Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Doing What One Must in Robert Jordan’s Lord of Chaos (Part 11)

Good morning friends. It’s been a difficult few weeks for me, as I imagine it has been for many of you as well, so we’re only going to make it through one chapter, Chapter 15, of Lord of Chaos today. It’s a really good chapter, though! Egwene learns more about her encounters in Tel’aran’rhiod and Nynaeve and Elayne finally confront Sheriam and her council about the indecision and hesitancy of the Aes Sedai in Salidar. Also there’s more little hints about what the Salidar Aes Sedai are planning, which is just tantalizing to me. I want to know what’s going on! Also I loved that Nynaeve and Elayne got to tell Sheriam and co. off, even if they do have to scrub pots for it.

Egwene wakes in her tent, exhausted from a night spent outside of her body. She has a throbbing headache—since she was attacked by Lanfear she always gets a headache after visiting Tel’aran’rhiod, though it usually dissipates after an hour or so. She tries to tell herself that Gawyn had no right to dream of her that way, that the whole thing was his fault and nothing to do with her, but then realizes she’s being foolish. She’s so exhausted she decides to go back to bed, where she relives parts of Gawyn’s dream and also has versions of her own. Other dreams show her Mat, or Perrin.

Several concerned Rand, not all bad, but all odd. Elayne, forcing him to his knees with one hand. Elayne and Min and Aviendha, sitting in a silent circle around him, each in turn reaching out to lay a hand on him.

She dreams of Rand walking towards a mountain and crushing the seals on the Dark One’s prison beneath his boots. She dreams that the two mystery women from Tel’aran’rhiod capture her and drag her in front of a group of hooded women, who all turn out to be Liandrin. Her dreams get darker until she’s finally awakened by Cowinde. Amys, Bair, and Melaine follow just in time to hear Egwene say that she doesn’t want any breakfast and is going back to sleep. They fuss over Egwene’s health, and Amys mentions looking into Egwene’s dreams three times during the night and finding nothing. She seems only to think that Egwene isn’t dreaming, but Egwene feels her mouth go dry and realize how nearly she had been caught.

They tell Egwene that, at their last meeting, Carlinya accused them of holding Egwene against her will, and laugh over the fact that they put snakes in Carlinya’s dress in retaliation. Egwene asks to be able to go back to Tel’aran’rhiod soon, and the Wise Ones tell her maybe, providing that her appetite is good.

As she gets dressed, Egwene carefully asks if it’s possible to be pulled into someone’s dream against your will. Bair says that it’s possible if you observe the dream of someone that feels strong emotions towards you, or that you feel strong emotions towards.

Egwene asks if they ever encounter other women in Tel’aran’rhiod, and the Wise Ones tell her that this is unusual but does happen. Such women, without anyone to teach them, are likely to be killed by the Dream. Egwene is satisfied with how much she has learned from the Wise Ones without revealing the truth of where her questions came from. She considers that she does love Gawyn, and that the fact that she was drawn into his dream—then hopes that the Wise Ones will mistake her blush for a healthy glow.

She wishes she could find out what her other dreams meant as easily.

In Salidar, the streets are packed with people waiting to witness Tarna’s departure. A yawning Elayne is joined by a yawning and bleary-eyed Nynaeve, and a moment later by Siuan. Nynaeve complains about the honors Tarna is receiving from the Little Tower, and Siuan reminds her that no matter what side they are all on, Tarna is an Aes Sedai, and nothing changes that. Nynaeve gives her a look behind her back.

Elayne was glad Nynaeve held her tongue; the obvious reply would have been hurtful. “What was the toll last night?”

Siuan tells them that there were seven deaths in the village, and nearly a hundred in the soldier’s camp, but Gareth Bryne is alive and unharmed. Nynaeve and Siuan snipe at each other, and even Elayne gets in on it, trying to threaten Siuan in order to find out what she knows about the Hall’s decision. It doesn’t work, but Siuan does mention that Tarna’s message from Elaida was exactly what Nynaeve expected it to be—come back to the Tower.

