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 31: Assurances
NOTE: The following chapter summary comes from wot.fandom.com:
Point of view: Perrin Aybara
Perrin is waiting with Marin, Faile, the Aiel, and Loial. Ihvon returns and gives the party permission to go into the sickhouse to see the Aes Sedai. The Aiel are impressed at the stealthiness of the Warders. When they arrive Verin Mathwin and Alanna Mosvani are waiting. Marin hastily apologizes and explains why she has brought Perrin’s party to them, but Verin agrees that she did the right thing in any case. Verin had been asking about Perrin as well as Mat and Rand. When Alanna asks about Mat and Rand, Perrin challenges her, asking why she is here in the Two Rivers. Egwene had previously warned Perrin that Alanna showed too much interest in Rand and she is wary of her as a result. Marin takes umbrage at Perrin’s rough manner but Verin calms her down, saying that she knows Perrin well. She takes the opportunity to dismiss Marin before they continue the discussion. Marin tells Perrin to listen to the Aes Sedai before leaving.
After Perrin presses her again, Alanna explains that they are looking for girls who can channel to take to the White Tower. The numbers of Aes Sedai are dwindling and after Moiraine‘s discovery of several girls in Emond’s Field with the spark, it was imperative for them to come to recruit more novices. Aes Sedai had probably not come to the Two Rivers for a thousand years and normally it is very difficult to find multiple girls with the spark. They had only been in Watch Hill for a week when they found five potential novices including one who might have the spark. Then the Whitecloaks arrived and they revealed themselves only to the Women’s Circle there.
Perrin accepts the explanation for their visit, but then questions them on why they are hiding instead of doing something about the Whitecloaks or Shadowspawn. Alanna explains that the Three Oaths make it difficult since they can only channel to defend themselves and their Warders. Her Warder Owein was killed by the Whitecloaks but Alanna was not near him at the time. Verin continues, saying they have killed some Trollocs and two Myrddraal but their ability to fight is limited with only two Aes Sedai present.
Alanna notices Perrin’s discomfort and Delves him to examine his wounds. Bain explains that they fought Trollocs in the Ways and Loial adds that he locked the Waygate to prevent more Trollocs from entering the Two Rivers. Upon hearing about travel via the Ways, Alanna starts ranting about ta’veren and how the Amyrlin should not have let the three of them roam free unchecked; she thinks the three of them should be bonded. This causes Perrin to pull away immediately but Alanna tells him that she will not break custom so harshly as to bond him against his will. Seeing her expression, Perrin is not all that reassured. She Heals him and then the Aiel as well. The Aiel are satisfied by the Healing and Faile is amused by Perrin’s leftover scar on his cheek.
Ihvon lets in Tam and Abell who arrive with rabbits they have killed. They are startled to see Loial and Perrin, but Tam recognizes the Aiel immediately. They also ask after Rand and Mat and Perrin says they are in Tear, which catches the notice of Verin who comprehends what that must mean. Tam asks whether Moiraine was right after all, that the Shadowspawn attacked on Winternight to hunt the three of them. Verin gives Perrin a look telling him not to reveal anything in front of Alanna but Perrin cannot bring himself to tell Tam that Rand is the Dragon Reborn in any case. Perrin tells Tam that he’ll have to ask Moiraine himself.
Perrin leads Tam and Abell outside to have a private chat. Perrin talks a bit more about their travels, but he cannot really explain how he came to befriend an Ogier or an Aiel. Abell mentions that various animals have been killed in the countryside for no apparent reason and not for food; boot prints were found, but not big enough to be a Trolloc. Perrin realizes it must be Slayer‘s doing. They discuss trying to rescue the prisoners from the Whitecloaks. Abell explains that he scouted their camp and took an arrow, but fortunately Tam was able to drag him back to the Aes Sedai for Healing. Perrin says he will scout the camp himself tomorrow.
Point of view: Dain Bornhald
Bornhald is returning to Watch Hill. He was ambushed by Trollocs on patrol and lost eleven men and is beginning to wonder why every patrol he leads is attacked. He notices that the Tuatha’an are preparing to leave and makes sure they are staying in the Two Rivers. Bornhald considers what he can to do with the prisoners, the Luhhans in particular, to help him catch Perrin Aybara. He observes Ordeith‘s camp, which is filthy and in disarray by Whitecloak standards.
