Spoilers for books 1-4 and The Fires of Heaven to ch.39| 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 18-39.
An Unpleasant Surprise
Liandrin (and her rosebud lips) is in Amador, doing some sort of shady stuff no doubt, when she returns home to find Glydin, the servant from Tanchico in her house, and all her fellow Black Ajah sisters looking pretty nervous. Except it’s not Glydin at all, but bloody Moghedien. So the Forsaken was acting like a servant back then? For spying purposes, I guess. Still, it seems like quite a stretch to me that one of the Forsaken will stoop so low. She could easily have compelled someone else to do the spying for her. Liandrin is all oily obedience on the surface, but within she’s already scheming and planning. Moghedien, experienced as she is with the backstabbing ways of the Shadow, tells her to try her hand against her. Despite the scared condition of her fellows, Liandrin goes ahead and tries, seeking to use a weak version of the sort of mind control Moghedien uses, and of course it doesn’t go well for her at all. A spot of torture, and then Moghedien gives all the Black Ajah instructions that boil down to them being her bitches now, She gives them all some sort of work, notably hunting down Nynaeve. The torture didn’t seem to have worked, because Liandrin is still oily obedience on the outside, scheming and planning on the inside.
And now a new POV character – Morgase Trakand, Queen of Andor and currently little more than Rahvin’s puppet. Tallanvor, who we last saw leading Rand to an audience with the Queen, way back in The Eye of The World, comes in to report of rebellion in the Two Rivers. He’s also really pissed at his Queen. On the good side, this seems to get through the haze in Morgase’s mind – especially when told that Gaebril already knows of this and has ignored to tell her or do anything about it. On the bad side, it’s not rebellion, it’s just poor Perrin saving everyone from the Trollocs and Whitecloaks. But what will happen if Morgase decides to send forces to stop this “rebellion”?
That’s a worry of later. For now, Morgase rushes to Gaebril, to find him in a meeting with the worst of her nobles, but he just waves her off with a strong dose of … We really need a proper word for this sort of thing that the forsaken do. Let’s call it Compulsion, with a capital C because fantasy is the genre of the capitalised nouns. So, Gaebril sends her off to sit and wait for him, except Morgase doesn’t do that because her anger is still giving her a new level of consciousness. She concludes that Gaebril is conspiring with those people to overthrow her. Oh, you poor woman, why would he need to do that when he already has you under his thumb? She wanders around the palace, and finds herself in Lini’s room. The nurse has apparently been not only Elayne’s, but also Morgase’s and Morgase’s mothers nanny as well.
A frank conversation follows, where Lini lays out some hard cold facts before Morgase, chief among them that Gaebril is cheating on her with a bunch of others, including Alteima. This really gets to her, and she finally orders Lini to bring Tallanvor, seeing as he’s perhaps the only loyal guard remaining. Together, the three go to the Queen’s Blessing, where Basel Gill joins her new army of loyal followers. A good start, except Morgase has over the last few months exiled or otherwise turned away all who would support her, and so she’s off seeking allies, starting with Gareth Bryine. Except he’s off chasing Siuan right now. Still, this is a good start. At least, it’s a start.
In Tar Valon, Fain finally recovers his Dagger, kills an Accepted, and is discovered by Alviarin, who is *gasp* Black Ajah. Did not see that coming. No wonder she was willing to support Elaida in deposing and stilling Siuan. But Fain impresses her with talk of his visit to Thakan’dar, leading her to believe that he’s high up in the Darkfriend hierarchy, and so she just lets him go. Damnit, someone kill this guy already!
Rand is travelling with his Aiel, and has almost reached Jangai Pass. Moiraine’s been coaching him on ruling and Daes Dae’mar. At the foot of the pass, the town of Taien stands ravaged by the Shaido, still six days ahead of Rand’s party. I wonder if Couladin is doing all this on his own, or is being guided/controlled by Darkfriends? Either way, he really needs to be brought down ASAP.
They make camp for the night. Rand wards the camp, then heads to his own tent. Aviendha is still all rough and bristly towards him, but her actions betray the difference between her feelings and manner, when she gifts him a sword to “cancel the debt”. Ha! It’s not just any sword, either, but Laman the Treekiller’s sword. The hilt is too blingy for Rand’s taste, but he does accept the sword, which happens to be a heron marked, power wrought blade.
