Welcome back to our re-read of The Eye of the World, Book 1 of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. There are spoilers through the end of Chapters 17 and 18 so be forewarned.
Chapter 17: Watchers and Hunters
After Rand’s conversation with Nynaeve ends, he goes to the Common Room. Thom is telling The Hunt for the Horn to the gathered crowd. We learn that Rogosh Eagle Eye is the most famous of the Hunters. Blaes of Matuchin is a famous female Hunter.
The story-telling eventually ends and Thom takes up the flute. This leads to dancing in the Common Room of the Inn. All of the party from Emond’s Field end up dancing. Rand eventually finds himself dancing with both Nynaeve and Moiraine, as well Egwene who he had danced with for years in the Two Rivers. While the group is dancing, Rand notices a man with a scar scowling at him from across the room.
Around midnight, the dancing finishes. Lan gathers the boys and informs them that they will be making an early start the following day. Mat and Rand both mention to Lan they they saw a scarred man scowling at them and Lan informs them that the man is a spy for the Whitecloaks.
Rand decides to get some milk from the kitchen to help him fall asleep. As he left the kitchen, a shape in dull black moved toward him from down the hall. The cloak was motionless. The man threw back his black hood revealing a pasty eyeless face with oily black hair. Rand freezes. The Fade glides toward him.
Where are the others, I know they are here. Speak boy and I will let you live.
The myddraal hears boots running toward them and draws its sword. As it is swinging its sword toward Rand, it stops, and tells him that he belongs to The Great Lord of the Dark. Then as suddenly as the Fade appeared, it leaves.
Lan arrives. Rand tells him what he saw. Lan declares that they are leaving immediately. The rest of the party is already packed and ready to leave. Thom has Rand’s pack.
Moiraine is explaining to Master Fitch that when someone comes looking for them, he should tell them that they left in the night and that he should offer no resistance whatsoever. Fitch does not seem to take the threat seriously. She is vexed as to how the Fade found them.
Rand walks with Nynaeve to the stable yard. The Wisdom asks him if something was really downstairs. Rand confirms to her that a Fade was in the hallway with him. Nynaeve finally acknowledges that perhaps something is after them. She also says that she came to see them all back to Emond’s Field and she states that she will not leave until that is done.
I won’t leave you alone with her sort.
In the stable, Rand sees that Egwene is afraid. He apologizes for their earlier fighting. The party rides out of Baerlon. At the Caemlyn Gate, Lan dismounts and gets the attention of a guard to let them leave. The Watchman comes and informs them that the gate is supposed to stay shut from sundown to sunup. He further informs them that the area outside the city has seen many wolves. Lan bribes him with gold. He agrees to open the gate.
As the gate is opening, a voice speaks out from the darkness. Five Whitecloaks arrive and question why the party is leaving in the middle of the night. The leader of the Whitecloaks looks warily at Lan. He questions why anyone would leave the city with wolves outside the city gates and “the Dark One’s handiwork” flying over the city.
Rand realizes that the Children of the Light must have spotted a draghkar. He lowers himself in his saddle hoping to avoid their notice. His movement attracts the notice of Bornhald. Bornhald recognizes Rand and names the people of their party Darkfriends.
You will take me to your camp, Whitecloak? Moiraine’s voice suddenly came from every direction at once… You will question me? Darkness wreathed her as she took a step forward. It made her seem taller. You will bar my way?
Rand gasped. Moiraine does not merely seem taller. She is taller. Bornhald cries out that she is Aes Sedai and swings his sword at her. She stops his blade with her staff, sparks fly, and Bornhald is thrown back. The other Children of the Light are thrown back, also. Bornhald’s sword is bent and melted.
Lan shouts at the rest of the party to go. Moiraine looms higher, her head now rising above the town wall. When the entire party passes through the narrowly opened gate, Rand turns back and sees that Moiraine’s shadow towers above the palisade. As Rand watches, Moiraine steps over the wall. The gates begin to shut quickly. When her feet are on the ground outside the wall, she returns to her normal size.
Moiraine regrets the necessity of what she just did because there is little chance it was not seen by the draghkar or myrddraal. She hopes that they can outrun their pursuers.
Before the party is an hour’s ride beyond Baerlon, they see a huge fire behind them. Moiraine mutters, “I warned him. But he would not take it seriously.” Perrin asks if she is saying that the fire in the Inn. Thom replies to Perrin, asking how far he wants to stretch coincidence. Lan and Moiraine are hopeful, though, that if their pursuers attacked the Inn, it might mean that her display went unnoticed.
