In this section, in the most critical scene of the book, Rand can’t win by himself
Rand sees Lan fall, reinforcing the fact of his apparent death. Through Egwene’s voice, he is reminded that the responsibility was not his, it belonged to Lan himself. Rand could easily have imagined Egwene’s voice in his head, but her recent death adds some doubt as to its nature. Rand changes the purpose of his list of names, from one of victims, to one of heroes, who died for causes they believed to be noble. Relieved of guilt, he finds his strength returned.
Just as Rand is no longer pridefully taking responsibility for the actions of others, the author flips back to the battlefield as the Sharan princess shrieks that Bao the Wyld is dead. The six line interjection reveals little, its main purpose is in the symbolism of Rand’s pride being removed, since Demandred embodied pride.
Refusing to give in, ever, Rand begins to see the Dark One for what he really is. The Dark One’s attacks lost meaning. If they could not make him yield, if they could not make him relent, then what were they? The author breaks Rand’s confrontation into very short sections, shuffling them between other perspectives which ever so slowly reveal what is happening. Rapid flashes between characters works well to slow down the action at this critical juncture, and may not have worked so well with the traditional Robert Jordan long section in a single point of view. Could the traditional Robert Jordan long section approach even have been used for the Last Battle? Or would he have opted for breaks as shown here, mimicking the breakdown of the Pattern itself?
With Demandred dead, Mat raises a cheer for Malkier, which the soldiers eagerly take up. The Sharans are stunned by the news, and the heroes have a resurgence of hope.
Rand’s voice switches to all caps, an indication that he is now on even footing with the Dark One. Adding in a few explanatory details to tie up loose ends, he states that even though the story has centered on him, it is really about all of his friends and acquaintances, about everyone. It is about their common desire to fight on no matter the circumstances, to stand when they should be broken. The Dark One taunts Rand with Lan’s death. Rand holds the whole world in his hands as his conflict magnifies its focus on Merrilor.
Mat strains to gain an upper hand, and hears the Dark One in his head. The Dark One’s titles for the heroes attempt to diminish them, and continue to show the overriding pessimism in his every thought and action. Arganda mirrors that pessimism with his perpetual negative outlook. Mat has never had a better chance to win this, he just needs an opening to give him some momentum.
Rand tells the Dark One he is wrong…
Olver raises the Horn to his lips…
Mat hears Rand’s voice now too. Everyone can hear it. Three critical and emotionally resounding elements combine: Rand shouts “That man still fights!”, Lan rises with Demandred’s severed head, and the Horn Of Valere resounds across the battlefield. It is a potent combination and is likely the core scene that everything else was built to support during the writing of the book.
For a brief moment, Elayne remains in peril, until Birgitte returns to save her. Her perfectly timed arrival is heralded by an arrow to Mellar’s chest followed by another to the head. She announces the arrival of the Heroes, and it feels awesome.
Mat takes advantage of any superstitious or cowardly hesitation on the part of the Shadow to lead a charge. The contrast between humanity’s desire to fight even unto death and the Trollocs’ instinctive desire to avoid death helps explain away much of the battle’s details. Any parts which get skipped over can be explained by a stereotyping statement which the reader is all too eager to embrace, as they are riding high on a wave of relief and excitement. Mat meets Hawkwing, swears at him, laments women like Nynaeve, and leers at a female Hero, all in keeping with his character even as the inner workings of Horn sounding are explained.
Noal comes back for Olver, providing a warm response to all the loss and death. He had lost so many people, but one of them… one… had come back for him. This links directly back to the idea that when both Manetheren and Malkier fell, no one had come to their aid. Olver’s salvation shows that this time, help came, and that made all the difference.
Elayne joins the fight against the Darkfriends, and following a brief attempt to keep her out of the larger battle, she and Birgitte go to battle, together. Birgitte is overjoyed her memories have returned.
Aviendha meets Elyas as the Wild Hunt streams into the valley. Before she can gather channelers to repel the Darkhounds, she senses Graendal and summons Cadsuane and Amys. Outnumbered and outmatched by Graendal’s circle, it is Aviendha’s original ability to stalk silently that protects her until her allies arrive.
