Welcome back to this week’s Reading The Wheel of Time. Today we are tackling Chapters 34 and 35 of A Crown of Swords, in which Rand’s ta’veren powers give him a leg up on negotiations with the Sea Folk, and so he pushes his luck—at least in Min’s opinion—with Caraline Damodred and the Cairhien rebels.
Rand’s entourage consists of his three retained Asha’man, Dobraine and a hundred armsmen, Nandera and two hundred Maidens, two hundred Aiel of the Seia Doon society, and five Aes Sedai. Kiruna and Verin aren’t there, and Bera explains that Verin has gone to the Wise Ones’ tents to interview the prisoners about the White Tower’s intentions with Rand, while Kiruna is “consulting with Sorilea on a matter of protocol.”
Rand tells the Aes Sedai that, from now on, Merana will speak for all of them and that they will take their orders from her. He can’t understand why they all look so startled, given that Merana was the ambassador originally sent to him in Caemlyn. He and Min mount and the procession rides off to the sound of trumpets and drumming—and cheers from the onlookers.
Rand wants the women to keep back from him, fearing that one of them might take an assassin’s arrow that is meant for him, but they take little heed of his orders. He considers that he might need to give permission for the Aes Sedai to embrace the Source without asking first.
At the docks they leave Dobraine and his men behind, as well as most of the Aiel, and a longboat carries them out to the White Spray. Once there, he makes a bridge of Air and Fire, by which he and Min mount up to the deck of the White Spray. He announces his identity as the Dragon Reborn and the Coramoor, and Harine din Togara Two Winds, Wavemistress to Clan Shodein invites them to board. She seems surprised when she addresses Rand as the Coramoor.
The Aes Sedai and Asha’man come up behind them, and introductions are made on both sides before Rand is invited to the cabin. He brings Dashiva and Min, as well as Merana, and Rafela, much to the Wavemistress’s irritation.
The table with its strange latching chair is very uncomfortable for Rand, as are the close confines of the cabin. He becomes immediately testy, brushing aside polite diplomacy despite the fact that Merana keeps nudging him. As Harine continues to hedge around acknowledging Rand as the Coramoor he orders the Aes Sedai to come over to him, and is surprised when they kneel and kiss his hands. He tells Harine that the Aes Sedai serve him, and so will the Sea Folk.
“Yes, but there is the matter of the Bargain.” That word was plainly capitalized in Harine’s tone. “The Jendai Prophecy says you will bring us to glory, and all the seas of the world will be ours. As we give to you, you must give to us. If I do not make the Bargain well, Nesta will hang me naked in the rigging by my ankles and call the First Twelve of Clan Shodein to name a new Wavemistress.” A look of utter horror stole across her face as those words came out of her mouth, and her black eyes went wider and wider by the word with disbelief.
As the other Sea Folk in the room look on, shocked, Rand realizes that his ta’veren nature is affecting her, affecting all of them. He presses that advantage, and as Harine agrees that the Atha’an Miere will serve him she becomes distraught, accusing the Aes Sedai of doing something to her. Min, inspired by a sudden viewing, tells Harine that she will not be punished for this as much as she fears, and that one day she herself will be Mistress of Ships. Rafela realizes that Min is the girl she’s heard of who sees what will be.
Rand explains what he wants—the Sea Folk ships to carry men or supplies when he asks, and for the Sea Folk to bring him information about what is happening in other lands, and to watch the Aryth Ocean for the coming of the Seanchan. Harine knows of the Seanchan, and tells Rand that ships that sail too far West vanish—Rand worries that the Seanchan have come back much sooner than he expected them to.
Suddenly overcome by claustrophobia, Rand says that he will leave Merana and Rafela to work out the exact terms of the Bargain, and actually breaks the bolted chair in his haste to get out. Merana tries to stop him but he orders her to negotiate and stumbles out on deck. A moment later Min joins him, and Rand, recovering under the open sky and reveling in the feeling of victory, decides to tackle another problem that has been on his horizon.
Back in Rand’s room, Min watches him search through his wardrobe until he finds the green coat he wore returning from Dumai’s Wells. She worries over this plan to confront the rebels, over how the negotiation with the Sea Folk might be going without his ta’veren presence, over a viewing she never told him about—one that says he will almost certainly fail without Moiraine.
