Spoilers for books 1-4 and The Fires of Heaven to ch.50| 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 40-50.
What Galad Does
As soon as Nynaeve spots Galad, she goes into stealth mode, and hides in an alley – only to have Galad walk up to the alley and spot her. The conversation that follows is kinda hilarious. Firstly, Galad accidentally reminds Nynaeve of Salidar (or Sallie Daera), and then, since he cannot accompany them to Caemlyn anymore, he will find them a ship. Which Nynaeve will no doubt immediately repurpose to her ends once she’s on board. All in all, it works out better than could be expected, Galad doesn’t even show much anger over Elayne and Nynaeve giving him the slip in Sienda. Well, with the prophet and Galad trying to find a ship, it should only be a matter of time before one is found. Nynaeve’s response to Uno and Ragan trying to block Galad is so typical of her contradictions:
Men always seemed to think violence could solve anything. If she had had a stout stick, she would have thumped all three of them about the shoulders until they saw reason.
Oh Nynaeve. She gives them the speech she gave Thom and Juilin – basically to be good little men and follow her orders. This from a woman who hates being ordered about more than almost anything else.
Nynaeve returns to the menagerie, and when she tells of her adventures to Elayne, she’s less congratulatory and more accusatory. In hindsight, it does seem a dangerous thing – walking into Samara, meeting the prophet. And the only thing that got Nynaeve safely out of that was being from Emond’s Field. And then it’s time for her and Birgitte’s performance, which goes of without a hitch, except it leaves poor Nynaeve shaking and wailing with fear. Which leads to her telling Uno to tell Masema and Galad to redouble their efforts to find a boat.
Before The Battle
Finally, the big Aiel vs. Aiel fight that we’ve been heading towards since the climax of The Shadow Rising is here. Actually, now that I think about it, this is maybe the first proper “battle” that we’re seeing, with huge armies and large scale warfare, as opposed to the usual skirmishes. I guess Falme was big too, but nothing on this scale.
There’s some non Aiel warriors on Rand’s side too, but they are firstly rather few, and secondly, dumb. One Tairen High Lord is all for rushing in with his puny cavalry force, hoping to “scatter them away like quail”. I would just let the stupid idiot go ahead with it. But Rand has to be diplomatic about it. There’s also news of Illianer raids/attacks increasing on Tear. No doubt part of Sammael’s strategy to aggravate Rand.
Also, Rand’s convinced Egwene to hep out in the battle with the Power. Which makes sense, because she hasn’t taken the oaths. Rand scouts out Cairhien with fancy telescopes mounted on towers. Seems too much effort to just get a closer look at the battlefield. He gets a look at Couladin too, and is all ominously determined to kill the guy. No big loss.
Mat, on the other hand, is freaking out, and as always, deciding that now he really must go. It’s kind of like me, when the time for a lecture is coming up, and I keep putting it off until it’s too late, and I say eh, I’ll go to the next one. Partly it’s because of the ta’veren stuff, no doubt, but I also think Mat is just unwilling to accept that beside gambler and womaniser, he’s also a superb tactician and general. And so he goes to Rand’s tent to say his goodbyes.
But Rand’s off scoping the city still, so he chats with Natael/Asmodean, and then studies the battle-plan, and when Lan asks about it, even suggests several improvements about how to position their forces. Rand arrives, Mat starts off full steam about how he’s totally going this time and there’s no stopping him, but Rand is all cool about it.
Except Rand is actually planning to use Mat’s skills. And Perrin. He has some idea that all three of them must be together. Which in turn makes him feel guilty about using people and being too hardcore. A meeting with his chiefs to tweak the plan a bit according to Mat’s ideas, and then it’s time.
Aiel vs. Aiel
The next day, Lan quizzes Rand about him wearing a sword, which I didn’t put any significance to, because it’s fantasy, and so of course the hero carries a sword. But turns out it’s because Rand plans to basically seek out Couladin for a one on one fight. While I think he’s got a fair chance after all his training (plus he can always use the Power if matters turn desperate), I agree with Lan that it’s a needless risk and he should just have the guy beheaded. But Rand is totally determined to take part in the battle. Well then he should join Egwene. He’s stronger in the Power than her anyway.
Which it turns out is exactly what Egwene and Aviendha have planned, and the Far Dareis Mai support them. Rand is all bluster for a while but is shouted down by the maidens and sees sense. So the three of them head to the wooden towers. Isn’t that a bit too far? Or maybe distance doesn’t matter to the Power. Anyway, Egwene and Aviendha summon a thunderstorm over the Shaido, calling down lightning and causing the earth to explode. Looks impressive, but it will also harm their own soldiers once the battle gets to the one on one fighting stage. Still, they don’t need 100% accuracy, so long as they kill more of the enemy, I guess it’s fine from a tactical perspective. Not to mention it will play havoc with the morale of the Shaido.
