Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: No One Goes it Alone in Robert Jordan’s Lord of Chaos (Part 31)

This week in Reading The Wheel of Time, we’ve covering Chapters 52 and 53 of Lord of Chaos. Elayne and company are frustrated by their inability to find the bowl, Egwene is making plans and tricking people, and Rand and Perrin both need a hug. I mean, they need a lot more than that, but I’d like to give them both hugs. I’ll give them a recap first, I guess.

In the Wandering Woman, Mat sits dicing with Altarans and foreigners alike. Vanin arrives to report in his ear that Elayne and the others have gone out again. This keeps happening, and none of them can figure out how the four women are sneaking out of the Palace without being seen by Thom, Juilin, or any of the men Mat has set to watch.

“Blood and ashes,” Mat muttered. “Next, the Daughter of the Nine Moons is going to walk in and claim me.” The blue-eyed fellow choked on his celebratory drink. “Do you know the name?” Mat asked.

“My punch went down the wrong way,” the man said in a soft, slurring accent Mat did not recognize. “What name was that?”

Mat makes a conciliatory gesture, knowing how easy a fight can start in Ebou Dar. He excuses himself from the table, only to be accosted by an eager Olver. Nalesean has let the boy ride in two horse races, without Mat’s knowledge, and winning has made Olver even more enthusiastic. Mat returns the boy to Frielle, one of the innkeeper’s daughters, and has Nalesean assemble the men. Today, he tells them, they are going to search across the river. Vanin insists that “Lady Elayne” would never go somewhere like that, and Mat reflects that Elayne has “ruined a good man.”

Elayne and Birgitte, disguised by weaves of the One Power to look older and more like Ebou Dari women, pause in front of a building that looks like it could be the one Elayne and Nynaeve located in the Dream. They are also dressed in worn, woolen dresses and white-sheathed marriage knives, provided to them by Tylin, who has advised them that widows and older women are less likely to be challenged. They search the building but find nothing, and Elayne reflects that she is glad Nynaeve didn’t take her wager that they’d find the bowl in ten days

A fight breaks out and they stay to watch because that is what Ebou Dari do. After, Elayne considers helping the man who lies dying in the street, when suddenly a woman arrives who gives the man some herbs and then channels saidar, weaving healing flows. She has come too late, however; the man gasps and then dies. She tells the winner of the fight to go tell the dead man’s wife, and he obeys meekly.

Elayne takes note that the woman, Asra, isn’t strong enough in the One Power to have been allowed to test for Accepted, but that she clearly has a well-honed Talent for Healing. She also notes that she is Domani. Birgitte stops her from following the woman, and Elayne reminds herself that she is not here to investigate a strange Domani wilder.

They catch sight of Mat and Nalesean, and Elayne is bemused by Birgitte’s remark that Mat looks like the more dangerous of the two. She tells Birgitte that they’re probably here because they drank all of the wine on the other side of the river. They turn their attention back to searching for other possible buildings where the storeroom, and the bowl, might be hiding.

Egwene sits in a tent with Logain. She is trying to ask him about his opinion of Rand’s amnesty, and whether or not he thinks other men might be able to hold off the madness as Logain has so far managed to do. He grows angry at her reminder that the Hall might choose to gentle him again, and Egwene promises him that she will never harm him, nor allow any of her followers to harm him if she can help it, unless he turns against them. She leaves the tents, walking through the camp and considering Gareth Bryne’s army. She knows that the Band of the Red Hand will be camped ten miles south—Talmanes has been following at that distance.

Two armies marching slowly northward through Altara, plainly not friendly toward each other, drew attention. Nobles flocked in with their levies to ally themselves with the stronger of the two. True, none of those lords and ladies would have sworn the oaths they had if they had known there would be no great battle in their own lands. True, given free choice, every last one would have ridden the moment they realized Egwene’s target was Tar Valon, not an army of Dragonsworn.

But they had sworn the oaths to her, and those trapped into this alliance would now be her most fervent supporters, since their only hope is that Egwene, not Elaida, will end sitting on the Amyrlin Seat in Tar Valon.

In her own tent, Egwene puts herself to sleep and appears in Salidar in Tel’aran’rhiod. There she meets Elayne and Nynaeve, who report no success in finding the bowl. Egwene is aware that they are downplaying their danger in Ebou Dar, but she lets it pass. She tells them that Bair and Melaine have never heard of someone being able to use Need to find the same thing in Tel’aran’rhiod twice, and then Elayne asks about Rand.

