Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: The Sword in the Stone Declares the King in Robert Jordan’s The Dragon Reborn (Part 23)

Oh my, what a journey we have had this week. My dear fellow travelers, we have done it. This is the last recap post for The Dragon Reborn. It’s been an interesting ride! I apologize for the length of the recap portion as well. I tried to be brief but it was a very tricky set of chapters to sum up, with lots of details in lots of different places, and we kept switching rapidly between different scenes and different povs. It did give the whole thing a rather cinematic feel, though, and it also contributed to the sense of just how fast everything was happening.

Shout out to Stefan Raets for doing all the editing for this piece (as he has done for every other, and excellently too!) which was late coming in and probably riddled with spelling errors and unfinished sentences, as I am more sick this week than I have been in years. I am seriously just a set of long mustaches away from being Thom Merrilin with this cough I’ve got, and I wouldn’t complain at all if Mother Guenna wanted to shove vile-tasting potions down my throat and keep me in a bed at her house until I recover. Maybe she and Nynaeve can discuss the best cure for this massive sinus pressure I’ve got going on. Or the pink eye.

Still, unlike Thom, I have made it to the climactic battle at the Stone, which was quite interesting, even if it wasn’t the Last Battle the way certain characters seem to have been hoping.

Nighttime finds Mat perched on the rooftops of Tear, thinking how completely unsensible it is to be in such a place at such a time. He is scoping out the best route to take to reach the Stone, and so far the best option he has found is not one he relishes—the top of the city wall.

He’s carrying his quarterstaff, a small box with a wire handle that’s growing uncomfortable warm, and the roll of fireworks, which he has reworked and jammed into more of a bundle. It’s too much to be carrying around the rooftops in the dark, and he’s already slipped once. Still, he stays, and regards the wall, which would be easy enough to reach from the rooftops and is technically plenty wide enough to walk along, if you could get over the distance down to the pavement on either side.

Of course, even if Mat reached the Stone, he would then have to scale the side of it. He tells himself that he can climb it, though in the very next thought he thinks that even Rand wouldn’t try to climb such a height. Even as he thinks it, he realizes that he can actually see someone climbing the side of the Stone, a shadow in the night and already halfway up, too. Mat thinks they must be a fool, but then he is a fool too because he is about to try the same thing, and if this person raises the alarm or gets caught, it will make Mat’s night that much harder.

Just then he feels the press of steel against his throat, and has a brief skirmish with a group that he at first takes to be thieves, then identifies as Aiel. They tell him that they have been watching him study the Stone and ask what his purpose is, only to be interrupted by the arrival of a thief-catcher, who names himself Juilin Sandar and would like to know what the Aiel are doing on the rooftops, watching the Stone.

Mat shook his head. How many bloody people are on the roofs tonight? All that was needed was for Thom to appear and play his harp, or someone to come looking for an inn. A bloody thief-taker! He wondered why the Aiel were just standing there.

“You stalk well, for a city man,” the older man’s voice said. “But why do you follow us? We have stolen nothing. Why have you looked so often at the Stone tonight yourself?”

Sandar is surprised, and even more so as several more Aiel rise up behind him out of the darkness. He observes that he himself is caught, and then admits that he is troubled by something he did. Part of him says that what he did was right, and that he must obey, but another small voice tells him that he betrayed something. It is very small and he knows that it is wrong, but it will not stop.

One of the Aiel introduces himself as Rhuarc, and explains that he was once a Red Shield, whose job is similar to that of a thief-catcher. Thus, he knows what kind of man Sandar is and will not harm him if he agrees to be silent about the Aiel’s presence. Sandar, after learning that the Aiel are here about the Stone, agrees, and the Aiel turn their attention back to Mat.

Mat tries to be flippant with them, but the seriousness of Aiel steel forces him to give at least some of the truth, and he explains that some of his friends are prisoners in the Stone and that he intends to free them, alone, since there doesn’t seem to be anyone else to help. He asks if the Aiel want to throw their lot in with his, since his luck is good. Rhuarc answers that they are not here for prisoners, and then the Aiel melt away as silently as they arrived.

Sandar, however, is interested in Mat’s prisoners, and asks if they are three women.

Mat frowned at him, wishing there was enough light to show the man’s face clearly. The fellow’s voice sounded odd. “What do you know of them?”

“I know they are inside the Stone. And I know a small gate near the river where a thief-catcher can gain entrance with a prisoner, to take him to the cells. The cells where they must be. If you will trust me, gambler, I can take us that far. What happens after that is up to chance. Perhaps your luck will bring us out again alive.”

Mat considers if he believes in his luck enough to trust Sandar, and a plan that could very quickly change from him pretending to be a prisoner to actually being one. He watches the shadows of the Aiel scaling the wall of the Stone and decides that they might serve as a useful diversion, then decides that he might as well create his own diversion too, as he had already planned to.

They cross the rooftops until they reach the city wall, then Mat tells Sandar to wait for him and runs along the wall—doing his best not to think about the drop—all the way to the Stone, where he finds an arrow slit to wedge his fireworks bundle into. Using a coal from his little tin box, he lights the fuses he’s rearranged and bundled together, then races away, back along the wall.

