Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Darkhounds, the Forsaken, and Fireworks in Robert Jordan’s The Dragon Reborn (Part 18)

Good morning, my darlings, and welcome all to Week 18 of this Read of The Dragon Reborn. This week we’re covering Chapters 41-44, and I do my best to keep the recap a reasonable size. I find it a bit nerve-wracking, trying to cut down on the lengths of the recaps, because there are so many little bits in the narration that seem important, even if I don’t know why they are important yet. That says very good things about the complexity and depth of Jordan’s writing, however, so it’s not at all a bad thing!

In my recaps I generally try to refer to characters and things with the same names and descriptions as the narration gives them in the relevant chapters; in a Nynaeve chapter I would always refer to Siuan as the Amyrlin because that’s what Nynaeve calls her, and I continued to refer to Lanfear as Selene as long as the other characters were calling her that, etc. However, even though Perrin is still calling her Zarine, I am going to call Faile by the name she has asked to be called, because that is a practice I believe in in real life, so I am going to extend it to fictional characters as well.

Chapter 41 opens with the Snow Goose arriving in Illian, and Perrin is very focused on studying the marsh birds, and the fishing boars, and the great tanneries that he can see from the deck, less out of a genuine interest than out of a desire to avoid looking at Moiraine and Faile (or Zarine, as Perrin persists in calling her). Moiraine had been a little upset at Perrin for not telling her that Faile knew that she was Aes Sedai, but what had really angered her was finding out that Faile (who was happy to be forthcoming with Moiraine) believed that Perrin and company would lead her to the Horn of Valere, and that Perrin had known about that, too. Now the two women are seated on the deck together, each studying the rooftops of Illian, Faile pretending that she isn’t cowed by Moiraine’s occasional hard looks.

Honestly, Perrin’s impressed that Faile can smile back under that stare, even though she has to swallow and wipe away sweat whenever Moiraine looks away. The sailors are similarly cowed, having found out that Moiraine is Aes Sedai from an argument between Faile and Perrin. Only Lan remains unfazed, even amused, by the two women’s silent confrontation.

A few days earlier Perrin had heard Moiraine ask Lan, in a voice like ice, whether he saw something to laugh at. “I would never laugh at you, Moiraine Sedai,” he had replied calmly, “but if you truly intend to send me to Myrelle, I must become used to smiling. I hear that Myrelle tells her Warders jokes. Gaidin must smile at their bondholder’s quips; you have often given me quips to laugh at, have you not? Perhaps you would rather I stay with you after all.” She had given him a look that would have nailed any other man to the mast, but the Warder never blinked. Lan made cold steel seem like tin.

When the boat is finally docked and the horses are unloaded, Loial appears, apologizing for being engrossed in his notes, and Faile sneaks up behind Perrin to tickle his neck, making him jump. Perrin thinks that she looks at him like he’s a tool she’s trying to figure out the purpose of, and then Moiraine tells her that it is time for her to leave.

Faile replies that she will not leave, that a hunter must follow the trail she sees, and insists again that her name is Faile. She knows that there is nothing that Moiraine, as an Aes Sedai who lives by certain rules, would do that would be enough to stop her, and does not believe that “stone-face,” as she calls Lan, would do something that dire, either.

“Are you sure enough of that to risk it?” Lan spoke quietly, and his face did not change, but Zarine swallowed again.

“There is no need to threaten her, Lan,” Perrin said. He was surprised to realize he was glaring at the Warder.

Moiraine’s glance silenced him and the Warder both. “You believe you know what an Aes Sedai will not do, do you?” she said more softly than before. Her smile was not pleasant. “If you wish to go with us, this is what you must do.” Lan’s eyelids flickered in surprise; the two women stared at each other like falcon and mouse, but Zarine was not the falcon, now. “You will swear by your Hunter’s oath to do as I say, to heed me, and not to leave us. Once you know more than you should of what we do, I will not allow you to fall into the wrong hands. Know that for truth, girl. You will swear to act as one of us, and do nothing that will endanger our purpose. You will ask no questions of where we go or why: you will be satisfied with what I choose to tell you. All of this you will swear, or you will remain here in Illian. And you will not leave this marsh until I return to release you, if it takes the rest of your life. That I swear.”

