Hey, all! Welcome to Part 7 of the re-read of The Eye of the World, the last for this book, covering Chapters 48-53.
This is part of the on-going re-read of the entire Wheel of Time series; previous entries can be found here, in my shiny new index, yay!
As always, ’ware spoilers for the series in the commentary below. This is a long ’un, so strap in and, um, grab a sandwich or something.
Chapter 48: The Blight
Ingtar and a hundred lances escort the party to the Border. Ingtar is miffed that this task means he won’t make it to Tarwin’s Gap in time to kill some Trollocs, and takes curt leave of them. It begins to get warmer as they head north; Nynaeve frowns and comments that it feels wrong. Soon the air is miserably swampy and humid; Rand reaches out to touch a leafy branch, but stops when he sees that the leaves are mottled and diseased-looking. Lan reminds him not to touch anything, saying that the plants can maim or kill you, and that’s just in the fringe of the Blight. They ride on, and the land continues to get more disgusting:
Leaves covered the trees in ever greater profusion, but stained and spotted with yellow and black, with livid red streaks like blood poisoning. Every leaf and creeper seemed bloated, ready to burst at a touch. Flowers hung on trees and weeds in a parody of spring, sickly pale and pulpy, waxen things that appeared to be rotting while Rand watched. When he breathed through his nose, the sweet stench of decay, heavy and thick, sickened him; when he tried breathing through his mouth, he almost gagged. The air tasted like a mouthful of spoiled meat. The horses’ hooves made a soft squishing as rotten-ripe things broke open under them.
Mat throws up; Rand, Egwene and Nynaeve are not doing much better. Rand notices that Perrin seems almost unaffected, or at least not affected in the same way:
The big youth glared at the obscene forest through which they rode as he might have at an enemy, or the banner of an enemy. He caressed the axe at his belt as if unaware of what he was doing, and muttered to himself, half growling in a way that made the hair on Rand’s neck stir. Even in full sunlight his eyes glowed, golden and fierce.
They make camp near a system of lakes, overlooked by what Rand thinks are jagged hilltops, but then sees could be the ruined tops of towers, seven of them. Rand, Mat and Perrin are momentarily dumbfounded by the light-bending ward Moiraine makes around their campsite, and Egwene announces excitedly that Moiraine says she can almost handle enough of the One Power to do it herself. Moiraine cautions her, not without proper training, and Perrin snorts. Nynaeve says, with studied casualness, that maybe she will go with Egwene to Tar Valon, just for moral support, of course. Moiraine agrees that maybe that would be best. Egwene happily approves, and asks the boys whether they’ll be coming, too. They hem and haw, and Egwene asks Rand if he would like to be her Warder once she becomes Aes Sedai.
“I’d like being your Warder,” he said. She’s not for you, nor you for her. Why did Min have to tell me that?
Everyone goes to bed, but Rand can’t sleep, and overhears Nynaeve and Lan talking together. Nynaeve says she should have known Lan would turn out to be a king, and Lan disagrees that he is just a man, with nothing to his name. She replies that some women would be content with just the man; he counters that a man who would expect her to do so isn't worthy of her.
“A Wisdom seldom weds.” She paused to take a deep breath, as if steeling herself. “But if I go to Tar Valon, it may be that I will be something other than a Wisdom.”
“Aes Sedai marry as seldom as Wisdoms. Few men can live with so much power in a wife, dimming them by her radiance whether she wishes to or not.”
“Some men are strong enough. I know one such.” If there could have been any doubt, her look left none as to whom she meant.
“All I have is a sword, and a war I cannot win, but can never stop fighting.”
“I’ve told you I care nothing for that. Light, you’ve made me say more than is proper already. Will you shame me to the point of asking you?”
“I will never shame you.” The gentle tone, like a caress, sounded odd to Rand’s ears in the Warder’s voice, but it made Nynaeve’s eyes brighten. “I will hate the man you choose because he is not me, and love him if he makes you smile. No woman deserves the sure knowledge of widow’s black as her brideprice, you least of all.” He set the untouched cup on the ground and rose. “I must check the horses.”
Nynaeve remained there, kneeling, after he had gone.
Sleep or no, Rand closed his eyes. He did not think the Wisdom would like it if he watched her cry.
The Blight = FREAKNASTY. Barf. Seriously, I don’t think you could come up with a much more nightmarish landscape, at least not in my opinion. It’s the part where anything you touch can kill you, poison you, or at least slime you that would make me completely lose my shit; it would be the most precipitately developed case of OCD in history.
