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 2: Whirlpools in the Pattern Part 2
In his bedchamber, Rand tosses uneasily on a bed wide enough for five people. He is dreaming and therein, Moiraine is prodding him through a dark forest with a sharp stick to a place where the Amyrlin Seat is waiting for him, seated on a stump, with a rope halter for his neck in her hands. Dim shapes move through the trees stalking and hunting him. Moiraine wears an expression of fear on her face. She prods him hurriedly toward where the Amyrlin is waiting. Rand flees from her stick and she calls out to him that it is too late for that now. He thinks he has to get back.
Rand finds himself in the Waterwood back home. This is where he learned to swim at a child. A voice says to him that they should have a swim now. He turns around to find Min grinning at him. Elayne is next to her and adds that the water looks inviting and that no one will bother them. Rand hesitates and Min kisses him. She steps back and then begins to undress. Rand stares, and then more so when he realizes Elayne’s dress is already on the ground. He asks them what they are doing in a strangled voice. He turns his back on them hastily and finds himself staring at Egwene, with her big dark eyes staring at him sadly. She turns and vanishes into the trees. Rand shouts to her that he can explain and then he runs trying to find her. As he reaches the edge of the trees, Min’s voice stops him, and she urges him not to go. She and Elayne are in the water already.
Elayne: Do you not deserve what you want for a change?
Rand finds himself unable to move. He wakes up.
Rand tells himself that he is not mad, yet, and then he wants to laugh at the fact he added “yet.” He chides himself for his dream about Elayne and Min and thinks about how he and Egwene were all but promised to each other and had been for a long time. As he thinks about how they can never marry, he considers that she might believe she can be an Aes Sedai and marry him anyway, channeling or no channeling. Rand does not know how he might tell her that he no longer wants to marry her and that he now thinks of her like a sister. He believes there will never be a need to tell her and that he can hide behind what he is. Rand thinks to himself that he needs to sleep.
He rolls over and hears small rustlings in the darkness. He is not alone in the room. Callandor lies on the other side of the room, out of his reach. He is not sure whether someone might be in his room to steal Callandor or to kill the Dragon Reborn. Rand channels the One Power and rolls from the bed with a power-wrought sword in his hand. He knows his enemies must not be many or he would have heard more noise. In an instant, every candle in the room bursts alight, by Rand’s doing, reflecting off of the mirrors all over the room. It is now bright enough in the room that he could read from any corner within.
Instead of finding an assassin or thieves, he sees a beautiful young, startled woman. Her thin white silk robe emphasizes more than it hides. The woman is Berelain, ruler of the city-state Mayene. After a wide-eyed start, she make a gracefully curtsey that has the effect of drawing her garments tight.
Berelain: I am unarmed, my Lord Dragon. I submit myself to your search if you doubt me.
Rand, embarrassed, relaxes his stance and lets the sword vanish. He does not know much of Berelain except that she walks through the Stone as though it is her palace in Mayene. She asks questions constantly of everyone. He also knows that her failure to return to Mayene was strange, as she has been held captive in all but name for months. Finally, sounding harsh, he asks her what she is doing here. He asks how she got past the Aiel guard. Her lips curve up and she tells him that they passed her through immediately when she said she had been summoned by the Lord Dragon.
Rand asks her why he would summon her at this time of night and she gives him a look and then laughed from deep in her throat. Rand finally takes in her clinging garb, as if for the first time, and feels himself go red all over again, in disbelief. Berelain then says that perhaps she wishes to talk, and as she says this, she drops the silk robe she is wearing to the floor, revealing an even thinner silk garment beneath it. Rand wonders distantly what is holding the garment up. Rand tells her that he will talk to her tomorrow but finds himself unable to look away from her. Rand finally decides to put an end to this now and says it would be better if she returned to her own bed chamber. He tells her it is too late for talking.
Rand tells her that he is promised to Egwene al’Vere, and Berelain asks if he means the Aes Sedai, before musing openly as to whether she really is an Aes Sedai, stating aloud that she seems to be too young for it. Rand thinks that it is odd that she is discussing Egwene, as though she is a child, despite only being a couple of years older than Egwene herself. Berelain then says diplomatically that she does not aspire to marry the Lord Dragon, adding suggestively that people in Mayene are not so formal. She then asks if she may call him Rand. He gathers himself and tells her firmly that it is time for her to go. She responds to this statement by stepping closer to him. She says in a voice filled with smoky heat that she can feel his eyes on her and that she is no village girl tied to her mother’s apron. As she begins to say she knows what he wants, Rand shouts at her, asking if she thinks he is made of stone. After jumping at his initial roar, she recovers and crosses the floor toward him. She says that he arms look as strong as stone, before adding that if thinks he must be harsh with her then he should be harsh, so long as he holds her. When her fingers touch his face, he channels without thinking, and suddenly she is being pushed backward by a wall of air. The wall pushes her, her discarded robe, a book, and one of Rand’s spare boots almost all the way to the far wall, fencing her in.
Berelain feels along the confines of her invisible prison with trembling hands and wide eyes. Her face is almost as white as her clothes. Rand tells her that for as much has he regrets it, they will not speak again except in public. He adds that it is probably best for her to arrange her journey back to Mayene, as soon as possible, promising her that Tear will not trouble Mayene again.
Her face is now open and honest, all efforts at allure gone. She asks forgiveness and says both that she has handled things badly and that she did not mean to offend. She says in her country a woman may speak her mind freely to a man, and he to her, adding that Rand must know he is a handsome man. She asks him not to send her away, and she says she will beg if necessary. She then bends down to kneel and Rand cannot help but notice that her gown is now in real danger of falling off. Rand gapes at her and only partly at her state of undress, thinking that if the Defenders of the Stone had been as steadfast as this woman, ten thousand Aiel could never have taken the Stone. Rand tells her, diplomatically, that he is flattered, before adding that it would not be fair to her and that he cannot give to her what she deserves. Rand thinks to himself that she can make of that what she will. Outside in the darkness, a cock crows.
