The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: Towers of Midnight, Part 29

Make a wish and yell my name incomprehensibly into a rainstorm, WOT guys and gals, because it’s a Wheel of Time Re-read!

Today’s entry covers Chapter 56 through the end of Towers of Midnight, in which HOLY CRAP WE’RE AT THE END OF THE SECOND-TO-LAST BOOK WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN WHY WAS I NOT TOLD O THE HUMANITY

Uh. Yes. That.

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!

Before we polish off this puppy, Scheduling Notes!

As you may have noticed, this post finishes off Towers of Midnight, the last currently published novel in the Wheel of Time series, and therefore after this there is, well, nothing to re-read until the fourteenth (!) and final (!!!) novel in the series, A Memory of Light, comes out this coming January (!!!!!!!).

Therefore, the Wheel of Time Re-read will (rather logically) be going on hiatus until such time as AMOL is actually, you know, out and people have had a chance to read it i.e., um, Februaryish, probably. More on that as it develops.

The point being, no Re-read for a while after this, kids.

HOWEVER.

As is my wont, I happen to have in my hot little hands an advance copy of said final novel in the series. And as is also my wont, I will be providing your hot little… er, eyes a completely, and probably incredibly frustratingly, spoiler-free advance review of said novel, right here on Tor.com.

So needless to say, I advise you to watch this space, riiight about where you’d normally be getting a Re-read post, because I feel safe in saying that even without spoilers, my review is probably going to be fairly epic. In the flailing, if nothing else.

Your Moral Being: WATCH THIS SPACE.

(For the record, BTW, as of the writing of this post I have not yet read a single word of that advance copy. Any mad props and/or incredulous stares for my heroic restraint in this regard will be nobly accepted. And yes, that also means I have given myself one week to read and review a ~900-page novel. And yes, I am insane, thank you for playing.)

Right!

And also before we polish off this puppy, let’s have our traditional last-post look at the cover art!

And… hmm.

Well, it’s… accurate? In that, that’s pretty much exactly what happened in that scene?

Except I notice that Mat is not wearing his foxhead medallion, which then leads me to remember that the medallion was never actually mentioned in that entire sequence, so it probably doesn’t matter, except that Elayne’s thoughts in her last chapter make it clear that Mat took the original medallion back, so he does have it in his possession, but then again it probably just doesn’t get mentioned because the snakes and foxes don’t channel so why would it be relevant, but still, it should probably be there in the picture because even if it was of no use I can’t imagine that Mat just left it in a drawer or whatever, because it’s kind of important to him, yo, but then again maybe he did leave it because it was after all a gift from the foxes in the first place and maybe he didn’t want them to take it back or something, but then if that was the case he wouldn’t have taken the ashanderei either, and obviously he did do that, thank God, so maybe I’m really just completely overthinking this and it’s just under his shirt or something, and also this entire paragraph has been one giant run-on sentence, hasn’t it.

Riiight, and this was supposed to be an art critique, not stream of consciousness fan-wanking bullshit, jeez, Leigh. Okay, and… dammit, I also just noticed that Mat is not wearing a scarf in the picture, and yet there is no hanging scar on his neck. See, this is why being an overly observant fan sucks sometimes.

But, um, I know that the artist was pretty sick when he was doing this commission, so nitpicking on the accuracy of the details seems petty? And… um.

Crap. Look, I’m just going to guiltily duck my head and mutter that the art is not to my taste and really never has been (even though I still do love the architecture and lighting on the TFOH cover to bits), but just because I don’t like it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not to someone else’s taste. Which clearly it is, because Darrell K. Sweet had a decades-long career in providing cover art for fantasy novels and who am I to say that ~fortyish years of publishing house art directors were all wrong, right?

And even having said that it’s not my bag, I still think it’s a shame that Mr. Sweet did not get to finish out providing the covers for the entire series. And that by all accounts he was a wonderful man and will be sorely missed.

Right, and so that was deeply uncomfortable, and so now we move on to actually Polishing Off This Puppy, which now that I’ve said it three times I’ve realized is in fact a kind of really disturbing turn of phrase. Yay?

Yep, my mind: officially lost. Moving on! To the finish line!

 

Chapter 56: Something Wrong

What Happens
Gawyn enters Egwene’s tent, dressed in plain clothing under his Warder’s cloak, to report that Elayne’s army is entering the field and she is on her way to visit. Egwene senses he is troubled, and Gawyn tells her that Aybara has not agreed to meet with her. She says that Elayne said he might be “difficult,” and Gawyn replies that he thinks he’s going to take al’Thor’s side, adding that his (huge) army has Whitecloaks in it. Egwene comments that that doesn’t make it seem likely that he’s going to side with Rand, and Gawyn points out that it doesn’t make it seem likely that he’s going to side with her either.

