So, like, hi and stuff: welcome to another Wheel of Time Re-read!
Today’s entry covers Chapters 5 and 6 of Winter’s Heart, featuring INCANDESCENT RAGE and, uh, not a great deal else. Yay?
Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index is here, in which you can find links to news, reviews, and all manner of information regarding the newest release, The Gathering Storm, and for WOT-related stuff in general.
This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels, up to and including Book 12, The Gathering Storm. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
And with that scintillating endorsement, on with the post!
Chapter 5: Flags
Young Bull runs across the plains, searching for his falcon. Hopper appears, and tells Young Bull that his she is not here, and he is too strongly in the Wolf Dream; he will die if he does not go back to his body. Young Bull ignores him, and Hopper knocks him down. Snarling, Young Bull lunges for Hopper’s throat, but Hopper jumps into the air, and Young Bull goes down again.
Hear me, cub! Hopper thought at him fiercely. Your mind is twisted with fear! She is not here, and you will die if you remain longer. Find her in the waking world. You can only find her there. Go back, and find her!
Perrin jolts awake, horrified that he just tried to kill Hopper in the Wolf Dream, where such a death would be final. He realizes he is in Berelain’s tent, and asks her if they’ve found Faile yet. Berelain is surprised he knows she is there (the tent would be dark to anyone else), but answers no; Perrin’s scouts have not returned, and Berelain’s have been found murdered. She opines that Arganda is a fool for also sending out patrols. Perrin realizes he is naked under the covers, and demands an explanation. Berelain tells him he and Tallanvor almost froze to death on the ridge, and no one but her had the nerve to approach him, as he “snarled like a wolf” at anyone who did. Berelain got him back here and got Annoura to Heal him, otherwise he would have lost toes to frostbite.
“She… She seemed afraid you might die even after she Healed you. You slept like a man already dead. She said you almost felt like someone who had lost his soul, cold no matter how many blankets were piled on you. I felt it, as well, when I touched you.”
Tamping down anger, Perrin observes that the Asha’man or Masuri or Seonid could have done the same, and Berelain asks why it matters. Perrin finds this extremely disingenuous of her, and requests his clothes. She points them out to him, and adds that she wants him to know that no one wants Faile to be alive more than she; Perrin thinks disgustedly that she even manages to smell honest, and tells her he needs food. She is disgusted with him in turn, but leaves, and Perrin struggles to find enough strength to put his clothes on. She returns before he finishes, but he refuses to hurry because she is watching, and she tells him food is on the way.
She sighed softly. “Perrin, I know you are hurting. There are things you might want to say that you can’t to another man. I can’t see you crying on Lini’s shoulder, so I offer mine. We can call a truce until Faile is found.”
“A truce?” he said, carefully bending to tug on a boot. Carefully so he did not fall over. Stout wool stockings and thick leather soles would have his feet warm soon enough. “Why do we need a truce?” She was silent while he donned the other boot and folded the turndowns below his knees, not speaking until he had done up the laces of his shirt and was stuffing it into his breeches.
“Very well, Perrin. If that is how you want it.” Whatever that was supposed to mean, she sounded very determined. Suddenly he wondered whether his nose had failed him. Her scent was affronted, of all things! When he looked at her, though, she wore a faint smile. On the other hand, those big eyes held a glint of anger.
She tells him that Masema had arrived at dawn, but with three or four thousand men instead of the hundred he’d agreed upon, which infuriates Perrin, but then goes on to tell him that Faile’s eyes-and-ears have found out that Masema has been meeting with Seanchan. She also compliments him on his misdirection re: Faile’s retainers, making Berelain think his “dried-up” secretary was his real spymaster, and Perrin tries not to stare in shock. Berelain also tells him her scouts were not killed by Aiel, either, unless Aiel have started using crossbows and axes; Perrin is angered that she didn’t mention this before now, and she laughs and replies she would have to “strip herself naked” to reveal any more. Perrin growls in disgust.
Eyeing him thoughtfully, she ran a fingertip along her lower lip. “Despite what you may have heard, you will be only the third man to share my bed.” Her eyes were… smoky… yet she might have been saying he was the third man she had spoken to that day. Her scent… The only thing that came to mind was a wolf eyeing a deer caught in brambles. “The other two were politics. You will be pleasure. In more ways than one,” she finished with a surprising touch of bite.
