Last night I wrote a Wheel of Time Re-read post in my pajamas. How the post got in my pajamas I’ll never know!
Today’s entry covers Chapters 29 and 30 of Towers of Midnight, in which we recap a pivot point, ruminate on the perils (and allure) of absolutism, and Blow Shit Up. Whoo!
Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index is here, which has links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time in general, including the upcoming final volume, A Memory of Light.
This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
And now, the post!
Chapter 29: A Terrible Feeling
Berelain, Faile and Alliandre stroll through camp, which is growing in numbers daily even though some of the refugees are leaving. Berelain suggests for about the dozenth time that she should go speak to the Whitecloaks on Perrin’s behalf, to Faile’s bemusement. She tells Berelain and Alliandre that Perrin is determined to go through with this trial because it bothers him that his name is not clear as long as the Whitecloaks continue to insist he is a murderer. Alliandre idly comments on how good-looking the Lord Captain Commander is, and Berelain blushes and waxes rhapsodic about him.
She was definitely taken with Damodred. Such a short time for it to have happened. Faile told Berelain that finding another man for her attentions would help with the rumors, but the Whitecloak commander? Had the woman lost all sense?
They discuss Morgase, and Alliandre agrees with Faile that she feels deceived that Morgase did not confide in them. Berelain, however, counters that any one of them would likely have done the same in her situation, and Faile privately acknowledges she is really more angry that now Morgase is presuming to pass judgment on Perrin, even though she does not really think Morgase will fail to be fair. Their talk is interrupted by screams as all the weapons in camp suddenly turn on their owners, the women’s knives included. Sulin wrestles Faile’s knife to the ground, breaking it, and Faile jumps in to help Berelain, who is fighting her own knife. Together they manage to plunge it into the ground, where the life goes out of it. Berelain thanks her, and they realize that dirt is what stopped the weapon. Faile shouts to the Maidens to spread the word, and they rush to help the rest of the camp.
In Galad’s tent, Morgase reflects on her stepson’s life-long tendency to view things in black and white, and how that naturally led him to an organization like the Whitecloaks, and regrets that she never managed to teach him that life wasn’t that simple. She wonders if there is some way for her to show him now. Galad tells her that he challenged and killed Valda under partially false charges, and though he does not regret killing the man, he will still need to release a statement. She tells him her captivity was her own fault, for trusting her enemies, but Galad does not accept this. She asks him if he realizes that fighting in the Last Battle will involve allying with both the Dragon Reborn and the Aes Sedai, and Galad says that the Shadow outweighs all other concerns, even allying with witches. She urges him to forget this trial then for the same reason, but Galad counters that Aybara himself asked for it, and either his innocence or guilt (and execution) must be proven before they can continue.
“I have heard you all but threatened to execute the prisoners if Perrin didn’t come to battle. Would you have actually done this?”
“Their blood would have been on his head.”
“Lini’s blood, Galad?”
“I…I would have seen her among them and removed her from danger.”
“So you would have killed the others,” Morgase said. “People who did no wrong, who were guilty of nothing more than being beguiled by Aybara?”
“The executions would never have occurred. It was merely a threat.”
“Bah! What is the point of this, Mother?”
“To make you think, son,” Morgase said. “In ways that I should have encouraged before, rather than leaving you to your simple illusions. Life is not so easy as the toss of a coin, one side or the other.”
She tells him about a murder trial she judged early in her reign, in which she condemned the suspect to death by hanging, only to discover years later that he had been innocent. She asks if she should be hanged for that, and Galad answers that she did her best; Morgase points out that that doesn’t change the fact that an innocent man died.
“The Children like to speak of the Light protecting them,” Morgase said, “of guiding their judgment and leading people to justice. That isn’t how it works, Galad. Valda, claiming the blessing of the Light, could do terrible things. And I, hoping for the Light’s aid, have killed unjustly.
“I’m not saying that Aybara is innocent. I haven’t heard enough either way. But I want you to understand. Sometimes a good man can do wrong. At times, it is appropriate to punish him. At other times, punishment serves nobody, and the best thing to do is to let him continue and learn. As I continued and learned, after making such a poor judgment.”
Galad looks troubled, but then they are interrupted by Byar, who reports that “the creature Aybara” has sent a message asking to delay the trial owing to some disturbance in their camp. Byar declares it an obvious ploy and urges Galad to attack or at least deny the extension, but Morgase assures Galad that Aybara is being honest. Galad looks annoyed, but says he will consider it, as well as the rest of what she has said.
Gaul reports to Perrin that the channelers say it could be days before they can Heal all the wounded from the bubble of evil attack. Aravine reports that the Whitecloak commander is “considering” their request for more time, and Perrin says that Damodred can either accept the delay or just go ahead and attack. He sends them off on various tasks, and Perrin wonders why of all the weapons in camp, his own hammer was the only one that didn’t try to attack him. Tam approaches, smelling worried, and tells him he has to leave.
