Welcome back to my re-read, recap, and reaction to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. This post will only have spoilers through the current chapter.
Chapter 33: The Dark Waits
Rand is riding in the back of a high wheeled cart pulled by a man named Hyam Kinch. He is ill though he feels better than he felt an hour earlier. Master Kinch has a pipe between his teeth as they pass through a village on the road to Caemlyn. Rand notes that nobody seems to notice Master Kinch’s two passengers. A merchant’s team of wagons comes the other way down the road and pushes Master Kinch’s cart almost to the verge on the side of the road. Rand’s chest was tight until the merchant’s wagons were gone.
Mat leans back from the seat next to Master Kinch to ask if Rand saw anything. Rand shakes his head no Kinch notices the exchange but says nothing. Rand asks if Mat’s eyes are feeling better and he says that they are. They no longer hurt unless he stares into the sun. Mat, in turn, asks if Rand is feeling better and Rand replies “some.”
Just then, a column of riders come down the road in the opposite direction of Master Kinch’s cart. They peer into the cart and Rand is glad that his coat covers his sword. Mat asks Kinch who they are and he replies that they are the Queen’s Guards. He tells them that the Guards do not travel much farther from Caemlyn than where they are now and notes that this is “not like the old days.” Kinch notes that they must be from far off if they do not even recognize the Queen’s Guards and then asks where they are from. Mat says “far off” at the same time that Rand says “The Two Rivers.” Rand wished he could have the words back as soon as they were out of his mouth. He is worried that mentioning the Two River might provide a trail for the myrddraal to follow. Kinch moves on about how things are not like the old days at all, though.
Rand wonders idly if Master Al’Vere, the Mayor of Edmond’s Field, even knows that the Two Rivers is part of Andor. He guesses that the Mayor knows but he thinks to himself that he has never heard anyone in the Two Rivers even mention being a part of Andor.
Abruptly Kinch stops his cart and tells them that this is as far as he goes. He tells them that if Rand can walk they can be in Caemlyn within two days. Kinch offers them an opportunity to rest at his place for a couple of days. Rand says that he can walk and asks how far to the next village. Kinch tells them that they can be there before dark if they start soon. He goes on and gives his opinion of them. He tells them that initially he believed them to be runaway apprentices but now believes they are running from something worse. He says he does not know what and does not want to know what. However, he says that he is a good enough judge of character to tell that they are not Darkfriends and that they will not rob or hurt anyone. He gives them directions to his farm if they need a place to hide for a while.
Rand thinks back about leaving Four Kings. They left in a downpour and Mat, who was then still blind from the lightning that aided their escape, asks “you won’t leave me, will you, if I can’t keep up?” Rand says he will not. They find a place to hide from the rain beneath some bushes. Rand does not want to continue on in the dark, and rain, because he is worried Mat will eventually fall and injure himself. Beneath the bushes, shiver, they fell asleep.
Rand knew right away it was a dream. He was in Four Kings again but there are no people there. He sees The Dancing Cartman again, and Gode is also there. He is at a table. His skin is red, cracked, and oozing. His face is almost at skull. As Gode turns his head to see Rand, some of his hair cracks off and turns to soot when it hits his shoulders.
Rand says aloud, “so you are dead.” Ba’alzamon answers “yes, but he did find you for me but that deserves some reward don’t you think?” Rand learns that he can be afraid even knowing he is in a dream. Ba’alzamon tells Rand that the thing which protects him also makes him vulnerable. He then tells Rand to come to him, willingly, because his hounds will not be gentle when they pull Rand down and bring him.
B: You belong to me.
R: […] I belong to myself.
Ba’alzamon counters that the grave belongs to him. He tells Rand “you are mind, youngling, alive or dead. The Eye of the World will never serve you.” Ba’alzamon then says he marks Rand as his and flings a fireball at his face. Rand awakes and the skin of his face is tender. He hears Mat asleep next to him twisting and moaning. Mat then lurches awake, too, moaning “he took my eyes.”
Before first light, the downpour dwindled. They walk and come upon a village by midday. An hour beyond the town, a farmer, Alpert Mull, gave them a ride in his hay wain. When Mull stops to drop them off, he gives them two woolen scarves from his coat pocket. He tells them it’s not much. Rand tells him that they never even saw him and that he is a good man. Mull is grateful.
That night, they approach a village, Market Sheran, after dark. Rand has enough coin in his pocket to pay for rooms. He does not want to attract attention, though, so he will not perform with the flute for a room. He goes into the Inn to see about getting a room, careful to keep his sword covered. Laughter sweeps over him and the room is warm and clean. Rand is glad to see that the Innkeeper is a stout man.
