The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: The Path of Daggers, Part 6

Greetings, and welcome back to the Wheel of Time Re-read!

Today’s entry’s gonna be a short one, for which I trust the phrase “helping a friend move into a fifth-floor walkup apartment” is more than adequate explanation. Also, ow.

Ergo, today’s entry covers Chapter 9 of The Path of Daggers, in which I accuse us all of secretly being dirty, dirty monarchists. The nerve of me!

Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index is here, in which you can find links to news, reviews, and all manner of information regarding the newest release, The Gathering Storm, and for WOT-related stuff in general.

This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels, up to and including Book 12, The Gathering Storm. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.

And now, the post!

Chapter 9: Tangles

 

What Happens
The next morning, Perrin actually shivers a little while dressing, though he thinks he must be imagining it. Faile sends her new servants in to clean the tent as soon as he comes out; Perrin is pleased that Maighdin and Breane don’t curtsy to him, but Lini is not pleased at all. Faile heads off with Balwer and Gill. The camp is stirring, and Perrin notes Grady and Neald off to the side practicing sword forms, which he thinks is better than their evening practice, which obviously involves saidin even if no one ever sees anything. Perrin tries to get his own breakfast, but Flann Barstere brings him porridge with profuse apologies for being late. Perrin sighs and heads to the Two Rivers section of the camp (Aram in inevitable tow), where he makes a point of saying a word or two to each man, and making sure they’re keeping themselves in good repair, even though their gestures of obeisance make him grind his teeth.

It was very strange. Having Mistress Luhhan or his mother tell him he needed new boots or his breeches mended had always been embarrassing, and he was sure he would have been irritated at the same from anybody else, but from grizzled old Jondyn Barran on down, the Two Rivers men just said “Why, right you are, Lord Perrin; I’ll see to it straight away” or some such. He caught a number of them grinning at one another when he moved on. And they smelled pleased! When he rooted a clay jar of pear brandy out of Jori Congar’s saddlebags […], Jori gave him a wide-eyed look and spread his hands as if he did not know where the jar had come from. But as Perrin walked on, emptying the brandy onto the ground, Jori laughed, “You can’t put anything over on Lord Perrin!” He sounded proud! Sometimes, Perrin thought he was the only sane person left.

The men do not miss the fact that Perrin hasn’t ordered the banners to come down for once; he watches the speculation grow among them and hopes it was the right choice. He thinks of checking on his horses, but when he looks toward the horse lines he sees three of the farriers looking at him anxiously, and thinks of how they freak out if tries to do anything with Stepper or Stayer. To his surprise, Aram suddenly pipes up to tell him that they think a lord who looks after his own horses does so because he doesn’t trust his farriers, and it embarrasses them as well. Perrin thinks that Faile had said the same thing, but that he hadn’t really believed her, and growls in frustration. He meets up with Basel Gill, who tells him that the Lady Faile is sending him (and Tallanvor and Lamgwin) into town for supplies. Perrin asks why Balwer isn’t going; Balwer appears and tells him that he is to be Perrin and Faile’s secretary, and then pointedly kicks Gill out of the conversation. Gill leaves reluctantly, and Balwer then tells Perrin that he can offer other services as well; he understands that Perrin has had some difficulties with the Children, and Balwer knows a “surprising” amount about them. Perrin answers that it would be better if Balwer knew about the Seanchan or the Prophet, and to his surprise Balwer tells him that he does not think the Seanchan have moved beyond Amador yet, and the Prophet was most recently seen in a town called Abila. He smells very pleased with himself, and Perrin assumes he is trying to build up his own importance. He thanks Balwer politely and turns away, but Balwer stops him and warns him not to underestimate the Children.

“They are much closer than the Seanchan. Eamon Valda, the new Lord Captain Commander, led most of their numbers toward northern Amadicia before Amador fell. He was hunting the Prophet, also, my Lord. Valda is a dangerous man, and Rhadam Asunawa, the Grand Inquisitor, makes Valda seem pleasant. And I fear neither has any love for your own Lord. Forgive me.” He bowed again, hesitated, then went on smoothly. “If I may say so, my Lord’s display of Manetheren’s banner is inspired. My Lord will be more than a match for Valda and Asunawa, if he takes care.”

