Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: The Breaking and Creation of Bonds in Robert Jordan’s Lord of Chaos (Part 8)

Welcome welcome, it’s time for some scheming White Cloaks, imprisoned Queens, familiar faces from home, and a very tricky Alanna Mosvani. That’s right, it’s Chapters 9 and 10 of Lord of Chaos.

And while we’re at it, what exactly does that title, Lord of Chaos, actually mean. And who is the Lord of Chaos, really?

Chapter 9 opens with Pedron Niall receiving a report from Abdel Omerna, the spymaster for the Children of the Light. Omerna wants to bring a group of Illuminator refugees into Amador and then use them to smuggle his own agents into all the places where Illuminators are welcome. Niall shoots the idea down—he has no intention of allowing the “chaos and madness” infesting Tarabon to make its way into Amadicia. He instructs Omerna to have the Illuminators escorted out of Amadicia without delay, just like any of the others who slip through Niall’s quarantine.

He listens irritably to the rest of the report, inwardly disdainful of Omerna’s news, and his suppositions about them. He finds Omerna credulously stupid; among other things, the man has paid good money for several fake versions of the Horn of Valere, believes that the Prophet’s forces will soon be scattered by Ailron’s men, and believes that “the troubles in Tarabon and Arad Doman [are] the work of Artur Hawkwing’s armies come back across the Aryth Ocean.” Omerna also delivers a sealed message that arrived earlier by pigeon.

Dismissing him, Niall turns his thoughts to Rand al’Thor, who has gained power and influence much more quickly than Niall predicted. He worries that he has waited too long to do something about this False Dragon, but also worries about striking too soon.

Sebban Balwer, Niall’s secretary and the true spy master for the Children where Omerna is just a public front, comes in and delivers a report that differs almost entirely from the one Omerna (unaware that he is just a decoy) just gave. He is more skeptical than Omerna of which rulers might be interested in capitulating to the Children, reports that the fighting in the Borderlands is not rebellion but arguments over whether or not al’Thor is the real Dragon reborn breaking out into skirmishes, and has a more accurate understanding of al’Thor’s current power and the size of his army. Niall is terrified by the size of the army massing in Tear, but he still has hope that he can finish his own plans and gathering of strength, as long as he has enough time.

He opens the message and is surprised that it’s from one of his agents in Tanchico, a rambling missive about Aes Sedai on leashes and the Hailene, which means Forerunners in the Old Tongue. Niall dismisses it as the ramblings of a man who has lost his mind and tosses the paper to the floor. Finally, Balwer reports that the Aes Sedai in Salidar are claiming that the Red Ajah assisted Logain in becoming a false dragon. Niall considers that this must mean that the split in the Tower is real, and together he and Balwer concoct a series of rumors about a Black Ajah uprising in the Tower and how the women in Salidar have renounced being Aes Sedai and approached Niall asking for protection.

On his way out, Balwer urges Niall to press Morgase more firmly, but Niall dismisses him. Balwer is Amadician, not Cairhienin, and doesn’t know the Game of Houses the way they do. The way Morgase does. He explains that, while he would have liked it if Morgase had capitulated more readily, so that Niall could have had control over Andor by this time, she is already trapped, and will eventually discover that she is tied to Niall because everyone believes that she has allied herself to him already. He reminds Balwer that reckless haste leads to ruin.

Balwer leaves, and Niall is left to ponder having Morgase as an opponent. Meanwhile, Morgase is out hawking with the retinue of women from Ailron’s court who have been assigned to be her ladies-in-waiting by Niall. She also has a slew of Whitecloak guards, dressed in plain clothing and ostensibly to protect her, but actually there to make sure she can’t escape. Morgase has also learned that Galad is now a member of the Children, and she is careful not to show much she cares for her son, to imply that it is only Elayne and Gawyn who matter, so that Niall won’t be tempted to use Galad to control her. She makes a disparaging remark about the quality of the wine Niall has provided for them.

