Greetings to you, people of Tor.com! Leigh Butler here, of the Wheel of Time Reread.
As you know, Bob, the Wheel of Time as a whole has been nominated for Best Novel for the 2014 Hugo Awards, which is super awesome, and also, Tor Books in the U.S. and Orbit Books in the U.K. have made the incredibly generous decision to include all fourteen novels of the Wheel of Time in the Hugo voter packet, which should be available now, and which is even more awesome.
Of course, the thing is, fourteen Wheel of Time novels is… kind of a lot of reading. (She understates, solemnly.) It’s a lot of reading even for people like me, who (a) have read the novels before and (b) speedread as a matter of course. I don’t think it is impossible to get through the entire Wheel of Time series in the time allotted between now and the voting deadline, but it might be a bit of a tall order for those voters whose spare time is limited.
So! With that in mind, the Powers That Be at Tor.com have asked me to put together a little refresher on The Wheel of Time for those who wish to be conscientious Hugo voters, but may not have time to reread the novels in full. I will provide a summary of the events in each novel, of course, but I will also give you my favorite scene and/or passage from each novel, to try and give you a little of the flavor of it beyond a dry summary. Because I am generous like that.
So, if that is a thing that you feel will help you be a good Hugo voter (or just something you think you would like to read), read on!
All due credit must be given to the amazing Encyclopaedia WOT, which was an invaluable resource when putting this together. Also, some bits of the summaries were semi-cribbed from A Wheel of Time Wiki, which I am nevertheless not linking here because the site made my computer crash twice and seems generally shady, sorry.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Please remember to be conscientious Hugo voters and cast your vote for every category on the 2014 ballot.
Skip to your preferred book:
Book 1: The Eye of the World
Book 2: The Great Hunt
Book 3: The Dragon Reborn
Book 4: The Shadow Rising
Book 5: The Fires Of Heaven
Book 6: Lord of Chaos
Book 7: A Crown of Swords
Book 8: The Path of Daggers
Book 9: Winter’s Heart
Book 10: Crossroads of Twilight
Book 11: Knife of Dreams
Book 12: The Gathering Storm
Book 13: Towers of Midnight
Book 14: A Memory of Light
In the Prologue (set some three thousand years before the events of the series proper), a dazed Lews Therin Telamon wanders through the ruins of his palace, not noticing the dead bodies everywhere or knowing that he was the cause of it. He calls for his wife Ilyena, not noticing that she is one of the corpses. A man appears from thin air and looks at the scene with disdain. He calls himself Elan Morin Tedronai, and calls Lews Therin “Lord of the Morning.” Lews Therin is confused, but calls the man “Betrayer of Hope.” Tedronai taunts Lews Therin, and then magically (and painfully) Heals Lews Therin so that he regains enough sanity to realize what he has done. Lews Therin screams in agony, then uses “the True Source” to Travel far away, to an empty plain. In remorse, he draws an enormous amount of the One Power and obliterates himself with a solid bar of light. After, a jagged mountain remains in the place where he had been.
The true story begins in Emond’s Field, a small village in the Two Rivers district of the nation of Andor, where we meet Rand al’Thor, Matrim (Mat) Cauthon, Perrin Aybara, Egwene al’Vere, and the village Wisdom Nynaeve al’Meara.
On the eve of the spring festival Bel Tine, Emond’s Field is unexpectedly attacked by monsters called Trollocs and Myrddraal. A mysterious Aes Sedai named Moiraine Damodred tells Rand, Mat, and Perrin that they are the targets of the attacks, and convinces them to come with her to Tar Valon to protect their village. They are joined by Moiraine’s warder, Lan Mandragoran, a wandering gleeman named Thom Merrilin, and by Egwene, who discovers the plan and insists on coming along.
At the city of Baerlon, they meet Min Farshaw, a young woman who can see people’s futures, and also Padan Fain, a peddler they’d thought dead after the attack on Emond’s Field. Rand, Mat, and Perrin begin experiencing dreams in which they are taunted by a frightening man who calls himself Ba’alzamon. Shortly before they leave the city, Nynaeve arrives to retrieve the Emond’s Fielders from Moiraine; when they refuse to go with her, she insists on joining the party. Egwene and Nynaeve both discover that they are capable of channeling saidar, the female half of the One Power. Egwene is excited by this, but Nynaeve is violently against the notion of becoming an Aes Sedai.
Chased by Shadowspawn, the party is forced to take refuge in the haunted and deadly ruins of Shadar Logoth. Rand, Mat and Perrin meet a ghost named Mordeth there and barely escape from him alive. When the party attempts to leave the city, the glowing deadly fog called Mashadar forces them to separate.
Rand, Mat and Thom end up taking passage on Bayle Domon’s rivership heading to Whitebridge, and Rand discovers that Mat has taken a ruby-hilted dagger from Shadar Logoth despite Moiraine’s warnings not to touch anything of the city. Thom is apparently killed in Whitebridge saving the two boys from another Myrddraal, and Rand and Mat continue on alone to Caemlyn, dodging Darkfriends and battling privation. Mat’s behavior grows increasingly paranoid and mistrustful.
In Caemlyn, Rand befriends an Ogier named Loial, and then accidentally falls into the Palace gardens, where he meets Elayne Trakand, heir to the throne of Andor, her brother Gawyn Trakand, and her half-brother Galad Damodred. Galad has Rand arrested and brought before the Queen, Morgase Trakand. Elaida, Morgase’s Aes Sedai advisor, has the gift of Foretelling, and warns Morgase that Rand is dangerous, but Morgase decides to let him go free.
Meanwhile Egwene and Perrin have been traveling in the company of a man called Elyas Machera, who claims to talk to wolves, and says that Perrin can do the same. They run into a company of the Children of Light, also called Whitecloaks, and Perrin kills two of them after witnessing them kill a wolf. He is sentenced to death, but Moiraine, Lan, and Nynaeve rescue him and Egwene. Nynaeve notes that Perrin’s eyes have turned golden, just as Elyas’s were. When they reach Caemlyn, they find Mat almost completely corrupted by the influence of the dagger he stole; Moiraine somewhat restores him, but says he must go to Tar Valon to be healed completely.
Loial warns Moiraine of a threat to the Eye of the World, which is confirmed by the disturbing dreams Mat, Rand and Perrin have been having. The Eye of the World was created by Aes Sedai who sacrificed themselves to create a pool of saidin untouched by the Dark One’s taint, and is hidden in the Blight. The Eye of the World is protected by Someshta (the Green Man) and contains one of the seven seals on the Dark One’s prison, the Dragon banner of Lews Therin Telamon, and the Horn of Valere.
Loial guides the group through the Ways (passageways built by the male Aes Sedai during the Breaking of the World, which are now tainted by the same evil that tainted saidin) in order to reach the Eye of the World. There, the party is confronted by two of the Forsaken, Aginor and Balthamel. The Green Man kills Balthamel, and Aginor and Rand battle for control of the Eye of the World. Rand defeats Aginor, defies Ba’alzamon, and uses the Eye of the World to decimate the Trolloc army threatening human lands.
Afterwards Rand realizes to his horror that he has channeled the One Power and is therefore condemned to a fate of insanity and a rotting death. It is revealed that Moiraine believes Rand is the Dragon Reborn.
From Chapter 40, “The Web Tightens”:
The Queen motioned the Captain-General to stand aside, and when he did she studied Rand with a troubled look. It was to Elaida that she spoke, though. “What are you naming him? Darkfriend? One of Logain’s followers?”
“The Dark One stirs in Shayol Ghul,” the Aes Sedai replied. “The Shadow lies across the Pattern, and the future is balanced on the point of a pin. This one is dangerous.”
Suddenly Elayne moved, throwing herself onto her knees before the throne. “Mother, I beg you not to harm him. He would have left immediately had I not stopped him. He wanted to go. It was I who made him stay. I cannot believe he is a Darkfriend.”
Morgase made a soothing gesture toward her daughter, but her eyes remained on Rand. “Is this a Foretelling, Elaida? Are you reading the Pattern? You say it comes on you when you least expect it and goes as suddenly as it comes. If this is a Foretelling, Elaida, I command you to speak the truth clearly, without your usual habit of wrapping it in so much mystery that no one can tell if you have said yes or no. Speak. What do you see?”
“This I Foretell,” Elaida replied, “and swear under the Light that I can say no clearer. From this day Andor marches toward pain and division. The Shadow has yet to darken to its blackest, and I cannot see if the Light will come after. Where the world has wept one tear, it will weep thousands. This I Foretell.”
A pall of silence clung to the room, broken only by Morgase expelling her breath as if it were her last.
Elaida continued to stare into Rand’s eyes. She spoke again, barely moving her lips, so softly that he could barely hear her less than an arm’s length away. “This, too, I Foretell. Pain and division come to the whole world, and this man stands at the heart of it. I obey the Queen,” she whispered, “and speak it clearly.”
Rand felt as if his feet had become rooted in the marble floor. The cold and stiffness of the stone crept up his legs and sent a shiver up his spine. No one else could have heard. But she was still looking at him, and he had heard.
“I’m a shepherd,” he said for the entire room. “From the Two Rivers. A shepherd.”
In the Prologue, Ba’alzamon presides over a clandestine gathering of Darkfriends, from all nations and walks of life, including two Aes Sedai. Ba’alzamon shows them images of Rand, Mat and Perrin, and tells them he wants the Dragon to serve him.
Rand et al recover and rest at Fal Dara in the Borderlands. Suian Sanche, the Amyrlin (or leader) of the Aes Sedai comes to the castle, and she and Moiraine force Rand to confront her conviction that he is the Dragon Reborn. Rand, however, continues to deny it. Padan Fain is a prisoner to Fal Dara, where he had been revealed as a very powerful Darkfriend. He soon escapes, stealing the Horn of Valere and the tainted dagger Mat took from Shadar Logoth.
Mat will not survive long without the dagger, so he, Rand, and Perrin accompany Lord Ingtar south to retrieve it and the Horn. Egwene and Nynaeve go with Moiraine to Tar Valon to begin training as Aes Sedai, and find that Elayne Trakand and Min Farshaw are in the city as well. Egwene and Elayne are novices, but Nynaeve passes the test to become Accepted, the intermediate rank before full Aes Sedai. Egwene learns that she is a Dreamer, with the ability to see visions of the future in her sleep.
Rand, Loial, and a Shienaran “sniffer” named Hurin are separated from the rest of the party and transported to an alternate world via a Portal Stone. Rand meets Ba’alzamon there and has a heron branded onto one of his palms. They meet a mysterious woman named Selene, who helps them find another Stone and encourages Rand obliquely to use channeling to activate it. They return to their world far ahead of Ingtar’s party, and find Fain’s company, which they manage to infiltrate and steal back the Horn and the dagger. Meanwhile Perrin is guiding Ingtar’s party, pretending to be a sniffer like Hurin but in reality reluctantly using his connection to the wolves to track Fain.
Rand’s party travels to Cairhien, where Selene abruptly leaves them. Rand is overjoyed to find Thom Merrilin, whom he’d thought dead, in town. Rand and Loial are attacked by Trollocs and once again lose the Horn and dagger. Dena, Thom’s lover, is murdered for his involvement with Rand. Ingtar’s party finally catches up with Rand in Cairhien, and they determine that the Horn has been taken to Toman Head in the coastal town of Falme. Rand tries to use a Portal Stone to get them there more quickly, but this drastically backfires and the party ends up losing months of time.