He makes a gateway and they step through into a forest, and almost at once a horse and rider come through the bush. The woman looks so much like Moraine that Min is dumbstruck, but Rand, ignoring the crossbow she has leveled at him, identifies her at once as Lady Caraline Damodred. She responds by identifying him in turn as the Dragon Reborn. Caraline mentions the rumors she has heard about Rand, that he has gone to submit to the White Tower, that he means to give the Sun Throne to Elayne, that he killed Elayne and Morgase too.
“I submit to no one,” Rand replied sharply. He stared up at her with eyes fierce enough to snatch her out of the saddle by themselves. “Elayne is on her way to Caemlyn as we speak, to take the throne of Andor. After which, she will have the throne of Cairhien as well.” Min winced. Did he have to sound like a pillow stuffed full of haughty? She had hoped he had calmed down a bit after the Sea Folk.
Min can’t see any evidence of Caraline being affected the way the Sea Folk were as Caraline tells Rand that she isn’t sure she can accept his presence in Cairhien, and lists the ways he changes fate, causing accidents and divorces, tearing Cairhien apart. Min challenges this, explaining that there is a balance to everything Rand causes, a good for every ill the way the Pattern demands. Caraline seems amused by her interjection, but then they are interrupted by the arrival of High Lord Darlin Sisnera and a retinue of nobility and servants. Caraline introduces Rand and Min as her “cousin Tomas” and his wife Jaisi.
Darlin is clearly offended when Rand only offers a small bow, much less than a minor lord like “Tomas Trakand” would owe to a High Lord of Tear, but Rand ignores this. Instead he asks how Darlin came to be here, instead of Haddon Mirk, and the High Lord replies that Aes Sedai told him months ago that al’Thor was going to go to the White Tower, and he hoped to put Caraline on the throne while al’Thor was away. Darlin also reveals that he has asked Caraline to marry him, and although Caraline clearly hasn’t accepted, Min sees an aura around the two and knows that they will, in fact, be wed. She also sees a crown on Darlin’s head, and knows he will be a king one day, though she doesn’t know of what country.
Darlin orders two of his nobles to give up their horses for Rand and Min, and Caraline makes Min ride next to her so she can see what Rand does. Min can tell that Rand’s powers are working on Darlin as the High Lord admits much of his opinions on the Dragon Reborn and whether or not he could have followed him if certain circumstances had been different.
When they reach the rebel encampment, Min notices that there are some soldiers in red coats with white lions on the sleeves, and that Caraline stiffens whenever those red coats are near. Worse, once they enter the main tent they are confronted with the sight of four Aes Sedai, one of which is wearing a red shawl.
Min has a viewing of one of the men in red coats and can’t stop herself from warning Lady Caraline about him. Rand adds that he has heard of the white lions, and there are Darkfriends in their ranks. But his attention is drawn to two men who Caraline identifies as Toram Riatin and his new companion, Jeraal Mordeth. She warns Rand that whatever ta’veren spell he has worked on her and Darlin won’t work on Toram, who hates Rand with a passion.
Rand, his eyes locked on Mordeth, says that his name is actually Padan Fain, and that there are one hundred thousand golden crowns on his head. Shocked at such a high number, Caraline asks what he did.
“He ravaged my home because it was my home.” Rand’s face was frozen, his voice ice. “He brought Trollocs to kill my friends because they were my friends. He is a Darkfriend, and a dead man.” Those last words came through clenched teeth. Punch splashed to the carpet as the silver goblet bent in his gloved fist.
Min aches for him, but she and Caraline are both concerned with Rand making a display. They are interrupted in their attempts to calm him by Cadsuane asking to be introduced to Caraline’s “tall young friend.” Even if Min didn’t know the name she could have seen that Cadsuane knows Rand, and the Aes Sedai remarks that some boys don’t learn not to stick their fingers into fire without a good spanking. Rand replies that she knows that he is not a child, and she replies easily that time will show if he needs a spanking or not.
She glides away, but they are almost immediately joined by Toram asking to be introduced to Caraline’s cousin. He tells Rand that they are also cousins, since Caraline is to be his wife, and she indignantly reminds him that she said she will not marry him. Toram responds by telling Rand that women never know their minds until you show them, then challenges Rand to “a little sport” with practice swords. Caraline tries to laugh the suggestion off, but Rand decides he might as well see where this leads, and agrees.
