Eight hundred, you guys? Really?
You know I love you, and all, and I generally make sure to read all the comments even if I can’t always respond to them, but I am so not reading 800+ comments, my dears. I don’t have time to read 800+ comments! What the hell were you doing in there? Ack, no! Don’t tell me; I am suddenly positive I don’t want to know.
Aaah! Shh! No talky! Scared!
(Not really. But my Lord, y’all. Please do not break the pretty Tor.com, mmkay? It is where I keep my bloggings!)
Um. Oh, hi! This is a Wheel of Time Re-read post! There are many like it, but this one is mine.
Well, actually, they’re all mine, aren’t they? ALL MINE, MWHAHA-*cough* ahem. What was I saying? Oh, yes. This is Part 11 of The Shadow Rising, in which we cover Chapters 32-33. Spoilers as usual for everything, and off we go!
Chapter 32: Questions to be Asked
The next morning Verin announces that they will all be heading to Watch Hill, which surprises Tam and Abell, but they do not object; Perrin thinks that she intends to meddle, of course, but that it was better to have her where he could see her. He tells Alanna she is welcome too, but she only gives him a cold stare in reply; Perrin cannot figure her or her sudden mood swings out. Faile preempts any attempt to suggest that she stay behind by announcing that she looks forward to seeing the area, since her father raises sheep. Perrin replies that he thought she said her father is a merchant; Faile flushes and says he does both. Perrin is pretty sure she’s lying, and supposes that perhaps her father is poor, and lets it go. He takes Abell’s advice about picking your battles and gives in with no argument, which startles Faile. Loial is very disappointed to be told he cannot come along, and Perrin pulls him aside and asks him to keep an eye on Alanna, trying to make it appear that they are talking about nothing special; Loial is dubious about the usefulness of this activity, but agrees. As they make ready to leave, Perrin notes that Verin seems intrigued by the hammer lashed to his saddle. The party – Perrin, Faile, Verin, Tomas, Tam, Abell, and the three Aiel – sets out, Perrin reflecting on whether it is worth the risk to tell Verin about the wolves in the hopes that she could help him, and thinking that things would be much simpler without Aes Sedai in general.
At one point Faile glanced back. “She will not harm you,” she said, her soft tone clashing with the fierce light in her dark eyes.
Perrin blinked. She meant to protect him. Against Aes Sedai. He was never going to understand her, or know what to expect next. She was about as confusing as the Aes Sedai sometimes.
He notes the empty farms, and Tam tells him many farms away from the North Road have been abandoned, but they are heading for Jac al’Seen’s place to take a break before heading on to Watch Hill. Perrin also notes, though, that the farms are abandoned but not ransacked, and asks if Trollocs have attacked Emond’s Field itself. Abell says no; the folks there are armed and watchful since Winternight, and the Whitecloaks patrol down every few days. Perrin asks how many Trollocs there are, and Tam thinks it has to be about two hundred or so. Perrin doesn’t understand, then, why they haven’t attacked Emond’s Field; two hundred Trollocs could raze the place and be gone before the Whitecloaks could get there. Abell wants to know what he’s getting at, and Faile answers that she has seen what Trolloc raids do in Saldaea, and that if they haven’t done the same here, there must be a reason for it. Verin chimes in that perhaps it is a lure; news of Trollocs in the Two Rivers will draw eyes, and, eventually, soldiers. Abell is appalled by what she seems to be suggesting, but Tam only grunts, and Perrin remembers that he was supposed to have been in a war somewhere. He also thinks that Verin knows as well as he that if it is a lure, it’s one for Rand, and thinks that if so, they will just have to settle for a blacksmith instead of the Dragon Reborn. They reach Jac’s farm, and Tam calls the Aiel over and suggests that perhaps they should wait away from the farm. The Aiel head off, and the rest of the party arrives at the al’Seen farm, which Perrin sees has far too many people; Tam explains that Jac has taken in his cousin Wit’s people, as well as the Lewins after their farm was attacked. The farmfolk crowd around the visitors, and Perrin is shocked to see one of them is a girl he used to fancy somewhat, now married to a Lewin with a child. Then he notices Faile smiling at Wil al’Seen, who the girls at Emond’s Field always used to sigh over.
Perrin went over and put an arm around her, resting his other hand on his axe. “How are you, Wil?” he asked, smiling for all he was worth. No point in letting Faile think he was jealous. Not that he was.
“Fine, Perrin.” Wil’s eyes slid away from his and bounced off the axe, a sickly expression oozing over his face. “Just fine.” Avoiding looking at Faile again, he hurried off to join the crowd around Verin.