Hah, I forgot that once upon a time Egwene asked Rand to be her Warder. Those crazy kids.
Also, wow: Mat momentarily gives up his title of Most In Need Of Smackings to Lan, of all characters.
I mean, sheesh, man. For someone as guarded as Nynaeve, do you know how much that had to have hurt? Yeah, yeah, Lan thought he was doing the right thing, noble alone blah blah angsty-angst, but really. From Nynaeve’s point of view, I guarantee you that was like she took her heart out and laid it in front of him, and Lan picked up a hammer and smashed it flat. Ow.
Oh, and I love the line about men not being able to deal with a wife more powerful than they are. My equality of the sexes is pastede on, yay!
(Okay, okay, I already know what you’re going to say, point taken, Nynaeve being more powerful than him was a blatantly transparent excuse on Lan’s part. Fine. Still.)
Even knowing they end up together does not lessen my indignance at this scene, for some reason. Come on, man: life is painful and short, and you know that better than most. Take your happiness where you can find it, dude.
Grumble. I sense I should move on.
Chapter 49: The Dark One Stirs
The next morning Rand sees Egwene talk to Nynaeve and send a glare in Lan’s direction, which he ignores. He also seems to be avoiding looking at the seven towers which are now plainly visible. They pack up, and Moiraine takes down the ward; Egwene and Nynaeve both react to her doing so, and Egwene finally makes the connection. She seems more pleased about it than Nynaeve does.
Rand scrubbed his fingers through his hair, already more damp with sweat than with the water he had splashed in his face. He was sure there was something in the silent exchange that he should understand, but that feather-light brush across his mind vanished before he could grasp it.
They head out, Moiraine hoping to find the Eye as soon as possible. The Blight continues to get grosser, and Mat makes a nervous comment about how the trees look like they want to grab them. Then Rand sees a tree reach out and grab some little animal and kill it; now all the trees are trembling. Moiraine orders them to stay close to her. A huge thing covered in bristles and too many legs leaps at them, and Mat kills it with an arrow through the eye. Moiraine tells them to hurry, but it is too late: the Blight attacks. They fight the things coming at them, Mat screaming in the Old Tongue, until suddenly there is a piping flutelike cry, and the creatures all flee immediately and the trees go still. Lan says it is Worms, which even scare the denizens of the Blight, and they must try to make the mountain pass — because the Worms are scared of what’s in the passes. They run, but Lan soon announces they’re not going to make it. He tells them to go on without him, and Moiraine tells him even he cannot stop a Wormpack. Rand is close to total panic.
Seeking the flame and the void, he railed at himself. Fool! You frightened, cowardly fool! You can’t stay here, and you can’t go back. Are you going to leave Egwene to face it alone? The void eluded him, forming, then shivering into a thousand points of light, re-forming and shattering again, each point burning into his bones until he quivered with the pain and thought he must burst open. Light help me, I can’t go on. Light help me!
Suddenly the Blight disappears around them, and they are in a beautiful green meadow with flowers and butterflies everywhere. Moiraine says they have reached the Green Man’s place. Rand says he thought it would only be past the passes.
“This place,” said a deep voice from the trees, “is always where it is. All that changes is where those who need it are.”
A figure stepped out of the foliage, a man-shape as much bigger than Loial as the Ogier was bigger than Rand. A man-shape of woven vines and leaves, green and growing. His hair was grass, flowing to his shoulders; his eyes, huge hazelnuts; his fingernails, acorns. Green leaves made his tunic and trousers; seamless bark, his boots. Butterflies swirled around him, lighting on his fingers, his shoulders, his face. Only one thing spoiled the verdant perfection. A deep fissure ran up his cheek and temple across the top of his head, and in that the vines were brown and withered.
The Green Man greets Loial, calling him “little brother”. He sees Perrin and calls him Wolfbrother, and asks if the old times walk again. Rand stares at this, but then the Green Man addresses him:
“Strange clothes you wear, Child of the Dragon. Has the Wheel turned so far? Do the People of the Dragon return to the First Covenant? But you wear a sword. That is neither now nor then.”
Rand says he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and the Green Man admits he is often confused nowadays. He is surprised to see Moiraine there twice, and she replies that they are here to see the Eye of the World. The Green Man sighs, and says so the Dark One stirs again. He will take them to the Eye.
