Tuesday, March 12, 2002

The Onset of Rand's Channelling

By Linda

This article describes the onset of channelling for one with the inborn ability (spark) through the experiences of a particular channeller: Rand.

Those with the inborn spark will channel whether they want to or not. The trigger is a very strong emotion, often fear or desperation:

"Perhaps as much as eight or ten years ago [ie about 15‒16 for a woman]—the age varies, but always comes young—there was something you wanted more than anything else in the world, something you needed. And you got it. A branch suddenly falling where you could pull yourself out of a pond instead of drowning. A friend, or a pet, getting well when everyone thought they would die.

- The Eye of the World, Listen to the Wind

The spark manifests in men at about 19‒27 years of age, which is later than in women, where it usually shows from 14‒19, although the Seanchan test for damane (those with the spark) until age 25 (Winter’s Heart, Questions of Treason). The stronger the channeller, the earlier the spark usually tends to manifest. For example, Alivia, who is very strong, was found at age 13‒14 (Winter’s Heart, Sea Folk and Kin) and Rand first channelled at age 19, whereas Logain, by no means weak, began channelling in his mid-20s (The Fires of Heaven and A Crown of Swords Glossaries).

Channelling without benefit of training results in death for four out of five with the inborn ability:

Those who first touch the power unintentionally generally feel nothing unusual at the time, but suffer a violent reaction as much as ten days later. This reaction seldom lasts for more than a few hours. Headaches, chills, fever, exhilaration, numbness, dizziness and lack of coordination are only a few of the most usual symptoms, often occurring simultaneously or in quick succession. These effects return after each incident of touching the Source. Each time, the reaction comes closer to the actual act of touching, until the two happen almost simultaneously. At this stage the visible reactions stop. But unless some sort of control has been learned, death becomes a certainty. Some die within the year, some survive as long as five years, yet without the control that is almost impossible to learn without guidance, all die. Their final days are usually marked by violent convulsions and screams of agony. Once the last stages are entered there is no known cure, even with the use of the One Power.

- The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time

The more the channeller tries to channel, the likelier they are to succeed:

"You see, child, the more you try to touch the True Source, the more you try to channel the One Power, the easier it becomes to actually do it. Yes, in the beginning, you stretch out to the Source and more often than not it is like grasping at air. Or you actually do channel saidar, but even when you feel the One Power flowing through you, you find you can do nothing with it. Or you do something, and it isn't what you intended at all. That is the danger. Usually, with guidance and training—and the girl's own fear slowing her down—the ability to touch the Source and the ability to channel the Power come together with the ability to control what she is doing.

- The Great Hunt, Woven in the Pattern

We certainly saw this effort rewarded for Morgase in Knife of Dreams, In Malden, and it may be that experienced sul’dam such as Tuon, who do not have the inborn spark but can learn to channel, become desperate enough to try to channel to save someone close or defeat Darkfriends. Once started, it is impossible not to continue to channel—the addictive nature of the One Power ensures that. Seta deliberately channelled, knowing she would have to be taught and the Aes Sedai might not want to do so, because she missed sensing the One Power through the a’dam, and was not likely to ever be linked again (Knife of Dreams, Attending Elaida).

The rest of this article describes Rand’s experiences when he began channelling.

1. In our first encounter with Rand:

the hairs on his arms stirred; his skin prickled as if it itched on the inside

- The Eye of the World, An Empty Road

when Rand first sensed a Myrddraal. While Mat and Perrin felt the menace of the Myrddraal, Rand’s reaction may have been stronger; he appeared to feel it before he could see it over 20 paces away. Rand did not sense the Trollocs when they attacked the farm (The Eye of the World, Winternight).

2. He was resistant to Moiraine’s persuasion (which may have involved the Power, since her eyes appeared to want to swallow Rand at one point), questioned her presence and did not want to receive the coin with the tracer on it (The Eye of the World, Strangers).

3. Rand got goose bumps while Moiraine Healed Tam:

Was the Aes Sedai doing anything? He shivered and rubbed his arms, not sure he really wanted to know what she was doing.

- The Eye of the World, A Place of Safety

Male channellers react in this way when women hold saidar (The Shadow Rising, Playing With Fire).

4. Rand cleansed Bela of tiredness while they raced for Taren Ferry because he feared that she, and thus Egwene, would not keep up with them. This was the first time he channelled and he did it to save Egwene:

With all his heart and desperation he silently shouted at Bela to run like the wind, silently tried to will strength into her. Run! His skin prickled, and his bones felt as if they were freezing, ready to split open. The Light help her, run! And Bela ran.

