The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: The Eye of the World, Part 6

’Allo, guvnors! Welcome back to this ’ere WOT Re-read, wot?

Today, chaps, we will be having ourselves a bit o’ Part 6 of The Oiye of the World, right, Chapters 42-47 to be exact! The old entries, why, you kin find ’em ’ere. Bloody brilliant, that is.

…No, I don’t know why I’m trying to irritate the British. Anyway.

Y’all know the drill: Spoilers for the whole series may lurk below, so if you haven’t read, sod off! Just kidding. I really will stop now. Let’s get to it, shall we?

Chapter 42: Remembrance of Dreams

What Happens
The now subdued Emond’s Fielders head back down to the library to wait; Rand notices that Perrin’s eyes seem to almost shine in the dark, and shudders. In the library, Rand doesn’t understand for a second why the others are all gaping and frozen, then realizes that Loial is sitting there, and hastily introduces him. They soon recover and begin questioning Loial eagerly; Perrin is particularly interested to know about steddings. After a bit, Mat comes in, to Rand’s amazement, looking like his old self, with Moiraine and Lan in close attendance. Mat hesitantly says he doesn’t really remember a lot after Whitebridge, and apologizes for whatever he might have said earlier. Everyone welcomes him back gladly, but Rand notices that he’s touching something under his coat, and gasps quietly. Moiraine tells him softly that yes, Mat still has the dagger; she can’t separate him from it without killing him. She’s cleansed the taint from him for now, but it will creep back, until Mat can get to Tar Valon and be Healed there. Loial introduces himself to Moiraine, and she greets him kindly, but then politely asks him to excuse them. Rand interjects that he promised Loial that he could come along with them, and after a moment Moiraine accepts this, and sends Lan to guard the door while they plan.

She tells the others that between the Whitecloaks inside the city and the Trollocs outside it, they have to get away immediately; in the conversation that follows, Loial lets slip that Rand met Elaida, and Rand rather incoherently explains his adventures in the Caemlyn Palace. Mat grins, Egwene wants to know who Elayne is, and Perrin grouses disingenuously that all he got to meet were Whitecloaks and Tinkers. Loial begins to ramble about Tinkers and singing, and how trees never listen when humans sing to them, but he has a little of that talent. Moiraine tries to cut him off, but Loial quickly takes the opportunity to ask her about a man who came to the stedding twenty or so years ago and gave the Ogier a curious message:

“He said the Dark One intended to blind the Eye of the World, and slay the Great Serpent, kill time itself. The Elders said he was as sound in his mind as in his body, but that was what he said. What I have wanted to ask is, can the Dark One do such a thing? Kill time itself? And the Eye of the World? Can he blind the eye of the Great Serpent? What does it mean?”

Perrin chimes in that the Tinkers received a similar message from the Aiel three years ago, and tells the story he heard from Raen. Moiraine seems very struck by this. Perrin then blurts out “Ba’alzamon”. He tells Mat and Rand they can’t keep it a secret any longer, and Rand reluctantly tells Moiraine about the dreams they’ve all been having, and that Ba’alzamon had said in them that the Eye of the World would never serve him. After she recovers her calm, Moiraine tells them that Ba’alzamon is able to find them this way because for now, the three of them are central to the Pattern. Loial observes that they are all ta’veren, and Moiraine agrees:

“So they are,” Moiraine said. “Three of them, when I expected one. A great many things have happened that I did not expect. This news concerning the Eye of the World changes much.”

She muses aloud that the Pattern is forcing their path; she just wonders whether or not it’s the Dark One doing so. Regardless, she says, they must act on the information; they no longer have time to go to Tar Valon. They must go straight to the Blight and warn the Green Man about this. She ignores everyone’s startled reaction to this:

“The Pattern presents a crisis, and at the same time a way to surmount it. If I did not know it was impossible, I could almost believe the Creator is taking a hand. There is a way.”

She turns to Loial and asks him if he knows about the Ways, and whether he can find his way to the Waygate near Fal Dara. Loial says that he does, but they cannot go that way; if they do they will surely all die.

