Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Min, Melaine, and Mazrim in Robert Jordan’s Lord of Chaos (Part 25)

Hello friends! I’ve missed you all. Not as much as Rand has missed Min, though!

In this week’s read we are covering Chapters 41 and 42, in which Min arrives at the Royal Palace to deliver Elayne’s letter and some ultimatums of her own, makes unexpected friends with Melaine, and sits in Rand’s lap a lot. Afterwards, Rand goes to the farm to organize ranks within his students, and finds that they have already picked a name for themselves. Lews Therin continues to be threatened by Aes Sedai and to want to murder Taim. It’s all good fun. Let’s go!

Min rides through Caemlyn and arrives at the palace gates, having snuck off from the Aes Sedai before they could assign her an escort of Warders. She hesitates, a little because of the tales she’s heard about the Aiel, more because of the way she’s dressed. Her outfit consists of a coat and breeches, but they are made with fine wool and are a pale rose color decorated with embroidered flowers. She reflects upon her early childhood running about the mines in boy’s clothes, and how after her father’s death her aunts were never able make her into “a decent proper woman.” She tells herself firmly that Rand will have to take her as she is. Still, she considers that her fine clothes and ringletted hair are already a change from who she used to be, and a small voice inside tells her that she will be whatever she thinks Rand wants her to be. She kicks the voice down and rides up to the gates.

Dismounting, she approaches the shortest of the Aiel, and explains that Rand knows her, that her name is Min and she has come with an important message for him. The Aiel woman, who gives her name as Enaila, agrees to take Min to him. Someone comes to take Min’s horse and she follows Enaila to the doors of the Palace throne room. She catches sight of Rand sitting on the dragon throne, looking tired and beautiful and surrounded by the flickering images she always sees whenever she looks at him. Suddenly the nobles around Rand begin withdrawing, and Min realizes that Rand is smiling at her. She tries to control her emotions.

Rand is ecstatic to see Min and as soon as he reaches her he grabs her up and spins her around, telling her exactly how good it is to see her face. She upbraids him for swinging her about like a sack of oats, calling him a wool-head sheep herder.

“Woolhead,” he laughed softly. “Min, you can name me liar, but I’ve actually missed hearing you call me that.” She did not call him anything; she merely peered up at him, the glare gone completely. Her eyelashes did seem longer than he remembered.

He orders Samara to send everyone away and takes Min to his rooms, instructing her to tell him everything about where she’s been and how she arrived in Caemlyn. When she demurs, he tells her that he knows about Salidar. She presents him with a letter from Elayne, a short message telling him that he knows how she feels about him, and asking him to allow Min, who she loves as a sister, to help him. He asks aloud if all women try to drive men crazy, and goes on a rant about Elayne’s confusing signals, about how happy he and Aviendha were to get away from each other and yet he finds himself missing the battle, and expecting to see her every time he turns around. When Min informs him that it is impolite to talk about one woman to another, Rand answers that she is a friend—he doesn’t think of her as a woman.

Min demands angrily if she looks like a boy, or a man, or a horse, then abruptly sits in his lap, to “convince” him that she is a woman. Rand assures her that he knows she is a woman—and notices that she feels rather nice, sitting in his lap—and that he only meant that he is comfortable with her. Min asks who Aviendha is, and if Rand loves both of them, and he admits guiltily that he might. But he promises that it is over now, and that he won’t go within ten miles of either woman if he can help it. When Min asks why, he tells her about what Lan said about men who radiate death. Min starts to tell him something, then changes her mind and says simply that she is glad he knows that she is his friend.

Min moves the subject on to the embassy from Salidar which has accompanied her to Caemlyn. Rand had privately guessed that this must be the case, and he’s pleased at the confirmation that the Aes Sedai are frightened and ready to accept his protection. However, he assumes it is only one woman, and is surprised when Min tells him that there are nine. She assures him that they mean him no harm, but admits that this is her personal opinion, not a viewing. She also admits that when she saw him in the throne room, she saw that women who can channel were going to hurt him, perhaps more than one time.

He looked at her silently, and she smiled. “I like that about you, Rand. You accept what I can do and what I cannot. You don’t ask me if I’m sure, or when it’s going to happen. You never ask for more than I know.”

