Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: The Heron Names Him True in Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt (Part 27)

Welcome back to the Read of The Great Hunt! Today is the last day of The Wheel of Time’s second novel, and although the climax is over, there are still a few gaps to fill in, and a few choices left to make. Also, Moiraine is here, Gandalf-ing back into Rand’s life now that all the dangerous things are over, to explain (somewhat unconvincingly, I might add) that she’d been doing her own important stuff all this time.

Chapter 27 opens with Min struggling to make her way through crowds of people, some of whom are running in panic while many more remain frozen in place, uncertain if it is more dangerous to stay or to flee. She can’t find Nynaeve, Egwene, or Elayne, but she can see Seanchan ships burning in the harbor, and the Spray beating out to sea. She doesn’t blame Domon for leaving; if anything, she can’t believe he waited for them for so long. She also can’t quite believe her eyes as she sees the mounted figure of Birgitte ride across the water to put a flaming arrow into the one Seanchan ship that had managed to put out the first round of flames. But as much as Min can’t quite believe her own eyes, she also thought she saw Artur Hawkwing—and in either case, she has other things on her mind.

She can feel herself being pulled, as if there was an invisible string tied to her, through the streets of Falme towards something. Or someone. Eventually she reaches a specific house and knows that what she’s looking for is in there. She goes through into the garden and finds exactly what, or rather who, she knew she would.

Rand lay sprawled on his back under an oak, face pale and eyes closed, left hand gripping a hilt that ended in a foot of blade that appeared to have been melted at the end. His chest rose and fell too slowly, and not with the regular rhythm of someone breathing normally.

Taking a deep breath to calm herself, she went to see what she could do for him. First was to get rid of that stub of a blade; he could hurt himself, or her, if he started thrashing. She pried his hand open, and winced when the hilt stuck to his palm. She tossed it aside with a grimace. The heron on the hilt had branded itself into his hand. But it was obvious to her that that was not what had him lying there unconscious. How did he come by that? Nynaeve can put a salve on it later.

She looks him over and finds the wound in his side, which has cauterized itself, but even more alarming is how cold he feels. Min drags him inside, complaining to her insensible companion about how he just had to be so tall and heavy. Still, she manages to get him into a bed and light a fire in the room; when even that fails to warm him, she climbs under the blankets to in an attempt to share her own body heat.

For a time she studied his face. It was only his face she saw; she could never read anyone who was not conscious. “I like older men,” she told him. “I like men with education, and wit. I have no interest in farms, or sheep, or shepherds. Especially boy shepherds.” With a sigh, she smoothed back the hair from his face; he had silky hair. “But then, you aren’t a shepherd, are you? Not anymore. Light, why did the Pattern have to catch me up with you? Why couldn’t I have something safe and simple, like being shipwrecked with no food and a dozen hungry Aielmen?”

Just then Egwene appears in the doorway, and Min awkwardly explains that she’s trying to keep him warm. Egwene says that she felt him pulling her, calling to her, and that Elayne did as well. She thought it had to do with “what he is,” but Nynaeve didn’t feel anything. She asks Min if she knows what Rand is, understands that he can never marry and that he is dangerous to all of them—Min responds that of course she knows, that Egwene can speak only for herself on the safety issue, and in any case, since Egwene “cast him off” in favor of the White Tower, it should make no difference to her if Min snatches him up. Egwene just stares at her for a long time, then declares that she will go get Nynaeve and leaves the room.

Min wanted to call out, to go after her, but she lay there as if frozen. Frustrated tears stung her eyes. It’s what has to be. I know it. I read it in all of them. Light, I don’t want to be part of this. “It’s all your fault,” she told Rand’s still shape. “No, it isn’t. But you will pay for it, I think. We’re all caught like flies in a spiderweb. What if I told her there’s another woman yet to come, one she doesn’t even know? For that matter, what would you think of that, my fine Lord Shepherd? You aren’t bad-looking at all, but… Light, I don’t even know if I am the one you’ll choose. I don’t know if I want you to choose me. Or will you try to dandle all three of us on your knee? It may not be your fault, Rand al’Thor, but it isn’t fair.”

“Not Rand al’Thor,” said a musical voice from the door. “Lews Therin Telamon. The Dragon Reborn.”

