The Great Hunt (Chapter 26): Discord

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 26: Discord

Rand darts through the common room at The Defender of the Dragonwall and grins at the startled look the Innkeeper gives him. He wants to grin at everything because Thom is alive. Loial and Hurin put their head in Rand’s room as he enters. They are smoking pipes together. Hurin asks anxiously if something has happened and Rand tells him that Thom Merrilin is alive.

Loial: The gleeman you told me about? That is wonderful Rand. I would like to meet him.
Rand: Then come with me.

Hurin agrees to keep watch for a while as they go. Loial then says that he wishes not to go, saying he can meet Thom another time. Rand tells him that they did not see Ogier when passing through the city and he also says that even if they do see them, they will not be hunting for him. Loial replies that they will not be hunting for him, exactly, but he says that he will be in a great deal of trouble when he does return to Stedding Shangtai. Loial suggests that perhaps if he avoids his stedding until he is as old as Elder Haman he might be okay and Rand tells him that he can come live in The Two Rivers. Loial replies that living with humans will not work. Despite Loial’s protests, though, Rand enthusiastically pushes him into his tunic and down the stairs.

In the common room, Rand winks at the Innkeeper and then laughs at his startled look.

Let him think I’m off to play his bloody Great Game.

Once back in the Foregate again, everyone seems to know The Bunch of Grapes and direct Rand and Loial to the Inn. They find themselves on a street that is quiet for the Foregate with the sun halfway down in the sky. The common room inside is clean and busy. The Innkeeper is a woman with hair as white as Thom’s, along with sharp eyes that study Loial as well as Rand. She tells the two of them that Thom has a room on the top of the stairs, first door on the right. She says that Dena will likely let the inside. The Innkeeper eyes Rand’s coat and sword and addresses him belatedly as “my Lord” as they go.

When Rand knocks, a woman’s voice answers and tells them to come inside. He opens it and puts his head in. A slender woman inside, is sitting on the bed, with her skirts tucked beneath her legs, juggling six colored balls in a wheel between her hands. She tells him to leave whatever it is that he is bringing while also letting him know Thom will pay for it later. Rand asks her if her name is Dena and she stops juggling. Dena states that she does not know who he is. Rand tells her that the Innkeeper said she might let them wait in the room for Thom. When she inquires about there being someone with Rand, he comes farther into the room and Loial comes in also. Her eyebrows raise at the sight of Loial. She says that she is Dena and asks them what they want.

Dena looks at Rand’s coat so purposefully that her failure to add “my Lord” is clearly purposeful. Rand hefts the bundle in his hands and tells her that he has brought Thom back his harp and flute. He adds quickly, also, that he wants to visit with him. She eyes the bundle and says Thom always moans about losing the best harp and the best flute he ever had.

Dena: You would think he was a court bard the way he carries on.

Dena tells them that they can wait. She also says that she must practice because Thom says she will perform next week. She rises gracefully and takes a chair and motions Loial toward the bed. Rand takes a seat in another chair and asks her doubtfully if she is Thom’s apprentice. She smiles and says he might say that.

Loial: I have never heard of a woman gleeman.
Dena: I will be the first.

Dena’s large circle of balls turns into two overlapping circles. She says she will see the whole world before she is done. Rand looks around the room again, noting the potted flower in the window, and the trunks on the floor. He thinks that it does not look like the room of people who intend to move on soon. Rand also notices that there is only one bed in the room and his face reddens. Just as Rand suggests that maybe they should wait downstairs, Thom enters the room. Dena leaps up and throws her arms around his neck, kissing him.

Thom complains to Dena about a group of people who he refers to as fools, that call themselves players, who pretend to be Rogosh Eagle Eye, or other heroes, and use a painted parchment behind them to create the impression for the audience that they are Matuchin Hall or elsewhere. Thom disdains them and says he makes the listener see every battle, every banner, and feel every emotion.

Thom: I make them believe they are Gaidal Cain.

