ETA: I'm just letting you all know that this is the blog post where I get really, really angry with a character (probably one of your favorites). Just so you know. Be prepared to get your hate on, too. I can take it.
Shelter from the Storm
Okay, I'm twenty-seven chapters into this book. How many more do I have left? Twenty-six?! I'm only halfway done. Well, let's get it on.
This chapter starts with a leaf icon and the first word is "Perrin" so I'm guess my favorite people are showing up. That's right: the Tinkers!
It doesn't take more than one paragraph for Perrin to start acting like a dickhole. One night he stumbles upon the Tinker camp and they share their food with him. They then offer to let him tag along as they make their way southeast. Sounds like they are doing him a favor, no? Too bad he seems to spend a lot of time trying to get them to move faster than they want to go. He complains that they are going too slow for him. Well, who gave him the right to command these people what to do, huh? Even that tightwad, Elyas, is taking it easy on this trip.
Note that "tightwad" is fine by my spellchecker but "dickhole" is not. That is all.
Perrin gushes about how gentle and fun-loving and zesty the Traveling People are. As much as I love 'em I can get tired of this kind of observation. Even worse is that it's coming from Perrin. I don't expect this kind of philosophical, poetic monologue from a hillbilly blacksmith. Seriously, I don't think Bubba the NASCAR fan deer hunter saying something like:
[T]heir walk [is a] stately dance no less exuberant for its dignity.
Is there a thesaurus in Emond's Field that Perrin liked to read in his spare time? Where did he learn big words like that? He's a blacksmith (and that's pretty much all we know about him; no idea about his family, his interests and hobbies, or anything) so why doesn't he notice blacksmith-related stuff? He's never shown any interest in music so how does he even know what dulcimers and zithers are?
Whatever. Perrin continues his preternaturally keen observations. He suspects that there is something dark underneath the cheery exterior. An entire community being content? That ain't right. And Elyas, the mad man who killed some state troopers and ran into the forest to live alone with the woodland creatures, agrees with Perrin that the Way of the Leaf leaves a nasty taste in his mouth.
Perrin is also worried that the Trollocs might come after them. It isn't as if Trollocs have ever been much of a threat but for the sake of the story let's pretend that they still are. If the Trollocs attack the camp, Perrin says, then three wolves and a caravan of pacifists isn't going to stop them. They need to get moving so that... so that there will be even fewer things available to stop the Trollocs. I dunno.
Elyas is eating pie given to him by a woman who doesn't like him. For free. Sure, Elyas doesn't like pacifism but eat a woman's pie. Anyway, the madman says that he's got a gut feeling that's telling him to stay with the Travelers. You know, the same gut feeling that tells him to wear tin foil hats and tells him that the government is putting chemicals in the water supply (he's got literature about that stuff if you want to sign up for his newsletter, "The Aes Sedai Conspiracy Watch Journal"). This is a stupid thing. The author couldn't come up with a good enough reason to have Perrin stay with the Tinkers so he does "just because". Elyas has a feeling in his gut and we should trust it. Let's hope it doesn't turn out to be gas.
At night he wandered among the rainbow wagons worrying, as much because no one else seemed to see anything to worry about as for any other reason.
First, the wagons are painted in bright rainbow colors. Contrast that with the spiked black armor that the Trollocs wear. I don't really enjoy the Black is Evil thing going on. Morality isn't color-coded. But at least the wagons are pretty. Second, look at Perrin! The crazy mountain man who has lived in the woods for who knows how long isn't worried. The pacifists whose religion says that they should flee from danger aren't worried. The wolves following behind him, wolves with superman-like senses, aren't worried. But Perrin is. There is something seriously wrong with this kid. He needs help. Maybe there are therapists in Tar Valon that can help him with his paranoia and buried anger problem. I'd suggest he get laid but that only brings to light is problems with women.
Whoa, speaking of problems with women, check out this next part. On the second night of his stay with the Tinkers, Perrin is treated to a Dance of the Seven Veils kinda dance with three girls. Not women. Girls. Several times it mentions that they are girls (it is only later that a woman shows up to dance). And Perrin is embarrassed because he doesn't know anything about women. Sure, he knows that he should want to be with one, as a man. But look at the way he treated Egwene. Constantly giving her the horse to ride, getting in front of her, telling her what to do, telling her to stay away from Aram.
He doesn't see women as a equal to be loved but as a thing to be protected (or as an authority to be obeyed, but even the male Village Council is responsible for the protection of the females in the village). He sees them, I think, as a prize to be won and kept. He's not going to let anyone steal his girl (like Aram) but beyond that? What's he going to do with a woman? And these three dancers don't need to be protected, no mean ex-boyfriends or Trollocs here, so he has no idea what to do with them.
