Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: A Falcon That Doesn’t Fly and a Wolf that Does in Robert Jordan’s The Dragon Reborn (Part 15)

This week in Reading the Wheel of Time, we’re covering Chapters 35 and 36 of The Dragon Reborn, in which there is a girl who calls herself Falcon and a woman who calls herself Daughter of the Night. Perrin learns that he can (at least sometimes) dream without Dreaming, and we return to a dreamscape we saw once before, long ago in the early days of The Wheel of Time. Will Perrin decide to trust Faile? What does Moiraine think of Perrin’s Dreaming? And can a wolf learn to fly? Read on to find out.

Lan and Perrin make their way back to the inn, careful to move normally as they pass through the common room. Orban is still telling and retelling his story of the Aiel encounter. Perrin avoids hearing whatever Lan is telling Moiriane in her room and hurries on to Loial’s. He is struck by the beauty of the wood-sung bed Loial told him of earlier, and by the Ogier-sized chair Loial is sitting in, but there’s no time to admire anything. He tells Loial, who is writing in a large cloth-bound book, that they are leaving at once, and to take the back stairs so as not to be seen departing. He promises to explain later and hurries away to his own room, where packing is a quick affair—he hadn’t so much as put water in the basin or lit the wick on the candle—and he thinks that lately he never seems to leave behind any mark of his passing.

He’s the first to make it to the stables, although he can’t convince the stableman to get the horses out in the middle of the night until Lan arrives with a gold coin and stern command. As they hurry through the streets, Loial remarks to Perrin how it’s just like “old times… Sneaking away in the night, with enemies behind us, and maybe enemies ahead, and danger in the air, and the cold tang of adventure.” Perrin remarks that Loial must be crazy to like adventure, but the Ogier counters that he is putting himself in the right frame of mind for his book. And yes, he thinks he might be coming to like adventuring.

Lan buys them passage on a ship called the Snow Goose, and Perrin stays near the bow as the ship casts off, even though the others have already gone down to their cabins. Just as they’re about to push away from the docks, a girl comes hurtling out of the darkness, leaps onto the deck, and immediately begins haggling with the captain for passage downriver “as far as he is going.” Meaning Perrin, of course. When she is done with that, she makes her way over to him.

She observes to Perrin that she never expected to be going back to Illian so soon, and tells him that he and the Aielman left behind quite a mess, and that the uproar was just beginning when she left. Orban was complaining loudly that his wounds would stop him from tracking the Aiel personally. Perrin observes that Orban would probably soil himself if he ever saw an Aiel again, but she counters that she has seen him fight four men together, kill two and make the other two yield, which shows that he knows what he is doing, even if he did start the fight. Then she asks if Perrin has heard of the Great Blackwood, or Forest of Shadows, which Orban apparently has “peculiar ideas” about.

Perrin is more interested in knowing why it is she is following him. She answers that the rest of his companions are clearly what they are—an Ogier, an Aes Sedai (she got a better look under Alys’s hood that Orban did) and a Warder—which leaves only Perrin as the mystery. She doesn’t like things she can’t account for.

Once again he considered tossing her over the side. Seriously, this time. But Remen was now only a blotch of light well behind them in the darkness, and no telling how far it was to shore.

She seemed to take his silence as an urging to go on. “So there I have an”—she looked around, then dropped her voice, though the closest crewman was working a sweep ten feet away—“an Aes Sedai, a Warder, an Ogier—and you. A countryman, by first look at you.” Her tilted eyes rose to study his yellow ones intently—he refused to look away—and she smiled. “Only you free a caged Aielman, hold a long talk with him, then help him chop a dozen Whitecloaks into sausage. I assume you do this regularly; you certainly looked as if it were nothing out of the ordinary for you. I scent something strange in a party of travelers such as yours, and strange trails are what Hunters look for.

Perrin catches the emphasis on that word, but when he exclaims that a girl can’t be a Hunter, she steps back and flourishes two knives, “as neatly as old Thom Merrilin could have done it,” and makes them disappear just as easily. She tells Perrin that nimble fingers and nimble wits can take one farther than swords and muscles. She assures him that she has taken the oath, and that while she has her own idea of where to seek the Horn, no Hunter can pass up a strange trail. The Horn will certainly lie at the end of a strange trail, and she’s never seen one stranger than that which Perrin and his party make.

