Hi, all! Welcome back to the Wheel of Time Re-read Extravaganza! Today we put a third triumphant notch on the bedpost as we finish off The Dragon Reborn with Chapters 53-56. Giggety?
Yeah, let’s pretend I didn’t say that.
Previous conquests I mean entries can be found here. God, you guys, get your minds out of the gutter, don’t you know there are spoiled things down there? So gross.
... And now I am in the interesting position of not having a response to what I myself just wrote, so I think we’re just going to dig around till find our purse and shoes, and slip out of the door vewy vewy qwietwy.
Chapter 53: A Flow of the Spirit
Perrin heads back to the inn after more work at the forge. Zarine, walking with him, comments about Perrin refusing to work on something for a High Lord, and Perrin thinks that he cannot make up his mind about her; he feels awkward around girls when they smile at him, but Zarine doesn’t even have to smile, just look. He wonders again if she is the beautiful woman Min warned him about, and thinks he would rather she was the falcon. This thought surprises him so much he stumbles. Zarine asks if he’s ever thought of wearing a beard, and Perrin despairs of understanding her. They meet Moiraine and Lan at the door of the inn, and Moiraine tells them that Rand is in Tear. Lan tells Perrin about the strange occurrences that have been going on, including the First of Mayene announcing she will submit to the High Lords, after having previously declared she would see Mayene burn before letting Tear in. Moiraine asks if Perrin dreamed of Rand, and he admits that he did, and Zarine puts in that she also dreamed of a tall man with reddish hair and gray eyes in a place full of redstone columns. Moiraine says she has heard a hundred people tell of that dream today. She goes on to say that she will deal with Be’lal tonight; Lan cuts in to correct that they will be dealing with him, and Moiraine agrees. Perrin asks what they are supposed to do, and Moiraine tells him they are going to Tar Valon until this is over. Perrin, to his surprise, is bitter about running away, but Zarine puts forth that she has no shame in running from this fight; only men and fools fight when they should run, but she had no need to say it twice. She runs ahead to find Loial. Perrin follows, and hears a thump in their private dining room. He pushes the door open and sees her lying next to the table; he starts to dash in, but Moiraine commands him to halt. Agonized, Perrin finally obeys; he cannot tell from the door if Faile is breathing or not. He demands Moiraine do something, and she asks him to tell her what fell from her hand. He looks, and tells her it is a wooden carving of a hedgehog. Moiraine murmurs that she felt it trigger, but only Spirit; what uses only Spirit? She tells Perrin that this was a trap, one meant for Moiraine. Lan hauls the innkeeper up to them, and he tells them, shaking, that he let the two Ladies in, to leave a surprise for Moiraine. They showed it to him – a little hedgehog – and he thought nothing of it. Moiraine throws him out of the hall, and Moiraine speculates that Be’lal may be strong enough to have sensed the trap trigger, and Lan finishes that it means he will not expect them, and almost smiles. Perrin demands, what about Faile? Moiraine tells him she is alive, but she cannot go closer to ascertain more than that.
“She... sleeps, in a way. As a bear sleeps in the winter. Her heart beats so slowly you could count minutes between. Her breathing is the same. She sleeps.” Even from within that hood, he could feel her eyes on him. “I fear she is not there, Perrin. Not in her body any longer.”
Perrin asks what that means, and Moiraine is not sure, but has remembered that the hedgehog is a ter’angreal, last studied by Corianin Nedeal, the last Dreamer in the Tower, and thus Moiraine suspects Faile may be trapped in Tel’aran’rhiod, and if she does not return to her body soon, she will die. Perrin asks if this Tel’aran’rhiod is like the wolf dream, but Moiraine does not know. She says she must leave, but Perrin refuses to go. She takes a breath, and says he must do what he must; perhaps he will survive the night. She and Lan leave, and Loial comes up, asking what is going on. Perrin explains, and to his surprise Loial gets very angry, and growls that it is not right. Perrin tells Loial that he is going to try to help her, and asks if Loial will guard him.
Loial raised those huge hands that held books so carefully, and his thick fingers curled as if to crush stone. “None will pass me while I live, Perrin. Not Myrddraal or the Dark One himself.” He said it like a simple statement of fact.
Perrin nods, and leaps through the door, and is gone. He is in the wolf dream, wearing a blacksmith’s leather vest and the hammer on his belt. Hopper appears, and tells him he is a fool; evil things walk the dream, and Young Bull must go. Perrin refuses, saying he has to rescue Faile, and feels a shift; he looks down and sees he is now a wolf, even larger than Hopper. Shocked, Hopper tells him he is here too strongly, and will die. Perrin tells him that if he does not free the falcon, he doesn’t care.
Then we hunt, brother.
Noses to the wind, the two wolves ran across the plain, seeking the falcon.
