Settle down, class, settle down. Everyone sit. Yes, you too, Billy. No, the other way. Thank you.
All right, everyone, please take out your Wheel of Time Re-read textbooks and—you back there—YOU! Don’t think I don’t see that! Put it away. Yes, now. Thank you.
Now, please take out your textbooks—try not to throw your backs out, yes, I know it’s heavy—and turn to Part 5 of The Dragon Reborn. Today we’re covering Chapters 28-34, so—BILLY, THAT IS NOT A HAT, DON’T MAKE ME COME OVER THERE.
The remedial class is down the hall. If you haven’t taken the first level readthrough of this course, please be aware that you’ll be totally lost, and fail, and they’re all gonna laugh at you. As a side note, I will not be chaperoning the dance this weekend.
Before we get started, you should know I’ve just decided to switch our Friday schedule to Monday, which means that the test we take each Friday on what we learned during the week will now take place on Monday before we’ve learned it. But since today is Wednesday, it doesn’t matter in the slightest. Pencils ready!
Chapter 28: A Way Out
Mat is eating in his room when Nynaeve, Elayne and Egwene come in without knocking; in retribution, Mat decides not to put on a shirt. They compliment him on how much better he looks, and Nynaeve puts a hand to his forehead. Mat flinches, and Nynaeve smiles tightly and asks if he’s tired of being cooped up yet.
“ ‘One pretty woman means fun at the dance. Two pretty women mean trouble in the house. Three pretty women mean run for the hills.’ ” He gave Nynaeve an even tighter smile than her own. “My da used to say that. You’re up to something, Nynaeve. You are all smiling like cats staring at a finch caught in a thornbush, and I think I am the finch.”
Egwene shakes her head and tells the others she knew they should have just asked him; he’s too tricksome and stubborn otherwise. Nynaeve tells him that just because they want him to do a favor doesn’t mean they don’t care about how he is. Mat says he’s fine, and wants to know what favor, suspiciously. Elayne smiles at him and says she wants him to carry a letter for her to Caemlyn, to her mother. Mat asks what’s in it for him, and Elayne draws herself up and asks if he is not a loyal subject of Andor; Mat snickers, and Egwene remarks that she told them that wouldn’t work either. Egwene asks Mat if he does anything without being coaxed or bullied, and he replies that he would dance with her or Elayne, but he won’t run errands. Nynaeve tells him he is even ruder than she remembers, and wants to know what’s the problem with getting to see a big city and helping someone at the same time? Mat eyes the letter she holds out, and decides to stop playing; regretfully, he tells her he can’t. Nynaeve is outraged and Egwene appalled, and Mat explains that it’s not his doing; the Amrylin has arranged it so he can’t get off the island, because of how long he was sick. Change that, and he will carry Elayne’s letter “in [his] teeth”. Nynaeve checks him with the One Power, freaking Mat out, and then she and Elayne and Egwene huddle to confer for a moment. Mat overhears something about only needing one if they stay together, and then they break and come back over to him. Egwene hands him one of their Amrylin letters, which Mat reads with amazement and demands to know how they got. Nynaeve tells him never mind how they got it, it will get him off the island. Will he take the letter? Mat says consider it done; Nynaeve seems uncertain.
“I’ll take it to her. I said I would, didn’t I? You would think I didn’t keep my promises.” The looks he got from Nynaeve and Egwene reminded him of a few he had not kept. “I will do it. Blood and—I will do it!”
He and Nynaeve and Egwene talk about home for a while, and Elayne tells him what to expect in Caemlyn, and when they prepare to leave, Mat awkwardly tells them that they have done him a favor, and though he knows they’re going to be Aes Sedai, if they ever need help, he will come. Then he asks if he said something funny; the girls just tell him to remember that if a woman needs a hero, she needs him today, not tomorrow. They laugh and leave, and Mat decides women are odd.
He danced a little caper in the middle of the flowered carpet. Caemlyn to see, and a queen to meet. Your own words will free me of you, Amyrlin. And get me away from Selene, too.
“You’ll never catch me,” he laughed, and meant it for both of them. “You’ll never catch Mat Cauthon.”
As an explanation of the “hero” line, I should point out that this is a reference to a remark Nynaeve made after Hurin makes his almost identical offer before leaving them in Tar Valon, which I left out of my recap of that chapter (“Men! They always say to send for them if you need them, but when you do need one, you need him right then.”).
I have something of an instinctive tendency to want to defend the Supergirls, mostly because they get ragged on to a degree disproportionate to their crimes (in my opinion), but inside joke or not, I gotta say I do not think laughing at a sincere offer of help is cool at all.
However, this is one of those things where I think Jordan was attempting to make a point about gender relations. Don’t see what I mean? Well. As an experiment, go back and reread the chapter—except this time, mentally swap everyone’s gender.
