Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: The Boys Confront Themselves (Kind of) in Robert Jordan’s The Shadow Rising (Part 3)

Welcome, everyone, to chapter two and week 3 of The Shadow Rising.

I loved this chapter. It might be one of my favorite chapters to date, in fact. Meeting up with Perrin, Mat, and Rand both serves to remind us where they are and also show us how they’ve grown since the end of The Dragon Reborn (looking at you, Perrin). And then of course there’s the attacks, which are beautifully imaginative and described in perfect, vivid detail. It’s very cinematic, this chapter, and I could picture everything as though I were watching it on a big screen.

I have a lot of feelings and compassion for all three of our Emond’s Field boys this week, and I am so curious as to what could have caused these strange occurrences. Perrin and Mat believe it was Rand, while Rand thinks it was an attack by one of the Forsaken. Perhaps one of them is right, or perhaps none of them, but in any case, we must first return to the nation of Tear to find out.

The streets of the city, the taverns and inns, were all but empty in the muggy darkness, people keeping cautiously within their own walls. Who held the Stone was lord of Tear, city and nation. That was the way it had always been, and the people of Tear accepted it always. By daylight they would cheer their new lord with enthusiasm as they had cheered the old; by night they huddled together, shivering despite the heat when the wind howled across their rooftops like a thousand keening mourners. Strange new hopes danced in their heads, hopes none in Tear had dared for a hundred generations, hopes mixed with fears as old as the Breaking.

In his room in the stone, Perrin sits on the bed and watches Faile pace back and forth. He’s a little perplexed by her silence, and by the fear he can smell on her. She eventually stops when he scratches at the two weeks of beard growth on his cheeks, to remark that she thinks the beard looks good, looks right, on him, and although he complains that it itches, Perrin knows that he will still put of shaving it.

He asks her what’s wrong, and after a little prodding she admits that it seems like The Lord Dragon—Perrin tries to get her to call him Rand, but she responds that he is Perrin’s friend, not hers, if a man like that can even have friends—has lost interest in Perrin, and that Faile is considering leaving Tear. Since news of Rand’s arrival there is already starting to spread outside the city, Faile doesn’t think Moiriane will try to stop her.

Perrin agrees, annoying Faile, but he assures her that he would like for her to stay, but with the danger at hand, with the Dragon Reborn and the Forsaken about, perhaps it is better for her to leave. Faile explains that she doesn’t like sitting and waiting for one of the Forsaken to show up, or for the Dragon Reborn to kill everyone, the way he did in the Breaking. Perrin tries to assure her that Rand is not Lews Therin Telamon, though he also is, and trails off, wondering for himself whether Rand is doomed to Lews Therin’s fate.

Faile goes on to tell him that Bain and Chiad remarked that Moiraine sometimes asks where he or Mat is, which in Faile’s mind proves that Moiriane can’t watch him with the Power. Perrin doesn’t follow, and Faile accuses him of being trapped by Moiriane. They argue, but Perrin insists that he believes that he, as well as Mat, is part of Rand’s destiny somehow, and that he can’t leave if it means that Rand might fail.

“Might?” There was a hint of demand in her voice, but only a hint. He wondered if he could make himself shout at her more often. “Did Moiraine tell you this, Perrin? You should know by now to listen closely to what an Aes Sedai says.”

“I worked it out for myself. I think ta’veren are pulled toward each other. Or maybe Rand pulls us, Mat and me both. He’s supposed to be the strongest ta’veren since Artur Hawkwing, maybe since the Breaking. Mat won’t even admit he’s ta’veren, but however he tries to get away, he always ends up drawn back to Rand. Loial says he has never heard of three ta’veren, all the same age and all from the same place.”

Faile remarks that Loial is young for an Ogier, but Perrin stands fast in his assessment, that Loial thinks that Perrin is right about this and that Moiraine must to, given her need to keep an eye on him.

She was silent for a moment, and when she spoke it was in sympathetic tones. “Poor Perrin. I left Saldaea to find adventure, and now that I’m in the heart of one, the greatest since the Breaking, all I want is to go somewhere else. You just want to be a blacksmith, and you’re going to end up in the stories whether you want it or not.”

He looked away, though the scent of her still filled his head. He did not think he was likely to have any stories told about him, not unless his secret spread a long way beyond the few who knew already. Faile thought she knew everything about him, but she was wrong.

On the wall, Perrin’s axe and his blacksmith’s hammer hang next to each other, and Perrin thinks about how the hammer, designed to make things, actually weighs more but that when he holds them both, the axe, designed for war, feels much heavier. He wishes he could go back to being a blacksmith, go home to his family, but he knows he can’t. He takes the hammer down from the wall and brings it back to his seat, taking comfort in holding it as he explains how Master Lehhan always said that “you can’t walk away from what has to be done.” He asks Faile if she’s still going to leave, but she isn’t sure.

Outside in the darkness, a cock crowed.

Faile shivered and hugged herself. “My nurse used to say that meant a death coming. Not that I believe it, of course.”

