Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Morgase Seeks Aid and Rumors Abound in Robert Jordan’s Lord of Chaos (Part 2)

Welcome back to Reading The Wheel of Time, where we say so long to getting through the Prologue of Lord of Chaos in two bits. I like a really meaty chapter but I gotta say, Mr. Jordan, sir, why is this so long? Why is it not chapters? How did you keep track of this many characters?

I did, however, catch a very important detail this week that takes us on quite the journey down memory lane, back to some time April 2018 when I wasn’t even halfway through The Eye of the World yet. I am very pleased with myself about it, and very worried for Morgase. But first, the recap.

In Emond’s Field, Faile opens her still-unfinished manor to hold an audience for Two Rivers folk who need her judgments over disputes and petitions.

Actually, they came for Perrin to hear them, but the idea of passing judgment on people he had grown up among horrified him. Unless she managed to corner the man, he vanished like a wolf in fog when it came “time for the daily audience.”

She finds some of the petitioners incredibly irksome, including two women who are squabbling over a man and Cenn Buie complaining about the number of foreigners arriving in the Two Rivers. Others are reasonable and helpful, and Faile handles them all with the skill her father taught her. Then just as she thinks she is done, three Village Wisdoms arrive. Faile wishes Perrin was there even more—the Two Rivers isn’t used to having lords and ladies yet, and the Wisdoms often treat Faile like just another citizen, or speak to her like she’s just a young girl. But Perrin holds a certain sway over them, and the Wisdoms know it.

After dancing around the true purpose of their visit, the youngest wisdom, Milla, admits why they’re really there—the Wisdoms are frightened about the unnatural weather, the drought and summer heat that have extended into a time when they should be getting the first snows. Faile realizes that the Wisdoms spend all their time reassuring others in the face of doubt and struggle, and that she is the only person they have to reassure them in turn. She tells them how Perrin talked to her of the strength of the Two Rivers people, and her words have a bolstering effect on the Wisdoms.

“I cannot tell you the weather will be what it should tomorrow. I can tell you that Perrin and I will do what needs to be done, whatever can be done. And I don’t need to tell you that you will take what each day brings, whatever it is, and be ready to face the next. That is the kind of people the Two Rivers breeds. That is who you are.”

Shortly after they’ve left, Faile hears the boom of thunder and runs to find Perrin, hoping that rain has come. She joins him on the porch, but it’s only heat lightning, with no clouds or rain in sight. Perrin is watching Tam spar with Aram. Faile reflects on how much has changed in the Two Rivers, and how its people will have her and Perrin to guide them through. She starts lecturing Perrin on how he has a duty to these people that he must fulfill, however hard it is. Perrin answers that he knows, but she quickly realizes that he isn’t talking about Emond’s Field. Perrin can feel Rand pulling at him, and he has to go to him.

He tells Faile that he didn’t know how to break the news to her, but that he intends to go when everyone is asleep. He tells her she can’t come with him and she pretends to relent, but is fully committed to making him see reason. She hugs him tightly, wishing the Dragon Reborn didn’t need Perrin now. Wishing that they had more time.

Gawyn stands considering his forces’ encampment and the grasslands beyond. The Younglings are on guard for the Aes Sedai, and Gawyn reflects that only Aes Sedai would wait until the last minute to tell a man that something important is going to happen. One of his men claims that there isn’t any sign of Aielmen, and Gawyn hurls a rock into a bush, which moves “just a bit more than it should have, as though a man somehow hidden behind it had been struck in a tender place.” He warns the Younglings that Aiel can hide in the smallest fold in the ground—something he read in a book in the Tower’s library—but that he doesn’t expect there to be any fighting today.

Three Aiel Wise Women, emissaries from the Shaido Aiel, approach the camp. Gawyn watches them until they enter the Aes Sedai tent, then goes back to making a circuit around the encampment. He is irked that some of the Younglings were less alert than they should have been; even those who hadn’t fought in the White Tower coup have faced skirmishes with Whitecloaks. They’ve driven off the ones Eamon Valda left behind, but Gawyn thinks Valda pulled most of his forces out for some other reason. Gawyn hates not knowing why, just as he hates that the Aes Sedai waited so long to tell him about this expedition in the first place. Despite the Younglings’ role in getting Elaida her position as Amyrlin, Gawyn believes they wanted to get him far away from Tar Valon. Gawyn has his suspicions of all Aes Sedai because of their manipulation of Elayne and others, but he also both fought against Siuan and then allowed her to escape. He knows what would happen to him if Elaida ever found out.