- The Eye of the World, The Road to Taren Ferry

As Moiraine said, an inborn channeller is driven to reach out to the one thing that can give them what they desperately want or need: the Power. Here are Moiraine’s comments on the manifestation of Rand’s channelling abilities:

"I had suspicions from the first," Moiraine said. "Suspicions are not proof, though. After I gave you the token, the coin, and made that bonding, you should have been willing to fall in with whatever I wanted, but you resisted, questioned. That told me something, but not enough. Manetheren blood was always stubborn, and more so after Aemon died and Eldrene's heart was shattered. Then there was Bela."
"Bela?" he said. Nothing makes any difference.
The Aes Sedai nodded. "At Watch Hill, Bela had no need of me to cleanse her of tiredness; someone had already done it. She could have outrun Mandarb, that night. I should have thought of who Bela carried. With Trollocs on our heels, a Draghkar overhead, and a Halfman the Light alone knew where, how you must have feared that Egwene would be left behind. You needed something more than you had ever needed anything before in your life, and you reached out to the one thing that could give it to you. Saidin."
He shivered. He felt so cold his fingers hurt. "If I never do it again, if I never touch it again, I won't . . ."

- The Eye of the World, There is Neither Beginning Nor End

Like Moiraine, we too have the benefit of hindsight when considering Rand’s channelling. Prickly skin, tight chest and freezing bones occurred when Rand channelled until he learned control.

Seven days after channelling, Rand got a reaction to touching the True Source (The Eye of the World, Strangers and Friends). While in Baerlon he woke with a headache. After a while his head felt like a balloon, and then he felt as though he was drifting and couldn’t concentrate. He recklessly laughed at Whitecloaks splattered with mud and talked back to them. Finally he got a fever. The reaction lasted for some hours, perhaps because of the amount of power he used.

Contrast this with Egwene’s first touching of the Source, which was guided by Moiraine and caused no physical reaction:

"You are very close to your change [she was 16], your first touching. It will be better if I guide you through it. That way you will avoid the . . . unpleasant effects that come to those who must find their own way."

- The Eye of the World, Across the Taren

5. Rand shivered when Moiraine made a whirlpool to damage the ferry (The Eye of the World, Across the Taren), but not when she removed his tiredness.

6. Rand’s second channelling occurred on Domon’s boat near Shadar Logoth:

Painfully Rand managed to look over his shoulder, and knew his luck had run out. A wolf-muzzled Trolloc stood balanced on the railing, staring down at him and holding the splintered end of the catchpole that had knocked the wind out of him. Rand struggled to reach the sword, to move, to get away, but his arms and legs moved jerkily, and only half as he wanted. They wobbled and went in odd directions. His chest felt as if it were strapped with iron bands; silver spots swam in his eyes. Frantically he hunted for some way to escape. Time seemed to slow as the Trolloc raised the jagged pole as if to spear him with it. To Rand the creature appeared to be moving as if in a dream. He watched the thick arm go back; he could already feel the broken haft ripping through his spine, feel the pain of it tearing him open. He thought his lungs would burst. I'm going to die! Light help me, I'm going to . . . ! The Trolloc's arm started forward, driving the splintered shaft, and Rand found the breath for one yell. "No!"
Suddenly the ship lurched, and a boom swung out of the shadows to catch the Trolloc across the chest with a crunch of breaking bones, sweeping it over the side. For a moment Rand lay panting and staring up at the boom swinging back and forth above him. That has to have used up my luck, he thought. There can't be any more after that.

- The Eye of the World, Dust on the Wind

Rand rocked the boat, and a boom swept the Trolloc overboard. In New Spring, Epilogue, we learned that channelling men often appear lucky at first, just as Rand did.

Four days after channelling, he reacted to touching the True Source: he experienced exhilaration, balancing recklessly on top of the mast and sliding down off it (The Eye of the World, Flight Down the Arinelle).

7. The third time Rand called lightning to make a way out when cornered:

The words seemed to drift to Rand through wool stuffed in his ears. No way out. Thunder muttered overhead, and was drowned in a slash of lightning. Have to find a way out. Gode called to them, demanding, appealing; the door slid another inch toward being open. A way out!
Light filled the room, flooding vision; the air roared and burned. Rand felt himself picked up and dashed against the wall. He slid down in a heap, ears ringing and every hair on his body trying to stand on end. Dazed, he staggered to his feet. His knees wobbled, and he put a hand against the wall to steady himself. He looked around in amazement.
The lamp, lying on its side on the edge of one of the few shelves still clinging to the walls, still burned and gave light. All the barrels and crates, some blackened and smouldering, lay toppled where they had been hurled. The window, bars and all, and most of the wall, too, had vanished, leaving a splintered hole. The roof sagged, and tendrils of smoke fought the rain around the jagged edges of the opening. The door hung off its hinges, jammed in the doorframe at an angle slanting into the hall.

