Friday, January 23, 2015

Towers of Midnight Read-through #56: Chapter 49 - Court of the Sun

By Linda

Aviendha POV

Aviendha's visions in the previous chapter had references to the "Vale of Tears"; the ones in this chapter don't; they're more about how and why the Aiel were "punished" for their sins in the Fourth Age. "We have to go to war because it's all we are good at and the other side are nasty" is not really a justification. To reverse a saying, the Aiel are definitely more "sinning" than "sinned against".

In Ladalin's POV the Seanchan have the upper hand, and the Aiel are greatly reduced. There are now only five clans, led by three clan chiefs and two Wise Ones. Rhuidean, so long under siege, has been captured. However the Aiel haven't developed an alternative method for choosing leaders.

The Aiel are still Aiel here, unlike in the previous chapter, but their customs have changed. They no longer take gai'shain because they don't fight the other clans, after making peace with each other in front of Rand, and being focussed only on war with the Seanchan. Each person has little choice of whether to be a warrior or not. Gai'shain now means "without honour", which is what dat'sang used to mean, and show the low status of those who don't fight (except for blacksmiths who provide fighting tools). Their social structure is narrowing to an economically unsustainable degree, I suspect. Hence the repeated "requests for aid" from the Wetlander rulers and the envy of others' beautiful possessions.

The Aiel are living on the edge. They have no time or resources for anything but the essentials. They are fighting for survival but don't acknowledge this until towards the end of Ladalin's POV when the leaders are forced to accept that they have lost the war.

Mora thinks the clans should retreat to the Waste and seek penance for not following the Dragon's Peace.

"The Dragon left us!" Takai said.

Towers of Midnight, Court of the Sun

But he left everybody - all the nations, not just the Aiel. Not being under the umbrella of the peace treaty, the Aiel broke the Dragon's wishes.

Ladalin advises retreating to the Waste to build up resources, rather than as a penance. However resources are more limited in the Waste, and the Aiel can be boxed in there.

War has decimated the Aiel. Collaring their channelling Wise Ones is worse than killing them because it increases the strength of the Seanchan enemy at the expense of the Aiel. Ladalin wishes she could channel, yet if she could she would likely already be collared and using the Power against her people.

Once the other nations joined the war - deceived by the Aiel - the Seanchan were justified in attacking them. Male channellers can't be leashed, and also weren't included in the treaty; therefore the Seanchan kill them. So the Asha'man have to continue fighting the Seanchan.

According to Ladalin, the Seanchan gained cannon, presumably by conquering Andor, or by buying the technology or knowledge of its manufacture, after Oncala's POV. They have all the nations under their control, now. Except the Aiel.

Ladalin thinks that fighting in secret would be dishonourable, although

Of course, what did honor matter now?

Towers of Midnight, Court of the Sun

The Aiel no longer consider honour much--or responsibility, either. But unfortunately they stopped thinking about responsibility far sooner.

"This is his fault," Takai said, still looking sullen. "The Car'a'carn could have led us to glory, but he abandoned us."
"His fault?" Ladalin said, understanding perhaps for the first time why that statement was wrong. "No. Aiel take responsibility for themselves. This is our fault, and not that of my distant greatfather. We have forgotten who we are. We are without honor."

Towers of Midnight, Court of the Sun

Taking responsibility is honour and that's something they haven't done for decades. They even blame their lack of honour, too, on the Dragon.

"Our honor was taken from us," Takai said, sighing as he stood. "People of the Dragon indeed. What is the good of being his people? We were crafted to be a spear, the legends say, forged in the Three-fold Land. He used us, then cast us away. What is a discarded spear to do, but go to war?"

Towers of Midnight, Court of the Sun

Yet we see in the next POV that they were responsible for tossing honour away. The Aiel are the ones who see themselves only as spears. These people need to transform themselves: widen their function and sense of purpose, not whine that Rand didn't lead them to glory, or left them without a role. Rand's peace wasn't intended to make the Aiel happy; it was for the good of the world. The Aiel felt they were a special people and therefore entitled accordingly.

For a different reason, the Seanchan also remained outsiders.

Her hatred of the invaders ran deep. Perhaps that hatred had destroyed the Aiel.

Towers of Midnight, Court of the Sun

Indeed, hatred of the Seanchan did destroy the Aiel.

Honour doesn't equal war. Aiel are obsessed with ji, and claim that they have been robbed of it, but don't consider toh, obligation, the other side of the equation. Aviendha thinks war with the Seanchan is pointless. The Aiel went to war because it was apparently all they knew. War and hate. They never bothered to learn anything from the other nations. Aviendha - the bridge between the Aiel and Rand/Wetlanders, as the Wise Ones put it - needs to teach them this. But first she has to be less parochial.

Oncala is announced by a banner. Aviendha's Dragon-lineage children are given honour that no Aiel has been granted before, and it has done little good. Oncala is very arrogant, and tends to insult people.

She knew she was not good with people. When she spoke, insults were too common.

Towers of Midnight, Court of the Sun

The Aiel were a meritocracy, not an aristocracy. A guard of two thousand seems an excessive amount of honour even for the Dragon's granddaughter. Oncala and Hehyal displayed this honour while abandoning honour with their deception. Oncala sneers at the Seanchan for having no honour, then deliberately lies by omission to the Andoran monarch to bring the Andorans into the war. This is a betrayal of trust - by the embassy, and of a cousin at that.

Aviendha's granddaughter intends to marry the guy who killed the most Seanchan in his society. Hehyal has not actually gone to Rhuidean to be tested because the Seanchan are besieging it, preventing the Aiel from promoting leaders. The Aiel never develop an alternative way of proving leadership qualities. Potential leaders won't be tested in future--this future. (Instead Aviendha changes the future here by viewing this and resolving to do something about it.)

Oncala thinks she should fight in her youth, because that's the time to do so. At this time the Aiel are not fighting out of necessity, whereas later they must keep fighting to maintain their stalemate with the Seanchan and later still just fight to survive.

Oncala envies the Andoran queen's property, and thinks it is only still there because Aiel are defending it. Yet the Seanchan are not at war with the Andorans at this stage, only the Aiel, so why do the Andorans need defending? Further questions arise when Oncala thinks the Aiel will destroy the Seanchan and then intends for the Wetlanders to "pay" for their lack of tribute to the Aiel. Apparently the Aiel are getting payment for protection, or is it protection money, or even charity? The Wetlanders are not at war with the Seanchan, so do they actually need protection from them? Are they actually paying the Aiel to stay away?

