The epilogue offers a rare opportunity to do a very detailed analysis of almost every word. My old friend Scartoe says that every word a writer chooses serves a purpose. Why is each word there? Why this word and not that one? The epilogue is 267 words long. First, read the full passage, then below, the analysis. In terms of action and plot, this is as simple as it gets. Rand is waiting for Bashere. Bashere enters and gives Rand the news he’s been waiting for.
Rand stared out of the window at the steady rain falling out of a gray sky. Another storm down out of the Spine of the World. The Dragonwall. He thought spring must be coming soon. Spring always came, eventually. Earlier here than back home, it should be, though there seemed little sign of it. Lightning forked silver-blue across the sky, and long moments passed before the peal of thunder. Distant lightning. The wounds in his side ached. Light, the herons branded into his palms ached, after all this time.
Sometimes, pain is all that lets you know you’re alive, Lews Therin whispered, but Rand ignored the voice in his head.
The door creaked open behind him, and he looked over his shoulder at the man who came into the sitting room. Bashere was wearing a short, gray silk coat, a rich shimmering coat, and he had the baton of the Marshal-General of Saldaea, an ivory rod tipped with a golden wolf’s head, tucked behind his belt next to his scabbarded sword. His turned-down boots had been waxed until they shone. Rand tried not to let his relief show. They had been gone long enough.
“Well?” he said.
“The Seanchan are amenable,” Bashere replied. “Crazy as loons, but amenable. They require a meeting with you in person, though. The Marshal-General of Saldaea isn’t the Dragon Reborn.”
“With this Lady Suroth?”
Bashere shook his head. “Apparently a member of their royal family has arrived. Suroth wants you to meet someone called the Daughter of the Nine Moons.”
Thunder rolled again for distant lightning.
Short and powerful. Here’s the analysis:
Rand stared out of the window at the steady rain falling out of a gray sky. Another weather-as-mood analogy. Steady rain implies long unhappy times. Staring implies he’s been looking for a while, which makes it a better choice than ‘watching’ or ‘looking’. Another storm down out of the Spine of the World. Saying ‘another storm’ amplifies the rain to a concept of continual rain and bad times. Using ‘down’ adds to the negative mood. The Spine of the World evokes a forlorn place, much better than a storm out of Haddon Mirk, or elsewhere. The Dragonwall. He didn’t have to say Dragonwall at all here. It has a dual meaning here, referring to the walls Rand has erected in his heart. He thought spring must be coming soon. Now Rand is looking for hope, symbolized by spring. “He thought it must be” is a statement that almost guarantees the speaker is wrong. Spring always came, eventually. This sentence starts out as an affirmation, but ends with doubt. The word ‘eventually’ has more impact placed at the end of the sentence, where it can undermine the entire section that precedes it. Earlier here than back home, it should be, though there seemed little sign of it. The words ‘it should be’ again showing that Rand is wrong. This sentence is not necessary given the earlier part of the paragraph, but it introduces the concept of home, with associated feelings of warmth and comfort. The reference to home shows regret on Rand’s part. He wants to get back to a place of comfort and peace. Lightning forked silver-blue across the sky, and long moments passed before the peal of thunder. A sentence with no apparent relevance to the plot. At first glance it only describes the storm further. But the choice of words makes it resonate very closely with the mood being crafted. ‘Forked’ is used to evoke a choice. ‘Long moments’ pass to evoke waiting. ‘Peal’ is close to ‘appeal’. Distant lightning. If the lightning represents the Light, then it is far, far away from Rand. The wounds in his side ached. The wounds are always a representation of the Shadow and of the evil that comes from fighting the Shadow at all costs. Light, the herons branded into his palms ached, after all this time. Another reference to a long period of unhappiness. His brands never really hurt before; this is about the burden that comes with those Herons. It shows Rand in a state of mind where the pain caused by the Shadow is no greater than the pain caused by the Light.