Min looks up to see an absolutely beautiful woman in a white dress and silver jewelry standing in the doorway that Egwene just vacated. She comes in, brushing a hand through Rand’s hair as though Min wasn’t even there beside him, and remarks that Rand knows, but doesn’t yet believe. She says that she has guided him, pulled and pushed and enticed him—he was always stubborn, but in time she will “shape” him. Ishamael thinks that he controls events, but really, she does.

She draws what appears to be the Dragon’s Fang on Rand’s forehead, causing him to stir for the first time since Min found him, and Min demands to know who the woman is. But she is horrified when the woman gives her name as Lanfear. Min tries to deny that one of the Forsaken is in the same room as her, but Lanfear only tells her that Lews Therin is hers, and instructs her to take good care of him until Lanfear comes to claim him. Then she is gone, leaving Min to hold Rand close and try not to wish in that moment that he could protect her.

Out on the plains, Byar gallops away on his errand to tell Captain Bornhald’s son and Pedron Niall of the death of Bornhald and the destruction of the legion. It’s a destruction that Byar believes can have only one explanation: that they were betrayed by Darkfriends like Perrin of the two Rivers. But more than that, he has something else, something even more dire, to tell the Lord Captain Commander about: what he witnessed in the skies above Falme.

Rand wakes underneath a tree, wrapped in blankets and bandages, and finds Min sitting on the ground beside him. He struggles to remember what has happened, is aware of a pain in his side but not its cause. Min tells him that she came from Falme, that she and Nynaeve and Elayne were all there, and that they freed Egwene. They’re five days east of Falme now, and Rand has slept the whole time. Rand, confused but relieved that Egwene is free, asks where she is, and Min explains that everyone, Egwene, Nynaeve, Mat, Hurin, and Verin, have all left to go back to the White Tower, taking the Horn of Valere with them. Nynaeve and Egwene are returning to their studies, Mat is going to have the Aes Sedai take care of the issue with the dagger, and Hurin had been very reluctant to leave Rand. Rand is upset that Egwene didn’t wait for him to wake up. Min’s face reddens, but Rand is distracted by noticing that there is now a heron branded into his left palm as well as his right, and actually cries out “No!” when he remembers the words of the prophecy: Once the heron to set his path; Twice the heron to name him true.

Rand tries to examine his side next, but Min discourages that. She explains that there is something wrong with the wound—Verin tried healing it but it didn’t work the way it should, and while Moiraine thought that Nynaeve must have done something to prevent him from dying of the injury in the time it took to carry him to Verin, Nynaeve admitted that she was too scared to use saidar at all. In any case, Rand will have to wait for it to heal naturally.

“Moiraine is here?” He barked a bitter laugh. “When you said Verin was gone, I thought I was free of Aes Sedai again.”

“I am here,” Moiraine said. She appeared, all in blue and as serene as if she stood in the White Tower, strolling up to stand over him. Min was frowning at the Aes Sedai. Rand had the odd feeling that she meant to protect him from Moiraine.

“I wish you weren’t here,” he told the Aes Sedai. “As far as I am concerned, you can go back to wherever you’ve been hiding and stay there.”

“I have not been hiding,” Moiraine said calmly. “I have been doing what I could, here on Toman Head, and in Falme. It was little enough, though I learned much. I failed to rescue two of my sisters before the Seanchan herded them onto the ships with the Leashed Ones, but I did what I could.”

Rand remarks that Moiraine sent Verin to shepherd him, but that he is no sheep, and that since Moiraine said that he can go where he wants, he is going to go away from her. But Moraine only answers that she did not send Verin, and points out that Rand is of interest to many people.

Then she asks about Padan Fain, and Rand admits that he never found him. He remarks disparagingly about his worth as a hero—he couldn’t save Egwene, and Padan Fain threatened the Two Rivers, which is now in danger because of Rand’s failure to show up to the rendezvous. But Moiraine replies that it is probably for the best, and explains that Padan Fain, with his soul belonging to the Dark One, encountered Mordeth in Shadar Logoth. Mordeth tried to take over Fain’s body by consuming his soul, but since it had been directly touched by the Dark One, the end result was neither Mordeth nor Padan Fain, but some combination of the two, more evil than either on his own. Rand would probably have died in the encounter with him, or worse.

