Hi all! Here be the next post in the on-going Wheel of Time Re-read series. Today’s post will cover Part 2 of The Eye of the World, Chapters 10-18.
Before I start, I just want to say thanks so much to everyone who read and commented on the first post! It was like a giant pile of warm fuzzies came spilling out of my monitor. (Just like Tribbles!) Even if I didn't get a chance to respond to every one directly, I read and appreciated them all. Y’all rock.
Now, onward! As before, ’ware spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time series in the commentary below. If you haven’t read, don’t read. Previous entries can be found here.
Chapter 10: Leavetaking
Lan, Rand and Mat meet Perrin in the stable, who assures them no one else is around. Mat notes Rand’s sword, and Perrin shows them the battleaxe Haral Luhhan (the blacksmith) gave him. Moiraine arrives, and they are getting ready to set out when Egwene appears and announces she is going along. The boys try to talk her out of it, but to everyone’s surprise Moiraine agrees to let her come. Lan suggests Egwene take the gleeman’s horse, but then Thom pops up from the loft and informs them that he will be coming along as well. Lan gives Perrin the stinkeye, and Moiraine reluctantly agrees to Thom coming with them. They arrange for Egwene to ride Bela instead. Everyone mounts up and heads out, Rand already feeling homesick. Then he sees a black batlike shape fly across the moon. Lan says it is a Draghkar, and Moiraine says it will find them soon if it hasn’t already. Lan tells everyone to gallop for Taren Ferry.
“Wolves!” Perrin exclaimed.
Not as funny as Mat’s line in Chapter 4, but still: heh.
Also, yay, Bela!
Is it just me, or does “Draghkar” sound like it should be the name of a cheesy cologne? Just me? Okay, then.
Chapter 11: The Road to Taren Ferry
The party gallops toward Taren Ferry. Rand is worried about Bela, and mentally wills her to keep up:
Run! His skin prickled, and his bones felt as if they were freezing, ready to split open. The Light help her, run! And Bela ran.
They reach Watch Hill, and Moiraine washes away the horses’ fatigue with the One Power, remarking in passing that Bela seems the least tired of any of them. The Draghkar sweeps over them, and the horses panic. They get them under control and take off again. Moiraine creates a fog bank to hide them till they get to Taren Ferry, and Lan wakes up the ferryman and bribes him to take them across the river.
I confess, the first time around I completely missed the big thing that happens here, which of course is that Rand channels for the first time without knowing it. I even missed the hint Moiraine drops a moment later.
One of the things that really made TEOTW work, in my opinion, was the subtlety of Rand’s One Power Acquisition Fever Syndrome; even once Moiraine explicitly explains the symptoms to Nynaeve later on, I still don’t think I realized that this particular moment was the first until much later.
Of course, I didn’t guess the ending of The Sixth Sense until the big reveal either, so possibly I’m just spectacularly unobservant. What about you guys? Does anyone else recall twigging to something hinky this early on?
Chapter 12: Across the Taren
The party goes to wait for the ferryman (Master Hightower) at the landing, and Lan has Perrin and Rand make it obvious that they are armed. When Hightower arrives, everyone acts dangerous, and the ferryman decides not to give them any trouble. They cast off, and Lan and Rand have a brief discussion about the trustworthiness of strangers. When they reach the other side, Lan lures all the haulers off the ferry with more bribes, and Moiraine causes a whirlpool to destroy the ferry. They move off, and Moiraine explains that to throw off the Draghkar, she has cloaked the river with fog, rather than the road they’re traveling to Baerlon. The party makes camp to rest, and Moiraine goes off alone with Egwene. When the rest join them, Moiraine is teaching Egwene about the One Power, and a little bit about Aes Sedai and the Red Ajah. She tells Egwene that she knew the moment she saw Egwene that she would have the ability to channel, and gives Egwene her first lesson. Egwene creates a tiny spark of light and is wildly excited, declaring that she is going to be an Aes Sedai.
[Rand] had never really understood what the Ajahs did. According to the stories they were societies among the Aes Sedai that seemed to plot and squabble among themselves more than anything else…
Oh, honey, you have NO IDEA.
Another example here of an infodump done gracefully, with Moiraine’s One Power lesson to Egwene. Characters explaining things to other characters for expositional purposes is generally lame – unless the people being explained to are realistically clueless within the context of the story.
