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 19: Awakening
Mat opens his eyes wondering where he is and how he got there. He sees that an intricate fringe of leaves borders the ceiling and his pillow feels full of feathers so he surmises that he is some place rich. He has been dreaming. Bits of memory tumble together with those dreams and he cannot tell one from the other.
He remembers bits of his own life and dismisses some of it as a dream. He also remembers leading soldiers against an army of trollocs and dreadlords. In the memory of leading soldiers, he knows that his men must win in this moment or they will all die. Still in his memory, and as a general, Mat thinks to himself that he is known as a gambler and that it is now time to toss the dice. He is a general of the armies of Manetheren. The Red Eagle banner flaps in the wind. He gives an order and the footmen move and he orders the Heart Guard to move forward. He digs his heels in and his mount charges down a slope. Hooves follow behind him. The men around him shoult.
For the honor of the Red Eagle! For the Red Eagle!
Mat’s hand trembles as he raises it to his forehead. He mutters in the Old Tongue. He is almost sure that he knows what it means – “forward the Heart Guard.” Moiraine told him a few words of the Old Tongue and those are all he knows of it. Mat calls himself crazy and then thinks to himself that he is probably muttering gibberish.
Mat suddenly becomes aware of his too thin wrist and bony hand. He remembers that he has been sick and that it had something to do with a dagger that has a ruby in its hilt from a long dead city called Shadar Logoth. His memories are all foggy and distant and make no real sense but he knows that much is no dream. He remembers that Egwene and Nynaeve had been taking him to Tar Valon to be healed. He tries to sit up before falling back. Laboriously, he pulls himself up and pushes the woolen blanket aside. His clothes are gone and he suspects they might be in the vine carved wardrobe against the wall. A large tray is covered on the table in the room and his nose catches the smell of food. He twitches aside the cloth covering the food and finds food inside of dishes made of expensive porcelain. There is enough food here for four men. Mat’s mouth waters and his stomach growls.
Mat gabs a slice of beef before tottering to the windows to learn where he is. The windows are covered with wooden shutters. Through the holes in the shutters he can see that it is night outside. Mat leans against the window and tries to think. He remembers that his father, Abel Cauthon, always taught him that you can always turn the worst thing that might come your way, to your own advantage, if you just think. Abel Cauthon for his part was considered the best horse trader in all of The Two Rivers. His father always did well because he thought about things from every angle.
Mat decides that he must be in Tar Valon. The room’s furnishings are ornate like a palace. Mat also decides that he must not be sick anymore. He remembers, from what he was told before, that Tar Valon was the only place he could be made well. He feels weak as a babe and as hungry as a starving wolf but somehow he is certain the healing has been done.
Mat grimaces at the shutters and mutters about the One Power being used on him. The thought gives him goose bumps but he had known it would be done. He decides it is better than dying and that worrying about it now will help nothing as it already done. He realizes he has finished the slice of beef he was holding. He unsteadily returns to the table. He finds a stool underneath. He pulls it out and sits down. He grabs another slice of beef with his hands and starts to think about how he can turn being in Tar Valon to his advantage.
He reminds himself that he cannot be sure about any Aes Sedai, even when he thinks he knows he can be. He remembers what he can about them. He remembers that there are seven Ajahs divided by color. He knows that the Red are the worst, except for the Black that they all claim does not exist. He decides he does not need to worry about the Red because they are only interested in men who can channel.
Mat: Rand, burn me, how could I forget about that? Where is he, is he alright?
Mat thinks that he cannot help Rand now and he is not sure that he would, even if he could. Discovering what Rand can do was like finding out that his best friend tortures animals and kills babies. Once you finally make yourself believe it, it is hard to continue calling him a friend. He decides that he needs to look out for himself and continues eating.
Mat remembers that Egwene and Nynaeve want to be Aes Sedai, Rand is following Moiraine around and calling himself The Dragon Reborn, and he has no idea what Perrin is up to.
Mat: He’s been acting crazy every since his eyes turned funny. I have to look after myself. Burn me, I have to, I’m the last one of us that’s still sane. There’s only me.
He decides that he has always wanted to see a great city and he cannot remember much of either Caemlyn or Cairhein. He does not want to gamble with Aes Sedai but knows that the city is full of silver.
Idly he wonders if the Aes Sedai might let him have the ruby from the Shadar Logoth dagger. He thinks that it must be worth as much as a dozen farms back in the Two Rivers. He decides that the Aes Sedai will likely say that the ruby is tainted to and he admits to himself that it likely is tainted. Nevertheless, he imagines trading the ruby to the Coplins for some of their best land. He thinks most of that family deserves whatever might happen to them, and more. Either way, the notion of owning the largest farm in the Two Rivers is not as exciting as it had once been. He thinks that had once been his biggest ambition – that and being throught of as his father’s equal as a horse trader. Now it seems to him a small thing to want.
Mat decides that the first thing he will do is find Egwene and Nynaeve. He hopes they will have come to their senses and will want to leave with him. He does not really believe they would but he cannot leave washout seeing them first. Mat is sure that he plans to go after seeing them, then spending a day to see the city and another day padding his purse. He vows to himself that he will go home someday.
He rummages around the tray and is shocked to find that all of the food is gone. He looks at his stomach in wonder thinking he should be stuffed to the ears. He feels as though he has hardly eaten at all. He puts some crumbs of cheese together. As he lifts it to his mouth he freezes. He remembers that he blew the Horn of Valere. He lets the cheese crumbs fall on the tray and for a moment he feels sick. He tries to think through the fog in his head. He knows Verin brought him and the Horn to Tar Valon but he does not remember if she knew he blew it.
He thinks to himself that they have the Horn and they do not need him.
Mat: If they ask, I never even touched it. If they know, I’ll handle that when it comes. Burn me, they can’t want anything from me, they can’t.
A soft knock sounds against the door. He would run, if he could, but he can not, and there is no place to go. The door opens.
I think this is the first POV chapter for Mat in the entire series. Whenever I hear someone say that Mat is not likeable until the third book… this is probably the explanation. Mat’s good characteristics are happening in his head.
What actually happens in this chapter? Mat feels healed, he gets out of bed, he goes to the table, then to the window, then back to the table, and then he eats a LOT of food.
Do we learn anything? Mat can sort of remember being a high ranking officer in Manetheren’s army. He can sort of remember what has happened in the first couple of books. He plans to see Egwene and Nynaeve before getting out of Tar Valon (but he does plan also to see the sights and gamble first.)
Why is this chapter in the book? I think it is important to be in Mat’s head, while he is alone, before we spend time in his head around other people. We need to feel like we know him and his motivations before we experience him interacting with other people.
This chapter is kind of like a Mat Cauthon re-cast. Speaking of, the TV series Mat will be re-cast in right about this same spot in the story, I think.