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 48: The Blight
Agelmar sends Ingtar and one hundred lances to escort Lan and the rest of the party to the border between Shienar and The Blight. They are sent to protect the group in case they are set upon by trollocs at the border. Rand notices towers along the border between Shienar and The Blight. The land just beyond the border looks no different than Shienar but just beyond the leafless trees is The Blight.
Ingtar tells them as they part that by escorting them to the border, he may not reach Tarwin’s Gap in time for the fighting. He also states that Agelmar has told him not to ride one step beyond the border. Clearly disgruntled, he states this to Moiraine almost as a question. She tells him that they all have their own part to play in the Pattern. Ingtar bows. He tells her he must leave her and ride hard to Tarwin’s gap where he will be allowed to face trollocs. His emphasis on allowed continues to demonstrate his displeasure with the situation.
Nynaeve asks him if he is truly so eager to face trollocs.
Ingtar: That is what I do, lady. That is what I am.
Ingtar raises a gauntleted hand with an open palm toward Lan and wishes him that peace favor his sword. He pulls his horse around and rides steadily east at a steady pace. The Emond’s Field party rides beyond the border and toward The Blight.
That morning, Agelmar himself led a party toward the east where they were set to join other parties, including King Easar himself, at Tarwin’s Gap. Shienarans from as far away as The Spine of the World also march toward the Gap. The exodus of people included more than troops. Civilians also abandoned homes and march south toward hope of safety in the event the troops fail.
After some time riding, Rand begins to feel warmer. He takes his cloak off and slings it across the pommel of his saddle. Egwene notes that this is the best weather they have seen all year. Nynaeve says that it feels wrong and Rand nods because he can feel the wrongness, too.
A while later, everyone has taken their coats off and they are now sweating. Loial comments about not liking the heat and damp. Rand thinks that the damp reminds him of the mire, in the Two Rivers, during the depths of summer. Rand notes that there is no water to cause the damp. Only Perrin, still in his coat, is breathing easily – Perrin and the Warder.
Rand notices that the leaves on the plants around them look sickly and yellow, with black flecks like the sign of disease marking them. Lan warns them not to touch anything.
Lan: Flowers can kill in The Blight, and leaves maim. There’s a little thing called a stick that likes to hide where the leaves are thickest, looking like its name, waiting for something to touch it. When something does, it bites. Not poison. The juice begins to digest the stick’s prey for it. The only thing that can save you is to cut off the arm or the leg that was bitten. But a stick won’t bite unless you touch it. Other things in The Blight will.
Perrin asks if they are in The Blight then and Lan says they are in the fringe. He tells them all that there are things in The Blight that hunt by sound and some may have wandered this far south. He tells them to keep quiet and to keep up if they want to stay alive. Lan keeps up a hard pace not waiting for an answer or comment from anyone.
The corruption of The Blight becomes more apparent. The leaves are yellow and spotted with black and red as thought they have blood poisoning. Flowers hung, sickly, pale, and waxen. The stench of decay is so strong that it sickens Rand. The air tastes like a mouth full of spoiled meat. The horses hooves make squishing sounds as rotten ripe things break open under them. Mat leans over and vomits. Rand seeks The Void but the calm does not help much. Mat vomits again a mile later and again after that.
Rand makes eye contact with Loial and finds outrage and disgust there. Loial states that he had heard but says nothing could adequately describe it. Loial is particularly outraged that The Dark One would do this to trees. Rand notes that only Lan and Perrin seem unaffected. He thinks that Perrin appears to be glaring at The Blight the way that one might glare at an enemy. Perrin appears to be half growling in a way that makes the hair on the back of Rand’s neck stir. Even in the full sunlight, Perrin’s eyes glow golden and fierce.
Lan states that they cannot reach the mountains in the distance by nightfall. Moiraine states that there is a place not far off suitable for camping and she says that it would be a good omen to do so. Lan gives her a flat look and then agrees. Moiraine says that The Eye was beyond the mountain passes the last time she visited The Eye and that it will be better to go through those passes in the noon day sun. Egwene notes that she is talking about The Eye as though it is not always in the same place.
Loial replies to her saying that no two ogier have found The Eye in exactly the same place. He says that The Green Man seems to be found where he is needed but that it has always been beyond the high passes. Lan says they should worry about even reaching the passes. He says that tomorrow they will truly enter The Blight. Rand looks around and cannot believe that he is not yet truly in The Blight.
Lan leads them west to a network of lakes. In the distance stand seven jagged topped towers. Nynaeve asks if they can camp by the lakes and believes it must be cooler by the water. Mat goes so far as to say he would like to stick his head in the water. Just then, a huge body roils the water from just beneath its surface. Ripples spread on and on until at last a tail rises out of the water, like a wasp’s stinger, at least five spans into the air. All along that length, fat tentacles writhe like monstrous worms. It then returns beneath the water.
Rand is disbelieving that anything that large could live in a lake that size. He also questions whether or not he saw hands on those tentacles.
