Today’s entry covers Chapter 1 of A Memory of Light, in which dudebros hang, potential beach frolics are hopefully contemplated, and I am entirely contradictory in my reactions over characters living and/or dying. Because I am COMPLEX, OKAY.
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!
Chapter 1: Eastward the Wind Blew
The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Mist. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.
The wind blows east, passing the ruins of Taren Ferry and herds of starving refugees heading for Andor, past the barren fields to the burning city of Caemlyn, then north to a huge gathering of tents and soldiers, where the impending sense of dread is broken by unexpected laughter. Rand sits with Perrin in his tent, laughing as Perrin recounts how he and Faile had fallen down the stairs of the Winespring Inn in front of Marin al’Vere. Rand thinks that Perrin is much changed, yet still essentially the same as the boy he’d known, and is glad that Perrin is here to take his mind off of the disturbing vision of Mierin he’d seen in his dreams. They go walking in the camp, and Perrin asks why Rand had asked to hear about the Battle of the Two Rivers again when he’d heard it before. Rand answers that he’d asked about the events before, not the people, and it is the people he needs to remember. They listen to the sounds of Power-wrought weapons being made as fast as possible, Rand having lent Asha’man to Perrin’s smiths for the cause.
“Can you believe what has happened to us?” Perrin asked. “Light, sometimes I wonder when the man who owns all these fancy clothes is going to walk in on me and start yelling, then send me out to muck the stables for being too bigheaded for my collar.”
“The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills, Perrin. We’ve become what we needed to become.”
Perrin asks what the memories are like, and Rand tells him they’re like remembering extraordinarily vivid dreams, where he does things he might not have done awake: “He’s me. And I’m him. But at the same time, I’m not.” Perrin remarks that he still seems like himself, and Rand knows he can’t really explain it to him. He worries that even with all of Lews Therin’s knowledge in him, he still doesn’t know what to do about the Bore, since Lews Therin’s attempt to deal with it had been a disaster.
One answer kept coming to Rand. A dangerous answer. One that Lews Therin hadn’t considered.
What if the answer wasn’t to seal the Dark One away again? What if the answer, the final answer, was something else? Something more permanent.
Yes, Rand thought to himself for the hundredth time. But is it possible?
They reach the clerks’ tent, where Balwer reports that Roedran will come, which means that all the major rulers on the continent will be present, mostly at the Amyrlin’s request. There is a sudden earthquake then, and Rand thinks that it is really almost here, the Last Battle, and tells the clerks to warn the camp that this kind of thing will continue: there will be a Breaking, and it cannot be avoided. Balwer further reports that Queen Elayne was woken a while ago, but he does not know why. Rand thanks him, and he and Perrin leave. He thinks of how he’d learned, to his shock, that Elayne was pregnant with his children, but does not question why she hadn’t told him earlier.
I’m going to be a father, he thought, not for the first time. Yes, Lews Therin had had children, and Rand could remember them and his love for them. It wasn’t the same.
He, Rand al’Thor, would be a father. Assuming he won the Last Battle.
He tells Perrin he is worried about Elayne being distracted from the meeting tomorrow, and they head to where Perrin’s people might be able to give them more information.
Egwene is in her tent, composing her thoughts on what to say to Rand the next day, when Gawyn enters to say he sent the message to Elayne. A short time later a reply arrives from Elayne, and Egwene and Gawyn Travel to Elayne’s tent, the better to avoid speculation. Gawyn is surprised that Elayne is awake, and Elayne answers that Jesamyn has failed to check in from Caemlyn, so she sent Serinia Sedai to check on things. Egwene hands her the letter she’s been working on for Rand, asking for her opinion. Elayne says the tone is “forceful,” and opines that perhaps they should let him do as he intends, since the Dark One is nearly free anyway. Egwene points out that even during the War of Power the Dark One was never truly free, and that if he had been the Wheel would have been broken.
“If we break the seals at the wrong time, I fear it would mean an end to all things. Here, read this.” She handed a page to Elayne.
“The Karaethon Cycle?” Elayne asked, curious. “‘And light shall fail, and dawn shall not come, and still the captive rails.’ The captive is the Dark One?”
Egwene thinks so. She says that Rand wants to break the seals immediately, but she thinks they have an extended conflict before them, and they should wait until the absolute last minute to break them. At the very least, she adds, it is not a decision Rand should make alone; as Watcher of the Seals, it is Egwene’s duty to choose when it should happen. Elayne tells her to make the argument to Rand just as is, and he will listen to her. They are interrupted by a frenzied messenger, who reports that Caemlyn is under attack by Trollocs. They rush to the Traveling ground, where wounded, soot-covered soldiers and refugees are pouring through gateways; Egwene sees the flaming city through one of them and is appalled. Egwene sends Gawyn to rouse the Aes Sedai and Bryne’s troops, ready to send to Caemlyn to aid Andor. Elayne is speaking to an exhausted Guybon, who she assures did well in retrieving the dragons and rescuing as many refugees as he did. Guybon tells her to save her praise for Talmanes and the Band, and begs them to help Talmanes. Elayne and Egwene see that he is beyond their ability to help, but then Egwene hears Nynaeve’s voice demanding to know what’s going on, and drags her over to see to Talmanes.