The explosion sends him flying forward, his ears ringing, and he thinks that he must finally have used up all his luck in not falling off the wall. He finds himself running back to inspect the results of his work and is baffled to find a hole in the wall where the arrow slit used to be, a hole just big enough for him to squeeze through. After a moment’s internal debate over whether to return and try Sandar’s plan or to take this path, he climbs through.

As soon as he’s inside he encounters a group of Defenders of the Stone, and would quickly be overwhelmed by them except for the timely arrival of Sandar coming to his aid. They take the men out together.

Sandar stared at the fallen men, shaking his head. “Defenders of the Stone. I have attacked Defenders! They will have my head for—! What was it that you did, gambler? That flash of light, and thunder, breaking stone. Did you call lightning?” His voice fell to a whisper. “Have I joined myself to a man who can channel?”

“Fireworks,” Mat said curtly. His ears were still ringing, but he could hear more boots coming, running boots thudding on stone. “The cells, man! Show me the way to the cells before any more get here!”

They race off, Mat silently promising the girls that he is coming, that he will get them out or die.

Meanwhile, Rand pays no heed to the commotion he hears as he hurries through the corridors. The wound in his side aches from the climb but he doesn’t pay attention to that either, just continues towards what he has dreamed of, what will end all of this. Callandor.

In the cells, Egwene wakes from dreams of Rand and Mat and flies into in a panic, screaming that she will not be collared again. Nynaeve and Elayne are quick to comfort her, and their presence is enough for her to get control of herself. They are still shielded from the True Source—one of the Black Ajah, Amico, is sitting outside their cell maintaining the weave—but nothing else has happened and they have been left completely alone. Elayne reminds them that Liandrin said that they are bait, and Egwene is the one who realizes who they are bait for: Rand, who she dreamed of, and who is coming for Callandor. She tries to reassure the others that they can escape, but Nynaeve shares that there are thirteen Myrddraal coming.

[Egwene] found herself staring at that message scratched on the stone wall again: The Light have mercy and let me die. Her hands clenched into fists. Her jaws cramped with the effort of not screaming those words. Better to die. Better death than being turned to the Shadow, made to serve the Dark One!

But one of Egwene’s hands has closed around the pouch at her belt, and she realizes with a start that she still has her rings, the Great Serpent one as well as the stone ter’angreal. Apparently they were not even deemed worthy of searching, but it leaves Egwene with an opportunity. Since she could channel in Tel’aran’rhiod, she thinks perhaps she might be able to find some way to help them. Nynaeve worries that Liandrin and the others might be there again, but Egwene only replies grimly that she hopes they are.

With Elayne stroking her hair and Nynaeve humming that wordless lullaby, she easily drifts off to sleep and finds herself in the usual place. After briefly checking to see that she can, indeed, touch the True Source, she empties her mind again and fills it with the image of the Heart of the Stone.

She finds Joiya Byir there, the other woman’s form so insubstantial that Egwene can see Callandor through her, the sword pulsing with an internal light. She’s shocked to see Egwene there, and Egwene reacts quickly, recreating the flows of Spirit that she saw used against her by the Black Ajah as she cuts Joiya off from the True Source. She follows that weave with one of Air, trapping the woman in place.

Joiya, realizing that Egwene must have a ter’angreal that doesn’t requite channeling, threatens her, promising to come take the ter’angreal when she wakes, but Egwene answers that Joiya may not be able to wake at all, as long as she is shielded here, and that things that happen in Tel’aran’rhiod are still real when you wake up. Then she weaves a third flow of Air, subjecting Joiya to a beating not unlike the one Joiya recently gave to Egwene. She takes a moment to observe how easy it was to figure out how to weave multiple flows and to set them so they maintained themselves without her, and notes that she thinks she will be able to remember how to do it in the future.

After a moment, she unraveled one of the weavings, and the Darkfriend sobbed as much from relief as from pain. “I am not like you,” Egwene said. “This is the second time I have done something like this, and I do not like it. I am going to have to learn to cut throats instead.” From the Black sister’s face, she thought Egwene meant to start learning with her.

Making a disgusted sound, Egwene left her standing there, trapped and shielded, and hurried into the forest of polished redstone columns. There had to be a way down to the cells somewhere.

In another part of the Dream World Stone of Tear, Young Bull and Hopper have just finished taking out a group of two-legs, ones who had seemed frightened and confused at being in the wolf dream, and who had been set to keep him from a tall door with an iron lock, or at least to guard it. Perrin finds himself in his human body again as he looks at the door, and Hopper warns him to hurry, as there is something evil nearby.

Perrin destroys the lock with a blow from his hammer and finds Faile inside, lying on a long stone block in the middle of the floor, naked and held down with many chains. He crosses the room and touches her face.

She opened her eyes and smiled up at him. “I kept dreaming you would come, blacksmith.”

“I will have you free in a moment, Faile.” He raised his hammer, smashed one of the bolts as if it were wood.

“I was sure of it. Perrin.”

But as she says it she fades away, the chains dropping to the stone. He shouts that he found her, but Hopper tells him that in the Dream World, one hunt can have many endings. And so they hunt again.

Back in the waking world, Mat has found himself face to face with a rather talented swordsman, one of the High Lords who emerged from a chamber somewhere to challenge the intruders. He is not the first to do so, but Mat is struggling more with him than any of the others, and Sandar is trapped behind him, unable to get by without compromising Mat’s ability to use his staff. When Mat eventually manages to take the man out, he leans on his staff, panting and thinking about how he didn’t know being a hero was going to be quite so much hard work.

