The Great Hunt (Chapter 31): On the Scent

Welcome back to my re-read, recap, and reaction to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. This post will only have spoilers through the current chapter.

You can find my previous chapter recaps HERE.

Chapter 31: On the Scent

Rand did not know Verin was there until she took his face in her hands. For a moment, Rand feels as though he sees worry or fear in her eyes before then feeling as though he has been doused in cold water – not the wet but the tingle. She leaves and crouches over Hurin. The Reader and Rand both watch her carefully.

Mat hoarsely asks Rand where he went. He points out that they just vanished and now they are in Cairhein ahead of them. Rand looks at Loial and then glances again at Verin with her hands on the Sniffer’s head. Rand asks how they found the Inn. Perrin explains that a man at the guardhouse gave a jump when he heard Ingtar’s name. Perrin says that man claimed not to know Ingtar’s name but his smile shouted “lie” a mile off. Mat adds that Verin then showed the man her ring and whispered in his ear. Rand thinks that Mat looks and sounds sick with cheeks flushed and tight. Rand also notices Mat’s cheekbones for the first time. Mat goes on, saying that he was not sure whether the man at the guardhouse would have his eyes pop out of his head or swallow his tongue first. Mat notes that all of a sudden, the man could not do enough for them. Mat says the man even offered to guide them to the Inn himself.

Mat snorts and says “Lord Rand of House al’Thor” before Rand says the story is too long to explain now. Rand asks about Uno and the rest and says that they will need them. Mat replies that they are at the Foregate before asking why they will need them. Mat asks if he found, “them.” Rand takes a deep breath, looks Mat in the eyes, and says that he had the dagger and he lost it. When Rand tells Mat that Darkfriends stole it, he hears gasps from people listening in around them. Ingtar steps close to Rand and grabs him by the arm.

Ingtar: You had it, and the…

Rand says that they took that, too. Ingtar pounds a fist into his palm and turns to look the other way. Mat tells Rand that he did not know it was found so for him it is not as though it was lost again. Mat then says they will find it again and that they have two Sniffers now because Perrin is one, too. Mat tells Rand that Perrin followed the trail all the way to the Foregate. Mat asks again where Rand went and how he got so far ahead of them. Mat notes that the man at the gate says he has been in Cairhein for days.

Rand glances at Perrin and wonders in surprise that he is a Sniffer. He sees Perrin studying him in turn and he thinks that Perrin mutters “Shadowkiller.” Rand decides that he must have heard Perrin incorrectly though his yellow-eyed gaze holds him and seems to know secrets about him.

Verin helps a still shaky Hurin to his feet. He says that he feels right as goose feathers, though still a little tired, when the words trail off as he seems to realize who she is and what has happened. Verin tells Hurin that the tiredness will go away eventually and that the body must strain to heal itself quickly. The Reader from Cairhein rises and says “Aes Sedai.” Verin nods and the Reader makes a full curtsey. The words Aes Sedai travel through the gathered crowd. Everyone is watching them. Rand asks Verin if she has rooms yet noting that they need to talk and that they cannot do it here. Verin says that rooms are a good idea, that she has stayed at The Great Tree when visiting the city before, and that they will go there. Loial goes to fetch the horses. The stables were untouched by the fire.

As they go to the Inn, Rand asks Hurin how soon he will be able to follow the trail again and he asks, to be certain, that the men who hit him left a trail. Hurin says he can follow them now but he points out that the smell will likely fade within a day since they did not kill anyone. Loial points out to Rand that he does not believe they know how to open the chest, otherwise they would have just taken the Horn. Rand nods and says that they must have put it in a cart or on a horse. He then says that the Darkfriends will rejoin the trollocs outside of the Foregate and that Hurin will be able to follow that trail, for sure. Rand then declares since a more permanent trail will be there that Hurin must rest until he is fit to pursue. The Sniffer looks steadier. Rand says that at best the Darkfriends will only be a few hours ahead of them.

Rand notices that the others are looking at him – Verin, Ingtar, Mat, and Perrin. Rand’s face colors when he realizes that he has been taking charge. He apologizes to Ingtar and says that he has become accustomed to being in charge. Ingtar nods and says that Moiraine chose well when she made Lord Agelmar name Rand his second in command. Ingtar then says that perhaps it would have been better if the Amyrlin Seat had given him the charge. He barks a laugh and says that at least Rand has managed to actually touch the Horn.

