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Reading The Wheel of Time: Rand Is Struck By Two Blades in Robert Jordan’s A Crown of Swords (Part 20)


Reading The Wheel of Time: Rand Is Struck By Two Blades in Robert Jordan’s A Crown of Swords (Part 20)

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Reading The Wheel of Time: Rand Is Struck By Two Blades in Robert Jordan’s A Crown of Swords (Part 20)


Published on April 11, 2023

Reading The Wheel of Time on A Crown of Swords

This week in Reading The Wheel of Time we are only covering one chapter, Chapter 36 of A Crown of Swords. It’s a bit of a doozy, however, and Min’s comments to Caraline in the previous chapter—her explanation that Rand’s ta’veren effect on the world is balanced by both good and evil, as the Pattern demands—proves prophetic.

As Toram clears a space for them to spar in the tent, Min and Caraline desperately try to convince Rand not to go through with the encounter. Caraline worries that any of his “special tricks” Rand uses will alert the Aes Sedai to who he is, especially since four of the seven present are Red Ajah. When Rand assures her that he won’t use any tricks, she warns him that Toram, who is a Blademaster, can and will hurt him badly.

Rand is fatalistic in his replies to this, and takes his stance with the practice sword, ignoring Toram’s advice to remove his coat and gloves. Toram, Caraline, and everyone else quickly realizes that “Tomas” must be a Blademaster as well as they watch the two combatants dance. Min gets the impression that Toram wishes his practice sword was a real one.

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Suddenly there is a scream from outside, and a billowing wind lifts the tent away and ushers in a strange fog. Toram hits Rand a hard blow to the side, pronouncing him dead, then freezes as a tentacle of fog wraps around the Red sister and snatches her from the tent. Cadsuane channels fire and destroys the tentacle, but the body it drops is lifeless.

Min struggles towards Rand as the fog continues to close in. Standing in a rapidly diminishing clear spot, Darlin and Caraline, Toram, and the three Aes Sedai are the only ones who haven’t run or been dragged off into the fog. Cadsuane quickly takes charge, declaring that they will band together and head north, and that the Aes Sedai will take care of what the men’s steel can’t handle—Rand takes the hint to keep pretending he’s just a swordsman.

Cadsuane forms them all up and they begin to move through the fog, which is cold and filled with shapes and muffled screaming. They pass scattered body parts and corpses of dismembered people, and when the fog in front of Darlin takes the form of a creature they discover that, while blades can cut the shapes, they will just reform again unless destroyed by Aes Sedai flame. Suddenly a woman comes running through the fog, desperately calling out to them, a fog monster looming behind her.

Rand destroys it with balefire, and she’s so horrified that she runs away again, more afraid of him than the mist. Toram also panics, screaming that al’Thor will not trap him, and runs off.

Calmly, Cadsuane picked her way across the slope to Rand. And slapped his face so hard his head jerked. Min’s breath caught in shock. “You will not do that again,” Cadsuane said. There was no heat in her voice, just iron. “Do you hear me? Not balefire. Not ever.”

Surprisingly, Rand only rubbed his cheek. “You were wrong, Cadsuane. He’s real. I’m certain of it. I know he is.” Even more surprisingly, he sounded as if he very much wanted her to believe.

Min realizes that he must be talking about the voices he hears, and is just reaching out to comfort Rand when Padan Fain suddenly appears from the mist, a knife in his hand. Rand turns, and the knife just grazes him even as Fain avoids Min’s thrown dagger. Rand’s scream is horrible, and he collapses, pulling Cadsuane down with him. Darlin goes for Fain who avoids him easily, laughing as he runs off into the mist.

“Samitsu, quickly,” Cadsuane said, standing and rearranging her shawl. “He’s beyond my Talent for Healing.” She laid a hand on the top of Min’s head. “Girl, I will hardly let the boy die when I haven’t taught him manners, yet. Stop crying, now.”

Min doesn’t know why, but she believes Cadsuane. Rand thrashes as Samitsu attempts to Heal him. Pulling his clothes aside she exposes the half-healed wound, with the cut from Fain’s dagger running across it. She tells them that the first wound feels to her like a cyst, but filled with evil instead of pus, and the second is filled with a different kind of evil. She also believes that Rand will not make it.

Cadsuane galvanizes everyone to keep moving, with Darlin carrying Rand, hearing people and horses being torn apart, screaming, in the darkness, as the Aes Sedai protect the party. The step from mist into daylight is abrupt, the wall of fog perfectly distinct and creeping back very slowly. They see a few other people come stumbling out, but they seem crazed with fear and run down the slope without seeming to notice anyone else.

Caraline studied the slim blade of her dagger for a moment, then thrust it hard into its sheath. “So vanishes my army,” she sighed.

