The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: The Path of Daggers, Part 7

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Chapter 10: Changes


What Happens
Perrin emerges from the Wise Ones’ tent, exhausted and dissatisfied with their vague-at-best promises not to take any independent action against Masema; they had yielded no ground on the Aes Sedai at all. Perrin sees Masuri beating a rug as her Warder Rovair watches glumly; Masuri glares at Perrin malevolently, and Perrin sighs. He turns to go, and stops when he sees Gaul approach with a man Perrin hadn’t seen in a very long time. Elyas Machera says it’s good to see Perrin again, and asks if he ever gave away that axe. Perrin answers that he still hates it, and asks what Elyas is doing with Gaul. Gaul comments that he did not know Elyas was behind him until he coughed, which silences the nearby Maidens; Perrin expects them to make fun of Gaul, but instead they rattle their spears in approval.

Elyas grunted ambiguously and tugged his hat down, yet he smelled pleased. The Aiel did not approve of much this side of the Dragonwall. “I like to keep moving,” he told Perrin, “and I just happened to be in Ghealdan when some mutual friends told me you were traveling with this parade.” He did not name the mutual friends; it was unwise to speak openly about talking to wolves. “Told me a lot of things. Told me they smell a change coming. They don’t know what. Maybe you do. I hear you’ve been running with the Dragon Reborn.”

It hadn’t occurred to Perrin to ask the wolves about more than where people were so as to avoid them, but he answers the whole world is changing, even aside from Rand. Gaul looks at them both, no doubt comparing their eyes, but only says he will leave old friends to catch up, and exchanges jokes with the Maidens about Bain and Chiad before heading off. Elyas suggests moving away from “the sister trying to murder that rug,” as Aes Sedai make him uneasy, and hopes there aren’t going to be more with Perrin than the three he already has; Perrin hopes not, and asks if Elyas is worried about meeting a sister who knows him.

“One who knows my name will be bad enough. Warders don’t run off often, boy. Most Aes Sedai will free a man who really wants to go—most will—and anyway, she can track you down however far you run if she decides to hunt. But any sister who finds a renegade will spend her idle moments making him wish he’d never been born.” […] “Worst thing would be to run into Rina. I’d rather be caught in a forest fire with both legs broken.”

Perrin says he thought the bond would let Elyas know where Rina is, and Elyas answers that some Aes Sedai can “fuzz” the bond, and laughs at Perrin’s surprise, pointing out that there are some times you wouldn’t want someone else in your head, after all. He comments that he was surprised to find out Perrin had married a Saldaean, and Perrin asks why. Elyas answers, because Perrin is “a quiet sort”, and he’s no doubt figured out by now that Saldaeans are anything but quiet: “Set the sun on fire one minute, and the next, it’s all blown away and forgotten.” He reminisces fondly about the tempestuous year he lived with a Saldaean woman, and Perrin insists weakly that Faile isn’t like that.

Elyas glanced at him sideways. “If I ever smelled a man trying to dodge hail… You’ve been giving her soft words all the time, haven’t you? Mild as milk-water and never lay your ears back? Never raise your voice to her?”

“Of course not!” Perrin protested. “I love her! Why would I shout at her?”

Elyas begins muttering to himself over the folly of sticking your nose in other people’s marriages, but Perrin insists that he explain himself, and Elyas tells him he knows Saldaeans, and practically none are “mild-mannered.”.He bets Faile is “a leopard,” and tells Perrin to quit growling, as he also bets she’d smile to be called that. Perrin realizes he’s right, but answers that Elyas can’t possibly be suggesting that Faile wants him to shout at her.

“Just hear me out. Most women, you raise your voice, and they go bulge-eyed or ice, and next thing you know, you’re arguing about you being angry, never mind what put the ember down your back in the first place. Swallow your tongue with a Saldaean, though, and to her, you’re saying she isn’t strong enough to stand up to you. Insult her like that, and you’re lucky she doesn’t feed you your own gizzard for breakfast. She’s no Far Madding wench, to expect a man to sit where she points and jump when she snaps her fingers. She’s a leopard, and she expects her husband to be a leopard, too. Light! I don’t know what I’m doing. Giving a man advice about his wife is a good way to get your innards spilled.”

