The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: The Shadow Rising, Part 10

Greetings and salutations, and welcome to the continuing continuation of the Wheel of Time Re-read on this-a here Tor.com. Today we continually continue with Part 10 of The Shadow Rising, in which we cover Chapters 29-31.

Previous entries can be found here. As always, beware of spoilers for the entire series, both in the post and in the comments.

As a reminder, this is the last post I will be making this week, as I am off to Georgia for some type of gathering about something, I don’t know, I just go where they tell me. I kid, I kid! Seriously, JordanCon looks like it’s going to be a ton of fun and I can’t wait. Regular posts should resume next week.

Let’s get to it, then!

Chapter 29: Homecoming

What Happens
The party travels for three days, mostly quietly; Perrin mentally wavers between anger and longing regarding Faile. Loial is obviously very upset about the situation, while Gaul seems to find it all very amusing. Perrin worries about Slayer, and about his family. When they reach the Westwood, Perrin alters their direction to head for the al’Thor farm, but when they reach it they find it burned to the ground. The Aiel check the ruins and report no bodies. Faile tentatively asks whose farm this is, and is taken aback by his curt answer. He turns away from her, takes Gaul aside, and tells him they will camp here tonight and go on to Emond’s Field in the morning; very early, before Faile is awake. Gaul opines that he will not be rid of Faile so easily, but Perrin ignores him. They sneak away in the pre-dawn and soon arrive at the Winespring Inn, where Perrin hurries in before anyone can take note of him. He finds Marin and Bran al’Vere in the common room; they jump to their feet and stare at him as much as at Gaul. Bran is not even sure it is Perrin at first, looking at his beard and the cut on his cheek, then asks if Egwene is with him. Perrin tells them that Egwene is studying to be Aes Sedai, as is Nynaeve; Marin nods and says she’s received letters from Egwene saying so. Perrin thinks guiltily that he hasn’t written a single letter to anyone at home since he left. Then he realizes Gaul is just standing there and makes hasty introductions. Bran blinks at finding Gaul is Aiel, but Marin welcomes him, and Gaul greets her as a roofmistress, asking “leave to defend your roof and hold”. Gaul then gives Marin a gold salt cellar as a “guest gift”, and Perrin thinks that Marin hides her shock very well, considering it’s probably the most expensive thing in the Two Rivers. Bran asks what Perrin is doing there, and Perrin says he’d heard about the Whitecloaks. Bran tells him he can’t do anything about them, and should leave before they find out he’s here, and Marin urges the same.

“I cannot. You know they are after me, or you’d not want me to go.” And they had not commented on his eyes, even to ask if he was ill. Mistress al’Vere had barely been surprised. They knew. “If I give myself up, I can stop some of it. I can keep my family—” He jumped as the hall door banged open to admit Faile, followed by Bain and Chiad.

Outraged, Faile demands to know if he’d been planning on giving himself up from the start; doesn’t he know they will hang him? Perrin replies that he killed Whitecloaks, ignoring Marin’s gasp, and adds that they think he’s a Darkfriend. Faile whispers that it would be more likely for the sun to be a Darkfriend, and Perrin replies that it doesn’t change what he has to do.

“You addle-brained lummox! You don’t have to do any such crackpate thing! You goose-brain! If you try it, I’ll hang you myself!”

“Perrin,” Mistress al’Vere said quietly, “would you introduce me to this young woman who thinks so highly of you?”

Faile is embarrassed to realize she had been ignoring the al’Veres, and offers elaborate curtsies and apologies. Bain and Chiad do as Gaul had, offering a gold bowl and a silver pepper mill as guest gifts. Marin takes the women under her wing and soon has them seated with tea and washcloths; Perrin thinks this would have been more amusing if he and Gaul had not been as powerless to resist her as Faile and Bain and Chiad. Gaul, of course, thinks it’s funny anyway. Bran tells Perrin that there is no reason for him to let himself be hanged, and Perrin replies that if they do not get him, they might turn to his family, and Perrin will not allow that. Bran looks away, and tells Perrin his family is gone. Perrin takes this to mean that the farm is burned already, and asks who they are staying with, then.

“They are dead, my boy,” Bran said in a rush.

