It’s that time again, kids!
Greetings, salutations, and welcome to Part 5 of the re-read of The Great Hunt, part of the ongoing Wheel of Time Re-read on this here Tor.com thingy. Today’s verbosity will be covering Chapters 24-30.
Previous entries, as per the usual, can be found here.
Also per the usual, here there be spoilers for anything and everything WOT-related, and probably for a few things that have nothing whatsoever to do with anything. You Have Been Warned. And Thinged.
Yup. And now, the post!
Chapter 24: New Friends and Old Enemies
An Accepted named Pedra leads Egwene to her new room as a novice. She enters, and meets her roommate Elayne. They commiserate on how much chores suck, and Elayne explains to her how things are going to go as a novice. They compare what they can do so far with saidar, and both are delighted to see a nimbus of light around the other for the first time. Elayne knows Egwene is from the Two Rivers, and asks if she knows a boy named Rand al’Thor. Egwene is surprised, and then makes the connection and gasps; she’d thought Rand was making that up. She asks if Elayne is the Daughter-Heir of Andor, and Elayne confirms it. They talk some more about how hard the Tower drives the novices, despite how few of them there are, and Elayne tells Egwene about Sheriam’s theory that the Reds have been culling the ability to wield the One Power out of humankind by gentling men who can channel. Elayne brings the subject back to Rand, and mentions that Elaida thinks he is important in some way; she was in a fury when she lost him in Caemlyn. Egwene is wary at this, and Elayne tells her bluntly that she would not give Rand up to Elaida in any case. Then she tells Egwene there are two other girls who know Rand in the Tower: Else Grinwell, a feckless farmgirl who Elayne thinks will not last very long as a novice, and one other, who she proposes they go see. They head out, and run into a handsome, sad-eyed man in the hall, who is led away by an Accepted. Elayne says that was Logain, but that he is gentled now, and no danger to them. They go to a garden and meet Min; Egwene recognizes her from Baerlon, and says so. Min asks after Rand too, and Egwene replies rather tartly, asking why Min is here; Min looks at her with regret, and says that she is here because she was given no choice in the matter. Elayne explains Min’s ability to Egwene, and says Min saw the Rose Crown around her before she even knew who Elayne was; Egwene asks what Min sees around her, and Min answers a white flame, among other things.
They are interrupted by Gawyn and Galad, shirtless and sweaty from a sword lesson, and Egwene is struck rather speechless by Galad. Gawyn and Min grin at her discomfiture, but Elayne frowns. Galad asks if he can take Egwene for a walk sometime, and at her affirmative, takes his leave. Min murmurs that there’s one who will always do the right thing, no matter who it hurts; Elayne agrees, in harsher terms, and Gawyn comes to Galad’s defense. Elayne introduces him to Egwene, and mentions she is from the same village as Rand. Gawyn asks if Rand was really born in the Two Rivers; wondering what he knows, Egwene says of course he was.
“Of course,” Gawyn said slowly. “Such a strange fellow. A shepherd, he said, though he never looked or acted like any shepherd I ever saw. Strange. I have met all sorts of people, and they’ve met Rand al’Thor. Some do not even know his name, but the description could not be anyone else, and he’s shifted every one of their lives. There was an old farmer who came to Caemlyn just to see Logain, when Logain was brought through on his way here; yet the farmer stayed to stand for Mother when the riots started. Because of a young man off to see the world, who made him think there was more to life than his farm. Rand al’Thor. You could almost think he was ta’veren. Elaida is certainly interested in him. I wonder if meeting him will shift our lives in the Pattern?”
Egwene changes the subject by telling Elayne and Min that she likes them and wants to be their friend; all three hug impulsively, and giggle when Gawyn asks what’s going on. Then Gawyn sees Elaida approaching and hastily takes off. Elayne tries to introduce Egwene to Elaida, and gets sent to Sheriam’s study for speaking to an Aes Sedai without being spoken to first. Elayne is astounded, but takes the rebuke meekly; as she and Egwene run off to chores, she growls that she will be Aes Sedai, and Egwene agrees, and they grin at each other. Later, Min tries to cool down after the grilling she got from Elaida once the others left, and wonders how the woman knew that Moiraine had summoned her to the Tower, and whether she had successfully lied to Elaida about not knowing Rand.
