Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Nynaeve’s Schemes Bring Her a Ship and a Riot in Robert Jordan’s The Fires of Heaven (Part 28)

Welcome back to the one and only Reading The Wheel of Time! I fully intended to have a post go up last week—and by that I mean that I had surgery the week before, and still figured I could still churn out a post by Tuesday. Which I’m mostly telling you all because, well, it sure feels like a Rand move right? Just telling myself I’m not doing anything but lying around, I can definitely sit at a computer and yell about Nynaeve for a few hours, right?

I mean… my people need me.

But in the end I was persuaded into being reasonable, and did more sleeping and less typing, and now we are back with new vim and vigor and excitement to talk about Chapter 47! We’re back in Samara as well, with Nynaeve and Elayne and Birgitte, where things are about to get very real.

We really should have trusted Elayne’s judgement.

Chapter 47 opens with Nynaeve anticipating another hot day and stewing over the bad dreams she had the night before. Nightmares of Moghedien, dreams of being shot by Birgitte, dreams about being attacked in Samara or making it to Salidar only to find Elaida, or Moghedien, in charge. All the dreams make sense, of course, given her days spent doing the shooting performance and waiting for a ship that might never come. But she’d also dreamed of arguing with Egwene, and she can’t quite figure out why.

Nynaeve is also sulking about the new dress Valan Luca has had made for her, this one in blue silk and just as revealing as the red, and about how comfortable Birgitte keeps showing herself to be in such garments.

She mutters to herself, and soon she and Elayne are bickering—not a new occurrence lately, as they’re both frustrated from being cooped up in the wagon and trying to keep a low profile. In response to a nasty barb about the shape of her hips, Elayne tells Nynaeve that she dreamed of Egwene last night, who said Nynaeve is turning into a screaming harridan. Although Elayne would probably say a fishmonger, herself.

That brings Nynaeve up short, and she asks Elayne about her dream of Egwene. They compare notes, and realize that Egwene said the same thing in both of their dreams, that Rand has won a great victory in Cairhien.

“She kept saying she was really there,” Nynaeve muttered, “but I thought it was just part of the dream.” Egwene had told them often enough that it was possible, talking to someone in her dreams, but she had never said that she could. “Why should I have believed? I mean, she said she’d finally recognized some spear he’s taken to carrying as Seanchan work. That’s preposterous.”

Elayne points out that it’s no more preposterous than finding Cerandin and the s’redit, and that there must be other Seanchan refugees, not to mention items left behind. They continue to talk, wondering if Rand understands what can happen to him if he draws too much of the Power and whether it was really Sammael attacking during the battle, but they can’t stop throwing barbs and insults at each other.

Eventually Elayne suggests they use the ring again, but Nynaeve insists that neither of them are going back into Tel’aran’rhiod except to meet Egwene. Elayne remarks that she bets they’ll find Egwene if they go to the Heart of the Stone, and muses that it would be much safer if they could go to Egwene’s dreams the way she can apparently reach theirs. Nynaeve points out that Egwene would probably have taught them if it was possible, and reflects that Elayne doesn’t fear Moghedien the way Nynaeve does—she understands the danger but hasn’t experienced it firsthand.

Elayne also wonders why Egwene is so insistent that they don’t tell anyone, and worries that there might be some meaning to the way Egwene vanished, suddenly and mid-sentence, from the dream. Nynaeve’s mind goes instantly to Moghedien, which Elayne dismisses, but as much as Nynaeve doesn’t want to use the ring again, she has to admit that there is a small chance that Egwene might be in danger, and needs their help.

Sometimes it seemed to Nynaeve that she had forgotten why she had left the Two Rivers in the first place. […] protecting Rand and Egwene and Mat and Perrin from Aes Sedai had become helping them survive, and finally, without her quite realizing when or how, even that goal had been submerged in other needs. Entering the White Tower to learn how better to pull down Moiraine had become a burning desire to learn how to Heal. Even her hatred for Aes Sedai meddling in people’s lives now coexisted with her desire to become one. Not that she really wanted to, but it was the only way to learn what she wanted to learn. Everything had become as tangled as one of those Aes Sedai webs, herself included, and she did not know how to escape.