You know, I was just wondering where Mordeth-Fain was these days. I was thinking about him while writing about Elaida, remembering how he touched her with his power to make her more likely to hate and distrust Rand and wondering if any of her more intense behavior lately might have been partially enhanced by that touch. One of Mordeth’s abilities was creating distrust between people, and Elaida has been awfully suspicious of her sitters from the get-go, even those who were on her side. Still, there are other reasons for Elaida to be insecure and paranoid, so it’s hard to say whether Mordeth had more than a passing effect on her, especially since she was already going to hate and want to control Rand.
Toram, on the other hand, is very clearly being influenced by Mordeth. Caraline even says that it wasn’t so bad before he met Mordeth, but now he hates Rand desperately and wants him dead even more than he wants the throne of Cairhien. Clearly this is due to Mordeth’s influence, and I find myself wondering if Toram has been affected in other ways as well. We saw how the Whitecloaks under Mordeth’s leadership changed, becoming much more distrusting, furtive, and cruel just from their proximity to him. Since we’ve never met Toram before we don’t know if any of the arrogance and rudeness he displays here is similar to how he was before he met Mordeth, or if he was as odious towards women as he is towards Caraline. It’s quite possible that he was, of course; there’s nothing terribly outsized about him, and he’s not the first nobleman we’ve met who behaved in such a way. His remarks about women not knowing their own minds until you show them and the way he just kept talking about Caraline as though he possessed her made my skin crawl, especially when he thought it was funny that she pulled away from his touch. Caraline is a powerful woman, too, though it seems that she and Toram are of about the same rank.
So yeah, I don’t like Toram, no matter how much of him is affected by Mordeth. Jury’s still out on Darlin, but the way Min started coming around to him makes me think he might turn out alright. The High Lords of Tear tend to be bigger jerks than average, so compared to a lot of his peers Darlin doesn’t seem so bad. It was particularly interesting to watch how he and Caraline reacted to Rand while the ta’veren powers were working on them. So many people, including good people and interesting characters, are understandably withholding around Rand. They’re afraid of him, and they don’t know his motivations, and he represents danger and change even in the best of circumstances, so it’s perfectly reasonable behavior… but it’s also frustrating. It’s frustrating for Rand, who is just trying to get things done as quickly as possible while juggling far too many things and also slowly being corrupted by the taint, and it’s frustrating for the reader, who knows Rand better even than his friends do.
I mean, maybe I’m just a big softy (reader, he is) but I’m also a sucker for character development and interaction, and I’m always hoping that people or circumstances will push the suspicious cast of The Wheel of Time into more confidences with each other. And now it’s happening! I already love Caraline, and I think Darlin’s really interesting, and I didn’t even have to have a POV section from either of them to get to know them better. Like Min, I’m terribly interested in what Rand’s conclusions are, but we’ll sadly have to wait a while for those.
It’s also interesting to be reminded of Moiraine so many times in this chapter. I’m so curious about Min’s viewing regarding Moiraine, but the reminder of it reaffirms my belief that Moiraine isn’t dead and will come back eventually. Min’s viewings are never wrong, after all, and she saw that Rand would fail without Moiraine. I’m fairly confident that this series doesn’t end with the Dark One breaking free and destroying everything, so Moiraine must come back after all. Which can’t come soon enough, in my opinion, but I guess there are still a lot of books for me to cover. In the meantime we can hang out with Caraline, whose name bugs me every time I have to type it but who is otherwise great. I like her attitude, and I’m interested in how many of her choices in handling Rand had to do with ta’veren shenanigans. I also thought the image of her firing the crossbow into the air and almost hitting Darlin some ways away was really funny.
I’ve already said I like Cadsuane as well, but I’ll hang a huge caveat on that by adding that I’m starting to hate how she talks to Rand. A certain lack of awe towards him seems warranted, even helpful, especially now that he’s gotten used to the idea of being treated like a king. Cadsuane showing that she’s not afraid of him seems useful too, but I could have wished that she treated him just as a person. Min (and to a lesser extent the Two Rivers folks) is the only one who acts like she sees a human being in Rand, not just a mythic savior/destroyer. We’ve had some Tower Aes Sedai fake treating Rand with respect, and some really have, especially now that the Salidar embassy is sworn to him. But those interactions are still predicated on the politics of Aes Sedai interacting with rulers and nobility. They’re never just people, because Aes Sedai present themselves as more than people.
