Chapter 10: Leavetakings
In which our heroes take their leave.
Perrin moved, trying to hide something under his cloak. Rand glimpsed a wide leather belt encircling the apprentice blacksmith’s waist, with the handle of an axe thrust through a loop on the belt.
“What do you have there?” he asked.
“Merchant’s guard, indeed,” Mat hooted.
I was going to say that this is The Boys displaying their signature weapons, but actually I think Mat gets some sort of spear thing later and uses that instead.
“It isn’t much like the stories,” Mat said, finally.
Not like the stories, you say? What an interesting idea, do go on.
“Aes Sedai,” Mat whispered, sounding as if he were suddenly cold.
It’s not like the stories! Aes Sedai! Burn me! By the light, the Aes Sedai aren’t much like the stories! Aes Sedai! Light! Blood and ashes! Burn me!
Egwene shows up and announces that she’s coming with them because she’s always wanted to see the world outside (WATCH OUT EGWENE IT’S NOT LIKE IN THE STORIES) and she’s not passing up the chance now.
This has always confused me. If she wanted to leave, couldn’t she just, you know… leave? What was stopping her before that wouldn’t also stop her in this particular scenario?
Anyway Moiraine decides to let her come, making some mysterious pronouncements about The Pattern, but before they can depart Thom the gleeman shows up and also says that he’s tagging along since he wants to skeddadle before the Trollocs show up again and there’ll be safety in numbers.
“I still think you shouldn’t come,” [Rand] said. “I wasn’t making it up about the Trollocs. But I promise I will take care of you.”
“Perhaps I’ll take care of you,” [Egwene] replied lightly. At his exasperated look she smiled and bent down to smooth his hair. “I know you’ll look after me, Rand. We will look after each other. But now you had better look after getting on your horse.”
You know, seeing how much of a blundering jackass Rand is in the first book and how Egwene and Nynaeve are way more capable than any of the three male protagonists, it occurs to me that you could easily write a version of this where it turns out Moiraine got it wrong and the two women are actually the important ones. I’m not saying that would be good— that sort of subversion of gender tropes has become a cliche in itself– but it might be more interesting.
(I’m aware that Jordan probably thought he was subverting gender tropes with various aspects of these books, but we’ll get to that later)
Lan shook his head. “Better if it had been wolves.”
“Wolves!” Perrin exclaimed, and the Warder favored him with a flat stare.
Do me a favour and keep this little exchange in mind for later.
While exiting the village Rand sees a big flappity wingy thing flying around, sort of like the big flappity wingy thing that showed up early in The Sword of Shannara, and also the big flappity wingy thing that Richard spots in Wizard’s First Rule. Gosh, I wonder why all of these books have the innocent country lads encountering an evil flying beast?
It must be a coincidence.
The wingy thing is a Draghkar (TOTALLY NOT A DRAGON YOU GUYS IT’S A DRAGHKAR), and it’s bad new so everyone takes off at a gallop on a more remote road to try and lose the pursuit.
The Road to Taren Ferry
Our band of merry adventurers are running at top speed away from Emond’s Field, which means it’s time for some Horse Magic:
“We cannot stop until we are across the Taren,” Lan said sharply. “Not for more than a few minutes.”
“But the horses,” Rand protested. “We’ll run them to death if we try to go any further tonight. Moiraine Sedai, surely you—”
He had vaguely noticed her moving among the horses, but he had not paid any real attention to what she did. Now she brushed past him to lay her hands on Cloud’s neck.
Later Moiraine reveals that she’s just masking the horse’s fatigue, and if they kept them running at the same pace they’d eventually drop dead. Which is pretty spooky.
I like how this book remembers that horses aren’t cars and that they’ll get exhausted if you try to make them sprint for too long at a time. But it’s also aware that horse hiding is tiring for humans as well; people who have never ridden a horse often don’t realize that it requires a lot of physical effort on the part of the rider (particularly if the horse is in any way hard to control) and can be as exhausting if you do it for long enough.
Before we leave the subject of Horse Magic, though:
With all his heart and desperation he silently shouted at Bela to run like the wind, silently tried to will strength into her. Run! His skin prickled, and his bones felt as if they were freezing, ready to split open. The Light help her, run! And Bela ran.
Stout Bela ran with neck outstretched and tail and mane streaming in the wind of her running, matching the larger horses’ every stride. The Aes Sedai must have done something more than simply ridding her of fatigue.
The Draghkar shrieks overhead, which means it’s spotted them and is signalling their location to the Myrdraal. Moraine conjures up some fog to hide them and they all stride forth to Taren Ferry over the course of several hours. They’ve arrived in the town so they can take a ferry across the river. You know, away from the evil flying thing and the evil black-cloaked creatures who are chasing them.
