Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Whitecloaks, Wolves and the Wheel in Robert Jordan’s The Dragon Reborn (Part 4)

Hello there, good readers. I have to admit I’m feeling pretty smug this week, since my educated guesses about the wolves’ abilities turned out to be pretty spot-on. This week’s chapters (7-9) were a real pleasure to read. The slow unfolding of Chapter 7 contained a lot of interesting detail, such as Lan’s tricks for leaving signs to show the trail. Chapter 9 was beautifully contrived and had an almost cinematic quality to it, and Chapter 8 contained the story line with Noam, which is just an all-around fantastic little side-adventure. In fact, I’d have to say that Chapter 8 is my favorite Chapter in The Wheel of Time to date.

The team makes their way down the mountain, and Perrin is aware of the wolves that are around, even though he keeps them out of his mind. Lan scouts ahead, following Rand’s trail and leaving little markers for the rest of them to follow, but Moiraine still chafes when he stops them for the night. She even goes so far as to tell him that, if he can’t move any faster, she should send him off to Myrelle before he gets any older. Perrin is surprised to see Lan actually get angry at this, after Perrin asks Moiraine who Myrelle is.

Moiraine gave an amused, secretive smile. “Just a Green sister. Someone to whom Lan must one day deliver a package for safekeeping.”

“No day soon,” Lan said, and surprisingly, there was open anger in his voice. “Never, if I can help it. You will outlive me long, Moiraine Aes Sedai!”

Perrin doesn’t ask any more about a subject that can make a Warder lose his temper, nor does he argue with her about carrying the Dragon banner with them, once he offers her his opinion and she ignores it. But he does try to push back as Moiraine begins to reassert her authority over him and Loial. In a conversation with the Ogier while cleaning fish for dinner, Perrin complains that she doesn’t share the chores equally, and insists that, while the Shienarans might have been willing to fetch and carry and run around for her, he isn’t. He insists that it’s only fair that everyone do equal work.

Loial gave a great snort of laughter. “I doubt she sees it that way. First she had to put up with Rand arguing with her all the time, and now you’re ready to take over for him. As a rule, Aes Sedai do not let anyone argue with them. I expect she means to have us back in the habit of doing what she says by the time we reach the first village.”

“A good habit to be in,” Lan said, throwing back his cloak. In the fading light he had appeared out of nowhere.

Perrin nearly fell over from surprise, and Loial’s ears went stiff with shock. Neither of them had heard the Warder’s step.

“A habit you should never have lost,” Lan added, then strode off toward Moiraine and the horses. His boots barely made a sound, even on that rocky ground, and once he was a few paces away the cloak hanging down his back gave him the uneasy appearance of a disembodied head and arms drifting up from the stream.

Perrin is still determined not to let Moiraine push him back into the way things used to be, but he doesn’t have much success with it. She asks him for small reasonable things and finds he can’t say no, and then another small unreasonable thing comes, and then another, and each time he thinks to refuse, something in her eyes compels him to be rational and he finds himself doing as he’s been asked. It’s so effective that he even accuses her of using the One Power on him, but she just calls him a fool.

As they get down closer to human habitation, the number of wild animals Perrin notices nearby decreases, but he’s surprised that the presence of wolves doesn’t diminish. He can still feel them all around them like a silent escort and it irks him, making him wish for a city where he knows wolves will never go.

Eventually they reach a village, just a little north of the border with Amadicia, called Jarra. The streets are mostly empty but there are signs of some kind of gathering or celebration, with arches of greenery and flowers standing in the middle of the town square, which has a muddy and trampled look and is strewn with forgotten items and various bits of detritus.

The aromas of sweet wine and spiced cakes clung about the green, mixed in with smoke from dozens of chimneys and evening meals cooking. For an instant Perrin’s nose caught another odor, one he could not identify, a faint trail that raised the hair on the back of his neck with its vileness. Then it was gone. But he was sure something had passed that way, something—wrong. He scrubbed at his nose as if to rub away the memory of it. That can’t be Rand. Light, even if he has gone mad, that can’t be him. Can it?

