Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Suspecting Darkfriends in Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt (Part 18)

Woohoo, it’s Week 18! Spoiler alert, this week I become suspicious of Ingtar! Which I guess might be a big deal to y’all if I’m right, but just sort of amusing if I’m wrong. But either way, fun, right? I’m feeling a bit punchy today so let’s just get right to the recap.

Escorted by Uno and ten of the Shienaran soldiers, Rand, Mat, Verin, Ingtar, Hurin, and Loial arrive at Barthanes’s manor. Mat complains about having to pretend to be Rand’s manservant (Hurin is passing as Ingtar’s) in order to gain entrance to the party, in case his sense of the dagger can help them locate the chest. Verin and Ingtar hush him, and Rand presents his invitation to a liveried servant standing with the guards at the door. The servant is visibly impressed as Rand introduces himself and his distinguished party, and especially by the presence of an Aes Sedai, but he welcomes them formally and they pass into the hall after him, leaving Uno and the soldiers to join the other escorts waiting outside.

The servant, Ashin, leads them into a great room filled with nobles, as well as acrobats and jugglers performing around the room, and they can hear voices and music coming from other rooms beyond. Rand notes the way people stand together in small groups, sometimes men and women together, sometimes only one gender in a cluster, and that there is enough space between each group to stop anyone from overhearing their conversation. Ashin announces them, starting with Verin, and when he has finished, Lord Barthanes approaches them and greets them cordially, with some wariness in Verin’s direction. When he greets Rand, he remarks that Rand has “excited much comment in the city, and in the Houses” and that he hopes they will have a chance to talk later. Then he drifts away, although his attention does flick back again to Rand.

Verin has told them that it will cause suspicion for them all to remain in a group, so she and Ingtar drift away from Rand. Hurin and Mat have already left to wait with the other servants in the kitchens, but Loial leans down to whisper in Rand’s ear that he can feel a Waygate close by. He tells Rand that this used to be an Ogier grove, grown by the Ogier who built Cairhien before Stedding Tsofu was rediscovered. The last time Loial passed through the area it was still all forest, and belonged to the King—Rand remarks that Barthanes probably took it away in some plot. Rand is anxious about the danger of being separated from each other in the home of a Darkfriend, but Loial reminds him that Verin said that Barthanes won’t do anything until he learns more about them, and urges Rand to trust the Aes Sedai’s judgement before stepping away into the crowd.

Others started toward Rand, now that he was alone, but he turned in the other direction and hurried away. Aes Sedai may know what they’re about, but I wish I did. I don’t like this. Light, but I wish I knew if she was telling the truth. Aes Sedai never lie, but the truth you hear may not be the truth you think it is.

Rand keeps moving through the rooms in an attempt to avoid having to talk to anyone, passing lords and ladies as well as various entertainers, including gleemen, musicians, and even a bard. Suddenly, Barthanes appears at his side. A servant offers them wine—Rand declines—and Barthanes remarks that Rand seems restless. Rand, remembering Verin’s advice to behave as he had in front of the Amyrlin, tells Barthanes that he likes to walk, and settles into Cat Crosses the Courtyard, which seems to anger Barthanes. Rand remarks on the beauty of the house and the number of guests and performers, and Barthanes replies that Rand can tell Galldrian how many friends Barthanes has. He doesn’t believe it when Rand insists he has never met the King—he knows Rand was in the village where the statue was being unearthed. But when Rand, still thinking of Verin, remarks that it is dangerous to meddle with things from the Age of Legends, that gives Barthanes pause.

Continuing on in the conversation, Barthanes tries to figure out Rand’s connection to Verin—he decides that Rand is too young to be a Warder and suggests that Ingtar is her Warder, and Rand answers that they are who they said they were. Inwardly, however, he winces, since that is not actually true of himself. Then Barthanes asks about the heron-marked 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.”

“As you say. You have given me much to think on. I believe we may find common ground when we talk again.” Barthanes nodded and raised his glass in a small salute, then turned to speak to a gray-haired man with many stripes of color down his coat.

Rand hurries away, trying again to avoid getting entangled in any more conversations; Barthanes seemed to find deep meaning in things Rand didn’t see much in, and Rand has learned that he really doesn’t understand Daes Dae’mar at all. He passes into another room and is shocked to spot Thom performing among the crowd. Thom doesn’t acknowledge Rand, proving to Rand that the gleeman meant what he said about making a clean break. He’s just turning to go when a woman steps in front of him and starts asking him if it is true that he plays the flute.

