Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Hammers, Balefire and Persuasion in Robert Jordan’s The Dragon Reborn (Part 21)

Hello dear readers and welcome back to week 21 of the read of The Dragon Reborn. This week the strands of the wheel are drawing our protagonists ever closer to the Heart of the Stone and the climax of the long-building drama of The Dragon Reborn. I’ve been noticing that, somehow, this book seems slower than the previous two, although I can’t quite put my finger on why. It feels, though, that there have been fewer side quests and stand-alone adventures for everyone—more focus has been put on learning information, conversations, and world building than on, say, getting lost in Shadar Logoth or mirror worlds. I’m not sure if it would feel as slow if I was reading straight through without stopping every few paragraphs, but doing things this way, it certainly does.

We get a nice little reprieve this week as Perrin goes back to smithing, at least for a day. It’s like the calm before the storm, as it’s followed up by Moiraine’s revelation that the forsaken Be’lal is in Tear and Liandrin and the others catch up to Nynaeve.

One note about last week’s post: I forgot a page! My recap ended with Thom and Mat returning to The White Crescent for sleep, but I had forgotten (and not indicated in my notes, apparently) that there was a bit more to the end of Chapter 49. So the first little bit of today’s recap will be finishing that up, before we head into Chapter 50 and 51.

At the end of Chapter 49, Mat rouses himself again at dawn, and he and Thom set out to search again, with Mat choosing places at random and tossing coins to decide which way to go. Meanwhile, Thom’s cough gets worse, but he insists on coming along and using his gleeman’s influence to get people to talk to him, even though he can’t play the flute or tell stories, and doesn’t want to bring his harp out in the bad weather. But all anyone has to tell them is rumors of war and of the Dragon Reborn coming, and Mat notes that the people he dices with seem to be in a dark mood, looking for the worst rumors they could find and half believing them. But they hear nothing about Elayne and the others.

And Mat begins to have bad dreams, too, dreams of a laughing man weaving a net around Egwene and Nynaeve and Elayne, dreams of that same man holding a blazing crystal sword. Dreams of Rand holding that sword. He puts it down to his worrying, to the fact that he’s not eating or sleeping enough. He’s determined to win his wager, after all. Even if it kills him.

Chapter 50 finds Perrin and the others docking at Tear, and Perrin finds himself looking for the wolves, as he often has. He stops himself and puts his guards back up as soon as he notices, but he doesn’t like how alone he feels.

Faile tries to find out what they will find here in Tear that will explain the Gray Men and the Darkhounds they encountered in Illian, and Loial complains at how eager she sounds, warning her that this will not be as easy as Illian and prompting astonishment from Faile that he would call the experience easy. Perrin tells her that she will find out when Moiraine is ready to tell her, prompting the girl to retort that Perrin probably doesn’t know either.

With a small sigh, he rode off the docks after Moiraine and Lan. Zarine did not dig at Loial in that cutting way when the Ogier refused to answer her questions. He thought she must be trying to browbeat him into using that name. He would not.

Despite the heat, Moiraine keeps her face covered with a hood, and she and Lan are once again traveling incognito, with serpent ring and color-shifting cloak hidden away. Technically Aes Sedai are allowed in Tear as long as they do not channel, but Moiraine knows she would be watched if people realized who she is.

Perrin gazes at the people walking in the streets, surprised that a great city like Tear would have dirt streets and amused by the dress of the citizenry, but Faile draws his attention to the faces and the attitudes of the people, the way something seems to have gone out of them. Hope, Perrin thinks, or maybe curiosity. Even the soldiers they pass while entering the gates of the city wall seem beaten down.

Perrin observes the architecture of the buildings and the increasingly fine dress of the more well-off inhabitants until Lan finds them an inn, the Star, nestled in between a smithy and a weaver’s shop.

The innkeeper, Jurah Haret, greets them respectfully and notes that it’s been a year at least since he’s seen an Ogier in the city, when some Ogier were staying—and no doubt working—in the Stone. Taking Moiraine’s covered face, silk dress, and armed escort to indicate a lady and her guard, he shows them to their rooms personally, having beds pushed together for Loial and offering Moiriane use of a private dining room, which she accepts.

