…Well, no, actually, y’all didn’t, I did, but that wouldn’t have scanned right.
Whatever! Today’s entry covers Part III of the Prologue for A Memory of Light, in which the proper redistribution of leadership, architecture, and metaphorical nursery toys is hotly debated.
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. The index for all things specifically related to the final novel in the series, A Memory of Light, is here.
This re-read post, and all posts henceforth, contain spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time series. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
And now, the post!
Prologue: By Grace and Banners Fallen [Part III]
Talmanes and his troops fight their way toward the Palace, and Talmanes reflects that anyone who romanticizes dying in battle is a fool. The men fight bravely, but Talmanes knows they are outnumbered and exhausted, and his own wound is beginning to overtake him. But then he hears an Andoran battlecry, and forces from the Palace emerge to join them, beating the Trollocs back. Captain Guybon reaches Talmanes, and thanks him for drawing off the Trollocs besieging the Palace gates. He tells Talmanes that the Palace still stands, but a Darkfriend assassin killed two of the four channelers the Queen left him, and the remaining two are not strong enough to send for help. Talmanes has hope that one of them might be able to Heal his wound, though. He tells Guybon that they hold the southern gate, and he should take the refugees through there, but Guybon insists that he must stay and defend the Palace, saying that eventually the Queen will send someone to see why they aren’t reporting in. They are interrupted by Filger, one of the men Talmanes had left guarding the gate, who reports that the Trollocs have taken the city walls, and the gate is holding, but only barely. Talmanes pleads with Guybon to go help defend the gate before it falls and traps them all in the city.
[Guybon:] “But the Queen’s messenger—”
“The Queen will figure out what bloody happened once she thinks to look here. Look about you! Trying to defend the Palace is madness. You don’t have a city any longer, but a pyre.”
Guybon’s face was conflicted, his lips a tight line.
“You know I’m right,” Talmanes said, his face twisted in pain.
Talmanes suggests leaving some soldiers to defend the Palace as a diversion before escaping on the far side and heading to the gate. Guybon asks what Talmanes is doing, and Talmanes tells him he must get to the dragons, and either retrieve or destroy them before the Shadow finds them. Guybon reluctantly agrees to the plan, but insists that he is coming with Talmanes.
Androl tries to concentrate on making a saddle while Pevara grills him on his past. He says she just wants to know why a man would voluntarily come to the Black Tower, and to his surprise she admits that is true. She says they are allies, if reluctant ones, and she wants to know about him. She says they should practice making a circle, and is surprised that Androl does not know what she is talking about.
“Sometimes I forget how ignorant all of you are…” She paused, as if realizing she’d said too much.
“All men are ignorant, Aes Sedai,” Androl said. “The topics of our ignorance may change, but the nature of the world is that no man may know everything.”
That didn’t seem to be the answer she’d been expecting either. Those hard eyes studied him. She didn’t like men who could channel—most people didn’t—but with her it was more. She had spent her life hunting down men like Androl.
She explains the basics, but Androl tells her she should practice with the others, who are stronger than he. She is further surprised by this, and protests that the others all look to him, but he tells her that he is possibly the weakest in the Power in the whole of the Black Tower. Emarin and Canler enter, and they discuss their shaky plan to try to escape during a rainstorm. Androl doesn’t like the idea of leaving behind so many of those not yet under Taim’s control.
“If we leave them, we risk…”
He couldn’t say it. They didn’t know what was happening, not really. People were changing. Once-trustworthy allies became enemies overnight. They looked like the same people, yet different at the same time. Different behind the eyes, in the soul. Androl shivered.
Pevara insists that the emissaries from the rebel Aes Sedai outside the gates will join them in storming the keep and rescuing the others, but Androl quietly reminds her that the Black Tower is stuffed full of men who can channel, many of whom are insane, and all of whom have only been trained to be one thing: a weapon. Pevara admits he may be right that an assault would fail, but says they should at least send out a message. Emarin agrees that they need to warn the Dragon Reborn, but Canler snorts that the Dragon has abandoned them.
“The Dragon Reborn carries the world on his shoulders, Canler,” Androl said softly, catching Canler up short. “I don’t know why he’s left us here, but I’d prefer to assume it’s because he thinks we can handle ourselves.” Androl fingered the straps of leather, then stood up. “This is our time of proving, the test of the Black Tower. If we have to run to the Aes Sedai to protect us from our own, we subject ourselves to their authority. If we have to run to the Lord Dragon, then we will be nothing once he is gone.”
Pevara tells him that he must accept that with Taim, the Black Tower has fallen under the Shadow.
“The Black Tower is a dream,” he said, meeting her eyes. “A shelter for men who can channel, a place of our own, where men need not fear, or run, or be hated. I will not surrender that to Taim. I will not.”
