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 2: Whirlpools in the Pattern Part 1
Perrin and Faile discuss their plans inside Perrin’s room in The Stone of Tear. Two weeks have gone by since the Stone fell to Rand and the Aiel. Faile comments on Perrin’s room, and argues that Mat has better, but Perrin is more than satisfied and wants nothing fancy. In fact, he feels the room he does have is too ornate. The two are in a romantic relationship now. Faile tries to talk Perrin into leaving Tear with her, but he tells her that he cannot leave because he is ta’veren and too closely tied to Rand. Perrin explains that he believes both he and Mat, as ta’veren, are necessary parts of Rand’s eventual success or failure. Perrin takes his hammer off the wall and holds it, which makes him feel better.
A cock crows outside, causing both Perrin and Faile to shiver. She says her nurse used to say that sound means a death is coming, though she adds she does not believe it. Just then, Perrin’s axe, on its own, topples to the floor before rising up and flying toward him. He blocks it with the hammer he has been holding. The axe flies across the room, bounces off the wall, and then flies at him again, blade first. As it passes by her, Faile tries to grab the haft, but it shifts in her grip and tries to fly at her instead. Perrin barely has time to react, jerking it away from her so hard that the heavy spike at its top nearly stabs him in the chest. The axe thrashes like a thing both alive and malevolent. It wants Perrin and it fights with cunning. The two wrestle with the axe as it tries to kill Perrin. He decides he cannot both fight the axe, and protect Faile at the same time, so he holds it off with one hand, uses the other to push her out of the room, over her protests, and fights it with his full concentration. Outside, Faile bangs on the door as he struggles with it. Finally he slams it into the door and it seems to go dead. Perrin is then worried because Faile has ceased her noise from the other side of the door. When Perrin opens the door, he sees it stopped only an inch from Faile’s nose. At first relieved to see him, she hugs him fiercely and rains kisses on his beard and neck. Then after checking him for injuries, and finding that he is completely unhurt, she slaps him hard for the worry he caused her. When she tries to slap him a second time, he catches her midswing and asks quietly that she not do that again. She complains that he could have died or been hurt, but he cuts her off, raising her voice, saying that while he will never treat her like porcelain, he will tie her up like a lamb before letting her be hurt. Faile responds to this by laughing and she says he would do as he says, but she warns he would be dancing with the Dark One if he ever tries it. Faile asks if the axe was Rand. Perrin decides that Rand must have been responsible, but that he did whatever he did unintentionally. Perrin and Faile leave their room and decide to confront him.
Faile: I don’t know why I care for a man who worries so about his own safety.
Mat is smoking a pipe and playing cards in the Stone of Tear with a group of High Lords – Reimon, Edorion, Selorna, Estean, Andiama, Carlomin, and Baran. He prefers dice to playing cards, because his luck has greater effect in dice, but dicing is a commoner activity and these High Lords do not dice. Mat tells himself that he plans to leave as soon as he gets enough money to get away from Rand and Moiraine. Currently he has so much money that he would have thought it a fortune back in Emond’s Field, but his ideas of luxury have changed since leaving. Reimon mentions that the Sea Folk shipped off today. Edorion mentions the beautiful Sea Folk women. Estean, who is young, the wealthiest man at the table, and drunk, says Edorion will not get a sniff of the Sea Folk women, adding that he should go after the Aiel wenches like Mat.
Estean: All those spears and knives. Burn my soul, it’s like asking a lion to dance.
Mention of the Aiel causes silence to fall around the table. Mat can barely stop a scowl, thinking that the only worse subject to bring up at this table would have been Aes Sedai. Mat gets his next card, the Ruler of Cups, and does not let himself blink. This is the highest suit. The ruler of the nation, where the game is played, is always the Ruler of Cups. Mat has already seen new decks of cards featuring Rand as the Ruler of Cups. He thinks that the idea of Rand as the ruler of a nation is ludicrous enough to make him want to pinch himself. He knows that Rand is a shepherd, though also a good person to have fun with, when he is not being too over-serious and responsible.
Mat thinks again that he needs to leave Tear and wonders if Thom will go with him, or perhaps Perrin. He does not think Thom seems like he wants to leave and he does not believe Perrin will go anywhere without Faile crooking a finger, first. Mat feels his luck increase but fears that the rich noblemen will leave due to the conversation turning uncomfortable. He decides the best way to keep them and their gold from leaving the table is to make fun of himself by telling them about a game called Maiden’s Kiss, that he played with the Maidens of the Spear. He says that when he asked the women to play, before he knew what was happening, he had a fist full of spears around his neck like a collar, blades so close that he could have shaved himself with one sneeze. This story leads to raucous laughter at his expense. Mat explains that each of the Maidens took a kiss, and if she thought it was a good kiss, she eased up with her spear. He says that if she did not think it was a good kiss, the Maiden pushed a little harder to encourage.
