Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: The Theme of Return in Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt (Part 16)

Welcome back again to Week 16 of Reading The Great Hunt! There’s a huge amount of info in the chapters we’re covering this week (28 and 29) and a lot of it is difficult to understand, because our pov characters—Perrin, Geofram Bornhald, and Bayle Domon—are encountering a lot of things they don’t understand. Domon in particular is going to have a lot of words and information talked at him that he can’t really follow, and the significance of these things, for Domon and for us, will only become clear later down the road.

So buckle up for a nice long recap of Perrin and Domon’s adventures! Oh, and also Bornhald Sr., I guess.

In Chapter 28, we rejoin Perrin, riding with Ingtar and company into the foothills around Kinslayer’s Dagger. Perrin knows from the wolves that there are people in the mountains, although the wolves don’t know or care if they are Fain’s Darkfriends or other people. But the wolves can tell him that the Trollocs are still far ahead of them, despite Ingtar driving his men hard.

Mat, meanwhile, is looking paler and more tired to Perrin’s eyes, and to Verin’s too, apparently, since she has been examining him several times a day. But Perrin also notices that Verin seems to have other things on her mind—Rand, he assumes. Somehow Verin knows about Rand, and Perrin finds himself momentarily sharing the wolves’ longing for places where men don’t come, for the freedom of the hunt. But he pushes the thoughts away.

Ingtar rides back to confer with Perrin, asking him to repeat again what the wolves told him. Perrin is frustrated; he’s told Ingtar ten times already, but Ingtar is desperate so Perrin relents.

There was no need for Perrin to order it in his mind, not after so many repetitions. He droned it out. “Someone—or something—attacked the Darkfriends in the night and killed those Trollocs we found.” His stomach no longer lurched at that. Ravens and vultures were messy feeders. “The wolves call him—or it—Shadowkiller; I think it was a man, but they wouldn’t go close enough to see clearly. They are not afraid of this Shadowkiller; awe is more like it. They say the Trollocs now follow Shadowkiller. And they say Fain is with them”—even after so long the remembered smell of Fain, the feel of the man, made his mouth twist—“so the rest of the Darkfriends must be, too.”

“Shadowkiller,” Ingtar murmured. “Something of the Dark One, like a Myrddraal? I have seen things in the Blight that might be called Shadowkillers, but… Did they see nothing else?”

“They would not come close to him. It was not a Fade. I’ve told you, they will kill a Fade quicker than they will a Trolloc, even if they lose half the pack. Ingtar, the wolves who saw it passed this to others, then still others, before it reached me. I can only tell you what they passed on, and after so many tellings…” He let the words die as Uno joined them.

Uno informs Ingtar that there is an Aielman hiding in the rocks ahead, that the man clearly allowed Uno to see him. Uno tells them that the Aielman’s face wasn’t veiled, so he isn’t there for killing, and just then the man in question steps into their path. Instantly, Masema and three other Shienarans level their lances and charge him, only to drag their horses back abruptly when Ingtar orders them to hold.

He was a tall man, with skin dark from the sun and red hair cut short except for a tail in the back that hung to his shoulders. From his soft, laced knee-high boots to the cloth wrapped loosely around his neck, his clothes were all in shades of brown and gray that would blend into rock or earth. The end of a short horn bow peeked over his shoulder, and a quiver bristled with arrows at his belt at one side. A long knife hung at the other. In his left hand he gripped a round hide buckler and three short spears, no more than half as long as he was tall, with points fully as long as those of the Shienaran lances.

“I have no pipers to play the tune,” the man announced with a smile, “but if you wish the dance…” He did not change his stance, but Perrin caught a sudden air of readiness. “My name is Urien, of the Two Spires sept of the Reyn Aiel. I am a Red Shield. Remember me.”

Perrin dismounts, not wanting to miss the chance to seen an Aiel up close. He has heard stories that Aiel are as dangerous as Trollocs, even some that claim all Aiel are Darkfriends, although Perrin doesn’t think that Urien’s smile looks dangerous, exactly. Behind him, Mat dismounts as well, observing in surprise that the man looks like Rand, and perhaps Ingtar is right that Rand is Aiel. Perrin has to agree.

