Tam, one of my favorite old hermit kooks, is experiencing a fever dream. He must have been poisoned by the Trollocs. It's rather sad, too, that he's talking to his dead wife, Kari. I've had two relatives, in their last years, lose touch with reality like that. In the middle of the night, with his father stabbed and his house ransacked, this must be especially hard for Rand. I like how he keeps cool.
Though nothing much happens for around six pages (seriously, he patches up Tam on page 80 and just made it to Quarry Road, which I gather is sort of at the end of the farmhouse driveway, on page 84) I'm happy that the author mentions that Rand has been awake all day. Seriously, he probably woke up before dawn to do chores, then loaded up his dad's booze on the cart, walked to town and unloaded the booze there, met some strangers, ate a honeycake, was given more money than he'd ever seen at one time in his life, walked back to his farm, did more chores, chopped wood from mid-afternoon until dark, ran screaming into the woods, accidentally killed PFC Narg, built a litter, and finally dragged his dad through the woods. That boy must be tired.
Anyway, Tam's poison fever is getting him to talk nonsense. Or rather, have flashbacks. I'm assuming he's having flashbacks, since he spoke to Kari. The flashbacks are very warlike, too. As soon as I typed that I got the impression that Tam is some sort of Vietnam War vet. Kari is an outlander, right? Maybe Tam went off to fight a war against "savages" (I don't like that word, not one bit) and ended up marrying one of the locals and having a half-blood child. Makes as much sense as anything else. Still, you'd think that if Rand was half-Vietnamese (or half-whoever Tam was fighting for/against) it'd show up as more than just gray eyes and red hair.
In a scene that reminds me of Fellowship of the Rings movie, Rand is nearly spotted by the dark rider. For a creature of darkness and evil you'd think he'd have better night vision. Dude needs to eat more carrots.
Onward they go towards Emond's Field (though I wonder, since about twenty Trollocs and the dark rider came from that direction, is there still a town left?) and Tam starts rambling again. Something about Avendesora and 500 year-old trees and peace with people who don't like peace and Avendoraldera and Laman's pride. Since Laman was mentioned twice I'm assuming that's an important name. Maybe Tam's commanding officer in the Pseudo Vietnam War? Sending him into a forest to chop down peace trees or something. I spend more time trying to figure out all of this than paying attention to the action in the story.
Towards the end, Tam mutters that in the bloodbath after a battle he found a woman gave who birth to a baby. Tam said he couldn't leave the baby so he took it. It seems as if Rand was that baby. And this rocks Rand to his core, making him ask "who am I?"
To me, that's just cheesy. Is Rand's identity so wrapped up in who his parents are? I mean, his mother must have died when he was three or four, right? So he doesn't know anything about her. What does it matter if Kari or some Vietnamese woman was the birth mother? And Tam is still his father, biology not withstanding. Rand is still Rand. And if the mad ramblings of his half-dead father (who earlier talked about a Green Man and Ogiers and a Tree of Life and thought he was talking to a dead woman) are enough to shake him so much then how come he hasn't been shaken before? Has no one in his life, not even a Coplin bully, ever questioned his parentage before? You'd think a town full of hateful rednecks, suspicious of outsiders, would be very wary of the different-looking kid who lives alone with his father just outside of town.
But ignoring that, what does it mean that Rand isn't Tam's son? We've already known his mother wasn't a local. Or at least, Tam's wife wasn't. This doesn't really change anything, in my opinion. Not unless reincarnation follows bloodlines and now some ancient so-and-so has been born into Rand. That could be it but why would the book go through all that trouble. The ancient so-and-so could have been in Tam's ancestry just as easily as some foreigner's. I'm thinking about this too much.
Oh, but it does change my idea that Kari was some sort of Vietnamese local that Tam hooked up with while on leave during that war (which must have been about seventeen years ago, given Rand's age). Kari is still an outlander but not one of those gray eyed and red haired ones. Kari's ethnicity is all up for grabs, now. It also means that Rand isn't of mixed blood (well, it doesn't prove that, it just hints at it). He's 100% Vietnamese (or whatever the mother was on that hill above the bloody battlefield so long ago). I mean, not even blood relation to Tam and yet people still don't seem him as an outsider? Maybe Tam was fighting people of the same race. Or Rand's mother had nothing to do with the battle and was just there. Oh, I have no idea! I'm just concocting wild theories. I'll stop.
Out of the Woods
Tough luck, Rand. After dragging his wounded father, passed out on a litter, to the village he came upon this scene:
Charred piles of rubble stood in the places of half the houses of Emond's field. ... Grimy-faced villagers, some yet in their night clothes, poked through the ashes...