“I’ve been told I can’t say much. But it’s about Rand.”
The colors swirled. Rand walked the hallways of the Stone of Tear. His expression was dark. Dangerous.
“Perrin,” Tam said, “I think this is something I need to do. It involves Aes Sedai, and I have to leave you now. I can’t say anything else. They made me swear it.”
Perrin agrees, and Tam tells him he is proud of him, and Perrin’s father would be too. He says he’ll see Perrin at the Last Battle if not before, and leaves.
Elayne rides in a litter carried by four Guardsmen, embarrassed by the necessity, heading to one of the turrets of the outer wall of the city, where Aludra is waiting. Aludra had sent a message reporting that her first test of the dragons was successful, and today is the official demonstration. On the way, Elayne reflects on the problem of Cairhien, and how she can take power there without getting mired in the notorious tangle of Cairhienin politics. She also thinks about the three new copies of the foxhead medallion she’d made to replace the one she’d lost, and how they still do not work as well as the original. She reaches the tower and is a bit unnerved by how high up they are.
I’m safe, she reminded herself. Min’s viewing. Not that she said anything like that to Birgitte, not any longer. And she did intend to stop taking so many risks. This wasn’t a risk. Not really.
The dragon on her tower is a dummy, for demonstration purposes only, and Elayne sees that Mat is on the next tower over with the live dragon. Via looking glass, Aludra shows her and Birgitte the fifty mannequins set up on a distant hillside outside the city, and Elayne wonders if Aludra really thinks her dragons can hit targets so far away with such a small thing as the iron sphere they are loading into the device. Aludra signals once the weapon is primed.
The soldier touched his burning torch to the side of the dragon.
The explosive sound that followed was so powerful that it made Elayne jump. The boom was as sharp as a thunderclap, and she heard in the distance what sounded like an echo of the explosion. She raised a hand to her breast, and remembered to draw breath.
A pocket on the hillside exploded in a massive spray of dust and earth. The ground seemed to tremble! It was as if an Aes Sedai had torn up the earth with a weave, but the One Power hadn’t been used at all.
Elayne is amazed, but Aludra is upset that the shot missed the mannequins by some twenty paces, and has the soldiers reload and adjust the dragon’s position. They fire again, and this time hit dead center, destroying or knocking down at least a dozen of the dummies. Elayne tells Aludra that all the resources of Andor are at her disposal, but insists that she swear an oath to keep the design of the dragons a secret. Aludra doesn’t care who has the design as long as the Seanchan do not, but agrees to the oath. Elayne is very excited, but Birgitte feels solemn, and Elayne asks what is wrong.
“The world just changed, Elayne,” Birgitte said, shaking her head, long braid swinging slightly. “It just changed in a very large way. I have a terrible feeling that it’s only the beginning.”
Yeah, I guess if anyone would be in a position to comprehend the long-term (and disturbing) ramifications of Aludra’s new technology, it would be Birgitte. After all, she’s basically been a soldier for centuries.
Of course, that does kind of make me wonder what’s Mat’s excuse for not being equally as apprehensive, since technically he also has multiple centuries’ worth of soldiering material at his disposal. But then, now that I think about it I can’t remember offhand whether we’ve actually been privy to any possible philosophical thoughts Mat might have on the dragons and their likely impact on the world, so possibly I am not giving him the benefit of the doubt.
One of the cool things about speculative fiction (in my opinion) is how frequently it offers the reader an opportunity to view something they might take for granted, or regard as ordinary and boring, from an alien perspective, which often regards that thing the exact opposite way. (“Alien” frequently being a literal term, of course.) I’ve always found it fascinating to try and put myself in the mindset of someone who would find something I personally find perfectly commonplace – like, say, the concept of gunpowder-based weaponry – to be utterly amazing and crazy and difficult to wrap their brain around.
Kind of the same way I would react to a real demonstration of channeling, in fact. I don’t know, it’s just fun to reflect on the perspective there. Plus, I find, it’s a pretty cool way for one to be reminded of how many of the so-called commonplace things around me are, actually, amazing and crazy when you think about it. And also, sometimes, disturbing as well.
Elayne: Oh, Elayne. I really wish Min had never opened her big fat mouth about that viewing, sometimes.
As for Galad and Morgase’s scene, well. I know, intellectually, that there are people just like Galad out there, who truly believe that everything exists in black and white, that there is an absolutely right answer and an absolutely wrong one to every situation, and to whom the very notion of compromise is not only anathema but actually a sin. I know these people exist because I have met them and read about them (and in a couple of cases am related to them), but even so I just can’t completely wrap my brain around them.