As soon as he is gone, Faile complains about being taken for Moiraine’s handmaid, and Lan upbraids her for referring to Moiraine as “Aes Sedai.” Moiraine, meanwhile, appears distracted, ignoring or not hearing Perrin’s question of how they are going to find Rand.

“Remain close to the inn,” she said after a moment. “Tear can be a dangerous city for those who do not know its ways. The Pattern can be torn, here.” That last was soft, as if to herself. In a stronger voice she said, “Lan, let us see what we can discover without attracting attention. The rest of you, stay close to the inn!”

“‘Stay close to the inn,’ ” Zarine mimicked as the Aes Sedai and the Warder disappeared down the stairs. But she said it quietly enough that they would not hear. “This Rand. He is the one you called the…” If she looked like a falcon right then, it was a very uneasy falcon. “And we are in Tear, where the Heart of the Stone holds… And the Prophecies say… The Light burn me, ta’veren, is this a story I want to be in?”

“It is not a story, Zarine.” For a moment Perrin felt almost as hopeless as the innkeeper had sounded. “The Wheel weaves us into the Pattern. You chose to tangle your thread with ours; it’s too late to untangle it, now.”

“Light!” she growled. “Now you sound like her!”

Perrin leaves her and goes to put his things in his room, only to find him drawn to the sounds of the smithy. Going inside is a relief; it feels familiar after such a long time in strange lands. The smith is alone in his shop, hard at work, and Perrin watches for a while before stepping in to help work the bellows.

The smith asks if Perrin is an apprentice and Perrin simply answers yes as the man continues to work. Perrin correctly identifies the piece the smith is working as a barrel-scrape, before it is finished, and the smith occasionally eyes him with interest. Eventually, he offers Perrin a length of stock to show what he can do with it.

Perrin tests the metal, familiarizes himself with quenching barrels, and finds himself an apron that at least comes close to fitting. Then he sets to work. Because simple things seem best to him at the moment, he sets to work making a chamfer knife, to go along in theme with the smith’s barrel scrape. Once he’s finished and tempered the blade, he sets it aside to cool, drawing praise from the smith.

“A very neat bit of work,” the smith said. “No wasted motion. You looking for work? My apprentices just walked away, all three of them, the worthless fools, and I’ve plenty you could do.”

Perrin shook his head. “I do not know how long I will be in Tear. I’d like to work a little longer, if you do not mind. It has been a long time, and I miss it. Maybe I could do some of the work your apprentices would have done.”

The smith snorts, commenting that Perrin could do the work a great deal better than they could, and without complaining all the time about nightmares. Perrin loses himself in the work until night falls and his attention is caught by the smith, Dermid Ajala, taking off his vest.

Faile is there too, sitting on a barrel and watching him.

“So you really are a blacksmith, blacksmith,” she said.

“He is that, mistress,” Ajala said. “Apprentice, he says, but the work he did today amounts to his master’s piece as far as I am concerned. Fine stroking, and better than steady.” Perrin shifted his feet at the compliments, and the smith grinned at him. Zarine stared at both of them with a lack of comprehension.”

Perrin takes off his vest and is suddenly very self-conscious, feeling Faile’s eyes on his back and tugging his shirt on as fast as he can. The way she is smiling when he turns around makes him nervous.

“Is this what you mean to do, then?” she asked. “Did you come all this way to be a blacksmith again?” Ajala paused in the act of pulling the yard doors closed and listened.

Perrin picked up the heavy hammer he had used, a ten-pound head with a handle as long as his forearm. It felt good in his hands. It felt right. The smith had glanced at his eyes once and never even blinked; it was the work that was important, the skill with metal, not the color of a man’s eyes. “No,” he said sadly. “One day, I hope. But not yet.” He started to hang the hammer back on the wall.

“Take it.” Ajala cleared his throat. “I do not usually give away good hammers, but… The work you’ve done today is worth more than the price of that hammer by far, and maybe it will help you to that ‘one day.’ Man, if I have ever seen anyone made to hold a smith’s hammer, it is you. So take it. Keep it.”

