Party people in the HOWWWWSE toNIGHT, everybody’s gonna have a Wheel of Time Reread!
(Yes, it’s been stuck in my head all day, and if I have to suffer SO DO YOU. Mlah!)
Today’s entry covers Chapters 45 and 46 of A Memory of Light, in which a slayer is slain, and a joker finally turns face up.
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.
Also, for maximum coolness, the Wheel of Time reread is also now available as an ebook series, from your preferred ebook retailer!
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!
So y’all will have to forgive me for these incredibly lengthy and link-laden pre-post notes, because a literal avalanche of WOT-relevant stuff has occurred since my last post, plus we have to talk about future plans, and, yeah.
First! As a whole bunch of youse guys were personally present to witness, I went to JordanCon 6 this year, and had such a thoroughly ridiculous amount of fun there I wrote not one, but two posts about it! Check ‘em out if you haven’t already, yeah?
Second and even MORE awesomely, the news hath broken upon the internets: the Hugo short list of nominees for 2014 is up, and the Wheel of Time as a whole is nominated for best novel!
To which I say:
Because man, if ever a thing deserved the sparkle YAY treatment, this is it.
I have spoken previously on my support for nominating the Wheel of Time as a whole, but let me reiterate the gist of it here: I believe the nomination is deserved because, aside from any other considerations, the vast impact and influence of the Wheel of Time on the fantasy genre in general and on an entire generation of fantasy writers (some of whom are now winning Hugos of their own) in particular cannot be denied, and it is for that reason more than any other that I think the series, and Robert Jordan, deserves to be recognized.
But wait: there’s more! Not only that, but Tor has decided that the entire 14-novel series will be included in the Hugo voter packet, which officially makes a Hugo membership this year the most cost-effective decision an SF/F fan ever made.
That said, I want to remind all WOT fans who make the decision to buy a membership and vote for the Hugos this year to remember that the Hugos are about recognizing all aspects of the SF/F community. Therefore, I sincerely encourage you to take your responsibility as a member seriously, and do your best to review and vote in all categories, not just the Best Novel category.
Most of you are probably aware that there has been a certain amount of blowback about the WOT nomination in various circles, which I am not going to get into at this time because… well, because. My only comment on it to you, my fellow WOT fans, is to aver that the single best way to prove the critics wrong is to disprove their dire predictions, and be the conscientious, responsible, and fair Hugo voters I know you all can be. The fifth, I give you; the rest must be earned. So sez me.
And last but certainly not least, it has probably not escaped your attention that we are getting pretty darn close to the end of AMOL, and therefore to the end of the Wheel of Time Reread.
Which is… well, I don’t even know how to feel about that, considering I started this thing… wow, over five years ago now. Wow.
But there is NO DOUBT that I have thoughts about it, and about the Wheel of Time as a completed series, and that I will be sharing them with you all right here on Tor.com.
I am still working out with the TPTB on what exactly my post-Reread endeavors will entail, but I do want to assure you now that this is not the end, my friends. There is more WOT stuff from me on the horizon! And as soon as I know exactly what that “more” entails, I will be letting you know! So, as usual, watch this space.
And with that, at long last, on with the post!
Chapter 45: Tendrils of Mist
Mat finds Grady with Olver and Noal on the Heights, and reflects that it makes perfect sense that Jain Farstrider ended up a Hero of the Horn, even if Mat would never change places with him. He tells Grady he needs a gateway to Shayol Ghul, but Grady tells him that the Pattern is “warped” at Shayol Ghul, and a gateway can’t pinpoint it any longer. He says he can get Mat within a day’s hike of the mountain, but no closer.
“Mat?” Olver said. “I think I need to go with you, don’t I? To the Blight? Won’t the heroes be needed to fight there?”
That was a piece of it. The tugging was insufferable. Bloody ashes, Rand.
Mat realizes that Grady means to send him to one of the Seanchan patrol camps near the mountain, and tells Olver to get ready, as they have “some more work to do.”
Shaisam rolls into the valley of Thakan’dar, glorying in how he has grown vast on the souls of Trollocs. He reflects that he is not yet completely reborn, but once he found a place to infest he would grow strong.