“Dead? No. They can’t be—” Perrin frowned as wetness suddenly slopped over his hand, stared at the crumpled cup as though wondering where it had come from. “I am sorry. I didn’t mean to—” He pulled at the flattened silver, trying to force it back out with his fingers. That would not work. Of course not. Very carefully, he put the ruined cup in the middle of the table. “I will replace it. I can—” He wiped his hand on his coat, and suddenly found he was caressing the axe hanging at his belt. Why was everyone looking at him so oddly?

Bran and Marin confirm that it was all of the Aybaras: his parents and brother and sisters, and his aunts and uncles and cousins. Bran had helped bury them under the apple trees. Flatly, Perrin asks why even Whitecloaks would do such a thing, and Marin tells him it was Trollocs, and there have been several attacks in the countryside; the Whitecloaks are their only real protection. Perrin asks about the al’Thor farm, and Bran says no, that was Whitecloaks, along with the Cauthon place; Tam and Abell are hiding in the Westwood, and Mat’s mother and sisters are alive, too. Bran also tells him Padan Fain is with the Whitecloaks, though he calls himself Ordeith now and won’t answer to his old name.

“He’s a Darkfriend,” Perrin said absently. Adora and Deselle always put apple blossoms in their hair in the spring. “Admitted from his own mouth. He brought the Trollocs, on Winternight.” Paet liked to climb in the apple trees; he would throw apples at you from the branches if you did not watch him.

Bran is grimly unsurprised, and tells how Fain led the Whitecloaks that burned Tam’s farm, and arrested the Cauthon women as well as Haral and Alsbet Luhhan, and would have hung them if Lord Bornhald hadn’t stopped him; there are prices on the head of anyone related to Perrin, Mat, or Rand. Bran and Marin both argue that despite all this, they need the Whitecloaks to protect them from the Trollocs.

“You call this being protected, roofmistress?” Bain said. “If you ask the lion to protect you from wolves, you have only chosen to end in one belly instead of another.”

“Can you not protect yourselves?” Chiad added. “I have seen Perrin fight, and Mat Cauthon, and Rand al’Thor. They are the same blood as you.”

Bran says they are only farmers, even though Lord Luc talks about organizing men to fight the Trollocs. Perrin asks who Lord Luc is, and Marin replies he is a Hunter of the Horn and a fine gentleman. Perrin tells them Faile is a Hunter too, and asks her if she knows this Lord Luc.

“I have had enough,” she announced. Perrin frowned as she stood and came around the table to him. Seizing his head, she pulled his face into her midriff. “Your mother is dead,” she said quietly. “Your father is dead. Your sisters are dead, and your brother. Your family is dead, and you cannot change it. Certainly not by dying yourself. Let yourself grieve. Don’t hold it inside where it can fester.”

Perrin realizes then he is sobbing, and tells her he couldn’t get here any faster. She strokes his hair, murmuring soothing things, and he continues to weep.

Commentary
My father died very suddenly in 2007, and the thing that I remember most, after the first terrible hours immediately following receiving the news, was how bizarrely the reality of my father’s death contrasted to all the mundanity that surrounded it; beside the huge looming fact that my father was gone, none of it seemed like reality at all. Getting on a plane to go home, and making decisions about funeral arrangements, and talking to the lawyer about the estate, and etc etc; it was real, but it wasn’t. It was very like watching myself on TV, or something; everything had this tinny, echo-y, once-removed quality to it. I felt like I was on autopilot. I would catch myself doing things, like deciding what to wear to the funeral, and think, why I am deciding what to wear? My father is dead. Why am I putting gas in the car? My father is dead. Why am I eating this meal? My father is dead.

And yet, you do have to eat, and dress, and put gas in the car, and so you do, and there is an equally strange kind of numbing comfort in turning away from the awful repetitive clanging realization of your loved one’s sudden lack of existence in the world, to problems that by comparison are at least something you can encompass. It’s very rarely in the real world that you smack into something that abruptly informs you of just how narrow your range of comprehension really is. Perrin’s behavior here, therefore, is utterly believable, and heart-wrenching to read – even the first time I read it, when I had nothing personal to compare it to.

Having gone through losing a parent, I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be told that you had just lost not one loved one, but your entire family at one stroke. In a weird way, it’s almost kind of fortunate for Perrin that he has such immediate dire circumstances to distract him from the horrible crushing reality of that loss. I agree completely with Faile making him cry it out, because that first initial rush of grief is imperative (and incidentally did a great deal to improve my overall opinion of her on first reading), but the larger, long-term burden of loss that follows is easier, frankly, if you have something to occupy your mind. I have a theory that this is about 70% of the reasoning behind elaborate funereal customs in the first place. Perrin’s not going to get those, so I guess he’ll have to settle for fighting Trollocs.