Perrin closed his hand around the haft. It did feel right. “Thank you,” he said. “I cannot say what this means to me.”

“Just remember the ‘one day,’ man. Just you remember it.”

As they left, Zarine looked up at him and said, “Do you have any idea how strange men are, blacksmith? No. I did not think you did.” She darted ahead, leaving him holding the hammer in one hand and scratching his head with the other.

They return to the inn, no one giving them any notice despite the odd picture they cut. In his room, Perrin takes up his axe in one hand and the hammer in the other, noting that the axe is lighter but feels heavier. He considers both, and is still staring at them when Lan puts his head in to tell him that they need him.

Annoyed with how Lan communicated the request—he even called Perrin Faile’s “farmboy” nickname, Perrin walks into the private dining room intending to tell the Warder off, but Moiraine shuts him down immediately, and Faile too when she tries to complain.

“Be quiet,” Moiraine told her sharply. “One of the Forsaken is in Tear. The High Lord Samon is Be’lal.” Perrin shivered.

Loial squeezed his eyes shut and groaned. “I could have remained in the stedding. I would probably have been very happy, married, whoever my mother chose. She is a fine woman, my mother, and she would not give me to a bad wife.” His ears seemed to have hidden themselves completely in his shaggy hair.

“You can go back to Stedding Shangtai,” Moiraine said. “Leave now, if you wish. I will not stop you.”

Loial opened one eye. “I can go?”

“If you wish,” she said.

“Oh.” He opened the other eye, and scratched his cheek with blunt fingers the size of sausages. “I suppose…. I suppose… if I have a choice… that I will stay with all of you. I have taken a great many notes, but not nearly enough to complete my book, and I would not like to leave Perrin, and Rand—”

Moiraine cut him off in a cold voice. “Good, Loial. I am glad that you are staying. I will be glad to use any knowledge you have. But until this is done, I have no time to listen to your complaints!”

Faile starts to ask if there is any chance of her leaving—of course she already knows it’s too late—and tells Perrin that if she survives, she will make him pay. Perrin is more than a little irked that she would suggest that this was his fault, but Moiraine’s serious gaze keeps him focused on the point.

Moiraine tells them that she believes Be’lal intends to let Rand enter the Stone and claim Callandor, so that he can then take the sword from him. She fears that he intends “to kill the Dragon Reborn with the very weapon that is meant to herald him.”

Faile wants to run again, but there will be no running this time, despite the fact that Be’lal could tie any of them in knots without even trying. Even Moiraine. But she also tells them that not even the Forsaken can withstand balefire, and also that she has learned things in the past year. She is more dangerous now than when she came to Emond’s Field.

She then asks Loial what he knows of Be’lal, explaining to the confused Perrin and Faile that Ogier live much longer than humans and therefore their memories do as well—the Breaking was over 100 generations ago for humans, but less than thirty for Ogier.

Loial tells them what he knows, professing that it isn’t much, but two details catch Moiraine’s attention. One is that Be’lal had the name of “the Netweaver,” the other is “that he forsook the Light because he envied Lews Therin, and that he envied Ishamael and Lanfear, too.” It makes her more certain that Be’lal wants Callandor.

Perrin asks how any of them could possibly get into the Stone, which no one can enter without permission from the High Lords.

“You do not go in,” Lan said. “Moiraine and I will be the only ones to enter. The more who go, the harder it will be. Whatever way in I find, I cannot believe it will be easy even for only two.”

“Gaidin,” Moiraine began in a firm voice, but the Warder cut her off with one just as firm.

“We go together, Moiraine. I will not stand aside this time.” After a moment she nodded. Perrin thought he saw Lan relax. “The rest of you had better get some sleep,” the Warder went on. “I have to be out studying the Stone.” He paused. “There is a thing that your news drove out of my head, Moiraine. A small thing, and I cannot see what it might mean. There are Aiel in Tear.”

Everyone is a little perplexed by that information, and Moiraine can’t think of what it might mean, but Perrin recalls the words of Gaul after he freed him in Remen: When the Stone falls, the Aiel will leave the Three-Fold land.

