Reading The Wheel of Time: Rand and Lan Defeat Their Enemies, But Lose to a Roof in Winter’s Heart (Part 21)

This week in Reading The Wheel of Time, Rand decides to give up his hunt for the renegade Asha’man and move on, hopefully with Cadsuane at his side. And of course, that is exactly when he finally gets a lead on where they are—and this time, being ta’veren may have nothing to do with it.

Rand waits in the common room of an inn, hoping to catch sight of a patron whose description somewhat matches Torval’s. Listening to the merchants, he hears gossip about the world. There is mention of a body found blackened and swollen, allegedly burned by the Counsel, and one merchant claims that the Stone of Tear is under siege. Rand is confident that Merana and Rafela can deal with the Tairens.

It has been a week since Rand killed Rochaid and Kisman. In Rand’s head, Lews Therin moans that they should leave, or at least ride out beyond the boundary to feel the Source again. Nynaeve and Alivia have been doing so from time to time, accompanied by Min, but Rand has never gone with them. He tells himself he can and must endure the absence of the Source a little longer, so that he can kill the men who tried to kill him.

That is not the reason! Lews Therin shouted, forcing past Rand’s efforts to shut him up. You are afraid! If the sickness takes you while you are trying to use the access ter’angreal, it could kill you, or worse! It could kill us all! he moaned.

Rand refuses to admit that he is afraid, and repeats to himself that he is here to kill the men who tried to kill him. If the sickness passes by the time he leaves, that would be nice.

The man Rand is waiting for does not turn out to be Torval, and he makes his way out into the street. He doesn’t try any other inns, only pausing when he encounters a short woman coming down the street towards him and realizes that it’s Verin.

Verin mentions that Cadsuane is out riding with Nynaeve and the others, then tells Rand that there is news: The Seanchan have crossed the border into Illian, and are building camps and fortifications along the coast and inland. Rand feels sick, thinking of how many men died for nothing. He asks Verin if she thinks Cadsuane would listen to him if he came to her. Verin remarks that Cadsuane doesn’t suffer fools, but if Rand can show her that he is not a fool, Cadsuane will listen. Rand asks Verin to relay a message asking Cadsuane to be his advisor, agreeing to her terms and apologizing for his behavior in Cairhien. She gives him instructions to come to the Barsalla palace that evening, and remarks that Rand could hardly do better for an advisor. As she leaves, Lews Therin murmurs that Verin frightens him, and Rand agrees.

Back in the Counsel’s Head, Rand tells Lan of his intention to leave the next day, as he can’t keep waiting forever to find them; there is too much going on in the rest of the world that he doesn’t know about because he is here instead. Lan points out that you can never know everything.

When questioned, Lan admits that Nynaeve and Alivia have asked Cadsuane to teach them, and that Min hoped they could catch Cadsuane’s interest themselves on Rand’s behalf. Lan believes that Cadsuane treats Nynaeve like a novice or an Accepted rather than a full sister, and hopes that Rand will understand what a sacrifice Nynaeve has made for him. Rand replies that Cadsuane treats everyone as if they were novices.

When Min, Alivia, and Nynaeve join them, Rand tells them he knows about Cadsuane. He thanks Nynaeve for whatever she has gone through on his behalf, promising she won’t have to anymore. They discuss Cadsuane a little, and Rand is a little disturbed by the women’s feelings on the matter.

Rand exchanged glances with Lan, who shrugged slightly and took another drink. Rand exhaled slowly. Nynaeve had differences with Cadsuane she could work out with time, Min saw a strict aunt in the woman, and Alivia a strict teacher. The first would cause sparks to fly until it was worked out, if he knew Nynaeve, and the last two he did not want. But he was stuck with them. He took another swallow of wine himself.

Nynaeve tells Rand that Cadsuane explained to her what her ter’angreal can do. Her belt is actually a well that she can fill with saidar to be used whenever she wishes, even inside Far Madding. Rand is alarmed to learn that Cadsuane’s hair charms are ter’angreal, too, and that probably one of them is a well like Nynaeve’s. He doesn’t like knowing that Cadsuane is able to channel here.

The innkeeper brings Min a note that was left for her “husband,” and reads it before Rand can. She tries to destroy the letter before Rand can read it, but he intercepts it.

I know who you are, and I wish you well, but I also wish you gone from Far Madding. The Dragon Reborn leaves death and destruction where he steps. I now know why you are here, too. You killed Rochaid, and Kisman also is dead. Torval and Gedwyn have taken the top floor above a bootmaker named Zeram on Blue Carp Street, just above the Illian Gate. Kill them and go, and leave Far Madding in peace.

