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|<<< The Traveling People >>>|
|Setting: The wilderness between Shadar Logoth and Caemlyn.|
- Point of view: Perrin Aybara
Perrin and Egwene continue on their way to Caemlyn, accompanied by Elyas Machera, Dapple, Hopper and Wind. Egwene and Bela, their only mount, are uneasy at the presence of the wolves, but do their best to hide their discomfort. Perrin has arrived at an uneasy, marginal acceptance of his status as a wolf brother. Nevertheless any reminder of what he can do causes him great upset.
The chapter flashes back to that first morning of their uneasy partnership where Elyas tells Perrin that the wolves are around, close enough to help if needed, but far enough away to avoid trouble.
Egwene tries to make them all take their turn on Bela, and while Perrin does not argue, Elyas tells her firmly, "no," and then intimidates her into accepting his decision.
They travel south and east for three days, Elyas allowing for little rest except at twilight. The wolves accompany them unseen, except at night when they join the party around the fire. Nevertheless, their presence in his psyche is constant and he always knows where they are.
His dreams have also settled down and are about everyday things, except that a wolf is always present in them, watching lest some enemy show. This seems strange only when he is awake; in the dream it seems perfectly reasonable.
The wolves bring them squirrels and rabbits to eat every night and Elyas points out edible plants during the day's march. Elyas also hunts while they travel. Though his company has ensured that they eat well, Perrin prefers a bit of hunger to the constant reminder of his new found relationship with the wolves.
On the third day a stand of trees emerge ahead and they consider using it as their stopping point, the wolves moving out front, showing no concern. Three mastiffs burst from cover, making threatening growls. Bela almost unseats Egwene, and Perrin prepares to sling the dogs when Elyas tells him to stop. Using hand gestures and whistles, he calms the dogs, then strides over and lets them lick his hand, explaining that they were in no danger; the dogs would only have attacked if they had continued into the trees, then reasonably suggests that they can make the next thicket before dark. Both young people are amazed. Then Elyas mentions that there will be Tuatha'an there, calling them The Traveling People and Tinkers.
Perrin admits to a desire to see Tinkers, but Egwene fears that if they visit the Tinkers, Bela might be stolen; after all, Tinkers are thieves. Elyas dryly scorns Egwene's words, saying that, though he's not always happy with them, Tinkers steal no more than most folks, and a good deal less than some.
Perrin urges Elyas to camp with the Tinkers and he finally agrees after warning them not to put too much stock into what the Tinkers say, and reminds them that the Tinkers can be formal.
They enter the Tinker camp, a bunch of wagons that look like small houses on wheels painted in bright colors. Tinkers are engaged in everyday activities, but are dressed even more colorfully than their houses. It is a very warm, community scene that they see as they enter the camp, with lots of music.
Suddenly the music stops as the whole camp notes their arrival. A short, wiry gray-haired man, obviously the leader, greets them and then asks them, "do you know the song?"
Elyas replies ritually that they do not know the song, addressing the man as Mahdi. The Mahdi responds in kind that they will continue to seek the song, and then invites the three of them to join them at dinner. The music begins again and the camp returns to its former, festive state.
After being questioned, Elyas assured the man, whom he calls Raen, that the wolves will stay away and not harass the band.
A Tinker takes Bela from Egwene's reluctant hands, and introductions are made. We learn that Mahdi means Seeker and is Raen's title. Elyas explains that Tinkers are looking for the song, and if they can find it, paradise will return.
They sit on fallen logs, though Elyas chooses to lay on the ground. A young man joins them. Ila greets him as Aram and banters with him. Aram, obviously confident of his ability to charm, makes a beeline for Egwene and compliments her outrageously. Perrin is dismayed to see Egwene eating it up. He also realizes that Aram looks like Wil al'Seen, the handsomest teenager in Emond's Field.
In an attempt to disrupt Aram's charms, Perrin comments on the mastiffs. Aram replies that they are trained in the Way of the Leaf, and then proceeds to describe the philosophy behind the Tinkers' way of life. What follows is a vigorous, if polite discussion of the Tinkers' pacifist philosophy. Elyas finally crossly remonstrates with Raen for attempting to convert Perrin and Egwene. Ila counters Elyas' harsh words with some of her own, but Raen intervenes. He then reminds Elyas that the Tinkers do not attempt to convert, they simply share; sometimes village young people decide to try their way of life. Elyas says to try that line of reasoning on a parent who has lost a child to the Tinkers.