Mat: On second thought, I like it here just fine.
Moiraine says she will set guarding wards around the hill. She says a true ward would alert creatures of the shadow to their presence. However, she notes that if a creature of The Dark One comes within a mile, she will know.
The group begins setting up their camp. Rand, Mat, and Perrin step outside of the campsite and everyone vanishes. The boys pull out their weapons. Suddenly, Lan appears, mutters about them being sheepherders, then disappears again stepping back toward where he had come from. The boys go back to the spot where they saw Lan disappear and suddenly everyone from their party reappears to them.
Moiraine sees the expression of fear on their face and explains that she has set something up around their camp that causes anyone looking at them to see around their campsite. Egwene exclaims that Moiraine told her she can wield enough of the One Power to do it, too, and Moiraine tells her she will need training first. Nynaeve defensively states that when Egwene goes to Tar Valon, perhaps she will go with her. Egwene is delighted and she asks Rand if he will come, too. Rand thinks to himself that Egwene’s eyes have never been bigger or brighter and he thinks to himself that a man could drown in her eyes and be happy doing it.
Rand asks if there are sheep in Tar Valon and Moiraine says she believes she can find something for him to do there – for all of them to do there.
Egwene says that she will make Rand her Warder when she is an Aes Sedai and asks him if he would like that. Rand says he would like being her Warder. Then he remembers what Min told him.
She’s not for you, nor you for her.
The party readies themselves for sleep. The heat of The Blight and the thick air make sleep impossible for Rand. Rand hears the group around him slowly fall asleep. Lan remains awake, though, and to Rand’s surprise so does Nynaeve. She pours Lan a cup of tea and does not let go of the cup immediately when she hands it to him.
“I should have known you would be a king,” she said quietly. Her eyes were steady on the Warder’s face but her voice trembled slightly. Lan looked back at her just as intently. It seemed to Rand that the Warder’s face actually softened.
“I am not a king, Nynaeve. Just a man. A man without as much to his name as even the meanest farmer’s croft.” Nynaeve’s voice steadied.
“Some women don’t ask for land or gold. Just the man.”
“And the man who would ask her to accept so little would not be worthy of her. You are a remarkable woman. As beautiful as the sunrise, as fierce as a warrior. You are a lioness, Wisdom.”
“A wisdom seldom weds,” she paused to take a deep breath, as if steeling herself. “But if I go to Tar Valon, it may be that I will be something other than a Wisdom.”
“Aes Sedai marry as seldom as Wisdoms. Few men can live with so much power in a wife. Dimming them by her radiance, whether she wishes to or not.”
“Some men are strong enough. I know one such.” If there could have been any doubt, her look left none as to who she meant.
“All I have is a sword, and a war I cannot win, but can never stop fighting.”
“I’ve told you I care nothing for that. Light, you have made me say more than is proper already. Will you shame me to the point of asking you?”
“I will never shame you.” The gentle tone, like a caress, sounded odd to Rand’s ears in the Warder’s voice, but it made Nynaeve’s eyes brighten. “I will hate the man you choose because he is not me and love him if he makes you smile. No woman deserves the sure knowledge of widow’s black as her bride price, you least of all.” He set the untouched cup on the ground and rose. “I must check the horses.”
Nynaeve remained there kneeling after he had gone.
Sleep or no, Rand closed his eyes. He did not think the Wisdom would like it if he watched her cry.
Sorry for the super long quoted section. I just felt as though it needed to be quoted instead of summarized. Lan just politely declined Nynaeve’s interest in THE BLIGHT. That’s either the best place on earth or the worst place on earth (their earth) to do that.
Jordan has hinted at Nynaeve having interest in Lan a few times. I wonder though if we should infer that they have perhaps had other private conversations prior to now? If not, then did Nynaeve just kind of subtly propose marriage to a guy she met a few weeks ago? A guy she just learned is an uncrowned king? A guy she has not even “courted”? (Or whatever the time period appropriate version of dating might be in The Wheel of Time.) I still stan you, Nynaeve, I do. Shoot your shot. But that was a bold move – especially right in front of the ruined towers of Lan’s homeland.
FWIW, this break-up speech from Lan probably does not translate to the real world. At least, I don’t think so. However, excusing oneself after breaking up with someone “to check the horses” is clutch.
What do we think of The Blight? So far, it’s a little underwhelming. Stinks like death, is humid, and dangerous unseen beasties abound… I expected more. However, I believe we are told that they aren’t really in The Blight yet. I suspect we will soon get more.
I like that we see Rand growing a little freaked out by Perrin. I don’t know if that’s going anywhere but “my friend that has golden eyes growled and it made the hair on my neck stand up” is a cool moment. Another cool moment? Egwene planning for the gang to stay together in Tar Valon. Rand’s remembrance of what Min told him was not necessary for me to think that her hopes probably won’t quite work out.
Jordan’s monster in the lake didn’t really get me as “scary” until the little bit about hands on the tentacles. For some reason, that is the thing that pushes it over the edge for me.