What up, yo: Welcome to another Wheel of Time Re-read, my peeps!
Today’s post will be covering Chapters 43-44 of The Fires of Heaven, in which we have a battle.
Previous entries can be found here. This and all other posts contain mad spoilers for all currently published novels in the Wheel of Time series, so if you ain’t read, you be illin. Yo.
Yes, I am aware that my street cred has long since been sent to a collections agency. Y’all hush.
Also, small announcement: I will be taking part this week in an episode of The 4th Age, a Wheel of Time podcast hosted by Dragonmount.com, in which I will be talking about, uh, well, I’m not sure what I’ll be talking about. But I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that it’ll have something to do with The Wheel of Time. I know, me and my crazy guessing games!
I’ll give you guys the heads-up when the episode is ready and posted, which should be maybe a week or so, in case y’all’re dying to hear me go “um” and “er” a lot.
And I think that takes care of old business, so let’s get to the good stuff, aight?
Chapter 43: This Place, This Day
Rand rises before dawn, having hardly slept at all, going over his choices and wondering if there was any way to have avoided things coming to this, but he doesn’t think so. The chiefs meet him for one last briefing, where they seem almost cheerful at the prospect of action; Rand hopes that not too many of their own will die.
“Life is a dream,” Rhuarc told him, and Han and the others nodded agreement. Life was only a dream, and all dreams had to end. Aiel did not run toward death, yet they did not run from it either.
Bael pauses to ask if Rand is sure about what he wants the Maidens to do, and tells him Sulin has been speaking to the Wise Ones; Rand replies that no one else is complaining, and if Sulin has a problem she can take it up with him, not the Wise Ones. Lan appears, to Rand’s surprise, and tells him Moiraine is fretting in her tent about her inability to Heal all those who will be wounded today, and then like her asks why Rand is wearing a physical sword, when he can create one from fire or just kill without.
Unconsciously, Rand ran one hand up the long hilt at his side. “It’s hardly fair to use the Power that way. Especially against someone who can’t channel. I might as well fight a child.”
The Warder stood silent for a time, studying him. “You mean to kill Couladin yourself,” he said at last in flat tones. “That sword against his spears.”
Rand shrugs uncomfortably and says who knows what will happen, but inside he knows that one of them has to die today. Lan replies harshly, then let Couladin be captured and beheaded, or set a task force to find and kill him, but to seek a duel with him is foolish; Rand is “very good” with a blade now, but Couladin was practically born with a spear in his hands. Rand asks, so he should avoid the fighting? Would Lan? Lan answers that he is not the Dragon Reborn, and the fate of the world does not rest on him. Rand reassures him he will not take needless risks, and steps outside the tent to find it is ringed with Maidens, standing shoulder to shoulder, with Egwene and Aviendha standing to one side. Sulin steps forward and announces they are there to escort the Car’a’carn to the tower with Egwene and Aviendha. Rand demands to know who put them up to this; the Maidens are supposed to escort Egwene to the tower and guard her. Sulin says they will protect her, and the Car’a’carn with her. Egwene tells him it makes sense; three using the Power to shorten the battle will work better than two, and Rand is more powerful than she and Aviendha together. Rand scowls and tells Sulin to let him by,
Sulin did not budge. “Far Dareis Mai carries the honor of the Car’a’carn,” she said calmly, and others took it up. No louder, but from so many women’s voices it made a high rumble. “Far Dareis Mai carries the honor of the Car’a’carn. Far Dareis Mai carries the honor of the Car’a’carn.”
Rand again demands to be let through, and the Maidens again start up their chant. Lan leans over and remarks that a woman is no less a woman because she carries a spear, and he’d best give in unless he wants to be here all day arguing. Aviendha stops Egwene from commenting, but Rand knows she had been about to say he was being a foolish woolhead or some such, and he is beginning to feel like she might be right.
But how to back down and retain a scrap of dignity after blustering left, right and center? “I’ve decided I can do the most good from the tower,” he said, his face going hot.
