WOTers assemble, yo! It’s a Wheel of Time Re-read!
Today’s entry covers Chapter 40-42 of Towers of Midnight, in which Perrin’s blacksmithing brings all the boys to the yard, and it is fucking awesome, y’all. Plus other stuff!
Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index is here, which has links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time in general, including the upcoming final volume, A Memory of Light.
This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
And now, the post!
Chapter 40: A Making
Perrin sits, mourning Hopper. At Faile’s approach, he whispers that he failed his task; she disagrees, but he feels he must do something with his anger and pain. He calls for Arganda and Gallenne to bring him a map of the Jehannah Road, and walks to where the farrier Aemin is working at the forge, feeling drawn to it, ignoring the small crowd of people following him. He asks Arganda and Gallenne where they would set up to ambush a large army on the road, and they show him. He sends for Grady and Neald, and then takes over the forge from Aemin, using his own hammer. He begins to work on horseshoes, reflecting on whether he can balance himself between the eternal present the wolves live in, and the concerns for the past and future that he must have as a man. Neald and Grady arrive, along with Masuri and the Wise Ones, and they send Sulin through a gateway to check on the Whitecloaks. Perrin realizes the horseshoes are not enough; he feels a need to create, and so begins working on something else. He is dissatisfied with the uneven heating of the forge, and Neald offers to help with that.
Perrin lost himself in the work. Forge the steel. All else faded. The rhythmic pounding of hammer on metal, like the beating of his heart. That shimmering metal, warm and dangerous. In that focus, he found clarity. The world was cracking, breaking further each day. It needed help, right now. Once a thing shattered, you couldn’t put it back together.
“Neald,” Grady’s voice said. It was urgent, but distant to Perrin. “Neald, what are you doing?”
“I don’t know,” Neald replied. “It feels right.”
Perrin continues to work, not sure what he is making, and suddenly Neald urgently calls for the Wise Ones to form a circle with him. Perrin feels something leaking from him into the thing he is making, and thinks it is perhaps his own worries and hopes. He thinks of his followers, and how he doesn’t want to lead them, but how he wants even less for someone else to lead them. He realizes that the thing he is making is a hammer, and exults in the rightness of it. He realizes that he wants to lead, because doing it himself was the only way to ensure it was being done right. He shapes an ornamentation in the side of the hammer, in the shape of a leaping wolf.
Perrin lowered his tools. On the anvil—still glowing with an inner heat—was a beautiful hammer. A work beyond anything he’d ever created, or thought that he might create. It had a thick, powerful head, like a maul or sledge, but the back was formed cross-face and flattened. Like a blacksmith’s tool. It was four feet from bottom to top, maybe longer, an enormous size for a hammer of this type.
The haft was all of steel, something he’d never seen on a hammer before. Perrin picked it up; he was able to lift it with one hand, but barely. It was heavy. Solid.
The ornamentation was of a crosshatch pattern with the leaping wolf stamped on one side. It looked like Hopper. Perrin touched it with a callused thumb, and the metal quieted. It still felt warm to the touch, but did not burn him.
He looks up, and is amazed at the size of the crowd watching him silently. Neald collapses to his knees, and the Wise Ones and Grady are equally exhausted. Perrin asks Wil if he’d obeyed Perrin’s order to burn all the wolfshead’s banners, and Wil confesses that he kept one. Perrin orders him to bring it, and then looks at the crowd.
“I have tried to send you away,” Perrin announced to the crowd. “You would not go. I have failings. You must know this. If we march to war, I will not be able to protect you all. I will make mistakes.”
He looked across the crowd, meeting the eyes of those who stood there. Each man or woman he looked at nodded silently. No regrets, no hesitations. They nodded.
Perrin took a deep breath. “If you wish this, I will accept your oaths. I will lead you.”
They cheered him. An enormous roar of excitement. “Goldeneyes! Goldeneyes the wolf! To the Last Battle! Tai’shar Manetheren!”
