Spoilers for books 1-13 and A Memory of Light to Chapter 37| 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 14, A Memory of Light. This post covers chapter 37.
The Last Battle
Dawn broke that morning on Polov Heights, but the sun did not shine on the Defenders of the Light. Out of the west and out of the north came the armies of Darkness, to win this one last battle and cast a Shadow across the earth; to usher in an Age where the wails of suffering would go unheard.
With that not at all scary quote from Loial’s legendary notebook, we begin the much anticipated and feared Last Battle.
Fittingly, it begins with Lan. I missed some finer details of troop maneuvers in the earlier fightings, but this time I’ll be sure to keep track with the handy map of Merrilor. By the way, I find it rather annoying that it is not at the start of this chapter, but the earlier one.
Lan’s cavalry reaches Hawal Ford, where Logain has a Moses moment, moving up the river’s flow, out of Lan’s way. And then they charge towards the Sharans and the Trollocs, while Dragons breathe fire from nearby Polov Heights.
Meanwhile, Elayne is almost ambushed by Draghkar – enraptured by their singing, but Birgitte’s warning brings her to her senses long enough to weave a thunderclap and deafen her and everyone around her. Smart. They soon dispatch the creatures after that. A damane sul’dam pair (they really should have a name for the unit as a whole) turn up, and then this happens:
She sighed, then held out her foot to the damane. The woman frowned, then glanced to the suldam. Both seemed to take it as an insult. Elayne had certainly intended it as one.
The suldam nodded, and her damane reached to touch Elayne’s leg just above her booted foot. Elayne’s sturdy boots looked like something a soldier would wear, not a queen, but she didn’t intend to ride into battle wearing slippers.
A small icy shock of Healing ran through her, and her hearing returned slowly.
WTF Elayne. Just as I was giving you a mental pat on the back, you go and do this. So bloody petty, and towards someone who came to Heal you too! And then she refuses to directly speak to them too, for good measure.
Moving on. Elayne goes to meet Mat. She’s pissed because apparently Mat’s thrown out all their carefully discussed plans and is doing his own thing. Mat points out that with Darkfriends coming out the woodwork and Compulsion and whatnot, their plan has already been leaked, so it’s worse than useless. And so he’s going to keep the real plan to himself. I agree. I also hope nothing happens to Mat, because aside from it being really sucky in its own way, it would also mean the Light’s forces won’t stand a chance.
Uno is helping defend Polov heights while the Dragons rain down explosions. He’s just thinking about how it’s a good position and they can hold it for quite a while, when a message arrives from Mat telling them to abandon the Heights and retreat. They’re not happy about it, but the men begin to carry out the order. Just then, lightning begins striking down the Dragons, the channelers all focusing on them. And then a huge gateway opens, and Demandred begins demanding that Rand fight him. With a full circle of seventy-two behind him, there’s nothing to do but run for their lives.
Why seventy-two, I wonder? Just something RJ made up? Or can you maybe make larger ones but people just don’t know how yet?
Logain notices that huge burst of channeling too, and he itches to seize whatever sa’angreal Demandred has, but for now he has other business to take care of. They’ve received a message from Rand, telling them to look for the Seals. Fortunately, Androl, dependable as ever, remembers hearing Taim brag about them earlier, and now they are going to split into groups, hunting the Black Tower’s traitors.
Gawyn is not feeling well. This is understandable, given he used rings which he was told would bloody kill him! They’re discussing how the battle is going – poorly. They’ve lost the heights already. Bryne suggests that it’s some kind of trap, to end the battle fast. But Demandred is still proving a huge problem. And Gawyn seems to decide that he is the one to take care of it, putting two more rings on for good measure. Well, if you are going to die, might as well get the most out of the things.
Tam and his men are holding the river Mora. The Trollocs are trying to cross it on makeshift rafts and stuff, but are dying by the thousand to arrows. Once they empty their quivers, the archers move back to allow the Whitecloaks, the Wolf Guard and the Dragonsworn to the front.
