Welcome back to my re-read, recap, and reaction to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. This post will only have spoilers through the current chapter.
You can find my previous chapter recaps HERE.
Chapter 40: The Web Tightens
Rand feels as though he is sitting at a table with Logain and Moiraine. They watch him silently as if neither of them know he is there. Abruptly the walls within the room become indistinct as if fading off to gray. When he looks back at the table, Moiraine and Logain are gone and Ba’alzamon is there. Rand’s body vibrates with urgency. With a jerk he sits up, his entire body swaying. His skull hurts. His left hand finds sticky dampness in his hair. He finds himself sitting in damp grass and all he can think about it lying down until the swaying of his body stops.
The wall. The girl’s voice.
Rand steadies himself with one hand and rises slowly. He is in a garden or a park. He has fallen inside the wall. He finds the girl and the tree. She is climbing down out of it. She is dressed in a deep blue velvet cloak around her shoulders. She has a silver circlet in her red-gold hair. She is wearing a necklace with silver rings and dark green stone – emeralds – around her throat. Her pale blue dress is smudged from tree climbing but it is silk and embroidered with intricate designs.
Rand thinks to himself that he has only ever seen two women dressed in this fashion: Moiraine and the Darkfriend who had tried to kill him and Mat. He cannot imagine who might climb trees in clothes like this but he is certain she must be someone important. She is self-possessed in a way that makes Rand think of Nynaeve or Moiraine. She does not seem troubled to find someone has fallen into her garden. Rand looks beyond the trappings and sees the girl herself. She is two or three years younger than he is, tall for a girl, blue eyed, and beautiful.
A moment later, Rand hears a scrambling sound in the tree and sees a boy dropping to the ground behind her. He is taller and a little older than she but his face marks him as her close kin. His clothes were arguably even more ornate than hers. Rand’s anxiety is growing.
The boy suddenly says that they will never hear the end of this if their mother finds out. She tells him, “be quiet Gawyn.”
She asks Rand if he is alright. He tells her that he is fine but he cannot stand.
You are hurt. […] I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone as skillful at climbing as you. But you don’t do so well falling .
Rand tells her that she will get blood on her hands and tries to draw back. She holds his head firmly and commands him to hold still. She says that it does not look too bad. She pulls the makings of a bandage from pockets in her cloak and Rand stares at her in amazement. Elayne treats the wound on Rand’s head.
Gawyn tells Rand, assumingly, that Elayne is always finding stray cats and birds with broken wings, but that he is the first human being she has had to work on. Gawyn adds to Rand, that he should not be offended, because he is not calling Rand a stray. Elayne uses a silk scarf to hold the bandage in place and Rand tells her she cannot use that. She tells him to hold still.
Rand looked at Gawyn. “Does she always expect everyone to do what she tells them?”
A flash of surprise crossed the young man’s face and his mouth tightened with amusement. “Most of the time she does and most of the time they do.”
Gawyn goes on telling Rand who does not follow Elayne’s orders: Their mother, Elaida, Lini – Elayne’s nurse as a child, and Gareth. Elayne adds that not even their mother gives orders to Gareth saying that she gives suggestions, he always does as suggested, but he is never ordered. Gawyn states that Gareth has served three Queens and been Captain General for two of them. He says that some think of Gareth as more of a symbol of the throne of Andor than the Queen.
Elayne says her mother should marry him. Gawyn shakes his head and says one of them must bend first. “Mother cannot and Gareth will not.” Suddenly they both turn to stare at Rand. They seem to have forgotten that he is there.
Who… who is your mother?
Elayne is surprised. Gawyn tells him that their mother is Morgase, Queen of Andor. Rand is shocked. He hastily gets to his feet. He feels compelled to get away as quickly as possible. Elayne is surprised that he really did not know. He wants to climb over the wall and escape. He tells them that he will leave now.
G: Without even telling us your name? A poor payment for Elayne’s care.
