Remembrance of Dreams
The fellowship, minus Moiraine and Lan upstairs in the attic Healing Mat, goes down to the inn library. It must be bigger than I thought. It holds something like four hundred books, right? So maybe it has five or six bookshelves, a long couch for Loial to lounge, and at least two chairs and a table to play stones. Now it has three teenagers, a twenty-something Wisdom, and a ten-foot tall Ogier. Master Gill must have had a large extra room that he felt needed a library put in it.
Rand describes the Queen's Blessing as a not-so-elegant inn (not like those inns in the Inner City) even though it has a library. I don't know what's going on with the economics of this city (you know, that inelegant inns have libraries and, like the real world, there are no beggars thanks to the welfare program).
Loial freaks out the rest of the fellowship. Rand, though he is a farmboy in the big city, is so blase about the giant monster already that he forgets his friends aren't so jaded by the wonders of the world. But that's soon sorted out and everyone is seated. No additional chairs are brought into the library so I'll have to adjust my estimate. A long couch and four chairs! All in a room Master Gill made for his personal use (since most literate customers go to those elegant inns in the Inner City).
And just thinking, here, this is the first time Egwene and Perrin have been inside of a building since the ruins of Shadar Logoth nearly a month ago, the first time they've been seated in a chair since the Stag and Lion in Baerlon. It's been tents or wagons or open sky all that time. They don't mention it or even seem to notice. I wonder how they handled that rainstorm (the one that occurred when Mat was blinded by some as-yet unexplained lightning).
The Ogier is asked about steddings (from Perrin, since who knows if Elyas told Egwene what the stedding was) and just can't contain himself. He needs to give exposition. Giving it is like his crack. But Rand has heard it all before so his mind drifts. They need to get away. Away from the Dark One, away from the Aes Sedai, away from everything that wants them for whatever reason. Sounds like a good idea to me. Pick up that Way of the Leaf and spend the rest of your life in peace, looking for a song. This thought, however, does not occur to Rand.
Eventually Mat comes in, totally interrupting an important trivial part of Loial's tale. He seems pretty healthy so Go Magic! He doesn't remember being a dick but since no one besides Rand remembers it either, it's okay. It doesn't excuse things, though. If Mat does horrible things (he didn't, but let's pretend) under the influence of the dagger that he stole then he is still responsible for those actions.
Where was I? Oh, yeah. Mat has been Healed but not entirely. He has some sort of Aes Sedai band-aid on his soul. To be fully Healed he needs to get to Tar Valon (those witches in the Palace a mile down the road can't help him, I guess). Good thing that's where everyone is headed! Egwene and Nynaeve need to get there or their untrained magic abilities will kill them. Rand needs to get there because only witches can save him from the Dark One. Mat needs to get there or he'll go psycho again. And let's not forget Loial, who wants to see a grove up there. Perrin is like the only dude who doesn't need to go but since he is the group's butt monkey, the weakest link, the Butters of the group, he'll tag along just so everyone else'll think he's cool.
Loial introduces himself to Moiraine and says that the stedding offers sanctuary to the Servants of the Light. Given the context I take it to mean that the Ogier are somehow opposed to the Aes Sedai (such an offer will piss them off), or at least the Red Ajah faction of the witches. But we learn that my estimate of ten Aes Sedai in the city was wrong. There are double that number here! Twenty people who can bring down lighting, walls of flame, and earthquakes. Twenty of them who, if I remember correctly, are even more powerful if they work as a group instead of individually. What possible threat could a dozen fists of Trollocs pose to them? Especially when they have that army from the south and the Queen's Guard and the Whitecloaks all defending this city. Lan's talk of a gathering army of Trollocs, the impetus of their need to quickly flee Caemlyn, is laughable.
Moiraine seems to know that few Ogier have left the stedding in recent years. How does she know? I mean, is this a thing in Tar Valon, keeping tabs on the Ogier? It has taken 638 pages but I've finally figured out that Moiraine is nothing more than a moving infodump as well as a Get Out of Jail Free card for our heroes. Trouble in Emond's Field? Moiraine will save you. Whitecloaks stop you at the Baerlon gate? Moiraine will save you. Trollocs surrounding you near Shadar Logoth? Moiraine will save you. Captured by Whitecloaks in the woods? Moiraine will save you. Evil dagger killing your soul? Moiraine will save you. This really seems like Moiraine's story. She's the one with all the action, the one moving towards her goal.