The Sitters for the Hall in Salidar come out, wearing their shawls, and then Tarna. Everyone watches as she mounts her horse and rides away, escorted by a number of Warders. Romanda, a Yellow sister and the oldest Sitter, gives a brief speech about how no one needs to worry and that they are all sheltered beneath the hands of the Aes Sedai, “now and after our assured return to our proper places in the White Tower.”

Siuan looks stone-faced and pinch lipped, but Nynaeve immediately hops down so Elayne follows her, pushing through the crowd to keep up until they reach Sheriam, standing with Romanda, Morvrin and Carlinya. Nynaeve asks to speak to Sheriam alone, and they move off after belatedly paying respects to Romanda.

Elayne knows that some of the Aes Sedai believe that Sheriam and her council only see to the day-to-day affairs of Salidar, while others know that they had influence over the Hall. How much influence no one is exactly sure. But she also knows that Romanda believes they have too much, and is angered by the fact that they have two Blues and no Yellow in their number.

Sheriam takes them to a private chamber, and Nynaeve asks her to ward against eavesdropping while Elayne checks the windows. Quickly they tell the story of their trip into Tel’aran’rhiod and the finding of the weather ter’angreal. Sheriam agrees to send a letter to Merilille, the Gray sister posted in Ebou Dar, but the girls argue that they should be sent instead—Nynaeve with her usual bluntness and Egwene with more tact. Neither argument sways the Aes Sedai, however, and Morvrin reminds them that they must all do “what [they] can do best.”

“We all do what we can, what we must. You two are Accepted. Accepted do not go running off to Ebou Dar or anywhere else. What you two can and must do is remain here and study. Were you full sisters, I would still say keep you here. No one has made the sort of discoveries you have, the sheer number in so short a time, in a hundred years.”

Nynaeve points out that if they could handle Tanchico, they can handle Ebou Dar. Elayne, wincing at the lack of tact, argues for being sent to help, under Merilille. She also slips in a little lie, claiming that she believes that the bowl needs a male channeler to help work it, and suggests that they send a message to Rand. Her hope is that the Aes Sedai won’t be able to pass up the opportunity to do something about the weather, and she can later pretend to figure out that a circle of women could also use the bowl. But by that time, the Aes Sedai in Salidar would already have tied themselves to Rand.

When their suggestions continue to be dismissed, Nynaeve finally snaps. She accuses the Aes Sedai of doing nothing but talking and waiting, hoping that the Whitecloaks won’t attack, fumbling with the question of what to do about Elaida and what to do about Rand.

“Do you know why you sit and talk? I do! You’re afraid. Afraid of the Tower divided, afraid of Rand, the Forsaken, the Black Ajah. Last night Anaiya let slip that you had a plan ready in case one of the Forsaken attacked. All those circles linking, right on top of the bubble of evil—do you finally believe in that?—but all mismatched and most with more novices than Aes Sedai. Because only a few Aes Sedai knew beforehand. You think the Black Ajah’s right here in Salidar. You were afraid your plan might get back to Sammael, or one of the others. You don’t trust each other. You don’t trust anybody! Is that why you won’t send us to Ebou Dar? Do you think we’re Black Ajah, or we’ll run off to Rand, or…  or…!”

She fumbles to a halt. Elayne has a momentary impulse to try to smooth it over, but can’t imagine how. Then she notices the expressions on the Aes Sedai’s faces, and realizes that they are trying to cover up the truth—that they are afraid.

Elayne takes a break from scrubbing out a cauldron to poke Nynaeve, scrubbing another pot beside her, and to complain about how Nynaeve ruined their chances to go to Ebou Dar. Nynaeve assures Elayne that they were never going to be allowed to go, and reminds her that Nynaeve isn’t the only one who said something to get them this scrubbing duty. She mimics Elayne’s tone as she recites the words.

