Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Two Faces of Temptation in Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt (Part 9)

I’m really loving my title for Week 9 of reading The Great Hunt. I also really loved the chapter titles for the this week’s section, Chapter 15 “Kinslayer” and Chapter 16 “In the Mirror of Darkness.” I get some of my questions about the ‘if’ world answered this week, and more questions are raised about Lews Therin Telamon and his ongoing battle with the Dark One. Obviously Lews Therin is a very significant Dragon because he lived during the Age of Legends and because he and his fellows were responsible for the Breaking of the World. He’s also going to be foremost in the minds of the people Rand encounters because he was the last known Dragon. But Ba’alzamon focuses on that identity a great deal in his most recent visit to Rand, and I found that curious.

Rand also makes another new/old friend this week in the form of Selene, who is the most immediately suspicious character we have encountered thus far in the read. Like there is no way she isn’t at least an agent of the Dark One, and she is very probably also Lanfear. Not much to guess at there, though unfortunately Rand and company aren’t nearly as suspicious of her story and motivations as I am.

In the other world, the world of “if,” Hurin is continuing to sniff the trail of the Darkfriends, as he, Rand, and Loial all do their best to ignore the strange way distant objects shift in their periphery as they travel. The find the land burned in strange long swaths that taper to a point, reminding Rand of strokes of a painter’s brush, and despite the fact that the damage seems old, Rand sees that the land has not made any progress in reclaiming the damaged area with new growth. Rand also notices that there appear to be no animals anywhere, not even insects, and everything has that same pale, bleached-out look “like clothes too often washed and too long left in the sun,” and even the water they drink from the rivers tastes flat. Twice, Rand sees strange wispy streaks in the sky, too straight to be natural cloud formations, but he doesn’t mention it to the others.

After they have ridden for a while, Loial stops and dismounts, and Hurin and Rand watch and listen in awe as he sings to one of the trees, using his rare ability to sing himself a staff that separates itself from the rest of the tree, leaving a new branch sprouting in its place. Hurin and Rand are stunned, and Rand thinks that not all the surprises he has witnessed are bad ones. But that feeling fades quickly, as Loial explains that he could feel the land somehow wanted the weapon to be made, that it was glad of it. Ogier are not often moved to violence, but the land’s desire for a weapon is even more alarming that the Ogier’s need for such security.

Hurin, alarmed, starts reciting a sort of catechism invoking the protection of the Light, while Rand continues to put on a confident demeanor, knowing that one of them must appear sure, or fear and uncertainty will overcome everyone. His apparent confidence and attempts at jokes lighten Hurin’s mood a little, but not Loial’s. Nevertheless, they keep moving, until Hurin stops and expresses concern over the trail. Rand tells him there’s no disgrace if he has lost it, but that isn’t the problem. Hurin can’t explain what exactly the problem is; only that it’s not the faintness of the trail that bothers him but some other quality, some sense that he feels like he’s remembering the trail, rather than smelling it. But as he continues to try to explain about the scents of violence he can smell everywhere, he only muddles himself and decides that it’s merely the strangeness of the place that is confusing him. But he can still follow the trail, and they continue on.

They continue for the rest of the day without seeing any sign of their quarry, not so much as a hoofprint or a bend blade of grass, and make camp in a stand of trees. Rand puzzles over the fact that whenever he thinks of the Darkfriends they are chasing, he thinks of them specifically as “Fain’s Darkfriends.”

It seemed odd to him that he had begun to think of them as Fain’s Darkfriends, Fain’s Trollocs. Fain was just a madman. Then why did they rescue him? Fain had been part of the Dark One’s scheme to find him. Perhaps it had something to do with that. Then why is he running instead of chasing me? And what killed that Fade? What happened in that room full of flies? And those eyes, watching me in Fal Dara. And that wind, catching me like a beetle in pine sap. No. No, Ba’alzamon has to be dead. The Aes Sedai did not believe it. Moiraine did not believe it, nor the Amyrlin. Stubbornly, he refused to think about it any longer. All he had to think about now was finding that dagger for Mat. Finding Fain, and the Horn.