Nynaeve decides that she will use the ring that night, just to check if Egwene is at the Stone, and if she isn’t then they won’t use the ring again until the next meeting. Elayne watches her silently, and Nynaeve takes that as skepticism. She hurries into her clothes, trying to get away from Elayne. When the door suddenly bangs open Nynaeve covers herself hurriedly, but it’s Birgitte, not Valan Luca. Birgitte starts teasing her, and the two nearly come to blows trading insults about their respective levels of modesty before Elayne steps between them.

“Both of you stop it this minute,” she said, eyeing them in turn with equal haughtiness. “Lini always said ‘Waiting turns men into bears in a barn, and women into cats in a sack,’ but you will stop clawing at one another right now! I will not put up with it any longer!”

Birgitte apologizes to Elayne while Nynaeve privately thinks that Elayne has no room to talk. Sure enough they’re all about to get into it again, but Birgitte tells them that Juilin and Thom are back from town—which is news to Elayne and Nynaeve since they certainly didn’t send them. They go outside and find both men dirty, bruised and bloodied. Elayne runs to Thom, all worry and solicitude, and he tries to fend her off, insisting that he’s “had worse falling out of bed.”

Nynaeve demands to know what they thought they were doing, going off without permission, and Juilin starts to snap back until Thom moans and sways a little, cutting him off. The men then explain that Samara is in a frenzy, the streets filled with mobs hunting Darkfriends and anyone who won’t declare for the Prophet. It started three hours earlier, though they don’t know how it started. Birgitte notices that there are fires burning in the town as well, and Juilin declares that it is time to go. Avoiding Moghedien won’t do them much good if they’re torn to pieces by a mob, and with people fleeing in every direction they can probably slip away unnoticed in any case.

Nynaeve tells him not to say that name, but doesn’t want to admit that he’s right, and tells him that she will consider it. She would hate to have a ship arrive right after they left, after all. Just then she spots Uno in the crowd and feels suddenly hopeful that the ship might have arrived early.

Sure enough, Uno, doing his best not to curse, lets her know that there is a ship… if he can get them to it. She remarks that surely fifteen Shienarans are enough to fight off anyone, but Uno explains that Masema has ordered his people “to take Amadicia with fire and sword,” and that they are fighting Whitecloaks in the street. There are already thousands of them across the river.

Elayne uses her more-flies-with-honey approach on Uno, talking about all she’s heard and seen of the prowess of Shienaran soldiers, and Birgitte joins in, going so far as to massage Uno’s neck, invoking the name of old battles until Uno supposes she must have been reading history books. He asks Thom and Juilin to talk the women out of the foolish plan. Thom just laughs and remarks that a woman never listens to sense unless she wants to.

Uno shook his head. “Well, if I’m to be cozened, I suppose I’ll be cozened. But mark this. Masema’s people found the ship—Riversnake, or something like—not an hour after it docked, but Whitecloaks seized it. That’s what started this little row. The bad news is the Whitecloaks still hold the docks. The worse is, Masema may have forgotten the ship—I went to see him, and he wouldn’t hear of ships; all he can talk about is hanging Whitecloaks, and making Amadicia bend knee to the Lord Dragon if he has to put the whole land to the torch—but he hasn’t bothered to tell all of his people.”

He explains that he can’t make any promises if they have to fight a battle at the docks, and he has no idea how to put them onto a ship that’s held by Whitecloaks. Nynaeve is stunned, and Birgitte and Elayne are staring at her. She hopes desperately that it is a coincidence—she’d said anything for a ship, but she hadn’t meant this.

But sure enough, Galad appears, dressed in ordinary clothes rather than his Whitecloak uniform. Nynaeve demands to know why he seized the ship, and Galad calmly reminds her that she asked him to secure her passage.

“I didn’t ask you to start a riot!”

“A riot?” Elayne put in. “A war. An invasion. All begun over this vessel.”

Galad answered calmly. “I gave Nynaeve my word, sister. My first duty is to see you safely on your way to Caemlyn. And Nynaeve, of course. The Children would have had to fight this Prophet soon or late.”

