Roses are red, violets are blue, Wheel of Time Re-read… blurbity schmoo.
Today’s entry covers Chapter 7 of A Memory of Light, in which plots are thickened, and I reveal the utter lack of PO-tree in my soul. Oops.
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.
I am also thrilled to announce that the Wheel of Time Re-read is also now available as e-books, from your preferred e-book retailer! How cool is THAT, seriously.
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!
Once again, scheduling note: JordanCon V is nigh, ladeez and gentleplum! And I am Toastmastering it! And getting to see quite a few of you commenter-type folk there, OMG!
And since that is going to be all kinds of fun but also all kinds of insane, the Re-read will be going on hiatus for both April 16th and April 23rd. However, be sure to watch this space, as I will no doubt have a hopefully-coherent con report to share with alla y’all. HUZZAH.
Chapter 7: Into the Thick of It
Elayne steps out of the pavilion and is astounded to see it is now surrounded by a grove of giant trees; Elayne overhears a soldier talking of how they’d all sprung from the ground and grew to full size within minutes. Perrin remarks that they look like the Great Trees of a stedding, and Elayne and most of the channelers there hastily check to make sure they can still touch the Source. Rand has vanished, and Elayne breaks the moment by calling for maps. She notes that now Rand is no longer there, the others seem less complacent about accepting her as commander, and resolves to give them no time to dwell on it. Bryne says he has maps.
He seemed grayer than she remembered him; he wore a stiff white coat and trousers, the breast marked with the Flame of Tar Valon. He bowed in respect, but did not step too close. His uniform made his allegiance plain, as did Siuan’s protective hand on his arm.
Elayne remembered him standing with that same quiet expression behind her mother. Never presuming, always protecting the Queen. That queen had put him out to pasture. That event hadn’t been Elayne’s fault, but she could read the breached trust in Bryne’s face.
Elayne could not change what had come and gone. She could look only to the future.
Soon she has gathered the rulers and the four surviving great captains around a map table to formulate plans. Bryne says that they have been invaded at three main points: Tarwin’s Gap, Kandor, and Caemlyn. He suggests sending more forces to the Gap to bolster Lan there. Elayne reports that the Trollocs holding Caemlyn have stopped burning the city and appear to be holding there for now. Agelmar suggests sieging Caemlyn and sending the bulk of their forces to Kandor, but Prince Antol says softly that Kandor has already fallen, and implores them to give Andor their attention. Rhuarc interjects that they should not forget Shayol Ghul.
“The Car’a’carn soon will assault Shayol Ghul,” Rhuarc said. “He will need spears at his back when he does so.”
“He will have them,” Elayne said. “Though that means four battlefronts. Shayol Ghul, Tarwin’s Gap, Kandor and Caemlyn.”
Ituralde opines that they need to flush the Trollocs out of Caemlyn before they can reinforce their numbers via the Waygate inside. Agelmar asks if there is a way to retake the Waygate from the other side, but Perrin chimes in to explain that the Black Wind makes that impossible. Elayne asks about sending to the Black Tower for the Asha’man, but Perrin warns her that something strange is going on there, and that Rand is looking into it. Bryne suggests hiding their forces in Braem Wood and luring the Trollocs out to fight them there. The captains all agree that it seems more and more that they will need to keep the other two fronts in a holding pattern while focusing the bulk of their forces on Caemlyn, as the smallest and most strategically important target. Elayne suggests reinforcing Lan’s forces and sending the White Tower to hold Kandor. Amys says that the Aiel will handle Shayol Ghul on their own, but Elayne negates that idea decisively. The Aiel bristle, but Elayne reminds them that they demanded to be part of the Dragon’s Peace and the coalition, and therefore they are under her command. Rhuarc accepts this.
[Elayne] looked at the gathered generals. “It occurs to me. We have four battlefronts, and four great captains . . .”
Bashere nodded. “No coincidence, that.”