Androl and co. are fighting at the Heights, helping soldiers get out safely, focusing down Sharan channelers. Androl continues to use gateways to great effect both for mobility and offensively. Interestingly, he has trouble with deathgates – the weave is different or something. But then someone strong and in a circle – Taim, or probably Demandred, start attacking them, and they run for their lives. Notably, they run through a gateway made by Pevara, even though she’s in a circle with Androl leading it. Well, weird things are expected with this unique bond that they have.
Mat, for reasons inscrutable to mere mortals, is still focusing on holding the river near the ruins. He even orders Lan to swing around the heights, to the other side, behind the Trollocs trying to cross, and hide there. But then, as he looks at the battlefield through the gateway, he spots a force breaking off from the heights already, moving to intercept Lan. This confirms his suspicions that they’ve got a spy in the command tent, probably a masked channeler.
Instead of making a fuss about it, Mat is smartly going to use this knowledge, feeding false information to Demandred. Like the Dragons are ruined, while in fact they are, if damaged, but still functional. And in the middle of all this, Mat is still making observations like:
Or was it one of the many generals? Galgan? Tylee? Banner-General Gerisch? She stood at the side of the room, glaring at him. Honestly. Women. She did have a nice backside, but Mat had only mentioned it to be friendly. He was a married man.
Elayne insists that he tell her his plan, so that they don’t get caught with no idea what to do if something happens to it. Mat sees the logic in this, so he takes Elayne outside and tells her the plan. Basically, he wants to lose until he can get one right moment and turn the battle around, catch Demandred unawares. But it’s still a gamble, not a certainty. Well, that is to be expected with them this badly outnumbered. I wonder how different things might’ve been if someone had thought to get the Sharans on their side instead.
Mat sends Elayne’s troops to help hold the ford as well. He predicts that soon enough the Shadow will manage to shut down the Mora and the Trollocs will surge across from both sides of the sides. They need to stop that from happening. Meanwhile, Mat orders Galad and some of his men to Elayne’s side as well.
While all this is going down, Rand is fighting his own battle. The Dark One continues to pound away at him in – wherever they are. And then the Dark One weaves the threads of the Pattern into a reality. A world where the Dark One won, what will happen if they lose. The Taint, covering saidin once more, the Blight, extending all across the world, the people of Emond’s field slaves to the Dark One, Nynaeve one of the Forsaken. They capture him, begin to Turn him as well.
But then Rand seizes control once again, shattering the reality, and begins to weave the Pattern himself.
Egwene moves to join the Battle. She spots more of the spooky cracks in the ground, and then she does something that causes them to fade away, leaving behind white crystals. I hate not knowing exactly what she did.
And then Egwene notices Gawyn missing. She turns to where she senses him, and thinks that he’s gone to Elayne, to join the battle. She sends Bryne to fetch him, and Siuan to go keep an eye on Mat and Tuon. Then, she orders Chubain to move their forces to come at the Sharan from behind, as Mat instructed. And then she realises that Mat is in fact at the Heights as well.
Gawyn is sneaking through the entire huge army of Trollocs at the Heights, aided by smoke and the bloodrings, looking for Demandred. The bulk of the Trollocs move down to engage Mat’s forces, but still leave the Sharans behind to hold the Heights. Finally, Gawyn spots Demandred, still raving that Rand come fight him. He’s about to strike at the Forsaken from behind, but somehow, Demandred senses him, and turns and shoots. His element of surprise lost, it’s time for a duel, as Demandred waves off the Sharans, and fights Gawyn one on one.
Gawyn is good, and has the bloodrings, but still Demandred is a match for him. They fight, they trash talk. And then, suddenly, Demandred has stabbed Gawyn, and gone, leaving him to crawl desperately to a horse and try to get away. Oh, Gawyn. Always with the best intentions, but the worst decisions.
Faile’s party spots a caravan, in the Blasted Lands, which leads them to a village. Is this the place Isam was hanging out at earlier?