Meanwhile, invaders from across the ocean called the Seanchan have occupied Falme, and the Whitecloaks are preparing to attack them. In Tar Valon, an Aes Sedai named Liandrin convinces Nynaeve and Egwene that Rand et al are in danger, and takes them along with Min and Elayne to Toman Head via the Ways. Once there, Liandrin betrays them to the Seanchan; Nynaeve and Elayne escape, but Min and Egwene are captured. Egwene is collared with an a’dam, a device used to enslave and control women who channel.
Rand, Mat, Perrin, Hurin, and Ingtar sneak into the occupied city to find the Horn and dagger. Rand confronts and kills High Lord Turak, who had been the commander of the Seanchan forces and also a blademaster. As they attempt to get out of the city with the Horn and dagger, Ingtar confesses to Rand that he is a Darkfriend, but redeems himself by sacrificing his own life to let the others escape.
Elayne and Nynaeve rescue Egwene and also attempt to flee the city, but the Whitecloaks attack, causing chaos. Rand et al are trapped between the two opposing armies, and in desperation, Mat blows the Horn of Valere, summoning dead heroes from the grave to aid them. All of the heroes greet Rand as “Lews Therin,” and treat him as an old friend. The heroes fight the Seanchan while Rand is drawn into a duel with Ba’alzamon that everyone in Falme sees in the sky; the two battles seem to depend upon each other. Rand is unable to defeat Ba’alzamon until in desperation he uses a suicidal move Lan taught him. He apparently kills Ba’alzamon but is severely wounded. Min finds him in the aftermath, and sees Selene, who reveals herself to be one of the Forsaken, Lanfear, and instructs Min to watch him until she comes back for him.
Rand wakes some days later with an unHealable wound in his side and the Dragon banner flying above their camp. The Shienarans pledge to him as the Dragon Reborn, and Rand finally accepts the title.
From Chapter 47, “The Grave is No Bar to My Call”:
Down the billowing fog, as if it were the side of a mountain, rode shapes on horses. At first the dense mists hid more than that, but slowly they came closer, and it was Rand’s turn to gasp. He knew them. Men, not all in armor, and women. Their clothes and their weapons came from every Age, but he knew them all.
Rogosh Eagle-eye, a fatherly looking man with white hair and eyes so sharp as to make his name merely a hint. Gaidal Cain, a swarthy man with the hilts of his two swords sticking above his broad shoulders. Golden-haired Birgitte, with her gleaming silver bow and quiver bristling with silver arrows. More. He knew their faces, knew their names. But he heard a hundred names when he looked at each face, some so different he did not recognize them as names at all, though he knew they were. Michael instead of Mikel. Patrick instead of Paedrig. Oscar instead of Otarin.
He knew the man who rode at their head, too. Tall and hook-nosed, with dark, deep-set eyes, his great sword Justice at his side. Artur Hawkwing.
Mat gaped at them as they reined in before him and the others. “Is this… ? Is this all of you?” They were little more than a hundred, Rand saw, and realized that somehow he had known that they would be. Hurin’s mouth hung open; his eyes bulged almost out of his head.
“It takes more than bravery to bind a man to the Horn.” Artur Hawkwing’s voice was deep and carrying, a voice used to giving commands.
“Or a woman,” Birgitte said sharply.
“Or a woman,” Hawkwing agreed. “Only a few are bound to the Wheel, spun out again and again to work the will of the Wheel in the Pattern of the Ages. You could tell him, Lews Therin, could you but remember when you wore flesh.” He was looking at Rand.
Rand shook his head, but he would not waste time with denials. “Invaders have come, men who call themselves Seanchan, who use chained Aes Sedai in battle. They must be driven back into the sea. And—and there is a girl. Egwene al’Vere. A novice from the White Tower. The Seanchan have her prisoner. You must help me free her.”
To his surprise, several of the small host behind Artur Hawkwing chuckled, and Birgitte, testing her bowstring, laughed. “You always choose women who cause you trouble, Lews Therin.” It had a fond sound, as between old friends.
“My name is Rand al’Thor,” he snapped. “You have to hurry. There isn’t much time.”
“Time?” Birgitte said, smiling. “We have all of time.” Gaidal Cain dropped his reins and, guiding his horse with his knees, drew a sword in either hand. All along the small band of heroes there was an unsheathing of swords, an unlimbering of bows, a hefting of spears and axes.
Justice shone like a mirror in Artur Hawkwing’s gauntleted fist. “I have fought by your side times beyond number, Lews Therin, and faced you as many more. The Wheel spins us out for its purposes, not ours, to serve the Pattern. I know you, if you do not know yourself. We will drive these invaders out for you.” His warhorse pranced, and he looked around, frowning. “Something is wrong here. Something holds me.” Suddenly he turned his sharp-eyed gaze on Rand. “You are here. Have you the banner?” A murmur ran through those behind him.
“Yes.” Rand tore open the straps of his saddlebags and pulled out the Dragon’s banner. It filled his hands and hung almost to his stallion’s knees. The murmur among the heroes rose.
“The Pattern weaves itself around our necks like halters,” Artur Hawkwing said. “You are here. The banner is here. The weave of this moment is set. We have come to the Horn, but we must follow the banner. And the Dragon.” Hurin made a faint sound as if his throat had seized.
“Burn me,” Mat breathed. “It’s true. Burn me!”
In the Prologue, the Lord Captain Commander of the Children of Light, Pedron Niall, meets with “Ordeith,” a man who has somehow gotten himself admitted to Niall’s inner council, who reiterates his conviction that Rand, Mat, Perrin, and most of the Two Rivers is a nest of Darkfriends. Niall decides it is time to do something about the region.
Rand al’Thor escapes the rest of his companions to travel alone to the Stone of Tear, to see if he fulfills the prophecies there and thus is truly the Dragon Reborn. Along the way he battles Darkfriends and Shadowspawn, and begins doubting his sanity. Moiraine sends Min to Tar Valon to report to the Amyrlin, while Perrin, Moiraine, Lan, and Loial chase after Rand. They are joined by a Hunter for the Horn named Zarine Bashere, though she insists on the name Faile. Along the way she and Perrin eventually fall in love. They discover that the Forsaken Sammael rules the nation of Illian.
Meanwhile a very ill Mat travels with Nynaeve, Elayne, Egwene, Hurin, and the Aes Sedai Verin Mathwin to Tar Valon. After a tense encounter with Whitecloaks outside the city, they arrive safely. Mat is Healed from his corruption from the dagger; after, he sometimes speaks the Old Tongue without realizing he is doing so. Elayne and Egwene are both raised to Accepted. Siuan Sanche tasks Elayne, Nynaeve, and Egwene with hunting for the Black Ajah, and they find clues which lead them to depart for Tear; before they go, Elayne gives Mat a letter to bring to her mother Morgase in Caemlyn. Mat, though still weak from his Healing, defeats Gawyn and Galad in a duel. After a bizarre night of unnaturally lucky gambling, Mat meets up with Thom Merrilin and escapes the city. They travel to Caemlyn to deliver Elayne’s letter, and Mat learns of a plot by Morgase’s lover Gaebril to murder Elayne. Vowing to stop the plan, Mat leaves Caemlyn to pursue the three women to Tear.
In Tear, Nynaeve, Egwene, and Elayne are unwillingly betrayed by Juilin Sandar, a thief catcher, (who was under the influence of a form of Compulsion from Liandrin) to the Black Ajah and then imprisoned in the Stone of Tear, where they are rescued by Mat and a repentant Juilin. Faile falls into a Black Ajah trap meant for Moiraine, and Perrin risks his life in the World of Dreams to rescue her.
Rand and the Forsaken Be’lal duel in the Stone of Tear. Moiraine interrupts the battle and kills Be’lal with balefire. Ba’alzamon appears, disables Moiraine, and attacks Rand. Rand takes Callandor, proving himself the Dragon Reborn, and, with it, kills Ba’alzamon. Rand thinks he has killed the Dark One, who he believes was Ba’alzamon, but Moiraine tells him that the Dark One is not human, and therefore cannot have been Ba’alzamon, because Ba’alzamon left behind a corpse. Egwene, remembering a parchment of prophecy that Verin Sedai showed her, instead deduces that the corpse is possibly Ishamael, Chief among the Forsaken. The Aiel in Tear take the Stone and reveal themselves as the People of the Dragon.
From Chapter 24, “Scouting and Discoveries”:
When he turned back, the quarterstaff in both hands before him, Gawyn and Galad were already waiting out where they had been practicing. I have to win. “Luck,” he muttered. “Time to toss the dice.”
Hammar gave him an odd look. “You speak the Old Tongue, lad?”
Mat stared back at him for a moment, not speaking. He felt cold to the bone. With an effort, he made his feet start out onto the practice yard. “Remember the wager,” he said loudly. “Two silver marks from each of you against two from me.”
A buzz rose from the Accepted as they realized what was happening. The Aes Sedai watched in silence. Disapproving silence.
Gawyn and Galad split apart, one to either side of him, keeping their distance, neither with his sword more than half-raised.
“No wager,” Gawyn said. “There’s no wager.”
At the same time, Galad said, “I’ll not take your money like this.”
“I mean to take yours,” Mat said.
“Done!” Hammar roared. “If they have not the nerve to cover your wager, lad, I’ll pay the score myself.”
“Very well,” Gawyn said. “If you insist on it—done!”
Galad hesitated a moment more before growling, “Done, then. Let us put an end to this farce.”
The moment’s warning was all Mat needed. As Galad rushed at him, he slid his hands along the quarterstaff and pivoted. The end of the staff thudded into the tall man’s ribs, bringing a grunt and a stumble. Mat let the staff bounce off Galad and spun, carrying it on around just as Gawyn came within range. The staff dipped, darted under Gawyn’s practice sword, and clipped his ankle out from under him. As Gawyn fell, Mat completed the spin in time to catch Galad across his upraised wrist, sending his practice sword flying. As if his wrist did not pain him at all, Galad threw himself into a smooth, rolling dive and came up with his sword in both hands.
Ignoring him for the moment, Mat half turned, twisting his wrists to whip the length of the staff back beside him. Gawyn, just starting to rise, took the blow on the side of his head with a loud thump only partly softened by the padding of hair. He went down in a heap.
Mat was only vaguely aware of an Aes Sedai rushing out to tend Elayne’s fallen brother.I hope he’s all right. He should be. I’ve hit myself harder than that falling off a fence. He still had Galad to deal with, and from the way Galad was poised on the balls of his feet, sword raised precisely, he had begun to take Mat seriously.
Mat’s legs chose that moment to tremble. Light, I can’t weaken now. But he could feel it creeping back in, the wobbly feeling, the hunger as if he had not eaten for days. If I wait for him to come to me, I’ll fall on my face. It was hard to keep his knees straight as he started forward. Luck, stay with me.
From the first blow, he knew that luck, or skill, or whatever had brought him this far, was still there. Galad managed to turn that one with a sharp clack, and the next, and the next, and the next, but strain stiffened his face. That smooth swordsman, almost as good as the Warders, fought with every ounce of his skill to keep Mat’s staff from him. He did not attack; it was all he could do to defend. He moved continually to the side, trying not to be forced back, and Mat pressed him, staff a blur. And Galad stepped back, stepped back again, wooden blade a thin shield against the quarterstaff.
Hunger gnawed at Mat as if he had swallowed weasels. Sweat rolled down into his eyes, and his strength began to fade as if it leached out with the sweat. Not yet. I can’t fall yet. I have to win. Now. With a roar, he threw all his reserves into one last surge.
