Hello, and once again into the breach, my peeps! Welcome to Part 2 of the re-read of The Great Hunt, part of the ongoing Re-read of the Wheel of Time series.
Once again, by the way, everyone continues to be wonderful in their comment-y support and thoughts and discussion, and please rest assured that I am reading and loving it even when I don’t have time to respond. Y’all, as I may have previously mentioned, rock. And if I didn’t previously mention it, well, consider it well and truly mentioned.
All righty then! You know the drill by now: blah blah previous entries here, yadda yadda spoilers abound, snee snoo random pop culture reference, and scene.
Chapter 6: Dark Prophecy
Rand dreams he is in a farmhouse with Trollocs trying to get inside. He shouts that they have to do something, and Mat, the dagger from Shadar Logoth sticking out of his chest, says it’s too late; Perrin laughs, bloody eyesockets empty, and says he’s finally gotten rid of them. Fain dances and chortles that the battle’s never over; Ba’alzamon, escorted by two red-clad Aes Sedai, comes in and says the same. Rand wakes in Egwene’s room, where she has hidden him, to find Nynaeve there, knitting. Rand tells her that Egwene invited him; she snorts and reassures him that whatever needs to be done to hide him from Aes Sedai, she is fine with. Rand asks where Egwene is, and Nynaeve tells him she went to visit Fain again. Rand still thinks this is a bad idea, but Nynaeve is more interested in the strange behavior of the serving women, who all seem to be looking for something. Rand goes on that he’ll be leaving soon, going somewhere where there’s no one to hurt. Doubtfully Nynaeve brings up the ta’veren thing, and that the Dark One seems—
“Shai’tan is dead,” he said harshly, and abruptly the room seemed to lurch. He grabbed his head as waves of dizziness sloshed through him.
Nynaeve calls him a fool for naming the Dark One; they argue about it for a moment, and then bells begin clanging all through the keep. Rand jumps up, convinced that it’s about Egwene and that Fain got loose somehow. Nynaeve yells at him to stay hidden, but he ignores her and sprints out. He plunges through the startled women in the halls and comes face to face with the Amyrlin Seat. Siuan looks startled and steps back, and Rand snarls and runs on, convinced that she knows the truth about him. He runs into three Trollocs in the hallway, and then a Fade; he is about to engage the Fade when Ingtar steps past him and says he’ll take care of this. Rand hesitates and then runs on. He reaches the dungeon to find the heads of two guards on the table, with bits of flesh strewn everywhere and writing in blood all over the walls. Then he sees the writing on the door:
WE WILL MEET AGAIN ON TOMAN HEAD.
IT IS NEVER OVER, AL’THOR.
He stares, and then starts scrubbing his name off the door. Liandrin appears in the doorway and demands to know what he has to do with this; astonished, Rand says nothing and tries to resume his search for Egwene. Liandrin wraps him in Air, and seems to be on her way to suffocating him when Moiraine shows up and commands her to stop. Liandrin wants to know what Rand is doing down here, and Moiraine replies she could ask the same of Liandrin. Rand leaves them behind and goes into the cell where Fain was being held, and finds Fain gone and Egwene and Mat lying unconscious. Moiraine comes in and examines them, and says Egwene will be fine, but Mat’s dagger is gone. Ingtar enters, and Moiraine tells him to have Mat taken to the Amyrlin’s chambers for Healing, overriding Liandrin’s protests. She leaves in a huff, and Ingtar tells Rand and Moiraine that the Horn of Valere was stolen as well, and it had to have been an inside job. They reemerge into the guardroom to find Verin and Serafelle busily writing down all the writing in blood on the walls. Unnerved by their coolness, Rand comes up into the main keep, where Lan finds him and tells him that his things have been moved back to his old rooms, and that Moiraine says he’s free to leave whenever he wants. Rand demands why the change in orders from before; Lan doesn’t know, but suggests he doesn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. What Rand does now is up to him.
So I’m confused now: who did give the initial order not letting anyone leave the keep when Siuan first arrived? Ingtar? Does that make sense?