I would leave it at that, but I know from experience that this is not going to clarify it for everyone, so let me put it this way: I have personally experienced being laughed at for offering to help someone, in a situation that I know for a fact was because it was assumed that, as a female, I could not possibly have contributed anything worthwhile to the exercise—and I’m not talking about lifting heavy objects, either. My feelings about this assumption are left as an exercise for the reader, because I’m trying to keep this blog at least nominally PG-13.
Being assigned an arbitrarily negative value based solely on one’s gender is something women in the real world have to deal with constantly, in both a professional and social context, and to say it really sucks is probably the understatement of the last six or so millennia. One of the many on-going themes of WOT is the attempt to highlight this disparity by, er, reversing the polarities, to be unspeakably geeky about it. Putting the shoe on the other foot, in other words, so the opposite number may have a chance to note just how frickin’ uncomfortable a four-inch spike heel actually is, especially if you have no choice but to wear it.
That’s the intent, anyway, or so I perceive it to be. Whether Jordan succeeds in doing so effectively is more problematic, and a topic we will inevitably be revisiting, but I will say for now that I do at least appreciate the effort.
Chapter 29: A Trap to Spring
Nynaeve, Elayne and Egwene work in the kitchens while Laras, the chief cook glowers at them. Nynaeve refuses to drop her eyes when Laras stares at her, thinking it’s bad enough that she has to curtsy and scurry for Aes Sedai, but to have to for this woman is almost unbearable. Siuan sweeps into the kitchen and stares everyone into a flurry of guilty activity, even Laras. Nynaeve tries to pretend that she is not as unnerved by Siuan’s stare as everyone else, with little success. Suddenly Siuan barks at Elayne that she will not tolerate foul language in a young woman’s mouth; Egwene starts to protest despite Nynaeve’s frantic headshakes, and Siuan perforce sends them both out with Laras to get their mouths scrubbed out. Siuan stands close by Nynaeve and remarks that she did not intend Egwene to get caught in that, but perhaps it will teach her to think before she speaks. Siuan tells Nynaeve there is news: Sheriam found another Gray Man, a woman, and what’s more she was laid out without a mark on her on Sheriam’s bed. Nynaeve replies that she makes no accusations, but Sheriam had the same chance Elaida did to see Verin’s Black Ajah notes; she also notes Alanna’s strange behavior. Siuan shrugs and says Alanna is Arafellin, who have odd notions about honor, but supposes she can keep an eye on her. Siuan asks if they have anything for her; Nynaeve replies that she doesn’t understand why Siuan used Else Grinwell to send them the message, but it was helpful. She explains what happened and the conclusions they’ve reached, but leaves out the part with the dream ring and Tel’aran’rhiod. Siuan is silent for a bit, then finally tells Nynaeve that she sent no message; the belongings of Liandrin’s thirteen were examined and then burned, and what’s more, Else Grinwell was put out of the Tower ten days ago. Siuan asks what they intend to do about this obvious trap, and Nynaeve repeats the reasoning she gave to Elayne and Egwene. Siuan is doubtful, but agrees that it might work, and says she will have gold put in their room for the journey. Then she asks if Elayne will be going with them. Nynaeve snarls that if she knew about Elayne, why the pretense? Siuan shoots back that this way she can have another hound on the hunt, and yet still say straight out to Morgase that it was none of her doing. Nynaeve asks her about Callandor, and Siuan whispers in shock that they cannot be allowed to have that.
“The Sword That Cannot Be Touched is a sa’angreal, girl. Only two more powerful were ever made, and thank the Light, neither of those was ever used. With Callandor in your hands, child, you could level a city at one blow. If you die keeping that out of the Black Ajah’s hands—you, and Egwene, and Elayne, all three—you’ll have done a service to the whole world, and cheap at the price.”
Nynaeve says she thought only the Dragon Reborn could touch Callandor, and Siuan concedes that possibly the Black Ajah is after the huge cache of ter’angreal stored in the Stone instead. She explains that the High Lords of Tear hate anything to do with the One Power, and yet collect all the items associated with it that they can, telling themselves that they are doing it to protect the world from the coming of the Dragon. How it must rankle them, Siuan says, that their fall is one of the signs of the Dragon’s return—and not even a major one. She shakes herself out of her reverie, and says she has to fix matters with Laras. Nynaeve mutters uncomplimentary things about the cook, and Siuan chuckles:
“You are a fine judge of character, child. You must have done well as the Wisdom of your village. It was Laras who went to Sheriam and demanded to know how long you three are to be kept to the dirtiest and hardest work, without a turn at lighter. She said she would not be a party to breaking any woman’s health or spirit, no matter what I said. A fine judge of character, child.”