- The Eye of the World, Four Kings in Shadow

The lightning also killed the Darkfriends. Two days after channelling, he experienced nausea, alternating chills and fevers, and delirium (The Eye of the World, The Dark Waits).

8. Rand’s sensitivity to the evil of the Shadow (and Shadar Logoth) increased, as is typical of channellers, though not all male channellers:

It is the Dark One, and minions of the Dark One. From those things I can protect. Touching the True Source, touching saidar, gives me that protection, as it does to every Aes Sedai." Nynaeve's mouth tightened sceptically. Moiraine's grew tighter, too, with anger, but she went on, her voice hard on the edge of patience. "Even those poor men who find themselves wielding the Power for a short time gain that much, though sometimes touching saidin protects, and sometimes the taint makes them more vulnerable. But I, or any Aes Sedai, can extend my protection to those close by me. No Fade can harm them as long as they are as close to me as they are right now. No Trolloc can come within a quarter of a mile without Lan knowing it, feeling the evil of it.

- The Eye of the World, The Wisdom

Rand sensed a Myrddraal (The Eye of the World, The Last Village). He felt the wrongness of Fain’s dagger, just as Moiraine did (The Eye of the World, Decisions and Apparitions). Rand and Nynaeve felt the wrongness of the weather in the Blight, but Egwene did not (The Eye of the World, The Blight). (Yet both girls felt Moiraine dispersing wards at the Seven Towers (The Eye of the World, The Dark One Stirs).

9. It was at the Eye that Rand removed all doubts, channelling a great deal, especially for a beginner. He even summoned the Eye:

His whole chest felt tight, until he could hardly breathe, and his skin stung in hot pinpricks. The Blight had turned to foothills. He could see the route they must climb once they reached the mountains, the twisting path and the high pass beyond, like an axe blow cleaving into the black stone. Light, what's up ahead that can scare what's behind? Light help me, I've never been so afraid. I don't want to go any further. No further! Seeking the flame and the void, he railed at himself. Fool! You frightened, cowardly fool! You can't stay here, and you can't go back. Are you going to leave Egwene to face it alone? The void eluded him, forming, then shivering into a thousand points of light, re-forming and shattering again, each point burning into his bones until he quivered with the pain and thought he must burst open. Light help me, I can't go on. Light help me!

He was gathering the bay's reins to turn back, to face the Worms or anything rather than what lay ahead, when the nature of the land changed. Between one slope of a hill and the next, between crest and peak, the Blight was gone.

- The Eye of the World, The Dark One Stirs

Rand didn’t want to go further, so he summoned the Eye. The difficulty may have been increased because Moiraine had already visited the Eye previously and no one is supposed to visit it twice.

Rand unknowingly seized saidin from the Eye when confronted by Aginor and duelled with him.

The cord was all. It hummed. It sang. It called Rand's soul. One bright finger-strand lifted away, drifted, touched him, and he gasped. Light filled him, and heat that should have burned yet only warmed as if it took the chill of the grave from his bones. The strand thickened. I have to get away!

- The Eye of the World, Against the Shadow

This is a similar experience to his encounter with the male Choedan Kal in Cairhien (see below).

Aginor was burnt out by drawing too much of the Power while duelling Rand. Yet Rand was not at full potential, having just begun to channel, so he should not have been able to hold more of the Power than Aginor, a strong channeller. Rand fled, but found the Shadow’s forces in Tarwin’s Gap and destroyed them. He Travelled/Skimmed to Ishamael’s chamber, balefired Myrddraal, and burned Ishamael and the room (The Eye of the World, Against the Shadow).

He had a reaction the same day: chills, fever, weakness and lack of coordination. His reaction time has decreased with each channelling and this time was almost simultaneous. He thought it wasn’t his own channelling; that the Light pulled him along (The Eye of the World, There is Neither Beginning Nor Ending). Perhaps this is why such a new channeller was able to do what should have been impossible. According to Moiraine, very few could have channelled that amount of saidin unaided, even in the Age of Legends (The Eye of the World, There is Neither Beginning Nor Ending), yet Rand should have had little of his ultimate strength so soon.

Moiraine suggested to Rand that he needed a teacher, but the male Aes Sedai were all dead:

"Perhaps," Moiraine said. "It would be much easier if there was someone to teach you, but it might be done, with a supreme effort of will."