Anyway. Moiraine talks about magic wards being beacons to the enemies. One wonders why she doesn't take a few hours to go to random inns across town to toss up a few extra wards to throw the baddies off. Maybe she doesn't have the time. Maybe it's like a video game and she can only have one ward up at a time. Whatever the case may be, Moiraine tells the fellowship (which now includes a giant monster kid) that they need to bounce.
Rand tells them about his encounter with Elaida and the queen. The Two Rivers folks seem to know who he was talking about before he mentioned their titles (for example, he talked about "Elayne" and not "the princess" but everyone reacted as if he were talking about the princess.) but that doesn't make sense because Two Rivers people don't even know what country they're from let alone their sovereign.
Moiraine recognizes the name Elaida. Being one of the best Aes Sedai in Tar Valon would indicate that she knew the name of the Queen of Andor's witch adviser. This is one of those weird connections (like Loial knowing Gill who knew Thom who had a nephew who was Gentled by the Aes Sedai or like Perrin knew Elyas who knew Lan) that actually makes logical sense.
As an aside, Rand still thinks he did nothing wrong climbing the Palace wall like that. Can you imagine someone climbing up on the White House fence to get a good look at a parade then falling back onto the White House Lawn? Then meeting Obama's daughters and having a talk with them before Secret Service showed up. You think Agent Smith and Agent Johnson are going to let little Sasha and Malia tell them to back off when a stranger with a sword is two feet from them? I don't think so! They'll take that sumbitch out without asking a single question, without saying a single word. And they'd be national heroes for it. Even if the intruder survived he won't get off without any charges getting pressed. But, hell, maybe things are different in Andor. Maybe that stuff is cool.
Anyway, Rand finishes his story. Egwene wants to know who Elayne is because she's a girl and girls are always jealous when their ex-boyfriends talk about other women. Rand said the princess was beautiful but he didn't say anything about her age. She could have been forty for all the-now-suddenly-jealous Egwene knows. But, whatever.
Perrin chimes in that he's super jealous of Rand, too. Remember how I've always felt that Perrin has no self-esteem and wants to be like Rand (who he thinks is better than he is in ever way, reinforced by the fact that Rand and the others kinda think the same thing)? Well, here's another example. "You got to see a queen? Wow, all I got was prison raped by the Whitecloaks for a few weeks." Or maybe, "You got to see a beautiful princess? All I got was three immodest harlots trying to tempt me into sin. They made me cry in shame every night with their lustful Tinker girl dance!" How about, "When you were sick you had Mat take care of you? Well, when I got into a violent berserker rage your stupid ex-girlfriend did nothing to stop me from killing two men. It's really her fault for getting me in trouble. If it wasn't for that horse she kept insisting we ride we would have never been caught by those Whitecloaks. I was trying to hide us and that effin' Bela gave us away. It's her fault, not mine. The world is out to get me! Arrggghh!!" Yeah, I picture Perrin saying those things. He doesn't, though. He just broods.
I can picture it but that's not what happens. What happens is that Loial uses this as an opportunity to talk about Tinkers and singing to trees. I've heard of trees before. I can't remember if it was one of Thom's songs or Tam's fevered dream. Somewhere way back then they talked about a Tree of Life. Whatever. I think we finally know the name of Loial's home: Stedding Shangtai. I just see "Shanghai" and picture Loial as being some kind of Chinese dragon-faced monster.
Then something really unbelievable happens. It isn't totally out of place in this book, but still. Loial says wants to ask Moiraine a question he has been wating to ask an Aes Sedai for a while now. It has to do with an encounter Loial had twenty years ago. So there (supposedly) an army of Trollocs just outside of town. Mat's in danger of an evil relapse unless he gets to Tar Valon toot sweet. There are Darkfriends and Whitecloaks and a filthy beggar and agents of Elaida going inn to inn looking for the fellowship. Loial knows that he'll have weeks to ask Moiraine this question on the road north. But since he's asking now then it must be important, right?
No! It isn't important at all. Some guy came into Loial's hometown years before Rand was even born and said that the Dark One planned to blind the Eye of the World. This information is twenty years old! It can't be important right now. And that bullshit Ogier ta'veren concept says that only people are reality-warpers. So there was no reality-warping going on by Rand since he was still just an egg in some Aielwoman's ovary.
But whatever. Loial just had to ask this question here and now to the one Aes Sedai that A) is the one non-Red Ajah in town and B) is on a personal jihad against the Dark One.
