Welcome back to my chapter-by-chapter recap and reaction to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. There are spoilers ahead through the current chapter but none beyond that.
Chapter 24: Flight Down the Arinelle
Rand is hiding in a maze, inside of a building, from a man in a blood red cloak with two eyes that blaze like furnaces. Rand knows that in this place, he must keep moving. Distances are deceiving. He also wonders if Mat is somewhere in this maze, too. If not, Rand wonders if instead there are two mazes. He cannot dwell on those thoughts because it is dangerous to think too much in this place.
Rand also wonders if this dream is a real dream, like the one he had Baerlon or if this is a nightmare like other men’s dreams. He also wonders why Ba’alzamon cannot find him. Overhead clouds moved furiously but there was not a breath of air in the maze.
Rand sees a thorn bush and touches it carefully. Despite his care, it pricks him to bleeding. His hand aches. He moves and accidentally trips on a paving stone. As it turns over, he sees two empty eye sockets. The stone had been a skull facing downward. Suddenly he notices the other paving stones and sees that they look like the one he tripped over.
Rand gathers himself and begins moving. He turns right and then he turns right again and finds himself face to face with Ba’alzamon.
R: Light help me! Light help me! […]
B: The light will not help you boy and the Eye of the World will not serve you. You are my hound and if you will not course at my command I will strangle you with the corpse of the Great Serpent.
Rand suddenly remembered, dimly, a way to escape. The world around him shimmered. He was in a place that was black above and below with mirrors in all directions. Ba’alzamon’s image strode across the mirrors – all of them. He is searching.
There was only one face in those mirrors. His own face. Ba’alzamon’s face. One face.
Rand jerked and then opened his eyes. He is on the Spray. He puts his finger in his mouth and tastes his own blood – blood from the prick of a thorn. The vessel moves slowly downriver against the wind. Bayle Domon drives his crew hard.
Rand notices that Thom goes out of his way to slap backs and bring smiles to the faces of the muttering crew. Thom also seems to steer clear of the crew when they begin muttering. Rand learns that the crew does not blame the there newcomers for their troubles, but rather, Floran Gelb – the man Rand stepped on the night they hastily boarded the boat. Gelb works hard at laying the blame for their troubles on Thom, Mat, and especially Rand. Gelb’s pleas do not make a difference with the crew, though, and Gelb grows increasingly sullen.
Rand mentions to Mat that Gelb will cause them trouble sooner or later. Mat replies, “Can we trust any of them? Any at all?” Then Mat went off the be alone. Rand believes Mat has been alone too often since Shadar Logoth, brooding. Thom tells Rand that Geld will not give them trouble, alone, but he warns that the rest of the crew is tiring of how hard Domon pushes them.
If they mutiny, boy, they won’t leave passengers behind to tell the tale.
Thom works to keep the crew cheerful with songs and performances. Thom also sets aside time for Gleeman’s apprentice lessons for both Rand and Mat to support the story they told when boarding the vessel and to further entertain the crew.
On the journey, the boat passes between high bluffs with kings and queens carved onto the face of them, some so old the features have worn smooth. On another day, rand sees a tower in the distance. He says that it appears to be made of metal.
Domon hears him and replies that it is made of metal. He says he has seen it up close. Mat rouses from his brooding to listen. Domon says that it is shining steel by the look and feel of it but without any rust whatsoever. He tells the boys that it is 200 feet high with no marks on it and no openings into it. Domon goes on and tells them that he has seen ever stranger things. On Tremalking, he tells them that there is a stone hand fifty feet high sticking out of a hill clutching a crystal sphere as big as the Spray itself. He tells them that if there is treasure anywhere, it is there, but the island people of Tremalking do not want to dig there and the Sea Folk want nothing more than to sail in search of trade and their Coramoor, their Chosen One.
Mat says that he would dig and asks how far away it is. Domon says that treasure and jewels are all well and good but strangeness is what pulls you to the next horizon. He tells them that in Tanchico, there is a port, with a wall built during the Age of Legends showing animals no man has ever seen. Rand says that any child can draw an animal that no one has ever seen. But Domon again counters saying that in Tanchico, they have the bones of those animals, fastened together like the animal had been while alive. He tells them that a portion of the Panarch’s palace is open for the public to tour these wonders.
Four days on the river, Rand climbs fifty feet into the air atop the mast. Rand has been up in the air for an hour chuckling at how odd everyone looks from that height. He even begins to try balancing himself various ways from that great height. Suddenly he notices that Thom is climbing up to him. Thom tells him that he climbed up when Rand would not pay any attention to the people shouting at him below.