It’s never over, al’Thor.

The voice was like a thin breeze whispering in the back of his head, a thin, icy murmur working its way into the crevices of his mind. He almost sought the void to escape it, but remembering what waited for him there, he pushed down the desire.

Instead of seeking the void, Rand practices the various sword forms that Lan taught him, which stills his mind for a while but doesn’t provide any lasting relief. No one else seems any happier or calmer, and they sit in silence until nightfall, when Rand takes the first watch. The night is ominous and empty, and Rand finds it difficult to believe that there is anyone else except the three of them in this whole world. He tries to play a little on Thom’s flute, but even played softly, the instrument seems too loud in the empty world and Rand puts it away again.

Late into the night, Rand doesn’t notice the first arrival of the fog that he suddenly becomes aware of, covering the ground and the sleeping forms of Hurin and Loial. It hides distant everything from his sight, even shrouding the moon, and he is touching his sword, aware that anything could come up on them unseen, when suddenly he hears a voice.

“Swords do no good against me, Lews Therin. You should know that.”

Rand turns, drawing his sword and calling up the void in the same time, as out of the fog steps the shape of a man, dressed in black with gloves and a silk mask, carrying a black staff and shrouded by darkness like a huge black shadow on the fog. For a moment his eyes seem to glow with flame.

Rand recognizes Ba’alzamon immediately, and insists out loud that he must have fallen asleep and be dreaming, but Ba’alzamon only laughs “like the roar of an open furnace” and tells “Lews Therin” that he always tries to deny, but that it does no good. Ba’alzamon can always touch him, everywhere.

Rand insists that he is not the Dragon, stopping himself just short of telling the figure his name, but Ba’alzamon tells “Lews Therin” that he already knows the name he goes by now, that he knows every name he used in every Age, long before he was the Kinslayer. He tells Rand that they are tied together like two sides of the same coin, that ordinary men can hide in the Pattern but that ta’veren stand out in it like beacons.

Rand calls him Father of Lies, reminding Ba’alzamon that Rand walks in the Light and that if Ba’alzamon could take him, he would have done so already. He’s desperately hoping that he is dreaming, that even if Ba’alzamon is back in his dreams he isn’t really physically there, standing in front of Rand, and notes that the fog doesn’t move as Ba’alzamon passes through it.

Ba’alzamon, observing the sleeping Hurin and Loial, notes that “Lews Therin” always finds odd followers, like “the girl who tries to watch over” him. Rand, confused as to whom Ba’alzamon means, again calls him a liar.

“Do I, Lews Therin? You know what you are, who you are. I have told you. And so have those women of Tar Valon.” Rand shifted, and Ba’alzamon gave a laugh, like a small thunderclap. “They think themselves safe in their White Tower, but my followers number even some of their own. The Aes Sedai called Moiraine told you who you are, did she not? Did she lie? Or is she one of mine? The White Tower means to use you like a hound on a leash. Do I lie? Do I lie when I say you seek the Horn of Valere?” He laughed again; calm of the void or no, it was all Rand could do not to cover his ears. “Sometimes old enemies fight so long that they become allies and never realize it. They think they strike at you, but they have become so closely linked it is as if you guided the blow yourself.”

“You don’t guide me,” Rand said. “I deny you.”

Ba’alzamon continues to insists that their fates are tied together, that the Last Battle is coming, that Rand will serve him or die, and that this time instead of being born anew, the Cycle of the Dragon will end and the Wheel will be broken, that the world will be remade. He demands that Rand serve him, serve Shai’tan, or be destroyed.

With the utterance of the Dark One’s full name, the shadow around Ba’alzamon seems to thicken and grow, and Rand feels engulfed by icy cold and unbearable heat at the same time. Rand calls upon the Light, which dispels the feeling, and Ba’alzamon asks if Rand wants to see his face. Rand vehemently does not, but Ba’alzamon pulls off the mask.

