Howdy, folks. Welcome back to your thrice-weekly dose of
crack Wheel of Time Re-read. Today we continue with Part 3 of The Great Hunt, covering Chapters 11-17.
Previous entries, as you may have heard, can be found here. I love to see an Index get fatter.
The management would also like to remind you to refrain from reading spoilers, running with scissors, or totally giving yourself away at work by laughing out loud at your desk. We’re only concerned with your safety, people!
Everyone muffled, padded, and armed with caffeine? Ehhhxcellent. Let’s get to it.
Chapter 11: Glimmers of the Pattern
As they make camp, Rand overhears Uno telling Ragan that he saw the same woman in white at the second village as he had at the first. Ingtar comes over to Rand and hands him a large bundle, telling him that Moiraine had instructed him to give it to Rand after they crossed the Erinin. Ingtar also says he was told to tell Rand that if anything happened to him, Ingtar, that Rand was to lead the lances. Rand gapes at him, appalled, and protests that Moiraine can’t tell him who his second is to be. Ingtar agrees, but tells him it was Agelmar, not Moiraine, who gave the order. Rand protests further, saying he’s not equipped to lead men, but Ingtar won’t hear it; it’s clear he thinks Rand is lying about being only a shepherd. He says he knows Rand will do his duty and find the Horn, and walks off.
Rand, with a terrible suspicion that he already knows what’s in the bundle, sneaks off into the trees to open it, and sure enough it’s the Dragon banner. Then Mat storms up, Perrin in tow, snarling about how first it’s fancy coats, and then banners. Then he sees what the banner is, and his jaw drops. Suddenly angry, Rand yells at him that Moiraine wants him to be a false Dragon on Aes Sedai puppet strings, and he won’t do it. Mat backs up, freaked out, but Perrin just studies him a moment, thinking, and then asks if Rand can channel. Rand hesitates and then admits, yes. Mat starts yammering that the Shienarans will kill all three of them, or Rand will go mad and do it for them. Perrin tells him to shut up, but Mat ignores him, asking Rand why they didn’t gentle him. Rand tells him the Amyrlin said he was the Dragon Reborn, but he thinks they are trying to use him. Mat thinks he should have run somewhere far away where no Aes Sedai can find him, and Perrin tells him to shut up again, but concedes that Mat has a point.
Rand shrugged. “I was going, but first the Amyrlin came, and then the Horn was stolen, and the dagger, and Moiraine said Mat was dying, and . . . Light, I thought I could stay with you until we found the dagger, at least; I thought I could help with that. Maybe I was wrong.”
“You came because of the dagger?” Mat said quietly. He rubbed his nose and grimaced. “I never thought of that. I never thought you wanted to . . . Aaaah! Are you feeling all right? I mean, you aren’t going mad already, are you?”
Rand dug a pebble out of the ground and threw it at him.
Mat appreciates the gesture, but says he’ll stay away from Rand from now on, sorry, and leaves. Rand asks Perrin what he’s going to do; Perrin says he doesn’t know, but that if he were Rand, he’d think seriously of running. But then again, he says, sometimes you can’t run. He leaves too. Rand considers burying the banner, but finally packs it back up and goes back to camp. He beds down next to Hurin and Loial; Loial is examining a stone next to their bedrolls with strange markings on it, but Rand isn’t much interested. He falls asleep with the void flickering uneasily around him.
Fain sits by his fire, playing with the ruby dagger and thinking about how he was made into the Dark One’s hound, and then what happened to him in Shadar Logoth. The Trollocs and few remaining Darkfriends squat nearby, watching his every move. He reminisces about how he and the Fade had fought for command before he was “whole”, and then the wonderful moment that he nailed it to the door in the village. Fain instructs the Trollocs to kill and eat the rest of the captive villagers, and leave the remains for their pursuers to find. He lays the dagger on top of the chest holding the Horn, which he has not figured out how to open yet, and thinks about how he can’t feel al’Thor at the moment; sometimes in the keep, he would periodically disappear from Fain’s sense of him, but he always came back. Fain isn’t worried.