Elayne joins the fight waving a sword to little effect other than the inspiration it offers her soldiers. By putting herself in danger and taking up the battle directly, as one of them, her soldiers feel they have no choice but to return to the fray.
Demandred’s death is the card upon which Mat is ready to bet everything. He still faces ten to one odds in numbers, but the enemy is in disarray. Mat faces a desperate fight to push the Sharans off the heights into the Trollocs below, and just as he most needs them, the Seanchan join the fight, flying through Gateways in the air to assault the Shadow below and marching in rhythm onto the Heights. Having Mat imagine and predict the Seanchan movements once gain saves the author from having to explain or show it in any detail. A mysterious detail is presented, leaving the reader to wonder what other trick Mat has in store.
Grady follows Mat’s orders without understanding them. His Gateway to Hinderstap allows the same people, cursed by a bubble of evil, to make use of that very curse to surprise their foes. With the Dreadlords down, Grady bursts the dam, releasing the river Mora.
Androl wants to hunt the Dreadlords instead of pursuing Logain’s quest for sa’angreal. He and Pevara concoct a plan.
Moghedien impersonates Demandred to rally the Sharans, having apparently practiced impersonating each of the other Forsaken, which explains several peculiar orders from Forsaken throughout the series. Moghedien now has full access to the True Power, and uses her advantage by ordering the death of the meekest and weakest on the field of battle. A gateway opens and Dragons fire on her.
Talmanes enjoys firing dragons to kill the Trollocs from a hidden location.
At Shayol Ghul, the storm is out of control, unleashing lightning on friend and foe alike. The fabric of reality is breaking down as a grand bubble of evil envelops the valley. Aviendha notices Trollocs fighting each other and an odd mist which heralds Padan Fain. The clouds above form the ancient symbol of the Aes Sedai, and other impossible signs portend Rand’s conquest of his foe. As she creeps towards Graendal, she is attacked and kills her foe Rhuarc, seeming to contradict her earlier belief that any of her former allies would rather die than be used by the Shadow.
Dreadlords bicker amongst themselves and are tricked into following Androl’s imitation of Rand into a stedding. Mishraile expresses the only overt sexism that I can recall in the series, scoffing at the notion that a woman could be placed above him when the entire world is rife with examples of women leading men.
The Ogier will attempt a few decades of stedding-derived therapy to rehabilitate their new captives. Returning to the battlefield, Androl and his friends find Trollocs slaughtering refugees and wounded.
Aviendha recovers from the shock of killing her former clan chief. Aviendha is wounded as she leaps into the air and plunges her spear into Graendal’s side, disappearing along with her as she Travels.
Logain feels threatened and seeks a sa’angreal to keep him powerful, and feels intense paranoia that others are trying to tear him down. Androl tells him of the Trollocs slaughtering the weak. Logain must choose between gaining strength or protecting the weak.
Mat watches the Trolloc horde get split by the river, then decimated by Seanchan and resurgent armies, as he battles alongside the Heroes of the Horn. For about a page, the text feels like an omniscient narrator describing the entire field of battle, no matter where Mat was standing at the moment. Because the focus is exclusively on military matters and takes place in a Mat perspective, it is a little easier to accept. Had it been written from any other perspective than Mat’s or Rand’s, it would stand out even more as a large deviation from the accepted form of third person limited narrator.
Mat asks Artur Hawkwing to speak with Tuon on his behalf while he goes to Rand’s aid. Perfectly placed punchline at the end of the section.
Rand speaks in all caps, like the Dark One, and reveals that nobility will always beat him, that death is no threat, and that he has never inspired love in any one. The Dark One sputters in response. Rand hurls himself into the blackness to bring Shai’tan’s death.
Aviendha can barely fend off Graendal. Isolated from her allies, she is able to open a Gateway before Graendal takes control of the situation, cutting off Aviendha’s possible attempt to kill herself before being enthralled by Compulsion. Graendal isn’t in great shape, but Aviendha can’t even keep hold of her belt knife.
Design your story around the most important scenes.