“He’s in Cairhien, lolling about in the Sun Palace, it seems.” Egwene managed to not wince. Neither Bair nor Melaine had been very forthcoming, but Melaine muttered darkly about Aes Sedai while Bair said that they should all be beaten at regular intervals; whatever Sorilea said, a simple beating should be enough. Egwene was very much afraid that somehow Merana had managed to put a foot very wrong. At least he was putting Elaida’s emissaries off; she did not think he knew how to handle them nearly as well as he thought he did.

She tells the two about Perrin and Faile’s marriage, and Elayne asks Egwene to have the Wise Ones pass on a message for Min—that she hopes Min can come to like Aviendha as much as she likes Elayne. Then Elayne leaves the Dream to go to sleep for real, but Nynaeve stays to ask if Egwene has heard anything about Lan. Egwene hasn’t, but she assures Nynaeve that she knows he is alive.

“Of course he is alive,” Nynaeve said firmly. “I won’t allow anything else. I mean to make him mine. He is mine, and I won’t let him be dead.”

When Egwene wakes, Siuan is there. She confirms that she has enacted Egwene’s plan to have the guards on Logain dosed so that he can escape. Egwene wonders if she is doing the right thing—she can’t let the Hall decide to Gentle or kill Logain, but she doesn’t know if he will go to Rand or choose to go do something else. Siuan tells her that the Amyrlin rarely gets to make easy decisions, and she must bear the cost of that, whether or not her choices turn out right. Egwene tells Siuan to make sure Logain doesn’t hurt anyone leaving the camp.

Nisao stands with Myrelle well outside the tents. She complains that having a Warder’s bond transferred without his permission is almost a crime, but Myrelle knows that Nisao won’t pass up an opportunity to further her studies in healing sickness of the mind. Myrelle can feel Lan getting closer, can feel the wounds he sustained on his journey to her. His horse stops some fifty feet from her, and when Myrelle calls for him to come to her, he doesn’t move. She puts a little Spirit into the bond, careful not let him sense it, and he comes to her. Looking into his eyes, she wonders how she will keep him alive.

Perrin is exasperated by the debauchery of the Cairhienin celebration of the Feast of Lights, the shortest and last day of the year, but he is more upset by the fact that Rand has now been gone for six days, and that Min has either gone with him or is staying in the tents with the Wise Ones. When Perrin asked Sorilea, she told him bluntly to tend to his wife and keep his nose out of others’ affairs.

In his rooms he finds Faile and Loial playing stones. She smells jealous and angry, but mostly disappointed, and Perrin wishes again that he knew what to do, thinks that he’d accept any blame she wanted to place on him if they could just find a way back to how things were. Loial is clearly sensitive to the discord between them, and Sulin, bustling about her work, seems disapproving, worried, and oddly afraid.

Dobraine arrives to report that both Lord Maringil and High Lord Meilan have been murdered. He suspects that Colavaere orchestrated it, and is telling Perrin because he is the Dragon Reborn’s friend. Berelain comes in, and Perrin is so infuriated that she would come into his own rooms and flirt in front of his wife that he shouts at her. Frightened, Berelain drops what she is holding and everyone looks at Perrin in shock, but then he sees what she has dropped. It is Rand’s sword and the belt with the Dragon buckle.

Sulin begins to wail that the Aes Sedai have taken her first brother, and snaps at Berelain when she tells her to be calm. Sulin goes to the door and orders a passing Maiden to summon Nandera and Rhuarc and to bring Sulin cadin’sor.

Berelain realizes that Sulin is Aiel and explains as much to Dobraine and Perrin. Perrin considers that the sword doesn’t necessarily prove anything and that he doesn’t want to jump to any conclusions. Berelain tells them that she searched Rand’s apartments because she was worried—the Aes Sedai had seemed very certain that he would return to Tar Valon with them, and she received ten visits from Aes Sedai advising her to return to Mayene once Rand left Cairhien. Dobraine adds that he is convinced that Colavaere had Maringil and Meilan killed to clear her own way to the throne. She knows Rand intends it for Elayne, and she wouldn’t have dared to do so if she believed the Lord Dragon would return to Cairhien.

Perrin declares that he will get Rand back even if he has to go alone, and Loial and Dobraine quickly volunteer to come as well. Rhuarc, Amys, and Nandera come in and Perrin asks if Rhuarc will send his Aiel against the Aes Sedai. Rhuarc admits that it might not be possible—the Shaido are moving again. But more to the point, he  admits that he can only trust Maidens and siswai’aman to actually be willing to dance the spears with Aes Sedai. As Perrin wonders how many wolves would die at his side, fighting Aes Sedai, Sorilea summons a flame in her hand. Perrin is shocked to realize that she can channel.