Even with that, Gawyn had chosen to stay, because his mother had always supported the Tower, because his sister wanted to be Aes Sedai. And because another woman wanted to. Egwene al’Vere. He had no right to even think of her, but abandoning the Tower would be abandoning her. For such flimsy reasons did a man choose his fate. Knowing they were flimsy did not change them, though.

Gawyn is shocked that Elaida intends to announce the White Tower’s support of the Dragon Reborn. He can’t reconcile that identity with the frightened farmboy who once fell into the palace gardens in Caemlyn, and wonders if it’s the madness that led Rand to hang High Lords in Tear and lead the Aiel to ravage the Stone and Cairhien. Just then they spot a peddler leading a mule, who ambles right through the Aiel infested area and starts trying to sell to them. When questioned, he claims all the Aiel are down in Cairhien, but even if they weren’t, Aiel don’t harm peddlers and are good for trading with. Gawyn asks for news, and the peddler reports that Morgase is dead. Gawyn grabs him and demands to know more, and the peddler claims that everyone says that it was the Dragon who killed her. He doesn’t know for sure about the Daughter-Heir, though some say the Dragon killed her, too.

Gawyn nodded slowly. Thought seemed to be drifting up from the bottom of a well. My blood shed before hers; my life given before hers. “Thank you, Master Tesen. I…” My blood shed before hers… That was the oath he had taken when barely tall enough to peer into Elayne’s cradle.

Gawyn tells his men to take care of the peddler and turns away, thinking that if his mother and Elayne are both dead, he will see if the Dragon can live with a sword through his heart.

The red sister Katerine Alruddin considers the Aiel across the table as the negotiations are concluded, wondering how such “savages” could maintain composure in the face of Aes Sedai. Sevanna, their leader, insists that she gets to see the Dragon’s face when he is defeated.

Katerine goes out to watch the Aiel leave, and observes Gawyn siting nearby. She considers how neither Elaida nor the Hall likes having “a pack of young wolves about who refused to accept the leash” around, and wonders if the Shaido could be prevailed upon to eliminate Gawyn. She is startled from her thoughts by Galina Casban, who is head of the Red Ajah. The two muse as to whether the Dragon will come willingly, and over Sevanna’s desire to kill him. This would be bad for the Amyrlin’s plans but worse for Katerine and Galina, who are both Black Ajah. They have orders to preserve the Dragon Reborn, though Katerine can’t understand why.

Sevanna walks away from the Aes Sedai encampment as Desaine and Therava express their disapproval of the encounter. Desaine had spoken out against Sevanna being made a Wise One at all—she hasn’t been to Rhuidean—and Therava is concerned about going against the Aes Sedai, since failing them is the reason the Aiel were sent to the Three-Fold Land. Most Aiel believe that failing the Aes Sedai a second time will mean their own destruction, but Sevanna isn’t sure she believes the old tales. The Aes Sedai look weak and foolish to her, and she reminds Therava that they are no longer in the Three-Fold land. Things have changed, though she doesn’t tell them how much she intents to change. Sevanna isn’t sure what she will do when she has Rand al’Thor, but she knows that once she has him chained like a dog outside her tent, all these lands will truly belong to the Shaido, and to her.

She had known that even before the strange wetlander man somehow found her in the mountains these people called Kinslayer’s Dagger. He had given her a small cube of some hard stone, intricately carved in strange patterns, and told her what to do with it, with the aid of a Wise One who could channel, once al’Thor was in her hands.

Morgase walks with King Ailron of Amadicia in his gardens, watching gardeners struggle to protect their work from the heat and drought, until Ailron is called away. Tallanvor argues with her, telling her she should have gone to Ghealdan and that she abandoned being his Queen when she abandoned Andor to Gaebril. She goes back to her rooms, where Lini lectures her about letting men get under her skin. Morgase hopes that Ailron will give her soldiers to retake Caemlyn. Breane and Lini tease her about Tallanvor.

Suddenly a Whitecloak comes into the room, introducing himself as Pedron Niall. He has not come to arrest her, although in Amadicia being trained in the Tower is just as illegal as channeling. Niall tells her that Ailron will never give her the troops he asks her but will just string her along because he is attracted to her, then tells her that he can give her five thousand Whitecloaks. Morgase is surprised to learn that Gaebril is dead, and that the “false Dragon Rand al’Thor has added Caemlyn to his conquests.” Niall is convinced that Rand is a puppet for the Aes Sedai, who do his channeling for him, and that there’s evidence that the Tower set up Logain as well, before they lost control of him.