Faile looked up at Perrin, pursing her lips, then took his beard with one hand and gently shook his head. “Perrin, Perrin, Perrin,” she murmured softly.
Perrin notes that everyone starts when they first see his eyes, but no one says anything about it, and they are soon ensconced in the house with tea and everyone crowding around to stare at them. Jac quiets everyone down and greets his guests, addressing Verin as “Mistress Mathwin” and Faile as “Lady Faile”, and advises them that they are welcome, but would do better to stay in one of the villages. In answer, Verin twitters about the interesting stories to be found in the countryside, and Faile thanks him gravely for his consideration; Perrin thinks to himself with amusement that she plays the lady very well, when she isn’t in a temper. Adine Lewin, though, brings up the wild stories she’s heard about Perrin and Mat and Rand, including that they went off with a dozen Aes Sedai and kidnapped “the al’Vere girl” while they were at it; everyone else shuts her up, and Jac tells Perrin that no one believes he is a Darkfriend (Adine clearly doesn’t agree), but he thinks they have a right to know why the Whitecloaks are after him and the other boys. Perrin replies that it doesn’t take much to make Whitecloaks decide you are a Darkfriend, and he doesn’t know why they think it of Rand and Mat, but as for himself, he killed some of them.
For a wonder, the gasps that rounded the room did not make him cringe inside, and neither did the thought of what he had done. “They killed a friend of mine and would have killed me. I didn’t see my way clear to let them. That’s the short of it.”
Despite this, and Adine’s protests aside, everyone else assures Perrin that he has a place to stay with them. Perrin’s throat gets tight, and he thanks them, but says he has things to do elsewhere. The conversation is then interrupted by a boy bursting in to tell everyone that Lord Luc is coming.
It is a measure of how much Perrin and most other people in WOT regard Aes Sedai as, basically, alien beings that he never even considers that Alanna’s moodiness may be a result of the fact that one of her Warders was just murdered. Even without knowing about what all the bond entails, it seems to me that even just losing someone you’ve known and worked with for a good amount of time, possibly decades, should be more than reason enough for some emotional turmoil, but no one seems to make the connection. I guess self-imposed mysteriousness becomes something of a snowball effect after a while.
Verin’s interest in Perrin’s hammer was one of the many things that made us all Very Suspicious of her, since it puts her in rather bad company, as besides Verin the only characters who refer to the axe/hammer choice are Ishamael and Lanfear (though Egwene did Dream about it). But as of KOD, of course, we know exactly why she is interested: she’s read the Prophecies of the Dragon. So, that’s one mystery cleared up, at least.
Perrin ‘n Faile: See, this part of it I can deal with. This is all perfectly normal (well, mostly normal) Uncertainty About the Relationship stuff: why is she smiling at that guy, what does that mean, what is she thinking, blah blah blah. I’m perfectly fine as long as it doesn’t include the S Word. I did get a laugh out of Perrin basically pissing a circle around Faile in front of Wil al’Seen, like, marking your territory much, Mr. Wolf? Heh.
Of course, the reason Perrin’s partially doing better in this bit because he happens to be following Abell’s advice about picking your battles, which is practically unique in the annals of “WOT characters giving advice about male/female relationships”, in that it’s actually a piece of advice I would follow. This is because Jordan rarely if ever plays the, er, device of advice in WOT straight. In other words, 98% of the time, the relationship advice various characters give to each other in the series is not meant to be good advice; rather, it’s used to highlight how little either gender really understands about the other, and how they therefore let their “wisdom” on the subject be informed instead by a generic and wildly unhelpful set of stereotypes and generalizations.
Which never, ever happens in the real world, of course. No siree.
But Abell’s counsel happens to be a rare exception to this rule. I’m not sure if this is by design or not, but you can see the results instantly in this chapter. We should mark it, not for its significance to the story as a whole, but because I think it only happens two or three times total in eleven books, so it deserves all the consideration we can give it, eh?
Chapter 33: A New Weave in the Pattern
Luc enters, tall and red-haired and arrogant, and Perrin despises him on sight. The farm people mob him, babbling and bowing and curtseying, and Perrin thinks disgustedly that this is the closest he’s ever seen Two Rivers folk come to fawning over someone. Luc gives a start at Verin’s Ageless face, which clues Perrin in that he knows an Aes Sedai when he sees one, but is surprised that he dismisses Tomas without a second glance even though it had to be obvious that Tomas was a Warder. Luc smiles far too warmly at Faile, and she half-glances at Perrin before blushing and asking Luc breathlessly if he really thinks the Horn is here. Perrin tries to pretend he doesn’t care about this. He is puzzled at Luc’s shocked reaction to seeing him, though.
