This week in our read of The Shadow Rising Elayne and Nynaeve arrive in Tanchico with their escort. Elayne makes a mistake but uncovers some memories, and Nynaeve changes tactics in dealing with Thom and Juilin. Meanwhile, Perrin gets a taste of what it’s like to be in charge on the bad days, when plans and tactics don’t go your way and you have to face losses among those for whom you have made yourself responsible. It’s a somber week all around, really, as we step into Chapters 39 and 40, but it’s brightened by the arrival of (called it) Captain Domon.
As Chapter 39 opens Wave-dancer is being tied up against the docks at Tanchico, and everyone is assembling to disembark, Elayne and Nynaeve bidding a fond farewell to Coine and Jorin. The two Sea Folk women explain that they intend to travel on to the other islands of the Sea Folk to spread the news of the Coramoor, and Elayne exchanges a particularly heartfelt farewell with Jorin, whom she has grown close to on the voyage as they exchanged lessons on weaving Wind and Fire. As they descend down to the dock, Juilin and Thom bracket them, looking angry and dangerous, and although Nynaeve looks a little annoyed, she seems to recognize, as Elayne does, that the docks are littered with dangerous, hungry looking men, and that the deterrent of Thom and Juilin is probably helpful. They are trying not to let people know that they are Aes Sedai, after all.
Suddenly they hear a voice hailing them, and find themselves face-to-face with the ship captain they’d once persuaded to help them escape Falme. It takes them a moment to remember Bayle Domon’s name, but the first thing he does is apologize for leaving them in Falme, assuring them that he waited as long as he could. He feels so guilty, however, that he offers them help finding rooms in the city, something he insists they would be hard-pressed to find without him.
They learn, as Elayne suspected from Bayle’s fine coat, that he has been doing very well for himself, and he openly admits to smuggling and to the ease with which the Tanchican customs men accepted bribes.
“I do no believe it will last much longer though,” Domon said when the Tanchicans had passed. “Things do be even worse in Arad Doman than here, and it do be bad enough here. Perhaps the Lord Dragon does no Break the World yet, but he did break Arad Doman and Tarabon.”
Elayne is forestalled from saying anything by the business of hiring sedan chairs and bearers and guards, and she notices the throngs of desperate-looking people huddling near the docks, held back by guards that look more like hired men than soldiers. She remembers that Coine told them that people in Tanchico had mobbed her ship, desperate to buy passage to anywhere else, and tries not to look at their faces as she is carried through their street. She wonders, though, why their king isn’t helping them.
They arrive at an inn called the Three Plum Court where they are startled by how much the innkeeper, Rendra, looks like Liandrin. She gives them her last two rooms and a good supper in a private dining room. The men seem to have no difficulty eating, but Elayne finds it challenging as she remembers all those hungry faces, and Nynaeve asks Rendra if anyone in the city helps the poor, offering gold if it will help.
“You could donate to Bayle’s kitchen,” the innkeeper replied, giving Domon a smile. “The man avoids all of the taxes, yet he taxes himself. For each crown he gives as the bribe, he gives two for the soup and the bread for the poor. He has even talked me into giving, and I pay my taxes.”
“It do be less than the taxes,” Domon muttered, hunching his shoulders defensively. “I do make a very healthy profit, Fortune prick me if I do no.”
Nynaeve remarks to Domon, after Rendra has gone, that it is good that he likes to help people. They might also need his help, as he has several ships and good men at his disposal, and they may need trustworthy eyes and ears as they hunt the Black Ajah.
They’ve already assured Bayle that what happened in Falme won’t happen in Tanchico, but he takes the existence of the Black Ajah—confirmed by nods from Thom and Juilin as assurance that it will happen again. He thinks that he should head to Illian, but Nynaeve tells him that Illian is currently being ruled by Sammael, so he’d hardly find it a better prospect.
Thinking that Nynaeve is being too hard, Elayne tries to be kind, telling Bayle that he is a good and brave man. Bayle remarks that their tag-team is very effective, one “with an ox driver’s stick, the other with a queen’s honey.” But he agrees to help them.
Thom and Juilin question Bayle about every detail of Tanchico. Juilin is interested in what districts thieves frequent, where they drink and sell their stolen goods, while Thom seeks information about political arrangements, who is allied with whom and so forth. Bayle and Juilin struggle with dislike for each other, however, due to the enmity between Tear and Illian.
