As previously mentioned, I’m off to Edinburgh for three nights tomorrow. Expect a travel post at some point after I come back.
Chapter 13: Choices
Moiraine uses her magic to erase everyone’s fatigue, which unnerves them all except for Egwene. In theory I don’t mind the way people in this world flinch whenever an Aes Sedai looks at them funny– their near-pathological habit of being secretive and misleading people unnecessarily would tend to cause that sort of reaction– but as with so much in this series Jordan harps on it too often for too long. My over-riding memory of much of the first four books is of Rand declaring over and over again that he isn’t going to be an Aes Sedai pawn and of Mat saying “Light! Aes Sedai! Light, Egwene! Burn me! Aes Sedai! Light!”
This gets old very quickly and more than anything demonstrates that in the earlier installments these books are so long not because there are a million viewpoint characters and the plot is really dense (that comes later) but because Jordan repeated himself so much.
The Warder awakened them all, except Moiraine, and he sternly hushed any sound that might disturb her.
I always liked Lan and Moiraine because (at least in the parts I read) their relationship is one of the few involving at least one woman that doesn’t devolve into some labyrinthine authoritarian Rubik’s cube where the participants are constantly trying to control each other (just wait until books two and three, you’ll see what I mean).
“I never thought I’d ever be this far from home,” he said when the trees at last hid both the fog and the river. “Remember when Watch Hill seemed a long way?” Two days ago, that was. It seems like forever.
“In a month or two, we’ll be back,” Perrin said in a strained voice.
Sure, Perrin. That will totally happen.
“Men!” Egwene snorted. “You get the adventure you’re always prating about, and already you’re talking about home.” She held her head high, yet Rand noticed a tremor to her voice, now that nothing more was to be seen of the Two Rivers.
Egwene complaining about men will also become a recurring thing from here on out. Although to be fair most of the men in these books are insufferable or boring, so, you know. Not going to disagree with her too much.
The journey to Baerlon took almost a week. Lan muttered about the laggardness of their travel, but it was he who set the pace and forced the rest to keep it. With himself and his stallion, Mandarb—he said it meant “Blade” in the Old Tongue—he was not so sparing.
Of course Lan has a horse named Blade.
Given how much the book wants to drive home how IT’S NOT LIKE THE STORIES GUYS I’m surprised a week-long time-skip goes by without mentioning how miserable everyone would be after riding through empty woodland for that long. None of the characters were carrying many supplies or spare clothes when they left, they’d be filthy by now.
You often see this in fantasy and adventure stories, where the author wants to introduce just enough grittiness to make the world feel like a real place, but not enough so that we have to read about the characters shitting in the woods.
While they travel Lan starts teaching The Boys how to use their weapons (Egwene doesn’t get one, I guess?). I do like that Rand and co don’t immediately start kicking ass, although they do all have Katniss Everdeen-style super bow skills.
“You aren’t an Aes Sedai. You’re Egwene al’Vere from Emond’s Field, and the Women’s Circle would have a fit if they could see you now.”
“Women’s Circle business is none of yours, Rand al’Thor. And I will be an Aes Sedai. Just as soon as I reach Tar Valon.”
He snorted. “As soon as you reach Tar Valon. Why? Light, tell me that. You’re no Darkfriend.”
Rand stop being such a weenie
I can’t remember if Egwene is one of the multiple women who vie for Rand’s attention over the course of the books (because of course that happens), but if so I’m really not feeling their future relationship based on these interactions.
“A few days respite, and you are ready to give up.” Her calm, level voice contrasted sharply with her eyes. “A day or two of quiet, and already you have forgotten Winternight.”
“We haven’t forgotten,” Perrin said. “It’s just—” Still not raising her voice, the Aes Sedai treated him as she had the gleeman.
“Is that the way you all feel? You are all eager to run off to Illian and forget about Trollocs, and Halfmen, and Draghkar?”
Well geez Moiraine, maybe if you actually told them why the Dark One is after them (or made up a convincing lie) they’d trust you a bit more.
One of the (many) things about these books I find infuriating is how the characters keep getting themselves and others into trouble because they withhold important information or refuse to tell each other things for no reason. It happens over and over and over again, with no sign that anyone is learning anything from the experience.
Those nightly talks between Egwene and the Aes Sedai were a sore point for Rand.
What did we talk about just a few pages ago
You’re killing me here
Anyway Rand sneaks off to listen in on Egwene and Moiraine’s secret Aes Sedai chat, and gets some plot exposition for his trouble:
“The Five Powers,” Egwene said slowly. “Earth, Wind, Fire, Water, and Spirit. It doesn’t seem fair that men should have been strongest in wielding Earth and Fire. Why should they have had the strongest Powers?”
Moiraine laughed. “Is that what you think, child? Is there a rock so hard that wind and water cannot wear it away, a fire so strong that water cannot quench it or wind snuff it out?”
This looks like it’s the book rejecting gender essentialism, but it’s not really. We’ve already seen how a strict and completely separate gender binary is literally at the heart of all of existence, and starting from around five chapters ago the book begins harping on the “men are from Illian, women are from Caemelyn” stuff and then never ever stops for a single moment for the rest of the series.
Few women these days have the ability to become initiates, much less have the wish to.” Moiraine’s voice sounded as if she had begun musing to herself. “Surely never before two in one village. The old blood is indeed still strong in the Two Rivers.”
Moiraine refuses to say who the other Source-sensitive person is (do you see what I did there) but don’t worry, we’ll find out soon enough.
After some more trudging they get to Baerlon and all the main characters have their tiny minds blown by how large it is.
“And you, Rand?” Moiraine said. “What do you think of your first sight of Baerlon?”
“I think it’s a long way from home,” he said slowly, bringing a sharp laugh from Mat.
Rand is such a boring protagonist.
Lan and Moiraine get them into town all stealthily through their favoured method of bribing everyone in sight, but uh oh! Time for the big villain faction whose existence I forgot about until now!
Rand blinked, but kept his mouth shut. The others did, too, though it appeared to be an effort for Mat. Children of the Light, Rand thought wonderingly. Stories told about the Children by peddlers and merchants and merchants’ guards varied from admiration to hatred, but all agreed the Children hated Aes Sedai as much as they did Darkfriends.
The Children of The Light are marginally more interesting than the Darkfriends because they have some sort of reason for their actions instead of just acting evil for the lulz, but they’re still barely a step above your typical scary dogmatic burn-the-witch religious fanatics.
The doorkeeper explains that the Children claim to be here because the false Dragon who we heard about a while back is starting an insurrection, but as this is taking place in a far-off region he suspects they’re in town for something else.
“The Karaethon Cycle,” Thom said curtly.
Rand blinked. The Prophecies of the Dragon.
Get ready to hear way more about these moving forward.
One of the (many) prophecies states that when the true Dragon Reborn arrives the world will know him by his conquest of the Stone of Tear, a fortress that’s never fallen to any invader, and also he’ll claim the magic sword that’s inside the Stone. So in other words the chosen one will proclaim himself by taking a special sword out of a stone. Everyone on the same page?
Anyway after that everyone goes to an Inn (there’s tons of inns in these books) and that’s the end of the chapter.
Things are already slowing down quite a bit in terms of pacing. I remember the first third or so of this books mostly being the characters trying to shake off pursuit, but I guess there’s quite a bit of down time I’ve forgotten about.