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 36: Among the Elders
Juin takes the group through the Ogier town and Rand sees that Loial is growing more and more anxious. Loial looks to Rand as if he expects his own execution. They reach a large grassy mound. Rand suggests to him that he not come inside with the rest of them. Loial finds that idea agreeable and pulls a book from a coat pocket. Juin shakes his head, shrugs, and motions the others to steps and a door behind which the Elders are waiting.
The huge windowless room is scaled for Ogier with a ceiling nearly four spans up. Rand feels as though he is inside a cavern. Except for a vine covered chair taken by Verin, the only furnishings are the chairs for the Elders.
An Ogier woman sits in the center of a group of seven, in a chair slightly higher than the others, with three Ogier men to her right and three Ogier men to her left. They all have white hair, including the hair tufts on their ears. Hurin gapes at them and Rand almost does also. Not even Verin has the appearance of wisdom that is in the Elders’ huge eyes. Morgase did not have as great a sense of authority. Moiraine does not possess their serenity. Ingtar bows before them as formally as Rand has ever seen from him.
The Ogier woman on the highest chair introduces herself as Alar. She tells the group that she is the Eldest of the Elders. She says that Verin has told them of their need to use the Waygate to recover the Horn of Valere. She say that this is a great need but points out that they have allowed none to travel The Ways in more than one hundred years. Ingtar says that he must have the Horn and Rand, Mat, Perrin, and Hurin say that they have seen Machin Chin. Alar asks Juin to bring Trayal. She says that they need to know in their heart what can happen in the Ways.
After an uncomfortable silence, Juin returns with two Ogier women. They are guiding an Ogier man of middle years, who stares vacantly and who walks as if not quite knowing how his legs work. His face sags with no expression at all. Alar tells them that Trayal was one of the last among them to travel The Ways. She says that he came out as they see him now. Alar asks Verin to touch him. She rises and touches a hand to his chest. He does not move or even acknowledge her touch. She hisses and jerks her hand back, staring sharply at the Elders.
Verin: He is empty This body lives but there is nothing inside it. Nothing.
Every Elder wears a look of unbearable sadness. One of the other Elders says that no mind, no soul, and nothing of Trayal at all remains except for his body. One of the Ogier men sighs and says that Trayal was a fine Treesinger. Alar motions and the two Ogier women lead Trayal out.
Verin tells her that they know the risk, but whatever the risks, they must follow the Horn of Valere. The Eldest nods.
Alar; The Horn of Valere – I do not know whether it is worse news that it is in Darkfriend hands or that it has been found at all.
The Elders nod. Alar says that she will show them to the Waygate herself. Before they go, she says that they have with them a young Ogier named Loial. She says that he s far from his home. Rand blurts out that they need him. He slows in front of the surprised stares from the Ogier and Verin but he continues stubbornly. He says that they need Loial to go with them and that Loial wants to go. Perrin adds that Loial is a friend. Mat says that Loial does not slow them down and that he holds his own in their group.
Ingtar asks the Elders if there is a reason Loial cannot come with them. Verin says that they do need Loial, pointing out that few travel The Ways but Loial has studied the Guidings. Alar studies them all and asks the three Two Rivers boys if they are ta’veren. She says that she can feel it, and the fact that she can feel it means that they must be strongly ta’veren indeed. She tells them, Rand particularly, to look after Loial and to see him safely home. Rand says that he will. He feels as though he has sworn a solemn oath. Alar leads them out.
Loial scrambles to his feet when Alar and their group appears. Ingtar sends Hurin off in a run to fetch Uno and the other soldiers. Loial falls in behind Alar and Verin and asks the others quietly if she said anything about him. Mat tells him that she told Rand to take care of him and to see that Loial got home as safely as a babe when this is all finished. Mat says that he does not know why Loial cannot just stay here and get married. He then laughs to himself when Rand glares at him. Rand clarifies to Loial that Alar told them that Loial can come with them.
Rand notices that Loial is twirling a flower between his fingers. He asks Loial if he went picking flowers and Loial replies that Erith gave it to him. Loial adds that she really is very pretty even if Mat does not see it. Rand asks if this means he does not want to go with them after all. Loial gives a start and says he still wants to go. He says it is just a flower. However, he takes a book from his front pocket and carefully presses the flower under the front cover. As he returns the book to his pocket, he murmurs just barely loud enough for Rand to hear, that she said he is handsome, too.
Mat doubles over wheezing, Loial says defensively that Erith is the one who said it. Perrin raps Mat on the top of his head, with his knuckles, and tells Loial that nobody has ever said Mat is handsome and that he is just jealous. Mat straightens abruptly saying that’s not true. He tells them that Neysa Ayellin has told him more than once that he is handsome. Loial asks if she is pretty and Perrin cuts in saying that she has a face like a goat.
