It’s Monday, but that is OKAY, people, for you have another Wheel of Time Re-read to help you ignore your inbox with. Today’s procrastination is The Shadow Rising, Part 4, covering Chapters 13-16.
Previous entries are interred here. Please note that there are spoilers here, and there, and everywhere; abandon all unspoiled hope, ye who click that link.
And now, an announcement before we get started:
I imagine most of you have seen the press release announcing the decision to split A Memory of Light into three volumes; if you haven’t, here, take a look.
As far as my own reaction to the news, I am honestly neither surprised nor dismayed by the decision. Personally, my shoulders are already killing me from hauling around the hardcover of TSR all over New York, and I’m kind of dreading Lord of Chaos, so the decision works for me purely from an ergonomic standpoint. But truly, guys, this will make the final product better from a quality point of view as well. You rush a miracle, you know what you get? Rotten miracles. The same holds true of books.
But beyond that, the news has also caused me to reach a decision regarding the re-read, as well. When originally conceived, the idea behind this blog series had been to complete a readthrough of all eleven books in time for the release of the final book in the fall. The result has been the frankly rather punishing pace you’ve seen here for the first few books, plus the knowledge that I would not be able to include New Spring for lack of time. But now that we know that the story will not be finished after all in November… well, it seems kind of silly to keep to that schedule, especially since I was uncertain of being able to reach the finish line on time anyway.
You may have already noticed that the pace has slowed, though that truly was more due to flu and flu-recovery and dammit-stop-sniffling-already considerations than anything else, but I think I will keep to the slower tempo. So for now, there will still be three posts a week, but less material will be covered per post; we’ll try this pace for a while and see how it works.
I think this is a good thing all around; it means I can include New Spring, for one thing, and it also means I can devote more time to the commentary for each chapter, and hopefully even have more time to participate in the comments with you guys, which would be awful nice. It also means I might possibly be able to participate in extracurricular activities again, like seeing my friends and, you know, sleeping and stuff. That would be rather awesome. Not to mention, there are some very cool side-ish projects that Tor.com and I are cooking up that now I can take more time for, which is also of the Good.
As far as the new books themselves, they of course will be included in the re-read and commentary, and I’ll probably do a separate review of my own of the whole first volume when it comes out (since we will not be up to it in the re-read anymore when it is released).
So there you have it; I deem it Good, and hope you will too.
In other news, speaking of cool side-ish projects, keep an eye on Tor.com this week for details on one I’ve got coming up, for which I need y’all’s input. That should be going up in the next couple of days. CONSTANT VIGILANCE, people!
Okay, enough blathering, back to business. On with the show!
Chapter 13: Rumors
Mat sits alone in a dark corner of the busy tavern, ignoring the dice games and the pretty serving maids, sketching idly in the spilled wine on the table. He flashes back to what happened in the Stone earlier. He had just killed a Gray Man, shakily sure it had been for him specifically, and turned to see a Fade standing there. He hurled a dagger:
The Fade’s black sword blurred as it knocked the dagger away, almost casually; it did not even break stride. “Time to die, Hornsounder.” Its voice was a red adder’s dry hiss, warning of death.
Mat had been sure he was about to die, when suddenly a dozen Trollocs appeared and piled into the Fade. He watched in amazement as they took the Fade down, losing more than half their number in doing so, and then trotted off without a second glance at Mat. Mat shivers, and notices what he’s sketched in the wine – an open door – and rubs it out angrily. He overhears a Lugarder talking about how Logain and Taim were much better false Dragons than this Rand al’Thor, and shakes his head, then overhears something at the next table over that stops him dead. He gets up and goes over to the table, where a Kandori merchant with a forked beard is sitting with a motley group, and says he heard the merchant say something about the Two Rivers.
Forkbeard ran a quick eye over him, the unbrushed hair, the tight expression on his face and the wine in his fist, the gleaming black boots, the green coat with its gold scrollwork, open to the waist to reveal a snowy linen shirt, but both coat and shirt heavily wrinkled. In short, the very image of a young noble sporting himself among the commoners.