Still, he presses her on her idea of where the Horn is, and she thinks that the Horn might have belonged in Manetheren, and might now be hidden somewhere in the Mountains of Mist. Unless it’s wherever Perrin and the others are leading her.

Wanting to throw her off, Perrin tells her cautiously that he has heard stories of “something,” a great treasure of some kind, hidden in the mountains, and suggests that she better get there and start looking before Orban and Gann find the Horn instead. But she isn’t put off, and tells him he’s lucky they aren’t following him too. At least she won’t get in the way, try to take over, or pick a fight with the Warder.

Frustrated, Perrin insists that they are just ordinary travelers, and asks her name, only to be startled into laughter when she responds that she calls herself Mandarb. She’s offended, and then embarrassed, as he points out that the Old Tongue word meaning “blade” she chose for herself is also the name of Lan’s horse. She tells Perrin that she was born Zarine Bashere, but that it isn’t a good name for a Hunter. She looks so upset about it that Perrin tells her he thinks it’s a good name and that it suits her, but that only seems to make her angry.

Telling her that it’s late and he wants to sleep, Perrin turns his back on her, although he feels apprehensive doing so, and heads to the hatch to go below decks. Just as he reaches it, she calls to him that her father used to call her Faile, which means ‘falcon.’ Perrin goes cold at the word, although he tells himself it must be coincidence.

He pokes his head into different cabins until he finds an empty one, pondering the “coincidence” and also the question of Elyas Machera, who had found a way to keep his human mind while happily living alone with wolves—not that Perrin wants to live with them as Elyas had been when they met. When Perrin reaches out, he can only find the most distant sense of wolves; even they can’t keep up with the sweeps driving the Snow Goose downriver. He lies down, realizing he forgot even about the Aiel and the Whitecloaks for a while, and curses his axe as he falls asleep.

Perrin finds himself in a mist so thick he can’t see more than a few feet in front of him. Alarmed at what might be out there, just out of sight, he reaches for his axe and finds nothing there. Then Hopper emerges from the mist, with silent eyes that urge Perrin to follow him, and silently. Perrin puts his hand on Hopper’s back, and the fur between his fingers feels real.

Hopper guides him as the mist thickens and thickens and finally becomes a black nothingness that Perrin can’t see anything more in than he can see with his eyes closed. He’s not even sure he can feel anything under his feet, but Hopper’s rough fur is still there. Eventually they stop and Perrin finds he can look down—as if he’s suspended in mid-air and his and Hopper’s bodies are invisible—at a scene like thousands of mirrors hanging level with each other, and a group of people standing in the middle. They’re all in various states of undress and babbling about how they’re asleep, until one figure, shrouded in darkness, begins to address them.

Perrin sees the flaming gulfs of his eyes and mouth and knows that it’s Ba’alzamon. Ba’alzamon addresses the assembled people, telling them that they all have been given tasks, but some have failed, and such failures cannot be forgiven. He singles out one man for allowing “the boy to escape Tar Valon,” and somehow thins him out to nothingness as the man screams. After telling the others assembled that what happens in this dream is real, and that the selected man will never wake, Ba’alzamon sends the rest of them off.

A moment later, a woman in white and silver stands before Ba’alzamon, and Perrin is shocked to recognize her from his earlier dream. She sits down in an ornate throne and remarks that he makes free use of her domain. Ba’alzamon asks if she claims it as her own then, and no longer serves the Great Lord of the Dark.

“I serve,” she said quickly. “I have served the Lord of the Twilight long. Long did I lie imprisoned for my service, in an endless, dreamless sleep. Only Gray Men and Myrddraal are denied dreams. Even Trollocs can dream. Dreams were always mine, to use and walk. Now I am free again, and I will use what is mine.”

“What is yours,” Ba’alzamon said. The blackness swirling ’round him seemed mirthful. “You always thought yourself greater than you were, Lanfear.”

