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.
Chapter 9: Decisions
Three days later, the heat in Tear is high, and Mat attempts to find anyone in the Stone who will still want to dice or play cards with him. But for three days after the cards came to life and attacked him, the lords ignore him or make excuses. Word of the events from that night spread, too, so that the maids even make excuses to avoid being around him or they just tell him that it is not safe to be alone with him. Perrin seems involved with his own worries, Thom seems to have vanished by slight of hand, but Moiraine always seems to be where ever he is. In any respect, he continues to find excuses to put off leaving for another day. Once, he carried a lamp down into the belly of the Stone, to the Great Holding, but turns away, muttering that he might be the biggest fool in the whole world. Whatever holds him against leaving doesn’t stop him from going to the dockside taverns of the Maule, the port district, or the inns in the Chalm, where the warehouses are. The stakes in the dice games are small compared to what Mat is used to, but that is not what always draws him back into the Stone after a few hours. He tries not to think about what draws him back.
Perrin sometimes crosses paths with Mat, in the city’s local taverns, but he avoidos Mat when he sees him. Perrin is hunting rumors, hoping to find news of something that might draw Faile away from Tear and the danger that comes with being near him. He is sure that if he finds an adventure for her to chase, she will go. She tells him that she understands why he must stay, but Perrin feels certain that the right bait will pull her away from the city, without him. He only finds old rumors of the Seanchan and the Horn of Valere have reached Tear, each telling more inaccurate than the last. He also hears of riots in Ghealdan, outbreaks of mass madness in Illian, famine in Cairhien, and Trolloc raids increasing in the Borderlands. These situations are all too dangerous to send Faile into so he dismisses them. He hears reports of trouble in Saldaea and thinks they sound promising where Mazrim Taim, the False Dragon, is safely in Aes Sedai hands. He does not tell her where he is spending his time and the result is that she is beginning to give him long slanted looks when he avoids telling her. He thinks though that he needs to redouble his efforts to send him away from her before she gets him killed.
Egwene and Nynaeve spend more time interrogating Joiya and Amico, to no avail, as their stories never waiver. Over Nynaeve’s protests, Egwene tries telling each of them what the other has said to see if anything changes, but both protest that they have never heard of the plan mentioned by the other. Amico seems fearful and eager to please while Joiya cooly tells them to go to Tanchico before telling them of the city’s dangers. No word has come from Tar Valon in response to Moiraine’s pigeons about Mazrim Taim. Egwene and Nynaeve argue about whether Moiraine actually sent the pigeons before Nynaeve admits that Moiraine cannot have lied directly.
Some things are going well. Mat is still in the Stone. Egwene thinks he really is growing up and learning about responsibility. She regrets failing Mat but is not sure any woman in the Tower could have done more for him. Egwene and Aviendha spend more time with one another, at Aviendha’s choosing, but Egwene sometimes thinks she sees unasked questions in the Aiel woman’s eyes. Egwene learns a lot about the other woman, and the Aiel, including that the Aiel do not sit in chairs and that she was shocked to see Egwene wasting water by immersing herself in it for a bath. Avienda also does not understand why she and Elayne have not done something drastic to Berelain to get her out of the way. She thinks Elayne or Egwene, as Elayne’s friend, could fight the First of Mayene with knives or with fists. In any case, Egwene enjoys her time with Aviendha as Elayne is busy and Nynaeve spends her time on moonlit walks with Lan, as well as making him food with her own hands. Egwene is grateful for Aviendha as she is not sure how she might spend her time without the other woman.
Elayne spends three days finding Rand between his meetings and spending time with him in secluded corners when possible. She enters a sort of conspiracy with the Maidens of the Spear, wherein they help her to locate Rand and to find every hidden nook in the Stone. The Maidens seem to think the game of helping Elayen to chase him as great sport.
She is pleased and surprised that Rand asks her about the governing of nations and then listens to what she has to say. She wishes her mother could see this as Morgase has always struggled to get Elayne to pay attention to these sorts of things. She thinks to herself that she could love Rand just for listening to her and taking her counsel. He has also begun the habit of smiling just at the sight of her. She thinks nothing could be finer about the world unless the days could stop passing. She knows she must part with Rand soon and accepts it. She even feels pride in her decision.
Rand meets with High Lords in his chambers to issue orders. He also startles them sometimes by at appearing at the secret gatherings of three or four of them, ferreted out by Thom, just to reiterate some point from his last command. He senses that they smile, bow, sweat, and wonder at how much he knows. Rand decides that a use must be found for their energy before one of them decides that if Rand cannot be manipulated that he must be killed. Rand thinks he will do whatever it takes to divert them, but does not want to start a war.
Forming his plans takes the bulk of his time. The things Elayne has taught him prove useful, also, as he can sense them reassessing him after he displays knowledge in areas they only half know. Elayne cautions him not to give her the credit.
Elayne: Let them think you know more than you do. It will not harm them and it will help you.
