Hello! Welcome to the re-read of The Great Hunt, Part 1, part of the on-going Re-read of the Wheel of Time. Today we will be covering the Prologue through Chapter 5.
Previous entries can be found here. Standard spoiler warnings for the entire series apply; if you haven’t read, don’t read.
As a note, I’m going to be trying to choke back a bit on the recap portions, as they have started to get kind of out of hand, and I’m on a schedule here. So there will be times when some details are lost; sorry about that. (Of course, the operative word here is “trying,” so take it for what it’s worth.)
To make it up to you, though, I’ve added a new feature to the recaps which should be pleasing to the eye and heart, or something. I hope you like it.
Prologue: In the Shadow
A man calling himself “Bors” sneers at the hundred or so people gathered in the huge room with him. Like all the rest, he is wearing a black silk mask that disguises him, but he is contemptuous of the ones who made no further effort to camouflage themselves. He notes a Domani noblewoman, a Shienaran soldier, a High Lord of Tear, a Tinker, an Andoran Queen’s Guard, and two women wearing the ring of Aes Sedai, whom he refers to mentally as “witches”, with especial hatred. A chime sounds, and the doors of the chamber open to admit two Trollocs, who flank the doors and fall to their knees as a Myrddraal enters. Bors tries to convince himself he is not scared. The Fade announces, “Your Master comes”, and commands them all to fall down and grovel. The air above the Fade shimmers, and Bors immediately throws himself to the floor and recites a catechism (“The Great Lord of the Dark is my Master, and most heartily do I serve him…”). A voice commands them to rise, and Bors sees a man floating in midair, robed and masked in blood-red cloth; Bors is confused as to why the Dark One would appear like this, and thinks perhaps it is one of the Forsaken instead. He notices that the man’s hands are badly burned, which confuses him further. The man tells them his name is Ba’alzamon, and that the Day of Return draws closer; he promises them riches and power for their faithful service once the Wheel of Time is broken and the world remade. Then he causes three illusions to appear below him:
A country lad, by his clothes, with a light of mischief in his brown eyes and the hint of a smile on his lips, as if in memory or anticipation of a prank. […] A curly-haired youth, as heavily muscled as a blacksmith. And an oddity: a battle axe hung at his side, a great, steel half-moon balanced by a thick spike. The man who called himself Bors suddenly leaned forward, intent on an even greater strangeness. A youth with yellow eyes. […] A tall fellow, with eyes now gray, now almost blue as the light took them, and dark, reddish hair. Another villager, or farmer. […] A sword swung from the figure’s belt, a sword with a bronze heron on the scabbard and another inset into the long, two-handed hilt. A village boy with a heron-mark blade? Impossible!
Ba’alzamon then gives each of the Darkfriends their instructions so that no one can hear what the others’ orders are; when he comes to Bors, Ba’alzamon tells him to go back to Tarabon and continue his “good works” there, and to have his followers watch for the three boys. He also gives instructions regarding “those who have landed at Toman Head”; the instructions make no sense to Bors, but he promises to obey. Ba’alzamon gives him a painful, confusing vision of all kinds of things, among them a woman or girl in white, a wolf, a horn, and a soldier with an insectlike helmet. Then Ba’alzamon moves on, and Bors returns to the puzzle of the three boys, which he has named in his head the Blacksmith, the Swordsman, and the Trickster. An empty-eyed servant appears and leads him back to his room, and Bors changes into his real clothes – a white cloak with a sunburst on the breast – anticipating the work to be done on Almoth Plain.
Ah, the infamous Darkfriend Social. Probably on record as one of the worst parties ever.
The Shienaran Bors sees is Ingtar, I’m sure. I’m fairly certain we find out who the Tairen and the Andoran are later, too, but I’m hazy on it so I won’t speculate. The two Aes Sedai could be any number of Black sisters we meet later, though it’s a good bet that one of them is Alviarin. And of course we all know who “Bors” turned out to be, though I think we don’t find out until freakin’ A Crown of Swords. I could be wrong about that, though.
I like this prologue for two reasons: One, it’s short. A rare and happy occurrence! Two, I enjoyed seeing Rand, Mat and Perrin described by a total outsider, even an evil one. Jordan using “Bors” to assign them semi-archetypal titles was a nice touch, too. Most particularly it helped mitigate some of my lingering annoyance with Mat, to see him described as a “trickster” instead of, you know, a “snotty dumbass”.
What can I say, Bugs Bunny was always my favorite Looney Tunes character. I’m so unique that way.
