Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: One Battle Ends and Another Begins in Robert Jordan’s The Fires of Heaven (Part 26)

This week in Reading The Wheel of Time, we’re picking up in the middle of Chapter 44. Rand’s observation tower has just been lightninged out of existence as part of the Forsaken’s ongoing attempt to spring the Sammael trap, and Rand, Aviendha, and Egwene have ridden off in search of a new view of the battle, despite all three being quite a bit worn out and worse for wear.

You know, I didn’t mention this last week, but I keep thinking about how lucky Rand is that he had them to stop him from going after Sammael. It’s completely understandable that Rand was too tired and overwhelmed to remember to be logical in that moment, but it is part of a pattern in this battle that he has consistently needed the women in his life to keep his emotions about this battle in check. Lan points out that he shouldn’t go after Couladin, but it takes the Maidens forcing Rand’s hand to make him realize that he should actually be thinking about where he can do the most good, and that isn’t in the middle of the battle. And when he wants to go after Sammael, again it takes the women to remind him of where both logic and duty lie. So for all his worry about being manipulated by Moiraine or Egwene or the Wise Ones, Rand is willing to accept their logic in these moments. And it’s something he ought to remember, going forward.

But before I get into any more discussion about the women in Rand’s life or how he approaches dealing with his destiny, we have someone else to go check in on. And that is our own dear Loki… I mean Mat Cauthon.

Mat sits in the rain, looking for a way out for himself and the three-thousand survivors that are still with him. They believe he is looking for another fight for them, but Mat thinks that the three they’ve already been in is three too many. He also thinks that if they weren’t watching him so closely he could already have found a way out for himself, but as it is he’s stuck on this hilltop with the soldiers crowded down the valley behind him. And no matter what he does, the battle seems to shift around him, keeping him in its center.

He watches a group of Aiel get taken out by a lightning bolt, the survivors scattering, and knows it must be Rand’s work. He can’t find the tower anywhere on the horizon, though, and even if he were to make it back to Rand he’d be trapped all over again, because Moiraine would never let him get away a second time. Neither would Melindhra, most likely. Suddenly a whole hilltop goes up in flames, and Mat wonders if Rand has finally lost it; still, he knows it’s more likely that someone else is involving themselves in the battle, probably Sammael.

Estean and Nalesean, current leaders of the Tairen cavalry, along with Talmanes and Daerid, come up to inform Mat that there are Aiel coming in their direction, maybe five thousand or so, and Daerid adds that his scouts have seen a man with tattoos on his bare arms—Couladin himself is among this group. Mat realizes that even if he could get out of the way of this group of Aiel, Couladin would run right up to Rand, which might even be his intention. But Mat realizes he’s angry for another reason: Couladin is the reason Mat is stuck out here trying to survive a battle, wondering every minute if it’s going to turn into a personal fight with Rand and Sammael, which might kill everything within a few miles. He thinks that it’s a pity someone didn’t kill Couladin years ago, especially since he’s the kind of person whose temper invites such a thing. He gives his orders to lay the trap, and Daerid remarks on his choice to stay with the pikes this time. He tells Mat that he must not let his anger at Couladin overcome him, and that this is no place for a duel.

Mat barely stopped from gaping. A duel? Him? With Couladin? Was that why Daerid thought he was staying with the foot? He had chosen it because it was safer to be behind the pikes. That was his reason. The whole reason. “Not to worry. I can hold myself in rein.” And he had thought Daerid the most sensible of the whole lot.

Daerid agrees that he thinks Mat can, since he’s clearly faced a charge or two before, and even Talmanes has said he would follow wherever Mat led. He would like to hear Mat’s story one day, but in the meantime he notes that Mat is young, and young men have hot blood. Mat responds that the rain will cool it, if nothing else. Privately he thinks that they’d be fighting over who got to kill him if they knew where he really gets his strategies from and that he’s only a gambler following bits of dead men’s memories. Mat explains his plan to pretend to retreat in the face of the Aiel, drawing them into a gap between two of the hills. Daerid is impressed with the plan to turn the Aiel’s own tactics against them, luring them into an ambush.

Mat adds that to make sure they draw them in, he wants them to cry out “Protect the Lord Dragon,” which makes Daerid laugh outright. Mat can feel the dice rolling in his head at this, the biggest gamble he’s ever taken. He wishes they would get out of his head, or at least fall so he can see what they show.

