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 22: Out of the Stone
Rand leads a procession out of the Stone, toward the east. He believes that he is leaving anonymously, despite leading the group, and with the Aiel accompanying him. Despite no announcement before he left, people are beginning to line up along the streets due to the presence of the Aiel and the fact that they seem to be leaving. The crowd is murmuring that there must still be thousands of Aiel in the Stone because these few hundred could not have done so.
Rand riding his new Tairen horse, and believes that onlookers must take him for a rich man in odd company, but nothing more than that. Lan, Moiraine, and Mat are riding some distance behind. He thinks they must take Lan or Moiraine to be the leader of this group. Egwene rides up beside him to ask if he thinks it was right to let the Aiel take things from the Stone. Rand asks if Egwene’s friend Aviendha explained about “the fifth” and Egwene seems aghast at the idea that she would have. By custom, or law, Rand is not sure, when the Aiel conqueor another clan or hold, they carry away one-fifth of the treasure of that place, leaving only food. The Aiel with Rand have only a fraction of a fraction of the Stone’s treasure due to their inability to take more. Rand tells Egwene that he saw Aviendha showing Rhuarc a silver bull and that from the way her sack clinked, it sounded as though she has more silver in there than just the bull.
Rand: Do you disapprove?
Egwene: No… I just hadn’t thought of her… the Tairens would not have stopped at a fifth if the positions had been reversed. They’d have carted away whatever wasn’t part of the stone work and stolen all the carts to haul it. Just because a people’s ways are different doesn’t mean they are wrong, Rand. You should know that.
Rand laugh softly because the conversation reminds him of their childhood because he is ready to explain how and why she is wrong, and her snatching his position awy first and then aiming his own unvoiced explanation at him. Egwene notes how nice his horse is and asks the name. Rand tells her the horse is named Jeade’en, cautiously, because it is the name Jain Farstrider gave his own horse. The name means “true finder” in the Old Tongue, because the animal had always been able to find the way home. Rand thinks it would be nice, though unlikely, for the horse to bring him home one day, but he does not want anyone suspecting the cause for the name. Egwene tells him that it is a fine name, and Rand suspects that she knows the true reason for its name, as she has read The Travels of Jain Farstrider, too. She seems to mull over something pensively, biting her lip.
Abruptly, as Rand thinks to himself that he will have to tell his party something, sometime soon, Egwene brings up Elayne. Rand touches the two letters from Elayne in his pouch, and except for the handwriting, would otherwise not believe they came from the same woman. Egwene asks Rand why he let Elayne go in the way that he did, and Rand answers that he knew Elayne wanted to go to Tanchico, that he would have to tie her up to stop her, and he adds that she will be safer in Tanchico than near himself, or Mat, with the possibility of “bubbles of evil” appearing around them. Rand adds to Egwene that she would be safer away from him, too. Egwene says that this is not what she meant.
Egwene: Of course she wanted to go, and you had no right to stop her, but why didn’t you tell her that you wished she would stay.
Rand: She wanted to go.
Rand is confused when Egwene rolls her eyes, but Moiraine interrupts their conversation before it can continue. She asks if Rand is ready to tell her the next secret. Rand sighs, as he had not heard her, Lan, and Mat closing up on him. Rand thinks that Mat’s face contains doubt, reluctance, and grim determination. Rand asks Mat if he is sure that he really wants to come, and Mat grins, though not a confident one.
Mat: Who could pass up a chance to see bloody Rhuidean?
When Egwene raises an eyebrow at him, Mat apologizes, calling her Aes Sedai, before adding that he has heard her say just as bad and for less cause. The spots of color in her cheeks says to Rand that Mat scored a hit. Moiraine speaks up to say that Rand should be glad Mat is here and adds that he made a grave error letting Perrin return to the Two Rivers and keeping his plans to leave from her. Rand replies that he knows his duty. He says one of them had to go back and Perrin is the one who wanted to.