She let the flame vanish as they began planning, but it remained in Perrin’s thoughts. Small, flickering weakly, somehow it had seemed a declaration of war stronger than trumpets, war to the knife.

Galina isn’t sure what to make Min, or of the interest Siuan apparently had in her. She can’t fathom how Elaida let Min/Elmindreda leave the White Tower, and she wonders what knowledge might be in Min’s head, and how to use her against Elaida.

When Rand  discovered that Min was also in the camp, he attempted to break the Aes Sedai’s Shield around him. He couldn’t, but he did manage to kill two of the Green sister Erian’s Warders. Both Min and Rand have been punished, but Rand still keeps trying to break the Shield. Galina thinks punishing Min for his actions would be more effective, but grants Erian permission to punish Rand as she wishes.

Rand is dragged out of the chest and beaten with the One Power by Erian. The Void shatters, but he stubbornly refuses to cry out. In his head, Lews Therin repeats a litany about how he killed Ilyena, while Rand repeats to himself that this is what comes of trusting Aes Sedai.

They thought they could break him. They thought they could make him crawl to Elaida! He made himself do the hardest thing he had ever done in his life. He smiled. Certainly it touched nothing but his lips, yet he looked Erian in the eye, and he smiled. Her eyes widened, and she hissed. The scourges began to come from everywhere at once.

When Rand comes to, he’s surprised to see a group of Wise Ones among the Aes Sedai. For a moment he thinks he has been rescued, but then he recognizes Sevanna. She shows pleasure at the sight of him, and tells the Aes Sedai that they have kept their part of the bargain. Stuffed back into the chest, Rand wonders what bargain she’s talking about, and struggles to resume the Void. When he manages it, however, he finds Lews Therin trying to grasp saidin as well.

Burn you! Rand growled in his head. Burn you! If you’d only work with me just once instead of against me!

You work with me! Lews Therin snapped back.

There is no doubt this time—Lews Therin definitely heard and answered him. Rand suggests that they can work together, and Lews Therin laughs and disappears. But when Rand reaches for saidin again, he encounters the shield and the soft place where the points meet.

Soft, Lews Therin said, panting. Because they are there. Sustaining the buffer. Hard when they knot. Nothing to be done when they are soft, but I can unravel the web if they knot it. With time. He paused so long Rand thought he was gone again, then he whispered, Are you real? And then he really was gone.

Rand thinks that he can’t wait to see if they will ever tie off the shield—so far they haven’t. He starts planning how to make the Aes Sedai think he is giving in, that he is breaking. He thinks he should be able to manage it in three days, but in the meantime he can’t stop feeling along the edges of the shield and laughing uncontrollably.

Galina watches Sevanna go, thinking of the second half of the bargain she has made, the one that will result in the death of Gawyn and most of the Younglings. She notices that most of the Wise Ones with Sevanna could channel, and is amused at how untrusting the savages are. Erian tells her that al’Thor is weeping, then goes off to comfort her other Warders. Galina thinks that by the time they reach Elaida, al’Thor will be broken, and will do exactly what they want.

Sevanna asks if her Wise Ones can replicate the shield the Aes Sedai made around al’Thor, and they answer that they can. She has the small stone cube that she was given and is supposed to use when al’Thor is captive, but she decides to throw it away instead—she intends to put a collar on al’Thor and make him her husband. Then all the Aiel will follow her. She orders the Wise Ones to kill Desaine, the only one of their number who has grumbled about Sevanna’s position, and watches with interest as they take her body apart using the One Power.

 

I do enjoy all the little clues Jordan leaves us about the advancing Seanchan occupation—Varadin writing to Niall about flying creatures and Aes Sedai on leashes was a pretty big clue, but there are others here and there, like this random man in the Wandering Woman, with the Seanchan accent that Mat doesn’t recognize but the reader does. Best of all, there’s also a clue here about the identity of the Daughter of the Nine Moons that the Snakey people told Mat he would marry, since the Seanchan man recognized it. I guess “Daughter of the Nine Moons” does sound very Seanchan-ish, come to think of it.

Rand has been carrying that spear to remind himself of the Seanchan threat, and I’ve been wondering when they’ll make a large appearance into the plot again. I really liked Egeanin as a character, and Cerandin too, and it would be interesting to see more individuals from Seanchan, since much about their culture, not to mention their intention of conquering the Westlands, makes them seem like pretty awful baddies when you look at them as a whole, or at some of the more powerful people we’ve met, like Suroth. Also, they have cool animals which is always a plus.

