Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Climbing Adventures with Matrim Cauthon in Robert Jordan’s The Dragon Reborn (Part 19)

My dears, my lovelies, it is already Week 19 in our read of The Dragon Reborn. It’s a quick post this week, covering Chapters 45-47, which were a breeze to read through and also quite fun to boot. I also loved to climb as a kid, and I find myself growing ever closer to, and more fond of, our dear Mat, as I predicted I would earlier in the book. It’s funny how much of a difference knowing someone’s internal monologue makes to understanding them and connecting with them as a person. I kind of love having so many different switches in the Wheel of Time, although it took me a bit to get used to. (I remember reading The Two Towers and The Return of the King as a kid and being mad when the book switched halfway through to tell you what the other half of the Fellowship was doing, so at least I don’t have to wait that long to check in on people.)

All in all, I don’t have quite as much to say this week, but I can see some dangers looming in our heroes’ future and it’s getting me closer and closer to the edge of my seat!

Arriving in Caemlyn, Mat finds he has only vague memories of the city, and he’s impressed by its tall towers and bustling streets. They pass easily through the walled gates with the rest of the arrivals, and Mat is immediately looking ahead to the second wall, shining as white as Tar Valon and concealing more rooftops and towers beyond—the Inner City, with the Royal Palace sitting on the highest hill.

“No point waiting,” he told Thom. “I’ll take the letter straight on.” He looked at the sedan chairs and carriages making their way through the crowds, the shops with all their goods displayed. “A man could earn some gold in this city, Thom, once he found a game of dice, or cards.” He was not quite so lucky at cards as at dice, but few except nobles and the wealthy played those games anyway. Now that’s who I should find a game with.

Thom reminds him that they’ve ridden all night, and suggests a bed and a meal at The Queen’s Blessing, which Mat does remember. He thinks briefly of Moiraine catching up to him and Rand there, then brushes the thought aside, reminding himself that Moiraine is “off playing her game with Rand, now.” He reminds Thom that he intends to get the letter out of his hands as quickly as possible, and they agree to meet later at the inn.

Traveling the streets on his own, Matt finds that his memory is piecemeal: He’ll recognize one sign or storefront in an unfamiliar street, or find he knows an area of a hundred paces but not what came before or after. He follows the main boulevard into the Inner City, and from there every street spirals towards the Royal Palace. It doesn’t take him long to reach it, the courtyard emptier than the rest of the city. He rides straight up to the guards and greets them, and though the answering reply from the officer—“What do you want, farmer?”—isn’t that encouraging, he does his best to put on the charm.

“You come from Tar Valon, farmer?” The fat officer’s stomach shook as he laughed, but then his laughter cut off as if severed with a knife, and he glared. “We want no letters from Tar Valon, rogue, if you have such a thing! Our good Queen—may the Light illumine her!—will take no word from the White Tower until the Daughter-Heir is returned to her. I never heard of any messenger from the Tower wearing a countryman’s coat and breeches. It is plain to me you are up to some trick, perhaps thinking you’ll find a few coins if you come claiming to carry letters, but you “will be lucky if you don’t end in a prison cell! If you do come from Tar Valon, go back and tell the Tower to return the Daughter-Heir before we come and take her! If you’re a trickster after silver, get out of my sight before I have you beaten within an inch of your life! Either way, you half-wit looby, be gone!”

Mat had been trying to edge a word in from the beginning of the man’s speech. He said quickly, “The letter is from her, man. It is from—”

But the officer cuts him off again, and Mat is unable to do anything besides rile him up more, until finally the officer orders his guards to arrest Mat “for a Darkfriend.” Mat, surprised that anyone would take such an order seriously, is forced to flee, although he’s not in much danger of being caught, on horseback while the guards are on foot.

