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.
You can find my previous chapter recaps HERE.
Chapter 39: Weaving of the Web
Through the window of his room in The Queen’s Blessing, Rand sees the crowds of Caemlyn moving in one direction. For a change, none of the people in the crowd seem interested in bashing in the heads of any other people in the crowd. Other than seeing his friends from home again, this is the day Rand has been waiting for most.
Mat is curled up on the bed and tells Rand to “take that trolloc you’re so friendly with.” Rand tells him that Loial is not a trolloc and that he is being stupid. He complains to Mat about how he has been hiding in their room and warns him that he will not continue bringing food to him forever. He also tells him that he needs a bath. Mat burrows himself further into his bed. Rand gives him one last chance to go with him and then closes the door behind him.
Rand thinks about a woman named Mother Grubb, two streets over, who sells herbs and poultices. Master Gill told him about her. Rand thinks to himself that Mat needs Nynaeve or maybe even Moiraine but Mother Grubb is who he has. He is worried that bringing her to The Queen’s Blessing might draw unwanted attention, though. Mat has not complained about aches or fevers. He just refuses to leave the room. Rand is disappointed because he had been sure today would be enough to convince him to leave the room.
In the hallway, Master Gill appears and tells Rand that he has heard someone in the city is looking for Rand and his friends and asking about them by name. Rand asks who it is and Gill says he does not know but that from what he has heard, the man asking is half mad. Rand worries that a Darkfriend might know their names and Gill replies that he has Darkfriends on the brain. The Innkeeper tells Rand that the Whitecloaks have also been in the city spreading rumors about strange shapes outside the city walls in the night. Gill laughs about this until his belly shakes.
Rand asks him what kind of shapes and Gill says he does not know but makes light of the idea and speculates that the shapes are trollocs or Lews Therin Kinslayer himself. Gill notices that Rand is going out and warns him to be careful because good Queen’s men are out-numbered outside even today. He advises Rand to leave by the alleyway. Outside, at the head of the alley, a large man named Lamgwin, with heavy lidded eyes, sees everything despite looking as though he has a lack of interest in what happens around him. Lamgwin believes Queen Morgase is the Light made flesh or near enough. The large man tells Rand to watch is back today.
As Rand leaves the alley, he notes that two men across the street from the Inn’s front door do not appear to notice him leaving. Not long after arriving in the city, Rand learned that red wrappings on a sword or arm band indicate support for Queen Morgase and white arm bands and sword wrappings indicate a lack of support. Rand does not want to get involved in city politics but it is too late. He has already chosen, by accident, red wrappings for his sword when he entered the city with Mat. In any event, neutrality is not possible in the city’s current climate.
Today, some of the hostility has been set aside inside the city as it celebrates a victory of the Light. The False Dragon is being displayed in the city before he is taken north to Tar Valon. Rand wonders to himself if Master Gill would have helped he and Mat if Rand had showed up at the Inn wearing white.
In the throng, Rand notices men with white armbands bumping Whitecloaks, intentionally. Nobody would have dared to do that two days earlier. The Whitecloaks notice Rand staring at him and he allows the crowd to usher him along. He moves through curving streets of the Inner City, built by the Ogier, until abruptly he arrives at the Palace. In every direction, the buildings and streets look like something out of a Gleeman’s tale. Rand notices that he will not be able to get near the palace when seeing the line of Queen’s Guards surrounding it.
Rand gives up on getting close to the Palace so he looks for a place where his height might be an advantage. He knows he does not need to be on the front row to see everything. He finds a spot along the street where he will be able to see over the comparatively shorter people in front of him and he feels content.
Across the street, a ripple runs through the crowd. People are drawing back to let something go by. The ripple draws closer to where Rand is standing until a stooped shape, that looks more like a pile of filthy rags than a man, bursts out onto the street. Rand hears murmurs of disgust around him. Abruptly, the man gives out a cry and points a dirty claw of a hand straight at Rand. Rand decides, Darkfriend or not, he does not want to meet this man face to face. He can feel the beggar’s eyes on him and he pushes his way back into the crowd to get away from the man. He breaks through the line of the crowd and begins to run. People begin to shout. When he finally gets away from the sounds of shouting, he collapses against a wall. He does not know where he is.
Rand believes he has lost the beggar for now but does not want to return and risk another encounter. He knows the man will continue looking for him even if he cannot explain to himself how he knows it. Rand looks around and tries to figure out how he might still see the procession pass. He hopes to at least see Logain if he cannot also see the Queen at the Palace. He wanders the street and notices a slope of earth, along the street, with a high wall rising up from the top of the slope.
Rand suddenly has a thought about the hilltop wall. It is not meant to be climbed but he scrambles up the earth and again up the wall. The wall reminds him of cliffs from the Sand Hills in the Two Rivers. He hears the procession nearing but he makes it to the top of the wall before it arrives. Finally he reaches the top with a sense of victory. Hastily he twists around. From the wall his line of sight is clear. He can see the Palace Gate and the Queen’s Guards drawn up there.
The first part of the procession rounds a curve in front of the Palace. Soldiers, banner, and finally behind them all is a man in a cage on a wagon. In each corner of the wagon cage sit two women. Rand is certain the women are Aes Sedai. The man in the cage draws all of Rand’s attention. Logain is a tall man with long dark hair down to his shoulders. He holds himself upright. Rand thinks that Logain holds himself up like a king, as though the crowd has arrived to do him honor. Wherever Logain’s eyes sweep, the crowd falls silent.
Logain throws back his head and laughs as the Palace swallows him.
Other contingents, from other nations, follow behind the wagons but they seem anti-climactic after the sight of Logain. Rand thinks, no matter the cage, that had not been a defeated man. Rand shivers and rubs his hands on his thighs.
Rand wonders aloud why the Aes Sedai were watching him and a voice answers.
They’re keeping him from touching the True Source, silly.
Rand jerks to look up, toward the girl’s voice, and he falls from the top of the wall. Something strikes his head and a laughing Logain chases him into spinning darkness.
This is a chapter where not much actually happens. However, the scene descriptions are so rich and well done that it’s hard not to feel, as a reader, as though you are in the throng of people on the streets of Caemlyn, breathing in the sense of anticipation on the air.
What actually does happen?
- It’s increasingly clear that something is wrong with Mat. We just do not know what that something is… yet. We have been building toward this with him for a while, though. He has been said to be growing increasingly suspicious of everyone. He nearly had a panic attack at just the noise from Caemlyn when they entered the city.
- Gill tells Rand that a madman has been asking about he and his friends, by name, inside the city. Then Rand runs into a beggar on the street who is looking for him. This seems… related.
- Whitecloaks have been spreading “rumors” about shapes outside the city walls. As the reader, we know that Gill’s laughter is probably badly misplaced. If trollocs and myrddraal are outside the city walls, Rand is probably not as safe as he would like to be inside the large well protected city.
- Rand climbs a wall in the inner city, to get a view of Logain’s procession, he hears a girl’s voice, and then he falls. Something hits his head.
The chapter title is “Weaving of the Web.” I suspect that we will learn in hindsight that this chapter, where not much happened, is a chapter where maybe more happened than meets the eye.