Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Sometimes You Have to Use (Bale)Fire in Robert Jordan’s The Fires of Heaven (Part 34)

Welcome back to Reading The Wheel of Time! After spending the entirety of The Fires of Heaven trying to hold himself back from impulsively attacking Sammael, the time has finally come for Rand to… impulsively attack Rahvin. Moiraine is gone. Mat, Aviendha, and Asmodean are dead. Rand’s grand plan to avenge Morgase and maybe not have Elayne hate him forever has resulted in his ambush being ambushed. He kind of wants to die. Things are not going well.

But there is an unexpected ally, and unexpected hope, waiting for him as he chases Rahvin through a gateway and back into a world he’s visited once before, with a different Forsaken foe. And although “The Threads Burn” is a very ominous title for any chapter, it might actually be exactly what Rand needs.

Chapter 55 opens on Rand standing in a corridor of the Palace, staring at charred tapestries and the bodies of armored guards littering the floor. Rahvin has once again managed to kill a lot of his own forces in his attacks against Rand.

He had been clever in his attacks, clever in his escapes, but from the moment he fled the throne room he had not faced Rand for more than the instant it took to strike and flee. Rahvin was strong, perhaps as strong as Rand, and more knowledgeable, but Rand had the fat-little-man angreal in his pocket, and Rahvin had none.

As he walks, Rand looks down at the bodies and remembers the first time he was in the palace, walking these halls as he was taken to Morgase. He remembers that Elaida Foretold the pain he would bring, and thinks that it would have been better if she had Foretold everything. Then Gareth Bryne would have killed Rand, or Morgase would have ordered his death. Then Morgase would still be alive, and Aviendha, Mat, Moiraine, and countless others.

Mixed in with these thoughts are the memories of Ilyena lying dead on a floor like this one, and Lews Therin’s voice pleading that he was mad and did not know what he was doing, wondering if there can be any mercy for such deeds done in madness. Together, both Rand and Lews Therin decide that they deserve punishment and death.

When Rand encounters a group of soldiers led by a Myrddraal, Rand channels and freezes them solid, and walks past them. When he encounters two servants huddled in terror against the wall he stops to promise that he won’t hurt them, but when they catch sight of part of the dragon on his arm, the woman faints and the man begins to pray. Rand walks on, intent on finding and killing Rahvin, not knowing what he will do after that.

He remembers Asmodean calling him a lion in tall grass, and wonders if the Forsaken bard is one of those who deserved to live. Suddenly balefire slices through the wall and into the room, and Rand has less than a second to throw himself down as it cuts through where he had just been standing.

So much for the Forsaken fearing to use balefire. Who had told him that? Moiraine. She surely had deserved to live.

Rand throws balefire of his own back at Rahvin, then channels Air to tear open the door to the other room. Rahvin isn’t there, but Rand can sense the residue of saidin, and recognizes the kind of gateway Rahvin made as one he has seen before, even made himself back in Tear. He channels a gateway, “a hole in reality,” and steps through it into a reflection of the Royal Palace, just as he had once stepped into a reflection of the Stone of Tear. He thinks vaguely that he should have asked Asmodean about it, thinks about how the last time he entered such a place he had Callandor. But the angreal in his pocket has done the trick so far.

He hurries out into a courtyard, seeing no other people, noticing the way objects seem to shift slightly as if someone is moving them when he’s not looking. He realizes that he has not heard Lews Therin in his head since he channeled the balefire, and hopes that he has finally chased the man from his head. Then suddenly he feels odd, insubstantial, and looks down to see that he can see right through his own arm, like a mist that is thinning.

No! It was not his thought. An image began to coalesce. A tall, dark-eyed man with a worry-creased face and more white in his hair than brown. I am Lews Ther—

Rand breaks over the thought, reminding himself that he is Rand al’Thor. His arm is starting to look like someone else’s, but he holds the image of himself in his mind.