What does she want with him? Light, what does Moiraine want with him? What is he? Light, I don’t want to fall in love with a man I’ve only met once, and a farmboy at that.
Min wishes Moiraine would come back and tell her why she’s here so she can leave already.
Like sands through the hourglass, these are the Wheels of our Times! Or maybe a better title would be Fast Times at Tar Valon High. Oh, the sweaty drama.
I was initially going to give Gawyn props for his lack of envy of Galad, but for some reason now it strikes me as unnatural; c’mon, he should be at least a little jealous of Mr. Perfection there, especially if we’re to believe that he falls head over heels for Egwene later on. Of course, Gawyn turns out to be a complete loonball once the Tower coup goes down, so maybe I shouldn’t expect normal reactions from him in any case.
Elayne: I have always liked her. I know a lot of people don’t, because they think she is snotty and vain. And the thing is, she is snotty and vain; she’s a freakin’ princess, what did you expect? What’s cool about her, in my opinion, is that she’s perfectly well aware of that part of her, and tries to work with it, instead of letting it become an excuse not to be all the good things she is as well. If you think of her beauty and upbringing as handicaps for her to overcome, rather than the other way around, she becomes a lot easier to sympathize with as a character.
Elaida: big giant bitca. Who’s shocked? C’mon, show of hands… yeah, that’s what I thought.
Poor Min. Don’t try to tell me knowing the future doesn’t suck. Sorry about all that free will you thought you had, girl!
Chapter 25: Cairhien
Rand, Loial, and Hurin ride into Cairhien, escorted by Tavolin (Caldevwin’s second) and fifty Cairhienin soldiers. Rand likes the Foregate, the overflow town of ex-Aiel War refugees surrounding Cairhien, comparing its cheerful colorful rowdiness favorably against the stark, precise character of the city proper. He notes a parade of giant puppets, made to look like fanciful beasts and Trollocs; Hurin mutters whoever made the Trolloc puppet obviously never saw a real one. Rand asks if there’s a festival going on, and Loial says no more than always; Galldrian keeps the rabble quiet by basically having a 24/7 party in the Foregate. Loial thinks Galldrian is a disgrace. Hurin adds that the constant festivity has induced the Illuminators to build a chapter house here, the only one outside of Tanchico. They reach the gates to the city, and Tavolin announces “Lord Rand of House al’Thor, in Andor” loudly to the guardhouse officer. Rand asks if there’s an inn out there, nodding to the Foregate, and the officers react with shock; Hurin whispers frantically that it’s improper, and they will think Rand is up to something. Annoyed, Rand takes it back, and asks the officer if he knows a Lady Selene; the officer exchanges looks with Tavolin, and says he’ll make inquiries. Hurin leads them to an inn called the Defender of the Dragonwall. The innkeeper, Cuale, starts at the sight of Rand before covering it, and Rand thinks sourly to himself that the man thought he was Aiel. After they get rooms, Rand tells the others that this place bugs him, and he’s going back to the Foregate for a while. He asks if one of them wants to come; Loial demurs, seeming nervous about the possibility of meeting other Ogier, and Hurin says he’d rather not, as there are enough fights and killing in the Foregate that it kind of stinks to him. He asks permission to have a drink in the common room instead; Rand tells him he doesn’t need Rand’s permission to do anything, but Hurin ignores this. They go down together, and Cuale greets Rand with a tray containing three sealed parchments. Rand asks what they are, and Cuale replies that they are invitations from three noble Houses. He leaves, and Rand asks Hurin why nobles are sending him invites; Hurin tells him everyone in Cairhien knows an outland lord is here by now. Rand hurls the invitations into the fire and announces to the room at large that he is not playing Daes Dae’mar.
[Hurin:] “Light, but you mind me of the time Teva got so mad at a hornet buzzing round his ears, he kicked the nest. You’ve likely just convinced everyone in the room you are in some deep part of the Game. It must be deep, as they’ll see it, if you deny playing at all.”
