The Dragon Reborn (Chapter 37): Fires In Cairhien

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 37: Fires in Cairhien

Egwene nods to the ship’s crewman who bows. As their vessel moves down the river, they see the smoldering ruins of what had once been a village. Nothing living moves in the village except for a half-starved dog which ignores the ship as it passes. Egwene cannot see such a sight without a queasiness settling in her belly but she tries to maintain the dispassionate serenity she thinks an Aes Sedai would have.

Another column of smoke appears father ahead. Egwene has not seen a single living person, along the river, since their vessel passed into Cairhien. She wears her Great Serpent ring on her white hand and is wearing brown instead of her Accepted’s dress. Before leaving Tar Valon, Egwene won an argument with Nynaeve about herself and Elayne posing as Aes Sedai. Nynaeve had been sure she was the only one of the three of them who looked old enough to pose as an Aes Sedai. However, after startled looks when the two younger women boarded the vessel, it has been all scrapes and bows since.

The abandoned ruins vanish behind Egwene. The new column of smoke draws closer and there is the hint of another still farther down the river. Since leaving Tar Valon, Egwene has tried using the twisted stone ter’angreal ring every night except for two. It has not worked in the same way for her any time she uses it. She always finds herself in tel’aran’rhiod but the only thing she finds that is potentially of any use is The Heart of the Stone, again, and each time without Sylvie to tell her things.

Egwene’s own dreams, without the twisted stone ring, are filled with images that seem like glimpses of The Unseen World. She has seen Rand holding a sword that blazes like the sun until she could hardly see that it was a sword. She has also seen Rand threatened in a dozen ways, none of them seeming the least bit real. In one dream he had been on a huge Stones board with Rand dodging the monstrous hands that move the pieces and seem to try crushing him under them. She is not sure what the dream meant other than Rand appears to be in danger from two someones. She thinks to herself that she cannot help Rand now as she has her own duty. Egwene also dreamed of Perrin with a wolf and with a falcon and a hawk, with the falcon and hawk fighting. She also dreamed of Perrin running from someone deadly and then stepping over a towering cliff while saying, “It must be done. I must learn to fly before I reach the bottom.” She also dreamed of an Aiel and she thought that had to do with Perrin as well though she is not sure. Egwene dreams of Min springing a steel trap and then walking through it without so much as seeing it. She dreamed of Mat with dice spinning around him and Mat being followed by a man who is not there. She does not understand that. She thinks that there is a man following him, or more than one man, and yet there is also no one there. She also dreamed of Mat riding desperately to some place he has to reach and Mat with a woman who seems to be tossing fireworks about – an Illuminator Egwene assumed. Egwene had so many dreams that she is beginning to doubt them all.

She dreamed of men and women breaking out of a cage and then putting on crowns. She dreamed of kings dying, queens weeping, battles raging, and Whitecloaks ravaging The Two Rivers. She thinks of being homesick, and how nice it would be to see her parents again, but also that she does not want to return home, either.

On the two nights Egwene did not sleep with the stone ring, she let Nynaeve wear it once and Elayne wear it once. Neither of them had seen more than a glimpse of The Heart of the Stone and nothing that was of any use.

The ship is now abreast of the column of smoke and Elayne joins Egwene at the rail. Egwene wonders how Mat is doing and thinks that he is no doubt trying to dice with the captain for whatever ship he is on. Elayne murmurs that it is so terrible, and when Egwene asks her what she means, Elayne gestures toward the distant smoke. Elayne asks how she can ignore it and Egwene replies that she ignores it because she does not want to think of what the people are going through, that she cannot do anything to help them, and because what they are hunting is in Tear. Thinking of Tear, Egwene decides that they will likely have to come up with a plan to enter The Heart of the Stone once they arrive there. She thinks the key to springing the trap, and thwarting the Black Ajah, must lie in The Heart of the Stone.

Egwene tells Elayne that she has heard Andor and Cairhien have been in more wars with each other than any two nations except Tear and Illian. Elayne gives Egwene a sidelong look, having not become used to Egwene’s refusal to admit she is Andoran herself. Lines on maps say that The Two Rivers is a part of Andor and Elayne believes the maps. Elayne tells Egwene that while Andor and Cairhien have fought numerous wars with each other, since the Aiel War, Andor has sold Cairhien as much grain as Tear has. She tells Egwene that the trade has stopped with every Cairhienen House fighting each other for The Sun Throne. There is no one to buy the grain and see it distributed to the people.

Abruptly Egwene mutters “a Gray Man” and Elayne jumps trying to look in every direction at once. Egwene looks around as well but in her case it is to make certain no one is close enough to hear. She tells Elayne that a Gray Man is after Mat. She says that must be what her dream meant. Elayne shakes her head and says that it does not make sense for a Gray Man to be after Mat. She says there is nothing in her letter to her mother than could harm them in the slightest. She then adds that there is nothin they can do about it anyway.

As Elayne begins to tell Egwene that if they have discovered the meaning of one of her dreams that perhaps they can learn meanings to the other dreams as well. Just then the ship gives a lurch and Elayne topples to the floor with Egwene falling on top of her. The vessel has halted. The captain has also fallen, but rises and runs toward the bow. He yells at a man about not recognizing a sandbar and tells him that if there is a hole in the ship that he will use his guts as caulking.

