The Great Hunt (Chapter 9): Leavetakings

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 9: Leavetakings 

Rand reaches the outer courtyard with his saddlebags, hard, and flute. Men hurry with packs, horses, and voices raised. Excitement crackles in the morning air. Rand finds Lan’s warhorse, Mandarb, and Moiraine’s horse, Aldieb, but both Lan and Moiraine are not yet with the group preparing to leave. Rand’s horse is on the other side of the courtyard with Ingtar and his men. Ingtar’s men are all mounted already. Rand recognizes some of the men in Ingtar’s camp – rough-tongued Uno with one eye, Masema, Ragan, and others. Ragan and Uno nod at him but Masema and others give him a cold stare.

Rand is surprised to see Loial riding from the direction of the stables to join them. The Ogier’s pockets and saddlebags bulge with the tell tale sign of books. Loial stops some distance from Rand and his ears twitch uncertainly. Rand speaks to him saying that he did not know Loial was coming and he says that he would have thought Loial is tired of traveling with their group. Loial’s ears lift a little. He says that what held when they first left Caemlyn holds now and that he cannot let the chance pass to see history weave itself around ta’veren or to help find the Horn.

Mat and Perrin ride up behind Loial and pause. Rand apologizes to both of them. He says that he was being stupid. They ride on past him toward Ingtar without responding. Loial points out that the coat Rand is wearing is not one for traveling. Rand suddenly realizes he is wearing the same coat that he wore to meet the Amyrlin Seat. It occurs to him that Mat and Perrin must still believe he is putting on airs. Rand was unable to change out of the coat, upon returning to his room, because all of his plain coats were already packed. Every coat that was left behind in the wardrobe, unpacked, was at least as ornate as the one he is wearing. Rand mutters to Loial that he will change when they stop tonight.

Rand takes a deep breath and then apologizes to Loial. He says that Loial has every right to hold the words against him but he hopes that the Ogier will not. Loial grins and his ears stand up. Loial tells Rand that he says things all the time that he should not.

Loial: The Elders always said that I speak an hour before I thought.

Lan suddenly appears at Rand’s stirrup. He tells Rand that he needs to speak with him alone. Loial rides some distance away. Rand tells Lan that he is not sure that Lan’s instructions with the Amyrlin helped. Lan tells him in return that when you cannot win a big victory, you should appreciate the small ones. Lan tells Rand to be quiet because he has one lesson left to teach. He tells Rand that he must learn to sheath the sword.

Rand replies that Lan spent an hour every morning practicing sheathing and unsheathing his sword. Lan growls at him to listen. He tells Rand that there will come a time when he must achieve a goal at all costs, whether it be in attack or defense, and the only way will be to allow the sword to be sheathed in his own body. Rand says that’s crazy and Lan tells him that he will know when the time comes – when the price is worth the gain and there is no other choice left. He tells Rand that this is called sheathing the sword and to remember it.

The Amyrlin appears and strides across the crowded courtyard with Leanna and Lord Agelmar. Rand overhears their conversation as they go by. Agelmar protests that Siuan has has no time to rest from her journey to Fal Dara. He asks her to stay at least a few days more and he promises her a feast that night such as she could hardly get in Tar Valon. Siuan shakes her head no but says that she would if she could. She says matters urgently require her attention within the White Tower. Agelmar protests again saying that it shames him for her to come on one day and to then leave the next. He says that he has tumblers coming to Fal Dara and says also that King Easar is most likely already on his way from Fal Moran. Their voices fade from Rand’s hearing as they travel across the courtyard. The Amyrlin never glanced in Rand’s direction.

Loial brings his horse back over to Rand’s side. The Ogier points out that Lan is a hard man to catch and hold onto, appearing and disappearing quickly. Rand thinks more about Lan’s message regarding sheathing the sword. He thinks to himself that Warders must all be crazy.

Rand and Loial watch as Siuan speaks to a Warder, and then the Warder rides west through the city gate at a gallop. Loial tells Rand that he overheard that the Amyrlin plans to send someone to find out more about what is happening at Almoth Plain. Rand remembers from a map he used to see while growing up that Almoth Plain abuts Toman Head. Padan Fain’s message to Rand, scrawled in blood on the walls of the Fal Dara dungeon, was that they will meet again on Toman Head. Loial wonders aloud why Siuan did not send someone before she left from Tar Valon.