Faile, once making sure she will be considered one of the group, even though unable to ask questions, swears by her Hunter’s oath. “Done,” Moiraine says, and touches Faile forehead, making the girl shiver. She tells Perrin that Faile is his responsibility now, and tells him, too, that if she endangers the mission, Moiraine will not hesitate to snip both of them from the Pattern. Perrin protests that he did not ask for Faile to come along, while Faile is struck by Moiraine addressing Perrin as ta’veren.

Perrin hoists her up on his horse behind him, as she tries to remind him that she is her own person and can buy her own horse, asking where they are going and calling him “blacksmith.”

“No questions, remember? And my name is Perrin, Zarine. Not ‘big man,’ or ‘blacksmith,’ or anything else. Perrin. Perrin Aybara.”

“And mine is Faile, shaggy-hair.”

They pass through the nicer parts of town, crossing over bridges that span the canals that criss-cross Illian, and through a great square where Faile points out the King’s Palace and the slightly smaller but otherwise identical Great Hall of the Council, which she explains was built after the King told the Council that they could build anything they liked as long as it was smaller than his. “That has been the way of Illian ever since. The King and the Council of Nine duel with each other, and the Assemblage struggles with both, and so while they carry on their battles, the people live much as they wish, with none to look over their shoulders too much.” She also tells Perrin that this is the Square of Tammaz, where she took the Hunter’s Oath.

As they ride, both Moiraine and Loial express a sense of foreboding, a feeling that something is wrong in the city. Perrin doesn’t feel it himself, but once he is alerted to their discomfort he begins to notice that many of the passing people, perhaps one in five, wears a look of anger and hatred, and he begins to feel the sense of something wrong as well.

They cross eventually into the less wealthy areas of city, into “the Perfumed Quarter,” which smells of pitch and mud and emptied chamber pots, and Lan leads them quickly through the hot, muggy, fragrant air to an inn called Easing the Badger. In the common room they find a few workmen and sailors clustered around a table where a woman in perfume stands on the tabletop playing a bittern and singing raunchy songs. Faile teases Perrin when he blushes.

The innkeeper, Nieda, greets Moiraine familiarly, calling her Mistress Mari and asking if her pigeons have arrived safely. Moiraine assures her that she’s certain they have, but that she has been away. They discuss how there has been an increase in fights breaking out at the inn, to the point that Nieda hired the girl to sing and distract the inn’s guests from quarreling. She remarks that it may have been the long, cold winter—it’s warm enough in Illian that she was shocked to find ice in her washbin a few mornings, and doesn’t believe that snow is real. When Moiraine presses, asking what unusual things may have happened in Illian recently, Nieda can only think of one.

“I do suppose you could call Lord Brend’s ascension to the Council of Nine unusual,” Nieda said. “Fortune prick me, I can no remember ever hearing his name before the winter, but he did come to the city—from somewhere near the Murandian border, it be rumored—and did be raised inside a week. It do be said he be a good man, and strongest of the Nine—they all do follow his lead, it be said, though he be newest and unknown—but sometimes I do have strange dreams of him.”

Her dreams, Nieda says when pressed again, are of “Lord Brend in strange places, and walking bridges hanging in air,” and that they are foggy dreams that come every night. And Bili, her nephew, has had them as well.

Perrin is shocked to realize that Moiraine is frightened by this information, even as Nieda brushes away the conversation as foolishness. Moiraine asks what ships are currently in the harbor bound for Tear, and Nieda answers that the Council has forbidden any ships to travel to Tear and those that have passed through are forbidden to dock. There is some talk of war with Tear, even, although traders say that the army is looking elsewhere.

They are shown to their rooms then, and although Perrin’s is quite comfortable, he is very concerned by a remark from Moiraine that there is something that must be done tonight. She’d been even more frightened than when she heard about the dreams, and Perrin can’t imagine what would scare an Aes Sedai so much. He himself feels more anticipatory, excited, than anything, and he realizes that he feels the way wolves feel right before they fight. Suddenly, he would rather be terrified.

