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 26: The Dedicated
NOTE: The following chapter summary comes from wot.fandom.com:
Adan is mourning after a bandit attack leaves wife and his remaining son dead, his daughter Rhea taken away, and only his young grandchildren Lewin and Maigran remaining. His grandchildren are clutching him in fear and he comforts them. Adan recalls his other children who died of hunger and sickness, and one son who committed suicide upon discovering that he could channel. Sulwin confronts Adan after the attack and resolves to forsake the duty to guard the Aes Sedai treasures and leave with others of like mind. They will go to find a safe place and find the songs the Aiel used to sing. Adan yells back, telling Sulwin that they must be faithful to their duty. Adan tells the group that leaves that they are lost and are Aiel no longer. Adan begins the task of dealing with the dead and injured and choosing the ter’angreal they still have the ability to take with them. He speaks to the Aes Sedai who are not there, asking them how long they must be faithful in the face of all this suffering. He holds his dead wife and weeps.
Rand is confused because Sulwin mentioned them following the Way of the Leaf and that is not a Aiel concept. The lights from the glass columns are spinning now. Muradin is standing next to him, eyes bulging in disbelief. Both of them step forward.
There are several thousand Aiel but many less than there were and fewer wagons also. Jonai is the leader and Adan is his son. Some time ago, an Aes Sedai visiting their camp claimed that Ishamael was only partly trapped. She had healed the sick but it was too late for his wife, Alnora, who had previously guided him with her dreams. The Aes Sedai left with some of the sa’angreal and had no answer when Jonai asked her where to find a place of safety.
Adan brings news that they met a group of Ogier to Jonai. Jonai is briefly angry over their food that the Ogier are eating which can provide for many more humans, but he knows it is right to share. Jonai discusses the situation with the Ogier who tell him that the Blight has extended southward and that there are Myrddraal and Trollocs there, so Jonai cannot lead his people north. The Ogier ask about chora cuttings and Adan confirms that the Aiel have some which they keep alive by potting new cuttings before the old ones die. The Ogier are looking for a stedding and fear they will soon die if they do not find one to satisfy their Longing for one. Jonai suffers a pain in his chest and tells Adan to take the people south. He tells Adan to keep the Covenant and guard the things for the Aes Sedai until they return for them. He remembers Solinda Sedai and hopes she will understand that he had tried his best; he dies, holding the memory of his wife.
Rand is still confused over references to the Way of the Leaf the Aiel say they follow. The glass columns are now pulsing with light and the air starts to swirl around. Muradin is screaming and clawing at his face.
Jonai is sixty-three, in the prime of his life, but around him jo-cars no longer work and the ground is shaking from earthquakes. He rushes through the empty streets of Paaran Disen, the greatest city in the world, wearing his work clothes, the cadin’sor. He enters the Hall of Servants where people are scurrying about fearfully and makes his way to a group of Aes Sedai, women only. On the table in the room is a crystal sword, which makes him shiver. The sword is resting on the Dragon Banner, which makes him shudder. Deindre Sedai has just given a Foretelling about important events. Oselle Sedai lashes out at Deindre, angry that the Foretelling is about an indeterminable point in the future and Solinda Sedai attempts to moderate.
Jonai, waiting for the Aes Sedai to finish, goes over to talk to his old friend Someshta, a Nym. Someshta does not really remember him and laments the state of the world. Someshta asks Jonai whether he is a Child of the Dragon, which causes Jonai to wince. The Children of the Dragon name is a misnomer as the Da’shain Aiel serve all the Aes Sedai and not just the Dragon, but many people believe it now. Then Solinda comes over and asks if all is ready and Jonai confirms that it is. Jonai tells her that some of the Aiel wish to stay and continue to serve here, but she tells him to leave and keep moving until they find a place of safety. The Da’shain Aiel will have a part to play in the future, although Deindre does not know how or what.
Solinda asks Jonai about his father, Coumin; Jonai tells her sadly that he has abandoned the Way of the Leaf and has found an old shocklance in order to fight and has tried to convince other Aiel to do the same. Solinda entreats Coumin to keep to the Way to which he quickly agrees; this shocks Jonai as he equates the Way as the very essence of being Aiel. As Solinda returns to the other Aes Sedai she is asked by her sisters if Kodam and his fellows, male Aes Sedai, can truly be trusted. She confirms they have barely been touched by the taint as they are young and inexperienced, and regardless there is no other choice. As Jonai leaves, the Aes Sedai tell Someshta that they have a task for the last of the Nym.