Rand grins in spite of himself. Neysa is almost as pretty as Egwene and this almost feels like old times back at home in Emond’s Field. As they pass through the Ogier town, people greet The Eldest, bowing or curtsying. Alar’s face keeps anyone from stopping to speak with the visitors.
Just outside of the Ogier town, Hurin joins them with Uno, the other soldiers, and the pack horses. Just then, Alar points to where the Waygate is located. She leads them past a tall oak and there in the clearing is the Waygate. She tells them that she will not go nearer to it. Verin thanks her and states that the need is great or she would not have asked this. Verin approaches the Waygate. She plucks the Avendesora leaf from the stone worked edifice and it seems to come to life. She greenery carved on the Waygate stirs in an unfelt breeze. A gap opens down the center of the mass and the two halves begin to open.
Rand stares and notices that there is no dull or silvery reflection behind it – only blackness blacker than pitch. Rand shouts at Verin to close it. Verin takes only one startled look before thrusting the leaf back from where she took it. As soon as the Leaf was back in its place, the Waygate immediately began to close. It quickly return to stone once more.
Rand comments that it did not try to leave, earning a strangled sound from Juin not far off. Verin says again that it cannot leave the Ways, however, she then wonders aloud at it being here. Alar slowly says that she has never heard of this.
Alar: It always roams the Ways. But it has been long. Perhaps the Black Wind hungers.
The Eldest then says that Verin cannot use this Waygate and the Aes Sedai agrees. Rand frowns at it and wonders if the Black Wind is somehow following him. He wonders if Fain somehow ordered the Black Wind. He does not know why Fain would demand that he follow him to Toman Head but also set the Black Wind to the task of hunting him.
Ingtar tells Verin that he has followed her here thus far but that he can do so no longer. He says he will return to Cairhein to get answers from Barthanes. Rand wearily says that Fain went to Toman Head along with the Horn and the dagger. Perrin suggests reluctantly that they could try another Waygate. Loial tells them of nearby Waygates and points out that the Waygate they used previously in Caemlyn is closest to their present location. Verin replies all of them absently that she fears whatever Waygate they use, they will find Machin Shin waiting.
Alar looks at Verin questioningly but Verin says no more. Hurin says aloud that they need a Portal Stone. Alar and Verin look at him and when neither tell him to stop, he continues speaking. He reminds Rand that Lady Selene said the ancient Aes Sedai studied those other worlds and that is how they knew how to make the Ways in the first place. He reminds Rand that in the place they visited before, they were able to travel one hundred leagues in only two days. He says that it might not be faster than the Ways but points out it will be a lot faster than riding.
Verin tells them that she knows of no Portal Stone closer to them than the Aiel Waste. She says that they could return to Kinslayer’s Dagger if Hurin, Rand, or Loial believe they can find that stone again. Rand says that he can find the Portal Stone. He feels ashamed that he is reluctant to channel again – knowing that Mat will die without the dagger if they travel cross country. He also is afraid of the feeling of eagerness inside himself at the thought of channeling again.
Alar says that the Portal Stones have not been used since the Age of Legends. Verin tells her that the Brown Ajah knows many things and that she knows how the Stones may be used. The Eldest nods. Alar tells them that if they can use a Portal Stone, they do not need to ride all the way to Kinslayer’s Dagger. She says there is a stone not far from where they now stand.
Verin asks Alar to take them to it.
Machin Shin is somehow hunting Rand. The good news for everyone else, I guess, is that if you want to use the Ways, just make sure you’re using them nowhere near where Rand happens to be. The downside of this is probably that it means the Shadow will probably travel the Ways more easily going forward.
I do not understand how Verin made a determination about Trayal’s missing soul She cannot channel inside the Stedding. Is there a way to tell physically?
I will be very interested to see how the Elders (and Ogier generally) look for the TV adaptation. How do you convey via costume hundreds of years of age and wisdom?
My favorite section of this chapter is the friendly banter between the boys (Loial included) over Erith and then Neysa Ayellin. Occasionally in stories like this, it is good to be reminded that they are not just people doing long dangerous cross-country walks together. They are friends with long histories. Does this mean that Mat’s likely Two Rivers spouse was going to be Neysa? Given what we learned about Two Rivers courting from Rand, that seems likely.
I suspect that the flower Erith gave Loial signified something, too.
So we’re going back to the Portal Stones realm. And Verin somehow knows something about them? Rand is going to have to channel again, too, I’m sure.