The power of the Wheel of Time Re-read compels you! Hopefully!
Today’s entry covers Chapter 14 of A Memory of Light, which features unexpected villainesses, unsolicited movie reviews, and surprisingly lethal applications of standard cartoon gags.
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!
Before we start: OMG, you guys, I have a non-spoiler review up of the WOT short story “River of Souls” in the upcoming Unfettered anthology! LOOKIT.
Chapter 14: Doses of Forkroot
Perrin and Gaul find the wolf dream in chaos, unnatural storm winds tearing the land apart, and Perrin shifts them away from Rand’s location in the real world, correctly guessing that his presence was making it worse. They hide their supplies, and Perrin warns Gaul that his thoughts can become reality here, and he should try to act on instinct. He explains about Slayer and how dangerous he is in the dream, and Gaul laughs.
“You act as if it is something new,” Gaul explained. “Yet in the first dream, wherever I go, I am surrounded by women and men who could tie me in air with a thought and kill me at any time. I am accustomed to being powerless around some, Perrin Aybara. It is the way of the world in all things.”
Perrin concedes this, but insists that Gaul promise he not try to fight Slayer unless he has no choice. Then he shifts them toward the Black Tower, where they can see a purple dome over the site. Perrin tries pushing through the dome, and finds that being there in the flesh does indeed make him stronger, and he gets through fairly easily. Gaul collapses when he tries it, and Perrin has to pull him through.
“What did I do to deserve your loyalty, Gaul?” Perrin said, mostly to himself.
Gaul laughed. “It is not anything you did.”
“What do you mean? I cut you down from that cage. That’s why you follow me.”
“That’s why I began following you,” Gaul said. “It is not why I remained.”
They walk to the wall surrounding the Black Tower and go atop it. A woman appears, calling the Asha’man “arrogant” and Perrin recognizes her scent, though not her face.
“Moonhunter,” Perrin said, almost a growl. “Lanfear.”
She tells him she is not allowed to use the name “Lanfear” any longer; she is intrigued to learn the wolves’ name for her. Perrin demands to know what she wants, and she tells him “vengeance,” against the one who imprisoned her. Then she looks to the sky in alarm and disappears. Perrin tells Gaul who she was, and hopes that that is the last he will see of her, but he is not optimistic.
Toveine, who had been Turned easily, orders Logain taken away to try again, and Androl wonders how he is still holding out after almost a dozen sessions. But he knows that will change now that Taim has female channelers (brought by a “horridly ugly” woman), since it is easier for male channelers to Turn female and vice versa. Pevara is still heavily drugged with forkroot, but they have not bothered to renew Androl’s dose for a while now, and he realizes what that means when Evin comes over to him and explains that he has convinced them to Turn Androl next, after Logain. Androl assures Evin that he is willing to be Turned rather than dying, and then warns Evin to watch out for Abors, who he claims might be planning to kill Evin. Evin is still affected by the paranoia of taint madness, and believes him.
That… can’t possibly work, Pevara sent drowsily.
She hadn’t lived among them long enough. She hadn’t seen what the madness could do, and didn’t know to notice it in the eyes of the Asha’man.
[…] If they weren’t stopped, they would descend to destruction. They would kill those closest to them, lashing out first at people they should have loved.
Androl knew that madness. He knew it was inside of him, too.
Moments later, Evin attacks and kills Abors, and Androl feels the shield on him drop. He seizes saidin and frees himself, Emarin and Pevara, while Taim is distracted by Evin, who is attacking Mishraile now. Emarin and Pevara are too drugged to channel, and Androl fights off his madness frantically as he tries and fails to make a gateway. Taim kills Evin, and notices Androl is free; he slams Androl against the wall with Air, and the ugly woman declares that Taim is obviously not as in control here as he claimed and says she is taking over. Taim warns her (Hessalam) that he is in the Great Lord’s favor, having stolen “the keys.” Hessalam is surprised by this news. Taim taunts Androl for his weakness, not even bothering to shield him, and orders Mishraile to kill them, but then begins weaving balefire himself.
Shadows, all around!
Androl clung to the Power.
The dead, they come for me!
