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 56: The People of the Dragon
Throughout the city of Tear, people wake up speaking of the dreams they had had, dreams of the Dragon battling Ba’alzamon in the Heart of the Stone. When their eyes rise to the Stone, they behold a banner waving from its greatest height – across a field of white floats a sinuous form like a great serpent, scaled in scarlet and gold, but with a golden lion’s mane and four legs, each tipped with five golden claws. Men came from the Stone speaking in hushed tones about what had happened there in the night. A chorus of people take to the streets shouting “The Dragon! al’Thor!” over and over.
From an arrow slit high up in the Stone, Mat listens to the people in the streets and says to himself that maybe Rand really is The Dragon Reborn. He is having a hard time with Rand being in Tear, and in the Stone, at all. Everyone inside the fortress seems to be in agreement with the people below, or if they are not, they are not letting on. Mat has only seen Rand once since the night before, striding along a hall with Callandor in his hand, surrounded by a dozen veiled Aiel and a trailing crowd of Tairens, including the surviving High Lords, who seem to think that Rand will need their help to rule the world. The Aiel keep everyone back with sharp looks. They believe Rand is the Dragon, though they call him He Who Comes With the Dawn. There are two hundred Aiel inside the Stone. They had lost a third of their numbers in the fight but killed or captured ten times as many Defenders.
As Mat turns from the arrow slit, his eyes brush across Rhuarc. The large older Aielman is reading a book and Mat finds himself surprised to learn that their people read. Mat is glad that the man is not veiled and thinks about how he had asked Avienda if she does any dances without spears – only to have her nearly take his head off. Mat thinks on Bain and Chiad, also, and how they are both pretty, and more than friendly, but he has been unable to talk to one of them without the other. The male Aiel seem to think Mat’s efforts to get one of them alone are funny, as do Bain and Chiad.
Women are odd, but Aiel women make odd seem normal.
A great table is in the middle of the room and its usual purpose is for gatherings of the High Lords. Moiraine sits in one of the throne-like chairs, with Egwene, Nynaeve, and Elayne sitting close by her. Nynaeve says that she still cannot believe Perrin is here in Tear and asks if Moiraine is sure he is alright. Mat thinks to myself as she asks that he would have expected Perrin to bein the Stone last night because he has always been braver than anyone with good sense. Moiraine serenely answers Nynaeve that he was well when she left him but that she does not know whether he still is. She then tells Nynaeve that Perrin’s companion is in considerable danger and that Perrin may have joined in that danger.
Egwene asks sharply who Perrin’s companion is just as Nynaeve asks about the danger. Moiraine replies to both of them that it is nothing that concerns them, adding that she will go to see to them shortly, having only delayed to show them something. She tells them that she found it among the objects of the One Power collected by the High Lords over the years. Then she pulls an object from her pouch and sets on the table. It is a disk the size of a man’s hand, seeming to be of two tear drops fitted together, one black as pitch, the other white as snow. Mat remembers seeing others like this one, but ancient and broken whereas this one is whole. He has seen three of them before and all of the others had been broken.
Elayne speaks up saying that this is one of the seven seals that Lews Therin placed on the Dark One’s prison when they resealed it. Moiraine tells her that more precisely, it is a focus point for one of the seals. She explains that during the Breaking of the World, they were scattered and hidden for safety, and that since the Trolloc Wars, they have been lost in truth. Moiraine sniffs and comments that she is beginning to sound like Verin.
Egwene: I suppose I should have expected to find that here. Twice before Rand faced Ba’alzamon and both times at least one of the seals was present.
Nynaeve: And this time unbroken. For the first time the seal is unbroken, as if that mattered now.
Moiraine: You think it does not?
Mat rolls his eyes and thinks to himself that everyone keeps talking about unimportant things. He does not like standing not twenty feet from that disk now knowing what it is, no matter the value of cuendillar. He speaks up and asks if they do not mind if he asks a question. Egwene, Nynaeve, and Elayne all glower at him and he grows irritated internally, again, at how ungrateful they have been toward him since their rescue. Moiraine asks him what he wishes to know.
Mat: I want to know how all of this can be. The Stone of Tear has fallen. The prophecy said that could never happen until the People of the Dragon came. Does that mean we are the People of the Dragon? You, me, Lan, and a few hundred bloody Aiel?
Mat hastily apologizes to Rhuarc who straights after he asks his question. Moiraine answers him that perhaps they are, and that she did not expect the Stone of Tear to fall last night. She explains that she came into the Stone to stop Be’lal. Mat shivers at the mention of the Forsaken’s name. He thinks to himself that if he had known of the Forsaken was loose, and inside the Stone, he would never have gone near the place. Mat glances at Egwene, Nynaeve, and Elayne, and amends his thought. He would have come, but he would have done so like a mouse, not thumping people left and right. Sandar left at daybreak, to take the news to Mother Guenna, or so he said. Mat thinks he really left to escape the looks from those three women. Rhuarc clears his throat.