“I have read every word of the Prophecies of the Dragon,” Moiraine said softly, “in every translation, and there is no mention of the Aiel. We stagger blindly while Be’lal weaves his nets, and the Wheel weaves the Pattern around us. But are the Aiel “the Wheel’s weaving, or Be’lal’s? Lan, you must find me the way into the Stone quickly. Us. Find us a way in quickly.”

“As you command, Aes Sedai,” he said, but his tone was more warm than formal. He vanished through the door. Moiraine frowned at the table, eyes clouded in thought.

Faile asks what Perrin is going to do, and Perrin answers that he is going to have something to eat and then think about a hammer. Privately he adds to himself that he’s also going to try to puzzle out how he feels about this falcon.

Chapter 51 opens with Nynaeve catching a glimpse of a tall man with reddish hair and swirling brown cloak, but she loses sight of him again immediately. She tells herself not to be foolish, that there is no way she could have seen Rand. Just because she keeps dreaming about him doesn’t mean he would come all this way.

After arguing with the butcher over the price and relative quality of the meat she’s buying, Nynaeve pays the man and stalks away, awkwardly on the platformed shoes. She knows war and calamity have had some affect on prices, but she’s also put off by how readily everyone in Tear seems to be to just lay down and die. She has no patience for it, although she knows she should have some. She resolves to try.

If for them, why not for Egwene? She put that aside. The child behaved wretchedly, snapping at the most obvious suggestions, objecting to the most sensible things. Even when it was plain what they should do, Egwene wanted to be convinced. Nynaeve was not used to having to convince people, especially not people she had changed swaddling clothes for. The fact that she was only a matter of seven years older than Egwene was of no account.

She tells herself that it’s the bad dreams that she doesn’t understand, and that Sandar has told them nothing yet, and that she’s just so frustrated. She was at least able to convince Egwene to stop using the ter’angreal, now that they know that the Black Ajah were in Tel’aran’rhiod. But just knowing they were there is still horrifying.

“I will bring them down,” she muttered. “Trying to sell me like a sheep! Hunting me like an animal! I am the hunter this time, not the rabbit! That Moiraine! If she had never come to Emond’s Field, I could have taught Egwene enough. And Rand…. I could have… I could have done something.” That she knew neither was true did not help; it made it worse. She hated Moiraine almost as much as she hated Liandrin and the Black Ajah, maybe as much as she hated the Seanchan.

She rounds a corner with such ferocity that Juilin Sandar has to jump out of her way. He’s a bit put-off by her angry face, but she tells him it’s nothing, and then realizes what his presence, his claim to be looking for her, must mean. She asks if he has found them.

*He looked around as if he suspected the passersby of trying to listen. “Yes. Yes, you must come back with me. The others are waiting. The others. And Mother Guenna.”

“Why are you so nervous? You did not let them discover your interest?” she said sharply. “What has frightened you?”

“No! No, mistress. I—I did not reveal myself.” His eyes darted again, and he stepped closer, his voice dropping to a breathy, urgent whisper. “These women you seek, they are in the Stone! Guests of a High Lord! The High Lord Samon! Why did you call them thieves? The High Lord Samon!” he almost squeaked. There was sweat on his face.

Nynaeve, hiding her own concern, assures him that they can explain everything, that if he’ll come back to Mother Guenna’s they can explain it all to his satisfaction. They hurry back to the house and to the back door, Nynaeve in such a hurry that she doesn’t even stop to scrape the mud from her clogs, although Sandar does.

Inside she finds Ailhuin sitting in a chair in the middle of the room, her arms at her sides and fear in her eyes. Nynaeve doesn’t even need to sense the weave of Air, she can see how Ailhuin is struggling against nothing—the Black Ajah have found them.

Nynaeve feels rage fill her, and the image of the blossom on the thorny branch, and she’s just opening to saidar when she suddenly feels as if she has run into a wall of glass, a wall that stops her from being able to reach the One Power. She drops her basket as Liandrin and another woman, Rianna, come in. Liandrin, smug and condescending as always, starts to speak but Nynaeve punches her hard in the mouth. She backhands Rianna with enough force to knock her down, and turns to run, hoping to get far enough away that they can’t shield her. But before she can go more than a step or two she feels herself being struck on all sides by heavy blows of Air like fists. She tries to withstand it, but the blows take her down until she’s shaking and feels bruised from head to toe.