I know, these recaps are getting quotier all the time. Sorry.
Between the wolf next to the Perrin figurine in the dream and what the Green Man says here, am I right in remembering that later on Rand still isn’t sure what Perrin’s deal is? ‘Cause if so, damn he’s slow.
Mordero daghain pas duente cuebiyar!: Aaron Bergman’s Compleat Old Tongue archive plus some creative license tells me the translation is, more or less, “Death holds no fear for my heart”, or perhaps “My heart fears no death”. As war cries go, it definitely doesn’t suck.
(Although, I thought the Old Tongue word for “death” is “moridin”?)
And yes, I’m that easy: Mat just got a little more awesome again. Him being a crack shot doesn’t hurt, of course. (He learned how at the 7-Eleven! ...Sorry.)
Still want to know what a Worm actually looks like. Maybe we’ll get to see one at the Last Battle.
On the two quotes about Rand above: Again, I’ve got to be impressed at how well Jordan camouflages what’s going on here. In retrospect, it’s obvious that the first quote is Rand sensing a woman’s channeling, and the second is Rand unconsciously trying and failing to seize saidin, but on first reading both passages are easily dismissed as metaphorical hoohah representing Rand’s confusion about women/panicked state. Nicely done.
Chapter 50: Meetings at the Eye
Rand follows the Green Man with the others, uneasily wondering what he had meant by the “Child of the Dragon” business even while marveling at the beauty around him. The Green Man plucks flowers for the women to wear in their hair as he tends the land around him. He leads the party to an opening in the side of a hill, framed by stone with the ancient sign of the Aes Sedai etched into the keystone. The Green Man tells them how the Eye of the World was made, in the first days of the Breaking, a hundred Aes Sedai working together, both men and women, and they died in the making of it, and asked him to guard it until the time came.
“It was not what I was made for, but all was breaking apart, and they were alone, and I was all they had. It was not what I was made for, but I have kept the faith.” He looked down at Moiraine, nodding to himself. “I have kept faith, until it was needed. And now it ends.”
He says he hopes to find another place to make things grow afterward, but does not sound optimistic. He leaves, and Moiraine leads them into the hill. They walk down a wide corridor into a cavern lit by crystals embedded in the walls. At the center is a pool that looks perfectly clear, but Rand cannot see the bottom. Moiraine says it is the Eye of the World. Rand asks what it is.
“It might be called the essence of saidin.” The Aes Sedai’s words echoed round the dome. “The essence of the male half of the True Source, the pure essence of the Power wielded by men before the Time of Madness. The Power to mend the seal on the Dark One’s prison, or to break it open completely.”
Rand realizes he has backed up all the way to the wall of the cavern, as far from the pool as possible. Loial says he’s always wondered why it was made, and how. Moiraine says no one knows; it was made pure, cleansed of the Dark One’s taint, but no Aes Sedai can use it. Only a man could, but there have been no male Aes Sedai for three thousand years. Rand asks hoarsely why she’s brought them here, and she tells him because they are ta’veren, and because here is where the Dark One will strike, and someone must stop him. She then brings them back up to the surface.
“I have found you at last.”
Two men in cloaks and cowls walk out of the trees. Lan asks who they are; one of them points to Mat and says he led them there (“an old thing, an old friend, an old enemy”), but he is not the one they seek. They throw back their cowls; one is impossibly old and shriveled, and the other’s head is covered by a black leather mask worked with the face of a man laughing madly on it. The withered one names himself Aginor, and the other Balthamel. Mat begins to recite the catchphrase about the Forsaken being bound in Shayol Ghul, and Aginor corrects him:
“Were bound.” Aginor smiled; his yellowed teeth had the look of fangs. “Some of us are bound no longer. The seals weaken, Aes Sedai. Like Ishamael, we walk the world again, and soon the rest of us will come. I was too close to this world in my captivity, I and Balthamel, too close to the grinding of the Wheel, but soon the Great Lord of the Dark will be free, and give us new flesh, and the world will be ours once more. You will have no Lews Therin Kinslayer, this time. No Lord of the Morning to save you. We know the one we seek now, and there is no more need for the rest of you.”
