Chapter 14: The Stag and The Lion
As soon as our heroes are inside the Inn Lan goes off to the common room to try and
find the nearest quest-giver catch up on the news, while Moiraine enquires some more about the Children of The light (aka Whitecloaks).
Oh, never you worry about them, Mistress Alys. They’re up to their usual tricks. Claim there’s an Aes Sedai in he town.
You’d think the Aes Sedai would be running a more concerted PR campaign to try and improve their reputation. It would be a lot easier to travel around getting up to shenanigans without people recoiling from them all the time.
“Almost as good as the Winespring Inn back home,” Perrin said loyally, if not exactly with a great attention to truth.
Thom barked a laugh, and Mat sniggered, “Sounds like we brought a Coplin with us and didn’t know it.”
I’m really looking forward to when these characters get out of the country bumpkin phase and start falling ass-backward into important, worldly roles.
Still, it’s been a strange winter. Strange things in the mountains. I heard the other day there were Trollocs up in Saldaea. But that’s the Borderlands then, isn’t it?
I know I harped on this in the earlier chapters, but: they’re a week’s journey from Emond’s Field, and yet the people here know that Trollocs are real. We’re told merchants and sometimes gleemen come to the town from outside. I’m still baffled at how the army of rampaging beastmen who control the northern reaches of the continent could somehow have passed into legend in this one specific area. Like, what happens when people in the Two Rivers discuss them with outsiders? Is it a known fact that people in this region refuse to believe that Trollocs are real, like a whole community of flat earthers?
I think Jordan was trying to create the impression of a huge, sprawling world that’s so large and granular in its detail that information about anywhere outside of one’s immediate vicinity was fragmentary and error-prone, but if that’s the case he half-assed it in order to make the plot function and have the actions of the far-flung characters and story threads interact. The distances between important locations simply aren’t large enough, and nowhere in Rand’s world appears to be isolated enough for the setting to acquire that much scale.
It also feels as if he might have been underestimating how far information was capable of travelling in historical times; the setting seems roughly analogous to the early renaissance (minus gunpowder, because epic fantasy stories can’t have guns or cannons in them for some reason), and I can assure you that if, say, Norway was filled with murderous half-animal hybrids who nearly took over the world, people all over Europe and probably beyond would have known about it at that time.
And Egwene was still Egwene. Moiraine said it would have happened to her anyway, this touching the True Source. She had no control over it, and that meant it was not her fault. And she was still Egwene.
He opened his mouth to apologize, but Egwene stiffened and turned her back before he could get a word out. Staring sullenly at her back, he swallowed what he had been going to say. All right, then. If she wants to be like that, there’s nothing I can do.
I was going to say this is setting the tone for Rand and Egwene’s interactions for the rest of the series, but actually in Randland any relationship where one participant is a woman proceeds along basically these lines, except with added vaguely-kinky power dynamics.
After eating and freshening up (and having multiple repetitive conversations on the same topics) Rand falls asleep, which means it’s Cryptic Dream Time! Rand dreams that he’s in a long stone hallway that seemingly goes on forever. He eventually steps through a door and into a room opening onto a balcony, which has strange, seemingly impossible dimensions.
One wall opened in a series of arches onto a gray stone balcony, and beyond that was a sky such as he had never seen. Striated clouds in blacks and grays, reds and oranges, streamed by as if storm winds drove them, weaving and interweaving endlessly. No one could ever have seen a sky like that; it could not exist.
This description reminds me of the atmosphere of a gas giant, like Jupiter. I wonder if that’s the visual Jordan was going for?
A single mirror hung on the wall, but that was not ordinary at all. When he looked at it he saw only a blur where his reflection should have been. Everything else in the room was shown true, but not him.
I’m actually serious, a lot of these dream sequences have a degree of subtle eeriness to them that makes me wonder how Jordan would have fared as a horror writer.
A man whose eyes and mouth are like flaming caverns appears and makes some cryptic comments about how he Rand have met “once again”. Could this be the dude from the very start, who made similar comments to Lews Therin? Why yes it is!
What do you want?” he demanded. “Who are you?”
Flames rose in the man’s eyes and mouth; Rand thought he could hear them roar. “Some call me Ba’alzamon.”
Rand found himself facing the door, jerking frantically at the handle. All thought of dreams had vanished. The Dark One.
Shai’tan and Ba’alzamon. Subtle.
Someone way back in the comments of the first post informed me that Shai’tan is literally just one of the Islamic names of satan with an apostrophe in the middle, which is even lazier than I thought. Likewise, the salient element of “Ba’aalzamon” comes from an apostrophe’d version of Baal, which is the deity name/honorific from which Beelzebub was derived. At this rate I’m surprised the King Arthur analogue wasn’t named Ar’thur.
“Are you the one?” Ba’alzamon said suddenly. “You cannot hide it from me forever.
GIANT HONKING FLASHING PLOT HINTS AHOY
I’m curious about something here, so let’s do a little experiment: if any of you gorgeous and intelligent readers out there don’t already know what this is foreshadowing, please give your thoughts on what you think Baalzy is implying.
I ask this because I totally didn’t get what was going on here until it was explicitly explained later, even though in hindsight it seems incredibly obvious. Now I’m wondering if I’m just dense, or if it’s not as intuitive on a first read as I’m making it out to be.
“Are you expecting glory?” Ba’alzamon said. “Power? Did they tell you the Eye of the World would serve you?
Baalzy dropping the title like a hot potato. I legit can’t remember what the fuck The Eye of The World is. I seem to recall it not being terribly well explained.
He taunts Rand some more about how he’s a puppet of the Aes Sedai.
The Amyrlin Seat will use you until you are consumed, just as Davian was used, and Yurian Stonebow, and Guaire Amalasan, and Raolin Darksbane. Just as Logain is being used.
Remember, Logain is the currently-active false Dragon who is said to be able to channel. I wonder if there might be some sort of common factor linking him and all of those other people? Let’s put on our detective hats and keep an eye out for clues!
Baalzy goes on a big villain rant about how he’s been secretly influencing great rulers to try and wipe out the Aes Sedai, and how he’s going to, like, destroy the universe and attain his ultimate battle form or something. It’s not very interesting.
“Then go to the Aes Sedai. Go to the White Tower and tell them. Tell the Amyrlin Seat of this . . . dream.” The man laughed; Rand felt the heat of the flames on his face. “That is one way to escape them. They will not use you, then. No, not when they know that I know. But will they let you live, to spread the tale of what they do? Are you a big enough fool to believe they will? The ashes of many like you are scattered on the slopes of Dragonmount.”
I get that this could be an effective way of turning Rand against the Aes Sedai, but I don’t know, given the choice between “cabal of magicians who seem shady” and “personification of ultimate evil who shows up in my dreams to boast about how he’s going to destroy all of existence” I think I’d go with the former more or less by default.
Which makes me think, if Fantasy Satan really wanted Rand to serve him, maybe not acting like a cackling psychopath would work out better. In fact not announcing he’s Fantasy Satan would be my first piece of advice.
With a snort he lay back. Were the dreams really bad enough for him to ask the help of an Aes Sedai?
But of course, in the grand old tradition of every other inert boring milquetoast fantasy dude we’ve encountered, when given the choice between action and doing sweet fuck all our hero must always go with the least interesting option.