Breaker one-nine, we have a Wheel of Time Reread here, how copy?
Today’s entry covers Chapter 33 of A Memory of Light, in which Aviendha directs traffic, Perrin takes the extremely scenic route, and Faile makes the worst wrong turn EVER.
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 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 33: The Prince’s Tabac
Perrin fights with Slayer in the clouds, and taunts him that he’s never hunted prey that can fight back before. Slayer tricks Perrin into almost not seeing his next attack, but Perrin avoids it just in time, falling to the ground. He sees that the storm is worse here, entire swaths of the landscape disintegrating in it. He goes after Slayer again, but the other escapes as well.
Perrin growled. Slayer was too quick!
Perrin was fast, too. Sooner or later, one of them would slip. One slip would be enough.
He chases Slayer to a beach somewhere in the south, and they fight some more, ending up on the ocean floor. Slayer tells Perrin he is glad Perrin showed up to interfere in his attempt to kill Rand. Perrin asks how he can think the Dark One will reward him, but Slayer replies that the Dark One does not discard “useful tools”. Perrin asks him what he is. Slayer tells him that in this life you are either predator or prey, and the only way to survive is to “move up the chain.”
“Wolves and men are the finest hunters in this world,” Slayer said softly. “Kill them, and you elevate yourself above them. Not all of us had the privilege of growing up in a comfortable home with a warm hearth and laughing siblings.”
Perrin and Slayer rounded one another, shadows blending, lightning blasts above shimmering through the water.
“If you knew my life,” Slayer said, “you’d howl. The hopelessness, the agony… I soon found my way. My power. In this place, I am a king.”
Slayer tackles Perrin into the water, and Perrin nearly lets the belief that he is in water get to him, but shifts away at the last moment. He is suddenly exhausted, and doesn’t understand why his control over the wolf dream is slipping. He prepares to meet Slayer again, but is too slow to react when Slayer appears behind him. Slayer shoots him in the shoulder just before he shifts away.
In Tar Valon, Faile listens to Vanin as he riles Mandevwin up by opining that they should be getting paid to fight in the Last Battle. Mandevwin doesn’t understand why they have to be here overseeing supply deliveries when they could be with Lord Mat, and Faile thinks that none of the Band soldiers (fifty all told) know their true purpose here: guarding the Horn of Valere. Faile wonders why she is so worried when they have such a short way to go to get the Horn to Mat in Merrilor. Laras approaches with a chest she claims carries Two Rivers tabac for Mat; Faile pretends disgust at the inappropriateness of it, and has to force herself not to check the chest’s real contents. Laras leaves, and Faile reflects on the irony of her situation.
She had left home with her head full of arrogant dreams, a child thinking herself on a grand quest to find the Horn.
Life had knocked those out from under her, leaving her to haul herself back up. She had grown up, had started paying mind to what was really important. And now… now the Pattern, with almost casual indifference, dropped the Horn of Valere into her lap.
Vanin, Mandevwin, and now Harnan are still chirping each other, and move off. Faile begins to leave as well, and then notices Vanin is hanging back. He leaves as soon as he notices her looking. Olver runs up to report the caravan is ready; Faile had not wanted him there, but the Band members and Setalle Anan had insisted on it, to keep him out of the fighting. The caravan moves out, and Faile tries not to worry about how Perrin has vanished. She wonders if he had suggested her for this task to keep her off the battlefield, and decides it will make an excellent subject for a fight later. There is an earthquake as they leave Tar Valon for the Traveling grounds.
People spoke of the land becoming unstable, the groanings of the earth coming to match the breaking of the sky by lightning and thunder. She had heard more than one report of the spiderweb cracks that appeared in rocks, pure black, as if they extended on into eternity itself.
They are last in line to use the gateways, and Faile cannot afford to draw attention by skipping ahead. She talks with Aravine to pass the time. She asks Harnan about Vanin, who claims Vanin is their best scout, and assures her she has nothing to worry about despite Vanin’s checkered past. Faile is not so sure. Finally it is their turn. Berisha Sedai starts to make the gateway just as the ground begins to rumble again. Faile thinks it is another earthquake, but then:
A series of sharp black crystal spikes split the ground nearby, jutting upward some ten or fifteen feet. One speared a Redarm’s horse, splashing blood into the air as the spike went straight through both beast and man.
“Bubble of evil!” Harnan called from nearby.
