Greetings and salutations! I do be pleased to bring you Part 5 of the re-read of The Eye of the World, part of the ongoing saga of The Wheel of Time Re-read, now in its new timeslot and channel.
Today we will be covering Chapters 36-41, in which I do not play, so strap yourselves in. Previous entries can be found here. As per the usual, spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time series may occur, so if you haven’t read, don’t read.
Before we begin, I would like you to bow your heads for a moment’s silence, for the cover of my TEOTW paperback is no more. I always thought I would lose it someday (and really, it’s amazing it’s lasted the twelve years I’ve been hauling it all over the country it has), but I can honestly say I never expected its demise would be as a result of an ill-advised attempt to switch to the express train to Times Square. Freakin’ train conductors and their hair-trigger door closings. Book-manglers!
Um. Anyway. Yes. The re-read.
Chapter 36: Web of the Pattern
Master Gill brings Rand and Mat a meal, and Rand tells him an edited version of their travels, adding that helping them could bring trouble. Gill waves this away, saying that he wouldn’t turn his back on a friend of Thom’s. Rand asks about the possibility of going to Elaida, but Gill advises against it, because of their connection with Thom. The cook summons Gill, and he mentions before leaving that there’s been a plague of rats in Caemlyn lately. Mat thinks that Gill was awfully quick to help them, and Rand just tells him to eat. They go up to their room, and Mat lays down, clutching the dagger. Rand asks if he’s just going to lie there, and Mat says it’s no use, their friends are all dead. Rand gives up and leaves him there. He goes back downstairs, but sitting in the common room makes him nervous; a maid tells him he could go in the library instead. Rand goes, and is marveling at all the books when he sees Loial for the first time, and yells in fright, thinking he’s a Trolloc. Loial wishes humans wouldn’t do that, and introduces himself. He’s been stuck in Gill’s inn ever since he came to Camelyn. Rand realizes that Loial is an Ogier, and Loial tells him about how he left the stedding to see the groves the Ogier built in the great cities of the world, even though technically he was too young to go (ninety years). He’s very sad that most of the groves are gone, and half of the cities he’d read about fallen to ruin or gone altogether. Rand tells him he can’t give up, and Loial nods:
“Yes, that’s the way of your kind, isn’t it?” The Ogier’s voice changed, as if he were quoting something. “Till shade is gone, till water is gone, into the Shadow with teeth bared, screaming defiance with the last breath, to spit in Sightblinder’s eye on the Last Day.” Loial cocked his shaggy head expectantly, but Rand had no idea what it was he expected.
A minute went by with Loial waiting, then another, and his long eyebrows began to draw down in puzzlement. But he still waited, the silence growing uncomfortable for Rand.
“The Great Trees,” Rand said finally, just for something to break that silence. “Are they like Avendesora?”
Loial sat up sharply; his chair squealed and cracked so loudly Rand thought it was going to come apart. “You know better than that. You, of all people.”
“Me? How would I know?”
“Are you playing a joke on me? Sometimes you Aielmen think the oddest things are funny.”
“What? I’m not an Aielman! I’m from the Two Rivers. I never even saw an Aielman!”
Loial shook his head, and the tufts on his ears drooped outward. “You see? Everything is changed, and half of what I know is useless. I hope I did not offend you.”
Loial asks what brings Rand to Caemlyn, and to his shock Rand finds himself telling Loial the whole story, even the dreams. He waits for Loial to think him crazy, but Loial explains the concept of ta’veren to him instead. Rand doesn’t think that’s the right explanation; he’s just a shepherd, after all. Loial tells Rand he would like to travel with him. Rand is tempted to say yes, but then thinks about the difficulty of hiding with a ten-foot Ogier in tow, and politely refuses. Loial sighs, and asks if Rand will at least visit with him while he’s in Caemlyn. Rand says of course he will.
“Ta’veren,” Loial said.
Rand blinked. “What?”