Rand cannot decide what piece is missing from his plans. He knows he cannot react to the Forsaken, he must make them react to him. He suspects that once he does make a move forward with his plans, his brief moments with Elayne will end. More than once he has thought of asking her to stay, but he knows it will not be fair to raise her expectations when he does not know what he wants himself. He still wishes that she was not going.
He meets with Meilan and Sunamon about his treaty plane with Mayene and the First, Berelain. He quickly gets angry and burns the treaty in Meilan’s hands with saidin, promising to hang the two of them if they do not obey him and meet with Berelain to draft a fair treaty. They disgust Rand almost as much as he disgusts himself for threatening to hang them, and meaning it. Alone, he thinks back to a time when he barely had a temper at all, looks at Callandor, and studies the herons on his palms. He quotes the prophecies about the herons, and thinks about the dragons that the prophecy says he will also be marked by. Nobody actually knows what a dragon is and the only one he has ever heard of is Lews Therin Telamon. He wonders if the figure on the banner is a dragon.
“You have changed from when I last saw you.”
Rand spins around and finds a young woman with dark hair at the doorway – the Lady Selene. He runs over toward her, asking how she got here, and cannot bring himself to say that he had feared she is dead. She looks at his face and notes that he has been marked.
Selene: You were mine and you are mine. Any other is no more than a caretaker whose time has passed. I will lay claim to what is mine openly now.
Flustered, Rand tells her gently that he enjoyed their time together but adds there was never more between them than companionship. Rand promises to put her up in the best apartments in the Stone and to return her estates to her in Cairhien when peace returns there. She muses on “estates in Cairhien” and says she may have had estates in those lands once before adding that the land has changed so much that nothing is as it was. She tells him that Selene is only a name that she sometimes uses but admits that her real name is Lanfear. Rand barks a shallow laugh, thinking it is a joke, and saying that it is not much different to make jokes about the Dark One than one of the Forsaken. She tells him that they call themselves the Chosen – chosen to rule the world forever and to live forever. Rand reaches for saidin and finds himself blocked from touching it.
Rand: Light! You are one of them.
He backs up toward Callandor and hits a wall of nothing blocking him from the sword. Lanfear tells him calmly that she cannot trust him fully, yet. She mentions that there are only two sa’angreal more powerful than that, for a man to use, and she says tha tone of them she knows at least still exists. She calls him Lews Therin, repeatedly, during their conversation until he finally growls at her to stop calling him that, adding that his name is Rand al’Thor.
Lanfear: I would know who is behind those eyes even if I found you in your cradle.
She comments that everything would be much easier now if she had found him in his cradle but admits she was still imprisoned when he was born. She asks him if he wishes to see her true appearance and then shows him what she really looks like. Rand thinks about the time he met Aginor and Balthamel at The Eye of the World. The air ripples around Lanfear, she changes, and he notes that she is older than he is and yet somehow even more beautiful than Selene. Even knowing what she is, she makes his mouth go dry. She seems satisfied with the look on his face and then tells him she was buried deeply in a dreamless sleep where time did not flow.
Lanfear: Now you see me as I am and I have you in my hands.
She runs a fingernail along his jaw and he asks if she means to kill him. She laughs, incredulous, and says that she means to have him forever. She says that she was his long before that pale haired milksop ever saw him and she adds that he loves her. Rand responds harshly that she actually loves power. Rand knows his response is true but does not know where they came from or why he knows this. Lanfear seems equally shocked by what he said but recovers quickly.
Lanfear regains her confidence, praises his accomplishments thus far in spite of his ignorance, but then explains how his ignorance may kill him. She says Sammael, Rahvin, and Moghedien all fear him too much to wait on making an attack. She says they will come after him and that they will not try to turn his heart. She says they will come by stealth and destroy him while he sleeps.
Lanfear tells Rand that one of her number could teach him what he once knew and she says nobody would dare to oppose him then. Rand thinks that he has had this offer before and turns it down. He vows to destroy all of the Forsaken and even the Dark One if he can while internally chiding himself for being a fool. Lanfear displays a dangerous gleam in her eyes, but continues, explaining why some of the Forsaken fear him. She explains that the others fear The Great Lord of the Dark will give him a place above them. Rand laughs and asks if she is not able to say The Great Lord’s name, either, and she replies simply that to do so would be blasphemy.
Lanfear tells Rand that The Great Lord wants Rand and wants to exalt him. When she tells Rand that he told her this, Rand says that what she is saying is ridiculous and reminds her that the Dark One is still bound, adding that if he were not, he would want Rand dead. She says the Great Lord knows about Rand and adds that it is possible to talk with him after a fashion, in Shayol Ghul. As she describes how it is possible to hear him, and bathe in his presence, she wears a look of pure ecstasy.
She next tells him that all he must do is kneel to the Great Lord, once, and that he will be set above all others. She says that Asmodean is willing to teach him how to wield the Power.
