Spoilers for books 1-12 and Towers of Midnight to ch.31| More info and previous posts |Please no spoilers for future books/events
In my plan to read The Wheel of Time, and post about my experience, I’m now on book 13, Towers of Midnight. This post covers chapter 24-31.
To Make a Stand
In the aftermath of Elayne’s failed dress up act, her midwife is inspecting her babes. Not babies, babes. Every time. Anyway, they’re fine but she advises Elayne a week of bed rest just to be safe. And by advises I means orders, complete with the threat of having Elayne’s own guards lock her up. Elayne is not too happy about it, but she accepts.
Once the midwife leaves, Birgitte chastises Elayne a bit for the whole fiasco. Elayne also warns Mat that the Blacks were planning to assassinate him:
“One mentioned you. It sounded like Darkfriends had been searching for you for some time, with the intent of killing you.”
Birgitte shrugged. “They’re Darkfriends. No doubt they want us all dead.”
“This was different,” Elayne said. “It seemed more…intense. I suggest keeping your wits about you the next while.”
“That’ll be a trick,” Birgitte noted. “Seeing as to how he doesn’t have any wits in the first place.”
Back in the Borderlands, Ituralde’s rescuer, Yoeli, shows him around the city of Maradon. They go to see the lord of the place, Torkumen. I wish he was called Torkuman. Now his name gives me this weird plural feel. Anyway, the guy turns out to be a total dick and Ituralde calls him a Darkfriend. Pretty probable – I mean, it’s clear that it was his decision not to help Ituralde, and poor Yoeli had to revolt and fight to rescue Ituralde. And so in turn Ituralde decides that instead of fleeing via a gateway, he’ll stick around and make his last stand in Maradon with Yoeli and his men.
It’s a nice sentiment, but on the whole I think it actually hurts the good guys – Ituralde is more than just another soldier, he’s a great tactician who could be of much help in the battles to come. And anyway, like I said last time, I’m not worried because Rand will probably turn up to save them eventually, when the situation is suitably desperate.
In the wolf dream, Perrin is continuing his training-cum-introspection sessions. Today’s topic is about teleporting around, and Perrin has the extra ability to be able to sense where someone went so he can follow them. Their lesson is interrupted when Slayer kills one of the nearby wolves. Perrin rushes to confront him, following him through teleports. But he soon finds himself totally outmatched by Slayer – the man is pretty good at manipulating the dream world, and so Perrin has to flee.
Waking up, Perrin relaxes a bit – by cutting logs. Elyas comes to meet him, and Perrin tells him that he’s decided to meet the Whitecloaks in battle. I don’t like this. Not only because it basically pits Galad and Perrin against each other, but also because we know there’s a much bigger danger for Perrin. Graendal. Slayer’s probably here on her orders as well.
Rand and Min arrive in Bandar Eban. The city is in even worse shape, full of starving refugees and no one to lead or maintain order. Well, that changes now. In short order, Rand has gathered ex-soldiers from the people – no foreign Aiel or Saldaeans this time – and set up a healing center with Aes Sedai. Then he takes the soldiers to the docks, where a merchant has barricaded the place and is keeping the food to himself.
Well, not really. Turns out the poor guy was just trying to save lives – the food spoiled and eating it leads to sickness and death. But when Rand boards the Sea Folk ship, they find the food is back to good. Rand appoints the dockmaster as the steward of the city, and sets to distributing food and restoring order.
A pretty heartwarming chapter, but while Rand’s new approach is all well and good, I think the real difference was the food. Last time, he tried to supply the city but the food all spoiled. This time, he has the ability to reverse that. Or rather, not him, but the Pattern. Credit to /u/Nygmus for very neatly explaining how that works, by the way:
Basically, look at it this way: as ta’veren, he now stands as basically the focal point of the Pattern attempting to balance out the negative influence of the Dark One. The Pattern as a whole doesn’t actually have a tendency toward good or evil, it’s a neutral force, but up till now that balance has been out of whack.
