The Great Hunt (Chapter 19): Beneath the Dagger

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 19: Beneath the Dagger

Night on the edge of Kinslayer’s Dagger is cold. Rand shifts on the hard ground, tugging on his coat and blanket, only half asleep. He hand goes to his sword. He thinks to himself that he will wait only one more day and if no one comes – Ingtar or Darkfriends – then he will take Selene to Cairhein. Rand has told himself this before. He has been here for days and continues to agree to Selene’s encouragement to wait.

Rand thinks that Egwene might already be in Tar Valon learning to be an Aes Sedai. He thinks that the next time she sees him, she might try to gentle him. His hand touches Thom’s cloak bundling over the harp and flute. Rand rolls over and stops. In the moonlight, he can see Selene leaning over his saddlebags with her hands on the buckles. Her white dress gathers the faint light. He asks her if she needs something and she jumps saying that he startled her. Rand rolls to his feet and goes to her. She tells him that it came to her that she has been wearing her dress for too long. She says that she could at least brush it if she had something else to wear while she did. She suggests wearing one of Rand’s shirts and he agrees.

Selene’s hands go immediately to her buttons. Rand’s eyes widen and his spins away from her. She asks if he can help her with the buttons. Rand clears his throat and tells her that it would not be proper. She laughs softly. He replies that tomorrow they will go to Cairhein. She asks him about the Horn of Valere and he suggests that perhaps they are wrong bout the location of the trail. She insists that the Horn will come to where they are. She tells Rand he can turn around now. As he is about to argue with her about the trail, the words died in his mouth. The bottom of the shift comes only down to about halfway down her thighs. Rand thinks to himself that he has seen a girl’s legs before. Girl sin the Two Rivers tie up their skirts to go wading in ponds. However, they stop doing it well before they are old enough to braid their hair – and this is in the dark besides. The moonlight seems to make Selene’s skin glow.

She touches Rand and he almost squeaks. She tells him to think of the glory of the Horn of Valere and to think of how proud she will be to stand beside him who holds the Horn. She says Rand has no idea the heights they will scale together. She tells Rand he will be a King – another Artur Hawkwing.

Just then, Hurin arrives and chokes on his words at the sight of Selene. Loial wakes up and does the same. Rand asks Hurin what it is. The Sniffer speaks without raising his eyes. He tells Rand that he sees a small fire down in the hills below hidden from those who might be following – not those ahead up above. He says they are two miles down below. Rand says that it must be Fain because Ingtar would not be afraid of anyone following him. Now that Fain is here, Rand does not know what to do. He suggests that they wait while Fain passes by so that they can direct a following Ingtar to him. He points out that only three of them cannot take it from a large Darkfriend camp. Selene replies that he does not know how many are in the camp. She suggests that Rand go to the camp to see for himself. She suggests that Rand go with Loial noting that Loial can see well in the dark and that he is strong enough to carry the Horn in its chest.

Rand says he will go alone with the other two standing guard over Selene. She laughs and says she is capable of guarding herself. She suggests again that Rand takes Loial. This time, Rand agrees and he asks Hurin to show him the fire. When he returns to the camp with the fire fixed in his mind, Loial has saddled their horses. Selene takes Rand’s hand and tells him to remember the glory. Rand instructs Hurin to guard her with his life. He heels Red, his horse, gently.

Rand – trying to clear his thoughts – asks Loial why Selene calls him Alantin. Loial tells him that it is the Old Tongue and that it means “brother.” He explains that this is short for “Brother to the Trees” and he says that this is very formal. He thinks to himself that a shepherd would not make a match for someone from a formal Cairhein noble house. Then he thinks to himself that Mat is right, that he is crazy, and with a big head to boot. To clear his mind, he unconsciously enters The Void. Saidin beckons to him but he ignores it barely.

