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: The First Toss
After Nynaeve and the others leave, Mat spends most of the day in his room planning. He eats nearly everything the serving women bring him while asking for more. They are more than happy to oblige. He asks for bread, cheese, and fruit, and he stockpiles it in the wardrobe. At midday, he is visited by Anaiya Sedai. He feels the chill of the One Power run through his body before she says that he seems much better. Mat tells her that he does feel better and that he wants to see some of the city this afternoon, perhaps even visiting an Inn if she has no objections. Her lips twitch on the edge of a smile as she tells him that no one will stop him from traveling within the city but she warns him against attempting to leave the city.
It is close to evening when he finally leaves the room for what he hopes is the final time. When he sees himself in the mirror, it is clear that there is no hiding his intentions. He leaves nothing behind. On his way out of the White Tower, some Aes Sedai see him but none speak to him. He even sees Anaiya but her only response is an amused smile and a rueful shake of her head. Mat returns her look with a shrug and the guiltiest grin he can manage. He does not feel relief though until he is across the big square an in the streets of the city.
If you can’t hide what you are going to do, do it so everybody thinks you are a fool. Then they stand around waiting to see you fall on your face.
Mat believes that the Aes Sedai anticipate the guards bringing him back, followed by a light search of the city when they do not. He hopes to be a long way down the river by the time they realize he has left the city altogether. Mat heads over toward the harbor. Mat does not go all the way to where the ships are docked, though. He stops inside an inn bordering one of the busy and raucous streets nearby, first.
He finds three dice games in progress once inside. He only means to gamble for an hour or so, just enough to add coins to his purse before boarding a ship, but he won. He not only won more often than he lost, he won on every toss of the dice. From the looks he is getting he is glad that he left his own dice in his pouch. As the looks begin to get sour, he decides to move on. Surprised he realizes that he has nearly thirty silver marks in his purse.
A sailor from one of the Sea Folk ships argues with Mat for an opportunity to win back his money, outside of the Inn, so Mat reluctantly agrees to follow him into another INn to play some more. Mat wins again and it is as if a fever grips him. He wins every single throw. From tavern, to inn, to tavern, never staying long enough to make trouble, he wins more and more. He continues winning so much that he exchanges silver for gold with the money changer. He plays crowns, fives, and maiden’s ruin, some games with five dice, with four, and with three, and even only two, and he even plays games he did not know before squatting in the circle. He continues to win. At some time during the night, the Sea Folk sailor staggers away exhausted but with a full purse. The man had begun putting all of his wagers on Mat. Mat visits one or two more money changers and the fever gripping him clouds his brain.
Eventually he finds himself in a tavern filled with tabac smoke staring down at five dice each showing a deeply carved crown. Most of the patrons here seem only interested in drinking. After Mat throws a crown for the sixth time, a bulky man says that he has The Dark One’s own luck. Mat is scarcely aware of moving before he finds himself grabbing the large man, hauling him to his feet, and throwing him up against the wall.
Mat: Don’t you say that! You don’t ever say that!
The large man blinks down at Mat in surprise. He hears somebody behind him muttering that it’s just a saying. Mat releases the man and then back away. He shouts that he doesn’t like anyone saying things like that about him before adding fiercely that he is no Darkfriend. He wonders if the dagger did something to him after all. Mat gathers his belongings and walks out of the tavern. He wants fresh air where he can think.
The dark streets of the South Harbor are all but empty now. He knows he has always been lucky but he feels he has become luckier since leaving The Two Rivers. The luck had come more strongly once he took the dagger from Shadar Logoth. He mutters to himself that he is free of the dagger as he digs into his coat pockets finding them filled with loose coins. He also finds two purses and both of them are packed full.
Light, I’m rich. I’m bloody rich.
He wonders if his extreme luck is perhaps something the Aes Sedai did to him by accident when healing him. Mat sees a large man come outside so he secures his coins and takes a tighter grip on his quarterstaff, not wanting to lose all of his winnings to a footpad. The man is started to see Mat but then stumbles up the street disjointedly.
Mat decides that it is time to find a ship to take him away from here. He squints at the black sky drying to estimate how many hours remain before dawn, deciding that there are perhaps two or three more hours. His stomach growls at him suddenly and he starts away toward the docks where the ships will be.