Nynaeve, thinking tiredly that she should have listened when Elayne said that Galad always does what he thinks right, regardless of who gets hurt, asks why he couldn’t have just let them know the ship was there, and flinches when Galad remarks that he doesn’t know what the Prophet wants with the vessel but he doubts it was to secure them passage downriver. He can’t understand what she’s so upset about, or why the others are staring at him, since he’s merely done as she asked.

But Galad is concerned about getting them to the river safely. Uno assures him that there might be a few more Shienarans about, and they’ll see whether or not the Whitecloaks can hang onto the ship. Nynaeve interrupts before Elayne can, needing something, anything to lash out at. She tells them they need to move, and now.

But luck is still not with her, as Luca comes into camp, sporting some bruises of his own and bellowing orders for everyone to pack up, and that he means to be on the road in under an hour. They’ll have to abandon the canvas, and anyone not ready on time will be left behind.

He limps over to demand to speak to “Nana” alone, and although Nynaeve assures him that they are not going with him, he insists, grabbing her arm and pulling her away. She assumes he wants his promised payment but he tells her he’s not interested in the hundred gold marks. Instead, in an impassioned voice, he tells her that he doesn’t know what she is running for, but no one will ever find her with him. He can even find someone else for Maerion to shoot at—“Nana screams so beautifully that anyone would think that she was really afraid, but that doesn’t matter.”  There is a whole world of towns out there waiting for him and his show.

Confused, Nynaeve asks why she would stay—he knows they are intending to reach Ghealdan.

“Why? Why, to have my children, of course.” He took one of her hands in both of his. “Nana, your eyes drink my soul, your lips inflame my heart, your shoulders make my pulse race, your—”

Nynaeve exclaims in shock that he wants to marry her, and after a moment’s hesitation he agrees that they will be married in the first town they come to. She pulls her hand free, and awkwardly tells him that she is “sensible of the honor” but that she is betrothed to another. Luca responds that he should bundle her off and carry her away, and that she’d forget him in time, and Nynaeve threatens to sick Uno on him. Luca isn’t fazed.

She drove a finger hard against his chest. “You do not know me, Valan Luca. You don’t know anything about me. My enemies, the ones you dismiss so easily, would make you take off your skin and dance in your bones, and you would be grateful if that was all they did. Now, I am going, and I don’t have time to listen to your drivel.”

Luca does not stop with the drivel, however, insisting that “Nana” is the only woman for him, a woman a man would have to walk through fire for and tame a lioness for every time he approached. He insists that he will find her again, and that she will choose him. He thumps his chest dramatically, insisting that he knows it and that she, in her fair heart, does too. He even insists on escorting Nynaeve back to her wagon.

Meanwhile Elayne strides through the bustle of preparation, fuming to herself over Nynaeve’s earlier comments about her breeches and how they fit. Birgitte, hiking up her skirts to keep up with Elayne asks what she’s muttering about, but when Elayne asks what Birgitte thinks of her outfit, Birgitte also has a choice comment about Elayne’s bottom and the tightness of the pants. Elayne stalks on, thinking again that she really should have made Birgitte swear an oath of respect.

She finally finds Cerandin, who is directing the s’redit to help maneuver the other animal cages to where they can be hitched to horses and wagons. Elayne says she must speak to her at once, but Cerandin ignores her until she’s done with her task. She tells Cerandin they are leaving.

“Yes, I know. The riots. Such things should not be allowed. If this Prophet thinks to harm us, he will learn what Mer and Sanit can do.” She twisted to scratch Mer’s wrinkled shoulder with her goad, and he touched her shoulder with his long nose. A “trunk,” Cerandin called it. “Some prefer lopar or grolm for battle, but s’redit properly used—”

Elayne interrupts, saying that she means that she and “Nana” are leaving, and that Cerandin is to come with them on the ship. The s’redit must be left behind; there will be no more performing. Where they are going there will be people who want to know more about where Cerandin comes from.

Cerandin counters that she isn’t going to leave her charges with men who don’t know how to care for them, and are too afraid to, and tells Elayne that they are all much better off staying with Luca. Frustrated, and hoping to use Cerandin’s intense respect for authority to her advantage, Elayne steps closer to whisper to her that she is Elayne Trakand, daughter-heir and future Queen of Andor. But instead of receiving instant obedience, Cerandin just replies that she once believed Elayne to be a lady, but now doubts it. She eyes Elayne’s wardrobe.