“This time you come to me, Rand al’Thor. Before, I followed you like a dog driven on the trail, but now you follow me.” His laughter was a cackle that even he knew was mad, but he did not care. Madness was a part of him, too. “Come to me, al’Thor. The dance is not even begun yet. We’ll dance on Toman Head, and I’ll be free of you. I’ll see you dead at last.”
Ah, so that’s how Mat and Perrin found out. Damn, my memory sucks for this book.
So, okay. On the one hand, Mat’s reaction is completely understandable; and yet on the other, I can’t help thinking less of him for it. Especially when I compare it to Perrin’s and Egwene’s and even Nynaeve’s reaction to the same news, Mat just comes off really poorly here.
But then, perhaps it’s not a fair comparison, because despite the Shadar Logoth dagger business, Mat is still the token Normal here. He doesn’t yet have Perrin’s (and, to a less traumatic extent, Egwene and Nynaeve’s) understanding of what it’s like to know something strange and scary and potentially uncontrollable about yourself; a few times spouting the Old Tongue notwithstanding, the kind of self-realization all the others have already gone through doesn’t really happen for Mat until later. So perhaps I shouldn’t begrudge a (comparatively) ordinary guy having the reaction to this kind of news you would expect an ordinary guy to have.
As Atticus Finch said, you can’t understand a man until you walk around in his shoes for a while. Then you have understanding. And, probably, blisters.
On Ingtar’s conversation with Rand: I accept that Moiraine is deliberately manipulating people to see Rand as a leader, and that undoubtedly the ta’veren thing is helping that along, but you know, I do find it a teeny bit odd that Rand, Mat and Perrin tell practically everyone they meet in this series, at length, about how they’re not lords, no really, for true you guys, and NO ONE believes them.
No one. Not one person (at least no one who isn’t in a position to know they’re telling the truth anyway) is ever like, “Really? Well, okay then. No soup for you!”
It’s too bad, because I think if that had ever actually happened, it would have been really funny.
Fain: I really don’t know why I have such a problem with him, because as villains go, he’s really more than adequately badass and scary. I just... enh.
Chapter 12: Woven in the Pattern
Egwene joins Nynaeve in the courtyard in the aftermath of Ingtar’s group’s departure. Siuan bulls through Agelmar’s repeated attempts to get her to delay their departure, and catches sight of them. She tells Moiraine that yes, they both have a fine spark in them, but it remains to be seen what will come of it. The party mounts up and heads out amid cheers and pageantry, and travels hard over the next few days. One night Lan comes to the tent Egwene and Nynaeve share and takes Nynaeve off to talk alone; Egwene can’t hear what is said, but Nynaeve soon comes storming back to the tent and hides her face; Egwene thinks she is crying. Lan does not return to their tent again.
Moiraine more or less ignores them both, but other sisters come to their tent every night, to give lessons in the One Power. Verin, the first of these, explains to Egwene that since she jumped right into trying to channel, she must now be taught immediately so she does not hurt herself; Nynaeve, as a wilder, has already established some rough control and so is unlikely to kill herself or burn herself out the way Egwene might. Nynaeve proposes that she leave while the lesson goes on, but Verin tells her that if she can learn a little of this too, she might be able to bypass being a novice altogether and become Accepted instead. She gives them a lesson in embracing saidar, and Nynaeve growls that this surrendering and becoming a flower business is ridiculous; she gets angrier as the lesson progresses, until a stack of blankets bursts into flame in the tent, scaring Nynaeve and Egwene half to death. Verin puts the fire out, and calmly remarks she wasn’t expecting that. She says she hopes this demonstrates to them the importance of control.