Perrin orders that the camp be roused and made ready for battle. Faile approaches, and he tells her, no more complaining; he will do what must be done. He asks Neald what he did; Neald replies that he is not sure, but that it felt right to put the weaves into the metal like he did. Perrin says that the hammer needs a name, and asks if anyone knows the Old Tongue for “he who soars.”
“Mah’alleinir,” Berelain said, stepping up from where she’d been watching.
“Mah’alleinir,” Perrin repeated. “It feels right.”
Sulin reports on where the Whitecloaks have made camp, and Perrin thinks of the vision of a flock of sheep running into the jaws of a beast. He sends orders for the army to prepare to Travel to the ridge above the Whitecloaks’ camp. Faile asks what he plans to do, and Perrin replies that it is time for him to lead, and walks away.
The tool he left behind was the hammer of a simple blacksmith. That person would always be part of Perrin, but he could no longer afford to let him lead.
From now on, he would carry the hammer of a king.
Faile watches him go, and wonders if Perrin had any idea what he’d looked like while forging that hammer, golden eyes glowing. Berelain comments that it has been centuries since a Power-wrought weapon has been made. Then she begs Faile to help her persuade Perrin not to attack the Whitecloaks. Faile is startled, and protests that Perrin would not do that, but Berelain asks if Faile is sure. Faile hesitates, but then is sure that Perrin would never do something so underhanded, and says so. Faile then comments that Berelain has terrible taste in men, referring to her infatuation with Galad, and opines that Berelain’s pursuit of Perrin is proof. Berelain insists that the Dragon Reborn had promised her one of his followers by implication when he rejected her for Elayne; Faile is sure that neither Rand nor Perrin think like that, but can see how Berelain arrived at the conclusion.
“I have given up on Perrin,” Berelain said. “I hold to my promise there. But it leaves me in a difficult situation. I have long thought that a connection to the Dragon Reborn is Mayene’s only hope in maintaining independence in the coming years.”
“Marriage isn’t only about claiming political advantages,” Faile said.
“And yet the advantages are so obvious that they cannot be ignored.”
Berelain goes on to declare that Galad’s relation to Elayne is the reason for her interest in him. Faile doesn’t buy it, but thinks that if it helps Berelain rationalize her crush on him (and keep her away from Perrin), she isn’t going to disagree. She agrees to help Berelain dissuade Perrin from attacking the Whitecloaks should it become necessary.
Perrin marches before an army that feels unified to him for the first time. Elyas approaches, and Perrin tells him that Elyas’s advice to him about throwing the axe away once he started to like it also applies to leadership.
“The men who don’t want titles should be the ones who get them, it seems. So long as I keep that in mind, I think I might do all right.”
He thinks that he might never be comfortable with his role as a lord, but that he has finally found his balance, and that his men seem more comfortable with him than before now that they know about the wolves. Elyas says he must leave, and Perrin gives his blessing for Elyas to go north with the other wolves, and wishes him good hunting. Elyas wishes him the same, and leaves. Perrin thinks of Aram, and mentally apologizes to him for failing him, but thinks he must look forward now.
“I’m Perrin Goldeneyes,” he said, “the man who can speak to wolves. And I guess that’s a good person to be.”
He kicked Stepper through the gateway. Unfortunately, Perrin Goldeneyes had some killing to do tonight.
Trom wakes Galad to report that Goldeneyes’s army has reappeared on the ridge above their camp, after eerily vanishing from their own camp before. Galad instructs him to rouse the men as quietly as possible, and Trom leaves. Galad wonders if he should surrender, but angrily rejects the notion. Byar enters, and says flatly that Galad has killed them all by allowing Aybara to go free from that farce of a trial. Galad replies that Aybara’s forces would have slaughtered them; Byar insists that the Light would have protected them, and Galad points out that if so it will do the same now.
“No,” Byar said, voice an angry whisper. “We have led ourselves to this. If we fall, it will be deserved.” He left with a rustle of the flaps.
Galad stood for a moment, then buckled on his sword. Recrimination and repentance would wait. He had to find a way to survive this day. If there was a way.
He strides out, planning strategy.
