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 7-8.
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 7, "Out of the Woods"
As dawn approaches, Rand is happy to smell the chimney smoke from Emond's Field. However, there's too much smoke on the air. As he exits the woods, he sees that half the town is in ruins. Villagers are poking through the charred rubble and Master al'Vere's horses are pulling Trolloc corpses down the road.
Haral Luhhan, the blacksmith, shows up and leads Rand to where Nynaeve is. They run into Egwene, who quickly goes to get the Wisdom.
Rand notices that Mat's house has burned down and inquires if his friend is all right. Master Luhhan says Mat is fine. He also mentions that the Trollocs raided his house as if he had "gold and jewels in there." When Rand wonders what they'd do if the Trollocs come back, Master Luhhan replies that the Two Rivers folk will survive. Rand realizes that the villagers are moving with purpose; they're already starting to rebuild.
Nynaeve comes out and says there is nothing she can do for Tam. Rand tries to convince her, but she refuses. Rand decides to take Tam to the Mayor.
At the inn, Thom helps Rand carry Tam inside. The Mayor gets him settled in a bed and sends Thom off to get Nynaeve. Rand tells Bran that Nynaeve won't help, but he thought the Mayor could make her. Thom returns and says Nynaeve will not come.
In desperation, Rand asks what he can do. He can't just watch his father die. Thom mentions that the Dragon's Fang has been scrawled on the inn's door, which prompts the Mayor to remember that Moiraine is an Aes Sedai, and Aes Sedai can Heal.
Rand runs to find Moiraine and asks her to Heal Tam, saying he will pay any price. Moiraine agrees and returns to the inn with Rand.
Chapter 8, "A Place of Safety"
In Tam's room, Moiraine tells them all to leave, but Rand asks to stay. Moiraine allows it. Lan asks Rand about the heron-marked sword while Moiraine begins to work on Tam. Rand confesses that he saw a man in the woods the day before, a man who wore all black and the wind didn't touch his cloak. Lan berates Rand, saying he should have told them. Moiraine chimes in that knowing wouldn't have given them much of an advantage.
Rand asks if his father is okay. Moiraine tells him the blade the Trolloc used was tainted by the forges of Thakan'dar, and the taint is inside Tam's body. She pulls out an angreal to Heal him properly.
Lan tells Rand that the dark rider was a Myrddraal. Rand then confesses that he spoke to a Trolloc at his home. He explains to Lan everything that happened the night before, and Lan tells him that few men south of the Borderlands have killed—or even seen—a Trolloc.
Moiraine completes her Healing and Rand is so happy he repeats his early promise of paying any price. She then tells Rand that he must leave with them. She explains that his house, Mat's house, the blacksmith's house, and the Aybara farm were the first places to be attacked. This means that the Dark One was after Rand, Mat, and Perrin ("In one of you or all three, there is something the Dark One fears"). Rand doesn't believe her right away, but understands that to refuse her offer would be putting his village in jeopardy. He also feels a bit relieved that Perrin and Mat must leave too. Moiraine and Lan leave to find the other two boys.
The Mayor and his wife come back into the room. Circumspectly, Rand asks the Mayor about which houses were struck first. Bran confirms that the Forge and the Cauthon's house went up in flames before anything else. Since she didn't lie about that, Rand thinks she didn't lie about the rest.
Rand tries to stay awake in Tam's room, to be there when his father wakes up, but he falls asleep.
Chapter 8, in literary terms, is referred to as the "call to action." In it, Rand willingly agrees to start out on this journey. He could have said no, and stayed (or could he?), so this is where the real journey starts. From here on out, the plotlines thicken and expand. I love reading these parts. It's so easy to get captivated by the thrill of the beginning.
A few things to point out about these two chapters. Some just idle thought, others really interesting ideas. First, the idle:
Why would the Trollocs bother burning Fain's wagon? He's the one who led them there—we find out later—so why go through the effort of burning all his things? At this point, Fain is still the Dark One's "hound," but wouldn't it have been easier on him—and the Shadowspawn—to still have his wagon? They had to carry him most of the way, so why not let him have some of his supplies to help make the trip faster?
I could maybe see that they wouldn't want to leave any clues for the Two Rivers folk, but that doesn't seem like something a Trolloc, or a Myrddraal, would even think about. Why would they care if the Two Rivers though Fain was a Darkfriend—not that anyone would have made that connection, I'm sure. Maybe it was just the battle frenzy that overwhelmed the Trollocs? Either way, it seems unnecessary.
