I’ll take back those words that have hurt you, Wheel of Time Reread, and you’ll stay!
(Okay, I probably won’t, but you know. I thought about it.)
Today’s entry covers Part 7 of Chapter 37 of A Memory of Light, in which Androl and Pevara hum the Mission:Impossible theme, the Dark One hums that Cher song, and Demandred does the apocalyptic equivalent of buying a suspiciously phallic sports car.
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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!
Before we begin, a re-reiteration of my Hopefully Self-Evident Scheduling Note: This is the last Reread post of 2013, y’all! There will be no Reread posts on either December 24th or December 31st, because I wish me a merry Christmas and a happy New Year, dontcha know. The Reread will resume on Tuesday, January 7th.
Chapter 37: The Last Battle [Part 7]
Demandred surveys the battlefield through the eyes of a falcon, annoyed that Lews Therin’s people had discovered a way to do similar via gateways, in a way he had never thought of. He thinks that M’Hael had done his job of diverting the river well (despite running into “unusual resistance”), but almost wishes the man had failed; even though Demandred had recruited him, he had not expected M’Hael to be made Chosen so quickly. Ayyad messengers have come, standing next to Shendla.
Shendla. He had thought himself long past caring for a woman again—how could affection thrive beside the burning passion that was his hatred for Lews Therin? And yet, Shendla… Devious, capable, powerful. Almost, it was enough to change his heart.
The messengers report fearfully that their attack on Cauthon had failed, not had he channeled or otherwise revealed himself as Lews Therin in disguise. Demandred is becoming more and more convinced that he must be, though, for only a man with centuries of experience at warcraft could be so good at it. He reflects that Lews Therin is even better now than he had been before, in fact.
The enemy general knew when to flip the coin and let fate rule, but did not let too much ride on each result. He would have made an excellent card player.
Demandred would still defeat him, of course. The battle would merely be more… interesting.
He gives orders, and the Ayyad leave. He asks Shendla if she regrets her choice, now that she knows what side they fight for, but Shendla replies that she has given herself to him, not the Shadow, and she believes that he will protect her people when he remakes the world. He warns her that he would cast it all away for a chance at Lews Therin, but she says if he destroys his enemy, he will “destroy one world and preserve another.”
Her voice seemed to imply that perhaps, once Lews Therin was dead, Demandred would be able to become his own man again.
He was not certain. Rule only interested him insofar as he could use it against his ancient enemy. The Sharans, devoted and faithful, were just a tool. But within him, there was something that wished it was not so. That was new. Yes, it was.
M’Hael arrives, and sneers at Demandred’s losses against Cauthon. Demandred signals his Ayyad, who seize M’Hael in two dozen shields and bonds. M’Hael tries to use the True Power, but Demandred weaves a shield of his own from the True Power, which doesn’t just block it from M’Hael but drains it from him. Cracks of nothingness appear as he gathers the force from it, and M’Hael begins to have a seizure. Demandred explains to M’Hael that he is not like the other Chosen, and cares not one whit whether he has Moridin’s or the Great Lord’s favor; Demandred is only interested in Lews Therin. M’Hael may think himself strong, he says, but he is an infant compared to Demandred.
M’Hael’s eyes, though his body betrayed him with trembles, were full of hatred, not fear. Yes, this one always had shown promise.
Demandred turned his hand and launched a stream of balefire with the gathered True Power. The white- hot line of liquid destruction burned through the armies at the river below, vaporizing each man or woman it touched. Their forms became points of light, then dust, hundreds of them vanishing. He left a long line of burned ground, like a furrow cut by an enormous cleaver.
Demandred releases him, and tells him if M’Hael lives through this battle he may teach him how to do that, and turns his back on him, telling him to go wreak what chaos he could. M’Hael leaves, and Demandred hopes he will not have to kill such a useful tool.
The Dark One tells Rand the time has finally come for his victory, and Rand sees far below the battle raging across the land. He realizes that the Dark One is outside time, but only when he is not touching the Pattern, which he certainly is at the moment.
And so, while time was nothing to the Dark One, he—or it, as the Dark One had no gender—could only work within its bounds. Like… like a sculptor who had marvelous visions and dreams but was still bound by the reality of the materials he worked with.
