Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A Memory of Light Read-through #39: Chapter 36—Unchangeable Things


By Linda

Nynaeve POV

The Pit of Doom is like a black hole sucking everything into a vacuum. It affects time: fifteen minutes have elapsed since they entered, while days pass elsewhere. Also notable is that the eclipse that heralded their entry no longer applies even here.

However, Rand froze after touching the empty darkness, and is not affected by the pull of the Pit. Giving his all to the duel, Rand can’t spare any effort to keep from sweating.

Nynaeve thinks Rand is not weaving, but simply holding all the Power that he can. Her judgment may be coloured by her restlessness at being constrained and not playing a more active role. To relieve it, she works out how to move around the cavern. She is of the opinion that she or Moiraine could have channelled something while Rand fought, if either led the circle, since he is not “doing” anything with the Power. Because of this, she finds Alanna, and realises the repercussions for Rand of the Green succumbing to her injuries. Moridin set his own trap—to drive Rand mad when she dies. Nynaeve wonders why Rand never felt Alanna being stabbed, but it was perhaps only just before the group entered Shayol Ghul, or else she might have died before Moridin was ready.

Eventually Nynaeve realises that Rand is weaving with the Power he holds, she just can’t see the weaves, or feel them much. Nor can she attract Rand’s, and thus Moridin’s, attention.

Dissatisfaction of a geologist reader: the cavern has been depicted as a limestone cave—the Carlsbad cave was used as inspiration for the cover illustration—but it is actually a basalt cavern inside a volcano and nothing to do with limestone or conventional stalagmites and stalactites at all.

Mat POV

Dragonsworn are humble folk that have come to do their bit in the Last Battle, even though they have never fought before. Mat thinks they are crazy, and that he would never have done so. Two years ago, he was one of them, except that he had been well-trained with a quarterstaff as a sport or martial art. This scene really shows how the Pattern has forced Mat to where he is. Amongst the humble fighters, he half recognises from his lost memories the old guy Almen Bunt, who took Mat and Rand to Caemlyn in his cart after they watched a Fade talking to a Darkfriend in a village. After Rand restored health to his family’s apple trees at the base of Dragonmount, Almen has journeyed north to fight.

The young Sigmont who wants to learn the sword, and whose over-optimism Mat quells, is a reference to the hero Sigmund of Norse mythology earning a sword from Odin (a parallel of Mat). In the Völsunga saga, Odin, disguised as a beggar, plunges the sword Gram into the central tree in King Völsung's hall at a wedding feast and announces that the man who can remove the sword will have it as a gift. Only Sigmund is able to free the sword from the tree. Later in his life, Sigmund matches up in battle against an old man who is Odin in disguise, and who shatters his sword so that he is killed by others. His posthumous son Sigurd becomes a dragon slayer.

Mat is wearing a red leather eyepatch now, instead of black with rubies—symbolising that his life is bloodier. He runs away from Tuon’s Deathwatch Guards into Aes Sedai. Egwene assumes he is defecting when he says that Tuon’s guards are after him. He’s just trying to avoid work, and his current line of work is dangerous. Specifically, he doesn’t want to be responsible for executions. He is aware of his own major foibles and unwilling to judge those of others, plus he also just doesn’t like responsibility in general. That’s not to say that he isn’t unsuited to weighing up people: he’s right about Gawyn being quick to judge others. Egwene, too, was upset at ordering the executions of the Black sisters exposed among the rebel Aes Sedai, but now seems more inured to this part of the job.

Mat disputes that he didn’t contribute much to the hunt for the Horn, and considering that he was ill, he didn’t do too badly. In his indignation, he openly says that he blew it—something he has been careful to avoid saying—thereby allowing Egwene and co to escape Falme, which Egwene disputes. In truth, each group’s actions helped those of the other, as is typical of the Pattern. She reminds Mat of the Shadar Logoth dagger and he reacts before he can say that it’s nothing to him.

Egwene almost admits to Mat that the seals were stolen as well as the Horn, which would be a major loss of face. Mat’s unimpressed that she wouldn’t be plainer.

While Mat avoids the guards, he’s checking out the lie of the land for battles. Egwene is fooled by her own judgmental attitude into thinking he’s just being idle. Listening to trials and pleas right now would be a waste of Mat’s time, since he is the Light’s main general.

Delarn and one hundred of the Band have sacrificed themselves to be trapped in Hinderstap until the Pattern rights itself there. Their role in the Last Battle is to defend the Mora River. Mat is very upset at this. Even though the Hinderstap denizens are likely to live, they may remain trapped in a time loop indefinitely, while ordinary soldiers lucky enough to survive the regular battles are free once Tarmon Gaidon is over. Perhaps once the Dark One is sealed away the wrongness will die down and the Pattern restore itself at Hinderstap.

It is time for a last stand at Merrilor because there is no food left, and the populace is only going to weaken. Mat is aware that if Rand wins they also must win completely and utterly by destroying the Shadow’s armies, which otherwise would grow again. One last throw, just as in his visit to Hinderstap. Their present circumstance mirrors that situation, although on a much different scale.

Mat feels the change in the Pattern or the battlefield as the Shadow’s armies arrive; he feels Rand’s pull also.

Mat must do the unexpected. Trick them all. Well he thinks that’s unexpected.

Perrin POV

Perrin seems to draw strength from his hammer to pull himself out of the wolf dream. Another pull was acting in his favour: his ta’veren pull, which had strong Master Luhhan there to carry him to the Aes Sedai for Healing.