Commentary
This is a really short chapter with a bloody ton of exposition in it. I’ve elided a lot of the more random bits in the recap above, so I recommend you go back and read the chapter itself if you don’t want to miss anything.

I’m torn between the coolness of all the things we learn in this chapter, and the clunky uncoolness of the talking-heads manner in which it is presented. I don’t know if I’m being over-critical here, because I certainly can’t think of another way Jordan could have gotten all this across without just info-dumping it on the reader, but there you go.

I’m also not sure how I feel about the practically fourth-wall-breaking discourse Moiraine indulges in about the plot device Web of the Pattern forcing their path to the Blight rather than Tar Valon. On the one hand, at least Jordan’s not being coy about it. On the other… enh. It’s just weird to me how in some ways Jordan is so good at subtlety, and in others he’s like the proverbial bull in a china shop.

(Oh, and I put that quote about the Creator in there just to annoy Certain People, and you know who you are. Why can’t the Creator take a hand? Because there’s no religion in Randland, silly! Your heads may now explode.)

Chapter 43: Decisions and Apparitions

What Happens
Loial explains why the Ways are so dangerous: Back during the Breaking, when all the male Aes Sedai were going mad, the Ogier decided to offer them sanctuary in the steddings, since they would not be able to use or even feel the True Source there. Many male Aes Sedai took them up on it, but were not able to bear to stay too long, cut off from the One Power. They left, but before they went they gave the Ogier a gift: the Ways, so that the Ogier could move between steddings without having to travel the broken and altered land that separated them. Over the centuries, however, the Ways, once bright and beautiful, went dim and foul, and people who entered them did not come out again, or came out mad, raving about Machin Shin, the Black Wind. Eventually the Ogier made an edict forbidding anyone to travel the Ways. Loial wants to know why he should break that edict.

“Humankind and Ogier, everything that lives, we are at war with the Dark One,” Moiraine said. “The greater part of the world does not even know it yet, and most of the few who do fight skirmishes and believe they are battles. While the world refuses to believe, the Dark One may be at the brink of victory. There is enough power in the Eye of the World to undo his prison. If the Dark One has found some way to bend the Eye of the World to his use . . . ” […]

“What can we do?” Mat burst out. “Why are we so important? Why do we have to go to the Blight? The Blight!”

Moiraine replies that it is not chance, but the Pattern that brought them here. They can try to hide, and maybe doom the world, or they can try to help; the choice is up to them. Rand says he’ll go, and Mat and Perrin echo him. Nynaeve and Egwene also say they will go, and Moiraine turns to Loial. Loial hesitates, and then finally says it would be a fine thing to see The Green Man, and agrees to guide them. As the party makes plans for the trip, Rand pulls Egwene aside and tries to convince her not to go. She smiles and thanks him, but reminds him that Moiraine says she and Nynaeve are part of this Pattern too. Finally everyone goes to bed. Rand dreams he is the same hallway as his first dream of Ba’alzamon; he tries to wake himself up, but cannot. He enters the room, and sees that there are three figures on the table; their faces are indistinct, but one has a wolf next to him, one clutches a dagger with a ruby on the hilt, and the third wears a heron-mark sword. Ba’alzamon tells him he’s hidden too long; Rand replies that he denies him; Ba’alzamon laughs and says that he always thinks it is that easy, but each time, he either kneels to Ba’alzamon or dies wishing he had. Rand calls him the Father of Lies, and Ba’alzamon taunts him about the Black Ajah, asking if he’s sure those who are helping him aren’t part of it. Rand yells at him, asking what Ba’alzamon wants from him.

“Kneel!” Ba’alzamon pointed to the floor at his feet. “Kneel, and acknowledge me your master! In the end, you will. You will be my creature, or you will die.”

The last word echoed through the room, reverberating back on itself, doubling and redoubling, till Rand threw up his arms as if to shield his head from a blow. Staggering back until he thumped into the table, he shouted, trying to drown the sound in his ears. “Noooooooooooo!”

