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 20: Winds Rising
Elayne and Nynaeve are aboard the Wavedancer. They get to their feet and hurry to the deck after the ship’s violent shaking. On the deck, Elayne looks to the Stone, as the crew shouts about earthquakes, believing Rand has caused this. She looks at Nynaeve for a long moment. Elayne is worried about him, and wonders aloud how they are supposed to get to Tanchico if Rand tosses the ships about. Nynaeve touches her arm and says that Elayne’s second letter no doubt touched a nerve. Suddenly she notices Thom and Juilin on the deck. Coine returns to Elayne and Nynaeve, saying that the ship is not damaged and that she can sail within the hour. Coine follows their gaze and tells them that the two men are asking passage to Tanchico, and to wherever the two travel. Coine tells them that she is willing to deny them passage if the two women wish it, even though that would be entirely against custom. Coine offers that the Tairen is a good man and she adds that though she does not know the gleeman, they are good for the voyage because they can lighten the long hours of the crew.
Nynaeve is surprised that she knows Juilin, and Coine explains that twice he has found someone who has stolen from them, and that he has found the person quickly each time, too. When Coine asks if they wish her to refuse them passage, Nynaeve says in a flat voice that she wants to find out why they are here, first. Elayne suggests that she talk to them rather than Nynaeve, and says that Nynaeve can watch at a distance to see if they are hiding anything. Nynaeve gives her a wry smile knowing that Elayne’s real reason for wanting to talk is to separate them from her temper, but she accepts anyway.
Nynaeve: Perhaps you might study how I keep calm. You know how you are when you are overwrought.
Elayne laughs. As Elayne looks at Thom, she has a feeling that she has seen him before though she is also sure she has not prior to the Stone. Elayne questions Juilin first and introduces herself and Nynaeve, feigning that he might not remember them, and reminding him that he previously did not serve them well. Elayne notes that Juilin does not react to the suggestion he might not remember them. She also sees him glance at their hands, noting their lack of Aes Sedai rings. Juilin corrects her to say that the last time he served them, it was in the company of Mat Cauthon, and he adds that the two saved them before the silverpike could get them. Nynaeve makes a harrumph, but not loudly, and she in particular did not like being reminded that they had needed help that night.
Elayne asks him why he wishes to travel to Tanchico. Juilin answers carefully that he was rousted from his house a half hour ago, by a stall stone-faced man they know calling himself Lan. He adds that Lan came on behalf of another man they know who is a shepherd.
Juilin: I was given a great quantity of gold and told to accompany you – both of you. I was told that if you do not return safely from this journey… shall we just say that it would be better to drown myself than come back? Lan was emphatic and the shepherd no less so in his message.
He tells the two women that he is not without certain skills that might prove useful. Nynaeve murmurs that men can find ways to get around doing what you have told them, but she does not sound unpleased, either. Elayne is irritated that Rand sent him and she wonders if he had read the second letter before doing so, doubting that he had. She is frustrated that she does not have time to send a third letter and tells herself that even if she had time, sending it would just make her look like a bigger fool. She turns her attention to Thom as Nynaeve asks him why he is joining them. Nynaeve asks if Lan and the shepherd also directed him to join them.
Thom: Not the shepherd, Mistress al’Meara. A lady of our mutual acquaintance asked – asked – me to accompany you. The lady who found you and the shepherd in Emond’s Field.
When Nynaeve asks Thom why she did this, he replies that he also has useful skills, beyond merely juggling, adding that he has been to Tanchico several times and knows the city well. Elayne’s familiarity with Thom tugs at her mind again, and before she realizes what she is doing, she reaches up and tugs at one of his long white mustaches. Thom gives a start, and Elayne in turn gives a start, clasping both hands to her mouth, her face turning crimson.
Elayne decides internally that they can come, and Nynaeve agrees, provided that they agree to do as they are told. Juilin agrees immediately but Thom pushes back. Nynaeve insists that he agree or else watch the ship sail from the dock. Reluctantly, Thom finally agrees. Nynaeve sends them away as Thom quivers visibly. Elayne asks if she is being too hard on them.
Elayne: Smooth words make smooth companions. Best to begin as we wish to go on.
Nynaeve: Thom Merrilin knows very well we are not full Aes Sedai. Men talk, they always do, so Sandar will know it soon enough as well. They’d present no trouble to Aes Sedai but two Accepted?
Elayne asks if she thinks the two men know why they are going and Nynaeve says no, or else they would not be so sanguine, adding that she hopes not to tell them until they must. Nynaeve reminds Elayne that Liandrin and the others know Juilin’s face and suggests that they may have to change his appearance.