Chapter 30: Beyond the Oak

What Happens
Perrin cries for a long time while memories of his family flash through his mind. When he finally looks up he sees that he and Faile are alone in the room. Faile takes his hands and sits down, and he thinks of how beautiful she is and that he would have to make it up to her how he had treated her these past few days. She asks if he’s given up this notion of surrendering to the Whitecloaks, and Perrin agrees it would seem to do little good, now. He tells her he has to get Mat’s mother and sisters and the Luhhans away from the Whitecloaks, and thinks privately that he also intends to do something about the Trollocs. She asks if there are any more fool notions about sending her away, either, and he says no. Faile says with them, Loial, the Aiel, and Tam and Abell if they can find them, that makes eight, and maybe this Lord Luc can help too. She suggests visiting his family’s farm, but Perrin is not ready for that yet. Bran comes back in, and tells Perrin with bemusement that there’s an Ogier sitting in his kitchen. He adds that Marin might have been able to pretend the Aiel were no big deal, but she nearly fainted on seeing Loial. Perrin asks if Bran knows where he can find Masters al’Thor and Cauthon, and Bran says they move around a lot, so he’s not sure. He warns Perrin that Marin will not give up trying to make him go. They go into the kitchen, where Marin is trying to pretend the Aiel and Ogier are normal guests, not very successfully.

His tufted ears twitched nervously whenever she looked at him, and she gave a little jump every time they did, then shook her head, the thick graying braid swaying vigorously. Given a few hours, they might send each other to bed with the shakes.

Loial tells Perrin he was grieved to hear about his family, and offers to sing to the apple trees before they leave. Perrin thanks him, but says it will have to wait; he has things to do before he goes. Ignoring Marin’s stare, he explains that he intends to rescue the Whitecloaks’ hostages, and tells the Aiel and Loial that this is not their fight, and he will understand if they do not want to join him. Loial, of course, immediately says he will help, and Gaul adds that he said he would go with Perrin, and did not mean “until it got hard”. Bain and Chiad look at Faile, and when she nods, add their decisions to stay as well. Marin tells them they are all stubborn and foolish, and if they’re staying she supposes she’ll have to show them where to hide. Bran looks surprised at her capitulation, and suggests the old sickhouse; Marin looks at him sharply, and says that will do, and quickly dissuaudes Bran from taking them there himself. They arrange to split into groups and meet at a lightning-struck oak near the sickhouse, but when Perrin, Loial and Faile go out with Marin they run straight into Cenn Buie. Cenn sees Loial and stammers “Trolloc!”, and Marin tells him not to be a fool, Loial is an Ogier, and tries to send him on his way. Then Cenn recognizes Perrin and tells him the Whitecloaks will “settle him”, and Marin orders him sharply to keep his mouth shut, and shames him for taking up with Whitecloak sympathies; she tells him this is Women’s Circle business, and she will send Daise Congar over to settle him, if his wife doesn’t first. Cenn grudgingly agrees to keep quiet and slinks off. Faile congratulates Marin on her handling of Cenn, but Marin doesn’t seem so certain of it, and they move on. They mostly avoid notice, though some people stare at Loial, but Perrin hopes they are far enough off that the size difference is not obvious. They meet the Aiel at the oak and head toward the sickhouse in the woods. Suddenly Perrin catches the scent of men, and hears a faint rustle. The Aiel tense, and Perrin reaches for his bow, but Marin pleads with everyone to be calm; two Warders appear in front of them with drawn bows, and Perrin demands of Marin why she and Bran didn’t tell him there were Aes Sedai here. Marin replies that Bran does not know about them, and asks the Warders, Tomas and Ihvon, to put away their weapons.

“An Ogier,” the gray haired man said, “Aiel, a yellow-eyed man—the one the Whitecloaks seek, of course—and a fierce young woman with a knife.” Perrin glanced at Faile; she held a blade ready to throw. He agreed with her this time.

The older Warder, Tomas, says they shall see, and sends the younger, Ihvon, back through the trees. Marin explains that the Women’s Circle agreed not to tell anyone about the Aes Sedai, who were at Watch Hill when the Whitecloaks came, and passed on from the Women’s Circle there to hide in Emond’s Field. Tomas wants to know why she decided to ignore that promise, and she tells him for good and sufficient reasons, and continues to Perrin that she didn’t think he would object, seeing as he left the Two Rivers with an Aes Sedai. Perrin tells her there are Aes Sedai, and then there are Aes Sedai, but thinks to himself that at least whoever these were, they couldn’t be Reds, not with Warders. He tells Faile that it will be all right, and hopes very much that he is right.

