Chapter 24: Flight Down the Arinelle
Can we have someone other than Perrin now? Pretty please?
Whatever direction Rand looked, as far as his eye could make out in the dimness it was the same, above as well as below.
Rand is having another one of his disturbing nightmares. This time he’s wandering a seemingly endless maze of towers and bridges, which sounds less like a nightmare and more like some sort of really elaborate boardgame.
The movement came again, and now it was clear. A man striding up a distant ramp, careless of the lack of railings and the drop to nothing below. The man’s cloak rippled with his stately haste, and his head turned, searching, searching.
This is of course good old Ba’alzamon. The setting transforms into a maze of thorns and Rand runs blindly, unable to remember how long he’s been in the dream for or even if it is a dream.
“The Light will not help you, boy, and the Eye of the World will not serve you. You are my hound, and if you will not course at my command, I will strangle you with the corpse of the Great Serpent!”
Lots of Capitalised Words
After some more trippy imagery (mirrors!) Rand wakes up on the ship he, Mat and Thom escaped on to find that his finger is bleeding from a wound sustained in the dream. Which is all very ominous, but I’m starting to wonder if Ba’alzamon has any plan beyond trolling Rand in his dreams.
The crew of the ship are starting to get mutinous due to the hard pace captain Bayle “Pirate” Doman is demanding, and one crew member in particular who was upbraided for not keeping watch before the Trolloc attack is trying to turn them against our heroes.
For the first day or two Gelb’s wiry figure could almost always be found addressing any crewman he could corner, telling his version of the night Rand and the others came on board. Gelb’s manner slid from bluster to whines and back again, and his lip always curled when he pointed to Thom or Mat, or especially Rand, trying to lay the blame on them.
How many times have we seen this exact same character, the cowardly wretch who tries to cause trouble for the good guys? There were the Congar and Coplin families that the book wouldn’t shut the fuck up about at the start, the boat guy at Tarran Ferry, the stable-hand in Baerlon, and now this dude.
Is this some kind of Objectivist thing? I know from reading commentary of Atlas Shrugged that Ayn Rand liked to cast her villains as cringing, pathetic whiners in a very similar manner.
For that whole length the stone had been cut into figures, men and women a hundred feet tall, with crowns proclaiming them kings and queens.
I’ve noticed that this exact image– giant statues cut into cliffs and mountainsides– is very common in fantasy. You can see examples in the Lord of The Rings movies (and maybe the books as well), Game of Thrones, and a ton of fantasy art online. I think it’s so common because it’s a very easy way to convey the fact that the story’s setting was once inhabited by people who had far greater magical powers or technology to be able to craft such things.
Captain Domon tells Mat and Rand about the many fantastical things he’s seen and heard of (YARR MATEY THERE BE STRANGE THINGS IN THIS WORLD SO THERE DO BE), such as a big metal tower they see in the distance (I think this might be where the cover art I showed at the beginning of the Quick Read comes from) and this stuff:
On Tremalking, one of the Sea Folk’s isles, there be a stone hand fifty feet high sticking out of a hill, clutching a crystal sphere as big as this vessel.
In Tanchico—that be a port on the Aryth Ocean—part of the Panarch’s Palace were built in the Age of Legends, so it be said. There be a wall there with a frieze showing animals no man living has ever seen.”
A crystal lattice covering an island, and it hums when the moon is up. A mountain hollowed into a bowl, and in its center, a silver spike a hundred spans high, and any who comes within a mile of it, dies. Rusted ruins, and broken bits, and things found on the bottom of the sea, things not even the oldest books know the meaning of
I remember finding this section really exciting and evocative, but unfortunately it later turns out to be another heavin’ helpin’ of foreshadowing, as most of these strange sights end up fulfilling various story roles in later books. Personally, I find it more exciting when authors don’t try to explain everything, as the mystery is almost always more interesting than its explanation.
“We used to dig up bones in the Sand Hills,” Rand said slowly. “Strange bones. There was part of a fish—I think it was a fish—as big as this boat, once.
This is the first of several hints throughout the series that species from our time have gone extinct in Rand’s– the bones he’s talking about here seem to be from a whale, and in a later book a travelling circus has a reconstructed elephant skeleton. The elephant is directly stated to no longer be extant in the world, while Rand’s unfamiliarity with “fish” as large as boats and the fact that he found the skeleton in an area that’s nowhere near the ocean seems to imply very heavily that whales (or at least whales of that size) aren’t around any more.
Unfortunately Jordan doesn’t seem to have taken this to its logical conclusion and invented new species to fill the environmental niches. Due to the nature of the setting we never get a clear idea of how long after our time all of this is taking place (or even if the “our time” that’s obliquely reference every now and then really is our time and not a similar age in the cyclical turning of the wheel) so it could easily be assumed that it’s been long enough for new species to have evolved.
he was looking down at Mat in surprise, and at what Mat held, hidden from everyone else by his body. A curved dagger with a gold scabbard worked in strange symbols. Fine gold wire wrapped the hilt, which was capped by a ruby as big as Rand’s thumbnail, and the quillons were golden-scaled serpents baring their fangs.
A ruby you say? Why, I believe it’s time to go back to that scene with Min I keep referencing!
And the other one—a red eagle, an eye on a balance scale, a dagger with a ruby, a horn, and a laughing face.
During the encounter with Mordeth or whatever his name was Mat grabbed a dagger from the treasure pile to defend himself with; evidently he took it with him, and now it seems to be having a strange effect on him, making him obsessive and secretive in the manner of a certain famous fantasy character you may recognise.
Wait, wrong one.
Yeah there we go.
This is the point where the Tolkien copying gets so blatant that I spotted it despite having never read the books or watched the movies.
Meanwhile, Rand himself is acting a little odd as well, doing some reckless Errol Flynn shit in the ship’s rigging. Afterward he thinks about what he just did and is terrified of the very idea, almost as if he had been overtaken by some irrational bout of giddiness If you’ve been paying attention this is all GIANT BLINKING PLOT HINTS but I have to admit that on a first read-through it will probably go over most people’s heads.