Nynaeve writes out a description of each of the Black Sisters so Bayle can have his men keep an eye out for them, and then heads to bed, while Juilin slips out into the night. Elayne follows Thom down to the common room where he performs, and she listens to Thom play the harp and sing while she sips from a silver cup of wine. She finds it strangely thrilling, sitting in a common room with people, and doesn’t do a good job of keeping track of the wine she’s drinking as Thom settles into story-telling mode. She has the strangest feeling that she has heard Thom recite The Great Hunt before, in High Chant rather than plain, but cannot figure out how that could be.
When Thom finally finishes and it is quite late, Elayne rises to follow him upstairs and finds that her head is swimming. Her wine cup is full, even though she’s certain she has drunk a little, and she can’t remember how often the handsome serving boy had filled it up. She tells herself it’s the adjustment back to dry land after being on the Wavedancer for so long, and manages to make it up the stairs, not to her and Nynaeve’s room but up to the third floor to Thom’s. She grabs his mustache when he answers the door and tells him that she remembers sitting on his knee and doing that, and that she remembers her mother sitting on his knee, too.
He tries to tell her that she needs to go to her room and sleep, but Elayne pushes him inside, demanding that he tell her why her mother would sit on a gleeman’s knee. He admits to being a Court-bard for Queen Morgase, and when she accuses him of being her lover as well, she can tell by his reaction that it’s true.
They fight, and Elayne is upset that her mother has apparently had several lovers, Thom, and Gareth Bryne, and now this Lord Gaebril that Mat told her about. Thom actually slaps her when she compares Morgase to Berelain, and tells her that Morgase is as good a woman as any there is. Elayne finds herself crying against his chest, trying to ask why.
“Because it is lonely being a queen,” he said softly. “Because most men attracted to a queen see power, not a woman. I saw a woman, and she knew it. I suppose Bryne saw the same in her, and this Gaebril, too. You have to understand, child. Everyone wants someone in their life, someone who cares for them, someone they can care for. Even a queen.”
Elayne asks him why he left, and he promises to explain later, if she asks, although he rather hopes she won’t remember any of this. She manages to make it back down to her own room without his help and finds Nynaeve still dressed, stretched out on the bed. Somewhat disjointedly, Elayne observes;
“Rand must think I’m crazy, Thom is a bard, and Morgase isn’t my mother after all.” Nynaeve gave her the oddest look. “I am a little dizzy for some reason. A nice boy with sweet brown eyes offered to help me upstairs.”
Nynaeve responds by dunking Elayne’s head several times into a bucket of water, and then holding a basin for her as she throws up. Nynaeve tends to her, but also can’t believe that she would do something so foolish, especially tonight. Elayne insists that she only had one cup.
Nynaeve asks if Elayne can stay awake. She is going to go into Tel’aran’rhiod to search for Egwene, and doesn’t trust herself without someone to wake her. Elayne sits on a stool so that she can’t drift off, and Nynaeve falls asleep with both the twisted stone ter’angreal ring and Lan’s clutched in her hand.
Nynaeve finds herself in the Heart of the Stone where Callandor sticks out of the floor. She realizes she is still in her shift and has to focus on putting herself in proper Two Rivers garb. She doesn’t find changing clothes in Tel’aran’rhiod as easy as Egwene and Elayne do, and it’s easy for a stray thought to slip in and change things.
She’s also not angry at Elayne anymore, which makes channeling impossible for her. She does accidentally summon up a gnarled stick, which she holds onto even though she knows that it’s basically useless. A sword would be too—the only defense in Tel’aran’rhiod was channeling and running.
She feels like she’s being watched, but she pushes past the feeling, focusing on what might have happened to Egwene, and manages to bring herself to the Waste. She sees the fog and spires of Rhuidean below (not recognizing what it is, of course) and a man in a blue coat walking around, poking at the fog with his hand. It seems to Nynaeve that his hand stops short each time.
Suddenly a voice warns her that she needs to get away, and Nynaeve turns to see a woman in wide yellow trousers, with intricately braided hair and a long silver bow in her hair. Astounded, Nynaeve utters the name Birgitte, but of course that can’t be right. When she tries to ask questions, Birgitte draws her bow and points an arrow right at Nynaeve’s heart, telling her that she must go before the man below sees.