It was a frantic fight. He had never really looked at himself. The two images waxed and waned, the older dark-eyed man and the younger with blue-gray eyes. Slowly the younger image firmed, the older faded.

Rand is relieved to see the dragon marks and the heron brands on his palm, and wonders for a moment why Lews Therin had tried to take him over. Then he realizes that the attack had come from Rahvin, that the man had gained some power in this place that allowed him to do such a thing. And if Rahvin can do it, perhaps Rand can too.

He experiments by making a rosebush disappear, and notes that the effect only lasts as long as he concentrates on it. He assumes that Rahvin must have had to be able to see him to attack, and almost wishes Lews Therin would pipe up again, since he might know the rules of this place.

Thinking about how Rahvin had tried to unmake him, Rand sends lightning stabbing into every window and balcony he can see. The results make the surrounding buildings look like gaping skulls, but Rand won’t believe that Rahvin is dead until he sees the body. He snarls to himself and stalks on.

Nynaeve throws herself down on the floor, dragging Moghedien down with her, narrowly avoiding being hit with those bars of liquid light. She doesn’t know if it’s Rahvin or Rand hurling balefire about, but it doesn’t really matter. She hasn’t seen either man so far, only the results of their fight. She’s grateful she has Moghedien’s anger to draw on and use to keep herself going.

Moghedien stopped being helpful the moment she realized Rand and Rahvin were actually in Tel’aran’rhiod, and is currently suffering through the after-affects of having tried to remove the collar. She keeps begging Nynaeve to take them away, repeating that the men are “here in the flesh,” but Nynaeve just tells her to be quiet. She’s managed to get Moghedien to admit that being physically in Tel’aran’rhiod limits one’s control of the Dream, but Moghedien continues to insist that Rand and Rahvin can draw saidin much more deeply now than she and Nynaeve can while dreaming, and that their link means nothing since Nynaeve is blocked.

“It is my strength, and your madness. They are here in the flesh, not dreaming! They are using things you have never dreamed of! They will destroy us if we stay!”

Again Nynaeve hushes her, but Moghedien’s fear of Rahvin and Rand is greater than her fear of what Nynaeve might do to her with the collar. She refuses to budge until Nynaeve agrees to take them away. Nynaeve knows that she can’t afford to take long, and binds Moghedien with the Power before making her feel like she’s being strapped on the backside. Moghedien is contemptuous at first, such a punishment seeming weak and childish compared to the tortures she uses. But Nynaeve keeps it up, growing angrier as she thinks of everything that has happened, of her own worry and fear, of how Rand might kill her without realizing it’s her, and how she hates Moghedien, until she realizes that the other woman is sobbing and jerking in her bonds, nodding frantically.

Nynaeve is horrified at herself and releases Moghedien at once. The Forsaken agrees to do as Nynaeve asks, though she is still crying and insisting that they are going to be killed. Suddenly the whole palace shakes, nearly knocking them to their feet. When silence resumes, Nynaeve suddenly hears the sound of running footsteps and drags Moghedien in that direction, feeling Moghedien’s terror, and holding onto her anger against her own fear.

Rand steps into a courtyard, and when the stone benches are suddenly changed into faceless man shapes, he destroys them with lightning rather than trying to alter them back to their original form—he’s learned how hard it is to alter something Rahvin has already changed. Just as suddenly the air around him turns to water, and the fish from a nearby pool are in there with him, made larger and given teeth. He strikes out with balefire in every direction as they rip at him, but he can’t see what he’s aiming at or how to break the barrier holding the water around him. Desperately he tries to think of air, and suddenly the water is gone again, even from his clothes, as the fish flop against the paving stones. The damage from Rand’s balefire attack flickers in and out of existence in the buildings and trees around him.

Rand isn’t sure if he is the one who made the water air again, or if his balefire drove Rahvin away, but he’s still injured and the old wound in his side feels as though it might have been torn open again. He spots the remnants of another gateway, and hurries to get closer so that he can see what kind it is and where it leads.