Thom thinks the hall will be torn down if this lot are put on after his performance. Dena tells Thom that they have visitors and introduces Loial and Rand. Thom tells her to leave them for a while, puts some silver in her hand to go pick up her knives which are ready, and he promises to make it up to her. She gives him a dark look but leaves muttering about that the balances on the knives better be right.

When she is gone, Thom tells the other two that she will be a Bard one day. He tells them, with a note of price, that she can hear a tale once and re-tell it properly – not just the words but the nuances. He says she is also good on the harp and was better with the flute, the first time she picked it up, than Rand ever was. Thom tells Rand that when he passed through Caemlyn on his way to Cairhein, Basel Gill told him he left in the company of an Ogier among others. Thom flourishes his coat for Loial. He tells Loial that he is pleased to meet him. Loial stands to make his bow in return.

Loial tells Thom that Dena said she wants to be a Gleeman. Thom replies that such a life is no life for a woman. He insists he will talk her around to being a Court Bard before he is done. Thom then changes the subject and asks if Rand brought the instruments. Rand gives them to him. Thom is happy that Rand never put his clumsy sheepherder’s fingers on the harp but bemoans that it is out of tune.

Abruptly, Rand asks Thom if he wants to be part of the stories, regarding The Great Hunt for the Horn, even though he did not go to Illian. Loial asks him if he is sure he should do this but Rand presses on. Thom says that it depends on the details and he muses that it might be possible some of the Hunters, with the blessing, have arrived in Cairhein by now but he thinks that it is unlikely.

Rand: It doesn’t matter if the Hunt has left Illian or not.
[Loial’s breath catches]
Rand: Thom, we have The Horn of Valere.

For a moment, there is dead silence. Thom breaks the silence with a guffaw of laughter. He mocks the idea that they have it and Loial says quietly that they do have it. Thom draws a deep breath but he continues laughing. Thom says that he does not know what they found but that he can take them to ten taverns where he can find a man who knows a man who has already found the Horn. He says he can also take them to three men who will sell the the Horn and swear under the Light that it is the real one and true. Rand breaks in to say that Moiraine says it is the Horn. that cuts his mirth short. Thom says that Rand told him Moiraine was not with him. Rand says that she is not. Thom notes that at least Rand had sense enough to keep having the Horn secret. Rand says it is but adds that he needs to bring the Horn back to Fal Dara without thieves or Darkfriends taking it away. He asks Thom if that is enough story for him and adds that he could use a friend who knows the world. Rand tells Thom that he, Loial, and Hurin are all floundering and know less of the world than he does.

Thom: Hurin? No, don’t tell me how. I don’t want to know.

Thom muses about the Horn being found and says that it means The Last Battle is coming. He stares at the window and suggests that nobody outside will even notice. He says that the nobles in Cairhein will think the Last Battle is some ploy in the Game of Houses. Thom asks why Shienar and points out that the legends all tie the Horn to Illian. Rand says Shienar because he knows who to give it to there. He adds that there are trollocs and Darkfriends after them.

Thom: Why does that not surprise me?

Thom then tells Rand no, saying that he may be an old fool but he wants to be an old fool in his own way. He tells Rand to take the glory. Rand starts to press him and Thom says no again more firmly. Finally, Rand asks Loial if he minds leaving him and Thom alone for a while. The Ogier seems surprised but he nods and rises. Loial suggests that perhaps the people in the common room will let him play dice with them.

Thom eyes Rand suspiciously as Loial closes the door. There are things Rand needs to know from Thom. The gleeman seems to know about a surprisingly large number of things. Rand is not sure how to ask. Finally, he settles on an approach.

Rand: Thom, are there any books that have the Karaethon Cycle in them?

It is easier to call it that than the prophecies of the Dragon. Thom replies, slowly, that those books are in the great libraries, including in the Old Tongue. Rand starts to asks if there is any way for him to find one but Thom goes on. He tells Rand that the Old Tongue has music in it, too. He says that even nobles are now too impatient to listen to it. Thom goes on to tell Rand about how translations can vary, whether or not translated in High Chant. He tells Rand about some lines from the Prophecies that he knows.

