It seriously takes them a chapter and a half to cross a ferry. We pause for the anti-Sesame-Street moment about hating on strangers, and I see at least some indications of why this is considered a more feminist story than Tolkien--though frankly, these chapters also make it obvious that Egwene would have been a vastly better protagonist in every way.
The Eye of the World: p. 148--191
Chapter Eleven: The Road to Taren Ferry
For a couple of pages, Rand recaps where everyone is in their formation of horse-riders fleeing the monsters, and resolves to hang back to protect Egwene if her horse (his old reliable Bela) falls behind, because he is Brave and Chivalrous and suspects Moiraine and Lan don't really care if she makes it or not. They reach Watch Hill and Mat and Perrin start talking about spending the night at the inn, and I can't decide if this is meant to be ironic. Fellowship of the Ring, as I've noted before, basically starts with a weeks-long pub crawl as Frodo very slowly moves out of the Shire, sometimes spending months at a new place before shifting another town over. Mat and Perrin seem to think they might be on a similar sort of journey, and Lan is all 'lol no, we keep going'. In a welcome moment of realism, Rand points out that the horses are already run to exhaustion, but Moiraine is also all 'lol no, I cast Mass Empower Horse'. and they're instantly refreshed (though she exhausts herself).
Then they are overtaken by a flurry of similes:
A scream ripped the darkness, a sound like a man dying under sharp knives [....] The wind of the Draghkar's wings beat at Rand with a feel like the touch of slime, like chittering in the dank dimness of a nightmare.I am 100% guilty of writing like this sometimes, I love a good simile like Haruka loves Michiru, but I like them to make sense, and I'm not sure how wind can beat at a person like chittering. The idea of slimy wind is also weird but comprehensible, and that would have done the job. (Also, how much does Rand know about what people sound like while being murdered with sharp knives? Has he been hanging out with Wickerman al'Summerisle?) The horses panic, but Lan gets everyone going again, and Rand hopes no one notices that he instinctively drew his sword like he was going to fight the draghkar.
More fleeing and monster shrieks:
Egwene's face in the moonlight was smiling in excited delight. Her braid streamed behind like the horses' manes, and the gleam in her eyes was not all from the moon, Rand was sure.Is he implying that her eyes are literally glowing? Because that would be suspicious. More likely it's supposed to indicate that she's enjoying this way too much, which: Rand, I am demoting you to sidekick and giving the role of protagonist to Egwene, because so far she's way cooler than you.
Moiraine cloaks them all with thick noise-cancelling fog (Rand spends half a page angsting about the health risks of breathing in girl-magic) until they ride into Taren Ferry, a town we are told full of snobby folk who look down upon Rand's villages, and coincidentally are all thieves and cheaters themselves. No sense of irony here, I guess, but that's what happens when your protagonists are Objectively Honest Rural Folks--other people just have to cope with their own inadequacies and jealousy. An introspective sort of person might wonder if perhaps their own preconceived notions about strangers aren't reflected in the preconceived notions held by strangers, and whether the obvious wrongness about the slander strangers spout doesn't hint at the possibility that one has unthinkingly absorbed prejudices oneself. There are no introspective people here. Lan tracks down the ferryman and pours gold into his hands until he agrees to take them across immediately.
Chapter Twelve: Across the Taren
As they march to the boat, Rand overhears Moiraine talking about the ferryman remembering "too much as it is", and not wanting him to see more of her. I don't know if there's meant to be an implication that Moiraine can erase people's memories, but I'm going to assume she can and that she doesn't want to, which is a point in her favour.
Thom, Mat, and Perrin are all muttering about food, but Egwene continues pleased:
There must be a difference in what you saw, it seemed to him, depending on whether you sought adventure or had it forced on you. The stories could no doubt make galloping through a cold fog, with a Draghkar and the Light alone knew what else chasing you, sound thrilling. Egwene might be feeling a thrill; he only felt cold and damp and glad to have a village around him again, even if it was Taren Ferry.I love meta and all, but this just drives home the point I mentioned above, that Egwene should be the protagonist here and Rand is unnecessary. Fantasy is already full of reluctant farmboy heroes, and I don't think Rand is breaking new narrative ground with his grumpiness. Give me a scared but enthusiastic hero, please.
We get a full page of the menfolk making their weapons obvious to the burly ferry-pullers, including the gleeman parlour-tricking a dagger into his fingers from nowhere, eliciting claps and giggles from Egwene and smiling from Moiraine, I kid you not. The dudes are acting tough and the gals are applauding. That's what's happening right now. I want to bite someone.
They cross over slowly, and--oh, really? Rand asks Lan if he really thinks the ferry crew was thinking about robbing them, and Lan basically says 'Hey, I heard the rumours in your town; I thought you knew these guys were all thieves' and Rand feels bashful about not believing it. That's our moral of the story: rumours about Rival Town are true and it's silly to think they might just be okay folks like us. (None of Rand and company have ever been here before, so they have zero personal experience, just optimism to work from.)
On the far bank, Lan pays up, tips the pullers individually, and pays more when a 'freak whirlpool' obliterates the ferry they've just stepped off, such that, as Moiraine unsubtly points out, no one else will be able to cross for a while. Mat starts to ask if she did it, but Moiraine is very 'I'm getting you to Tar Valon, don't make me justify everything I do'. She does, however, take a minute to brag about how she extended her fog miles down the river, which will convince the Fade that they fled by boat rather than land, and she is super smart and talented. Rand reminds us again that "He did not think the shine in [Egwene's] eyes was all from moonlight." Girl's apparently got LCD retinas.
