Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: A Wolf Husband, a Falcon Wife, and a Regent of Andor in Robert Jordan’s A Crown of Swords (Part 5)

Hello again, and welcome back to Reading The Wheel of Time! This week it’s Chapters 6 and 7, in which Perrin and Faile get some alone time (but not much) and Rand catches up with the Caemlyn crew. Things are not quite going to plan, but personally I think they could have ended up a lot worse while Rand was away. Still, it’s clear that the trauma of Rand’s kidnapping and the change to how the Aes Sedai are viewed by the Dragon Reborn and his followers is going to have many repercussions in the days and chapters to come.

Perrin and Faile don’t leave the Hall with Rand, focused instead on each other. Faile and Dobraine discuss Colavaere’s sentence, and then she asks Dobraine if Rand really took Aes Sedai prisoners and oaths of fealty. Both Dobraine and Aram confirm Rand’s story. Perrin is surprised when Faile smells relieved, and demands to know how she could think Rand was lying. He realizes that he can smell fear on her, and asks if she was worried that the rumors were true, and that Rand really did come back as a puppet of the Aes Sedai. She admits that she has heard that Aes Sedai can do that sort of thing, and even though she knows they would have a hard time making her stubborn husband dance for them, she was afraid when she saw Perrin walking in with Rand.

Amusement trickled through in the first of that, like tiny bubbles in his nose, and warm fondness, and love, the smell of her, clear and pure and strong, but all of those faded by the end, leaving that thin trembling thread.

Perrin reassures her, reminding her of Dobraine and Aram’s words, but still that thread of fear remains, so he jokingly asks if it would help if Rand told Verin to dance the sa’sara? But Faile only answers that she doesn’t know what would be enough, and tells him stories of others being forced to do things by the Aes Sedai. He wraps her in his arms, and she tells him that if any Aes Sedai ever harmed him, that she would kill her. Perrin believes her.

Perrin sends Aram to bring the rest of the Two Rivers men into the city and leaves Colavaere to Dobraine, leading Faile out of the Hall. The corridors are empty, but Perrin hears footsteps following and whirls around to see Selande and the others they met in the entry, as well as a few more. Knowing how the faux-Aiel like to play at duels and ji’e’toh, Perrin threatens them if they cause any trouble and they back away. He mutters to Faile about young buffoons, and she teases him—some of the group looked to be older than Perrin.

He asks her how she came to be one of Colavaere’s attendants, and she cautions him about passing servants listening before answering, in a voice so soft only his heightened hearing can catch it, that Colavaere couldn’t wait to take her in, knowing who Faile is and who her family is. Perrin isn’t quite satisfied—he suspects Faile of purposefully putting herself in danger. Back in their rooms she upbraids him for asking about Berelain in front of everyone, and tells him how, as soon as he left, Berelain started telling people that he’d gone off to a manor where Berelain could visit him, and everyone believed her story. Colavaere made both of them her attendants and delighted in making them work closely, amused at seeing the animosity between the two women. He backs away from her fury, but when his back hits the wall, something snaps in him, and he grabs her by the shoulders. He tells her off for speaking to him in such a fashion after he has been so worried that she could be hurt, and reminds her that he loves and wants nobody else but her.

He also tells her that he knows Faile let Colavaere find out who she was on purpose, so that Faile could spy on her, and asks if it ever occurred to Faile that Colavaere might be suspicious of the wife of Rand’s friends, and if she thought about what Colavaere might do to her. He eventually realizes that he’s holding her too tightly, but she only clutches onto him and tells him that a woman likes to be told that her man loves her, if he says it in the right way. Perrin reflects again that he’ll never understand women.

Her scent changes at last and Perrin can smell her, Faile, and also her arousal. She tells him she expects him not to lie down on her grave, but to mourn a respectable time and then find another wife, one she’d approve of and who would take care of him. They are just sinking into each other’s embrace when Rand bursts into the room to tell Perrin that Berelain isn’t anywhere in the palace. He apologizes immediately, then tells Perrin that Berelain is, for some reason, spending the night on one of the Sea Folk ships.