Outside the town’s inn, they meet a man named Simion, who offers them rooms and explains that there was not just one wedding, but a “plague” of them, every woman of marrying age suddenly partnering up and insisting on getting hitched immediately. He explains that they’ve had marriages day and night for the last two days, and Moiraine seems interested by the story. She cuts Perrin off when he tries to ask about Rand.

Simion brings them into the Inn and introduces them to the owner, a Master Harod, both of them struggling to understand that Loail is a real live Ogier, which they believed to be something out of children’s tales, not a real being. Then Simion shows them up to their rooms, offering Moiraine the nicest room they have and reluctantly letting Lan take the one next to it, even though it’s small and unfit, possibly once meant for a servant. Moiraine asks a little more after a comment Harod had made about Whitecloaks, and learns that there was trouble in Jarra with some Whitecloaks just the day before. When pressed, Simion describes a host of strange behavior, including some of them suddenly announcing that they weren’t Children of the Light anymore and riding off, another suddenly deciding he was going to hunt for the Horn of Valere while another left for Almoth Plain to hunt the Dragon. Still other Whitecloaks began harassing women in the street, shouting and grabbing at them. Some even appeared to go mad, shouting that Jarra was full of Darkfriends and trying to burn down the inn. The rest of the Whitecloaks dealt with their companions and took them away, but of course it left a bitter taste in the mouths of the locals.

“Rough behavior,” Lan said, “even for Whitecloaks.”

Simion bobbed his head in agreement. “As you say, good master. They never acted like that before. Swagger around, yes. Look at you like you were dirt, and poke their noses in where they hadn’t any business. But they never caused trouble before. Not like that, anyway.”

“They are gone now,” Moiraine said, “and troubles with them. I am sure we will pass a quiet night.”

Perrin kept his mouth shut, but he was not quiet inside. All these weddings and Whitecloaks are all very well, but I’d sooner know if Rand stopped here, and which way he went when he left. That smell couldn’t have been him.

Simion takes Perrin to his room next, and when he seems to linger, Perrin ventures to ask about Rand, describing his appearance and mentioning that he might have played the flute. Simion tells him that Rand was indeed there, and that he had played for all the weddings. But he was a strange fellow, according to Simion, who talked to himself and sometimes laughed when no one had even said anything. He tells Perrin that Rand slept in that same room, and woke in the middle of the night screaming from a nightmare, then decided to leave abruptly.

Simion paused again. “He said something strange when he left.”

“What?” Perrin demanded.

“He said somebody was after him. He said…” The chinless man swallowed and went on more slowly. “Said they’d kill him if he didn’t go. ‘One of us has to die, and I mean it to be him.’ His very words.”

“He did not mean us,” Loial rumbled. “We are his friends.”

“Of course, good—uh—good Ogier. Of course, he didn’t mean you. I—uh—I don’t mean to say anything about a friend of yours, but I—uh—I think he’s sick. In the head, you know.”

“We will take care of him,” Perrin said. “That’s why we’re following him. Which way did he go?”

Simion answers that he went east, but is no longer interested in talking about Rand, crowing instead that he “knew she could help” and asking Rand if “she” will help his brother, who’s very sick. Perrin is taken aback, and tries not to let it show. He asks why Simion believes Moiraine can help, and the man answers that he once traveled to Jehannah where he saw two women “like her.” He claims he couldn’t mistake the look after seeing that, and mentions that he’s heard that “they” can raise the dead.

“Who else knows this?” Perrin asked sharply, and at the same time Loial said, “If your brother is dead, there is nothing anyone can do.”

The frog-faced man looked from one to the other of them anxiously, and his words came in a babble. “No one knows but me, good master. Noam isn’t dead, good Ogier, only sick. I swear nobody else could recognize her. Even Master Harod’s never been more than twenty miles from here in his life. He’s so bad sick. I’d ask her myself, only my knees’d be shaking so hard she couldn’t hear me talk. What if she took offense and called down lightning on me? And what if I’d been wrong? It isn’t the kind of thing you accuse a woman of without… I mean… uh…” He raised his hands, half in pleading, half as if to defend himself.

