Hello, observers! This may or may not be the Wheel of Time Reread!
Today’s entry covers Chapter 22 of A Memory of Light, in which there is a surfeit of tattoos, plot twists, and me failing at physics. Hard.
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And now, the post!
Chapter 22: The Wyld
Gawyn wakes Egwene, still hidden under the cart, and they argue about who should go scout around for an escape route until Sharans approach with prisoners in tow. Egwene sees they have been tattooed or branded with a strange symbol on their backs, and that the Sharan soldiers have similar marks on their backs. Then she and Gawyn watch, stunned, as an elaborately tattooed Sharan man puts a fresh mark on a new prisoner using the One Power. Two Sharan women with tattooed necks and faces, whom Egwene assumes are channelers too, examine the prisoners, and a crowd gathers. Egwene notes that the higher the rank, the smaller the back tattoo seems to be. Two men and a woman in strange rich finery join the crowd; they have no tattoos at all, but look haggard and miserable. Egwene can make no sense of the Sharans; she wonders why they have chosen now to emerge from their centuries of isolation, but knows it cannot be a coincidence. Then the crowd kneels.
The bejeweled trio bowed their heads further. And then, near the captives, the air bent.
Egwene couldn’t describe it any other way. It warped and… and seemed to rip apart, twisting like it did above the road on a hot day. Something formed from this disruption: a tall man in glistening armor.
He wore no helmet and had dark hair and light skin. His nose was slightly hooked, and he was very handsome, particularly in that armor. It looked to be constructed all of coins, silvery and overlapping.
The man announces that they have done well, and his is the first accent that was not too thick for Egwene to understand. He asks if any of the prisoners (inacal) know who he is. None answer.
“Well, you will listen and remember,” the man said. “I am Bao, the Wyld. I am your savior. I have crawled through the depths of sorrow and have risen up to accept my glory. I have come seeking what was taken from me. Remember that.”
He asks if any of the prisoners know the Dragon; one of them says he saw him several times, but never spoke to him. Bao then announces that he can sense a female channeler nearby. Egwene is terrified, but then Bao uses Air to capture and bring out Leane, who had apparently also been hiding nearby. He asks her if she knows the Dragon, and when she refuses to answer, burns the other captives alive. The Sharans seem upset, but Bao tells them they would have made poor inacal anyway. Then he tells Leane that she will bring a message to Lews Therin, the Dragon Reborn, that he is here to slay him, and to take what should have been his. He promises that if the Dragon does not come to face him, he will slaughter, rape, or destroy everyone and everything he holds dear.
“Tell him this, little Aes Sedai. Tell him that an old friend awaits. I am Bao, the Wyld. He Who Is Owned Only by the Land. The dragonslayer. He knew me once by a name I have scorned, the name Barid Bel.”
Barid Bel? Egwene thought, memories from her lessons in the White Tower returning to her. Barid Bel Medar… Demandred.
Perrin and Gaul race through dream-Kandor, searching for Slayer. As they break for a meal, Perrin ponders the dreamspike he carries, and why Lanfear had more or less given it to him. He searches out wolves, and they ask him if he is coming to lead the Last Hunt. Perrin still doesn’t understand why they need him to lead it, but the wolves only answer that they cannot hunt this prey alone. Perrin asks for news of Slayer, but none have seen him recently. Another wolf, Turn Bow, warns him that Moonhunter is in the dream, seeking Perrin.
Thank you, he sent back. I know this. I will avoid her.
Avoid the moon? Turn Bow sent back. A difficult thing, Young Bull. Difficult.
She had the right of that.
The wolves also say that “Heartseeker” is in the dream; Perrin doesn’t recognize their images of her, but assumes this is another Forsaken. He fills Gaul in on this, and then shifts them to where the wolves had last seen Heartseeker, which turns out to be Merrilor. The dream version of the field is filled with a strange mist. They hear something in the camp, and Perrin imitates the sound-muffling trick he’d seen Lanfear use, and he and Gaul sneak up to what must be Rodel Ituralde’s tent. A frightfully ugly woman is inside, trying to look through ephemeral documents. She almost sees them, but:
[Perrin] created a paper-thin wall between her and him, her side painted with an exact replica of the landscape behind him, his side transparent. She looked right at him, but didn’t see him, and turned away.
Beside him, Gaul let out a very soft breath of relief. How did I do that? Perrin thought. It wasn’t something he had practiced; it had merely seemed right.