Perrin wakes up, receives all the bad news about the fighting and Faile. He wants to get up, go help, but he’s too tired, and soon enough he’s falling asleep again. He spots the third path this time – the sleep, the wolf dream, and this time also the wolf dream in the flesh. But he understands that his body needs rest now, and so goes to sleep.
Androl and co. take a bit of rest to regroup, far from the battle. They decide that their earlier approach is not going to work, they need to think of some other way to find Taim. Androl continues to impress with his gateway-ing, though this time it’s little things. Water from a mountain stream, tea from his workshop. And being romantic to Pevara, comparing her to old leather. Pevara seems to have some idea to get to Taim stealthily. We’ll find out soon enough.
In Thakan’dar, the Shadowspawn have finally managed to break through the defenses, and the Valley has become one big crazy battlefield, with storms and lightning for added effect. Rhuarc is stalking through this mess, killing the enemy, helping the Aiel here and there. But then Graendal finds him, and he becomes another one of her mindless slaves. She’s got quite a few of them now – including Wise Ones and Aes Sedai. Poor Rhuarc. Damn but compulsion sucks. I sure hope Graendal comes to an extra sticky end.
Rand is strolling through his woven reality, a world of peace and harmony, where the Dark One lost. But then the Dark One attacks:
YOU THINK YOU CAN ELIMINATE SUFFERING? EVEN IF YOU WIN, YOU WILL NOT ON THOSE PERFECT STREETS, MEN ARE STILL MURDERED AT NIGHT. CHILDREN GO HUNGRY DESPITE THE EFFORTS OF YOUR MINIONS. THE WEALTHY EXPLOIT AND CORRUPT; THEY MERELY DO SO QUIETLY.
“It is better,” Rand whispered. “It is good.”
IT IS NOT ENOUGH, AND WILL NEVER BE ENOUGH. YOUR DREAM IS FLAWED. YOUR DREAM IS A LIE. I AM THE ONLY HONESTY YOUR WORLD HAS EVER KNOWN.
And then the Dark One in turn rips apart Rand’s vision.
Well, of course the bloody Dark One would say that it’s flawed, but I think it’s pretty good. Yes, you can’t entirely get rid of bad stuff, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for improvement.
Egwene’s forces have split up. The Aes Sedai and the infantry are attacking the Sharan’s from the rear, while their cavalry is attacking the Trolloc’s fighting Elayne’s people from the rear. Egwene’s in a bad way though, with her feeling Gawyn dying. She wants to rush ahead to the Heights, to save him. Silviana tells her to pass on Gawyn’s bond, so that his death won’t incapacitate her, but Egwene refuses. I dunno, it sucks about Gawyn, sure, but I think I agree with Silviana.
Elayne is watching her people hold off the Trollocs. Birgitte has finally lost all of her memories of the earlier days. All her earlier lives, Gaidal, everything. It’s sad, but compared to all that’s been going down… I mean, it’s just memories. Galad gets another delivery from Mat, giving him one of the Foxhead copies, and telling him to go murder Sharan channelers.
In the command tent, Mat orders Lan to move on the Trolloc army near the ruins from behind, to crush them between Tam and the Borderlanders. Hopefully, Elayne can hold until Tam and Lan are done and come to help her out. Logain comes to meet Mat. He wants to try and fight Demandred. Mat’s desperate for some way to deal with Demandred, and so he gives Logain his permission.
A little bit more of Mat’s plan is revealed. He intends to fake a fight with Tuon, so that the Shadow thinks the Seanchan have split off, and then bring them back in as a surprise. Suddenly, they’re attacked, gray men and channelers.
Min stumbles out of the tent, and is saved just in time from a bloodknife by Siuan. Min berates her for leaving Bryne, reminding her that the two of them need to stick around or they’ll die. Siuan tell her that it’s already come to pass – back during the Seanchan raid on Tar Valon, but Min insists the aura is still there. But Siuan goes ahead, because keeping Mat alive is more important. They rush into the tent, and Min takes out two Gray men, saving Tuon and Mat. And then finds Siuan dead.
