to the arrival of the Dragon in his midst. No one learned of Rand’s identity that way, but it’s possible that Masema saw a version himself run from the information, or a possible reality in which Fal Dara was destroyed in the Dragon’s fight against the Dark One, or a million other possibilities that might also be driving his choices now. I remember he was openly weeping when they returned to the regular world. Surely he at least saw a lot of death and destruction, and that, too, might be driving his single-minded focus on the Dragon as the only thing worth putting any faith in.
That doesn’t make his situation any more alarming, of course, and I can’t help but wonder what he’ll think when Rand shows up back in the Westlands at the head of an army of Aiel. And what he’ll do when Uno and Ragan continue to not come around to his line of thinking. If I were them, I’d try to get out of there with Nynaeve, and bring the rest of the Shienarans with me.
I really feel for Alliandre trying to appeal to Masema when he just really doesn’t have any care for what happens to people. I don’t think Nynaeve’s right in assuming that he might be secretly lining his own pockets or selfishly glorifying in his new power—his fanaticism is too genuine for that. But Masema’s narrow-mindedness is actually more dangerous, I think. There is no rationality in his decisions, not even cruel rationality; it’s all intensely reactive. The way the narration describes his gaze changing from glowing zealotry to bored scowling was a really good indication of what’s going on there, as well as the way he refers to the Light as “his” Light, as Nynaeve picks up on. The Dragon may be a prophesied savior, but he’s the Light’s champion, not its Creator.
So I can well believe that he does forget half of what he says. The man doesn’t actually have a plan, just intense feelings. But if it makes sense that he should end up in this position, then it makes sense that other people experiencing fear or uncertainty or excitement over the approach of Tarmon Gai’don would respond the same way, and choose to follow him.
Once again we see that a lot of the prophesied Breaking of the World is not actually at Rand’s feet—it has to do with how people react to the coming of the Dragon and the choices they make. Don’t take Prophecies too literally, folks. It’s just like Moiraine said at the end of The Shadow Rising: “The world will be broken whether you break it or not. Tarmon Gai’don will come, and that alone will tear the world apart.”
After not caring much about the menagerie plotline, I have to admit I really enjoyed the description of Luca’s show. I’d enjoy seeing Juilin’s highwalking clown act, and Elayne’s too, although I agree with Galad that animal performances are kind of cruel. Thom’s performance sounds entertaining, of course, but that’s nothing new.
It does seem a bit unrealistic to suggest that Elayne could learn to be a great tightrope walker in such a short amount of time, but not impossible I guess. Maybe she had lessons on how to walk like a lady growing up in the palace in Caemlyn, walking with books balanced on her head and working on posture might be helpful in tightrope walking. Uno might have said “graceful as a bloody queen” along with his other compliments. The reference to Min’s love of trousers also seems relevant since Elayne and Min are both destined to end up with Rand.
I did enjoy the dramatic irony of Nynaeve’s nerves, since only she (and Juilin and Thom I suppose) know that she has been channeling to support herself all this time, and that this is her first performance without that safety. I don’t so much like the way that the narrative keeps suggesting that she likes Luca’s company more than she claims she does, but what I was really thinking about all through this section is that the way channelers can detect each others’ use of the One Power even from a distance is really just a plot device to cut down on the imbalance of power between the main female protagonists and the people they encounter. In this case it’s merely for the reader’s enjoyment: It’s exciting to think that Elayne is actually in some danger while she performs, and it adds tension to Nynaeve’s narrative as well. But this applies in other more fraught situations as well, like whenever there are Whitecloaks around, or when Nynaeve mouths off to Masema. The danger of her situation is heightened by the knowledge that channeling will bring Moghedien to her.
It’s kind of like how Marvel is always looking for ways to write the Hulk out of situations; he’s just too powerful and too many conflicts would be overcome easily if he was present. Of course the girls are still relatively inexperienced as well, which also adds to their danger, and as the books go on and they level up, the dangerous situations will also have to grow to match them, to keep that narrative tension.
The narrative also spends a lot of time on that thing it does with Nynaeve, where she is often unreasonable towards people and then her self-denial can’t recognize it, and it’s a bit excessive here. I still feel like we’re building to some sort of moment with Nynaeve where she breaks and has to learn to surrender, like the willow in the saying she references while trying to keep her temper around Masema.
For the record, I say yaas girl to Nynaeve telling Masema to fuck off when he started talking about her body and how she should dress. Sure he’s a fanatical Prophet man who might try to cut her head off but a lady has to draw the line somewhere, and I’m tired of people telling my girl what to do with her clothes and body. Masema can go soak his head.
I don’t blame her for being prickly about the men’s assumption of responsibility for her before being asked, although given the situation she’s in and how much she needs some allies I think she should be careful about reining that impulse in. Just like Elayne apologizing and filling Thom and Juilin in as to the true nature of what they’re doing and the danger they’re in, Nynaeve being in charge doesn’t have to mean unquestioning obedience and never calling her on her nonsense. Finding Uno may just be the thing that saves her, and she shouldn’t look a gift Shienaran in the mouth.
Okay, that expression got away from me a little, but you know what I mean.
Finding allies in the Shienarans, as well as her encounter with Galad, which we’ll cover next week, is another step on Nynaeve’s journey to learning to accept help and allow herself to occasionally admit her own weaknesses and flaws. I’m very interested to see where that goes in the next chapter, and moving forward.
Next week we’ll cover Chapter 40, which has made me like Galad more than I ever have, and also straight up made me cry. Until then, be safe, walk in the light, and steer clear of fanaticism.
Sylas K Barret loves the mental image of terrifying-looking Uno tossing coins to street urchins. And he’s always liked Uno. Uno’s a good egg.