“Egwene… Galad leads the Whitecloaks.”

“Your brother?”

“Yes.” Gawyn shook his head. “This many armies, this many loyalties, all rubbing against one another. Aybara and his force could be a spark that sends us all up like a firework.”

Egwene says it will be better when Elayne settles in, but Gawyn worries that that al’Thor isn’t even coming, that this is all a distraction. Egwene disagrees, and says she is sure that a part of Rand knows he shouldn’t break the seals. Gawyn nods, and Egwene marvels at the changes in him, at how he is her partner now rather than her opponent. She knows how much she needs that, with the opposition from the Hall and the delicate balance she had to maintain there. They go to meet Elayne.

Gawyn rose, moving smoothly. The three rings he wore on a chain around his neck rattled as he moved; she’d have to ask him again where he’d gotten those. He had been oddly closemouthed about them.

Outside, she asks Gawyn about a new, smaller force (five to ten thousand) gathering below the ruins on the northern side of the field, and Gawyn tells her they seem to be farmers mostly, gathering on their own. He assumes al’Thor sent them, and she instructs him to have scouts watch them. Egwene sees Elayne’s procession coming toward the Tower’s camp, and they move to meet it. Egwene reflects that Elayne had taken her time, but was here at last, along with Darlin’s Tairens and a large contingent of Illianers. Elayne had the Cairhienin and the Band of the Red Hand; Egwene had sent an offer to King Roedran of Murandy, but does not know if he will come.

Even without him, however, a considerable number of the world’s nations were represented here, particularly since the flags of Ghealdan and Mayene could be seen among Perrin’s armies. She would have to contact their two rulers and see if she could sway them to her way of thinking. But even if not, surely what she had gathered would be enough to convince Rand to change his plans. Light send it was enough. She didn’t want to think of what would happen if he forced her hand.

Gawyn suddenly freezes, and then dashes toward Elayne’s party at a run. Egwene sees him fall to his knees before an older woman with red-gold hair beside Elayne, and realizes this must be Morgase. Her spies had reported the rumor that Morgase was alive, but she had wanted to confirm it before telling Gawyn. She stays back so her presence does not interfere with their reunion, and as she waits, suddenly the clouds pull away, leaving a blue sky overhead. Egwene sees Elayne turn and look toward Perrin’s camp.

He’s come, then, Egwene thought. And the calm is here. The brief moment of peace before the storm that destroys.

Androl stands with a small group (Emarin, Canler, and Evin) in a secluded grove of trees in the Black Tower grounds, supervising as they try and fail to form gateways. Evin encourages Androl to try himself, as he is the best with gateways. Androl does so, but the weave falls apart on him just as it had the others. Emarin comments that it is as if something wants to keep them here. Androl instructs them to try it in other places within the perimeter, secretly, and the others nod and disperse. Androl goes to where Norley is standing, and asks if he met with Mezar. Norley answers that he did, but it wasn’t really Mezar.

“Oh, it has Mezar’s face, right enough. But it’s not him. I can see it in his eyes. Trouble is, whatever the thing is, it has Mezar’s memories. Talks right like him. But the smile is wrong. All wrong.”

Androl shivered. “It has to be him, Norley.”

“It ain’t. I promise you that.”

“But—”

“It just ain’t,” the stout man said.

Androl thinks of how Mezar had returned claiming that Logain was well and all would be resolved with Taim, but Androl had sensed then that something was off about the man. And then Taim had raised Mezar to full Asha’man, and where he was once fiercely loyal to Logain, Mezar was spending all his time with Taim’s lackeys now. Norley says it is getting bad, and thinks they should leave, but Androl tells him they would never get past the guard posts, and gateways don’t work. Norley asks what they are to do, then, and Androl tells him to get everyone still loyal to Logain moved into one barrack. Norley comments that that will be a little obvious, and Androl replies that the division already is obvious.

“But what are you going to do?”

Androl took a deep breath. “I’m going to find us some allies.”

Androl heads through the village, seeing Mezar on the way and confirming for himself what Norley had said about his smile seeming wrong.

Something was deeply wrong, something not-quite-alive inside those eyes. This didn’t seem to be a man, but a parody of one. A shadow stuffed inside human skin.

Light help us all, Androl thought, hurrying by.

He argues with himself about the wisdom of going to women of the Red Ajah, but considers that at least they would not be on Taim’s side, and goes to one of the huts where the White Tower contingent is housed. He knocks, and a plump Red sister answers. He says that he’s heard she wants to leave the Black Tower. She asks if his M’Hael has changed his mind, hopefully, but Androl tells her no, but she is not the only one who wants to leave this place. He sees distrust on her face, and steps forward.

