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 49: The Dark One Stirs
Rand woke up at dawn. Heat covers everything like a heavy blanket. Rand notices Nynaeve’s red rimmed eyes and realizes that she has not slept. Lan’s face is harder than ever, too. Egwene speaks quietly with Nynaeve. The Wisdom tries to shoe her away a couple of times but Egwene does not leave. Eventually the conversation ends in a laugh from Nynaeve and the two women hug each other. As they stand though, Egwene glares over at Lan. Rand wonders whether women have a way of reading men’s thoughts.
All women are Aes Sedai.
Rand then hurriedly gets his horse saddled. Moiraine stands still and does nothing that Rand can see. However, both Egwene and Nynaeve shiver and rub their arms. They notice that they have both done that, grin at each other, and nod. Rand was sure there was something in that exchange he should be able to understand.
The group gets on their horses and ride north toward the Mountains of Dhoom and into the true Blight. The trees are tortured cripples things with ooze coming from bark. Mat says that the trees look as if they want to grab them and Moiraine says that some of them do want it. Rand decides that Moiraine is just trying to keep them alert. Then he sees a tree shiver as they ride by and then watches as it flails around. The tree then leans forward and grabs a dark mass that shrieked and screamed. The group rides closely together.
Lan orders the group to continue moving and to stay close to Moiraine. He rides off in the opposite direction of the tree. Moiraine urges everyone to ride as near to her as possible. A short time later, the group hears a roar coming from the direction they had seen Lan ride. Moments later there is another roar. Abruptly it was gone. Lan appears from out of the trees holding his sword well clear of both himself and his horse. Black blood stains the blade and steam rises from it. Carefully he wipes the sword with a cloth from his saddle bags. He drops the cloth and is dissolves before touching the ground.
Suddenly a large creature jumped out at them. Lan quickly turned his horse but Mat had already loosed an arrow, takin the creature through an eye. It topples over. It was as big as a bear with too many legs.
Lan: Good shooting, sheepherder.
Moiraine cannot believe that the creature was willing to come so close to one who touches the True Source. Lan replies that Agelmar told them The Blight stirs. Moiraine admonishes them to hurry. Even as she speaks, trees begin reaching for them. Rand draws his sword and strikes at tree branches. Rand finds The Void and screams “Manetheren!” at the trees as he hacks at them until his arm aches. Standing in his stirrups, Mat sends arrow after arrow into the forest, striking at deformed shapes that snarl as they die. Mat shouts “Carai an Caldazar!” as he draws fletchings to cheek and then looses.
Mat: “Carai an Ellisande! Al Ellisande! Mordero daghain pas duente cuebiyar! Al Ellisande!”
Perrin also stands in his stirrups and he has taken the lead of their group as it moves forward. He carves a path through trees and creatures alike. Trees and creatures shy away from Perrin as much from his fierce golden eyes as from his whistling ax. Perrin forces his horse forward step by step.
Balls of fire shoot from Moiraine’s hands. Where the fire lands, trees become torches. Again and again, Lan takes his war horse Mandarb into the trees, his blade dripping with a black blood that steams. When he returns, more often than not, there are now gashes in his armor and bleeding gashes in his flesh. Mandarb now stumbles and bleeds, too. Each time Moiraine lays hands on wounds leaving only the blood on unmarked flesh.
I light signal fires for the halfmen.
Moiraine urges everyone to press on. Suddenly they hear a high pitched cry behind them and both the trees and the creatures attacking them become still. They hear the cry again and then more cries like the first join in.
Lan says that these are worms. Loial moans. Lan tells them that few things in The Blight will face a worm if it can be avoided. As a result, they have a bit of a respite as they press toward the mountains. Lan urges them to ride.
Mat is incredulous that everything has been scared off by worms. A worm, Lan replies, saying the word differently than Mat did, can kill a Fade if the Fade is not exceedingly lucky. He tells them that they have an entire pack on their trail.
Rand believes that they have about an hour at their current pace until they reach the mountain passes. Egwene asks why the worms will not follow them into the mountains and Lan replies that they are afraid of what lives in the High Passes. Loial moans again.
The piping sound made by the worms comes sharp and clear behind them. Rand looks over his shoulder and sees trees toppling over behind them. Lan announces that they are not going to make it and he draws his sword. He tells Moiraine to watch himself in the High Passes. Moiraine tells him that she will need him at The Eye and that even he cannot take on a whole pack of worms. Mat suggests arrows and Lan replies that they would not even feel the arrows. The only way to kill a worm is to cut it apart.