As he cried out, he spun, sweeping the figures to the floor. Something stabbed his hand, but he ignored it, stomping the clay to shapeless smears underfoot. But when his shout failed, the echo was still there, and growing stronger:

die-die-die-die-die-DIE-DIE-DIE-DIE-DIE-DIE-DIE-DIE-DIE-DIE-DIE

The sound pulled on him like a whirlpool, drawing him in, ripping the void in his mind to shreds.

Rand falls out of bed, and wakes to see Mat twisting and yelling in his sleep. He wakes Mat up, and Mat asks him if he saw the three figurines. Rand says he did, and Mat tells him despairingly that Ba’alzamon knows which one is him, because he picked it up. Rand feels pain in his hand, and examines it to see a splinter from the table in his dream driven into his palm. He pulls it out, and the splinter melts into nothing, but the wound is still there. Frantically he cleans the wound. Moiraine enters, and tells them to make ready to leave; she sees their faces, and asks if the dreams came back. Rand shows her his injury. Moiraine makes no comment, but takes his hand and Heals it. Moiraine then tells them to hurry; time grows short.

Commentary
Time may grow short, but this post sure doesn’t. Hokay.

Most clear-cut chapter title we’ve seen yet; if Jordan had just added “and Expositions”, it’d have been perfect.

On the question of whether the Ba’alzamon dreams are in Tel’aran’rhiod: I’ve been thinking about it, and I have tentatively concluded that the question is kind of not answerable, because I get the distinct impression that Jordan had not quite hammered out at this point whether he was treating these dreams as metaphysical or metaphorical, if you see what I’m saying. We will be coming back to this topic later.

(I’m going to get really tired of the apostrophe key doing this re-read, aren’t I.)

Imagery: Jordan is still good at it. I liked this bit especially:

“He knows who I am, Rand. I picked up the one with the dagger, and he said, ‘So that’s who you are.’ And when I looked again, the figure had my face. My face, Rand! It looked like flesh. It felt like flesh. Light help me, I could feel my own hand gripping me, like I was the figure.”

Wacky. Also, brrr.

Chapter 44: The Dark Along the Ways

What Happens
Master Gill takes the party down to the stable, where their horses are saddled and ready. Mat mutters to Rand that Perrin’s making him nervous; Rand agrees, but assures Mat that whatever is going on with Perrin, Moiraine knows about it and it’s fine. He doesn’t really believe his own words, though. Gill opens a concealed door in the back of the stable so they can leave without being seen by the Whitecloaks watching the inn, and wishes them well. The party travels quickly through the still-dark streets, following Loial, who can feel where the Waygate is located. Eventually Loial leads them to a shop and says the gate is under it. They break into the cellar of the shop, and see that the gate has been incorporated into the walls of the cellar. Moiraine removes the carving of the Avendesora leaf from the gate, and it opens to show a dull reflective surface.

“I have heard,” Loial said, half mourning, half fearful, “that once the Waygates shone like mirrors. Once, who entered the Ways walked through the sun and the sky. Once.”

One by one they enter the gate. After Rand goes through, he sees that the party members still outside are moving like molasses; Loial explains that the Wheel turns faster in the Ways. Moiraine comes through last, closing the gate behind her, and tells Loial to get going. They travel through the Ways, and the network of bridges and ramps seems oddly familiar to Rand, as if he had seen it somewhere before. The physics of the place make no sense:

After an interminable climb, curving continuously, the ramp let off onto another Island just like the one where it had begun. Rand tried to imagine the curve of the ramp and gave up. This Island can’t be right on top of the other one. It can’t be.

This goes on for a while, and Rand is just beginning to think that the Ways aren’t so bad after all, when Loial comes to a bridge and stops with a grunt; the bridge ends in a jagged gap.

Commentary
What I find interesting, or amusing, or something about the physics of the Ways is how it all seems so perfectly logical to me, when of course it’s nothing of the kind. I have a theory that the reason Geometry and Physics were my worst subjects in school (seriously; me and special relativity are severely unmixy things) was because I read Through the Looking Glass too young, and so warped my mental space-time continuum forever.

Or, you know. Possibly I’m just stupid. Whichever.

Also, this made me blink:

The bubble of light around them could as well have been a cave surrounded by stone, completely surrounded, with no way out. The horses might have been walking a treadmill for the change around them.

