Season’s Greetings, Tor.com! Please take a moment from your increasingly-panicked holiday shopping to peruse the Wheel of Time Reread Redux, today embarking on a brand new book!
Today’s Redux post will cover the Prologue of The Dragon Reborn, originally reread in this post.
All original posts are listed in The Wheel of Time Reread Index here, and all Redux posts will also be archived there as well. (The Wheel of Time Master Index, as always, is here, which has links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time in general on Tor.com.)
The Wheel of Time Reread is also available as an e-book series! Yay!
All Reread Redux posts will contain spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time series, so if you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
And now, the post!
Before we begin, Scheduling Note: There will definitely be a Redux post for the 22nd, but depending on circumstances which hopefully will be cleared up soon, one of the next two Tuesdays (the 29th or January 5th) will have no post. I’m just not sure which yet; I’ll let you know as soon as I do.
In the meantime, onward!
Prologue: Fortress of the Light
[Byar:] “It is a worse madness than any false Dragon I’ve ever heard of. Thousands have declared for him already. Tarabon and Arad Doman are in civil war, as well as at war with each other. There is fighting all across Almoth Plain and Toman Head, Taraboner against Domani against Darkfriends crying for the Dragon—or there was fighting until winter chilled most of it. I’ve never seen it spread so quickly, my Lord Captain Commander. Like throwing a lantern into a hay barn.”
In an abstract sense, I think it was a little difficult at first for me to grasp why exactly so many people would be so eager to throw down for just the rumor of the Dragon Reborn, to the point where I almost considered it a little unrealistic. But then I remembered that as an agnostic and general skeptic, my probable reaction to the news that the prophesied savior-and-also-destroyer-of-the-world had come again is… hm, unlikely to be the prevailing one.
Considering that, just for example, Seventh-Day Adventists are the 12th largest religion in the world according to Wikipedia, with some 18 million members. Given that, it’s probably not unrealistic at all to consider that thousands of Randlandians would be on the idea of their own version of the Second Coming like white on rice. Especially considering how much more heavily weighted their faith-to-fact ratio is on the “fact” side of things.
By authorial fiat, Randland doesn’t really do organized religion, but it certainly does do fundamentalism, in the more general sense of that word. The Whitecloaks, of course, being the obvious and most glaring example, but it’s probably helped along greatly in the general population by the fact that, as Robert Jordan pointed out, in Randland if you want proof of it all, it’s pretty much there for the viewing.
You know, as long as you don’t mind being eaten by Shadowspawn and/or becoming evil sword fodder when you toddle up to Shayol Ghul to see the place where all the apocalypse is from. Religious tourism in Randland: not for the faint of heart!
Niall’s skin was as thin as scraped parchment, drawn tight by age over a body that seemed all bone and sinew, but there was nothing of frailty about him. No man held Niall’s office before his hair was white, nor did any man softer than the stones of the Dome of Truth. Still, he was suddenly aware of the tendon-ridged back of the hand holding the drawing, aware of the need for haste. Time was growing short. His time was growing short. It had to be enough. He had to make it enough.
Niall and Byar present an interesting contrast in types of zealot, a differentiation defined a lot more by class and education than most people would probably prefer to believe. Byar is, in some respects, the more honest of the two: he is horrible in his brutal rigidity of worldview, but at least he is wholly sincere in his simplicity of purpose. Niall, on the other hand, is possessed of intelligence and ambition, two things which I always rather felt must be the curse of the devout person, in how to reconcile logic and self-interest with faith and mandated selflessness.
Niall appears to have dealt with the conflict by considering it all part and parcel of the same thing, which I speculate must be a common thing among members of the higher echelons of any religion, particularly those with significant worldly power. Niall’s aggrandizement, after all, is not just his own, but that of his entire cause; his glory is the glory of all the Children of the Light, and therefore it must be right and good to seek after, and not selfish at all.
Must be nice, to have it all dovetail so neatly, mustn’t it. Uh-huh.
And then there’s Carridin, who is the third kind of zealot: one who isn’t a believer at all, but apes belief in order to use actual true believers to further his own ends, generally with a breathtaking disregard for (or disinterest in) the right and wrong of any of it. His kind is the bane of any sincere faith, and is at least 90% of the reason I personally view those who profit in any way from their faith with skepticism at best.
Niall drew a deep breath. He could sense the unseen knives waiting in the shadows. But he was committed, now. “It is no treason to do what must be done. And even blasphemy can be tolerated for a cause.” Those two sentences alone were enough to kill him. “Do you know how to unite people behind you, Child Carridin? The quickest way? No? Loose a lion—a rabid lion—in the streets. And when panic grips the people, once it has turned their bowels to water, calmly tell them you will deal with it.”
But then, Niall has got Carridin’s number, hasn’t he, at least mostly. Who else could you admit logical, glory-accruing blasphemy to, except to one whom you already know doesn’t really care about blasphemy? Too bad Niall is just slightly too un-pragmatic, unfortunately, to allow himself to suspect that Carridin is not just an unbeliever but an actual Darkfriend. Things might have turned out quite differently, otherwise.
His name was a lie, of course. In the Old Tongue, Ordeith meant “wormwood.” When Niall challenged him on it, though, all he said was, “Who we were is lost to all men, and life is bitter.” But he was clever. It had been he who helped Niall see the pattern emerging in events.
Of course, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition morals-corrupting Rasputins to throw a wrench in one’s clarity of thought. Frickin’ Fain, y’all.
That said, I did enjoy the reference here. Anyone with even a passing familiarity with the Book of Revelations knows the significance of wormwood. Revelations claims it is a star which will fall to earth come Armageddon: “And the name of the star is called wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters because they were made bitter.” (Revelations 8:11, King James version)
Making things poisonous and bitter: yep, sounds like Fain. Very clever reference, in all.
“Nothing has changed, human. You foreswore your oaths to the Light and swore new oaths, and those oaths you will obey.”
Carridin started at the gouges marring the polished wood and swallowed hard. “I don’t understand. Why is it suddenly so important to kill him? I thought the Great Lord of the Dark meant to use him.”
“You question me? I should take your tongue. It is not your part to question. Or to understand. It is your part to obey!”
Yeah, but it is my part to question, so nyah.
This is where we get the first hints that all of the Shadow may not be working in concert, but in fact at odds with each other. Oh, my, bad people acting in bad faith? Say it ain’t so!
I’m sort of hazy in remembering who was holding Carridin’s leash at this point, but I think it was Sammael? At any rate, one of the Forsaken who did not give a good goddamn that Ishamael wanted him alive. Which, uh, at this point could be any of them except Lanfear, but Sammael had the biggest hate-on for Lews Therin, as we will learn (barring only Demandred, but apparently he was Busy Elsewhere), so I feel pretty okay about putting this one on him until someone tells me different.
I said in the original commentary that I felt a little sorry for Carridin, but on reflection I retract that statement. I feel sorry for everyone related to Carridin (and most people who come in any kind of contact with him whatsoever, really), but Carridin himself made his own shitty, shitty bed, and it was just a shame he wasn’t the only one who ended up having to lie in it.
And that’s where we’ll stop for now, kiddies! Have a lovely week, try to not wrestle anyone for the last Lego set at Walmart (because they are evil and you shouldn’t be shopping there anyway, shame, SHAME) and I’ll see you next Tuesday!