He opened his mouth to agree it was foolishness, though he shivered, too, but his head whipped around at a grating sound and a thump. The axe had toppled to the floor. He only had time to frown, wondering what could have made it fall, when it shifted again, untouched, then leaped straight for him.

Perrin instinctively swings at it with the hammer in his hand, knocking the axe away, but it bounces off the wall and flies straight at him, blade first. Faile catches the handle, but the axe swings round in her grip and swings blade first towards her face, and Perrin is only barely able to knock it away with the hammer.

The weapon thrashed like a thing alive, a thing with a malevolent will. It wanted Perrin—he knew that as if it had shouted at him—but it fought with cunning. When he pulled the axe away from Faile, it used his own movement to hack at him; when he forced it from himself, it tried to reach her, as if it knew that would make him stop pushing. No matter how hard he held the haft, it spun in his hands, threatening with spike or curved blade. Already his hands ached from the effort, and his thick arms strained, muscles tight. Sweat rolled down his face. He was not sure how much longer it would be before the axe fought free of his grip. This was all madness, pure madness, with no time to think.

Perrin shouts for Faile to get out of the room, and when she refuses to leave him, he manages to grab the handle of the axe in one hand and hold it away from himself while he pushes her towards the door, managing to hold her and the axe long enough to get the door open and shove her outside. He continues to hold the axe away from his face, though just barely, as Faile beats at the closed door.

Just you and me, now,” he snarled at the axe. “Blood and ashes, how I hate you!” Inside, a part of him came close to hysterical laughter. Rand is the one who’s supposed to go mad, and here I am, talking to an axe! Rand! Burn him!

Perrin pushes the axe back, taking a full step from the door, then jerks the blade towards himself, adding his own force to the one driving the axe, and jumps out of the way. It buries itself deep in the wood of the door and instantly “the life goes out of it.” Still thinking of Rand and the madness that follows him, Perrin opens the door to find Faile on the other side, her hands frozen in mid-pound, having had the silver blade smash through the door only inches from her face. She throws herself on Perrin, kissing him and demanding to know if he’s okay, but once he assures her that he is unharmed, she reels back and slaps him so hard it makes his head ring.

They argue, she that he had no right not to allow her to help, he that he had every right, and although he acknowledges that she doesn’t like being treated as though she is fragile, Perrin assures her that if she asks him to watch her die, he “will tie [her] like a lamb for market and send [her] off to Mistress Luhhan.”

Faile laughed suddenly, a low, throaty laugh. “You would, too, wouldn’t you? Don’t think you would not dance with the Dark One if you tried, though.”

Perrin was so startled he let go of her. He could not see any real difference between what he had just said and what he had said before, but the one had made her blaze up, while this she took … fondly. Not that he was certain the threat to kill him was entirely a joke. Faile carried knives hidden about her person, and she knew how to use them.

She rubbed her wrist ostentatiously and muttered something under her breath. He caught the words “hairy ox,” and promised himself he would shave every last whisker of that fool beard. He would.

Faile turns the conversation to the axe must have been the Dragon Reborn trying to kill them. Perrin agrees that the attack must have been caused by Rand, but he doesn’t believe that Rand was trying to kill them. He decides to go talk to Rand about it at once, and Faile tucks her arm in his to accompany him, leaving the axe stuck fast in the door.

Meanwhile, Mat is holed up with a group of Tairen lords playing a game called chop with fancy, hand-lacquered cards. Mat would prefer dice, but the lords view it as a peasant’s pastime, so Mat has been compelled to learn.

Still, he had picked up the game quickly enough, and if his luck was not as good as it was with dice, it would do. A fat purse lay beside his cards, and another even fatter rested in his pocket. A fortune, he would have thought once, back in Emond’s Field, enough to live the rest of his life in luxury. His ideas of luxury had changed since leaving the Two Rivers. The young lords kept their coin in careless, shining piles, but some old habits he had no intention of changing. In the taverns and inns it was sometimes necessary to depart quickly. Especially if his luck was really with him.

When he had enough to keep himself as he wanted, he would leave the Stone just as quickly. Before Moiraine knew what he was thinking. He would have been days gone by now, if he had had his way. It was just that there was gold to be had here. One night at this table could earn him more than a week of dicing in taverns. If only his luck would catch.

The lords drink and smoke and discuss their relative luck at cards, as well as a lewd interest in Sea Folk women as they play. One of them, a man named Estean, is particularly drunk and goes on about how one would have better luck with the Aiel women in the tower, “like Mat here,” with all their spears and knives. It puts all the other lords off—the only more unsettling subject for the Lords of Tear would have been talking about the Aes Sedai. Mat does his best to ignore Estean and play the game. He adds an Andoran silver crown to the pot and is dealt another card.