Chapter 1: The Flame of Tar Valon
It’s windy. The wind reaches Rand, where he’s training on a tower top with Lan, and suddenly solidifies and pushes him so that Lan almost impales him with the practice sword. Lan yells at him, asking what’s got into him, and Rand explains about the wind. Lan pauses, and then just says that strange things happen this close to the Blight. He asks why Rand hasn’t left yet, even though it’s been a month since they returned to Fal Dara. Rand picks up his sword, and says he needs to know how to use it, otherwise wearing a heron-mark sword just makes him a target. Lan suggests selling it, as his blade is rare even among heron-mark swords. Rand rejects the idea, but asks why his sword is so special. Lan explains to him about Power-wrought swords, and how after the Breaking Aes Sedai swore never to make any more, so those that still survive are rare and precious. Lan surmises that Rand’s sword is likely three thousand years old or more. Then he tells Rand that Rand wanting to learn the sword is not a good enough excuse for remaining. Rand mutters about Mat and Perrin and Egwene, but then admits it’s because Moiraine has been ignoring him; she dumps all this horrible stuff on him, and then won’t tell him anything more. Then they hear drums and trumpets, and look over the wall to see a large party approaching Fal Dara, flying a banner with the Flame of Tar Valon on it. Horrified, Rand asks what so many Aes Sedai are doing here, and Lan tells him the Amyrlin Seat herself is with them. He looks at Rand almost sympathetically, and tells him he should have left a week ago. He leaves. Rand stares at the approaching column a moment more, and then grabs his stuff and runs off.
While I don’t really buy the “Tam and Morgase were BFFs in Tar Valon” theory that’s been batted around in the comments, I suppose that’s one way Tam could have gotten his hands on a 3,000-year-old Power-wrought sword. Although, I seem to recall Tam was part of the Illianer Companions? If so, he could have gotten it there, as well. I really do hope we get the skinny on this at some point.
The jelly-wind incident: I’m guessing, the first low-key instance of the “bubbles of evil” which will get thrown into the story any time it’s not plausible for Fain to be there to be random at everyone. Whoo.
By the way, I hope everyone’s caught that a Warder telling Rand that he’s good enough “not to stab himself in the foot” means that by any other standards he’s already pretty damn deadly with a blade. This makes me happy.
Chapter 2: The Welcome
Rand dashes through the keep, which is bustling with preparation to receive the Amyrlin Seat, and arrives back at the room he shares with Mat and Perrin to find it filled with women taking all their clothes away and replacing them with new. Rand demands to know what’s going on, and Elansu, the shatayan (housekeeper) informs him that Moiraine Sedai ordered their clothes replaced, and orders him to strip down right there and hand over what he’s wearing. Mortified, Rand chases them all out first, which amuses the women no end, and hands his old clothes out to Elansu. The new clothes are ridiculously rich and ornate in Rand’s opinion, and he is appalled to discover that the cloaks have the Dragon emblem embroidered on the breast. He gets dressed anyway, and packs up some of the clothes, his bow, and Thom’s harp and flute. He heads to the stables, but cannot resist taking a peek on the way at the Welcoming ceremony bringing the Amyrlin Seat inside the keep. He stays long enough to see the Amyrlin step out and greet Agelmar, and then hurries on. At the stables, he asks for his horse to be saddled, bemused at how the servants all think he is a prince or something (because of the “al” in his name). The stableman bows and scrapes, but shamefully admits he cannot obey; orders have just come down that no one may leave the keep. Rand asks if it was Agelmar who gave the order, but the man doesn’t know. Worried, Rand takes off.
Ah, the inevitable lordening of the characters, starting with the fancy schmancy clothes, of course. So much fun for all us proxies out here, innit? Yes, yes it is.
I do like that it’s so consciously engineered a move on Moiraine’s part; if anyone would understand the importance of perception, it would be a former royal niece (thanks for the correction, guys) and current Aes Sedai. In her Fourth Age life she was probably a PR manager. Or a film agent.
The fact that Rand more or less deliberately delayed leaving until it was practically guaranteed that he would be caught is, of course, meant to be swept under the ta’veren rug of plot contrivances, but I think it also works as simple self-destructive behavior; on some level he wants to be caught. Stupid? Yes. Believable? Yes, actually. Just like the way I sometimes purposely hit the snooze button in the morning just one time too many and end up ten minutes late for work.
Not that I do that. It’s just, you know, an example.
We may as well get used to Rand sabotaging himself, by the way, because he’s about to do A LOT of it. And it is ANNOYING.
