The Great Hunt (Chapter 49): What Was Meant to Be / (Chapter 50): After

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 49: What Was Meant to Be

Rand opens his eyes and finds himself staring at the branches of a leatherleaf tree. The wind stirring the leaves carries the hint of snow come night fall. He lies on his back and feels blankets under his hands. His coat and shirt are gone but something is binding his chest. His right side hurts.

He turns his head to find Min sitting on the ground watching him. He almost did not know her wearing skirts. She smiles at him. He asks where she came from and where they are. His memory of the last few days comes in flashes and patches. She tells him that she found him in Falme and that they are five days east of there now. She tells him that he has been asleep that whole time.

Falme. More memory. Mat had blown the Horn of Valere. Rand asks about Egwene and if they freed her. Min tells him that she does not know who “they” refers to but she tells Rand that Egwene is free and that they freed her themselves. Rand is confused so Min explains that Nynaeve, Elayne, and herself rescued Egwene. Rand is astounded to learn that they were all in Falme.

Rand tries to sit up by Min pushes him back down easily. She stays there with hands on his shoulders. Rand asks where Egwene is and Min tells her that she is gone. She then tells Rand that Egwene, Nynaeve, Elayne, Mat, Hurin, and Verin are all gone. Min adds that Hurin did not want to leave Rand before explaining that they are on their way to Tar Valon. She tells him that Egwene and Nynaeve are returning to their training while Mat is going to see what can be done to help him with the dagger. Min adds that they took the Horn of Valere with them also.

Rand mutters that Egwene is gone and that she did not wait until he woke up. Min’s cheeks color. Rand raises his hands to rub them over his face but stops, staring at them in shock. There is a heron branded across his left palm, too.

One the heron to set his path, twice the heron to name him true

Rand shakes his head. Something then tells him that the pain in his side is important. Rand starts to lift his blankets to look but Min slaps his hands away telling him that he cannot do any good with that. She tells him that Verin attempted to heal him but that the Aes Sedai said the Healing did not work the way that it should. Min adds that Moiraine says that Nynaeve must have done something for him or he would not have lived long enough to have him carried to Verin. Min reports that Nynaeve said she was too frightened to light a candle.

Min tells Rand that there is something wrong with his wound and she says he will have to wait for it to heal naturally.

“Moiraine is here?” He barked a bitter laugh. “When you said Verin was gone I thought I was free of Aes Sedai again.”

“I am here.”

Moiraine appears all in blue and as serene as if she stood in the White Tower. She approaches to stand over him. Rand has the odd feeling that Min wishes to protect him from Moiraine. Rand tells Moiraine that he wishes she was not here. He then tells her that she can go back to wherever it is that she has been hiding. Moiraine, in turn, says she has been doing what she can in Falme and on Toman Head and adds that she was unable to rescue two of her Sisters who were herded onto Seanchan ships as the invaders fled. Rand complains that she sent Verin to shepherd him and then tells her that he wishes to be free of Aes Sedai.

Moiraine frowns and says that she did not send Verin and she adds that he is of interest to a great many people. Abruptly she asks Rand if Fain found him, or if he found Fain. Rand is surprised by the change of topic.

Rand: Fain? No. A fine hero I make. I try to rescue Egwene and Min did it before me. Fain said he would hurt Emond’s Field if I did not face him and I never laid eyes on him.

Rand asks if Fain left with the Seanchan and she tells him that she does not know and that she wishes she did. She then tells Rand that it well that he did not find Fain without knowing what Fain really is. Rand barks that Fain is a Darkfriend and Moiraine replies that he is more than that and worse than that.

Moiraine: Padan Fain was the Dark One’s creature to the depths of his soul. But I believe in that in Shadar Logoth he fell afoul of Mordeth who was as vile in fighting the Shadow as ever the Shadow itself was. Mordeth tried to consume Fain’s soul, to have a human body again, but found a soul that had been touched directly by The Dark One. And what resulted… what resulted was neither Padan Fain nor Mordeth but something far more evil – a blend of the two.

She tells Rand that Fain is more dangerous than he can believe. She adds that he might not survived such a meeting, and if he had, he might have been worse than turned to the Shadow. Rand says that if Fain is alive, he has to… but he cuts off when Moiraine produces his heron marked sword from beneath her cloak. The blade ends abruptly, a foot from the hilt, as if it has been melted.