“Ta’veren.” Loial rubbed behind a pointed ear with one blunt finger and gave a little shrug. “Elder Haman always said I never listened, but sometimes I did. Sometimes, I listened. You know how the Pattern is woven, of course?”
“I never really thought about it,” he said slowly. “It just is.”
“Um, yes, well. Not exactly. You see, the Wheel of Time weaves the Pattern of the Ages, and the threads it uses are lives. It is not fixed, the Pattern, not always. If a man tries to change the direction of his life and the Pattern has room for it, the Wheel just weaves on and takes it in. There is always room for small changes, but sometimes the Pattern simply won’t accept a big change, no matter how hard you try. You understand?”
Rand nodded. “I could live on the farm or in Emond’s Field, and that would be a small change. If I wanted to be a king, though . . . ” He laughed, and Loial gave a grin that almost split his face in two.
Um, yeah, Rand, about that…
Whole lotta exposition here. But that’s okay, because the minute you meet Loial you want to run up and give him a hug, just like the big giant head characters at Disneyland. Or maybe that’s just me.
Ta’veren: As Magnetic Plot Devices go, it really is one of the better-justified — and fully plot-integrated — ones I’ve ever seen. It’s even better than living on a Hellmouth!
I’m not going to get into the whole ta’veren thing more here, as this post is hella long as it is, but fear not; we will be revisiting this topic.
Chapter 37: The Long Chase
Nynaeve hangs out with the horses, annoyed, while Moiraine and Lan scout ahead. She thinks back to their journey from Whitebridge. They had followed the Caemlyn Road for some days, until Moiraine turned them north to follow the trail of the boy who still had his coin. One night Moiraine became agitated, saying the boy had lost his coin; later that night, though, she relaxed, telling Nynaeve that he got it back. Nynaeve is jerked back to the present when Lan puts a hand on her arm, scaring her. They hobble the horses, and Lan leads her to where he and Moiraine are hidden, watching a camp of some two hundred Whitecloaks downhill from them. Lan tells her the boy they’re after is in the camp, as a prisoner. He asks her if she’s willing to take a chance; Nynaeve says of course, to help a fellow Emond’s Fielder. Lan wants her to sneak down to the picket lines and cut them, so that when Moiraine creates a distraction the horses will all escape and, hopefully, prevent pursuit when Lan gets the boy out. Nynaeve swallows, and agrees. Lan also warns her that he saw wolves around, and that they aren’t acting like normal wolves. Nynaeve creeps through the woods and comes upon the picket lines. She cuts the lines, and is about to head back when she sees that one of the horses is Bela, and realizes that must mean Egwene is in the camp too. She quickly unties Bela’s reins, and then steals a second horse as well. Just then lightning and thunder crashes into the night, and Nynaeve is almost pulled apart by the panicking horses. Finally she manages to get them under control. She sees wolves attacking the other horses, but for some reason they are ignoring the two she’s stolen. She quickly rides off away from the camp.
I… don’t really get what the title of this chapter means, here. It doesn’t seem to match the bulk of what happens within it, which is much less “chasing” and much more “skulking”, if you ask me.
Speaking of which, I’m not sure whether to be pleased that the female characters get to be competent members of the Away Team even before they acquire magical powers (Nynaeve’s successful stealth mission here, Egwene’s raven-killing proficiency with her sling earlier), or to be annoyed that this is rare enough that I feel the need to point it out.