Chapter 3: Friends and Enemies
Rand goes to the sally gate, which is guarded by two armsmen named Ragan and Masema. Ragan likes Rand, and would have let him through even despite the order, but Masema sourly refuses to consider it. Rand tries a couple of other gates, but they are all guarded. He begins wandering at random through the keep.
Gentled. Would it be so bad, to have it all over? Really over? He closed his eyes, but he could still see himself, huddling like a rabbit with nowhere left to run, and Aes Sedai closing round him like ravens. They almost always die soon after, men who’ve been gentled. They stop wanting to live.
Stubbornly, he keeps going. As he wanders he starts feeling like there are invisible eyes on him; he wonders uneasily whether it’s the Amyrlin looking for him, or perhaps evidence that he’s already going mad. He ends up in a storeroom, where Loial is watching Mat and Perrin dice with some servants. Rand asks Loial if he knows any secret ways out of Fal Dara, but Loial tells him the Ogier didn’t build this town, only the older version which is long gone by now. Mat and Perrin come over, and Mat asks Rand what’s up with the fancy clothes; Rand tells him all their old clothes have been replaced with the same. He tells them the Amyrlin Seat is here, and he has to get away. Mat and Perrin don’t understand why Rand thinks the Amyrlin would care about him, and Rand dodges the question by telling them about the eyes he felt watching him, and the strange wind incident earlier. Mat asks how they’re going to leave if the gates are barred. Rand, startled and dismayed by his assumption, tries to head it off at the pass, saying maybe he doesn’t want them to go with him, maybe he’s tired of being around them, and besides, people here think he’s a lord, and maybe he likes that, and when he goes he’ll go alone. Perrin is hurt, and Mat angrily tells him he can do whatever he wants. Loial starts talking about ta’veren, and Mat yells at him that he’s sick of hearing about that, and drags Perrin out of the storeroom. Loial tries to apologize to Rand, and Rand gives him the same treatment he gave Mat and Perrin; hurt, Loial stiffly takes his leave, too.
Guiltily Rand wanders off again, and eventually runs into Egwene. She tells him she talked to Mat and Perrin and Loial, and she knows what he is doing, and that it’s stupid. He tries to be mean to her too, so she will leave, and instead she tackles him and sits on top of him. He threatens to do something to her with the One Power if she doesn’t get off him, but Egwene sniffs and says she can do the same if she wants. They fight a bit more, but then Egwene agrees that perhaps he should hide. She suggests the dungeons, and reveals that she has been visiting Padan Fain. Rand asks her if she’s crazy, but she bullies him into coming along. The men guarding Fain, Changu and Nidao, seem unusually surly and rude for Shienarans; Egwene mentions that they used to be nice, but seem worse every time she comes, as do the other two prisoners down there with Fain. They reach Fain’s cell, and Rand hangs back out of the light, but Fain knows he is there, of course. Fain tells him the battle’s never over, and soon he, Fain, will be free, and Mordeth knows, and so on. Egwene thinks this maybe wasn’t so good an idea after all, and tells Rand she will hide him in the women’s apartments instead.
[Mat:] “I seem to have luck with the dice. I can hardly touch them without winning.”
Can I just say that I freakin’ hate this particular plot conceit, where the protagonist deliberately sabotages his relationships with his friends in order to “protect” them? It makes me want to throw things every time, because it never works, and it always makes things worse. This one in particular, because I’m in a position to know that Mat, for one, isn’t going to shut up about Rand thinking he’s a high and mighty lord for like FIVE BOOKS — long after he finds out why Rand said it in the first place!
Grr. At least Egwene wasn’t stupid enough to fall for it, though of course she does have the advantage of knowing why Rand’s acting like a damn fool. Her knocking Rand down and sitting on him was actually a hilarious visual.
But then, of course, she has to ruin her credit in the non-stupidity column by suggesting she and Rand go visit Señor Yo Todo lo Corrupto. BRILLIANT PLAN, EG.
Sheesh. Smackings for everyone in this chapter! Bah!
