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 33: Within the Weave
From his saddle, Perrin frowns at a stone half hidden within weeds by the road side. He is on the Lugard Road near the border of Murandy. The footprint of a large hound marks the stone at which he is staring but Perrin cannot see any hounds’ prints in the softer ground surrounding the stone. He cannot smell any dogs’ trail in the air, only the faint scent of burning sulphur. The smell reminds Perrin of the scent of fireworks and he wonders if children from the town ahead sneaked out here with some of the Illuminator’s handiwork.
He digs his heels into Stepper’s ribs and the horse gallops after the others. Moiraine has been pushing them hard since leaving Jarra. He slows once he catches up to Loial’s horse and Moiraine’s white mare. Lan is up ahead somewhere scouting. They are nearing a town called Remen. Perrin’s yawning causes Loial to express that he does not understand how Perrin cannot sleep, with the Ogier adding that the pace of their travel has him asleep before lying down. Perrin will not tell Loial that he does not dare to sleep due to what awaits him in his dreams. He thinks back on his odd dream with Egwene and Hopper and assumes she is safe in the White Tower.
Perrin does not want to think about Hopper. He has been able to keep live wolves out of his mind, with considerable effort, but he does not want to think of a dead wolf invading his mind through his dreams. There are other reasons for Perrin to be tired, as well. Their party passed through a town wherein every building in the entire town burned down to ash. The bedraggled townspeople explained to them, as they passed through, that seemingly everything that could have gone wrong in stopping the fire did go wrong. Perrin did not need to ask Moiraine if this was a sign of Rand passing through. The Pattern shapes itself around Rand and chance runs wild.
They passed through four other towns where only Lan’s tracking tells them that Rand is still ahead. They know Rand is on foot now and they found his horse, dead on the side of the road, torn apart by wolves or wild dogs. Nonetheless, whether on foot or mounted, Rand seems to be staying ahead of them.
They pass through more towns where chance seems twisted – one town where a dry spring spouts water again, another town where a well has gone dry, and a third down where the local crops failed but the mayor discovered large sacks of gold digging in his yard. No one in the last village recognized the coins, with a woman’s face on one side and an eagle on the other, but they are ancient coins from Manetheren.
When Perrin had asked Moiraine about this twisting of chance, during their journey, he expressed a belief that the Pattern cannot be evil but he said he does not understand some of the evil they have found in their travel. Moiraine told him that the Creator is god, the Dark One is evil, but that the Pattern is neither. Days later, Perrin still feels chilled by what she says because he wants to believe that the Pattern is good.
Lan returns from scouting and tells them Remen lies ahead and that the town has had an eventful day or two. Perrin ask if it means Rand has passed through but Lan replies he does not know and says that perhaps Moiraine will know when she sees. The Aes Sedai quickens the step of her horse.
When they enter the town, Moiraine has her cloak up to hide her face. As usual people stare at Loial but this time Perrin hears awed murmurs of ‘Ogier.’ Loial hears too and sits straighter in his saddle than he has in some time. Perrin thinks that he is trying not to let on that he is pleased but he thinks his friend looks like a cat having its ears scratched.
At first, Perrin smells only the usual odors in the town until he notices something that causes the hairs on the back of his neck to stir. It smells wrong. He remembers that he smelled the same thing when passing through Jarra. He thinks that the smell is not a Twisted One or a Neverborn before he corrects himself to call them trollocs and fades. In any case, the scent is just as vile and it disappears quickly.
In the town square, a beam rises up holding an iron cage with the bottom of the cage four paces off of the ground. A tall man dressed in grays and browns sits in the cage, holding his knees under his chin as this is all the room he has. Three boys are throwing stones at the man. The townspeople ignore what the boys are doing and Moiraine makes a sound in her throat that might be disgust. After they see this, Lan says that there is more.
He leads them to an inn where he has already arranged rooms. Perrin looks over his shoulder at the caged man thinking there is something familiar about him, though he cannot place it. Loial rumbles that the children should not be doing this as they ride on and Perrin agrees.
The name of the inn is Wayland’s Forge. Perrin takes the name as a good omen though there seems to be nothing of a smithy about the place, other than the man with the hammer on the inn’s sign. The inn has a prosperous look. Inside, Perrin stares at people who are all dressed in Feast Day clothes.
