Monday, May 17, 2010

Crossroads of Twilight Read-through #1: Darkhounds on the Wild Hunt

By Linda

In Crossroads of Twilight we see that the Wild Hunt is on, the Darkhounds coursing with the Dark One’s purpose driving them, even though he is not among them physically. They make a circuit of Perrin’s camp but he is not their quarry. As far as we know, no one has died of Darkhound wounds in the last three books, and the Wild Hunt is still ongoing.

The hounds make their first appearance onscreen in The Dragon Reborn when Rand balefired one. Soon after, a pack was apparently sent by Sammael to hunt Perrin and perhaps Moiraine in Illian. Darkhounds are black dogs as big as small ponies with eyes and teeth that shine like metal in the dark. We have never seen them in full daylight. They smell of brimstone (burned sulphur) – a whiff of hell – and typically come in packs of ten to twelve.

Apart from avoiding daylight, they also dislike running or falling water:

“Darkhounds like clear, moonlit nights best, blacksmith, rain the least. A good thunderstorm can keep them away completely.”

- The Dragon Reborn, Hunted

They run faster than horses and for longer.

“You can never outrun the Darkhounds, blacksmith,” Lan said, “not on the fastest horse. Always, you must face them and defeat them, or they will pull you down.”

- The Dragon Reborn, Hunted

They left no print on even the softest dirt, only on stone, and they would not stop until you faced and defeated them or put running water between you. Crossroads [or graveyards, Crossroads of Twilight, The Scent of a Dream] were supposed to be particularly dangerous places to meet them, and the time just after sunset or just before sunrise.

- The Shadow Rising, Gateways

According to Lan:

“There hasn’t been a Darkhound seen south of the Mountains of Dhoom since the Trolloc Wars.”

- The Dragon Reborn, Shadowbrothers

Hopper’s assertion that the wolves have not seen Darkhounds in a long time (The Dragon Reborn, Shadowbrothers) is consistent with this. Yet later Masuri said she had managed to cross the trails of seven different packs before Crossroads of Twilight, and presumably these were not all in the Blight.

Lan says that Darkhounds are almost as dangerous as Myrddraal, and harder to kill (The Dragon Reborn, Shadowbrothers). The danger of Darkhounds is in their lethally venomous bite, saliva and blood. Moiraine could Heal a minor quantity of Darkhound saliva on a victim, but doubts she could Heal an actual bite (The Shadow Rising, Gateways). Darkhounds are quite capable of biting through wood or metal.

In The Dragon Reborn, one Darkhound was killed by an arrow and the other nine were balefired. By The Shadow Rising, Darkhounds became much harder to kill, being able to reconstitute if killed simply.

Slowly, the dead dogs and their heads were melting, settling into pools of liquid shadow that quivered slightly, as if alive. Their blood, fanned across the floor, trembled. Suddenly the smaller pools flowed across the floor in viscous streams to merge with the larger, which oozed away from the mosaic to mound higher and higher, until the three huge black dogs stood there once more, slavering and snarling as they gathered massive haunches under them… The Darkhounds had oozed away from that sign before re-forming. Under this sign will he conquer.

- The Shadow Rising, Gateways

Possible explanations are that they were either warded by the Forsaken who sent them, or, perhaps more likely, the Dark One’s increasing access to the world enabled him to augment the Darkhounds’ powers or protection. Balefire is necessary to completely kill them.

The ancient Aes Sedai sign is symbolic of the One Power of the Creator and of the two halves and genders working together to make balance, so the Darkhounds’ ‘reaction’ to the sign may have been real. As with other constructs of the Shadow, the True Power they contain is antithetical to the One Power.

Rand speculates that Darkhounds may not breathe since he could hear the heartbeats of the ones that attacked him in Rhuidean, but not their breath (The Shadow Rising, Gateways).

After The Shadow Rising, there is no further evidence of Darkhounds until Crossroads of Twilight when they are sensed near Perrin’s camp.

Masuri, one of the Aes Sedai with Perrin, ‘happens’ to know a great deal about Darkhounds. Why does Perrin ‘need’ a Darkhound expert with him? Two experts really, since Elyas provided information from a wolves’ point of view. Considering what Masuri divulged, she is probably not Black Ajah. Masuri quotes ancient books that refer to large numbers of Darkhound packs. She has studied Darkhounds and says each pack is identifiable, having its own scent. Masuri has personally encountered eight now. Is this why she is important to Perrin?

Like all Shadowsworn, Darkhounds are contentious among themselves and two packs will attack each other if they meet rather than their quarry (The Dragon Reborn, Hunted). Perhaps this feature could be turned to advantage. When large numbers of packs were around during the Trolloc Wars and the War of Power, they must have been controlled in some way to prevent them rending each other – by Forsaken? (Myrddraal are required to make Trollocs effective fighters.)