Calling Mat “my Lord”, the merchant confirms it, and says he was wagering there’ll be no tabac out of the region this year, and offers to sell Mat some from his own stock. Softly, Mat asks why that would be, and the merchant replies why, because of the Whitecloaks. Mat asks, what about Whitecloaks, and the merchant detects the dangerous tone of the question. Nervously, he explains that apparently the Whitecloaks have gone into the Two Rivers to hunt the Dragon Reborn, even though that’s silly, seeing as he’s in Tear; the same rumor claims that they are looking for a man with yellow eyes. Mat leans closer and asks, who else besides that? The merchant, sweating, says no one, and offers to give Mat a complimentary cask of tabac. Mat tosses a gold crown on the table and walks off, hearing the merchant behind him tell his tablemates he thought he might get his throat slit there, for a moment. Mat leaves the tavern and runs all the way back to the Stone and to Perrin’s room, where he finds Perrin packing. He observes that Perrin’s heard, then, and Perrin says yes, and mutters things Mat doesn’t understand about Faile, and that maybe this would do as well. Mat asks if he believes the rumor; Perrin replies that it is too close to the truth for him to have much doubt. Mat asks if Rand knows, and Perrin nods, and Mat asks what he had to say about it.
Perrin paused, staring at the folded cloak in his hands. “He started muttering to himself. ‘He said he’d do it. He said he would. I should have believed him.’ Like that. It made no sense. Then he grabbed me by the collar and said he had to do ‘what they don’t expect.’ He wanted to me to understand, but I’m not certain he does himself. He didn’t seem to care whether I leave or stay. No, I take that back. I think he was relieved I’m leaving.”
Mat translates this to mean that Rand’s not going to do anything, which Mat doesn’t think much of, and asks if Perrin means to go back alone. Perrin says yes, unless Mat means to come with him, and after watching Mat agonize about this for a minute, adds that there’s no need for him to come; nothing was mentioned about Mat, after all. Mat tries to say he will go, but cannot physically get the words out. He says, doesn’t Perrin feel something holding him back, telling him reasons not to go? Perrin replies that it comes down to ta’veren, even if Mat won’t admit it, and for him, the one reason to go outweighs all the reasons to stay. Mat argues that no one in the Two Rivers would even have a clue of what the Whitecloaks were talking about if they asked about a man with yellow eyes, but Perrin counters that they know his name, and therefore his family is in danger.
“Burn me, Perrin. Burn me! I want to g-g—See? I can’t even say it, now. Like my head knows I’ll do it if I say it. I can’t even get it out in my mind!”
“Different paths. We’ve been sent down different paths before.”
“Different paths be bloodied,” Mat grunted. “I’ve had all I want of Rand, and Aes Sedai, shoving me down their bloody paths. I want to go where I want for a change, do what I want!” He turned for the door, but Perrin’s voice halted him.
“I hope your path is a happy one, Mat. The Light send you pretty girls and fools who want to gamble.”
“Oh, burn me, Perrin. The Light send you what you want, too.”
Perrin replies that he expects it will, but he doesn’t seem to mean that in a good way. He promises Mat that he will tell his family that he’s all right, and Mat leaves. Mat walks down the hallway, thinking of his dim memories of his sisters and cursing the holes in his memory, and sees Berelain walking in the opposite direction. He grins in spite of himself, and sweeps her a bow, greeting her politely; she brushes by without responding, and he straightens angrily.
“Are you deaf as well as blind, woman? I’m not a carpet to walk over, and I distinctly heard myself speak. If I pinch your bottom, you can slap my face, but until I do, I expect a civil word for a civil word!”
The First stopped dead, eyeing him in that way women had. She could have sewn him a shirt and told his weight, not to mention when he had his last bath, from that look. Then she turned away, murmuring something to herself. All he caught was “too much like me.”
Mat stares after her in indignant amazement, and then realizes that letting himself be distracted by Berelain means that in some way he’s already made up his mind about what he is going to do. He digs out a coin and flips it, then sees it is a Tar Valon mark, and it has landed with the Flame side up. He curses Aes Sedai and Rand aloud, and tosses the mark at a startled servant before storming off, calling himself a giant fool.