The Dark One invites Rand to watch his friends die, and become his once they are dead. Rand calls him a liar, and the Dark One says he will show him, and sweeps him into another vision.
Juilin Sandar wonders how he, a Tairen thief-catcher, ended up commanding troops protecting Aes Sedai. He yells for his men to hold against the Sharan infantry, who are pressing them hard, while the Sharan channelers battle the Aes Sedai over their heads. He thinks that he shouldn’t be here, but figures that’s what every man there feels like, and keeps fighting.
Androl, Pevara, Emarin, Theodrin, and Jonneth are walking through the enemy camp on the Heights, using the Mask of Mirrors to appear to be Dreadlords, except for Jonneth, who is pretending to be a rank and file Darkfriend. Pevara is wearing Alviarin’s face, and Theodrin is Rianna. Jonneth stops to vomit at the sight of the cookpots, to the Trollocs’ jeering amusement. Pevara is intrigued to find that Androl understands the tactics of why the Shadow is pushing for the river instead of staying on the Heights.
Just curious how many lives you’ve led, Androl.
An odd statement, coming from a woman who is old enough to be my grandmother’s grandmother.
They find a group of Sharans, who Pevara notes do not look terribly thrilled with their Trolloc allies. Before they can try talking to anyone, they are accosted by a Sharan officer who demands that they come to see “the Wyld”. Not knowing who that is, they agree to go; Pevara is displeased Androl did not wait to consult her first, but then senses how badly he wants to find Taim, and relents, though she warns him to be cautious. She reflects that she has lost friends to Taim, but that it is different for Androl, who regarded Evin and others like him to be under his protection. She briefly wishes for more Warders, then is amused at Androl’s jealousy at the notion, as well as his ignorance re: Emarin’s sexual preferences. They come to a group of richly dressed and unarmed Sharans, and Androl quickly realizes the armored man at their center must be Demandred. They kneel before him, and Demandred shouts angrily that he told the M’Hael that he was to take all his Dreadlords against the White Tower, and orders them to go there immediately. They cringe and obey, and he whips Androl with Air as they scurry away.
That was foolish and dangerous, Pevara thought at Androl.
And effective, he replied, eyes ahead, hand to his cheek, blood seeping between the fingers. We know Taim is on the battlefield for sure, and we know where to find him. Let’s move.
“How crazy can you be,” indeed. I’m fairly sure walking straight into the enemy camp, as brazen as you please, counts as plenty crazy, even with magical disguise assistance. Damn.
It’s kind of a shame, though, that AMOL really didn’t have the space to devote more time to Androl and Pevara’s infiltration scheme, because I think there are very few people who don’t enjoy a good tense cloak and dagger story, which this was in only a sort of truncated way. I understand the time constraint, of course, and there is the (valid) argument that Androl and Co. have already gotten way too much screentime in lieu of many of the more core characters of the WOT cast, but c’mon, Pevara was walking around with Alviarin’s face on, the head of the freakin’ Black Ajah. I can’t help but regard it as a missed opportunity that (at least as far as I recall) Pevara never had to convincingly play Alviarin, to someone Alviarin knew, in order to evade detection.
That said, the same complaint could be made of so many aspects of AMOL that it’s almost not worth making it, I think. Because at the end of the day, given the sheer amount of stuff that had to be gotten through, I mostly agree with the decision to just get the hell through it so the larger story can be served. If every last storyline and character got the attention they actually deserved, WOT would never have gotten finished, so there you go.
Which is a nice segue, actually, into discussing Demandred’s POV here, which more than almost anything else in AMOL suggested a rich backstory which we didn’t get into in the main narrative. For the very good reason, of course, that that backstory was cut from the novel. Again, the reasons for cutting it (which Brandon and Harriet discussed at length in interviews following the release of AMOL) made perfect sense; I’m not going to track the exact words down at the moment, but the gist of it was pretty much what I’ve already said: the cut was made for reasons of space, and also because that amount of focus on Demandred’s story, Harriet felt, took away from the focus on the main thrust of the narrative, which by necessity focuses much more on Our Heroes’ narrative arcs.