Perrin wishes Rand would stop saying that name, and asks if there’s anything else Rand wants to talk to him about. Rand asks if Perrin is still unwilling to take command in Illian, and Perrin answers that he is no general, and that in any case he’s supposed to stay close to Rand. Rand answers that they all must take risks.

Perrin changes the subject, telling Rand that he can’t let the Aes Sedai be hurt by the Wise Ones. Rand laughs, but Perrin holds firm, stating that he won’t allow them to be harmed.

Cold blue eyes met his gaze. “You won’t let it?”

I won’t,” Perrin told him levelly. He did not flinch from that stare, either. “They are prisoners, and no threat. They’re women.”

“They are Aes Sedai.” Rand’s voice was so like Aram’s back at Dumai’s Wells that it nearly took Perrin’s breath.

Rand tells Perrin that he will do what he has to do, and for a moment Perrin sees the old Rand he used to know, a Rand who looks tired to death and unhappy that they are fighting. Then he is the new Rand again, who tells Perrin that he won’t harm any Aes Sedai who don’t deserve it, and that he can’t promise more. He also tells Perrin that he has other uses for him, since he won’t go to Illian, and that he can only have a day or two of rest.

He leaves as quickly as he came in. Faile tells Perrin that he has the courage of three men and the common sense of a toddler, and then tells him that she’s not going to let Rand ruin the mood. In her arms, Perrin forgets everything else.

Rand considers the Dragon Scepter. Floating in the Void, he feels the horror of the taint—though it does not turn his stomach quite as violently as it once did—and the life of saidin. He thinks that saidin would be unimaginably sweet without the taint, and confronts the seduction of it, the desire to draw more and more until he destroys himself.

His thoughts are whirling. He thinks about Annoura, and why Berelain kept her a secret. About the other Aes Sedai in the city. About the rebels camped just outside the walls. About the Shaido, and about Perrin and Faile. He knows Faile’s loyalty is to Perrin, not to Rand, and that she would try to protect him from Rand if she deemed in necessary. He thinks about Perrin’s strange golden eyes and worries about his concern for the Aes Sedai.

Aes Sedai. He shook his head without being aware. Never again. Never! To trust was to be betrayed; trust was pain.

He tried to push that thought away. It came a little too close to raving. Nobody could live without giving trust somewhere.

Rand has learned to mute Lews Therin’s voice in his mind down to a buzz—it’s a trick that he learned while trapped in the chest. But Lews Therin had also been his only companion in that cramped darkness. He struggles with the memories until Sulin’s voice interrupts his thoughts. Some Maidens and the Asha’man are standing with him, waiting for his orders. Rand notes the difference between the two groups—the Maidens who treat him like a long-lost brother or son and the Asha’man who obey him instantly and efficiently. Rand told Taim to make them into weapons, after all, and a “good weapon moved as the man who held it directed.” Rand has three destinations in mind tonight, one of which is a secret from the Maidens.

The Maidens go through the gateway first, followed by the Asha’man. They are all holding saidin, which allows Rand to gauge their strength. In his head, Lews Therin demands to kill them before they go mad, and to wrest saidin away from Rand. Rand doesn’t think that Lews Therin could ever take saidin from him while he is holding it, but he worries about Lews Therin’s attempts to seize saidin first—he’s not sure he could take it away if Lews Therin held it first. As Lews Therin insists that all the Asha’man and Forsaken be killed, Rand asks what about himself and Lews Therin.

I can channel, too. Madness waits for me, but it already has you! You killed yourself, Kinslayer, after you murdered your wife and your children and the Light alone knows how many others. I won’t kill where I don’t have to! Do you hear me, Kinslayer? Silence answered.

He steps through the gateway to the Royal Palace of Andor, emerging near a collection of wagons used to haul waste away after the stables are mucked out. Lews Therin expresses relief at the lessening of Alanna’s presence. Still, Rand doesn’t want to stop being aware of her entirely—she is another reminder that he should never, ever trust Aes Sedai.

Rand’s plan is to have the Maidens escort himself and Fedwin, one of the Asha’man, into the Palace disguised as prisoners, so that he can meet with Bashere and Bael without anyone else knowing that he has returned. Both the Maidens and the Asha’man think the plan is foolish and don’t understand Rand’s reasoning, and Sulin chides him as she ties his hands behind his back. Rand nearly panics when Jalani pulls the hood down over his face, leaving him in almost darkness, but Sulin seems aware of Rand’s distress and touches his arm, stroking it.