Liandrin crouched beside her, arms around her knees, silk rustling against silk. She had wiped the blood away from her mouth. Her dark eyes were hard, and there was no amusement on her face now. “Perhaps you are too stupid to know when you are defeated, wilder. You fought almost as wildly as that other foolish girl, that Egwene. She almost went mad. You must all learn to submit. You will learn to submit.”

Nynaeve shivered and reached for saidar again. It was not that she had any real hope, but she had to do something. Forcing through her pain, she reached out… and struck that invisible shield. Liandrin did have amusement back in her eyes, now, the grim mirth of a nasty child who pulls the wings off flies.

Rianna is about to kill Ailhuin, but Liandrin stops her, pointing out that the wise woman is no use to them dead. She reminds Ailhuin that they are friends of High Lord Samon, and how displeased he will be if she ever speaks of what happened in her house today. But if she holds her tongue, she may live to serve him another day. With visible pain, and apologizing to Nynaeve as she does so, Ailhuin agrees to hold her tongue. There is nothing she can do to help, in any case.

Liandrin and Rianna bundle Nynaeve towards the front of the house, and as helpless as she is, Nynaeve reminds herself that her bruises will heal, and that the women can still make a slip. In the front room they find two more Black Ajah as well as some soldiers—-who look as frightened as Nynaeve feels—as well as Elayne and Egwene. Elayne’s face is bruised and her dress torn, but Egwene is unconscious on the floor, her face so swollen with bruises it’s almost unrecognizable. Nynaeve reacts with rage, only to be struck across the mouth with an invisible blow.

“Now, now,” Joiya Byir said with a smile that her eyes belied. “I will not stand for demands, or bad language.” She sounded like a grandmother, too. “You speak when you are spoken to.”

“I told you the girl, she would not stop fighting, yes?” Liandrin said. “Let it be a lesson to you. If you try to cause any trouble, you will be treated no more gently.”

Nynaeve ached to do something for Egwene, but she let herself be pushed out into the street. She made them push her; it was a small way of fighting back, refusing to cooperate, but it was all she had at the moment.

There is a carriage waiting in the street, staffed by coachmen and bearing the sigil of a silver-gauntleted fist clutching lightning bolts—High Lord Samon’s sign, Nynaeve assumes. But she’s more concerned with the fact that Sandar is there, dropping to his knees in the mud and looking to Liandrin like “a faithful hound” or “a cur expecting a kick.” Liandrin actually tangles her hand in his hair and wrenches his head around as she explains how Nynaeve shouldn’t be too hard on him—they had to “persuade” the man to serve them and Liandrin is very good at persuasion.

“Sandar turned a confused stare on Nynaeve. “I had to do it, Mistress Maryim. I… had to.” Liandrin twisted his hair, and his eyes went back to her, the anxious hound’s once more.

Light! Nynaeve thought. What did they do to him? What are they going to do to us?”

In the carriage, Nynaeve struggles with her desire to help Egwene, her rage and desire to threaten the women who hold them all so securely bound in air. Liandrin does tell Nyneave that Egwene is still alive; they are meant to be bait in a trap and dead bait doesn’t work.

Bait? For what? For who? “You are the fool, Liandrin! Do you think we are here alone? Only three of us, and not even full Aes Sedai? We are bait, Liandrin. And you have walked into the trap like a fat grouse.”

“Do not tell her that!” Elayne said sharply, and Nynaeve blinked before she realized Elayne was helping her fabrication. “If you let your anger get the best of you, you will tell them what they must not hear. They must take us inside the Stone. They must—”

“Be quiet!” Nynaeve snapped. “You are letting your tongue run away with you!” Elayne managed to look abashed behind her bruises. Let them chew on that, Nynaeve thought.

But the Black Ajah don’t look very concerned. Liandrin remarks that they will tell them everything eventually, and that although Nynaeve is supposed to be very strong one day, Liandrin will make sure Nynaeve serves her. Be’lal has plans for them, and has sent for thirteen Myrddraal.