Shocked, Elayne decides to try moving Cerandin bodily, but Cerandin quickly turns the tables and twists her arm, holding it painfully as Elayne is dragged up on tiptoe. Birgitte does nothing when Elayne looks over at her, but Cerandin releases her after a moment. She tells Elayne that she considers her a friend, and that she might be a lady one day, since she has the bearing and could possibly attract a lord and become one of his asaasa sometimes become wives. Then she bids her farewell and turns back to her work.

Elayne shouts futilely at Cerandin’s retreating back, then growls at Birgitte for being no help at all. Birgitte asks if Elayne expected her to take away Cerandin’s free will after Elayne spent so much time trying to teach her to have a backbone, and Elayne insists that she was only trying to take care of her. Birgitte points out that Cerandin seems well able to take care of herself.

“I will defend you when you are in danger, but if the danger is only of being turned over someone’s knee because you’ve behaved like a spoiled child, I will have to decide whether it’s better to let you learn a lesson that might save you the same or worse another time. Telling her you were heir to a throne! Really! If you are going to be Aes Sedai, you had better start practicing how to bend the truth, not break it into shards.”

Elayne is so shocked that she stumbles, and Birgitte just rolls her eyes when Elayne insists that she really is. Elayne is so frustrated she throws her head back and screams. Birgitte asks if that’s a cry of help, or is she just hungry and in need of a wet nurse.

 

Okay, but how did I not see the Galad/Masema clash coming. How? I mean, I get why Nynaeve (and everyone else, to be fair) didn’t; it’d be pretty hard to predict something like that while you’re in it. But from a narrative perspective, it just seems so obvious in hindsight. Of course these two men—whom Nynaeve has tried to use to her advantage but who are obsessed with their own intense agendas—would end up coming into conflict.

I mean Masema’s farther out in left field than Galad is, but they are both extremists who can only ever see their own goals. Nynaeve managed to manipulate both men by appealing to those goals, telling Masema that Rand has summoned her and letting Galad think that she and Elayne are going to try to get back to Caemlyn. Of course it isn’t safe for her to admit her true connections to the Tower to either of them, but even if it were, I don’t think her actual needs would appeal to either man very much. Certainly not as much as what they want.

And that’s why it’s so interesting to label Galad as a man who “always does the right thing, with no regard for who it hurts.” The right thing will always be somewhat subjective, and I don’t think Galad is a computer whose own needs and emotions never factor into his thinking. Rather, he believes that his own needs and emotions don’t factor in. And that’s what makes him dangerous. It kind of makes him a good foil to Nynaeve, in a way. She often disregards or doesn’t understand her own emotions, too. Except anger, that is.

That being said, I do think that Galad’s appraisal, that the conflict between Masema’s followers and the Whitecloaks was going to happen sooner or later, is correct. That doesn’t absolve him of his choices, and I think it’s worth noting how little he seems to care about the collateral damage that will be inflicted on innocent bystanders. But I think it does lessen Nynaeve’s culpability a little; she may have precipitated the explosion, but it was pretty clear that Masema was always intending this takeover, sooner or later. I mean, the guy never cared about the boat that much anyway, and Uno says he forgot about it as soon as the fighting started. I think he was just looking for an excuse, and it’s not like the Whitecloaks were going to be very careful and diplomatic trying to keep the peace. They’d also rather fight and take over themselves.

I’m not sure what lesson Nynaeve will take from this experience, but I’m reminded of one of her early conflicts with Moiraine, when they left the inn at Baerlon burning. Moiraine tried to explain the complexities of the choices she has to make, and that deciding not to go back doesn’t mean that she doesn’t care what happens to the people at the inn. Nynaeve couldn’t understand it then, and accused Moiraine of heartlessness, but the situation she is now facing is very similar. She never intended for this conflict to happen, but there is nothing she can do now to stop it. And however terrible the calamity is, it doesn’t mean that her own mission isn’t important. To be fair, she and Elayne have been in a rather impossible position since they were first sent from the Tower—people with as few resources as they have must seize every advantage they get, even the dubious ones. Nynaeve’s fear was certainly a factor in her choices, but I don’t really think she did things that differently than she would have if she hadn’t been so afraid of Moghedien.

