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Reading The Wheel of Time: A Series of Ambushes in Robert Jordan’s The Fires of Heaven (Part 33)


Reading The Wheel of Time: A Series of Ambushes in Robert Jordan’s The Fires of Heaven (Part 33)

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Reading The Wheel of Time: A Series of Ambushes in Robert Jordan’s The Fires of Heaven (Part 33)


Published on June 22, 2021

Reading The Wheel of Time: The Fires of Heaven

This week in Reading The Wheel of Time, we’re covering Chapter 54, which really doesn’t go the way anyone planned. Rand, Nynaeve, Moghedien… nobody gets what they are expecting, in the World of Dreams or elsewhere.

It’s interesting to watch Rand go after Rahvin this week. We’ll see that he’s a formidable and terrifying opponent, but he hasn’t been built up as an antagonist the way Lanfear has been, or the way Ishamael was before her. So even though the events themselves are intense, it feels less intense and important than the confrontation with Lanfear last week. And Nynaeve is having her turn at a thematic payoff with the culmination of her confrontations with Moghedien.

Granted, what happens to Mat and Aviendha is a really big deal, but more on that on the other side of the recap.

The chapter opens with five hundred of the Maidens following Rand and his party back to the Royal Palace where Bael and the representatives from the other societies are waiting, their numbers filling the courtyard and stretching back into the palace. The only person waiting in the courtyard who is not Aiel is Pevin with Rand’s banner.

Rand is somewhat preoccupied by part of a conversation he overheard between Aviendha and the Wise Ones about how “much depends on you both” and something about how it would be easier if Aviendha had succeeded by now. After Sorilea remarked that women in her day knew how to handle men, Amys started to explain how Aviendha has been more successful than they realize. But then they noticed Rand eavesdropping and gave him those black Wise One stares, and Mat remarked that the Car’a’carn was going to get his ears singed if he waited around there much longer.

Rand ponders it over as he helps Aviendha down from his horse.

So what was she supposed to be successful at? Plots all around him. Was everyone scheming? He could see his face in her eyes. Who had given her that silver necklace?

“I like canoodling as much as the next man,” Mat said, “but don’t you think there are a few too many people watching?”

Aviendha and Rand quickly release each other, and Rand goes over to remind Bael that he doesn’t know how many of the Aiel he can actually take. Bael responds that every spear that can follow Rand will do so, and asks after “the two Aes Sedai.” Rand tells him they aren’t coming, and thinks to himself that Lan is right: Women find pain and death when they are near him. Bael has heard there was trouble by the river, and Rand responds tiredly that it was a great victory, with much honor earned. He asks if the whole palace knows that they’re going.

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“I heard,” Pevin said. His jaw worked, chewing for more words. Rand had found him a replacement for his patched country coat, good red wool, and the man had had Dragons embroidered on it, one climbing either side of his chest. “That you were going. Somewhere.” That seemed to exhaust his store.

Rand considers how rumors grow in the Royal Palace, and that it doesn’t matter as long as Rahvin hasn’t found out. He takes hold of saidin, summoning a gateway.

Four paces was as large as Rand could make it. There were limits for one man by himself, Asmodean claimed; it seemed there were always limits. The amount of saidin you drew did not matter. The One Power had little to do with gateways, really; only the making. Beyond, was something else. A dream of a dream, Asmodean called it.

Stepping into the darkness, Rand experiments with making the largest platform he can; his initial attempt makes it as large as the courtyard, but when he tries to extend it he finds that his boots are starting to sink into the surface. He wonders if the limit is always that large, or if it cannot be made bigger than the size he initially pictured.

We all make our limits. The thought slid up surprisingly from somewhere. And we set them further out than we have any right.

Rand shivers at the reminder that Lews Therin is still inside him, and turns back to the stone-faced Aiel, and equally stone-faced Pevin. Mat mutters something about dice under his breath, but Asmodean quietly observes that Rand’s results are “quite impressive.” Aviendha tells him to flatter Rand some other time and steps through.