Rand: You’re willing to let anything go to save the world. I… I do what I have to.
Lan nods approvingly but says nothing. Moiraine asks again about Rand’s next secret so Rand tells her that if they are lucky, he plans to take a Portal Stone to the Waste. Mat immediately starts complaining loudly.
Mat: Oh light! Oh bloody flaming light! Don’t grimace at me, Egwene. Lucky? Isn’t once enough Rand? You almost killed us, remember? No, worse than killed. I would rather ride back to one of those farms and asks for a job slopping pigs for the rest of my life!
Rand gives him permission to go, again. When Rand says he has no reason to come to the Waste, Mat argues that he does, and then splutters his complaints more to himself.
Mat: I have one life to give away, don’t I? Why not like this?
Mat then laughs nervously and wildly to himself and Rand thinks that Mat seems on the verge of going mad. Egwene leans toward Rand and shares that Verin told her some about the journey they all took. Rand tells her simply that he has to. Moiraine also comments that she spoke with Verin about their journey, and she points out to Rand that the prior attempt was only a few people, not hundreds. She asks that if the prior attempt was almost enough to kill him if he can risk the attempt this time with far more people. Moiraine asks if he is even certain that there is a Portal Stone in the Waste.
Rand explains that he read a book on the Aiel which mentioned a peddler who had seen a golden city up in the clouds, as well as a nearby a Portal Stone. Rand goes on saying that nothing else looks like a Portal Stone so he knows that what the peddlar described must be one. He goes on and explains that he studied maps in the Stone and was shown by the chief librarian that there are no fewer than four Portal Stones near Tear. Moiraine doubt this can be accurate. Lan speaks up to say that the Aiel have no cities, let alone cities in clouds, but Rand thinks over how Rhuarc had been silent on all discussion regarding Rhuidean. He also insists that a Portal Stone, perfectly described, can be nothing other than a Portal Stone.
Egwene asks Rand if he intends to risk all of their lives on a chance. She knows from conversations with Aviendha, that the Aiel will not speak about Rhuidean at all and guesses that Rand learned nothing about the place from Rhuarc. Mat still looks sick at the thought of Portal Stones.
They ride on until they arrive at one of the locations that should have a Portal Stone, but Rand does not see anything. Lan reminds quietly that the Aiel have numbers, and sharp eyes, so Rand asks Rhuarc to have them search for a Portal Stone. While the Aiel conduct the search, Rand and Rhuarc discuss the Aiel trip out of the Waste. Rhuarc explains that prophecy led them over the Dragonwall, and that the name that is not spoken led them to the Stone of Tear. He says that the Aiel have held together and avoided bloodshed amongst each other, on this side of the Dragonwall, because they took water oaths in front of the Wise Ones before leaving. Nevertheless, he admits that holding to those oaths is a strain. He adds that it is helpful to be traveling to Rhuidean because none of the Aiel are permitted to shed the blood of another Aiel traveling to or from Rhuidean.
Rhuarc: It may be that soon no one of us will shed another’s blood.
Rand cannot tell whether he finds the prospect pleasing. Aviendha finds the Portal Stone and Rand leads the group to it. Rand approaches Aviendha and asks why she does not like him.
Aviendha: Like you? You may be He Who Comes With the Dawn, a man of destiny. Who can like or dislike such? Besides, you walk free, a Wetlander despite your face. You are going to Rhuidean for honor while I…
She changes the subject to tell Rand he has treated Elayne badly. She says that she would not care, except that Elayne is a near sister to Egwene, who is her friend. She adds that Egwene likes Rand still, so for her sake, she promises to try. Rand muses that sometimes it seems women all belong to a guild, the way that craftsmen in cities do.
Put a foot wrong with one, and the next ten you met knew of it and disapproved.
On the Portal Stone Rand looks at the symbols. Rhuarc puts a hand on his shoulder and reluctantly points out two symbols that are used for Rhuidean in old writings. Rand asks if the clan chief has seen a column like this one before and Rhuarc very reluctantly admits that there is a similar stone at Chaendaer which is near Rhuidean.