The quarterstaff flickered past Galad’s sword and in quick succession struck knee, wrist, and ribs and finally thrust into Galad’s stomach like a spear. With a groan, Galad folded over, fighting not to fall. The staff quivered in Mat’s hands, on the point of a final crushing thrust to the throat. Galad sank to the ground.
Mat almost dropped the quarterstaff when he realized what he had been about to do. Win, not kill. Light, what was I thinking? Reflexively he grounded the butt of the staff, and as soon he did, he had to clutch at it to hold himself erect. Hunger hollowed him like a knife reaming marrow from a bone. Suddenly he realized that not only the Aes Sedai and Accepted were watching. All practice, all learning, had stopped. Warders and students alike stood watching him.
Hammar moved to stand beside Galad, still groaning on the ground and trying to push himself up. The Warder raised his voice to shout, “Who was the greatest blademaster of all time?”
From the throats of dozens of students came a massed bellow. “Jearom, Gaidin!”
“Yes!” Hammar shouted, turning to make sure all heard. “During his lifetime, Jearom fought over ten thousand times, in battle and single combat. He was defeated once. By a farmer with a quarterstaff. Remember that. Remember what you just saw.”
In Tear, Selene appears to Rand and reveals herself as Lanfear, and entreats him to join her, but then the Stone is stormed by two different groups of Shadowspawn: one sent by Sammael to kill Rand, and the other by another Forsaken, Semirhage, to protect him. Rand uses Callandor to kill them all, leading many of his followers to believe he is going mad.
Despite rumors of trouble in the Two Rivers, Rand decides to go to the Aiel Waste and seek answers there. Egwene goes with him, hoping to learn more about her prophetic dreams, and Moiraine is going as well. Mat is unsure what to do, but after receiving cryptic warnings from snakelike beings called Aelfinn on the other side of a mysterious portal, decides to go with Rand. Perrin is then left to return to the Two Rivers, and Faile and Loial go with him. Elayne, Nynaeve, and Thom decide to resume their hunt for the Black Ajah in Tarabon.
In the Waste, Rand meets Aviendha, an Aiel Maiden of the Spear who is training to become a Wise One, the society of women channelers among the Aiel. She, Rand, Moiraine, and Mat all enter the abandoned city of Rhuidean to test themselves in the ter’angreal there. Rand relives the history of the Aiel (his paternal ancestors) from both before and after the Breaking, when the prison that holds the Dark One away from the world was breached and the taint on saidin drove the male Aes Sedai mad, sending the world into chaos. He emerges with dragon tattoos on both arms, marking him as the Car’a’carn, the Chief of Chiefs among the Aiel.
Mat finds a portal similar to the one he entered in Tear and goes inside, to find the foxlike counterparts to the snaky Aelfinn. The Eelfinn do not answer questions, however, but instead bargain for gifts. They hang him as the price for his gifts, but Rand resuscitates him. He is left with the memories of hundreds of war leaders in his head, a fluency in the Old Tongue, a bladed spear called an ashanderei, and a medallion which protects him from the One Power.
Moiraine and Aviendha each separately enter a different ter’angreal which is a testing ground for potential Wise Ones, which gives a confusing glimpse into their futures. Afterwards, the Wise Ones assign Aviendha to teach Rand Aiel ways as they travel to Cold Rocks Hold to announce Rand’s new title. Along the way they encounter a caravan of merchants, which accompanies them. At Cold Rocks, Rand’s declaration is undermined by an Aiel named Couladin, who declares that he is the Car’a’carn. To prove Couladin an imposter, Rand is forced to reveal the secrets he learned at Rhuidean, that the Aiel once eschewed violence. An uproar follows, which Rand short-circuits by creating a thunderstorm in a place which never sees rain.
Rand then chases a Forsaken named Asmodean back to Rhuidean, who had been disguised as a gleeman among the merchants. Asmodean is trying to acquire the keys to the Choedan Kal, the most powerful sa’angreal ever created, but Rand defeats him and cuts him off from the Dark One. Lanfear appears and puts a heavy shield on Asmodean, forcing him to teach Rand how to channel. Rand returns to Cold Rocks to find most of the Aiel accept him as Car’a’carn, but Couladin’s clan, the Shaido, have broken from the rest.
In the Two Rivers, Perrin discovers that the people are caught between Trollocs, led by a mysterious man named Slayer, who hunts wolves in the World of Dreams, and the Children of the Light, with whom Padan Fain is working, who believe Perrin is a Darkfriend. He also finds Verin Mathwin and Alanna Mosvani, both Aes Sedai, in the Two Rivers, along with a man calling himself Lord Luc who claims to be helping the people but only seems to be hindering. With the help of the Aes Sedai, Tam al’Thor (Rand’s father), Faile, Loial, and the Aiel Gaul, Perrin leads the people of the Two Rivers to war against the Trollocs, and the villagers begin to call him Lord Perrin, and Perrin Goldeneyes, titles that he tries without success to discourage. Before the final victory, Perrin marries Faile, and drives out Lord Luc after discovering that Lord Luc and Slayer are the same person.
In the city of Tanchico, Elayne and Nynaeve encounter the Forsaken Moghedien and the Black Ajah, and remove a male a’dam from their possession as well as one of the Seals on the Dark One’s prison. Elayne and Nynaeve also meet Bayle Domon and the Seanchan Egeanin, who comes to learn that the things she has been told all her life about women who channel are lies. They rescue the Panarch Amathera from the Black sister Temaile, who is tormenting her. Nynaeve and Moghedien confront one another directly, and Nynaeve discovers that when she is not blocked, she is equal in power to the Forsaken. Nynaeve shields the Forsaken, but they are discovered by one of the Black Ajah, who damages the palace using a ter’angreal that makes balefire. In the confusion, Moghedien escapes.
In Tar Valon, Min arrives at The White Tower and sees numerous visions that portend something terrible happening there. She reports these to Siuan Sanche, but the Amyrlin only decides to hide Min in plain sight at the Tower, in the guise of Elmindreda, a giddy, empty-headed woman unable to decide between two suitors. However, her arrival has tipped off Elaida that something is going on between Siuan, Moiraine, and the Dragon Reborn.
In a bloody coup d’etat, Elaida and her supporters confront and depose Siuan, stilling her and Leane Sharif, her Keeper of the Chronicles (stripping them of the ability to channel). Elaida is made Amyrlin and many Aes Sedai flee, splitting the Tower. Min hides, and with the help of the cook Laras, frees the deposed Amyrlin Seat and Leane. Min, Siuan and Leane are recognized by Gawyn Trakand as they try to flee the Tower grounds. He is reluctant to help Siuan since the disappearance of Elayne, but he helps them escape because it means helping Egwene, with whom he is in love. While riding through the city toward freedom across one of the bridges, they come across Logain, a former false Dragon who had been gentled (stripped of the ability to channel) whom they talk into going with them.
[I realistically can’t quote the entirety of Chapters 25 and 26 here, but if you read any two chapters of the entire Wheel of Time, it should be these two—the story of the Aiel, the story of the Breaking, and, really, the story of the Fall.]
In the Prologue, Elaida tries to solidify her rule over the Aes Sedai remaining in the Tower and meets with Padan Fain, who gives her advice about controlling Rand. The Forsaken Rahvin, Lanfear, Graendal and Sammael meet to discuss what do to in the wake of Ishamael’s death, and come to a precarious truce.
In Rhuidean, Rand has begun hearing a voice in his head, and having memories that are not his own. Egwene continues her training as a Dreamer and a Wise One. Chasing the Shaido Aiel, who have crossed over the Spine of the World and are pillaging Cairhien, Rand al’Thor leads his Aiel over the Spine and meets the Shaido in the Second Battle of Cairhien. Mat tries to escape the entire affair, but almost inadvertently saves some troops from a Shaido ambush. Roped into continuing to command these troops throughout the day, he wins numerous battles using the memories of past generals he received from the Eelfinn in Rhuidean, earning their personal loyalty. Mat kills the Shaido leader, Couladin, in battle, and the Shaido Aiel retreat in defeat.
Falsely believing Queen Morgase Trakand of Andor dead at the hands of the Forsaken Rahvin, who is masquerading as her former lover Lord Gaebril, an angry Rand prepares to Travel to Caemlyn with a small Aiel strike force. Before he can do so, Lanfear, learning that Rand slept with Aviendha, attempts to kill them both in a jealous rage. Moiraine Damodred stops Lanfear by hurling them both through the Eelfinn doorway, which melts down, seemingly killing both herself and Lanfear.
Rand attacks Caemlyn. During the ensuing battle, Rahvin kills Mat, Asmodean, and Aviendha, but Rand hunts down Rahvin in Tel’aran’rhiod and, with Nynaeve’s clandestine help, destroys him with balefire, thereby reversing the deaths of Mat, Asmodean, and Aviendha. Asmodean, however, is later killed again by an unknown assailant.
Min, Leane, Siuan and Logain travel in search of the rebel Aes Sedai, entangling themselves along the way with Gareth Bryne, once Queen Morgase’s advisor and now exiled by her under the influence of Compulsion. Morgase has since somewhat realized what is happening to her, and escaped Caemlyn. Bryne follows Siuan et al to Salidar, where none of them have the reception they quite expected.
Nynaeve, Elayne, Thom, and Juilin travel disguised as circus performers through lands filled with Seanchan left behind from the battle at Toman Head, Dragonsworn, bandits, and Whitecloaks, attempting to find the base of the rebel Aes Sedai. On the way they are aided against Moghedien by Birgitte in the World of Dreams. In retaliation, Moghedien rips Birgitte out of the dream world into the real world; Elayne bonds Birgitte as her Warder to save her life. Nynaeve finally remembers that the rebels are in Salidar; after they arrive, Nynaeve is able to trap the Forsaken Moghedien in Tel’aran’rhiod with the use of an a’dam.
From Chapter 43, “This Place, This Day”:
The other Cairhienin lords gathered round on their horses, watching, but none so sharply as Talmanes. Talmanes studied the map he drew, and studied him from boots to hat, even his spear. When he was done, the fellow still did not speak, until Mat barked, “Well? I don’t care whether you take it or leave it, but your friends will be hip-deep in Aiel in not much longer.”
“The Tairens are no friends of mine. And Daerid is… useful. Certainly not a friend.” Dry chuckles ran through the onlooking lords at the suggestion. “But I will lead one half, if you lead the other.”
Talmanes pulled off one steel-backed gauntlet and put out his hand, but for a moment Mat only stared at it. Lead? Him? I’m a gambler, not a soldier. A lover. Memories of battles long gone spun through his head, but he forced them down. All he had to do was ride on. But then maybe Talmanes would leave Estean and Daerid and the rest to roast. On the spit Mat had hung them from. Even so, it was a surprise to him when he grasped the other’s hand and said, “You just be there when you’re supposed to be.”
For reply Talmanes began calling off names in a quick voice. Lords and lordlings reined toward Mat, each followed by a bannerman and perhaps a dozen retainers, until he had four hundred odd of the Cairhienin. Talmanes did not have much to say after, either; he just led the remainder west at a trot, trailing a faint cloud of dust.
“Keep together,” Mat told his half. “Charge when I say charge, run when I say run, and don’t make any noise you don’t have to.” There was the creak of saddles and the thud of hooves as they followed him, of course, but at least they did not talk, or ask questions.
A last glimpse of the other bristle of bright banners and con, and then a twist in the shallow valley hid them. How had he gotten into this? It had all started so simply. Just give warning and go. Each step after had seemed so small, so necessary. And now he had waded waist deep into the mud, and no choice but to keep on. He hoped Talmanes meant to show up. The man had not even asked who he was.