By Aiel custom, someone important should have come out to meet Oncala and Hehyal to show them respect; they are being treated as supplicants. This is justified because they have asked for aid on previous visits. The aid may be monetary since Oncala thinks of making the nations "wish they had been more generous" (Towers of Midnight, Court of the Sun). If the nations gave military aid, this would be a violation of the peace treaty with the Seanchan.

The battle lines have not changed since the Last Battle, so victory is by no means assured. Yet if the Aiel are better fighters now than they were at the Last Battle, as Oncala claims, then they are only just holding their own. Oncala is kidding herself. Hatred, ambition and envy have corrupted her. She refuses to acknowledge that the Andoran nobility are her equals. In her, Aiel parochialism has become overweening arrogance. There is nothing good to be said about this woman.

Apparently the Andoran palace gates are kept closed, but were left open for Oncala and Hehyal. Oncala resents to the point of hatred that the the Aiel can't beat the Seanchan without help from the Andorans (despite her earlier posturing). She corrupts the Andorans by leading them to violate a treaty. Of course, they could have refused to do so, but they trusted the Aiel, and not the Seanchan. The Andoran Queen picked the wrong side.

The Queen's Guard checks the proffered papers for physical danger, but ironically the danger is from both what is written in the text and what is omitted. The Andorans are distrustful; the Aiel's hostile feelings for them are obviously evident. Oncala hypocritically complains that they are treated like assassins. Yet their lies will result in continent-wide subjugation of states and people and the enslavement or deaths of hundreds of thousands. They assassinated world peace.

Hehyal repeats the misleading passage in the Seanchan prophecies that Rand's bowing to the Empress was an act of obeisance when in fact it was a courtesy designed to shame her (see Essanik Prophecy article); this will occur in A Memory of Light, Older, More Weathered. The Empress acknowledged the Dragon as her equal but Hehyal (and Talana) believe the Seanchan think the Empress was above him. They may well do so now - the passage of time changing remembered history is an important theme in the Wheel of Time. The Empress is an absolute monarch and acts like she can't be constrained by anything. In A Memory of Light, To Ignore the Omens, Tuon didn't consider her oath to Rand binding until Mat pressed her. On the other hand, she also believes in law and order.

Once the two deceivers scent victory, Hehyal has second thoughts about whether they should have done it. Oncala thinks their honour is intact because they lied by omission; the sort of sophistry everyone despised the Aes Sedai for. Aes Sedai are an example of the "sinners who cannot lie" trope, part of the contradictory aspects of carnival, which was an expression of chaos. (The Dark One is against order and tries to disrupt and weaken the Pattern by unleashing chaos. More practically, if Aes Sedai are untrustworthy, then the lies of the Black Ajah are less obvious.) Deception by omission or false implication is still a betrayal of trust. Oncala thinks it's OK because she is blinded by her ambition to rule a Dragon empire. She justifies this as making a pre-emptive strike against an enemy who would undoubtedly attack in future.

When the Aiel say they are "holding off" Seanchan for the Andorans and other nations, I wonder if this is how the Seanchan see it. Have they prepared contingency plans because they know the Aiel have repeatedly tried to get the Andorans to break the peace pact, and believe the Andorans are likely to be persuaded to do so sooner or later?

A griffin is a lion-eagle cross, so the Pact of the Griffin refers to the Andoran/Two Rivers alliance. The Court of the Sun would include Cairhien. Cairhien and Andor may be held by different rulers now, if they are in different alliances (each probably descendants of Elayne.)

It is forty years since the next POV and some 57 years after the Last Battle, but Talana is Elayne's granddaughter and is forty or so. Elayne should still be alive, but then so should Aviendha. What happened to them? Were they collared? Or are they dead?

At this time the Seanchan already have cannon:

The descriptions of Andor's military forces, suggestions on how to use gateways and dragons to attack Caemlyn, the very plot to assassinate Queen Talana-these had been drawn up only in case Andor entered the war.

Towers of Midnight, Court of the Sun

Ladalin's early childhood was soon after Seanchan attacked Aiel's Arad Doman camp and fought at Almoth Plain. Yet Ladalin says the Seanchan gained cannon twenty years earlier. She is an old woman and the Almoth Plain strikes (early stage of war) happened when she was a young child. The inconsistency may be an error, or may show the confusion, and resulting loss or corruption of knowledge, of these times.

All of Aviendha's four children have channelled since childhood. This is the something odd that Min saw about them.

Min wondered whether to tell her [Aviendha] what she had seen while they were all together. Aviendha would have Rand’s babies, too. Four of them at once! Something was odd about that, though. The babies would be healthy, but still something odd.

Winter’s Heart, A Lily in Winter

Padra says she holds the One Power constantly - but another way of looking at it is that she cannot release it, and, forgetting what it is like to be without it, has become arrogant. She takes her power for granted and looks down on those without it. In a way, she has been consumed by it, by her belief in her own strength and invincibility. Yet she will be gone in less than 110 years (40 years of war and the 70-odd years of Ladalin's life). Padra is now less than 17. Neither she nor her sister were present or mentioned in Ladalin's POV, another two disappeared channellers. Her siblings' disparate descriptions hints of genetic links to Moridin's body, since Rand and Aviendha had similar colouring to each other.

Rand's survival appears to be unknown still, yet he and Aviendha must have been together for a while soon enough after the Last Battle that everyone thinks he fathered them before he apparently died. His children don't know him. He may be dead; certainly lost. How/why is Aviendha gone? Her children wouldn't be raised so high so young if she were still around. Did she "follow after" Rand? Abandoning duty would be out of character for her.

Padra believes in a meritocracy and in her own superiority due to inherited abilities. She doesn't believe in aristocracy (although she might believe in royalty due to superior genetic lines). This is not an earlier Aiel belief.