Oh man. You know things are going to get messy in such situations, but it still hurts. Siuan. All her life given to fighting the Shadow, struggling on despite being overthrown and stilled, managing to accomplish so much. And now gone. And of course, now Bryne too. Rest in peace, you two.
A POV from Demandred. Surprisingly, the gateways that Mat is using to look at the battle are new even to him. I’d expected this to be a common practice in the Age of Legends. I mean, it’s so obvious. Maybe it’s just obvious in hindsight.
Also, turns out the Sharans know exactly what they are doing, which side they are fighting for. But they expect Demandred will preserve them when all this is over. Stupid, stupid, crazy weird exotic madmen. Argh!!
Taim arrives, and trash talks Demandred about losing the Trollocs at the ruins. But Demandred has him shielded soon enough, and when he tries to use the True Power, Demandred makes a shield of the True Power to stop that too. One side effect of this is that Demandred is able to leech off Taim’s power. He draws on this, bringing Taim to the verge of being burned out and killed. And then Demandred tells Taim to STFU and remember his place.
The Dark One shows Rand the ongoing battle. He can’t change the Pattern directly, not yet.
Juilin has ended up as part of the White Tower force forcing its way up the west of the Heights.
Androl and co. are there too, disguised as Taim’s men. Excellent idea, Pevara. One of the Sharans confronts them, and takes them to Demandred. It’s risky, but they do need to talk to someone to find out where Taim is. And Demandred obliges, between threats and stuff, he tells them Taim and his men are fighting the Aes Sedai. Their risk has paid off. Whew. That could’ve turned very deadly very fast.
Galad and his men are moving through the fight, taking down Ayyads. They spot Gawyn, and rush to him. Gawyn still lives, but only long enough to tell Galad who killed him and that Rand is his brother. And then he too, dies. Well at least we had warning of this, not gone like that like Siuan. Galad decides to avenge Gawyn. Let’s hope with the medallion and general next level badassery, he does better than Gawyn.
Gawyn’s death also causes Egwene to go into rage and grief, and she slumps, unable to keep fighting, and is carried away.
Tam and his men run out of arrows for good, and decide to enter close quarters fighting with the Trollocs. Hurry up, Lan!
In the aftermath of the attack on Mat, Tuon orders her guards to go kill themselves in the fighting. Stupid Seanchan and their stupid customs. Then she has a fake fight with Mat, and withdraws her people.
The Dark One spins another reality. It’s a pretty normal seeming world. Caemlyn, just another regular city. Rand goes to chat with a nearby fruit vendor. She seems friendly enough. Until, that is, an urchin tries to steal and she bloody shoots him with a gun. With zero hesitation or emotion. Rand is aghast. She starts reaching for her gun again, and Rand runs off. Rand manages to reach The Queen’s Blessing, where Basel Gill at least recognises him. Only to have the man try and kill and loot him.
The Dark One explains:
MEN WHO THINK THEY ARE OPPRESSED WILL SOMEDAY FIGHT. I WILL REMOVE FROM THEM NOT JUST THEIR WILL TO RESIST, BUT THE VERY SUSPICION THAT SOMETHING IS WRONG.
WHAT I SHOWED BEFORE IS WHAT MEN EXPECT. IT IS THE EVIL THEY THINK THEY FIGHT. BUT I WILL MAKE A WORLD WHERE THERE IS NOT GOOD OR EVIL.
THERE IS ONLY ME.
Yep, this is… This is way worse. It’s like a global Turning, in a way. Horrible. I can well believe that this is what the Dark One will really do if he wins.
And again, Rand shatters this vision, and weaves another one, without Shadow.
Mat sends Min off with Tuon, and convinces Karede and his men to accompany him to the front lines instead of dying pointlessly.
