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 46: Fal Dara
The country around the Waygate is rolling forested hills. However, aside form the gate, there is no sign of an Ogier Grove. Loial does not comment other than a sad shaking of his head. None of the surrounding trees show any green. Nynaeve comments on how dead everything look and Perrin replies that at least they are out of the Ways.
Mat: Out where?
Lan: Shienar[…]We’re in the Borderlands.
Rand thinks to himself that The Blight is close by and The Eye of the World. Moiraine announces that they are only a few miles from Fal Dara. As they ride toward Fal Dara, Rand sees trees burst open as though they were struck by lightening. Lan tells him that Shienar is so cold in the winter that sometimes the sap freezes and the trees burst. He tells Rand that this past winter, more trees burst than usual. Rand shakes his head in disbelief.
Mat cannot believe, given the cold, that winter is past. Lan tells him that the freezing cold around him is a fine spring. Lan tells him that if he wants warm that it will be warm in The Blight. The group begins to pass farms but do not see people in them. The farmhouses appear to be abandoned and Moiraine frowns at them as they ride by. Rand cannot imagine anything growing in Shienar. Nynaeve and Egwene speculate that the people in these farms could not have been gone long. Egwene explains that the wrong curtains are up for winter. Perrin laughs about their notice of curtains, but upon raised eyebrows from the women, agrees with them saying that there was not enough rust on a scythe they saw for it to have ben out much longer than a week.
Rand is surprised that Perrin was able to make out any rust on the scythe blade they saw. He believes it was too far away. Rand wonders aloud where they could have gone and he notes that they are now close to The Blight – the homeland of the Fades and trollocs which have been chasing them. He suggests to Nynaeve and Egwene that maybe it is enough that they are close, in Fal Dara, and that they might not need to go with the rest to The Eye. Rand also suggests to Loial that he might be able to stay behind.
Loial reminds Rand that he is ta’veren and that his fate, along with Mat and Perrin, chooses for the rest of them. Then he smiles and says it will be something to meet The Green Man. Loial says that most of the Elders talk about their meeting with The Green Man. He tells Perrin that he does not avoid Ogier as much as he does humans, but that it is also true for Ogiers that he can only be met once.
Nynaeve rounds on Rand and reminds him that Moiraine has told them that she and Egwene are part of the Pattern. She says too much has happened to not believe her. She then questions what might happen if they are not with him at The Eye. She also points out that if the three boys… three men.. can do what needs to be done, so can they. Nynaeve then asks whether they will reach Fal Dara before nightfall and rides to catch up with lan and Moiraine. After she rides away, Mat marvels that she referred to them as men.
Egwene rides close to Rand so that only he can hear. She tells him she only danced with Aram. She asks him if he holds it against her. He tells her no. Rand suddenly remembers what Min told him.
She is not for you, nor you for her. At least, not in the way that you both want.
The group finally arrives at Fal Dara. The city is much smaller than Caemlyn though its walls are just as high. The Black Hawk of Shienar flies from banners along the walls. Lan tosses back the hood of his cloak and motions for the others to do the same. He tells them that it is the law in Shinar. No one may hide his face inside a town’s walls.
Mat: Are they all that good looking?
Lan: A halfman can’t hide with his face exposed.
The Gates are open but a dozen armed men guard the opening. They make no move to stop their group from entering and many call out happily, “Dai Shan!” A number of others shout the same. As they pass through the gates, a few more shout “Glory to the Builders!” Loial looks surprised, then a broad smile crosses his face. A man approaches Lan.
Will the Golden Crane fly again, Dai Shan?
Lan replies, “Peace, Ragan” and the man falls away. Lan returns the waves and his face becomes even more grim. Fal Dara is jam packed with people cheek to jowl. The people are silent and grim faced. Rand now knows where all the farmers have gone. Another man shouts “Welcome, Dai Shan” toward Lan and others shout “The Golden Crane! The Golden Crane!”
