Today’s entry covers Chapter 5 of A Memory of Light, in which everyone talks FOR A MILLION YEARS, felines fully fail to be funneled, and someone makes A Dramatic Entrance.
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!
Chapter 5: To Require a Boon
Rand wakes and goes to the entrance of his tent, feeling the land under him and how it is still alive even though it does not look it. He tells Katerin, the Maiden on guard, to tell the rulers that he will meet with them in one hour at the center of the field, and turns to find Aviendha trying to sneak up on him. She kisses him, but grows annoyed when he brings up their first tryst, saying he should not remind her of toh she has already paid. She regrets not having time for a bath, and Rand shows her how they used the One Power to bathe in the Age of Legends. Aviendha is deeply impressed, but calls the act “crackbrained and irresponsible,” and Rand agrees that it probably is.
“That was a different time, Aviendha. There were many more channelers, and we were trained from a young age. We didn’t need to know things like warfare, or how to kill. We had eliminated pain, hunger, suffering, war. Instead, we used the One Power for things that might seem common.”
“You’d only assumed that you’d eliminated war,” Aviendha said with a sniff. “You were wrong. Your ignorance left you weak.”
“It did. I can’t decide if I would have changed things, though. There were many good years. Good decades, good centuries. We believed we were living in paradise. Perhaps that was our downfall. We wanted our lives to be perfect, so we ignored imperfections. Problems were magnified through inattention, and war might have become inevitable if the Bore hadn’t ever been made.”
Aviendha tells him that she will require a boon of him today; she is not sure exactly what it will be, but it will be important, and may require him to change his plans, perhaps drastically. She does not require that he grant it. Rand is mystified, but accepts her forewarning.
Egwene dreams of a frozen pillar of glass that looks almost like a column of light, but cannot fathom what it is. She also dreams of a sphere that is the world, cracking, and she trying to bind it back together with cords. She wakes in her study in the Tower, and remembers her annoyance that Gawyn insisted on bringing her back here to sleep, though she admits that it is less likely that assassins would find her here. She finds Gawyn at Silviana’s desk, reading a report from Caemlyn that shows the city to be truly lost. Egwene offers her condolences on the loss of life, but thinks to herself that she is more worried about the consequences of the loss of Caemlyn’s foodstuffs and supplies, and the possibility of starvation among Andor’s armies.
“That Seanchan woman,” Egwene said, staring into her cup. “The one with the Illianer. Did you speak with her?”
He nodded. “I have some Tower guards watching the pair. Nynaeve vouched for them, in a way.”
“In a way?”
“She called the woman several variations of wool- headed, but said she probably wouldn’t do you any intentional harm.”
“Wonderful.” Well, Egwene could make use of a Seanchan who was willing to talk. Light. What if she had to fight them and the Trollocs at the same time?
Egwene then realizes that the meeting with Rand is in half an hour, and rushes to finish breakfast and hurry back to Merrilor. She declares that only Sitters may accompany her, and stares down anyone who objects. She observes the forces of the nations approaching just as hers are, and ponders how easily this could go badly. She converges with Elayne and offers commiseration on Caemlyn; Elayne tells her Aviendha stayed with Rand the night before, but learned nothing about his plans. Darlin and Gregorin come to kiss Egwene’s ring, and Egwene tells them she is glad Tear and Illian could put aside their differences to support her.
“You seem troubled, King Darlin,” she said.
“Some old rivalries run deeper than the ocean’s depths, Mother. I can almost wonder if this meeting was the work of the Dark One, hoping that we would end up destroying one another and doing his work for him.”
