Sorry for the long delay, and welcome back to another edition of "WoT If?", Dragonmount's weekly theory blog. With school coming to a close, things have been busy for me, but summer should give me more time to keep up with the reread. Today we are continuing with chapters 26 and 27 of The Eye of the World.
Chapter 26, "Whitebridge"
Rand, Mat, and Thom are still aboard Spray. They are heading down to Whitebridge. Thom is giving one of his gleeman lessons: playing the flute. Rand has improved on the instrument, but Mat shows little skill. The sailors on deck laugh at Mat's attempts and it leaves him sour. Rand reminds Thom that they don't have to try so hard—since once they find Moiraine, they will go to Tar Valon—but Thom doubts the others are still alive. Rand insists they are. He looks to Mat for back up, but Mat agrees with Thom, saying they might be dead.
A sailor calls out that Whitebridge is up ahead. Rand isn't distracted by that, and instead, stares at Mat, shocked he could admit such awful things about their friends. Mat eventually blushes and looks away. As they pull towards the harbor, Bayle Domon joins them. They all marvel at the White Bridge spanning over the river. Rand thinks they look like glass, but Domon tells him it's not, that it's stronger and never slick. Thom says it must be from the Age of Legends, but Domon disagrees, saying not everything is Aes Sedai work. Rand thinks for all his talk of seeing the wonders in the world, Domon is still afraid of Aes Sedai. As Rand looks at the bridge, he sees a ripple run through the structure.
As they dock, Domon kicks Gleb off the boat, saying he won't work on any vessel again. Gelb leaves in a hurry. Mat and Rand gather their things, and Rand scans the crowd at the dock. He doesn't see Moiraine or Lan. Thom warns them to keep out of trouble, they don't want anyone remembering they were there. They get ready to disembark and Domon stops to talk with them. He offers them money to travel down south with him to Illian. Rand refuses, but Thom says they will think about it.
They go into town and find an inn at the base of the White Bridge. They talk with the innkeeper—Thom leading the discussion and trying to weasel out useful information without seeming too interested. The innkeeper tells them that Logain was defeated as he tried to make for Tear. Logain will be put on parade to Tar Valon, passing through Caemlyn on the way north. The innkeeper also says that the Illianers have proclaimed the hunt for the Horn. This makes Thom stop and think a moment, so Rand tells the innkeeper that they are looking for friends that might have passed through. Thom describes them and the innkeeper promptly tells them to leave—that a crazy man was asking after the same people, and after that a man in black asked after them too. Rand knows the man in black was a Myrddraal.
They start to panic a bit—Thom insisting they go south to Illian, Rand saying they needed to go to Caemlyn. Mat, after a moment, sides with Rand, and tells Thom he can go to Illian if he wants, but they are going on to Caemlyn. Thom laughs at their ignorance of the world, and of the White Tower, and Mat grips the ruby-hilted dagger menacingly. Noise from the other side of the common room pulls them up short.
Gelb is telling other sailors that Rand, Mat, and Thom are Darkfriends, and that Trollocs are after the three of them. Thom realizes that Gelb's story will circulate around town, reaching the ears of the Halfman. They need to go, and quickly. Thom divides the money between them, and they sneak quietly out of the inn.
Out in the alley, they want to get out of the city without rousing suspicion. Mat wonders why Thom is helping them, since he'd be safer if he left. Thom confesses that he had a nephew named Owyn, who was "killed" by Aes Sedai. He wants to help these boys escape Aes Sedai since he didn't help Owyn. Rand notices Thom has tears in his eyes as he says it. He tells the boys to wait, then leaves the alley. He returns a short time later with different cloaks for the boys to wear. They are to leave the alley one by one, but always keeping each other in sight.