Nynaeve flees, and finds herself in the Two Rivers. She wonders briefly how they are doing without her when a flash of silver catches her eye and she chases after it, yelling to Birgitte that she will thump her, hero or not, if she doesn’t answer Nynaeve’s question. But when she rounds the corner after her prey she sees someone else, a man in a dark coat, who looks very much like Lan, and who also has a bow. He shoots at her, and she jumps aside, screaming and clawing herself awake.
Elayne knocks over the stool as Nynaeve screams and sits up, gasping about a man who looked like Lan and tried to kill her. There is a slash in her shoulder, oozing blood, where the arrow meant for her heart had grazed her as she jumped out of the way. Elayne bandages up the wound and Nynaeve tells her everything.
Nynaeve is afraid that Egwene met the man with the bow, but Elayne remembers that Egwene said she might not be able to meet them again, and tries to make a drunk half-sense out of the events. Nynaeve decides it’s time for both of them to go to bed, and gets Elayne undressed.
Elayne wakes the next morning with a horrible headache. When she sees Thom, she tells him that she loved his stories but can’t remember much else, and that she ate some bad apple jelly. She doesn’t admit to drinking all that wine, or to the scene she had made in his room.
Juilin arrives to inform them that there are plenty of thieves around and that many will chat with you if you buy them a cup of wine. He has spoken to two men who saw “a woman with a white streak in her hair above the left ear” and one had joked that she seemed ageless and possibly Aes Sedai. Nynaeve is worried about Juilin giving away too much, but the thief-catcher assures her that he doesn’t ask questions, just makes idle conversation that leads men to offer the answers. He assures them that he will find the Black Ajah for them.
Thom interrupts to add that he will find them, that they are more likely to be meddling about in politics than with thieves. Nynaeve suggests dryly that she and Elayne might find them instead, and that today they are going to start their search. Her determination drives Elayne to finally down the horrible hangover remedy that Nynaeve made for her.
The men, in competition a moment ago, insist that the women should wait and let them take care of it, reminding Nynaeve that the Black Ajah know their faces. Nynaeve agrees that they are known, and that she has taken care of it. Rendra comes in with porridge and assures Nynaeve that she has clothes for both of them, and that it will be easy to put up their hair like her own. Elayne is amused at how easily Nynaeve has stymied the men’s arguments, but aware that there is still one grave problem, one that Thom and Juilin don’t know about. If the Black Ajah are in Tanchico, then so is the thing that can bind Rand with his own Power. They can’t just find Liandrin. They have to find that too.
Meanwhile, Perrin has gone home. He is sitting under an apple tree by the graves of his family, graves going back generations but recently added to in great number. He is checking his bowstrings for rain damage and counting his arrows , considering that he will need to buy some more, since he has no time to make them himself.
He greets Dannil before he sees the young man, a move which still startles his followers. Dannil has come to tell him that Faile and Lord Luc are coming up, that they’ve just arrived from the Two Rivers. He walks down to the thicket where they have made their camp, fifty young men, most growing beards to match Perrin’s, who were good hunters but also unused to camping out for more than a night or two. They are clustered around the new arrivals, but Faile extricates herself and comes over to Perrin when he arrives. He wants to scold her—she isn’t supposed to be there—but instead finds himself hugging her close and telling her how he has missed her.
She tells him that everyone has gathered at the Winespring inn, even Alanna and Verin and the Warders, though undercover, of course. She tells him that Loial has made quite a sensation, and that he sent a message to Perrin. Alanna vanished twice, once without even taking Ihvon or seeming to have told him she was going. Perrin admits that he’s anxious about Alanna, that Verin warned him about her, but that he’s also unsure if he can trust Verin. And now Luc knows about the Aiel as well—they were in Emond’s Field and have also come back. Faile says they are out scouting, and asks why Perrin doesn’t want Luc to know about the Aiel.
She acknowledges that Luc is an arrogant fool, but she can’t believe that he is a Darkfriend. She reminds him that Luc has been everywhere, and giving good advice, as people marshal themselves to follow Perrin Goldeneye’s warnings, and to defend themselves if necessary. Perrin isn’t sure which is more discomfiting, the new appellation he’s been given, or the fact that his message has spread so much farther than he knew or expected.