Jonai returns to the wagons just outside the city, thousands of wagons ten abreast filled with food and water. They are also carrying angreal, sa’angreal, and ter’angreal that must be kept from the men who are going mad and breaking the world. Sadly, the more advanced methods of transportation such as hoverflies and sho-wings no longer work and they must resort to wagons drawn by horses. He looks at the assembled Aiel, enough to populate a city, who may be all the Aiel remaining in the world. Many of them come to him to see if the Aes Sedai granted their request to stay and continue to serve here, but Jonai replies in the negative. They are Da’shain Aiel and must obey the Aes Sedai. Among the objects of the Power are potted chora cuttings, which Jonai sees as representing hope for his people. He sees his children and meets his wife Alnora. He asks about her dreams, but her dreams are not about the near future. She reassures him that all will be well. The wagons begin to move on their long journey to safety.
Rand is overwhelmed by the information he is receiving. The air around him pulses with energy and wind is swirling everywhere. Muradin has clawed his face and is now clawing at his eyes. Rand continues forward.
Coumin is sixteen and participating in his first seed singing ceremony with Ogier during the War of Power. The fields are guarded by soldiers in jo-cars. He goes not believe his greatfather Charn‘s claim that once there were no soldiers or Trollocs or Myrddraal. Charn also claims to have served Lanfear before she became one of the Forsaken. Charn insists that Lanfear had not always been evil but nobody believes him. Someshta approaches and the Ogier begin singing along with the Da’shain Aiel. Fields of zemai sprout up quickly and Coumin knows that they will be unaffected by the Blight.
An Ogier asks one of the soldiers if there is news and he replies that there is an unconfirmed report saying that Lews Therin has just led a strike on Shayol Ghul. The Bore has been sealed and most if not all of the Forsaken along with it. People are celebrating as Coumin goes to find Charn to discuss the news and the prospect of the end of the war. Coumin is attacked by one of the townspeople for Charn’s association with Lanfear. When Coumin finally finds Charn, he is dead, hung by some of the townspeople. Coumin can only kneel and look at Charn’s corpse uncomprehendingly.
Rand sees Muradin veiled but with his eyes clawed out. Muradin appears to be biting his own tongue out. The wind is now a ferocious whirlwind. Rand steps forward once more.
Charn is twenty-five and plans to accept the marriage proposal from Nalla that night. He will transfer his service from Mierin Sedai to Zorelle Sedai. A citizen accidentally knocks him to the ground. As they are exchanging apologies, the ground ripples, then the air ripples also. He is concerned because today is the day Mierin and Beidomon are to tap into the new power source that will allow men and women to use the same source for their channeling. As he watches, the Sharom disintegrates and falls to the ground. He begins to run toward the Sharom, knowing he is too late.
Rand is amazed that he saw the hole being drilled into the Dark One‘s prison. He is outside the glass columns, beneath Avendesora which he now knows to be a chora tree. He no longer can see Muradin and does not expect him to emerge from the columns. He sees something swinging from a low branch of Avendesora and realizes it is Mat hanging from a pole. He channels a sword and leaps to cut the rope, then revives Mat using techniques he learned from Master Luhhan.
Mat finally wakes up and is angry at the Eelfinn for trying to kill him. Mat tells Rand he went through another twisted redstone doorframe but did not get answers. Mat has the foxhead medallion and the ashandarei but doesn’t realize they are what he wished for. Mat refers to the script on the spear, thinking the Eelfinn are mocking him with it, but Rand can’t read it since it is in the Old Tongue. They agree to leave in the night, only stopping to get a drink before exiting the city.
Rand again sees the figurines with the crystal spheres but thinks it is too soon to take them. A bubble of evil begins turning dust into shivering lines. When Rand attacks the figures that form with his power wrought sword, they return to dust. Mat fights well with the ashandarei but they are injured because there are so many. Finally Rand channels a strand of power into each shape and they explode and are gone. More begin to form as the they run for the fog encircling the city. None of the forms follow them out of the fog. They begin to trudge up the mountain as Rand thinks of the Aiel Prophecy, that he will come with the dawn.
This chapter, and the one before it, are probably the best bit of writing in the entire series. We get a few more key moments from the history of the Aiel here. I’ll list them here in case they weren’t clear:
- The sequence with Adan and Sulwin is the moment when the Tinkers split from the Aiel. Interestingly, the Tinkers – who abandon their duty to protect the ter’angreal – are the group that does not abandon The Way of the Leaf.
- In the Jonai section, we (and Rand) learn that Ishamael may never have been fully bound by Lews Therin and the companions. This setting also sets the Aiel course toward the south and sees Jonai die, passing the leadership of the group to Adan. This section also tells us about the Ogier longing, and the fact that the Blight is now advancing, and that myrddraal and trollocs still roam freely.
