Hey, kids. Welcome back to the Wheel of Time Re-read!
Today’s entry covers Chapter 21 of The Gathering Storm, in which we have two goodbyes, one temporary and one not so temporary, and I am surprised.
We’re only covering one chapter today because (for those of you who do not follow the ASOIAF Read or don’t read the comments there) I’m in the midst of an ongoing family medical situation which has yet to resolve.
For the same reason, I am not certain whether I will get in an entry for next Tuesday (the 20th); I’m going to try, but it’s not a guarantee. I’ll keep y’all posted in the comments. And of course, after that the Re-read goes on hiatus until January 10th.
Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index is here, which has links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time in general, including the newest release, Towers of Midnight.
This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels, up to and including Book 13, Towers of Midnight. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
And now, the post!
Chapter 21: Embers and Ash
Perrin finds himself hanging in midair in the wolf dream, and tries not to panic. Hopper appears and entreats him to jump down, assuring him it is safe. It works, and Perrin notes that the sky, usually so transitory, is now a constant mass of stormclouds.
The Last Hunt comes. Hopper looked up at the sky. We will run together, then. Unless we sleep instead.
“Sleep?” Perrin said. “What of the Last Hunt?”
It comes, Hopper agreed. If Shadowkiller falls to the storm, all will sleep forever. If he lives, then we will hunt together. You and us.
Hopper invites him to run, and then mocks him for trying to do so on two legs. Perrin tells him he has to keep control from the wolf, but Hopper does not understand. Hopper again urges Perrin to hunt with him, but Perrin tells him he can’t; he wants to learn about this place, and if Hopper won’t teach him he’ll find someone else who will.
You don’t want to run. But you look for wolves. Why are you so difficult, cub? Hopper sat in front of him in the grass.
Perrin tries to leap away, only to find Hopper instantly in front of him each time. Hopper warns him that he is in the dream too strongly, and tells him to return once he is no longer “determined to poke [his] snout into a fire asp’s den.” Hopper then kicks Perrin out of the dream.
Faile waits for Perrin to settle in his sleep, and thinks that he has grown haunted in their two months apart, but she knows he still loves her. Perrin wakes, and tells her he didn’t sleep with Berelain; Faile tells him she knows he didn’t, and Perrin asks why she seemed jealous, then. Faile explains that a husband needs to know his wife is jealous so that he knows how much she cares for him. Perrin snorts and falls back asleep, and Faile thinks on her time as a captive in Malden, and how it had changed her – for the better, she thinks.
She had been humiliated, beaten and nearly killed. And that had given her a true understanding of what it was to be a liege lady. She actually felt a stab of guilt for the times she had lorded over Perrin, trying to force him—or others—to bend to her will. Being a noblewoman meant going first. It meant being beaten so others were not. It meant sacrificing, risking death, to protect those who depended upon you.
Perrin wakes again, and tells her he doesn’t care what happened between her and the man he saw with her during the rescue. Faile calls him an ox, and assures him she was in no danger from that sort of thing, even though she knows it is not true. She thinks of Rolan and the other Brotherless, and how they had set themselves to protect the gai’shain women from the increasingly lawless Shaido.
They hadn’t asked anything for their efforts.
Well... that wasn’t true. They had asked for much, but had demanded nothing. Rolan had always been an Aiel to her in action, if not in word. But, like Masema’s death, her relationship with Rolan was not something Perrin needed to know about.
Perrin wonders aloud what happened to Masema, and supposes his mission is a failure, since the whole point of it had been to bring Masema to Rand. Faile points out that Perrin destroyed Masema’s rabble and broke the Shaido as well as gathered valuable information on the Seanchan, and opines that the Dragon will be satisfied. Perrin mumbles about colors and not wanting to watch Rand sleeping, and something about the Last Hunt, before falling asleep again. Faile slips out of the tent and meets with Lacile, Arrela, Bain and Chiad. Chiad grimaces and reports Gaul searched the entire Shaido camp and killed twelve men to find her, and now she may have to marry him after all; she is pleased, though, that he accidentally “inherited” Bain as well, and she and Bain are evidently making Gaul’s life interesting. They give Faile a small bundle and leave. Faile, Arrela and Lacile continue to where Alliandre awaits them in the forest. Faile opens the bundle, and each of them picks out the item that had belonged to their former protector: Alliandre takes Kinhuin’s belt, Arrela takes Marthea’s veil, Lacile takes Jhoradin’s silk handkerchief, and Faile Rolan’s leather necklace. Lacile is crying for Jhoradin, which surprises Faile somewhat.
“Four people are dead,” Faile said, mouth suddenly dry. She spoke formally, for that was the best way to keep the emotion from her voice. “They protected us, even cared for us. Though they were the enemy, we mourn them. Remember, though, that they were Aiel. For an Aiel, there are far worse ends than death in combat.”
Faile remembers how she had distracted Rolan at the critical moment before Perrin killed him, and then killed Kinhuin herself, and how Lacile had killed Jhoradin. Faile thinks there had been no other way, but reflects that this only makes it more tragic.