Elyas changes the subject to say that he thought Perrin could use another friend at his back, which is why he came. Perrin answers distractedly that he could always use a friend, wondering if what he’d said about Faile could possibly be true. They are interrupted by four riders entering camp: Berelain, Annoura, Gallenne, and a woman in a hooded cloak, who all go straight to Perrin’s tent and hurry inside. The camp is astir in speculation, and Perrin supposes Berelain has brought a messenger from Alliandre. He excuses himself to Elyas.

“Later, we’ll talk about what lies south. And you can meet Faile,” he added before turning away.

“The Pit of Doom lies south,” the other man called after him, “or as close to it as I expected to see below the Blight.” Perrin imagined he heard that faint thunder in the west again. Now, that would be a pleasant change.

In the tent, Lini, Breane and Maighdin are serving everyone refreshments while Faile, Berelain, and Annoura hover over the strange woman, who does not blink at Perrin’s eyes. Berelain immediately introduces Perrin to her as “Lord Perrin Aybara of the Two Rivers, in Andor, the personal friend and emissary of the Dragon Reborn,” and the woman to Perrin as “Alliandre Maritha Kigarin, Queen of Ghealdan, Blessed of the Light, Defender of Garen’s Wall.” Perrin’s mouth almost drops open, but he gets a hold of himself and bows after too long a pause, thinking he has no idea how to deal with a queen. Alliandre tells him she thought she should come to him, and mentions that four days ago Illian fell to the Dragon Reborn, and he was crowned its king. Faile whispers “And seven days gone, the Seanchan took Ebou Dar,” so low that only Perrin hears her; Perrin is confused, but repeats her words aloud, trying not to be shaken by the news. This startles Berelain and Annoura, but not Alliandre, who comments that he is very well informed. Perrin smells that she is fearful and uncertain under her cool façade, and admires her ability to hide it. Faile makes a comment about the usefulness of merchants in spreading information, and Perrin realizes she is telling him that Rand knows about Ebou Dar.

Could Faile really want him to…? No, it was unthinkable. Blinking, he realized he had missed something Alliandre had said. “Your pardon, Alliandre,” he said politely. “I was thinking about Rand—the Dragon Reborn.” Of course it was unthinkable!

Everyone stared at him, even Lini and Maighdin and Breane. Annoura’s eyes had gone wide, and Gallenne’s mouth hung open. Then it hit him. He had just called the Queen by name.

Alliandre is the only one who doesn’t seem surprised, and merely repeats that she thought coming to him in secret was the best course. Trying not to “act the hayfoot” again, Perrin answers carefully that the secrecy was wise, but sooner or later she will have to come into the open, “one way or another.” He asks why she came in person at all, when a letter would have sufficed.

“Will you declare for Rand or not? Either way, have no fear about getting back to Bethal safely.” A good point, that. Whatever else frightened her, being here alone must.

Faile, Berelain, and Annoura are all watching him intently, and he wonders if they all think he’s going to mess up again. Alliandre meanwhile avoids his main question and answers that she wanted to see Perrin in person to get the measure of him, in lieu of meeting the Dragon Reborn himself. She also mentions seeing his banners; Perrin scowls and replies they are meant to be seen, and assures her there are no plans to raise Manetheren in Ghealdan. He asks again for her decision, telling her Rand can have a hundred thousand soldiers there in the blink of an eye, and Alliandre again dodges the question, bringing up the rumors about Artur Hawkwing’s armies returned, Aiel sacking villages in the area, and the Tower broken. Annoura tells her sharply that the latter is Aes Sedai business; Alliandre flinches at her tone, but watches Perrin, and he wonders if she wants reassurances from him. He tells her the only Aiel in Ghealdan are with him, Rand has already dealt with the Seanchan once and can do so again, and the rebel Aes Sedai support Rand. He invites her to sit and be comfortable, and sits down himself. No one else moves for a moment, and Perrin asks Faile to speak to Alliandre about “the right way to go”; Faile smiles but stays silent.

