The Great Hunt (Chapter 3): Friends and Enemies

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 3: Friends and Enemies

Rand did not run far – only as far as the sally gate at the end of the stable. It is locked shut with a thick bar. Two guards stand at the gate. Rand knows one of the guards, Ragan, who has a puckered scar on his cheek from an arrow wound. Ragan greets Rand with a grin and makes fun of the enormity of his Two Rivers longbow. Rand works to keep his voice calm and tells Ragan that he knows the bow is not a club because he has seen Rand shoot it. The other guard, Masema, points out that the longbow is no good from horseback. Rand is not sure that he could have worse luck than Massema guarding the gate.

Most of the people in Fal Dara accepted Rand’s prresense in the city – on account of his arriving with Moiraine, training with Lan, and dining with Lord Agelmar. Some people though do not accept him because he is an outlander. Masema is the worst of those.

Rand casually mentioned to Ragan that the soldier let him out through the gate to hunt rabbits, citing the hustle and bustle of the Amyrlin’s visit as being too much for him. Ragan turns to look at Masema before telling Rand no. Ragan explains that no one is permitted to leave without written permission. He adds that the command came down only a few minutes ago. Rand asks why Lord Agelmar would want to keep him, his personal guest, inside the city and asks the two men if the order was actually from Agelmar. Both guards seem confuses for a moment as though they are not sure who gave the order. Then Ragan asks Rand who else could give such an order. He shares with Rand, though, that Uno is the one who passed the order to him. Rand tells both men that he just wants a place to be by himself and says he will try one of the gardens if he cannot leave the city.

Rand resolves not to go near any of the gardens thinking to himself that Aes Sedai could be there as soon as the ceremonies are completed. Suddenly the bells stop ringing. Rand sees walking back through Fal Dara that even the dog gate has guards. Rand climbs a parapet so that he can see out across the city. There is no way out. Rand feels weary to the bone but he will not give up. He sets out to go somewhere that nobody would expect to find him. He wanders to and through the servants’ quarters. Next he goes through the smithy where tools and weapons are made. He feels his skin prickle, twice, but turns and finds no one there either time it happens.

It was just my imagination. That wind. The Amyrlin. That’s enough to make me imagine things.

Outside, the wind blows and makes him jump. He smells just a slight hint of decay and thinks he hears someone laughing slyly, behind him. He moves in a circle peering warily. He runs and this time he thinks he hears the laughter again.

In the woodyard, he feels the presence of someone peering at him again. Rand refuses to think of how one set of eyes can move around so quickly without him noticing. He is sure it is one set of eyes. He wonders if he is going crazy already. He moves on and he feels the eyes following him. He opens another storeroom door and human faces and laughter pour out, filling him with relief. He enters.

Half the room is stacked to the ceiling with sacks of grain. In the other half of the room, a semi-circle of men sit. They are wearing the clothing of menials and Rand hears the rattle of dice. Loial is present, watching the men dice. Even watching a game of dice, Rand can see that Loial’s pockets are bulging with the weight of books. Rand grins. Loial approaches him and says he did not see Rand at the welcome.

Loial asks Rand if he plays at dice. He says the humans here play with three dice but that ogier use four in the stedding.

They won’t let me play, you know. They just say “Glory to the Builders!” and will not bet against me.

Loial complains that he does not think it’s fair. Rand suddenly thinks of “the Builders” and asks him if he knows any way out of Fal Dara other than through the gates. Loial gives him a pained grimace and reminds him that Ogier built Fal Dara’s predecessor but that the earlier city was destroyed during The Trolloc Wars. Rand slumps against the wall and closes his eyes.

I need a way out. The gates are barred and they won’t let anyone pass. But I need a way out.

Loial asks him why and calls for Mat and Perrin, telling them that he thinks Rand is sick. Rand opens his eyes and sees his friends rise from the dice table. One of the men says to Mat that he cannot quite while he is winning and Mat replies that quitting while winning is better than quitting while losing. Rand sees Mat touch the dagger under his coat and winces – thinking of the evil within the dagger and how Mat needs to be separated from it. Mat tells the men that they will have another chance to win their money back.

Mat asks Rand what is the matter and notes that he is as white as his shirt. He asks Rand where he got his clothes and asks if he is turning Shienaran. He jokes about buying himself clothes like that. He shakes his coat pocket to demonstrate his newly won clinking coins. Rand tells Mat that he will not have to buy anything and that Moiraine had all of their clothes replaced. He warns them that someone will likely come to take the clothes off of their back sometime soon.

Rand continues and explains that he needs to get out of the city and that Lan told him, with the Amyrlin Seat in Fal Dara, it would be better for him if he were gone a week already. He tells them that all of the gates to exit the city are barred.