And what of Thom and his hinting about Healing from an Aes Sedai? I understand his point about being a stranger, but it seems sad that he wouldn't even offer the advice to save Rand's father. The Mayor got there eventually, but it could have been the difference between life and death for Tam.
I think this is one of the many miraculous ways Robert Jordan worked in foreshadowing. We see Thom being very manipulative in this scene. Rand isn't able to see it, but we sure can. And later, we learn that Thom is a master of daes dae'mar, used to making people dance to his tunes. How awesome it is to go back to these early chapters and see that Thom is Thom, even then. The Thom we know later would have done the same thing. His character is established from the start, and he remains true to it all throughout the series.
And just a little bit of clarification on the whole ta'veren thing. Robert Jordan said this in an interview:
For another thing, no one is born ta’veren. Rand, Mat, and Perrin only became ta’veren just before Moiraine appeared. You become ta’veren according to the needs of the Wheel. Like the Heroes linked to the Wheel, who are spun out as needed to try to keep the weaving of the Pattern straight, a man or woman becomes ta’veren because the Wheel has “decided” to use them as an influence on the Pattern. And, no, the Wheel isn’t sentient. Think more of a fuzzy logic device that uses feedback to correct what it is doing in order to do it in the most efficient way.
Last time, I did argue that Rand was ta'veren from birth, but it seems Robert Jordan said otherwise. He also states that Rand only became ta'veren shortly before Moiraine arrived. That means, a few days, a week, before Bel Tine. That would explain Rand's luck with the Trolloc, and his easy evasion of the Fade on the road.
However, I still think there's more to it than that. Rand's whole life has been strewn with coincidences that led him to where he is—where he is needed. If ta'veren-ness ebbs and flows, perhaps Rand was ta'veren earlier, and then it went away. It took some mighty big yanks for the Pattern to get Tam up on that mountain right as Rand's mother died.
Oh, and more proof that Rand is ta'veren in these chapters is that Moiraine mentions dreams. She means the dreams that aren't dreams—which will be coming up in the next chapter. And we know that Ishamael is responsible for these dreams. We also know—much later in the series—that Ishamael is able to find ta'veren and that's the only reason he was able to start the dreams so soon after escaping the Bore. Since Rand has these dreams, he has to be ta'veren. Otherwise, Ishamael wouldn’t have been able to contact him, Mat, or Perrin.
Another curious thing here is Rand's insistence to pay a price for Tam's Healing. I'm thinking and thinking, and I can't find a single time when Moiraine uses this to her advantage. When Rand starts misbehaving, why doesn't she remind him that he owes her a debt? A debt he can "never repay"? It seems to me this would have been the best way to manipulate him. He would have honored his word to her—especially since he really is eternally grateful that his father was saved—so why didn't she use it? That seems like an un-Aes Sedai thing to do.
As I mentioned last time, Rand's first channeling is coming up later this night. So, it's understandable that he might already be feeling the effects of saidin—one of which might be the ability to sense Shadowspawn. But in chapter 8, Rand shivers and rubs his arms when Moiraine channels. Again, this is a subtle clue left by Robert Jordan, to hint at something we don't really discover until The Dragon Reborn.
Here's something I've never really picked up on before. When Moiraine tells Rand he has to leave and Rand says he doesn't want to, Moiraine looks at Lan, and the Warder "said suddenly" statistics of whose houses were attacked first. We learn that Aes Sedai cannot lie, but Warders can no problem. One of the reasons they keep the Warders around, I'm sure, is to have someone who can lie at any moment. And the obvious shift—with Moiraine's look and Lan's sudden speech—definitely points out that something suspicious is going on.
While reading through this, I can't see an outright lie. But perhaps there's one buried deep in that statement.
When Rand finally decides he will go, Lan sighs in relief. That sentence makes me wonder about what would have happened if Rand had refused. Would the idea of price be brought up then? Or would Moiraine be desperate enough to use Compulsion—or something similar if she doesn't knows the weave? Would Lan knock him out and carry him over his shoulder? How much would change if Rand hadn't willingly made the first step outside of the Two Rivers? I think the story would have ended quite different if that had happened.
Well, that's all for this week. Not too many answers, and just a bunch more questions. Please join me next time for the next few chapters of The Eye of the World. Thanks for reading!