Rand stalks out angrily, and wanders the Foregate for a while until he overhears a voice telling a story about Rogosh Eagle-Eye, and in disbelief goes inside and sees Thom there. Thom sees him and is similarly shocked, then nods to a side door. Thom joins Rand in a moment, limping, and Rand tells him how wonderful it is to see him alive, and that he should have gone back to help at Whitebridge. Thom tells him it was a good thing he didn’t; the Fade wasn’t interested in Thom and so only left him “a little present of a stiff leg”, but Rand would have been killed. Thom asks if Moiraine’s with Rand; at Rand’s headshake, he looks disappointed and mutters something about her being a fine woman, even if… Thom moves on and demands his harp and flute back; Rand promises to get them for him right away, and Thom says to meet him at the inn where Thom’s staying, The Bunch of Grapes.
Yay, Thom! I wish I could remember whether I was surprised when he reappeared, the first time.
Hurin: not good with peer pressure, evidently. Any minute now Winona Ryder’s going to ask him what his damage is.
In less obscure news, in general I congratulate Jordan on the complexity of his world-building, but even he has sometimes fallen prey to the tendency to make his cultures Planets of Hats, to some degree. I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve never come across a city where everyone agrees on a universal dress code; hell, even small towns usually have at least a token Goth or something.
Of course, it occurs to me that maybe I’m being too 21st century American in making this generalization; dress codes were a lot stricter back in the day, after all. This, however, does not address (hah) the fact that there are apparently no non-Foregater Cairhienin who like to party, at all. I’m just saying.
Chapter 26: Discord
Rand runs back to his inn in high spirits; upstairs, he grabs Thom’s bundle and tells Hurin and Loial the good news, and urges Loial to come back with him to meet Thom. Loial again demurs, but Rand will brook no argument and hustles him out. They head to The Bunch of Grapes, and the innkeeper tells them they can wait for Thom in his room with Dena. They go up, and a woman juggling on the bed tells them to leave whatever it is and Thom will pay them later. Rand asks if she’s Dena, and says that the innkeeper said they could wait for Thom there. Dena allows it, somewhat ungraciously. Rand asks if she is Thom’s apprentice, and Loial comments he never heard of a woman gleeman; Dena replies she will be the first. Thom enters, and Dena runs to him, and they kiss long enough to make Rand very uncomfortable. Thom asks Dena to leave them for a while; after she goes, he fondly says he’ll make her a Court bard one day, and introduces himself to Loial. Rand gives him the bundle, and reassures him he never touched the harp, but that the flute earned him meals and beds. Then Rand tells Thom that they have the Horn of Valere, over Loial’s protests. Thom laughs, saying he’s sure they think they have it, but — Rand adds that Moiraine said it was the real thing, and Thom sobers fast. Rand tells him he has to get the Horn to Shienar, and could use Thom’s help getting it there; Thom asks why Shienar and not Illian, and Rand replies because he knows who to give it to in Shienar. Thom says he cannot help Rand. Rand asks Loial to leave them alone for a bit; Loial is surprised, but agrees, and leaves. Rand hesitates, and asks Thom about The Karaethon Cycle. Thom looks at him a moment, and recites a verse from it:
“Twice and twice shall he be marked,
twice to live, and twice to die.
Once the heron, to set his path.
Twice the heron, to name him true.
Once the Dragon, for remembrance lost.
Twice the Dragon, for the price he must pay.”
He reached out and touched the herons embroidered on Rand’s high collar.
Rand gapes a moment, then points out that the herons on his sword make five; he is careful to hide the heron branded on his palm. Thom talks a bit more about how little sense many of the passages from the Prophecies of the Dragon make, and reconfirms that Rand is not traveling with any Aes Sedai. Rand obliquely asks Thom the same question Moiraine did of Vandene, whether there is a connection between the Dragon and the Horn, but Thom is less certain in his answer. Rand says something about not letting himself be used as a false Dragon by the Tower, and Thom says he thought for a while that he was the one Moiraine wanted, and thought he knew why, too, but since Moiraine’s let Rand go, he supposes not. They discuss Owyn for a bit, and Rand again urges Thom to help him; Thom again refuses, saying he only helped the last time because there was an Aes Sedai mixed up in it. He gives the flute back to Rand and tells him to keep it, and that he and Thom won’t be talking again; best to make a clean break.