Rhuarch: When a man wishes to become a clan chief, he must go to Rhuidean, in the lands of the Jenn Aiel, the clan that is not. Women who wish to become Wise Ones also make this journey but their marking, if they are marked, is kept secret among themselves. The men who are chosen at Rhuidean, those who survive, return marked on the left arm, so.
He pushes back the sleeves of his coat and shirt to better reveal his left forearm. Etched into his skin, as if part of his skin, wrapped twice around, is the same gold and scarlet form as the one on the banner above the Stone. After showing the group, he lets his sleeve fall with a sigh. He tells them that it is a name not spoken, except among the Clan Chiefs and the Wise Ones.
Rhuarc: We are –
Moiraine: The Aiel are the People of the Dragon.
She sounds as close to startled as Mat can ever remember hearing from her. She admits aloud that she did not know this. Mat then says aloud that everything is done and they can all go to wherever they want. Mat asks him how he can say that knowing that the Forsaken are loose. Nynaeve adds that the Black Ajah are also loose and shares that they only captured Amico and Joiya while the other eleven escaped. She growls that she would like to know how. Elayne then tells him that while she may not be up to facing one of the Forsaken that she does mean to take pieces out of Liandrin’s hide.
Mat says “of course” aloud while thinking to himself that they are crazy for wanting to chase after the Black Ajah and the Forsaken. Mat explains that he only means that the hardest part is done. He says that the Stone has fallen, Rand has Callandor, and Shai’tatn is dead. He almost feels the Stone shake under the weight of Moiraine’s stare. She then calls him a fool and tells him to be quiet. Mat protests and says he is dead and that Rand killed him. He adds that he even saw the body himself.
With a twist to her mouth, Moiraine repeats that he saw the body, and then adds that it was a man’s body, not the Dark One. Mat looks at Egwene and the other two women, both of whom look as confused as he feels. Rhuarc looks like a man who thought he won a battle only to learn that it was not even fought. Mat demands who it was and tells her that even though he has holes in his memory big enough for a wagon and a team, he will not ever forget Ba’alzamon in his dreams. He adds that he recognizes what was left of the face, too.
Moiraine tells him that he recognized the man who called himself Ba’alzamon. She says that the Dark One lives, imprisoned at Shayol Ghul, and that the shadow lies across the Pattern. Nynaeve asks Moirains if she is sure and adds that Rand is certain that he killed the Dark One. She asks if Ba’alzamon was not the Dark One, then who he was.
The Aes Sedai replies that she can be sure for the simplest of reasons – that it was a man’s body. She asks the room if they believe if the Dark One were killed that he would leave a human body.
Moiraine: The man Rand killed was a man. Perhaps he was the first of the Forsaken freed. Perhaps he was never entirely bound. We may never know which.
Egwene speaks up and says that she may know who he was, or that she at least might have a clue. She tells them that Verin showed her a page from an old book that showed Ba’alzamon and Ishamael together.
Egwene: It was almost High Chant and very nearly incomprehensible but I remember something about a name hidden behind a name. Maybe Ba’alzamon was Ishamael.
Moraine says that perhaps it was him, but if she, then at least nine of the Forsaken still live. She starts to list them but stops herself and says that knowing thatat least some of them are free is not the most important thing. She puts a hand on the black and white disk on top of the table. She says three of the seals are broken and that only four still hold. She says that it may be that with only four seals still whole, he might be able to touch the world after a fashion.
Moiraine: It may be that whatever battle we won here, battle or skirmish, it is far from the last.
Mat watches the faces of the women firm, determinedly, and shakes his head.
Bloody women, they’re all ready to go on with this, go on chasing the Black Ajah, trying to fight the Forsaken and the bloody Dark One, well they needn’t think I’m going to come pull them out of soup pot again.
One of the tall paired doors pushes open and a tall young woman of regal bearing enters the room, wearing a coronet with a golden hawk in flight above her brows. She studies Rhuarc for a moment before turning her eyes to the women in the room. She ignores Mat completely. She announces that she is not used to being given messages to carry as she unfurls a parchment. Moiraine asks her who she is, calling her child, and the woman draws her self up even more to reply that she is Berelain, First of Mayene. She then tosses the parchment down on the table in front of Moiraine with a haughty gesture.