“Well, I am to ask one thing, Min. Can you be sure these Aes Sedai in your viewing aren’t the Aes Sedai you came with?”

“No,” she said simply. That was one thing he liked; she never tried to evade.

Lews Therin mutters in Rand’s mind, and Min mistakes the expression on Rand’s face for anger at her. He promises that he knows she is on his side, and gives her a list of rules that the Salidar Aes Sedai must abide by.

A sudden crash startles them both—Sulin has dropped the tray of wine punch she came in with. Min starts to scramble out of Rand’s lap, but he pulls her back down, determined to show that he is truly done with Aviendha. He introduces Min, and warns her that he’ll consider harm to Min as akin to harm to himself. Sulin, clearly angered, says that Aviendha spent too much time mooning after him and not enough time teaching him.

After Sulin leaves, Melaine comes in, and this time Min makes no effort to get up. Instead she snuggles against him and seems to be falling asleep as Melaine reports that the Wise Ones send news. She tells him that Egwene has left the tents to travel to a place called Salidar, and reports about the Wise Ones’ experience with the Aes Sedai. Rand is surprised to hear about the Wise Ones’ frustrations with the Aes Sedai and Melaine’s advice that he must use a firm hand with them, as it is a profound change from the way the Aiel used to regard the Aes Sedai.

“You will have two daughters,” Min murmured. “Twins like mirrors.”

Melaine starts, and demands how Min could know she was with child when she herself only found out that morning. Rand assures Min that Melaine will keep her secret, and after some hesitation, Min reluctantly explains her ability. As they talk, and Melaine asks questions, Rand notices that Melaine starts to treat Min more like an equal. Eventually talk turns to childbirth, and Rand clears his throat loudly, irritated at being ignored for so long. The two women interpret this as discomfort with the subject matter.

He turns conversation back to the Aes Sedai, and listens as Min tells him the names and everything she knows about each of the members of the embassy. She reports a mixture of suspicion and fear of frightening him, but continues her tentative insistence that they will support Rand if he shows them respect, while Melaine is dubious. Despite their arguing, the two women appear to Rand to have become fast friends, and Melaine promises to name one of her daughters after Min before hurrying off to tell Bael the news.

Left alone with Min, Rand offers to take her to the farm, but she balks, and tells him she should return to the Aes Sedai so she can tell them his rules as soon as possible. Rand is confused that she would be so comfortable with him, a man who can channel, and yet so fearful of his recruits. Before she leaves, she tells him that he looks tired and urges him to sleep, then stands on tiptoe to give him a kiss. Rand is left feeling perplexed by her actions, and assuming that she is still messing with him for saying that he didn’t see her as a woman.

Rand fetches some things from his wardrobe, thinking of the Aes Sedai in the city and the rumors that will soon flow. There are nine from Salidar, but Alanna and Verin are in Caemlyn as well, making the full number eleven. Lews Therin mutters in his mind, like “the sound of a man wondering whether his back was against a wall.”

He opens a portal to the farm without calling for the Maidens on guard, stepping through and releasing saidin at once. The taint seems worse than ever, somehow, but more importantly, Rand doesn’t think he dares face Taim with Lews Therin in his head and saidin in his grasp. The farm looks very different from the last time he saw it, much busier and more built up. There are now well over a hundred students, using saidin to perform chores or practicing the sword or learning to fight with their hands and feet like the Aiel.

A man with a Taraboner accent accosts Rand, first asking who he is and then deriding his identity as the dragon reborn. Taim knocks him unconscious with Air, then tells Rand they need hard discipline with men who have suddenly been told that they have incredible power. Rand learns that the students have begun referring to the farm as the Black Tower. Rand wonders if the White Tower came from such humble beginnings, then asks Taim to assemble everyone for an announcement.

Taim has a little platform of polished black stone from which to make addresses. Rand begins by telling them that the rumors of the White Tower divide are true, and that some of the rebel Aes Sedai have sent emissaries to him. He tells the men not to believe any rumors they hear about these nine Aes Sedai who await Rand’s pleasure in Caemlyn. Then he tells them that they need a name, and that in the Old Tongue, Aes Sedai means something like Servants of All. Another word is asha’man, which means guardians or defenders.

