Welcome back to my read through and recap of each chapter of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. There are obviously spoilers ahead but only through the current chapters.
Chapter 22: A Path Chosen
Perrin wakes up in a small copse of trees beneath some cedar branches he cut in the dark. It is now well past sunrise.
Perrin frantically pulls his ax from the pile of branches next to him and peers around. He is alone. He crawls to the edge of the copse and looks around. He hopes the river is too wide and too deep for myrddraal and trollocs to have followed him across. His horse is gone, his cloak is gone – lost in the river, and he is now both cold and wet.
He considers the night before. He decides that Egwene must have crossed downriver because he was the stronger swimmer. He decides to move downriver in hopes of finding her. He watches carefully and moves fast and low as quickly as he can. A couple of miles down the river, Perrin finds a hoof print. He knows that the print is from an Emond’s Field horse because of the horseshoe’s print. He finds the trail from the horse and follows it away from the river into a dense thicket of trees. Inside the thicket, he finds Egwene, beside a fire, holding a thick branch like a club.
She throws her arms around him and pushes him next to the fire.
Here you were worrying about her and she’s doing better than you did.
“Bela got me across,” Egweene said patting the shaggy mare. “She headed away from the trollocs and just towed me along.”
She tells him that she has not seen anyone else. He says the same but adds that he has also not seen any Fades or trollocs.
Perrin and Egwene discuss their situation. Perrin points out that Moiraine will most likely look for them at White Bridge, down the river. However, that is also where the Fades and trollocs will be looking for them. They will not be able to rely on Moiraine’s help if the Fades and trollocs find them before Moiraine does.
Perrin suggests that they go straight to Caemlyn, cross-country. His hope is that this will allow them to avoid the Fades and trollocs because it is something no one will expect them to do. Egwene, to Perrin’s surprise, agrees. She says that there must be villages they will eventually run into for directions. Once in Caemlyn, they both believe Moiraine will be able to find them. Perrin says that if she does not find them, though, they will travel on to Tar Valon so that they can “put our case before the Amyrlin Seat.”
The two decide to start out. Perrin kicks dirt on the fire and sets out to hunt for food.
Now our party is not only split apart, they are moving in different directions. I cannot remember my initial thoughts about Perrin’s plan, a quarter century ago, but reading it now my instinct is to think Perrin and Egwene probably should re-think this plan. If the Fades and trollocs seem to be able to find them, regardless of where they are, then should the plan not be to try to find a village and some help? Any help? Obviously Moiraine would be the best help.
Then again,they are somewhere between 16 and 20 years old, I believe.
Bela lives! In hindsight, maybe she was the best horse in the Two Rivers. Most of the other Emond’s Field horses are now MIA.
Chapter 23: Wolfbrother
Egwene and Perrin set off toward Caemlyn. She insists that they take turns riding despite Perrin’s claim that he is too large to ride Bela.
In stories, leaders seldom flinches and they were never bullied. But they never had to deal with Egwene, either.
Perrin and Egwene set snares and used a sling to catch a rabbit. Perrin catches a scrawny rabbit quickly their first night after setting out. When he returns to their camp, he sees Egwene sitting next to a pile of sticks with her eyes closed.
She explains that the fire she made the night before, alone on the river bank, was made with the One Power. Perrin is startled and asks her not to do that again. Egwene will not agree. After the first night, they travel for days eating wild tubers, mushrooms, and whatever they can find.
Perrin and Egwene grow steadily hungrier. And he begins to worry about the plan as they continue not to see a village or a farm house. They find old abandoned buildings but no places where men currently live. He has bad dreams. Ba’alzamon is in his dreams, chasing him, but they never meet face to face.
A few days into their journey, they smell smoke. Perrin carries his ax and approaches the cook fire that they smell. He tells Egwene to wait. Perrin approaches quietly and finds a lean sunbrowned man beside a camp fire.
The man’s clothes are made from animals skins with the fur still attached – including his boots and the hat on his head. The man has graying brown hair which hangs to his waist and a thick beard that fans across his chest.
The man’s eyes are closed. However, he calls out to Perrin. “You done drooling? […] You and your friend might as well sit and have a bite. I haven’t seen you eat much the last couple of days.”
Perrin calls out to Egwene to tell her it’s alright and introduces himself to the man. The man tells them he is called Elyas Machera. Perrin gasps at the man’s eyes. They are bright yellow like polished gold. The two eat voraciously.
After they have eaten and the sky has darkened, Elyas speaks and asks them what they are doing out in the wild. He tells them there is no house within fifty miles in any direction.
Egwene tells him that they are going to Caemlyn. Elyas roars with laughter. He tells them the path they are on will lead them 100 miles north of Caemlyn. Egwene defensively says they are planning to ask for directions. Elyas tells her that they will not find anyone to ask directions from until they reach the Spine of the World. He says if they manage to cross the Spine, they will find themselves in the Aiel Waste. He laughs so much he rolls around on the ground.
Perrin shifted uneasily. Are we eating with a mad man?
Egwene then asks if he can give them directions. Elyas responds by telling her he does not like people. He says he would not have helped the two of them if the had not been stumbling around as innocent as newborn cubs. He says people do not like his friends.
Abruptly, Elyas tells them to be still because his friends are coming. Bela began whinnying in fear. Elyas tells them to quiet the mare because they will not hurt her or them. Wolves approach and lie down by the fire. More wolves circle them from the trees farther away. They have yellow eyes like Elyas.
