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 47: More Tales of the Wheel
Rand is feeling restless. He is pacing beside a dining table wondering what Fain is saying to Moiraine and Lan. Rand observes his companions. Perrin’s golden eyes stare into space but seem to see something others cannot. Mat nervously touches his dagger from time to time. Loial is studying the walls and muttering quietly to himself in Ogier. Nynaeve and Egwene are talking with Lord Agelmar.
Egwene asks him about Lan. She tells Agelmar that she thought Lan was a Warder. As a result, she confesses to him that she does not know why the men in Fal Dara call him Dai Shan or why men mention the Golden Crane banner to him. Nynaeve studies her cup but is listening more intently to the answer than Egwene. Rand tries to listen without seeming to eavesdrop.
Agelmar tells them that Lan is a king, or at least that he should have been. Al’Lan Mandragoran, Lord of the Seven Towers, Lord of the Lakes, the Crownless King of the Malkieri. He tells them that less than fifty years ago, Shienar was not truly one of the Borderlands. North of both Shienar and Arafel was Malkier.
Malkier. Peace favor her memory and the Light illumine her name.
Agelmar tells them that Lan is the son of al’Akir, the last crowned king of the Malkieri. Then he tells the story of Malkier’s downfall. On a dare from his wife, Breyan, the King’s brother Lain Mandragoran took five thousand men to the Blasted Lands, north of the Blight. Breyan made the dare because of her envy that Lain’s brother was raised to the throne instead of Lain. Lain and most of his men died in that trip and Malkier could not afford to lose them. Breyan blamed the King for their deaths, arguing that he should have sent more men with her husband.
For revenge, she plotted with Cowan Gemallan, called Cowan Fairheart, to seize the throne for her son Isam. Fairheart was himself an acclaimed hero. However, he narrowly missed being named King of Malkier himself when the crown was given to al’Akir. Together, Breyan and Fairheart moved soldiers from border forts to seize the Seven Towers. Agelmar tells them that Fairheart the hero was also a Darkfriend. With Fairheart’s report to the Shadow that Malkier’s border forts are weakened, trollocs swarmed into the country like a flood. Agelmar says that if al’Akir and Lain were both still alive, they might have been able to rally the people. But Lain’s death and weakened the spirit of the people. Malkier was overrun. Breyan fled with her son Isam and was overrun by trollocs as she fled to the south with him.
Cowan’s treachery was revealed and he was captured by young Jain Charin, already known at that time by the name Jain Farstrider. Jain brought Cowan to the capital. Al’Akir faced Cowan in single combat and slew him. Al’Akir wept after killing him.
There was no time for Malkier to get aid from other lands. Al’Akir had his infant son Lan brought to him. He placed the sword of Malkieri kings in his hands – the sword he wears today. They anointed his head with oil and named him Dai Shan – a diademed battle lord. They consecrated him as the next king of the Malkieri and in his name they swore the ancient oaths of Malkieri kings and queens.
To stand against the Shadow so long as iron is hard and stone abides. To defend the Malkieri while one drop of blood remains. To avenge what cannot be defended.
Lan’s mother el’Leanna placed a locket around his neck for remembrance and he was given to the best twenty fighters from the King’s body guard. They were commanded to bring the child to Fal Moran in Shienar. Once Lan was sent away, the King and Queen of Malkier led their people one last time and died at Herot’s Crossing. Malkier died and the Seven Towers were broken. Shienar and Arafel and Kandor met the trollocs and threw them back but the Blight advanced forward and swallowed Malkier. Only five of Lan’s infant body guards reached Fal Moran, everyone one of them wounded, but they delivered Lan unharmed to Shienar.
From the cradle, those five surviving guards taught Lan all that they knew. Lan learned weapons as other children learned toys. He learned about the Blight as other children might learn about their mother’s garden.
Agelmar tells them that Lan denies his titles but in the Borderlands he is called The Uncrowned. If he ever raises the banner of the Golden Crane of Malkier an army will come to follow it. However, Lan will not lead men to their deaths. Agelmar tells them that Lan is the best of all Warders and that means he is the best of the very best. Agelmar says no person alive is better suited to taking them into the Blight than Lan if they hope to survive and return.
Nynaeve had listened closely and now her face is pale. Egwene puts a hand on her arm and gives her a sympathetic look. Moiraine appears in the doorway.