Laras reenters, and Siuan smiles and tells her that everything looks well, and she has decided to make Mistress of the Kitchens a formal title. Laras is amazed and flattered. After Siuan leaves, Egwene and Elayne come back in. Elayne mutters that soap tastes horrid, and Egwene tells Nynaeve that if the Amyrlin didn’t give them permission to go to Tear, she just might run away for real. Nynaeve tells them they are leaving as soon as they are finished here, and to herself, hopes devoutly that they are not walking into a trap they can’t get out of.
So here’s a thing I just noticed, which maybe got brought to the forefront because I (re)read the Harry Potter books not long ago: so, technically novice and Accepted training is, like, school, right? Boarding school, even. And yet, we never once see any of the Girls, you know, in class.
The only people in the Tower we ever see them interact with, practically, are people like Laras and Galad and Gawyn, who are peripheral to the Tower as a learning organization, or full Aes Sedai, but never in a lessons context. What’s more, other than the extremely brief cameos of Faolain and Theodrin (and Else, when it was Else), we never see them hanging out with any other novices/Accepted, or doing any of the kind of community activities one would expect of a place like the Tower. In fact, I think the only time we ever even see the freakin’ cafeteria is in Crossroads of Twilight. It’s really kind of bizarre when you think about it.
I don’t really have a point here, but it struck me and I thought I’d mention it, especially since there’s really not much else of interest here that we didn’t already know.
Although I will note that Alanna being Arafellin is not nearly enough explanation to account for her generally bizarro behavior throughout the series, and yet it seems to be the only one we really get. Pfeh.
Chapter 30: The First Toss
Mat prepares for his journey by stuffing himself and hoarding food, then packs up all his stuff and walks out openly, grinning guiltily at Anaiya, who just shakes her head at him. He thinks gleefully to himself that if you can’t hide what you’re doing, just make everyone think you’re a fool and do it right under their noses. Humming to himself, Mat makes his way down into the city, and to the dockside taverns of Southharbor. He only intends to gamble for an hour or so before finding an outbound ship, but he wins every toss.
He won again, and it was as if a fever gripped him. He won every throw. From tavern to inn to tavern he went, never staying long enough to anger anyone with the amount of his winnings. And he still won every toss. He exchanged silver for gold with a money changer. He played at crowns, and fives, and maiden’s ruin. He played games with five dice, and with four, and three, and even only two. He played games he did not know before he squatted in the circle, or took a place at the table. And he won.
Hours later, he finds himself in yet another tavern, throwing the king (five crowns) for the sixth time in a row. A big broken-nosed man mutters something about “the Dark One’s own luck”.
Mat was scarcely aware of moving before he had the bulky man by the collar, hauling him to his feet, slamming him back against the wall. “Don’t you say that!” he snarled. “Don’t you ever say that!” The man blinked down at him in astonishment; he was a full head taller than Mat.
“Just a saying,” somebody behind him was muttering. “Light, it’s just a saying.”
Mat released his grip on the scar-faced man’s coat and backed away. “I . . . I . . . I don’t like anybody saying things like that about me. I’m no Darkfriend!” Burn me, not the Dark One’s luck. Not that! Oh, Light, did that bloody dagger really do something to me?
Mat grabs his bags and leaves the inn. He leans against a wall and tries to reason it out. He remembers being lucky in Emond’s Field, but he also remembers plenty of times when he didn’t win, or got caught at pranks.
But it was not just since leaving the Two Rivers that he had become lucky. The luck had come once he took the dagger from Shadar Logoth.
He tries to convince himself it must have been something the Aes Sedai did to him instead, and not the dagger. He checks his pockets, and is astonished to see how much money he has. He decides it’s high time to be gone, and sets out. He soon realizes that someone is following him, and ducks into an alley. He sees more movement from the other end as well as behind him, and hides in an alcove. Trapped, he waits as the two men come from either side, and stop just before either can see him. They discuss where Mat might have gone, and decide to move on. Mat is relieved that his luck seems to work for more than just dice. He notices how flat the roofs are, and climbs up the wall and scrambles across the rooftops, gaining three or four stories, until he comes to a narrow bridge connecting one building to another. He jumps down to it, and suddenly realizes there is a man on the bridge with him. Mat grabs the man’s hand as it tries to plunge a dagger into Mat’s throat, and they struggle, Mat’s other hand trapped between them with the quarterstaff. His hand holding back the knife starts to slip.
“Time to toss the dice,” he said. He thought the other man looked confused for an instant, but an instant was all he had. With a heave of his legs, Mat flipped them both off into the empty air.