Perrin agrees to speak with Moiraine, although he cannot make any guarantees, and leaves the man under Loial’s watchful eye. After knocking on the Aes Sedai’s door, he enters and finds her standing with Lan, clearly in conference and annoyed at the interruption. They’re even more annoyed, though, when Perrin tells them that Simion remembers Rand. The blacksmith demands to know how they could find out whether Rand has been there without asking questions, but Moiraine answers that she was fairly sure that Rand had been there even before the story about the Whitecloaks made it a certainty. She explains that what happened in Jarra was the Pattern shaping itself around Rand, “ like clay shaped on a mold,” and that it was not his madness but his ta’veren nature that had such a profound effect.

Stunned, Perrin asks if this will happen everywhere Rand goes, allowing every Shadowspawn to track him as easily as they can. But Moiraine answers that no one really knows anything about ta’veren as strong as Rand, and it can be hard for anyone to know what it means or what, exactly, will happen.

“You mean you don’t know,” Perrin said. “He could leave a trail of weddings and Whitecloaks gone mad all the way to Tear.”

“I mean I know as much as there is to know,” Moiraine said sharply. Her dark-eyed gaze chastised Perrin like a whip. “The Pattern weaves finely around ta’veren, and others can follow the shape of those threads if they know where to look. Be careful your tongue does not unravel more than you can know.”

Perrin is cowed, but he still answers that Moiraine should be glad he spoke up this time, because Simion knows that she is Aes Sedai, and wants her to help his brother. Without Perrin giving him the opportunity to ask, he might have started talking amongst his friends.

Lan caught Moiraine’s eye, and for a moment they stared at one another. The Warder had the air about him of a wolf about to leap. Finally, Moiraine shook her head. “No,” she said.

“As you wish. It is your decision.” Lan sounded as if he thought she had made the wrong one, but the tension left him.

Perrin stared at them. “You were thinking of… Simion couldn’t tell anyone if he were dead, could he?”

Moiraine says that Simion will not die by her actions, but that she cannot promise it will always be so. She follows Perrin to Loial’s room, where they find the Ogier explaining stedding to Simion. He tries to greet Moiraine and is too terrified to get much out, but she merely instructs him to take her to his brother and that Perrin will come too. Lan is put off when she tells him to stay behind, and tells Perrin to keep her safe in a more than slightly threatening way.

Simion takes them to a small shed behind the stables, where they find his brother locked up behind hastily erected wooden bars locked with a heavy iron lock. The man lying on his stomach behind the bars looks like he has torn at his clothes, and smells unwashed. When he looks up at them, Perrin sees that his eyes are golden, just like his own.

“He’d been talking crazy almost a year, good mistress, saying he could… could talk with wolves. And his eyes….” Simion darted a glance at Perrin. “Well, he’d talk about it when he’d drunk too much. Everybody laughed at him. Then a month or so ago, he didn’t come to town. I went out to see what was the matter, and I found him—like this.”

Cautiously, unwillingly, Perrin reached out toward Noam as he would have toward a wolf. Running through the woods with the cold wind in his nose. Quick dash from cover, teeth snapping at hamstrings. Taste of blood, rich on the tongue. Kill. Perrin jerked back as he would have from a fire, sealed himself off. They were not thoughts at all, really, just a chaotic jumble of desires and images, part memory, part yearning. But there was more wolf there than anything else. He put a hand to the wall to steady himself; his knees felt weak. Light help me!

Ignoring Simion’s warnings, Moiraine tugs the lock free and steps inside the bars, and although Noam bears his teeth and growls at her, she backs him into a corner before taking his face in her hands. His snarls trail off in a whimper as she studies him for a while, then releases his face and walks out, Noam watching her silently. Then, as soon as she has pushed the door closed he throws himself at the slats of his prison, snarling and biting at them, throwing his body against them.

Moiraine tells Simion that she is sorry but there is nothing she can do. When he presses, asking about “Aes Sedai things” she explains that Healing comes from the person being healed as much as the healer, and that there is nothing left in Noam that remembers being Noam, being a man. Reluctantly, Simion accepts what she is telling him and thanks her, saying that he knows she would have helped if she could, and Moiraine pats his shoulder as she leaves.