More spikes erupt, causing chaos, and Faile screams at Berisha to finish the gateway. Berisha gets stabbed through the foot, but manages to finish the gateway even so. She calls for the caravan to go through, and slowly they get together enough to obey. Faile is horrified to see that the spikes have silhouettes of screaming people trapped inside. Finally the rest of the caravan is through and Faile goes to follow in her own wagon. She tries to get Berisha to come, but the Aes Sedai is bleeding out. Mandevwin gallops up and grabs Faile, and hauls her through the gateway just before it snaps shut. Then she realizes that the gateway has not taken them to Merrilor.
“Where…” Faile whispered, joining the others, who stared at the horrid landscape. A sweltering heat, plants covered in spots of darkness, a scent of something awful in the air.
They were in the Blight.
In Thakan’dar, Aviendha eats in a tent with Melaine, who is visiting from Mayene. Aviendha slips outside and looks at the mountain, where Rand has been for five days now.
We have to hold, Aviendha thought. We have to fight. Give him as much time as we can.
At least she knew he still lived. She could sense that. And his pain.
She looked away.
She thinks of how Ituralde had returned after (he claimed) being held by wolves, and was now in custody. They had barely defeated the Fade attack, but the Shadow has not attacked since. She is worried about that, but also grateful for the respite. Then she senses a woman channeling in the camp, which should not be happening. She stomps toward it, thinking it is one of the Windfinders, but then realizes it’s not coming from their tents. She creeps up quietly on the source, and discovers it is near Darlin Sisnera’s tent. Darlin had been given command when Ituralde vanished. She sees three figures outside the tent, but then sees they are veiled. Assuming they are Aiel, Aviendha approaches them openly, but they attack her. She tries to embrace the Source, but is shielded, and she realizes at least one of the men can channel. She attacks physically instead, and manages to kill one of them before they immobilize her with Air. She sees they are wearing red veils.
These aren’t Aiel, Aviendha thought. They’re something different. Her mind wrestled with the concept. Aiel who were not Aiel? Men who could channel?
The men we send, she realized with horror. Men discovered among the Aiel with the ability to channel were sent to try to kill the Dark One. Alone, they came to the Blight. Nobody knew what happened to them after that.
Cadsuane appears, searching for the disturbance, and one of the Darkfriends hides Aviendha while the other pretends to be a regular Aiel. Cadsuane apparently buys it and turns to go. The red-veils turn back to Aviendha, preparing to kill her, but the one holding her shield drops dead. Aviendha swiftly dispatches the other one, and finds Cadsuane there. She asks how Cadsuane knew the Aiel was a fake, and Cadsuane answers that she is no “half-trained wilder”. Aviendha refutes Cadsuane’s query about whether the Aiel have been hiding male channelers all along, and says they must warn the camp. Then she remembers the channeling that had drawn her here in the first place, and scouts about, but it is gone. She returns to Cadsuane just as a weave comes for the Aes Sedai from a seeming patch of darkness. Aviendha slices the weave.
Her enemy ducked out of the shadows— whatever weave she’d been using to hide had collapsed— revealing the woman Aviendha had fought before. The one with the face almost as ugly as a Trolloc’s.
The woman dashed behind a group of tents just before the ground ripped up behind her — a weave that Aviendha hadn’t made. A second later, the woman folded again, as she had before. Vanishing.
Cadsuane grudgingly thanks Aviendha, and speculates on the strange Traveling method the woman had used, but they are interrupted by an attack on the front lines, at the same time as Aviendha senses women channeling around the camp. Cadsuane tells her there are dozens of channelers, mostly men, and sends her to gather the others. Aviendha runs to find Flinn, Amys, and Sorilea. She explains to Sorilea about the Darkfriend Aiel and where she thinks they came from.
Sorilea hissed softly. “If this is true, child, then this night will mark great toh for us all. Toh toward the Car’a’carn, toh toward the land itself.”
Aviendha forms a circle with two Aes Sedai and two Wise Ones, and brings Flinn along to point out the channeling men. She comes across King Darlin bellowing orders, and confirms with him the rumors of Aiel Dreadlords. He says they won’t stand a chance unless Aviendha’s channelers can hold them off. She warns him about the channeling near his tent, and Darlin immediately worries that he has been compromised like Ituralde. Aviendha advises that he go to Rhuarc and plan with his commanders jointly, letting no one person control the battle.