- The Eye of the World, There is Neither Beginning Nor Ending

Rand’s immensely strong will did go a long way to giving him control of the Power (see below).

10. Whenever Rand held the void, Fain couldn’t sense him (The Great Hunt, Glimmers of the Pattern and Beneath the Dagger).

Despite his determination not to channel, Rand did so to cut himself free from the recursive trap in the village on the River Erinin (The Great Hunt, The Hunt Begins). There was no apparent reaction to this channelling although Rand feared that he channelled unknowingly in his sleep and activated the Portal Stone later that evening and took himself, Loial and Hurin to the If World. When Rand found himself in the If World, he tried to force his way back to the main world via the same Portal Stone and the void splintered in his mind:

That had never happened before. When the void went, it went like a pricked bubble, just gone, in a twinkling. Never broken like glass. His head felt numb, as if the thousand slashes had happened so quickly the pain had not yet come. But every cut had felt as real as if done with a knife.

-The Great Hunt, From Stone to Stone

One explanation is that Rand was channelling incorrectly with the Stone and got hurt, another explanation is that a Forsaken warded the Stone because they did not want Rand to return straightaway to the main world.

From this point on whenever Rand summoned the void he felt saidin, even if he couldn’t channel it (The Great Hunt, In Mirror of Darkness). However, he never felt goose bumps when Lanfear channelled, for example Healing his hand (as he did when Moiraine channelled), so perhaps Lanfear reversed her weaves.

Lanfear appeared to be forcing Rand to channel, which is why she encouraged him to use the void, perhaps hoping Rand would then fear the taint enough to turn to the Shadow (The Great Hunt, Choices). Also the better Rand could channel, the less vulnerable he was to being killed by another Forsaken.

11. Effectively forced by Lanfear, Rand was able to move 4 people and their horses by Portal Stone back to the main world, which impressed her (The Great Hunt, Choices). Two to four days later, which is longer than at the Eye, he had a reaction: he recklessly took the Horn and dagger from Fain and the Trollocs while they slept, even sheathing his sword formally after fighting. He didn’t feel any danger or need to hurry (The Great Hunt, Beneath the Dagger).

12. Most unusually for a sa’angreal, the male Choedan Kal called to Rand. It is common for channellers to sense angreal attuned to their half of the Source when holding the Power nearby (see Angreal and Weaves articles LINK), especially if they are touching it (The Path of Daggers, Unweaving). The angreal feels warm or resonates.

However, Rand wasn’t holding the Power:

Unsummoned, the void formed, whole and complete in an instant, saidin glowing, beckoning. So intent was he on the face and the hand that he did not even realize what had happened… "This is dangerous," Selene said. "Come away, Rand."

"I believe I can find a way down there," he said absently. Saidin sang to him. The huge ball seemed to glow white with the light of the sinking sun. It seemed to him that in the depths of the crystal, light swirled and danced in time to the song of saidin…

Suddenly—a drifting, distant thought—he realized that the void surrounded him. Saidin sang, and the sphere pulsed—even without looking, he could feel it—and the thought came that if he sang the song saidin sang, that huge stone face would open its mouth and sing with him. With him and with saidin. All one…

He released the void . . . and it did not go. Saidin crooned, and the light in the sphere beat like a heart. Like his heart. Loial, Hurin, Selene, they all stared at him, but they seemed oblivious to the glorious blaze from the crystal. He tried to push the void away. It held like granite; he floated in an emptiness as hard as stone. The song of saidin, the song of the sphere, he could feel them quivering along his bones. Grimly, he refused to give in, reached deep inside himself . . . I will not. . .

"Rand." He did not know whose voice it was.
. . . reached for the core of who he was, the core of what he was . . .
. . . will not . . .
"Rand." The song filled him, filled the emptiness.
. . . touched stone, hot from a pitiless sun, cold from a merciless night . . . .
. . . not . . .
Light filled him, blinded him.
"Till shade is gone," he mumbled, "till water is gone . . .”
Power filled him. He was one with the sphere.
". . . into the Shadow with teeth bared . . . “
The power was his. The Power was his.
". . . to spit in Sightblinder' s eye . . ."
Power to Break the World.
". . . on the last day!" It came out as a shout, and the void was gone.

- The Great Hunt, Saidin

Rand appeared to experience an ancestral memory from his Aiel heritage (the verse that Loial recited to him weeks before). Lanfear was afraid, because anyone from the Age of Legends fears the Choedan Kal, and because Rand was holding far more of the Power than she could. Also she understood that Rand might do anything with this enormous amount of the Power, or could be burned out or killed.