Perrin orders Alliandre and Berelain to stay out of the fight, and asks Faile to do the same. Faile worries that he really is intending to attack the Whitecloaks, and Berelain pleads with him not to do this, but Perrin only replies that he is doing what he must. Gaul approaches and reports that the Whitecloaks are aware of their presence and are preparing for battle. Perrin moves to the edge of the ridge, Berelain and Faile following, and suddenly the Whitecloak camp erupts with activity below. Perrin bellows for his forces to form up, and Faile is filled with dread until she realizes that Perrin is looking not at the Whitecloak camp, but the riverbed flanking its opposite side.
“My Lord,” Berelain said, moving her horse up beside him, sounding desperate. “If you must attack, could you spare the commander of the Whitecloaks? He might be useful for political reasons.”
“What are you talking about?” Perrin said. “The whole reason I’m here is to keep Damodred alive.”
“You…what?” Berelain asked.
“My Lord!” Grady suddenly exclaimed, riding nearby. “I sense channeling!”
Faile and the rest then see a huge army of Trollocs and Myrddraal appear on the riverbed. Perrin has Neald and Grady provide light, and observes that the Trolloc army looks like they weren’t expecting them.
“Well, men, you wanted to follow me to the Last Battle? We’re going to get a taste of it right here! Archers, loose! Let’s send those Shadowspawn back to the pit that birthed them!”
He raised his newly forged hammer, and the battle began.
Well, kids, you know what I’m going to have to do here. No way around it, nope, nosiree.
That’s right: it’s time to deploy the Big Sparkly Yay:
Because, seriously. SERIOUSLY, you guys. The hammer-forging scene in this chapter is a straight-up boot-stompin’ ass-kickin’ take-no-prisoners shit yeah throwback to the pure sensawunda awesomeness that made me fall in love with WOT in the first place.
That right there? That is what I’m TALKING about, people. Beautiful.
It is a Crowning Moment of Awesome complete with WOT’s signature marker on most of its CMOAs, i.e. wonderfully bastardized thievery from real-world legend and folklore. Because Mah’alleinir may not be pronounced precisely like “Mjölnir,” but I bet it’s close enough for Chris Hemsworth to feel a wee bit huffy about it if he were so inclined. (Though, I suspect Master Hemsworth is in reality probably a tad too busy doing stomach crunches to be concerned, because damn, but you know what I mean.)
(In case you’re curious, in my head I hear Mah’alleinir as “Mah-ah-len-nyeer,” while Mjölnir is traditionally pronounced (I think) as “Mee-ohl-neer.” Close enough, sez me!)
Though it’s not Perrin’s sole mythical shout-out as a character, his allegorical connection to Thor (the actual Norse god Thor, not the Marvel version) has been pretty blatantly present throughout the series. As my old Usenet compatriot Karl-Johan Norén noted back in the day: “[…] their roles and personalities are remarkably similar. Both are mostly connected to the common man, both have a good head but are slow to use it, and both are terrible in their anger, though Thor is much [quicker to lose] it than Perrin. Perrin’s hammer is a symbol for peace and building, but this trait is also present in Thor and Mjölnir, even though it is not readily present in the myths.”
I’ve probably said it many times over the course of this Re-read, but it bears repeating: I love this kind of thing. Playing with the mutability of legend, mirroring the way the various mythologies in the real world bleed into and echo each other, sometimes almost uncannily so. Taking a thing and connecting it to a larger thing, an archetype that cannot help but resonate no matter your personal beliefs or background – that’s epic fantasy at its absolute best. That’s the kind of thing I’m here for.
Also, all mythological and/or archetypal symbolism aside, the dramatically-staged forging of badass magical weapons is just never not going to be cool. Sometimes it really is the simple things.
And it certainly doesn’t hurt, resonance-wise, that the forging of Mah’alleinir also represents, for my money, the near resolution of Perrin’s entire character arc. By forging/choosing the hammer and at the same time officially accepting in his heart the mantle of leadership, Perrin has resolved two of the three central character conflicts that have plagued him
(and occasionally us) throughout the series. Which is, in academic terms, awesomesauce.