After Rand leaves, Thom ruminates over the story Rand told him, and calls himself an old fool. From the door, the innkeeper (Zera) agrees with him, letting an outland lord mix him up in the Game of Houses again. Startled, Thom thinks of what Rand was wearing and realizes he had looked like a lord, at that. He tells Zera Rand is just a shepherd, but Zera scornfully replies right, and she’s the Queen of Ghealdan. She says the Game has gotten dangerous these days; it will eat Thom’s young lord alive, and Thom would do well to stay out of it when it happens. Zera advises him to marry Dena instead, and Thom chases her out. He thinks to himself that Horn or no Horn, Rand is out of Aes Sedai hands, and that is all Thom need concern himself with.
“He is out of it,” he said aloud, “and so am I.”
Is it lame that I giggled at the harp icon being used for a chapter named “Discord”? And hah, my edition of TGH still has the error of Thom telling Rand that he should have kept the harp in tune.
No female gleemen? Not one? Feh. Well, at least they’re allowed to be Court bards, evidently.
Rand and Thom’s conversation kind of puzzles me, because it seems like Thom is being remarkably slow on the uptake here. He says he thought he knew why Moiraine was interested in Rand (obviously implying channeling), but now doesn’t think so anymore, and his rationalization is that Moiraine (or any Aes Sedai) would never have let a man who could channel go waltzing off into the blue yonder without gentling him first, and since Rand isn’t mopey and suicidal, that’s clearly not the case.
Which, okay, that makes sense as far as it goes, but this is immediately after Rand babbles about not wanting to be a false Dragon for the Tower. I know channeling is not necessarily a prerequisite for being a false Dragon, but shouldn’t that plus the amount of interest Rand shows in Thom’s nephew Owyn’s fate set off a least a couple of alarm bells?
Chapter 27: The Shadow in the Night
Rand and Loial head back through the Foregate toward Cairhien; noise and merriment come from a ways off, but this part is deserted except for some men with a Trolloc puppet. The puppet reaches them and turns out to be a real Trolloc; it attacks, and Rand kills it with his sword, and the Darkfriends pretending to be the puppeteers turn and run. Rand starts to say they have to get back to Hurin, and is grabbed from behind by another Trolloc. Loial pries the Trolloc off Rand and wrestles with it, while Rand tries to find an opening with his sword without hurting Loial; in desperation he finally tries to seize saidin, but fails. Then Loial snaps the Trolloc’s neck and throws it aside; shaking, he says he never killed anything before. Rand reassures him he had no choice in the matter, and they see another “puppet” heading toward them. They run, trying to get back to where there are people, but every time they are blocked by Trollocs hunting them. They end up at the eastern edge of the Foregate, and Loial tells Rand they are up against the wall of the Illuminator chapterhouse. Rand suggests that maybe the Illuminators will let them in, but Loial says they guard their secrets jealously; he doesn’t think they would even let Galldrian in, much less them. Then Selene steps around the corner and asks what trouble has Rand gotten into now; Rand stares, appalled, and tells her she has to get out of here, there are Trollocs. Selene just wants to know how a man who possesses the Horn of Valere lets himself be herded this way; Rand snaps back that he doubts the Horn was meant just to save him from a bunch of Trollocs. He puts his cloak on Selene to camouflage her white dress, and tells Loial they will have to sneak into the chapterhouse. They debate trying to scale the wall for a moment, but Selene finds a door that is mysteriously open. Rand herds the other two inside.