The Aiel show Padra deference, which is not traditional. It is interesting that the Aiel, who are so resistant to social change, make such bad changes and have worse ones forced upon them. In the camp, Padra "dismissed her spear-sisters," yet she's 16-17 years old at most. Traditionally, Maidens are still junior at this age. All four siblings give advice to the clan chiefs, yet in earlier times clan chiefs were resistant to advice from the (much more experienced) Wise Ones. The Aiel revere Rand's children because they are all they have left of him. They followed Rand - and continue to in the form of his children. This meeting of clan chiefs and Rand's/Aviendha's children has no Wise Ones, even non-channelling ones. Marinna is in training (apprentice), being 16-17. The Taardad clan chief is young if he is only 10 years older than Padra. Even if he is a skilled an intelligent man. The Last Battle left its scars on the AIel and killed so many experienced and potential leaders.

The Aiel want to fight - be warriors. It's the main way to earn honour. The clans are angry that the Seanchan won't give the Wise One damane back, so they resolve to take them by force. Many years passed since Tuon was Empress - therefore she was gone within a few years of the Last Battle. As with Aviendha, her fate is unknown; she may be dead, but she may have been collared. A damane is dead to human society. Yet the Seanchan speak of Rand bowing to the Empress. It is hard to reconcile this with an Empress being enslaved and un-personed for channelling. Perhaps Tuon chose to suicide for the good of the Empire once she channelled. Tuon is a Nemesis figure and it was always likely that she would be her own Nemesis and channel.

As for the Seanchan, they too are morally grey. The Aiel were wronged by the Seanchan's harsh customs/laws. The possibility that Aviendha was one of those collared a few years after the Last Battle really brings this home to us, because we know and like Aviendha. It was curious that Aviendha doesn't wonder at the way she and all her channelling friends vanished so young in her visions of the future; I guess she was too stunned and overwhelmed at the magnitude of the disaster shown here, or assumed they all died in the Last Battle.

The Aiel don't want to raid each other after being at peace all these years (17 of them). They see this as pointless, but other fighting as not pointless. Like Oncala will do, they justify their plan to attack the Seanchan by saying that the peace won't hold between the nations. (Yet it did for a further 40 years until it was broken by a misplaced trust in the Aiel). However it is under considerable pressure due to no enforcement or mediation provisions. This is what the Aiel should be. Rand was not Aiel, and did not feel close to them. He did not plan for them, out of respect.

Ronam is right that returning to the Waste will destroy the Aiel.

"Some say we should have returned to the Three-fold Land," she said. "No," Ronam said. "No, that would have destroyed us. Our fathers knew nothing of steamhorses or dragon tubes. Were the Aiel to return to the Waste, we would have become irrelevant. The world would pass us by, and we would vanish as a people."

Towers of Midnight, Court of the Sun

He does not know if the Aiel should go to war, but believes it is what Aiel do. And it is an opportunity to earn honour.

Again there is much talk about honour, but none about obligation in this more traditional society. Yet both were equally important in Aiel society. Aviendha's children were the first to abandon obligation, due to being shown great honour without earning it.

When it is all over, Aviendha sits in middle of the glass columns as they power down. The vision feels destined to her, unchangeable, but she has to try to change it. Her line is responsible for the decay of the Aiel, the ultimate dishonour. She is desperate to know how it happened but the columns are switched off, unresponsive. It's all up to her.

She had come to Rhuidean seeking knowledge. Well, she had received it. In more abundance than she had wanted.
She opened her eyes and gritted her teeth. Aiel took responsibility. Aiel fought. Aiel stood for honor.

Towers of Midnight, Court of the Sun

It is one thing to gain knowledge, and another to use it honourably or to fight as a result of knowledge. Aviendha is determined to do her duty and save her people. Knowledge is useless if it is not used for decisions and actions.

Here are some pointers for Aviendha to consider. Not that it's her fault, but her children know nothing of their father, and not enough of their mother, either. Her children should not be revered or allowed to become arrogant. The peace treaty needs people to act as mediators and also enforce it.

This chapter fulfils the "he will take you back and (italics mine) he will destroy you" Aiel prophecy--in a bad way. Not that Rand directly destroyed them, except by not making them a part of the treaty. As it turned out, the prophecy was fulfilled in a positive manner as at the end of A Memory of Light. He did tie the Aiel together - to each other, and to the Wetlander nations. The Aiel have to keep following Rand's wishes, or else...

The chapter also follows the Wheel of Time theme of the effect a few people can have on history - if other people take note of them.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #55: Chapter 48 - Near Avendesora

By Linda

Aviendha POV

Aviendha thinks that she's the first to go through the glass columns in Rhuidean since Rand's advent. She and Rand are perhaps the two most important visitors to Rhuidean and the columns.

The remaining ter'angreal have been taken away from the plaza where Avendesora grows. While Aviendha assumes Aiel took them, it may have been Moridin, considering his large hoard and recently acquired items. Avendesora is the World Tree:

There stood an enormous tree, branches spread wide like arms reaching to embrace the sun. The massive tree had a perfection she could not explain. It had a natural symmetry-no missing branches, no gaping holes in its leafy upper reaches. It was particularly impressive since, when she'd last seen it, it had been blackened and burned.
In a world where other plants were dying without explanation, this one healed and nourished faster than ever should have been possible. Its leaves rustled soothingly in the wind, and its gnarled roots poked through the ground like the aged fingers of a wise elder. The tree made her want to sit and bask in the simple peace of the moment.
It was as if this tree were the ideal, the one after which all other trees were patterned. In legend it was called Avendesora. The Tree of Life.

Towers of Midnight, Near Avendesora

Chora trees are a construct, and therefore not natural. In this case they are more than natural—much more—rather than less than natural, as the Shadow’s constructs are.

Sheltered by Avendesora, Aviendha ruminates on the knowledge from her ancestors that she knew she would gain. Mat, too, ruminated under Avendesora prior to going through the redstone doorway, and was hung on the tree after gaining ancient memories, a reference to Odin, Mat's parallel, who hanged himself on the World Tree to gain knowledge. Aviendha did learn one new thing:

She'd anticipated a noble decision, where honor overcame the inferior lifestyle dictated by the Way of the Leaf.

Towers of Midnight, Near Avendesora

but everything else was as expected. The decision was not a noble one. In fact, it is surprising that she thought it would be a noble decision when by Aiel standards it can't be noble if it involves breaking oath. Pragmatic, perhaps, but not noble. Aviendha is comforted that the Aiel’s previous lapse could be redeemed by meeting their toh at the Last Battle.