They reach The Great Tree and Rand thinks that the Inn could be a twin to The Defender of the Dragonwall. He also thinks that the Innkeeper could be Cuale’s sister. Mistress Tiedra knows Verin and smiles a warm welcome for her. While Rand bathes in his new room, he thinks that Verin is one of three Aes Sedai that he can mostly trust not to gentle him. However, he also believes she is one of at least three Aes Sedai who believe he is The Dragon Reborn. After his bath, he transfers to the two invitations from the soot-covered coat’s pocket into a clean coat. He studies Lady Selene’s two letters also. He wonders when thinking of her how he could be such a fool. He thinks to himself that she is the beautiful young daughter of a noble house and that he is a shepherd, doomed to go mad, whom Aes Sedai are trying to use. Rand can feel the pull of her looking at her writing and he can almost smell her perfume. Rand mutters aloud that he is a shepherd and that if he is going to marry anyone, it will be Egwene, but he also says aloud that she will be Aes Sedai. Rand smells the perfume of Selene so strongly that he looks around the room from his washtub. Rand tosses Selene’s letters into a fire and waits until they are completely burned before he buckles on his sword and leaves the room.

——————–

Verin has taken a private dining room. Mat is juggling three boiled eggs while trying to appear nonchalant. Ingtar is staring into the fireplace frowning. Loial is reading a book that survived the fire because it was in his pocket. Perrin is studying his hands on the table top.

Perrin thinks to himself that Rand is Shadowkiller. He wonders what is happening to all of them. He looks at his hands and thinks that they were meant for a smith’s hammer, not a battle ax. Rand enters the room. Perrin thinks that Rand looks determined. Verin motions Rand to a high backed chair and he asks her how Hurin is feeling. Intgar replies that Hurin insisted on going out. Ingtar says that he instructed Hurin to follow the trail only until he finds trollocs. He says he told Hurin that they can pick up the trail from that same spot tomorrow. Ingtar asks Rand if he would rather follow them tonight. Rand apologizes to Ingtar again and says that he was not trying to take command. He says that he just was not thinking. Perrin thinks that Rand is handling this less nervously than he would once have.

Verin tells Rand that there are things that interest her greatly. He asks him how he vanished from Ingtar’s camp without a trace and how he arrived in Cairhein a week before them. Verin points out that Rand would have had to fly to get so far ahead of them. Mat drops one of the eggs he is juggling and it cracks.

Perrin says that Rand did not fly and that he does not see any wings. Rand gives him a grateful look. Perrin thinks his friend has grown into his fancy coat.

Shadowkiller, a man the wolves hold in awe, a man who can channel.

Rand says he does not mind explaining and he tells the tale simply. Perrin finds himself gaping at the talk of Portal Stones, other worlds where the land seems to shift, and a beautiful woman in distress. Mat asks if the woman brought them back and Rand says that she must have. Rand says that when Fain came, he and Loial managed to steal back the Horn of Valere in the night and that they rode on to Cairhein because he did not think they could get past Fain, his men, and his trollocs, once they were roused. Rand adds that he knew Ingtar would keep riding south, after them, and reach Cairhein eventually.

Shadowkiller.

Rand looks at him, eyes narrowing, and Perrin realizes he spoke the name aloud. Rand is the only one who heard. He finds himself wanting to tell Rand about the wolves.

I know about you. It’s only fair you know my secret, too.

Perrin thinks that he cannot say anything in front of Verin, though. Verin says that Rand’s tale is interesting and that she would very much like to meet Selene, especially if she can use a Portal Stone. Verin points out that the name Portal Stone is not widely known. She says aloud that a tall girl should not be hard to find among the Cairhein Houses. Just then, their meal arrives.

Perrin finds it painful to watch Mat eat and he thinks that the way Mat shovels food into his mouth makes it look like he is eating his last meal before dying. Perrin thinks to himself that he wishes they had never left Emond’s Field. After their meal, Verin insists that they remain together until Hurin returns because he may bring word that they must move at once. Mat gets a book, The Travels of Jain Farstrider, to read while they wait. Perrin sets up a Stones board to play with Ingtar. Perrin plays well enough against the Shienaran lord to get looks of newly won respect by the evening when Hurin returns.