It was not his yellow eyes that took Luc aback; he was sure of that. More as if the fellow knew him, somehow, and was surprised to see him here, but he had never met this Luc before in his life. More than that, he would have bet that Luc was afraid of him. No sense at all.
Jac tells Perrin proudly that it was Luc who suggested posting boys as lookouts on the rooftops, but Perrin is dryly skeptical of the usefulness of this; Flann Lewin argues that without Luc’s help the day before the Trolloc attack, everyone at his farm would have died, and Perrin counters that he thought Flann said the Whitecloaks rescued them. Luc pounces on this, insinuating that Perrin is a Whitecloak sympathizer, and using the opportunity to do some grandstanding, until Perrin informs him that the Whitecloaks want to hang him, actually. Luc blinks, and asks what Perrin is suggesting, then. Perrin makes a speech, telling the farm folk that as long as they are isolated in little clumps all over the countryside, they are easy pickings for either Trollocs or Whitecloaks; as long as they are at the mercy of one, they are at the mercy of both. He brings up the Cauthons and Luhhans, and asks if they really think the Whitecloaks will stop there. To Perrin’s surprise, instead of getting angry Jac asks what he suggests, then. He tells them to gather up their people and go to Emond’s Field or Watch Hill. If there are hundreds of them together, they can defend themselves without having to kowtow to Whitecloaks to do it. The farm folk begin yelling angrily, asking how they can leave their land and their livestock and etc.
Perrin’s fist smacking the lintel of the fireplace cut them short. “I haven’t seen a field trampled or fired, or a house or barn burned, unless there were people there. It’s people the Trollocs come for. And if they burn it anyway? A new crop can be planted. Stone and mortar and wood can be rebuilt. Can you rebuild that?” He pointed at Laila’s baby, and she clutched the child to her breast, glaring at him as though he had threatened the babe himself. The looks she gave her husband and Flann were frightened, though. An uneasy murmur rose.
As the farm folk discuss it amongst themselves, Luc comments that it is an interesting plan, and takes his leave, seeming upset that no one pays attention to his going. Jac comes over to Perrin and says that he talks sense, but he’s not sure what the Whitecloaks are going to think if he abandons his farm. Perrin answers that it hardly matters what the Whitecloaks think, if a whole village of people band together and tell them to get lost. Jac agrees, and so does everyone else; Jac tells Perrin that the whole group will head down to Emond’s Field tonight. He comments, though, that he worries about the Cauthons and the Luhhans getting the fallout from the move, and Perrin tells him he means to get them out. Jac goes off to pack, and Verin observes it is a very bold plan Perrin has; both she and Faile are studying him like they’ve never seen him before. Perrin mutters that Luc’s plan was clearly ridiculous, and Verin agrees, but adds that she has never seen “it” work before. Perrin doesn’t know what she is talking about.
“Perrin, when we arrived these people were ready to hold on here at all costs. You gave them good sense and strong emotion, but do you think the same from me would have shifted them, or from Tam, or Abell? Of any of us, you should know how stubborn Two Rivers people can be. You have altered the course events would have followed in the Two Rivers without you. With a few words spoken in… irritation? Ta’veren truly do pull other people’s lives into their own pattern. Fascinating. I do hope I have an opportunity to observe Rand again.”
She asks if Rand has the sword, and Perrin says he does. Then in an apparent non sequitur, she tells him to watch himself with Alanna; she says there are many designs in the White Tower, and though not all of them may be nefarious, it’s often difficult to tell until it’s too late. After she leaves, Faile tells Perrin she has been a fool, and confesses that she deliberately flirted a little with Luc because Perrin was so silly about Wil al’Seen. Perrin stumbles through several apparently wrong responses to this.
What did she want him to say? “Will you forgive me? When I was trying to chase you away, I said things I shouldn’t have. Will you forgive me that?”
“You said some things that need forgiving?” she said sweetly, and he knew he was in trouble. “I cannot think what, but I will take it into consideration.”