Now that Rand has taken his place as the true Dragon, all of the good that balances all of the evil influence of the Dark One is concentrated in a single point. It’s so powerful that the Dark One’s unnatural entropy is not only countered but outright reversed, and so powerful that his mere presence is actively painful, even dangerous, to followers of the Shadow.
Perrin and his army ride to the battlefield. Battle seems inevitable, until Perrin’s hammer somehow reminds him that he can always choose not to kill. And so he gives Galad a demonstration of the power of his channelers, then asks him for one more meeting. Galad agrees.
This meeting seems to go better than the last one at least. Perrin does not lie about having killed the two Whitecloaks, and so Galad refuses to back off. Perrin offers to stand trial instead of having a battle, but they can’t settle on an impartial judge. Galad is about to leave when he spots Morgase. Finally! And now that Galad knows Morgase is alive, Elayne should find out soon enough. And hopefully now Gawyn can get over his stupid hatred of Rand.
For now though, once the shock wears off, Morgase tries to convince Galad that Perrin is a good guy, but Galad can’t let those two dead Whitecloaks go. But when Perrin proposes Morgase as the judge, he accepts.
A trial, huh? Can’t wait to see Wheel of Time meets Ace Attorney.
A Call to Stand
Egwene is reading Darlin’s response to her Save the Seals campaign. The jist is that he’s willing to arrive with his men at the meeting place. Egwene’s writing a letter to the steward in Illian when Silviana brings news that the invasion has begun, and Trollocs are pouring out of the Blight. Egwene summons Siuan for more details, but then receives news that the Hall is meeting without her and rushes there instead.
Instead of scolding the sitters however, Egwene just goes and sits on her seat quietly. I like this move. Always do unexpected and so on. Anyway, the meeting proceeds and turns out what they want is to make sure that Egwene doesn’t pull a fast one on them like she did with the declaration of War. Egwene surprises them again by actually agreeing with them. They get to talking, and Romanda proposes that Egwene give up authority on the war and let the Hall handle it all. Lelaine suggests that Egwene can instead deal with the rulers. To their surprise, Egwene agrees and it is put to a vote.
Saroiya realises what Egwene is doing but by then the consensus has been achieved, and Egwene has the authority to deal with the world’s monarchs – including Rand! Well that was neatly done. Egwene is getting even better at this. The first time it was her plan entirely, this time she managed to nudge the Sitters into what she wanted. Much more subtle.
Now comes the scolding. Egwene says to them basically what I’ve been thinking all this time – it’s the Last Battle, this is not the time for petty politics and fooling around with schemes. To stop some of it, Egwene proposes that the Hall not be allowed to meet without all Sitters and the Amyrlin. There’s some grumbling, but they all accept.
Once the meeting is over, Egwene begins formulating a new plan – this time to bait Mesaana in Tel’aran’rhiod. Oh, and finding out that Gawyn has left Tar Valon, Egwene now wants him back. Women. Just kidding, this makes sense – she does love him and want him around, she just doesn’t want him messing up her plans.
Following the meeting with the Whitecloaks, Perrin feels that something is off, and decides to go to the wolf dream to find answers. Am I the only one who feels this does not compute? I mean, he says stuff like there’re too few birds and no wolves, and goes to the wolf dream to find out why?
Turns out he’s probably right – Perrin enters the dream world and find that the weird wall is back. Hopper says that wolves have seen this before – in the age of legends. Perrin also realises that it is not a wall – but a huge dome, extending over several miles. Ok, now I’m pretty sure that it’s the dreamspike.
Perrin senses Oakdancer’s pack inside the dome, being hunted by Slayer. He decides to go help them, but can’t – the dreamspike seems to prevent crossing the wall by teleporting. (By the way, what’s the proper term for this movement in Tel’aran’rhiod?) That’s interesting, but given Graendal’s excitement over seeing it, I’d expect the dreamspike to do… more. Perrin tries to walk across the dome’s wall, but he loses muscle control and Hopper has to drag him back. Hopper tells Perrin to focus on himself to avoid that happening as he’s crossing the wall, but Perrin just takes a running jump and crosses it, which works too. Okay, now I’m even less impressed by the dreamspike. Sure, you can’t teleport across it, but you can just walk out.