Berelain: Ha! Well, when you’re right, you’re right, eh?
Mat and Perrin don’t have a lot to do with each other after this point; in fact I don’t think they see each other again after this scene until… hm. Actually, wow: this is the last time they are together; Mat is already on his way to Salidar by the time Perrin rejoins Rand in Lord of Chaos, and has STILL not managed to leave the Altara area by the end of Knife of Dreams. Jeez. “Different paths”, indeed.
So, this was even more of a farewell scene than either of them knew. I am suddenly extremely interested to see what the two of them say to each other if/when they meet up again in A Memory of Light. “You’re married to the Seanchan empress?” “You’re king of Saldaea?” Hilarity ensues!
(Yes, I know Perrin’s not king of Saldaea – yet. Don’t y’all stomp on my joke.)
Chapter 14: Customs of Mayene
Perrin watches Mat leave, thinking that Mat would probably rather brain himself with a hammer than go back to the Two Rivers, and takes off his shirt carefully, mindful of the large bruise on his shoulder from fighting Trollocs earlier. He is trying to figure out how to deal with Faile when the door opens; to his surprise it is Berelain. She asks if he is going somewhere, and he bows to her and replies yes, in the morning, and she remarks that she is leaving as well. She goes on, half to herself, that she should have left days ago, but had thought she could work things out, but after the lightning today… Confused, Perrin asks why she’s telling him this, and she replies, so that he can tell the Dragon Reborn, of course. Perrin tells her to tell him herself, or send a servant; he has no time for delivering messages. She is incredulous that he is refusing, and then examines him again, and murmurs that he has striking eyes. Suddenly realizing he is shirtless, he grabs one and pulls it on. She asks where he is going, and he tells her the Two Rivers, and hints broadly that he wants to be left alone. She doesn’t move, remarking that she has need of a blacksmith in Mayene, and perhaps he would enjoy a short stay there before going home; Perrin replies firmly that he is going home, and she is going away.
Her small shrug made him look away again hastily. “Perhaps another day. I always get what I want in the end. And I think I want…” She paused, eyeing him up and down. “…ornamental ironwork. For the windows of my bedchamber.” She smiled so innocently that he felt alarm gongs sounding in his head.
It is at this juncture that Faile enters, and stops dead upon seeing Berelain in the room. Ignoring Faile, Berelain steps over to Perrin and runs a hand up his shoulder, caressing the back of his neck before he can back up. She tells him to remember that she always gets what she wants, and then exits. Perrin waits for Faile to explode, but she merely glances at the packed saddlebags on the bed and says she sees he’s heard the rumor, then, and adds that’s it’s only a rumor. He replies that yellow eyes make it more than a rumor, trying to figure out why she is so calm. She points out that it will take weeks for him to get to the Two Rivers, and he answers, not if he uses the Ways. At her disbelief at such a mad idea, he explains that he has already traveled them before, and Loial knows how to guide them through. Faile says, well, she wanted adventure, and this certainly sounds like it, and starts making plans to entice Thom along with them, so they have a gleeman to record the story. Perrin interrupts to tell her he is going alone, but she ignores him and continues planning. He repeats that he is going without her.
She bounced to her feet so fast he thought she was coming for his throat. “Do you think Berelain will go with you? Will she guard your back? Or perhaps you prefer her to sit on your lap and squeal? Tuck your shirt in, you hairy oaf! Does it have to be so dark in here? Berelain likes dim light, does she? Much good she will do you against the Children of the Light!”
Perrin opened his mouth to protest, and changed what he had been going to say. “She looks a pleasant armful, Berelain. What man wouldn’t want her on his lap?” The hurt on her face banded his chest with iron, but he made himself go on. “When I am done at home, I may go to Mayene. She asked me to come, and I might.”
Faile stares at him, then whirls and dashes out. Perrin tells the empty room that he is going home to die, to let the Whitecloaks hang him so they will not destroy his family. He tells himself this way she will not be sorry to see him go, and will be free of ta’veren and bubbles of evil and the rest of it, but wants to howl with grief.