Soon, Rand finds himself cornered by the woman and another who arrives a moment later, both making not-so-subtle passes at him, touching him and letting him know that their husbands are never around. Unable to get away from them, Rand actually finds himself backed up against a wall with their skirts blocking him in; then a third woman, clearly of higher rank, also joins them, leaving the other two curtsying and looking sullen as she addresses Rand.

“Are these two spiders trying to toil you in their webs?” The older woman laughed. “Half the time they tangle themselves more firmly than anyone else. Come with me, my fine young Andoran, and I will tell you some of the troubles they would give you. For one thing, I have no husband to worry about. Husbands always make trouble.”

Over Alaine’s head he could see Thom, straightening from a bow to no applause or notice whatsoever. With a grimace the gleeman snatched a goblet from the tray of a startled servant.

“I see someone I must speak to,” Rand told the women, and squeezed out of the box they had put him in just as the last woman reached for his arm. All three stared after him as he hurried to the gleeman.

Rand is quick to apologize to Thom, saying that he understands they’re making a clean break but he just had to get away from those women. Thom remarks that any one of them could give him an education that every man should have once in his life, then turns the conversation to ask about Verin. Rand insists that she only arrived the day before, and explains that the Horn was taken by the Darkfriends. As soon as they find it again, Rand will be free from the Aes Sedai and he isn’t asking for Thom’s help. Thom appears relieved but also oddly disappointed that Rand isn’t asking him to get back into things again.

Just then, Hurin arrives to tell “Lord Rand” that his manservant has fallen and hurt his knee, and Rand acts the part of an annoyed Lord as he agrees to come see how badly Mat is injured.

“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.” With a glare at the nobles, he set his empty goblet on the tray of a passing servant and strolled away, plucking his harp. He began reciting Goodwife Mili and the Silk Merchant.

“Lead on, man,” Rand told Hurin, feeling foolish. As he followed the sniffer out of the room, he could feel the eyes following him.

Once out of earshot of the guests, Hurin assures Rand that Mat is fine, and that the story of his injury was just a ruse to give Rand an excuse to leave the party. Hurin explains that there is a walled portion of the garden into which the Darkfriends entered, after being joined by Trollocs, and didn’t come back out again.

Rand mentions that he is glad that Hurin is speaking to him normally again, and Hurin admits being put off by the Cairhienin servants, who claim loyalty  to their lords and ladies but hint that they would sell their secrets easily, and give up horrible and sordid details when drunk.

Hurin explains that he was unable to separate Ingtar or Verin from the crowd as they meet up with Loial and Mat. Loial admits he is as glad as Rand to get away from the party; he has learned that the Ogier left the city after Galldrian stopped paying them, but like Rand, he found that his denial of knowledge about the subject either made them believe he was lying or that he was trying to hint at something.

Mat, meanwhile, can’t sense the dagger at all, despite Hurin’s assurance that no one came out of the walled area, and Rand suggest that it’s probably the chest preventing Mats’s connection. Rand is certain that Fain would have left the chest behind if he could have opened it, and promises Mat that if they find the Horn, they will find the dagger.

“As long as I don’t have to pretend to be your servant anymore,” Mat muttered. “As long as you don’t go mad and…” He let the words die with a twist of his mouth.

“Rand is not mad, Mat,” Loial said. “The Cairhienin would never have let him in here if he were not a lord. They are the ones who are mad.”

“I’m not mad,” Rand said harshly. “Not yet. Hurin, show me this garden.”

They pass out of the building and into the gardens, Rand suspicious of every shadow and bush, until they come to a walled, roofless enclosure in the middle of the garden. Loial whispers to Rand that he can feel a Waygate inside. Rand sends Mat back to find Ingtar and Verin and get them down no matter who they are talking to, and Mat heads off grumbling to himself about “my Lord” and his fake limp.

Certain that the Darkfriends are long gone, Rand convinces Loial to boost him up over the wall. He finds the Waygate inside as well as a single bench, and is then joined by Hurin and Loial. They both reprimand him for going in alone and, in Loial’s case, for being “rash and hasty.”

The darkness hid his face, but Rand was sure his ears were twitching vigorously. “Rand, if you don’t start being a little careful, you are going to get me in trouble.”

