The rest of chapter one covers a lot more: Coram and Alanna leave for the palace, and Alanna convinces Coram to go along with the charade by basically threatening him. (1) Not cool, Alanna. They make it to the capital and arrive at the palace. Basically, this chapter doesn't waste a lot of time getting us to the real story. Not a ton I want to talk about here, especially since it isn't from Alanna's POV yet.
I will point out there's at least two more instances of Thom foreshadowing, because everyone in the book except Alanna seems to agree he's a bad egg. But I already discussed that, so I won't go into it again here, except to say, jeeze, he's ten. No wonder he's a jerk if everyone around him thinks he's a failure at everything, and he has to be separated from the only person who’s a good influence on him.
Mostly, though, I want to talk about Maude and her purpose in the story. She doesn’t appear much after this, but she’s important right now, and she already shows that Alanna’s story will be different from other fantasies for reasons beyond her gender identity. Song of the Lioness doesn't at all adhere to the hero's journey layout—Alanna is a hero, and she goes on a journey, but you can't pin the trope on the plot point like you can with Star Wars or Harry Potter.
Actually, Alanna's story subverts these tropes: take the amount of work she has to put into sword training, or how she supposedly kills her fated enemy in the second book and spends the entire third book trying to find a purpose when he doesn’t exist. But the first obvious difference is in Alanna’s decision to switch places with her brother.
In hero’s journey stories, the protagonist doesn’t start the story themselves. I mean, if Luke got his way in A New Hope, he’d just be faffing around Tatooine drinking blue milk. He needs the help of an eccentric old man to pull his head out of his ass and join the greater world. You know what I'm talking about. Obi Wan, Merlin, Dumbledore, Gandalf—the great mentor who has to die, symbolically or otherwise, to allow the hero/es to step forward and take control. This is an Older than Dirt trope for a reason—because it resonates. The trauma of losing a mentor/father figure/etc scars the hero, but at the same time, they discover power they couldn’t achieve while their mentor sheltered them. It’s a built-in chance for growth, with low enough consequences for the rest of the story that it can occur in the first installment without setting the bar impossibly high.
Maude should be this character. She’s cranky, eccentric, and a powerful healer. But she's not a real match—she's ultimately not that important to Alanna, and she doesn't die. And she differs from mentor characters in another important way.
Part of the mentor character’s job is explaining the protagonist's legacy, letting them know they're part of something greater and have inherited amazing powers as a result. Obi Wan explains how Luke is part of a great Jedi legacy (only LOL not really, because Star Wars mentors are awful). Dumbledore tells Harry that his fate is forever bound with Voldemort's (only again, LOL not really because it's a great idea to send your secret weapon into battle without actually telling him your whole plan). Gandalf recounts the history of the One Ring to Frodo, but I don't have anything bad to say about him, because he tells Frodo all the relevant information he knows. Four for you, Gandalf. You go, Gandalf.
The point is, the mentor character is, at least initially, inspiring. Though he might warn about foolhardiness or the Dark Side of the Force or what have you, he doesn't mean it. If the main character blunders off into trouble, it's all just a laugh, because this is the first part of the trilogy so nothing really bad happens.
Maude doesn’t play that game. Her big speech to Alanna is downright dark. Before Alanna departs with Coram, Maude warns her that she must use her healing gift, even though Alanna is afraid of her magic, because the gods will expect a reckoning for all the people Alanna hurts:
“Have you thought of the lives you’ll take when you go off performing those great deeds?”
Alanna bit her lip. “No,” she admitted.
“I didn’t think so. You see only the glory. But there’s lives taken and families without fathers and sorrow. Think before you fight. Think on who you’re fighting, if only because one day you must meet your match.”
Yeah, it's not exactly your normal Call to Adventure. But it is a sign that this isn't going to be your typical fantasy book, even if the seeming main character doesn't get his head cut off two-thirds of the way through. Alanna wants to be a knight, yes. She has a glorious destiny and a fated enemy, yes. She's been chosen by the gods, yes. But that doesn't mean she gets out of doing the actual work.
And honestly, Alanna deals with sickness and human infirmity about as much as she goes out and does cool things on the battlefield. The Sweating Sickness episode in this book takes up more time than the final battle at Persepolis, for example, and in the second book, when Alanna rides out to war for the first time, she doesn't get to do any of the fighting. Instead, she spends most of her time in the healers' tents.
This line also reinforces a major theme in the series, where accepting death and loss is part of becoming a true warrior. Twice in the story, when Alanna is facing a foe she can't defeat—first the magical force that powers her sword and then Duke Roger in the final battle under the palace—Alanna stops fighting and instead embraces her death. Only when this happens does she triumph.
Something else that strikes me about this line is the way it foreshadows how sad Alanna's story ultimately is. Yeah, she completes her magic destiny and destroys the big bad and brings the fancy princess home to her king, but along the way, she loses her entire living family and one of her lovers. She ends up with Best Husband George Cooper, who loves her and helps her be her best self, but to get to that point, she has to end a relationship with a man she truly cares for and who loves her just as much.
I stopped reading Song of the Lioness after a certain point when I was a teenager, because to me she seemed too much like a Mary Sue (2). But Alanna's story—it's not a tragedy, but it's more painful than the later series, even though all of them feature major deaths and trauma and such. Maybe because Alanna is an adult for half her books. We'll see when we get there.
(1) Chubby the fat grumpy pony for president 2K20.
(2) I'm just going to go ahead and say that if your objection to a character in a published work of literature is that they're a Mary Sue, you're probably wrong, since I've heard that claim levied against every great fantasy protagonist of the last ten years. Protagonists are supposed to be super cool and impressive with unique powers and junk, or else it wouldn't be a very interesting story. We can bicker about whether they've earned their super fancy powers enough, but at that point it's just talking semantics.