They stop at a tree grove where Lan apparently previously predicted they might need to rest, and so left dry wood and such. There is much camping, angsting about the threat of having Moiraine magically re-energise them, and the dangers therein. Moiraine is busy talking to Egwene about magic, male saidin and female saidar that make up the One Power, the evil taint on saidin, and how she sees in Egwene the potential to be a natural wielder.
"You are very close to your change, your first touching. It will be better if I guide you through it. That was you will avoid the... unpleasant effects that come to those who must find their own way."Moiraine and Egwene practice together with a crystal, and Egwene manages to get a tiny flicker of light out of it, to Rand's deep dismay and her own exultant joy. I'm so glad I made Egwene the protagonist, because Rand is just a twerp now. Egwene just got told "You're a wizard, Harry" and Rand is busy anger-moping because a woman just helped his crush better understand her first touching and now it's like they don't even need men at all. (Lan quietly contemplates telling Rand to lay off the Axe bodyspray and fedoras. Mat quietly contemplates asking Perrin if he likes stories about gladiators.)
Chapter Thirteen: Choices
Moiraine goes to each of them in turn and gives them Magic Headrubs that purge their aches and exhaustion. She can't do the same for herself, and she refuses food (oh my god can we have one book where wanting food sometimes isn't treated as a weakness) and curls up by the fire. They all wake up super-rested and take off, Mat and Perrin still talking about how soon they'll get to go home, and then it's time for a week of travel montage. Lan also starts teaching them combat; they're all already amazing archers (this is so improbable) but there's plenty to learn about the axe and sword. Lan visibly fails to react when Rand explains that he already knows 'the flame and the void' that Lan starts explaining. In case we forgot that Rand's adoptive dad was a super fencer.
One morning Egwene wakes up, unbraids her hair, and brushes it out a hundred times, to Rand's consternation. (He counted the hundred strokes.) Egwene just says that Aes Sedai don't braid their hair unless they want to, so, implicitly, screw village traditions. Rand continues to be uncomfortable with his non-girlfriend's acceptance of her own body and attributes, and implies all non-Moiraine Aes Sedai are minions of Satan. They end up shouting at each other until shushed by Lan. Mat and Perrin discuss turning south up ahead to go on adventures, since they obviously ditched the monsters for good back at the ferry, but Indisputable Badass Moiraine informs them that they're still hunted by the Dark One, she opposes anything the Dark One wants, and therefore she'd rather kill them all herself than let them be captured.
Next night, Rand snoops on Egwene's magic lessons, and overhears a listing of the Five Powers, "Earth, Wind, Fire, Water, and Spirit".
But is this the true face of the Dragon... or of the Dark One?
Egwene wants Moiraine to confirm it was only male wizards who screwed up the world, and Moiraine refuses to answer, instead talking about fear and potential and unsubtly indicating that Egwene was not the only potential wizard in her village. Egwene refuses to be thrown off, anen:
"Well, it was the men, but they were no more wicked than any men. They were insane, not evil."LOW BAR SURPASSED! This is the least ableism we've had since Ender's "I'm crazy but I'm okay" line, but here it's explicitly stated as a fact relevant to morality and to understanding the context of actions! (There's no space given to the idea of degrees of culpability, the distinction between 'fully sane' and 'responsible for one's actions' or 'trustworthiness', but like I said: low bar.)
They finally arrive at the city of Baerlon, which leaves all the farmboys agape at its vastness, though Lan scoffs at calling it a city. Moiraine says the dangers is greater here, what with magic-haters and Darkfriends about, and so they'll have to go about hidden under cloaks and using fake names. Yes, good, everyone pull your cloaks up on this sunny day. That will avoid attracting attention.
Just waiting for the bus, don't mind me. Need to drop by the bakery. For pie. Yeah.
The gatekeeper recognises Lan and Moiraine, already knows their fake names, and warns them that there are Children of the Light in the city (people who, Rand has heard, hate Aes Sedai and Darkfriends equally). He's also heard that the Aes Sedai who went to fight the false Dragon have suffered casualties, and that the Dragon marches on the fortress called the Stone of Tear. Apparently this is relevant to "the Karaethon Cycle", also called "the Prophecies of the Dragon", which says that "the Stone of Tear will never fall until the People of the Dragon come" and "the Stone will never fall till the Sword That Cannot Be Touched is wielded by the Dragon's hand".
I'm so glad this chapter is almost over.
Said untouchable sword is in found in the Heart of the Stone of Tear, and no one knows what it is or whether it's a sword at all. Rand questions how it can be wielded by the Dragon before the city falls if he can't get at it until he's already conquered, and gets brushed off, because Rand at least continues to have his gift for genre savviness and has detected an obvious prophecy twist coming. (My guess is that Rand will wield the sword in hopes of defending Tear from the false Dragon, but they'll lose the city anyway for some reason.)
They finally pick the lock on a gate to an inn (that seems unnecessary) and the innkeeper happily welcomes them (with their fake names) to the Stag and Lion, and the women excitedly rush for baths. Women, with their hatred of filthiness, ugh.
Next month: I'm not sure what posting schedules will be like through December, what with weekend RPGs and visiting family and all that, but I will endeavour to keep up the usual weekly pace.