The mask came away. It was a man’s face, horribly burned. Yet between the black-edged, red crevices crossing those features, the skin looked healthy and smooth. Dark eyes looked at Rand; cruel lips smiled with a flash of white teeth. “Look at me, Kinslayer, and see the hundredth part of your own fate.” For a moment eyes and mouth became doorways into endless caverns of fire. “This is what the Power unchecked can do, even to me. But I heal, Lews Therin. I know the paths to greater power. It will burn you like a moth flying into a furnace.”

Rand insists that he will not touch the power, but Ba’alzamon points out that he is linked to that Power even now. He tells Rand that he can teach him how to control the Power so that it does not destroy him, reminding him that there is no one else alive who can teach him that; all Rand has to do is utter the words “I am yours, Great Lord,” and he will have all the Power he could wish.

Rand again denies him, again insists that Ba’alzamon cannot touch him. Ba’alzamon declares that he can consume “Lews Therin” and with his words, flames blossom in his eyes and mouth and grow until they are brighter than the sun. The sword in Rand’s hand grows hot, burning Rand’s hands until he drops it, and the fog itself catches fire.

Yelling, Rand beat at his clothes as they smoked and charred and fell in ashes, beat with hands that blackened and shriveled as naked flesh cracked and peeled away in the flames. He screamed. Pain beat at the void inside him, and he tried to crawl deeper into the emptiness. The glow was there, the tainted light just out of sight. Half mad, no longer caring what it was, he reached for saidin, tried to wrap it around him, tried to hide in it from the burning and the pain.

And then suddenly the fire is gone, Rand’s clothes and hands are unburnt, and he believes for a moment that he imagined the whole thing. Believes it until he realizes that the heron mark has been branded into his palm. He hastily wraps it with a kerchief, and is tempted to seek the void to escape the pain, but he decides not to. He’s aware that he has twice now, once on purpose and once without even realizing it, tried to channel the One Power while he was in the void. That is what Ba’alzamon, what Moiraine and the Amyrlin seat, all want of him. And he is still determined not to do it.

The next morning, Hurin genty scolds Rand for staying up all night, worried about the consequences of their leader overtaxing himself. But Rand insists that he needed to think, and avoids letting Loial look at his injured hand by being snappy with him. They head out, having breakfast in the saddle.

Rand is still disturbed by the lack of track or hoofprints on the trail Hurin is following; he checks their own trail and sees evidence of their passing, but none of Fain’s Darkfriends ahead of them. After a short time, they see a spire up in the distance; Hurin suggests it perhaps is this world’s monument to Artur Hawkwing’s great victory over the Trollocs, but Loial points out that it should be still three or four days ahead of them, and that it makes little sense for their to be a monument at all in a world that seems to have no people. They debate whether or not to avoid it, but Rand decides to stay on the trail, at least for the time being.

They ride on, eventually close enough to the spire that Rand can see that the top is carved like a bird, which Rand takes to be a hawk. Excited, he declares that it is Hawkwing’s monument, and decides to gallop the rest of the distance to see the fabled statue that in their world has been long gone. Hurin is excited too, and they take off, heedless of Loial’s attempt at a warning. But as they get closer their enthusiasm dies; they can see that the monument is not Hawkwing’s at all, but a Trolloc monument, carved with the symbols of the varios Trolloc tribes, the top not a hawk at all, but a raven.

Loial tells Rand that he tried to warn them, and explains that he believes he has figured out where they are. He repeats the bit of script from his own book “From Stone to Stone run the lines of ‘if,’” and suggests that this is a shadow world that shows a different outcome, one in which the Trollocs won the war instead of Artur Hawkwing. He suggests that is why the world seems so hollow and washed-out looking, because it is only an ‘if,’ a ‘maybe’ and when Rand questions why there are no Trollocs, Loial suggests that perhaps after they killed all the people, they killed each other, since killing is all that a Trolloc really is.

