Some people may think “close” is a lingerie shop without a front window, but the Wheel of Time Reread thinks… yeah, I don’t get that proverb either. Who writes this crap?
Today’s entry covers Chapters 40 and 41 of A Memory of Light, in which I eat crow, malign ancient philosophers, and compare WOT character to fictional LAPD officers. You know, like you do.
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.
Also, for maximum coolness, the Wheel of Time reread is also now available as an ebook series, from your preferred ebook retailer!
This reread post, and all posts henceforth, contain spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time series. If you haven’t read, continue at your own risk.
And now, the post!
A couple of things before we begin: As many of y’all know, JordanCon 6 is swiftly approaching, and I will be there! And as usual, I will be blogging my wacky con experiences for your enjoyment and/or befuddlement right here on Tor.com, so keep a weather eye out. I look forward to seeing a whole bunch of the Rereaders there!
As a result of that, of course, there will be a break in the Reread posting schedule. There will definitely be no Reread post on Tuesday April 15th, but depending on circumstances I may also be taking the Tuesday before the con (the 8th) off as well. I will keep you posted.
Second and just about as awesome: The Powers That Be have informed me that as of last week, I have published 500 posts on Tor.com, and this one is my five hundred and first.
To which I say: HOLY JUGGLING JEHOSHAPHAT.
Wow, y’all. Just wow. How cool is that? Time, it do fly…
And in the meantime, onward!
Chapter 40: Wolfbrother
Elayne frees herself from the medallion, and some of her Guards battle through Mellar’s followers. They stop when they see Birgitte, but Birgitte yells at them to keep fighting.
“I might be dead, but I’m still your bloody commander, and you will obey orders!”
The rest of the mercenaries are swiftly dispatched. Elayne immediately begins a tearful apology to Birgitte, but Birgitte laughs and exclaims that she has her memories back, and it is wonderful. Elayne still feels the broken bond between them, and asks if she should bond Birgitte again, but Birgitte tells her it wouldn’t work. Birgitte intends to go back to the other Heroes, and Elayne insists on coming with her. Birgitte tries to protest, but Elayne points out that her soldiers think she is dead, and have lost hope, and “nothing short of the Dark One” will stop her from returning.
“I’m not the one who just refused to stay dead. Together?”
“Together,” Birgitte said, nodding.
Aviendha has no idea who is winning anymore at Shayol Ghul, but she knows that the Windfinders holding the storm at bay are almost at the end of their strength. She hears howls that do not sound like wolf howls, and sets off looking for the source. She runs into a man with golden eyes, and making the connection, greets him as one who runs with wolves, and asks if he knows Perrin Aybara. Warily, the man replies that Perrin hunts “in another place”. She asks if the new howls are from his friends.
“No,” the man said, eyes growing distant. “No, not any longer. If you know of women who can channel, Aiel, you should bring them now.” He moved off toward the sounds, his pack running with him.
She follows, and sees what she recognizes as Darkhounds pouring out of the pass. Wolves are attacking them furiously, but to little effect, and the man explains that these Darkhounds are the Wild Hunt, the worst of their kind, and cannot fall to mortal weapons or common wolves. He exhorts her to find more channelers before they are overrun before joining the fray.
She understood why they fought. They might not be able to kill the Darkhounds, but they could slow the creatures. And that was their victory here — buying Rand enough time to do what he needed to.
Aviendha moves to find more channelers, but then senses Graendal ahead, surrounded by a circle of Aes Sedai and Wise Ones, attacking a line of Defenders of the Stone. She has four Aiel guards as well, and Aviendha surmises that they must all be under Compulsion. Aviendha sends up the signal she, Sorilea and Cadsuane had agreed upon, which alerts Graendal. She attacks; Aviendha holds her ground, but she is exhausted, and barely deflects a Compulsion weave in time. She hides, masking her ability to channel, and Graendal hesitates, searching for her. The Aiel thralls move forward, looking, and Aviendha is tempted to kill them outright, knowing they would thank her for it, but waits.
Graendal was too strong. She could not face the woman alone. But if she waited…
A weave of Air and Spirit attacked Graendal, trying to cut her off from the Source. The woman cursed, spinning. Cadsuane and Amys had arrived.