The first paragraph is thick with mood, showing Rand moping, waiting, faintly hoping. It tells us where the story is happening and a bit about the environment where this scene will take place.
Sometimes, pain is all that lets you know you’re alive, Lews Therin whispered, but Rand ignored the voice in his head. Rand ignores Lews Therin like he would ignore his conscience. Lews Therin doesn’t ‘say’, he only whispers, indicating he is weak or timid. His idea is introduced with the word ‘sometimes’, as though he is scared to commit to an idea that Rand might dismiss. His tortured thought is still striving to find a bright side to the pain, but Rand won’t even allow that mild of a happy thought, which is a good direct example of his mood.
The door creaked open behind him, and he looked over his shoulder at the man who came into the sitting room. No knocks, no calls of “hello”, just a creaking door. Looking over his shoulder is an expression of mistrust. The man’s name isn’t given immediately, to heighten that mistrust. It could be anybody, maybe even an assailant. Bashere was wearing a short, gray silk coat, a rich shimmering coat, and he had the baton of the Marshal-General of Saldaea, an ivory rod tipped with a golden wolf’s head, tucked behind his belt next to his scabbarded sword. Bashere’s accessories convey wealth and power. His formal rank is given to remind the reader how powerful he is, which will be relevant soon. His coat shimmers, his rod is ivory and gold, all of which convey brightness and light. His sword and rod represent power, which is tucked away but ready at hand. His turned-down boots had been waxed until they shone. Another representation of light and brightness. ‘Waxed’ has another meaning which implies he is in a state of fullness. ‘Turned-down’ and ‘boots’ have other meanings too, associated with rejection. Rand tried not to let his relief show. Rand’s first fully described emotion is relief. But he tries not to show it to the man he is relieved to see. They had been gone long enough. Is Rand worried they might have been captured or killed? Is he impatient to start his next endeavour? A blunt statement like this tells readers what Rand’s concern was, but provides no context, making it a mystery.
“Well?” he said. Using ‘said’ or ‘replied’ keeps the conversation normal. Normal for Rand is a vague monosyllabic demand which Bashere must interpret. Rand’s impatience and unreasonableness is conveyed powerfully by this single word.
“The Seanchan are amenable,” Bashere replied. Bashere also keeps the conversation normal. His response is blunt too, but uses a grandiose word. ‘Amenable’ implies the Seanchan can be persuaded or controlled. “Crazy as loons, but amenable. Loons have been used several times to describe crazy people, but lunatics only once, by Mat. The idea that they are crazy adds to the prejudice that Rand can control them. This sentence is the only one that gives an idea of what negotiations may be like. Without it, the conversation would be blander. They require a meeting with you in person, though. Persuading the Seanchan means meeting a condition or two. This is the first condition. The Marshal-General of Saldaea isn’t the Dragon Reborn.” This is the payoff for stating Bashere’s full title earlier. Despite his resplendent outfit Bashere isn’t who the Seanchan want.
“With this Lady Suroth?” Danger! Readers know she’s a Darkfriend.
Bashere shook his head. The author could have just said no in the reply, but an action conveys the same and keeps this short discussion from being a pair of talking heads. “Apparently a member of their royal family has arrived. Using the word ‘apparently’ shows Bashere doesn’t take everything the Seanchan say at face value. It’s a short way to convey that, because it would probably require a full sentence otherwise. Suroth wants you to meet someone called the Daughter of the Nine Moons.” This revelation should cause unease and confusion. It is uncertain whether this scene takes place long after Mat’s recent scene, so it is unclear whether Tuon is back in Ebou Dar. Using her title instead of her name adds to that confusion. ‘Someone’ makes the statement less precise, and may indicate more doubt from Bashere.
Thunder rolled again for distant lightning. Going back to the earlier metaphor, Rand is no closer to the Light than he was before, and the thunder has an ominous feel to accentuate the last paragraph’s revelation.
Robert Jordan isn’t always this crisp, so this epilogue is a pleasure to read.
Every word a writer chooses serves a purpose.