Lanfear calls out Ba’alzamon for spending “three thousand years and more” of planning and pulling strings like an Aes Sedai, and yet the Dragon is walking the world again, uncontrolled and unturned. She claims he was once hers and will be again. Ba’alzamon again asks her if she serves only herself, if she is abandoning her oaths to the Great Lord of the Dark, but again she insists that she serves, standing tall and defiant before him.

Blackness rolls over the mirrors, and Ba’lazamon and Lanfear vanish. Perrin can’t understand what he saw, how Lanfear seemed to defy Ba’alzamon; Perrin knows that defying the Dark One lessens his power over you, but he hadn’t thought it possible for a Darkfriend to do it. He also doesn’t know why Lanfear frightens him more than Ba’alzamon does.

Eventually they walk out of the darkness, back through mist, and to a grassy hillside in daylight. When Perrin asks what he saw, the wolf communicates that it was what Perrin “must see” but that Perrin must be very, very careful, like a pup hunting a porcupine, because Perrin is too young, too new. He insists that what Perrin saw was real.

Perrin asks how Hopper is there with him, since he saw the wolf die, and Hopper shares that “all brothers and sisters” are there. He shows Perrin how he can now soar like an eagle, as he had once wished to do, and leaps up, flying higher and higher until he is lost to view. Perrin finds himself overcome with emotion that Hopper can now do what he always dreamed and has to rub tears from his eyes.

Looking around, he finds that the scenery has changed; now he stands on a shadowy rise, and Rand stands below him. He’s surrounded by Myrddraal and people whom Perrin’s eyes seem to slide right past. As Perrin watches, Rand strikes out, fire and bolts of white light flying from his hands, and lightning striking down form the sky, killing all of them. As Rand sinks to his knees, panting, Perrin sees more coming from over the rise and calls out to warn Rand, but doing so prompts his friend to lash out at him, and with a flash of light and searing pain, Perrin wakes.

He finds a burn on his chest when he comes to in the little cabin, and decides that this is important enough to tell Moiraine about. But as he waits for the pain to subside he falls asleep again, this time dreamlessly. When he wakes, it’s morning, and he has proof that, when the wolves are gone, he can have a normal night’s sleep.

He goes to Moiraine’s cabin and tells her everything, even shows her the scar. She watches him silently and carefully through the whole tale, until he demands to know if it is important or not. She, in a typically round-about Aes Sedai way, tells him that there are women who would try to gentle him if they heard this story, but that he does not have the ability to channel and should not worry about that. Still, he must be careful, as Hopper suggested; some might kill him before they realized “there was nothing to gentle” in him.

She also tells him that his dreams are not what she expected, and that Dreamers have written of wolves but this is much more. Perrin tells her that he is certain his dream was real, and insists she tell him what she is going to do about Lanfear, but Moiraine will not stand for his tone; she repeats only that she is still going to Illian, in the hopes of beating Rand to Tear, and that she will not even Heal his burn. She hopes it will remind him to be careful.

As he’s leaving, Perrin asks if the name Zarine would mean anything to her if she heard it, admitting that there is a girl on the ship with that name. Moiraine answers that a Saldaean mother would give her daughter such a name if she was expected to be a great beauty, and to lie about all day on cushions surrounded by servants and suitors. She observes that Perrin might really have to be careful, if there is a Zarine on board.

Perrin leaves with at least the question of why Zarine doesn’t like her name answered, and passes both Lan and Zarine on his way across the deck to stand in the prow of the ship.

Meanwhile, Rand wakes abruptly, his side aching and his fire dying as he tells himself that it was really Perrin, not a dream, and that he could have killed his friend. He has to be more careful; he can’t afford to make another mistake. He’s about to stoke his fire when a woman on horseback, accompanied by a group of men in armor, rides up into the light. She looks like a merchant to him, a merchant with guards, and she asks to share his campsite. Rand responds carefully, stepping towards her as they talk, and then, when he’s close enough, creates a heron-marked blade of fire and cuts her head from her body.

With the most dangerous one taken care of by the element of surprise, he dispatches the guards, flowing through the forms Lan taught him so easily that he almost tries to sheathe the fire-sword as though it’s a real one. He takes the woman’s horse, and then, when he’s mounted, he finds himself channeling, not really understanding how he’s doing it except that it feels right and works, and lifts the corpses, rearranging them until they’re all kneeling with their faces (those who still have faces) in the dirt. Bowing to him. If he really is the Dragon Reborn, then that is right, isn’t it?

