The Great Hunt (Chapter 47): The Grave is No Bar to My Call

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 47: The Grave is No Bar to My Call

Mat and Perrin are mounted by the time that Rand and Hurin reach them. Far behind him, Rand hears Ingtar’s voice rise.

The Light! And Shinowa!

The clash of steel joins the roar of other noises. Mat asks where Ingtar is and Rand harshly tells him that Ingtar is dying. Perrin says that they have to help him and Rand cuts him off to say that Ingtar is doing it so that they can all get away. Rand says that they will take the Horn to Verin and then they can take it from there to wherever she says that it belongs. Perrin asks him what he means but Rand digs his heels into Red’s flanks and rides toward the hills beyond the town.

The Light! And Shinowa!

Ingtar’s voice shouts and lightning flashes across the sky in answer to him.

Rand whips his bay stallion and then lays down across his neck as Red sets out in a dead run. He wishes that he does not feel as though he is running away from Ingtar’s cry and what he is supposed to do. Rand thinks Ingtar was his friend, even if he was a Darkfriend. He thinks about his duties and Egwene, the Horn, Mat, and the dagger. He asks himself why there cannot just be one at a time.

Oh Light, Egwene!

Rand reigns in so suddenly that Red rears back on his haunches. They are in a scanty copse of bare branched trees overlooking the hills of Falme. The others gallop up behind Rand. Perrin demands to know, immediately, what Rand meant by sayin that they can help Verin decide where the Horn is supposed to go. He demands to know where Rand is going to be. Mat suggests that maybe Rand is going mad already and wants to get away from them for that reason.

Rand tells the three of them to take the Horn to Verin. Mat says that’s all very well for them but asks again aboutRand and again says Rand cannot be going mad yet. Hurin gapes at them not knowing what htey are talking about. Rand tells them that he is going back and he says that he should never have left.

Rand: I have to go back. Now. Egwene is still there, remember, with one of those collars around her neck.
Mat: Are you sure? I never saw her. Ah! If you say she is there then she is there. We’ll all take the Horn to Verin and then we will all go back for her. You don’t think I would leave her there, do you?

Rand shakes his head. He tells Mat that Verin must take him and the dagger to Tar Valon and notes that he has no time to waste. Mat protests that saving Egwene is not wasting time but his hand tightens on the dagger until it shakes. Perrin suddenly announces that none of them are going back and he tells the other three of them to look. The wagon yards and horse yards of Falme are turning black with Seanchan soldiers – ranks upon ranks of soldiers, grolm, other creatures Rand canno tname, sul’dam and damane. Rand wnders if Egwene is among the damane.

In the town behind the soldiers, a rooftop still explodes now and again and lightning still streaks the sky. Two flying beast with leathery wings tip to tip soar high overhead where the lightning bolts dance.

Mat: All of that for us? Who do they think we are?

An answer comes to Rand but he shoves it away before it can form completely. Hurin then announces that they are not going the other way, either. He points out that hundreds of Whitecloaks are now charging from the other direction. Rand turns to where the Sniffer is pointing and finds a long Whitecloak line rippling across the hills. Mat hopefully suggests that the Whitecloaks, not themselves, are why the Seanchan are gathering. Perrin adds that whether the Seanchan are there for them, or not, a battle will be happening where they not sit in a few minutes and either side could kill them.

Rand cannot bring himself to think about the Seanchan or the Whitecloaks. He is staring at the Horn of Valere and thinking desperately to himself that he must go back.

Mat: It has to be there at The Last Battle. Nothing says it cannot be used before then.

Mat pulls the Horn free of its lashings and says again that nothing says it cannot. None of them say anything. Rand urgently thinks to himself that he has to go back. Mat’s hands shake as he raises the Horn of Valere to his lips. It is a clear note – golden as the Horn is golden. The trees around them seem to resonate with it as did the ground under their feet and the sky overhead. That one long sound encompasses everything.

Out of nowhere, a fog begins to rise. First thin wisps hanging in the air, then thicker billows, then thicker still until it blankets the land like clouds.

““““““““““““““““““““““`

Geofram Bornhald stiffens in his saddle as a sound fills the air. The sound is so sweet he wants to laugh. It is so mournful that he wants to cry. It seems to come from every direction at once. A mist begins to rise growing even as he watches.

Seanchan – they are trying something. They know we are here.

It is too soon, and the town too far, but he draws his sword. He calls out that the legion will advance at a trot. The fog covers everything but he knows that Falme still lies ahead. The pace of the horses picks up. He cannot see them but he can hear.

