Holy domesticated South American camelid, Batman, it’s a Wheel of Time Re-read!
Today’s entry covers Chapter 16 of A Memory of Light, in which Rand is baffling, Moiraine is… brief, Loial is unsettling, and Lan WINS ALL THE THINGS. As usual.
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: I have a non-spoiler review up of the WOT short story “River of Souls” in the upcoming Unfettered anthology! LOOKIT.
Chapter 16: A Silence Like Screaming
Loial reflects on his fascination with humans and their hastiness as he moves through Braem Wood with Erith and the other Ogier, heading for the bridge over the Erinin. He thinks that the trees feel wrong.
If he drew close to them, he felt he could hear something. A silence like screaming. It was not a sound, but a feeling.
He and the other Ogier begin their war song as they move to attack, relieving the Whitecloaks, and Loial is glad for the rage that fills him, and for the fear he sees in the Trollocs at the Ogier’s advance. He is furious that the Shadow has made the Ogier into destroyers instead of builders, and he is determined to make them regret that.
Galad exclaims in shock as he watches the Ogier’s ferocious assault. He finds their transformation even more disturbing than the unnaturalness of the Trollocs. Golever and Trom are watching, too, and Golever declares that the Ogier are Shadowspawn. Galad dryly points out that they are slaughtering Trollocs, but Golever opines that they will turn on them. Then they watch as the Ogier hunt down and slaughter the rank of Trollocs that attempt to flee.
“Well?” Trom asked.
“Maybe…” Golever said. “Maybe it’s a scheme of some kind. To gain our trust.”
“Don’t be a fool, Golever,” Trom said.
Galad tells them to shut up and head for the bridge.
Back at Merrilor, Rand tells Nynaeve that he must go to Mat next. He reflects that Aviendha’s deerhorn dagger ter’angreal seems to be working, shielding him from the Shadow, but that he needs to take care of the Seanchan before he can move on. Moiraine approaches and comments that she used to spend hours trying to figure out what Rand was thinking. Rand tells her he was a fool for not trusting her, for being so stubborn. Moiraine replies that it was also a desire to prove himself.
Rand shook his head. He reached up to Callandor, strapped on his back, touching it. The sword’s final secret lay bare to him now. It was a trap, and a clever one, for this weapon was a sa’angreal not just for the One Power, but for the True Power as well.
He had thrown away the access key, but on his back he carried something so very tempting. The True Power, the Dark One’s essence, was the sweetest thing he had ever touched. With Callandor, he could draw it forth in strength such as no man had ever before felt. Because Callandor lacked the safety measures of most other angreal and sa’angreal, there was no telling how much of the Powers it could draw.
Moiraine asks what he is planning now, and he congratulates her on her skill in bringing the conversation around to that before informing her that he intends to not just defeat the Dark One, but kill him. Moiraine replies that the Dark One is “beyond killing,” but Rand does not agree, and says he has more confidence in his ability to kill the Dark One than to seal him back up. Moiraine tells him that the Dark One is part of the Wheel and the Pattern, and cannot be taken out of it, but Rand disagrees with that too. She calls the intention “a fool’s task.”
“I have been a fool before,” Rand said. “And I shall be one again. At times, Moiraine, my entire life — all that I’ve done — feels like a fool’s task. What is one more impossible challenge? I’ve met all the others. Perhaps I can accomplish this one too.”
She tightened her grip on his arm. “You have grown so much, but you are still just a youth, aren’t you?”
He tells her he is four centuries old, one of the oldest people still alive, and she asks if that line worked on the others. He grins and says it worked on Cadsuane; Moiraine is not so sure of that, but counters that memories do not make him ancient, otherwise Mat would be “the patriarch of them all.” Rand asks what that means, but Moiraine skirts the question to say Rand is still “a wide-eyed sheepherder” at heart, and she prefers it that way. They discuss the Seanchan, and Moiraine asks what he will do if they refuse to negotiate.
“I don’t know,” Rand said softly. “If they don’t fight, Moiraine, we will lose. If they don’t join the Dragon’s Peace, then we have nothing.”
“You spent too much time on that pact,” Moiraine said. “It distracted you from your goal. The Dragon is not to bring peace, but destruction. You cannot change that with a piece of paper.”