A particularly powerful noblewoman named Marande tries to get under Morgase’s skin by talking about what Rand is doing in Andor, and naming those Andoran nobles who are said to be consorting with him. Morgase feigns being upset, but in truth she is soothed by the report—none of the names are of those she considers friends or allies. Trying to engage Norowhin, she asks about the people they see on the road, people walking empty-handed and seemingly aimlessly.

Norowhin reluctantly informs her that they are not refugees fleeing the prophet’s mobs, but rather people who believe that Rand al’Thor is the Dragon Reborn.

“They say he has broken all bonds, according to the Prophecies. Men forsake their lords, apprentices desert their masters. Husbands abandon their families, and wives their husbands. It is a plague carried on the wind, a wind that blows from the false Dragon.”

Morgase looks at the sunken eyes and hungry faces of the people, and wonders if al’Thor has done this to Andoran citizens as well. She vows to make him pay if he has, but is aware that delivering Andor from al’Thor and into the hands of the Whitecloaks might not be an improvement.

Rand walks through the Royal Palace in Caemlyn, accompanied by his escort of Maidens, Bael and his escort of Knife Hands, and Bashere with his Saldean soldiers. He finds himself wishing for the days when he could have walked alone, watching the servants bow and scurry away as he passes. He’s been getting better at the mental trick Taim has taught him for ignoring the heat. Rand wonders if the Aes Sedai use the same trick.

As they walk, Bashere informs him that there’s trouble in the city—it’s been filling up with people, and there have been violent disagreements over Rand’s identity, and even one man who was hanged for laughing at Rand’s “miracles.”

As if on cue, an elderly servant drops a vase made of Sea Folk porcelain, which bounces and rolls down the hall without so much as chipping. Bashere names a few of the seemingly miraculous events that have happened lately, but doesn’t mention any of the negative ones, the freak accidents and deaths that have also occurred within a few miles of where Rand is. Rand considers that even if he lost the herons on his palms and the dragons on his forearms, he would still be marked.

Rand tells Bashere he wants the men who did the hanging arrested for murder, and that doubting him isn’t a crime. However, Bashere also tells him that there are rumors that Rand killed Morgase and is a tool of the Aes Sedai, and that people are being incited to rise up against him to avenge her. Rand tells Bashere to find who started the rumor and throw them in prison—they can ask Elayne for pardon.

“I’ve learned that Ellorien of House Traemane and Pelivar of House Coelan entered the city three days ago. Sneaked in, you might say, and neither has come near the Inner City that I’ve heard. Talk in the streets has Dyelin of House Taravin in the country nearby. None of them has responded to your invitations.”

Rand orders that fresh invitations be sent to Ellorien and Pelivar, as well as to Dyelin. He’s hopeful that he can convince them that he is the Dragon Reborn, and he has no problem with these nobles being loyal to Morgase’s memory… and hopefully to her blood.

Bael tells Rand that two Aes Sedai have also come to the city, having arrived in the night and taken rooms at an inn. Rand ponders to himself what this could mean, but can’t think of any reason two Aes Sedai would sneak into the city other than for him. He thinks about inviting them to the Palace—he’s fairly confident he can handle two Aes Sedai—then decides that he should pay a surprise visit instead. In his head, Lews Therin’s voice pipes up, mutter about the pride that destroyed him.

They reach the open doors to the gardens, and Rand sees Aviendha standing and watching the spray of water in a marble fountain. She doesn’t see him, and Rand stands for a moment, trying to figure out if he loves her, and what to do with the way that Aviendha, Min, and Elayne are all tangled together in his dreams. In his head, Lews Therin weeps for Ilyena.

“A pair of Aes Sedai showing up like that might be important,” Rand said quietly. “I think I should visit this inn and see why they’re here.” Almost everyone stopped when he did, but Enaila and Jalani exchanged glances and kept on right past him toward the garden. He raised his voice a fraction and hardened it considerably more. “The Maidens here will come with me. Anyone who wants to put on a dress and discuss matchmaking can stay behind.”