Nynaeve appears from the hatch and strides toward Elayne and Egwene. She confirms that the ship has run onto something, then moves to talk to the men on the bow. After a moment, Egwene sees the captain waiving his hands in protest and then following Nynaeve as she returns to join Egwene and Elayne. Nynave tells the other two women that they have run into a sunken ship. The captain tells Nynaeve that there is no need for her to be put ashore, noting that another ship will be along that can pull them free, and he adds that the vessel they are on does not have a hole in it.

Egwene asks Nynaeve if she is thinking of leaving the ship. Nynaeve tells her that the captain says they may have to wait as long as two days for another ship to come along with enough sweeps to pull them free. She tells Egwene that she does not think they can afford to wait for a day or two. She then tells Egwene that the captain says they can be in a nearby village, Jurene, in two hours or less. She tells the other two that if the captain frees his vessel as quickly as he hopes that they can reboard then. If not, then they can take ship from Jurene and may even find a vessel waiting there.

In a tight voice, Nynaeve asks Egwene if she has explained her reasoning clearly enough to suit her. Elayne jumps in and says that it sounds like a good idea to her and she asks Egwene optimistically if she will say that it also sounds like a good idea. Egwene gives a grudging nod. The captain protests and asks them to at least go to the Andoran bank, citing the dangers of the war an brigands. Nynaeve replies to the captain that they have not seen a living soul on the Cairhien side and that in any case the three of them are far from defenseless. She concludes with finality that she will not walk fifteen miles instead of six.

Nynaeve tells the captain that she is going below for her things and to make the rowboat ready. He is shouting to have the boat ready before she even goes below deck. Elayne murmurs to Egwene that when one of them says up, the other says down, and if they do not stop it, the three of them might not reach Tear. Egwene tells Elayne that they will all reach Tear and that it will happen sooner once Nynaeve realizes that she is no longer the Wisdom. Egwene starts to say that they are all Accepted but catches herself, as there are too many men around, and says instead that they are all on the same level now.

Soon they are on the shore and on the bank with walking staffs in hand, their belongings in bundles on their backs. Egwene turns and starts south without a glance and before Nynaeve can take the lead. At first, Elayne tries to start a conversation with Nynaeve by sharing with her what they have worked out about Egwene’s dream and the Gray Man, but after Nynaeve tells her roughly that Mat will have to look out for himself now, she gives up trying, and the three of them walk on in silence.

Abruptly Egwene announces that if they do see brigands that she will defend herself. She says there is no Amyrlin looking over their shoulders here. Nynaeve’s lips tighten and she replies that if need be that they can frighten off brigands as they did the Whitecloaks. As Elayne says she does not like talk of brigands, a figure in brown and gray rises from a bush standing by itself almost in front of them.

REACTION:

Did we have any sign prior to this chapter that Egwene was going to start pushing back against Nynaeve taking the lead in their group? Is this bickering brand new? It’s realistic but it is not the most fun thing to read.

The primary thing we get in this chapter is a LOT of foreshadowing in the form of Egwene’s dreams:

  • Rand holding Callandor.
  • Rand on a huge Stones board dodging the monstrous hands that move the pieces and seem to try crushing him under them.
  • Perrin with a wolf and with a falcon and a hawk, with the falcon and hawk fighting.
  • Perrin running from someone deadly and then stepping over a towering cliff while saying, “It must be done. I must learn to fly before I reach the bottom.”
  • An Aiel that has something to do with Perrin.
  • Min springing a steel trap and then walking through it without so much as seeing it.
  • Mat with dice spinning around him.
  • Mat being followed by a man who is not there.
  • Mat riding desperately to some place he has to reach.
  • Mat with a woman who seems to be tossing fireworks about – an Illuminator Egwene assumed.
  • She dreamed of men and women breaking out of a cage and then putting on crowns.
  • She dreamed of kings dying, queens weeping, battles raging.
  • Whitecloaks ravaging The Two Rivers.

This is fun because we know some of the details here that Egwene does not know and in other cases we have foreshadowing of things to look out for.

The relative indifference of Egwene and Nynaeve toward Mat being chased by a Gray man does not paint either of them in the best light. I understand “there’s nothing we can do about it now” but Jordan does not show us an undercurrent of concern. Elayne seems the most concerned of the group.

We end things with the girls running into an Aiel. I am ready for MOAR Aiel in this story.

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4 thoughts on “The Dragon Reborn (Chapter 37): Fires In Cairhien

  1. ‘She also dreamed of Perrin running from someone deadly and then stepping over a towering cliff while saying, “It must be done. I must learn to fly before I reach the bottom.”’

    I assume this is a reference to Perrin choosing to challenge Slayer in the Wolf Dream despite knowing next to nothing about it at the time.

    Mat is ta’veren – of course there is a reason for a Gray Man to stalk him! Elayne is so self-absorbed. She is the worst (even worse than Faile).

    1. Yeah. The Perrin dream is the most mysterious one in hindsight. I agree with you that it has to be about learning the wolf dream to challenge Slayer.

      The “Supergirls” regularly forget about Mat and Perrin (but Mat in particular) being ta’veren. In their defense, Moiraine puts almost no weight into it either for most of the first three books.

      Elayne is BY FAR my least favorite character in the series. She’s not awful early on (other than her open flirtation with Rand in front of Egwene) but she gets progressively worse throughout the series.

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