The Great Hunt (Chapter 22): Watchers

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 22: Watchers

Moiraine mutters to Lan that nothing is happening as she expects. She is sitting at a table filled with books and manuscripts, in a room filled with books and manuscripts. Only the books in front of her are Moiraine’s, though. She looks out the window toward the village that is not far off. She believes there is no danger of pursuit where she is and no one who would think to look for her here.

None of the villagers have any suspicion that the two elderly Sisters living in this snug house are Aes Sedai. One does not suspect such things in a place like Tifan’s Well, a small farming community in Arafel. The villager’s come to the sisters for advice and cures for their problems but view them as no more than what they appear to be. Adeleas and Vandene, the two Sisters, went into voluntary retreat so long ago that few in the White Tower even remember that they still live. The two Sisters, sisters in truth, are writing The History of the World Since the Breaking as as much of the history of the world before, as they can learn.

Their house is home to a vast amount of information as a result – and Moiraine views it as a perfect place to quietly find the information that she needs. Unfortunately, she cannot find what she is looking for. She asks Lan if he remembers when they first met. If she had not been looking for a reaction, she would have missed the quick twitch of his eyebrow. She rarely catches him by surprise. This subject is something that neither of them ever brings up.

Nearly twenty years ago, Moiraine had told Lan with nearly all of the stiff pride of one still young enough to be called young that she would never mention it again and that she expected Lan to remain silent on the subject also. Lan replies to her that he remembers. She notes that she suspects she will receive no apologies for being thrown into a pond. Moiraine points out that it was cold and says that she nearly froze. Lan replies that he recalls building a fire and hanging blankets so that she could warm herself in privacy. He says that he also recalls that while he slept that night she dumped nearly half of the pond onto him.

Lan: It would have saved a great deal of shivering on both our parts if you had simply told me that you were Aes Sedai rather than demonstrating it.

Moiraine replies that she was young then, and alone, and she points out that Lan was as large then as he is now. She says he wore his fierceness more openly then, also. She recalls that she thought Lan would answer her questions more freely if he did not know. Moiraine then asks Lan if he suspected that she would ask him to bond with her? She confesses that she decided he was the one on the first day they met. Lan tells her that he never guessed her intentions as he was too busy wondering if he could escort her to Chachin and keep a whole skin. He says that she gave him a new surprise every night and that he recalls the ants well, in particular. Moiraine permits herself a small smile, remembering. She repeats to Lan that she was young.

Moiraine asks Lan if his bond chafes after all these years. She says he is not a man to wear a leash easily, even if it is so light a one as her own. Lan replies coolly that it does not, but he gives the fire a fierce poke that it does not need. Sparks cascade up the chimney. He tells her that he chose freely.

Lan: Honor to serve, Moiraine Aes Sedai, it has been and will be so, always.

Moiraine sniffs and says that his humility has always been more arrogant than most kings can manage with their armies at their backs. She says that from the first day she met him it has been so. Lan asks her why all of the talk of days past. She considers the words to use in reply for what seems to her the hundredth time. She tells Lan that before they left Tar Valon, she made arrangements for his bond to pass to another should something happen to her. Lan stares at her silently. She goes on, telling Lan that when he feels her death, he will find himself compelled to seek her out immediately. Moiraine tells Lan that she does not want him to be surprised by it.

Lan breathes out the word “compelled” both softly and angrily. He points out that Moiraine has never once used their bond to compel him and he says that he had believed she disapproved of Sisters who use their bond in that way. Moiraine replies that once she is dead, even her strongest command would not prevent Lan from attempting uselessly to avenge her. She also says she will not allow him to return to his useless war in the Blight.

Moiraine: The war we fight is the same war, if you could only see it so, and I will see that you fight it to some purpose.

Lan asks her if she foresees her death coming soon. His voice is quiet and expressionless. Moiraine usually sees this manner in Lan when he is on the point of violence. He asks her if she has planned something, without him, that will see her dead. Moiraine murmurs that she is suddenly glad that there is no pond in the room with them. She raises her hand when Lan stiffens, offended at her light tone. She tells Lan that she sees her death in every day as he does. She asks him how she could not. She then says that with everything now coming to a head she must see it as even more possible.