Nynaeve chastises Moiraine and says that the Innkeeper’s trouble, as well as his guests, is because her her. Lan cuts in and says that the trouble is because “of those three” pointing at the boys. Moiraine tells him to be at ease and then states their potential options for helping the Innkeeper. She asks the Wisdom what she would choose to do? Nynaeve says she would do something but has no specific answer.
Moiraine tells Nynaeve that she will send gold to Master Fitch. The party rides on. Rand hopes that Min is alright. A couple of hours before dawn, they make a cold camp to rest for an hour. In the darkness, Mat whispers to Rand:
I wonder what Dav did with that badger?
The two boys talk about safety. Mat says he had finally begun to feel safe again. Rand says that they will not be safe until they reach Tar Valon. Perrin chimes in, “will we be safe then?” The boys all look at where Moiraine is resting.
Just before dawn, the party sets out again, eating breakfast from horseback.
The bread crumbs of world-building are fun. We do not know much about Rogosh Eagle Eye or Blaes of Matuchin, but the hint of more story to tell has the effect of drawing the reader into this world.
For some reason, the degree to which every single member of this group loves to dance just cracks me up.
I wonder, when we reach the end of this story, if The Dark One will view the myrddraal’s decision to not kill Rand, alone and defenseless, holding a glass of milk, in Book 1, as a missed opportunity.
The Emond’s Field Wisdom joins the group officially as they leave Baerlon.
Rand’s temporary insanity with the Whitecloaks almost came back to haunt him. I think the Whitecloaks are maybe supposed to represent the Knight’s Templar. Or maybe they just represent religious fundamentalists generally. Can you imagine if seeing a couple of guys handing on pamphlets – in a modern setting – filled us with fear of hot irons and pincers?
Moiraine’s mic drop moment with the Children and the gate is probably most remembered for her embiggening. The most ominous part of what she does, as far as I am concerned though, if I were there, is manipulating her voice to seemingly come from all directions. That is terrifying. I completely understand why these country bumpkins do not trust her just yet.
Chapter 18: The Caemlyn Road
The party rides east and around the Hills of Absher which lie to the south of the road. After three days, Lan tells them that they are still being pursued, but the party has not yet seen evidence of pursuers. They must ride along the road until they reach White Bridge. It is the only bridge that spans the Arinelle River south of the country of Saldaea.
Just then, the group hears a horn blowing. Rand thinks that it can be no closer than ten miles away. Shortly after, the party hears more horns. As the party rides at a gallop to the east, Lan rides alone to the west.
“Keep them moving, Moiraine Sedai. I will return as soon as I am able. You will know if I fail.” Putting a hand on Mandarb’s saddle he vaulted to the back of the black stallion and galloped down the hill heading west. The horns sounded again.
“The Light go with you, Last Lord of the Seven Towers,” Moiraine said almost too softly for Rand to hear.
The party, minus Lan, rides east. The horns continue growing closer. When Nynaeve asks why they do not go faster, Moiraine replies with a question. “Why do you think they are letting us know they are there?” Moiraine is worried that the trollocs are trying to push them into a trap.
Lan suddenly reappears and lets them know that three fists of trollocs, nearly five hundred total, each led by a Halfman, are behind them and closing the gap. Lan tells them that the trollocs will be on them in an hour or less. The party then hears horns in front of them as well.
Moiraine and Lan discuss whether to go north or south. South lie the Hills of Absher and the Arinelle River with no way to cross. To the north lies empty fields and the small chance that they may be able to flag a merchant’s boat on the river. Lan suggests that there is a place the trollocs will not go but Moiraine says no.
The party leaves the road and rides north through the hills. The horns come nearer. Rand believes the horns are two miles or less away. Lan suddenly announces that trolloc scouts are nearby. He advises the party to stay near him at all costs. The party tops another hill and finds a large party of trollocs with a myrddraal at its head. Lan commands the party to stay with him and then he charged down the hill yelling “for the Seven Towers!”
Rand shouted “Manetheren! Manetheren!” as he followed Lan down the hill, his father’s sword in his fist. Perrin took the cry up behind him. Mat shouted, “Carai an Caldazar! Carai an Ellisande! Al Ellisande!”