Back to the hunt. One of the wolves gets shot by an arrow, and while the others distract Slayer, Perrin carries him out of the dome. It’s a close thing, and Slayer almost gets Perrin a couple of times, but thanks to the other wolves warning him, Perrin manages to escape the dome with the wounded wolf. Perrin wants to return to confront Slayer, but Hopper reminds him that Slayer can probably eat him for lunch and so Perrin decides to wait and get more practice.
In Maradon, after a bit of respite, the Trollocs are making their next move. The Asha’man are sensing channeling, it seems Dreadlords have been sent to join the Trollocs. Ituralde convinces the Asha’man to leave before the city falls, since they’re too valuable to lose (so are you mate!), but just then there’s a huge explosion, and there’s a huge gap in the city wall. Once Ituralde recovers from his injuries, he realises that the city is lost – the gap is too large for them to have any chance of actually holding it. He wisely decides to retreat via gateways, but then they spot the watchfires burning, which is a sign of incoming help. Yoeli begs him to try and hold the city for a little longer, and Ituralde puts his legendary tactical skills to work.
First he has the Asha’man hold off the Trollocs as long as they – which isn’t long, but enough for him to set up his traps. Once the Trollocs enter the city, overconfident and expecting little resistance and split up, he springs the trap – using the layout of the city to his advantage, surprising and killing bands of Trollocs left and right. Basically, it’s a way around the Trollocs superior numbers. The plan works so well that the Trollocs actually retreat out of the city. I also had fun with Ituralde’s attempts at teaching Yoeli:
“Our next trap won’t kill as many,” Ituralde said, “but Trollocs are cowards at heart. The knowledge that any roadway could suddenly turn into a death trap will make them hesitate, and will earn us more time than would losing half of our men holding that wall.”
“All right,” Yoeli said. He hesitated. “But…doesn’t this mean that they’re anticipating us? This phase of the plan will work only because they expect our ambushes.”
“I suppose that’s true.”
“So shouldn’t we do something different? You said that if we’ve got a hint that the enemy knows what we’re going to do, we should change plans.”
“You’re thinking about it too much, son. Go do as I commanded.”
“Er, yes, my Lord.” He hurried away.
This, Ituralde thought, is why I should never teach tactics. It was hard to explain to students that there was a rule that trumped all of the others: Always trust your instincts.
You know, Bryne is a good general and all, and so is Mat, but just for the chutzpah of his plans, I think Ituralde is my favorite general.
A Terrible Feeling
Faile and Berelain are discussing the upcoming trial. Berelain is thoroughly smitten with Galad, and is making up excuses to meet him. Man, if these two get together, they’ll have like the highest total prettiness of all the WoT couples.
Berelain and Alliandre are a bit perplexed by Perrin agreeing to stand trial, but Faile explains that it’s more about Perrin clearing his name – and so fleeing or attacking will not work. They also grumble a bit about Morgase not telling them her real identity, but then a bubble of evil interrupts them. This one takes the form of people’s weapons attacking them – kind of like what happened to Perrin in the Stone way back, although these weapons are somewhat easier to put down once they realise all it takes is throwing a bit of dirt onto the things.
Meanwhile, Galad and Morgase are chatting. Morgase is doing her best to make Galad give up this stupid pursuit of Perrin – pointing out how everything is not black and white, and how good people can still make mistakes. Her words do make Galad think, but he is not going to be budged. I’m not surprised. A messenger arrives from Perrin, asking for the trial to be pushed back since his people are still recovering from the bubble of evil. Surprisingly, Galad agrees – though reluctantly.
In Perrin’s camp, Tam comes to meet him and tells him that he must leave ASAP. I’m a bit concerned, until I realise this is Tam going to meet Rand for what is going to be a disastrous reunion, which is happening now because of the timelines being out of sync.
