Sunday 12 August 2012

The Wheel of Time So Far: Part 6 - The Great Hunt

Previous instalments of the series:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.

Spoilers for those who are unfamiliar with the series. Note that this summary is designed to help people who have already read the books get back up to speed before the release of the final volume in January. First-timers are advised to read the books directly, as in some cases these summaries may spoil things that are not revealed in the books until much later.

Rand al'Thor pursues the Horn of Valere across thousands of miles and entirely different worlds.

Follow the break for the summary:

The Great Hunt

A month has passed since the confrontation at the Eye of the World and Rand and his companions remain at Fal Dara. Moiraine has disappeared off on an errand, much to Rand’s consternation, but to take his mind of his problem Lan has been teaching him the ways of the blade, finding him a quick and worthy student. Rand continues to claim that the Dark One is dead, but upon uttering its true name is struck down by feelings of terror and nausea. Then a procession emerges from the nearby forest; studying the banners, Lan tells Rand that the Amyrlin Seat herself has come to Fal Dara.

Rand panics, thinking the Amyrlin has come to have him gentled, and attempts to flee the keep, only to find all the exits blocked by order of Lord Agelmar. He stumbles across Mat, Perrin and Loial gambling, but rudely rejects their help for fear of involving them in his problems. Eventually Nynaeve and Egwene agree to hide him in the women’s quarters of the fortress. 

The Amyrlin, Siuan Sanche, has come with a dozen or so other Aes Sedai and two of these, Anaiya and Liandrin, update Moiraine on the latest news in the world as she is escorted to see the Amyrlin. The false Dragon Logain Ablar has been tried, sentenced and gentled in Tar Valon, where he will remain for the rest of his life as an example to those who dare defy Aes Sedai and international law. Elayne, Gawyn and Galad have arrived in Tar Valon and commenced their respective studies. Unexpectedly Elaida, Morgase’s Aes Sedai advisor, accompanied Elayne to the White Tower and has taken a personal interest in her tuition. The dissent in Caemlyn over Andor’s alliance with Tar Valon has dissipated somewhat, since the Whitecloaks under Lord Captain Eamon Valda have followed Elayne to Tar Valon and made camp near one of the bridges. Still, this is no good time for Morgase to be without Aes Sedai counsel, for news has come that no less than three new false Dragons have appeared! Two of them, who have declared themselves in Murandy and Tear, cannot channel (and the one in Murandy is already rumoured to be in chains), but the third, Mazrim Taim in Saldaea, can and is wrecking havoc amongst the countryside. Sisters have already been dispatched to deal with him. The Sea Folk, meanwhile, have begun flying from port to port in some urgency, seeking word of the coming of the Coramoor, their Chosen One of legend. There have also been indications of the Aiel stirring again, though not in force. Finally, vague rumour has come to Tar Valon of war and strife on Toman Head and possibly Almoth Plain as well, though the rumours are confused, some speaking of battles between Arad Doman and Tarabon and others claiming the fighting is against Shadowspawn or monsters of some kind.
 Lord Captain Geofram Bornhald of the Children of the Light.

Almost three thousand miles to the south-west a full, 2,000-man legion of the Children of the Light reaches the village of Alcruna in Tarabon, led by Lord Captain Geofram Bornhald. Bornhald has set a gruelling pace, partially exasperated by the loss of two Darkfriend prisoners near Caemlyn and also by an odd interview with Lord Captain Commander Pedron Niall in Amador. Niall ordered Bornhald to take a full legion to Almoth Plain and rendezvous with a detachment of the Hand of the Light under Lord Inquisitor Jaichim Carridin. The two forces would then seize Almoth Plain and bring it into the Light. Once fully secured, the ancient nation of Almoth would be born again and between them, Almoth and Amadicia could surround Tarabon and force it to surrender also. Bornhald has his doubts about the plan, and is loath to work with the Questioners who, with their traditional subtlety, have wiped out virtually the whole population of Alcruna because they protested at their arrival. He is also curious with reports of fighting on Almoth Plain between Tarabon and Arad Doman, and also of fighting and chaos on Toman Head. He receives his orders to carry on north to Almoth Plain and bring the land into the Light.
Padan Fain's escape from Fal Dara triggers a determined pursuit.