Rand pauses on the top of a hill, hunched against the pain in his side and trying to see in the darkness even with his saidin-enhanced vision. He’s exhausted, vaguely aware that it might only be the pain in his side that is keeping him awake, and he can’t remember how many times Sammael has tried to kill him.

No, not to kill. To bait. Are you still so jealous of me, Tel Janin? When did I ever slight you, or give you one finger less than your due?

Rand rubs his face, unable to pinpoint what was strange about that thought. But he does manage to remember that Sammael is a distraction from what’s important. And there hasn’t been an attack in some time.

His thoughts wander, and there is a moment when he realizes he can’t remember his own name. When he remembers it he says it out loud, then channels to illuminate the area around him, but there’s nothing there except the Maidens. Rand asks after Egwene and Aviendha, unable to articulate himself clearly or to understand Sulin’s response as she explains that they left at dusk to go to Moiraine and the Wise Ones. Rand is determined to go find his people, the ones who are out there fighting and dying, but Sulin holds his bridle and insists that the Wise Ones must speak with him. Enaila joins her, and the two turn Jeade’en and lead him, with Rand still babbling about who he needs to find.

When they reach the encampment they find Wise Ones and gai’shain tending to the wounded. Moiraine walks among them, occasionally stopping to Heal someone. Lan follows behind, looking ready to catch her as she sways from exhaustion. Even Asmodean is helping, bringing water to the injured men. When he sees Rand he gives his water bags to a gai’shain and comes over. He tells Rand that he was sure Rand was safe while sounding like he wasn’t sure at all, then asks what happened.

“Sammael,” Rand said, but not in answer. He was just speaking the thoughts that drifted through the Void. “I remember when he was first named Destroyer of Hope. After he betrayed the Gates of Hevan, and carried the Shadow down into the Rorn M’doi and the heart of Satelle. Hope did seem to die that day, Culan Cuhan wept. What is wrong?” Asmodean’s face had gone as white as Sulin’s hair; he only shook his head mutely. Rand peered at the pavilion. Whoever was speaking now, he did not know her. “Is that where they are waiting for me? Then I should join them.”

Lan appears and explains to Rand that the Wise Ones he can see discussing things in the pavilion are not ready for him yet; they are speaking with the Wise Ones from the Miagoma, the Codarra, the Shiande and the Daryne. The chiefs will come to Rand after the Wise Ones have made their own arrangements. He tries to bring Rand to Moiraine, but Rand is now focused on getting Han back into the fighting. Lan has to forcefully impress upon him that the fighting is over. Rand has won.

Rand looks out over the rows of injured people, thinking of how many more must have come through earlier, and how the dead are somewhere else again. The phrase “Only a battle lost is sadder than a battle won,” passes through his head, and he thinks it’s something he’s said before, or maybe read somewhere.

No. There were too many living in his responsibility for him to worry over the dead. But how many faces will I know, like Jolien’s? I will never forget Ilyena, not if all the world burns!

Rand is confused by the two thoughts, too tired to think, and he releases saidin only to realize that the Power was the only thing keeping him up. Saidin almost takes him out as he releases it, and then his exhaustion and pain crash down on him. He’s only vaguely aware of being caught as he topples from his horse, vaguely aware of Asmodean channeling a small trickle of saidin into him. Lan calls for Moiraine, and Sulin tells him to hold on as darkness overtakes him.

Mat sits on a boulder in the morning sun, pulling the brim of his hat down against both the light and the thing he does not want to see. He’s covered in cuts and bruises, and it’s already getting hot. He’s tired and hot and can’t get comfortable, what with all the bruises and cuts he’s sporting. In a strange turn of events, Tairens, Aiel, and Cairhienin are all mingling together in the camp around him. Most are thoroughly drunk, and many are dancing—the Tairens in a line with their arms around each other’s shoulders, the Aiel leaping in the air, kicking and turning backflips. Mat can see and hear countless instruments, flutes and whistles and drums, all adding to the cacophony of people celebrating.

He recognized it, mainly from those memories he could still assign to other men if he concentrated hard enough. A celebration of still being alive. One more time they had walked under the Dark One’s nose and survived to tell the tale. One more dance along the razor’s edge finished. Almost dead yesterday, maybe dead tomorrow, but alive, gloriously alive, today. He did not feel like celebrating. What good was being alive if it meant living in a cage?