Sandar came to stand beside him, frowning down at the crumpled High Lord. “He does not look so mighty lying there,” he said wonderingly. “He does not look so much greater than me.”

Mat gave a start and peered down the hall, where a man had just gone trotting across along a joining corridor. Burn me, if I did not know it was crazy, I would swear that was Rand!

“Sandar, you find that—” he began, swinging his staff up onto his shoulder, and cut off when it thudded into something.

Turning, Mat finds another High Lord behind him, clutching a bleeding head. He’s dropped the sword he was about to kill Mat with, and Mat takes him out with two more quick blows, observing that you can’t beat luck. Sandar agrees—without that luck, the man would have killed them both. They continue on, in search of a passage down to the cells.

In the Heart of the Stone, Rand enters the chamber, his eyes fixed on Callandor where it hangs waiting for the Dragon to take it—waiting for him, if he truly is the Dragon and not just some man driven half-mad by his ability to channel.

Behind him, a voice urges him on, “Take it, Lews Therin. Take it, Kinslayer,” and Rand whirls to face the man, who has close-cropped white hair and is dressed in red and black and silver. He recognizes the man from his dreams, in which Rand saw him put Egwene, Elayne and Nynaeve in a cage and hurt them.

The man dismisses Rand’s observation with a wave of his hand, saying that the girls are less than nothing, that they might be something some day, when they are trained, but by then they will serve him. Rand feels Callandor flash, feels the warmth at his back. He asks who the man is

“You do not remember me, do you?” The white-haired man laughed suddenly. “I do not remember you, either, looking this way. A country lad with a flute case on his back. Did Ishamael speak the truth? He was ever one to lie when it gained him an inch or a second. Do you remember nothing, Lews Therin?”

“A name!” Rand demanded. “What is your name?”

“Call me Be’lal,” the man responds, then returns to urging Rand to take Callandor. He tells Rand that they once rode to war side by side, and in honor of that he will give Rand a chance to take the sword and perhaps survive facing him. He is amused when Rand responds that he will not grovel in front of one of the Forsaken when he has faced the Dark One himself. He summons some kind of sword made of black fire and drives towards Rand to pressure him into grabbing the sword, but Rand makes an answering blade out of red fire and meets Be’lal in the forms that Lan taught him.

Still, Rand realizes that while the heron is on his fire-sword only because of his memory of his father’s heron-marked blade, Be’lal has one on his blade as well, showing that he is a blade master and far more skilled than Rand himself. Be’lal recognizes the same thing, taunting “Lews Therin” about how he was once much better at swordplay, and asking if he remembers when they “took that tame sport called swords and learned to kill with it, as the old volumes said men once had?” or any of “those desperate battles, even one of our dire defeats?” He declares his intention to kill Rand this time, and again remarks that Callandor might help him extend his life.

Still, Rand refuses and continues to fight with the sword he has, even as he is driven back. Around him other battles are raging, men in breastplates engaging with shadowy assailants wielding bows and arrows and spears. Rand trips over a prone form and falls onto his back. Be’lal stands over him and commands him one last time to take Callandor or be slain.

A voice cries out, and Be’lal turns to see Moiraine striding towards them. He remarks that he thought she was out of his way, but that it doesn’t matter. She is no more than an annoyance, like a stinging fly, that he will cage with the others and then turn her puny powers to the Shadow.

He raises his hand, but Moiraine, who has not stopped walking, raises both of hers.

There was an instant of surprise on the Forsaken’s face, and he had time to scream “No!” Then a bar of white fire hotter than the sun shot from the Aes Sedai’s hands, a glaring rod that banished all shadows. Before it, Be’lal became a shape of shimmering motes, specks dancing in the light for less than a heartbeat, flecks consumed before his cry faded.

There was silence in the chamber as that bar of light vanished, silence except for the moans of the wounded. The fighting had stopped dead, veiled men and men in breastplates alike standing as if stunned.

“He was right concerning one thing,” Moiraine said, as coolly serene as if she were standing in a meadow. “You must take Callandor. He meant to slay you for it, but it is your birthright. Better by far that you knew more before your hand held that hilt, yet you have come to the point now, and there is no further time for learning. Take it, Rand.”

Suddenly she is struck by black lightning, and she screams as she is thrown across the floor to land unconscious against a pillar. Looking up at where the lightning had come from, Rand sees a deep blackness from which descends Ba’alzamon, clothed all in black but with an even deeper black shrouding him.

… He hung in the air, two spans above the floor, glaring at Rand with a rage as fierce as his eyes. “Twice in this life I have offered you the chance to serve me living.” Flames leaped in his mouth as he spoke, and every word roared like a furnace. “Twice you have refused, and wounded me. Now you will serve the Lord of the Grave in death. Die, Lews Therin Kinslayer. Die, Rand al’Thor. It is time for you to die! I take your soul!”

Rand throws himself at Callandor, instinctively aware that it is his only hope, and he feels something tearing inside of him as he does, like some part of him is being pulled away. And then his hand closes on Callandor’s hilt, and saidin surges through him as the sword glows even brighter than the fire that killed Be’lal. He has to wrestle with the flow of Power, find a way not to be consumed and swept along with its torrent, until he at last finds a razor’s edge of balance.