Chapter 38: Rescue
Perrin and Egwene have not been having a fun time with the Whitecloaks. Perrin thinks about how they’ve been leashed to a horse and made to follow the train on foot by day, and made to sleep on the ground, tied up, with no blankets by night. Byar, who’s appropriated Perrin’s axe as his own, comes by regularly to explain in detail all the tortures they will be put to once they reach Amador, and also to beat on Perrin. But this night, he comes to them and tells them that they are slowing the column down, and it is presenting the Lord Captain with a dilemma; Darkfriends must be brought to justice and punished, but thanks to the wolves they have no spare mounts for the prisoners, and it is of vital importance that they reach Caemlyn in time. If they escaped, however (Byar says), the Whitecloaks would be forced to let them go. He tosses a sharp rock down in front of Perrin. Perrin is astounded, and tries desperately to figure out if this is for real or if it’s a trap. Then suddenly the wolves send him a message: Help comes! Byar sees the change in Perrin’s expression, and wants to know what Perrin’s thinking. Perrin can’t think of anything to say, and watches as Byar reconsiders letting them escape. Byar is about to decide, when Lan comes out of nowhere and knocks Byar (and the other Whitecloak guards) cold. Lan cuts their bonds and tells them to get two cloaks from the felled Whitecloaks; Perrin gets his axe back, too, and thinks that he can almost still smell Byar on the cloak. Then Moiraine’s lightning storm begins, and Lan leads Perrin and Egwene out of the camp. They get back to Moiraine, who tells them that Nynaeve never returned. Lan spins around to go back for her, but Moiraine orders him to stop. When he hesitates, she sharply takes him to task:
“Remember your oaths, al’Lan Mandragoran, Lord of the Seven Towers! What of the oath of a Diademed Battle Lord of the Malkieri?”
Perrin blinked. Lan was all of that?
Then Nynaeve returns with Bela and a horse for Perrin. She starts toward Egwene, overjoyed, but Lan grabs her arm, and she stares up at him. Moiraine tells him they have to leave; Lan lets Nynaeve go, and she laughs. As they start out, Perrin feels the wolves say goodbye: One day again. They make camp, and Nynaeve pulls out her ointments to treat Egwene and Perrin’s injuries. When she treats Perrin, his bruises seem to almost completely go away, and Nynaeve looks frightened. Then she notices his eyes, and grabs his face to examine them, trying to figure out what kind of illness would turn the irises of his eyes yellow. Moiraine overhears this, and examines Perrin herself. She murmurs that there was no foretelling this. Nynaeve demands to know whether Moiraine knows what it is, and Moiraine merely tells her that it will not harm Perrin directly. Perrin realizes she and Lan know what it means. Lan asks if he met a guide, and Perrin tells him about Elyas. Lan recognizes the name, and tells Perrin that Elyas used to be a Warder. Perrin asks if the wolf thing is of the Shadow; Lan hesitates, then says he doesn’t think so, but who can tell? Lan goes on that the old barriers are weakening, and this may be the end of the Age — or of the world:
Suddenly he grinned, but his grin was as dark as a scowl; his eyes sparkled merrily, laughing at the foot of the gallows. “But that’s not for us to worry about, eh, blacksmith? We’ll fight the Shadow as long as we have breath, and if it overruns us, we’ll go under biting and clawing. You Two Rivers folk are too stubborn to surrender. Don’t you worry whether the Dark One has stirred in your life. You are back among friends, now.”
Understandably, Perrin is less than comforted by this.
It’s a cliché, but it’s still true: the eyes are the windows of the soul. Which is why in sf intimations of Other are so often indicated by a change in the eyes. If you go with the notion that the eyes, more than anything else, show who you are at the core, then it’s only logical that something so profound as to change your very nature would be reflected in them as well.
Also, funky-colored eyes are Cool. Just ask Mary Sue!
Lan’s never been among my favorite characters in WOT (though he’s certainly firmly on the plus side), but there’s no doubt the man is an all-around badass. (Though I have to admit the title “Diademed Battle Lord” makes me snort, just a little. Irony is a hard habit to shake, y’all.)