Lan studies his own hands and confesses that he has never thought that he might not be the first of them to die. He scrubs his hands together.

Lan: If there is a chance that I am to be given, like a pet lap dog, I would at least like to know to whom I am being given.

Moiraine replies sharply that she has never seen him as a pet. She says Myrelle does not, either. Lan grimaces and says that she would have to be green or some slip of a Sister just raised to full sisterhood. Moiraine says that if Moiraine can keep her three gaidin in line, perhaps she has a chance to manage Lan, too. Moiraine goes on to say that Myrelle has promised to pass Lan’s bond to another when she finds one who suits Lan better than herself.

Lan: So no a pet, but a parcel. Myrelle is to be a caretaker. Moiraine, not even the Greens treat their Warders so. No Aes Sedai has passed her Warder’s bond to another in four hundred years but you intend to do it to me not once but twice.

She tells him that it is done and that she does not intend to undo it. Lan asks if she at least has some idea in whose hands he will end and she replies that what she does is for his own good and perhaps for the good of another as well.

Moiraine: It may be that Myrelle will find some slip of a girl just raised to Sisterhood. Is that not what you said?

She points out that a new Sister, not wise to the world, could use the aid of one like Lan. Moiraine says that she believes she will have need of him. Lan’s eyes widen slightly – which is the equivalent of another man having his mouth agape in shock. He asks Moiraine who she has in mind but she cuts him off before he finishes his question.

Moiraine: Are you sure the bond does not chafe Lan Gaidin?

She continues. She says that she can hand him to a Brown who will only view him as a pair of hands to carry books or to a logic-driven White and he will be unable to do anything but go. She asks once more if he is sure the bond does not chafe. Lan grates at her asking if that is what this has been for. His eyes burn like blue fire and open anger etches his face for the first time that Moiraine has ever seen.

Lan: Has all this talk been a test – a test – to see if you can make my bond rub after all this time? From the day I pledged to you, I have ridden where you said ride even when I thought it foolish, even when I had reason to ride another way. Never did you need my bond to force me. On your word, I have watched you walk into danger and kept my hands at my sides when I wanted nothing more than to out sword and carve a path to safety for you. After this you test me?

She tells Lan that it is not a test. She says that at Fal Dara she began to wonder if he was still wholly with her. A wariness enters Lan’s eyes. She asks him why he did, as he did, with Rand. Lan blinks, apparently expecting her to ask about something else. She reminds Lan that he brought Rand to the Amyrlin as a Border Lord and a soldier born. She says that it fit in a way with what she had planned for him but she points out that the two of them had never spoken of teaching him any of that.

Lan replies that it seemed right. He says that a wolfhound must eventually see its first wolf and he points out that it is important for the wolfhound to see itself for what it is, even moreso than that the wolf sees it as it is. Moiraine asks if Lan sees her, the Amyrlin, and all Aes Sedai as wolves who wish to pull down his young wolfhound. Lan shakes his head. She tells Lan that he knows what Rand is and what he must become. She asks him if he doubts what she does. He replies by saying no.

Lan: How many times have you said that ta’veren pull those around them like twigs in a whirlpool? Perhaps I was pulled, too. I only know that it felt right. Those farm folk needed someone on their side, Rand did at least. Moiraine I believe in what you do, even as now, when I know not half of it, believe as I believe in you. I have not asked to be released from my bond nor will I. Whatever your plans for dying and seeing me, disposed of, I will take great pleasure in keeping you alive and seeing those plans at least go for nothing.

Moiraine repeats “ta’veren” and notes that perhaps it was that. She says that rather than guiding a chip floating down a stream, she is attempting to guide a log through rapids. She says that every time she pushes at it, it pushes back, and the log grows larger the farther they go. She laughs and says that she will not be unhappy if Lan manages to put her plans awry. She then asks Lan to leave her so that she can be alone to think. Lan turns to go to the door. At the last moment, though, she asks him if he ever dreams of something different.