The scent of Darkhounds, even the thought of them, induces true horror and terror in wolves and makes even Perrin’s skin crawl. This is because Darkhounds have the corrupted souls of wolves and wolves are especially vulnerable to them:

“They were wolves, once. The souls of wolves, anyway, caught and twisted by the Shadow. That was the core used to make Darkhounds, the Shadowbrothers. I think that’s why the wolves have to be at the Last Battle. Or maybe Darkhounds were made because wolves will be there, to fight them…
They avoid talking about Darkhounds, though, and they avoid Darkhounds, too. A hundred wolves could die trying to kill one Shadowbrother. Worse, if they fail, the Darkhound can eat the souls of those that aren’t quite dead yet, and in a year or so, there’d be a new pack of Shadowbrothers that didn’t remember ever being wolves. I hope they don’t remember, anyway.” Perrin reined in, though he itched to keep moving. Shadowbrothers. The wolves’ name for Darkhounds had taken on a new grimness. “Can they eat a man’s soul, Elyas? Say a man who can talk to wolves?” Elyas shrugged.

- Crossroads of Twilight, Whirlpools of Colour

Perhaps Masuri will work out a way to kill Darkhounds or protect wolves (and Perrin and Elyas) from them. Currently only balefire can kill Darkhounds and not many channellers know that weave or are willing to use it. A single channeller has to be very strong, almost as strong as Moiraine to make it work, although they can link, of course. However it is a destructive, or even sinful, weave with terrible consequences for the Pattern and Creation, so an alternative way of killing Darkhounds would be a good idea. Since Masuri is a Borderlander, she should know that wolves fight Shadowspawn and work to protect them.

Perrin and Masuri both deduced the Darkhounds checked out the camp to report on Perrin to the Shadow.

The pack that circled Perrin’s camp is unusually large – perhaps as many as fifty and extremely impatient with their hunt. Their quarry has apparently been eluding them for some time.

The Darkhounds went on in a southerly direction (Crossroads of Twilight, The Scent of a Dream), although they may not be coursing in the right direction, since we have no further news of the Hunt being successful. (Or of someone dying of Darkhound-induced wounds).

If their quarry is eluding the Darkhounds, it either Travels (or is moved by someone else's Travelling weave), or moves by boat (and thus over running water), or has side-stepped the Pattern and is almost outside it (like Fain/Mordeth has).

So who are the Hounds hunting?

  • Someone not of the big Three (whose ta'veren influence can be sensed in the Pattern by some Forsaken and shouldn't need hunting as such - and anyway the Darkhounds did not attack Perrin);

  • someone who doesn’t know balefire;

  • someone who is hard to find, get near and survive; and

  • someone the Shadow wants dead.

I think I’ll put my money on Fain/Mordeth. The Darkhounds on the Wild Hunt hunting a wild card and ex Hound of the Dark One. It seems appropriate.

The real world myths and legends behind the Darkhounds and the Wild Hunt are discussed in the Darkhounds essay originally written for the Wotmania FAQ and now released in the Reference Library.


t ball said...

If they are chasing Fain I'd love to see that battle onscreen. Do we have any idea where Fain is right now? He's been awol for some time.

Anonymous said...

What not scouting out a future battle, for the Last Battle instead?

Unknown said...

Regarding Perrin's question to Elyas:

“Can they eat a man’s soul, Elyas? Say a man who can talk to wolves?” Elyas shrugged.

Could this be what turned Luc / Isam into slayer?

Anonymous said...

yay, back to the read-through ! thanks a lot !

Anonymous said...

You assume that all Darkhounds are now T-1000s like the one that attacked Rand but there's no evidence that that's the case.

Oh, it's definitely possible. But it's also possible that the majority of Darkhounds are "normal" and there's simply a rare breed of superior Darkhounds, perhaps one of Aginor's last creations.

When Rand told Taim about them he said "some" need Balefire to kill them IIRC, so he takes that view.

They also could have been found in a stasis box, though that is less likely.

- Rurouni_Kenshin

Anonymous said...

This also assumes there is a new breed of DH at all, and that the fact Rand couldn't kill those in Rhuidean short of using balefire is not the result of something specific that was done to those darkhounds and those darkhounds only, because whoever sent them had sent them against a channeller.

Darkhounds would be fairly useless against a channeller being trained by Asmodean and who could well have Asmodean with him when they attacked. Darkhounds were not made to hunt and kill channellers. These ones were "special" in some way.

Their weird "resurrection" could also be the result of a bubble of evil.

Personally, I think the wolves tipping Perrin with obscure clues about shadowbrothers and the last hunt was a big clue about what it's all about, as was the fact Jordan had this happen in Perrin's story line in the first place. Those darkhounds aren't hunting down any human character, and I doubt they're the only band roaming the country right now. Those darkhounds are hunting down and killing all the packs of wolves before TG. That's why the pack is large, and that's why they were hunting in the forests in the middle of nowhere, and that's why only Perrin has crossed path with a pack at the moment: wolves don't come close to humans.