Mat watches Daerid and Estean stagger past, holding each other up as they try to teach an Aielman the words to “Dance with Jak O’ the Shadows.” They are starting to acquire a crowd behind them who are also listening and trying to join in, and Mat wishes he had never taught any of them that song; he’d only done it to keep his mind off nearly bleeding to death while Daerid sewed up his wounds.

And now Mat is right back where he started. He’s looked for opportunities to get away, but all these men seem to consider him a friend now, and won’t let him out of their sight. He is just considering sneaking off to the picket line when he hears Melindhra’s voice, observing that “the hero” shouldn’t be sitting without drinking. He quickly tells her that he can explain everything. She asks what needs to be explained; she knew he would seek his own honor, and that no one would want to spend his life in the shade of the Car’a’carn. Mat is stunned, but manages to reply that this is exactly what happened.

She tells him that Couladin was a man of much honor. It would have been better if Mat had captured him but even by killing him Mat has gained much ji. She praises him for seeking Couladin out, and the comment finally forces Mat to look at what he’s been avoiding: Couladin’s severed head, seeming to grin down at him from the pole someone has stuck it on. He doesn’t know who cut off Couladin’s head after Mat managed not to be killed by him, but he certainly didn’t intend to seek the guy out. He doesn’t even know if Couladin recognized him as he fought his way through the pikemen, shouting for Rand to show himself and that he was the true Car’a’carn.

He thinks of Couladin’s skill with the spears and considers that maybe some of his luck is still with him. Then Talmanes arrives to tell him that Cairhien is planning a triumphal procession for Rand, though Mat is more interested in figuring out how to get rid of Melindhra than in Talmanes’s news. Nalesean also arrives to give the name of the leader who offered the celebration to the Lord Dragon, and he and Talmanes compete to give Mat the most information and help. Mat asks what difference it makes, and Talmanes tells him that Mat must secure their place at the head of the procession, since Mat is the one who slew Couladin. Mat tells them to ask themselves, it’s none of his business, and they both gape at him, shocked. Nalesean points out that Mat is their battle leader, their general, and the two fall back into competing to offer Mat the services of their body servants and clothes to wear.

“Burn my soul,” Nalesean said, “it was your battle skill that won for us, and kept us alive. Not to mention your luck. I’ve heard how you always turn the right card, but it is more than that. I’d follow you if you had never met the Lord Dragon.”

“You are our leader,” Talmanes said right on top of him, in a voice more sober if no less certain. “Until yesterday I have followed men of other lands because I must. You I will follow because I want to. Perhaps you are not a lord in Andor, but here, I say that you are, and I pledge myself your man.”

The men look at each other for a moment, then give each other grudging nods, able to come together on this one point. They also agree that Mat needs a banner, and Mat isn’t sure whether he wants to laugh or cry. He thinks again that without those memories he would have ridden on, that each step he’s taken has led inevitably to the next, all the way back to Rand and being ta’veren.

He looks up to see Moiraine and Lan on their horses at the top of the hill. He seems to react to something she tells him, even argue, and then she rides off while Lan stays and watches Mat.

He shivered. Couladin’s head really did appear to be grinning at him. He could almost hear the man speak. You may have killed me, but you’ve put your foot squarely in the trap. I’m dead, but you’ll never be free.

He remarks that this is bloody wonderful, and everyone seems to miss the sarcasm. Then some men who have gathered around while he was talking to Talmanes and Nalesean begin to serenade him with a new verse to the song.

We’ll toss the dice however they fall,

and snuggle the girls be they short or tall,

then follow young Mat whenever he calls,

to dance with Jak o’ the Shadows.

Mat sits down to get drunk, still thinking to himself that there must be a way out of this.

When Rand awakes he finds himself in his tent, no longer in pain but feeling even weaker than he remembers feeling before.

And he did remember. He had said things, thought things…. His skin went cold. I cannot let him take control. I am me! Me! Fumbling beneath the blanket, he found the smooth round scar on his side, tender yet whole.

When Aviendha informs him that Moiraine Healed him, Rand realizes that Aviendha and Asmodean are both in the tent, both looking like they haven’t slept. She goes on to scold him, telling him that she should not have had to, that Healing Rand took the last of her strength and Lan had to carry her into her tent. But Asmodean pipes up idly that Moiraine is already on her feet, and that she’s been in twice to check on Rand. He suggests that Moiraine wasn’t sure at first whether Rand would survive, and that he himself wasn’t either. He adds that he did what he could for Rand as well, though of course his talents lie elsewhere than Healing.