Abruptly he fell, gravel scraping his palms as he caught himself. He could not see anything that might have tripped him. He felt woozy, almost as if he had been hit on the head. He tried to scramble to his feet, to reach that residue. And realized his body was writhing. Long hair covered his hands; his fingers seemed to be shrinking, drawing back into his hands. They were almost paws. A trap. Rahvin had not fled. The gateway had been a trap, and he had walked into it.

Rand tries to cling to the Void and to saidin, tries to imagine his body the way it’s supposed to be, but he can feel himself losing, can feel saidin slipping away even through the angreal. He only has the strength for one more attack, but he can’t see where Rahvin is hiding. Even as he roars Rahvin’s name, it sounds like an animal’s roar.

Nynaeve chases the man who she is pretty sure is not Rand, occasionally pausing when the footfalls go silent, as strange things happen to the Palace and even the air around them. She’s made her shoes into soft slippers so as to run quietly, dragging a panting Moghedien behind her. Finally she stops, peering around a corner where she saw black coattails disappearing, holding saidar through Moghedien, ready to channel. The hallway is empty, but she can see a corridor leading back the way they have just come, and a spiral staircase leading up. She heads slowly up the stairs, straining to hear, terrified that she might at any moment come face-to-face with Rahvin. When she finds nothing on the floor above she hesitates, then the palace shakes as though hit with a battering ram. A bolt of balefire shoots through the wall and up into the ceiling, and Nynaeve notes that this must be Rand trying to get at Rahvin. It feels like he’s flailing around with his attacks, and she is very aware of how easily she could be struck by accident.

She makes herself move forward, up the next flight, and as she goes she embraces as much of saidar as Moghedien can handle, right up to the dangerous edge of taking too much. Any more and she might burn herself out, or Moghedien, or both of them.

Any way at all, it would be disaster now. She held that point though, the… life… filling her a needle’s light pressure just short of breaking skin. It was as much as she could have embraced had she been channeling on her own. She and Moghedien were much the same strength in the Power; Tanchico had proved that. Was it enough?

She finds herself thinking that it isn’t fair that men have greater muscles and strength in the One Power, that the Aes Sedai said that wasn’t so, then realizes that she’s babbling to herself in her own mind. She crosses the next hall and peeks down a corridor, and there she sees Rahvin, looking handsome and sweaty, peering down through one of the windows and smiling. She assumes it’s Rand that has his attention, and takes the opportunity of Rahvin’s distraction to fill the corridor around him with fire so hot that it makes the stone smoke, pouring every bit of saidar into it that she can. Rahvin screams and staggers away, but a moment later there is air around him, keeping the flame at bay. His coat is smoldering and his face is a burned ruin as he turns his gaze on her. Nynaeve feels no emotion through the a’dam and knows that Moghedien has given up. They are about to die.

Rand is suddenly himself again, as fire bursts out of a window somewhere above him. He looks up as Rahvin stumbles backwards onto a colonnade and into view, surrounded by fire. Rand can see that he has a barrier between it and him but that he’s been horribly burned, though Rand knows that the Void will be keeping the pain of it distant. He screams Rahvin’s name and looses all the saidin inside him, releasing a stream of balefire thicker than a person.

It struck the Forsaken, and Rahvin ceased to exist. The Darkhounds in Rhuidean had become motes before they vanished, whatever kind of life they had had struggling to continue, or the Pattern struggling to maintain itself even for them. Before this, Rahvin simply… ceased.

Rand staggers, the after-image in his eyes, and thinks that, after everything, it was almost too easy. Then he runs to a door.

Nynaeve is frantically trying to close the flame around Rahvin again when the balefire cuts through everything, and she lets go of her weave to cover her face. But the balefire is already gone, and Rahvin too. She doesn’t think he escaped—there had been an instant where he almost seemed to become mist. And then he was gone.

