In which Nynaeve, Elayne, and Min capture a sul’dam and discover she can be leashed, five ride forth into Falme, Mat gets distracted by a naked lady, the Horn and Dagger are recovered, Rand spots Egwene, Rand faces off with a blademaster and kills a man, Mat tests the durability of the Horn, Egwene is rescued and exposes the secret of the sul’dam, Nynaeve pronounces justice, Seanchan and Whitecloak armies muster, and Ingtar reveals a terrible secret and attempts redemption.
The climax of book 2 of The Wheel of Time has arrived! Though maybe it is a fake climax, with the real climax to follow. Or a small climax before the big climax. Any time you can pull off multiple climaxes it is well received, in my experience.
In my last post I talked about Nynaeve acting the leader and brave, even her internal monologue showed her own uncertainty. We see Rand act similarly in these chapters.
Grolm. There was no mistaking those wedge-shaped heads with their three eyes. They can’t be. Perhaps he really was asleep, and this was all a nightmare. Maybe we haven’t even left for Falme, yet.
The others stared at the beasts as they walked past the guarded house.
“What in the name of the Light are they?” Mat asked.
Hurin’s eyes seemed as big as his face. “Lord Rand, they’re . . . Those are . . .”
“It doesn’t matter,” Rand said. After a moment, Hurin nodded.
Rand’s initial reaction is incredulity. But he correctly realizes it doesn’t matter. The grolm are irrelevant to their objective.
Or maybe it does matter. But it isn’t the matter at hand. It is a very interesting fact for us, although not exactly a new one. Rand, Loial, and Hurin traveled to a parallel universe where Artur Hawkwing lost the Battle of Talidar when Trollocs left the Blight in huge numbers to invade his empire. Maybe his descendants returned (a bit earlier this time) and threw the Trollocs back with their grolm and other monsters? The problem with that, though, is that Hawkwing didn’t even begin building the fleet that would sail to the Seanchan continent until two years after the Battle of Talidar. Maybe Jordan was not yet clear on the timeline, or I am working off a bad timeline, or someone from Seanchan (it was heavily populated when Hawkwing’s son got there) makes their way to Randland with grolm, finding a land largely depopulated after the Trollocs turned on themselves (I have my theory about the appearance of unsustainably large armies of Trollocs, but that is a theory for another time).
Jordan returns to the juxtaposition of confident action and unconfident thought with the Supergirls. Nynaeve pronounces harsh judgment with conviction in her voice and doubt in her head. She also soothes Egwene, still playing the role of wisdom. The Great Hunt is the last time she deals with the other girls on unequal terms. The cause for Nynaeve to soothe Egwene taps another Jordan theme. Egwene is upset after lashing out at her damane. In Jordan’s view, causing another person pain does harm to the causer. We should not do bad things because they hurt other people (or not just because), but because they hurt ourselves.
Rand squaring off against a blademaster and surviving to tell the tale caps the immense progress he has made as a warrior. He was always a big, athletic guy and a deadly hand at the bow, but he becomes deadly with blade as well in this book. If not, perhaps, quite to blademaster level. Turak is surely the least impressive blademaster we see. Given what we know of Seanchan society, there may not be a very level playing field when it comes to handing out heron-mark blades. Of course Rand still has to embrace the Void to win, one of the many small steps taken out of begrudging necessity on the road to his declaration as Dragon.
The showstopper here, though, is Ingtar’s revelation and self-sacrifice.
“Rand, when Verin brought us here with the Portal Stone, I—I lived other lives. Sometimes I held the Horn, but I never sounded it. I tried to escape what I’d become, but I never did. Always there was something else required of me, always something worse than the last, until I was. . . . You were ready to give it up to save a friend. Think not of glory. Oh, Light, help me.”
After a time, Ingtar spoke again, firmly. “There has to be a price, Rand. There is always a price. Perhaps I can pay it here.
Rand will wind up paying a price, but better that price than the other.
I need one last post to finish out The Great Hunt and will get it up before the show premieres. Or maybe the show releases at midnight and the last reread post goes up on Friday morning. I don’t do cocaine, so I won’t see the first three episodes of the show until I get off on Friday. But I am planning to cut out a little early, so my recap and reaction post will go up Friday evening or Friday night.
You can find all of my reread posts at The Wheel of Time Reread Index.