Right now, Shaisam was frail. This mortal form that walked at the center of his mind… he was bound to it. Fain, it had been. Padan Fain.
Still, he was vast. Those souls had given rise to much mist, and it—in turn—found others to feed upon. Men fought Shadowspawn before him. All would give him strength.
He sends his mists into the fray, taking down humans and Trollocs alike, pleased that his two enemies/friends are occupied fighting each other. Some of the humans try to attack his mists, futilely.
The three entwined within him. Mist. Man. Master. That wonderful dagger— his physical form carried it now— had grown something delightful and new, and ancient all at once.
So, the mist was him, but the mist was also not him. Mindless, but it was his body, and it carried his mind.
He is gleeful at the prospect of making this place his after he feasts on Rand al’Thor, “the strongest soul of them all.”
Gaul shouts taunts at the wind trying to carry him away from the entrance to the Pit of Doom, and then attacks Slayer. Slayer curses him and moves to counter, but the wolves jump in, forcing Slayer to retreat; Gaul mourns the one who had fallen in the attack, joining the many from earlier attempts.
The wolves and he could probably not defeat this Slayer; but they could try. Try hard.
How long had it been since Perrin Aybara had left? Two hours, perhaps?
If the Shadow has claimed you, my friend, he thought, I pray you spat in Sightblinder’s eye before you awoke.
The figure of Slayer reappears, and Gaul thinks it is a decoy until it begins killing wolves. Gaul leaps to defend them, and Slayer stabs him in the side. He screams that he is a king here, more than the Forsaken. Gaul waits to die, but then the winds calm, and Perrin appears. He tells Slayer that he is no king.
“This place belongs to the wolves,” Perrin said. “Not to you, not to me, not to any man. You cannot be a king here, Slayer. You have no subjects, and you never will.”
Slayer taunts Perrin that he rejoiced when Fain killed Perrin’s family, and spared his life for the sole reason that he had brought Perrin pain. He says that Luc wanted to be “part of something important,” while he had wanted the ability to channel, and that the Dark One had found something better for them both.
“Something that requires a soul to be melded with something else. Like what happened with you, Aybara. Like you.”
“We are nothing alike, Slayer,” Perrin said softly.
“But we are! That’s why I laughed. And you know, there’s a prophecy about Luc? That he’ll be important to the Last Battle. That’s why we’re here. We’ll kill you; then we’ll kill al’Thor. Just like we killed that wolf of yours.”
Gaul looks at Perrin and feels the terrible pressure coming from him, and pulls himself up and runs.
Mat curses and Olver whoops as the to’raken brings them into Thakan’dar. He observes from above that the battle is in complete chaos, with a thick mist flooding into the valley that Mat feels like he has seen before.
Then, Mat felt something. From that mist. A prickling cold sensation, followed by what he swore was whispering in his mind. He knew immediately what it was.
Olver points out the Darkhounds assaulting the troops guarding the way to the Pit of Doom, and Mat knows that whatever of the Light’s army that isn’t killed by the Darkhounds will be taken by Mashadar. He also knows that Fain is in there somewhere, with the dagger. Then they are hit with arrows, and Mat takes control of the wounded beast from the unconscious morat’to’raken, Sulaan, and barely manages to get them down intact. Olver informs him that Mat should let Olver fly next time. Mat informs him there won’t be a next time, and then panics when he realizes they’ve dropped Rand’s banner.
Olver smiled, looking up at the sign made by the swirling clouds. “It will be fine—we’re beneath his banner already,” he said, then lifted the Horn and blew a beautiful note.
I sort of feel like we were introduced to that moniker earlier, but if we were it was so long ago in reader’s terms for me that I can’t remember if that’s true or if I’m just hallucinating. At this point anything is possible. But I guess it makes sense: if you take a bunch of things (e.g. a psycho, a psycho ghost, and a psycho killing mist monster) and smush them all together, well naturally you’re gonna need a new name for the thing that results. Otherwise it’s just confusing.