Rand and Fedwin are taken to the room where Bael and Bashere are waiting, and Rand is surprised to find Deira, Davram’s wife, as well as Dorindha and Melaine. Bael greets him, and Deira immediately demands to know if Rand is bringing down the wrath of the Aes Sedai on them. Dorindha, meanwhile, asks what Rand intends to do about Colavaere.

Rand answers that Colavaere has taken up farming and remarks that he wasn’t aware that this was a family affair. Davram and Bael quip about how much a man tells his wife after he marries, and that Rand will understand after he takes a wife.

“What woman could I hate enough to marry her to the Dragon Reborn?” Rand said coldly. That caused a silence solid enough to touch.

Rand tries to control his anger and asks if Elayne has arrived yet. The whole captive ruse had been in case Aviendha and Elayne had already arrived, but she hasn’t come back to the palace yet. Deira returns the subject to the Aes Sedai, asking if Rand will make other sisters bow to him. Rand answers that he’ll accept any oaths, and that those who do not wish to swear may go their own way as long as they don’t put themselves against him. Bael argues that the entire White Tower has put themselves against him, and that Elaida will not stop.

Leaving Bael and Bashere to discuss the matter, Rand turns his attention to some nearby maps. Bashere has suggested that rumors of Aes Sedai with an army in Murandy or Altara might be Mat and his Band escorting Elayne and other sisters who decided to join Rand. He supposes if there are wagons, and perhaps a lot of sisters, that might be what is slowing Mat down. His thoughts drift to his plans for Sammael, and how it’s not just Elayne he needs, but Mat too—someone has to lead the army in Illian.

Suddenly his attention is recaptured by the conversation around him, and turns to demand it be repeated. Everyone who has been talking idly stiffens warily, even the Maidens, as Melaine explains that there are nine Aes Sedai in the city, and that they are sometimes visited by what are clearly Red Sisters, trying to find out information about the Black Tower. Rand thinks that it can’t be a coincidence that there are Aes Sedai gathering in both Caemlyn and Cairhien, and makes a note to warn Taim to keep himself and his men away from the Aes Sedai.

But what actually caught Rand’s attention was the mention of Dyelin—he’s worried that she has tried to seize the throne of Andor, but Bashere assures him that it’s quite the opposite. After several lesser nobles proclaimed for her as queen she had the leaders hanged and others flogged. Naean Arawn and Elenia Sarand have been imprisoned for trying to claim the throne themselves, and Dyelin has been proclaimed Regent in Elayne’s name until she returns. Those who were been attached to Lord Gaebril have fled the city.

Rand tells them that he is leaving Fedwin with them, so that he can carry messages to Rand when needed. He orders them not to tell anyone who Fedwin really is. Bael is excited when Rand reveals that he is finally ready to send the spears forward to Illian, and asks if Rand is going to allow the Aiel the fifth. Rand agrees that they will have the fifth.

Bring Elayne quickly, Mat. It ran wild in his head, across Lews Therin’s cackling. Bring her quickly, before Andor and Cairhien both erupt in my face.

 

Poor Rand. Just wait until he finds out that not only is Elayne refusing to come back to Andor but that she actually thinks that doing her work as an Aes Sedai is more important than being crowned. Oh, and that Egwene has sent Mat off with Elayne and Nynaeve to Ebou Dar and sneakily commandeered the Band as part of her assault on Elaida and the White Tower.

Yeah. He’s going to be pretty angry.

It’s interesting, because until now Rand has either gone up against enemies or strangers. Some of those strangers have become good allies, and others have become reluctant ones, but he has yet to get into serious conflict with a friend over these big decisions. The closest we’ve gotten so far is with Perrin. I hardly think Rand is going to do anything horrible to the Aes Sedai, even with how his distress and trauma has shaped his perception of them, but it is still significant that Perrin has made it clear to Rand that he would oppose any mistreatment of the Aes Sedai. They’re on the same page at the moment, but it’s clear that Perrin’s challenge has rattled Rand a bit, and I imagine that there might very well be a disagreement about something similar down the road. With Rand’s ability to trust already pretty fragile, such a conflict could be a significant event for him.

