It’s time to Spin! That! Wheel! Of Time! Whoo!
Welcome to the next installment of the Wheel of Time Re-read, people. Today’s post is The Shadow Rising, Part 9, in which we cover Chapters 27 and 28.
And since this is the third time in a row I have ended up being wrong about how many chapters I was going to get through, I think I’m going to stop predicting how many I’ll get through for the upcoming posts from now on. It seems pretty clear that most people like the extended commentary, so if it comes down to a choice between more commentary or more chapters, I think commentary should win, n’est-ce pas? I promise I’ll always do my best to make sure you get your money’s worth.
Previous entries are here, and please beware of the many many spoilers tromping all over this thing.
Once again, a reminder that I’m going out of town for JordanCon, so Monday’s post will be the only one going up next week; regular entries will resume the following Wednesday. Huzzah! And now, the post!
Chapter 27: Within the Ways
Perrin and Gaul follow some distance behind Faile, Loial, Bain and Chiad through the Ways. When the party ahead stops on an Island, Perrin stops on the bridge behind, not willing to risk a repeat of what had happened when they first entered the Ways and he had gone on ahead: When Faile arrived at the Island she dismounted, marched up to him and slapped him in the face, demanding to know what he thought he was doing charging into the Ways “like a wild boar”. She said he has no regard, and he took a breath and replied mildly that he asked her not to do that. This seemed to infuriate her even more, and she slapped him again.
“I told you not to do that,” he growled. Her fist was not very big, but her sudden punch to his shortribs drove most of the air from his lungs, hunching him over sideways, and she drew back her fist again. With a snarl, he seized her by the scruff of her neck and...
Well, it was her own fault. It was. He had asked her not to hit him, told her. Her own fault. He was surprised she had not tried to pull one of her knives, though; she seemed to carry as many as Mat.
What makes him most nervous is that while she was furious with everyone else – Loial for trying to intervene, Bain and Chiad for not intervening (they said they thought she would not want them to step into a fight she had picked) – she was not furious with him, instead looking at him with unshed tears in her eyes. He tells himself that he should not feel guilty. Gaul comments that the party ahead is moving again, and they follow to the next Guiding, where Faile calls Perrin to the Island. He hesitates, then goes closer and asks what she wants. She smiles and says she just wanted to see if he could be taught to come when she calls. Perrin grinds his teeth, and Gaul laughs and tells Perrin he might as well try to understand the sun. Loial protests it was not that at all, but that they have reached the line that leads to the Waygate at Manetheren. Perrin nods, determined not to say anything, but then a rank smell he had been noticing for the last few minutes suddenly registers, and he shouts “Trollocs!” Gaul kills the first one that attacks, and then Perrin smashes in the face of another, surprised to realize he had drawn the hammer rather than the axe. Faile kills another with a thrown knife, and soon all the Trollocs are down. Perrin immediately checks to see that Faile is okay, but a second later a Fade attacks; Gaul barely turns its blade aside, and it ignores the arrows and knife shot/thrown by the women.
Perrin bared his teeth in an unconscious snarl. He hated Trollocs as an enemy of his blood, but the Neverborn...? It was worth dying to kill a Neverborn. To put my teeth in its throat...!
Perrin forces his horse closer, ignoring its sword, and smashes in the Fade’s face with the hammer. It falls, thrashing, and Perrin is aghast at what he had been thinking. He hears more Trollocs coming, and says they have to get out of the Ways; he is rather shocked when Faile doesn’t argue. Loial leads them toward the Waygate, and Perrin begins to hear another sound – wind. He yells for them to hurry. Loial opens the gate, and Faile barrels through at a gallop despite Loial’s shout; as the Aiel follow, Perrin asks Loial if he can lock the gate somehow, and Loial says yes. Perrin surprises himself by howling defiance at Machin Shin and the Trollocs as he backs his horse out of the gate; Loial follows barely ahead of the Trollocs, but then the Black Wind is there.
Voices whispered in Perrin’s head, a thousand babbling mad voices clawing at the inside of his skull. Bitter blood. Blood so bitter. Drink the blood and crack the bone. Crack the bone and suck the marrow. Bitter marrow, sweet the screams. Singing screams. Sing the screams. Tiny souls. Acrid souls. Gobble them down. So sweet the pain. On and on.
Shrieking, howling, the Trollocs beat at the blackness boiling around them, clawed to pull free as it sucked them deeper, deeper, till only one hairy hand remained, clutching frantically, then only darkness, bulging outward, seeking. Slowly the Waygates appeared, sliding together, squeezing the blackness so it oozed back inside between them. The voices in Perrin’s head finally stopped.