I also don’t remember if we did or will get a translation for the name, but based on very sketchy evidence I think the “Shai” part generally means “sworn” or “dedicated” in the Old Tongue, while “sam” seems to mean “blinding” or “destroying,” or something similar. So, the name means… “Vowblinder”? “Oathdestroyer”? “Dedication Smasher”?
Well. Nothing nice, that’s for sure. (It would probably be more awesome if it meant “wild card,” but I’m thinking that’s probably not it.)
In other news, Gaul is awesome. We all knew that, of course, but it’s worth reiterating because it’s always nice to be right. There’s just something so appealing about a quote “normal” character, who doesn’t have any fancy-schmancy magic powers or fate-bending luck or wolfy world-hopping mojo, but who just gets in there and kicks all the ass anyway. On the Badass Scale, Gaul probably rates at least a 9.5.
Which just makes it even more funny when Gaul takes one look at Perrin’s Face of Impending Extreme Pwnage and is like, yeah, I am nope-ing right out of this one, kids, smell you later. There runs a wise, wise man.
Meanwhile, Slayer’s taunt to Perrin about their being alike on a soul-melding level was… interesting, if a little confusing. Because, I’m not really seeing how being a Wolfbrother is anything like Luc and Isam’s soul-smushage? Unless he’s saying that Wolfbrother souls are a blend of a human and a wolf soul, which is… wow, not at all how I had conceptualized that whole thing before this. I guess it makes a certain amount of sense, but I’m rather wanting to reject it for—for logistical reasons, sort of.
Because, wouldn’t that mean that Perrin’s soul can only ever be a Wolfbrother, whenever he’s reborn? Does that imply that at one point the human part of the soul and the wolf part were once whole and separate entities, and now aren’t? That seems kind of… cruel, if so, for the Pattern to just smash them together because the world needs a guy (or a girl, no reason to think it could only ever be a guy) who can talk to wolves.
But then, the Pattern is about necessity, not niceness, isn’t it? And after all, it’s perfectly possible that Slayer is just talking out of his ass, and the comparison really is as inane as I thought it was when I first read it. *shrug*
Nice that Slayer brought up the prophecy about Luc, because I had totally forgotten about it until he did. And wow, if ever there was a textbook example of “I do not think that prophecy means what you think it means,” this was it. (Interesting that Slayer referred to Luc as Luc and himself as someone else; does that mean Isam just happened to be talking then, or is Isam the dominant personality in the overall Slayer amalgam and generally speaks for them both?)
So many unanswered questions, y’all. And this was one of my middling-to-big peeves with AMOL, actually—that after all this time we still never got a real answer to the question of What is Slayer’s Deal, Really. Blah.
Also mildly puzzlement-making is that while Mat was happy to reflect on Noal’s presence as a Hero of the Horn at the beginning of the chapter, he evidently didn’t feel the need to actually say anything to him, which I found rather odd considering how long they’d been together and how they’d parted.
Well. At least Olver continues to be adorable, right?
Chapter 46: To Awaken
Rand enters the Pattern fully once again, and knows that days have passed nearby, and even longer further away. He resumes his long-frozen duel with Moridin, though he tells the other man he doesn’t matter anymore.
“I don’t?” Moridin laughed.
Then he spun and threw the knife at Alanna.
Nynaeve tries to intervene, but is too late to stop the knife, which buries itself in Alanna’s heart. Alanna is lucid, however, thanks to Nynaeve’s herbs, and whispers that it will be all right. She dies, and Rand looks at her with sorrow but no maddened rage, and Nynaeve realizes Alanna had released the bond before her death. Rand turns back to Moridin, but Moridin stabs himself in his own hand, which for some reason seems to make Rand drop Callandor.
Perrin fights Slayer, finally holding nothing of his strength or rage or pain back from the attack. The storm above conforms to his rage. Slayer tries to fight back, but is driven back by the fury of Perrin’s assault. He vanishes, and Perrin follows him into the waking world. He starts to pursue Slayer, but the wolves warn him that the Shadowbrothers are there. Perrin is torn, but decides he must pursue Slayer and protect Rand. He chases Slayer, who is shocked when he sees Perrin, now knowing that Perrin can follow him into the waking world.
