It does not compute that there is not a Wheel of Time Re-read, therefore there is one! Hooray!
Today’s entry covers Chapter 11 of A Memory of Light, in which Egwene almost puts her foot in it, Rand learns about that whole discretion/valor thingy, and Mat really, really, really needs to fire his travel agent.
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.
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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 11: Just Another Sell-Sword
Egwene rides with Adelorna Bastine through camp, who lets Egwene know that she will find no further resistance from the Green Ajah even though she chose a Red as her Keeper. Egwene tacitly acknowledges the implication that Adelorna is in fact the head of the Greens, and appreciates the gesture of giving her that secret. Egwene then reflects on Leilwin, and the value of the knowledge she’d given Egwene of the Seanchan, but still does not trust her. She enters Bryne’s tent, and nearly steps into the gateway on the floor of the tent, which opens onto a view of the massing Trolloc army from high in the air.
“I’m not sure if this is brilliant,” she said to Bryne, “or incredibly foolhardy.”
Bryne smiled, turning back to his maps. “Winning wars is about information, Mother. If I can see exactly what they are doing— where they are trying to envelop us and how they are bringing in reserves— I can prepare. This is better than a battle tower. I should have thought of it ages ago.”
Egwene points out that enemy channelers could attack through it, but Bryne maintains it is worth the risk. Yukiri, who had made the gateway, obligingly shows Egwene their own army from the same vantage, and wonders if there is a way to make a gateway that only allows the view through. Egwene observes to Bryne that their army’s lines are solid, but too conventional; he is not taking advantage of the fact that he has Aes Sedai in his arsenal. Bryne replies he intends the Aes Sedai to be a reserve force, and Egwene tells him the White Tower has not trained for this battle for thousands of years to be the reserves.
Bryne nodded, slipping a new set of documents out from underneath his pile. “I did consider other more… dynamic possibilities, but I did not want to overstep my authority.” He handed her the documents.
Egwene scanned them, raising an eyebrow. Then she smiled.
Mat is startled by the large number of Tinkers camped around Ebou Dar. He has disguised himself as best he could, attempting to look like just another sell-sword, unsure of how Tuon will feel about him now that they’ve been apart for a while. The gate guard is not interested in Mat’s elaborate cover story, and waves him in, but Mat has a moment of alarm when he recognizes the other guard as Petra, the strongman from Valan Luca’s menagerie, but thinks Petra has not seen him. He enters the city, and is surprised to realize how much he missed it.
Tylin. Bloody ashes, but that had been a fun game. She had had the better of him time and again. Light send him plenty of women who could do that, though not in rapid succession, and always when he knew how to find the back door. Tuon was one. Come to think of it, he would probably never need another. She was enough of a handful for any man.
He hunts for an appropriate tavern, and finally finds one called “The Yearly Brawl,” run by a motherly woman named Kathana, who insists on feeding him and the bouncer/her husband (Jame) even though she doesn’t believe Mat’s story on how he lost his eye. Mat reflects that she must never meet Nynaeve. Jame informs Mat that he knows what he’s here for, and that he won’t succeed in getting to “her.” Mat realizes he means Tuon.
“There are assassins,” Mat said calmly, “after Tuon?”
“Don’t use her name like that,” Kathana said, beginning to snap her cleaning rag at him again. Mat reached up beside his head without looking, catching the tip of the rag. He held Jame’s eyes with his single one, not flinching.
“There are assassins,” Mat repeated calmly, “after Tuon?”
Jame replies there are several. Mat takes out his hat and puts it on, and asks who is behind the bounty. Jame answers reluctantly that it is General Lunal Galgan, Head of the Seanchan armies. Kathana recognizes him then, as the one every guard in Ebou Dar has been told to watch for, and asks how he got past the city gates.
“By luck,” Mat said, then stepped out into the alleyway.
In Lan’s command tent in Shienar, Moiraine asks Rand what he is waiting for, why he isn’t at Shayol Ghul already. Rand answers that he must wait till the time is right, and until then must make the enemy think he is with the armies, to encourage them to commit southward.