Nynaeve Delved Talmanes, then froze, eyes wide.
“Nynaeve?” Egwene said. “Can you—”
An explosion of weaves burst from Nynaeve like the sudden light of a sun coming out from behind clouds. Nynaeve wove the Five Powers together in a column of radiance, then sent it driving into Talmanes’ body.
Egwene sees Elayne questioning Aludra, and then insisting on going to the edge of the city to see for herself, and then spies a man and a woman dressed in Illianer garb amidst the chaos. The woman kneels to Egwene and introduces herself as Leilwin, and says she has come to serve the Amyrlin. Egwene recognizes her accent as Seanchan, and fights down her immediate reaction of animosity. She has them taken somewhere for her to deal with later, and goes back to Nynaeve and Talmanes, who looks much better. Nynaeve is exhausted from the effort, and comments it is going to be a long night. Egwene offers to link with her and share her strength, and to Nynaeve’s surprise, reminds her that the Amyrlin is still Aes Sedai, Servant of All. They join the other sisters tending to the wounded.
Perrin warns Rand that he is not exactly Faile’s favorite person as they head toward his camp, and Rand thinks to himself that she would be a fool to like him. He tells Perrin that the madness Faile fears has already come, but he “has it in his grip.” Perrin says that Rand doesn’t seem crazy to him, and Rand replies that his madness is these two sets of memories, and that one tried to take over the other.
“I was two people, fighting over control of myself. And one of them was completely insane. […] But […] I’m increasingly certain that I needed these memories. Lews Therin was a good man. I was a good man, but things went wrong—I grew too arrogant, I assumed I could do everything myself. I needed to remember that; without the madness… without these memories, I might have gone charging in alone again.”
Perrin asks if that means he’s going to work with Egwene, and points out that she is the Watcher of the Seals. Rand replies that the seals are flawed, and must be removed and replaced with something better, and he must make Egwene see that. Perrin asks if he’s tried explaining it that way to Egwene, and Rand says he will see. They reach Perrin’s camp, and Rand is amazed anew at the force he has gathered, even including the Whitecloaks; he thinks that Perrin has truly become a king.
A different kind of king than Rand—a king of his people, who lived among them. Rand couldn’t take that same path. Perrin could be a man. Rand had to be something more, for a little time yet. He had to be a symbol, a force that everyone could rely upon.
That was terribly tiring. Not all of it was physical fatigue, but instead something deeper. Being what people needed was wearing on him, grinding as surely as a river cut at a mountain. In the end, the river would always win.
Perrin tells Rand that he has Perrin’s support unless it comes to blows, as he will not fight Elayne or the Aes Sedai, and Rand promises it will not come to that. He reassures the Two Rivers sentries at the perimeter, feeling a pang that they only know him as the Lord Dragon now. Perrin speaks to a messenger, and then tells Rand that Caemlyn has fallen to Trollocs. Rand comments that it is a clever strike, aimed at drawing Andor from them as an ally; Perrin points out that Elayne leaving might be good for Rand, as she is on Egwene’s side.
“There is no other side, Perrin. There is one side, with a disagreement on how that side should proceed. If Elayne isn’t here to be part of the meeting, it will undermine everything I’m trying to accomplish. She’s probably the most powerful of all the rulers.”
He feels her alarm through the bond, and debates going to her, and then realizes the same way that Aviendha is at Merrilor, suddenly. He tells Perrin they can’t let Elayne leave; it’s too late for Caemlyn, and her underlings can handle the evacuation without her. Perrin asks, what if they send in all the Asha’man, but Rand replies that the unity of the coalition must be secured above all else; to break it up is precisely what the attack on Caemlyn had been for. Perrin points out that the Trollocs must be coming through the Waygate in the city, and suggests an attack at that one point could at least stop them coming through, leaving their rear vulnerable.
“What’s so funny?”
“At least I have an excuse for knowing and understanding things no youth from the Two Rivers should.”
Perrin snorted. “Go jump in the Winespring Water.”
Rand thinks it is likely Demandred is behind this, as it is like him. Perrin comments that at least the Lews Therin memories are good for something, and Rand muses aloud on the irony that it was the taint which gave him those memories and almost destroyed him, but those same memories are giving him the clues he needs to win.
"Don’t you see? If I win this, it will be the taint itself that led to the Dark One’s fall.”
Perrin whistled softly.
Redemption, Rand thought. When I tried this last time, my madness destroyed us.
This time, it will save us.
Rand tells Perrin this is the last night of peace either of them will know for a while. They wish each other well and go to their tasks.
I just kind of felt like that opening paragraph was worth quoting, this time. Considering it’s the last time we’ll see it.
