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 34: The Last Village
Rand and Mat reach Carysford after dark. Rand wonders if his whole sense of time is becoming skewed. It has been three nights since they left Four Kings and only two nights since they were surprised by Paitr in Market Sheran. The nameless Darkfriend woman tried to kill them only yesterday. Carysford appears to be a quiet village. Rand and Mat cross the village into the countryside beyond.
Abruptly Mat sits down in the middle of the road. He states that he will not walk any further unless there is food or a place to sleep at the end of their walk. Rand spots some haystacks and points Mat toward them. They decide to sleep there. In the dark, after they settle in, Mat asks Rand if he believes that they will reach Caemlyn. He tells Rand that he believes they are the last two members of their party still alive.
In the morning, Rand crawls out of the haystack. He sees a steady trickle of people on the road walking toward Caemlyn. Mat gets up too and asks Rand if he believes they will get something to eat today. Rand says they can think about that while walking. On the road, Mat asks a young man where he is bound. The man replies he is going to Caemlyn to see the Dragon. Mat asks several more people during the day and gets the same answers – except for when he asks a local. He is lucky to get any answer at all from locals. The road is filled with walking travelers, farmers’ carts, and merchants’ trains. Rand narrowly avoids taking a whip lash to the eye from one merchants’ train driver. The driver smirked at Rand after. They see the Queen’s Guard a couple of times before midday, too.
Rand believes that there is a good side to the foot traffic. If any Darkfriends are hunting them, Rand thinks it would be like trying to pick out two particular pigeons in a flock. Before dark, Rand and Mat have passed through two more villages. They do not have enough money to buy a room or food. They also worry that Darkfriends are on the lookout for flute players and jugglers. By dusk, their fellow wanderers have found places to sleep for the night. Rand and Mat have the road for themselves. They decide to keep walking for as long as they can see the road. In the dark, they come upon another village. Before reaching it, Mat asks if they can stop now. Rand tells him that he wants to stop on the other side of the town. From the distance where they stand, Rand thinks to himself that this village could be Emond’s Field. Despite Mat’s muttering, Rand continues on through the village. On the rim of the shadows coming from the Village Inn, Rand sees a couple of men talking. Another man, not too far off, is adjusting straps on his horse and cart. One of the men in the shadows makes Rand uneasy so he stops and watches them. He realizes that the man on the cart is also uneasy. Rand has the impression that the man in the shadows who makes him uneasy is doing all the talking. Rand feels a tingling on his neck and the hair standing up on his arms regarding the man in the shadows.
The scary man in the shadows walks away. As he steps by a window, Rand realizes that he is a Fade. The nervous man he was talking to walks toward the Inn. As he reaches the Inn door, the man by the cart addresses him.
Strange friends in the dark for an Innkeeper.
The nervous man jumps when the cart man speaks. The nervous man is named Holdwin and the man at the cart is named Almen Bunt. Holdwin tells Bunt that the man he was speaking with is from Four Kings and that he is looking for a couple of young men who stole a heron marked sword from him. Holdwin tells Bunt that the two young men are Darkfriends and followers of Logain as well. Bunt seems doubtful of the story. He believes this sounds like a lot for young men to be up to. He also does not like the look of Holdwin’s friend. Holdwin tells Bunt that his friend is offering one hundred Crowns for the two of them.
Holdwin comments that Bunt is still fixed on his fool plan. Bunt replies that it is not a fool plan and that there may not be another False Dragon to see before he dies. Apparently Bunt plans to drive his cart through the night so that he can have the road to himself until he reaches Caemlyn the following morning. Holdwin tells Bunt that the road is a dangerous place to be at night. Bunt suggests that the Queen’s Guard could make the area safer by locking up Holdwin’s friend. But also says that his friend is afraid of someone getting a good look at him – which is why he is sneaking around in the dark.
Holdwin is incredulous at the idea of his friend being afraid. “If you only knew…” Holdwin then goes into the Inn. Rand approaches Bunt over Mat’s objections. Rand tells him that he could not help but overhear that Bunt is going to Caemlyn. Bunt offers Rand and Mat a ride in his cart.
After riding for a while, Bunt breaks the silence by asking if either Rand or Mat has ever been to Caemlyn before. He tells them it is the greatest city in the world. Bunt says that the only way Caemlyn could be made better is if Morgase got ride of the witch from Tar Valon. Bunt does not like the Aes Sedai, Elaida, “sitting there in the palace like a spider.”
Rand considers that if they do not find Moiraine that Elaida might help them reach Tar Valon. Bunt continues talking about the Andoran royalty. He says that Andor always sends the Daughter Heir to study with Aes Sedai and the eldest son to study with Warders. However, he is not sure if the Lady Elayne or her brother Gawyn should keep with tradition. He recounts the previous Daughter Heir and her brother. Luc, the brother, died in the Blight for unknown reasons. Tigraine just disappeared.
Bunt tells them that Tigraine disappeared and Andor was plunged into a Civil War between noble houses after the previous Queen died with no heir. Morgase ended the Civil War by marrying Tigraine’s former husband, a nobleman from Cairhein, named Taringail Damodred. He became Lady Elayne and Gawyn’s father. Bunt insists that he is a good Queen’s man but he does not want Andor to continue associating with Aes Sedai. Rand finally falls asleep while Bunt continues talking. Rand has a nightmare of a raven ripping out his eyeball and sits up and shrieks.
Bunt asks if Rand is all the way awake. He says that Rand gave him a start yelling like that. Then he announces that they are in Caemlyn.
Those dream ravens have a thing for plucking out eyeballs.
Not a lot happens in this chapter. Rand and Mat walk… a lot. They overhear a Myrddraal talking to an Innkeeper who is likely a Darkfriend. Then they hitch a ride on a cart to Caemlyn.
We learn quite a bit about Caemlyn in this chapter, though. The Queen is Morgase. She has an Aes Sedai advisor named Elaida. She has a son, Gawyn, and a daughter, Elayne.
We also learn a little bit about how Morgase came to the throne. She married the previous Daughter Heir’s (Tigraine) husband, Taringail. The previous Queen’s son (Luc) also died under mysterious circumstances. File this information away and I doubt it is mentioned without purpose.
Bunt gives us a sense that the realm is feeling a sense of growing frustration toward their Queen.