Balwer heads off, and Perrin decides he must have a grudge of some kind against the Whitecloaks, though he is impressed that Balwer had divined the purpose behind the banners. Gill, Maighdin, Lini and Tallanvor have been watching this exchange with worry, and Perrin supposes they are concerned that Balwer was disparaging them in confidence. He tells Aram to go talk to them and casually mention what Balwer actually said to Perrin; Aram is reluctant, but when he finds out Perrin is going to the Aiel camp, agrees with little reluctance to stay behind. Perrin is not very enthused about going to see the Wise Ones himself, and instead wanders over to the Mayener camp first. Havien Nurelle and most of the officers come running, nervous about why he’s there, and Perrin (who doesn’t really have a reason) tells them he’s just looking around. They follow him, wincing whenever he comes upon a perceived flaw, but Perrin thinks the camp looks in near-perfect order to him. Feeling foolish, he rushes through the camp, leaving confusion behind him. Nurelle even more nervously brings up the fact that he’s seen the two Aes Sedai doing chores, and possibly overheard them being punished, and wants to know if Perrin will check on them. Perrin is not at all enthused about the idea, but says he will. Then Nurelle mentions that he heard Perrin let the Red Eagle stay; Perrin is startled at how quickly word got around, but tries to drop a few hints to encourage the cover story. Then he realizes that every last person in the Mayener camp is watching him with their officers, wondering what he was saying.

Raising his voice enough to carry, he said, “The Winged Guards will do Mayene proud if we ever face another Dumai’s Wells.” Those were the first words that came to mind, but he winced at saying them.

To his shock, shouting rose straight away among the soldiers, cheering, “Perrin Goldeneyes!” and “Mayene for Goldeneyes!” and “Goldeneyes and Manetheren!” Men danced and capered, and some snatched lances from the stacks to shake them so the red streamers waved in the breeze. Grizzled bannermen watched them with arms folded, nodding approval. Nurelle beamed, and not only him. Officers with gray in their hair and scars on their faces grinned like boys praised at their lessons. Light, he was the only sane man left! He prayed never to see another battle!

He heads to the Aiel camp, where Sulin comes over and congratulates him for no longer making the Wise Ones come to him; that hadn’t been Perrin’s intention in avoiding them, but he just tells Sulin he wants to see Edarra about the Aes Sedai. Sulin drily revises her opinion of his lack of foolishness.

Turning, she paused. “Tell me something. Teryl Wynter and Furen Alharra are close to Seonid Traighan—like first-brothers with a first-sister; she does not like men as men—yet they offered to take her punishment for her. How could they shame her so?”

Perrin is speechless; Sulin supposes he is shocked for the same reason she is, and disappointed, shows him to the Wise Ones tent. Inside, he is dismayed to find all six Wise Ones waiting for him. As soon as he is seated, Edarra immediately renews their previous argument, that Perrin must kill Masema; the dreamwalkers have seen that he is a danger to the Car’a’carn, and therefore must die. Perrin answers that if they could just give him an idea of what kind of danger, it would help; he certainly agrees Masema is crazy, but it will not help Rand’s cause to go around killing people who are on his own side. Edarra dismisses this as irrelevant, and Perrin changes the subject to Seonid and Masuri, pointing out that showing Rand has Aes Sedai loyal to him is not helped by people seeing them be beaten; the Wise Ones tell him it is none of his business, and then Edarra tells Seonid to stop eavesdropping and come in. Seonid enters and stiffly asks permission to speak to Perrin; upon receiving it, she tells him angrily that he will forget what he’s seen and heard, and stay out of it. Perrin grows angry and shouts back at her.

“Don’t you know these women would as soon cut your throat as look at you? Slit your throat and leave you by the side of the road! Well, I promised myself I wouldn’t let that happen! I don’t like you, but I promised to protect you from the Wise Ones, or the Asha’man, or Rand himself, so come down off that high horse!”

Seonid is even more outraged, but Edarra shuts her up, and Janina asks in amazement why he thinks they want to kill her. Perrin can’t explain about what he smelled, but answers he knows how they feel about Aes Sedai since Dumai’s Wells. Shocked, Nevarin tells him that Wise Ones do not kill apprentices; the Car’a’carn may not have meant it literally when he told them to apprentice the Aes Sedai, but the Wise Ones take it seriously, and they are treated no differently than any other apprentice. Edarra tells Seonid to tell Perrin her advice concerning Masema, and Seonid tells him she agrees with the Wise Ones; she’s seen what his followers do, and “even a faithful dog must be put down if it begins to foam at the mouth.” Perrin asks how he can even let her in sight of the man now, and points out that she knows that’s not what Rand wants. He asks if Masuri feels the same, and Seonid says she does, and furthermore that her oath to the Dragon Reborn demands that she keep this “animal” from him, both physically and from ruining Rand’s reputation among rulers to be seen embracing him.

“Masuri Sokawa,” Nevarin said calmly, “believes the rabid dog can be leashed and bound so he may be used safely.” For an instant, Seonid looked as surprised as Perrin felt, but she recovered quickly. Outside, she did; her scent was suddenly wary, as if she sensed a trap where she had not expected one.

“She also wishes to fit you for a halter, Perrin Aybara,” Carelle added, even more casually. “She thinks you must be bound also, to make you safe.” Nothing on her freckled face told whether she agreed.