I guess I just don’t get it. And you know, it’s not that I think Faile is such a horrible person that no one could love her. First of all, horrible people get other people to fall in love with them all the time, let’s just take that as wretchedly proven, but aside from that, I don’t actually think Faile is a horrible person. Just, occasionally, incredibly annoying. But then, she is also occasionally awesome – as we will see.
But that’s the thing, that “we will see” part. For my money, all the things that make Faile intermittently awesome happen later – specifically, in TSR. Up to this point, though, the plus side of her qualities have not been so readily apparent. She’s unsettled Perrin, certainly, and been mysterious and alluring to him, or so we are informed, but I just didn’t see anything she’s done thus far to inspire this much passion on Perrin’s part. Attraction, sure. This level of frenzy, no.
*shrug* Maybe it’s the damsel in distress thing. Or maybe I'm just looking at it too rationally. Or maybe it’s authorial fiat, and I should just let it not make sense, ‘cause it ain’t ever gonna.
Chapter 54: Into the Stone
On the rooftops, Mat examines the perimeter of the Stone, which abuts the Erinin and meets the city wall on that side. It looks like the wall is Mat’s best bet to reach the fortress, but he’s not happy about it, as the top of the wall is only about a pace wide, and it is a ten-span drop to the street below if he falls. He picks up his staff and a small wire-handled tin box and moves closer to the wall, the roll of fireworks on his back. He contemplates his plan to climb the outside of the Stone to the battlements, more than a hundred paces straight up, and thinks to himself that even Rand would not try to climb that, but it was the only way in Mat had found. Suddenly he sees that there already is someone climbing the Stone, and already halfway up, and Mat worries that the fool will raise the alarm and ruin Mat’s chances.
He could not see the climber anymore. Who in the Light is he? What does it matter who he is? Burn me, but this is a bloody way to win a wager. I’m going to want a kiss from all of them, even Nynaeve!
Suddenly there is steel at his throat; Mat immediately knocks it aside and sweeps the man’s feet out from under him with his staff, but someone else knocks him down and he lands on top of the first attacker. He rolls and lays about himself with his staff, but freezes when two more blades appear against his neck. He looks up at the veiled faces of his assailants, assuming they are thieves, and grins, saying he’ll let them go about their business if they’ll let him go about his. Then he realizes they are Aiel, and says so. One of them, a man, agrees; a woman tells him he dances well for one caught by surprise. Mat starts to grin, then remembers that the Aiel mean something different by “dance”. They haul him to his feet, and the man asks him what he’s doing here, studying the Stone from every side, but before he can answer another voice says he could ask the same of the Aiel, and Juilin Sandar steps out and introduces himself. Mat wonders how many bloody people are on the roofs tonight anyway. The Aiel man asks Sandar why he follows them, as they have stolen nothing, and besides Sandar has been watching the Stone himself. Sandar is surprised, then hesitant.
“I... did a thing today that... troubles me.” He sounded almost as though he were talking to himself, trying to puzzle it out. “Part of me says it was right, what I did, that I must obey. Surely, it seemed right when I did it. But a small voice tells me I... betrayed something. I am certain this voice is wrong, and it is very small, but it will not stop.” He stopped then himself, shaking his head again.
The Aiel spokesman gives his name as Rhuarc, and tells Sandar that he means no harm to him or the people of his city, but Sandar will not be allowed to raise an alarm against them. Sandar asks, why are you here, then, and Rhuarc answers, “The Stone”. Sandar hesitates, and agrees to remain silent. Rhuarc turns back to Mat and repeats his question; Mat tries saying he was just out for a walk, and the woman puts her spear to his throat again, so he amends that to say some friends of his are prisoners in the Stone, and he means to bring them out. Rhuarc asks, Alone?, and Mat replies dryly that there doesn’t seem to be anyone else, unless the Aiel want to help him; they could do worse than to bet on his luck.
“We are not here for prisoners, gambler,” Rhuarc said.
One of the other Aiel (Gaul) tells Rhuarc it is time, and he warns Mat and Sandar again not to raise the alarm, and the Aiel leave. Mat tells Sandar he hopes Sandar doesn’t mean to try stopping him, either, and Sandar asks if these friends of his happen to be three women. Mat is suspicious, and Sandar tells him he knows they are inside, and that there is a gate which will let in a thief-catcher with a prisoner. Mat looks at the Stone again, and sees with surprise that over a hundred Aiel are now climbing up the Stone, and thinks maybe he can add to the confusion. He tells Sandar they will try his gate in a moment, as soon as Mat “stirs the anthill a bit”. He scrambles across the roofs to the top of the wall, then follows that to where it meets the Stone; as he had hoped, there is an arrowslit right there. He wedges the bundle of fireworks into the slit so that the fuses, which he had tied together and trimmed to the same short length; he reasons that this should make them all go off at once, and hopefully create enough noise to provide an extra distraction. He lights the fuses with a coal he’d brought in the tin box, and darts away back along the wall.
