The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: The Great Hunt, Part 6

Heyla, Heyla, Wheel of Time Re-read, right over here! Step right up, and try your luck! That’s right, young person, I mean YOU. Come on over! Say something snarky and win a prize.

Yes, indeed, it’s Part 6 of The Great Hunt, ladies and gennemun, in which we will be covering Chapters 31-36. Right over here, take your place in line. Please observe the warning sign, in which I acknowledge being slightly a liar, as I accidentally said on Wednesday’s post that we would be doing Chapter 37, which we aren’t. All fun and games, girls and boys, please don’t hurt me. I just work here.

Previous entries can be found in the big tent. Watch your step, see the spoilers? Don’t step in the spoilers, really, you won’t like it, and neither will the elephants.

Sorry, sir, you must be THIS high to ride. Get lost, shorty! Tall and cool people, on the other hand, come on over! Click the link and be Transported. Strap in and enjoy! Try not to throw up!

Chapter 31: On the Scent

What Happens
Verin Delves Rand with saidar, and then leaves him to attend to Hurin; Mat demands to know where Rand and the others went, and how they got here ahead of Ingtar’s party. Rand asks how they found him, and Perrin tells him the gate guard officer jumped a mile when he heard Ingtar’s name, and then Verin wrung the story out of him. Rand tells them he had the dagger, but the Darkfriends took it back; Ingtar asks urgently about “the other thing,” and Rand confirms they took that too. Mat looks disappointed, but says they have two sniffers now—Perrin is one too—and they will find it again. Rand looks at Perrin curiously, and thinks he hears Perrin mutter something like “Shadowkiller”. Verin gets up with a Healed and shaky Hurin, and tells them they will go to The Great Tree, an inn she is familiar with. As they set out, Rand talks to Hurin about the best way to pick up the Darkfriends’ trail again, Hurin calling him “my Lord”, and tells him to rest until he is fit. Then he notices the others all staring at him, and apologizes to Ingtar, saying he does not mean to take Ingtar’s place. Ingtar thoughtfully replies that Moiraine and Agelmar were right to make Rand his second, and maybe it would have been better if Rand had been in charge from the start. They reach the inn and settle in; as Rand bathes, he thinks about Verin’s presence, which he thinks is Moiraine trying to control him again. His red coat is scorched, so he puts on the just-as-ornate black one, sighing, and finds Selene’s letters in the red coat. He thinks about how foolish it is to fantasize about her, and abruptly uses the lamp to burn the notes before going downstairs.


Perrin waits in the private dining room with Verin, Loial, Ingtar, and Mat, thinking:

It was him, he thought. Rand is the Shadowkiller. Light, what’s happening to all of us? His hands tightened into fists, large and square. These hands were meant for a smith’s hammer, not an axe.

Rand enters, and asks after Hurin; Ingtar says he insisted on going out, but Ingtar told him only to follow the trail until he smelled Trollocs, unless Rand thinks they ought to follow them tonight. Uneasily, Rand repeats that he wasn’t trying to take command, but Ingtar just stares into the fire. Perrin thinks that Rand wasn’t as nervous about it as he would have been before. Verin then repeats Mat’s question about how Rand got to Cairhien so fast. Rand tells them what happened with the Portal Stones, and Selene, and stealing back the Horn. Perrin thinks Shadowkiller again, and realizes when Rand gives him a look that he must have said it aloud, loud enough for Rand to hear if no one else. Verin comments she would very much like to meet this Selene, and then their food arrives. Perrin finds it difficult to watch Mat eat so healthily while looking like he’s so sick. They hang out in the room until Hurin returns, and tells them that he tracked the Darkfriends to Lord Barthanes’ manor. Ingtar is shocked, and Verin points out that there are Darkfriends among the high as well as the low. Ingtar scowls. Hurin opines that there’s no way they could get in there by force, and Verin rejects Mat’s suggestion that they go to Galldrian, on the grounds that the King would doubtless be thrilled to have an excuse to take Barthanes down, but if Galldrian gets his hands on the Horn they will never see it again. Verin says that she should be able to get an invitation to Barthanes’ manor in a few days, and Hurin interjects that Rand already has one. Everyone stares at Rand, and he pulls out the two invitations and shows them. Ingtar notes the other is from the king, and inquires what on earth Rand had been doing. Rand replies quietly that he didn’t do anything; they just sent them. Verin comments that sometimes the Pattern provides what is needed before you know it’s needed, and casually crumples the King’s invitation and tosses it in the fireplace. Rand asks how he can go, as they will know he’s no lord; Ingtar looks skeptical, and Hurin flatly disbelieving.

