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 50: Meetings at the Eye
Rand follows The Green Man while leading his horse. Perrin hangs back and looks as if he does not want to hear anything else The Green Man has to say. Rand can understand why and thinks about how The Green Man called him a Child of the Dragon. Rand does not know what he meant by it.
Rand feels calm at The Eye. Egwene and Nynaeve feel it, too. The Green Man notices the two Emond’s Field women looking at the flowers and picks a cap of blossoms for each of them to wear in their hair. Even Moiraine receives flowers.
As The Green Man walks along with Moiraine, he tends to the plant around them, helping them to grow and blossom. Thorns even seem to move away from his fingers.
He leads them into an arched opening on the side of a hill. The arch was simple and white and on the keystone is a circle marked by a sinuous line, one half rough and the other smooth. This is the ancient symbol of the Aes Sedai. Everyone looks on in silence. Moiraine removes the garland from her hair and hangs it on a bush. Nynaeve asks if what they have been looking for is inside. Mat blurts out that he would like to see The Tree of Life. The Green Man gives Rand an odd look and tells Mat that Avendesora is not inside. He says that he has not rested beneath its branches in two thousand years.
Moiraine gestures to the arch. The Green Man says he will not go inside with them. He tells them he was set to guard it long, long ago but that it makes him uneasy to come too close. He says he feels himself being unmade when he comes close and that he believes his end is linked with The Eye somehow. He tells them that he remembers the making of it.
It was the first days of the Breaking of the World when the joy of victory over The Dark One turned bitter with the knowledge that all might be shattered by the weight of the Shadow. A hundred of them made it, men and women together. The greatest Aes Sedai works were always done so, joining Saidin and Saidar as the True Source is joined. They died all to make it pure while the world was torn around them. Knowing they would die they charged me to guard it against the need to come. It was not what I was made for but all was breaking apart and they were alone and I was all they had. It was not what I was made for but I have kept the faith.
The Green Man looks at Moiraine and nods to himself. He says that he kept faith until it was needed and now it ends. She tells him that perhaps it will not come as badly as he fears and he tells them that he knows an ending when he sees one. He says that perhaps he will see them again when they come out.
He strides away. The party steps through the arch and into The Eye. Inside is a corridor winding gently downward. There is headroom enough for Loial. The walls give an unnatural light. Rand feels as though his skin is crawling. Down they go until Moiraine says “there, ahead.” The corridor opens to a vast domed space. Below a pool takes up the entire cavern except for a walkway around it. The pool is clear but Rand cannot see a bottom to it.
“But what is it,” Mat asked uneasily. “That doesn’t look like any water I ever saw.” He kicked a lump of dark stone the size of his fist over the edge. The stone struck the glassy surface and slid into the pool without a splash or so much as a ripple.
As it sinks, the rock swells, growing larger and more attenuated. It stretched until it was gone. Rand demands to know what it is and is shocked by the harshness of his own voice. Moiraine answers that it might be called the essence of saidin – the essence of the male half of the true source. The group is started. Even Lan seems uneasy though unsurprised. Rand backs up until he backs into a wall. Loial states that he always wondered what it is and how they did it.
Moiraine says no one living knows those answers. She says though that it is known The Eye would be desperately needed in the future. She says only a man can channel this. Rand asks why she brought them there and she answers.
Because you are ta’veren.
She says that The Dark One will strike where they are now and advises them to go back outside into the sunlight while there is still time. She starts back up the corridor without waiting to see if anyone will follow. Everyone follows in a hurry.
Outside, Nynaeve complains that she does not like this.
I have found you at last!
Rand jerks thinking that he has heard the voice of Ba’alzamon. However, the two men emerging from the trees do not wear cowls the color of dried blood. One wore dark gray and the other wears dark green. The breeze stirs their cloaks. Lan asks who they are and how they came there.
One of the men, with a shriveled old hand, scarcely human, points at Mat and says that he guided them. Mat steps back with eyes widening.
An old thing. An old friend. An old enemy. But he is not the one we seek.
Moiraine straights to her full height. Her voice rings like a bell demanding to know who they are. The two men push back their hoods and Rand goggles. They are older than old. One of them has sunken eyes, brittle hair, and skin that looks like parchment stretched over a skull. The other is worse, with a leather binding over his face.
“I am called Aginor,” the old one said. “And he is Balthamel. He no longer speaks with his tongue. The Wheel grinds exceedingly fine over three thousand years imprisoned.”
Aginor’s sunken eyes look toward the arched door. Balthamel stares toward it, too. Mat begins to say that The Forsaken are bound in Shayol Ghul and Aginor cuts him off saying “were bound.”
Some of us are bound no longer. The seals weaken, Aes Sedai. Like Ishamael, we walk the world again and soon the rest of us shall come. I was too close to this world in my captivity – I and Balthamel. Too close to the grinding of the Wheel. But soon The Great Lord of the Dark will be free and give us new flesh. And the world will be ours once more. You will have no Lews Therin Kinslayer this time. No Lord of the Morning to save you. We know the one we seek now and there is no need for the rest of you.
Lan draws his sword but hesitates to decide whether to put himself between Moiraine and the Forsaken or Nynaeve and the Forsaken. Aginor flicks his finger and the Warder flies backward through the air. Lan strikes the stone arch and collapses. Nynaeve screams and Moiraine calls for everyone to be still. Nynaeve charges at The Forsaken with a knife raised. Her knife sinks into Aginor’s chest but Balthamel grabs her by the face as it happens. The Wisdom convulses from head to toe. Her knife drops as Balthamel lifts her by her quivering face.