Which is why this works and, say, 80% of the dialogue on any given medical show doesn’t. Yes, please explain to the neurosurgeon what lupus is, Dr. House…
Also, I’m not sure why but I’m always faintly bemused at how everyone’s always about to rob and murder everyone else in these kinds of stories. I’m never certain whether it’s just an excuse to introduce more tension/action into the narrative, or whether it really was that dangerous to go anywhere in medieval-ish times. Probably both.
Chapter 13: Choices
Moiraine repeats her washing-tiredness-away trick on the humans, and they rest for a bit before setting out again. Egwene makes fun of the boys for already being tired of the adventure. They travel to Baerlon, Lan taking care to hide their trail. On the way, Lan trains Rand and Perrin in how to use their weapons, and Thom teaches them gleeman’s tricks. One morning Egwene unbraids her hair, saying that Aes Sedai don’t have to braid their hair if they don’t want to, and she and Rand get into a shouting match over it, during which he calls Aes Sedai Darkfriends in front of everyone. Later, Mat opines that they must have lost the Trollocs by now and that they should consider going somewhere else besides Tar Valon, a notion Moiraine doesn’t care for:
“The Dark One is after you three, one or all, and if I let you go running off wherever you want to go, he will take you. Whatever the Dark One wants, I oppose, so hear this and know it true. Before I let the Dark One have you, I will destroy you myself.”
Another night, Rand sneaks off to eavesdrop on Moiraine and Egwene’s One Power lesson, during which Moiraine lets slip that there is another woman in Emond’s Field besides Egwene who can channel, but refuses to say who. They reach Baerlon, and the Emond’s Fielders are overwhelmed at their first sight of a “city”. Moiraine cautions them to watch their tongues while in town, and tells them she is known there as Mistress Alys, and Lan as Master Andra. They go to a gate where the guard knows Lan and Moiraine, and he tells them that there are Children of the Light in Baerlon, and that the man calling himself the Dragon in Ghealdan is supposedly moving his army toward Tear. Rand asks Thom about it as they ride into town, and Thom explains that the Prophecies of the Dragon say that the fall of the Stone of Tear is supposed to be one of the major signs that the Dragon is reborn; it also says that the Stone will never fall until the Sword That Cannot Be Touched, which is at the center of the Stone, is wielded by the Dragon. Rand is confused by this seemingly unfulfillable prophecy. The party arrives at the Stag and Lion Inn and sneaks in the back.
It ain’t an epic quest if it doesn’t have a “traveling” section. This is only the first of many in WOT.
Travel bits are tricky, in that they have the potential to be the most deadly dull parts of the story if not done well. Jordan uses the time to fit in more world building, of course. Loooot of exposition in this chapter. It was kind of dull for me, but that’s only because I know all this stuff so well; I’m pretty sure it was fascinating the first time around, especially the inevitable I Do Not Think That Prophecy Means What You Think It Means.
On a completely random note, I have to laugh at myself at how relieved I was when Lan actually bothered to teach Rand and Perrin how to use their weapons on this trip.
Look, all I’m saying is, my completely-untrained self was once allowed to play with a katana, and it was a bad idea. So really, let’s please not let these idiots walk around with sharp pointy lethal things without knowing how to use them, mmmkay? Trust your Auntie Leigh on this one.
Chapter 14: The Stag and Lion
The innkeeper, Master Fitch, ushers them in and reassures “Alys” that the Whitecloaks aren’t going to cause trouble. Moiraine asks if Min is there, but Rand and the others are whisked off to baths before he hears the answer. While bathing, Thom, Perrin and Rand have to practically tackle Mat to keep him from blurting about Trollocs to the attendant. Lan comes in and gives them all a tongue-lashing. Afterwards, Rand sees Moiraine talking with a shorthaired girl wearing men’s clothing. At dinner, Rand and Egwene still aren’t speaking to each other, and Lan tells them that the would-be Dragon in Ghealdan is named Logain, and that he has just won a victory in battle, according to rumor. Rand goes to bed soon after, and dreams he is in a shadowy hallway. He enters one of the rooms off it, and meets a man whose eyes and mouth periodically fill with flames. Rand tries to run, but the doorway only leads right back to the same room. He tries to reassure himself that it’s only a dream, and the man offers him a drink, which Rand declines. He asks who the man is, and he replies that some call him Ba’alzamon. Rand freaks, thinking the man is the Dark One. Ba’alzamon wants to know if he is “the one”. He asks Rand if “they” told him that the Eye of the World would serve him, and tells him that the White Tower will use him as a puppet, just like all the other false Dragons. He also claims he was never bound in Shayol Ghul, and boasts of all the havoc he’s wrought, claiming responsibility for the Trolloc Wars and Artur Hawkwing’s attempt to siege Tar Valon. Then he breaks a rat’s back and starts to do the same to Rand, until Rand wakes up. Rand thinks of going to Moiraine about the dream, but asks himself if he’s really ready to trust an Aes Sedai.