“As the Car’a’carn commands,” Sulin replied without a hint of mockery, just as if it had been his idea from the first. Lan nodded, then slipped away, the Maidens making narrow room for him.
Rand is intensely grateful that none of them make fun of him as they head to the tower, though he doesn’t necessarily trust that it will never get brought up again. He remarks to Aviendha that he is surprised to see her here, since he thought Wise Ones did not participate in battles, and Aviendha replies that she is not a Wise One yet, and if Egwene Sedai can do it, so can she. Egwene trips over nothing and avoids his eyes, and Rand asks Aviendha why Bair or the others didn’t put up a fuss.
Aviendha shook her head, then frowned thoughtfully. “They talked for a long time with Sorilea, then told me to do as I thought I must. Usually they tell me to do as they think I must.” Glancing at him sideways, she added, “I heard Melaine say that you bring change to everything.”
“I do that,” he said, setting his foot on the bottom rung of the first ladder. “The Light help me, that I do.”
They reach the top of the tower, and Egwene and Aviendha confer while Rand debates what he could do to be most effective from here, short of balefire. Goosebumps tell him that one or both of the women are channeling, and suddenly thunderclouds appear from the clear sky to mass over Cairhien, and lightning begins to strike regularly among the terrain where the Shaido are hidden. Then the ground begins to erupt independently of the lightning, and Rand seizes saidin. He has a memory which he knows is Lews Therin’s, but uses anyway, and sets an entire hilltop aflame and melts it to glass.
Ilyena, my love, forgive me!
The Void trembled; for an instant Rand teetered on the brink of destruction. Waves of the One Power crashed through him in a froth of fear; the taint seemed to solidify around his heart, a reeking stone.
Rand grimly reasserts control and concentrates on channeling, ignoring the thoughts in his head.
Standing in a copse of trees, Mat watches as a thousand Aiel sweep toward him from the south. He’s pretty sure they are Rand’s, but he’s not about to take a chance after almost getting feathered with an arrow earlier. He backs Pips down the hill on the opposite side and heads west again. He thinks the day had started so well, until he was cut off from his planned route south by Aiel forces moving very similarly to what he had babbled to Lan, sweeping around and forcing him back toward where the fighting would be. He pauses now on another high hill, waiting for the column of Tairen horse and Cairhienin horse and infantry to pass him so he can cut back south, but then catches sight of movement in the next valley over. He digs out his looking glass and curses as he spies Aiel lying low in ambush for the column, which they could not possibly have seen.
For a moment he drummed fingers on his thigh. Shortly there were going to be some corpses down there. And not many of them Aiel. None of my affair. I am out of this, out of here, and heading south. He would wait a bit, then head off while they were all too busy to notice.
He thinks this Weiramon is a stone fool, to not have scouts out or a foreguard, and then notices that the ambushing Aiel could not be able to see the approaching column either, and must be going from their own scouts’ reports. Before he realizes what he’s doing, he gallops down the hill toward the column, telling himself he would warn them and then get away, that’s all. He rides to the head of the Cairhienin cavalry section of the column, yelling at the leaders to halt in the name of the Lord Dragon, and only pauses long enough to see that they obeyed before continuing up the line, past the infantry to the Tairens at the head of the column. He orders them to halt, but they almost ride him down before one of the lords finally flings up a hand and orders a stop. The leader, a much younger man than Weiramon, demands arrogantly to know the meaning of this, but is stopped by Estean, who knew Mat from the Stone, whispering urgently in his ear. The leader unbends a little and introduces himself stiffly to Mat as Melanril Asegora, and asks how they may serve the Lord Dragon. Estean puts in anxiously that he knows they were asked to hold back, but there’s no honor in letting the Aiel do all the fighting.
Mat shook his head, fanning himself with his hat. The fools were not even where they should be. There was no chance of turning them back, either.