Mat lifted it carefully with a thumbnail, and did not let himself so much as blink. The Ruler of Cups, a High Lord of Tear. The rulers in a deck varied according to the land where the cards were made, with the nation’s own ruler always as Ruler of Cups, the highest suit. These cards were old. He had already seen new decks with Rand’s face or something like it on the Ruler of Cups, complete with the Dragon banner. Rand the ruler of Tear; that still seemed ludicrous enough to make him want to pinch himself. Rand was a shepherd, a good fellow to have fun with when he was not going all over-serious and responsible. Rand the Dragon Reborn, now; that told him he was a stone fool to be sitting there, where Moiraine could put her hand on him whenever she wanted, waiting to see what Rand would do next. Maybe Thom Merrilin would go with him. Or Perrin. Only, Thom seemed to be settling into the Stone as if he never meant to leave, and Perrin was not going anywhere unless Faile crooked a finger. Well, Mat was ready to travel alone, if need be.

But Mat is also now one card away from having the best hand possible in the game, and he can feel his luck tickling in is mind. The other men have been betting furiously all night, but now most of them seem put off by the talk of the Aiel and disinterested in their cards. Wanting to get them back in the mood, Mat decides he needs to make them laugh at the Aiel.

“I might just try these Sea Folk women,” Mat said quickly, taking his pipe to gesture with. “Odd things happen when you chase Aiel girls. Very odd. Like the game they call Maidens’ Kiss.” He had their attention, but Baran had not put down the coins, and Carlomin still showed no sign of buying a card.

Estean gave a drunken guffaw. “Kiss you with steel in your ribs, I suppose. Maidens of the Spear, you see. Steel. Spear in your ribs. Burn my soul.” No one else laughed. But they were listening.

Mat continues his story, telling them how Rhuarc, Aiel clan chief, advised him that the best way to get to know the warrior women was to ask to play maiden’s kiss. So like a fool, Mat asked them to show him the game, and “[b]efore I knew what was happening, I had a fistful of spears around my neck like a collar. I could have shaved myself with one sneeze.”

The men at the table burst into laughter, and Mat lets them laugh, remembering the spear-points and the way Bain, also laughing, had told him that she’d never heard of a man actually asking to play Maiden’s Kiss before.

Carlomin stroked his beard and spoke into Mat’s hesitation. “You cannot stop there. Go on. When was this? Two nights ago, I’ll wager. When you didn’t come for the game, and no one knew where you were.”

“I was playing stones with Thom Merrilin that night,” Mat said quickly. “This was days ago.” He was glad he could lie with a straight face. “They each took a kiss. That’s all. If she thought it was a good kiss, they eased up with the spears. If not, they pushed a little harder; to encourage, you might say. That was all. I’ll tell you this; I got nicked less than I do shaving.”

He stuck his pipe back between his teeth. If they wanted to know more, they could go ask to play the game themselves. He almost hoped some of them were fool enough. Bloody Aiel women and their bloody spears. He had not made it to his own bed until daybreak.

But Mat’s story has done its job, and the lords start betting again as they comment on the tale and how, if the Aiel weren’t serving the Lord Dragon, they would take a hundred Defenders of the Stone and clear the Aiel out, which is a ridiculous claim, and then Estean tries to convince Mat should speak to “the Lord Dragon” about his most recent proclamation, which gave commoners had the right to call lords before a magistrate. His disdain, and the other’s, for the idea that a lord could ever be called in front of a magistrate, nevermind by a peasant, is clear enough.

Mat’s hand tightened on his purse until the coins inside grated together. “It would be a shame,” he said quietly, “if you were tried and judged just for having your way with a fisherman’s daughter whatever she wanted, or for having some farmer beaten for splashing mud on your cloak.”

The others shifted uneasily, catching his mood, but Estean nodded, head bobbing so it seemed about to fall off. “Exactly. Though it wouldn’t come to that, of course. A lord being tried before a magistrate? Of course not. Not really.” He laughed drunkenly at his cards. “No fishermen’s daughters. Smell of fish, you see, however you have them washed. A plump farm girl is best.”

Mat told himself he was there to gamble. He told himself to ignore the fool’s blather, reminded himself of how much gold he could take out of Estean’s purse. His tongue did not listen, though. “Who knows what it might come to? Hangings, maybe.”

Another lord, Edorion, cuts in, trying to steer Estean away from a conversation that is clearly angering Mat. They briefly discuss Estean’s marriage prospects in terms that set Mat’s teeth on edge just as much, to the point where he fantasizes about how he could easily hit Estean and none of them would stop him, since he is a friend of the Lord Dragon. Again Edorion steers the conversation, this time to the rumor that Rand is going to lead them to war against Illian. They are certain that the Illianers would surrender at once to the Dragon Reborn, and confident that Rand will then lead them to conquer the world in the name of the Dragon.

Mat is horrified at the idea of Rand starting a war, but when he demures the lords grow uncomfortable. Edorion even remarks that, while those in the city are of course loyal to the Dragon, it is rumored that some of the country lords are raising an army to take back the Stone. Of course, once Rand leads Tear to war all of that will go away.