Anyway, they dance for him and he's embarrassed. Can't they be modest like a good Light-fearing woman? It's bad enough that they speak without being spoken to. Freaked out beyond all measure, this man-child (would it even be fair to call him a "man"-child since he's only a teen?) breaks off into his own world, shutting his eyes and blocking out the women dancing around him. "I'm in my happy place. I'm in my happy place. I'm in my happy place," he's saying to himself (more or less) as he tries to escape reality. This, fellow readers, is the beginning of a mental illness.
After the whole incident Elyas creeps me out even further with this gem:
"I have to thank you," Elyas told him, his tone sober and solemn. "It's different with you young fellows, but at my age it takes more than a fire to warm my bones."
Ew. It turns out that being alone in the woods looking a thirty year-old copies of Playwolf isn't enough for Elyas to get it up anymore so he thanks Perrin for getting the teenage Tinker girls to dance half naked in front of the bonfire (to "warm his bone", so to speak). I don't think it is Elyas's violent nature that makes the Mahdi and other Tinkers wary of the wolfbrother. No, I think it is the way he looks at their young women with his lecherous yellow eyes.
Egwene starts to learn the dance and Perrin flips out. He doesn't say anything, of course, because he knows she'd ignore him (look how confronting her about Aram backfired). He may be turning into a psycho wolfbrother but he hasn't turned stupid. So she learns and Perrin seethes. When Aram gives Egwene a gift Perrin vows to keep an eye on that Tinker boy. Damn it, no one but Perrin (and Rand, when they finally get together and Perrin will have to revert back to being the Bitch of the Two Rivers Boys. But Rand isn't here now so Perrin is king) gives gifts to Egwene. She belongs to him, he has to protect her, and no pacifist Tinker pussy is going to take her away from him. No one is taking his girl from him!
Once he managed to get Egwene alone, beside a wagon painted in green and yellow. "Enjoying yourself, aren't you?" he said.
Can you imagine how creepy this must be for Egwene? Perrin gets her alone behind a wagon somewhere. Somewhere no one can see them. Then like a jealous boyfriend asks, "enjoying yourself, are you?" It's an accusation, a condemnation. How dare you enjoy yourself! We are on an Important Quest! I'm miserable about it and you should be, too! And notice that this quote said "once." In the days that they've been traveling this is the one time they've been alone together. Egwene is avoiding you, Perrin. Stay away from her.
Then Egwene shocks me:
"Whatever is going to happen will happen whether we leave today or next week. That's what I believe now. Enjoy yourself, Perrin. It may be the last chance we have."
One, I agree with this in principle. Carpe Diem, you know? But Two, Egwene has changed. I think she is trying to come to terms with the fact that Nynaeve, Mat, and Rand are probably dead. Moiraine, her ticket to becoming something more than a mafia princess in Emond's Field, is likely dead, too. She's stuck in the middle of the wilderness, hundreds of miles from home, with a "friend" from home with an unhealthy obsession with her. Her life, at this point, is shit. So screw it, you know? Screw her dreams of being an Aes Sedai, screw fighting the Dark One, screw going back to that stupid inn to be a stupid Wisdom in the stupid Women's Circle for the rest of her stupid life. Screw all that. She's going to dance like a Tinker girl and she's going to bang Aram like there is no tomorrow because face it: there may be no tomorrow. Okay? The Dark One has won. Game over, man. Game over.
She's in a dark point in her life, just like Perrin. Only she's not going batshit insane about it. Or maybe she is going nuts. It's just that her form of crazy is to forget who she is, to lose herself in a world of carefree fun (in a modern setting she'd be going to the clubs, dropping some E, and making out with what's-his-face with the cute beard in the bathroom). Perrin's form of crazy is to cling to who he was, a simple blacksmith from a simple world with simple rules. He's cutting off everything on the outside and trying to maintain what he knew. And he knew old Egwene, not this dancing stranger-Egwene. This new Egwene needs to stop. Or be stopped.
Perrin doesn't come to this conclusion, though. He blames the Tinkers. It's their Way of the Leaf that is seeping into their minds. Other people and their funny religions are ruining Good Decent Folk like him and Egwene. Look at that dance she's learning to do! That isn't right. That's not what the Light intended a proper young lady to do. She's supposed to have braided hair, you know, and dance sensible square dances to sensible music. Those damn Tinkers are corrupting her!
To fight back against those goddamn hippies, Perrin constantly wears his axe right out there in the open. It's like going to a modern day political rally here in the USA with an assault rifle across your back. It's intentionally provocative. Perrin's showing the Tinkers that, unlike them, he's got a dick with a pair of hairy balls right next to 'em and he's not afraid who knows. Maybe then, Egwene will stop acting like a... you know.