Perrin then tells the story about the story told to him by the Tinker Mahdi who heard it from somebody who heard it from somebody who heard it from somebody who heard if from a dying Aiel little girl. What do you want to bet that Loial or some other Ogier asked about "blinding of the Eye of the World" more than a decade ago and that question somehow got turned into a story and that story changed bit by bit from a man fleeing the Aiel War to an Aielman feeling the Trollocs, from an Aielman fleeing the Trollocs to a Aielwoman fleeing the Trollocs, and from an Aielwoman fleeing the Trollocs to a Aiel girl fleeing the Trollocs. A decade of being told and retold from Tinker camp to Tinker camp could mean that Perrin's story is just a bastardized retelling of Loial's own story.
Anyway, the three Two Rivers Boys decide to come clean about their dreams. About time, if you ask me. Moiraine says that there hasn't been a Dreamwalker in Tar Valon for a thousand years. I don't know what this means. Is Ba'alzamon a Dreamwalker, then? Or is that a witch name?
I picture Perrin going, "Not one in a thousand years, huh? That's cool. My thing hasn't been around since before the use of the One Power, so . . ."
Moiraine talks about the Forsaken. I take it to mean that they are powerful bad guys and not just another name for the Myrddraal, Fade, Shadowmen, Halfmen. (Thus there were Trollocs, but then more powerful Fades, but then the flying Draghkar, but then the Darkfriends who look like us, then the Forsaken who are even more powerful! I'm in a video game world where the bad guys get more power each time the characters level up.) Plus Moiraine calls some guy, Ishamael, the Betrayer of Hope. Lews Therin called Ba'alzamon the Betrayer of Hope in the Prologue so I don't know what the hell is going on.
Now, anyone who has been following me this far knows that I'm paying pretty close attention to what's going on (even if I am willfully misinterpreting some of the characters' motivations). So what's going on that even I'm lost at this point? Am I thinking too hard about stuff? Should I just accept what is spoon fed to me in exposition-heavy scenes like this? Well, screw that! If anything I am an over-analyzer. We don't need to turn off our brains for this book. Really, we need to go deeper!
Whatever. Moiraine says that the Dark One can only touch the dream-minds of people seeking him out. Unless the plot says otherwise, of course. If a person is "main character" enough then the Dark One can do it. But then I get confused. The Dark One touches people's minds but Ba'alzamon is the one who appears in the dreams? And then there is an Ishamael who has the same title as Ba'alzamon. Did Elan Morin Tedronai, the Betrayer of Hope from the Prologue, eventually die only to be reincarnated to Ishamael (who Moiraine says is the Betrayer of Hope) only to die and be reincarnated into Ba'alzamon? I dunno.
Loial, being a rebel teenager who is just too awesome for his elders, suddenly blurts out that the three Two Rivers Boys are all ta'veren. This Ogier, on his unauthorized first trip out into the world, has just discovered three ta'veren! Wait 'til he shows those squares back home who said he'd never make something of himself. He'll show them!
The Aes Sedai witch agrees that she's found three ta'veren. Does this mean that the concept is more than just an Ogier superstition?
Then in a bizarre turn of events Moiraine says that they don't need to go to Tar Valon after all. Yeah, the Eye of the World (I still don't know what the hell this thing is!) needs to be saved or something. This is in spite of the fact that Loial's story is twenty years old! Why the urgency? Don't you remember that Mat is dying of Evil Dagger Disease and that if he succumbs then it might spread to the rest of the world? Don't you remember that Egwene and Nynaeve need magical training or they'll die? All of a sudden some Ogier tale changes everything? I could buy this, I really could, if I knew what the Eye of the World actually was. But since I don't know I don't buy it.
To me, Moiraine is letting her delusions cloud her judgment. In her twisted Glenn Beck-ish view of reality, where the Dark One could win and the Pattern can be changed, the question Loial asked is enough to make her change her goals. First it was the Dark One after the Two Rivers Boys. But then it's Ba'alzamon trying to blind the Eye of the World. It's all part of the same plot, you see? Moiraine: "Let me get out my chalkboard and draw you a diagram here in the Queen's Blessing inn library. The Boys are connected to the Tinkers who are connected to the Aiel girl who knows about the Eye which is the same story told to Loial who knows Master Gill who let the boys sleep in his inn for free at the same time that Ba'alzamon is trying to blind the Eye! Can't you see! It's all connected! Let other people call me crazy but there is a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top. Therefore we don't need to go to Tar Valon anymore. We need to visit the Green Man, like, right this minute." OMGWTFBBQ?
