In this section, Rand tries the enemy’s path, and doesn’t like it.
Selene has been exhorting Rand to retrieve the Horn from Fain’s Trollocs, to seize the glory he deserves. Rand, drunk on the attention, does it. If he can just get that chest, he can have Selene too. Shrouded in the void that masks him from Fain’s senses, he and Loial enter the camp, and escape with the Horn. The loss of the dagger immediately wakes Fain, since its power makes his mind whole. Are the Forsaken done with Fain now that Rand has taken the Horn?In the void, the Power of saidin beckons to Rand. Desperate not to embrace it, Rand sticks to swordplay to defeat the handful of Trollocs barring their way. His desperation is such that he invites death in battle before he will touch it. And with each Trolloc he cuts down, he realizes that he can make do without it. The pressing need he has to touch saidin, to seize the Power, can be put off. And that triggers his revelation that he doesn’t want the Horn, or the glory it comes with. Selene is not happy; their honeymoon phase is over.
The swordplay imagery is an example of a few words telling the reader several different things. In three or four words, each form paints a motion, gives a feeling of defense or offense, and engages the reader’s imagination. The whole reveals a part of the world’s culture, and harkens back to the relationship between Rand and Lan.
By placing the ruby dagger inside the horn’s curl, Rand leaves himself a reminder about his purpose, in case he is ever tempted again. Selene contrives to stay in Rand’s company for a few days longer, hoping to have him cast away the dagger. She may want the horn, but she wants the Dragon more. When Rand accidentally taps into a sa’angreal’s power, he risks being consumed by the sheer power of saidin, causing Selene to promise anything, even giving up the Horn, to get Rand away from this danger. To win the struggle with that immense Power, Power to Break the World, Rand falls back again on his sense of self, and forges a link between his two ancestries. Adoptive Manetheren, a bramble to the Dark One’s hand; and the Aiel, who spit in Sightblinder’s eye on the last day. In this world, under many circumstances, knowing one’s self is a source of power and control.
By the time Selene leaves Rand’s side, he is more in control of his destiny than at any previous time in the novel. This is a high point, maybe the first in the book, where it feels like everything could work out fine. Getting the Horn and the dagger this early is a bit of a surprise, if not a plot twist.
Nynaeve learns that she too is exceptional. Readers already knew she could become one of the strongest Aes Sedai alive, but she can also recreate any weave that she sees. However, it is not strength the Aes Sedai value most, it is fortitude, which is the quality that Novice and Accepted training is designed to promote. Nynaeve and Egwene should have no problems in that regard, their personalities dictate their greatest risk will come from failing to accept the reduced freedom, lower rank, and restricted privileges of Novices and Accepted.
The scene where the Amyrlin teaches Nynaeve and Egwene is fun, because the heroines are faced with a challenge, and come out on top, with greater knowledge and power than they had before. Even as the future challenge of the White Tower looms, the reader is developing confidence in their ability to meet it. The training of the girls is an effective way to also explain what Rand will be able to do with the One Power, and the types of weave he may face.
Egwene’s dreams continue to be prophetic. Dreams are generally a contrived plot device in fiction, used for foreshadowing or to let the reader know what the character is concerned about. Once the rules of the World of Dreams get established, they feel less contrived. For now, Egwene is having dreams which show her exactly what is going on with Rand. Ba’alzamon sees her in the dream, and laughs at her. Laughs! Not only does Egwene see true in the dreams, she is filled with certainty about actions she should take, such as not telling Anaiya certain details of the dream. This certainty is part of the Pattern’s corrective mechanism, the same plot device that allows Elaida’s Foretellings, Min’s Viewings, Nynaeve’s Listening to the Wind, and the various ter’angreal that give visions of the future. These free-willed creatures require a lot of guidance.
Liandrin sends a warded Draghkar after Moiraine. Moiraine is after information that can help her, and her questions casually remind us that Toman Head waits in Rand’s future. Lan reflects on the reasons he has built a protective relationship with Rand, not realizing it may have to do with his love for Nynaeve. Moiraine knows, and has made arrangements for Lan to be taken care of, and have the possibility of his bond passing to Nynaeve if all works out. Protecting the Dragon is her end goal, but she is satisfied that she can also help out her Warder in doing so.
Brevity forces you to use words that have more impact, and which can serve more than one purpose.