Tam manages to destroy the Trollocs at the ruins thanks to Lan’s arrival. But it’s only a small victory – the bigger battles are still being fought at the Heights and Hawal Ford. Berelain arrives then, with refugees and Tinkers, who try to help in their own way – looking for living men among the fallen, picking out arrows and the like. Everyone is doing something to help. Let’s hope it’s enough.
Elayne closes Bryne’s eyes. As expected, he went into a suicidal rage when Siuan died. With Mat nowhere to be found, Elayne takes command of her forces. The day is almost over, but the fight is still going strong. Demandred, still looking for Rand, starts firing at Elayne’s position to draw him out. Birgitte suggests raising a fake banner and for Elayne to retreat. Elayne’s not happy, but she needs to live.
Galad makes his way to Demandred, guided by the variety of attacks he’s launching. An Ayyad tries to stop him, but the foxhead gives Galad the upper hand. Unlike Gawyn, Galad proudly challenges Demandred, proclaiming himself as the brother of the Dragon Reborn. And Demandred accepts the challenge.
“You have an interesting artifact, I see,” Demandred said as the medallion grew cold again. “Surely you don’t think that is going to keep you from meeting the same fate as your pathetic brother? The dead one, I mean.”
“Do we fight, son of Shadows? Or do we talk?”
Nynaeve, though unable to channel, still has some of her tools, and she mixes some medicines for Alanna and sews her wound. Wisdom indeed.
Mat’s overseeing the Andoran defense in person. They’re holding thanks to the pike squares, but the Trollocs are beginning to flank them. And Demandred’s attacks can destroy their defenses effortlessly. He sends for Lan’s forces to come and reinforce Elayne’s right flank, while the Ogier hold the left flank. Mat goes to them, and asks Loial to follow him. Then he looks for someone to make a gateway, and runs into Teslyn. The next step in the plan is to stop Demandred from sending the Sharans and surrounding Elayne from behind. To do that, they need to go attack the Heights. Of course, with the Ogier, Dragonsworn and the Band gone, Elayne is liable to be crushed.
Egwene wakes up. Silviana tells her that she is in no condition to fight, but Egwene didn’t become who she is by taking the easy way out. And so she bonds Leilwin to watch her back, and drowns her sorrow in her rage. And so the Amyrlin returns to battle.
Demandred and Galad are dueling it out. Demandred tries to rile Galad, but Galad is happy. The longer he’s trash talking, the longer Demandred is not raining down death. Demandred tries the rock trick on Galad, but he’s too fast, too aware to be caught unawares. They exchange blows, and both of them manage to draw blood. They fight, they struggle, but then a muscle in Galad’s arm rips where he’d been cut, and his sword drops from his numb hand. Demandred strikes and cuts off the arm entirely. Ouch.
And that’s it for Galad. He proved a worthy adversary, but good as he was, he was still not good enough to beat Demandred. I’m getting a feeling that Mat will have to do it personally.
Androl, searching on the slopes of the Heights, finds a ring of Trollocs with channeling inside it. They see him, but thinks he’s Nensen. Taim beats him up a bit, then disguises him – as Androl – and orders him to go find Logain, and kill him. Androl manages to get out with his life.
Turns out not just his life. He’s managed to swipe the pouch containing the seals from Logain. Androl you magnificent, crazy man!
Arganda, who is holding off the Trollocs at Elayne’s left flank with the Whitecloaks and the rest, gets a message from Mat telling him to go upriver and attack the heights from the northeast. Mat’s clearly desperate to keep the Sharans penned in. Lan and Tam joint them, and they charge up the slopes. Demandred, having defeated Galad, also resumes his attacks and his taunts to Rand. Luckily, Mat has his people in place by this time and together they manage to push back the Sharans and the Trollocs. They’re still far from winning though:
“What will we do?” Arganda said. “To win . . . Light, to win we’d need to break these Sharans, rescue the pikemen—they will soon be surrounded by the Trollocs—and each man of ours would need to kill at least five of those beasts! That’s not even counting Demandred.”