They go to bed – Aviendha having to sleep in Rand’s tent on the Wise Ones instruction’s. I’m pretty sure they are trying to get these two in a relationship. I approve! Though not what I think is their motivation for that – to have some sort of control on Rand through Aviendha.
In another tent, things are much less frosty and much more feisty. Mat and Melindhra are having fun chatting, and Mat is getting a massage from her, when their fun is interrupted by birdcalls, which are actually Rand’s alarms going off. It’s an attack! Mat rushes out in the midst of full on fighting, battling standard issue Trollocs and even a Fade. Both Melindhra and I are impressed by the latter. At the start of the series, Fades were basically invulnerable, and when you saw one, you ran for your life. Now, all three boys are mowing them down like it’s no biggie.
Like in Cold Rocks Hold however, this is only a distraction. The real attack comes in the form of a Draghkar, who Rand dispatches with Balefire. Aviendha takes care of another one, and that seems to be it. Oh, and Aviendha is pissed at Rand because when she fired at the Draghkar behind Rand, he thought she was attacking him. His apologies are to no avail. I get her anger, but the poor man is apologising, what more does she want?
The attackers were shouting Sammael’s name, but I doubt that they were actually Sammael’s men. Rand’s bodyguards, the Far Dareis Mai are mighty ashamed that they rushed off to fight, leaving him to face the Draghkar by himself.
All in all, a pretty eventful night.
A Hard Man
A switch to Egwene’s POV, and the Aiel have now crossed the Jangai Pass into Cairhien. There is much astonishment and wonder by Egwene at seeing trees and water again. The poor Maidens now carry dolls as punishment for leaving Rand alone in the last attack. The Wise Ones seem remarkably fond of this punishment. Couladin’s trail of slaughter continues in the form of people impaled on stakes. The Wise Ones were really on to something when they forbid him from taking the Rhuidean test.
Rand is acting all hardcore, telling the Aiel that they can take their fifth, except not food because there is a food shortage in Cairhien, and definitely no burning or killing. And that anyone who disobeys will be hanged. Wow, that escalated quickly. Egwene is taken aback. I kinda see her point – protecting people is all well and good, but this seems rather drastic. I wonder what the earnest but kind boy from Emond’s Field will be like when this is all done and over with. Aviendha totally approves though. Figures, what with the Aiel being all about being hard. Aviendha is totally unwilling to continue sleeping in Rand’s tent anymore, but Sorilea, who’s apparently harsh even by Wise One standards, soon puts an end to that.
In the night, Egwene is reading a book (Yo Dawg I heard you liked reading, so I wrote a book with people reading so you can read about reading while you read!), but her tiredness catches up to her and she nods off, waking to find herself in Tel’aran’rhiod. Wearing cadin’sor because of all the heroic tales she was reading, and her desire to be badass like the Aiel. And she spots Elayne and Birgitte. Egwene’s understandably surprised at that. The Wise Ones join her just then, berate her for coming early and alone, and by then Birgitte has vanished. They chat about how Nynaeve’s getting in fights with people in the menagerie, and the Wise Ones scold Elayne for having come earlier than the appointed time. Her royal manner fares as well against the Wise Ones as did Nynaeve’s fiery pride.
With the Wise Ones gone, Egwene and Elayne meet again in the White Tower. Though why they bothered I don’t know, they don’t really do anything of importance, and after a small chat, part ways. Egwene looks through the Amyrlin’s documents again, and then suddenly Galad appears. What the what? Is he dreaming himself back in the Tower? And he’s acting all romantic, when Leane appears. Okay, something is off here. Maybe Egwene is back in her own dreams? A flicker, and she’s in Emond’s Field. And then Gawyn comes, who’s her loving husband in this dream. This totally freak out Egwene, and she escapes into her dreams.
Turns out all this was somehow Moghedien’s doing. Luckily she doesn’t have much interest in Egwene. Unluckily, she’s very interested in Nynaeve, Elayne and Birgitte.
