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 2: The Welcome
The halls of Fal Dara keep buzz with news of the Amyrlin Seat’s imminent arrival. Servants hurriedly attempt to prepare for the arrival. Soldiers walk through the halls with a quick step, and some, when they see Rand, ask if he is on his way to clean up before presenting himself to the leader of the Aes Sedai. Everyone assumes that she will want to see Rand, his two friends, and the two women from Emond’s Field as well.
Rand enters the men’s apartments. One of the men in the apartments tells him that the Amyrlin has never visited the Borderlands at all in his memory. Rand thinks to himself that she has come for him. Rand runs through the men’s apartments, to the room set aside for himself, Mat, and Perrin, and once inside he freezes. The room is filled with black and gold wearing servants working purposefully. They are clearing out Rand’s clothing, as well as Mat and Perrin’s, and replacing their current clothes with new. The old clothes are bundled up like rags.
The woman in charge of the servants inside the palace tells Rand that Moiraine Sedai told her all of Rand’s clothes are worn out and that the Lady Amalisa had new clothes made for him. She tells Rand, firmly, to stay out of their way. Rand swallows the protests he had intended to give and changes tactics. He sends thanks to the Lady Amalisa for her gift, in the Shienaran way, but makes apologies to the servants stating that he needs to change clothes. They reply that this is well because Moiraine Sedai’s instructions include to dispose of even the clothing Rand is wearing – down to even his smallclothes. None of the women make a move toward the door. Rand bites his cheek to prevent himself from laughing.
Shienar has many customs which are very different from Rand’s home in the Two Rivers. Rand now takes baths in the early hours of the morning to avoid sharing one of the communal baths with someone else – including women. Baths in Shienar might be shared with the lowest servant or the Lady Amalisa herself. Once the women in Shienar learned what Rand’s blushes were, they became fascinated by them.
Rand asks the women to wait outside and promises, on his honor, to pass the clothes he is wearing out to them. One of the women laughs quietly but they all leave. Rand hastily strips off and washes himself in the basin. When Rand looks at his new clothes, he is astonished. There are now a dozen finely cut coats, as well made as any Rand has ever seen on either a merchant or a Lord. All of his clothes now look like feast day clothes. On one of the cloaks, in a place where a Lord might wear his sigil, Rand finds a serpent with four legs and on each leg, five claws. It is the symbol from Lews Therin’s banner discovered at The Eye of the World. Rand’s hand jerks back. Rand is worried about who saw these clothes and who might know what the symbol means.
He thinks to himself that Moiraine will not talk to him but now she is trying to get him killed. A knock at the door causes Rand to jump. Hurriedly he gathers up what he had been wearing and passes it through a small crack in the door. He hears laughter through the door. Rand dresses himself in the plainest of the new clothing and begins packing his things with plans to leave Fal Dara. He hears a peel of trumpets from the other side of the walls and thinks to himself that he will pick out the stitching on his clothing when he gets a chance. Most of Rand’s clothes are put back into the wardrobe. He does not want to leave any evidence of flight for the first person who comes looking for him.
Rand pulls another bundle from beneath his bed. He is glad that the servants had not thought to look for his things there. He pulls out a gleeman’s cloak. Inside the cloak are two hard cases. One case contains a harp and the other a flute. Rand shivers, thinking of Thom Merrilin, and re-ties that bundle. Rand puts his father’s sword on and grabs his bow from the corner.
In the hallway, with his pack on for traveling, Rand finds it empty. He walks as naturally as he can. He walks toward where his horse is stabled. Rand hopes that the stable might be empty because of what is happening in the city. On his way to the stable, he thinks to himself that he cannot ever afford to visit Tar Valon, that city now being too risky for him, but he hopes to see the Amyrlin Seat before he leaves.
Outside, the walls are packed with people and the courtyard contains a thick mass of people. All of those people watch and wait in silence for the Aes Sedai to arrival. Rand sees a group of men in color changing cloaks that identify them as warders. By them, he sees fourteen Aes Sedai. Rand presses on toward his goal but he cannot stop looking back. Everyone, the Shienarans, the Aes Sedai, and the Warders are all silent.
Suddenly, Ronan, Lord Agelmar’s secretary, taps his staff and calls out loudly, beginning a ceremony.
Ronan: Who comes here? Who comes here? Who comes here?
A woman beside a palanquin taps her staff three times in reply.
The Watcher of the Seals. The Flame of Tar Valon. The Amyrlin Seat.
Ronan: Why should we watch?
For the hope of human kind.
Ronan: Against what do we guard?
The Shadow at noon.
Ronan: How long shall we guard?
From rising sun to rising sun so long as the Wheel of Time turns.
Agelmar bows. He says that Fal Dara offers bread and salt, and welcome. The tall woman draws back the curtain for the palanquin and the Amyrlin Seat steps out. She is dark haired and ageless. Rand flinches when her gaze touches him.
Amyrlin: I offer you thanks for my welcome, my son, may the Light illumine House Jagad. May the Light illumine Fal Dara and all her people.
Agelmar bows, calling her Mother, and says that she honors them. He tells her House Jagad and Fal Dara is hers. Rand shivers and hurries toward the door for safety. When Rand gets through the door and closes it behind him, he sighs in relief. The halls are empty and Rand all but runs to the stable yard. The headgroom meets Rand and greets him with a bow. Rand tells him that he is not a Lord. The man replies “as my Lord wishes.”
Rand’s name is the problem. In Malkier, the royal al’ names al’Lan Mandragoran King. For Rand, al is just part of his name though he heard once that very long ago, in The Two Rivers, al simply meant “son of.” In Shienar, many have taken the al in Rand’s name to mean he is a king or a prince. Rand tells the stableman that he needs his horse saddled. He tells the man that he thought he would spend a few days in the countryside. The groom bent almost double and asks forgiveness. The man says he cannot obey, telling Rand that an order was given that no horse may leave the stable – or any stable in Fal Dara for that matter. He tells Rand that the order came down only moments ago. He tells Rand all the gates are closed so that nobody is permitted to leave.
Rand jumps as bells in Fal Dara begin to peel. The stableman tells Rand that surely he must be happy. When Rand asks why, the man says that the Amyrlin Seat will be sending for Rand and his friends now.
This is the chapter where Rand’s clothes get fancier… and he realizes that he is trapped. Good times, good times.
I like the manipulation in this chapter on the part of Moiraine. She has spent enough time with the Two Rivers folk to know that they are stubborn. If someone like Rand is going to embrace a new identity – even a horrifying one – you have to start by changing their own self perception.
What better way to do that than to change his clothes? You can’t be a country lad in a Lord’s coat.
Is it realistic that Rand waited too long to leave Fal Dara? Absolutely yes. I am curious about the order to essentially lock him in the city. The way that Rand’s question was presented and answered, regarding who gave the order to lock up the city, makes me believe that Agelmar did NOT give the order. We will see, though.
On a lighter note, this is also the chapter where we learn that Shienar has communal bathing. Aside from the embarrassment factor for the outlanders, is that a hygienically viable practice?
I just realized that Nynaeve has been taking baths, where men crawl into said bath with her, since they arrived at Fal Dara. Imagining her screeching reaction to that is high comedy. Egwene most likely also died of embarrassment while pretending she has been taking baths with men her entire life. Mat and Perrin probably reacted the same way that Rand did with Mat being gossipy about it after the fact.