Burn me, Perrin thought, if I didn’t know him, I wouldn’t believe it either. Mat was watching Rand with his head tilted, frowning as if looking at something he had never seen before. He sees it, too, now.

Verin tells Rand it will help people believe he’s a lord if he stops telling everyone he isn’t one, and says any mistakes will be attributed to his being an outlander. She adds, dryly, to just remember how he behaved in front of the Amyrlin; if he acts that arrogant, they will believe he is a lord even if he’s in rags. Mat snickers. Verin continues that the date on the invite is for tomorrow night, and Ingtar explodes that they can’t wait that long; Verin faces him down, and he repeats that he must have the Horn. Hurin protests him speaking of the Horn like that, and reluctantly trails off under Ingtar’s glare. Verin says that the invitation mentions that Rand took “an interest in one of the King’s projects”; Rand can’t think of what that means for a moment, then remembers the giant statue outside the city. He asks Verin what it is, and she tells him it is a sa’angreal, one of a pair of the two largest ever made. The other is on Tremalking and is meant for a woman to use, but the one outside Cairhien is meant for a man; used together, she says, they might have enough power to Break the World again. Ingtar is appalled, and asks what if Logain or some other false Dragon uses it? Verin replies casually that she doesn’t think they need to worry about that, as the two must be used together to generate that much power, and what Aes Sedai today would aid a man in channeling?

“One by itself is powerful enough, but I can think of few women strong enough to survive the flow through the one on Tremalking. The Amyrlin, of course. Moiraine, and Elaida. Perhaps one or two others. And three still in training. As for Logain, it would have taken all his strength simply to keep from being burned to a cinder, with nothing left for doing anything. No, Ingtar, I don’t think you need worry. At least, not until the real Dragon Reborn proclaims himself, and then we will all have enough to worry about as it is.”

Perrin and Mat both know she is talking to Rand. Rand stares at Verin and says, with emphasis, that they will take back the dagger and the horn, and then it is done. Verin smiles.

People have complained about Hurin getting so subservient and all, but even ignoring his about-face in the next chapter, the fact that he totally talks back to Ingtar here indicates to me that it wasn’t so much a generalized “lords are so much better than me!” outlook, as it was a personal loyalty to Rand himself, and a desire to do as well by him as possible.

See, I knew I was right to like him. So There.

I love Perrin’s observations of Rand, here. Also, am I right in remembering that we don’t get a Mat POV until after the Healing in the Tower in the next book? I find that interesting; there’s probably some of kind of equation to be drawn regarding ratio of frequency of character POV to character Awesomeness that I don’t have the imaginary math for. Talk amongst yourselves!

Verin: She So Sneaky. It’s kind of magnificent. I love that she has an entire conversation with Rand about being the Dragon Reborn without anyone else in the room (those who aren’t in the know already, anyway) even noticing.

Chapter 32: Dangerous Words

What Happens
Uno and ten Shienarans provide an escort for Rand, Ingtar, Verin, Hurin, Loial, and Mat to Barthanes’ manor (Perrin was left at the inn). Mat is grumbling about having to pretend to be Rand’s servant, and Verin tells him a servant can go where others cannot without notice; his job and Hurin’s is to see if they can sniff out/feel the location of the Darkfriends/dagger. They reach the doors, and Rand shows his invitation and introduces his guests, making the servants’ eyes pop. Mat and Hurin go off to the kitchens, and the majordomo takes the rest of them to the ballroom and announces them loudly, drawing stares from the various nobles; Rand hears murmurs about his heron-mark blade. Barthanes comes up and greets them briefly, and says to Rand that perhaps they will have a chance to talk later before moving off. Verin and Ingtar go mingle, and Loial whispers to Rand that he can feel a Waygate nearby before moving off too, as Verin had instructed them not to clump together. Rand keeps moving in order to avoid being drawn into conversation with anyone, until suddenly Barthanes is walking next to him. Barthanes comments that Rand seems restless, and Rand, remembering what Verin had said, settles into Cat Crosses the Courtyard, and Barthanes’ mouth tightens. They talk about Galldrian and the statue, and Barthanes seems to find deep meaning in everything Rand says. He mentions that Rand seems young to carry a heron-mark blade.