“Well, it might be one.”
“There are no coincidences, Highness,” Bashere said. “If I’ve learned one thing traveling with the Lord Dragon, that is it. Four of us, four battlefronts. We each take one, with Queen Elayne coordinating between us and overseeing the war effort as a whole.”
They agree that Agelmar will join Lan at the Gap, Bryne will go with the Aes Sedai to Kandor, Bashere will go with Elayne to Caemlyn, and Ituralde will go with the Aiel to Shayol Ghul. Elayne approves the plan, and decides to continue using Merrilor as a central headquarters for now. She asks Perrin to coordinate the camp here. He agrees, and they set to hashing out the plans in more detail.
Elayne leaves hours later, mind spinning with battle plans, and Bryne joins her. To her pleased surprise, he compliments her on how well she has been handling her position, providing unity and leadership to the others. Elayne attempts to apologize for what her mother did to him, but he stops her and says he does not blame her or Andor for it, though he will still fight for the Tower, not Andor. He leaves, and Birgitte joins her as she hears a strange noise from nearby. They walk toward it.
A song. A beautiful song, unlike any she had ever heard, that made her tremble with its striking sonority.
It washed over her, enveloped her, vibrated through her. A joyful song, a song of awe and wonder, though she could not understand the words. She approached a group of towering creatures, like trees themselves, standing with their hands on the gnarled trunks of the trees Rand had grown, their eyes closed.
Elayne sees that Loial is among the three dozen or so Ogier in the grove. From nearby, Perrin remarks that he’d thought of going to ask for help from the Ogier, but then found them here already. After the song is over, the eldest Ogier approaches and greets Elayne, introducing himself as Haman, son of Dal son of Morel. He tells her they have come to lend their axes to this fight; Elayne answers that they will be pleased to have three dozen Ogier at their side.
“Three dozen, young one?” Haman laughed a rumbling laugh. “The Great Stump did not meet, did not debate this long time, to send you three dozen of our numbers. The Ogier will fight alongside humans. All of us. Every one of us who can hold an axe or long knife.”
Elayne is thrilled, but then shocked to learn that they had almost decided to abandon this world altogether instead. Loial is surprised when Covril admits she opposed his plea for them to fight even though she did not truly believe it, but she tells him “One who argues truly learns the depth of his commitment through adversity.” Loial then goes on a tangent to Perrin about how nice it is to be married. Haman looks at the grove, and remarks that in his lifetime, he has only seen Great Trees cut down by men.
“To see someone growing them instead… We made the correct decision. Yes, yes we did. The others will need to see this…”
Elayne draws Perrin, Faile and Birgitte aside, and tells Perrin that their supply problem is dire, and she wants him to be in charge of coordinating it. Perrin, however, demurs, saying that he has to be with Rand. Faile volunteers in his stead, but Elayne hesitates, wondering whether she can trust Faile. She tries to get Perrin alone, but Perrin tells her he’ll just tell Faile everything anyway, and Elayne sighs.
“Egwene came to me during our battle preparations. There is a certain… item of importance to the Last Battle that she needs to be delivered.”
“The Horn of Valere,” Perrin said.
[…] “The Shadow knows we have the Horn, Perrin, and the Dark One’s minions are looking for it. They can’t use it; it’s tied to Mat until he dies. But if the Shadow’s minions can capture it, he can keep Mat from using it. Or, worse— kill him, then blow it themselves.”
“You want to mask moving it,” Faile said, “using the supply runs to hide where you’re taking it.”
Elayne grouses that she’d rather just give it to Mat directly, but he’s never where he needs to be. Perrin points out that he always gets there eventually. Faile promises she will deliver the Horn of Valere safely; Elayne still hesitates, but Perrin points out that their enemies will never expect Egwene to give it to someone she doesn’t know well. Elayne agrees, and makes plans to set up decoy envoys as further camouflage.