She calls him a hunter of Trollocs, and Perrin thinks about how little he feels the title is warranted. They have tracked down one band—he and the fifteen young men who were with him at the time came upon a burned farmhouse and tracked the group down, killing 32 of them, most still asleep in their camp. Perrin’s followers had been jubilant until they saw the human remains in the cookpot. The next day Perrin had picked up another trail and found another camp, and Gaul had killed all the sentries on watch. Perrin’s band had reached almost thirty by then, and those who had not seen the cookpot had heard about it, and had killed the Trollocs and the Myrddraal with them with a rather savage satisfaction.
The rains Verin had conjured up to slow the Whitecloak pursuit out of their camp had come again, and Perrin hasn’t smelled any Trollocs since. Mostly they’ve been moving to avoid the Whitecloaks, who have been more intent on finding who took their prisoners than defending the land against the Shadowspawn.
Grimly, Perrin goes over to Lord Luc to see what he has to say. They find him praising the food and hospitality at the Winespring Inn, and learn that he has been urging them all to go to the Two Rivers to join the others.
Luc smiled at Perrin much the way he would have at a dog he expected to see do a trick. “The village is quite secure, but there is always a need for more strong backs.”
“We are hunting Trollocs,” Perrin said coolly. “Not everyone has left their farms yet, and every band we find and kill means farms not burned and more people with a chance to reach safety.”
Wil points out that they haven’t seen or smelled Trollocs in days, and that perhaps they’ve killed them all. Luc assures them that he doesn’t mean to spread dissension, but that he expects that they have killed hundreds of Trollocs already, and that Emond’s Field is ready to give them all a hero’s welcome. Perrin says that anyone who wants to leave may, but he himself does not feel like the job is done. There’s some hesitation, but no one says that he is ready to leave.
Luc tells them that perhaps they should turn their attention to the Whitecloaks, who are not happy at all with this turn of events, when Gaul, Bain, and Chiad arrive to tell Perrin that they have found Trollocs. No more than thirty, Gaul says, and they did not see him. They will have no warning when their camp is attacked.
“Chiad leaned closer to Bain. “He moves well enough, for a Stone Dog,” she whispered loudly enough to be heard twenty feet off. “He makes little more noise than a lame bull.”
Perrin asks Wil if he wants to go now, to have a shave and maybe a girl to kiss while the Trollocs eat supper, and everyone assures him that they don’t want to leave if there is still work to be done. Perrin invites Luc to join them, but he declines, claiming that the defenses at Emond’s Field still need him. Faile, however, decides to stay with Perrin.
Luc departs after wishing Perrin all the luck, and Perrin and Gaul work out a way to intercept the Trollocs, so that they can be lying in ambush for the band. Gaul tells Perrin that there is a Myrddraal with them as well, and that they will be easier to kill when they are asleep. They ready themselves quickly, and ride off. As they go, Faile remarks that Perrin really does not trust Luc at all, that he believes the man is a Darkfriend. Perrin replies that he only trusts her, his bow, and his axe.
After a few hours they reach a good spot, and the Aiel melt off into the woods to make sure the Trollocs are still on the same course, and to bring a warning when they are close. Perrin arranges his men into a cup and takes the center position, standing with the wind in his face, wind that will bring the scent of the Trollocs to him.
After more than an hour, as Perrin is getting anxious and worrying about bowstrings getting ruined in the damp, he hears the birds and squirrels go suddenly silent. But there is still no scent of Trollocs, not until an errant gust brings the putrid smell up from behind him. Perrin shouts a warning, calling for the men to rally to him, as the attack falls.
A Trolloc with a curved bow leaps into the clearing, it and Perrin taking aim at each other. The Trolloc falls with Perrin’s arrow between its eyes but Perrin takes the heavy Trolloc bolt in his side. There is little time to engage with the pain as more Trollocs appear, and Perrin snaps the end of the arrow before leaping into the fray, howling with rage and pain as he hews them down for his family, screaming about his mother.
