Welcome back to another edition of Dragonmount's Theory Blog, "WoT If?". We're continuing our reread of The Eye of the World, with chapters 33 and 34.
Synopsis, taken from Encyclopaedia-WoT:
Rand and Mat are getting a ride from a farmer named Hyam Kinch. Mat's eyes are getting better and Rand seems to be feeling better, although it has not been mentioned yet when he was sick. A group of the Queen's Guard pass by going the other way. Hyam Kinch tells them the Queen's Guard rarely goes further than Breen's Spring. He is surprised that neither Rand nor Mat recognizes them. The farmer finally stops and lets the boys off when he reaches his road home telling them they are two days from Caemlyn. The next village is Carysford. Mat acts suspicious of the farmer as he drops them off.
The time shifts back to the night at The Dancing Cartman. They stagger away from the inn and find some bushes to hide in. They both fall asleep soon. Rand starts dreaming:
He is back at Four Kings. He goes inside The Dancing Cartman. Howal Gode is there, only recognizable from his clothes. His face is charred. Rand realizes Gode is dead. Then Ba'alzamon appears and the two start talking. Ba'alzamon sends Gode away to his fate. His final words to Rand are "You are mine, youngling, alive or dead. The Eye of the World will never serve you. I mark you as mine." A ball of flame explodes in Rand's face.
Rand wakes up and notices Mat is having a nightmare. Rand wakes Mat up. They do not sleep the rest of the night. They start walking at daybreak. They pass through a village and then past that, Alpert Mull gives them a ride in his wagon. Times are so hard he must buy hay from Old Bain. He lets them get off just as he heads off the main road, and gives each of the boys a woolen scarf. At dusk, the boys arrive at Market Sheran. There is only one inn. They go in and are greeted by the innkeeper, Rulan Allwine. Rand and Mat are shocked at the price he is charging. The next day they have breakfast in the common room when a boy comes in and sits at their table. His name is Paitr. Mat figures out that he is a Darkfriend. Paitr tries to get them to wait, but Rand and Mat get up to leave. Paitr then yells out "You won't get away. No matter how strong you are, the Great Lord of the Dark is stronger. The Shadow will swallow you!" An old man inside the inn hears Paitr and Paitr flees. Rand and Mat also leave quickly. They get six rides during that day and they hear rumors about what happened in Market Sheran. One farmer tells them it is the best story he heard since Ackley Farren got drunk. They enter another village (Andor Village 1) and enter The Queen's Man inn. The innkeeper, Master Inlow, at first thinks that they are on their way to Caemlyn to see Logain. Rand and Mat give their spiel to the innkeeper about performing. He gets ready to clear a room for them when Rand gets very ill. The innkeeper lets them go into the stable. Mat goes to find someone to help, but the local midwife, Mother Brune, is out. Rand sleeps fitfully and has nightmares:
Ba'alzamon and Myrddraal follow him.
Egwene tells him they are all dead.
Moiraine tells him only the Aes Sedai can save him from the Dark One.
Thom asks who will find him first, the Red Ajah or the Black Ajah.
Lan, Perrin, Marin al'Vere, Bayle Domon, Master Fitch, Min and Tam all seem to blame him for their troubles.
Rand wakes the next day when he hears the door open. There is a woman entering the stable. Rand wakes Mat up. She comes over and asks if Rand is all right. She bends over as if to help Rand and then she lunges toward Mat. She has tried to stab Mat and now her dagger is stuck in a post and Mat now has the ruby dagger up against her throat. Her dagger is blackening the wood around it. Mat prepares to kill her, but Rand convinces him not to. Instead, they lock her up in the tack room. They then leave town. About a mile out of town, Hyam Kinch gives them a ride.
Rand and Mat are a day away from The Queen's Man. It is three nights since Four Kings, two since Market Sheran and one since the Darkfriend woman. They are approaching Carysford. The town is next to the River Cary and there is a bridge over the river. Rand and Mat pass through the village and spent the night in haystacks. The next morning they notice that the road to Caemlyn is filled with people going to see the false Dragon. Merchants and Queen's Guard pass them several times. They pass through two more towns. At the third town (Andor Village 2), which they reach at nighttime, they pause near an inn, the Goose and Crown. At one end is a man on a cart, and at the other end are two other men. One of the two men walks away, and Rand realizes that it is a Fade. The man on the cart is Almen Bunt and the man returning to the inn is Raimun Holdwin, the innkeeper. The two hold a short conversation and it is apparent that Bunt is suspicious of Holdwin. Holdwin says that his "friend" is looking for two young men, one of whom carries a stolen heron-marked blade. Holdwin goes inside his inn. Rand and Mat approach Bunt and ask for a ride to Caemlyn and Bunt agrees.
During the ride, Bunt tells the boys a little about Queen Morgase. She has an Aes Sedai advisor named Elaida. She has a daughter named Elayne and a son named Gawyn. Luc is dead and Tigraine is gone. Taringail Damodred married Morgase. Taringail is also dead. Rand falls to sleep and has nightmares. In one nightmare, Thom tells him, "The Dragon is one with the land; and the land is one with the Dragon." He awakes in the morning, and Bunt tells them that they have arrived at Caemlyn.