Darlin tells her that there is an army in Tear if she calls, but she seems doubtful. They make their way with difficulty down to a road, where Cadsuane commandeers a passing turnip cart. She wants to take Rand to the rest of her Aes Sedai, but Min is quite firm that they are going to the Sun Palace, and warns them all that they don’t want to experience what Rand will do if he wakes up surrounded by strange Aes Sedai.

The reluctant farmer receives a sack of gold to motivate him, and during the rough ride Cadsuane makes Min tell her what Rand did the last time he woke up surrounded by strange Aes Sedai. When Samitsu and Niande hear that Rand stilled three sisters they are sick over the side of the wagon.

When they reach the Palace men help carry Rand to his rooms, Cadsuane assuring everyone that he is not dead. Nandera and the Maidens begin to wail when they see Rand, then immediately help Cadsuane when she orders it, stripping Rand and getting him into bed, then ushering everyone out.

As Samitsu works on Rand, Kiruna and Bera come in, only to realize that Cadsuane is there. They are meek and obedient to her, and then to Amys when she comes in and dismisses them. Cadsuane seems interested in the obedience, wondering about the Wise One’s strength.

They are all startled by the arrival of Dashiva, Flinn, and Narishma. The Aes Sedai are alarmed, but Dashiva orders Flinn over to Rand and when Samitsu tries to block him from her patient, Narishma blocks her path. Cadsuane makes a comment about boys with no manners, but doesn’t seem concerned as Samitsu demands to know what Flinn is doing, worrying that he might kill Rand from ignorance.

Dashiva made a guttural sound, and Flinn looked at him. “You see something, Asha’man?”

“I have no Talent for Healing,” Dashiva said, twisting his mouth wryly. “You’re the one who took my suggestion and learned.”

Cadsuane shushes Samitsu’s complaints, and Dashiva assures them icily that Flinn can do things that Aes Sedai never even dreamed of. Flinn begins to work, talking as he does, explaining that Healing is what made him want to go to the Black Tower, after a life as a soldier, watching friends and comrades die, and taking an injury that meant he couldn’t ride anymore. The M’Hael taught him Healing, and other things. He explains that it is a rough sort of Healing compared to what Aes Sedai do, but that it works just as well.

“Then one day, Dashiva here—pardon; Asha’man Dashiva—says he wonders why it’s all the same, no matter if a man’s got a broke leg or a cold, and we got to talking, and… Well, he’s got no feel for it, himself, but me, seems I got the knack you might say. The Talent. So I started thinking, what if…? There. Best I can do.”

Min thinks that Rand does look a little better, and the wound in his side somewhat smaller. Samitsu demands to know what Flinn did, and he explains that he temporarily sealed Rand away from his wounds. The two injuries are fighting each other now, and might kill each other off while he heals the rest of the way. He can’t say for certain, and Rand might still die, but Flinn believes that Rand now has a better chance.

Samitsu drags Flinn aside, promising to do anything he asks if he’ll only explain to her what he did, wishing that there was a way for him to show her what he did. Min, not caring what anyone thinks, climbs into the bed with Rand to wrap him in her arms. She resolves that somehow, she will find a way to protect Rand from all of them, protect him while he is unable to protect himself.


Oh no, damsel Rand!

Rand’s ta’veren power gave him everything he asked for in his encounter with the Sea Folk, and worked in his favor with Caraline and Darlin as well. But now the balance has to be paid, it seems, not only with the spontaneous eruption of the bubble of evil, but also by the fact that Caraline bringing him back to her camp—as he wanted—brought him into contact with Mordeth-Fain for the first time in a long while. The man has been hunting Rand all this time and attacked the Two Rivers specifically to bring Rand to him, all in vain.

And then one day Rand just waltzes into the camp where Mordeth-Fain is hanging out messing with Toram’s head (seriously, Toram’s obsession with finding “Jeraal” was really creepy) and harassing female servants (gross). I wonder if MF realized that Rand was coming before he actually arrived in the tent. I’m pretty sure he still has the Rand-sense that the Dark One gave him, so he would probably have known when Rand was close. That’s surely also how he found Rand in the evil mist.

I also imagine that the mist didn’t really have an effect on MF. The Mordeth side seems dominant over the Dark Friend part of him, freeing him from much of the Shadow’s control, although some bits, like the Rand-sense alteration, clearly remain. And Mashadar was certainly a threat to the Shadow, going so far as to target Shadowspawn specifically. This makes sense, given Mashadar’s apparent origin as a physical manifestation of the corrupted fear of the citizens of Aridhol. That fear evolved to devour all things, tearing the city apart, but it was born and fostered by fear of the Shadow. Mashadar taking a particular direction towards the destruction of the Shadow makes sense, though it doesn’t seem to have a kind of sentience like Machin Shin does.