Eventually he becomes aware that all the Trollocs are dead and that there is less screaming. He calls out to rally the men and hears a few responses. Then the Myrddraal arrives, and, hearing him call for Faile, tells him that “your Faile was delicious.” Perrin attacks, but as he fights he loses ground, and is aware that his death is only a matter of time. Just as he’s failing, a sword appears out of nowhere and decapitates the Myrddraal, a sword belonging to Ihvon, who calmly wipes the blade clean and tells Perrin that Alanna sent him to find Perrin. He tells Perrin that the Trollocs were not linked to the Myrddraal, but if he groups the rest of his men together they might look like too formidable a party for the Trollocs (roughly a hundred, Ihvon guesses, minus those that Perrin and the others managed to kill) to want to try again.
For a bare moment Perrin gaped. Alanna wanted him? She had sent Ihvon? Just in time to save his life. Shaking himself, he raised his voice again. “Two Rivers to me! For the love of the Light, rally to me! Here! Rally! Here!”
This time he kept it up until familiar faces appeared, stumbling through the trees. Blood-streaked faces, often as not. Shocked, staring faces. Some men half-supported others, and some had lost their bows. The Aiel were among them, apparently unhurt except that Gaul limped slightly.
“They did not come as we expected” was all the Aielman said. The night was colder than we expected. There was more rain than we expected. That was how he said it.
But Faile is there, with Stepper and Swallow and about half of the horses that had been left with her before the battle. Perrin tries to hug her but she pushes him away and fusses over the arrow jutting from his side. Perrin counts over the assembled group, and notes that there are twenty-seven men missing. The others assure him that there is no one left out in the woods except the dead.
Perrin orders the wounded onto horses and, on Ihvon’s advice, has everyone who can hold himself upright nock an arrow on their bow, even if they can’t draw it, so that they look like a tougher meal for the Trollocs. He tries to get Faile up on a horse but she reminds him that he said they were for the wounded, and even convinces him to get up into the saddle. There are just enough horses for those who can’t walk, or can’t walk far. Ihvon and the Aiel are the only ones actually able to put up a fight, but even Faile carries a bow. The bluff works well, and after a mile or so Perrin becomes aware of the Trollocs falling back, their scent fading away. Faile walks beside him, clearly worried and trying to be encouraging, and he tries to smile back, but all he can think about is the men he’s lost, as he runs their names over and over in his mind.
Eventually Ihvon remarks that they need to find a farm for the night, somewhere dry in case it rains, where they can find food and water and bandages. Perrin nods, thinking about how the Warder knows what to do so much better than he does. And then he hears the sound of music, and everyone perks up a little at the thought of finding happy people somewhere as they turn their steps in that direction.
These chapters kind of feel like they’re adulting lessons for Elayne and Perrin. In Elayne’s case, she began this journey more worldly than Nynaeve and Egwene, with more knowledge about how to conduct herself in different cultures and more experience connecting with different kinds of people. But drinking in common rooms, being served wine by handsome young men who view her as a potential conquest is an entirely new adventure, as she herself observes.
Even Nynaeve couldn’t stay angry with her about it for long, recognizing that this is the first time Elayne has ever been alone in a common room. For my part, I just wanted to give Elayne a hug. Most, or possibly all, of us who enjoy the occasional alcoholic beverage have made the same mistake Elayne made, when we were young and inexperienced drinkers. If your cup is never empty you can’t keep track of how much you’ve had, and if you don’t normally imbibe, you’re not used to keeping track of how the drinking might be affecting you. Elayne didn’t go down there to get plastered and have a wild night, she just made a mistake, and none of her companions were around to catch it in time.
It is a bit ironic that Elayne ended up with a headache and queasy stomach because Nynaeve had a queasy stomach. I’d love to try those beans though, they sounded tasty.
I loved that they met up with Domon immediately, and not just because I called it last week. He’s such a great character, and every SFF epic needs a good smuggler with a heart of gold, right? My favorite part was when Rendra remarked that he gave as much in his kitchen as he avoided paying in taxes, and he got all uncomfortable and insisted that it wasn’t nearly that much. But the man is doing everything he can to help Nynaeve and Elayne, and I think it’s less to do with their persuasive arguments and more to do with the guilt he felt because he had to leave Falme without them. (Never mind the fact that they never would have shown up even if he had waited until it was too late for himself, either.) He just needed a less respectable reason to hide behind.