But Perrin stays, watching the frenzied man, and then steps forward to pull off the lock that Moiraine never shut. He tells Simion that he can’t leave him in there forever, that Noam might die out there, but he will die in a cage, too, and at least this way, he can be free. He’s not Simion’s brother anymore, but Perrin offers him the choice, to leave him in there to be stared at and stare at the bars until he dies, or to let him go.

“You cannot cage a wolf, Simion, not and expect it to be happy. Or live long.”

Simion understands, and after a moment, indicates the open shed door. Perrin swings the cage open and Noam bounds out into the night, running on all fours. Perrin prays to the Light to help them both.

“We didn’t keep him here always,” Simion said suddenly. “He was at Mother Roon’s house, but she and I got Master Harod to move him here after the Whitecloaks came. They always have a list of names, Darkfriends they’re looking for. It was Noam’s eyes, you see. One of the names the Whitecloaks had was a fellow named Perrin Aybara, a blacksmith. They said he has yellow eyes, and runs with wolves. You can see why I didn’t want them to know about Noam.”

Perrin turned his head enough to look at Simion over his shoulder. “Do you think this Perrin Aybara is a Darkfriend?”

“A Darkfriend wouldn’t care if my brother died in a cage. I suppose she found you soon after it happened. In time to help. I wish she’d come to Jarra a few months ago.”

Perrin feels enormous respect for Simion in that moment, and tells the man that he wishes Moiraine could have done something to help Noam. Suddenly realizing that the whole village must know what happened to Noam, and know about his eyes, he asks if the man would bring him dinner in his room, and Simion eagerly promises that he’ll bring every meal, and that Perrin won’t have to come out until he’s ready to leave Jarra.

Perrin returns to his room by the back way, but even though Simion brings him dinner, he can’t eat and eventually gets up and goes to knock on Moiraine’s door again. She is waiting for him, and tells him that she hasn’t spoken about it before now because he clearly didn’t want to. She asks what he wants to know, but can offer little in the way of certain answers. She explains that even in the Age of Legends little was known about conditions like Perrin’s, and Moiraine has only ever seen the fragments of one book that talked about it. It said that some men were swallowed up by the wolf, although not what percentage, and warned that dreams could be dangerous.

“You said that once before. What do you mean?”

“According to her, wolves live partly in this world, and partly in a world of dreams.”

“A world of dreams?” he said disbelievingly.

Moiraine gave him a sharp look. “That is what I said, and that is what she wrote. The way wolves talk to one another, the way they talk to you, is in some way connected to this world of dreams. I do not claim to understand how.” She paused, frowning slightly. “From what I have read of Aes Sedai who had the Talent called Dreaming, Dreamers sometimes spoke of encountering wolves in their dreams, even wolves that acted as guides. I fear you must learn to be as careful sleeping as waking, if you intend to avoid wolves. If that is what you decide to do.”

“If that is what I decide? Moiraine, I will not end up like Noam. I won’t!”

She eyed him quizzically, shaking her head slowly. “You speak as if you can make all your own choices, Perrin. You are ta’veren, remember.” He turned his back on her, staring at the night-dark windows, but she continued: “Perhaps, knowing what Rand is, knowing how strongly ta’veren he is, I have paid too little attention to the other two ta’veren I found with him. Three ta’veren in the same village, all born within weeks of one another? That is unheard of. Perhaps you—and Mat—have larger purposes in the Pattern than you, or I, thought.”

Perrin insists that he doesn’t want any purpose in the Pattern, and asks if Moiraine will help him. She replies that if she can keep him from losing himself then she will, but she won’t do anything that will jeopardize the fight against the Shadow, and Perrin knows that she would put him in his grave tomorrow if that fight demanded it. In answer to his last question, she explains that she cannot shield his dreams because the danger is not dreams coming from outside of him but the dreams within. She warns him to be wary of his dreams, but also that he must sleep. And then she dismisses him.

Back in his room, Perrin promises himself that, once they find Rand and “finish whatever has to be finished with him, he will go to a city to keep the wolves and their presence at bay. He opens the windows and lies down fully clothed on the bed after throwing the blankets on the floor, hoping that the cold and the lumpy mattress will keep him from slipping too deeply into sleep.