- In this section, we are again with Jonai – though he is younger now (63 and in the prime of life.) He is in Paaren Disen, near the beginning of the Breaking. He goes to meet with some Aes Sedai who have a crystal sword on their table (it appears to be Callandor.) He speaks with Someshta, the last of the Nym, who is assigned the task to guard items at what later becomes known as The Eye of the World. We learn where the Aiel get the name “people of the Dragon” and why. The Aes Sedai task Jonai, and all of the Aiel, the job of transporting and guarding objects of the One Power to a place of safety. We learn Jonai’s father has abandoned The Way of the Leaf.
- Next we see Coumin, Jonai’s father, when Coumin is sixteen. Coumin’s great grandfather, Charn, is well-known for having once served Lanfear before she became evil. This is the scene wherein we learn that Lews Therin has sealed the Dark One’s prison with the Forsaken inside. Coumin goes to find his grandfather Charn, but he finds him hung, murdered by townspeople, for having once served Lanfear.
- We see Charn, twenty-five, at the moment the hole into the Dark One’s prison is bored open. He is serving Mieren Sedai (a/k/a Lanfear.) The whole thing turns out to be a colossal disaster.
So… to sum up the last two chapter:
Paaren Disen (Paradise) is lost.
Charn begets unknown, who begets unknown, who begets Coumin, who begets Jonai, who begets Adan, who begets Marind, who begets Lewin, who begets Jeordam, who begets unknown, who begets Rhodric, who begets unknown, who begets Comran, who begets unknown, who begets Mandein.
If I counted correctly, we go from drilling into the Dark One’s prison, to the modern Aiel, within fifteen generations. That’s about 400 years, give or take.
This chapter all but confirms Ishamael was never really sealed – or at least not completely. We get to see the Age of Legends and it’s predictably awesome, with some combination of modern amenities, world peace, and a multi-species naturalism.
One thing I kept an eye out for, but never really had answered, was the origin of the Andoran royal line. The only other red heads in the series, outside of the Aiel, are the royals in Andor. Did Coumin or his descendants subsequently end up creating this line? Did some of the Tinkers – before they intermixed with surrounding people so much that they lost their Aiel features – end up leaving The Way and doing it? We are not told. Those two seem like possibilities, though.
In the big picture, what is Jordan doing in these two chapters? He is telling the story of The Fall of mankind – via the Aiel. It’s subtle and it’s also not (*cough* Paaren Disen *cough*.) Thinking that through, Lews “The Dragon” = Lucifer. Lanfear / Mieren is Eve? Kind of. Eve introduces corruption into the world by first biting into the apple. Lanfear introduces corruption into the world by trying to obtain a power source men and women could use in the same way. Ironically, that desire to create gender equality had the opposite effect inasmuch as it eventually led to the fracturing of the True Source, too.
Lanfear also occupies the role of Lilith. Lilith is said to have been Adam’s first wife/love. Lanfear is the first love of Lews Therin. Lilith and Lanfear are both evil seductresses. Lilith is immortal. Lanfear escaped death for three thousand years.
Probably my favorite aspect of how Jordan constructs these chapters is the subtle way he introduces minor and understandable changes within a culture. The work clothes of paradise pacifists become the tribal camouflage clothing of a war like people. The flailing excuse for why a man did not abandon The Way (it was a spear, and spears are not weapons only) becomes the foundation for why Aiel do not use swords… ever. Something shouted at the people who eventually become Tinkers, as they are leaving, “lost,” becomes the basis for why Aiel – for two thousand plus years – call them Lost Ones and avoid them.
The whole notion of the pattern theme, in the series, plays out in these two chapters. We see how small changes in one place lead to big changes later.
After all of that, Rand finds Mat hanging from The Tree of Life, Avendesora. We learn that CPR is a thing people know in The Two Rivers. Rand administers it and Mat lives. Mat now has a fox head medallion and a long pole with a blade on its end.
Mat hanging from Avendesora is reminiscent of Odin hanging from a sacred tree for nine days to obtain knowledge. Mat also asks for knowledge (the holes in his memories to be filled) just before he is hanged. Odin had two ravens, named Hugin (Thought) and Munin (Memory.) Mat’s new spear has two ravens carved on it, along with the inscription: “thought is the arrow of time, memory never fades.” Mat is a womanizer. Odin is a womanizer. For most of the series to this point, Mat has felt to me like he has a lot in common with Loki (both Marvel’s iteration and the Norse one.) Perhaps we’ll begin to see more of Odin from him now.
I wrote in a previous chapter reaction that these characters from Emond’s Field have subtly evolved from backwater villagers to something not far from gods walking among mortals. In just this section, Rand is justifiably compared to Lucifer (via his past life) and Mat compares to Odin.
Rand and Mat are now walking toward the waiting Aiel and should reach them by dawn. Another prophecy fulfilled.