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 30: Daes Dae’mar
Rand looks out Loial and Hurin’s window and thinks about the Illuminators. The fireworks makers are the talk of the city with dozens of stories circulating about the scandal from a couple nights ago. None of them are close to the truth. Rand hopes that none of them were hurt in the fire at the chapter house but thus far the Illuminators have not publicly admitted any fire occurred at all. Rand tells Hurin that he will take the next watch as soon as he comes back. Hurin bows to him and says that there is no need for his Lord to take a turn watching. Rand is agitated at Hurin’s increased formality toward him. The Sniffer replies that they have to show the people of Cairhein that they can be just as proper as they are.
A knock on the door silences them. The three of them ready to fight and protect the Horn if necessary as Rand yanks open the door. The Innkeeper is there, excited, and rocking a tray at Rand. Two sealed parchments lay on the tray. He tells Rand that he could not wait until Rand comes down to the Common Room to deliver them. Rand, having received many invitations from noble houses already, snatches these invitations without looking at them, turns the Innkeeper’s arm, and turns him toward the door in the hall. The Innkeeper begins to protest about from whom these are from but Rand pushes him out into the hallway and closes the door firmly. He tosses the parchments onto the table.
Rand notes aloud that the Innkeeper has never done that before and he asks Loial if the Innkeeper was listening at the door. The Ogier laughs and says that Rand is starting to think like someone from Cairhein before adding that the Innkeeper may have been listening at the door. Rand does not think that they said anything they should not have.
Hurin tells them that the parchments are from Lord Barthanes, High Seat of House Damodred and from The King of Cairhein. Hurin says the latter with awe. Rand says that these go into the fire like all of the previous invitations, unopened. Rand says that, from what Hurin and Loial have told him of The Great Game, anything he does, responding, not responding, or otherwise will be read into. Rand concludes then that if these also go into the fire, his message to the spying people of the city will be that they are not for anyone in the city and not against anyone in the city.
Hurin says that these two envelopes bear the personal seals of the King and of the second most powerful man in Cairhein, the High Seat of House Damodred. Hurin explains that burning the invitations so far has worked because the noble houses have been waiting to see what he is up to, thinking that he must have powerful allies to risk insulting them. However, Hurin points out, if Rand burns these as well, the King and Lord Barthanes will retaliate for sure.
Rand asks what will happen if he declines the invitations without burning them. Hurin tells him that this will not work because the moment it is clear that Rand is not allied with anyone, one of the lower Houses that he insulted already will retaliate against his earlier insult without fear of Rand having powerful allies. Hurin tells Rand that the Houses of Cairhein use killers now – a knife in the street or an arrow from a rooftop or poison in his wine.
Loial suggests that Rand can accept both invitations but Hurin disagrees. He tells Loial that House Damodred and House Riatin, the House of the King, are bitter rivals. He says that if Rand accepts both, both Houses will view it as a plot by the other House with Rand working against them. Rand then says that if he only accepts one then the other House will believe he is allied with the House he visits and that they will try to kill him to stop whatever he is involved in. Hurin nods in agreement.
Rand thinks to himself that he has managed to arouse interest in the highest quarters by doing nothing at all. Rand says aloud that these people are crazy. Hurin agrees. Rand says that he will take the invitations into the Common Room with the seals unbroken. He says that he will do nothing with them once they are seen. Rand hopes that Ingtar will arrive while the two Houses are waiting to see what he does next. Hurin congratulates him on thinking like someone from Cairhein.
Rand and Loial enter the common room and no one looks at them. The serving girls hurry between the tables as if Rand and the Ogier do not exist. After a moment, Rand pulls the two invitations from his pocket and studies the seals. he then puts them back in his pocket. The Innkeeper jumps as Rand starts for the door. As the door closes behind him, Rand hears conversation spring up again.
They walk quickly down the street outside. Rand says that they need to find a way out of the city and he says that the trick with the invitations will not work more than two or three days. Loial points out that if they ride out of the city, Fain will be on them as soon as they are out of sight of the city. Loial says that if they ride out with a merchant train, Fain will attack it as no merchant train will have more than five or six guards. Loial says that if they tried to take passage on a ship, they would have to show the contents of their chest to someone from the city.
They reach the Foregate guard house. Rand thinks that he sees a man, wearing what were once good Shienaran clothes, ducks away at the sight of them. There are lots of people in clothes from many lands where they are standing. At the guardhouse, Rand checks with a worker there to find out whether Lord Ingtar has arrived in the city. The guard there tells him that he has not. Rand asks again about the Lady Selene and the man says that not knowing her House makes tracking her down very difficult.