He turned to face Ba’alzamon. The tearing within him had ceased as soon as his hand touched Callandor. Only an instant had passed, yet it seemed to have lasted forever. “You will not take my soul,” he shouted. “This time, I mean to finish it once and for all! I mean to finish it now!”

Ba’alzamon fled, man and shadow vanishing.

But Rand can see what Ba’alzamon did, the way he bent what was to make a doorway to somewhere else. Using Callandor Rand reaches out and twists reality to make a doorway to follow, declaring “I am the hunter now,” as he steps through.

In the World of Dreams, Egwene feels the Stone shake under her feet and stops, catching her balance, then continues on when nothing else happens. She uses her skill in Earth to destroy the lock of an iron door that stands in her way, trying to ignore the instruments of torture hanging on the walls as she makes her way towards the cells. Once there, she finds every one empty—of course no one would dream themselves in prisons. She has no idea how she’ll be able to establish which cell is the one holding her, Elayne, and Nynaeve, but suddenly she spots the figure of a woman, seated on a bench flickering in and out. The figure is even less substantial than Joiya had been, but Egwene is still certain of what she is seeing.

There was no mistaking that slender neck and the pale, innocent-appearing face with its eyelids fluttering on the edge of sleep. Amico Nagoyin was drifting toward sleep, dreaming of her guard duties. And apparently toying drowsily with one of the stolen ter’angreal. Egwene could understand that; it had been a great effort to stop using the one Verin had given her, even for a few days.

She knew it was possible to cut a woman off from the True Source even if she had already embraced saidar, but severing a weave already established had to be much harder than damming the flow before it began. She set the patterns of the weaving, readied them, making the threads of Spirit much stronger, this time, thicker and heavier, a denser weave with a cutting edge like a knife.

When Amico appears again, Egwene catches her in the weaves, and although Amico appears terrified and begins screaming, the sound is too distant for Egwene to make anything out as she starts babbling. Egwene ties the weaves so they will stay on their own, then destroys the lock and opens the door.

When she wakes—and is reminded of all her aches and bruises—Egwene finds the cell door tightly shut, and reminds herself that while what happens to living things in Tel’aran’rhiod is real even when they wake, what she did to stone or wood has no effect on the waking world. She tells Nynaeve and Egwene that they should be able to get out now, that Egwene can take care of the lock and Amico won’t bother them, but Elayne tells her that the shielding is still there.

Egwene tries to reach the True Source and discovers that, while the shield seems different, almost as though it is rapidly flickering in and out of existence, Amico is still managing to hold it despite what Egwene did to her. She realizes that she will have to try again, despite Nynaeve’s worry that Egwene seems as though the first try took something out of her. She lays back to try to sleep, asking Nynaeve to sing the lullaby again.

Meanwhile, Mat is creeping through the dungeons eyeing the various whips and torture devices as he and Sandar make their way to the cells, trying to look everywhere at once for fear of being caught unawares by more High Lords or Defenders of the Stone. Once Mat steps through into the hall lined with wooden cell doors, he spots a woman seated on a bench beside one door, leaning back against the wall in an oddly stiff manner. Mat can’t figure out what to make of her—she can’t be a prisoner if she’s sitting outside the cells, but he can’t imagine a woman like this being a torturer. He starts to approach when Sandar calls out to warn him that she is Aes Sedai, but she doesn’t move or attack or anything.

“Help me,” she said faintly. Her eyes still looked nearly asleep, but the pleading in her voice was fully awake. “Help me. Please!”

Mat blinked. She still had not moved a muscle below her neck. Cautiously, he stepped closer, waving to Sandar to stop his groaning about her being Aes Sedai. She moved her head to follow him. No more than that.

He hesitates, then takes the large iron key from her belt and goes to open the door, still baffled that she isn’t moving. Sandar has claimed that she is one of the ones that took his friends, so Mat reasons they must be in that cell, even if the woman looks terrified by whatever is beyond the door. He unlocks it and swings it open… and there are the three girls, looking battered and bruised and very surprised to see him.

He explains irritably that he has come to rescue them and that he’ll carry the apparently unconscious Egwene if they need him to, but that they need to get moving now. Nynaeve and Elayne shake Egwene awake.

Egwene’s eyelids fluttered open, and she groaned. “Why did you wake me? I must understand it. If I loose the bonds on her, she will wake and I’ll never catch her again. But if I do not, she cannot go all the way to sleep, and—” Her eyes fell on him and widened. “Matrim Cauthon, what under the Light are you doing here?”

“You tell her,” he told Nynaeve. “I am too busy trying to rescue you to watch my langu—”

They were all staring beyond him, glaring as if they wished they had knives in their hands.

He spun, but all he saw was Juilin Sandar, looking as if he had swallowed a rotten plum whole.

Sandar sheepishly admits that they have cause to look at him that way, and tells the girls that “the one with many honey-colored braids” spoke to him and he had to obey. Nynaeve agrees that Liandrin has many foul ways and that perhaps Sandar is not entirely to blame. They exit the cell and Amico pleads with them, promising to come back to the light and to serve them, but Nynaeve knocks her out with one blow instead, landing her unconscious on the ground, although she is left in exactly the same position as before.