Commentary
One thing I kind of wish we had gotten to see was the whole Two Rivers thing from the Aiel’s point of view. I’ve always been a sucker for seeing familiar characters/situations from an outside point of view, and I think that seeing the Two Rivers from Gaul or Bain or Chiad’s POV would have been very interesting.

Especially Bain or Chiad, who as characters I find a bit more opaque than Gaul. Gaul’s reasons for being there are really perfectly straightforward – he has a blood debt to Perrin. Bain and Chiad, however, are rather odd, in that their only stated reasons for being along on this escapade is that they are curious to see what happens between Perrin and Faile. Which, okay, but as reasons go for haring off into strange lands and putting yourself in mortal peril for total strangers, that’s a little thin, even for Aiel. I’ve always supposed there was more to it than that, and actually, given what ends up happening between Gaul and Bain (or is it Chiad? I forget), maybe that had to do with it as well, though I seem to recall that the way events fell out in Tear, neither of the Maidens could have known in advance that Gaul had decided to go with Perrin until they all met up in the stables, so the Gaul/Bain/Chiad thing could only have developed later. I could be wrong about that, though.

At any rate, we only get hints throughout this storyline of what the Aiel think of it all, and while I understand that for story contraint reasons it would not be feasible to include the Aiel’s point of view, I still think it would have been cool to have it. Oh well.

I also want to take this opportunity to send a shout out to my Loial, who continues as adorable and huggable as ever. I really feel for him, having to put up with this Perrin/Faile bullshit and yet maintaining his adorableness while he’s at it. Loial is one of those characters that I feel kind of falls by the wayside to a degree precisely because he is so easygoing and dependable, and is treated as basically an errand boy by the other main cast. I really hope he does get to write his history and get some recognition, as otherwise I think his loyalty has gotten rather poor return overall.

You may have noticed that I have not really discussed the Perrin/Faile thing in any depth in this post, and I’m not going to. Mostly because their relationship issues are sort of on the back burner for these chapters anyway, but also partially because I’m still working out how I feel about this whole Thing, after my rather visceral reaction last post and the commentary that followed it. I’ll come back to it once I feel up to handling it it comes to the forefront in the narrative again.


Chapter 31: Assurances

What Happens
Ihvon returns and tells Marin she may go on, and he and Tomas disappear into the brush without a sound. Gaul comments they are very good, and though Chiad scoffs at him, she seems wary as well. They follow Marin to the sickhouse, where Perrin finds that one of the Aes Sedai is Verin Mathwin, whose sharp glance at him belies her usual absentminded demeanor, and the other is Alanna Mosvani, a Green whom Perrin had seen in Fal Dara but never met. He remembers something Egwene had said, about some of the Aes Sedai showing too much interest in Rand, and that Alanna had been one of the ones she’d mentioned; Perrin decides to keep Egwene’s suspicions in mind. Marin apprehensively starts to justify her reasons for bringing Perrin here, that the Aes Sedai had been asking about him and the other two boys, but Verin assures her that she did the right thing, and greets Loial with pleasure, looking forward to talking books with him, which makes Loial smile. Alanna asks if the other two boys are with him, and Perrin demands to know what they are doing here, to both Marin and Faile’s shock. Marin tries to dress him down, but Verin tells her they are old friends and not to worry about it. Marin soon takes her leave, and Verin offers Perrin her sympathies over his family; Perrin replies that she still hasn’t answered his question. Verin explains calmly that she and Alanna were in the area looking for girls who can channel, after hearing of Moiraine’s finds in the Two Rivers, briefly digressing into a discussion about Sheriam’s “culling” theory:

“The proof of it, she says, is how very few men we do find. Why, even a hundred years ago the records say there were two or three a year, and five hundred years—”

Alanna harrumphed. “What else can we do, Verin? Let them go insane? Follow the Whites’ mad plan?”

“I think not,” Verin replied calmly. “Even if we could find women willing to bear children by gentled men, there is no guarantee the children would be able to channel, or would be girls. I did suggest that if they wanted to increase the stock, Aes Sedai should be the ones to have the children; themselves, in fact, since they put it forward in the first place. Alviarin was not amused.”