Rand’s Dark One free world materialises. Again he comes to Caemlyn, but this is truly a good Caemlyn, not the travesty the Dark One created earlier. A world where Rand not only won, but killed the Dark One. He goes to see Elayne at the palace. Everything is prosperity and harmony and peace and growth. The Aiel once again a people of peace.
When he gets to Elayne, she’s just chilling out. There are no problems for her to handle. She recognises him. But Rand feels something is off about her.
Rand looked into Elayne’s eyes, looked into them deeply. A shadow lurked back there, behind them. Oh, it was an innocent shadow, but a shadow nonetheless. It was like . . . like that . . .
Like that shadow behind the eyes of someone who had been Turned to the Dark One.
Rand jumped to his feet and stumbled backward. “What have you done here?” he shouted into the sky. “Shai’tan! Answer me!”
Elayne cocked her head. She wasn’t afraid. Fear did not exist in this place. “Shai’tan? I swear I remember that name. It has been so long. I get forgetful sometimes.”
“SHAITAN!” Rand bellowed.
I HAVE DONE NOTHING, ADVERSARY. The voice was distant. THIS IS YOUR CREATION.
“Nonsense!” Rand said. “You’ve changed her! You’ve changed them all!”
DID YOU THINK THAT REMOVING ME FROM THEIR LIVES WOULD LEAVE THEM UNALTERED?
I TURN MEN TO ME, Shaitan said. IT IS TRUE. THEY CANNOT CHOOSE GOOD ONCE I HAVE MADE THEM MINE IN THAT WAY. HOW IS THIS ANY DIFFERENT, ADVERSARY?
IF YOU DO THIS, WE ARE ONE.
Is that? I really don’t know. Yes, it changes people. But it does so for the good. Is the value of being good only when you consciously choose not to do evil? Is it not worth doing when you can eliminate all suffering and pain? I think, that if I had a button that if pressed would make it so that no one wanted to do evil, I would press that button.
But now back to more straightforward, if dire, matters. Mat is considering events. His gambit, that Demandred would send all his forces against Elayne and he would easily take the Heights, has failed. And now both Elayne and he are badly pressed. The Ayyad are beating the Aes Sedai. Mat still has the Seanchan though.
Faile and co. are trying to sneak into the village. They’re trying to use one of the gateways there to get the Horn to Mat. They’ve attacked and taken over one of the supply caravans for added authenticity. A gateway is made, and they pass through it, and find themselves in a Trolloc camp. So far so good, now they need to get to Mat.
But then Aravine arrives with the channeler that made the gateway, and a bunch of Red Veils attack them. In moments it’s over. Turns out Aravine was a Darkfriend too. Oh come on! At this rate it’ll turn out everyone was a Darkfriend and that they’d just been playacting for fun.
Olver, unnoticed so far, jumps out and stabs the channeler. The captives burst forth from their pens.
The Aes Sedai, outnumbered and faltering, decide to retreat via gateways, get together and rally. But before they do any of that, Egwene al’Vere hits the floor, a beacon of power and fury, and they rally around her instead.
Talmanes is in a cavern with the dragons, and they’re attempting to salvage and repair the things, and singing Jak o’ the Shadows.
Faile rushes after Aravine, but she gallops up the slopes towards Demandred. Faile rushes to Bela and gives chase. Of all people, Vanin and Harnan come to help her. Turns out they were among the captives.
More importantly, turns out they were not stealing the Horn – they were stealing Mat’s tabac, which is what Faile originally claimed was in the chest. The scream, that night, was not of terror but of surprise when an unsuspecting Vanin found himself holding the Horn of Valere.
As they fall back to deal with pursuers, Faile catches up to Aravine, knifing the betrayer in the back. Unfortunately she catches the attention of a group of Trollocs, and Faile is forced to flee back the way she came. Desperate, she gives the Horn to Olver instead, telling him to hide, while she leads off the Trollocs in a chase.
Logain promotes Androl to Asha’man, and then goes to face Demandred.