They are taught on other nights by other sisters; Alviarin is aloof but a good teacher, and Alanna mostly just gossips about men; Egwene thinks that she shows an undue amount of interest in Rand. Liandrin hardly teaches them anything, but grills them about Rand, Mat and Perrin until Nynaeve throws her out. Egwene thinks maybe it is this last episode that makes her start dreaming about Rand, but finally decides to talk to Moiraine about it. She finds Anaiya, and asks where Moiraine is; Anaiya tells her Moiraine is gone, and so are Verin and Liandrin, and the Amyrlin is in quite a snit about it. Egwene tells her that Rand is in trouble; Anaiya replies that young men his age usually are. Egwene tells her she had a dream, though not the details:
First there had been a man with a mask over his face, and fire in place of his eyes. Despite the mask, she had thought he was surprised to see her. [...] Rand sleeping on the ground, wrapped in a cloak. A woman had been standing over him, looking down. Her face was in shadow, but her eyes seemed to shine like the moon, and Egwene had known she was evil. Then there was a flash of light, and they were gone. Both of them. And behind it all, almost like another thing altogether, was the feel of danger, as if a trap was just beginning to snap shut on an unsuspecting lamb, a trap with many jaws.
Anaiya looks thoughtful, and says it is possible that Egwene is a Dreamer, though there hasn’t been one in the Tower for over four hundred years; if so, then she may have the Foretelling, too. Anaiya relishes how that would stick in the Reds’ craw, if so. She tells Egwene they will talk more on the boat to Tar Valon.
Whoa, Alviarin was there in Fal Dara? Holy crap. Maybe she was the one who let Fain out, then. I mean, assuming Jordan had already cast her at this point as the head of the Black Ajah, which I think is a fairly safe assumption, because he was really pretty consistent throughout about the Aes Sedai hierarchies/entanglements.
As a side note, this is a good indication, if we needed one, of how superior a brand of covert villain Alviarin is compared to Liandrin, who, my initial misconception notwithstanding, may as well be walking around with a giant neon sign saying “TEH EBIL”, the way she behaves.
Why does Jordan refuse to name the Yellow sister with the party? Do we ever find out who she is? Anyone? Rich? John Hamby? Bueller?
Egwene is another character, like Rand, that I have a bit of trouble getting a handle on as far as personality goes. Sure, both of them are stubborn, but saying that doesn’t really help at all in differentiating them from everyone else; seriously, is there in a character in WOT who isn’t stubborn, one way or another? Saying she’s brave, same problem.
I’m on the fence as to whether I mean this as a criticism or not, since it would be just as bad if every single character could be immediately slotted into a neatly labeled pigeonhole the moment you meet them. Also, there is the point that Egwene gets a lot more interesting once the whole Rebel Tower schism thing gets underway and she has to start seriously getting her politician on as the Amyrlin Seat.
That being said, I think it’s pretty telling that back in the day when I used to participate in the endless rounds of “list your favorite characters in WOT!” memes, neither Rand nor Egwene were very often at the tops of those lists. Certainly they aren’t in mine; I like them both, but I think I need something more to grab on to for a “favorite” label to apply.
Chapter 13: From Stone to Stone
Rand wakes to find everyone except Hurin and Loial gone, and the landscape completely altered; everything is pale and motionless, and the trees look scorched. The half-buried stone they had gone to sleep next to was now “three spans high and a full pace thick”, covered with markings in a strange language. Rand wakes up Hurin and Loial, asking them if he’s dreaming. Loial gapes at the strange land, and Hurin freaks, begging “Lord Rand” to tell him what’s going on. Loial says he doesn’t think it’s a dream; he recognizes the stone now:
“There was a piece of an old book, just a few pages, but one of them had a drawing of this stone, this Stone”—there was a distinct difference in the way he said it that marked importance—"or one very like it. And underneath, it said, ‘From Stone to Stone run the lines of “if,” between the worlds that might be.’ ”
Rand has no idea what that means; Loial isn’t sure either, but says the most powerful Aes Sedai in the Age of Legends supposedly used these Stones to travel to these “if” worlds. He doesn’t understand how they could have, though, since you have to use the One Power. Rand remembers uneasily the void forming as he had fallen asleep, but rejects the notion. Hurin begs Rand to reassure him that they will get back; Rand starts to tell him again that he is no lord, but knowing deep down it is his fault Hurin is here, promises Hurin he will do his best. Hurin is immediately calm. Rand goes to the Stone and reluctantly tries to channel. He sees the light of saidin and tries to grasp it, but all he gets is the taint obscuring it. He keeps trying until the void shatters, which it had never done before, and Rand staggers back, feeling like he wants to vomit. He tells Loial and Hurin he will try again in a few minutes. Hurin suggests that perhaps they should find the Darkfriends and make them tell how to get back; he can still smell them. He says it’s a “pale” smell, like everything else here, but he can follow it. Rand is surprised at this, but likes the notion a lot better than trying to channel again, and agrees to Hurin’s idea. As they make ready to leave, Loial asks again why Rand thought he could use the Stone; thinking fast, Rand says if the Stones are older than the Age of Legends, maybe they didn’t have to use the Power to be operated. Loial is doubtful, but accepts this. They ride south, Hurin following the trail.