Ingtar tells the Aielman, respectfully, that they have not come to fight, and Perrin notes that Urien looks almost disappointed. Then the Aielman bows to Verin and offers her his respect, calling her “Wise One.” When she asks why he gives her such a title, he informs her that she has “the look of those who have made the journey to Rhuidean and survived. The years do not touch the Wise Ones in the same way as other women, or as they touch men.” Verin seems very interested in this information, but Ingtar interrupts to ask Urien if he has seen any Trollocs in the mountains. Urien has not, but he is excited by the prospect, telling them that Trollocs coming out of the Blight is one of the signs the prophecies speak of, prophecies that tell when the Aiel will leave the Three-fold Land and return to their old places.

Mat asks what that means; Urien responds that the Three-fold Land is the Aiel name for the Waste, and that the name refers to how the Aiel view the place: “A shaping stone, to make us; a testing ground, to prove our worth; and a punishment for the sin.” Mat asks what sin, but Urien answers that the sin was so long ago, none but the Wise Ones and clan chiefs know anymore, and it must be a great sin if they don’t tell anyone else about it.

Ingtar is no longer interested, now that Urien has revealed that he has seen no Trollocs, but Verin continues to press the Aiel for information about Rhuidean and the Wise Ones. She tells him that she is an Aes Sedai, prompting the first evidence of concern from Urien, and responds that he cannot give her the information she is asking for. She tells him to tell her whatever he is allowed to speak of, and Urien explains Rhuidean lies in the territory of the Jenn Aiel, the thirteenth clan, and only women who wish to be Wise Ones or men who are to be clan chiefs may go there, and of those who go, only a few return. He then asks Verin if she is going to kill him, surprising her.

“Will you slay me now? One of the old prophecies says that if ever we fail the Aes Sedai again, they will slay us. I know your power is greater than that of the Wise Ones.” The Aiel laughed suddenly, mirthlessly. There was a wild light in his eyes. “Bring your lightnings, Aes Sedai. I will dance with them.”

The Aiel thought he was going to die, and he was not afraid. Perrin realized his mouth was open and closed it with a snap.

Verin mentions that she would love to get Urien to the White Tower, or at least get him to tell everything he knows, but assures him that she isn’t going to kill him, unless all his talk of dancing means he’s intending to kill her. Urien appears shocked by the suggestion, telling her that it is forbidden to strike a woman who is not a Maiden of the Spear, except to save a life.

Verin asks why Urien left his own lands and why he chose to reveal himself to them, giving him permission to only say what he’s willing to say, and promising not to harm or try to force him. Urien explains that he is looking for someone, a man, He Who Comes With the Dawn. He saw by the company’s armor that they were Shienaran and took Verin for a Wise One, so he thought that they might have news of some great events that might herald his coming.

“A man?” Verin’s voice was soft, but her eyes were as sharp as daggers. “What are these signs?”

Urien shook his head. “It is said we will know them when we hear of them, as we will know him when we see him, for he will be marked. He will come from the west, beyond the Spine of the World, but be of our blood. He will go to Rhuidean, and lead us out of the Three-fold Land.” He took a spear in his right hand. Leather and metal creaked as soldiers reached for their swords, and Perrin realized he had taken hold of his axe again, but Verin waved them all to stillness with an irritated look. In the dirt Urien scraped a circle with his spearpoint, then drew across it a sinuous line. “It is said that under this sign, he will conquer.”

Ingtar frowned at the symbol, no recognition on his face, but Mat muttered something coarsely under his breath, and Perrin felt his mouth go dry. The ancient symbol of the Aes Sedai.