She walks all the way out to where Rand is standing at the far end of the platform, her eyes fixed to his face. Then she turns her back to him to look out into the darkness. Bael, Pevin, Mat, and Asmodean are next, followed by Sulin, and then a stream of Aiel. Rand warns them to stay away from the edge, and it takes a moment before the Aiel outside the gateway will admit that the platform is full. Once the gateway is clear, Rand closes it, and Mat curses as the light disappears.

There is no sense of motion, but Rand can feel his destination growing closer. Asmodean warns that Rahvin will sense it if they come out too close to him, but Rand knows where he is going. After about half an hour there’s a slight stirring among the Aiel, and when Rand asks he learns that someone fell. Rand wonders what it would be like to fall like that, whether sanity would crack before you died of thirst or fear, and knows that it will bother him more if it was a Maiden who fell. He tells himself that he will be hard, and let the Maidens fight, but he also knows that he will search out the name of every Maiden who dies.

Somehow, Rand knows when the platform has stopped. He opens another gateway just outside the wall to the garden where he first met Elayne.

Blue eyes floated accusingly outside the Void, the darting memory of kisses stolen in Tear, the memory of a letter laying her heart and soul at his feet, of messages borne by Egwene professing love. What would she say if she ever learned about Aviendha, about that night together in the snow hut? Memory of another letter, icily spurning him, a queen condemning a swineherd to outer darkness.

He thinks that it doesn’t matter, not after what Lan said, but he still can’t help wondering what he really wants as he thinks of Elayne’s eyes and Aviendha’s and Min’s.

He has to stand on the platform until everyone else has stepped into Caemlyn, since his presence is what maintains it. The Aiel spread out through the streets, hurrying to capture any passerby that might sound the alarm, but Rand notices almost at once that there isn’t anyone in the streets at all. A moment later the wall behind him explodes, showering them with rocks and the bodies of some of the Aiel who had begun to climb it. Trollocs and Myrddraal come pouring out of the opening, as well as from the doorways of the buildings, and lightning stabs down at them from the sky.

Rand channels to meet the attack, forming another shield, but he can’t spread it out fully in time to meet every lightning blast. Some strike home, electrifying the air and nearly blinding him.

Almost he lost the weave, almost the Void itself, but he wove what he could not see through eyes still filled with coruscating light, spread the shield against bolts from the heavens that he could at least feel hammering at it. Hammering to reach him, but that could change.

He makes a dome that covers half the Inner City and then ties it off. As his vision returns he can see Aiel shakily taking out Myrddraal and Trollocs who were just as stunned by the lightning strike as any of Rand’s followers. But Rand doesn’t have eyes for that, or for the new waves of Trollocs pouring towards him.

There had been more than one bolt in that first volley, but not all had been aimed at him. Mat’s smoking boots lay a dozen paces from where Mat himself sprawled on his back. Tendrils of smoke rose from the black haft of his spear, too, from his coat, even from the silver foxhead, hanging out of his shirt, that had not saved him from a man’s channeling. Asmodean was a twisted shape of char, recognizable only from the blackened harpcase still strapped to his back. And Aviendha… Unmarked, she could have laid down to rest—if she could have rested staring unblinking at the sun.

Rand hears himself shout Rahvin’s name, and he seems to be deeper in the Void than ever before. He can feel saidin raging through him, and doesn’t care if it destroys him or that the taint is seeping through everything. When two Trollocs make it past the Aiel, Rand smiles and they burst into flame. He opens a gateway right in the middle of them, slicing them through as he stares through it into a great hall.

…a large man with wings of white in his dark hair started up in surprise from a gilded throne. A dozen men, some dressed as lords, some in breastplates, turned to see what their master was looking at.

Rand barely noticed them. “Rahvin,” he said. Or someone did. He was not sure who.

He sends fire and lighting before him as he steps through.

Meanwhile, Nynaeve and Siuan are standing in the Tel’aran’rhiod version of Salidar. Nynaeve is trying to teach Siuan how to control things in the Dream, and they are both getting increasingly angry as Nynaeve barks at Siuan to concentrate and Siuan’s clothes keep changing without her seeming to notice. Siuan complains about the sleeping draught that Nynaeve gave her; Nynaeve is angry about lots of things, including how frustrating it has been teaching Sheriam and the others while always being reminded that she’s an Accepted and beneath them and being sent to scrub pots every time she forgets the fact. She’s also annoyed that she’s had very little time to investigate stilling and gentling, even though Logain has been more cooperative than Siuan and Leane. Worse than either of these things, however, is the fact that Faolain has been raised to “something more than Accepted.” She can’t be fully raised to Aes Sedai without the oath rod, but in the meantime she can now wear any dress she chooses and has been given more authority, which means that Nynaeve has been sent on all sorts of pointless errands. Still, there is something that has Nynaeve even more upset than any of these things, and Siuan puts her finger on it after observing that Nynaeve has been decent company until today.

