Welcome back to another edition of "WoT If?", Dragonmount's weekly theory blog. We are going to continue our reread of The Eye of the World, chapters 17 - 18.
Before we start, I do want to say that there will still be SPOILERS! With the ending in sight, much of what I point out could allude to things that happen in A Memory of Light, so keep that in mind as you read. Don't continue if you don't want to be spoiled.
Chapter 17, "Watchers and Hunters"
After speaking with Nynaeve, Rand heads to the common room to listen to Thom perform. He sits beside Mat and Perrin, listening to stories of The Great Hunt of the Horn. After a few stories, Thom plays his harp, and everyone dances. While dancing, Rand notices a man with a scar starring at him from across the room. He tries to forget the man, and succeeds when Nynaeve spins into his arms as his next partner. He stumbles over the steps, nervous to be dancing with the Wisdom. She laughs at him good-naturedly, then goes to her next partner. Moiraine appears next and Rand dances worse with her than with Nynaeve. Moiraine gives him a sympathetic smile which makes him feel worse. He recovers some dignity when he dances with Egwene, since he's used to dancing with her. She looks on the point of saying something, but doesn't. He refuses to be the person to speak first.
After the dance, Rand sits to let Mat have a turn. Perrin asks if Rand danced with Nynaeve. Rand says he did, and with Moiraine too. Perrin wonders why Nynaeve never danced at home; Rand wonders what the Women's Circle would say if the Wisdom did dance.
Around midnight, they go to their rooms. On the way up, Rand decides he'd like a glass of milk before bed. Lan warns him to be careful, since something is wrong. In the deserted hallway, a Fade appears and tells Rand he will let him live, if he will tell where the others are. Rand is unable to speak and backs up against the wall. The Halfman pulls his sword and begins to swing it at Rand, but then stops. He says Rand belongs to the Dark One, then he disappears. Lan arrives with his sword out, and Rand tells him the Fade just left. They rush upstairs to collect their belongings. Rand is surprised that Nynaeve is coming too. He realizes Min was right, that Nynaeve is a part of it.
Moiraine tells Master Fitch, the innkeeper, to cooperate with anyone asking about them, but he refuses. In the stableyard, Rand sees that Egwene is really frightened. He apologizes to her, and she squeezes his hand. They leave the inn and head for the Caemlyn Gate.
The Watchmen at the gate refuse to open the way. Lan tells them that it isn't against the rules to let people out after dark, only to let them in. They begin to open the gate when five Whitecloaks appear. The wonder who would want to leave in the night, and Lan tells them to mind their own business. Rand recognizes the man speaking as Bornhald, the Whitecloak he had confronted earlier. Bornhald recognizes Rand and accuses him of being a Darkfriend.
Moiraine uses the Power to make herself grow taller. Bornhald attacks her with a sword. She meets it with her staff, and his sword is bent at an angle from the impact. Lan leads the group through the gate, and before it closes, Moiraine's huge form steps over the wall. On the other side, she's normal sized again.
They begin to ride east, when they notice smoke rising above Baerlon. Moiraine knows that it is the Stag and Lion. She warned Master Fitch but he did not listen. However, she points out that if the Shadow's attention was on the inn, their escape may have gone unnoticed. Nynaeve accuses the Aes Sedai of the harm that came to Master Fitch and the inn, and Moiraine calmly explains it was the only option. She says she will send him aid that can't be linked to Tar Valon—anything more would only bring him danger.
They make camp off the side of the road for an hour. Perrin insists that Moiraine should have done something to help. Just before dawn, they pack up and head down the road.
Chapter 18, "The Caemlyn Road"
The group travels the Caemlyn Road without incident for three days. On the third day, they hear horns no more than ten miles behind them. Lan goes to scout their pursuers—Moiraine whispers as he leaves, "The Light go with you, last Lord of the Seven Towers"—and then she leads the group forwards. The Emond's Fielders wonder why they don't run, and the Aes Sedai tells them the horns are meant to frighten them and make them rush into a trap.
Lan returns and tells them that there are three or five fists of Trollocs behind them, each with a Halfman. They continue forward, then hear horns from ahead and behind. They head north, off the road. Lan suggests they go someplace Trollocs won't look, but Moiraine refuses.
They set a hard pace north, but they are unable to outrun the Trolloc scouts. Lan has them stop and face the group that is following. Lan attacks the Fade, shouting out a Malkieri warcry, and the Emond's Fielders do likewise, raising calls of Manetheren, and charge at the Trollocs. Moiraine lashes out with the One Power, and Nynaeve and Egwene have belt knives.
Rand, Mat, and Perrin fight the Trollocs until Lan kills the Fade. This kills the Trollocs as well, since they were linked to the Myrddraal. This buys them a few moments, so they quickly continue heading north. The next wave of Shadowspawn catches up to them, and Moiraine uses her angreal to use waves of Earth and a wall of Fire to slow them down. This drained much of her energy. The group races off again.
Nynaeve gives Moiraine a packet of herbs, and helps to hold the Aes Sedai steady in her saddle. Further away, Lan calls a halt, and he and Moiraine go off to talk alone. As they argue, Egwene asks what Mat had shouted when they charged the Trollocs. Moiraine says he spoke the ancient battle cry of Manetheren, and its last king. For a moment, Rand thinks that would mean Mat is the one the Dark One wants; he immediately feels guilty for this thought.
Moiraine uses one last weave to send their scent and tracks in a different direction. They ride north until they come to the ruins of a city. Moiraine tells them it was once Aridhol, but now it is known as Shadar Logoth.