“I have almost forgotten the pleasures of the flesh.” Aginor’s tongue crosses his withered lips sounding like stone on rough leather. “But Balthamel remembers much.”
The leather masked wearing Balthamel laughs while Nynaeve wails in despair. Egwene charges toward Nynaeve and Rand tackles her to prevent her from reaching the Wisdom. She thrashes to get free. Perrin’s ax is pulled free and Mat unsheathes the dagger from Shadar Logoth. They charge forward. Rand shouts at them to stop.
You can’t fight The Forsaken.
Aginor smiles. Mat and Perrin stop as if they have run into a wall. Rand gets to his feet. Mat, Perrin, and Egwene do the same.
“This shall not be!” The Green Man strode out of the trees with a voice like lightning striking an ancient oak. “You do not belong here!”
Aginor gives The Green Man a contemptuous glance and tells him to be gone. Balthamel tosses Nynaeve aside and she falls limply to the ground as if all of her bones have melted. He lifts a leather clad hand and smoke begins to rise from The Green Man.
One long stride later, massive leafy arms wrap themselves around Balthamel raising him high and crushing him to his chest. Balthamel wrestles his gloved hands free and places them against The Green Man’s head. Flames shoot from where his hands touch. Smoke comes from his lips. But suddenly Balthamel jerks in his grasp. The Forsaken tries to push him away and is unable. A creeper vine bursts through his leather glove. Fungus covers his arm. Stinkweed rips open his leather mask. The Green Man throws Balthamel down as his body is overcome with plants that grow in all the dark places of the forest. The Forsaken is torn to tattered shreds. With a groan, The Green Man crashes to the ground. Half of his head is charred black and burned leaves fall from his body to the ground. As he dies, his hand gently cups a fallen acorn. The Earth rumbles as the acorn grows into a sapling tree. The tree grows. Limbs grow and lift toward the sky, thick with green leaves and acorns. The massive roots churn through the earth like a plow. The trunk grows to be as round as a house. Then stillness comes. An oak that looks to be five hundred years old stands in the stop where The Green Man had been, marking the tomb of a legend.
Even Aginor seems stunned. In that moment, Moiraine attacks the Forsaken. The ground drops away beneath his feet leaving below him a chasm of fire. Aginor is started. Then he smiles. Then he takes a step forward. Then another.
Moiraine commands them to run. Loial, Mat, and Perrin do run. Rand sees that Egwene is not running. He realizes she is trying to throw her puny untrained wielding of the One Power against the Forsaken. Rand grabs her arm and commands her to run. She struggles against him and he commands her to run again and pushes her. Once started, she runs. Aginor watches Egwene go.
Not her! The Light burn you, not her!
Rand throws a rock at Aginor hoping to draw his attention. Just before it hit his face, the stone turns to dust. Rand glances over his shoulder and sees that Egwene is hidden in the trees. Rand turns and runs. Behind him, he hears Moiraine scream.
Wow. Things are not going well for the good guys. Lan, Nynaeve, The Green Man, and maybe Moiraine are out of commission. RIP The Green Man. You were a legend. I guess at this point we do not know if Lan and Nynaeve are dead, yet, or not. Moiraine screaming with no one around to help seems like death is imminent. Or that it should be.
Dire circumstances notwithstanding, one of The Forsaken is down, too. (RIP Balthamel, we hardly knew you but you died in epic fashion.) Two more are free (Aginor and Ishmael.) As many as nine other Forsaken will be free sometime soon? The Dark One after that? These are not ideal circumstances for the good people.
From the perspective of a person in the real world, the Forsaken are basically the equivalent of the twelve worst fallen angels. They are powerful beyond human imagining. Parents tell kids all over the Wheel of Time world bedtime stories about them to get their kids to act right. The stories carry more weight because everyone in Wheel of Time Land acknowledges that The Forsaken were/are *real.* If you travel far enough, you can see the evidence of their realness (Age of Legends relics like Whitebridge, for example. Everyone in this story just met two real life nightmares come to life. How did they handle that?
Nynaeve charged them with a belt knife. Egwene tried to do the same. So did Mat and Perrin. These Two Rivers folks are woolheads – insanely brave woolheads, mind you – but woolheads. They should all be dead. Rand is the only country bumpkin who kept his head on straight in this little encounter.
The events in the second half of the chapter overshadow the first half. The Eye of the World is a giant untainted pool of the male half of the One Power. It appears to be a mega-weapon set aside for use in case of dire need. It is now easy to understand why The Shadow wanted it. The baddies can either wield it themselves or “blind it” and prevent the good guys from being able to use it.
However… would the Shadow have been able to find it without Mat’s dagger being there to track it down? Also, of note, Aginor seems to know what Mat’s dagger is. He calls it “An old thing. An old friend. An old enemy.” Iiiiiiinteresting. Remember, Shadar Logoth came into existence one thousand years after Aginor’s time. What self-destructive power did Mordeth find, to battle The Shadow, that The Shadow knows about it AND calls it an old thing?
Aginor seems to be after one member of their group, in particular. Rand seems to be the obvious target. We do not yet know why or how things will go for him in his attempt to run away. I suspect he will have to fight in some way.
This seems like a good spot to introduce the actors who will portray Mat and Perrin.