The Jenns' decision to take up a weapon was an impulse, not a decision. Because Aiel society knows only fighting, they see it as honourable, and many of those who want to achieve or earn status in Aiel society do so through battle. Therefore there is an underlying desire to battle even when there is no reason to fight, as she will see in columns, which can lead to corruption. Despite being in the wetlands for some time, Aviendha still is parochial, which shows the depth of Aiel prejudice, due to the nation not having regular peaceful contact with other societies. It is this attitude, plus continuation of warfare as a way of life which will potentially lead to the Aiel’s downfall.

More and more, she was coming to believe that tradition for the sake of tradition was foolishness. Good traditions-strong, Aiel traditions-taught the ways of ji'e'toh, methods of survival.

Towers of Midnight, Near Avendesora

Until now, the Aiel have fought to survive. But what if gets in way of survival? What if it becomes disruptive to society? The Aiel need a mechanism to deal with conflict or aggression that doesn't involve warfare.

Probing the ter’angreal shows Aviendha that the glass columns are receptive:

Indeed, the pillars seemed . . . alive, somehow. It was almost as if she could sense an awareness from them.
That gave her a chill. Was she touching the pillar, or was it touching her?

Towers of Midnight, Near Avendesora

so that they know each Aiel visitor's ancestral line and therefore what scenes and POVs from the past to replay, and, as it turns out, the most likely future. The ter’angreal can read both ways along the Wheel. Not surprisingly they are too profound or complex for Aviendha to read. As she walks away she sees a scene from the distant future. Aviendha thinks she may have re-set the ter'angreal when she tried to read one. She has faith the columns show what the Aiel need to know, that they grant wisdom as well as knowledge.

Malidra is pretty much at the end of Aviendha's line—she may even be the end. The girl is a fearful scavenger who thinks, like most who lack knowledge of science, that the Seanchan’s technology is magic.

Aviendha’s viewings in the glass columns compare and contrast strikingly with Rand’s experiences in The Shadow Rising. Malidra is a mirror to Rand’s ancestor, Rhodric, who didn't believe in snow, and had experienced only drought.

Malidra had heard stories of a place beyond the distant mountains, where the land was green and food grew everywhere.
She didn't believe those lies.

Towers of Midnight, Near Avendesora

Malidra follows the Lightmakers, whereas Rhodric followed the Jenn Aiel and the Aes Sedai. However the Lightmakers gave her nothing; they killed her for trying to take, as she would have killed them for their belongings, whereas Rhodric helped the future Cairhienin and also served the Jenn.

“We guard the Jenn,” Jeordam said. “It is they who travel with Aes Sedai.”

The Shadow Rising, The Road to the Spear

Aviendha debates the significance of Malidra’s scene and dares to go into the columns twice (which is forbidden) to gain knowledge. As it turns out, the Aiel will destroy themselves if she does not. Rand’s ancestor, Mandein, and all other Aiel leaders, had to go to Rhuidean because otherwise the Aiel would destroy themselves (The Shadow Rising, The Road to the Spear).

She is pleased that Da'shain had honour and respect:

The Aiel in the Age of Legends had been peaceful servants, respected. How could they have started as scavengers?

Towers of Midnight, Near Avendesora

Aviendha thinks it is better to die than become a scavenger. The Da'shain Aiel would rather die than be violent or kill.

The Aiel have been choked off economically as well as physically. Due to social disruption, they have lost knowledge on surviving in the Waste. Shaving in the desert is a sign of high standards. In Malidra’s time, the Aiel folk are bearded, a sign of their greater decay, not being able to spare the water, tools and time to shave.

In the next POV, Rowahn was charged to maintain Aiel customs:

Her father had inherited his clothing from his grandfather, along with a charge. Follow the old ways. Remember ji'e'toh. Fight and maintain honor.

Towers of Midnight, Near Avendesora

- the few customs that are remembered. Likewise the Jenn were charged to follow the Way of the Leaf:

“The Trees of Life.” When he still looked at her blankly, she shook her head. “Three little trees planted in barrels. They care for them almost as well as they do for themselves. When they find a place of safety, they mean to plant them; they say the old days will return, then. They. I said they. Very well. I am not Jenn anymore.” She hefted the shortened spear. “This is my husband now.” Eyeing him closely, she asked, “If someone stole your child, would you talk of the Way of the Leaf and suffering sent to test us?”

The Shadow Rising, The Road to the Spear

and accept suffering as a test of faith. Rowahn looks on the Aiel’s trials as a punishment which they must endure:

"We must rebuild," her father said, surveying the wreckage.
"Rebuild?" said a soot-stained man. "The granary was the first to burn! There is no food!"
"We will survive," her father said. "We can move deeper into the Waste."
"There is nowhere else to go!" another man said. "The Raven Empire has sent word to the Far Ones, and they hunt us at the eastern border!"
"They find us whenever we gather!" another cried.
"It is a punishment!" her father said. "But we must endure!"

Towers of Midnight, Near Avendesora

Once the settlements are abandoned, and the Aiel scattered, they are doomed as a people.

Aviendha’s descendant, Tava, returned the child to the grateful mother and then helped gather sand and dirt, just as Rand’s ancestor, Jeordam, helped the Jenn retrieve a daughter and other womenfolk.

Aviendha moves backwards in the future as she progresses. Forward, and back, as Rand did.

Rand’s feet moved of their own accord. Forward. And back in time.

The Shadow Rising, The Road to the Spear

Unwillingly, Aviendha realises that the Ravens and Lightmakers are Seanchan. The Far Ones would be the Sharans.

Rand saw the corruption of the Da'shain Aiel, Aviendha sees the corruption and decay of the Aiel. Da'shain would be just as upset to see their people abandon the Way, as Aviendha is to see the Aiel abandon ji'e'toh and lose honour.

This sub-thread has real world parallels in the displacement and destruction of North American indigenous peoples (and of those of other countries) by invaders with more advanced technologies, and to the Trail of Tears in particular. It also is a reverse Exodus, since the Aiel have strong parallels with the Israelites, showing what happens if the Aiel do not follow the spirit of the Dragon’s peace pact and leave the promised land of the Wetlands that he led them to, isolating themselves in the Waste.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Aviendha and Elayne in the Palace

By Linda

This post is a celebration of the Thirteenth Depository’s 2.5 millionth page view this week.

