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 24: Rhuidean
NOTE: The following chapter summary comes from wot.fandom.com:
Rand and Mat arrive outside Rhuidean, which is veiled in fog. Mat spies Aviendha running to the city naked, but Rand does not notice. Rand reminds Mat that he can still turn back but Mat reiterates that he must continue. Mat questions Rand in turn and Rand says he has to go too. Mat suggests that maybe the snake people just tell everyone to go to Rhuidean, but Rand reveals that he is not here because of them. Rand, followed by Mat, walks through the wall of fog and come out into the city which is still domed by fog, blocking the sky. Mat walks to the nearest fountain but finds it empty. Rand comes to a realization and channels; a stream of water flows out, filling the basin. Rand almost forgets to drink until Mat reminds him.
After walking for a mile, they reach a huge plaza with an enormous tree at the center. The tree overlooks concentric rings of clear, glittering glass columns. The plaza is cluttered with many other things, which Mat realizes must be ter’angreal when he sees a spear standing upright with nothing to support it. Rand notices two small figurines, about a foot tall, a man and a woman, each holding a crystal sphere. Rand is tempted to touch them but draws back. Rand sees the tree and recognizes that it is Avendesora, the Tree of Life. Mat tries to pluck a trefoil leaf but cannot reach the lowest branches. He settles for leaning against the trunk of the tree and feels oddly serene. Rand, reminded of his duty, decides it is time to go into the columns but warns Mat away, telling him it is only to become an Aiel clan chief. Mat cannot decide whether to follow Rand into the columns so he flips a coin which lands on its edge. He blames the result on Rand until it topples over and shows heads, which means he stays outside. Mat suspects that Rand channeled to make the coin land that way but Rand gives no indication either way.
As Mat wanders among the ter’angreal he spies a twisted redstone doorframe, similar to the one in Tear but with different decorations. Since he has to wait for Rand anyway, he figures he has time to step through and come back. After stepping through, he sees that he is not in the same place as last time. He is in a star-shaped chamber with many glassy columns and he sees that the floor is covered in dust, unused for a long time. He is greeted by one of the Eelfinn who ask him the same questions about iron, musical instruments, and devices for making light and Mat confirms he did not bring any of those. The creature leads him ahead and they walk down a corridor for a long time, perhaps more than an hour before reaching a doorway ahead. There were many side corridors, but they all showed the same scene, the ter’angreal where he entered and their boot prints leading away from it.
Mat enters the chamber with eight pedestals in a star shape. As he looks around he notices the doorway is gone. Mat begins asking questions, but the fox people do not answer. He becomes angry and rambles on. Finally he says that if he had his way he would want the holes in him memory filled and one of the Eelfinn responds “done.” He continues by saying he wants a way to be free of Aes Sedai and the Power and he wants to be away from them and back to Rhuidean. He again gets responses of “done,” not realizing that this doorway grants wishes and he has just made three of them. Suddenly he is in darkness and something is around his throat so that he cannot breathe.
I love this chapter and I am enjoying the trip into the Waste so far. This is a chapter wherein you have to notice the small details. We already know that Mat was told to go to Rhuidean by the snake people in Tear. Rand, though, was not told this. If we’re trying to figure out Rand’s questions and answers in Tear, this is important to keep in mind.
Mat and Rand find the Tree of Life and sit under it for a while. That kind of hints at the Aiel’s deep past though we cannot be sure yet in what way it does. I thought this was interesting:
The old stories were true. He felt… Contentment. Peace. Well being. Even his feet did not bother him much.
Rand sat down cross-legged nearby. “I can believe the stories. Ghoetam, sitting beneath Avendesora for forty years to gain wisdom. Right now, I can believe.”
Ghoetam, mentioned here, is a Wheel of Time way of referring to Gautama Buddha sitting under a Bodhi tree. Is this a first age story? An Age of Legends story? (In theory, with souls being reborn, and living similar lives, you might see something like this repeated from age to age.) Anyway…
Rand says that there is an ocean of water beneath the city. Would it be possible to make the Waste watery again? It seems so. Rand tells us that it is *deep* below the surface, though, so that explains why the Aiel never found it when digging a well. Perhaps, though, whoever built Rhuidean knew this secret (otherwise why build the fountains?)
We see ter’angreal as the two boys walk through the city. Other than the glass columns which Rand must enter, we see statuettes holding crystal spheres. The description of the statuettes is reminiscent of the much larger statue Rand saw outside of Cairhien during The Great Hunt. We also see another red stone doorway. Mat has been obsessing over his first trip to meet the snake people so he steps through here hoping to see them again and get more questions answered.
Mat’s total lack of fear to step through the doorway is both odd but also in character. Jordan is very subtly imbuing the Emond’s Field folk with god-like character traits. Mat increasingly feels like a good guy Loki figure. I would be MUCH more hesitant to go meet up with tall humanoids in some other world. Young, and from a backwater village, Mat steps into every new place as though he owns it – even this one. He does not meet snake people this time, but instead meets fox people. The fox people seem more vicious. Just like in Tear, Mat’s speech patterns are different (but now we know he is apparently speaking the Old Tongue.) I feel like that means something though I do not know what. Mat seems to realize while inside that his fox person guide is wearing clothing made from human skin. Yikes.
The fox people do not answer questions. Instead, it seems they give things – like a genie. Mat unintentionally asks for:
- The holes in his memory to be filled.
- To be free of Aes Sedai and the One Power, and
- A way to be away from them and back to Rhuidean.
The fox people say “done” after each request – as though granting a wish.
We can probably assume Mat will not die after what happens next. The snake people already told him before that he will die and live again. Also… he’s a main character. Either way, though, the fox people call him a fool for not setting a price before making requests. Menacingly, they state that they will set the price and then everything goes dark, Mat feels something around his throat, and an inability to breath, as the chapter ends. Things do not seem good for Mat… but he’ll probably survive. Loki always survives. Mat likely will, too.