“She would not be,” Alanna laughed. The sudden flash of delight, breaking her fiery, dark-eyed stare, was startling. “I wish I could have seen her face.”

Verin agrees it was interesting, and tells Perrin to calm himself, she is getting to his question. Alanna continues that in less than a week in Watch Hill, they had found four girls who could be taught, and one more who she thinks has the ability inborn, though she’s too young to be certain yet. Verin adds that Taren Ferry was a disappointment, though; too much exchange of bloodlines with the outside, she supposes. Perrin wants to know why they are sitting in here while Whitecloaks and Trollocs are running all over, instead of doing something; Loial and Faile are both appalled, and Faile tries to apologize to the Aes Sedai, saying that Moiraine spoiled him with her “easy manner”.

“An easy manner?” Verin said, blinking. “Moiraine? I never noticed.”

Angrily, Alanna tells Perrin he does not understand the strictures they labor under due to the Three Oaths, and describes how her second Warder Owein was killed by Whitecloaks, and because she had not been there, she could do nothing; the Whitecloaks may be vile, but they are not Darkfriends, and so are safe from the Power except in self-defense. Verin adds that they have killed a number of Trollocs, but Fades can sense channeling, and there would not be much they could do except run if a hundred Trollocs came down on them. Perrin realizes he’d been assuming they could do something similar to what Rand did in the Stone, but thinks it’s likely that Rand is at least twice as strong as either Verin or Alanna. Alanna observes that he is wounded, and takes his head in her hands, checking him. Bain and Loial explain about the Ways and the Trollocs, and how Loial had locked the Waygate. Alanna comments that she does not understand why the Amyrlin had let Perrin and his companions just go their own way; she would have tied a string to them, even bonded them.

He tried to pull back, but she tightened her grip and smiled. “I am not so lost to custom yet as to bond a man against his will. Not quite yet.” He was not sure how far from it she was; the smile did not reach her eyes.

Alanna Heals him, and then sees to the Aiel. Faile strokes the now-scar on his cheek, and murmurs about a “beauty mark”; Perrin frowns, thinking she is making fun of him. Then Tam al’Thor and Abell Cauthon enter, carrying a brace of rabbits; they stare in shock at Loial, though Tam seems to recognize the Aiel. Then he sees Perrin and exclaims in surprise, asking if Rand is with him; Abell adds a query about Mat, and Perrin tells them their sons are both in Tear, and doing well. He ignores Verin’s glance at the mention of Tear, and tells the men that Mat spends his time dicing and kissing girls, and the last time he saw Rand, he was wearing a fancy coat and had a pretty girl on his arm. Abell chuckles that that sounds like Mat, but Tam asks whether Moiraine had been right the night she took them away, that the Trollocs were after them. Verin gives Perrin a warning look, but he can’t bring himself to tell Tam the truth about Rand in any case, and merely replies that they would have to ask Moiraine. Then he asks to speak to the two of them outside; Faile makes to come with them, but Perrin shakes his head at her, and is amazed when she sits back down, wondering if she’s ill. Outside, Tam and Abell twit Perrin gently about Faile, and Tam gives him advice on how to handle a “spirited” woman, which Perrin thinks sounds virtually identical to the advice Marin gave Faile on handling men. Abell tells how they stumbled on the Aes Sedai accidentally, and thinks the only reason the Warders didn’t kill them was the Aes Sedai found out who their sons were. He adds that Alanna let slip that they were ta’veren, and Perrin says that he hasn’t seen any sign of it in himself or Mat. Tam gives him a look when he doesn’t mention Rand, and Perrin thinks he has to learn how to lie better. They discuss Tam and Abell’s futile trip to Tar Valon, and Perrin avoids giving direct answers to anything. Then a raven alights on a nearby tree, and before Perrin can loose a shaft, Tam and Abell have shot it down; Tam’s arrow got it in the head, and Perrin thinks he hadn’t lied when he’d told Faile they were better than he at the bow. Abell mentions that though everyone has started killing ravens, someone has gone a little crazy with it, and left corpses of all kinds of animals about, not even skinned but just left to rot, and Perrin thinks it has to be Slayer, which means he’s here in the real world as well as in the dream. They move on to discussing how best to rescue the Cauthons and Luhhans, and where to hide them once they were out; Perrin is disgusted to hear that Tam and Abell don’t think many will shelter them for fear of the Whitecloaks, saying he’d thought better of Two Rivers folk than that. Abell defends them, saying they just feel caught between two millstones, and Perrin replies they should do something about it then.