While they are contemplating a world that has essentially killed itself, Hurin suddenly exclaim that he sees something moving. Rand turns to look but there is nothing there. Hurin says he thought it was a woman, and maybe something else, but he talks himself out of it after a moment, deciding that it’s just the eriness of the place playing tricks on him.

Turning back to the matter at hand, Loial points out another strange thing; the mountains that, like the spire, they will reach much sooner than they should, based on the location and distances in their own world; Rand suggests that this place might be like the Ways and instantly regrets giving everyone yet another reason for alarm.

Rand does his best to bolster the frightened Hurin when suddenly they hear a woman scream. Hurin thinks that it must be the woman he saw after all, but the screams are coming from a different direction. Without thought, Rand kicks his horse in the direction of the terrified screams, heedless of Loial’s shouts that they just decided that they need to be more careful. But the terror in the woman’s voice drives Rand on, and he finds her standing in a stream with a horse, backed up against the bank and using a branch to fend of a giant creature. Rand dismounts and quickly strings his bow, shooting the creature, which turns to run at him. It has three eyes and he hears the woman calling that he must shoot it in an eye to kill it. Rand seeks the void, not for saidin but for the purpose Tam taught it to him, to shoot, and sinks an arrow into the center eye of the beast, killing it.

The woman rides over to him, surprisingly calm given her ordeal, and compliments him on his shooting, adding that “few men would stand to face the charge of a grolm. Looking at her, Rand finds her impossibly beautiful, comparing her in his mind to all the beautiful women he knows, and finds himself beyond breathtaken. Hurin and Loail join them then, and she, calling Rand lord, asks if they are his retainers. He corrects her, introducing his friends, and is embarrassed when Loial speaks aloud of the woman’s beauty.

“I have never thought of it before,” Loial said abruptly, sounding as if he were talking to himself; “but if there is such a thing as perfect human beauty, in face and form, then you—”

“Loial!” Rand shouted. The Ogier’s ears stiffened in embarrassment. Rand’s own ears were red; Loial’s words had been too close to what he him- self was thinking.

The woman laughed musically, but the next instant she was all regal formality, like a queen on her throne. “I am called Selene,” she said. “You have risked your life, and saved mine. I am yours, Lord Rand al’Thor.” And, to Rand’s horror, she knelt before him.

Rand struggles with his desire not to be treated as a nobleman with his desire to impress her, the worlds that come out of his mouth sounding first too formal, then too casual, until he finally settles uncomfortably on “It was my honor.” He feels naked under her gaze, a sensation which prompts him to imagine what she looks like naked, and desperately tries to distract from his discomfort by asking Selene where she is from, and if her village is nearby. She replies that she does not live in this world, that there is nothing living here except for the grolm and a few other creatures. She tells them that she is from Cairhien, and that her reason for being in the place is suspiciously like theirs; she took a nap by a big stone and just woke up in the other world.

“…. I can only hope, my Lord, that you can save me again, and help me go home.”

“Selene, I am not a… that is, please call me Rand.” His ears felt hot again. Light, it won’t hurt anything if she thinks I’m a lord. Burn me, it won’t hurt anything.

“If you wish it… Rand.” Her smile made his throat tighten. “You will help me?”

“Of course, I will.” Burn me, but she’s beautiful. And looking at me like I’m a hero in a story. He shook his head to clear it of foolishness. “But first we have to find the men we are following. I’ll try to keep you out of danger, but we must find them. Coming with us will be better than staying here alone.”

Selene tells him that she likes that he is a man of duty, and asks who they are following. Hurin is quick to tell her everything, including about the Horn of Valere, and Rand has sense enough to regret the breach of secrecy. He asks Selene to keep the secret, which she agrees to do, but then continues to talk about how she has always longed to have the Horn in her hands, and to urge Rand to let her hold it. He deflects by remarking how they have to find it first, and they all mount, Hurin leading them on the trail once again.