The hill valley twisted and forked as he angled north, but he had a good sense of direction. For instance, he knew exactly which way lay south and safety, and it was not the way he was heading. Dark clouds were forming up there toward the city, the first he had seen so thick in a long time. Rain would break the drought—good for the farmers, if any remained—and settle the dust—good for horsemen, so they did not announce themselves too early. Maybe if it rained, the Aiel would give up and go home. The wind was beginning to pick up, too, bringing a little cool, for a wonder.
The sound of fighting drifted over the crests, men shouting, men screaming. It had begun.
Mat turned Pips, raised his spear and swung it right and left. He was almost surprised when the Cairhienin formed into one long line to either side of him, facing upslope. The gesture had been instinctive, from another time and place, but then, these men had seen fighting. He started Pips up through the scattered trees at a slow walk, and they kept pace to the quiet jangle of bridles.
His first thought on reaching the height was relief at seeing Talmanes and his men coming into sight on the crest across from him. His second was to curse.
Daerid had formed the hedgehog, spiny thickets of pikes four deep interspersed with bowmen to make a large hollow square. Long pikes made it difficult for the Shaido to get close, however they rushed in, and the archers and crossbowmen were exchanging shots hot and fast with the Aiel. Men were falling on both sides, but the pikes simply closed in when one of their number went down, making the square tighter. Of course, the Shaido did not appear to slacken their assault either.
The Defenders were dismounted in the center, and maybe half the Tairen lords with their retainers. Half. That was what made him want to curse. The rest dashed about among the Aiel, slashing and stabbing with sword and lance in knots of five or ten, or alone. Dozens of riderless horses told how well they were doing. Melanril was off with only his bannerman, laying about with his blade. Two Aiel darted in to neatly hamstring the lordling’s horse; it fell, head flailing—Mat was sure it screamed, but the din swallowed it—and then Melanril vanished behind cadin’sor-clad figures, spears stabbing. The bannerman lasted a moment longer.
Good riddance, Mat thought grimly. Standing in his stirrups, he raised the sword-bladed spear high, then swept it forward, shouting, “Los! Los caba’drin!”
He would have had the words back if he could, and not because they were Old Tongue; it was a boiling cauldron down in the valley. But whether or not any of the Cairhienin understood a command of “horsemen forward” in the Old Tongue, they understood the gesture, especially when he dropped back into his saddle and dug in his heels. Not that he really wanted to, but be could not see any choice now. He had put those men down there—some might have gotten away if he had told them to turn and run—and he just did not have a choice.
Banners and con waving, the Cairhienin charged downhill with him, shouting battle cries. In imitation of him, no doubt, though what he was shouting was “Blood and bloody ashes!” Across the valley, Talmanes raced down just as hard.
Sure that they had all the wetlanders penned, the Shaido never saw the others until crashed into from behind on both sides. It was then that the lightning began to fall. And after that things really got hairy.
In the Prologue, Demandred goes to the Pit of Doom and meets Shaidar Haran, a strange giant Myrddraal. Later Demandred meets with the other surviving Forsaken (excepting Sammael) and tells them the Great Lord’s message is “Let the Lord of Chaos rule.” Mesaana tells them she will have Rand al’Thor in hand soon. Morgase is in the hands of Pedron Niall in Amadicia. A man named Osan’gar wakes, amazed to be alive and in a new body; his companion, Aran’gar, is furious to be in a woman’s body. They receive orders from Shaidar Haran.
Rand is shuffling back and forth between Cairhien and Caemlyn, attempting to rule them both. Mazrim Taim, a former false Dragon, arrives in Caemlyn and pledges allegiance to Rand. Neither Rand nor the voice in his head trust him, but nevertheless Rand sets him up to run the new Black Tower; Rand has declared an amnesty for male channelers and wants Taim to recruit and train them.
Egwene recovers from her ordeal and falls in love with Gawyn, meeting with him in secret. She is summoned to Salidar, where she is raised Amyrlin of the rebel faction of the Aes Sedai. She reunites with Nynaeve and Elayne, who are using a collared Moghedien to learn more about channeling, but Nynaeve discovers how to Heal stilling and gentling on her own. Egwene is determined to be more than the figurehead she’s been set up to be, and sets the rebels marching toward Tar Valon. She raises Nynaeve and Elayne to full Aes Sedai, and sends them to Ebou Dar to search for the Bowl of the Winds, in order to end the unnatural drought upon the land.
In the Two Rivers, Perrin feels Rand summoning him from afar and departs to find him. Rand is being diplomatically courted by both the Tower Aes Sedai and the rebel faction in Salidar. Alanna Sedai and Verin inadvertently join the rebel envoy in Caemlyn. Alanna bonds Rand as her Warder against his will, but finds she cannot use the bond to control him.
While establishing his personal army, the Band of the Red Hand, Mat takes in a young orphan named Olver. Mistakenly believing the rebels to be few in number and cowed, Rand sends Mat to retrieve Elayne so he can put her on the throne in Andor. Mat finds the rebels in no way cowed, and Elayne flatly refuses to go with him. He is reluctantly strong-armed into following her and Nynaeve to Ebou Dar.
Shortly after Perrin joins up with him, Rand is secretly kidnapped by Elaida’s Aes Sedai, who begin journeying back to Tar Valon. Along the way Rand is tortured severely, which nearly drives him insane. Learning of the kidnapping, Perrin leads a mixed force of Rand’s followers after the Aes Sedai, leading to the climactic Battle of Dumai’s Wells. At the end of the battle, the rebel Aes Sedai with Perrin’s forces are forced to swear fealty to the Dragon Reborn, while the surviving White Tower Aes Sedai, who kidnapped Rand, remain captives.
From Chapter 29, “Fire and Spirit”:
Clearing her throat, [Nynaeve] wove filaments of saidar into [Logain], Air and Water, Fire and Earth, Spirit. All the elements of Healing, but used now to probe. It would have helped to lay her hands on him, but she could not bring herself to do that. Bad enough to touch him with the Power. He was healthy as a bull and almost as strong, nothing wrong with him in the slightest—except for the hole.
It was not really a hole, more a feeling that what seemed continuous was not, that what seemed smooth and straight was really skirting around an absence. She knew that sensation well, from the early days, back when she thought she might really learn something. It still made her skin crawl.
He looked up at her intently. She did not remember moving closer. His face was fixed in a mask of brazen contempt; she might not be Aes Sedai, but she was the next thing to it.
“How can you do all of that at once?” Elayne asked. “I could not keep track of half of it.”
“Hush,” Nynaeve murmured. Hiding the effort required, she took Logain’s head in her hands roughly. Yes. It was better with physical contact, the impressions sharper.
She directed the full flow of saidar into where the hole should have been—and was almost surprised to find an emptiness. Of course, she still did not expect to learn anything. Men were as different from women in the Power as they were in flesh, maybe more so. She might as well study a rock to find out about fish. It was hard to keep her thoughts on what she was doing, knowing she was only going through motions, killing time as it were.
What is Myrelle going to say? Would she keep back a message from Egwene? That emptiness, so small she could pass right over it, was vast once she slipped the flows inside, immense enough to swallow them all. If only I could talk to Egwene. I’ll wager once she knows the Tower is sending an embassy to Rand, and the Aes Sedai here are just sitting on their hands, she’ll help me convince Elayne we’ve done all we can here. Vast emptiness; nothingness. What about what she had found in Siuan and Leane, the feel of something cut? She was sure it was real, however faint. Men and women might be different, but maybe… All I need to do is talk to her somehow. She’ll see that Rand would be better off with us there. Elayne will listen to her; Elayne thinks Egwene knows Rand better than anybody else. There it was. Something cut. Just an impression, but the same as in Siuan and Leane. So how do I find her? If only she’d pop into our dreams again. I’ll bet I can talk her into joining us. The three of us would do much better with Rand. Together, we could tell him what we learn in Tel’aran’rhiod, keep him from making some wool-headed mistake with the Aes Sedai. She’ll see that. Something about that cut… if it was bridged with Fire and Spirit, so…
It was the slight widening of Logain’s eyes that told her what she had done. Breath froze in her throat. She backed away from him so fast she stumbled over her skirt.
“Nynaeve,” Elayne said, sitting up straight, “what is the mat—?”
A heartbeat, and Nynaeve had all of saidar she could hold redirected into a shield. “Go find Sheriam,” she said hurriedly. “Nobody else but Sheriam. Tell her…” She drew a deep breath that seemed like her first in hours; her heart was speeding to beat galloping horses. “Tell her I’ve Healed Logain.”
In the aftermath of Dumai’s Wells, Rand struggles to maintain control of his conquered territories as well as of his own mind. He falls in love with Min, and feels extreme guilt about loving three women at once (Min, Elayne, and Aviendha). During his attempt to quash a rebellion by Cairhienin nobles, Rand is attacked by Padan Fain, who severely injures him with the Shadar Logoth dagger; he is rescued by Cadsuane, a mysterious and cantankerous Aes Sedai who has inveigled herself into his council. Rand leads the Asha’man in an assault on Illian, and chases Sammael to Shadar Logoth, where he is assisted in his battle by a mysterious stranger. Sammael is killed by Mashadar, and Rand takes the crown of Illian, formerly the Laurel Crown, but now called the Crown of Swords.
Perrin has a pretend fight with Rand and takes his forces to Ghealdan to deal with the Prophet Masema.
Egwene and Siuan work together to manipulate the rebel Aes Sedai to continue to move against Elaida’s faction in Tar Valon. Egwene discovers that Lan’s bond has been illegally transferred from Moiraine to Myrelle, and uses the knowledge to force Myrelle and Nisao to swear fealty to her directly, an unheard-of measure.
In Ebou Dar, Elayne, Nynaeve, Birgitte, Aviendha, and search for the Bowl of the Winds. They initially work at cross-purposes with Mat, but eventually trust is gained. Nynaeve is reunited with Lan, and breaks her channeling block. They enlist the help of the Kin, a secret society of female channelers, and the Sea Folk, and retrieve the Bowl. They are attacked by a gholam, a creature immune to channeling, killing several of their party before Mat defeats it with his medallion. In the face of an impending Seanchan invasion, they flee Ebou Dar, but Mat is left behind to search for Olver, and is taken out of the action when a wall collapses on him.
[This is not actually my favorite passage from this book, but since I already quoted that one at length in the Reread, I thought I’d pick another fave here.]
From Chapter 30, “The First Cup”:
My Lady Elayne,
I greet the Daughter-Heir of Andor with joyous news. I have but just learned that your mother, Queen Morgase, lives and is at present the guest of Pedron Niall in Amador, and wishes above all to be reunited with you so that you may return to Andor together in triumph. I offer escort through the bandits now infesting Altara, so that you may reach your mother’s side in safety and all speed. Forgive these few poor words, scribbled in haste, but I know you would wish to learn the wondrous news as soon as possible. Until I can leave you at your mother’s side.
Sealed in the Light,
The paper crumpled in her fist. How dare he? The pain of her mother’s death, without even a body to be buried, was only beginning to fade, and Carridin dared mock her this way? Embracing the True Source, she hurled the foul lies away from her and channeled; fire flared in midair, so hot that only a dust of ash fell to the blue-and-gold floor tiles. That for Jaichim Carridin. And as for these… women! The pride of a thousand years of Andoran queens put steel into her backbone.
Merilille surged to her feet. “You were not given permission to channel! You will release the—!”
“Leave us, Pol,” Elayne said. “Now.” The serving woman stared, but Elayne’s mother had taught her well the voice of command, the voice of a Queen from her throne. Pol bobbed a curtsy and was moving before she realized. Once under way, she hesitated only an instant before hurrying out and closing the door behind her. Whatever was about to happen plainly was for Aes Sedai alone.