Anyway, Moiraine drops another bombshell. The Ways. I've heard this mentioned once or twice before and I assumed it was a religion or philosophy. "He followed the Ways," meant that he did things a certain way. Sorta like the Tao. But, no, it's some sort of fantasy FTL. Moiraine, based upon twenty-year old stories, needs to get to the Blight ASAP. She can't just walk there so she has Loial open up a Waygate. You know what? I don't care. No matter how silly this book gets it just gets sillier with each paragraph. Waygates? Really? The whole trip from Two Rivers to Caemlyn was pointless, then, because you could have used a magic transporter? Whatever.
"A curious turn, indeed. When we can neither stay nor leave by any ordinary means, I learn of a threat to the Eye, and in the same place there is one who can take us there in days."
This is just further proof of Moiraine's insanity. She's growing more obsessed with defeating the Dark One. One, there isn't anything preventing them from leaving the city normally. Soon Elayne, Gawyn, Logain, at least eight Aes Sedai (probably twenty), and an entire army are leaving to the north. That seems like enough protection to get them to Tar Valon. And staying in the city doesn't seem like a bad idea, either. Sure, the Children of the Light are in town but so are the Aes Sedai! What possible reason could Moiraine have for avoiding her Sisters? Are they not fanatical enough in their opposition to the Dark One? Her twisted mind gets the notion of saving the Eye (from data that is years out of date) and then she looks for a way to do it. There's an Ogier sitting there so her subconscious tells her "Waygates." Thinking fast, internalizing this data into her worldview, she says that their next step is to do something really strange and dangerous.
Whatever. You know? This book has gone from "use normal roads to get these boys to Tar Valon to save them/use them" to "use magical Ways to get these boys to the Blight to save a MacGuffin." And it wasn't a subtle shift in goals that makes sense to the reader but a sudden jerk from what was expected for something else. And the worst part? It was for no reason! We still don't know what the Eye of the World is, why the Dark One wants to blind it, what blinding it will actually do. The stakes are unknown and I have no investment in saving the Eye of the World. Is the Eye the one thing that can defeat the Dark One (thus why he needs to blind it)? I don't know anything so I don't care about anything. I want to care! I want to get back into this story but I'm struggling to in these chapters.
Decisions and Apparitions
I may have been too harsh with the previous chapter. I was just pissed off that the main characters' objectives changed so drastically 650 pages into an 800 page book. But I've had time to cool down. I've accepted what's going on and am now just going to go ahead and hang on for the ride. ...to the Blight. Hmm.
Okay, so Loial says that the Ways are certain death (not that this will deter fanatical Moiraine!). He then describes what the Ways are with a history lesson. If only someone would do the same with the Eye of the World (seriously, did I miss a paragraph or something where the importance of this thing was explained?).
Around three thousand years ago, during the Prologue, the world was being Broken by the male Aes Sedai. They were insane, you see? The Ogier offered to let the crazy men stay in their steddings. Being in these dead magic zones the men restored their sanity. It was as if the stedding acted as a medication for the men. But the men couldn't deal with being magic-less so they left the steddings (went off their meds) even though they knew they'd go crazy and start their serial killing again. Heroes, these guys were not. In fact, I condemn every man who, completely sane and rational, decided that having magical power was more important to them than the damage they knew they'd cause in the outside world.
The Aes Sedai are conflicted about the Ogier. The Blue Ajahs, like Moiraine, think what the Ogier did kept the Breaking from being one intense boondoggle by keeping the men from all going mad at once. The Reds say that the the Ogier just prolonged the Breaking by sending crazy men into the world gradually over time, each to inflict even more damage. I don't know which is true and it does make for a good debate. But since Moiraine is crazy I'm going to believe the Red's version. Just Because.
The male Aes Sedai gave the Ogier a gift in appreciation for sanctuary: the Ways. I don't know how. I mean, the world is being destroyed at this time, right? Volcanoes being created, whole families and palaces murdered by male magic uses (Remember Lews Therin? Yeah, he's the kinda wife-killing son of a bitch the Ogier offered sanctuary to.), and who knows what other unholy destruction going on. The men, going crazy, run to these steddings. They are the Wal-Marts of a zombie apocalypse. While the world burned around them they just come up with the Ways, a magical engineering feat of unimaginable complexity. They did this, you know, even though they couldn't do magic in the steddings. Somehow.
