In Dragonmount, Lews Therin Telamon, who was once a king and a powerful magic user called the Dragon, has gone insane and murdered his family and his castle full of servants. In this world, magic is the One Power that makes the universe run, and magic is composed of a male half, saidin, and a female half, saidar. Because Lews Therin defied the Dark Lord, the Dark Lord corrupted the male half of magic, causing all male magic users to go insane or turn evil or both. Heartbroken, Lews Therin pulls a massive amount of energy from the One Power, destroying himself.
Rand al’Thor is a teenager living near Emond’s Field. A long, harsh winter has left the farmers and villagers feeling uneasy, and Rand feels especially disturbed when he travels to town with his father, Tam al’Thor, and sees a dark, cloaked figure, who seems to be staring at him. In town, Rand meets his fun-loving friend, Mat, who has also seen the cloaked figure and felt it staring at him.
On a more exciting note, Rand learns that a gleeman, a traveling entertainer, has come to Emond’s Field just in time for the Bel Tine spring festival. Other strangers have arrived as well — a noblewoman named Moiraine, her guard, Lan, and a peddler named Padan Fain. Fain spreads stories about war in nearby lands, and of the Dragon being reborn. Fain says this new man, Logain, can wield the One Power, news that worries the whole village.
Rand and Tam go back to their farm for the night, but Tam is feeling uneasy. He fetches a long sword, which Rand has never seen before, just in time to fight an intruder who breaks through their front door. The intruder is a Trolloc, a half-human, half-animal servant of the Dark One. Tam tells Rand to run to the forest, while he fights the swarm of oncoming Trollocs.
Eventually an injured Tam finds Rand in the forest, and Rand manages to put Tam on a makeshift stretcher and drag him back toward the village. In his feverish state, Tam says that he found Rand as a baby, abandoned on a battlefield and took him home and adopted him. Rand is shaken at the revelation that he is not truly Tam’s son.
Rand discovers that Trollocs have attacked Emond’s Field, too, randomly burning houses. Rand hears that Lady Moraine saved the village from utter destruction by attacking the Trollocs with magical lightning, while her guard Lan cut them down with his sword. Their powers reveal that Moraine is an Aes Sedai, a magic user, and Lan is her Warder.
Nynaeve al’Meara is the town’s Wisdom, a combined healer and counselor, and she says that Tam is dying from his wounds. With great effort, Moraine heals Tam. She tells Rand that he must leave Emond’s Field because the Trollocs and their Myrddraal leader, the cloaked figure who had been staring at Rand earlier, are interested in Rand, Mat and their third friend Perrin. The Dark One is afraid of one or all of them, which means they must all leave the village.
Moraine suggests that they go to Tar Valon, the city of the Aes Sedai. As Rand, Mat and Perrin gather their supplies to go with Moraine and Lan, Egwene, Rand’s crush, arrives and says she intends to travel with them. Thom Merilyn, the gleeman, completes their party.
As they flee through the forest at night, a dragkhar, a dragon servant of the Myrddraal, tracks them. Breathless, they arrive at the town of Taren Ferry and pay the ferryman to take them across. Moraine reveals that Egwene has access to the One Power and could become Aes Sedai with training.
They arrive at the city of Baerlon and find that a group known as the Children of the Light are there, which is dangerous for the two women in the group because this group hates Aes Sedai. In the night, Rand has a dream where the Dark One, who also calls himself Ba’alzamon, tries to intimidate him and tell him that if he is the Dragon Reborn, he will never have the strength to oppose the Dark One, who has defeated so many foes despite being supposedly physically bound for all eternity in Shayol Ghul.
Mat and Perrin have the same dream. A woman in Baerlon, Min, can see parts of the Pattern, which means she can see the future, but the images she shares with Rand are confusing. Nynaeve arrives in Baerlon to take Egwene and the three boys back to Emond’s Field, but she is persuaded to give up her goal.
The night after Nynaeve arrives, the Myrddraal corners Rand but runs away when Lan appears. The entire party runs away from Baerlon in the night and journeys toward Caemlyn. The Myrddraal and Trollocs attack them, but when Lan cuts off the Myrddraal’s head, the Trollocs are incapacitated. More Trollocs and three more Myrddraal soon follow, so Moraine uses magic to make an earthquake beneath her enemies’ feet, and then creates a wall of flames between them and her allies.
They run to Shadar Logoth, a cursed, abandoned town in the forest, which even the Trollocs want to avoid. Rand and Perrin follow Mat, who wants to explore the city, and they meet Mordreth, a strange-looking man who shows them an abandoned treasure and asks for their help in carrying it. Rand notices that Mordreth doesn’t have a shadow, which forces Mordreth to reveal that he is a monster before running away.
Madashar, an ancient force of evil living in Shadar Logoth, awakens as Trollocs come into the city. In the confusion, the party is split up. Egwene and Perrin, and Rand, Mat and Thom escape separately. A Trolloc attacks Rand as he jumps aboard the boat that will carry him to safety, and Rand appears to use magic to knock the Trolloc off the boat.