Mat briefly feels like these men are vipers, whose loyalty to the Rand, the man who holds the Stone, won’t outlast their fear of the Dragon Reborn, and he has a brief moment of guilt over his plans to leave Rand here before remembering again what Rand is. Estean drunkenly mumbles again about fisherman’s daughters, and the lord Carlomin prompts Mat that it’s his turn to buy a card. Mat hadn’t been paying attention to the game anymore, but now he pretends to think for a moment and then tosses a coin into the pile.

He feels his luck click into place again, knows how the coin will land before it does, knows what his card will be before it’s dealt.

Sliding his cards together on the table, he fanned them in one hand. The Ruler of Flames stared at him alongside the other four, the Amyrlin Seat balancing a flame on her palm, though she looked nothing like Siuan Sanche. However the Tairens felt about Aes Sedai, they acknowledged the power of Tar Valon, even if Flames was the lowest suit.

What were the odds of being dealt all five? His luck was best with random things, like dice, but perhaps a little more was beginning to rub off on cards. “The Light burn my bones to ash if it is not so,” he muttered. Or that was what he meant to say.

“There,” Estean all but shouted. “You cannot deny it this time. That was the Old Tongue. Something about burning, and bones.” He grinned around the table. “My tutor would be proud. I ought to send him a gift. If I can find out where he went.”

Mat silently curses Moiraine for her part in this strange penchant Mat has found to speak in a language he doesn’t know, as well as the gaps in his memory, then draws the lord’s attention back to the game. It’s easy to forget the Old Tongue when he sees how much money he is about to make.

Outside in the darkness, a cock crowed. Mat shifted uneasily and told himself not to be foolish. No one was going to die.

His eyes dropped to his cards—and blinked. The Amyrlin’s flame had been replaced by a knife. While he was telling himself he was tired and seeing things, she plunged the tiny blade into the back of his hand.

With a hoarse yell, he flung the cards away and hurled himself backward, overturning his chair, kicking the table with both feet as he fell. The air seemed to thicken like honey. Everything moved as if time had slowed, but at the same time everything seemed to happen at once. Other cries echoed his, hollow shouts reverberating inside a cavern. He and the chair drifted back and down; the table floated upward.

Now life-sized, although still a painted, two-dimensional shape, the Ruler of Flame starts to step out of the card, blood on her knife and a cruel smile on her lips. The other cards also begin to grow and the figures to step out of their cards. Mat is still falling in slow motion but he is able to draw his knives seamlessly and hurl them at the figures, but then they, too, float slowly through the thickened air. Mat can see the Ruler of Rods, painted like the Queen of Andor, ready to crack his skull with her rod as surely as the dagger could cut him. Mat pulls two more daggers from his coat, managing to turn himself to throw it, and he’s looking around for the fourth card when suddenly the world lurches back into regular motion, and Mat lands on the floor.

For a moment he thought cards and figures had vanished. Or maybe he had imagined it all. Maybe he was the one going mad. Then he saw the cards, back to ordinary size, pinned to one of the dark wood panels by his still quivering knives. He took a deep, ragged breath.

The table lay on its side, coins still spinning across the floor where lordlings and servants crouched among scattered cards. They gaped at Mat and his knives, those in his hands and those in the wall, with equally wide eyes. Estean snatched a silver pitcher that had somehow escaped being overturned and began pouring wine down his throat, the excess spilling over his chin and down his chest.

“Just because you do not have the cards to win,” Edorion said hoarsely, “there is no need to—” He cut off with a shudder.

“You saw it, too.” Mat slipped the knives back into their sheaths. A thin trickle of blood ran down the back of his hand from the tiny wound. “Don’t pretend you went blind!”

Lord Reimon insists that he saw nothing, and all the lords scramble about collecting the coins, as Estean searches for more one and one of the servants prays. Mat strides to the wall to inspect the impaled cards, all back to ordinary paper again, but he can see before he pulls his knives free that the Ruler of Flame still has a tiny blade in her hand.

Mat tears each of the cards in two, then goes to find the other two that hadn’t had a chance to come to life and rips those up as well. The lords all avoid acknowledging him, and Mat knows there won’t be any more gambling in the near future, not with Mat, at whom the attack was so obviously aimed. He curses Rand’s madness under his breath and leaves the room.

In his bedchamber, Rand tosses uneasily in his sleep, moving from dreams of Moiraine and the Amyrlin trying to put him in a halter to a dream in which Min and Elayne try to get him to swim naked with them in a pond back home in the Two Rivers. Embarrassed at seeing them undressing, he turns and sees Egwene staring sadly at him. She turns and runs away, into the forest, but as Rand starts to follow Min and Elayne call out to stop him.

“Come back,” Elayne called, lifting a slim arm to beckon. “Do you not deserve what you want for a change?”

He shifted his feet, wanting to move but unable to decide which way. What he wanted. The words sounded strange. What did he want? He raised a hand to his face, to wipe away what felt like sweat. Festering flesh almost obliterated the heron branded on his palm; white bone showed through red-edged gaps.