“It is gone,” Elayne said excitedly.

Egwene bent to rummage in the unconscious woman’s pouch, transferring something Mat could not make out to her own. “Yes. It feels wonderful. Something changed about her when you hit her, Nynaeve. I do not know what, but I felt it.

Elayne nodded. “I felt it, too.”

Nynaeve remarks that she’d like to change everything about Amico and then Heals first Egwene, then Elayne. Mat, meanwhile, can’t understand why they would hit a woman who couldn’t move. When he says as much, the air around him seems to solidify and lift him off his feet, as Nynaeve and Egwene let him know, firmly, that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He reminds them, in as charming a way as he can manage, that he did rescue them, and they put him down, admitting that he is right.

Still, they won’t take his advice to get out of the Stone and avoid the battle raging within it, and they seem more concerned with finding Liandrin and Joiya Byir, leaving Mat to scramble after them, insisting that he will not follow them into a battle… but following anyway, with Sandar right behind him.

Perrin is still chasing Faile, Hopper showing him where to go, but he’s lost her twice more now and Perrin is growing weaker. The wolf warns him that his flesh is weakening, and that both flesh and dream will die together soon, but Perrin only cares about finding Faile.

Perrin reached the doors and pushed. They did not budge. There seemed to be no way to open them, no handles, nothing to grip. There was a tiny pattern worked into the metal, so fine his eyes almost did not see it. Falcons. Thousands of tiny falcons.

She has to be here. I do not think I can last much longer. With a shout, he swung his hammer against the bronze. It rang like a great gong. Again he struck, and the peal deepened. A third blow, and the bronze doors shattered like glass.

Within, a hundred paces from the broken doors, a circle of light surrounded a falcon chained to a perch. Darkness filled all the rest of that vast chamber, darkness and faint rustlings as of hundreds of wings.

As soon as Perrin steps into the room, he is attacked by swooping falcons that tear at his face with their talons. He throws an arm up to protect his eyes and staggers through the room, losing his hammer somewhere along the way but unable to turn back for it. When he reaches the cage he finds his falcon staring at him. Her foot is chained to the perch with a tiny lock shaped like a hedgehog. With the last of his strength he snaps it, and falls into darkness.

He wakes in Faile’s arms as she’s wiping blood from his face and cooing over how badly he is hurt. He can see the hedgehog charm, broken in two, and whispers her name, calling her “my falcon.”

Rand finds himself again in the Heart of the Stone, but this time it is empty and different. He wonders what place it is, but “where’s Ba’alzamon” is a more important question.

Just then a blazing light like the one Moiraine had used on Be’lal shoots at him through the columns, straight at his chest. He instinctively catches the blast on the blade of Callandor, cutting it in half and making it stream to either side of him. It destroys the columns and anything else it touches, not just demolishing it but literally vanishing anything that is touched by the light. The Heart of the Stone rumbles as columns crash down.

Rand turns the blade then, bouncing the fire back towards its sender, and when Ba’alzamon turns to run, Rand follows. Myrddraal and Trollocs leap at him but he somehow turns them all into a vapor that parts before him. The air changes, growing thicker or thinner, fire blazes at him, the Stone and everything around Rand—plus Rand himself—begins to dissolve as though its ceasing to exists. But each time any of these things happen, Rand somehow changes them back, making the air good to breath again, putting out the fires, making the Stone become solid again. He continues to pursue Ba’alzamon as Ba’alzamon makes the surroundings fight Rand and Rand fights back with “instinct and guesses and chance,” all the while walking the razor’s edge of wielding Callandor without being subsumed.

He chases Ba’alzamon all the way back to the Heart of the Stone again, where Ba’alzamon stands and the blacker-than-black lines around him seem to stretch off into infinity.

“I will not be undone!” Ba’alzamon cried. His mouth was fire; his shriek echoed among the columns. “I cannot be defeated! Aid me!” Some of the darkness shrouding him drifted into his hands, formed into a ball so black it seemed to soak up even the light of Callandor. Sudden triumph blazed in the flames of his eyes.

“You are destroyed!” Rand shouted. Callandor spun in his hands. Its light roiled the darkness, severed the steel-black lines around Ba’alzamon, and Ba’alzamon convulsed. As if there were two of him he seemed to dwindle and grow larger at the same time. “You are undone!” Rand plunged the shining blade into Ba’alzamon’s chest.

Ba’alzamon screamed, and the fires of his face flared wildly. “Fool!” he howled. “The Great Lord of the Dark can never be defeated!”

Rand pulled Callandor’s blade free as Ba’alzamon’s body sagged and began to fall, the shadow around him vanishing.

And then Rand finds himself again in the real Heart of the Stone, surrounded by the fighters from before, the body of a man sprawled at his feet.

“I have done it, he thought. I have killed Ba’alzamon, killed Shai’tan! I have won the Last Battle! Light, I AM the Dragon Reborn! The breaker of nations, the Breaker of the World. No! I will END the breaking, end the killing! I will MAKE it end!”

He raises Callandor and calls for the fighters to stop. They freeze, looking at him, as he declares that he is Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, and then one by one they go to their knees before him, crying, “The Dragon is Reborn!”