Also, wow. I really don’t remember a lot of what happens in The Great Hunt (henceforth, “TGH”). I guess that only makes sense; for various reasons, it wasn’t one of the books I needed to dig around in for WOTFAQ purposes very often. Additionally, it isn’t one of my favorite WOT books in general, mostly because of how heavily it featured Fain, not to mention the near-toxic levels of Stupid displayed by Our Heroes at various points. Like Rand here, just for instance. YOU DIDN’T KILL THE DARK ONE, DUMBASS. Nynaeve should have gone ahead and smacked him.
(Plus, there’s one other really big Thing I Hate in TGH, which we will get into at the proper time, because man, I have got shit to say.)
Note that the Stupid comment is not necessarily a criticism of the writing per se; at this point the Emond’s Fielders are still pretty green and naïve, and so it is perfectly believable that they would make dumb mistakes in this stretch. Doesn’t make it any less frustrating to read, though.
So TGH is a bit fuzzy for me. Basically the things I remember clearly are Chapter 8 (which we’re about to get to) and of course the Big Ending at Falme. The specifics of how they all actually get to Falme, though, I’m less clear on. I guess it’s been longer than I thought.
Chapter 7: Blood Calls Blood
Leane exits with the men taking Mat’s litter out of Siuan’s chambers, leaving Moiraine alone with Siuan and Verin, who had helped them Heal Mat. Verin comments that Mat will not live long without the dagger; Moiraine replies that if the dagger can be retrieved, then the link can be broken completely. Verin agrees, but thinks that having had it for so long, Mat may be permanently altered in some way by it. Then she wonders how, even if it is found, how it will be transported safely, seeing how it corrupts everything it comes in contact with. Moiraine says that the obvious person to find it is the one who is already buffered against its effects: Mat. The Amyrlin agrees. Verin moves on to the writings on the dungeon walls; she reads the verses aloud, and does some speculation on what they mean.
“And of course,” Verin said calmly, “the man who channels must be one of the three young men traveling with you, Moiraine.”
Moiraine and Siuan are stunned, and instinctively embrace saidar, but Verin is unruffled. Moiraine asks why she is talking to them about this, instead of ratting on them to the Reds, and Verin replies that she assumes that the man must be the Dragon Reborn, otherwise they would never have let him walk around free. Siuan demands that Verin explain how she came to that conclusion.
Perrin sneaks into the infirmary to visit Mat, avoiding Leane. Mat doesn’t look sick to him, only tired, but Perrin thinks that he smells wrong. He’s musing about the serving women who found him in the gardens and sent for Liandrin Sedai for some reason before the attack, when Mat wakes up momentarily. He asks Mat what happened, but Mat only mutters sleepily about not really remembering anything before falling back asleep. Then Leane returns and catches Perrin in the infirmary. Leane looks him up and down, and says he may be almost pretty enough to make her wish she was a Green, but that won’t stop her from dealing with him if he’s disturbed her patient. Perrin reassures her he was just visiting, and asks how Mat is. Leane gives a non-answer, and Perrin tries to leave. Leane grabs his chin and examines his eyes. She tells him there’s no way he was born with eyes like that; Perrin growls that they’re the only eyes he has, and to both their shock, picks Leane up gently and sets her down out of his way. Muttering an excuse, he flees.
Rand waits in their shared room for news, even though he knows he should have left the night before. Perrin comes in, and Rand asks him how Egwene and Mat are. Perrin starts to answer, then remembers he’s mad at Rand; Rand tries to joke with him, but Perrin’s having none of it. Rand apologizes, and Perrin unbends a little, but then he asks if Rand meant it about going alone, and Rand says yes, but- And Perrin stomps out. A moment later, Lan pounds on the door and enters. He tells Rand that the Amyrlin Seat has summoned him. Rand jumps up and says he’s going to the stables, but Lan says it’s too late for that now. He pulls out a red coat with gold herons embroidered on it and orders Rand to change. As Rand dresses, Lan gives him detailed instructions on how to comport himself in front of the Amyrlin.
Rand frowned. “Why are you telling me this, Lan? You’re a Warder. You’re acting as if you are on my side.”
“I am on your side, sheepherder. A little. Enough to help you a bit.” The Warder’s face was stone, and sympathetic words sounded strange in that rough voice. “What training you’ve had, I gave you, and I’ll not have you groveling and sniveling. The Wheel weaves us all into the Pattern as it wills. You have less freedom about it than most, but by the Light, you can still face it on your feet.”