Half of the village gone, just like that. I can't imagine what that's like. I see it on the news all the time, you know? Tsunamis here, earthquakes there, forest fires elsewhere. To lose everything like that. And not just to the whims of nature but to a deliberate attack? Awful.
Everyone seems in shock. Well, duh. Egwene with her bandages and the blacksmith, buried to hell and gone, wielding an ax (and was he the one squeamish about blood or was it someone else?). Not a welcome sight for Rand.
Nynaeve eventually gets over to seeing Tam but it turns out he's too far gone. She can't help him. I really feel for Nynaeve at this point. Look at her. Yesterday morning she was sitting with a patient until her fever broke, she had to barge in on a Village Council meeting that was halfway over because the menfolk there didn't bother to send for her, then she went and attended who knows what other duties (check on that sick woman, maybe, or prepare for the festival). All the while no one gave her an ounce of respect (except for Egwene), in spite of her position, unless she cowed them into it. Then shit hit the fan and Trollocs attack. Suddenly she was back in demand, rushing from wounded to wounded, patching people up. All night this happened. Hell, I don't know but maybe she got into some fight with a Trolloc. But she isn't a wizard, she's just a Wisdom. She can't magically heal everyone and that includes poor Tam. Who knows how many of her friends have died in her arms the last few hours?
"I know you did," she said gently. She touched his cheek with her hand. "It isn't your fault. You did the best anyone could."
She says this while there are bonfires in the background, people picking through ashy rubble next door, coughing coming from the walking wounded all around, the sun barely in the smoky sky. It's pretty powerful stuff, I think. I'm adding Nynaeve to the list of people I like, right up there with Egwene, Tam, and Thom.
The inn had almost completely escaped the destruction that had taken half the village.
Is mayor al'Vere just lucky or did he have something to do with the attacks? Maybe this was some sort of attack on the mayor's political rivals using paid Trollocs (yeah, sounds stupid) and that's why his expensive mansion of a house/inn was spared. I'd think that if I were to attack a village I'd want to ransack and/or burn down the biggest, richest building in the place. If I were one to attack a village, that is.
Have you ever read Under the Dome by Stephen King? Brand al'Vere reminds me of Big Jim Rennie from that book.
Poor peddler Fain, though, didn't fare so well. He lost his entire cart and probably got eaten (though how the baddies had the time to kill, cook, and eat the guy in the middle of a fight is beyond me; maybe they like 'em raw). I wonder if Wit Cogner ever got his wife's pins.
"Some died last night. Not many, perhaps, but any at all are too many for me."
First, this is why I Like Thom. He helps when he's needed and even unasked, he recognized Nynaeve's performance during the night. And he doesn't take death lightly. It's true: any death is too much death. It makes me wonder why he tells so many stories about Great Men fighting Great Wars. Anything for a paycheck, I guess. Second, if half the village has been destroyed then why so few deaths? I pictured there being no more than, oh, 120 people in Emond's Field, maybe double that because of the Festival in the morning. Dozens should be dead, right? Maybe dozens did die and that is Thom's concept of "some."
Ha, there is a dragon fang charcoal marking on the door to the inn. Is there any doubt that the innkeeper is evil? I mean, just like the Israelites in Egypt used lamb's blood to let the Angel of Death know that their homes were not to be touched during the Tenth Plague, al'Vere must have marked his own inn with this symbol so that the rampaging Trollocs wouldn't burn down the collaborator's place of business. I'm on to you, Mr. Mayor.
And is there any surprise that the mayor is in the inn, alone in the dark, instead of, you know, going out there and helping the survivors? It's one of those "how many days did it take Bush to go to New Orleans after Katrina" kind of things. How long before the mayor leaves his "important paperwork" to give a peek at the pile of ash and broken lives that used to be his town? He really wants to waddle his fat ass out there and pull bodies from the wreckage, but darn it, next's week's budget report isn't going to fill itself out!
Of all the rooms in the inn only three are used. That'd be the gleeman, right? And the peddler for another. The last one must be taken up by the lady and her bodyguard. Are they sleeping in the same room? Are they, you know, together like that? But whatever, it still proves that the mayor's income must be off the books. How can he only have three rooms filled the day before the biggest festival of the year? Do you think any hotels near Bourbon Street are vacant the day before Mardi Gras begins? al'Vere is not making his money at the inn. More like "waste management."
Okay, enough about the mayor.