Niall goes on about sympathy arising in the houses for Morgase, now that she is dead, but Morgase is more concerned about Elayne, who should be next in line for the throne. She tells herself that however good Niall’s story is, he could be lying, and she needs facts. Niall agrees to give her time to think, and informs her that he has posted a few Whitecloaks outside the door. He leaves, and her men come in at once. Tallanvor is clearly worried Morgase has been hurt, and she rips into him. He leaves, and Basel explains that there were at least thirty Whitecloaks, and that one clubbed Tallanvor with the hilt of his sword. Morgase realizes she was wrong to lash out and asks Basel to bring Tallanvor back so that she can apologize. But then Breane makes a suggestive comment and Morgase explodes, throwing everyone out of the room.

She’s brooding over the possibility of aligning herself with the Whitecloaks when a young man brings in a tray of punch. He falls to his knees and calls her his Queen, introducing himself by the name of Paitr Conel. He says that he and his uncle, Jen, are Andor men and want to help her escape. He says he will go back to his uncle to figure out what to do about the Whitecloaks, but Morgase commands him to stay and starts grilling him, determined to find the truth.

 

I feel so, so bad for Morgase. She’s not behaving perfectly here, but honestly, she doesn’t deserve the haranguing she’s getting from Tallanvor or from Lini. Breane is just obnoxious, honestly. Of course, none of them know that what happened with Gaebril wasn’t Morgase’s fault, so their anger at her is quite understandable. It’s just that it isn’t helpful, and it’s gotten all mixed up with this weird, slightly predatory thing Tallanvor is doing. It wasn’t right of Morgase to lash out at Tallanvor when she was really upset about Pedron Niall and her own helplessness, but I don’t blame her at all.

I’m a little concerned that the narrative rationale here is the same as it was with Nynaeve and Valan Luca, where the people around Nynaeve are convinced that she really enjoys Luca’s attention and is leading him on on purpose. Lini is definitely suggested to be a more reliable and clear-eyed judge of things than Morgase, even if she seems mostly to be a collection of old sayings dressed up in a grandma-shaped trench coat. But Morgase is our point of view character, and if the point is supposed to be that some part of her is attracted to Tallanvor, then I think the narrative has a duty to make that clear.

It’s also a much more complicated situation for Morgase than Luca was for Nynaeve. Morgase is pretty dependent on the few people who have chosen to stay with her; the only authority she can wield is that which they deign to give her. And it makes perfect sense that she would feel angry, scared, and irrational in the face of a man showing attraction to her. Whether or not some part of her returns the interest, after what happened with Gaebril she has a lot of trauma that she can’t even begin to address, given that she doesn’t know what really happened to her. I really hope that the narrative does this story line justice, and I hope that it preserve Morgase’s own agency, even though she will be affected by irrationality and mental distress.

Things are complicated for Tallanvor, too. On the one hand, he is loyal to his Queen. On the other hand, he feels that she betrayed her people. On the third hand, he has an opportunity for that chaste, knightly sort of love that he’s clearly held for a long time to become something more personal and down-to-earth, and I think he’s having trouble keeping boundaries or knowing which of his somewhat conflicting impulses to give in to. It’s… a bit icky, if I’m being honest. But hopefully it will get better.

I’m not that hopeful about much else where Morgase is concerned. I mean, she is trapped between dumb, gross Ailron, the Lord Captain Commander of the Whitecloaks, and some Darkfriend kid from The Eye of the World. I seriously couldn’t believe it when I finally realized why Paitr’s name sounded so familiar, and I was so, so proud of myself when I finally figured it out. But I am really not sure which option left to Morgase is the best of a bad lot. I think maybe Tallanvor was right. They should have gone to Ghealdan.

As I observed last week, we’re definitely diving right into the theme of misinformation and mistrust that has been building over the last five books. It’s fascinating to see what bits of misinformation are just the result of distance and the fact that there isn’t any technology or weave that can pass information quickly over those distances, what is the result of various members of the Light not being able to trust each other, and what is deliberate misinformation sown by the Dark and other bad guys who are little “e” rather than big “E” evil. (Looking at you, Pedron Niall.)

Gawyn’s situation is perhaps the most extreme example of the problem in this section. The guy has made a lot of big decisions lately, but he doesn’t actually know the facts about most of the things he’s deciding about. He and the Younglings supported Elaida because he believed the law was on her side, which is at best only very technically true. He has sided with the Tower but doesn’t trust the sisters enough to be connected to them the way their laws and customs dictate. And as he himself observes, he fought to keep Siuan imprisoned according to law, then let her go, breaking the law himself. Even his ultimate allegiance is based on not having the right information—he stays loyal to Elaida’s Tower because of his loyalty to Egwene and Elayne, but their loyalty is to the rebel Aes Sedai and even to Siuan. Now he’s heard the rumor that Rand killed both his mother and possibly his sister, so he may very well end up in a vendetta against the man Elayne loves.

