One, two, three, four, I declare a
thumb war Wheel of Time Reread!
Today’s entry covers Part 4 of Chapter 37 of A Memory of Light, in which almost everyone makes bad decisions, and I have Feelings about it.
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And now, the post!
Chapter 37: The Last Battle [Part 4]
On her way to join the White Tower’s troops at the western side of the bogs, Egwene stops to examine the black cracks in the rocks that have been increasing in frequency. Yukiri thinks they are caused by the Dreadlords, particularly when they use balefire.
Though they seemed like ordinary cracks to the touch, they looked down into pure nothing. Blackness, far too deep for simple cracks to have caused through shadows of the light.
She wove. All five powers, together, testing at the cracks. Yes…
She wasn’t certain exactly what she did, but the fledgling weave covered the cracks like a bandage. The darkness faded, leaving behind only ordinary cracks—and a thin film of crystals.
Yukiri asks what that weave was, but Egwene doesn’t know. Then she notices Gawyn is missing, and feels for him with the bond. She realizes he has gone to the front to fight, and coldly orders him brought back. Bryne volunteers, and Egwene sends Yukiri with him. She offers to send Siuan with him, but says that she actually wants someone to join Mat and the Empress, to listen. Siuan looks proud of her, and agrees to go to the Seanchan. She says that she was not exactly happy to be succeeded in the way she was, but “if a woman were to wish for a legacy, she could not dream of greater than one such as you.” Egwene smiles. Siuan kisses Bryne and leaves. Egwene and Silviana Travel to meet High Captain Chubain at the bogs, where Mat has set the brush aflame to drive the enemy off the heights and camouflage their movements with smoke. Egwene says they are to come at the Sharans from behind; Chubain points out that this fragments their forces, but Egwene has no answer for that. Then she realizes that Gawyn is not with the troops as she’d thought, but on the Heights themselves, where the Shadow was strongest.
Oh, Light! she thought. Gawyn… What are you doing?
Gawyn walks through groups of Trollocs and Fades on the Heights, but thanks to the rings, they do not see him. He sees a Trolloc hauling off the body of a Warder named Symon and kills it in a rage, then curses himself for risking his cover. The rings are affecting him strangely, but he ignores it, searching for Demandred. The Trollocs begin a charge downslope, and Gawyn weaves among them, unseen. He feels Egwene’s anger, and smiles.
Someone had to fight this creature, someone had to kill him or they would lose this battle. They could all see it. Risking Egwene or Logain would be too great a gamble.
Gawyn could be risked. No one would send him to do this—no one would dare—but it was necessary. He had a chance to change things, to really matter. He did it for Andor, for Egwene, for the world itself.
He hears Demandred bellow a challenge to al’Thor and finds the man himself. Gawyn pulls a knife and slips toward him, but Demandred suddenly spins and looks right at him. He shoots balefire in Gawyn’s direction, but Gawyn dodges it and stabs Demandred’s horse. It rears and throws Demandred. Gawyn goes for the kill, but Demandred pushes himself out of the way with Air.
“So,” Demandred said, “an assassin. And Lews Therin always spoke of the ‘honor’ of facing a man face-to-face.”
“I wasn’t sent by the Dragon Reborn.”
“With Night’s Shade surrounding you, a weave that none from this Age remember? Do you know that what Lews Therin has done to you will leak your life away? You are dead, little man.”
“Then you can join me in the grave,” Gawyn said.
Demandred waves off the Sharans who come to his defense, and faces Gawyn with the sword. He can sense Gawyn somehow, but not clearly, so his responses are slower, but Gawyn still cannot land a hit. Gawyn tells the Forsaken his name when asked, and Demandred asks how he is different from the Dragon Reborn, or Gawyn’s own sister. As they spar, Demandred channels to fling a rock at Gawyn, breaking his rib.
“You cheat,” Gawyn said with a sneer.
“Cheat?” Demandred asked. “Are there rules, little swordsman? As I recall, you tried to stab me in the back while hiding in a shroud of darkness.”