“‘Aes Sedai rule their fear… they do not allow it to rule them. Lead, and we will follow gladly, but you must lead, not cower, hoping that something will make your troubles vanish.’”

They are interrupted by Faolain, who has been set to watch them, demanding that they get back to work. She tells them that she is working on something just as impressive as what “the Aes Sedai’s golden children” have accomplished, and doesn’t mean to waste the whole day making sure they don’t run off. Elayne is surprised when Nynaeve apologizes to her before crawling back into her pot to keep scrubbing.

As she gets back to her own work, Elayne promises herself that she will go to Eb0u Dar and find that ter’angreal, and that she will use it to tie the Aes Sedai to Rand, on their knees.

Watching from a crack in the fence, Sheriam tells Morvrin and Carlinya that she regrets setting the girls to that punishment, at least a little. Carlinya asks if she wants to tell two Accepted what only a few Aes Sedai know, and Sheriam admonishes her, reminding her that there could be ears listening anywhere. Morvrin remarks that Nynaeve was right about one thing—al’Thor terrifies her. She wonders aloud what options they have left with him, and Sheriam privately thinks that they might have run out of options some time ago.

 

Everybody is tired today! I got a good chuckle out of Elayne being irked that Birgitte told Anaiya she looked unsteady and got her sent to bed, but also irked at Nynaeve for not sleeping and irked at Moghedien for hiding and then being the only person in Salidar who got a good night’s rest. The descriptions fully made me yawn along with the girls, if I’m being honest. I actually yawned again typing this.

I find it extremely ironic that Morvrin tells Elayne and Nynaeve that “we must all do what we can do best” and then lists two examples of people trying to do things that she knows they can’t accomplish. According to that statement, Elayne and Nynaeve should be allowed to go to Ebou Dar, since, as they pointed out, they are more likely to be able to find the bowl ter’angreal than anyone else, especially since Elayne has this talent for them that no other Aes Sedai seems to have. But of course when Morvrin says “what we can do best” she’s not speaking of individual talent or opportunity. She’s talking about rank, which as we know is both terribly important to the Aes Sedai, not just between the levels of novice, Accepted, and full Sister, but also within the order itself.

I don’t blame Nynaeve and Elayne one bit for losing their tempers at Sheriam and the rest. Heck, even Sheriam doesn’t blame them as much as she appeared to. Her conversation with Carlinya and Morvrin makes me more confident in my predictions that the Aes Sedai in Salidar are stalling, pretending to be uncertain about their next moves because they are waiting to make Egwene their new Amyrlin. We know from Egwene’s section that Sheriam and co. are getting a bit desperate to see her, even going so far as to suspect the Wise Ones of holding her hostage. If they need Egwene for their plan, that would certainly explain the urgency.

If Nynaeve knew this, it might have changed some of her accusations towards the Salidar Aes Sedai, but I still think she was mostly right about them. Maybe Sheriam or the Hall have a few plans up their sleeves that they’re not willing to reveal yet, but everything else felt spot on to me. The Aes Sedai are afraid, and though they have good reason I think it really shows how difficult these changing times are for established powers. A few posts ago I contrasted Niall’s adaptability and willingness to accept what’s really happening in the world with Rand’s, and I think you can see the same with the Aes Sedai contrasted against Elayne, Nynaeve, and Egwene. It’s true that the three are younger, and much less experienced, than the full sisters, but they are also more able to accept the world as it is. Even Nynaeve, who sees herself as a coward, is always driven to action and even to risk. Like Egwene, she and Elayne have that “itchy hands of idleness” problem, which isn’t always a good impulse, but certainly contrasts with the Aes Sedai and many of the other established powers of the world, who are prone to waiting too long in hopes that they can somehow change the situation to better suit themselves.

