The Great Hunt (Chapter 10): The Hunt Begins

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 10: The Hunt Begins

Ingtar sets a fast pace for the beginning of what promises to be a long journey. Rand worries about the horses. Rand thinks that Ingtar looks as though he intends to catch up within the first day and in the first hour. Rand stays quiet about the pace. Hurin, the sniffer, rides a pace behind Ingtar, but he is the one setting the direction and pointing toward the group toward the south. The land is rolling forested hills. Ingtar’s gray owl banner ripples in the wind.

When Rand attempts to ride with Mat and Perrin, the two ride away from him. Rand feels alone and it does not make him feel better knowing that the situation is his own fault. At the crest of a hill, one of the men, Uno, dismounts and assesses the trolloc party’s horse droppings. He announced that they have not made any ground and states that they may have in fact lost time. He says that the trollocs are setting a pace that will kill the horses in their group. He gives Rand an odd look, shrugs, remounts, and Ingtar resumes their rapid pace in pursuit.

The path chosen by the Darkfriends and the something worse that Hurin mutters about never comes close to any villages. Ingtar eventually relents and slows their pace somewhat. They trot the horses for a mile, dismount and walk them for a mile, then remount and trot them again. As they walk, Loial grins at Rand and asks him if he likes to run. He tells Rand that he was the fastest ogier in his stedding and that he once outran a horse. Rand only shakes his head, not wanting to waste breath on talking. He looks around for Mat and Perrin but they are nowhere close by. He also wonders how the soldiers are managing this pace in their armor. None of them slow or issue any complaints. At last, reluctantly, Ingtar calls a halt ot make camp for the night.

When Rand finds his bundle, he unpacks it and lets out a shout that sets off an alarm in the camp. Ingtar comes running. All of the coats in Rand’s bundle are as ornate as the one he is wearing. He complains that the servants told him he had two serviceable coats packed in the bundle. Ingtar replies that they are serviceable. Rand tells the soldier that he cannot wear these coats and dress as he is now all the time. Intgar tells him that a coat is a coat and that he knows Moiraine Sedai herself saw to his packing. He suggests that perhaps Aes Sedai do not understand what a man wears in the field.

Ingtar: After we catch these trollocs, perhaps we’ll have a feast. You’ll be dressed for it even if the rest of us are not.

Rand puts everything back into his bundle and thinks to himself that he can always go naked. Rand gets food. Masema slops soup into a bowl and it slops over the side and burns Rand’s thumb. He stares at Rand, after, with a fixed grin, until Uno chides him.

Uno: We didn’t bloody bring enough for you to be spilling it on the flaming ground.

Rand joins Ingtar with his food. Mat and Perrin are already there. Mat sneers at Rand’s coat and Perrin barely looks up. Rand considers it an improvement in their situation that his friends did not get up and leave. Rand says aloud to Ingtar that he wishes he knew why Uno keeps giving him strange looks and suggests that it’s probably his coat. Ingtar pauses thoughtfully and tells Rand that Uno no doubt wonders if he is worthy of a heron marked blade. Mat snorts loudly. Ingtar advises Rand to not let Uno upset him, saying that he would treat Lord Agelmar like a raw recruit if he could. He advises Rand to listen to Uno’s advice when he gives it.

Rand continues talking to Ingtar and shares that Masema acts as though he hates him. He tells Ingtar that he does not understand it. Ingtar replies that Masema served three years in the eastern marshes during the Aiel War. Ingtar says that he asks no questions, and that he believes Lan and Moiraine when they say he is from Andor, but he adds that Rand looks like an Aiel. Rand complains loudly that everyone believes he is something he is not. He says that he grew tabac in the Two Rivers with his father and tended sheep. Mat adds, scornfully, that Rand is from the Two Rivers and that they grew up together. He also adds that you would never know it now by how Rand acts.

Mat: You put this Aiel nonsense in his head on top of what’s already there and the Light knows what we’ll have.

Loial adds that Rand does have the look of an Aiel. He reminds Rand that he thought so when they first met in Caemlyn. Loial continues.

Til shade is gone, til water is gone, into the Shadow with teeth bared, screaming defiance with the last breath, to spit in Sightblinder’s eye on the last day.

Rand remembers that Gawyn Trakand once told him that if he wrapped a shoufa around his head he would be the image of an Aielman. Mat asks Loial about what is meant by spitting in Sightblinder’s eye. Ingtar replies that this is how long the Aiel say that they will fight and he adds that he does not doubt that they will. Loial shares that they come to his stedding sometimes to trade for sung wood. He says that they are a hard people. Ingtar agrees and says that he wishes he had some as hard, or even half as hard.