The land is sloping up. Rand’s chest feels tight. He begins to panic. He tries to reach The Void and it eludes him. He chastises himself as a coward. He cannot go forward and he cannot go back.
Light help me! Light help me!
As Rand gathers his reigns the nature of the land around them suddenly changes. Between one slope of a hill and the next, between crest and peak, The Blight is suddenly gone. Green leaves cover branches and wild flowers cover a grassy carpet stirred by a slight spring breeze. Butterflies flutter from blossom to blossom. Rand gapes. Egwene and Nynaeve are astonished. Moiraine announces that they have reached safety and that The Green Man’s place is here. She says The Eye of the World is also here.
Nothing of The Blight can enter here.
Rand says he thought that it was over the High Passes.
“This place,” said a deep voice from the trees, “is always where it is. All that changes is where those who need it are.”
A figure steps out of the foliage, in the shape of a man, as much bigger than Loial as Loial is bigger than Rand. The man is shaped from woven vines and leaves, green and growing. His hair is grass, flowing to his shoulders. His eyes are huge hazelnuts. His fingernails are acorns. His tunic and trousers are made from green leaves. His boots are made from bark. Butterflies swirl around him.
Egwene whispers that this is The Green Man. He smiles. The Green Man looks at Loial.
It is good to see you, Little Brother. In the past, many of you came to visit me but few of recent days.
Loial scrambles off his horse and bows formally. The Green Man tells Loial that they will sing tree songs together, remember the stedding, and hold The Longing at bay. The Green Man studies the group and focuses on Perrin.
A wolfbrother! Do the old times truly walk again, then?
The Green Man next speaks to Rand.
Strange clothes you wear, Child of the Dragon. Has the Wheel turned so far? Do the People of the Dragon return to the First Covenant? But you wear a sword. That is neither now nor then.
Rand replies that he does not know what The Green Man is talking about. The Green Man touches a scar on his head and seems confused. He tells Moiraine that she is a surprise and that when The Eye was created, it was made in such a way that it cannot be found twice. He asks how she has come here again.
Need. My need. The world’s need. Most of all is the world’s need. We have come to see The Eye of the World.
The Green Man sighs and says “then it has come again.”
He says that The Dark One stirs. He tells them all that The Blight always strives to enter his place and that this year the struggle to keep it out has been greater than since the beginning. He then says he will take them.
I enjoyed the little moment between Egwene and Nynaeve when the chapter started. Jordan uses this moment to show that Egwene is a perceptive young woman. She is also persistent. Despite their age difference, she forces Nynaeve to be comforted. I also enjoyed that little Egwene stared daggers at Lan after all of that.
I want to reiterate: Nynaeve just sort of passively proposed marriage to someone that 1) she barely knows, 2) is an uncrowned King, and 3) she did it in front of the ruined towers of his ruined country. Shoot your shot and all of that… but let’s be reasonable. Egwene probably recognizes all of that and is loyal to her friend / mentor anyway.
We finally ride into and through the *real* Blight. It is scarier than the fringe Blight from the previous chapter. Killer trees. Bear-sized monsters. Something called “Worms.” We are not really given a visual description but in my mind’s eye they look like an above-ground version of the monsters from the movie Tremors.
Mat and Perrin both have great moments in this chapter. Mat gets the first country bumpkin kill shot of this chapter when he takes out a bear sized monster with an arrow. Then he speaks in a dead language again. That will never not be cool. Even in a mundane setting that concept is cool. Imagine walking through one’s kitchen, being overcome with a stirring of the Old Blood, and shouting “Ubi est bubulae?! Esurio. Ego autem esurit!”
Perrin leading their charge, the tip of their collective spear, was also very cool. I also really enjoyed his personal callout by The Green Man. It is interesting to me that The Green Man recognizes Perrin for what he is but views it as an ancient thing. The Green Man himself appears to have been at The Eye of the World since the Age of Legends ended. We should assume that wolfbrothers were more common in the age prior to the Age of Legends, then?
The killer trees in this chapter were reminiscent of the evil forests from The Lord of the Rings. One gets the feeling that there are no Ents or Entwives in The Blight. Evil forests used to be a much greater concern for humanity in general. Was there ever something to that? Is humanity stirring up ancient tree trouble with the trillion tree project?
I am very excited to see how Amazon with its absurdly deep pockets depicts The Green Man on screen. Long grassy hair down to his shoulders? I’m in!
I remember reading this chapter for the first time and being deeply intrigued by The Green Man’s reference, to Rand, as a Child of the Dragon. It seems.. important.
We are in the end game now, Wheel of Time readers. The finish line is within sight.