Agelmar asks Moiraine if she learned anything or if he is simply a madman. She tells him that Padan Fain is mad but that there is nothing simple about him. A servant brings a wash stand and soap and sets them on a table in front of Moiraine. She begins vigorously washing her hands.
Moiraine: I said he was worse than vile but I did not come close. I do not believe I have ever met someone so abject and debased and at the same time so foul. I feel soiled from touching him and I do not mean for the filth on his skin[…]The degradation of his soul almost makes me doubt he has one. There is something worse to him than a Darkfriend.
Egwene tells Moiraine that she remembers Fain’s cheerful visits to Emond’s Field and she quotes the saying that no man can stand in the Shadow for so long that he cannot find the Light again. Moiraine tells her that she has always believed that saying, however, she tells them all that Fain has been a Darkfriend for forty years and the blood and pain and death which have accompanied him on that path would freeze the heart to hear.
She tells that among the least of his sins, though not a small matter to her present company, is that he brought the trollocs to Emond’s Field. Mat asks if he brought them to Fal Dara and Agelmar tells the group that if he did, they will break their teeth on the city walls. He tells the group that every street and alleyway is lit during night and he says no man is allowed to hide his face inside the city walls.
Egwene still cannot believe that Master Fain would do this. Moiraine tells her – and the rest of them – that three years ago, Fain began hunting them for The Dark One. Rand states that Fain has been visiting the Two Rivers every year, like clockwork, for as far back as he can remember. He also tells her that Fain never looked at any of them twice prior to last year.
Moiraine tells them that three years prior, a myrddraal came for Fain in a town in Murandy. It is considered a great honor among Darkfriends to be summoned in this way. Fain was brought to the Blight, to the Blasted Lands, and then to Shayol Ghul itself. There, Fain met with a man who had eyes of fire who named himself Ba’alzamon.
Fain was chosen because of where he did his peddling. The Dark One knew roughly where to look for what he was after but not much better than she knew at that time. She continues on, telling them that Fain was changed in some way to carry out his task and that he hates his Master for those changes as much as he fears him.
Perrin remembers that three years ago, Fain arrived later than usual and that he lingered on for an entire week instead of leaving. Mat suddenly remembers, too, saying that there were rumors that he was sick or that he had fallen for a local woman. Moiraine tells them that after all of this, Fain returned to Shayol Ghul again where his mind was distilled. The following year, Fain was able to choose his targets in the Two Rivers more clearly than The Dark One had expected. Fain knew for a certainty that the one he sought was one of three in Emond’s Field: Rand al’Thor, Mat Cauthon, or Perrin Aybara.
Moiraine continues on. When Fain returned to Lugard, after, Ba’alzamon came to him in a dream. Fain abased himself and performed rites “that would strike you dead to hear the half of them.” Fain was promised great rewards and told to mark the three he had found the next time he returns to Emond’s Field. She says that they know now there must have been an Ogier Grove and a Waygate nearby. Loial chimes in to say that Manetheren was home to the most beautiful grove of all, except for Tar Valon.
Moiraine then warns Agelmar about the Waygate they arrived through to the south of the city. She warns him that it must be walled up with a guard set.
Perrin asks if Fain followed them through The Ways. She tells him yes. She says that Fain was forced by the myddraal to run with the trollocs as their party was chased from The Two Rivers. As a result, Fain claims now that he turned against The Dark One before reaching the Taren. Fain recounted their journey. From the Taren, he went through The Ways and met with another myddraal near Baerlon. He told Moiraine that Ba’alzamon himself drove the Fades and Trollocs into Shadar Logoth.
Agelmar scoffs at the idea of The Dark One being free, saying that if it were true, they would all be dead or worse. Moiraine tells him that Fain believes what he said. He told her that Ba’alzamon appeared like a flickering candle flame, never in the same place more than once, driving them forward. Moiraine quotes Fain.
His eyes seared the myrddraal and the fires of his mouth scourged us.
Lan comments that something drove four Fades into a place they fear almost as much as they fear the wrath of The Dark One. Agelmar grunts and looks as if he is going to be sick. Moiraine tells the group that Mashadar killed most of the Trollocs who entered Shadar Logoth and Fain escaped from the city. He thought he was free of The Dark One. However, Fain learned that the compulsion to hunt his Two Rivers quarry grew stronger instead.