Abruptly Alliandre put out her cup to one side without looking, as if expecting a tray to be there. One was, barely in time to catch the cup, and Maighdin, who held it, muttered something Perrin hoped Faile had not heard. Faile was death on servants using that sort of language. He started to rise as Alliandre approached him, but to his shock, she knelt gracefully in front of him, catching his hands with hers. Before he knew what she was doing, she twisted so her hands were back-to-back between his palms. She clung so hard her hands must have hurt; for sure, he was not certain he could loose himself without hurting her.

“Under the Light,” she said firmly, looking up at him, “I, Alliandre Maritha Kigarin, pledge my fealty and service to Lord Perrin Aybara of the Two Rivers, now and for all time, save that he chooses to release me of his own will. My lands and throne are his, and I yield them to his hand. So I do swear.”

Gallenne and Annoura (and Perrin) are stunned, but Faile immediately begins whispering the ritual phrases that accept her pledge, while Berelain nods at him furiously to accept as well. Perrin ignores them both and asks Alliandre why, pointing out that he’s been told he’s ta’veren, and she might reconsider this later. Alliandre laughs shakily and replies she hopes very much that he is ta’veren, as nothing else will save Ghealdan; she cannot protect her country, so her duty demands she find someone who can. She would have sworn to the Dragon Reborn if she could have, but in swearing to Perrin, she swears to him. She begs him to please accept.

This was everything Rand could want and more, but Perrin Aybara was just a blacksmith. He was! Could he still tell himself that if he did this thing? Alliandre stared up at him pleadingly. Did ta’veren work on themselves, he wondered. “Under the Light, I, Perrin Aybara, accept your pledge…”

Afterwards Alliandre kisses his hands in relief, embarrassing Perrin terribly, and he realizes he doesn’t know what to do next. Faile and Berelain are beaming at him, but Annoura is still in shock (and so is Maighdin). Perrin abruptly changes the subject to the Prophet, and Alliandre confirms Balwer’s intelligence that Masema is in Abila, to Perrin’s surprise. Faile then gently kicks Perrin out of the tent, and Perrin bows to Alliandre and leaves, taking Gallenne with him. Outside Gallenne exclaims that now he’s seen ta’veren work for true; Perrin hears a commotion from the Mayener section of camp, and he and Gallenne head off to see what the problem is.

Faile uses the excuse of hustling the servants (including a still-staring Maighdin) out of the tent to make a discreet hand signal to the Cha Faile members nearby, whereupon they casually spread out so that no one can approach the tent without letting them alert her first; she’s mostly worried that Perrin will decide to come back and try to make Alliandre comfortable with her vow. Berelain comes up and makes a snide remark about the quality of the servants Faile’s found, incidentally mentioning that one of them is a very weak wilder, according to Annoura; Faile files that information away and coolly replies that she always thought Berelain was “fit for hiring servants.” Berelain’s not sure how to take that, and Faile asks Annoura to ward them against eavesdropping, very satisfied at Berelain’s pique that Annoura obliges her.

Childishly satisfying, Faile admitted, when she should be focused on the matter at hand. She almost bit her lip in aggravation. She did not doubt her husband’s love, but she could not treat Berelain as the woman deserved, and that forced her, against her will, to play a game with Perrin too often as the gaming board. And the prize, so Berelain believed. If only Perrin did not sometimes behave as if he might be.

Alliandre remarks to Faile that her husband’s “bluff exterior” hides a sharp skill at Daes Dae’mar, and that she has never been maneuvered so quickly to a decision; Faile conceals her amusement, thinking that southlanders were so steeped in the Game of Houses that Perrin’s simple honesty always confused them. She answers that it is clear Alliandre does not want to return to Bethal, and asks if her oath to Perrin and vice versa isn’t enough. Berelain and Annoura silently close ranks with her opposite Alliandre; she is a bit surprised that the Aes Sedai is playing along, but not that Berelain is.