The Amyrlin Seat approaches Ingtar and his men. Leanna stands at her shoulder and Agelmar stands a pace back. She formally wishes to Ingtar that peace favor his sword and she wishes Glory to the Builders, to Loial. They return a formal greeting and bow from their horses.

She tells the party that the Heroes of the Horn are bound to the Horn, and not to the Light. She says that they will come to whoever blows the Horn. The listening men stir. She continues speaking but Rand stops listening. He can feel the eyes of the same watcher spying on him that he felt before the attack on Fal Dara. Rand peers up at the archer’s balconies. They are jam packed with people. Rand knows that somewhere among those balconies are the eyes that watched him before, unseen. Rand twists in his saddle, turning his horse. Suddenly something flashes in front of Rand’s face. A man passing behind the Amrylin fell with an arrow jutting out from his side. Siuan sees a tear in her sleeve where blood is now slowly staining her silk. The courtyard rings out with cries and shouts.

Agelmar shouts at the sky to find him. Agelmar sees the blood on the Amyrlin Seat’s sleeve and his face turns white. He bows his head and begs forgiveness. Siuan tells Agelmar that she has cut herself worse than this, more than once, cleaning fish. She tells Agelmar to stand and tells him that he has no reason for shame. She says that the previous year, in the White Tower, surrounded by Aes Sedai and Warders, a man with a knife came within five paces of her. She asks Agelmar to stand or she will herself be shamed.

Siuan fingers her sleeve and muses that it was a poor shot for a Whitecloak bowman or a Darkfriend.

Siuan: [eyes flicker up at Rand] “… if it was at me he aimed.”

Rand thinks to himself that the shot was not aimed at Siuan and she knows it. Leanna reports that the man struck by the arrow was dead as soon as he hit the paving stones. Agelmar asks the Amyrlin to let him send men with her as far as the river and she consents. However, she says that she will not let this incident delay Ingtar or herself a moment. Siuan asks Agelmar’s leave to order his Oathmen. Agelmar bows in assent. She turns to Ingtar and smiles.

Siuan: I wager Illian does not give its hunt for the Horn so rousing a send-off. But yours is the true Great Hunt. You are few so you may travel quickly, yet enough to do what you must.

She charges them to find the Horn of Valere and to let nothing bar their way. Ingtar kisses his sword, swears by his house and honor, and rides through the gates. Rand rides after them. When he catches up to the front of the column, where Mat and Perrin are riding with Ingtar, his two friends fall back. Ingtar tells Rand that Changu and Nidao are gone. They both were on duty together in the dungeon the day before. Ingtar is in disbelief, remembering that the two men fought in Tarwin’s Gap only a month ago and saved Lord Agelmar’s life when he was surrounded by trollocs.

A townsman rides his horse close to Ingtar. Ingtar introduces the man as Hurin, their group’s sniffer. Ingtar says that there was no need to let the Aes Sedai know about him. Ingtar says that the King keeps a sniffer in Fal Moran and that there is another elsewhere in the country, also. Ingtar says that Aes Sedai seldom like what they do not understand, especially when that is done by a man. Ingtar clarifies that what Hurin does has nothing to do with the One Power. Ingtar asks Hurin to explain.

Hurin bows low from his saddle to Rand.

Hurin: Honor to serve, my Lord.
Rand: Call me Rand.

Hurin tells Rand that it is said in the towns that he is an outland prince. Rand tells him that he is not a Lord. Hurin is surprised. He describes his job. He says that it started slow, catching bad smells where nobody else smelled anything. It grew from there and that it took him an entire year before he realized what he is smelling. He says that he can smell violence. He can smell what happened and smell the trail of those who did it. He says every trail is different so that there is no chance of mixing them up. He says that Lord Ingtar heard of his ability and took him into his service to serve the King’s justice.

Hurin continues to describe his ability. He says that the worse the violence, the longer the trail lasts. For example, he can smell a battle that is ten years old though the trails of the men who fought in it are long faded. He says that trolloc trails almost never fade. Rand shivers.

Rand: So we’ll track those who took the Horn with your nose?

