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 44: Five Will Ride Forth
Perrin eyes the villagers warily but none of them give him a second glance despite his strange mix of clothes or the ax on his hip. The group had not been able to find much in the way of clothing that fits in the abandoned village. Perrin wonders if the village they are passing through will be abandoned soon. Half of its stone houses are already empty.
Hurin is staring at a big blackened circle on ground that mars the village green. Hurin mutters that it happened there maybe six or eight months ago and it still stinks. He says that the entire Village Council and their families were killed and he wonders why the Seanchan would do a thing like that. Mat mutters that the Seanchan do not seem to need a reason for killing people. Perrin tries not to look at the charred patch. Perrin asks Hurin if he is certain about Fain. The Sniffer wrinkles his nose and says that there is no mistaking Fain’s smell even as old as it is. Hurin says that Fain was not accompanied by trollocs when he passed through.
The villagers stare at something coming into town and Mat asks if they can get to their horses now. He and Hurin go to where their horses are tied behind an abandoned house. Perrin sees a column of the Children of the Light riding into town before he leaps to follow them. They scramble into their saddles, avoid the main streets, and gallop out of the town toward the west while looking over their shoulders to avoid pursuit. Ingtar’s instructions had been to avoid anything that might slow them down.
After a while, the lightly wooded hills hide the village and Perrin begins to think nothing is chasing them after all. He reigns in and motion the other two to stop. He listens – he hears sharply now – and does not hear the sounds of trailing hoof beats. He reaches out in his mind in search of wolves and finds them immediately. These wolves are astonished to find a two legs who can talk to their kind. They have heard only rumors that it is possible. He sweats through the formalities of introducing himself to the wolves, including sending his smell and images of Young Bull. Finally he manages to ask his question. The wolves eventually provide him with images of Whitecloak men riding through the village, around the village, and crowding around houses, but they show no Whitecloaks pursuing westward. Perrin lets go of the contact with the wolves. He tells Mat and Hurin that the Children are not following. Mat asks how he can be sure. Perrin tells him that he just is sure.
Mat: Well, if they aren’t coming after us, I say we go back to Ingtar and get on Fain’s trail.
Geofram Bornhald peers down the village street. There had been something about the heavy-shouldered man who dashed out of sight that tickles his memory.
Yes, of course, the lad who claimed to be a blacksmith. What was his name?
Byar pulls up in front of him, hand on heart. He reports that the village is secure. Bornhald is grateful and has no desire to make an example of these people. He tells Byar to see that the men are fed. He gives the order to see that windows and shutters are boarded shut. He also tells Byar to make it look as though he intends to leave some men behind to stand guard. The Children herd the villagers inside. Bornhald wants the villagers to be fearful enough to wait two or three days before checking to see if the Children left guards. He only needs two or three days and he does not intend to alert the Seanchan to his presence now.
Bornhald leaves enough men behind to let the Questioners believe his troops are still scattered all across Almoth Plain. He has managed to bring a thousand Children across nearly the length of Toman Head without giving alarm thus far. Three skirmishes with Seanchan patrols had each ended quickly. Their troops have grown used to facing already defeated rabble. Bornhald concedes to himself though that the Seanchan know how to fight like the Dark One’s hordes. He also cannot help but remember one skirmish that cost him better than fifty men. He is still not sure which of the two arrow riddled women that he stared at after had been the Aes Sedai.
Bornhald calls to Byar and tells him that when he engages the enemy, he is not to take part. His orders are to watch from a distance and then to carry word to his son of what happens after. Byar protests but Bornhald tells him that this is an order. Bornhald no longer expects to live to leave Toman Head. He believes that in the small chance the Seanchan do not see to his death, that it is very likely that the Questioners will see to it.
Bornhald tells Byar that his son should be with Lord Captain Eamon Valda somewhere near Tar Valon. Bornhald goes on to tell Byar that after his report to his son, he is to ride to Amador and report to the Lord Captain Commander personally. He wants Byar to let him know personally what they have learned of the Seanchan and he states that he will write it out for him. He wants Byar to emphasize that they can no longer count of the Tar Valon witches being content to manipulate events from the shadows. He wants Byar to report that they now fight openly for the Seanchan. Bornhald also wants Byar to report to Niall how Bornhald’s troops were used by the Questioners. Byar says that he will do as commanded.
Suddenly Bornhald remembers a name. Perrin. Perrin from the Two Rivers. Byar asks if Bornhald means the Darkfriend and Bornhald merely replies “perhaps.” Bornhald tells Byar that he thought he saw Perrin when they rode in but that he does not remember anyone from among the prisoners who looks like a blacksmith. Bornhald says that even if it was not Perrin of the Two Rivers, the man he saw is unaccounted for and may carry word of them to the Seanchan. Bornhald says that he will not let Perrin or someone else alert the Seanchan about them. He gives the order to Byar to mount the legion.
Far above their heads, a huge winged shape circles unnoticed.
In the clearing among the hilltop thicket, where they have made their camp, Rand works the forms with his sword. He wants to avoid thinking. So far, no one has found any sign of Fain’s trail. He is waiting for Mat, Perrin, and Hurin to return. They should have been back hours ago. Loial is reading and there is no telling whether his ear twitching is over his book or the scouting party’s lateness. Uno and most of the soldiers are keeping watch on the trees as if they expect the Seanchan to appear any moment. Only Verin appears unconcerned. She is murmuring to herself and writing in the dirt with a small stick. Every so often she will rub it all out and start over again.
