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 52: There is Neither Beginning Nor End
Rand first becomes aware of the sun. Then thought and pain follow. After that comes a stink – a greasy burned smell filling Rand’s nostrils and his head. Rand pulls himself to hands and knees. He sees that he has been lying in greasy ashes smeared on the top of a hill with bits of dark green cloth mixed in the char. Aginor.
Rand’s stomach lurches as he tries to wipe the remains of the Forsaken from his clothes. He lunges forward and finds a sheer drop in front of himself. His head swims and he vomits over the edge of the cliff.
Rand crawls away from the ashes and pulls the sword from its scabbard. He is so unsteady that it takes three tries to sheath it again. He thinks to himself that the sword had been something else before. Or it was another sword. Memory begins to crash into his head.
“The Dark One,” he whispered to himself, “The Dark One is dead. Shai’tan is dead.”
The world seemed to lurch. Rand shakes until tears pour from his eyes and he says the forbidden name again and laughs at the sky. Rand suddenly remembers Egwene and gets to his feet, staggering past Aginor’s ashes. He climbs down the slope. As he gets to flat ground, he breaks into a run. He can barely remember who she is but knows he must find her.
Moving forces his legs into obedience and slowly he finds himself running upright. He bounds into the clearing with the great oak marking The Green Man’s grave. The White Stone Arch is there as is the gaping pit where fire had tried and failed to trap Aginor. Rand calls for Egwene. A pretty girl looks up. She is slender, young, and frightened. Two other women are with her, one of them laying outstretched. Both of them are alive with eyes open.
Rand asks if Egwene is alright. He sits beside them. She looks at them uncertainly. He wonders if he imagines that she pulled back slightly as he touched her cheek. Egwene asks Rand if he is alright and he says he is fine, just in need of some rest. Rand asks Nynaeve and Moiraine Sedai how they are and thinks that both names feel new in his mouth. Nynaeve says she is a little bruised and that Moiraine is the only one of them who is really hurt. Moiraine says most of her injury is to her pride.
She says Aginor was surprised and irritated at how long she was able to hold him and notes that in the Age of Legends, he was close behind the Kinslayer and Ishamael in power. Egwene begins reciting a rite that The Dark One and the Forsaken are bound in Shayol Ghul. Moiraine states – in what sounds to Rand in tone as though it is not the first time – that Aginor and Balthamel must have been trapped near the surface. Moiraine says that they should be thankful that no more of the Forsaken were freed.
Rand breaks in and says that Aginor and Balthamel are both dead. He tries to tell them that the Dark One is, also, and starts to use its real name when Moiraine cuts him off and warns him against saying the name.
Rand: As you say, but he’s dead. The Dark One’s dead. I burned him with…
Rand suddenly gets the rest of his memory back and is dumbstruck that he wielded the One Power. The three women are now watching him carefully. He reaches out to Egwene and there is no imagination in mind this time that she draws back. Rand drops his hand. Abruptly, though, she wraps her arms around him and buries her face in his chest apologizing and crying. Rand awkwardly pats her head and looks over it at the other two women.
“The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills,” Nynaeve said slowly, “but you are still Rand al’Thor of Emond’s Field. But the Light help me, the Light help us all, you are too dangerous Rand.”
Moiraine asks him what happened and for all the details. She draws all the details from him. He cries as he mentions Kari al’Thor. He goes on to the confrontation with Ba’alzamon, the sword of Light, and the severing of the Black Cord. He says it was not really him because the cord pulled him along.
Moiraine tells Rand she suspected from the first noting that when she gave him the bonding token, he should have fallen in with whatever she wanted. Instead, he resisted and questioned. Moiraine says her next cause for suspicion was Bela. She reminds Rand that at Watch Hill Bela had no need of her to cleanse the horse of tiredness because someone else had already done it.
She goes on to say that she should have considered who Bela carried and how Rand must have feared Egwene being left behind. Rand needed something in that moment more than he ever had and he reached out for the one thing that could give it to him – Saidin. Rand shivered.
He asks if he can avoid madness by never touching the One Power again and Moiraine says “perhaps.” She says it might be easier if someone could teach Rand. Rand suggests that she could.
Moiraine: Can a cat teach a dog to climb trees, Rand? Can a fish teach a bird to swim?
Moiraine says the people who could teach him saidin are three thousand years dead. Egwene straightens and Rand is grateful that she does not pull away. Rand asks where they others are and Nynaeve tells him that Lan took them into the cavern.
The Eye of the World is gone but something else is in the pool, a crystal column, with steps to reach it. The rest of the group wanted to search for Rand but Moiraine told them not to disturb him. Rand’s throat constricts and his face pales.
R: You told them? If everybody knows…
M: Only Lan. He must know. And Nynaeve and Egwene for what they are and what they will become. The others have no need, yet.
Rand asks Moiraine if she will be wanting to gentle him. Moiraine replies that he is ta’veren and that perhaps the Pattern is not finished with him. rand sits up and tells her that in the dreams, Ba’alzamon told him Tar Valon would try to use him. Rand tells her that Ba’alzamon named names – every one a False Dragon. He tells her he will not be used. She tells Rand that a man who believes The Father of Lies demeans himself. Rand reiterates that he will not be used.
Loial and the others appear in the arch. Rand gets to his feet and looks at Moiraine. She assures him they will not know until The Pattern makes it so. Lan has a bandage on his head and is walking stiffly. Loial is carrying an ornate chest. No one but an Ogier could have lifted it unaided. Perrin is carrying a large white cloth and Mat is carrying fragments of pottery in his two hands.
