The Dragon Reborn (Chapter 44): Hunted

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: Hunted

Perrin climbs off the bed and gets dressed. He asks Moiraine if they are leaving and she replies yes, unless he wants to make a closer acquaintance with Sammael. Naming the specific Forsaken it is makes the room seem cold.

Perrin: Ba’alzamon isn’t bad enough, we have to have the Forsaken loose, too. Light, does it even matter if we find Rand now? Is it too late?

Zarine repeats the name Sammael and stammers over the fact he rules in Illian. Moiraine asks her if she still wishes to follow and says she would not make her stay here or make her go with them. After a long pause, Zarine says she will not swear to go another way than they are going, whether they lead her to the Horn of Valere, or not. She says that not even the person who finds the Horn will have a story like hers.

Perrin snaps at her that her answer is not good enough and he demands to know why she would stay with them, knowing what they face. Moiraine cuts in to say that she has no time for their bickering because Lord Brend may soon learn that one of his Darkhounds is dead. She suggests that Lord Brend will know that this means a Warder and that he will come looking for the Aes Sedai. She orders them to move quickly.

Perrin hastily gathers his things and moves toward the back stairs thinking the whole while that being in a story is not a good enough reason for Zarine to want to continue on with them. Moiraine is already there with the Innkeeper, Nieda. The innkeeper tells her that she will send pigeons every day and that nobody will suspect her. Moiraine snaps at her to flee the city and to take anyone she cares about with her.

Moiraine: For a dozen years you have obeyed me, obey me now.

Nieda nods reluctantly. Lan hands Zarine a bay horse and tells her that it is hers. He says that if she does not know how to ride, that she will have to learn. She puts a hand on the saddle and mounts easily as an answer. Perrin tells Moiraine that Sammael knows where he is now and reminds her of the Gray Men. Moiraine tells him in reply that the Forsaken did not send the Gray Men but says that the Dark Hound was his. She tells him that she believes the Dark Hound followed her trail but that she does not think Sammael even knows Perrin exists, yet.

Lan mentions that it was well that he followed her. Moiraine mutters that she sometimes wishes he was a novice to send to the Tower to learn obedience, but then says that it is just as well he did not obey her this time, adding that she doubts Siuan Sanche and Sheriam Sedai together could teach him obedience.

Perrin tells Moiraine that he does not understand and asks why someone else – another Forsaken – would have sent Gray Men after him without telling Sammael. He then asks in frustration why they were sent after him.

Perrin: Rand is the bloody Dragon Reborn.

Perrin hears the gasps from Zarine and Nieda as the words leave his mouth. Moiraine’s stare seems to skin him like the sharpest steel. Moiraine looks at Zarine and tells her that she is sealed to them now and that there is no turning back for her, ever. Moiraine turns her attention to Nieda and orders her again to flee Illian tonight, in this very hour, and to hold her tongue even better than she has held it all these years. She tells her that there are those who would cut it out for what she could say before Moiraine could even find her.

Moiraine: As for you Perrin, there are many threads woven in the Pattern, and some as black as the Shadow itself. Take care one of them does not strangle you.

At that Moiraine’s heels dig into Aldieb’s flanks and she rides out into the rain with Mandarb close behind. Perrin thinks to himself that he sometimes does not know whose side Moiraine is on, and then he looks at Zarine wondering whose side she is on as well. Rain keeps eyes off of their party as they ride. By the time they reach the Maredo Causeway, a wide dirt road leading out of the city, the heavy rains are behind them. Perrin says aloud that they have had some good luck, with rain hiding their departure and then clearing for their long ride ahead. Lan shakes his head saying that rain might have kept the Darkhounds at bay.

After they are clear of the city, Perrin hears a thin howl. He surprises himself by almost reaching out to it before he stops himself. He hears another howl and realizes that it is no wolf. Other howls answer the first, all of them miles behind. To Perrin’s surprise, Moiraine and Lan stop at the sound of the howls. Perrin says that they could outrun the Darkhounds but Lan tells him they cannot, noting that you must always stand and face Darkhounds or die in the attempt.

Moiraine points out a spot to Lan not too far away, which is clear in all directions for two hundred paces. She tells Lan that they must see them coming to have a chance. Just then, the Darkhounds’ cry sounds again, closer, but still far off. Lan tells Loial and Zarine to hold the horses while they waited, telling a protesting Zarine that her knives will not do much good here. He tells them that even his sword is a last resort, noting that it sound as though there are ten Darkhounds on their trail, and explains that they will need to keep the horses from running once they smell the Darkhounds.