“Something’s wrong in this place. Something worse than you understand. Once, long ago, men and women who worked the Power strove together. They were stronger for it. Please. Hear me out.”

She stood for a moment longer, then pulled the door open. “Come in, quickly. Tarna—the woman I share this hut with—is away. We must be done before she returns.”

Androl stepped up into the building. He didn’t know whether he was stepping into the pirate’s brig or the lionfish’s mouth. But it would have to do.

Commentary
Go, Pevara and Androl, go!

It’s weird, how excited I got about the notion of Pevara and Androl getting together and working shit out. For the overall success of Operation Taim Smackdown, of course, but also because it still gives me something of a thrill whenever channelers of opposite genders work together in WOT. Because it is, even now, still so rare. Understandably so, perhaps, but still.

Androl’s description of Mezar, paired with Pevara’s observations of Tarna, is interesting in that if (as we, or at least I, have all been assuming) the 13×13 trick is what’s turning these people to the shadow, then it seems to go quite a bit further than your average Darkfriend “I’m in it for the glory/power/perqs” kind of deal. The way they are described, it almost seems they are less than totally human, now.

I might be reading too much into it, of course. But either way, it’s bloody creepy and sad-making, and somebody better do something about it, toot sweet.

(Seriously, so upsetting. I know I’ve said this before, but if it can’t be fixed, how horrific is that? It’s like rape and brainwashing and a kind of bizarre slavery all lumped together in one big sickening package. Gah.)

Moving on!

I’m not really sure whether or how those ninja assassin rings Gawyn’s wearing will be significant in the future, but the fact that they keep getting mentioned leads me to believe they will be important. Which leads me to imagine one possible (and rather delicious) scenario is that Egwene will have to have a meeting with Tuon at some point and she will be all “I sneer at you, filthy channeler,” and then see that Eg’s bodyguard is totally sporting three Bloodknives’ rings, and he’s all “yeah I killed them, no big” and Tuon’s like “holy crap, that is badass” and then there is respect, yo.

…Though I imagine that the scene would probably not play out in exactly those words. At least, we should all devoutly hope so. But that would be pretty cool, if it happened in slightly less surfer dude fashion.

Other than that, I don’t have a lot to say about Gawyn and Egwene’s part in this chapter, as it is pretty much pure set-up for what I presume is going to go down in AMOL. However, I will say that it was a nice note to leave them on as a couple and/or team.

I have been reliably informed that there is no single other character and/or situation I have *headdesked* over in the course of the Re-read more than Gawyn and his Entitlement Crazy issues, so to see that he’s genuinely found his peace with himself and his role as Egwene’s Warder is pretty darn cool. There is great honor to be found in being the faithful and reliable second to a worthy leader, perhaps even greater than that of being that leader, so I wish him all joy and luck with it. You go, Gawyn.

 

Chapter 57: A Rabbit for Supper

What Happens
Mat finds himself outside the steel tower, and indulges in a victory dance and taunt toward the snakes and foxes. Moiraine asks who the third was, and Mat is sobered by the reminder. He tells Thom that Noal was a great man, and to be sure to note in the ballad he’ll write of this that he was the hero. Thom agrees. He also notes that Thom had not seemed surprised at the revelation that Noal was Jain Farstrider. Mat tells Thom that the next time Mat wants to do the negotiating, he is to hit Mat with “something large, heavy and blunt.” Thom tells him his request is noted, and they move away from the tower.

In a wooded hollow some ways away, Moiraine explains that the foxes don’t need to feed off emotions to survive, but it “pleases them greatly.” Mat thinks she seems more like a woman and less a statue than he remembers, showing emotion far more openly, and seeming humbler as well. It makes her seem stronger to him than before. He can still hardly believe she is here. She channels to light the fire with some difficulty, and explains the Aelfinn and Eelfinn took turns “eating” her ability to channel, so her capability is much reduced.

“They claimed to have killed Lanfear by draining her too quickly, though I think they may have been trying to make me afraid. A man was there once, when they woke me. He said I was not the one he wanted.” She hesitated, then shivered. “Sometimes I wished that they would drain me quickly and end my life.”

Moiraine reassures Thom that she was sure he would come, and asks Mat if his eye pains him too much. He shrugs. She regrets that she cannot restore his eye, but with the angreal (Thom gives it back to her) she says she can take away the pain, at least. She mentions she’d asked for the angreal as one of her demands, not realizing they would use it against her to drain more of the Power from her. Mat is surprised that she got her three demands, and asks what the other two were, but she smiles and says she will keep those to herself for now. Mat demurs about her Healing him, and she is amused that he is still afraid of the One Power.