They circled Perrin's camp for a while because they felt the two wolfbrothers in that camp and it smelled close to their prey and it puzzled them. But these two were not wolves they decided in the end, so they moved on.

IMO, Jordan was merely setting the stage for stuff that will happen in TOM in Perrin's story line post-Malden, just like he brought back Galad in COT/KOD so his meeting with Perrin in the last book wouldn't happen out of the blue. This also worked as a red herring that Semirhage had sent those DH to hunt down Tuon and Mat in Altara.

Perrin's the Wolf-King now, and soon he's gonna have to make the Shadowbrothers and the wolves his business. Even Brandon's clues in TGS and the cover synopsis (that hints at Slayer, the other wolf killer, being tied to Perrin once more) speak of the wolfbrother stuff making a "big comeback" now that Faile's rescue is over. Their "shadowbrothers" will be part of it, I bet.

Anyway... that's my theory.

I really don't see what they could have to do with Fain. It's a far-fetched theory. They were in a forest in east northern Altara. Why would they hunt Padan Fain there, of all places?

Linda said...

R-K: Rand told Taim that some need balefire because the early ones he encountered didn't.

With so many people with 'special skills' of one kind or another on the side of the Light, a new improved version of the Darkhound seems like a good idea.

'Anonymous 4': I did suggest the Darkhounds in Rhuidean might have been warded by a Forsaken.

If the Darkhounds are hunting and killing wolves, why would they be frustrated and extremely impatient with their hunt? By your account it would be going well and they would expect it to have gone on this long.

Darkhounds can't use gateways, although they could be guided through the Ways by Myrddraal and Trollocs. Otherwise they have to rely on their own legs. The hounds have come from Andor/Murandy/Ghealdan and are headed south. Do they know where their quarry is? Their mood suggests not.

It's not inconceivable that Fain is in the south or southeast. This is the area Rand has a lot of his forces and returns to from time to time. Also, if Fain wants to follow up on an earlier idea of his to manipulate the Seanchan, they're in this region too.

t ball said...

Fain. Perhaps the trollocs the Seanchan ran into in Altara are related to the hunt for Fain?

Anonymous said...

About the impatience of the DH: Why do you assume that if they're after the wolves their hunt is going well? Haven't you noticed the wolves in the south were very elusive lately, and even in the middle of the forest they were not sending feelers to Perrin and Elyas recently? They also know about the DH being on the hunt. It's perfectly possible the wolves of Altara are eluding that DH pack.

About Fain you're overlooking a series of things that undermine your ideas:

- Isam who's tracking him must have figured out by now Fain is using the Ways, meaning it's totally pointless to send DH to find him as he'll elude them with ease and they will loose his trail whenever he enters the Ways. And there's no destination to send them to, and they can't use gateways... so what's the point? What makes you think Moridin believed Isam can't deal with Fain on his own, when he reflected on Isam's hunt for Fain around the same time? The Westlands are a really big place. It calls for another sort of hunter, and the shadow already has an hunter on Fain, and it's Slayer. What makes you think Moridin believed Isam can't deal with Fain on his own, when he reflected on Isam's hunt for Fain around the same time? He never said "whether Isam or the DH packs would succeed", he mentionned only Isam.

- Why would DH hunt down Fain in the middle of forested country, far from every city?

- Fain's location wasn't unknown at the time of CoT. He was in Far Madding that he reached from Cairhien. He was nowhere near Altara and to the Shadow his last known location was the north-west, not the South, let alone the south-east.

- Your Seanchan idea doesn't work either. You forget we've gone a long way in Tuon and Suroth's story line and there's been not a single sign of Padan Fain.

The fact the Shadow seeks to eliminate the wolves might be the overlooked detail from book 4, when it began (Slayer, in the TR). We still don't really know why, and there's a ta'veren meant to lead the wolves to TG. Beside, this would be integral to ToM that will have the return of the wolfbrother stuff, and would explain why Brandon mentionned that important and largely overlooked detail at all. That could also explain what makes Slayer return to pester Perrin, especially if the reason why Perrin has decided to camp in a forested area instead of seeking a city is because the wolfpacks have started to gather for the Last Hunt around him....

As for Fain, the most likely scenario if Jordan has stopped to make him go in circles and he'll finally gain a powerbase fast, and at a good location to get involved in Caemlyn is obvious: the big news Fain would have heard in FM is that Roedran was mobilizing an army. He knows of Roedran, easy to influence and spineless, and not terribly intelligent. That's where Fain has gone, IMO. Lugard will be his neo-Shadar Logoth. It was halfway there even without him....

Linda said...

Slayer hunts wolves as a sideline. The Darkhounds could be doing the same.

