Welcome back to my chapter-by-chapter recap and reaction to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series – starting with Book One in the series, “The Eye of the World.” Spoilers ahead.
Chapter 12: Across the Taren
Lan tells the party to dismount and to lead their horses after him. The fog remains so thick that it obscures visibility even among the members of the party. Rand overhears Moiraine telling Lan that he must handle things so that she does not stand out in someone’s memory. Abruptly the party arrives at the ferry planks.
Lan instructs the boys to make their weapons visible when the ferrymen arrive. Thom even flourishes a dagger to the ferryman before abruptly using it to trim his fingernails. This made even Moiraine laugh and Egwene clap. Lan instructs Master Hightower, the ferry operator, that he will get the rest of his promised gold when they reach the opposite side of the river. The party walks their horses onto the ferry and the ferry begins moving across the Taren River.
Quietly, Rand asks Lan if he believes the ferrymen would really have tried to rob them. Lan responds, while pointing out the fog, that men behave strangely sometimes when there is no one to see what they are doing. He also says that he is surprised Rand would ask given the way that people from Emond’s Field talk about people from Taren Ferry. Suddenly Rand realizes how little he knows about anything beyond his own village.
Rand suggests that the ferryman might help the myrddraal and trollocs cross the river, too. Lan does not think the ferryman could deal with even talking to a halfman, much less load he and his trolloc companions onto the ferry and help them cross. When Lan notices one of the ferrymen listening to them, he ends the conversation with Rand. After the ferryman looks away, Lan says that they might know when a Darkfriend is listening. Rand is surprised. Fades, trollocs, and draghkar are at least distinguishable. Normal looking people, Darkfriends, pledged to serve the Dark One, seems harder to fathom.
The party finally arrives at the other side of the Taren. Moiraine assures Master Hightower that he will be paid and the party unloads. Rand shivers and thinks about how they are truly out of the Two Rivers now. Abruptly, the dock makes a load creak. With a loud cracking sound, the ferry comes loose from the dock and begins to spin in the water. As it spins, it begins breaking apart. The ferrymen whisper, wonderingly, that the ferry is in a whirlpool. Lan offers Master Hightower more gold to compensate him for the loss of his craft.
The thick fog ends as a wall along the bank of the Taren. Once clear and on the other side, the party can see each other and a clear sky again. Thom asks Moiraine why she did not extend the fog all the way to Baerlon, and she explains that draghkar is not smart and that she is attempting to force the myrddraal to divide his search efforts. Mat nerviously and haltingly asks her what happened with the ferry. Rather than answer Mat, Moiraine says that if she answers all of their questions, and explains her every action, each time she takes one, she will have no time for anything else.
Know this. I intend to see you safely to Tar Valon. That is the one thing you need to know.
Lan leads the party to a place he prepared as a camp while on his way into the Two Rivers. Moiraine asks Lan to see to everyone’s horses and asks Egwene to speak with her privately.
Lan explains to Rand, Mat, and Perrin that even though Moiraine washed away the apparent fatigue from the horses, the animals need rest. Without actual rest, the mounts will seem to not need rest right up until they fall over and die from exhaustion they did not feel. He explains that they will need to go slowly with the horses for the next few days while the mounts recover.
The shriek of the draghkar pierces the quiet of the night. It continues to cry out but the sound fades away as the creature follows the fog down the river.
Rand hears Moiraine explaining the One Power to Egwene. Saidin is the Male Half of the True Source. Saidar is the Female Half of the True Source. Saidin is “fouled by the touch of the Dark One.” Moiraine describes Saidin as pure water with a slick of rancid oil on its top. The water is pure but it cannot be touched without also touching the foulness. As a result of the foulness, only Saidar is safe to be used.
Egwene asks if the True Source can be used up. Moiraine says that it cannot be used up anymore than a river can be used up by a water wheel. Aes Sedai are like a water wheel, she says, and Egwene can learn to channel the One Power as an Aes Sedai can. Moiraine explains that very few people can learn to channel the One Power. Of those who can learn, the ability to channel varies. She says that Egwene is one of “a bare handful” who was has no need to learn – she was destined to “touch the Source” whether or not she wanted to do so. Moiraine says that this is rare. She continues that someone destined to touch the source will never learn to channel fully without training and may not survive.
Moiraine explains the danger facing Egwene. Men who have an in-born ability to channel die one way or another. Either they die from the One Power itself, usually after causing a consider amount of damage, they die from madness that comes from touching the One Power, or they are found by Aes Sedai of the Red Ajah and they die because the ability to channel is taken from them by force. Thom growls quietly to himself as Moiraine discusses the Red Ajah.
Despite Saidar being untainted by the Dark One, some women with an in-born ability to channel also die without instruction. The One Power is inherently dangerous whether tainted or not. The women with an in-born spark who live and learn some degree of control over the power sometimes become – in the part of the world where the party is currently – a Village Wisdom.
During the middle of her instruction of Egwene, Moiraine says – seemingly at random – that the Old Blood is strong in Emond’s Field and that the Old Blood sings. Moiraine says she knew Egwene could channel the moment they met. Anyone woman who is trained to channel can tell when she is in the pretense of another who are born with the ability. She also says that an Aes Sedai can tell when a young woman is close to her “change” – which means her first touching of the One Power.
