Warning: this post contains severe spoilers that may ruin the book for you if you haven’t read it first.
There is very little of Aviendha in Towers of Midnight, a scant three chapters in fact. However the second & third chapters has such ramifications that it was difficult reading the remainder of the book without drifting back to what happened in the glass pillars at Rhuidean.
In case you don’t remember, the glass ter’angreal showed the wise ones and the would be clan chiefs the secret history of the Aiel- The Way of the Leaf and all that jazz that the pre breaking Aiel followed, much to the chagrin of the warrior like peoples they became. Of course, as Aviendha rightly points out, Rand has made this a little redundant and it’s her tinkering with the ter’angreal as a result of this that leads to the fortelling of the Aiel’s future that threatens to overshadow the finale of the series.
The key paragraph to the whole revelation is contained on the final page of Court of the Sun:
This was not like the events she had seen when passing into the rings during her first visit to Rhuidean. Those had been possibilities. This day’s visions seemed more real. She felt almost certain that what she had experienced was not simply one of many possibilities. What she had seen would occur. Step by step, honor drained from her people. Step by step, the Aiel turned from proud to wretched.
Perhaps it’s wrong to dwell on this paragraph so much but for me it almost makes the rest of the series irrelevant. This is what will happen, therefore Rand will be triumphant at the Last Battle and Andor will survive (despite the Trolloc invasion via Waygate in the epilogue).
The glimpses of the future happen in reverse chronology but if we were to put them in order,the first one occurs 17 years after the Last Battle, with the Dragons Peace still kept by everyone, including the Seanchan. This pretty much shows us that the Last Battle has been won. Obviously it doesn’t show us either how or at what cost the victory was gained but it is a bit of a suspense killer.
The final (or first if you read in order) sequence shows the “Folk”, not even remembering their Aiel heritage, rummaging through the litter of the Lightmakers as they drive through the Waste. The technology level of the Lightmakers is difficult to judge, they have motorised vehicles and guns of some description but Folk simply refer to it as magic, so it’s not really possible to judge just how far in the future it all is. It’s always been difficult to ascertain the technological development in the Wheel of Time, 3,000 years from the Breaking to a 17th/18th century level seems very slow. The Lightmakers even refer to the Folk as “bloody Aiel”, suggesting that they are remembered, even though they have forgotten their own name.
The subsequent visions show ore prospecting in the Waste, another sign of technological development, and the Aiel more humanised than the almost beastial creatures of the most distant future, and the ruthless breaking of the Aiel by the Seachan over the course of generations.
There are of course more details like the betrayal of Andor, the fall of the White Tower, the residents of the fallen Black Tower fighting a guerilla war and so on, but ultimately it is the vision of the Seanchan triumphant and the Aiel utterly defeated that lingers.
Is that it then? Is the victory at the Last Battle a pyhrric victory that sees the Seanchan cultural and intolerance of Channelers eventually obtain dominance? Obviously life under the Seachan is better than life under the Shadow but it still reeks of failure and leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.
Hopefully this gets a better resolution than some of the other stories in the final volume, time will tell…