In Crossroads of Twilight, Elayne and Aviendha dressed for a series of audiences. When Elayne asked, Aviendha selected a royal outfit:

For someone just doing a favor, she pored over the clothes that Essande pulled out with a great deal of interest before deciding on a dark blue velvet slashed with green, and a silver net to catch her hair. They were her clothes, made for her, but since reaching Caemlyn she had avoided them as if they were crawling with death’s-head spiders. Stroking the sleeves, she hesitated as if she might change her mind, but finally she let Naris do up the tiny pearl buttons.
She declined Elayne’s offer of emeralds that would have suited the gown admirably, keeping her silver snowflake necklace and heavy ivory bracelet, but at the last minute she did pin the amber turtle to her shoulder…
Or maybe it was Aviendha’s horn-hilted knife, which she tucked behind her green velvet belt…
Rasoria gave a start when Aviendha entered the anteroom in her high-necked velvets. The Guardswomen had never seen her in anything but Aiel garb before.

Crossroads of Twilight, High Seats

Andoran women’s clothing tends to the Elizabethan, with square or high necklines, slashing and full sleeves. While she was attaining the crown Elayne was determined to make a statement, so everything they wore was very high status.

Aiel shifts are probably made of the same algode fabric as their blouses, but mainland nobility have silk shifts, which real world nobility would not have had - they would have worn the more comfortable and practical linen. I made Aviendha a teal-coloured silk shift (see photo right). It is sleeveless because I haven’t designed a good long-sleeved shift yet. It’s a task for 2015. The main problem is that the dolls don’t have compressible hands. Aviendha’s shift is embroidered with single feather stitch at neck and hem and trimmed with ivory silk lace at the hem.

Her petticoat is teal silk dupion with an embroidered border at hem and waistband in blue and green silk (stitches from bottom up: squared Palestrina knot, chain, straight, chevron, French knots, chain, detached chain) and navy silk lace (see photos below). The laces and fabrics I use are often vintage. The waistband is closed with button and loop.

Knowing Aviendha’s feelings about low-cut clothing, it’s not surprising she chose a high-necked gown in dark blue. Its fabric-silk velvet-is very expensive, more than Elayne’s. I cut it in the Elizabethan style with a very fitted V-shaped bodice and sleeve slashes. I modelled the skirt slashes, which real world western clothing did not have due to their impracticability and difficulty in sitting right, on the slashes in doublets of the time photo right). I embroidered it with silk buttonhole threads (stiches: back stitch, French knots, cross stitch, detached chain) and pearl and silver beads (see photos below, the dress front is on the left and the back on the right). Velvet is difficult to sew because it marks easily and more or less permanently. Beads were a popular trim on Elizabethan dresses and doublets. The dress is lined with green satin and dupion silk and has hook and eye closures at the back – and the line of pearl beads mentioned in the text. With the dress is a green velvet belt with silver buckle.

For jewellery, Aviendha wore her ivory bracelet and silver snowflake necklace and carried the turtle angreal. Her hair was constrained by a silver net (called a caul back then). I made two styles.

Finally, she has ivory silk stockings and navy blue shoes.

Elayne’s outfit was also sumptuous, though not described in detail:

“Essande, the green silk with the sapphires, I think. And sapphires for my hair, too. The large sapphires”…
The white-haired woman made sure that Elayne wore a small dagger with sapphires on the scabbard and pommel, hanging from a belt of woven gold.

Crossroads of Twilight, High Seats

Elayne’s shift as made of light green silk with cream vintage tatted lace (see photo above right). Her petticoat was of avocado green silk dupion embroidered with purple lilies and green leaves in satin and split back stitch outlined in couched gold thread in an authentic style of the early 1600s. I embroidered a braid-like border of chain and straight stitch in light green silk. The petticoat is closed with a button and loop, and is trimmed with gold and silk braid (see photos below).

Elayne’s square-necked Elizabethan-style dress is in bright green silk dupion lined with deep cornflower blue habutai silk. The dress is be-jewelled with dark blue beads surrounded by gold beads. The sleeves are slashed and the sleeve wings have rows of gold and blue beads. Trimming the cuffs and hem is blue and gold braid (see photos below). The dress is closed at the back with buttons and loops. To complete the dress is a gold belt. I have not yet made Elayne’s dagger and scabbard to hang from it - another task for 2015 – but I have made her necklace of sapphires in a golden setting.

Finally, Elayne has ivory stockings (see shift photo above) and dark cornflower blue shoes.

Here are some photos of Elayne and Aviendha in Elayne’s apartments. They have not quite finished dressing - Elayne has not had the sapphires added to her hair yet and Aviendha is not wearing her turtle angreal (which I have made).

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #54: Chapter 47 - A Teaching Chamber

By Linda

The title refers to Elayne’s sitting room, as well as Tuon’s damane training room. Even the private room at the Happy Throng had a useful exchange of knowledge, although it contrasted with the previous two venues in hosting an equitable and harmonious exchange.

Faile POV

Perrin intends to find out why gateways don’t work to the Black Tower in the next day or so, but he is delayed.

Faile had impressed upon Perrin the need to be formal to satisfy protocol and dignity so that they don’t appear as hicks or supplicants at Elayne’s court. Having set their own strategy, Faile then turns to reading the strategy behind Elayne’s words:

In many ways, being a lady was much like being a merchant, and she had been trained well for both roles.

Towers of Midnight, A Teaching Chamber

Faile is so comfortable with the Asha’man that she relies on them for protection. She quickly deduces Rand may be the father of Elayne’s unborn children (not that Faile knows there are twins). She probably also remembers their closeness in Tear, though she doesn’t mention it here.

After due ceremony, Perrin acts naturally to Elayne, not nervous or conciliatory. Quite like the Two Rivers populace he represents. Elayne’s emphatic statement of:

"I will do the best for my realm, regardless of the cost."

Towers of Midnight, A Teaching Chamber

makes her sound like Galad, who also never counts the cost. Only, he wouldn’t feel the need to declare it.

Faile is unimpressed with the way Elayne pointedly reminds Faile and Perrin that she is Aes Sedai. Furthermore, Elayne’s threats to execute them look foolish. There is a lack of finesse here; Elayne’s “righteous” anger doesn’t achieve what she wants.

While Elayne expects Perrin to take the opportunity of Elayne’s officially announced gratitude to ask for her pardon in declaring himself a lord, Faile decides to buy more time and probe for more information. She and Perrin had planned various scenarios for this meeting. Faile is being a Temperance figure, a popular trope in Renaissance times, mediating between opposing forces with rational thought.