I have hard lines in my own personal morality, no doubt, and I certainly agree that moral relativity can be carried too far, but I simply do not get people who do not see that life is anything but a binary situation. Life is messy, and complicated, and context-dependent, and sometimes (often) there just is no right answer, only a big fight over which is the least wrong one.
All that said, this trial is problematic for more reasons than the obvious, and while I find Galad’s outlook baffling and frustrating in general, I have to admit he kind of has a point on this score. Because basically the argument Morgase is making here is that Perrin should be excused from being punished for his crimes because he is too important to the war effort, and as a member of a society whose system of law is at least theoretically dedicated to the concept that all people are equal under the law regardless of status, I find this… problematic. Even more so because in this case she’s actually kind of right, which is terrible.
But this is the point, really, that she (and I) are making, that this trial just isn’t as simple as determining whether a man is guilty or innocent of one particular crime, and that sometimes doing the wrong thing is actually the right course of action. Or rather, it is the lesser of whatever particular assortment of evils you’re facing that day.
I guess now that I think about it, it must be nice to be able to convince yourself to ignore all that, and to have a nice, safe, non-brain-breaking set of rules to follow without question or deviation or complications. It’s still a bullshit and dangerous way of looking at life, not to mention (in my opinion) a morally and intellectually cowardly one as well, but on reflection I guess I can see the attraction nevertheless.
Messy. Very messy.
Okay, so when I said in the summary that Berelain “waxes rhapsodic” about Galad, I was really, really not kidding:
“Like a statue carved from marble,” Berelain whispered, “a relic from the Age of Legends. A perfect thing left behind. For us to worship.”
I mean, damn, girl. I guess when Min saw that Berelain would fall “head over heels” for her man in white, she was seriously not exaggerating. You know it’s bad when you start busting out the poetic marble statuary allusions. Like you do.
Also, I left it out of the summary, but I was amused by Faile loyally sticking up for Perrin’s hotness over Galad’s, even as she privately admits that Galad is, indeed, very shiny. Heh.
Also, nice little reminder here, in Tam’s departure, of the fact that Perrin’s storyline is actually significantly behind the others’. TGS and TOM are in general way more fuzzy about the overall timeline than any of the previous books, but I think I’m right in asserting that Perrin’s is at this point the only one still lagging, and everyone else’s arcs are more or less in sync with Rand’s. If I’m wrong about this, though, I feel absolutely certain someone will let me know.
*pats her commenters fondly*
Chapter 30: Men Dream Here
Lacile and Selande have returned from the Whitecloak camp, where they were gathering intel under the guise of checking on Morgase. Lacile reports to Faile that the Whitecloaks respect Galad, though some are unhappy about his intention to ally with Aes Sedai for the Last Battle; Faile observes that this means Galad is more reasonable than your average Whitecloak, which is useful information. She meets with Dannil Lewin, who leads the Two Rivers men in Tam’s absence, and confirms with him the plan to get Perrin out in case the trial goes against him. Dannil is unhappy about going behind Perrin’s back, but agrees with Faile that it is necessary.
In the wolf dream, Young Bull reflects that he is learning bit by bit how to maintain the balance between being a wolf and being a man, though he worries that this is how Noam began as well.
He could not fail. He had to learn. It seemed that—somehow—the more confident he became in the wolf dream, the more comfortable he became with himself in the waking world.
He is chasing Hopper, who leads him through what should be impenetrable jungle and up vertical cliffs and into cloaking mists, Perrin adjusting the environment each time to make it do what he wants it to. Hopper praises him, and then they go to check on the violet dome, which Perrin is beginning to suspect is there for another purpose than trapping wolves. Hopper then drops Perrin in the ocean, and scolds him for not being prepared for any type of environment. He says Perrin will never defeat Slayer like this, and Perrin asks if there is a way to teach him. Hopper is troubled, but admits there is, and takes him to Caemlyn, where he explains about the intrusion of nightmares from people’s own dreams into the wolf dream.
Hopper looked at Perrin. Hunting in the fear-dreams will teach you strength. But you might die. It is very dangerous.
“I don’t have time to be safe anymore,” Perrin said. “Let’s do it.”
They hunt for the scent of fear, and find an alley. Hopper warns him to remember it is false, and sends him in. Perrin finds himself in a bleak and terrifying forest, where a woman is running for her life from a giant red-eyed monster. Perrin runs from it too, and prepares to fight it. He asks the woman what it is, and she says it’s the Dragon Reborn. Perrin is taken aback, and remembers that this is not real, and concentrates on not accepting the nightmare. Hopper appears and seems to push the dream away, and they are back in the alley. He asks Hopper if he made the nightmare stronger by accepting it, and Hopper confirms this, and praises him again. Perrin wants to try it again, but Hopper is distracted; Perrin asks what it is.
The Last Hunt. It begins. Or it does not.
Perrin frowned, standing. “You mean…right now?”
The decision will be made. Soon.