Faile hurtles through the halls, cursing Perrin and Berelain both in her head, and soon realizes she has caught up with Berelain. Without thinking, she dashes in front of the other woman and tells her Perrin is hers, Faile’s, and Berelain is to keep her hands off him. Berelain coolly notes that funny, she didn’t see a collar on him, and says serving girls have the strangest ideas – or is it a farm girl? Enraged, Faile is about to tell her who she really is, but chokes it down; she realizes she has a knife in her hand, and tells Berelain if she touches Perrin, she will shave her bald. Faile doesn’t even see the move that Berelain uses to disarm her and fling her down; by way of explanation, Berelain remarks that Tear likes to send assassins to Mayene.
“I despise being attacked, farmgirl, so this is what I will do. I will take the blacksmith away from you and keep him as a pet for as long as he amuses me. Ogier’s oath on it, farmgirl.”
Berelain adds that once she is finished with him, Faile can have him back – if he still wants her by then, of course. Faile gets to her feet, drawing another knife, and Berelain takes a defensive stance, but before they can engage, Rhuarc appears and snatches both knives away, demanding to know whether there wasn’t already enough blood tonight. Faile tries to punch him in the ribs, and Rhuarc swiftly grabs her in an armlock, immobilizing her. He tells Berelain to go to her room and stay there until morning; she will get no breakfast. Berelain protests that he has no right to order her about, and Rhuarc tells her to go, or he will repeat their first “talk”, right here in the hall.
Berelain’s face went white and red by turns. “Very well,” she said stiffly. “If you insist, I will perhaps—”
“I did not propose a discussion. If I can still see you when I have counted three… One.”
With a gasp, Berelain hiked her skirts and ran. She even managed to sway doing that.
Faile thinks seeing that was worth getting her arm almost dislocated, until Rhuarc tucks her knives into his own belt, and tells her that they forfeit; Berelain got her punishment, and this is Faile’s. She glares, but decides to let it go, and asks what “first talk” he had with Berelain; Rhuarc replies that is between him and Berelain. He tells her she is not to go near Berelain again; he does not believe Berelain started this, for “that one’s weapons are not knives.” If she disobeys, they will both be put to hauling manure. He leaves, and Faile thinks grudgingly that he reminds her of her father. She recalls that Berelain had said something about an “Ogier’s Oath”, and that the notion that an Ogier would break an oath was a contradiction in terms. She suddenly laughs to herself, and says she will see about that.
Excuse me, I have to go stomp around the room for a minute. Okay, I’m back.
EVERYONE IN THIS CHAPTER IS AN IDIOT.
Except Rhuarc, of course. Rhuarc is the bomb.
Perrin: you idiot. Way to belittle the supposed love of your life’s ability to cope, genius. What – WHAT – did I tell you people about the “driving away people for their own goooood” bullshit? Did I not tell you that it always, always, ALWAYS makes everything ten times worse? Why does no one ever listen to me? Do you know what I am about to have to suffer through because you are such a damn misplaced-nobility self-sacrificing emo fool? Smackings for you!
Faile: you idiot. Way to dig your own hole there, you ninny. You realize it is your fault that Berelain is now going to be a thorn in your side for basically forever, right? I understand that you’re young and hurt and way more insecure than you let on, but I refuse to believe that you grew up in a noble court and yet do not understand how Mean Girls operate! You do not let Mean Girls know they’ve gotten to you, and you definitely never let them know the best way they can hurt you, because they will take it. Trust me, I went to high school, which socially is virtually identical to a corrupt aristocracy except the dancing sucks, so I know. You should have known too. Smackings for you!
Berelain: you id- well, no, you’re not an idiot, you’re a Mean Girl. And look, I would not appreciate being attacked by a jealousy-crazed knife-wielding chick either, and I’m secretly kind of impressed at the judo throw skillz, and I can’t even really question (or at least I can’t really be surprised) that you would want revenge on Faile, but you know, Perrin never did a damn thing to you. And actually? He’s not your property to be disposed of, either. Not to mention, you totally baited Faile into acting like a jealousy-crazed knife-wielding chick in the first place, and you damn well knew it, too. As the only person in this now-triangle (*headdesk**headdesk*) with any real maturity or savvy in romantic dealings, you are pretty much the most seriously uncool of the three of them for getting involved in it. And you were so awesome just a chapter ago! For shame. Smackings for you!