The third and final conflict, of course, is his status as a Wolfbrother. But that’s for a future chapter.
Then there’s this line of Perrin’s to Elyas, which I’ll quote again because I wanna:
“The men who don’t want titles should be the ones who get them, it seems. So long as I keep that in mind, I think I might do all right.”
This, despite being depressingly true, made me grin because it immediately reminded me of one of my favorite Douglas Adams quotes:
The major problem — one of the major problems, for there are several — one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.
To summarize: it is a well known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job. To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem.
Word, Douglas. I’ve never known if Robert Jordan read Douglas Adams, but judging by how many of his characters fall into the category of “having greatness thrust upon them,” often very much against their will, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had.
Also, Berelain blah blah something ooh look a battle!
Chapter 41: An Unexpected Ally
Galad and Bornhald run for their horses, waiting for Aybara’s archers to strike, but when the arrows fall, none of them strike inside the Whitecloak camp. Then someone screams that thousands of Trollocs are attacking from the road, and Galad and Bornhald ride for the edge of camp to see Trollocs being slaughtered by a hail of arrows from the heights. Galad shouts orders for deployment into a defensive formation. Byar gallops up, and shouts that Aybara has brought the Shadowspawn. He declares Aybara did the same thing at the Two Rivers, pretending to attack the Trollocs to gain their support, but Bornhald frowns and says that the tactic makes no sense; if Aybara can command thousands of Trollocs, why would he need the Children?
“His mind is sick, twisted,” Byar said. “If he didn’t have something to do with the appearance of the Trollocs, then how did both show up right now, at the same time?”
Well, there was a grain a truth in that, Galad had to admit.
Galad calls for the formation to continue, but orders some pike to the foot of the heights below Aybara’s forces, just in case.
As they watch the assault, Faile asks Perrin how he knew. Perrin explains his reasoning that the dome was intended to herd them down the Jehannah Road as much as it was to prevent them from escaping altogether, into an ambush; the Whitecloaks were just an unexpected distraction, and when Perrin’s army escaped, they decided to attack the Whitecloaks instead. He thinks there must be a Portal Stone nearby being used to bring the Trollocs in, and that there is a Forsaken behind the plan.
“One of the Forsaken?” Alliandre said, voice rising. “We can’t fight one of the Forsaken!”
Perrin glanced at her. “What did you think you were signing up to do, Alliandre, when you joined me? You fight for the Dragon Reborn in Tarmon Gai’don itself. We’ll have to face the Forsaken sooner or later.”
She paled, but to her credit, she nodded.
Grady reports that he still senses a man channeling, of medium strength, but he is not joining the battle; Grady thinks he is being used as transport, bringing more fists of Trollocs in. Perrin orders him to try and take the other channeler down, and then tells Alliandre, Berelain and Faile that it is time for them to leave. He says he won’t leave the Whitecloaks to be slaughtered the way they were willing to leave the Two Rivers. Faile kisses him and thanks him for being the man that he is, and leaves. Perrin is amazed she left without a fight, but turns his attention to the battle.
Perrin hefted Mah’alleinir. A part of him felt sorry to bathe the weapon in blood so soon after its birth, but the greater part of him was pleased. These Trollocs, and those who led them, had caused Hopper’s death.
He roars, and charges.
Galad fights, killing Trollocs easily, but knows that the Children are boxed in and not faring well, their usual cavalry tactics useless. Then a Trolloc cuts his horse out from under him and he falls, twisting his ankle. Bornhald and several others rescue him, and Bornhald says the Trollocs must have instructions to go after the horses. Galad realizes the Children’s lines are crumbling under a classic pincer move, and yells for men to rally to the northern flank. He realizes that his men’s previous experience in fighting bandits and city militias have not remotely prepared them for this, and some of them are breaking and running where they are not dying. He bellows for them to hold, but it doesn’t work.
Watching the disaster play out, his entire framework of understanding started to crack. The Children of the Light were not protected by their goodness; they were falling in swaths, like grain before the scythe.
[…] They weren’t cowards. They weren’t poor fighters. They were just men. Average. That wasn’t how it was supposed to be.
