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 45: What Follows in Shadow
Rand sees the gap in the bridge ahead. A rock falls from that gap and Rand never hears a stone hit bottom. He is not certain that there is a bottom. He can see on the other side of the bridge that nothing is holding it up underneath. The stone under Rand’s feet now feels as thin as paper.
Moiraine announces that they will have to double-back to a Guiding and then from there take another path to Fal Dara. Loial says he can find another path. He tells Moiraine that he had not dreamed the decay in The Ways had gone so far. Perrin says that there has to be a way and Rand notices his friend’s eyes are gathering in light and glowing golden. Rand thinks to himself that Perrin reminds him of a wolf.
Loial tells Moiraine that he could find other paths more easily than Fal Dara, Tar Valon or Stedding Shangtai, for example. Moiraine firmly reiterates that he is to take them to Fal Dara.
Moiraine: The Eye of the World lies beyond Fal Dara and we must reach The Eye.
The Ogier agrees reluctantly and he takes them another direction. Rand approaches Loial and tells him that when this is over, they will visit each other’s homes. He says that they will walk or ride, rather than ever take The Ways again, even if the trip takes them months.
Loial: You believe it will ever be over, Rand?
Every time the group passes a path with a white line, toward a Waygate, the group stares longingly toward an exit from The Ways. Finally the group decides to sleep for the night on one of the Islands. Loial tells them that once things grew on the Islands. Now they are pock marked stone.
Nynaeve asks Moiraine if she is going to set wards for the night. She tells the Aes Sedai that there must be worse than rats in The Ways, even if she has not seen them. Moiraine tells her that she feels the taint of The Ways and that she dare not set Wards because the corruption of the taint in The Ways would corrupt what she set in ways she cannot predict. The group sits on the bare stone to eat. Glumness settles on on the group.
Moiraine abruptly speaks and announces she can tell them one cheerful thing. She says she does not believe Thom Merilin is dead. She explains that when she traveled through Whitebridge after Rand and Mat, nobody mentioned the death of a Gleeman. She says she believes that someone would have mentioned it. She also tells them that Thom is part of the Pattern tied to them and that he is too important to have been cut off yet.
Rand suddenly realizes that Moiraine must have learned something from Min about Thom’s future and asks about it. Moiraine replies that Min saw a great deal about all of them and expresses a wish that she could understand half of what Min saw.
Mat jumps in and states that he does not understand how Min saw anything about any of them because, as he remembers it, she spent most of their time with her looking at Rand. Egwene raises an eyebrow. She tells Moiraine, in a too neutral voice, that the Aes Sedai failed to mention that to her. Rand interjects that he only talked to Min one time and that her hair is as short as his and that she wears a boy’s clothes.
Perrin speaks up and says that Min is just someone who worked at the Inn at Baerlon… not like Aram. This causes Egwene to choke on her tea.
Rand: Who is Aram?
Perrin smiles. Egwene blushes and says that Aram was just one of The Traveling People. Perrin tells Rand that Egwene said he dances like a bird. Egwene sits her cup down deliberately and announces that she is going to sleep. Perrin nudges Rand and winks. Rand thinks to himself that he wishes he knew as much about women as Perrin.
Mat suddenly says that maybe Rand should tell Egwene about Farmer Grinwell’s daughter, Else. Rand gets up and fetches his own blankets saying that sleep sounds good. Everyone except Lan and Moiraine decides to get in their blankets. Lan does not look as though he ever intends to sleep.
Mat whispers to Rand and asks him if there was anything between him and Min and Perrin asks him about Else.
Rand: Blood and ashes, can’t I even talk to a girl? You two are as bad as Egwene.
Everyone decides to go to sleep. Sleep is hard to come by. The stone is hard and their environment is unnatural. Moiraine does a circuit of the group and they fall asleep after she leaves them. Not long later, Lan wakes the group. They make tea before eating breakfast in the saddle.
A little later Lan announces that someone or something is following them. Mat fires an arrow behind them before anyone can stop him. Loial begins muttering about he should never have left the stedding. Egwene suggests that maybe it is another traveler, perhaps even an Ogier.
Loial: Ogier have more sense than to use The Ways. All but Loial who has no sense at all.
Moiraine asks Lan if it is something that serves the Dark One. Lan replies that he cannot tell. He says that whatever it is, it is not trying to catch them. He tells her that it almost caught up with them at the last Island and retreated back across the bridge to avoid catching them.
