Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Women’s Circle Business as Perrin Grieves a Loss in The Shadow Rising (Part 22)

Good morning and welcome back to your regularly scheduled (hopefully from now on) Reading the Wheel of Time! This week we follow Perrin into the Two Rivers to learn some devastating news and find out about some other unexpected visitors to Emond’s Field.

I was really affected by this week’s read. There was a peacefulness in the descriptions of the Westwoods and the people who were going about their business even with the danger and uncertainty of the Whitecloaks’ presence and threat of the Trollocs in the country. As the past few weeks and the threat of pandemic has hung over my home here in NYC and the Boroughs, and as I’ve been checking in with family in my childhood home, I’ve felt my own sense of calm mixed with dread, of anxiety mixed with the need to do the things that keep life going, even if it’s in an altered state. Of course, the parallels aren’t perfect, but there is no action in these chapters, only talk and planning and deep grief, and that feels appropriate right now to my own state of mind. And perhaps to many of yours, dear readers, as well.

It takes three days for Perrin and the others to ride the distance that he crossed in a few strides in the dream, with Perrin, Faile, and Loial riding and the Aiel walking beside them. Perrin notices Faile turning towards him a few times, as if to speak, and he’s glad that she apparently decides not to, because his own feelings are confusing. He wants to talk to her, wants to kiss her again, but he doesn’t want to let himself make up with her after what she did to him, and to Loial. He’s angry that everything will be harder now that she’s here, and wishes she hadn’t come, or that she would get tired of him and leave. The women stick together for the most part, Loial is anxious, and Gaul is apparently amused. But Perrin is too busy worrying.

He’s concerned that Slayer might be in the waking world as well as the wolf dream, and suspects that Slayer is the one who took down the hawks he saw. It’s another complication to worry about in addition to his parents, two sisters, and baby brother and what the White Cloaks might do to them.

If the Whitecloaks hunted for Aybaras, they were easy to find. They were his responsibility, not this Slayer. He could only do so much. Protect his family, and Faile. That was first. Then came the village, and the wolves, and this Slayer last. One man could not manage everything.

Instead of heading straight to Emond’s Field, Perrin angles their journey through the forest to come first to the farm of Tam al’Thor. They find it burned and destroyed, the crops trampled down or overrun by weeds, the smell and look of the burnt wood many weeks old. The Aiel search the place carefully, and Perrin is relieved when they don’t find any bodies. At least Tam hadn’t died in the attack. Still, he silently calls out to Rand that the Whitecloaks know, and that Rand should have come.

Gaul finds tracks that lead him to believe that someone, possibly two men, came back at some point after the damage was done to round up and drive off the scattered sheep. Perrin finds himself hoping that the damage was done by Trollocs, but he knows that it wasn’t. The Whitecloaks knew his name, and Rand’s.

Faile comes over to speak to him, and is relieved to hear that this is Rand’s home, not Perrin’s. Her voice is full of pain and sympathy, but Perrin stays curt, not wanting to let her closer. Later he arranges with Gaul to sneak away from the camp very early in the morning, while Faile is still asleep. The two of them will go to Emond’s Field to find out what is happening. And so Perrin can find the Whitecloaks and turn himself in.

In the morning, when the full moon is still setting, the two of them slip away. One of the Aiel women watches them go in the dim light, but doesn’t say anything or try to stop them. They start to pass people when they come out of the Westwood below the village, and Perrin keeps on at a brisk pace, hoping to pass before he is recognized, or people take too much note of Gaul. They circle around Emond’s Field, finding everything repaired and rebuilt, showing no sign of the Winternight Trolloc attack a year ago. They sneak around back of the Winespring Inn, leaving Stepper tied up by the kitchen door, avoiding the voices of the stablehands and other passersby. They hurry into the kitchen, and, finding it empty, through the hall to the common room. It is all very familiar, and yet feels smaller than Perrin remembers.

Bran and Marin al’Vere are in the otherwise empty room polishing silverware and pewter, and Perrin shocks them both when he steps suddenly into the room and announces himself. Bran hurries to pull the curtains at the windows. They ask about Egwene, from whom they have had a few letters, and her new friends Min and Elayne. Perrin answers what he can, but it’s clear to him that Egwene hasn’t told them much, and he doesn’t feel the need to add anything.