Perrin kills Trollocs with Mah’alleinir, and notices that the hammer seems to burn the Trollocs wherever it lands, though the weapon only feels warm to Perrin. Gallenne’s lancers charge, splitting the Trollocs down the middle, and the Two Rivers men follow up with a hail of arrows. Arganda approaches and makes enthusiastic remarks at how well it’s going, and Perrin refrains from pointing out that that’s because the Trollocs are still mostly concentrating on the Whitecloaks. He also notes that whoever is commanding the Trollocs has a human understanding of tactics. Perrin signals the channelers to stop picking off Fades and launch a full out assault on the Trollocs, earning his soldiers a rest. Perrin observes that the Whitecloaks are being slaughtered, hemmed in on all sides, and tells Gallenne that he’s going down to aid them. Gallenne points out that Perrin owes the Whitecloaks nothing, and a charge down the steep slope before them is dangerous as well as costing them the high ground. Perrin tells him he’s going anyway.
Memories of the Two Rivers flooded his mind. Blood. Death. Mah’alleinir grew warmer in his fist. “I won’t leave them to it, Gallenne. Not even them. Will you join me?” “
You are a strange man, Aybara.” Gallenne hesitated. “And one of true honor. Yes, I will.”
Wearily, Galad notes something changing in the Trollocs pressing his men, just before a hail of arrows rips into the enemy’s ranks. Then Galad sees a thousand horsemen charge down the hill, framed by fire falling down from behind them.
And at their front rode a bearded monster of a man with a large hammer held high. Perrin Aybara himself, above his head a banner flapping, carried by a man riding just behind. The crimson wolfhead.
Despite himself, Galad lowered his shield at the sight. Aybara almost seemed aflame from the tongues of fire that surrounded him. Galad could see those wide, golden eyes. Like fires themselves.
The horsemen crashed into the Trollocs that had surrounded Galad’s force. Aybara let out a roar over the din, then began to lay about him with the hammer. The attack forced the Trollocs back.
Galad yells orders to press the attack, taking advantage of Aybara’s disruption of the Trollocs. He is astonished to see that Aybara has committed his whole force to the assault, giving up the advantage of the high ground. Penned on both sides, the Trollocs grow desperate. Galad and Bornhald kill a giant Trolloc together, but then it falls on Galad. Galad’s ankle gives out, and he feels it snap as he falls. The other Children try desperately to reach Galad, but instead Aybara thunders up, and offers Galad his horse. Galad is embarrassed, but accepts. He sees that Aybara’s gamble had worked, and the Trollocs are beginning to break and flee.
Galad turned to Aybara, who was studying the Trollocs with keen eyes. “I assume you think that saving me will influence my decision about your judgment,” Galad said.
“It had better,” Aybara muttered.
Galad raised an eyebrow. It wasn’t the response he’d been expecting.
He remarks that his men find the timing of Aybara’s appearance suspicious, and Aybara replies that in a way the Trollocs were his fault, since they were supposed to attack him. He comments that they are lucky he came back, since the Whitecloaks have caused him almost as much grief as the Trollocs have. Galad is surprised to find himself amused by Aybara’s straightforwardness, and more surprised to find that he thinks of Aybara as an ally now, even if he still doesn’t fully trust him. He announces that he is ready to pronounce Aybara’s punishment now: five hundred crowns’ bloodprice to each of the families of the Children he slew, and “to fight in the Last Battle with all the strength you can muster.” Aybara studies him, and names it fair; they go to shake on it, but a figure behind him shrieks “Creature of darkness!” and pulls his sword, and Galad sees it is Byar.
Aybara spun; Galad raised his sword. Both were too slow.
But Jaret Byar’s blow did not fall. He stood with his weapon upraised, frozen, blood dribbling from his lips. He fell to his knees, then flopped onto the ground right at Aybara’s feet.
Bornhald stood behind him, eyes wide with horror. He looked down at his sword. “I…It wasn’t right, to strike a man in the back after he saved us. It…” He dropped his sword, stumbling back from Byar’s corpse.
