Laissez le bon temps rouler, party people! Have a bead, a doubloon, a cheap plastic cup, a band, a parade, crowds, music, mayhem, a puddle of liquid you really don’t want to identify to stand in, a hangover, and oh yeah, a Wheel of Time Re-read!
Today’s entry covers Part II of the Prologue for A Memory of Light, in which we contemplate staggering feats of communication, nomenclature, and badassery. Whee!
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. The index for all things specifically related to the final novel in the series, A Memory of Light, is here.
This re-read post, and all posts henceforth, contain spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time series. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
And now, the post!
Prologue: By Grace and Banners Fallen[Part II]
Talmanes and his men have forced the Trollocs at the city gate into a retreat even though there had been a Halfman driving them; Talmanes knows he is wounded, but ignores it. As the townspeople begin flooding out of the cleared gates, Sandip comes to tell Talmanes that they can’t stay here, which Talmanes knows, and that they’ve lost at least a hundred men; Talmanes thinks to himself that Mat will be upset about that. Talmanes flags down an Andoran soldier and asks what horn call the peasantry might respond to to come to this gate (“The Queen’s March”) and sends him off to sound it before finding his horse and heading to where the mercenaries are still clustered outside the walls. He knows they recognize the Band’s sigil. The leader of the mercenaries tries blustering to Talmanes about how they won’t fight unless they’re getting paid, but Talmanes ignores him to light his pipe instead.
“We’re not—” the head man began again.
“Do you know what this is?” Talmanes asked softly around his pipe. “This is the beginning of the end. This is the fall of nations and the unification of humankind. This is the Last Battle, you bloody fool.”
The men shuffled uncomfortably.
Talmanes informs the mercenary leader that he, Talmanes, was nicked by a Thakan’dar blade, and has hours at best before the wound kills him agonizingly, and therefore really has nothing to lose.
“You have two choices,” Talmanes said, turning his horse and speaking loudly to the troop. “You can fight like the rest of us and help this world see new days, and maybe you’ll earn some coin in the end. I can’t promise that. Your other option is to sit here, watch people be slaughtered and tell yourselves that you don’t work for free. If you’re lucky, and the rest of us salvage this world without you, you’ll draw breath long enough to be strung up by your cowardly necks.”
There is silence a moment, and then the mercenaries nod acceptance. Talmanes tells them to go help hold the gate.
Leilwin Shipless and Bayle Domon move through the Aes Sedai camp at the Field of Merrilor, where they’ve slipped through one of the regular gateways from Tar Valon. Leilwin tells Bayle they are here to find either Nynaeve al’Meara or Elayne Trakand. Leilwin is surprised by the sheer size of the camp; she hadn’t dared ask questions in Tar Valon for fear of her Seanchan accent drawing attention. Leilwin finds herself mourning her loss of the sea, and sharply reminds herself of her present task. Bayle does not understand why they are here when they could be off somewhere far from either the Seanchan or Aes Sedai.
Why had she come all this way, traveling with Matrim Cauthon, putting herself dangerously near the Daughter of the Nine Moons? “My people live with a grave misconception of the world, Bayle. In doing so, they create injustice.”
[…] “I am still loyal to the Empress, may she live forever. But the damane… they are the very foundation for her rule. They are the means by which she creates order, by which she holds the Empire together. And the damane are a lie.”
[…] Something had to be done. And yet, in doing it, did she risk causing the entire Empire to collapse? Her movements must be considered very, very carefully, like the last rounds of a game of shal.
At first Leilwin thinks they have entered the camp without detection, but then notices that they are being shadowed by several men whom she assumes are Warders. She stops and confronts one, and Bayle tries asking for directions to Nynaeve or Elayne’s tent. The Warder wants to hear this from Leilwin, and she tries her best to imitate Bayle’s Illianer accent. The Warder hesitates, but then tells them to follow. On the way, she asks him who does rule this camp.
The man turned to her, his features lost in the night shadow. “Your king, Illianer.”
At her side, Bayle stiffened.
The Dragon Reborn. She was proud that she didn’t miss a step as they walked, but it was a near thing. A man who could channel. That was worse, far worse, than the Aes Sedai.