Selene rides first by Rand’s side, and he struggles with whether or not to tell her that he isn’t a lord, uncomfortable with the silent deception but also worried that she won’t pay him such attention if she knows that he is only a shepherd. It doesn’t help that Selene keeps talking about what a great man he will be once he finds the Horn, that he must want such greatness, because every man wants that. She notices his hand and insists that he let her treat it with an ointment from his pack; a salve that works so well that it reminds him of how Nyneave’s sometimes work. Selene tells him that it is better to choose greatness than to have it forced upon him, because men who are forced must dance on the strings of those who forced him.

Her comment sounds so much like Moiraine that Rand forgets her beauty for a moment and jerks his hand away, asking her if she is Aes Sedai. Selene responds with derision for the Aes Sedai and their limitations, serving where they could rule, although she never denies having the Power. She touches his arm, then drops back to ride with Hurin. Rand is relieved not to be under any more of her questioning, but he’s also jealous of her attentions to the others as she rides first with Hurin, then with Loial. He is trying to ignore the feeling, watching for grolm and pondering the fact that the approaching mountains show that they have covered over a hundred leagues in two days in this world, when Loial suddenly speaks beside him.

Loial, as enthusiastic about Selene’s extensive knowledge as Rand is about her beauty and far less shy of admitting it, tells Rand that he was right to compare this world to the Ways.

“The Aes Sedai, some of them, studied worlds like this, and that study was the basis of how they grew the Ways. She says there are worlds where it is time rather than distance that changes. Spend a day in one of those, and you might come back to find a year has passed in the real world, or twenty. Or it could be the other way round. Those worlds—this one, all the others—are reflections of the real world, she says. This one seems pale to us because it is a weak reflection, a world that had little chance of ever being. Others are almost as likely as ours. Those are as solid as our world, and have people. The same people, she says, Rand. Imagine it! You could go to one of them and meet yourself. The Pattern has infinite variation, she says, and every variation that can be, will be.”

Rand asks how she could know so much more than Loial, who is more well-read than anyone Rand has ever met, and Loial reminds Rand that she is from Cairhien, which has one of the greatest libraries in the world, perhaps second only to that in Tar Valon. He mentions that the Aiel spared the library when they burned Cairhien, and Rand interrupts, not wanting to hear about Aielman. He says instead that he hopes only that she read how to get them home, and she interrupts at that moment. Rand says he wishes she would ride with him some more, and she asks Loial to excuse them.

Rand rides in silence for a while, enjoying her presence and indulging in fantasy, until she remarks about his talent with his bow. Rand explains the trick Tam taught him about the void, about its uses in shooting and in Lan’s sword lessons. Selene understands at once what he is talking about, calling it “the Oneness” and that she has heard that the best way to learn the full use of it is to wear it all the time. Rand is reluctant to agree with such a suggestion, even going so far as to get snippy with her, and question how she could have so much knowledge, knowledge that even Loial does not have. Selene reacts in a haughty, affronted manner, and when Rand presses, she cuts off the conversation by pointing out the direction back to the Stone she woke up beside.

Rand is reluctant to abandon the quest for the Horn (and reluctant to have to try to channel again) but Selene presses, promising him that he will find his legend, and Rand points out that if she used the Stone before she can use it again, without him. Selene insists that she has never read anything about how to use the Stone, and that if she did anything, she has no idea what it was.

Rand studied her. She sat her saddle, straight-backed and tall, just as regally as before, but somehow softer, too. Proud, yet vulnerable, and need- ing him. He had put Nynaeve’s age to her—a handful of years older than himself—but he had been wrong, he realized. She was more his own age, and beautiful, and she needed him. The thought, just the thought, of the void flickered through his head, and of the light. Saidin. To use the Portal Stone, he must dip himself back into that taint.