Burn me boy, you’ve got everybody thinking you’ve gone mad.
Rand tells Thom that he will go down now. He hooks his leg over a line that runs from the mast to the bow and lets go with his hands. Slowly, then faster, he slides down until he reaches the bow. Just short of the bow, he lets himself down with his arms spread wide. The crew claps. Rand looks down at Mat and sees that he is holding a curved dagger marked with strange symbols. Gold wire wraps its hilt which is capped by a large red ruby. Suddenly Mat notices Rand watching him and puts the dagger into his coat.
Rand asks if he took it from Shadar Logoth. Mat blames Rand and Perrin for pulling him away from Mordeth while he was holding it in his hands. He further argues that Mordeth did not give it to him, he took it, so Moiraine’s warnings about gifts from Mordeth do not count. Mat insists that Rand not tell anyone about the dagger and Rand agrees.
Rand then asks Mat if he has had dreams – like the ones they had in Baerlon – and Mat reluctantly admits that he has. Thom strides up and tells Rand that he convinced Domon and the crew that the stunt with the mast and the line were part of his training. Rand follows the line to the mast and realizes what he did and what he must have looked like. Thom pulls balls from his sleeve and says they can work on juggling.
Rand looks up at the mast again.
What’s happening to me. Light! What?
Rand has another dream that seems to be more than just a dream. The most interesting portion of that scene, to me, was Rand *remembering* how to escape to that world of blackness and mirrors.
The conversation with Ba’alzamon was interesting, too. He tells Rand that “The Eye of the World” will not serve him. We do not know what that is, but it is the title of the book, so it must be important sometime soon. He also says he will strangle Rand with the corpse of the Great Serpent. That also seems… relevant.
Afterward? Rand acts like a complete lunatic again. When he was a lunatic with the Whitecloaks in Baerlon, he mentioned feeling exhilarated beyond his own ability to control. Here we do not get that type of description. But he does act like an insane person, balancing himself on a great height while laughing, and then trying a rope trick to descend from the mast.
We find out Mat has stolen a dagger from Shadar Logoth. Min’s vision in Baerlon mentioned this dagger in connection with Mat. Prophecy fulfilled? Check. Despite Mat’s justification, I strongly suspect that taking anything from Shadar Logoth was likely as bad as being given anything from that place. I suppose it is lucky that Mordeth did not consume Mat’s soul and wear his body out of that place like a skin suit.
We get a little bit more world building in this chapter, too. We see the cliff bluffs with the carvings, the gleaming metal tower, and Domon tells us about mysteries in Tanchico and on the island of Tremalking. We also hear about the Sea Folk in search of their “Chosen One” the Coramoor. The feel of this series sometimes is one of an apocalypse in the not too distant future. However, this chapter reminds the reader that there was an apocalypse in the not too distant past, too. The blending of both seamlessly makes the Wheel of Time feel unique as a fantasy setting.
Chapter 25: The Traveling People
Egwene and Perrin travel with Elyas. Egwene and Bela are nervous around the pack of wolves but trying not to show it. The only wolves who travel with them openly are Dapple, Hopper, and Wind. Perrin can sense the rest of the pack is with them at a distance and does not want to think about how he knows where the rest of the pack is. He also begins to realize he can sense in what direction the pack is located, too.
Egwene tries to bully Elyas into taking turns on Bela’s back with her and Perrin.
I said no, girl.
She licks her lips and backs up until she backs right into Bela. Then she scrambled onto the mare’s back.
Perrin has not dreamed about Ba’alzamon since meeting Elyas and the wolves. He has normal dreams except for one thing. In every dream, regardless of what he is doing, at some point in the dream there is a wolf close by. He knows, somehow, the the wolf in the dream is watching for and guarding against what might come.
While they travel, Elyas tells Perrin and Egwene about wild plants that can be eaten. He also proves a more successful hunter than either Egwene or Perrin had been on their own. The travel this way for three days. On the third day, as they approach a copse of trees to shelter for the night, three large mastiffs burst forth from the trees and snarl at them. Elyas lifts a finger and lets out a long shrill whistle. The dogs watch his finger and the pitch of the whistle grows higher. Then both the pitch of his whistle and his finger descend. The dogs lay down and wag their tails. Elyas approaches them and pets their heads.
Elyas states that they can move past this copse and reach the next before nightfall. He tells Perrin and Egwene that the dogs mean that Tuatha’an are within the trees. When the two Emond’s Fielders stare blankly at him, he also refers to them as Traveling People and Tinkers. They have heard of Tinkers before.
