The Dragon Reborn (Chapter 5): Nightmares Walking

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 5: Nightmares Walking

Perrin leaps from his bed, grabs his axe, and runs outside wearing nothing but thin linen, heedless of the cold. Perrin sees shapes slipping into the camp through the trees from all sides. The shapes are almost as big as Loial, but the faces are distorted with muzzles and beaks – half-human heads with horns and feathered crests. Perrin opens his mouth to shout a warning when the door to Moiraine’s hut bursts open. Lan shouts loudly.

Lan: Trollocs! Wake for your lives! Trollocs!

With a cry, the trollocs rush forward and are met by undressed and half-dressed men shouting “Shienar!” and “The Dragon Reborn!” Lan is fully clothed – Perrin suspects that the Warder had not slept – and he flings himself among the trollocs as if his wool is armor. Lan dances among the creatures and where he dances, the trollocs die. Moiraine is out in the night fighting as well creating fire from the end of a switch and throwing balls of fire with her other hand. An entire tree bursts into flame before others do the same also.

Abruptly Perrin sees Leya step out from Moiraine’s hut. The light from the burning trees lets Perrin see the pain, horror, and disgust on her face as she watches the carnage. Perrin shouts at her to hide. He runs toward her and continues shouting for her to hide. Suddenly an armored beaked trolloc looms up over him. Perrin dodges a swing from the trolloc’s blade and slashes back from his axe. He knows that he should be afraid but urgency is suppressing his fear. He thinks he has to reach Leya and get her to safety. He is not sure where he hit the beast with his axe, but he leaps over it as it lays thrashing on the ground and continues running toward Leya.

As Perrin approaches Moiraine’s hut, another goat snouted trolloc steps out of the shadows and casts its eyes upon Leya.

Perrin: No! Light, no!

Rocks skid away under Perrin’s bare feet as he rushes toward her. The trolloc’s weapon rises. Perrin shouts her name and charges at the beast. At the last instant, it spins toward Perrin, who throws himself down as the trolloc’s steel scores his back. He desperately reaches out a hand, grabs the trolloc’s hoof, and pulls with all of his strength. It falls with a crash and begins to slide down a slope. As it falls, it grabs Perrin so that they fall together. The trolloc puts a massive arm around his chest and squeezes. Perrin’s ribs creak and feel as if they are on the point of breaking. It’s blunt goat teeth then sink into Perrin’s shoulder and begin to chew.

Perrin is still holding his axe with his free hand. With the last of his strength, he drives the spike on the end of his axe into the trolloc’s temple. It convulses and hurls Perrin away. By instinct alone, Perrin’s hand tightens on the axe and pulls it loose from the monster and he falls away from it, further down the slope. For a moment, Perrin takes in the pain on his back and in his shoulder. He shouts for Leya. She is still there, not more than ten paces up the slope. Perrin tells her not to pity him as he sees the look in her eyes. He stops short of saying more as he sees a myrddraal jumping from the roof of Moiraine’s hut. The halfman’s eyeless gaze fixes on Perrin.

Perrin again calls to Leya and begs her to hide as the Halfman starts toward him. It moves like a snake toward him as it draws a sword so back that only the burning trees make it visible.

Myrddraal: Cut one leg of the tripod and all fall down.

Suddenly Leya throws herself forward and attempts to wrap her arms around the Myrddraal’s legs. It gives an almost casual swing of its dark sword, not even bothering to turn around. She crumbles to the ground. Tears begin in the corners of Perrin’s eyes. Perrin thinks to himself that he should have done something but with the eyeless gaze fixed on him, it is an effort to think.

We come, brother. We come Young Bull.

The words inside Perrin’s mind make his head ring like a struck bell. With the words come his awareness of the wolves, scores of them, flooding into the bowl shaped valley. Wolves fill Perrin’s mind until he can barely remember being a man. Perrin’s golden eyes gather in light. The Halfman stops its advance as if suddenly uncertain. Perrin says “Fade” roughly but then another name pops into his mind. Trollocs are known to wolves as the twisted ones. The wolf name for Myrddraal is Neverborn. Young Bull spits the name at the Myrddraal, snarls, and throws himself at the Myrddraal.

It moves like a viper but he is Young Bull with horns of steel that he wields with his hands. He is one with the wolves. He is a wolf. Any wolf would die one hundred times over to see a Neverborn go down. The Fade falls back before him. It’s dark black blade is now trying to deflect Perrin’s slashes.