Later, in their room, Min tries to point out that the note is obviously a trap, but Rand only argues that a trap isn’t really a trap if you know that it is a trap. Still, he promises not to go near it unless he can figure out how to spring the trap without getting caught. Min demands why Nynaeve isn’t stopping this, and Nynaeve responds that sometimes you have to trust your Warder’s judgment.

When the others have left, Min tells Alivia that men don’t always think with their brains, and that she is going to go find Cadsuane. Alivia agrees to go with her.

In Carp street, Rand catches sight of his quarry entering the shop, despite their attempts to keep their face covered. Rand asks Nynaeve to use the Power to lift them up to the rooftop, and Nynaeve is reluctant, complaining that she thought she would be going with them. Then she realizes that this is not going to be a great adventure, but rather an execution, and she grows thoughtful and serious.

She uses saidar to lift first Rand, then Lan up onto the tiled rooftop. Once Nynaeve has gone, they slip inside via a trapdoor and down into the building. They pass through the attic and down into the top floor where Rand is shocked to find Torval and Gedwyn lying dead, their faces horribly swollen and blackened, and Rand realizes instantly that Fain is the one who sent the letter.

They hurry into the next room and are immediately drawn into combat with Fain and Toram Riatin. Rand’s wounds suddenly burn with fire and cold, and it takes all his strength to concentrate on the fight. Fain flees out into the stairway, and Rand follows. Arguing with himself, Fain uses some power to conjure up an image of Torval and Gedwyn to confuse Rand, but Rand attacks with his sword, cutting Fain’s face and making the illusion disappear.

Fain flees, and Lan appears in time to stop Rand from chasing him. He warns Rand that the street is filling up with Guards. They leave the way they came, heading up to the roof with the intent of crossing from rooftop to rooftop until they reach one low enough to jump to the street from. But when they reach the tiled roof Lan slips, and as Rand catches his hand they are both dragged towards, and over, the edge. Rand is left clinging to the roof with one hand and Lan dangling from the other.

“Let go,” Lan said quietly. He looked up at Rand, his eyes cold and hard, no expression on his face. “Let go.”

“When the sun turns green,” Rand told him. If he could just pull the other man up a little, enough to catch the eave…

Whatever his fingers had caught broke with a sharp snap, and the alley rushed up to meet them.

A trap isn’t really a trap if you know it’s a trap? Rand. Buddy. Did you learn nothing from Sammael?

He broke his promise to Min, as well: He didn’t even try to see what kind of trap might be waiting for him and just went right in. If Rand truly believed that the letter was a trap, then he must have assumed that it was sent by Torval, Gedwyn and Kisman themselves, hoping to lure him within their reach. After all, they have all come to Far Madding to kill him, and although the letter states that Kisman is dead, Rand might well have assumed this was a ruse and part of the trap. He only connects the bloated corpse he heard the merchants talking about with Kisman once he sees that Fain has murdered the other two, and who else would be setting a trap for him, if not the men who chased him here to kill him?

Well, there’s other guy who chased him here to kill him. And the other, other guy, who Rand doesn’t know about yet.

The bloated corpse of Kisman also should have tipped me off that Fain was in town. For that matter, the way Kisman’s hand and arm blackened after he was slashed should have. But since Isam-Luc has also been using a poison dagger, and since he’s also in Far Madding and feeling possessive over killing Rand, I think my confusion was somewhat understandable. When he was stabbed, Kisman thought that he might be able to be Healed if he could get out of Far Madding fast enough, which could have been true if the assassin had been Luc-Isam. But not with Mordeth-Fain’s attack. The Shadar Logoth dagger deals a death far beyond any channeler’s ability to Heal; Flinn was only able to stop the wound from killing Rand because the wound from Ishamael was already there, and because he was somehow able to seal the wound off from the rest of Rand. Stabilization, but not healing.

There is something very interesting about the entrance of Luc-Isam into the narrative, giving us yet another character who is two people in one body. Having him and Fain and Rand all in one place really draws attention to their similarities. I think I’d like to explore this theme in a separate essay, so stand by for that in the coming weeks. For now, I’ll just note that it feels significant that both Fain and Luc are here, now, as Rand grapples with the question of revenge and whether or not it truly matters to him.

Rand has been telling himself that his focus on killing the renegade Asha’man was only for practical reasons, that he wasn’t motivated by emotion or a desire for revenge, but that clearly wasn’t true. Rand takes the Asha’man’s failings as seriously as he takes his own, because he is treating them the same way that he treats himself. He demands that they become weapons, wants only for them to know how to kill and how to be as cold and hard as he believes he himself must be. I can imagine that, in addition to all the dangers a renegade Asha’man poses to Rand and to the world, Rand also takes their failure to live up to those standards very personally. How dare they fail in a way that he himself cannot afford to? 