Rand jerks awake, covered in sweat and aching in his side from the wound that Moiraine can’t fully heal, but relieved to see that he’s not yet rotting, and not yet mad. He feels foolish for having such a dream and is trying to put the thoughts out of his mind to go back to sleep when he realizes that he is not alone in the room. He can hear the small sounds of rustling movement in the darkness.

Callandor is across the room, too far for him to reach it, and Rand thinks that perhaps this person has come to steal it. Or come to kill the Dragon Reborn. Thom has warned him that he can’t trust the Lords of Tear, but it was a warning Rand didn’t need to know that the oaths of loyalty they swore were only because they had to.

Rand summons the Void and touches the True Source.

Saidin filled him like a torrent of white heat and light, exalting him with life, sickening him with the foulness of the Dark One’s taint, like a skim of sewage floating on pure, sweet water. The torrent threatened to wash him away, burn him up, engulf him.

Fighting the flood, he mastered it by bare effort of will and rolled from the bed, channeling the Power as he landed on his feet in the stance to begin the sword-form called Apple Blossoms in the Wind. His enemies could not be many or they would have made more noise; the gently named form was meant for use against more than one opponent.

He creates a sword in his hand, a sword of flame that doesn’t feel warm, and it has a heron on the blade just like the one that Tam had once given him. Callandor sits undisturbed where he left it, as does the ornate room with its porcelain and gold objects, ornate curtains, and the dusty books brought up from the Stone’s library.

“Now, where he had thought to see assassins, or thieves, one beautiful young woman stood hesitant and surprised in the middle of the carpet, black hair falling in shining waves to her shoulders. Her thin, white silk robe emphasized more than it hid. Berelain, ruler of the city-state of Mayene, was the last person he had expected.

After one wide-eyed start, she made a deep, graceful curtsy that drew her garments tight. “I am unarmed, my Lord Dragon. I submit myself to your search, if you doubt me.” Her smile suddenly made him uncomfortably aware that he wore nothing but his smallclothes.

Rand tells himself that he will not let her make him scramble to cover up, not after she snuck into his chambers in the middle of the night, but although his anger and embarrassment hovers outside the Void, he still feels his cheeks flush. He lets the sword vanish but holds onto a trickle of saidin.

He did not know much of this woman, except that she walked through the Stone as if it were her palace in Mayene. Thom said the First of Mayene asked questions constantly, of everyone. Questions about Rand. Which might have been natural, given what he was, but they made him no easier in his mind. And she had not returned to Mayene. That was not natural. She had been held captive in all but name for months, until his arrival, cut off from her throne and the ruling of her small nation. Most people would have taken the first opportunity to get away from a man who could channel.

“What are you doing here?” He knew he sounded harsh, and did not care. “There were Aiel guarding that door when I went to sleep. How did you come past them?”

Berelain’s lips curved up a trifle more; to Rand it seemed the room had gotten suddenly even hotter. “They passed me through immediately, when I said I had been summoned by the Lord Dragon.”

“Summoned? I didn’t summon anybody.” Stop this, he told himself. She’s a queen, or the next thing to it. You know as much about the ways of queens as you do about flying. He tried to make himself be civil, only he did not know what to call the First of Mayene. “My Lady …” That would have to do. “ … why would I summon you at this time of night?”

Berelain laughs, and Rand is suddenly very aware of her scanty clothing. She remarks that maybe she wants to talk, but drops her robe at the same time, leaving herself in only a very revealing nightgown. Rand struggles to be formal and polite as she insists that she must talk to him now, since during the day he is surrounded by Tairen lords and Aiel guards. She pushes back against his insistence, to the point where Rand even lies and claims to be promised to Egwene, but that only prompts her to insist that her aspirations are not to marry the Lord Dragon, and to insist that they are not so formal in Mayene. She asks if she can call him Rand.

“Rand surprised himself by sighing regretfully. There had been a glint in her eye, a slight shift of expression, gone quickly, when she mentioned marrying the Dragon Reborn. If she had not considered it before, she had now. The Dragon Reborn, not Rand al’Thor; the man of prophecy, not the shepherd from the Two Rivers. He was not shocked, exactly; some girls back home mooned over whoever proved himself fastest or strongest in the games at Bel Tine and Sunday, and now and again a woman set her eyes on the man with the richest fields or the largest flocks. It would have been good to think she wanted Rand al’Thor. “It is time for you to go, my Lady,” he said quietly.

She stepped closer. “I can feel your eyes on me, Rand.” Her voice was smoky heat. “I am no village girl tied to her mother’s apron, and I know you want—”

“Do you think I’m made of stone, woman?” She jumped at his roar, but the next instant she was crossing the carpet, reaching for him, her eyes dark pools that could pull a man into their depths.

“Your arms look as strong as stone. If you think you must be harsh with me, then be harsh, so long as you hold me.” Her hands touched his face; sparks seemed to leap from her fingers.

Rand channels suddenly, making a wall of air which pushes her back, as well as any of the objects on the floor of the room like her robe and one of his boots and some books and a footstool. Rand then ties off the flow, studies what he has done—he’s never channeled in this way before, but now that he’s done it he thinks he can understand how he did it.