Hurin tells them that the trail goes right to the Waygate and then stops, and he asks Rand how they could possibly follow the Darkfriends, since he has heard the stories that traveling through one makes you go mad. Rand assures him that it can be done, that he and Mat and Loial have all done it, and to prove that it’s possible, Rand finds the Avendesora leaf and removes it, opening the gate. But instead of the dull silvery effect he remembers from the last time he saw a Waygate open, the mouth of it is filled with a terrible pitch-black; the Machin Shin.

Rand jumps away, dropping the leaf in his shock, as the Black Wind behaves differently than it had the last time Rand encountered it. Under the familiar horror of voices whispering about sweet blood and sweet screams, he hears his name, al’Thor, repeated over and over, and although the Machin Shin is part of the Ways and can’t leave it, it begins to ooze out through the still-opening gateway and into the night.

Rand finds himself embracing the void as Loial scrambles to look for the leaf.

Saidin filled him. He felt as if his bones were vibrating, felt the red-hot, ice-cold flow of the One Power, felt truly alive as he never was without it, felt the oil-slick taint… No! And silently he screamed back at himself from beyond the emptiness, It’s coming for you! It’ll kill all of us! He hurled it all at the black bulge, standing out a full span from the Waygate, now. He did not know what it was that he hurled, or how, but in the heart of that darkness bloomed a coruscating fountain of light.

The Black Wind shrieked, ten thousand wordless howls of agony. Slowly, giving way inch by reluctant inch, the bulge lessened; slowly the oozing reversed, back into the still-open Waygate.

Power continues to course through Rand, and he can feel it burning him away, eroding who he is under the power of it, but he feels he can’t stop, desperate as he is to kill the Machin Shin. Even the Void seems to melt into the furnace-like force of the Power as it channels through Rand; suddenly, the doors start to swing shut again. It takes Rand a moment to understand what is happening, then he realizes that Loial has put the leaf back. The doors shut, cutting Rand’s connection to the fire he created inside the Machin Shin, and he falls to his knees, still surrounded by Saidin, though it is no longer flowing. He fights out of it, hyper-aware of everything around him as the taint leaves a foul taste on his tongue and knots his stomach. Hurin gasps out his surprise, thanking Loial for saving them and wondering if the Black Wind meant to throw that fire at them. He perceives Rand’s distress and comes to help him to his feet.

They leave the way they came, Loial boosting them over the wall and then climbing over himself, and head back towards the building. When they reach the doorway to the main building they run into Mat, who tells them that Verin said they are not to move or to try to get the chest, and that if Hurin found it, they should leave it be until they can make a plan to come back. Rand tells him that he hopes Verin has an idea of what to do.

Back in the hall they catch sight of Verin and Ingtar, and everyone moves towards the exit. But Barthanes intercepts them, urging them to stay longer—when Verin says they cannot, he bows and says that he hopes they will visit him again. But he catches Rand’s sleeve as he passes to keep him behind.

“You wade even deeper in the Game than I thought,” Barthanes said softly. “When I heard your name, I could not believe it, yet you came, and you fit the description, and… I was given a message for you. I think I will deliver it after all.”

Rand had felt a prickling along his backbone as Barthanes spoke, but at the last, he stared. “A message? From whom? Lady Selene?”

“A man. Not the sort for whom I would usually carry messages, but he has… certain… claims on me that I cannot ignore. He gave no name, but he was a Lugarder. Aaah! You know him.”

Rand admits that he does, and Barthanes tells him that Fain said that he will wait for Rand on Toman Head, that he has what Rand seeks and that if he wants it, he must follow. If he does not follow, Fain will hound his people and those he loves until he will face Fain. Barthanes is surprised that someone like Fain would dare threaten a Lord like Rand. This, in Barthanes’s mind proves Fain’s madness.

He asks what it is that Fain carries, that Rand hunts and Trollocs protect, but Rand only thanks him for his hospitality and leaves, his head spinning. He has no doubt that Fain can make good on his threat, but doesn’t know how he could follow in any case. Once they are out of earshot, Verin asks what happened and if they found the chest, but when Rand explains that there was a Waygate and Fain used it to travel to Toman Head, she decides they will wait until they get back to inn.