She tells them that by the time he reached Caemlyn, he can feel his quarry even when it is a mile away. She tells them that in Fal Dara, in the cells below, he would sometimes look up and in the direction of the room where they are now gathered. Rand has a sudden itch between his shoulder blades.
Moiraine tells them that Fain did not know how his knowledge of Waygates came to be there. In Caemlyn, he murdered the owner of the shop where the Waygate was located. She says he murdered the man out of envy over the shop owner’s freedom. Then, Moiraine says he followed them through The Ways to Fal Dara.
Egwene asks how Fain escaped The Black Wind. Moiraine replies that Fain escaped and that he did not escape. The Black Wind caught him, greeted him, some of the voices said Fain was like they are and others of the voices feared Fain. The Black Wind enveloped Fain and then it fled from him.
She says that the evil in Fain goes deeper and stronger than in any man she has ever met. She says that the Dark One may have imprinted some part of himself on Fain when Fain was turned into his hound. However, Moiraine states she will have to learn more from Fain if and when they return from The Eye. She points out that three years ago, The Dark One required Fain be brought to him at Shayol Ghul. One year ago, Ba’alzamon could only command Fain via his dreams. Weeks ago, Ba’alzamon could appear in the dreams of those who walk in the Light and can appear in the waking world, if just as a flicker. She says that the seals on The Dark One’s prison are growing desperately weak.
Agelmar bows to Moiraine. He offers to replace Rand, Mat, and Perrin with three swordsman, who are almost as good in the Blight as Lan, who have no thoughts of personal glory in their head. He hopes to give them the best chance of winning. Moiraine surprises him when she says that the three boys from Emond’s Field are the ones who will fight the battle at The Eye of the World.
Agelmar looks at the boys and takes a step back. It occurs to him that the three might be able to channel. He says to Moiraine that surely she would not bring male channelers into Fal Dara. She tells him instead that the boy sare ta’veren. She tells him that her plan is to bring three ta’veren in the hope that it will change the Pattern in the right way.
Agelmar asks if she is certain. She tells him that almost all of them have the Old Blood of Manetheren. She asks if he can doubt the strength of Manetheren’s blood. Rand notices that she said the Old Blood was strong in almost all of them. Rand catches Nynaeve’s eye and she shakes her head. The Wisdom did not tell the Aes Sedai that he was not Two Rivers born. Rand wonders what Moiraine knows.
Agelmar acknowledges the blood of Manetheren and says he would not doubt that blood. Moiraine then says they need to get sleep and then leave early. She says the time is short. Too short.
This is yet another info dump chapter. I loved the info, mind you, but almost all of this is backstory on first Lan, and then Padan Fain.
Let’s start with Lan. This is about as high fantasy as it gets. The best swordsman from among the best fighers in the world, is the uncrowned king of a noble and betrayed people. He is basically Wheel of Time’s Aragorn.
This seems like a good place to drop my favorite WoT meme. I do not know who to credit for its creation but that person is no doubt a Diademed Meme Lord.
If you were paying close attention, Nynaeve required some comfort from Egwene because I think she just had a sudden realization that al’Lan Mandragoran might be way out of her league. (I stan Nynaeve but her belief is understandable at this point.) Egwene apparently also had this realization which is why she realized she needed to comfort Nynaeve.
Now let’s talk about Fain.
If Lan is the Aragorn of this story, Fain is the Gollum. However, unlike Gollum, there is no underlying innocence to Fain. Poor Smeagol was just taken by a magic ring. It was a wrong place, wrong time situation. He probably lives and dies a relatively normal life if he does not find the ring. Fain is different. He sought out evil. Moiraine in consecutive chapters describes him as being just about the most evil person she has ever met. In Chapter 46, she implies merely being in his vicinity is dangerous.
We are just about to leave for The Blight. Moiraine seems to be hoping that she can wrap up the Wheel of Time series by the end of this book. There are fourteen books in the series so I suspect that things are about to go a little sideways.
One of my favorite subtleties from this chapter is Agelmar’s view of Rand, Mat, and Perrin. He is constantly looking for ways to replace them on the mission. He calls Mat a country oaf at one point. Let’s see if he has a point!