People built things to last back then. Remember that glass bridge in Whitebridge? That sucker is three thousand years old, at least. The Ways, built by crazy men running from the atrocities that they committed, lasted two thousand years before they started falling apart. Something called the Machin Shin, or Dark Wind, is out there in the Ways, killing shit. I could only think A) another evil air creature? They've already faced Mordeth, a guy who ballooned up and then turned into a Smoke Monster. And then there was Madashar, an unintelligent white fog monster that inhabits Mat's cursed dagger. And now we have a Dark Wind? What does Robert Jordan have against air?!
And B) the creature's name reminds me of former West Virginia governor, current Senator Joe Manchin III. I voted for that dickhole thinking he's be good for our state. But, no, he opposes healthcare reform and supports Big Coal and— Well, lets just say I don't care for Mr. Open for Business and it seems really appropriate that an evil wind monster's name is so close to his.
Nynaeve, being one of the two or three people in the room with any sense, raises her hand and asks the obvious, "What the fuck? You want us to go in there with that Joe Manchin Shin III monster out there?"
Moiraine quickly shuts her up by saying, "Trollocs! Lan said so!" Ogier then asks why he should violate the Edict (hundreds of years old) about staying out of the minefield that is the Ways. The al-Qaeda witch, in a blind fanaticism, says that the Dark One is after everything! Humans and Ogier! We must do anything to stop him. Even if that means Nynaeve has to die in the Ways, so be it. And she just figured out that getting to the Eye of the World is how she can stop him so nothing is going to get in her way.
While Moiraine rants and pontificates about how she is going to save the world Rand notices that the sun is setting. It's evening. So, the urgency that Master Gill showed earlier, about how it'll take no more than two days for the Queen's Guard to come to the Queen's Blessing and search the place, is gone. There is no more urgency. Who cares that they've wasted an entire day just talking in the library when they could have been walking towards Tar Valon? At this point they deserve to be caught. They deserve to be... whatever it is that Elaida plans to do to them. What is Elaida's plan for Rand? Take him to Tar Valon with her? Light forbid! Will she even be able to carry out that plan now that Moiraine is in the picture?
Also, in addition to four chairs, a long couch, five bookshelves, and a table for playing stones, there is now an addition chair for Moiraine, a window, and a fireplace. What the hell kind of "inelegant" inn has a library this big (especially since Gill said is was for his personal use)?
Anyway, the witch tells the boys that they have to choose to go with her to the Blight to stop the Dark One. Last chapter, or about an hour ago to the characters, Rand was thinking about all he wanted was to run away and not have to deal with all of this epic shit. But when Moiraine makes her speech he's the first one to say "I want to be a part of this!" There is nothing to indicate that Rand was moved by her speech or that it was an inspiring oration. It's just one chapter he wanted to be left alone and in this one he wants to fight the bad guy. Whatever.
Egwene and Nynaeve decide to go, too. But the boys choose to go because they want to confront the Dark One. The girls want to go because they don't want to be left behind. Men want adventure while women just tag along (even though, for this entire book, Moiraine, Nynaeve, and Egwene have been moving under their own power while Lan, Perrin, Rand, and Mat have been pulled along).
Loial is convinced to go, too. Why? I dunno. He first wanted to go to Tar Valon to see the grove there but now he wants to talk to the Green Man. Whatever. He's willing, with absolutely zero time spent contemplating, to break centuries of tradition to open the Ways. I thought the Ogier were slower than humans when it came to, well, everything. I guess I was wrong. No wonder Loial left his stedding (Or was he kicked out? He may have been lying about leaving on his own. Hmm...). The elders just didn't know how to deal with a wild card like him.
The back and forth between the group ends. Hours then pass as they come up with their plans. Hours that Elaida's people are using to search Caemlyn for Rand. Hours that the Children of the Light have to get enough backup to return to the inn. Hours that the "Trolloc army" outside of town has to pull a Pearl Harbor. But they spend all that time talking and planning. Rush? What rush?
I remember back in Emond's Field when they had to saddle up and use magical horses to gallop for hours and hours through the foggy night to get away from Trollocs that could attack at any moment. That was tense. That made me worry a bit. Here? Psht. I'm not even slightly worried. Nothing will stop this fellowship. Let them take their sweet time.
