Best Scenes of The Wheel of Time - April 2018
**This article contains specific spoilers up to and including Towers of Midnight**
Our stop this month is in Towers of Midnight, chapter 55 The One Left Behind. We’ll be focusing on the last few pages of the chapter though the scene truly starts in the last segment of 53 and continues through 55.
- Important Characteristics of this Scene
- It’s awesome!
- Resolution of foreshadowing for which we waited nearly two decades
- Simultaneously fantastic and tragic timing
- Hard choices and real consequences
There was a lot of lead-up to this scene, so this is going to be extremely abbreviated. I have included locations so you can re-read the specific scenes mentioned if you don’t remember them well.
Mat was known for a few different things, including gambling, his wide-brimmed hat, his general irreverence towards just about everything, and his ashandarei. How Mat came across the unique weapon is worth noting.
… “Those are my three questions. Say something!”
Dead silence. He could hear himself breathing, hear the blood throbbing in his ears.
“I have no intention of marrying. And I have no intention of dying, either, whether I am supposed to live again or not. I walk around with holes in my memory, holes in my life, and you stare at me like idiots. If I had my way, I would want those holes filled, but at least answers to my questions might fill some in my future. You have to answer-!”
“Done,” one of the men growled, and Mat blinked.
Done? What was done? What did he mean? “Burn your eyes,” he muttered. “Burn your souls! You are as bad as Aes Sedai. Well, I want a way to be free of Aes Sedai and the Power, and I want to be away from you and back to Rhuidean, if you will not answer me. Open up a door, and let me-“
“Done,” another man said, and one of the women echoed, “Done.”
Mat scanned the walls, then glared, turning to take them all in, standing up there on their pedestals staring down at him. “Done? What is done? I see no door. You lying goat-fathered-“
“Fool,” a woman said in a whispered growl, and others repeated it. Fool. Fool. Fool.
“Wise to ask leavetaking, when you set no price, no terms.”
“Yet fool not to first agree on price.”
“We will set the price.”
They spoke so quickly he could not tell which said what.
“What was asked will be given.”
“The price will be paid.”
“Burn you,” he shouted, “what are you talking –“Utter darkness closed around him. There was something around his throat. He could not breathe. Air. He could not… (The Shadow Rising, 402)
Mat unwittingly asked for three things, the holes in his memories to be filled, to be free of Aes Sedai and the Power, and to be away from the Eelfinn. In their defense, the Eelfinn were pretty generous in granting his requests. They could have filled his head with the worst puns in the history of the world and sent him back to Rhuidean without the ashandarei. Instead they sent him back with coherent memories of battles and languages both of which proved essential many times over, and the ashandarei which ultimately enabled Mat to beat them at their own game in the end.
The text on the ashandarei reads:
Thus is our treaty written; this is agreement made. Thought is the arrow of time; memory never fades. What was asked is given. The price is paid. (The Shadow Rising. 439)
It’s also good to remember the ditty that you recite before playing a game of Snakes and Foxes: Courage to strengthen, fire to blind, music to dazzle, and iron to bind.
- The Scene
Thom, Mat, and Noal were the merry band of three who went for her and they essentially traded Noal’s life for Moiraine’s freedom. They used a bronze knife to cut a door into the wall of the Tower of Ghenjei and the journey into non-Euclidean space began!
At length they discovered that the only things they could truly depend on within the tower were fire, music, iron, and Mat’s luck. The music put the Eelfinn to sleep if they weren’t careful, as well as clearing the befuddling effect they could exert over visitors. Fire, not terribly shockingly, blinded them. Iron, essentially, bound them to a similar plane as our heroes so they could be fought. Their weapons which weren’t iron couldn’t hurt either the Aelfinn or the Eelfinn.
Through Mat’s luck they found their way to the main room where the Eelfinn were still, conveniently, keeping Moiraine. She was very much the worse for wear, but alive. Mat negotiated her release and their escape, and agreed to pay the price of “half the light of the world.” This ended up being his left eye.
The group took their leave while the Eelfinn were falling to the floor, reveling in the strong feelings from their price. The journey back began uneventfully, until Noal realized Mat had specified that the Eelfinn would not stop or harm them, but had neglected to mention the Aelfinn. In a show of mightily convenient timing, the Aelfinn showed up right as Mat realized his mistake.
In the end, Noal stayed behind to give Mat and Thom a little extra time to escape with Moiraine. He revealed himself to them as none other than Jain Farstrider himself, and we had one more way in which the lead up to the Last Battle seemed destined to bring about the end of everything that had seemed stable or consistent.
Noal bought them just enough time for Mat to realize that the way out they gave him way back in Rhuidean wasn’t just suddenly being outside, but was in fact the ashandarei. Unfortunately, Mat realized this very soon after Noal died. If he had been just a little faster, maybe they all could have made it out.
No, I didn’t ask for a weapon. I asked for a way out.
And they gave me this.
“So come at me with your awful lies,” Thom bellowed the final line of the song. “I’m a man of truth, and I’ll meet your eyes!”
Mat spun the ashandarei and thrust it into the wall. The point sank into the not-stone. Light sprayed out around it, spilling free like blood gushing from a split vein. Mat screamed, ramming it in farther. Powerful waves of light erupted from the wall…
Thom leaped into the doorway and vanished. Mat smiled, spinning among the Aelfinn with his ashandarei, laying into legs, arms and heads… As he tripped the first few, the others stumbled. The creatures became a squirming mass of sinuous arms and legs, hissing and spitting in anger, several of those in back trying to crawl over the pile to reach him.
Mat stepped back and tipped his hat to the creatures. “Looks like the game can be won after all,” he said. “Tell the foxes I’m mighty pleased with this key they gave me. Also you can all go rot in a flaming pit of fire and ashes, you unwashed lumps on a pig’s backside. Have a grand bloody day.”He held his hat and leaped through the opening.
- Why I Love It
Any scene ending with Mat tipping his hat and insulting someone is a good scene! The Aelfinn and Eelfinn always win. Even Birgitte Silverbow lost handily to them. But all thanks to the request the Eelfinn granted on his first, shockingly stupidly-handled visit, Matrim Cauthon beat them at their own game. And even got to rub it in. That is truly satisfying.
I love when characters need to make hard choices, and the choice to sacrifice Jain Farstrider was hard, even though our characters came to the decision fairly quickly. If you think about it, they went in with three, and came out with three. Was their trip truly a success? We know, after the fact, that yes, Moiraine’s life was more valuable later on than even Jain’s would have been, but it was still a high price to pay.
This scene was also a significant moment for Mat. He gave Nynaeve a run for her money in hating Moiraine, and in the end, he sacrificed an eye, and a friend, in order to rescue her. He had always vehemently protested the notion that he was a hero, and even here he still felt that way. Noal was a hero, he sacrificed his life for the rest of the group to escape, but heroic sacrifices come in many forms. Mat didn’t know what the consequences of losing his eye would be, would be still be able to fight? Would Tuon keep him around? Would he bleed to death before they could escape? He willingly accepted unknown ramifications in order to potentially gain Moiraine’s freedom. He can say what he will, but that makes me label him hero.
- Your Thoughts
How did the rescue mission measure up in your mind? Do you feel Brandon Sanderson did it justice? Were the fire, music, and iron used like you expected?