I’m so glad I read New Spring before Lord of Chaos, because of course the oath Gawyn swore over Elayne’s cradle reminded me of the oath that was sworn on Lan’s behalf by his parents. Gawyn didn’t even understand what he was committing himself to—Galad had to explain it to him—and I think there’s something fundamentally different in being bound by an oath you took willingly and with both eyes open (say Tallanvor’s re-swearing to Morgase, which is clearly causing him some conflict but was still his choice) versus one that you were committed to before you could make your own commitments. Lan very much felt that his oath to avenge Malkier was intrinsic to his identity, and it’s easy to see how that is true of Gawyn as well. His first thought isn’t even of his own loss, or how much he loved Elayne—it’s of the duty he has failed in. The narration does a really good job of showing how disoriented and in shock he is, too.

And then there’s Sevanna, who I kind of forgot about at the end of the last book. That’ll teach me, I guess. Pretty shocking that she managed to just get promoted to being Wise One without having apprenticed or gone to Rhuidean or anything. I kind of wish we had a little more information about how that happened, but I guess the important takeaway is exactly what Sevanna thinks it is—she has already gone against the Car’a’carn and the accompanying prophecies, and intends to get rid of a lot of other aspects of the traditional Aiel way of life. I guess she’s having a fair amount of success since both Desaine and Therava clearly don’t approve of her or her leadership. I wonder how she convinced them to try… whatever it is they’re trying to pull on the Aes Sedai in the first place.

It’s kind of fun watching Sevanna plot against Elaida’s Aes Sedai while they plot against her. I don’t like either of them, so I don’t really have to worry about who wins, the way I do when our heroes go up against a baddie or when they have conflict with other good guys. But some Darkfriend or Forsaken has provided Sevanna with an angreal or ter’angreal and that seems to be intended for use against Rand, so that’s something to watch out for.

I do wonder which group of Aes Sedai will reach Rand first. Tar Valon is a lot closer to Cairhien than Altara, though. So I guess my money is on Elaida’s team. She was probably vexed that it made strategic sense not to put a Red sister in charge of the escort, but it’s mostly just interesting to note that Galina could have been in charge of the delegation but didn’t want to be. It seems like the best, most successful Darkfriends like to operate from the shadows, from just behind the seat of the throne. The other Forsaken mocked Moghedien for working that way, but it’s being brash and out there that keeps getting Darkfriends caught—Moghedien included. I wonder if either Galina or Katerine know that Alviarin is also a Darkfriend, and a high ranking one. Probably not, though.

And finally there’s Perrin and Faile. They’ve been absent for a whole book, so it’s nice to see them again, but I’m still so torn over how I feel about their relationship. I really like Faile as a character, and I really like Perrin as a character, and I feel like their personalities are actually a really good, opposites-attract sort of match. But there’s a lot of weird heteronormative bullshit that creeps into their relationship that really puts me off. Faile barricading herself in the bedroom to escape Perrin’s anger is a huge red flag, as is the fact that the fight was over this weird separation of men’s business and women’s business that goes on in the Two Rivers. It’s one of the places that Jordan’s binary commentary on gender becomes the most frustrating for me, and it’s hard to look past.

That being said, Faile’s interactions with the people of the Two Rivers was my favorite section of the Prologue so far, especially when she talked circles around Cenn Buie. I love how quick she is, and I love that she has this diplomatic nature and skill for governing that she gets from studying with her father. It’s a nice counterpoint to her temper and stubbornness as well, much in the way Nynaeve’s care for other people and drive to heal is to hers. I’m glad she’s going to go with Perrin to Cairhien, or wherever they finally meet up with Rand, and I think she could be good for Rand. After all, the Aes Sedai won’t let Elayne go be his advisor, and Moiraine and Lan are gone. He needs someone with that kind of head on their shoulders.

We’ll finish up the Prologue next week, which has some really good Darkfriend stuff and also Aran’gar, which I imagine quite a few readers have been waiting to hear my opinion on. But I’m afraid you’ll have to wait just a little bit longer.

If you haven’t done so already, don’t forget to check out Sylas K Barrett’s reviews of The Wheel of Time tv show, here on Tor.com! They go up every Saturday at noon.

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