Perrin tells Elyas that he has always wanted to see Tinkers. He goes on saying that they camp across the river from Taren Ferry sometimes but they never cross into the Two Rivers. He does not know why. Egwene suggests that the reason is because the Taren Ferry folk are as great at thieving as the Tinkers.
Elyas tells her that Tinkers will steal sometimes but not any more than most folks and less than some he knows. Perrin asks why they would travel past them to camp elsewhere. Elyas reluctantly says that they may as well camp with the Tinkers after all. However, he advises the two youths to not pay attention to what they say. He tells them that Tinkers care a great deal about some types of formality. He then advises them to do what he does and to keep their secrets. Elyas then leads them into the trees.
The Tinker camp is what Perrin expects based on the stories he has heard about them. Their wagons are small houses on wheels painted and lacquered in bright colors. Their clothes are even more colorful than their wagons. Perrin thinks they look like butterflies in a field of wildflowers.
Abruptly the music stops and all the people stare at them warily. A wiry gray haired man approaches Elyas.
“You are welcome to our fires. Do you know the Song?”
Elyas bowed in the same way, both hands pressed to his chest. “Your welcome warms my spirit, Mahdi, as your fires warm the flesh. But I do not know the Song.”
“Then we seek still,” the gray haired man intoned. “As it was, so shall it be. If we but remember, seek, and find.”
He then asks the three to join them for food. The Mahdi asks Elyas if his friends will stay away and Elyas replies to Raen that they will and that he should know that by now. Elyas explains to Egwene and Perrin, quietly, that the man’s name is Raen and that Mahdi is his title. The title means “Seeker” and he is the leader of this particular band. Egwene asks him about the Song and Elyas explains that the Song is why they travel. That is what the Mahdi seeks. The Tinkers claim to have lost a song during the Breaking of the World and they believe that if they can find the song again the Paradise of the Age of Legends will return. Elays goes on saying that Tinkers do not know what the Song is or how it is supposed to bring about Paradise. However, they have been looking for nearly three thousand years.
Raen’s wife, Ila, greets the newcomers. She tells the newcomers to sit next to the fire. Soon, another young man approaches. He gives Raen and Ila a hug and a kiss. Aram is Perrin’s age. He approaches Egwene and introduces himself confidently.
I have waited for the first rose of spring and now I find it at my grandfather’s fire.
Perrin is surprised that Egwene does not snicker at him. Then he notices that Aram is handsome. Perrin thinks Aram reminds of him of Wil al’Seen, from Devon Ride, who had all the girls in Emond’s Field following him and whispering together about him when he visited from the other neighboring village. Perrin remembers that Wil courted every girl in sight and managed to convince all of them that he was just being polite to the other girls.
Perrin then interrupts Aram with Egwene by asking him about the mastiffs and noting that they are as big as bears. Aram answers him by saying that the dogs are safe to be around the children because they are trained in The Way of the Leaf. Egwene asks him what that is.
Raen interrupts and explains that it means no man should harm another for any reason whatsoever. Ever. Perrin asks Raen what happens if someone attacks him and Raen replies that he would either let that someone attack him or try to run away. Raen says that he would hope anyone who attacks him is not harmed to greatly in doing so. Perrin is confused by this and Raen explains that as an ax harms a tree when chopping it down, it is is dulled as it chops down a tree. He says that it is the same with people. A man is harmed when he harms another as the ax is harmed by the tree.
Elyas tells Raen to stop. Raen explains that he was only answering questions. Perrin tells the Seeker that he believes that if he allowed someone to punch him, without punching him back, it would only encourage the person to do it again. Aram interjects that some people cannot overcome their baser instincts, clearly referring to Perrin, and Perrin replies to Aram that he suspects Aram gets to run away often.
Egwene intervenes and says that she believe it is interesting to meet people who believe that muscles cannot solve every problem. At this, Aram takes Egwene’s hand and offers to show her their camp. He also tells her that there is dancing. She leaves with him.
Perrin apologizes to Raen and Ila. They tell him that they believe Aram struggles to follow The Way. Perrin asks what happens to Tinkers who cannot follow the way and the older couple reply that The Lost leave them and live in the villages.