Still, Rand is more focused on preventing harm to the Two Rivers, and fumbles for his sword, only to find the blade melted. Memory comes back to him, and he murmurs that he killed him. This time he really killed him.

Moiraine put the ruined sword aside like the useless thing it now was, and wiped her hands together. “The Dark One is not slain so easily. The mere fact that he appeared in the sky above Falme is more than merely troubling. He should not be able to do that, if he is bound as we believe. And if he is not, why has he not destroyed us all?” Min stirred uneasily.

“In the sky?” Rand said in wonder.

“Both of you,” Moiraine said. “Your battle took place across the sky, in full view of every soul in Falme. Perhaps in other towns on Toman Head, too, if half what I hear is to be believed.”

“We—we saw it all,” Min said in a faint voice. She put a hand over one of Rand’s comfortingly.

Moiraine takes out a parchment and shows Rand a drawing by a Falme street artist, depicting Rand, surrounded by clouds and lightning, wielding his sword against a figure with a staff and flames for a face, with the Dragon banner unfurled in the background. Horrified, Rand asks how many people have seen the drawing and urges her to destroy it, but Moiraine assures him that there are hundreds more drawings, and that the story of the Dragon appearing over the skies of Falme is being told everywhere.

Min squeezes Rand’s hand, sympathetically, as Rand wonders if this is why Egwene left. He thinks she was right to do it.

“The Pattern weaves itself around you even more tightly,” Moiraine said. “You need me now more than ever.”

“I don’t need you,” he said harshly, “and I don’t want you. I will not have anything to do with this.” He remembered being called Lews Therin; not only by Ba’alzamon, but by Artur Hawkwing. “I won’t. Light, the Dragon is supposed to Break the World again, to tear everything apart. I will not be the Dragon.”

Moiraine replies simply that Rand is what he is, and that he is already affecting the world, including sparking civil war in Cairhien, with Arad Doman and Tarabon not far behind. Rand insists that he can’t be blamed for that, since he did nothing in Cairhien. But doing nothing, as Moiraine explains, has always been a ploy in the Great Game, and that Rand’s presence was the spark that ignited Cairhien. And now with the news of his battle in the sky, men will be more ready than ever to declare themselves for the Dragon. And then there is also the bundle that she drops in his lap; not one, but two more broken seals from the Dark One’s prison.

Min squeezes Rand’s hand again, this time looking for comfort rather than offering it, as Moiraine explains that this brings them to three of the seven seals being broken—the one she had plus these two which she found in the High Lord’s house. When all seven are broken, or perhaps even before then, “‘…the patch men put over the hole they drilled into the prison the Creator made will be torn asunder, and the Dark One will once more be able to put his hand through that hole and touch the world. And the only hope of the world is that the Dragon Reborn will be there to face him.’”

Rand declares that he needs to walk, and gets up despite Min’s protests. He looks at the broken remains of the Heron Marked Blade and takes a moment to let go of his last shreds of hope that Tam really is his father. It hurts to admit the truth, but it doesn’t change how he feels about Tam or the Two Rivers, and Rand’s only interest is in stopping Fain and protecting the only home he has ever known.

Min and Moiraine help Rand walk down to where some campfires are burning, and he finds Loial and Perrin as well as Lan and the rest of the Shienaran company. In the middle of the camp, the dragon banner is flying. Rand is upset that it is out where anyone can see it, but Moiraine tells him it is far too late for Rand to hide. Still, Rand doesn’t see the point in putting up a sign so anyone and everyone can see where he is.

He thanks Loial and Perrin for staying despite the knowledge of what he is; Loial answers that Rand may be even more ta’veren than he knew, but that he is still Loial’s friend, and he hopes he is still Rand’s. Perrin replies simply, resignedly, that the Wheel weaves them all tightly into the Pattern. As they are talking, the Shienarans are gathering around them, and then they all fall to their knees, Uno declaring that they would like to pledge themselves to Rand. Rand protests, insisting that their loyalty is to Ingtar and Lord Agelmar. He adds that Ingtar died well, sacrificing himself so that they could escape, and doesn’t add anything about his being a Darkfriend, only hoping privately that Ingtar found his way back to the Light.