“Not just any defender or guardian, though. You could not call a man who defended an unjust cause asha’man, and never one that was evil. An asha’man was a man who defended truth and justice and right for everyone. A guardian who would not yield even when hope was gone.” The Light knew, hope would go when Tarmon Gai’don came, if not before. “That is what you are here to become. When you finish your training, you will be Asha’man.”

He goes on to tell them that they will have degrees like the Aes Sedai. When a man first comes to the Black Tower he will be called a soldier… “a soldier to fight the Shadow, and not just the Shadow, but anyone who opposes justice or oppresses the weak.” Then, once he reaches a certain level, he will be named Dedicated. Those Dedicated who advance far enough in their skills will be called Asha’man. For these ranks, he produces a silver badge shaped like a sword, and a red and gold badge in the shape of a dragon, respectively. He pins both on Taim, announcing that Rand himself was the first Asha’man, and Taim is the second. He is confused by Taim’s stony face as he receives the badges.

When Rand finishes his speech he expects cheers, but is only met with silence. Taim dismisses everyone, and asks Rand in for a cup of wine. They make awkward conversation about the women’s reaction to their men learning to channel and Taim’s impressive progress in recruiting. Finally, Rand demands to know what is wrong with Taim, and points out that the men who receive the badges will think more of them if Taim seems pleased with his. He nearly shouts at Taim, and the man responds by visibly shaking with rage, then calming himself. In his usual tone, Taim tells Rand that the men are concerned about the Aes Sedai in Caemlyn, and the two argue. As Rand becomes more angry with Taim, Lews Therin begins to shout in his head about killing Taim and then those who serve him, and trying to seize saidin. Rand fights him, screaming at Lews Therin inside his head.

Abruptly he realized he was leaning on the table, holding himself up with sagging knees. And muttering, “You are dead! I am alive, and you are dead!” But he had not seized saidin. And neither had Lews Therin. Shivering, he looked at Taim and was surprised to see concern on the man’s face.

“You must hold on,” Taim said softly. “If sanity can be held, you must. The price is too high, if you fail.”

Taim suggests that accidents might remove a few of the Aes Sedai in Caemlyn, but Rand tells him that if he feels a man channel in Caemlyn, he will come for Taim, specifically. Taim asks what will happen if Sammael or Demandred decide to drop a few dead Aes Sedai on his doorstep—Rand answers that they haven’t yet and Taim better hope they don’t decide to. He also tells Taim that he intends to make the Aes Sedai embassy dance to his flute.

Light, how long since he had played the flute? Where was his flute? Faintly, he heard Lews Therin chuckling.

 

I’m really looking forward to getting to know Min better. We haven’t spent that much time in her POV, and her thoughts during the flight from Tar Valon were mostly reactionary. Even this chapter we’re more in Rand’s head than hers. All in all, she’s a very enjoyable character to watch interacting with others, whether it’s Siuan and Leane or Elayne. Still, much of the friendship that developed between Min and Elayne was between scenes. Hopefully now that she’s in Caemlyn and seemingly preparing to be some kind of advisor to Rand, we’ll get to see more of her personality. I loved that she made the Aiel laugh with her joke about the horse coming in with her.

I also liked the opening bit where Min thinks about how she dreamed of traveling. It reminded me of Egwene’s excitement to leave Emond’s Field and see the world. I also thought the way she began to make friends with Melaine was really charming, and Jordan’s narration through that section was very funny—especially Rand’s amused indignation over the fact that they think he would be made uncomfortable by human childbirth after growing up on a farm and helping with the births of sheep and horses. Min’s more of a city girl and Aiel warriors aren’t the ones responsible for animal husbandry, as far as I can tell, so neither Min nor Melaine probably have much experience in that area. I’m also tickled as punch to meet the new twins, one of whom will be named after Min! Adorable.