Rand leaves angrily. He tells Loial that the man at the guard house was probably lying. He tells the Ogier he wants things to be simple again. He gets lost in thought thinking about how even if he returns the dagger to Mat and the Horn to Ingtar, he still has madness and death to look forward to. Abruptly Loial tells Rand that there is a fire up ahead. A thick column of smoke billows up above the rooftops. Rand cannot see what lies at the base of the smoke but it is coming from the direction of the Inn. Rand mutters about Darkfriends and begins running toward the Inn. They closer they come, the more certain they are that The Defender of the Dragonwall, their Inn, is on fire. Smoke billows out of the upper windows and flames burn through the roof. A crowd is gathering in front of the Inn. A double line of men are bringing buckets from the well down the street and sending empty buckets back. Rand pushes through the crowd to the Innkeeper and asks about Hurin. The Innkeeper says he does not remember seeing Hurin all the while he directs workers on evacuating furniture from inside the Inn.
Loial says that Hurin would not have gone out. Rand says that he knows and runs into the Inn. The Common Room hardly seems as if the building is on fire. There is no more smoke then if something had been burning in the kitchen. Rand presses up the stairs and the smoke begins to thicken. One of the men working the buckets advises Rand to go back as it is all lost above the second floor. He asks Loial to talk sense to Rand – and Rand notices for the first time that Loial followed him inside. Rand tells Loial to go back and the Ogier reminds him that he cannot carry both Hurin and the chest. He adds that he will not leave his books inside to burn. Rand and Loial drop to their hands and knees where the air is cleaner but the air feels blistering hot. Rand crawls on. The door to Hurin’s room was not burning but it was so hot Rand had to try twice before he could open it. Inside, Rand finds Hurin sprawled on the floor. Rand lifts him up. There is a lump on his head the size of a plumb. Loial coughs and calls out to Rand that the chest is gone. The Ogier tells him that the books will have to burn because Rand cannot carry him and crawl at the same time. He warns Rand also that they need to hurry as the ceiling begins to make cracking noises. Rand tells him to go and says he will follow. As he turns to follow, he suddenly thinks of the Dragon Banner in his own room. He wants to leave it and let it burn but he hears Moiraine’s voice in his head saying that his life may depend on it someday. With a groan, he rolls across the floor and kicks open the door to his own room. It is a mass of flames. The bed is a bonfire. Rand snatches open the door to his wardrobe and finds his saddlebacks, still unburnt, with one side bulging with the Banner of Lews Therin Telamon. Rand grabs the saddlebags and the flute case given to him by Thom before throwing himself through the door. Burning timbers crash where he had stood. The men with the buckets are gone. Rand slides down the stairs and then runs through the now empty building down into the street. The onlookers stare at him but he staggers to where Loial has propped Hurin against a house across the street.
Rand asks if there is a Wisdom. A woman who is wiping Hurin’s face looks back at Rand blankly. Rand tries to think of the other names he has heard for that craft and asks her about women who know herbs and healing. She replies to him that she is a Reader. She says that all she knows to do for Hurin is to make him comfortable as something inside his head is broken.
Just then, a familiar voice shouts out. “Rand, it IS you.”
Rand stares. Mat is leading his horse through a crowd. Behind him is Perrin, his yellow eyes shining in a fire. Ingtar dismounts behind him in a high collared coat instead of armor. Rand shivers and tells them that they are too late. He then sits down in the street and begins to laugh.
Rand publicly insults noble houses, one at a time, and draws increasing attention from other noble houses as a result. The escalates to a point where even the King and the High Seat of House Damodred – the primary rival of the King’s House (Riatin) take notice.
I find all of this highly entertaining.
One thing that TV audiences liked about Game of Thrones was its version of The Game of Houses. I believe the Wheel of Time has an opportunity to do the same type of storytelling on a larger scale. (Just imagine a whole city filled with Littlefinger and Varys types.)
Let’s see if we can figure out what exactly happened in this chapter. Rand and Loial are observed by a Shienaran Darkfriend at the guard house. Presumably, this then sets off a plan wherein the Darkfriends hurry to the Inn – knowing that Rand will be there at the guard house for a few minutes speaking with the attendant inside – and take the Horn. I don’t really know what Rand and Loial could have done differently. Any of them going out alone would have been a bad idea. They also needed to check on Ingtar’s arrival, regularly.
Rand remembers at the last minute to save his Dragon Banner. I suspect that will come into play again soon. Alternatively, it never comes up and Rand just carries around those saddlebacks for all the remaining books like Samwise Gamgee carrying Mr. Frodo’s luggage to Mordor and back.
Also.. OF COURSE the gang shows up about an hour too late. I probably would be down on the street laughing with Rand. We should assume then that these events are part of the plan of the Pattern. Good news though is that Verin will probably be able to heal Hurin.
The chase is on! The story keeps pointing us in the direction of Toman Head… but that is a LONG way from where everyone is now.