Loial replaces two trefoil leaves on the outside of the gate, instead of one, and explains that he will not destroy a Waygate, but this way it is locked, and can only be opened from this side. Perrin says it will do, and turns to look at what used to be Manetheren; other than the Waygate, there is only sparse trees and glassy rock left. Then he notices a pair of hawks wheeling in the distance; one of them is shot down by an arrow, and the other is overwhelmed by a cloud of ravens. Perrin is sure the ravens were not acting naturally. Faile asks what he is looking at, and he tells her just birds. She begins unbuttoning his coat, and he asks what she is doing.
“Tending your wounds,” she snapped back. “I’ll not have you bleeding to death on me. That would be just like you, to die and leave me the work of burying you. You have no consideration. Hold still.”
“Thank you,” he said quietly, and she looked surprised.
She mutters imprecations at him furiously the whole time, but winces at every stitch and dresses his wounds with gentle hands. Then she flings his coat at him and snaps that he needn’t think she’ll sew that up as well, and storms off. Perrin decides Gaul is right about understanding women. Reluctantly he searches for wolves, and is surprised when he can’t find a single one.
Wait. Wait wait wait wait. Back up. What just happened here?
So, they’re in the Ways, Faile slaps Perrin, he grabs her by the scruff of the neck and then... what?
She had mounted Swallow and sat there, very stiff-backed, refusing to sit gingerly, staring at him with an unreadable expression.
Sit gingerly... Perrin spanked her? He spanked her. He spanked her.
YOU HAVE GOT TO BE SHITTING ME.
Holy– How did I– What– Are you–
I seriously cannot even come up with a coherent response to this. He fucking SPANKED HER? And she DIDN’T try to stab him? Am I on Opposite Planet? Have I lost my mind and not noticed?
You know what, I’m going to pretend that didn’t happen, because I just cannot deal with the implications, there. Starting now. Nope, didn’t happen. Spanking, what? No idea what you’re talking about. None! Nothing, nothing, tra la la!
(Spanking. *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*)
I’m actually almost as irritated with Gaul as I am with Perrin. Except I’m not irritated with Perrin, because nothing happened. *headdesk* *headdesk* Or actually not Gaul specifically, but this ongoing theme of male characters being all Women are so haaaaard to understand, I don’t get it, dur. Yes, women are hard to understand, actually. People, of which women (contrary to some reports) are a subset, are hard to understand, so yeah. And that sucks and all, but you know, at some point it stops being a philosophical observation and starts being an excuse. If women just can’t be understood, that takes the burden off of the guys to try to understand them, doesn’t it?
...Of course, in WOT specifically the men may have a point, given that so many female characters go out of their way to be enigmatic or at least opaque, and some of them are downright incomprehensible. Of course, so are some of the male characters. Also of course, so are some real-life men. And women. And, I’ve lost track of my point, here. Um.
That being said (whatever “that” actually was), I don’t think Faile is trying to be mysterious here; by her cultural standards, in fact, she’s being perfectly straightforward. Well, mostly. Her problem is not deliberate obfuscation, so much as a combination of provincialism, not knowing her own mind, and naiveté. Oh, and the fact that she just got spanked.
*headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*
*cleans blood off desk*
I know that spanking didn’t just happen (because it didn’t), but if it had (which it didn’t), can I just say that while I actually agree with Bain and Chiad that if you start a fight you shouldn’t be surprised if your opponent hits back, AND I agree with Perrin that he is not obligated to sit there and let Faile abuse him, I just want to say that there is a difference between FIGHTING, and goddamn SPANKING. The latter is something you do to a recalcitrant child, not an adult human being you supposedly regard as an equal.
Faile can take care of herself, and she started it; though it makes me twitch to say it, I think Perrin would have been justified in slapping her back – or more preferably, done something similar to what Rhuarc did in Tear, stopping her without hurting her. But spanking? No. Just no. Also, all gender politics issues aside, is it just me or is doing something like that completely out of character for Perrin anyway?
Dude, did I seriously just say I was okay with a man hitting a woman? I... don't know. Sort of? Maybe? Context is important?
Crap. Head hurts. Too much desk. Lay down now. Spanking. Puppies and rainbows? Yes. Puppies. Rainbows. Possibly ponies. Definitely martinis.
(Spanking. I weep. And then I move on.)
Chapter 28: To the Tower of Ghenjei
Faile insists on two separate camps that night; Loial is displeased, having assumed this would be done with once they were out of the Ways, but Perrin tells him not to worry about it, and indicates that Loial should stay with Faile’s camp. He and Gaul can hear Faile, Bain, and Chiad talking and laughing, and what he can hear is extremely embarrassing. Perrin asks Gaul if he knows any funny stories. Gaul can’t think of one offhand, but Perrin laughs loudly anyway before giving up and being glum again. He and Gaul talk about the differences between the area they’re in and the Waste, and Gaul asks if Perrin is of Manetheren blood. Perrin supposes he is, but says that they’re all farmers and shepherds, now, not warriors.