Rand looks at the two symbols, knowing that only one of them will take him to Rhuidean. Mat approaches and suggests that he flip a coin to choose since he is lucky sometimes. Egwene protests the plan, calling it ridiculous, but Moiraine seems to approve. Rand places a hand on one of the symbols and correctly guesses which one Mat’s coin picked. When asked how he did that, Rand only says that it had to work for him sooner or later.
Rand digs into his pouch and pulls out a small hard object, a male angreal he found in the Great Holding of the Stone of Tear. Rand instructs everyone to gather up close to him. He tells Rhuarc that they are going to Rhuidean right now. Moiraine steps closer to Rand and asks him what he is holding, so he explains what it is and where he found it. Egwene asks if he is certain that the angreal is strong enough, and she explains how for women, not all angreal have the same strength. Rand lies that of course he is certain, but he does think it will do.
Moiraine: You leave Callandor behind and bring this. You seem to have considerable knowledge of using Portal Stones, more than I would have thought.
Rand: Verin told me a good bit.
Rand thinks that Verin had told him a lot, but Lanfear, disguised as Selene, had told him more. Rand thinks that Moiraine is weighing him on scales in her mind, but all that she tells him is to take care because a ta’veren as strong as he is can rip the Age Lace for all of time. Rand reaches out for the True Source, the One Power fills him, and the world winks out of existence.
I continue to bring up my belief that Egwene did not mean it when she told Rand she had no romantic feelings for him anymore (even though Rand *did* mean it when he said the same to her.) It made no sense, for her, at the time she said it, and Jordan assiduously has avoided any peaks into Egwene’s head since then, with respect to this topic. I have *still* seen nothing to dissuade me from believing that my theory here is correct. I definitely read a lot of self-interest into Egwene’s questions of Rand, regarding Elayne (i.e. maybe she wants to know how seriously Rand feels about the Daughter-Heir.) She’s pensive and bites her lip when she brings it up. She banters with Rand over the Aiel “fifth” like they bantered when they *were* in a romantic relationship. She rides next to him with their knees touching. Moiraine still thinks she likes Rand – and Moiraine has an extremely keen eye.
Egwene might have felt angry at Rand (and/or Elayne) for their public kissing-fest in the Stone. Finding out that she and Rand are going “alone” together to the Waste, that the Pattern made it happened because neither of them planned it, combined with Rand’s possible indifference to Elayne leaving… well, it might feel like the world is righting itself for her. This is the first time the Pattern has let Egwene travel with Rand since Book 1. Just keep an eye on this is all I’m saying. Rand is named after King Arthur “al’Thor” and Egwene al’Vere is Guinivere.
Other than my pet theory regarding Egwene, my favorite part of this chapter was Mat’s total mental freakout over going through the Portal Stones again. Based on his reaction the last time, I assume he betrayed Rand and did/experienced other horrible things, too. Moiraine definitely picked up on the fact that one of Mat’s answers in the doorway was that he had to go to Rhuidean. She also is likely puzzling over his comment that he has one life to throw away. Knowing Mat got an answer also means she now knows he spoke the Old Tongue fluently with the snake people. She also now knows – probably because she decided to start paying attention to him more seriously – that there is more than simply luck at play with Mat. I’m sure she really is angry at herself, with the benefit of hindsight, over disregarding Mat and Perrin.
The other subtle but noteworthy thing from this chapter was Rand’s interaction with Aviendha. Even for an Aiel, her reasons for not liking Rand make no sense and represent the thinnest of thin reeds upon which to cling. “You treated Elayne badly, and Egwene is my friend, and she is Elayne’s friend, therefore I do not like you, but for Egwene’s sake I will try, because she is trying.” That’s just rambling nonsense… so that must mean she *likes* Rand but does not want to admit it to herself and especially does not want to admit it to Rand. Min did say there would be three women.