Two men Bornhald sent to keep an eye on Ordeith were killed in a supposed Trolloc attack and he summons Ordeith to him furiously. Bornhald reflects on the unusual behavior of the people of the Two Rivers. Normally scrawling the Dragon’s Fang is more than enough to encourage villagers to turn on each other and no doubt any Darkfriends within the village would be swept up by such a move, but the people here simply ignore it. When Ordeith arrives, he tries to sway Bornhald to leave him alone so he can deliver Aybara to him. Bornhald ponders on the cover up he made when Ordeith had the Aybara family killed. Bornhald says expressly that he will not allow Ordeith to murder children which Ordeith claims will draw the Darkfriends out. He dismisses Ordeith angrily, accomplishing nothing. He looks for some brandy even though he rarely drinks.
Point of view: Padan Fain
Ordeith thinks on what plans he needs to make to control Bornhald, on what he might do with the prisoners and on what he did at the Aybara farm. He considers killing Bornhald which would pass command to Jaret Byar who is much more easily controlled. Mordeth has taken over much of Fain and he believes he cannot be killed now. His focus is on killing Rand, but he can tell one of the others is nearby now. Inside his tent he has a Myrddraal chained to the ground. Ordeith reiterates his proposal to the Myrddraal in exchange for the Fade’s freedom and the Myrddraal agrees to do what Ordeith tells him to do.
It seems awfully coincidental that those two particular Aes Sedai are in the Two Rivers. Explaining why Aes Sedai generally might want to visit the reason does not explain why these two in particular are there. If there are two Aes Sedai who are not Red, and yet highly suspicious, these two are high on that list.
One of the interesting sub-threads in the story is the diminishing numbers of women who can channel, within the White Tower. We know some of that is a basic failure on the part of Aes Sedai to look for women who can channel. Part of it is that some people (the Sea Folk, the Aiel, etc.) hide their women who can channel successfully. And part of it may simply be that there are fewer people being born with the ability. We should probably expect that a lack of numbers – numbers necessary to win the Last Battle – will be a big point of the story going forward. If so, then that implies the bad guys will have large numbers of channelers posing a threat.
I enjoyed the brief little exchange about Tam and Abell “paying” for their healing. Perrin thinks to himself that their efforts are pointless because the Aes Sedai will set their hook in them, payment or not, if they want to. Perrin is now a big more wise in the world (in some ways) than either Rand or Mat’s fathers – though perhaps both men also know the truth of their efforts while doing them anyway.
We learn a few things in this chapter that probably ought not to be too surprising… and yet are still a jolt.
- The trollocs did not kill Perrin’s family – Fain did. He did it gleefully. The Whitecloaks covered it up and blamed the trollocs. Fain’s lack of concern for Perrin makes it worse. He kills nearly every living Aybara to get at Rand. (If there is any justice in story-telling, taking on Perrin in this way needs to be a fatal mistake.)
- Fain has captured a myrddraal. We know he killed one in The Great Hunt by nailing it to a door. It’s something else though to see him chaining one up and confining it. The strength and reflexes to pull that off probably mean Fain really is next to impossible to kill.
- Slayer is in the Two Rivers – among other reasons – to kill Fain. He must be the one who sent the Grey Men to kill Fain. That’s… very interesting.
- Dain Bornhald (who holds the unhinged belief that Perrin is a Darkfriend who murdered his father) of all people is the primary reason that Mat’s family is still alive.
If Slayer can walk in the wolf dream (in the flesh, according to Hopper), and kill hyper-skilled dream wolves, then his threat level should be deemed to be extremely high in the waking world, too. He’s Aes Sedai-ish. Yet… Fain/Mordeth is more dangerous. I wonder where the Fain arc can go from here while remaining satisfying. If he is as evil and powerful as he seems… then he kind of needs to win (or at least draw) in his head to head with Perrin in this book. Alternatively, Perrin needs to power *way* up and end the Fain arc outright.