Lan draws and moves to defend, but hesitates for a second, torn between Moiraine and Nynaeve. Aginor makes a gesture and flings the Warder away to slam into the archway leading to the Eye; Nynaeve screams and attacks the Forsaken with her belt knife. Balthamel grabs her by the throat and picks her up off the ground. Rand sees Egwene about to rush to Nynaeve’s defense and hurls himself at her, knocking them both to the ground. Meanwhile both Perrin and Mat have moved to rush the Forsaken, but are knocked down; Aginor advises them to get used to being down there, if they want to live. He’s more interested in the archway than the people in front of him. Suddenly the Green Man strides up, roaring defiance at the Forsaken; Balthamel tosses Nynaeve aside and Aginor sets the Green Man on fire, but the Green Man ignores that, grabbing Balthamel in a bearhug. Fungus and mushrooms and weeds and the like sprout out of Balthamel explosively, killing him, but the Green Man is dying too. He causes an acorn to grow into a full-grown ancient oak in moments, burying himself beneath it.
Even Aginor is momentarily stunned by this. Moiraine attacks him then, trying to consume Aginor in a chasm of fire. It does not seem to be working, and Moiraine commands the rest of them to run. Egwene tries to stay and help, but Rand grabs her and propels her away before finally running himself. Behind him, he hears Moiraine begin to scream.
Damn, action scenes are hard to recap without just quoting the whole shebang.
So, okay. Not to be a Debbie Downer here or anything, but: despite all the general coolness going on here, I have the same problem with this scene that I do almost anytime you have this type of confrontation in sf – namely, mundanes versus magic wielders. Which is, unless the extenuating circumstances are pretty darn extenuating, I just never quite buy that everyone isn’t killed instantly, or at least seriously maimed.
Especially in cases like this, where I can mentally look ahead to the future story and see what goes on later; it’s hard to avoid noticing that once Our Heroes gain power themselves the fights suddenly get a lot more deadly.
I suppose you could put this down to a case of hindsight being twenty-twenty, but I still don’t think that does the story any favors. Sure, you can rationalize it – Aginor and Balthamel’s intent was not to kill but enslave, they were playing with their food, they had just been released from the Bore and hadn’t had their coffee yet, whatever – but, yeah.
Of course, this is hardly a WOT-specific problem; it’s endemic to the genre. Basically you’ve got two choices: you can let it ruin the story for you, or you can apply The Rule of Cool and let it go. We (or I, anyway) shall be letting it go.
Chapter 51: Against the Shadow
Rand runs, knowing that it would be him Aginor followed, and comes to a cliff. He turns, and finds Aginor approaching, looking less withered than before somehow. Aginor muses to himself that Ba’alzamon will give rich rewards to the one who brings Rand to him, but why should he, Aginor, share power? Rand desperately tries to think of a way to escape. Suddenly he sees or senses a glowing cord of light connecting Aginor to something, and it is from this that Aginor is gaining his strength.
The cord was all. It hummed. It sang. It called Rand’s soul. One bright finger-strand lifted away, drifted, touched him, and he gasped. Light filled him, and heat that should have burned yet only warmed as if it took the chill of the grave from his bones. The strand thickened. I have to get away!
Aginor screams no, that “it” is his, and he and Rand fight silently over the cord, Rand repeating away! over and over again, until flames burst from Aginor, and suddenly Rand is no longer on the hilltop, but in a mountain pass, in the middle of a battle between men and Shadowspawn. He is directly between the two forces as they fall back to regroup. Some of the men see him and point, as do the Fades and Trollocs, and six Draghkar wheel to swoop down on him, but lightning strikes and kills them. Rand falls to his knees, screaming that it has to end, and fire sweeps over the Trolloc host, followed by waves of earth as Rand pounds his fists on the ground, killing more than half of them.
The wind died. The screams died. The earth was still. Dust and smoke swirled back down the pass to surround him.
“The Light blind you, Ba’alzamon! This has to end!”
IT IS NOT HERE.
It was not Rand’s thought, making his skull vibrate.
I WILL TAKE NO PART. ONLY THE CHOSEN ONE CAN DO WHAT MUST BE DONE, IF HE WILL.
“Where?” He did not want to say it, but he could not stop himself. “Where?”
The haze surrounding him parted, leaving a dome of clear, clean air ten spans high, walled by billowing smoke and dust. Steps rose before him, each standing alone and unsupported, stretching up into the murk that obscured the sun.
The Borderlanders move to attack the decimated Trolloc army, and Rand sprints up the stairs, climbing until he comes to the door to Ba’alzamon’s dream chamber. Rand blasts it apart and enters.
