Spoilers for books 1-12 and Towers of Midnight to ch.57| 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 49-57.
As promised, I refuse to spend time on the Cairhienin succession business. Elayne invites a bunch of Cairhienin nobles to Caemlyn and in exchange for their support gives them the land of the captive nobles – Arymilla et al.
Min and Rand are checking out Callandor. Min has a viewing, Callandor held in a black fist, that reinforces her fear that there’s something wrong about the sword. But still Rand refuses to just not use it. This is starting to feel a bit weird. If you know that a gun is going to shoot you in the face when you use it, you don’t be all “accepting death” and use it anyway – you chuck it and find another one. But then it’ll be tricky to find another sa’angreal as powerful as Callandor now that the Choedan Kal are destroyed. But still, Rand should at least be trying to do something.
Rand sends Naeff to check on the Black Tower because he himself has been unable to Travel there (the second dreamspike!). What he expects one poor Asha’man faced with the state the Black Tower is in, I don’t know. Maybe Rand doesn’t realise how bad things are there.
That done, they decide to go to Far Madding to meet the Borderlanders. Rand also takes Cadsuane to task for her calling him “boy”. But it’s not an angry outburst, but more like a polite slap to the face:
“Are you ever going to give up that affectation, Cadsuane Sedai?” Rand asked. “Calling me boy? I no longer mind, though it does feel odd. I was four hundred years old on the day I died during the Age of Legends. I suspect that would make you my junior by several decades at the least. I show you respect. Perhaps it would be appropriate for you to return it. If you wish, you may call me Rand Sedai. I am, so far as I know, the only male Aes Sedai still alive who was properly raised but who never turned to the Shadow.”
And then he goes into reminiscing mode about Far Madding, which is a tad creepy. He and Min discuss him being Rand but also Lews Therin. I don’t really understand either, my approach is to accept it and move on.
They arrive at Far Madding, and Rand goes to meet the four rulers of the Borderlander nations. Rand asks what they want, they respond by slapping Rand in the face, one after the other. Fortunately this is improved Rand so he doesn’t blow them all out of existence. They still don’t seem to accept that Rand is the Dragon Reborn, though they do shut up when Rand pulls out Callandor. Then Paitar asks Rand how Tellindal Tirraso died. Turns out she was someone in the Age of Legends, and she died fighting Demandred and his “Eighty and One”. The answer seems to be the right one. They finally call him the Dragon Reborn.
Turns out this whole thing was, like the chapter’s title suggests, a test. One of Paitar’s ancestors heard a prophecy from an Aes Sedai, saying that if Rand doesn’t pass they were to kill him ASAP. It does make some sense. Pre Veins of Gold Rand might be better dead than alive for the world. Anyways, the testing done, Rand again asks them to return to the Borderlands for the war to come.
Also, Rand’s meeting that he set up with Egwene at the beginning is supposed to be tomorrow. Oh boy.
Elayne arrives in Cairhien and officially takes charge, and orders everyone to gather their men for the meeting at the Field of Merrilor.
Mat is chilling out in the Band’s camp. Mistress Anan (I just don’t feel comfortable calling her Setalle, I don’t know why) comes to meet him. They have a nice little chat, which moves from Mat’s dislike of Aes Sedai to his dislike of nobles. Mat says that he doesn’t dislike them, he just doesn’t want to be one himself. Then he goes into an extended metaphor about boots, the point of which is that he doesn’t want to have to deal with the kind of responsibilities that nobles have. Which would make sense if not for the fact that Mat is already responsible for the entire Band.
Once she leaves, Mat decides that tomorrow is the day. Tomorrow they leave for the Tower of Ghenjei. Man, but tomorrow is going to be one big day what with this and Rand’s big conference.
Pevara and co. are still in the Black Tower. It seems the trouble is that they want to bond full Asha’man, but Taim won’t allow that. He leaves with a very unsubtle threat.
The Aes Sedai are spooked. They’re uneasy, Reds surrounded by men who can channel, and now Taim has told them they need his permission to leave. This is starting to feel like a trap. Pevara returns to talk about these new developments with Tarna, but the woman has… changed. I remember Androl being told about something similar happening to one of the dissenters. What is going on here?
Well and truly scared now, Pevara tries to escape via gateways. That doesn’t work, of course.