Regretfully, Galad tells Bornhald that he did the right thing. Aybara says that Byar was looking for an excuse to kill him from the beginning. Bornhald gives him a hateful look and walks off. Aybara opines that Bornhald still thinks he killed his father; Galad counters that he does not, but he has hated Aybara for a long time and loved Byar longer.
He shook his head. “Killing a friend. It is sometimes painful to do what is right.”
Aybara urges him to seek care for his ankle, but Galad insists he will be all right with Aybara’s horse. Aybara decides to stay with him, claiming it is because he is fond of the horse, and Galad smiles.
Yeah, there’s basically nothing wrong in the slightest with this chapter. Swash swash buckle buckle PERRIN SMASH. Whoo!
Plus, The Beginning Of A Beautiful Friendship. Which I especially enjoyed, because the “enemies-to-allies” trope has always been one of my favorites.
Not to mention, a completely unexpected shocker of a Moment of Awesome – from Bornhald. Of all people! My jaw dropped the first time I read that, no lie. Good on ya, Bornhald. You’re still a dick, but it turns out you’re a lot more decent a dick than we had any right to expect you to be, and that’s pretty cool if you ask me.
Speaking of which, bye, Byar! Don’t let the cosmic door hit you on your deranged ass on the way out, dear!
So, I don’t know if Perrin’s rescue charge down the crazy steep ridge was actually meant to be a shout-out to the very similar tactic Gandalf and Éomer used against the Uruk-hai besieging Helm’s Deep in the film version of The Two Towers, but that was certainly the (totally awesome) visual that sprang to my mind. The fact that LOTR fans later
groused argued about the improbability of a successful cavalry charge down such a steep slope made Gallenne’s explicit objection about it here just that much more amusing. But hey, if you’ve got a wizard ta’veren with you, why not go for broke, eh?
I have to confess I felt a spike of annoyance that the three women (Berelain, Alliandre and Faile) were sent away from the field of battle, even as I acknowledge that in this instance it makes perfect sense, since none of the women in question are warriors, but (basically) civilians – VIP civilians, at that. And plus it’s not like there weren’t actual female warriors still there – i.e. the Wise Ones and the Maidens. This is by way of saying that I can have an unreasonable knee-jerk reaction just as much as anyone else can; the important thing, I hope, is that I try to recognize them for what they are, and discount them when they occur.
In other news: Aw, poor Galad, having his illusions of “right makes might” so summarily crushed. Welcome to the real world with the rest of us, kiddo, where bad things happen to good people (for a necessarily broad definition of “good people,” in the Whitecloaks’ case) no matter how much they don’t deserve it, and, even worse, welcome to a world where the reverse also holds true. I’m sure it was a lot more comforting the other way, but, well. Thems’ the breaks.
In the same vein, I appreciated that the Whitecloaks’ so-vaunted military prowess was exposed for the flimsy over-bleached window-dressing it is. Oh, so it turns out that bullying town militias for daring to disagree with your desire to randomly torture their citizens is not actually the equivalent of battle experience? Well golly gee, who would have thunk it?
I also loved the detail that Perrin’s hammer burns Shadowspawn. I sort of hope that that’s not the only thing the hammer can do, but I draw the line at hoping that it can call lightning, because for some reason I feel like that might be just a tiny bit too on the nose.
“I’ve rarely had such a pleasing battle, Aybara,” [Arganda] said. “Enemies to fell that you need not feel a sting of pity for, a perfect staging area and defensible position. Archers to dream of and Asha’man to stop the gaps! I’ve laid down over two dozen of the beasts myself. For this day alone, I’m glad we followed you!”
*snort* Aaand this is about as close as WOT ever gets to lampshade hanging, methinks. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I got a good chuckle out of it, at any rate. (Also, don’t click that link.)
Chapter 42: Stronger Than Blood
Gawyn is distracted from his Healing-induced exhaustion by the wonder of his bond to Egwene. She enters, bidding him to sit, and though she looks serene he can sense that she is overwhelmed by the events of the past night. Gawyn has come to realize that it is not that Aes Sedai do not feel anything, it is that they do not let their feelings show.