Wavedancer sets sail and leaves Tear moving south downriver through the Fingers of the Dragon. Nynaeve moves down into her cabin but Elayne stays on the deck enjoying the breeze in her face and eating a meal of stew. After the ship reaches the Sea of Storms, and lets off its Tairen pilot, it turns west toward Tanchico.
Once the ship is out of sight of the land, all the Sea Folk women take off their blouses. Elayne and Juilin have a hard time trying to figure out where to look or not look, until Julin gives up and all but runs below deck. Elayne opts to just stare over the side at the sea, laughing hysterically to herself at the thought of the Sea Folk expecting her to remove her own shirt. She watches dolphins swimming alongside the ship until she notices Thom standing before her. She thinks that he seems unhappy and continues to think on him seeming familiar to her.
Elayne asks him if he is unhappy, and how he can be while watching these dolphins, and as he talks, she decides that if she can make him laugh, she will remember where she has seen him before. She asks if he means to compose the epic of Rand, tells him that Loial is writing about book about Rand, and Thom replies that perhaps he will. He then says that even if he does, his story and Loial’s will not survive in the long run. He says that by the time the next age comes, it may have changed so much as to be unrecognizable.
Thom: Those who know the truth will die, and their grandchildren’s grandchildren will remember something different, and their grandchildren’s grandchildren something else again.
He tells her that in two dozen generations, she might be the hero of the story, or perhaps Mat, or Lan, or even himself. He grins and suggests that by then he might not eat fire, but breathe it, and hurl it around like an Aes Sedai. He laughs and says Rand al’Thor may be lucky if the next age remembers his name correctly. When he laughs, Elayne feels confirmation that she does know him, though she is not certain as to where.
She decides to keep him talking, and tells him that Hawkwing conquered an empire, just as the stories say. Thom replies that even though that much is true, he could not have done everything the stories claim that he did, in the way it is said. He mocks the idea that Artur Hawkwing could have fought and killed the one hundred best men of an opposing armies, in duels, one at a time, in one day as the stories say. Elayne counters that the books say he did this, and Thom, calling her girl, says that there is not enough time between sunrise and sunset to fight so many duels. Elayne almost calls him up short for calling her girl, but as he is going on now, stops herself. He says that Hawkwing was only one thousand years back, and asks about the age before the age of legends.
Thom: Did Mosk and Merk really fight with spears of fire and were they even giants? Was Elsbet really queen of the whole world and was Anla really her sister? Was Anla truly the wise counselor or was it someone else?
Elayne is now sure that she knows Thom and gets him to talk about the lands beyond the Aiel Waste, wondering as he speaks on them expertly what kind of man he really is. She thinks that he is speaking with her in a tone fitting a father speaking with his daughter. She tells Thom that this ship was bound east for Shara, the lands beyond the Aiel Waste, until they convinced the Sailmistress to take them to Tanchico. Thom seems surprised and admits that he has never heard the name of the lands beyond the Waste given a name before. He asks if it is a city a nation or both. Elayne scolds herself severely for sharing information carelessly. She asks him again why he is traveling with them and he laughs, saying that Aes Sedai are not easily resisted, even when only asking. She feels, looking at him, that he will not ever do them any harm.
Elayne suddenly excuses herself, moves toward the stern, and finds the Windfinder, Jorin, bare to her waist. Elayne sees that the other woman is embracing saidar and channeling thick yet intricate weaves of Air and Water, a web across the sky as far as the eye can see. Jorin ties off the weave as Elayne climbs toward her quietly. Jorin admits that she wanted to cease channeling when she felt Elayne watching, but says she could not do so because it would have caused a great storm that the ship may not have survived. Elayne replies, with a question, that this is why the Sea Folk do not carry Aes Sedai. She adds, not as a question, that this must be why it was Jorin’s decision to let them aboard rather than her sister’s. Elayne tells her the Tower will not interfere as there is no law against channeling when not Aes Sedai, but Jorin responds by saying that the Tower will interfere and attempt to reach onto their ships and tie them to itself. Elayne wishes she could say that this is not so, but she knows it is.
Jorin tells her that the Sea Folk periodically send a few girls to train as novices, so that the Aes Sedai will not come looking among them, and she says that this seems to satisfy the Tower. She adds though that if the truth gets out, Aes Sedai will likely come to try to recruit more. Elayne promises to try to to protect the Sea Folk from Aes Sedai interference in the future, but she admits to herself that her power to do so will be limited even with Andor behind her.
