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 44: The Dark Along the Ways
Just before dawn, Rand follows Moiraine to where the others are waiting. Mat stays on Rand’s heels. The party went out through the stableyard door to where outside it is still black. Master Gill opens a stable door wide enough only for the group to pass though. The horses are saddled and waiting.
As everyone finds their horse, Mat tells Rand that Perrin is making him nervous. Rand nods. He tells Mat that Moiraine knows about whatever it is and that he is fine. That seems to satisfy Mat. A stableman tells the group that the way is clear and they set out from the stable yard. Moiraine advises Master Gill to write to Sheriam Sedai of the Blue Ajah if he faces trouble for harboring them.
Gill laughs and thanks Moiraine for giving him the only inn in Caemlyn with no rats. He says that the custom from that alone more than pays for any harm he might suffer. He also tells her that the Queen holds with Tar Valon and that he holds with the Queen.
Moiraine turns to Loial and asks if he is ready. Loial guides their group. Lan brings up the rear of their column. The horses are packed down as they follow the Ogier. They all have lanterns and lantern poles. Loial told them in their preparations that The Ways are darker than the darkest night. Loial guides them toward the Waygate by a feel he cannot explain. As their party rides through the streets of Caemlyn, the darkness begins to lessen. Rand worries that people will soon be able to notice Loial – who is half again as tall as a man should be and likely to incite terror. Finally, Loials says that it is there and he points at a building.
Moiraine finds a locked cellar door and uses the One Power to unlock it. The calls for the rest of their party to light lanterns and come down. She calls for them to hurry. They hang the lanterns from their pole and lead their horses down into the cellar. Lan was last into the cellar and as soon as he is in, he pulls the door behind them shut.
Mat asks why they would build a Waygate in a place like this and Loial tells him it was not always as it is now. Rand is startled to see that Loial is angry as the ogier describes to Mat the Grove that use to be there and the trees and flowers therein.
Rand notices that one of the walls is intricately worked stone. One part of the carved stone wall is more elaborate than the rest with stone leaves that appear soft.
“Avendesora,” Moiraine murmured, resting her hand on a trefoil leaf.
Rand looked at the carving and sees that this is the only leaf of its kind on the wall carving. The leaf comes away in her hand. She set the leaf back onto the wall, a handspan lower, as if it were meant to go there, and the nature of the wall began to change. A split opened in the middle of the ancient carving and began to open. Behind the opening, a reflective shimmering catches their images.
Lan walks toward the shimmering surface, leading Mandarb his horse, and a moment later both were gone. Moiraine tells the rest to hurry because she must be the last through the Waygate. Rand walks through the shimmering, also, and an icy feeling envelopes his skin as though he is passing through cold water. Abruptly the chill bursts like a bubble. He is inside The Ways. He sees Lan and Loial ahead and hurries toward them pulling his horse behind him. Rand looks back through The Waygate and he can see the rest of his party. They all are moving as if in a dream. Every blink of their eyes seem exaggerated and slow. Loial explains that the Wheel turns faster inside The Ways.
One by one the others pass through. Moiraine was the last through. Their group travels in a tight knot, feeling some comfort in the unnatural darkness to touch another human being. Moiraine advises Loial to begin and Loial sets out immediately. Moiraine and Lan crowd in behind the Ogier as he leads the group toward the first Guiding. After some time riding, the group finds a broad slab of stone.
Loial tells them that this is a Guiding. He reads the Ogier script on the Guiding and leads them in a new direction. They continue on until they come to a bridge. Rand wonders what is holding the bridge up. The bridge is pockmarked. Rand hopes that it holds up until they reach its other side. They cross and it eventually does end. There, at a place called an Island, Loial finds another Guiding. Loial then leads the group up and up in a winding path to another Island. Rand wonders if they are directly above the Island where they started. Their travels continue on this way until Rand has no sense of direction and no sense of time.
Rand begins to feel as though The Ways were not as bad as Loial had implied. He almost thinks they are boring. Then abruptly, as they are crossing a bridge, it ends in a jagged gap.
Well, we’re in The Ways now. The fantasy of this place is that it is is something like traveling via wormhole. We’re bending cosmic space and time to travel between distances more quickly. Maybe if people are still reading The Wheel of Time series in another couple hundred years, then readers at that time will see this section and think to themselves… “well, yeah.”
I, uh, wonder about the idea that someone had a Waygate in their cellar. It seems likely that a place like this would have been under Aes Sedai guard, just for the safety of people who might accidentally wander in. Of course, maybe it *was* under guard and after a few hundred years, the guard just got lax.
Since there was so much build-up for The Ways, I think Rand’s sense of boredom (and mine while reading this chapter) is about to come to an end in the next chapter.