I imagine, too, that Rand’s fear that he cannot trust any of the Asha’man could easily turn to anger when it’s proven true. I was also wondering if he wanted revenge because of the danger Min was put in during the attack on the Sun Palace. However, that can’t have been very much on his mind or it would have been weighed against Fain’s actions. Instead, Rand is reminded what things are truly personal. When compared with Fain’s attacks on the Two Rivers and the wound he dealt Rand, these Asha’man are just other darkfriends, and Rand is able to actually see them as the impersonal problems he has been claiming to himself they are.

It is Lews Therin who sees the other truth Rand is denying to himself—that Rand hopes to stay in Far Madding long enough for his sickness to abate. He told himself he needed to kill the Asha’man so that they won’t interfere with his attempts to cleanse saidin, but they are no more a threat than the other darkfriends and Forsaken who might (as we will see next week) try to stop him, and they are probably less of a threat than Rand making a mistake as he performs this dangerous, entirely theoretical form of channeling. 

I guess Nynaeve doesn’t know about Far Madding’s special ter’angreal that knows when and where people channel nearby, so I suppose she can’t be blamed for not realizing there would be consequences for using the saidar from her well in a place where channeling shouldn’t be possible. It’s a bit ironic, though, given how much she has just learned about her own ter’angreal. The belt is a well where she can store saidar, which is very practical and useful. The bracelet covers the wearer in armor—power-wrought armor, presumably. But there is also the ring that can detect someone channeling saidar or saidin, just as the large ovals will have detected her channeling the moment she picked Rand up to put him on that roof.

And oh boy, the foreshadowing of Rand slipping a little as he was set down. The second I read that, I knew someone was going to fall. I wasn’t sure if it would be one of our heroes or one of the bad guys, but I knew it was going to be someone.

And oh, Rand loves Lan so much. Lan has always been there for him, even in the beginning when Rand was still learning to trust him and Moiraine. He taught Rand to use a sword, a skill which Rand values as much as he values being able to channel, I think. Lan also gave him advice on how to speak to and carry himself before the Amyrlin Seat, and advice on how to manage his relationships and what it means to be a man like they are. Granted, I personally don’t think the latter piece of advice was as helpful or good for Rand as the others, but Rand values it very much, and he knows that Lan’s intention was to guide and protect him.

I think Rand has always felt that Lan is on his side, and even now, he seems to more or less implicitly trust Lan’s intentions. Even after Lan was initially on his guard around Rand, they seem to have settled back into a comfortable understanding together. Rand seems to trust Lan’s intentions as well as anyone’s, perhaps almost as much as he trusts Min, Elayne or Aviendha. And for all that he has tried to make himself hard, the instincts towards that coldness aren’t actually there yet. It doesn’t even cross his mind that his death by falling off the roof would spell doom for the world. It doesn’t seem to occur to him at all to weigh those consequences against the much smaller consequences of Lan’s death. Let me go, Lan says, and Rand responds that he will do so when the sun turns green.

It’s a really moving moment, especially since Rand has upped his internal narrative about how hard he needs to be. He tells himself he must be as cold as a winter’s heart, but he is letting people in, here and there. The bond with Elayne, Aviendha, and Min allows him to feel their love and care for him, to feel their emotions. I imagine that in many ways that might serve as a tether, of sorts—a reminder of human emotion and feeling. Rand can never truly be alone, now, especially if one or more of them is near to him.

All this won’t stop him from trying to harden himself further, of course, as we will see next week. And maybe, too, he sees that ice in Lan and recognizes the two of them as being the same, just as Min recognizes the same coldness in both of their eyes, further strengthening the bond between them.

Speaking of bonds, I enjoyed seeing Min’s reaction to Nynaeve calling Lan her Warder. There is a strange interplay here, for those who both love and are bonded to someone. Min’s reaction is defensive over what she has, as she remarks to herself that Lan and Nynaeve aren’t actually bonded to each other—Lan isn’t Nynaeve’s Warder, for all that he is behaving as one, and they don’t share the kind of connection Min has with Rand. Nynaeve, having never bonded anyone before, can’t even know what such an experience is like, so it makes sense that Min would be a little protective over the thing she shares with Rand—a thing that is wonderful and rare and also very new to her.

At the same time, she is jealous of what Nynaeve has with Lan that Min does not. Nynaeve and Lan are married, despite Lan’s death wish and despite the fact that he is bonded to someone else. Min is right that she may never be able to marry Rand. She could probably have an Aiel wedding, but I don’t think there are any other nations which would allow Rand to marry more than one of his women. Perhaps an Aiel marriage would content, but it might not feel the same as a marriage by laws and customs from her own culture.