Ingtar nods and Hurin grins proudly. Then he looks troubled and tells Rand that this is the worst smell he has ever encountered. He says he will follow the trollocs and halfmen and something even worse that is with them. As they reach the city gates, Hurin lifts his nose to the breeze and points the way to the south. Ingtar is surprised that they are moving south instead of north toward the Blight. Rand turns to look up the street through the gates and he hopes that Egwene is alright. He thinks to himself that Nynaeve will look after her. The wind picks up and Rand thinks to himself that he hears laughter in it, both faint and mocking.

“““““““““““““`

The moon lights the streets of Illian. The Great Hunt of the Horn is to be set forth in only a few days with both pomp and ceremony. The Illianers believe the tradition of the Hunt dates back to the Age of Legends. The city is celebrating with feasts and contests. One of the contests, for Gleeman, is for the best telling of The Great Hunt for the Horn. Tonight, the Gleeman are entertaining in the palaces and mansions of the city. Hunters for the Horn have gathered from all nations. Carnival fills the streets.

Bayle Domon sees people in costumes both fanciful and bizarre. Fireworks crackle in the sky. There are almost as many Illuminators in Illian as gleemen. Domon is not concerned with any of that He is on his way to meet with men he believes plan to kill him. He carries a short sword and a cudgel. The city is rife with footpads but Doman is also a broad and muscular man. He has dark hair to his shoulders and a long beard leaving his upper lip bare, on a grim hard face. He enters an Inn with the sign of a dancing badger on its hind legs, called “Easing the Badger.” Domon doubts that even the Innkeeper knows what the name means. There has always been an Inn of that name in Illian.

The Inn is half full. The Innkeeper subtly directs Domon toward three quiet men in the corner. Domon recognizes the men as being from Cairhein. He finds a table by himself. Domon takes a drink of ale and when he sits down his mug, the three men are beside his table. They asks if he is Domon. He nods and they sit down. They say that they need to bring a person to Illian from Mayene. Domon notes internally that the requests are typically from Tier, Mayene’s neighboring country, so he thinks to himself that the men who are after him are getting smarter. Domon tells them that the Spray is a river craft and not suitable for the open water. The leader of the three men asks Domon if he would be willing to sail to Mayene for one thousand gold marks. Domon goggles. He asks if they want him to fetch, The First of Mayene, herself. The leader replies that he needs no names. They sit a large leather pouch on the table and a sealed parchment with a seal bearing the rising sun of Cairhein. He tells Domon that the pouch contains two hundred marks. He instructs Domon to give the letter, seal unbroken, to the port captain of Mayene, at which time the port captain will give Domon three hundred additional marks and his passenger. He says that he will hand over the remainder once the passenger is delivered.

Domon thinks to himself that it would be worth the voyage just for what is inside the leather pouch on the table. Domon reaches for the pouch and the speaker grabs him by the wrist and says he must sail as soon as possible. Domon growls that he will sail at first light. Domon watches the three of them as they leave. He knows that someone wants him to sail east. Since the other three attempts to get him to sail were aimed at Tear, he now knows that whoever is trying to get him to sail does not care if he sails to Tear or Mayene so long as it is east. Domon thinks he know who is responsible.

He believes that Darkfriends have been after him since he sailed down river – both darkfriends and trollocs. He does not know why. The Innkeeper, Nieda, approaches him and asks if he has trouble. She giggles – an improbable sound for a woman her size – and says that he looks as if he has seen a trolloc. Illianers believe Fades and Trollocs are things from stories. Nieda does not believe in snow, either. Domon tells her that there is no trouble. He gives her a gold coin from the pouch and is startled to learn that it is a Tar Valon mark. Nieda asks him if he is trading with the witches now, and Domon says that he is not. Domon is staring at the pouch. All of the gold marks inside bear the Flame of Tar Valon. Domon ties the bag closed – those coins are dangerous in Illian. Children of the Light are in the city. If they heard of this, he would never make it to a magistrate. The Cairhein made sure he would not take the gold and stay in Illian when they gave him those coins.

Domon’s second on The Spray enters the inn to report that one of his other men is dead. Each time Domon refused a commission to sail east, one of his men had been killed. The magistrates had done nothing about it. Domon’s second tells him that they worked the dead man with knives, like they were trying to get information from him. He also reports that not an hour ago, men tries to sneak aboard the ship itself. He says that this is the third time in ten days that this has happened. He also points out that his own room was robbed the night before. He tells Domon that the men are afraid and that he is nervous himself.