Tam lays there dying, Rand leaning over his body frantically trying to figure out how to save him. Thom and Bran al'Vere are talking about the dragon mark on the door and gossiping about the Coplins. I'm sure if they were just a bit quieter they could here the wails of the children outside who have just found the corpses of their parents in the ruined house two doors down. This chapter started off with such a vivid scene of devastation and shocking sadness but now that's all forgotten to talk about the Coplins being idiots? Way to kill the mood.
Bran fills Rand in on what happened last night, ignoring the paperwork he was doing downstairs because why would that be important? Turns out that the noblewoman is a wizard who can bring down lightning and her bodyguard is some sort of super swordsman. They, along with a mob of untrained and inexperienced and half-drunk civilians in their night clothes managed to defeat the Trolloc attack. Yet only a few villagers died. The Trollocs don't seem to be that big of a threat all of a sudden. In one piece of exposition they went from being the destroyer of towns to getting their butts kicked by two people woken up in the middle of the night all.
So not only is Moiraine a wizard but she's also Aes Sedai, a part of those Dragon-hunting armies marching south to kick some tail. Since everyone is so scared of them (and since they did Break the world) I'm going to assume that they're like the al-Qaeda of the Wheel of Time universe. Everyone hates them but are scared to death that they'll get blown up by one. And here is the mayor saying, hey, why not ask Osama bin Moiraine to heal your dad? I'd say have nothing to do with her. Don't make any deals with the devil! But Rand's already been involved with her. Do I have to go back a reread what happened when she gave him that coin? Have they already struck an infernal pact?
Well, after rereading parts of Chapter 2 I can definitely say that I missed the "there is a bond between us now" part. Here I thought she was just being a genuinely nice noblewoman, that wicked witch. And if I'm on page 100 of the first book and have already missed something important what am I going to miss by the time I'm on page 500?
Anyway, near the bonfires of dead Trollocs, Lan is telling Moiraine that there are seven different bands of baddies working together on that raid. Does that mean this is something of a Rainbow Six team of Trollocs with the best and brightest from various bands all grouped together for a single mission? I hope they're not the best and brightest or else their side would lose pretty fast considering how easy it was for two people to defeat them.
We learn about the Trolloc Wars which seem to be different than Tam's Vietnam War. How is it, though, that something as fundamental as the existence of the Trollocs is so unknown? If Moiraine knew about them and Lan knew about them and Tam knew about them and Thom knew about them... why are they still considered myth? We're not talking about whether or not vampires are real here in the real world since there's never been anything like identifiable vampire insignia or a history of vampire war. If there were then we'd probably believe in the buggers. People in this universe, especially the country bumpkins, must be really ignorant. And I mean dirt stupid.
Rand speaks to Moiraine and lets her know he knows she's Aes Sedai. What does she do? Gets all weird and asks him about his dreams. "How are your dreams?" she asks. Well, pretty damn shattered since his hometown has been destroyed and his father is lying dead in an empty inn. Plus, no fireworks this Bel Tine since the peddler's cart was burned up.
Lan creeps in with his "everybody dies except those who work for the Dark One" statement after Rand tells them that his dad is dying. Thanks for the uplifting thought in this time of sadness, Lan. But it shows that the Aes Sedai are either against the Dark One or these two are being real sneaky about being on the bad guy's side.
This chapter ends with Moiraine, Lan, and Rand heading back to the Inn (where I can only assume Thom is smoking a pipe and the mayor is doing more paperwork) to heal Tam. I hope it works, too, 'cause I don't want him to die! I think we've just been told that doing magic makes someone tired. Makes sense. After all, making a volcano killed Lew Therin so making some lightning bolts probably winded Moiraine, no?
Finally, I don't like the way Moiraine is eyeballing Rand.
A Place of Safety
It occurs to me that I'm going to have to cut down on the lengths of these posts if I'm going to want to make any forward progress. Seriously, I'm only on chapter 8 and look how much I've written? So keep it shorter, then?
Rand, Lan, Moiraine are in the inn with Tam. Why is it that men have names with one syllable but women usually have more? Rand, Lan, Tam, Cenn, Bran, Mat, Wit? You've got a few oddballs like Perrin and Ewin, though. The only woman with one syllable was Daise but I'm not sure if I pronounce that Daze or Daisy. Maybe it's a Two Rivers thing. Whatever it is, it makes typing the men's names easier since I don't have to keep looking up their spelling.
Well, in the inn Moiraine begins to lay hands upon Tam to heal him of the poison. Turns out it isn't really poison but some kind of evil radiation from the Trolloc weapons' metal. Makes me wonder: are the Trollocs really all that bad or is there just too much evil ore in the mountains of their homeland leaking into the water supply? They could be, like, mutants from atomic weapons test ranges. If the good guys just relocate the bands out of that evil Thakan'dar valley, in a few generations you might have less evil people. Or not.
