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 14 - 16.
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 14, "The Stag and Lion"
The innkeeper—Master Fitch—takes the company further into the inn. He talks about things going on in the city, about the miners come down from the mountains and the town being full. Lan goes off to the common room to see what can be learned. Moiraine asks Master Fitch about the Whitecloaks in the city. The innkeeper says they are only making trouble for the Governor. Moiraine asks after Min, but then Rand, Mat, Perrin, and Thom are lead off to the men's baths.
As they are getting clean, Mat almost lets slip about Trollocs to the bath attendant. Lan comes in and quickly dismisses the attendant and berates Mat for not holding his tongue. They are not supposed to even think about Trollocs. Perrin asks about Trollocs in Saldaea and Lan yells at them again.
When they leave the bath, Rand sees Moiraine talking to a young woman with short hair, and dressed in a man's coat and breeches. They go to a private dining room. Rand has realized how they can trust no one but themselves, and tries to make up with Egwene; she turns her back on him and he swallows his apology. After Master Fitch brings them dinner, Moiraine asks Lan what news he has. Lan says there was a battle in Ghealdan—but he couldn't find out if the Aes Sedai involved were killed, captured, or alive. There also doesn't seem to be Myrddraal or Trollocs around the city. Moiraine says they will spend two nights at the Stag and Lion then leave the next morning. The Emond's Fielders are pleased with this prospect.
Rand is sharing a room with Lan and Thom. Despite the excitement of the common room, Rand lays down in bed and goes to sleep.
He wakes up in a stone corridor. He walks for some time, with no change in his surroundings. He tries to open a door and enters a room with a balcony that exposes a sky with swirling clouds of black, and gray, and red, and orange—no natural sky. The stones of the fireplace seem to be made of people's faces, streaming in agony. There is a mirror on the wall, and Rand's image is distorted and fuzzy.
Suddenly, there is a man standing in the room in front of the fireplace. He is good-looking and dressed in dark, fine clothes. The man greets Rand, and when he does, the man's eyes and mouth become open furnaces filled with flames. Rand screams and runs from the room, falling into the room opposite. The man stands in front of the fireplace in the second room too. Rand tries to leave, but the corridor is gone. The door closes, locking him in the room.
The man tells Rand that he must be thirsty, and he can drink from the goblet on the table. Rand reaches for it and lifts it to his mouth, then thinks better of it. He refuses, and the man is obviously displeased. Rand asks the man what he wants, and who he is. The man answers, "Some call me Ba'alzamon." Rand frantically tires to flee from the room, because Ba'alzamon is another name for the Dark One.
Ba'alzamon asks if Rand is the one, and says that Rand can never hide from him. Does Rand expect power and glory? Does Rand expect the Eye of the World to serve him? Ba'alzamon says the White Tower would use Rand, that the Aes Sedai have manipulated him like a puppet, leading his father like a stallion and his mother a brood mare. He says Rand will be used like Davian, Yurian Stonebow, Guaire Amalasan, Raolin Darksbane, and Logain.
Rand shouts the Ba'alzamon is sealed with the Forsaken, forever. Ba'alzamon says he was never bound. That he told Lews Therin to kill his family, that he shattered the Second Covenant, that he caused Artur Hawkwing to doom his own empire. Rand denounces the whole event as a dream. Ba'alzamon laughs at him and breaks the back of a rat on the table. He then points a finger at Rand, and Rand's back begins to bend.
Rand wakes up from the nightmare and wonders if Moiraine could help keep them away. He scoffs at himself, realizing bad dreams are better than the Aes Sedai's help.
Chapter 15, "Strangers and Friends"
Rand wakes the next morning alone in his room. Lan and Thom are already out. He had more dreams but can't remember any but the first. He goes downstairs for breakfast. The cook gives him something to eat, and begins to explain that a dozen rats were found with their backs broken. After he's done eating, he goes to find Thom, and ask advice. Thom is busy in the common room, so Rand goes up to Perrin's room. Perrin isn't feeling well, and hasn't left the inn. Rand asks Perrin if he had the same dream; he has. They conclude that Mat must have, as well. Rand tries to cheer Perrin up, but is unable to do so. Rand leaves the inn to explore the city.
Out on the street, Rand is overcome by the press of the crowd. He sits off to the side of the road in front of the inn, trying to clear his head. He has a headache. Min arrives and makes fun of him a bit. She tells him she knows about Moiraine, and that she sees "pieces of the Pattern." Rand asks what she sees around their group. Min mostly sees sparks battling a great shadow. She explains some of the things she saw around Egwene, Thom, Lan, Perrin, and Mat. Rand finally asks her what she sees around him. Min says a few things, which don't make sense to her or Rand, but she says she will see him again. Frightened by her, Rand runs off into the city.
Rand looks around the city, and is surprised at how the people don't look any different from back home. He sees Padan Fain and chases the peddler down. He tells Fain that everyone thought he was dead. Fain says the Trollocs burned his wagon and he couldn't get to his horses. Rand tells him they are staying at the Stag and Lion, and that Moiraine could help. Afraid of Moiraine, Fain runs off and Rand pursues. He bumps into Mat. Rand asks Mat if he had the same dream of Ba'alzamon; Mat has. Mat says they can ask Thom for advice, but not to tell Moiraine. As they're returning to the inn, Rand tells Mat about the things Min can see.
