And so we arrive at Week 15 of Reading The Wheel of Time! It’s a wordy one this week, lots of exposition, and my fingers are tired from typing it all out! Still, despite these chapters being a bit of an info dump, it’s been really nice to get some clarity on certain events, and I am quite happy to see the gang all back together again.
Rand runs all the way back to the inn, and goes straight to the library to find Master Gill, who is playing stones with Loial. He tells them everything, except what Elaida whispered to him and the fact that Gawyn thought that he looked like an Aielman. After hearing everything, Gill tells Rand that he can no longer sit in Caemlyn waiting for his friends: if Elaida decides to search for him it won’t take longer than two days for the Queen’s Guards to comb through every inn in Caemlyn. It is decided that if Rand can’t get Mat out of bed, the innkeeper will send for a healer woman named Mother Grubb. He promises to pay for her services and to provide the boys with horses—when Rand thanks him Master Gill says that Thom was always a good friend to him, and if Thom would help them, so will he.
Loial asks again if he can accompany Rand, and this time Rand accepts his company, although he responds harshly when Loial again observes that Rand is ta’veren and that the Pattern weaves itself around him him and he stands in the heart of it. But just as they are making plans, a serving girl comes into the library and and tells Master Gill that there are Whitecloaks in the inn. When Gill goes out to meet them, the Whitecloaks tell him that they are looking for Darkfriends, specifically a boy from the Two Rivers, but Master Gill cuts him off, insulted, stating that there are no Darkfriends in his inn and that all of his guests are good Queen’s men. The leader observes that everyone knows where the Queen stands, her “and her Tar Valon witch.” At that every person in the room stands, and although the Whitecloaks continue to make veiled threats, they realize they are outnumbered and try to look dignified as they leave, Master Gill giving them the count of three to get out.
Gill asks what Rand did to stir up trouble with Elaida and the Whitecloaks, but Rand insists that they have no reason to be after them. Just then, the serving girl returns to tell them that there is a lady in the kitchens asking for Rand and Mat by name; Gill is concerned that it’s Elayne herself, but Rand, having never mentioned Mat to anyone, realizes who it must be and races to the kitchens. There he finds them: Moiraine and Lan, Nynaeve, Perrin, and Egwene. He introduces everyone to Master Gill, giving Lan and Moiraine their true names, as Gill already knows the full story. He is impressed and respectful towards the Warder and the Aes Sedai, and they get into a conversation about all the cats that Gill keeps in the inn. He admits that there is a problem with rats, and Moiraine offers to keep them away from the street. Gill accepts, as Nynaeve asks about Mat and Rand admits that he’s sick.
They leave the Aes Sedai in the kitchens as Rand takes them up the back way. Egwene described the way Moiraine was drawn to the inn when they got close, and Rand tells them about Thom’s death at the hands of the Fade. Then they get up to the room, where Mat responds to seeing his friends merely by asking how he could know if any of them were really who they appeared to be. He observes that Perrin has certainly changed, and Rand is surprised when Perrin, who has been keeping his eyes downcast the entire time, seems struck by the barb and sits down to put his head in his hands. Mat goes for Nynaeve next, observing that she’s a pretty woman, but not supposed to think of herself as that, and the fact that she does now scares her. He observes that Egwene is pretty too, and that is not all that she and Nynaeve share now.
Just then Moraine comes in, takes one look at Mat, and drags Nynaeve forcibly away from him. She orders all of them to stay well back, and studies Mat intently. When she touches him he whips out the ruby-hilted dagger and tries to stab her, but Lan stops it, the two standing locked together, Lan’s hand on Mat’s wrist, Mat still straining to reach Moiraine with the dagger, as Rand explains that he did not know that Mat kept anything from Shadar Logoth until after the party was separated. Moiraine tells him that Fades and Trollocs and even some Darkfriends would have been drawn to the feeling of Mashadar, sensing it from miles away, even, and being drawn to find it.