The Warder leads them to a tent, and Leilwin and Bayle enter to find Nynaeve inside; Leilwin is surprised to see that her braid is gone. Nynaeve’s face goes cold on seeing them, and the Warder (Sleete) has his sword out; he tells Nynaeve that they slipped in from Tar Valon, and that the woman is disguising her accent. Nynaeve dismisses the Warder, and tells them that if they’ve come to beg forgiveness they’ve wasted their time. Leilwin says she regrets breaking her oath, and Nynaeve interrupts furiously to inform them that they allowed the ter’angreal they were supposed to dispose of to fall into the hands of a Forsaken.
“‘Regret’ is not a word I would use for endangering the world itself, bringing us to the brink of darkness and all but shoving us over the edge! She had copies of that device made, woman. One ended up around the neck of the Dragon Reborn. The Dragon Reborn himself, controlled by one of the Forsaken!”
Leilwin is nearly overwhelmed with guilt at the news, and goes to her knees, offering herself as payment for her failure. Nynaeve snorts that unlike Leilwin’s people, they don’t “keep people as if they were animals”. She forces Leilwin to rise, and says she will take them to the Amyrlin to decide what is to be done with them. Leilwin follows, and thinks to herself that regardless of what Nynaeve thought, Leilwin belongs to the White Tower now.
They owned her. She would be a da’covale to this Amyrlin, and would ride this storm like a ship whose sail had been shredded by the wind.
Perhaps, with what remained of her honor, she could earn this woman’s trust.
A member of the Band named Melten treats Talmanes’s wound with an old Borderlander remedy, said to slow the taint from the cursed metal of the Fades’ swords. They are fighting their way laboriously through the city toward the Palace, to discover if there is still resistance there, and to create a safe corridor back to the gate for townspeople trying to flee.
“Dreadbane,” [Melten] whispered.
“Borderlander title. You slew a Fade. Dreadbane.”
“It had about seventeen arrows in it at the time.”
“Doesn’t matter.” Melten clasped him on the shoulder. “Dreadbane. When you can’t take the pain any longer, make two fists and raise them toward me. I will see the deed done.”
Talmanes understands. One of the dragon captains, Dennel, briefly protests Talmanes’s decision to head for the Palace rather than try for the dragons, but Talmanes tells him that besides reinforcements, they may find channelers at the Palace who can take them straight to the warehouse. Scouts come with reports of Trollocs ahead, and Talmanes orders his men to form ranks.
Aviendha sits in the sweat tent with five other Wise Ones—Sorilea, Amys, Bair, Melaine, and Kymer of the Tomanelle Aiel—waiting for their response to her tale of her trip to Rhuidean. They are silent at first, but then she sees that the news has not broken them. Melaine says that Sightblinder is “too close” to the world, and the Pattern has twisted as a result; the dreamwalkers see too many possibilities to be sure of the truth. Sorilea declares that they must test this vision; Amys suggests an apprentice ready to be made a Wise One. Aviendha wants to know whether what she saw will happen, and if it can be stopped; Amys points out that the columns always showed the past accurately, so why should it not do the same for the future? Bair asks why, though, it would show them “a despair that cannot change.”
“Rhuidean has always shown us what we needed to see. To help us, not destroy us. This vision must have a purpose as well. To encourage us toward greater honor?”
“It’s unimportant,” Sorilea said curtly.
“But—” Aviendha began.
“It’s unimportant,” Sorilea repeated. “If this vision were unchangeable, if our destiny is to… fall… as you have spoken, would any of us stop fighting to change it?”
The room grew still. Aviendha shook her head.
“We must treat it as if it can be changed,” Sorilea said.
Aviendha agrees. Kymer asks how they can change it. Amys points out that at least the vision proves they win the Last Battle, but Sorilea answers curtly that it proves nothing, as Sightblinder’s victory will break the Pattern. Aviendha says that the vision has something to do with whatever important revelation Rand is planning for the next day. Kymer says that it sounded as if he was planning to ignore his own people, and asks why he would give boons to everyone else yet insult the Aiel? Aviendha counters that she thinks he means to make demands, not grant gifts, and Melaine adds that he went to Tear that morning and returned with something. Bair says he spoke of “a price,” but has said it is nothing the Aiel need to worry about.
