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: Rhuidean
NOTE: The following chapter summary comes from wot.fandom.com:
Point of view: Rand al’Thor
Rand al’Thor, the Car’a’carn and the Dragon Reborn is observing the partly ruined and abandoned city of Rhuidean from atop a tower, while Jasin Natael plays music in the room behind him. He observes Moiraine, who is overseeing workmen loading ter’angreal onto wagons for transport out of the Waste. Lan rescues a workman who almost falls through the Twisted redstone doorframe. Rhuidean is changing from the empty, forbidden city to one being settled by some of the Aiel, now that there is enough water nearby.
Rand is meeting with six clan chiefs that have accepted him as the Car’a’carn, the chief of chiefs. Six others have not arrived, yet, or have not accepted him, yet. They are discussing the Aiel that have run away or thrown down their spears, because they can not accept that the Aiel were once committed to non-violence instead of the deadly warriors they are now. Rand receives assurances that the other clans will eventually join him―all except the Shaido.
Moiraine and Egwene arrive at his room so Rand excuses the chiefs to their duties. Moiraine is almost ready to have the wagons leave for Tar Valon. Moiraine shows Rand that one of the seals she carries can be damaged by a knife even though it is made of indestructible Cuendillar. After Moiraine leaves, Egwene berates Rand for his rudeness. Rand remembers Ilyena being angry with him, then realizes he has no idea who Ilyena is, but he can see her face in his mind. As Egwene beings to leave she turns and tells Rand that Elayne loves him.
This chapter is long and contains a LOT of recapping of earlier events. Way back in the olden days of the late 20th century, it was customary to write in this way – just in case a reader had not recently re-read the entire series. There’s less need for this now, though, with the advent of the internet and handy summary websites.
The Aiel are split. Rand has six clans behind him, several are still undecided, and the Shaido are swelling in numbers due to the fact that many Aiel from other clans are joining them. The Aiel history lesson that Rand made public in the last book did not go over well with many of them, and they have joined the Shaido.
Rand admits in this chapter that he has begun using words in conversation without knowing their origin. Here he refers to Moiraine as “little Sister” but does not know why. Later he mentions a place from the Age of Legends offhandedly. Finally, he thinks – while Egwene is berating him – that Ilyena would not have done that and he can remember Ilyena’s face, too. Rand has had implied knowledge from his past life, previously, but this is by far the most overt example of that.
There are actually a lot of examples of people who claim to remember things or people from their past life. I suppose it would be a bigger deal to remember being the most infamous person in history. It might be cool, though, to offhandedly make references to ancient events or faraway places.
Another big revelation is that the Dark One’s seals are becoming fragile. Moiraine has one of them, which she brought to the Waste from Tear, and she found another in Rhuidean. Despite knowing that three of the Seals had already been broken, everyone present is terrified. And that makes sense. It’s hard to quantify in the real world what “the Dark One” getting free would represent, but it’s about the worst thing imaginable. The world is hanging a frayed rope… or rather by fragile pottery. There’s a sense that they’d all be as good as dead if the seals finish breaking.
Moiraine tries to guide Rand again in this chapter. She again tries to bully and cajole him into accepting her leadership. Again it fails. It’s bordering on tiresome at how bad she is in this role. When has this tactic ever worked with him? What’s worse is that she seems to doggedly refuse to acknowledge that Rand is innately clever. “Good job, Rand, getting arguably the world’s strongest fighting force behind you.” She does succeed in irritating him enough to reveal some of his plans. She rejects his plans, of course, and from my humble position as the reader, I think her objections are wrong.
I have a deep appreciation for the Egwene character, but I think she’s misguided, too. I firmly believe that her preference would be to continue on as Rand’s girlfriend. However, she sacrificed their relationship for what she thought was Rand’s own good. She has a pattern of making unilateral decisions “for Rand’s own good” (without giving him the respect of honestly talking it out with him) and her solo decisions often don’t work out. I won’t get into all the evidence of her not really meaning it, when she broke up with him, but there’s quite a bit of it in the previous book. In this chapter, she sees in his eyes that something bothered him, she dropped all fake Aes Sedai pretense, and she wanted to care for him. If you look for it, with Egwene, nearly all of her decisions are rooted in a desire to care for others. She’s wildly self-sacrificing in that respect. Her flaw is that she doesn’t always respect the agency of others to make good decisions caring for themselves. Actually, Rand has that same flaw. Two Rivers folk are deeply caring and terrible at communicating. Their whole society is built on everyone doing what’s best for their neighbors without letting the neighbor give input.
Egwene reversed course on the “you’re not good enough for Elayne” diatribe after seeing that something was bothering him, and told him positive news regarding Elayne. I think she instinctively wants to drive that wedge there, but not if it meant hurting Rand. This might be a turning point moment for her actually letting Rand go. We’ll see.