So it would make sense to me that Mordeth-Fain would be resistant to the attacks by the fog-creatures. Or, perhaps, he is able to kill them with his dagger, since it is more than an ordinary blade. Flinn believes that the two evils in the two wounds are fighting each other, now that he has sealed them away from Rand, and might even destroy each other. It seems plausible that this could happen, although I doubt Rand could be so lucky as to have these problems cancel each other out so neatly and evenly. But even if the wound from Ba’alzamon destroyed the Mashadar poison, that would be something, and a very weird silver lining to having that never-healing injury.

I do love when the bad guys’ plots foil themselves, or each other. There is some kind of beautiful symmetry in the idea that Mordeth-Fain probably would have succeeded in killing Rand—if memory serves even the lightest touch with that blade has been enough to kill instantly, in other scenarios—except that another enemy, one that Mordeth-Fain hates, got there first. I can just imagine how furious he’d be if he ever found out that the Shadow is the reason Rand was protected from him, and survived.

Of course, it still took Samitsu and Flinn to make this all possible. I am definitely culturally predisposed to like anyone by the name of Flinn, but even without the name, I really like the guy. It’s interesting to see an older person learning to channel for the first time, and I’ve always been particularly interested in the Yellow Ajah and the impulse to be interested in Healing over all other forms of channeling. We have experienced this primarily through Nynaeve, who had little interest in becoming an Aes Sedai except for her desperate desire to learn to Heal, but the other Yellows we’ve seen have all seemed to be as nerdy and single-minded about their speciality as Browns get over their studies. And now we have an Asha’man with the same traits. The fact that Flinn, one of the very first recruits to the Black Tower, chose to come specifically because he hoped to learn to Heal tells us a lot about him, as does his background as a soldier who received many wounds during his time in service, and who lost many of his companions. A man who has seen, and no doubt been the cause of, plenty of death, now seeking to become someone who Heals—though of course he is also still, as all the Asha’man are, a weapon forged by Rand and Taim. I wonder what killing with the One Power feels like to Flinn.

I also wonder what would happen if male and female Healers started working together. We know that, in the Age of Legends, the greatest works of channeling were achieved through a combination of saidin and saidar, and that men and women working in tandem are supposed to be able to do more than either gender can do alone. Both Samitsu and Flinn had to work on Rand in order to give him a chance at life, but they were two separate efforts, which is different than working in tandem. Now Samitsu is clearly interested in Flinn, and perhaps it could be the start of a movement towards collaboration.

I am assuming that at some point in the story our heroes will find a way to get rid of the taint on saidin—like the hole in the Dark One’s prison, it will eventually have to be removed so that the cycle of the Ages can go back around to an Age where there is no taint. And I wonder if there aren’t a few clues here as to how it might be done. We know that some male and female channelers in the Age of Legends were able to create the Eye of the World, a pool of saidin untouched by the taint, which means they were either able to destroy or to filter out the taint on that bit of saidin. Granted, the evil in Rand’s wound might not be the taint exactly, but it is the taint of the Shadow, so if the evil poison if the Shadar Logoth dagger counteracts that in some way, perhaps something can be learned from the interaction that might lead to eventually figuring out a way to get rid of the taint on saidin.

And I also wonder if Healers, specifically, might be necessary to figuring this out. Samitsu seemed to understand the evil of Rand’s wound as a sort of metaphysical infection—perhaps what the taint does to the mind can also be considered from a medical point of view, if not the taint itself. And if Flinn was able to figure out how to separate the two evils away from Rand, perhaps it would be possible for him to figure out how to separate the evil of the taint away from saidin—especially if he had help.

I wonder what would happen if an Aes Sedai was to Bond an Asha’man like a Warder. Alanna has already done this, of course, but we can’t really know how it would affect a male channeler who wasn’t also the Dragon Reborn and a very strong ta’veren. But we do know that the Bond is working the way it usually does in at least certain ways—Rand and Alanna are aware of each other’s moods and proximities, at least. Since the Bond allows its members to share certain experiences, it’s possible that it might allow male and female channelers to communicate certain things that they would otherwise not be able to share with each other.

Just a thought.

I’m still so confused by Dashiva. There’s clearly something going on with that guy that we aren’t seeing yet. It kind of feels like the clues are all there and either we’re just missing one to make the puzzle all slot into place, or that I’m just missing something.