They have treadmills in Randland? Do they also do Pilates?

Re: the end of the chapter, well. I’m 99% positive that the scene in the film version of Fellowship of the Ring, where they have to get across the gap in the stair in Moria, never happened in the novel, so, okay. But I’m just saying, that’s immediately what I thought of.

Chapter 45: What Follows in Shadow

What Happens
Nynaeve wants to know if this means they have to go back to Caemlyn; Moiraine says there should be another way around. Loial is worried this means the Ways are falling apart as they speak, but Moiraine reassures him that the break is old. Loial suggests getting out at Tar Valon or Stedding Shangtai instead, but Moiraine insists on Fal Dara. They travel on for a while, then stop to sleep. The mood is morose as they eat. To cheer them up, Moiraine tells them that she does not think Thom Merrilin is dead. She says that people in Whitebridge would have mentioned it if a gleeman had been killed, and also that Thom is a part of the Pattern that envelops them, important enough that she does not believe it is done with yet.

Too important? Rand thought. How could Moiraine know…? “Min? She saw something about Thom?”

“She saw a great deal,” Moiraine said wryly. “About all of you. I wish I could understand half of what she saw, but even she does not. Old barriers fail. But whether what Min does is old or new, she sees true. Your fates are bound together. Thom Merrilin’s, too.”

Mat makes a laughing comment that the only thing Min was looking was Rand. Egwene is ready to give Rand a hard time about this until Perrin casually brings up Aram, at which point Egwene announces she’s tired and going to sleep. Perrin and Rand grin at each other, and the boys twit each other about girls for a moment before going to their blankets. The mood soon turns sour, though, as each of them worries about what will happen when they go to sleep. Moiraine goes around to each of them, speaking softly; when she gets to Rand, she tells him that his dreams are safe as long as she is close by. Rand is reassured enough to sleep.

They wake and set out again. After a time, Lan announces quietly that something is following them. Moiraine asks Lan if it feels to him like something that serves the Dark One, but Lan is unsure. He volunteers to go back and check it out, but Loial informs him that if he gets separated from them he will never find his way out. Moiraine decides to leave whatever it is alone as long as it doesn’t trouble them, and they continue on. The next guidepost is marked with Trolloc runes, and Moiraine suddenly understands how the Fades were moving such large numbers of Trollocs around without attracting notice; there are Waygates in the Blight, and one where Manetheren used to be. Then they find Trolloc corpses sunken into the stone, turned into stone themselves. Moiraine surmises that the male Aes Sedai who created the Ways built traps into them for Shadowspawn; she does not think those traps will spring for them. Nevertheless, as they continue on she checks each landing carefully before letting them go forward. After a while Rand realizes he hears wind in the distance. Puzzled, he asks Loial about it, and Loial pales and says it is Machin Shin. Moiraine orders everyone to run. They charge over the last two bridges and head for the Waygate as the wind gets louder and closer. They reach the gate, and Moiraine says that the key is gone. Everyone panics. Moiraine uses her staff to begin cutting a hole through the gate with Fire. The wind gets closer as she works, and Rand can hear voices in it. Moiraine finishes cutting, and Lan and his warhorse charge the gate, knocking down the cut portion. Moiraine yells for everyone to get out; they all pile through, and Moiraine comes out last, backwards, holding off the wind with the One Power.

The Waygate darkened. The hazy shimmer became murkier, sinking through gray to charcoal, then to black as deep as the heart of the Ways. As if from a great distance the wind howled at them, hidden voices filled with an unquenchable thirst for living things, filled with a hunger for pain, filled with frustration.

The voices seemed to whisper in Rand’s ears, right at the brink of understanding, and within it. Flesh so fine, so fine to tear, to gash the skin; skin to strip, to plait, so nice to plait the strips, so nice, so red the drops that fall; blood so red, so red, so sweet; sweet screams, pretty screams, singing screams, scream your song, sing your screams . . .

The whispers drifted, the blackness lessened, faded, and the Waygate was again a murky shimmer seen through an arch of carved stone.