Perrin defends his own point of view, which is simple: hit back but otherwise let be. Aram takes the opportunity to criticize Perrin, who criticizes right back. Egewne comes to Aram's defense, who then offers to show her the camp and take her dancing. She accepts.
Before they can take off, Ila tells Aram that dinner is ready, but Aram says that both of them will eat with his mother and they both happily run off.
Perrin stands up to make a scene, then thinks better of it and apologizes to Raen and Ila. Ila refuses the apology, naming Aram as the guilty party, while Raen observes that Aram is a troubled man who may not be suited to the Way of the Leaf.
Perrin asks what happens to a Tinker who cannot live the life of a Tinker. Raen replies that "The Lost go to live in villages." Ila adds that they can never be happy.
They finish dinner, and Raen and Elyas pull out pipes and fill them with tabac. They converse. We learn that Elyas camped with the Tinkers last spring. Perrin is about to fall asleep.
Raen relates a story making the rounds about a band of The People who were crossing the Aiel Waste. In the telling we learn that some people can cross into the Waste unmolested, like Tinkers and honest Peddlers and once upon a time, Merchants from Cairhien. We learn that the Aielmen avoid the Tinkers and don't let the Tinkers approach them. Raen explains that some young Aiel enter the Blight for various reasons. Two years ago The People encountered one such group. Ila volunteers that they were young women, and Elyas responds to Perrin's surprise to inform him that Aiel women may join the Maidens of the Spear, or Far Dareis Mai as an alternative to becoming wives.
Raen returns to the story and tells us that all of this group, save one, were dead, and she overcame her aversion to the Tinkers to deliver a message. Raen reveals that along with her group, they found one hundred dead trollocs. Elyas expresses great surprise to this, saying that trollocs do not like the Waste, calling it D'jevik K'Shar, the Killing Ground. Raen continues with the story by relaying the dying woman's message, verbatim: "Leafblighter means to blind the Eye of the World, Lost One. He means to slay the Great Serpent. Warn the People, Lost One. Sightburner comes. Tell them to stand ready for He Who Comes With the Dawn." Then she dies. Raen informs Perrin that Leafblighter and Sightburner are Aiel names for the Dark One. Raen then analyzes the message and the event.
Elyas adds that he doesn't understand the message, and Raen says that he shares it with Elyas because he is a friend, and has a different point of view because of his...he breaks off when Elyas motions him to do so, and ends the statement with ambiguity.
Perrin tries to puzzle out the message, recognizing the term Eye of the World from his dreams, but gets nowhere. He also wonders what Raen was about to say when Elyas cut him off.  About that time, Egwene returns, singing. He stands and greets her curtly, asking if she had a good time. Egewne replies that they were with his mother, and they danced and laughed, and she remarks that it has been so long since she danced.
Perrin replies that Aram reminds him of Wil al'Seen and she manages to keep him from charming her. She replies angrily that Aram ia a gently boy who is fun to be with. He apologizes and suddenly, Egwene throws her arms around Perrin and weeps. Perrin muses that Rand would know what to do in this situation. He then apologizes again and reassures her that he is glad she had fun dancing. She demands of him that he tell her they, meaning the rest of the group that they got separated from at Shadar Logoth, are alive. After some confusion, he does so. She kisses him lightly on the cheek, bids him good night and enters Raen's wagon with Ila. Perrin expresses confusion, presuming that Rand would have understood the situation, but he doesn't.
As the chapter closes, wolves howl at the sliver of a new moon. Perrin muses that tomorrow will be time enough to think about the wolves again, but we are told he was wrong. They waited to greet him in his dreams.
- Wil al'Seen
- Marin al'Vere as Mistress al'Vere
- Cenn Buie
- Dark One as Leafblighter and Sightburner
- Rand al'Thor
- Haral Luhhan
- Alsbet Luhhan
- Mat Cauthon
As it was, so shall it be, if we but remember, seek, and find. - Tinkers on their search for the 'song'.