Chapter 26: Whitebridge
Our main man Rand is still sailing slowly to Whitebridge (spoiler: he reaches it in this chapter) with Mat and Thom. Thom floats the idea that hey, maybe all of his friends and companions are dead, and since Mat is acting all moody and strange he agrees that perhaps the others didn’t make it out of Shadar Logoth. But before they can talk any more about that:
At that moment the lookout in the bow sang out, “Whitebridge! Whitebridge ahead!”
He “sang out”?
Anyway Whitebridge is famous for having a White Bridge, which is really big and spindly and might have been built in the Age of Legends.
There’s some wrangling and back-and-forthing where Captain Domon is like “hey stay on my ship longer and I’ll pay you for entertaining my crew so they don’t mutiny” but Rand insists they debark, thus depriving me of further chances to make fun of Domon’s accent.
The book does something frustrating here by making the characters act blatantly irrational: there’s a big song and dance about how they have to stay incognito and not be noticed– as Thom puts it, they want to attract such little attention it will be like they were never there– but none of them think of swapping Thom’s distinctive gleeman cloak out for something a bit less noticeable, and as a result they attract a huge amount of attention the moment they step foot in the city. I’m not demanding that the characters never make mistakes, but this seems like such an obvious thing to overlook, particularly given how they were just talking about needing to be stealthy, that it was obviously put in to facilitate some plot turn that’s coming up.
Thom leads them to an inn (is it just me or are the characters spending a lot of time at inns?) to try and collect some information.
Logain, the false Dragon, had been captured after a big battle near Lugard while he was trying to move his army from Ghealdan to Tear.
This Logain fellow has been mentioned a lot. I wonder if he’ll show up in person?
The Innkeeper also reveals that the Hunt for the Horn of Valere is building in earnest– there’s that horn popping up again–and that two people have been in Whitebridge also asking for Moiraine and the others: a “madman” (Padan Fain, I’m guessing) and a dude in a cloak who is clearly a Myrddrall. After hearing this Thom once again pushes Rand to accept Domon’s offer and head off in the complete opposite direction, but Rand is adamant that he’s going to Tar Valon to find out what the Dark One wants with him, regardless of whether or not he can find any of his friends.
Hey, Rand is actually, like, doing stuff and displaying agency! What a difference that makes. All of a sudden he feels like an actual character.
Anyway, the argument is settled when they overhear the weaselly guy from the boat telling people that Rand, Mat and Thom brought Trollocs in their wake and are probably Darkfriends, which means the boat is no longer a safe option. They make preparations to skedaddle as quickly as possible.
“In case we’re separated,” Thom explained. “We probably won’t be, but if it does happen . . . well, you two will make out all right by yourselves. You’re good lads. Just keep clear of Aes Sedai, for your lives.”
“I thought you were staying with us,” Rand said.
“I am, boy. I am. But they’re getting close, now, and the Light only knows. Well, no matter. It isn’t likely anything will happen.”
Thom tells them a sad story about his nephew, who died as a result of getting in trouble with Aes Sedai (the impression I get is that he could channel), and how he wants to keep Mat and Rand clear of Tar Valon to ease his guilty conscience. This of course just cements his impending doom.
He ran his eyes across the open area, over people moving about on their daily business, and when he brought them back a Myrddraal was halfway across the square.
I think this part is genuinely funny– they make all of these elaborate plans to escape without being noticed, and then the moment they step out of cover a Myrddraal is like “oh hi.”
Sure enough, Thom engages badass mode and fights the Myrddraal to give Mat and Rand time to escape.
They trudged along the dusty road, heads down and not talking. The wind spawned dust devils that whirled across their path. Sometimes Rand looked back, but the road behind was always empty.
Don’t worry Rand, you didn’t see him being killed, nor did you find his body later, which means he’s totally alive.