They hide for a moment from a man and woman crossing the courtyard; the woman, Aludra, is checking with the man, Tammuz, that all is in readiness for something. They leave, and Rand sees that in the center of the courtyard are large wooden tubes with cords running from one end and behind a low wall on one side; he knows that the cords are where you put the fire to set off the fireworks, and thinks that he wants nothing to do with fireworks as big as these. They make their way across the courtyard quietly, until Loial accidentally knocks over a stand of smoldering punks; one lands on a fuse to one of the fireworks and ignites it. Rand shouts at the others to get behind the wall, and pushes Selene down and tries to protect her with his body; she punches him in the ribs. Nothing seems to happen for a moment, then a huge sparkling flower of light booms above them, and the chapterhouse erupts. Aludra comes out, screaming insults at Tammuz; finally everyone leaves, not noticing the three crouched behind the wall. Then Loial sees Trollocs in the alleyway leading to the door they had entered by, and Selene comments that they are trapped, and it will take a great man to get them out of it. Rand tells her she doesn’t have to sound so happy about it, and she retorts that if he will not take greatness when it is offered, maybe he doesn’t deserve it. Rand ignores her and tells Loial to take Selene into the alley, and let him worry about the Trollocs. Loial goes, and the Trollocs move to pursue; Rand grabs another tube and a punk, and lights the fuse right at the base of the tube. There is a burst of light and a deafening roar, and the recoil knocks him down; when Rand looks again, the Trollocs are gone, and there is a smoking hole in the building where they had been standing. Rand runs after Loial to the door as the courtyard fills with Illuminators again, and finds the Ogier there alone. Loial tells him that Selene went back before Loial could stop her; Rand turns to go after her, but Loial stops him, saying he will only be taken himself. Finally Rand agrees, and they head back to the inn, where Cuale meets them with a note he said was left by an old woman; it’s sealed with a crescent moon and stars. Rand opens it, and reads:
When I think I know what you are going to do, you do something else. You are a dangerous man. Perhaps it will not be long before we are together again. Think of the Horn. Think of the glory. And think of me, for you are always mine.
Rand wants to know if all women are crazy (Hurin shrugs), and wishes Ingtar would show up.
Action scenes, argh. Great to read, not so great to summarize.
Ugh, Selene. GO AWAY. At least even Rand is starting to get annoyed with her at this point.
I suppose, based on this chapter, that technically you could say it was Rand who first used gunpowder as a weapon, not Mat. Of course, innovation doesn’t count if it’s not followed by application.
Speaking of which, I find I really want to call plot contrivance foul about having a substance around for so long with such obviously destructive capabilities and no one thinking to use it as a weapon until Our Heroes come along… except for the fact that this has semi-historical precedent.
I say semi-historical, because there seems to be some confusion/difference of opinion on whether gunpowder was immediately used in a military context after its invention in China or not. I distinctly remember learning in school that the Chinese had been using gunpowder in fireworks for decades, possibly centuries, before the invention of cannon/firearms, but what little poking around on the subject I’ve done since then (read: five minutes ago) seems to indicate that this notion is a misconception.
I feel certain someone with stronger history- and/or Google-fu than mine will be able to make answer to the historical reality of this in the comments, but in any case even if it’s a complete urban legend (so to speak), the fact that the idea exists and that many people believe it to be true means it’s perfectly fair game for Jordan to use in WOT, since Jordan not only doesn’t need legends to be true, it’s actually cooler when they kind of aren’t.
Chapter 28: A New Thread in the Pattern
Ingtar’s group is traveling through Kinslayer’s Dagger. Perrin thinks of how the wolves told him that there were people in the passes, and wonders if they are Fain’s Darkfriends. Mat is looking paler, and Verin examines him often, but Perrin thinks she is more concerned with Rand; somehow, he thinks she knows the truth about Rand. Ingtar drops back to ride with Perrin, and asks him again what the wolves said. Perrin sighs, and repeats the story:
“Someone — or something — attacked the Darkfriends in the night and killed those Trollocs we found.“ […] “The wolves call him — or it — Shadowkiller; I think it was a man, but they wouldn’t go close enough to see clearly. They are not afraid of this Shadowkiller; awe is more like it. They say the Trollocs now follow Shadowkiller. And they say Fain is with them” — even after so long the remembered smell of Fain, the feel of the man, made his mouth twist — ”so the rest of the Darkfriends must be, too.”