He lets go of saidin, reminding himself of the danger of the taint, and notices that there is one more body in the line than he thought there should be, a man without armor but clutching a knife.

“You chose the wrong company,” Rand told that man.

Wheeling the gelding, he dug in his heels and set the animal to a dead gallop into the night. It was a long way to Tear, yet, but he meant to get there by the straightest way, if he had to kill horses or steal them. I will put an end to it. The taunting. The baiting. I will end it! Callandor. It called to him.”

 

 

I wonder how many times in his life Rand will tell himself that he’s going to “end to it,” only to realize that there is always more to this journey waiting just beyond the current trial. No doubt as time goes on, he’ll look back at some of these early struggles as so simple and easy compared to what he is currently facing. He may be growing in strength now, but he is still a little fish in an impossibly big ocean, and doesn’t have really any notion of the fight he’s actually up against. But then, how could he?

I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not I trust Rand’s judgment on his view that he is being relentlessly pursued, although things like the confirmation of the giant hound that left its paw print in the stone certainly prove that it’s not all in his head. Perrin also witnesses the assault of Myrddraal and Gray Men on Rand in his dream. I also wonder how he is so certain that it was really Perrin in his dream and not some kind of trick, when he couldn’t tell as much about Egwene when she visited his dream. Was it only his emotions clouding his judgement, or is there something more about Perrin that stands out as obviously different than the disguised assassins that Ba’alzamon keeps sending Rand’s way? Maybe something wolfish?

Looks like there was a Gray Man in the midst of that company Rand killed in the real world, too, so he was right to sense danger. And probably they were all dangerous, darkfriends assigned by Ba’alzamon to track him down. But there’s a chance they weren’t, too; what if the Gray Man among them was the only one with ill intent, and Rand had it backwards when he told his corpse that he chose the wrong company? Maybe it was the company that paid with their lives, rather than the other way around. And Rand making all the corpses bow to him doesn’t exactly speak to him being clear-headed, either. That action is a far cry from him thinking only a little while ago that he only declared himself out of a sense of duty, but that it doesn’t mean he is the Dragon.

I’m intrigued by what Perrin saw of Ba’alzamon in his dream. We’ve been in this mirror place before, way back in Chapter 24 of The Eye of the World; Rand found himself there after he escaped the dream maze by declaring it to be a dream.

Rand turned about in one spot, staring. Staring at his own image thrown back at him a thousandfold. Ten thousandfold. Above was blackness, and blackness below, but all around him stood mirrors, mirrors set at every angle, mirrors as far as he could see, all showing him, crouched and turning, staring wide-eyed and frightened.

A red blur drifted across the mirrors. He spun, trying to catch it, but in every mirror it drifted behind his own image and vanished. Then it was back again, but not as a blur. Ba’alzamon strode across the mirrors, ten thousand Ba’alzamons, searching, crossing and recrossing the silvery mirrors.

He found himself staring at the reflection of his own face, pale and shivering in the knife-edge cold. Ba’alzamon’s image grew behind his, staring at him; not seeing, but staring still. In every mirror, the flames of Ba’alzamon’s face raged behind him, enveloping, consuming, merging. He wanted to scream, but his throat was frozen. There was only one face in those endless mirrors. His own face. Ba’alzamon’s face. One face.

Perhaps those mirrors are used, somehow, to create the dreamscapes Ba’alzamon (or Lanfear, or whoever else) desires, to create those traps Ba’alzamon kept setting for the boys in The Eye of the World. It’s even possible that, while Perrin saw the “true” area, the people trapped there with Ba’alzamon were seeing something different, although that one man did see his repeating reflection, so maybe not. It’s also possible that these mirrors represent the other worlds, reflecting reality over and over and over again, and in the Dream World, which Verin hypothesized to be somehow laid overtop of the alternate reality worlds, you can see them all laid out.

And then there’s Lanfear showing up and calling the World of Dreams her domain.