Quick off the mark, Elayne sent envoys to the Two Rivers to raise the subject of taxes. She says the crown ignored the Two Rivers previously because it was not in rebellion. Perrin points out that Andor couldn’t defend the region from Trollocs, so why should they pay for what she can’t supply? Elayne offers to pardon them and send troops to protect them. Perrin says this is too late, because the Two Rivers want lords now. He already fought against the people’s will and lost. The meeting is at an impasse, since Elayne doesn’t want to set a precedent in ennobling him to grant the Two Rivers their lord. Perrin stubbornly refuses to back down.

At this point Morgase speaks up in Perrin’s favour, as promised, and reminds Elayne of the irresistibility of Perrin’s ta’veren power. The underlying problem is that Elayne expects that Perrin and Faile to seize the opportunity to make their own kingdom (not lordship), as she herself will shortly do in Cairhien. I suspect that Elayne is well trained to run a functioning state, but not in developing a new area. Had Dyelin, Norry and Reene Harfor not kept Andor’s systems intact, Elayne would have a far greater struggle. In Faile’s and Perrin’s assessment, the Two Rivers is not interested in being a nation, just in surviving. Life there is neither easy nor secure. It has much in common with the Borderlands, as Faile noted in The Shadow Rising. Since the Andoran crown has not supplied any services in generations, Perrin and Faile push for a continuation of no taxation in the Two Rivers. Elayne is peeved because she was hoping to institute some revenue raising. What a contrast between Elayne and Perrin: due to historic lines on a map, Elayne asks for money first, and then may give something in return. Perrin gave to the people first, before he even thought of taking. After not yielding to Elayne, Perrin and Faile give in return by suggesting they make an alliance of nations, as the Seanchan and Rand have each done, with Elayne at its head.

After consideration of the succession line, Elayne suggests that if Faile becomes Queen of Saldaea, one of their children should become lord of the Two Rivers. Going a step further, Elayne wants one of their children to marry into the Andoran royal line. Perrin insists that his offspring will make their own choices.

Again Morgase suggests the solution: to give the Two Rivers to Rand, thereby justifying the autonomy of the Two Rivers (which it had through being neglected as an undeveloped area relying on its own resources for survival). Perrin then becomes his steward. But there will be taxes put into a fund in Rand’s name that Perrin can draw on to supply the needs of the region.

In this scene Elayne is rather like Tuon, who features in the second scene of this chapter; pushy, and jealous of her rights.

Tuon POV

Of Tuon’s imperial names, two are new and refer to the goddess Fortuna, and Devi, the Indian mother goddess. Her other two names are a witchcraft dagger, representing the occult danger to herself and others that Tuon is because she could learn to channel, and a reference to the Pendragon family of myth.

This is Tuon’s first appearance as Empress. Her cloth-of-gold gown is literally cloth woven of very fine gold wire (perhaps with silk to make it lighter, and less expensive, as was often done) (see Costumes article). The Byzantine empire was a notable source of cloth-of-gold fabric; the scheming Seanchan have minor parallels with this empire. However, they have far more with Imperial China (and Japan and Ancient Egypt) and Tuon is dressed like a Chinese empress. The ban on naming the Empress is a custom of Imperial Japan and the title “She Whose Eyes Look Upward” has an Ancient Egyptian flavour.

Having seen an owl omen in the night, she wears an owl headdress, whereas the Chinese empress would wear a phoenix crown:

She had heard an owl above her window the last night, and it had not flown away when she looked out. An omen indicating great care should be taken, that the next days would be ones of important decisions. The proper response was to wear jewelry with powerful symbolism.

Towers of Midnight, A Teaching Chamber

The owl is indeed an iffy omen, begin a symbol of knowledge, but also of witchcraft, and a harbinger of death. Tuon will only be dressed as elaborately and expensively again when she meets the Aes Sedai.

The words “beast” and “tools” are used by Tuon to describe damane. Hence having dehumanised them, she can watch damane being broken or worked without a qualm and find it soothing. She liked breaking marath’damane, but has to forego it now, since the Empress can’t lower herself to do “work”.

Fortuona “allows” Beslan to keep his culture. That culture has its good side, such as loyalty and keeping oaths of fealty, for instance, which might have something to do with it. It is interesting that the Seanchan place such emphasis on honouring oaths and serving, yet their nobles completely ignore oaths of fealty to satisfy personal ambition on the grounds that if their liege can’t forestall them they deserve to be overthrown. “Selfishness must be preserved” as Verin would say.

Like Elayne, Tuon is very conscious to exert her authority. This takes the form of watching closely to see that everyone does as they should. Her subjects appease her if they are not able to do their job perfectly, and she takes her time to accept their apologies to warn them not to take her good will for granted.

Elaida – now “Suffa”-ring – makes her fateful reappearance and demonstrates Travelling. It is obvious that Elaida has indeed been treated harshly, and interesting that the sul’dam can get a damane to perform a weave which the sul’dam knows exists but has no knowledge of how to work. Prior to Elaida’s demonstration, Tuon hadn’t believed in the weave. This is part of the knowledge theme developed in this chapter.

Melitene investigated the unravelled gateway near Ebou Dar and nearly has the explanation correct. Because two different events occurred close together – overstraining the Bowl of Winds and partially unravelling a weave – it was not easy to determine what happened. Both the Bowl and the unweaving used techniques that required knowledge and skill.

While Galgan looks at the possible usage of Travelling as an attacking tactic, as he was asked, Beslan sees the dangers. Tuon sees that it could be used to effect in leashing the White Tower as key to winning Last Battle, taking Seanchan and Westlands:

“I want each and every damane we control to be brought back to the city. We will train them in this method of Traveling.”

Towers of Midnight, A Teaching Chamber

The result is that all damane are gathered together in time for the Last Battle. Since damane can’t link, they would be limited in who has sufficient strength to make the weave.

The plot failed because the Seanchan ran out of time, and were tied with treaties by Rand and Egwene. Tuon could, of course, violate them – and has considered doing so – but her emotional ties to Mat and reluctance to lose face in his eyes will restrain her.

Perrin POV

Thom and Perrin tease Mat about being married. Fools and Tricksters rarely want to be tied another person, they prefer to be free of responsibility so they can follow their whims. Mat's embarrassment is very typical. Tricksters won’t be confined by convention or rules and Fools are not very teachable:

"Oh, I've been taught," Mat said. "I just never learned."

