Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor sappy feels stays the Wheel of Time Reread from its appointed rounds! Er, mostly, anyway.
Today’s entry covers Part 13 of Chapter 37 of A Memory of Light, in which some other stuff, but mostly BELA NOOOOOOOO.
Previous reread entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index is here, which has links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time in general. The index for all things specifically related to the final novel in the series, A Memory of Light, is here.
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This reread post, and all posts henceforth, contain spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time series. If you haven’t read, continue at your own risk.
And now, the post!
Chapter 37: The Last Battle [Part 13]
Wielding Vora’s sa’angreal, Egwene leads the Aes Sedai into battle as Demandred continues to pound the Andorans with balefire, causing the black spiderweb cracks to appear everywhere, and now tendrils of “something sickly” are beginning to seep from those cracks. Egwene feels white hot rage, but thinks that unlike when she battled the Seanchan, she feels more in control, without that edge of desperation.
She, Egwene al’Vere, had been given stewardship of this land.
She, the Amyrlin Seat, would not be bullied by the Shadow any longer.
She would not retreat. She would not bow as her resources failed.
She would fight.
She creates a dust storm to cloak her and a lightning rod to deflect lightning strikes. She feels Leilwin through the bond, and while it does not lessen the pain of Gawyn’s loss, the new bond helps in other ways. She continues her attacks while Leilwin defends her from physical assaults, and the Asha’man join the Aes Sedai, for the first time in force. Then her dust storm abruptly dies, revealing a man in black and red who Egwene knows is Taim. From behind, Jahar Narishma shouts to warn her Taim is weaving lightning, and she quickly deflects it. She orders everyone but Narishma and Merise to keep the other Dreadlords off her so she can focus on Taim, and then gathers herself to attack.
Near the ruins, Ila hunts with her husband Raen for wounded among the fallen on the battlefield. Ila reflects that the Way of the Leaf could be as hard as it was joyful, but none of their suffering in the last few years compared to the loss of Aram. She sees Raen examining a quiver of arrows and hisses at him. Raen assures her he isn’t going to touch them, but he points out that Trollocs would never follow the Way of Leaf. Ila replies that they can always run, but Raen counters that the Trollocs would only follow. Ila asks if the Shadow would really treat them so much worse than others have, and Raen assures her that they would be far worse.
He shook his head, sighing. “I am not going to abandon the Way, Ila. It is my path, and it is right for me. Perhaps… perhaps I will not think quite so poorly of those who follow another path. If we live through these times, we will do so at the bequest of those who died on this battlefield, whether we wish to accept their sacrifice or not.”
Ila reflects on his words, and suddenly cries that she should not have turned her back on Aram. She looks at the mercenaries (one is named “Hanlon”) who are helping the Tinkers rather than fighting, and wonders if she should think of them as cowards rather than enlightened for avoiding battle. Ila decides that saving lives is her only constant anymore, and turns back to looking for wounded.
Olver tries not to panic as Lady Faile gallops off, drawing away her pursuers, and tries to decide what to do. But then a Trolloc sniffs out his hiding place and knocks the wagon over. Olver tries to run, but he is surrounded. Then he sees Bela, and jumps on her back even though he is highly dubious that the fat mare will be able to help him. To his surprise, however, Bela runs like the wind and doesn’t panic even though they are surrounded by Shadowspawn. But there are hundreds of Trollocs now, chasing him and the Horn, and Olver changes direction, trying to go around the camp to get back to the Heights. Then a large group of Trollocs cut them off, and an arrow hits Bela, and she goes down.
Olver tumbled free. Hitting the ground knocked the air from his lungs and made him see a flash of light. He forced himself to crawl to his hands and knees.
The Horn must reach Matrim Cauthon…
Olver grabbed the Horn, and found that he was weeping. “I’m sorry,” he said to Bela. “You were a good horse. You ran like Wind couldn’t have. I’m sorry.” She whinnied softly and drew a final breath, then died.
Olver tries to run, barely avoiding the Trollocs grabbing for him. He finds a tiny cleft in a rocky outcropping and wedges himself and the Horn into it, where the Trollocs are too big to reach him.
Logain attacks the moment he is through the gateway, but Sharans fling themselves in front of his weaves, giving Demandred time to turn and counter. Logain barely avoids the Deathgate Demandred flings at him that spews lava from the other side. Logain is stunned by Demandred’s sheer strength. Demandred flings lightning, which knocks Logain down.