Downstairs they sit down to dinner, and discuss how there are no Ogier in Illian, even though they are so commonly in the city that no one has even blinked at Loial since he arrived. There are often Ogier from Stedding Shangtai in Illian, since it was their masons who built much of the city and who are always called in when repairs are needed. Loial was concerned that he would be recognized and taken home, but now he has learned from Nieda than they all left suddenly during the winter. Loial can’t understand it—they left their work unfinished, which is not something Ogier would do unless they were not paid. He reiterates to Perrin that the city makes him uneasy.

Moiraine remarks that Ogier are sensitive to some things, and Perrin notes that while she no longer smells of fear, her voice sounds tightly controlled.

Zarine complains about how she hates fish, giving Perrin an opportunity to tease her by enjoying his own meal. Just when the plates are being cleared, however, Perrin suddenly picks up a horrible smell, not something from the canals but rather a vile scent he has smelled twice before, at Jarra and at Remen. He can see by looking around that no one else has noticed anything—the singer is still performing and even Lan and Moiraine, who would be able to sense any Shadowspawn nearby, seem unconcerned. Twice, his gaze slides off of a group of men crossing the floor when suddenly he realizes that the scent is coming from them.

He shouts that they have knives and throws a platter at them, the room erupting into chaos; Moiraine shoots a ball of fire as Loial snatches up his chair like a club, the singer screaming and Faile drawing her own knife. But Perrin has no time to pay attention to that, as the six men’s focus seems to be entirely on him. He rips a leg off his chair and uses it like a bludgeon against the knife-wielding assassins, as the others try to get at the men without hurting Perrin too, or coming into range of his counterattacks.

The fight seems to Perrin to last forever, but it’s actually only a few moments until he takes all his attackers out, and the wrong scent seems to die with them. Lan, looking grim, makes a quick search of the bodies, as Faile and Moiraine stare at Perrin.

“Gray Men,” the Aes Sedai said softly, “and after you.”

Nieda chatters uncomfortably about how there’s no such thing as Gray Men, taking Moiraine’s words to mean that they are Darkfriends, and probably thieves. She instructs Bili to take the bodies out the back, while the singer cautiously comes up to Moiraine to apologize for singing such songs in the presence of an Aes Sedai. Still, she doesn’t look happy that everyone now knows that she is an Aes Sedai, and makes for the door.

The Warder moved quickly to intercept her, and they spoke quietly in front of the door, but Perrin could hear as well as if they whispered right next to him.

“Do you mean to go without me?” Lan said. “I pledged to keep you whole, Moiraine, when I took your bond.”

“You have always known there were some dangers you are not equipped to handle, my Gaidin. I must go alone.”

“Moiraine—”

She cut him off. “Heed me, Lan. Should I fail, you will know it, and you will be compelled to return to the White Tower. I would not change that even if I had time. I do not mean you to die in a vain attempt to avenge me. Take Perrin with you. It seems the Shadow has made his importance in the Pattern known to me, if not clear. I was a fool. Rand is so strongly ta’veren that I ignored what it must mean that he had two others close by him. With Perrin and Mat, the Amyrlin may still be able to affect the course of events. With Rand loose, she will have to. Tell her what has happened, my Gaidin.”

“You speak as if you are already dead,” Lan said roughly.

“The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills, and the Shadow darkens the world. Heed me, Lan, and obey, as you swore to.” With that, she was gone.”

The singer goes back to her singing—Perin notes that it’s no longer lewd songs and is disgruntled with himself for being disappointed—and Bili continues his work disposing of the Gray Men’s corpses. Lan and Perrin discuss Perrin’s ability to smell Gray Men when even Moiraine and Lan can’t sense them, and then Lan takes Perrin and Loial outside to look around, Faile following. Outside, Perrin thinks he smells something like fireworks, like burnt sulphur, on the air. Lan prowls around while the rest of them try to figure out what they’re looking for. Perrin is about to re-check an alley when Lan suddenly discovers something: large dog-like footsteps in the paving stones.

“Darkhound,” Lan said, and Zarine gasped. Loial moaned softly. For an Ogier. “A Darkhound leaves no mark on dirt, blacksmith, not even on mud, but stone is another matter. There hasn’t been a Darkhound seen south of the Mountains of Dhoom since the Trolloc Wars. This one was hunting for something, I’d say. And now that it has found it, it has gone to tell its master.