He strummed a few notes to demonstrate. “I understand that a man can kill or gentle himself doing what you did. Strength in the Power is useless if the body is exhausted. Saidin can easily kill, if the body is exhausted. Or so I have heard.”

Aviendha, her tone cold, asks him if he’s quite finished before going back to telling Rand that he had no right to almost die trying to do everything himself. She reminds him that she and Egwene tried to make him come with them when they left but that he refused, and that even if he is as much stronger than they are as Egwene claims, he is still flesh. He is also the Car’a’carn, and he has toh towards the Aiel.

Rand can hardly stop himself from gaping at her, thinking that he hardly did anything at all, and was just stumbling around being mostly useless. But he merely answers that he will try to remember, then asks about the other clans to divert her from the topic. He’s surprised to hear that the Wise Ones are still conferring, and the others still camped and waiting to join Rand when the Wise Ones are finished. He asks what they could possibly still be talking about, and Aviendha tells him that Wise Ones’ words are only for them, although she concedes that Egwene might tell him something about it later. She won’t tell him more, though she does explain that Egwene had been called to the tents when the newly arrived Wise Ones wanted to meet Moiraine, the Aes Sedai who followed the Car’a’carn. Apparently she’d been half asleep when Sorilea and the others came to get her and Aviendha had managed to prank Egwene by suggesting she’d been caught doing something wrong. Egwene had protested so vehemently that Sorilea had grown suspicious, much to Aviendha’s amusement.

Rand asks after the Shaido now, and although Aviendha isn’t particularly bothered, he’s upset to learn that tens of thousands of them had escaped, even carrying off their Cairhienin prisoners—worse, they burned the bridges behind them. He worries about the damage they can still cause until he’s distracted by Aviendha mentioning that Mat killed Couladin. He’s frankly astonished, and Aviendha seems interested in his reaction. Asmodean remarks that Mat is full of as many surprises as Rand, in some ways, and that he is looking forward to meeting the third of them one day.

Rand shook his head. So Mat had not escaped the pull of ta’veren to ta’veren after all. Or maybe it was the Pattern that had caught him, and being ta’veren himself. Either way, he suspected Mat was not too happy right that moment. Mat had not learned the lesson that he had. Try to run away, and the Pattern pulled you back, often roughly; run in the direction the Wheel wove you, and sometimes you could manage a little control over your life. Sometimes. With luck, maybe more than any expected, at least in the long haul.

He notes that at least Sammael has not attacked again, and is careful not to use the name Tel Janin Aellinsar, a name he knows he hasn’t read or heard anywhere else—“the Forsaken had embraced the names men had given them, as if symbols of rebirth in the Shadow.” Asmodean flinches when he hears his own old name. Rand supposes there might not be a good reason to hide what’s going on in his mind, but he still insists on calling him Sammael and promises he will pay for the Maidens he killed. He thinks that he’s made a start towards that end by sending Weiramon back to Tear, but he can’t go off chasing Sammael right now. Aviendha might think he did not understand ji’e’toh, but he has a duty to Cairhien.

Rand sits up, trying to hide how difficult that feat is, and looks around for his clothes as he orders “Natael” to have his horse saddled. When Aviendha protests that he needs to rest, he tells her that he can rest when he’s dead. She flinches at the words, and he feels instantly sorry, knowing that his life is important to her for the Aiel’s sake.

Rand wants to know why Meilan isn’t there, and Asmodean explains that he and six other Tairen High Lords had come at dawn, and been very upset when he was prevented from seeing Rand. It had nearly come down to a fight, and Asmodean isn’t sure if the Tairens restrained themselves because they knew they’d be overwhelmed or because they didn’t think Rand would welcome them with the blood of his allies on their swords. Eventually they left, shouting their allegiance to Rand, with Meilan adding that he intends to make a gift of Cairhien to Rand.

“There’s an old saying in the Two Rivers,” Rand said dryly. “The louder a man tells you he’s honest, the harder you must hold on to your purse.”