Towers of Midnight, A Teaching Chamber

Mat is both, so he is particularly untameable, as Tuon has discovered.

The butt of Mat’s attentions is Grady, who is depressed about the lack of contact with his wife and child. The joke is on Mat when his memories of his former lives are exposed after he reacts to the obscure story of Villiam Bloodletter.

The Happy Throng inn is a salute to the Dragonmount website, with innkeeper Master Denezel being webmaster Jason Denzel.

It’s interesting that Crimson and Golden, the aliases of Mat and Perrin respectively, are also two of the Dragon’s three colours. The other colour is white, the colour residing in Rand’s mind since his epiphany. The Dragon has abandoned aliases and hiding:

Tell him I've tired of minions, that I'm finished with his petty movement of pawns. Tell him that I'm coming for HIM!"

A Memory of Light, Advantages to a Bond

Ta’veren as strong as Mat and Perrin are very hard to hide, yet the Forsaken have to be dodged. Mat protects himself, or intends to, with his wits. All Tricksters declare that, but get themselves into, and out of, trouble with them. Perrin used to feel like the slow-witted side-kick to Mat the Trickster, but not anymore.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #53: Chapter 46 - Working Leather

By Linda

Androl POV
In this chapter we see destruction versus creation in action: one of the schools Rand established to preserve and make advances in knowledge is being fractured by Taim, and in a smaller way Androl is creating useful objects while his tools are being stolen.

Like Perrin, Androl is a craftsman who takes pride in doing a job well. He is not creating a Great Work, as Perrin did, but is illustrating the importance of small things. Androl’s plot is to show how small things done with care and thought can make an enormous difference:

One of the tricks to life was paying attention to the small details. Focus, make the small things right. If each stitch was secure on an armguard, then it wouldn't fray or snap. That could mean the difference between an archer lasting through a barrage or having to put away his bow. One archer wouldn't make a battle. But the small things piled up, one atop another, until they became large things.

Towers of Midnight, Working Leather

As a weak channeller, Androl is a ‘small thing’ himself – in Taim’s eyes at least – but he is skilful and careful to make the most of his abilities and talents to an impressive degree. Logain values talent and experience rather than raw power.

Androl had a block so that only if he was touching his craft materials could he channel. He is atypical of men in being weakest in Earth, normally a power men are strong in. It’s appropriate that having travelled so much everywhere, more than anyone except possibly Jain Farstrider, he is better than anyone at the Travelling weave.

Androl is wary of addiction and thinks the power of saidin terrible as well as wonderful. He notices that his fears have reversed:

The darkness outside hadn't frightened him, nor had stories of Trollocs and Fades. But men who could channel . . . that had terrified him. Now he found himself here, grown into his middle years, suddenly afraid of the dark but completely at peace with men who could channel.

Towers of Midnight, Working Leather

His world has been overturned – a strong theme in the last few books as the Dark One undermines the order of the Pattern with chaos and tries to make Rand the Lord of Misrule, a mockery of the role of Creator’s champion. Soon he will come to love a Red sister, a senior member of an Ajah sworn to neutralise men who can channel. Her world, too, is being overturned.

Darkness is indeed more to be feared than Asha’man. The taint showed Androl that…

The factions in the Black Tower are so strong that they are open in their hostility. Taim’s faction is much more destructive in their weaving. They are better at being weapons, since they have no scruples and probably keep knowledge to themselves of the more destructive weaves to have an advantage over Logain’s faction. Their destructive skill is also a reminder that the Shadow is inimical to the Pattern and good.

It’s interesting that all the Dowtry family accompanied Jonneth to the Black Tower. According to Androl, Canler is older than “Emarin” (more on this in a later post). Emarin has assimilated well to the Black Tower and doesn’t flaunt or press his rank. He is probably better educated than most nobles since he knows where the obscure island of Retash is.

Androl steadfastly allows Coteren to bully him because Logain’s supporters are out-classed in numbers and channelling strength.

Logain’s faction is losing men to Taim’s faction because they want promotion. For some this would be due to simple ambition, for those with a little more insight, there is the added spur of safety. The non-Asha’man in Logain’s faction are afraid of being bonded by Aes Sedai, and resentful that Taim gave permission for the bonding. Taim’s aim was to have them turn to him for promotion to Asha’aman and therefore exemption from bonding, which gives him the opportunity to corrupt them. The previous lure to turn to the Shadow – protection from the taint - was removed by Rand.

Androl is angry that Rand hasn’t been to the Black Tower to sort out the problems, but acknowledges that the Dragon has earned redemption though cleansing saidin. The men feel more than anger; they believe that Rand is mad, until Emarin vouches for him. This is enough to reassure them and they decide to look for evidence that will make Rand listen to their warnings. Such is the Dragon’s reputation – real and calumnied - that even his supporters are unimpressed with his activities and decisions.

This is a straightforward chapter for a straightforward character. Androl does have his secrets, though. Yet he is trustworthy and reliable, which is why the men look to him for leadership. Androl accepts the role even though he feels unqualified for it because it needs to be done. His instructions are sensible and his judgment sound, even though he is not certain yet what going on. He is not sure which would be worse; being right, or being wrong.

The chapter has its secrets too:

"The men who take Taim's private lessons learn too quickly," Nalaam said. "Nensen was barely powerful enough to be considered for Dedicated just a short time ago. Now he's full Asha'man.

- Towers of Midnight, Working Leather

This could be due to the male channeller learning while linked into a mixed circle as this conversation between Rand and Asmodean shows:

Rand cut him off. "You are not teaching me very well."
"As well as may be expected, under the circumstances. You can grasp saidin every time you try, now, and tell one flow from another. You can shield yourself, and the Power does what you want it to." He stopped playing and frowned, not looking at Rand. "Do you think Lanfear really intended me to teach you everything? If she had wanted that, she would have contrived to stay close so she could link us…I've told you I am not a very good teacher, especially without a link.”

- The Fires of Heaven, Pale Shadows

It seems that circles can be used to learn channelling rapidly. This is yet another useful function of the mixed circles now available at the Black Tower. The quote above shows that ‘teaching circles’ can be quite small, as small as just two men and one woman, but no smaller; the woman is necessary to link the men, and the man to teach the other man how to use saidin.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #52: Chapter 45 - A Reunion

By Linda

Elayne POV

Egwene falls a long way short of explaining to Elayne exactly why Gawyn’s return was timely. Dream messages seem to be rather like tweets.