Siuan asks if Nynaeve’s work with Theodrin on overcoming her block is the reason she is so irritable now, and reminds Nynaeve that Theodrin was a wilder too, and if anyone can help Nynaeve with her block, it’s her. Nynaeve responds by asking if Siuan’s in her own foul mood because of the response she got from Gareth Bryne after she hurled his boots at his head. She’s just going into detail about what Bryne did when Siuan slaps her fully in the face.

Nynaeve stares at the other woman for a moment, and then they descend into a fully-fledged brawl, rolling in the dirt as they kick and punch and try to pull each other’s hair out. And then suddenly Nynaeve realizes that Siuan is shaking with laughter, and demands to know what she’s laughing at. Siuan replies that she’s laughing at the two of them, rolling on the ground around like children. She gets to her feet, brushing dust from her dress, and tells Nynaeve that they can settle their disagreements like adult women.

Nynaeve considers what she would have done back when she was Wisdom, if she’d caught two women behaving this way, and notes that Siuan still doesn’t understand that you don’t have to brush off your clothes in Tel’aran’rhiod. She quickly stops fixing her braid with her fingers and changes her image to be neat and tidy again, agreeing that if they have disagreements they can discuss them. Siuan observes that Nynaeve probably means that they’ll shout at each other, and they are about to start into another argument when Nynaeve catches sight of a face in a window. It’s just for a moment, but she quickly tells Siuan that it’s time to go back.

Siuan is immediately convinced that Nynaeve is trying to shortchange her on teaching time, and demands to get just as much as Sheriam and the others while Nynaeve internally panics about getting away without letting Moghedien—if it was Moghedien—know that she’s been spotted. When Siuan won’t listen, Nynaeve makes a snap decision and reaches out to yank the stone ring ter’angreal off her neck. The chain holding it there breaks and Siuan vanishes, then the ring melts away as well.

For an instant she stared at her empty fingers. What happened to someone sent out of Tel’aran’rhiod like that? Had she sent Siuan back to her sleeping body? Or to somewhere else? To nowhere?

Then she realizes that she’s just standing there and she flees to Jurene, in Cairhien, to the docks where she and Elayne had boarded the Darter on their way to Tear. It seems like a lifetime ago, and Nynaeve realizes that she chose this place she knew well enough to leap to that Moghedien couldn’t possibly know about. But that doesn’t explain why she didn’t just step out of the Dream entirely.

I can still step out. Moghedien had seen her in Salidar, if that had been Moghedien. Moghedien knew Salidar now. I can tell Sheriam. How? Admit she was teaching Siuan? She was not supposed to have her hands on those ter’angreal except with Sheriam and the other Aes Sedai. How Siuan got hold of them when she wanted, Nynaeve did not know.

She thinks, again, about how tired she is of being afraid. That is why she came here instead of waking; she’s tired of being angry and afraid, and too angry to think clearly. She can’t face Moghedien when she’s using the amber sleeping woman to maintain her presence in Tel’aran’rhiod; the weakest novice in Salidar could match what strength Nynaeve has here.

She tells herself that she will have to face Sheriam with the truth, even though it means punishment and revealing what she’s been teaching Siuan. Even though it means they might never let her near another ter’angreal again, or worse.

“Light, they will give me to Faolain. I’d almost rather die!”

“But you seem to enjoy running little errands for her.”

Nynaeve jumps up from the bench to see Moghedien standing in the street. She tries to put a shield between the Forsaken and saidar, but it’s so weak that Moghedien smiles at her before casually cutting through the weave.

Nynaeve stared at her as though poleaxed. After everything it came down to this. The One Power, useless. All the anger bubbling inside her, useless. All her plans, her hopes, useless. Moghedien did not bother to strike back. She did not even bother to channel a shield of her own. That was how much contempt she had.