“What has gotten into you, child?” Pure fury submerged the remnants of Merilille’s regathered calm. “Release the Source immediately, or I vow, I’ll fetch a slipper myself this minute!”
“I am Aes Sedai.” The words came out like winter stone, and Elayne meant them to. Carridin’s lies and these women. Merilille threatened to slipper her? They would acknowledge her rightful place as a sister. She and Nynaeve had found the Bowl! As good as, anyway, and the arrangements for its use were under way. “You propose to punish me for endangering a secret apparently known only to sisters, but no one bothered to tell me this secret when I attained the shawl. You suggest punishing me like a novice or Accepted, but I am Aes Sedai. I was raised to the shawl by Egwene al’Vere, the Amyrlin you claim to serve. If you deny that Nynaeve and I are Aes Sedai, then you deny the Amyrlin Seat who sent me to find the Bowl of the Winds, which we have done. I will not have it! I call you to account, Merilille Ceandevin. Submit to the will of the Amyrlin Seat, or I will call judgment on you as a rebellious traitor!”
Merilille’s eyes bulged, and her mouth hung open, but she appeared composed beside Careane or Sareitha, who looked about to choke to death on incredulity. Vandene seemed mildly taken aback, a thoughtful finger pressed to her lips beneath slightly widened eyes, while Adeleas sat forward, studying Elayne as if seeing her for the first time.
Channeling, Elayne floated one of the tall armchairs to her and sat, composing her skirts. “You may as well sit, too, Merilille.” She still used the voice of command—apparently it was the only way to make them listen—but she was startled when Merilille actually sank back down slowly, staring at her pop-eyed.
Outside, she maintained a calm, cool façade, but inside, anger bubbled. No, it boiled. Secrets. She had always thought Aes Sedai kept too many secrets, even from each other. Especially from each other. True, she kept some herself, but only at necessity, and not from anyone who needed to know. And these women had thought to punish her! “Your authority comes from the Hall of the Tower, Merilille; Nynaeve’s and mine from the Amyrlin Seat. Ours supersedes yours. From now on, you will take your instructions from Nynaeve or me. We will of course listen carefully to any advice you might offer.” She had thought Merilille’s eyes bulged before, but now…
“Impossible,” the Gray spluttered. “You are—”
“Merilille!” Elayne said sharply, leaning forward. “Do you still deny the authority of your Amyrlin? Do you still dare?” Merilille’s mouth worked soundlessly. She wet her lips. She shook her head jerkily. Elayne felt a thrill of exultation; all that about Merilille taking direction was stuff and nonsense, of course, but she would be acknowledged. Thom and her mother both said you must begin by asking for ten to get one.
[…] She stood, and to her astonishment, Adeleas did also, and Vandene, waving away Careane’s offered tea, and Sareitha. Even Merilille, after a moment. They all looked at her expectantly, even Merilille.
Vandene noticed her surprise, and smiled. “Another thing you might not know. We are a contentious lot in many ways, we Aes Sedai, each jealous of her place and prerogatives, but when someone is placed above us or stands above us, we tend to follow her fairly meekly for the most part. However we might grumble about her decisions in private.”
“Why, so we do,” Adeleas murmured happily, as if she had just discovered something.
Merilille took a deep breath, absorbing herself for a moment in straightening her skirts. “Vandene is right,” she said. “You stand above us in yourself, and I must admit, you apparently have been placed above us. If our behavior calls for penance… Well, you will tell us if it does. Where are we to follow you? If I may ask?” There was no sarcasm in any of that; if anything, her tone was more polite than Elayne had heard out of her before.
She thought any Aes Sedai who ever lived would have been proud to control her features as well as she did right then. All she had wanted was for them to admit she really was Aes Sedai. She fought a momentary urge to protest that she was too young, too inexperienced. “You can never put honey back in the comb,” so Lini used to say when she was a girl. Egwene was no older.
Drawing breath, she smiled warmly. “The first thing to recall is that we are all sisters, in every meaning of the word. We must work together; the Bowl of the Winds is too important for anything less.” She hoped they would all nod so enthusiastically when she told them what Egwene intended. “Perhaps we should sit again.” They waited for her before folding themselves back into their seats. She hoped Nynaeve was getting on a tenth so well. When she found out about this, Nynaeve was going to faint from shock.
Elayne Trakand, Nynaeve al’Meara, and Aviendha escape the Seanchan invasion of Ebou Dar, and use the ter’angreal called the Bowl of the Winds to reverse the unnatural heat brought on by the Dark One’s manipulation of the climate. They Travel to Andor, where Elayne formally makes her claim to the Lion Throne.
Perrin Aybara moves into Ghealdan in an attempt to stop Masema Dagar, the self-proclaimed Prophet of the Dragon. He unknowingly rescues Deposed Queen Morgase of Andor (who escaped from the Whitecloaks and now goes by the name of Maighdin), from the Prophet’s men. He secures an oath of fealty from Alliandre, Queen of Ghealdan. At the end of the book, Faile Bashere is kidnapped by the Shaido Aiel.
Egwene al’Vere finally manipulates the rebel Aes Sedai into giving her actual authority as Amyrlin, and they and the army Gareth Bryne has built for them Travel to Tar Valon to begin their siege of the White Tower.
In the Tower, several Aes Sedai have begun a hunt for the Black Ajah. Toveine Gazal leads a contingent of fifty Aes Sedai to subdue the Black Tower, only to find the Asha’man much stronger and more established than they imagined. Toveine and her companions are captured and forcibly bonded to Asha’man to control them.
Rand al’Thor, with the Asha’man and the Illianer army, attempts to repel the Seanchan invasion in Altara. Though successful in early skirmishes, things go awry later, when Rand uses Callandor on the Seanchan army. The inherent instability in Callandor causes Rand to lose control, causing much destruction to both armies and forcing a stalemate. Returning to Cairhien, Rand is attacked by Darkfriend Asha’man led by Dashiva; the assassination attempt wrecks much of the Sun Palace. Afterward Rand prepares to leave with Min.
From Chapter 19, “The Law”:
Egwene felt bile rising in her own throat. Ten. Just ten. She had been so sure. Siuan had been so sure. Logain alone should have been enough, given their ignorance of the law involved. Pelivar’s army and Arathelle refusing to admit that they were Sitters should have primed them like a pump.
“For the love of the Light!” Moria burst out. Rounding on Lyrelle and Lelaine, she planted her fists on her hips. If Janya’s speaking had gone against custom, this tied it in a knot. Displays of anger were strictly forbidden in the Hall, but Moria’s eyes blazed, and her Illianer accent was thick with it. “Why do you wait? Elaida did steal the stole and the staff! Elaida’s Ajah did make Logain a false Dragon, and only the Light knows how many other men! No woman in the history of the Tower did ever deserve this declaration more! Stand, or hold silent from now about your resolve to remove her!”
Lelaine did not quite stare, but by her expression you might have thought she had found herself attacked by a sparrow. “This is hardly worth a vote, Moria,” she said in a tight voice. “We will speak later about decorum, you and I. Still, if you need a demonstration of resolve…” With a sharp sniff, she rose, and gave a jerk of her head that pulled Lyrelle to her feet like strings. Lelaine seemed surprised that it did not pull up Faiselle and Takima, too.
Far from standing, Takima grunted as if struck. Disbelief bright on her face, she ran her eyes along the women on their feet, obviously counting. And then did it again. Takima, who remembered everything the first time.
Egwene breathed deep in relief. It was done. She could hardly believe. After a moment, she cleared her throat, and Sheriam actually jumped.
Green eyes as big as teacups, the Keeper cleared her throat, too. “The lesser consensus standing, war is declared against Elaida do Avriny a’Roihan.” Her voice was none too steady, but it sufficed. “In the interest of unity, I ask for the greater consensus to stand.”
Faiselle half-moved, then clenched her hands in her lap. Saroiya opened her mouth, then closed it without speaking, her face troubled. No one else stirred.
“You won’t get it,” Romanda said flatly. The sneer she directed across the pavilion at Lelaine was as good as a statement of why she, at least, would not stand. “Now that little business is finished, we can go on with—”
“I don’t think we can,” Egwene cut in. “Takima, what does the Law of War say about the Amyrlin Seat?” Romanda was left with her mouth hanging open.
Takima’s lips writhed. The diminutive Brown looked more than ever a bird wishing to take flight. “The Law…” she began, then took a deep breath and sat up straight. “The Law of War states, ‘As one set of hands must guide a sword, so the Amyrlin Seat shall direct and prosecute the war by decree. She shall seek the advice of the Hall of the Tower, but the Hall shall carry out her decrees with all possible speed, and for the sake of unity, they shall…’ ” She faltered, and had to visibly force herself to go on. “ ‘…they shall and must approve any decree of the Amyrlin Seat regarding prosecution of the war with the greater consensus.’ ”
A long silence stretched. Every eye seemed to be goggling. Turning abruptly, Delana vomited onto the carpets behind her bench. Kwamesa and Salita both climbed down and started toward her, but she waved them off, plucking a scarf from her sleeve to wipe her mouth. Magla and Saroiya and several others still seated looked as though they might follow her example. No others who had been chosen in Salidar, though. Romanda appeared ready to bite through a nail.
“Very clever,” Lelaine said at last in clipped tones, and after a deliberate pause, added, “Mother. Will you tell us what the great wisdom of your vast experience tells you to do? About the war, I mean. I want to make myself clear.”
“Let me make myself clear, too,” Egwene said coldly. Leaning forward, she fixed the Blue Sitter sternly. “A certain degree of respect is required toward the Amyrlin Seat, and from now on, I will have it, daughter. This is no time for me to have to unchair you and name a penance.” Lelaine’s eyes crept wider and wider with shock. Had the woman really believed everything would continue as before? Or after so long not daring to show more than the tiniest backbone, had Lelaine simply believed she had none? Egwene really did not want to unchair her; the Blues would almost certainly return the woman, and she still had to deal with the Hall on matters that could not be convincingly disguised as part of the war against Elaida.
From the corner of her eye, she saw a smile pass across Romanda’s lips at seeing Lelaine set down. Small profit if all she did was raise Romanda’s stock with the others. “That holds for everyone, Romanda,” she said. “If need be, Tiana can find two birches as easily as one.” Romanda’s smile vanished abruptly.
“If I may speak, Mother,” Takima said, rising slowly. She attempted a smile, but she still looked decidedly ill. “I myself think you have begun well. There may be benefits to stopping here a month. Or longer.” Romanda’s head jerked around to stare at her, but for once, Takima did not appear to notice. “Wintering here, we can avoid worse weather further north, and also plan carefully—”
“There’s an end to delays, daughter,” Egwene cut in. “No more dragging our feet.” Would she be another Gerra, or another Shein? Either was still possible. “In one month, we will Travel from here.” No; she was Egwene al’Vere, and whatever the secret histories would say of her faults and virtues, the Light only knew, but they would be hers, not copies of some other woman’s. “In one month, we will begin the siege of Tar Valon.”
This time, the silence was broken only by the sound of Takima weeping.
Perrin Aybara and his followers pursue the Shaido Aiel who kidnapped his wife, Faile Bashere.
Elayne Trakand attempts to solidify her grip on the Lion Throne and put down rebellious nobles.
Mat Cauthon is trapped in the city of Ebou Dar in Altara, which is under Seanchan occupation. He plans his escape, but in the end, his plans are disrupted by the interference of a Seanchan noblewoman named Tuon, who is revealed to be the Daughter of the Nine Moons, heir to the Seanchan Crystal Throne. Mat, remembering the prophecy that he will marry the Daughter of the Nine Moons, kidnaps Tuon instead of tying her up and leaving her behind.