Perrin has more dreams and they are boring to read about. I finally (I can be really slow, sometimes. Well, most of the time. Okay, I'm always slow. I admit.) got the dog metaphor. The wolves are to the dogs the way Perrin is to the Tinkers. Perrin and the wolves are hunters, killers, vicious beasts that take from others. The Tinkers and their dogs, on the other hand, are companions, safety, friendly brothers that share with you. It took me a handful of chapters but I got it. I'd still like to be a dogbrother more than a wolfbrother. Yes I would. Yes I wouldy woody wood. Yes I would! Who's a good boy?
That's my talking-to-dogs voice.
Moving on. Some time ago Elyas said that Dapple was the pack leader. I assumed that means Elyas was in the pack and followed Dapple's commands. But, no, that would have been cool. Instead, Elyas is somehow in charge of Dapple and the pack. Otherwise, what self-respecting pack alpha would reluctantly go along with an underling's plan when she didn't want any part of that plan? And Dapple doesn't want any part of Elyas's plan. So even though Dapple is pack alpha, Elyas is in charge. Or something. It doesn't matter. Wolves are stupid.
Stupid though they may be, we've got a couple paragraphs of the internal politics of the wolf pack. Now, this could be very interesting. If you compared it to human politics, with packs competing against packs for territory and resources. That'd be neat. But that's not what this is. This is just three wolves bitching about food. Are wolves people or are they animals? If they are people then are other animals? This needs to be asked because it has profound moral implications. One can't look at Trollocs as monsters for eating human-people if humans eat cow-people.
Whatever. More dreams. The only important thing is that Ba'alzamon seems to have overcome Perrin's Lone Wolf Dream Defense System. How? He set fire to the wolf! Poor figment of Perrin's imagination. I wonder, though. Ba'alzamon broke the back of a single rat in Rand's dream a few weeks ago. When Rand woke up there were a dozen rats with broken backs. When Perrin wakes up will Hopper, Dapple, and Wind be piles of bone and ash blowing in the wind? One can hope.
But one can't hope for too long because Perrin wakes up (after the Dark One's Number Two "marked him" or something; a bird plucked his eye out) and finds that the wolves are still alive. Again, Ba'alzamon seemed like an interesting bad guy way back at the beginning but now he can't even burn a wolf to death in the real world. Weak.
Perrin wakes up and Elyas says it's time go to. They don't bother to consult with Egwene and get her opinion. She's a woman, after all, so who cares about her input? Dicks. Eventually she comes over to the boys' wagon (Where had Egwene been sleeping? In the backseat of Aram's 1967 Chevy Shaggin' Wagon?)and Elyas explains to her why they're leaving. As a reader I still don't know what that reason is but it's enough to convince Egwene. Whatever.
As an aside: Who gave them space on their wagon? Do you want to be known in the Tinker community as the wagon owner who kept weapons in her home? And did they pay for any of the meals or lodgings or dance lessons? No! People just give stuff to the main characters.
As they get set to leave the Tinkers all say goodbye. Perrin is hugged by the dancing girls and thinks that, hmm, maybe he can stay after all. See, somewhere in that twisted mind of his is a levelheaded heterosexual boy who just likes titties. But it's too late now, Perrin. Maybe you should have followed Egwene's advice and seized the day a few days go.
Egwene has a fight with Aram. Seems her new boyfriend wanted her to commit while she just wanted to be friends. He storms off (and will no doubt regret that his final words with her were in anger; we've all been there) and she hops on Bela (because Perrin will never get on the horse they are supposed to be sharing). Elyas, Perrin and Egwene set off in one direction while the wagon train goes in another. The Tinkers are looking for a place called a stedding. These are supposed to be safe. Whatever that means.
Perrin learns that he can keep the wolves out of his head. Let's hope he does this from now on and end this whole Wolf Subplot. The chapter ends with a pretty funny back-and-forth between Perrin and Egwene.
Finally he said, "What did you spend so much time talking about with Ila? If you weren't dancing with that long-legged fellow, you were talking to her like it was some kind of secret"
"Ila was giving me advice on being a woman," Egwene replied absently. He began laughing, and she gave him a hooded, dangerous look that he failed to see.
"Advice! Nobody tells us how to be men. We just are."
"That," Egwene said, "is probably why you make such a bad job of it." Up ahead, Elyas cackled loudly.
There's a lot to unpack in those lines and I don't feel like writing much more.
One, it was funny, probably the funniest thing in the whole book.