Channeling lazily, Moghedien observes that she’s not sure Nynaeve is even worth training after all, or the former Amyrlin for that matter. But as she cannot let Nynaeve betray her, she supposes it’s time to collect her. Suddenly Birgitte appears, looking exactly as she always had in Tel’aran’rhiod, shocking both Nynaeve and Moghedien into a moment’s hesitation. But Moghedien’s shock only lasts a moment, and then she disintegrates the arrow Birgitte fires at her and immobilizes the archer, pulling her up off the ground.

She asks Birgitte how she likes her flesh without Gaidal Cain, and Nynaeve wildly contemplates what she can do to help Birgitte. Nothing she can channel would even touch the woman, however, and she tells herself that she might as well not be able to channel at all. She only has herself.

She’s already near to tears, seeing Birgitte hanging in the air before Moghedien. She makes herself take a step forward, begging Moghedien not to hurt her.

Suddenly Birgitte disappears, and in her place is little girl playing with a silver toy bow. Nynaeve drops to her knees, crawling towards Moghedien, still begging, and Moghedien looks down at her, observing that she thought Nynaeve was stronger than this but that she quite enjoys the sight of Nynaeve on her knees. She tells her not to get any closer, though.

Nynaeve’s hand wavered a span from Moghedien. It had to be close enough. There was only her. And Tel’aran’rhiod. The image formed in her head, and there it was, silver bracelet on her outstretched wrist, silver leash linking it to the silver collar around Moghedien’s neck. It was not just the a’dam she fixed in her head, but Moghedien wearing it, Moghedien and the a’dam, a part of Tel’aran’rhiod that she held in the form she wanted.

As the a’dam takes form, Nynaeve becomes as aware of Moghedien as she is of her own body. And, just as Elayne had claimed, the a’dam is a link to the True Source through Moghedien.

She can feel Moghedien’s rage and horror as she tries to pull off the a’dam, tries to channel the a’dam away. But suppressing Moghedien’s attempt to change Tel’aran’rhiod is easy through the a’dam, and Nynaeve fixes the image in her mind so that she doesn’t just think Moghedien is bound, she knows it. When Moghedien keeps trying to fight her Nynaeve gives her the sensation of being brushed with nettles, and promises to do worse.

“That,” Birgitte said, “was the most frightening thing that has ever happened to me.” Herself once more, she wore the short coat and wide trousers, but she had no bow or quiver. “I was a child, but at the same time, what was me—really me—was just some fancy floating in the back of that child’s mind. And I knew it. I knew I was just going to watch what happened and play…”

She gives Moghedien a hard look, then, at Nynaeve’s prompting, explains that Siuan woke up for a moment, grumbling that Nynaeve snatched the ring from her. When Nynaeve didn’t wake up too, Birgitte realized something was wrong, and was able to take the ring and some leftover sleeping draught and came in after Nynaeve. She was able to sense two people who were aware that they were in Tel’aran’rhiod; in some ways using the ring feels very similar to actually being a part of the Dream World.

Nynaeve feels a wave of shame and hesitantly admits that she almost ran away and left Birgitte.

“Oh?” Nynaeve writhed inside as Birgitte considered her. “But you did not, did you? I should have loosed before I called out, but I’ve never felt comfortable shooting anyone from behind. Even her. Still, it all worked out. But what do we do with her now?”

Moghedien is watching them with apparent physical calm, but Nynaeve can feel her fear and panic through the a’dam, even as Moghedien reminds her that she can be useful, that she has spied on the Chosen and can tell Nynaeve many secrets. Nynaeve instructs her to tell everything and then she’ll decide what’s useful.

Moghedien starts hinting about Lanfear, Graendal, Rahvin and Sammael plotting together, that they’re baiting him to attack Sammael so as to trap him… that is, if he lives long enough to get to Sammael.