On the flip side, this is right around the point where Mat started to seriously irritate me. It doesn’t help that half of what he says is modified by words like “snickered”, “sniggered”, etc. I enjoy a good snicker now and then, I ain’t gonna lie, but for that to be the only thing that ever comes out of your mouth? Shut up, Mat.
Also, Lan is much more bad-tempered in TEOTW than I remember him being. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but throwing a bucket on the floor, as he did during the bath scene, seems kind of… petulant for him. He's much cooler in the next book.
On Ba’alzamon, two things. First, I didn’t catch until much later that he basically tells you immediately who he really is:
“Fool, I have never been bound! […] I stood at Lews Therin Kinslayer’s shoulder when he did the deed that named him. It was I who told him to kill his wife, and his children, and all his blood… It was I who gave him the moment of sanity to know what he had done.”
Ba’alzamon, then, has to be the guy from the Prologue, even though he’s probably lying about the part where he actually told Lews Therin to kill Ilyena et al (the Prologue makes it seem like he was pretty surprised to see Ilyena’s corpse). And that guy (who we only know as Elan Morin Tedronai at this point, but we’ll find out he’s Ishamael later) was definitely not the Dark One, as is obvious from the conversation he has with a re-saned Lews Therin.
Secondly, the name “Ba’alzamon” is incredibly annoying to type. I’m just saying.
Chapter 15: Strangers and Friends
Rand wakes up stiff and headachy, and heads down to the kitchen to get something to eat, where he learns from the cook that a dozen rats were found in the inn, all with their backs broken. Thom is busy telling stories in the common room, so Rand goes to find Perrin. They discover they both had the same dream, and Perrin thinks Mat did too, even though he laughed it off. Rand asks if they should tell Moiraine, but Perrin isn’t sure whether to trust her either. Rand leaves the inn, and meets Min in the alley. She reveals that she knows who (and what) Moiraine really is, and explains that she, Min, sees “pieces of the Pattern”, according to Moiraine. She tells Rand what she saw around him and his companions. Rand is unnerved, and gets away from her quickly. He wanders around, gaping at the town, until he sees Padan Fain, looking much the worse for wear, dashing into an alley. He chases Fain down, expressing gladness that Fain survived the Trollocs, and invites him to come back to the inn. Fain evades the invite, but reconfirms the name of the inn, and begs Rand not to tell Moiraine about him before dashing off into the crowd. Rand begins to chase him again, but runs into Mat instead. He asks Mat about the dream, and tells Mat about the rats with broken backs in the inn. Mat is adamantly against telling Moiraine about the dream, and wants to get back to the inn to warn Perrin to keep mum, too. He heads off, but Rand just stands there. Mat asks him what’s wrong, and Rand says he thinks he has a cold. On the way back, they see Whitecloaks on the street, strutting around importantly, and Mat decides to take them down a peg. He shoots out a strut supporting barrels with his sling, splashing the Whitecloaks with mud. Furious, the Whitecloaks (led by one called Bornhald) look for the culprit, and find only Rand on the street, laughing and generally acting high. They confront him, and only the Watch showing up prevents violence. Rand and Mat both wonder what possessed Rand to act like that, and they go find Thom. Thom confirms the names Ba’alzamon gave them in the dream (Guaire Amalasan, etc.) as real false Dragons, but balks at the notion that the White Tower used them as puppets. He advises them to keep quiet about the dream, though. They head back to the inn; Perrin meets them at the door and tells them that Nynaeve is waiting for them inside.