Perrin finds himself in a long stone hallway, and despite knowing that he’s in a dream, he can’t wake himself up. He hears Hopper, the wolf who died in the stedding when the Whitecloaks attacked Perrin and Egwene, urging him to run, and despite his disbelief he does so, stumbling down oddly angled hallways draped with odd shadows. He runs into another man, dressed in strange yellow clothes, who complains that he’s dreaming about foreign peasants and orders Perrin to be gone from his dreams. Perrin asks who he is, but the man doesn’t respond.

One of the strange strips of shadow suddenly detaches from the wall, slithering down into the man’s hair and, after his eyes widen in surprise, rips his skin from his body, apparently in one unbroken strip, shooting up to the ceiling overhead with its prize as the bloody body collapses to the floor. Perrin sees the skin being slowly consumed by the shadow and then runs again, pursued by the man’s dying screams as the shadows dance around him. He shouts desperately for the dream to change.

Colorful tapestries hung along the walls between tall golden stands holding dozens of candles that illuminated white floor tiles and a ceiling painted with fluffy clouds and fanciful birds in flight. Nothing moved but the flickering candle flames along the length of that hall, stretching as far as he could see, or in the pointed arches of white stone that occasionally broke the walls.

Danger. The sending was even fainter than before. And more urgent, if that were possible.

Perrin walks down the hall and finds, in the room beyond the first archway, a dark-haired woman dressed in all in white and silver. He recognizes her as she looks up at him, surprised and angry, and demands to know what he is doing there, and shouts that he will ruin things he cannot possibly imagine.

Abruptly the space seemed to flatten, as if he were suddenly staring at a picture of a room. The flat image appeared to turn sideways, become only a bright vertical line down the middle of blackness. The line flashed white, and was gone, leaving only the dark, blacker than black.

Just in front of Perrin’s boots, the floor tiles came to an abrupt end. As he watched, the white edges dissolved into the black like sand washed away by water. He stepped back hastily.

Run.

Perrin turns and sees Hopper there, and though he insists that Hopper is dead, the wolf continues to insist that he run, that he’s in more danger than even from the Neverborn. Perrin asks how to go, and Hopper leaps for his throat.

He wakes clutching his own neck but finds his skin unbroken. Still, his relief is short lived as he finds damp blood on his skin, the blood of the murdered man. He washes his face hastily and strips out of his clothes when he notices the spots on the fabric, leaving them on the floor and vowing never to put them on again. In nothing but his underwear he decides he’s cold enough now to keep the dreams at bay, and lies down, still shivering as he falls into a shallow half-sleep and normal nightmares.

Meanwhile, Rand huddles in the trees as he is hunted by a huge dog. As it comes closer to him he waits, not wanting to warn its master, until it begins to growl and then lunges straight for him. With the One Power, Rand releases something like a bar of white light that hits the dog, turning it momentarily transparent. Then it disappears. Rand is elated and relieved that his trick worked, it hasn’t always worked on the other dogs he’s encountered in the night.

The One Power pulsed in him, and his stomach twisted with the Dark One’s taint on saidin, wanted to empty itself. Sweat beaded on his face despite the cold night wind, and his mouth tasted full of sickness. He wanted to lie down and die. He wanted Nynaeve to give him some of her medicines, or Moiraine to Heal him, or… Something, anything, to stop the sick feeling that was suffocating him.

But saidin flooded him with life, too, life and energy and awareness larded through the illness. Life without saidin was a pale copy. Anything else was a wan imitation.

Rand tells himself that if he keeps holding on they can track him, and find him. If he goes to Tear he can have an end to it, either by fulfilling the prophecy or by proving he’s not the Dragon after all. He hears other dogs baying and pushes away from the tree, telling them to hunt him if they will, but they won’t find him easy prey. Ignoring the aching wound in his side and the cold water seeping into his boots as he splashes through a stream, he presses on, daring them in his mind to hunt him, because he can hunt too.