Mat asks Ingtar if he is joking and says that if he ran a mile in the armor Ingtar is wearing he would fall down after and sleep for a week. Ingtar says he is not joking. He says the Aiel are hard people – even their women. He says that the Aiel will run fifty miles and then fight a battle at the end of it. He describes them as walking death, with or without a weapon. He says though that they refuse to use swords or ride horses.

Ingtar: If you have a sword an an Aielman has his bare hands it is an even fight. If you’re good.

Ingtar goes on to say that the only major defeats in Artur Hawkwing’s military campaigns were against the Aiel. He describes the Waste, also, as shimmering with heat during the day and frozen at night. Ingtar says that if the Aiel ever leave the waste, the world will be pressed to stop them. He tells the boys that the Aiel War lasted three years and it was against only four of the Aiel’s thirteen clans.

Mat jumps in and says that grey eyes from Rand’s mother does not make him Aiel. Ingtar just shrugs. When Rand settles down for the night, his head hums with unwanted thoughts. He thinks about all of the people he has met who think he looks Aiel, the story his father told, and that the Amyrlin Seat told him he is the Dragon Reborn. He thinks to himself that he will not be used. He is tired but sleep is a long time in coming.

Ingtar breaks camp before sun up. They are riding as the sun finally rises. Two hours into their ride, a scout returns to announce that an abandoned camp lies ahead. He says that the camp held thirty or forty people the previous night. Ingtar rides forward hard, as though the Darkfriends are still there. When they arrive, they find the remnants of an abandoned camp. Ingtar and Uno examine the camp while Hurin rides around it, sniffing. Mat approaches the camp and picks up a bone from the ashes, asking what Darkfriends eat. He says that the bone does not look like it is from a sheep or a cow. Hurin says that murder was done here. Ingtar says that the trollocs got hungry and the Darkfriends were handy. Mat drops the bone and looks as though he will be sick.

Hurin announces that the trollocs are no longer moving south. He points back toward the northeast. Hurin seems troubled but suggests that the Darkfriends may have decided to make a break for the Blight after all. Ingtar announces that he will have them and he orders everyone to mount. However, an hour later, Hurin draws reign. He announces that the Darkfriends changed again and are now riding south again. He says that they killed someone else here where the direction changed. After a few minutes’ search, they find a man curled up and stuffed under some bushes. Nobody recognizes the man despite the fact that he is wearing Shienaran clothes. Ingtar says that they will not bury Darkfriends. Then he rides south. When twilight comes, Uno believes they have gained some ground on their quarry but the party has not caught up yet.

The following morning, after a ride of some distance, they find another abandoned camp and another murder done there. Hurin says that there is also another change of direction, this time to the northwest. Less than two hours in the new direction, the group finds another body, and the trail returns to the south once more. Uno’s reading of the tracks indicates that they have gained some more ground. They do not catch up by nightfall. The next day is the same as the previous days. The day after is also the same, with murders and changes in direction. Every day they gain ground but they do not catch up.

Ingtar urges them onward, presses them harder, as though his own hope for the Light rides on them recovering the Horn. Uno begins looking questioningly at Ingtar. Finally, though, they reach the River Erinin and a small village – with half a dozen houses and wood shingles. Uno asks Ingtar if this is part of an ambush. The Shienarans take lances and encircle the houses. They close in on the houses but nothing moves except the soldiers. The soldiers draw reign. Rand and the others ride up to join the Shienarans.

Perrin mutters that he does not like the smell of this place. Hurin gives Perrin a look and Perrin stares back until Hurin drops his eyes. Perrin adds that it smells wrong. Uno announces that the trollocs and Darkfriends rode straight through to the ferry, which they left on the other side of the river. He says they are lucky the Darkfriends did not cut the ferry adrift.

Loial asks where the people of this village are. Ingtar gives a command to search the houses. His men eventually return and Uno reports that all the people are gone. Suddenly, though, he points toward a house and says that he saw a woman in the window. He runs for the house before anyone can move. Uno runs through the open door. Ingtar shouts to the woman that they mean her no harm. A moment later, Uno sticks his head back out to say there is nobody in the house.

When he returns to Ingtar, he says that he saw a woman in a white dress at the window. He says that he thought he saw her inside for a moment and then she was gone. Mat says that Uno is jumping at curtains, which draws a sharp look from the soldier. Rand asks Loial if the people from the village ran off. The Ogier replies that he fears the Darkfriends took them. He grimaces and says that the trollocs may have done so. Rand wishes he had not asked. Ingtar asks Hurin if there was violence in the village. The sniffer says there was violence in the village by not killing. He says that he has never smelled anything like this smell before. He says that there was hurting done. Hurin says that the Darkfriends crossed the river.