Suddenly, Mat points out three Whitecloaks walking down the street. Mat disappears into a shop and uses his sling to make barrels fall off a wagon, spraying the Whitecloaks with mud. Feeling giddy, Rand laughs at the Whitecloaks, who accost him and threaten him. Rand burnishes his sword, and the Whitecloaks see it is heron-marked. Luckily, the city Watch arrives and chases the Whitecloaks away. Mat says Rand must be going crazy to behave so with the Children of the Light.
They find Thom as they go back to the Stag and Lion. Both boys tell Thom of their dreams, and he asks them for all the details. He says it is better to keep this from Moiraine, for the time being. They rush back to the inn to make sure Perrin doesn't tell her. At the door, Perrin meets them, flustered, saying that Nynaeve has just arrived. They go in to see her.
Chapter 16, "The Wisdom"
As they enter the inn, Min grabs Rand and pulls him to the side. She says Nynaeve is a part of it—a part of their group. Before, three or four of them had to be in the same room together, but now she saw sparks with just Moiraine and Nynaeve present.
They go into the same dining room, and Nynaeve is there with Moiraine, Egwene, and Lan. Rand, Mat, Perrin, and Thom enter—the boys and Egwene sitting at the table between the two women. Lan asks how she found them, and Nynaeve tells him that she followed his tracks. Lan compliments her abilities, and she blushes. Moiraine and Nynaeve argue about whether the Emond's Fielders should go on or go home. Rand says they need to go on, even if there is only a chance that it would bring the Trollocs back.
Moiraine dismisses everyone from the room, leaving only herself and Nynaeve to chat. They wait outside the door, and when Nynaeve comes out, only Rand remains. Nynaeve comments about how he's grown in just a week. He asks what Moiraine said. Nynaeve tells him that the Aes Sedai wondered if any of the boys were born outside the Two Rivers. Then, Rand realizes that Tam's fever dream must be at least part true. He tells Nynaeve about it, and Nynaeve confirms that Tam and Kari arrived in the Two Rivers with an infant. He asks if Mat or Perrin were born outside the Two Rivers, but immediately says it's not his business. He asks her what she's going to do, and she replies that they'll just have to see.
Sorry for the long synopsis; a lot happened in these chapters. There's a lot to discuss, as well, so I'll try to do it chronologically.
First, Rand thinks when Lan mentions Logain, that the Warder talked "as if he knew him." I believe we've touched on this before, but it's worth mentioning again. Of course, we know the end of the series, and nothing has come from a relationship between Lan and Logain, but it's curious to think that their paths might have crossed. Logain is a minor noble, and Lan and Moiraine have traveled far and wide, so it's not farfetched to think they could have met.
There's also something in the scene when Moiraine tells the Emond's Fielders that they will stay in Baerlon for two nights. She smiles, and turns to Lan and says, "What does Master Andra say to that?" The tone it's told in really humanizes her. She's giving the country folk a chance in the city, a treat, and she's enjoying giving it to them. The cute, almost banter, between her and Lan lets us see she isn't all bad. She's able to feel joy and happiness. I really think that this shows us an Aes Sedai who is capable of caring. Elaida, for instance, would never feel pleasure out of seeing their grinning faces. (And we see more of this in a few chapters, when Moiraine actually dances in the common room.)
Moving on to the dream sequence. This is the first time Rand is taken to the place with the bizarre sky. He revisits it several times throughout this book, and a few times in the later books. When Rand first had dreams that weren't dreams in Chapter 9, "Tellings of the Wheel," I questioned whether he was in a dreamshard or in Tel'aran'rhiod. After reading this passage, I'm convinced the first a dreamshard—controlled by Ishamael—and the latter Tel'aran'rhiod. Dreamshards, we find out in A Memory of Light, are a bit of a person's own memories and personalities. They can shape it any way they want. That makes sense for the first dream, as Ishamael would be showing Rand images to frighten him and make him suspicious of the White Tower. However, when Rand enters the room with the balcony and faces in the fireplace, it seems like Ishamael is less in control.
Ishamael shows that he, in some ways, has power over the world around them. When he breaks the rat's back, he forces Rand to look:
“Do you think you are safe from me in your dreams? Look!” Ba'alzamon pointed commandingly, and Rand's head turned to follow, although he did not turn it; he did not want to turn.
However, if Ishamael was in complete control, he would have force Rand to drink the goblet. This suggest Tel'aran'rhiod to me.
On that topic, what was in the goblet? Surely not poison. We know how much Ishamael wants Rand, needs Rand, to fulfill certain prophecies and schemes of the Shadow. Ishamael needs the Dragon in order to complete his plans. While there is a lot of back and forth among the other Forsaken (kill him; don't kill him), Ishamael knows the importance of Rand and the balance he brings. Rand's death this early wouldn't have worked towards Ishamael's advantage.
