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 51: Against the Shadow
Rand runs uphill. Moiraine has finally stopped screaming. He knows Aginor will be following him because he remembers seeing certainty in the Forsaken’s eyes when the man looked at Rand. Ahead, after much climbing, the land levels out. But ten paces in front of him, the hilltop drops away sharply. Rand wants to howl.
At the edge, Rand sees a sheer one hundred foot drop. There is no goat track to descend and no place to place footholds to climb down.
Rand: There has to be some way. I’ll go back and find a way around. Go back and…
When Rand turns, Aginor is there. The Forsaken tops the hill with no difficulty, walking up the steep slope as if the ground is level. Deep sunken eyes burn at Rand from his sunken face. However, Rand believes the his eyes look less sunken than before and his parchment face more fleshed.
Aginor: Ba’alzamon will get rewards beyond mortal dreaming for the one who brings you to Shayol Ghul. Yet my dreams have always been beyond those of other men and I left mortality behind millennia ago. What difference if you serve The Great Lord of the Dark alive or dead? None to the spread of the Shadow. Why should I share power with you?
Rand’s mouth is dry. His heels are on the edge of the precipice. Rand panics thinking there has to be someway to get away when suddenly he feels something. He can see something though he knows it is not there to see. A glowing rope winds behind Aginor like pure sunlight. Rand knows it connects the Forsaken to something distant beyond knowing. As Rand watches the Forsaken restored to healthy body, the cord is all he can see or think of. It sings to him. One bright finger strand of the cord lifts away and touches Rand. He gasps.
It takes the chill of the grave from Rand’s bones. Rand’s strand of the cord grows larger.
Aginor shouts at Rand that he shall not have it. Neither man moves but they fight just the same, as though they are grappling with each other, in the dust. Sweat beads on Aginor’s now young face. Rand’s body pulses with the light in the cord. It fills his being and his mind. Warmth builds in Rand – the warmth and radiance of the sun.
As Aginor shouts “mine!” flames shoot from his mouth and through his eyes like spears of fire. Rand is no longer on the hilltop. He quivers with the Light that suffuses him. His mind does not work. Rand stands in a jagged mountain path surrounded by jagged peaks that remind Rand of the teeth of The Dark One. It is real. He is there. Battle surrounds him. Armored men are battling and losing to hordes of trollocs and myrddraal. The sound of the battle beats at Rand. Rand sees banners – the Black Hawk of Fal Dara, the White Heart of Shienar, and others, including trolloc banners.
None of the fighters seem to notice Rand as they reform lines for one final and losing charge. As they prepare to charge, some of the men finally do see Rand. They stand in their stirrups and point at him and they shout. Staggering, Rand turns to the other end of the pass where the ranks of the Dark One are reforming, too. Hundreds of Fades and tens of thousands of trollocs cover the ground. Dragkhar wheel through the sky overhead. The myddraal now see Rand, too, pointing at him. Six Draghkar dive at him. A burning heat fills Rand. Lightning comes from the clear sky – each one striking a winged black shape. Hunting cries become shrieks of death.
The terrible heat of the Light threatens to overwhelm Rand. He falls to his knees. He clutches at the grass for a hold on reality and he shouts, “No!” The grass bursts into flame. The wind rises with his voice and howls down the pass, whipping the flames into a wall of fire that speeds away from Rand faster than a horse can run. Fire burns the trollocs. As Rand shouts “it has to end!” the ground tolls like a gong. Ripples run through the ground in waves toward the Shadow’s army. The mountains shatter under their feet. The Shadow’s army is still large but now it is only twice as large as the human one on the other end of the pass.
“The Light blind you, Ba’alzamon! This has to end!”
IT IS NOT HERE.
It was not Rand’s thought, making his skull vibrate.
I WILL TAKE NO PART. ONLY THE CHOSEN ONE CAN DO WHAT MUST BE DONE, IF HE WILL.
“Where?” He did not want to say it, but he could not stop himself. “Where?”
The haze surrounding him parted, leaving a dome of clear, clean air ten spans high, walled by billowing smoke and dust. Steps rose before him, each standing alone and unsupported, stretching up into the murk that obscured the sun.
The glowing cord still trails behind Rand. It is not as thick as before but it continues to pulse, pumping strength, life, and the Light into him. He climbs the stairs until suddenly a door is in front of him. He remembers the door. He touches it and the door bursts into fragments. He steps through.
The chamber inside is as he remembered with the mad striated sky and melted walls, a table, and a fireplace with heatless flames. Rand holds the Void close. When Rand looks at the mirror on the wall, he sees his own face clearly.
“Yes,” Ba’alzamon said from in front of the fireplace. “I thought Aginor’s greed would overcome him. But it makes no difference in the end. A long search but ended now. You are here and I know you.”
Rand tells Ba’alzamon that he is tired of running. He sees that Ba’alzamon has a cord of his own – black – and thicker than his own. Ba’alzamon asks Rand if he believes it makes a difference whether he runs or stays. He tells Rand that he has one choice – kneel and serve or be Tar Valon’s puppet fool until he is ground into the dust of time.
Rand tells him that there are other choices. Rand tells him that The Wheel weaves the pattern, not him, and that he has escaped every trap laid by Ba’alzamon.