“It is said,” the one-eyed man said carefully, “that when the Dragon is Reborn, he will break all oaths, shatter all ties. Nothing holds us, now. We would give our oaths to you.” He drew his sword and laid it before him, hilt toward Rand, and the rest of the Shienarans did the same.

“You battled the Dark One,” Masema said. Masema, who hated him. Masema, who looked at him as if seeing a vision of the Light. “I saw you, Lord Dragon. I saw. I am your man, to the death.” His dark eyes shone with fervor.

“You must choose, Rand,” Moiraine said. “The world will be broken whether you break it or not. Tarmon Gai’don will come, and that alone will tear the world apart. Will you still try to hide from what you are, and leave the world to face the Last Battle undefended? Choose.”

They were all watching him, all waiting. Death is lighter than a feather, duty heavier than a mountain. He made his decision.

The story of what happened in Falme spreads rapidly, the details muddied or changed and often exaggerated in the retelling, but one part remains consistent—whether the forces riding from Falme are Artur Hawkwing’s armies, or the heroes of the Horn, or a thousand Bordermen, there is a man at their head, whose face was seen in the skies above Falme, and they ride under the banner of the Dragon Reborn.

 

I really enjoyed having a chapter from Min’s point of view. Due to her unique ability, her observations on events—her observations on the Pattern—are different than any of the other characters’. Moiraine and the other Aes Sedai have studied and been trained in understanding the Pattern—they believe in it fully. Meanwhile, most of the less knowledgeable characters may be generally aware that the Pattern directs their lives, but they can’t actually see it happening, so in some ways it might as well not exist. Because Min can read parts of people’s destinies, can actually see some bits of the Pattern, she has no choice but to recognize its influence on her life. She’s not Moiraine, lecturing Rand on how he cannot stop being what the Wheel has made him, but neither is she able to be like Rand, willfully resisting the truth of her own destiny.

I have to say, it’s pretty understandable that Egwene feels a little frosty towards Min (and whoever else might end up romantically fate-tied to Rand). She can’t see the inevitability like Min can, and even if she could, in some ways being denied someone she loves because the Pattern dictates it might hurt more than if it was just Rand’s choice, or even Egwene’s own. I bet she and Min get past it eventually, but Rand’s duty, his fate, is not the only one that is a heavy burden.

Egwene seems to think that the pull that she, Elayne, and Min felt towards Rand couldn’t be because of his ta’veren nature, or else Nynaeve would have felt it too. But she is discounting the fact that Rand did not need Nynaeve in that moment. Even Verin couldn’t do anything for his injury, so Nynaeve certainly couldn’t have (she’s amazing, but even she needs some more training). The pull was felt by the women who are or will be important to Rand emotionally. Makes me wonder if Lanfear was only there because she was keeping particularly close tabs on him, or if she felt some kind of pull too. Just because she’s bad news doesn’t mean she’s not important to the Pattern, too, and I noted something symbolic in the way she smoothed Rand’s hair back in such a familiar gesture after Min had just done so for the first time.

The way Min talks about the Wheel and the Pattern, and how she talks to the unconscious Rand, is really fun. There’s something delightfully humorous about her grumblings, and she seems to frame the pain of inescapable fate to herself in a comedic way, no doubt as a coping method. She’s going to be an important person in Rand’s life; perhaps he’ll pick up the habit and the Dragon will be wandering around muttering sarcastically about why the heck Ba’alzamon had to make things so difficult and complicated all the time.

Speaking of Ba’alzamon, last week’s theories have born out, now that Selene/Lanfear has name-checked Ishamael. Her attestation that she is the true driving force behind events, not him, is rather in keeping with the general state of gender relations in The Wheel of Time. The Village Council may think they run Emond’s Field, but the Women’s Circle is the real driving force of decisions made in the town. The Dragon’s enemy may think he is the one directing Rand’s fate, but in fact it is his old girlfriend who is really in charge. Granted, we have only Lanfear’s word for that—as far as what the reader has actually seen of her, she has not really had much success in directing Rand’s choices. But she is playing the long game, and just because she’s been frustrated by Rand’s stubbornness doesn’t mean the general arc of Rand’s life and development isn’t still going exactly in the direction Lanfear wants it to.