Chapter 4: Summoned
Angry and worried, Moiraine puts on her formal shawl denoting her Ajah, worrying about why the Amyrlin is here and who she brought with her, and whether this will ruin everything. Someone bangs on her door peremptorily, and she opens it to find two Aes Sedai there. Moiraine is relieved to see Anaiya, also of the Blue and a kind, straightforward woman, especially for an Aes Sedai; the other is Liandrin, a pretty but petulant Red. Anaiya greets her warmly, but Liandrin just informs her that the Amyrlin summons Moiraine to see her, now. As they walk, Moiraine asks them for the news. Liandrin tells her that three more false Dragons have declared themselves at once, but Anaiya adds that one of them is in chains already, and of the other two, only the one in Saldaea, Mazrim Taim, can channel, and sisters should already be there to deal with him. They stop momentarily to greet the Lady Amalisa, and Moiraine notices Egwene out of the corner of her eye, hustling a tall stooped figure into the women’s apartments.
Moiraine permitted herself a small smile, quickly masked. If the girl shows as much initiative in Tar Valon, she thought wryly, she will sit in the Amyrlin Seat one day. If she can learn to control that initiative. If there is an Amyrlin Seat left on which to sit.
Moiraine also notices that Liandrin is suspiciously nice to Amalisa. They move on, Moiraine wondering what the Red sister is up to, and Anaiya continues to give the news. The riots in Caemlyn have died with spring’s arrival, and Elayne and Gawyn are safely in Tar Valon, although Whitecloaks shadowed them the whole way there. The Illianers have called the Hunt for the Horn, and something is agitating the Sea Folk. The Aiel are stirring too, and there are vague rumors of fighting on Almoth Plain.
They arrive at the Amyrlin’s suite, and Moiraine notes the sisters there in the anteroom: Verin Mathwin and Serafelle, Brown, Carlinya, White, Alanna Mosvani, Green, and a Yellow sister Moiraine does not know. Leane, Keeper of the Chronicles, comes in and escorts Moiraine to see the Amyrlin. Inside, Moiraine sees to her dismay that the chest holding the Horn of Valere is there. She goes to the Amyrlin, Siuan Sanche, and greets her formally. Siuan tells her that Elaida is in Tar Valon, and that the Reds are very puffed up over having found Elayne, who may well be the most powerful Aes Sedai in a thousand years. Moiraine counters that she has found two girls in the Two Rivers, one of whom is at least as strong as Elayne, and the other who far outstrips them both, and there is no chance either of them will choose Red. To Moiraine’s surprise, Siuan ignores this news to tell her that Elaida also was in high dudgeon about a young man she met in Caemlyn, who she claims is very dangerous, more dangerous even than Artur Hawkwing, and that Moiraine spirited him away despite that. Moiraine says she has three boys with her, but none of them want to be kings. Siuan says perhaps, but one of them is ta’veren. She adds that the Hall considered a motion to have Moiraine sent into retreat as a punishment. They discuss the politicking in the Hall for a bit more, and then the Amyrlin declares she will speak to Moiraine alone. Leane is surprised, but leaves. Siuan weaves a ward against eavesdropping around the room, and then she and Moiraine hug warmly. They reminisce about their time as novices together for a moment, then Siuan gets back to business:
“Moiraine, if anyone, even Leane, discovers what we plan, we will both be stilled. And I can’t say they would be wrong to do it.”
Well, it’s official: “Amyrlin” is twenty times more annoying to type than “Ba’alzamon”. I know the books don’t start referring to her as “Siuan” until after she’s stilled, but I will be starting it now, by God.
Our first non-Emond’s Fielder POV! Our first Aes Sedai-centric chapter! AND THE SCHEMING BEGINS IMMEDIATELY. Hah.
It’s interesting how, the moment Moiraine, Anaiya and Liandrin start talking, it’s obvious how much bigger a world they move in than Rand et al. I mean, duh, right, but it’s a startling change of perspective after being stuck in the heads of (ex)farmfolk for so long.
Also interesting is how the first two Aes Sedai we meet other than Moiraine and Elaida are so similarly set up as diametrical opposites, in personality, in politics, even in looks. Of course, this is even more true than we yet know, considering what Liandrin’s real Ajah turns out to be, but even leaving that aside, it’s pretty clear from the beginning that the Red Ajah is intended to be firmly in the Knights Templar/Asshole “Good” Guys camp. I’m not positive, but I don’t think we meet a single Red sister that’s even remotely not an Asshole Good Guy until Pevara, aaaalll the way in Winter’s Heart.
Chapter 5: The Shadow in Shienar
Siuan agrees with Moiraine that they must do what the Pattern has chosen them to do, and fulfill the Prophecies, but begins musing on the only other two Amyrlins to be stripped of her office (Tetsuan and Bonwhin). Moiraine tells her to pull herself together, and Siuan retorts she wouldn’t be having nearly as many problems if it weren’t for Moiraine. She asks what happened to the original plan.