Chapter 39: Weaving of the Web
Rand watches the crowd run through the streets from the window of his room, excited to see the false Dragon. He asks Mat if he’s coming along, but Mat just glowers and mutters imprecations about Loial being a Trolloc. Rand sighs and leaves. Downstairs, Gill tells Rand that someone’s been asking about him in the city—a half-mad beggar—and to be careful out there today. Rand heads out, and sees that the number of men wearing the white far outnumber the ones wearing red; Rand has learned that the red means support for Morgase, while the white means the Queen’s involvement with Aes Sedai was to blame for everything that’s been going wrong. Rand wishes the white cloth had been cheaper. The mood in the city is edgy and belligerent as Rand makes his way to the Inner City. He works his way to a good vantage point in the crowd lining the route Logain’s captors will take to get to the Palace, but then notices people clearing the way for a beggar dressed in disgusting filthy rags, face hidden by a cowl. The beggar draws opposite Rand’s position, and suddenly shrieks and points straight at Rand. The beggar begins struggling to get to him through the crowd, and Rand takes off in the opposite direction. He gets away from the throng and wanders at random for a while through the empty streets, upset that he’s going to miss seeing the false Dragon. He notices he is next to a high wall, and decides to climb it and see if he can still see the procession from there. He does so, and is thrilled to be proven right. He watches the massive wagon carrying Logain come into view, surrounded by soldiers and Warders. In the corners of the wagon, six Aes Sedai sit and watch the cage in the center with Logain inside. Rand stares at the false Dragon, fascinated, and notes that Logain carries himself like a king even in a cage, and where his gaze falls, people go silent. He wonders aloud to himself why the Aes Sedai are watching him like that, and a girl’s voice replies, “They’re keeping him from touching the True Source, silly.” Rand jerks in surprise, loses his balance, and falls inside the wall.
Again, I can’t remember if I had figured out by this point that the beggar who’s hunting Rand here (and earlier, on his and Mat’s way to Caemlyn) was Fain. I seriously doubt it, though; we don’t know at this point about the whole merging with Mordeth thing, and though Fain is the only really raggedy guy we’ve met thus far (when Rand sees him in Baerlon), the connection is subtle enough that I’m pretty sure I missed it.
Unlike Chapter 37, this title makes perfect sense. “Weaving of the Web”, indeed; this whole chapter is nothing but a series of ta’veren-y happenstances pushing Rand into position for the single most story-altering event to happen in TEOTW, other than the actual climax at the end.
Yay! Let’s get to it.
Chapter 40: The Web Tightens
Rand regains consciousness to find he is inside the wall in what looks like a park. The girl who spoke to him is climbing down from the tree next to the wall, and Rand is alarmed to see how richly dressed she is. He also notes that she is extremely pretty. A boy who resembles her closely also drops down out of the tree, just as splendidly dressed as she is. The boy tells the girl that they will get in trouble with their mother for this, and she tells him to be quiet; the exchange reveals their names to be Gawyn and Elayne. Elayne asks Rand if he’s hurt. Rand says he’s fine and he’ll just be going back over the wall now, but falls down dizzily when he tries to stand. Elayne pulls out medicinal supplies and begins tending the wound on Rand’s head, ignoring him when he protests. Rand asks Gawyn if she always expects everyone to do what she tells them; Gawyn looks startled, then laughs, saying yes, she does, and usually, they do. He and Elayne have a rambling conversation about who does and does not obey her as she tends Rand’s scraped hands, and Rand finally asks who their mother is:
Elayne’s eyes widened in surprise, but Gawyn spoke in an ordinary tone that made his words all the more jarring. “Morgase, by the Grace of the Light, Queen of Andor, Protector of the Realm, Defender of the People, High Seat of the House Trakand.”