Rand seizes saidin (interesting how women embrace saidar, but he seizes saidin). Two points. One, why the hell isn’t he using his little angreal? Two, turns out the distance is a factor, and they’re almost at their limit. Then why the hell are they standing so far away that they have to use lenses to see the battlefield? Why not just move closer? It’s not like the Shaido have a battalion of trained Aes Sedai at their disposal, and the Maidens can take care of any normal attacks.
So, Rand channels, and he adds huge fires to the lightning and explosions. The battle is on.
While Rand and the girls do their bit from afar, Mat is in the thick of it. He’s all ready to leave, but he notices the Cairhienin and Tairen forces walking into a trap, and goes to warn them, and then one thing leads to another and he finds himself leading a bunch of cavalry trying to ambush the ambushers. His plan involves taking a reserve and then attacking the Shaido from the rear while they’re busy attacking the main force. Maybe it’s because I’m not a veteran soldier, but I don’t really get the whole attacking an army from the rear deal. On one guy it makes sense, but with an army the front can continue to fight while those on the back can just turn around and meet the rear strike. It’s not like the Aiel lack maneuverability – they’re just un-armoured spear carrying soldiers, all they have to do is make an about turn.
Just as Mat does the surprise attack though, we switch ahead a few hours(?), to Rand and Egwene. They’re all exhausted by now. Because they’re channeling from so far away. This is really bugging me now. At least he’s started using the angreal now. But then, lightning starts to strike them. And Rand senses that it the work of saidin, of a man. He’s thinking Asmodean, but I doubt it. More lightning strikes, killing Far Dareis Mai; shattering the the tower. Rand falls, and loses consciousness.
He comes to, and finds that both the girls are wounded but nothing serious, and his old wounded has opened up and is bleeding. This wound I feel is definitely going to be significant somehow, later on. A lot of the Maidens have died too. I feel really bad for them. There they were, proudly guarding the car’a’carn, and then boom, gone. Not even a chance to defend themselves. Rand realises the lightning came from the west, and infers that it is Sammael’s doing. It might well be, but how Rand infers this is beyond me. Sammael’s plan has definitely succeeded, and Rand is determined to take him down next. And he finally decides to ride closer to the city to continue the job. The girls and he ride off toward Cairhien.
Mat is still leading the men, about three thousand now. He’s still vainly trying to figure out a way just get away from the fighting all around him. I love his whole reluctant badass act. Like this one:
Slowly he lowered the brass-bound tube; he hardly required it to see the fire, and the thick gray smoke already making a thick plume into the sky. He did not need signs to recognize channeling when he saw it, not like that. Had Rand finally tipped over the edge of madness? Or maybe Aviendha had finally had enough of being forced to stay around him. Never upset a woman who could channel; that was a rule Mat seldom managed to follow, but he did try.
Save the smart mouth for somebody besides yourself, he thought sourly.
His internal smart mouthing is interrupted when it’s reported that a group of Aiel five thousand strong is coming towards them. He’s groaning in frustration, but the nobles are all hyped for battle, after Mat led them through a bunch of other skirmishes. None of which we got to see. Stupid nobles though. Good thing Mat’s the one in charge. Also, Couladin himself is with the force. Oh boy. Mat makes another plan involving a ruse and a surprise reserve force, but this time with himself as the bait, not the surprise attacker.
Rand is exhausted. No, beyond exhausted. He’s getting delirious, and his mind isn’t working straight. And his inner Lew Therin has become much more prominent. There have been signs throughout the series, of course, and especially in this book, but now he seems on the verge of forgetting himself. Even remembering his name takes effort. In a conjured blue light, Rand finds the battlefield silent and empty, except the Maidens around him. It seems that the battle is over, but his mind still hasn’t processed that. The Maidens lead him, still talking about fighting and helping his men, to the Wise Ones. Even Asmodean is shocked to see Rand talk as if he really is Lew Therin reborn, talking of old battles and betrayals. Yes, the battle is over, he won, and the other clans are going to join him.
There’s not much joy or celebration though. He releases saidin, and toppling from his horse, again falls unconscious.
After the Battle
A battered and bruised and grumbling Mat is watching the post-battle celebrations – drinking and dancing and singing. Aaand it turns out Mat killed Couldain. So. After hundreds of pages leading up to this huge battle, all we got to see was Rand channeling from far away, Mat right before huge fights and a delirious Rand returning to base. Even the death of the douche pretend car’a’carn happened off screen. Not to mention Rand starting off the channeling from far away and needlessly exhausting himself. I’m rather disappointed in how this all turned out from a reading perspective.
From a story perspective though, things went pretty well. No major character deaths, the Shaido defeated, Couladin dead, the remaining clans joined Rand. The Cairhienin and Tairen nobles that Mat led are totally besotted with him now, swearing loyalty and whatnot. No surprise there. Mat is totally going to become a famous general, however much he tries to run away from it all.
Rand wakes up, and panics about how he almost lost himself to Lew Therin’s memories. He’s been healed now though, and seems fine, if a bit weak. Aviendha takes him to task for pushing himself too hard. It’s actually good for Rand to have these women like Aviendha and Egwene around him, who don’t grovel at his feet or serve him blindly, but instead give him a piece of their mind when they see him dong wrong. Should help keep him level and grounded.
Rand is still determined to go after Sammael, but for now he has to stabilise things in Cairhien. And so, despite Aviendha telling him no, he sends off Asmodean to fetch his horse. Not so fast though, because Aviendha still won’t give him his clothes. This is just hilarious.
A fine thing. The High Lords of Tear sweated when Rand al’Thor looked at them, and the Cairhienin might offer him their throne. The greatest Aiel army the world had ever seen had crossed the Dragonwall on the orders of the Car’a’carn, the chief of chiefs. Nations trembled at mention of the Dragon Reborn. Nations! And if he did not find his clothes, he would sit waiting on permission to go outside from a lot of women who thought they knew better about everything than he did.
He does manage to find them though, with Aviendha sitting on top of them (classic) and then he’s off, with Aviendha to take care of him and the Maidens to guard him. Some of the Aiel have taken to wearing a headband of the ancient Aes Sedai symbol, marking them as Siswai’aman, spear of the Dragon. Why this would be a problem for the Wise Ones I don’t know. Aren’t the Aiel already called the People of the Dragon?
Eventually Rand reaches the city proper, not willing to wait for grand processions and such nonsense. The city is in bad shape of course, crammed with refugees, but they greet Rand like a proper hero, complete with shouting his name. And thus Rand enter the palace. How far we’ve come, from falling into Caemlyn’s palace over a wall, to riding in as the saviour of a city and nation in Cairhien’s palace, with lords and ladies bowing and scraping before him, jumping at his commands. Rand refuses to sit on the throne though. I wonder who he will eventually end up making the ruler of Cairhien. The Tairen are obviously undeserving, and the Cairhienin lords seem little better, with their games and infighting. All will be revealed in due time I guess, and for now Rand chastises the Tairen lords for lording over the Cairhienin ones, and then takes oaths of fealty from them all.
A Ship At Last
In Samara, things are getting really heated up – the weather as well as the girls’ tempers, with the arrow shooting performances to put Nynaeve even more on edge. Nynaeve and Elayne are arguing as seems to have become the norm, but it is also revealed that Egwene visited them both in their dreams. So, she’s learned that at last. The fight is broken up by Birgitte’s arrival. It seems the town has finally blazed up in riots as was inevitable given the zealous crowds and the zealous Whitecloaks. Juilin and Thom got away but were still wounded. There are fires and riots and angry mobs aplenty. Uno arrives soon after and gives more details. (Side note: Uno’s struggle to not swear in front of Nynaeve is starting to go form mildly funny to mildly annoying). Turns out it’s all because of Nynaeve and her ship. A ship did arrive, and the Whitecloaks and the Prophet’s men got into fighting over it, and now Masema has freaking declared war on Amadicia. That escalated quickly.
Galad arrives soon after (quite a bunch of back to back arrivals going on), and tells Nynaeve and Elayne to pack their bags. I’m rather impressed that Galad managed to fulfill his promise despite Masema, though he did start a war in the process. Luca tries to stop Nynaeve with protestations of love, but to no avail. Nynaeve all but stomps on the poor man’s heart. Elayne tries to have Cerandin come with her, but the Seanchan is (sensibly) disbelieving of her claims to the Andoran throne, and decides to stick with her elephants. For that matter, even Birgitte refuses to believe that Elayne is the heir of Andor. Must be infuriating for the girl.
With lot of regrets over leaving behind more dresses and stuff (Nynaeve and her dresses!) Nynaeve and Elayne pack their bags, and then they’re off with Galad and the Shienarans. Man, these Shienarans have had quite a wild ride too. Set out to find the Horn of Valere, ended up travelling to Falme and the Mountains of Mist and Ghealdan and now Salidar. They reach Samara to find the city in chaos, with corpses and fires all over the place. They’re attacked by an angry mob, but the Shienarans do their job of protecting the women. The real MVP of the fight is Galad though. He’s described as pretty much invincible, carving a path through the mob, taking on multiple opponents with ease.