Heartseeker then rises straight into the air, and Perrin leaves Gaul behind and follows, trying to stay as camouflaged as possible while moving. They enter a strange black place with sparkles of light all around, and Heartseeker approaches one of these, muttering to herself about “Moridin” and taking his place.
“Go ahead and throw your armies at them, you fools,” she continued to herself. “I’ll have the greater victory. An insect can have a thousand legs, but only one head. Destroy the head, and the day is yours. All you’re doing is cutting off the legs, stupid fool. Stupid, arrogant, insufferable fool. I’ll have what is due me, I’ll…”
She turns, and Perrin immediately flees back to Gaul, but Heartseeker follows, attacking with Fire. She recognizes Perrin, and screeches that he is to blame for “this.” She sends a white-hot bar of light at him, but Perrin bends it around himself, to her shock. Perrin shifts behind her, but hesitates to strike, and she retaliates, screaming that she wants him dead. Perrin blocks her attacks and then goes back to Gaul, hiding them from sight and sound. Gaul is very impressed.
“I should have just struck her down,” Perrin said as Heartseeker destroyed the statue of him, then stepped up to it, looking confused. She turned about, searching with frantic eyes.
“Yes,” Gaul agreed. “A warrior who will not strike a Maiden is a warrior who refuses her honor. Of course, the greater honor for you…”
Would be to take her captive. Could he do it?
Perrin tries wrapping her in vines, but she shreds them. She tries balefire again, but Perrin fends it off and stuffs her mouth with forkroot. She spits it out frantically and creates a gateway. Perrin is about to follow her through, but stops when he sees a giant army of Trollocs on the other side. As soon as it closes, Lanfear appears and says he should have killed her; she used to find this weakness charming in Lews Therin, but it still must be overcome.
“I will,” he snapped. “What was she doing, up there with the balls of light?”
“Invading dreams,” Lanfear said. “She was here in the flesh. That affords one certain advantages, particularly when playing with dreams. That hussy.”
She confirms that it was Graendal, though she has been renamed “Hessalam”; she refuses to tell him what her own new name is supposed to be. She remarks that Perrin is more powerful in Tel’aran’rhiod than Lews Therin ever was, and that she used to think only a man who could channel would be worthy of her, but she might be reconsidering that position. Perrin says he’s married, but this does not seem to concern her. Lanfear doesn’t know exactly what Graendal is doing, but warns Perrin that she is dangerous, and unlike Moghedien will fight rather than flee.
“You could do that, you know,” Lanfear said.
He spun on her. “What?”
“Go back and forth into the waking world,” she said. “Without requiring the help of one like Lews Therin.”
Perrin didn’t like the way she sneered when she said his name. She tried to cover it up, but he smelled hatred on her whenever she mentioned him.
Perrin points out he can’t channel, but Lanfear counters that neither can Slayer, and he does it, though she admits she doesn’t really know how Slayer does what he does. She mentions in passing that it has been a week since the Black Tower, which shocks Perrin.
“Time passes oddly here,” she said, “and the barriers of time itself are fraying. The closer you are to the Bore, the more time will distort. For those who approach Shayol Ghul in the real world, it will be just as bad. For every day that passes to them, three or four might pass to those more distant.”
Perrin asks if she will make a gateway back for him, but she says he must learn to do it himself, as he will need to be more powerful “if they are to be together.” Perrin snaps that he doesn’t want her or power, but she tells him to consider all the good he could do if he had it. She tells him if he wants to beat the secret of traveling between the dream and reality out of Slayer, he’d better hurry if he wants to stop Graendal.
“Didn’t you realize?” Lanfear turned back to him. “The dream she was invading was not one of the people from this camp— space and distance matter not to dreams. That dream you saw her invading… it belongs to Davram Bashere. Father of your wife.”
With that, Lanfear vanished.
Obligatory Dun: Dun!
And: ENTER DEMANDRED.
Obligatory bigger Dun: DUNNNNNN!!!!
(And no, I will never stop linking to Dramatic Chipmunk. Dramatic Chipmunk is Love. Dramatic Chipmunk is the best five seconds on the entire Internet, forever and ever, world without end, Amen, everyone else can go home. So there, thbbt.)
For the record, I knew the new guy had to be Demandred the moment I got to Egwene’s description of his nose. I don’t even specifically remember that we got a physical description of him before this (although Taim also has a hooked nose and is supposed to resemble him, so maybe that’s where I got it from), but nevertheless, I was immediately like, “hot damn, that’s Demandred.”