“I am less than a year old,” Rand said automatically, and immediately wished he had it back. It sounded foolish, to his ear, but Verin had said act as he had with the Amyrlin Seat, and that was the answer Lan had given him. A Borderman considered the day he was given his sword to be his nameday.

“So. An Andorman, and yet Borderland-trained. Or is it Warder-trained?” Barthanes’s eyes narrowed, studying Rand. “I understand Morgase has only one son. Named Gawyn, I have heard. You must be much like him in age.”

“I have met him,” Rand said cautiously.

“Those eyes. That hair. I have heard the Andoran royal line has almost Aiel coloring in their hair and eyes.”

Rand stumbled, though the floor was smooth marble. “I’m not Aiel, Lord Barthanes, and I’m not of the royal line, either.”

Barthanes makes a noncommittal answer to this, and moves off. Rand realizes he knows just enough of the Great Game to have no idea how it was played, and wishes Mat and Hurin would find something fast so he could get out of there. He moves into another room and sees Thom performing there; Thom fails to acknowledge him, and Rand turns to go, but is accosted by a noblewoman named Alaine Chuliandred, who asks if it’s true he plays the flute. Bewildered, Rand says yes, and tries to excuse himself, but they are joined by a second woman (Belevaere Osiellin) and then a third (Breane Taborwin), and all three of them make extremely unsubtle passes at him. In desperation, Rand ducks around them, joins Thom and begs him to talk to him for a minute. He tells Thom about what’s happening, and Thom tells him again that he will not get involved; Rand says he knows that, he just wanted to get away from those women for a moment. Thom is taken aback. Just then Hurin appears and tells Rand that his manservant has fallen and twisted his knee. After a moment Rand catches on and comments loudly that he supposes he’d better go check on the fool.

“You play very well at being a lord,” Thom said softly. “But remember this. Cairhienin may play Daes Dae’mar, but it was the White Tower made the Great Game in the first place. Watch yourself, boy.”

We’ll be seeing Breane Taborwin again, in one of the most random character resurfacings ever. And I am in total agreement with whoever said (Rich?) that Cairhienin names are the best in WOT.

Also, what’s great is that Barthanes was actually completely correct about Rand’s ancestry — both parts. Irony is fun!

I’m always bemused by claims that Jordan is not good at writing political intrigue, because in my personal opinion it’s one of his greatest strengths as a writer. Not good at writing romance, I’ll totally give you (though even there I think he has his moments), but c’mon, the conversation between Rand and Barthanes here is pure awesome covert ops hilarity.

Actually now that I think about it, this may be why I like Jordan’s political intrigue so much and others do not: what I personally love about fictional politicking is that it always (to me) has this Mission: Impossible element of the absurd to it that makes me grin even when the fictional stakes are deadly serious; at its best, it’s like intricate verbal choreography writ large, for (hopefully) world-altering stakes.

Is it realistic? Well, I’ve never personally participated in either espionage or politicking (unless you count arguing political theory on the Internet, which you… really don’t), so take it for what it’s worth, but I strongly suspect 95% of political intrigue in all fiction is total bullshit.

That’s hardly the point. As well ask whether dancing is realistic walking, or if chess is realistic war.

Furthermore, I get the strong sense that Jordan agreed with me regarding Daes Dae’mar; it is absurd, but that’s why it’s great. He too often has characters trip themselves up to hell and gone by overthinking hidden meanings and seeing conspiracies under every bush for him not to have meant it both as Serious Business and as comic relief.

(Which brings me to the free-association and totally off-topic question: Why is it that no one’s made a musical based on spies yet? It’s a match made in heaven, I tell you!)