Egwene and Perrin decide to continue traveling to Caemlyn, hoping Moraine will find them there. In the woods, they meet Elyas, a man who can talk to wolves and indicates that Perrin has the same talent. They and Elyas join nomadic Tinkers and travel together for a while.
After leaving the tinkers, the three companions run until they reach a stedding, a place where magic doesn’t work. The Children of Light pursue them. When they kill one of the wolves that Perrin has learned to communicate with, he becomes unstable and kills two of the Children of Light.
Nynaeve travels with Moraine and Lan, in search of the three boys and Egwene. Lan rescues Perrin and Egwene from the Children of the Light, so five of the companions are reunited.
Onboard the boat, Thom entertains the crewmen and gives gleeman lessons to Mat and Rand. However, Mat begins acting strangely, and Rand finds him playing with a jeweled dagger, which he stole from the cursed treasure in Shadar Logoth. The boat lands in the town of Whitebridge, where Thom, Mat and Rand hear that the False Dragon Logain has been captured by the Aes Sedai and that he truly can wield the One Power. They also know a Myrddraal is in town looking for them.
Thom tells the boys to run on to Caemlyn, and he attacks the Myrddraal, sacrificing himself so they can escape. Rand and Mat travel until they reach the village of Four Kings, where they meet a Darkfriend, a human ally of the Dark One, who says that they are destined to be Dreadlords under the Dark One when he rises again. When Gode the Darkfriend threatens them, Rand accidentally summons lightning and burns Gode and his companions to death.
Rand and Mat finally reach Caemlyn, the great city where Morgase, queen of Andor, lives. Rand meets Loial, who is an Ogier, a giant but gentle and vaguely animal-like creature. Loial wants to travel with Rand because he believes Rand has an interesting destiny.
The city of Caemlyn is abuzz with the arrival of Logain — the False Dragon — who was captured. He will be presented to Queen Morgase before he is taken to Tar Valon to be dealt with by the Aes Sedai. Trying to get a good view of Logain, Rand climbs a very steep wall and sits atop it. A girl’s voice startles him, and he falls off the wall and knocks himself unconscious.
When he wakes up, he meets the girl, Elayne, and her brother, Gawyn, who turn out to be Queen Morgase’s children. Elayne and Gawyn like Rand, but the royal guards insist on taking him to the queen for questioning. Elaida, an Aes Sedai who serves the queen, prophesies that Rand will bring pain and division to the whole world, but the queen still sets him free.
When Rand returns to his inn, he finds Moraine, Lan, Nynaeve, Egwene and Perrin waiting for him, and they have a joyous reunion. When they go upstairs to check on an increasingly sick Mat, however, Mat tries to attack Moraine with his jeweled dagger. Moraine explains that the cursed dagger has been poisoning him with its evil and has also been calling Trollocs and Myrddraal toward Caemlyn.
Moraine heals Mat until he becomes his normal self again. But she knows they still need to escape from Caemlyn. Loial the Ogier has some knowledge of the Ways, ancient portals used for nearly instant travel across long distances.
Again, Ba’alzamon, the Dark One, visits Rand in a dream and demands his service, but Mat and Perrin have the same dream, which means that Ba’alzamon still doesn’t know which of them is the Dragon Reborn. The party follows Loial through a Waygate heading toward Fal Dara, where the Eye of the World, a pool of pure liquid saidin magical energy, is. Rumor has it that the Dark One intends to poison the Eye of the World or somehow bend it to his own uses, and Moraine wants to stop him.
After running from an evil force in the Ways called the Black Wind, they emerge in Fal Dara, but they know that the Eye of the World can only be found if its guardian, the Green Man, wants them to find it. They find the Green Man, a nature spirit made of plants and vegetables, and reach the Eye of the World, only to be attacked by two Forsaken, evil servants of the Dark One.
Lan, Nynaeve, Egwene and Moraine are injured in the fight. The Green Man fights the Forsaken, too, and is killed; his body grows into a giant oak tree, as he dies. Rand meets Ba’alzamon in a vision and defies him before killing him with a sword made of the Light, magic taken directly from the One Power.
In the normal world, Rand tells his companions everything that happened. Moraine is worried for his future, since he may be the only living male who can wield saidin. The liquid in the Eye of Power vanishes, revealing a few artifacts contained within the pool: the legendary Horn of Valere, which must be taken to Illian, and the banner of the Dragon, Lews Therin Telamon.
The party returns to Fal Dara, where they learn that the local people have won a great victory against an army of Trollocs. Rand decides that he cannot continue traveling with the others to Tar Valon, the city of the Aes Sedai, for fear that the Aes Sedai will try to kill him because of his magical abilities. Moraine confirms to herself that Rand is in fact the man the prophecies refer to — the Dragon Reborn.