Yes, she was still Moiraine. Quick with a moral and advice. But perhaps she had a right—after what she had been through—to lecture on suffering. Light! She had known what she would have to go through, and yet she had still pulled Lanfear into that ter’angreal? Maybe Mat was not the hero here, and maybe Noal was not either.

Moiraine says she must find Rand, and asks how he is; Mat replies that he is “half-mad” and the whole world is at war, but acknowledges that Rand has gotten most of them pointed toward the Last Battle. He also mentions that Rand cleansed the taint from saidin. This amazes Moiraine, who declares it a fulfillment of a prophecy: “By the Dragon came our pain, and by the Dragon was the wound repaired.” Mat also tells her that Elayne is Queen of Andor, and that Rand had killed Rahvin, though he doesn’t know about the other Forsaken.

“Mat’s been too busy to keep track,” Thom added. “He’s been spending his time marrying the Empress of the Seanchan.”

Moiraine blinked in surprise. “You did what?”

“It was an accident,” Mat said lamely, hunching down.

“You accidentally married the Seanchan Empress?”

“They’ve got some odd customs,” Mat said, pulling his hat down. “Strange folk.” He forced out a chuckle.

Ta’veren,” Moiraine said.

She comments that she clearly has a lot to catch up on. Mat tells her he has to go back to Caemlyn before she can go to Rand, and curses the colors “bunching up” his vision even more now that he only has one eye. Moiraine then turns to Thom and proposes to him, to Mat’s shock. Thom replies that she knows he doesn’t care much for women who can channel. She answers that she doesn’t have much of that anymore, and offers to throw away the angreal. He stops her, and says he’ll marry her now if she wants. Mat demands to know when all this happened, and Thom tells him he hasn’t been very observant. Thom assumes Moiraine wants him to be her Warder too; she does.

[Thom] hesitated. “You think they can make one of those color-changing cloaks with some patches on it?”

“Well, you two have gone bloody insane, I see,” Mat said.

Moiraine tells Mat that he should consider the advantages the Warder bond would give him, and Mat replies that he isn’t going to be trapped into a bond like that. Thom points out that Tuon is technically capable of it, and Mat is unnerved until he reassures himself that Tuon refuses to learn how to channel and so surely he didn’t have to worry about that. Thom and Moiraine laugh at him and then start making eyes at each other, so Mat decides to clear out, going to scout where Grady’s gateway should appear. He makes a cairn for Noal, and contemplates how the loss of his eye will affect his ability to fight.

He had put on a brave front, but inside he trembled. What would Tuon think of a husband missing an eye? A husband who might not be able to defend himself?

He pulled out a knife, flipping it. Then, on a whim, he tossed it behind him without looking. He heard a soft screech, then turned to see a rabbit slump to the ground, speared by the idly thrown knife.

He smiled […] Yes, he might not be able to judge distance, and he might not be able to see as well. But luck worked better when you were not looking anyway.

Commentary

“You accidentally married the Seanchan Empress?”

AHAHAHAHA

This might actually be the funniest line in the book. Possibly in the last three books.

This chapter was faintly surreal, on first reading. Which is perhaps not surprising, considering it was the first time Moiraine has been on-screen since her spectacular exit in TFOH. After that, just about any possible first scene with her (with her being conscious, anyway) was going to be a little surreal by definition.

I rather like how it was played, personally. There was perhaps not the bombast and badassedness (yet) that such a long-anticipated return might have expected, but that Moiraine was humbled and softened and yet at the same time quietly strengthened by her ordeal in Finnland all played very true to me. It seems meet that she has seemingly had all the Aes Sedai bullshit stripped from her, to put it bluntly, and her extremely straightforward proposal to Thom was downright refreshing.

It’s kind of terminally weird to me that, as she says, Moiraine without the bracelet angreal is too weak to even be raised to Accepted, and yet with the bracelet she is more powerful than she ever was on her own before landing in Finnland. No wonder everyone is desperate to get their hands on one of those things, eh? Damn.

In other news, so Moiraine has met Moridin, sort of. That’s interesting. More so for the fact that it implies Moridin has or had some kind of understanding or deal with the *Finn than anything else. I wonder if he went in the same way Mat and Thom and Noal did, via the tower, or if he went in via the snakes’ doorway in Tear? Maybe that’s why Mat et al found it destroyed?

Also, what were Moiraine’s other two demands, eh? Well, at least we can be sure now that one of them wasn’t to kill Asmodean. I might still be ever-so-slightly annoyed at Team Jordan’s glossary trick re: that, but I am definitely very glad to put this theory in particular to rest, which always bugged the crap out of me for some reason. I dunno, I just always thought it seemed so petty, to suppose Moiraine would waste a wish on that.

