An Empty Road
Chapter 1: Eye of the World
Word-Count by POV:
Rand al'Thor - 7164
The chapter opens with Rand al’Thor and his father Tam al’Thor walking along the Quarry Road on their way to the Emond’s Field. Rand and his father both live out in the Westwood, to the west of the village of Emond’s Field. They have their cart horse Bela hauling casks of apple brandy for the Bel Tine festival that takes place tomorrow. Tam brings the brandy every year and he has waited until the last minute this year to bring it to the village due to the winter being longer and more difficult this year. There have been reports of bears and wolves attacking humans as well as their sheep, so many have avoided travel.
As they walk along the road, Rand notices a rider garbed in black twenty paces behind him. The rider causes him to feel uneasy and fearful, but after stumbling and taking his eyes off the rider for a moment, the rider seemingly disappears. Tam didn’t see the rider and Rand thinks he may have been seeing things when Tam questions him on it further.
Eventually, they arrive in Emond’s Field. The village borders the Westwood and centers around a Green with a large Inn on the east end of the village called the Winespring Inn. It is the largest building in the village and is the home to the Mayor, Bran al’Vere, and his family.
As they enter the village, a man named Wit Congar approaches Tam and Rand as they walk toward the Inn and complains to Tam about the current village Wisdom named Nynaeve. He seems upset at her because the winter has gone on so long and she had predicted a much more mild winter. Tam, a member of the Village Council, tells Wit that the Wisdom is the Women’s Circle business, and Wit’s wife, Daise Congar, a member of the Women’s Circle, overhears and berates Wit.
Using Daise’s anger at Wit, Tam excuses himself and heads toward the Inn with Rand. Many others invite Tam to visit them as they walk through the town as Tam is single after his wife, and Rand’s mother, passed away many years before and he hasn’t remarried. Many of the people in the Two Rivers want to try and help him remarry, but he isn’t interested.
As they approach the Inn, Bran al’Vere, the mayor, greets them, and Tam, Bran, and another man named Cenn Buie talk about the winter and Nynaeve again. Cenn is another malcontent, but he happens to be on the Village Council as well. As Tam and Bran admonish Cenn over his complaining, Matrim Cauthon, one of Rand’s friends in the village tugs on Rand’s sleeve. Mat was hidden from the other adults, crouched behind the cart, and attempts to convince Rand to come with him as he and another boy, Dav Ayellin, caught a badger and wanted to release it on the Green to cause havoc. Rand declines, saying that he promised his father he would unload the cider. When Mat brings up strangers in the village, Rand mentions the rider in black he saw on the road to Mat and Mat says that he saw the same rider around 3 days ago and was terrified. Mat says his father didn’t believe him when he told him, so he’s been keeping it to himself.
Tam interrupts their conversation by greeting Mat and asking him to help Rand unload the cider. He tells them the quicker that they get the work done, the quicker that they can see the gleeman that was in town for Bel Tine. They learn of some of the other festivities planned for Bel Tine and grow more excited. A gleeman, fireworks, and a peddler would all be a part of the celebration. Mat and Rand begin to unload the cider into the Inn and Rand begins to think of seeing Egwene al’Vere, the mayor’s daughter, whom most in the village think he will marry.
“Dav and I caught a big old badger, all grouchy at being pulled out of his den. We’re going to let it loose on the Green and watch the girls run.” - Matrim Cauthon
Minor Spoilers Below!!!
Emond's Field and The Westwood
Rand doesn’t look much like Tam. This is some fairly obvious foreshadowing that Tam isn’t Rand’s real father. We’ll have this confirmed within this book, but the implication that Rand sticks out is fairly clear even in the first pages of the book.
The rider in black is obviously a myrddraal, but something of note here is that Rand mentions that his skin itches from the inside and this is before he has even looked at the myrddraal. Later, we learn that channelers can sense shadowspawn and we see this from Rand in Knife of Dreams when he has similar feelings right before the massive trolloc attack on Lord Algarin’s manor house. Despite Rand not channeling yet in the story, is this Rand feeling shadowspawn? Tam doesn’t have the same feelings as Rand, so it is likely Rand feeling the myrddraal as a channeler.
Mat mentions the Dragon as though he’s just as bad as the Dark One. This shows the superstition and myths around Lews Therin Telamon and the Dragon Reborn. Later, when Rand is discovered to actually be the Dragon Reborn and Mat finds out about it, he basically has the same reaction to Rand, reinforcing how strongly people feel scared of the Dragon or the Dragon Reborn.
Ishamael and Aginor are specifically mentioned by Mat when he and Rand are discussing the rider and the possibility that the Dark One was riding around on a horse in their village. This is in a very small sense Chekhov’s gun as they are setting up those specific Forsaken to show up later in the book.
In the same conversation, Rand sarcastically mocks Mat for suggesting that the Forsaken were loose by saying that the rider must have been a Shadowman. Even though he was mocking Mat, that is, in fact, exactly what the rider was. Shadowman is a term referring to myrddraal.
Why is the saying that the “Dark One and all of the Forsaken are bound in Shayol Ghul, beyond the Great Blight, bound by the Creator at the moment of Creation, bound until the end of time.” one that caught on? It doesn’t even make sense as if the Forsaken were mortal men, how would they be bound at Creation?
What exactly is Bel Tine? It is a festival celebrated within the Westlands to commemorate the arrival of Spring. Typically large bonfires are built and a Spring Pole is erected as part of the celebration. Unmarried women dance around the Spring Pole with ribbons and the unmarried men sing.
Although Rand saw the myrddraal just before arriving in town, Mat saw it three days ago, signifying that the Shadow had been scouting around Emond’s Field for a while.
Bran al’Vere remarks that Rand will one day sit on the village council due to his wisdom. While this isn’t quite foreshadowing, Rand obviously achieves quite a bit more than simply sitting on the Village Council of Emond’s Field.
The Village Council