ARGH. I need a martini.
Okay, a Mat chapter is next. Thank GOD.
Chapter 15: Into the Doorway
Mat heads down into the Great Hold, thinking of his promise to Egwene, that he would not go down here unless his life depended on it, and thinks, well, it does. He finds the redstone doorframe, and hesitates a long moment before finally stepping through.
He seemed to be stepping through a sheet of brilliant white light, infinitely bright, infinitely thick. For a moment that lasted forever, he was blind; a roaring filled his ears, all the sounds of the world gathered together at once. For just the length of one measureless step.
He stares, for now he is standing in a large circular hall with strange spiraled yellow columns and light stands that glow without any kind of fire that Mat can see. A voice behind him speaks, and Mat whirls, drawing a knife:
“A long time, yet the seekers come again for answers. The questioners come once more.” A shape moved, back among the columns; a man, Mat thought. “Good. You have brought no lamps, no torches, as the agreement was, and is, and ever will be. You have no iron? No instruments of music?”
Mat sees the speaker, who seems too thin and elongated to be human, with black slit-pupiled eyes and skin that reminds Mat of a snake. He asks again whether Mat has iron or musical instruments, and Mat wonders what he thinks the knife is, but answers no. He starts to ask a question, then catches himself and says that he has come for true answers. The man – or whatever – smiles and beckons him to follow. Skin crawling, Mat obeys, and observes as they walk through the place that there is not a single straight line anywhere; everything is curves or spirals or arches. Through the windows he sees a strange dim landscape that does not seem to follow the normal rules; he sees three silvery spires curving toward another over and over again, each time in a different location even though the perspective should not have changed. Finally his guide brings him to a large archway and tells him he will find his answers within, and inhales at him with his mouth gaping open. Mat frowns and enters, finding a room with three spiraled pedestals in it, on top of which is perched three snake-people, two female and one male. They speak together, telling him to enter and ask according to the agreement. Careful to say nothing that is a question, Mat explains his situation to them, and then asks if he should go home to help his people. They study the air above his head, and then one of the females tells him he must go to Rhuidean. A bell tolls, and the other woman says he is another; the strain, the strain. The first woman tells the other two there is still time, and exhorts Mat to ask his questions. Mat glares at them, forgetting the questions he had intended to ask.
“Rhuidean!” he barked. “The Light burn my bones to ash if I want to go Rhuidean! And my blood on the ground if I will! Why should I? You are not answering my questions. You are supposed to answer, not hand me riddles!”
The woman tells him if he does not go to Rhuidean, he will die. The bell tolls again, and the three talk of the savor, and the strain growing too great, and urge him to ask his last question. Mat growls and asks why will he die if he doesn’t go to Rhuidean?
The man cut him off and spoke hurriedly. “You will have sidestepped the thread of fate, left your fate to drift on the winds of time, and you will be killed by those who do not want that fate fulfilled. Now, go. You must go! Quickly!”
The guide appears and tries to make Mat leave, but he shakes free and yells that they have tricked him from the answers he wanted, and he will not go until they tell him what fate they are talking about. Now the room itself is shaking, and a dozen more snake-men appear and try to wrestle him from the room, but Mat fights, demanding again what fate?
The three were on their feet atop the pedestals, and he could not tell which shrieked which answer.
“To marry the Daughter of the Nine Moons!”
“To die and live again, and live once more a part of what was!”
“To give up half the light of the world to save the world!”
Together they howled like steam escaping under pressure. “Go to Rhuidean, son of battles! Go to Rhuidean, trickster! Go, gambler! Go!”