Mat is stunned that Lan would tell Rand something like that. He lowers his voice so that the Borderlanders with them do not hear and tells Rand that the Aes Sedai will not hurt anyone of them. He tells Rand that he is thinking like Old Cenn Buie from back home. Perrin’s eyes lift and they shine golden. They all stare at Rand to get a better explanation but Rand cannot tell them why he has to stay away from the Amyrlin Seat. They do not know that he can channel the One Power.

Rand tells them that someone is watching him and following him but that when he looks no one is there. Perrin’s head jerks up and Mat whispers a question of whether it is a Fade. Loial tells him a Fade could not get into Fal Dara because of the walls and the constant lamp light. Rand also tells them the story about what happened with the wind, on the tower, while training with Lan. Rand finishes and says he wants to leave and get away.

Mat: But if the gates are barred, how do we get out?

Rand pushes back on the notion that his friends come with him. He tells Mat that he cannot come because he must first go to Tar Valon to be separated from the dagger. Mat argues, and Rand pushes back more forcefully. When Perrin tells Rand to be easy, Rand says outright that he does not want the two of them coming with him. The hurt on Perrin’s face cuts at Rand but he pushes on.

There are some here that think I’m a Lord. A Lord! Maybe I like that. But look at you dicing with stable hands. If I go, I go by myself. You two can go to Tar Valon or hang yourselves.

Mat tells Rand, with white knuckles, that if that is how he wants it, that is fine. He tells Rand, though, that if he decides to leave when Rand does, Rand can stay clear of him. Perrin tells both of them that nobody is going anywhere if the gates are barred.

Loial: Go or stay, together or apart, it doesn’t matter. You are all three ta’veren. Even I can see it and I don’t have that talent.

Mat tells Loial that he does not want to hear about it anymore. Loial tells him it is true, whether they like it or not, and Mat cuts him off again, shouting that he will hear no more.

The dicing men look around and Mat glares at them until they return to their game. Loial apologizes to Mat.

Mat: I’m not staying here with a big mouthed Ogier and a fool whose head is too big for a hat. You coming Perrin?

Rand watches them go, sadly. When Loial tries to apologize to Rand, he makes his voice harsh and tells Loial to go, too.

Rand: You’re of no use to me if you do not know a way out. Go on! Go find your trees and your precious Groves if they haven’t all been cut down. And good riddance to them if they have.

Loial’s eyes look surprised and hurt, at first, and then they tighten into what appears to be anger. Loial gives Rand a rigid bow and stalks away after Mat and Perrin. Rand slumps against the sacks of grain. Rand talks to a voice in his head about what he has just done and then chides himself that he is not going mad. The voice in Rand’s head laughs at him.

The gamblers are now looking at Rand. Shienarans of almost all classes are polite even to blood enemies and Ogier are enemies of no one. Their eyes are filled with shock. Rand stumbles out of the storeroom and makes plans to hide until the gates are open again. Rand walks through Fal Dara looking for and dismissing places to hide when he runs into Egwene creeping through a dimly lit corridor.

At the sight of her, Rand feels sadness and loss even greater than when he had chased Mat, Perrin, and Loial away. Rand and Egwene grew up thinking they would marry one another someday. Egwene’s breath catches at the sight of Rand.

Egwene: So there you are! Mat and Perrin told me what you did – and Loial. I know what you’re trying to do Rand and it is plain foolish.

She looks at Rand sternly. Rand gets angry, in return, at the sight of her hair. It is hanging loose and tied back with a women. Everyone girl in the Two Rivers waits eagerly for the permission to braid her hair, signaling that she is old enough to marry, and Egwene’s hair is now hanging unbraided. He wants to go home, but cannot, and he thinks that she cannot wait to leave home behind. He tells Egwene to go away and leave him alone, too. He tells her that Aes Sedai are looking for him and admonishes her not to tell them where she saw him. He then turns and walks away.

Egwene flings herself at Rand’s legs and they both tumble to the floor. She scrambles up onto his back and sits on him to hold him down. Rand threatens her to get off of him and warns her about what he is. She dismisses his threat and tells him that not only can he not channel the One Power when he wants, he would not hurt anyone even if he could. She warns him, in return, that she has been taking lessons from Moiraine and tells him that if he does not start listening to some sense she might just set his britches on fire. She says she can manage that much.

Rand pulls her from his back and sets her against the wall. She chides him that hiding and striking out at his friends is foolish. She points out that he does not even know for certain that any Aes Sedai other than Moiraine know he exists. Rand tells Egwene what Lan said. She frowns with concentration. She seems to decide something and tells him that the storerooms are the first place anyone would look for him. She tells him that until they find out whether someone is looking for him, they need to put him somewhere that nobody would check.

She decides he can hide in the dungeon and tells him that she goes there some evenings to visit with Padan Fain. She tells him that Nynaeve visits with him sometimes, too. She says that when Moiraine visits with him, the Aes Sedai has him brought to her.