Faile is shocked, struggling to believe that Darkhounds are real, and although Lan tells her off for thinking that this means that the Dark One is free, she’s stunned to hear him talk of Myrddraal as well, or Fetches, as she calls them. Lan tells her that Moiraine will still release her from her oath, if she swears not to follow them; he himself will let her go right now, and thinks she would be wise to do it. But still Faile insists that she will not be frightened away, however much Perrin can tell that she is frightened.

“I have a question,” Perrin said, “and I want an answer. You didn’t sense this Darkhound, Lan, and neither did Moiraine. Why not?

The Warder was silent for a time. “The answer to that, blacksmith,” he said grimly at last, “may be more than you or I, either one, want to know. I hope the answer does not kill us all. You three get what sleep you can. I doubt we will stay the night in Illian, and I fear we have hard riding ahead.”

Lan declares that he is going after Moiraine, that she can’t be angry with him when she would never otherwise know the Darkhound was there until it killed her. He hurries upstairs to fetch his sword and color-shifting cloak, ordering them to get some sleep if they can, as he expects they’ll be doing some hard riding soon. Loial is dismayed at the implications of Lan wearing his Warder’s cloak in a city, while Faile seems to want to stay with Perrin, but Perrin has other plans for his night. He shuts his door in her face and settles down to sleep, to dream, and to seek the answers he feels he has to have.

Perrin dreams of many things, including Gray Men chasing him and a “tall, slender man… in richly embroidered coat and boots with gold fringe” laughing triumphantly and holding what looks like “a sword, shining like the sun.” Then he finally finds the wolf dream he’s looking for. Standing atop a high stone spire, he can look out over arid land and ridges, where other spires sprout up from time to time. The scents of the place drift to him, and for a moment he almost thinks he has a wolf’s body before assuring himself that it’s still his own.

He calls to Hopper, but the wolf doesn’t come. Instead he sees a vision of Mat, rattling a dice cup across from a man with eyes of fire, but he doesn’t see Ba’alzamon, or hear Perrin call out a warning. Next, Perrin sees Egwene, Nynaeve, and Elayne step into a metal cage and purposefully reach up to loose the catch on the door, while a woman in braids laughs at them and a woman in white laughs at her.

When the vision has cleared, he calls again for Hopper and this time the wolf appears, flying down from above. He tells Perrin that he has been warned that it’s too dangerous for him, but Perrin is insistent that he needs answers to his questions. Still, he doesn’t understand the wolf’s answer when he asks if what he sees in this place is real, and when he asks why Hopper wanted to show him Ba’alzamon and Lanfear before, the wolf answers, seeming sorrowful, that the Last Hunt is coming.

“I do not understand! The Last Hunt? What Last Hunt? Hopper, Gray Men came to kill me tonight.”

The Notdead hunt you?

“Yes! Gray Men! After me! And a Darkhound was right outside the inn! I want to know why they’re after me.”

Shadowbrothers! Hopper crouched, looking to either side as if he almost expected an attack. Long since we have seen the Shadowbrothers. You must go, Young Bull. Great danger! Flee the Shadowbrothers!

“Why are they after me, Hopper? You do know. I know you do!”

But Hopper does not answer the question; instead he leaps at Perrin, knocking him over the edge and telling him to flee the Shadowbrothers. Again Perrin asks why, and he receives only the answer: The Last Hunt comes.

He thinks he’s going to hit the ground but instead he wakes up, lightning flashing and a candle flickering on the table. He realizes that he didn’t light a candle at the same moment Faile, seated nearby on a stool, remarks that he talks to himself and thrashes in his sleep.

“You are ta’veren,” she said as if ticking off a point. “Stone-face thinks those odd eyes of yours can see things his can’t. Gray Men want to kill you. You travel with an Aes Sedai, a Warder, and an Ogier. You free caged Aiel and kill Whitecloaks. Who are you, farmboy, the Dragon Reborn?” Her voice said that was the most ridiculous thing she could think of, but he still shifted uneasily. “Whoever you are, big man,” she added, “you could do with a little more hair on your chest.