“No. No, it can’t be.”
Yes, Perrin thought. I can follow you now, wherever you run. This is a hunt.
You, finally, are the prey.
Slayer begins jumping back and forth between the wolf dream and the waking world, but Perrin stays on him, as a wolf in the dream and a man in the real world, flickering so fast that it seems that when he connects, his hammer and his fangs close at the same time.
Everything crashed, shook, then pulled together.
Perrin stood on the rocks in the valley of Thakan’dar, and Slayer’s body crumpled in front of him, head crushed. Perrin panted, the thrill of the hunt clinging to him. It was over.
He sees that the Light has lost the battle here, and gathers up the Aiel that were watching his battle with Slayer. He shifts them to the wolf dream, then to the entrance to the Pit of Doom, then back to the waking world. He tells them they will hold here, and the Aiel tell him they will stand. The Darkhounds slink toward them, about to attack, but then Perrin faintly hears a sound he recognizes as the Horn of Valere. He thinks that surely he will receive no help here… but then thinks: why should all of the Heroes of the Horn be human?
A howl rose in the same pitch as that of the sounded horn. He looked upon a field suddenly filled with hundreds upon hundreds of glowing wolves. They were great pale beasts, the size of Darkhounds. The spirits of those wolves who had died, then gathered here, waiting for the sign, waiting for the chance to fight.
The Horn called them.
Perrin let loose a yell of his own, a howl of pleasure, then charged forward to meet the Darkhounds.
The Last Hunt had finally, truly arrived.
Mat leaves Olver with the Heroes guarding the pathway to the mountain and rides to find Perrin, noting with worry that the tendrils of mist are approaching the pathway, mowing down humans and Shadowspawn alike and picking up speed. He finds Perrin killing a Darkhound with his hammer, and observes that the Darkhound actually stays dead, too. Perrin wants to know what happened to Faile, and Mat grimly tells him how she had led the Trollocs off at Merrilor to try and protect Olver. Perrin says she could still be alive, then, and Mat agrees, for lack of anything else to say. He then tells Perrin that Fain is on the battlefield, and brought Mashadar with him somehow. Perrin growls that he has a debt to settle with Fain.
“And I don’t?” Mat said. “I—”
Perrin’s eyes opened wide. He stared at Mat’s chest.
There, a small white ribbon of silvery mist—Mashadar’s mist—had speared Mat from behind through the chest. Mat looked at it, jerked once, then tumbled off his horse.
Also: ding dong, the Slayer’s dead! AT LAST. I think I would have liked a beat more there to appreciate the moment, but in general I quite like how that was done. Unlike some other impending confrontations, but we’ll get to that.
What is unequivocally awesome, however, is the plot twist that wolves can be Heroes of the Horn. Because OF COURSE THEY ARE. That is so cool, in fact, that I’m going to blithely ignore the niggling question of why the wolf Heroes never showed up in Falme in TGH—even though Perrin was right there then too. But whatever, because: wolf Heroes. I love it. Kill them Darkhounds!
As for the Alanna thing, I’m sort of debating whether to have a problem with this or not. I’ve said before that Alanna’s bond with Rand was one of the most blatant Chekhov’s Guns of the entire series, but to stick with the analogy, this was more like a gun that goes off and instead of a bullet, it shoots out a large “BANG!” sign. Like, ha ha, fooled you! You thought that it was important, and instead it’s taken care of in a paragraph and there are no consequences from it at all!
And, okay, not everything has to take the path of most resistance to make a story work, and God knows Rand is owed a softball solve or two by this point, but I can’t deny that, rational or not, I felt a tad let down by how The Alanna Thing—which has been hanging fire since LOC, a million years ago now—just sort of… fizzled.
But, you know. Fortunately Rand has other problems, and now is not berserker crazy while dealing with them! Which has to be counted as a net win, amirite?
(Also: hi, Nynaeve! Bye, Nynaeve! I miss you!)
And here’s where we stop, for more stupendous things are yet to come! Once again, congrats to Team Jordan on your Hugo Nomination, and to the rest of ya, see you next week!