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 17: Choices
Rand says that they can run for it. He asks Hurin if he can gallop and still follow the trail. Hurin says that he can. Selene says, though, that it will not do any good because grolm never give up their hunt once they have your scent. She says that they pursue prey day and night. Selene then advises Rand to kill them all or find a way to go elsewhere. She then reminds Rand that the portal stone can take them elsewhere. Rand says that he can kill them all.
Rand chooses a low round hill, bare of trees. He then swings down from his saddle and unlimber his longbow. The others follow. Selene tells Rand that the risk is not necessary. She says that they can easily reach the Portal Stone ahead of the grolm. Rand, though, says again that he can stop the grolm. Rand has eighteen arrows remaining in his quiver. Rand seeks the Void. The light is there but he ignores it. Rand is one with the bow and with his arrow. He is not aware of raising the bow or drawing its fletchings to his ear. He is one with the on-coming beasts. He sees the center eye of the first grolm. He looses an arrow and the first grolm dies. One of its companions begins eating the first as it falls. The others continue on. Rand works smoothly and unconsciously – knock and release, knock and release. The fifth arrow left his bow and he lowers it still deep in the Void. The last beat collapses as if its bones were melted.
Hurin tells Rand that he has never seen shooting like that. The Void holds Rand and the light calls to him. Rand reaches toward the light inside the Void. The light surrounds him and fills him. Hurin touches Rand’s arm and he gives a start. Selene tells Rand that she has heard it grows easier each time you do it. She says the more one lives in The Oneness, the easier. Rand glances at her and says he will not need it again any time soon. Rand thinks to himself that he wants to go back into the Void and to the light. He thinks that being in the light feels like being alive and that now, away from it, feels like an imitation of life.
The coughing bark of a grolm can be heard beyond the next hill and other grolm answer it. More grolm come from the east and the west. Selene asks him how many arrows he has left and asks if he can kill twenty, thirty, or one hundred grolm. She says that they must go to the Portal Stone. Loial tells Rand that Selene is right and that they no longer have any choice. Rand reluctantly agrees and he tells Selene to lead them to the Stone.
The grolm pursue them and seem to number in the hundreds. Selene swiftly leads them through the hills. The climb through the hills is a hard ride. Suddenly they see it. There are seven wide stairs in different colors with a tall stone column in the middle. Selene leads her mare to the column. The grolm are close and she says that they will be on them soon. Rand stares at the column uneasily. Selene tells him that he must do what must be done. She points at a symbol on the column – it is a triangle standing on its point inside a circle. Selene tells Rand that this one stands for the true world. She says she believes it will help if Rand holds it in his mind. Hurin tells Rand that there is not much time.
Rand puts his hand on the symbol that Selene pointed out. She watches him with no worry at all. Rand seeks the Void and he feels the light, he feels Saidin. The light drifts toward him and Rand embraces it. Heat from the light suffuses his limbs like water filing in dry sand. The symbol from the column burns against his flesh. Suddenly, the world flickers. It flickers again. Rand drinks in the light. Flicker. Flicker. Flicker flicker flicker. Rand feels hands pulling at him. He is only vaguely aware of them as he steps back. The Void and the light go away.
Dazed, Rand stares at Selene. She softly says “remarkable.” The Ogier looks stunned and the Sniffer is squatting with one hand on the ground. Selene says that all of them and their horses are now in the real world and she marvels that Rand does not even know what it is that he did. She says “remarkable” again. She tells Rand to look around him and she laughs saying that he brought them all home.
In the real world, the column is mostly buried. Rand sees suspiciously red and blue stones here and there in the hollow surrounding them. Everything looks real and no longer faded. Rand begins laughing, too. He glances and the Portal Stone and says that he wishes he knew what it was that he did. Selene looks deep into his eyes and says that perhaps one day he will know. She says he is surely destined for great things. He looks at her eyes and her mouth and thinks about kissing her. Suddenly he clears his throat and steps back away from her.
Rand asks Selene to not tell anyone about himself and the Portal Stone. He says that others would not understand and he notes that he does not understand it himself. Her face wears no expression at all. Rand wishes Mat and Perrin were there. He thinks to himself that Perrin knows how to talk to girls and that Mat can lie with with a straight face. Rand does not think he can manage either well. Selene smiles at him and curtsies, saying that she will keep his secret. Rand wishes that she would not look at him as though she knows what he is thinking.
Rand checks with Hurin about the trail and the Sniffer replies that he believes the Darkfriends are still in the other world. He suggests returning in the real world to the spot where they left the trail in the other one. Rand looks at where the sun is in the sky and says that they will need to do that in the morning. They are less than an hour until full twilight. He offers to take Selene to her home in the morning before resuming the search for the Horn of Valere and the dagger.
Selene suggests, slowly, that Rand may not have lost the Horn, yet. She says that from her reading of the book, Mirrors of the Wheel, those worlds are truly mirrors – especially those without people. She says that some worlds have a reflection of the real world inside of them – even before that event occurs. She says that the passage of the Horn of Valere is a great event and that the world they just left may have been reflecting something that will be happening in the future.
Hurin: You mean to say, my Lady, that I have been smelling where those Darkfriends are going to be?
Rand asks Loial what he thinks. The Ogier shrugs, frowning, and says he knows nothing about any of this. Rand says next to Selene that he should be seeing her home because her people are undoubtedly worrying about her.
Selene replies impatiently that a few more days can see if she is correct. She says that Hurin can find where he left the trail. She believes the Horn cannot be much longer in reaching them in the real world. She tells Rand that the man who sounds the Horn will live in legend forever. Rand tells her sharply that he wants nothing to do with legends. However, he realizes that if Ingtar lost the trail of the Darkfriends, he might be the best chance of recovering both the Horn and the dagger. He agrees to wait for the Darkfriends for a few days.
She tells him that this is a wise decision, touches his arm, and smiles at him. He again finds himself thinking of kissing her. Rand asks Hurin if he can find a place to watch where the trail will be before dark so that they can set camp up there. Rand wants to get away from the Stone before he sleeps. Hurin says he will never sleep again without first seeing what kind of stones are nearby.
As they ride out of the hollow, Rand finds himself staring at Selene. He thinks to himself that Egwene would not have said he was wise.
Rand: Egwene would have called me a woolhead.
It seems pretty likely that Egwene would have called Rand a woolhead. She also would have hurled her entire body at him, affectionately, at some point, too.
It is obvious to me that Selene was somehow bringing the grolm down on their group. How was she doing that? I also note that she waits until after they get back to the real world to mention the possibility that Hurin is sniffing a trail from the future.
Come on, gentlemen. Aren’t any of you three suspicious of this woman yet?
Note: Speaking of suspicions, Loial at least has to be pretty sure that Rand can channel… right? Outside of Selene, he is usually pretty good on the details.
Other note: Rand is absurdly good with his longbow. Hurin spends his life with soldiers and he is blown away. I get the impression from that event that “Selene” was both irritated and impressed by Rand in that, too.
Going forward, I’m going to try to do that flame and void thing while I blog.