Siuan and co. are nearing Salidar. Logain seems to have gone into mental hibernation, acting all uninterested and sleepwalk-y. Min’s not worried, because she’s sure her viewing of his glory will come to pass. She’s also been taking lessons from Leane in the hope of trying out her wiles on Rand.
And then they’re there. The village is bustling and full of Aes Sedai and Warders. I didn’t expect this many, at most a few blues and maybe the occasional yellow/green. I don’t exactly know how many Aes Sedai there are, but a significant fraction of them are here. They enter – into an Inn, of course – and surprisingly, no one recognises Siuan and Leane until Min points them out, and even then the Aes Sedai are mighty suspicious, and it takes a lot of questioning before they are finally convinced of Siuan’s identity. They proceed to a conference with the Aes Sedai, except Min and Logain, who are left behind in the common room.
In the meeting, Siuan gives us an introduction to all the Aes Sedai, all of whose names I promptly forget. The shape of Siuan’s schemes is revealed, and I gotta say, she’s pretty deft at handling these Aes Sedai, even after being stilled. The first part is to offer her help as the Blue’s spymaster (totally legit), the second the claim that Logain was encouraged to become a False Dragon by the Red Ajah (totally bullshit), the third is having Leane suggest they elect a new Amyrlin, to provide legitimacy for the rebellion, while she herself acts all bristly to make them more likely to listen to Leane. It seems she intends to have one of the supergirls elected as the Amyrlin, given that she suggests the new Amyrlin be one who was not in the Tower when Siuan was deposed, be strong in the One Power and (to be said later) be a n00b and easy to control/guide. Check, check and kinda check.
Next up is the question of Rand, and Siuan suggests the Aiel Waste. Close, but Rand’s in Cairhien now. Still, pretty good, though the Aes Sedai are convinced to send people to look. And then the meeting is interrupted, by a Warder bringing news of men approaching the village. Gareth Bryne is here!
Bryne walks into the village alone, having left his men behind, and is unsurprisingly, surprised to find himself among a bunch of Aes Sedai in hiding, and the random woman he’s been chasing is the ex-Amyrlin. But he plows ahead with his story of burned barns and broken oaths. The Aes Sedai make him a counter-offer – lead their forces in the battles to come, help them retake the White Tower and Tar Valon. I’m kinda happy that he’s suddenly in so much demand – asked to help by the Aes Sedai, and Morgase setting out from Caemlyn to seek him. Bryne responds with a bunch of conditions, which basically give him freedom to run the campaign as he sees fit and that Siuan will start her service to him now, which the Aes Sedai eventually agree to.
Siuan then goes to complain to Min, who tells her she must remain close to Bryne or they’ll both die. Pretty convenient having a random oracle, gives you the ability to write anything you want, and if something feels out of character for someone, have a prophecy be their motivation. Luckily, Jordan doesn’t abuse this mechanic too much.
A Glimpse Into Darkness
Kadere, wagon driver, peddler and Darkfriend, is lying in his wagon pondering a note that he has just received :
You are not alone among strangers. A way has been chosen.
A way to what, exactly? Kadere doesn’t seem to know. What he does know is that Lanfear visited him in his dreams, and no doubt made him work for her. I have said this before, but I really don’t get how people from Tel’aran’rhiod are able to enter the dreams of normal people, and even control and wound them permanently, as evidenced by the brands on Kadere’s chest. It might be that this is done when those people randomly enter dream world for a few seconds, but that just seems too much coincidence.
Anyway, he is then visited by Isendre, who says that she’s given up trying to get into Rand’s pants, thanks to the rather brutal treatment she’s been receiving from the Far Dareis Mai. She’s also having a breakdown of sorts. Kadere consoles her a bit, and then strangles her to death. I don’t generally feel sorry for Darkfriends, but this thing with Isendre really feels sad. Is it because she’s also a pretty girl? Maybe. And I also think this chapter served less to advance the story, and more to strike home the casual and nonchalant way these people commit their sins. Well, mission flaming accomplished, Mr. Jordan.
A Call for Help
Rand is chilling out near a river. Moiraine’s getting rather clingy, trying to cram stuff into his mind all the time, even begging to do so. Okay, it was fun to see Moiraine swallow her pride for a bit, but this is just getting out of hand.