Fool, he thought, meaning the fat officer, then added another for himself. All I had to do was say her bloody name in the beginning. “Elayne, the Daughter-Heir of Andor, sends this letter to her mother, Queen Morgase.” Light, who could have thought they’d think that way about Tar Valon. From what he remembered of his last visit, Aes Sedai and the White Tower had been close behind Queen Morgase in the Guards’ affections. Burn her, Elayne could have told me. Reluctantly, he added, I could have asked questions, too.

He slows to a walk as he leaves the inner city and manages to find The Queen’s Blessing with a little searching. He greets first the stable-hand and then the cook, and is miffed when the stable-hand doesn’t recognize him at all, and the cook remembers him as “the serving man to that young prince.” He learns that Thom and Master Gill are in the library, and wonders if Gill is married to the cook, since she sends him up with a reminder that the innkeeper needs to clean the drains. “He could not remember that Coline was married to Master Gill, either, but if he had ever heard a goodwife send instructions to her husband, that had been it.”

In the impressive library he finds Thom and Master Gill playing stones while a calico cat watches them. Thom makes introductions, and while Mat is again irritated when Gill remembers him as having been sick the last time,  the innkeeper reminds him that, given who he left with last time, it’s probably best if the illness is the only thing Gill remembers.

Mat observes that the guards at the White Palace seemed to think that the White Tower had stolen Elayne, and while Gill says it’s not so bad as that, the whole city knows that Elayne disappeared from the White Tower, and everyone down to the stableboys is walking on eggshells around Morgase. She also has a new advisor, a Lord Gaebril, and Gareth Bryne has been “retired to his estate” because he did not like Lord Gaebril.

“So the Queen has an advisor who doesn’t like Tar Valon,” Mat said. “Well, that explains the way the Guards acted when I said I came from there.”

“If you told them that,” Gill said, “you might be lucky you escaped without any broken bones. If it was any of the new men, at least. Gaebril has replaced half the Guards in Caemlyn with men of his choosing, and that is no mean feat considering how short a time he has been here. Some say Morgase may marry him.” He started to put a stone on the board, then took it back with a shake of his head. “Times change. People change. Too much change for me. I suppose I am growing old.”

Mat, watching Thom destroy Gill at stones, remarks that the only thing to do would be to bypass the guards entirely and put the letter straight into Morgase’s hands. Thom is surprised that he didn’t already deliver it, but his question is bowled over by Gill, who eagerly asks if Elayne and Gawyn are coming home and observes that there has actually been talk of war with Tar Valon. Not that anyone would be foolish enough to go to war against Tar Valon, but there have been rumors of the Aes Sedai supporting a false Dragon and using the One Power as a weapon, so he supposes that has stirred up a lot of talk.

Mat answers that the letter is sealed so he doesn’t know what is in it (Thom eyes him sideways but doesn’t contradict the lie) but that he suspects she is not coming home and intends to be Aes Sedai. Then he explains his failed attempt to deliver the letter.

To avoid more trouble, Gill advises him to wait until the afternoon, when the guard will have been changed so perhaps the “new men” won’t be on duty, and to say Elayne’s name right out and act respectfully.

“Burn me if I will. I pull wool and scratch gravel for nobody. Not to Morgase herself. This time, I’ll not go near the Guards at all.” I would just as soon not know what word that fat fellow has spread. They stared at him as if he were mad.

Suddenly, Gill realizes what Mat intends and starts sputtering about how Mat would need the Dark One’s own luck to escape alive, while Thom demands to know what Gill is talking about. Mat picks up a dice cup from the table and spins the dice out to the same hand he’s been throwing so often, the single pips sometimes called “The Dark One’s Eyes.” Gill observes that it’s either the best toss or the worst, depending on the game you’re playing, and tries to convince Mat to take the dice cups downstairs and play a safer one, but Mat isn’t having it.

“Coline wants you to clean the drains,” Mat told him, and turned to Thom while the innkeeper was still blinking and muttering to himself. “It doesn’t seem to make any odds whether I get an arrow in me trying to deliver that letter or a knife in my back waiting. It’s six up, and a half dozen down. Just you have that meal waiting, Thom.” He tossed a gold mark on the table in front of Gill. “Have my things put in a room, innkeeper. If it takes more coin, you will have it. Be careful of the big roll; it frightens Thom something awful.”

