Thursday, 23 January 2014

A Memory of Light - Chapters 44-49

In this section, Rand defeats the Dark One.

Perrin awakens after the battle is done. He argues with Chiad about why she won’t bend the rules for gai’shain, given that it is the Last Battle. “What good is honor if the Dark One wins the Last Battle?” Perrin snapped, pulling up his trousers. “It is everything,” Chiad said softly. “It is worth death, it is worth risking the world itself. If we have no honor, better that we lose.”

Perrin’s surrogate father Master Luhhan comes to check on Perrin’s health, and formally acknowledges that Perrin has grown into a man, one he is quite proud of.  Upon learning of Fain’s role in the murder of Perrin’s family, Luhhan says “What? Are you certain?” Questioning the truth of Perrin’s statement is odd on the heels of everything else Luhhan said. The author could easily have substituted other incredulous statements such as “The Peddler? How did you learn this?” or “Fain? How could he?” Either of these would have supported Luhhan’s faith in Perrin and allowed further discussion of the Whitecloaks, or even segued into Fain’s nature, which would surely have been useful since Fain’s appearance is imminent.

Masuri offers to Heal Perrin, but she must first confess and receive Perrin’s absolution for her actions with the Prophet. This again presents Perrin as a fully grown man of power and moral character, standing in judgment of high-ranking figures. His character arc is now complete.  

Thom protects the entrance to Shayol Ghul, sitting in for the author since they have the same concerns about how to describe the events unfolding around them. These pages offer a peek directly into the author’s mind as he wrote this final chapter of the Wheel of Time. ‘Epic’, ‘momentous’, ‘climactic’, ‘perilous’ and ‘terrifying’ aren’t right, but he eventually settles on ‘exquisite’. That’s a wonderful word to describe completing this epic.

Mat gets a Gateway opened to bring him near Shayol Ghul. Bringing Olver is part of the tugging he feels, but there is more, some greater role he must play.

Shaisam is a new name for Padan Fain, which means Destroyer of the Shadow. Shaisam is a creature vaster and far more powerful than before, living in every tendril of mist. And no wonder, for Rand’s intent to destroy the Shadow is greater than ever before. Shaisam kills friend and foe indiscriminately, for only one thing matters to him. As much as killing Rand and the Dark One balance each other as goals, he can accomplish both by rooting himself deep in Rand’s breast, in a host which can destroy one enemy and be destroyed in the process. Even now as the end approaches, there is a vagueness to Shaisam’s motivations, since the author has never, even now, come right out and explained them directly. This deliberate sidestepping of a key fact that provides context has been used throughout the series, and has provided the most fertile ground for fan theorizing, for both good and ill.

Gaul and the wolves defend the entrance to the Pit of Doom against Slayer in Tel’aran’rhiod. Perrin arrives, then Slayer monologues to fill in plot and character gaps. Seeing the look in his friend’s eyes,  Gaul senses it’s time to skedaddle.

Mat flies a to’raken into the valley of Thakan’dar, and senses Fain in the mist below. He crashes, and Olver blows the Horn. The clouds above form the ancient sign of the Aes Sedai, reflecting that Rand stands even with the Dark One at the moment.

Rand re-enters the Pattern, and swipes Callandor at Moridin. He tells Moridin that he doesn’t matter any more. Moridin responds by flinging a knife at Alanna.

Nynaeve’s herbs gave Alanna enough awareness to release the bond. This is a symbol of Rand being free of what Alanna represents. Since she bonded him forcefully, it simply means Rand is free of influence, and is free to choose his path. His ploy foiled, Moridin stabs his own hand causing Rand pain through the bond they share, and Rand drops Callandor, losing access to the torrents of the One Power it provides.

Perrin and Slayer battle, flipping between worlds. Perrin recently became a full-fledged adult in Luhhan’s eyes, and is therefore more confident and more sure of his identity than ever before. He has the confidence to truly unleash his fury on Slayer, and also has superior control over Tel’aran’rhiod. The killing blow sends Perrin spinning through Mirror Worlds. Unlike his past experience with the Portal Stones, when he saw variations of himself, in this instance all versions of Perrin act the same, and achieve the same victory as a result. All possibilities collapsed into one, the one where Perrin knows exactly who he is. Perrin brings survivors of the battle to the cave entrance to defend against the Darkhounds. Even as they face certain death, hope springs about them in the form of growing plants. The Horn summons wolf Heroes as well as human to fill out their ranks, and the odds are no longer so grim.

Mat approaches Perrin, who is concerned about Faile. Mat lies and offers Perrin hope, for what else could he say? As he reveals Fain’s presence, Mat is stabbed through the chest by Fain’s tendril. Mat’s death is so sudden in comparison to Egwene’s, and the manner of it so final based on all prior evidence, that readers are likely to be shocked out of the complacency that has been building since the Shadow was routed at Merrilor.

Aviendha holds off Graendal’s shield. She takes a chance, unraveling her Gateway despite that the effects are unpredictable, and may not help her at all. Graendal casts her Compulsion just as the Gateway explodes. Aviendha actually made a mistake in her haste, picking the wrong thread, which is a poor turn of phrase since she would have to botch the unweaving deliberately in order to have a chance of achieving the effect she is looking for. The threat of Compulsion is terrifying, and enthralls the reader with the horrible story possibilities that may come about if it succeeds.