Rand begins to panic and scrambles to his feet, intending to try climbing the wall again. Elayne observes in surprise that he really didn’t know. Gawyn asks for his name, and without thinking he gives them his real name, adding that he’s from the Two Rivers. Rand notes that Gawyn looks surprised at this. Gawyn starts babbling about the Two Rivers and how Elayne should marry a man from there; Elayne and Rand stare at him, until they are interrupted by an extremely good-looking dark-haired man, who eyes Rand warily and demands that Elayne and Gawyn step away from him. Elayne refuses, telling the man, Galad, that Rand is under her protection, and Rand realizes this must be Galadedrid Damodred, Gawyn and Elayne’s half-brother. Galad tries to convince Elayne that Rand might be dangerous, but she orders him to leave. Galad does so reluctantly, and Elayne tells Rand they must get him out of there quickly. Before they can do anything, though, armed guards rush up and surround Rand. Gawyn and Elayne immediately jump in front of him. Elayne has an altercation with Tallanvor, the head of the guards, and does an end-run around him by demanding that all three of them be taken to Morgase, or none. This backfires when another guard brings a message that the Queen does command that all three of them be brought to her.
They head into the Palace, Elayne advising Rand to speak clearly and follow her lead; Rand thinks he would feel better about this if Gawyn didn’t also look nervous. After a long walk they arrive at the hall where Morgase awaits them, where Elayne refuses to let Tallanvor take Rand’s sword, saying that guests of the royal family may go armed even into the Queen’s presence. They enter, and Rand copies the way Gawyn bows, only to see Tallanvor glaring at him. Rand surreptitiously looks around and sees that Morgase is even more beautiful than her daughter. She is flanked by a man Rand surmises to be Gareth Bryne, and behind the throne a woman sits on a stool, knitting. Morgase commands them to rise, and rebukes Elayne and Gawyn for sneaking off to look at Logain. The woman knitting behind her chimes in, saying that Elayne’s lessons in Tar Valon will shape her into a proper Queen, and Rand realizes this must be Elaida. He is very glad, seeing her, that he never tried to contact her. Morgase turns her attention to Rand, and Elayne tells her the story of how Rand ended up inside the Palace walls, pleading for leniency for a loyal citizen of Andor. Morgase sighs, and informs Elayne that she doubts Two Rivers denizens are even aware they are citizens of Andor; Rand’s expression confirms this. Elaida puts down her knitting and examines Rand, declaring he looks nothing like a Two Rivers man; Rand replies that his mother was an outlander, but his father was a Two Rivers shepherd. Elaida reaches out and feels the raised engraving on his sword hilt under the wrappings.
“A shepherd from the Two Rivers,” she said softly, a whisper meant to be heard by all, “with a heron-mark sword.”
Those last few words acted on the chamber as if she had announced the Dark One. Leather and metal creaked behind Rand, boots scuffling on the marble tiles. From the corner of his eye he could see Tallanvor and another of the guardsmen backing away from him to gain room, hands on their swords, prepared to draw and, from their faces, prepared to die. In two quick strides Gareth Bryne was at the front of the dais, between Rand and the Queen. Even Gawyn put himself in front of Elayne, a worried look on his face and a hand on his dagger. Elayne herself looked at him as if she were seeing him for the first time. Morgase did not change expression, but her hands tightened on the gilded arms of her throne.
Only Elaida showed less reaction than the Queen. The Aes Sedai gave no sign that she had said anything out of the ordinary. She took her hand from the sword, causing the soldiers to tense even more. Her eyes stayed on his, unruffled and calculating.
Morgase says that surely he is too young to have earned the heron-mark, but Bryne disagrees, saying that he is too young, but the sword fits him. Elaida asks how he got the blade, and Rand replies that his father gave it to him. She observes that his story is absurd, and awfully convenient. Morgase asks if Elaida is naming him Darkfriend; Elaida avoids answering directly, but states that “this one is dangerous”. Morgase orders her to speak plainly for once: is this a Foretelling?
“This I Foretell,” Elaida replied, “and swear under the Light that I can say no clearer. From this day Andor marches toward pain and division. The Shadow has yet to darken to its blackest, and I cannot see if the Light will come after. Where the world has wept one tear, it will weep thousands. This I Foretell.”
A pall of silence clung to the room, broken only by Morgase expelling her breath as if it were her last.