I keep thinking about how there is a clarity to Rand’s position that doesn’t extend to the rest of the main cast. Rand has plenty of guilt around his actions, as we’ve seen, but he does have his status as the chosen one to fall back on, in a way. He is the Dragon Reborn. He has to do these things, because the Last Battle is more important than anything and needing to defeat the Dark One is a pretty good reason to tell yourself that the ends justify the means. I’m oversimplifying a little here, but I think it’s an important contrast, especially for those characters who struggle the most with understanding or choosing their destiny, like Mat and Nynaeve.

Nynaeve is starting to finally acknowledge to herself how little clarity she has about where she belongs and what she wants to accomplish. Even the desire to heal/Heal, although always present, has been subsumed in some ways by bigger responsibilities, like searching for Liandrin and co., and protecting Rand from the plot to use that collar and bracelet angreal on him. Nynaeve does have some loyalty to the old White Tower, even if it’s only because Elaida is terrible, and she’s concerned for Elayne’s welfare as well as Egwene’s (and Rand’s and Perrin’s and Mat’s, although it’s been a while since she’s had the ability to do anything for them.) She does also feel the weight of the responsibility of a channeler, I think, although it’s not something she has done much proactive thinking about, as yet.

I was so pleased that the narrative finally gave us a little more clarity around how Nynaeve feels about the Aes Sedai and the prospect of becoming one. You can follow a lot of her feelings if you’re willing to do detective work through her narration, but it’s been hard to tell where she landed on actually becoming an Aes Sedai. Now we see that she’s given at least some thought to the conflict between her desire to learn to Heal and her dislike for the Aes Sedai, and even perhaps the first glimmers of realization that she wants the same kind of control that she resents the Aes Sedai for.

She considers in that passage how everything in her life has become as complicated as Aes Sedai webs, but I don’t think she has quite realized how life in the wide world is obviously going to be a lot more complicated than life in the Two Rivers. Whether they are right or wrong to do so, the Aes Sedai weave complicated webs because the world demands that complexity of many people, and Nynaeve has yet to figure out how she wants to grapple with that fact. I think I she needs to get over her fear of that complexity and what embracing it might mean about her and her sense of self before she can decide who she wants to become moving forward.

Elayne, on the other hand, started her journey with a lot more understanding of the world, though a lot of that understanding was knowledge she was taught rather than experienced first hand. She’s had an easy time incorporating her identity as a channeler into her identity as daughter-heir, which makes sense; her family already has a history of being trained in the Tower and the throne of Andor has (or had, until recently) a good relationship with the Aes Sedai. Being both didn’t conflict with Elayne’s sense of who she is, and still doesn’t.

I imagine Elayne’s crisis of identity will come when she learns what has happened to the throne of Andor. Her goals will then be at odds, and she’ll probably have to decide between conflicting desires. She’ll want to look for her mother, and possibly to attempt to retake Andor in some fashion. She might also want to go to Rand, now that he’s back across the Dragonwall. And there very well might be other places, perhaps Salidar, or perhaps elsewhere, where she finds she is needed.

In the meantime, I hope we start seeing some evolution from Nynaeve. Everything she has been through with Moghedien, with the caravan, and in Samara is a real catalyst for growth, and while obviously she’s not going to change in a day, I’m not sure what’s keeping her from starting to change. Nynaeve is still denying her own emotions (e.g. she thinks she hasn’t been acting unreasonably while being cooped up, but the other two have) in a way that surprises me, and I kind of wonder why Jordan’s dragging his feet on this.

Seriously though, why the heck is no one on Nynaeve’s side with Valan Luca? Personally, I’m ready to just come out and say it: That guy sucks.