Maybe it would have been something akin to forkroot? Something that would dull Rand's channeling? That would make it easier for Ishamael to narrow down which boy he needed. If he gave it to Mat and Perrin, nothing would happen. The only problem is, I don't know if the Shadow is aware of forkroot. Nynaeve uses it on Moghedien (The Fires of Heaven, Chapter 55, "The Threads Burn"), but it doesn't say if she knew of it before Ronde Macura made it well known.
It's been so long since my first read through of this book, so it's hard for me to remember what I was feeling then. I wonder if the reader is supposed to believe that Ba'alzamon is the Dark One. Rand certainly believes—though Thom doesn't seem to be nearly as afraid when the boys tell him. To the reader, we figure out soon—if we didn't doubt right away—that Ba'alzamon is really Ishamael. Looking at this chapter, though, it's incredibly obvious. Look at the phrases Ishamael uses when tell Rand he was never bound in Shayol Ghul:
“You are bound—”
“Fool, I have never been bound!” The fires of his face roared so hot that Rand stepped back, sheltering behind his hands. The sweat on his palms dried from the heat. "I stood at Lews Therin Kinslayer's shoulder when he did the deed that named him. It was I who told him to kill his wife, and his children, and all his blood, and every living person who loved him or whom he loved. It was I who gave him the moment of sanity to know what he had done. Have you ever heard a man scream his soul away, worm? He could have struck at me, then. He could not have won, but he could have tried. Instead he called down his precious One Power upon himself, so much that the earth split open and reared up Dragonmount to mark his tomb.
The prologue is probably far from the reader's mind at this point, but it's clearly stated that this man, Ba'alzamon, stood at Lews Therin's side when he killed his family, saw him use the One Power to kill himself. Elan Morin Tedroni was the only person who saw that. And while we don't know he's Ishamael, we can ferret out he's definitely not the Dark One. (Also, Elan Morin uses the name Shai'tan as a curse. I'm sure the Dark One wouldn’t swear by his own name.)
And one last thing on the subject of Ishamael needing Rand, why else would he give Rand the hint about the Eye of the World? That's like giving away the location to the bank you are going to rob to the police. It doesn't make sense. They could have tried to make it a trap—with Balthamel and Aginor waiting—yet they say it was Mat's dagger that led them there, not any plan amongst the Forsaken. But letting this information slip allows Rand to not only kill two Forsaken, but also get the Dragon Banner, the Horn of Valere, and save the battle at Tarwin's Gap. Seems pretty stupid for someone of the Shadow to help the Light so much.
One last idle thought about this sequence… Is this room within Moridin's fortress that's inside Shayol Ghul?
In the next chapter, Rand gets his first reaction to touching saidin. The time span in-between was about eight or nine days. As he channels a few more times, the span becomes smaller. I love how it made him giddy this time. It's a sign to the reader that something is wrong—and Robert Jordan does such a wonderful job of juxtaposing this to the explanation of Nynaeve's first channeling later—but we don't have enough information yet to guess what it is.
This is also where we see real differences between Mat, Rand, and Perrin. Their first time in a city, and Perrin won't leave the inn. Rand—who had the same dreams—forces himself to go out, but Perrin isn't able to do that. He says, "I wish I was back home." Mat doesn't even need to struggle to put on a normal face and act fine. This sets up Perrin for being a sort of guy who doesn't like change, who will always want to be as normal as possible. He says he knows his duty, but he fights against it just as hard—if not harder—than Rand and Mat do. And this is one of the reasons he really struggled with leadership in the later books. Many people comment how whiny he got, but if you look at his roots, at his core, you can see why he resisted so hard.
And here we are introduced to Min and her viewings. Her whole purpose though the series is to give hints to the readers. The things she tells Rand never really help him. They are for us only, to try and piece together as much as we can. I love this ability; it's what's kept a lot of theories and discussions going over the course of twenty-three years. However, some of them are still a bit fuzzy—to me, at least.
When Min says Egwene "won't refuse it," I don't think it just means begin Aes Sedai. I think it's referring to being raised Amyrlin.
The images around Lan I've talked about several times before—mostly insisting he would survive the Last Battle. So I'll just say that they show only the future, so he and Nynaeve will have at least once child after Tarmon Gai'don.
Perrin's were obvious from the start—as soon as we learned the truth of who Faile really was. Mat's too are pretty straightforward, after Towers of Midnight came out. For Rand, the only one that still eludes me is the "bloody hand and a white-hot iron." The bloody hand could be when his is blown off by Semirhage, but I'm not sure about the white-hot iron.
And with Nynaeve's arrival, we see real signs of ta'veren-ness at work in the world.
At any rate, I could see it would be another day, perhaps more, before they came to any decision, and somehow ... somehow I was sure we did not dare wait that long. So I called the Women's Circle together and told them what had to be done.
This could be Nynaeve's manifestation of Listening to the Wind—how she knows that emotional storms are coming—but I bet it's just Rand, and to a lesser extent, Mat and Perrin, tugging at her. Nynaeve is one of the most important characters in the story. The things she accomplished helped Rand to win. Without her, many things would have changed.
That's all for this week. Let me know if there's something I glossed over. And please join me next time as we continue the beginning of this wonderful journey. Thanks for reading!