Frustrated, a bit angry, and fumbling for his clothes, Perrin suddenly remembers Min warning him to run from a beautiful woman. He’s been assuming she meant Lanfear, but Lanfear was only in the dream, while Zarine is here, looking at him, right now.

“What are you doing here?” he demanded. “What do you want? Who are you?”

She threw back her head and laughed. “I am Faile, farmboy, a Hunter of the Horn. Who do you think I am, the woman of your dreams? Why did you jump that way? You would think I had goosed you.”

Before he could find words, the door crashed back against the wall, and Moiraine stood in the doorway, her face as pale and grim as death. “Your wolf dreams tell as truly as a Dreamer’s, Perrin. The Forsaken are loose, and one of them rules in Illian.”

Perrin is on his feet and dressing at once, aware that they need to move, but Faile is slower, completely flummoxed and horrified by the revelation. Perrin is convinced that this will be the thing that drives her away, but when Moiraine offers Faile the out, she still refuses to take it. Even if they do not lead her to the Horn, she believes that no one will have a story such as this, a “story for the ages,” and she is determined to be part of it. Perrin doesn’t believe her reasoning, believes there’s something else behind her motivation, but Moiraine cuts them off, saying that “Lord Brend” may learn at any moment that a Warder has killed one of his Darkhounds and they need to move, already.

Outside in the rain, there is an extra horse for Faile, and Moiraine argues with Nieda, who is reluctant to do as Moiraine orders and leave the city, insisting that she can still be useful and that no one will suspect her. In the debate, Perrin learns that the Gray Men were not sent by Sammael, although the Darkhound was, and he’s increasingly frustrated by his inability to understand what is happening, and why. Demanding an answer from Moiraine doesn’t go well, however, as, without thinking, he utters the phrase “Why me? Rand is the bloody Dragon Reborn!”

Gasps from Nieda and Faile alert him to what he just said, and he curses himself for not thinking before he speaks, but it’s too late.

“You are sealed to us, now,” Moiraine told [Zarine]. “There is no turning back for you. Ever.” Zarine looked as if she wanted to say something and was afraid to, but the Aes Sedai had already turned her attention elsewhere. “Nieda, flee Illian tonight. In this hour! And hold your tongue even better than you have held it all these years. There are those who would cut it out for what you could say, before I could even find you.” Her hard tone left doubts as to exactly how she meant that, and Nieda nodded vigorously as if she had heard it both ways.

“As for you, Perrin.” The white mare moved closer, and he leaned back from the Aes Sedai despite all he could do. “There are many threads woven in the Pattern, and some are as black as the Shadow itself. Take care one of them does not strangle you.” Her heels touched Aldieb’s flanks, and the mare darted into the rain, Mandarb following close behind.

As he follows, Perrin silently curses Moiraine and the fact that he’s still unsure whose side she is on.

The rain starts to ebb as they ride, which turns out to be a bad thing, as Lan informs Perrin that Darkhounds like clear, moonlight nights best and dislike rain; thunderstorms can even keep them at bay. They’re about two miles from the city when they hear a howl from behind them, one that sounds enough like a wolf that Perrin, for a moment, is tempted to howl back. But the answering howls let him think better of it. They are the sounds of nightmares; he’s shocked that Moiraine and Lan slow, rather than taking advantage of the distance between them and their pursuit.

Lan explains that one cannot outrun a Darkhound, that the only way to survive is to stand and defeat them, or they will pull you down, and Moiraine picks a treeless hilltop to make their stand. Loial finds a weathered stone that has been carved, and identifies the woman as Ogier work, although there is no stedding nearby. Moiraine remarks only that many nations have risen and fallen since the Breaking, and that they must wonder if they themselves will leave as much behind.

Loial and Faile are instructed to hold the horses and keep them from bolting at the scent of Darkhounds, and Perrin takes out his bow. Lan tells him he may try it if he likes, that he might be able to kill one of the ten that appear to be following them.

The hounds appear, and it takes Perrin sending three arrows home against one hound before it falls. He can see that it will take too long to kill any more; he has only time for one or two more shots before the hounds are upon them.

“Now,” Moiraine said as his arrow left the bow. The air between her hands caught fire and streaked toward the Darkhounds, vanquishing night. The horses squealed and leaped against being held.