Two, it breaks the Third Person Limited POV. This is inside of Perrin's head, right? We see things from his point of view. So how can he know that Egwene gave him a "hooded, dangerous look" if he failed to see it? He didn't see it so Perrin shouldn't know that she gave it and it shouldn't be here in this paragraph.
Three, it's none of Perrin's business. She's not prying into his lap dances nor his "I carry my axe around but I'm not compensating for anything" attitude at the camp.
Four, it shows just how clueless Perrin is when it comes to women. She just broke up with Aram so you could show some sympathy, ask her if she's okay, something like that. Perrin isn't interested in making Egwene feel better, you see. He wants to what what she's been up to. I'll bet he'd be a Facebook stalker in real life.
Five, maybe Egwene was going to Ila for Tinker Maxi Pads. She's probably run out of all the rags or tampons or whatever she brought from Emond's Field. However, I'd like to think of her going to get some Tinker brand condoms or maybe a morning after pill.
Poor Ila. Being asked for a contraceptive from the girl your son is banging is bad enough but the thought that he might leave his home to be with his baby mama is even worse. Maybe that was what the fight between Aram and Egwene was all about. Aram wanted to go but Egwene is all, "this was a one-time thing (and by "one time" she meant ten times over the course of a week)." Perrin, being mind numbingly inexperienced with women, is mostly oblivious to all of this.
Footprints in the Air
This chapter has a cool title. Sounds like an indie band. I'm also 415 pages into this book of 813 pages. I can see the end from here.
Nynaeve is riding behind Lan and the Aes Sedai as they ride to Whitebridge. The Wisdom is awed by the impressive bridge but she keeps it cool so she doesn't appear like the country bumpkin that she is. Now, on the one hand I can agree. I don't like telling people I'm from West Virginia. People think I'm a barefoot, toothless, banjo player in love with my cousin. I don't want people to look down on me simply because I grew up in a town that has less people than a busy Wal-Mart. Well, I used to be like that. That's how Nynaeve is. She's proud, she's smart, and she values the opinion of Moiraine and Lan even though they kidnapped her boys.
But I grew out of that phase. I stopped caring if other people thought I was an idiot because of my accent. My college degrees were much more satisfying than their approval. I hope Nynaeve gets to that point. I hope she stops caring if Lan or Moiraine thinks she's a hillbilly because in the great game of life it isn't important what they think of her.
Also, I'd like to compare Nynaeve and Perrin. Both are angry. Egwene irritates Perrin, the Tinkers irritate Perrin, the constant dreams and the wolves in his head. All of it irritates Perrin. And he's getting pissed about it. Impatient. Hateful. The same could be said about Nynaeve. The boys are always just out of her reach and when she gets a chance to talk to them they join the side of their kidnappers. Moiraine refuses to tell her anything more than cryptic answers that aren't really answers to Nynaeve's questions.
The major difference? Moiraine is right there. So the Wisdom's anger is a focused, justified rage against an oppressor. Or, if not oppressor, then against someone who stands in the way of her goals. Perrin's rage, though, is against everyone. Egwene, the wolves, the dreams, the Tinkers, his shitty life. All of it sucks, all of it pisses him off, and there is nothing he can do about any of it. So it builds and builds until (I predict) it will explode. It's the difference between focused, righteous angst and a petty "I hate everything" teenage emo angst.
Whatever. Enough of that nonsense. Back to the story! Nynaeve is flushing when she thinks of Lan. God, they're going to become a couple, aren't they? Ugh.
In spite of the fact that Lan makes her furious, that he never speaks to her, that he is in league with Moiraine, he still makes her face red (which I'm guessing is a PG-13 1990 epic fantasy novel version of "makes her panties wet"). But, I guess, out here on the trail, a girl just has to get her itch scratched, you dig? Even if Lan is incompetent when it comes to survival skills he still has a pretty face and a nice body. Sometimes, that's enough to compensate for a questionable personality.
So far, I think Egwene is having the best time in this book. Rand and Mat were on a sausage fest of a boat with a man who wanted to kill them and a knife that ...wanted to kill them. Nynaeve has spent two weeks arguing with an al-Qaeda witch while tall, dark and handsome over there pissed her off/made her horny. Frustration, much? But Egwene? She's spent some days with Psycho Perrin but she's spent more nights with Aram the Tinker. Just an observation.
Continuing with the book: Lan, in spite of being a Warder and presumably knowing a thing or two about Aes Sedai witches, suggests that Nynaeve should go home when they reach Whitebridge. This goes against Moiraine's "witches get training at Tar Valon or they die" speech. So Lan is either trying to kill Nynaeve (not likely) or he's just too dumb to be bothered with all of those "magic rules" that affects channelers. He's like "Go home! Oh, wait. I'm told that will kill you. You should stay, then. Derp."