Elaida continued to stare into Rand’s eyes. She spoke again, barely moving her lips, so softly that he could barely hear her less than an arm’s length away. “This, too, I Foretell. Pain and division come to the whole world, and this man stands at the heart of it. I obey the Queen,” she whispered, “and speak it clearly.”
Rand felt as if his feet had become rooted in the marble floor. The cold and stiffness of the stone crept up his legs and sent a shiver up his spine. No one else could have heard. But she was still looking at him, and he had heard.
Rand repeats that he is a shepherd from the Two Rivers. Bryne and Elaida both advise Morgase that it would be best to lock him up for a while, at least until Elayne and Gawyn are gone. Morgase considers this, but then declares that Andor is drowning in suspicion and fear, and she will not participate in it. Elaida starts to protest, but Morgase cuts her off. She asks Rand if she means any harm to her or her family, and Rand swears that he doesn’t. Morgase advises him not to be seen on the Palace grounds again, and tells Tallanvor to escort him out.
Gawyn and Elayne accompany him to the Palace gates. Elayne tells him that if she had told Morgase that she, Elayne, thought Rand was handsome, he would surely have been locked in a cell. She smiles at him and leaves Rand gaping. He recovers, and half-asks Gawyn why no one believed he was from the Two Rivers.
Gawyn nodded as if it was for this he had been waiting. Still he hesitated. Rand opened his mouth to take back the unspoken question, and Gawyn said, “Wrap a shoufa around your head, Rand, and you would be the image of an Aielman. Odd, since Mother seems to think you sound like a Two Rivers man, at least.”
Gawyn bids him farewell, and leaves. Rand stumbles outside the gate and stands there numbly, thinking about Gawyn’s words, until he realizes how easy it would be for Elaida to find him there, and hurries away.
This is hands-down my favorite chapter in the book. Screw that, this is one of my favorite scenes in the entire series. I apologize for the ridiculously long recap of it, and the extensive quoting, but I couldn’t bring myself to edit it down any further.
This is where the whole story shifts and re-centers, in tone, in scale, and in focus. Before this point, though of course a lot of significant stuff happens, we’ve basically been dicking around in the backwaters of Randland; now, as they say, we’re suddenly on a much larger playing field.
However much Elaida will come to suck later on, her presence in the series is totally justified on the basis of this one scene. Her Foretelling, besides just being generally awesome, eliminates any lingering doubt we might have had by this point over just who is at the center of this story, and gives the reader the first really clear indication of just how big this thing is going to get. I remember I got chills the first time I read it.
Not to mention, this whole chapter is nothing but one big smorgasbord of self-realization moments, which as I might have mentioned a few billion times is one of my favorite things ever. Not only Elaida’s Foretelling, but Bryne’s observation that the heron-mark sword belongs with Rand, and Gawyn’s statement that Rand looks like an Aielman—even Elayne’s assertion that he is handsome—these are the things that fill my geeky little heart with joy. Intrigue and portent and drama, oh my.
The effectiveness of these revelations has a lot to do with the third person limited narrative mode Jordan employs. Ninety-five percent of the time in this novel, we are seeing things only from Rand’s perspective, and those POVs we’ve had which are not Rand’s have thus far only happened while Rand is not present (plus, Nynaeve and Perrin both had much more pressing matters than Rand on their minds at the time). Since Rand is clearly not given to much self-introspection as a character (most of Jordan’s characters aren’t, actually), we are forced to rely on those relatively rare occasions when other characters make vocal observations to him about himself to see how he might be perceived from a more omniscient point of view.
(This is a method of characterization that is very easily abused, especially when the author is a little too enamored of the character being observed (see Sue, Mary), but in my opinion Jordan had a very good grasp of how much was just enough. And one thing Jordan’s never had a problem with is characters in WOT over-romanticizing other characters. If anything his flaw lies in the opposite direction.)