I don’t know what Asra’s deal is, but I’m quite sure we’ll be seeing more of her soon. One of the themes Jordan is building in Lord of Chaos is the questioning and breaking of the old rules about who is allowed to channel. Both Egwene and Rand are leading the charge here, with the awareness that they don’t want to exclude any potential allies against the Dark, what with the coming of the Last Battle and everything. But we’re also seeing new perspectives from the other young people joining the ranks of the Aes Sedai—most notably Elayne and Nynaeve, of course, but also others—who are beginning to change the culture and opinions around channeling. The discovery of new talents and weaves is helping too.

We’ve seen an increasing number of organizations of women channelers outside the Aes Sedai, such as the Aiel Wise Ones and the Sea Folk Windfinders. Knowing as we do that there are not only wilders out there but also a lot of women and girls who have been put out of the Tower for not being strong enough or for failing to pass the Aes Sedai’s tests, it stands to reason that we should be encountering other female channelers quite often. Of course, the Aes Sedai strongly discourage all non Aes Sedai from channeling, but surely many of them do anyway. They probably aren’t going to get into trouble as long as they are discreet and never lead anyone to believe they are Aes Sedai—we’ve seen how badly that goes for people. Elayne wonders if the woman believes the herbs are needed as part of her healing, but I’m thinking that might be a decoy of sorts, a way of putting a little plausible deniability in between her and the fact that she is using the One Power to Heal.

I’m also feeling like this encounter has given me a slightly clearer understanding of the difference between strength in the One Power and what the Aes Sedai call talent. Elayne is one of the strongest female channelers, but she has very little ability in Healing. Asra, on the other hand, Elayne judges to be not even strong enough to test for Accepted, and yet her ability in Healing far surpasses Elayne’s own. This makes me wonder what other strong talents might be out there that the Aes Sedai could have used, if they didn’t have such strict, narrow rules about measuring ability. If Egwene manages to bring together all the female channelers out there, what might she and her daughters discover that was otherwise lost to the Aes Sedai?

I was impressed with the plan that Siuan, Leane, and Egwene came up with to add more strength to their army and secure the loyalty of the Altaran nobility. It’s a very Aes Sedai move to allow everyone to believe that their army and the Band of the Red Hand might be going to fight, and to allow the nobles to swear fealty to Egwene, while the Aes Sedai knew full well the nobles didn’t have the correct understanding what was really going on. The Great Game indeed, and of course the Aes Sedai never actually lied. It’s interesting to suggest that the supporters that Egwene has so entrapped will now be her fiercest supporters, lest they suffer the consequences from Elaida.

I’m also fascinated by Egwene’s decision to let Logain escape. It is a pretty big risk, but if he goes to Rand that could be a really big bonus to the asha’man. (Though I do wonder how Taim will react to another man whose abilities could rival his own.) And after all, the Salidar Aes Sedai can’t just keep Logain imprisoned indefinitely—they have other problems to worry about, and if he were ever to break free, that would really spell disaster for his captors. Killing or gentling him would definitely anger Rand, as some of the sisters have pointed out before, and that’s really the last thing they need. Of course, Siuan doesn’t like the idea of letting go of an asset, and doesn’t trust that Logain won’t immediately do something regrettable. The Aes Sedai don’t like to not have control of things, and although Egwene is very much an Aes Sedai in many ways, you can see how she is already thinking differently from the leaders that have come before her. She recognizes that Logain is an asset, but it doesn’t necessarily follow for her that that asset should, or could, be the purview of the Aes Sedai. Hopefully this also shows how she will deal with Rand in the future—once he’s rescued of course. No doubt there will still be a lot of struggle when she and Rand disagree, and each will probably want more control than the other is willing to give, but it’s still a change from the way other Aes Sedai have engaged with Rand.

It’s a bit ironic, though, since Rand is currently imprisoned in the same way as Logain. And given where Rand is now in regards to his emotions around the Aes Sedai, Egwene is really the only hope any of them have in getting even a cursory truce between the Dragon and the White Tower. And even then, I don’t think it’s going to be an easy sell for Egwene.