It just shows how bad it is for the forces of Light that they’ve lost Moiraine, and that Siuan’s stilling has put her at such a disadvantage. Except for Verin, they are the only two Aes Sedai who have had a plan since we met them, and all three have shown the ability to adapt and regroup when their plans, inevitably, didn’t go exactly as they hoped. I suppose everyone, Aes Sedai or not, female or not, needs to learn the lesson of saidar, surrendering in order to gain some control, rather than trying to brute force things.

Of course, these are all appropriate themes for a book entitled Lord of Chaos, and I’m really impressed with how strongly and yet subtly Jordan has strung them all through here. And I should also acknowledge that plenty of Aes Sedai are aware of their terror of the Dragon Reborn, and most are able to admit it to their peers, though not to others. And it’s easy for me, a reader, to judge them harshly for their fear and inaction—Elayne and the Two Rivers folks are our heroes and main POV characters, not Sheriam et al. or the Hall in Salidar. And it’s easy to overlook the terror inspired by Rand when I, the reader, was not raised to fear the horror of male channeling or the second Breaking of the World. Not to mention the fact that I know Rand’s mind better than anyone else, even his allies, which makes it hard to view him with the same anger and suspicion as everyone else in the story does.

I suppose it’s just hitting me extremely hard this week, what with all the goings on in our world, how difficult it is to be consumed with fear and dread, to want to do something to improve a dire situation but not having any sense of a plan. What can I do about something so much greater than myself? I can’t allow myself to give up or stop caring, but I can also relate with Sheriam’s feelings at the end of this chapter. What if we ran out of options a long time ago?

But if I empathize with the Aes Sedai, I empathize much more with Nynaeve and Elayne. Because they’re right. The Aes Sedai insist that they are the leaders but it’s pretty clear that even your average denizen of Salidar isn’t feeling much confidence right now. Which… same, in my own leaders. There are definitely some world powers I would like to take to task the way Nynaeve and Elayne did.

I loved Elayne’s plan to manipulate the Aes Sedai into aligning themselves with Rand by lying and saying that the bowl ter’angreal also needs a male channeler to make it work. It’s a very Aes Sedai move; even though she is lying, the approach is the same as the Aes Sedai “the truth you hear” lies. It’s close to the truth—Egwene knows that there are probably some ter’angreal that need both a male and a female channeler, and she also knows that she isn’t strong enough to use the bowl herself. And pretending that she needs Rand to work the bowl is just a smokescreen to get the Aes Sedai interacting with Rand enough that they can’t untangle themselves from that relationship even if they decide they want to.

Which is kind of what Pedron Niall is doing to Morgase, in a way, except his method and motives are a lot crueler and more nefarious.

In any case, it’s interesting to watch how all the Aes Sedai accept the truth of the Karaethon Cycle and yet most of them still seem to think it’s possible for them to have control over Rand and his choices. Certainly it’s reasonable for them, as powerful authorities and wielders of the One Power, to expect to be major players in the Last Battle and the events leading up to it, but most Aes Sedai seem to think that it should be the other way around, with the White Tower/Little Tower directing everything and Rand as a major player under their guidance. And while it makes sense that they would wish for that, it seems to me that people who believe in prophecy should be a little bit more flexible in accepting it. I don’t think we’ve heard any bits of the Karaethon Cycle that claim what Aes Sedai involvement will be, one way or the other, but I imagine if there was something out there that the Aes Sedai could point to that would suggest that they should be in charge, or need to be in charge for the fate of the world, someone would have trotted it out already.

Meanwhile we have the Aiel reaction to He Who Comes With the Dawn, which really feels more pragmatic and sensible to me. The Shaido and those who join them were unable to face what Rand’s existence meant and so have rejected the prophecy as a whole. Those who have accepted who he is and what that means have done so wholly, even when they may struggle emotionally with the consequences, as we see with the gai’shain who don’t want to go back to their old lives after their time of service is over. The Wise Ones, meanwhile, are doing their best to accept what they can’t control and to find ways to guide Rand and salvage what protection they can for the Aiel people.