Rand’s great difficulty letting go of the Source may have been due to his lack of control and perhaps also because he did not use an access key. No one had ever used this powerful sa’angreal before, so it is hard to say.

He had no more reactions to the Source after this episode so it may be that the sa’angreal forced Rand to learn control.

This alarming experience with a sa’angreal probably influenced Rand later in Tear to leave Callandor behind; he didn’t trust it or himself.

Rand next channelled when he fought the Black Wind at Barthanes' manor (The Great Hunt, A Message From the Dark). Despite nearly pulling too much of the Power into himself, he had no reaction to the Source afterwards, nor did he after using a great deal of the Power to move the group from Stedding Tsofu to Toman Head by Portal Stone (The Great Hunt, What Might Be). The process did not go well, taking four months and quite a few alternate ‘lifetimes’. Verin blamed Rand’s lack of control (which would make him more afraid to channel) but the surge in the Power may have been due to the Pattern showing the group the consequences of their choices and actions, or a Forsaken may have been tampering with the Portal Stone. It was a logical one to use, being so close to Cairhien.

He also used the Power to hurl at Ishamael (The Great Hunt, Disagreements) and was able to release the Power voluntarily; he channelled to kill Darkhounds and Darkfriends (The Dragon Reborn, Wolf Dreams and Daughter of the Night); held the Source while fighting Ishamael at Falme; and used Callandor without any reaction, until finally just over a year after his experience with the male Choedan Kal, Rand acquired a teacher, Asmodean. From then he progressed rapidly; soon able to seize saidin every time, and make the Power do what he wanted.


Written by Linda, July, 2007


LordJuss said...

One possibility you might mention about the Eye of the World was that is was a sa'angreal. It's never confirmed but it would explain how Rand was able to channel so much so early (both at Tarwin's gap and against Aginor.


Anonymous said...

The Eye of the World was a container of pure saidin, i'd say it was a well (ter'angreal that contains saidin or saidar).
Maybe Rand (and channelers in general) could handle more Power than it's safe in an emergency, having more willpower and control due the emergency.

LordxJuss said...

I agree it was a well. I jut wonder whether it was a sa'angreal too. Essentially a well that lets you control more of the Power than normal. The emergency idea has merit but doesn't match anything else we've seen in the series. Rand does some pretty impressive things with the Eye - way beyond what we've seen him do unaided even later in the series.


Unknown said...

Rand is the Dragon Reborn, ta'veren, and reincarnation of the most powerful channeler in history, so it's difficult to use him as an example. Any craziness that he pulls doesn't need much of an explanation. I don't think the Eye was a sa'angreal.

More specifically, it may have been a sa'angreal, but if so, it was unbuffered just like Callandor and the Choedan Kal statues. Otherwise, Aginor could not have burned himself to bits trying to draw on it. That being the case, it doesn't help explain how Rand drew so much of the Power, as only a buffer would protect him. I think it was just a case of great need, and a kind of floodgate effect, and possibly even the fact of being such close proximity to the well.

Unknown said...

The Eye was a pool of pure saidin in concentrated form, perhaps that means the power was actually forced into a physical existence in the world instead of being "invisible". Perhaps when the power is manifested physically, its possible to handle more than you could when you are channeling it.

Also- The Choden Kal did have the buffer to protect someone from drawing more than they could unaided, its just that they were much much stronger than any other sa'angreal. I believe it was lews therin's voice who told rand this, but I am unsure

Anonymous said...

Barthane's should be Barthanes'.

I always understood the Eye to be more like Rand tearing the stream away from Aginor. As if it could only be accessed by one person at a time. Rather than Rand's ta'veren nature protecting him from being burned out by all that power, I agree with the suggestion that the eye itself had some built in protections - they went to all the trouble to make it in the first place (dying and all), so it stands to reason that they could add in a little buffer.

Good call on the Choedan Kal being Rand's 'gaining control' point. I had always just assumed that it had happened at the Eye itself, but this event makes much more sense once you consider it that way.

Leech said...

One thing that made me wonder - in the Stone of Tear, they had Callandor was warded to only open to Rand's hand - mayhap a variation of this was hidden in the Eye?

Linda said...

Thanks for the comments.

Leech: I'm doubtful about a Ward because Aginor used the Eye first, and a group of them went into the Eye's cavern.

Anonymous said...

If Aginor burned himself out by drawing too much power, how was the DO able to transmigrate him?

I had thought the burning out can be healed only at rebirth, by getting woven into the pattern again, and transmigration is not rebirth.

Unknown said...

I don't think he burned the ability out of himself, he literally burned himself to a crisp.