Rand’s section was difficult to read. The hardest parts of this story are not the Bad guys, capital B, like Ordeith-Fain, the Forsaken, or the various Shadowspawn. They’re horrible, sure, but they’re supposed to be horrible. It’s the folks that do horrible things but aren’t necessarily on the Dark One’s side that hurt the most. Sure, some of Elaida’s embassy might be Black Ajah, but not all of them are. Some of them probably believe that they are doing the right thing for the world by capturing the Dragon Reborn and keeping him secure in the White Tower until the Last Battle arrives. Erian is clearly acting out of pain and distress, and the Aes Sedai do have a strong belief that the wronged party has the right to decide the reaction and punishment of an offender. We saw this when Demira was given the ability to help decide how they would respond to Rand (apparently) having her stabbed. We’ve also been told that it’s important for lower ranking Aes Sedai to offer proper respect and deference to those above them, and that if you insult a sister who is higher than you, she gets to dictate your punishment.  The Aes Sedai hardly shy away from corporal punishment, either, so from that perspective, the fact that Rand and Min receive beatings isn’t exactly shocking.

But again, that’s what makes it so awful. Rand doesn’t really understand why Erian is acting the way she is, either—he has the bond with Alanna, but he doesn’t know what it is or much of what it does beyond the vague impressions he gets of her mental and physical status. He probably doesn’t have any idea what kind of pain Erian experienced at the death of her Warders. He thinks that she’s beating him to break him, but that’s only Galina’s plan. Erian only wants to see some of her own pain reflected back to her, and Rand’s refusal to give it keeps her trying harder, probably past the point she otherwise would have intended. Which is very not okay, of course, but it does lend a different context to the encounter.

Speaking of the bond, Alanna’s going to be tipped off about what’s going on with Rand now, at least. Or is their bond too distant for Rand’s pain to reach her? I’m not sure how it works over distances, and of course the bond seems to work differently with Rand than with other men—we know that Alanna was unable to use it compel him. Still, she was aware of the wound in his side from half a city away, so it’s possible she may be aware of the beatings, though they are much farther apart now.

It’s also interesting to learn that there is a reason for the Aes Sedai custom of maintaining a shield rather than tying it off—they no longer remember why, but Lews Therin has confirmed that if the shield is tied off, he can unravel it. But nothing can be done when the women are actively channeling to maintain it. Once, the Aes Sedai must have known this, but now they think of it as only custom, rather than necessity.

I continue to be fascinated with the evolution of Rand and Lews Therin’s relationship. Connection. Whatever you want to call it. Lews Therin asking if Rand was real totally upped the stakes for what’s going on in Rand’s head, and I’m sure it’s bad for the whole being consumed by taint madness thing. Still, I can’t help thinking about the advantages Rand has gained from Lews Therin’s knowledge, and how much he might be able to learn if they can work together as Rand has suggested. Hard to say if the advantages outweigh the risks… but I have a feeling we’re going to find out.

I have no idea what’s going on with Faile. My only guess is that she wants Perrin to be forceful with her like her mom was advising, but it’s not like she doesn’t know the man she married. The way she treated him when Berelain came in, retreating from him and then seeming hurt when he told Berelain sharply to back off, really made no sense to me. Also, she should be able to put personal feelings aside when it comes to work—Perrin needs her advice, especially if Rand is missing. Her refusal to aid him could have far-reaching results, and it’s not fair to leave him hanging because of a spousal dispute.

I really felt for Perrin. I hope going after Rand means he gets some time to spend with wolves. I think it would help him center.

I also really feel for Lan. Of course I hope in the long run that this will work out for him and he’ll be happy again. I assume the long-term plan is to have his bond eventually pass to Nynaeve, but I can’t remember if that was confirmed in a Moiraine section or not. I’m pretty sure it was at least implied.

And finally, there’s not much Nynaeve in these chapters, but oh, I do love her. Stubbornness can cause her a lot of problems, but it also is a great strength of hers, and I’ve always found it more endearing than not. I loved the bit when she told Egwene that of course Lan is alive, because Nynaeve won’t allow him to be dead. Honestly, I kind of believe she could make it happen with her mind. Just keep him alive from sheer force of will. Myrelle’s going to need all the help she can get, at any rate. ALSO, holy moly I did not realize how close to the end of the book we were! But we are! There’s only two more chapters and the epilogue, and then Lord of Chaos comes to a close. Will Rand be rescued in this book, or do we have to wait for :checks notes: A Crown of Swords? Only time will tell, though you all probably already know the answer. See you next week!

Sylas K Barrett continues to love Olver, and how Mat is now having to act as father to a child who is quite a bit like he used to be as a boy. It’s tremendously cute.

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