And I kind of love the arrogance of Lanfear just ordering Min to look after Rand for her, like she’s some kind of babysitter or stand-in Rand’s real soulmate. Or whatever it is that Lanfear thinks she is to Lews Therin Telamon.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I still can’t help getting stuck on this insistence on everyone’s part to refer to Rand as Lews Therin, as though Lews Therin is the name of the Dragon in all his lives, instead of just the penultimate one in a long line of reincarnations. While I think my theory about Lews Therin being particularly relevant because of the incident with the sealing of the Dark One’s prison and the taint on saidin still applies, having both Lanfear and Ishamael present now provides another explanation for the instance on calling Rand Lews Therin. Both Ishamael and Lanfear are still in the same lives that they were in when Lews Therin lived. It isn’t that Lews Therin is the proper name for the Dragon, it’s that it’s the name of their Dragon.

I recently went back through the glossary of The Eye of the World, which helped me piece together more of the story of Lews Therin’s attack on Shayol Ghul. I’m not quite sure how much of the details were given within the body of The Eye of the World and The Great Hunt that I missed, but it’s certainly easier to see the information all in one place.

The story as I understand it goes like this. The Dark One was sealed in Shayol Ghul by the Creator during the creation of the world, but during Lews Therin’s lifetime some of the most powerful Aes Sedai ever known, who turned to the Dark One in a bid for power and his promise of immortality, made an attempt to free him. These betrayers became known as the Forsaken. Lews Therin led a group of male Aes Sedai directly against Shayol Ghul in order to reseal the prison, but because the leaders of the female Aes Sedai disagreed with his plan, there were no women channelers present when Shayol Ghul was closed up again and the Dark One managed to reach out and taint the power that was being used. The taint on saidin was, of course, a tragedy that instilled madness in all the male channelers in existence and resulted in the Breaking of the World, but the venture was still successful in so far as the Dark One was sealed in again. The Forsaken were trapped inside with him, with the exception of Ishamael, the Betrayer of Hope (and possibly Lanfear?).

Now that the seven seals that Lews Therin used to close up the prison are starting to break, the patch on the prison is weakening, allowing some of the Forsaken, such as Aginor and Balthamel to escape. Presumably more will be able to get out as more of the seals are destroyed.

Having finally put all this information together in the correct order, I had another revelation this week. I hadn’t understood that the seals were never physically attached to the Dark One’s prison. I had assumed that the two seals that Turak had—the one he acquired from Captain Domon as well as one he already possessed—were already “broken” in the sense that they had been removed from the prison itself. But now that both of Turak’s seals have apparently broken during Rand’s confrontation with Ba’alzamon, I realize they must be seals on the channeling (I don’t think you would call it a spell, but I haven’t yet seen another word used to describe the result of a use of the One Power) that closed the prison. Lews Therin and his companions probably intended to put them somewhere safe and guard them against harm or interference, but then lost them during the Breaking, save for the one seal that someone was smart enough to hide in the Eye of the World. And yet it still broke, which suggests that one doesn’t have to act directly onto the seal; rather, the pressure to break the confinement is coming from somewhere else and channeling into the seals until they break.

Come to think of it, since only men were involved in the sealing of the prison, the cuendillar seals are probably not as strong as they could be, since the best works are always made by men and women channeling together. Perhaps if the female Aes Sedai had gone with Lews Therin and his friends, the seals on the prison would be stronger and not breaking yet. On the other hand, if they had been there, perhaps the Dark One would have been able to taint saidar along with saidin, which would have been even more catastrophic.

But getting back to the chapters at hand, I love the way Moiraine shows up after everything that happened and explains everything and where the heck she has been this whole time. It’s so very Gandalf. It’s completely fair that Rand’s a little pissy about it, although I’m not sure he appreciates the oxymoronic nature of his anger towards Moiraine—he’s always swinging back and forth between being angry that she’s interfering with his life, then angry that she isn’t helping him, and then angry again that she has come back. But there’s also a really important revelation here in the matter of Verin’s lie that Moiraine sent her after Rand and Ingtar’s party.