Aviendha scowled. “He is making men pay him in order to do what we all know he must? Perhaps he has been spending too much time with that minder the Sea Folk sent him.”
“No, this is well,” Amys said. “These people demand much of the Car’a’carn. He has a right to demand something of them in return. They are soft; perhaps he intends to make them hard.”
“And so he leaves us out,” Bair said softly, “because he knows that we are already hard.”
[…] “That is it,” Sorilea said. “He does not intend to insult us. He intends to do us honor, in his own eyes.” She shook her head. “He should know better.”
Kymer agrees, and says that whatever this price is, the Aiel can pay it just as well as any of the other nations. Aviendha thinks privately that she can see Rand’s logic, and reflects that if he had made the same demand to the Aiel, the Wise Ones might have decided to take offense at that as well. Aviendha assures the others that she means him to be hers, but Bair warns her that he has grown strong since she last saw him, and Amys adds proudly that he has finally “embraced death.” Aviendha says she must see him, and they all dress and disperse from the sweat tent. Bair stops Aviendha, though, and asks her to make a gateway to Rhuidean, that she might test this vision for herself. Aviendha makes a token protest, but acquiesces. Then she asks Bair if she’d ever met a woman named Nakomi.
“Nakomi.” Bair tried the word in her mouth. “An ancient name. I have never known anyone who uses it. Why?”
“I met an Aiel woman while traveling to Rhuidean,” Aviendha said. “She claimed not to be a Wise One, but she had a way about her . . .” She shook her head. “The question was merely idle curiosity.”
Aviendha asks, what if her vision is true and there is nothing they can do about it? Bair asks if she saw her children’s names in the vision; at Aviendha’s nod, she tells her to change one of their names, and never tell anyone the original.
“If one thing is different, then others may be different as well. Will be different. This is not our fate, Aviendha. It is a path we will avoid. Together.”
Aviendha thanks her, and sends her through to Rhuidean.
There is never any downside to reading about Talmanes being badass. And by that I mean far more his ruthlessly efficient shaming of the mercenaries and his decisive coordination of his troops than his prowess in battle, because brains are sexy, y’all. Though the battle prowess thing certainly couldn’t have sucked either, since I’m pretty sure anything that earns you the appellation of “Dreadbane” is badass by definition.
It’s all about the inherent hotness of competence, really. Of which we will be getting a surfeit in this book, but this bit was especially nice. I do remember being quite upset at this point, though, because I was convinced on first reading that Talmanes wasn’t going to survive the Prologue. I’m still rather surprised I ended up being proven wrong, actually.
Leilwin: I really don’t like that name. “Egeanin” is so much better in my opinion. But then, the name was given in punishment, so I guess making it a suckier name is only apropos. Even if Leilwin herself only cares about the “Shipless” part. And I do have to admit that “Egeanin Shipless” doesn’t work at all, so maybe Tuon was actually being rather generous in the naming rhythm and flow section, there.
*examines previous sentence* I am so weird sometimes.
Leilwin it is, then. FINE. Anyway.
Besides exposing my bizarre nomenclature hangups, Leilwin’s POV also introduces very early on what is going to be one of the central issues of the book (aside from that whole apocalypse thing, of course), and one of my personal biggest sticking points as well. Which is, naturally, How Do You Solve A Problem Like Damane.
I’m going to be
ranting talking about this at great length later on, so I’m not going to get into it too much here, but let’s just say it’s weird to be so in agreement with a character in one breath, and then in the next be so upset with them, because of what happens next.
Which is, of course, Nynaeve (quite rightly) bringing up the fact that it was Leilwin and Bayle’s fault that Semirhage got hold of the Sad Bracelets, and thereby almost broke Rand (and the world) beyond repair. Cause the thing is, until she said it I’d sort of completely forgotten that little factoid. So for me reading that bit was kind of like “Oh yeah! I forgot! I’m totally mad at you guys! Grr!” Which is a little juvenile of me, but also hilarious, so whatever.
Did Mat even know anything about that whole business, all that time Egeanin and Bayle were traveling with him? I’m pretty sure not, which means that this is the first time since it happened that they’ve met back up with someone in a position to call them on the carpet about it. Which is kind of crazy when you consider the time gap there—in reader time if not in actual story time.