Rand al’Thor agrees to be bonded as a Warder by Elayne Trakand, Aviendha, and Min Farshaw, and consummates his relationship with Elayne. He hunts down the Asha’man Darkfriends in Far Madding and kills most of them. Lan also kills Toram Riatin in a duel. Caught by guards, Rand is imprisoned for a short time but is set free by Cadsuane and the other Aes Sedai who followed him. Rand and Nynaeve al’Meara Travel to Shadar Logoth. There, defended by Cadsuane Melaidhrin’s Aes Sedai and loyal Asha’man against the Forsaken, Rand and Nynaeve link and use the Choedan Kal to cleanse saidin of the Dark One’s taint so that men who channel will no longer go mad. Whilst using so much of the One Power, the access key to the female half of the Choedan Kal is destroyed.
From Chapter 12, “A Lily in Winter”:
“Are you ready?” Her voice was not as strong as she could have hoped, but at least it did not tremble. Butterflies the size of foxes fluttered in her stomach. That had not happened in a long time.
“Of course,” Aviendha said, but she had to swallow first.
“I’m ready,” Min said faintly.
They went in without knocking, hurriedly closing the door behind them.
Nynaeve jumped to her feet, wide-eyed, before they were well into the sitting room, but Elayne barely noticed her or Lan, though the sweet smell of the Warder’s pipe filled the room. Rand really was there; it had been hard to believe he would be. That dreadful disguise Min had described was gone, except for the shabby clothing and rough gloves, and he was… beautiful.
He leaped from his chair at the sight of her, too, but before he was completely upright, he staggered and grabbed the table with both hands, gagging and heaving with dry retches. Elayne embraced the Source and took a step toward him, then stopped and made herself let go of the Power. Her ability with Healing was tiny, and anyway, Nynaeve had moved as quickly as she, the shine of saidar suddenly around her, hands raised toward Rand.
He recoiled, waving her away. “It’s nothing you can Heal, Nynaeve,” he said roughly. “In any case, it seems you win the argument.” His face was a rigid mask hiding emotion, but his eyes seemed to Elayne to be drinking her in. And Aviendha as well. She was surprised to feel gladdened by that. She had hoped it would be that way, hoped she could manage for her sister’s sake, and now it took no managing at all. Straightening up was a visible effort for him, and pulling his gaze away from her and Aviendha, though he tried to hide both. “It is past time to be gone, Min,” he said.
Elayne’s jaw dropped. “You think you can just go without even speaking to me, to us?” she managed.
“Men!” Min and Aviendha breathed at almost the same instant, and gave one another startled looks. Hastily they unfolded their arms. For an instant, despite the disparity in just about everything about them, they had been almost mirror images of womanly disgust.
“The men who tried to kill me in Cairhien would turn this palace into a slag heap if they knew I was here,” Rand said quietly. “Maybe if they just suspected. […] Look, there’s no time for talking. It’s best I go quickly.” She had been wrong. He was not exactly as she had dreamed of him. There had been a boyishness about him sometimes, but it was gone as if burned away. She mourned that for him. She did not think he did, or could.
“He is right in one thing,” Lan said around his pipestem with the same sort of quiet. Another man who seemed never to have been a boy. His eyes were blue ice beneath the braided leather cord that encircled his brows. “Anyone near him is in great danger. Anyone.” For some reason, Nynaeve snorted. Then put her hand on a leather scrip with hard bulges lying on the table and smiled. Though after a moment her smile faltered.
“Do my first-sister and I fear danger?” Aviendha demanded, planting her fists on her hips. Her shawl slipped from her shoulders and fell to the floor, but she was so intent that she seemed unaware of the loss. “This man has toh to us, Aan’allein, and we to him. It must be worked out.”
Min spread her hands. “I don’t know what anybody’s toes have to do with anything, or feet either, but I’m not going anywhere until you talk to them, Rand!” She affected not to notice Aviendha’s outraged glare.
Sighing, Rand leaned against a corner of the table and raked gloved fingers through the dark, reddish curls that hung to his neck. He seemed to be arguing with himself under his breath.
[…] “It won’t do, Rand.” Elayne tightened her hands on her skirts to keep herself from shaking a finger at him. […] Her voice was cool and firm and steady, brooking no nonsense. “None of that matters a hair, not now. You and Aviendha and Min and I are what we need to talk about. And we will. We all will, Rand al’Thor, and you are not leaving the Palace until we do!”
For the longest time, he simply looked at her, his expression never changing. Then he inhaled audibly, and his face turned to granite. “I love you, Elayne.” Without a pause, he went on, words rushing out of him, water from a burst dam. And his face a stone wall. “I love you, Aviendha. I love you, Min. And not one a whisker more or less than the other two. I don’t just want one of you, I want all three. So there you have it. I’m a lecher. Now you can walk away and not look back. It’s madness, anyway. I can’t afford to love anybody!”
“Rand al’Thor,” Nynaeve shrieked, “that is the most outrageous thing I ever heard out of your mouth! The very idea of telling three women you love them! You’re worse than a lecher! You apologize right now!” Lan had snatched his pipe from his mouth and was staring at Rand.
“I love you, Rand,” Elayne said simply, “and although you haven’t asked, I want to marry you.” She blushed faintly, but she intended to be much more forward before very long, so she supposed this hardly counted. Nynaeve’s mouth worked, but no sound came out.
“My heart is in your hands, Rand,” Aviendha said, treating his name like something rare and precious. “If you make a bridal wreath for my first-sister and me, I will pick it up.” And she blushed, too, trying to cover it in bending to take her shawl from the floor and arranging it on her arms. By Aiel customs, she should never had said any of that. Nynaeve finally got a sound out. A squeak.
“If you don’t know by this time that I love you,” Min said, “then you’re blind, deaf and dead!” She certainly did not blush; there was a mischievous light in her dark eyes, and she seemed ready to laugh. “And as for marriage, well, we’ll work that out between the three of us, so there!” Nynaeve took a grip on her braid with both hands and gave it a steady pull, breathing heavily through her nose. Lan had begun an intense study of the contents of his pipe’s bowl.
Rand examined the three of them as if he had never seen a woman before and wondered what they were. “You’re all mad,” he said finally.
Perrin Aybara continues trying to rescue his wife Faile Bashere, kidnapped by the Shaido Aiel, even resorting to torturing prisoners for information. In addition, Perrin is approached with the suggestion of a temporary alliance with the Seanchan to defeat the Shaido.
Mat Cauthon continues trying to escape Seanchan-controlled territory while courting Tuon, the Daughter of the Nine Moons. Mat discovers that Tuon is a sul’dam and can therefore be taught to channel the One Power.
Elayne Trakand continues trying to solidify her claim to the Lion Throne of Andor. She finds out she is expecting twins, but keeps the identity of the father (Rand) secret.
Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, rests in hiding after the ordeal of cleansing the One Power. He is furious that the Asha’man have bonded Aes Sedai without permisson. He sends Davram Bashere, Logain Ablar, and Loial to negotiate a truce with the Seanchan. They return at the end of the book to tell him that the Seanchan have accepted the truce, but demand the presence of the Dragon Reborn to meet with the Daughter of the Nine Moons.
In the Tower, Pevara and the new head of the Red Ajah conclude that it is their duty no longer to hunt down and gentle men who can channel, but to bond them as Warders.
Egwene leads the rebel Aes Sedai in maintaining the siege of Tar Valon. After successfully blocking the River Port at the White Tower with her rediscovered Talent for making cuendillar, she is taken prisoner by agents of the White Tower.
From Chapter 3, “A Fan of Colors”:
Leaning against a drawered cabinet at the foot of the bed Mistress Anan was seated on, he tried to think of what to say. He never had trouble thinking of what to say to women, but his brain seemed deafened by the sound of those dice. All three women gave him disapproving looks—he could all but hear one of them telling him not to slouch!—so he smiled. Most women thought his best smile very winning.
Tuon let out a long breath that did not sound won over in the slightest. “Do you remember Hawkwing’s face, Toy?” Mistress Anan blinked in surprise, and Selucia sat up on the bed frowning. At him. Why would she frown at him? Tuon just continued to look at him, hands folded in her lap, as cool and collected as a Wisdom at Sunday.
Mat’s smile felt frozen. Light, what did she know? How could she know anything?He lay beneath the burning sun, holding his side with both hands, trying to keep the last of life from leaking out and wondering whether there was any reason to hold on. Aideshar was finished, after this day’s work. A shadow blotted the sun for an instant, and then a tall man in armor crouched beside him, helmet tucked under his arm, dark deep-set eyes framing a hooked nose. “You fought well against me today, Culain, and many days past,” that memorable voice said. “Will you live with me in peace?” With his last breath, he laughed in Artur Hawkwing’s face. He hated to remember dying. A dozen other encounters skittered through his mind, too, ancient memories that were his, now. Artur Paendrag had been a difficult man to get along with even before the wars started.
Drawing a deep breath, he took care choosing his words. This was no time to go spouting the Old Tongue. “Of course I don’t!” he lied. A man who could not lie convincingly got short shrift from women. “Light, Hawkwing died a thousand years ago! What kind of question is that?”
Her mouth opened slowly, and for a moment he was sure she meant to answer question with question. “A foolish one, Toy,” she replied finally, instead. “I can’t say why it popped into my head.”
The stiffness in Mat’s shoulders relaxed, a little. Of course. He was ta’veren. People did things and said things around him they never would elsewhere. Nonsense qualified. Still, a thing like that could become uncomfortable when it hit too close to home.
In the Prologue, Galad Damodred discovers that Eamon Valda, current Lord Captain Commander of the Whitecloaks, had violated and (he believes) murdered Morgase, and challenges Valda to a duel. He kills Valda and assumes command of the Whitecloaks. General Rodel Ituralde is fighting the Seanchan invaders in Arad Doman and Tarabon. High Lady Suroth (a Darkfriend) learns that the Forsaken Semirhage has murdered the entire Imperial family in Seandar, and that the continent is in chaos.
Egwene, held prisoner in the Tower and reduced to the rank of novice, communicates with the rebels via her dreams, and forbids them to rescue her. Despite harsh treatment she maintains her dignity, and begins undermining Elaida’s power from within. Both the rebels and the White Tower send sisters to the Black Tower to bond Asha’man; Taim welcomes the White Tower contingent ominously.
Lan decides to ride to the Borderlands to resume his one-man war with the Shadow, but Nynaeve tricks him into going to the long way around, so that she can go ahead of him and recruit men to his cause.
After many trials and outright fighting, Elayne defeats her rivals and wins her crown. She ousts the Black Ajah from Caemlyn.
Perrin, in alliance with the Seanchan, defeats the Shaido and rescues Faile. Tam al’Thor joins him with forces from the Two Rivers; he does not believe the rumors he’s heard about his son being the Dragon Reborn. The remnants of the Shaido retreat back to the Waste.
Mat continues trying to escape Altara and elude the large army of Seanchan sent by Suroth to kill Tuon. He rejoins Talmanes and the Band of the Red Hand and stages a devastating guerilla campaign against the Seanchan. After a long and strange courtship, Tuon astonishes everyone by completing the marriage ritual to Mat, giving him the title of Prince of the Ravens, before returning to Ebou Dar without him to claim her throne and oust the traitor Suroth. Thom reveals to Mat that Moiraine Damodred had not died in Cairhien as they had all assumed, but was a prisoner of the AelFinn and Eelfinn. Reluctantly Mat agrees to help Thom rescue her.