The next day, Mat stands in a room, peering through an arrow slit down upon the crowded streets below, where people cry out the name of the Dragon. As far as Mat can tell, everyone inside the Stone agrees with the people below; he himself saw Rand once the night before, walking the halls with Callandor and trailing a line of Aiel and Tairenan followers, including those High Lords who survived the battle.

Rhuarc is there with Mat, reading a book, along with Moiraine, who is sitting in a great throne-like chair, and Egwene, Nynaeve, and Elayne. They are discussing the fact that Perrin is also in Tear, and how Perrin’s companion was in some danger and Moiraine means to check on them when she is done here. She tells them she has only delayed to show them what she found amongst the ter’angreal and other artifacts the High Lords kept hidden in the Stone—a cuendillar disk bearing the ancient symbol of the Aes Sedai, one of the seals that were set on the Dark One’s prison, and which is still whole.

Egwene remarks that they have found one each time Rand has faced Ba’alzamon. Mat can’t understand why they are all talking about something so unimportant, and interrupts to ask a question.

“I want to know how all of this can be.” He meant to keep his tone soft, but despite himself he picked up intensity as he went along. “The Stone of Tear has fallen! The Prophecies said that would never happen till the People of the Dragon came. Does that mean we are the bloody People of the Dragon? You, me, Lan, and a few hundred bloody Aiel?” He had seen the Warder during the night; there had not seemed to be much edge between Lan and the Aiel as to who was the more deadly. As Rhuarc straightened to stare at him, he hastily added, “Uh, sorry, Rhuarc. Slip of the tongue.”

“Perhaps,” Moiraine said slowly. “I came to stop Be’lal from killing Rand. I did not expect to see the Stone of Tear fall. Perhaps we are. Prophecies are fulfilled as they are meant to be, not as we think they should be.”

The reminder about Be’lal has Mat thinking about how he’d have been much quieter entering the Stone if he’d known there was a Forsaken in there. He also thinks about how Sandar left early to tell Mother Guenna everything that had happened, and how Mat suspects it was also to get away from the gazes of Nynaeve, Egwene and Elayne.

Rhuarc interrupts then, explaining that men of the Aiel who wish to become clan chiefs must journey “to Rhuidean, in the lands of the Jenn Aiel, the clan that is not,” just as women who wish to become Wise Ones must. The men who are chosen at Rhuidean are marked in a specific way on their left arm, he explains, and lifts his sleeve to show an image etched into his skin, a long serpent-like form that exactly matches the image on the Dragon banner that has been raised above the Stone.

“The Aiel are the People of the Dragon.” Moiraine spoke quietly, but she sounded as close to startlement as Mat could remember ever hearing her. “That I did not know.”

“Then it really is all done,” Mat said, “just as the Prophecies said. We can all go on our way with no more worries.” The Amyrlin won’t need me to blow that bloody Horn now!

Egwene reminds him that the Forsaken are loose, and that most of the Black Ajah are dead, but Mat reiterates that the hardest part is done: Rand has Callandor, the Stone has fallen, and Shai’tan is dead.

Moiraine commands him to be silent, lest he call the attention of the Dark One upon himself, but Mat insists that the Dark One is dead, that he saw the body. Painstakingly, Moiraine explains to all of them that the Dark One himself wouldn’t have an ordinary human body, and that just because Mat recognized the man who called himself Ba’alzamon in his dreams, doesn’t mean that Ba’alzamon was the real Dark One.

This leaves the question of who the corpse actually belongs to, but Egwene, remembering that page Verin showed her, has a hesitant explanation. She tells them of the paper and the quote ‘a name hidden behind a name,’ positing that Ba’alzamon might have been Ishamael.

Moiraine says it might be possible, but that the important thing is that at least nine of the thirteen still live, and that there are only four seals left standing against the Dark One’s release. Seeing the determination on all of their faces, Mat resolutely tells himself that he is not going to have any part of it.

Just then a tall regal woman in a red dress with a coronet bearing a golden hawk in flight, enters the room. She studies Rhuarc for a moment and then approaches Moiraine.

“I am not used to being given messages to carry,” she announced, flourishing a folded parchment in one slim hand.

“And who are you, child?” Moiraine asked.

The young woman drew herself up even more, which Mat would have thought was impossible. “I am Berelain, First of Mayene.” She tossed the parchment down on the table in front of Moiraine with a haughty gesture and turned back to the door.

Moiraine stops her to ask who sent the message, and Berelain admits that she doesn’t know; she sounds puzzled before she shakes it off. Glancing again at Rhuarc, she remarks that she might ask him to dine with her soon, then she tells Moiraine to “[i]nform the Lord Dragon that the First of Mayene will dine with him tonight,” before marching from the room.

Egwene and Elayne both remark that they’d like to have that women in the tower as a novice, but Moiraine is more concerned with the note, which reads “Lews Therin was mine, he is mine, and he will be mine, forever. I give him into your charge, to keep for me until I come,” and is signed Lanfear. She looks at Mat, sarcastically remarking that he thought it was done, and pointing out that he is ta’veren, “a thread more crucial to the Pattern than most, and the sounder of the Horn of Valere.”

Mat acts like he understands, and promises that they can count on him, while inwardly wondering if Thom is well enough to travel, and if perhaps Perrin will run with them.

Outside, people are still chanting for the Dragon.