Egwene knows that Ghealdan will stand with Rand, and thinks the Borderlands will too. She is sure that Rand will want to lead the forces of the Light himself, and that he should not be allowed to do that, as his mission is to fight the Dark One. She intends that she be placed in command. She and Gawyn are surprised to see the kings’ flags for both Arad Doman and Murandy. She approaches King Roedran’s convoy and expresses her surprise that he is here. She deduces that Elayne must have provided him a gateway in order to arrive on time, and Roedran bristles at the implication that Elayne sent for him. They are interrupted by Rand’s arrival, trailed by Asha’man and Aiel. He walks over grass that greens at his passage, a large bundle hovering next to him; soon the whole meadow is alive again. Gawyn asks Egwene if he is using a weave to do that, and Egwene answers that she knows of none that would have so extensive an effect; she sends Gawyn to try and find out something from the Aes Sedai with Asha’man Warders. The bundle forms itself into a huge pavilion tent without Rand even looking at it, and Egwene thinks he has become quite the showman. He tells the rulers that they may each bring five people with them; Egwene chooses Silviana, Saerin, Romanda, Lelaine and Gawyn when he returns.
The other rulers allowed Egwene to enter before them. All understood that this confrontation was, at its core, between Rand and Egwene. Or, rather, the Dragon and the Amyrlin Seat.
Egwene is annoyed at the look of pride Elayne gives Rand when she enters, though she admits that she feels somewhat the same at how far Rand has come. Silviana points out that the man leading the Domani contingent is Alsalam himself, which startles Egwene, and she is also worried that Cadsuane and Nynaeve are present, clearly allied with Rand. She is mollified, though, when Sorilea and Amys come to her side of the tent, which clearly surprises Rand. The Asha’man move to flank Roedran when he enters, and Rand steps to him to stare him in the eyes, ignoring the man’s bluster.
“Light burn me,” Rand said. “You’re not him, are you?”
“Who?” Roedran asked.
Rand turned away from him, waving his hand to make Narishma and the others stand down. They did so reluctantly. “I thought for certain…” Rand said, shaking his head. “Where are you?”
Rand moves on, welcoming the rulers. He tells them Kandor has fallen as well as Caemlyn, and that “the end is upon us.” Paitar demands to know why they aren’t getting on with the fighting, then, and Rand replies that he will have all the fighting he can stomach “and then some” soon enough. He points out that the last time the Light went up against the Shadow, they had all the miraculous resources of the Age of Legends to call upon, and still barely won. Egwene asks if he is saying they are doomed, then, and Rand replies that they need to present a unified front and plan of attack.
“In those days, every man and woman considered themselves to be the leader on the field. An army of generals. That is why we nearly lost. That is what left us with the taint, the Breaking, the madness. I was as guilty of it as anyone. Perhaps the most guilty.
“I will not have that happen again. I will not save this world only to have it broken a second time! I will not die for the nations of humanity, only to have them turn upon one another the moment the last Trolloc falls. You’re planning it. Light burn me, I know that you are!”
Egwene acknowledges the truth of that to herself, but tells Rand that what he is trying to do is “beyond his calling,” and that he cannot bend the world to his whims. She asks if he would become a tyrant in truth, and in answer Rand brings out a document, which he tells them is The Dragon’s Peace, one of the three things he will require of them in exchange for his life. He explains the terms: borders to be locked to their current positions, forbidding one nation to attack or annex another, and for each nation to found schools funded by crown and open to admission by all. Elayne reads the document and points out that it requires far more than that, and the rulers break into outraged murmurs at the tally of restrictions. Darlin and Gregorin both protest that they must be able to defend themselves from outside aggressors, like the Seanchan. Egwene cuts in to ask for the other two prices, and Rand says that as the White Tower will be exempt from the Peace, he asks something else of them: the seals. Egwene says she is their Watcher, and Rand replies that he already possesses them, and will break them.
“I won’t allow anything, not even you, to come between me and protecting this world.”
All around them arguments over the document continued, rulers muttering with their confidants and neighbors. Egwene stepped forward, facing Rand across the small table, the two of them ignored for the moment. “You won’t break them if I stop you, Rand.”
They argue back and forth quietly: Rand insists the risk of not breaking the seals outweighs that of doing so; Egwene does not agree, and points out that he can’t know for sure that he is right. Rand hesitates, but says that if the seals are not broken, his only choice will be to create another imperfect patch, which may only last a few centuries at most, and may reintroduce the taint on saidin. Egwene replies that that is better than risking destroying the entire world. Rand grows angry, then chagrined that she can still get a rise out of him. Egwene is sure there is something he isn’t telling her.