Verin scuffs out the mark and tells Urien that she can’t help him find the man and he declares that he will continue his search, waits until she nods agreement, and then turns and walks away. The Shienarans mutter angrily about the crazy Aiel, and that they should have killed him, but Ingtar only declares that they have wasted valuable time, and that they will have to ride harder to make up for it. Verin vehemently agrees. As Ingtar has all his soldiers strip off their armor so as to not alarm the Cairhienin, Mat comes over to Perrin to ask if Perrin thinks that Urien was talking about Rand. Perrin doesn’t know, only answering that everything has been crazy since they got mixed up with Aes Sedai. He overhears Verin muttering to herself as she stares at the ground where Urien drew the ancient Aes Sedai symbol, asking if these events are part of the Wheel’s Pattern, and how, or if the Dark One reaches out to touch the Pattern again. Perrin feels a chill as Verin lifts her head and shouts urgently for the men to hurry.

Meanwhile, far away on the Almoth Plain, Geofram Bornhald rides through a village of burning houses with Byar and half his legion of Whitecloaks, the other half scattered about under command of the Questioners. Bornhald doesn’t like that fact, but his orders to obey the Questioners had been explicit. Riding up past an inn, Bornhald looks past his soldiers to a hastily-built gibbet with thirty bodies hanging from it. He is horrified to see that some of the bodies are children, and even Byar is upset. Byar snaps for Muadh, the Whitecloak in charge, a grizzled man who was once tortured by Darkfriends, resulting in a hoarse whisper of a voice and a horribly disfigured appearance. He asks Muadh who is responsible for the gibbet, him or the Seanchan, and Muadh replies that it is neither. When pressed, he admits that the villagers described the men, in Taraboner garb, who comitted the act; Muahd is careful not to make any direct accusations, but two of them fit the description of those of Bornhald’s command who were recently lent to the Questioners.

Bornhald has no problem acknowledging that the Questioners were responsible for this horror.

He has the bodies cut down, as Byar observes that the villagers, Taraboner and Domani, don’t put up much of a fight, but Bornhald tells him that they should wait and see how they themselves do against the invaders before they pass any judgement on these people. He gives specific instructions for selecting a prisoner to be brought to him for an interview, and goes into the inn. He ignores the innkeeper and his family and goes straight to sit down.

Bornhald pulled off his gauntlets and sat at one of the tables. He knew too little about the invaders, the strangers. That was what almost everyone called them, those who did not just babble about Artur Hawkwing. He knew they called themselves the Seanchan, and Hailene. He had enough of the Old Tongue to know the latter meant Those Who Come Before, or the Forerunners. They also called themselves Rhyagelle, Those Who Come Home, and spoke of Corenne, the Return. It was almost enough to make him believe the tales of Artur Hawkwing’s armies come back. No one knew where the Seanchan had come from, other than that they had landed in ships. Bornhald’s requests for information from the Sea Folk had been met with silence. Amador did not hold the Atha’an Miere in good favor, and the attitude was returned with interest. All he knew of the Seanchan he had heard from men like those outside. Broken, beaten rabble who spoke, wide-eyed and sweating, of men who came into battle riding monsters as often as horses, who fought with monsters by their sides, and brought Aes Sedai to rend the earth under their enemies’ feet.

Just then, Bornhald’s thought are interrupted by the arrival of Jeral, who Bornhald supposed to be a hundred miles away, with a message. Jeral bows and begins to formally recite a message, but Bornhald cuts him off, asking for the message to be delivered plainly, and not word for word unless he specifically asks for it. Jeral is startled by the request, but explains that Jaichim Carridin, of the Questioners, says that Bornhald is moving too many men too close to Toman Head, that the Darkfriends on Almoth Plain must be rooted out, and that Bornhald is to turn back at once and ride toward the heart of the plain. Bornhald tells him to get some food and then return so that he can take some more messages to deliver, then dismisses him.

When he’s gone, Byar suggests that perhaps the Questioners are right about Darkfriends in the villages on the plain, but Bornhald cuts him off angrily. They have seen nothing in any of the villages they have taken, and does Byar think that children are becoming Darkfriends now, too? Byar tries to stick to his guns, but is clearly uncomfortable as Bornhald points out the way that the Questioners and the men with them have stopped wearing their white cloaks and carrying their banners. Bornhald intends to send messages to every group of Children he can find, and to take the legion up to Toman Head, to find out what the Seanchan, the true Darkfriends in Bornhald’s eyes, are up to.