Twice and twice shall he be marked
Twice to live and twice to die
Once the heron to set his path
Twice the heron to name him true
Once the Dragon for remembrance lost
Twice the Dragon for the price he must pay

Thom reaches out and touches the herons embroidered on Rand’s high collar. Rand gapes at him and can barely speak. Finally, Rand says that the sword make five – hilt, scabbard, and blade. Rand turns his hand down on the table hiding the brand on his palm. For the first time since Selene’s salve treated the injury, he can feel the heron brand there. Thom barks a laugh in response and says “so they do.” He tells Rand that there is another line from the Cycle that comes to mind.

Twice dawns the day when his blood is shed
Once for mourning, once for birth
Red on black, the Dragon’s blood stains the rock of Shayol Ghul
In the Pit of Doom shall his blood free men from the Shadow

Rand shakes his head denying but Thom seems not to notice. He says that he does not see how a day can dawn twice but notes that a lot of it does not make much sense.

Thom: The Stone of Tear will never fall until Callandor is wielded by the Dragon Reborn. But The Sword That Cannot Be Touched lies at the Heart of the Stone. So how can he wield it first, eh? Well be that as they may, I suspect Aes Sedai will want to make events fit the prophecies as closely as they can. Dying somewhere in the Blasted Lands would be a high price to pay for going along with them.

With an effort, Rand makes his voice calm and says no Aes Sedai are using him for anything. Rand tells Thom again that the last time he saw Moiraine was in Shienar and that she told him he can go where he wants. Thom seems satisfied and at the same time puzzled.

Thom: Then why ask about the Prophecies? Why send the Ogier out of the room?

Rand says he did not want to upset him. He tells Thom that Loial is nervous enough about the Horn. Then he asks if the Horn is mentioned in the Prophecies. He says that everyone says the Horn is supposed to be found before The Last Battle and the Dragon Reborn is supposed to fight at the Last Battle so the question seemed natural enough to ask. Thom says that he supposes it is but points out that not many know that The Dragon Reborn is supposed to fight at The Last Battle.

Thom: Or if they do, they think he’ll fight alongside The Dark One.

Thom asks Rand about what he said about the Horn and “supposed to.” Rand tells him that he has learned a few things since they parted. He tells Thom that the Heroes will come to the aid of whoever blows the Horn, good or evil. Thom says that is something he did not know.

Rand: It doesn’t mean that I’d let the White Tower use me for a False Dragon. I don’t want anything to do with Aes Sedai. Or False Dragons. Or the Power. Or…

Rand bites his tongue. He thinks to himself that when you get mad, you start babbling. Thom tells him that for a time, he thought he was the one Moiraine wanted. He says he even thought he knew why. Thom tells Rand gently that no man chooses to channel the power. He says it is something that happens, like a disease. Rand asks Thom about his nephew who could channel and reminds him that his nephew is the reason Thom gave for why he was helping them.

Thom purses his lips and says that talking about a male relative who can channel is not the kind of thing a man talks about. He sighs and says that the Red Ajah never gave Owyn a chance.

Thom: They gentled him and then he died. He just gave up wanting to live.

Rand shivers and wonders why Moiraine did not do that to him. Rand asks Thom if there was some way Owyn could have dealt with it, without going mad and dying. Thom says his nephew held it off for almost three years. He then throws up his hand and admits that there was probably no choice. Thom tells Rand that the people of Owyn’s village said he was acting strangely the entire last year of his life.

Thom: If Moiraine has let you go, then you are well out of it.