Berelain stares past Rand, eyes as big as tea cups, and she makes as if to scream but the sound does not come. Rand spins around, power wrought sword once more in his hands, and sees that across the room, from one of the stand mirrors, one of his reflections steps out of the mirror and onto the carpet. Two more soon join the first. Rand destroys the mirrors in the room before more mirror versions himself can step out, but as it is, he now finds himself facing three copies of himself, each holding a sword.
Rand begins fighting with his reflections, using everything Lan taught him, and benefits from the fact that the reflections are each attempting to fight him alone rather than as a group. Even so, he begins to sustain cuts all over his body from their attacks, as well as gashes on his feet from stepping onto pieces of the shattered mirrors. The reflections have Rand’s skill as well as his face. Rand does not consider calling for help as he knows the thick walls in the room would stifle any noise he might make. He knows whatever is done must be done alone. Rand manages to cut his opponents just as they cut him. It seems to him though that the cuts the others are sustaining do not effect them as the cuts he is receiving are effecting him.
Rand jumps onto the bed and is followed. He suddenly feels a stab wound on his hand. An image of himself, tiny, has stabbed him. He grabs the figure and it writhes in his hand. Suddenly Rand sees small figures of himself stepping out of mirror pieces all over the room. Rand’s hand begins to numb and grow cold as if the small thing is sucking the warmth from his flesh. The heat from saidin flows from Rand, into his hand, and the small thing bursts like a bubble. Rand feels something then flow into him, from the bursting. He raises his head and sees that the small reflections from around the room are all now gone. He suddenly realizes that he needs to do this with the larger reflections that remain.
Rand knows that he must somehow grapple with one of the three reflections, to touch it at least, to absorb it. However, he also believes that he will be killed if he attempts to grapple with them due to the sword they all hold. Rand lets his sword vanish and to his relief, the swords of his three opponents vanish, too. Before he can seize one of them, though, they all three jump at him, the result being that all four Rands drops to the floor, grappling with each other.
As they grapple with Rand, he sees that as the heat leaves his own body, their glassy eyes are taking on life. He knows that if one of those reflections win this fight, that reflection will take on his identity after. Rand pulls on saidin and tries to fill himself with its heat. He finds himself reaching and straining toward one of his attackers. He feels the reflection slide into him. As this happens, the other two reflections burst.
Rand is now certain that one of the Forsaken had tried to kill him. He clings to saidin and painfully pushes himself up. Blood from hundreds of cuts soak him but he crosses the room to hold Callandor. He believes he needs the sa’angreal to face one of the Forsaken.
Abruptly he realizes that he has not heard a sound from Berelain. Having donned her robe again, as if it is steel armor, she flinches when he looks at her. She asks which one he is. Rand tells her gently that he is the only one there is, and that he is the one she was treating as if they were betrothed. He had meant the statement to soothe her, but instead, she puts her face on the floor and apologizes humbly for having grievously offended him. Her breathy voice sounds humbled and frightened. Rand looses the wall of air confining her as she swears under the Light not to bother him again. He tells her there is nothing to forgive and that she may go.
As she leaves, she says she will send the Aiel in to him if he wishes and for one of the Aes Sedai to tend his wounds. Rand thinks to himself that she would rather be in a room with a myrddraal than him, but she is no milksop. Rand tells her that he would appreciate it if she told no one what happened in his room. He tells her that he will do what needs to be done. Berelain leaves quickly and Rand thinks that she might rather be in a room with the Dark One himself. Rand limps to the foot of the bed, lowers himself, and lays Callandor across his knees. He thinks to himself that he will send for someone to heal his wounds in a moment.
But for now he only wanted to sit and remember a shepherd named Rand al’Thor.
The Supergirls are going to be furious with Berelain once they find out what happened here. They will undoubtedly blame Rand first, though. The revelatory bit of this section was actually not what happened while Rand was awake… it was his dream that preceded it. He does not want to be with Egwene anymore. He loves her like a sister. Everything we have seen from her POV on the page – the ter’angreal Accepted testing device especially – reveals that Egwene loves Rand deeply… still. And romantically. Is she aware of future problems for that which are probably insurmountable? Yes. Does she think Elayne’s brothers are attractive? Yes. Is Rand still her true love? Yes… at least as far as what we’ve seen on the page.
One interesting distinction between Rand’s fight, and the fights Mat and Perrin faced, is that while all three of their fights related to their identity, in Rand’s case his attackers were symbolic of a lack. Perrin might hate the axe, but it is a part of him. Mat and luck are clearly linked. Rand does not know who he is and he has not known since early in the series. We see that struggle with identity play out even after the fight ends as he sits and wants to remember a shepherd named Rand al’Thor. He is disassociating here. He is thinking of himself, the past version of himself, as a different person entirely.
This is sad and it does not bode well. Let’s remember that saidin is supposed to make him go insane.
What do I think of Berelain here? I guess this is a swing for the fences kind of moment. If she can successfully seduce the Dragon Reborn, she can procure the ultimate protector for her tiny nation. It’s pretty gross that she has to resort to this, but if that is the only weapon in her arsenal, I guess she hoped to use it. Politically it makes some sense. However… a move like this is risky. What happens if it goes badly? Well, she messed around and found out. Just wait until the Supergirls hear about these details.
Egwene: She came into your room wearing what?!
Nynaeve: ::tugs braid furiously and mutters about finding a switch::
Elayne: I think Andor might declare war against Mayene. I will need to speak with Mother.
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