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 20: Saidin
Rand kept them moving throughout the night, allowing only a brief stop at dawn to rest the horses. Sometime during the night, they crossed the border into Cairhein. As they stopped, Selene tells Rand that she wants to see the Horn again. As she strides over to Loial to see it again, Rand shouts no. Loial does not know what to do as Selene insists to Rand this time that she wants to see the Horn. Rand replies that he believes that they should keep the dagger shielded. He says once they catch up with Mat, they can give it to him, then.
Selene is exasperated that all Rand seems to care about is the dagger. She reminds Rand that she already told him to be rid of the dagger but Rand continues to insist that they leave the Horn’s chest closed with the dagger inside. Selene comes to Rand with a sway in her walk that makes him feel as though he has something caught in his throat. She says that all she wants is to see the Horn in the light of day. Rand considers it and thinks that he would also like to see the Horn in the daylight. He also thinks to himself that he wishes he knew more of the Prophecies of the Dragon. None of the little he has heard ever mentioned the Horn of Valere. He stares into Selene’s eyes and thinks that her face looks young, not ageless. He asks her again if she is an Aes Sedai.
Selene almost spits out the words Aes Sedai angrily and she asks Rand why he would hurl that at her. She then wraps herself n a frigid silent calmness. They ride on. By nightfall, Selene seems to have regained some of her temper speaking with Loial and Hurin fondly. However, she barely speaks to Rand that night or the following day. However, whenever Rand looks at her, she is looking back at him and smiling. Eventually they ride out of the mountains and into villages outside of Cairhein. At the sight of villages, Rand tells the others that they will be able to sleep on a bed tonight. Selene chafes though and tells Rand that she believes a village inn will be dirty. She asks why they cannot sleep under the stars again.
Rand tells her that she will not like sleeping under the stars if Fain catches up with them. He explains that the threat of that is why he has been pushing them so hard. Selene replies simply that if Fain catches up with them that Rand will deal with him. She reminds him that there might be Darkfriends in a village, too. Rand replies that even if there are Darkfriends in the village, they will not try something in the open unless she believes the entire village is Darkfriends. Selene also reminds him that even if he does not personally want glory, a farmer who sees the Horn of Valere might want it. Loial agrees with Selene. Rand instructs Loial to cover the chest with his blanket. Rand tells both of them that they are carrying his Lady’s chest of clothes. He bows to Selene and she gives him an unreadable look. After a moment they start on again.
Almost immediately, a glitter from the ground reflects light from the sun. Curiously, Rand turns his horse to look more closely. Rand’s eyes are fixed on a large object in the ground. His eyes are so fixed that he tries to urge Red onward without realizing the horse is on the edge of a clay precipice above a huge excavation. Most of the hill has been dug away up to one hundred paces and the hole is at least ten times as wide as it is deep. Men are on the bottom of the hole getting a fire started. Out of the clay at the bottom of the pit slants a gigantic stone hand holding a crystal sphere. Rand gapes at it. Some distance away from the hand a stone face in proportion has also been uncovered. It is a bearded man’s face and it thrusts out of the soil with the dignity of vast years.
Unsummoned, the Void formed full and complete in an instant. Saidin glows and beckons Rand. Rand remembers that he once heard a ship’s captain, Bayle Domon, speak of a giant hand holding a crystal sphere. Domon says he saw such a thing on the Island of Tremalking. Selene approaches Rand and tells him that this is dangerous. She asks him to come away. Rand absently tells her that he believes he can find a way down there to the statue. Saidin sings to him and the huge ball seems to glow white with the light of the sinking sun. It seems to Rand, within the depths of the crystal, that Light dances to the song of Saidin. Rand wonders why the men below do not seem to notice. Selene puts her hand on his arm.
Selene: Please Rand, you must come away.
Rand looks at her hand, puzzled. He follows her arm up to her face. She seems genuinely worried – perhaps even afraid. She tells Rand that if the bank doe snot give way beneath their horses, the men they see are guards. She says that no one puts guards on a thing that they wish every passerby to examine. She asks what good it will do to avoid Fain if some lord’s guards arrest him. She again implores Rand to come away. Suddenly, a drifting distant thought, he thinks to himself that if he sings saidin’s song, the huge stone face below will open its face and sing with him – with Rand with with saidin, all one.
Selene asks Rand to please come with her. She even offers to come to the village with him and never mention the Horn again. Rand releases the Void but saidin does not go away. It croons. The light in the sphere beats like a heart – like Rand’s heart. Rand fights not to touch saidin. It overwhelms him. He hears a voice calling his name but he is not certain whose voice. Rand mumbles.
Rand: Til shade is gone, til water is gone
Power fills Rand. He is one with the sphere. The power is his. He has the power to break the world. As he shouts “on the last day!” the Void shatters. Rand and Red back away from the edge. The others are staring at him and he asks if he did something. He cannot remember. Loial tells Rand that he sat there, stiff as a statue, mumbling to himself no matter what anyone else said. The Ogier says he could not make out what Rand was saying until he shouted “day” loud enough to wake the dead and nearly put himself and his horse over the edge. Loial asks Rand if he is ill. Hurin tells Rand that he believes the guards have finally noticed them. Selene says that they should leave this place quickly. Rand glances at the excavation one more time and tries to remember what happened. Then they all ride on leaving the pit and shouting guards behind.
The people in the village seem friendly. He notices they are a short people – none taller than his shoulder. People eye the newcomers and a few stare a bit longer at Loial. They find an Inn called “The Nine Rings.” Rand thinks to himself that The Nine Rings was one of his favorite stories growing up. As they dismount, Rand asks Selene if she is alright and he asks if he frightened her back there. She replies that he terrified her and that she does not frighten easily. She asks him to ride with her tonight. She says that if he does, she will stay by his side forever. Rand shakes his head and says that he cannot. He tells her that the Horn is not his. She turns her back on him with her white dress walling him off as effectively as bricks.
This is one of the first chapters I can remember where the title would be completely incomprehensible to someone who does not read the story.
Rand comes across something partially buried in the ground that almost forces him to channel Saidin. Whatever it is, “Selene” is terrified of it. Since it seems obvious that she is a Forsaken (obvious to me – if not to Rand, Loial, or Hurin) then… that gives us something to consider. It is quite powerful.
There was something odd, though, in the fact that Rand is muttering the Aiel words of defiance against the Shadow in that moment. Maybe he has been thinking about his Aiel origins? Maybe he’s young and thinks that those Aiel words are really cool? Otherwise, the decision does not make a lot of sense. It seems obvious that he is Aiel, from the plot, but he has no personal connection with the Aiel.
I liked the “Nine Rings” easter egg here at the end with the Inn’s name.
It was one of my favorite stories, too, Rand.