Elayne shouts for her soldiers to rally, but sees that they are nearly spent, the lines crumbling. They stop running when they see her, but do not return to the fray. In desperation, Elayne attacks a Trolloc herself with a sword, knowing she would not be able to defeat it that way, and soldiers jump to her defense, rejoining the fight. Birgitte rides up and demands to know what that foolishness was.
“How would you feel,” Elayne said softly, “if you saw your queen trying to kill a Trolloc with the sword as you ran away?”
“I’d feel like I needed to bloody move to another country,” Birgitte snapped, loosing another arrow, “one where the monarchs don’t have pudding for brains.”
Elayne sniffed. Birgitte could say what she wished, but the maneuver worked.
She creates a giant banner of Andor above her as more soldiers rally, and waits for attacks from Demandred and his channelers, but none come. She rides on down the line, shouting encouragement to her forces.
“For Light and Andor! Your queen lives! Stand and fight!”
Mat has memories of leading far grander forces than the half-trained, wounded and exhausted army he has now, but thinks he has never been prouder. Demandred’s death and Elayne’s reappearance, rallying the Andorans, has given him that one lucky card he needed, but he knows he must hit hard while he has the chance, before his army’s strength gives out. Then he sees gateways in the sky, dozens of them, releasing to’raken with archers over the enemy, and hears the horns and drums of the returning Seanchan army, and whoops for joy. Lights appear from damane to illuminate the battlefield, and he hears the booming of Talmanes and Aludra’s repaired dragons begin again, firing directly from their cavern through gateways.
The pieces were almost all in place. There was one more bit of business that needed tending to before the final toss of the dice.
Mat’s armies began to press forward.
Far from the main battle, Jur Grady waits at the canyon alongside the River Mora, cursing Cauthon for sending five hundred simple folk from a village in Murandy to defend this vital chokepoint against Dreadlords, Trollocs, and trained Sharan soldiers, and forbidding Grady from helping them. The villagers had all been slaughtered immediately, and then the Shadow had worked swiftly to dam the river, allowing the Trollocs upstream to ford it with ease. Grady wants to strike and reopen the dam, but Cauthon had forbidden it, and instead ordered him to wait and open a gateway to the same Murandy village at dawn, which made no sense.
He didn’t know why he was to do this; the village had been depopulated to make up the group that had fought earlier. He doubted anybody remained. What had Mat called it? Hinderstap?
Then Grady watches open-mouthed as the exact same people who he’d seen die earlier pour out of the gateway, howling for blood. The Dreadlords recognize them as well, and are stunned; one begins yelling that the Great Lord has abandoned them. The frenzied villagers fall on the Dreadlords, hacking them to pieces. Shaking off his astonishment, Grady seizes the One Power and destroys the dam.
And in doing so, he released the river.
HAHAHAHAHA BRB LOLing 4EVA
So, remember waaaay back in the day, during TGS, when I griped about Mat’s Hinderstap interlude being weird and dumb and pointless, and Ugh why is this scene here WHY?
Yeah, here is me, totally eating my words. Because in retrospect, that was a BEAUTIFUL long-term set-up and payoff. I remember reading this scene the first time in puzzlement, being right there with Grady in going Whaaat, and then he said “Hinderstap” and I’m pretty sure I made a very unattractive noise out loud, because OMG YOU DID NOT, BRANDON SANDERSON, and yet he did, and it was awesome.
Heh. One of the best twists of the novel, hands down. So, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, y’all.
In other news, Elayne and Birgitte as the Buddy Cop Duo of WOT continues to delight, with Birgitte, as always, playing Murtaugh to Elayne’s Riggs. I especially enjoy that Birgitte being undead has changed precisely nothing about their relationship.
I also liked the callback to Elayne’s earlier doubts about herself as Queen, way back in the day, when she thought about the great queens of Andor’s past, who would fling themselves into battle to inspire their troops to follow. And what do you know, here she is doing the exact same thing. And Birgitte is totally correct that Elayne is crazy, but you know, sometimes crazy is what’s called for. As Riggs would emphatically agree.