“A Warder once told me Trollocs call the Aiel Waste ‘the Dying Ground.’ I mean to make them give that name to the Two Rivers.”

“Perrin,” Tam began, then stopped, looking troubled.

Perrin knew his eyes caught the light, there in the shadows under the oak. His face felt carved from rock.

Tam sighed. “First we’ll see about Natti and the others. Then we can decide what to do about the Trollocs. ”

“Don’t let it eat you inside, boy,” Abell said softly. “Hate can grow till it burns everything else out of you.”

Perrin says he just means to do what needs doing, and runs a thumb along the edge of his axe.

Dain Bornhald returns to Watch Hill, leading what’s left of his patrol, and thinks this is the third time patrols Dain led have been attacked, even though the Trollocs have tried to avoid the others. He notes that the camp of Tinkers outside the town look like they’re getting ready to move, and sends Farran to tell them that if they leave, they are only allowed to go south. Dain thinks the people in this area must be Light-forsaken; most villages were eager enough to use Whitecloaks to get rid of their undesirables, but other than at Taren Ferry, the people here just bow to his face and ignore him once he’s gone. Plus he knows they are hiding an Aes Sedai somewhere. But even so, Dain is coming to realize that the only Darkfriend he really wants is Perrin Aybara, for leading his father to his death. He decides that if neither of the Luhhans talks soon, he’d let Byar have a go at the blacksmith. Byar meets Dain at his tent and reports that Ordeith is back, and his patrol was attacked; the only Children who had died were Joelin and Gomanes. Dain angrily orders Byar to tell Ordeith to come to his tent, and wonders if Ordeith really thinks he is stupid enough not to have noticed that the only Whitecloaks who die on Ordeith’s patrols are the ones Dain sends along with Ordeith to keep an eye on him. He wonders again why the Lord Captain Commander had sent him here with a madman in tow, and then the madman in question enters the tent. Ordeith starts to offer condolences for the death of Joelin and Gomanes until Dain cuts him off by backhanding him across the face. Ordeith threatens to tell on him to Pedron Niall, and Dain points out this is only effective if Ordeith lives to tell about it. Ordeith crouches and snarls at him at first, but then suddenly takes on a grand tone and begins reassuring Dain that bringing Rand al’Thor, Mat Cauthon and Perrin Aybara back to the Two Rivers will give Dain the three worst Darkfriends that ever walked.

“Scourge them.” There was a hint of madness in that grand voice, and sweat on Ordeith’s brow. “Flay them, and the three will come.”

Dain tells him he covered over what Ordeith did at the Aybara farm, but he will not condone the murder of Children. Ordeith reminds him about the Gray Men that had walked right into the Whitecloak camp, and Ordeith had killed, calling it proof that what he does is right, if the Shadow is trying so hard to stop him. He promises Dain Perrin Aybara if left alone, and Dain hesitates and tells him to get out, but doesn’t say anything else. When Ordeith leaves Dain starts hunting for brandy.

Ordeith slinks through the Whitecloak camp, thinking that Dain might have to be done away with if he becomes any more troublesome. He can feel one of the “hated ones” out there nearby; he can’t tell which one it is, but is sure he would have known if it was al’Thor, who is the only really important one. Ordeith shivers with his desire to get revenge on al’Thor for what was taken from him. Everything had been going fine until this “new one” appeared with his Gray Men, but he cackles to himself that nothing can kill him. He returns to his own section of the camp.

Flies buzzed about his own tents, and sullen, suspicious eyes flinched away from his. The white cloaks were soiled here. But the swords were sharp, and obedience instant and unquestioning. Bornhald thought these men were still his. Pedron Niall believed it, too, believed Ordeith his tame creature. Fools.

He goes into his tent and examines his prisoner, noting that it had almost broken free. He asks if it is ready to accept his proposal, or whether he should prove that he knows how to hurt one of its kind for an eternity. The Fade finally answers that it accepts, and for Ordeith to release him.

Ordeith smiled. It thought him a fool. It would learn. They all would. “First, the matter of… shall we say, agreements and accord?” As he talked, the Myrddraal began to sweat.

Commentary
Oh, Alanna. How much I am going to hate on you soon. But nice foreshadowing of what’s going to happen with her and Rand, bah humbug. Eh, we’ll get to that later.