Hurin’s grin is both triumphant and perplexed. He says that he found them and tracked them to their lair. Ingtar is surprised by Hurin’s use of the word lair and asks if this means they are hiding close by. Hurin says that they are and that there was trolloc scent all around the place, though as if sneaking. Hurin takes a deep breath and says that the smell led him to the Manor House Lord Bathanes is building. Ingtar is flabbergasted but Verin replies that there are Darkfriends among the high as well as the low. Hurin goes on and says that the House is guarded. He says they will not get in, with twenty men, with any hope of getting out again. Hurin says a hundred men could overrun the guards but he believes that two men would be better.

Mat asks about help from the King. Verin says that she is quite sure that King Galldrian Riatin would move against Barthanes for merely the rumor that Barthanes is a Darkfriend and that he would be glad of the excuse to do so. She also says that Galldrian would never let the Horn out of his grasp once he had it. She says he would bring it out on feast days to show the people and tell them of how great and mighty Cairhein is. Perrin is shocked. Ingtar says that he knows enough of Galldrian to believe Verin. He says Galldrian would stuff their pockets with gold, and honor them with feasts, but if they tried to leave with the Horn he would cut their honored heads off. Mat asks about the dagger and wonders whether Galldrian would want that. Ingtar glares at him.

Mat: I know the Horn is important, but I’m not going to be fighting at The Last Battle. That dagger…

Verin cuts Mat off and says that Galldrian shall not have either the Horn or the dagger. She says that they need some way inside Barthanes’ Manor House. Verin says that if she lets slip to Tiedra that she would like to see Barthanes’ new Manor that she believes she will have an invitation in a day or two. She notices Hurin’s expression.

The Sniffer tells her that Lord Rand already has an invitation from Barthanes. Everyone turns to stare at Rand. Rand pulls two sealed parchments from his coat pocket and hands them to the Aes Sedai. without a word. Ingtar comes to look over Verin’s shoulder and exclaim about invitationso from Barthanes and Galldrian. He asks Rand how he came by these.

Rand tells him he has not done anything. He says they both just sent the invitations to him. Ingtar lets out a long breath and Mat’s mouth is hanging open. Rand says again that they did just send them. Perrin thinks watching his friend that there is now a dignity to him that he did not remember being there before. He notices that Rand is looking at the Aes Sedai and the Shienaran Lord as equals. Perrins shakes his head and thinks again that Rand really is fitting that coat he is wearing.

Hurin explains about how invitations came, and how Rand burned them as they came. He says that Rand burned all of them until these two arrived. Verin says that the Wheel of Time weaves everyone into the Pattern as it wills but sometimes it provides what is needed before one knows that it is needed. Verin casually crumples the King’s invitation and tosses it into the fireplace. She breaks the other seal with her thumb and reads it. She says that this will do very well.

Rand asks how he can go and says that they will know he is no Lord after they meet him. Ingtar is not convinced and Hurin stares at him with flat disbelief. Perrin thinks to himself that if he did not know Rand he would not believe it either. Mat is watching Rand with his head tilted as though he is thinking the same thing that Perrin is. Perrin speaks up and tells Rand that he can do it. Verin says that it will help if he does not tell people what he is not.

Verin: People will see what they expect to see. Beyond that, look them in the eye and speak firmly the way you have been talking to me.

Rand’s cheeks color but he does not drop his eyes. Verin says that it does not matter what he says as they will attribute anything out of place to his being an outlander. She tells Rand that it will help if he remembers the way he behaved before the Amyrlin.

Verin: If you are that arrogant, they will believe you are a Lord if you wear rags.

Mat snickers and Rand throws up his hands. He says he will do it and he asks Verin when. She replies that Barthanes has asked him for five different dates and one of them is the following night. Ingtar explodes about waiting so long and Verin cuts him off saying that Uno and his soldiers can watch the Manor. She says that if they try to move the Horn, they can easily follow and perhaps retrieve it more easily than from inside the house’s walls. Ingtar agrees grudgingly.