Looking at her face and feeling the storm inside, Gawyn was given—for the first time—another perspective on the Warder and Aes Sedai relationship. Warders weren’t just bodyguards; they were the ones—the only ones—who saw the truth of what happened within the Aes Sedai. No matter how proficient the Aes Sedai became at hiding emotions, her Warder knew there was more than the mask.
Egwene tells him they found Mesaana, masquerading as a Brown sister named Danelle, babbling like a child and soiling herself. She comments that something must be done about the Seanchan, and Gawyn counters that is not what is worrying her, but rather what to do about Gawyn’s disobedience. He says he could have ruined her plans; troubled, Egwene replies that he saved her life instead. Her safeguards had all been circumvented, and the messenger Gawyn sent had been murdered as well.
“You did the right thing tonight, but it still has me worried.”
“We’ll work it out,” Gawyn said. “You let me protect you, Egwene, and I’ll obey you in anything else. I promise it.”
She comments that given how Silviana had phrased her message, Egwene was worried he wouldn’t come back at all; Gawyn replies he nearly didn’t.
“What made the difference?”
“I had to learn how to surrender. It’s something I’ve never been good at.”
Egwene nodded, as if understanding.
Gawyn is amused at Egwene’s notion that he will have a separate room from hers, and Egwene blushes. He asks why they don’t get married, immediately, and is dismayed at how the suggestion unnerves her. But then she declares there is no way they can marry without inviting her parents and Elayne at the very least, and Gawyn smiles and insists on taking over the arrangements. She leaves, and Gawyn goes to look at the bodies of the assassins and Celark and Mazone. He promises the latter two that their families will know of their sacrifice, and then sees that the ter’angreal rings have not been removed from the assassins’ bodies. He thinks the Aes Sedai must not have realized what they were. He takes the rings and puts them in his pocket.
Lan can feel a distinct difference in the bundle of emotions in the back of his mind, and is sure he recognizes “that passion and kindness,” and that Nynaeve has taken his bond from Myrelle. He has reached the heavily fortified border of Kandor and Arafel to find a gathering of thousands waiting there, flying the flag of Malkier as well as other Borderlander flags. Lan demands to know who broke his oath, and Andere replies that no one needed to, as this is the only practical place Lan would pass through on his way. Lan growls and insists to everyone that they keep up the charade of not saying who he is; the others seem troubled, but do not object.
This was what he’d always worried would happen. Reclaiming Malkier was impossible. They would die, no matter how large their force. An assault? On the Blight? Ridiculous.
He could not ask that of them. He could not allow that of them. As he continued down the road, he became more resolute. Those brave men, flying those flags…they should join with the Shienaran forces and fight in a battle that meant something. He would not take their lives.
Lan cannot help feeling inspired by the Malkier garb on the waiting host, and thinks Bukama would have cried at the sight. Calls of “Tai’shar Malkier!” go up as Lan’s group passes and they see his hadori, but none of them seem to guess who he is. Lan wonders if he has the right to deny them the chance to fight with him, but decides he does, and keeps moving. He reaches the gates of the fortresses flanking the pass, and the guard there asks his purpose. Lan replies that they are traveling to Fal Moran for the Last Battle.
“You’re not going to wait here like the rest?” the guard said, waving a gauntleted hand at the gathered Malkieri. “For your king?”
“I have no king,” Lan said softly.
The guard agrees to waive the tariffs on their goods after Lan assures him they will go freely to Shienar’s troops, and lets them through. Lan is about to relax after getting through the pass when someone shouts his name from the lefthand keep. A young, richly-dressed boy runs out, and Lan recognizes Kaisel Noramaga, grandson of the Queen of Kandor. Kaisel is wildly excited that Lan has raised the flag of Malkier, and Lan denies it and says he plans to ride alone. Lan is aghast to learn that Prince Kendral, grandson of the Arafellin king, is there as well, and Kaisel says they both plan to “ride alone” with Lan. Lan tells him that they should both be with their respective parents.