We learn that Nynaeve can read and write because during the long hours of planning she makes a list of supplies they need. So, a backwater town where no one knows even what kingdom they are in has a 100% literacy rate, more or less. That's higher than the modern United States. Moiraine gives that list of supplies to Master Gill. Even though it is in the middle of the night, even though there are Whitecloaks watching the inn, Gill says he can get the stuff. This dude has connections. He's a carbon copy of Bran al'Vere. Moiraine pays for the supplies with a bag of coins.
Now, there haven't been any mention of banks in this setting. So where is Moiraine getting her money? I know she's rich (probably born into money instead of working for a living, the rich witch) but she's been in the woods for the last few weeks. Does she have credit in Whitebridge or buried treasure near Baerlon? Somehow she's had a bottomless bag of money this whole book. Whatever.
The planning is over, Rand takes his first bath since Baerlon (he may have had baths before this but this is the first time it has been mentioned; still no mention of shaving) and everyone goes to bed. The feeling of urgency has fallen to about nothing.
Rand enters another dream and meets Ba'alzamon. Again. I actually took the time to read this one and it wasn't all that good. Rand goes back and forth between saying "I deny you!" and "Give me more information!" Ba'alzamon, of course, gives him all the information he could ask for.
The interesting thing here is that Ba'alzamon says that he and Rand have been battling each other forever. Does that mean that Rand is Lews Therin reincarnated? I guess that makes sense, if Logain is a false Dragon. That would make Rand the real Dragon.
That makes a lot of sense, too. It took an army of Aes Sedai to get Logain back to Tar Valon. Moiraine has managed to get Rand, the real Dragon, to just walk there on his own free will (or she would have had she not got the urge to go to the Blight). Talk about being the best witch ever. This doesn't explain why the Dark One wants Rand. Does the Dark One want a Dragon as his servant or slave?
And what does it mean to be the Dragon? They are usually warlords, right? And the Dragon is supposed to attack Tear and eventually re-Break the world? This may be prophecy but we all know prophecy is always true. There is no way this book series can end without the Dragon attacking Tear. Oh, and taking that Excalibur sword from the Stone there (just like I knew Rand was going to do when Thom first told that story). How is Rand going to do all of this? I don't know. I'll bet that with enough bullshit he can do anything.
But I'm getting ahead of myself, aren't I? Back to the story. Dream Ba'alzamon tells Rand that there is a Black Ajah in the Aes Sedai (ha, told you!) that serves him. Rand continues to deny the bad guy. Eventually Rand gives us a big, cheesy, "Noooooo!" and wakes up. Mat is over there denying in his sleep, too. Perrin, I guess, has his wolves doing the denying for him (Perrin, unlike the other heroes, has his minions do the hard things for him, it seems. Are wolves always generous? I mean, will Perrin ever be called upon to stop what he's doing to go guard a wolf for a night?).
As Rand talks to Mat my idea that Rand is the Dragon just received its first blow. Ba'alzamon told Mat that the two of them had fought for generations, too. So did Lews Therin get reincarnated into Mat? Or am I completely wrong and Logain is still the Dragon? Or does Ba'alzamon fight everyone in the world and in every generation? You'd think the Dark One would do that, not his #1 minion.
Moiraine comes in and tells the boys that it is time to go. This surprised Rand because he has never had a dream before in his life (how else would he be confused that time seems to last longer in dreams?). The chapter ends when the boys fess up about their nightmares. Moiraine uses her magic to heal Rand's splinter (really, his boo boo was so horrible that he needed Moiraine to alter reality in order to fix it). It is an hour before dawn and ready to go. ...to the Blight!
The Dark Along the Ways
It's just before dawn in the Queen's Blessing, an inn in Caemlyn. The fellowship is getting ready to look for a Waygate in order to fast travel to the Blight where they plan on doing something with the Eye of the World. I'm still fuzzy about the last part of the plan.
1. Go to the Ways
2. Go to the Blight
But before I continue I'm going to reiterate just how pointless the three Two Rivers Boys are. Remember, some time ago, I said that the boys could be replaced with shiny rocks and the plot wouldn't need to be changed very much? I still believe that.
Again, Moiraine and the Dark One both want three shiny jewels from Two Rivers. During a Trolloc attack Moiraine and Lan manage to get the jewels before the baddies do. Egwene goes along with them so when they reach Tar Valon she can become an Aes Sedai. Nynaeve follows to bring Egwene and the three stones back home. Moiraine teaches Egwene some magic on the road and Nynaeve meets up with them in Baerlon. Egwene refuses to go back, saying she's going with Moiraine to Tar Valon but Nynaeve shouldn't worry 'cause she'll keep the jewels safe. Nynaeve isn't assured so she decides to follow.