There’s mention of Rand’s ta’veren effects – people throwing sixes on dice, people falling into viper pits and coming out unscathed, people mending blood feuds etc. This actually makes wonder, what if Mat’s luck is just an expression of him being ta’veren? He’s chatting with his bodyguards, when a couple of Tairen and Cairhienin lords come. The gist of what they have to say is that Cairhien, the city, is in big trouble, besieged by the Shaido, and Rand must hurry to save it. They’re also disappointed that the Aiel don’t have horses. Ha! They’re in for a surprise. Leaving them, Rand heads back into the house he’s using as his quarters.
And walks in on Aviendha naked, washing herself. Oh my God, this reminds me of those really lame porn movies for some reason. I wonder if they’ll do it.
But Aviendha is less pleasantly surprised, and more out-of-her-mind horrified. Really, really strong reaction there, stammering and blabbering, and then opening a bloody portal to who knows where and rushing through it into a blizzard, stark naked. Like, could’ve just asked Rand to turn around or something.
With zero hesitation, Rand rushes after her, blocking the portal from closing with his own magic. The place, wherever it is, is basically Antarctica in winter from the descriptions. Rand calls out to Aviendha to stop, but she rushes on. I know this is supposed to be a dire and deadly situation, and we’re supposed to be all tense, but I just find it rather darkly humorous. Aviendha, running through the storm nude, and Rand chasing after her. Why Rand just doesn’t use the Power to bind her is anyone’s guess.
Eventually, she falls into a river of some sort, and after a bit of effort, Rand manages to pull her out. And then, instead of shielding her with the power and rushing (using his own portal) back to the still open portal, he decides to make an igloo, swaddle with blankets, and climb in with her. Rand is all, “Don’t think about the fact that you’re in bed with this hot girl, don’t!” But I know where this is going, oh yes I do…
They Do It
Aviendha awakes after a while, and after a bit about how their boning is totally prophesied by the rings (I guess she refers to the test she took in Rhuidean, which I guess somehow caused her anger towards him), and grabs him and kisses him, and Rand is all for it. And then they have their fun, and then Aviendha is all serious and acting all aloof. Rand wants to marry her, because custom dictates it (I don’t think it’s just custom that makes him wants to marry her, not at all), but Aviendha proceeds to crush his dreams and tells him she has no intention of marrying him. Rand goes out to find daylight (which I guess means they’re somewhere to the East of Cairhien) and spots what seems remarkably like a dragon –
a leathery gray shape far bigger than a horse, on slow-beating widespread wings, a horny snout thrust out before and clawed feet and thin, lizardlike tail trailing behind.
And even two people riding it. High mountains, dragons, could it be somewhere in the Spine of the World, a.k.a the Dragonwall? Anyway, he tells Aviendha to activate stealth mode. They go out to find an ocean to the east. What? But, that doesn’t make sense. At least, not with my Dragonwall theory…
Almost at the portal, they spot soldiers, and damanes and sul’dam. The hell is going on? Are they in the Seanchan lands? But those are to the West I think, so how can the sun be rising early there? *shrugs*
Rand and Aviendha proceed to team up and immobilise and shield the lot of them. One of them also seems to a Seeker for Truth given her raven tattoo. Rand tries to free the damane, but receives something like an electric shock the moment he touches the a’dam. Why? No time to wonder, and he directs Aviendha to try her luck. Unfortunately Rand is recognised by a woman who was apparently in Falme. She and the Seeker proceed to have an argument that didn’t really make sense to me – something about hiding stuff, and ends with the Seeker ordering her arrest and interrogation. Aviendha still hasn’t made any progress with the a’dam, and Rand decides it’s time to leave. There is some sort of weave on the portal, but Rand decides to risk it (I guess because to make your own portal, you have to know your starting place really well, if Asmodean was telling the truth), and step into it and returns to his bedroom without incident. Unless you count all the adventures he just had.
Asmodean is sitting there, and turns out he was the one who put the magic on the portal, but it was just to make it invisible. Aviendha is furious upon learning that the Far Dareis Mai know she and Rand did it, because Asmodean told her sister they were busy together when she came in the night. Rand is angry at Asmodean for not telling him the invisibility trick, and orders him to tell him two new things he didn’t ask about each time they talk.