Through the a’dam she can feel Moghedien’s intense relief, and then there are boots on the stairs and Nynaeve turns to fight, only to see Rand emerge, looking bloody and wearing a cold expression. Not wanting him to realize who Moghedien is, Nynaeve outs her trust in Elayne’s explanation of the a’dam and eliminates the leash between the collar and bracelet. She’s relieved to find that she can still feel the other woman.

He barely glanced at Moghedien. “I thought about those flames, coming up here. I thought it might have been you or… Where is this? Is this where you meet Egwene?”

Looking up at him, Nynaeve tried not to swallow. So cold, that face. “Rand, the Wise Ones say what you’ve done, what you are doing, is dangerous, even evil. They say you lose something of yourself if you come here in the flesh, some part of what makes you human.”

Rand asks if the Wise Ones know everything, but that it doesn’t matter, since he doesn’t know how human the Dragon Reborn can afford to be. Nynaeve doesn’t know what to say, but after a moment asks to be allowed to Heal him. The bite wounds, although distressing, are easy to Heal, but the old wound feels to her like a deep well full of what she imagines the taint to be. Rand shudders once, then takes her hands, and Nynaeve lets him.

He asks if Rahvin is dead, and Nynaeve assures him that she saw Rahvin dead. Rand is worried about other Chosen, but Nynaeve urges him to leave and not come back in the body. Rand opens a gateway, but Nynaeve can only perceive it as an odd turning, and see that the columns on the other side of it are not damaged the way the ones in Tel’aran’rhiod still are.

Rand starts to give her a message for Elayne, asking her not to hate him. For a moment he looks pained, and like the boy she once knew, but when Nynaeve reaches to comfort him he pulls away, his expression bleak. He says aloud that Lan is right, and tells Nynaeve that Elayne should forget him, that he’s found something else to love and there is no room for her. That Lan sends the same message, for Nynaeve to forget him. Then he steps away into the space he made and is gone.

Moghedien remarks softly that he is a remarkable man, and a very, very dangerous one. Then she starts pointing out to Nynaeve how useful she has been, and Nynaeve realizes that Moghedien is starting to have hope again. Eventually Nynaeve has to wake up, and then the a’dam will have to vanish. Moghedien is trying to make sure Nynaeve doesn’t decide to kill her.

Nynaeve remarks that it’s time to go, and feels both fear and hope through the bond. She summons a cup and instructs Moghedien to drink it, promising that it is not poison and explaining that forkroot will make Moghedien sleep too deeply to touch Tel’aran’rhiod. Moghedien assumes that Nynaeve is making sure she can’t follow her, and agrees to drink it. But after she’s drunk it all, Nynaeve remarks that Moghedien knew that Birgitte wasn’t dead, and that Siuan was the former Amyrlin, and who Faolain was. She can see and feel the effects of the forkroot as Moghedien’s eyes narrow, and promises that she will see Moghedien very soon in Salidar. Then Moghedien collapses, either from the forkroot or in a faint.

She disappears as soon as Nynaeve releases her hold, the collar falling to the floor. And then Nynaeve steps out of the dream.

 

You know, the first time I read this chapter I was actually a little annoyed. As I mentioned in last week’s post, Rand chasing one of the Forsaken through portals as they hurl whatever panicked weave they can back at him is becoming the way Jordan ends each book. Last time it was skimming towards Rhuidean after Asmodean. The time before Rand chased Ishamael in and out of Tel’aran’rhiod. But there was one aspect of this chapter that I kind of glossed over on my first read but that became really important when I came back and paid a little more attention—the narration spends a lot of time on the details of how this experience is different than the last two, and on how Rand has changed as a person since he first picked up Callandor and accepted his identity as the Dragon Reborn.

And it’s actually not at all about how much more knowledgeable and powerful he is now. If anything, Rand might be less prepared for this fight than he was for either of the other two. Back when he killed Ishamael in The Dragon Reborn, Rand had already faced and defeated the guy twice. He had also had a lot of conversations with him, and had some sense of his power and who he was as a person. Rand was also armed with Callandor, which made him incredibly powerful and which he could literally use to slice through weaves without having to make any of his own. Ishamael also didn’t tend to learn from his mistakes in overestimating himself, so he didn’t start out being cautious the way Rahvin was.