Out in the open, they spy a Myrddraal across the square. Thom tells them not to look at its face. Rand wants to run, but Thom says they will never outrun it. With a quick growl about wishing he'd never gotten involved, Thom thrusts his flute and harp at Rand. He tells them to go to the Queen's Blessing, an inn in Caemlyn. Then he tells them to run. He yells it over and over as he rushes at the Fade. He has his daggers out, and they flash blue as they meet the Myrddraal's own blade. Rand and Mat run, and they hear Thom's screams as they do. Most of the other townsfolk run too, so it's about a mile out of town before the boys stop running.
Rand stops, but Mat says they have to keep going. Mat says Thom is dead. Rand slowly nods, then they get up and start walking towards Caemlyn.
Chapter 27, "Shelter from the Storm"
Perrin, Egwene, and Elyas are still with the band of Tinkers. Perrin is irked at how slow they are moving, but Elyas doesn't want to leave and push on. Still, Perrin admires how full of happiness, and music and dance, the Tuatha'an are. Elyas is uncomfortable around the People, but when Perrin brings up the idea of going their own way, Elyas insists on staying. Perrin worries about a Fade finding them, and murdering all the Tinkers, but Elays says they need to wait. Perrin wants to know how he knows, and he says it's just a feeling. Despite these reassurances, Perrin cannot relax.
One night, the women of the camp do a slow, seductive dance. Perrin blushes and tries to turn away, but they dance in front of him again. Because of his embarrassment, they do the same dance every night. Egwene learns the dance too. Perrin almost scolds her for it, but thinks better of it. A bit angrily, he asks her if she's having fun. She has adopted a new philosophy: whatever will happen will happen, so enjoy the good moments when they are here. She runs off with Aram, who flashes a triumphant smile at Perrin.
In an act of defiance to the Way of the Leaf, Perrin leaves his cloak open, showing off his axe. Elyas grins at him, which almost makes it cover it back up, but he doesn't. He can't comprehend how people can just run from the evils of the world.
Perrin continues to have dreams—but not the ones like before. They are mostly nightmares, of Fades attacking the Tuatha'an. And his ability to feel the wolves increases each day. The wolves are ready to go, and want to get away from the Tinker camp. Perrin feels the same way, an eagerness to just get it over with, to be on his way to Caemlyn and Moiraine and answers.
In one dream, Perrin is in Mistress Luhhan's kitchen, a wolf at his feet. The wolf growls, and Ba'alzamon appears. He scornfully asks if the wolf is Perrin's protection, then sets the animal on fire. Perrin rushes to try and save it, but as he touches it, it turns to ash. He yells at Ba'alzamon to leave him alone. Ba'alzamon mentions the Eye of the World again, that it would consume Perrin. Ba'alzamon opens his hand towards Perrin and a raven flies out, piercing his left eye.
Perrin wakes up from the nightmare, remembering the agony of the bird's attack. Elyas is beside him and the wolves are sending images of hatred and fire. Elyas says it's time to go. They pack up say their goodbyes to the Tinkers. Aram tries to convince Egwene to stay, but she refuses. During the goodbye ceremony Eylas, after a moment of hesitation, completes the parting words which startles Raen and Ila.
As they leave, the wolves keep sending images of the dream Perrin had. He learns he can shut the wolves out, and determines to never let them back in.
Sorry for the longwinded synopsis of chapter 26. There was a lot of information that transpired, a lot character building, but not a lot of things to talk about.
First, I do wonder if the White Bridge can be, as Doman said, something other than Aes Sedai work. We assume everything—every marvel—was done with the One Power, but we forget they had pretty advanced technology in the Age of Legends as well. It's possible that it wasn't made with the One Power. Is it likely? No. But it is possible. I think it would be neat to speculate on what things in Randland weren't made by Aes Sedai. The Horn of Valere, for example, was from Ages before the Age of Legends, and definitely wasn't made by Aes Sedai. We will have to talk about the Horn at a later time—probably somewhere around the end of The Great Hunt—but I do wonder where that came from also.