Enaila and Jalani turn angrily, but Sulin says something to them in maiden handtalk that makes them look embarrassed instead. Rand orders Bashere to send someone ahead to saddle their horses, and Bael and Bashere trade passing remarks about young men and running from women, until Rand points out that neither of them would look very good in a dress. This makes the Maidens and Knife Hands laugh, and Rand thinks that perhaps he’s getting the hang of Aiel humor.

They leave the Palace by a side gate to avoid the throngs of people waiting to catch a glimpse of the Dragon, and Rand tries to enjoy the ride through the beautiful, Ogier-built Inner City. No one knows who he is here, though he’s clearly someone important riding with his escort of Aiel. They pass into the New City, which is thronged with every kind of person, going on about their lives.

Another sort of people stood out too, those who wandered about in rumpled coats and wrinkled dresses, often dusty and always blinking and staring, plainly with nowhere to go and no idea of what to do next. That sort had gone as far as they could toward what they sought. Him. The Dragon Reborn. What he was to do with them he had no notion, yet they were his responsibility, one way or another.

They arrive at an inn called Culain’s Hound, and a few Aiel go in before Rand, while Bashere and Bael walk with him and the rest of the Aiel follow. Rand is surprised to find the inn full of women, some of whom aren’t gaping at the Aiel but at Rand himself.

Rand realizes he recognizes many of them as women from the Two Rivers or nearby, including Bodewhin Cauthon, Mat’s sister. Bode explains to him that they are all on their way to Tar Valon to become Aes Sedai, while another young woman, Larine Ayellin, remarks that “Lord Perrin” told them that Rand was off having adventures and wearing fine coats. Rand learns that Verin and Alanna are responsible for testing all the women in the Two Rivers, and then gets a frenzied explanation of the Trolloc attack and how Lord Perrin led them all in fighting the Trollocs off.

Even knowing that the Trollocs were beaten, Rand feels guilty for not being there. He also learns about Perrin’s marriage to Faile and about the Whitecloaks and Padan Fain coming to the Two Rivers. They talk about how excited they are to become Aes Sedai until the conversation is interrupted by Verin announcing that they will not be going to Tar Valon just yet. Rand turns and sees her coming in the doorway along with Alanna, who Rand notes is red-eyed as though she’s been crying. There’s a tenseness in everyone’s attitude as two Warders follow the women in, but Rand announces loudly that there will be no trouble, unless Verin starts it. He asks if the Aes Sedai have heard that the Tower is broken, and Alanna remarks that these things should be discussed in private.

Both the Aes Sedai and Rand have to tell their followers to stand down, and that the three of them wish to talk alone. They talk about the division in the Tower, which Rand gleans the two women only learned about in Whitebridge, then came straight to Caemlyn, apparently to confirm the rumors. He asks if they know where the rebels are, assuring them that he believes that they mean to support him. Alanna and Verin answer that even if they knew where the rebels were, it is not their secret to reveal, and that if he is so confident in their allegiance he need only wait until they are ready.

Alanna asks after Mat, and Rand returns their answer back to them—if he knew, why should he tell them.

“It is foolish to treat us as enemies,” Alanna murmured, moving toward him. “You look tired. Are you getting enough rest?” He stepped back from her raised hand, and she stopped. “Like you, Rand, I mean no harm. Nothing I do here will cause you any injury.”

Since she said it directly, Rand knows it must be true. He allows her to put her hands on him, and he feels the warmth of her weave to check his health.

Alanna nodded in satisfaction. And suddenly the warmth was heat, one great flash of it, as if he stood for a heartbeat in the middle of a roaring furnace. Even after it passed, he felt odd, aware of himself as he never had been before, aware of Alanna. He swayed, head light, muscles watery. An echo of confusion and unease rang from Lews Therin.

Rand seizes saidin, demanding to know what she just did. He feels them trying to shield him and quickly shields the Aes Sedai. Again he demands to know what she did, and Verin explains that Alanna bonded him. Alanna points out that what she did is the opposite of injury, while Rand strives for calm, even in the void. He realizes he walked right into this, and even Lews Therin remains shocked, hovering in the back of his mind.