He doubted if he would ever again trust a skinny Innkeeper.
The Innkeeper’s name is Rulan Alwine. Rand feels as though it sounds like an Emond’s Field name. The price for a room is much higher than the two boys expected but they pay it anyway. They eat, get warm, and then ask for their room. Master Alwine takes them to a small room with two beds back in the corner. Rand lays down and falls asleep, fully dressed and still wet, because he wants to be ready immediately in the event they need to run.
In the morning, Mat exclaims that he can see again. He is happy to be close to Caemlyn where they hope to meet up again with Moiraine. Rand thinks to himself that it is strange to be excited about meeting with an Aes Sedai.
Light, when I see Moiraine again, I’ll kiss her.
Rand feels good again after sleeping. He feels so good that he decides to spend a little more of the money they have left to purchase breakfast. While they are eating, a young man, not much older than they are, from the village enters the Common Room. When he sees Rand and Mat, he freezes. Finally, he approaches their table almost reluctantly.
Rand asks him what his name is. He stumbles through answering that his name is Paitr. Paitr says that he does not want to do this, they are making him, and Mat growls “Darkfriend” at him. Paitr sweats. Rand thinks that nothing about this person would give anyone reason to think him a Darkfriend. Gode, by contrast, stood out and seemed different.
Rand begins to consider how to leave the Inn. He is worried that Paitr will notice that Mat has trouble seeing. Rand announces to Mat that it is time to leave. He then distracts Paitr from Mat’s movement by threatening him to leave them alone. There is a clear path to the door and Mat makes a beeline for it without stumbling. Almost to the door, Paitr calls for them to wait. Rand balls a fist and punches him in the nose when Paitr grabs at his shoulder.
R: I said leave us alone!
P: […] You won’t get away. No matter how strong you are, The Great Lord of the Dark is stronger! The Shadow will swallow you!
There is a gasp from someone else in the Common Room. An old man with a broom has dropped his broom and is staring wide eyed at Paitr. Paitr jumps to his feet and runs down the street as if starving wolves are at his heels. The old man then looks at Rand and Mat continuing to look frightened.
Mat complains as he and Rand leave that Darkfriends are always on their heels. Rand counters that if Ba’alzamon had known where they are, he would have sent more than just Paitr. He points out that Paitr might have to go all the way to Four Kings to find another of his kind to tell. Throughout the day, the two of them managed to get six short rides. While on their rides, a couple of the ride-givers mentioned rumors about Darkfriends in Market Sheran. Near sunset, they reach a village with only one Inn, The Queen’s Man.
Outside the Inn, Rand and Mat do not have enough money for even a meal, let alone a room. Mat assures Rand that he can see well enough now to juggle. Rand weighs the decision and his fatigue makes his choice. The two of them enter. They decide that Darkfriends cannot possibly be everywhere. When they do enter, they see a crowded Common Room. After talking with the Innkeeper and giving him a small demonstration of their skills, he agrees to clear a space for them to perform. He believes that they may help ease the tensions over whether or not Logain is the real Dragon. He tells them that there have been multiple fights already and that the Inn is crowded by people on their way to Caemlyn to see him displayed, captured, publicly.
Suddenly Rand begins to feel queasy. He drops to a stool and begins to shiver. His bones feel as if they are freezing. He dimly notices Mat talking to him, shaking his shoulder, and Mat arguing with the Innkeeper and cook. Mat helps Rand to his feet, with all of their things also hanging from Mat’s shoulders. Mat steers him to the backdoor. Outside, Mat tells Rand that the Innkeeper was worried about his patrons finding out someone inside is sick. Mat threatened the Innkeeper by saying that if he kicked them out, he would go into the Common Room and tell everyone that Rand is sick. As a result, the Innkeeper decided to let the two of them stay in the stables adjacent to the Inn, under a roof.