Back in the private dining area they meet up with Perrin, who doesn’t even need to ask how things went—he can tell by their faces. Rand explains what happened (leaving out his use of the Power) and how the Machin Shin seemed to be standing guard. Verin counters that they must be mistaken, that the Machin Shin is not an entity of the Dark One that might be compelled by Dark Friends—no one knows what the Machin Shin is, “unless, perhaps, it is essence of madness and cruelty.” It cannot be compelled, not by Darkfriends, not even by the most powerful Aes Sedai.

Ingtar remarks that he wouldn’t have thought Fain had the courage for the Ways, his agitation building as he theorizes the many places the Horn might be now. He seems to despair, his shoulders slumping as he declares that the Horn is lost.

Rand repeats that Fain is taking it to Toman Head, and explains that Fain left him that message with Barthanes. Ingtar thinks that it is a trick, but Rand is insistent that he is going to ride to Toman Head, whether or not anyone comes with him. He declares that he is certain that Fain will wait for him, and asks Loial if he is sure that he wants to come.

“I’ve stayed with you this long, Rand. Why would I stop now?” Loial pulled out his pipe and pouch and began thumbing tabac into the big bowl. “You see, I like you. I would like you even if you weren’t ta’veren. Maybe I like you despite it. You do seem to get me neck-deep in hot water. In any case, I am going with you.” He sucked on the pipestem to test the draw, then took a splinter from the stone jar on the mantel and thrust it into a candle flame for a light. “And I don’t think you can really stop me.”

“Well, I’m going,” Mat said. “Fain still has that dagger, so I’m going. But all that servant business ended tonight.”

Perrin sighed, an introspective look in his yellow eyes. “I suppose I’ll come along, too.” After a moment, he grinned. “Somebody has to keep Mat out of trouble.”

Ingtar continues to insist that it is a trick, muttering about making Barthanes tell him the truth, and pointing out that Fain and the Darkfriends could blow the Horn at any time, but Verin reminds them that Fain would have already opened the chest if he could. She is more concerned that he will now have time to find someone else who can open it, and decides they must use the Ways. Verin declares that they will ride in the morning to Stedding Tsofu, to use the Ways there, and gives the necessary orders despite Ingtar’s reticence. As they all depart to get some sleep, Rand asks Verin about Mat’s health, and Verin admits that the Healing didn’t work as well as they had originally thought. She gives Mat a few more weeks at most, another reason for haste.

“I do not need another spur, Aes Sedai,” Rand said, making the title sound hard. Mat. The Horn. Fain’s threat. Light, Egwene! Burn me, I don’t need another spur.

“And what of you, Rand al’Thor? Do you feel well? Do you fight it still, or have you yet surrendered to the Wheel?”

“I ride with you to find the Horn,” he told her. “Beyond that, there is nothing between me and any Aes Sedai. Do you understand me? Nothing!”

She did not speak, and he walked away from her, but when he turned to take the stairs she was still watching him, dark eyes sharp and considering.

Is… is Ingtar a Darkfriend? My suspicions were all on Verin but I can’t think of another reason for him to be acting the way he is, unless I’ve really misread something or the reason is still a complete secret that hasn’t been set up at all in the narration yet. Which doesn’t really seem to be how Jordan rolls. I’ve been putting Ingtar’s impatience and personal investment over the chest down to his Shienaran code of honor and the overzealousness that we saw from him in The Eye of the World, but he doesn’t bring up his honor or duty, or that he has disappointed Lord Agelmar, he specifically says “I am lost.” Looking back, he was much more confident leaving Fal Dara, and while it makes sense that such confidence would erode over time, it could also be that he never expected to catch the Darkfriends, but merely to make a show of pursuing them until they disappeared into the Blight. But then Fain took over, killed the Myrddraal in charge, and took the chest off where he wanted it to go, and thus the Horn is no longer in the hands of someone loyal to the Dark One. It isn’t where the Dark One wanted it to be, either. If Ingtar was a Darkfriend, that would probably land him in some pretty hot water with Ba’alzamon.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but I never really believed that the person responsible for opening the dog gate to the Trollocs in the first place wasn’t still in play. Why go with the Trollocs and give up your position inside the walls of Fal Dara, given that there was no other way to identify who was responsible? Also, there was a moment back in Chapter 6 when Rand found out about the discrepancy regarding when the order to keep everyone in was given, and he briefly wondered if Ingtar was lying before quickly dismissing it as a ridiculous thought. At the time, I assumed that it was Moiraine and the Amyrlin who had carefully had the gates barred to hinder Rand’s escape, but now I’m wondering if there could have been another reason. Maybe Rand’s inability to escape the Amyrlin was only a side-effect of another scheme, one designed for capturing the Horn.

