WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT
Falme was the turning point in Rand’s life that proved he was the Dragon and declared himself there. It is a turning point in Tuon’s life too when she declares herself Empress after meeting the Dragon there.
This was the place where he'd first acknowledged himself as a killer, the place where he'd first realized what a danger he was to those around him. He'd tried to leave them all behind. They'd come after him.Rand uses phoenix-like imagery here. Empresses in China wore a phoenix crown (see Seanchan Costume article). There are strong influences of Imperial China in Seanchan customs and dress. Tuon’s appearance is not described in the next chapter, but when we next see her after that, in Towers of Midnight, she is wearing an owl headdress.
At Falme, the shepherd boy had burned, his ashes scattered and blown away by those ocean winds. From those ashes, the Dragon Reborn had risen.
The Gathering Storm, A Halo of Blackness
Rand can’t escape his destiny or responsibility; including of his ambivalent nature. He has a halo of blackness – the reverse of what he should be, which is full of angelic light, as he will be in Towers of Midnight. Here in The Gathering Storm he is Lucifer the fallen angel, and the name Lews Therin is a reference to this figure (see Character Names L article). It is interesting that after Rand re-integrates Lews Therin into himself at the end of the book, he is a positive angel.
Rand and Lews Therin battle for saidin and for Rand’s body. He is not sure which personality he is at times lately. “We are fine” implies he is both. However, they are non-cooperative and inconsistent, with each other as well as with other people. Rand’s struggle for sanity parallels the world’s struggle to maintain reality. Rand’s usage of balefire made his psychological state worse, the Forsaken’s use of balefire as requested by the Dark One at the beginning of Lord of Chaos made the Pattern’s state worse.
Just as Rand balances between the lure of the Choedan Kal and the lure of the True Power, so his emotions of rage and cold stillness are balanced against each other.
He could only feel the cold stillness inside, the stillness that capped a fountain of frozen rage.Rand believes Min is distant from him because she remembers him trying to kill her. It is the corruption from the True Power - which he used to prevent himself from killing her – the coldness and darkness, that puts her off.
He would keep the rage and stillness balanced long enough. He had to.
The Gathering Storm, A Halo of Blackness
Rand and Tuon are on roughly equal terms at this parley. They are the same age nearly. He is bigger than her, but she has more forces. Tuon expects Rand might burn out quickly as conquering heroes do. Is she not a conquering hero too? Will she burn out? (She could literally do so once she starts channelling.) Tuon is not present in Aviendha’s visions in Rhuidean.
Rand is dressed in red and black – Moridin’s colours, again - and gold. Tuon assumes Rand had the finest teachers as she did. However, Rand is an example of “innate nobility” or “nobility of the humble”.
Tuon likens Rand to a bonfire. Such symbolism was used for the ta’veren in The Eye of the World and The Great Hunt.
Rand is uncompromising and autocratic. It is convenient for the Shadow that this parley fails. If their efforts to corrupt Rand had only this one effect they would have paid off.
This is the first mention of the Essanik Cycle in relation to the Seanchan prophecies. Essanik has overtones of Essene and Messianic in the name. Their differences with the Karaethon cycle, especially in the end of the Last Battle, are striking (and probably misinterpreted by Tuon).
Does Rand’s prophesied bowing before the Empress mean that his kingdoms join with the Empire? Not if Tuon assumes so. Tuon thinks Rand’s words of argument against her are foolishness because the prophecies say he will bow to her. They probably won’t turn out as she expects. It is possible to do a courtesy without being subject to her; just not in Seanchan society, where there has been a solitary over-ruler for a very long time.
“We are fine,” and “We are the Return” show that both Rand and Tuon use the royal “we” for their pronouncements in this chapter. In one way it is regal, in another, distant and dissociated. “Many in the one” can indicate both things.
Tuon and Rand fall out over the enslavement of channellers. Tuon says the a’dam is the “only way to deal with those who can channel.” So, will Tuon accept one when she finally channels?
Tuon is one-sided about her cultural traditions and as convinced of her own rightness as anyone on this side of the ocean, perhaps more. She is in for a rude awakening. Rand and Nynaeve are probably disturbed as much by the threat of Seanchan traditions as by their difficulty in relinquishing their own.
Tuon assumes Rand is mad because he says he saw her face with Mat’s. It’s a reasonable judgement, but wrong. She is right that Rand is mad, but this isn’t a manifestation of it.
She also thinks Mat was sent to her by the Pattern because he knows Rand. If this is so, why did the Pattern move Mat on? It’s not that simple and people do not exist just to serve Tuon. It’s Mat’s duty to be domesticated into Seanchan ways, but Tuon feels it would be a pity. Tuon speaks disparagingly of her husband (although she kept their relationship secret) as a trickster and fool, and Nynaeve defends him. She says Tuon doesn’t know him. Nyaneve is dressed like a sky goddess; Tuon notes Nyaneve's blue dress with white “trim like clouds”. This could be a reference to the cloud collar which originated in the Sui Dynasty in China and thus an appropriate recognition by an (at least partly Chinese) Empress.
Just as he has done to others recently, Rand tries to impose his will on Tuon to sign a treaty. She sees the darkness, a halo of blackness warping the air (and the Pattern?) around him, and refuses because of this. Thwarted, Rand ices over again. Is his entourage disturbed by Rand or by what failing to make a treaty means?
Tuon proclaims herself Empress where Rand proclaimed himself the Dragon. She believes the world needs her and will attack the White Tower to thwart Rand some more. The world certainly needs Rand – for salvation – and he has suffered wounds as the world has. Rand was wounded at Falme when he fought Ishamael. He duels Tuon here in Falme and she decides to wound him.