 

Can I just say that the scene on the rooftops of Tear was so good. It was like a Russian nesting doll of people watching each other, though of course the Aiel were always bound to win at that game. And poor Sandar, with his little Jiminy Cricket voice in the back of his head trying to counteract the thing that Liandrin did to him. Her mind control stuff is a bit like Jedi mind tricks, but if they were were only used by Sith. I was really happy that he got a chance to redeem that betrayal and help Nynaeve and the others. He’s a fun character, and I probably loved him even more than was earned in his brief appearance because I’m so fond of Hurin.

There is so much delicious irony when you realize that all three—Mat, Sandar, and Rhuarc—have this connection to Elayne, Egwene, and Nynaeve, that Mat and the Aiel both have a connection to Rand, even though the Aiel don’t know that. It was just really fun, and I suppose this is what we get in exchange for having so few of the characters staying with each other. Maybe it also shows something about the Pattern, and how it works. Since we the readers get to see this story from so many people’s perspectives and know all the different elements to it, it’s like we get to see a more complete version of the Pattern than any individual who is living inside of it. That’s a pretty cool idea.

Chekhov’s fireworks were used to break a hole in the wall of the Stone. That is an excellent use for them—I’m surprised I didn’t catch that—although apparently Mat didn’t think they would do anything other than make light and sound, which—really Mat? I know you’ve been a bit casual about the fireworks, but you were told that one of them alone could blow off a hand.

Perrin’s Dream World hunt for Faile was really enjoyable to read, and reminded me very much of an old fairy tale or story of a fantasy knight. It has all the elements, including the fact that he has to find her three times, the symbolism of the chains keeping her trapped (and reminding me of that one time Egwene saw Perrin in his self-imposed dream chains the first time she used her ter’angreal) and the horrifying attack by all the falcons in the third room. Perrin carrying the hammer, rather than the axe, turned out to be just the thing for this quest. Sure he had to kill some guys, but his wolf teeth worked great for that, and in the end the most useful weapon was one he could use to break locks, rather than to cut down people. Which is what Perrin would rather be doing.

Speaking of those guys, from the description of them, they seem to have been real people who were somehow dragged into the Dream World and set to guard Faile’s cages, based on the description of how they didn’t belong there and seemed frightened and confused. I wonder if the Black Ajah had to use ter’angreal on them, or if Be’lal had some other trick up his sleeve. I also wonder if the guards and the three tries were just the way this particular woven trap worked, or if Be’lal anticipated that someone might come into the Dream World after Moiraine. Who would have that sort of ability? Certainly not Lan.

Which, by the way, where the heck is Lan? He isn’t mentioned at all in these chapters, even just to explain that he’s off doing something else. But I digress. No one could have known that Perrin had the ability to go into the Dream World and rescue Faile, so one wonders what or who Be’lal expected might come after Moiraine, or whoever fell into his trap. Another Aes Sedai, maybe? Or maybe the guards and doors and chains were to keep Moiraine from escaping, in case she had the strength to break out of one place somehow. I hope Moiraine gets back to look after Perrin soon, though; those wounds are no joke, and when Verin was hurt in the Dream World, that injury didn’t respond to Healing the way a normal one would. Perrin might be in for a long recovery, and some scars too.

But yeah, it’s a very romantic adventure for Perrin. I was especially struck by the way Faile responds by calling him Perrin the instant that he uses her proper name. The amount of acceptance and caring in him finally calling her Faile must be such a relief to her. It was to me, too.

Egwene’s dream adventures were fascinating too. It doesn’t seem odd to me that one can channel within Tel’aran’rhiod, but it is interesting that she feels so strong and confident there, more so than she does in the waking world. Perhaps her strength as a Dreamer (that would be a talent in Spirit, I suppose) gives her an affinity for using the Power there, making things clearer and her mind stronger.

In general, I’ve noticed that strength in saidin or saidar seems to mean an ability to use it instinctively as much as an ability to do intensely powerful things. Nynaeve showed that ability early on, figuring out how to copy the weave the Amyrlin used on her after seeing it done only once, and the way she has been learning to Heal without apparently any instruction. Elayne and Egwene have also shown the ability to copy weaves they’ve seen only once and while under duress. Then there’s the balefire that Nynaeve and Rand both make without even knowing what it is. (Plus Rand doing a million other things instinctively, but more on that later.) There has been a lot of talk from the Aes Sedai in this book about how much knowledge was lost in the Breaking as well as after; I imagine that part of this new age that Rand will usher in will be a new generation of Aes Sedai who can rediscover these old skills, or make new ones, and restore some of what was lost.

Egwene’s plan to use Tel’aran’rhiod to try to get the drop on the Black Ajah was a good one, but I have to say I was surprised that she didn’t realize—or maybe just forgot in her zeal—that of course nothing she did to wood or stone in the Dream World would translate to the World outside. What happens to Dreamers in Tel’aran’rhiod is real because they are actually traveling to that place, more strongly than people who are sleeping normally, but not as fully as Ba’alzamon and Rand do when they just step through into it and back out again. As someone using a ter’angreal to access the World of Dreams, you are physically there in some capacity, and so physical realities still hold true, but the world itself is not connected to the waking world; the two have no relation to each other other than the initial symmetry of them.