At the base of a hill, Rand says softly that they must be close now. They dismount and go on ahead by foot. Loial follows Rand like a large shadow. Suddenly a trick of the moonlight lets him see a group of dark mounds on the ground in the shape of men. Apart from those mounds are a group of larger mounds – sleeping trollocs. They have doused the fire. Suddenly Rand sees the chest with something atop it – a point of red flashing in the moon beam. Rand realizes it is the dagger. He starts to speak but Loial puts his hand over Rand’s mouth and much of Rand’s face. The Ogier slowly motions to the right and Rand sees a shadow moving not ten paces away. Rand’s breath catches as he recognizes a trolloc. It is sniffing the air and The Void wavers. The trolloc sits down and goes to sleep. Rand and Loial return their attention to the camp. Rand finally considers the possibility that Ingtar may have been unable to follow the trail without Hurin, his Sniffer. He decides that now is their best chance and he thinks that Selene is waiting for him on the mountain. He motions for Loial to follow, drops to his belly, and crawls toward the chest. Loial muffles a gasp but Rand’s eyes are fixed on the shadow that he knows is the chest.

Darkfriend and trolloc shadows lay to either side of him as he crawls toward his target. He thinks to himself that what he is doing is madness but the thought is dim. Slowly, carefully, he reaches out a hand and touches the chest the holds the Horn of Valere. His hand also touches the dagger. Rand lets his hand go back to the dagger, picks it up and sticks it behind his belt, as if it might help him to let it touch his bare skin for as short a time as possible. He wastes only a moment more staring at the chest. He looks around for Loial and sees him crouched not far behind with his massive head swiveling. Rand grabs Loial’s hand and sets it on the chest before miming lifting it. Slowly the Ogier put his arms around the chest and stands. The two begin to walk out of the camp.

Almost free, the man who had been sleeping next to the chest sits up with strangled yell and leaps to his feet. He shouts that it’s gone. Rand recognizes Fain’s voice. Fain yells that he knows it is Rand. He commands his followers to find Rand. Loial says that Fain will not be able to see them once they reach the horses. Suddenly, a trolloc jumps out at them with an eagle’s beak in place of a mouth. Rand moves without thought. The trolloc screams as it falls and again as it dies. Rand orders Loial to run. Another trolloc jumps out in the night and Rand takes it on. The trolloc dies this time with no scream. Rand think sto himself that he could burn them all to cinders with the One Power but then he pushes down the thought. Two more trollocs attack, wolf and ram, and Rand kills both. A knot of four trollocs come into sight and they point at Rand. He leaps to meet them. The sword seems alive in his hands as it had never seemed before. He moves through the sword forms killing them one at a time. Finally, Rand stares at the motionless shapes on the ground around him. He raises his eyes up the hill toward the camp were Fain and the Darkfriends are and steps that direction. Loial urges him to come on. Rand wipes his blade on a trolloc’s coat and formally sheathes his sword before heeding the Ogier’s pleas.

Rand finally lets the Void go and tells Loial that he thinks he is going mad. Loial asks, if Rand is going mad, if it at least can wait until they are back with the Lady Selene and Hurin. Loial runs as he leads his own mount – the Horn’s chest tied atop it. Rand rides Red. Soon, the shouts of trollocs behind them in the distance fades. They make it back to the camp.

Selene: You have it!

She is wearing her own dress again. She asks if she can look at it. Hurin asks if any of them followed while staring at the chest in awe. Rand tells him that he does not think they followed but instructs him to check the outcrop. Hurin scrambles higher up the mountain to look. Selene asks if she can try to open it. She touches the patterns on the chest, presses her fingers, and then Rand hears a click sound as the chest opens. She stretches on tiptoe to reach it. Rand reaches over her shoulder and lifts it out for her. His fingers touch the silver scream inlaid on the horn.

Selene: Tia mi aven Moridin isainde vadin.