Such wild nights Rand has with this woman…
In The Menagerie
Luca is having Thom practice his knife throwing skills with a blindfolded Nynaeve as the target. Which of course doesn’t sit well with her. He also wants her to wear a hot red dress to the actual performance, to which she takes even less kindly. I’m calling it now, she’ll end up wearing that dress. On her way to the main camp, Nynaeve ponders recent events, like Rand hanging thieves and brigands, her inability to remember Sallie Daera, her unwillingness to visit Tel’aran’rhiod out of fear of Egwene etc. They’re at the Ghealdan border, and mean to perform in Samara there, Also the Prophet a.k.a Masema and a bunch of his followers are also there.
She chats with the Illuminator (The same one Mat and Thom met and helped, if I remember correctly), who’s still working on some sort of matchsticks, with Juilin, who tells her Galad is in Samara too. Oh boy, I thought they had escaped that particular trouble, and enters the wagon she shares with Elayne. Elayne tells her she’s figured out how to make a’dam. Me and Nynaeve both are kinda shocked. That’s like saying you’ve made a poison that can kill people extra-fast and extra-painfully, but then Elayne explains that she’s excited because the a’dam are actually ter’angreal that perform a sort of linking between two channeler women, and the fact that she’s figured out how to make them means she may be able to make other stuff, angreal and sa’angreal. As a programmer, I feel duty bound to warn you Elayne that thinking you have something figured out and actually doing it and removing all the pesky bugs you didn’t foresee, are two different things. But still, that does make it a valid reason to be excited – being able to make your own artifacts, no longer limited by what the ancients lefts behind. Pretty cool.
At dinner (Nynaeve is remarkably self-fooling failing to notice that everyone doesn’t eat when she cooks because her cooking sucks), Luca continues to flirt with Nynaeve, trying to convince her to wear the dress. After dinner, Elayne tells her that she’s actually encouraging Luca. Nynaeve is understandably surprised, more so when Elayne tell her she would’ve shown real anger to stop him.
Everybody complained about her temper, and now that she was trying to control it, Elayne complained about that! It was not that she was fool enough to be taken in by his compliments. She certainly was not so big a fool as that. Elayne laughed at her, and she scowled.
Oh Nynaeve, you are so adorable in your wrath sometimes. Nynaeve goes to bed with the ring, because she’s been working on her Tel’aran’rhiod skills, and wants to meet Birgitte as well.
Danger in Dreams
Nynaeve finds herself near the wagons, wearing the red dress, showing far too much bosom. Oh man, the braid tugging might be on a decline this time around, but all this talk of clinging dresses and exposed bosoms is getting out of hand. Birgitte appears soon after, and tells her that she’s found Moghedien. Nynaeve’s all for going for a look, despite Birgitte’s warning about there being five Forsaken there. And so Birgitte takes her to eavesdrop on a Forsaken conference.
The gist is that Sammael is trying to goad Rand into attacking him (this explains the attackers in Jangai Pass shouting Sammael’s name), while the rest of the five will link together to take down Rand. Methinks Lanfear will use this link to help Rand take down all of the rest in one stroke. Just a thought.
And they return after this, Birgitte being scared Moghedien might look up and see them. Too late for that, Moghedien appears and immediately has them both disabled – Birgitte knocked unconscious, Nynaeve bound and shielded. Oh man, this can turn really, really ugly. And it does. Torture, threats, Compulsion, dire promises of retribution. Shit, shit, shit! Birgitte saves the day (dream?) by coming to and shooting Moghedien with an arrow. Unfortunately, Moghedien doesn’t crumple dead, and she does something that causes Birgitte to disappear. Did she just detach her from the wheel and kill her? Can she do that?
A sobbing Nynaeve gives way to Moghedien awaking and having one of the Black Ajah heal her. Damnit! She’ll live. I find it rather weird that people who can channel can’t use magic to heal themselves. Feels just too random and… it just doesn’t seem to fit. Is there any reason given for it? Can’t remember any. Liandrin, fool that she is, decides this is the time to make another attempt, and I could’ve told her what happenes – Moghedien isn’t quite that vulnerable, and she somehow ties a super complex shield around Liandrin, basically stilling herself, unless she can get someone really skilled with the power to help her. I kinda feel that she will be freed, and also it might end up being one of the supergirls, somehow.