They finish preparations, and Lan leads Rand out of the room.
Ha, sneaky Verin is sneaky. Especially with the benefit of hindsight, I’ve really got to kind of love her here, letting Moiraine and Siuan think she’s a complete space cadet, and then BAM. Heh. You know she knew what she was doing from minute one in there.
On the Dark Prophecy: the link above pretty much sums it up as to what it all means. I think it’s interesting that this is the only time we get prophecy from the bad guys in the series. Like so many ideas/concepts in TGH, this is one of the ones that Jordan seemed to have decided to abandon, more or less.
Perrin picking Leane up and moving her was hilarious. I never even remembered that they met in the series, and I don’t think they ever have seen each other again to date, but I bet she won’t forget him in a hurry.
Also, I remembered that Leane gets all “Men! Om Nom Nom” after she’s stilled and decides to get her Domani on, but damn, she’s actually pretty randy right from the beginning, isn’t she? Yay, character consistency.
(“Randy.” Must… Resist… Pun…)
Lan in this chapter and the next: Made of Awesome. That is all.
Chapter 8: The Dragon Reborn
As they head toward the Amyrlin’s chambers, Rand getting tenser with every step, Lan suddenly snaps “Cat Crosses the Courtyard!” at him, and Rand instinctively assumes the relaxed, arrogant walk Lan taught him. Inside the suite, Rand greets Siuan formally, again as Lan taught him, and Siuan begins discussing him with Moiraine and Verin as if he were not there. Moiraine reveals a far more detailed version of Tam’s past than Rand had ever known:
“Tam al’Thor left the Two Rivers as a boy, Mother. He joined the army of Illian, and served in the Whitecloak War and the last two wars with Tear. In time he rose to be a blademaster and the Second Captain of the Companions. After the Aiel War, Tam al’Thor returned to the Two Rivers with a wife from Caemlyn and an infant boy. It would have saved much, had I known this earlier, but I know it now.”
Siuan tells Verin to take his sword to examine it; Rand snaps that no one is taking it from him. Satisfied that he can be goaded, Siuan moves on, telling him that his friends are leaving with Ingtar to search for the stolen Horn, and does he want to go with them? Stunned by this freedom, Rand says he will go with Ingtar. Siuan nods, and then casually says she knows he can channel. Rand stares at her, speechless. Finally he says he didn’t mean to do it, and doesn’t want to ever again. Siuan replies that’s wise, but not possible; he was born with the spark, and will channel whether he wants to or not, and he had better learn how to control it. Rand wants to know why she is talking like this instead of gentling him.
The Amyrlin Seat looked him straight in the eye and said, “Because you are the Dragon Reborn.”
The void rocked. The world rocked. Everything seemed to spin around him. He concentrated on nothing, and the emptiness returned, the world steadied. “No, Mother. I can channel, the Light help me, but I am not Raolin Darksbane, nor Guaire Amalasin, nor Yurian Stonebow. You can gentle me, or kill me, or let me go, but I will not be a tame false Dragon on a Tar Valon leash.”
Verin gasps, and Siuan demands to know where he heard those names. Rand lies and says it was from a gleeman named Thom, dead now. Siuan asserts that he is the true Dragon Reborn, not a false one, but Rand doesn’t believe her. Then Moiraine tells the story of the night he was born, and how she and Siuan, as Accepted, were there with the then-Amyrlin and her Keeper, Gitara Moroso, when Gitara had her last Foretelling:
“And Gitara Sedai started up out of her chair, her arms and legs rigid, trembling, her face as if she looked into the Pit of Doom at Shayol Ghul, and she cried out, ‘He is born again! I feel him! The Dragon takes his first breath on the slope of Dragonmount! He is coming! He is coming! Light help us! Light help the world! He lies in the snow and cries like the thunder! He burns like the sun!’ And she fell forward into my arms, dead.”
She lays out the rest of the evidence to him, and Rand’s knees give out. He tries to convince himself that they are lying, but cannot. He says the Dark One is dead, and Siuan tells him he is a fool if he believes that. It is his destiny to face the Dark One. Rand pulls himself to his feet, and asks what they are going to do to him. Siuan replies, nothing; he must be free to go his own way so that the Prophecies may be fulfilled. She warns him, though, that most Aes Sedai will not feel as they three do. Rand glares at them, and asks permission to leave, which Siuan grants. After he goes, all three women are frightened by how strong he is, and wonder if they have done the right thing.