As he stalked out, he heard Gill say to Thom, “I always thought that lad was a rascal. How does he come by gold?”

I always win, that’s how, he thought grimly. I just have to win once more, and I’m done with Elayne, and that’s the last of the White Tower for me. Just once more.

Mat isn’t sure of the truth of the story on which he is basing his plan, but sure enough, he is able to discover the same wall that Rand once climbed, only to fall off onto the other side and end up in the garden where he met Elayne and Gawyn. Thinking that it’s awfully careless for them to make it so easy, Mat scales the wall, and begins to reminisce about a time when he and Rand and Perrin had snuck away from home and gone climbing in the Mountains of Mist. They’d climbed and hunted and slept under the stars, dreaming of perhaps finding treasure, and Mat had come home with a few treasures: a rock “with the skull of a good-sized fish somehow pressed into it, and a long, white tail feather dropped by a snow eagle, and a piece of white stone as big as his hand that looked almost as if it had been carved into a man’s ear. He thought it looked like an ear, even if Rand and Perrin did not, and Tam al’Thor had said it might be.”

Suddenly Mat slips, and although he manages to regain his footing and pull himself up onto the top of the wall, he upbraids himself for letting his mind wander, as he once did then, too. He glances around to make sure no one has seen him, then drops into the garden below.

Inside, Mat finds a garden full of incredible flowers. Although there are guards on patrol, they seem to be just going through the motions, so Mat has little trouble hiding from them whenever they pass. He actually enjoys himself, thinking of how much it is like stealing applecakes at Sunday, and easier, since women always keep a sharp eye on their baking but the soldiers never so much as look away from the flagstones. Eventually he pauses against a wall to let two more guards pass, and overhears a conversation from the window above.

“—on their way to Tear, Great Master.” The man sounded frightened and obsequious.

“Let them ruin his plans, if they can.” This voice was deeper and stronger, a man used to command. “It will serve him right if three untrained girls can foil him. He was always a fool, and he is still a fool. Is there any word of the boy? He is the one who can destroy us all.”

“No, Great Master. He has vanished. But, Great Master, one of the girls is Morgase’s nit.”

Mat realizes that they are talking about Elayne, and therefore about Egwene and Nynaeve too, but he can’t peer over the sill with the guards passing him. The voice of the “Great Master” continues to complain about someone who wants to take Tear and Callandor as well, and is concerned that if that person captures Elayne it will foil the voice’s own plans. He instructs the other person, Comar, to have her killed, so quietly that no one will know, and comments that those in the White Tower certainly won’t be able to explain that, and perhaps things will work out just as well after all. Comar, however, is concerned about the difficulty and begins to suggest that the “Great Master” do something himself, when he is abruptly cut off.

“Are there none but fools in the world, now?” the deep voice said harshly. “Do you think I could move in Tear without him knowing? I do not mean to fight him, not now, not yet. Bring me the girl’s head, Comar. Bring me all three heads, or you will pray for me to take yours!”

“Yes, Great Master. It shall be as you say. Yes. Yes.”

The second the guards are gone, Mat leaps up and peers over the sill, just missing one of the men departing. The one man Mat can still see is broad-shouldered, bearded, and looks like “a hard man, used to giving orders” but when he speaks aloud to himself. Mat recognizes the voice as belonging to Comar, the one receiving the commands.

Comar leaves, and Mat drops down again, his mind reeling under the knowledge that someone in the Palace wants Elayne dead, and Egwene and Nynaeve as afterthoughts alongside them. Considering Elayne’s letter, Mat decides that maybe it would be enough for Morgase to believe him, if he described what he heard and the one man he saw. Deciding that there is no time to waste, he steps out into the main path, holding the letter before him so that the seal is plainly visible, and follows after the soldiers.