The men pick him up bodily and carry him out despite his struggles and cursing, and haul him quickly to the twisted doorway and cast him through. He flies into crates and trash in the Great Hold, and jumps up, shouting curses, and tries to reenter, but stepping through only puts him back in the basement. He glares at the doorway, thinking about what they had said, and telling himself he doesn’t believe a word of it. Then a boot appears in front of the doorway, followed by the rest of Rand, backing out with his sword of fire in front of him. He sighs in relief once clear and lets the sword disappear, then jumps when he sees Mat. He asks if Mat went through, too, and Mat answers he did, and thinks they’re a bunch of bloody liars that make him think of snakes. Rand doesn’t think they are liars, and comments they were afraid of his sword and hid their eyes from it. Rand asks if Mat got his answers, and Mat replies, nothing that made sense. Then Moiraine steps out of the doorway, sees them, and hisses, no wonder; one ta’veren is bad enough, but two at once might have torn the connection and trapped them all there. She asks if Perrin is in there, too, and Mat tells her no. Furiously, she asks which of “them” told Rand about this, she’ll peel their hides; Rand answers calmly he read it in a book. Moiraine turns to Mat, who lies yeah, books. Moiraine turns back to Rand and asks about his answers; Rand replies that they are his, but remarks that it wasn’t easy, as even the interpreter spoke so strangely he could hardly follow. Moiraine tells him they use the Old Tongue for their dealings with men, and asks Mat if he understood his interpreter.
He had to work moisture back into his mouth. “The Old Tongue? Is that what it was? They didn’t give me one. In fact, I never got to ask any questions. That bell started shaking the walls down, and they hustled me out like I was tracking cow manure on the rugs.” She was still staring, her eyes still digging into his head. She knew about the Old Tongue slipping out of him, sometimes.
He asks what the snakes get out of this deal, anyway, and Moiraine answers that they rummage through your emotions and experiences while you’re there, and that’s why your skin crawls; she definitely feels the need to bathe, now. Rand asks, but the answers are true, right? Moiraine says yes; that world is folded in strange ways, that perhaps let them read the thread of a life, but the answers are often obscure. She offers to help Rand interpret his answers, but her eyes flick to Mat, too, and Mat inwardly curses at the knowledge that she does not believe him. Rand smiles, and asks if she will tell him her questions and answers, too, and she gives him a long look and then exits. Mat and Rand look at each for a moment.
“Did you find out what you wanted?” Rand asked finally.
Neither of them answer the other, and Mat finally asks if Rand really means to leave the Two Rivers to the Whitecloaks; pained, Rand answers that Perrin will do what he has to save it, and meanwhile Rand will do what he has to. He leaves, and Mat wonders what he is supposed to do now.
What the Snakes say to Mat: “Go to Rhuidean, son of battles! Go to Rhuidean, trickster! Go, gambler! Go!” remains one of my favorite lines in the entire series, if not the favorite. Another of the “gave me chills” moments, definitely. Who doesn’t love a self-realization moment that names the character an archetype? Or a whole set of them?
I didn’t even notice, the first time, how Mat’s speech patterns changed once he was inside talking to the snakes (or the Aelfinn, as we finally learn in the freaking ninth book which is which), so I didn’t initially realize that he was speaking the Old Tongue until Moiraine brought up interpreters afterward. Which was so cool. Brilliant chapter all around.
Also, random detail I only noticed on this readthrough was the way Jordan describes the snakes inhaling at Mat, which reminded me of what I learned from some random source about snakes, which is that their olfactory organs are actually in their mouths. So, apparently they smell your memories. Which, yick.
I also remember being incredibly annoyed that we don’t find out what Rand and Moiraine’s answers (or questions) were. In fact, we never do find out what Moiraine’s questions were, though most people are pretty certain that at least one of them had something to do with Thom (as we will see in Chapter 17).
And Rand’s questions? Well, how about I just quote you this neat FAQ-thingy I found?
[LOC: 26, Connecting Lines, 373]
Rand’s three questions to the Aelfinn (the Snakes):
He [Rand] knew he had a chance to live, if a seemingly impossible one. If you would live, you must die.
Rand thinks about the Aelfinn’s answer again in [WH: 25, Bonds, 483]:
He had been told by those he had to believe. To live, you must die.
The only other specific information we have about Rand’s encounter with the Finn is his comment to Mat that the Snakes never mentioned Rhuidean to him [TSR: 24, Rhuidean, 274]. So we’re never told explicitly what the questions are, but over the course of the books since TSR they can be logically deduced:
Q: How do I cleanse saidin?