It’s also nice that Mat’s POV validates Elayne’s crazy, because I think there is a tendency of fans to be overly censorious of her recklessness, and while in an objective real world sense they have a point, in a literary sense, for the kind of character she is supposed to be, her crazy is actually completely appropriate. And I am often tempted to believe that a large part of the reason it’s more difficult to for the audience to see that is that, sadly, you just don’t see female characters filling the Riggs role that often. And I think there is a definite double standard at work when we look at Mel Gibson’s character’s behavior as being “crazy awesome” and Elayne’s as being just plain crazy, when objectively they are much the same thing. Food for thought.
Also, the Seanchan are back. Yaaay. Mat’s reaction may be joy (for which I don’t blame him), but my reaction was more like TOOK YOUR DAMN TIME, DIDN’T YOU. But hey, better late than never, I guess.
As for Aviendha’s POV, I find it a little odd that the entire chapter is apparently named after Elyas when he doesn’t even get named directly in the narrative, and also empirically does very little in the scene overall, but okay, whatever.
Nice shout out to the myth of the Wild Hunt, though, which is a thing that has been noted as a cultural influence on the portrayal of Darkhounds in WOT before, but I’m not sure it has actually been named as such within the narrative before now. I could be wrong about that, though.
Other than that, the only other real reaction I had about Aviendha’s scene was to be really sad in advance for her, because I knew that at some point she was going to realize that one of Graendal’s Aiel thralls is Rhuarc, and THAT SUCKS. It sucks so hard, you guys. I still get upset about it.
Chapter 41: A Smile
Androl, Pevara, and their group have rejoined Logain’s Asha’man, listening to the resurgence of dragonfire. Pevara opines that the dragons won’t last long against channelers, but Androl supposes that Cauthon doesn’t have much choice at this point. Logain appears and tells them they are moving west, to search for something where the Amyrlin fought M’Hael: a golden scepter, though no one is to touch it except him. He leaves, and Androl and Pevara are both disgruntled.
[Pevara:] “I think those dragons need protecting more than we need that rod. I swear there’s something about that horn sounding. We should be attacking now, not searching for battle spoils…”
“The other Asha’man can do that,” Androl said. “We don’t have to.”
He points out that Logain had earlier ordered them to do something about Taim’s lackeys, and even if he doesn’t remember the order that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t follow it. Canler points out that they are all so exhausted they wouldn’t even be a match for Mishraile et al, but that makes Pevara think of a way to circumvent that.
Androl perked up, and his eyes widened, and then he grinned. “You’re a genius, Pevara.”
“Thank you,” she said primly. “Canler, haul yourself to your feet. I’ll bet you gentlemen anything that we’ll find Taim’s men trying to destroy those dragons. We’re going to give them something of a surprise…”
Moghedien kicks Demandred’s corpse in disgust, thinking that that’s what comes of letting personal grudges distract you. She realizes that now that so many Chosen have fallen, the Great Lord has given her full access to the True Power, and immediately destroys Demandred’s body before weaving an illusion to look just like him. She had been working with him all through the battle, and though she cringes at her failure to infiltrate the Seanchan command, she thinks she can still command this battle adequately enough.
And actually, as she considered, she thought that events were going fairly well for her. Demandred down, defeated by his own pride. M’Hael, that upstart, was also dead — and had conveniently removed the leader of the Aes Sedai from the battlefield. She still had the bulk of Demandred’s Shadowspawn and some Dreadlords, some of the Black Ajah and a dozen of the Turned men M’Hael had brought.
She Travels to the Sharans’ rear lines. An older man, a Sharan monk, immediately yells that this is not the Wyld, and Moghedien burns him to ash. The other Sharans swiftly fall to their knees, including the remaining Ayyad, and Moghedien is very pleased. One of the Ayyad says she saw the Wyld fall, and Moghedien answers how could the Wyld fall?
You have prophecies, do you not?”
The women looked at one another. “They say you will fight, Dragonslayer,” the woman said. “But…”
Moghedien orders them to send Trollocs to the ruins upriver, to slaughter the unarmed Caemlyn refugees there and force their enemies to break off to protect them. She asks why no one has done anything about the dragons firing in the distance, and the Ayyad reply that there are fewer than a dozen of them left. The explosions stop, and Moghedien wonders if the dragons had been destroyed already.
