Holy introductory sentence, Batman, it’s a Wheel of Time Reread!
Today’s entry covers Chapter 25 of A Memory of Light, in which we have extreme spelunking, Perrin pwning everything, and probably the one character death in this book I really didn’t care about.
Previous reread 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 25: Quick Fragments
Egwene and Bryne return to the Tower’s new camp on the Kandor/Arafel border. Bryne reports that Elayne has ordered them to hold here. Siuan points out that they are outnumbered, and Bryne replies that everyone is. The Sharans have yet to attack in force, waiting for the slower Trolloc army to catch up with them. Siuan is relieved to see Egwene, but wants to make sure this is really the Amyrlin. Egwene passes her test easily, and Siuan decides to believe it is her.
Siuan made certain to look into the woman’s eyes. There had been talk, quiet, of what had happened at the Black Tower. Myrelle had spoken of it, of events shared by her new Warders. Something dark.
They said you could tell. Siuan would see the change in Egwene if it had happened to her, wouldn’t she?
If we can’t tell, Siuan thought, then we’re already doomed. She would have to trust the Amyrlin as she had so many times before.
Egwene then notices the raken flying overhead with astonishment. Siuan reminds her she received Rand’s letter, which simply said “The Seanchan fight the Shadow.” Egwene calls him a “bloody man.” Min Farshaw was here now as well, having delivered the letter, and is now working as a clerk. Saerin asks Egwene if she trusts the Dragon’s word re: the Seanchan.
“I don’t know,” Egwene said. “Form up our battle lines anyway, but keep an eye on those things up there, in case they attack.”
Rand senses that the dagger had worked, and the Dark One only became aware of his presence once he was inside the cave. Rand remembers the passage from another life. As he and Nynaeve and Moiraine head down, the tunnel begins to narrow down on them.
“No,” Rand said, stopping. “I will not come to you on my knees, Shai’tan.”
The cave retreats, and they continue on. Rand notes the pool of blood he left behind when he stopped, and thinks he must be quick. He whispers to the Dark One that he is the hunter now, and thinks he feels the cave laugh at him. Then he senses that one of the women he’s bound to is in pain, but the cave warps the bond so he can’t tell which it is. He asks aloud where the fires are, and a voice ahead replies that they have been consumed. In the light of Callandor, they see Moridin kneeling before a black void that Moiraine warns Rand not to touch. Moridin faces them, and Rand sees an empty shell that might have once been a Fade behind him.
“A vessel my master needed no longer,” Moridin said. Saa floated in the whites of his eyes, bouncing, shaking, moving with crazed vigor. “It gave birth to what is behind me.”
“There is nothing behind you.”
Moridin raised his sword before his face in a salute. “Exactly.” Those eyes were nearly completely black.
Rand tells him there is no point to a duel between them here, but Moridin replies that Rand’s victory over him is by no means assured, which Rand acknowledges, remembering (I win again, Lews Therin…). He asks Moridin to stand aside, then, and make the right choice for once. Moridin laughs.
“Now? Now you beg me to return to the Light? I have been promised oblivion. Finally, nothing, a destruction of my entire being. An end. You will not steal that from me, Lews Therin! By my grave, you will not!”
Moridin came forward swinging.
Lan fights with his fifty-odd High Guards, killing Trollocs through his exhaustion. He wonders if the Trollocs might not be trying to capture him specifically, and at length orders a retreat from point position, to the others’ relief. He goes to a hill to see the field better, and watches the Aes Sedai and Asha’man fight against the Dreadlords’ attacks from where they are perched on a high rolling platform, and knows their own channelers are outnumbered just as the troops are. He watches as two different companies are sent to plug a gap in the lines, causing confusion, and wonders why that had happened. He resolves to look into the error.
Perrin and Gaul watch the glimpses of the battle of Thakan’dar that leak through to the wolf dream, and Perrin wonders what all the wolves gathered around are waiting for. He tells Gaul that Rand has entered the mountain. He knows that he needs to be here for Rand at some point, but thinks he has other work as well. They had followed Graendal here from Cairhien, where she had been poking into people’s dreams, but now she had vanished back to the real world.
He is here, Young Bull! The sending came, sudden and urgent, from a wolf named Sunrise, here in the valley. Slayer comes among us! Hurry!
Perrin shifts himself and Gaul to the mouth of the cave on Shayol Ghul and then inside, where he sees Rand in combat with another man, and Slayer about to shoot him with an arrow. Perrin flashes in front of Rand and knocks the arrow aside. Astonished, Slayer vanishes, and Perrin tracks him to a small village near the mountain filled with what look like Aiel, but with red veils. The red-veils attack, and he and Gaul fight back with superior skill, but then Perrin realizes at least one of them can channel. Slayer arrives and he and Perrin begin a duel, dancing and shifting lightning fast around each other, neither able to get in a blow, while Gaul holds off the red-veils. But it is going badly for Gaul, and Perrin shifts them both back to Shayol Ghul.
Are you there? Perrin sent out, urgent.
Dozens upon dozens of wolves replied. We are here, Young Bull.
Do you lead us, Young Bull? The Last Hunt!