Perrin gapes at her. Berelain’s maid Rosene enters with food, having obviously overheard this, and though he is starving Perrin leaves without another word. She calls after him to “remember discretion,” loudly, and Perrin winces. Outside, Perrin realizes he has no idea where Masema’s men are, and goes over to where Berelain’s two maids and her two thiefcatchers are camping to ask directions. The thiefcatchers leave without a word to him, and the maids giggle vacuously and give him and Berelain’s tent significant glances; Perrin doesn’t know whether to “blush or howl.” Finally they wave him vaguely southeast, and Perrin stalks off to his own section of the camp to find that none of his scouts have returned. He contemplates the eagle and wolfhead banners, and thinks of the ruse Faile had suggested they were to throw off observers from his real purpose, and how he had planned to use them the same way with Masema.
Manetheren’s borders had run almost to where Murandy now stood, and with luck, he could have been into Andor, where Rand had a firm grip, before having to give up the deception. That was changed, now, and he knew the price of changing. A very large price. He was prepared to pay, only it would not be he who paid. He would have nightmares about it, though.
FLAMES. FLAMES, ON THE SIDE OF MY FACE.
I cannot even deal with how much this makes me want to flail in metaphorical rage. And I hate it when I have to flail, you guys! It is not fun for anyone involved, I assure you! Especially if you happen to walk within arm’s reach!
Agh. Okay, I am marginally in control now. MAYBE.
So, Berelain, flames, rage, flail, yes. To pull this bullshit now, of all goddamn times…
…Although, I suppose it is possible to look at this scene from Berelain’s perspective, and have quite a different view of Perrin than the super-omniscient one that we as readers enjoy. (Or, “have,” if not actually always “enjoy,” but anyway.) The issue of people continually overestimating Perrin’s skill in the Great Game is, after all, a knife that can cut both ways.
By which I mean, we know that Perrin is just being a giant clueless schmuck here, but if Berelain is under the impression that he is this very savvy political player, as seems to be indicated by her admiration of his “misdirection” re: Faile’s retainers, then I suppose it is quite possible for her to conclude that he is actually just fucking with her. And, I suppose, if I were her that would kind of piss me off, and make me want to retaliate.
I would like to think that if I were in this situation I would still not stoop so very goddamn low as she just did, of course. But—I suppose—acknowledging that, unlike us, Berelain does not have a magical window into the big dumb lunkness that is Perrin’s brain maybe gives her a tiny bit of an excuse.
Not a very BIG one, mind you. But a little bit.
Also, bad Perrin, being mean to Hopper! Jeez, with the pushing away from the wolves—or, to put it another way, from the one element that makes most of Perrin’s storylines awesome.
Bah. Moving on.
This is mostly a moot point by now, but I recall that Annoura (and Berelain’s) observations here about being able to tell Perrin’s soul wasn’t in residence in his body served back in the day to debunk a major Theory of Weirdness about Verin (Point #8 on this page). More parenthetically, one wonders how Randlandians differentiate soullessness from, say, shock or hypothermia, but whatever.
Chapter 6: The Scent of Madness
Perrin finds Dannil, and notes that the Two Rivers men avoid his eyes, he assumes because they are not sure what to say to his grief over Faile. Dannil confirms sourly that Masema’s men are gathering a couple of miles to the southeast, and that the lot of them look like they’d “skin their own mothers.” Perrin tells them to remember that that’s literally true, and tells them to make preparations to ride; they’re going to go overland until Perrin has a better idea of where he’s going, then have Grady or Neald make a gateway. Dannil knuckles his forehead and “Lord Perrins” him, as does Kenly Maerin, and Perrin grouses to himself about that until Gill approaches to tell him that Tallanvor has gone off on his own, claiming that he had permission from Perrin to do so. Perrin thinks him a fool even while wishing he was going with him, and lies to Gill that he’d given Tallanvor permission. He comments that Gill seems to want to go too, and Gill replies that he is “very fond” of Maighdin, though not like Tallanvor is; he smells vexed, and Perrin sighs and says he understands. Then he smells a very angry Lini behind him, and assures her that she’ll hear as soon as he does before asking for something to eat.