He wove by instinct, the best weave he knew. A gateway. He hit that wall, that blasted wall.
So tired. Shadows… Shadows will take me.
A white-hot bar of light sprang from Taim’s fingers, pointed right at Androl. Androl shouted, straining, thrusting his hands forward and snapping his weave into place. He hit that wall and heaved.
A gateway the width of a coin opened in front of him. He caught the stream of balefire in it.
Everyone is stunned, and then the door explodes in, admitting Canler and the Two Rivers recruits.
Perrin positions Gaul above the construction site for coverage, and then searches the site, finding two Asha’man guards. He is debating what to do when Lanfear appears again. She tells him the guards have been Turned, and explains what that means. Perrin is horrified. Lanfear wills forkroot into the wine the guards are drinking, knocking them out. Perrin asks why she is helping him, and she says she is “fond” of him.
“You’re one of the Forsaken!”
“I was,” Lanfear said. “That… privilege has been removed from me. The Dark One discovered I was planning to help Lews Therin win. Now, I—” She froze, looking toward the sky again. What did she see in those clouds? Something that made her grow pale. She vanished a moment later.
Perrin realizes that she had been able to mask herself from both his sense of smell and of hearing, and is reluctantly impressed. He goes into the shack the guards were guarding, and finds the dreamspike inside. Lanfear appears again and tells him she is being hunted. Perrin wants to know why he should care, and she tells him she thinks Perrin has the best chance to “win,” and she wants to be there when he does. She offers to turn off the dreamspike for him, and Perrin hesitates, but gives it to her. She deactivates it and shows him how it works. He thanks her grudgingly, and asks about the Turned men.
“It shouldn’t be possible,” Perrin said, kneeling. “Nobody should be able to force a man to turn to the Shadow. When all else is taken from us, this choice should remain.”
“Oh, they have the choice,” Lanfear said, idly nudging one with her foot. “They could have chosen to be gentled. That would have removed the weakness from them, and they could never have been Turned.”
“That’s not much of a choice.”
“This is the weave of the Pattern, Perrin Aybara. Not all options will be good ones. Sometimes you have to make the best of a bad lot and ride the storm.”
Perrin scoffs, asking if that what she thought of joining the Shadow, and she retorts that he understands nothing of what she has suffered for her decisions. She vanishes, and Perrin goes back to Gaul. Gaul is unsure whether Perrin is the real Perrin, and Perrin tells him about Bain and Chiad to convince him. Gaul asks what they will do next. Perrin tells him they will wait and see if taking down the dome will lure Slayer out.
“What if it does not?”
“Then we go to the next likely place to find him,” Perrin said, rubbing his chin. “And that is wherever there are wolves to kill.”
The fight rages in the underground room, and Androl crawls toward Pevara and Emarin again. He tries to make another gateway, and is amazed when suddenly the barrier blocking the weave disappears. Androl stands and walks to the center of the room, where Taim and his followers are fighting Canler et al.
Androl looked to Taim and felt a powerful, overwhelming surge of anger. The Black Tower belonged to the Asha’man, not this man.
It was time for the Asha’man to reclaim it.
He weaves a gateway before Taim’s people, setting it to terminate just behind them, so the weaves they fling toward Canler et al instead go through the gateway and emerge to hit the Darkfriends from behind. He sends Logain through another gateway to “somewhere safe.” Hessalam and Taim flee just before Androl opens a third gateway underneath the Darkfriends, dropping them to their deaths.
The description of the dream world being eroded by winds reminded me very sharply of something, but I couldn’t put my finger for a while on what it was. Then I finally figured out that it was this scene from the movie Constantine, which I will probably horrify comics purists by opining was much better than its reception would lead you to believe. Certainly it had one of the better conceptual depictions of Hell that I’ve seen on film, so to compare the description in this chapter to that scene is definitely not an insult, even if it’s not completely accurate.
Anyway. I continue to heart Gaul. You have to appreciate a guy who totally acknowledges that he is fighting way above his weight class and yet never even considers backing down from the battle, because whatevs, fighters gotta fight. Or, you know, the appropriately non-surfer-dude Aiel version of that.