They both fall thirty feet to the cobblestones below. The impact dazes him, but Mat recovers to find that he landed on top of the assassin, whose body cushioned his fall. Then he sees that the dagger somehow ended up buried in the other man’s chest. He tells the dead man shakily that he had had bad luck, and then realizes he’s standing over a corpse with a dagger in its chest in the middle of Tar Valon. He should get on a ship immediately, but decides he just wants to sit and rest a moment, and heads for the nearest inn, called “The Woman of Tanchico”.
As cool as Mat’s luck-twisting thing is, I’ve never quite understood why exactly that should be the permanent effect carrying the dagger had on him. It just seems too... beneficial.
Yeah, Mat’s luck doesn’t always work in his favor, but come on, most of the time it totally does. But more importantly, there just doesn’t seem (to me) to be any logical connection between chance/fate/luck and, you know, screaming hatred and paranoia. The sort-of connection implied in the quote above (“The Dark One’s own luck”) makes even less sense, if it’s even meant to be a connection at all, which I kind of doubt, seeing as Shadar Logoth is The Other
White Meat Evil.
I mean, not to look a gift horse of Awesomeness in the mouth here, but of all of Our Heroes’ methods of leveling up, badassery-wise, Mat’s is by far the most nonsensical. That said, it’s still my favorite level-up in the series (with the possible exception of Perrin’s Two Rivers adventures in TSR), proving once again that Cool trumps Logic every time. We’re such a fickle bunch, aren’t we?
Chapter 31: The Woman of Tanchico
The common room is only about a quarter full, with a harper on a tabletop reciting “Mara and the Three Foolish Kings”. Mat recognizes Thom with shock. He sits down and orders two mugs of wine, knowing Thom has seen him. Thom finishes the story and gets down from the table, nearly falling off it, and stumbles over to Mat’s table. He stares at Mat, but all he says is something about Common mode being inferior to Plain or High Chant, and buries his face in the wine. Mat can’t remember ever seeing Thom drunk before, and notes that he looks sadder than Mat remembers. The two serving girls come over and remonstrate with Mat for encouraging Thom to drink; Mat protests he didn’t know Thom was drunk already. Thom tells the girls that he’s loved two pretty women in his life, and threw both chances away; Morgase had a temper, and ended up wanting to kill him, and he killed Dena, or as good as. Mat tells the girls he will take care of Thom, and asks them to bring him three or four of the chickens he smells roasting. They look startled when he then asks Thom if he wants anything, and leave with glares in Mat’s direction. Mat tells Thom that Rand and Moiraine both said he was alive, but he’d thought Thom was on his way to Tear. Thom makes a comment about Moiraine being a fine-looking woman, despite being Aes Sedai, and asks whether Rand is well. Mat asks cautiously why Rand wouldn’t be all right, and Thom gives an evasive non-answer. Mat abandons the topic as the chickens arrive, and as he eats, remarks that Tar Valon is about the last place he’d have expected to see Thom.
“Cairhien,” the old gleeman muttered, the sharpness fading from his eyes again. “Such trouble it causes killing a man, even when he deserves killing.” He made a flourish with one hand and was holding a knife. Thom always had knives secreted about him. Drunk he might have been, but he held the blade steady enough. “Kill a man who needs killing, and sometimes others pay for it. The question is, was it worth doing anyway? There’s always a balance, you know. Good and evil. Light and Shadow. We would not be human if there wasn’t a balance.”
Mat growls at him to put the knife away, and says he’ll leave if all Thom’s going to do is talk about killing people. Thom answers that he’s in Tar Valon because it’s the worst place for him to be besides Cairhien; if Elaida happened to see him, she would “peel [his] hide off in strips, and then she would stop being pleasant.” Disgusted, Mat says he’d never known Thom to be the self-pitying type, and Thom snarls back that he knows nothing. Thom wants to know why Mat is in Tar Valon, considering he about wet himself every time Aes Sedai were even mentioned, and Mat snaps back that what he’s doing here is leaving. Mat then tells him he’s going to Caemlyn; why doesn’t Thom come along, if he’s in a mood to get himself killed?
“Caemlyn. Yes. Caemlyn would fit my mood like a glove.” The gleeman glanced at the chicken platter and gave a start. “What did you do, boy? Stuff them up your sleeve?” There was nothing left of the three birds but bones and carcasses with only a few strips of flesh remaining.
“Sometimes I get hungry,” Mat muttered. It was an effort not to lick his fingers. “Are you coming with me, or not?”
“Oh, I will come, boy.” As Thom pushed himself to his feet, he did not seem as unsteady as he had been. “You wait here—and try not to eat the table—while I get my things and say some goodbyes.” He limped away, not staggering once.