(I should note here that I’m generally not going to be detailing all the prophecies/visions/dreams as they occur unless I want to comment on one specifically; the summaries are long enough as it is. If you want to catch up on them, this will tell you more than you ever needed to know, at least up until Crossroads of Twilight.)
As a general comment on Min’s visions, though, I find it kind of amazing that some of the things Min sees here still haven’t come to pass. Does Rand even have time to go wandering around as a beggar before Tarmon Gai’don? Maybe that part comes after.
Rand’s various conversations with Perrin, Mat and Thom about whether to tell Moiraine about the dreams is as good a place as any to bring up another of the central themes that run through WOT: trust.
Or rather, the lack of it, and how people failing to trust others is about nine tenths of why
the series is so long things get so screwed up all the time.
I’m not going to belabor the point here, since in TEOTW Rand et al are still kind of trusting (i.e. naïve), and where this theme really comes into play is in later books (Lord of Chaos most particularly), so we’ll revisit it then.
Chapter 16: The Wisdom
Rand and the others head into the inn to see Nynaeve, but Min pulls Rand aside first, and tells him that Nynaeve is “part of it”, and that they are in greater danger now than before Nynaeve arrived. They go into the dining room, where Egwene is trying to hide, and Moiraine and Nynaeve are having a staring contest. Once they all sit down, Lan asks how Nynaeve found them. She replies that she followed their trail; Lan is flatteringly impressed, and Nynaeve blushes. They all try to convince Nynaeve that Rand, Mat, Perrin and Egwene cannot go back with her to Emond’s Field, and that they are safer with Moiraine than anywhere else, but Nynaeve isn’t buying it. Moiraine sends everyone out to talk to the Wisdom alone. Afterwards, Nynaeve comes out and talks with Rand, remarking that he’s grown since leaving the Two Rivers. She says that Moiraine wanted to know if any of the three boys had been born outside the village, and Rand realizes Nynaeve knows that he wasn’t born there. He blurts out what Tam had said about finding him, but Nynaeve reassures him that people talk nonsense when they’re feverish, and also assures him that she did not tell Moiraine about Rand’s outland birth.
I do think it speaks well of Lan that the thing that initially makes him notice Nynaeve is her competence and skill. It’s just the rest of it I can’t figure out.
Regarding Nynaeve and Rand’s conversation at the end of the chapter: I’m not sure, but I think this might be the last time the two of them have a non-antagonistic interaction until Winter’s Heart.
Chapter 17: Watchers and Hunters
Rand joins the others in the common room, and listens to Thom tell stories and play songs, and Rand and Perrin get up to dance. While dancing, Rand notices a man with a scar on his face scowling at him. Rand ends up dancing with both Nynaeve and Moiraine, to his extreme discomfiture. Later Rand mentions the scar-faced man to Lan, who replies that he was a spy for the Whitecloaks. Lan dismisses the man, but says that something is wrong, and they’ll be leaving very early the next morning. Left alone, Rand goes to get some milk from the kitchen, and comes back out to find a Myrddraal coming down the hall toward him. Rand freezes, terrified. The Fade goes to kill him with its sword, but stops, saying that Rand belongs to the “Great Lord of the Dark”, and runs off right as Lan arrives in the hallway. The party makes preparations to leave immediately. Moiraine tries to warn the innkeeper about Darkfriends, but Fitch doesn’t take her very seriously. Rand sees how frightened Egwene is, and apologizes to her for their fight. The party heads out, and arrives at the Caemlyn Gate. Before the guards can get the gate open all the way, five Whitecloaks, led by Bornhald, show up and demand to know what supposedly Light-abiding citizens are doing sneaking out of town in the night. Then Bornhald sees and remembers Rand, and declares that he is arresting them all as Darkfriends. Moiraine begs to differ, and suddenly seems to grow taller. Bornhald recognizes that she is an Aes Sedai, and attacks. Moiraine fends him off easily, and seems to grow to the size of a giant. Lan herds the rest of the party through the gate while the Whitecloaks are distracted, and Moiraine steps over the gate to join them, returning to her normal size on the other side. Everyone is unnerved. They head out, until Mat looks back and points out the fire visible within Baerlon, which they realize is almost certainly the Stag and Lion Inn. Nynaeve and Moiraine have a brief argument about the ethics vs. the practicality of going back to help Master Fitch, and then the party makes camp to rest briefly before setting out.