Ingtar wonders if this Shadowkiller could be a Fade, but Perrin tells him wolves will kill a Fade faster than they will a Trolloc; this was definitely not a Fade. Uno joins them, and quietly says there’s an Aielman in the rocks, and that he must have wanted Uno to see him, otherwise he never would have. Then his eye widens and he points ahead; the Aielman has stepped into the road ahead of them. Instantly, Masema and three others charge the man; Ingtar shouts at them to hold, and they stop reluctantly. Unruffled, the Aiel introduces himself as Urien, a Red Shield. Ingtar dismounts and moves forward to speak with him, and Perrin and Mat come along; Mat comments that Urien looks like Rand, and maybe Ingtar was right about Rand being an Aiel. Ingtar says they didn’t come to fight, and Urien looks rather disappointed; then he sees Verin and bows respectfully to her, calling her Wise One. Verin asks why he called her that, and he replies that she has “the look of those who have made the journey to Rhuidean and survived.” Verin looks excited, but Ingtar interrupts and asks if Urien’s seen any Trollocs or Darkfriends; Urien hasn’t, but seems thrilled at the notion of meeting some. He says it is one of the signs the prophecies speak of. Verin asks about Rhuidean, but Urien says he cannot speak of it; Verin steps right up to him and tells him she is Aes Sedai, and asks him again. Urien looks like he wants to run from her, and uneasily says Rhuidean is in the lands of the Jenn Aiel, and it is where women and men are chosen to be Wise Ones and Clan Chiefs, but that is all he knows. Then he asks if Verin means to kill him now; one of their prophecies says that if the Aiel fail the Aes Sedai again, they will slay them. Verin tells him she has no intention of hurting him, and asks why Urien is here, so far from the Waste. Urien says he searches for a man, He Who Comes With the Dawn. He says that the man will come from the west, but be of Aiel blood; he will go to Rhuidean, and lead the Aiel out of the Three-fold Land. He draws the ancient symbol of the Aes Sedai on the ground, and says that under this sign he will conquer. Ingtar doesn’t recognize the symbol, but Mat and Perrin — and Verin — do. Verin smudges out the sign, and tells Urien she cannot tell him where the man is; Urien says simply that he will continue to search, and leaves. Ingtar makes ready to head out, muttering about time wasted, and Mat asks Perrin if he thinks Urien was talking about Rand; Perrin says he doesn’t know.
Softly, as to herself, Verin spoke, still staring at the ground. “It must be a part, and yet how? Does the Wheel of Time weave threads into the Pattern of which we know nothing? Or does the Dark One touch the Pattern again?”
Perrin felt a chill.
Verin looked up at the soldiers removing their armor. “Hurry!” she commanded with more snap than Ingtar and Uno combined. “We must hurry!”
The wolves having a name for Rand = Squee-worthy moment. If I squeed. Which I don’t. Shut up.
Our first on-screen Aiel, and I forgot it was Urien. Not that it matters, but for some reason I thought it would be Gaul, which in retrospect is kind of dumb of me. Never mind.
This chapter also provides evidence that this early on Jordan hadn’t quite worked out the whole Ageless look/Oath Rod connection yet. Although, Urien’s words are at least vague enough that you can rationalize them if you wish.
Speaking of which, I’m always slightly bemused by people who use mistakes like this to claim Jordan is a crap writer, or something similarly pejorative, as if one mistake, or even several of them, is enough to invalidate the many many more things he did right. I would say that being judged in the court of public opinion is definitely not all it’s cracked up to be, except as far as I know no one with half a brain has ever claimed the court of public opinion was all puppies farting rainbow sparkles and winning lotto tickets to begin with.
For what it’s worth, I’m just pointing these things out; I have my criticisms of Jordan, and some of those criticisms are major (as we’ll see), but I really don’t think flaws in a work, particularly piddly continuity errors like the Ageless thing, automatically render the work worthless unless the flaws significantly outweigh the virtues. And, obviously, I don’t believe that is the case with WOT at all, otherwise I wouldn’t be here.