“I’m going to kill him,” Rand said passionately, leaning in. “I’m going to end the Dark One. We will never have true peace so long as he is there, lurking. I’ll rip open the prison, I’ll enter it and I’ll face him. I’ll build a new prison if I have to, but first, I’m going to try to end all of this. Protect the Pattern, the Wheel, for good.”
“Light, Rand, you’re insane!”
“Yes. That is part of the price I have paid. Fortunately. Only a man with shaken wits would be daring enough to try this.”
“I’ll fight you, Rand,” she whispered. “I won’t let you pull all of us into this. Listen to reason. The White Tower should be guiding you here.”
“I’ve known the White Tower’s guidance, Egwene,” he replied. “In a box, beaten each day.”
The monarchs in the meantime are still arguing over whether they would sign the document, and Roedran wants to know what the third requirement is. Rand tells them that the third price is that they cede absolute command of all their armies to him for the duration of the Last Battle. This causes an explosion of protests and renewed arguments, which Rand watches calmly. Egwene is about to intervene when something changes in the tent, and she hears cracking sounds from outside the tent. Rand tells them that they cannot turn him aside from his intentions or force him to obey; he must face the Dark One of his own free will. Berelain asks if he would really throw over the world for this, and Darlin calls it extortion. Rand replies that it is a business arrangement.
“I have something you want, something you need. Me. My blood. I will die. We’ve all known this from the start; the Prophecies demand it. As you wish this of me, I will sell it to you in exchange for a legacy of peace to balance out the legacy of destruction I gave the world last time.”
Egwene feels the ta’veren pressure building, and realizes that the monarchs are going to cave. She tells Rand that she will not let him bully them, and that she is calling his bluff. The tension and shouting rises, and Rand growls at Egwene that he will have his price. She snaps back that he is not the Creator, and will kill them all if he goes forward this way. Rand retorts that the White Tower has “ever been a spear at his throat,” and now she is truly one of them. Egwene begins to fear that the negotiations will break down, and knows if Rand leaves the tent it is over.
“Don’t do this,” she said. “Don’t throw it all away.”
“It cannot be helped.”
“Yes it can! All you have to do is stop being such a Light- burned, woolheaded, stubborn fool for once!”
Egwene drew herself back. How could she have spoken to him as if they were back in Emond’s Field, at their beginning?
Rand stared at her for a moment. “Well, you could certainly stop being a spoiled, self- certain, unmitigated brat for once, Egwene.” He threw up his arms. “Blood and ashes! This was a waste of time.”
He was very nearly right. Egwene didn’t notice someone new entering the tent. Rand did, however, and he spun as the flaps parted and let in light. He frowned at the interloper.
His frown died as soon as he saw the person who entered.
Also, holy CRAP but this was a pain to summarize. I’m beginning to realize that the sheer density of these chapters may make keeping to a two-chapter-a-week schedule more or less impossible.
So, I don’t know if anyone has ever officially compared international politics to herding cats, but if they haven’t, they should. Even the (comparatively) simplified version of it that we get in WOT is enough to make anyone with sense want to tear their hair out. Darlin is probably one of the smarter guys in that tent, and the proof of it is how close to prophetic his forecast of how the meeting would go turned out to be.
Which I guess makes Rand’s impulse to want to slice through the Gordian Knot of it all understandable, but it doesn’t really make it any less foolish. Because cats is cats, Rand my boy. Cats is cats.
That said, I think it is very easy to fall back on the kneejerk reaction to hate on Egwene for fighting Rand in this chapter, because even acknowledging the inevitable cattishness (heh) of world politics, the instinctive inclination we have as readers is still to be like, hey, Eggy, Rand is the protagonist/Messiah figure/central focal-point thingy in this story, not you! Of COURSE what he wants is the right thing to do, because that’s how stories work! How dare you contest him on that, you suck, why you gots to be a hater, blah blah yadda.
