WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT
The chapter title refers to the Borderlander saying about death being easier than duty. It is Lan’s and Perrin’s hard duty to face the past, accept their responsibilities and carry on. They will be better leaders and more balanced people for it. Sandwiched between their POVs is that of Galad, the perfect knight who has pretty much had the perfect run until now.
Mind you, none of the men's spirits are lighter than a feather.
The POV begins as a master and apprentice scene – Lan is pleased with Bulen’s progress, but thinks he talks too much.
Andere was the unnamed guard in Kandor whom Bukama berated in New Spring, Into Canluum. Nazar was in the same chapter:
Then a jut-nosed man named Nazar Kurenin rode in front of Bukama's eyes, and he did not blink. The young guard surely had been born after the Blight swallowed Malkier, but Kurenin, his hair cut short and wearing a forked beard, was twice Lan's age. The years had not erased the marks of his hadori completely.At this time Lan was about 25 years old, so Nazar was about 50 and had given up his hadori years earlier, since Lan remarked that the marks were still there years later. In this chapter Lan says Nazar “took it off when he was a lad.” This must mean when Lan was a lad. Nazar would have been 25 when Malkier fell.
New Spring, Into Canluum
Lan’s reluctance to lead others into battle and possibly to their deaths mirrors Perrin’s. Andere and Nazar say Lan isn’t their captain or king, and insist on their choice. Lan can’t have it both ways and is forced to accept their company. His group is a kind of reverse attrition and gradually erodes his refusal to be a king.
Everyone has the same humble breakfast porridge in Galad’s camp . He is conscious that elsewhere people starve.
Byar is gaunt and sunken-cheeked as though being consumed by a canker – not a physical illness, but a spiritual one. He is rotting within. Eyes are windows to the soul and Byar’s are sunken.
Byar suggests that if they beat Perrin, they can convince Alliandre she owes them and then can set up base in Ghealdan. Dismissively he says that the Last Battle could be months away. Byar claims he knows how to defeat Perrin’s farmers and their deadly longbows and staves. This is probably not a veiled reference to an ambushing force ahead, since Byar never shows shock that Shadowspawn are waiting at that place. Moreover, if Byar is aware that the force is Shadowspawn, and expects it to attack Shadowspawn Perrin and his Darkfriend farmers, he is never appalled when it turns on the Whitecloaks instead. I think he is spouting arguments that Graendal planted in his mind, subtly mixed with his own beliefs. According to Sammael, she is the mast of this sort of Compulsion as well as the mind-wipe type.
Galad is undecided whether it was coincidence that Trollocs and Perrin arrived in Two Rivers at same time. He decides to meet Perrin.
Perrin rejects the traditional breakfast of bread and cheese. He wants meat. It’s quite a contrast with Galad’s breakfast. Both are breaking with tradition: Perrin with what it is customary for people to eat, Galad with what it is customary for the privileged to eat.
The conflict between Perrin’s wolfish and human side shows here and revolts Faile to a degree. Perrin doesn’t know why Faile rejects golden belts, because she has yet to explain her days as gai’shain. She sticks with practical leather belts, symbolising that she now leads by example instead of demanding the privileges of her birth.
The night Hopper died still haunts Perrin. It was when he killed people for the first time.
Was this part of being ta'veren? Could Perrin not escape that night, years ago?...The Whitecloaks would not leave him alone, and the Pattern—burn it!—was going to keep looping them into his path until he dealt with them.This is the first of his issues that must be dealt with; then Faile/Berelain (mirrored by Bain and Chiad driving Gaul to distraction here with their games), then Isam and the dream, then leadership. After that, Perrin makes his masterpiece. His issues with Berelain and Galad are resolved – and they join together, oddly.
Towers of Midnight, Lighter Than a Feather
Until this book Perrin’s role to the Aiel is an ambivalent one:
Among the Aiel, nearly every man—all but blacksmiths—would pick up a spear if they were attacked.Yet Perrin is a Blacksmith among them who fights with weapons – any weapon but a sword. The Aiel would be content with that. Soon, he will forge an amazing weapon and an amazing army, and from this, power-wrought weapons will be re-invented.
Towers of Midnight, Lighter Than a Feather
If the Whitecloaks hadn’t captured his camp followers, Perrin might have avoided them, but he will parley with the Children to get his people back.
For all three men, the choices they are making here set up their achievements for the remainder of the series.