In Fal Dara Liandrin, Aes Sedai of the Red Ajah, confronts the Lady Amalisa Jagad, Agelmar’s sister, and blackmails her into giving her information about Rand, Mat and Perrin. Meanwhile, Rand is awoken by sounds of battle and emerges to find Shadowspawn fighting in the keep! He fights his way to the cells, where Egwene said she was going to talk to Padan Fain. To Rand’s horror both Egwene and Mat have been attacked, though they both still live. The worst news is that Padan Fain has escaped and taken Mat’s dagger, the one from Shadar Logoth, with him. Without the dagger nearby, he will eventually wither and die. It also seems that Fain somehow managed to steal the chest containing the Horn of Valere, possibly with inside help; certainly the town gates were opened from within. Rand is sickened to see a message scrawled on the wall in blood. Most of it is in Trolloc, but part of it is in the common tongue: We will meet again on Toman Head. It is never over, al’Thor. Rand scrubs the message with his name in it away, but it is interrupted by Liandrin, who attempts to use the Power to make him reveal what he was doing. Moiraine intervenes and prevents any further hostility. Mat and Egwene are taken away to be Healed whilst two sisters of the Brown Ajah, Verin Mathwin and Serafelle, set about translating the Trolloc script on the wall.

Later Verin meets with Moiraine and Siuan and reveals that the Trollocs inscribed one of the little-known Prophecies of the Shadow upon the wall. This verse claims that the Daughter of Night is once again free to trouble the world. Before the War of the Shadow that name was given to the Forsaken Lanfear, indicating that she might be free again, much to Moiraine’s anger. The verse also mentions two men, Luc and Isam. Verin thinks it is an obscure reference to Lord Luc Mantear, the Andoran First Prince of the Sword who vanished into the Great Blight twenty-seven years ago and set in motion the chain of events leading to his sister Tigraine’s disappearance, his mother Modrellein’s death and the Andoran Succession Wars that saw Morgase take the throne. She doesn’t know who Isam is, but Moiraine does: the son of the headstrong Lain Mandragoran and his treacherous wife Breyan, who between them set in motion the fall of the Kingdom of Malkier. Isam is also supposed to be dead, killed with his mother during the Trolloc invasion of the kingdom.

Another curious verse mentions the watchers of Toman Head and the seed of the hammer burning the ancient tree. The only watchers Verin knows of in relation to Toman Head are the Watchers Over the Waves, the society set up by Artur Hawkwing himself to relay messages from the army he sent across the Aryth Ocean to conquer new territories there. The ‘Hammer’ is one of a thousand titles attributed to Artur Hawkwing but, more specifically, it was a more popular nickname for his son Luthair Paendrag Mondair, who allegedly led the invasion fleet into the west. The ‘ancient tree’ is possibly the Tree of Life, which Arad Doman and Tarabon both claim descent from. The fallen kingdom of Almoth also claimed to possess a living sapling of the Tree.

Verin also reveals a verse about ‘the man who can channel’. Logical deduction makes this one of the three young men travelling with Moiraine. And, of course, the only reason why a man who can channel must be kept secret from the rest of the Aes Sedai is that he is the one true Dragon Reborn.

Rand is summoned before the Amyrlin. Moiraine and Verin are there also. The Amyrlin tells Rand about the Battle of the Shining Walls, of how Gitara Moroso Foresaw the Dragon’s Rebirth, and of how an infant child was born on the slopes of Dragonmount, where Lews Therin Telamon died three and a half millennia ago. Tam al’Thor, then serving as Second Captain of the Illianer Companions, took the child back to the Two Rivers to raise as his own, but it took more than nineteen years of painstaking backtracking and detective work for Moiraine and Lan to find him. Rand refuses to believe that he is the Dragon Reborn, thinking that the White Tower wishes to use him as a false Dragon for its own nefarious purposes. The Amyrlin and Moiraine agree to let him go free for the time being, to allow him to discover how to use the Power by himself. They know that if they stop him, they risk interfering with prophecy and risk the destruction of the world in the Last Battle against the Shadow. Lord Ingtar Shinowa, one of Agelmar’s best men, is leading a force to pursue the Darkfriends and recover the Horn of Valere. Mat, Perrin and Loial have already volunteered to join them and Rand agrees to go as well. This will prove to be an interesting test of his resourcefulness. So as not to draw attention to Rand, the Amyrlin will hold interviews with all of his companions as well.

They depart the next day. Moiraine, Lan, Nynaeve and Egwene will journey to Tar Valon along with the Amyrlin and her party, whilst Ingtar will lead twenty Shienaran heavy cavalry (chief amongst whom are the warriors Uno, Ragan and Masema Dagar) plus Rand, Mat, Perrin and Loial in pursuit of Padan Fain and his rescuers. Trouble erupts before they even depart; someone fires an arrow at Rand, missing him and almost hitting the Amyrlin. Ingtar presses on, anxious to recover the Horn of Valere. Outside the fortress they meet a man called Hurin, who is to be their guide on the dangerous journey. Hurin is a ‘sniffer’, able to sense death, destruction and evil almost as if he could smell it. It is unrelated to the One Power, and is again a lost talent that is slowly resurfacing amongst the general human populace, like Min’s Viewings and Perrin’s bond with wolves. Hurin, much to his own puzzlement, finds the trail leading south, not north towards the Blight as expected. The party sets off on the pursuit, the real ‘Great Hunt of the Horn’ as they call it.