Speaking of respectable, I really do love Juilin. He’s my kind of character, stoic and a little awkward with people, and with a Steve Rogers-type of lawful good about him. He told a good story about making friends with the thieves over cheap ale and talk, but someone gave him that black eye. Neither he nor Thom is quite on the right track as far as what company they expect the Black Ajah to be keeping—we know they’re holed up in a merchant’s house— but I could see either strategy leading them close to the truth. The Black Ajah are keeping a low profile, so thieves and commoners are perhaps more likely to have seen them about. But Thom might catch on to the disruption with the Panarch’s appointment—we know from Gelb that there have been rumors—and that could also lead him closer to Liandrin and co. But I suppose it’s more likely that Elayne and Nynaeve will find them, either by sensing channeling or by somehow tracking down the object they are looking for.
It still bothers me that Egwene glimpsed that collar with the two bracelets while she was in the Panarch’s Palace in Tel’aran’rhiod and yet didn’t seem to think of how similar it was to the a’dam. I’m ready to stake money on it being some kind of collar made to control male channelers, maybe created after the Breaking by the female Aes Sedai who were desperate to stop the destruction. Even Liandrin and co. don’t know what it is, but perhaps if they see it Nynaeve or Elayne will make the connection. First, though, they have to figure out where they should be looking.
Wasn’t it mentioned at some point that there were tours of the Panarch’s Palace on some days? I feel like that was a thing, that there are days when the people are allowed to come in and see the displays. Perhaps Elayne and Nynaeve, in their new Tanchican disguises, will get curious enough to want a look around.
I have been thinking, especially when Elayne was saying goodbye to Jorin and thinking about how much they had taught each other of channeling, how much of an advantage she, Nynaeve, and Egwene have over women who remain in the Tower until they become full Aes Sedai. It’s not just that they are some of the most powerful channelers to be born in generations; these girls are being exposed to skill sets, teachers and experiences different from the self-contained and regimented education the White Tower provides. From lost arts like Dreaming, to particularly focused skills in one of the five powers—the Windfinders’ abilities for example, or Egwene’s accelerated education in Earth during her time under the a’dam—they are receiving an unprecedented education for modern Aes Sedai, all while unfettered from the Tower’s harsh discipline.
Though they do have other rules and repercussions to contend with, of course.
And now Thom has a new repercussion to deal with as well. Elayne implied that she didn’t remember anything of what happened, so he may believe he’s off the hook, but I’m sure she’ll get back to wanting the full story eventually. I was a bit confused as to why she was so upset about her mother’s romantic life—three lovers since the death of Elayne’s father isn’t very many, and I’m sure such things are no rarer amongst the Andoran nobility than they seem to be anywhere else. No doubt Morgase keeps everything very private, but at Elayne’s age her mother must have touched on some lessons regarding the burden of rule and the cost to one’s own heart and happiness. She seems to be a good teacher in every other respect, preparing Elayne for the harsh realities of life as Queen, and that seems a big aspect to miss.
Perhaps it has more to do with Elayne feeling distant from her mother. She’s gone rogue, after all, and Mat’s news about the new Lord Gaebril is pretty disconcerting. And now she has remembered this person that she used to care very much about when she was a child, and realizing that he was far more important to their lives than she knew. More than that, his importance has something to do with why she lost him.
She did tell Nynaeve that “Morgase isn’t my mother after all,” which is a really weird wording. I assume she means that she doesn’t feel like she is her mother’s daughter in a figurative sense, because she feels that she is too different from Morgase as a person, or because she disapproves of her mother’s choices. Still, I wonder if Elayne isn’t seeing a glimpse of her own future in realizing that her mother has struggled with loneliness and finding men with whom she can connect. Elayne is in love with Rand, maybe will even marry him, but we know that she is destined to share that love with two other women. And she will also have to share him with the world, as he is the Dragon Reborn. No doubt they will be apart often, and Elayne may experience quite a lot of loneliness, or even consider losing herself in another man’s arms for a while.
Or you know, a woman’s. Doesn’t have to be a guy.