Rand: I tracked you here and destroyed your army along the way. You do not weave the Pattern.
Rand thinks he hears Ba’alzamon quietly curse Aginor before he replies loudly that other armies can be raised. He also tells Rand that he began setting Rand’s path the day Rand was born. He tells Rand that he sent Jain Fairstrider to the Ogier with the message about The Eye of the World and that he allowed Aiel Maidens to escape and relay a message to the Tinkers. He tells Rand that he sent the Black Ajah all over the world to seek Rand out.
Doubt creeps into Rand. He worries that it might all be as the other man says. Ba’alzamon tells him that he will serve alive, or his soul will, the difference being up to Rand. He says he would rather have Rand kneel to him alive, though. He only sent a fist of trollocs to Emond’s Fiend when he could have sent one thousand. He could have send hundreds of Darkfriends on him while he slept instead of sending small numbers. He also tells Rand that he does not even know which people at his side are Darkfriends.
Ba’alzamon: You are mine. You have always been mine – my dog on a leash. And I brought you here to kneel to your Master or die and let your soul kneel.
Rand: I deny you. You have no power over me. And I will not kneel to you alive or dead.
Ba’alzamon commands Rand to look at turns his head by force. Rand sees Egwene, Nynaeve, and another woman, a little older than Nynaeve in Two Rivers dress.
“Mother,” he breathed, and she smiled a hopeless smile – his mother’s smile. “No, my mother is dead! And the other two are safe away from here. I deny you!”
Egwene and Nynaeve blur and fade away but Kari al’Thor remains, eyes big and afraid. Ba’alzamon tells Rand that his mother belongs to him and he can do with her as he wants. Kari begins to cry. She tells Rand that The Lord of the Grave is stronger than he once was. She tells Rand that she would spare him if she could but Ba’alzamon is her master now. She tells him that only Rand can free her. She begs Rand to help her. Fades surround her, rip her clothes away, as some hold clamps and pincers in their pale hands. She screams and Rand’s scream echoes her.
A sword is in Rand’s hands now. It is not the sword at his waist. He is holding a sword of Light. He raises it and a fiery white bolt shoots out from the point. It touches the Fade and burns through him and then the rest causing a blinding light. From the midst of the brilliance Rand hears his mother whisper “thank you, my son. The Light. The Blessed Light.”
Ba’alzamons eyes burn but he shies back from Rand’s sword. He tells Rand that he will destroy himself and that he cannot wield that sword yet, safely, without a teacher. Rand tells him it is ended and his strikes at Ba’alzamon’s black cord. The blade of Light severs the cord and Ba’alzamon screams. The cut ends bound apart as if they were held by great tension. One end of the giant black cord bounds into the nothingness from whence it came and the other end bounds into Ba’alzamon, knocking him into the fireplace.
The room around him begins to break apart. Rand points the sword of Light at Ba’alzamon’s heart. He shouts that it is ended and light shoots out from the blade. Ba’alzamon tries to shield himself and fails. Fire fills the chamber, a solid flame, and Rand’s cord of Light grows smaller. Rand can see Ba’alzamon withering like a leaf. Suddenly his cord of Light is gone and he begins falling into nothingness. Something strikes him with tremendous force.
This chapter is really confusing until you put some thought into it. After you put thought into it, it is still confusing.
The rest of this reaction is filled with informed speculation from what we know and what we have seen to this point.
The cord of Light *has* to be saidin – the male half of the True Source. As it is described throughout this chapter as as pure light, Rand uses it to do things (or he seems to) and as Rand is at The Eye of the World where we were just introduced to a giant pool of pure saidin, it is reasonable to assume that Rand was channeling the saidin from The Eye of the World. That much is not spelled out, specifically, but it’s what makes the most sense.
Rand can definitely channel. Ba’alzamon and Aginor both seemed unsurprised that Rand could do it – they were just both surprised at how well he could do it already. Ba’alzamon told Rand that he needs a teacher to use the sword of Light the way he was using it. We have no reason not to believe them re: Rand and channeling – bad guys or not. There has been some evidence throughout this book that Rand can unknowingly channel – most notably at Four Kings when the lightning strike miraculously helps Rand and Mat escape the Darkfriends there. I’ll go into that at greater length when I do a wrap-up of the entire book.
What happened to Aginor? Other than that he died, and that it had something to do with greed, we do not really know (at least not without providing spoilers.)
Rand appeared on the battlefield at Tarwin’s Gap. We do not know for certain that he won the thing for Shienar but we are given that impression.
Rand’s mother is/was a Darkfriend? Was that real? It definitely seemed real. Why would Ba’alzamon create a fiction wherein Rand is left thinking he helped his mother return to the Light? How would Ba’alzamon even know what Rand’s mother looks like unless she was a Darkfriend? Then again… the Shadow schemes as the Shadow wills.
Do we think Rand killed Ba’alzamon? Even on my first read of the book I went with no. We did not see a dead body at the end of this book. No body, no death. Those are the rules.
What was the ALL CAPS voice that Rand heard in Tarwin’s Gap? I am betting on The Creator.
We are almost done. Let’s find out what happened to Rand there at the end and then let’s see what has become of the others.