In Caemlyn, Elayne is being carried to the wall on her bed. Because she can’t leave her bed, she’s just taking it along. Typical stubborn Elayne. Although this time it’s less infuriating and more endearing. And funny. And what’s so important that Elayne has to do this? The first beta test of Aludra’s dragons. This goes about as you’d expect – the dragons blowing stuff up really far away, everyone being impressed. Elayne is quite pleased – it’s a great weapon to have, but Birgitte realises there are going to be far-reaching effects of this. Warfare is going to change a lot. Oh Birgitte, wait until your world develops nukes and stuff.
Men Dream Here
Perrin is training in the wolf dream. Today, he’s practising his moves by hunting Hopper, and also learning to find the balance between Perrin and Young Bull. It’s a really fun chase, full of unreal moves that can happen only in Tel’aran’rhiod. If WoT ever becomes adapted to the screen, this’ll be quite fun to watch. Perrin manages to keep up for a while, but eventually Hopper surprises him by moving to the ocean and walking on water.
Hopper tells him that at this rate, it’ll take Perrin too long to learn, and they decide to try another, more dangerous approach. Hopper takes Perrin to Caemlyn. Turns out the hard mode is fighting nightmares. It reminds me of Goku training in 100x gravity. They find a nightmare, and Perrin jumps in. It’s about Monster Rand, huge and fiery and wrecking shit all over the place. It’s actually not far from what might’ve happened if Rand didn’t have his golden moment. Perrin does a reasonably good job, but eventually Hopper has to pull him out. It’s super hard because the nightmare has a kind of built-in feedback loop – the harder you try to fight it, the stronger it’s going to become.
That’s enough training for now, and Hopper and Perrin go to Dragonmount where some sort of choice must be made before the Last Hunt can begin. Except it’s not their choice, it is in fact Rand, thinking things over at the top of the mountain. Perrin climbs to the top to witness the moment.
Something black began to spin around Rand. It wasn’t part of the storm; it seemed like night itself leaking from him. Tendrils of it grew from Rand’s own skin, like tiny hands curling back and wrapping around him. It seemed evil itself given life.
“Rand!” Perrin bellowed. “Fight it! Rand!”
His voice was lost in the wind, and he doubted that Rand could have heard him anyway. The darkness continued to seep out, like a liquid tar coming through Rand’s pores, creating a miasma of pitch around the Dragon Reborn. Within moments, Perrin could barely see Rand through the blackness. It enclosed him, cutting him off, banishing him. The Dragon Reborn was gone. Only evil remained.
“Rand, please…” Perrin whispered.
And then—from the midst of the blackness, from the center of the uproar and the tempest—a tiny sliver of light split through the evil. Like a candle’s glow on a very dark night. The light shone upward, toward the distant sky, like a beacon. So frail.
The tempest buffeted it. The winds stormed, howled, and screamed. The lightning beat against the top of the rocky peak, blasting free chunks of rock, scoring the ground. The blackness undulated and pulsed.
But still the light shone.
A web of cracks appeared down the side of the shell of evil blackness, light shining from within. Another fracture joined it, and another. Something strong was inside, something glowing, something brilliant.
The shell exploded outward, vaporizing and releasing a column of light so bright, so incredible that it seemed to sear the eyes from Perrin’s head. But he looked on anyway, not raising arm to shade or block the resplendent image before him. Rand stood within that light, mouth open as if bellowing toward the skies above. The sun-yellowed column shot into the air, and the storm seemed to shudder, the entire sky itself undulating.
The tempest vanished.
I’ve already read Veins of Gold of course, but still, this was quite the scene. Go light.
Into The Void
Mat is chilling out at a tavern in Caemlyn. But it soon becomes clear that it’s more than a simple night out. Mat is actively working to draw attention to himself, to get recognised. Apparently he’s been doing it all evening. Once he leaves, a bunch of thugs try to get him but the Band’s soldiers that are hiding nearby take care of them. Eventually the real reason for all this appears – the gholam. Mat’s decided to stop reacting and take the fight to the monster.