There is a Trolloc attack on the road and the group is split up. Egwene and one of the jewels ends up on one side of the river while Thom and two other ones get on a boat. Moiraine decides to go after Thom, first. Thom gets into a fight in Whitebridge and has to flee (leaving the jewels in Whitebridge). Egwene meets Elyas in the wilderness, she meets the Tinkers, and is eventually captured by Whitecloaks. Moiraine, Lan, and Nynaeve rescue Egwene and her one jewel before going to Caemlyn. There, she gets the other two jewels (this is the one spot where the book would have to be different; how did the two stones get from Whitebridge to Caemlyn?). In the Queen's Blessing she meets Loial, hears his Eye of the World story and listens to Egwene's Eye of the World story. She puts two and two together and they decide to go to the Blight.
Rand, Perrin, and Mat are completely superfluous. The dagger, the wolves, and the dreams could all have been removed from this story and it wouldn't have changed much at all. And, really, when your book can have the three main characters excised with so little impact you've maybe made a mistake in picking your protagonists.
Anyway, back to this chapter. Guess what? Master Gill has a secret door in the back of his stables. What does an honest innkeeper need with secret doors? Nothing. He's not an honest innkeeper. He's a mobster, no doubt a human trafficker.
Remember the last time Rand tried to sneak out of an inn in the middle of the night? No, not the time when a Darkfriend woman tried to stab Mat before getting locked in the stable tack room. The other time. No, not the time lightning came down and blew out a wall in Four Kings. The other time. No, not when the boys tried to sneak out of the Winespring Inn at night. The other time. Yes, the Stag and Lion (Jeez, how many times do these guys sneak out of inns at night? Can this book be any more repetitive?).
Remember that there was a stableboy that was pissed off to be woken up in the middle of the night to saddle all of their horses? So pissed off that he might go warn the Whitecloaks? Well, I'll bet Master Gill has a pissed off stableboy here, too. Especially since he's got to find a saddle big enough for Loial (let alone find a horse big enough to carry him!). Really, how does one find an Ogier-sized saddle in the middle of the night with Whitecloaks watching you. That stableboy, named Ramey, must have gone all over town trying to find it. Yeah, he's probably pissed.
Somewhere along the line Mat comes up to Rand and says that Perrin is acting strange. Mat, the kid who tried to stab nearly everyone on the Caemlyn Road, thinks Perrin is acting strange. Goodness, me. Is Perrin coming to terms with his inner anger, his self-loathing, and violent rages? Is he thinking of turning himself in for the murders he committed? Or is he angsting over his wolf-based superpowers? We'll see.
As they're leaving the inn, Moiraine tells Gill to send a letter to some ally of hers in Tar Valon if he gets in trouble. Yeah, I'm sure the Questioners will let him write letters when they get a hold of him. Or Elaida will let him write to Tar Valon if she puts him in a Palace dungeon. Or the anti-Queen White Ribbons will let him send a letter after they kick his ass and burn down his inn. It's good to know that there is some sort of postal system in this setting, however. Even though it's never been mentioned before.
Anyway, the city is dead an hour before dawn. There are no craftsmen getting ready for the day's work, no restaurateurs running to the fish market to get the freshest food for their menu that day, no farmers bringing in produce. Even stranger, none of the thousands of tourists in the city are getting an early start on their trip home. You know, to avoid all that traffic. No, none of that is going on. The city, the largest city for hundreds of miles, is completely empty at this hour. Ugh.
Loial can somehow detect the Waygate. This, too, pisses me off. Why can everyone who is not a farmboy detect shit? Warders can detect Trollocs. Aes Sedai can detect evil. Ogier can detect Waygates. Wolfbrothers can detect the Dark One's taint. Fades can detect the dagger taint. The only ones who have it worse off than normal people are wolves. They can't look up into trees to see ravens.
Where was I? Oh, they're going through the eerily empty streets. They find a shop that had been built over the Waygate. Moiraine, somehow interested in not doing property damage (What about sinking Master Hightower's ferry? You dropped a few coins in his hand then destroyed his livelihood. Now you can't even kick in a single door?) so she breaks into the shop without damaging the door. These are the heroes, folks. Thieves, burglars, vandals, and murderers. There are hints that they may be arsonists but that can't be confirmed.