Chapter 33: A Message From the Dark

What Happens
Hurin tells Rand that he followed the Darkfriends’ trail to a walled garden behind the manor, where they were joined by Trollocs, went in, and did not come out again. Rand comments that he is glad Hurin is talking naturally to him again, and Hurin flushes and says hanging out with actual Cairhienin servants has proven exactly what their formality is worth in terms of loyalty to their masters, which is to say nothing. They meet up with Loial and Mat; Mat is still in a foul mood over having to pretend to be a servant, and tells Rand that he can’t feel the dagger at all. Rand reassures him that the dagger is in the chest with the Horn, and that’s probably why he can’t feel it. Mat mutters something about “as long as [Rand] doesn’t go mad and…”, but trails off, and fortunately Loial misinterprets his words. Rand says harshly that he’s not mad yet, and tells Hurin to lead them to the garden. When they get there, Loial tells them the Waygate is within the walls; Mat is unenthused about the notion of traveling the Ways again. Rand tells him to go get Ingtar and Verin and bring them back here, and to remember to limp. Mat sweeps him a sarcastic bow and says as my Lord wishes; does he want him to carry his banner too? He heads back to the manor, and though Rand doesn’t believe Mat would betray him on purpose, he wonders how long it will be before Mat gives away his secret without meaning to. He gets Loial to boost him up so he can see over the wall, and then hauls himself over without waiting for the others. Hurin and Loial quickly follow, Loial muttering about rash and hasty humans. Rand walks up to the Waygate and tells Hurin he should be able to smell the trail in there as well, and removes the Avendensora leaf key. The Waygate opens slowly, but instead of the dull silver reflection from before, the opening is pitch black, and the blackness starts to ooze out of the gates. Loial shouts it is Machin Shin.

The sound of wind filled their ears; the grass stirred in ripples toward the walls, and dirt swirled up, sucked into the air. And in the wind a thousand insane voices seemed to cry, ten thousand, overlapping, drowning each other. Rand could make out some of them, though he tried not to.

. . . blood so sweet, so sweet to drink the blood, the blood that drips, drips, drops so red; pretty eyes, fine eyes, I have no eyes, pluck the eyes from out of your head; grind your bones, split your bones inside your flesh, suck your marrow while you scream; scream, scream, singing screams, sing your screams . . . And worst of all, a whispering thread through all the rest. Al’Thor. Al’Thor. Al’Thor.

Loial searches for the leaf key in the grass, and Rand finds that he has seized saidin. He throws the Power at the blackness coming out of the gate, and fights inconclusively with Machin Shin until Loial finds the key and shuts the gate, pushing the Black Wind back inside. Rand falls to his knees, fighting to let go of saidin, and finally succeeds. He says they will never follow Fain through that. They go back over the wall, collect Mat, and head back to the main room, where Verin sees them. Everyone heads for the exit; Barthanes appears and entreats them to stay longer, but Verin demurs and leads the party to the doors. Barthanes pulls Rand aside before he can follow, and tells him he has a message for Rand from a certain Lugarder; he observes that Rand knows who he is talking about. Rand asks what the message is.

“He says he will wait for you on Toman Head. He has what you seek, and if you want it, you must follow. If you refuse to follow him, he says he will hound your blood, and your people, and those you love until you will face him.”

Shakily, Rand ignores Barthanes’ further questions and takes his leave. Outside, he tells the rest that Fain has taken the Horn through a Waygate to Toman Head. Back at the inn, they rejoin Perrin, and Rand and Loial explain what happened. Verin doesn’t understand how Fain could have compelled the Black Wind to stand guard at a Waygate, if that’s in fact what happened. Rand says he doesn’t know about the rest of them, but he is going to Toman Head. The others all declare they are coming too, of course, and Verin decides they must try the Ways again, only from a different Waygate, the one at Stedding Tsofu. She sends them all off to bed; Rand asks her why Mat looks so gaunt, and she explains the Healing did not work as well as they thought; he has only a few weeks left, she thinks. She asks how Rand feels, and whether he has “surrendered to the Wheel”, and he snaps back that he will ride to find the Horn, and then he is done with Aes Sedai. Verin doesn’t reply, but watches him thoughtfully as he leaves.

Rand’s being awfully reckless here; I’m not sure if we’re supposed to ascribe this to incipient madness, or what. Jordan seems to have wavered back and forth in the earlier books about just how fast Rand’s taint-induced psychosis is progressing, probably because he thought at the time the story wasn’t going to take nearly as long as it did. This is far more evident in The Dragon Reborn, if I recall correctly, but it’s worth mentioning here.

Mat’s been pissy about the whole “Rand as lord” thing all along, but this is the first time I’ve seen the implication that it’s actually because he’s jealous. Not coincidentally, perhaps, this is also the first time Rand worries about Mat betraying him. Perrin’s already considered it several times, of course, but then he’s been around Mat for a lot more of the intervening time than Rand has.