Rand is not convinced, but thanks her for her advice. She replies that he can thank her by bringing her tea, and he laughs and obeys.
After Rand leaves, Moiraine reflects on how he is such a contradictory combination of humility and arrogance, and wonders if he has finally found the right balance between the two. She thinks he has become a man, despite what she said before, but that that only meant his mistakes would be more dangerous. She remembers her mantra, “The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills,” but wishes that weaving was easier to understand.
Lan’s forces stop their retreat along the banks of the Mora. The ruins of Fal Dara and Fal Moran smolder on the horizon, destroyed by their own people to deny their resources to the Trollocs. They have fourteen channelers now to set against the enemy’s Dreadlords, led by the Asha’man Deepe, and the cavalry charges the Trollocs’ ranks for the first time in four days. The Trollocs concentrate on his banner, and Lan hears them shout Murdru Kar, Murdru Kar, Murdru Kar over and over as they attack. Lan sees his bannerman Andere fall, and he and Kaisel fight to his side. Lan dismounts and engages the Myrrdraal about to kill Andere, but sees a second Fade join in, and realizes it was a trap for him.
The two Fades attacked, one from each side. The void did not shake. A sword could not feel fear, and for that moment, Lan was the sword. The Heron Spreads Its Wings. Slashing all around him, blocking their blades with his own, back and forth. The Myrddraal were like water, flowing, but Lan was the wind itself. He spun between their blades, knocking back the attack to the right, then the one to the left.
Lan kills both Fades nearly simultaneously, taking down the fists of Trollocs linked to them as well, and drags Andere and the banner both to safety. He hears Kaisel exclaim in awe at his feat, but ignores it to order Deepe to signal their retreat and the advance of the next wave. Away from the front line, Deepe Heals Andere’s worst injuries, and Kaisel approaches to complain that Tenobia is riding with the Saldaeans again, and that it is encouraging the other Saldaean women to do the same. Lan cuts him off:
“This war is everything or nothing. If I could round up each woman in the Borderlands and put a sword in her hands, I would. For now, I’ll settle for not doing something stupid— like forbidding some trained and passionate soldiers from fighting. If you, however, decide not to exercise that prudence, you are free to tell them what you think. I promise to give you a good burial once they let me take your head down off the pole.”
“I… Yes, Lord Mandragoran,” Kaisel said.
Lan observes the starving Trollocs scavenging the field for corpses to eat, and waits until they are completely distracted by fighting over the food to signal an all-out attack. Disorganized and out of formation, the Trollocs fall in droves. When the Dreadlords realize what is happening and join back in, Lan signals the retreat. Then Deepe exclaims in horror and points out a figure on the back of a siege engine; it is the M’Hael, and Lan orders everyone to run. Then a bolt of lightning hurls Lan from his horse. Kaisel and his guard rescue Lan, but he sees that Deepe has been blown to pieces.
Aw, bye, Deepe. Your name was kind of funky but I vaguely recall that you were cool in TOM, so.
Meanwhile, in the least shocking news ever, Lan is a badass two-Fade-killin’ muthafucka. This was probably much more impressive the first time around, when I didn’t yet know that Lan would basically be spending the rest of the book serially one-upping his own badassedness. Now I’m just nodding and saying excellent start, old bean, bravo. *golf clap*
Of course, the main reason to love Lan in this chapter is his epic schooling of Kaisel for being stupid about women in combat, which made me want to explode glitter and sparkly hearts everywhere, because THANK YOU, SHEESH. The idea of not allowing half of the human race to help defend against its own extinction… there are not enough *headdesks* in the world, really. But for the official count, let’s round it to a nice three:
*headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*
My only quibbles about this are, naturally, (a) it would be even better if we didn’t have to have an actual apocalypse under way to acknowledge that those who want to fight should be allowed to bloody well do so, gender be damned, and (b) Lan couldn’t have ever mentioned this philosophy to Rand, and maybe reduced Our Hero’s angst saturation by like 2000% over the course of the story? Ah well.
(And for those of you ready to start up the debate again over women in combat in non-apocalyptic situations, all I ask is that you go read this wonderful article first, and then come back here and talk about it. For extra credit, read this one too, which is even more amazing but broader in scope than this particular issue.)