Rand and Min are also pretty adorable here. I have a lot of sympathy for Min’s dilemma with him. She does not know him as well as either Elayne or Aviendha does, and yet she was the first to know that she would fall in love with him, and she knew from the beginning that she would be sharing him with others. Elayne is perplexed and a little unsettled by Min’s apparent ease with the idea of sharing Rand, but we can see from this section that she is not perhaps as comfortable with the idea as she claims. Even though she knows Rand is going to have Elayne and one other woman in his life, she’s still upset when he talks about them. Which is understandable, but also I don’t think Min anticipated the fact that Rand might already be in love with two other people, but not yet with her. I didn’t anticipate that little hiccup either, to be fair.

I kind of want to shake them both, though. When Rand says that he doesn’t think of Min as a woman, of course what he means is that he doesn’t find her stubborn, vexing, and impossible to understand. You know, the way all women are to all men, according to every character we’ve met so far. But then he goes on to describe exactly what love feels like—

“It’s just that I feel comfortable with you. It doesn’t matter if I look like a fool with you. I can say things to you I wouldn’t say to anybody else, not even Mat or Perrin. When I am around you, all the knots unwind, all the tightness in my shoulders I don’t even feel till it goes.”

Yeah, that’s love, buddy. She seems to get it, at least a little bit. But Mr. Woolhead Dragon Reborn over here thinks that Min sitting in his lap and telling him that she wants him drooling and stammering over her is some kind of joke, apparently. Min having a laugh at his expense. Does he think Min falling asleep in his lap and in his arms is a joke, too?

He deserves all the names she likes to call him.

All that being said, it does seem like Min sees Rand more clearly than most people. I’m interested to know what she made of his little speech about being a man who radiates death (Lan, your man sadness baggage really messed this boy up). She clearly has an opinion about it but is choosing to keep it to herself for now. Rand certainly deserves someone who doesn’t see the position he’s in and immediately assume that he’s taken on airs and thinks too well of himself. Taim’s point about what happens when a man “has the power to make the earth shake” is certainly salient, but Rand is too busy being terrified of the deaths he causes and the fact that if he messes up even a little, all of creation might be doomed. The responsibility outweighs the glory by a heavy margin, and he’s too busy hating himself to get a big head about how he’s kind of a King now.

And he doesn’t confide in anyone, really. Mat a bit. Loial, a bit. But neither of them are with him now, Lan is gone, Moiraine dead, and Egwene and Elayne feel like antagonists as much as allies. And Rand hasn’t even found out about Egwene becoming the Amyrlin yet, or Elayne refusing to return to Caemlyn. He needs to feel like he has someone he can talk freely to, and hopefully get some unbiased guidance from. He has advisors he can trust with strategy, of course, but not with himself.

Speaking of Taim, I’m a little skeptical of his claim that he is only angry because of the Aes Sedai in Caemlyn. It makes sense that news of so many Aes Sedai would greatly unsettle the men, especially after Taim’s report that there are Red Ajah lurking around the countryside trying to intercept men on their way to join the Black Tower. Gentling has always been a shadow looming over any man who might discover he has the spark; it was an even more immediate concern than the madness of the taint. Taim also knows the power of thirteen Aes Sedai, although I don’t know if that information has been passed on to the students yet. It doesn’t seem like the sort of thing Taim would want to share.

Worry about the Aes Sedai coming for them must be real enough for the men of the Black Tower even before learning of Red Ajah trying to catch them or nine Aes Sedai arriving in Caemlyn to talk to the Dragon Reborn. The amnesty is so new, and even though Rand is the Dragon, they don’t really have any proof that he can enforce it. Rand announcing the arrival of the Salidar Aes Sedai and then immediately telling them that he is giving them their own ranks in imitation of the Aes Sedai ranking might be unsettling. Then again, they are choosing to call themselves the Black Tower. Surely the comparison is intentional.

It makes me wonder about the motivations of the men who are coming to join the Black Tower. Some are probably motivated by a desire for power and glory, and if Taim discovers any men with the spark on his recruiting trips, it makes sense that they would choose to come with him. But what other motivations would bring a man to wonder if he could learn to channel? Are there students arriving at the Black Tower who are interested in the One Power for reasons other than power-lust? Are there young men whose approach to this is more like Egwene’s was in the beginning of The Eye of the World, who want to leave sleepy homes and small villages and see the world? Young men (or old, as Rand notes there are plenty of older faces in the crowd as well) who seek adventure and new opportunities? For that matter, are there any amongst the Taim’s recruits who were drawn solely by Rand’s pull, the way the aimless refugees wandering the land are?