More than two thousand miles to the south, in the port city of Illian, Captain Bayle Domon has finally guided his ship, the Spray to a safe harbour after weeks of pursuit by Darkfriends and Shadowspawn (The Eye of the World). However, in the weeks he has spent docked he has been followed, beaten and several times almost killed by Darkfriends and ruffians. When offered a commission that will remove him from the city he accepts. The mission is to go east to the remote city-state of Mayene and pick up an important passenger to be conveyed to a meeting with the Council of Nine in Illian. Domon smells a rat and once back on board he opens a letter he was given to find the contents denouncing him and his crew as Darkfriends, signed by none other that Galldrian sue Riatin Rie (Galldrian of House Riatin), King of Cairhien. Domon orders the Spray to sail west, first to Ebou Dar and then beyond to Tarabon and the Aryth Ocean coast.

Ingtar leads his men south to the River Erinin. Along the way Rand is shocked to discover the Banner of the Light recovered from the Eye of the World hidden in his sandbags. When Perrin and Mat discover him with it, he is forced to confess that he can channel. Despite their unease, they agree to remain his friends. The pursuit continues, but they cannot make up the distance, and in fact might be losing ground. One night they stop near a ruined stone dais and Rand, Hurin and Loial bed down on the stone itself. During the night a strange woman appears...

The Amyrlin’s party reaches the town of Medo on the River Mora, where their boats are docked. Along the way Nynaeve and Egwene are given their first lessons in becoming Aes Sedai. At Medo Egwene has an extremely vivid dream about Rand in danger and tells Anaiya about it. Anaiya tells Egwene that there used to be Aes Sedai whose dreams foretold and prophesied the future, but no Dreamer has existed in the White Tower for more than 400 years. If Egwene is a Dreamer than it will be a great triumph for the Tower. Anaiya also tells Egwene that the Amyrlin is vexed by a series of unexpected disappearances: Lan and Moiraine have vanished westwards into Arafel, whilst Verin has disappeared south and east towards the southern-most arm of the River Erinin. Despite this the Amyrlin orders the boats to set sail for Tar Valon.

Rand awakens to find everything changed. The world has become strangely diffuse and insubstantial, and apart from Hurin and Loial everyone else has vanished. The stone dais they fell asleep upon has been remade whole, with a tall, carved stone rising from it. Loial believes the stone to be a Portal Stone, a device predating the Age of Legends. Portal Stones connect our world to parallel realities, worlds formed by alternate weavings of the Wheel of Time but left incomplete when it weaved the Pattern of our world instead. According to Loial’s research, Portal Stones can only be triggered by use of the One Power. Despite Rand’s efforts, he cannot use the Power to activate the Stone. Hurin then speaks up, telling them that he can still sense the trail of Fain and the Darkfriends. Either they are here in this world, or he can sense their evil even across the dimensions. After some considerate, Rand and his companions set off in pursuit.

Back in our world Ingtar is vexed by Rand, Hurin and Loial’s disappearance. Perrin secretly tells Ingtar about his Wolfbrother abilities and Ingtar agrees to let Perrin lead them by having the local wolves scout out the area. Before too long another rider catches up with them: Verin Mathwin. Verin is disturbed by news of Rand’s disappearance, and sceptical about Perrin’s claims that he can also sniff out the Darkfriends, but nevertheless joins their party.

In the other world Rand and his friends continue southwards, somehow covering hundreds of miles in just a couple of days. One night Rand has a dream in which Ba’alzamon, alive and well, reappears to taunt him. After awakening from the dream, Rand finds one of the herons on his father’s sword emblazoned on his hand. After a few more days they come to a huge monument reaching up to the sky, and Rand remembers Ingtar telling him about the Field of Talidar, where Artur Hawkwing won a massive victory over the Trollocs more than a millennium ago. In our world the monument to the victory was torn down, but in this world it seems to remain. However, when they reach the monument they find instead a raven crowning the top instead of a hawk. Loial realises that in this world the Trollocs must have won the Battle of Talidar and gone on to conquer all of the West. With nothing else to do, they turned on each other and wiped themselves out. This explains the emptiness of the lands.

They resume their southward trek and soon the mountains of Kinslayer’s Dagger come into view. But then they discover a young woman being threatened by strange three-eyed, giant toad-like creatures. Rand kills the creatures and the woman expresses her gratitude. She is called Selene and is a Cairhienin noblewoman, apparently from Rand’s world. She also fell into this dimension via a Portal Stone (indicating she can channel and is unaware of it). Rand agrees to let her travel with them. At length they reach Kinslayer’s Dagger and another Portal Stone. Another large group of three-eyed creatures - Selene calls them grolm - appear and attack. Rand manages to use the Power to activate the Stone and return them to their homeworld. Here they discover that they are several days ahead of Fain’s party. Rand resolves to wait for him and retake the Horn.