Perrin threw an arm across his eyes to shield them from a white-hot glare like burning, heat like a forge cracking open; sudden noon flared in the darkness, and was gone. When he uncovered his eyes, spots flickered across his vision, and the faint, fading image of that line of fire. Where the Darkhounds had been was nothing but night-covered ground and the soft rain; the only shadows that moved were cast by clouds crossing the moon.

I thought she’d throw fire at them, or call lightning, but this… “What was that?” he asked hoarsely.

Moiraine was peering off toward Illian again, as if she could see through all those miles of darkness. “Perhaps he did not see,” she said, almost to herself. “It is far, and if he was not watching, perhaps he did not notice.”

“Who?” Zarine demanded. “Sammael?” Her voice shook a little. “You said he was in Illian. How could he see anything here? What did you do?”

“Something forbidden,” Moiraine said coolly. “Forbidden by vows almost as strong as the Three Oaths.” She took Aldieb’s reins from the girl, and patted the mare’s neck, calming her. “Something not used in nearly two thousand years. Something I might be stilled just for knowing.”

Loial suggest that they should be going, before more hounds are sent, but Moiraine does not think Sammael would send two packs out at once, even if he had two, since they would turn on each other. She also thinks that they were not his main objective, more of an annoyance that he left the Darkhounds to deal with rather than come himself.

“Rand?” Perrin asked. He could almost feel Zarine leaning forward to listen. “If we are not what he hunts, is it Rand?”

“Perhaps,” Moiraine said. “Or perhaps Mat. Remember that he is ta’veren also, and he blew the Horn of Valere.”

Zarine made a strangled sound. “He blew it? Someone has found it already?”

Moiraine ignores her, more focused on her own frustration that events have again outpaced her. Lan reminds them that they should be getting on to Tear, and Perrin has to scrabble to follow as the two set off.

Meanwhile, Mat is sitting around a campfire with Thom doing exactly what he was told not to, surprising nobody. Thinking of how the fireworks only sometimes explode when exposed to air, he trusts to his luck and carefully slices into the smallest one with his knife, finding “tiny “gray-black pebbles and dust” inside. Thom is horrified when he realizes what Mat is doing, telling him that Illuminator work is next to that of Aes Sedai, but Mat points out that he used to think that Master al’Vere’s clock was Aes Sedai work until he saw that the inside was all made up of metal disks and springs. Now he thinks that Perrin could probably have made one once he saw the inside.

“You would be surprised, boy,” Thom said dryly. “Even a bad clockmaker is a fairly rich man, and they earn it. But a clock does not explode in your face!”

“Neither did this. Well, it is useless, now.” He tossed the handful of paper and little pebbles into the fire to a screech from Thom; the pebbles sparked and made tiny flashes, and there was a smell of acrid smoke.

“You are trying to kill us.” Thom’s voice was unsteady, and it rose in intensity and pitch as he spoke. “If I decide I want to die, I will go to the Royal Palace when we reach Caemlyn, and I’ll pinch Morgase!” His long mustaches flailed. “Do not do that again!”

But Mat is already reaching for the next biggest firecracker, wondering aloud why there was no bang, and telling Thom not to be so afraid. Thom is just replying that he’s shaking with rage, not fear, when someone calls out to them in the darkness. A woman in good clothes and three men, apparently retainers, ride up to the fire and dismount, as she asks for directions to the nearest inn. Mat is smiling at her and standing when suddenly one of the men produces a crossbow from under his cloak and she screams at the man to kill Mat.

Mat throws the firework into the flame and leaps for his quarterstaff as Thom’s dagger buries itself in the crossbowman’s chest. A second dagger takes out one swordsman and Mat takes out the other. He’s telling the woman to sit down while he decides what to do with her when a final dagger takes her in the throat. Mat curses Thom out for killing a woman, even a robber woman, who couldn’t have harmed them without her men, but Thom points out the long knife she’d been holding.

They need to move on before a patrol of the Queen’s guard happens across the scene and wants an explanation, but Mat is still put off by the woman’s death as he saddles his horse. He doesn’t care about the men, robbers who deserved what they got when they lost the game. He does notice that the crossbowman has a familiar face, and points out to Thom that he’s one of the men that had attacked them on the Gray Gull. Thom is skeptical, but Mat is certain, and he again curses Elayne’s letter and the three women who put him in this position. He can’t think of any other reason a man would have followed him all this way, so it must be the letter. Still thinking of the woman’s pretty face, he rides off.