Perrin sees off Mat and the other two on their quest. He offers to help, but Mat can’t take any more people. That done, Perrin and his army move to the Field of Merrilor, where basically everyone is gathering. Perrin at least has decided that he trusts Rand and will support his plan to break the seals.
But that meeting is a worry for later. For now we switch to Mat, Thom and Noal, who arrive at the Tower of Ghenjei. Thom makes the signs you’re supposed to when starting a game of Snakes and Foxes, and it creates a tiny little gateway. So they make a bigger sign and make a bigger gateway, and go through.
They enter a room that is suitably weird, with four hallways leading from each of its walls. Once they confirm that they can use the gateway they just made for exiting the place as well, the trio set off, only to arrive in an identical room with four hallways leading off. After a few times of doing this, they decide to test the map they’ve been making and retrace their steps. But when they get to what should be the original room, there’s no sign of the gateway. Well, it was never going to be this simple. It’s obvious that spacetime here doesn’t behave like in the normal world.
An Eelfinn appears, promising to take them where they need to be if they would only get rid of their fire and iron and music. It starts to do some sort of hypnosis on them, but Mat realises what’s going on and asks Thom to play music. Soon enough, the creature becomes drowsy and falls asleep. And then Mat pulls out his superweapon – dice:
“Twelve pips. Three for each doorway. If I roll a one, a two, or a three, we go straight. Four, five, or six, we take the right path, and so on.”
“But Mat,” Noal whispered, glancing at the sleeping Eelfinn. “The rolls won’t be equal. You can’t roll a one, for example, and a seven is far more likely to—”
“You don’t understand, Noal,” Mat said, tossing the dice to the floor. They rattled against the scale-like tiles, clacking like teeth. “It doesn’t matter what is likely. Not when I’m around.”
The dice came to a rest. One of them caught in a rut between two tiles and froze precariously, one of the corners to the air. The other came to rest with a single pip showing.
“How about that, Noal,” Thom said. “Looks like he can roll a one after all.”
And so they set off again, following the dice. They tell them to go back the way they just came, but Mat does just that. After a few times of apparently walking in a loop, they finally get to somewhere different – a big room with spooky decor.
So far, the going has been pretty smooth, but then more of the Eelfinn start moving in the shadows. Mat asks Thom to play some more music. They find the remains of the wrecked doorframe ter’angreal. Yep, they’re definitely on the right trail. Then the Eelfinn start to play with them, appearing, taunting, disappearing. Realising that music will not suffice against these, they switch to their iron weapons.
But they’re too outnumbered. With no time to toss dice, Mat decides to throw a nightflower and just close his eyes and spin around. He finds himself pointing into just darkness, but when they rush through they find themselves in a five-sided corridor. They rush through it, and find themselves in another large chamber, the Chamber of Bonds. And there they find her.
Moiraine. Oh man, after all this time. Well, it’s been just a few months for me, but it feels like ages. Thom pulls her out of the mist she’s floating in. She’s still alive. Of course she is, how could it be otherwise! But still, I feel relieved.
And then the Eelfinn appear on the pedestals. It’s time to make the bargain. Mat asks them to give them a way out of their realm, with a lot of extra words to cover any possible loopholes. The Eelfinn demand a price, of course. And Mat remembers the answers he was given in Tear. Half the light of the world. Which turns out to be one of Mat’s eyes. Ouch! And to make it even more creepy, the Eelfinn feast on Mat’s pain, almost like getting high on it. *Shivers*
Once Mat recovers, he tells Thom and Noal that it had to be done, to save the world. Moiraine still has something left to do. Then they decide that it’s time to scarper. Through the hallway into the room with the remnants of the ter’angreal. This time, held by the bargain, the foxes don’t attack. They get to the rooms with steam and four hallways leading off. And then Noal realises the loophole that Mat left out – the foxes were not to attack them. No bargain about the snakes.
Right on cue the Aelfinn appear and give pursuit. The four of them run, with Thom carrying a still unconscious Moiraine, but it’s clear that they can’t escape without doubling back, and they can’t do that because they’ve got snakes on their trail. Mat tries instead to go to the ter’angreal in Tear, but the way to that too is backwards.
