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 15: Kinslayer
The distant hills seem to slide toward Rand when he looks at them in a way that makes Rand’s head spin. Rand can avoid the dizziness if he wraps himself in the Void but he decides that he would rather be dizzy than share the Void with that queasy Light. Still, he tries not to look at anything too far away. Hurin is focused on the trail right in front of them – trying not to look too much at the lands around them.
The land around them is blackened and burned, with the soil crunching beneath their hooves. Nothing grows where the burns are and many of those burns look to Rand as though they were done long ago. The burns are old and nothing has come in to claim the land. The land is divided between green and the blackened places with knife-edge lines separating the two. Everything – black and green – has a faded look like clothes left too long in the sun when hung for wash. Rand sees no birds or animals or insects anywhere.
Twice, Rand sees a wispy streak in the sky, like a line drawn with clouds. The lines are too straight to be natural in Rand’s opinion. After riding for half the morning, Loial abruptly gets out of his horse and strides over to a thicket of trees. Rand watches Loial silently. The Ogier stares at the tree for a moment and then begins to sing in a deep soft rumble. Loial runs his hands along the tree’s trunk, caressing the tree with his song and his fingers. Abruptly Loial’s song rises to a climax – Rand thinks the wordless music sounds like a hymn of thanks. Hurin looks stunned. In his hands, Loial now holds a staff as tall as himself and as thick around as Rand’s forearms – smooth and polished.
Once Rand looks at the staff in relation to Loial’s size, he realizes that he Ogier has made a Quarterstaff. Rand tells him that he did not know Ogier carried weapons. Loial replies that usually his people do not. He explains that the land they are in has a feeling and that the land they are in was glad for a weapon to be made. Rand replies, too certainly, that there is nothing in the land to hurt them and he says confidently that they will keep a good watch to make certain that nothing does.
Rand asks Loial if they are done here and when the Ogier nods, he tells Hurin to lead on. He tries to encourage the other two by saying that they will find the Horn and the dagger and be heroes after. Loial again reiterates that he does not like this place and Rand says that it’s good, then, that they do not plan to stay.
As they ride south, Rand’s casual assumption to the other two, that they will get home, seems to have picked their spirits. After riding for much of the morning, Hurin suddenly stops. Rand asks him if he has lost the trail and Hurin says he is not. However, he says there is a problem with the trail despite his being able to smell it. He says that the trail is in front them, as though he is remembering it, instead of as though it has already happened. He struggles to explain better than that. He says that earlier in the morning, he crossed a place that seemed to have hundreds of fresh bodies, and yet when they rode past, there was no mark of any kind on the ground. He says that the entire trail is like that. Loial looks as confused at Hurin. Rand tries to assure the Sniffer. He tells him to follow as best as he can. By nightfall, Hurin is still following the trail but it continues to get fainter. Hurin continues muttering to himself about “remembering.”
Rand has seen no sign of any living thing all day. He believes that he should have seen something if the Darkfriends are still in front of them. They make camp. Rand thinks to himself that he has begun to think of the party they are trailing as Fain’s Darkfriends and Fain’s Trollocs. The ownership feels odd to Rand who believes that Fain is just a madman. Rand wonders again about what killed the Fade, what happened in the room with the flies, and he also thinks about the eyes watching him in Fal Dara.
In the half dark of twilight, Rand works the forms with his sword in the way that Lan taught him- except that Rand will not enter the Void. After, Rand puts out the fire and agrees to take the night’s first watch. The night around them is silent and the land is empty. To keep himself company, Rand unbundles Thom Merrilin’s instruments. He gets the flute from its case and plays “The Wind That Shakes the Willow” softly so as not to wake the others. Even softly, though, the sound is too loud in the land where they are and he puts the flute back into its case. He watches late into the night, letting the others sleep, when suddenly he notices that a fog has arisen. The fog is thick and hides everything from view except the nearest trees. Rand touches his sword.
Voice: Swords do no good against me, Lews Therin. You should know that.
A shadowy figures draws nearer, trough the mist, walking with a tall staff. Behind the figure, the fog darkens to as black as night. Rand’s skin crawls. Finally a man stands in front of Rand, clothed in black, with a black silk mask covering his face. The man’s staff is also black. For an instant, the eye holes of the mask glow as if fire lies behind instead of eyes. Rand did not need that indicator to know who this is, though. He whispers, “Ba’alzamon.”