Oh, but if it was Ingtar who was responsible, that adds a whole different layer to his decision to have the two guardsmen, Changu and Nidao, buried “just in case” they weren’t really Darkfriends. Ouch.

Okay. So maybe Ingtar is a Darkfriend. And maybe Verin isn’t? I guess this is the thing about all those folks in the Darkfriend party in the prologue not getting to see each other’s faces; it would be so easy for Darkfriends to be working at cross-purposes without even knowing it, especially with people like Fain and Rand throwing wrenches into everyone’s plans. Heck, maybe even Barthanes isn’t a Darkfriend; he said that Fain had claims on him, which one assumes is their shared status as Darkfriends since Barthanes wouldn’t know about the Mordeth side of Fain. But then again, Fain is pretty unpredictable and there could be another reason Barthanes felt compelled to do as Fain asks. Ambition, even outside of Darkfriend status, can get people in some pretty hot water, after all.

So now I’m suspicious of Ingtar, which throws up questions about my suspicious on Verin. Is everyone a Darkfriend? I guess I’m getting a taste of the suspicion and doubt that the people of this world deal with all the time. So let’s get back onto solid ground and move on to a different topic.

Because unlike Verin, I have no trouble believing that Fain could find a way to control the Machin Shin. Verin doesn’t know it, of course, but during Moiraine’s interrogation of Fain in Fal Dara, she learned that Fain was caught by the Black Wind before and was able to understand the voices. Some recognized him as similar to them, others feared him, and as quickly as the Wind enveloped him, it fled again. But Rand was there for that revelation, as were Loial, Mat, and Perrin, so it makes sense that they would have an easier time believing it. And of course, Rand knows what he saw.

“Do you really think Padan Fain could do what ten Aes Sedai could not?”

Uh, yeah I do, Verin. Mordeth is the essence of cruelty, and Fain of madness; they are just like the Black Wind. Nobody in this story really understands what they’re dealing with, when it comes to Mordeth-Fain. He may end up being as much of a wrench in the Dark One’s plans as in those of the Aes Sedai and the side of Light. (Hello, dejá vu. I feel like I’ve typed those words before. Anyway, said once or more than once, the points still stands.)

Back in the beginning of this section, I got confused when I read Barthanes’s last name, and had to go looking through the glossary to remember where I had heard the name Damodred before; it’s Galad’s last name. So somehow Barthanes is connected to the royal family through… Morgase’s husband. I think. I was initially confused when we met Elayne, Gawyn, and Galad in The Eye of the World, I think I thought that Galad was their half brother through a different father rather than mother, but now I understand that Morgase is Galad’s stepmother, and so he retains his father’s last name, Damodred, while Galad and Elayne have the royal last name, Trakand. I’m not sure if Barthanes thought that Rand might be Gawyn in disguise or was just fishing, but it makes sense that he might have some knowledge about the royal family if he’s distantly connected to it. I wonder if that will come back up in some way, later, and if it has anything to do with his ability to rival Galldrian in power.

Rand’s little dance with Barthanes is interesting, because Barthanes is actually getting a fair amount of clues out of Rand, but it’s pretty unlikely that he will put them together correctly; the Cairhienin might be a suspicious lot, but even they aren’t going around constantly wondering if they’re talking to the Dragon Reborn. And of course, Rand doesn’t understand at all that these details are significant, or perhaps he would play/not play the Game a bit differently. And the Aiel thing is still getting to him—you’d think he’d be at least a little used to it by now. But why would the royal family be considered to resemble the Aiel in coloring? That doesn’t seem to have been something that came up back when we met them; Morgase and her kids have red hair, like we saw on Urien, and are tall, but given the reputation of the Aiel it doesn’t seem like a comparison that could be lightly made. Perhaps that was deliberate on the part of Barthanes to throw Rand off, or to cast an aspersion on someone else’s power? Could the royal family also be secretly part Aiel, as Rand is? Would that suggest an even larger connection between them?

I guess Barthanes is pretty good at playing Daes Dae’mar; he’s certainly got me spinning.

