The Great Hunt (Chapter 33): A Message from the Dark

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 33: A Message from the Dark

As Rand follows him down a narrow flight of stairs to the kitchens, Rand asks Hurin if he has found it or if Mat is really hurt. Hurin tells him that Mat is fine. He says that the men who stole the Horn all entered the Manor via a walled garden. He says that trollocs joined them and went into the garden with them sometime yesterday. He then tells Rand that they never came out again. Hurin believes that they must still be inside.

Rand tells Hurin that he is grateful for the Sniffer talking to him normally again, without the bowing and sniffing. Hurin’s face colors. He tells Rand – directing Rand’s attention to the Cairheinin servants down the hall – that they all act formally but that they all also hint at a willingness to share or sell what they know. He says that if the servants drink too much, they will whisper tales about the Lords and Ladies they serve that will make your hair stand on end. Rand assures him that they will be out of Cairhein soon.

Rand asks if he informed Verin and Ingtar yet. Hurin tells him that Ingtar was cornered by six or seven Ladies while Verin, who was speaking with Barthanes, gave him such a look when she saw him that he did not want to come near. Hurin and Rand round a corner and find Loial and Mat, with Loial standing a little stooped. The Ogier’s grin splits his face upon seeing Rand. He tells Rand that he has never been so glad to get away from people as he was from those upstairs. Loial says that they were asking him if the Ogier are coming back to the city and they shared with Loial that the reason they left is because King Galldrian stopped paying them. Rand asks Mat if he is alright. He says he is fine but grumpily tells Rand that the other servants asked him if Rand starves him. Those that did not ask that thought he was sick and did not want to get too close to him.

Rand asks if he can sense the dagger. Mat shakes his head no. Mat says that the only thing he has sense is the feeling of being watched and he describes the Cairhein as being as bad as Fades when it comes to sneaking around. Rand assures him that they will find the dagger and suggests that putting it in the chest with the Horn might prevent him from feeling it.

Mat: As long as I don’t have to pretend to be your servant anymore… as long as you don’t go mad…

Mat lets the words die on his tongue and Loial protests that Rand is not mad. He says that the Cairheinin would not have let him inside were he not a Lord. Loial says that they are the ones who are mad. Rand harshly says that he is not mad, at least not yet. Rand then asks Hurin to show him the garden. They go out into the night by a small door. Rand has to duck to get through it and Loial has to fully lean over. Light and music drift out from the windows above. Rand tries to keep an eye out for trollocs and Darkfriends.

Finally, Hurin points toward it. Stone walls enclose a square, fifty paces on each side. To Rand’s eyes, it looks as if the gardens stretch on beyond the walls. He wonders why Barthanes has built a walled enclosure inside of his garden. Loial bends over and whispers to Rand that the Waygate is within the walls. Mat sighs despairingly. Rand tells Mat to go find Ingtar and Verin and relay this information to them. He also reminds him to limp as he is supposed to have had a fall. Mat sweeps a low bow and in a deeply sarcastic voice says, “at once, my Lord, as my Lord wishes, shall I carry your banner, my Lord?” He starts back toward the manor.

Rand struggles to believe that Fain is willing to risk The Ways. Loial tells Rand that Mat is only worried about the dagger. Rand agrees but wonders to himself how long it will be before Mat betrays what he is, to someone else, not meaning to. Suddenly Rand asks Loial to boost him up over the wall. Loial protests about the Darkfriends still being there but Rand insists that they are not still there. Loial bends and makes a stirrup with his hands for Rand’s foot. He lifts Rand just high enough for his head to see above the wall. Rand looks over and sees nothing and nobody. He grabs the top of the wall and pulls himself up as Loial gives a hiss for him to stop. Rand pulls himself over the wall anyway and drops inside.

Rand looks at the Waygate as he is suddenly started to hear boots dropping down on the grass beside him. Hurin climbs to his feet dusting himself off. A moment later, Loial lets himself down from over the wall. The Ogier mutters about humans being so rash. Rand walks to the Waygate and then all the way around it. Up close, it looks like nothing more than a thick square of stone.

There are two arcs in front of the gate, such as might be made if the gate were to open. Hurin tells rand that the trail goes right to the gate and then stops. He asks how they will follow now. Hurin share that he has heard of you go through a Waygate, you come out mad, if you come out at all. Rand tells him that it can be done and that he, Mat, Perrin, and Loial have all done it.

Rand looks at the carvings on the stone and finds the trefoil leaf of the Tree of Life – Avendesora. He puts his hand on it. Rand tells Hurin that he can probably follow their trail through The Ways. Rand moves the stone away in his hand. In an instant, the stone carvings of plants on the door appear to be real. The doors begin to swing open.

Instead of the light he remembered from his previous trip through the ways, a darkness waits for him as the doors open. The pitch blackness oozes out between the still moving gates. Rand leaps back in a shout, dropping the Avendesora leaf. Loial cries out.

Loial: Machin shin! The black wind!