Watch for Moonhunter, Young Bull. She stalks you like a lion in the high grass.
I need you, Perrin sent to the wolves. Slayer is here. Will you fight him, and the men with him, for me?
It is the Last Hunt, one sent back as many others agreed to help him.
Slayer appears and launches a volley of arrows at Perrin, but Perrin uses the gale to knock them all askew. Red-veils appear, and Gaul and the wolves attack them while Perrin confronts Slayer. Slayer is shocked at Perrin’s strength in the dream, and realizes he is here in the flesh.
Slayer vanished and appeared five strides back, on the rim of the pathway leading up to the cavern. “I’m so very glad you came hunting me, wolf pup. I was forbidden from seeking you, but now you are here. I skinned the sire; now the pup.”
Perrin follows, and soon succeeds in wounding Slayer. They fight through the phantoms of the fighters in the real world (some of which Perrin is startled to notice are snakelike), and Perrin switches back and forth from wolf form to human. Slayer wounds him in return and then shifts back to the real world. Perrin howls in frustration, and shifts back to the cave mouth, where all but two of the red veils are down, but there are many dead wolves and Gaul is wounded. Perrin deflects the red-veils’ attacks with ease and makes them into drooling idiots. He helps the wounded wolves and howls for the dead ones. Gaul is burned badly, though he is still upright, and Perrin says they need to get him to a Healer.
Gaul gave him a toothy grin. “I killed two of those myself, Perrin Aybara. One could channel. I think myself great with honor, then you slide in and take two captive.” He shook his head. “Bain would laugh herself all the way back to the Three- fold Land if she saw this.”
Lanfear appears and tells him to kill the red-veils. She explains that they have been Turned, like the men at the Black Tower; Gaul realizes that these are Aiel channelers, sent to the Blight to die and made evil instead. Perrin wonders if he can will them back to the Light like he had made them mindless, but when he tries his will bounces off “something vast.”
He looked to Gaul, and shook his head. “I can do nothing for them.”
“I will do it,” Gaul said. “They are brothers.”
Perrin nodded, reluctant, as Gaul slit the throats of the two men. It was better this way. Still, it ripped Perrin up inside to see it.
Lanfear calls him a child, but then Heals him. Perrin demands she do the same for Gaul as a show of good faith, and she does, reluctantly. The cave rumbles, and Lanfear says she cannot stay there, and vanishes. Gaul thinks she is playing a game with them, and Perrin agrees. He walks back down into the cavern where Rand is dueling with the other man, and is astonished and terrified by the black void beyond the other two men. He sees Moiraine and Nynaeve and tries yelling at Nynaeve; she can’t see him, but can hear him, and he warns her that he is about to block gateways within the cavern. She is confused but nods, and Perrin rams the dreamspike into the rock and activates it. He returns, and finds out from Gaul that he had been gone almost two hours, though it had seemed like only a few minutes to him.
“I need you to protect this place,” Perrin sent to the gathered wolves, many of whom were still licking their wounds. “Shadowkiller fights inside, hunting the most dangerous prey this world has known. We must not let Slayer reach him.”
We will guard this place, Young Bull, one sent. Others gather. He will not pass us.
He arranges for the wolves to set themselves up throughout the Borderlands so as to relay to him almost immediately if any see Slayer, and the wolves agree.
“We are not staying?” [Gaul] asked.
“There is too much happening,” Perrin said. “Time moves too slowly here. I don’t want the war to pass us by.”
Besides, there was still the matter of what ever Graendal was doing.
Sooo, you really can’t tell me that Rand’s note to Egwene wasn’t at least partially him being a little shit, because come on. I mean, yay for brevity and all, because I hear it is the soul of wit, but generally speaking there is a slight bit more coordination required before two giant armies can hook up for efficient army-ing than Here go ya old frenemy, y’all have fun
storming the castle fighting the forces of darkness, peace out.
Of course, I guess Rand might have some justification in deciding it’s okay to make that someone else’s problem in the first place. Seeing as he has that whole facing down a near-omnipotent anthropomorphization of the essence of evil gig to take care of. They do say that the sign of true leadership is knowing when to delegate!
Right, so I just said that as a joke, but it occurs to me that it’s actually also true, and in fact one of the themes of the entire series. Part of Rand’s redemption as a character over the last two books is his realization that he cannot, in fact, save the world all by his damn self, and that he needs to trust his friends and followers to have his back and hold the line while he does his thing.
So, from that point of view, it’s not really dismissiveness or arrogance on Rand’s part to send such a terse note to Egwene, but more a trust in her that she will be able to handle it without him holding her hand the whole way. Huh.
I’m pretty sure Egwene’s still pissed about it, though.
Anyway. I’m not really sure why the Sharans haven’t pressed their advantage and attacked before now, because that seems really tactically silly, to allow your surprised enemy to recover and regroup… oh yeah, Demandred wants Rand to come fight him, that’s probably why.
Still tactically stupid, though. In my extremely militarily-trained opinion!