Gawyn notes that Rand sounds like an Andorman, though not from Caemlyn. He is about to say that Rand looks like something and then changes what he is about to say and instead states that courtesy suggests that Rand should give them his name.
Rand gives them his name and tells them that he is from Emond’s Field in the Two Rivers. Gawyn says “tabac and wool” and explains that he has to know the principle products of every part of the realm and of every land for that matter. He also tells Rand that it is said that people of the Two Rivers are known to be stubborn. They will be led if they believe you worthy but they will dig in if you push them. Gawyn then suggests that Elayne ought to pick a husband from there.
Suddenly a new voice speaks and asks “What’s this?”
The young man standing there is the most handsome Rand has ever seen – almost too handsome for masculinity. He is tall, slender, dark haired and eyed, and with elaborate clothing. The man commands both Elayne and Gawyn to stand away from Rand. Elayne stands between Rand and the newcomer. She calls him Galad.
Rand remembers what he has heard from Master Fitch and Master Gill. Galad Damodred is Elayne and Gawyn’s half-brother. They shared the same father. Everyone thinks well of Galad. The handsome half-brother tells Elayne that it is easy to change the wrappings on a sword and states that Rand does not look reputable. She counters that he is there as her guest and that she vouches for him.
Elayne commands Galad to leave her. He bows and leaves. Once he is gone, Elayne states that she hates him and believes him to be vile and full of envy. Gawyn corrects her and says she goes too far.
Galad does not know the meaning of envy.
Elayne looks at Rand states that they must get him out of there. Gawyn explains that Galad always does the right thing even when he should not. He tells Rand that Galad will return with the palace guards shortly. Rand states that he should go back over the wall but Elayne will not let him. She tells him she will lead him through a gate in the garden. However, they hear boots moments later and Gawyn mutters that they are too late.
Guards burst into the garden from every direction. Some hold drawn swords and others have bows and arrows ready to nock and loose. Elayne and Gawyn stand between the men and Rand.
Elayne chides the leader of the guards, Tallanvor, for bringing bare steel into her presence. Tallanvor apologizes and tells him that Galad reported a dirty peasant skulking in the gardens, armed, and endangering Elayne and Gawyn. Elayne tells Tallanvor that he may withdraw and Tallanvor tells her that will not be possible. He also tells her that word has been sent to Her Majesty of this intruder.
Gawyn whispers to him that he will go to prison for a few days but that he will not be harmed. He will be questioned by Gareth Bryne and released when it is clear he meant not harm. He tells Rand that he hopes Rand was telling the truth.
Elayne commands Tallanvor and his men to escort all three of them to her mother. Tallanvor had been expecting to escort only Rand and he is taken aback. She says that if he will not do this, he can escort all of them to a cell. Gawyn whispers to Rand that their mother is currently viewing Logain and that Tallanvor will not dare interrupt. However, a moment later another soldier runs forward and whispers to Tallanvor.
“The Queen, your lady mother,” Tallanvor announced, “commands me to bring the intruder to her immediately. It is also my Queen’s command that the Lady Elayne and my Lord Gawyn attend her. Also immediatel.”
The soldiers formed around the three as they march toward Queen Morgase. Only now does Rand begin to see the garden itself. It is green. Trees and bushes are thick and thriving. Flowers are everywhere spraying the garden with color. Rand mutters that the garden is green and Gawyn explains that it is Elaida’s work.
Elayne advises Rand when they arrive to speak up clearly when spoken to but to keep silent otherwise. She tells him to follow her lead. Gawyn does not seem to share Elayne’s confidence. Rand feels as though he is in deep water with no bank in sight.
Tallanvor leads them on a path that winds so often Rand loses his sense of direction. Finally they stop in front of double doors.
Gawyn: At least it isn’t the Grand Hall. […] I have never heard that Mother had anyone’s head cut off from here.