For just two chapters, there's a lot that happens. First, this starts the long and grueling rivalry between Moiraine and Nynaeve. It's very petty—even though I love Nynaeve as a character. Although, from her point of view, she's used to being in charge of everyone and everything in the Two Rivers, so obviously she would see Moiraine as a threat to her position. Still, that doesn't make her right, as we quickly learn as the series progresses.
I think it's funny that Nynaeve and Moiraine join in the dancing in the common room. Our experience with Aes Sedai later in the story shows us that Aes Sedai are women—especially the Greens—and are capable of enjoying things like dancing. However, it must have been a shock for our ta'veren. And it's also kind of sad how Nynaeve wouldn't be able to join in festivals back home. She knows how to dance—she's not the one fumbling the steps—so that must mean she would have liked to do it, but it would be scandalous if she did. Nynaeve has a lot of responsibility in the Two Rivers, but she is still just a young woman. Look at how much she missed out. If she never left, she wouldn't have married, for one thing. I think this is a theme that reoccurs within the series, one that talks about the price you pay, or the sacrifices you give, when you are in charge.
This is nothing new, but I still want to point it out. When Rand sees the Fade in the hallway, the Fade smiles. We know that Fade's don't smile. So, this is a clear indication that this Fade is Shaidar Haran. Robert Jordan did confirm this in an interview (the Week 23 Question). Or at least, an early version of Shaidar Haran.
The point I want to make about the smiling Myrddraal is this: why did he give away his presence? He showed himself, revealing to Lan that the Shadow knew their whereabouts, causing the group to flee the city and escape the Shadow's clutches. Again. Before A Memory of Light came out, I was a big advocate of Moridin being a double agent. Why? Because of stuff like this. The Shadow's agents bungle their own plans so spectacularly that it seems they are working for the Light.
Along those same lines, I have a slight tangent to go off on. Before Winter Break, a colleague of mine saw me reading my copy of The Eye of the World—I've been carrying it around with me everywhere to sneak in reading whenever I can. She hadn't heard of it, and was looking for something to read over the break. She said she'd get it. For the past month and a half, she's been enjoying The Eye of the World. Whenever I pass her, she always says things like, "Rand and Mat just got on a boat," or "Perrin was able to meet up with Egwene," or "They just got captured by the Whitecloaks." It's so exciting to see someone reading the series for the first time. And she's very perceptive about picking up a lot of the foreshadowing.
But, there was one thing she missed completely, which is why I'm brining it up now. When the group escaped from Baerlon, she confided in me that either Moiraine or Nynaeve was evil and letting the Shadow know their whereabouts. And I thought about it for a moment, and realized how easy it is to come to that conclusion. As I've said before, it's hard for me to recall what I thought on my first read through. But I'm sure I thought something likewise.
Robert Jordan once again shows his masterful storytelling skills. If Nynaeve hadn't arrived at the Stag and Lion, we would have pondered about who else could have led the Shadowspawn to their location. We would have known instantly that it was Fain. But with Nynaeve serving as a decoy to distract us, Fain's participation in Shadow's deeds goes unnoticed. At least for now. Just thinking about that, and the intricacy needed to fool the reader so completely, leaves me in awe of Mr. Jordan once again.
And back on track. With Shaidar Haran in the hallway, why didn't the Myrddraal kill Rand? He drew back his sword, but stopped. Is it an elaborate act to scare the farmboy? The Shadow doesn't know that Rand is the one yet. Or, at least Ba'alzamon doesn't know which is which. Would Shaidar Haran—the Dark One's avatar in the world—be able to tell? He doesn't seem to. In fact, he's more interested in the others than in Rand. But why almost kill the boy, then stop? For dramatic flair? Perhaps. Most likely, I think the Dark One is unsure about the three boys. Since it doesn't know who is who, it could be a huge mistake to kill one of them. And despite his boasting, I don't think the Dark One could have them in death.
Another point to emphasis in this section is how naive the Two Rivers folk are. When Nynaeve accuses Moiraine of bringing harm to the innkeeper, she's completely off base. And the fact that the others agree—Perrin insists that Moiraine should have done something—shows how soft and trusting they are. It's good that the characters start out this way. These wholesome roots are what allow Rand to come back from the edge of the abyss. And it's what makes the characters' growth so appealing. They are so innocent! And the world around them eats them up and spits them out by the end of the first book, let alone the end of the series. Look how far each of them has come since these humble beginnings. And seeing the transformation first hand lets us, the readers, feel so much closer to them.
In Chapter 18, we have Mat's first use of the Old Tongue. And notice that only Egwene feels like she should understand the words. I've always thought Nynaeve might be Eldrene reborn, so it would make sense if she understood. But why Egwene? And it's easy to see why Mat was the one to start spouting it in the first place. We will see as our reread continues that Mat's past memories appear before his trip to the Eelfinn, so there is a strong possibility that one of Mat's former lives resurfaced here too.
And speaking of Mat, there's a brief foreshadowing of his hanging in this chapter. After fighting the Trollocs, Mat was the only rider to get pulled off his horse. Afterwards, he "tossed a noose away from him with a shudder, gathered his bow, and scrambled into his saddle unaided, though rubbing at his throat." Later, I'll point out the foreshadowing of him losing his eye. It's incredible how much future information we can gather off this first book!
That's all I've got for this week. Let me know if there's something I missed, or something we need to discuss further. Join us next time for a trip into Shadar Logoth. Thanks for reading!