Lanfear: Let me help you. We can destroy the others. The Great Lord will not care. We can destroy all of them, even Asmodean, once he has taught you all you need to know. You and I can rule the world together under the Great Lord forever. Two great sa’angreal were made just before the end, one that you can use, one that I can, far greater than the sword. Their power is beyond imagining. With those we could even challenge the Great Lord himself, even the Creator.
Rand tells her that she’s mad and vows to fight her and the Dark One until his last breath, in accordance with the Prophecies. Lanfear in turn tells him that he does not have to and that prophecies are nothing more than what people hope for. She adds the fulfilling prophecies will only bind him to a path that leads to his own death. She warns that the Great Lord can destroy his soul and prevent his rebirth. Rand tells her no, forcefully, and she studies him. Finally she says that she could take Rand with her to Shayol Ghul and have him turned against his will to serve the Great Lord.
As she studies him, Rand thinks, trying again in vain to touch saidin. He lets his eyes wander and notices a man in drab clothing slipping through the doors with a knife in his hands. Rand’s eyes continue to wander as Lanfear notes he was always stubborn and that she wants Rand to come to her of his own free will. She notices that Rand is frowning, just as he thinks again on the man slipping in through the doors with a knife.
Instinctively Rand pushes Lanfear out of the way, reaches for saidin, and finds it. Rand’s power wrought sword appears in his hands like a red gold flame. The man rushes at him but Rand kills him first. Rand says that trying to kill him in this way makes no sense and asks Lanfear why she would bother sending a Gray Man. She replies that she does not use the Soulless and says it must have been another of the Chosen. She asks him to go with her again, to learn, arguing that he does not do a tenth part of what he can. She asks if he intends to attack her, but Rand does not, seeing her as a woman instead of as one of the Forsaken. He calls himself a fool but he cannot do it. Rand remembers the Aiel guards outside and demands to know what she did to them. When she says she did nothing to them, and warns him to stay inside for his safety, but he opens the door and steps out into madness.
So… lots of POVs in this chapter.
Mat is definitely going through that doorway ter’angreal at some point. He’s already thinking about it.
Perrin has been leaving Faile alone for long stretches and he’s evasive about his whereabouts. When last we saw Perrin and Faile, he stared at Berelain quite openly – to the point that Faile called him out on it. He’s also planning to just send her away without talking to her about it.
1) He saw an attractive world leader in hardly anything and ogled her,
2) He starts vanishing for long stretches immediately after, and
3) He wants to send Faile away without him and will presumably tell her as much sometime soon.
What does he expect her to think? My favorite Wolfbrother means well, but he is not handling the boyfriend job very well at all.
Egwene and Aviendha are becoming friends. Does the Aiel woman really think it’s okay to kill another woman (Berelain) over this type of relationship rivalry? If so, maybe they could solve a problem for Faile.
Elayne and Rand’s relationship makes a lot of sense in this chapter. She really is the only person other than Moiraine capable of giving him good advice on ruling a nation. Rand is also smart enough to seek out her advice and take it. Why? Other than all the kissing, Elayne is not trying to control him. Moiraine could learn something from Elayne. I do not like how we got here, I do not think Egwene is *really* over Rand, but I do think Elayne makes a lot of sense as his girlfriend in this moment.
I’m still a little weirded out (from a story-telling stand point) by Rand’s certainty and fury with respect to Tear’s governance. It’s one thing if he’s outwardly one way and inwardly uncomfortable. But he’s inwardly comfortable ruling, too. It all just feels a little unearned… unless there’s something kind of innate (on the soul level) happening here.
Speaking of… did Rand kind of have a Lews Therin memory when he told Lanfear that she loved power? Iiiinteresting.
On the subject of Lanfear, she’s a fun character. She’s really only loyal to herself. She mentions turning against The Dark One in this chapter and I think she means it. The deepest desire of her heart is to have unlimited power and to have Rand/Lews Therin devoted to her. For her, those things seem to be linked. She’s also no doubt taking a massive personal risk to try setting up a teacher for him. Ishamael – at least as presented in Books 1-3 was a mustache twirling barely hinged evil guy. Lanfear is layered.
Rand thinks he didn’t kill her, or try, because she is a woman. That’s probably true. I suspect though that their weeks traveling together during The Great Hunt probably plays a role, too. It’s hard (I assume) to want to kill someone that you know and like – perhaps especially if she’s the hottest woman to ever live. Lanfear has played Rand really well so far.
I absolutely do not envy the TV series in trying to cast someone to play her. She’s not subjectively beautiful. She’s objectively *the most* beautiful. Being objectively *the most* beautiful / powerful / knowledgeable is core to her character. The series also has to cast someone who can be absurdly objectively beautiful *and* play jump rope with the seductive / terrifying line. Good luck, Rafe Judkins.
At long last, something is happening. Chaos arrives in the next chapter.