Portal Stones: another early-books-specific dealie. The general concept behind them is fairly straightforward (for slightly hilarious values of “straightforward”) and often used in sf, but I’ve always found their inclusion in WOT to be a trifle weird, since Jordan basically ignores most of the logical consequences of the concept, and mostly only uses them as a quick-travel substitute (and plot-complicator) until everyone learns Skimming and/or Traveling, after which point they are abandoned. Kind of a waste of good pseudoscience, if you ask me.
(“Straightforward.” Seriously, whoever edited that Wikipedia article needs to be beaten about the head and shoulders with a copy of Strunk’s The Elements of Style.)
That was some nice fast-talk on Rand’s part to Loial, though it does lead to another question: how does Rand know that Ages prior to the Age of Legends had no channeling? I mean, we know that, because we know Randland is a future/past Earth, but I’m curious as to how Rand knows. Maybe the stories about Lenn and Mosk and so on mention it?
Chapter 14: Wolfbrother
Ingtar is in a taking, demanding to know how three men and horses just up and vanish without a trace. Mat suggests that they ran away; Ingtar demands to know why they would do such a thing, and Perrin thinks Mat is about to spill the beans, but Mat just mutters something and leaves it. Ingtar wants to know how he’s supposed to track the Darkfriends without his sniffer, and stomps off. Perrin fights with himself for a moment, then reluctantly seeks out the wolves with his mind. He finds a pack, and they react to the contact with surprise. They ask if he is Long Tooth, which Perrin recognizes is the wolves’ name for Elyas, and tells them no. He sends them an image of himself, and is surprised when the wolves recognize him immediately:
It was not the image he had made, a young man with heavy shoulders and shaggy, brown curls, a young man with an axe at his belt, who others thought moved and thought slowly. That man was there, somewhere in the mind picture that came from the wolves, but stronger by far was a massive, wild bull with curved horns of shining metal, running through the night with the speed and exuberance of youth, curly-haired coat gleaming in the moonlight, flinging himself in among Whitecloaks on their horses, with the air crisp and cold and dark, and blood so red on the horns, and . . .
For a moment Perrin lost the contact in his shock. He had not dreamed they had given him a name.
Perrin gives the wolves the scent of Rand, Loial and Hurin, and asks if they know where the three are; the wolves reply that the last time they smelled them was last night when they were with the rest of the party. Perrin hesitates, and then sends them Fain’s and the Trollocs’ scent. The wolves howl aloud in fury and hatred, and tell Perrin they are heading south. They urge him to join with them to hunt and kill the Twisted Ones, and Perrin takes a step, lips peeled back in a snarl, about to join them before he comes back to himself, shaken. Perrin tells Ingtar that the Darkfriends have gone south. Ingtar asks how he knows, and Perrin takes a deep breath and says wolves told him. After a moment, Ingtar says he’s heard rumors of such things, and asks if Perrin knows a former Warder named Elyas. Perrin confirms that he does. Ingtar says he’ll do whatever he has to to get the Horn back, but thinks it would be better to tell the others that Perrin is a sniffer like Hurin, and Perrin agrees. The Shienarans accept this without much fuss, but Mat thinks Perrin is crazy. They ride south, Perrin having a running argument with the wolves about whether they can dash ahead and kill the Trollocs, and Perrin soon tells the party that there is something bad up ahead; the villagers were killed and eaten. Ingtar says there is someone following them, and a moment later Verin comes galloping up.