After they recover, Egwene asks what the Black Wind is, and Moiraine says no one is sure. Something that got trapped in the Ways long ago, perhaps, or something born from them when they went foul. She says she will ask Lord Agelmar to seal up this gate once they get to Fal Dara.

Commentary
Yeah. I think it’s the bit about stripping skin off and braiding it that makes the Black Wind so freakin’ scary. I mean, damn. All this scene needs is an evil clown and the terror would be complete. (Warning: do not click that link if you are scared of clowns.)

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I keep thinking about Stephen King here, either; the whole trip through the Ways is much more akin to a horror story than anything else. Actually, Jordan’s been getting a little more King-like for a while now; that whole die-die-DIE-DIE-DIE-DIE thing in Chapter 43 was very… onomatopoeical for Jordan, which is something I’m used to seeing with King (and his imitators), but not here.

Or maybe Lovecraft would be a better comparison. It’s kind of six of one, half a dozen of the other, really, since Lovecraft was one of King’s major influences, but invoking Lovecraft makes me sound more lit-crit scholarly, so we’ll go with that.

On a completely different note, re: Egwene and Rand’s exchange: is that the only time in the series he actually wins an argument with any of the Supergirls? I think it might be!

Also, I love that Moiraine says “wryly” that Min sees a lot. About Thom particularly, eh, Moir?

Chapter 46: Fal Dara

What Happens
The Borderlands are cold and bleak even in spring; Rand sees trees that look like they’ve been blasted apart, and Lan explains that sometimes it gets so cold in the winter that the sap in the trees freezes and explodes. They pass farms, but they are all deserted; Egwene comments that the inhabitants can’t have been gone long, because the curtains are too light for winter, and can’t have been up for more than a week or two at most. Perrin concurs, remarking that the scythe lying in the field over there has hardly any rust, and Rand wonders how he could see it so clearly. Rand tries again to convince Egwene and Nynaeve and Loial to stay behind at Fal Dara, but Loial just mentions ta’veren again, and Nynaeve tells him that she and Egwene will do their duty no less than the three of them. As they approach Fal Dara, Lan instructs everyone to throw back the hoods of their cloaks; no one may go among Borderland cities with their face hidden.

“Are they all that good-looking?” Mat laughed.

“A Halfman can’t hide with his face exposed,” the Warder said in a flat voice.

Rand’s grin slid off his face. Hastily Mat pushed back his hood.

They enter Fal Dara. The soldiers greet Lan with enthusiasm, calling out “Dai Shan!” and “The Golden Crane!” To Loial’s surprise, they greet the Ogier, too: “Glory to the Builders!” The city is filled to bursting with grim-faced farm refugees; inside the fortress at the center of town, everyone is very busy making weapons and armor. They are met by Ingtar, one of Agelmar’s armsmen. As Ingtar takes the party to Agelmar, he tells Lan that the raiding has been bad this year, and they are preparing to go meet the Trollocs in battle at Tarwin’s Gap. In his study, Agelmar greets Lan, Moiraine and Loial warmly. Moiraine tells Agelmar that they request a night’s rest before going on. Agelmar is taken aback; he had assumed Moiraine and Lan would be coming with the soldiers to Tarwin’s Gap, but Moiraine tells him they cannot. Lan asks what their chances are at the Gap; Agelmar replies that once the soldiers march north, the rest of the people will begin evacuating to the capital city. Hopefully it will hold. Passionately he again tries to persuade Lan to raise the banner of the Golden Crane; tormented, Lan again refuses. Agelmar finally gives in, but is puzzled at the Emond’s Fielders, and offers Moiraine a company of armsmen to take with them, but she refuses as well. Finally Agelmar dismisses the matter and orders food be brought.

They all eat and socialize, until Ingtar enters and tells Agelmar that a madman attempted to enter the city, first by the gates, and later was caught scaling the walls. They bring the filthy, rag-clad man in, and Mat, Rand and Perrin all immediately recognize Padan Fain. Fain acts generally schizophrenic, first groveling and whining about how “he” made Fain his hound and how he wants to be free, then the next moment haughtily promising Agelmar that he can help him rid Shienar of the Shadow. Moiraine says she must speak to Fain alone.