This is not a case of the truth you hear versus the truth that was told. Verin directly told Ingtar “Moiraine Sedai sent me,” and “She thought you might need me.” So despite being a fully-fledged Aes Sedai, Verin is able to tell lies. It is possible that she is Black Ajah and there is something in the contract with the Dark One that breaks the oaths they swear. It’s also possible that there is another reason; the Aes Sedai are schemers, after all, and I’m sure that Moiraine and the Amyrlin’s plans are not the only secrets even among the “good” Aes Sedai. Perhaps Verin was secretly exempted from the oaths for some reason, or perhaps she is just so clever that she found a loophole of her own. I suppose we have to wait and see, but I’ll certainly be keeping a wary eye on her, and I hope Moiraine does, too.

As Uno, Masema and the other Shienarans swore their allegiance to Rand as the Dragon, I was reminded of Rand’s conversation with Ingtar, so long ago, when he told Rand that if anything happened to Ingtar, the lances would follow him.

“If I go to the last embrace of the mother, the duty is yours. You will find the Horn, and you will take it where it belongs. You will.” There was a peculiar emphasis in Ingtar’s last words.

Ingtar, of course, had no idea that Rand was the Dragon Reborn. He did believe that Rand was a lord, despite Rand’s denials, and even more importantly, Ingtar believed in Agelmar’s orders (no doubt Moiraine was actually responsible for the decision). Ingtar was right that Rand would do his duty, more right than he could possibly have known, and now those words are coming true, applied in an even greater frame of fate and duty than Ingtar realized. The concept of the Dragon breaking all oaths is an interesting one, and I wonder if that isn’t the first step of him Breaking the World again. The Dragon’s fight, after all, is not one of nations against nations or even ideologies against ideologies. It is a fight there can only be two sides to, and it makes sense that by the time the Last Battle arrives, allegiance to the Dragon and the Light is going to be the only allegiance that matters. It makes me wonder how literal the prophesied re-breaking of the world is going to be—there’s nothing to say that has to be lots of death and the destruction of the land itself, is there? Perhaps what he is going to break is old systems, old allegiances, and old ways of life.

It’s kind of beautiful that the first host to swear allegiance to the Dragon Reborn are a group who knew Rand before they were aware of his true identity. Sure, Masema never liked him until he knew that Rand was the Dragon, but these are still men with whom Rand has a common bond. They have ridden together, under Ingtar, on an important and difficult mission. Rand is a part of the Shienaran company, not just the Dragon to whom all men must eventually swear fealty, but a companion in their hunt. No doubt many more forces will be following the Dragon banner before long, but it’s fitting that these friends are there first.

Next week I am going to do a retrospective looking back at both The Great Hunt and The Eye of the World, with a focus on reexamining the character of Ba’alzamon now that I know he is really Ishamael. I am also going to explore the heron imagery and its association not just with swordsmanship but also with Rand himself. Until then, I leave you with my final thoughts.

  • Mat can call the heroes whenever he wants; there’s no apparent limitation on how frequently the Horn can be used. Will Artur Hawkwing, Birgitte and the rest be recurring characters appear in the upcoming books, or is this the last we’ll see of them until A Memory of Light?
  • I wonder if the Dark One is mad about Ishamael pretending to be him, but I note that Ba’alzamon is not the most important, the true, name for the Dark One. Calling himself Ba’alzamon is a far cry from calling himself Shai’tan. Then again, perhaps this deception is part of the Dark One’s plans. There could be a variety of reasons for it, including that it makes it look like he is free from his prison already and able to touch the world. Seeing what is apparently the Dark One in the skies certainly has shaken Moiraine, and she can’t explain how he could be there and yet still be trapped. So it’s not a bad ploy.
  • Rand’s totem has been the heron-marked blade, but it is destroyed now. Will it be replaced, perhaps with the Dragon banner, in a symbolic representation that this is the identity he now most associates himself with?
  • Where is Elayne? Obviously she must have gone back to the White Tower with Egwene and Nynaeve, but her name is conspicuously absent from Min’s list of names and where those people went. Did Jordan forget about her or what?
  • Why is chapter 50 a page long? Seems silly to make it separate. Just finish off Chapter 49, or do it as sort of an afterword. Although I guess it’s nice to have the good round number at the end of the book.

See you in the comments!

Sylas K Barrett recommends that if you love epic fantasy with complex world building, you should check out his review of Jenn Lyons’s The Ruin of Kings later today on Tor.com!

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