The man in front of Rand calls him Kinslayer and mocks him, saying that he can always find him. Rand denies that he is the Dragon, replying that his name is Rand al’… before he stops himself. Ba’alzamon laughs and says that he knows the name that Rand uses in this age. He says he knows all of the names that Rand has ever used – even before he was Lews Therin. Ba’alzamon tells Rand that the two of them are tied together as surely as two sides to the same coin are tied together.
Ba’alzamon: Ordinary men may hide in the sweep of the Pattern but ta’veren stand out like beacon fires on a hill. But you… you stand out as if ten thousand shining arrows stood in the sky to point you out. You are mine and ever in the reach of my hand.
Rand thinks to himself that he wants them to be in a dream. He cannot imagine Ba’alzamon walking in the real world. Rand tells the the other man that he is well named. Rand boasts that if the other wanted him and could take him, then he would have already. He says that Ba’alzamon has not taken him because he cannot. Ba’alzamon stands over Loial and Hurin. He muses that Rand finds odd followers and states that he always has done so. He also mentions to Rand a girl that tries to watch over him. He describes her as a poor guardian and weak. Rand is confused by this talk of the girl. He calls Ba’alzamon a liar again.
Ba’alzamon replies that Rand knows who he is. He reminds Rand that he told Rand that he is Lews Therin and he also tells Rand that the women of Tar Valon have told him who he is. He brags that he has as many followers in the White Tower, almost, as the rest of the Aes Sedai. He asks Rand if the Aes Sedai called Moiraine lied to him when she told him he is the Dragon. He asks Rand if Moiraine is one of his. He tells Rand that the White Tower means to use him like a hound on a leash. He asks Rand if he is lying when he says Rand is chasing after the Horn of Valere. Ba’alzamon laughs again.
Ba’alzamon tells Rand that he has a thousand strings tied to him. He tells Rand that time itself has also tied a thousand strings between the two of them. He asks Rand if he remembers any part of the battles that they fought in the past – going back to the beginning of time itself. He tells Rand that he knows much that Rand does not yet know. He tells Rand that the last battle is coming. He asks Rand, calling him Lews Therin, if he really believes he can avoid that battle. He tells Rand that this time, he will serve, or he will die, and he promises that the cycle will not begin anew with Rand’s death.
Ba’alzamon: Serve me. Serve Shai’tan or be destroyed forever.
The world seems to darken and shift at the utterance of The Dark One’s name. Rand feels the darkness engulfing him. Rand grips his sword hilt until his knuckles hurt. Rand tells the other man that he walks in the Light and that he denies him. Rand blinks. Ba’alzamon is still there but the surrounding fog and darkness are gone as if they had been an illusion. He asks Rand quietly if he wants to see his face. Rand says no. A gloved hand goes to Ba’alzamon’s black silk mask as Rand shouts, “no!” at him. The mask comes away. It is a man’s face, horribly burned, but between the black etched red crevices crossing his features, the skin looks healthy and smooth. Dark eyes look at Rand and cruel lips smiles at him with a flash of white teeth.
Ba’alzamon: Look at me, Kinslayer, and see the hundredth part of your own fate.
For a moment, eyes and mouth become doorways into endless caverns of fire. Ba’alzamon tells Rand that his face is what power unchecked can do – even to him. He then says he heals, though. Ba’alzamon talks to Rand about paths to power and Rand replies that he will not touch it. The other man replies, mockingly, that he cannot stop himself.
Ba’alzamon: You can have power again, Lews Therin. You are linked to it now this moment. I know it. I can see it. Feel it, Lews Therin. Feel the glow inside you. Feel the power that could be yours. All you must do is reach out for it. But the Shadow is there between you and it – madness and death. You need not die, Lews Therin, not ever again.
Rand shouts no again but Ba’alzamon continues. He tells Rand that he can teach him to control the power. He says no one else but him leaves who can teach Rand. He also says that The Great Lord of the Dark can shelter Rand from the madness. He tells Rand that the power can be his and that he can live forever.
