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Today’s entry covers Part 8 of Chapter 37 of A Memory of Light, in which regrets are had, fights are started, and consciences are surgically removed for the LOLZ.
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And now, the post!
Before we get started, I want to say: Hi! Welcome to 2014, y’all! And as a New Year’s present to me, please go read this, and spread the word if you agree.
Thanks, and onward!
Chapter 37: The Last Battle [Part 8]
With a team of twelve Whitecloaks and the copy medallion ter’angreal, Galad moves among the battle on the Heights, seeking enemy channelers. He engages three Sharan female channelers, using their shock when their weaves fail to affect him to close on them. After they are dispatched, Golever congratulates Galad with what Galad deems excessive fervor. A scout comes to inform him that he’s found Gawyn’s body; Galad goes there, but finds that Gawyn is still alive, barely.
“Galad… I failed.” Gawyn stared at the sky, eyes blank.
“You did well.”
“No. I failed. I should have… I should have stayed with her. I killed Hammar. Did you know that? I killed him. Light. I should have picked a side…”
Galad picks Gawyn up and tries to run, but is flung down by the indirect effects of another channeler’s attack. Gawyn tells him that he failed to kill Demandred, and to tell Egwene he loves her. Galad tells him he will not be left without a brother, but Gawyn tells him he has another.
“A son of… Tigraine… who went into the Waste… Son of a Maiden. Born on Dragonmount…”
“Don’t hate him, Galad,” Gawyn whispered. “I always hated him, but I stopped. I… stopped…”
Gawyn’s eyes stopped moving.
Galad stands, and tells Golever to take all of the men and go back to camp. Golever asks what he is going to do, and Galad tells him.
“I will bring Light to the Shadow. I will bring justice to the Forsaken.”
Egwene feels Gawyn die, and screams in agony, attacking the Sharans wildly. Silviana begs her to stop lest she hurt her own people. Egwene realizes how foolish she was to think she would be able to fight through this pain, and lets saidar go. Someone carries her off the field via gateway.
Tam’s archers run out of arrows, and can only watch as the Whitecloaks, Perrin’s Wolf Guard, and the Ghealdanin fight desperately to hold the riverbank. Tam calls for the archers to leave their bows behind and arm with what weapons they can find, and goes to aid the Whitecloaks.
They started forward, running, and Tam was reminded of another battlefield. Snow, cutting into his face, blown by terrible winds. In a way, that battlefield had begun this all. Now it ended here.
He unsheathes the sword Rand had given him, and shouts to his men to hold formation no matter what as they enter the fray.
Fortuona refuses Healing for her wounds, and sends Karede and the other Deathwatch guards, who had failed to stop this latest assassination attempt on her, to fight the enemy marath’damane directly. She knows this is a death sentence, but also knows that Karede would have fallen on his own sword as reparation instead if she hadn’t. Karede is grateful, and Fortuona knows she will make her own penance for this act later. She turns to Min, whom she has renamed “Darbinda” (“Girl of Pictures”) and raises her to the Blood for her role in saving the Empress. Darbinda seems less than thrilled at the news. Fortuona exchanges a look with Knotai; he nods, and she deliberately starts a fight with him over whose fault the assassination attempt is, accusing him of not taking his station seriously.
Knotai laughed. It was a loud, genuine laugh. He was good at this. Fortuona thought she was the only one who saw the twin lines of smoke rising exactly behind him from the Heights. An appropriate omen for Knotai: a large gamble would yield large rewards. Or a great cost.
They declare they are done with each other, and Fortuona storms off, loudly proclaiming her intention to return to Ebou Dar. She hopes that the spy, whoever he or she is, will now be convinced of her recklessness and self-importance.
Rand knows that he is still only a man, yet that the clash of wills between himself and the Dark One will decide the fate of humankind, and he must hold if they are to be allowed to choose their own future. The Dark One creates another world which puzzles Rand; it is Caemlyn, but seeming prosperous and ordinary. Then he sees a fruit merchant casually murder a child for stealing, and no one seems to notice or care. She asks which faction he belongs to, and he runs, seeing she would kill him without hesitation or remorse. He finds the Queen’s Blessing, and Basel Gill inside, but Gill does not recognize him. Gill tells him they won the Last Battle and hurries off to get him a “faction symbol.”
“What have you done to them?” Rand demanded.
I LET THEM THINK THEY WON.
MANY WHO FOLLOW ME DO NOT UNDERSTAND TYRANNY.