 

I guess Mat doesn’t remember the fancy lady who tried to kill him while Rand was sick in the stables of The Queen’s Man back in The Eye of the World. She had a poisoned dagger, too, but Mat’s own dagger really was playing havoc with his brain.

It’s kind of frustrating, in that dramatic-irony way, to watch Mat and Perrin continue to brush off the idea that they might still be worth something to Ba’alzamon and maybe some other Darkfriends, too. Perrin knows that he is ta’veren, after all, even though it’s unclear exactly what that means, and it wouldn’t be wild for him to wonder if the Dark One or his henchmen might be interested in a wolfbrother, either. Mat also knows he’s ta’veren, although he doesn’t have Moiraine around to constantly remind him of that fact, but he does know that he has this connection to the Horn of Valere. The Amyrlin even explained to him that the only way for the Horn to become available to someone else is for Mat to die—pretty convenient reason for someone to be trying to kill you, eh Mat? I mean, if you assume someone could find out you’re carrying a letter from Elayne that she gave to you while you were all still in the White Tower, I feel like you could assume someone could find out you blew the Horn of Valere, when you did it out in the open in the middle of a battle.

I suppose it’s a bit like Rand being in denial about his identity as the Dragon in The Great Hunt. It must seem too big, too impossible to Mat and Perrin that they could be important enough to draw the attention of Ba’alzamon and the Forsaken and other Darkfriends, and they don’t even have the relative clarity Rand had in the explanation that he is the Dragon Reborn. Still, I feel like they’re going to start figuring it out, since these Gray Men just keep coming, and other assassins too.

And now Faile knows all about Perrin, and Rand too. Perrin is normally Mister-think-everything-through, but it’s hard to think things through when you have so little information. I wonder if Moiraine isn’t making a bit of a mistake, here. She observes at the end of Chapter 44 that events have outpaced her again; she’s relying so much on this one piece of foreknowledge she had about when and where the Dragon would be reborn, but she must realize that it will only take her so far. Perhaps it’s time for her to use the more unconventional resources at her disposal, and to realize that someone like Perrin, a ta’veren with ancient powers, just might be more useful if she told him a few things. Of course she’s guarded and used to not being able to trust anyone, but, you know. Ta’veren. That’s supposed to be important. And she recognized it herself, back in Chapter 9. I suppose I expected her to have changed towards him, at least a little, after that revelation.

Now that Faile knows the truth she’s stuck with them—Moiraine can’t risk her going off and telling anyone about Rand—but I don’t think there was ever a chance she could be driven away. Perrin seems to think this dedication suspicious, and I can understand why, but I’m personally inclined to take her at her word in this. She is clearly stubborn and hot headed, but I rather like her, despite her abrasive personality. From what Moiraine said about her name, she must be some kind of noblewoman (perhaps her exact background will be plot-relevant later) and I suspect that what we’re dealing with in Zarine is a woman with a fierce personality who has spent her life being coddled and protected, and who just really wants to get out and prove herself and have a real adventure. Short of falling in with Rand himself, she’s found the biggest one there is.

Of course Perrin can’t see that in her, can’t trust it, because he’d give everything to be free of this, to go back to being an ordinary person. Zarine may be able to adjust to the idea of Darkhounds and Myrddraal and even the Forsaken, but she hasn’t found Ba’alzamon in her dreams yet, or discovered strange abilities that fundamentally change how she understands her own nature.

She’s pretty overbearing at times, and rude for no reason, the way she hounds Perrin, but she’s got some great come-backs too, like when Perrin tries to get her to call him by his name and not a nickname, but continues to call her Zarine. Her shooting back “And [my name] is Faile, shaggy-hair,” was gold.