Lan fought the Fade, steel on black steel. The trollocs surrounded the rest of the humans and tried to pull them from horses using catchpoles and hooks. Moiraine lashed out at the trollocs with the One Power. As Rand and Perrin are being pulled from their saddles, suddenly the trollocs stopped. They fell to the ground and began screaming and howling.
Lan shouts for them to ride. Mat is the only member of their party who had been unhorsed. Trollocs sound horns from the east, west, and south.
The party doubles their speed but the trollocs continue to gain ground on the. Finally, the party reaches the crest of the hill and find the trollocs cresting the nearest hill behind them. There are three myrddraal leading hundreds of trollocs.
Moiraine climbs off of her horse and pulls a dark ivory object from her pouch: the angreal. She raises her staff high and stabs it into the earth. The earth rings like a bell. The ground begins to tremble beneath the horses hooves. The earth begins to ripple away from the Aes Sedai toward the oncoming trollocs. The ripples grow and become waves of earth. The trollocs fall but the myrddraal come slowly on.
Moiraine then pointed her staff at a hollow in the hills. Flames shoot forth, from east to west, as far as the eye can see.
Suddenly, Moiraine topples and Lan catches her. He urges to the party to ride on because the wall of flame will not burn forever. The party gallops northward as fast as they can ride. Lan and Moiraine catch up with them soon, the Aes Sedai visibly fatigued.
As the party rides on, Rand muses to himself, “so that’s what a battle is like.” He cannot remember any specific part. He only remembers fear and heat. When the party clears the hills on their ride north, Lan calls for them to halt. He and Moiraine go some distance away and appear to be arguing.
While the group is paused, Egwene asks them about what they were shouting during the battle. Rand and Perrin defend their cries of Manetheren. “That’s what you do in a time like that” and “we had a right.” The conversation turns to what Mat shouted, though. Mat stares defensively. He says it was probably gibberish and Egwene says, instead, that she thinks what he said had a meaning. “When you shouted, I thought, just for a minute, I thought I understood you. But it’s all gone now.”
“Carai an Caldazar” Moiraine saidd. They all twisted to stare at her. “Carai an Ellisande. Al Ellisande. For the honor of the Red Eagle. For the honor of the Rose of the Sun. The Rose of the Sun. The ancient war cry of Manetheren and the war cry of its last king. Eldrene was called The Rose of the Sun.
She explains Mat’s shout by his bloodline. “The Old Blood sings.” Egwene seems embarrassed by this and Mat seems perturbed.
Mat appears to be worried that if he is a descendant of the ancient kings of Manetheren that he is the one the trollocs are after. The other boys consider the same thing. A trolloc horn sounds. Lan announces that they are now past the wall of fire. He again suggests that the group go to a place that the myrddraal and trollocs will not go. Moiraine appears to relent though she says she wishes they had any other choice.
She commands the group to crowd around her as closely as possible. She then whirls her staff over the group and sends their scent to the west. Lan leads them north, carefully checking the trail they are leaving as they go.
Abruptly the party arrives at an abandoned city’s wall.
Shadar Logoth. It was called Shadar Logoth.
This chapter is intense from start to finish. Jordan really effectively uses Rand’s estimation of horn distances to create dramatic tension. I wonder… what every day activity in the Two Rivers gave the boys the ability to judge distance that way? Maybe thunderstorms? I have no idea.
We start to get some more of Lan’s backstory here. Last Lord of the Seven Towers? Seems… relevant. Min said something about seven towers, too.
I am not one to nitpick the battle tactics of The Last Lord of the Seven Towers, or anything, but it strikes me that maybe Moiraine should have tried to fireball the myrddraal at the outset of the conflict. If killing a myrddraal kills the trollocs bound to him, then should that not be plan number one when fighting them? Why go sword to sword?
Rand and Perrin shouting “Manetheren!” felt cheesy… right up until Mat started talking in a dead language. Then… goosebumps. It is difficult to remember back a quarter century, but I think this was the chapter that sealed my fate as a fan of Robert Jordan.
If I shouted something in Latin, or Ancient Greek, it would be far more mundane.
“Ego cubitum ire!” shouted Dusty from his front door into the still blackness of the night around him. “Ego cubitum ire,” he said again, quietly this time, as he closed the door.
The story has a Lord of the Rings feel as the chapter ends and they go into Shadar Logoth. Moiraine seems to view this place in the same way Gandalf viewed The Mines of Moria in Tolkein’s tale. An abandoned city named… Shadar Logoth? Sounds ominous. Let’s see if it goes more smoothly for Moiraine than it did for Gandalf!