Perrin is relieved to get going, though Faile keeps trying to stick flowers in his beard, making him very nervous, but he is less thrilled that Wil al’Seen and three other boys (Ban, Tell, and Dannil) insist on coming along. He can’t talk them out of it, though, and they come along, almost getting themselves skewered when the Aiel suddenly rejoin the party a mile or so from Jac’s farm. Once the Aiel understand the situation they think it is hilarious, which unnerves the Two Rivers boys even more, though Wil tries smiling at Bain and Chiad. The two Aiel women nod at each other, and Perrin decides not to interfere unless it looks like Wil might get his throat cut. Perrin intends to head straight for Watch Hill, but sees another occupied farmstead and decides to try telling them the same as he had the al’Seen folk. He doesn’t expect it to work, but even though he doesn’t know the people there (the Torfinns), they listen too, and start packing to leave. Perrin stops at three more farms with similar results, and also each time Wil and the other boys recruit more young men to follow along, until there are thirteen more. They argue and jostle and generally make nuisances of themselves until Perrin finally rounds on them:
“This is not a game, and it isn’t a Bel Tine dance. You do what you’re told, or else go back home. I don’t know what use you are anyway, and I’ve no intention of getting killed because you think you know what you are doing. Now line up and shut up. You sound like the Women’s Circle meeting in a wardrobe.”
The boys obey, and both Faile and Tomas give Perrin approving nods; he doesn’t tell them or Verin that he just tried to think of what Uno would have said with the profanity edited out. They reach the Whitecloak camp without further incident, and Perrin tells the boys to stay quiet and still until he tells them otherwise, or else he’ll “pound [their] head like an anvil”. Faile, puzzled, asks him if he was ever a soldier, and Perrin laughs that he is just a blacksmith. He and Faile join Tam, Abell, the Aiel, Verin and Tomas in a thicket overlooking the camp. Perrin sees that most of it is shipshape, except for one section off to the side where badly pitched tents are placed erratically. Abell points out to Perrin where the Cauthons and Luhhans are being held; Perrin says he wants to think about this for a bit, and asks Tam to settle down Wil and the rest of the boys. Suddenly he realizes he is giving the older men orders, and tries to apologize, but Tam grins and tells him he took charge back at the al’Seen farm, and this isn’t the first time he’s followed a younger man who sees what’s to be done. He and Abell leave, and Verin comments that she is certainly interested to see what he will do next; he may not be shaking the world like Rand al’Thor, but the Two Rivers is definitely on the move. Perrin tells her irritably that he means to free the Cauthons and Luhhans, and that’s all. She agrees affably and moves off; Faile glares after her, and then asks Perrin challengingly if he means to do this tonight. Perrin looks at Gaul, who nods and comments he doesn’t think much of the Whitecloaks’ ability to detect them; Chiad starts making fun of him, until Bain stops her with a hand on her arm. Perrin knows that their committal to the foray is dependent on Faile, and thinks he likely couldn’t stop Faile from following on her own anyway, and tells her she will stay close to him; she giggles that that sounds like a fine idea, and flips a plaited chain of flowers onto his head. They eat and wait until dark, and Perrin instructs the Aiel to try not to kill anyone if they can help it.
“Have a care,” Verin told him softly as he slung his bow across his back. “Ta’veren does not mean immortal.”
The Aiel head off, and Perrin and Faile sneak on their own trajectory to the camp. They slip past the sentries and are almost to the prison tent when he hears a grunt from Faile, and turns to be knocked down by a giant Whitecloak, who then begins strangling him. Perrin tries to fight him, but is losing consciousness when Faile clubs the Whitecloak with a chunk of firewood and knocks him out.
“He did not think I was worth worrying about, beyond knocking down,” she whispered.
“A fool,” Perrin whispered back. “But a strong one.” He was going to have the feel of those fingers at his neck for days. “Are you all right?”
“Of course. I am not a porcelain figurine.”
He supposed she was not, at that.
They bind the man and steal his cloak, and reach the prison tent in time to see Gaul take out the far guard, and Bain and Chiad kick the near one unconscious without a sound. They almost go for Perrin, in the stolen cloak, until they see Faile; Perrin tries not to feel disgruntled that she had essentially just saved him a second time. Perrin enters the tent, wakes Haral and tells him quietly to get the women up and out. They come out, and Perrin drapes Haral and Alsbet in more stolen cloaks, and then they all head casually for the horse picket lines. They just manage to get everyone except the Aiel mounted when the alarm goes up, and Perrin shouts for everyone to ride. They thunder off crazily, but manage to keep together and meet up with the rest of the party in the woods. Alsbet recognizes Perrin at this point and starts criticizing his beard, and looks shocked when he cuts her off:
“Tam, Abell, take Master Luhhan and the women to that hiding place you know. Gaul, you go with them. And Faile.” That would add Bain and Chiad. “And Hu and Haim.” That should be enough to be safe. “Move quietly. Quiet is better than speed, for a little while anyway. But go now.”