So Noal decides to make a stand, to give the others time to go ahead and then double back. And so Noal, or rather, Jain Farstrider, is left behind, holding off the snakes. The others follow Mat’s luck, and get to the realm of the Aelfinn, to the room with the other doorframe ter’angreal. Or rather, the remains of it.
Thom seems to give up now. He breaks into a sad song as Moiraine finally regains consciousness. But not Mat. He works through his last experience in the Aelfinn realm. The memories, to fill the holes in his memories, the medallion, to protect him from the Power, and as a way out… the ashandarei. Mat plunges the ashandarei into a wall, moving it to tear a hole and make a gateway. YES!! And so they escape at last, Mat throwing one last quip before jumping out:
“Looks like the game can be won after all,” he said. “Tell the foxes I’m mighty pleased with this key they gave me. Also, you can all go rot in a flaming pit of fire and ashes, you unwashed lumps on a pig’s backside. Have a grand bloody day.”
Whooh, that was quite the adventure. I remember wondering about why the Aelfinn gave Mat the ashandarei. The thing I missed is that I assumed the “exit” he asked for they gave him by just throwing him out of their realm, so the ashandarei was something extra. Clearly it was not. Then there’s Noal, who as I suspected, turned out to be Jain Farstrider. No big feat, there were plenty of obvious clues. Though I don’t think we ever found out what he was doing in Ebou Dar in the first place.
And Moiraine is back. I’m so happy! I was so sad when she died, and so happy when we got confirmation that she had a backup plan, and so happy now that her plan worked. Props to Mat, and Jain, for making the sacrifices they did to rescue her. Of course, she’ll need some time to recover from her ordeal and get back into action, but I am so looking forward to what she’ll get up to when she does.
And I think I have my answers about the whole snakes and foxes thing. At least, a satisfactory headcanon. They have their own worlds, but they love them some human emotions. They can’t come to our world to exploit us presumably because they’re just as weak in our world as we are in theirs, so they made some sort of binding agreement where they get to make these deal with the devil type of contracts in return for doing the sort of stuff they did to Mat.
A small Egwene POV, describing the various camps at Merrilor, and Elayne’s arrival and Gawyn’s reunion with Morgase. And then the clouds split, the sky becomes clear. Rand is here.
In the Black Tower, Androl and co. have discovered that gateways no longer work, despite all of their attempts. Especially troubling for Androl, since they’re his speciality. They too feel like they need to leave, but there’s no easy way to do it. Desperate for allies, he goes to meet with the Reds.
A Rabbit for Supper
Mat, Thom and Moiraine drop out of the gateway in front of the Tower of Ghenjei. That’s convenient. Be quite the chore to get back to action from Rhuidean without gateways.
Moiraine tells them more about her time with the foxes. Turns out they fed not only on her emotions, but on her power to channel as well, which is greatly reduced. She mentions a man being there once, saying she was not the one he wanted. Maybe some Forsaken came looking for Lanfear. Fortunately, Moiraine has a strong angreal, with which she is almost back to her old strength. She actually asked for it, as one of her three demands that she got, having come through the ter’angreal. Though what the other two were, Moiraine keeps to herself. Typical Moiraine.
Mat gives Moiraine some updates on what went down while she was gone. And then, surprise of surprises, Moiraine asks Thom to marry her, who accepts! And to become her warder. Mat summarises my feelings:
“I just…” He pulled off his hat, holding it awkwardly, looking back and forth between them. “I just—burn me! How did I miss this? I was with the two of you most of the time you were together! When did you become affectionate?”
Seriously, I did not see that coming.
Leaving them alone, Mat goes for a walk. He’s worried about losing the eye – that will interfere with his ability to fight, but he’s also worried about what Tuon will think of it, which I think is just a bit silly. But his luck still works just fine, evidenced by him randomly throwing his knife and catching a rabbit with it, and then stumbling upon a pot to cook it in.
Graendal, hurriedly trying to run off after her failure is visited by Shaidar Haran the superfade, who brushes aside her excuses for failure and proceeds to do stuff to her.