“Yes,” Ba’alzamon said from in front of the fireplace, “I thought Aginor’s greed would overcome him. But it makes no difference in the end. A long search, but ended now. You are here, and I know you.”
Rand tells him he’s tired of running. He sees that Ba’alzamon has a cord, too, a black one that seems to pulse in counterpoint to his own. Ba’alzamon tells him it makes no difference how Rand feels; he has the same choices as before, kneel or die. Rand replies that Ba’alzamon does not weave the Pattern; angrily Ba’alzamon retorts that he’s been pulling the strings since the beginning, sending Jain Farstrider to the Ogier and Black Ajah to manipulate the Amyrlin Seat. He shows Rand illusions or visions of Nynaeve and Egwene, and then Kari al’Thor, screaming as she is tortured by Fades.
Rand’s scream echoed hers. The void boiled in his mind. His sword was in his hand. Not the heron-mark blade, but a blade of light, a blade of the Light. Even as he raised it, a fiery white bolt shot from the point, as if the blade itself had reached out. It touched the nearest Fade, and blinding candescence filled the chamber, shining through the Halfmen like a candle through paper, burning through them, blinding his eyes to the scene.
From the midst of the brilliance, he heard a whisper. “Thank you, my son. The Light. The blessed Light.”
Ba’alzamon tells him not to be a fool, he’ll kill himself: “Not until I teach you!” Rand replies “It is ended”, and severs Ba’alzamon’s cord with his sword. Ba’alzamon screams, and is flung into the fireplace from the recoil, and Rand blasts him with fire, feeling whatever is fueling his cord running out. Light fills the room, and Rand sees Ba’alzamon burning as he howls, and then something hits Rand and everything fades to black.
Seriously, you guys, do yourselves a favor and go read the original text, because this whole sequence loses a hell of a lot in recap-translation.
And here we have the single most... well, I don’t really know what this chapter is compared to the entire rest of the series, but it is definitely something.
Awesome? Yes, of course, but also something else. Esoteric? Confusing? Idiosyncratic? Weird?
I dunno, but I think where this sequence’s standing-outness comes in is how Jordan treats the supernatural goings-on here, which is not like how it’s approached anywhere else.
Jordan’s approach to magic in WOT is really very mechanistic; channeling, for instance, is treated almost like a chemical equation: combine two parts Air to one part Fire, add two drops Spirit, shake well, et voilà. (Martini!) The Dreamworld as it is treated later in the series is much the same; funky shit goes on, but it all follows a systematic set of rules that do not (intentionally) change. There’s a reason so many engineers and physicists are WOT fans. Or So I Hear.
But here, well. Did Rand Travel to Tarwin’s Gap, or did he really just appear there? Did he actually talk to the Creator, or was that all metaphorical/psychological? Was the vision of his mother really Kari al’Thor, or not?
I dunno; this is what I meant earlier by thinking Jordan hadn’t quite made up his mind yet about the metaphysical to metaphorical ratio in WOT, because it really could go either way. And you know, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that kind of ambiguity; I’m just saying it stands out because that’s not the case consistently throughout the series. Cleansing the Taint in Winter’s Heart, just for example, was practically a laboratory experiment compared with this.
One last note before we move on: in ten plus years of WOT fandom, I have never once seen a satisfactory explanation of what exactly the possibly-Creator means by “IT IS NOT HERE.” What is not here? How does that sentence mean anything with regard to what came right before it? Why do theoretical-deity-types have to be so damn cryptic all the time? Sheesh.
It’s like the old joke: How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?
Chapter 52: Neither Beginning Nor End
Rand regains consciousness, sort of, and sees that Aginor has been burned to a crisp. He throws up over the cliff, and tries to remember what just happened.
More memory crashed back into his head like a lead ball, and he groaned. “The Dark One,” he whispered to himself. “The Dark One is dead.” There was no more need for caution. “Shai’tan is dead.” The world seemed to lurch. He shook in silent mirth until tears poured from his eyes. “Shai’tan is dead!” He laughed at the sky.
He stumbles and lurches down the hill, back to the clearing where the Green Man died, and finds Egwene, Nynaeve and Moiraine there, Moiraine rather the worse for wear. He sits down next to them and asks if they’re all right. Moiraine says she’s surprised she held off Aginor as long as she did, and they should be thankful the seal on the Dark One’s prison only weakened enough to let just the two Forsaken out instead of all of them. Rand starts to say it doesn’t matter, because Shai’- Moiraine cuts him off, and suggests they stick with “Dark One”, just in case.