The shop's basement is big enough for Moiraine, Lan, Nynaeve, Egwene, Rand, Perrin, Mat, and Loial (a ten-foot tall monster) as well as their eight horses each with huge saddlebags on each side. And I think there were pack horses, too, but I'm not sure. Is this a cellar in some New City shop or a freakin' warehouse? As they're waiting around do any of the horses drop a few road apples for the shop owner to clean up later?
Anyway, Loial is pissed that humans would cut down Ogier trees to build their city. He seems to ignore his hypocrisy. His people, after all, came here and planted their trees and built their Waygates. Human technology — stone and brick — is bad but Ogier technology — trees and magic doors — is just fine? What's up with that kinda bullshit doublethink?
Moiraine calms down the angry Ogier by saying they can save other trees and groves from the Shadow (Not that this particular grove was lost to the Shadow, but whatever. Aes Sedai are tricky with their phrasing.). She touches a particular part of a stone wall, somehow knowing how to open a magical doorway invented by insane wizards with magic way beyond her abilities, built by giant monsters three thousand years ago, forgotten by most of the world, and forbidden from being used for centuries by those few who did remember them. It's like riding a bike. A bike you've never seen before that no one has ridden for six hundred years.
She didn't need Loial to open the gates, did she? She just touched some rock and the Way opened. So why hasn't she been using this from day one? A little bit of research could have allowed her to find the Waygate closest to Emond's Field (Manetheren must have had a Waygate grove, right?). Then she just goes from Tar Valon to Two Rivers and back again. No need to worry about Fades or Trollocs or Sadar Nogoth or Whitecloaks or rival Aes Sedai or Darkfriends or pesky Wisdoms following you. Argh!
Anyway, everyone safely gets through the magical cellar Waygate. They are now in some sort of freaky slow-time universe. That means they can do whatever it is they need to do in the Ways without missing any important plot points in the real world.
They all mount up and march off into the darkness of the Ways. Now, I don't like the fact that this setting has some secret backdoor like this. I understand the backdoor hallway in the Matrix sequel, that one with all the doors. That was cool. And that closet door factory in Monsters, Inc., was frickin' fantastic. Those "secret shortcut worlds" also make sense in their settings. But the Ways in this fantasy book? What's the point? But ignoring the fact that it doesn't fit in, I really like Ways. Dark, infinitely big but still claustrophobic, and creepy as all get out. I like that!
The text mentions a treadmill, as if the horses were walking on one. I'm sure they don't mean a modern exercise treadmill but rather one of those walking-on-a-conveyor-belt-to-produce-mechanical-energy style treadmills. Sort of like a watermill but with slaves powering it instead of a river. This would hint at a certain level of industry. Is Andor on the brink of an industrial revolution? About a hundred and fifty years early but there's nothing wrong with that.
Eventually they come upon a Guiding. I picture this to be like those You Are Here maps you find at every mall entrance. It's in Ogier script but too worn for Moiraine to read it. One, can Moiraine read unworn Ogier? Who taught her? Two, why wasn't Loial the first one to mention reading it? He is Ogier, after all. And Three, has the Ogier language not changed in the hundreds (maybe even thousands) of years since the Guiding was built?
Whatever, the mall map leads to other Guidings. There are Islands and bridges (I wonder, though, if the Two Rivers kids have ever seen a real island before. I don't think they have, not even a photograph, even.) and a R'lyeh-esque geometry. Really cool and really out of place in this story, I think. But then again, there's a lot of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds with those ravens and even hints of Steven King in some other places. So maybe this is trying to be a fantasy-horror book. I dunno.
Lan stops the group for a rest and a bite to eat. He jumps off Mandarb (God, that is an awful name) but Moiraine, still holding the Warder's balls in a small jar, tells him they won't stop 'til they need to sleep. Defeated, Lan climbs back onto the saddle and they continue. I wonder if these are magical horses, to be ridden all day with no grazing or water or rest. Maybe Ramey went out to well in the middle of the night (in between looking for a giant Ogier saddle and packing everyone's bags) to bottle up a week's worth of water for seven people (one a massive monster), their seven horses, and their pack horses. That must have taken forever! I hope Master Gill pays well.
This chapter ends with Loial coming up to a broken bridge. His Ogier script mall map Guidings have failed him. What is the fellowship going to do? I'm actually wondering. For the first time since Rand met Elayne and Elaida I'm actually interested in what's going on. That could be because this is the first chapter since then that isn't drowning in exposition, but so what? Can't wait to read the next chapter.