Of course, Rand is stronger and more knowledgeable now, which is why he lasts against Rahvin as long as he does. But he’s also distracted by his grief and by his guilt, to the point where he seems to be experiencing some form of suicide ideation. And that feeling is even more heightened and distracting the way it’s getting mixed up with Lews Therin’s memories of Ilyena and his own decision to seek the death he deserved.

Rand is counting on the seated man angreal to keep the odds in his favor when he faces Rahvin, but that thing is hardly the same kind of asset as Callandor was, and even before we saw Rahvin get the best of him, I was already thinking that it might be a mistake for Rand to put so much faith in raw power when facing a very strong, knowledgeable opponent like Rahvin. After Rahvin proved that he had thought about and prepared for any unexpected attack in the city, one would assume he might also have thought about what he’d do if the Dragon Reborn ever showed up on his doorstep. The Forsaken’s downfall is usually their overconfidence, but our heroes shouldn’t count on that to save their behinds every time. And I have to wonder about that thought that Rand had a few chapters ago, about wanting to just go to Shayol Ghul now and have the results decided, one way or another. His duty feels heavier than death, and now his guilt over the deaths of others has made him believe that he deserves death; perhaps some part of him isn’t worried about being overconfident against Rahvin, because death would be a release from the pain and the burden he carries.

Rand’s suffering is understandable, and a big part of this series is about exploring the toll that being the Chosen One exacts on a person. But from the comfort of my couch it’s easy to see the flaws in his logic, and that darkly narcissistic perspective that Rand has developed in response to having so much responsibility heaped on his shoulders.

If he’d been killed or imprisoned after being brought before Morgase back in The Eye of The World, as he briefly fantasizes in this section, Morgase would still be dead. It’s hard to say for sure which of the others might have died, but Moiraine would still have been engaged in the fight against the rising Darkness and could have been killed in any number of ways. The Forsaken would still be loose in the world, including Ishamael. Rand is thinking of himself as a catalyst for Tarmon Gai’don and all the events that precede it. But it’s the other way around—the Pattern caused him to be born when he was in response to the coming of the Last Battle. It’s just that the Dragon being reborn is how the rest of the world knows that Tarmon Gai’don is happening.

Right before Rand feels himself start to become insubstantial, he notes that the Lews Therin voice has been quiet since he channeled balefire. It’s almost a throwaway line, a distraction from what’s about to happen and Rand’s subsequent confusion as to why Lews Therin chose that moment to try to take him over. Still, it seems significant in a way I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it has something to do with balefire—we know that it was forbidden in the Age of Legends and that even the Forsaken didn’t like to use it (Rahvin’s use of it now is probably a sign of how desperate he is, how afraid he is of Rand and the possibility of being killed) and so it’s possible that Lews Therin was reacting to that.

But the other possibility that crossed my mind is that the Lews Therin personality seems to respond either to Rand’s need (supplying him with knowledge about the Forsaken or channeling) or to Rand’s fear and pain. The more distraught Rand is the more we get memories of Ilyena. Perhaps the voice emerges, or has room to emerge, when Rand is feeling less sure of himself, his intentions and his purpose. And when Rand is certain, when he is confident and strong, the voice has less room to invade his mind.

Either way, or even if I’m reading too much into this, it’s really a wonder that Rand was able to keep his sense of self at all when Rahvin tries to erase him. Most of his sense of himself seems to be very wrapped up in this idea that the Dragon is a curse upon others (especially women) and that he deserves to die, and these sorts of thoughts don’t seem very conducive to the kind of visualization that one needs to use in Tel’aran’rhiod. We do know from Nynaeve’s use of the a’dam that you don’t have to imagine every detail of the thing, fortunately, and it seems to be that Rand’s struggle to recreate the image of himself is about holding onto the mental picture of his body. The rest seems to have followed, just as the a’dam seems to work exactly the same as the ones in the real world.