Other than that, nothing is really interesting here. Think about it, just six or seven hours ago half the town was burned down and an invading fist of Trollocs marched though the downtown. Then there was a magically lightning battle. Outside, right now, Nynaeve is still darting from one wounded person to the next (the concept of a centralized clinic or triage center having not been invented, apparently). I wouldn't doubt that there are still fires going on. Have runners been sent to every single farm in the area to check on them? Are the people sure that Deven Ride or Watch Hill haven't been attacked? Has there even been time to send word to those places and for word to get back? It's possible that there is another fist or two out there marching for Emond's field as we speak!
But what is going on? The mayor is just sitting with Tam. Is there no other seriously wounded villager in this devastating attack that would like her final moments spent with the mayor? Is al'Vere not preparing for another possible raid? Rand, now, is fine here. His dad is dying and he's doing what he can to save him. As for Lan and Moiraine, they seem to be doing a good job staying out of the locals' way, burning the stinky bodies, and investigating the Trollocs themselves. But mayor and goodwife a'Vere? They could, at the very least, be cutting their inn's blankets into bandages.
It's as if everyone knows that Tam is an important character while the rest of Emond's Field is not.
Enough about the mayor.
The Aes Sedai uses magic to try to heal Tam while Lan and Rand sit on a bench in the suspiciously large room at the inn. She's using the One Power that comes from the True Source, whatever those things are. I've got a feeling that the magic system in this story is going to get complicated before too long.
So Moiraine's bodyguard is trying to make small talk or something. Being a kick ass sword fighter he is naturally interested in the heron sword Rand's got strapped to his hip. Rand, of course, doesn't give two shits about it or even talking about it. It isn't until Moiraine whips out an ivory statue (she calls it an angreal which seems to be either some sort of magic battery or focus) and tells Rand to stop bugging her. She needs a statue because magic is harder to do now than it was thousands of years ago (The Betrayer of Hope didn't need an ivory statue to heal the Lord of Morning, remember?).
As an aside (and really, isn't this whole post just a bunch of asides?), why does the angreal get a fancy italicized name but the True Source doesn't? Is the angreal an import from some other culture, like sushi?
Anyway, by the time Tam is healed (but not woken up) we've learned a little bit about the magic system and that heron-marked swords are the sign of a master warrior. Either Tam is a fantastic swordsman (it makes sense, seeing what he did at the farm and his Vietnam flashbacks) or he bought it from a merchant. Every bone in my body points to him being a fighter but I really hope Tam's just a guy who bought a sword and was just bad ass enough to kill Trollocs with it. I mean, that's what Rand did.
During Rand and Lan's coversation we pick up that Myrddraal isn't a twenty-foot tall monster but is the black rider. I had already just assumed that but now it's confirmed. Also, this:
"The Myrddraal see like eagles, in darkness or in light, but they have no eyes."
Earlier I made a joke about how the black rider needed to eat more carrots because he couldn't see Rand and wounded Tam in the darkness next to Quarry Road. But not only will carrots not help (no eyes!), they are not even needed. The thing can see like eagles, even in the dark. How in the world did sharp-eyed black rider miss Rand, then?
Halfman, Lurk, Fade, Shadowman, Myrddraal, black rider... All the same thing? Ugh, this is going to get complicated. The good news is that, to an Aes Sedai, they're chump change. In fact, Moiraine and Lan were able to knock out an attacking fist of Trollocs (made up of members from seven bands, no less!) even when the opponent had total surprise. Again, the threat level of the Trollocs and Halfmen have gone down from Orange down to Blue. They can kill you in your sleep, probably, but only if you're tied up first.
But Lan and Moiraine still think they're pretty dangerous (the three bonfires of dead Trollocs across the creek says otherwise) so I guess I'm supposed to pretend they're dangerous, too. I've never seen them actually harm anyone but its implied that some villagers died in the attack (unnamed and off camera). Oh, and there's poor, eaten, Padan Fain. So I guess they did kill somebody.
That's about it for this chapter, though. Moiraine, the wicked witch, is about to collect on her deal. Rand, if you make a deal with the devil she's going to come and take your soul! She wants Rand to leave Two Rivers with her. Why? I dunno. She's a wizard historian so you tell me.
"Why do I have to go? I don't understand any of this. I don't want to go anywhere."