Elayne asks if the Seanchan vessel they fought had a damane on it, explaining that damane are captive women who can channel. Jorin admits there was and says she had not known the damane was a captive, or else they might have tried to save her. Jorin explains that it is difficult for her to weave Fire, but says she was able to start some on the Seanchan ship, and that along with the help of Toram and the crew fighting, enabled their escape. She says they saw the Seanchan ship sink from the flames.
Elayne sees that retelling the story saddened the other woman, so she asks her why her people call ships “he” instead of “she” as most everyone else does.
Jorin: A ship is alive, and he is like a man, with a true man’s heart. You rub the rail fondly, as if stroking something alive, something that can feel your caress. Treat him well and care for him properly and he will fight for you against the worst sea, he will fight to keep you alive even after the sea has long since given him his own death stroke. Neglect him though, ignore the small warnings he gives of danger, and he will drown you in a flat sea beneath a cloudless sky.
Elayne hopes Rand is not as fickle as that. She asks Jorin how long their trip will be and she tells Elayne that she expects they can make it to Tanchico in ten days, perhaps even sooner. Elayne gasps and cannot believe it to be possible. The other woman smiles, half pride, and half indulgence, and reminds Elayne that she herself said rakers are the fastest ships in the world.
Elayne asks Jorin to teach her to weave the winds, as she had just been doing, and Jorin is shocked that an Aes Sedai would need teaching. Elayne tells her that she has never woven a flow half as thick as those she just wove and says she is astounded. Jorin stares at Elayne before finally kissing the fingers of her right hand, then pressing them to Elayne’s lips.
Jorin: If it pleases the light, then we both shall learn.
I wonder what Rand did to cause the earthquake?
Thom talks about “the age before the age of legends.” That’s the one we are in now. I have bad news for everyone reading this blog but apparently at some point Mosk (Moscow) and Merk (‘Murica) are gonna throw “spears of fire” at each other. Maybe the fallout from that is how the One Power emerges? Yikes.
Elsbet seems like she has to be Queen Elizabeth II. I like the fan theory, regarding Anla, that she is Ann Landers. Maybe after the Mosk and Merk fight, some future person finds a book of Ann Landers advice columns, and her after-the-fact cultural significance grows immensely until eventually Thom is telling stories about her wisdom two Ages from now.
I am admittedly a Nynaeve fan, but one of the reasons I am is that she knows her own faults. She does not always care that they are there, but she is aware of them. I laughed when she joked that Elayne should study her to see how calm she is, and how she kind of self-deprecatingly joked that Elayne is the one always losing her temper. We know it’s self-deprecating because Nynaeve smiles and Elayne laughs.
I mostly like Elayne in this chapter, too. Her back-and-forth with Thom was entertaining. He, of course, knows exactly why she remembers him but he manages not to tell her. As the one in her Black Ajah hunting duo, actually trained in diplomacy, I appreciate that she is smart – and successful – with applying honesty to their situation with the Sea Folk. She also has the sense to admit Nynaeve is probably correct in not telling the two men, yet, what they are up against. She also did something largely unheard of in this series, in this chapter, and admit that the other person made a good argument. She does this when Nynaeve explains why she forced Juilin and Thom to promise they would obey. It disturbs the peace in the short term but probably will benefit them later. Elayne admits to herself that Nynaeve was probably right to do this.
Elayne apparently – at some point – delivered Rand a second letter after being mad that he was too happy to let her leave. Now she regrets it after finding out that he *did* care she was leaving and sent her help. I want to like her relationship with Rand, but I just don’t. I think Jordan is going for a Victorian-themed romance with these two, with Elayne in the role of a flighty female lover, but I just can’t get past the weird way Elayne kind of manipulated Rand away from Egwene. Then once she actually has him in hand, she’s pretty irrational, and starts weird manipulation-y stuff with Rand. I think the two letters thing is supposed to be endearing, but that just didn’t land for me.
We learn in this chapter that the Sea Folk have secret (powerful?) channelers. It was smart of their people to send a few women to the Tower to throw off suspicion. However, I would have expected a few of the Sea Folk Aes Sedai to return to them, over the years, to teach/train the others. Maybe the Sea Folk Aes Sedai cannot risk returning to their own people, lest they encounter other Aes Sedai and are forced to give up their people’s secret because of the Oath Rod? If they can never return home… well, that’s profoundly sad. Imagine being a young teenage girl and leaving home never to return.
Maybe the Sea Folk in the Tower collect their own girls to help them with the transition?
The end of the chapter is significant. Elayne enters into a bargain, though I am not precisely sure she realized it. Given her knowledge base as the Daughter Heir, she probably should have realized.