“Stay with me, Selene,” he said. “We’ll find the Horn, and Mat’s dagger, and we’ll find a way back. I promise you. Just stay with me.”

“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.”

Those words remind Rand of Egwene, somehow, which softens him further toward Selene, but before he can make a decision, they hear a grunting bark from the distance, and then more answering it. Looking back, they can see five shapes in the distance, bounding towards them.

Grolm,” Selene said calmly. “A small pack, but they have our scent, it seems.”

 

Ugh, the way Rand is thinking about Selene makes my skin crawl. There is probably some sort of glamour or other use of the Power at work, and if Selene is really Lanfear than there may also be some kind of past-life sense-memory thing where a piece of Rand remembers her as a lover, but the lust she arouses in him (and seemingly Hurin and Loial too?) is just gross. Even if she is just really really beautiful, his reaction speaks of something more, especially in the moments where he feels almost compelled to kiss her, and when he randomly starts thinking of her as a desirable wife. Yet when she says something that reminds him of Egwene, he’s put off.

In these two chapters, we have a really clear example of the two basic faces of Evil Temptation. First, Ba’alzamon comes to Rand doing his usual intimidation thing, where he goes on and on about the way their fates are tied together and how Rand’s doom is inevitable, throws around some fire and end-of-the-world catchphrases, plus some “better to be the right hand of the devil than in his path”* kind of stuff. Then Selene/probably Lanfear arrives, being beautiful beyond reason and buttering Rand up with her feminine wiles, fawning over his skill while encouraging him to embrace a desire for power and fame, neither of which are likely to lead Rand anywhere good. I wonder if Lews Telamon was a prouder and more vainglorious man on whom some of her suggestions might have had more effect, or of if this is just a generic temptation she hopes will drive Rand to embrace the One Power and push him along his journey to becoming the fully-realized Dragon, who can then maybe go mad and definitely be used for nefarious Darkfriend purposes.

(Note: There is of course a possibility that Selene is not Lanfear, but I’m confident enough in my educated guess to analyze her as though it’s a sure thing. Aside from the narrative sense it makes, and how unlikely it is that Lanfear, former lover of Lews Therin, would be so prominently mentioned only to have an entirely new sexy interest show up a few chapters later, her abruptly cut-off line “You always…” is particularly telling.)

It’s possible that Selene has an ability similar to the one Liandrin used on Amalisa, except she uses her attractiveness to get her hooks into people instead of fear and alarm. Rand does clearly feel a pull to impress her, given how easily he accepts being called Lord by her even though the title has galled him through the entire book. The little things that would normally bother him don’t, and it’s only when Selene touches on something more important that he starts to resist. And he’s actually surprised by his resistance, rather than the other way around, which is interesting too.

If Selene is actually Lanfear, I really wonder how she ended up in this world. The most likely explanation is that she pulled Rand and his friends into it somehow in order to get some time with her ex-boyfriend away from Ingtar and the rest, but there is a small part of me that wonders if she wasn’t sealed up with the other Forsaken but maybe has been a prisoner here for a long time. What if she really is trapped in the ‘if’ world, and has lured Rand in somehow to get his assistance in escaping, and he eventually will return her to his world to cause mayhem? She did vanish the two times Uno thought he saw her in the other world; I imagine a powerful channeler could manage that in a number of ways, but perhaps what Uno saw was only an echo if her, something that belonged to the real world but was trapped in another. That would certainly be interesting.

Wherever Selene came from, there is a theme here as Rand is encountering people (or whatever you would call Ba’alzamon) who knew him in at least one of his other lives. I’m interested to see how that knowledge of Lews Therin might serve them, and more interested to see how that knowledge might actually be a hindrance to their manipulation of him; how they might misread his desires and intentions, how they might drive him the wrong way because they expect him to react like Lews Therin Telamon and not like Rand al’Thor.