Mat: I’ll tell you this. I got knicked less than I do shaving.
Mat’s plan works and the nobles place more coins on the table.
From here, the conversation turns complaints and boasting about the Aiel, with the nobles calling them savages who live in caves, and suggesting that but for The Lord Dragon, they would take Defenders and drive them out of the Stone. Mat keeps his face straight knowing that a few hundred Aiel could likely hold the Stone against any army Tear might raise.
Estean asks Mat to speak with Rand about new laws favoring commoners.
Estean: Whoever heard of a Lord being summoned before a magistrate? And for peasants?
Mat: It would be a shame if you were tried and judged, just for having your way with a fisherman’s daughter, whatever she wanted, or for having some farmer beaten for splashing mud on your cloak.
The other Lords shift uneasily, noticing Mat’s mood, but Estean is too drunk and nods vigorously in agreement with Mat’s sarcasm. Estean says it would never actually come to being tried, before adding that a fisherman’s daughter always smells of fish, no matter how you have them washed, adding that a plump farmer’s daughter is best. Mat wants to be quiet, because he wants to take more gold from the other man’s purse, but cannot help himself from speculating aloud that it may come to hangings. One of the other men at the table tries to turn the conversation in another direction.
Mat imagines hitting Estean in the face as he drinks his wine. He almost chokes on it when Edorion mentions a rumor that the Dragon means to invade Illian. The lordlings all say that conquering Illian will be easy with the Dragon to lead them, and ask Mat if he has any information about the war. Mat tells them that he doubts Rand would start a war.
Returning to the game, Mat picks up the fifth card and knows he possesses an unbeatable hand, and he speculates to himself that his luck in dice is beginning to rub off more in cards as well. He then accidentally mutters “the Light burn my bones to ash if it is not so,” in the Old Tongue. As the High Lords debate what Mat actually said, he goads them into adding lots of gold into the pot for the hand. A cock crows and suddenly, the card depicting the Amyrlin Seat stabs him with a tiny knife. He drops the cards, as his chair falls backward. He kicks the table over and the images from the faces of the cards grow larger and begin to step out of the cards to attack him. Mat hurls knives at the images, before they are able to step out of the cards. After being stabbed by Mat’s knives, the cards return to normal. They are pinned to a dark wooden panel by his still quivering knives. The High Lords gape at Mat with his knives and pretend to not have seen what just happened. As a thin trickle of blood runs down the back of his hand, Mat takes no chances, and rips the cards apart which are pinned by his knives. The card of the Amyrlin had still been holding a dagger, instead of a flame, when Mat tore it. Mat is angry that the others are pretending nothing happened and he doubts they will gamble with him again anytime soon. He knows that whatever had happened had been aimed at him and that it had to have been done with the One Power. He knows the men with him want no part of that. Mat grabs his purse and stalks angrily out of the room.
I split this massive chapter up into two sections. I understand why Jordan decided to just combine all of these events in one large chapter. That said, the occasionally gigantic Jordan chapters were annoying back when I used to lie to myself about “just one more chapter before bed” and they are annoying now as I attempt to recap them.
My first comment, not to start on too negative a note, is that this chapter title is very oddly fitting despite sounding like a lot of his other chapter titles where he clearly struggled to name the thing and just decided to put some variation of “____ of/in the Pattern” or “_____ of/in Shadow” or “Web of _____” as a title. I might have to see how many I can guess by just filling in the blank.
We see Perrin again and find out he did not bleed to death in the room where we last left him… so that is good. We do not know yet how he managed that. I like that the experience with the hedgehog seems to have served as the catalyst for a romantic pairing. We can just skip over the hemming and hawing of “will they, won’t they,” when Perrin just finds Faile trapped in a dream and nearly bleeds to death rescuing her. “My hairy lummox hero!” It be that way sometimes. Honestly I actually like their relationship at this point. This scene also sets up how far apart they are with respect to their backgrounds. Faile prefers that Perrin be less than gentle with her. When he raised his voice, hers got all “low and throaty.” Perrin wants nothing more than to protect her, though, as a good Two Rivers man is taught. They have to figure out how to meet in the middle and communicate.
Both of these scenes are really well written. I do wonder how fast the axe was moving and how strong it really was. It moved slowly enough that Perrin had time to bat it away with a hammer. He is also able to hold it – albeit temporarily – with one arm. Still… a murderous axe is pretty frightening to consider.
Mat does a lot better in his fight with the playing cards. They go down much more quickly. The highlight of his section, though, is his recounting of his game of Maiden’s Kiss. That is quintessential Rogue Mat.
I like that both boys are attacked by something that kind of represents their identity. I also like that after they survive, both of them immediately blame Rand. They both know the Forsaken are loose, they’ve encountered several of them by now, but their fear of men who can channel is so high, culturally, that they do not even consider that. “No, it must be our best friend accidentally trying to kill us.” With friends like that, good luck united the world, Rand.