Thom comes back with his bags, kisses the serving girls and goes outside; the girls come over and thank Mat profusely for whatever he did to make Thom perk up again. The younger of the two gives him a silver mark and tells him he has pretty eyes. Mat goes out, laughing to himself, but cuts off when he sees that the corpse from the bridge is gone, and no outcry raised. Thom asks what he’s looking at, and Mat mutters something about footpads. Thom tells him there are no footpads in Tar Valon; no one is stupid enough to try it in a city full of Aes Sedai. Mat turns and marches toward the docks, telling Thom they will book passage on the first ship that’s sailing, no matter what it is.
Aw, poor regicidal Thom. I seriously don’t understand how I missed the fact that Thom killed Galldrian before. Paying more attention to the fresh awesomeness of Mat, I suppose.
I like him and Mat together; even when Thom is in deeply alcoholic self-pity mode, the two of them riff off each other fairly hilariously.
Also, another example in this chapter of the icon qualifying as an instant spoiler for the events within it, if you’re paying attention.
Chapter 32: The First Ship
Mat arrives at the docks and sees a ship preparing to cast off, and determines to be on it. Mat and Thom are met on the wharf by the dockmaster, who looks at Mat’s face and tells him not a chance; a sister showed him a drawing of Mat, and he’ll not be boarding any ship. Thom is confused, but Mat tells the dockmaster that that’s all changed, and shows him the Amyrlin’s letter, and tells him he must be on the ship about to set sail. The dockmaster is bewildered, but shouts to the Gray Gull to hold up; the ship’s captain, a tall Tairen, ignores him and pulls away from the dock, and Mat takes off running to catch it. He jumps aboard; cursing, Thom is right behind him. Outraged, the captain orders the two of them thrown over the side, but Mat tosses him a gold crown and waves the Amrylin’s letter in his face, babbling about being on a mission for the Tower. The captain frowns and says he docks too often in Tar Valon to risk angering the wrong people, and then grins and says they can sleep on deck for another gold crown each. Thom is outraged, but the captain tells them to take it or get off his ship. Mat asks how much for a cabin to themselves, and food from the captain’s stores; the captain starts laughing, and tells him he can have the captain’s own cabin and his meals, for five gold crowns each—Andoran weight. He starts wheezing with laughter at his own joke, but cuts off as Mat pulls out fourteen gold coins, and tells the captain that there’s no need for him to eat with his crew; he and Thom will be happy to share. Thom stares at him as much as everyone else; the captain asks hoarsely if Mat is a young lord in disguise. Mat laughs and says he is no lord. The captain, Mallia, shows them to the cabin himself, and eventually works out for himself more or less aloud that Mat is an Andoran lord, judging by his accent, traveling incognito on some kind of mission for Morgase. Mat and Thom exchange startled looks, and Mat tells Mallia that that is nonsense; Mallia nods and smiles, not believing a word of it, and rambles on in a thinly disguised attempt to pry. He talks about how every nation sucks compared to Tear, and how the High Lords were better than any king or queen, especially Lord Samon. Mallia eventually reveals that the thing he hates the most, even more than Illianers, is Aes Sedai, especially since he heard Lord Samon speak about them.
The High Lord Samon said the Aes Sedai meant to rule the world. Samon said they meant to crush every nation, put their foot on every man’s throat. Samon said Tear could no longer hold the Power out of its own lands and believe that was enough. Samon said Tear had its rightful day of glory coming, but Tar Valon stood between Tear and glory.
“There’s no hope for it. Sooner or later they will have to be hunted down and killed, every last Aes Sedai. The High Lord Samon says the others might be saved—the young ones, the novices, the Accepted—if they’re brought to the Stone, but the rest must be eradicated. That’s what the High Lord Samon says. The White Tower must be destroyed.”
Then Mallia comes out of it and realizes what he just said, and hastily backpedals; to needle him, Mat makes a mocking comment about filling the Stone with Accepted and Aes Sedai, and Mallia frowns and stalks out. Thom comments that he’s never heard of any Lord Samon; Mat doesn’t think much of this, but Thom tells him he’d have heard if one of the old High Lords had died and been replaced, and he hasn’t. Thom asks him what the deal is with all the gold and the letter with the Tower’s seal on it; Mat tells him he’s carrying a letter to Morgase for Elayne, and he won the gold at dice. Thom replies that if Mat’s not going to tell him, he’ll just go to bed. Mat lies down too, but between his thoughts about footpads and Thom’s snoring, he can’t sleep. Then he hears stealthy bootsteps outside the cabin, and tries to wake Thom, but is unsuccessful. He gets up and grabs his staff, and waits just inside the door. Two men enter with knives, and gasp to see him awake.
Mat thrust with the quarterstaff, catching the first man hard right under where his ribs joined together. He heard his father’s voice as he struck. It’s a killing blow, Mat. Don’t ever use it unless it’s your life. But those knives made it for his life; there was no room in the cabin for swinging a staff.