Lan listens to Bulen’s report on the plans for the Gap and elsewhere, and thinks that while they mean he will have less troops than he likes, he cannot fault the reasoning. King Easar joins him, and Lan goes to bow to him, but is startled when Easar bows to him first. Easar tells him that the Borderlander rulers are all coming here, and have all agreed (even Tenobia, after “a little encouragement”) to fight beneath Malkier’s banner.
[Lan:] “The weight of what you have given me feels like three mountains.”
“I know,” Easar said. “But we shall follow you, Dai Shan. Until the sky is rent asunder, until the rocks split underfoot, and until the Wheel itself stops turning. Or, Light send its blessing, until every sword is favored with peace.”
They ride through the troops, and Lan notes the grim faces of the men all around. On impulse, he speaks loudly, asking why they mourn.
“Is this not what we have trained for?” Lan shouted. “Is this not the purpose of our ways, our very lives? This war is not a thing to mourn. Other men may have been lax, but we have not been. We are prepared, and so this is a time of glory.
“Let there be laughter! Let there be joy! Let us cheer the fallen and drink to our forefathers, who taught us well. If you die on the morrow, awaiting your rebirth, be proud. The Last Battle is upon us, and we are ready!”
The men cheer him, and Easar remarks that he has the soul of a leader. Lan replies that he just cannot stand self-pity. Easar quotes a strange poem (“A drum with no head. A pump with no grip. A song with no voice. Still it is mine. Still it is mine”) but doesn’t really explain it. The alarm sounds, and Lan tells Easar he will accept the role of leader gladly.
“No hesitation at all?” Easar said.
“What am I?” Lan asked, swinging into the saddle. “Some sheepherder from a forgotten village? I will do my duty. If men are foolish enough to put me in charge of them, I’ll send them about theirs as well.”
Easar smiles and salutes, and Lan thinks of how even the Asha’man with them, led by Narishma, were all Borderlander men.
We fight together.
So, this is possibly the most aptly named chapter in the book, though a more meta (and amusing) way to name it would have been The Chapter Where We Set Up Ninety Percent Of The Rest Of The Book. I may be overestimating the percentage there, technically, but really this is where the framework is set for how most of the rest of what’s going to go down, er, goes down. I’m not entirely sure that sentence made actual sense, but you get what I mean.
Which probably also explains why once again it was such a bitch to summarize. There was just so much relevant info, man.
The only part I really could make myself leave out was the bit about Easar’s poem. Though I have to admit that that was mostly because that part didn’t really make sense to me anyway. But then, I’m kind of weird about poetry in general; a lifetime of speed-reading, both instinctive and trained, has left me ill-equipped to have the patience to parse a verbal art form in which (ideally) every single word and phrase is loaded with meaning. Speed-reading poetry is pretty much the most useless activity ever. Poetry is meant to be read slowly, to be savored and teased out for all its hidden and layered connotations, and I completely respect that while rarely having the endurance to actually do it. This is just one of the many ways in which I am probably a bad person, or at least an intellectual fraud. Oh well.
Anyway. In any case, Easar certainly has a way with words, and his pledge of loyalty to Lan on the Borderlanders’ behalf may not have made me choke up, but it definitely made me get that little grin of aw, yeah. Because, Lan, you guys. You know what I’m saying, I don’t even have to explain.
That said, I was surprisingly conflicted about Lan’s rousing speech immediately after. Because on the one hand, he’s totally right, but on the other I have a kind of automatic aversion reaction anytime I hear someone declaring why anyone should be glad to die. Don’t get me wrong, I get what he was saying, and certainly there’s a lot of merit in taking pride that your death will mean something, given how often death is just pointless and stupid, but, well. It still made me twitch a bit.
Also, I had to smirk, because Lan’s remark to Easar about not being “some sheepherder from a forgotten village” re: duty is probably the cattiest thing he’s ever said in the entire series. Like, wow, someone’s a little frustrated with Rand’s series-long waffling on the subject, isn’t he?