Demandred says he is a murderer, but also a savior. Gawyn calls him mad. Demandred counters that it is Lews Therin who is mad, thinking he can defeat the Great Lord. Gawyn says he does not follow the Dragon, but Demandred begs to differ. He says that “no mortal general” has such skill as the one he faces here, and he will prove he is better than Lews Therin. Gawyn attacks again and again, but Demandred turns aside every stroke.
“You fight with skill,” Demandred said, “for one of this Age. But you still wield your sword, little man.”
“What else would I do?”
“Become the sword yourself,” Demandred said, as if baffled that Gawyn did not understand.
Gawyn growls and attacks again, but Demandred’s sword becomes a blur, and Gawyn realizes he has been impaled. Demandred tells him, if he survives, to tell Lews Therin he is looking forward to a match with him, as he has improved since they last met. He walks away, and Gawyn crawls to where some horses are tethered. He manages to mount one and kick the horse into motion.
Near Thakan’dar, Mandevwin pleads with Faile to believe him when he says that Vanin and Harnan are not Darkfriends. He is sure they are shadowing their party, and that they should call them back in. Faile says she will consider it, but privately she is convinced he is wrong. Selande and Arrela approach to tell Faile that they’ve seen movement, which turns out to be a caravan heading for a village in the foothills of Thakan’dar. Faile observes that there is a supply dump outside the village, and guesses it is the central staging area for the Shadow’s forces.
“Wherever those supplies are going,” Faile said slowly, “there will be fighting nearby. Those carts carry arrows, but no food, as the Trollocs are dragging corpses away to feast on each night.”
“So if we could slip through one of those gateways…” Mandevwin said.
Arrela thinks they are mad, but Faile points out it is hardly more dangerous an idea than staying in the Blight, and Arrela shuts up. Mandevwin points out the groups of what look like Aiel coming from the village, but Faile notes the red veils and surmises they are not normal Aiel. Even so, she knows that sneaking past even weird Aiel will be difficult, and declares they need to plan.
Perrin wakes in Mayene, with Berelain, Uno, and the Wise One Janina in attendance. Janina tells him he was only Healed to the point of survival, as they do not have the strength to spare for more, and that his participation in the Last Battle is over. Perrin tries to shift away automatically, then remembers he is in the waking world. Perrin divines from Berelain’s scent that the battle is not going well, but he tells her that Rand still fights, otherwise they would not be here. He explains that time runs differently near the Bore. He asks if the armies got his message about Graendal, and Berelain assures him they did.
“Faile,” he said. “What of Faile?”
Her anxiety sharpened. No.
“Her supply caravan was destroyed in a bubble of evil, Perrin,” Berelain said softly. “I’m sorry.”
“Was her body recovered?” he forced himself to ask.
“Then she still lives.”
“She still lives,” Perrin insisted. He would have to assume that was true. If he didn’t…
Berelain leaves with Uno, and Perrin thinks that he has to get back to Gaul, left behind in the wolf dream. He pleads with Janina that he has to get back, but she insists he must sleep. He begins to nod off, and sees he has a choice: ordinary sleep, the wolf dream, or the wolf dream in the flesh. He is sorely tempted, but realizes that he might die if he does not get some real rest, and chooses ordinary sleep.
I would *headdesk* but that seems kind of insensitive at this juncture.
But I’m not sure what else to do with him, because wow if this endeavor didn’t have doom written all over it from the moment it was set in motion. And I’m pretty sure I felt that way the first time I read it, too, since you don’t have to be a narrative genius to know that there was no way Demandred was going to be defeated that easily. Maybe it’s not fair of me to rail against Gawyn for not realizing he was basically volunteering to be cannon fodder, but, well.
