Spoilers for books 1-3, and The Shadow Rising ch. 1-26| More info and previous posts |Please no spoilers for future books/events
In my plan to read The Wheel of Time, and post about my experience, I’m now on book 4, The Shadow Rising. This post covers chapter 24-26.
Enter the Rhuidean
Rand and Mat finally arrive at the fog that cover Rhuidean. Aviendha has already beaten them to it, I wonder if they will see her in there.
Interestingly, unlike Mat, Rand wasn’t pointed to Rhuidean by the door ter’angreal. Then where’d he get the idea to up and travel to the Aiel waste? The prophecies?
The city of Rhuidean is a 100% creepy place – covered with a dome of fog, full of huge and majestic but unfinished buildings. Rand seems a bit unhinged – is it the heat, or the magic he just did to bring up water or something about the place itself? They head deeper, and stumble across what I’m pretty sure is an Avendesora tree. I guess this is the tree whose branch the Aiel gave to Cairhien. Which reminds me, everyone seems to be in awe of the tree, but no one has said what exactly is special about it. To further the creepiness, the place is littered with artifacts – ter’angreal and who knows what else. Priceless stuff just lying there. Which means the Aes Sedai were somehow involved with Rhuidean.
After a rest in the shade (which fills both with peace), Rand is off for the real test, telling Mat to stay behind. Mat being Mat, is not content to just sit and relax for a while. He spots a magic door like the one in Tear, and in he goes. Dude, this is not a good idea, at least think before you jump into potentially deadly artifacts about which you know nothing!
And of course, he ends up in another world, which has the distinction of people dressed in bloody human skin! This place is feeling more and more like a trap. Eventually, he gets to a hall and is asked what he needs. Needs, not wants answered. So these people grant wishes instead of answers? Mat though, disregards this vital difference and ploughs on with questions about his destiny. There’s a cringe-inducing shout-speech by Mat, the result of which is that the strange folk (I think) agree to restore his memory, free him of Aes Sedai and return him to Rhuidean.
Unfortunately, it appears he made some mistake – something about the price. I very much fear the price these guys want is Mat’s life. We fade to black, leaving Mat choking and gasping for air. Shit, shit, shit! I mean, there’s being brave, and there’s being stupid, and Mat’s actions seem to be shifting from the former to the latter in this book.
Rand is walking among blingy columns, when he sees another man – seemingly frozen, locked in some sort of nightmare. Is this what happens to people who fail the test?
And suddenly Rand is experiencing what I guess are someone else’s memories. Ah, so the other guy is not frozen, he’s just seeing those things as well.
YES! Finally we’re going to find out what the deal is with the Aiel.
The memory is of Mandein, a sept chief, the place is Rhuidean – a younger, just started Rhuidean. The enigmatic Jenn Aiel are clearly disliked, have Aes Sedai among them (the source of all the artifacts in the plaza?) and seem to be the ones making Rhuidean. They also don’t like the Lost Ones, who I think are the Tuatha’an, the Traveling people. But aren’t the Tuatha’an the only ones allowed into the waste in the present?
Except that the Jenn are also somehow revered – “Killing in front of a Jenn was almost as bad as killing a Jenn.”
The Jenn want the clan leaders to come to Rhuidean and take history lessons, or else they and their clans will die off. We’re watching the start of this custom of coming to Rhuidean! The Jenn foretell the coming of Rand – who, like the Dragon Reborn, is their savior and destroyer rolled into one.
Another switch, and we’re Rhodric, a young Aiel. And to the east of him is a huge mountain range. If that’s the Spine of the World as I suspect, then they’re in Shienar. What are Aiel doing in Shienar? They seem to be fleeing something, and what’s more, other peoples don’t like them at all. He too repeats the same enigma – the Jenn are Aiel, yet they are not. Damnit, this chapter was supposed to make everything clear, not raise even more questions!
This looks like the start of the time when the Aiel went to the waste, driven there – by what?
Another switch, and we’re Jeordam. A bunch of Jenn come to him, asking for help, while also accusing the other, non-Jenn Aiel of having given up “the Way”. What way? Something to do with swords and violence, given Jeordam’s reaction. Some villagers have robbed the Jenn, kidnapped their women. They want the Aiel’s help. Okay, so it seems the Jenn are non-violent, and anyone who does participate in violence is cast out. Okay, so maybe that’s the difference – both are Aiel, except the Jenn are non-violent. Well that wasn’t too hard to explain, was it, every-single-Aiel-who-evaded-this-question? The Jenn are also carrying Avendesora (from the one in Rhuidean?). We see what seems to be the beginning of Far Dareis Mai.
The next flashback is the story of some Jenn boys, who kill their sisters’ kidnappers and rescue them, only to be thrown out of their community.
Another flashback, and we’re Adan, another Jenn.
Wait. Adan. The old man in the flashback – was Adan. Hang on….