“Our ancestors swore an oath,” the young man said. “An oath to protect, to defend. That oath is stronger than blood, Lord Mandragoran. It is stronger than will or choice. Your wife told us to wait here for you; she said that you might try to pass without greeting us.”
Lan asks how he knew it was him, and Kaisel nods at Mandarb. He replies that his wife said Lan might try to disguise himself, but was unlikely to give up his horse. Lan curses and blesses Nynaeve in the same breath, and tries to send love and frustration both to her through the bond.
And then, with a deep sigh, he gave in. “The Golden Crane flies for Tarmon Gai’don,” Lan said softly. “Let any man or woman who wishes to follow join it and fight.”
He closed his eyes as the call went up. It soon became a cheer. Then a roar.
And… hm. Gawyn’s thoughts on the nature of the Warder-Aes Sedai bond was interesting, not in that it really revealed anything we didn’t already know about the bond, but in that it explicitly stated something that anyone who’s been reading this series obviously knows, but which I’m not sure has ever been expressed in so many words. Which is, the enormous trust the Aes Sedai places in her Warder(s) to safeguard not only her physical well-being, but her emotional state as well – even if only in the sense that she trusts them not to let on to anyone that she actually has one.
Which is a pretty big deal to a coalition of people for whom maintaining serenity at all costs is (for better or worse) a core tenet. If you think about it, that must feel like a huge leap of faith for a sister, to put herself in a position where another person (a flighty man, for that matter, heh) will always know that her so-vital pose of calm is (more often than not) a total front.
I don’t know if we’ve ever established whether the nearly unshakeable loyalty pretty much every Warder we’ve ever come across displays toward his bonded Aes Sedai is an actual magical side-effect of the bond, or if it’s just the natural response of highly trained bodyguards who are then empathically linked to their wards, but either way it’s a darn good thing for the Aes Sedai’s sake it’s there. Otherwise, the possible repercussions give a whole new meaning to the term “emotional blackmail.” Yeesh.
He glanced to the side, to where the three assassins lay beneath sheets of their own, black-slippered feet sticking out the bottom. Two women and a man.
Another shameful knee-jerk reaction on my part, except in the opposite direction, where I was startled to realize two of the assassins had been female. Bad Leigh! No feminism biscuit! *grumble*
Oh, and I love that the whole Mesaana mystery of who she was impersonating is cleared up in one offhand comment. I don’t disapprove of this, mind you, I just found it amusing. And also vindicating, since way back in my WOTFAQ days I concluded that of the two major candidates for Mesaana’s identities favored by fans (Tarna Feir and Danelle), Danelle was the more likely of the two. Go me!
(Or, okay, go everyone who actually came up with all the arguments and counterarguments that pointed at Danelle as the most likely candidate, and go me for editing all that crap together. Which is sort of the same thing!)
This is a small note, but it bugged me so I’ll point it out: I really would have liked to see Egwene have a stronger reaction to Gawyn when he tells her he had to “learn how to surrender” to make his peace with himself and their situation. Because hearing the central teaching for channeling saidar come from someone who is decidedly not a saidar channeler should really have at least produced a startled blink on Egwene’s part, don’t you think? Or even a bit of reflection on how her lessons paralleled/mirrored Gawyn’s, hmm? That would have been nice, is all I’m saying.
Contrariwise to my frustration on that point, I liked very much that Gawyn’s talk of marriage unnerved Egwene, and we know why even if Gawyn doesn’t. That was well done.
And speaking of learning to surrender: YAY LAN HAS ALL THE PEOPLE.
I mean, we knew it would happen sooner or later, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to see it all unfold. And I love that Nynaeve’s hand is still apparent in it even though she’s not even there. I kind of wonder whether Lan should have had a stronger reaction to realizing that Nynaeve held his bond instead of Myrelle, but there was enough awesomeness going on here that I was willing to let it go.
And… well, yeah. Lan is on his way, with a proper army, and it is very cool, and… that is basically all I have to say about it. Yay!
And that seems to be about the sum of my eloquence for the nonce, kids, so we’ll stop here. Have a fabulous week, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!