Gill returns with three thugs, intending to kill and rob him, and seems confused that Rand is surprised by this. Rand realizes that all their consciences are gone, and the Dark One tells him that compassion is not needed, and that he will make a world where there is neither good nor evil, only himself. Rand is horrified, thinking this is worse than the world he had been shown before. He yells that this will only make him more determined to fight, and shatters the vision with his will.
“You show me your true heart?” Rand demanded of the nothingness as he seized those threads. “I will show you mine, Shai’tan. There is an opposite to this Lightless world you would create.
“A world without Shadow.”
Mat worries that Tuon had been really angry at him, and asks Min to go with her. Min is reluctant, but agrees when Mat pleads. Mat wonders if he is a fool, letting a quarter of his troops go with Tuon. He sees Karede and flags him down; Karede is unhappy, but thanks him for protecting the Empress. He tells Mat he must go and die, but Mat says he is coming with Mat instead. He asks if Karede would rather die pointlessly, or come and try to keep him alive, who he thinks Tuon likes at least a little. Karede tells him he will come, but only if Mat stops inviting bad luck by calling the Empress by her old name.
“Right, then, Karede. Let’s dive back into this mess and see what we can do. In Fortuona’s name.”
It’s both very saddening and completely infuriating that he only seemed to truly realize what his problem had been—i.e. picking a side—no, picking the right side, and committing to that choice—just before it was too late for him to do anything about it. That’s a kind of regret that seems much too much of a real life one for me not to be upset about, if that makes any kind of sense.
Well, I guess he gets points for consistency, in that his death was just as exasperating as everything else about him has ever been, but I really do wish he’d gotten the chance to redeem himself before he died. But, maybe that was the point?
Not a point I particularly care for, if so.
Ah, well. Bye, Gawyn. You poor, noble, stupid fool. Sigh.
And at this point it looked like the fallout from his stupid, noble death was going to be unfairly significant, as well. Not only because of what it is doing to Egwene, but in what it is inspiring Galad to go off and do—namely, be just as big a fool. I remember reading this scene with Galad the first time around and being all, Aw, crap.
Rightly, as it turns out, though at least Galad’s windmill tilting won’t turn out to be quite as lethal. But we’ll get to that in due time.
I’ll also stick in a small note of disappointment that this was the way Galad found out that he and Rand are half-brothers. I was really hoping that would happen while Rand was actually in the room with him. Mostly because that would mean he’d have to actually react to it, instead of being in the middle of a crisis and shunting it off, like here. Alas.
Tuon’s exchange with Karede is really fast, but interesting, in the sense of how it’s yet another installment in the ongoing series of Seanchan culture is really fucked up, yo. Not that there isn’t real-world precedent for Karede’s determination to fatally punish himself for failure (that was pretty much SOP for the samurai the Deathwatch Guard are obviously based on, after all), but that doesn’t make it any less bananas in my opinion. I know there is a certain kind of nobility in Karede’s actions, but frankly I can’t get past how much it is a totally wasteful practice, in battle or out of it. At least Mat ends up manipulating things so that Karede’s death won’t be a complete waste. So, yay, I guess.
Also, Tuon, seriously, stop renaming people, you suck at it. “Darbinda”, really? Blech. Still not worse than “Knotai”, of course, but it’s close. Min’s reaction to the whole thing was pretty funny, though.
Tuon and Mat’s ruse here was clever, I suppose, but I remember thinking that the loss of morale their supposed falling-out might inspire in the troops was possibly not worth the prize of rooting out the spy. However, I don’t know that the troops have time to notice what their leaders are doing right now anyway, so maybe it is a groundless worry. I can’t actually remember if the Seanchan army’s reaction to Tuon’s fake retreat is addressed at all, so I guess I’ll find out.
Tam’s scene here is very short, but I liked Tam’s thought about how technically this whole thing had begun on a battlefield very like the one on which it was ending. Although, you have to admit that this battle’s a bit larger in scale, Tam. Still, it was a nice reminder.
I’m not sure I agree with Rand that No Conscience Randland is actually worse than the version before it—it’s a whole lot less gross, for one thing—but it certainly is more disturbing on a visceral level. It’s also an interesting question: if it were possible to simultaneously strip everyone in the world of empathy and compassion, would anyone actually notice?
I’m a wee bit skeptical, personally, that doing such a thing wouldn’t lead to the more or less instant collapse of civilization into anarchy, but I suppose it wouldn’t be the first time a society has propped itself up on the fundamental selfishness of people as opposed to their altruism. *tongue in cheek*
What do you think? If no one in the world had a moral compass of any kind, would things still basically go on, or would all hell break loose?
Tell me your thoughts, because I’m out of mine! At least until next Tuesday, anyway. Cheers!