Chapter 34: The Wheel Weaves

What Happens
Thom trudges back to his lodging in the Foregate, disgruntled over the way the nobles had pumped him for information about Rand. Thom had gone by The Great Tree afterwards, but Rand and the others had already left. He enters his room and sees Dena lying on the bed with her face to the wall; he goes to wake her, and sees that her throat has been slit, and blood covers the far side of the bed. He hears the wardrobe doors creak behind him, and Thom whirls and throws two knives, getting one of the two attackers in the throat, killing him instantly, and the other in the shoulder. The wounded assassin tries to run, and Thom hamstrings him with a third knife, and asks him why. The assassin says it was Barthanes, looking for information about the Andoran lord, and offers Thom a cut of the reward in exchange for his life. Thom tells him his mistake was touching the girl, and kills the man. Zera comes in and tells him he will have to leave Cairhien; Thom says he has one more man to kill first, and Zera tells him if he means Barthanes, someone beat him to the punch: Barthanes was found this morning in his bedchamber, torn to pieces and his head on a spike. She tells Thom she will take care of the bodies, and urges him to leave. Thom nods, and then Zera sees one of the assassins and gasps; he is one of Galldrian’s. She sees Thom’s face, and tells him he’s crazy if he thinks he can kill the king. Then they hear a roar coming from the city walls and go to the window; Thom says it looks like someone has fired the granaries. Zera again urges him to leave and not do anything stupid; Thom agrees, and grins wolfishly as he exits the inn.

Fain sneers at Falme and heads into town alone with the chest on a pack horse. He thinks about what he’s learned about the Seanchan (by torturing the locals) and sees that a lot of what he thought was nonsense is actually correct. He rides to Turak’s manor and tells the guards he has a gift for the High Lord. The soldiers look at the gold and silver chest, and take it and Fain inside. After prostrating himself before Turak, he tells the Seanchan that there is a treasure inside, and as soon as Fain is able to open the chest, it will enable Turak to conquer this whole land. Turak goes to the chest and quickly figures out the trick of opening it, to Fain’s suppressed rage, and takes out the Horn and the dagger. He examines the Horn and is visibly startled; he asks if Fain knows what it is, and Fain replies that it is the Horn of Valere. Turak continues to examine the Horn, but Fain only has eyes for the dagger. He goes to grab it, and when restrained by Turak’s bodyguard, snarls that it is his. Turak tells him if Fain sufficiently interests him he may give the dagger to Fain, but first he wants to know why Fain brought the Horn to him. Fain concocts a story about how the Horn has been passed down in his family for generations, waiting for the time when the ancestors of Artur Hawkwing came back to this land, and now he only wants to serve. Turak is skeptical, but intrigued; Fain tries to urge him to sound the Horn himself, but Turak says he will be bringing it back to the Empress. Perhaps, he says, he will give Fain to her along with the Horn. Fain is elated at the notion of having access to a ruler “again”. Turak then tells him why he will not sound the Horn:

“Do you know that whoever blows the Horn of Valere is linked to it thereafter? That so long as he or she lives, it is no more than a horn to any other?”

He says to do such a thing would confirm in the Empress’ eyes that Turak was making a bid for the Crystal Throne, and that would likely prove fatal for him. Turak says he will keep Fain with him until he sails for Seanchan, to hear more stories. Fain warns him that there are Darkfriends following him, led by one named Rand al’Thor, who will try to take the Horn back. Turak is unimpressed, and Fain is hustled out, where he goes in search of an inn, still confident that his plan will lead to al’Thor’s demise.

Whoa. Dude, I don’t think I ever made the connection that Thom is the one who killed Galldrian until just now. Holy crap. How did I miss that? Is that right? Galldrian’s not one of the supposedly-dead royals who shows up again later, like Mattin Stepaneos did, right?

If so, damn. On the one hand, Thom is awesomely badass here; on the other, regicide = Bad, Thom! Even for crappy kings! For shame!

Dena’s murder is actually one of the more affecting character deaths in WOT, in my opinion. Maybe because we get so few actual deaths overall, but even so, knowing that she will never get to be the first female gleeman just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, it’s just kind of tragic and awful. Poor Dena.

Blah blah Fain, blah blah Seanchan, blah blah hate them. Though I do find it mildly hilarious that Fain’s had possession of the chest the longest of anyone in the book, and everyone else has managed to open it except him. Ha ha, neener!