Nynaeve can feel a storm coming, but somehow that it’s not related to the weather. She sees Rand leaving the Amyrlin’s chambers and hurries after him, but loses him in the halls, and runs into Lan instead. She whirls to leave when he turns, but he stops her, saying he wants to talk to her. They spar verbally for a moment until Lan angrily says he has a gift for her, and she will take it if he has to chain it around her neck. He gives her a ring, which she recognizes as the royal signet of Malkier. She tries to give it back, but Lan will not let her; he says she can use the ring to call for help, from him or those loyal to him, at any time. Then he calls her mashiara (“love lost”), and leaves. Nynaeve turns to find Moiraine behind her, who tells her she’d better get packed. Nynaeve is torn between her duty as Wisdom and her own desire for revenge against Moiraine, which Moiraine shocks her by knowing about. Moiraine swiftly manipulates Nynaeve into sticking with the decision to go to Tar Valon.
Later, Egwene and Nynaeve talk, and Nynaeve tells Egwene that perhaps she shouldn’t call Nynaeve “Wisdom” anymore. Lady Nisura comes in, upset, and tells Egwene that her “young man Lord Rand” is trying to come into the women’s apartments to speak with her. Egwene goes out quickly to him, and they walk. Egwene asks if the Amyrlin… hurt him, and Rand says no. Egwene asks what she wanted, and Rand dodges the question. He says he supposes he will never see her again, and Egwene swears to him that she will become Aes Sedai and find some way to help him. Rand says he wishes things were different, then hugs her and swiftly leaves.
Um, I said I was going to try and make these shorter, didn’t I? Well, sometimes it can’t be helped. I reserve the right to maximum verbosity when covering total awesomeness, y’all. Which this is.
(Also, I felt it behooved me to add the quote about Tam, for some mysterious reason. ;)
The confrontation between Rand and Siuan is another of those scenes, like the Caemlyn Palace scene in TEOTW, that stands as one of my favorites in the series. Hardly surprising, as it is the literal expression of Jordan’s stated inspiration for the whole shebang. Which is, more or less: what if someone tapped you on the shoulder one day and said, “Hey, guess what? You get to be the Savior of the world! Sucks to be you!”
(And then they do a Nelson laugh: HAH-ha!)
In other words, it’s a self-realization moment guaranteed to knock all other self-realization moments into a cocked hat. A cocked hat on FIRE. Aw, yeah.
Lan being so on Rand’s side when no one else would or could: I heart you, man. All is forgiven. The Cat Crosses the Courtyard thing makes me grin every time. Also, despite my rant before (which I still stand by), I am a big ol’ girly-girl sometimes, and the mashiara line definitely rates a little feminine sigh. There may have even been a flutter in there somewhere. ALLEGEDLY.
In other news, I don’t get the way Jordan divides up chapters sometimes. Surely the rather momentous scene with Siuan and Rand was enough to rate its own chapter? Not to mention, the scenes with Lan/Nynaeve and Rand/Egwene would seem to fit better in a chapter called “Leavetakings” anyway.
Chapter 9: Leavetakings
The keep’s courtyard is in an uproar as the two parties get ready to leave. Rand joins Ingtar’s group; Ragan waves to him and Uno nods, but Masema gives him a cold stare and turns away. Rand is surprised to see Loial, and tentatively makes small talk with him, which Loial is relieved to reciprocate. Mat and Perrin arrive, and Rand apologizes to them both, but Mat just tugs Perrin away, and Loial points out the finery of Rand’s coat by way of explanation. Rand apologizes to Loial, and Loial accepts his apology happily. Lan pulls Rand aside briefly and explains to him about Sheathing the Sword; Rand doesn’t really understand, and mutters about Warders being crazy. Siuan enters the courtyard, with Agelmar trying in vain to convince her to stay longer. Rand chats with Loial until Siuan turns to Ingtar’s party and gives them a speech; Rand stops paying attention as he suddenly feels the invisible eyes on them again. He pulls his horse around, searching, and an arrow flashes in front of his face, nicks Siuan’s arm, and kills a man behind her. Instant chaos ensues, as everyone goes to search for the bowman. Agelmar falls to his knees before Siuan, begging forgiveness, but she dismisses it as unimportant.