It takes a bit, but eventually he encounters a young officer with a golden knot on his shoulder. He cuts the man’s alarm off with a quick “Elayne, the Daughter-Heir, sends this letter to her mother, Queen Morgase, Captain.” The man demands to know how Mat got into the Palace, stating that Elber is on the main gates, and even he is not so much of a fool as to allow strangers to wander loose in the Palace.

“A fat man with eyes like a rat?” Mat cursed his tongue, but the officer gave a sharp nod; he almost smiled, too, but it did not seem to lessen his vigilance, or his suspicion. “He grew angry when he learned I had come from Tar Valon, and he wouldn’t even give me a chance to show the letter or mention the Daughter-Heir’s name. He said he would arrest me if I did not go, so I climbed the wall. I promised I would deliver this to Queen Morgase herself, you see, Captain. I promised it, and I always keep my promises. You see the seal?”

“That bloody garden wall again,” the officer muttered. “It should be built three times so high.” He eyed Mat. “Guardsman-lieutenant, not captain. I am Guardsman-lieutenant Tallanvor. I recognize the Daughter-Heir’s seal.” His sword finally slid all the way back into the sheath. He stretched out a hand; not his sword hand. “Give me the letter, and I will take it to the Queen. After I show you out. Some would not be so gentle at finding you walking about loose.”

Mat, however, resists, insisting that he promised Elayne that he would had it to the Queen himself, and Tallanvor relents, although not before putting his sword to Mat’s neck and promising what he will do to Mat if he even thinks of harming Morgase. Mat insists that he is a loyal Andorman, and Tallanvor leads him away.

As Tallanvor leads him through seemingly endless corridors, Mat indulges in thinking about what rewards Morgase might give him for such a service as delivering the letter and warning her of the plot. They eventually arrive at a columned walk set with ponds full of fish and lily pads, where Mat finds Morgase, with her red-gold hair and the great serpent ring on the third finger of her left hand, trailing her fingers through the water. Although she is surrounded by richly-attired courtiers, Mat is transfixed by her and thinks that he would have known who she was even if she hadn’t been dressed like a queen, with a wreath of finely-made gold roses in her hair.

Tallanvor goes down on one knee and Mat follows suit, clumsily presenting the letter and resolving to tell her of what he overheard as soon as she seems to be in a better mood.

“You bring a letter from my scapegrace child?” Her voice was cold, but with an edge that spoke of heat ready to rise. “That must mean she is alive, at least! Where is she?”

“In Tar Valon, my Queen,” he managed to get out. Light, wouldn’t I like to see a staring match between her and the Amyrlin. On second thought, he decided he would rather not. “At least, she was when I left.”

Morgase takes the letter and reads it, her mood darkening and then brightening and then darkening again as she reads what Elayne has written. Mat starts to speak again, to tell her of the plot, when he is abruptly cut off.

“Be silent, boy,” the dark man in the gold-encrusted coat said calmly. He was a handsome man, almost as good-looking as “Galad and nearly as youthful-seeming, despite the white streaking his temples, but built on a bigger scale, with more than Rand’s height and very nearly Perrin’s shoulders. “We will hear what you have to say in a moment.” He reached over Morgase’s shoulder and plucked the letter out of her hand. Her glare turned on him—Mat could see her temper heating—but the dark man laid a strong hand on her shoulder, never taking his eyes off what he was reading, and Morgase’s anger melted. “It seems she has left the Tower again,” he said. “On the service of the Amyrlin Seat. The woman oversteps herself again, Morgase.”

Horrified, Mat realizes that luck has once again saved him from a huge blunder; he recognizes the man’s voice as that of the “Great Master” who was speaking with Comar. Realizing, too, that Morgase had addressed the man as Gaebril, Mat now knows that it’s the Queen’s own advisor who wants to murder Elayne and the others.