Did you notice how he never actually tells Nynaeve that he loves her, or even likes her, or cares about her at all? He’ll say she’s a woman one has to fight a lion for every day or whatever, but he doesn’t offer anything meaningful. His whole pitch is just “You’re objectively awesome, carry my babies.” As if any Two Rivers woman would let a man talk about her children as only his. Gross. I feel like Luca’s entire fascination with Nynaeve is just because he’s used to being kind of suave and making women fall for him, and Nynaeve wasn’t interested so of course then he wanted her. I mean, when they met him he was gaga over Elayne! And of course, the word “no” counts for nothing in this guy’s eyes, he’s all you know in your heart we’re going to be together… I mean I guess I’ll marry you. I’m not saying he deserves to be tortured by Moghedien or anything, but it’d be kind of cool if he got a good scare from one of the Black Ajah or something. Just to show him.

Nynaeve telling herself that it is true that she and Lan are betrothed, whatever Lan thinks, is kind of cute though. I suppose that sounds like a double standard, but at least Lan wants to be with her… he’s just scared of hurting her. And kind of depressed, I think. Luca, on the other hand, just wants to have everything because he’s greedy like that. And I’m annoyed with everyone for not coming to Nynaeve’s defense or telling Luca off for manhandling her. They seem to think she’s interested in him (Elayne thinks that she did the whole boob-breath thing for him) but Nynaeve’s internal narrative has been very consistent. It’s always easy to tell when she’s lying to herself and there has been none of that that I’ve seen when she thinks about Valan Luca. So I’m not buying what Elayne is selling.

Actually, even if it was explicit in Nynaeve’s narration that some part of her liked Luca’s attention, I still wouldn’t buy it. That whole “she says no when she means yes thing” is just rape culture; I’d just be more mad at Jordan instead of being so annoyed with Elayne.

The whole exchange with Cerandin was just weird. I mean, it was pretty funny watching Elayne try to command Cerandin to do something that it was terribly obvious she was never going to do, and somehow not have any idea that the woman a) would never abandon the s’redit and b) has been encouraged by Elayne to stand up for herself against people, including against Egwene and Nynaeve themselves. But the choice felt forced, and a little unlike Elayne, like Jordan wanted the moment even though it didnt really make sense for Elayne to be so Nynaeve about this.

I’m really curious how much Cerandin understands about these lands being different than her own. She suggests Elayne might be able to rise to the rank of lady by becoming an asa (one assumes that means a mistress or maybe a concubine) to a lord, who might marry her one day. I’m curious as to whether she actually believes that this is a universal experience, or if she’s thinking that the Seanchan are going to come back and conquer everyone and then Elayne will be living under proper Seanchan rule. And I’m immensely curious as to what she’d do if she learned that Elayne really is a future queen.

Seriously though, Elayne thinking she could just name drop the throne of Andor and have Cerandin believe her was also pretty funny. I think maybe Elayne has never confronted the idea that her identity might not always be within easy reach, if you get what I mean. She’s undercover, but she never considered that being the daughter-heir would require her to actually put that role back on.

And then when Birgitte didn’t believe her either? That was priceless.

All in all, this entire chapter is meant to be funny, I think, and mostly it succeeds. Valan Luca isn’t funny to me but I can see that the exchange is probably intended to be, and the girls being at each other’s throats is pretty funny too, although there’s too much body shaming and sexism in it; one gets the feeling this is how Jordan assumes women always are towards each other. It’d be much funnier if they were on each other about random personality quirks and Nynaeve’s snoring. I did love Birgitte’s jab about Elayne yelling because she was hungry, and maybe Birgitte could find a wet nurse. That was good comedic timing and Elayne was being childish with Cerandin, so it worked well.

My favorite joke of all, though, is that Nynaeve had to ban all swearing from Uno because he was taking the every other sentence rule so literally. That would drive me a little bananas too, watching him ration out his curse words in such careful order. It’s so funny to imagine.

I also suspect that Thom faked his little moaning dizzy spell to shut Juilin up when he was about to argue with Nynaeve. Can’t be sure, but it seems very him.

After a little bit of a comedic break with this chapter, we’re getting back into serious business with refugees and battles next week. We’re also going to be ambitious and try to cover two chapters, 48 and 49. I know, I know, I’m so strong and brave.

Wishing you all a great week! I’m going to go watch Youtube videos of elephants.

Sylas K Barrett thinks that maybe Elayne has never met an animal lover before, to think that Cerandin would just leave the s’redit like that.

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