“That could lead to disaster,” Darlin said. “If we don’t have flexibility…”
“What needs be changed?” Aviendha asked grimly. “We hold. With everything we have, we hold. We don’t pull back. We don’t try anything clever. We just hold.”
Darlin agrees, and Aviendha returns to her circle, feeling helpless, which she hates. She begins to prepare to fight.
I really don’t know if these chapter summaries keep getting longer because the chapters themselves are getting denser, or if I am just slowly leaking brevity like a days-old helium balloon. It’s probably a little bit of both, but either way, sheesh.
But in any case, this was a chapter just filled with happenings and/or imagery of the kind that makes you think, “Damn, that would look cool on a movie screen.” It’s all “homicidal crystals with people-smoke trapped inside” and “having a swordfight on the ocean floor after we got bored of fighting in the clouds.” You know, like you do.
Other than the cool imagery, however, I’m basically more annoyed by the Slayer v. Perrin scene than anything else, because Slayer’s refusal here to answer Perrin’s question re: What is your deal, dude, seriously reminds me that we don’t ever get an answer to this question, not really. Yes, we know now that Isam grew up in the nearest equivalent of hell on earth Randland has to offer, and that was his motive for becoming Slayer, but for god’s sake, how did he do it? When and where did Isam meet Luc, and how did that meeting end up making them into Voltron: Dickbag Assassin of the Universe? TELLLL MEEEEEEE
But no, I do not get told. Ergo, annoyance. Blarg.
But it’s okay, because this chapter also contains one of the bigger DUN! moments in the whole book as far as I am concerned. I don’t know about y’all, but I got legit chills when Faile realized she—and the Horn—were now trapped in the Blight.
Of course, in retrospect I have no idea why I was surprised, because obviously it was never going to be as simple as having Faile just skip on over to Merrilor and hand the Horn off to Mat like it ain’t no thang. But I guess I was expecting something—just not that Faile would accidentally get rerouted to the Blight. So, well-played there, Team Jordan. I also really enjoyed the irony—as Faile herself points out—of our most well-known Hunter of the Horn character ending up put in charge of the thing. Nice way to bring Faile’s character full circle, at least after a fashion.
Also, nice set-up for the misunderstandings between Faile and Vanin et al later on. One of the things which has kind of gotten lost in the shuffle in the later books is the reminder that if you’re not Messiah Boy, there’s actually no way to tell just from looking whether someone is a Darkfriend or not (provided, naturally, that they don’t do something so creepily obvious as filing their teeth to points, ugh). Which makes them much more potentially dangerous than your basic Shadowspawn—who are many things, but “inconspicuous” is not generally one of them, you know?
Also also, I know I give Faile (and the Saldaeans in general) grief over their cultural idiosyncrasies re: healthy marriage practices, but even so I couldn’t help but be a little amused that she’s sitting there planning which fights she wants to have with Perrin. I can only assume (and, in fact, I think it’s been said) that the makeup sex is spectacular.
As for Aviendha, I think her leadership dynamic in Thakan’dar is… interesting. Because both Cadsuane and Sorilea totally boss her around, and yet they are still leaving her in charge of the channelers. Plus her word evidently carries serious weight with the non-channeling portion of the army as well, since she basically dictates to Darlin here how he should do his job. I’m not saying that’s not reasonable, since avoiding Compulsion (or at least the effects of it) is after all a channeling-related problem, but it’s just—interesting.
Sorilea’s comment in response to the revelation about the Aiel Dreadlords was also interesting. I get how she thinks the Aiel have toh toward the land because of this, but why to Rand in particular? Is it just because she thinks they’ve made his job harder, or because as fellow channelers, these Dreadlord Aiel were his brethren in a way?
In any case, wow, that must be a crappy thing to realize, that you’ve basically been delivering gift-wrapped channelers to your enemy, for centuries. I was going to say something catty about how it’s so obvious and they should have realized it long since, but since it never occurred to me before the first time we see the red-veils at the end of TOM, maybe I should get out of my glass house before throwing those stones, eh?
Logically, she knew that the Dark One was not nearby, not really. That wasn’t what the Bore was. He didn’t live in this place; he existed outside the Pattern, inside his prison. Still, bedding down here was like trying to sleep while a murderer stood beside your bed, holding a knife and contemplating the color of your hair.
Well, that’s not a creepy visual at all.
And that’s about what I got for this one, kids. Have a lovely week, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!