I didn’t quite understand what Thom meant when he said that the Cairhienin might play the Great Game, but that the White Tower made it. Is he saying that the Cairhienin Game was seeded into their society by the Aes Sedai? Or is it more of a hyperbolic turn-of-phrase; “many people may be good at being sneaky but the Aes Sedai invented sneakiness,” i.e. are the most sneaky of all. I imagine it’s the latter, but the way it was phrased made it confusing.

It does serve as a good reminder, though, of how Rand’s situation in the Great Game is just like his situation in the Aes Sedai’s manipulation. He doesn’t want to play Daes Dae’mar, insists that he isn’t, but every one of his actions affects the Game whether he wants it to or not; he’s forced to play, even if it’s just to mitigate how involved he gets. In the same way, Rand cannot escape the Aes Sedai connections in his life. He doesn’t want to be manipulated by them, but he hasn’t considered that even his desire to escape may be the Aes Sedai influencing his actions. And even without accepting his identity as the Dragon Reborn, he knows that he is ta’veren, and a male channeler. He is part of the Aes Sedai “game” whether he wants to be or not, whether he chooses right or left, whether he follows their advice or acts against it. And at a certain point, he may realize that he actually has more power over his fate if he decides to play actively, and therefore take some control over the game itself.

He’s certainly right in telling Verin that he doesn’t need another spur to direct him, and given that the Aes Sedai believe that the Pattern ultimately directs everyone, it makes you wonder why she feels the need to prod Rand in this moment. As far as I can see, she’s got him more or less right where she needs him, and she can keep an eye on the Dragon Reborn easily enough without bringing the subject up directly. Unless she is a Darkfriend and needs that information for an entirely different reason. Could she and Ingtar both be Darkfriends? Aaaah what is happening??

Okay, deep breaths, Sylas. We’ll find out in time. As the Wheel wills, and all that.

You know, I just realized recently how willing I have been to dismiss any possible evidence of Rand being affected by the taint. Numerous times he has encountered something strange and inexplicable, wondered if he is going mad, and then decided it can’t be that. From his feeling of being watched while in Fal Dara, to the vision/hallucination with the flies, to his weird half-suicidal fight with the Trollocs after they stole the chest, there have been lots of instances in which Rand has asked himself if this was the beginning of going mad, and each time I have been quick to assume that there is another explanation. This is mostly because having the madness of the taint hanging over Rand’s head makes for such a great red herring, narration-wise; Jordan can give Rand and the reader clues about important plot points, only to dismiss them as possibly just taint-induced delusion. So I’ve been assuming none of them are taint-induced delusion… which I’m sure is right some of the time. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t little bits of madness creeping in around the edges that I—and Rand—haven’t noticed yet. I was wondering the other day if the fly-infested vision might not have been both truth and taint, intertwined. Perhaps Rand was seeing a vision of what really happened to the people in that house through some unconscious touching of saidin, which was then contaminated by the taint adding a hallucination of the flies and horribleness over the true vision.

I just wanted to hug Loial. Again. He’s been making me nervous with his multiple comments about Rand possibly getting him into trouble, either by getting him noticed by other Ogier or by dragging him into another dangerous situation with Darkfriends, and it is true that Rand is a bit hasty when it comes to the Horn. But despite everything that Rand has asked of him, including stealing the chest right out of the middle of a bunch of Trollocs and almost getting him killed by the Machin Shin, Loial is still living up to his name. I can’t lie, having him declare his affection for Rand, not just as an interesting ta’veren puzzle but as a friend, made me smile. And it’s a good thing he’s sticking with Rand; we need Loial to keep that boy alive! It was really interesting to get an actual description of how burning oneself out with the Power actually works, just in case I had any doubts about what the Aes Sedai saying about it was true. I’m going to leave it mostly alone for now, but I feel like soon I’m going to want to devote some serious time to examining how Rand’s channeling and attitude towards channeling is evolving as The Great Hunt continues.

But at least now Rand and all his guy friends are going to be together—at least for a little while. And that’s a nice place to leave us this week, even though we’re all certain that it’ll be short lived. But Thom’s not done with us either, and we get to see a real stedding with actual Ogier in it, which I have definitely been waiting for!

Sylas K Barrett can’t help feeling that the name Tanchico sounds like a place or a people in Star Wars. Like maybe one of those groups that were after Han Solo in The Force Awakens. The Guavian Death Gang, Kanjiklub, and Tanchico. Tanchico’s the handsome ones.

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