“The Pattern pays no heed to human plans, Siuan. With all our scheming, we forgot what we were dealing with. Ta’veren. Elaida is wrong. Artur Paendrag Tanreall was never this strongly ta’veren. The Wheel will weave the Pattern around this young man as it wills, whatever our plans.”
Siuan shivers and changes the subject, to the Horn of Valere. She says Agelmar gave it to her the second she arrived, terrified that he would not be able to withstand the temptation to sound it himself. She muses at how the Horn resurfacing means the time is near, and the Pattern is now throwing up false Dragons. She worries that they may have accidentally gentled the real Dragon, but Moiraine reassures her that after the real Dragon proclaims himself there will be no others. Moiraine shows her the broken Seal, and Siuan says that she saw the young man in the courtyard; one of her Talents is seeing ta’veren, and the man she saw “blazed like the sun”. She asks if Moiraine is sure this Rand al’Thor is the Dragon. Moiraine is sure. She explains her new plan: to convince Rand and his friends to take the Horn to Illian. She says the Illianers would follow anyone who brought them the Horn, and thus Rand will have a ready-made army to protect him when he declares himself. Then she says they’ve been talking alone too long, and the conversation breaks up.
Geofram Bornhald leads his column of 2,000 Whitecloaks across Tarabon, thinking of the orders he had received from Pedron Niall, the Lord Captain Commander of the Children of Light, to come here and meet with someone at Alcruna. He thinks proudly of how he managed to get so many here without having to silence any witnesses. He discovers that the “someone” he’s meeting are Questioners, led by Einor Saren, Jaichim Carridin’s second in command, and that they have killed everyone in the village to avoid being seen. Bornhald wants to know what he is doing here; Einor tells him that there are strangers on Toman Head with a great force, and rumor says they are monsters, or that Aes Sedai fight for them, or both.
For a moment, Bornhald stopped breathing. “Then the rumors are true. Artur Hawkwing’s armies have returned.”
Einor’s like, whatever, and Bornhald orders Byar to get the men across the bridge and settled.
Liandrin heads through the keep to the Lady Amalisa’s chambers, where she and her serving women are giggling over a book of courting customs. Liandrin throws everyone but Amalisa out, and then burns the book. Amalisa tries to figure out what she had done wrong, and Liandrin strikes at her with the One Power:
It was not a perfect ability; Liandrin could not force anyone to do what she wanted—though she had tried; oh, how she had tried. But she could open them wide to her arguments, make them want to believe her, want more than anything to be convinced of her rightness.
Liandrin commands Amalisa to scour the keep for the three boys Moiraine had brought with her to Fal Dara, and to tell no one of this. She tells Amalisa they are worse than Darkfriends and must be found. She leaves Amalisa’s rooms, and thinks she feels eyes on her, watching. She dismisses it as her imagination.
Fain sits in his cell, waiting. The door to the guardroom opens, and Fain greets the figure there, saying they were not who he was expecting, but no matter. He grins up at the ceiling, muttering that it’s never over.
I love how Moiraine tells Siuan “we can’t make any plans! He’s ta’veren!” and then two seconds later is like “My plan, let me show you it!” Heh. Silly Aes Sedai.
See, this is exactly why Bornhald the Elder is even worse than the zealous nutballs like Byar; in one breath, Bornhald’s all, oh, but I want to make sure they’re Darkfriends first, and the reader’s all, Aw, so he’s kinda sane, and grandfatherly and huggable!
Yeah, and right after that he finds out his colleagues have slaughtered an entire village, just to keep them from blabbing, and his only reaction is mild irritation.
Ugh. No. Die in a Fire, kthxbi.
And Pedron Niall, of course, makes Bornhald the Elder look like a giant fluffy woobie of non-hypocrisy by comparison, but I’ll have plenty of opportunity to hate on him later, so we’ll leave that for now.
I feel kind of dumb re: Liandrin, because even though it’s screamingly obvious to me now that she is Black Ajah, the first time I read this I really thought she was just a high-riding bitch. This might have been because I was overthinking it: surely, I thought, a character who’s been set up to be so thoroughly unlikable will turn out to be a good guy just for the cognitive dissonance, right? Yeah, not so much.
The watching eyes thing is interesting, though, that Liandrin feels it too. I’ve always assumed it was Fain, but that doesn’t seem right, now. Ideas?
Okay, that’s it for today, peeps. Come on back Wednesday for Part 2, which will cover Chapters 6-10 of The Great Hunt. See you there!