And also again, I agree with the decision, even as I kind of wistfully regret it. Demandred has long been one of the most enigmatic and, therefore, most speculated-about characters in the entire series, so while casual readers of the story might pass over this POV with barely a blip, I’m fairly certain I wasn’t alone, on first reading, in feeling rather frustrated at this teasing glimpse of his story without any real followthrough on it.
Fortunately, though, we WOT fans ended up not being totally deprived on this score, as the release of the epic fantasy anthology Unfettered provided us with the story AMOL did not have the space to provide, namely the short story “River of Souls,” about Demandred’s strangely heroic-like quest to win the loyalty of the Sharans and bring them into his plan to defeat his great enemy, Lews Therin. I did a spoiler-free review of the story here, but I am just now realizing I never followed through on my promise to provide a more in-depth analysis of it.
This is something which I think needs to be remedied, especially since it has been long enough since I initially read the story that my recall of the specifics is actually rather hazy, and thus I don’t feel I can reliably comment on it (either here or in a separate post) without actually rereading it first. Hmm.
Well, let’s leave it (and Demandred) for now, then. I wanted to comment on Shendla’s bizarre (to me) loyalty to Demandred, and the Sharans in general, but now I think I want to wait until I have that backstory more firmly in mental hand to do so.
I can comment on M’hael, though, and how I rather share Demandred’s annoyance that he gets to be a Chosen, even though I actually predicted that it would happen, back in the day. Of course, I also predicted that Alviarin would get to be a new Chosen too, and I’ll admit that at least half of my annoyance comes from the fact that she didn’t get the same recognition as Taim did. I completely recognize, by the way, that my indignation on this score is kind of bananas, considering that these are the bad guys, but dammit, fair is fair! If Taim gets a promotion for, what, half a year’s work, then Shirley Alviarin should get the same for decades’ worth, right?
It’s true, yes, that Taim didn’t fuck up anywhere near as badly as Alviarin did, but as long as we’re playing the “fair” game, it’s worth pointing out that he also didn’t have anything near the entrenched infrastructure to circumvent that Alviarin did. So it’s kind of really not the same situation. However, given that we are talking about Team Evil here, I am pretty much the only one actually playing the “fair” game, so this entire argument is probably fairly pointless.
But whatever, I don’t care. If Taim got it, then Alviarin shoulda got it! Nyah!
Also, am I the only one who really hates referring to Taim as “M’Hael”, and has to restrain the impulse to sneer at his taking on an already-amazingly-pretentious self-imposed title and making it even more pretentious by making it his actual name? Even if it wasn’t his idea? (Was it his idea? I can’t remember.) I dunno, it’s just so over-the-top that I want to stick my tongue out at him every time I read the name. Self-important wanker. Pfeh.
Also worth noting is the utterly casual and offhand way in which it’s mentioned in that scene that Demandred just X-ed out hundreds of people in one balefirey swoop, for no other reason than to intimidate (and show off to) Taim. I don’t know quite why I found that so shocking, considering Demandred’s oft-stated total lack of care for anything that isn’t waving his dick at Lews Therin to prove that it is TOTALLY BIGGER THAN YOURS, WHY WON’T YOU LOOK AT IT WHYEEEEE, but it was. Shocking, I mean.
Anyway. And also, Juilin was in this section, apparently entirely for the purpose of reminding us he still existed. Which was nice, actually, so, okay. But there really isn’t anything else to say about him, so I’ll move on.
To Rand and the Dark One, natch. Which was also a really short blip at this point, but worth noting for the sort of meta-discussion within it of the Dark One’s relationship to time, which rather came off to me like Team Jordan doing its own spot of rationalization and/or clarification on a point of logistics re: the Dark One’s nature which I suspect had been bothering more than just the fans.
This isn’t a criticism per se, because addressing the question of why exactly the embodiment of ultimate evil is apparently bound by something so comparatively mundane as the strictures of linear (or circular, as the case may be) time-flow is a completely valid issue to want to clear up, but putting it out there like that in such an isolated section of narrative made it stick out expositionally rather more than I think was necessary.
In other news, me and run-on sentences are best friends. Sheesh.
And that is what I’ve got for this one, kids. Have a safe, happy, and hopefully festive rest of the year, and I will catch alla y’all on the flip side with more WOT! Happy Holidays! See you in 2014! Cheers! *waves madly*