In this section, the heroes suffer setbacks and losses.
Deep in the Blasted Lands, on the approach to Shayol Ghul, Faile discovers the village supplying the Shadow’s armies.
Perrin awakens to find hours have passed and he is still weak from his ordeal. The rationing of healing for even heroes of his stature indicates how poorly the battle is going. Perrin insists Faile is alive even though her caravan vanished in a bubble of evil. As well he might, for the Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills, and the Horn must be at the Last Battle. Since nothing guarantees she is still the one carrying it, the scene still plays nicely as a point of faith, as opposed to counting on divine providence.
Androl and Pevara flirt as they make plans to find Taim. They sit on a hillside looking down on fields where nothing grows, surrounded by dead trees. Androl feels that mirth and love have a place even in the face of such desolation, perhaps it is even the best place to have them so they can build something up.
Rhuarc stalks the valley of Thakan’dar, killing Trollocs and red veils until Hessalam finds him. He looked up and someone beautiful stepped through the storm to inspect him. She had wonderful eyes, though the two were offset from one another. He’d never before realized how horribly balanced everyone else’s eyes were. Thinking of it nauseated him. And all other women had too much hair on their heads. This creature, with thinning hair, was far more marvelous.
The first thoughts are portrayed neutrally as though they could be Rhuarc’s or a narrator’s. The second sentence shows a slight resistance, as Rhuarc is still able to describe the offset eyes in a neutral, slightly pejorative manner. By the third sentence, Rhuarc is well and truly her creature, comparing her to all other women, with not even a thought of his wives, even to dismiss them. His memory of them is completely overwhelmed by his immediate need to please Hessalam. Rhuarc’s conversion jabs the reader with the speed and totality of his change of allegiance, undercutting the positive emotions displayed in the earlier sections with Perrin, Androl and Pevara.
Mirroring this example of good things turning suddenly bad, Rand weaves a world where all is well, and finds it overtaken by the Dark One very quickly. THESE PEOPLE ARE MINE NOW. I WILL TAKE THEM. The Dark One goads Rand with uncharacteristic explanations to point out the flaws in his creation, and attacks Rand when he wavers slightly. 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.
Whatever hope came from Rand’s triumphant dismissal of the Dark One’s reality is now seriously undermined. It is good that this pivotal confrontation not end too easily or quickly, and with the Dark One taking the upper hand, things once gain look bleak for Rand. At least readers expect a second round of battle. It is another stroke of genius to have this confrontation rely on character and imagination instead of ability with the One Power. Outside of the Pattern, weaving reality into being, Rand is more powerful than he ever was as a mere channeler.
Silviana offers to take Egwene’s bond so that she doesn’t suffer from his death during the Last Battle. Egwene defends keeping the bond, a link of love and trust that she fought hard to create. She believes the importance of her role will be enough to see her through his loss, but she nonetheless hurries to try rescue him.
Birgitte describes Gaidal in a way that makes her loss poignant, and relates directly to what happens when a loved one or warder is lost. Discussion of the deep personal nature of the loss adds a lot of emotional intensity to the story. Readers have seen several supporting characters killed or destroyed, and forcing the reader to contemplate what those losses mean to the main characters heightens the tension over which of them may perish. The reader is being primed to feel the losses as deeply and personally as the characters will.
Galad receives orders and Mat’s medallion. He is to kill as many channelers as possible. Bryne arrives searching out Gawyn.
Mat is excited about playing in the highest stakes game ever. Having previously stated that both Mat and Demandred are master generals and master gamblers, the effect is reinforced with their mutual admiration for each other’s talents. This saves the author much trouble in actually conceiving of brilliant battlefield tactics, as the impression of skill can be conveyed far more convincingly than the skill itself.
Logain is given permission to seek out Taim. Mat looks for a good reason to fake a rift between himself and Tuon. He is not convinced Tuon’s safety is a good enough reason to pick a fight, yet his luck intervenes and a band of Gray Men and Sharan channelers makes Tuon’s point admirably. Having given away his medallion, the stakes are suddenly higher for Mat.
