On Duty and Humanity

[Spoilers from The Wheel of Time up to the end of The Gathering Storm follow. Read at your own risk.]

So we knew that Rand was somehow destined to die at the rocks of Shayol Ghul, fighting the Dark One, as mentioned several thousand times throughout the series. It’s truly astounding to see the progress Rand has done since he first saw Moiraine at the front of Winespring Inn; from that innocent farmer, whose biggest trouble was the condition of his father’s herd, to some world-dominating mythical evil who ripped an entire castle with its dozens of inhabitants from existence in a moment, just to eliminate one single person.

This immense difference is a topic for another entry, though. What I want to talk about, is different.

This volume, by my opinion, was the most riveting in the series so far. Scenes of Egwene’s performance at that dinner against Elaida, later on how she turned the tide of Seanchan attack was truly glued the book to my hand. It is clear that this embodiment of badassness what RJ thought of Egwene from the start, which also needs a deeper elaboration in its own place.

Especially after the incident with Semirage, Rand had… Well, let’s start off with saying that he had become of the most terrifying things ever walked the earth. It is partly because the madman in his head with memories and abilities to provide, and he being the strongest ta’veren alive. But the real reason is, his duty.

The transformation had begun after the battle of Falme, when he went off just by himself to the Stone of Tear. After ten huge books of constantly gathering allies, making enemies, conquering, fighting, killing, seeing people die, being beaten and put in a box, he had reached the hardness a human being ever could, at the point where his hands were at the throat of the woman he loved, gripping it to her death. He had suffered so much, both physically and mentally, was under a burden so heavy, he shoved everything and everyone aside, giving his existence only one reason. He was so focused, so emotionless with his actions that almost everyone around was petrified and worried about him. He was capable of doing things his previous self would have thought unimaginable, in the name of getting the world ready for The Last Battle.

Me, I had another reason to be uneasy on his thoughts and actions. With The Last Battle is almost at hand, things he had done, or would have done, made perfect sense to me.

He was right; those people at Graendal’s hideout were already dead, balescream was truly just mercy to their souls. He sent his Aiel to Bandar Eban, to establish order in the city, gathered lords and ladies to select a new king instead of their lost one. He misplaced his trust in so many places, he could not afford to meet with Borderlanders in the vicinity of The Guardian. He exiled Cadsuane, who was in charge of keeping artifacts safe, which made him go through an experience inexplicable to us, but may well give Rand in The Dark One’s hands.

This lack of emotion was the only way to go. When your duty is, you know, save the whole existence from coming to an end, you cannot afford to be a human anymore. You are the only thing that stands in between this world, the ones you love, your daily life, you name it, and darkness and death brought by countless of legions of Trollocs, Myrdraal, and Light only knows what other Shadowspawn, followed by utmost nothingness. We are talking about, well, EVERYTHING here. If you don’t find this worth sacrifice everything for, then I’m sorry but you deserve to be annihilated.

And Cadsuane and Sorilea of all people, two of the most badass people ever existed, vow to make him… laugh? Really? What of Min saying: “Winning won’t be winning at all if Rand becomes something as bad as the Forsaken.” Yes, Min, it will! You won’t be dead! The world as you know will continue to exist! I would definitely call that a ‘win’, compared to the alternative.

When people around Rand were trying to ‘heal’ him, make him more ‘human’, I really was baffled. “Are those people are fairytale characters who are in the role of shiny little humans, embodiment of what is right” I asked myself, “or am I really detaching myself from humanity?” I felt like they are worried about me. Me as in real life. It was absolutely troubling.

And then Tam came, along with the end of Rand’s remaining sanity. He literally went mad, and found an abrupt solitude at peak of Dragonmount.  Well, his reasoning here first seemed too good to happen. Were I that powerful and that fed up with this Wheel and Ages’ repetition and such, I would probably break the Wheel there and then. But then, Tam’s voice gave me a heads up:

“You may not have a choice about which duties are given you, but you can choose why you fulfill them.”

I frankly find this piece of advice actually applicable to our lives. After being in empathy with Rand this much, the person, the human after he had become the instantaneous change he had gone through, seems like somewhat close to what I would be, in the months and years to come. Now, almost halfway to the next book, I feel like I may be reading passages about my future self.

_______

What I now realized is that I’m in a little contradiction with an earlier post of mine. I’m yet to dig deeper on these matters as the events unfold, but for the moment, I think I can explain this with brilliance of Brandon Sanderson’s narration. It made me truly see myself in that world.