“It will not matter,” Moiraine said. “You will face him, and that will be the time of determination. All spins on that moment, Dragon Reborn. All threads in the Pattern are woven around your meeting, and the turning of the Wheel pulls you toward it. Do not deny that you feel it.”
“I feel it.”
She took a deep breath. “Stubborn as ever.”
He gives her the Tar Valon coin he’d been carrying in remembrance of the one she’d given him in Emond’s Field. Lan enters, and Rand is puzzled by the polite distance between him and Moiraine. Lan tells Rand he should listen to Moiraine, but Rand answers that he will not leave Lan in such a bad position. Moiraine counters that what he did at Maradon was a mistake, but Rand replies that he will not stand by if he can help. Lan considers, and accepts this. Rand then gives him a gift: replicas of the original crowns of Malkier, for him and Nynaeve.
“You have ever been a king, my friend. Elayne taught me to rule, but you… you taught me how to stand. Thank you.”
Rand Travels to the front, just south of the Gap. The winds grow around him, not because of channeling but because of Rand’s presence.
Seas grew choppy when different streams of water crashed into one another. Winds grew powerful when hot air and cool mixed. And where Light confronted Shadow… storms grew. Rand shouted, letting his nature stir the tempest. The Dark One pressed upon the land, seeking to smother it. The Pattern needed equalization. It needed balance.
It needed the Dragon.
Rand channels, using the fat man angreal, killing Trollocs with lightning and Deathgates until he feels a shield trying to cut him off from the Source. He laughs, calling to Taim, but then realizes there are dozens of shields coming at him, all weak but worrying in their numbers. Rand begins killing the Dreadlords, and only just in time sees the larger attack coming from a circle. He deflects that shield with an effort, and resists letting anger get the better of him.
This was not the place. He could not fight here. If he did, he would lose.
Rand makes a gateway and escapes the field, back to Lan’s tent. He forces himself to recognize that even if he had beaten Taim and the Dreadlords, it would have left him weakened and easy prey for the Dark One. Moiraine asks if it was a trap, and Rand answers that they know what he did at Maradon, and must have Dreadlords waiting to Travel wherever he appears to do the same, and attack.
He couldn’t fight this war personally. Not this time.
He would have to find another way to protect his people.
The old rule of thumb in plotting (more or less, I’m paraphrasing here) is to never have anything that happens in your story accomplish only one thing when it can do at least two or more. And then something about guns and mantelpieces, but we all knew that one. (Don’t click that.)
Thus, right here we’ve got a nice twofer: both proof that Rand has Grown As A Messiah, and a justification for why he doesn’t just go to each of the four battlefronts and Deathgate all the Trollocs to, er, death.
Makes sense, I suppose. At any rate, I’m not going to look at it too closely, in case it doesn’t. I’ll have plenty enough aggro to deal with shortly as it is.
Also appearing in this scene is yet another in my long list of reunions I wish we could have seen but didn’t get to, namely that of Moiraine and Lan. Because the non-interaction we get here really doesn’t count, if you ask me. Although I guess seeing it from an outsider POV like Rand’s might have been something of a letdown anyway, since they’re all kind of cold and distant to each other, but that only makes me want to know the reasoning more, not less.
I mean, why the distance? Is it because Lan’s still pissed at Moiraine and doesn’t really want anything to do with her? Or is it more that they’ve both decided that trying to have A Talk about what went down wasn’t worth the emotional wear and tear involved? Or did severing the bond also sever whatever emotional ties they had as well and now they genuinely just don’t care about each other all that much?
Ugh. On second thought, maybe I don’t want to know.
Well, at least Rand got to give Lan (and Nynaeve) his very nice parting gift, which incidentally was a lovely affirmation of hope, that there would be a Malkier for them to wear their crowns in. Nice.