That said, I have not the first damn clue what else Moiraine could have asked for. I feel absolutely certain that at least one of them had something to do with Rand, though. Call it a hunch. Guess we’ll find out!

And wow, how funny would it be if Mat ended up not only married to the Seanchan Empress, but bonded to her as a Warder? That would involve some serious paradigm shifts on Tuon’s part, though, so while it’s perfectly possible to happen at some point I wouldn’t put money on it actually occurring before the end of the series. Which may qualify as famous last words, but whatever.

And call me crazy, but I rather doubt that Mat will have any trouble at all being just as much of a badass with one eye as he was with two. It’s all fun and games, just without depth perception!

 

Epilogue: And After

What Happens
In the wake of the failure of her tool Isam to kill Aybara, Graendal packs up hurriedly, intending to flee. She’d started placing “strings” around the new Seanchan Empress, but thinks that will have to be abandoned now. She still cannot understand how the prophecy about Aybara had failed. She turns and finds Shaidar Haran behind her, and drops to her knees, sweating. It tells her she failed, ignoring her protests.

“Mesaana has fallen,” Shaidar Haran whispered. “Three Chosen, destroyed by your actions. The design builds, a lattice of failure, a framework of incompetence.”

Graendal protests that she’d had nothing to do with Mesaana’s defeat, but the Fade counters that the dreamspike’s presence in Tar Valon ruined Mesaana’s plans, and that is Graendal’s fault, as is Isam’s failure as well. She pleads with him to be given another chance at al’Thor, but it tells her that task has been given to another. It assures her that she will not be forgotten, though.

“No,” Shaidar Haran said, “I shall not forget you, and you shall not forget that which comes next.”

She opened her eyes wide, then howled as he reached for her.

Perrin thinks that even the wolf dream smells and looks like it is dying, and wills the land around him to be healthy again. It becomes so, and Perrin then tries to will Hopper alive again. The wolf’s form appears before him, but its eyes are lifeless. He tries harder, feeling himself become far too strongly in the dream, and finally cries out and lets it all go, remembering Faile and all he has to do in the real world.

Seek Boundless. He will explain.

Hopper’s last sending to him. What did it mean?

Perrin jumps to where he senses Boundless in the dream, and tells him Hopper sent him. To his surprise, Boundless vanishes. Perrin follows him to field with a rotting barn in it, where Boundless repeats No, no to him, frightened and angry. He runs again, and Perrin follows as Young Bull, chasing him across the dream. Boundless broadcasts images as he runs, including one of Perrin, looking at Boundless from outside a cage.

What? That sending had been of a younger Perrin. And Moiraine had been with him. How could Boundless have…

And suddenly, Perrin knew. Boundless was always found in Ghealdan in the wolf dream.

Noam, he sent to the wolf, now distant.

Surprise from the other, and Perrin finds him in the reflection of his old village. Perrin asks if he remembers Perrin from before when they met in the waking world. Noam stubbornly pretends not to understand, and Perrin asks if he remembers the cage. Noam freezes, momentarily becoming the image of a man instead of a wolf, before reasserting his wolf form and growling that he is a wolf, always. Perrin counters that once he was not, and Noam replies that that doesn’t matter here.

Why should Boundless have the answer? Seeing him, knowing who he was, brought back all of Perrin’s fears. He’d made peace with himself, yet here was a man who had lost himself completely to the wolf.

This was what Perrin had been terrified of. This was what had driven the wedge between him and the wolves. Now that he’d overcome that, why would Hopper send him here?

Perrin remembers how all he had sensed from Noam the man was murderous rage, and Moiraine had said there was nothing left of the man in him, but Boundless the wolf seemed at peace. He asks Boundless what he thinks of the world of men, and Boundless sends a barrage of pain and sadness, images of famine and abuse and disaster, leaving Perrin gasping. Perrin realizes that Boundless picked the wolf intentionally.

The wolf is peace, Boundless sent.

“Yes,” Perrin said, laying a hand on the wolf’s head. “I understand.”

This was the balance for Boundless. Different from the balance for Elyas. And different from what Perrin had found. He understood. This did not mean that the way he let himself lose control was not a danger. But it was the final piece he needed to understand. The final piece of himself.

Perrin thanks him, and then sends an image of himself out to all the wolves he could reach, an image of Perrin the man and Young Bull the wolf side by side, with the same scent.

Olver plays Snakes and Foxes in Mat’s tent with Talmanes, thinking of his eventual revenge against the Shaido who had killed his father and how he plans to go to the Aelfinn and find out how to find him once he is old enough. He thinks of how Mat had tried to keep from telling Olver that he was going to the Tower of Ghenjei without him, but Olver is not upset that Mat took Noal instead. He rolls again for his turn, and freezes when he realizes his piece has reached the center square.