Edarra then kicks a frustrated Seonid out, and the Wise Ones tell Perrin if he wishes to put a rabid animal next to the Car’a’carn, he’ll have to convince them. Perrin briefly considers making a run for it, but grimly settles down to argue his case.

Commentary
This chapter is something of an analogue to the chapter “A Different Dance” in LOC, where we got to see a “slice of life” of Mat and the Band. Although Mat is admittedly having something of a better time in that chapter than Perrin is in this, I like both chapters for pretty much the same reasons: both of them show how, in different ways, both Mat and Perrin have grown to be Leaders of Men. Whether they admit it or not.

Of course, Perrin is being a bit more emo about it than Mat (try to contain your shock), but I still very much enjoyed the details of his interactions with his men, and how their responses to him show what kind of person he is much more accurately than his own picture of himself does. (Especially the Mayeners, who are much more reliably responding that way in a genuine fashion, as opposed to the Duopotamians, who could conceivably be acting out of hometown loyalty, even though I think it’s pretty clearly more than that.)

Something that is both believable and frustrating about Perrin (well, many of Our Heroes, actually, but Perrin takes it to an extreme) is the slowness with which he can bring himself to accept something that runs counter to the way he thinks things should be. Which is why he’s still yelling at people not to call him “Lord Perrin” about three hundred years after he should have given it up as a bad job, and more importantly is why he still refuses (at this point) to understand why he’s continually at cultural loggerheads with his wife.

Frustrating, most definitely, but I can’t entirely blame him for it. Anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock their entire life has had the experience of running into beliefs/attitudes/opinions that are so contrary to their own that simply accepting that the other person actually thinks or feels that way is incredibly difficult, much less admitting that that view may have as much validity as your own—or at least that your not accepting the other viewpoint is not likely to do much to change it.

Although, if everyone believed that last bit, we’d still have slavery and no voting rights for women, just for example, so I dunno. And actually, the viewpoints in conflict here (feudalism vs. more-or-less-egalitarianism), is a contest where in the real world, the side Perrin’s fighting against (feudalism) has lost, resoundingly.

A whole discussion could be had, then, over whether Perrin is actually right to stick to his guns in refusing to buy into the whole lord/underling thing, and if so, why no one in the readership seems to agree. Maybe this is an over-generalization, but it’s certainly my read that the fans at large almost universally want him to just accept it, from either an expedience/plot motion standpoint or (perhaps) a vicarious wish-fullfillment thing. But it’s interesting that we all seem to feel this way, considering that most if not all WOT readers live in some form of modern republic state that either expressly or tacitly rejects this very feudal mindset—and that most of us (I’d venture to guess) are pretty okay with that.

And yet, we all want Perrin (and Mat, and Rand) to just shut up and be lords (or kings) already. Veddy interestink, no?

Anyway. Other notes on this chapter:

Balwer: Still one of the cooler minor characters in WOT, and one I was glad to see found a way to still be relevant after Niall was killed. Perrin initially underestimates him here (understandably, I think), but I do think he’s right that Balwer’s main motivation in throwing his loyalty so thoroughly to Perrin is for revenge. It’s just revenge against Valda (and Asunawa) in particular, instead of the Children in general (as Perrin thinks). Valda being among the frontrunners for Largest Tool in Randland, this is a gameplan I can get behind.

Aram: His insight about the farriers may not be the absolute last time he does anything useful for Perrin, but I can’t recall anything else offhand to supplant it. Blargle. We’ll see, I suppose.

Seonid: I’m kind of eyebrow-raisy about what Sulin said regarding Seonid, which is that she “does not like men as men.” I don’t recall ever noticing this comment before, but it certainly caught my eye this time around. Are we supposed to infer from this that Seonid is gay?

Not that this is a problem—quite the opposite, in fact; I’m thrilled, actually, to finally find a non-evil gay character in WOT, even if in such an oblique manner that you’ll miss it if your eye twitches while reading that paragraph—if, in fact, that’s what Sulin meant.

If that is what she meant, though, I’m just a tad puzzled as to how exactly Sulin would know this. I’m just having trouble buying that either Seonid or Masuri would have been in the habit of confiding their personal romantic profiles to Sulin. Or any other Aiel. Or, actually, anyone not Aes Sedai. And probably not most of them, either. So how did Sulin know, if that’s what she meant?

Well. Possibly, of course, that isn’t what she meant at all, and was just saying that Seonid wasn’t interested in romance, full stop (though this implies rather heteronormative bias on Sulin’s part, heh).

*shrug* Or, maybe her gaydar is just that good. Who knows.

Wise Ones: Oh, if only Perrin had listened to you on this one, ladies (and Seonid, who actually makes a very good point re: Rand’s reputation). Alas, the killin’ o’ Masema is a long, long, long way in our futures. Le sigh.


And here’s where we part ways for the nonce, chickadees. Be as excellent as always to each other in the comments, and party on until Friday!

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