In a way, that irritated her. Once she had despised Berelain; she still hated her, deep and hot, but grudging respect had replaced contempt. The woman knew when their “game” had to be put aside. If not for Perrin, Faile thought she might actually have liked her! Briefly, to extinguish that hateful thought, she pictured herself shaving Berelain bald.

Alliandre affects unconcern, and replies to Faile that she means to keep her oath, but had hoped for more; she will be vulnerable once Perrin leaves, and Masema will be displeased if he learns of her oath. Faile tells her that if she wants more, she should give more, and says that Alliandre should accompany them south to meet with Masema. Alliandre is aghast at the notion, but Faile tells her it isn’t a request. Alliandre is astounded, but finally stammers that she will obey, and Faile is grimly gratified that her instincts about Alliandre were correct. Faile then tells her that she should write to her nobles and tell them a man in the south has raised the banner of Manetheren; Alliandre points out that half of them will immediately tell Masema this news. Faile agrees, and says Alliandre will also write Masema with the same information, and tell him she is gathering men to deal with the problem. Annoura is impressed, commenting that no one will know who is who, and Berelain laughs in delight.

“My Lady,” Alliandre breathed, “I said that my Lord Perrin is formidable. May I add that his wife is every bit as formidable?”

Faile tried not to bask too visibly. Now she had to send word to her people in Bethal. In a way, she regretted that. Explaining to Perrin would have been more than difficult, but even he could not have kept his temper if she had kidnapped the Queen of Ghealdan.

Gallenne and Perrin push through a crowd of Mayener soldiers to find some of their scouts leading seven ragged prisoners; the scouts have burns and smell of smoke, and one of them explains that they had come across a mob burning a farm, with the people still inside.

“A woman tried to get out a window, and one of these scum bashed her head in. Knowing how Lord Aybara feels, we put a stop to it. We were too late to save anybody, but we caught these seven. The rest got away.”

One of the prisoners says that people are often tempted by the Shadow, and must be “reminded of the cost”, and threatens dire retribution on them if they lay a hand on any of the Prophet’s men.

“Hang them,” Perrin said. Again, he heard that thunder.

He makes himself watch the executions. Aram asks hesitantly if the Lord Dragon will approve of this, suggesting perhaps the farm people were serving the Shadow; Perrin stares at him in shock, and tells him Rand would have ordered the same as he did. To himself, he hopes he’s right. Suddenly thunder peals right above them, and a few raindrops fall. It only lasts a few moments, but everyone is astonished, and Aram asks if this means the weather is changing at last.

“I don’t know,” [Perrin] said. What was it Gaul had said? “Everything changes, Aram.” He had just never thought that he would have to change, too.

Okay, so I may be something of a dumbass, because I was CONVINCED, for some reason, that this scene with Alliandre took place in Winter’s Heart.

I have no idea why I thought this was the case, as it makes no goddamn sense when you consider that Alliandre was right along for the kidnapping fun with Faile et al, and that could only logically be after Faile had forcibly attached Alliandre to her entourage. Which means this scene had to take place before all that. Duh.

I dunno. The only reason I can come up for why I was sure this was somewhere else is because I love this scene, and therefore subconsciously decided it couldn’t be in my least favorite WOT book. Because that’s just crazy talk!

Except, well. Here it is. Mea culpa, and alla that. I think we can take this as proof that from TPOD on my memory for what happens in WOT is officially Sketchy.

Anyway. This is the kind of scene that Jordan does so often and well that I think I have to accuse him of being the reason why I like this kind of scene in the first place. I’ve said many times before that one of my favorite things in fiction is to get the outsider’s perspective on a character we know well, but really there are very few sf authors I can think of offhand (Lois Bujold is one, and Steven Brust as well) who pull off so well getting across that outsider’s perspective while the story is being told from the well-known character’s POV. It’s a nice trick if you can do it, and apparently not many can.

