This week in Reading The Wheel of Time, the (comparatively) comfortable time Rand has been having comes to a close. Rand himself acknowledges in the narration of Chapter 50 that he knows this relative period of peace can’t last, which I appreciated because the way things have mostly been going smoothly for Rand has been making me anxious. I’ve been quite certain for some time that the Sammael plan is not going to go as Rand hopes, and I’m hardly surprised that his plan for the Aes Sedai isn’t working out either. Rand is a clever man, with lots of useful allies on his side, but he’s playing against some long-standing, powerful, and experienced opponents. No matter how smart he is, he’s going to miss some steps. And I can just imagine what those missed steps will cost him.
It’s Chapters 50 and 51 this week, and unfortunately Perrin is going to have almost as horrible a time of it as Rand. But before we get into that, the recap.
Rand spends the rest of his day resting, fussed over by Sulin and Min and a group of Wise Ones who are almost as interested in talking to Min about her visions as they are in examining Rand’s health. Apparently Melaine couldn’t stop herself from sharing the news about her twins, and the Wise Ones have all decided that such talent makes Min a peer.
A note arrives from Coiren asking if she could come see him and offering Healing. It’s a reminder to Rand that Coiren has informants in the Sun Palace, and Rand sends back a polite refusal. He also asks Gawyn to come see him, but when Elayne’s brother doesn’t come, Rand realizes that Gawyn must believe the rumors that Rand killed Morgase. He continues to put off Coiren, waiting for the Salidar embassy to arrive. He goes back to the school to see more strange inventions and to talk with Herid Fel, but the man is so distracted by Min that Rand can’t get anything useful out of him. The next day he receives a note from Fel that reads:
Belief and order give strength. Have to clear rubble before you can build. Will explain when see you next. Do not bring girl. Too pretty.
Min comes to all the audiences with the Cairhienin nobles, but concealing proves difficult. Worse is the fact that Min’s viewings are all bleak—she sees death for many of the High Lords of Tear, one by poison, others in battle. For Colavaere she sees death by hanging. Still, she continues to “tease” him, coming to his training sessions to watch him fight with a sword or his fists, and when he tries to pretend to weep and stammer, she laughs at him. Her relationship with Faile is frosty, and Min is judgmental of Berelain.
Rand meets with Berelain, telling her that he has learned that Rhuarc had to scold her for hiding in her rooms and neglecting her duties. Berelain answers by mentioning worrying rumors that have have sprung up since the arrival of the Aes Sedai. She asks who Rand eventually intends to rule Cairhien, and seems pleased to learn that it will be Elayne—she believes all of Cairhien will follow her. Berelain also mentions rumors that the Aes Sedai have come to take Rand to Tar Valon, and Rand tells her sharply to leave the Aes Sedai to him. He trusts Berelain, but he also knows that the fewer people who know he has a plan about the Aes Sedai, “the less chance that Coiren would learn he had a thought beyond her gold and jewels.”
The days pass this way, full of planning and politics and the running of Cairhien, but despite that, Rand finds himself almost enjoying the time. Lews Therin seems quieter and Min’s teasing is actually enjoyable.
By the time he had been ten days in Cairhien, he thought this would not be such a bad way to spend the rest of his life. Of course, he knew it could not last.
Perrin’s days are not pleasant at all. Almost immediately upon arrival Berelain starts cornering him whenever he is alone, basically stalking him, despite Perrin’s continual rejections and statements of love and loyalty towards his wife. Faile is fiercely jealous, and Perrin doesn’t know what to do about it. Eventually Berelain manages to corner him, and Faile catches sight of the two of them just as Berelain reaches out to pat Perrin’s cheek. Back in their rooms, Perrin assures her that he did nothing to invite the touch.
He wished Faile would say something; she only stared. He thought she was waiting, but for what? Inspiration took him by the throat, and as so often seemed to happen when he was talking to her, put a noose around it. “Faile, I’m sorry.” Anger became a razor.
“I see,” she said flatly, and glided out of the room.
Perrin can tell he said the wrong thing, though he doesn’t know why. Later he overhears Bain and Chiad discussing whether they should help Faile beat him, and Faile starts wearing unwelcoming wool nightgowns and shunning him in bed.
Perrin decides to spend as much time out of the Sun Palace as he can, hunting with Gaul and returning late. Sometimes he still finds Berelain lingering around his rooms, and has to hide until she gives up. Sneaking into his bedroom and lying awake, he wishes Faile would just tell him what he should do.
On the tenth day, Rand receives another request from Coiren for an audience. Rand decides he will meet twice more with Coiren before the Salidar Aes Sedai arrive, so that the two embassies will be on equal footing with him. He is sure that his bluff will quickly have Merana throwing Salidar’s support his way without condition. And then he can turn his full attention to Sammael.
Rand mostly feels good about the prospect of this meeting with Coiren, except for the fact that Min has not returned from her visit with Sorilea as she promised she would. He decides to send Sulin to fetch Min back. In the anteroom, the Dragon Scepter on his knee, Rand waits until the Aes Sedai are announced, and Coiren glides in with Galina and another Aes Sedai Rand doesn’t know.