Abruptly the ground ahead blows up with a roar, showering him with dirt and pebbles. He hears men and horses screaming. It happens again. And again. Thunder and screams hidden by the fog, attack his troops.

Bornhald: The Legion will charge.

His horse leaps forward as he digs in his heels. The Legion – as much of it as still lives – follows. Thunder and screams are wrapped in whiteness. Bornhanld’s last thought is regret that Byar will not be able to tell his son Dain how he had died.

““““““““““““““““““““““`

Rand cannot see the trees around them any longer. Mat has lowered the Horn, eyes still wide with awe, but the sound of it still rings in Rand’s ears. The fog hides everything in rolling waves as white as the finest wool – and yet Rand can see. He an see but it is mad. Falme floats somewhere beneath him. Falme floats over his head. He can see Whitecloaks charging and dying as the earth opens beneath their horses’ hooves. He can see men running about the decks of tall square ships in the harbor. On one ship – a familiar ship – fearful men wait. Rand an recognize the face of the captain – Bayle Domon. Rand clutches his head with both hands. The trees are hidden but he can still see each of the others clearly. Hurin is anxious, Mat is fearful, and Perrin looks as though he knew that this is meant to be. The fog roils up all around them.

Hurin gasps. Down the billowing fog, as if it is the side of a mountain, ride shapes on horses. As they come closer, it is Rand’s turn to gasp. He knows them. He sees men, not all in armor, and women as well. Their clothes and armor come from every age. Rand knows them all.

Rogosh Eagle-eye, a fatherly looking man with white hair and eyes so sharp as to make his name merely a hint. Gaidal Cain, a swarthy man with the hilts of his two swords sticking above his broad shoulders. Golden-haired Birgitte, with her gleaming silver bow and quiver bristling with silver arrows. More. He knew their faces, knew their names. But he heard a hundred names when he looked at each face, some so different he did not recognize them as names at all, though he knew they were. Michael instead of Mikel. Patrick instead of Paedrig. Oscar instead of Otarin.

Tall and hook-nosed with deep set eyes, his gray sword Justice at his side, Artur Hawkwing leads them. Mat gapes as they reign in before him and the others. Mat asks if this is all of them. Rand sees that they are a little bit more than one hundred. He is surprised to realize that somehow he had known they would be. Hurin’s mouth hangs open with his eyes bulging almost out of his head.

Artur Hawkwing: It takes more than bravery to bind a man to the Horn.

His voice is deep and carrying. Birgitte adds sharply “or a woman.” Hawkwing agrees with her.

Hawkwing: Only a few are bound to the Wheel, spun out agan and again to work the Pattern of the Ages. You could tell them, Lews Therin, could you but remember when you wore flesh.

Hawkwing is looking at Rand. Rand shakes his head but he will not waste time with denials. Rand tells them invaders have come, men who call themselves Seanchan and use chained Aes Sedai in battle. Rand tells the Heroes that the Seanchan must be driven back into the sea.

Rand: And… and there is a girl. Egwene al’Vere. A novice from the White Tower. The Seanchan have taken her prisoner. You must help me free her.

To Rand’s surprise, several of the small host behind Hawkwing chuckles and Birgitte – testing her bowstring – laughs. She tells him, fondly, calling him Lews Therin, that he always chooses women who cause him trouble. The comment sounds as if it is between old friends. Rand snaps that his name is Rand al’Thor. He tells the Heroes that they must hurry as there is not much time.

Birgitte tells Rand that they have all of time. Gaidal Cain draws a sword with both hands. All along the small line of Heroes, Rand hears weapons being drawn. Justice shines like a mirror in Artur Hawkwing’s gauntleted fist.

Hawkwing: I have fought by your side times beyond number, Lews Therin, and faced you as many more. The Wheel spins us out for its purposes, not ours, to serve the Pattern. I know you if you do not know yourself. We will drive these invaders out for you.

Hawkwing’s war horse prances as he looks around, frowning. Suddenly though, he says something is wrong here. He says that something holds him. He turns his sharp eyed gaze on Rand and asks him if he has the Banner. A murmur runs through the Heroes behind him. Rand tells him yes and tears open the straps on the side of his saddle bags. He pulls out The Dragon’s Banner. The murmur among the Heroes rises. Hawkwing says that the Pattern weaves itself around their necks like halters. Hawkwing then announces that the weave of this moment is set.

Hawkwing: We have come to the Horn but we must follow the Banner and the Dragon.

Hurin makes a faint sound as if his throat has seized.

“Burn me,” Mat breathed. “It’s true! Burn me!”