He catches the second man in the throat, crushing his windpipe, and then stares at the two bodies, thinking that he’d never killed anyone in his life before, and tonight he’s killed three. He hears more boots overhead, rips the cloak off one of the dead men to disguise himself, and goes up on deck. He finds another cutthroat at the tiller, and crushes in his skull, but is almost gutted by a fourth man before Thom appears and kills him with a thrown knife. Thom and Mat step over to where a rope trails off the deck, and find a boat tied to it with two more men on it; one of them gasps “The Great Lord take me, it’s him!”, and Thom asks loudly if Mat wants to kill them too. Mat replies No softly, but the men didn’t hear him, and jump overboard to swim away; Thom doubts they’ll make it to shore. Mallia appears, roaring outrage, and then sees the two dead men on deck. Thom explains that he and Mat just saved him from river brigands, and Mat walks silently back to the hold. He hears Mallia mutter behind him that he’s a cold one, and he never heard that Andor employed assassins. Mat makes it back to the cabin before falling to his knees, shaking.
Rand plays softly on his flute, watching his campfire and wondering if there really were as many weddings in that one town as he thought there had been, or if he was going mad already. He thinks about what Moiraine had said about ta’veren, but shies away from that; it’s too close to thinking about being the Dragon Reborn. He had to let them proclaim him, but that doesn’t mean it’s true. He thinks about his dreams, and all the people he knew showing up and trying to kill him. For some reason, the fake Min that had tried to kill him hurt more than the others.
So many faces in his dreams. Selene had come, cool and mysterious and so lovely his mouth went dry just thinking of her, offering him glory as she had—so long ago, it seemed—but now it was the sword she said he had to take. And with the sword would come her. Callandor. That was always in his dreams. Always. And taunting faces. Hands, pushing Egwene, and Nynaeve, and Elayne into cages, snaring them in nets, hurting them. Why should he weep more for Elayne than for the other two?
He plays on, afraid to sleep, or dream.
Mat: Still badass.
I like that it’s made clear that he did actually have training in the quarterstaff from his father, who Mat noted earlier was the best in the Two Rivers at it. It’s nice that his skill isn’t all just out of Magical Left Field, unlike some sword-wielding farmboys I could mention.
That’s the other thing, too; it’s just far more believable in general that the boys would know how to use a bow or a quarterstaff, or even an axe to a certain extent, because those are what I think of as “utility” weapons (or “peasant’s weapons” if you’re being snotty). Which is to say, they have uses other than just people killin’. You can chop down a tree, or shoot yourself a snack, or set up a fake toll bridge with them; they are tools as well as weapons.
The reason the sword was considered the weapon of the noble class is not because it was so much awesomer at the people killin’ (in fact, it demonstrably isn’t; see Chapter 24), but because it was a status symbol and an indicator of wealth; only a rich noble could afford to waste money on an instrument that has no other use except as a weapon. Because that’s what rich people do best: waste things. (Oooooh….)
Chapter 33: Within the Weave
Perrin frowns from his saddle at a stone on the road that has what looks like a dog’s pawprint in it. He catches a whiff of something sulphurous, too, but dismisses both things; dogs can’t make prints in stone. He catches up to Moiraine, Lan, and Loial, yawning. Loial says he doesn’t understand why Perrin can’t sleep; with the hard pace Moiraine is setting, Loial is out the moment he lays down each night. Perrin just shakes his head, and tries not to think about Hopper. They have found more evidence of Rand’s passage since leaving Jarra; they found his horse, looking as if it had been mauled to death by dogs, and then there were the villages. One town was burned to the ground, with everything that could possibly have gone wrong having happened, and another was celebrating because the once-dead spring was flowing again. In a third, all the wells had dried up with no explanation, and a fourth had had every single disagreement and feud bubble up at once, and it took three murders to snap everyone out of it. A fifth had been about to go hungry from failing crops until the Mayor found sacks of gold, minted in Manetheren, while digging a privy. Perrin asks Moiraine about it one night; he doesn’t understand why Rand would cause bad things as well as good.
“That town burning, and the wells failing, and... That is evil, Moiraine. I can’t believe Rand is evil. The Pattern may be shaping itself around him, but how can the Pattern be that evil? It makes no sense, and things have to make sense. If you make a tool with no sense to it, it’s wasted metal. The Pattern wouldn’t make waste.”
Moiraine was silent for a time, warming her hands. Finally she spoke while staring into the flames. “The Creator is good, Perrin. The Father of Lies is evil. The Pattern of Age, the Age Lace itself, is neither. The Pattern is what is. The Wheel of Time weaves all lives into the Pattern, all actions. A pattern that is all one color is no pattern. For the Pattern of an Age, good and ill are the warp and the woof.”