Lan is looking less like Brock Samson and more like Kronk from the Emperor's New Groove. That makes perfect sense, too, since Moirane would make a good Yzma. Both are female witches rocking the blue.
Moiraine tells Lan that Nynaeve is a part of the Pattern. Didn't Moiraine tell Min that the street rat sees "pieces of the pattern"? If Nynaeve is a piece of the pattern then Moiraine basically told Min she "sees stuff." Well, duh. Who cares, though? Moving on.
We somehow stumbled into a flashback since the trio is no longer approaching the White Bridge but are rather following trails to the south. I don't understand why they are following trails and not the gigantic river. Maybe they decided to avoid it for some reason. I couldn't tell you. But just like that the flashback ends.
They somehow got to the center of the bridge, a bridge of at least one hundred feet, before smelling smoke in the air. That was their first clue something was wrong. You know, it wasn't them looking down at the other end of the bridge to see the scene in Whitebridge. They must have direct line of sight from the center of the bridge to the end of the bridge, a hundred feet below, right? Don't know.
It turns out that the fight between Thom and the Fade caused more damage than I first assumed. From what I recall, an elderly gleeman rushed towards a killing machine from hell 'til they both tumbled around in the dirt for a while. This caused a city-wide panic and a rush for the gates. There must have been a lot of friction in that rasslin' match because it looks as if a few buildings had burned down.
"No eye can see the Pattern until it is Woven."
That's what Moiraine says as she views the burned town square. She must have forgotten that she recruited into her spy network a street urchin in Baerlon who could see the Pattern well before it was Woven. And not just a metaphor or dream or prophecy, either. She literally used her eyes to see the future of the Pattern.
Moiraine goes about asking questions. This is SOP for fantasy characters entering a new town. Seriously, has anyone in this book gone to a new place and not interrogated the locals? Nynaeve is surprised that Moiraine appears genuine in her concern for the people of Whitebridge. Don't be fooled, Nynaeve! She used the same routine in Emond's Field after it was blown up by monsters and you see how that turned out for you. She's evil, Nynaeve! Don't trust her!
The villagers vacillate between "nothing happened" and "there was a riot" and "a wizard did it." The trio can't figure out what happened so they go to the local inn for a spot of lunch. No mention is made that this is the first restaurant-style meal they've had since the Stag and Lion nearly three weeks ago. As they sit there eating a local soldier walks in. Lan is instantly contemptuous of him. He calls the militia useless, like the soldiers who were mustered to protect Emond's Field just after the Winternight attack.
This is why I don't like Lan as much as I could. If anyone isn't a master swordsman, taught ancient techniques by venerable masters in mountain monasteries, then they are useless scum. That's like saying a pistol is useless because it isn't a battleship cannon. Not everyone is fighting demon monsters, Lan. Some people are fighting thieves, murderers, rapists, and barroom brawlers. You know, the work you consider demeaning and beneath you. To Lan (and Elyas and most of the others), if you aren't the best then you're the worst. If you ain't first you're last.
Doing his job, the militia soldier (probably some kid who didn't want to live on the farm, you know?) comes over to the table of obvious strangers and asks them what their business is in town. Not too unreasonable since they could probably still smell the acrid smoke from last night's attack wafting in from the town square just outside the inn's front door. Lan bullshits him and the kid walks away.
Nynaeve makes a comment about how she's had to deal with too many boys in Emond's Field acting like idiots in order to save face in front of women. Judging by Perrin's actions and attitude, I can believe her.
They talk about what their next move will be. Moiraine says that since everyone knows they are supposed to go meet up in Caemlyn then the best option would be for them to go north into the wilderness. Wait, what? Yeah, the wilderness. They don't decide to magic up their horses and ride like the wind blows to Caemlyn, no. They decide to finally go looking for the one person lost in the woods up north. It makes no sense but that's only because it's trying to fit in with the rest of the book.
The chapter ends at the inn's dinner table with Nynaeve calling out Moiraine for her complete lack of concern for missing Egwene. Not liking when small town Wisdoms talk down to her like that, Moiraine gets pissed, her eyes almost glowing in anger. Nynaeve renews her vow to get enough magic power to overcome the evil witch and bring her charges home. The meal is rather awkward after that.