Nynaeve uses the leash to pull her close, telling Moghedien that she knows she’s trying to hint and stall, pretending to be cooperative until Nynaeve makes a slip. She promises Moghedien that if she isn’t completely truthful, Nynaeve will do everything to her that Moghedien promised to do to Nynaeve. It’s partly a bluff—Nynaeve knows she can only keep Moghedien prisoner as long as they all stay in the Dream, and using the a’dam still makes her skin crawl, but she can feel Moghedien’s fear and dread and thinks that perhaps Moghedien believes that Nynaeve can read her mind through the a’dam.

In a rush, Moghedien tells them that Rand is going after Rahvin because he believes he killed Morgase. Moghedien doesn’t know if he did or not, but she knows that Rahvin has always been suspicious of the plot to bait Rand, afraid it might be some double-cross trap for himself, and has Warded all of Caemlyn so that he’ll know if a man channels so much as a spark. Moghedien is certain that Rand will walk blindly into it, and probably has already.

She starts insisting she had nothing to do with it, and Nynaeve uses the link to channel a gag and block Moghedien’s ears. Then she turns to Birgitte, who observes that Elayne’s heart will break at the news. Nynaeve promises to cry with her and mean every tear, but right now she needs to know if Moghedien is telling the truth. Birgitte believes that she is—Moghedien isn’t very brave when she doesn’t have the upper hand and Nynaeve certainly put the fear of the Light into her.

Nynaeve grimaced. Birgitte’s every word put another bubble of anger in her belly. She was never very brave except when she clearly had the upper hand. That could describe herself. She had put the fear of the Light into Moghedien. She had, and she had meant every word when she said it. Boxing somebody’s ears when they needed it was one thing; threatening torture, wanting to torture, even Moghedien, was something else again. And here she was trying to avoid what she knew she had to do.

She tells Birgitte that she has to take Moghedien to Caemlyn, to use Moghedien’s power to help Rand. Birgitte points out that Nynaeve won’t be able to affect anyone in the waking world from Tel’aran’rhiod, and Nynaeve answers that of course she knows, but that she has to do something. Birgitte throws back her head and laughs, teasingly telling Nynaeve that it’s “such an embarrassment being associated with a coward” like her. Then her eyes widen, and she has just enough time to say she thinks she’s waking up before she vanishes.

Nynaeve uses the link to untie the flows around Moghedien and tells her that they are going to take a little trip, and that she expects Moghedien to do everything she can to help. Because if anything happens to Nynaeve, it will happen to Moghedien tenfold through the collar.

She takes a deep breath and forms a mental picture of the Royal Palace in Caemlyn. She’ll be in Tel’aran’rhiod, not the waking world. But she has to do something.


(Note: Just in case anyone is doing a first-time read exactly along with me, the following three paragraphs contain a spoiler for Chapter 55)

So, this is one of those moments when reading a book series that has been out for a while has its drawbacks. I do my very best to avoid spoilers, but I do know that Mat and Aviendha are in subsequent books of the series. As a result, I don’t know if I would have believed that they were really gone if I’d been reading the series as it came out, or even if I’d just been reading for fun rather than doing the kind of close read that this series requires. I would have been worried, I’m sure. But since I know Aviendha and Mat (and therefore probably Asmodean too) aren’t going to stay dead, I can see all the clues, both narrative and structural, that they’re going to have a miraculous return.

Ever since Moiraine explained to Rand what balefire can do, I’ve been waiting for its use to reverse someone’s death. The concept is set up so beautifully with Mat and the Darkhounds, the dangers and the possibilities alike. Rand using balefire erased the Darkhound’s existence far enough back in time to save Mat’s life, basically making balefire the Chekhov’s gun of channeling. The results might be bad for the pattern, but if you erase someone back far enough you can erase the murders they committed.

After all, Rand promised Moiraine that he’d be careful when using balefire but not that he’d refrain from using it. And I don’t think he is suffering from an abundance of caution right now.

But let’s rewind to the beginning of the chapter. I kind of forgot that the Wise Ones put Aviendha up to seducing and/or marrying Rand. Since she has her own feelings for him now I’ve been focused on the conflict between her love for Rand and her perceived duty to Elayne; I even forgot about the part where she clearly saw in Rhuidean that she was destined to marry him. But now that the Wise Ones are on my mind again, I am trying to remember exactly what their plan for Rand was. I think, if my memory of The Shadow Rising is right, that they hoped to get Rand to marry Aviendha, or at least an Aiel, in order to make him more one of them—that he would be more invested in their fate if he felt like he was an Aiel by marriage as well as by a newly-discovered bloodline. Ethically it’s pretty upsetting, although that’s also basically what marriage was developed for in our world. I just feel for both of them a lot. Their feelings are complicated enough, their destinies heavy enough, without all this extra stuff.