I feel like I’ve seen that somewhere before, I just can’t quite put my finger on where…
Chapter 12: Across The Taren
Still no human stirred in the night except for them. A few more windows than before showed a light,
If I could get pedantic for a minute (you know, as opposed to how things usually work around here), would you really see tons of lit windows in a setting with no electricity? It’s easy to light a house up like a Christmas tree when you just have to flick a few switches, but wouldn’t people in this setting be using candles and lanterns for illumination? It seems like that wouldn’t be so noticeable from the outside.
Only once did anyone speak loudly enough for Rand to hear clearly. “You must handle it,” Moiraine said in answer to something unheard from Lan. “He will remember too much as it is, and no help for it. If I stand out in his thoughts.…”
MYSTERIEEEEEES. I actually can’t remember what she’s talking about here, so your guess is as good as mine.
Rand grumpily shifted his now-sodden cloak on his shoulders, keeping close with the others. Mat and Perrin grumbled to themselves, muttering under their breaths, with bitten-off exclamations whenever one stubbed a toe on something unseen. Thom Merrilin grumbled, too, words like “hot meal” and “fire” and “mulled wine” reaching Rand,
People don’t actually talk to themselves like this nearly as often as fiction would have you believe.
The stories could no doubt make galloping through a cold fog, with a Draghkar and the Light alone knew what else chasing you, sound thrilling.
Shut the fuck up about the damn stories.
He had heard what the Taren Ferry landing was like—a bridge that led nowhere except to the ferryboat
The narration repeatedly makes a huge deal about how the river is really scary because none of the Emond’s Fielders have seen a river as wide as this before (because it’s not like the Winespring, you see, this river is much wider, and they’re only used to the Winespring, which is shallow and narrow, unlike the Taren, as opposed to the Winespring, you see, it’s not like in the stories). I swear a good third of the length of these books is down to how repetitive the writing is.
Rand felt no desire to go on with his questions. Gloom settled on him even more than it had before. Darkfriends! As if Fades and Trollocs and Draghkar were not enough to worry about. At least you could tell a Trolloc at sight.
Darkfriends are ordinary people who have allied themselves with the forces of evil for various unrealistically shallow reasons. I once again feel compelled to point out that they voluntarily refer to themselves using that title, and seem to have no qualms about doing so.
When they get over the river Moiraine conjures up a whirlpool to destroy the ferry, handing the ferryman some extra gold to replace it. It’s a good thing this isn’t a modern grimdark grr-fantasy novel, or Rand and friends would have murdered the ferryman and his workers in cold blood and it would have been all steely-eyed and grimjawed and totally badass, assuming you’re a member of the intended target audience.
The party heads away from the fog, which is continuing to follow the river in order to throw the Draghkar off their trail.
“I don’t suppose we could rest a bit,” Perrin said hopefully, ending with a yawn. Egwene, slumped against Bela, sighed tiredly.
It was the first sound even approaching a complaint that Rand had heard from her. Maybe now she realizes this isn’t some grand adventure after all.
Oh my god shut the fuck up.
When they stop to rest Rand walks in on Egwene asking Moiraine if she can become an Aes Sedai, as it seems Moiraine has noticed natural potential in her to use Saidar, the female half of the True Source. GET READY FOR SOME NON-STOP HAND-WRINGING.
“Child,” Moiraine said gently, “only a very few can learn to touch the True Source and use the One Power. Some of those can learn to a greater degree, some to a lesser. You are one of the bare handful for whom there is no need to learn. At least, touching the Source will come to you whether you want it or not. Without the teaching you can receive in Tar Valon, though, you will never learn to channel it fully, and you may not survive.
Man it’s a good thing Moiraine happened to come to Emond’s Field. The Pattern moves in mysterious ways, I guess.
Moiraine mentions men who can channel, and the Red Ajah, a society of Aes Sedai who make it their mission to hunt down male chanellers and cut off their access to the Source (as we’ll see, despite being a matriarchal female-only organization the various Aes Sedai factions are largely defined by how they view and interact with men).
He had never really understood what the Ajahs did. According to the stories they were societies among the Aes Sedai that seemed to plot and squabble among themselves more than anything else
Holy shit Rand, you don’t even know. YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW. Just wait.
Moiraine gives Egwene magic stone to hold, and she manages to make it light up, which means she has super Aes Sedai potential. Rand is of course not thrilled about this, but Rand is a weeny so who cares about what he thinks.