“Everyone’s eaten long since,” she snapped. “The scraps are gone, and the kettles cleaned and stored away. Sup from too many dishes, and you deserve a bellyache that’ll split you open. Especially when they’re not your dishes.” Trailing off into dissatisfied mutters, she scowled at him a moment longer before stalking away, glaring at the world.
Staring, Perrin wonders aloud what that was about, and Gill hems and haws and finally stammers that Lini went over to the Mayener camp this morning, and talked to one of Berelain’s maids, and… Perrin snarls at him that all he did was sleep in Berelain’s tent, and to tell Lini that; Gill agrees nervously and escapes, and Perrin is sure he isn’t going to say anything to Lini. Perrin thinks that no doubt this rumor is already all over camp, and suddenly the men avoiding his eyes earlier appears in a different light. He snaps meanly at Kenly when Kenly brings his horse, and then stands there with his head down until a delegation of Faile’s “young fools” approaches him, smelling angry and sulky. In the lead, Selande scowls at him and wants to know if they will get their horses back now. Perrin retorts that Aiel walk, or they can ride on the carts, and demands to know when they started spying for Faile, accusing them of being responsible for getting Faile kidnapped, which he knows even as he says it makes no sense. Selande refutes this furiously, declaring that they would all die for the Lady Faile; Perrin tells them they can have their horses back if they promise not to do anything “rash,” and let him decide how to rescue Faile when they find her, or he’ll “tie them in knots.” Selande scowls some more, but agrees; Perrin semi-apologizes in a sidewise way for his accusation, but they only glower at him and march off. An alarm goes up that Aiel are approaching, and Perrin snaps at everyone to relax; they are all Maidens and leading Alliandre’s horse, with three more mounted men (Seonid and Masuri’s Warders).
“I can barely make out they’re Aiel,” Dannil muttered, giving him a sidelong look. They all took it for granted that his eyes were good, even took pride in it—or used to—but he tried to keep them from knowing how good. Right then, he did not care, though.
He rides out to meet them, dreading what they have to tell him. Sulin smiles at him, and tells him Faile lives; as proof she gives him Faile’s dress, which has been sliced open but has no blood scent on it. Sulin goes on that from what they found, all the men in the party were killed, but Alliandre Kigarin, Maighdin Dorlain, Lacile Aldorwin, Arrela Shiego, and “two more” (meaning Bain and Chiad) have been taken gai’shain, which goes against custom but means they are alive. Shaking, Perrin repeats that they’ve only taken women, and another Maiden, Elienda, replies in shock that it’s not like that, and she’s sure they will be well-treated as long as they are meek. Perrin considers the odds of Faile pulling off “meek,” and asks which way they are going; Sulin replies south-southeast, and shows him the arrows they recovered at the scene, which indicate far too many Shaido than should be here, plus some from other clans.
They should all be bottled up in Kinslayer’s Dagger, five hundred leagues distant. But if some of their Wise Ones had learned to Travel… Maybe even one of the Forsaken… Light, he was rambling like a fool—what would the Forsaken have to do with this?—rambling when he had to think. His brain felt as weary as the rest of him. “The others are men who wouldn’t accept Rand as the Car’a’carn.” Those cursed colors flashed in his head. He had no time for anything but Faile. “They joined the Shaido.”
He asks how many Sulin thinks there are, and she shows him a doll which she says that Elyas said he smelled under the snow (to her startlement), and that he and Jondyn had found traces of the passage of a great many carts, which means an entire sept, possibly more than one. Each sept can have upwards of a thousand spears, and Sulin thinks the ones who took Faile are heading to meet them. Perrin considers the odds of meeting a thousand or more Aiel spears with his two thousand men, and tells Sulin they will head south. Sulin stops him to add that Elyas also found traces that indicate five to ten thousand armed cavalry are also heading south, and some of the tracks are clawed, and indicate no creature they are familiar with. Perrin thinks, so there are Seanchan too, and possibly Whitecloaks, too, from Balwer’s information, and repeats that they go south. They head back to the camp, Perrin trying unsuccessfully to clear his head, and gives Dannil et al the news, which they take stoically. He tells them they’ll be Traveling forty miles due south, and sends Neald to find Elyas and the scouts still out and tell them what’s happening, warning him to remember he can’t take on a dozen or more Wise Ones; Neald nods and leaves. Then Perrin announces that he needs to see Masema, and Dannil doesn’t think he should go, warning him that some of Masema’s men consider Perrin Shadowspawn, because of his eyes. The debate becomes moot when Masema himself appears, flanked by a hundred or so of his followers. They approach to within a few paces before Masema announces that he is here now, and that those who follow the Dragon Reborn (“the Light illumine his name!”) refused to be left behind, and he could not demand it of them.