Even if Melanril would listen to him, turning them around now would only invite slaughter. He asks where Weiramon is, and Melanril answers slowly that the Lord Dragon sent him back to Tear to deal with the Illianer pirates, but surely “Lord Mat” must know that. Mat answers that he is no lord, and explains about the Aiel ambush, and all the Tairens except Estean start grinning and boasting about how many Aiel they’ll kill, until Mat snaps at them to stop staring up there before they give everything away. The Tairens don’t understand why he won’t let them be off killing Aiel, and Mat knows that if he lets them go they will all die.
The smart thing would be to let them get on with it while he headed in the opposite direction. The only trouble was that once these idiots let the Aiel know they were discovered, those Aiel might decide to do something fancy, like swinging around to take the strung-out fools in the flank. If that happened, there was no certainty that he would get clear.
He tells them to ride ahead slowly, and once the pikes are through the gap they’ll form a hollow square with the Tairens inside. The Tairens put up a howl of protest about this, and Mat roars at them to do it, or the Lord Dragon will chop them into sausage. He takes off back down the column toward the infantry, glad that they’re at least listening for the moment. The leader of the Cairhienin pike, Daerid, is no lord, but is clearly experienced in battle; he tells Mat he knows what a hedgehog is, and looks neither eager nor anxious about meeting Aiel in battle. They march off at a normal pace, matched for now by the Tairens, and Mat continues down to the Cairhienin cavalry, who are led by a lord named Talmanes of House Delovinde, who is maybe three years older than Mat but has the look of a seasoned campaigner, and looks like “a coiled whip”. He listens quietly while Mat lays out his plan, and then studies him head to foot, noting Mat’s spear. Finally Mat demands to know whether he’s going to do it or not; his friends will be hip deep in Aiel in a moment.
“The Tairens are no friends of mine. And Daerid is… useful. Certainly not a friend.” Dry chuckles ran through the onlooking lords at the suggestion. “But I will lead one half, if you lead the other.”
Talmanes pulled off one steel-backed gauntlet and put out his hand, but for a moment Mat only stared at it. Lead? Him? I’m a gambler, not a soldier. A lover. Memories of battles long gone spun through his head, but he forced them down. All he had to do was ride on. But then maybe Talmanes would leave Estean and Daerid and the rest to roast. On the spit Mat had hung them from. Even so, it was a surprise to him when he grasped the other’s hand and said, “You just be there when you’re supposed to be.”
Talmanes names off half his lords, and they and their retainers join Mat, and Talmanes rides off with his half without another word. Mat tells his half to stay close, shut up, and do what he says, and leads them in the opposite direction, wondering how he had gotten into this. He hopes that Talmanes decides to show up; the man had not even asked who he was. He angles north as thunderclouds gather overhead, and when the sounds of fighting and screaming begin, raises his spear and sweeps it right and left, almost surprised when his cavalry correctly interprets this to form a long line on either side. They ride forward, and Mat curses as they reach the crest and see that the pikes had done what they were told, but only half the Tairens were inside the hedgehog; the rest were laying about the Aiel and getting killed in droves. Mat sees Melanril go down, and then his bannerman.
Good riddance, Mat thought grimly. Standing in his stirrups, he raised the sword-bladed spear high, then swept it forward, shouting, “Los! Los caba’drin!”
The Cairhienin might not understand the Old Tongue, but the gesture was clear enough, and they charge down the hill as Talmanes’s company does the same on the other side.
Banners and con waving, the Cairhienin charged downhill with him, shouting battle cries. In imitation of him, no doubt, though what he was shouting was “Blood and bloody ashes!”
The Shaido never saw him and Talmanes coming, and they crash in on them from both sides; then the lightning begins to fall from the sky, and things get really hairy.
Violence, violence! *claps hands*
Okay, but some action, finally, eh? I love it when a plan comes together. It’s even more fun when a plan comes together to the hero’s benefit, despite everything the hero does to prevent it. Again, it’s a total cliché but I remain a sucker for these kinds of stories where the right people and situations and honors just glom onto the protagonist(s) precisely because they aren’t looking for them. And also because, hopefully, they deserve them, which in my book Mat unquestionably does, by virtue of merit if for no other reason.