Recognizing that he cannot fight the Last Battle against the Dark One and the Seanchan at the same time, Rand arranges to open negotiations with the Empress. He is having increasing difficulty controlling his channeling and the Lews Therin voice in his head. He goes to meet with Tuon only to find that she is Semirhage in disguise. The ensuing fight captures Semirhage, but at the cost of Rand’s left hand. Semirhage outs his split personality difficulties to his followers, and tells them his condition is inevitably fatal.
[Again, this would be an entire chapter—Chapter 24, “Honey in the Tea,” in fact, which Egwene spends being completely awesome. But it ends like this:]
When Egwene entered the novices’ dining hall, the first novice to see her stood, and suddenly there was a loud scraping of benches on the colorful floor tiles as the others rose, too. They stood there at their benches in silence as Egwene walked down the center aisle toward the kitchen. Suddenly Ashelin, a plump, pretty girl from Altara, darted into the kitchen. Before Egwene reached the kitchen door. Ashelin was back with a tray in her hands that held the usual thick cup of steaming tea and plate of bread, olives and cheese. Egwene reached for the tray, but the olive-skinned girl hurried to the nearest table and set it down in front of an empty bench, offering a suggestion of a curtsy as she backed away. Lucky for her, neither of Egwene’s escorts this morning had chosen that moment to peer into the dining hall. Lucky for all those novices on their feet.
A cushion rested on the bench in front of Egwene’s tray. A tattered thing that was more patches in different colors than original material, but still a cushion. Egwene picked it up and set it on the end of the table before sitting down. Welcoming the pain was easy. She basked in the warmth of her own fires. A soft susurration gusted through the room, a collective sigh. Only when she popped an olive into her mouth did the novices sit.
She almost spat it out again—it was not far short of spoiled—but she was famished after her Healing, so she spat only the pit into the palm of her hand and deposited it on the plate, washing the taste away with a sip of tea. There was honey in the tea! Novices got honey only on special occasions. She tried not to smile as she cleaned her plate, and clean it she did, even picking up crumbs of bread and cheese with a dampened finger. Not smiling was difficult, though. First Doesine—a Sitter!—then Silviana’s resignation, now this. The two sisters were far more important than the novices or the honey, but they all indicated the same thing. She was winning her war.
Rand tells the Seanchan that he still wants a meeting with the Empress. Semirhage escapes captivity and uses a Domination Band (male equivalent of an a’dam) to capture Rand. She almost forces him to kill Min with it, but in desperation Rand accesses the True Power, the essence of the Dark One, and frees himself, killing Semirhage. After this ordeal he has lost nearly all semblance of compassion, and exiles Cadsuane, threatening to kill her if he ever sees her again.
Tuon meets with Rand, but the negotiations end in disaster, as Tuon senses the darkness within him. She rejects his truce, declares herself Empress and authorizes a surprise attack on the White Tower.
In the Tower, after a showdown with an increasingly irrational Elaida, Egwene is imprisoned as a Darkfriend, but she is released when it cannot be proven. Egwene returns to her rooms to find Verin there. Verin reveals that she is Black Ajah, and has fatally poisoned herself in order to be able to tell Egwene this, and give her Verin’s research on the Black Ajah, which contains nearly every member’s name.
The Seanchan attack the Tower, and in its state of disarray the Aes Sedai can mount no adequate defense until Egwene takes matters into her own hands. Using Vora’s sa’angreal, Egwene nearly single-handedly defeats the raid and drives off the Seanchan. She is rescued against her will by Siuan Sanche, Gawyn, and Gareth Bryne and brought back to the rebels, where she swiftly exposes all the Black Ajah in the camp, including Sheriam. Some twenty escape, but the rest are executed. The rebels prepare to invade Tar Valon, but then receive a message that Elaida was captured in the Seanchan raid, and the Tower Aes Sedai have decided that Egwene is their Amyrlin. The Tower is reunited.
Rand tracks Graendal to her hideout and, to Min and Nynaeve’s horror, uses the Choedan Kal to obliterate the entire palace, with no concern for the collateral damage. He travels to war-torn Arad Doman, but in his despair can find no heart to help them, and abandons them to return to Tear.
Nynaeve, at Cadsuane’s suggestion, arranges for Rand to meet with his father Tam, in an effort to break him from his downward spiral. Rand becomes enraged when he discovers Cadsuane arranged it, and almost kills his own father. In horror, he flees to Ebou Dar, where he intends to wipe out the Seanchan, but his hand is stayed when he sees how peaceful the city is. Nearly insane with anger and despair, he Travels to the top of Dragonmount and prepares to immolate himself just as Lews Therin had, but Lews Therin speaks to him, saying that perhaps they live over and over again in order to have a second chance. Rand realizes he wants to have that chance, and instead of killing himself, destroys the Choedan Kal instead. He and Lews Therin finally become one person, and Rand discovers that he can finally laugh again.
From Chapter 39, “A Visit From Verin Sedai”:
“That tome is the… work. My work. The work of my life.“
”What is it?“ Egwene asked softly, suspecting she might know the answer.
”Names, locations, explanations,“ Verin said. ”Everything I learned about them. About the leaders among the Darkfriends, about the Black Ajah. The prophecies they believe, the goals and motivations of the separate factions. Along with a list, at the back, of every Black Ajah sister I could identify.“
Egwene started. ”Every one?“
”I doubt I caught them all,“ Verin said, smiling. ”But I think I got the large majority of them. I promise you, Egwene. I can be quite thorough.“
Egwene looked down at the books with awe. Incredible! Light, but this was a treasure greater than any king’s hoard. A treasure as great as the Horn of Valere itself. She looked up, tears in her eyes, imagining a life spent among the Black, always watching, recording, and working for the good of all.
”Oh, don’t go doing that,“ Verin said. Her face was beginning to look pale. ”They have many agents among us, like worms eating the fruit out from the core. Well, I thought it time that we had at least one of us among them. This is worth one woman’s life. Few people have had a chance to create something as useful, and as wonderful, as that book you hold. We all seek to change the future, Egwene. I think I might just have a chance at doing so.“
Egwene rose, walking to Verin’s side. ”Thank you, Verin. Thank you for choosing me to carry this burden.“
Verin smiled faintly. ”You did very well with the previous tidbits I gave you. That was quite the interesting situation. The Amyrlin commanded that I give you information to hunt the Black sisters who fled the Tower, so I had to comply, even though the leadership of the Black was frustrated by the order. I wasn’t supposed to give you the dreaming ter’angreal, you know. But I’ve always had a feeling about you.“
”I’m not certain I deserve such trust.“ Egwene looked down at the book. ”Trust such as you’ve shown.“
”Nonsense, child,“ Verin said, yawning again, eyes closing. ”You will be Amyrlin. I’m confident of it. And an Amyrlin should be well armed with knowledge. That, among all things, is the most sacred duty of the Brown—to arm the world with knowledge. I’m still one of them. Please see that they know, although the word Black may brand my name forever, my soul is Brown. Tell them…“
“I will, Verin,” Egwene promised. “But your soul is not Brown. I can see it.”
Her eyes fluttered open, meeting Egwene’s, a frown creasing her forehead.
“Your soul is of a pure white, Verin,” Egwene said softly. “Like the Light itself.”
Verin smiled, and her eyes closed.
Lan travels through the Borderlands, unwillingly gathering followers. Padan Fain enters the Blight, capturing and enslaving Shadowspawn, and heads for Shayol Ghul, where he intends to kill Rand. Graendal is alive, and Moridin (Ishamael reincarnated) instructs her to kill Perrin. He gives her a dreamspike, which prevents all Traveling within its radius, and Slayer to do the job. A small group of Asha’man within the Black Tower become more and more disturbed by Mazrim Taim’s rule, and begin plotting to escape to Logain and the Dragon Reborn.
Perrin confronts the Whitecloaks, who still have a death warrant on him. Galad is stunned to see Morgase alive in Perrin’s company. Perrin agrees to a trial with Morgase as judge; she finds him guilty, but decress that the sentence will be deferred until after the Last Battle. Slayer plants the dreamspike in Tel’aran’rhiod to hinder Perrin’s channelers, but Perrin finds it and manages to move it, ending up in Tar Valon.
A restored Rand visits Tar Valon and meets with Egwene, telling her he intends to break the remaining intact seals on the Dark One’s prison and reforge the prison anew. Egwene tries to dissuade him to no avail, and he tells her he will meet with her again in one month on the Field of Merrilor. Alarmed, Egwene begins calling together all the nations’ armies in order to present a united front against Rand.
Egwene has ousted the Black Ajah from the Tower, but knows Mesaana is still hiding within it. She is frustrated that Gawyn continually interferes in her plans to smoke the Forsaken out, and refuses to bond him as her Warder. Gawyn eventually leaves the Tower. When Mesaana finally attacks, it coincides with Perrin’s moving the dreamspike, so she is unable to escape. She and Egwene battle in the dream world, and Egwene defeats her by breaking her mind. Gawyn returns just in time to avert a concurrent assassination attempt on Egwene in the real world, and almost dies of his wounds before Egwene bonds him to save him.
Perrin destroys the dreamspike, but Slayer kills Hopper, Perrin’s friend and guide. Perrin returns to the waking world and rescues the Whitecloaks from a Trolloc attack. Jaret Byar attempts to kill him, but Dain Bornhald saves Perrin’s life.
Mat encounters the gholam again in Caemlyn, and eventually corners and disposes of it. He and Elayne make a bargain to share his possession of gunpowder weapons, and he allows Elayne to copy his foxhead medallion for her own use. Morgase reunites with Elayne, and convinces her to allow Perrin and Faile to administer the Two Rivers under Andoran rule.
Mat, Thom, and Noal Charin (aka Jain Farstrider) enter the Tower of Ghenjei to rescue Moiraine. After fighting their way to her, Mat makes a bargain with the Eelfinn for her release in exchange for one of his eyes, but he forgot to include the Aelfinn in requesting safe passage out. He uses his luck to navigate the maze in which they are trapped, and Noal sacrifices himself in order to buy them time. Mat finally realizes that the ashanderei the Eelfinn gave him in Rhuidean is a literal key to getting out of their dimension, and cuts them an escape route. Moiraine is permanently drained of much of her strength, but alive and well.
Rand travels to Bandar Eban, which he had previously abandoned, and begins restoring order there. He goes to Maradon in Saldaea, nearly overrun by Trollocs, and defeats the Shadowspawn nearly singlehandedly, but is left with no strength to keep the rest of the Borderlands from falling to the Shadow. He returns to Merrilor to prepare to meet with Egwene.
Aviendha travels to Rhuidean for her final test to become a Wise One. She meets a mysterious Aiel woman named Nakomi, who sets Aviendha wondering at the fate of the Aiel once their debt is paid. She takes the same journey Rand had through the ter’angreal, viewing the Aiel’s history, and then discovers that the ter’angreal can show her the future of the Aiel as well. She is appalled to discover that her descendants begin a chain of events which end with the Seanchan taking over the wetlands in a bloody war, and driving the Aiel into extinction. Aviendha rushes to find Rand and avert this horrible future.
From Chapter 40, “A Making”:
Metal was something alive. Every blacksmith knew this. Once you heated it, while you worked it, it lived. He took his hammer and chisel and began to shape patterns, ridges, modifications. Waves of sparks flew from him, the ringing of his hammer ever stronger, ever louder, pealing like bells. He used his chisel on a small chunk of steel to form a shape, then placed it down on top of the hammer.