Perrin hesitated only an instant before swinging down off his horse and striding into the mist. There came a chopping sound and when he returned he carried a straight length of sapling shorn of its branches

Perrin tells Rand to give him the Banner. Hastily Rand helps Perrin tie the Banner to the pole. When Perrin remounts, Dragon Banner in hand, a gust of air seems to blow it so that the serpentine banner seems to move as if it is alive. The wind does not touch the heavy fog, only the banner. Rand tells Hurin to stay where he is. Hurin draws his short sword. He begs Rand’s pardon but says that he has come this far and that he thinks he will go the rest of the way. Hawkwing claps the Sniffer on the shoulder and tells him that sometimes The Wheel adds to their number.

Hawkwing: Perhaps you will find yourself among us one day.

Hurin sits up as if he has been offered a crown. Hawkwing bows formally from his saddle to Rand. He asks Rand’s permission and then asks the trumpeter, Mat, to give them music on the Horn. Hawkwing tells his line to advance. Perrin heels his horse forward as does Rand. He can see nothing but billows of white but he can also see what he had seen before – Falme, the harbor, the Seanchan host, and the dying Whitecloaks. All of it is beneath him with him hanging above. It seems as if not time at all has passed since the Horn was first blown. It is as though time paused while the Heroes answers the call and only now does it resume counting.

The wild cries of Mat’s Horn blasts echo in the fog along with the drumming of the hooves as the horses pick up speed. Rand charges into the mist. He can no longer see the line of Heroes. He can only see Hurin, Mat, and Perrin. Soon, they are also gone and Rand rides on alone it seems.

In a way, Rand can still see them but it is now in the same way he sees Falme and the Seanchan. He cannot tell where they are or where he is. Rand tightens his grip on his sword and peers into the mists ahead. He charges alone through the fog and somehow knows that this is how it was meant to be.

Suddenly Ba’alzamon is before him in the mists throwing his arms wide. Red rears wildly hurling Rand from his saddle. Rand clings to his sword desperately as he soars. It is not a hard landing. Rand thinks to himself with a sense of wonder that it feels like landing on nothing at all. When he climbs to his feet, his horse is gone. Ba’alzamon is still there, though, striding toward him with a long black charred staff in his hand. They are alone.

Rand is aware of other things, too. He can see Hawkwing meeting the Seanchan in the dense fog. Perrin is holding his banner and swinging his ax to ward off those trying to reach him. Mat is still blowing wild notes on the Horn of Valere. Hurin is out of his saddle fighting with short sword and sword breaker in the way that he knows. It seems as if the Seanchan numbers will overwhelm them in one rush yet it is the dark armored Seanchan falling back. Rand moves forward to meet Ba’alzamon.

Reluctantly, Rand forms the Void, reaches for the True Source, and is filled with the One Power. Rand thinks that he has no chance against the Dark One but whatever chance he does have lies in the One Power. It soaks into his limbs. He feels as if he should be glowing like the sun. Rand tells Ba’alzamon to get out of his way .

Rand: I’m not here for you.
Ba’alzamon: The girl?

Rand sees that his burn scars are almost completely healed. He looks like a handsome man of middle years. He asks Lews Therin which girl and says that he will have no one to help him this time.

Ba’alzamon: You are mine or you are dead in which case you are mine anyway.

Rand calls him a liar and strikes at him but Ba’alzamon’s staff of charred wood turns his blade in a shower of sparks. Rand calls him the Father of Lies and Ba’alzamon in turn calls him a fool and asks him if the other fools he summoned failed to tell him who he is. The fires of Ba’alzamon’s face roar with his laughter. He asks himself if the Heroes would have lied. Rand attacks with his sword but Ba’alzamon turns each of his blows aside. Rand tells him that he has business in Falme but no business with him – never with him. Rand decides that he must hold Ba’alzamon’s attention until the others can free Egwene.

In that same odd way, he can see the battle raging below. Ba’alzamon calls him a pitiful wretch.

Ba’alzamon: You have sounded the Horn of Valere. You are linked to it now. Do you think the worms of the White Tower will ever release you now? They will put chains around your neck so heavy that you will never cut them.

Rand is so surprised that he feels it inside the Void. He doesn’t kow everything. Rand is sure that it must show on his face. To cover that, he rushes at Ba’alzamon. Lightning arches between sword and staff. Ba’alzamon falls back with his eyes blazing in furious furnaces. At the edge of his awareness, Rand sees the Seanchan falling back on the streets of Falme. Damane tear the earth with the One Power but it cannot harm Artur Hawkwing nor the other Heroes of the Horn.