Hamstring and throat – that is how wolves kill. Young Bull suddenly throws himself to one side, onto a knee, with his axe slicing across the back of the Halfman’s knee. It screams. Before it can set itself Young Bull’s axe strikes again. Half severed, the Myrddraal’s head flops over and hangs down its back. Even still, the Neverborn continues to slash wildly with its sword. Their kind are always long in dying. From the wolves, Perrin suddenly senses trollocs around the camp, untouched by wolf or man, shrieking and dying on the ground. He knows that this means they were linked to this Myrddraal. His urge to rush down the slope to hunt the remaining Neverborn and the other Twisted Ones with his brothers is strong. However, the buried fragment inside of him that remembers he is a man, returns his mind to Leya.

Perrin finds her, drops his axe, and turns her over gently. Blood covers her face. Her eyes stare up at him glazed with death. He thinks to himself that the stare on her face is accusing.

Perrin: I tried… I tried to save you.

Her stare does not change. He asks her what else he could have done and he tells her that it would have killed her had he not killed it first.

Come Young Bull. Come kill the Twisted Ones.

Wolf rolls over Perrin, enveloping him. He sets Leya down gently, picks up his axe, and his eyes shine brightly as he races down the slope. He is Young Bull. Trees around the valley flare like torches. A tall pine catches flame as Young Bull joins the battle. Perrin finds Lan engaging another Myrddraal. Loial is wielding a quarterstaff the size of a fence rail. Men fight in the shadows but Young Bull notes that too many of the Shienaran two legs are down. The brothers and sisters fight in packs of three or four, dodging swords and scythe-like axes. The wolves dark forward with flashing teeth to tear out hamstrings and throats. There is no honor in the way that wolves fight. They have come to kill. Young Bull joins one of the small packs with his blade serving for teeth. He feels the urge to use his teeth and to run on all fours as his brothers do. Perrin snarls with his brothers and trollocs howl in fear at his yellow eyed gaze even more than they do at the sight of the other wolves.

Abruptly, Perrin realizes that there are no more trollocs standing anywhere in the bowl. He can feel his brothers pursuing other trollocs as they flee. A pack of seven other wolves chase a Neverborn as it flees toward its hard footed four legs. Inside of Perrin’s head, he is with them, seeing with their eyes. They attack the Neverborn. It curses at them and claws at them. They die but not before savaging its body. More wolves attack it. And more. Finally a lone sister wolf, Morning Mist, heaves herself out of a pile. She raises her head and howls to the cloud hidden moon, mourning her dead. Young Bull throws back his head and howls with her and mourns with her. When Young Bull lowers his head, Min is staring at him.

Min: Are you alright, Perrin?

She has a bruise on her cheek and she has a sleeve half torn from her coat. She has a cudgel in one hand and a dagger in the other. There is blood and hair on both weapons. Perrin looks around and sees that everyone left in the camp is now staring at him. Even Moiraine is looking his way. Dead trollocs lay everywhere. There are more Shienarans down than standing and the bodies of his brothers are scattered among them. Perrin realizes that he wants to howl again, for all of the dead, but he frantically walls himself off from contact with the wolves. He gives himself a shake.

The wound on Perrin’s back burns like fire and his shoulder feels as if it was torn by an anvil. His bare feet, scraped and bruised, throb in pain. The smell of blood is everywhere. Perrin finally tells Min that he is alright.

Lan: You fought well, blacksmith.

Lan raises his still bloody sword over his head and says “Tai’shar Manetheren! Tai’shar Andor!” The few Shienarans still standing lift their blades and join him. Loial nods and adds “ta’veren.” Perrin lowers his eyes in embarrassment. He thinks that Lan has saved him from questions he does not want to answer but has also given him an honor he does not deserve. Min moves closer to Perrin and he tells her that Leya is dead and that he could not save her.

Perrin: I almost reached her in time.

She softly tells him that it would not have made any difference and she reminds him that he knows that. Min leans to look at Perrin’s back and winces. She tells him that Moiraine is healing those that she can. Perrin nods. Perrin thinks to himself that he almost did not come back to himself, from being Young Bull, that time. He decides to never again let the wolves take control like that. Perrin gives a start as Masema suddenly speaks up.

Masema: It was a sign!