Perrin feels some relief in hearing that Lan’s sword will not do much good because that means he will not have to use his ax. He instead draws his unstrung bow and suggests that perhaps it will do some good. Lan tells him that he is welcome to try and that perhaps Perrin may be able to kill at least one of them. Perrin strings his bow and by the time he straightens, he can see the Darkhounds. They are running like horses at a gallop. Perrin draws an arrow from his quiver, knocks it, but does not draw.

He decides that he will shoot at three hundred paces. Among the younger men from Emond’s Field, only Rand was better with the bow. He stands next to Moiraine and then looses. Despite his certainty that his arrow hit the target, the only reaction he sees is a snarl. Perrin is drawing another arrow and asks Moiraine why she is not doing anything. He looses again. The foremost Darkhound falters but comes on. He shoots once more and the lead Darkhound stumbles, staggers to its feet, and then falls for good. He feels despair in knowing that the other nine are still coming.

As Perrin looses another arrow, the air between Moiraine’s hands catches fire and streaks toward the Darkhounds. Perrin throws an arm over his eyes to shield them from a white hot glare, like burning. Sudden noon flares in the darkness and then is gone. Where the Darkhounds had been remains nothing but night covered ground and a soft rain. The only shadows that move are cast by clouds crossing the moon.

Perrin asks what that was as Moiraine stares in the direction of Illian, muttering that perhaps he did not see.

Moiraine: It is far, and if he was not watching, perhaps he did not notice.
Zarine: Who? Sammael?

Zarine’s voice shakes as she asks the question. She asks Moiraine what she did and the Aes Sedai replies that she did something forbidden, not used in two thousand years. Moiraine tells the girl she might be stilled just for knowing how to do what she just did. Loial’s voice is a faint boom and he suggests thatthey should be going as more might come. Moiraine replies that she does not think Sammael would loose two packs at once as they would likely turn on each other instead of finding their prey. She adds that she thinks they are not Sammael’s main quarry anyway, or he would have come himself.

Perrin asks Moiraine if Rand is the one Sammael is after and she replies thatit might be Rand or Mat. Moiraine reminds Perrin that Mat blew the Horn of Valere and Zarine then makes a strangled sound in reply.

Zarine: He blew it? Someone has found it already?

Moiraine ignores her and looks instead into Perrin’s eyes. Her tells Perrin that events continue to outpace her and that she does not like it. She suggests to him that he should not either as those events may yet trample him. Lan suggests that they take Loial’s advice and begin running toward Tear. Moiraine rides down the hill and Perrin hurries to unstring his bow and follow.

“““““““““`

Mat leans on a log in front of a fire. Thom is engrossed in tuning his harp as Mat stares at the wax colored cylinder in his hand. He remembers that she said they only explode sometimes and thinks about luck. As carefully as he can, he slides his knife along the length of the tube. The tube is made of layers of paper and is filled on the inside with something that looks like dirt, or grey black pebbles. Mat stirs them on his palm with one finger wondering how in the light pebbles might explode.

Thom suddenly notices what Mat is doing and roars at Mat, asking if he is trying to kill them. He tells Mat that those things explode ten times as hard for air as for fire and that fireworks are the next closest thing to Aes Sedai work as exists. Mat replies by telling Thom that he used to think Master al’Vere’s clock had to be Aes Sedai work, too, but that he once took the back of the cabinet off of it and saw that it will filled with little pieces of metal.

Mat shifts uncomfortably remembering that Mistress al’Vere had been the first to find him, followed by the Wisdom, his father, and the mayor, and none believing he had just meant to look. Mat tells Thom he could have put the metal pieces all back together and he says he thinks Perrin could probably make one. Thom tells Mat that even a bad clock maker is a fairly rich man and that they earn it.

Thom: But a clock does not explode in your face!

Mat tells him the tube did not explode in his face, either. He then tosses the handful of paper and the little pebbles into the fire, to a screech from Thom. The pebbles sparked and made tiny flashes. Thom unsteadily tells him that he is tryin gto kill them, and he adds that if he decides to die that he will go to the Royal Palace when they reach Caemlyn and then pinch Morgase. He orders Mat not to do that again. Mat wonders aloud why there was not a bang.

Just then, horses hooves approach. It is late for anyone honest to be traveling. The four who ride into the firelight do not look like robbers and one of them is a woman. The men wear long cloaks and seem to be her retainers while she is pretty and blue eyed in a silk dress. The woman smiles at Mat as she doffs her gloves and comes near the fire. She tells him that she fears they are caught out late and asks him for directions to an inn if he knows of one. Mat grins and starts to rise. He makes it as far as a crouch when he hears one of the men mutter and another produce a crossbow from under his cloak, already drawn, with a clip holding the bolt. The woman shouts at her men to kill him.