When he is invited to speak, Mat invents a story and a name for himself, saying that he is Thom Grinwell and that he went to Tar Valon to visit his sister, Else, who is a novice. When “the lady Elayne” learned that he was intending to pass through Caemlyn on his way home to Comfrey, she gave him the letter to bring. Gaebril presses, asking if he knows where Elayne was going or on what business, but Mat insists that he knows nothing, that Elayne only gave him the letter and a gold mark, and sent him on his way. Gaebril gives him a dark look as though he might not believe it.

“No, Gaebril,” Morgase said suddenly. “Too many have been put to the question. I can see the need as you have shown it to me, but not for this. Not a boy who only brought a letter whose contents he does not know.”

“As my Queen commands, so shall it be,” the dark man said. The tone was respectful, but he touched her cheek in a way that made color come to her face and her lips part as if she expected a kiss.

Morgase asks after Elayne’s health and Mat assures the Queen that she is well. Morgase, remarking that it is often difficult for young men who have left their village to return home again, tells Mat that if he ever returns to Tar Valon and sees Elayne to give her a message.

“…tell her that what is said in anger is often repented. I will not remove her from the White Tower before time. Tell her that I often think of my own time there, and miss the quiet talks with Sheriam in her study. Tell her that I said that, Thom Grinwell.”

Mat awkwardly replies that he will, but that he doesn’t expect to see Tar Valon again and that his da needs his help on the farm. Gaebril, with a condescending laugh, asks if he’s so eager to return to milking cows and tosses him a purse of coins, telling him to see something of the world. Mat thanks him as in-character as he can.

But the dark man had already waved him away and turned to Morgase with his fists on his hips. “I think the time has come, Morgase, to lance that festering sore on the border of Andor. By your marriage to Taringail Damodred, you have a claim to the Sun Throne. The Queen’s Guards can make that claim as strong as any. Perhaps I can even aid them, in some small way. Hear me.”

Tallanvor and Mat back away, already forgotten as every lord and lady hangs on Gaebril’s words… including Morgase.

Mat tries to walk with Tallanvor as sedately and calmly as possible, hoping beyond hope that Gaebril doesn’t suspect that Mat knows anything. The same guard is at the gate when Tallanvor shows Mat out, but a few words from Tallanvor about how glad Morgase and Gaebril were to receive the letter forestalls any action from the man. Mat thanks Tallanvor sincerely and makes to depart, but Tallanvor follows him. Mat begins to fear that Tallanvor is Gaebril’s man and means to kill him, but then Tallanvor starts to ask questions about the letter and Elayne. Mat can’t answer those questions, but the two do question each other’s loyalty.

“Of course I am.” [Mat answers] Light, if I say that much more often, I may start believing it. “What about you? Do you serve Morgase and Gaebril loyally?”

Tallanvor gave him a look as hard as the dice’s mercy. “I serve Morgase, Thom Grinwell. Her, I serve to the death. Fare you well!” He turned and strode back toward the Palace with a hand gripping his sword hilt.

Watching him go, Mat muttered to himself. “I will wager this”—he gave Gaebril’s wash-leather purse a toss—“that Gaebril says the same.”

Mat makes himself walk until he can no longer be seen from the Palace, then breaks into a run. He finds Thom and Gill still at the stones board, though now there are some dirty dishes lying around and wine at each man’s elbow. Unceremoniously, Mat declares that he will be leaving as soon as he can have a meal, prompting Thom to wonder what the hurry is and Gill to ask about the letter and if it soothed Morgase at all.

Mat supposes it did, and, asking after Gaebril, learns that Gaebril is a country lord of some kind, who came from out west when Morgase was still in Tar Valon. Half the city was afraid at the time that Tar Valon would make her disappear too, while the other half didn’t want her to come back, and the riots had started up again. Gaebril made himself the leader of the faction supporting Morgase and put down the rebellion before she returned; Gareth Bryne didn’t like his methods, but Morgase was so pleased that she named Gaebril to Elaida’s former post. Mat asks if Gaebril would inherit the throne if Morgase and Elayne both died, sparking alarm from Gill, but Andor only ever has a Queen, so that line of inquiry doesn’t answer any questions.