And my next thought was, “WELL DON’T WAIT TILL THE LAST MINUTE TO SHOW UP TO THE PARTY OR ANYTHING, DUDE.”
Granted, I also remember then thinking to myself: okay, but if he was actually doing a long-con undercover thing setting himself up as a false Messiah in Shara, then his tardiness makes sense, because that’s not the kind of thing you can just set up in a day. Being the Antichrist is hard work, yo.
“Just as the people here awaited him with prophecy, just as they showered him with glory, the people of my land awaited me. I have fulfilled their prophecies. He is false, and I am true.”
Fun fact: the “anti” in “Antichrist” is usually interpreted to mean “opposite” or “against,” but it can also mean “in place of.” I See What You Did There.
It’s interesting that from a certain point of view (certainly his own), Demandred is being perfectly honest when he claims that he’s the real deal and Rand is a sham. We don’t learn that he is serious about his claims until later, of course; at this point I’m pretty sure I just assumed that he was lying through his teeth. So we’ll come back to that discussion at the proper time.
Although I will say that when Demandred/Bao just nonchalantly torched the prisoners and then was like “suck it up” to his followers, my thought was, “wow, so how much does the Pattern hate Shara to stick them with such a sucky Messiah?” I mean, Rand hasn’t always exactly covered himself in glory re: ethical Messianic decision-making, but there’s “ethically dubious,” and then there’s “casual murder of people who are just standing there.”
So no one in Shara was kind of like, wow, he’s awfully evil for a Savior figure? Apparently not. Which makes me side-eye the entire Sharan culture pretty hard, I gotta say. Which is problematic, because that slides into me wondering if maybe the message here is that they got to be the nation that got saddled with the Antichrist by the Pattern because they sucked just that much as a culture, and I’m really not okay with that implication for a number of reasons, most of which I should hope would be obvious.
Speaking of cultural thingies:
Instead of a tattoo on his back, [the Sharan] had tattoos all across his shoulders. They crept up his neck, like twisted vines, before reaching up to cup his jaw and cheeks. They looked like a hundred twisted hands, long fingers with claws holding his head from below.
I’m pretty sure I met this guy in Venice Beach once.
So I’m presuming that either the caste/rank system in Shara is really rigid, or they have very effective methods for tattoo removal, because otherwise it makes no sense that the tattoos get smaller as you go higher in rank.
I find it rather amusing, by the way (in a sort of tsk, tsk way), that the only cultures we see in Randland (as far as I can recall) that use tattoos and/or body modification as either art or cultural signifiers are the “exotic” ones—namely, the Sharans (Africa, China), the Seanchan (China, Japan, Ottoman Empire, Persia, Egypt) and the Sea Folk (India, mainly). I don’t think the “beauty mark” thing for the Domani really counts, because I was under the impression that they could be removed and were more like makeup than body modification. But even if I’m wrong about that, technically the Domani could also fall under the umbrella of “exotic” cultures (Iran and various Arabic cultures), so it still holds.
(Note that I am using the term “exotic” here not as the faux-complimentary term it’s often intended to be, but as what it really is, i.e. a pejorative term for the attitude that fetishizes and others anything that can be defined as “not European/Western.”)
Granted, it could be argued that it follows to a certain extent, since until fairly recently (and even still, really) tattooing/piercing in Western culture was strictly considered the provenance of criminals, undesirables, and tacky people. But even so, even if you were going with the standard Western/European taboo against body modification for the more Western/European-based cultures in Randland, it’s still a little strange that no one on the mainland seems to have tattoos—even the criminals and/or tacky people.
*shrug* Or maybe they do and no one’s bothered to notice it or bring it up. Maybe. In any case, it’s a thing that jumped out at me, so I mention it.
All that said, this short glimpse into the Sharan culture was pretty interesting, and I probably would have been interested to know more… if it weren’t for the fact that it’s Book Fourteen, and the apocalypse is still only just really getting underway, four hundred pages in. So, raincheck on Sharan culture for now, thanks.
The Traveling/not-Traveling thing that brings Bao to the camp was head-scratchy. I can’t remember if this gets explained later or not, but for now I’ll assume it will be, and leave it at that.
Moving on to Perrin and Lanfear: see, this is why the Superboys really should have gotten together and compared notes before the big event, because damn if girl is not pulling the exact same con on Perrin as she tried on Rand a million years ago.
She’s not going about it in the exact same way, maybe (she’s being more subtle this time around, for one thing. Well, for her anyway), but the method is fundamentally the same: seduction. And not only in the sexual sense, either. Her speech to Perrin here about using his power to do good things falls into the same category as her hitting on him. But that’s always been her twin play: power and sex.