Rand asks her why she visits with Fain, noting that he is a Darkfriend, and Egwene replies that Fain has visited the Two Rivers every spring since before she was born. She tells Rand that Fain knows all the people she knows and all the places she knows. She says that the longer he has been in the dungeon, the more he seems like his old self.

Egwene: I just like to talk to somebody about home.

Rand apologizes to her for keeping to himself so much. He adds that if Moiraine thinks it’s safe enough in the dungeon for Egwene to visit, it must also be safe enough for him, too. Egwene gets to her feet, concentrates on brushing off her dress, and avoids making eye contact with Rand.

Rand: Moiraine has said it’s safe? Egwene?
Egwene: Moiraine Sedai has never sait it’s not safe to visit Master Fain.
Rand: You never asked her! She doesn’t know! Egwene that’s stupid.

Egwene replies stiffly that Fain is locked in a cage. Rand tells her he can find the dungeon himself and that he does not want her mixed up with his hiding. Egwene says he will probably trip over his own feet and right into the Amyrlin’s lap if he goes alone. She then leaves and leads the way without giving Rand much say so.

They eventually arrive at the door into the dungeon cells. The two guards are sullen and surly. He asks her who is with her and she tells Changu that Rand is a friend who wants to see Master Fain, too. The man studies Rand with his upper lip quivering backward to reveal bare teeth. Rand does not think the expression is intended as a smile. The man asks Rand if he was captured as a baby on the eastern marshes and tamed. He then asks Rand not to bump his head, with a mocking “my Lord” as Rand walks through a doorway tall enough for Loial. The other guard never ceased sharpening his knife and never looks up from it. Changu lights a lamp and tells her that her Darkfriend friend is waiting for her.

Egwene confesses to Rand that the guards seem worse every time she visits. She says Changu told jokes the first time she visited and now they are all meaner and more sullen. She suggests that working in a place like this cannot give a man a light heart. She guides Rand confidently into the dark. She tells Rand about the prisoners as they walk back toward Fain. The men snarl curses at them. She tells Rand that the prisoners are growing worse every day. As they approach Fain, they find him sitting on his cot and leaning forward, expectantly, as though he knows they are coming.

The sight of Fain brings back memories Rand could do without. He remembers Fain arriving on his wagons. He remembers the trollocs on Winternight. He points at Rand who stands back in the shadows, and tells him that he can feel Rand’s presence. He says that they are coming for him and for Rand, and that whether Rand lives or dies, nothing will ever be over for him. Fain begins chanting.

Soon comes the day all shall be free
Even you and even me
Soon comes the day all shall die
Surely you but never I

Fain tells them that Mordeth knows more than all of them. Egwene backs away from the cell until she reaches Rand. Egwene’s lamp light back up with her. Unable to see Fain, they can hear him chuckle.

Rand: Light! This is what you call being almost like he used to be?
Egwene: Sometimes he’s better and sometimes he’s worse. This is worse, much worse, than usual.

Egwene tells Rand that the dungeons are not a good idea. She says there is one place even safer from search than the dungeons and says she did not mention it before because it was easier to get him into the dungeons. She tells Rand they will never look in the women’s apartments.

Rand: The women’s apartments? Egwene, Fain may be mad but you are madder! You cannot hide form hornets in a hornet’s nest.
Egwene: What better place? What is the one part of the keep that no man will enter without a woman’s invitation? Not even Lord Agelmar? What is the one place that no one would ever think to look for a man?
Rand: What is the one place in the keep sure to be full of Aes Sedai? It is crazy Egwene!

She tells Rand that he will need to wrap his sword and bow in a cloack so that it looks like he is carrying things for her. She also notes that it will not be too hard to find clothes for Rand that are not so pretty. Egwene tells him that he will have to walk with a stoops.

Rand tells her he will not do it but Egwene rolls over his objections. Rand does as she suggests. In the darkness, Fain laughs.

REACTION:

Ah, the classic “I’m going to say mean things to my friends so that they will stay away from me and I can thereby protect them” plot arc. Tried and true.

That said… I think Rand went too far with his comment saying “good riddance” to the Groves. It would be wildly out of character for Loial to backhand him, but…

This arc gives me an opportunity to praise Egwene some more. She sees through what Rand is doing. She calls him out. She literally flings herself at his legs to stop him. And despite what Rand is, she makes her highest loyalty her Two Rivers loyalty – to Rand specifically.

We learn some other things in this chapter:

  1. Someone/something is following Rand with unseen eyes.
  2. Fain is up to something – and his presence is corrupting his guards and fellow inmates somehow.
  3. Egwene has been secretly visiting Fain for reasons unknown – maybe being corrupted also?
  4. Everyone – when Rand asks them where the order to bar the gates came from – acts like they have no idea. That’s… odd. Keep an eye on that.

I’m looking forward to some zany hijinks in the women’s apartments. I have no doubt Nynaeve will be on board with hiding Rand from the Aes Sedai pretty much immediately.

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