“I won!” he exclaimed.

Talmanes looked up, pipe lowering in his lips. He cocked his head, staring at the board. “Burn me,” he muttered. “We must have counted wrong, or…”

“Counted wrong?”

“I mean…” Talmanes looked stunned. “You can’t win. The game can’t be won. It just can’t.”

Olver dismisses this as nonsense, and wanders over to Mat’s desk. He notices a letter under some of the papers there, and thinks it is very rude of Mat not to have opened it. He decides he is doing Mat a favor and opens it, and puzzles over the words inside. Talmanes sees what he is doing and grows upset, taking it from him, but Olver insists that he thinks it’s important. Talmanes hesitates, then reads the letter. He curses, grabs his sword and dashes out, leaving the letter behind. Olver reads it again:

Matrim,

If you are opening this, then I am dead. I had planned to return and release you of your oath in a single day. There are many potential complications to my next task, however, and a large chance that I will not survive. I needed to know that I’d left someone behind who could see this work done.

Fortunately, if there’s one thing I believe I can rely upon, it is your curiosity. I suspect you lasted a few days before opening this letter, which is long enough for me to have returned if I were going to. Therefore, this task falls upon you.

There is a Waygate in Caemlyn. It is guarded, barricaded, and thought secure. It is not.

An enormous force of Shadowspawn moves through the Ways toward Caemlyn. I do not know when they left exactly, but there should be time to stop them. You must reach the Queen and persuade her to destroy the Waygate. It can be done; walling it up will not suffice. If you cannot destroy it, the Queen must bring all of her forces to bear upon guarding the location.

If you fail in this, I fear Caemlyn will be lost before the month is out.

Sincerely,

Verin Mathwin

Olver walks outside, and sees a reddish haze over Caemlyn in the distance, and Talmanes whispers that the city is burning. He raises a shout, calling the Band to arms, that they must get to the city and prevent the dragons from falling into the Shadow’s hands. Olver runs back into Mat’s tent to retrieve the large knife he’d hidden there. He thinks he had sworn to himself after Cairhien that he would never be a coward again, and now it is time to fight.

The merchant Barriga stumbles through the Blight, bleeding and panicked. Kandor has fallen, and his caravan had been overwhelmed by Trollocs. He falls down, and sees three figures in black and brown approaching. At first he thinks they are Myrddraal, but then sees they wear short spears on their backs and red veils across their faces, and is intensely relieved, thinking they are al’Thor’s Aiel. Then one of the men steps up to him and removes his veil, and Barriga sees the man’s teeth have been filed to points. The man pulls a knife.

Barriga stuttered, looking at that horrific maw and the glee in this man’s eyes as he reached in for the kill. These weren’t Aiel. They were something else.

Something terrible.

Rand sits quietly in his own dream, warded from intruders. His body sleeps at Merrilor, and he thinks of the demands he will make of Egwene and the assembled monarchs there the next day – not to keep him from breaking the seals, as he was going to do that anyway, but in exchange for his going to Shayol Ghul to face the Dark One.

He wasn’t certain what he’d do if they refused him. They’d find it very difficult to do so. Sometimes, it could be useful to have a reputation for being irrational.

He’s recreated in his dream the valley in the Mountains of Mist where his perhaps most important, and painful, journey had begun; he feels it is fitting. He is enjoying his calm when he hears screaming. He frowns and dismisses the valley, searching for the source of the screams. A wooden corridor appears, and Rand runs down it, reaching a door. The room beyond is filled with a darkness that seems to pull at him, draining him. He follows the sound of the screams to a round room that Rand thinks resembles the inside of a giant skull, and sees a silvery-haired woman on the floor next to a single candle, shaking and weeping. He kneels next to her, wondering how she could have gotten into his dream. She pleads with him to make it stop, that “he” has her, and “flays her soul anew each eve.” He asks who she is, and she replies that he knows her.

Rand gasped, releasing her hand. The face was different. But he did know that soul. “Mierin? You’re dead. I saw you die!”

She shook her head. “I wish I were dead. I wish it. Please! He grinds my bones and snaps them like twigs, then leaves me to die before Healing me just enough to keep me alive. He—” She cut off, jerking.

“What?”

Her eyes opened wide and she spun toward the wall. “No!” she screamed. “He comes! The Shadow in every man’s mind, the murderer of truth. No!” She spun, reaching for Rand, but something towed her backward. The wall broke away, and she tumbled into the darkness.