After dinner, Perrin hears singing in the distance while Raen and Elyas smoke pipes together. Raen tells Elyas of something he has heard since last he saw Elyas. He says that two years earlier, a band of The People were crossing the Aiel Waste by the northern route. Elyas explains to Perrin that the Tuatha’an are allowed to travel the Waste as are gleeman and honest paddlers. Raen explains that Aielmen will not come near them. Perrin begins to reconsider the Tinkers. He decides that he is wrong to think of them as fearful. Nobody who is afraid would think of crossing the Waste. Raen returns to his story. He tells Perrin that young Aielmen will sometimes travel into The Great Blight in an attempt to slay the Dark One or hunt trollocs. Two years ago, a band of The People found a group of Aiel women one hundred miles south of the Blight. They were Far Dareis Mai, Maidens of the Spear, a female warrior society within the Aiel. The young women were all dead except for one surrounded by many more of their number of trollocs. She crawled to The People’s wagons despite knowing who traveled in them. The message was so important that she was willing to share it even with the Tinkers. Elyas is suprised that trollocs would venture so far south into the Waste. He says that trollocs call The Waste, Djevik K’Shar, which means “the dying ground.” Raen explains that the Aiel were returning from the Blight. The trollocs had followed them into the Waste to kill them in their return journey. Raen says most of the trollocs died in that effort.
Raen continues, saying that the Aiel girl who crawled to the Seeker of that band grabbed him by the coat and said:
Leafblighter means to blind The Eye of the World, Lost One. He means to slay The Great Serpent. Warn the people, Lost One. Sightburner comes. Tell them to stand ready for He Who Comes With the Dawn. Tell them.
And then she died. Raen explains to Perrin that Leafblighter and Sightburner are Aiel names for The Dark One. He says, though, that he does not understand another word of the message. He states that the rest of the Aiel would not allow them to be close enough to share the message. He also expresses surprise that the Aiel call *them* Lost Ones, stating that he did not know how much the Aiel loathed them.
Elyas says that “slay the Great Serpent” means to kill time itself. He says that “blind the Eye of the World” also makes no sense to him. Raen says that he had hoped Elyas might know the meaning of those words, since he is a friend and knows many strange things.
Finally, Egwene returns. She tells Perrin that they ate with Aram’s mother. She also says that they also danced and laughed. Perrin tells her that Aram reminds him of Wil al’Seen. Abruptly she throws her arms around him and begins weeping on his shirt. Perrin thinks to himself that Rand would know what to do in this situation. She mumbles into his chest that she wants Perrin to tell her that the rest of their party are still alive. He tells her that they are alive. She says good, gives Perrin a kiss on the cheek, and excuses herself to go to bed.
Perrin hears the wolves howling in the distance. Then they are waiting for him in his dreams.
Perrin – unlike Mat and Rand – is no longer dreaming about Ba’alzamon. Very interesting. Does this mean Captain Furnace Eyes has ruled Perrin out as the one he is after or does it mean the wolves are protecting / hiding him somehow?
This chapter is our first true meeting with the primary pacifists of the Wheel of Time world, the Tinkers. They wear bright clothing. They do not believe in violence even to save their own life or the lives of others. They apparently are also good at dancing, mending pots, and training large dogs.
I am not exactly sure how I felt about the Egwene / Perrin / Aram dynamic in this chapter the first time I read it except that I had an inkling that maybe Egwene and Perrin were moving on a trajectory toward being a romantic relationship. We had Perrin coming across a bit jealously of Aram, we had Egwene crying on Perrin’s shirt, and we even had Egwene give him a kiss on the cheek.
Egwene crying is a good reminder that these characters are supposed to be real people with real reactions to terrible circumstances. Egwene being worried for her friends and no longer being able to contain that worry… makes sense. In the previous chapter, we see some of that same emotional turmoil working through Rand when he defensively told Domon that he would go home again .
What do we make of the infodump story told by Raen? Yet again, we hear about The Eye of the World. I am not sure if I even know what that is, exactly. However, the things Ba’alzamon tells Rand in his dream match well with what the Aiel woman tells the Tinkers. The Great Serpent is in danger and he is fixated on The Eye of the World for some reason.
Do we have any suspicions at this point about what Elyas did in his past that he did not want Raen to talk about? I do not.
I do remember one aspect of this chapter that I had never considered before my first read. I remember being surprised that it had never occurred to me that an ax is harmed by the violence it inflicts on the tree. I also remember thinking how pointless that philosophy is in the face of things like trollocs and myrddraal.
Is there a modern day song that humanity might spend 3,000 years searching for in the event of a real life Breaking of the World type event? Rolling Stone Magazine put out a “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list. The top of the list looks like this:
#1 ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ – Bob Dylan
#2 ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ – The Rolling Stones
#3 ‘Imagine’ – John Lennon
#4 ‘What’s Going On’ – Marvin Gaye
#5 ‘Respect’ – Aretha Franklin
Would any of those songs bring back a lost Paradise? Meh. Obviously the Tinkers need a rock anthem.