This is crazy, he thought as he ran. I don’t care how big a bang it makes. I could break my fool neck doing thi—!
The roar behind him was louder than anything he had ever heard in his life; a monstrous fist punched him in the back, knocking all the wind out of him even before he landed, sprawled on his belly on the wall top, barely holding on to his staff as it swung over the edge. For a moment he lay there, trying to make his lungs work again, trying not to think how he must have used up all his luck this time by not falling off the wall.
Mat gets up and examines the slit, and realizes to his surprise that it now bisects a hole in the wall, large enough for a man to get through. He doesn’t understand it, but quickly pushes himself through the opening anyway. Defenders burst into the room, and Mat fights them, outnumbered, cursing himself for a fool. Then suddenly Sandar is beside him, using his bamboo staff, and soon the Defenders are down. Sandar is appalled that he just fought Defenders, and then asks Mat what he did to the arrowslit. He asks, fearfully, if he has joined up with a man who can channel. Mat tells him brusquely that it was fireworks, and orders Sandar to show him the way to the cells.
Egwene wakes up in a cell, and begins to scream, but Nynaeve and Elayne quickly soothe her, and she feels better knowing she is not alone. They help her sit up; she asks if they are still shielded, then realizes it is a stupid question, since Nynaeve would have Healed their wounds by now otherwise. Nynaeve tells her “that milk-faced chit” Amico is outside the cell, holding the shield on them; otherwise no one has even come to look at them. Elayne reminds her that they are bait; Nynaeve asks for who, and Egwene tells her, Rand. She Dreamed of Rand and Callandor, and thinks he is coming here. She wonders, though, why she also dreamed of Mat, and a wolf that she somehow knew was also Perrin. She feels her pouch, and amazed, says that they did not take the ter’angreal ring. Nynaeve doesn’t see what good Tel’aran’rhiod does them now, but Egwene points out that she could channel in it; maybe being shielded here doesn’t mean she will be shielded there, too. Nynaeve asks what if Liandrin and the others are there again, like last time? Egwene answers grimly that she hopes they are, and lies down to sleep.
She is in the meadow again, unbruised, and embraces saidar with triumph before letting it go and forming the picture of the Heart of the Stone in her head. When she opens her eyes, Joiya Byir, looking strangely transparent, is in the chamber before Callandor, whose glow is pulsing now. Joiya is shocked, and asks how it is possible, Egwene is shielded! Egwene weaves Spirit as she remembers them doing before, and cuts Joiya off from the Source, and then binds her in Air. Joiya tries to be defiant, but Egwene informs her that what happens here is real, and visits some of the same punishment on Joiya as was on her at Ailhuin’s house, and then tells her she will only get to wake up once Egwene allows it, and not to forget it. She ties off the flows, but after a moment undoes the weave punishing Joiya. She tells the Black sister that she is not like her, and leaves her there to find the cells.
Young Bull and Hopper finish killing the two-legs who had attacked them. Young Bull knows this is the Stone, and thinks that the two-legs had looked confused about why they were here in the dream, but they had been set here to guard the locked door ahead. Perrin wipes his mouth, and realizes he is in a man’s form again, and the hammer is on his belt. Hopper urges him to hurry, and Perrin smashes the lock on the door with the hammer. He strides in and sees Faile wrapped in chains on a stone block. He goes to her and touches her face, and she opens her eyes and smiles and says she kept dreaming he would come. Before he can get her loose, though, she disappears. Perrin shouts a denial, and Hopper tells him that in the dream, the same hunt can have different endings.
He did not turn to look at Hopper. He knew his teeth were bared in a snarl. Again he raised the hammer, brought it down with all his strength against the chains that had held Faile. The stone block cracked in two under his blow; the Stone itself rang like a stuck bell.
“Then I will hunt again,” he growled.
Hammer in hand, Perrin strode out of the room with Hopper beside him. The Stone was a place of men. And men, he knew, were crueler hunters than ever wolves were.
Mat ignores alarm gongs and the sound of men fighting nearby, trying to keep the suberb swordsman he’s fighting from taking his head off. He wonders if the man is one of those High Lords; he’s dressed well enough for it. Mat yells to Sandar to ask if he can get by, and Sandar replies he cannot.
“Well, think of something, Tairen. This ragamuffin is grating my nerves.”
The man in the gold-striped coat sneered. “You will be honored to die on the blade of the High Lord Darlin, peasant, if I allow it so.” It was the first time he had deigned to speak. “Instead, I think I will have the pair of you hung by the heels, and watch while the skin is stripped from your bodies—”
“I do not think I’d like that,” Mat said.
