We’re now at chapter 31 out of 53, which means we’re past the halfway mark. After this post I’m going to take a little break from The Eye of The World to do some Quick Reads and other assorted posts I’ve been saving up for a while. If anyone has anything they’d particularly like to see, put it in the comments and I’ll consider it.
Chapter 31: Play For Your Supper
Rand and Mat are on the road after their daring Thom-facilitated escape from Whitebridge, doing odd jobs at farms to pay their way to Caemelyn and constantly looking over their shoulders for signs of pursuit.
Once already, cutting a hole through a hedge had almost given them away.
How is Rand keeping his sword maintained? Isn’t it basically a katana? Those things need a lot of upkeep. Or is it also a magic unbreakable sword that never dulls? They might have said that earlier, I forget.
Anyway some mercenaries or something go riding past, and Our Heroes hide while Mat acts all paranoid and suspicious and clutches the dagger he got from Shadar Logoth. This is one of those scenarios where I have to keep reminding myself that the characters haven’t read the fantasy novels their own existence is based on, because that thing is clearly cursed, but if you hadn’t grown up on a diet of fantasy tropes maybe that wouldn’t be so obvious.
(Although Moiraine did ask them in a very panicked manner– something they’ve never seen her do before– whether Mordred gave them anything from his treasure pile; Rand seems far too willing to swallow Mat’s rationalization that since he took the dagger rather than being given it, it didn’t count)
Uneasy with his memories, Rand woke often, and every time he could hear Mat muttering and tossing in his sleep. He did not dream, that he could remember, but he did not sleep well. You’ll never see home again.
See, now I’m fine with Rand pining for home constantly and wishing his life would go back to normal. Back when the plot was just kicking off and he had left Emond’s Field less than 48 hours ago it seemed like a boat anchor around the story’s neck.
One day Rand suggests selling the Shadar Logoth dagger to pay their passage to Caemlyn; Mat promptly flips his lid and suggests that Rand sell his special Protagonist Sword instead.
Blood and ashes, Mat, do you like going hungry? Anyway, even if I could find somebody to buy it, how much would a sword bring? What would a farmer want with a sword? That ruby would fetch enough to take us all the way to Caemlyn in a carriage.
So Rand’s thinking here is that no one in the area will have any use for a sword… but they’ll want a giant-ass ruby? Why? Would a farmer even have enough money to pay for such a thing, even assuming Mat would be willing to sell it for far less than it’s worth? These are ostensibly supposed to be realistic people in a realistic setting, not JRPG shop-keepers who’ll buy anything in your inventory and who have infinite money to barter with.
And like I just said, there are bands of professional sellswords in the area looking for work; a farmer might not be interested in Rand’s fancy-pants heron-marked blade, but one of them might be, and they’d be far more likely to have the money to afford it.
The further they went, the more suspicious of strangers Mat became, and the less he was able to hide it. Or bothered to. The meals got skimpier for the same work, and sometimes not even the barn was offered as a place to sleep. But then a solution to all their problems came to Rand, or so it seemed, and it came at Grinwell’s farm.
Grinwell’s Farm is located next to Head-Shake Ranch and Twinkleye’s Organic Duck Emporium.
There’s some BS where they go to work at a farm and the farmer’s hot daughter wants to jump Rand’s heron-marked shaft and he’s like “oh noes old man Grinwell will kill me” so him and Mat juggle and play the flute at dinner to distract everyone from the looming sexy-times, which gives Rand the idea of using their newly acquired Gleeman skills to pay their way for the rest of the journey.
Rand began to think their problems were over till they reached Caemlyn. But then they came to Four Kings.
And we end on that ominous note.
Yes, that’s all that happens. This is one of those travel chapters you get in long fantasy novels where it’s just the characters puttering around from one place to another. Riveting, isn’t it?
Chapter 32: Four Kings in Shadow
It turns out that Four Kings is a town and not the name of yet another inn. It’s dusty and noisy and the people don’t chat merrily or gambol in the village green, which means it doesn’t fit the romanticized arcadian ideal that so many other small villages in this setting slot into and is therefore probably either evil or about to be destroyed.
Mat and Rand go to an inn (there we go) to see if they can scrounge room and board, but there are musicians there already, and also it’s terribly uncouth and not at all like the jolly down-home country fun-time inns they’re used to. They have to check three more before they find somewhere in need of entertainment.
A bony man with long, stringy hair to his shoulders turned to scowl at them as they came through the door.
Look it’s another untrustworthy scowling guy! What is this, like the fifth one we’ve seen so far?
He wondered if he had been wise to keep wearing the sword openly. Swords were common enough, but the heron-mark attracted attention and speculation.
So cover the hilt with something. It makes no sense for Rand to be flashing this thing around– it’s exactly the sort of distinguishing feature that anyone searching for them would be able to use– but he never considers hiding it or altering the sword to make it less noticeable because he needs to have a cool main character weapon that makes him look like a total badass.
Whenever he paused, voices shouted the names of tunes through the din. A good many names he did not recognize, though when he got someone to hum a bit of it, he often found he did know the song. It had been that way other places, before. “Jolly Jaim” was “Rhea’s Fling” here, and had been “Colors of the Sun” at an earlier stop.
This thing about songs having different names has been brought up like seven times now, as though Jordan thought it was a really whiz-bang piece of world building and he was eager to show off.
I mean, it is the sort of little detail that adds verisimilitude to the world, but since this is a setting where everyone on the continent speaks the same language and half the population lives in twee fairytale villages, using it to prop up the world-building is like trying to repair your house with spackle after it’s been hit with a tank shell. And it just makes the endless interminable inn scenes blur together even more than they already do.
While entertaining the crowd Rand catches the innkeeper leering at his sword and the expensive flute he got from Thom and realizes that he’s going to try to rob them, so he and Mat make plans to skeddadle as soon as they’ve eaten. While this is going on a Mysterious Guy comes in and is all mysterious.
The patrons were all rough-dressed, with the tough skin of men who labored in the sun and wind. This man was sleekly fleshy, with a soft look to his hands, and a velvet coat, and a dark green velvet cloak lined with blue silk was slung around his shoulders. All of his clothes had an expensive cut to them.
Rand does some poking around while Mat eats dinner and works out that Mr. Mysterious is a merchant from Whitebridge– one who arrived in a hurry and checked every inn before settling on the one Mat and Rand happened to be playing at.
I’ve said it before, but this book is quite good at conjuring a feeling of paranoia, where the characters know they’re being pursued by dark force but not what form those forces are going to take. Which is much more interesting than all the generic high-fantasy guff.
Mat and Rand are now in the uncomfortable position of needing to get away from the Inn before Merchant Guy does whatever he came to do, but are unable to do so because the innkeeper and his two bouncers are keeping a close eye on them so they can rob them.
When he was not actually handling the balls, his hand rested under his coat.
That night Our Heroes lock themselves into the storeroom they’ve been given to sleep in, but Merchant Guy (who turns out to be a Darkfriend) and his minions arrive and are all “mwa ha ha give up The Dark One is after you mwa ha ha.”
Just as things are starting to seem desperate Rand wishes frantically for a way out, and a lightning strike happens to blow all the bad guys away (have we all figured out what’s actually going on with Rand? Can I stop being coy?)
Looks like it’s more Rand time next chapter, so we’ll be spared another visit to the Perrin Zone for the time being.