Before Byar can reply or argue, Muadh arrives with a young officer for Bornhald to interview. The man is clearly frightened, and it is easy for Bornhald to convince him to talk.

Bornhald isn’t the only one troubled by the Seanchan, either. Bayle Domon, sailing Spray through the Aryth Ocean, is being slowly overtaken by a much larger ship, a Seanchan ship. He tries taking Spray into shallower water, where the much larger ship can’t follow, he and his sailors nervously watching the Seanchan ship. Domon has news of the Seanchan from the fishing villages along Toman Head where they have been stopping to sell their cargo of fireworks. According to the villagers, when the Seanchan ships anchored, the attacking forces were preceded by lightning and fire, and their numbers included monsters that fought beside them. Domon had doubted the stories at first, but seeing the scorch marks in so many villages convinced him. In Tanchico, the Taraboners did not even know what the invaders called themselves, and told Domon that they drove them back into the sea, but in the coastal towns it was a different story.

The Seanchan told astonished people they must swear again oaths they had forsaken, though never deigning to explain when they had forsaken them, or what the oaths meant. The young women were taken away one by one to be examined, and some were carried aboard the ships and never seen again. A few older women had also vanished, some of the Guides and Healers. New mayors were chosen by the Seanchan, and new Councils, and any who protested the disappearances of the women or having no voice in the choosing might be hung, or burst suddenly into flame, or be brushed aside like yapping dogs. There was no way of telling which it would be until it was too late.

And when the people had been thoroughly cowed, when they had been made to kneel and swear, bewildered, to obey the Forerunners, await the Return, and serve Those Who Come Home with their lives, the Seanchan sailed away and usually never returned. Falme, it was said, was the only town they held fast.

Domon has no intention of meeting any of the Seanchan, if he can avoid it, but when the water in different areas near the Spray erupts into a fountain of water and flame, leaving the sea bubbling as though boiling, he realizes he will have no choice, and gives the order for the sails to be furled.

A longboat is put over the side of the stranger’s ship—Domon is surprised to see two women in the prow—and quickly reaches the Spray’s side. When the armored men climb aboard, Domon can see where the rumors of monsters come from; the red and gold gilded helmets look a lot like the heads of enormous insects. The leader removes the strange helmet and reveals herself to be a woman, with cold blue eyes and a hard face. She picks Domon out by his dress and asks, her accent a strange slurring, if there are any women on the ship, and Domon answers that there are not. The two women he spotted in the prow of the longboat climb onboard, and Domon sees that one of them is shackled by her neck to the other by a long silver leash. The prisoner is dressed in grey and keeps her head down, the woman holding the leash is dressed in an outfit decorated with silver lightning bolts.

“Speak slowly, man,” the blue-eyed woman demanded in her slurred speech. She came across the deck to confront him, staring up at him and in some way seeming taller and larger than he. “You are even harder to understand than the rest in this Light-forsaken land. And I make no claim to be of the Blood. Not yet. After Corenne… I am Captain Egeanin.”

Domon repeated himself, trying to speak slowly, and added, “I do be a peaceful trader, Captain. I mean no harm to you, and I have no part in your war.” He could not help eyeing the two women connected by the leash again.

“A peaceful trader?” Egeanin mused. “In that case, you will be free to go once you have sworn fealty again.” She noticed his glances and turned to smile at the women with the pride of ownership. “You admire my damane? She cost me dear, but she was worth every coin. Few but nobles own a damane, and most are property of the throne. She is strong, trader. She could have broken your ship to splinters, had I wished it so.”