Re: Egwene’s scene, I absolutely agree with Bryne that having aerial spyholes to see your enemy’s movements is like the military intel equivalent of nectar of the gods, but holy crap would it freak me out to be in a room with a sideways gateway on the floor that you could fall through and die at any moment.
Actually, you know, I think I’d be freaked out having to deal with gateways, period. Instantaneous travel is fabulous, don’t get me wrong, but that whole “accidentally bang the edges and get sliced in half” aspect of it would make me very nervous. Kind of like walking into a room and suddenly realizing that there is a loaded revolver lying on the counter with the muzzle pointed in your direction. Because, yeah, it’s way over there and you’re way over here and no one else is anywhere near it and there’s no logical way it could kill you like that as long as you don’t do anything stupid, but agh.
(This is a thing which has happened to me, by the way. It was not a fun day, either for me or for the blithering moron who’d left a loaded gun on the kitchen counter, and who thereafter was privileged to become thoroughly acquainted with my evaluation of his talents as a host, a gun owner and a human being. His scores were, shall we say, low.)
Also, Adelorna ta—whoops, I blinked. Missed it. Oh well!
Also also, Bryne’s troop deployment ideas + 20/20 hindsight = DANGER WILL ROBINSON.
All very well for me to say that now, huh. Sigh.
And of course, there’s the titular bit of this chapter, in which Mat goes back to Ebou Dar. The city he had previously been stuck in for FIVE BOOKS.
Holy hell but this city’s a freakin’ black hole! The epic level of bullshit Mat had to go through to achieve escape velocity from that damn place, and now he’s back? Argh!
Ahem. I mean, I guess I knew he was going to have to go there for Tuon, but that does not change my reaction when I read it again. I repeat: ARGH.
Well, I suppose it’s better to view it as a coming full circle thing. The text certainly does imply this, with Mat’s thought that Ebou Dar feels like more like home to him than the Two Rivers does. Which, okay, but still. I can probably be forgiven a little frustration, considering how long I waited as a reader for him to get OUT of that damn city. And if I can’t be forgiven for it, well, I’m gonna do it anyway. So THERE.
And then there’s the mention of Tylin being a “fun game.” Which… okay, I seriously considered for a while getting angry about that, in light of my and many others’ conviction that Tylin’s behavior toward Mat was anything but fun—that it was, in fact, rape by any reasonable definition.
But, I eventually concluded, that was probably unfair. Because as I acknowledged (then as well as now), Mat himself never viewed his relationship with Tylin that way at all, so it wouldn’t exactly be reasonable to have him change his tune at this late date, especially with no incentive to do so (and a healthy dollop of guilt over how she died to ensure his rose-colored glasses on the subject as well).
So, okay. I won’t deny I twitched when I read that paragraph, though.
Bluh. But, I was pleased to see some good old-fashioned Mat snark in his POV. Like:
Maybe there would be a Tinker city someday, too. They would buy up all of the colored dye, and everyone else in the world would have to wear brown.
Rand should have just hidden [in the Rahad], instead of going up to fight the Last Battle. The Trollocs and Darkfriends would have come for him, and the Rahad would have left them all unconscious in an alleyway, their pockets turned inside out and their shoes sold for soup money.
And last but not least, of course, we have in this chapter the appearance of another of our Innkeepers (i.e. Team Jordan beta readers), Kathana (aka Jennifer Liang). With bonus cameo of her husband James Liang (the bouncer Jame, duh). I was especially tickled to read this so soon after this year’s JordanCon (aka “The Yearly Brawl,” ha), which of course is Jennifer and James’s baby all the way. Jennifer is unquestionably one of the single most significant contributors to the Wheel of Time fandom, like, ever, so her and James’s appearance here delighted me greatly.
(Fun fact: the bar at the hotel hosting JordanCon this year graciously renamed itself “The Yearly Brawl” for the weekend even though they didn’t actually understand why, which I thought was quite nice of them.)
And that’s what I got for this one, y’all! Have a week, and I’ll see you subsequently!