Rand doesn't want to go, of course. It wasn't twelve hours ago he was telling Egewne what a stupid idea it was for her to want to leave town. So I'm guessing Moiraine used some of her "there is a bond between us" coin magic on him. Not as flashy as calling lightning and volcanoes from the sky, no. It's more subtle, like laying on hands to cure Tam. Moiraine tells Rand about how he's going to get his whole town killed if he stays, blah, blah, blah. It sounds like a lot of bull poo to me. I mean, Lan's trying to explain the military strategy of the attack to a kid who's probably never thought about the subject outside of the context of a gleeman's story. He could say anything and Rand would eat it up as if Lan were Sun Tzu. I've got a feeling that Moiraine and Lan are good at manipulating people.
What really set alarm bells off for me was that Moiraine wouldn't give Rand time to think about it. He couldn't talk with Tam (who might know a thing or two about what's going down) or his friends about leaving. In fact, they've got to go that night! Just enough time for Rand to sleep and wash up a bit.
Wait, why do they have to leave at night? Lan says that there is a Fade out there and he doesn't want to make things easier for the bad guys to catch Rand. But the Fade can see perfectly at night, right? So, if anything, leaving at night would be worse since now only the humans will be at a disadvantage.
Finally, I couldn't help but notice that (Assuming everyone is telling the truth.) two groups want Rand. Well, Rand and his two friends but who really thinks the Dark One is after Mat or Perrin? The Dark One's evil army wants Rand and the Aes Sedai want him. Team Dark One sent an attack force while Team Sedai sent a powerful wizard. Trolloc fist and Aes Sedai/Warder are about equal in power, it seems, so both sides of this fight sent the same force to get Rand. The Trollocs want to take him back to their home base while Moiraine wants to take Rand back to her home base. Am I to assume that, had the Trollocs not come, that Moiraine wouldn't have burned the village down to get Rand? Was she just going to ask nicely? It's like the Nazi Trollocs against al-Qaeda wizards at this point.
Not to mention the Dragon and his army out there in the south.
I'm getting this vibe, right, of a two-sided war between two evil organizations (but since one is fronted by a beautiful and noble wizard it appears not-so-evil) and a rogue general-like guy who is fighting them both to make up for killing his wife in a past life. How is Rand caught up in this? Who knows? I'm sure there is a reason.
Tellings of the Wheel
I'm going to go ahead and throw this out there: I don't like dreams in stories. I don't know why. They're never like real dreams, you know? I had a dream where my grandma's living room had a gigantic window that looked out over the ocean (her house was on a hilltop in the Appalachian Mountains) where there was a Disney cruise ship sailing by. Then I knocked over a bookshelf to use as a boat to get me to that cruise ship but didn't make it because a tidal wave washed me away. Note that there was never a gigantic window or bookcase in my grandma's living room. Dreams are just weird, you know?
But the dreams in stories like this aren't all that strange. They're like prophecies in other books. Just foreshadowing about things that will be revealed later. Not foreshadowing by subtle hints in dialogue or mannerisms but flat out statement: Here is an important mountain. You will see this important mountain later in the book. Then, later in the book, when you're at that mountain you can say, "Ha, I knew this was coming!" Subtle was Moiraine's coin magic (and all the other stuff that I'm sure I've missed). The gleeman's stories turning out to be true isn't.
Anyway, the dream. He's running from Trollocs and he comes upon a mountain. Maybe it's the mountain from the prologue? Ha, wait, the prologue is called "Dragonmount." I just got it. That's the name of the mountain. Oh, I'm so slow. So maybe this is Dragonmount. And the voice that commands "serve me" might be Lews Therin since, you know, he died there. Could his guilt-filled spirit be turning the place dark like that? Wherever this place is, Dream Rand says "get thee behind me, Satan," and jumps to his dream death.
I wonder, if this is Dragonmount and that is Lews Therin, could this dream be that Dragon's attempt to recruit Rand? After all, the Trollocs want him and the Aes Sedai want him. Why not have the Dragon want him, too?
And another thing, how does Rand know the name Shai'tan? Saying the Big Bad's name causes all sorts of bad things, right? More than bad luck but real physical consequences, yes? So how does this kid know it? It isn't like "fuck." It isn't a word that parents tell their kids not to say but they learn it at school anyway. This is a real, magical word, that can kill with its utterance. You'd think people would have long forgotten it by now (since even whispering it to loved ones in the dead of night would cause harm).