Domon stands. He tells Yarin to rouse the crew and he stalks off toward the docks. Crew are scrambling aboard The Spray as he arrives. Despite what he told the men from Cairhein, he thinks The Spray can handle the open water. Domon enters his cabin, tosses the pouch on his bed, and begins studying the letter and its seal. Yarin knocks on the door to say that all but three men have been rounded up. He believes they will be on the ship soon. Domon tells him that The Spray is sailing immediately, without waiting. Yarin protests about light and tides but Domon overrides his protests.

Domon heats a knife on a candle flame. He then presses the hot steal under the sealing wax. He reads the letter.

The bearer of this is a Darkfriend wanted in Cairhein for murders and other foul crimes, least among them theft from our person. We call upon you to seize this man and all things found in his keeping to the smallest. Our representative will come to carry away what he has stolen from us. Let all he possesses, save what we claim, go as reward to you for taking him. Let the vile miscreant be hanged immediately that his shadow spawned villainy no longer taint the Light.

Sealed by our hand,

Galldrian su Riatin rie, King of Cairhein, Defender of the Dragonwall

Domon: Defender of the Dragonwall, my aged grandmother.

Domon examines the seals and signature closely. If it is not the King himself who signed it, it made no difference. In Tear the letter would be instantly damning in the hand of any Illianer. Domon debates about burning the letter but he instead decides to put it behind a secret panel in his cabin.

Domon thinks about his possessions. He collects old things. He added four new items in Maradon – and it is then that his trouble with Darkfriends had begun. He digs into his chest and puts what he bought in Maradon onto the table. One of them is a lightstick from the Age of Legends. He also has the skull of a cat, the size of a lion, with long tusks. The other item he bought was a thick disk the size of a man’s hand, half white and half black, separated by a sinuous line between. The shopkeeper had told him the last was from the Age of Legends and Domon only haggled a little before purchasing. Unlike the shopkeeper, Domon recognized that the symbol on the disk was the ancient symbol of the Aes Sedai from before the Breaking of the World. Domon also recognized that the disk is made of heart stone. Domon is afraid that the disk is what his pursuers are after.

Domon hears a knock on his door. Yarin enters and tells him that the ship is beyond the break water. He tells Yarin to sail west. He says that there is plenty of trade between Tarabon and Arad Domon. Yarin warns him that there are rumors of fighting on Toman Head and Domon counters that even if there is fighting, a careful man can always find trade. Domon puts the black and white disk into the hidden compartment, with the letter, and stows his other items into a chest.

REACTION:

I do not understand how Jordan does chapter breaks. Each of these two sections were long enough to be its own chapter.

Part 1:

Rand makes up with Loial. True to his name, the Ogier instantly forgives Rand. Mat and Perrin… not so much. I suppose it makes sense. Rand said some harsh things, is dressing like he thinks that he is a big deal, and he has not told them his BIG secret, yet.

Someone in Shienar attempted to assassinate Rand. That person missed thanks to Rand being ta’veren and moving unexpectedly. We also know that “the Watcher” appears not to be Fain – as Fain seems to be gone from the city while Rand continues to feel watched.

Lan’s conversation about Sheathing the Sword is heavy with foreshadowing. Lan (paraphrasing): “Someday, you’re going to need to kill someone, and in order to do it, you’re going to have to let them put their sword in your body to give you a chance.” Grim.

We learn about “sniffers” in this chapter, too. I think being able to smell violence would be a pretty terrible gift. Useful, perhaps, but terrible. I assume Fain is the thing in the group they are chasing that smells worse than the Fades and Trollocs. Moiraine went out of her way to say he is basically the worst Darkfriend ever.

Part 2:

Domon is being pushed to sail east by powerful people. They are lookin for an excuse to raid his boat. He figures out that they are after his ancient Aes Sedai disk. What Domon does not know – but we do – is that this is one of the Seals on the Dark One’s prison. It makes sense that the baddies would want that.

Given the amount of money being used to chase after Domon… this feels like maybe it is related to that prologue section where all the Darkfriends met with Ba’alzamon. Someone’s task was to get Domon on a boat heading east. That’s my theory, at least.

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