The only thing more horrifying for Nynaeve than realizing that one of the Forsaken is nearby is the rest of it sinking in. Thirteen Myrddraal and thirteen Black Ajah. She screams, and Elayne too, stricken into terrified panic, and the Black Ajah laugh.


Perrin and I both need to puzzle out how we feel about Faile, really. I think my problem with her is the same problem I had with Mat in the first two books—without a chapter in her pov, without knowing why she is the way she is, what fears or desires motivate her, it’s difficult to connect with her, to find those annoying character traits that become endearing flaws once you really know a person.

All we really know about Faile is that her birth name, Zarine, indicates that she comes from a wealthy background, so it’s a likely deduction that she was raised pampered and isolated, and dreamed of adventure. The advent of the Great Hunt offered her that opportunity, and her insistence in being involved probably stems from the fact that she feels like this is her only chance for an adventure. But as Perrin points out, this isn’t a story. Adventures feel different when you’re in them, as he and his fellow Emond’s Fielders have also had to learn. So far, Faile has shown her mettle in not running off the second she found out that Gray Men and Darkhounds were real, and in declaring her intent to be one of the group (sure she has no choice, but she could have still tried to get away) despite the fact that they are going up against one of the Forsaken. But I’m interested to see what more she can bring to the fight, what she will do when she’s tested in battle or in a crisis to which the answer is not ‘do as Moiraine says and hold the horses.’

Perrin’s reluctance to use her chosen name is certainly understandable, but only if you know why he is so against it. From Faile’s point of view it must seem awfully rude, even cruel. I don’t think Perrin should be surprised that she’s a little cutting with him; as far as she can tell he’s the one who has been cutting first.

I totally did not understand that it was Balefire that Moiraine used against the Darkhounds, I think because we’ve only seen Rand and Nynaeve use it until now, and it’s been more “bolts of light from the fists,” which is clearly just a fraction of what a true, experienced channeler could do. I am so curious as to what is so bad or dangerous about Balefire that would make its use so forbidden, even in the case of Shadowspawn. I wonder if this will be revealed soon, or if it’s more of a slow-burn situation.

Speaking of revelations that took a while, I’m not just this week realizing that Moiraine hides her face because of the ageless Aes Sedai look that will give away her identity even without the ring, but it’s definitely been a recent revelation. I’m not sure how I missed it. But it does really change what it means to be an Aes Sedai traveling incognito, compared to people like Elayne, Egwene and Nynaeve, who, with a change of clothes and the hiding of some jewelry, could be anybody or nobody. Clearly, not everyone is aware of what an Aes Sedai face looks like—Moiraine had no trouble in Baerlon that I remember—but those who have had contact with them would recognize the signs, and of course the High Lords of Tear are going to be on the lookout.

I really enjoyed the first half of Chapter 50—it’s written in such a beautiful slow, thoughtful way that really captures how Perrin feels while he is working in the smithy. It’s a lovely interlude, a bit like the moment in The Two Towers when Sam takes advantage of the relative greenery of Ithilien to send Gollum hunting and make rabbit stew. (Anyone catch my shout out in the title last week?) Like Sam, Perrin has found in his travels a moment to return to his old life, to the comfort and sanctity of an identity he has had to put aside, and as a reader, I found it equally refreshing. We’re barreling towards the Stone now, the Forsaken are taking over the land, and Moiraine is still probably going to die, so it was nice to pause, to drink in the description of the smithy and Perrin’s work, and just enjoy.

I wonder if that’s what Faile was doing, too.

I had a moment where I hoped that Sandar might realize what was happening to Nynaeve and find a way to help, then another moment before I realized that he didn’t just betray them out of loyalty to the High Lords, so that was certainly a roller coaster. Poor man, Liandrin must have done the same thing to him that she did to Lady Amalisa in Fal Dara.  I’m still not exactly sure how that use of the One Power works, but I remember that Liandrin preyed upon Amalisa’s loyalty and respect for the Aes Sedai and then frightened her with threats of being accused of being a Darkfriend until Amalisa’s mental state provided a path, as it were, for Liandrin to worm her way in. The command of the High Lords in Tear as well as the general fear of Aes Sedai would certainly have given her similar things to work with, in Sandar’s case.