That’s how you do it. Don’t lay it out on the table like week-old ham; give a tantalizing glimpse here, a little taste there. Leave ‘em wanting more, by gum.
And, yeah. Made Of Awesome, my peeps. MADE OF AWESOME.
Okay, I will shut up now. Well, I won’t, actually, but I will at least shut up about this chapter. Onward!
Chapter 41: Old Friends and New Threats
Rand returns to the inn and finds Gill in the library, losing a game of Stones to Loial. He tells them what happened, all of it except what Elaida had whispered to him and what Gawyn had said about him looking like an Aielman. Loial murmurs about ta’veren. Gill tells him he’ll have to leave the city immediately; he offers to give Rand and Mat horses, and Rand tells him he is a good friend, embarrassing Gill. Loial repeats that he would like to go with Rand, and Rand reminds him of the danger. Loial seems unruffled by that part of it:
“Darkfriends,” the Ogier replied in a placid rumble, “and Aes Sedai, and the Light knows what else. Or the Dark One. You are going to Tar Valon, and there is a very fine grove there, which I have heard the Aes Sedai tend well. In any case, there is more to see in the world than the groves. You truly are ta’veren, Rand. The Pattern weaves itself around you, and you stand in the heart of it.”
This man stands at the heart of it. Rand felt a chill. “I don’t stand at the heart of anything,” he said harshly.
Gill and Loial are taken aback, and Rand feels bad, and says that Loial can come with him. Then a maid comes in and tells Gill that there are Whitecloaks in the inn. Gill jumps up and heads to the common room; Rand follows, hanging back so he won’t be seen. Gill greets the Whitecloaks, and their leader interrupts rudely and tells him they’re looking for Darkfriends: “a boy from the Two Rivers–” Gill cuts him off, furious, declaring that his inn harbors no Darkfriends, that everyone here is a good Queen’s man. The Whitecloak officer sneers and says something about the Queen and her “Tar Valon witch”, and every patron in the inn stands up. The other Whitecloaks look nervous, but the officer continues to threaten Gill, saying he wouldn’t like it much if he ended up with a Dragon’s Fang on his door. Gill tells him to get out, and gives him a count of three. The officer snaps that this isn’t the end of it, and tries not to scurry too much getting out of the door. Gill asks Rand what he’s been up to, with Elaida and Whitecloaks, but Rand protests he has no idea why the Whitecloaks are after him. The maid comes back and says there’s a lady in the kitchen asking for Rand and Mat by name. Gill looks alarmed, but Rand realizes who this must be and breaks into a huge grin. He bolts off to the kitchen, Gill yelling after him to wait, and charges in to see Moiraine, Lan, Perrin, Nynaeve and Egwene waiting for him. The Emond’s Fielders have a joyous reunion, though Rand notices Perrin seems subdued and is keeping his eyes downcast. Rand introduces everyone to Gill; Moiraine and Lan give him sharp looks when he uses their real names. Nynaeve asks where Mat is, and Rand tells her Mat is upstairs, sick. Nynaeve wants to go see him immediately, and Moiraine suggests they all go up while she has a word with Master Gill about rats.
The Emond’s Fielders all go upstairs. Perrin asks where Thom is; stricken, Rand tells them a Fade killed him. Inside the room, Rand says look who’s here, Mat; Mat is sweating and feverish-looking, and only asks how Rand can be sure they are who they seem. Nynaeve goes to the bed at once to see what the problem is.
“Pretty Nynaeve,” Mat spat. “A Wisdom isn’t supposed to think of herself as a woman, is she? Not a pretty woman. But you do, don’t you? Now. You can’t make yourself forget that you’re a pretty woman, now, and it frightens you. Everybody changes.” Nynaeve’s face paled as he spoke, whether with anger or something else, Rand could not tell. Mat gave a sly laugh, and his feverish eyes slid to Egwene. “Pretty Egwene,” he croaked. “Pretty as Nynaeve. And you share other things now, don’t you? Other dreams. What do you dream about now?” Egwene took a step back from the bed.