“You are powerful,” Demandred said. Logain could barely hear the words. His ears… the thunder… “But you are not Lews Therin.”
He shields Logain from the Source and begins weaving balefire, but Logain throws a rock at him, which makes Demandred stumble and release the shield. Logain escapes through a gateway by the skin of his teeth and ends up back in camp, howling in anger at his failure. Gabrelle, feeling real concern for him, calls him a fool and hopes he does not intend to try that again, but Logain says he won’t; Demandred is too strong.
Light, he thought. How are we going to deal with that monster?
Egwene and M’Hael hammer at each other with no quarter given, Narishma crouching nearby and calling out Taim’s incoming weaves to her. She thinks he is slowing, but then he flings balefire at her, causing the cracks to spring up everywhere. Egwene shouts that he is a fool who will destroy the Pattern itself; already there is an unnatural wind that neither of them have created. But Taim weaves it again.
She sidestepped, her anger building. Balefire. She needed to counter it!
They don’t care what they ruin. They are here to destroy. That is their master’s call. Break. Burn down. Kill.
She screams in fury, attacking Taim anew, relentlessly pounding at his shield. He stumbles, his weave wavering, and Egwene slams a shield between him and the Source. He holds it off desperately, but she is stronger, and slowly forces it closer. She almost has him when he balefires the weave (and, nearly, Egwene herself) and escapes, vanishing without a gateway. Egwene realizes it must be the True Power that let him do that. She is infuriated she has no way to counter balefire, but thinks of Perrin’s comment that balefire is “only a weave” like any other. Merise then draws her attention to the battle still raging between the Aes Sedai/Asha’man and the Sharan channelers, and she turns back into the fight.
Hurin fights with the other Borderlanders on Polov Heights, even though the stench of war is so strong it has nearly incapacitated him. He kills a Trolloc, and thinks of how Lord Rand had come to him to personally apologize, and is determined to do him proud.
The Dragon Reborn did not need the forgiveness of a little thief-taker, but Hurin still felt as if the world had righted itself. Lord Rand was Lord Rand again. Lord Rand would preserve them, if they could give him enough time.
There is a lull, and Lan Mandragoran explains that the Trollocs are preparing for a final charge to try and push them up the slope to level ground, and advises them to rest while they can. He says the next assault will be the worst one yet. Hurin thinks of Mat’s forces on the plateau, who were supposed to be pushing the Sharans off the top but were instead losing ground themselves.
Hurin lay back, listening to the moans all around, the distant shouts and ringing of weapons hitting metal, sniffing the stink of violence hanging around him in an ocean of stenches.
The worst still to come.
Light help them…
Oh my God, this is pathetic. I already knew she was going to die this time around, and yet I STILL got all choked up when I got to that part again. Seriously, Leigh (I say to myself), get a grip. But there is no grip, because BELAAAAAAAAAA, and everything is terrible and everything hurts.
Of course, I suppose merely getting choked up constitutes an improvement over the first time I read it, when I straight-up started ugly crying, because I have no emotional defense whatsoever against brave animal characters nobly dying for their humans (or for their fellow brave animal friends, or just dying for any reason at all). I cannot handle it, y’all. It makes me come unglued every damn time. There is a reason I loathed my sixth grade English teacher, and it is because she put me through the emotional combine harvester that is The Red Pony, for which I never forgave her, because oh my God yank my heart out of my chest and stomp on it, why don’t you. You’d think I’d have gotten over that by now, but NO I NEVER WILL.
I have to admit I was sort of stunned to learn that Harriet had actually insisted on Bela dying in AMOL. Apparently Brandon had originally intended that Bela would survive, but Harriet made him change it. I’m… not really sure what the reasoning was behind the decision, given that Bela had become a fan meme (not to mention a fan favorite) over the years, and it seems to me that therefore, having her survive would have been a lot more thematically appropriate than her death was. If nothing else, as a shoutout to the tongue-in-cheek “Bela is secretly the Creator” theories that have continuously floated around the fandom. None of us took that theory seriously, obviously, but still, having her die was a little like a slap in the face. Or so it seemed to me, anyway.
Besides that, maybe it’s a little crazy to say this about the death of a horse (a fictional horse, no less), but of all the deaths that have or are about to occur in AMOL, even though many of them have been or will be heart-rending, Bela’s seems to me to be the only one that was pointlessly cruel. There was literally no reason for her to die except that it would be upsetting to the reader, which… maybe isn’t the best reason to kill off a character? Even if it’s just a horse?