And honestly one of the most fun bits about it was Maighdin/Morgase’s barely-noticed reaction. Yeah, I imagine having a queen show up and swear fealty to this guy would be beyond shocking to Morgase. In one way it would have been nice to have her POV reaction to the scene, but in another it’s more interesting to just imagine what’s going through her mind.

One thing I didn’t really realize the first time around but definitely noted this time, is how much of what Perrin says (in all innocence) to Alliandre can be construed from an alternative perspective to be downright threatening. The line about her having no fear about getting back to Bethal safely, for instance, or when he mentions how quickly Rand can have an army there. I mean, we know that Perrin was just trying to reassure her, but from an outside POV, yikes.

Faile: My earlier mini-epiphany re: Faile has done a bit to ease my irritation with her, but I still have to say she is an extremely confusing character to keep track of when it comes to logic and motivations. Why can’t she “treat Berelain as she deserved,” again? And what way is that, exactly? Shaving her bald, I suppose? And why is it that she feels forced to play this “game” with/for/on Perrin? What are the rules? Who made it up? Who’s the referee? What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow? And if a tree falls in the forest and kills a mime, does anyone care?

‘Tis a puzzlement!

Seriously, I wonder if I’m just failing some minimum deviousness requirement that would otherwise let me get what is going on in Faile’s head 95% of the time. Maybe it shouldn’t be this opaque to me, but really I’m just kind of tired and wanting to lay down now, so, whatever.

As for Berelain, while from here on out I would like to smack her into the next zipcode as a general rule, I do like that she is portrayed as being consistent with her character, in that Business Is Business, first and foremost—a professionalism so well adhered to that even Faile has to admire it.

Elyas: Yay, Elyas! I remember I was honestly surprised when he reappeared, as I figured he had pretty much accomplished his purpose back in the TEOTW – namely, introducing Perrin to the wolves—and was never going to show up again. Silly me.

His popping up again does remind me of at least one reason why this Perrin plotline sucks more than the other Perrin plotlines in WOT thus far, and it is a reason that has nothing to do with Faile or Berelain or Sevanna: the almost total dearth of wolves. Seriously, where are the wolves?

Oh, yeah—being fended off by Perrin’s giant wave of EMO.

Okay, okay, I get it. Perrin has a point. A lot of them died at Dumai’s Wells, and technically it was Perrin’s fault, sort of. It would probably suck more if Perrin didn’t feel incredibly bad about that. Emo jokes aside, I’m not really blaming Perrin for having an ethical dilemma about getting the wolves involved in the affairs of men anymore. But none of that changes how much less fun it is to not have them around.

Of course, my memory for events from here on out is, as noted, very unreliable, so maybe there are wolves in this plotline (before the very end of it, I mean) and I’m just not remembering. I hope so. MOAR WOLVESplzkthx.

Last but not least, I suppose I have to discuss Elyas’s advice to Perrin re: women. Or re: Saldaean women, I guess.

…I’m kind of not knowing what to say here, honestly. I feel like I should have a strong opinion about this, and I sort of do and sort of don’t at the same time. Phrases like “sweeping generalizations” and “suspiciously monolithic culture/gender traits” float enticingly by, but are all undermined by the fact that in-story, Elyas’s advice is apparently completely correct.

Which should make it worse, not better, but the moment I realize that something wonky like this is justified within the story I kind of have to make a subconscious decision to either chuck the book across the room, or cultivate a deliberate apathy toward the wonkiness. (Which is how I got through David Eddings’ books.)

I’m not saying this is the right thing to do, and maybe I’ll get re-annoyed in proper fashion at this later when I’m not so tired, but right now I’m making a command decision to let sloth beat wrath on this one.

So instead of a *headdesk*, I’ll just kind of lay my head gently on the desk, and close… my eyes… for just a min

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