He thinks about how he sent these seven High Lords to Cairhien because they were the ones who plotted against him the most, not realizing that he was going to end up there himself. Asmodean suggests that Meilan hopes to be King of Cairhien, subject to Rand; “preferably with me far away,” Rand agrees. Then Asmodean tells him that a group of Cairhienin also came to the camp, seemingly as nervous about Meilan finding out as they were about being killed by Aiel. When they were also turned away, they actually resorted to begging, even seemed willing to endure Sorilea’s threat of a flogging, if only they would get to see the Lord Dragon. In the end, they were turned away, but two of them spoke to Asmodean. He remarks that they could bandy words with some people he “used to be acquainted with,” but that he thinks that they intend to offer him the Sun Throne. Rand laughs, and thinks about how he’s caught with the High Lords on the left and the Cairhienin on the right. It’s a different kind of battle, but no less dangerous.

He’s not sure if Asmodean actually tried to help him last night or not, but however much Asmodean’s future might be tied to Rand’s, Rand doesn’t trust a man who sold his soul to the Shadow with his plans. He just needs his loyalty. He declares that he intends to give the Sun Throne to someone who is worthy of it, and that it’s better for him to go see the city before Meilan is ready for him.

 

Last week I talked about Rand having a very personal anger towards Couladin, and this week it seems like Mat does as well. As I pointed out, Couladin makes a very good scapegoat for both Rand and Mat’s frustrations—it’s still destiny and the Pattern that’s driving them, and their ta’veren natures too. But Mat had to go to Rhuidean because of what he learned from the snakey folk, so he can’t really blame anything but fate for that. And of course there’s always Rand’s power keeping Mat close, which he kind of resents Rand for, but also knows that it’s not something Rand can really control. But once they left the waste Mat found that pull lessening, and believes that because he doesn’t feel it, it must not exist anymore.

It doesn’t occur to him to consider this trap that he’s in—the way the battle keeps swirling around him and trapping him in its center with a bunch of Rand’s allies who would have died without his help might be something more than coincidence. Or (perhaps more likely) the thought has occurred and Mat doesn’t want to face it.

It makes a lot of thematic sense to me that Mat was the one to take out Couladin, but I can’t put my finger on exactly why. It just feels fitting somehow. Two men who are desperately trying to reject the fate they’ve been dealt, both lying to themselves in some way to escape the truth of that fate—Mat refusing to accept his ta’veren nature or to surrender to the pattern, Couladin unable to accept the fact that his brother died in Rhuidean and that Rand is He Who Comes With The Dawn. I can’t fault Couladin for being unable to accept Rand’s new path for the Aiel; there are too many other Aiel who experience the Bleakness and other emotional turmoil. But his lies about being He Who Comes With The Dawn came before Rand revealed the true history of the Aiel to him. And I just keep thinking… how did that conversation with Asmodean go? Couladin hates wetlanders and can’t even entertain the idea that Rand might be the Car’a’carn despite the words of the Wise Ones, but he was willing to let some random wetlander bard guy use the One Power to put the dragon tattoos on him? That’s bananas.

I wonder if they have bananas in Randland.

Speaking of Wise Ones, I kind of forgot that the Wise Ones still belong to clans, not just to each other. I guess being a Wise One is a bit like belonging to one of the warrior societies: It has its own kind of bond of connection and loyalty, but that doesn’t necessarily eclipse clan connection and loyalty. I wonder what the Wise Ones of the Miagoma, the Shiande, the Daryne and the Codarra thought about Rand and the prophecy, and if their opinions differed from those of the clan leaders—after all, they must have been in some communication with the other Wise Ones via the Dream. And what of the Shaido Wise Ones? Are they also considered sneaky and less honorable the way the rest of their clan is? Is it harder to become a Wise One if you are Shaido? I have so many questions about this.

I suppose much of the Aiel and the Wise Ones will remain a mystery, and I, like Rand, will have to wait and see if Egwene can reveal any more of their secrets.

But let’s get back to Mat for a second. I find that some weeks I’m very hard on him, and others I am very sympathetic. It depends on several factors, I think. On the one hand I find his tendency towards self-delusion eminently relatable, I’m entertained and even charmed by his humor and his fashion sense, and I can see that despite his protests he is a good person who will usually be drawn by his own conscience to do the right thing, even if he needs the occasional nudge from the Pattern to get there. On the other hand, the boy really does protest too much, and I don’t particularly relate to the things he wants from his life, which according to him are just gambling and drinking and a lot of casual sex. Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with causal sex, but when it’s coupled with the others and Mat’s continual internal dialogue about how eventually one has to get married and then women are fun-ruiners who never let their men go out and do anything, it gets a bit sexist and annoying.