Canler asks what they can do then, outnumbered as they are. Androl reminds them of the Knoks Rebellion in Murandy, where a group of untrained farmers overthrew their cruel overlord, because a man like that could only have cronies, not truly loyal followers. The others nod, and Androl tries not to feel foolish. He also tries to ignore the shadows under the table reaching for him, and is alarmed that they are coming even when he doesn’t hold saidin now. Pevara and Canler leave to go find something to drink, and Emarin comments that it is obvious from Androl’s phrasing that he fought in that rebellion (on the side of the farmers).
“You have a strange and varied past, my friend,” Emarin said. “The more I learn of it, the more curious I become.”
“I wouldn’t say that I’m the only one with an interesting past,” Androl said softly. “Lord Algarin of House Pendaloan.”
Emarin is shocked, but then rueful as Androl lists the clues that revealed him. He comments that Emarin’s past is just as colorful, and narrowly avoids revealing even more of his own past. Emarin points out that the Knoks Rebellion only succeeded for a short time before the rebels were driven out, which Androl acknowledges.
“So we do a better job of it here,” Emarin said. “I’m your man, Androl. We all are.”
“No,” Androl said. “We are the Black Tower’s men. I’ll lead you, if I must, but this isn’t about me, or about you, or any of us individually. I am only in charge until Logain returns.”
If he ever returns, Androl thought. Gateways into the Black Tower don’t work any longer. Is he trying to return, but finds himself locked out?
Emarin asks what they are to do, and Androl tells him to give him an hour to think.
Jesamyn (the only channeler left in Guybon’s forces; the other Kinswoman has fallen in battle) apologizes to Talmanes, telling him his wound is beyond her skill to Heal. Talmanes only nods, valuing the herbs she had given him to abate at least some of the pain. They rejoin Guybon and Dennel, and Jesamyn tells them the area around the Waygate that let the Trollocs in is being guarded with the One Power. Talmanes insists that they continue on their present course toward the warehouse hiding the dragons, avoiding the sections of the city on fire. Talmanes acknowledges to himself that it will not be much longer before his wound overtakes him, but forces himself to continue on. But then they reach the street where the warehouse is located, and find it in burnt ruins; Talmanes is about to give up, when they hear a BOOM, and he and his men run toward the sound. He encounters a Fade, and attacks with suicidal ferocity, laughing as its sword nicks him, and beheads it, taking down the Trollocs linked to it as well.
“Light!” Melten exclaimed, looking at the body. “Another one?”
“I’ve found the secret to defeating them,” Talmanes whispered. “You just have to be dead already.” He chuckled to himself, though Melten just looked at him, seeming baffled.
A voice calls out, thanking them, and Talmanes sees it is Aludra herself. She shows them that she has saved a hundred dragons from the warehouse, fitted on carts. Aludra comments on his appearance, and Talmanes sees black veins of darkness spreading on his skin.
“Oh, that. I’m dying, unfortunately. Terribly tragic. You wouldn’t happen to have any brandy, would you?”
Their original retreat is cut off, and Talmanes instructs that they should head for the east gate instead. Aludra points out that they have very little ammunition for the dragons, and Talmanes answers that that’s why they’re running.
Moghedien steps into Moridin’s dreamshard, a bizarre blend of Tel’aran’rhiod and a twisted environment of Moridin’s own creation, trying to appear confident and furious that she does not feel so. She comforts herself with her cour’souvra, which now hangs at her own neck, but even that makes her worry, that she might lose it. Moridin comments that she is not completely forgiven, and he might give her cour’souvra to Demandred next; she sniffs that Demandred is only interested in bringing down al’Thor, but feels sick inside. She assures herself that she will prove her worth. She reflects that Moridin has been growing increasingly strange lately.
Once, the man named Moridin—or Ishamael, or Elan Morin Tedronai—would have delighted in holding a cour’souvra for one of his rivals. He would have invented punishments, thrilled in her agony.
There had been some of that at the start; then… he had lost interest. He spent more and more time alone, staring into flames, brooding. The punishments he had administered to her and Cyndane had seemed almost routine.
She found him more dangerous this way.
Demandred enters via gateway, and complains that he has more important things to do; Moridin informs him that he has people to meet, and Demandred’s “playthings” can wait. Demandred observes that Moridin has freed Moghedien, and asks about Cyndane, whose mindtrap Moridin still wears, but Moridin replies that that is none of his concern; Moghedien knows that Moridin had rescued Cyndane aka Lanfear from Sindhol. An incredibly ugly woman enters, also via gateway, and Moridin tells them they’ve met “Hessalam” (which means “without forgiveness” in the Old Tongue) before. Moghedien recognizes her with shock as Graendal when she speaks, but Moridin warns her sharply not to use that name, and says even Moghedien is more favored at the moment. Moghedien is gleeful to see how far Hessalam has fallen.
