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 57: A Breaking in the Three-Fold Land
NOTE: The following chapter summary comes from wot.fandom.com:
Point of view: Rand al’Thor
After the attack on Cold Rocks Hold, the Maidens claim the right to be Rand‘s personal guards since he has no clan of his own and was born of a Maiden. After he accepts, they start a ceremony where Rand gets drunk on oosquai and is put to bed by Aviendha. They leave for Alcair Dal the next day. More and more Aiel of the Taardad join their party until they are fifteen thousand men and women. The Maidens now form an honor guard around Rand at all times.
When they arrive at Alcair Dal they find that five other clans have already arrived, of which Shaido have the greatest numbers. Couladin wants to stop Rand from entering Alcair Dal but the Shaido back down because the Taardad have more warriors. Moiraine wants to accompany Rand, but Amys tells her that it is men’s business. Moiraine says that there are lots of people fighting for Rand and ask if Lan may accompany him at least, but is denied as Rand says that the Maidens now carry his honor. Mat asks if he can come and Rand says yes.
As they move forward into Alcair Dal they are approached by a party of men and women lead by Mandhuin of the Goshien clan. He tells them that Sevanna wanted the clan chiefs to meet today, but Bael refused. A Wise One says that they have heard that the Car’a’carn will be announced today. Rand moves in and on to a ledge in the bowl of cliffs that will carry the words spoken to the entire place. The clan chiefs Bael, Han, Jheran, and Erim are there along with Sevanna and Couladin. Sevanna stands for the Shaido since she is roofmistress of Comarda Hold and their previous clan chief, Suladric, is dead.
Suddenly Couladin stands and claims to everyone that he is the Car’a’carn and reveals dragon marks on his arms, just like Rand’s. Rand counters by showing his dragons as well, and challenges Couladin to tell what he saw in Rhuidean. The other clan chiefs try to resist, but Couladin claims he saw the glory of the Aiel. Rand reveals that he saw the Aiel as they followed the Way of the Leaf in the Age of Legends. Couladin calls him a liar. This revelation shakes most of the Aiel present, but the other clan chiefs know that Rand is the one telling the truth and they proclaim him the true Car’a’carn. Couladin throws a spear at Rand but it is blocked by Adelin and fighting breaks out. Rand channels through the fat bald man angreal and calls down a rain storm.
Suddenly Lanfear appears at Rand’s side and creates a dome around the two. She is angry at Rand and tells him that Asmodean is behind the dragons on Couladin’s arms as well as the attack of the Draghkar, but now Rand has scared him away with his talk of destiny.
Asmodean is now on his way to Rhuidean, but she does not know why. Rand suddenly remembers how to create a Gateway (from his battle with Ishamael in the Stone of Tear), opens one up, and steps through to chase Asmodean.
Mat is great in this chapter. He has almost nothing to do, but his Old Tongue muttering about luck was highly enjoyable.
“Then someone spoke you a prophecy,” Rand said. He touched the dapple’s flanks with his heels; the delegation moved out of his way.
“Dovienya,” Mat murmured. “Mia dovienya nesodhin soende.” Whatever it meant, it sounded a fervent wish
Alright… on to the actual story.
The first time through, I never saw the twist with Couladin’s dragons coming. Even on re-reads Jordan hides that really well. We know in hindsight that Asmodean had the opportunity to put those on Couladin’s arms but… yeah. Never saw it coming.
One of the really interesting things about how this plays out is that Jordan gives us a commentary on the nature of people that really rings true. Rand (Jordan) is right that had Couladin been given more time, he would have had nearly all the Aiel behind him before Rand even shows up. By then, Rand would have been dismissed as a fraud, regardless of what the clan chiefs or Wise Ones say. What does it say about human beings that this scenario rings so true? We are emotional. Once we latch onto an idea, with our hearts, it is difficult for outside reason to separate us from that initial idea. It’s probably why people in democratic societies eventually become so tribal and immune to any and all evidence that their own side might be acting badly, hypocritically, etc. “We’ll reason our way around those things because our deceived heart is guiding our minds.”
My guess is that even with his immediate response to Couldadin, Rand has already lost a large number of Aiel permanently. He can’t get back that first reaction of jubilation, among the Aiel, at the sight of Couladin’s raised arms.
Rand of course is there in time to counter Couladin and largely save the situation. I think he was right that he had to win over the clan chiefs publicly. After all that had already been said, if Rand and Couladin had gone behind closed doors, there would have always been suspicion among the Aiel ranks that the Aes Sedai were behind what happened next. Rand sharing the truth about Rhuidean prevented a conspiracy theory culture from forming among the Aiel. By having the debate openly, Rand largely removes the concern about Aes Sedai influence and he guarantees that the Aiel who fall in behind him are *really* behind him.
It’s hard to put myself into the shoes of the Aiel who cannot handle the truth of their people’s past. The people in my society do not wrap their identities up in ideas of honor. Their identities were ripped away from them.
Something else from this chapter that I really enjoyed: When Moiraine is trying to get Rand to let either herself, or Lan, into the Golden Bowl with him, Rand tells her no and says that the Maidens carry his honor. You can feel the bond between Rand and the Maidens being forged in that moment. The drinking ceremonies are one thing, but defying an Aes Sedai openly, in that way, is something much bigger. Rand is choosing to make them *his* people and give them his trust. It is significant on a personal level and on a political level.
Before he goes into the Bowl, Egwene attempts to show sympathy to Rand and let him know he has a friend, but she is kind of blocked in this effort to convey a personal appeal by Moiraine who interjects and makes it a group appeal. Rand increasingly sees Egwene as an Aes Sedai, rather than as a friend from his village, but a lot of her behavior – objectively – looks like someone who loves Rand trying to reach out to him. I wonder how much of Egwene’s efforts to talk to Rand have been blocked? The Wise Ones want Rand to bond with Aviendha, not Egwene, and Moiraine may have reasons of her own. I still maintain that Egwene loves Rand, romantically. There have been a lot of subtle hints of that since their break-up. Rand, on the other hand, has definitely moved on. Perhaps the Wise Ones are protecting Egwene from that truth by keeping her away from Rand and his dreams (lest she see him having a tawdry swimming excursion with Min, Elayne, Aviendha, or Lanfear.)
I am a fan of Lanfear as a character. She’s my favorite of the Forsaken by a wide margin so far. Her plans and her allegiances feel opaque and layered. She is almost always a step ahead of everyone. So it was significant that I don’t think she knew about Asmodean’s plans with Couladin and that she doesn’t know what Asmodean is after in Rhuidean. I don’t think she liked coming out into the open with Rand, but she knew that she better send Rand after Asmodean or else risk the consequences of what Asmodean might have schemed up. I wouldn’t want to say that the Daughter of the Night was desperate (never!) – but it was definitely very important to her that Rand break away from what he was doing and go chase after the bigger problem. Stopping Asmodean is in her self-interest because she does not want him going to the Dark One, or the other Chosen, and telling them about her plans to help teach Rand how to channel. She also knows she *needs* Asmodean to teach Rand to channel because there is nobody else who can. Whatever her big picture scheme might be with Rand, it requires Rand learning to channel properly, first. She is on the cusp of a major personal defeat.
The next chapter is the last one. Let’s see what happens!
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