Moving on: seriously, the Dragon Reborn’s extremely-accurately-future-predicting girlfriend shows up and they make her a clerk? What is this I don’t even. Tuon’s going to piss me off a lot in a bit here re: Min, but at least she had the sense to see Min’s inherent value in their current situation. (Or any situation, really, but especially in an apocalyptic one.)
And Rand is actually in the cave, ZOMG. I remember I was absolutely agog, on first reading, to see how this would all go. Which is probably not surprising, considering that this is the event that fourteen books and two-plus decades has been building up to. Though I was also surprised, really, that it happened that soon. Er, relatively speaking—in the sense that we are only just about halfway through the book, I mean.
But then, the whole time-dilation thing should have been a clue to me that this was going to take a lot longer than logistics would suggest on the face of it. Silly me.
This is not me knocking “the whole time-dilation thing,” by the way; as plot devices go, I found this one to be exceptionally clever—not least because I honestly can’t think of another way to have had all the divergent story arcs in the latter half of the novel sync up in anything remotely approaching a comprehensible way. By which I mean, having all the appropriately climactic conclusions of those storylines sync up. Which, as I recall, they pretty fairly well do.
Moridin being there, of course, was completely inevitable. Though I admit I was a bit startled by the abrupt off-screen exit of SuperFade Shaidar Haran. That definitely got a “…well, okay then” reaction from me. Moridin’s assertion that the vessel was used to create the big void thingy in the cave is… fine, I guess, but it really doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
But then, I never really did understand SuperFade’s purpose for existing, ever since he was first introduced in LOC. He did a lot of stuff, true, but it all seemed like things that Moridin really could have handled just as easily himself, on the Dark One’s orders. And yeah, Moridin was not quite as biddable, maybe, but… I dunno, SuperFade always seemed kind of just random and superfluous to me. So I simultaneously expected more to come of the whole avatar thing, while also just being relieved that he was disposed of so efficiently. *shrug*
I am sort of annoyed that as far as I can tell, other than being Power conduits for Rand, Moiraine and Nynaeve basically don’t get to do much at all. I understand that this is Rand’s rodeo, but, well. I’m kind of annoyed at how underutilized Moiraine and Nynaeve were in general in AMOL, not just in the ass-kicking department.
Nice foreshadowing of the Alanna Ploy here… though I think I might have called this one as soon as I read it. But then, as I’ve said before, that’s a shoe I’ve been waiting to drop since the moment she bonded him six million years ago. So, yeah. More on that later.
Lan: is dashing, and kickass, and smart enough to notice that Agelmar is fucking up. And… yeah, that’s about it. Moving on!
It’s really a shame, after all the savvy that Perrin’s picked up by this point, that he still doesn’t listen to either the wolves or Gaul when they tell him Lanfear is bad news. I mean, he listens, but then he does stuff like let her Heal him (and Gaul), which leaves them both wide open to be messed with in infinite other ways, and I’m like WHAT ARE YOU DOING.
Of course, various commenters have opined (or maybe it’s confirmed later and I just forgot) that Lanfear is already Compelling Perrin, subtly, and has been since the beginning of their interaction in AMOL. And I can’t decide whether that would be better because it would mean that Perrin is not actually voluntarily being a dumbass about her, or if it just gives me the screaming mind-rape meemies and I would prefer Perrin being an idiot.
Seriously, y’all, if there is a Magical Thingy ethically more horrifying than Compulsion, I can’t think of it off the bat. Just the idea of it is like spiders scurrying across my soul. Aaand I totally just freaked myself out with that image. Good job, me!
*checks under desk for spiders*
Anyway, much of the rest of Perrin’s POV was the beginning of his Epically Epic showdown with Slayer. A showdown which, if I recall correctly, has got a looooong way to go. I honestly really don’t have much to say about the fight itself; I liked it, but there really isn’t much to comment on beyond saying “it would probably look really cool on screen.” Because it would; the image of him and Slayer plowing through dust-explody phantom fighters was especially cool. Though it would probably be a nightmare to shoot, both from a choreography/blocking standpoint and from an FX/editing one. Yeesh. (But worth it, if you do it right.)
I have no idea what the snake thing was about, though (that Perrin saw in the phantoms). I have clearly forgotten something. Maybe that’s Fain’s Mashadar shtick? But I didn’t think he had arrived in the valley yet. Oh well, I’ll find out.
Gaul is badass, as usual, all the more so for being completely non-supernatural in any way, and yet picking up the basics of this tricky dream-fighting stuff about twenty times faster than Perrin did originally. I felt really bad for him when he realized who the red-veils were. Talk about a kick right in the cultural balls, man. That sucks.
Regarding the dreamspike, didn’t some Forsaken at some point back in the earlier books mention that it’s impossible to Travel directly to the Bore anyway? Granted, there’s no logical way for Perrin to have known that, but it still seems like a lot of trouble to go through for something that doesn’t even matter anyway.
Most importantly (and awesomely) for this scene, though, I think, is Perrin really taking command of the wolves at Shayol Ghul, and finally really becoming the King of the Wolves, whether he actually realizes this or not. That’s… that’s pretty cool, y’all.
And that’s what that is, my fronds. Week well, wabbits, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!