Rand tells her of the rumors of shapes outside the city, wondering if they are Trollocs, and Lan interjects that of course they are Trollocs, and Fades will be there too, and that they are amassing numbers to attack the city. “You three have escaped them too long. It looks as if you’ve brought a new Trolloc War to Caemlyn, sheepherder.”
Everyone is aghast, though Moiraine tells them that if they can get out of the city they can still prevent it. Perrin suddenly observes that it would be better if they were all dead; that they bring pain and suffering to people wherever they go. Moiraine stops Nynaeve from answering, turning to Perrin herself.
“What do you think to gain, for yourself or anyone else, by dying?”, the Aes Sedai asked. Her voice was level, yet sharp. “If the Lord of the Grave has gained as much freedom to touch the Pattern as I fear, he can reach you dead more easily than alive, now. Dead, you can help no one, not the people who have helped you, not your friends and family back in the Two Rivers. The Shadow is falling over the world, and none of you can stop it dead.”
When Perrin looks up at her, Rand is shocked to see the yellow in his eyes.
Moiraine turns her attention back to Mat, still trying to reach her with the dagger as Lan continues to hold him back. She explains that the evil that killed Shadar Logoth tainted every pebble of the city, that it taints the dagger and now it taints Mat, too. As he carried the dagger with him outside of the walls of Shadar Logoth, the suspicion and hatred that Mashadar engenders would have risen and fallen in him as his true self fought with the taint. But now, she says, the battle is almost done and the true Mat is almost defeated. Once he is, he will either die or spread the plague of Mashadar everywhere; just as one scratch of the dagger would be enough to infect someone, so too will only a few minutes in Mat’s presence be enough.
She orders all of them to leave the room and takes out her angreal, saying that she hopes, for the sake of the world, that she is not too late to help him.
Keeping out of sight down the back way, Rand leads the subdued party to the library, almost forgetting that the sight of Loial, now familiar to him, would set everyone aback. He makes introductions, and Loial is his usual polite self as everyone is amazed to see a real live Ogier. They all sit, and Perrin asks Loial about the steddings, and the Ogier is happy to talk at length as the others listen and Rand dwells on his own thoughts. Eventually, the door to the library opens and Moiraine is there, with her hand on Mat, who looks amazingly like his old self.
Mat makes a hesitant apology, explaining that he doesn’t remember much after Whitebridge, and that his memory gets even more hazy after that. He doesn’t remember arriving in Caemlyn at all, and his words are shaking and uncertain until he finally offers, “You can’t hold a man to blame for what he does when he’s crazy, can you?”
With him sounding like his old self again everyone relaxes and begins to talk, but Rand notices the way Mat touches his coat as he sits down, and Moiraine admits softly that Mat still has the dagger. She explains that the connection between them has grown too strong for her to undo entirely; she has removed the taint from him and dampened the way that it will attract servants of the Dark One, but that Mat will get worse again eventually unless he receives proper help in Tar Valon.
Then it is time to plan, and Rand explains to Moiraine that he told Loial that he could join them, which she accepts. She sends Lan to stand guard outside and begins to address the group, explaining that they can’t stay in Caemlyn, because the Dark One eyes are in the city. She has cast a ward to keep the rats at bay, hopefully they can be gone before he even realizes that there is a section of the city they no longer enter. But she can’t ward against men without drawing the attention of Fades, and the Whitecloaks are still looking for Perrin and Egwene.
When Rand admits that he thought they were looking for him, he ends up having to explain what happened to him earlier, although he doesn’t do it very clearly or well. “I didn’t do anything wrong,” he finishes plaintively, which Mat points out is what he always says, while Egwene asks who Elayne is. Perrin grouses that all they got to meet were Tinkers and Whitecloaks, which draw Loial into talking about how Tinkers asked to learn songs from the Ogier, and about how they sometimes come to some of the steddings. He goes on to ask Moiraine about another man who once sought refuge in a stedding, one who was almost to the point of death, though he did not seem sick or wounded and got better as soon as he was in the stedding. While he was staying with the Ogier he told them that he had a message that he needed to take to Tar Valon—that “the Dark One intended to blind the Eye of the World, and slay the Great Serpent, kill time itself.”