The light in his eyes is more fervent than it has ever been. He tells the others that this was a sign to confirm their faith. He tells them that even wolves come to fight for The Dragon Reborn.

Masema: In the last battle, the Dragon will summon even the beasts of the forests to fight at our sides. It is a sign for us to go forth. Only Darkfriends will fail to join us.

Two of the Shinarans nods until Uno tells Masema to shut his bloody mouth. He tells him that they will bloody go forth when the Lord Dragon flaming well tells them and not a moment before. Uno then looks around at all the wounded.

Uno: At least will will have plenty of flaming wolf hides to keep the wounded warm.

Perrin shouts no and the Shienarans seem surprised at the vehemence in his voice. Perrin tells the older soldier that the wolves fought for them and that they will bury the wolves with their own dead. Uno opens his mouth as if to argue but Perrin fixes him with a steady yellow eyed stare. The Shienaran soldier drops his gaze first and nods.

Min is squinting at Perrin the way that she does when she sees things. Perrin asks her where Rand is to change the subject. She nods up the slope, without taking her eyes off of him, and tells Perrin that Rand is up there in the dark. Min tells Perrin that Rand will not talk to anyone and that he snaps at anyone who comes near him.

Perrin: He will talk to me.

She follows him as he walks to Rand and she protests that Perrin should at least wait until after Moiraine has seen to his injuries. Perrin wonders what she sees when she looks at him but also tells himself that he does not want to know. Rand is seated on the ground with his back against a tree. He is staring at nothing but his arms are wrapped around himself as if he is feeling the cold. HE does not appear to notice their approach. Min sits down beside him but Rand does not move, even when she places a hand on his arm. Perrin smells blood even here. Perrin says Rand’s name but Rand cuts him off.

Rand: You know what I did during the fight? Nothing. Nothing useful. The first time I reached out for the True Source, I couldn’t touch it, I couldn’t grasp it. It kept sliding away. Then when I finally had hold of it, I was going to burn them all – burn all the trollocs and Fades. And all I could do is set fire to some trees.

Rand shakes with silent laughter. He says that he thought about pulling down the mountain to bury the trollocs and adds that he almost tried. He tells them that his fight was against himself so that he did not bury them all under a mountain. Perrin carefully tells Rand that they dealt with the trollocs and he tells him that they did not need him. Rand’s head fell back against the trees and his eyes close. He tells Min and Perrin that he felt the trollocs coming. He adds that he did not know what he was feeling until they had arrived. He says that they felt like the taint on saidin.

Rand: By the time I knew the difference Lan was already there shouting his warning.

Rand despondently adds that if he could control it, he could have given a warning to the camp before the trollocs were even close. Perrin shifts his bruised feet uncomfortably and tells Rand that they had warning enough. Perrin thinks to himself that he also could have given warning if he would have talked to the wolves. He wonders to himself though that if he did not keep the wolves out of his mind whether he might not be in the forests running with them now. He remembers Elyas Machera who ran with wolves all the time but never struggled with remembering that he is a man. Perrin thinks that Elyas never told him how he does it.

The crunch of boots on rocks announces two people are coming. Perrin is careful not to speak Lan and Moiraine’s names until they are close enough for ordinary eyes to make them out. Lan has a hand under Moiraine’s arm as if trying to support her without letting her know it. Her eyes are haggard and she carries a small ivory carving of a woman in one hand. Perrin knows that the carving is an angreal – a remnant from the Age of Legends that allows an Aes Sedai to safely channel more of the One Power than she can without it. It is a measure of her tiredness that she is using it for healing.

She tells Min that everyone else has been seen to. She adds that after she tends to this work here, she can rest. Moiraine’s touch makes Perrin’s skin tingle. Perrin gasps and almost drops his axe. He can feel the skin on his back crawling, muscles writhing as they knit back together. Perrin’s shoulder quivers and everything blurs. Cold sears him to the bone.

When she is done, Moiraine stumbles back and Lan catches her arm. Perrin is astonished to see every bruise and scrape gone from his body. His stomach then grumbles loudly and Moiraine tells him to eat as soon as she can. She tells Perrin that a good bit of the strength for that healing came from himself. She says he needs to replace the strength by eating.

Moiraine tells Perrin that most of the injured wolves made their way back to the forest. She tells him that she healed those that she could find.

Moiraine: Perhaps they came for their own reasons. Yet we would all likely be dead without them.