Speaking of schooling, I also got a kick out of Trom finally getting fed up with the standard Whitecloak narrative that everything is a cannibalistic llama (which is something that will make sense when you read that article, read that article) and telling Golever to shut it. Like, thank you, dude, for finally seeing what’s in front of you instead of what you’ve told to see.
That said, like Galad, I found the whole Ogier thing and Loial’s POV in particular in this chapter a tad disturbing, if not necessarily for the same reasons. It’s not that I begrudge them their ferocity — because if you’re going to fight, you know, you might as well commit to the enterprise, especially if that increases your chances of survival — but Loial’s thoughts were, again, an uncomfortable echo of the ones Egwene had had in an earlier chapter:
Swing after swing. Chopping dead wood, that was all this was. Dead, rotting, horrible wood.
[…] He sang and fought and roared and killed, hacking at Trollocs with an axe meant for cutting wood, and never flesh. Working with wood was a reverent business. This… this was killing weeds. Poisonous weeds. Strangling weeds.
And again, I get it. This is the one kind of war (i.e. an imaginary one) in which your enemies really are the faceless nameless inhuman purely evil things we generally have to lie to ourselves to make them be, but again I have that reflexive twitch. I’m not sure this is something I would even have noticed, fifteen years ago.
Moiraine: I could definitely be wrong, but I think this is the only POV we get from her in all of AMOL. And if so, I have to say it was kind of a massive waste of an opportunity to visit with her a little more. I know that, as usual, we are pressed for space here, but man would I have loved to get a little more of her perspective, not just on Rand, but on all the crap she’s missed since TFOH. Not to mention her own state of mind re: Lan and Lanfear and yadda bling bloo. Or hey, a passing thought about her best friend Siuan, even, who she’ll never see again.
I also kind of wished that Rand would have brought up his List to her, considering her position at the very tippy-top of it, and maybe how much her return meant to him on that level, because if Rand were ever going to talk to anyone about that it would have been to her. I dunno, I just felt like there were a lot of things which could have been at least alluded to in this little interlude that weren’t.
Also: wow, way to go, Rand. He acknowledges how stupid he was to never listen to Moiraine, in the exact same breath he is still ignoring all her advice. That’s just special, right there.
(Also, possibly-corrected-later continuity gaffe: Nynaeve has a line right at the beginning of the Rand POV, and then either mysteriously vanishes, or is silently present for the entirety of Rand’s conversation with Moiraine, which seems… odd.)
And then there’s Rand, and the absolute bomb he dropped in this chapter, in his thoughts about Callandor. Which was, of course, the revelation that Callandor amplifies the True Power as well as the One Power. Which I’m pretty sure elicited an actual out loud “Say what?” from me on first reading, because where the hell did that come from?
When did Rand learn this utterly flabbergasting piece of knowledge, and what’s more, how did he learn it? Perhaps I just missed something, which is as usual entirely possible, but I’m pretty sure that from the reader’s point of view, at least, this information came out of literally nowhere.
Seriously, I am at a loss. Rand can’t know about it from Lews Therin’s memories, because Lewsy was dead before Callandor was ever made. And I know Min was researching Callandor, and that there had been allusions made previously about there being “something more” to the mystery of The Sword That Ain’t, but it seems highly unlikely to me that any writings Min would be able to get her hands on would contain this information. Because as far as I can recall, only the Forsaken and Rand even know the True Power exists, so how would random scholars know Callandor can do something with it?
So what, was Rand playing around with the thing off-screen and tried the True Power out on it on a whim? Because that’s even more unlikely, if you ask me, considering how (rightly) terrified Rand was of using it again after the first time.
Not to mention, how does any human-manufactured sa’angreal even have this ability in the first place? I mean, I suppose it could be just a like-substances thing: a chute made to funnel water, after all, will funnel orange juice or tea or alcohol or any other reasonably liquid-like substance just as well. So maybe any One Power-amplifying object can also amplify the True Power, and Rand just logically deduced that fact.
…Except, of course, that Rand’s thoughts in this chapter definitely seem to imply that only Callandor can do that, so the above doesn’t follow. Which leads me back to wondering exactly how Rand figured that out. Thoughts, comments, pointers to the memo I missed? Anyone? Bueller?
Tell me your thoughts, O My Peeps, and in the meantime, have a week! See you next Tuesday!