Domon, having assumed that the woman in the lightning attire was an Aes Sedai, is confused and shocked, and asks if the damane is an Aes Sedai. He is backhanded across the mouth by one of Egeanin’s gauntleted hands for the question, and told harshly that that name is never spoken. Domon quells his anger with an effort, knowing he has no choice, and apologizes, explaining that he does not know their ways, and that if he offends it is from ignorance only. Egeanin replies that they are all ignorant, but that they will pay the debt of their forebears, that this land once belonged to them and will again, after the Return. She tells Domon that he and his ship will be escorted to Falme and, if he is truly a peaceful trader as he claims, he will be allowed to leave after he has sworn the oaths to obey, to await, and to serve. Then, leaving a single man on the ship to guard them, she and her entourage return to their ship, leaving Domon get the Spray underway towards Falme.

He manages to get the Seanchan soldier, Caban, to talk to him a little bit during the voyage, but cannot get any information about anything he wants to know—when he tries asking about the damane, Caban puts the point of his sword to Domon’s neck and tells him that it is “the business of the Blood, not your kind. Or mine.”

When they reach Falme, Domon sees perhaps two hundred Seanchan ships at anchor, all large like the one that captured them. They are escorted into the harbor, passing towers on the cliffs as they approach Falme. As Domon looks, he can see a cage suspended over the side of one of the towers, and inside it a man, sitting with his feet dangling as he looks out over the Aryth Ocean.

“Who is that?” Domon asked.

Caban had finally given over sharpening his sword, after Domon had begun to wonder if he meant to shave with it. The Seanchan glanced up to where Domon pointed. “Oh. That is the First Watcher. Not the one who sat in the chair when we first came, of course. Every time he dies, they choose another, and we put him in the cage.”

“But why?” Domon demanded.

Caban’s grin showed too many teeth. “They watched for the wrong thing, and forgot when they should have been remembering.”

Domon makes himself look away, telling himself that he is just a trader and this is none of his business. Once they are docked, Egeanin and a different woman escorting the same damane arrive with a few soldiers, escorting Domon and his crew off the ship and having it searched by soldiers as well as the damane. As Domon waits, he spots a Seanchan man walking with a grolm (although he doesn’t know what kind of creature it is) which frightens the local people as it passes but doesn’t bother the Seanchan at all. Domon worries, about whatever they are searching his ship for, about the man in the cage, and repeats to himself again that it is not his business. Then Egeanin returns from the ship carrying something wrapped in yellow silk, and orders him to come with her.

He follows her, noting how the people of Falme seem to be mostly going about their business, although they stop and bow deeply anytime any of the Seanchan pass. Some, he’s surprised to see, are even armed, and when he questions Egeanin about it, she tells him that they are their people now, that they have sworn the oaths. She even stops one of the men and questions him to show Domon the extent of the man’s loyalty.

“You see?” Egeanin said, turning to Domon. “There is no reason to forbid them weapons. There must be trade, and merchants must protect themselves from bandits. We allow the people to come and go as they will, so long as they obey, await, and serve. Their forefathers broke their oaths, but these have learned better.” She started back up the hill, and the soldiers pushed Domon after her.

They pass more Seanchan riding strange scaled creatures and Domon thinks it’s no wonder that the Seanchan don’t fear rebellion, with the damane and the monsters on their side. They arrive at the largest manor house, Egeanin and her men surrendering their weapons to the posted guards before passing inside. Egeanin speaks to a servant and then they wait, Egeanin glaring Domon into silence when he tries to speak. Finally a gong sounds, and Egeanin drops to her knees, Domon awkwardly following suit. A man in a yellow robe with strangely lacquered fingernails enters, and Egeanin prostrates herself fully as the servant announces him as “the High Lord Turak… who leads Those Who Come Before, and succors the Return.”

After a moment Egeanin stands, but Domon is growled back down when he tries to do the same. He stays prostrate, thinking that he wouldn’t do this willingly even for the King of Illian, and listens to the conversation.

“Your name is Egeanin?” It had to be the voice of the man in the blue robe. His slurring speech had a rhythm almost like singing.

“I was so named on my sword-day, High Lord,” she replied humbly.

“This is a fine specimen, Egeanin. Quite rare. Do you wish a payment?”