And now the three girls are captured. Again.

I really felt for Egwene, facing capture and captivity again after her experience with the Seanchan. We know how even the suggestion of being under someone else’s control again makes her feel, and the dialog in this chapter does a really good job of driving that idea home, even though it’s delivered to Nynaeve. The way Liandrin tells Nynaeve she must learn to obey, the way Joiya Byir speaks in that patronizingly motherly way and forbids bad language or speaking before spoken too. I was shivering, for sure. It’s just as well that Egwene was unconscious when the thirteen Myrddraal were mentioned—I think she’s got as much on her mental plate as she can handle in this moment.

I think this is the first time I have seen a word used for the “spells” created by channeling. It makes sense that it would be “weave,” given the importance of that word and concept in the very fabric of creation in The Wheel of Time. It’s interesting how it thematically connects channelers with the idea of being creators themselves, or at least shapers of the Pattern similar to the way that ta’veren are. Moiraine certainly is a driving force in the unfolding of events, even with her frustrations at seemingly always being a step or three behind. But I guess that just speaks to the nature of the Pattern that the Wheel spins out. Are you shaping your life and choices, or is the Wheel? Is there really any difference, in the end?

I’ve got to admit, it’s kind of nice seeing Moiraine get just as frustrated by that question as everyone else. I wonder if it would make Nynaeve feel a bit better, a bit less resentful, if she realized how much Moiraine probably feels the same way as Nynaeve does—angry, overwhelmed, confident in a way that really defies any expectation she can rightly have that she will accomplish her goals and projecting that confidence so that others will believe her when she claims authority.

I don’t know, I’ve just really been feeling for Moiraine lately. And I am still convinced she’s going to die at the end of the book, or at least appear to. Lan is going to be sent off into a different kind of life, and I expect Perrin is going to have to step up and take a leadership role without Moiraine to guide him. He may come to regret all the complaining he’s done about her keeping things close to the vest—now he’s going to have to know everything and carry that burden himself.

Granted, I do understand perfectly why he’s frustrated. One of the fun things about the last few sections is that I really understand everyone’s frustrations, Nynaeve and Egwene’s with each other, Perrin and Faile’s with each other, Lan’s with Moiriane and Moiraine with her inability to keep ahead of events.

Then there’s Loial. The Ogier seems to have left off his optimism and “I have to like it if I’m going to write about it” around when he heard that Darkhounds were about, but it’s also around the same time that Faile came into the mix. And while her optimism stems from not knowing the whole situation quite yet, there’s also a feeling that Loial is no longer acting like he is the youngest (with Ogier age/maturity differences taken into account) now that there’s this new teenager in the group. I also noticed that there have been Ogier in both Tear and Illian somewhat recently, and that seems to be a more mysterious fact that usual. The Ogier in Illian left abruptly without finishing their work; I wonder if the same happened to the ones staying in the Stone. It seems likely that the presence of the Forsaken was felt by the Ogier, as it was by Loial when he first arrived in Illian; they seem to be even more perceptive of it than humans are.

And meanwhile, everyone keeps dreaming of Rand. We know he’s in the city, as both Mat and Nynaeve have glimpsed him, even if they didn’t realize it. But it strikes me that it might be Be’lal, rather than Rand, giving everyone the nightmares. Rand probably doesn’t know who Be’lal is yet, and while that isn’t exactly a barrier for Dreamers to what and whom they dream of, the focus on Be’lal obtaining the sword might indicate that these are his fantasy dreams, rather than Rand’s. And this would track, too, with how very uneasy the dreams make people, how they are nightmares more than just unusual dreams—the Forsaken seem to have this effect everywhere they go, as we saw the same irritated and beaten down attitudes from the folks in Illian, and from the folks in Caemlyn too.

Two more chapters next week, in which Mat’s luck finally leads him where he needs to be, Moiraine evades a trap, and Perrin starts to shift in his feelings towards both Faile and the World of Dreams.

When Sylas K Barrett read that Be’lal was sometimes called the Netweaver, all he could think of was Netossa from “She Ra and the Princesses of Power”.


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