Through the gate, Lan dismounts and motions for the others to do the same. Armored men and horses are everywhere. Rand unties his pack from his horse and hands it to someone taking it to stable it.
A man with his head shaved, except for a top knot, greets their group. He tells Lan that word was sent to Lord Agelmar as soon as their party was seen coming. He tells Lan that he is waiting for them. The man leads them into the fortress. He says that he is glad the call reached Lan. He asks him if he will raise the Golden Crane banner once more. Rand notices that the halls of the fortress are stark and largely unadorned.
Lan asks the man, Ingtar, if things are really as bad as they appear. Ingtar shakes his head and says that things are never as bad as they appear, however, they are a little worse than usual this year. He tells Lan that raids continued through the winter, even in the worst of winter, and that this was true all along the Border. He tells Lan about numerous trolloc camps in The Blight, discovered by scouts. He concludes by saying that they will turn the trollocs back at Tarwin’s Gap as they always have. Ingtar leads them itno Lord Agelmar’s study and then he leaves.
This room is as stark and largely unadorned as the rest of the fortress. Agelmar rises when he sees them enter. Agelmar’s head is shaved except for a topknot. His topknot is pure white. His face is as hard as Lan’s and his eyes are like brown stone. He, Lan, and Moiraine greet each other formally but with an undertone that says they are old friends.
Servants in black and gold appear with wash clothes for their faces and hands. Others bring mulled wine and apricots. Agelmar gives orders for rooms and baths to be prepared. Agelmar comments that it must have been a long journey from Tar Valon and Lan replies that it was a short journey on the path that they traveled, yet more tiring than the longer path. Agelmar looks puzzled and Lan says no more. Lord Agelmar offers them rest and a few night’s shelter and Moiraine in turn asks for merely one night of shelter for themselves and their horses. She also asks for fresh supplies if they are available.
Agelmar confesses that he thought they were coming to help at Tarwin’s Gap. Lan tells him that they are bound for The Blight. Agelmar states that surely a few days or weeks will make no difference and he tells them that they are needed. Moiraine replies that Ingtar indicated they will defeat the threat as they have defeated others through the years.
Agelmar: “Aes Sedai,” Agelmar said wryly, “if Ingtar had to ride alone to Tarwin’s Gap, he would ride the whole way proclaiming that the trollocs would be turned back once more. He has almost pride enough to believe that he could do it alone.”
Lan asks him how bad the situation really is. Agelmar tells him that when they ride to the gap, the people will be sent to the Capital in hopes that it will hold. Agelmar tells them that the trollocs raided all across the Borderlands all winter and that nothing like that has happened since the Trolloc Wars. He tells Lan that none of the other nations have had scouts find trollocs massing on their borders, as they have, but they all believe themselves too vulnerable to send fighting men elsewhere.
Shienar will ride to Tarwin’s Gap alone. And we will be outnumbered at least ten to one. At least.
Agelmar comes close to pleading with Lan to raise the Golden Crane banner and ride with them. He tells Lan that men from other nations will come when they hear that the banner is raised. He says it will not be in time to help at the gap but it may be enough to save Shienar. Lan’s face does not change but he crushes his silver wine cup his his fist.
Lan replies that he cannot. Agelmar makes the same plea to Moiraine and she also replies that she cannot. She tells Agelmar that it is not coincidence that trollocs are massing north of Shienar but she says that they have their own battle to fight in The Blight itself, at The Eye of the World.
Agelmar sounds shaken when he tells her that she cannot be saying that The Dark One is loose. Moiraine says not yet. She continues by saying that if they win at The Eye of the World, perhaps not ever again. He asks if she can find The Eye and she says she can. Agelmar studies the rest of the group for the first time. He is particularly puzzled by Nynaeve and Egwene. He asks if they are also Aes Sedai and she tells him no. He looks at Rand, Mat, and Perrin, says they are barely more than lads, and offers to send one hundred lances with them to The Eye. He tells Moiraine that The Blight is worse than usual this year.