Ingtar commands Uno to retrieve the ferry and to arrange for the other side to be scouted before crossing. Uno bows and in moments Ragan and Masema are removing their armor. The two men, undressed, wade into the river hanging onto the rope cable upon which the ferry hangs. In less time than Rand expected, the two men are hauling themselves into the ferry. Next, they draw their daggers and disappear into the trees. Sometime later, they reappear and begin pulling the ferry back across the river. When they get back across the river, Masema ties up the barge while Ragan approaches with a report. His face is pale and he sounds shaken.

He says that there is no ambush on the far bank. He cannot say what he saw but insists that Ingtar must see it for himself. He says that there is something at a big oak fifty paces south from the landing. He says that he cannot bring himself to say what he saw. Ingtar rides to the bank with Hurin and half of the lancers. Rand follows and Loial goes with them. Perrin rides ahead of them and looks grim. Mat waits until the last minute until he joins them and crowds himself aboard.

Rand tells Mat that they will find it and Mat scowls at him. Rand sighs. Loial tells Rand quietly that it will all work out in the end with his friends. Perrin suddenly says that a ferry ride is how they left home, reminding them of the Taren ferry. He says that it will be worse this time. Rand asks how it could be worse and Perrin does not answer. Perrins golden eyes shine as he looks toward the far bank. After a long minute, Mat asks Perrin how it could be worse and Perrin replies simply that it will be. He says he can smell it. Hurin eyes Perrin nervously.

They ride into the trees toward the oak. Ahead, they see two figuring hanging by their arms. At first, Rand thinks they are crimson scarecrows. Then he sees two faces – Changu and Nidao. Their faces are contorted in pain. The two dead men had lived for a long time after their flaying began. Hurin says that this is as bad a thing as he has ever smelled excepting inside the dungeon at Fal Dara the night of Fain’s escape. Rand seeks the Void. He again feels a queasy light when he does so. Eventually he wraps himself in emptiness. The queasiness is inside the Void, with him, instead of outside. Rand hears someone wretching.

Ingtar orders that the men be cut down and buried, adding that they cannot be sure the two men were Darkfriends. He says they could have been prisoners. Ingtar asks if Rand is alright. He lets the Void vanish. The burial is simple – two holes dug in the ground with the bodies placed inside. Loial tells Rand that Shienarans believe that all people came from the earth and must return to earth. He says they never use coffins or shrouds and he adds that bodies are never clothed.

Loial: The earth must hold the body. ‘The last embrace of the Mother’ they call it.

Uno arrives with the rest of the men and the packhorses as the last of the earth is shoveled onto the two graves. Someone tells the man what they found and the one-eyed Uno spits. He says that trollocs do that along the Blight sometimes when they want to shake your nerve or warn you not to follow. Ingtar asks Hurin which way and the sniffer tells him south.

The forest soon gives way to flatlands. Ingtar takes advantage of the better terrain and sets a steady ground-covering pace. Occasionally Rand sees what he thinks might be a farmhouse in the distance but their party never gets close. The trail no longer veers. It goes steadily to the south. Ingtar says that they will reach the spot of Artur Hawkwing’s greatest victory in three or four days at their current pace. He shares that trollocs poured out of the Blight in huge numbers to challenge him. The battle lasted for six days and nights before Hawkwing was victorious. Ingtar says that the trollocs never challenged him again. Ingtar says a monument was raised there to honor his victory – a spire one hundred spans high. Loial says he would like to see the monument as he has never heard of it. Ingtar says that the monument is no longer there. He says that after his death, in the tumult to seize the vacant throne, the challengers could not bear to leave a monument to him. Ingtar says there is nothing left but the mound where the monument once stood.

The party discusses the land they are now riding through. It was once the nation of Hardan. Ingtar and Loial give a history of its fall. Ingtar bitterly says that what little evidence remains that it was ever there is fading. He says that everything is fading. He notes that almost no nation truly controls what it claims today on a map and most nations no longer claim on a map what they claimed even one hundred years ago. He says that great swaths of land on the continent go completely unclaimed.

Ingtar: We are being swept away, human kind, swept away like flotsam on a flood. How long until there is nothing left but the Borderlands? How long before we too go under and there is nothing left but trollocs and myrddraal all that way to the Sea of Storms?

Ingtar’s words bring about a shocked silence. After a while, scouts up to let them know a village lies ahead. When they reach the next crest, Ingtar calls for a halt. He pulls a looking glass out to peer at it. Rand studies the village and thinks that it is as big as Emond’s Field. He does not see any people. Ingtar says that there is not even a dog in sight. Ingtar asks Hurin about the trail and the sniffer tells him it leads toward the village. Ingtar leads the men down toward the village at a slow walk.

