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 1: The Flame of Tar Valon
Spring is thick in the trees of Shienar. It should be summer now but spring was late arriving.
Atop a tower in Fal Dara, two men seem to dance. Rand is stripped to the waist, and shivering, as he holds a practice sword. Rand is striving to keep his mind empty but the other man with him on the tower top continues intruding upon that emptiness. The tower top is ten paces across and encircled by a wall.
The practice sword in Lan’s hands flows surely and smoothly as he moves from one stance to another. The practice sword cracks and leaves a welt when it strikes home against the skin. Rand has three red welts on his ribs and another on his shoulder. Lan is unmarked. Rand forms The Flame and the Void to create emptiness in his mind. The cool peace of the Void creeps over him and he is one with the practice sword. Rand hears bells and thinks that someone in the town must still be celebrating. As if Lan can hear Rand’s extraneous though, his sword whirls as if it is alive in the Warder’s hands. It is all Rand can do to turn back the Warder’s blows at the last minute. Finally, one f Lan’s blows shifts to a thrust in mid strike and Rand knows he will not be able to block it.
Suddenly, Rand feels as if the air itself has trapped him. He cannot move and he feels pushed forward. There is nothing soft or slow about the impact of Lan’s practice sword. Rand’s ribs creak as if they have been struck by a hammer. He grunts and the wind continues carrying him forward. Lan’s sword shatters with jagged pieces breaking Rand’s skin. With a shout Rand throws himself back, finally able.
Lan: And what was that fool move, sheepherder.
Lan cuts off as he sees Rand’s eyes. The youth tells him that the wind pushed him and that it was as solid as a wall.
Lan: Strange things can happen this close to the Blight.
Lan sounds troubled as he says it, though. He then asks Rand how long it will be until he leaves and points out that Rand announced his plans to leave a month ago. Rand feels surprise that Lan is acting as though nothing significant just happened. He picks up his real sword and looks at the heron marks on the scabbard and the blade. Rand thinks to himself that it is strange to even have a sword, let alone a blademaster’s sword. He thinks about Tam who gave him the sword.
Lan seems to read Rand’s mind.
In the Borderland’s sheepherder, if a man has the raising of a child, that child is his and none can say different.
Rand tells Lan that he wants and needs to learn how to use the sword. Carrying that sword without knowing how to use it has caused Rand problems in the past. Rand thinks that it draws attention for someone his age to carry a heron marked blade. He tells Lan that he has been lucky to bluff his way through situations in the past but he believes that someday his luck will likely run out and he will have to use it. Lan carefully suggests to rand that he could sell it, noting that the sword is rare even among heron marked blades. Rand forcefully rejects the idea.
Rand: As long as I keep it, I have the right to call Tam my father. He gave it to me and it gives me the right.
Rand then takes note of what Lan said about his sword being rare even for a heron marked blade. Lan gives Rand a sidelong look and questions that Tam did not tell Rand about it. Lan says that Tam must have known about the rarity of his own sword. The Warder unsheaths his own sword and it looks to be a twin of the one Rand possesses – excepting that Lan’s sword does not possess heron marks. Lan’s sword is the sword of the Kings of Malkier.
Lan turns his blade in the light.
The Warder tells Rand that in the War of the Shadow, the One Power itself was used as a weapon and weapons were made with the One Power. Some weapons, he says, used the One Power – things that could destroy an entire city at one blow and lay waste to the land for leagues. Just as well Lan says those were all lost in The Breaking. However, Lan says that some simpler weapons were also made. He says Aes Sedai made swords and other weapons with the One Power. Lan tells him that his sword and Rand’s sword will never break nor will they lose their edge.
Lan goes on to tell Rand that weapons will never again be made with the One Power, either. He tells Rand that every Aes Sedai since the breaking has sworn an Oath never to make a weapon using the One Power – even the Red Ajah. Lan tells Rand that one such sword, from the Age of Legends, became something more. He is referring to his own sword which became the sword of Malkieri kings. He tells Rand that the sword Tam gave him was the sword of a high ranking general during the War of the Shadow.
Rand is shocked to learn that Tam’s sword is at least three thousand years old. Rand does not want to think about how Tam came by a heron marked sword such as his. Rand mutters that he will never get away from Aes Sedai.
Lan: Do you really want to get away sheepherder? Then I’ll ask again. Why are you not gone then?
Lan tells Rand that he could teach him to be a blademaster within five years. But he notes that he does not have five years to teach him and Rand does not have five years to learn. He says that Rand has learned enough not to stab himself in the foot with the blade and he says that he wears the sword as if it belongs on his waist. He asks Rand again why he is still here.
Rand mumbles that Mat and Perrin are still here. He tells Lan that he does not believe he will see them again for years, at least. He also tells Lan that they think he is crazy to not want to return home with them. He says that Nynaeve looks at him half the time as though he is six years old and she will help him and the other half of the time as though she is afraid of him. Rand cannot remember ever seeing Nynaeve afraid before. He cannot quite get out his thoughts about Egwene.