Still, that’s nothing compared to the conflict that is going to happen between him and Egwene. I’ve been very curious for some time how a reunion between the two of them would go, and how a reunion between Rand and Elayne would go as well. Even before Egwene became Amyrlin and Elayne was raised to full sister, both girls had become very much more Aes Sedai in their actions and alliances since they last saw Rand. The last time Rand saw Egwene, it was clear that he was thinking of the Aes Sedai as an enemy they both shared. After all, he knew Egwene wanted to stay with the Wise Ones. He probably felt a kinship with her connection to the Aiel, and of course there is the kinship of their shared childhood and former romantic entanglements. It makes sense that those memories would outweigh her connection to the Aes Sedai in his mind—but I don’t know if they will be able to do the same in the face of Egwene being a full sister, not to mention the leader and symbol of the Aes Sedai and their power. It’s going to be much harder now for Rand to see Egwene, the girl from the Two Rivers he knows and trusts. Especially since his distrust and fear of the Aes Sedai has been so compounded since the last time he saw her.

Of course, it’s possible that Egwene being the new Amyrlin might lead Rand to feel a little bit better about the Aes Sedai, at least certain ones. But while I think having Egwene in charge will help in some ways (certainly Rand should appreciate not having to deal with Elaida or someone else like her, and even if he doesn’t, I am sure he will benefit from Egwene’s choices), I also think Rand is going to be pushed further away from trusting Egwene, at least at first. Egwene isn’t going to just follow Rand’s direction—she’ll have her own ideas of what needs to be done, and she fully believes in the Aes Sedai as an authority in their own right, not subordinates of the Dragon Reborn. She isn’t going to agree with everything Rand will ask from her, and when they disagree, that defiance is going to upset Rand a lot more than Perrin worrying about the treatment of some Aes Sedai prisoners or refusing to take charge of an army.

I think just the idea of Egwene being the Amyrlin is going to frighten and anger Rand—his initial reaction will probably be to feel as though she has joined the ranks of the enemy. Hopefully he’ll be able to manage those feelings—he’s actually done a pretty impressive job in that department so far. Certainly not all of Rand’s reactions are reasonable, but he is fighting an intense internal battle, both against the effects of the taint as well as well as the effects of the trauma he’s endured. We’re seeing a lot of those effects from his kidnapping and imprisonment in these chapters—the way his thoughts keep returning to the chest, the way he wonders if he wants Lews Therin’s voice to stay in his head so he’s not alone, the way he reacts to Jalani pulling the hood down over his face and leaving him in near darkness. And yet he manages the reaction, focusing on the glimpses of light he can see under the edge of the hood and on breathing steadily. He’s holding his own, more or less, against Lews Therin. He’s refocused on his goals.

He manages his anger as well, reminding himself that he should expect Melaine, as a Dreamwalker, to know about and be involved with what is going on, that she would share the information with Dorindha just as Bashere would share it with his wife.

But most impressive of all is the passage where Rand reminds himself that he has to trust people. He’s aware that his thoughts on trust are coming close to madness. The taint and Lews Therin are probably having an effect there, though Rand has enough trauma that a fear of trust is pretty understandable. And there have been many moments in the series that I have found Rand’s inability to be open, to trust others with his fears and needs, incredibly frustrating. Here, however, I find his approach very admirable. He tells himself that nobody can live without giving trust somewhere, and then goes through a list of people he can trust, reminding himself of what he does have, rather than only dwelling on what he fears.

I was so moved by the fact that Sulin recognized Rand’s PTSD. The damage done by his horrific imprisonment in the chest is definitely going to have long-lasting consequences, and there is so little softness and care in the world for the Dragon Reborn. He gets it from Min, and from some of the Maidens, but there is so much he keeps hidden (not to mention the ways he finds the Maidens’ care for him more irritating than soothing). I actually had to read the section a few times to understand what was going on—when Sulin looks at his face and says “They did this to you,” I wasn’t sure what she was seeing there. For a moment I thought perhaps he had used the One Power to disguise his face with marks or bruising, and the fact that she reached for her belt knife made me think that she was after the Asha’man, people who were actually close at hand.