And then there’s Nynaeve’s trip into Tel’aran’rhiod to consider. I’m going to keep this part brief, as I have another essay coming up specifically about the World of Dreams, but I noticed that Nynaeve experienced that same feeling of being watched that Egwene has felt lately, so much so that she had the urge to run. Who is watching them so intently? Is it Lanfear? Or some other forsaken? A different monster entirely? Or is there just something about Tel’aran’rhiod that makes you feel vulnerable and exposed, the only human in a perfect copy of the waking world?
I’m terribly curious as to who was poking around outside Rhuidean. My first guess is someone from the group of peddlers Rand and Rhuarc encountered, either Kadere or the gleeman, Jasin. They appeared to be heading toward Rhuidean when they ran into the Aiel returning home, and, despite their protests, I think it was their intention to go there. They are all probably Darkfriends, but if the man in the blue coat is Dreaming himself to Rhuidean one wonders what other special abilities he has. Dreaming is a rare power, after all, especially in this day and Age.
It might also have been Lord Luc, of course. Nynaeve couldn’t tell if the man she ran into was the same person as the one she saw in the Waste or not, so we can’t be sure. The only thing that really throws me is that she is struck by how much the man she encounters in Emond’s Field looks like Lan. Perrin knows Lan’s face too, and he’s never noticed any similarity between the two. And what would such a similarity mean, anyway? That Luc is related to Lan in some way? Or perhaps an unrelated descendant of Malkier? Rendra looks very much like Liandrin, after all, and I don’t think that’s meant to imply any direct blood relation.
I mean, it could be that Rendra is related to Liandrin. Anything could be, in this crazy mixed-up world the Wheel is Weaving. And I know that Robert Jordan rarely puts in details that don’t come back to haunt us sooner or later. Maybe we have some good old long lost brother/sister action on our hands. Haven’t seen that trope yet. Maybe Luc is Lan’s evil twin.
Anyway, time to move on. Perrin is convinced that Luc is a Darkfriend and so am I—I was even before this chapter, in which we were given descriptions like;
The man’s smell stood out among the others, cold and separate, too, almost as if he had nothing in common with the men around him, not even humanity.
Luc smiled fractionally, a gash on stone that never came close to those cold blue eyes.
For Rand it’s “always watch the eyes” but Perrin can always smell out the truth of someone, if they’re well or sick, if they’re afraid, or if they’ve left humanity behind them. I don’t know if his nose is just still getting sharper, or if there is more about Luc than just regular old allegiance to the Shadow, although I’m guessing it’s both. What I do know is that he is biding his time about something, for something. He doesn’t like Perrin and subtly tries to undermine his authority several times in this chapter. If he ever sees a real opportunity to take control back from Perrin, I know he will do it in a flash. Also, I noticed that he had “wolf-embroidered gauntlets” in addition to the wolf belt buckle described when we met him.
I want to hug Perrin even more than I wanted to hug Elayne. In his position he can’t see how inevitable this defeat was, and how unavoidable. Trollocs may be lazy and stupid, but the Shadow isn’t, and of course the strategies would be altered once Perrin and his men started causing problems. It’s unclear at the moment why the Trollocs are in the Two Rivers, but they must have a purpose, and the Myrddraal aren’t going to withdraw just because someone started fighting back. And in a war, no one, not the best general in the world, is going to win every battle. Of course, Perrin is badly wounded, so in addition to the grief and mental shock that he’s feeling, there’s the physical shock to contend with as well. The fact that he was able to do all that he did, that he was able to survive the Myrddraal long enough for Ihvon to come, that he drew his men back and brought the survivors out safely using Ihvon’s bluff, is a feat that should be commended. I hope he realizes that, eventually, although Perrin is too stubborn and absolutist to see it easily. I’m sure Faile will yell it at him at some point.
Next week we meet up again with the Tuatha’an, who I am terribly excited to see now that I know their backstory. Somehow, I think my experiences with the traveling people will be very different, more complex, more empathetic, now that I know their origins. And Perrin will have a very intense Dream which won’t exactly answer all our questions, but will at least shine some light on some new clues. Sort of.
As always, may you have a safe and happy week, and be on the lookout for more Wheel of Time content from me in a few days. As for me? I think I’m going to go sauté some green beans.
Sylas K Barrett is having one of those brain fog weeks. He can identify with Elayne a lot right now, and Perrin a bit too.