Perrin and Egwene pipe up to tell the story they learned from the Tinkers, the story of the Aiel woman who fought through her dying moments to tell them that Sightblinder intended to blind the Eye of the World. Moiraine seems struck by both these stories, Rand thinks he can see her mind racing, and just then Perrin interjects that they need to tell Moiraine their secret, that it’s important now. Rand is reluctant, but the three agree, and he explains to Moiraine that they have been having dreams, and in one of them Ba’alzamon told Rand that the Eye of the World would never serve him. Perrin and Mat heard the same.
Moiraine is not angry with them, which surprises the boys, but she isn’t happy either. She explains that each time Ba’alzamon touches them he makes it easier to reach them again, and warns them of the danger of being bound to him. She names servants of the Dark One who could perform such feats, and none of them had anything like the strength of their master. Rand asks what they can do, and Moiraine tells them that staying close to her will protect them a little, but that they will need more than that. Perrin observes that he has already found his protection.
To Rand and Mat, she says that they must deny him. If they surrender, even for a moment, they will have “a string” tied to their heart, but if they deny him, his power will fail. They explain a little more of their dreams, but Rand is careful not to mention one name that he recognizes now, although he didn’t at the time—Logain. Meanwhile, Loial observes that all three boys are ta’veren. Moiraine agrees, and observes that sometimes the ta’veren force the Pattern to bend to them, while other times the Pattern pushes the ta’veren onto a needed path. She isn’t sure if the information they have learned is a trap or a warning, but either way, they must go to the Eye of the World and warn the Green Man at once. Despite everyone’s shock at her suggestion that they must all journey to the Blight, Moiraine continues, explaining that there isn’t even time to travel the weeks that it would take to reach the Blight, but that an unexpected answer has been offered to them. She asks Loial if he knows the Ways, and if he could find a path to Fal Dara, once known as Mafal Dadaranell. Loial replies uneasily that he can.
“Then you can find the path for us,” Moiraine said. “A curious turn, indeed. When we can neither stay nor leave by any ordinary means, I learn of a threat to the Eye, and in the same place there is one who can take us there in days. Whether it is the Creator, or fate, or even the Dark One, the Pattern has chosen our path for us.”
But Loial says that he will not do as Moiraine asks, that if they enter the Ways they will all die, or be swallowed by the Shadow. He explains that the Ways were created as a gift for the Ogier so that they could travel from stedding to stedding when the physical world was in upheaval due to the Breaking. The Ogier sheltered men with the Power who were going mad from the taint, and although the men could not stand to be separated from the Power forever, they made the Ways in gratitude before they left, and gifted the Ogier with a talisman, which they used to grow more Ways connecting rediscovered steddings, as well as the groves grown for the Ogiers that were working on building new cities for men. There is still a Waygate at Fal Dara, where Moiraine wants to go, although the original city was destroyed during the Trolloc Wars.
Egwene asks how the men were able to build the Ways using the Power, if the Power cannot be touched in a stedding and outside of it the men would be once again subject to the taint. Loial explains that this is why they cannot use the Ways, that over time they became dark and dangerous, with some Ogier disappearing, and others coming out raving with terror at something they called Machin Shin, the Black Wind, unable to recall what they experienced, but never quite the same again, even with Aes Sedai healing. Thus the elder Ogier forbid any to use the Ways again, and Loial does not see why Moiraine should have him break their edict.
Moiraine tells them that every living creature is at war with the Dark One, and that there is enough power in the Eye to undo the Dark One’s prison. Matt asks what they can possibly do, and she tells them that everything they have learned and the way they have come together is not change but fate, the Pattern driving the three ta’veren, and they can fight it if they like, run and hide and not be saved, or they can try. They can have the Pattern woven around the three of them where the danger lies, at the Eye of the World.
One by one, first Rand, then Perrin and Mat, Egwene, Nynaeve, and finally Loial all agree to go, and Loial agrees to guide them along the Ways.