Rand is silent and he colors under Thom’s scrutiny. He then reminds Thom that he has the Horn of Valere and tells him to think of it. He tells Thom that while other gleeman might talk about it, he can say he has had it in his hands. Suddenly Rand realizes that he sounds like Selene and wonders to himself where she is. He tells Thom again that there is nobody he would rather have with him. Thom shakes his head no. He says he is well paid in Cairhein, especially with the King’s Gift for gleemen in the Foregate. He adds also that to his surprise, Dena seems to love him and that he returns the feeling. He asks why he should leave that to go be chased by trollocs and Darkfriends.

Thom leans over and gives Rand a plainly made flute, mounted with silver. He tells Rand that he might need to earn his supper again someday. Rand admits that he just might. Rand then says they can at least talk again and Thom tells him that a clean break is best. He tells Rand that if he is always coming around, he will not be able to get the Horn out of his head. He defiantly says he will not be tangled in it again.

““““““““““““““““““““““

After Rand leaves, Thom sits in the bed and wonders how that farmboy found the Horn of Valere. As Thom is lost in his own thoughts, he mutters aloud that he is an old fool. The Innkeeper Zara replies “aye, an old fool.” Thom had not noticed her opening the door. Thom has known her for years. She says that Thom is an old fool who is playing the Game of Houses again and notes that the young Lord who just visited has the sound of Andor on his tongue. She tells Thom that Daes Dae’mar is dangerous enough without letting an outland Lord mix him up in his schemes.

Thom blinks and reconsiders the way Rand looked. The coat had been fine enough for a Lord. He thinks to himself that he is growing old to let things like that slip by him. Thom tells her that the boy is a shepherd from the Two Rivers and she laughs scornfully. She says, if so, then she is the Queen of Ghealdan. She warns Thom that the Game has grown dangerous in Cairhein and that murders are more common now. She warns him that he will have his throat cut if he does not watch out.

Thom tells her again that he is not in the Game and she notes, be that as it may, he is now performing at Lords’ manors, too. He mutters that they pay well. She warns him that they will pull him into their plots as soon as they can see how. Thom asks if this warning is why she came up to see him and she tells him yes, and that he should marry Dena. Thom thanks her for the advice, dryly.

Thom muses again about Rand’s coat. He thinks to himself that if Rand were more, a man who can channel, no Aes Sedai would have let him walk away ungentled. Thom thinks again that Horn or no Horn, the boy is only a shepherd.

Thom: He is out of it, and so am I.

REACTION:

A chapter titled “Discord” when we spend time with the musician again? Well played, Robert Jordan.

Rand and Thom’s private conversation is interesting. Thom lets us know here that he suspects the *why* of Moiraine searching for one of them. He’s also smart enough to know Aes Sedai don’t randomly take three village boys who *might* be able to channel. He also knows that The Dark One would not send trollocs so far south of the Blight for just some random person who can channel. As a result, I think it’s fair to assume that Thom probably suspected that Rand was the Dragon Reborn throughout The Eye of the World.

Rand’s questions about channeling and the prophecies of the Dragon surely fuel that belief on the part of Thom. He just can’t clear the hurdle of the Aes Sedai letting him go, by himself, ungentled. It makes sense. Within the context of the story, men who can channel are the equivalent of a human nuclear weapon – sentient and completely insane nuclear weapons. If I were Thom though, after mulling it over, I would probably assume that 1) Rand is the Dragon Reborn, and 2) Aes Sedai are keeping tabs on him, unbeknownst to him.

There will definitely be repercussions for this chapter. Rand has already made enemies of three noble houses. His actions at his own Inn (winking at the Innkeeper) made everyone there think he is deep in the game. If they knew Rand’s Inn within moments of his arrival in the city, it means they are spying on him. They surely also know he visited Thom and they will now be scrutinizing Thom, too.

This chapter is also fun because we start learning about some of the Prophecies.

“Once the heron to set his path” seems like that brand on his palm to me. Did that moment somehow alter Rand’s path? It seems to me that he was already on his current path before that moment.

Note: Thom’s hatred for stage actors cracks me up. Long before video killed the radio star, theater killed the story-telling star.

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