He shrugged. “As you wish. But he’s dead. The Dark One’s dead. I killed him. I burned him with . . . ” The rest of memory flooded back then, leaving his mouth hanging open. The One Power. I wielded the One Power. No man can . . . He licked lips that were suddenly dry. A gust of wind swirled fallen and falling leaves around them, but it was no colder than his heart.
He reaches out to Egwene and she flinches away at first, then throws her arms around him, asking him to forgive her. Moiraine demands he tell her everything, and he does so, adding that it was the Light that pulled him along, so maybe it doesn’t count? Moiraine explains how she’d had suspicions from the beginning, from Rand resisting the bond with the coin, to Bela not needing to be refreshed on the way to Taren Ferry:
“You needed something more than you had ever needed anything before in your life, and you reached out to the one thing that could give it to you. Saidin.”
Rand asks, what if he just doesn’t do it again; Moiraine replies maybe, but it would be easier if he had someone to teach him. Rand asks if Moiraine can teach him, and she says unfortunately not. Rand then asks where the others are, and Nynaeve tells him that they are in the cavern; the Eye is gone, but there is something at the bottom of the hollow where it used to be. Moiraine observes parenthetically that there are few even in the Age of Legends who could have channeled that much of the Power without being destroyed.
Rand asks if the others have to know, and Moiraine says Lan knows, but the others don’t need to know just yet. Rand doesn’t get why; isn’t Moiraine going to have him gentled? She replies that Rand is still ta’veren, and perhaps the Pattern is not done with him yet. Rand brings up Ba’alzamon’s accusations about the false Dragons being Tar Valon puppets, and declares he will not be used that way.
“A tool made for a purpose is not demeaned by being used for that purpose,” Moiraine’s voice was as harsh as his own, “but a man who believes the Father of Lies demeans himself. You say you will not be used, and then you let the Dark One set your path like a hound sent after a rabbit by his master.”
Lan, Mat, Perrin, and Loial come out of the cavern. Loial is carrying a huge chest, Perrin a bundle of cloth, and Mat some shards of what looks like pottery. They all greet Rand with relief, and Loial asks what happened to him. Rand lies that he ran and fell and hit his head on a rock. Moiraine takes the pottery shards from Mat, and fits the pieces together to form the Aes Sedai symbol. She hands her knife to Lan, and he strikes the pieces as hard as he can with it, causing the blade to snap. Moiraine says it is cuendillar, or heartstone, which nothing can break. Mat asks the obvious question, and she replies that this was one of the seals on the Dark One’s prison. She has Loial bring her the chest, and opens it to reveal the Horn of Valere.
“Tia mi aven Moridin isainde vadin,” [Loial] whispered. “The grave is no bar to my call.”
“The Horn of Valere.” For once the Warder appeared truly shaken; there was a touch of awe in his voice.
At the same time Nynaeve said in a shaky voice, “To call the heroes of the Ages back from the dead to fight the Dark One.”
“Burn me!” Mat breathed.
Loial reverently laid the horn back in its golden nest.
“I begin to wonder,” Moiraine said. “The Eye of the World was made against the greatest need the world would ever face, but was it made for the use to which . . . we . . . put it, or to guard these things?”
She asks to see the last item; Lan and Loial open the bundle of cloth and spread it out between them to reveal it is a banner with a scarlet and gold serpentlike creature on it, only with legs and five-clawed feet and a golden mane. Moiraine tells them it is the banner of the Dragon, Lews Therin Telamon. She says they will take the banner, the horn and the seal with them when they leave. Rand asks her, is it finished? Moiraine replies, from here he may live his life as the Pattern weaves.
Talky section to the max! And yet, still manages to be awesome, with the ultimate in self-realization moments among a story packed with them.
I’ve been trying to think of a real-world equivalent to finding out a man can channel in WOT, and the nearest I can come is imagining being told that your friend is radioactive, and just being around him might give you cancer. Which, yeah.
On Moiraine saying she’s not sure the Eye of the World was used for what it was meant to be used for: I’m... not sure how I feel about this.
Epic fantasy, like the mythological traditions it grew out of, relies on pattern recognition to give it significance. As human beings, we always instinctively seek the signal amid the noise, whether it’s there to be found or not. (This is really true of art in general, but it’s particularly a Thing in fantasy.) Which is part of why stories like this are so satisfying, or should be: unlike real life, there is one Chosen One (or a triumvirate of them; Three is also a pattern-significant number. Or Nine!), one Central Magical Thingamajig, one Final Battle, where it All Comes Together, etc. It all means something, maaaan.