Rand tells them that since they are not going to Tar Valon they will stay in Caemlyn, but that they will be barred from the Inner City and from him, unless he sends for them. When they try to protest he threatens to tie off the shields and leave them both. Once they both agree, he stalks out of the room, only to find Bode and the other girls complaining that Bashere has been telling lies, saying that Rand is the Dragon Reborn. Tiredly Rand confirms that he is, but girls who know him react disdainfully, telling him that it’s not a funny joke and that he really has gotten airs now that he’s out in the world. In response, Rand wraps Bode and Larine in flows of Air and gently lifts them a foot off the ground.

“I am the Dragon Reborn. Denying won’t change it. Wishing won’t change it. I’m not the man you knew back in Emond’s Field. Do you understand now? Do you?” He realized he was shouting and clamped his mouth shut. His stomach was lead, and he was trembling. Why had Alanna done what she did? What Aes Sedai scheme was hatching behind that pretty face? Trust none of them, Moiraine had said.

Alanna touches his arm and asks Rand to please let them down. Rand realizes how terrified the girls are, not only Bode and Larine but every woman in the room, and the innkeeper too. He puts the girls down at once, apologizing and promising not to hurt them, but the damage is done. Bashere remarks that it might be for the best, and privately Rand agrees. He only wishes he could have had just a little more time with them, hearing about the Two Rivers and being just Rand al’Thor. He stumbles back outside.

 

It’s really interesting seeing how Niall is approaching the attempt to consolidate power under himself, and how it compares and contrasts with Rand’s approach to the same endeavor. Niall is an older man, and the narrative says several times that lately he has really been feeling the weight of his age and the passing of time. He believes that the Last Battle is coming soon, and is worried that the world won’t be united in time to face Tarmon Gai’don. Time is of the essence… and yet he is seemingly terrified of moving too quickly.

Several times in the narrative he considers that being too hasty can be just as disastrous as being too slow, which makes sense in most contexts but perhaps not when you have a literal doomsday clock ticking down over your head. After all, Rand is equally aware of the passage of time, and is always weighing the scales of how much he has to do vs. how little time he has. But where Niall is methodical and holds himself back, Rand is rushing forward with nearly reckless abandon. He is willing to take risks—calculated ones, certainly, but still risks—which are sometimes quite large and daring. For example, he demanded Taim teach the recruits as fast as he possibly could without guaranteeing they’d destroy themselves learning to wield saidin. He hadn’t planned to go after Rahvin when he did, but changed that plan abruptly once he learned of Morgase’s (supposed) death. He’s flexible, because he has to be, and it has paid off more than it hasn’t.

Granted, I don’t think everything’s going to go swimmingly for Rand now. (Looking at you, Alanna). In fact, I imagine it’ll be exactly the opposite—I’m sure he has a lot of pain and suffering and disasters in his future. But considering all the resources Niall has at his disposal and how few Rand has had until the last book or so, I still feel like my assessment of his choices is pretty accurate. Granted a lot of people are baffled by Rand’s apparent luck—one of the reasons that he’s done so well is because of his innate ability with the One Power, another is because prophecy and planning has laid certain assets at his feet (the Aiel, Callandor, etc). But there is also the luck he carries, the ta’veren twisting of chance that seems to operate at random most of the time, and yet also seems to tip the balance in his favor in important moments.

Perhaps the random effects that Rand has whenever he goes are like, bled off from the greater power he exerts on the Pattern in key moments. Like a pressure-relief valve of sorts; stop a vase from shattering here, make a village of people all fall in love and get married there, just to take the edge off the intense ta’veren-ness that Rand needs to fight this almost impossible battle.

Just a theory, anyway.