But when it finally clicked, I had to stop reading for a moment. The Aiel are a hard people. Their culture demands a lot from them, especially from the warriors and Wise Women. We’ve seen how they handle punishment, how they expect life to be filled with suffering and physical hardship, how they view death as a waking up. And yet they are far from heartless, and there is a gentleness to many of them that comes out in a variety of ways. Bael’s mentorship of Rand, and also of Berelain. The Maidens’ adoption of Rand as a long lost brother or son. The Wise One’s care for Egwene, and for Min. The tradition of legally adopting a close friend as a brother or sister.

And Sulin’s gentleness with Rand, which she gives without needing a request or explanation, and in a way that doesn’t put his pain in full view of others. Jalani’s somber delivering of the punch also felt like a similar moment of care. She is teased by the Maidens for it, of course, but I think the moment of service might have been from a similar impulse as Sulin’s angry reaction and gentle touches.

Rand has been puzzled by the Wise Ones’ changed opinion around the Aes Sedai. Interacting with sisters has given the Wise Ones the ability to see them as people, rather than the almost mythical authorities that were in the memories of those Aiel who went to Rhuidean. Since then, the Wise Ones have slowly lost respect for the Aes Sedai based on their interactions with the Salidar folks and the way the embassies behaved. And the action that really put the nail in the coffin, so to speak, was Rand’s kidnapping. The Aiel have very specific rules around prisoners—despite, or perhaps because of, their warlike culture. There are classes of people who are not allowed to be taken prisoner, and those who are taken gai’shain are subject to strict codes and protected from mistreatment and dishonor from their captors. I’m not sure what da’tsang means, but I’m guessing it’s someone who is being punished for very dishonorable behavior, like the way the Maidens made Isendre dress in black robes and do menial tasks. The Wise Ones and Maidens have lost any respect they had left for the Aes Sedai after seeing them treat Rand in such a dishonorable, and dishonoring, fashion.

It’s interesting to see how the Aes Sedai’s long standing insistence on presenting themselves as a monolith is backfiring on them now. I remember back when I read New Spring and read about how the Aes Sedai let everyone believe that they allowed Malkier to fall rather than admit the truth, that they just couldn’t travel fast enough to reach them in time. My first thought? Of course that was going to backfire on them. The Aes Sedai didn’t want to ever admit that they were anything less than omnipotent and omniscient, but they were perfectly content to let people fear them. No doubt this behavior originated as the surviving sisters tried to rebuild the Aes Sedai after the Breaking—they were used to the power and authority that the Aes Sedai had during the Age of Legends, and would also have been subject to a newly-founded fear of the One Power. During and right after the Breaking, most people would not even know that it was the result of a taint on the One Power, never mind that it was only affecting saidin and male Aes Sedai. For the channelers trying to establish some semblance of the old Aes Sedai order, fear would also have been a useful tool in the face of a nearly lawless society.

And so that tradition remained, but as the world rebuilt itself and restored the order of countries and borders and laws, as the White Tower began to weaken, both in number and in average strength, I can’t help wondering if a reputation for care and helpfulness, rather than one of control and coldness, might not have served the White Tower better. It is something we see in certain areas, in the Borderlands, and in the White Tower’s servants and the denizens of Tar Valon. But perhaps there was no way for the Aes Sedai to alter the perception most of the world has about them. After all, human beings tend to regard groups of others as monolithic without prompting. For example, the way most Wetlanders don’t understand the difference between the Shaido and the other Aiel clans, even when it is explained to them. Or how the Whitecloaks view all channeling as the purview of Darkfriends—there’s no escape for the Aes Sedai from that generalization, and it makes sense that they would array themselves like a besieged nation in the face of such prejudice.