Min may also be aware that Nynaeve is likely to receive Lan’s bond some day, to be his Aes Sedai and to have him as her Warder. Min, on the other hand, isn’t an Aes Sedai, and she only has this bond because someone else created it for her. And after all, Rand and Lan only took Nynaeve with them because she is Aes Sedai; Min may ultimately have been more helpful to them both, but she had to do that from a distance and turn to yet another Aes Sedai for help.

It’s so funny watching everyone try to attract Cadsuane’s attention, knowing that they are all falling for her trick. Making Rand come to her is such a smart move, and I’m impressed how effortlessly she pivoted once she learned of Min’s viewing. She was clearly interested in Rand before that: He knew well enough that she wasn’t just coming to the Palace every day to hang out and visit other Aes Sedai—yet all it took was a little bit of acting on her part and Alanna’s insistence that Cadsuane doesn’t care about him to shift Rand from practically believing Cadsuane was after him to believing he somehow had to chase her down.

Probably the most effective part of Cadsuane’s ruse was making Alanna believe that she wasn’t interested. I don’t know how she managed that, exactly, but having Alanna say so in flat terms seems to have had a strong effect on Rand—so much so that Cadsuane doesn’t seem to make him much more nervous than any other strong Aes Sedai would.

Verin, on the other hand, frightens him. This was an interesting revelation, especially because I myself am so suspicious of Verin and her true motives and allegiances. It’s possible that Rand is picking up on Verin’s act, on the subterfuge she uses to disguise what she is really doing and how much she really knows. Even if it was only subconsciously, noticing this would certainly give Rand bad vibes. In addition, Lews Therin is picking up on them as well. I always wonder how many of Lews Therin’s feelings and opinions are his own, and how many are influenced by Rand. There certainly seems to be an interplay and exchange between the two personalities and their feelings. Lews Therin’s guilt over Ilyena’s death appears to influence how Rand feels when women die at his hand or in his service, or even in manners that aren’t his fault but couldn’t prevent. Also, his anger and Rand’s anger often seem to echo and build upon each other. Perhaps he is suspicious of Verin because Rand is; perhaps his suspicion of Aes Sedai is fed by Rand’s own, too.

Next week we’ll see that Lews Therin has been affected by Rand’s time at the hands of Galina and the others: He suffers from the same claustrophobic PTSD that Rand does. Perhaps this is because he experiences the same physical realities as Rand—he often refers to Rand as the madman in his head, which implies that he at least believes that he is mostly in control of the body they both inhibit—or perhaps his mind is absorbing Rand’s trauma just as Rand’s is absorbing his. They are the same soul, after all. It makes sense.

I like Cadsuane very much, even though her treatment of Rand makes me want to defend him. I’ll be very interested to see how her training Nynaeve goes. It feels very relevant that Nynaeve isn’t more openly angry at having to deal with Cadsuane’s treatment. I think it speaks to real growth on the part of the former Wisdom, ass does her realization about how serious and unromantic the hunt for Torval and Gedwyn actually is. I’d love to see Nynaeve learn just a little bit of Aes Sedai poise and self confidence, and I think Cadsuane is the perfect person to teach it to her.

Alivia is quickly becoming a fascinating character. It’s interesting to see how her perspective on things differs from the rest of the group. She may hate the Seanchan for enslaving her, but some of her sensibilities are still bound to be shaped by that culture. The way she noticed that Nynaeve was satisfied when Cadsuane didn’t know everything about one of the ter’angreal and couldn’t understand how Nynaeve could be satisfied with ignorance is one great example. It reminded me a lot of the cultural confusion Aviendha has around Nynaeve’s behavior.

Alivia was a slave for many years; her sense if pride and identity will of course be shaped by that. The Seanchan already value competence to a very high degree; for the damane, it is one of the few ways they can distinguish themselves as individuals. Alivia would never understand how Nynaeve might be satisfied or comforted by the fact that Cadsuane isn’t all-knowing; one damane’s ignorance of failure would never elevate another. Indeed, Alivia seems largely ignorant of the complexities of human emotion, which makes sense, given how much humanity has been denied her. She would understand the basics, but psychology would of course elude her—and Nynaeve’s psyche is a bit twisted to follow for most people, to be fair.

Next week is the big grand finale, with Cadsuane rescuing Lan and Rand from imprisonment and Rand and Nynaeve tackling the most important action of the Age. And of course, no big endeavor would be complete without a battle, which proved to be very interesting in a number of ways.

In the meantime, I will try not to think about the fact that every room in the Counsel’s Head has a bdsm whip in it. Min can act like it’s just a normal strap for “normal” punishment, but I know better. Just… wow. icon-paragraph-end

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