Nynaeve wakes up, crying and shocking Elayne, wracked with survivor’s guilt. No need for that – Thom and Juilin find Birgitte outside and bring her to the girls. So, she’s not dead, but she might still have been severed from the Wheel. She’s dying though, and for all her attempts, Nynaeve can’t heal her – there doesn’t seem to be anything to heal. And then Elayne performs the magic that’s used to bond Warders, thereby linking Birgitte to her, but also giving her a Warder’s resilience and healing, and that seems to do the trick. Whew.
No, no whew! Moghedien knows where they are now, if not exactly then at least a rough idea. I think it’s time to scarper. For now though, they just hang around Birgitte, or take walks, or sit with the guys and chat. Can’t blame them for being unable, and unwilling, to sleep. The calls of nature cannot be denied though, and Elayne nods off, dreaming of bonding Rand to her. I don’t really feel good about that. Whatever people say, this sounds too much like slavery and mind control. Especially the part where Aes Sedai can compel their Warders, to do stuff they may not want to. (I know because I checked the WoT wiki. And of course, ended being spoiled about the fact that —spoiler alert!— Egwene/Gawyn bond. Not a big surprise I guess, but not gonna touch that site with a ten foot pole from now on.) The Jordan writes as the Jordan wills, I guess.
Elayne wakes up to find that Birgitte has recovered enough to talk. She takes remarkably well to the fact that she’s been ripped out of Tel’aran’rhiod, separated from her love of lifetimes and bonded to an Accepted. They go back to sleep, and the next day find Luca all raring to go and perform and make money. He’s all psyched, but also nervous about all the competition. There seem to be an awful lot of menageries about, even taking into account the extra crowds in the city. Who hears about rioting and religious zealots and think, hey maybe those guys would like to see a circus?
Upon learning that Birgitte is an archer, Luca is all scorn and condescending. I enjoy it a lot as Birgitte puts him in his place with a flawless display of archery.
Nynaeve has finally worn the dreaded red dress. Birgitte gives her some much needed tough luck about acting all self-pitying and servile and guilty. I like this woman. She goes to the show, and a bunch of performances are described which I guess would be really exciting to medieval villagers, but I’m not really enthralled. That’s one chapter. She runs into Uno there – I guess he’s hanging out with Masema, and he takes her to see the Prophet, maybe he’ll be able to help them find a boat. It’s fun to see Uno again, complete with all the bloody’s and flaming’s. Like seeing an old – well not friend, but certainly acquaintance. Nynaeve gives him a really hard time about his swearing – come on, it’s not that bad. The city and its great diversity is described in great detail. Eventually they reach the prophet’s place.
The place really makes me rather queasy. Masema and the rest were alarmingly fervent about Rand back at the end of The Dragon Reborn, but this is just too much. Masema has gone full zealot, and reminds me of religious extremists. Because I guess that’s what he is now. Even Nynaeve, with her typical sharp tongue and proud manner doesn’t fare well against him, until he learns that she’s from Rand’s village, which smooths things over quite a bit. The guy still gives me the heebie-jeebies, more than Darkfriends and Forsaken and Black Ajah and Whitecloaks and Seanchan. Uno tells even more disturbing stuff – beheading, and floggings and hangings and random marriages. Sheesh. In fact, the woman we saw all but groveling before Masema is the Queen of Ghealdan, and the fourth in a string of new rulers, the previous ones deposed and some dead. Holy shit, that guy is out of control.
And then Uno spots a Whitecloak following them, who of course turns out to be Galad.
I wonder what Galad will do now.
Yes, I ended this post with the exact same sentence as the last one, not least because at five thousand words, it’s already way too long. And yet, it feels not much has happened. We’re now in the last third of the book, and just not enough stuff is happening. I mean, even if the book continues like this I’m probably going to enjoy it, but I was really hoping to see more epic stuff by this point. Especially after The Shadow Rising. And yet, so far it’s basically been people getting from point A to point B – Rand from Rhuidean to Cairhien, the girls from Tanchico to Ghealdan, Siuan from Kore Springs to Salidar – and not doing much besides. Excpet Rand and Aviendha. They totally did it!