During the planning, Rand takes Egwene aside and tries to convince her not to go. He expects her to be annoyed but she just thanks him, and reminds him that Moiraine said that both Egwene and Nynaeve are part of the Pattern, too. She asks who Elayne is, but when he tells the truth, she gets upset at him, thinking he’s being sarcastic. Rand thinks that he’ll have to ask Perrin, as he knows how to talk to women. (Narrator: “He doesn’t.”)
Master Gill is enlisted to arrange everything they need to travel, and then everyone heads to bed, Rand somewhat disturbed by the wrongness he can now feel from the dagger. But when he dreams, he sees a door, and despite his best efforts to deny it, he can’t banish the dream. Instead he finds the flame and the void, the way Tam taught him, and opens the door. He finds himself in the same room as his first dream, with the one side open to the air. On the table, though, he finds three clay figures, faceless, but one with a wolf by its side, one holding a small jeweled dagger, and one bearing a heron-marked sword. Alarmed, he jerks his head up, catching sight of himself in a mirror, his reflection a blur, but more distinct that it has been in his dreams before now.
Ba’alzamon appears, telling Rand that he has hidden for too long, but won’t for much longer. Rand does his best to deny him, but Ba’alzamon only replies that Rand always does at first, only to eventually kneel before him, or to die wishing he still had the strength to kneel. He says too that even some Aes Sedai serve him, the Black Ajah, and that maybe even those who seem to be helping Rand are really his. Rand says he’s lying, calls him the Father of Lies and denies him again, but Ba’alazamon demands that he kneel and serve him, or die, the last work echoing louder and louder in the room. Rand screams to block out the sound and knocks over the clay figures to smush them beneath his feet, but the echo continues on and on, destroying any calm in his mind and pulling him down until he falls out of bed and wakes up.
He hears Mat yelling in his sleep and quickly wakes him, but Mat admits that Ba’alzamon knows who he is now, because he picked up the figure with the dagger, and then Ba’alzamon said “So that’s who you are” and the figure gained Mat’s face. Rand realizes that his palm hurts and discovers a splinter of wood in it. He pulls it out, panicked, and it vanishes the second it leaves his hand.
Moiraine comes to wake them, telling them they have slept for four hours although to Mat it seems like not even one. Realizing something is amiss, she asks what happens, Mat admitting that the Dark One knows his face, and Rand showing her the blood on his palm from the splinter. She covers the wound with her thumb and after a moment’s piercing cold it is healed. She tells them they must hurry and that time grows short….
Of course Mat picked up the figure. Of course he did! You would think he’d have learned his lessons about picking things up, but I guess he just can’t help himself. Somebody should glue that boy’s hands into his pockets, although I guess that wouldn’t do much good in a dream. (MITTENS FOR MAT! – Ed.)
I am so happy to have reached the point of getting an explanation for Mat’s deterioration. I must say, I got so caught up trying to decide whether I thought that he was being possessed by Mordeth that it’s been a while since I thought about Mashadar on its own, and I don’t think it occurred to me to ponder that it, too, might have left a taint on objects inside Shadar Logoth. But Mat’s behavior exactly fits that explanation, his rampant suspicion of strangers trying to help them, and even his suspicion of Rand himself, make a lot of sense now. But as I observed at the time, being scared and suspicious isn’t in itself an unreasonable reaction to being in Mat’s position, so I suppose neither I nor Rand can really be blamed for not getting a better sense of the real problem.
Even more interesting to me is the fact that Rand didn’t seem aware of anything wrong with the dagger before Moiraine told him about it, but as he was trying to fall asleep he appeared to sense it. Is this just his mind being wary because he knows about it now, or has his ability to sense such things increased? I’m thinking of Perrin’s reaction to Byar’s cloak last week, too, and how it’s unclear if his discomfort is just psychological or if his wolf senses have kicked up another notch. Both Perrin and Rand are moving closer to the identities that fate has waiting for them, and although Perrin appears to have accepted his and Rand has not, both of them are growing and changing. Perhaps some day they’ll bond over the experience, who knows.