 

I’ll admit it, the description of the descent down the mountain really made me miss camping. From the description of the blossoming spring, to all of Lan’s little trail markers, to the incident with catching the fish, I almost felt like I was there with Perrin on the mountain, smelling the fresh air and feeling the wolves in the distance. I was surprised (and a little miffed!) that Moiraine was being so cruel to Lan, teasing him about Myrelle like that and giving him a hard time about the speed of their descent, as though Lan’s skills have ever let her down. I found myself wondering if Lan has been pushing back against her in some way, and if she felt she needed to reassert some control in the same way that she spent the chapter reasserting her control and status over Perrin. Or perhaps it’s just that Moiraine feels that the time for Lan’s bond to cross to Myrelle is closer than anyone thinks, and she’s trying to establish the idea more firmly in his mind. From a technical standpoint, Moiraine’s plan for Lan’s bond is a sort of Chekhov’s gun: Now that we’ve been introduced to the idea it has to come to fruition at some point. And since Thom, the first half of the Gandalf/wise-guide type, has already had his death-that-wasn’t-a-death, Moiraine’s turn must be coming. It was interesting watching her handle Lan on the one side, and reprogram Perrin on the other—even more so when Lan upbraided Perrin for ever losing the habit of doing what she says, even as he himself seems to be struggling with it.

Lan is clearly a strong-willed person, and while the bulk of that will is directed towards duty and the fight against the Shadow, it must still chafe at times to be bound so securely to someone else’s will and decisions, even though he chose it, even when he believes completely in Moiraine. How much more difficult must it be when he truly disagrees with her choices, when he knows that the fate he thought he chose for himself isn’t quite the fate he will receive.

Of course, I know what fate I’d like him to receive! I do believe that Moiraine’s ultimate intention is that he end up as Warder to Nynaeve, though it makes sense that she wouldn’t tell him this. And I have to say, the Warder/Aes Sedai relationship is so deeply intimate, not to mention a little bit kinky, that I’m really quite into the idea of a Warder being married to his Aes Sedai. What can I say, my little shipping heart is beating for Nynaeve Bossy-Pants al’Meara and ‘al’Lan Stubborn-Cuss Mandragoran. And I think Moiraine wants that happiness for Lan, if it can be achieved.

Like Perrin, I was quick to suspect Moiraine of sneaky uses of the One Power, when I read the section about catching the fish. I supposed she was somehow using saidar to lure the fish and keep them still. But on second thought, I wondered if the trick wasn’t using her power but rather pretending not to know how to do the technique. What if she has done this before, maybe with Siuan since she was the daughter of a fisherman, lying on their bellies and laughing together as Siuan taught her how to tickle the fish out of their hiding places under the rocks.

My feelings on Moiraine definitely pendulum back and forth at different points of the series. Lately I’ve been more annoyed with her, keying into Perrin’s fears and frustrations, but I don’t think it’s quite fair to assume that, because she isn’t participating in as many of the chores, she isn’t doing any work. There’s a commentary here, I think, about the difference placed on the value of traditionally “feminine” work such as emotional labor and empathy and “masculine” work like physical labor that’s interesting to notice. Of course, there’s a class issue as well, as the Aes Sedai clearly view themselves as a kind of nobility. It’s one thing for Perrin and Loial to do all the camp’s fish-cleaning and dishes, and another thing for Moiraine to expect someone to actually serve her meals like she’s at a restaurant. But Moiraine is doing work, including placing the wards that keep their camp safe, planning for the future and how to help Rand, etc. Perrin doesn’t recognize this as part of share and share alike, and I think that’s a mistake.

I was deeply confused and a little disturbed by the fact that all the commotion in Jarra was caused by Rand’s ta’veren nature. It’s definitely not something I picked up on before Moiraine explained it; given Perrin’s moment of picking up the horrible scent and the fact that the Whitecloaks were there, I assumed what was happening had something to do with the Mordeth/Fain influence being carried by the Children to the different towns and people they encounter. For this to be the responsibility of the Pattern just seems so random.