Eyes Without Pity
This is a Perrin chapter. And there is a wolf icon, too. I get the connection. Go me! Of the three different threads in this story, this is my favorite. I have the most fun reading about these guys (It may or may not be because I like Egwene and the Tinkers). Second would be Nynaeve and the al-Qaeda wizard one. Pulling up the rear is Rand and Mat. They were boring enough when they had Thom with them but since he died (or got on a boat, whatever) it looks as if it's going to be even worse. Stupid cursed emo Mat.
Anyway! On with this chapter. Elyas is setting a rapid pace for the trio plus Bela plus wolves. He's doing this Just Because. See, he can't sense any Trollocs, nor can the wolves (so Warders, wolves and witches can detect Trollocs? Really, who can't do that?) so they aren't running from that. They're running because Eylas has a bad feeling. This is a supernatural bad feeling, too, since there is nothing natural to provoke it. This isn't Han Solo flying towards a small moon in the astroid field where Alderaan used to be. No, Han had clues to give him a bad feeling. This is just Elyas waking up on a morning like any other and then freaking the hell out, running away before breakfast as if he's having some sort of mental episode. Likely he had the same feeling that something was wrong the day he woke up and killed those Warder state troopers.
So for days it's like this. Elyas says "run!" And they start running. They ask why and he says, "I don't know! Just keep running!" And like idiots, they do. Soon the stress of running from nothing gets to Elyas and he starts talking to himself. Not just talking but arguing. While this proves beyond a doubt that he is a crazy man it doesn't seem to bother Egwene or Perrin. They've given their lives over to this wilderness guide so they might as well enjoy his insane ramblings.
They come to a ridge that Elyas wants to scout. Perrin wants to go up with him this time instead of staying behind with the women and horses (er, woman and horse). At this point Egwene jumps down from their only horse and it hits me that, once again, Egwene is on the horse that she is sharing with Perrin. Why, Robert Jordan, can't you get Perrin on that horse? God, I'd kill for just that one, tiny, itty bitty shred of gender equality here. Please. You said they were sharing the horse so just show it. Show me Perrin riding Bela, I beg you.
Anyway, Egwene gets off the horse so she can scout the ridge, too, but Elyas tells her to stay in her place. Scouting is men's work. Why couldn't Perrin stay with the horses and Egwene go up the ridge? As a ex-Warder you'd think Elyas would be used to having a woman by his side. Whatever. The crazy man and the boy from Two Rivers make it to the top of the ridge and see nothing.
It's been four pages of nothing. They've been running at full steam to get through this endless hilly grassland and they've encountered nothing. No Trollocs or Fades or anything. Elyas still has this plot-induced feeling that something is wrong. I'm getting pretty tired of it.
Finally, they come upon some ravens. The wolves didn't detect them because wolves don't look up. Seriously, that's what Elyas says. He's like Ed from Shaun of the Dead. "Big Al says dogs can't look up." Of course they can! Otherwise, if I wanted to get away from wolves, I'd climb a tree. They'd never find me! Works against bloodhounds, too.
As has been established, ravens are evil. But are they as intelligent as wolves? Do they engage in flock politics the way Dabble engages in pack politics? If so then does that mean that some ravens can be turned from the Dark Side the way Burn seems to be turning away from the Light? I don't think so because they are just a bunch of dumb birds. Same as wolves.
Elyas and Perrin continue to lay down on the ridge up there, talking about ravens and planning their next move. Egwene, I imagine, is down there at the base of the ridge with Bela wondering just what the hell is going on up there. She can see them talking but they don't look panicked. Yet they're not telling her it's safe to start moving. She's just standing there, thumb up her ass, waiting for the Big Strong Men to tell her what to do next. I assume this is what she's doing, since this is Perrin's POV and he hasn't given one line of thought towards Egwene since climbing the ridge. Step up, Egwene! Don't let them take charge of you like that.
Anyway, they continue the journey with Egwene still on the horse. Perrin explains as best he can but since Egwene is a lot smarter than him she actually asks questions. Questions he has no idea how to answer. I'm sure appearing stupider than a girl three years younger than him really pissed him off. They come to yet another ridge. Egwene wants to go up this one, too, but ends up staying behind. Again. Perrin and Elyas go and see more ravens up ahead of them. These ravens end up killing a fox.
Again, imagine Egwene at the bottom of the ridge. She looks up and sees the two dudes looking at something then all at once they go, "Oh! Eww. No way! Ow." She has no clue and they don't bother saying anything until Elyas finally motions her to come up. Only after she's on the other side does she see a patch of fox fur. What did they see? Was it that bad? Please, someone, tell her something! Even a "Those ravens swarmed the shit out of that fox" would be better than nothing. But they say zip.