And he does give the gholam a run for its money – thanks to the medallion tied to the ashandarei’s blade. But the gholam changes tactics, extinguishing his men’s lanterns to get rid of the light, and gain the advantage. He runs after Talmanes, who’s got the last lantern, but Mat manages to trip him up with the thrown ashandarei and save Talmanes. But now he’s in trouble, since the gholam has the spear and throws it into a now burning building. OK, this is getting risky now. Maybe you should back off now Mat.
Or not. Turns out Mat was prepared for this, and he’s got backup in the form of Elayne’s copies of the medallion. The gholam runs off into the burning building, and Mat gives chase. Meanwhile, Talmanes has recovered the ashandarei. Yes! We’ll get the sucker yet.
And now Mat really goes onto the offensive, getting several hits on the gholam, driving it back, further into the building – into a gateway waiting there. And then Mat’s plan is revealed:
And there, it nearly stepped off the edge of a platform hanging above an expansive void. The gholam hissed in anger, hanging with one leg over the void, flailing to keep its balance.
From this side, the doorway into the room was ringed by a glowing white light—the edges of a gateway made for Skimming. “I don’t know if you can die,” Mat said softly. “I hope to the Light that you can’t.” He raised a boot and slammed it into the thing’s back, throwing it off the platform into the darkness. It fell, twisting in the air, looking up at him with horror.
And with that, we’re finally rid of the thing. So satisfying. So, they lured it to the building – Talmanes risking his neck in the process – where they had Sumeko ready and waiting with a skimming gateway. Nicely done, Mat. Although, it was a shade too complex a plan – too many points of failure. But it did work, so I’m not complaining. And I loved the creative use of the gateway. What do you do with a thing that you can’t kill easily? Chuck into an infinite abyss! Turns out it was at least partially Elayne and Birgitte’s plan:
Well, Elayne and Birgitte’s idea with the gateway had worked out, even if it hadn’t been the way they’d planned. It was still better than what Mat had been able to come up with; his only idea had been to try to stuff one of those medallions down the gholam’s throat.
Although, now that I think about it, they could take care of it with a Deathgate as well – even though they don’t know about those yet. Which makes me wonder why the gholam was so feared in the days of yore. I mean, shadowspawn can’t survive deathgates, and the gholam is clearly shadowspawn, so that’s a pretty nifty way of taking it out that most people would be strong enough to manage. Not to mention Balefire – although it might survive that, seeing as cuendillar can do it, and it anyway seems to be able to have anti-magic abilities against targeted weaves.
I wonder why the medallion burned it though. My earlier headcanon was that since it’s a magical construct, the medallion might be interfering with the magic that makes it work, but since Elayne can channel while holding it, that can’t be it. So what is it? For that matter, would the medallion protect Mat from Balefire? Or the True Power? Too many questions. Must stop.
With that we crossed the halfway mark for Towers of Midnight. Only one and a half books to go. We need a word for the feeling you get when you’re almost done with a series – the excitement and eagerness for the climax combined with the sadness you know you’re going to feel when it’s over so you’re also a bit reluctant to go on.
I’m a bit surprised at how long this post ended being, considering it covers only eight chapters. I guess that’s a mark of how much stuff is happening in the books now. Finally getting rid of the gholam – which means that Moiraine’s rescue is hopefully going to come soon – was probably the biggest. But for sheer impact, Perrin watching Rand on Dragonmount was unbeatable. It’s also nice because it livened up Perrin’s plotline, which, despite being good, IMO does not compare with the other stuff going on.
That’s probably just me though. I’m sure plenty of you would love it. It’s just that the crux of it – Perrin facing up to his issues, be it Whitecloaks, leadership, wolves – just doesn’t work for me. I’m more interested in what Graendal/Slayer are planning, but that seems to be on the backfoot for now. Although Perrin’s wolf dream sequences are starting to become really fun, now that he’s learning to do cool stuff by manipulating reality. What I’m trying to say is that I do like his plot, but it’s not as impactful as Rand and Egwene’s plots in The Gathering Storm.
And yeah, this post is super late. I did warn about the delay on Twitter – exams and stuff – but I guess most of you don’t follow me, which makes sense. So, my apologies for the delay.