Perrin introduces Gaul, but while Bran seems thrown by the presence of an Aiel in his home, Marin seems to take it in stride, bidding Gaul a gracious welcome.

“May you always have water and shade, roofmistress,” Gaul said formally, bowing to her. “I ask leave to defend your roof and hold.”

She barely hesitated before replying as if that were exactly what she was used to hearing. “A gracious offer. But you must allow me to decide when it is needed.”

“As you say, roofmistress. Your honor is mine.” From under his coat, Gaul produced a gold saltcellar, a small bowl balanced on the back of a cunningly made lion, and extended it to her. “I offer this small guest gift to your roof.”

Marin makes a show over the gift, not even showing her shock over such an item, and Bran shifts the conversation to Perrin’s return. He asks why Perrin came back, as there is nothing he can do to change the situation with the Whitecloaks, and insists that he leave at once, although he cannot imagine how Perrin got into the Two Rivers without being caught by them. Marin adds her voice to Bran’s, and Perrin is just starting to explain his intention to give himself up when Faile, Bain, and Chiad burst through the door.

Faile, having overheard his plan, begins to berate him, asking him why he would do such a thing, and Perrin realizes that there’s nothing left but to tell her the truth.

“Because I killed Whitecloaks.” Looking down at her, he ignored Mistress al’Vere’s gasp. “Those the night I met you, and two before that. They know about those two, Faile, and they think I’m a Darkfriend.” She would learn that much soon enough. Brought to the point of it, he might have told her why, had they been alone. At least two Whitecloaks, Geofram Bornhald and Jaret Byar, suspected something of his connection with wolves. Not nearly all, but for them the little was enough. A man who ran with wolves had to be a Darkfriend. Maybe one or both was with the Whitecloaks here.

“They believe it for true.”

“You are no more a Darkfriend than I,” she whispered harshly. “The sun could be a Darkfriend first.”

She continues to upbraid him and call him names until Marin interrupts, asking for an introduction. The Aiel women follow the same custom as Gaul, including the expensive gifts, and Bran mutters “Aiel” to himself while watching the windows anxiously. Marin manages to wrangle both Aiel and Faile into chairs with damp towels to wipe their faces and tea, as she chats with them about traveling and compliments Faile’s riding dress. Perrin thinks it would have been funny, seeing those fierce women handled like children, except the handling has included himself and Gaul as well.

And then the real news comes, as they inform Perrin that there is no use in his giving himself up, as his family is already gone. At first Perrin thinks they just mean that the farm has been burnt like Tam al’Thor’s, but he soon learns that it’s much worse than that—they are all dead.

“Dead? No. They can’t be—” Perrin frowned as wetness suddenly slopped over his hand, stared at the crumpled cup as though wondering where it had come from. “I am sorry. I didn’t mean to—” He pulled at the flattened silver, trying to force it back out with his fingers. That would not work. Of course not. Very carefully, he put the ruined cup in the middle of the table. “I will replace it. I can—” He wiped his hand on his coat, and suddenly found he was caressing the axe hanging at his belt. Why was everyone looking at him so oddly? “Are you sure?” His voice sounded far away. “Adora and Deselle? Paet? My mother?”

“All of them,” Bran told him. “Your aunts and uncles, too, and your cousins. Everybody on the farm. I helped bury them, my boy. On that low hill, the one with the apple trees.”

Perrin can’t believe that the Whitecloaks would do such a thing, and learns that it was Trollocs, that most farms out in the countryside have been abandoned, and that the Whitecloaks are in fact the area’s only protection from the Trollocs. But the Whitecloaks did burn the al’Thor farm, as well as the Cauthon farm. Abell and Tam are hiding in the woods, and Mat’s mother and sisters are alive, although they hesitate to tell Perrin more.

Marin has Bran bring Perrin another brandy, and tells him that after he drinks it he must go. It isn’t safe for him here, as there are some people, like Eward Congar and Hari Coplin, who would tell Lord Bornhald if they saw Perrin. But Gaul notes that there is something else that Bran isn’t telling them, and Bran speaks over Marin when she tries to forestall him. Bran tells Perrin about Padan Fain, who now calls himself Ordeith, and that he is with the Whitecloaks.

“He’s a Darkfriend,” Perrin said absently. Adora and Deselle always put apple blossoms in their hair in the spring. “Admitted from his own mouth. He brought the Trollocs, on Winternight.” Paet liked to climb in the apple trees; he would throw apples at you from the branches if you did not watch him.