But then, we have already established that I have no objectivity whatsoever when it comes to animal deaths in fiction, so maybe I’m just blowing it out of proportion. That said, this is definitely one occasion on which I think even fans without my particular hangups would not have objected to having the “adorable animal improbably survives apocalypse” trope played straight, rather than averted.
Oh, well. Bye, Bela. You were the most awesome Little Horse That Could ever, and we the fandom salute you.
I really liked both of the “minor” POV scenes in this section, namely Ila’s and Hurin’s, both for reasons of philosophical nomminess.
Hurin is adorable in general, of course, and I’ve always liked him a lot, but this scene was nice in that it had Hurin unknowingly identifying why it was so important that Rand had made a point of apologizing to him, even as Hurin is thinking that it wasn’t all that important.
Hurin is right, really, in that he is a very small player in the grand scheme of things, but his relative unimportance is actually why he was so important, in a way. I still remember how terrible it was when Rand shit all over him when Rand was at his lowest point in TGS, and that moment still sticks out to me as being one of the most irrevocable indicators that Rand had fundamentally lost his way and was on the verge of ruining everything. And in the same way, Rand’s recognition after his come to Jesus moment (heh) of his need to amend that harm to Hurin was one of the strongest indicators to me that he really was back on the right path.
It’s the quote from Harry Potter, really, when Sirius tells Ron: “if you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” Whether you’re a Harry Potter fan or not, that is some undeniable truth, right there. The longer I’m around in this world, the more I become convinced that the true measure of a person’s worth is not in how he or she deals with those whom they consider equal to (or greater than) themselves, but in how they deal with those whom they perceive as being less. And nothing will prove to me faster that a person is scum than seeing that they are willing to abuse or cheat or denigrate those who have less power than they do. There is nothing more contemptible, in my opinion.
So this POV of Hurin’s was very nice, in how it reminded me how close Rand came to falling into that trap, and yet in the end recognized his error and corrected it, and so redeemed himself—as both a Messiah figure and as a human being. From such small things are the greatest things wrought, if you ask me.
As for Ila, I thought her POV was a nicely succinct summation of the fundamental dilemma with absolutist pacifism. Which has come up before when dealing with Tinkers in this series, of course, but it’s always a topic worth revisiting, particularly in the middle of an apocalyptic battle between good and evil. The Way of the Leaf is, in a lot of ways, a demonstration of how a moral stance can be pure and admirable in theory, but become in fact morally bankrupt in practice. Abstaining from violence is all well and good in a vacuum, but in a world where bad people will do bad things, sometimes unimaginably bad things, unless stopped with force, sometimes refusing to fight causes more harm than the opposite. Which sucks, especially given how messy and blurred the line is between “the good fight” and the not-so-good fight, but there it is.
Speaking of confusing moral lines, what the hell is Daved Hanlon doing working for the Lightside folk, at least nominally? He’s a confirmed Darkfriend, isn’t he? Does this come up later? I don’t think it does (though obviously I could just not remember it), but wow, Ila doesn’t even know how right she is about questioning those mercenaries’ convictions, because if they’re all Hanlon’s cronies that means they couldn’t even commit to being evil enough to fight. Though I suppose that, “evil” being more often defined as selfishness in WOT than anything else, it actually makes a lot more sense that Hanlon et al would go looking for the easy way out rather than actually do anything, but even so, wow.
They passed Morgase, the former queen, who organized these workers and gave them orders. Ila kept moving. She cared little for queens. They had done nothing for her or hers.
Ohhh, so that’s where Morgase is. Okay then. *shrug*
As for Logain, I don’t think I had this reaction the first time around, but this time I definitely sort of snickered at his I’VE GOT A BETTER IDEA I’VE GOT A BETTER IDEA NO IT’S THE SAME IDEA IT’S THE SAME IDEA approach to Demandred, which, yeah, honey, we could have told you that wasn’t going to work out. But hey, he got away without being maimed or made dead, so, technically his effort counts as an improvement, yeah?
And, well, I think being able to admit when you’re outmatched also counts as Growing As A Person, particularly for someone as douche-inclined as Logain, so we should probably give him kudos for that too, even if it does sort of qualify as damning with faint praise.
As for Egwene… no. I’m going to have to talk about Egwene later. Because… yeah.
And that’s the story, mornin’ glories! See you next week!