Memory comes rushing back. Rand mutters softly that he killed him. Moiraine tells Rand that The Dark One is not slain so easily and she says that the fact he appeared in the sky above Falme is more than merely troubling. She says that he should not be able to do that if he is bound as they believe. Min stirs.

Rand: In the sky.
Moiraine: Both of you. Your battle took place across the sky in full view of every soul in Falme. Perhaps in other towns on Toman Head, too, if half of what I hear is to be believed.

Min tells Rand in a faint voice that they all saw it. Moiraine puts a hand under her cloak and pulls out a large sheet of paper, such as one the street artists in Falme use. The chalks are a little smudged but the picture is clear. A man with a face whose is a solid flame fought with a staff against a man with a sword, on cloud, where lightning dances. Behind them ripples The Dragon Banner. Rand’s face is easily recognizable.

Rand asks how many have seen that before demanding that Moiraine tear it up or burn it. Moiraine tells him that it would do no good. She says that she bought the drawing two days ago in a village they passed through. She tells him there are hundreds of the sketches, perhaps thousands.

Moiraine: And the tale is being told everywhere of how The Dragon battled the Dark One in the skies above Falme.

Rand looks at Min and she nods reluctantly while squeezing his hand. Rand wonders aloud if that is why Egwene left. Moiraine tells Rand that the Pattern is weaving itself more tightly around him now, than ever, and she suggests that he needs her now more than ever. Rand tells her he does not want her and he says that he will not have anything to do with this.

Rand remembers being called Lews Therin, not only by Ba’alzamon but also by Artur Hawkwing. He defiantly tells Moiraine that the Dragon is supposed to tear everything apart and that he will not be the Dragon.

Moiraine: You are who you are. Already you stir the world. The Black Ajah has revealed itself for the first time in two thousand years. Arad Doman and Tarabon are on the brink of war and it will be worse when news of Falme reaches them. Cairhein is in civil war.

Rand protests that he did nothing in Cairhein. She tells Rand that doing nothing is a ploy in The Great Game. She tells him that he was the spark and that Cairhein exploded like an Illuminator’s firework. She asks him what he thinks will happen when word of what happened in Falme reaches the two surrounding nations.

Moiraine tells Rand that there is more before tossing a pouch to him that lands on his chest. Rand hesitates only a moment before opening it. Inside lay shards of what appears to be black and white glazed pottery. He mumbles that it is another seal on The Dark One’s prison. Min gasps.

Moiraine tells him that the pouch contains two of the broken seals and says that three of the seven are now broken. She says the one she had is broken as are two that she found in the High Lord’s dwelling in Falme.

Moiraine: When all seven are broken, perhaps even before, the patch men put over the hole drilled into the prison the Creator made, will be torn asunder.

She says that when that happens, the Dark One will be able to put his hand through and touch the world once more. She adds that at that point, the only hope for the world will be that the Dragon Reborn will there and ready to face him. Min tries to stop Rand from throwing back the blankets but he pushes her gently aside. Rand tells her that he needs to walk. Min helps him up while grumbling to him about making his wound worse. Rand discovers that his chest is wrapped around with a great many bandages.

When he stands, he stares down at the ruined heron marked sword lying on the ground – Tam’s sword. More reluctantly than he has ever done anything in his life, he lets go of the hope that he will discover Tam really is his father. It feels as if he is tearing his heart out. It does not change the way he feels about Tam, though, and Emond’s Field is the only home he has ever known.

Rand thinks to himself that Fain is the important thing now and that he has one duty left – stopping him. Moiraine and Min support him, one on either arm, down to where the camp fires are burning. Loial is there reading a book. Perrin is there also staring into one of the fires. The Shienarans are making preparations for their evening meal. Lan sits under a tree sharpening his sword. Lan gives Rand a careful look and then a nod. Rand notices something else, also. The Dragon Banner ripples in the wind over the camp.

Upon seeing it, Rand demands what the banner is doing out where anyone can see it. Moiraine tells him that it is too late to hide.

Rand: You don’t have to put up a sign saying “here I am” either.

Rand turns to Loial and Perrin and tells them that he is glad they stayed. Loial asks him why he would not stay. He says that while Rand is even more ta’veren than he even believed, he is still his friend.

Loial: I hope you are still my friend.
Rand: I am. For as long as it is safe for you to be around me – and even after, too.