He tells the frightened woman that she should arrange to travel back to Mayene as soon as possible, although he offers his promise to keep Tear from troubling her again as a sort of apology for wounding her pride and for frightening her. But Berelain has already regained her composure, and apologizes herself for handling things badly. She kneels, a picture of contrite and honest apology—although he notes that she somehow managed to tug her nightgown down even more—and begs him not to send her away. Rand is honestly impressed by her determination, but as he rebuffs her again gently a cock crows outside.

To Rand’s surprise, Berelain suddenly stared past him, eyes as big as teacups. Her mouth dropped open, and her slim throat corded with a scream that would not come. He spun, the yellow-red sword flashing back into his hands.

Across the room, one of the stand-mirrors threw his reflection back at him, a tall young man with reddish hair and gray eyes, wearing only white linen smallclothes and holding a sword carved from fire. The reflection stepped out onto the carpet, raising its sword.

I have gone mad. Thought drifted on the borders of the Void. No! She saw it. It’s real!

Rand slashes his fire-sword through the figure, which dissolves into nothing, but it only reappears in the mirror and begins to climb out again, and Rand is aware of movement in the other mirrors around the room as well.

Desperately, he stabbed at the mirror. Silvered glass shattered, yet it seemed that the image shattered first. He thought he heard a distant scream inside his head, his own voice screaming, fading. Even as shards of mirror fell, he lashed out with the One Power. Every mirror in the room exploded silently, fountaining glass across the carpet. The dying scream in his head echoed again and again, sending shivers down his back. It was his voice; he could hardly believe it was not himself who made the sounds.

But three figures of himself have still escaped the mirrors, and Rand is forced to defend against three perfect copies of himself, identical to him in every way except for their dead eyes and the hatred and hunger in their faces.

Rand only manages to hold them off because they attack separately and not together, but he is soon exhausted and bloody, and they each have the same skill that he does. Little cuts begin to add up and sap him of his strength, and he feels fear pressing at the Void, knowing that he can’t outlast them, and knowing that the walls are too thick for him to call to the Aiel for help.

Although the figures try to avoid his sword, they don’t seem to notice when his blows land, or to be slowed by any injuries. Rand leaps across the bed in an attempt to get a moment to breathe—the figures slash his mattress up and then one starts to climb over while the others circle around.

Rand shuddered as pain stabbed his hand on the table. An image of himself, no more than six inches tall, drew back its small sword. Instinctively, he grabbed the figure before it could stab again. It writhed in his grip, baring teeth at him. He became aware of small movements all around the room, of small reflections by the score stepping out of polished silver. His hand began to numb, to grow cold, as if the thing were sucking the warmth out of his flesh. The heat of saidin swelled inside him; a rushing filled his head, and the heat flowed into his icy hand.

Suddenly the small figure burst like a bubble, and he felt something flow into him—from the bursting—some little portion of his lost strength. He jerked as tiny jolts of vitality seemed to pelt him.

When he raised his head—wondering why he was not dead—the small reflections he had half-glimpsed were gone. The three larger stood wavering, as if his gain in strength had been their loss. Yet as he looked up, they steadied on their feet and came on, if more cautiously.

Rand knows that he can’t fight the reflection people forever, and as much as it disgusts him to imagine absorbing them, he feels like it’s his only chance. If only he can figure out how he did it the first time. On a hunch, and needing to get close to them, he vanishes his flaming sword and the three figures’ swords disappear as well. The appear momentarily confused, then all tackle him at once.

Rand feels himself growing cold as they suck the heat out of them, and he can even see their eyes begin to take on more life. He knows, somehow, that if they manage to destroy him they will then turn on and absorb each other until only one is left, and that that one will be Rand, with his life and his memories. Rand pulls on saidin to try to fill himself with its heat, even welcoming the taint, and the Power rages through him more and more as he struggles desperately to figure out how he pulled the small one into himself.

And then suddenly it happens, first one sliding into him, and then the other two together, with such force that it throws him onto his back, where he lays looking up at the ceiling.

The Power still swelled in every crevice of his being. He wanted to spew up every meal he had ever eaten. He felt so alive that, by comparison, life not soaked in saidin was living a shadow. He could smell the beeswax of the candles, and the oil in the lamps. He could feel every fiber of the carpet against his back. He could feel every gash in his flesh, every cut, every nick, every bruise. But he held on to saidin.

One of the Forsaken had tried to kill him. Or all of them had. It must have been that, unless the Dark One was free already, in which case he did not think he would have faced anything as easy or as simple as this. So he held his link to the True Source. Unless I did it myself. Can I hate what I am enough to try to kill myself? Without even knowing it? Light, I have to learn to control it. I have to!