The argument between Lanfear and Ba’alzamon is an interesting one. Of course poor Perrin doesn’t have enough information to make sense of it, but we can see how, since Lanfear knows who Ishamael really is, both of them are vying for control while not being able to say certain things. Ishamael can’t demand that she serve him, not directly, because then he would actually be usurping the power of the true Dark One, to whom they are both sworn. Instead, he asks again and again if she is abandoning her oath to the Great Lord of the Dark, implying that her defiance of himself is somehow related to abandoning that oath. But Lanfear is confident in replying that she is loyal to the Dark One, to her oaths to him, without giving any ground to Ishamael. Perrin can’t make sense of it because he sees her as defying the Dark One, while she is in reality defying a fellow Forsaken, and one with whom she perhaps has a long rivalry.

And who knows. In the end, maybe she will prove the more dangerous of the two, as Perrin seems to sense. I love the power move of making herself a throne, that’s for sure.

Still, it is probably pretty arrogant to claim Tel’aran’rhiod as her domain. I suppose the Dark One would claim it as his, as he would claim all things, but it can’t actually belong to him anymore than the rest of Creation does. These things exist outside of anyone who attempts to control them. If anything, maybe the World of Dreams belongs to wolves. Wolf heaven, as it were.

And while we’re on the subject, I’ll freely admit that Perrin wasn’t the only one tearing up when Hopper showed how he can fly now, either. My wolf-loving heart was all a-quiver.

I think Hopper’s comment that Perrin needs to be so careful because he is “too young, too new,” is an important one to mark. Like everyone else—like Rand in his fledgling power, like Egwene, Nynaeve, and Elayne stumbling around as the Amyrlin’s Black Ajah hunters when they’re not even full Aes Sedai yet—Perrin is being flung into the deep end by his abilities and situation far before what he can even understand it, nevermind be ready for. Still, we’re starting to see him get a handle on himself, and his attitudes and actions are reflecting a man who is growing steadily more capable of facing the challenges of his life. He certainly is much more adept at handling things than he was in the last book, or even the beginning of this one.

For example, when they’re leaving the inn he notices that he doesn’t make much of impression anywhere he goes. He’s aware now that this is a long journey with no foreseeable end, and he knows his passage is temporary and has developed a habit of not settling anywhere, even for a moment. While it’s rather sad to think that he’s always being pushed on and can never rest or think of home, I can’t help but be reminded of a roving wolf, traveling in search of food or sport, who may have a pack territory but whose true home is his pack, not a place.

Perrin is also adjusting to the violence of his new life. It still disgusts and upsets him, but it doesn’t linger after the fact the way it used to. He pushed the Whitecloaks he killed from his mind easily enough, although he still cursed his axe when he remembered it again. On the other hand, his instincts now are to reach for it, not just in battle but beforehand, seeking the reassurance of knowing he can defend himself in violence if he needs too.

He’s also developing more techniques for engaging with Moiraine. Through his reliance on her knowledge and his struggle to understand his wolf brother nature, he’s become used to being more open with her. He recognizes the value of her knowledge; he is less afraid of her, and more cognizant of how his fear of other things rules him. He is more thoughtful about what he shares and what he keeps back, and why he makes those choices; they are based less in fear and more in strategy now.

I can’t blame him for his reaction to their conversation at all. I think telling Moiraine of the dream was the right choice—she needs to know these things and be prepared—but when she tells Perrin that she didn’t expect this, she really means that she doesn’t know what to tell him. She’s mentioned before that little is known about the wolf brother phenomenon, but I don’t think Perrin quite gets it. He still thinks of her as this incredible all-knowing Aes Sedai, hardly human if the stories are to be believed, and she’s certainly not going to go so far as to shrug and admit how little she really knows about what she is doing. What does Perrin expect her to do about another Forsaken being loose, anyway? Challenge Lanfear to a wizard duel? Even if Moiraine knew how to locate her, it’s pretty clear who would win a fight between a member of the Forsaken and a modern Aes Sedai.