I feel like I really called it with Egwene. She probably should be resting and taking the Wise Ones’ advice, but she can’t stand to be idle any more than Nynaeve can. Here’s hoping there’s no lasting damage from spending all her nights wandering around Tel’aran’rhiod. And I guess she is in love with Gawyn? Being caught in his dream didn’t make her be in love with him, right? The way it’s put in the narration confused me.

She already knew she loved Gawyn—Did you, then? a voice whispered. Were you willing to admit it?—and his dreams certainly indicated he loved her.

So my prediction last week was right—Egwene falls in and out of love with people “off-screen,” as it were. Which I guess is true of most of the romances in The Wheel of Time—Nynaeve and Lan happened in the background, but it was definitely observable from the beginning. We didn’t get much for Rand and Elayne but we saw a few moments in the early development of their relationship, and we saw a lot more in Rand and Aviendha’s antagonists-to-lovers situation. Min and Rand came absolutely out of the blue, but there’s a large part of me that suspects the Rand/Aviendha/Elayne/Min situation is caused by his ta’veren powers anyway. So I’m a little less irked by the abruptness of that.

With Egwene though, she and Rand dropped their feelings for each other suddenly and apparently randomly, and now she’s in love with Gawyn? I thought she had the hots for Galad? I don’t know, but I’m annoyed by it.

Lots of prophetic dreams for Egwene in the beginning of this chapter. Because I love to do it, I’m going to try to guess the meaning of all of them.

  • Egwene trying to turn Gawyn against his will, one time succeeding, one time failing: I bet this has something to do with Gawyn’s allegiance to Elaida. Egwene will try to convince Gawyn to ally himself with her and the Salidar Aes Sedai instead of Elaida, and something important will hang in the balance of that attempt, possibly her own life (she sees him shutting a door on her and knows that if it closes she’ll be dead).
  • Perrin with a wolf at his feet, a falcon on one shoulder and a hawk on the other, glaring at each other: Someone will try to take Perrin from Faile. Maybe Alanna?
  • Perrin running away from a tinker: Perrin struggling with his feelings around letting Aram take up a sword.
  • Ravens on Mat’s shoulders, sinking their claws into him, he is defiant, then accepts. A shrouded woman beckoning him to great danger: Mat struggling with accepting his fate? No idea what the ravens would mean, specifically. Maybe the woman is the Daughter of the Nine Moons?
  • Elayne forcing Rand to his knees with one hand: I assume this references Elayne’s desire to bond Rand. Perhaps she will succeed, maybe get Alanna to transfer the bond to her?
  • Elayne, Min, and Aviendha surrounding Rand and touching him: They’re all gonna marry that boy.
  • Rand walking towards a burning mountain, breaking the seals under his boots: Rand’s existence heralds the breaking of the Seals and the coming of the Last Battle. The mountain could be Dragonmount, or it could be in Shayol Ghul, which is where the Last Battle is prophesied to take place.
  • The two strange women from Tel’aran’rhiod take her in front of a group of Aes Sedai who all turn out to be Liandrin: Siuan and Leane plan to make Egwene Amyrlin. There are Black Ajah in Salidar. Maybe Egwene will be the one to root them out.

There are a few more but as of right now I’m assuming those are just regular nightmares. In any case, that was fun! I hope it is enjoyable for those of you in the know to see my guesses, and have a chuckle over what I got wrong.

Next week we’ll tackle Chapter 16 and 17, which is just as well because they’re both Rand chapters. I hope you all have as restful a week as is possible under our current circumstances. Me? I’m going to go get a drink. Maybe I’ll rewatch some of The Wheel of Time show later. Or maybe just the Lan bits.

Sylas K Barrett thinks it’s fitting that there was a lot of yawning in this chapter, on a week when he also is very, very tired.

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