But it’s not just Mat feeling the effects of the dagger; it’s actually drawing evil to it! No wonder Rand and Mat were so dogged at every step, with Darkfriends just showing up while they were eating breakfast or hiding out in a barn. That must have been exactly how Gode found him; I wasn’t sure how he could know what they looked like, and now we learn that he didn’t even need to. If any Darkfriend had truly given their soul over the Ba’alzamon, it’s Gode.
Mat and Rand are pretty impressive, I think, for making it to Caemlyn despite all that extra danger. But Mat isn’t cured yet, and now we know for sure that, sooner or later, they’re going to end up in Tar Valon.
I still don’t exactly understand what the Eye of the World is, so it’ll be interesting to finally get some more detail about it. Of course I assumed I would, given the title of the book, and there are only so many pages left. But I’m even more interested in the Green Man. There is a great deal of lore relating to that name that Jordan could be drawing from for the character so that will be really interesting to analyze when we get there. Personally, I’m hoping the Eye is guarded by a Robin Hood figure.
I loved the dramatic irony of the Whitecloaks asking about “a boy from the Two Rivers” and Master Gill cutting him off before he can mention Egwene. As a reader, it’s sometimes little things like that that give me the most pleasure. And speaking of Master Gill, he’s really a badass, isn’t he? From his steadfast loyalty to the Queen in the face of increasing discontent, to his hospitality towards Loial, to his devotion to his friendship with Thom and therefore to Rand and all his friends, this man really is tough. He’s still convinced Thom’s alive too—I noticed he refers to the gleeman in the present tense—and I am going to trust his judgement on this one. And in everything else, for that matter. If anyone can get Moiraine and company out of the inn and safely to wherever that Waygate is, it’s Master Gill.
Elaida hates rats, Gawyn said. Well, we already know from Lan back in Baerlon that the Dark One uses carrion eaters, including rats, as his spies, and now it seems like the two Aes Sedai have confirmed to us that this is definitely happening in Caemlyn. I wonder if they could be drawn by the dagger’s power as well—it seems like the power of Mashadar is a little more geared to something that has, or at least had, a soul though. And anyway, it’s a trap to try to put too many things down to the dagger. Caemlyn could probably find its way to a similar fate as Shadar Logoth all on its own, what with all the discontent and suspicion, and the two factions, red and white, ready to fight each other at the drop of a hat. It is unclear to me if those who wear white are showing direct support of the Whitecloaks; they blame the Queen’s alliance with the Aes Sedai as the reason for all the bad things that are happening, and the Whitecloaks also deem Aes Sedai as dangerous witches who may be in league with the Dark One. I suppose they could technically be correct, now that Ba’alzamon has told Rand about the Black Ajah. I don’t think Morgase is a Darkfriend or anything, but Elaida could possibly be Black Ajah in secret. I’m inclined to think not, and why would she keep the rats away if she was, but there’s certainly something going on there. And she didn’t tell Morgase everything about Rand for a reason.
Meanwhile, Rand continues to make little forays into pitting his strength against Ba’alzamon’s. Knowing that he’s the Dragon Reborn, it’s interesting to watch when one can assume how much strength and knowledge he will go on to gain in the many books that follow this one. The idea of defying the devil or a devil-like being is an old one, and there are lots of references I could draw on, but for some reason I just kept imagining the showdown between Jareth and Sarah in Jim Henson’s The Labyrinth. Not the most serious analogy, but it is still an illustration of what I think of as a symbolic moment about free will; the adversary only has power over you if you give it to him. Of course it’s not going to be as simple for Rand as it was for Sarah, and Ba’alzamon is not nearly as sexy as the Goblin King.
Next week we venture into something much more frightening than the Goblin Kingdom, though in some ways I suppose it does resemble a labyrinth. Chapters 44 and 45 will cover the party’s journey through the Ways to Fal Dara, as we the readers journey that much closer to this book’s end.
Through dangers untold, and hardships unnumbered Sylas K Barrett has fought his way here to Week 15, beyond the exposition, to take back the action that you have stolen.