To his surprise, they have also brought back the serving women with the heavy chests. Some of them look up at him, but most keep their heads down, either from concentration or out of fear of him. Galina remarks that it is a pity that his Green sister isn’t here today, startling Rand, who can’t imagine how they could know about Alanna. A tingling on his skin warns him that they are channeling a moment before he feels a shield slide in between him and saidin, closing him off from the True Source. At the same time his body is wrapped in Air, holding him solid. Rand is shocked; no three women should be strong enough to cut him off from saidin once he has already grasped it.
He reached for the Source, battered at that invisible stone wall, harder, harder. Lews Therin was snarling like a beast, battering, clawing frantically. One of them had to be able to reach saidin; one of them had to be able to break a buffer held by only three.
But then Rand realizes that all the “serving women” are looking up at him, and that some of them have the ageless Aes Sedai look. He is confident that the others are also Aes Sedai, too young to have the look yet and brought along to make the disguises more convincing. Fifteen Aes Sedai in total. Coiren tells him that she really did want to bring him back to the Tower willingly, and sounds disappointed when she assumes he has been meeting with the other Aes Sedai. Galina takes the scepter from his hands and tells Coiren that she, as a Red Ajah, is in charge now. Rand feels his blood run cold.
Bain is surprised when the Aes Sedai and the women with the chests come back out of the room so soon after going in to see Rand. One of them stops in front of her.
“It seems young Master al’Thor is accustomed to coming and going from Cairhien when he chooses,” the Aes Sedai told her in a voice like stone. “We are not accustomed to anyone walking away from us rudely. If he returns to the palace in the next few days, we will return also. If not… Our patience is not infinite.” She glided away, she and the other, after the women with the chests.
Later, when the news is delivered to him, Perrin is confused that Rand could just be gone. But Nandera tells him that Rand does this sometimes, disappearing without even one Maiden to guard his back.
Rand rests on a small bed inside a spacious iron cage, muscles aching from being doubled-up by the power and stuffed into the chest. Galina arrives with a tray of food, telling him that he will be fed if he refuses to eat, but Rand ignores her, staying in the Void, feeling for weaknesses in the wall blocking him from saidin. He doesn’t know how much time has passed, or how far he was carried. He curses himself for forgetting Moiraine’s advice, and thinks that all he needs is for Amys or Bair or any other Wise One who can channel to pass by wherever he is being held—they will be able to feel the Aes Sedai channeling so much power. He studies a place where the shield seems to come together in six points, and wishes Lews Therin would come and speak to him.
Outside, Sorilea passes by the stone house where the Aes Sedai are staying. She can feel them channeling in there, but pays no mind to it—they have been channeling like that every day since they arrived, and no one bothers to wonder what they are doing anymore. She is worried—she knows that Rand does what he wants, but Min has disappeared at the same time that Rand left, and Sorilea does not like coincidences.
They’re the bad guys and doing bad things but I have to admire Coiren and company, and the way they set up this very simple and effective plan. It was smart to anticipate from the start that they might not be able to bribe or manipulate Rand, and to build their Plan B right into Plan A. If the gifts of money worked, so much the better, but if not, the presentation of the chests had already set them up for the kidnapping plan without the Aes Sedai having to pivot or add new steps to their interactions with Rand. And you know, I remember being so curious about what they were doing with all the channeling out the mansion’s windows when they first arrived—Egwene was too, as were the Wise Ones. But just as the Wise Ones were lulled into complacency by the Aes Sedai’s plan, Jordan turned my attention to other things and I forgot all about Coiren, the channeling, and their secret plan for Rand. I’m also impressed that they learned about Rand’s ability to Travel and incorporated that into their kidnapping plot.
Though I did not anticipate Coiren’s move, I wasn’t exactly shocked when it happened. Rand has been doing a fair amount of impressive strategizing lately, and a lot of people don’t give him enough credit either for his intelligence or how much he has learned since he left the Two Rivers. However, it is also true that he hasn’t been at this game very long in comparison to the ladies of the White Tower. Rand has had a few very lucky—or perhaps ta’veren inspired—breaks, and his raw power has gotten him through a few scrapes as well, especially in moments when his identity was being disbelieved or underestimated. Even Lanfear was surprised a few times. A lot of Rand’s opponents have been overly cocky, giving Rand an edge in their encounters.
Now, however, it looks like people are starting to wise up a little as to what they are actually dealing with. Back in Chapter 6, Graendal tried to explain to Sammael that the reason the Forsaken kept dying and losing battles to an untrained farmer was because they were still acting as though the world hadn’t changed.
Rand points out that he has once again forgotten the lesson Moiraine tried to teach him—not to trust any Aes Sedai. In actuality, it’s more like he didn’t remember, or didn’t realize, how broadly he needs to apply that lesson. It’s not just about letting them into your confidences or allowing them to channel around you. It applies to things like believing that you know what an Aes Sedai is thinking, or how she will react. It applies to believing you have the upper hand with an Aes Sedai—even if you do for a moment, she will certainly have other plans and other strategies. Rand was right that the division in the Tower gave him an advantage, but that advantage was not absolute, especially with the Aes Sedai who still have an Amyrlin and a White Tower behind them.