Moiraine says that being guided through a first touch of the power is better and safer than the first touch happening unguided. The Aes Sedai begins to guide Egwene. Moiraine takes a blue gem from a pouch. She had previously worn the gem in her hair while in Emond’s Field. Egwene asks if the gem has the power in it and Moiraine snaps at her.
Things do not have the power, child. Even an angreal is only a tool. This is just a pretty blue stone.
Rand observes as the blue stone produces fitful flashes of light. He hopes that Egwene fails. Egwene apologizes to Moiraine for wasting her time, however, Moiraine smiles and says that the last, and smallest, flash of light was Egwene’s alone. Egwene is disappointed at how feeble her individual effort had been.
Now you are behaving like a foolish village girl. Most who come to Tar Valon must study for many months before they can do what you just did. You may go far, perhaps even the Amyrlin Seat one day, if you study hard and work hard.
Egwene is delighted.
This chapter is another example of infodump done well. We learn that the Aes Sedai have sub-groups – represented by colors – called Ajah. The Red Ajah primarily focuses on finding men who can channel.
Moiraine mentions the Old Blood and the Old Blood singing. We do not know what that means, yet.
We also learn some more about the specifics of the Wheel of Time magic system. The “One Power” comes from the True Source and it is divided into a female half and a male half, Saidar and Saidin, respectively. The male half is tainted by the Dark One. Some people are born who will channel the One Power, whether they want to or not. Learning on his/her own is very dangerous and can kill the person with this ability. Other people have the ability to learn but are not born destined to channel. The vast majority of all people, though, cannot channel at all. Moiraine also lets us know that some people manage some degree of control of the One Power without proper training. She says that people like that sometimes end up as a Village Wisdom in Egwene’s part of the world.
The sinking of the ferry seems to recreate some of the mistrust of Moiraine for Mat at least. Given the reputation of Aes Sedai in the Two Rivers, that mistrust probably grows with all three Two Rivers boys. She is a ready ally when being chased by bad guys, but she is not a natural ally. Every bit of information that the boys grew up with tells them not to trust Moiraine.
As he gets farther from home, Rand seems to realize that he does not know much about the wider world at all. He realizes that he does not know much even about Taren Ferry – a village in his district.
Given the superstitions and stories within the Two Rivers, Egwene’s readiness to be Aes Sedai seems kind of bizarre. Rand seems to think so, too. We saw in early chapters that she has an itch to leave the Two Rivers but she seems too ready to abandon everything she has been taught.
I remember noticing, even on the first read, that Moiraine’s comment about Village Wisdoms sometimes knowing how to channel the One Power seems… purposeful.
CHAPTER 13: Choices
Moiraine lays her hands on the people of their party and removes their fatigue – as she did for the horses during their ride to Taren Ferry. Everyone then takes a nap.
An hour later, Lan wakes up everyone up and they all feel refreshed. They ride toward Baerlon. The boys start talking about when they might go home. None of them are too hopeful.
The journey to Baerlon takes almost a week. As they ride, somewhat slowly to conserve the horses, Lan rides twice as much as the rest of the party, scouting both ahead and behind, and hiding their trail. We learn that Lan’s horse is named Mandarb – which means “Blade” on the Old Tongue. Moiraine’s mount is named Aldieb – which means “Westwind.”
One reason the ride to Baerlon takes as long as it does is that the party travels occasionally across country to avoid villages and notice more generally. When they do see an occasional farm, the boys notice that things do not look much different than a farm might look back at home.
On the journey, Lan begins to teach Perrin and Rand how to fight with their weapons. Lan is surprised to learn that Rand knows how to blank his mind of emotions.
“Blank your mind, Sheepherder. Empty it of hate or fear, of everything. Burn them away. You others listen to this, too. You can use it with the ax or the bow. With the spear or a quarterstaff. Or even your bare hands.”
Rand stared at him. “The flame and the void he said wonderingly. That’s what you mean, isnt it My father taught me about that.”
The Warder gave him an unreadable look in return.
Thom entertained the party in the evenings, during their journey to Baerlon, by juggling and telling stories.
During their journey, Egwene unbraids her hair. Rand asks her why and she replies that Aes Sedai do not braid their hair. When Rand replies that she is not an Aes Sedai, an argument ensues that slowly escalates to the point of shouting. During the argument, Rand implies that Aes Sedai – at least some of them – are Darkfriends. Egwene, in turn, tells Rand to grow up and forget the stories. Rand tells her that she saw Moiraine sink the ferry. Eventually Lan cuts in and asks if they are trying to wake everyone within ten miles. Egwene turns scarlet and walks away. Rand notices that the entire camp is staring at him including Moiraine.
A few days out from Taren Ferry, Mat begins to believe they have escaped the creatures hunting them. He shifts his focus to considering the adventures of the world out in front of them. Mat notes that if they turn south once they reach Caemlyn, based on a map he saw at Master al’Vere’s in, that the road leads to Illian. When Perrin asks him what is so special about Illian, Mat says, “for one thing, Illian isn’t full of Aes…” Mat notices that Moiraine is standing not far away staring at him. Rand wonders how long she has been standing there listening.