I probably wouldn’t have had such a problem with it if he was a free agent, because hey, if you have no one to answer for but yourself and you want to take a tilt at that windmill, who are we to say you can’t, but the fact is that Gawyn is a Warder. And not just to some rank and file Aes Sedai, but Warder to the Amyrlin herself. Which means that his life—and death—have large and significant consequences beyond himself. And I’m sorry, but it’s really kind of unforgivable that he would fail to take that into account. He thinks here that he can be risked, but he really cannot be. How could he not see that?
It’s not that I don’t understand wanting to make a difference, or wanting to see your abilities employed to their fullest extent, or that I don’t acknowledge that his position was frustrating. But the fact is, it was a self-imposed position. No one forced him to become Egwene’s Warder; Gawyn could have walked away at any point before that, and have therefore been in the position to do something like this without putting so much else in jeopardy.
Not to mention, to not have brought on this kind of pain and suffering to the woman he’s supposed to love.
So from one point of view—certainly his own—Gawyn’s actions can be taken to be selfless and noble. But from another, they are horribly selfish. It’s probably fairly obvious which side of that fence I personally fall on. You made your choice, man, and then you totally failed to stick it out, and that is muy no bueno. For shame.
Because look: if whatever you’re doing is something you feel you have to slip off and do without telling any of your loved ones about it first, that’s a rather large and flaming red flag that not only is it not something you should be doing, but that it’s something you know isn’t cool to be doing, on some level. I’m just saying. I mean, you’re gonna do what you’re gonna do, but at least have the balls to own your shit, n’est-ce pas?
(I suppose there’s an argument to be made that the rings were going to kill Gawyn anyway, eventually, so why not try to kill Demandred, but that just circles back into his decision to put them on in the first place. In the end, there’s just about nothing about Gawyn’s situation that he hasn’t chosen himself. Which is nice for him, but makes my ability to harsh on him for his decisions that much more pointed and that much less guilt-free, because if ever a character in WOT made his own bed and then lay in it, it’s Gawyn.)
As for Egwene herself, I’m fairly certain that I entirely missed both of the big hints in her POV here. First concerning her un-crack-making (heh), because I think I noted it but didn’t really realize it was actually the undoing of the Black Cracks of Nothingness, and second on her inadvertently homicidal decision to separate Siuan and Bryne.
I don’t at all blame her for the latter, by the way, because it certainly never occurred to me that Min’s viewing meant Siuan and Bryne always had to be close to each other, or the death clause would be invoked. Because what kind of ridiculous fate is that? So are we saying that if they’d both survived the Last Battle, and then Siuan went to visit friends in the country or something, they both would have died then? That’s kind of shitty, y’all. I do not think prophetical whatsits should be promoting that kind of codependency! Healthy couples need their space!
Urg. Yeah, so, I didn’t know before that Siuan was basically giving herself her own eulogy here, but now that I do, I find that I am rather upset by it. That was not cool, people. More on Siuan later.
Re: Faile, I rather liked that she fell prey to one of the classic blunders. No, not that one, the “What? I’m not evil, YOU’RE evil!” switcharoo. It was a nice touch. Not that we know that by this point, but it makes me giggle, so I mention it. Because giggles are meant to be shared.
Especially when there’ll be precious few giggles coming up. You know?
As for Perrin, you have to kind of love people who are so firmly in Hero Mode that their response to waking up in comforting luxury is “AGH NO BAD LET ME BACK IN TO ALL THE HURTING.” We expect nothing less of Our Heroes, of course, but it’s probably a good thing to remember that this is not, in fact, a normal response, and that people who do react that way are (a) exceptional and (b) kind of crazy.
Fortunately for his health, Perrin is not quite committed to the crazy train of Nothing Can Hurt Me here. Which I frankly found rather surprising, especially considering he’s found out that Faile is in peril, again. Given his behavior during the PLOD, I think this means he is definitely Growing As A Person. Or is just that damn tired. Either way, good choice, kiddo. Rest up, then save your third of the world, amirite?
And that’s what I got for this one, chirren. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday if you are of the American persuasion, and a wonderful random last Thursday of November if you amn’t, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!