At first he thinks the faint sounds behind him are echoes of his boots on the cobblestones. Soon he realizes someone is following him while trying to be stealthy. He turns down a narrow twisting side street while trying to be quick and silent at the same time. Almost at the end he sees movement ahead – two men peering into the side street from where it lets out to another. He hears slow footsteps behind him as well. In an instant, he ducks into a shadowy corner where one building sticks out farther than the next and then he waits. A man appears from the direction Mat had come, crouching as he eases himself ahead one slow step at a time. Then Mat sees another man with him . Each of the two men is carrying a knife in his hand.
Suddenly the two men shout ahead to a man at the end of the street asking if he saw him go that way. The reply is that he has seen nothing but shadows. He adds that there are other strange things moving in the city this night and he wishes to be done. The two men who had been following Mat trot back in the direction they had come. He lets out a long slow breath.
Knowing that men are at both ends of the street, Mat climbs up the side of the building against which he is crouched and onto the roof. In seconds he is trotting across the roof and trusting to his luck for footing. Three more times he climbs up the side of a building and each time he gains a story. The breeze on the back of his neck though gives him a feeling that he is being followed.
Mat’s boots slip on the tiles and he considers that it might be a good time to think of getting back onto the street. He creeps toward the edge of the roof. An empty street is forty feet below him but three taverns and an inn are also below, spilling light out onto the street. Off to his right is a stone bridge running from the roof of his building to one on the other side. The bridge looks narrow and arcs over a long fall to hard cobblestones. Mat goes to cross anyway.
The window on the other end of the bridge is tightly shuttered and lightless. As he thinks about going inside, and what he might find, he becomes aware of a man with a dagger in his hand sharing the bridge with him. Mat grabs at his hand as the knife darts toward his throat. He barely catches the man’s wrist as the quarterstaff tangles itself between their legs. The man pushes Mat against the narrow bridge’s railing. As he is losing his grip on the other man’s wrist. Mat says it is time to toss the dice or die with a knife in his throat. With a heave of his legs, Mat flips them both off into empty air.
The impact on the ground knocks all the air out of Mat’s lungs and makes silver black flecks dance across his blurring vision. When he can breathe again, and see, he realizes he is lying atop of the man who had attacked him. His fall was cushioned by the other man’s body.
Mat climbs to his feet. He had expected the other man to be dead but he had not expected to see the other fellow’s dagger driven to the hilt into his own heart. Mat thinks that this was such an ordinary looking man to have tried killing him. Mat doubts he would have even noticed this man in a crowded room.
You had bad luck, fellow.
Mat’s eyes look up to the bridge and decides he must have been crazy. He realizes he is standing over a man with a dagger driven into his chest. He knows he should be off to the docks right now and on whichever vessel will have him but his knees are shaking so hard he can hardly walk. He wants to just sit for a minute. He starts toward the inn – The Woman of Tanchico.
Mat has gone from lucky to absurdly lucky. His plot armor is now THICK.
Thinking through how it happened, I suspect Mat’s healing somehow makes the most sense. If it were the dagger, wouldn’t he have become insanely lucky at some point prior to being healed? Perhaps it is a confluence of things. Perhaps it is a combination of natural luck, something from the dagger, and maybe something else besides. I remember a “dice ter’angreal” mentioned earlier in this book. Is it possible that someone had those hidden on her eperson while Mat as being healed?
Anyway, as “power ups” go, luck does not make a lot of sense to me. I’m not sure how it happened. It’s very plot armory. That said, it is extremely cool. (Imagine having one crazy night in Vegas and turning $100 into $1,000,000.)
Just as a side note, I have always through the line earlier in the chapter is really clever. If you are going to do something you should not, and you have to do it openly, do it as a fool so that no one will stop you trying. That seems abundantly true to life. Mat lowered the guard of anyone who might have suspected he might succeed.
One other side note – did one or more of those Aes Sedai he passed on his way out of the Tower possibly sent people after him to kill him since he was leaving the protection of other Sisters?
My impression earlier was not that Lanfear wanted him dead. Are Aes Sedai acting on their own or taking orders from another of the Forsaken? I think we should assume Ba’alzamon is still active in the Tower, right?
This is a fun chapter and the pace of the novel is picking up.