She hadn’t loved Rolan, and she was glad that Perrin was the one who had survived the conflict. But Rolan had been an honorable man, and she felt... dirtied, somehow, that his death had been her fault.
[…]Rolan had had to die.
But the world seemed a sadder place to her for the necessity of it.
Faile lights a fire, and they burn the items to honor their protectors, in lieu of being able to give them a proper burial. Faile says that the four of them have great toh to those who died, which can never be repaid, but their memories can be honored. Lacile says there is a Brotherless gai’shain in the camp who she told of what the others did for them; Faile knows this probably means she slept with him, and chides Lacile that she cannot replace Jhoradin like that, but then thinks she has no business judging Lacile for it. Alliandre says that Kinhuin wanted her, but thinks he would have helped even if she had continued to turn him down. Arrela says Marthea hated what the Shaido did, but stayed with them out of loyalty.
Faile watched the last embers of the miniature pyre flicker out. “I think Rolan actually loved me,” she said. And that was all.
Perrin lies awake, knowing Faile is away, and thinks of the wolf dream. He is determined to learn to control the wolf inside him, and come to a decision regarding those who wanted to follow him. He thinks avoiding making decisions is what he had been doing wrong all this time, and knows he also has to decide whether he can handle letting Faile ride into danger again.
Three problems. He would face them and he would decide. But he would consider them first, because that was what he did. A man was a fool to make decisions without thinking first.
But the decision to face his problems brought him a measure of peace, and he rolled over and drifted back to sleep.
Considering my virulent hatred of the entire “Faile is captured by the Shaido” storyline, I was surprised when, the first time around, I actually choked up when reading about Faile’s memorial service for Rolan et al.
But I was even more surprised when I re-read it just now, and choked up again.
Part of this is personal, but I think part of it is also that this scene was just very well written, in my opinion. The memorial was spare and clean and simple, and didn’t overdramatize things or push it into sappiness or try to make it more than it was. And I think it was the very understated nature of it that made it so powerful. To me, anyway.
I also think it had a rather mollifying effect on me re: my opinion of Rolan and his compatriots, as well, even though I’m not sure it should. As you may recall, back in COT I was not at all enamored of the idea that we were supposed to accept Rolan as a good guy; if I remember correctly, in fact, I said (more or less) that calling the guy a hero for only stooping to sexual blackmail instead of outright assault was extremely not cool.
And I still stand by that stance on its merits… but, well. The women’s determined perception of their protectors as honorable people here did not fail to move me, nor did I miss Alliandre’s belief that Kinhuin would have helped her regardless of whether she accepted his advances or not. I still think romantically pursuing people who are functionally slaves is fucked up, but then again the entire situation was fucked up, and it certainly beat leaving them unprotected from those not so interested in romance, so… agh.
Also, this is the first time I’ve had to think about Rolan et al since they were killed in KOD, in a way which at the time I found shocking, and you know, I may have thought Rolan was a skeeze, but I certainly don’t think that warranted him the end he got. So maybe there is some element here of not wanting to speak ill of the dead (even the fictional dead), or maybe I just feel that their deaths more than expiated whatever sins I felt them guilty of.
Plus, Faile’s statement that she thought Rolan was in love with her… well, first of all, it surprised me. I don’t know why I never quite thought of Rolan’s regard for Faile in such terms, but I didn’t. I thought that he liked her, and found her intriguing, and of course that he wanted her sexually, but love, well, that’s… a little different, if true, and I have no reason to think Faile is wrong.
And maybe I’m just a giant sap, but I found that very… poignant. Or, to be honest, I found it heartbreaking, really, for both Rolan himself, for being willing to die for a woman he knew didn’t return his feelings, and for Faile, who feels (rightly) that she was complicit in Rolan’s death even though Perrin swung the hammer. How must it feel to know you’ve helped kill a guy who was in love with you, even if you didn’t love him back?
I’m guessing, pretty darn shitty. However necessary his death may have been.
So, yeah. I don’t know if that makes me a big hypocrite or what, but I don’t really think so. And anyway, I feel what I feel, and I reserve the right to change my mind when new info (new to me, anyway) is presented. And also, maybe now that I have some distance from the vortex of suck that was that entire plotline I can be a little more forgiving about it.
But the point is, the scene made me cry, and not too many things in fiction (outside of gratuitous animal death and soul-crushing stupidity) make me cry, so there you have it. Well done.
Oh, and Perrin was in this chapter.
….Aaaand again I could have totally left it like that, because even with the trip to the Dreamworld nothing actually happened in Perrin’s section, at all. Which I recall originally seriously annoyed me, especially when I realized that this was the last time we were going to see him in the book.
Post-ToM, of course, this is a lot easier to understand and/or be patient with. Not to mention, ToM makes it much easier to see how much this is a set-up for everything Perrin will deal with in the next book, and not just aimless vamping, which is definitely what it struck me as the first time I read it.
So, bye, Perrin n’ Faile! I look forward to savoring your future Awesome in ToM!
And bye, WOTers! See you possibly next week and/or in 2012! Cheers!