There’s something about that moment when she’s dismounting and Rand is musing over the Wise Ones’ scheming and how he can feel things for Aviendha and Elayne and Min at the same time. They’re clearly clinging to each other more than the narration states if Mat is going to refer to it as “canoodling.” I had been wondering how Kadere knew what was going on between them (Melindhra couldn’t have told him, as Kadere never figured out who wrote him the note) but maybe it’s kind of obvious to a lot of people.

I loved Aviendha’s “Flatter him some other time, harper,” crack at Asmodean. It’s equally funny whether or not she knows that “Natael” is more than he seems. (I mean, on the one hand it seems a bit unlikely that she knows who he really is, but on the other hand there is that unanswered question as to whether women who can channel can see Lanfear’s shield. And Aviendha is badass enough that I can see her tolerating the presence of one of the Forsaken, given how he’s under Rand’s control. She is Aiel, after all.)

Rand may have accepted that he cannot keep the Maidens out of danger, but he certainly is taking all the credit for their existence. It’s one thing for Rand to feel guilty about how he handled Lanfear, but he’s still on this kick that he is the problem, a danger to all women somehow, when the problem is actually that the fight against the Darkness claims many lives, and Rand stands at the center of that fight. It’s very dangerous for him mentally, this conflation of the two. And if he was able to see that they are different, if adjacent, issues, he might be able to ease up on his guilt a little. But instead he’s making a mental promise to look up the name of every Maiden who dies, just so that he can wallow in it as much as possible.

Again, I have a lot of sympathy for how Rand feels. But so far he’s handling it in a way that’s going to do even more damage to himself, and very possibly to the women he wishes he could protect. He wants to be hard, but he has no idea how to attempt any kind of mental stability, both because that’s not something he was taught, and also probably because of the taint slowly eroding his mind.

This is also the first time we’ve had a hint of the actual content of that second letter Elayne sent Rand. From what the narration recalls for us here, it was actually a lot crueler than I assumed it was. I figured it was just a sort of aloof message reminding Rand that Elayne is her own person and that he’ll have to stay in line if he wants to be with her, not “a queen condemning a swineherd to utter darkness.” No wonder Rand’s confused.

It seems ridiculous that no one (myself included) predicted that Rahvin would have set precautions in place to protect himself from attack. We all know that the Forsaken don’t trust each other, and why should Rahvin wait until he suspects Rand might come after him to set up protections against attack? It’s a reminder, I suppose, that for all Rand’s power and for all he’s learned from Moiraine and from being a leader, his enemies are still far wiser, more experienced, and more self-protective.

I mean, there’s no way three main characters would die in the same book, right? Min has seen that she, Elayne, and Aviendha will all share Rand, and I don’t think that means “for a moment while Rand is away.” Given that Min’s visions are always correct, that means Aviendha can’t die here in Caemlyn. And Mat is part of the ta’veren trifecta which doesn’t guarantee anything in-universe, but from a narrative perspective makes it hard to believe he’d be written off this early in a series that has 14 books. It’d just be a narrative waste. At least for anything that isn’t A Song of Ice and Fire, in which case that’s the whole deal.

I loved everything about Nynaeve’s section. I loved the interaction with Siuan, I loved seeing Birgitte come back into Tel’aran’rhiod, I loved watching Nynaeve find a new way to confront both her demons about Moghedien and her demons about channeling. I also love Theodrin’s name because she sounds like she’s a member of the Rohirrim ruling family. I know nothing about her except that and that she’s a wilder, but I don’t care, I love her now.

The way Siuan and Nynaeve interact when there’s no one else around and they’re on more-or-less equal footing as far as power and status among the Aes Sedai really confirms the feeling I’ve been having the whole time, which is that they are a lot alike and would make good friends. It was really funny watching them take their frustrations towards Bayle and Faolain (respectively) and Sheriam and co. (collectively) out on each other. And although Siuan is still Nynaeve’s superior in terms of experience and self-possession, it was really cool to see their positions reversed when Nynaeve had to take charge and protect Siuan from the threat of Moghedien.