Min saves Tuon with the help of Siuan who dies in the effort. Siuan’s almost last words under pressure reveal her character, one reminiscent of the people of Manetheren: “Whatever you think you did, the viewing has not been accomplished yet, It’s still there.”
Siuan stood frozen for a moment. “Cauthon is in danger.”
“I don’t care, girl!” Nearby, the ground trembled with the force of the One Power. The damane were fighting back. “If Cauthon falls, this battle is lost! I don’t care if we both die from this. We must help. Move!”
Egwene tries desperately to reach Gawyn in time.
Demandred considers how to defeat Mat, and opts to drag things out, so as to avoid committing himself to a potential trap and to maintain full control of the battle and his eventual confrontation with Rand. Demandred’s girlfriend Shendla is devious, capable, powerful, but not enough to change his heart. “I would cast it all away,” he said, looking into her eyes. “Everything for a chance at Lews Therin.” Demandred considers whether he could change, given the new feelings budding with him. This is the third Forsaken given an option of redemption in this book. Surely, readers think, the author wouldn’t show three such situations unless at least one of them will take it? The very fact that three options were presented implies that an option will be chosen, creating an expectation for the author to fulfill or surprise readers with. Precious insight into the twisted mind of this opponent creates interest and excitement. Will Demandred get his wish to confront Rand? Will he find out Rand isn’t coming and crush Mat? Many tantalizing possibilities are made available with a short jaunt into Demandred’s thoughts.
The M’Hael is admonished by Demandred and is assigned a specific task of confronting the Aes Sedai.
The Dark One shows Rand the fighting. I WILL WIN EVENTUALLY, ADVERSARY. WATCH THEM SCREAM. WATCH THEM DIE.
THE DEAD ARE MINE.
“Lies,” Rand said.
NO. I WILL SHOW YOU.
Juilin fights and keeps on fighting. His uncertainty about what to do other than keep resisting mirrors Rand’s predicament.
Androl and Pevara in disguise are able to learn Taim’s whereabouts from Demandred. This scene would have lacked some credibility without having seen Demandred just before, so that readers are already familiar with his whereabouts and state of mind. Demandred’s ability to detect Gawyn wreathed in shadows doesn’t extend to an inverted Mask of Mirrors. Demandred is too preoccupied to notice if whipping Androl’s cheek breaks reveals the disguise. Androl points out that even Trollocs battle in shifts, a reality shown earlier with Lan, yet unexpected here as the battle rages. If Mat’s armies are doing the same, it hasn’t been shown because it would detract from the perception that every last person is needed. It is more difficult to portray dire need when a third of your army is sleeping and another third is in reserve. The fact that the Trollocs can afford to do this demonstrates how badly the good guys are outnumbered.
Galad has a number of plans which he signals to his men by holding up a number of fingers. Memorizing a handful of plans may not be too difficult, but do men remember them under the pressure of battle? It seems risky given that they would have had under an hour to develop the plans.
Galad finds Gawyn as he dies and learns Rand is his brother. Gawyn’s extraordinary survival so far is explained by his Warder bond, another fantastic invention that gives the author a lot of leeway to make events play out as needed. Galad is motivated by his brother’s loss, and maybe by his newfound brother’s existence, to seek out and destroy Demandred. He is a better swordsman than Gawyn was, and has a medallion to negate Demandred’s channeling, and he’s taken down several channelers easily, and his desire for vengeance seems so right that his victory feels fairly certain.
Egwene feels the crippling loss of her Warder. A short amount of text is dedicated to this, for the good reason that every character in sequence is building up emotions of worry, frustration, fatigue, and loss. Each character’s point of view not only describes their own situation, but builds up to or builds on the points of view presented before and after. The rhythm of the Last Battle and Rand’s conflict play off each other emotionally more than they do temporally. Egwene’s realization of her naiveté plays very well with Rand’s imminent next round against the Dark One.
Set or maintain the emotions you want from one point of view to the next, using them as parts of a whole, not only to advance plot.