In any case, I think my point here is the same as Graendal’s. She tells Sammael that the Forsaken have been operating as though the world they’re in is the same as the one they lived in before they were locked away. Despite all their knowledge and power, they’re struggling, many failing and even being killed, in their attempts to consolidate power and eliminate the threat of Rand al’Thor and his allies. She’s arguing that their very approach is the thing that isn’t serving them, and I think she’s right. In the same way, though perhaps not to the same degree, Niall is operating as though the world with Rand in it is the same as the one Niall has always known. He refuses to consider the idea that Rand might actually be the Dragon Reborn, refuses to consider anything that strays too far from the rules of the world as he understands it. This is why he thinks it’s a good idea to spread discord and instability in the very lands he wants to unite. In times past, simpler times, destabilizing a country would have allowed Niall to step in and impose order. But I don’t think that is going to work for him here. Sending men to pretend to be Dragonsworn might make Rand’s task more difficult, but I don’t think it’s going to make enough people stop believing in Rand’s identity to turn the tide in Niall’s favor.

And in the meantime, you know who loves chaos, distrust, and destruction? The Dark One.

I’m kind of uncertain whether the title “Lord of Chaos” refers to Rand or not. The way the Forsaken use it seems a little ambiguous to me. The order to leave Rand alone and not kill him seems to be tied with the instruction to “let the Lord of Chaos rule” but it also seems like a more general instruction to sow chaos wherever they can, which would make a lot of sense. In many ways, you would think the Dark One would be the Lord of Chaos, not the champion of the Light.

But this confusion about the change and disorder Rand brings has always existed. It’s been prophesied that he will Break the World again, that he’ll break all bonds between nations, between lords and their people, etc. When people hear the title the Dragon Reborn, they imagine destruction and chaos, madness and broken things. But what Rand is actually trying to do, ousting Forsaken from the governments of the worlds and uniting all the lands under himself, isn’t exactly chaotic. It’s a disruption, and a remaking, yes. But he’s not leaving everything in ruin, despite the damage that is caused along the way. It’s more complicated than that.

Interesting Niall decided to say that the Black Ajah exists, thereby tacitly admitting that all Aes Sedai are not necessarily servants of the Dark, the way the Whitecloaks have always claimed. It’s also fascinating to realize that this subterfuge of his might really benefit the Aes Sedai in Salidar, and that it’s actually rather close to the truth. Elaida may not be Black Ajah, but we know that Alviarin is the head of the Black Ajah, and that she’s controlling a lot of what goes on in the Tower now. It sure is ironic to see Niall accidentally helping our heroes this way.

But it’s like they say, a broken clock is still right twice a day. Omerna might be a credulous dummy, but he is basically the only person who believes the rumors that the Whitecloak defeat at Falme, as well as the problems in Tarabon and Arad Doman, are being caused by Artur Hawkwing’s armies, returned from across the ocean. Too bad no one is going to listen to that claim.

Speaking of the Salidar Aes Sedai, we see a similar contrast between the way they seem to always be dragging their feet about making any big decisions and the intense urgency that Nynaeve and Elayne are always operating under. Siuan certainly operates with some urgency, as does Moiraine, but in general the Aes Sedai are very alike Niall in that they are handling the approach of Tarmon Gai’don the same way they have handled their affairs for thousands of years. There’s a lot of scheming and setting plans in place, a lot of the Game of Houses, and a lot of maintaining the illusion that their lives are still basically the same as they’ve always been. Sheriam and co. think they should be able to understand Tel’aran’rhiod the same way they understand the One Power and be accepted as authorities on it just as they expect to be everywhere else. It has started to get them into trouble, and I expect that it will continue to do so as the story continues.

But let’s get to the real elephant in the room here, which is Alanna. I was pretty shocked by what she did to Rand! We saw that she was weirdly covetous of Perrin back in the Two Rivers, and she clearly thinks that by bonding Rand she can both protect and control him. I have a feeling that neither is going to be as easy as she hopes, but certainly she’ll have some influence over him, just by virtue of being able to feel what he feels, and vice versa.