She says it means “the grave is no bar to my call” and she tells Rand that he will be greater than Artur Hawkwing ever was. Rand says he is taking the Horn to Shienar to Lord Agelmar. Selene tells him that is madness.

Rand: Mad or not, it is what I am doing. I told you Selene, I want no part of greatness. Back there, I thought I did.

He says that the Horn belongs in Shienar, and if not there, then Lord Agelmar will know what to do with it. Hurin appears from up the mountain. He says there is fire there now and all up the hills. He says that he does not believe they are come up the mountain yet.

Selene tells Rand that he misunderstands her. She says the Friends of the Dark will not go away simply because Rand has taken the Horn away from them. She says that unless he knows how to kill them all, he cannot go back. Rand too vehemently says he does not know how to kill them all – thinking to himself of Saidin. She replies that he must then go onward because he can reach the safety of Cairhein’s walls long before returning to Shienar. She asks him then if the thought of a few more days in her company seems onerous. Rand agrees with her and suggests that she can show him where she lives as he has never been to Cairhein. As Rand moves to close the chest, she stops him. She asks him about the dagger. Rand pulls out the dagger and Selene warns him to be careful and to not cut himself. He sets it inside the chest with the Horn and tells the others that the dagger is from Shadar Logoth. He explains that the dagger will taint those who are near it, down to the bone, without Aes Sedai healing. Selene tries to talk Rand into burying the dagger, or throwing it away, but Rand insists that Mat needs it to be healed.

Rand hopes the chest will shield them from its evil. Selene says that she wants to sleep but Rand tells her that he means to be as far from Fain and the Darkfriends as possible, by morning. Selene calls him stubborn again. Rand sees a smile on her lips that never comes close to touching her dark eyes. She watches in silence as Rand saddles her mare.

“““““““““““““`

Fain snarls at a trolloc to gather them all in. The remaining Darkfriends are huddled together by the fire. The first trolloc who brought him word of al’Thor’s escape is lying dead on the ground. Fain stares up into the mountains and knows that al’Thor is up there, somewhere, with the Horn. The part of him that was made into a hound for the Darkfriend can still point Fain in al’Thor’s general direction. He had not thought of this part of himself until suddenly the Horn was gone. Now he feels al’Thor drawing him like meat draws a starving dog.

Fain shouts that he is a dog no longer and he hears those with him shuffle uncomfortably. He tells Rand that he and the world will pay for what was done to him. Then he cackles at the night with mad laughter.

REACTION:

How many trollocs does Rand kill in this chapter without taking even a scratch? Eight total? Four at once there at the end? Our young lad from the Two Rivers has powered up. It was only one book ago that he struggled to kill Narg the Trolloc in his own house.

I suppose he has a good sword instructor.

I really enjoyed Loial’s irritation with Rand as they are escaping. “Can you wait to go mad until after we are back with the Lady Selene and Hurin?”

Do we know why Fain does not sense Rand from time to time? In his previous POV section, Fain mentions Rand doing a disappearing trick in Fal Dara sometimes. Does Rand disappear when he’s in The Void? Or does he disappear when in the presence of particular people? If Selene = Lanfear, then maybe she is occasionally making Rand invisible to Fain.

Speaking of Selene/Lanfear, she seems to be working on seducing him. It seems to be working, too. What she did not count on is that Rand appears to have a very strict moral code where some things are concerned. He is not thinking of sleeping with her, he is thinking of marrying her first.

Since Selene is the one who encouraged Rand to get the Horn, and Selene appears to be Lanfear (IMO – it’s not a terribly well kept secret) then should we also assume that maybe she somehow helped him with this endeavor from a distance? Speaking of Selene/Lanfear, she continues calling Loial an Alantin and she refers to Darkfriends as “Friends of the Dark” – which sounds like the term Darkfriends probably use for themselves.

I actually find Selene/Lanfear to be an interesting villain. She is willing to go undercover and sleep on the ground, indefinitely, to reach whatever it is that her goal is.

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