Ingtar points out to Verin that Rand will have to reply to Barthanes. He says that Fain at least knows Barthanes and that the reply letter may warn them to set a trap. Verin agrees and says that they will surprise them. She says that she believes Barthanes will want to see Rand in any case because Darkfriend or not, she doubts he has given up plots against the Throne. Verin speaks to Rand and tells him the letter says that he took an interest in one of the King’s projects though the letter does not say what.

Rand replies slowly that he does not know, before cutting himself off to speculate that Barthanes may be referring to the statue. Rand tells them that they came through a village where they were digging up a huge statue from The Age of Legends. Rand says that all he did was asks what it is. Verin replies that they passed the statue in the day but did not stop. She says it is perhaps not a wise things for Galldrian to unearth the statue. Rand asks her what it is and she tells him that it is a sa’angreal. Verin says that it is one of a pair – the two largest ever made that anyone is aware of. She says that they are an odd pair, also, in that the one still buried on Tremalking can only be used by a woman whereas the one here in the city can only be used by a man. She says that if there is anything to be thankful for in The War of the Power, and the Breaking that followed, it is that the end came before either of these sa’angreal could be used. She says that when used together the two sa’angreal might be powerful enough to break the world again – perhaps worse than the first breaking. Perrin’s hands tighten to knots. He looks at Rand and thinks his friend looks afraid. Ingtar also looks shaken and insists that it should be reburied. He wonders aloud what might have happened if Logain or any other man who can channel were to find it.

Verin tells Ingtar that the two sa’angreal must be used in unison to handle enough of the One Power to break the world. She points out that she can only think of a few women alive who can handle enough of the One Power to use the sa’angreal on Tremalking – the Amyrlin, Moiraine, and Elaida Sedai. She says that there are perhaps one or two others and three still in training who might as well. She says that as for Logain, it would have taken all of his strength to keep from being burned to a cinder. She tells Ingtar that he does not need to worry, at least until the real Dragon Reborn proclaims himself. She says that when that happens they will have anough to worry about.

Verin directs everyone to focus on what they will do once inside of Barthanes’ manor. Rand’s hands are pressing the table top so hard that his knuckles are white. His voice is steady, though, and his eyes never leave Verin. He tells her that they have to take back the Horn and the dagger.

Rand: Then it is done.

Perrin sees Verin’s small mysterious smile and thinks to himself that Rand does not know half of what he thinks he knows.

REACTION:

I have a theory. Remember those coins Moiraine gave Rand, Mat, and Perrin to track them? I suspect that Selene/Lanfear is using her letters to track Rand. I think that’s how she found Rand and Hurin at the Illuminator’s chapter house.

I also think she was literally in the room with him, invisible somehow, while he was taking a bath. This is why he had such a strong belief that he could smell her perfume.

I really enjoy the change of perspective halfway through the chapter. Jordan does this trick really effectively. We went from seeing through Rand’s eyes to seeing the situation through Perrin’s eyes. His friend gets to provide details about how Rand is changing that Rand does not see in himself. Perrin’s astonishment that Rand is “Shadowkiller” is also fascinating. The wolves know who Rand is and they are awed by him. Things are moving quickly here for the characters but once Perrin sits down and thinks about it, he’ll know Rand really is The Dragon Reborn. The wolves would have no reason to hold a False Dragon in awe.

Was it entertaining to hear Verin explain to Rand that there is a sa’angreal nearby that pretty much only he can use? Yes. Yes it was. I also liked the subtle way Verin lists – without naming them – Nynaeve, Egwene, and Elayne as three women inately strong enough to use the sa’angreal on Tremalking without dying in the process.

Rewind in your mind to when Rand was at the statue. Selene was terrified. Why? Assuming she is Lanfear (she definitely is) then Rand at that moment was probably quite a bit more powerful than she was. That is probably not the power dynamic she prefers when interacting with Rand.

Anyway, is it surprising that a powerful noble with the last name Damodred is a baddie? No. Would it be surprising if Galldrian is also a Darkfriend? From what we have heard… also no.

File these sa’angreal away in your mind. There’s a zero percent chance it will not come back up.

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