It was Fain who was responsible for the burning of the al’Thor farm, Bran explains. Tam was able to shoot several of the Whitecloaks Fain was leading before escaping into the woods. He was able to stop the Whitecloaks from capturing Abell, but the rest of the Cauthon family, along with Haral and Alsbet Luhhan, were arrested, and are being held by the Whitecloaks in their camp. Lord Bornhald has been protecting them from Fain, but he also has shown a special interest in Perrin.

Marin repeats that they need the Whitecloaks, as dislikable as they are, and that the issue with the captives can be resolved somehow. They need the Whitecloaks to keep order and to protect them from the Trollocs.

Bain points out that using the Whitecloaks to guard against the Trollocs is like asking a lion to protect you from wolves, while Chiad asks why they cannot protect themselves, as she has seen that Rand and Perrin and Mat are great fighters. Bran admits that Lord Luc has talked of organizing to fight the Trollocs, but they are farmers, and going off means leaving your family unprotected.

Lord Luc turns out to be a Hunter of the Horn, who believed the Horn of Valere might be hidden in the Mountains of Mist. But when he encountered the plight of the folk in the Two Rivers, he abandoned his quest to help them instead. Marin speaks highly of him, but when Perrin asks Faile if she knows him, she isn’t interested in the conversation at all.

“I have had enough,” she announced. Perrin frowned as she stood and came around the table to him. Seizing his head, she pulled his face into her midriff. “Your mother is dead,” she said quietly. “Your father is dead. Your sisters are dead, and your brother. Your family is dead, and you cannot change it. Certainly not by dying yourself. Let yourself grieve. Don’t hold it inside where it can fester.”

A moment later Perrin finds himself clinging to her, sobbing against her dress. Embarrassed, he tries to apologize, but all that comes out is “I couldn’t get here any faster” as she strokes his hair and tells him that she knows.

When Perrin eventually finds himself quieting, he realizes that he doesn’t know how long it’s been, and that they are alone. He’s glad everyone left, and also glad that Faile stayed, although he simultaneously wishes she hadn’t seen him break down. He notices her beauty, and wonders how he will make up for how he has treated her. He tells her that he will not give himself up, as it won’t do any good now, but that he does intend to find a way to free Mat’s family and the others. He also wants to do something about the Trollocs. Faile is glad to hear it, and gladder still that he has no more notion of sending her away. She tells him that they are five, perhaps six if Loial is willing, and that finding Tam and Abell will make them eight. Perhaps Lord Luc will be helpful as well, although not everyone who took the oath is a good person, or particularly intelligent.

Bran pokes his nose in to tell them that there is an Ogier in the kitchen, and that Marin isn’t handling that with quite as much calm as she handled the Aiel. He observes that Marin and Faile will want to talk Perrin into going, but he doesn’t believe Perrin will. They come into the kitchen, where Loial is drinking tea from a soup bowl and Marin is feeding everyone and trying not to jump every time she looks at Loial. The Ogier seems relieved to see them, and offers to sing to the apple trees where Perrin’s family is buried, before they leave. Perrin thanks him for the offer, and says he will take Loial up on it when the time is right.

He lays out his plans to find Tam and Abell and to rescue the prisoners, although he doesn’t mention his plans around the Trollocs. He admits it won’t be easy, that this isn’t any of their fight, and that he won’t continue his book here. The Ogier counters that, here or there, it is the same fight, and perhaps he will include a chapter about Perrin. Gaul reminds Perrin that he stands with him, and owes him a blood debt, and the Maidens follow Faile’s lead and commit as well. Finding them all determined, Marin and Bran decide to hide them at the old sickhouse, which was abandoned after being damaged in a storm, and is out in the Westwood where no one will disturb them.

Bran wants to take them but Marin tells him he is too conspicuous as the Mayor, and takes control, instructing them to break up into smaller parties, arranging to meet her at a particular lightning-scarred oak on the other side of the village, despite the fact that Perrin is sure he can make it all the way to the sickhouse on his own. He and Loial are also instructed to keep their hoods up. The Aiel slip out the door first, but Perrin, Loial, and Faile are caught in the back of the inn by Cenn Buie, who mistakes Loial for a Trolloc until Marin intervenes.