All of which is to say that it can be easy to dismiss Mat, to view him as someone who is a bit selfish and lazy and irresponsible. But chapters like these remind us that there’s a lot more to Mat, a lot of strength and heart under that impish, playboy attitude. Mat could have ridden away when he saw the column marching into the Aiel ambush. But he didn’t. And now he has trapped himself again.

When he’s considering the dancing and celebration around him, Mat recognizes the impulse to celebrate still being alive, but he doesn’t see the point in celebrating himself; life isn’t worth much if he’s trapped in a cage. That thought really struck me. It’s a reminder that Mat has a heavy burden on him, just like Rand does. He’s not rejecting fate only because it’s hard, or because it’s different from what he’d enjoy most. The very idea that he feels he has no choice, that he is caged, is abhorrent in and of itself. And then you add on horror and danger and death, not to mention the Forsaken and the Dragon Reborn—yeah, I should have more sympathy for Mat’s plight.

And he did save a lot of lives. Maybe even Rand’s—Couladin might easily never have found Rand, but the Dragon Reborn was definitely not in any shape to be fighting anyone after the tower fell. If Couladin had managed to get through the Maidens, he might have finished Sammael’s work for him.

Even Mat’s journey into becoming a lord parallels Rand’s in a lot of ways. I remember the fits Rand threw when he realized how snazzy all of the coats Moiraine had packed for him were, the way he chafed under the Shienarans’ insistence that he was a lord. It put distance between him and Mat, but now Mat is finding himself about to be shoved into a fancy coat and military commanders are swearing to follow him, just as the Shienarans swore allegiance to the Dragon, and then the Tairens, and now the Cairhienin. Rand protested, but now he’s growing used to it. Perrin protested, but he was still given his own banner and treated as a leader by men he viewed as mentors. So I guess Mat is next.

I still don’t trust Melindhra though, and I’m still fairly convinced she’s a Darkfriend. I thought it was a bit weird that she called Couladin “a man of much honor.” The other Aiel clearly didn’t think so or they wouldn’t have put his head on a spike. Granted, he used to be her clan leader, so she might want to give him more dignity than the other clans would, but it doesn’t seem like she’s particularly invested in the idea. It’s just another way to insist on Mat’s greatness and honor, how he needs to step out of Rand’s shadow. It’s very manipulative, even if she is just a lady with sneaky Shaido tendencies. As I said before, this constant refrain about Mat’s desire for greatness just sounds like every Darkfriend ever. And if Rand and Mat were different people, such pushing might well sow discord between them and cost Rand a powerful ally.

And we know that someone, probably a lady, left that note for Kadere.

All in all, I think Mat’s moved on from the denial stage of Big Destiny Time and onto the bargaining stage. He’s basically accepted that he’s ta’veren, and that he and Perrin are connected to Rand, but he is still trying to find a way out of it. I suppose the trip through the twisted doorway in Rhuidean was the start of the bargaining phase, really. It didn’t give him the way out he was hoping it would, so he’s still looking, but increasingly desperately.

You know, for all my criticism (which I absolutely stand by) about the gender stereotypes of the One Power, it’s interesting to note that Rand has recognized the same thing that Moiraine had about controlling outcomes within the Pattern: You can’t force the Weave, but if you accept it and surrender to it, you can sometimes nudge and guide its flow. This is how channeling saidar works as well, so much so that Moiraine uses it as a metaphor to explain the change in her approach to Rand, and I really like that we’re seeing a male channeler have similar realizations about the nature of the universe. It is kind of weird to think that affecting the female half of the One Power and affecting the weave of the Pattern both require the same technique and that wielding the male half of the One Power doesn’t match that, though. I kind of wish Jordan had made all three match, and chosen a less stereotypical way for saidin to be different from saidar, because it disrupts this really cool theme he’s drawn.

But I think it’s really interesting that Rand has figured out this technique of surrendering in order to gain control, and he can see that Mat hasn’t yet figured out that fighting one’s destiny, fighting the Pattern, only traps you more tightly. The nature of Creation is hardest on stubborn people, I guess. I wonder if any of the Forsaken or other Darkfriends turned to the Dark One because of problems like this. Most people probably can’t see the way the Wheel is spinning out their lives, but the Forsaken certainly lived at a time where there would have been more philosophy, more understanding of the nature of creation and the Wheel, and probably even some ta’veren folks around. Perhaps some of the Forsaken chafed at feeling trapped in duties or responsibilities they didn’t want, or could perceive the way the Pattern kept them from glories that they did want. It’s not just a matter of luck or circumstances—it’s the actual structure of the universe denying them. The Dark One is supposed to destroy all that and remake the world in a different image, his image. It’s not that people are willing to risk the Pattern for their own gain, but that they are actively rejecting it as an agent of destiny and choosing another.