Mat tosses the firework into the flames and throws himself toward his quarterstaff. There is a loud bang and a flash of light. The man cries Aes Sedai as teh woman corrects him that it is fireworks. Mat rolls to his feet, quarterstaff in hand, seeing the crossbow bolt in the log almost where he had been sitting. The crossbowman has one of Thom’s knives adorning his chest. The other two men dart past the fire toward Mat, drawing swords. One of them suddenly stumbles to his knees clawing at a knife in his back, before falling face down. Feeling almost contemptuous, Mat cracks the swordsman’s wrist with one end of his staff, sending the man’s weapon flying, before cracking the man’s forehead with the other end of his staff.

From the corner of his eye, Mat sees the woman walking toward him. He sticks a finger at her like a knife. He calls her a thief and instructs her to sit as he decides what to do with her. She looks as surprised as Mat at the knife that suddenly blooms in her throat. Mat takes a half step as if to catch her as she falls, knowing it will do no good. Her cloak settles over her, covering everything but her face and the hilt of Thom’s knife.

Mat turns on Thom yelling that they could have tied her up and given her to the Queen’s Guards tomorrow in Caemlyn. Mat says he might even have let her go, noting that she would rob nobody without the other three. Thom limps over to where the woman lies and kicks back her cloak. She has a dagger half fallen from her hand. Thom asks Mat if he would have preferred for him to wait until she nested that in his ribs. Thom retrieves his own knife from her body, wiping the blade on her cloak.

Mat bends down and covers her face with her cloak, adding that it is best that they move on. Thom agrees saying that with the clothes the woman is wearing, they must have robbed a merchant’s wife or a noblewoman in her carriage. With a gentler voice, Thom tells Mat that he had best see to saddling his horse. Mat gives a start and pulls his eyes from the dead woman.

As he is saddling his horse, he looks again at the man who had fired the crossbow and he realizes that there is something familiar about him.

Mat: The cross-bowman was a good swimmer, Thom.
Thom: What foolery are you talking now? How could you know whether he could swim at all?
Mat: He made it ashore from a small boat in the middle of the Erinin in the middle of the night. I guess that used up all his luck.

Thom asks Mat if he is sure and Mat replies that he is sure, thinking to himself that he will ring Elayne’s neck when he next lays hands on her – and Egwene’s and Nynaeve’s too. Mat tells Thom that he intends to have the letter out of his hands an hour after reaching Caemlyn. Thom tells him that there is nothing in the letter. He tells Mat that he played the Great Game when he was younger than Mat and he says he can recognize a code or a cipher even when he does not know what it says.

Mat replies that he never played the Game of Houses but he knows when someone is chasing him. He thinks that the letter is the only explanation. He asks Thom if he wants to sleep after all of this and Thom tells him he could sleep like a babe but that he will ride if Mat wants to. Mat tells him to ride.

REACTION:

This is a great chapter. The pace of events is really picking up.

In the Perrin section, I really love Zarine’s reactions to finding out all the things – Sammael is loose and ruling in Illian, the Dragon is Reborn and Perrin and the rest of the party know who he is, and that the Horn of Valere has been found and already sounded.

She had no idea what she stumbled across when she met this group.

We are not told exactly *how* Moiraine kills the Darkhounds but the description implies that she used balefire. We saw that used on the Shadowspawn by Nynaeve. Moiraine’s fear that Sammael might see them – leagues outside of the city – gives a great feel for how far above Aes Sedai the Forsaken live with respect to raw power. I think Moiraine correctly deduces that Sammael does not consider them more than a nuisance. That disdain saves their lives.

Based on what we learn here, it seems that Sammael uses Darkhounds to patrol Illian and inform him when someone has used the One Power within the city. They can probably sense its use as myddraal can. Thus we assume Moiraine killing a Gray Man with a fireball unintentionally summoned a Darkhound to the inn. We don’t know who sent the Gray Men but Ba’alzamon seems most likely. It’s interesting that Ba’alzamon – or whoever – did not tell Sammael that Perrin is in the city. The baddies don’t all play together nicely.

We don’t know how Moiraine knows Sammael is the one ruling in Illian. She likely sorted it out based on a description of Lord Brend and scraps of knowledge about Sammael passed down through time. A lot of people saw Lord Brend in their dreams so she did have a physical description.

The Mat section is also a fun read. His buddy cop relationship with Thom is awesome. Of course the guy who powders dogs and sets them loose in Emond’s Field as “ghost dogs” and the guy who turns badgers loose to scare girls on the village green also opened the back of a clock to see what is inside and cut open a fireworks tube. Some people are incurably curious. Most of them do not have Mat’s luck, though.

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