Egwene and Nynaeve arrive with the rest of the Aes Sedai at Tar Valon and are greeted by Sheriam Bayanar of the Blue Ajah, also the Mistress of Novices at the White Tower. She enrols Egwene in the novice book and sends Nynaeve to take the Testing, by which means she will be raised to the rank of Accepted. Nynaeve’s strong powers and her status as a wilder means that it is unnecessary to teach her the finer points of control and channelling that most novices go through.

Back in Kinslayer’s Dagger, Rand and Loial steal into Padan Fain’s camp when he and his companions reach the foothills of the mountains. Seizing the chest containing the Horn and Mat’s dagger, they make good their getaway, passing through the mountains in just a few days and descending the other side into Cairhien. At the northern town of Tremonsien they witness an immense statue being excavated, the statue of a huge man bearing a crystal ball. Rand recalls hearing about a giant statue with a crystal ball from Bayle Domon, but that statue was buried on the Sea Folk island of Tremalking, thousands of miles away. Rand suddenly feels the One Power swirling around the crystal ball and through him, as if the crystal was somehow amplifying the Power to truly staggering levels. Before it overwhelms him, Hurin and Loial pull him back. In the village a Cairhienin military captain, Aldrin Caldevwin, mistakes Rand for an Andoran lord and gives him and his companions a full escort to the capital. Rand reluctantly accepts. In their room, Hurin and Loial tell Rand about Daes Dae’mar, the Game of Houses. The Game details the unfeasibly complex relationship between the hundreds (if not thousands) of noble Houses that rule the fourteen nations of the West. The ‘Game’ describes the politics and manoeuvring for power and advantage. The Game is not played at all in the Borderlands and only at low level elsewhere, but in Cairhien they have mastered it fully. Every nuance and every word is believed to pertain to the Game somehow. Even the Aiel War barely interrupted it. Hurin and Loial caution Rand that Caldevwin and most other Cairhienin will think the presence of an ‘Andoran lord’ in Cairhien at this time to be part of the Game. The next morning Selene has vanished, leaving a note that she will see Rand again in the city of Cairhien.

Far away, in the village of Tifan’s Well near Arafel’s western border with Kandor, Moiraine and Lan have arrived at the residence of Vandene and Adeleas of the Green and Brown Ajahs respectively, real sisters as well as sister Aes Sedai. For the last few decades they have closeted themselves away here, researching their History of the Third Age, an ambitious attempt to cover the history of the Age of Prophecy. Theirs is probably the biggest private library in all of the West. Moiraine picks Vandene’s brains on various parts of the Prophecies of the Dragon and other matters. She learns with interest that though the Horn of Valere is Foretold to be at the Last Battle, it is not mentioned in the Prophecies and is not linked to the Dragon Reborn anywhere. Another part of the Prophecies claims that the Dragon Reborn will first declare himself ‘above the watchers’. Vandene thinks this is a reference to the Watchers Over the Waves, the society founded by Artur Hawkwing at Falme to watch out for word coming from the armies he sent across the Aryth Ocean shortly before his death. ‘Above’ presumably means ‘north of’, in Arad Doman or Saldaea. After Vandene leaves, Moiraine goes out into the garden and is almost immediately attacked by a Draghkar. Lan and Vandene’s Warder, Jaem, arrive in time to kill the beast before it can slay Moiraine. Examining the corpse, the Aes Sedai discover that it was warded with the One Power so that neither the Aes Sedai or Warder natural ability to detect Shadowspawn could feel its presence. That can only mean one thing: after two thousand years in the shadows, the Black Ajah is once again preparing to make its presence felt. Moiraine and Lan ride immediately into the west.

At the White Tower Nynaeve successfully undergoes the Testing to become an Accepted. The ordeal involves passing through a ter’angreal (a device that uses the One Power to create a specific effect, as opposed to angreal and sa’angreal, which increase the amount of the Power someone can channel) composed of three archways. Nynaeve will face her past, her present and her future. Each time she must resist the urge to stay and return to the White Tower. It is impossible to know if what happens in the ter’angreal is real or not, but some have entered never to return. At the end of the test, Nynaeve is formally inducted into the ranks of the Accepted.

Meanwhile, Egwene is taken to her room and discovers that she is to share her room with Elayne Trakand, the Daughter-Heir of Andor and now a novice Aes Sedai. They become fast friends and Elayne introduces Egwene to Gawyn and Galad, who are training in the art of combat with the Warders. She also meets Min, who has come to Tar Valon from Baerlon at Moiraine’s insistence to have her uncanny ability to see into the future examined. Elaida, formerly Queen Morgase’s advisor, confronts them and takes a peculiar interest in Rand.