Commentary
What must it be like to live in a place eternally under siege? To try to go from day to day, living life while knowing at any moment everything you hold dear might be destroyed? To have the promise of violence and mayhem constantly just over the horizon?

There are people in this world who know exactly what that is like. I must count myself very fortunate not to be among them.

Chapter 47: More Tales of the Wheel

What Happens
Rand, Mat and Perrin wait impatiently to find out what Fain tells Moiraine while Egwene and Nynaeve chat with Agelmar. Egwene asks Agelmar why everyone calls Lan “Dai Shan” and so forth.

[Agelmar] heaved a sigh, and shook his head. “He will not speak of it, yet the story is well known along the Border. He is a king, or should have been, al’Lan Mandragoran, Lord of the Seven Towers, Lord of the Lakes, crownless King of the Malkieri.”

Agelmar tells the story of the fall of Malkier and the betrayal of its last king, Lan’s father, by Breyan and Cowin Fairheart, and how when it was clear Malkier would be overrun by the Shadow’s forces, the king and queen consecrated the infant Lan as the next king and swore an oath on his behalf:

“To stand against the Shadow so long as iron is hard and stone abides. To defend the Malkieri while one drop of blood remains. To avenge what cannot be defended.
[…]
The oath sworn over his cradle is graven in his mind. There is nothing left to defend, but he can avenge. He denies his titles, yet in the Borderlands he is called the Uncrowned, and if ever he raised the Golden Crane of Malkier, an army would come to follow. But he will not lead men to their deaths. In the Blight he courts death as a suitor courts a maiden, but he will not lead others to it.”

Nynaeve looks very pale, and Egwene comforts her silently. Moiraine reenters, and begins washing her hands vigorously. She says that Fain is far worse than a Darkfriend, and that she has never met anyone so corrupted in their soul. Three years ago, he was brought to Shayol Ghul, and made into the Dark One’s hound, to hunt for the three boys; Fain was the one who brought the Trollocs to Emond’s Field, once he became sure that the boys were the ones he sought. He has followed them all through their travels, even through the Ways, because he has no choice. Moiraine says there is much more to be learned from Fain, but they have no time for it now; they must get to the Blight. Agelmar once more pleads with her to take seasoned fighting men with her rather than farmboys, and Moiraine tells him that it is those farmboys who will fight at the Eye. Agelmar is shocked, then appalled. Surely, he says, they are not… Moiraine replies obliquely that they are ta’veren, and that may be enough to turn the tide at the Eye. She adds that the blood of Manetheren runs strongly in almost all of them, and Agelmar concedes that if any bloodline could strike a blow to the Dark One, it would be Manetheren. Rand doesn’t miss the “almost all of them” part. Moiraine says they must rest now, and start for the Blight at first light.

Commentary
On the chapter title: heh. It’s as if even Jordan was like, yeah, this is yet another infodump. Deal.

While Lan’s story is of course very cool, I can’t help being a little like, well of course he’s an uncrowned king. They always are.

Actually now that I think about it, as (we presume, in Perrin’s case) things will turn out, of all the people in the room except possibly Moiraine, Lord Agelmar will have the lowest rank of any of them!

Even Loial, who is the son of the putative leader of the Ogier, and thus could be considered the nearest equivalent to a prince that the Ogier have. (Moiraine I’m less sure of, because even though I know she’s of royal blood, she’s only a cousin, and for all I know Agelmar is more directly related to King Easar than Moiraine is to Laman.)

But still. That’s really pretty funny. Yay upward mobility, right?

We also get (most of) Fain’s story here, and I’ve got to say I’ve always been pretty annoyed by him. Jordan said that Fain is the series’ wild card, but to me he’s always been the Aw Hell, Not You Again guy. He is random, I’ll give Jordan that, but that’s exactly what bugs me so much about him.


Right then! Bugger this for a game of soldiers, pish tosh, and Bob’s your uncle! Y’all come on back Friday for The Big Bang Ending of the first book, covering Chapters 48 through to the end of The Eye of the World. Brace yourselves, mind the gap, keep a stiff upper lip, and all that rot. Cheerio!

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