The dream continues and the mountain goes from Mount Doom to Mount Fuji. He's no longer on a desolate cliff but on a field of flowers. Maybe the evil/insane side of Lews versus the I-want-to-kill-the-Dark-One side? Whatever. Yada, yada, yada. I don't care for dreams. I mean, is it even a dream or is this some sort of communication system? Is Rand asleep on the chair in the Winespring Inn next to his dad or has his spirit gone to a Dream Realm where he can talk with whoever it is out there. Is this in his head or is he actually doing this? Or is this just a normal dream (Ha, what are the chances!)? Either way, he's not getting a lot of rest.
Anyway, he finds a city, dream-wanders his way into a tower, and meets a Fade in there. Having been told that Fades are no big deal, I'm not worried. But having it there in the dream makes me think that this isn't the Dragon's attempt to recruit Rand. Halfmen are on the Dark One's side, after all.
Waking up, Rand sees that he's been asleep all day. So, 124 pages to cover two days (one of which passed while Rand was asleep and a quarter of one passed while he was chopping wood). Not the most well-paced book I've read. He's got a hot broth of soup waiting for him, too.
Wait a minute! She gave him soup that morning, right, just before he passed out from exhaustion. Then, twelve or thirteen hours later he wakes up to warm soup. Now, I'm not saying it's the same bowl kept warm all day, no. In fact, the book points out that this isn't the case. I'm saying that in the middle of the worst disaster in living memory the mayor's wife kept coming up to this room to replace a cold bowl of soup with a warm one "just in case" Rand woke up. When that bowl got cold she would replace it. And so on. All day. Why isn't she, I dunno, letting newly-made widows cry on her shoulder or helping to dig the graves of fallen villagers or anything like that? Blood and ashes, what's wrong with these people?!
Also, was the Trolloc attack so ineffective that no one but Tam was wounded with a tainted weapon?
Tam finally wakes up. I'm super happy that he's going to make it. One, it just wouldn't do to have one of my favorites die in the opening salvo like that. Two, it avoids the whole "I will avenge you, father" things. Except for Padan Fain and a few unnamed villagers, there isn't anyone to avenge, is there?
But Tam tells Rand that Aes Sedai can't lie for some reason. Why Tam knows this or whether or not its true doesn't come up in this conversation. But he basically just told Rand that he got played by Moiraine but still agrees that Rand should go with her. Sure, the Aes Sedai are a bunch of untrustworthy wizards who want you for reasons they won't say. But, hey, at least they've got a big fort to protect you in. Yeah, Tam, and who will protect Rand from the Aes Sedai?
Rand says his goodbyes. He tells Tam that he'll be back. Tam replies:
"I know that. And I'll have twice as many sheep for you to tend when you return."
Does that sounds like "And monkeys might fly out of my butt" to anyone else? Sounds like something Tam the Pimp would say. It's like Han Solo saying "I know" after the princess professed her love for him at the end of Empire Strikes Back. Tam knows that Rand is doomed but still makes a little joke.
Or not. I don't think I'm interpreting the characters the way I'm supposed to. I mean, look how I treat the kind mayor and his wife. I think I'm getting lots of things wrong. But so what? Let's go with it.
Anyway, Tam gives his sword to Rand who leaves the inn because Lan says there is trouble afoot. Tollocs? No, just folks. Torch and pitchfork wielding villagers straight out of Frankenstein. But since the crowd is full of Coplins and Cognars and led by Cenn Buie the reader just knows that this is a bad crowd. Ugh. Can we get some sympathy for non-protagonists? Just a little?
Oh, and the best part is right here. The crowd of rednecks are yelling that the al-Qaeda wizard needs to R-U-N-N-O-F-T while Moiraine is just standing there taking it. But then struts in the mafia mayor, Don al'Vere, with a sinister frickin' maul in his hands. He's all like, "Did somebody suggest burning down my inn?" Nobody messes with the mayor's inn. He's gone from pissing me off because of just how uncaring he is to becoming something of a bad ass in his own right. Why wasn't he helping out in the aftermath of the Trolloc attack? Because a man of his stature has peons to do it for him. He's not on the Village Council; he is the Village Council. Emond's Field is Egypt and he is Pharaoh. And right now, Pharoah's got to take care of a little Coplin problem.
Anyway, it turns out that the attack did leave a bunch of wounded after all, irradiated weapons or not. al'Vere points out the broken bones and disemboweled bellies that the townsfolk had before Moiraine healed them. When did she do all that healing, though? Before tossing dead Trollocs onto the bonfire, surely. So why did Egwene send injured Tam to Nynaeve instead of, oh, the wizard that was reattaching limbs? Was she thinking, "Hmm, Nyneaeve has some herbal medicine and washes her hands but Moiraine managed to put a guy's liver back into his body after a Trolloc ripped it out and tried to eat it. Who should I get to help Tam?"