You can’t really understate the violation that Alanna has perpetrated here. All in all, I thought Rand showed remarkable restraint. Yes, he threw his weight around with the Power and did a lot of shouting, but he didn’t hurt anyone or even get close to doing so. Really, one wonders what Alanna expected him to do. Submit meekly? Thank her? Even if Rand were to eventually decide that he must accept what he cannot change, or even come to value the bond, surely she would have expected some kind of reaction from him, just from the shock alone. The woman has bonded men before; she knows how it works and what it feels like.

Maybe she thought it would be easy for her and Verin to shield him. Knowing that the Dragon Reborn must be powerful and actually experiencing it are two different things, and none of the modern Aes Sedai have any knowledge or understanding of male channeling at all.

Rand began this chapter wishing for the days where he could have walked in a hallway on his own, without an escort. He’s struggled under the weight of his duty, tried to figure out the muddle of his emotions and attachment to Aviendha. He’s tried to enjoy a quiet moment, riding through the city.

Now, he’s leaving the chapter unable to be alone even in his own mind. What peace will he be able to find now, in between the chattering of Lews Therin and the heavily-warded dreams of three different women? What will Alanna be able to learn about him? Can she help him deal with the oncoming madness, with Lews Therin?

Somehow, I kind of doubt it. Maybe Elayne could have, if she’d been the one to bond Rand (and done it with permission). But Alanna will always be the enemy to Rand now, I think. And she has further pushed away his ability and willingness to trust any Aes Sedai, even a little.

We’ll explore this more next week in Chapters 11 and 12, where we’ll learn a little more about what Alanna was thinking, and what Verin intends to do about it, and we’ll see Rand experience what it feels like to be bonded. Then we’ll go see what Nynaeve is up to, and deal with some issues that are almost as dramatic as this one. Almost. Until then, I hope you are all taking the best care of yourselves you can, drinking water, and getting through this weirdly murky February. Be safe!

Final thoughts:

  • I have a lot of love for Morgase, and the sense of compassion she feels towards people. It’s a trait that Elayne inherited from her, but it’s also a trait that Rand shares. Of all the rulers we’ve met so far, I think Morgase is the best model, and when Rand considers how to take care of the Palace servants, when he feels responsibility towards the lost people who wander Caemlyn in search of the Dragon, he resembles her a lot. If only Morgase knew the truth about him, instead of the rumors and Niall’s poison.
  • I was totally fooled by Omerna, and never would have guessed that he was only a decoy spymaster, not the real one. I guess that tells you how far my opinion of Whitecloaks and their deductive reasoning ability goes.
  • Did you catch the reference to Marillin Gemalphin? When Bael first reports that two Aes Sedai are in the city, Rand asks if one of them is their “friend who likes cats” and the narrative references stories of an Aes Sedai in the city who has Healed some dogs and cats. I wonder if Moghedien sent her to Caemlyn for some reason, and what will happen to that mission now that Moghedien has been captured by Nynaeve.
  • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I really want Maiden handtalk to exist because there is, or was at one time, a deaf Maiden. I do not believe I am going to get this in canon, but I am fully headcanoning that there have been deaf warriors amongst the Maidens and also maybe other Aiel and maybe some other societies as well. Maybe the maidens even made an exception and taught those warriors handtalk as well, creating a special bond across societies. In the meantime, I’ll go watch Amaya on The Dragon Prince.
  • Alanna’s bonding of Rand is such a perfect example of the old Aes Sedai “the truth you hear is not necessarily they said” trope. The idea of “harm” is pretty subjective, after all. I have no doubt that Rand feels like he’s been harmed, and I would agree that the mental toll taken by having his consent violated and his privacy invaded is harmful. But Alanna doesn’t see it that way, and so she was able to tell a truth that one might argue is not true at all. This is also how the Aes Sedai in Salidar are able to tell others that the Red Ajah are responsible for Logain—they believe it, so they are not lying. But it’s not true, either.
  • Ellorien and Pelivar are two of the names Morgase was thinking of when she considered who had been her allies in the past and might be again. I’ll be very interested to see what Rand is able to do with them.

Sylas K Barrett also thinks that Ellorien and Pelivar have really cool names.

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