“Moiraine Sedai sent me, Lord Ingtar,” Verin announced with a satisfied smile. “She thought you might need me.”
She babbles about finding the nailed-up Myrddraal back there and how interesting it all is before cutting herself off and demanding to know where Rand is. Ingtar explains, and Verin shocks him by knowing what a sniffer is; Ingtar then adds that they’ve found a new sniffer and are going on. Verin gives Perrin a sharp look, then remarks that it is all very odd, and tells Ingtar she wants to know everything Rand said and did as they ride. Mat murmurs to Perrin that she doesn’t care about the Horn, only Rand, and Perrin agrees, thinking maybe Rand is better off not being here.
Perrin + wolves = Yay!
This is the second chapter named “Wolfbrother”, by the way, after the one in TEOTW. I didn’t think Jordan reused chapter titles, but evidently I was wrong. Oh, well.
I think it says something about the amount of secret-keeping in WOT that whenever a character actually does just come right out and tell somebody something major, like Perrin does here with Ingtar, it’s rather shocking. Of course, Ingtar is going to be toast by the end of the book, so maybe that’s why it didn’t matter. Oh, well.
Um. Why, exactly, does Ingtar know who Elyas is? Maybe I just missed something, but that seems like some serious six degrees of separation, there. Oh, well.
And hah, the beginning of the Great Verin Debate. People wrangled about the “Moiraine sent me”/ “I never sent Verin” discrepancy for years on the newsgroup. I really don’t remember a lot of what happens in Knife of Dreams, so maybe this has already been settled, but for what it’s worth, as of Crossroads of Twilight I had personally concluded that Verin was not Black Ajah, but had long ago untaken the First Oath on the Oath Rod so that she could lie with impunity to those who might be Black Ajah. In other words, she’s sneaky but not evil. Oh, w- hm? Oh, that’s incredibly annoying? Okay, I’ll stop saying that now.
Chapter 15: Kinslayer
Rand, Loial and Hurin follow the trail the sniffer has found, crossing the faded and blackened land and trying to ignore the way distant objects seem to be distorted and warped. After a while, Loial abruptly stops and goes to a stand of trees, where he sings himself a stout quarterstaff. Rand says he thought Ogier didn’t carry weapons; Loial says they don’t usually, but... He adds, troubled, that this land was glad to see a weapon made. They ride on, and Hurin starts shaking his head and frowning. Rand asks him what the trouble is, and Hurin says the trail is strange; it’s like he’s remembering smelling it, rather than just smelling it. Rand tells him just to do his best, and they continue. They make camp at dark, and Rand takes the first watch.
After some hours, a fog springs up, and Ba’alzamon appears wearing a black silk mask and carrying a staff. He calls Rand “Lews Therin” and laughs that he always tries to deny it, but that Ba’alzamon can find him anywhere. Rand denies him and tries not to listen as Ba’alzamon taunts him; he tries to figure out if the figure is really there or not, but is not sure. Ba’alzamon talks again about the Black Ajah, and how they have fought over and over again, etc. He pulls off his mask and shows his face, horribly burned. He says he will heal, but what will happen to Rand? He offers to teach him, to protect him from the taint on saidin, to give him power and eternal life if only he will serve. Rand denies him again, and Ba’alzamon causes his sword (which Rand had drawn) to glow red-hot, burning Rand’s hands. He screams and drops the sword, and then the fog itself seems to catch fire and burn him everywhere, but then suddenly the fire is gone, as is Ba’alzamon, and the only damage left is on his right palm, where the heron on the hilt of his sword has been branded into his skin.
There was one sign of life; at least, Rand thought it must be so. Twice he saw a wispy streak crawling across the sky like a line drawn with cloud. The lines were too straight to be natural, it seemed, but he could not imagine what might make them. He did not mention the lines to the others.
Buh? What is this supposed to be? Did the Trollocs invent jets right before they killed each other off?
