In this section, the Last Battle begins!
Lan offers the first point of view in this epic nearly 200 page chapter, the significance of which won’t be understood until the chapter ends. New Spring made Lan the central character of the series by starting with his point of view as the first window onto this world. With Rand as the central character through the main body of the series, it has long been assumed the Last Battle was all about him facing the Dark One. It is not at all obvious to readers that the Last Battle applies to Lan as well.
Elayne fights Draghkar and gets healed by a damane. Then Mat explains his strategy to her, by telling her he can’t tell her the plan. Uno escapes the destruction of the Dragons by Demandred. Logain prioritizes Rand’s orders over anyone else’s: Find the Seals. Gawyn is losing steam, but feels better when he puts the bloodknife rings back on. Tam and Galad fight Trollocs. Egwene splits up Siuan and Bryne, sending one to watch the command tent, the other to fetch Gawyn.
Tacticians’ comments, such as Bryne’s and Galad’s, explain to readers what the troop movements mean in terms of the overall strategy. By darting from one person to the next, the author allows the battle to progress at a steady pace, telling the reader more from the varied points of view than any one character could know. Similarly, interest is heightened when more than one character wonders what is happening on the heights, driving the reader’s interest as well.
Pevara and Androl take advantage of their unique bonds to use one as bait while the other kills anyone tempted to strike. Their telepathy provides a unique advantage for this tactic, allowing the quickest possible reaction time. They are hit by lightning, lose control, and merge in a new way where they are fully bonded. Now they have fewer limits or rules on their use of the power, as each is able to channel while within a circle, and is able to use the other’s Talents.
This new channeling ability appears to come out of nowhere, yet it closely mirrors other developments earlier in the series where character development drives plot. Pevara has just finished overcoming her last Red Ajah prejudices against Androl, seeing him as a potential husband or lover. This change of character, and her acknowledgement and acceptance of it, are what leads to the new link between them later on that same page. These two are complete opposites, yet in finding common ground in their admiration and respect and growing love for each other, they have smashed down any barriers that restrained them from working together more fully than any two people ever have.
Mat orders Galad to stay at the ruins. He learns that Demandred has a spy in his tent. He gives a bit of insight to Elayne, and now must prepare to manipulate Tuon.
At the ruins, Galad realizes Mat does know what he is doing. New orders confuse him as he gathers 12 men and goes to the ford to meet with Elayne.
The Dark One scours Rand with his power, but Rand’s self-assurance allows him to resist. Rand seems to abandon his plan to destroy the Dark One, or even defeat him, since he can just barely hold on to his identity. As always, it is self-knowledge that empowers Rand against his adversaries.
“That is all you have?” Rand growled.
I WILL WIN.
“You made me strong,” Rand said, voice ragged. “Each time you or your minions tried to destroy me, your failure was like the blacksmith’s hammer beating against metal. This attempt…” Rand took a deep breath. “This attempt of yours is nothing. I will not break.”
YOU MISTAKE. THIS IS NOT AN ATTEMPT TO DESTROY YOU. THIS IS PREPARATION.
TO SHOW YOU TRUTH.
The Dark One’s overbearing smugness, his blunt assurances that all is over, his condescending gloating over knowledge that he has gives readers the terrible feeling that he is in fact going to win. There is no doubt, no gambit, no challenge, the Dark One’s victory is inevitable, his power absolute. Villains don’t get any more confident than this.
AND SO I WIN.
I WIN. AGAIN.
THE FIGHT IS OVER.
“IT HAS NOT YET BEGUN!” Rand screamed.
Use of the weaving metaphor established early in the series works to great effect, and is a natural fit. When the Dark One weaves reality to create Dark Emond’s Field, readers understand the stakes are higher than ever imagined, that everything they know can be remade. Dark Emond’s Field is designed to goad Rand into emotional instinctive action, putting himself in danger. Rand shatters the false reality, and promises to show the Dark One what is going to happen, giving readers hope and optimism, just in time for Gawyn to enter the fray.
Riding the emotional high off of Rand’s challenge to the Dark One, readers have every expectation that Gawyn will at least wound or disable Demandred, evening the odds. Gawyn faces Demandred armed with powerful magic and skill and still loses handily. Demandred is unnaturally skilled at sword fighting, and uses a burst of strength to drive his sword through Gawyn’s armor, while his eyes were closed. Hope turns to horror, because no matter how a reader feels about Gawyn, it is insinuated that Demandred can’t be stopped by anyone less than a powerful channeler who can also swordfight. In other words, Rand. And since he isn’t bound to show up any time soon, the other heroes are in a real spot of trouble.
To lessen info-dumping, spread insight you are giving the reader across several different characters’ perspectives.