No one argues, not even Faile, and Perrin belatedly realizes he just called Tam and Abell by their first names. Tam and the rest he named leave, and Perrin asks Verin if there’s any chance of help from her.
“Not the way you mean, perhaps,” she replied calmly, as though the Whitecloak camp were not in turmoil just a mile off. “My reasons are no different today than yesterday. But I think it might rain in… oh… half an hour. Maybe less. Quite a downpour, I expect.”
Perrin tells the rest of the boys that they are going to be a diversion to draw the Whitecloaks off so Tam and the rest can get away. He leads them off, all bellowing at the top of their lungs, until they are far from the camp. Wil asks Perrin what they’re going to do now. Perrin shouts back that they hunt Trollocs.
Damn, this was a long chapter. But a thoroughly awesome one, for many reasons. Here we finally get to see Perrin’s ta’veren-ness go full bore, which reads like a wish-fulfillment fantasy for anyone who’s ever been in charge of trying to make a bunch of non-contractually-obligated people all move in the same direction at the same time. I would have killed for some of that mojo back in my film school days, I can tell you.
Also, of course, this sequence represents one of the classic fantasy tropes, of the young green farmboy discovering himself as a Leader of Men. Done to death? Yeah, but sometimes I say you can’t have too much of a good thing. This is one of my favorites, personally. Even though I love the irony of it, because letting an eighteen-year-old hotshot take the wheel is generally a very bad idea in the real world, but you know within the genre it is invariably the only correct procedure to follow.
The other reason this chapter rocks my socks is because the women kick so much ass in it. Literally. As you may have noticed, I have issues with the Perrin/Faile Thing, but I do like that Faile is actually really not a porcelain figurine, and manages to pull her weight in the Badass department while being one of the few mundanes in the main cast. (At least until it all goes to crap in Ghealdan, but we’re not there yet! Live in the moment!)
Although I am compelled to ask: are they equals, truly, though, as the rescue mission in this chapter is clearly intended to show?
Well, no. Faile is very competent and skilled and etc., but she is still ultimately an adjunct to Perrin, both as a character and literally within the story.
This is one of those things that people are going to accuse me of sour grapes for pointing out, because duh, Perrin is the main(er) character, not Faile; of course she is less central than he is. To which I say: exactly.
Relax, I do not propose to throw the baby out with the bathwater here, and you know I love our Hero Trio, but for all the cool progressive gender stuff that WOT does, it is still important to note that at the end of the day, for all the strong female roles in the cast, the apex of the Character Pyramid is still three boys. It’s not a bad thing, necessarily, but it is a Thing, and I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge it.
But at least Bain and Chiad got to kick a Whitecloak in the face. Whoo!
Verin: sneakiness quotient still high. In the real world she would totally be that cool and yet slightly unnerving high school biology teacher who knows everything and seems very scattered and harmless, except for that nagging feeling you have that if a student keeled over dead in the classroom her first reaction would be to bust out the scalpel and microscope and make a lesson out of it.
Also, her little “oh, it might rain” line makes me laugh every time. So, so sneaky.
Luc: I remember being so confused about what the hell was going on with the whole Slayer thing initially. In fact I never figured it out on my own; it wasn’t until I first read the WOTFAQ that I was like “Ohhhh”. It’s a great example of subtlety with mystery-building, because the clues necessary to put the thing together are scattered everywhere in the text thus far, in situations that seem on first reading to have absolutely nothing to do with each other. Very nicely done, I must say.
Although even now I still don’t really understand why Luc is evil. No one else seems to, either; up until Winter’s Heart, in fact, pretty much everyone believed that Luc as a person was not even there. The prevailing theory, as I recall, was that Luc and Isam met up in the Blight or whatever, Isam somehow killed Luc’s soul or personality or something, and was now walking around wearing his body. So it was assumed he looked like Luc in the real world and Isam in the Dreamworld, but Isam was the same personality in both bodies.
However, WH and KOD show this is totally not the case, so now I’m just kind of scratching my head about it. Isam being a Darkfriend I can understand, given his family history, but what the hell is Luc’s problem? Was he just so pissed at Gitara sending him off into the wild blue yonder that he was like Screw you guys, I’m taking my toys and going to the Dark Side, nyah! I dun geddit.
All righty then, that’ll do me. We’re back to Rand-and-Aiel-tasticness next week. I hope you have a pleasant and sunshiny weekend, chirren. See you Monday!