This is the chapter where we get the awkward flashback. I think if you read from chapter 31 all the way through 34 in one sitting, it wouldn't be as awkward. Robert Jordan established a liking for this sort of flashback all the way back in chapter 13, "Choices." As a writing style, it's an interesting tactic: establishing that they wound up at their final destination, then explaining what happened along the way—I think the line is something like "the week-long trip to Barelon was uneventful" then Jordan goes into detail about what happened on all the days. But, when used through four chapters, it gets a bit difficult to keep everything straight.
Here, chapter 31 starts with the end of chapter 33, with Alpert Mull giving them the scarves. And on top of that flashback, chapter 33 starts with them riding with Hyam Kinch, then tells how they got to that point. So, we get a flashback within a flashback. It's understandable that some find it confusing. But if you're still having a hard time getting your head around it, the WOT FAQ has a wonderful page that details the timeline of these four chapters.
First, we get the aftermath of Rand channeling the lightning at the Dancing Cartman. He gets ill a few nights later before they are going to play at an inn. The innkeeper lets them sleep in the stables. Rand has a bunch of fever dreams. But are they from his own mind, based on is own worst thoughts, or can these be influenced by Ba'alzamon? The most important one being Thom talking about the Red Ajah after him.
We talked last week if Rand might be wondering if he can channel. We don't really have a good comparison to that sort of situation in our world, so it's hard to find something to use as an analogy. We see Nynaeve go through that sort of denial earlier. But it's a hundred times worse for Rand. Some people think women who can channel are evil; everyone thinks men who can channel are evil. But could this dream of Thom and the Red Ajah show that Rand's thinking about it? Or is it another trick from Ba'alzamon, trying to force Rand into his clutches?
He has to be wondering. Even if he's not thinking it about himself, he has to wonder why the Dark One would be after them. He would have to contemplate why Moiraine would be helping him. He and Mat have a bunch of time on the road together; a lot of time to reflect and think. He may still be in denial, but I think the thoughts are in his brain at this point, that he might be able to channel.
He also brings up the idea of the Light's luck again. He thinks, "He really was feeling better, he realized. It was a wonder to get over being sick so fast. More than that, it was a gift of the Light. It has to be the Light. It has to be." This shows how much he's trying to convince himself that he's fine—and Jordan is trying to signal the readers that there's more than meets the eye going on here.
During the first part of chapter 33—pre-flashback—we find out that the Two Rivers is part of Andor. We could tell that from the map at the beginning, but this is where it first comes into play in the series. It seems like such a throw away comment—"Rand wondered what Master al'Vere would say if someone told him the Two Rivers was part of some Queen's Realm. The Queen of Andor, he supposed."—but this idea has such a huge role as the books continue. We see Perrin struggle with this the most, but Mat and Rand also encounter it.
When the story finally gets back to chronological order, running away from the Dancing Cartman, I love how insecure Mat gets about being left behind. The dagger from Shadar Logoth has really messed up his mind, for him to even think that Rand would leave him. The paranoia he feels fuels that—and I've no doubt that Mat would have considered leaving Rand behind at some point if he wasn't so weak himself. But these are some of my favorite scenes of Mat. He is so helpless, so dependent on Rand. After Rand—and I'm assuming Mat—had the dream of Ba'alzamon and Gode, Rand wakes up to find Mat having a nightmare. When Mat wakes up screaming that Ba'alzamon took his eyes, and weeping against Rand's chest, it's one of the most touching moments between these two characters. They are young men, trying to be adults, yet here they are so beat down, so broken. Mat has to be nearly crushed to show so much weakness.
And later in the series when Mat and Rand meet up again, Mat mindlessly does what Rand says. We see that Perrin maintains a bit of an argumentative nature with Rand—mostly over the treatment of the Aes Sedai—but Mat never shows signs of argument. I wonder if a part of him, even with the holes in his memories, remembers how much he needed Rand during this part of their journey. Mat owes Rand so much.
When they meet Paitr in Market Sheran, the boys get a rude awakening about Darkfriends:
After Gode, he knew that Darkfriends did not necessarily have the Dragon's Fang on their foreheads, but except for his clothes this Paitr could have fit right in Emond's Field. Nothing about him hinted at murder and worse. Nobody would have remarked him twice. At least Gode had been ... different.
This is a very good theme within the series, that people are not always what they seem, or that they can be more than what they seem. It also takes the suspense to another level. With Trollocs and Fades, you can tell they are monsters. But with Darkfriends, you don't know who is who until it's too late.
When Mili Skane tries to kill Mat and Rand while Rand's suffering from his reaction to channeling in Four Kings, Mat seems to have no qualms about slitting her throat. This is quite strange because he also struggles with the weakness of not wanting women to die. It's only Rand's pleading that keeps Mat from killing the Darkfriend. Could it be that the ruby-hilted dagger took away that value for a short time? I can't think of any other explanation.
And chapter 34 serves little purpose besides backstory. But, this backstory is very important. Almen Bunt, who is the same farmer who witnesses Rand's apple miracle in A Memory of Light, blabs the whole night about the politics of Andor. I love the way Jordan gets all the information into the story, so long before we know it's important. It may seem like filler, but everything Bunt says is a clue about Rand, his past, and his future.
We'll have to stop there for today. But we'll continue next time. I was hoping we could get to Loial, but he'll have to wait. Thanks for reading!