He gets up and retrieves Callandor, the sa’angreal giving him the amplified strength to face even one of the Forsaken. And then he realizes that he hasn’t heard a sound from Berelain and turns to see her standing where she left him, with her robe back on and clutched around her. He assures her that he is the original Rand and not one of the copies, trying to be gentle, but she bows with her head to the floor and begs him to forgive her, promising, swearing, never to bother him again, in a voice terrified and humble and completely unlike herself. Rand realizes that she would now rather be in the room with a Myrddraal than the Dragon, and releases the wall of air, telling her that there is nothing to forgive.

Discovering herself free of the invisible barrier, Berelain hurries to leave, but stops at the door, offering to send in one of the Aiel or call an Aes Sedai. Rand thanks her but declines, and says that he will do what needs to be done, and she leaves.

Limping to the foot of the bed, he lowered himself into the chest there and laid Callandor across his knees, bloody hands resting on the glowing blade. With that in his hands, even one of the Forsaken would fear him. In a moment he would send for Moiraine to Heal his wounds. In a moment he would speak to the Aiel outside, and become the Dragon Reborn again. But for now, he only wanted to sit, and remember a shepherd named Rand al’Thor.

 

I can’t decide if I like Faile and Perrin’s relationship or not. His loyalty to her through the ordeal with the hedgehog ter’angreal was touching in a knightly adventurer sort of way, and I can see how her fiery nature might be a good counterpoint to his slow and thoughtful one. But I still can’t quite see what this relationship is forged on, especially since Perrin doesn’t seem to understand much of what Faile says or thinks or wants. And like, Faile has done little besides get in Perrin’s way since they met. I’m open to seeing how the relationship develops, and how Faile’s character develops, but right now I see a lot of reasons why Perrin is irritated with her and not as many reasons why he would fall for her. And I’m honestly not sure what she wants out of the relationship either.

Still, I have to admit that there is something comforting in seeing them together in this little domestic way, sharing a bedroom and finding comfort in each other’s arms. In a story that is so much about strife and loss, in the beginning of a book that follows three others that spent a fair amount of time pointing out how Rand and Egwene’s relationship could never be, and Lan being all tragic about how he could only ever give Nynaeve a mourning veil for a wedding gift, or whatever.

And perhaps that is the point for them too, to find a bit of comfort in each other amidst all the chaos and oncoming darkness. A little light against the rising Shadow. I don’t love all gender essentialism of men and women being so unfathomable to each other, but I can get behind that kind of connection. The question now is if the comfort they provide each other can whether Faile’s desire to get away from Rand, and Perrin’s need to stay.

Speaking of that, I was proud of Perrin for figuring out the nature of ta’veren being drawn to each other. He’s always seemed the most pragmatic of the three about his destiny—he still resists certain things about being a wolfbrother, but he doesn’t think he can run away from it the way that Mat keeps telling himself he can, and he’s not as overwhelmed by his destiny as Rand is. (I mean, that’s because obviously Rand’s destiny is way more overwhelming, but the point still stands.) Perrin has recognized that he and Mat must know Rand for a reason, be from the same place and be drawn back to him again and again for a reason, and Perrin cares about protecting people. About the big picture stuff, like standing up to Whitecloaks or Darkfriends, about accepting violence when he must and recognizing that, like it or not, he is tied to the fate of the Dragon and therefore to the fate of the fight against the Dark One.

And Faile recognizes that much in him, the pain that it causes when all he wants is to go home and be a blacksmith, while the Wheel has chosen a very different fate for him.

I am dying to read ahead and find out what caused the attack from the axe, the cards, and the reflections. Right now both Perrin and Mat’s belief that Rand caused them and Rand’s belief that it was an attack by one of the Forsaken seem possible, but I’m not sure I think either is going to turn out to be the true explanation. I don’t have enough knowledge yet about the One Power to know how these things could be caused by channeling—the axe could be manipulated by someone controlling air, maybe, but I have no idea how the One Power could be used to make your reflection come out of the mirror and try to suck the life out of you. However, there are still clues to be examined in the structure of each attack.

What caught my attention most was Rand’s though immediately after he absorbs the reflections and is lying there recovering. He’s trying to decide if he thinks the assassins were created by one of the Forsaken, or by himself. Can I hate what I am enough to try to kill myself? he wonders. Without even knowing it?

It doesn’t really seem likely that Rand caused the attacks. I feel like he knows enough about his connection with saidin at the point to at least recognize when he’s touching it, although he was holding saidin at the time so it is possible he just wielded that Power without realizing. Still, it’s a rather complicated and complex thing to do, to bring an axe and some playing cards and a set of reflections to life all at the same time, in different places in the Stone, and target them at specific people with deliberate and malicious intent. Rand thinks it’s one of the Forsaken who tried to kill him, which is plausible, but it would have to be someone with a very specific sense of irony and a pretty good understanding of the three boys. And I mean, there must be better ways to kill people with the One Power than these complicated scenarios.

Rand may not have conjured the murder reflections (murdreflections? murderflections?) and probably doesn’t hate being the Dragon so much that he wants actively to die, but he does hate being the Dragon, and would very much like it to be over. Having his own image attack him with a blade wrought through channeling and try to suck out his life seems like a pretty specific metaphor, somehow brought to phsycial form.