Perrin saw a tide of flame rolling across Amadicia into Altara and perhaps beyond, leaving death and devastation behind. He took a deep breath, sucking cold into his lungs. Faile was more important than anything. Anything! If he burned for it, then he burned. “Take your men east.” He was shocked at how steady his voice was. “I will catch up when I can. My wife has been kidnapped by Aiel, and I’m heading south to get her back.” For once, he saw Masema surprised.
Masema considers, madness filling his scent, and then declares that he will accompany Perrin, as killing Aiel savages is “doing the Light’s work.” Perrin lies that he appreciates the offer, but he will be Traveling, and he knows how Masema feels about that. Masema’s men glare and mutter “Shadowspawn” at Perrin, but Masema only mutters that he (meaning Rand) would be upset if anything happened to Perrin’s wife, and tells Perrin that Masema will make an exception re: Traveling, just this once.
He spoke calmly—calmly for him—but his deep-set eyes were dark fire, his face contorted with unknowing rage.
Perrin opened his mouth, then closed it without speaking. The sun might as well rise in the west as Masema say what he just had. Suddenly Perrin thought that Faile might be safer with the Shaido than he was here and now.
There, that’s done.
Interestingly enough, I have recently been watching (for the first time) the first season of Veronica Mars, and no this is not a non sequitur.
It’s a high school show (with a pretty interesting twist), and one of the dominant themes of the show (at least in the first season, please do not spoil me for later ones, or the end of the first one) is the way malicious rumors, deliberate misinformation, and indiscreet gossip can utterly ruin someone’s life, or at least change it irrevocably. So I hope you can see the relevance here to this chapter of WOT.
Vicious gossip is something of a trigger for me; few things can infuriate me more than seeing someone I care about get torn down and wounded through people’s gleeful readiness to believe the absolute worst interpretation of any given situation. I hardly think I am alone in this sentiment, but wow was I ready to smack Lini in the face for just buying that crap, hook, line, and sinker.
…Even while acknowledging that, all things considered, why shouldn’t she buy it? She’s known Perrin for what, a month? And he’s been pretty damn scary and non-squidgy for most of that time, to boot. So why would she have any reason to be firm in her belief of his integrity when it comes to marital affairs (or lack of them)? Especially given what she must know about noblemen in general in that arena?
Again, it’s the same problem as before; there’s no logical reason to expect non-omniscient characters to have the insight to know as well as we do how utterly absurd the tacit accusation of Berelain and Perrin sleeping together really is. And again, Occam’s Razor is a principle that can cut both ways. Is it easier to believe that it’s all an elaborate ruse on Berelain’s part to gain obscure revenge on a woman who’s currently miles away and in captivity, or that Perrin is a Typical Man™ and fell into bed for a comfort screw with a drop-dead gorgeous woman who’s obviously been after him for months, once his wife conveniently disappeared?
Sadly, it’s the latter. Goddammit.
Have I mentioned I hate this storyline?
Rand: Another mention of the swirly colors. Which I mention solely because it was the only thing that perked me up while reading this chapter. Mostly because I’m waiting for the moment when the colors start to come with video, since I can’t remember when that started, originally.
Masema: Still cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. Yay? No, not yay.
Perrin really has lost it, being willing to let Looney Tunes and his merry men pillage off without him. Jeez. Though, that certainly would have uncomplicated a few things down the line, now that I think about it. Ah, I have grown cynical in my plotline-hating malaise, I see. Woe.
Something I left out of the summary was Perrin’s thought re: Masema meeting with the Seanchan, which was to wonder whether the nutbar was doing it in the deluded belief that he could make even the Seanchan heathens come to Jesus the Dragon. I don’t know (and honestly, can barely make myself care) whether we ever find out what Masema’s real objective was in playing footsie with the Seanchan, but I suppose this is as good (read: batshit insane) a reason as any, so let’s go with that, shall we?
And, yeah. Join me Friday, whydontcha, when we finally get off this crazy plotline for a minute? Yeah? Yeah! Toodles!