Tallanvor reaches for Rand’s sword but Elayne stops him stating that guests are allowed to go armed even in the Queen’s presence. Tallanvor commands to announce the Lady Elayne and Gawyn. They enter, with Elayne motioning Rand to stay close behind. She gives a deep curtsey and holds it in place. Rand gives a start before emulating the bow Gawyn and the other men are giving. Tallanvor glares at Rand. Rand is afraid but also angry that nobody told him what he was supposed to do upon entering.
On a gilded throne sits the Queen. A bluff blocky man stands beside the Queen. Behind the throne, a woman in deep green silk is knitting something in dark wool. Rand cannot put an age to her. The knitting woman’s attention seems to e entirely on her knitting and yarn. There is no sound in the rom except for the clicking of knitting.
Rand sees that Morgase has her daughter’s beauty. Her presence fills the room. If she had been a widow in Emond’s Field, Rand thinks to himself, she would have had a line of suitors outside the door even if she was the worst cook and the most slovenly housekeeper in the Two Rivers.
Suddenly Morgase says that everyone may rise. Morgase chides Elayne and Gawyn for disobeying orders and trying to look at Logain. Gareth Bryne remains impassive through Rand thinks to himself that Bryne notices everything. As Morgase chides her children, telling them that Logain is dangerous, Elaida suddenly speaks up from her knitting. She states that Logain will be dealt with in Tar Valon.
She tells Elayne that on the journey north, neither she nor Gawyn will be allowed close to Logain. Morgase notes that if she did not know how hard Elayne’s lessons will be in Tar Valon, she would send Lini with their party north.
Elaida tells Elayne how difficult her lessons will be. She then states that she has it within her to be the greatest Queen any land has seen in 1,000 years. She says they will shape her for that in Tar Valon.
Morgase turns her attention to Rand. Elayne asks for the right to speak. She notes that she has learned much about the people of the Two Rivers from speaking with him and she states that it says much he decided to put on the red instead of the white when the red is more unpopular in the city.
Morgase muses over the idea of a loyal subject from the Two Rivers. She tells Elayne that the Two Rivers has not seen a tax collector in six generations or the Queen’s Guards in seven generations. She states that it is unlikely they even know they are part of the realm. Elaida puts down her knitting and studies him. She walked down from her stool and stands before him. She puts a hand toward his head and says aloud that Two Rivers people are dark of hair and eyes. Rand has red hair and gray eyes. She also notes that Two Rivers people seldom have his height or his skin color.
Rand states that his mother is an outlander and that his father is Tam al’Thor, a shepherd and farmer as he is. Elaida nods and Rand meets her gaze steadily. Elaida puts her hand on his sword hilt.
A shepherd from the Two Rivers with a heron mark sword?
The chamber erupts. Gareth stands between Rand and the Queen. Gawyn stands between Rand and Elayne. Morgase barely reacts and Elaida does not react at all. Morgase states that he must be too young to have earned the blade. Bryne says that the sword belongs with him.
He is too young but the sword is his.
Rand tells them that his father gave him the sword. Elaida asks him when he arrived in Caemlyn and she lies, saying that he arrived in Caemlyn this morning. She asks him where he is staying. He lies again, saying that he is staying at the Crown and Lion. Rand remembers seeing the Crown and Lion while looking for The Queen’s Blessing. He tells her that he has a bed there in the attic.
Morgase motions for Gareth Bryne to stand aside so that she can study Rand. She then speaks to Elaida.
What are you naming him? Darkfriend? One of Logain’s followers?
Elaida says that Rand is dangerous. Elayne bursts out to her mother, begging not to harm him. She tells Morgase that Rand would have left immediately had she not stopped him. She says Rand wanted to go and that it was she who made him stay. Morgase asks Elaida if she is making a Foretelling.
This I Foretell, Elaida replied, and swear under the light that I can say no clearer. From this day, Andor marches toward pain and division. The Shadow is yet to darken to its blackest. And cannot see if the Light will come after. Where the world has wept one team, it will weep thousands. This I Foretell.
The room fell into silence. Elaida continues to speak, barely moving her lips, so softly that only Rand can hear her.