Perrin asks Ingtar if he thinks the people in the village would help Darkfriends. Ingtar explains that they do not like Shienarans. The people of the village do not like that Shienar does not claim the land where they are now. Ingtar goes on to explain that Caihein once claimed it but says that they could not hold it. There is no sign of life inside the village. Open doors swing, creaking in the wind. Hurin mutters that this is like at the ferry but different. Herin says violence was done and trails off before saying that it was bad.

Ingtar commands Uno to take a file and search the houses. He tells Uno not to frighten them. Rand looks around. He dismounts and walks toward a nearby door. He pushes the door open. Inside, the table is set for a meal. A few flies buzz above turnips and peas and more crawl upon a roast. Rand steps inside.

Blink.

A smiling bald-headed man puts meat on a plate held by a woman with a worn face. She is also smiling. She adds peas and turnips to the plate and passes it to one of the children lining the table. There are half a dozen children. The woman says something and the girl taking the plate from her laughs. The man cuts another slice. Suddenly another girl points toward the door out to the street. The man drops the carving knife, whirls, and screams, too. The family scrambles toward a door in the back of the room. That door bursts open and…

Blink.

Rand cannot move. The flies buzzing over the table sound louder. His breath makes a cloud over his mouth.

Blink.

A smiling bald-headed man puts meat on a plate held by a woman with a worn face. She is also smiling. She adds peas and turnips to the plate and passes it to one of the children lining the table. There are half a dozen children. The woman says something and the girl taking the plate from her laughs. The man cuts another slice. Suddenly another girl points toward the door out to the street. The man drops the carving knife, whirls, and screams, too. The family scrambles toward a door in the back of the room. That door bursts open and…

Blink.

Rand struggles and his muscles feel frozen. The room is colder. He wants to shiver but cannot move even that much. Flies crawl all over the table. He gropes for the Void, the sour light is there, but he does not care. He has to…

Blink.

A smiling bald-headed man puts meat on a plate held by a woman with a worn face. She is also smiling. She adds peas and turnips to the plate and passes it to one of the children lining the table. There are half a dozen children. The woman says something and the girl taking the plate from her laughs. The man cuts another slice. Suddenly another girl points toward the door out to the street. The man drops the carving knife, whirls, and screams, too. The family scrambles toward a door in the back of the room. That door bursts open and…

Blink.

The room is freezing. Flies blacken the table. The walls are a shifting mass of flies. The floors and the ceiling are also black with them. They crawl on Rand, covering him. They crawl over his face and eyes, into his nose and mouth. The flies buzz like thunder and Rand is freezing. The cold penetrates the Void. Desperately he reaches for the flickering Light inside the Void. His stomach twists but the Light is warm. Rand suddenly feels hot. Suddenly he is tearing at something. And just as suddenly, it’s all gone. Panting, he looks around. A few flies lay on the half-carved roast. Rand counts them. There are six flies. He staggers out into the street. Mat is just coming out of a house across the street and he says nobody was in the house he visited.

A shout comes from the square. Perrin announces that the men found something. They ride toward the square. Rand resolves not to set foot inside another house in the village. Everyone is standing like statues in front of a building with wide double-doors. Rand joins them in staring.

A man is attached to the doors, spread eagle, with thick spikes through wrists and shoulders. More spikes have been driven into his eyes to hold his head up. His cheeks are covered in dark dried blood. Scuff marks behind his boots show that he was alive when this was begun. Suddenly Rand realizes that this is not a man, it is a myrddraal.

Mat: Who could do this to a Fade?

Ingtar answers that he does not know. Ingtar tells the party to mount. He orders Hurin to find the trail out of the village. The sniffer reports that they Darkfriends are still traveling south. The ride away leaving the dead myrddraal where it hangs.

REACTION:

This chapter covers a lot of ground – literally. We meet several murder victims, two villages invaded by trollocs, a pair of flayed Shienarans, and a myrddraal nailed to doors – while alive – with thick spikes.

Who could do that to a Fade?

There is something odd about what occurs to Rand inside the house in the second village. As soon as he reaches for that queasy light, the images for him stop. I assume that the light is the male half of the One Power. However, we are not told that just yet. The heat he describes after touching it, though, is similar to what occurred with him at the Eye of the World. Who caused those weird images? Also unknown at this point.

The other noteworthy thing from this chapter is the woman in the white dress in the first village. That… does not feel as though it was included for no reason.

From a character standpoint, we do not get a lot of development here. We learn Masema does not like Rand because he looks like an Aiel. Perrin and especially Mat are still angry at Rand. Ingtar has a dark and bleak outlook regarding the future of humanity. But for the most part, this chapter is trot, walk, find a body, find an empty village, trot, walk, find a body, and so on. The tone is veering into a very “horror sci-fi” direction.

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