Spoilers for books 1-4 and The Fires of Heaven to ch.17| 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 5, The Fires of Heaven. This post covers chapter 8-17.
Nynaeve, Elyane, Thom and Juilin are rushing along on their way to Tar Valon. Poor women have no clue what’s awaiting them there. They’re pretty rich too – jewelry and gold aplenty, courtesy the Panarch of Tanchico. They run into Whitecloaks entering Tarabon (no doubt part of their scheme to gain control of Tarabon), and both Nynaeve and Elayne do a poor job of avoiding suspicion – the former by being excessively servile, the latter with her haughty royal manner. But luckily, nothing untoward happens. And then argue about whose approach was wrong (hint – both of them). I fear for the peace between these two, what with Elayne being royalty and Nynaeve being Nynaeve.
They near the village of Mardecin, and decide to take a little break and make camp early. Nynaeve seems to be able to feel the Dark One trying to break through the seal she’s carrying. I wonder if it’s just imagination or a real thing. Thom goes into the town to fetch supplies, while the girls discuss events. Thom returns with the news that Mardecin is crawling with Whitecloaks. Pretty sure they will soon enter Tarabon.
Typically, Nynaeve is not satisfied with Thom’s purchases, and she and Elayne head off into the village themselves. And also because Nynaeve wanted to have a talk with Elayne about her behaviour towards Thom. Apparently Elayne’s been getting a bit flirty with him. Elayne does not take kindly to this though, with a “Mah life mah rulez” sort of response. Nynaeve brings up her love for Rand, and Elayne waves that off by him being “very far away”. Honestly, I think Nynaeve is being overbearing.
They reach the town and Nynaeve spots some sort of secret Aes Sedai spy symbol. An emergency signal by one of the Yellow Ajah agents. They head into the shop to investigate. Nynaeve gives the countersign, establishing her credentials. I’m reminded of Cold War era spy stories. The woman is all flustered, and sends her assistant to make tea, while inviting them to the back room. But the woman is acting a bit suspiciously – her strange insistence on drinking the tea makes me suspect a trap. Hmm, let’s see. If one of the Black Ajah still in the tower is Yellow Ajah, she could possibly know the signal, and knowing they would be coming this way (maybe not the exact village, but the general direction) could have set traps with multiple agents. The women don’t suspect anything though, and drink the tea. Yep, it’s a trap. They find themselves unable to channel and fall unconscious soon after. Damnit!
The girls wake up, paralysed and still unable to channel, courtesy what’s called forkroot tea. Damnit Nynaeve, you were supposed to be a Wisdom knowledgeable about herbs and stuff. But I’m not too worried. That’s the thing with long series. I’m pretty sure they’ll all survive this captivity (as they did the ones in Falme and Tear), so there’s little real tension. The question of escape is not if, but when and how. A few more paralysis cycles, and Thom and Juilin arrive to save them. Ha! For all their blathering about how men are useless and how they totally don’t need protection and are totally rad witches, the girls seem to be rescued by plain old non-channeling men pretty regularly.
Interrogation follows. Nice psychological trick by Juilin – describing a vague torture in non-specific but threatening terms to break down resistance, but I feel it wouldn’t really work reliably. Also, reminds me of how Jordan writes sword fights. Anyway, the woman did this on orders from Narenwin Barda of the Yellow Ajah, but claims she’s no Darkfriend, and her orders were to capture Elayne, by the order of the Amyrlin. Ah, I was right about the trap but wrong about the perpetrator. No doubt Elaida wants Elayne ASAP to smooth things over with Morgase. They tie off the women, and Nynaeve for once is gracious enough to thank her rescuers. Only trouble is, they still don’t know that there’s a new Amyrlin, and so are thoroughly confused. They decide to disguise themselves for the rest of the journey.
An interesting tidbit at the end – upon being freed eventually, the woman sends off a message by pigeon (presumably to Narenwin), and then the pigeon guy sends off a message of his own to someone. Who? Another Aes Sedai? Black Ajah? Forsaken? I have no idea.