A: [Something about the Choedan Kal, perhaps, or Shadar Logoth, or both.]
Q: How do I survive [or is there a way for me to survive] Tarmon Gai’don?
A: “To live, you must die.”
Q: Should I go home to the Two Rivers? [to protect it from Fain]
A: [Apparently, “No.”]
The second answer has a number of possible meanings. Maybe it means “if you would live future lives, you must die (physically) in this one” (cf. LTT’s wanting to die for good, never be spun out again.[LOC: 18, A Taste of Solitude, 299]). Or, Rand will die, but will get resurrected. Or, one of Rand and LTT will die and one will not. Or, Rand will seemingly die, but won’t really.
Gosh, that FAQ-thingy is neat.
Chapter 16: Leavetakings
Perrin wakes from dreams of being hanged by the Whitecloaks, while Faile either dies trying to save him or watches smiling, and dresses and heads to Loial’s room. He notes that Loial’s room is filled with flowers, and that the Ogier is injured; he asks about it, but Loial merely remarks that he hopes he got all the notes about the fight down correctly. Then Faile pops up from behind a bank of flowers and notes that Loial is a hero; Perrin jumps, and observes that the flowers had masked her scent. She goes on that during the attack Loial had gathered all the children he could find in a room and defended them from the Trollocs; that’s why all the flowers, gifts from the women of the Stone whose children he had saved. Loial’s ears twitch wildly, and he says it was nothing. Perrin asks if Loial’s heard from his mother, and Loial tells him no, but he saw another Ogier from his stedding in town yesterday, so it cannot be long before she knows he is here. The Ogier had told Loial that he is considered a runaway, and his mother already has someone picked out for him to marry. Perrin tells Loial that he needs to go to the Two Rivers, and his mother surely wouldn’t find him there; Loial admits that is true, but is loath to leave Rand’s vicinity, seeing as he is writing the story of the Dragon Reborn. Perrin explains to him what is going on with the Whitecloaks, and that he needs Loial to guide him through the Ways to the Waygate at Manetheren. Loial looks reluctant, but says he supposes one more time will not kill him.
Faile cleared her throat delicately. “Are you not forgetting something, Loial? You promised to take me into the Ways whenever I asked, and before you took anyone else.”
Loial concedes this, and says she can come with Perrin and him, but Perrin counters that Faile will not be coming; Faile points out that Loial swore, and overrides his protests.
“She tricked you, Loial.” Perrin wondered if they could hear his teeth grinding. “She deliberately tricked you.”
Red stained Faile’s cheeks, but she still had the nerve to say, “Only because I had to, Loial. Only because a fool man thinks he can order my life to suit himself. I’d not have done it, otherwise. You must believe that.”
Faile says she wants to see the Two Rivers, as it happens, and Loial perks up and says that means Perrin can come after all, but Faile counters, only if he asks permission first. Perrin refuses, and says he will follow behind them, not part of their party, but he will not ask. Worried, Loial tells him that’s a dangerous idea; if he gets lost in the Ways he will never find his way out again. Loial pleads with both of them to relent one way or the other, but neither Perrin nor Faile will budge. Perrin goes to leave, and Faile shouts after him that he’d better be ready to go in two hours or she will leave him behind. Outside Loial’s room, Perrin runs into Gaul, who says he heard from Rand al’Thor that Perrin was traveling to the Two Rivers; Gaul thinks he spoke to others as well, but does not know if any others would be willing to come. Perrin is stunned at the idea that he might have Aiel with him, and tells Gaul that they will leaving for the Ways in a few hours. Gaul blinks, but merely comments that death comes for all men.