Perrin and Egwene are terrified.
Elyas tells Egwene that the wolves are not tame. They are his friends. Elyas can talk to the wolves. He gives the names of the wolves and explains that talking to wolves is “more of a feeling” than understanding words.
Perrin asks him how he learned to talk to wolves. Elyas tells him that the wolves find you, first. “Some people thought me touched by the Dark One because wolves started appearing wherever I went. I suppose I thought so too sometimes.”
He says that he began to notice that the wolves responded to what he was thinking. He says they were glad to find him and that it had been a long time since they hunted with men. Egwene says she has never heard of a time when wolves hunted with men. Elyas explains that every wolf remembers the history of all wolves.
Egwene asks if he can teach them to talk to wolves. He responds that it cannot be taught. Some can do it, most cannot. Elyas then says that the wolves tell him Perrin can talk to them.
Perrin looked at Elyas’ finger as if it were a knife.
Elyas then asks again why they are in the middle of nowhere instead of taking roads to Caemlyn. Egwene tells a story that she and Perrin made up. They are hoping that the story will help its hearer avoid harm and for the story to avoid reaching a Fade’s ears.
Quite a story. Yes, quite a story. There’s a few things wrong with it but the main thing is Dapple says it’s all a lump of lies. Every last word.
Egwene says that if he believes they are lying, then he will prefer that they make their camp elsewhere. Elyas says that ordinarily he would prefer they do that, but first he wants to know about the Halfman and the trollocs. Dapple tells him that she smelled halfmen and trollocs in their minds while they were telling the story. All the wolves smelled it.
He explains that the wolves hate Halfmen and trollocs more than anything. One of the wolves, Burn, wants to “be done with you.[…]He said game is scarce and you’re fatter than any deer we’ve seen in months and we should be done with you.”
Perrin then tells the real story. He concludes by saying that if Moiraine does not find them in Caemlyn they have to travel on to Tar Valon. Elyas and the wolves believe the real story. He tells them that the Red Ajah tried to “gentle” him once. He says that he called the Red Ajah “Black Ajah” but they could not find him in the forest despite trying. Elyas tells him that talking to wolves has nothing to do with the One Power but he was angry with the Aes Sedai for believing that it did. He tells Perrin that talking to wolves is older than Aes Sedai or the One Power.
Perrin tries not to watch Elyas and the wolves. When he watches, he has the feeling that he can almost hear what they are saying to one another. Perrin thinks to himself that Elyas must have been playing a joke on him because he cannot talk to wolves. However, one of the wolves, Hopper, he thought, turned to him and seemed to grin. Then Perrin wonders how he put a name to the wolf.
Elyas tells the two Edmond’s Fielders that they can stay and travel with him. He tells them that trollocs will go miles out of their way to avoid a pack of wolves. He tells Perrin that it is him they really want because they have never met another human other than himself who can talk with them. Elyas tells the two of them that they are safer with him than in a city because there are Darkfriends in cities.
Perrin denies that he can talk with wolves. Egwene interrupts that they are going to Caemlyn. Elyas tells them that the pack will travel south with them to help them avoid starving to death. Burn, the big wolf, stands up and walks away. Elyas explains that he disagrees with the plan to travel with the humans. Burn wants to find the trollocs instead.
Perrin can feel Burn leaving as well as a dozen other young males with him.
Rand seems to be the Chosen One (he is outlander born, has an impressive sword, and all the POV chapters for the first half of this book are his.) Mat has yelled out things in the Old Tongue – implying that he might be descended from an ancient King of Manetheren. Egwene and Nynaeve can channel the One Power and Moiraine says they will eventually be exceptionally powerful. But what about Perrin?
Perrin can talk to wolves.
I do not know how I might react to learning that I can talk to wolves. I understand Perrin’s apprehension. On the other hand, I own a Three Wolf Moon shirt that I wear regularly and I think I would very likely embrace being a Wolfbrother.
Elyas may have made it a hard sell, though. I cannot remember laughing so hard about something that I literally ended up rolling around on the ground. How do you react to someone who does that? If one’s introduction to wolf brothers looks like that, then maybe the hesitancy makes more sense. Other than that that, I think I would struggle with the wardrobe, too. It sounds… itchy.
There is a fair amount of world building in this chapter. We learn a little bit about geography. The center of the continent is almost devoid of human life. That seems noteworthy to me. That said, looking at the map, it seems unlikely the two would not have eventually run into other humans. Based on Elyas’ description, they would have been threading a needle to avoid humans all the way to the Spine of the World.
We also learn more about wolves. Early in this book, wolves seem to be an ill omen to people in the Two Rivers. Wolves all around the Two Rivers were a becoming a problem in the lead up to Winternight. Here, though, we recast the wolves in Jordan’s story as allies against the Dark One. Dangerous allies, certainly, (Burn wanted to eat Perrin and Egwene) but allies. We learn that wolves have some kind of psychic link with each other that allows them to communicate. That link also gives them something of a collective history. If Perrin’s ability pre-dates Aes Sedai and the One Power… then it pre-dates the previous Age altogether. That would mean then that not only do the current Aes Sedai know little to nothing about what Perrin can do, the oft-mentioned Forsaken would not know much about what Perrin can do, either.
Here is a thought: If the wolves started following Elyas around until he learned to talk with them… is that what was beginning to happen with Perrin in Emond’s Field? Seems pretty plausible, actually.