Rand himself, meanwhile, reaches the city of Cairhien with Hurin and Loial and takes rooms at an inn. He sets out to explore the city and is startled to bump into none other than Thom Merrilin! Thom reveals that he escaped certain death at Whitebridge because the Myrddraal was more interested in pursuing Rand and Mat than in dispatching an old man. Despite that, the Myrddraal still gave him a lame leg and not even an Aes Sedai Healing can help him now. After collecting Loial so he can meet the infamous Thom Merrilin (Rand has told the Ogier of their past adventures), Rand returns Thom’s instruments (Thom lets him keep the flute) and asks for his help, revealing that they have the Horn of Valere itself. Thom is tempted, but has made a new life here in Cairhien with his new apprentice and lover, Dena, who has ambitions to be the first female gleeman, but Thom plans to instead train her to be Court-Bard at the Sun Palace. Thom wonders what the Aes Sedai interest in Rand is and notices the heron marks on his sword, scabbard and the ones that, for some reason, Moiraine ordered stitched onto his new clothes. Thom recalls an ancient verse of the Prophecies, that the Dragon Reborn would be marked by two herons and two Dragons to mark his coming. Hiding the heron-mark on his hand, Rand points out that there are five herons on his clothes altogether.

Rand and Loial take their leave of Thom, but discover that Trollocs have infiltrated the city disguised as carnival puppets. The Trollocs expertly herd Rand and Loial out of the city, forcing them to take refuge in the local Chapter House of the Guild of Illuminators. Selene reappears to help them, but just as mysteriously vanishes. Rand and Loial set off the fireworks in the Chapter House to create a distraction and successfully escape back to the city, though the Chapter House burns to the ground behind them.

Ingtar and the others have finally reached Kinslayer’s Dagger and after several days crossing the pass are startled to encounter an Aiel warrior, Urien of the Two Spires sept of the Reyn Aiel. Urien would normally give battle to Shienarans, but has been ordered to restrain himself by his clan chief and also by the ‘Wise Ones’ of his clan. Urien initially mistakes Verin for a Wise One, since she shares the same look. Verin, who knows little of the Aiel, becomes excited at the prospect of learning more about the secretive warrior people, but is only able to extract a little more information, namely that Aiel Wise Ones and clan chiefs are chosen at a place called Rhuidean, in the lands of the Jenn Aiel. He and others like him have been sent west of the Dragonwall (the Spine of the World) to look for signs of the coming of the Car’a’carn, the Chief of Chiefs, also called He Who Comes With the Dawn. The Car’a’carn’s coming has been foreseen by the Wise Ones; he will unite the Aiel into one nation again, but shatter them again in the war that is to come. Yet only under his leadership will a remnant of a remnant of the Aiel survive the coming darkness and survive to see a new Age. When Ingtar tells him they have no word of the Car’a’carn, Urien departs to seek tidings elsewhere. Perrin and Mat privately guess that Rand might be the Car’a’carn.

Meanwhile, fire and chaos is roaring across Almoth Plain. Tarabon and Arad Doman have both sent armies against an unknown enemy which has appeared on Toman Head and both have been defeated. Both have also started fighting one another. The chaos has been accelerated by orders from Lord Inquisitor Jaichim Carridin that the Whitecloaks fighting in northern Almoth don Taraboner uniforms and those in the south wear Domani garb, making the two kingdoms think the other is preparing to invade. Lord Captain Geofram Bornhald is angered at this subterfuge and even more angered at Carridin’s insistence on slaughtering those who might be Darkfriends without any proof. Having had enough of this, he orders the legion to re-don their true uniforms and move onto Toman Head to regroup. Their new target is Falme, and the Darkfriends who hold it.

Out in the Aryth Ocean Captain Bayle Domon’s ship, the Spray, is retreating southwards. After picking up several good cargo runs along Tarabon’s north-western coast, he headed north to Toman Head but then came across news of the strangers, who call themselves the Seanchan. The Seanchan have apparently visited every town on the peninsula and forced the inhabitants to swear oaths they forsook a thousand years ago, oaths to obey, wait and serve something called the Corenne. The Seanchan apparently use monsters and Aes Sedai in battle. Disturbed by these reports - and there are far too many for them all to be lies - Domon decides to return to Tanchico. However, as he heads south a Seanchan warship appears and bears down on his vessel. Domon escapes by taking the Spray into shallow waters, but then whirlpools form and threaten to overturn the ship. Faced with no option Domon surrenders. The Seanchan female captain, Egeanin, boards his vessel with two women linked together by a silver leash. Domon learns, with horror, that the Seanchan enslave those who can channel with a device called an a’dam, which controls their channelling ability. Egeanin commands him to take the Spray to Falme. There Domon is startled to see more than 200 Seanchan warships crowding the harbour. The Spray is searched from top to bottom whilst Domon and his crew watch, incredulous, as flying creatures bear mounted warriors on patrol above the town, whilst three-eyed reptiles and other exotic beasts march through the streets with their handlers. Then Egeanin takes Domon before the High Lord Turak of House Aladon, commander of the Hailene or ‘Forerunners’ in the name of the Empress. Turak is a collector of artifacts from the Age of Legends and has confiscated Domon’s own collection. Amongst the collection he has found a disk made of cuendillar and marked with the ancient seal of the Aes Sedai from the Age of Legends. Turak has an identical disk and adds the second to his collection. He refuses to let Domon leave, since he is obviously a resourceful and skilled sailor, instead pressing him into service with the Seanchan fleet as a courier. Domon can also amuse Turak with tales of his travels across and around this continent.