Perrin is deeply troubled by this, and remains so until they reach a town called Remen. Lan comes back from scouting it and tells Moiraine the town’s had an eventful couple of days. They ride in, Moiraine hiding her face in the cowl of her cloak, and Perrin smells a strange hair-raising scent for a moment, but then it is gone. A gibbet has been erected in the town square, and next to it a cage with a man dressed in gray and brown in it has been suspended off the ground from a tall post. Small boys are throwing stones at the man, and Loial angrily thinks they shouldn’t be doing that. Perrin agrees, wondering why the man seems familiar. They go to the inn, and enter to see everyone inside dressed as for a feastday. The innkeeper, Furlan, greets Lan as “Master Andra” and, seeing Moiraine’s fine clothes, greets her as a lady. Moiraine accepts this, keeping her features hidden, and asks about events in town. Furlan tells her they have Hunters of the Horn here, and they fought savage Aiel just a mile or so from the town. Perrin realizes that that’s what’s familiar about the caged man, and asks how he ended up there. Furlan hesitates to answer, taking Perrin for a servant, but Lan tells him flatly to answer, and Furlan points out Lord Orban, a young man in a red coat and swathed in bandages, and tells how Orban and Lord Gann faced twenty Aiel with only ten retainers, and killed all but one, losing only six of their own. Orban limps over and demands to know where the village wise woman is; Lan verifies Furlan’s numbers with Orban:
“Twelve of you fought twenty Aiel?” Lan asked in a flat voice.
Orban says yes proudly, and adds that the Whitecloaks are chasing the ones who escaped, but he doubts they’ll find more than their own shadows. Lan replies he supposes they won’t. Furlan takes them up to their rooms, everyone else staring at the Lady and the Ogier, but Perrin notices before they exit the common room that there had been one pair of eyes that had been watching him instead. He picks her out immediately, as she is the only woman in the room not wearing lace.
She was young—no older than he was, perhaps—and tall for a woman, with black hair to her shoulders. A nose that just missed being too large and too bold, a generous mouth, high cheekbones, and dark, slightly tilted eyes. He could not quite decide whether she was beautiful or not.
Enter - Faile. DUN!
Weird thing for me personally: I know, from my WOT glossary learnings, that “Faile” and “Aiel” are supposed to be pronounced almost identically, but while I’ve always automatically given “Faile” its proper two-syllable inflection, I have never been able to train my mental pronounciation of “Aiel” to do anything other than rhyme with “pail”. I have no idea why, any more than I know why I have no problem with the kid-tested, Jordan-approved pronounciation of “Nynaeve” (nigh-NEEVE), and yet cannot render “Egwene” as anything other than “Eh-GWEEN” (it’s supposed to be Eh-GWAIN).
Again, the ta’veren thing for Rand is just out of control in TDR. Maybe it stays at this level all the time and I’m just not remembering that, but I don’t think so. Contrariwise, Perrin’s ta’veren-ness in TDR seems to be unusually muted, except at certain specific points.
It is true that the ta’veren thing in general seems to work differently for each of the boys. Mat’s, for instance, is mostly geared toward things and events, while Perrin’s seems much more people-oriented (as we will see in TSR). Rand’s, of course, is all of the above times ten, so okay, but I reiterate that the plotty oscillations of its intensity remain a sticking point for me.
Chapter 34: A Different Dance
Furlan babbles on as he shows the party to their rooms, and no one listens until he mentions something about “proclaiming the Dragon in Ghealdan”. Moiraine stops short and asks if another false Dragon has proclaimed himself in Ghealdan; Furlan says not exactly, just a man preaching his coming, claiming the Dragon is coming to save us, and the beasts fight for him, and so on.
Masema, Perrin thought wonderingly. It’s bloody Masema.
“You are right, innkeeper,” Lan said. “This fellow isn’t likely to trouble us here. I knew a fellow once who liked to make wild speeches. You remember him, Lady Alys, don’t you? Masema?”
Moiraine gave a start. “Masema. Yes. Of course. I had put him out of my mind.” Her voice firmed. “When next I see Masema, he will wish someone had peeled his hide to make boots.” She slammed the door behind her so hard that the crash echoed down the hallway.
Perrin goes to his own small room and sits down to think. Loial sticks his head in once to tell Perrin excitedly that his bed is made of sung wood, and to invite Perrin down for dinner, but Perrin tells him to go ahead. He tries to puzzle out a while longer about the girl staring at him, and why the caged Aiel should be important, and finally decides to go see Moiraine.
He strode toward the front of the inn, to Moiraine’s room, knocked once, and went in. And stopped, his face burning.
