In this section, Perrin and friends survive a sneak attack and make a desperate search for information, while Mat gets his hands on a useful tool.
As a reward for saving a disgraced Illuminator, Mat receives a bag of fireworks. Aludra and Tammuz were last seen in Cairhien when Rand evaded Trollocs in a chase through their compound. Using a recurring minor character is a reminder that anyone whose life is touched by a ta’veren can’t easily escape the Web of Destiny. In the context of ta’veren, it has now become less far-fetched for a random person once met to pop back into the story and provide help, than for a completely new character to be saved and give Mat fireworks as a reward. These secondary or minor characters are also a means to reveal the outcome of the events in locales the heroes have left behind.
Aha! This time a Rand point of view does not serve as a bridge between the Perrin point of view and the other characters. It may be a sign that they are getting closer to each other.
Perrin’s love interest Faile becomes a member of the party. Nynaeve is the only character whose love life is not foretold in some manner. All of the other major characters have their love interests thrust on them by the Pattern, or at the least have some prophetic insight about who they will love.
A group of Gray Men try to kill Perrin. Six at once! This is a very serious attempt on his life, and harkens back to the Myrddraal’s words in the mountains, “Cut one leg of the tripod, and all fall down.” On top of that, Darkhound prints are found in the stone outside. The Gray Men come from the same source as the ones trying to kill Rand and Mat, while the Darkhound is simply a guardian of Lord Brend, an alias of Sammael. Sammael took over Illian earlier in the spring, and his presence is causing the citizens to have bad dreams, the Ogier to pack up and leave without a word of explanation, and gives a significant amount of the populace an angry demeanor. The ascension to power and the side effects are reminiscent of the High Lord Samon in Tear. With these two examples, in the future readers should be able to notice signs on their own which indicate a Forsaken may have set up base.
Moiraine goes off to confirm the source of the evil in Illian, and Perrin does the same by consulting Hopper in the Wolf Dream. One of the two men Perrin saw speaking with Ba’alzamon much earlier in the book appears holding Callandor, in a manner suggesting that Perrin has seen inside this Forsaken’s dreams.
Perrin also sees visions in the sky of tel’aran’rhiod. Does the Pattern show him what he must see? Are the visions brought to Perrin by using the power of Need? Can the Forsaken also use the power of Need? If they could, can they trust the information they get out of it? One of his visions is of Mat dicing with Ba’alzamon. Could Ba’alzamon be trying to kill Mat instead of taking him and using him? Or is this a metaphor for something else? In the vision of Nynaeve and Egwene, Liandrin traps them and laughs, while Lanfear in turn laughs at Liandrin. Another clue that Lanfear is not acting fully in accordance with Ba’alzamon’s wishes.
Hopper has told Perrin that the Last Hunt is coming, and previously explained that all dead wolves reside in the Wolf Dream awaiting rebirth, just as the Heroes of the Horn do. When Perrin fulfills Egwene’s dream of leading innumerable wolves in battle, it will have to be in tel’aran’rhiod.
Recent Perrin chapters have not been slow as predicted by my earlier thought that his point of view was partly responsible for the pacing. Whatever time he spends finding a bed to climb into and leaving in the middle of the night is balanced by the number of fascinating interactions he has with new characters and old. What makes a story fun is the act of discovering, and Perrin’s chapters have had plenty of discovery.
Many of the locales in the Wheel of Time are fascinating and unique. I’ll take a look at how the great city of Illian is given its own distinctive elements.
In earlier books we learned that Illian is associated with the Great Hunt for the Horn of Valere, and that the Hunt had been called for the first time in four hundred years. Hunters gather and take their vows in the Square of Tammaz, then spread across the world searching for adventure. There has been an expectation that Thom would eventually find his way there, or Rand and Mat with the actual Horn in hand.
Here are the main descriptors of Illian as Perrin arrives:
Long stone docks, great numbers of long-legged birds, tall marsh grass that all but encircled the great harbor, cranes, crested birds, gulls swooped and soared, ships three or four times as long as snow Goose anchored across the expanse of the harbor, waiting their turns at the docks, or for tides to shift so they could sail beyond the long breakwater, fishing boats worked close to the marsh, and in the creeks winding through it, the wind carried a sharp scent of salt, and did little to break the heat, the air felt damp, the smell of fresh fish, old fish, mud, sour stink from a tannery on a treeless island in the marsh grass.
The city itself:
The city was large, as big as other great cities, it reared out of a huge marsh that stretched for miles like a plain of waving grass, Illian had no walls at all, but it seemed to be all towers and palaces, buildings of pale stone, some with white plaster, rooftops of tile sparkled under the sun, the long docks held many ships, bustled, shipyards at the far end of the city, stone posts along the docks, spices and tar and stinks of the docks, hubbub, clamor, slower, pitched differently, rough, uneven paving stones, music and song and laughter drifting from inns and taverns, voices, a hum of voices, people and horses, cooking and baking, a hundred scents, the smell of marsh and salt water, a bridge, the third such bridge, Illian was crisscrossed by as many canals as streets, poling laden barges, plying whips to move heavy wagons, sedan chairs, peculiar beards, hats with wide brims and attached scarves that they wound around their necks, sedan chairs wove through the crowds, lacquered coach, a great square, surrounded by huge columns of white marble, a huge white palace stood at either end of the square, airy balconies, slender towers.
That’s enough, and I didn’t even get to the Perfumed Quarter and the Bridge of Flowers. Overall, the impression is of a sprawling, large, busy, wealthy city. Even the length of the description adds to the impression of size. The focus on the mildly unpleasant odors reflects the underlying unhappiness in the city that Perrin later observes. The oppressive heat and slow pace of the people, and the attention to the marsh add a feeling of being stuck, indicating dread and a possible trap. The adjectives applied to the people focus on their oddness, their difference from the normal, a clue to Sammael’s grip on the city.
Selection of certain characteristics of a locale can set ideas or feelings in the minds of readers.