Chapter 34: The Last Village
A reader alerted me to the fact that the previous chapter was actually told in non-chronological order, starting after Mat and Rand had hitched a lift with a farmer (one of the seemingly 900 farmers they’ve encountered during their 10,000 year journey to Caemlyn) and then doubling back to show how they met him. Now, I’ll admit that I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention because the chapter was boring, but I actually remember being similarly confused the first time I read it. I have no idea why Jordan thought this was a good idea, or why his editor let him do it.
Anyway, this chapter sees Mat and Rand arriving at yet another quiet village that may or may not be hiding Darkfriends, although there isn’t another fucking inn this time because they have no money and have to sleep outside. They wake the next morning to find streams of travelers occupying the road, on the way to Caemlyn as well to gawk at the captured false Dragon, along with wagon-loads of traders looking to take advantage of the traffic into the city. This means that there’s not a lot of places for Mat and Rand to earn money or even rest, so they have to walk a lot and it’s super tiring and stuff.
I’m sure glad this book is here to tell me about how going on adventures sucks and is really exhausting and monotonous. This is fun. I’m having fun right now.
One night they stop to rest at a town, and Rand spots (yet another) shifty-looking dude talking to a Fade.
“Strange friends you’ve got, Raimun Holdwin,” the man by the cart said suddenly.
“And what do you mean by that, Almen Bunt?”
“Let’s do that thing where we refer to each other by our full names so the author can write the following dialogue more easily.”
“He’s from Four Kings. Looking for a couple of thieves. Young men. They stole a heron-mark sword from him.”
Seriously, get rid of the sword. Rand barely even knows how to use it, and it won’t do any good against a Fade or someone actually trained in combat.
There’s some awkward expository dialogue between these two guys, and eventually Rand overhear Bunt saying he’s going to Caemlyn during the night and he and Mat– once again— hitch a lift, deciding they need to escape quickly before the Fade finds them. On the way there’s more awkward expository dialogue:
Caemlyn is the grandest there is. Couldn’t be grander. No, it couldn’t. Unless maybe Queen Morgase, the Light illumine her, got rid of that witch from Tar Valon.”
I’m not one of those saying Elaida’s got too much influence over the Queen. Not me. And as for the fools who claim Elaida’s really the queen in all but name. . . .”
This seems like an attempt at more “natural” dialogue that backfired. Bunt knows that Mat and Rand aren’t familiar with the area, so this is one scenario where it would make sense for him to just explain who Elaida is and what her deal is.
Incidentally, I could not for the life of me remember who this character is. It feels as if there’s roughly 300 Aes Sedai who all have names that sound vaguely like Elaida and who all have the exact same personality.
Bunt continues expositing, dropping whole boat-loads of information about the politics and history of the region (all delivered in that annoying “as you know” style), but I’ll skip over it since most of it doesn’t become relevant until much later. Eventually Rand falls asleep and has weird dreams, then he has one of those dreams where he thinks he’s awake but actually it’s still a dream, and then he wakes up for real and they’re finally in Caemlyn.
Chapter 35: Caemlyn
The farmer trundles his way into the city and Mat and Rand have their tiny minds blown yet again by how huge Caemlyn is, and yet again we get a scene where the person they hitched a lift with gruffly tells them that he doesn’t want to know what they’re running from.
Why on Earth was the journey to Caemlyn so long and repetitive? Did we really need multiple small towns, multiple inns where shady Darkfriends menaced our heroes, multiple cart-driving farmers who gave them a lift and then gruffly announced that they didn’t want any part in whatever the boys have gotten themselves mixed up with? Absolutely nothing important happened between Rand blowing up that Darkfriend guy and now; the entire chapter’s worth of waffling in between could have been cut easily.
After some paranoid freak-outs from Mat and more cries of “Light! What are we going to do? They’re after us! Light! Is Egwene still alive? Light!” they head off to another god damn inn that I guess Thom mentioned as somewhere they might find help. On the way Rand finally decides to cover the heron marks on his sword, and buys some red and white cloth that he’s seen other people covering their swords with (this will become more important in a bit).
It turns out the innkeeper was a friend of Thom’s, and after some back and forth (by which I mean everyone talks a lot and takes forever to get to the point) he offers Mat and Rand shelter. There’s also some stuff about Thom’s backstory and the fact that he may or may not have been engaging in some royal bonking with the Queen in the past, but I’ll go into that in more detail if it ever becomes relevant.