What about the reputation of Morgase from the innkeeper in Whitebridge. From early on in this book, we get a lot of positive ideas of Andor's ruling family. Even those who don't like Aes Sedai—which is mostly everyone—still back Morgase as Queen. I think this is important later, when Rand meets her. We have already established that Morgase is kind and just, the common people love her. So when she lets Rand go, despite the warning from Elaida, it fits in with the character we've heard about. This is interesting. We see the first of only a few rulers who are decent people. The High Lords and Ladies in Tear are awful. Those in power in Cairhien are almost worse. In Andor, we have a ruler who does have the common folk's interest at heart. This is deep in Andor's roots, and deep within the roots of the Two Rivers. This can be where those characteristics can be traced too. It also shows us how Elayne grew up to be a great Queen as well. (On the other hand, can it be as Minnielikes theorizes, that it's just because they are pretty?)
Now, moving on to the tragic part—or so we think. The first time around, I was convinced Thom was dead. Moiraine is pretty confident he's alive, but who trusts an Aes Sedai? Still, this part is such a wonderful scene within the series. We've only known Thom for a few weeks, and we (and Rand and mostly Mat) trust him. But Mat does bring up some interesting doubts. We should be wondering why he's helping them too. And I'm glad that Mat finally voices those opinions. Thom's story of Owyn really explains a lot about his motivation, now and later in the series. This is one of the main forces that drive him. At this point, his character gets complex. I love that there are tears in his eyes when he talks about Owyn. I love that this conflict motivates him so much. He hasn't gotten over it, even though it's been so long. It explains so much about the kind of man he is. He's well traveled and used to be a Court Bard, but family matters, and these boys from a small village matter.
I love Thom from this moment on.
While Mat and Rand have Thom as a sort of mentor figure, I love Perrin's interaction with Elyas for the same reason. Both older men are world-wise, passing on their knowledge to our poor country bumpkins. Look at how much experience and growth the ta'veren get because of these men. And when these men appear again, the poor country boys are the ones in charge. It's humorous, as only Robert Jordan can do it.
The time in the Tinker camp shows growth for the characters as well. I really think it's interesting that Egwene has become so logical in her thinking about the future. Perhaps Moiraine's constant "The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills" has seeped into her. But it's a very grown-up mentality to have, that what will happen will happen, so why worry about it. This helps later when she takes on the leadership in the Tower. From such an early age, she is prepared to take the world as it is, and try her hardest to adapt to it. It's so admirable. I've never been particularly fond of Egwene until she becomes Amyrlin, but this shows some of the woman she will become.
I've mentioned elsewhere that Brandon Sanderson talked about the possibility of Perrin accepting the Way of the Leaf, and how it would never happen. And we see it pretty clearly here, his defiant nature, his refusal to take things lying down. The fact that he openly displays his axe isn't how we'd expect this overly polite boy to act. This shows us how bold he can get when he believes in a cause (can we say Blue Ajah?). He gets sidetracked a lot by Faile in the later books, but in his core, he is so strong and determined. He brings so much to his group of followers because of these traits. He makes an excellent leader because of these traits.
I still wish he could have found the Way of the Leaf. Can you imagine how the people of Saldaea would react to a King who followed the Way? It's so funny to think about! And what's also interesting to think about is that I never, ever thought Egwene would become a Tuatha'an. That's strange, isn't it? Egwene hasn't done anything that's considered "violent," but Perrin has. Yet he's the one I think would convert of the two. Why is that? I have no idea.
Like I said, not much to speculate on. These chapters moved the plot forward, and hinted a bit, but there's nothing too dramatic to glean from them. A bit about how they'll grow up, but not much else. Still, I love taking a look at these early years, and seeing how different the characters are. They are so young and naive here. Too trusting of everyone. They are lucky the Wheel was looking out for them.
That's all for this edition. Join us next time for the next few chapters of The Eye of the World. Thanks for reading!