Mat is glad to see Rand alive and tells him that Moiraine would not let them look for him. He says that Moiraine told them to see what The Eye was hiding. She says the other two women sided with Moiraine and almost threw him through the arch. Perrin looks at him and notes he is not too badly beaten about.
Perrin says that Moiraine Sedai told them that they are done. He states that he wants to go home. Lan tells him it is good to see him alive and notes that he kept his sword. He tells Rand that maybe he will learn to use that sword now.
Loial sets the chest down and says traveling with ta’veren has been more interesting than he expected.
If it becomes more interesting, I will go back to the stedding Shangtai immediately, confess everything to Elder Haman, and never leave my books again.
Loial asks Rand what happened to him and why he was gone for so long. Rand replies that he ran, fell down a hill, and hit his head on a rock. He lies and says that he believes he hit every rock on the way down. He says he was lost when he woke up and finally managed to stumble his way back to here.
Rand tells them that he thinks Aginor is dead, burned, and that he found ashes and pieces of his cloak. Moiraine asks the other two women to help her up.
Mat asks Moiraine how the thing they brought out could be inside The Eye without being destroyed like the rock he threw into the pool when they first visited. She tells him they were not put there to be destroyed. She took the pottery fragments from Mat and put them together on the ground. They fitted together as a perfect circle, covered by the ancient symbol of the Aes Sedai. The Flame of Tar Valon joined together with the Dragon’s Fang. Moiraine gave Lan a knife. He brought the knife down on a piece of the pottery, with all of his might, and the knife cracked. The pottery fragment was not marked by Lan’s blow.
Moiraine tells them the fragment is made of cuendillar – heartstone. No one has been able to make it since the Age of Legends. Once made, cuendillar is unbreakable even by the One Power. She tells them that any power directed against heartstone only makes it stronger.
Moiraine tells them that this was one of the seals on The Dark One’s prison. Moiraine begins gathering the fragments. She then directs them to bring her the chest. Loial carried it to her. Moiraine’s fingers felt across it and with a sudden click it opens. A curled gold horn is nestled inside. Around the mouth of the horn’s bell is a line of script.
Moiraine lift the horn out as if lifting a baby. She says it must be carried to Illian.
Loial: Is it? Can it be?
Moiraine: You can read the Old Tongue?
[Loial nods and Moiraine hands him the horn]
Loial: Tia mi aven Moridin isainde vadin. The grave is no bar to my call.
Lan: [shaken and awed] The Horn of Valere.
Nynaeve: To call the heroes of the ages back from the dead to fight The Dark One.
Mat: Burn me!
Loial put the horn back in the chest reverently. Moiraine wonders aloud if they put The Eye to the use for which it was set aside. Then she asks to see the third thing which Perrin is holding. Lan and Loial take the cloth from Perrin and unfold it. A long white banner spreads out. Rand can only stare – a figure like a serpent in scarlet and gold runs the entire length. It has scaled legs and feet with five long claws on each and a great head with a golden mane and eyes like the sun.
Rand: What is it?
Moiraine: The Banner of the Lord of the Morning when he led the forces of Light against the Shadow. The banner of Lews Therin Telamon. The banner of The Dragon.
Loial almost drops his end.
Mat: Burn me!
Moiraine says they will take the things with them when they go. She says they will rest where they are and leave in the morning. Rand begins to notice that The Green Man’s place is now filled with dead leaves – including the great oak tree marking his grave. The Blight will soon overrun his place.
Rand asks if it is done and she replies that they have done as they came there to do. She says from here they can live their lives as the Pattern weaves. She advises him to eat, sleep, and dream of home.
I really enjoy Mat in this chapter because he feels like the most normal person left in this group. When all of this end-timesy stuff is going on around him, he just… cusses (the WoT version of it, anyway.) Pretty much everyone else has powered up to the next challenge in some way. Mat is not there, yet. He is relatable in that way.
In the WOT verse (Randland if you will) being a man who can channel is like having a highly contagious, highly deadly disease. (Yes, yes, I know, those situations are rare here in The Year of Our Lord, Two Thousand and Twenty.) Anyway, you know that you are doomed. Everyone else knows that being near you may doom them, too. Egwene hugging him in that moment was a BIG DEAL. She’s great.
I really liked Moiraine pointing out the past evidence of Rand channeling. I had forgotten that his resistance to her coin was a clue. Bela was a clue. If you think back, the lightning at Four Kings was a clue as well.
This book in many respects is almost nothing but talking and infodump. Jordan manages to make it interesting anyway. That… is not easy. But the subject matter here helps. What do we have? An impossible to break Seal on the Dark One’s prison… broken. The almost alive-seeming banner of The Dragon – the most fearfully remembered man of all-time. A magic horn that can raise the dead. I suppose that if you are going to tell a story that spans 15 books, you need to lay an enormous world-building foundation.
Do I think The Dark One is dead? Uh, no. The world “lurched” when Rand said his name. That’s a big clue. Do we know exactly what happened back in Chapter 51 with Ba’alzamon and Rand? Also no. There are plenty of clues but I think putting them together might teeter too close to spoiling so I will refrain.
Can Daniel convincingly play a man equipped to lead a bunch of rubes into The Blight and then get them safely back out again? I guess we shall find out!