The girls are in Nynaeve’s room, dividing up the gold Moiraine had given them while Egwene and Nynaeve comfort Elayne over Rand. Elayne thinks that he seemed glad she was going, and after she gave him that letter that laid her heart out to him. Then the door crashes open to reveal Lan, staring daggers at Nynaeve. He says that she let him believe she was returning to Tar Valon, and Nynaeve answers she never said so in so many words. Lan roars at her not to bandy words, but Nynaeve is serene. He goes on that Tanchico is no place for half-trained Accepted, and he will not let her go; Nynaeve lightly asks if he means to question both Moiraine and the Amyrlin Seat, then. Lan trembles, and hesitantly suggests that she will need someone with her in Tanchico; he could protect her there. Elayne cannot believe what he is implying, and Nynaeve replies that his place is with Moiraine; Lan visibly struggles with this, and Nynaeve tells him sharply that he will stay with Moiraine, and shows him the Amyrlin’s letter as backup. Lan observes dangerously that she disposes with his oaths very neatly, and Nynaeve returns that he is very full of himself to think it is only to do with him.
“Full of myself, Nynaeve al’Meara? I am full of myself?” Lan moved so quickly toward Nynaeve that Elayne very nearly wrapped him in flows of Air before she could think. One moment Nynaeve was standing there, with just time to gape at the tall man sweeping toward her; the next her shoes were dangling a foot off the floor and she was being quite thoroughly kissed. At first she kicked his shins and hammered him with her fists and made sounds of frantic, furious protest, but her kicks slowed and stopped, and then she was holding on to his shoulders and not protesting at all.
Egwene looks away, embarrassed, but Elayne watches with interest, wondering if that’s how she and Rand looked, and then is irritated all over again. She thinks there should be time to write another letter to him before she leaves. Lan finally puts Nynaeve down, and ignores her half-hearted protests against being manhandled:
“You have made a place in my heart where I thought there was no room for anything else. You have made flowers grow where I cultivated dust and stones. Remember this, on this journey you insist on making. If you die, I will not survive you long.” He gave Nynaeve one of his rare smiles. If it did not exactly soften his face, at least it made it less hard.
He adds that Nynaeve should remember he is not always so easily commanded, and bows elegantly before taking his leave. Nynaeve frowns after him, and Egwene asks why Nynaeve did not encourage him to leave Moiraine; she thought that was what Nynaeve wanted. Nynaeve replies that she will not have a broken oath between them, and she and Lan will find some other way to make it work. They all hug each other goodbye tearfully, and Elayne decides she will find time to write that second letter after all.
Poor Loial, caught between a rock and a hard place – or an idiot and an idiot, which is much the same thing. I don’t blame Perrin for refusing to ask permission – that sure as hell would have stuck in my craw – I just blame him for creating the situation in the first place. Although, I suppose he was aware that telling Faile the truth would not have made her any less determined to go; quite the opposite, actually. So I guess he was kind of screwed either way, since he insists on being all martyred and emo rather than determined to at least try to fight and, I don’t know, actually working with Faile. But of course that would be logical, and God knows we can’t have that.
I think the funniest thing about the scene with Lan and Nynaeve is how Egwene turns away when they start macking, but Elayne totally ogles them the whole time; for some reason I find that image hilarious. Poor Lan; he’s got something of his own rock and hard place to deal with, too. Fortunately he’s got the best poetry, so that’s all right. Also, I really don’t know if Jordan planned ahead that far, but Lan’s comment about not always being so easily commanded striked me as awfully like foreshadowing of the terms of their eventual marriage by the Sea Folk (whoever obeys in public commands in private).
On the letters: I think part of the problem here is that we didn’t see the farewell scene between Elayne and Rand, and therefore only have her word for how Rand behaved during it. Jordan’s POV characters are not unreliable narrators in the traditional sense, but he definitely makes sure that what they report is highly influenced by their own particular idiosyncrasies and prejudices, and therefore must generally be taken with a grain of salt – especially when it comes to romantic affairs. Thus, there’s really no way to know how out of whack with reality Elayne’s view of Rand’s behavior might be, though we can probably take it as read that he didn’t act nearly as badly as she thinks he did.
That said, I suppose I could rail at Elayne for not understanding that his relief at her leaving had nothing to do with her, per se, but the amazing thing about being young and in love is how everything is always about the relationship, whether it is or not. Young people are kind of stupid that way. Now where’s my cane? And get off my lawn!
And here we say buh-bye. Come back Wednesday for Chapters 17-19, and remember to watch out for my side-project post. Till then!