At the next Guiding, the group sees marks carved into the stone. Lan becomes visibly alert. Moiraine says that this explains much and tells the groups that the marks were made by trollocs or Fades. She says that this explains how they were able to arrive in the Two Rivers undetected. She reminds them that there is a Waygate for Manetheren and states that there is at least one Waygate in The Blight. She says this also explains how they gathered a small army outside of Caemlyn.
Lan calls out that the Trollocs do not use The Ways easily. Moiraine leads the group to where the Warder is and once there they find many dead trollocs. She asks Loial if he knows where to go and he leads them onward. They ride through the day.
Later, Rand hears a distant wind off in the black somewhere. He cannot say in which direction. He thinks to himself that it will be good to feel the wind again. Rand asks Loial about the wind and Loials face pales.
Loial: Machin shin! The Black Wind!
Loial tells Moiraine that they have two more bridges and they move quickly. Loial shouts “this way” and the group gallops forward. The sound of the wind in the distance becomes louder. The group suddenly rides up on a Waygate.
Moiraine: The avendesora leaf is not here. The key is gone!
Mat curses and Loial gives a mournful cry. Rand puts his hand on Egwene’s hand. Rand begins to think he can hear voices screaming in the wind behind them. The voices are screaming vileness that makes him want to vomit.
Moiraine raises her staff at the Waygate and flames leap from it at the Waygate. Stone melts slowly. Mat announces that he can feel the wind.
A gust tugs at Rand’s cloak. Lan’s war horse Mandarb charges at the Waygate stones and they crash outward. Light shines through. Rand does not wait before turning Bela toward the gate and slapping the shaggy mare, pushing her and Egwene forward. Moiraine shouts at all of them to go out. Moiraine fires something from her staff that looks like a multi-colored liquid light at the wind. It shrieks in a rage and cackles horrible promises in response. Rand rides through the gate.
Suddenly he is outside. It is cold outside. As they watch the gate, Moiraine begins to back out of the gate. Her mare Aldieb’s eyes dance with fear. Moiraine is now through the gate. The shimmering gate itself darkens to grey, then to charcoal black. The wind howls at them from the other side. The voices whisper and Rand can understand some of what they say.
Flesh so fine. So fine to tear. To gash the skin. Skin to strip, to plait. So nice to plait the strips. So nice. So red the drops that fall. Blood so red. So red so sweet. Sweet screams, pretty screams.
It continues on that way. The blackness lessens and then fades. The gate shimmers once more. Moiraine is relieved that the wind cannot pass through the gate. She tosses down her charred staff and wipes her hands on her clothing.
Nynaeve asks what it is that they saw. Loial tells her that it was Manchin Shin. She asks again what it is. Moiraine tells her she does not know. She says that it could be a parasite of The Ways which are themselves living things in a fashion. She speculates that it might be something born of the decay of The Ways.
Egwene asks for the speculation to stop and Moiraine reminds her that there is worse still to be faced. Moiraine notes that leaving the Gates open like this is dangerous. The states that Manchin Shin cannot get out but that anyone can now go in. She states that Agelmar will need to send men to wall the Waygate up after they reach Fal Dara.
I am torn on whether or not Manchin Shin lived up to its scary billing. Maybe that little monologue about tearing skin will be scarier on screen. Of course, if you do not know, plaiting means braiding. That’s a pretty horrifying image.
This chapter gives us the big reveal that trollocs are using The Ways. That’s how they got to Emond’s Field, that’s how they probably got to Caemlyn. It’s probably how they chased the group to Caemlyn. We also learn that traveling that way is not without issues for the trollocs.
Something is following the party through The Ways at a distance? That image has a very Gollum-esque feel to it. We are not told that the follower made it out. But there is also no chance Jordan told us about something following them without a purpose. Very, very interesting.
My favorite part of this chapter is the subtle lover’s spat between Rand and Egwene. She is offended about Rand talking to Min. Then Perrin comes through for Rand by bringing up Egwene and Aram. Mat does not quite steal Rand’s win by bringing up Else Grinwell. It’s the sort of banter you would expect between people who have known each other their whole lives and it’s fun to see it even in the worst place on earth (or… wherever it is that The Ways are.) There is a lot of affection in and among the people in this group. Jordan captures that feeling really well.
My second favorite part of this chapter is Loial, in a fit of despair, describing himself as the only Ogier without any sense.
We have crossed most of a continent now and we are racing toward the end of this book.