The innkeeper, Gainor Furlan, approaches them and Perrin is surprised that he too seems to be dressed for festival. He addresses Lan as Master Andra and notes that their party has an Ogier, also as Master Andra said. When Furlan sees Moiraine, he bows deeply and apologizes for not more quickly recognizing her station. She tells him no offense is taken and asks him whether the strange occurrences in the town are anything that might trouble strangers.
He tells her that there are Hunters for the Horn staying in the inn. He shares that they found adventure just up the river, fighting wild Aielmen. Upon hearing the word Aiel, Perrin knows what is familiar about the man in the cage. He has seen an Aiel once before. Perrin can also almost hear Min’s voice telling him about an Aiel in a cage being a turning point in his life. Perrin asks the innkeeper how an Aielman came to be caged in his town. Furlan is startled at noticing Perrin’s eyes but recovers enough to introduce them to Lord Orban, whom he says can tell the story best.
Orban is a dark haired youngish man with a bandage around his temples. The left leg of his britches are cut away showing more bandages from calf to knee. Despite Furlan saying Orban can tell the story best, he tells it himself. Furlan says that Lord Orban and Lord Gann, with only ten retainers, faced off against twenty Aiel. He says that six retainers died, everyone took injuries, but that every Aiel was slain except for those who fled and one which was taken prisoner. Moiraine asks if the region has had trouble with Aiel. The innkeeper tells her no but says that they would have had with twenty Aiel running loose.
Perrin smells stale wine on Orban as the lord asks Furlan where the old woman with the herbs has gone. Orban goes on saying that Gann’s wounds are paining him and that his own head feels as though it is about to split open. Furlan bends almost to the floor and tells the young lord that Mother Leich will be back in the morning. He tells the lord that she is occupied at present by a birthing. Orban seems to really notice the newcomers for the first time. He dismisses Perrin immediately, but he seems to have seen an Ogier before, and he knows Lan to be a fighting man. The lord also seems pleased when he notices Moiraine.
Lan asks Orban about twelve men fighting twenty Aiel. The young lord straights and in too casual a tone says that these things should be expected when seeking the Horn of Valere. In a flat voice, Lan repeats the story about having lost six men but slaying or causing the rest of the Aiel to flee. Orban says that this is what happened. He adds that the Whitecloaks are out searching for the Aiel dead now before saying he doubts they will find the dead as he has heard the Aiel hide thier dead.
Perrin asks Orban sharply about Whitecloaks being in the town. Orban dismisses Perrin and tells Lan that Whitecloaks always put their noses in where they are not wanted or needed. Orban says Whitecloaks are incompetent and will likely find nothing except their own shadows. Lan agrees with him. Orban glances at Lan, not sure what he means by that, before rounding on the innkeeper about getting Mother Leich here to help with his headache. Thenhe hobbles away.
Loial says that this is an eventful town and his deep voice draws every eye in the room. He goes on saying that everywhere he goes, humans are hurrying and scurrying, and he asks how they can stand so much excitement. Furlan tells Loial that it is the way of humans to hunt excitement. Moiraine cuts the innkeeper short by asking about their rooms. Furlan asks forgiveness and then leads them up the stairs. At the top of the stairs, Perrin turns to look back. He feels one pair of eyes in particular. Someone is staring not at Moiraine and Loial, but at him.
He picks her out immediately. She is the only woman in the room not wearing at least a little lace. Her dark gray dress is as plain as the clothes of the ship captains’ in the room. She is young, no older than himself, and tall for a woman with thick black hair to her shoulders. Her nose comes just short of being too bold, Perrin thinks, and she has dark tilted eyes. Perrin cannot quite decide whether she is beautiful or not. As soon as Perrin looks down, the woman turns and does not look toward the stairs again.
This is a traveling / set-up chapter. However, we can at least identify a few things to keep an eye on going forward.
- Rand’s ta’veren path – once you know what to look for – makes it pretty impossible for him to hide. Poor guy. His poor horse!
- Perrin smells that “unknown shadowspawn” smell again.
- Perrin runs into Min’s “Aielman in a cage” vision.
- Perrin almost certainly has another Whitecloaks encounter in his future.
- Perrin notices a stranger – a young woman – that takes a particular interest in him.
It is pretty obvious that Orban’s story regarding the fight with the Aiel is wildly exaggerated. Lan’s agreement that the Whitecloaks will not find Aiel bodies is pretty funny, too, as we know Lan absolutely thinks Orban is lying.