Did I… did I just make Darkfriends sound kind of metal?

You know who else is being kind of cool lately? Asmodean. I mean he’s still a selfish monster who sold his soul to be eternally famous, or whatever, but I kind of like the sass that he’s got going on lately. And while I’m sure Rand’s right not to trust him, he does seem pretty committed, which really just makes him more interesting. I loved that he was so impressed by the Cairhienins’ ability to play the game of houses that he thought they could hold their own with the Forsaken themselves.

I also laughed out loud when he lectured Rand on the danger of being so exhausted that he kills himself or burns himself out with saidin and then just adds “…or so I’ve heard” like that makes it less suspicious. I guess it’s not inconceivable that a gleeman might have heard such things in old legends but still. If I were Aviendha, I’d be wondering what was up with that.

Poor Aviendha. She has her own hang-ups, but she is doing her best with Rand here and he is just not having it. One of Rand’s biggest hang-ups now that he’s accepted his identity is how he struggles to handle being responsible for so many lives. He’s so caught up in his guilt for the destruction and death his existence portends, for the ways he has to use people and the wars he will have to fight, that he can’t see the trees for the forest, as it were. I mean, he nearly killed himself using the One Power during the battle, but thinks that he did nothing.

And then there’s his reaction to Aviendha and the Wise Ones trying to keep him in bed. We saw a similar reluctance from Perrin when he was injured in the last book. Perrin objected to being kept in bed because he didn’t believe he needed the rest and because he felt too guilty letting anyone do any work on his behalf, just like Rand, but he didn’t think that Faile and Mistress al’Vere were trying to hide things from him.

I am really starting to wonder if the taint isn’t starting to make Rand a little paranoid. Obviously he has reason to be suspicious of many of the people around him, but the way he reacts to the fact that the Wise Ones didn’t want him to be told about Meilan’s visit seems a little more intense than it needs to be. Aviendha’s being pretty clear about her intentions and the reason behind the subterfuge, even if Rand disagrees with the need to rest (because he’s kind of a stubborn dummy), but he jumps straight to thinking the worst of the Wise Ones, just like he does with the Aes Sedai. That little barb that Ishamael planted in his ear all the way back in the first book never really goes away, and indeed, Rand’s suspicions of people like the Wise Ones, and Moiraine, and even Egwene, just gets more intense, despite the fact that Moiraine has changed so much for him, and that the Wise Ones have told him that they are just trying to preserve as many of their people as they can. How can Rand not be empathetic to that, especially when he is struggling with the guilt he feels about using the Aiel.

Rand’s intensity in general seems to be growing slightly more manic, and it’s hard to say if there’s anything more working on him than the intense pressure of his situation. But if it is a little bit of taint madness seeping through, it won’t surprise me. I also wonder if the taint is related to the Lews Therin memories in Rand’s head. Obviously it’s more than a hallucination—there’s too much truth in what he hears from those thoughts, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the taint isn’t responsible. Hallucinating the past is just as bad as hallucinating from scratch, if you can’t tell the difference between now and then. And Rand was so exhausted that he couldn’t. I wonder if that foreshadows what’s to come. Also, I found it fascinating that he seemed to be using his wound to remind himself that he’s Rand, not Lews Therin.

Also I kind of wanted to smack him when he said that thing about resting when he’s dead and then thought Aviendha was only upset on behalf of the Aiel. I know she’s always telling him that, but honestly the lady doth protest too much, and Rand ought to be able to read between the lines, at least a little bit. Come on, sir. Use your brain.

And finally, after Asmodean brought him up, I remembered Perrin again this week. Is he just… not going to be in this book? Because it looks like he’s not in this book. Which is kind of weird. I know the cast of characters is pretty big these days, but still.

Next week it’s on to Chapter 46, which is a lot of good conversation for Rand and Aviendha and then an adventure into Cairhien. I’m looking forward to it, hope you are too! Take care, and I’ll see you all soon.

Sylas K Barrett can’t remember when we were first introduced to Dance With Jak O’ the Shadows, but thinks that it’s a very fitting song for Mat, and that he doesn’t really get how much. But he has his own verses now, so there’s that.

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