Moiraine tells the boys that the Dark One wants them.
So hear this and know it true. Before I let the Dark One have you, I will destroy you myself.
One night during their journey, Rand decides to spy on Moiraine giving Egwene lessons in channeling. He hears Egwene asking Moiraine about the five powers – earth, wind, fire, water, and spirit. Moiraine comments that two women from Emond’s Field possess the ability to become an Aes Sedai but refuses to tell Egwene the name of the other woman. Egwene is seeking assurance from Moiraine that Aes Sedai are good. Egwene belives – or hopes at least – that wicked male channelers caused the Breaking of the World but that the women did not share in their wickedness. Moiraine tells her that the men of that era were no more or less wicked than any men. She tells Egwene that they were insane but not evil. She also tells her that Aes Sedai are the same as women who cannot channel for good or bad, excepting the ability to channel.
Egwene abruptly asks Moiraine why the myrddraal and trollocs were in Emond’s Field. Moiraine looks directly at Rand’s hiding place. He sneaks away before hearing her answer to Egwene. Rand decides not to attempt spying on their lessons again.
In addition to lessons from Lan, the boys have been getting lessons from Thom, too. Mat is a natural juggler.
They finally reach Baerlon. The Two Rivers folk goggle at the size of the city. Moiraine warns them that “the danger begins again here” noting that some in Baerlon have less love for Aes Sedai than the people in Emond’s Field. She mentions that the city may be home to Darkfriends. She says they must attract as little attention as possible. The party approaches one of the city gates. The gatekeeper recognizes Mistress Alys and Master Andra.
The gatekeeper, named Avin, mentions that there are Whitecloaks in the city. Whitecloaks are also known as Children of the Light. All of the stories that Rand has heard about The Children are that they hate Aes Sedai as much as they hate Darkfriends. The gatekeeper tells them that the Children arrived due to the turmoil caused by the False Dragon much farther south in Ghealdan. The city governor is only permitting ten Children inside the walls at a time. The rest are camping north of the city. Avin passes along what he knows of the situation with the False Dragon in Ghealdan, namely that he can channel, that he has named his army “The People of the Dragon,” that Aes Sedai have passed through to confront him, and that he is marching toward Tear.
Once inside the gate, Rand asks Thom about what was meant by “The People of the Dragon” and Tear. Thom explains that these things related to the Karaethon Cycle – the Prophecies of the Dragon. Thom tells Rand that one of the prophecies regarding the Dragon Reborn is that the Stone of Tear, a great fortress there, will never fall until the People of the Dragon come to the Stone. The prophecies also state that the Stone will not fall until “the Sword that Cannot be Touched” is wielded by the Dragon’s hand. As a result, the fall of the Stone of Tear is regarded as one of the major proofs that the Dragon is reborn. Thom does not know what “The Sword that Cannot be Touch” actually is, but he knows that whatever it is, it lies in the Heart of the Stone – the central citadel fortress inside the Stone.
The Stone cannot fall until the Dragon wields the sword. But how can he unless the Stone has already fallen?
Rand then asks if the Dragon is supposed to be a High Lord of Tier. Thom replies that Tear hates anything to do with the Power almost as much as Amador, the stronghold of the Children of the Light. Rand says that the Prophecy sounds as though it were written to convince people that the Dragon will never be reborn.
A Prophecy that was easily fulfilled would not be worth much, would it?
Suddenly, the party has arrived at their destination. They are at an Inn. The Innkeeper greets them. Hot meals and baths await. They are at The Stag and Lion.
There is a lot that goes on within this chapter.
I enjoyed Lan’s surprise that Rand already knows about The Flame and the Void from Tam. This deepens the mystery about Tam and is also deepens the mystery about this trick of the mind, too. In the real world, we talk about athletes being “in the zone” and I think this trick is supposed to be an intentional way – during fighting – to be “in the zone.”
Thom teaches the boys a little bit of his craft, too. Mat takes to juggling quickly.
Egwene and Rand have a big public fight. Rand unwittingly shares with Moiraine and Lan that he does not trust them and that he does not think Egwene should trust them. This paints some more of the picture about what the Rand-Egwene relationship looks like. They seem to love each other. They also seem like oil and water.
Moiraine seems concerned about the boys running off. I think the threat to destroy them, rather than let the Dark One take them, is a real threat. But the threat seems designed to quiet their rebellion, too. That may or may not be for their own good.
It seems pretty obvious that Nynaeve is the other woman who can channel in the Two Rivers.
There is quite a bit of info dump in this chapter, too. We learn more about “the Dragon” and the prophecies of his rebirth. The prophecies about The Sword that Cannot Be Touched and The Stone have a very Arthurian vibe.
The conversation between Moiraine and Egwene lets us know that the “modern” perception of men who can channel might contain some confusion. It is perceived that men who can channel are evil but Moiraine clarifies that insanity and evil are not one and the same.
We also first learn about the Children of the Light in this chapter. They are not talked about very favorably.