Ba’alzamon: All you must do in return is serve.
Rand licks his lips and thinks about how nice it would be to not go mad. However, he says that he will never serve The Dark One and that he walks in the Light. Rand then says Ba’alzamon can never touch him. In response, the flames in Ba’alzamon’s eyes and outh grow. Suddenly, Rand’s sword glows as if just drawn from the forge. He cries out as the hilt burns his hands, he screams, and drops the sword. The fog around them catches fire, too. Rand’s clothes catch fire. Rand screams and he embraces the Void. The glow of the Light is in the Void and Rand, half mad with pain, reaches for it. As suddenly as the fire began, it is gone.
Rand sees that there is not so much as a smidge of char on his clothes. Rand looks around frantically. Ba’alzamon is gone. Loial and Hurin are sleeping. He feels a sense of relief and believes that he imagined the entire encounter. However, just then, he feels pain on his palm. There, on his palm, is branded a heron from the hilt of his sword. The brand is as neatly branded there as though done on purpose by an artist. Rand pulls a kerchief from his coat pocket and wraps it around his hand. The hand throbs. He knows that the Void would help with the pain but he dares not go near the Light he knows awaits inside the Void. He remembers that Ba’alzamon was tempting him to channel and he remembers that Moiraine and the Amyrlin Seat wants him to channel, also. He thinks to himself that he will not.
The world that Rand and the others seem to be in is not quite real. There is no life in it and the physics of movement is not normal. Egwene’s dream implied that a woman sent the three to this other place. We shall see. We know that Uno saw a woman in white, twice, when there should have otherwise been no women around.
Hurin thinks that the trail they are following is more like memory than an actual trail. Does it make sense that violence from the real world would leave an imprint in the place where they are? The pile of bodies he claimed to have sniffed – despite said bodies not being there – correlates in both time and location with the pile of bodies that the wolves told Perrin about in the real world in Perrin’s last POV chapter. It is starting to seem possible to me that Rand and the gang are doing something akin to time travel and getting ahead of Fain. Maybe Hurin is smelling where the Darkfriends are going instead of where they have already been?
Loial getting himself a quarterstaff was awesome. The land crying out for a weapon, as he does so, is creepy though. That lets us know even more that the place where we are now is unnatural and/or evil.
Speaking of unnatural… what’s with those wispy streaks in the sky? Are they airplane chemtrails?
Rand has his big confrontation with Ba’alzamon. The baddie reiterates to Rand again that he is The Dragon Reborn. He makes a good case for it, too, and I think Rand is probably starting to believe it even if he does not want to believe it. He also offers to teach Rand how to channel and avoid madness. Rand is tempted before he rejects the offer. The whole section seems like the primary goal of Ba’alzamon in this meeting is getting Rand to serve him. He prefers that to killing him – which he could obviously do and is not doing. He also wants to push Rand toward channeling more. This encounter verifies for Ba’alzamon that Rand knows how to do it now, on purpose, at least somewhat.
The next paragraph might be a little bit spoiler-ish… but I’m just theorizing about stuff we have already covered in the books.
I think by now, in my first read through of this story, I believed that Ba’alzamon was not The Dark One but was instead a man of some kind – maybe one of the Forsaken. We know (or think we know) from the story that four of the Forsaken are loose: Ishamael, Balthamel, Aginor, and Lanfear. The middle two of that group died at The Eye of the World. Ishamael has only been mentioned as being free, too, off-handedly. Lanfear’s presence was mentioned in the Fal Dara dungeon. Ishamael is also the Forsaken who was not bound by Lews Therin because he is the one who shows up and heals Lews Therin of his madness in the Prologue of The Eye of the World. As a result… the true identity of Ba’alzamon is seeming less a mystery to me.
The chapter ends with Rand having a heron mark branded onto his palm. That lets us know that Ba’alzamon can visit Rand’s party directly in this place. Either he is stronger now or the place where they are is, or is like, a dream. Moiraine’s interactions with Fain, in the dungeon, told us that Ba’alzamon was starting to appear in the waking world when the trollocs and myrddraal were chasing everyone into Shadar Logoth. I guess any potential option here is reasonable given what we know.