Perrin drops his eyes. Moiraine reaches for the bruise on Min’s cheek but she steps back and tells the Aes Sedai that she is not really hurt. Moiraine smiles and lets her hand fall. Lan takes her arm and she sways in his grip. Moiraine asks Rand if he took any hurt. She adds that even a nick from a myrddraal blade can be deadly if untended. Perrin notices for the first time that Rand’s side is bloody. Rand tells Moiraine that he took no new injury tonight, however, he says that the wound he received in Falme broke open. Moiraine hisses and jerks her arm free from Lan, half falling to her knees beside Rand.

Pulling back the side of Rand’s coast, she studies his wound. Moiraine’s hands move and Rand grimaces in pain.

Rand: The blood on the rocks of Shayol Ghul will free mankind from the Shadow. Isn’t that what the prophecies say?
Moiraine: Who told you that?
Rand: If you could get me to Shayol Ghul now, by Waygate or Portal Stone, there could be an end to it. No more dying. No more dreams. No more…

Moiraine grimly replies that if things were so simple she would do it, one way or another. She tells him that not all from the Karaethon Cycle can be taken at face value. She tells him that for everything said straight out, there are ten other things that could mean one hundred different things. She warns him not to think he knows everything of what must be even if someone has told him the whole of the prophecies.

Moiraine pauses and grips the angreal more tightly. Her free hand moves along Rand’s side as if it is not covered in blood. She warns him to brace himself. Rand’s eyes open wide and he sits straight up, gasping and shivering.

Faintly Moiraine tells Rand that she has done as much as she can. She warns Rand to be careful and tells him the wound can break open again. She falls. Rand catches her but Lan is there in an instant to scoop her up. A look passes across the Warder’s face which is as close to tenderness as Perrin ever expected to see on the man.

Lan announces to them that she is exhausted. He tells them that he will put her to bed. Min suggests cautiously that Rand might be able to help her. Lan replies that it is not that he does not believe Rand would not try, he just does not believe Rand knows enough of what he is doing with the One Power. He says Rand might kill her accidentally in trying.

Rand bitterly says that he agrees and that he is not to be trusted. He reminds everyone that Lews Therin Kinslayer killed everyone close to him and he suggests that he might do the same before he is done. Lan harshly tells him to pull himself together, to face what is coming like a man and on his feet.

Rand replies again, with all of his bitterness gone, that he will fight the best he can, because there is no one else and it has to be done. Lan stares at him for a moment and nods. Lan advises Perrin and Min to get Rand to his bed and then to sleep themselves. He tells them that they all have plans to make and that the Light alone knows what will happen next.

REACTION:

The fighting sequence in this chapter is so, so good. I also think that Jordan does a neat trick here by having Perrin think of himself as Young Bull. As cool as that is for the reader, when it happens, when he comes out of the wolfy trance, it is easier to understand why Perrin is so afraid of contacting the wolves. He nearly loses himself. I assume we will meet Elyas Machera again sometime soon given that Jordan just name dropped him again into the story.

One of the big challenges for the TV show will be translating all of this epic inner dialogue between Perrin and the wolves into a visual medium. I don’t want to overstate things, but the success or failure of the show may largely be determined by how successfully the writers take inner turmoil and bring it out. If Perrin and the wolves is corny instead of epic… that’s a huge problem.

It’s interesting to me how strongly Jordan has been linking Perrin with the Tinkers. He (and Egwene) got the chapters with them during The Eye of the World. Perrin is clearly still deeply bothered by their POV, yet also tenderhearted for them, two books later.

I feel bad for Rand in a sense. But I also feel a little unnerved by him, too. He almost set everyone on fire. And he almost brought a mountain down on them. The longer we spend with Rand, the easier it is to understand the continent’s approach to male channelers.

I have mixed feelings about Masema’s growing zealousness for Rand. HOWEVER… I have never personally witnessed someone having a sword fight with the devil up in the clouds and living to tell the tale. Masema has.

I am a little bit annoyed that we did not see more of Loial’s fight or Min’s fight (her cudgel and dagger both had trolloc hair and blood on them.) Loial is using a GIANT quarterstaff like he was trained on it? Do Ogiers train their young to fight? That sounds awesome. Consider Ogier armies a seed that I deem planted.

With more reflection on Min’s fight… maybe it adds to her mystique that we do not actually see her fight. She can be awesome in an off-screen kind of way.

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