This too I Foretell. Pain and division comes to the whole world and this man stands at the heart of it. I obey the Queen and speak clearly.
Elaida stares at him. Rand announces loudly that he is a shepherd and Elaida replies that the Wheel Weaves as the Wheel Wills. Bryne announces that Elaida has said nothing that any farmer could not tell without assistance. He says he believes the boy is there through ill happenstance. He says to be safe, put him in a cell until Lady Elayne and Gawyn have gone north to Tar Valon.
Elaida also states that a few weeks in prison will not harm him and that it will give her a chance to learn more.
Morgase continues to stare at him. She says that suspicion is smothering Caemlyn and that she will not become part of it. She asks Rand to swear, under the Light, that his father, a shepherd in the Two Rivers, gave him the heron marked blade. Rand says that he does. He also swears that he climbed the garden wall only to get a look at Logain and that he means no harm to her daughter or her son. Rand swears.
Morgase tells Rand that she has heard someone from the Two Rivers speak, when she was young, and that he has it on his tongue. She also says that nobody with his hair and eyes would claim to be a Two Rivers shepherd unless it is true. She also says that his father giving him a heron marked blade is too preposterous to be a lie.
Morgase then gives Rand his freedom and tells him that if he is ever found on the palace grounds again, it will not go so easily next time. Rand thanks her.
Morgase tells Tallanvor to escort Rand from the Palace. She asks Elaida and Lord Gareth to stay behind with her to discuss what to do with the Whitecloaks in the city. Rand wonders what would have happened had Morgase not kept the Aes Sedai from leaving with him. Elayne an Gawyn join Rand as he leaves the Palace. Tallanvor is surprised to see the two of them joining their escort.
Rand can barely see the wonders of the Palace because his head is spinning over what has just happened. Tallanvor opens a sally port for Rand to leave through.
Rand thanks Elayne for everything. He tells her it is custom in the Two Rivers to give a gift and apologizes for having nothing. He says though, that he apparently did teach her something of the Two Rivers people.
Elayne replies that if she had told her mother that she thought he was handsome, he would be locked in a cell. Elayne then smiles at him. Rand gapes as she goes. Gawyn remains behind. Rand asks Gawyn why nobody believes he is from the Two Rivers. Gawyn tells Rand that if he wrapped a shoufa around his head, he would be the image of an Aielman. Rand watches Gawyn leave, too, and then he leaves The plaza in front of the Palace is empty. He is socked again that Gawyn sad he looks like an Aielman. He moves back toward The Queen’s Blessing as quickly as possible.
This is such a great chapter. In a completely plausible way, Rand accidentally meets the entire Royal Family of Andor. The story goes from small in scale to MUCH LARGER in scale in this chapter. A few village youths fleeing from baddies is one thing. Now an entire realm has been introduces. The Daughter Heir of that realm flirts with Rand!
But right before that, he was just about to have a dream with Ba’alzamon in it. That feels ominous to me.
So… yeah. Rand meets everyone of any importance in Caemlyn. He seems to win over the Daughter-Heir and her First Prince of the Sword brother. Those two are on their way to Tar Valon – where he needs to go. He is told yet again that he looks like one of the Aiel. An Aes Sedai has a Foretelling about him – one she does not share with anyone but him – stating that Rand is at the center of all the turmoil on its way to the entire world. Foretellings seem to be the way an Aes Sedai *reads* the Pattern. Then Rand is just free to leave. So if there were any remaining doubts as to who the “chosen one” is for this series… this chapter seems to put that to rest.
I wonder where Morgase previously heard the speech of someone from The Two Rivers. Tam actually seems like the most likely candidate, doesn’t he? Rand even mentions his father by name. Maybe Morgase *knew* Rand was telling the truth, because she remembers meeting Tam, but she did not want to get into it in front of everyone in the Palace. Just a thought.
At any rate, things seem to be picking up speed. Strange shapes are gathering outside the city walls. Elaida will probably be looking for Rand. And Rand’s friends are on the way to Caemlyn.