Gaul smiled slightly. “If you say it. I have seen you dance the spears, and Rand al’Thor, and the one called Mat. But if you say it.”
Gaul asks if Perrin thinks it was a coincidence that the Shadowspawn came to this Waygate; Perrin does not, telling Gaul about the ravens he saw earlier, and tries to find the wolves again, unsuccessfully. He tells Gaul that he might be able to find out something tonight, and that Gaul might have to kick him to wake him up. Gaul just nods, and Perrin pauses and comments that neither he nor any of the other Aiel have ever said anything about his eyes, even though he knows they are glowing golden in the firelight. Gaul replies quietly that the world is changing, and he does not think the change is what many suppose it will be; and besides, what does it matter what color a man’s eyes are? Perrin says he wishes everyone thought that way, and settles down to sleep.
He is standing near the Waygate, and knows this for the wolf dream. For a panicked moment, he is a wolf, but forces himself back into human form. He sees that the hammer is on his belt instead of the axe; it flickers to being the axe for a second, then settles on the hammer again. Perrin frowns, thinking things hadn’t flickered like that before. Suddenly patches of the sky darken to windows, and he sees various odd things in them. Perrin thinks that Moiraine had said she thought the wolf dream might be the same as a place called Tel’aran’rhiod, but had refused to say more about the subject; he wishes he could talk to Elyas Machera. He calls for Hopper, but Hopper does not come, and he decides to get on with it and check out the spot he had seen the ravens come from. He gets there in one step, to his shock. He checks the spot, but finds nothing there, and tries the one-step traveling thing again, and ends up on top of a mountain. He laughs, and jumps from one mountain to the next, calling for Hopper, until suddenly he sees another man in the Sand Hills. He’s too far away to see clearly, other than that he is tall and dark-haired, but Perrin catches his scent, and thinks he smells cold and inhuman; suddenly Perrin finds himself holding a bow and quiver. The man sees Perrin and streaks away, and Perrin leaps down to where he had been. He sees that the man had been standing over the corpse of a half-skinned wolf, and pursues; only something evil could kill a wolf here in the dream. He chases the man past Watch Hill and northeast until the man reaches a tower that looks to be made of metal; when Perrin gets there, the man is gone.
Two hundred feet the tower rose, and forty thick, gleaming like burnished steel. It might as well have been a solid column of metal. Perrin walked around it twice without seeing any opening, not so much as a crack, not even a mark on that smooth, sheer wall. The smell hung here, though, that cold, inhuman stink. The trail ended here. The man—if man he was—had gone inside somehow. He only had to find the way to follow.
Hopper appears, crying for Perrin to stop. Perrin asks why he should stop, when the man killed a wolf. Hopper counters that men kill wolves and vice versa all the time; why does this one make Young Bull so angry? Perrin isn’t sure, but thinks maybe because it was in the dream. He didn’t know wolves could die here.
You chase Slayer, Young Bull. He is here in the flesh, and he can kill.
“In the flesh? You mean not just dreaming? How can he be here in the flesh?”
I do not know. It is a thing dimly remembered from long ago, come again as so much else. Things of the Shadow walk the dream, now. Creatures of Heartfang. There is no safety.
Perrin wants to go anyway, and Hopper tells him he is being foolish. Perrin asks what happens to a wolf who dies in the dream, and Hopper slowly answers that if a wolf dies here, it dies forever. But he does not know if the same is true for Perrin.
“A dangerous place, archer. The Tower of Ghenjei is a bad place for humankind.”
Perrin whirls to see a blond woman in oddly cut clothes behind him; he thinks he sees a glint of something silver beneath her cloak. She shifts, hiding the silver thing, and comments that he has sharp eyes. Perrin thinks she is vaguely familiar, and asks if she is Aes Sedai. She laughs and says no, she just came to warn him, “despite the prescripts”, that the Tower of Ghenjei is hard to leave in the world of men, and almost impossible here. Perrin says Hopper said the same, and she glances at Hopper, who is laying down in the grass, and notes in surprise that he can talk to wolves, and that is truly an old thing. She explains that the Tower is a doorway to the realms of the Aelfinn and Eelfinn. Perrin doesn’t recognize the names, and she asks if he ever played the game called Snakes and Foxes.
“All children do. At least, they do in the Two Rivers. But they give it up when they get old enough to realize there’s no way to win.”