“That the High Lord is pleased is payment enough. I live to serve, High Lord.”

“I will mention your name to the Empress, Egeanin. After the Return, new names will be called to the Blood. Show yourself fit, and you may shed the name Egeanin for a higher.”

“The High Lord honors me.”

“Yes. You may leave me.”

She leaves, and Domon is at last given permission to stand. He can finally see what it is that Egeanin took from his ship, the cuendillar disk in the shape of the ancient Aes Sedai symbol. When asked, he lies and tells Turak that he doesn’t know what it is, only that it is old and therefore precious. Turak explains that it is cuendillar, and older than perhaps Domon knows, and takes him into another room to show him an impressive collection of cuendillar items. He tells Domon that only the Empress herself has a finer collection, and it is indeed enough to Domon’s eyes to buy a whole kingdom. Domon pretends not to be as astounded as he is and offers the item as a gift, explaining that he only wants to continue his trade. The man who announced Turak shouts at him for trying to bargain with the High Lord as though he is a merchant, threatening punishment, but Turak waves it away.

“I cannot allow you to leave me, trader,” the High Lord said. “In this shadowed land of oath-breakers, I find none who can converse with a man of sensibilities. But you are a collector. Perhaps your conversation will be interesting.” He took the chair, lolling back in its curves to study Domon.

Domon put on what he hoped was an ingratiating smile. “High Lord, I do be a simple trader, a simple man. I do no have the way of talking with great Lords.”

A serving girl in a silk robe—Domon is shocked and quickly averts his eyes when he realizes that, except for some embroidered flowers, the robe is sheer enough to see right through—and presents a cup of something called kaf to Turak as he tells Domon that he has heard that cuendillar is even rarer in this land than in Seanchan, and instructs him to explain how a simple trader came to possess a piece. Domon takes a deep breath and “set[s] about trying to lie his way out of Falme.”

 

There’s a trope in genre fiction that really bugs me, which is when people from other cultures are genuinely surprised when they go to a new place and people don’t automatically adhere to, or at least understand, the same rules as their home culture. I think it might be a byproduct of the fact that, for the reader, all the cultures are foreign and new, which presents an extra obstacle for the author in showing what is new or surprising to the characters. Urien’s shock at Verin’s question about whether he plans to attack her is the most egregious example of this so far in The Great Hunt. The way Urien responds that “it is forbidden” makes it sound like the law against striking a woman who has not “wedded the spear” is a universal one, rather than something that belongs to Aiel culture, even though he’s quite aware that he is a foreign land with foreign rules.

But the same trope makes more sense for the Seanchan; they are aware that the people they are conquering don’t understand their rules and just don’t care. Indeed, it seems like they are deliberately refusing to explain themselves as part of the punishment for everyone’s ancestors forgetting whatever it is that they were supposed to remember. Their oaths to Artur Hawkwing, I suppose. Besides the rumors of the return of Hawkwing’s armies that have been seeded throughout the book so far, the Seanchan being the descendants of the armies Artur Hawkwing sent across the sea makes the most sense of their claim that all the lands once belonged to them. Hawkwing is the only character we know of that ruled over everything, so unless the Seanchan go even farther back than history can remember, they basically have to be. And that would make sense of their hatred of Aes Sedai and enslavement of women channelers, since Hawkwing was so against them.

The question of memory and legend in The Wheel of Time is an interesting one that just keeps getting more complicated as the books continue. I was particularly struck by Verin’s muttered questions to herself at the end of chapter 28. She’s so perplexed by the idea that there could be aspects to the Dragon’s return the Aes Sedai don’t know about that the Dark One’s involvement makes about as much sense to her as the idea that there are other peoples who are invested in the Dragon’s Return, or who have their own prophecies on the matter. Not that it really surprises me that the Aes Sedai think of themselves as the center of the universe when it comes to understanding the progression of the Wheel and the Pattern.