In Cairhien Rand finds that his presence is causing something of a stir among the noble Houses, who, as Hurin and Loial predicted, think that he is deeply involved in the Game of Houses. He has received invitations to parties and balls by almost all the noble Houses, and burned the letters in the inn’s common room in response. However, he then receives two new invitations: one from King Galldrian Riatin himself, and the other from Lord Barthanes Damodred, High Seat of the rival House for the throne. Rand doesn’t burn them, instead giving him time to think on how to get out of the city. Unless Ingtar comes within the next few days, the Cairhienin will grow impatient and possibly move to take him prisoner to find out what his agenda is. Rand plans to flee long before then. The problem is how to escape without attracting the attention of the Cairhienin and/or Padan Fain.

Rand and Loial go to the city gates as they have done every day since arriving, to ask for word of Ingtar and their companions, and also the Lady Selene. Rand spots Captain Caldevwin at the gatehouse, but the officer on duty denies him being there. Rand returns to the inn in a more paranoid mood then before, but to his horror finds the inn ablaze! Rand successfully gets to his room and rescues Hurin and most of their belongings, but the chest containing the Horn of Valere and Mat’s dagger is gone. Outside the inn Rand is stunned to see Ingtar, Verin and the rest arriving. Verin quickly Heals Rand and Hurin of their injuries and they repair to a nearby inn to catch up on their news. Hurin and Perrin are both despatched on the trail of the Darkfriends and they follow it to Lord Barthanes’ manor! Verin suggests they make use of Rand’s invitation to get into the house and search around for the Darkfriends. Uno and the Shienaran soldiers can watch the manor until then to make sure Fain doesn’t escape.

The next day the party is held at Barthanes’ manor and Rand, Ingtar, Verin and Loial gain entry as Barthanes’ guests, whilst Hurin, Mat and Perrin get in as serving men. In the dining hall Rand finds himself accosted by several Cairhienin noblewomen, including the formidable Breane Taborwin, but is extricated by Thom Merrilin, who is performing. Thom is worried that Rand is once again embroiled in Aes Sedai plots, but keeps his former promise to avoid re-entangling himself in Rand’s affairs. Eventually Hurin and Perrin report that the trail leads into the gardens. Before leaving, Rand receives a message from Padan Fain, passed through Barthanes: he will await Rand on Toman Head. In the gardens Rand receives part of the solution to the puzzle: the trail ends at a Waygate. However, when the Waygate is opened Machin Shin is revealed waiting inside. After consulting with Loial and Verin, Rand and Ingtar decide they should go to the nearby Stedding Tsofu and attempt to use the Waygate there. They depart immediately.

Thom returns to his inn early the next morning to find Dena dead and two agents of Barthanes demanding answers to certain questions about ‘Lord Rand of House al’Thor’. Thom kills both them before watching, shocked, as the granaries burst into flame across the city. The innkeeper arrives with dire news: King Galldrian and Lord Barthanes were both assassinated late in the night. House Damodred has declared war against House Riatin and the other noble Houses are lining up behind them. The Fifth War of Cairhienin Succession has begun. Thom departs the city, planning to go to the unhealthiest place in the West for him to drown his sorrows: Tar Valon.

Two days later Rand and his party reach Stedding Tsofu. Whilst the humans await a decision from the Ogier Elders about whether or not they can use the Waygate, Loial meets an Ogier girl, Erith, and becomes nervous that news of his visit will reach Stedding Shangtai. After some discussion the Elders agree to let Rand use the Waygate, but when opened Machin Shin is again revealed to be waiting for them. Verin discounts the option of travelling by land or even by ship downriver and along the Sea of Storms to Toman Head. Either way would take weeks if not months, and Mat’s condition has already started to deteriorate again. He would die long before they reached the dagger and the Horn. Rand suggests they use a Portal Stone and the Ogier Elders reveal that a Portal Stone is located right outside the stedding itself. Rand attempts to use it to move him and the whole party to another Portal Stone on Toman Head whilst remaining in this dimension, but during the activation something goes wrong...