Um. So that was… a tangent. Sort of. Moving on!
Chapter 29: Seanchan
Geofram Bornhald rides into the burning village, and observes the gibbet on the green before the inn. He sees that some of the bodies hanging from it are children, and roars for Muadh, one of his soldiers. He asks Muadh if this was his doing, and Muadh obliquely tells him it was the Questioners’ doing, dressed as Taraboners. He tells Muadh to cut the bodies down. He thinks about what he knows of the Seanchan from the locals they had spoken to, that the invaders called themselves Hailene, the Forerunners of the Corenne, or the Return. He is interrupted by Child Jeral, a Questioner, who is dressed in civilian clothing, and tells him that Jaichim Carridin says that Bornhald is moving too close to Toman Head, and to take his troops and head back out to the central plain. After Jeral leaves, Bornhald tells Byar that he does not like what is going on; Questioners dressed as civilians, hanging children. He means to ignore Carridin’s orders and ride for Toman Head.
Off the coast of Toman Head, Bayle Domon watches the Seanchan ship that is chasing him, and thinks about what he had heard in the coastal villages about the invaders: that they fought with monsters and Aes Sedai, and once having subdued an area, made the locals swear bewildering oaths to “obey the Forerunners, await the Return, and serve Those Who Come Home”, after which the invaders left and usually never returned. Falme was the only town they held fast. Then the sea on either side of Domon’s ship fountains upward in geysers of water and flame, and Domon orders his crew to turn the ship into the wind and surrender before they are torn to splinters. The Seanchan ship comes alongside and sends a party over; Domon is bemused to see two women in the boat, and then more shocked to see the commanding officer is also a woman. She asks, in a strange slurring accent, if any women are aboard, and Domon answers in the negative, watching as the other two women come aboard, one connected to the other by a silver collar and leash around her neck. The officer introduces herself as Captain Egeanin, and observes that Domon admires her damane. Domon asks if she is Aes Sedai, and Egeanin casually backhands him and tells him not to speak that name again. Domon swallows his pride and answers meekly. Egeanin tells him he will be escorted to Falme and his ship will be examined, and afterwards if he swears the oaths he will be allowed to go his way.
Egeanin’s ship escorts Domon’s to Falme, where Domon is astounded by the sheer number of ships in the harbor. He asks his Seanchan guard about the cage with a man in it hanging from the towers of the Watchers Over the Waves, and the guard answers that is the first Watcher, paying the price for watching for the wrong thing. Once docked, Egeanin searches Domon’s ship, and comes out of his cabin carrying something small wrapped in silk. She brings Domon into town, as he goggles at the monstrous creatures the Seanchan are riding around, and takes him to a manor where he is forced to prostrate himself before the High Lord Turak. Egeanin presents him with the item she took from Domon’s ship, which turns out to be the cuendillar Aes Sedai symbol disk. Turak tells Egeanin that he will mention her name to the Empress as one worthy to be raised to the Blood, and dismisses her. Turak asks Domon if he knows what the disk is, and Domon lies that he doesn’t. Turak tells him it is cuendillar, and shows Domon his collection of heartstone, which Domon thinks would buy a kingdom. Turak places Domon’s disk next to another one just like it, and tells Domon he wants to hear about how a trader came in possession of it. Domon begins telling lies.
You know, that icon has never looked like an insect helmet to me. It looks more like the funky urn/planter thing you found half-buried in the mud in the back corner of your grandma’s garden. You know, or something.
And wow, baby-killing zealots AND imperialistic slavers, all in one chapter! Does the fun never end? No, no it does not. Gosh, it’s like someone is trying to raise my blood pressure.
The worst part is, none of this rings false from a believability perspective. Sometimes, people really, really suck.
Excuse me, I need to go find something chocolatey to eat now.