“A poor shot for a Whitecloak bowman, or even a Darkfriend.” Her eyes flickered up to touch Rand’s. “If it was at me he aimed.”
She finishes her blessing, and Ingtar’s party heads out. As they ride out of Fal Dara, Ingtar confides to Rand that Changu and Nidao, the men who guarded Fain, are gone. A man in townsman’s clothes and armed with a sword-breaker joins them, and Ingtar introduces him to Rand as Hurin, their sniffer. Hurin greets him as “Lord Rand” and Rand tries to correct him, with only partial success. Hurin explains that a sniffer can smell violence, and that’s how they will be tracking the Darkfriends. He tells Ingtar that they went south; Ingtar is surprised that they aren’t heading for the Blight, but tells Hurin to lead on.
The festival for the Hunt of the Horn is in full swing in Illian, but Bayle Domon isn’t in much mood for partying. He heads to an inn called Easing the Badger, where he is to meet with men he’s fairly sure want to kill him. At the inn, he is approached by the three men, Cairhienin by their dress, who tell him they want to hire him to transport a “personage” and a sealed parchment from Mayene to Illian, and offer him a thousand gold marks for the job. Domon is astounded; this is four times what the last group offered him. He accepts the job, and the advance payment, and after the men are gone, ruminates on why someone wants him to go east so badly. His second finds him and tells him another one of his men is dead, and brigands with knives tried to sneak on board the Spray an hour ago. Domon tells him to make ready to sail immediately. Back on board, Domon opens the sealed parchment and finds a letter supposedly written by Galldrian, the King of Cairhien himself, denouncing the bearer of the letter as a Darkfriend, who should be hanged and all his property confiscated and returned to Galldrian’s “agent”. Domon pulls out the things he bought in Maradon, when all this stalking business began: a lightstick, an ivory carving of a swordsman, the skull of a sabre-toothed cat — and a half-black, half-white disk made of heartstone. Domon stares at it for a moment, then tells his second to head west, for Toman Head.
Easing the Badger: …nope, too easy.
Aw, Loial. So adorable. So loyal (I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE). So much less stupid than the rest of Our Heroes! I will love him and hug him and squeeze him and call him George.
The thing with Lan and Sheathing the Sword was some seriously clunky foreshadowing, there. Jordan couldn’t have worked that into the regular sword lesson in Chapter 1?
Sheathing the Sword: …nope, still too easy.
Who did shoot at Rand? It couldn’t have been Ingtar, and Changu and Nidao were already gone, and an arrow isn’t exactly Liandrin’s style even if she wasn’t in the courtyard already. Some random Darkfriend Shienaran left behind after the raid, I guess.
Hurin! I like him. Whatever happened to him? I don’t even remember where he drops out of the story.
Hurin’s sniffing is another one of those completely random things, like the Dark Prophecy above, that got introduced in the early books, most particularly TGH, and then were basically dropped. (The Portal Stones are the biggest example, but we’ll get to them in a bit.) Expanding on my ongoing theory of WOT Magic Gets Less Magical, I propose that this may partially have been because the sniffing thing really doesn’t fit with the system that eventually gets hammered out. Or, possibly it was a little too redundant, given Perrin and his wolfy nose powers.
Or, hell, maybe Jordan just got bored with it. What do I know?
Either way, not only did the sniffing thing go bye-bye, Hurin himself got more or less left by the wayside, as I’ve already noted. As was Bayle Domon, in fact; if either of them have shown up in the later books, I sure don’t recall it. (That doesn’t necessarily mean anything, though, since the further we get in this re-read, the more I realize I don’t remember nearly as much as I thought I did. It’s a trifle upsetting.)