Rand: I wish, I wish…
Lan: You wish everything could be the way it was sheepherder? Or you wish the girl would go with you instead of to Tar Valon? You think she’ll give up becoming an Aes Sedai for a life of wandering with you? If you put it to her in the right way she might. Love is an odd thing.
Rand tells Lan no despite it being what he had been wishing. He wishes at least that she would want to even if he could not let her. Lan asks him again if seeing his friends from home is the only reason he has not yet left.
Rand: [surging angrily to his feet] Alright it’s Moiraine. I wouldn’t even be here if not for her and she will not as much as talk to me.
Rand complains that Moiraine has gone off without telling anyone where she was going or what she is doing. Lan replies that she needs to be alone sometimes and it is not Rand’s place to judge her actions. Rand insists that Moiraine must be able to tell him something to help him.
Lan tells him that Moiraine returned the previous night but he also tells Rand that he believes Moiraine has already told him all that she can. He tells Rand to be satisfied. He then tells Rand to be happy for what he has learned from her and starts commanding Rand to work on balance work for use with the sword.
He tells Rand to go through Parting the Silk, beginning with Heron Wading Through the Brushes. He tells Rand the heron form is only for practicing balance. He tells Rand that any place but practicing balance, when using that form, would leave him wide open.
From the south comes a faint peel of trumpets, a rolling fanfare suddenly growing louder. A steady drum beat grows louder, too. From the tower top, Rand can see a group emerging from the forest outside of Fal Dara. Behind drummers and trumpets is a huge square banner. Rand cannot make out the banner but Lan grunts and says nothing.
Military men follow behind the drummers and trumpets. The column is winding like a serpent straight for Fal Dara. A gust of wind blows the banner again and now it is close enough for Rand to see clearly. There are a swirl of colors and at the heart is a shape like a pure white tear drop. Rand’s breath freezes. He sees The Flame of Tar Valon.
Lan notes that Ingtar is with the group marching toward the city. He says the man has been gone long enough, hunting, and wonders if he had any luck. Rand whispers about the Aes Sedai. He is familiar with Moiraine but the group approaching the city contains many Aes Sedai. He asks Lan why there are so many Aes Sedai complete with drums, trumpets, and a banner.
Rand is covered with goosebumps.
Rand: Why so many?
Lan: The Amyrlin Seat’s come in person.
Lan tells Rand that his lessons are done. Rand thinks he sees sympathy on the Warder’s face. Lan tells him that it would be better for him if he had left a week ago. Lan grabs his shirt and disappears down the ladder into the tower.
Rand tries to get moisture into his mouth. He thinks to himself that the Aes Sedai have come because of him. He believes they have come to gentle him. He starts confessing to himself that he will never touch the One Power again and that he did not mean to do it the first time. Then suddenly he realizes their party is entering the city gates.
Suddenly Rand thinks he can smell an open grave strong in the air.
Rand: My grave if I keep standing here.
Rand grabs his shirt, scrambles down the ladder, and runs.
I really love the change in the dynamic between Rand and Lan in this chapter. Given what Rand now knows about himself, he really needs a mentor figure. Lan steps up and fills that role for him. You get a sense that Lan now really cares about the Two Rivers folk.
Lan notes that love is an odd thing when talking to Rand about leaving with Egwene. Is it, Lan? Do you maybe have feelings for Nynaeve?
We learn a little bit more about Rand’s sword. It’s not just special for being a heron marked sword, and it’s not just special for being made with the One Power (something Rand did not notice, somehow, until now), it was special even among the One Power made weapons because it belonged to someone important during the Age of Legends.
Note: When Lan tells Rand that he won’t stab himself in the foot with his sword, we should probably take that to mean that Rand is already well above average with a sword in his hands.
Tam has some explaining to do. A normal soldier – assuming the fever dreams about Rand from the first book are true – does not make enough money to buy a sword like that. He must have been more than a normal soldier. There was also that bit in the first book where Morgase has heard the Two Rivers accent before. Iiiinteresting.
Not a lot happens in this chapter.
- We get that weird wind situation that is unexplained. And,
- We basically just set up the fact that Rand has been dragging his feet about leaving because he will probably never see his friends and love interest again, and also because he is stubbornly hoping to get one additional bit of help from Moiraine before going off on his own. He is desperate for something to make things easier.
This male channeler business is a total nightmare situation for Rand. He *just* became an adult a few months ago. He has some Two Rivers country boy skills but he is a long way from being mature enough to take on a life change challenge like that. But now he has to anyway and for the rest of his life? I would drag my feet on the first step of that choice, too.
Of course, Rand drags his feet for too long. Fal Dara is now crawling with Aes Sedai – including the most powerful of all Aes Sedai the Amyrlin Seat herself.
Ingtar being gone a long time to go hunting feels like a throwaway line that is not a throwaway line. Let’s keep an eye on that one.