Egwene leads the Towers – both White and Black – in a furious assault against the Dreadlords, with some sick moves like raising a metal rod to absorb lightning. She finally comes face to face – metaphorically speaking – against Taim, and it is on.
Olver tries to hide with the Horn, but is soon spotted and chased by hordes of Trollocs. He manages to get on Bela and make a run for it. But there’s nowhere safe to go. One of the Trollocs gets an arrow into Bela:
Olver grabbed the Horn, and found that he was weeping. “I’m sorry,” he said to Bela. “You were a good horse. You ran like Wind couldn’t have. I’m sorry.” She whinnied softly and drew a final breath, then died.
NOOOOO!!!! Not good old Bela too!
Olver, surrounded and scared, runs into a little cleft into the ground, with Trollocs all around him, reaching in for him.
Logain gets his ass handed to him by Demandred and rushes back through a gateway. Mat kill this bastard already!
Egwene’s fury rains down on Taim, forcing him on the defensive. He tries to use Balefire, but Egwene’s attack after attack give him no room to recover. She slams a shield down on him, but before it can fully block him, Taim Travels away with the True Power. That’ll teach him. Egwene resumes wrecking the Ayyad.
A POV from Berelain, who is trying desperately to administer the healing and care of the wounded, but is swamped by sheer numbers. Annoura has managed to bring back Galad, who apparently did not die. I’m surprised Demandred or one of the Sharans didn’t finish him off. I’m not complaining though. He’s lost his hand, and won’t be fighting anytime soon, if ever, but he’s alive.
Rand is forced to watch the deaths at Merrilor and Shayol Ghul. He weeps as he watches people he wanted to protect die. Bashere and his wife. Enaila. Siuan. Bryne. Jori Congar. The Dark One asks him to give up, give in, and weaves one final possibility.
Elayne, hiding out near the ruins, is attacked by mercenaries. Among them Mellar. Oh for fuck’s sake, will we ever be rid of this bastard! He kills Birgitte. But that’s not even the worst of it. He sends off a man with an Andoran uniform, with the corpse of a golden haired girl in a dress like Elayne’s, shouting that the Queen is dead, to demoralise her soldiers.
But even that’s not the worst of it:
“She’s far enough along,” the man said. “I can probably keep the children alive with a weave, if you cut them out. It will be difficult to do right. They are young yet. Six months along. But with the weaves I was shown by the Chosen . . . yes, I think I can keep them living for an hour. But you will have to take them to M’Hael to get them to Shayol Ghul. Traveling with a regular gateway won’t work there any longer.”
Mellar sheathed his sword and pulled a hunting knife from his belt. “Good enough for me. We’ll send the children on, as the Great Lord asks. But you, my Queen . . . you are mine.”
Oh no no no no no. This is not happening! Elayne was even acting prudently and everything!
The Dark One offers Rand nothingness. No pain, no suffering, nothing. A truce of sorts. Rand is tempted. But in the end he rejects this vision as all the others.
In Tuon’s court, Yulan is arguing vehemently against returning to help Mat. Min realises, thanks to her viewing, that he’s being played by whoever the real spy is. Of course they don’t want the Seanchan to return to help Mat. And then she notices a so’jhin with an unusually large number of images around her, as is the case with channelers.
To double check, Min proclaims that one of them is a spy. The woman looks up, but cleverly, Min says that Yulan is the spy. Just as the woman relaxes, Min throws a knife at the woman, but the woman stops it and escapes through a gateway. Well, it was anyway unlikely a knife would get a channeler. At least she’s out of there, and Yulan’s been caught too.
And finally Tuon orders the troops to get ready to jump back into battle.
Egwene is brought news by Leilwin that the seals have been recovered. Before she can do anything, Balefire kills a number of Aes Sedai. This creates a chain reaction of sorts – the shields those women had been keeping against attacks never existed a while back, and so other women who had been saved are now dead. Ayyad that those women had killed are alive. Taim is back with Demandred’s sa’angreal.