Perrin tried to use his sling to kill one stray raven but before he could get a chance Egwene knocked it out of the sky with her own sling. From horseback. I'm impressed. I couldn't hit the ground from horseback if I were falling out of my saddle. I wonder why, before they met Elyas, that it was Perrin out hunting and trapping rabbits since Egwene looks pretty good at it, too. But, Perrin could not have been pleased that a girl just beat him at the art of killing something. Did he not just spend a week with the Tinkers with his axe out, bragging about how he kills things that get in his way? Then this Tinker-loving new!Egwene girl kills the raven? Woe upon woe is stacked upon Perrin.
They catch their breath in a copse of trees. Egwene asks if they think the ravens saw them from such a distance. Elyas basically calls her stupid for asking such a stupid question, the dumb village bitch. "By the Light, Perrin, can't you keep her in line? Or do I have to?" Not an exact quote but I can imagine that's what crazy mountain man is thinking.
And remember that we are in Perrin's POV so we see things with his bias. And he likes Elyas. This POV won't come right out and say that Elyas is creepy because that's not what Perrin thinks. We have to read between the lines. And I read that Elyas is unhappy that he has to bring along a kid in his wilderness adventure. He probably sees her as a burden (Perrin, though also a kid, has Wolf Powers so he's cool). So Elyas automatically thinks Egwene is not good enough (look at the way he laughs at her!). It isn't a stretch to think he'll use gendered insults to bring her down. It isn't a stretch that Perrin will overlook those insults, too, or to excuse them away.
Anyway, they keep this up for a while. Go to some trees, hide from the ravens, then dash to the next copse of trees to hide, wait some more, and so on. Perrin is getting tired but at no point does he say "my turn" and get on Bela. No, he continues to run even though he is supposed to be sharing the horse with Egwene. I'm going to go ahead and assume that Robert Jordan has given up on the idea of sharing that horse.
Now, they've been running for about six pages. Not once have they sensed the Dark One in those ravens. They saw a flock of ravens attack a fox but this is the wild, my friends, and animals eat each other here, especially after a harsh winter. I'm getting pretty bored with them going from hiding spot to hiding spot trying to avoid being seen by animals. Maybe if there were flocks of Draghkar out there or Trolloc hot air balloons I'd be more invested. But, really, I just want this chapter to move forward.
And if the ravens are minions of the Dark Ones then why didn't they go to Emond's Field, eh? A few thousand birds to pick clean the village. Maybe the Dark One didn't know which boy he was after so he didn't want to kill the wrong one. Well, then, kill every woman, infant, and man over thirty. Problem effin' solved. It isn't as if Emond's Field has flamethrowers to take down flocks of evil birds. Their slings and arrows and heron-marked swords would be useless. But, no. That'd be a good idea and that is something the Dark One does not have.
Anyway, Perrin is afraid of getting killed by ravens in spite of all the evidence that the Dark One wants him alive. He and his two companions keep up their little escape run. He senses a raven attack on some wolves nearby. But since wolves are Super Awesome Bad Ass, the ravens just can't seem to kill them. Seriously, what the who? If a wolf can stop the ravens then a human being can. Especially two human beings with what seems like a wolf's brain in their heads. Ugh, I wish the wolves would just go away or die. Or both.
Perrin tells Elyas that the ravens are coming. Egwene pops in with a "Ha! You can talk to wolves." This manages to piss him off, too, (It is just like when Lan found Nynaeve's horse. Both Nynaeve and Perrin sought to prove their sneakiness and subterfuge by hiding something. Nynaeve hid her horse while Perrin hid his Wolf Speech. They were both found out, too. It brought Nynaeve to tears knowing that she couldn't even prove that much. But Perrin isn't brought to tears. He's brought to hate.) but his fear of being pecked to death by black-feathered birds overrides his desire to chastise Egwene. That and his confusion as to why he can talk to wolves (a confusion I share).
Finally! After who knows how many chapters Perrin gets in that goddamn saddle. Of course he objects, but he still does it. There is much rejoicing going on in my head. Yes! Let me savor this. Let me celebrate it by quoting it:
He staggered and hung on to Egwene's stirrup until she climbed down and all but pushed him into the saddle despite his protests that he could keep going. It was not long, though, before she was clutching the stirrup as she ran, holding up her skirts with her other hand, and only a little while after that until he dismounted, his knees still wobbling. He had to pick her up to make her take his place, but she was too tired to fight him.
Oh, fuck you. Jesus, but this pisses me off to know end. The fact that she's still wearing a skirt is bad but acceptable. She had no time to shop for tampons so she probably wouldn't have time to buy traveling clothes. But the fact that she gets tired, oh bless her poor feminine constitution, one sentence after getting on that horse is unforgivable. "It was not long," the paragraph says from her getting off the horse and her getting back on. I hate that my favorite character has become nothing more than a burden for Perrin to deal with. Hate hate hate. I'm putting it out of my mind and am moving on before I rage quit for the night.