And THEN Leilwin goes and makes me feel a little mollified by her horror at the news, but then ruins THAT by being all “Hi, you own me now, no take-backs,” after we just got through how the damane thing is bad, and ARGH FUCK SLAVERY.
My conflicted Leilwin-feels aside:
Nynaeve al’Meara was what, back in Seanchan, one would call a telarti—a woman with fire in her soul. Leilwin had come to understand that Aes Sedai were supposed to be calm as placid waters. Well, this woman might be that on occasion—but she was the kind of placid water found one bend away from a furious waterfall.
I kind of completely adore this description of Nynaeve. Although, like Leilwin, I am having a really hard time picturing her without her braid. That’s just wrong, man!
As for Aviendha’s scene, I just about fell on the floor when I read it, because what is this madness? WHAT, SRSLY.
WOT characters, talking to each other about a crucial event/prophecy/thingy? And immediately sharing (nearly) all relevant information on said crucial event/prophecy/thingy? Even though the consequences would have been dire if they hadn’t? And then everyone calmly and rationally decides on the best course of action as a result of said sharing of information? WHOA, NELLY.
My brain, she reels. WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH MY WHEEL OF TIME SERIES, BRAH.
Okay, so I’m kind of kidding, but I’m also kind of not. Because as I’ve often said before, one of the key running themes of WOT has always been the malignancy of misinformation: how lying or obscuring or omitting crucial information out of fear or ignorance or incompetence (and/or maliciousness, too, of course) inevitably has dire consequences for everyone involved. The fact that the plot doesn’t attempt even a perfunctory iteration of this theme with Aviendha’s revelation here is like a sign of the end times.
It certainly helps, of course, that the Wise Ones’ decision re: the Way Forward Ter’Angreal’s bleak vision of their future is exactly what I would have said, which amounts to Doom-Saying Hater Widgets to the Left, Yo. Fight the future, man! Yeah!
I’m a little puzzled by the inclusion of the character Kymer in this scene, who as far as I can tell has never appeared before in the series, and yet seems to have more lines here than Amys, who’s been around since the dawn of time, more or less. It’s not that Team Jordan aren’t allowed to introduce new speaking roles—major ones, even—at this late date (which is good, because they’re totally going to), it’s just that this one seems a little odd. Why not use one of the many minor Wise Ones lying around to whom we’ve already been introduced, like Nadere, or Monaelle? Or better yet, why not eliminate her entirely and just let the original Fab Four Wise Ones (Amys, Bair, Melaine and Sorilea) carry the scene? I dunno, it just seemed weird.
…Oh, okay. (I keep forgetting this wonderfully handy list exists! *waves to Linda*)
And… hmm. I’ve been on record as saying that I enjoyed the fan shout-outs in the last three books, and that I didn’t find them disrupting, but my reaction to this particular scene rather proves me wrong, doesn’t it? Even though there have been plenty of other fan cameos that didn’t bother me at all (case in point: Dennel, the dragon captain with Talmanes in this same section of the Prologue), this one obviously did.
I think my negative reaction to Kymer in particular can be ascribed to, if I may be allowed to get nitpicky here, the fact that she just has too much dialogue for a walk-on role—too much crucially relevant dialogue, I should clarify. In other words, she’s not, say, a random soldier or a dead-off-camera Aes Sedai, but a principal participant in a key discussion concerning the direction of a pivotal event in the novel, and that’s a little much to hand to a character we’ve never seen before and never see again, if you ask me.
It’s possible I’m overanalyzing this, of course. (Who, me?) And on re-reading the scene again, I concede that all of the really big portentious lines were left to the established characters, with Kymer’s remarks acting merely as set-up for them. But… well.
*shrug* It bugged, what can I say. Take it for what it’s worth.
And as for Nakomi, I’m going to wait till she shows up again to talk about her. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about… well, you’ll see. Because The Truth Is Out There, y’all. Or so I hear. Dun!
And that’s our show, kids! Have a lovely beginning of Lent, if that be your ecclesiastical wont, and a lovely random week in February if that ain’t your wont, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!