Padan Fain reaches Falme and is granted an audience with the High Lord Turak. He hands over the chest to Turak, claiming it to be an ancient heirloom passed down through his family for the last 1,000 years. He claims that his family was loyal to the High King, Artur Hawkwing, but lost power after he was ‘murdered by the Tar Valon witches’. Though still weak, his family has since remained loyal to Hawkwing’s teachings. Turak is most amused by this blatant lie, but is able to open the chest since he has studied such devices from the Age of Legends. Fain tries to take the dagger but is restrained. He urges Turak to blow the Horn of Valere, but Turak refuses to do that as well. If he did, the Empress would assume he wanted to take the throne and would have him killed, since she currently favours her second daughter Tuon as heir. Instead, he will send the Horn back to the Court of the Nine Moons in Seandar as a gift for the Empress. He orders Fain released; in return for more of his hugely entertaining lies, Turak will keep an eye out for the ‘Darkfriends’ that are following him: Rand al’Thor, Mat Cauthon and Perrin Aybara.

Weeks and then months pass in the White Tower as Egwene, Nynaeve and Elayne continue their studies. They become fairly experienced at wielding the One Power, though Nynaeve is still hampered by her inability to channel without being angry. Elayne is worried about the civil war raging in Cairhien, since according to rumour it is creating a tidal wave of refugees seeking shelter in Andor. Starvation is also beginning to afflict the country: without the granaries at the capital, the grain brought in from Andor, the Borderlands, Tear and Illian cannot be stored anywhere and now most of the nobles have stopped buying the grain at all, preparing to spend money on weapons and troops instead. Aes Sedai attempts to mediate the dispute have failed. The only good news is that the false Dragon Mazrim Taim’s armies have apparently been scattered by the Saldaean forces pursuing him, and he should be in Aes Sedai hands soon.

Egwene al'Vere is taken damane by the Seanchan.

Liandrin suddenly appears and tells them that Rand is in great danger on Toman Head. Only the presence of Nynaeve and Egwene, his two friends, can help him. The two women are suspicious, but decide to go if there is a chance that Rand is in trouble. Elayne and Min also insist on tagging along as well. Liandrin leads them through the Waygate in the still-intact Ogier grove in the city and after a few days they emerge on Toman Head, not far from the town of Falme. To the young girls’ surprise, they are greeted by a large number of soldiers and women bizarrely linked together by leashes. The group’s leader, the High Lady Suroth, is angered by Liandrin changing their plan by bringing two extra captives along, and threatens her with their master’s anger. Realising it is a trap, Nynaeve becomes enraged and her immense use of the Power overwhelms the Seanchan damane who try to block her. She and Elayne escape in the chaos, but Egwene and Min are both overpowered and captured. One of the sul’dam uses an a’dam to block Egwene’s relationship with the Power and she becomes proud at now having ownership of one so powerful at channelling. Egwene agrees to submit in return for Min’s life being spared. They are both taken to Falme.

Rand and his companions rematerialise on Toman Head. Much to the shock of all of them, Verin notices from the state of the trees that it is now late autumn: at least four months have passed since they departed Cairhien. They have lost time, rather than made it up, by travelling this way. The only good result is that Mat still lives and his condition is unchanged. They march west on Falme and before reaching the town learn of the Seanchan and their damane. Verin stops using the One Power altogether to prevent herself being detected by the damane. Rand has another nightmare in which Ba’alzamon appears, but Rand now finds himself able to escape from the nightmares more easily. He cannot explain why.

Elayne and Nynaeve infiltrate Falme and meet up with Min, who has been sworn in as a Seanchan servant. They find out where Egwene is being held prisoner and start forming an escape plan. They discover a ship captain - Bayle Domon - willing to help them escape. Domon has wanted to flee but has been kept in check by the thought of damane destroying his boat. With three Aes Sedai on board, however, he might stand a chance of escape.

After four months of sending scouts and messengers across Almoth Plain, Bornhald has at least assembled a force large enough to attack Falme, about a thousand men. Carridin is in a fury at being defied and has denounced Bornhald as a Darkfriend, but Bornhald is unimpressed. He leads his forces westwards. His army reaches one town just as Rand and his comrades are leaving, and Bornhald catches a glimpse of Perrin Aybara. Though mystified by the ‘Darkfriend’s’ presence, Bornhald puts the matter to one side as he musters his forces to strike at Falme itself.

Rand’s party makes camp less than half a day from the town and make their plans. Verin suggests that five enter the city (not mentioning that part of the Prophecies of the Dragon is that ‘Five will ride forth and four return’,). Ingtar must go, because he was charged with completing this mission by both Lord Agelmar and the Amyrlin Seat. Hurin should also go, because he can sniff out Padan Fain. Mat must go, because the sooner he has the dagger the better. Rand and Perrin also volunteer to go also. Loial, Verin and the other soldiers would attract too much attention.