“All men dream but I know dreams for dreams. This,” he touched his sword hilt, “is reality.”

For a while after Lan leaves, Moiraine leans back in her chair looking into the fire. She thinks of Nynaeve and cracks in a wall. Without trying, and without knowing what she was doing, Moiraine believes Nynaeve put cracks in Lan’s walls and then seeded those cracks with creepers. Slowly, patiently, Nynaeve’s creepers are tearing down Lan’s walls to bare the man within. Moiraine thinks that already he is sharing some of Nynaeve’s loyalties. He was initially indifferent to the Emond’s Field folk. Moiraine credits Nynaeve with changing that as she had changed Lan himself. And to Moiraine’s surprise, she feels a flash of jealousy toward Nynaeve for that. She has never felt that way abut Lan before. She reflects on their years together and the numerous times they have saved each other from certain death. Lan has always said he was wedded to death but now a new bride has captured his eyes and he is blind to it. Moiraine wonders when Lan will ask her to release him from his bond. She also wonders what she will do when he does.

Moiraine gets to her feet. Vandene enters with tea pots on a tray. The older Aes Sedai is slender and graceful with a stiff back. Her hair, gathered neatly at the nape of her neck, is almost white. The agelessness of her smooth face is that of long, long years. The Sister tells Moiraine that she would have had Jaim, her Warder, bring this to her. However, she says that he is out in the barn practicing with his sword.

Vandene: Lan being here has him remembering that he is more than a gardener and handyman.

She asks Moiraine if she has found what she is seeking and Moiraine replies that she is not certain of what it is that she is seeking. Moiraine studies the other Sister. Vandene is a Green while her sister Adeleas is Brown. However, the two of them have studied for so long together that she knows as much of history as Adeleas. Vandene shifts the books on the table in front of Moiraine and says that whatever it is, Moiraine does not even know where to look. She points out the subjects of the books – The Trolloc Wars, The Watchers over the Waves and the Legend of the Return, two separate treatises on the Horn of Valere, three on Dark Prophecy, and even a book on the Forsaken. She also sees a treatise on Shadar Logoth and the prophecies of the Dragon in three translations.

She asks Moiraine what she is after. She says she understands the Prophecies because of recent events. She also says they have heard news from Illian regarding The Great Hunt for the Horn. Vandene is about to ask more questions before stopping herself, noting aloud that Moiraine had asked for privacy when she arrived. Moiraine decides to ask Vandene some questions. The Sister tells her to ask away and she pours tea for both of them. Moiraine attempts to ask her questions without revealing too much in so doing.

Her first question is to ask Vandene if the Horn is linked to the Dragon anywhere in the Prophecies or elsewhere. Vandene replies, no, excepting from that the Horn must be found before Tarmon Gai’don, the Last Battle, a battle at which the Dragon Reborn is supposed to fight. Moiraine then asks the other Sister if anything links the Dragon with Toman Head. Vandene hesitates. She says yes and no and describes this as a point of contention between herself and her sister Adeleas. She says that there is a verse in the original Prophecies of the Dragon which translates as “five ride forth and four return, above the Watchers shall he proclaim himself, bannered across the sky in fire” before stopping to say that the point of the word mavron. Vandene says that she believes the word should not simply be translated as “watchers” which is avron, but instead notes that mavron has more importance to it. Vandene says that she believes mavron means “The Watchers over the Waves.” Adeleas says that Vandene is quibbling on that point. Vandene says though that she believe it means the Dragon Reborn will appears somewhere above Toman Head, in Arad Doman, or Saldaea. Vandene points out that Mazrim Taim, from Saldaea, can channel. She points out that Sisters have not managed to corner him yet. She also points out that if the Dragon is actually reborn, the Last Battle looms soon, and she says that they may not get to finish their history. She laughs it is an odd thing to worry about. Vandene asks Moiraine about her next question.

