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 43: Decisions and Apparitions
Moiraine knows what Loial meant but she says nothing. Loial looks as though he feels abashed by his outburst. Nobody wants to speak.
Rand asks Loial why they would die. Loial looks over at Moiraine. She tells Loial that the knowledge is his, and that the Ways are their only path to safety, but that the telling of the story is his.
Loial explains that during the Time of Madness, during the Breaking of the World, some male Aes Sedai who had staved off madness were given sanctuary in Ogier steddings. Many accepted because they were protected from the taint of the True Source while in the stedding. Loial says that no Aes Sedai were able to remain in the stedding because they could not accept the isolation from the True Source. One by one the male Aes Sedai left the stedding hoping that the taint was gone and it never was.
Moiraine clarifies to Loial that some Aes Sedai blame the ogier offer of sanctuary for prolonging the Breaking. She states though that others believe had all men gone mad at once, the world would not have survived. She tells him she is of the Blue Ajah and holds to the latter view. She credits the ogier for helping to save what could be saved.
Loial continues. The male Aes Sedai all eventually left the stedding but before they left they gave a gift to the ogier in thanks for the sanctuary – the Ways.
Loial: Enter a Waygate, walk for a day, and you may depart from another Waygate one hundred miles from where you started. Or five hundred. Time and distance are strange in The Ways.
Loial says that it was a marvelous gift. He says that after the Breaking, there was no Breaking within the Ways itself. It allowed Ogier to travel between steddings without crossing through a war torn world. He explains that when the last Aes Sedai left the ways, they gave the ogier elders a key, a talisman, for growing more of The Ways. He says that the Ways are a living thing in some fashion. He says that no ogier understands how it works nor does any living Aes Sedai.
Waygates are on the outskirts of steddings. Loial states that after the Breaking, the ogier built cities for men and planted Groves in those cities. He states that the Ogier grew Waygates to those Groves to help Ogier deal with The Longing. They could travel by The Ways, from the Groves, back to steddings, as needed for their health. He tells Moiraine that the Grove in Fal Dara was chopped down and the city they built there burned, during the Trolloc Wars.
Moiraine tells Loial that the Waygate remains in place despite the loss of the Grove that once grew around it.
Egwene breaks in and asks how the male Aes Sedai were able to make The Ways at all. if their part of the True Source was tainted. Loial explains that each stedding has a Waygate on its border but the Waygate it outside the stedding. He says this is the seed of why Ogier do not dare travel in The Ways. No Ogier has used The Ways in one thousand years. He tells Egwene that about one thousand years ago, The Ways began to change. They initially grew dank and dim. Eventually the paths became dark and travelers began to vanish. Some who managed to escape from The Ways, in this time, went mad, raving about Manchin Shin, The Black Wind. He says even with Aes Sedai healing, it was as though darkness sank into their bones. They never laugh again and they fear the sound of wind.
Nynaeve bursts out angrily about Moiraine’s plan and the Aes Sedai asks her if she would rather try the Whitecloaks within Caemlyn or the trollocs outside the city walls. Loial tells Moiraine that she has not explained to him why he should break the Edict of the Elders regarding The Ways. Moiraine tells Loial that there is enough power in The Eye of the World to undo the Dark One’s prison.
Moiraine tells them that three separate threads have come together in this room warning them about The Eye. She says this cannot be chance. It must be The Pattern. She tells the three boys they did not choose. They were chosen by the Pattern. She says they can try to run and hide or they can try. She says that three ta’veren at The Eye of the World, where the danger lies, might save the world from the Shadow. She tells them the choice is theirs.
Rand: I’ll go.
Perrin and Mat agreed, too. She tells Nynaeve and Egwene that they also have the choice.
“Stay behind?” Egwene exlaimed, “and let the rest of you go off into danger while we hide under the covers? I won’t do it!”
Nynaeve also says she will go. Moiraine turns to Loial. He says that no Ogier has seen The Green Man or The Eye of the World in quite a long time. He agrees, reluctantly, to lead them.
They plan long into the night. Once dark falls, Lan joins them too and adds his suggestions. Rand feels bot eager and afraid. Mat is clasping his hands together as if to keep them from gripping the dagger in his coat. Perrin looks resigned.
Perrin tells Rand, when they lock eyes, that they do what they must. For a moment his yellow eyes flashed with something like eagerness. Perrin adds that there is good hunting near the blight. He seems to shudder having heard what he just said.
Rand talks to Egwene. He tells her that nobody will try to stop them or think worse of them if she and Nynaeve leave for home or Tar Valon in the morning. He then advises her to go. To his surprise she smiles and touches his cheek, thanks him, and tells him that she cannot. Egwene tells Rand that she knows about Min’s viewings. She knows that she and Nynaeve are part of this too, somehow.
Egwene: Whatever involves you, involves me.
She abruptly asks Rand who Elayne is and Rand tells her the truth. She is incredulous at his answer and leaves him to sit at the other table. Rand thinks to himself that he needs to talk to Perrin.