This, by the way, is what I don’t understand about people who claim post-dagger Mat is still snivelly and cowardly and etc., because this is where Mat and Nynaeve share a very strong similarity. They both talk a lot of shit in their private thoughts, but when it comes to actually doing shit, they get shit done.
Deeds trump thoughts, y’all. You can think whatever the hell you want; it’s what you do that counts, and that’s why at the end of the day Mat is awesome. So Sayeth I!
One of the things I really like about Jordan’s battle scenes is that you can always tell what’s going on. He puts enough technical detail in to sound realistic, but he never sacrifices descriptive clarity for jargon. I’m reading David Weber’s Honor Harrington series on the side when I have a moment right now, and while I really like the story and the characters (Honor is a total Mary Sue, but a cool one), the battle scenes make my eyes glaze over every time. I recognize that by design starship battles require a leetle more in the way of technobabble than your average cavalry charge, but jeez. If I have to pull out a calculator to figure out who’s winning an engagement, forgive me, but Enh.
Anyway. I don’t think I had ever heard of a “hedgehog defense” before reading TFOH, but again, it has the immediate flavor of authenticity, and I don’t even have to look it up to know that it is a genuine battle tactic, because it just makes perfect sense even to a layperson like myself. Good times.
We get introduced, if briefly, to Talmanes here, who’s always been one of my favorite minor WOT characters. It’s always so nice to come across people who just do their thing and don’t throw ten thousand roadblocks in everyone’s way to do it. You don’t have to worry about them, which is why they are such fabulous seconds-in-command.
Speaking of Lan, I love his exchange with Rand in this chapter, which basically boils down to “Aren’t we a little old for slapfights, son?” Exactly right. While I sympathize with him, Rand’s being especially bullheaded here, and Lan and Egwene and the Maidens were completely in the right to sit on him and keep him from doing something stupid.
On a completely absurd note, Mat’s thought, “I’m a gambler, not a soldier. A lover” is KILLING ME, because now I cannot help but hear it in Michael Jackson’s voice, and that is so many kinds of wrong I think it breaks a few laws of physics. Holy crap. “I’m a lovah, not a fightah.” AAAAAAAHHHHHHH! So wrong.
And on that note, let’s move on, shall we?
Chapter 44: The Lesser Sadness
Rand is sweating and exhausted, and worried about the increasing difficulty of controlling saidin he’s experiencing as he grows more fatigued. Egwene and Aviendha are just as strung out, but they are spelling each other off, which would have been nice for him to have, but Rand does not regret making Asmodean stay in his tent. Rand looks through the telescope to watch the ongoing battle; he had noted the column of horse and pike engaging Aiel, sometimes outmatched by twice their numbers.
Small hope that Melanril had decided to obey his orders at this late juncture. Choosing the man just because he had the grace to be embarrassed by Weiramon’s behavior had been a mistake, but there had been little time to make a choice, and he had had to get rid of Weiramon. Nothing to be done about it now.
Rand watches the sortie from the city, which is desperately trying to get back inside without letting in the Shaido, and failing. Rand grits his teeth and channels, striking down Shaido and defenders alike in a massive lightning blast. He feels pain for those on his own side he just killed, but it had to be done; the Shaido could not be allowed to get into the city. He is thinking that he has to pace himself when suddenly lightning flashes again, but this time it strikes among the Maidens at the base of the tower. Rand can feel it was made with saidin, and thinks Asmodean must have turned on him at last.
There was no time for thought, though. Like rapid beats on a giant drum, bolt followed bolt, marching through the Maidens until the last struck the base of the tower in an explosion of splinters the size of arms and legs.
Rand hurls himself at Egwene and Aviendha and shields them with his body as the entire tower topples over, and loses consciousness when he hits the ground. He awakes slowly to hear Aviendha talking to him.