He continues attacking with balefire. The cracks in the ground spread and widen, becoming holes in nothingness. Egwene can’t use balefire, because that would only increase this whatever is happening to the ground. And then, remembering Perrin’s words – it’s only a weave – she does what she did earlier at the cracks, creating an opposite of sorts to balefire, and counters Taim’s attacks with it. They struggle, but Egwene draws more and more of the Power, until her weave – The Flame of Tar Valon – overpowers Taim, turning him into a crystal.
But it’s too late. The cracks continue to spread. She tells Leilwin to watch for the light, and break the seals when it appears, then sends her away through a gateway. And then Egwene draws even more power, far beyond what’s safe.
Her body was spent. She offered it up and became a column of light, releasing the Flame of Tar Valon into the ground beneath her and high into the sky. The Power left her in a quiet, beautiful explosion, washing across the Sharans and sealing the cracks created by her fight with M’Hael.
Egwene’s soul separated from her collapsing body and rested upon that wave, riding it into the Light.
Egwene too. She really was the best Amyrlin ever.
Mat gets the news, that Egwene is dead, and the surviving Aes Sedai are in no shape to fight. But they have taken out all of the Ayyad as well. The battle is almost lost now though. Too many Trollocs. He gets news that Tuon is ready, and sends her instructions. They prepare for one final desperate charge.
But then Lan charges towards the Trollocs, with the Two Rivers archers giving covering fire, creating a safe path for him through the beasts. He’s got the medallion, probably from Berelain, or maybe Mat. He reaches Demandred:
“Another one?” Demandred roared. “Lews Therin, you are beginning to—”
He cut off as Lan reached him and flung himself into Thistledown Floats on the Whirlwind, a tempestuous, offensive sword form. Demandred whipped his sword up, catching the blow on his weapon and skidding backward a step at the force of it. They exchanged three blows, quick as cracks of lightning, Lan still in motion until the last blow caught Demandred on the cheek. Lan felt a slight tug, and a blood sprayed into the air.
Demandred felt at the wound in his cheek, and his eyes opened wider. “Who are you!” Demandred asked.
“I am the man who will kill you.”
Min and the Seanchan rush back to Merrilor.
Rand, seeing all the death and suffering, feels he’s failed. And then he remembers Tam’s voice – let go.
Demandred and Lan are fighting. And Lan is pushing Demandred back. Still, Lan recognises that Demandred is better than him. Oh my god, what will it take to kill this guy? Gawyn, Galad, Lan.
But then Lan throws himself at Demandred’s sword, getting close to him and taking him through the throat. And so he takes down Demandred with him. Finally. You did it Lan. It cost you your life, but you fucking did it!
Whew. That was one long chapter. It’s one thing to know that it’s going to be long, another to read it all in one sitting and then write a six thousand word post to boot.
Of course, if one looks at sheer numbers, even this has nothing on something like World War I. But it felt epic. More vast and huge than any battle I’ve read, ever. So much happened, each of these things would be a big highlight on their own in any of the earlier books. Egwene was particularly spectacular, as was Lan in the end. And after all that, victory is still not assured. So in that sense Sanderson/Jordan have thoroughly nailed the feeling of humanity’s final stand.
The deaths were expected, but they still hurt. Gawyn, Lan, Egwene, Bela, Siuan, Bryne, Rhuarc, Bashere and so many others. Of course, we’re not even done with the battle so who knows who else will die. Elayne, Faile, Olver are in great danger. Not to mention Rand and Nynaeve and Moiraine. And everyone else too, for that matter.
As for Rand’s fight, I’ve thought about it, and I’m still not convinced that the world without the Dark One is all that horrible. I still don’t see where all of it is leading, but there’s still a few chapters left. I’d have liked to figure out how Rand will handle it all beforehand though. Maybe if I’d been reading the series over decades with a community of theorycrafters, I would, but now I’m just going to go ahead and RAFO.