Although maybe that isn’t as true as I’m assuming it is. When Nynaeve gets rid of the leash on Moghedien, does the a’dam work because the leash isn’t necessary in the real world? Or does it continue to work because Nynaeve has imagined that it does? Wow, it really is just like Egwene said. The more you learn about the World of Dreams, the more you feel you don’t know.

Anyway, I’m impressed with Rand’s ability to reestablish himself in Tel’aran’rhiod while fighting both Rahvin’s intentions and the Lews Therin personality. It was really fascinating to watch, and it’s another moment I got a lot more from on my second read of the passage. Like Rand, it took me a minute to realize that the Lews Therin voice isn’t necessarily trying to take Rand over; the threat comes from Rahvin trying to dissolve Rand into nothingness, and Lews Therin responds to the threat by trying to re-establish his body. It stands to reason that Lews Therin’s conception of the body that soul belongs to is his own, not Rand’s, and it’s probably instinct, not a conscious intent, that has him bringing his own form into the world rather than Rand’s.

I say probably because we still don’t know exactly what the Lews Therin voice is. More than a hallucination, certainly, since he knows too many things that Rand can’t but that turn out to be correct and true. Less than a part of Rand, though—Rand is Lews Therin’s soul reincarnated, but they are two different people and it is only through the taint that Lews Therin exists in Rand’s mind. Perhaps the taint destroys some part of the pattern somehow, letting time bleed through into other areas of itself. And one wonders what Lews Therin thinks is happening, if the voice even has enough of its own consciousness to understand where it is and who it is a part of. It certainly understands enough to react to circumstances, to provide Rand with knowledge of the past and of types of channeling. But is that agency? Does Lews Therin consciously want to aid Rand? Or is it just an automatic process, a copy of a mind long dead that just runs like a program in someone else’s brain?

And for that matter, what would have happened if Lews Therin’s body had been the one that had formed and solidified in Tel’aran’rhiod? Rand has long feared that giving in to the voice would result in Lews Therin walking away in Rand’s body, leaving Rand as nothing more than a voice in his head, if that. We don’t know for sure that this is possible, but it seems pretty possible if it’s also Lews Therin’s body. Or maybe it would still be Rand’s consciousness, but in a stranger’s form.

And what would happen once he (they?) left Tel’aran’rhiod? Would the changes revert, or would they be permanent? Would the previous Dragon, with all his memories and all his madness, be walking around with Rand whispering in his mind? Moghedien said she could change Nynaeve so that every time she came to Tel’aran’rhiod she would be a horse, but Rand’s body is actually in Tel’aran’rhiod, not Dreamwalking. There seems a good chance that he’d be just as stuck in the waking world as in Tel’aran’rhiod.

Rand’s realization that it was Rahvin, not Lews Therin, attacking him was also the clue that allowed Rand to figure out how things work in Tel’aran’rhiod, even though he doesn’t know the specifics of where he is. It was really very clever, and I’m impressed with how nimble Rand’s mind can be—all the strong channelers seem to be able to replicate a weave after seeing it done only once or twice, but this is just Rand thinking quickly, outside of his Creator-given talent with the One Power.

It kind of makes me wish we were seeing a little bit more of Rand’s thoughts around his strategies and planning. A lot of his leadership decisions are kept from us even when we’re in his sections of the narration; this makes them great reveals but I feel like we’re missing out on seeing a big part of what makes Rand a hero. When we are in his mind we are mostly focused on the burdens of who he is, his suffering and loss, or the experience of channeling and fighting. I would really love to see Rand working through more problems, to see the actual process by which he comes up with his unexpected plans and learns how to navigate politics and governing. I think those conversations with Moiraine would have been fascinating.

But then again, the book is pretty dang long already.