In any case, you can see how, in the present day, the Aes Sedai are trapped by the very attitudes they adopted to protect themselves. For most people, the Aes Sedai are interchangeable—one doesn’t see individual sisters, one sees the White Tower. So if one sees the Tower as strong and worthy of respect, the individual sisters will be viewed the same way. But if a single member of the Aes Sedai behaves in a way one views as weak, dishonorable, or evil, then that same view is passed on to every other sister, and to the White Tower itself. Rand’s reaction to Alanna’s non-consensual bonding and to the kidnapping might be slightly heightened by the effects of the taint on his mind, but it still makes sense that he would come away from those experiences unable to emotionally distinguish between Aes Sedai that have proven untrustworthy and some that might yet be good allies to him.

Speaking of perception, I think that Perrin’s ability to smell emotions is becoming something of a hindrance to him. Yes, it’s useful at times, but you can see how he becomes overly focused on those scents, sometimes to the detriment of receiving other information. When he realizes that Faile was worried that Rand, and possibly Perrin himself, had been made puppets to the Aes Sedai, she has already been somewhat reassured that her fears haven’t come to pass. It isn’t reasonable to expect her to completely drop those fears the second Perrin offers reassurance. That’s not how fear works, and he should know, considering how he’s had to struggle with his fears for her. If Faile could smell his emotions the way he does hers, she might point out that he can see that she’s fine, and demand to know what more proof he needs. By focusing so much on this lingering thread of fear smell, Perrin is not paying enough attention to what Faile is saying. He’s not trusting her to manage her emotions; rather, he is trying to control them.

He’s going to run into the same problem with jealousy. There is clearly a culture clash going on here; there are definitely ways I think Faile is being very unreasonable about Perrin and Berelain. But it’s also true that jealousy might come up in a passive way. Even if Faile felt perfectly secure in the relationship, even if Perrin figures out how to behave like a perfect Saldaean man (an unreasonable ask, especially when they’re not even in Saldaea) she might sometimes experience a natural jealousy. That is her emotion to manage, not Perrin’s. Humans are not like wolves, they don’t communicate by scent, and their emotions have a different complexity. If Perrin isn’t careful, he’s going to become a micromanager of his wife’s feelings, and that will be terrible for their relationship and the trust between them.

That aside, though, Perrin’s skills of observation, scent-based and otherwise, are very impressive. There are several times that he observes Rand listening to or reacting to Lews Therin, though of course he doesn’t know exactly what he’s seeing. It will be interesting to see how he develops in this area, especially given how reluctant he is to become a leader, and how inevitable that fate seems to be.

Next week we will find out how things are going with Egwene as we tackle Chapters 8 and 9. They have evocative titles, and I imagine Siuan’s going to be involved, if “A Pair of Silverpike” is anything to go on. In the meantime, I leave you with a few more observations.

  • I loved the subtle(ish) way Faile quizzed Dobraine to see if he will follow Rand’s orders or take matters with Colavaere into his own hands, and the way he responded. I’m still wondering how Colavaere will end up hanged if not by Dobraine, but I suppose time will tell.
  • Rand’s handling of the tension between the Maidens and the Asha’man was very Aiel. The Maidens are treating them the way they might treat the Stone Dogs or other societies, and Rand responds by teaching the Asha’man to react the same way one of the Aielmen might. “If I can put up with foolishness from Maidens, so can you.”
  • It’s also interesting to note that Rand is concerned about the fact that the Asha’man aren’t scared of much, now that they can channel. He reflects that they “needed to relearn fear.” I wonder how long it will be until they do. Not that long, in all probability.
  • The passage in which Rand studies the strength of the various Asha’man gives us more information about the differences between male and female channelers. Men can learn faster than women, but you can’t tell what their strength will be until they reach it. It’s also interesting to note that men can have blocks in their channeling, or something very similar. Rand notes that Fedwin’s ability to channel is affected by what he believes he can do—it’s implied that distance shouldn’t affect what one can do with the Power, but that Fedwin doesn’t believe he can use the power at a distance, which means that he effectively can’t. Taim calls this “a bar,” which is a little different from the blocks we’ve seen from women like Nynaeve or Theodrin, but still quite similar. It is interesting to see the ways a channeler’s perceptions can change how they interact with the One Power.

Sylas K Barrett is glad that it’s finally fall here in Brooklyn, and hopes that an end to the brutal heat Randland is experiencing is also coming soon. They’ve just gotta find that windy bowl.

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