All war is deception, my WOTlings, but the Wheel of Time Reread is TRUE.
Today’s entry covers Part 10 of Chapter 37 of A Memory of Light, in which Egwene briefly regroups, Androl is in a different story from the rest of us, and Mat makes ancient Chinese philosophers rotate gently in their graves.
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Chapter 37: The Last Battle [Part 10]
Egwene awakes in Mayene with the agony of knowing that Gawyn is gone. She hears Silviana speaking with a Yellow, Rosil, in the next room, seething that Warders are nothing but a liability and Gawyn was a fool. Egwene reminds Silviana that Gawyn saved her life from Seanchan assassins, and without him she would not be here to mourn. Silviana is chastened, and bids Egwene to rest, but Egwene refuses.
“Egwene al’Vere can grieve,” Egwene said, standing up. “Egwene al’Vere lost a man she loved, and she felt him die through a bond. The Amyrlin has sympathy for Egwene al’Vere, as she would have sympathy for any Aes Sedai dealing with such loss. And then, in the face of the Last Battle, the Amyrlin would expect that woman to pick herself up and return to the fight.”
Rosil warns her that either summoning saidar or controlling it will be dangerously difficult under her crushing grief, and her only choice is to overwhelm it with even stronger emotions. Egwene tells her that will not be a problem, and lets herself be filled with her fury at the Shadow for taking Gawyn from her. Egwene says she will need another Warder.
…every person with a Warder bond was a better fighter than those without. To go without a Warder was to deny the Light another soldier.
There was a person here who had saved her life. No, a piece of her said, her eyes falling on Leilwin. Not a Seanchan.
Another piece of her, the Amyrlin, laughed at that. Stop being such a child. She would have a Warder. “Leilwin Shipless,” Egwene said loudly, “will you take this duty?”
Leilwin is stunned, but agrees. Egwene bonds her with no further ado, and then opens a gateway back to the battlefield.
Galad ignores Demandred’s taunts, dueling him with cold precision. He deliberately draws out the fight, knowing every moment Demandred’s attention is on him is a moment he is not raining destruction down on Elayne or her armies. Demandred draws first blood, but Galad does not let it affect him, and returns the favor. Demandred remarks that it has been a long time since someone was able to do that. He makes the ground heave under Galad, and Galad closes with him, forcing him to stop or topple himself. They grapple a moment, then the muscle in Galad’s wounded arm tears and he drops his sword. Demandred severs Galad’s arm at the elbow.
Demandred stepped back, panting. He had been worried. Good. Galad held to his bleeding stump, then spat at Demandred’s feet.
Demandred snorted, then swung his blade once more.
All went black.
Still wearing Nensen’s face, Androl searches for Taim on the Heights, keeping in contact with Pevara mentally, as the four had split up to avoid attracting attention. He sees Trollocs guarding something, and comes closer to find Mishraile and Taim there. Taim is holding a disc of black and white. Thinking Androl is Nensen, Taim demands a report. Androl thinks fast, and approaches, saying he saw Androl and followed him, but Taim only cares about what Demandred is doing. Androl says truthfully that Demandred had sent him away and threatened to kill him if he didn’t go.
Androl…Pevara sent, worried. He couldn’t spare the concentration to reply. It took all he had to keep from shaking as he stepped up close to Taim.
Taim punishes him with a weave that causes agony, but eventually lets him up. Androl warns Pevara to stay away, and Taim places another weave on him. “Nensen” asks what he is doing, and Taim tells him he is putting a Mask of Mirrors on him to make him look like Androl.
“I want you to pretend to be the pageboy, find Logain, then kill him. Use a knife or a weave, I don’t care which.”
“You’re… making me look like Androl,” Androl said.
Taim warns him to succeed or die, and dismisses him. Androl scrambles away and finds Pevara, Emarin and Jonneth. Appalled, Pevara asks what happened to his disguise. Androl tells her she’s not going to believe it, and pulls out the pouch he had filched off Taim’s belt.
Downriver, where Perrin’s forces are helping keep Elayne’s army from being flanked, Arganda and Alliandre meet with Tam al’Thor and Abell Cauthon. Arganda tells them that Mat Cauthon is miraculously alive, though in hiding, and has sent them orders. Abell is very pleased. Tam tells Arganda they have a fresh supply of arrows, and Arganda says Mat wants them to move back upriver and attack the Heights from the northeast side. Tam is confused, but supposes Mat knows what he is doing.
Together, their forces moved upriver in the night, leaving behind the fighting Andorans, Cairhienin and Aiel. Creator shelter you, friends, Arganda thought.