Darlin is outraged at being interrupted, but Mat presses the attack, and changes in mid-pattern to take Darlin by surprise and knock him cold. Mat leans against the wall, panting, and thinks that no one tells you that being a hero is such hard work. He sees a man cross the corridor a ways down, and starts with surprise; he could have sworn that was Rand. Sandar comes up next to him, and Mat starts to say something, swinging his staff up onto his shoulder, and it smacks into the skull of another High Lord who had been sneaking up on them both. He dispatches the wounded man quickly, and mutters that you can’t beat luck; Sandar concurs, and heads off, saying he knows the way down to the cells is around here somewhere.
Multiple POVs, ho!
Ha, Mat trounced Darlin. Forgot about that. And he didn’t even let him monologue first!
Mat’s surprise that the fireworks blasted a hole in the wall is so funny to me; it’s like coming across someone who’s surprised that wheels are round, or ice is cold. But of course if you didn’t grow up knowing that gunpowder = Things Go Boom, you would have no reason to make the connection that something that produces heat, light, and noise might also produce a concussive force.
So, yeah. And now I’m having a really weird flashback to the Clan of the Cave Bear series.
I hope we all caught that Perrin was wiping blood away from his mouth, yes? Yes. Eesh.
Also, it occurs to me that there is an awful lot of wimmins needin’ rescuin’ in this chapter. I’m... just laying that out there.
Chapter 55: What is Written in Prophecy
Rand enters the Heart of the Stone slowly, and sees Callandor there, calling to him.
If I am the Dragon Reborn. If I am not just some half-mad man cursed with the ability to channel, a puppet dancing for Moiraine and the White Tower.
“Take it, Lews Therin. Take it, Kinslayer.”
He spins to face a tall man with short white hair stepping out from the columns; he has seen the man in his dreams. Rand says that the man was putting Egwene and Nynaeve and Elayne in a cage, and hurting them. The man dismisses them, and says that Lews Therin was always a fool, following his heart before power, and now he has to do what he is not yet ready for, or die. Rand asks who he is, and the man laughs and says Rand really doesn’t remember him, does he? Perhaps Ishamael wasn’t lying after all. He says to call him Be’lal, and scowls when Rand doesn’t react to the name. He gestures to Callandor, and tells Rand to take it, and perhaps it will be enough to let Rand survive against him. Rand laughs and asks if Be’lal really thinks Rand would be frightened of him after he’s faced the Dark One himself; Be’lal says he really is a fool if he believes that. A sword made of black fire appears in his hands, and he demands again that Rand take Callandor, and defend himself. He charges Rand, but instead of going for Callandor Rand seizes saidin and creates a sword of red fire, and meets the Forsaken’s attack. He quickly realizes he is outclassed as a swordsman here, and Be’lal laughs and says he was better once, but now Be’lal will kill him, unless he takes Callandor. He advances slowly to give Rand time to rush for the sa’angreal, but Rand is still wracked with doubt; was he truly the Dragon Reborn? He meets Be’lal with the Power-created sword again instead, and is just barely holding his own as they dance the forms, being driven backward toward Callandor the whole time. Rand is vaguely aware that there are other men in the chamber, fighting, some in armor and others in veils with spears, and that his old wound is breaking open again. He stumbles on a corpse and falls, and Be’lal raises his sword, snarling at him to take Callandor or die.
Even Be’lal gave a start at the command in that woman’s voice. The Forsaken stepped back out of the arc of Rand’s sword and turned his head to frown at Moiraine as she came striding through the battle, her eyes fixed on him, ignoring the screaming deaths around her. “I thought you were neatly out of the way, woman. No matter. You are only an annoyance. A stinging fly. A biteme. I will cage you with the others, and teach you to serve the Shadow with your puny powers,” he finished with a contemptuous laugh, and raised his free hand.
Moiraine had not stopped or slowed while he spoke. She was no more than thirty paces from him when he moved his hand, and she raised both of hers as well.
There was an instant of surprise on the Forsaken’s face, and he had time to scream “No!” Then a bar of white fire hotter than the sun shot from the Aes Sedai’s hands, a glaring rod that banished all shadows. Before it, Be’lal became a shape of shimmering motes, specks dancing in the light for less than a heartbeat, flecks consumed before his cry faded.
There is silence a moment, and then Moiraine coolly informs Rand that Be’lal was right about one thing; Rand must take Callandor. He is not ready, but it is his birthright, and it must be done now. Then black lightning comes out of nowhere and hurls Moiraine across the chamber into one of the columns, and Ba’alzamon descends to the floor, wrapped in darkness. He glares at Rand, and says that he has offered him the chance to serve twice, and twice Rand has refused, and wounded him; now he will serve the Lord of the Grave in death. He raises his hand, and Rand flings himself at Callandor. Ba’alzamon’s channeling strikes as he leaps and Rand screams, feeling as if he was being torn apart, and then his hand closes on Callandor’s hilt.