The problem with this is on multiple levels. First of all, as an actual character in this story rather than a reader, it’s kind of silly to expect Egwene to accept a course of action just because it makes sense narratively. And second and far more importantly, it’s probably worth reminding everyone that it doesn’t really make sense to get mad at Egwene for pointing out the truth, which is that what Rand is proposing is, in fact, almost completely nuts.
Because seriously. Let’s not even address how Rand expects to command armies while he’s off getting killed in a mountain, and instead just concentrate on the far larger absurdity of his thinking that that piece of paper is going to last a hot minute past his own demise. Oh, everyone’s going to magically become pacifists, suuuure. It’s even worse when you consider that the five hundred pound and very aggressively imperialistic gorilla in the room, whose name rhymes with “Schmawnshawn,” is not even a nominal signatory to it!
But we’ll get to all that. My point for now, though, is that maybe you can quibble over whether Egwene is being foolish re: the seals, but no one who’s studied history for more than ten seconds should be giving her crap over calling shenanigans on this Dragon’s Peace thing, because she is absolutely right to do so as far as I am concerned.
She sort of should be given kudos, in fact, in so openly opposing it, because the far sneakier (and underhanded) thing to do would have been to convince the monarchs (I know not all of them are monarchs, but seriously, you come up with a collective noun that adequately describes this hodge-podge of more-or-less leader-like people) to just nod and smile and say, “sure thing, Mr. Lord Dragon sir!” and then ignore the whole thing as soon as Rand bites it. Which they might end up doing anyway, but at least this way Egwene and the others are arguing in good faith at the outset, for whatever that’s worth.
And… hm, I just went back and re-read the beginning part of this, Rand’s scene with Aviendha, and realized that, okay, but the thing is, Rand/Lews Therin DID live in a pacifist utopia once upon a time. Which… makes his insistence that his Peace can be achieved a lot more understandable than I have been assuming in this commentary.
*shrug* I still think it’s not feasible anyway. But then, I’ve never lived in a world where pacifist utopias actually existed outside of fiction, so maybe my opinion is biased.
As far as the “breaking the seals” part of it goes, obviously I as the reader am biased by the foreknowledge that Rand is in fact correct about the disposition of the seals, but this is the only place where I think I would have disagreed with Egwene even without that knowledge. She has a point about the danger, but, well, it’s the apocalypse. Danger is about the only thing on the menu at this point.
And besides, the bigger the stakes, the bigger the risks, n’est-ce pas? I don’t know, it just doesn’t make much sense to me to suppose that a fight to save the entire world can be won by choosing the safe, conservative path of action. Which is essentially what Egwene is saying here, and yeah, no.
But then, maybe that’s owed to my investment in narrative rules, as well. I mean, I think not, because the Vegas truth of “to win big, you gotta play big” is empirically proven both by Vegas and by history, but I suppose it’s possible.
I laughed out loud at the Roedran thing, as I mentioned in my spoiler review, because that was SUCH a fan shoutout. And yet I think it still worked within the story, too, because after all, if there’s anyone more interested than the fans in figuring out where the bloody hell Demandred has been all this time, it’s Rand. This bit also had the added benefit and/or frustration of reminding me that we still didn’t know the answer, which kind of blew my mind at that point.
Nice callback here at the beginning of the chapter to the prophecies that said the Dragon Reborn is one with the land, as well as a reminder that Rand is also WOT’s version of the Fisher King.
The One Power-fueled bath with Aviendha was kind of hilarious and awesome at the same time. Certainly sounds like a lot more fun than just taking a boring old bath, that’s for sure. Although I don’t know how I’d feel about having to be personally responsible for controlling the water pressure and so on. I guess there’s an argument to be made that modern indoor plumbing is actually a more decadent waste of resources than channeling yourself a shower, in terms of personal energy expediture….
Egwene’s dream of the frozen pillar of glass: that’s a reference to the anti-balefire thing, right? I can’t really remember.
And I’m spent, kiddies. Have a week, and come back next time for MOIRAINE. Whoo!