Hunted and Hunter
The scene shifts to Lugard, where Min, Siuan, Leana and Logain arrive. It seems Siuan intends to use Logain as bait. Bait for who? Elaida perhaps. Still, I cannot fathom her plan, or what she’s doing in Lugard. While the others head into an inn, Siuan herself hurries out on some mysterious errand.
That errand turns out to be another Aes Sedai agent – this time of the Blue Ajah, about whom Siuan knew from her days as the Blue spymaster. It’s interesting that Siuan, who used to be above even kings, is chewed out by the agent. I think it’s less because the agent is hardcore, and more because whatever Siuan tells herself, she has lost some of her confidence and attitude after being stilled. Anyway, the information she gets tells her that the Blue sisters have some sort of secret rendezvous at a place called Salidar. On the way back to the inn, Siuan draws the attention of a pair of Whitecloaks, and spooked, they decide to exit pronto and ride through the night.
A few days later, Gareth Bryne arrives in the city, hot on Siuan’s trail. He finds out they indeed came to Lugard, and that the Whitecloaks are asking questions about them. The confidence that the women are not Darkfriends, and the desire to protect them from the Whitecloaks renews Bryne’s determination, and he and his soldiers are off again on the chase.
Elayne and Nynaeve are riding along in the comfy coach they bought in Mardecin, and for some reason Nynaeve is being super irritating to Elayne. Bit by bit it is revealed that the reason is that in the last inn, where Elayne was acting as a lady and Nynaeve her handmaid, Nynaeve had to do some work for her – serving her food etc. Partly because the innkeeper wanted to get work out of the free servant rather than do it herself. And this predictably has Nynaeve all huffy and puffy and angry. Even the guys are having a bad time because of this.
Finally, Elayne dials up the haughty manner and tells Nynaeve to stop the bullshit. And I fully support her. Nynaeve is too prickly about pride for her own good. They are chatting about what to do about the Tar Valon issue, when they come across a menagerie, which is apparently a travelling circus of sorts. There is much gaping at elephants and the like, and they move on. Reaching Sienda, they find it too full of Whitecloaks. They get rooms in an inn (I haven’t seen as many inns in all my reading combined as I’ve seen in the Wheel of Time books!), and it’s too tiny so poor Thom and Juilin have to sleep in the hayloft. The women go to bed, Nynaeve with the ring ter’angreal in preparation for a meeting with Egwene.
In Tel’aran’rhiod, Nynaeve changes from her shift into a clingy dress that she feels embarrassed about – but still leaves on – and then calls Birgitte, who can apparently hear her name being called in Tel’aran’rhiod, like a magical Twitter or Reddit username mention. Her partner Gaidal has been born again, and that means it will be her time as well, some indeterminate number of years later. She also tells Nynaeve that a number of the Forsaken are roaming about in the world of dreams. Hmm, this seems like a good time to try and list the Forsaken. There’s Balthamel and Aginor, killed at the Eye of the World, and Ishamael and Be’lal, killed in Tear. That leaves nine alive. Asmodean, with Rand. Moghedien hiding somewhere. Rahvin in Caemlyn, Sammael in Illian. Graendal, Demandred, Semirhage, Lanfear who knows where. That’s twelve. I can’t remember the thirteenth. So close…
Nynaeve tells Birgitte to find out more, Birgitte tells Nynaeve to keep her existence secret from Egwene and the others, because she’s breaking rules by helping Nynaeve as it is (Who makes these rules though? Are Heroes handed out a rulebook by the Creator upon ascension or something?), and then Birgitte disappears. Nynaeve is checking herself out in a pretty racy outfit, when Egwene and the Wise Ones appear, embarrassing her.