The sound of wind fills their ears and the grass swirls. In the wind, a thousand insane voices seem to cry. Rand can make out some of them though he tries not to. Machin Shin whispers about blood, death, and violence. It also whispers “al’Thor, al’Thor, al’Thor!” Rand embraces saidin. His bones feel hot and icy cold at the same time. Rand hurls something at the blackness. He is not sure what it is but the black wind shrieks ten thousand hurls of agony. Slowly, it reverses back into the still open Waygate. The power races through Rand like a torrent. Rand loses control of himself. He cannot stop channeling. He desperately clings to fragments of himself. The One Power roars through him. The motion of the Waygate begins to reverse. They drift together, pushing back the Black Wind. In a vague and distant wondering, Rand sees Loial, still on hands and knees, backing away from the closing gates. The gap narrows, vanishes, and the leaves and vines merge once more into a solid stone wall. The link between Rand and the fire snaps. The flow of the One Power ceases. A moment more, Rand thinks, and the One Power would have swept him away completely. Rand is still embracing the One Power. He can see every blade of grass around him, smell the stone, feel every way the breeze moved on his face. Rand, still on his knees, struggles to release The Void. He succeeds. All that is left is the foulness of the taint in his mouth and the memory of what just happened.

Hurin tells Loial that he saved them. He asks if it was going to hurl that fire at them. He asks Lord Rand if it harmed him or touched him. Rand gets to his feet and says they will never follow Fain through that. He touches Loial on the arm and tells him that he did save them. He thinks to himself that Loial saved him, anyway. Loial describes how afraid he was and says that he is a poor hero. Hurin asks if they can leave now. The Sniffer makes a fuss about going over the wall first but Rand points out that he is the only one with a weapon. For a moment, Rand thinks that he hears a boot scrape on the wall but he dismisses it as nervousness. He turns to help Hurin down. The Sniffer asks him how they will follow Fain now. He tells Rand that from what he knows of those things, Fain might be halfway across the world by now. Rand says that Verin will find a way. He laughs to himself that he will have to return to the Aes Sedai. Loial joins them and they walk back toward the manor. As they reach the door, Mat reaches it also from the other side.

Mat tells them that Vern instructs them to do nothing. She says that they will leave as soon as Rand returns and that they will make a plan after. Mat adds that this is the last time he will run back and forth with messages. Mat peers past them into the darkness and asks if the Horn and dagger are out there somewhere. Rand tells him that it is not in an outbuilding. He says that he hopes Verin has a plan because he does not have one. Mat looks as if he wants to ask questions but he lets himself be pushed along a dimly lit corridor. Mat even remembers to limp. When Rand returns to the room filled with nobles, he receives a number of looks. He wonders if they know something of what happened outside. He decides that the looks are no different than what they had been before – curious and calculating, wondering what the Lord and the Ogier had been up to.

Verin and Ingtar are together with Ingtar looking a little dazed. The Aes Sedai sees them, frowns at their expressions, and then starts for the entry hall. As they reach it, Barthanes appears as if someone told him that they are leaving.

Barthanes: You go so soon? Verin Sedai, can I not entreat you to stay a little longer?

Verin tells him that they must go and that she was glad of his invitation to Rand. She says the visit has been interesting. Barthanes wishes them grace in returning to their Inn and says that Verin would honor him with a return visit, as would the rest of their party. Verin nods in acknowledgement, tells him perhaps, and bids him a farewell greeting. She moves toward the doors. As Rand turns to follow, Barthanes grabs his sleeve with two fingers holding him back. Mat looks as if he might stay too until Hurin pulls him to join Verin and the others.

Barthanes: You wade even deeper in The Game than I thought. When I heard your name, I could not believe it and yet you came and you fit the description and… I was given a message for you. I think I will deliver it after all.

Rand asks hopefully if the message is from the Lady Selene. Barthanes tells him the message is from a man and not the sort from whom he normally carries messages. He says though that the man has certain claims on him that he cannot ignore. He tells Rand that the man gave no name but was a Lugarder. He sees in Rand’s face that Rand knows the man. Rand asks him what the message says.

Barthanes: He says he will wait for you on Toman Head. He has what you seek and if you want it you must follow. If you refuse to follow him he says he will hound your blood and your people and those you love until you will face him.

Barthanes acknowledges that the message sounds mad. He tells Rand that the man even denied that Rand is a Lord “as any eye can plainly see.” He asks Rand what the man carries and with trollocs to guard it. He asks Rand what it is that he seeks. He then seems shocked at the directness of his own questions.

Rand bids the Light to illumine Lord Barthanes, and manages a bow, but his legs wobble as he joins the others. He thinks about Fain hurting Emond’s Field and he has no doubt that Fain can and would do it. Rand is at least grateful that Egwene is safe in the White Tower. He wonders how he can follow Fain as he moves out into the night and mounts his horse, Red.