The One Power surged through him, a torrent greater than he could believe, from saidin into the sword. The crystal blade shone brighter than even Moiraine’s fire had. It was impossible to look at, impossible any longer to see that it was a sword, only that light blazed in his fist. He fought the flow, wrestled with the implacable tide that threatened to carry him, all that was really him, into the sword with it. For a heartbeat that took centuries he hung, wavering, balanced on the brink of being scoured away like sand before a flash flood. With infinite slowness the balance firmed. It was still as though he stood barefoot on a razor’s edge above a bottomless drop, yet something told him this was the best that could be expected. To channel this much of the Power, he must dance on that sharpness as he had danced the forms of the sword.
He turns to face Ba’alzamon, and tells him this time he means to finish it. Ba’alzamon disappears, and Rand frowns at the strange sense of folding he had felt when Ba’alzamon left. Using Callandor, he opens a door to... somewhere, and follows.
The Stone shakes as Egwene hurries into the dungeon area, shuddering at the torture implements in the outer chamber, and begins searching the cells. She sees a image flickering ahead, of a woman, on the verge of asleep, and Egwene realizes it is Amico, drifting off while toying with one of the dream ter’angreal. She embraces saidar, waits until Amico’s figure appears again, and strikes, cutting the woman off. Amico screams faintly, seeming barely there, but the bonds hold. Egwene channels Earth to destroy the lock on the cell door, and steps out of Tel’aran’rhiod, only to wake up and find that nothing has changed. Amico is shielded, but Elayne tells her she still can’t embrace saidar, and of course what Egwene had done to the lock in the dream had no effect in the real world. Egwene says she will have to try again, and lays back down.
Mat enters the cell area, and hisses at Sandar to hurry up. He goes further in, and soon comes to a woman sitting strangely stiffly on a bench, seeming half asleep. Mat is about to try to help her when Sandar comes up and shouts that she is Aes Sedai, and one of the one who took Mat’s friends. Mat doesn’t get what’s going on, but sees a key on her belt, and cautiously takes it and opens the cell door. He sees the three girls inside and is appalled at their bruises; Nynaeve and Elayne gape at him.
“Matrim Cauthon,” Nynaeve said, sounding shocked, “what under the Light are you doing here?”
“I came to bloody rescue you,” he said. “Burn me if I expected to be greeted as if I had come to steal a pie. You can tell me why you look as if you’d been fighting bears later, if you want. If Egwene cannot walk, I’ll carry her on my back.”
He adds that there are Aiel fighting Defenders everywhere, and they should get out right away. Nynaeve tells him to mind his language, and Elayne gives him a disapproving stare, but then they both ignore him and concentrate on waking Egwene. She comes to groggily, asking why they woke her, and sees Mat, and asks him the exact same question Nynaeve did. Mat says “you tell her” to Nynaeve, but they are all suddenly glaring beyond him, and Mat turns to see Sandar there. Sandar tells Mat they have cause; he betrayed them. But, he tells the girls, the honey-haired one spoke to him, and he had to. Nynaeve finally says that perhaps he was not to blame, and they can apportion guilt later. They all follow Mat into the hall, where Nynaeve goes up to the woman on the bench and slugs her, knocking her out. Elayne excitedly says “it” is gone, and Nynaeve takes Egwene’s head in her hands and Heals her, then does the same for Elayne. Mat demands to know what they are thinking, hitting a woman who obviously couldn’t defend herself, and suddenly finds himself wrapped in something invisible and lifted into the air. Egwene says tightly that he doesn’t understand anything, and Nynaeve adds that until he does he’d best keep his opinions to himself.
For some reason he found himself giving them the grin that had so often sent his mother after that switch. Burn me, if they can do this, I don’t see how anybody ever locked them in that cell in the first place! “What I understand is that I got you out of something you couldn’t get yourselves out of, and you all have as much gratitude as a bloody Taren Ferry man with a toothache!”
Nynaeve says he is right, much as it pains her to say so, and the invisible bonds disappear. Mat considers more sarcasm, but settles for asking if they can go now; the girls tell him they are not leaving yet, and march off. He yells after them that he is not walking into the middle of a bloody battle, then snarls and hurries after them, Sandar close behind.
Perrin strides through the Stone, Hopper at his side, looking for Faile. He has rescued her twice more, but each time she faded away. He glimpses a man running as if chasing someone, and thinks that it couldn’t have been Rand. Hopper sprints ahead to a pair of bronze doors; Perrin moves to follow, and weakness floods him. He falls to his knees, and Hopper tells him he is here too strongly, and soon his flesh will die. Perrin just tells him to find Faile, and Hopper tells him she is beyond the doors. Perrin notes the doors are etched with thousands of tiny falcons, and slams his hammer into them three times; they shatter like glass, and Perrin steps in to see a falcon chained to a perch in a circle of light. He heads toward her, and is attacked by falcons swooping on him again and again. He plows forward anyway, bleeding all over, and reaches the perch to see that the lock on the chain holding the falcon on the perch is in the shape of a tiny hedgehog. Just before his strength gives out, Perrin snaps it, and loses consciousness. He wakes up back at the inn, with Faile wiping his face with a bloody cloth.