The fun thing about Verin and Alanna’s little “culling” digression is that you can completely imagine how that whole debate went in the Tower, and be amused by it. You can also see the (slightly skewed) parallels Jordan is drawing here between the Aes Sedai/White Tower and the Roman Catholic clergy/Vatican; while the Aes Sedai are not committed to celibacy per se, they definitely appear to be committed to it in a “results” sense of the notion. By which I mean, of course, children.

Other than Elayne, who is a rather special case, I cannot recall a single Aes Sedai we see or hear about who has had children while being Aes Sedai; the closest I can recall off the top of my head are Setalle Anan, who did not have children until after she was stilled/burnt out and left the Tower, and the novice Min tells Siuan about, who apparently is destined to leave the Tower first as well.

While there is of course nothing wrong with the decision not to have children as an individual, the fact that it appears to apply universally to Aes Sedai is congruent with the larger parallel (and criticism) Jordan is drawing between the White Tower and the whole “ivory tower” (wink, nudge) mentality of organizations like it, who withdraw from the fabric of ordinary society in order to devote themselves to a higher good, but who in the process (in many people’s opinion, apparently including Jordan) lose touch with the very society they purport to be aiding, which is clearly reflected in the overall distrust/unfamiliarity of Randland with Aes Sedai. This is part and parcel of Jordan’s overarching theme of balance between the sexes; both the major single-gendered organizations we see in Randland (the White Tower and the Whitecloaks) are severely dysfunctional in many ways, and the obvious implication is that this is (at least in part) because they decline to immerse themselves in “real life”, so to speak, and specifically with members of the opposite sex in more than superficial ways.

Yes, I’m aware that calling the Warder bond a “superficial” relationship is somewhat eyebrow-raising, but even accounting for those Aes Sedai who are sexually involved with their Warders (which, Myrelle and general lascivious rumors about Greens aside, seems to be surprisingly few of them), the relationship is still more of a professional/working one than anything else. In other words, it’s not a “relationship” in the romantic/domestic sense.

Relationships/marriage and children are not the only components of “real life”, of course, but I don’t think anyone would disagree that they are a very large part of it. The even further dysfunctionality of the Reds within the Tower is reflected similarly in that not only are they not allowed Warders, they don’t even allow members to have friends outside the Ajah, taking this isolationism to an extreme.

Re: Whitecloaks, I continue to be appalled at the notion of an autonomous military body that answers to nobody but its own (messed-up) creedo of ethics. The idea that these guys can just ride around wherever they want and take charge of practically anyplace that doesn’t have the wherewithal to tell them to get lost is deeply offensive to me. In this way the Children are also a parallel to the Christian church of yore, as I (and many others) have already noted their similarity to the Knights Templar. It’s kind of creepy that the White Tower and the Children of the Light have so many things in common while being such deadly enemies.

Fain, blah. I can’t even get interested that he has a pet Fade. Though I think I missed the first time through that Slayer is actually there in the Two Rivers specifically to kill him; I think I thought the first time that they were just jockeying for position, much the way the Forsaken play against each other for status/power within their own hierarchy. Oops.

As a last note on this chapter, I remain unsure what to think of the importance placed here on the notion of blood characteristics, as given in Verin’s statement that the Taren Ferry folk were a “disappointment” in the channeling arena because of their, hm, contamination by outside bloodlines – not in the idea that Verin and others of Randland would believe in this, because this is a very common belief in feudal societies, but more the implicit indication in the story that she is right. Especially since Egwene’s later success in dredging up a thousand novices as the Rebel Aes Sedai migrate across the country shows the whole “culling” theory to be flawed, to say the least.

That sounds somewhat contradictory, that I am saying the story implies Verin is right when it later proves her wrong, but this notion of “blood will out” shows up in subtler ways as well. The belief that Rand was keeping ahead of Moiraine et al chasing him in TDR because he “has the blood of long walkers and strong runners in him”, for instance, or the repeated theme of the Two Riversians being secretly badass because of their Manetheren antecedents, and so forth. I’m… not exactly arguing against this, because first of all it’s hardly uncommon in the fantasy genre, and secondly I said myself earlier that I found it cool (and I do), but it does raise a few niggling “nature vs. nurture” questions which are somewhat troubling in their larger implications.


And I is done. Have a lovely week, peoples, and I will be back next week with vim and vigor and maybe some spicy fun JordanCon extras for all y’all. Cheers!

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