Perrin goes to meet Boundless in the wolf dream like Hopper told him to. And he realises that Boundless is actually Noam, the man he met in Ghealdan way back, who had been taken over by the wolf in him. But Boundless shows him that is was not something that happened to him. He chose this, sick of the sorrows and troubles of his human life. That finally puts to rest Perrin’s fears, and he finds the balance between Perrin and Young Bull he needed to find. Well Perrin, I hope you’re happy and I hope you can now focus on saving the world and stuff instead of all this navel gazing.
Olver and Talmanes are playing Snakes and Foxes, and this time, they win. Actually related to Mat getting out of the Tower of Ghenjei or just a Mat’s luck level of coincidence? Are children the world over clapping in joy as they finally win this stupid game while elders like Talmanes scratch their heads?
And then Olver spots Verin’s letter, and opens it because letters are supposed to be opened:
If you are opening this, then I am dead. I had planned to return and release you of your oath in a single day. There are many potential complications to my next task, however, and a large chance that I will not survive. I needed to know that I’d left someone behind who could see this work done.
Fortunately, if there’s one thing I believe I can rely upon, it is your curiosity. I suspect you lasted a few days before opening this letter, which is long enough for me to have returned if I were going to. Therefore, this task falls upon you.
There is a Waygate in Caemlyn. It is guarded, barricaded, and thought secure. It is not.
An enormous force of Shadowspawn moves through the Ways toward Caemlyn. I do not know when they left exactly, but there should be time to stop them. You must reach the Queen and persuade her to destroy the Waygate. It can be done; walling it up will not suffice. If you cannot destroy it, the Queen must bring all of her forces to bear upon guarding the location.
If you fail in this, I fear Caemlyn will be lost before the month is out.
Oh Verin, you tried, but you underestimated Mat’s sense of honour. Olver shows the letter to Talmanes, who rushes out but it’s too late. The invasion is here and Caemlyn has already fallen and burning. Stupid Mat and his stupid mistrust of Aes Sedai. Stupid me and my stupid approval of Mat’s decision to not open the letter.
Barriga, a lone merchant running for his life through the Blight. He stumbles upon some red veiled men. He thinks they are Aiel. They are not.
Rand is dreaming, safe behind his wards. He plans to make his demands to the monarchs the next day – not for not breaking the seals. He’ll do that anyway. No, to go to Shayol Ghul. Pretty sure he’s going to try and set up some sort of treaty so the world doesn’t fall to war and strife after he’s gone. Here’s hoping he’s present personally to prevent that. Suddenly he hears screams, which shouldn’t be possible in this warded dream. He goes to check it out, and finds Mierin – Lanfear, begging for help from someone who is tormenting her, but before Rand can do anything, she’s pulled away into the darkness. What the hell just happened!
Lan and his followers arrive at Tarwin’s Gap, and make their last glorious charge against the Shadow.
Finally, a scary as hell prophecy of the Shadow:
Lo, it shall come upon the world that the prison of the Greatest One shall grow weak, like the limbs of those who crafted it. Once again, His glorious cloak shall smother the Pattern of all things, and the Great Lord shall stretch forth His hand to claim what is His. The rebellious nations shall be laid barren, their children caused to weep. There shall be none but Him, and those who have turned their eyes to His majesty.
In that day, when the One-Eyed Fool travels the halls of mourning, and the First Among Vermin lifts his hand to bring freedom to Him who will Destroy, the last days of the Fallen Blacksmith’s pride shall come. Yea, and the Broken Wolf, the one whom Death has known, shall fall and be consumed by the Midnight Towers. And his destruction shall bring fear and sorrow to the hearts of men, and shall shake their very will itself.
And then, shall the Lord of the Evening come. And He shall take our eyes, for our souls shall bow before Him, and He shall take our skin, for our flesh shall serve Him, and He shall take our lips, for only Him will we praise. And the Lord of the Evening shall face the Broken Champion, and shall spill his blood and bring us the Darkness so beautiful. Let the screams begin, O followers of the Shadow. Beg for your destruction!
And that concludes Towers of Midnight. I was feeling a bit upbeat after the Mat chapters, but the epilogue was like one slap to the face after other, and now I’m properly scared for the future, as intended.
This was quite the book, just like The Gathering Storm. You know how you get to a book, hoping it’s going to be as great as everyone promised, but sort of afraid that it won’t be, but then it’s even better and you mind is blown? That’s what it’s been like these past two books. Let’s see if the feeling remains as we move to: