Welcome back to my re-read, recap, and reaction to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. This post will only have spoilers through the current chapter.
You can find my previous chapter recaps HERE.
And his paths shall be many, and who shall know his name, for he shall be born among us many times, in many guises, as he has been and ever will be, time without end. His coming shall be like the sharp edge of the plow, turning our lives in furrows from out of the places where we live in silence. The breaker of bonds; the forger of chains. The maker of futures; the unshaper of destiny.
—Commentaries on the Prophecies of the Dragon, by Jurith Dorine, Right Hand to the Queen of Almoren, 742 AB, the Third Age
Fortress of the Light
Pedron Niall meets with Child Jaret Byar. Niall looks at one of three drawings on his table, each depicting the same scene. The chalk is smudged but the picture is clear enough. It depicts a grey eyed youth with reddish hair who seems to be tall. Niall mutters that the boy has proclaimed himself The Dragon Reborn. He thinks of the Breaking of the World and the prophecies that say Lews Therin Telamon will be born again. Byar says that the boy has proclaimed himself. He adds that thousands have declared for him already. He adds that Tarabon and Arad Domon are in civil war as well as at war with each other.
Niall mutters again that Geofram Bornhald and one thousand of the Children of the Light are dead. He repeats Byar’s story that Aes Sedai killed them. He asks Byar if he has doubts of that description. Byar says he has no doubts and says that the ground erupted beneath the feet of Bornhald’s men. He also says that lightnings struck their ranks out of a clear sky. Niall nods and asks him if he knows anything of those who took Falme. Byar tells Niall that Lord Captain Bornhald told him that they called themselves Seanchan.
Byar tells Niall that Bornhald’s charge broke the Seanchan causing them to flee. He adds to this account that he spoke with many refugees from the city and that they all agree the strangers have fled. Byarn suddenly reminds Niall that Bornhald commanded him to let his son Dain know how he died, after he first reports to Niall. The Lord Captain Commander tells him that he has done well and gives him permission to leave and carry out that task. Niall tells Byar that Dain Bornhald is with Eamon Valda somewhere near Tar Valon. He gives Byar permission to join them.
As Byar is leaving, he tells Niall that the Children were betrayed in Falme. Niall asks him if he is referring to the one Darkfriend he mentioned earlier. Niall asks again if he is referring to a young blacksmith who he has only seen twice – Perrin from The Two Rivers. Byar fervently says yes.
Byar: I do not know how but I know he is to blame. I know it.
Niall: I will see what can be done about him, Child Byar.
Niall tells Byar that he may leave now. Byar bows and does so. After he goes, Niall muses over what has caused Byar’s hatred of this one particular Darkfriend. Niall thinks of news of the world and of his own old age. There are three false dragons plaguing the world. There are wars between Tear and Illian and Tarabon and Arad Domon. He also thinks to himself that Aiel have bee sighted as far west as Murandy. His reports also state that the Sea Folk are ignoring trade to seek signs and portents. Illian has called The Great Hunt of the Horn for the first time in nearly four hundred years. Rumors also report that the reclusive Ogier have called meetings between their far-flung steddings. Niall also considers that the Aes Sedai have come out into the open – both in bringing down the False Dragon in Saldaea and in supporting the False Dragon in Falme.
The chaos chills the marrow in his bones. It seems clear that The Last Battle really is coming. The turmoil has ruined long laid plans but the same has also created opportunities for new plans. Niall hopes that he can hold onto life long enough to carry those plans out. His thoughts are interrupted by a knock at the door. A servant enters and announces that Jaichim Carridin, an Inquisitor of the Hand of the Light, has arrived. Carridin follows quickly and kneels before Niall.
Niall tells him to rise and mentions that he has been given disturbing news from Falme. Carridin repies that Niall must be referring to news from Child Byar, late second of Geofram Bornhald. Niall is quietly angry as no one is supposed to have known this. Niall asks Carridin of his news from Falme and the other man tells him that the Children fought Darkfriends at Toman Head. Niall tries to restrain a chuckle. He reminds Carridin that Carridin himself accused Bornhald of being a Darkfriend for leading troops into Falme against orders.
Niall: Do you now mean me to believe that Bornhald, as a Darkfriend, led a thousand of the Children to their deaths fighting other Darkfriends?
Carridin replies that they will never know for certain whether or not Bornhald was himself a Darkfriend. He adds that the Shadow’s plots are murky and often seem mad to those who walk in the Light. He says though that those who seized Falme were Darkfriends and of that he has no doubt. He says the Darkfriends were in league with Aes Sedai and that the One Power destroyed the Bornhald’s men as well as the armies of Tarabon and Arad Domon sent against them.
Niall asks Carridin about the stories that those who took Falme came from across the Aryth Ocean. Carridin shakes his head and admits that people are full of rumors. He says that some say the strangers were the armies that Artur Hawkwing sent across the ocean one thousand years ago. He adds that some claim to have seen Hawkwing himself in Falme and half the heroes of legend, too. He states that the so-called Seanchan are a rabble of Darkfriends in support of a False Dragon, but this time with Aes Sedai support. Niall asks him about proof.
Carridin says that the proof lies in two parts. The first proof is that if there are lands beyond the Aryth Ocean, all evidence indicates that those lands are too far to reach. Carridin’s second proof lies in the fact that many of those questioned stated that monsters were fighting for the Darkfriends. He says that those questioned held to those claims even under the last degree of the Question. He asks Niall what could those monsters be but other trollocs and Shadowspawn in some way brought down from the Blight. Niall tells Carridin that he may be right but decides not to give him the satisfaction of letting him know that he agrees. Niall asks Carridin about the youth from the rolled drawing.
Niall: How dangerous is he? Can he channel the One Power?
Carridin shrugs and points out that Aes Sedai could make people believe that a cat can channel if they wanted to. Carridin points out that any False Dragon is dangerous until he is put down and adds that any False Dragon with Tar Valon behind him is ten times as dangerous. Carridin says he is still less dangerous now than he will be in half a year, unchecked. He reports that the captives he questioned had never seen the youth before and that they have no idea where he is currently. He says the False Dragon’s supporters are currently scattered and that either the forces of Tarabon or Arad Domon could sweep them away if they were not so busy fighting each other instead.
Carridin states that Bornhald took only half of is legion to their deaths and that with the other half he will track the False Dragon and kill him.
Carridin: A corpse is not dangerous to anyone.
Niall asks Carridin what he will do if he faces Aes Sedai and the other man says that their witchery does not protect them from arrows or knives in the dark. He promises Niall that he will be successful before summer. Niall nods wondering how Carridin remains so calm and thinking that soon he will no longer be calm. Niall asks Carridin why he did not take his own forces to Falme given that there was an army of Darkfriends on Toman Head holding the city.
Niall: Why did you try to stop Bornhald?
Carridin blinks but his voice remains steady. He states that initially there were only rumors of Darkfriends holding the city. He says that by the time he learned the truth, Bornhald had joined the battle. He adds that his task was to bring the Light to Almoth Plain and says that he could not disobey orders to chase after rumors.
Niall stands. The Inquisitor backs up. Niall tells him firmly that his task was to seize Almoth Plain. The Lord Captain Commander tells him that the Children of the Light, ruling Almoth Plain and Amador, would have been a vice to either side of Tarabon, capable of seizing the country within five years.
Niall: You made a dog’s dinner of it!
Carridin protests that he could not have foreseen a False Dragon declaring himself, Arad Domon and Tarabon escalating into open fighting after years of growling, and Aes Sedai revealing themselves for the first time in three thousand years. He tells Niall that even with all of that all is not lost. He says he can capture the False Dragon and sweet the armies of Tarabon and Arad Domon from the Plain. Niall snaps at Carridin that his plans are done with and threatens to name him as a potential Darkfriend for the Questioners to interrogate. Carridin begins to sweat.
Niall: Child Carridin, you will make certain that this False Dragon does not die. If any Aes Sedai come to oppose rather than to support him, you will make use of your knives in the dark.
Carridin protests that allowing a False Dragon to roam free is treason and blasphemy. Niall tells him it is no treason to do what must be done. He adds that even blasphemy can be tolerated for a cause. Niall tells Carridin that the quickest way to unite people is to loose a rabid lion in the streets. He says that when panic grips the people, you then calmly tell them you will deal with it.
Niall: Then you kill it and order them to hang the carcass up where everyone can see. Before they have time to think, you give another order and it will be obeyed. And if you continue to give orders, you will continue to be obeyed, for you are the one who saved them. And who better to lead?
Carridin asks Niall if he means to take not just Almoth Plain, but Tarabon and Arad Domon as well. Niall tells him that what he means is for himself to know. He reminds Carridin that he is to obey as he is sworn to do. He gives Carridin instructions on how to proceed and reminds him that it would not due for the Taraboners or Domoni to kill his lion. Carridin says that he hears and obeys. Niall tells Carridin that if the False Dragon dies before he commands the order to kill him, or if the False Dragon is taken by the Tar Valon witches, he will be found one morning with a dagger in his heart.
Niall: And should any accident befall me, even if I should die of old age, you will not survive me the month.
Carridin states that he is sworn to obey and Niall orders him to remember it. He then orders him to go. Carridin’s voice was not steady any longer.
Niall believes that the Last Battle is coming – though he does not believe it is the battle from legends, with the Dragon Reborn facing the Dark One. Niall believes that the Dark One’s prison is firmly sealed. Niall has reasoned out that the Last Battle will consist of Trolloc hoards descending from the Blight as during the Trolloc Wars. He imagines humankind, spit into nations squabbling among themselves, as being unable to stand against that. Niall’s goal is to unite humankind behind the banners of the Children of the Light.
Niall: First, look a rabid lion in the streets.
A bony man with a beak of a nose repeats the words rabid lion as he steps out from behind one of the banners of the Children.
Niall: I showed you that passage Ordeith so you could come when I summoned you without half of the Fortress knowing it, not so you could listen to my private conversations.
Ordeith bows and says he was not listening. A month earlier, the ragged man arrived in Amadicia half frozen and he somehow managed to talk his way past the guards to Pedron Niall himself. Niall took interest in him because he seemed to know things about the events on Toman Head that were not widely known. Niall also credits Ordeith for helping him to see the pattern of events in the world. Ordeith looks at the chalk drawing of the youth with reddish hair and Niall says aloud that he looks as if he knows the boy. Ordeith says that he does.
Ordeith: His name is Rand al’Thor. He comes from The Two Rivers in the backcountry of Andor. And he is a Darkfriend so deep in the Shadow that it would make your soul cringe to know the half.
Niall muses over The Two Rivers and tells the man that he has heard of another Darkfriend from the district. Ordeith asks if the other is Matrim Cauthon or Perrin Aybara. Niall frowns and says that the Darkfriend’s name was given as Perrin. Ordeith suggests that in a place like The Two Rivers, cut off from the world, an entire village might be able to be Darkfriends openly. Niall then asks him how he knows the name of three Darkfriends on the far end of forever. Ordeith smoothly avoids the question by asking how any man can share all that he knows. His hands convulsively wad up the parchment of the drawing before Niall notices and tells him to stop. Ordeith asks forgiveness and states that he hates Darkfriends. Niall states that he must make plans for The Two Rivers.
The grimace on Carridin’s face causes other men to avoid him. He flings open the door to his room and then slams it behind him. Carridin calls for his body servant and the man does not appear. A movement catches his eye. Carridin turns to shrivel his servant with curses but is himself shriveled at the sight of a myrddraal stepping forward from the curtains. Carridin asks the halfman what he is doing here. The myrddraal says he is there to keep an eye on Carridin.
He then asks Carridin why he is at the Fortress of the Light instead of on Almoth Plain. Carridin replies that he was commanded here by the Lord Captain Commander. The myrddraal says Niall’s words are dung and that Carridin’s job is to find the human called Rand al’Thor and kill him. He asks Carridin why he is not obeying. Carridin tries to tell him that things have changed but the myrddraal only grows angry. Carridin asks why killing al’Thor is suddenly so important when previously The Great Lord planned to use him. The halfman tells him that his part is to obey orders and not to question them.
Myrddraal: If this Rand al’Thor is not dead within a month, I will kill one of your blood – a son, a daughter, a sister, an uncle. You will not know who until the chosen has died screaming. If he lives another month I will take another and then another and then another.
The halfman says that when none of his relatives live, Carridin will be taken to Shayol Ghul itself. He promises Carridin that he will be years in dying. The myrddraal throws Carridin across the room. He crashes into the wall and falls face down onto the carpet. He asks Carridin if he understand and Carridin replies that he hears and obeys. Then the myrddraal is gone.
A few moments later, Sharbon enters and finds Carridin on the floor. Carridin orders him to fetch paper and ink. He must decide which orders to obey.
So… welcome back to the Wheel of Time! We’ve got everyone’s favorite… the Whitecloaks!
I’ll be honest. I do not find these guys to be interesting at all. I believe the TV series might be leaning in on the Whitecloak stuff… so I hope they have a good plan for tricking me into caring about them. The political bad guy always has a hard time competing with the magical bad guy and Jordan never really does anything with these guys that leads me to be anything but annoyed when they appear on the page. (Game of Thrones succeeded in making Cersei, Littlefinger, Olenna Tyrell, etc. interesting under similar circumstances.)
What actually happens in this section?
- We learn that Niall’s great ambition is to control Almoth Plain – and he wants to use control there to obtain control of Tarabon (which would be vice-gripped between the Whitecloaks’ territory.) This would be a major expansion of territorial influence for the Children of the Light. The Whitecloaks would control Amador, Amadicia, Almoth Plain, and Tarabon. At that point their influence, resources, and power begins to rival Tar Valon.
- The change to his plans now has Niall believing that the Children of the Light might also be able to seize control over Arad Doman. #silverlinings
- We learn that Pedron Niall, one of the most powerful men on the continent, does not believe in The Last Battle in the traditional sense. It’s funny that this is based on what amounts to nothing but faith in Lews Therin.
- Niall – due to influence from Ordeith and Child Byar – now plans to send Children of the Light into the Two Rivers. (That will not sit well with the Village Council or the Women’s Circle, imho.)
- Ordeith… he pretty much has to be Padan Fain, right? The physical description fits, as with the Seanchan, he was able to talk himself into a position influencing the leader, and he has extensive knowledge of the Two Rivers folks (including hatred for Rand.) If he’s influencing Niall… that is not ideal.
- Carridin has conflicting orders. Niall wants him to keep Rand alive. The myrddraal (i.e. the Dark One) wants Rand dead ASAP. On balance, it’s probably easier to disobey Niall in that contest.
- I wonder what Carridin would think if he knew the Borderlander secret to keeping a myrddraal away is to keep the room and hallways well lit and to make a rule against wearing a hood.