“ …have dug us up like a boulder and sent us rolling downhill in the night.” It was Aviendha’s voice, low, as if she spoke for her own ears. There was something moving on his face. “You have taken away what we are, what we were. You must give us something in return, something to be. We need you.” The moving thing slowed, touched more softly. “I need you. Not for myself, you will understand. For Elayne. What is between her and me now is between her and me, but I will hand you to her. I will. If you die, I will carry your corpse to her! If you die—!”
He opens his eyes and tells her he has no intention of dying, and shivers at the way he had lost saidin, knowing he was lucky not to have killed himself. He surreptitiously checks the wound in his side, and hides that it is open and bleeding again. He gets up, groaning, and sees wounded and dead Maidens everywhere. He recognizes one of the corpses as Jolien, who had been in the Stone, and berates himself for letting them get in harm’s way. He follows the traces of the weave that created the lightning, and realizes it leads west, from which he deduces it was not from Asmodean at all, but Sammael.
“Sammael.” He was sure of it. Sammael had sent that attack in the Jangai, Sammael was behind the pirates and the raids in Tear, and Sammael had done this. His lips peeled back in a snarl, and his voice was a harsh whisper. “Sammael!” He did not realize he had taken a step until Aviendha seized his arm.
Egwene quickly grabs his other arm, and the two women tell him flatly not to be a woolhead; he can’t go after Sammael when he is wounded and exhausted, and he’s needed here besides. They are interrupted by a messenger from Han, who has sent to tell Rand that the undecided clans are moving together, and Han has moved to join with Dhearic and Erim to block them. Rand knows this means that there will now be no blocking force to harry Couladin north when the Shaido break – assuming they do – but agrees with Han’s decision, and sends the messenger off. He tells the women that he needs his horse, and they look suspicious; he tells them he is not going after Sammael, but he needs to get somewhere where he can see the city. Aviendha sends for his horse, but for Egwene’s as well. Sulin approaches with her head bandaged, and he tells her he is moving closer to the city, and the wounded Maidens are to stay behind. Sulin insists on coming anyway, but Rand is relieved that so far no one had called him on his refusal to “order a woman to her death”. The horses arrive at the same time as a bunch of Wise Ones, led by Sorilea, who eyes the three of them as if debating whether to make them go to the healers’ tents. Egwene and Aviendha scramble up on Egwene’s horse, smiling hard at Sorilea; Rand pulls himself painfully into his saddle, almost passing out with the effort, and Egwene hisses at him that if that’s the best he can do at mounting up, maybe he shouldn’t be riding.
“I noticed you mounting, too,” he said quietly. “Maybe you ought to stay here and help Sorilea until you feel better.” That shut her up, even if it did tighten her mouth sourly. Aviendha gave Sorilea another smile; the old Wise One was still watching.
Rand takes off down the hill, annoyed at Sorilea’s stare, and once at the bottom of the hill seizes saidin again, disturbed at how much more difficult it was, but at least he was prepared if Sammael came at him again.
Mat sits on a hilltop in the rain, wondering what time it is, looking south. He’s looking for a way out, though the three thousand men he still has left think he is looking for another fight for them, like three battles isn’t enough. He’s been trying to work east, but the center of the fighting keeps seeming to shift with him, and he wonders what happened to his bloody luck. He sees various groups of Aiel from his vantage point, but he has no way to tell which is which. He sees one group get blasted by lightning as they dash for cover, though he hadn’t been able to find the log tower above the trees for a while now. Then he sees an entire hillside go up in flames, and wonders if maybe Rand’s finally gone mad, but acknowledges that the more likely reason is that someone else is taking a hand, probably Sammael, which negates the possible value of trying to cut back toward Rand.
A fallen branch cracked under someone’s foot behind him, and he reacted without thinking, knees more than reins pulling Pips in a tight circle, sword-bladed spear whipping across from the pommel of his saddle.