“My poor Perrin,” she said softly. “My poor blacksmith. You are hurt so badly.”
He sees the hedgehog carving broken in half, and calls her his falcon.
Rand notes that this is still the Stone, but different; he is alone here. Then a shaft of light like the one Moiraine had used on Be’lal shoots toward him, and Rand instinctively does something with Callandor that makes the sword split the blast in two, flowing around him to strike the columns behind him; where the light strikes, the columns cease to exist, and the Stone rumbles. He hears a snarl of rage, and sends the same back toward it, slicing through more columns, but Ba’alzamon flees again, and Rand follows. Ba’alzamon tosses traps behind him as he runs – Trollocs and Myrddraal, fire, collapsing rock – but Rand does something he doesn’t quite understand each time, and makes them disappear.
He could not even begin to imagine what it was that he did. The One Power raged inside him till he barely knew himself, till he barely was himself, till what was himself almost did not exist. His precarious stability teetered. To either side lay the endless fall, obliteration by the Power that coursed through him into the sword. Only in the dance along the razor’s sharp edge was there even an uncertain safety. Callandor shone in his fist until it seemed he carried the sun. Dimly within him, fluttering like a candle flame in a storm, was the surety that holding Callandor, he could do anything. Anything.
He continues to chase Ba’alzamon, springing each trap as it’s laid, until they end up back in the Heart of the Stone. Ba’alzamon backs away from him, and shouts that he will not be undone; he calls for aid, and some of the darkness around him forms into a ball in his hands, and he looks triumphant.
“You are destroyed!” Rand shouted. Callandor spun in his hands. Its light roiled the darkness, severed the steel-black lines around Ba’alzamon, and Ba’alzamon convulsed. As if there were two of him he seemed to dwindle and grow larger at the same time. “You are undone!” Rand plunged the shining blade into Ba’alzamon’s chest.
Ba’alzamon screamed, and the fires of his face flared wildly. “Fool!” he howled. “The Great Lord of the Dark can never be defeated!”
Rand pulled Callandor’s blade free as Ba’alzamon’s body sagged and began to fall, the shadow around him vanishing.
Suddenly Rand is back in the real Stone, with men fighting and dying all around him, and Moiraine still crumpled at the base of one of the columns. At his feet is the body of a middle-aged man who would have been good-looking except that his eyes and mouth were blackened, smoking pits.
I have done it, he thought. I have killed Ba’alzamon, killed Shai’tan! I have won the Last Battle! Light, I AM the Dragon Reborn! The breaker of nations, the Breaker of the World. No! I will END the breaking, end the killing! I will MAKE it end!
He raises Callandor and sends lightning crackling all over the dome, and yells “Stop!” The fighting men all stop and look at him, and he shouts that his name is Rand al’Thor, and he is the Dragon Reborn. The men kneel to him, shouting that the Dragon is Reborn.
Enter Dragon icon. Nice.
Third time’s the charm, eh? For killing Ishamael, anyway. You’d think Rand would have learned not to jump to conclusions about him being the Dark One this time, but hey, heat of the moment, Callandor-induced delusions of grandeur, I get it.
Speaking of which, you know, I originally thought that Cadsuane’s revelation about Callandor’s flaw in – what, Path of Daggers? – was some serious ret-conning, but reading this, I’m actually not so sure. Or even if it is ret-conning, it’s at least a very canny incorporation of Rand’s I’m The King Of The Wooorld! moment here to fit in later. Along with, I’m suddenly remembering, what happens in the beginning of TSR, as well. Huh.
Oh, and not to be a buzzkill or anything, but the Aiel in the Stone knelt to him, too? Really? I thought that wasn’t their thing, kneeling.
Moiraine: *thunderous applause* Another scene I would kill to see on film. A truly worthy Crowning Moment of Awesome. Bye, Be’lal! Thanks for being one of the few characters to actually stay dead, we appreciate it!
And thus Moiraine enters WOT history as being, to date, the only character other than Rand and the Green Man to have killed a Forsaken on-screen. (Unless you count Mashadar as a character, which I don’t.)
So, the scene where Mat rescues the Supergirls. All righty, here we go.
Once upon a time, boys and girls, I was the news editor for a local network affiliate, which means I was responsible for taking the raw video footage from the camera crews, and cutting together the best bits to play under the anchor’s voiceover. Usually this was not complicated or stressful, but on occasion it could get insane. Like, for instance, when your news crew’s van breaks down, and they don’t get you the footage for the lead story for the 5 o’clock broadcast until, say, 4:55 PM. Which means you have less than five minutes to load the footage, cut it together, dump it back on tape, and get it down to the playout guy before the anchors intro the story.