Rand: He knows how to deal with women.
The group seeks out Master Gill. Moiraine has a few questions for him. He comes back and forth, with supplies or answered questions, each time knocking on the door in advance as though it is not his Inn or his library. She gives him a list of supplies to purchase and she requests that he wake them before daybreak.
The group leaves the room in search of baths and beds. Mat begins talking during his bath.
Mat: You think my da’ will ever believe it? Me! Saving the world! My sisters won’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Rand and Mat go up to their bed. For the first time in a long while, Mat actually undressed before bed. However, he tucks the dagger under his pillow. Rand can feel the wrongness coming from beneath Mat’s pillow. The two of them fall asleep.
Rand knows immediately he is having a dream that is not a dream. Rand thinks to himself “deny him and his power fails.” He tries to will himself back to his bed in The Queen’s Blessing but he fails. He seeks out the Flame and the Void and he becomes calm.
He opens a door to a familiar room where he has met with Ba’alzamon before. On a polished table top inside the room are three figures of men. The sculptors look like Perrin, Mat, and Rand. A voice breaks the quiet.
“You’ve hidden from me for too long.”
Ba’alzamon stands before the windows in the room. Rand stats aloud that he denies him.
Ba’alzamon: Do you think that it is that easy?
Rand continues to say that he denies him. Ba’alzamon explains that they have had this confrontation countless times before. He tells Rand that he has different names and different faces, but it is always the same contest. He tells Rand that Age after Age, he either kneels to him or dies wishing he had strength to kneel.
Ba’alzamon tells Rand that though they have had the same fight since the moment of Creation, this time he believes change will happen. He tells Rand that in past Ages, he has made the choice to serve him.
Ba’alzamon tells him that Aes Sedai serve him already. Rand denies this and he is told in reply that during the Trolloc Wars, Aes Sedai began to serve him. He tells Rand that The Black Ajah has dwelt among the other Aes Sedai unseen and in the shadows for two thousand years.
Rand asks what Ba’alzamon what he wants and he is told to kneel. Rand shouts “no” in reply. and feels something stab his hand. Rand wakes up after falling onto the floor beside his bed. Mat is tossing and turning in his sleep muttering “deny you, deny you, deny you.” Rand shakes him awake and Mat wakes up immediately. He grabs for the dagger beneath the pillow.
Mat tells him that he saw three figures sculpted on the table. He tells Rand that he picked up the one with the dagger and heard “so that’s who you are.” When he looked back, the figure had Mat’s face on it.
Rand feels pain in his hand. He lights a candle and sees a thick splinter of wood driven into his palm. Rand stares at it and pulls it free from his hand. As soon as the splinter left his fingers it vanished. The wound remains on his hand, though. He is terrified of even the smallest part of the splinter remaining in his hand.
They hear a knock on the door. Moiraine peaks into the room. She tells them to dress quickly and come down because they must be away before first light. Rand and Mat share a confused look. Moiraine notices their shared look and enters all the way into the room asking what has happened.
Moiraine: The dreams?
Mat: He knows who I am! The Dark One knows my face!
Rand holds up his palm, wordlessly, showing her the wound. Moiraine grasps his hand. Cold chills Rand to the bone. When she takes her hand away the wound is gone.
“Hurry,” she said softly. “Time grows very short.”
Oh my goodness. This is getting stressful.
The chapter here picks up from Loial announcing that their plan to enter The Ways will kill them all. Tension builds as we get an exposition dump / world building that explains what The Ways are and *why* that The Ways are so dangerous. Nevertheless, everyone eventually agrees that it is their only option – however dangerous it might be.
I don’t know how anyone can get through this chapter without liking Egwene. She fiercely says that she will not let her friends go into danger without her. She is clearly terrified, though, and we see that in the way she thanks Rand for telling her not to go. But she goes anyway. “Whatever involves you, involves me.”
Then we get to the dream. It is not entirely clear how much of what Ba’alzamon says here we should believe. However, it makes sense that he would know when The Black Ajah began given that they serve him directly. So we can (probably) date Darkfriend Aes Sedai, in the current Age, back to The Trolloc Wars two thousand years ago. I do not think the book has given us any reason to doubt Moiraine, yet, has it? Of course, leading the three Emond’s Field boys directly into Bad Guy Homeland (The Blight) is suspicious.
Rand getting stabbed in the hand was kind of intense. It sounds like Mat’s dream was worse though. He saw his own face on the statue. He face felt like skin. And he could feel himself, touching himself, when he touched the statue. That’s freaky.
Again, to reiterate: Imagine that futuristic earth discovers that Satan is real, tangible, touches him, gets power from him, talks to him directly and audibly, etc. No faith required at all. Now imagine this very real cosmic bad guy appears in your dream, knows your face, and is actively hunting you down. That is the reality for the characters within these books.
Perrin must have been talking to wolves about The Blight, right? How else would he know about the good hunting there?
I’m excited to see where this goes. The end of the book is now within sight.