Rand leaps for her but misses. He stares, trying to regain his calm, but instead feels hatred and unwanted desire for Mierin Eronaile, also known as Lanfear.

Lan stands at the head of Tarwin’s Gap, looking down into what had once been his homeland. The Trollocs on the other side of the pass easily outnumber his own force by ten times at least. He thinks on his bond with Nynaeve, and how something had changed about it. He thinks that he should regret the pain his passing will give her, but instead finds that that closeness gives him strength. At his side, Kaisel comments that it is fitting they should strike here; it will show the Shadow that they will not be beaten down. Lan agrees, and moves his horse forward.

“I am al’Lan Mandragoran,” Lan bellowed. “Lord of the Seven Towers, Defender of the Wall of First Fires, Bearer of the Sword of the Thousand Lakes! I was once named Aan’allein, but I reject that title, for I am alone no more. Fear me, Shadow! Fear me and know. I have returned for what is mine. I may be a king without a land. But I am still a king!”

He roars and charges, his army behind him, men from every Borderland and probably every living Malkieri able to wield a sword. They sweep down, cheering, a force of some twelve thousand against a horde of Trollocs at least one hundred and fifty thousand strong.

This day will be remembered in honor, Lan thought, galloping forward. The Last Charge of the Golden Crane. The fall of the Malkieri.

The end had come. They would meet it with swords raised.

Commentary
Lan = Badass. That is all. Someone commission John Williams to score that scene.

Graendal: So, on first reading I completely and totally missed the hint here that the “three Forsaken” she had offed, in Superfade’s view, included Asmodean, and in fact didn’t get it until the much more alert commenters on the Re-read clued me in that the big Whodunnit question had in fact been answered in TOM. That’ll teach me not to at least skim the Glossary, eh?

And I get the joke, really, and I can’t say it wasn’t kind of funny, to resolve the longest-standing and over-analyzed (and ultimately superfluous) unanswered question in the series so offhandedly. I don’t aim to be one of those fans, if you see what I’m saying, and get all miffed over it, because it really was a non-factor in anything important to the actual story, and I recognize that. That said, I won’t deny that I kind of blinked at how it went down.

But at least we did get an answer, right? And since I had always basically split my vote between Graendal and Lanfear, it means I was only half wrong! Go me!

Now that Semirhage was gone, Graendal had begun placing some strings around their new, childlike Empress. She’d have to abandon those schemes now.

“Childlike Empress,” hah! I don’t know if that was intentionally a Neverending Story shout-out or what, but I’m totally going to take it as one, because it made me grin like a maniac. I loved the crap out of that movie as a kid.

I’m conflicted about the Perrin section here. Not because I didn’t like it, because I did. I really liked it, actually. I thought the revelation that Noam/Boundless had chosen the wolf rather than succumbed to it was both a shock, and perfectly fitting in how it allayed Perrin’s fears on that score at last. That was amazing, in fact, and terribly important to Perrin’s final acceptance of his wolf-brotherliness.

My problem with it is that I don’t think it belonged in an epilogue, for pretty much exactly the reasons I just said.

Basically it was far too pivotal a plot point (and character development point) to be relegated to an epilogue, which should (in my opinion) only contain either brief footnote/gracenote scenes or transitional/teaser scenes. The Graendal and Olver and Barriga and Rand and Lan scenes here fit the “epilogue” bill just fine, but the scene with Perrin and Noam should have been in the main body of the story, in my opinion.

Personally, I would have tacked this scene onto the end (or the beginning) of Perrin’s POV in Chapter 53, and started the whole Mat/Finnland thing in a new chapter altogether, but that’s just me. *shrug*

Olver: DUN!

And, wow. Verin didn’t make too many mistakes in her life, by all accounts, but when she did mess up, she messed up BIG.

In her defense, though, the Mat she knew would totally have opened that letter in no time flat; I guess it’s a little much to blame her for not realizing how much Mat had changed in so short a time. Still, damn; would it have killed her to make the prospect of opening the letter a little more palatable?

Also, it was a really amusing grace note that now that Mat has broken the mold and been the first one to truly beat the *Finn at their own game, that the metaphorical (or maybe just meta) representation of that game in Randland is suddenly winnable. It might not make any logical sense, but in a story sense it’s awesome.

As for Barriga and his pointy-toothed red-veiled “Aiel,” look, I have no clue. I know that plenty of theories have been floated around in the fandom, though. The one I remember is that these evil Aiel could be the revenants (or whatever) of all the male Aiel (and that still rhymes in my head, dammit) who were sent to the Blight to go down fighting once they discovered they could channel, and perhaps met a very different (and far suckier) fate instead.