Let me just assure you that if you are in that situation, you are Stressed. Not, perhaps, as much as you might be if you were, say, wounded and being held hostage, but you’re pretty darn freaked, right? Right.
So say you are in that situation, and right as you yank the tape out of the deck and turn to haul ass down to the playout room, your friend is standing there with a big goofy grin on his face, and he yells “Surprise! Movie tickets!”
Now, your friend is just trying to do something nice for you, and obviously had no way of knowing what was going on, right? Right. So when you jump a mile, snap “What the hell are you doing here? Move!” and shove past him to get the tape down to the playout room, this is obviously not cool of you at all.
Or rather, it was not cool of me at all, but that is exactly what happened, and even all these years later I’m still kind of ashamed about it. However, I do think it was understandable. Not cool, but understandable. Stressful situations, I have found, do not noticeably contribute toward proportionate responses to unexpected stimuli. In other words, when the going gets rough, people get rude. It’s a feature, not a bug, unfortunately.
So based on my own personal experiences, I’m willing to give the Girls at least somewhat of a pass on how they behaved during the actual rescue. However, the difference between me and the Supergirls, and where I do totally find fault with them, is that I apologized to my friend almost immediately, as soon as the crisis was resolved and I’d had a chance to calm down, rather than waiting *mumble* months, and then only doing it under duress. That is the totally uncool part; the way they behaved after it was all over.
Chapter 56: People of the Dragon
When the people of Tear wake up the next morning, talking about the dreams they’d had about the Dragon battling Ba’alzamon, they see that the banner atop the highest point of the Stone is different; now it is a serpentlike creature of scarlet and gold on a field of white. They fill the streets, chanting “The Dragon! Al’Thor!”
Up above, Mat watches the chanting crowd and shakes his head. He had only seen Rand once since the battle, striding down a hall with Callandor in his hand and surrounded by Aiel and Defenders and High Lords. There were nearly two hundred Aiel in the Stone. Mat notes Rhuarc in the room, reading, and thinks about his less than successful efforts to chat up Aviendha, Bain, or Chiad. He decides that Aiel women are even odder than most. Moiraine, Egwene, Nynaeve and Elayne are in the room as well, sitting at the table. Nynaeve is saying she can’t believe Perrin is in Tear, and asks if he is all right; Moiraine replies he was the last she saw him, though his companion was in danger, so he might not still be so. Nynaeve demands to know what danger, and Egwene demands to know what companion, but Moiraine only replies she is going to them in a moment, but delayed to show them something. She pulls out a half-white, half-black disc and lays it on the table. Elayne identifies it as one of the seals on the Dark One’s prison, and Egwene notes that it only makes sense that it is here; twice before Rand faced Ba’alzamon, and both times a seal was present. Nynaeve adds, but this one is unbroken, not that it matters. Moiraine asks softly if she’s sure of that, and Mat decides it is time to interrupt. They all give him cold stares, and Mat thinks about how they never even thanked him for rescuing him, and plows on, saying no one will explain anything to him. Moiraine asks what he wants to know.
“I want to know how all of this can be.” He meant to keep his tone soft, but despite himself he picked up intensity as he went along. “The Stone of Tear has fallen! The Prophecies said that would never happen till the People of the Dragon came. Does that mean we are the bloody People of the Dragon? You, me, Lan, and a few hundred bloody Aiel?” He had seen the Warder during the night; there had not seemed to be much edge between Lan and the Aiel as to who was the more deadly. As Rhuarc straightened to stare at him, he hastily added, “Uh, sorry, Rhuarc. Slip of the tongue.”
Moiraine replies slowly that perhaps they are; she came to stop Be’lal from killing Rand, but she did not expect to see the Stone fall. But prophecies are fulfilled the way they are supposed to be, not as people think they should be. Mat shivers at the Forsaken’s name, and thinks that he wouldn’t have come to the rescue if he’d known about that – or at least he would have been a lot less ostentatious about it. Rhuarc speaks up, and tells them that when a man wishes to become a clan chief, he has to go to Rhuidean, and if he survives it, he returns marked. He rolls up his left sleeve to show the same creature as on the Dragon banner wrapped twice around his forearm, etched into the skin. Moiraine says quietly that the Aiel are the People of the Dragon, and that was something she did not know. Mat says then it’s all done, and they can go home, right? Egwene says of course it is not done; the Forsaken are still loose, and Nynaeve adds that the Black Ajah are still out there as well. Mat says of course, but he meant that the hardest part is done; Shai’tan is dead.
Moiraine’s stare was so hard that he thought the Stone shook for a moment.