She explains that Master Loial is just an Ogier passing through on his way somewhere else, and demands that Cenn keep his sighting of Perrin to himself as well. Marin tells Cenn that she knew it was he who told the Whitecloaks to go looking through Bran’s books and possessions, and shames him for it, causing Cenn to cringe and try to deny it. He does threaten to tell the Council, but Marin assures him that it is Women’s Circle business, and that if he breathes a word of Women’s Circle business his wife will have him sleeping in the barn, and Marin will send Daise Congar over to teach him that Council doesn’t take precedence over Circle.

Cowed, Cenn slinks off, and Faile compliments Marin’s handling of him. Marin believes that Cenn will keep quiet, but also urges that it’s time to get moving. The three of them head off, riding and leading packhorses, and Perrin thinks that they could be less conspicuous, but hopes that they won’t draw too much attention. They find the Aiel at the split oak, and Perrin is sure that they had no trouble not being seen. Marin has them dismount and they follow her through the trees until Perrin suddenly catches the scent of a man, and a slight rustle alerts the Aiel as well.

Marin urges them not to worry as two men in Warder’s cloaks emerge from the foliage. Perrin is shocked and asks why Master al’Vere didn’t tell them that there were Warders in the Two Rivers. Marin answers that he does not know, she wasn’t lying when she said it was Women’s Circle business. The Warders, Tomas and Ihvon, seem wary of the group, despite Marin’s assurances that she wouldn’t bring them if they meant harm.

She explains to Perrin that there were Aes Sedai at Watch Hill when the Whitecloaks came, although no one knew except the Women’s Circle there, and that they were passed on to the Two Rivers’s Circle to hide for everyone, as the best way to keep a secret is to have only a few know. And they all agreed to keep the secret.

“Why did you decide to change that?” the gray-haired Warder asked in a hard voice.

“For what I consider good and sufficient reasons, Tomas.” From the way she shifted her shawl, Perrin suspected she was hoping the Circle—and the Aes Sedai—thought so, too. Rumor had it the Circle could be even harder on each other than they were on the rest of the village. “Where better to hide you, Perrin, than with Aes Sedai? Surely you aren’t afraid of them, not after leaving here with one. And … You will find out soon enough. You just have to trust me.”

Perrin remarks that there are Aes Sedai and then there are Aes Sedai, but he’s less worried because the Red Ajah don’t take Warders. Still, the gray-haired Warder is obviously guarding them, and the Aiel look ready to dance the spear without waiting to veil themselves. He tries to reassure Faile, but she turns out to be the only one who isn’t uneasy, and has put her knife away, confident that it’s alright if Mistress al’Vere says it is.

Perrin wishes he could feel the same, but he isn’t as trusting as he once was, and knows that the Aes Sedai will only have the best interests of the Two Rivers at heart as long as it serves their own agenda. But for now, all he can do is wait.

 

Okay, so here Jordan goes making me like Faile again. I still hate the way she has handled Perrin up to this point, and abuse is not an acceptable reaction to any problem. But in this moment, I think she handles things beautifully, and I’ll forgive her for yelling at Perrin when she overheard his plan to surrender himself. Faile is 100% in the right in the way she handled Perrin’s loss and encouraged him to handle it, and Perrin needed and deserved to have someone there who could do that for him.

It hadn’t even occurred to me to consider a further Trolloc-based danger to the families left behind, I was so focused on the threat of Bornhald and the newly-renamed Ordeith. And indeed, what is the point of a Trolloc attack on the Aybara farm? Unless the Trollocs were sent there because there was some uncertainty as to Perrin’s whereabouts, it seems like a waste of resources. Then again, perhaps the Shadow has Trollocs to spare, and is sending them all over, to all the little-regarded villages of the world, sowing general discord and despair like a proper Dark One. And since they didn’t also come for Rand and Mat’s homes, perhaps it really is just bad luck.

I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if the Whitecloaks had gotten to Perrin’s family first. I feel like Faile isn’t the only one who would object to Perrin’s plan to turn himself in, and I think that it probably wouldn’t have ensured as much safety for them as Perrin was hoping. Of course he doesn’t know about Ordeith’s obsession with Rand, but even if Bornhald was satisfied by Perrin’s death it wouldn’t necessarily free his family, as we see from the treatment of Mat’s relatives. It’s moot at this juncture, but I’ve been so invested in what would happen when Perrin had to face Bornhald that it’s hard to let go of all my questions!