Switching to something more modest, Nynaeve brings Egwene up to speed on her adventures (changing the story to make it seem she didn’t drink the tea!), and Egwene does the same. The Wise Ones are angry that Nynaeve has been visiting Tel’aran’rhiod alone, and sparks fly. Once the others depart, Nynaeve (in direct contradiction to what she was told) decides to investigate further, and teleports to the White Tower.
Disguising her appearance she investigates the Amyrlin’s study, and then Egwene appears, and proceeds to chew her out, complete with terrifying apparitions that drive Nynaeve to tears and screaming to drive her point home – that Tel’aran’rhiod is dangerous to the unwary. The balance of power between the two seems to be shifting, partly because I think some of the Wise Ones’ hardness is rubbing off on Egwene. They look through the office together, and finally discover that Elaida is the new Amyrlin and Moiraine is charged with treason, though not that Siuan has been stilled and is on the run. They also find a report about the gathering of Blues, but Nynaeve forgets what exactly it said. Damnit Nynaeve! I wonder if Elaida knows the exact place, or only rumours?
Nynaeve confesses her lie about the tea to Egwene in a desperate attempt to restore the power dynamic between them, but Egwene proceeds to further scold and admonish her, and then departs.
Egwene wakes up. Turns out, she too was breaking rules by appearing in the White Tower. Ha! Talk about hypocrisy. Still, I am glad for the scolding Nynaeve received – she could do with less stubborn pride. She goes to meet Moiraine, who is eavesdropping on Rand. Does that mean Moiraine knows about Asmodean? Is she cool with it, or does she plan to do something drastic? Anyway, Egwene brings her up to speed, but Moiraine’s reaction is less “WTF!” and more “Wheel weaves as Wheel wills”.
A Surprise in Sienda
The next day, the girls are having breakfast in the inn, when Galad walks in, in Whitecloak uniform! It seems that book he was reading really got into his head. He tells them that Siuan was stilled and executed, and wants to escort them to Caemlyn. Elayne asks for some time to consider and returns to her room, where she goes into panic mode. Totally justified, given that there’s only two things we know about Galad – he’s totally hot, and always does the right thing. I’m beginning to see the trouble with the latter, though I still feel if Nynaeve and Elayne told him the whole story he would understand. But Elayne is all for absconding. Trouble is, Galad is standing out in the street to prevent exactly that. Eventually they decide to leave in disguise, and then join the menagerie to hide. Thom tells them that Pedron Niall is trying to unite the nations against Rand, and claiming he’s just another false Dragon. Poor Rand, as if the Forsaken aren’t enough, he’ll have to deal with the Shaido, the White Tower, the Whitecloaks and God knows what else.
They reach the menagerie, whose manager is pissed at them because Nynaeve gave him a bloody penny when Elayne told her to give them some money. A penny! Still, they manage to agree him, on the condition that they perform and work as well. He also makes advances towards Elayne, but a slap takes care of that. You go girl! The handler of the elephants (called s’redit – why? What’s wrong with calling them elephants?! Why not call the horses lak’shirams while you’re at it, Mr. Jordan! I’ll stick with elephant, thank you very much.) turns out to be Seanchan, who goes into full servant mode when she realises Elayne is indeed a high lady. Good, she can provide some much needed background info on the Seanchan’s motivations and general culture.
I wonder what Galad will do now.
That brings us one third of the way through the book, and the stories are finally shaping up – The girls’ journey to Tar Valon(or somewhere else?), Siuan and Gareth’s chase – really looking forward to them meeting again, and Rand’s return from the waste and attempt to unify the land. Perrin is probably busy honeymooning. Also, the title is feeling somewhat random right now. Like, the first book was clearly about the Eye of the World, the second was The Great Hunt – for the Horn of Valere, the third was all about Rand fulfilling the Callandor prophecy so it fit, and the fourth at least generally fits with what’s happening – the shadow is rising after all. But the FIres of Heaven? Eh, maybe it’ll make more sense in hindsight. Also, at the risk of repeating myself, I really enjoyed Egwene scolding Nynaeve.