Also, Perrin and Gaul’s exchange in that same scene makes me wish a little bit that we could have had more time to explore their bro-ship, and give more in-depth props to the rather astonishingly effortless loyalty Gaul has displayed to Perrin pretty much since the moment his character first appeared in the series. Possibly the most amazing thing about it is that it’s never been difficult to buy, either. Even when Perrin was going off the rails during the PLOD, it’s easy to see how that would not have dented Gaul’s faith in Perrin.
Of course, Gaul had a parallel obsession to be, er, obsessed with during the PLOD, i.e. Bain and Chiad, but even so. If Perrin had ever had any kind of accurate sense of self-perception, Gaul’s unwavering loyalty to him should have by itself been sufficient proof that Perrin had it in him to be a leader. But I guess it’s easy to ignore and/or take for granted things that are always just there in front of you. Stop taking Gaul for granted, Perrin!
Lanfear’s appearance in Perrin’s storyline in AMOL was very startling to me, on first reading. I’m pretty sure that my first thought when it happened was what the fuck, over, because what did Lanfear have to do with Perrin? Shouldn’t she be bugging the hell out of Rand, like usual?
But then, of course, I didn’t know at the time how that whole thing in the endgame would play out. And also, of course, I was forgetting about the scenes in TDR with Perrin and Lanfear. So the foundation for their interaction was certainly there.
It’s pretty clear from how this and the earlier confrontation with Rand was written that it’s meant to be ambiguous at this point as to whether Lanfear is genuinely rebelling against the Shadow or if she’s planning a double-cross. I can’t quite remember which option I believed in at the time (although her wanting vengeance against Moridin is certainly believable), but either way I would have advised Perrin not to trust her any further than I can throw a Mack truck, so possibly it’s a rather moot point.
And then there’s Androl, which: YAY, ANDROL. Busting that dreamspike block down like a boss. Aw, yeah.
I’m not sure we ever get an explanation for exactly how he did that, mind you, but since it’s probably something along the lines of “his Travel-fu is JUST THAT AWESOME,” I’m not overly fussed about it, because I’m fairly well on board with Androl being awesome.
I also have to suspect that Androl’s Rain Man-like abilities with gateways grew out of an authorial desire to finally take the concept of gateways to their logical extreme, especially as regards combat. And that really gets underway right here in this chapter. I laughed out loud at the Scooby Door trick (don’t click that). As it will be with most of Androl’s gateway tricks in AMOL, my reaction was a combination of delight at the cleverness, and slight irritation that apparently no one had ever come up with these kinds of obvious-in-hindsight applications of Traveling before. (Then again, they were mostly only obvious in hindsight, so maybe I should shut my gob, eh?)
I was also startled to learn in this chapter that Logain has apparently been through a dozen attempted Turnings by this point, which was way higher a number than I had previously assumed. Willful? Shit, Logain must be about the most contrary human being on the planet, to withstand that. Damn.
Speaking of Turning, I totally call bullshit on Lanfear’s line of reasoning to Perrin that the Turned channelers had the choice to not be Turned, by choosing gentling instead. Because that doesn’t even make sense; how do you “choose” gentling in Emarin or Logain’s situation? Like Taim was seriously going to be all oh, you don’t want this? Gosh! Okay, we’ll just gentle you and send you on your merry way, our bad! Because yeah, I’m pretty sure not.
(Also, extremely nerdy nitpick: Lanfear would have used the term “severing” here, not “gentling,” since the former is both the preferred term for Age-of-Legenders and is gender neutral to boot.)
And Toveine! She was never my favorite, but it was still shocking to realize that she is now effectively dead. Made me sad, it did.
And Hessalam aka Graendal was at the Black Tower too, which seems a tad random. Shouldn’t she be off helping key military personnel make really bad decisions? Why is she helping Taim? Under orders, I presume, but enh. Weird.
And Taim straight-up tells her he has the seals (aka the “keys”) in his possession in this chapter, and I’m pretty sure I zoomed right by that without even noticing the first time. Hence all the confusion I seem to remember having over the entire seals issue earlier. Oops?
And that’s the end for now, kids! Check me out next Tuesday for more!