After reassuring Gill that Elayne is fine, or at least was the last time Mat saw her, Mat continues to press about Gaebril, and learns that Gill doesn’t like him, or the idea of him marrying Morgase, but can’t really say why. He doesn’t like most of the men he has brought on as guards, and Gill feels like there have been too many changes, too much plotting and muttering in corners, although he can’t lay that all on Gaebril. Finally, he’s been having bad dreams since Gaebril came, and he isn’t the only one.

When Gill asks why Mat has so many questions about Gaebril, Mat tells them the whole story, and Gill recognizes the description of Comar, which, along with Thom’s encouragement, brings the innkeeper around to believing what Mat says. Mat explains why he couldn’t tell Morgase the truth, with Gaebril standing right there and her looking at him “like a lovesick lapdog,” but Gil is distressed and desperate to think of something he can do.

“Rumor.” Thom rubbed the side of his nose; he seemed to be studying the stones board and talking to himself. “No one can keep rumors from reaching Morgase’s ears, and if she hears it strongly enough, she will start to wonder. Rumor is the voice of the people, and the voice of the people often speaks truth. Morgase knows that. There is not a man alive I would back against her in the Game. Love or no love, once Morgase starts examining Gaebril closely, he’ll not be able to hide as much as his childhood scars from her. And if she learns he means harm to Elayne”—he placed a stone on the board; it seemed an odd placement at first glance, but Mat saw that in three more moves, a third of Gill’s stones would be trapped—“Lord Gaebril will have a most elaborate funeral.”

Gill mutters about the Game of Houses, but agrees that it might work. They come up with a scheme where Gill will tell Gilda, the most gossipy person he knows, that he had a dream about it, and she will spread it far and wide.

Mat asks Thom how he is so calm, when Morgase is the great love of his life. Thom admits that the thing he never thought possible has happened—time has healed his wounds. He still cares for her, maybe even loves her a little, but that grand passion has faded away. Thom admits that he is also fond of his life again, and would not risk it so easily now. He asks if they must leave now, or if they can’t get a bit of sleep first, but Mat is insistent that he means to be as far towards Tear as he can by nightfall. Thom suggests Aringill as the fastest way to Tear, much faster than riding, and Mat agrees.

Gill gets up to see about getting them a meal, and Mat tosses him the purse to hold.

“What’s this, lad? Coin?”

“Stakes. Gaebril doesn’t know it, but he and I have a wager.” The cat jumped down as Mat picked up the wooden dice cup and spun the dice out on the table. Five sixes. “And I always win.”

 

I had so much fun reading and recapping this section. In addition to the painful enjoyment of realizing that some (all?) of the major countries have Forsaken in positions of high power (Lord Gaebril in Andor, Lord Brend aka Samael in Illian, and High Lord Samon in Tear, the dude we’ve seen going after Callandor in everyone’s dreams) I also found myself enjoying the description of Caemlyn a lot, now that we’ve been here a few times before. I generally don’t comment that much on the descriptions of places and cultures unless there’s something fairly plot-specific to address, but I definitely enjoy reading Jordan’s paragraphs describing places. I can sometimes find it difficult visualizing large landscapes in my head, but even if I forget the big picture, he always leaves details that stand out, like the winding streets of Caemlyn or the exotic flowers in the Palace gardens.

I also really liked being in Mat’s head this time around. I feel like I’m finally getting a handle on his character, and there is so much lovely stuff in this section showing more of how his thinking works and where his priorities are.

Little bits of his thoughts and internal comments caught my attention this week, such as:

He seemed to remember thinking Caemlyn was too noisy when he was here before; now it sounded like a heartbeat, pumping wealth.