Probably the answer is that Dashiva has already succumbed to the taint to a dangerous degree. He may very well be a ticking time bomb who will suddenly explode at some particularly inopportune time, when Rand is trying to handle some tricky problem. He is protective over his Asha’man, so one wonders what it would look like if he had to take down one of his own. Rand has never really had to fight a channeler before—the Aes Sedai a little bit, but that has always been about someone immediately gaining the upper hand and shielding or stilling the other. What would a knock-down, drag out brawl between channelers even look like?

Still, there is something about Dashiva’s behavior here that has caught my attention. His arrogance, the way Min observes that he seems proud, as though he saved Rand’s life himself. Of course, everyone knows that if Rand dies, their hope for winning the Last Battle dies as well. But I know Jordan’s writing pretty well by now, and he’s definitely building to something with Dashiva here. It’s also interesting that Dashiva had the idea, or rather the question, that led Flinn to the understanding that he now has about Healing, something clearly far more than what Taim taught him.

Other questions have been answered this week, such as how much of Toram’s yuckiness—as I put it in my notes—was brought on by his proximity to Mordeth-Fain and how much was always there, but Caraline’s stories of Toram pushing a friend down the stairs as a child pretty much tells us all we need to know. The man doesn’t just act like Caraline is his possession because of his weird buddy Jeraal, and I’m just as happy to see him get eaten by the fog monsters. Although, again, I don’t think Rand’s luck runs in such a way that Toram is guaranteed to perish in there, even despite being ta’veren.

As Caraline points out, though, as un-ideal as this event was, the rebels have, in a way, been dealt with. Caraline and Darlin have now been brought to the Sun Palace and the rest of the forces dispersed, including those who were much more actively against Rand. Toram may still return to cause more problems, but one assumes it will take a while for him to muster something up, and it’s certainly not a bad thing if he’s become separated from Mordeth-Fain now.

There is a lot of really good imagery in this chapter. I enjoyed watching Toram go from cocky to surprised to frustrated as he fought Rand. There is a certain symbolism of Toram landing that blow to Rand’s side with his practice sword and then later having Mordeth-Fain manage to get him, also on the side, with the dagger. I was also very moved by the reaction of Rand’s followers, the visual of the men handling him so gently as they lifted him from the cart and carried him to his rooms, the image of Cadsuane assuring everyone that he isn’t dead, the mourning wail coming up from the Maidens. And now I am so curious to see Cadsuane interact with the Wise Ones, especially Sorelia.

After Amys sends Kiruna to talk to Sorilea, and Kiruna blanches, Cadsuane says she is interested in meeting Sorilea and assumes she is a strong woman. Min notes that she seems to emphasize the word strong, and Amys replies that Sorilea is the strongest she has ever known. Neither of them know about the Aes Sedai strength hierarchy, and I’m amused at the idea of Cadsuane expecting to meet a very powerful channeler, when Sorilea is actually quite weak in the One Power. She will, however, be a match for Cadsuane in other types of strength, and it would be an interesting introduction for Cadsuane to the fact that other groups of channelers organize themselves in different ways. I remember when Egwene was with the Wise Ones she’d often wish to see how various Aes Sedai would handle her teachers, and of course we saw how Sheriam and her group reacted to the Wise Ones. But none of them have the age, experience, or authority of Cadsuane, and it would be really fascinating to watch her and Sorilea interact. It would either be very explosive, or perhaps they would connect and respect each other instantly. Either way, color me intrigued.

I’m also curious to know what Cadsuane will make of the Asha’man. She probably knew more about male channelers than anyone else in this world before now, but this is bound to be something more than anything she expected to experience. How she will adapt remains to be seen—I hardly expect her to falter, but there are several different approaches she could take to engaging with them. I’m hoping that it will be more complicated than continuing her “naughty little boy” routine, not in the least because I just personally find it really annoying. The sympathy she showed for Rand when she heard about the way Galina and the others treated him, however, was intriguing.

Next week we’ll be moving on to Chapters 37 and 38, catching up with poor Mat, as well as Elayne and THE NEWLY MARRIED NYNAEVE AND LAN! Sorry for yelling, I just got excited.

See you soon, friends, and happy reading. Well, not so much for Mat. But that is just how the dice fall.

Sylas K Barrett is reminded by the encounter with her cousin that Moiraine is probably not dead, and will be back someday, Gandalf style. He also enjoyed that Caraline chose to name Rand Tomas Trakand—probably because Elayne was on her mind when she needed to quickly come up with an alias, but it feels prophetic knowing that Rand and Elayne are in love. Maybe Rand should take her last name!

About the Author

Sylas K Barrett


Sylas K Barrett is a queer writer and creative based in Brooklyn. A fan of nature, character work, and long flowery descriptions, Sylas has been heading up Reading the Wheel of Time since 2018. You can (occasionally) find him on social media on Bluesky ( and Instagram (@thatsyguy)
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