Ba’alzamon tells Rand that the Power raging in him is killing him. He says that he alone in the world can teach Rand how to use the One Power. He tells Rand to serve him and live. He tells Rand to serve him or die. Rand shouts back ‘never’ while thinking that he must hold Ba’alzamon long enough for the others to rescue Egwene. He launches himself at Ba’alzamon again.

This time Rand is the one who is driven back. Dimly he sees the Seanchan fighting their way back in, and forward, among the stables. Rand redoubles his efforts. The Seanchan then give way to a charge. Rand attack again. He has to duck to avoid Ba’alzamon landing a blow to spit his head. The wind of the blow moves his hair. The Seanchan surge forward again. Rand strikes at Ba’alzamon, again, moving him backward. The Seanchan below are backed up once more toward the cobblestone street. Rand wants to howl aloud as he realizes the two battles are linked.

Ba’alzamon announces to Rand that they will not save him. He says that those who might save him will be carried far across the Aryth Ocean.

Ba’alzamon: If ever you see them again, they will be collared slaves. They will destroy you for their new masters.

Rand thinks again that he cannot let them do that to Egwene.

Ba’alzamon: You have only one salvation, Rand al’Thor, Lews Therin Kinslayer. I am your only salvation. Serve me and I will give you the world.

Rand readies his sword and Ba’alzamon shifts his staff. For the first time, Rand realizes that Ba’alzamon is acting as if the heron marked blade can hurt him. Rand hears a voice – Lan’s voice.

There will come a time when you want something more than life.

He hears Ingtar’s voice also.

It is every man’s right to choose when to sheathe the sword.

A picture forms in Rand’s mind of Egwene, collared, living her life as a damane. Before Rand knows it, he takes the first position of the sword form Heron Wading in the Rushes. He is balanced on one foot with sword raised high. He is open and defenseless. Rand thinks to himself that duty is heavier than a mountain and death is lighter than a feather.

Ba’alzamon: Why are you grinning like an idiot, fool. Do you not know I can destroy you utterly?

Rand feels a calmness beyond that of the Void.

Rand: I will never serve you, Father of Lies. In a thousand lives, I never have. I know that. I am sure of it. Come. It is time to die.

Ba’alzamon’s eyes widen. For an instant, they are furnaces that put sweat on Rand’s face.

Ba’alzamon: Then die, worm!

He strikes with the staff, as if with a spear. Rand screams as he feels it piercing his side, burning like a white hot poker. The Void trembles, but he holds on with the last of his strength and drives the heron marked blade into Ba’alzamon’s heart. Ba’alzamon screams and the dark behind him screams. The world explodes in fire.

REACTION:

Well, here’s my first “stand up and cheer while reading” chapter from The Wheel of Time.

My favorite moment from meeting the Heroes of the Horn is probably that they chuckle about Rand’s choices in women. It’s kind of funny that choosing women who cause him trouble is a characteristic of his very soul. But the moment plays well because everyone from that group acts like they are Rand’s old friends just giving him a hard time.

My favorite moment of the chapter more generally (last moment aside) is Mat’s realization that Rand really is The Dragon Reborn. A cursing dumbfounded Mat is my favorite Mat. Perrin does not react in quite the same way, I think, because he had already internalized that Rand really is The Dragon Reborn. The wolves wouldn’t call him Shadowkiller for no reason.

I do have one morbid question: Did Rand’s horse fall to the ground from the clouds? Did he never really go up to the sky until after? Imagine being a person on the ground the the thing that immediately precedes Rand fighting The Dark One in the sky is a horse plummeting first to its death. If you didn’t make it out of this chapter alive, dear Red… RIP. You deserve many an apple and neck pat in Horsie Heaven.

RIP Whitecloaks, too. Obviously the Seanchan had been planning for this charge for a while (we know the Seanchan saw them coming from an earlier Bornhald POV) and they were ready for it. The Seanchan were not ready for the break-in at Turak’s house, Egwene, Nynaeve, and the Heroes of the Horn, though.

Great job, Bayle Domon, still being there at your ship waiting.

One thing I noticed in this chapter. Ba’alzamon reads like an angry internet troll. Perhaps there is some deeper truth to be found in t hat.

Clearly Rand does not die. This is only Book #2. But pierced by a staff (a spear?) and falling from the sky is a difficult thing to survive. Let’s see how he manages to make it. I suspect we are also about to get something of a “Big Reveal” about Ba’alzamon, too. He was worried about Rand’s sword for some reason.

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