Estean almost dropped his helmet, his eyes going wide, as the short blade stopped a breath short of splitting his head for him. The rain had slicked his hair down into his face. Also afoot, Nalesean grinned, partly startled and partly amused at the other young Tairen’s discomfort. Square-faced and blocky, Nalesean was the second since Melanril to lead the Tairen cavalry. Talmanes and Daerid were there as well, a pace behind as usual, and blank-faced beneath their bell-shaped helmets, also as usual.
Nalesean tells Mat there’s a company of almost five thousand Aiel coming straight for them, but he doesn’t think they know the column is here. Mat opines that that’s “just bloody wonderful”, but only Talmanes and Daerid catch the sarcasm, and Mat thinks that the first three engagements that the Tairens think went so well were either draws or pure luck, and Talmanes and Daerid know it. Mat asks how long, and Talmanes answers half an hour, no more. Mat looks at the terrain and sighs, knowing that it’s a matter of catching or being caught, and then Daerid adds that his scouts tell him Couladin himself is with this lot. Mat grunts, thinking that even if his force could stand aside, that would mean Couladin would plow directly into Rand’s position.
Mat realized that he was smoldering, and it had nothing to do with Couladin wanting to kill Rand. The Shaido chief, or whatever the man was, might remember Mat vaguely as somebody hanging about Rand, but Couladin was the reason he was stuck out here in the middle of a battle, trying to stay alive, wondering whether any minute it was going to turn into a personal fight between Rand and Sammael, the kind of fight that might kill everything within two or three miles.
Mat tells Nalesean angrily to swing the Tairens wide to the north and come in from behind, and Talmanes to do the same from the south with the Cairhienin horse. They bow and take off, and Daerid observes that Mat means to stay with the foot. He remarks that Mat must not let his anger at Couladin cloud his judgment; a battle is no place for a duel. Mat is amazed at this notion, or so he tells himself, and reassures Daerid he can hold himself in check.
The Cairhienin merely nodded. “I thought that you could. You have seen pikes pushed before, and faced a charge or two, I vow. Talmanes gives praises when there are two moons, yet I heard him say aloud that he would follow wherever you led. Some day I would like to hear your story, Andorman. But you are young — under the Light, I mean no disrespect — and young men have hot blood.”
Mat thinks they’re all mad, and bets they would “spit him like a pig” if they found out where he was really getting all this from. He heads downslope to the foot, Daerid following, to lay out his plan. He thinks this is the biggest gamble he’s ever taken in his life, and wishes the dice in his head would stop spinning and show where they lay.
Rand stops his horse on a crest, hunched against the pain in his side, only vaguely aware of his surroundings, and tries to remember how many times Sammael had tried to kill him today.
Are you still so jealous of me, Tel Janin? When did I ever slight you, or give you one finger less than your due?
Swaying, Rand scrubbed a hand through his hair. There had been something odd about that thought, but he could not recall what.
He has another thought about Ilyena, and for a moment can’t remember his own name, and finally says “Rand al’Thor” aloud, and channels a ball of blue flame to let him see in the darkness, but lets it go after a moment. He realizes Egwene and Aviendha are no longer there, only his Maiden guard; Sulin tells him they have gone to Moiraine. He tells her he needs to find his people, and wonders why his horse isn’t moving, then sees Sulin is holding the reins. She tells him the Wise Ones need to speak to him; Rand mutters vaguely about finding his people, but the Maidens lead his horse away anyway. They reach the encampment where the wounded are being treated, and Rand sees Moiraine moving slowly down the line, Healing where she can, swaying with exhaustion. Some twenty Wise Ones are having some kind of conclave off to the side, and then he sees Asmodean helping with the wounded. Asmodean comes over to him and says he was sure he was all right, and asks what happened.
“Sammael,” Rand said, but not in answer. He was just speaking the thoughts that drifted through the Void. “I remember when he was first named Destroyer of Hope. After he betrayed the Gates of Hevan and carried the Shadow down into the Rorn M’doi and the heart of Satelle. Hope did seem to die that day. Culan Cuhan wept. What is wrong?” Asmodean’s face had gone as white as Sulin’s hair; he only shook his head mutely.