Moiraine enters, sees Mat, and hisses at Nynaeve to get away from him. When Nynaeve doesn’t move, Moiraine grabs her and hauls her away from the bed. Mat snarls silently at Moiraine as she reaches out to touch him. Suddenly Mat whips out the dagger and tries to stab her with it, but Lan appears out of nowhere and grabs his wrist, stopping him. Moiraine asks why they didn’t listen to her warning, and Rand explains he didn’t know Mat had the dagger until after they were separated. Moiraine says that Fades and Darkfriends would feel the evil of the dagger for miles off and be irresistibly drawn to it; she’s amazed they got this far with it. Lan says there are Fades and Trollocs gathering in the countryside even now, and that they may well have brought another Trolloc War to Caemlyn. Rand is aghast, but Moiraine says it might not come to that, if they can get out of the city. Perrin says bitterly that they bring death with them everywhere they go, and Rand is shocked to see his eyes are yellow. Moiraine returns to the subject of Mat, and Egwene asks what’s wrong with him.
[Moiraine] pointed to the ruby-hilted dagger, careful not to let her finger touch it. The blade trembled as Mat strained to reach her with it. “This is from Shadar Logoth. There is not a pebble of that city that is not tainted and dangerous to bring outside the walls, and this is far more than a pebble. The evil that killed Shadar Logoth is in it, and in Mat, too, now. Suspicion and hatred so strong that even those closest are seen as enemies, rooted so deep in the bone that eventually the only thought left is to kill. By carrying the dagger beyond the walls of Shadar Logoth he freed it, this seed of it, from what bound it to that place. It will have waxed and waned in him, what he is in the heart of him fighting what the contagion of Mashadar sought to make him, but now the battle inside him is almost done, and he almost defeated. Soon, if it does not kill him first, he will spread that evil like a plague wherever he goes. Just as one scratch from that blade is enough to infect and destroy, so, soon, a few minutes with Mat will be just as deadly.”
Appalled, Nynaeve asks if there’s anything to be done; Moiraine hopes so, and tells them to leave her with Mat.
Again, sorry about all the quoting. But especially with the last, I couldn’t think of a more concise way to convey the concepts involved than the dialogue itself.
And, ugh, Shadar Logoth funk. I remember that I had known from the moment we see Mat playing with the dagger on Domon’s boat that it was Bad News, because I am genre-savvy, yo, but the way Moiraine actually describes it here was even worse than I had been supposing. Even now it kind of makes me want to go take a shower. Yick.
Perrin should really pipe down; of the three boys, he by far got the least raw deal. Of course, that’s not very fair of me, since he (and we) haven’t yet been clued in to Rand’s channeling tainted goopy saidin, and how much that’s going to suck for him. But still.
(Insert incoherent parenthetical observation here about the Law of Contagion in magic systems, and the reiterated parallel to biological warfare. I’m not sure what I’m trying to say here, but I’m sure it’s something.)
Veddy interestink that the thing Evil Mat chooses to taunt Egwene with is dreams, eh? Another example of foreshadowing so subtle I never noticed it till now. Very sly, our Jordan.
One last note on this chapter: the icon is the staff, which was used in the early books to represent Moiraine. I haven’t been talking about the icons much thus far, but this one I wanted to point out because I distinctly remember that this was the first one that jumped out at me the first time around. Though the chapter title was probably hint enough that Rand was about to have a reunion, this was the first time I recall looking at the icon and going, “Oh! That must mean Moiraine’s in Caemlyn.” Previous to this, I had been kind of not seeing them (even though I did note the wolf icon for Perrin); after this chapter I started paying more attention to them.
And I’m spent. Mosey on back this Wednesday for the penultimate section of the re-read of TEOTW, in which we’ll get through Chapters 42-47. Be there or be square!