Fain comes across Mat, who is not dead after all. Mat grabs Fain by the throat and stabs him with the dagger. Fain and Mordeth die, and not coincidentally, this embodiment of the all-consuming desire to achieve the end goal at any cost meets its demise just before Rand makes his decision on how to defeat the Dark One for good. Mat’s explanation that if you catch a disease you cannot catch it a second time is an awkward introduction of modern medical knowledge into the story in an attempt to have the reader accept this unforeseen immunity. Perhaps Mat is merely paraphrasing what the Amyrlin told him after he was healed of the dagger’s influence, or what Nynaeve has told him at some point, but the wording used suggests a strong level of in-world familiarity with disease that just hasn’t been featured before. Taking out the word ‘disease’ and having Mat speak in terms of his own immunity rather than a general statement about illnesses would have been more believable.

Perrin abandoned Mat on a gut feeling from the look Mat gave him. ‘Look’ may not have been the best word, given that Mat only has one eye, but the meaning is understood. Interestingly, Perrin had no angst about leaving Mat whereas he has wrung his hands over many of his friends and followers throughout the series. It is partly his newfound maturity, partly that he is more concerned with Rand here and now than he can allow himself to be for anyone else, even Faile. Perrin finds Gaul and returns him to Merrilor to rest. Then, acting against his desire to seek out Faile, he returns to guard Rand’s back yet again.

Moridin picks up Callandor and attempts to channel with it, falling into Rand’s trap. Moiraine and Nynaeve, duty and conscience, take control of Moridin, then link with Rand. Rand is shielded from any taint by combining the powers and using Moridin’s link to touch the True Power. The three powers are combined and wielded against the Dark One, turning the Dark One’s own power on himself. Rand holds him fast in a gauntlet of Power. In terms of Rand’s identity, he is turning doubt and negativity against his own doubt and negativity, looking at them with scorn and dismissal.

The following sections together show how Rand’s final victory and assertion of his identity affect the world. Rand’s past, present and future all figure, as well as his chronicler, and his successor.

Elayne surveys the carnage. The nearby plateau collapses, like the foundation of Rand’s old identity.  The bond lets her sense Rand’s strength, control and domination. She sees a beam of light far to the north, marking the end.

Thom sees the light up close. If Thom still represents the author, then he is in awe of the ending.

Min sees a brilliant lance of light, clearing the clouds. The wounded shield their eyes from the bright future Rand is making.

Aviendha sees the light and senses Rand winning, and it revives her. Graendal has been self-compelled by the unraveling gateway and begs to serve Aviendha. Since Aviendha represents the past, this is an indication that reverence for tradition and memory of this light and what it means are part of what the future holds.

Logain lost his prize in the collapse of the Heights, but saved the refugees, and they accept and welcome him, aspire to have their children join him. The Asha’man are no longer cursed for Lews Therin’s sins, but are seen as talented for Rand’s redemption of those sins. The light reminds Logain of his duty. He breaks the seals, another symbol of the old making way for the new.

Perrin sees the light in Tel’aran’rhiod, and observes the World of Dreams disintegrating and collapsing. Dragonmount is being drawn towards Shayol Ghul, all points coalescing into one, and then this realm of possibility will be gone. This was an unexpected development, which pertains to Rand’s transformation.

Perrin encounters Lanfear in the cavern. Her words still carry a sense of wonder that leads us to think she’s on the good side. “It is the end. Something amazing just happened. This might be the most important moment for humankind since we opened the Bore.” Perrin is compelled by Lanfear to help her kill Nynaeve and Moiraine, yet he resists. Lanfear has been working towards her true objective all along, at whatever cost. This is a trait shared by all of the Forsaken, the Mordeth-like motivation to do anything at all to achieve their heart’s desire.  Focusing on Faile, a far more powerful motivation than any dislike of Moiraine, Perrin’s will is stronger than Lanfear’s mere Compulsion weave. In Tel’aran’rhiod, this means he is able to reassert his identity and change himself back to the way he should be. He kills Lanfear, yet still loves her, she who represents the thirst for glory and power. Perrin may still want those things in some fashion, but not at the expense of the one he loves most.

The Dark One is freed yet cannot escape as Rand has him clutched tightly. He sees the Dark One as pitiful, tiny, insignificant, and above all, a liar. Rand pulls the Dark One into the Pattern, where he can be killed. But before he can kill him, Rand remembers that the vision he created with no Dark One was no better. Realizing his error, he thrusts the Dark One back outside of the Pattern and reforges the prison using braided saidar and saidin in a pure form and the True Power to keep the Dark One’s touch at bay by shielding the Bore.

He understood, finally, that the Dark One was not the enemy. It never had been. Rand’s own heart was the only enemy that could harm him, for as all the heroes have learned, ultimately, whatever befalls them is by their own choice.

Moiraine pulls Nynaeve out of the cavern. Looking back, she sees silhouettes of Rand and Moridin, Light and Shadow, vanish in the all consuming light. The last thing she sees, the last words which end the book, is the Bore being closed, a metaphor for Rand locking away in his heart the Dark One and the dark desires and ambitions he promotes, never to torment him again.

Writing Lessons:

End your story on a high note, right after the critical moment. 

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