It’s in reverse! Mind = Blown. All of the memories are in reverse chronological order. “Forward, and back” Ah, makes much more sense now! Should’ve paid more attention to the names. Yes! So, the Jenn were presumably the first Aiel, but then faced with violence, some of their number picked up arms – except swords – and though they continued to call themselves Aiel, they were very clearly different from the Jenn. That’s why you don’t kill Jenn, or do violence in front of them. And so the Jenn, and Aiel, got to the Waste, where the Jenn created Rhuidean and started the ritual of telling the clan chief all of this. And the Avendesora in Rhuidean comes from the saplings carried by the Jenn, not vice versa. And ditto all the artifacts in the plaza. The question now is: Where did the Aiel get all this stuff, and Aes Sedai? Why are they disliked by everyone else? What is the great sin the Aiel talk about? How do the Tuatha’an fit into this? It’s time to find out!
So, back to Adan. There’s an argument following another attack on them, and one group of people leave.
“We mean to find that safe place. And the songs, too.”
The people have been dragging around Aes Sedai luggage, looking for a safe place, but some of them have had enough. And so, I believe these are what will eventually become the Tuatha’an, searching for the songs, and being merry and non-violent, following the Way of The Leaf. The Lost Ones.
Further back, and we are Jonai, Adan’s father. The Ogier are searching for the stedding. So, this is sometime after the Breaking. Jonai has been abandoned by the Aes Sedai some time ago. The Aes Sedai did return, only years and years later, because the next memories (chronologically) do mention them.
In fact, the land is still changing, so this is quite soon after the Breaking. There is a mention of some Covenant, and a dying Jonai instructs a young Adan to guard the Aes Sedai’s stuff, and follow the Way of the Leaf, and find a place of safety – which will be the Aiel Waste. Which is why the Aiel don’t like anyone else to come their lands – anyone except the Tuatha’an, who were once of the Aiel.
Further back, and this seems very close to, but still after, the breaking. Jonai goes to an Aes Sedai meeting, who are apparently already planning for the return of the Dragon. There is also what’s called a Nym there – something that feels related to Ogiers. He calls Jonai a “child of the Dragon”. It seems he – and the other Da’Shain Aiel serve the Aes Sedai, including of course, Lews Therin Kinslayer. The Aes Sedai instruct them to keep the things they carry safe – away from Male channelers – and to find a place of safety, and to keep to the Covenant and the Way of the Leaf.
A very interesting line is this one :
Once there would have been other ways to carry them, jo-cars and jumpers, hoverflies and huge sho-wings.
This feels a lot like tech. Did the Age of Legends have science and technology, as well as magic? Or are these just tech-sounding names for magical stuff? Anyway, the Aiel begin their journey – which will eventually lead them through the world and past the Spine into the Waste, which will eventually splinter them, and turn them from peaceful servants to deadly warriors.
Even more into the past, and now we are at a time almost around the same time as the Breaking. Lews Therin is regarded as “the great leader of the world”. There’s a war on, and the peaceful times are only in stories. The sci-fi vibe is getting stronger. We see the songs – the songs that the Tuatha’an seek, and we see the Nym in action. They’re some kind of super gardeners.
Holy shit, this is the day! The day when the Dark One’s prison was sealed – and the day saidin was tainted in turn. I’ve got goosebumps. The people are celebrating, but all is not well,
“The Forsaken are dead. Dead, do you hear? Lanfear will not protect you anymore. We will root out all of you who served the Forsaken while pretending to be on our side, and treat the lot of you as we treated that crazy old man.”
Oh no. This, I guess, is what will eventually drive the Aiel away, to the Waste. Already, an old man has been hanged.
And finally, we are at a point before the breaking. Charn, the old man who we just saw hung dead, is heading to get engaged. This is a time when the Aiel are respected. And suddenly something goes wrong. The Aes Sedai have been doing something – something that would make male and female Aes Sedai more powerful, using a new source of power that they have found. And it has gone wrong, somehow. Darkness is spreading.
Ohmygod, they just freed the Dark One! Okay, not freed him, but they’ve definitely cracked his prison. Why would they do that?! I always sort of assumed that one day years ago the Dark One started to break free, there was a war which ended with the Dark One’s prison being sealed up again, which left saidin tainted. But the Aes Sedai are responsible for it – for everything! This is too much. Let me just pick up my jaw.
Okay. I have it now. The chain of events – from the creation of the hole to the founding of Rhuidean, is almost clear to me. But not completely. There are still questions. But this changes so much. Everything! It changes everything!! Calm down, me. *deep breaths*
So, why exactly did the Aes Sedai mess with stuff best left alone? Was it a mistake? Perhaps they didn’t even know of the Dark One’s existence before this. Or maybe they were working for him. Maybe they were the first Darkfriends/Forsaken? Or something else?
So anyways – Rand returns to find Mat hanging on the Avendesora. The work of the people in the ter’angreal. I would be shocked, but my mind is already reeling. Rand freesMat, gives him CPR. Mat’s memory does seem to be coming back. So, the price those people tried to enact was Mat’s life? Why did they leave him hanging on Avendesora then? I don’t get it. But Mat decides to keep the spear he was hung with. The spear is probably something special. They head out, and are attacked by another random bubble of evil, but eventually escape, and exit Rhuidean. At dawn. He who comes with the dawn.
And that’s it for today. Only three chapters, I know, but they’re pretty big in impact. Holy shit. Not big, they’re a huge deal. This story is more complex than I thought. I’m loving it.