It’s a nice sort of wish-fulfillment, in a way, to see Perrin and Rand, well, hanging out, for lack of a less anachronistic term, because it’s something they haven’t done since—well, since TEOTW, really, and it’s nice that they get a moment to do it again before shit gets real. And for a bonus, they’re not just talking together, but talking openly and honestly about formerly very taboo topics like Lews Therin and/or insanity in general. Again, clear confirmation that the end times are upon us.
Although, that does raise the question of whether Perrin was ever straight-up honest to Rand in particular about the wolfbrother thing. I know Rand figured out on his own a while back that there was something hinky going on there with Perrin re: wolves, but I can’t remember if Perrin ever actually said anything about it to him in so many words. I tend to think not, because there was a line in this chapter (which I left out of the summary) where Rand is startled because he thinks Perrin almost substituted the word “smell” for “seem.”
In which case I have to say I think it’s kind of stupid that Perrin hasn’t brought it up, since it seems like Rand knowing about Perrin’s wolfy superpowers (not to mention the dreamwalking thing!) would be of rather large significance, tactically. Of course, the way things eventually fall out that doesn’t actually turn out to be the case, but there’s no way Perrin could know that at this point. So, bad Perrin! No wolf biscuit!
Speaking of people talking to each other, I have to be amused that if there is any kind of theme to this chapter, it is that both Egwene’s and Rand’s people (i.e. Elayne and Perrin, respectively) are independently telling them to get over themselves and just talk to the other one like a person already. Which is only what the readers have collectively been yelling at pretty much every character in the series since TEOTW, but hey, better late than never!
Rand had never tasted seawater. Lews Therin had. Knowing facts like that had greatly discomforted him once. Now he had learned to accept that part of him.
This little detail about the seawater made me possibly overdramatically sad on Rand’s behalf. Mostly because it was a reminder that, for all the epically crazy/exotic/magnificent shit he’s seen/done/had happen to him over the past couple of years, there’s a huge swath of completely mundane magnificent shit that he’s never gotten to do. Like hang out on a seashore, for instance. I’m just saying, even tragic Messiah figures should have an opportunity in their lives to play in the ocean.
(Well, hopefully he will, eh?)
I was kind of surprised that the reveal to Rand about Elayne’s pregnancy happened off-screen. I was a tad disappointed, too, because I had definitely wanted to see his reaction to that first-hand. But, oh well. This is only one event among many that are destined to end up on the cutting room floor, so to speak, in the name of Finishing This Thing Already, so I’m not going to bother dwelling on it overmuch.
Rand’s thoughts on Perrin being a different kind of king than he can be was interesting enough that I felt the need to quote it, but I’m finding I don’t have anything interesting to actually say about it. I mean, I could point out that the upshot here is that it royally (heh) sucks to be the Messiah/savior figure, but I’m pretty sure that is no longer news to any of us at this point. Still, good quote.
Demandred himself had discovered [the strategies of warfare] in the old writings. They’d known nothing of war when the Bore had first opened. Oh, they’d thought they understood it, but it had been the understanding of the scholar looking back on something ancient, dusty.
Of all those to turn to the Shadow, Demandred’s betrayal seemed the most tragic. The man could have been a hero. Should have been a hero.
I’m to blame for that, too, Rand thought. If I’d offered a hand instead of a smirk, if I’d congratulated instead of competed. If I’d been the man then that I am now….
This kind of makes me want to read about how all that went down. That story will never exist, of course, at least not officially, and it’s a moot point too, I guess, but I maintain there’s something inherently fascinating (if often depressing) about Might-Have-Been moments.
Then there’s Egwene, and man, is it different to be reading about her now. Sigh.
[Elayne:] “‘And light shall fail, and dawn shall not come, and still the captive rails.’ The captive is the Dark One?”
I guess there’s no reason to suppose Egwene is wrong in her interpretation here, since waiting till the last moment to break the Seals went pretty well by all accounts. So, er… there you go?
Elayne shuffled through the sheets of paper, then stopped on one of them. “‘His blood shall give us the Light . . .’” She rubbed the page with her thumb, as if lost in thought. “‘Wait upon the Light.’”
…I think this refers to something specific that went down right when the Seals were broken, but that whole bit (the whole last third of the book, if I’m going to be honest) is something of a blur in my mind, so I’ll try and stick a mental pin in this one to come back to later.
And Talmanes is saved, yaaay. I dunno; I really like him as a character and I’m glad he gets to be badass later on, but some overly poetical emo part of me still thinks he should have died at the end of the Prologue. *shrug* But at least it gives us an opportunity to see Nynaeve being kickass, which is always a welcome thing.
And randomly: there are three fan-derived names in this chapter: Serinia Sedai, Reed Soalen and Kert Wagoner. The last one in particular amuses me because I think it is the fan’s actual last name, and really, I guess there was no need to change it. (Although, WOT names don’t generally follow the real-world tendency to evolve from a family’s trade or profession. Or maybe they do and just not in the Common Tongue we’re “reading” it in—maybe “al’Vere” actually means “innkeeper,” and so forth. I tend to doubt it, though.)
And that’s what I got for this one, kids. Have a week, and I’ll see you on the next go-round!