Where I think some people had a problem with the whole Eye thing, therefore, is how it is set up in TEOTW to be that one Central Magical Thingamajig (I mean, come on: Eye of the World?), but as things turn out, not only is it totally not central to anything, its significance is never even really explained, and then it’s basically never mentioned again.
I guess whether this is a flaw or not depends on whether you choose to believe that this was a deliberate subversion of the One Central Magical Thingamajig trope, or if it... wasn’t.
Chapter 53: The Wheel Turns
The next morning the Green Man’s place is already swiftly succumbing to the Blight. Upset, Loial says it is not right that Treebrother’s grave should fall to the Blight, and goes to the oak, and sings. When he finishes, the oak is healthy again, and Loial says this one spot will not become corrupt. The party heads back to Fal Dara, Moiraine riding in a litter slung between her horse and Lan’s. The Blight is completely quiet. Perrin asks why this is, and Moiraine replies that they struck a great blow to the Dark One. Mat demands to know what blow that was, exactly, and Moiraine avoids the question. When they emerge from the Blight, the land is in full spring bloom, with the Borderguards laughing and celebrating the great victory at Tarwin’s Gap; they reach Fal Dara to find it in equally wild celebration. Moiraine commands that she be brought to Agelmar immediately, even though she is still in a litter. Agelmar is not celebrating:
“A miracle,” Agelmar said, shaking his head, “but . . . Moiraine Sedai, men say many things about what happened in the Gap. That the Light took on flesh and fought for us. That the Creator walked in the Gap to strike at the Shadow. But I saw a man, Moiraine Sedai. I saw a man, and what he did, cannot be, must not be.”
He asks how their trip went, and Moiraine tells him the Green Man is dead and the Eye gone, but nevertheless they won. She does not think the last battle has been fought, though, and cautions Agelmar not to let down his guard. She shows him the Horn of Valere, and tells Agelmar that it must be taken to Illian. Agelmar protests, suggesting that they could use it here and now at the Border and defeat the Shadow once and for all, but Moiraine harshly rejects the idea.
A week goes by. Rand is on a balcony of the fortress, training with Lan. Lan praises his improvement, but cautions him not to push it; no one becomes a blademaster in a few weeks. Rand replies he doesn’t have a few weeks anyway, as he is leaving soon, alone. Lan accepts this and takes his leave, and Rand turns to find Egwene there. She asks him where he means to go, and Rand says he doesn’t know. Egwene doesn’t think Moiraine will like him leaving, and Rand replies that Moiraine doesn’t care what he does; she has ignored him since they returned from the Blight. Egwene tries to convince him that he will be okay if he just doesn’t try to channel again, but Rand thinks of how he never once tried to channel; it just happened. He cannot reassure her, and merely repeats that he has to go.
In Agelmar’s private garden, under a thick bower dotted with white blossoms, Moiraine shifted on her bedchair. The fragments of the seal lay on her lap, and the small gem she sometimes wore in her hair spun and glittered on its gold chain from the ends of her fingers. The faint blue glow faded from the stone, and a smile touched her lips. It had no power in itself, the stone, but the first use she had ever learned of the One Power, as a girl, in the Royal Palace in Cairhien, was using the stone to listen to people when they thought they were too far off to be overheard.
“The Prophecies will be fulfilled,” the Aes Sedai whispered. “The Dragon is Reborn.”
Moiraine: BIG GIANT TEASE. Thanks, Mo.
So, an ending. Not the ending, for there are many endings in the Wheel of Time. And beginnings. And middles. And also, wind. Very windy in WOT.
Anyway. It’s yet to be seen how the series will hold up as a whole, and there’s no denying the story suffers from some fairly significant flaws later on, but I still say that The Eye of the World stands as one of the best inaugural installments to a fantasy epic out there.
Certainly it’s one of the most effective; if you weren’t dying to run out and get the second book by the time you finished this one, then I respectfully suggest that perhaps speculative fiction is not the genre for you.
Aaaand this is our stop. We hope you have enjoyed your flight on WOT Airlines, and look forward to you joining us for the next leg, The Great Hunt. Your scheduled departure day for Prologue through Chapter 5 is Monday; hopefully your captain will have sobered up by then.
One down, ten to go!