The moment after she snatches the ring, where she wonders what might happen to someone removed from Tel’aran’rhiod that way, was chilling. But it sounds like Siuan is fine, she woke up in the real world and then went back into a normal sleep induced by the draught that Nynaeve gave her. And of course Birgitte went in after Nynaeve. She told Nynaeve that she would run and hide if she thought Moghedien was hunting her. But after all that talk, and even after everything she’s lost at the Spider’s hands, she jumped right back in.

We can see how much Nynaeve still doesn’t understand that bravery is not the absence of fear, but I suppose we can hardly blame her when she’s faced with Birgitte’s evident strength. Nynaeve can’t feel Birgitte’s terror the way she can her own, and Birgitte has such a matter-of-fact way of talking about her own fear that, if I were Nynaeve, I wouldn’t believe her either.

There’s something very similar about Birgitte’s moment with Moghedien and Rand’s hang-ups about killing Lanfear. Birgitte mentions that it would have been smarter to shoot Moghedien before announcing herself, but that she’s never felt comfortable shooting someone in the back, even someone like Moghedien. This is a pretty stark moral code, which one Birgitte almost paid very dearly for. Her feelings about sneak attacks are subjective—one could certainly make a moral argument for shooting Moghedien in the back, given what she’ll do if you don’t take her out quickly. And Birgitte’s choice could have cost Nynaeve her life just as Rand feels his inability to kill Lanfear cost Moiraine hers. But there is still a difference between the two. Birgitte’s code is based on herself, her own identity as someone who doesn’t like to shoot people in the back. Rand’s, however, is based on the identity of others—it hurts him too much to see certain people die because they are a woman.

I don’t mean to harp on this, but it’s hard to not have it come up often because it’s coming up in the narrative so often. To be fair to Rand it’s only been a few hours for him and it’s been a week for me, so it probably feels more repetitive than it actually is.

Mostly I’m just impressed with Birgitte.

And with Nynaeve! She’s come so far in such a short time, and I don’t think she realizes how much she has accomplished. Seeing Siuan struggle with concentration in Tel’aran’rhiod reminded me that Nynaeve had the hardest time with that sort of thing when she and Elayne and Egwene started going into the World of Dreams. Egwene, an actual Dreamwalker, figured it all out the fastest but it was still easier for Elayne than it was for Nynaeve, because Nynaeve is stubborn and not as in control of her own mind as she wants to believe. And yet here we see how well she can control Tel’aran’rhiod now. Well enough to teach it to someone else, well enough to create a perfect replica of the a’dam. It’s a control she managed only after she let Elayne and Birgitte see her grief and fear. She surrendered some of the control she was trying to keep and gained more control and power as a result—and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this is exactly how wielding saidar is supposed to work. Nynaeve starts the section furious about how she’s still not past her block, but I think she’s very close to it, even if she doesn’t realize.

And now she has Moghedien under her control. She doesn’t yet know how she’ll be able to help Rand defeat Rahvin from Tel’aran’rhiod, but in times past Rand has definitely chased other Forsaken through portals and different dimensions and I’m pretty sure he and Ishamael spent some time in the World of Dreams, although Rand didn’t know where he was at the time. If Rahvin retreats into the Dream in his physical form he certainly will be vulnerable to Nynaeve’s Moghedien attack.

But that’s next week’s adventure. For now, I will leave you all with the knowledge that half the time I type The Fires of Heaven I accidentally type “The Fries of Heaven” and it makes me kind of hungry. Mmm, lightning fries.

Oh, nope, now I’m thinking of Asmodean’s charred corpse. I made it gross again.

Sylas K Barrett is getting very excited for the end of the book, and how there are still a few fun reveals left for the reader.

About the Author

Sylas K Barrett


Sylas K Barrett is a queer writer and creative based in Brooklyn. A fan of nature, character work, and long flowery descriptions, Sylas has been heading up Reading the Wheel of Time since 2018. You can (occasionally) find him on social media on Bluesky ( and Instagram (@thatsyguy)
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