Did Rand really think that the Aes Sedai, well-known for their mastery of manipulation, would only try intimidation and bribery and no other tactics to get what they want from him? Especially since he knows that it is difficult for people to trust him, a man prophesied to bring destruction as the Dragon Reborn and fated to lose his mind to the taint on saidin? I was already worried that his plan for Sammael wouldn’t go as smoothly as Rand is hoping, but I think he really overestimated how much leverage the Tower divide gave him with Elaida’s embassy. Coiren and the others don’t really feel like they need him the way the Salidar folks do.
This is, of course, outside of the monumental fact that the entire world needs the Dragon Reborn to make it, alive and ungentled, to the Last Battle. I wonder what the plan is for Rand now. Having a Red in charge of his imprisonment doesn’t necessarily mean they intend to gentle him—it makes sense that the Reds would have the most experience dealing with shielded and imprisoned men. And I believe Elaida’s stated intention with Rand was to bring him and hold him safely in the Tower until Tarmon Gai’don, so that’s probably what they are intending to do. The Aes Sedai may have realized that they need the Dragon Reborn, but they clearly still think that they should be in charge of how the world prepares for the Last Battle.
And I can’t blame them, really. The women of the Aes Sedai have carried that burden for an entire Age, and suddenly some man arrives out of prophecy to take over the job? Obviously they are being rigid and inflexible where Rand is concerned, unable to adapt to the new reality of their lives. But Rand is equally (though justifiably) inflexible when it comes to the fact that he cannot work with the Aes Sedai. He wants them to just do what he says and get out of his way, but he certainly can’t fight the Last Battle without them, no matter how many Asha’man Taim manages to train.
But that, I suppose, is where Egwene will come in. Hopefully she and Rand can find some sort of balance for the Aes Sedai and the Dragon Reborn, where neither expects the other to follow blindly, but which also accepts that the world is changing, and that Rand is the only one who can lead the forces of Light in the Last Battle.
Speaking of which, Fel’s message to Rand must be about the possibility of breaking the seals on the Dark One’s prison. The second line anyway, the one about having to clear rubble before you can build. Perhaps he is saying that the seals must be destroyed in order to make way for a new set of seals, or perhaps something better. After all, Fel theorized that the Dark One’s prison must be made whole again at some point, so that when the Wheel turns fully the Bore can be drilled again. I have to admit I’m not quite sure I understand how exactly the cyclical nature of time in The Wheel of Time works—is Fel saying that after a complete turn of the Wheel the Age of Legends will come again, exactly as it had been before? Or is it merely key events that must be repeated, perhaps by different people and under different circumstances?
And speaking of different circumstances… what the heck is going on with Berelain? I mean, I know the bubble of evil scared her off of chasing Rand and turned her attention to Perrin, but Faile already married that boy. I suppose there’s no reason Berelain has to respect the institution of marriage, or perhaps she doesn’t count a simple Two Rivers ceremony as being of any import. But she’s a smart lady, and a pragmatic one, and it’s really unclear to me what she thinks she can achieve here, besides making problems between Rand’s closest companions. And even if she managed to steal Perrin from his wife, what would be the point?
Perhaps it has something to do with the reason she locked herself away, neglecting her duties as regent of Cairhien. Worry over rumors about Aes Sedai and Rand’s plan for the Sun Throne hardly seem to be the whole picture, and it’s possible that Berelain is using this pursuit of Perrin as a distraction from whatever is really bothering her, now that Rand has taken her to task for her negligence. And of course Faile is being Faile about the whole thing, acting like Perrin is the one doing something to her, rather than the one who is being sexually harassed. I will give a little credit to her anger towards him though—Perrin doesn’t realize that by apologizing for the encounter with Berelain he’s accidentally suggesting that he has some culpability, some guilt that he needs to apologize for.
I expect this is one of those moments where Faile expects him to “tame” her, the way her mother said men should handle their women. She probably would like that spanking that Perrin doesn’t want to give her, and wants him to act possessive and in charge, rather than (as she may see it) obsequious and frightened. That’s hardly fair, but I suppose I can kind of see where she is coming from.
The dynamic between Rand and Lews Therin continues to change. Last week I noted that Lews Therin had addressed Rand as “you,” for the first time willingly acknowledging Rand as a person. Then in this chapter Rand and Lews Therin are both struggling for saidin, and Rand hopes that one of them will be able to grab it. Sure, the circumstances are extreme and Rand is probably not thinking logically in his panic, but after all the time he has spent fighting to stop Lews Therin from seizing saidin, it still feels significant. Later, in his cage, he wishes Lews Therin would come and talk to him. Of course, Lews Therin’s knowledge has come in handy for Rand plenty of times, but this feels like a much more overt acknowledgement of the usefulness of this relationship. If you could call having an alternate self in your own head a relationship.
We’ll be taking a break from regular recaps next week for an essay on Rand, the taint, and mental health, before we continue on to Chapters 52 and 53. I can’t wait!
Seriously, Perrin is being way too polite to Berelain. Not that it would deter her, but he really needs to tell her to take a hike.