Ingtar watches Rand go through his sword forms. As Rand does Heron Wading in the Rushes, Ingtar tells him not to bother with that one as it leaves its wielder completely open. Rand replies that Lan taught him that the form is good for developing balance. Ingtar tells him that what he practices too often, he will use without thinking. Ingtar says that he can put his sword in the other man with that form, if he is quick, but he also says the other man will likely put his sword through Rand’s ribs in return. Rand reiterates again that the form is only for balance before he slams his sword into his scabbard. He puts his cloak on and wishes to himself that they would come back.
Just then, as if his wish is granted, Uno announces that men are approaching on horseback. Hurin leads Mat and Perrin into the clearing at a trot and announces that they have found the trail. Mat says that they followed it almost to Falme. Mat says that the trail is just Fain but says that he must have the dagger with him. Perrin announces that they also found hundreds of Whitecloaks. Ingtar says that if the Whitecloaks do not bother them, they will not bother the Whitecloaks. He says hopefully that perhaps the Whitecloaks and Seanchan might occupy each other while they search for the Horn. Ingtar turns to Verin and suggests that she might say that he should have listened to her regarding Fain and Falme.
Verin: The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills.
She sketches on idly in the dirt with her stick. She says that now they should make plans. Ingtar says that the local people have told them consistently that the Seanchan do not seem to care who comes or goes from Falme. He announces that he will take Hurin and a few others into the town. With her foot, Verin scrubs out a wheel she has drawn in the dirt. In its place she draws two short lines that touch on one end.
Verin: Ingtar and Hurin and Mat as he can sense the dagger if he comes close enough.
Verin verifies with Mat that he wants to go. He nods and says that he has to go. Verin draws a third line. It connects with the first two. Rand is next and he says that he will go. He points out that this is why he came in the first place. An odd light appears in Verin’s eyes and it makes Rand feel uneasy. Verin adds a fourth line and turns what looks like a bird track into a lopsided star. Perrin speaks up next, then Uno and the others. Verin says that Perrin spoke first. She adds a fifth line and draws a circle around all five. The hair on Rand’s neck stirs as he watches her do this. It is the same wheel he saw her rub out from the dirt in the first place.
Verin: Five ride forth.
Loial says again that he would really like to see Falme. He also points out that he can carry the chest if they see it. Uno also adds that they better include him, also. Verin tells them not to be silly. She says that no matter how uncaring the Seanchan are regarding strangers that they will surely take notice of twenty soldiers. She says that they look like nothing else even without armor. Verin says that one or two of them will make no difference. She says that five is few enough to enter without attracting attention and that it is fitting that three of those who enter are the ta’veren. She tells Loial that he must stay behind, too, because there are no Ogier on Toman Head. She tells him that he would attract as many eyes as all the rest put together.
Rand asks Verin about herself. Her mouth twists and she says that he forgets about the damane. She says that the only way she can help is to channel the One Power. She points out that channeling is of no help at all if she brings damane down on them. Ingtar suggests again that it would be well if she came with them and she reiterates that she will not. She says that the five of them must go alone. Her foot scrubs across the wheel in the dirt partially obliterating it.
Ingtar asks Hurin how long to Falme and the Sniffer tells him that if they leave right now and ride all night that they can be there by sunrise. Ingtar says that this is then what they will do. He gives the order to saddle the horses. He tells the others to follow behind but to not enter the city and to keep out of sight.
Rand peers at the wheel in the dirt. It is a broken wheel now with only four spokes. For some reason that makes him shiver.
Perrin talks to wolves again. That’s always cool and I particularly enjoy that the wolves are formal. I guess that makes sense. Whenever I see two dogs meet each other, there is a fair amount of sniffing that occurs first before they relax.
In case you didn’t notice, a glimpse of Perrin from a distance – a glimpse where Bornhald is not even completely sure that it *is* Perrin – changes his plans. Instead of the Whitecloaks creeping toward Falme, they ae imminently charging toward Falme.
The in-story explanation for that is Perrin’s status as a ta’veren.
I enjoy the plot armor that Jordan builds into this universe. I particularly enjoy it when I do not have to strain too hard to believe that a character would make the same decision without a ta’veren’s influence. This is one of those well executed instances of ta’veren playing out. Bornhald would probably have made the same call if he thought *any* Darkfriend might be on his way to Seanchan to betray their location and numbers.
So we’re going to get a full blown Whitecloak attack on Falme at the same time that Nynaeve executes her big Egwene escape plan and at the same time that Five Ride Forth into Falme to re-take the Horn. We just need Moiraine to show up somehow and the whole band will be back together. Selene and Captain Furnace Face are still out there somewhere, too.
What do I think about Verin kind of forcing the “Five Will Ride Forth” thing into being? I am fine with it. All of her logic is sound. To be honest, they probably don’t even need Ingtar on this excursion for the Pattern to work everything out.
Hmmm. Verin broke one of those wheel spokes just as we are reaching the big finale.
Godspeed, Lord Ingtar.