Rand wonders if he should go over to the Wise Ones’ conclave, but Lan appears and tells him they would not welcome him yet; they are meeting with Wise Ones from the Miagoma, the Codarra, the Shiande and the Daryne. Rand says flatly that the clans are coming to him, but thinks they waited long enough to make the day bloodier. Rand starts giving orders to send a runner to Han, but Lan tells him it is all done already; he’s won, completely. Rand peers at all the wounded, and thinks that the dead aren’t here.
Only a battle lost is sadder than a battle won. He seemed to remember saying that before, long ago. Perhaps he had read it.
No. There were too many living in his responsibility for him to worry over the dead. But how many faces will I know, like Jolien’s? I will never forget Ilyena, not if all the world burns!
Rand puts a hand to his head and releases the Power, and realizes his mistake as his exhaustion and pain crash down on him. He topples from the saddle, vaguely hearing Lan shout for Moiraine, and feels Asmodean channel a trickle of saidin into him before he loses consciousness.
I always hate summarizing when the writing is particularly well done, as it is here in the last part of this chapter. Seriously, you guys, you really are missing out if you’re not following along with the original text; I know these recaps are pretty detailed, but I do have to leave some things out.
This chapter represents a kind of watershed moment for the Lews Therin phenomenon. Regardless of whether you consider the Lews Therin in Rand’s head to be a taint-induced hallucination, a psychological defense mechanism, or a real person, Rand’s pushing himself to the utter breaking point here appears to have let Lews Therin really “break through” for the first time, and afterwards his presence seems to increase exponentially.
The reasons why it worked that way can be easily applied to any one of the various Lews Therin theories floating around. Rand thinks in the chapter about how much worse the taint seems to be affecting him here, so it could be that, and he is also stressed physically and mentally to the snapping point, so that could be it too. And either one could account for the thinning of the “wall” separating Rand’s present life from his previous one, if you go for that theory. All very neatly done to keep us from coming to a conclusion!
The speech where Rand freaks Asmodean out with his memories of Sammael has always been one of my favorite Rand moments, just because I can so strongly picture what he must have looked and sounded like in that moment. The word “fey” comes to mind, in the old sense of the word. To which I say, neat. Though the moment (the whole chapter, really) also represents a reminder of how deeply glad I am that I don’t have to be the savior of the world, because wow does Rand’s job suck, y’all.
Meanwhile, Mat continues to be awesome. I think the reason why this whole Battle of Cairhien sequence is so beloved by myself and other Mat fans is that, besides just being generally cool, it’s where Mat finally comes into his own as a power in his own right, and his inherent coolness is finally forced into display to the general cast, instead of just to one or two random people who don’t tell anyone anything.
It’s an endlessly fascinating topic to me, the question of what it is that inspires loyalty in others. And unlike some (including Mat himself), I don’t think having implanted tactical brilliance constitutes a cheat. It is a powerful factor in inspiring loyalty, no doubt, but mere superior knowledge does not solely a leader make. Again I say, actions speak louder than words, and the behavior of Mat’s proto-Band says pretty clearly what they think of Mat’s actions, which unlike us is the only part of him they can see. Mat can grouse all he wants in his head, but the fact is that Talmanes and the others recognize what even he does not seem to, that Mat is a leader who will not abandon or needlessly sacrifice his men in the thick of it, no matter what. Q.E. frickin’ D.
As a final note on the whole Battle of Cairhien sequence, I’m faintly amused that I was earlier applauding the arrival of action, when the actual “battle” part of the conflict in these two chapters happens almost entirely off screen. Not that I’m complaining, because I think it works very well, but it’s an interesting narrative choice to have almost everything we see here be either the lead-up to action, or the aftermath of it. In a way I think it makes the effect more powerful than if we’d had to slog through every last skirmish and spray of blood.
So, in conclusion, Yay.
And further in conclusion, this post is concluded! We be back on a Friday, yo, so peace out till then, y’all!