Moiraine absently says that she believes Taim will be dealt with before asking Vandene about Shadar Logoth. Vandene says that city was destroyed by its own hate – excepting Mordeth who began it all by using the tactics of the Dark One against the Dark One. Vandene says that Mordeth lies trapped inside the city waiting for a soul to steal. The older Sister says that the city is not safe to enter and she says further that nothing in the city is safe to touch. Vandene tells Moiraine that there is no connection between the city and the Dragon. Moiraine stops her Sister and says that she did not speak clearly and is not speaking of the Dragon in this matter. She asks Vandene if she can think of any reason why a Fade would take something from the city. Vandene answers no, assuming that a Fade knows what it is.

Vandene: It would destroy Shadowspawn as surely as it would destroy those who walk in the Light.

Moiraine asks her next about the Forsaken and Vandene notes that Moiraine is leaping from subject to subject. Vandene says that she knows little more about the Forsaken than what Moiraine learned as a novice. Moiraine is silent for a moment before letting the name Lanfear escape through her lips. The other woman sighs. She says that in this instance, she knows not a whit more than what she learned as a novice. Vandene pauses and her eyes are sharp on Moiriane’s face. She notes that Lanfear was linked to Lews Therin Telemon, the Dragon, and she asks Moiraine if she has a clue as to where the Dragon will be reborn – or was reborn. Moiraine replies with a question, asking if she would be in Vandene’s home if that were the case. Moiraine swears that the Amyrlin knows as much as she herself and asks Vandene if she has received a summons.

Vandene says that she has not received a summons and she surmises aloud that she supposes that she and her sister would, if the Dragon were reborn. Vandene’s voice drops as she states that with the power the Dragon will wield, they will have to overwhelm him before he has a chance to overwhelm them, first. She notes, though, that they must first let him face the Dark One. At the look on Moiraine’s face, she laughs and says that she has studied the prophecies enough to know that they dare not gentle him first. Vandene also states that she knows the Seals on the Dark One’s prison are weakening. She points out that False Dragons abound, two of them able to channel. She says the signs are everywhere. Vandene’s cup rattles as she sets it down and says that these things are why she feared Moiraine might have seen some sign of him.

Moiraine says that when the time comes they will do what must be done. Vandene muses that perhaps they will have time to finish their history and Moiraine tells her that she hopes they will. Vandene stands to leave Moiraine to her studies. However, she points out before she goes that Lan is rumbling worse than Dragonmount. She advises her to do something about him. Vandene asks Moiraine if Lan now sees her as more than just a Sister but as a woman, also. Moiraine replies to her that Lan sees her as an Aes Sedai and that she hopes he also still sees her as a friend. Vandene mutters that the Blues are too interested in saving the world to take care of themselves.

After Vandene leaves, Moiraine goes into the garden. Something in Vandene’s words tug at her mind. She believes that there is an answer to a question she had in mind, but did not ask, in what the older Sister had said. Moiraine settles her cloak loosely on her shoulders. Sand crunches behind her, loosely, and Moiraine turns believing it is Lan. A shadow looms only a few paces away. The shadow appears to be a too tall man wrapped in his cloak. His face, though, reveals that he is a dragkhar. His cloak opens to reveal great wings like those of a bat. It begins to croon. The soft hum fills her mind. She cannot concentrate enough to channel. She has the feeling of vague sadness as she draws closer to it and its white hands like those of a man reach for her. They are tipped with claws. She knows dimly that once its lips touch her she will be as good as dead. She will first be drained of soul, then of life. Whoever finds her – even if they find her as it lets her fall – will find a corpse without a mark and cold as if dead for two days. If they come before she is dead, what they find will be worse, and not really her any longer.