And:

He noticed a leather-bound copy of The Travels of Jain Farstrider on a table near the door. He had always meant to read that—Rand and Perrin had always been telling him things out of it—but he never did seem to get around to reading the books he meant to read.

However, I think the most moving bit of all was when he remembered climbing in the Mountains of Mist with Rand and Perrin. The three of them dreaming of treasure together reminded me that such quests can be about adventure as much or more than greed, and Mat’s little collection of treasures that he brought home put a different context on his desire to always be touching and taking things. The value he saw in a stone that might have been carved into an ear, the curiosity about a rock that somehow had a fish skeleton impressed in it, showed a bright and curious young man whose questions aren’t always understood, as did his taking apart the fireworks and clock from a few chapters back. He’s still reckless and stubborn and kind of a dummy at times, but you can already see him taking more agency over these impulses and turning them to more profitable conclusions.

The new luck power may have a lot to do with that—it certainly seems to have with the fireworks—but I think also the scale of his new life is affecting him as much as it is all the other Two Rivers folk. It’s not just about growing up, it’s also about the fact that Mat faced much smaller consequences for getting into trouble at home than he does now. He’s learning to think a little harder—“stop playing the fool” as he puts it—because he has to. It’s hard to tell for sure, because we didn’t get anything from his p.o.v. in the first two books and because his personality was affected by the dagger for most of them as well, but I think the Mat who wanted to explore Shadar Logoth hadn’t quite come to understand that yet, despite the danger he had already experienced. What is interesting to watch now is the fact that I don’t think Book Three Mat would choose to avoid such an exploration… I just think he’d be better at doing it.

I have to say though, I’m seeing some similar thought patterns to Rand here, where Mat keeps promising himself that he’ll just get this one thing done and then “it will be over.” Both he and our erstwhile Dragon have the same mindset: They are just caught up in a single thing and if they can just get that done, life will return to some kind of normalcy. They will be “out” so to speak. For Rand, he’s set his sights on Callandor as the end of his journey, forgetting how much else the Dragon is supposed to do, maybe because he’s not quite straight in the head these days, or maybe because it’s literally as much as he can handle acknowledging right now. For Mat, he doesn’t yet understand how much he is tied into the unfolding events, which is somewhat understandable at this point, although he is forgetting about the Horn and the fact that he’s the only one who can wield it now.

In any case, I think it’s interesting that Perrin doesn’t do this. He rails against certain parts of his destiny—his wolfbrother nature, his connection to violence, his ta’veren fate that ties him to Moiraine, Rand, and Faile—but he seems to be at least a little bit resigned to the fact that he can’t change a lot of it, or at least that there isn’t an easy way out for him. It’s more “why does it have to be this way” than “if i just do this one thing it’ll be over.”

I gotta admit, I’m a bit worried about Gareth Bryne. Has anyone checked up on him, made sure he is actually there on his estate and not, say, in a dungeon somewhere? Or worse? I feel like Gaebril would want him out of the way more permanently than that, and he probably has the resources to do it.

I have to wonder which of Gaebril’s followers is actually a Darkfriend. Obviously Comar is, but how about Elber, that officer at the front gate? There’s no real reason to suspect him as anything more than a self-important fool, except that the lower-level Darkfriends often fit that description. We saw some of that in The Eye of the World, such as that one young man who accosted Rand and Mat on the road to Caemlyn, and it seems like it’s only Darkfriend middle-management who really have any sense of scope. The lower ones are self-important and think (wrongly) that they will be given favor and immortality by the Dark One, while the higher ones are, well, self-important and think they will be given favor and immortality by the Dark One. They’re probably wrong too, but at the top of the Darkfriend hierarchy they at least have some reason to believe it. Mid-level Darkfriends, however, seem to have to do the most work, all the while interacting with others higher and more powerful than themselves, and possibly also Shadowspawn. So they have a proper fear instilled in them as well as an awareness of the precarious nature of their place in the Shadow’s favor.