*shrug* Sounds good to me. Well, not “good,” obviously, but in the sense of “plausible.” No doubt we’ll find out more Real Soon Now.

Rand: It figures that the only actual POV we get from Rand in the entire novel just confuses the hell out of everything. TYPICAL.

So is Cyndane/Lanfear sincere, or is she bait? Of course, no reason she can’t be both. The “he” she refers to is obviously Moridin, though, which probably explains how she got into Rand’s supposedly impregnable private dreams, owing to that (very worrying and very creepy) True Power-forged connection between Rand and Moridin. I suspect the two of them are going to get only more permeable to the other, so to speak, until whatever final confrontation is had. Which isn’t unnerving at ALL.

I feel certain, though, that Lanfear’s involvement is also pivotal in some way to, well, everything. It makes sense when you think about it: she was the one who originally opened the Bore, after all. So perhaps it’s only fitting that she be involved in some way in closing it again. Will she be redeemed by doing so? Maybe?

I am very much looking forward to seeing how it all plays out, that’s for sure.

Lastly, as a coda to the Epilogue we had some Dark Prophecy, a thing which I believe we have not seen since TGH. Let’s do some wild-ass guessing, shall we?

Lo, it shall come upon the world that the prison of the Greatest One shall grow weak, like the limbs of those who crafted it. Once again, His glorious cloak shall smother the Pattern of all things, and the Great Lord shall stretch forth His hand to claim what is His. The rebellious nations shall be laid barren, their children caused to weep. There shall be none but Him, and those who have turned their eyes to His majesty.

This is… all pretty self-explanatory. Dark One SMASH, all your realities belong to us, I am invincible, etc. Standard Ultimate Evil Posturing, check.

In that day, when the One-Eyed Fool travels the halls of mourning, and the First Among Vermin lifts his hand to bring freedom to Him who will Destroy, the last days of the Fallen Blacksmith’s pride shall come. Yea, and the Broken Wolf, the one whom Death has known, shall fall and be consumed by the Midnight Towers. And his destruction shall bring fear and sorrow to the hearts of men, and shall shake their very will itself.

Well, the One-Eyed Fool is obviously Mat; describing Finnland as “the halls of mourning” is a little odd but also fitting if you think about it.

“First among Vermin,” haha. Rand is king of the rats now?

So right, he’s going to break the seals and then “the last days of the Fallen Blacksmith’s pride shall come.” Which is Perrin, clearly. I think Graendal’s mistake, though, was assuming that both the “Fallen Blacksmith” and the “Broken Wolf” appellations referred to Perrin, when I think that actually only the first one applies.

So as to who “the Broken Wolf” actually is, then, I’m not really sure. I originally tended to think it referred to Noal, since Ishamael certainly “broke” Jain Farstrider, after all, and he was generally considered to be dead by the wider world, and there were towers in Finnland that you could suppose he’d been “consumed” by. But then again, I’m not sure how Noal’s death in Finnland could “shake the will” of everyone on the Light side of things, considering that most of them won’t even hear the story until after the Last Battle is over and Thom (presumably) has time to sit down and write a ballad about it. Not to mention, Noal’s story is inspiring, and whoever the “Broken Wolf” is, his story seems like it is meant to be the opposite.

Additionally, I think the consensus is that “Midnight Towers” probably doesn’t refer to the spires in Finnland anyway., nor to the passing mention of towers in Seandar, either. There were some towers in the Blight that fit the bill, weren’t there? Didn’t I read that at some point?

I kind of feel like the Broken Wolf thing is something that hasn’t actually happened yet, but I freely admit I could be seriously wrong. So, in conclusion, dunno. Ideas?

And then, shall the Lord of the Evening come. And He shall take our eyes, for our souls shall bow before Him, and He shall take our skin, for our flesh shall serve Him, and He shall take our lips, for only Him will we praise. And the Lord of the Evening shall face the Broken Champion, and shall spill his blood and bring us the Darkness so beautiful. Let the screams begin, O followers of the Shadow. Beg for your destruction!

… Yeah. People who choose the Dark Side are stupid, yo.

 

And thus ends Towers of Midnight, the penultimate novel in a series that I’ve been following for pretty much my entire adult life, and which is actually, really, truly, no lie, about to end. I still kind of can’t believe it, and I’ve got the proof sitting on my desk right this second.

I said in my summation of TGS that I thought it was flawed but a good start to finishing the story, and while I had my issues with TOM as well, I definitely feel it was a vast improvement over its predecessor. And thus it is with an eager heart that I go to crack open my copy of AMOL, and finally find out how this thing ends.


But first, collapse into a horizontal and unconscious position must occur. Love, luck, and lollipops, O my Peeps, and check back in for your super-fun advance AMOL treat next week!

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