The dragkhar’s head leans slowly toward her. She feels only the slightest surprise as a sword flashes past her and into the creature’s chest. Then a second sword flashes across her other shoulder to strike beside the first. Dazed, swaying, she watches as the creature is pushed back. Lan and Jaim come into her view. The dragkhar’s hands bloody as they swipe at the steel. It’s wings buffet the two men like thunderclaps. Wounded and bleeding, it begins to croon as the two Warders. Moiraine tries to gather herself. She opens herself to Saidar and as the power fills her, she steels herself to touch the shadowspawn directly. The two men are too close to the creature to kill it another way. As she begins, Lan cries out “embrace death!” and Jaim echoes him. They step within reach of it and drove home their blades to the hilt. The creature shrieks and the sound pierces Moiraine’s head like needles. The dragkhar topples. Jaim falls to his knees and Lan sags as if exhausted. Vandene and Adeleas hurry from the house, carrying lanterns. They ask what the noise is when they see the dead shadowspawn. Adeleas verifies that it did not kiss anyone. She takes Moiraine’s hands and Moiraine feels strength returning to herself. Moiraine tells her to see to the gaidin.

Lan mutters.

Lan: Had you not made me so angry that I had to work the forms with Jaim. So angry that I had to return to the house…
Moiraine: But I did. The Pattern takes everything into the weaving.

Jaim allows Vandene to see to his shoulder. Adeleas asks aloud how any creature of the shadow could come so close without them sensing it. Moiraine replies that the creature was warded. Adeleas states that is impossible because only a sister… then she stops. Vandene turns to look from her Sister toward Moiraine. Moiraine says the words that none of them want to hear – the Black Ajah.

Shouts drift from the village. Moiraine tells them that the villagers will come asking if they need help. She notes though that seeing the dragkhar will create talk that they do not want. Adeleas sends Jaim to met the villagers and tell them that he does not know what made the noise but to relay that all is well. Adeleas studies the creature and wonders aloud what brought the creature to them. Vandene regards Moiraine silently. Moiraine says that she fears she must leave them. She asks Lan to ready their horses.

Vandene asks Moiraine if she will find her answers where she is going. Moiraine says she may have already found one that she did not know she sought. She says that she hopes she is not too late. She tells the two Sisters that she will need pen and parchment before going.

REACTION:

In hindsight, the Chapter title is interesting. Someone(s) is keeping tabs on Moiraine. Or maybe it just refers to The Watchers at Toman Head? Double meaning?

I can remember, upon my first read-through, that this is one of the chapters that really drew me into the broader world of this story. I wanted to know more about Vandene and Adeleas at the end of this section. I really enjoyed the idea of two super-old Aes Sedai sisters/Sisters working in their retirement on an epic history book. I enjoyed that Moiraine forced onto Lan the realization that the Emond’s Field folk are creeping into his death-seeking heart. I enjoyed our first real peak into their working relationship. I enjoyed the additional info regarding the nature of the Warder bond (compeling, passing it on, etc.) And then… imagine the audacity to attempt an assassination on Moiraine!

I don’t think we knew before this chapter that shadowspawn could be “warded.” Who that can channel is the most likely culprit?

Selene is with Rand. Verin is with Perrin/Ingtar. Most of the Aes Sedai we have met are at the White Tower with Egwene and Nynaeve… that leaves Liandrin (among the Aes Sedai we have met) unaccounted for. Even assuming Liandrin is Black Ajah, did something happen in Fal Dara or on the boat trip after, to cause her to attempt the murder of Moiraine? Probably. She seems like the most likely culprit at any rate. She could have followed Moiraine from the boat. Nobody else should even know where Moiraine is unless one of the Forsaken has been keeping an eye on her. I suppose we cannot rule out Ba’alzamon.

Lan and Jaim killing the draghkar was an epic moment. I hope that makes it into the show. Jaim gets a chance to exercise those old Warder skills in a way that doesn’t involve… gardening.

Who doesn’t love a heroic gardener?

Moiraine is definitely planning on passing Lan’s bond to Nynaeve eventually. The conversation in this chapter is her way of letting Lan know that outcome is on the table. Whatever she might say about Nynaeve planting creepers in the cracks of Lan’s emotional wall, Moiraine plants some of her own here.

One other thing. Most of the Aes Sedai we have met have surprised Moiraine in their willingness to keep the Dragon Reborn ungentled until after The Last Battle. I wonder if she and Siuan did not give their Sisters enough credit on this front when keeping all of this a major secret.

One thought on “The Great Hunt (Chapter 22): Watchers

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