Elyas starts to describe all the ways that a raven can kill a person. Egwene, of course, throws up. Never mind the fact that she saw, from a very close distance, hundreds of Trollocs burn to death near Shadar Nogoth, their human-like skin turning white and shriveling up, the smell of burnt hair filling her nose. Never mind that she and Nynaeve went from burn victim to severe head trauma victim to Trolloc-sword-to-the-face victim during the attack on Emond's Field, washing her arms clean of the blood and guts that kept getting on her. Never mind all the chickens and cattle she's probably slaughtered growing up in a tiny village. No, she doesn't vomit because of that but rather because Elyas describes a cute little fox got killed. Ugh.
More pages of them running. They keep running and Egwene once again offers the horse to Perrin. "In a bit," he tells her. Whatever.
Whoa, this next part? Wow. I mean, Hey Zeus Christo, are you reading the same book I am? Perrin is now thinking about killing Egwene! He's jogging along behind her, the sun setting off to the right, she's up on the horse, slumped down and tired. He's fingering his weapon wondering if he's got the guts to put an axe in her back. What the holy fuck, Perrin?! How long have you been thinking about killing her? Since you discovered her using magic to start a fire? Since Aram started giving her mustache rides? This psycho boy is planning on killing his best friend's ex and calling it a mercy. This. This is what you get when you spend too much time with a crazy cop-killing mountain man. Maybe you should have stayed with the Tinkers a bit longer and let their non-violent ways seep into you a little more, eh?
Oh, God, whatever. They make it to a stedding (the same thing the Tinkers were heading towards, but away from the ravens!). This is a place where channeling magic doesn't work. Also, Trollocs and Fades and ravens won't enter. So Trollocs won't go in water, Shadar Nogoth, the Aiel Waste, and now steddings. Where the hell can Trollocs go? Just the Blight and Two Rivers, it looks like. Seems as if Moiraine should have taken the boys to a stedding on an island haunted by a Mashadar in the Aiel Waste instead of Tar Valon if she wanted to keep them safe. There are probably thousands of places that Trollocs can't go that are safer than Tar Valon (places they "can't go" but always seem to be going to, anyway). But the al-Qaeda witch doesn't want the boys safe. She wants them at her wizard HQ for some reason. It has to be obvious to Perrin by now that Moiraine isn't looking out for the boys' interests.
But ignoring all that, why was Elyas so eager to leave the Tinkers? He ran towards the ravens at top speed to get to this stedding. So what was he running from?
You know what? I don't care. I'm so pissed about Perrin thinking about murdering Egwene that I can't think straight. I don't care if I find a hundred dollar bill between the next two pages; this is the worst chapter of the book.
They go deeper into the stedding and find a pool of cold, clear water. Perrin is dipping his head in and thinking that, yep, he would have totally chopped that bitch's head off. Egwene is splashing around, laughing, loving life, and blissfully unaware at how close Perrin was to taking that life from her. But Perrin plays the role of buzzkiller this evening and her jokes and laughter die down. This would be good subtle foreshadowing for any future relationship Perrin might have with a woman: he is a secretly violent sourpuss that, over the years, causes her to be less and less joyous. And he might kill her, too.
Perrin, asshole that he is, at least begins to examine his inner turmoil. At least he agonizes over his murderous thoughts. But that is not nearly enough to even begin redeeming him in my eyes. Not at all. But he's so focused on his own thoughts that he doesn't really look around the stedding. Egwene, though, does. She's a curious and smart character. I'm glad she hasn't been killed by any of the psychos she's with.
She notices that some of the rocks nearby look like a giant stone eye. Elyas says he is from a statue of Artur Hawkwing. Egwene doesn't believe him and he calls her an ignorant village whelp. But we have to read through another story of another ancient kingdom that was super awesome but somehow failed. Lews Therin and his Age of Legends failed. Manetheren failed. Aridhol failed. Artur Hawkwing failed. You ever think that building up mighty civilizations is the wrong way to go? If all there is left to remember you by is a bridge here or a ruined statue there then maybe you should stop worrying about leaving things behind. Follow the Way of the Leaf and live a good life. Let history take care of itself.
This chapter ends with that boring history lesson. I'm so glad this chapter is over. Now bring it on, forum goers. Tell me how I'm wrong about Perrin. Tell me I'm reading way too into things. Redeem this guy, please. I don't want to spend the rest of the series with the image of Perrin holding his axe handle and his eyes on Egwene's vulnerable back.