Cadsuane, with her age and experience and no-nonsense ways, definitely seemed like someone who might dispense with all that. In a way she has, but I can’t figure out what this treating Rand like a bug underfoot is supposed to accomplish. Last time she was baiting him in an attempt to gauge what he is like, but why speak to him in such a way now? What is there to be gained by it? Maybe Cadsuane still thinks, as most Aes Sedai do, that Rand’s role in the upcoming Last Battle is to be manipulated by the Aes Sedai, but that seems too simplistic of an inspiration for someone as interesting and complicated as her.
Speaking of interesting and complicated Aes Sedai, Verin sure is keeping busy. I wonder if she’ll learn anything interesting from the captives the Wise Ones are looking after. If Alviarin is going to push Elaida into direct conflict with Rand, and if Rand is still uncertain as to how to handle the potentiality of finding more allies in the Tower, then anything Verin can learn could be helpful to him… if she chooses to share it, that is.
Only a few weeks ago I was remarking that it was interesting to see Mat’s ta’veren nature influencing Reanne, because this was the first instance that we could see a specific and obvious line from the ta’veren person’s desire to their effect on someone else. We’ve seen plenty of random events, good and bad, caused by Rand’s proximity, and we’ve seen people be more receptive to Rand and Perrin’s suggestions than they seemingly would be without a little manipulation of the Pattern, but it hasn’t been as clear as it was with Mat and Reanne, largely because we only saw the events from one point of view, or because the ta’veren’s desire was more generalized.
But what we saw with Mat is nothing compared to what happened with Harine and the other Sea Folk. Rand was exerting so much control over Harine that she can feel it happening to her, believes that the Aes Sedai must be using the One Power on her in some way. And I find myself curious to know if any of Rand’s choices here are directed by his ta’veren-ness acting up. We know that being ta’veren can mean being the cause of manipulation of the Pattern or being particularly manipulated by it, but we’ve never had a sense that any of that is happening to Rand, Perrin or Mat—Mat and Perrin have felt Rand tugging at them, but no one has ever felt like they were being tugged by something unidentifiable or unseen. Which doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t. Rand’s decision to put Merana back in charge seems to come almost on a whim—the narrative says that he doesn’t really care who is in charge as long as they obey him, and that he intervenes because of whatever is going on between Alanna and Min. I’m not sure I see how the two things are connected, so either I’m missing something in Rand or perhaps there’s some chance, some Mat-like luck in it, as there seems to be in his choice of including Rafela as the other negotiator with the Sea Folk.
Rand knows nothing about how the Aes Sedai hierarchy works, but it’s interesting to see Merana elevated above everyone again. She lost her position as head of the embassy when Bera and Kiruna showed up because they were so much more powerful than her, and her limited authority from the Salidar Hall didn’t feel like enough to override that difference. At the time she believed that it would have been enough if she had been designated by an Amyrlin… and now she is designated by the Dragon Reborn, who they have all sworn to serve even before their loyalty to the White Tower. It’s kind of ironic, and kind of cool, and the reader is well placed to understand it after the explanations that were recently given to Elayne.
I enjoyed the imagery of Rand weaving the invisible bridge and Min’s complete trust in it. There’s some One Power metaphysics in that section about how no one can make a bridge longer than a certain length—Rand doesn’t know why but it’s always interesting when Robert Jordan reminds us that the “magic” of the One Power works a little bit like a science, and obeys its own rules of physics and energy conversion. It’s also interesting to be reminded of how little even the most powerful channelers of this Age understand about saidin and saidar.
We’ll be moving on to Chapter 36 next week, and possibly Chapter 37 depending on how much I have to say about everything that unfolds in (the very poignantly named) “Blades.”
Sylas K Barrett thinks that everyone’s going to be pretty surprised when “young lord Tomas Trakand” turns out to be a blademaster. Also the amusing irony of Caraline choosing to give Rand the last name Trakand was not lost on him.