“What decision?” Hopper’s sendings were confusing, and he couldn’t decipher them. Light and darkness, a void and fire, a coldness and a terrible, terrible heat. Mixed with wolves howling, calling, lending strength.
Hopper takes them to Dragonmount, where Perrin is awed by the massive storm covering the top of the mountain, and the huge numbers of wolves in the area. Hopper says they are gathering for the Last Hunt, if it occurs.
A choice must be made, Young Bull. One path leads to the Last Hunt.
“And the other?” Perrin asked.
Hopper didn’t respond immediately. He turned toward Dragonmount. The other path does not lead to the Last Hunt.
“Yes, but what does it lead to?”
Perrin asks why the wolves don’t choose the first path, and Hopper replies it is not their choice to make. Perrin climbs the mountain until he reaches the maelstrom capping it, and creates a bubble of calm air around himself so that he can penetrate the violent storm. Hopper says it is not his place to stay, and vanishes, but Perrin presses on. He reaches the peak of the mountain to see a translucent figure perched at the very apex, facing east, and Perrin knows it is Rand. He sees Rand’s face, and wonders at its hardness, and then sees something black and evil seeping from Rand. Perrin bellows at Rand to fight it, but doesn’t think Rand can hear him. The black miasma envelopes Rand completely.
And then—from the midst of the blackness, from the center of the uproar and the tempest—a tiny sliver of light split through the evil. Like a candle’s glow on a very dark night. The light shone upward, toward the distant sky, like a beacon. So frail.
The light grows until it shatters the shell of blackness around Rand, and the storm vanishes. Perrin watches as the light becomes sunlight, bathing Rand, and the wolves below begin to howl in triumph. Perrin joins them, and Rand’s figure vanishes, leaving the sunlight behind. Wolves appears all around, dancing and cavorting in the sunlight, and Hopper soars over to Perrin.
The Last Hunt begins, Young Bull! Hopper screamed. We live. We live!
Perrin turned back to the place where Rand had stood. If that darkness had taken Rand…
But it hadn’t. He smiled broadly. “The Last Hunt has come!” he screamed to the wolves. “Let it begin!”
They howled their agreement, as loud as the storm had been just moments before.
I… had totally forgotten this chapter existed.
I completely did not remember that Perrin was actually a witness, sort of, to Rand’s critical turning point. Possibly because I’m not really sure why he was there.
It’s possible, of course, that this could be the fulfillment of the second half of the prophecy that Perrin had to be there twice for Rand, otherwise it would be really bad, but the problem with that is Perrin’s presence didn’t seem to have any effect on events at all. As far as I can tell, judging from both this POV and from what I remember of Rand’s in TGS, Perrin didn’t actually do a single thing that influenced Rand in any way, so if this is the fulfillment of that prophecy, then it seems… kinda lame.
But then again, there is that line that Perrin thinks about the wolves “lending strength,” to Rand presumably, so maybe it was just a really subtle kind of influence.
*shrug* Fair enough.
Either way, it was rather neat to get a glimpse of this pivotal event from an outside perspective. And to see the wolves’ reactions, though I must admit I winced at the word choice of having either Perrin or Hopper “scream” anything. Neither of them really strike me as, er, screamers, you know? (Heh.)
In other news, you really do have to give Perrin props on his Dreamworld learning curve, which at this point I think outstrips even Egwene’s. It’s a little influenced by plot expediency needs, of course, but even so I find it consistent to believe that Perrin may take a long time to accept a course of action, but once he has, he is on it. Commitment is not one of Perrin’s problems, let’s just say. Or, well, it is, or can be, but not in the sense that he can’t, er, commit to commitment, but rather that he has the complete opposite problem. I’m pretty sure that didn’t actually make a whole lot of sense, but work with me here.
As for Faile, I guess I’m going to have to admit to some hypocrisy here, because I know I was going on earlier about how she and Perrin really ought to be employing full disclosure of their plans to each other, and yet I did not have a problem with her secret emergency Perrin-extraction plans here. Mostly because, well, if it were a choice between my husband’s honor or his life, I’d probably pick the latter as well.
It would be preferable, of course, that they could have plotted this fallback plan together. And I’m not sure, but I think Faile might actually be wrong in her estimation that Perrin would not go along with the notion, because Perrin himself has said he has no intention of letting the Whitecloaks execute him regardless of how the trial goes. The thing is, I can’t remember if he’s said this in so many words to Faile herself.
Which brings us back to my earlier point, really, which is full disclosure = good thing. If Perrin would have told her his intentions, maybe she wouldn’t have felt the need to plan them for him in secret. So… maybe I’m having less hypocrisy here than I initially thought. Which is awful nice.
And on that only mildly self-critical note, we out! Have a lovely week, and make it a point to enjoy your electricity, because I know damn well that I am! Cheers!