Although I have to say that, even knowing now where this is all going, this fresh seduction attempt didn’t hold nearly the tension for me that her original play for Rand did. Mostly because Rand at the time was a naïve, gullible and highly stressed virgin, and Perrin in AMOL is a self-confident and experienced grown man who is also in stupid levels of love with his wife. The stress level is probably still similar, I grant you, what with that whole end of the world thing going on, but even so I just didn’t believe for a moment that Perrin was actually going to be tempted to buy what Lanfear was selling.
I did worry about her Compelling him to do so, but I’m kind of skimming over that because really if you think about it, it makes no sense that she wouldn’t have just done that right off the bat anyway. I get why she didn’t want to Compel Rand/Lews Therin because she was convinced he was her One True Lovemuffin, but why would Perrin get that level of consideration at any point?
Well. It’s Lanfear. Girl be crazy. And I guess she didn’t specifically need Perrin to fall in with her plan right at this point anyway.
I do love the wolves’ name for her, because it is rather perfect even aside from her association with the moon. “Moonhunter” is a name for someone who continually seeks to capture something too vast for any one person to contain, and that’s Lanfear to a T.
Actually, “Heartseeker” for Graendal is pretty awesomely apropos as well. As a descriptor for Compulsion, her weapon of choice, “Heartseeker” is spot on.
Speaking of which, holy crap, she’s messing with Bashere, we discover! Oh noes!
As dramatic plot twist reveals go, this one worked really well, for me anyway, because I made the connection immediately between this news and the wonky behavior of not just Bashere but the other Great Captains, and yet until that moment it had not remotely occurred to me to suspect it. Which is ideally exactly how you want plot twist reveals to work. So well done there, Team Jordan.
Also well done in that the reveal immediately ratcheted the tension up about a dozen levels. Maybe it isn’t this way with everyone, but for me the “invasion from within” trope always freaks me out way more than a frontal assault type situation. Probably because few things suck more (and destroy morale more effectively) than a betrayal of trust.
Which I knew this was definitely going to be even if it was immediately established that Bashere et al weren’t doing it on purpose. In fact that would be worse, I knew, because that just comes with a healthy side of paranoia: if the Shadow is in our greatest generals’ minds without them knowing it, who else might be affected?
Imagine never being sure if the thought you were having is truly yours, but planted there by someone else. *shiver* Ugh, I need some cocoa and a hug now.
You go, Gaul, calling out Perrin for stupid chivalry. I heart you.
When Perrin hid himself from Graendal outside the tent, was I the only one who thought of the fake tunnel gag? Just me? Okay.
Also, I can’t help but be slightly skeptical of Perrin’s ability to accurately recreate a scene of all the shit behind him on a moment’s notice. What, can you also will yourself to have a photographic memory in the Dreamworld? Enh.
Of course, Perrin seems a little astounded by the feat himself, so maybe there’s a good rationalization for it down the line that I’ve forgotten about.
There’s more Perrin leveling up this chapter in dream-fu besides that, plus foreshadowing of more to come. I hadn’t even thought about the fact that he would logically be able to go into the dream void space thingy (look, we never got a good name for it, shut up) just as easily as Egwene does, or any other Dreamer. But, you know, cool.
Though I couldn’t picture at this point how Perrin was supposed to learn to jump between the real world and the dream world in the flesh without channeling, or without being whatever the hell Slayer is (which, if I’m not mistaken, we never do get adequately explained to us. Still a little miffed about that).
Also, nice set-up here in Lanfear’s comment about the Bore being, essentially, an event horizon. …Or whatever the thing is you’re heading for and… speeding up to the speed of light? And making time slow down? Or, um, whatever?
Yes, I know, I’m sorry. Look, if I have any kind of intellectual Achilles’ heel, talking intelligently about quantum mechanics would be it. I get some of the underlying principles, but not such that I can articulate them in any way that actually makes sense. But I know what I mean! Mostly!
But WHATEVER, my point is, it’s a good thing to have, since the time shenanigans around the Bore is the only way the entire last third of the book makes any sense whatsoever, logistically. So, yay for that.
Last and most definitely least: Lanfear calling Graendal “a hussy” was absolutely hysterical to me, and I can’t decide if that’s because of the rank hypocrisy, or the fact that the word “hussy” is just automatically funny.
And we is done, chickies! Have a lovely week, or at least be observed to have one, and I’ll see you (but not measure you) next Tuesday!