“We are few, now,” Moridin said. “We four, and the one who is punished most, are all that remain. By definition, that makes us the strongest.”
[...] “Still, we are too few.” Moridin waved a hand, and a stone doorway appeared on the side of the platform. […] The door opened, and a man strode through it and out onto the platform.
Moghedien recognizes the man as Mazrim Taim, but Moridin declares that that name is discarded, and he is to be known as M’Hael, and that he is one of the Chosen. Moghedien, Demandred and Hessalam all react with outrage, though only Hessalam voices it; Moridin informs them that M’Hael has done better than many of the fallen Chosen, avoiding confronting al’Thor and instead “raising a new generation of Dreadlords to the Shadow’s cause.” Demandred says he is only interested in being the one to face al’Thor on the field of battle.
“His blood is mine, and no one else’s.” He met each of their eyes in turn, then finally those of M’Hael. There seemed to be a familiarity to them. The two had met before.
You will have competition with that one, Demandred, Moghedien thought. He wants al’Thor nearly as much as you do.
Demandred had been changing lately. Once, he wouldn’t have cared who killed Lews Therin— so long as the man died. What made Demandred insist on doing the deed himself?
Moridin informs Moghedien, to her indignation, that she will be assisting Demandred by listening in on one of the enemy’s armies. She feels hatred for him, but dares not object.
“The last days are upon us,” Moridin said, turning his back on them. “In these hours, you will earn your final rewards. If you have grudges, put them behind you. If you have plots, bring them to completion. Make your final plays, for this… this is the end.”
Talmanes lies on the ground, listening distantly to Dennel and Guybon arguing over how to use the dragons against the Trollocs. Melten tells Talmanes that it is no shame to let it end now, but Talmanes makes him help him up and tell him what’s going on. Melten explains that they are cornered and preparing for a last stand; Talmanes sees there are some two thousand people in the square, behind the semicircle of dragons set around them, while the streets around the square fill with Trollocs, waiting to begin the assault. Talmanes sees that the city wall abutting the square is also swarming with Trollocs, and Melten says their route to the gate has been cut off. Aludra approaches and says that she can set charges which will destroy the dragons, and Guybon tells her to do it, rather than let the weapons fall into the hands of the Shadow.
We’re surrounded, Talmanes thought. Pressed back against the wall, caught in a net. We…
Pressed back against the wall.
“Dennel!” Talmanes shouted over the din. The captain of dragons turned from his line, where men waited with burning punks for the call to launch the one volley they’d have.
Talmanes took a deep breath that made his lungs burn. “You told me that you could level an enemy bulwark in only a few shots.”
“Of course,” Dennel called. “But we’re not trying to enter…” He trailed off.
Light, Talmanes thought. We’re all so exhausted. We should have seen this.
He screams orders to turn half the dragons around to aim at the wall while the others fire at the oncoming Trollocs. Guybon murmurs a lament for his poor city, and Talmanes answers that it is no longer his city, but theirs. He lights one of the dragons himself, and watches as the wall crumbles under the assault of dragonfire, the last thing he sees before losing consciousness.
Yeah, I totally thought Talmanes was dead at this point. Which does not detract in any way from his general badassedness, of course, because that is clearly ongoing. Our boy’s got double Dreadbane action now, booyah! *spirit fingers*
As for their last-minute escape, I guess it should have been an obvious move: trapped? Just blast your way free! But then, that’s a solution that probably comes easily to a military mindset that’s been steeped in the art of (non-magical) Blowing Shit Up for a good few centuries, but probably not so easily to a guy who just learned about the notion like three months ago, if that. So I think Talmanes’s slowness on the uptake here can probably be forgiven.
As a side note, Dennel’s continued presence (and contribution of dialogue) in this storyline rather suggests I was being a bit hypocritical with my objections to Wise One Kymer in the last post. Nevertheless, I still feel that Dennel’s expositional line-feeding to Guybon and Talmanes was more appropriately marginal than Kymer’s participation in the Wise One debate. Cameo characters are perfectly free to say things that just move the plot along, but I just feel like philosophical/political debates re: The Meaning Of It All should be reserved for third-tier-and-up characters, you know?
However, this is clearly an area in which Your Mileage May Vary, so I’ll concede the point enough to shut up about it. FOR NOW.
Meanwhile: Androl, yay!
I think I’ve talked about this before, but it bears repeating: I remain rather astonished at how much I took to a character who appeared out of whole cloth so very late in the narrative. Historically, major characters introduced later than, oh, maybe the fifth book in the series have fared somewhat poorly in fandom opinion (see Cadsuane, comma, The), but Androl seems to be nearly universally a fan favorite, myself being no exception.