With a roar, he raised his old hammer one last time over his head and beat it down on the new one, imprinting the ornamentation upon the side of the hammer. A leaping wolf.
Perrin lowered his tools. On the anvil—still glowing with an inner heat—was a beautiful hammer. A work beyond anything he’d ever created, or thought that he might create. It had a thick, powerful head, like a maul or sledge, but the back was formed cross-face and flattened. Like a blacksmith’s tool. It was four feet from bottom to top, maybe longer, an enormous size for a hammer of this type.
The haft was all of steel, something he’d never seen on a hammer before. Perrin picked it up; he was able to lift it with one hand, but barely. It was heavy. Solid.
The ornamentation was of a crosshatch pattern with the leaping wolf stamped on one side. It looked like Hopper. Perrin touched it with a callused thumb, and the metal quieted. It still felt warm to the touch, but did not burn him.
He turned to look, and was amazed at the size of the crowd watching him. The Two Rivers men stood at the front, Jori Congar, Azi al’Thone, Wil al’Seen and hundreds more. Ghealdanin, Cairhienin, Andorans, Mayeners. Watching, quiet. The ground around Perrin was blackened from the falling sparks; drops of silvery metal spread out from him like a sunburst.
Neald fell to his knees, panting, his face coated with sweat. Grady and the women of the circle sat down, looking exhausted. All six Wise Ones had joined in. What had they done?
Perrin felt exhausted, as if all of his strength and emotion had been forged into the metal. But he could not rest. “Wil. Weeks ago, I gave you an order. Burn the banners that bore the wolfhead. Did you obey? Did you burn every one?”
Wil al’Seen met his eyes, then looked down, ashamed. “Lord Perrin, I tried. But… Light, I couldn’t do it. I kept one. The one I’d helped sew.”
“Fetch it, Wil,” Perrin said. His own voice sounded like steel.
Wil ran, smelling frightened. He returned shortly, bearing a folded cloth, white with a red border. Perrin took it, then held it in a reverent hand, hammer in the other. He looked at the crowd. Faile was there, hands clasped before her. She smelled hopeful. She could see into him. She knew.
“I have tried to send you away,” Perrin announced to the crowd. “You would not go. I have failings. You must know this. If we march to war, I will not be able to protect you all. I will make mistakes.”
He looked across the crowd, meeting the eyes of those who stood there. Each man or woman he looked at nodded silently. No regrets, no hesitations. They nodded.
Perrin took a deep breath. “If you wish this, I will accept your oaths. I will lead you.”
They cheered him. An enormous roar of excitement. “Goldeneyes! Goldeneyes the wolf! To the Last Battle! Tai’shar Manetheren!”
The forces of Light and Shadow alike assemble their forces for the Last Battle, while the land withers and reality itself seems to be becoming unstable. Caemlyn falls in a raid to attempt to steal Elayne and Mat’s gunpowder weapons, but Talmanes and the Band of the Red Hand get them out in time. Taim is promoted to be a new Forsaken, taking the name M’Hael, and Graendal has been punished for her failure to kill Perrin by being put in the body of an incredibly ugly woman and called Hessalam.
Rand meets with Egwene and the other leaders, and tries to convince them to go along with his plan to break the seals. It is not going well until Moiraine enters and eloquently makes his case, and then Egwene and the others agree. Rand also demands “the Dragon’s Peace” between all nations; he had intended to leave the Aiel out of the treaty, but the Aiel, spurred by Aviendha’s revelations in Rhuidean, demand to be included as well. Rand appoints Elayne commander of the forces of Light, and goes to get the Seanchan to sign the treaty. Tuon agrees to the terms with the exception of amnesty for collared channelers, which Rand reluctantly cedes.
At the Black Tower, Taim has captured Logain and is attempting to Turn him to the Shadow forcibly. The few loyal Asha’man left, led by Androl Genhald and the Aes Sedai Pevara Tazanovni, manage to rescue him and escape.
The war begins on four fronts, each commanded by one of the four Great Captains: Gareth Bryne in Kandor, Agelmar Jagad at Tarwin’s Gap, Rodel Ituralde to Shayol Ghul and Davram Bashere with Elayne in Andor and Cairhien. However, all four generals are being subtly manipulated via Compulsion by Hessalam, and make a series of mistakes which nearly lose the entire war for the Light before the plot is discovered.
Rand goes to Shayol Ghul with a small force to protect the valley below, while he enters the mountain with Moiraine, Nynaeve, and Callandor. He duels Moridin there, and then is caught within the Dark One’s influence.
Perrin is protecting Rand from Slayer in the dream world, but is severely wounded and is forced to retreat. It is discovered that the seals the Light thought they had are fakes, and the Shadow has the real ones. The fighting takes a further turn for the worse when the nation of Shara joins in on the Shadow’s side, led by a man called Bao the Wyld, who turns out to be Demandred in disguise. Elayne realizes that Mat’s medallion makes him the only general they can be sure is not under the influence of Compulsion, and puts him in command of all the forces of Light.
Mat and Demandred prove to be nearly evenly matched in tactical genius, but Mat is at the disadvantage by the numbers. He pretends to exacerbate this by staging a fight with Tuon and having her withdraw the Seanchan from the field. Faile is sent to bring the Horn of Valere to Mat, but accidentally gets stranded in the Blight instead. Demandred, obsessed with defeating Lews Therin, wreaks havoc as he demands for Rand to confront him directly. Gawyn Trakand tries to duel him and is mortally wounded. Galad then tries the same and is defeated, though he survives his wounds. Elayne is captured by Darkfriends, and Faile’s party is exposed. In desperation Faile gives the Horn to Olver and tries to lead attention away from him, but Olver is soon surrounded.
Androl and Pevara manage to track down M’Hael and steal back the real seals on the Dark One’s prison, which Androl gives to Logain. Egwene, though devastated by the loss of Gawyn, her Warder, and exhausted from wielding a sa’angreal of her own, then asks Leilwin Shipless to be her Warder and takes the fight to M’Hael. Egwene, discovers a new weave, named semi-symbolically “the Flame of Tar Valon,” that can counter balefire and restore the holes in the Pattern it makes. Egwene causes her own death by overchanneling this new weave, but takes M’Hael and most of the Sharan channelers with her. Galad passes to Lan one of the copies of Mat’s foxhead medallion, which protects the wearer from channeling, and Lan is able to slay Demandred in single combat. Olver, in desperation, sounds the Horn of Valere, summoning Birgitte and the other Heroes of the Horn. Birgitte rescues Elayne, and Noal, newly added to the Heroes’ number, rescues Olver. Between the Heroes and reinforcements from the returning Seanchan, Mat declares victory.
Meanwhile, Rand duels the Dark One in a battle of the minds, each attempting to break the will of the other by constructing hypothetical worlds in which the other has lost. Rand constructs a world where the Dark One never existed, but discovers to his horror that that world is no better than the one where the Dark One won. He realizes that in both cases, the capacity to choose between good and evil was removed.
Mat heads for Shayol Ghul, and Perrin continues to battle Slayer, finally killing him. Perrin then falls under Lanfear’s influence and is almost Compelled to kill Rand, but his control over the dream world allows him to shake off the Compulsion and he kills her instead. Mat battles Padan Fain, his previous exposure to the corruption of Shadar Logoth making him immune to its effects, and kills him with the ruby-hilted dagger. Aviendha battles Graendal and is severely injured, but manages to make Graendal’s Compulsion backfire, leaving her in mindless adoration for Aviendha.
Rand returns to the Pattern and finds that Moridin has taken control of Callandor. Moridin is gleeful to realize that it can amplify the True Power. However, Rand had anticipated this, and Moiraine and Nynaeve exploit Callandor’s flaw—that women can control a man who uses it. Rand, Moiraine and Nynaeve take control of Moridin and use his power to create a huge weave of saidar, saidin and the True Power combined. Seeing this signal, Logain shatters the remaining seals. This breaks open the Dark One’s prison, and Rand uses the three powers to drag Shai’tan into the Pattern, with the intention of killing him. However, he realizes that the reality he accidentally created —where people are good but “hollow”—will come to pass if he kills the Dark One. Instead, he banishes Shai’tan back outside of the Pattern and repairs the prison like new, so that no breach exists.
Bereft of the Dark One’s influence, the Blight dissolves. Mat reunites with Tuon, who reveals that she is with child. Perrin, racked with guilt over his decision to help Rand and abandon his wife, continues to search for her, eventually finding her buried under Trolloc corpses but still alive. Loial attempts to track down the two of them to get statements for his book. Cadsuane Melaidhrin is elected the new Amyrlin Seat, to her horror, while Moghedien, now one of two remaining Forsaken, is captured by a sul’dam who is exploiting loopholes in the Dragon’s Peace. Hessalam is last seen as a victim of Complusion and worshipping Aviendha. Thom and Moiraine, Lan and Nynaeve, have all come to wait attendance on Rand, who is slowly dying of his wounds even after Nynaeve and Moiraine pulled him and Moridin out of the Bore, and Perrin suggests summoning Elayne, Min and Aviendha as well to pay their last respects.
Rand dies from his wounds and a funeral service is held for him. But Elayne, Min and Aviendha know that Rand is actually alive, something that is also noticed by Cadsuane. It was Moridin who died and was burned on the pyre, and Rand, free of channeling and burdens both, rides free into the Fourth Age.
From Chapter 39, “Those Who Fight”:
Rand stepped forward. In this place of nothing, the Pattern seemed to swirl around him like a tapestry. HERE IS YOUR FLAW, SHAI’TAN—LORD OF THE DARK, LORD OF ENVY! LORD OF NOTHING! HERE IS WHY YOU FAIL! IT WAS NOT ABOUT ME. IT’S NEVER BEEN ABOUT ME!
It was about a woman, torn and beaten down, cast from her throne and made a puppet— a woman who had crawled when she had to. That woman still fought.
It was about a man that love repeatedly forsook, a man who found relevance in a world that others would have let pass them by. A man who remembered stories, and who took fool boys under his wing when the smarter move would have been to keep on walking. That man still fought.
It was about a woman with a secret, a hope for the future. A woman who had hunted the truth before others could. A woman who had given her life, then had it returned. That woman still fought.
It was about a man whose family was taken from him, but who stood tall in his sorrow and protected those he could.
It was about a woman who refused to believe that she could not help, could not Heal those who had been harmed.
It was about a hero who insisted with every breath that he was anything but a hero.
It was about a woman who would not bend her back while she was beaten, and who shone with the Light for all who watched. Including Rand.
It was about them all.
He saw this, over and over, in the Pattern arrayed about him. Rand walked through eons and ages, his hand passing through ribbons of the Pattern’s light.
HERE IS THE TRUTH, SHAI’TAN, Rand said, taking another step forward, arms out, woven Pattern spreading around them. YOU CANNOT WIN UNLESS WE GIVE UP. THAT’S IT, ISN’T IT? THIS FIGHT ISN’T ABOUT A VICTORY IN BATTLE. TAKING ME… IT WAS NEVER ABOUT BEATING ME. IT WAS ABOUT BREAKING ME.
THAT’S WHAT YOU’VE TRIED TO DO WITH ALL OF US. IT’S WHY AT TIMES YOU TRIED TO HAVE US KILLED, WHILE OTHER TIMES YOU DIDN’T SEEM TO CARE. YOU WIN WHEN YOU BREAK US. BUT YOU HAVEN’T. YOU CAN’T.
Whew! And that’s the story, morning glory! I hope this has been of help to you; I meanwhile, am going to go collapse into a puddle of goo for a day or so. Happy voting!