Moiraine pulled the pale blue robe that hung from her shoulders around herself. “You wish something?” she asked coolly. She had a silver-backed hairbrush in one hand, and her dark hair, spilling down her neck in dark waves, glistened as if she had been brushing it. Her room was far finer than his, with polished wooden paneling on the walls and silver-chased lamps and a warm fire on the wide brick hearth. The air smelled of rose-scented soap.
Perrin stammers that he thought Lan was here, and Moiraine asks him again what he wants. He asks if the Hunters and so forth are Rand’s doing; Moiraine doesn’t think so. She’s waiting for Lan to return in hopes that his scouting will help her make a choice: from here, Rand could have either crossed the river and continued to Tear on foot, or he could have taken ship and sailed there. Perrin doesn’t think they are going to catch up to Rand either way, who has managed to stay ahead of them even on foot. Moiraine agrees, remarking that she would almost suspect he’d figured out how to Travel, except that if he had he would have gone straight to Tear. Perrin then brings up the girl he noticed downstairs, and asks if she could be a Darkfriend, because she was staring at him.
The brush resumed motion, and a smile briefly touched Moiraine’s lips. “You sometimes forget, Perrin, that you are a good-looking young man. Some girls admire a pair of shoulders.” He grunted and shuffled his feet.
He leaves quickly, and tells himself he’s a fool to think of an Aes Sedai “like a village girl” just because he saw her “like that”. He heads downstairs, where Orban is retelling the story of his heroic exploits to the enthralled villagers, and leaves the inn, heading toward the town square. He goes to the cage, and quickly unwinds the rope holding it up and lowers it to the ground. He breaks the chain holding the cage shut and opens it, but the man inside doesn’t move immediately. The Aiel remarks that Perrin is strong—it took three men to hoist him up there—and asks why. Perrin replies that he doesn’t like seeing people in cages, and tells the man to get out of there already. The Aiel swings himself out of the cage. He glances at Perrin’s eyes, which Perrin knows are shining in the moonlight, but does not mention them.
“I am Gaul, of the Imran sept of the Shaarad Aiel, wetlander. I am Shae’en M’taal, a Stone Dog. My water is yours.”
Perrin introduces himself, and asks why Gaul calls him “wetlander”. Gaul gestures to the river, and says that he never knew there was so much water in the world as this land has. Perrin asks why he’s here, and Gaul replies that he searches for He Who Comes With the Dawn. Perrin tells him he’s looking in the wrong direction; the one he’s looking for is on his way to Tear.
“Tear?” The Aiel sounded surprised. “Why... ? But it must be. Prophecy says when the Stone of Tear falls, we will leave the Three-fold Land at last.” That was the Aiel name for the Waste. “It says we will be changed, and find again what was ours, and was lost.”
Perrin says that’s as may be, but Gaul should leave now. Gaul remarks calmly that it is too late to run, and the square fills with a dozen or so Whitecloaks charging them. Gaul veils himself and asks if Perrin likes to dance, and darts into the Whitecloaks. Four Whitecloaks go down immediately, and Perrin sees that Gaul’s fighting style is actually very like dancing. Then he has to defend himself, and with regret kills the Whitecloaks attacking him, hating the axe and the brutal carnage it leaves in its wake. When it is over, Gaul tells him he does not dance the spears badly, and Perrin replies he doesn’t see how twelve men fought twenty Aiel and won. Gaul laughs and replies that they were only two, and careless, but Sarien is dead and Gaul in a cage for two days, so their carelessness is paid for. He says he will remember Tear, and hopes Perrin will always find water and shade before he leaves. Perrin goes to leave, too, and sees a slim shape in divided riding skirts turn and disappear down a street. Then Lan appears, and demands to know if anyone can connect Perrin to the bodies in the square; Perrin tells him about the girl, and Lan tells him to rouse Loial and get him down to the stable. They must leave immediately.
Okay, that whole scene with Perrin walking in on Moiraine was just weird. I don’t want to go so far as “oogy”, but, um. I know that in terms of chronological age Moiraine isn’t actually all that much older than Perrin, or at least not nearly as much older as many Aes Sedai would be, but now I have Simon and Garfunkel stuck in my head, is all I’m saying.
The problem of prophecy again: would Perrin have given the Aiel inna cage as much attention as he did if Min hadn’t told him about it? Possibly, yes; there’s nothing saying he wouldn’t have come to the same decision with no prompting, just because it is the Right Thing To Do, but my point is we’ll never know.
It’s funny (though not really) how Perrin keeps managing to only kill Whitecloaks. It’s almost like that’s leading somewhere, isn’t it?
Time’s up! Pencils down, and pass your papers to the front. Friday—Billy, I swear to God—Friday we have Chapters 35-39, so you’d better—oh, there’s the bell, HANG ON, I’m not finished!—you’d better have the reading done before you come…
Ah, screw it. I’ve got vodka in here somewhere. Cheers!