Of course, it’s hard to see why you wouldn’t like the guy; he’s pretty much tailor-made to appeal. Humble, intelligent, competent, uncorrupt, possessed of a mysteriously exciting past, and secretly an asskicking mofo? Show me where the bad is, seriously. He’s like the idealized version of George Washington, except with better teeth. And a mild case of insanity, but hey, nobody’s perfect!
It doesn’t hurt either that Androl’s own nobility leads him to put the best possible spin on Rand’s abandonment of the Black Tower. It’s way better PR than Rand actually deserves on that front, in my opinion, but if it keeps the non-thirteened Asha’man loyal to the Light I’ll certainly take it. It’s nice when your followers make up for your own deficiencies, isn’t it, Rand?
Also, it’s rather sad that we need to extend kudos to Pevara in this scene, for talking to Androl and the others like actual human beings, far more so than I think 99% of any of the sisters in the Red Ajah ever would have. It’s a little sad, as I said, that she gets props for accomplishing what should be just basic human decency, but I am a firm believer in cheering on anyone who manages to overcome whatever deep-set prejudices that they may have instilled in them, no matter how obviously wrong those prejudices may seem to me. (And really, as prejudices go, fearing and hating men who can channel is, for obvious reasons, one of the more reasonable examples of intolerance out there. Doesn’t make it any less a prejudice, but, well.)
And then of course we have our obligatory Forsaken Symposium of Evil Plotting, Take #493, give or take. Though this one seemed to be less about Evil Plotting and more about Moridin being bossily apathetic at everyone, but hey.
Also, my bad: I claimed that Moghedien never showed up in AMOL except to get collared at the end, and, well, that is clearly… not true. Considering this scene is from her POV, and all. Ahem. Oops?
Anyway, it kind of cracks me up that her regained freedom is entirely due to Moridin’s emo, like he was just, Ugh, torture is so BORING, here, take your stupid soul and go away so I can concentrate on my existential ennui.
(And writing poetry. IN THE DARK.) *snicker*
I’m still not sure if we’re supposed to ascribe Moridin’s increasing broodiness to him becoming more Rand-like (Rand, after all, has a tenth-dan black belt in emo broodiness), or if it’s that he’s really just done, done, DONE with all the shenanigans leading up to his ardently-desired ambition for there to be, uh, nothing, and can’t be bothered to pretend to care about it anymore.
No reason it can’t be both, I suppose. God knows I would get tired of only associating with people who are basically the equivalent of highly intelligent (and lethal) toddlers constantly fighting over who gets to keep all the toys, when Moridin knows (or believes, anyway) that no one’s getting to keep the toys. To say that would probably get real old real fast is the understatement of the geological age. (Or maybe just the Third Age, ha ha, okay that was sad, I know, sorry.)
Demandred’s appearance at this juncture reminded me, on first reading, that hey, we’re on the last book and we STILL DON’T KNOW where the hell he’s been all this time, could we get on that, pretty please with sprinkles? And—yeah, this is one arena in which AMOL did very much deliver on, I will say. But since he doesn’t really do anything at this point other than be pissy, we’ll come back to him later.
As for “M’Hael,” whatever. I will still be calling him Taim, because “M’Hael” is an okay title but a terrible Evil Moniker, and if I were him I would have protested the rechristening most strongly. Everybody else gets names like Netweaver and Betrayer of Hope and Daughter of the Night, and he gets to be “Leader”? When he obviously isn’t even in charge? Eh. Lame.
However, his induction here did half validate one of my personal theories, that Taim and Alviarin would end up being made new Chosen to replenish the old guard’s very depleted ranks. Alviarin’s promotion didn’t come through, sadly (at least, not unless I forgot something, which is perfectly possible), but I was totally right on Taim, yeah! (And yeah, I know I was hardly the only one to come up with that theory, nor was I the first, but whatever, I’m pleased to be right anyway. Go me!)
Hessalam: HAH ha!
I left out the description of Moridin’s little dreamshard vacay spot, but it was seriously creepy. At least he’s still bothering to keep up some appearances, eh?
Moghedien refers to the Snakes and Foxes’ dimension as Sindhol, which is seriously pinging my mental radar but I’ve been racking my brains without being able to place where that name has been cannibalized from. Anyone? Bueller?
“We are few, now,” Moridin said. “We four, and the one who is punished most, are all that remain. By definition, that makes us the strongest.”
“The one who is punished most”: Mesaana? Seems a little off, though. I mean, being reduced to a drooling vegetable definitely blows goats through a straw, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not like she’s in there to be aware of it….
Oh, wait, never mind. Lanfear. Okay, carry on.
Speaking of whom, did we know before this point that Moridin had actually personally rescued her from Finnland? I think I remember being rather startled by that revelation, like why would be bother? More evidence of his encroaching Randification, perhaps?
PERHAPS SO. I’ll leave you to contemplate that and, well, whatever else you feel the need to contemplate about in the comments, because your Auntie Leigh is peace out, Gs. See you next Tuesday!