Teenage boys who like dancing? This really is a fantasy.
More LOTR flavor here again, with the common room storytelling hour, but at least Jordan keeps the actual quoting of song lyrics to a minimum. Maybe this is heresy, but I’ll take Thom Merrilin over Tom Bombadil any day. (Sorry, Kate!)
Ah, Whitecloaks: Just like Jehovah’s Witnesses, except instead of pamphlets, they want to give you grievous bodily harm. Awesome. D’you get the feeling Jordan didn’t care much for fundamentalism?
Also, I still don’t understand how the Jolly Blue Giant thing worked. If it was just an illusion, as I seem to recall it being explained as later, then how did Moiraine actually get over the gate?
Chapter 18: The Caemlyn Road
The party travels toward Caemlyn, keeping an eye out for Trollocs. On the third day, they hear horns behind them and to the west, and Lan goes to scout while the rest continue on. He comes back and tells them there are at least five hundred Trollocs out there. Then they hear more horns from in front of them, and realize they are mostly surrounded. Lan observes there is a place where even Trollocs won’t follow them, but Moiraine rejects the idea sharply. They head north, and run into a line of Trollocs led by a Fade. Lan charges the Fade, shouting “For the Seven Towers!” Rand and Perrin follow, shouting “Manetheren!” in imitation of Lan, but Mat shouts something in a strange language instead. They fight the Trollocs, Rand barely holding his own, until Lan beheads the Fade and all the Trollocs fall down, convulsing as the Fade dies. The party races off, and more Trollocs give chase, led by three Fades this time. Moiraine stops and faces them. With her angreal, she knocks the Trollocs to the ground with waves of earth, and then creates a vast wall of fire between the humans and the Fades. They gallop north again, an exhausted Moiraine barely able to stay in her saddle, until Nynaeve gives her some herbs. They stop to rest, and while Lan and Moiraine argue, Egwene asks Mat what it was he shouted earlier. He says he doesn’t know, and Egwene says she thought she almost understood it for a moment. Moiraine tells them it was the ancient war cry of Manetheren, and everyone stares at Mat and Egwene. Rand wonders if this means that it’s really Mat that the Shadow is after, and not all of them, and then feels guilty for thinking it. The Trollocs horns sound again, and Lan tells Moiraine they have no choice but to take his suggestion. Moiraine reluctantly agrees, and lays a false trail for the Fades. They head out, and to the rest of the party’s surprise soon arrive at the gates of a vast, ruined city. Moiraine tells them it was once called Aridhol, and was an ally of Manetheren, but now it is called Shadar Logoth.
“Carai an Caldazar,” Moiraine said. They all twisted to stare at her. “Carai an Ellisande. Al Ellisande. For the honor of the Red Eagle. For the honor of the Rose of the Sun. The Rose of the Sun. The ancient warcry of Manetheren, and the warcry of its last king. […] The blood of Arad’s line is still strong in the Two Rivers. The old blood still sings.”
Mat and Egwene looked at each other, while everyone else looked at them both. Egwene’s eyes were wide, and her mouth kept quirking into a smile that she bit back every time it began, as if she were not sure just how to take this talk of the old blood. Mat was sure, from the scowling frown on his face.
Okay, that right there?
That is why I love this shit.
The first time I read TEOTW, I was hooked well before this point, but after this chapter you couldn’t have pried me away with a crowbar. So much awesome.
I’m preaching to the choir here, I know, but I think what gets me so about moments like this is how they involve self-realization. A paradigm shift, however slight (or major), where the characters are forced to confront something scary/extraordinary/beyond the normal, not about the world around them but about themselves.
It’s a literary trope that does exist outside the sf genre, but it’s much harder to find, and in my mind at least is rarely as viscerally satisfying.
Fortunately for me, there’s going to be a whole lot of those kinds of moments just in TEOTW alone. Almost too many, really, but we’ll come to that discussion at the proper time.
And that concludes Part 2 of The Eye of the World re-read. Check back in next Tuesday, where we will be covering Chapters 19-26, in which Shit Really Starts To Happen. See you there!