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Stephen King's Dark Tower

Dark Tower: Mapping the Fall

A look back at key points along the road to DARK TOWER: THE FALL OF GILEAD #6 and the cataclysmic events to come

By Neil Kleid

"First comes smiles, then lies. Last is gunfire." -Roland Deschain

Every end leads to a new beginning, but as the curtain falls on Steven Deschain's Affiliation and their great, walled city, Gilead's end gives way to countless smaller, tragic endings.

John Farson's forces-drawn to the city by the machinations of its former sorcerer-in-residence, Marten Broadcloak aka "The Man in Black"-stand moments from bringing years of restrained hate, treachery and rebellion down upon the gunslingers' heads. The end has finally arrived and each moment, every step to this inevitable point has been carefully planned and crafted not only by the deadly hands of John Farson and the Crimson King, but by powerful forces even beyond their control: Stephen King and

DARK TOWER: THE FALL OF GILEAD #6 black and white preview art by Richard Isanove
the skilled creative team behind Marvel's bestselling series of Dark Tower comic books and graphic novels.

Everything has brought us here. Each scene, carefully detailed within the five Dark Tower limited series, led to other and key events, dotted lines from the anxious, opening moments of GUNSLINGER BORN through to the final, fatal issues of THE FALL OF GILEAD.

Here before you Constant Readers stands the anatomy of Gilead's fall. Critical moments, one by one, set in motion like terrible dominoes to crash against each another and crumble the city's walls. Study them, I beg ya, for t'would have made great difference if a single one had gone t'other way, say sorry. Say sorry, indeed.

THE COOK'S EXECUTION ("The Gunslinger" novel)
Though beloved to Gilead's children-most notably, Roland Deschain's ka-tet-secret conversations revealed Hax, Gilead's heavy and kindhearted cook, to be a Farson spy. When Roland and Cuthbert Allgood overheard Hax's plot against the Affiliation and relayed them to Roland's father, Steven, the boys bore witness Hax's execution, a hanging that affected both deeply and set the bar for Gilead's zero tolerance policy towards traitors.

Following a poor showing against his teacher, Cort Andrus, Roland happened upon his half-naked mother in Marten's chambers. Angry at his mother's infidelity and embarrassed for his father, the incident blinded Roland into taking his test of manhood well before the proper time had come. Marten, a double agent for the Crimson King, manipulated Roland in hopes that he would fail the test and be swept into exile. Instead, Marten set events into motion that would not only hasten the fall of Gilead, but begin his and Roland's lifelong race for the Dark Tower. "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed." Here, then, began the chase.

Sent to the safety of Hambry, far from Gilead's dangers, Roland's ka-tet-Cuthbert and Alain Johns, operating under fake names-came afoul of John Farson's forces, led by cutthroat mercenaries called the Big Coffin Hunters. When the ka-tet discovered Farson's men assembling ancient

DARK TOWER: THE FALL OF GILEAD #6 black and white preview art by Richard Isanove
weapons to use against the Affiliation, they dismantled the machines, set fire to the oil fields and led both Coffin Hunters and Farson's lieutenants to a horrible end in Eyebolt Canyon. This private campaign, Roland's first, tested his heart, friendships and resolve; its outcome also definitively set Farson's rage against Gilead, especially after Roland rode off with the precious seeing stone, Maerlyn's Grapefruit.

Maerlyn's Grapefruit, fashioned by the sorcerer Maerlyn from the magic of the Prim, can be blamed for much of Gilead's fall. Owned by John Farson, it came to be cared for by Rhea of the Coos, witch woman of Mejis, until forcibly taken by Roland Deschain. Unfortunately for Roland, Rhea took revenge for his "thievery" and subsequent murder of her familiar, Ermot, by striking where he was most vulnerable: his heart.

Susan Delgado's death, a horrible end to a tragic love affair, remains one of the most heart-wrenching moments in the Dark Tower saga. Her murder, caused by Roland's actions, began the process that ensured the young gunslinger would live and die alone. During the events of TREACHERY, Roland explained to Aileen Ritter that following Susan's death, he could never love again. The words "Roland, I Love Thee" constantly rang inside his heart, reminding the gunslinger of failure and loss.

Escaping from a murderous posse and beset by wolves, Roland's ka-tet found the way back to Gilead less scenic and picturesque than the way in. Despite the many pitfalls and dangers that presented themselves to the harried young gunslingers, none surpassed Roland's first encounter with the diabolical and deadly Crimson King within the pink environs of Maerlyn's Grapefruit. Entranced by visions of the future and near catatonic following Susan Delgado's death, Roland's will and resolve stood no chance against the twin threats of the King's ancient evil and the Grapefruit's siren call. Though eventually rescued from the seeing stone by Sheemie Ruiz, Roland's journey back to Gilead helped influence the

DARK TOWER: THE FALL OF GILEAD #6 black and white preview art by Richard Isanove
Affiliation's downfall by bringing the seeing stone into the city and blinding the gunslinger's eyes from its threat with its bright, malicious, pink light.

Despite having its hooks into Roland Deschain, the Grapefruit's appetite for mischief had yet to be sated and after biding some time, let Roland's mates free him of the sphere's influence and hand itself over to their dinh, Steven Deschain. The Grapefruit did not remain under Steven's lock and key, for once Farson's spy, Justus, learned of the seeing stone's whereabouts, he stole it away for use in the Good Man's plans. Neither Justus, Steven nor John Farson knew that another had vengeful plans for the Grapefruit: Rhea of the Coos, determined to strike another blow to Roland's heart.

Susan Delgado's dire fate may have sparked the flames that eventually reached Gilead's walls, but the death and treachery of Gabrielle Deschain, Roland's mother, stoked the fire to burn and destroy anything that remained standing. As discussed, her betrayal of Steven Deschain set Roland on his long, terrible road to the Dark Tower, but also struck a blow to the Affiliation's pride, its loyal heart. Most importantly, it removed the gunslingers' trust of one another when she, Justus and Farson's infiltrating nephew were found scheming to poison Steven, and then Roland, confused by the deadly glamour of the Grapefruit, shot his own mother, thinking her the Coos herself, there to kill his father. Gabrielle's final words: "Roland, I love thee."

After Gabrielle's death and Roland's apparent matricide, the Affiliation became easy pickings. One by one, blow-by-blow, Farson's forces took advantage of the pain and heartbreak to wear away the walls. Christopher Johns died at the hands of a Slow Mutant's dart, meant for Steven himself. Cortland Andrus fell victim to Marten Broadcloak's poisonous trap,

DARK TOWER: THE FALL OF GILEAD #6 black and white preview art by Richard Isanove
the very same with which Gabrielle tried to end her husband's life. Each death, every brick in Gilead's battlement and gun at its side, dearly counted in the nearing battle and as Steven Deschain watched his friends fall and his son wait for judgment, he felt the walls close in and the Red forces rush forth.

Here, now, at the end of everything and the final pages of DARK TOWER: THE FALL OF GILEAD #6-on sale October 28-we await a new beginning. The climactic series in the Dark Tower comic book cycle, THE BATTLE OF JERICHO, draws near and Roland's true quest will soon stand revealed. We have connected the dots to this moment, this calm before the storm, and prepare to take the final, fateful steps. Prepare yourselves, Constant Readers, for in the words of sai King himself, "the rest of the tale will be short and brutal compared to all that's gone before. Because when ka-tet breaks, the end always comes quickly."

"Say sorry."

For more on The Dark Tower, check out Stephen King's official site and Marvel.com's Dark Tower hub.

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