“Be quiet, you fool!” the Aes Sedai said in a voice like a knife. “Do you want to call his attention to you, naming the Dark One?”
“But he’s dead!” Mat protested. “Rand killed him. I saw the body!” And a fine stink that was, too. I never thought anything could rot that fast.
Moiraine tells him he saw a man’s body, not the Dark One. Mat sees that everyone else looks as confused as he does, and protests that his memory is messed up, but he remembers that man from his dreams. Nynaeve adds that Rand seems certain he killed Ba’alzamon – the Dark One – as well; if that man isn’t the Dark One, who is he? Moiraine isn’t sure, but she says it makes no sense that the Dark One would leave behind a human corpse if destroyed. Egwene says she might know, remembering the passage Verin quoted her which mentioned Ba’alzamon and Ishamael together. Moiraine says perhaps it was Ishamael, but the important thing is, three of the seals are now broken, and only four remain; whatever battle they won here, it was far from the last. Mat notices the girls’ faces become resolved, and thinks they needn’t think he’ll come rescue them again. The door opens, and a young woman wearing a coronet showing a golden hawk in flight enters; Mat is appreciative of her rather low-cut dress. She tells the women around the table that she is not used to being a messenger; Moiraine asks who she is, and the woman answers “Berelain, First of Mayene”. She tosses a parchment on the table and turns to the door, but Moiraine halts her and asks why she brought it, then. Puzzled, Berelain says she does not know; the woman who gave it to her was... impressive. She shakes herself, and turns to Rhuarc and tells him his Aiel fighting disturbed her sleep, and perhaps she will have him to dine with her soon; then she turns to Moiraine and says she is told the Dragon Reborn has taken the Stone, and to inform him that the First of Mayene will dine with him tonight. She leaves, and Elayne and Egwene almost simultaneously wish they could stick her in the Tower as a novice.
“Listen to this,” Moiraine said. “ ‘Lews Therin was mine, he is mine, and he will be mine, forever. I give him into your charge, to keep for me until I come.’ It is signed ‘Lanfear.’ ” The Aes Sedai turned that cool gaze on Mat. “And you thought it was done? You are ta’veren, Mat, a thread more crucial to the Pattern than most, and the sounder of the Horn of Valere. Nothing is done for you, yet.”
Mat notices the others are all looking at him, and tells Moiraine of course, he understands, and she can count on him. He wonders how long Thom will take to recuperate, and whether Perrin will come with them when they make a run for it. Outside, the people’s chanting continues.
Interesting that Mat’s is the last POV of the book, and that we don’t see Rand again. It fits, though, with Rand’s “man behind the curtain” role in this novel. I once had to write an paper where we were asked to choose a character from a novel who was largely or entirely not present for the actual narrative, but nevertheless had a pivotal effect on the story’s outcome. Rand in TDR doesn’t quite qualify, because he did appear a number of times, but he comes very close.
(If you’re curious, the character I chose for the paper was Caddy, from The Sound and the Fury. Think about it.)
It’s a challenging thing, to write a story that revolves around a protagonist who isn’t actually in the story, mostly. It’s pulled off well here; certainly much more so than Crossroads of Twilight, from which Rand is even more absent. Though in fairness (or something), I’m not sure the comparison is apt, since by COT Jordan had long since abandoned trying to tie the wilderness of plot strings he had going back into one central storyline, so Rand in COT is not so much “the man behind the curtain” as he is kind of temporarily shelved while other characters’ plotlines get advanced.
In fact, I’m pretty sure TDR is the last novel in the series where all the central characters end up back in one location by the end of the book, on the same plot train, so to speak. The Two Rivers storyline in TSR is awesome, but it also marks the end of the symmetrical pattern established in the first three novels of all the bifurcating plots reuniting by the end of the installment; from this point on, they are just... bifurcated.
Couldn’t be helped, I suppose. But it does mean the novels from here on out lost something, at least in an artsy-fartsy thematic Big Picture closure sort of way. TEOTW, TGH and TDR could conceivably stand on their own as complete, mostly self-contained stories, but from TSR onward, no way.
I don’t have a conclusion or even a criticism to draw from this observation, really, though I know many others do. It is what it is. I like episodic television as much as I like a movie trilogy; it’s a little weird to switch from the latter to the former midstream, but as long as the story’s good I’m still along for the ride. I still want to know how it all turns out.
And this is the end. This is the end, my friend. The End of the Innocence, or at least of the third novel. So, go, go on. We’ll always have Paris! *sob*
Oh, and come back next week for the start of A Whole New
World Book, The Shadow Rising, which I am shocked – shocked! – to realize does not have a Prologue. The horrah. However, the fact that Monday’s installment is only covering Chapters 1-2 should tell you how much stock to put in that Prologuelessness. It’s a trap! Bye-ee!