Lan tells Agelmar that one hundred lances would be too many and one thousand not enough. The larger the party going into The Blight, he says, the more likely they are to attract unwanted attention. Lan says they must reach The Eye without fighting if they can. Moiraine tells Agelmar that need and intention is the key to finding The Eye. If even one member of their party goes in search of glory, The Green Man might not let them find it. She also tells Agelmar that she has been to The Eye once before.
Agelmar is impressed and then troubled when he hears she has met The Green Man once before.
A: But if you have already met him once…
M: Need is the key. And there can be no greater need than mine. Than ours. And I have something those other seekers did not.
Agelmar throws up his hands. She tells him that he has his battle and they have theirs. Once the decision is settled, Agelmar moves on and puts it out of his mind. He dines with their party as their rooms are prepared. After a while, Agelmar notices the Emond’s Fielders are not talking so he begins asking gently probing questions. They stumble over themselves to answer his questions. Rand hopes everyone also remembers to hold their tongue when appropriate.
Loial eventually confesses to Agelmar that he had hoped some remnant of the Grove or the Ogier built city would remain and Agelmar tells him that the Trolloc Wars left nothing but memories. He explains that rather than attempt to imitate what the Ogier had built, poorly, they focused on building with simplicity. Lan recites a poem to express the sentiment and Rand is flabbergasted.
Poetry? Out of Lan? The man is like an onion. Every time Rand thought that he knew something about the Warder, he discovered another layer underneath.
Ingtar appears and tells Agelmar that a stranger appeared and tried to enter the town. By his accent, the stranger is from Lugard. He tells Agelmar that the man was caught scaling the city’s wall. Agelmar is outraged that the tower guard is so negligent that a man could get so far as to scale the wall without notice. Ingtar tells him that the stranger is a madman and that perhaps the Light shielded the eyes of the guards because sometimes the Light protects madmen.
Agelmar tells the group that he must see to this man. He tells then that two days past, some of his people were found trying to saw through the hinges of a horse gate. It would have been enough to let Trollocs in. He says that he supposes the culprits were Darkfriends but states that they were torn to pieces by the people before the guards arrived.
Moiraine asks if she can see the man. She is wary of things out of the ordinary and does not want to risk even a small unforeseen change to the Pattern. Ingtar returns with a man who looks like a ragbag turned inside out. The prisoner is covered in grime and a rancid smell wafts ahead of him.
The man whines about being a poor destitute in search of shelter. Mat and Perrin realize the man is Padan Fain. Rand then realizes that Fain was the beggar who pursued him on the streets of Caemlyn.
Fain begins to cry. He says that he did not want to pursue them.
He made me! Him and his burning eyes!
The boys realized who he means by that. Fain says that he was made into a hound – to follow and never rest. Moiraine asks Agelmar if she can question him alone. She also asks if Fain can be washed because she fears she may need to touch him.
Suddenly Fain shouts that he will not be compelled. The whine in his voice has been replaced by arrogance. His usual Lugard accent is also missing. His voice becomes sleak and oily as he speaks to Agelmar as if to an equal.
There is a misunderstanding here, Great Lord. I am sometimes taken by spells but that will pass soon. Yes, soon, I will be rid of them.
He tells Agelmar not to be fooled by his clothing. He says they are a disguise. He also reports that he is happy to reach lands that still know the dangers of Ba’alzamon. Rand goggles. The voice belongs to Fain but the words do not sound like him at all.
He tells Agelmar that Padan Fain is a disguise he has worn to avoid his pursuers. He tells Agelmar that Darkfriends pursue him because he has learned how to defeat the Shadow. He then offers to show Agelmar how to defeat the Shadow.