For a split second, just as Moiraine started to spin her staff around in front of the angry crowd, I thought she was going to cast a fireball spell on the whole lot of them, saying something like, "We don't have time for this." That would have been neat. But she doesn't. She gives a speech. I swear, how's a gleeman supposed to make money if peddlers and wizards both go around telling stories? And a wizard doesn't need to perform illusions when she can do real magic.
The story she tells is pretty impressive. But my own personal philosophy means that it doesn't exactly have the right stuff to move me. Plus, when I think about it, it doesn't make sense given my understand of the book's universe.
So let me retell the story with my own personal beliefs added in, okay? Long time ago there were the Trolloc Wars where a human kingdom called Manetheren sent its army off to fight in a foreign land. So right off the bat we've got people fighting, but not in defense of their homes. This isn't a defensive war Manetheren is fighting. Their army is far away fighting. That's suspicious, to me. The Trollocs, though, decided to attack the heartland of their enemies. Makes sense, right? So they send an force of hundreds of thousands. That's a lot of Trolloc fists.
Anyway, the Manetheren troops march from the battlefield to their homeland, right where Two Rivers is now. I'm going to assume that Moiraine is embellishing the story a bit, here. I'm sure the queen's smile didn't literally cause flowers to grow or that sunlight shined from her ass. A lot gets lost in stories passed down over hundreds of years from a city that no longer exists. But, still a good story.
In a bloody fight for the survival of their city, only the menfolk fight for ten days. Then the women go, "hey, can we get in on that?" But they lose, anyway. Oh, but wait! Queen Perfect has a magical nuke in her back pocket and takes out the Trolloc army about two weeks later than she should have. Manetheren is toast, the infrastructure collapses, and the few survivors build a few huts. Nothing has changed since.
Why does this story, very well told and very well written, not move me? Well, 'cause I'm not tied to any land. I can't see how sacrificing everyone I know for a piece of dirt with a fancy name is somehow noble. I can't see how the survivors feel anything but shame as they stand on a mountain of corpses that used to be their neighbors and say, "this was worth it." Sometimes you've just got to let go instead of hanging on until everything you love has been destroyed.
Jean-Luc Picard was going to stay and fight the borg in Star Trek: First Contact, sacrificing his crew to save his ship, until he realized that it was just a stupid ship. Why couldn't Aemon just hold the line while the civilians were evacuated and then just blow up the Trollocs with city-busting magic?
Finally (this is my last personal thought on the story), I'll have to ask, "so what?" Really, hundreds (or even thousands) of years ago people the Two Rivers folk never heard of did something against an enemy that until last night was make believe. How does that have any impact on today? It has about as much impact as, say, the Spanish Armada on today's politics. Or, more accurately, the Battle of Thermopylae (I assume Moiraine's description of Aemon's last stand is about as accurate as the movie 300).
What should matter to the villagers today, in my opinion, is what is going on around them today. Today, they're in a ruined village. Today, they've got a possibly evil wizard in town. But the villagers seem to care about the dirt they walk on and the story of people who may not have even existed (would a mob of angry villagers with torches really believe a word this woman says?).
Oh, and isn't this a universe where time repeats? What right does Moiraine have to chastise the villagers? X years ago there was a powerful city called Manetheren. Now there is a village called Emond's Field. But Y years in the future there will be another Manetheren. And X years after that there will be another Emond's Field. And so on, right? The people of Emond's Field are the way they are because time is circular and this is just where they happened to be on the Wheel at this time. If time is truly circular then Moiraine has given this speech to these villagers thousands of times, at the very least, in Ages and Ages past (and will continue to give this speech in future Ages unless the Dark One wins and ends time; which he can't do since time is circular and unchanging). It's like yelling at someone for being twenty years old instead of being ten years old like they were a decade ago. The person can't help it! That's just the way the Wheel wove.
But, whatever. The story does what Moiraine wants it to do: it shuts up the crowd. It even gets them to apologize to her! She has some subtle magic, indeed.
After testifying to the crowd in front of the inn, Rand, Mat, and Lan go to the stables to find Perrin and five horses all ready to go. At this point I'm still not sure how Mat and Perrin were convinced to leave. I'm also not sold on Lan. I don't like him but not because he's doing stupid stuff (like Cenn or Bran) or because he might be a bad guy (like Moiraine or Bran). It's just that he's cold and gruff, you know. Just read this description:
His face and voice, cold as death and hard as rough-hewn gravestone, stifled their smiles and their tongues.