Chapter 35: Stedding Tsofu

What Happens
It takes Rand et al two days to reach the stedding; Perrin asks Loial on the way if wolves avoid steddings, and Loial replies that only creatures of the Shadow refuse to enter them; Loial himself does not seem happy about going there at the moment, though. When they pass the border of the stedding Rand is startled at the chill that passes through him; he feels refreshed, but also as if he had lost something, though he’s not sure what. They are met by a young female Ogier named Erith, who welcomes them to Stedding Tsofu, and asks if some of the armed soldiers could wait outside; Ingtar sends all the Shienarans except Hurin back out, and they all follow Erith deeper into the stedding. Loial asks Rand if Erith is not beautiful, and Mat snickers. Loial remarks it’s good to be back in a stedding, but denies that the Longing is taking him yet; he explains to Rand, Mat and Perrin what the Longing is, but assures them he is fine for years yet. Mat comments he’s glad to be in a stedding, too, and Rand grimaces, knowing what he’s referring to; Perrin punches Mat in the shoulder. They reach the hobbit Ogier village, which seems to grow right out of the ground like the vegetation, and Rand finds himself envying the peaceful joyfulness that all the inhabitants seem to have. Midway through the village they meet the stedding’s other guests; three Maidens of the Spear. Rand studies them in uneasy fascination. The youngest of the three sees them and shouts “Shienarans!”, and all three veil themselves and move to attack. Ingtar prepares to meet them, and so does Rand, to his own surprise, but Perrin hesitates, and Mat yells at them that they’re crazy, thinking of fighting against women. Erith, Loial and Verin both try to get everyone to calm down, but the Maidens do not listen. Then another Ogier strides in between them and harshly chastises all of them for forgetting the Pact, and the Maidens hastily unveil and apologize, shamefaced. Rand, Hurin and Ingtar also put up their weapons, and the Ogier introduces himself to Verin as Juin; he is here to take them to the Elders. Verin follows Juin out of the clearing, and the others watch the Maidens for a few moments more; Rand notices they are giving him particularly scandalized looks, muttering about his sword. Then they leave, and Erith comments they are here to trade for sung wood.

As they followed her, Perrin murmured, “Sung wood, my left foot. Those Aiel are searching for He Who Comes With the Dawn.”

And Mat added dryly, “They’re looking for you, Rand.”

Rand says that’s crazy; after Erith leaves them, he pulls Mat and Perrin aside and demands an explanation. They tell him about meeting Urien in Kinslayer’s Dagger and what he had said; Mat concludes that since Rand’s the only Aiel they know of outside the Waste, it must be him. Rand doesn’t think that’s very funny, and Mat half-apologizes, but adds that Urien could have been Rand’s cousin for the resemblance, until Perrin makes him shut up.

They all wait for the Elders, Hurin deeply enjoying the violence-free air of the stedding, and Rand and Mat go over to Loial, who looks extremely uncomfortable. Rand asks if he’s nervous about the Ogier finding out he ran away from Stedding Shangtai, and Loial hisses at him to keep his voice down. He’s afraid if they find out he ran away he’ll end up married; he explains that among the Ogier, the men have no say in who they’ll marry or when; the women always decide. Mat bellows laughter at this, and says where they come from, men do the choosing, and wives cannot stop a man from doing what he wants. Rand frowns, thinking about how he had “decided” to marry Egwene — which is to say, he didn’t — and tells Mat he thinks they do it the same way as the Ogier. Mat laughs again. Rand asks him to think of a time his father ever did anything his mother really didn’t want him to; Mat starts to answer with a grin, and then frowns and closes his mouth again. Juin returns and tells them the Elders are ready to see them now.

Oh, Lord. Do I have to talk about this? I do?

Fine, look: sexual politics in WOT are messed up. We all know that. The thing is, I do see the point Jordan was trying to make, and I actually do appreciate it, up until the point it started to become self-parody. However, that time is not yet, and I am trying to have a policy of not letting knowledge of future flaws overly color what precedes them, because I hate when critics do that of extended works.

Just for example, one of the reasons I stopped reading Television Without Pity (other than not having time for it anymore) is because of how annoyed I got with their recaps of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The funny thing is, I am completely in agreement with the recappers’ prevailing opinion that the latter seasons of the show were distinctly inferior to the early ones (sound familiar?), but what pissed me off was how they were letting their hatred of later Buffy episodes retroactively poison their reviews of the earlier ones, despite stating that they loved them.

That’s not cool, in my opinion. Yes, the overall body of work must be judged as a whole, but let the individual sections stand on their own merits, as well. That’s my aim, anyway.

Therefore, I declare the marriage conversation with Rand, Mat and Loial in this chapter funny.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just be hiding behind this metaphorical pile of sandbags here.