When they are all on horseback, Verin demands of Rand what he found. Rand tells her that Fain has taken the Horn to Toman Head through a Waygate. Verin replies that they will speak of this later and she says it so firmly that no one speaks at all on the ride back to their inn, The Great Tree. When they return, Verin silently leads Rand and the rest to a private dining room. Perrin looks up from his book, The Travels of Jain Farstrider, and frowns when he sees their faces. He asks if it did not go well as he closes the book.

Verin folds her shawl and asks Rand to repeat again that the Darkfriends took the Horn through a Waygate at Barthanes’ manor. Rand throws himself into a chair and tells her that Hurin follows the scent right to the Waygate. He goes on to explain that he opened the Waygate to show him that he can follow the trail inside, however, he tells her that The Black Wind was waiting for them at the Waygate. Rand tells her that it tried to reach them but says Loial managed to close the gates before it could come all the way out. Rand tells her that the Black Wind was standing guard. Mat breathes “the black wind,” while frozen halfway into a chair.

Verin tells Rand that he must be mistaken because Machin Shin cannot be constrained to do anything. Ingtar says that he would have never thought Fain has the courage for The Ways. Ingtar slams a fist against a wall and says that he does not care whether Fain can constrain the Black Wind or not. He points out that Fain by now can be almost anywhere in the world.

Ingtar: The Horn is lost. I am lost.

Rand tells them that Fain is taking the Horn to Toman Head. The others turn to stare at him. Verin stares at him with narrowed eyes and asks him how he knows. Rand tells her that Fain left a message with Barthanes. Ingtar says that it is a trick. Rand tells everyone that he does not know what the rest of them will do, but he says he will be going to Toman Head. He says he leaves at first light.

Loial asks Rand why he thinks Fain will wait for him and Rand simply says he will wait. Loial says he will go with him and he says that he does not think Rand can stop him. Mat chimes in that he is going also but he clarifies that the servant business ended tonight. Perrin sighs before smiling and says that he will come too and that somebody has to keep Mat out of trouble.

Ingtar mutters that this is not even a clever trick on the part of Fain. He says that somehow he will get Barthanes alone and learn the truth of this. Verin states that it may not be a trick. She shares with them that things were written in the dungeons of Fal Dara which connected the events of that night with Toman Head. She says she does not understand all of the writing completely but states that she believes they must go to Toman Head.

Ingtar says that even if they do ride for Toman Head, by the time they arrive, Fain or another Darkfriend might have blown the Horn a hundred times. Verin says that Fain could have blown the Horn a hundred time already and has not done so. She says that what they must worry about is Fain finding someone who knows how to open the chest. Verin then says that they must follow Fain along The Ways.

Rand tells her that he believes Machin Shin will still be waiting for him at the Waygate inside Barthanes’s manor but Verin replies that there are other Waygates through which they could enters. She mentions Stedding Tsofu as their closest option and tells the others that they will ride at first light. Ingtar is still not convinced but Verin is implacable. She gives Ingtar instructions to have his soldiers ready to ride. She also suggests to the others that they sleep now. She wants to make up the lead the Darkfriends have gained on them, starting tomorrow.

Rand follows the others out but stops next to Verin in the doorway. He asks Verin why Mat looks the way that he does. She tells him that the healing did not work so well as they believed. She says his strength remains but his body wastes away. She tells Rand that she thinks Mat has another few weeks at most. Verin tells her that there is reason for haste.

Rand: I do not need another spur, Aes Sedai.

Verin asks Rand about himself.

Verin: Do you feel well? Do you fight it still or have you yet surrendered to the Wheel?

Rand tells her that he rides with her to find the dagger and the Horn. He says that after that, there is nothing between himself and any Aes Sedai. He leaves and she does not speak but when Rand sees her as he turns down the hall, she is watching him with dark eyes, considering.

REACTION:

Rand sneaks away from the party, wanders around the mansion, goes outside, jumps a wall, jumps back over the wall, and comes back inside… and Barthanes did not notice? Really? I highly doubt that.

Is The Black Wind actually standing guard? It seems reasonable that it might be. The Black Wind came at Fain in The Eye of the World and Fain is still alive now when he shouldn’t be. That’s… something. Fain is connected directly with The Dark One, Mordeth, and now The Black Wind.

Barthanes pretty much tells Rand that he is a Darkfriend in this chapter and seems shocked at himself for the admission. Let’s chalk that up to Rand being ta’veren.

Mat almost outs Rand as a channeler to Loial and Hurin. I strongly suspect that Loial has already figured it out. The fact Loial jumped in so quickly to say Rand is not mad adds to that belief on my part. I don’t think Hurin has a clue. We have a real timetable now on Mat’s health, too. Verin thinks that he only has a few weeks left to live. Toman Head is on the other side of the continent.

But on the topic of madness… is Rand going mad? Jumping over a wall alone when Darkfriends might be waiting on the other side, opening a Waygate… Rand does not seem mentally *well.* He also had plenty of crazy moments in the previous book after he channeled (the acrobatics on Domon’s boat, the stare down with the Whitecloaks in Baerlon, etc.) This time, though, Rand’s crazy moments happen *before* he channels.

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