They reach the Heights, and Tam comments this will be difficult. Arganda tells him Mat said they would have help. Sure enough, Lan and his Borderlanders join them soon after. Lan tells them of a large Sharan force moving across the top of the Heights, and if they come down around the armies at the river, they will have the Light surrounded. With no further ado, Lan and his riders charge, and Tam’s archers begin firing into the fray until they make contact.
Where did Tam get his battle experience? Arganda thought, thinking of the times he’d seen Tam fight. Arganda had known seasoned generals with far less sense of a battlefield than this sheepherder.
Tam orders Arganda’s foot forward. As they fight, suddenly there is a flash of light from above, and Demandred’s voice booms over the battlefield, calling to Lews Therin that he has defeated and mortally wounded his brother, and demanding to know if he cares for “this man in white” who named him kin. Arganda fights a Trolloc desperately as Demandred rants on calling Lews Therin a coward and threatening to finish the job unless he comes to face him. Then the Trolloc backhands Arganda and he blacks out. He comes to to find that Lan has rescued him, and Lan tells him about the other army of Dragonsworn that had come to their aid against the Sharans and routed them for now. Then Ogier approach, and Lan greets them, asking where Cauthon is.
One of the Ogier let out a rumbling laugh. “You are not the only one, Dai Shan! Cauthon moves about like a squirrel hunting nuts in the underbrush. One moment here, another moment gone. I am to tell you that we must hold back this Sharan advance, at all cost.”
Arganda realizes Cauthon must be trying to box the Shadow’s forces in, but sees their numbers, plus the havoc Demandred alone is wreaking on their forces. He opines that they are finished, and Lan does not contradict him.
“If so,” Lan said, “we stand atop the high ground, and we fight until we die, Ghealdanin. You surrender when you’re dead. Many a man has been given less.”
Does it make me a terrible person that I wanted to tell Egwene to stop referring to herself in the third person? I think it probably does. Oh well.
As for Egwene bonding Leilwin… okay, I know this complaint is getting old, but nevertheless it continues to apply and thus I am forced to reiterate it: Wow, the book spent like five lines on that entire thing. Really? The fulfillment of one of Egwene’s most troubling (to her) prophetic dreams, and, not coincidentally, what could be viewed as her most emphatic rejection of her own long-held prejudices against the Seanchan (since I think we can view “magical soul bond” as a pretty strong endorsement of a person’s personhood), and… that’s all the screen time we give it? Enh.
Speaking of Egwene’s Dreams, I also find it disappointing in retrospect that Egwene never even thinks about them here either. She’d just had two of her worst Dreams come true, bang bang, one right after the other, and… nothing. For those of you who have forgotten what I’m talking about, I’ll quote ya:
…a man riding on a black stallion. Gawyn. Then she was standing in the road in front of him, and he reined in. Not because he saw her… but the road that had been straight now forked right where she stood, running over tall hills so no one could see what lay beyond. She knew, though. Down one fork was his violent death, down the other, a long life and a death in bed. On one path, he would marry her, on the other, not. She knew what lay ahead, but not which way led to which. Suddenly he did see her, or seemed to, and smiled, and turned his horse along one of the forks… [ACOS, Chapter 10]
Suddenly a woman appeared, clambering down the sheer side of the cliff out of the clouds, making her way as deftly as if she were walking down stairs. There was a sword strapped to her back. Her face wavered, never settling clearly, but the sword seemed as solid as the stone. The woman reached Egwene’s level and held out one hand. “We can reach the top together,” she said in a familiar drawling accent. [COT, Chapter 20]
I’m just saying, if I were her I’d be cursing the shit out of that “either/or” Dream bullshit re: Gawyn right about now. Like, way to get my hopes up, Pattern, and also, screw you. I just find the total lack of mention of either Dream in Egwene’s thoughts a little strange.
My brevity-related concerns aside, though, the actual fact of her bonding Leilwin was pretty cool, and really not at all the way I had thought that Dream would be fulfilled, so bravo for non-predictability, there.
I also think it was the best thing Egwene could have done under the circumstances. While I sort of see Silviana’s point about the liability of Warders in general and Gawyn-like Warders in particular (and how very Red of her, eh), I still absolutely think that the benefits of having Warders far outweigh the disadvantages of same. And not just in the way that Egwene justifies it to herself here, either.
What she said was valid, as far as it goes, and certainly so in this specific situation of OMG The Apocalypse All Aboard, but I think that the existence of the Warder bond has far more valuable social impact than it does tactical, in the long term. The problem with any ivory tower (heh), deliberately segregated society, such as the Aes Sedai, is that continuously only associating with one small demographic of humanity (in this case, the very specific subset of “women who channel”) cannot help but warp your perspective no matter how you might try to maintain objectivity.