Moiraine tells her to wait before going, asking who gave it to her and why she is bringing it if she is so unused to carrying messages. Berelain answers confusedly that she does not know. The First tells Moiraine that the woman who gave her the parchment was impressive. She gives herself a shake and then studies Rhuarc with a small smile, asking if he is the leader of the Aielmen. She tells him that his fighting distrurbed her sleep and that she may ask him to dine with her sometime soon.
Berelain: [to Moiraine] I am told the Dragon Reborn has taken the Stone. Inform the Lord Dragon that the First of Mayene will dine with him tonight.
She then leaves the room. As soon as she is gone, Egwene and Elayne both say simultaneously that they would like to have her in the Tower as a novice. They then smile at each other. Moiraine then tells them to listen to the message from the parchment.
Moiraine: ‘Lews Therin was mine, he is mine, and he will be mine forever. I give him into your charge to keep for me until I come.’ It is signed, Lanfear.
Moiraine turns her gaze on Mat and reminds him that he thought it was done. She tells Mat that he is both ta’veren and the Sounder of the Horn of Valere. She tells him nothing is done for him, yet. They are all now looking at him, Nynaeve sadly, Egwene as though she has never seen him before, and Elayne as if she expects him to change into someone else. Rhuarc looks at Mat with a certain respect though Mat would just as soon have done without it, all things considered.
Aloud, he says that he understands, while he thinks to himself about how soon Thom might be fit to travel. He says that they can count on him while believing it is time to run and thinking maybe Perrin will come with him, too.
From outside, the cries to the Dragon and to al’Thor still rise, unceasing.
“”And it was written that no hand but his should wield the Sword held in the Stone, but he did draw it out, like fire in his hand, and his glory did burn the world. Thus did it begin. Thus do we sing his Rebirth. Thus do we sing the beginning.”
—from Do’in Toldara te, Songs of the Last Age,
Quarto Nine: The Legend of the Dragon.
Composed by Boanne
Songmistress at Taralan, the Fourth Age”
It’s interesting to me that Jordan named his protagonist Lews (Lucifer) in his previous life and also named him “the Dragon” (another common association with “the devil.”) But he also names the Dark One shai’tan – a name which calls to mind for western readers, Satan. Just something to think about.
Thus we reach the end of the third book of The Wheel of Time. It is not *the* ending but it is *an* ending. I’ll have a whole book review in a few days and just focus on this chapter for this post. So what happened?
We finally *mostly* confirm that Ishamael is Ba’alzamon. There seems to be more mystery there to unravel – perhaps later – but the many hints at this reality seem to mostly be confirmed here. Keep in mind that Lanfear kind of confirms the same thing to Min at the end of Book 2, as well, though less explicitly. If you’ve been paying close attention, this is not a shocking revelation. We have known explicitly that Ishamael is free and active for a while. There were zero other candidates to be Ishamael other than Ba’alzamon. If you’re not reading that closely, though, perhaps this is a big surprise.
What other mysteries might be tied to Ishamael? How about Moiraine’s offhanded comment that perhaps he was never fully imprisoned. It’s easy to forget, but remember the prologue, when Ishamael shows up to meet Lews Therin, and then heals him… after he was supposedly imprisoned with the other Forsaken?
The Aiel are the People of the Dragon. Their clain chiefs are marked with Lews Therin’s banner symbol on their arms. They have a secret city in the Waste (Rhuidean.) Those are cool revelations. Moiraine does not know nearly as much as she thinks that she knows.
This chapter is fun from Mat’s perspective. We start out by finding out that he has been trying unsuccessfully to flirt with Aiel women – which is itself funny given the circumstances. Then he starts thinking about his friends and how crazy they all are. If he could judge himself by his own outward actions, he would be constantly talking about how crazy he is, running headlong into danger, etc., but he knows about his own inner dialogue, fear, etc. He always blames other people for putting him in situations where he has to do something dangerous. He does not blame himself for doing it. He cannot hear the “this is crazy and terrifying” inner dialogue from the women, so he seems to assume that they do not have that inner dialogue. That’s actually a very realistic human character trait and funny to read at the same time.
Mat is a really, really well-written rogue.
We still do not know Perrin’s fate. It is safe to assume he lives… but they’re having meetings in the Stone while Perrin is presumably bleeding out somewhere. Moiraine very carefully skirts around this topic.
Lanfear – like book 2 – shows up at the end to tell a pretty woman that Lews Therin is hers. Here she sends a beautiful young ruler as a messenger just to make a point about her standing in the world. I also think it’s worth remembering that Lanfear can apparently make people do things without their over consent. *mind control*
Ending with Lanfear and the revelation about the Aiel kind of sets them up to be the big factors of the next book. We shall see.
Our little post-book blurb is allegedly from The Fourth Age. The evens of this book take place in The Third Age. So… spoilers? Good guys win? Tar Valon eventually changes its name to Taralan?