Her more flirtatious relationship with Perrin makes less sense to me. The fact that she has him on edge makes sense, but there are also moments where he almost seems to be responding as if he likes her, or at least wants her to like him, such as after the Gray Men attack when she observes that he’s quite strong and he notices himself standing straighter, then feels foolish about it. It’s not hard to guess that there is a romance in their future—even if we didn’t have Min’s vision, the Benedict/Beatrice vibes are unmistakable—but it seems too early to seed it, since Faile hasn’t had anything to offer Perrin besides criticism and complaining, and he hasn’t shown even the slightest interest in her personality or her looks. I’ll be interested to see when and how an actual rapport develops between them.

I’m glad we finally have a distinct explanation for the Darkhounds and the fact that they are real and physically present in the world. It’s interesting to me that they are literally just hellhounds, right down to the scent like sulfur that seems to follow them. And if neither Moiraine or Perrin are what their master is most focused on, then one has to wonder what Sammael is so invested in. Plots to gain power? One of our other heroes or heroines? I suppose only time will tell.

If the excerpts part of the recap of this section seems to focus mostly on Lan and Moiraine, it’s because that is the storyline I am most preoccupied with at the moment; you’re welcome. Honestly, I was pretty certain Moiraine was going to die when she left Lan and the others behind at the inn. (In all fairness, so was she.) And even though she’s made it through a few more chapters, the writing on the wall is not exactly subtle, here, what with the tension between her and Lan and the reminder of the bond that will pass on to Myrelle. Lan’s ribbing of Moiraine about it, especially the bit of how he must learn to smile at quips because he’s heard that Myrelle likes to tell her Warders jokes, almost felt like gallows humor, like he’s using the irreverence and digs at Moiraine to cope with what he knows is coming. He wasn’t technically wrong about Moiraine accepting him coming after her in order to warn about the Darkhound, but the strain between them isn’t going to ease just because this wasn’t the moment for her to die, after all. It makes my little fanboy heart ache.

Moiraine’s power shows through more as she gets sterner and colder, too. Her comment about how both Faile and Lan assume they know what an Aes Sedai would or would not do was chilling, even from the other side of the pages, and I’m desperately curious as to why what she did to the Darkhounds is so forbidden that she could be stilled just for knowing it, even though it was used against Shadowspawn. Surely something more powerful than just a really bright fire, the way it is described, but what exactly it was, I can’t begin to guess.

Next week we will cover Chapters 45-47, in which we’ll see Mat get into some more mischief, and in which Thom’s prediction that cutting off refugees isn’t like Morgase will begin to show true in a very chilling way. I leave you with my final thoughts:

  • Illian sounds a lot like Florida to me, with marshes and muggy heat, and the big columns sounding like Southern U.S. architecture. Plus there’s the ladies’ wide-brimmed hats with the scarves that wind around, which also feels sort of American Southern to me.
  • The gender dynamics of this world still aren’t my favorite, but I admit that I chuckled when Perrin was thinking that no women ever bully Rand and Mat the way he feels he is getting bullied, only to slowly go though the list of basically every woman in the Two Rivers and how they always got their way.
  • Loial is darling as always. Despite his peaceful nature and desire to put an optimistic perspective on anything, he is always ready to fight if it’s necessary, picking up his chair to fight the Gray Men as readily as he sang himself that club in the mirror world back in The Great Hunt. And you know those Darkhounds were truly frightening to him; he didn’t even talk about how he didn’t have to leave the stedding when Moiraine had him take them through the Ways!
  • Given that Perrin knows that Rand is the Dragon and the Last Battle is coming, I feel like “the Last Hunt” is pretty self-explanatory. As for “What is real is not real. What is not real is real. Flesh is a dream, and dreams have flesh,” I’m pretty sure that’s the wolf equivalent to Dumbledore’s answer to Harry when he asked if the station they met at after Voldemort’s defeat was real or just happening in his head. “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
  • Mat might need to have his hands sewn into his pockets, but his tendency to grab things is being spun out into a more fully-developed character trait, and curiosity is rapidly becoming a defining feature of his. I imagine that his intelligence will become more and more apparent, and with the addition of knowledge and experience he’ll seem less like an idiot than he did when we met him and his curious nature just read as impulsive and foolish.
  • Thom’s line: “If I decide I want to die, I will go to the Royal Palace when we reach Caemlyn, and I’ll pinch Morgase!” might be one of my favorites in the books to date.

Sylas K Barrett just wants Lan to be happy! And Thom too, really.

citation

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