By chance, or otherwise, Rand’s group enters the town on the same day the Whitecloak army comes into view of the walls, and on the same day Elayne and Nynaeve mount their rescue effort. The two women enter the Seanchan prisoners’ quarters and liberate Egwene, imprisoning her sul’dam with her own a’dam. With some experimenting they discover the most ancient secret in all of the Seanchan Empire: that whilst damane are those who will channel no matter what, sul’dam are those able to learn to channel. A secret like this would destroy the Empire if made public, but that is a matter for another day. The four women flee the quarters and head for the docks.

Rand’s group reaches Turak’s residence and successfully reach the chest. Mat plucks up the dagger and the Horn, but then Turak enters with soldiers. Whilst Rand’s companions fight them off, he finds himself confronted by Turak, a true blademaster. Thanks to blind luck, Rand wins the fight and kills Turak. Escaping the house, the party finds itself hounded by Seanchan soldiers. At a narrow alleyway Ingtar volunteers to stay behind and fight them off. He secretly reveals to Rand that he is a Darkfriend and it was he who let Padan Fain’s rescuers into Fal Dara keep. However, after witnessing the valour of Rand and his companions he has repented the Shadow and will now make the ultimate sacrifice for the Light.
The Heroes of the Horn answer Mat's summons.

Rand and the rest escape through the city gates just as the Whitecloak army charges the walls. Caught between the Whitecloaks and the Seanchan, Mat decides the only way to escape is to summon reinforcements and blows the Horn of Valere. Immediately a strange mist descends on the battlefield and  a hundred figures appear from nowhere, led by Artur Hawkwing himself! Hawkwing calls Rand ‘Lews Therin’ and agrees to drive the Seanchan and the Whitecloaks from Falme. All they need is a banner to follow and Rand unfurls the Banner of the Light to give to Perrin. The Heroes of the Ages all name Rand the Dragon and agree to follow him at the Last Battle. Rand denies it still, but the others are stunned into acceptance that Rand is the Dragon Reborn.

The battle erupts and the Whitecloak army is eradicated. Only Jaret Byar, ordered by Bornhald to stay behind and observe the battle from afar, survives. Then the Heroes turn on the Seanchan, driving them and their beasts from the walls and through the city. Birgitte the Archer burns their boats in the harbour and complete anarchy erupts. Domon flees the city, leaving Nynaeve and the others behind rather than risk having his ship destroyed. Then Ba’alzamon appears and again battles Rand. This time the fight is deadlocked and Rand only wins when he accepts a wound in his side in return for unleashing a killer blow at Ba’alzamon. He passes out from the wound, but victory has been gained. Suroth leads a chaotic retreat from the city, sailing into the west with barely a third of the army she arrived with. The rest are destroyed, or scattered across the sea.

After the dust settles the various groups find one another. Min finds the unconscious Rand first, and is startled when a woman appears to watch over him. She claims to be Lanfear, the Daughter of Night, and commands Min to keep Rand alive until she is ready to claim him once more.

Rand awakens some days later, far to the east in a camp on Almoth Plain. He learns that somehow his fight with Ba’alzamon was emblazoned across the entire sky above Falme and seen by tens of thousands of people. Word has spread across the west coast that the Dragon has been Reborn and battled the Dark One itself. Rand notices that in the camp are Perrin, Min, Moiraine, Lan and the surviving Shienaran soldiers. Moiraine and Lan arrived at Falme hours ahead of Rand. Moiraine planned to liberate the two Aes Sedai taken prisoner by the Seanchan during their initial attack on the city, but both were spirited away onto boats during the battle and presumably taken across the sea. After the battle Moiraine searched Turak’s mansion and discovered two disturbing artefacts: the Second and Third Seals on the Dark One’s prison. Yet both are shattered, as the first is.

Meanwhile, Mat is on his way to Tar Valon to have his link with the dagger removed, and Verin, Egwene, Nynaeve and Elayne have gone with him. Hurin has also gone to Tar Valon, planning to travel on to Shienar and bring news of the Dragon’s Rebirth to Lord Agelmar and King Easar. The other Shienarans have sworn loyalty to the Dragon Reborn. There is also the matter that Mat is now linked to the Horn of Valere until he dies, and the Amyrlin must make some decision about that as well. Moiraine tells Rand that civil wars have been sparked in Tarabon and Arad Doman between the governments and the ‘Dragonsworn’, those who wish to seek out the Dragon Reborn and follow his standard. The time for hiding is over. The world now knows that a new Dragon has been unleashed...


Anonymous said...

Pretty sure Altara and Kandor don't share a border. Sorry to be pedantic about it

Uday said...

Excellent recap.

A small point though - it is strongly implied that Thom kills Galldrian. Only Barthanes is dead at the inn and Thom sets out to kill Galldrian for killing Dena.