What I’m getting at here is that the fact that the Dragon’s return is now known in most or all of the continent, and therefore everyone knows that the Last Battle is coming. However, that doesn’t mean that Tarmon Gai’don is as real for the Black Tower students as it is for Rand. It may be that his speech drove home, for the first time, exactly what they have signed up for. Not just to learn to channel saidin and risk the dangers of gentling and eventual madness, but also to be soldiers against the Dark One. To be combatants in the Last Battle. Most or even all of them may have been truly struck by the realization of what Rand is going to require of them. Not, perhaps, a thing they are ready to cheer about just yet.

But I do maintain that there’s something more going on with Taim. He has some kind of issues about those badges Rand awarded him. Probably the very fact that Rand is awarding them to him is the problem—Taim has compared his situation to claiming crumbs of glory that Rand drops. Of course, when Rand is not at the Black Tower, Taim is the most powerful person there, and he is in charge. When Rand returns, however, Taim is reminded that the best he can hope for is second in command. Rand awards those pins to him in front of all of his students, reminding them from whom all glory, and all authority, comes. And it is not from Mazrim Taim.

It’s no wonder Lews Therin is threatened by the man. We know that many of the male Forsaken turned to the Dark because they were jealous of Lews Therin. Taim’s ambition is always going to be a threat to Rand, and he wears his disdain pretty openly too. Still, he seems genuinely concerned for Rand when he appears to be losing his mind—I wonder who Taim thinks Rand is talking to when he says “you are dead.”

Rand needs to start being a lot more careful and a lot less cocky when it comes to the Aes Sedai though. He let his guard down with Alanna and paid the price for it, but while he’s relearned the lesson not to trust any Aes Sedai, he doesn’t seem to have quite internalized the idea that he shouldn’t underestimate them. He’s going around telling the nobility in Caemlyn that Elayne is on her way far too prematurely. I don’t blame him for not guessing that Elayne would put off being crowned in favor of other duties, but his assumption that the Salidar Aes Sedai must be weak, frightened, and easily cowed is a ridiculous one, based on little more than the fact that he believes they are without an Amyrlin. Sure, Rand is aware of the importance of the Amyrlin, the White Tower, and unity to the Aes Sedai… but he also knew Moiraine, and has seen other examples of Aes Sedai strength and determination (read: stubbornness). It’s pretty ridiculous that it never even occurred to him to consider what might happen if he was wrong about the strength in Salidar or their intentions. Not to mention the fact that Elayne could theoretically have left Salidar before Mat arrived. It would have been a small window, but it is possible. And yet Rand is already telling people that Elayne is on her way, assuming that Mat will encounter no problems either with the Aes Sedai, the Dragonsworn, the Forsaken, or any other unforeseen disaster. He’s going to have a lot of egg on his face when she doesn’t show up, that’s for sure.

His overconfidence might also account for some of the unease in the Black Tower recruits. He misjudges how affected they will be by the news of the Aes Sedai in Salidar, how much they might be rattled by the knowledge of the Red Ajah trying to catch them. And he might find the Salidar embassy more difficult to control than he hopes. He’s not wrong that they are desperate, but he’s assuming that they will want his protection, something the Salidar Aes Sedai are unlikely to accept willingly. They are coming to offer their support and authority to Rand as part of legitimizing themselves in the eyes of the rest of the world, not to lower themselves to be governed by the Dragon.

Even if Rand can trick and cow them into it, Egwene will never allow it. But of course, I wouldn’t expect him to guess that she is the Amyrlin Seat, so we can’t hold that against him.

Next week we move on to Chapters 43 and 44, which I have not read yet. However, I am very intrigued by the chapter titles: “The Crown of Roses” and “The Color of Trust.”

I wonder if it’s the same color.

Sylas K Barrett forgot that Rand got good at playing the flute, and is very charmed by the reminder.

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