I’m really pleased that Jordan put Siuan’s struggles with affecting Tel’aran’rhiod in the chapter right before this; with all the skill that Egwene, Nynaeve, and Elayne have developed in the World of Dreams, it’s easy to forget how much knowledge and concentration affect one’s experience there. Seeing Siuan—a woman whose mental fortitude is incredibly strong—struggle with the particular concentration skills needed in the Dream is a good reminder both of Rand’s mental fortitude and skill and also of the vulnerable position Rand is in, doubly so because he’s there in the flesh.

And I am so, so proud of Nynaeve for figuring out that Moghedien was in Salidar. I’d suspected it from a narrative point of view, but the only in-text clue I caught was that Moghedien knew who Faolain was and how much Nynaeve hates getting bossed around by her. Of course she wouldn’t have assumed Birgitte had survived being flung out of Tel’aran’rhiod, although she could possibly have deduced who Siuan was given that Siuan’s clothes changed into the Amyrlin’s stole at least once while Moghedien was watching them. Frankly, I’m a little surprised that she was so careless as to let these details slip—you’d think she’d at least be careful not to say anything that could tie her to Salidar—but I guess gloating is the downfall of every great baddie, even the really cautious and sneaky ones.

And isn’t that satisfying? Moghedien is brought down by gloating and overconfidence, and Nynaeve achieves victory by learning to look at herself in a new way. Score one for personal growth!

I’ll be interested to see how this experience informs Nynaeve’s work on her block. She has learned control over her fear and someone else’s, so perhaps she’ll feel more patient with herself after this. She has always used anger to overcome her block, and one of the big sources of her anger was her fear. If she has other ways to deal with her fear and not feel ruled by it, she might be able to let go of her constant reliance on the emotion of anger. She doesn’t necessarily need anger to face her fear, and so it follows that she might not need anger to face channeling. She is also starting to accept how much she is changing as a person, and learning that she can’t always have perfect control over everything around her. If she can accept that and still move through Tel’aran’rhiod, still confront Moghedien and Rahvin on the same day, perhaps she can accept it in the waking world too. More confidence and fewer control issues seems to be an excellent recipe to moving past her block.

It’ll be the last chapter next week, but I’ve already read it so I know we’ll have to wait for Lord of Chaos to find out which one of the refugees is really Moghedien in disguise. Is it Nicola, whose husband’s devotion to what he saw as his duty left her a widow, just as Lan fears he would leave Nynaeve? Marigan, who was once a healer and herbalist, just like Nynaeve used to be? Or Areina, who left her home to rescue her brother, only to find herself swept up in the events of the world, just as Nynaeve was when she left the Two Rivers? Any one of them could be Moghedien adopting a backstory that would appeal to Nynaeve, although the Lan connection seems less like something Moghedien could have ferreted out. But we know that she knows about Nynaeve’s past and has seen the Two Rivers in Tel’aran’rhiod, so either Marigan or Areina seems like a possibility. Gosh, I really hope it’s Areina, then, because I do not want to think about where Moghedien got two little boys and what she’s doing to their minds.

I guess if she used compulsion on them she wouldn’t have to maintain it in any active way that Elayne or Nynaeve (or any of the other Aes Sedai in Salidar) would then be able to sense. Right? Still wondering if there’s some trick to making your weave invisible to others that the Aes Sedai of the Age of Legends knew.

I have an exciting announcement for you all this week. Since we’ve been told that the first season of the Amazon Prime series is going to have a large focus on Moiraine, the powers that be and I have decided that the next installment of Reading The Wheel of Time is going to be covering New Spring! (Note: the 2004 novel, not the earlier novella version.) I am so, so excited to see Lan and Moiraine meet.

I mean I’m also excited for young Moiraine and Siuan and all that too. But mostly, yeah. Lan and Moiraine meet cute here we come.

But before we get to that we have one more chapter. I’ll see you all next week for Chapter 56 of The Fires of Heaven!

Sylas K Barrett is preoccupied today thinking about unseasonably warm weather and how it’s a sign the Dark One is breaking free. Is there a Last Battle we can fight in our world to bring the temperature back down a bit?

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