And Rand isn’t the only one who notices that he is being attacked by something he hates. Once Perrin has Faile out of the room and it’s just him fighting the axe, he actually goes so far as to declare out loud how much he hates it. And we already knew exactly how Perrin felt about his weapon, anyway, and have since he first came up against the concept of using it to mercy-kill Egwene, back in The Eye of the World. For Perrin, the axe is a burden just like saidin is for Rand (although it lacks the One Power’s intoxicating effects) and a symbol of a fate that he would like very much to avoid and knows he can’t, just as Rand can’t avoid being the Dragon Reborn.

Mat’s experience threw me in my theory for a moment—he prefers dice but he doesn’t hate cards, and he loves winning any way it comes—until I thought to be a little more specific about it. It’s not the cards that attack him, but the images within them, which are specific representations of specific people. First, the Ruler of Flame, who is depicted as the Amyrlin. Mat has only recently escaped the Amyrlin, who wished to hold him against his will in the White Tower. Mat knows that she would like to keep him close because he is the one who blew the Horn of Valere, and someday she will either need him to blow it again or to die so that she can appoint a new person to do so. In a more general sense, Mat feels controlled and threatened by all Aes Sedai, blaming the Amyrlin and Moiriane for the fate that led him to be possessed by the dagger. Mat nearly died, has gaps in his memory, and finds himself speaking the Old Tongue without even realizing it, or understanding what he’s said. He has a lot to be angry at in the symbol of the Amyrlin.

The next figure to emerge from a card is the depiction of the former Tairen High Lord, and we’ve just had a whole scene to see that Mat despises the Tairen lords, and why. The way they talk about the lower classes, the way they talk about women, not to mention the fact that he’s very aware that they only treat him with respect because of his connection to the Dragon. And Edorion’s already showing his hand (heh) as to how far that loyalty will go.

And the third card that attacks him is Ruler of Rods, depicted as the Queen of Andor. While Mat has nothing against Morgase, exactly, the last time he was in her presence was incredibly dangerous for him, because of her new consort, lord Gaebril, who Mat overheard plotting to have Elayne (and Egwene and Nynaeve) killed, and who Mat nearly revealed himself to in an attempt to warn Morgase. Once again, the symbolism checks out.

I’d be more inclined to believe these attack might be something Rand did if he was more actively thinking about himself or his destiny in the moment before it happened, or if he had still been as heated at Berelain as he was when he shouted at her. And even still, it seems unlikely that anger towards himself would manifest against Mat and Perrin as well.

On the other hand, this chapter is entitled “Whirlpools in the Pattern” and although I’m not sure what a whirlpool in the pattern would look like, there isn’t anything else in this chapter that seems to relate to that. If the mention of the Pattern is a clue, and unless we later learn that other people also experienced an attack, I have to wonder if the fact that all three are ta’veren might have some bearing on what happened. I don’t know if Mat is more powerfully ta’veren than Perrin, but the fact that Perrin’s attack was less intense while Rand’s was by far the worst seems relevant, too. Mat’s luck was going full-force just before the attacks happened, and I have been wondering if perhaps he’s particularly keyd into the Patten (or the Pattern into him) in the moments when his luck is coming on the strongest.

It’s going to be a really uncomfortable conversation when Perrin and Faile and Mat show up to ask Rand what in the Light he thinks he’s doing, though, and find the wreckage of Rand’s own battle. I wonder if the fact that Rand was also attacked will make the suspect him less, or not.

And then there’s Berelain, confident and used to getting her own way, no doubt, but who bit off more than she could chew in this particular encounter. I have to wonder at her motivations here; as Rand observes, she has been basically a prisoner in the Stone for months, as Tear seems to be trying to absorb Mayene into its own borders. Obviously she sees value in endearing herself to the most powerful person in the word, the Dragon himself, and although she went about it in a way that would be more appropriate towards a lord of Tear, or Cairhien maybe, than towards a young man from Emond’s Field, if protection for Mayene is what she was after, she did achieve it. Rand promised to keep Tear from bother Mayene, just like that, because he felt bad for scaring her. He my or may not be able to keep it, of course, but that remains to be seen.

Also remaining to be seen is whether Berelain has some other objective in mind, and whether I was right when I called her as Perrin’s hawk. There’s nothing really to indicate that beside her crown, but having the hawk symbol there just seems to deliberate to be a coincidence. Maybe she’s going to try to get to Rand through Perrin, or maybe she’ll decide that the Dragon himself is too dangerous and one of his close companions is a better bet.

Moiriane will answer some of my questions next week as she and the Aiel learn of what happened, and Mat, as it turns out, is less interested in confronting Mat than he is in seeking comfort with Thom. Chapters 3 and 4 next week, and off we go!

Sylas K Barrett doesn’t know how he’s going to handle the Wheel of Time TV series when it comes out, but he is SO EXCITED about all the casting announcements. Daniel Henney as Lan? Be still, my heart.

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