At the docks, they finally board the ship, and Nynaeve even forces the captain to take on the refugees on the docks. A final warning from Galad to stay away from Rand, and they’re finally out of Samara.
To Boannda And Beyond
The journey by boat is pretty much uneventful (compared to the sort of shenanigans the girls get up to usually). The way she handles the refugee situation for me summarises the good and bad things about Nynaeve. On the one hand, she wants to help these random strangers, and even pays for their passage herself, and heals their wounded. On the other hand, she does so by bullying and threatening the poor captain, throwing his cargo overboard and generally making his life miserable. If only she could tone herself down a bit.
The womens’ relationships also get smoothed over, partly because they act all nice and sweet because the Captain believes women are nasty and catfighty. Reminds me of something I read a while back, about how your expressions can actually alter your emotional state, so even if you’re sad, making your face smile can create positive emotions – stuff like that. Partly it has to be the relief of being out of Samara and the menagerie, and heading towards Salidar.
The journey also gives a closer look at how the normal people have been affected by all this upheaval – war and politics and the Dragon’s Prophet. They’ve lost everything, including hope. The moment when they disembark at Boannda, and face a new life in a strange place with strange people with nothing but the clothes on their backs, is a very poignant one. Three women decide to stick with Nynaeve though. One is a hunter for the Horn, one is a healer/wisdom, and a widow who lost her husband to the Prophet’s fights. For the life of me can’t keep their names straight though. Eh, if they become important enough I’ll remember.
Nynaeve takes a trip to Tel’aran’rhiod, but Egwene doesn’t show up, and she wakes up crying, tired of being scared and a afraid of Moghedien. Aww. But the other two women cheer her up, and accompany her to the dream world again, and together they hand around just having fun, going places like Elayne’s palace or Emond’s field. They also spy on Elaida’s office. By the look of it, things aren’t going quite smooth with the new Amyrlin. There’s another mention of a missing army, I don’t know what’s up with that. Interestingly, the other ter’angreal require the wearer to maintain a flow of spirit to enter Tel’ara’rhiod, unlike the ring which doesn’t require channeling at all. They also don’t let the user use the One Power in dreams – at least, not as much as with the ring.
They also meet up with Egwene on one of their trips, where the usual exchange of news takes place. In the secret after-meeting in the White Tower, Egwene lashes out on them for having almost revealed her visit in their dreams. This leaves Nynaeve and Elayne confused, because of course they don’t know she’s not allowed into Tel’aran’rhiod unsupervised.
Finally they reach Salidar, and Elayne at least gives the ship captain a necklace for his troubles. The three women, and the two sons of one of them, continue to stick to them. Nynaeve is pretty optimistic about their reception, believing that they will get a hero’s welcome, or something close to it.
And of course they don’t. What they get is interrogation and admonishments. Though it irks Nynaeve, who has become far too used to ordering people about, the Aes Sedai soon remind them that they’re still only Accepted. They also scold Siuan about sending two Accepted on a secret mission, but Siuan just shrugs it off. In the end, they seize all their money, but at least graciously admit that since they were acting on the then Amyrlin’s orders, they would receive no punishment.
A final thing of note is that the cuendillar seal that Nynaeve was carrying, which was whole when she packed it, is now broken. And it no longer gives off that sense of evil. This makes me sure that Nynaeve wasn’t just imagining it. She really could feel the Dark One straining against his prison. How the cuendillar weakened is anyone’s guess, but it is in the same flaky state as Moiraine’s seal.
The Shienarans and Juilin and Thom decide to continue to stick around, and are enlisted by Gareth Bryne for training his troops. The three women are taken off to be tested for the ability to channel. I’m pretty sure at least one of them will turn out to be capable, if not all. Siuan asks Nynaeve to teach her to use the ring, but Nynaeve is too sharp for her – she’s noticed that Siuan and Leane are scheming under the Aes Sedai’s noses, and they strike a bargain – Nynaeve to teach Siuan to use the ring, in return for Siuan letting her study them and Logain to try and figure out how to undo stilling and gentling. I am quite hopeful that Nynaeve will crack this in time.
Min and Elayne have a heart to heart about their feelings for Rand, though they still don’t know that Aviendha is the third one they’ll be sharing him with.
And that just leaves the climax of the book in the last six chapters. I gotta say, the battle was something of a letdown, and I hope the ending turns out to be better. It’s kinda weird, but I’m actually enjoying the girls’ story more than Rand’s this time.