Chapter 10: The Hunt Begins
Ingtar sets a punishing pace. Rand tries several times to ride with Mat or Perrin, but each time they drop to the opposite end of the column at Mat’s urging before he can say anything. Despite their speed, Uno says they’re not gaining any ground on the Darkfriends. Finally Ingtar calls a halt for the night, where Rand is pissed to find out that the “plain” coats he had been told were packed for him are just as ornate as the red one he’s wearing. At dinner, Masema deliberately almost slops Rand with hot stew; Rand asks Ingtar what Masema’s problem is, and Ingtar tells him that Masema fought the Aiel back in the day. He says he asks no questions; if Rand says he’s from Andor, he’s from Andor, but… Mat scornfully reassures Ingtar that Rand is no Aiel, but Loial reminds them that he himself mistook Rand for Aiel the first time they met. Ingtar tells them a bit about the Aiel War, and how fearsome they are as warriors, and Rand goes to bed troubled.
The next day they come upon the Darkfriends’ campsite, where they find human remains in the cookfire. Hurin tells them their quarry has changed direction; they follow, only to find the Darkfriends have doubled back south again. This back-and-forth pattern continues for some days, with Ingtar getting more and more frustrated, until they arrive at a village on the River Erinin. The small village appears deserted. The Shienarans sweep the houses, but report that everyone is gone, like they just up and left in the middle of chores. Then Uno exclaims that he sees a woman at a window, and charges in, but finds nothing. He swears she was there, though — a woman in white, he says. Everyone ferries across the river, and Perrin remarks on how this is how it started for them, with a ferry, but now it will be worse. Mat asks how he knows, and Perrin replies that it smells wrong; Hurin gives him an odd look. On the other side of the river, they find Changu and Nidao, tied spreadeagled between trees and skinned alive. Everyone is sickened. Ingtar orders they be buried properly, despite being Darkfriends, in remembrance of the good they did before, and the party rides on. They talk for a bit about the monuments and nations that used to occupy this land, but are all gone now; Ingtar says bitterly that all mankind is being swept away, and soon there will be nothing left but Trollocs and Myrddraal, leaving his listeners in shocked silence.
They come to another village, which is just as deserted as the first. They start searching the houses again, and Rand goes to one and steps inside, and is caught in some kind of repeating-loop vision of the last moments of the family inside, over and over again, while flies fill the room and crawl inside his nose and mouth. He fights to break free, but can’t, until he finally reaches out for saidin:
Suddenly he was tearing at . . . something. He did not know what, or how. Cobwebs made of steel. Moonbeams carved from stone. They crumbled at his touch, but he knew he had not touched anything. They shriveled and melted with the heat that surged through him, heat like a forge fire, heat like the world burning, heat like—
It was gone. Panting, he looked around with wide eyes. A few flies lay on the half-carved roast, in the platter. Dead flies. Six flies. Only six. There were more in the bowls, half a dozen tiny black specks among the cold vegetables. All dead. He staggered out into the street.
No one else has noticed anything unusual, until they find a barn with a man nailed to the door, impaled through the eyes — or where the eyes would have been, for they quickly realize that it is a Fade. Mat asks shakily what could do this to a Myrddraal, and Ingtar just says he doesn’t know. He orders the party to ride out.
Yeah, I’m… pretty confused about the repeating vision thing in the house. It was certainly effectively creepy, but it really made no sense otherwise. I remember that we find out later that one of Fain’s talents is creating illusions, so I guess that’s what’s going on, but… yeah, it still seems really odd.
I mean, if it was a trap meant for Rand (as it certainly seems to have been, since no one else was affected, and it seemed like Rand needed to destroy whatever was doing it with the One Power), how could Fain have known Rand would walk into that house in particular? Maybe it would have happened in whatever house he went into? But what if he hadn’t walked into any houses at all?
The other possibility, of course, is that it’s Lanfear, who you may have noticed just made her first fleeting appearance in this chapter. But if you ask me, it seems like way too random a thing for Lanfear to do, so I got nothin’, basically.
Again, I suspect we’re dealing here with the gradually shifting ratio of metaphysical to metaphorical in WOT magic; it wasn’t supposed to make sense. It was just supposed to be freaky. Which it was, so mission accomplished, I guess.
Mat = five year old child. I really can’t wait until he gets awesome for good and I stop wanting to flick him in the forehead every time he talks. And you know, Perrin is awfully Chatty Cathy about what he smells for someone who doesn’t want anyone to know about the Wolfbrother thing. I’m just saying.
Da, is all for now, darlinks. I know, is sad. But next time we ketch moose and skvirrel.
Friday, Chapters 11-17: in Soviet Russia, epic fantasy recaps YOU!