Jeez, but Ishy is a one-note Charlie. Get some new schtick already, man. Though I suppose it is to his benefit that he’s confusing Rand too much to allow him to make note of the fact that Ba’alzamon being all burned and stuff kind of makes a really strong argument for him not to be a semi-omnipotent semi-deity/demon/Satan stand-in/whatever. He’s just this guy, you know?
Chapter 16: In the Mirror of Darkness
The next morning, Hurin reproaches Rand for not waking them to take turn at watch, and Loial asks what happened to his hand, which Rand has bandaged up; Rand says it’s fine, and that they need to get going. An hour later, they see a spire in the distance, and as they get closer, they see that there is a carving of a bird on the top. Rand surmises that it might be Hawkwing’s monument, the one Ingtar had told them was pulled down in their world; but maybe it is still here in this one. Rand proposes they go see it, and ignoring Loial’s attempt to tell him something, gallops down to it. As he gets closer, though, he sees that the bird on the top is not a hawk, but a raven, and the spire is covered with Trolloc script.
“But how?” Rand said. “Artur Hawkwing won a victory over the Trollocs here. Ingtar said so.”
“Not here,” Loial said slowly. “Obviously not here. ‘From Stone to Stone run the lines of if, between the worlds that might be.’ I’ve been thinking on it, and I believe I know what the ‘the worlds that might be’ are. Maybe I do. Worlds our world might have been if things had happened differently. Maybe that’s why it is all so . . . washed-out looking. Because it’s an ‘if,’ a ‘maybe.’ Just a shadow of the real world. In this world, I think, the Trollocs won. Maybe that’s why we have not seen any villages or people.”
If so, Rand asks, where are all the Trollocs? Loial theorizes that after all the people were gone, the Trollocs probably killed each other off. Then Hurin says he thought he saw something move, back the way they had come; he thinks it might have been a woman, but isn’t sure. Loial then brings up another worry: he’s pretty sure the mountains ahead of them are Kinslayer’s Dagger, a range which should be over a hundred leagues south of the Erinin, but it looks like they will reach the range by the end of the day, which is impossible.
Then they hear a scream from up ahead, and Rand charges off to find the source, ignoring Loial’s shout to be careful. He reaches a stream and sees a woman fending off a huge three-eyed frog-bear-looking thing with a branch. Rand jumps off his horse and shoots the thing with an arrow; it abandons the woman and charges him instead. The woman calls calmly that he must hit an eye to kill it; Rand reluctantly calls up the void, and kills it with one shot. The woman, who is dressed all in white and silver, rides over to him and congratulates him on his marksmanship with the grolm, as she calls it; Rand is awestruck by how beautiful she is. Hurin and Loial ride up, and Rand introduces them, and they are similarly smitten. The woman says her name is Selene, and for risking his life to save hers, “I am yours, Rand al’Thor”, and kneels in front of him, to Rand’s horror. He pulls her up, babbling something Shienaran about it being his honor, and asks her where she came from. Selene says she is from Cairhien, and was out riding and took a nap, and when she woke up she was in this place. She hopes “my Lord Rand” will save her again and help her get home. Rand can’t bring himself to tell her he’s not a lord, but instead promises to see her home — after they have found the men they are following. She asks who the men are, and Hurin bursts out with the entire story, including the Horn. Rand gives him the stinkeye, and asks Selene to say nothing about the Horn to anyone.
They ride out, and Rand and Selene talk. She tells him he will be a great man when he sounds the Horn, and Rand replies that he doesn’t want any of that. She then notes his bandaged hand and unwraps it, and pulls out some salve and treats the heron brand; Rand thinks that the salve works just as well as Nynaeve’s often did. Rand asks if she’s Aes Sedai; Selene speaks of them with scorn, and replies, no, never that. She drops back to talk with Loial; later Loial rejoins Rand and tells him that Selene says he was right about this world, and the reason it is so washed-out looking is because it is a reflection of a world that had very little chance of coming to pass. Selene rejoins them, and continues to ask probing questions of Rand. She tells him that the Portal Stone she woke up next to is to the east, and they should go there and use it to try and get back; Rand says he has to follow the Horn. They argue about this for a bit, but Rand will not be swayed.