Mat climbs up to the stable’s hayloft and tosses down hay to the floor below. He makes a bed for Rand and hurriedly gets him onto it. When Mat tries to cover Rand with their cloaks, Rand pushes the cloaks away saying that he is hot. Mat clambers away and returns quickly with a plate of food, a pitcher of water, and cups. Rand vacillates between fever and chills. He is also too queasy to eat any food. Mat takes care of him throughout the night. At one point in the night, Rand hallucinates that he can see Ba’alzamon and myddraal approaching them in the table. He has other hallucinations throughout the night, too. Egwene visited him accusingly, telling him that their entire party is dead. Moiraine visited him telling him that he must go to Tar Valon or die. Thom showed up, too, with skin charred black. He asks Rand which Ajah will find him first, Red or Black? Lan stared at him and asks about his sword. He then smiles and blood poured out of his mouth. Perrin, Mistress Al’Vere, Bayle Domon, Master Fitch, Min, and even Tam also visited him. At the sight of Tam, Rand began begging him.
Who am I? Who am I?
Mat was now leaning over Rand and pressing water to his lips.
You’re Rand al’Thor, that’s who you are. With the ugliest face and the thickest head in the Two Rivers.
Mat notes that Rand is sweating and that the fever is broken. While he lay awake wondering if Mat was getting any sleep at all, he hears the stable door hinges squeak open. Rand sees a woman standing in the open stable door. She steps inside. Rand can see that she is about the same age as Nynaeve and that she is wearing a silk green dress. Rand wakes up Mat. She asks Rand if he is ill and she offers to look at him. Rand wonders to himself if she is Aes Sedai.
The woman feels Rand’s forehead. Rand notices that her face seems to lack any feeling whatsoever. She comments that he does not feel warm but she says that he was sick and that he is still as weak as a day old kitten. She reached under her cloak and things began to move too fast for Rand to follow. She lunges at Mat and Rand heard the sound of metal slamming into wood as Mat jumped aside. Rand looks over at Mat and sees that in one hand he is holding her wrist just above the dagger she slammed into the wood where his chest had been. In Mat’s other hand he is holding the blade from Shadar Logoth against her throat.
Rand notices that the wood around the place where the woman’s blade landed is now blackening with smoke rising from the char. Rand points it out to Mat. She is not taking her eyes from Mat’s dagger. Mat removes her fingers from her dagger and then removes it altogether from the wall. She lies on the floor in front of them not moving. Mat hands the dagger to Rand who handles it carefully.
Her dagger looks ordinary despite what they just saw it do. When Rand sees that Mat is considering killing her, Rand tells him no.
M: She’s a Darkfriend.
R: But we’re not.
Mat did not move but he eventually relented. Mat tells her where to move. She moves calmly, as though the choice to move was her choice, and she advises both of them to stop struggling.
Mat: So you’re having trouble with a couple of farmboys? Maybe you Darkfriends aren’t as dangerous as I’ve always heard.
She replies that he will find out how dangerous they truly are when the myrddraal arrives. Mat asks Rand how he is feeling. Rand replies that he cannot dance but that he can walk. Mat puts her into a stable and bars the door from the outside. He then pulls Rand to his feet, they gather their things, and Rand carefully carries the woman’s dagger outside and tosses it into a bucket of water. The water hisses and steam rises to the surface.
Nobody paid them much attention as they left the village. A mile outside the village Rand’s strength gives out. They waited for a cart to come by and are surprised when one stops for them. Rand tells the man pulling the cart that he ate something that made him sick and that he has not slept for two days. He says he is no longer sick but remains weak.
The man guesses that are going to Caemlyn to see the False Dragon. He tells Mat to climb up and to put his friend in the back. He introduces himself as Hyam Kinch.
Obviously Robert Jordan wrote the last three chapters with the goal of – among other things – confusing the reader about time and the order of events. Chapter 31 started in the middle of of the events of Chapter 33 (sometime shortly after Master Kinch gives them scarves) before flashing back several days. The rest of Chapter 31 and 32 are flashbacks from Rand’s perspective. When we caught up to that spot again (the place in the story where Rand and Mat are given scarves by Hyam Kinch), we then flash back again. The rest of chapter 33 gets us to the point where Rand and Mat meet Master Kinch.
These chapters reinforce the strength of Rand and Mat’s friendship. When Mat is blind, Rand holds his arm and promises not to leave him behind. He even lets Mat sob on his chest. When Rand is sick, Mat makes sure they sleep under a roof and stays awake with him the entire night caring for him.
We meet a few Darkfriends along the way and Mat kind of seems to be right about them. Gode, Paitr, and the woman do not quite seem as scary as we had been led to believe that Darkfriends would be. The well-dressed woman in this chapter seems to be the scariest but Mat dealt with her somewhat easily on his own.
Does it seem like that woman is particularly frightened of Mat’s dagger? It seems that way to me. What does she know?
What’s going on with Rand? Why the occasional bouts with craziness and the sudden sickness here?