“Except to break the rules,” she said. “ ‘Courage to strengthen, fire to blind, music to daze, iron to bind.’ ”
Perrin doesn’t understand, and she tells him the game is a memory of old dealings with them, and how to beat them. She says the Aelfinn and Eelfinn are not evil, exactly, but they are so different from mankind they might as well be, and warns him to steer clear of the Tower, and indeed of the World of Dreams altogether if he can, for “dark things walk”. He asks about Slayer, and she nods that it is an apt name for him; though he is not old, his evil is ancient. Then she shakes her head, and comments that she seems to be telling him an awful lot, and asks if he is ta’veren. He asks if they’ve met before, and she replies that she has broken too many of the precepts already. Perrin starts to ask what she means, and spins at seeing a shadow behind him, that oddly for a moment looked like the silhouette of a man with two swords on his back. The woman nods and says “he” is right and she should not be talking to Perrin, and when Perrin looks back at her, she is gone. Perrin asks Hopper what he made of her, and Hopper doesn’t know what he is talking about; he saw no one else there, just Perrin talking to air. Perrin is puzzled, but returns to his purpose, explaining to Hopper what was going on. Hopper is silent for a while, then finally tells him he should not go to his old home; the wolves have fled it, for Slayer hunts there. Perrin says he must go, and Hopper accepts this, and wishes him luck. Perrin wakes up, and tells Gaul he’ll take a turn at watch. He says that he thinks things may be worse in the Two Rivers than he thought; Gaul replies that things usually are.
So, I’ve decided that “Tel’aran’rhiod” is actually Old Tongue for “Infodump”. I trust my reasoning is obvious.
It’s funny how your priorities change. When I first read WOT, the Tel’aran’rhiod chapters were absolutely some of the most fascinating parts, because so much of the prophecies/mysteries/conspiracy theory fodder is revealed in them. Now, of course, knowing how so much of these are going to go already, the chapters focused on the Dream World are actually kind of, well, boring, though Perrin’s adventures, at least, are a little more adventure-y than Egwene’s are going to be for a while.
So, enter Slayer. Before we go any further, you guys might really want to save yourselves some trouble and read this and this before you go to town, which is accurate up through Crossroads of Twilight. Actually I’m not sure whether Slayer even made an appearance in Knife of Dreams or not, but even if he did, the FAQ is a very good primer on what’s already known about him.
I think in every previous reading of this chapter I have assumed that Slayer really did enter the Tower of Ghenjei after Perrin chased him there, and this has been the foundation of a lot of loony theories concerning a connection between Slayer and the Finn, which shows I’m not alone in that. However, on reading this again I rather question this assumption. It seems more likely to me now that Slayer led Perrin there on purpose, and then stepped out of T’A’R, in the hopes that Perrin would assume that he had gone in, and follow and get stuck there. Basically the Tower was a convenient trap for Slayer to use against his pursuer, but there’s no real reason to think from this that he has anything more to do with the Finn than to be aware of their existence.
The Tower of Ghenjei, by the way, has always been one of my favorite references in WOT, as the name comes from, to quote the FAQ: “a Japanese novel called The Tale of Genji. It is generally considered the first piece of work which qualifies as a novel, as the genre is defined today [...] It was written by Lady Murasaki Shikibu in the early 10th century, during the Heian Period of Japanese history.” Wikipedia also has a ton of information on it. I just thought that was very cool; I’m sure you can guess why.
Commentary on the Snakes and Foxes game, I am saving for later, with Olver. You can discuss it all you want, of course.
The identity of Birgitte in this chapter is one of the few things I’m positive I did pick up on immediately the first time. Of course, this “mystery” is a lot more obvious than many others Jordan set up, so maybe I shouldn’t be patting myself on the back too hard, but hey, I’m just happy I got something right the first time around. I like the implication that she decided to speak to Perrin because he was carrying a bow; I don’t know why, but it’s a nice little bit of realism, the way anyone is more likely to talk to someone th realized was also into whatever you were into, even if you don’t know them.
Birgitte was another one of those characters, like Aviendha, that I was genuinely surprised became such a central character in the story, but I’m glad she did, if for no other reason than her upcoming awesomeness in ACOS, which I refuse to let be counteracted by her rather non-awesomeness in COT. Her awesomeness or not-awesomeness in TFOH... well, I am honestly not sure what my reaction to TFOH is going to be anymore; I’ve surprised myself too often on this re-read to make any confident predictions. We’ll see.
Still geekily enjoy the references to how the boys, and the Duopotamians in general, are all Manetheren-descended badasses, whether they know it or not. Well, except for Rand, who is an Aiel-descended badass raised by Manetheren-descended badasses, which is, like, double-plus badassery. Or something like that.
Okay, I’m definitely punchy now because the word “badass” is making me giggle every time I see it, so now might be a good time to stop. Be nice in the comments, I mean it. Have a lovely Easter weekend if that be your wont, and have a lovely random April weekend if that ain’t your wont. Ha, I kill me. Monday, with more!