I wonder what Moiraine makes of the conversation between Ba’alzamon and Lanfear. She probably doesn’t know what to think, anymore than she knows what to think, or do, about Perrin. I’m sure she expected to feel overwhelmed and in over her head in her quest to find and guide/manipulate the Dragon Reborn, but I wonder if she expected so much of her troubles to come from outside sources. She knew Rand would be a problem, but she didn’t expect Perrin. And did she suspect that the “boy who escaped Tar Valon” was Mat? Bit of a stretch for her to make that connection, but she knows Mat is there. What other boy in Tar Valon could be of such interest to the Dark One as Matrim Cauthon?

Makes me wonder if the Gray Men in Tar Valon where just there for Mat, or if they have other plans, too.

It’s interesting that, despite everyone being separated, all the members of the original party have ended up on the water at the same time, except Rand. There are other parallels too, such as both Rand and Ba’alzamon laying their hands over their wounds from the battle at Toman Head, but the ships thing seems particularly significant me somehow. Moiraine, Lan, Loial and Perrin are on their way to Illian on the Snow Goose; Mat and Thom are sailing from Tar Valon on the Grey Gull; and next week we’ll see Egwene and company on the Blue Crane. Three birds, even. And our new friend the Falcon makes four.

I understand Perrin’s reluctance, but I think he’s being foolish, after all this time, still thinking there’s such a thing in his life as coincidence. Hopefully he’ll stay on his toes around Zarine, either way.

I did think it was sweet that Perrin wanted to reassure her about her name, even though he was irritated with her and even though it backfired. He has a few moments like that in these chapters, such as when he works to soothe the horses as they are being loaded onto the ship. Perrin’s gentleness and loving nature haven’t been lost yet, despite all the violence he has had to commit. It was smart of him to ask Moiraine about the name; Zarine has had a few one-ups on him, but now it’s his turn to have a little extra information about her. She seems like a clever one, too. She’s seized on the importance of Manetheren to the story of the Horn, even if the truth is much more complicated than she can possibly guess. And her suggestion that Perrin is the true puzzle of the party speaks not just to intelligence but to imagination as well. I think she sees more than even she realizes, which is appropriate in a character that reminds me a little bit of Min, at least in attitude. I’m inclined to trust her, I think, possibly because when Egwene dreamed of the hawk and the falcon on Perrin’s shoulders, only the hawk was trying to put him on a leash. Still, she seems impetuous, and her judgement of character seems more based on an appreciation for valor than anything else, if her assessment of Orban is anything to go by.

We’ve learned a little more from her about how the Hunt for the Horn works, too, from Zarine’s description of it.

“I took the oath and received the blessing in the Great Square of Tammaz, in Illian. Perhaps I was the youngest, but in that crowd, with all the trumpets and drums and cymbals and shouting… A six-year-old could have taken the oath, and none would have noticed. There were over a thousand of us, perhaps two, and every one with an idea of where to find the Horn of Valere.”

The scope of the Hunt for the Horn is somewhat bigger than I realized, and I wonder if this oath is considered to be binding in both directions, that is to say, if it constrains the people of Illian, like Zarine’s parents or other Hunters, from stopping anyone from going once they have taken the oath.

We’re back to Egwene, Nynaeve, and Elayne next week when we cover Chapters 37-39, and we’ll get to meet some more Aiel, and ladies this time. I’m looking forward to that, but in the meantime, I’ll leave you with my final thoughts on this week’s chapters.

  • The townspeople think Gaul chewed through the chain or broke it with his bare hands. That’s hilarious.
  • I wasn’t sure why Zarine was defending Orban. I think she was just saying he was good in a fight, not that he’s an honorable person or anything, but I’m not sure about her judgment in the matter, really.
  • “Does he always look like that, or did he eat a rock for his last meal?” is a fantastic description of Lan and I love it.
  • Perrin being truly nervous Zarine was going to knife him in the back. He calls himself a fool for thinking it, but I wonder if he wasn’t picking up on a very real danger; not that she would stab him, there on the deck in front of people and over something so small, but just that she is in fact, capable of being that dangerous and possibly deadly.
  • I’m still wondering if Ba’alzamon’s eyes and mouth do that because of something outside his power, or if it is an affectation.
  • Rand made dead people bow to him oh my god.

Sylas K Barrett wonders if maybe Hopper is the reason that some people can fly in their dreams.

citation

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