“You always . . . ” Selene drew a deep breath as if to calm herself. “You always are so stubborn. Well, I can admire stubbornness in a man. There is little to a man who’s too easily biddable.”
Then they hear a coughing grunt from behind them, and see five shapes coming toward them. Selene says calmly it is a pack of grolm.
Damn, but some kinds of scenes just won’t compress. Less talk, WOT people!
Aw, Loial. Who’s my widdle Ogier scholar? Are you the most smartest character in the book except possibly Verin? Yes you are!
I’m fairly positive I didn’t immediately guess Selene was Lanfear when I first read this, but I sure as frickin’ hell knew she was all kinds of wrong straight off. I mean, come on — I could drive a grolm through the holes in that story. I guess we’re supposed to divine that she’s just so unbelievably beautiful that none of the three men can get blood back up to their brains long enough to notice this.
Plausible? Dunno, I’m not a guy. Heterosexual males in the audience? Little project for you. Picture the most absolutely gorgeous woman you can think of; I mean drop-dead killer looks here. Then imagine you totally just got to rescue her with your leet skillz, and she is completely up in your Kool-aid as a result. Then suppose she told you some ridiculous and patently untrue story.
Would you notice? Or perhaps more importantly, would you care?
Oh, and for this exercise you may also want to remember that in this scenario you are eighteen. And a virgin. Just FYI.
Chapter 17: Choices
Selene says they must use the Stone; grolm never give up once they have the scent of prey. Rand sees a low hill, and gallops over to it, the others following. He dismounts and readies his bow, and using the void, kills all five grolm with one shot each. Awed, Hurin says he’s never seen shooting like that. Then they hear more grolm in the distance, and Selene wants to know if he can kill a hundred more of them. Reluctantly, Rand agrees they have to try the Stone. She leads them to it, and says Rand must use it; she points out a symbol on the Stone which she says represents the real world, and it might help if he visualizes that symbol when doing... whatever. Unwillingly, Rand assumes the void and reaches for saidin, and this time it works. He concentrates on the symbol, and the world flickers, over and over again, until suddenly it stops, and Selene is staring at him.
“Remarkable,” Selene said slowly. She glanced at Loial and Hurin. The Ogier looked stunned, his eyes as big as plates; the sniffer was squatting with one hand on the ground, as if unsure he could support himself else. “All of us here, and all of our horses. And you do not even know what you did. Remarkable.”
Rand shakily agrees about not having a clue what he did, and Selene replies that he will one day, and surely he is destined for great things. Rand thinks about kissing her, then hastily pulls back and asks her not to speak about what he did with the Stone to anyone. She looks annoyed for a second, and then curtsies and promises. Rand and Hurin discuss how best to pick up Fain’s trail, and Selene puts in that she read that in some of the Portal worlds, they reflect great events before they even occur. Hurin is incredulous about the notion of smelling where violence is going to be, as well as where it’s been, but Loial reminds them how they traveled much further than they would have in the real world. At Selene’s urging, Rand agrees that they should camp out a few days and see if either the Darkfriends or Ingtar’s group catches up to them.
I remember, the first time around, being practically frantic with worry that Rand was going to majorly screw things up by listening to Selene. Even now I’m frustrated and annoyed that he doesn’t see through her. Unreasonable of me? Yes, I think so, but jeez, couldn’t he at least be somewhat suspicious of her blatantly absurd backstory? No, he’s all “hur, you’re purty, duh.” *eye roll*
It is kind of fun, though, reading this with foreknowledge and watching Selene/Lanfear cherrypick Rand’s personality traits and retrofit them into her conception of Her Man. Rand’s not the only one being willfully blind here.
It’s interesting how, in these three chapters, Lanfear and Ishamael are kind of tag-teaming Rand — without knowing it, since I’m about 100% positive Lanfear’s doing whatever the hell she wants, and screw Ishy’s agenda. The irony, of course, is how similar their separate agendas actually are, in goal if not in motive. More on that later.
And I think we’re done here. Tune in next Monday for the exciting continuation of The Great Hunt, Chapters 18-23! Huzzah!