I really relate to Perrin. I am also a person who likes to think things through, sometimes (often) to the point of overthinking. And like Perrin, I have a protective streak as long as my arm—or rather, as long as his arm. (I’m pretty short.) I also have a tendency to bottle everything up, to believe that showing my negative or difficult emotions is embarrassing, and a burden on other people. On the other hand, I have had years of therapy to work on this, while Perrin is trapped in the middle of war and the coming of the Dark One, which is hardly an ideal time to learn how to process one’s feelings. No one else in this situation seems to have known how to help him, either, however sympathetic the al’Vere’s were, so it’s really really good that Faile was able to do something. And Jordan does an excellent job of writing the experience of Perrin being in shock. I just got more and more tense as I read it, and the patterns of the text—the way bits of information about his family kept floating to the surface of Perrin’s mind, the way he kept absently noticing things about his own body—were very evocative. We actually got to watch his mind glance off fully realizing his grief and pain, and Faile’s intercession was such a palpable relief.

I was also struck by Perrin’s understanding that he felt better having her with him as he broke down, even though he didn’t like the fact that she could witness that break down. Things are only going to get more difficult and more dangerous for our heroes, and I imagine that there will be fewer and fewer moments of respite. This one, though short, was quite needed. Makes me wonder who, if anyone, will be doing this sort of thing for Rand.

I have to admit a certain bias here, as I am definitely one of those people who is super codependent with my spouse (or my counterpart, as we like to call each other) so as much as I love a stoic, Aragorn-style hero, I am also constantly yelling at them in my head that the only real strength is in love and friendship, and how we are all in it together in this wild, often dangerous world. I’ve commented in previous weeks about how one of the Dark One’s tricks is isolating people, making it so that no one can trust anyone else and keeping the forces of Light divided and therefore weak. I think it will continue to be a theme, too.

I am very glad Tam al’Thor is still alive though. I’m quite fond of him, and would love to see him drawn back into our narrative now. I wonder if Perrin will tell him what is going on, that Rand is the Dragon Reborn. I wonder what Tam will think, if there will be a part of him that perhaps isn’t wholly surprised that this baby he found in such a dramatic way would turn out to be someone important and fated.

Plus Tam is a great archer and I’m always a sucker for an archer.

Gonna take a guess and say that this Lord Luc is probably the one the wolves called Slayer. It seems too coincidental to have a new person trying to take up a position of power in the Two Rivers while also introducing a new enemy to the wolves who is clearly going to become Perrin’s particular nemesis.

I loved how Marin handled her unexpected Aiel guests! I suppose she was a little bit prepped for having visits from unusual people from far away lands, since she’s been dealing with Aes Sedai, but it also seems like the language of hospitality is somewhat universal. I believe we have heard about Aiel respect for lady landowners (are there roofmasters?) before, though I can’t remember when. I love that Marin now has a fair amount of new wealth, though how could she could sell it or even let people see it without explaining more than she wants to explain.

She couldn’t quite take Loial in stride as easily, though. I was very moved by Loial’s comment that every fight is the same fight, and I think there will end up being a fair amount about Perrin and Mat in his book, as well as perhaps some of our girls. The Dragon Reborn is supposed to be the only one who can defeat the Dark One in the Last Battle, but he sure as heck isn’t going to do it alone.

As for Ihvon and Tomas, I don’t think I recognize their names, but that doesn’t mean we’re necessarily running into two new Aes Sedai. I guess I’ll have to wait until next week to know for sure, but there are plenty of Aes Sedai we know who might have Warders that haven’t come up yet. I’m so curious as to what they are up to in Emond’s Field though! Are they looking for evidence about Rand and Moiraine’s doing? Are they investigating the Trolloc activity? Something else? They were there before the Whitecloaks, so that suggests they aren’t after Bornhald and Ordeith.

I guess I’ll find out more next week. It’ll be chapter 31 and 32 for sure, possibly 33 as well, depending on how it goes when I read it. As always it has been a pleasure, my friends, and please stay healthy and safe until we meet again!

Also straight up I do not expect Cenn Buie to keep quiet. Not at all. Here’s hoping Marin al’Vere knows better than I!

Sylas K Barrett is staying at home, cuddling his dog and his counterpart, and washing his hands regularly. You should too!

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