But I guess from his point of view, Rand’s reluctance to shoulder his burden would have been even more annoying to Lan than it was to the reader – or to most of the other characters, for that matter. After all, Lan’s had to deal with having an inescapable (and shitty) destiny for his entire life; Rand’s only had to cope with his inescapable shitty destiny for the last two years or so. Food for thought.
As for the Planning Our Shit section of this chapter, I have a number of thoughts, but most of them are pretty peripheral to the actual Planning Our Shit part. Like, for instance, where did Moiraine go? Did she just wander off after the showdown inside the pavilion? Kinda weird that no one even mentioned her. It was also kind of strange that Egwene evidently did not attend Elayne’s big strategy meeting, because shouldn’t she have had some input on where the White Tower goes, rather than just letting Elayne dictate it?
Well. I guess with this many characters all heaped into one area, some of them are bound to get lost in the shuffle. I also have no idea what happened to Nynaeve or Cadsuane. Or where Min’s been this entire time. But it’s more understandable that they would have been left out of the strategic planning bit, so okay.
I was initially a bit bemused by the whole conversation with Elayne and Perrin and Faile, because while I agreed that Faile was actually an excellent unconventional choice to deal with the Horn, I was racking my brains during that whole scene (still am, really) trying to remember when and where Elayne and Faile had ever interacted, for Elayne to have that whole “I don’t know if I trust her” moment.
And then I was like duh, Leigh, there was an entire chapter in TOM with Elayne ‘n Perrin ‘n Faile dancing around each other re: Perrin’s Lordening over the Two Rivers. But, and here’s what I can’t remember, did they ever interact before that? I know they were both in the Stone of Tear at the end of TDR/beginning of TSR, but as far as I know they never once crossed paths in that time. It’s not important, I guess, but it’s been bugging me a little. I could go look it up, I suppose, but naaah.
Speaking of the Horn, on the second time around I positively glared at Elayne’s blithe assertion here that the Horn is useless because it’s bound to Mat, because wow, what a set-up. And an extra frisson of holy crap, too, because on initial reading of Faile’s adventures in AMOL getting the Horn out of the Blight, you could at least comfort yourself with the idea that the Horn would still be useless even if Faile lost it, but now I’ll be reading that with the knowledge that the Shadow could have used the thing at any time and it would have worked. Yeesh.
Bryne and Elayne’s interactions in this chapter were one of the more bittersweet notes of the book, in my opinion. It’s understandable that the breach of trust there will never be fully healed, regardless of what Bryne declares, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a little bit sad-making.
Loial and the Ogier’s reintroduction to the main narrative was… interesting. A little more casual than I think I was expecting, for sure. And it was definitely a shame that Loial juuust missed Rand here. It’s sad because, as far as I know, Loial never gets to meet up with Rand again after they parted ways in KOD, when Rand was probably the one of Our Heroes Loial was closest to. Not to mention how Loial’s supposed to be writing an entire book about him. One of the many reunions cut for lack of time, I guess.
But it’s certainly nice (if not terribly surprising) to have confirmed that the Ogier decided to stay and fight instead of parallel-dimensioning their way out of there. So there’s that. Although, when did Elayne meet or interact with Loial prior to this? The way the chapter is written it’s clear that Elayne recognizes Loial, but I can’t remember them ever meeting before this scene. Although… ah, yes, they were also in the Stone at the same time in TDR/TSR, just as Faile was. Perhaps I should just assume that all the members of Team Light hung out together at least a few times off-screen in between the end of TDR and the beginning of TSR.
(Random aside: Word evidently considers “parallel-dimensioning” to be a legit term. I am perhaps inordinately amused by this. Well, at least it red-lined “Lordening,” right?)
Right! And that is what that is, WOTers. If you’re GOOD, I’ll do next week’s entry entirely in iambic pentameter. Okay, no, I’m lying. Curse me! Bye!