His face is as cold as death and just looking at him makes them stop smiling. He has the same effect on them, it seems, as the Fades just toned down since it isn't magically enhanced. A level 1 creepy instead of a level 10. He does sound like a villain's henchman.
I guess what convinced these boys to go with the Aes Sedai was that only Rand and Perrin's farm were attacked and that, in town, Mat's home and the smithy were the first to be burned. I guess it never occurred to them that more farms weren't burned because the Trollocs were defeated before they could get to more. Or that the blacksmith's place burned down first because it was the one building in town most likely to explode at any given moment. Or maybe they were after the blacksmith himself and not the kids. Or maybe they set fire to whatever building struck their fancy and it was just a coincidence that these guys' lost their homes first. Or that Moiraine burned down the buildings with magic in the middle of the fight knowing she could use it as "proof" that the Trollocs were after the boys.
Whatever, it was enough to convince these simple farmers that they were somehow important to the outside world. Important enough to these strangers, in fact, that they'd as a whole decide to leave.
Oh, and they left notes to their families! How thoughtful of them. They don't even get to say goodbye to their loved ones before they leave. What's a parent to think? Half the town burns down and the next day your son has ran away. And the note he left just says that the al-Qaeda wizard is taking him to their cave in the Tar Valon region of Afghanistan? And where did they leave the notes? Their houses have burned down so it isn't as if they left a sheet of paper on their neatly-folded beds.
At least we've learned that the two boys are literate.
As Lan makes final adjustments to the horses and saddles, as the boys talk about their weapons, as (I'm assuming) their parents are wondering just where in the world their children are. One minute the parents are in the Green listening to Moiraine's story (I'm assuming) and then the next they're looking for their boys.
After that scene the the Green between the mob and the Aes Sedai, Egwene enters the stable. Oh, and it is about time for a character I really like to enter the scene.
Why do I like Egwene? Well, on her own this fifteen year-old girl figured out that Moiraine and Lan were in the process of kidnapping the boys. Sure, instead of stopping them she decides to join them but we can't have everything, can we? And unlike the boys, she wants to leave! She doesn't have to be dragged away from her life in town because Trollocs are chasing her. She is making a choice, not allowing outside agents force her to move along the plot. It's about time our main characters do something instead of having stuff done to them.
Egwene convinces Moiraine to let her come along. What was Moiraine to do? She needs the boys to come willingly so she can't just kill Egwene right there. Don't doubt that I was expecting her to. Egwene pieced together Moiraine's plot and confronted her. Moiraine asked, "who have you told." Egwene says nobody, like an idiot. REMINDER: if the villain asks that kind of question then you say that you've told a bunch of people and that you've made a back up recording just in case something happens to you. So Moiraine says she can come along, maybe hoping a Trolloc will turn her into stew once they leave town.
Perrin, showing true skill at being unable to search a barn, didn't find Thom the gleeman hiding in the loft. So he was up there the whole time, listening to everyone talk. I guess he wasn't outside listening to the Manetheren story because he's heard it a thousand times before. "She can't tell a story," he mumbles to himself. "I can tell that a thousand times better!" Thom Merrilin joins the little band as they flee Emond's Field
Just before leaving the stable, Rand promises he'll look after Egwene. Egwene promises she'll look after Rand. This doesn't sit well with Rand since he's supposed to be the Big Strong Man and she's the Tiny Weak Girl. He's in such a huff about Egwene not being in her place that he doesn't notice that he's the only one not in a saddle, ready to go. But, whatever.
Lan bought the horse named Cloud from the miller, Councilman Thane. When? While Rand slept next to Tam, I'd have to say. Picture Thane. It's the dawn of a new day, smoke still in the air from the fire that destroyed his home, that destroyed his town. But then here comes this giant samurai outlander, his face "cold as death", straight from the bonfires, stinking of dead Trolloc, with a bag of coins saying he wants to buy his prize-winning horse. Talk about bad timing on Lan's part.
Lan is also pretty condescending, too. As they make their way out of town they see Jon Thane lead about twenty partisans in shabby armor across the bridge. Lan thinks that two Trollocs could easily take them all out. I just don't get it. Are Trollocs so easy to kill that they fall down on swords, that they raid a village but manage to just kill a peddlar and a couple others, that an entire fist can be held at bay by one Aes Sedai and her bodyguard? Or are they killing machines that brought down ancient cities, that can easily kill ten men each, that are able to strike deep into the heartland of the enemy with ease? They are shown to be pretty weak but everyone keeps telling me that they're bad ass. What am I to believe?
So now Moiraine, Lan, Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, and Thom ride north. Also, Batman is following them.