Chapter 30: Daes Dae’mar
In their room at the inn, Rand argues futilely with Hurin about the increasing amount of bowing and formality the sniffer is showing toward him, and just as Rand is about to try shaking the man, they are interrupted by a knock. Cuale is there with two more parchments, looking wildly excited; Rand snatches them without looking at them and closes the door on Cuale’s protests. Hurin looks at the letters and chokes that they are from Lord Barthanes, High Seat of House Damodred, and the King himself. Rand is unimpressed, and says they go in the fire like all the others; he will not play their stupid Game of Houses. In distress, Hurin tells him that these are Barthanes’ and Galldrian’s personal seals, and if Rand burns them he will have made the most powerful enemies he could possibly make; what’s more, the only reason none of the other Houses have retaliated for his insult of burning their invitations is that they were all waiting to see what he would do, but if he burns these last two, they will act for sure. Refusing them both will bring the same result, and accepting them both will convince the Damodreds and the Riatins both that he is part of some plot of one against the other. Rand says he supposes accepting only one will convince the other that he is allied with that House. Hurin nods. Rand wants to know if he has any option that doesn’t end up bringing assassins down on him. Hurin shakes his head.
Rand held out his hand, and Hurin laid the two folded parchments in it. The one was sealed, not with the Tree and Crown of House Damodred, but with Barthanes’s Charging Boar. The other bore Galldrian’s Stag. Personal seals. Apparently he had managed to rouse interest in the highest quarters by doing nothing at all.
Rand opines that Cairhienin are crazy. Hurin agrees. Rand thinks about it, and decides to let the common room see him with the invitations, with the seals unbroken; if they are waiting to see which one he chooses, maybe that will buy enough time for Ingtar to get here. Hurin congratulates him on thinking like a Cairhienin; Rand gives him a sour look, and leaves with Loial.
In the common room, Rand does as he said he would, and the tension is thick enough to cut as everyone pretends not to watch him. He leaves the inn, and on the way to the guardhouse he and Loial discuss the bad situation they are in; the trick with the invitations can’t work longer than a couple of days, but Fain and his Trollocs are waiting for them if they try to leave the city by land, and Loial doesn’t think they would be able to book passage on a ship without the chest being inspected, and no one will believe they can’t open it. They reach the guardhouse and go to the officer there, and Rand asks if Lord Ingtar has come. The officer pretends not to know what he is talking about, even though Rand has asked him this same question every day for at least four days; the same with Rand’s inquiry about Selene. Tightly, Rand thanks him for his “help”, and says he will come back tomorrow. They leave, and Rand grouses about the Great Game, and wishes he’d never put on the red coat. He’d thought things would be simple again once he was away from Moiraine. Loial, of course, brings up ta’veren, and Rand doesn’t want to hear about that either. Then Loial says there’s a fire up ahead, and Rand is immediately sure it must be their inn. He and Loial sprint back to the inn, and find the second floor ablaze; they run inside and upstairs, keeping low to avoid the smoke, and find Hurin unconscious in their rooms; the chest is gone. Loial takes Hurin out, and Rand starts to follow, and remembers that the Dragon banner is still in the wardrobe. He is tempted to let it burn, but finally runs to the wardrobe and snatches it and Thom’s flute and sprints out just before the roof collapses on him. Out in the street, Rand is trying to find a Wisdom or the equivalent to see to Hurin when someone calls his name, and Rand turns to see Mat, Perrin and Ingtar coming up through the crowd. He tells them they’re too late, and sits down in the street and starts to laugh.
Ha, I love the whole Daes Dae’mar business in Cairhien. It’s so completely ridiculous that it’s awesome. Plus, I am a sucker for this type of Opposite Planet storyline, where everything the protagonist does to step back and away from the Crazy only digs him further in, and yet it all turns out to be to his benefit (more or less). I think I like it so much because it would so never work that way in real life.
You really have to sympathize with Rand here, though, because while reading about it is hilarious, actually being in the position of having the whole damn town up your butt trying to figure out oooh, what’s he gonna do NEXT?, well, that would be just about my least favorite thing ever.
Well. Except, possibly, going mad and rotting to death. That might suck more.
Wow, Rand really got the shit end of the stick, didn’t he?
All right, we’re done here. Come back Friday for Chapters 30-37, but until then, you durn kids get offa my lawn! Go on, scoot!