A gateway split open behind her, and several of the Sharans yelled out. Moghedien spun, opening her eyes wide as she looked into what appeared to be a dark cavern. Dragons pointed out of it.
“Fire!” a voice yelled.
Through the wax in their ears, Daerid yells at Talmanes after the gateway shuts, asking if this was Lord Mat’s idea. Talmanes indicates that of course it was.
If the dragons were vulnerable when firing, what did you do? You fired them from a hidden location.
Talmanes smiles as Neald opens another gateway, on Trollocs fighting Whitecloaks. Talmanes shouts “Fire!” and the dragons broadside the Trollocs, leaving them broken and dying. The Whitecloaks cheer, and Neald closes the gateway.
“Are you smiling?” Daerid asked.
“Yes,” Talmanes said, satisfied.
“Blood and bloody ashes, Lord Talmanes… that expression is horrifying on you.” Daerid hesitated. “You should probably do that more often.”
Talmanes grins some more as they set up their next shot.
Oh, Androl, you scamp. Kudos to you and Pevara for immediately sneering at Logain’s power-mongering bullshit and finding devious ways to do the right thing. Even if the right thing turned out to be totally unnecessary, because Sooper Sekrit Traveling Boom Cave FTW!
Because it’s kind of hilarious: whenever I try to picture what’s happening with Talmanes and the dragons, for some reason I keep seeing the entire cave itself zipping around invisibly and occasionally uncloaking to fire at things, instead of, you know, what’s actually happening, which is that the cave is not moving and Neald is just opening portals to different places. I totally get it, but I just can’t get the image of a magical flying cave zooming around and going “Whee!” and yes, I am very weird, let’s just not speak of it, okay?
My strange brain aside, the entire conceit was enormously clever, and in tactical terms is a general’s absolute wet dream as far as I can tell. Artillery you can place anywhere in a heartbeat and then spirit it away just as fast, with practically zero chance of pursuit or anticipation? Sun Tzu wants to marry that battle plan, y’all. He wants to do very dirty things to that plan. Or he would if he weren’t, you know, dead. And all.
In other news, oh look, it’s Moghedien! Fancy you crawling out from under your rock at long last, eh?
Of course, hiding under rocks is what Moghedien does best, so I suppose it’s sort of disingenuous to mock her for it. Though I love that she’s all so disapproving of Demandred’s personal grudges, when she herself practically torpedoed her own mission in ACOS just to get off a potshot at Nynaeve. Hi, pot, you just kicked kettle’s headless corpse, own your shit, girl.
The plan to impersonate Demandred was awfully ballsy of her, though, and in a weird way I kind of want to congratulate her for stepping so far outside her comfort zone. At least until she started talking about slaughtering unarmed refugees, of course, because there’s nothing like blatant war crimes to dampen your enthusiasm for a person, I always say.
Not to mention that her whole notion that she can general “adequately” in lieu of Demandred is so ludicrous it’s laughable. Though I suppose in her defense (just for the mere mental exercise of it) there was no way she could know that she was up against the greatest military mind in the history of ever (mostly because most of the history of ever is crammed into his brain), so. Still a dumbass move, though.
I was surprised that I actually got a little upset that Moghedien killed the Sharan monk guy, who was obviously “Bao’s” adoptive father Mintel, who we met in “River of Souls.” It’s interesting that this little interlude was left to stand in AMOL despite (at the time) there being no way to convey to the reader that this death was sad or significant in any way. But no matter: now there is a way, for the hardcore fan at least, and I definitely had a little bit of an “Aw, suckage” response to his death.
Also of minor interest is the Ayyad’s response to Moghedien about the prophecies. It’s not explicated, but the suggestion is that while the Sharan prophecies say the Wyld is definitely supposed to fight the Dragon, apparently it doesn’t say a word about him winning that fight. Which now makes me really want to see what those prophecies said word for word, but unfortunately that’s just one of many things I am probably never going to see. Sigh.
And that’s what I got for this one, my dears! Have a lovely week, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!