People who only interact with people who are just like them, all the time, are people who are primed to fall prey to bias, prejudice, and bigotry, whether they will it so or not. The Warders may not have been the most representative bunch of Male Non-Channeling Humanity ever, but I speculate that their continuous association with the Aes Sedai is in large part what helped keep the White Tower from going off the deep end and writing off men as entirely useless altogether. Pity that some real-world analogous organizations have never seen the need to do something even slightly comparable for the reverse situation. *cough*TheVatican*cough*
So, you know. Warders good, diversification good, survival of apocalypse good. It’s ALL GOOD.
And Galad Goes Down! I was genuinely shocked, for some reason, that Demandred chopped off his arm. I’m not sure why, except possibly (now that I’m thinking about it) for the contracts-with-actors-based tendency of movies and TV to avoid truly mutilating-but-non-fatal injuries to characters. Usually they either get superficial (or unseeable) injuries that are healed soon thereafter, or they are D-E-D dead and that’s the end of it. Saves on makeup and SFX costs, dontcha know.
And, well, sigh. At least Galad gave Demandred an actual fight? Yay?
I’m trying to remember how I felt about this on first reading, and other than recalling a very shallow reaction of “AH NO MAIM HIM HE TOO PRETTY,” I really can’t recall how I reacted to this before knowing what was going to follow. Other than that I think I assumed Galad was dead at this point (probably because I wasn’t reading carefully enough), and was therefore surprised to discover later that he had not, in fact, bitten it.
So, yeah. There is my very deep reaction, there. You’re welcome.
As for Androl, it was so very… something, what happened here—formulaic? Hollywood-ish?—but I LOL’d anyway. You kind of have to love that Androl is having a rom-commy Ocean’s Eleven-ish caper story in the midst of, well, WOT. Or maybe you don’t love it, because the disjoint between his storyline style versus everyone else’s is kind of obvious and I can certainly see how that would not thrill purists, but I perversely enjoyed it even while acknowledging the disconnect. Make of that what you will.
Arganda’s horse is (well, was) named “Mighty.” I’m just… putting that out there.
Like I said earlier, I’m sort of not really fussing myself over keeping track of the actual nitty-gritty of who’s fighting who where with what in a coherent tactical sense, but even so I can’t help but notice that this entire campaign at Merrilor seems awfully concentrated on basically two areas: the river, and the Heights. I mean, I guess it’s a matter of where you’ve got your enemy pinned down/committed to fighting, but aren’t both sides supposed to be comprised of hundreds of thousands of troops? (Or, well, they were; presumably by now they have quite a bit fewer.) Wouldn’t that encompass a sort of larger area?
I dunno; I can’t tell if the scale seems wonky to me because I just haven’t been paying close enough attention (or I just Don’t Get It), or if there is genuinely an issue here.
So instead, I will leave tactical issues to more militarily-minded folk, and instead concentrate on what I am good at (or so I flatter myself), which is identifying the weird way time flowed narratively in Arganda’s POV. It’s probably not obvious from the summary, but in the original text there are some very abrupt jumps between “people standing around having a conversation” to “oh look we just moved hundreds of people a significant distance,” or even worse, “Oh, I guess we’re starting to fight now even though there wasn’t any interim between the commanders making a plan and going CHAAAAAARGE!”
Because, look, I’m not asking for ten pages of loving detail on how Tam et al formed up the troops or distributed arrows or organized where they were going to dig the latrines or whatever, but a sentence or so acknowledging that it takes more than zero time to form up X-thousand-ish number of people before you can either (a) travel or (b) attack an enemy would not have been amiss.
Also, I know I just said I would leave tactics out of this, but if I’m reading this right, Lan and Tam and Arganda are attacking the Sharans uphill. Which… yeah, I’m no military genius, but even I know that’s a spectacularly bad position to go on the offensive from. Which isn’t to say that they shouldn’t have done it if they had no choice, but they… sort of did? Have a choice, I mean? I don’t know, that seemed really insane to me, especially considering that from what I can tell they are also severely outnumbered. It also (assuming I’m even right about their position) makes Lan’s otherwise badass quote that closes the summary sort of nonsensical, because they don’t have the high ground, and that’s the problem.
Of course, that’s probably among the reasons why Arganda opined to Lan that they were doomed, so at least they tacitly recognized that the whole plan was bananas, but still. Sheesh.
And that is what I think of that, y’all! Tell me what you think, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!