One assumes that the timing of the Seanchan’s arrival is more than coincidence, though we don’t yet know if we can connect them to any prophecies concerning the Dragon, except maybe the thing Fain wrote on the wall about Toman Head. I suppose the oaths to await and serve could  apply to the Dragon, though; my first impulse was to assume that it was connected to waiting for the Seanchan (and, presumably, Artur Hawkwing’s descendants) to come back across the sea, but it could also be some kind of duty to the Dragon that we don’t know about yet. After all, the Seanchan have their own channelers and that might come with prophecies and foretellings that aren’t connected to the White Tower either.

The premise of The Wheel of Time, that the savior known as the Dragon will be born again into the world, engenders a lot of themes surrounding the idea of a return; there are old enemies returning to meet the Dragon, old powers (like the wolfbrothers, and possibly Min’s abilities) and monsters showing up again after centuries or even Ages of being extinct, and peoples who have long been separated from the greater continents by distance or custom (the Seanchan, the Aiel) are being drawn back into the affairs of the whole. You can feel the entire world drawing itself together, preparing for the Battle that our characters know is coming. The Hunt for the Horn is symbolic of all of this, and the fact that it has ended up in the hands of the Dragon is like a perfect bow on the whole thing. Not that I think Rand is going to hang onto it forever. Given how many books we have to go until the Last Battle brings this story to its final conclusion, something as important to that fight as the Horn can’t just be sitting like a weight around Rand’s neck for the next twelve and a half novels. But when he eventually sounds it, we will have the final return, the return of the heroes of the Age of Legends, which will no doubt bring with them the return of certain prosperity and abilities that have been lost. One assumes there will also be a return of male channelers and the old structure of the Aes Sedai, made up of men and women.

At least, if Rand wins. Maybe the Light will lose the Last Battle in the end.

I have so many questions about the Aiel. Since the Dragon Reborn is of Aiel blood, there are probably prophecies among them about him, apparently known only to the Wise Ones and possibly the clan chiefs. Urien might not know who He Who Comes With the Dawn is supposed to be, but I bet whoever sent him does, or at least suspects. Other than my one trope complaint, I’m really intrigued by the construction of the Aiel culture. It has a lot of fascinating details, such as how they are a warrior culture that never uses swords (I wonder how that will play out for Rand later) or the way they think of battle. Jordan’s hardly the first person to have a character refer to a fight as a dance, but there is something in the specific way the term is used by Urien that is very evocative to me. I’m kind of reminded of the Tuatha’an and their quest to find “the song.” Perhaps that’s because we know that the Tuatha’an have something of an understanding with the Aiel.

So the Tuatha’an search for the song, the Aiel dance with men and lightning alike, the Seanchan return from overseas with damane who bring fire down on those who forgot to await the Return. Everybody in this story is either holding their breath and waiting or actively moving to shape a destiny that will be there, ready, for the Dragon Reborn to come and claim, collecting all these seemingly disparate strings into one woven pattern.

The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills.

Next week we will cover chapters 30 and 31, in which Hurin is rescued from a fire, and he and Loial and Rand are finally reunited with the party they mysteriously vanished from. Oh, and that thing I just said about the Horn not being around the whole time comes to fruition already. Plus we get more Perrin narration, which I always like. Every time we’re in his head I just want to give him a hug, perhaps because he’s such a sweetheart, perhaps because he is far more reasonable than most people in this story. Also because the wolves are awesome.

In the meantime, I’d love check in as to how you all are feeling about the recap portion of these posts. Because it’s my first time reading the books, I’m very leery of leaving out details that may end up being important, but I also don’t know how much memory jogging everyone needs. Is there enough information given in the recaps? Too much? I felt like this one was particularly long, but it was a really info-heavy set of chapters so perhaps it is unavoidable, and I think that I will have more to say about them next week, as Chapter 31 in particular has characters analyzing a lot of their recent adventures. So stay tuned for that, and let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Sylas K Barrett went to a wedding this weekend, and might still be a little hung over. Makes those complicated Seanchan words even harder to follow, my friends, and increases my empathy for Domon, too.

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