No I haven't forgotten that there are no signs of Fain. There's no sign of many things.

Did the Shadow know that Fain was in Far Madding until he attacked people there?

Anonymous said...

"Slayer hunts wolves as a sideline."

You couldn't prove this anymore than one could prove Slayer's day job wasn't to set in motion the hunt for the wolves before TG. It's all a matter for speculation and intuition at this point, but I'll point out Jordan has seen fit to remind us of the wolf killing business of Slayer again in WH, the wolf killings are his main connection to Perrin, and killing wolves is even why he got named Slayer in the first place. All we know is that he does kill wolves and enjoys that a lot. Nothing proves it's just a hobby to him and not one of his main services to the Shadow, what he does when he's not asked to go kill people. A lot of people enjoy their job. The very large DH pack(s) now showing up may even be a sign of all his good work...

Beside the "wolf stuff" explains nicely why Slayer gets involved again with Perrin in TOM, as the cover blurb reveals.
"Did the Shadow know that Fain was in Far Madding until he attacked people there?"

Maybe, maybe not, but the Shadow must at least have figured out by now Fain is able to vanish suddenly and reappear elsewhere (and there's not dozens of ways he could do that), which makes following his trail the way DH would have to do totally useless, and it's rather a hunter who can jump from place to place who's been tasked to find him.

None of this makes it any more plausible that a large pack of DH in the middle of the Altaran northern forest was hunting down Padan Fain. That's a completely weird place for DH to be hunting for Fain or his trail.. unless the Shadow has dozens and dozens such huge packs hunting Fain down everywhere, which sounds far fetched.

For many books now, the Wheel has been forcing Perrin to remain in the forests. Rand's orders forced him to hide in the forests to reach Masema as secretely as he could. Faile's kidnapping prevented him from going back to Rand with Masema promptly and leave the forests. Now it's Masema's murder that removes the urgency to return to Rand, and the fatigue of his Asha'man and the duty of sending off the refugees that force Perrin to remain in the wilderness. Why does he camp in the woods of Ghealdan near a statue off the road for weeks and weeks? Why does Rand seemed to think in TGS Perrin wasn't stranded but doing what he needs to do in the wilderness? The gathering of the wolves to their Wolf King has started, that's why. Perrin is waiting for the southern wolf packs to come to him before he brings them north. That's why he stays in the wilderness, why he must at last deal with his wolfbrother demons, why the slayer of wolves is to be involved with him again (from the cover blurb) and he will even have with him now the wolf-hater Byar of the wolf-hating WC, who started hating Perrin all the way back in EOTW because of his connection to the wolves. All the wolf associated stuff seems to be coming together, wolves and foes alike.

Fanatic-Templar said...

I seem to remember from The Eye of the World that Darkhounds aren't the only Shadowspawn halted by running water... I may be mistaken, but wasn't that one of their goals in running towards the river from Shadar Logoth? It might be a common weakness for Shadowspawn.

As to the Darkhounds' prey, I would also suspect it is Fain. I remember someone (possibly Etzel?) posting a theory that Slayer's wolf-hunting was actually responsible for creating a new Darkhound pack. There's quite a bit of similarity between the Darkhounds and Slayer, they're hunting elusive prey, their connection with wolves, their being formed from the corrupted souls of the dying... so if that theory was correct, this might be Slayer's pack. It would also tie in to the Shadow prophecy in the verse regarding Slayer - "The hunt is now begun. The Shadow's hounds now course, and kill" Although I don't really trust the Shadow Prophecy to be real prophecy.

Linda said...

That's true about the running water, Ben. Trollocs for instance don't like it either.

The Shadow's prophecy has twisted truth in it, I think.

Both times we've seen Slayer for more than a brief glimpse - the Two Rivers and Far Madding - he hunted wolves in TAR when off duty. That's why I think they're a side line for him. What happens to their souls depends on what other gifts Slayer has. He was given many by his own account.

I agree that he has ties to Darkhounds as well as to Perrin and the Wolves.

Linda said...

Slayer's opponent is Perrin (and perhaps Lan, though he is minor). I believe you have said this yourself, Anonymous. Slayer has also been given other commands by Forsaken since Winter's Heart. So finding Fain for the Naeblis is far from Slayer's top priority. This to me is an indication that something else is doing that. Perhaps this pack of Darkhounds.

I do not think Fain is near any great city. We have been in most of them in the last couple of books and there has been no hint of Fain being there.

As you said youself, Fain can travel the Ways with impunity and could easily have entered a Waygate in the Far Madding area, which had a great city once and therefore an Ogier grove, after events in Winter's Heart, or one in the Spine of the World, or Tear. Moving through the Ways, Fain could be anywhere by now. My view is that he is not in a city.

Laural H said...

Rand balfiring the darkhounds in Rhuidean is tFoH, not tSR.