The Ogier’s wide grin splits his face in two. Perrin tells Rand he is staying as well. He adds that the Wheel weaves them tight and says that they never would have thought of any of this back in Emond’s Field. The Shienarans gather around. To Rand’s surprise, they all fall to their knees with every one of them watching him.

Uno tells Rand that they wish to pledge themselves to him. The others kneeling with him nod. Rand tells them that their oaths are to Ingtar and Lord Agelmar. Rand tells Uno that Ingtar died well and that he died so that the rest of them could escape with the Horn. Rand decides that there is no need to tell them, or anyone else, the rest. Rand hopes that Ingtar found the Light again.

Carefully, Uno tells Rand that it is said that when the Dragon is reborn, he will break all oaths and shatter all ties.

Uno: Nothing holds us now. We would give our oath to you.

He draws his sword and lays it before him, hilt toward Rand. The rest of the Shienarans do the same.

Masema: You battled The Dark One.

The same Masema who has hated Rand now looks at him as though he is seeing a vision of the Light. He tells Rand that he s his man to the death. His dark eyes shine with fervor.

Moiraine tells Rand that he must choose. She adds that the world will be broken whether he chooses it or not. She asks him whether he would leave the world undefended and tells him to choose.

Death is lighter than a feather. Duty heavier than a mountain.

He made his decision.

Chapter 50: After

By ship and horse, by merchant wagon and man on foot, the story spread. It changed somewhat in the telling but remained the same at its heart. Men proclaimed themselves for The Dragon and are struck down, and then strike down others in turn.

Other tales spread of a column riding across Almoth Plain. A hundred Bordermen, no, a thousand, no, a thousand Heroes come back from the Grave to answer the call of the Horn of Valere. They destroyed an entire Legion of the Children of the Light and threw Artur Hawkwing’s returned armies back into the sea. They are Artur Hawkwing’s armies returned. They ride toward the mountains and toward the dawn. Yet one aspect of the tale is the same in every telling.

At the head of the column rides a man whose face was seen in the skies above Falme. And they ride under the banner of The Dragon Reborn.

REACTION:

There’s a lot of updating of Rand that goes on in this chapter. One thing that really jumps out to me, more subtly, is how much it hurts Rand’s feelings that Egwene left before he woke up. He decides that she left because of what he is.

Of course, we know that Min plays a big role in Egwene’s decision to leave. That is why her cheeks color when Rand mentions his surprise at Egwene leaving. He does not know that, though. He feels rejected and abandoned by the people closest to him. That is why his conversation with Loial and Perrin at the end of the chapter is important. He is relieved that not everyone left him. In the big scheme of things, Rand is still a very young adult from a tiny village in the middle of nowhere. He is way out of his depth. He is finally starting to believe that he really is The Dragon Reborn – the man who will destroy the world for a second time. He cannot quite express all his thoughts and feelings on this but he clearly needs some people he knows, around him, to keep him grounded.

He has viewed his sword as a link with his home and his father for the first two books. Now that is gone, too, as is his belief that Tam is his biological father.

Of course, it is likely that Egwene was not given the option to wait for Rand to wake up. Mat almost certainly needs to be healed, in the White Tower, as soon as possible. Their journey back will not be via The Ways or Portal Stones. Waiting an unknowable number of days may have killed Mat. And… she needed to go back with Verin who is the only other Aes Sedai on Toman Head who can take her back.

What do we make of Fain? Did he leave Falme before Rand arrived? He mentioned before that Rand does a “disappearing trick” sometimes wherein he cannot feel Rand. Maybe he did not notice Rand’s arrival at Turak’s house until it was too late to do anything about it? All I am saying is that it is weird to me that Fain drove the entire plot toward Falme and then was not there for the big showdown.

I maintain that Ba’alzamon is most likely Ishamael. Lanfear strongly hinted at it. The characters – even the Aes Sedai – have not put that together yet, though.

Speaking of Lanfear, it seems pretty obvious that she did heal Rand to some extent. The Aes Sedai want to credit Nynaeve but the Wisdom says – and should be believed – that she did not do it. That leaves Lanfear as the most likely giver of healing.

Does Min mention her to anyone? Apparently not. I would think Lanfear might have merited mentioning. “Oh yeah, Rand, a Forsaken visited you while you were on death’s door and she said you are hers.”

All in all, this chapter ends with Rand not having any good choices. Being “the Chosen One” is not ideal, to be honest.

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