Speaking of acting differently, I have a lot of questions about how Ba’alzamon is acting in this most recent visitation. Generally his threats to Rand this time around are about the same as they were throughout The Eye of the World; he goes on and on with his same rant about how he and Rand are connected, etc. But this time it struck me how interesting that comparison is, coming from a being who is supposed to be some sort of god of Evil. Assuming for a moment that the Creator is a much bigger/more powerful/more omnipotent being than the Dark One—more or less in line with the difference between the Christian God and Devil—that would still put the Dark One on a scale of existence beyond that of even the most powerful human, even the Dragon. After all, the Dark One exists outside Time, or so he says, and he holds domain over some aspect of death itself. So for him to define himself and the Dragon as two sides of a coin seems off somehow. And it’s different now than it was in The Eye of the World, where he made mention of that connection but was generally was much more about Rand being a bug to be squashed, one who has cowered before him and served him in a bunch of his past lifetimes. This time he’s more about how well he knows Rand, how he can touch him, which maybe is just because his first ploy failed and Rand is now growing in power and becoming more of a threat.

But there is also something in the narrative that very gently suggests that it is odd to have his face be a man’s face; and not just the image or simulacrum of a man’s face but one that appears to have real skin on it. It reminds me of Bors’s surprise when, back in the Prologue, he sees Ba’alzamon present himself as a masked man. It feels like there is something missing in all this, some significant reason for how human-like (I mean, flame eyes and furnace mouth, so it’s all relative) Ba’alzamon’s appearance is. Bors even thinks for a moment that it isn’t Ba’alzamon at all but one of the Forsaken… which I don’t know what to make of, if I’m honest. Maybe it’s nothing, but then again, maybe it’s something. Also significant, I think, is the way Ba’alzamon saying the name Sheitan seems to have an effect; like if he’s already there why would saying the name summon himself? But this human form has to be some kind of vessel or projection of a small part of him, so that would explain it, I think.

Maybe Ba’alzamon chooses to refer to Rand as Lews Therin as a tactical measure, one designed to remind Rand of the Dragon he knows the most about, thereby forcing Rand to consider and maybe acknowledge his own identity. But Ba’alzamon could have chosen any of the Dragon’s former names; he knows them all, and somewhere along the line there must have been a first one, too. I guess it doesn’t make much sense for Ba’alzamon to use a name Rand wouldn’t recognize, but Ba’alzamon is making a big point of how he knows all of those names and identities and it might make the point rather well. I wonder if there is any part of Rand that is capable of holding onto memories of his past lives, even little things like the instinctual draw to Lanfear that I was positing earlier. For that matter, I am still curious about all the rules and ways regeneration works in The Wheel of Time, including the question I posited way back in the early days of reading The Eye of the World, which is whether the Dragon is the only person who gets reincarnated, or if it’s some other people, or even everybody. And how does the Dark One being the Lord of Death fit into all that?

This is another one of those sections that, when you step back and look at it, is quite an info dump, but when you’re reading it there is enough suspense that you don’t notice quite so much. Selene’s all-too-convenient knowledge of this world aside, it is interesting to learn how the ‘if’ world works, and most of my guesses about it weren’t too far off. I’m still confused as to how the reflected world counts in comparison to the other one, though; the idea that the one Rand comes from is the central one makes the ‘if’ world seem appropriately not ‘real,’ but apparently it’s real enough to have people in it, and so are others that are even more like Rand’s than this one. Do those reflected worlds also generate their own mirror-universes? Or does Rand’s, as the core world, still function as the most real, the one with which the Wheel is concerned, the one with which the Dark One is concerned? This sort of thing makes me wish I knew more science.

Two more chapters to come next week, and we’ll finally get Rand back to the real world. And, after a lot of talk about Tar Valon and the White Tower, we’ll actually get there. And see just how dang creepy it is.

*Yeah, Sylas K Barrett quoted The Mummy (1999) for you. You’re welcome.

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