My first assumption was that Gaebril is Ba’alzamon, given that both Perrin and Egwene saw him dicing with Mat, and given the last line of Chapter 47. But on a second pass I think that is too literal of an interpretation. Ishamael seems pretty unquestionably to be the most powerful of the Forsaken, and the way Gaebril talks about the other man in Tear (convenient that Mat just missed the name, isn’t it?) sounds a bit too… petty to me, as though Gaebril looks down on the other man as lesser than him but also recognizes that he has relatively the same amount of power, at least at the moment. It may be that all the Forsaken are working under Ishamael right now, and that is what Perrin and Egwene’s visions meant, or it may be that that dice game is a different one than the wager with Gaebril, which is certainly possible given that Mat likes to use that same metaphor for everything. He’s probably just referring to his knowledge that Gaebril is not loyal to Morgase at all.

Is it just me or is “put the the question” the same language that the Whitecloaks use for their fact-finding torture times? That might be the most alarming thing that came out of anyone’s mouth this section, given the enmity between the Children and Morgase that we saw last time. Thom would probably have a thing or two to say about the comment, had he heard it, given that he was perplexed by Morgase’s apparent decision to stop accepting refugees. This feels worse, and while a reader has come to expect that everyone will constantly be trying to kill or capture the Two Rivers lot and their friends, this is new and disturbing indeed.

On the other hand, I loved her clever reference to Sheriam’s study! I have to wonder if there isn’t more hidden in Morgase’s reply, since she references that particular corporeal punishment in a way only another Aes Sedai novice would understand. Thom did say no one could match her at the Game of Houses.

There are lots of clues in the conversation Mat overheard, but not a lot of answers. “The boy” that has vanished is probably Rand, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be, since people are also after Perrin and Mat. I suppose it would be some great irony if Gaebril was talking about Mat (maybe he has plans for the Horn and needs Mat dead/in his possession), was overheard by Mat, and then later met Mat and didn’t know who he was. That would be delicious and I hope it’s true, especially with the added bit of the fact that Mat’s been blaming all the people hunting him on Elayne’s letter.

I also really like Tallanvor; I hope we get to see more of him. I guess I just love my loyal soldier types, but I think it’s important to note that he has some awareness that all is not right in Morgase’s court. Maybe the refusal to say that he serves Gaebril is just a party-line thing, but I can’t help wonder if it’s something more. After all, Gill is just an innkeeper; he’s seen enough of the man to get an uncomfortable feeling, so a soldier in the palace is probably going to have a lot more to go on. And Tallanvor clearly hates the new guards Gaebril has brought in.

It makes me wish that these signs, like the unexplained grouchiness and the shared dreams, were known to the average folk. Moiraine and the Amyrlin weren’t prepared for the Forsaken to be getting loose yet, but did they have any kind of plan for what to do when they were? At what point is it necessary to have non-Aes Sedai fight back? The signs of there being powerful dreamers in Illian and Caemlyn are something that could be used to warn people, although I suppose I don’t really know what they would do if they were warned. But Morgase clearly appears to be under the influence of some sort of One Power shenanigans, so it remains to be seen if any warning, be it the dreams or Gill’s rumor mill or even a direct intervention, will be enough to free her. I don’t doubt Morgase’s strength of will, but the Forsaken have power that neither I, nor the denizens of this world, can yet imagine.

So now Mat and Thom are off to Tear, and our party of heroes is starting to come back together. I wonder if this will be more like the last battle at Toman Head, where they were all technically in close proximity but didn’t actually get to interact with each other.

Speaking of dreams, I know things are urgent but Mat, you do need to sleep eventually! And Thom too. Things are gonna get very real, very fast in Tear and you need to be at your best!

 

That’s all for now. Join us next week for Chapters 48 and 49, as events begin to come closer to a head!

Sylas K Barrett knows that Gaebril probably comes from Gabriel, but all he can see when he reads it is “Lord Gerbil.”

 

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