Unlike the mirror world Rand, Hurin, and Loial went to in The Great Hunt, the Dream World doesn’t seem to be a literal reflection of the original. It doesn’t even seem to be laid out the same. I wonder if the point isn’t that it is created by people dreaming. That idea has been seen in other works before, and it would make sense. Even wolves must dream, and then the lands they dreamt of wait for them to come inhabit them someday.

Whatever exactly happened to Amico was super creepy. I loved that Jordan set up that perfect little detail that Egwene always wanted to touch the stone ring and didn’t like not using it, in order to give us this moment of Amico dozing off and fingering her ter’angreal. I’m curious about what happened when Nynaeve punched her, though. At first I assumed that it was just that she was knocked fully unconscious, but the way the girls said they felt something change in her makes it sounds like something else is up. Perhaps there will be more to Amico’s story now, since she and Joiya were the only Black Ajah captured, and the Aes Sedai will want to know where the rest got off to.

They should all be nicer to Mat, though. Without him they would not have escaped, and it’s not really his fault that he doesn’t understand what is going on. It does show us another example of how Nynaeve, Egwene and Elayne are already becoming more like Aes Sedai. But seriously, Mat, I am proud of you, protestations and all. (Also that joke with him trying to separate Bain and Chiad so he could flirt with them individually would be funnier if they were actually a couple.)

I am glad to see Moiraine survived the book! I was convinced she was a goner, that she would die saving Rand from Be’lal, and then when Ishamael Emperor Palpetine’d her… yeah. I really thought she was done. Since she arranged that whole transfer of Lan’s bond we know she’s got to go eventually, but perhaps it will be a longer game than I first suspected.

On the other hand, I did not expect Ishamael to die in this book! Of course he eventually had to, since he’s not the ultimate baddie, but he’s been built up so much as the best of the Forsaken that it is a bit of a shock that he went down so easy. Rand’s sections in these chapters were interestingly not as close of a narration as we are used to. There was a distance there between us and Rand’s thoughts and emotions, perhaps because he is again being carried along by a tide of power and fate that he doesn’t understand and can’t control. It’s a lot like how it was at the end of The Eye of the World, where he was taking action but in a way almost seemed to be just witnessing himself doing things. It may also be that some of that taint on his mind is affecting him—a chilling thought, but we have no real way of knowing how long it will take for him to start changing now that he’s channeling full time.

Hilariously, there was all this worry that Be’lal would succeed in killing Rand after he took possession of Callandor, but if what happened to Ba’alzamon is any indication, Be’lal would have stood no chance at all. Seriously, it was a terrible plan! Ba’alzamon had to run through Tel’aran’rhiod, make the air poison and call on the literal Dark One to help him, and he still died without Rand having to really try all that hard.

At least, I think that’s who he was calling to. Harkening back to The Eye of the World, I remember the description of Rand having the saidin cord of white light stretching out of him while Ba’alzamon had a dark one, and Rand defeating him by cutting that cord. My assumption is that this is a literal connection between Ishamael and the Dark One, and that when the dark tendrils started to gather in his hands it was the Dark One giving him more power or something like that.

And then, despite his anguish and facing his own defeat, after Rand has run him through, Ba’alzamon calls him a fool and says that the Great Lord of the Dark can never be defeated—almost as if he’s promising Rand that, despite his own death, he will still lose to the Dark One in the end.

I mean, you gotta hand it to the guy for his conviction, I suppose.

And now we are faced with a Rand who finally believes in his identity as the Dragon Reborn, and who, for the moment at least, believes that he has won the Last Battle. I wonder if his drive to “end the breaking, end the killing,” will continue to drive his actions going forward—as the Dragon Reborn he’s going to have a lot of political and social power, and the ability to direct a good many things, if he chooses to. And he probably doesn’t have to answer a summons from the First of Mayene if he doesn’t feel like it.

Speaking of whom, she’s certainly a personality, isn’t she? And Perrin’s Hawk, I’m guessing, since the Falcon thing is sorted now and Berelain’s coronet has a golden hawk on it. I’m not sure if Mayene is a country or a province or what, but she certainly behaves like a ruler, and I can see her trying to put a leash on someone for sure. Poor Perrin—maybe this is the beautiful woman you need to look out for.

Well, it certainly has been a ride. Recapping and analyzing as I go has given me a very strange and specific perspective, and I do think it affected my enjoyment of this book a little bit more than the first two. The Eye of the World and The Great Hunt felt a little bit more like stories in their own right, while The Dragon Reborn feels more like a setup for the books that are to come, which made recapping it a bit weird, or more clumsy, I feel. I still enjoyed it, of course, but I’ll be interested to see how these recaps change as the story moves on and the world and plots get more and more complex. Any way you cut it, the books are going to be very different now that there is declared Dragon Reborn, and I’m excited to get to it.

Thank you all for joining this read with me! It’s been a real pleasure. Please tune in next week for an essay on ta’veren. We will then have the traditional one week break before starting our journey again, fresh and well rested and Healed from our wounds, to begin The Shadow Rising.

For now, I’m off in search of tea with honey and a lot of cough syrup. I will leave you with this final thought: After all the fighting Nynaeve and Egwene have done in this book, Egwene asking for Nynaeve’s lullaby was a really beautiful moment.

Sylas K Barrett is very grateful to everyone involved in Reading the Wheel of Time, and desperately needs a nap.

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