It makes sense to me how Rand’s ta’veren nature affects people like Min and Elayne, drawing them into his orbit because that draws them into the fate of the world, makes them part of the battle against the Dark One through the threads of the Pattern. What I don’t see is why the Pattern would cause a bunch of random weddings, or make Whitecloaks start assaulting women (although causing them to abandon their vows or to search for the Horn or Dragon does make some sense). When Lan explains how it’s said that one could sometimes feel the Pattern rearrange itself around Artur Hawkwing, he describes events like people telling the truth when they intended to lie, or making momentous decisions they didn’t know they were contemplating. Even the dice falling in his favor (I remember this happening to Mat while gambling in Fal Dara, and I put his luck down to the greedy influence of the dagger, but perhaps it was ta’veren power, not Mordeth’s, that gave him his luck) makes a certain amount of sense to me. But some of the Whitecloaks just decided to burn down the village! One doesn’t have to be a channeler to be ta’veren, but I suppose the taint could still be interfering in how Rand affects the people around him.

To be fair to Perrin, Moiraine may think it’s proper and right for him to do as she says, trust her, and never ask questions, but it’s not a very realistic expectation. Rand is his friend, and Moiraine has no reason to believe that Perrin trusts her… indeed, she doesn’t even seem interested in having his trust, just his obedience. Granted, I bet that’s a defense mechanism to some degree, since Aes Sedai are regarded so poorly by almost everyone. But whatever Moiraine’s reasonings, she should probably expect that Perrin is going to do things that she doesn’t want him to do when he doesn’t even have a clear explanation of why he shouldn’t do them. I’m not sure her defense of “I can’t possibly tell you everything I’ve spent my long lifetime learning” applies in this case; she could at least have assured Perrin, before they went into town, that she had ways of knowing he was there without asking, and that asking outright could put not just Rand but their hopes of helping him in danger.

As I mentioned before, Chapter 8 is my favorite chapter in all of The Wheel of Time so far. It’s a perfect episode that fits into the themes of the larger story, showing the changing world and how the hands of fate weave the lives of ordinary people in extraordinary ways, how childhood bonds can give relationships deep strength, and how Moiraine can’t save everyone even if she wants to. But the story of Noam and Simion also stands alone as a single adventure and story in its own right. One of the larger thematic arcs in The Wheel of Time so far has been the question of what must be sacrificed to save the world, the costs of fighting a war against all Evil, the big-picture questions that often don’t leave room to worry or care for individuals and the little people whose lives or deaths might not matter to the Last Battle.

But these lives do matter to someone. Noam matters to Simion, and to Perrin. And in this moment we even see Moiraine—who often talks about what she is willing to do and who she must sacrifice if she must, in order to oppose the Dark One—taking a moment of her precious time to see to a single man and his brother. She doesn’t do it because it will help her fight the Shadow, or because it will help fight the Dark One or further Moiraine’s mission to guide Rand. She does it because someone needs help, and Moiraine actually does care about individual people and their suffering. And maybe she does it because she cares about Perrin, too.

Not that you’d see it in the way she talks to him. I expected her to know at least a little bit more than she did; except for the warning about the danger of dreams and the way that wolves can traverse them, she really didn’t tell Perrin anything he didn’t already know. And she says she’ll help him if she can, but she also clearly has no idea how to do that.

The skin-eater shadows in Perrin’s dream were terrifying. Last week I made the comparison between the dream bridges and arches to the Ways, and now it seems that the Dream Ways have their own Mashadar, too. Though I was tickled by how Lanfear, just like Moiraine, told Perrin that he is going to ruin things he cannot imagine.

As for Rand, assuming those dogs were real and he’s not just seeing things… who would be hunting him with dogs? The Dark One might use some animals, like ravens and rats, as spies, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here, and I would imagine Trollocs can follow a trail and scent as well as a dog can. Perhaps some Darkfriend nobleman who has put his deer-hunting dogs to good use? Or maybe some other threat we have yet to encounter? It was encouraging to see Rand hoping that the others will catch up to him, though. But as I said last week, the boy is going to be disappointed because, however things go in Tear, he’s not going to get the quick ending he’s looking for.

Sylas K Barrett just really has a thing for the Aes Sedai/Warder bond; it’s questionable but also romantic but also just a bit kinky, and it’s the best ever. Thank you for coming to this TED talk.

citation

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