Agelmar says over his shoulder to Lan that he thinks a great deal of himself for a peddler. He also suggests that Ingtar was correct in saying that he is a madman. Fain’s eyes flash in anger, just for a moment, and he is about to continue as he had before. However, Moiraine stands and begins walking toward him. This causes Fain to cut off and begin backing up. She whispers something in Mat’s ear, first, causing him to relax and remove his hand from his coat.
As she arrives at Fain, he returns to his original voice and cadence, whining that he wants to be free of him and that he wants to walk in the Light again. Tears stream down his face.
Moiraine: I am afraid he is more than a peddler, Lord Agelmar. Less than human. Worse than vile. More dangerous than you can imagine. He can be bathed after I have spoken with him. I dare not waste a minute.
I guess it’s time for me to make a gripe about this story. It strains my ability to suspend disbelief to think that people in countries south of the Borderlands do not believe in trollocs, Fades, etc. It would be one thing if the Borderlands were a completely isolated region of the world, cut off from trade, travel, etc. But we know that’s not the case. Bayle Domon – who we met earlier in the book – picked up Rand, Mat, and Thom after spending the winter in Saldaea. Maybe people in lands South of the Borderlands might think of trollocs and Fades as particularly exotic dangerous creatures. But to not believe in them at all? I don’t buy it. The entire continent was nearly destroyed by the shadowy bad-guy creatures in the Trolloc Wars, two thousand years earlier, and presumably a thousand years before that during the time of Lews Therin.
If human-monster hybrids ravaged the planet during Roman times, and before that during the Bronze Age, do you think we would have let those stories fade into myth and legend by now? No way. Not ever.
Speaking of Domon, his backstory was an example of Jordan doing some really effective and subtle world-building. When we are told by Agelmar that the Borderlands have been under siege all winter, it rings more true because we as the reader can remember back to Domon telling us about it already. We just did not know the import at the time when Domon told us about it.
The Borderlands are on the verge of being completely overwhelmed by Trollocs. The south lands seem… unprepared for an invasion. The stakes are high even without knowing what in the world we should expect at The Eye of the World.
This is the chapter when we really find out that Lan is a big deal – like in the world. I can honestly say that I have never entered a town and received a greeting like the one Lan gets in Fal Dara. Not yet, at least. I think receiving a greeting in a foreign language (Dai Shan!), despite everyone speaking the same language, just takes it to another level. How cool would it be if everyone in some random mid-sized city in Florida had a Finnish greeting for you? “Herrani! Herrani!” (It would be extremely cool.)
I did once have the idea to set up “Welcome to _____, hometown of Dusty ______” stations on the highway leading into and out of the small rural town where I was born. I would have included a little basket filled with pamphlets about my accomplishments and whatnot. But I never got around to finding out whether a stunt like that might be illegal.
Big reveal – Fain has been following the group this whole time. I suppose the clues were there for that. We know he followed them to Baerlon and spoke with Rand. He was already looking raggedy at that point. We probably should have guessed that he was the one who was asking about Rand in Caemlyn, too, given the description. He seems to have gone full Gollum since last we met him, too, with two speaking voices (one of which is whiny.)
Let’s think this through then. He is Ba’alzamon’s hound. Fain is a Darkfriend. He probably had something to do with Winternight. Beyond that, something about him set Mat, in particular, on edge. Moiraine had to whisper to Mat to get him to unclench his dagger. So… did Fain enter Shadar Logoth? I suspect we will find out. His secondary voice seemed a little reminiscent of Mat’s secondary voice in Caemlyn just before Moiraine sort of healed him.
Also: Fain was the one chasing them through The Ways. There is no way he got out without encountering Manchin Shin. The Black Wind was tugging on the cloaks of the rest of them and Fain was following behind. How was he unharmed?
Moraine gives us some hints as to his import: “I am afraid he is more than a peddler, Lord Agelmar. Less than human. Worse than vile. More dangerous than you can imagine. He can be bathed after I have spoken with him. I dare not waste a minute.”