Chapter 36: Among the Elders

What Happens
They head to the meeting, Loial getting more and more nervous, and Rand suggests he wait outside for them. Loial eyes the knot of women Ogier standing around and watching them, but agrees, and pulls out a book. Juin leads the rest of them into a hill that’s been excavated into a cavernous meeting hall, where they are met by the seven Elders, three men and four women. The one in the center introduces herself as Alar, the eldest of the Elders. She says Verin has asked them to use their Waygate to retrieve the Horn of Valere from Darkfriends, and while she agrees that the need is very great, she warns them that to travel the Ways is to risk their very souls. Rand says they have seen Machin Shin, and Ingtar adds that he would go to Shayol Ghul itself to retrieve the Horn. Alar tells them they must see for themselves what can happen, and two other Ogier bring in an Ogier named Trayal, who shuffles along between his attendants, vacant and drooling. Alar says Trayal was one of the last of their kind to travel the Ways, and asks Verin to touch him. She does so, and jerks back, saying that the body is there, but there is nothing inside. Trayal’s attendants take him back out, and Verin says whatever the risks, they must follow the Horn; Alar looks at the other Elders, and then reluctantly agrees. Then she brings up Loial; Rand, Mat and Perrin all immediately speak up for him, saying that Loial is their friend and they need him to come with them. Verin adds that they need him for his knowledge of how to navigate the Ways. Alar looks at Rand, and says that Verin told her they were ta’veren, and that they must be strongly ta’veren indeed for Alar herself to feel it. She says Loial is very young, and charges Rand to take care of him Outside and see that he is returned to them safely; Rand promises that he will. They leave the meeting, and Loial anxiously asks them how it went; Rand tells him the Elders are letting him come with them. He notes the flower Loial is toying with, and asks about it; Loial says Erith gave it to him, and under his breath, adds that she told him he was handsome.

Mat let out a wheeze and doubled over, staggering along clutching his sides, and Loial’s cheeks colored. “Well . . . she said it. I didn’t.”

Perrin rapped Mat smartly on the top of his head with his knuckles. “Nobody ever said Mat was handsome. He’s just jealous.”

“That’s not true,” Mat said, straightening abruptly. “Neysa Ayellin thinks I’m handsome. She’s told me so more than once.”

“Is Neysa pretty?” Loial asked.

“She has a face like a goat,” Perrin said blandly. Mat choked, trying to get his protests out.

Rand grinned in spite of himself. Neysa Ayellin was almost as pretty as Egwene.

They head out of the stedding to the Waygate, and Rand realizes that saidin is back, waiting for him. Verin removes the leaf key, and as the Waygate begins to swing open Rand sees that the opening is black again. He shouts that it is the Black Wind, and Verin thrusts the key back into place, closing the gate before it had opened more than a fraction. Everyone sighs with relief. Verin ponders the oddity of the Black Wind waiting for them here, too, and gives Rand a look that only he notices. Loial suggests trying another Waygate elsewhere, but Verin thinks that Machin Shin will be waiting for them no matter where they go. Finally, Hurin pipes up and suggests using the Portal Stones instead, reminding them of how the reflected world he and Rand and Loial went to let them cover a hundred leagues in less than two days. Alar is puzzled, saying she thought no one knew how to use the Stones anymore, but Verin replies the Brown Ajah knows many things, and she can use one. In that case, Alar replies, there is a Portal Stone right nearby; Verin asks her to show them the way.

Verin knows how to use Portal Stones, eh? Tricky, very tricky!

Oh, and to head the obvious misconception off at the pass: Verin was not using the One Power in a stedding to determine Trayal had no soul inhabiting his body. It’s established later on (in Winter’s Heart, during Perrin’s wolf-dream adventures, if I’m not mistaken) that the signs by which you can tell someone’s soul has left their body are all physical, and can be determined by anyone, not just a channeler. Verin’s tricky, but she’s not that tricky.

I really don’t have a lot else to say about this chapter, as it is pretty much all setup for what’s about to happen; I did make a point of quoting the boys’ banter above, though, because I’m going to miss it when it goes, which is Real Soon Now.

All right, park’s closed, everybody out! You two, under the bleachers, you ought to be ashamed of yourselves, get out of there. Come back Monday as we move into the final week for this book, with action, adventure, outrage, opinions, and, of course, your obligatory Big Ass Ending, starting with Chapters 37-40. Spin that Wheel!


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