It’s Elayne’s link to Rand that causes the positive effect on the Pattern in Caemlyn – the slowing of rotting, the break in the thick grey clouds the Dark One created to hide the sun. Since the Creator is the light of the world and associated with the sun, source of life and fertility, the Dark One was blotting out the link to the Creator. The aim is to bring on depression and despair, and weaken the land spiritually as well as physically.

Elayne gets “modern” obstetric care, as I’ve explained in the Private Lives article. Her midwife has her basking in sunlight to make vitamin D for bone health. In this scene she feels the quickening – the movements of the babies – an important event in pregnancy. For a first time mother this is usually at 16-20 weeks. Perhaps the difficulty of channelling in pregnancy is due to fluctuating hormones preventing calmness. Elayne’s emotions jump around normally, so she may be more affected by this than most while pregnant.

Elayne’s recognition of the necessity of international alliances foreshadows her later meeting with Perrin and Faile. Perrin’s decision to bring Faile to the meeting is clever as well as fair. As the heir to a foreign crown, not a ruler of a city-state, she is an important part of an alliance between nations, and will tip the balance in Perrin’s favour in Elayne’s mind. Perrin and Faile are just too well connected to treat roughly.

Cairhienin noble/s are undermining Elayne before she can gain the Cairhien Sun crown by presenting her as an invader. Elayne and her advisors quickly deduce that the apparently impartial nobles are behind it.

Birgitte’s increase of Andoran soldiers on the borders may have taken troops out of Caemlyn. On one hand, fewer are in Caemlyn to defend the city against the Shadowspawn coming through the Ways. On the other hand, fewer get killed in this Shadowspawn attack, and will fight elsewhere in the Last Battle. Caemlyn falls, but masses of Shadowspawn will be destroyed in an explosion. Elayne has made reasonable decisions based on the intelligence she gained from the Black Ajah – they just happen to be the wrong ones. Since Shadowspawn can’t traverse gateways, Elayne and her council don’t see how the Shadow could just invade the city without marching through Andor. They have not considered the Ways.

After so long apart, the joy of reunion makes Elayne a little demonstrative to Galad, but he doesn’t notice it to return it. The half-siblings have not had a close relationship in the past and he is too focussed on uniting Elayne with her mother. One of the things they have in common is mutual love for Morgase. Elayne and Galad clash almost immediately – a continuation of their long stalemate. In some ways, Galad performs for Elayne the same role that Egwene and Nynaeve do for Rand: remind her that she can’t do whatever she pleases. Since they are fairly dignified and the conflict is not resolvable, Morgase ignores it. She doesn’t take sides.

Elayne and Dyelin are at first alarmed that Morgase’s return will bring confusion, something Galad never expressed any concern for, but Elayne quickly deduces that Morgase abdicated. How surprised she was that the Whitecloaks did not lie to her about holding Morgase.

When Galad says he is Lord Captain Commander, Elayne turns to her mother for confirmation, even though she knows Galad never lies. She would be furious if he openly doubted she is Aes Sedai or Queen in this way. Once things settle down in the reunion, Elayne is so pleased to see Galad that his literalness and formality don’t grate on her - she just accepts them. A nice change.

Both Elayne and Morgase are aware that many nobles – and citizens- are angry with, and hate, the former Queen. Morgase doesn’t want Aes Sedai to Heal her Compulsion – very few could, anyway. She doesn’t tell Elayne she is married or to whom although perhaps Morgase tells Elayne about Tallanvor when she narrates her story. Elayne is shrewd enough to fill in the blanks. Conversely, Morgase disapproves of Rand, but is trying to withhold judgement.

As a fulfilling official role, Elayne thinks of putting Morgase in charge of western Andor – but Perrin is there already. He is a force to be reckoned with and a rebel without trying to be one. The recent Andoran queens never actually governed the Two Rivers so Perrin stepped into a vacuum. It’s too late for them to try and replace him now. He did more for the people than they ever will.

Aviendha POV

Aviendha thinks how peaceful it all is in the Three-fold Land. The peace of Rhuidean was mentioned by Bair and others in The Shadow Rising in a slightly different context:

“The peace of Rhuidean be on you. Who comes to Chaendaer may return to their holds in peace. There shall be no blood on the ground.”

The Shadow Rising, Beyond the Stone

Back then, the city was dead most of the time, except when Aiel visited to be painfully tested. In this scene, the peace is actual – and extended to the whole Three-fold Land in Aviendha’s mind. (Yet the Three-fold Land, with its feuds and raids, is not a particularly peaceful place.) The city is clean because it is underpopulated and newly resettled. The cities Aviendha has visited were long-settled and thriving. Rhuidean is a bit of a show city: planned and now inhabited. It appears to be a paradise. This is deceptive, considering what Aviendha is about to learn.

Aviendha reminds us that Rand’s role is a, or rather, the breaker:

Once Rhuidean had been shrouded in protective mists. That was before Rand had come. He'd broken the city in three very important, very discomforting ways…
Rand caused so many problems.

Towers of Midnight, A Reunion

and she is correct that Rhuidean was one of his important sites of breaking. Rand removed the mists from Rhuidean - demystified the city literally as well as figuratively. Concurrently he ripped away the Aiel’s feelings of being special people, and ripped away their illusions.

Rhuidean’s protective mists, making it a hidden city, were wards. They are long dispersed so Aviendha can’t sense them and doesn’t know how they protected the city.

The destruction did not end there. The dome of fog that had hidden Rhuidean for so many centuries was dissipating; the underside no longer glowed, and harsh sunlight poured through great new gaps…
I destroy. Always I destroy! Light, will it ever end?
"I do like to see men fight, but you two cannot even stand." Lanfear moved into Rand's view, surveying the devastation. "You have made a thorough job of it. Can you feel the traces? This place was shielded in some way. You did not leave enough for me to say how."

The Shadow Rising, The Traps of Rhuidean

Rand had taken away the mist. The city had shed its dome like an algai'd'siswai unveiling his face. She didn't know how Rand had caused the transformation; she doubted that he knew himself.

Towers of Midnight, A Reunion

The wards were broken when Rand fought Asmodean. Aviendha thinks there won’t be shops in Rhuidean; it is too sacred a city for commerce in her opinion. This was not going to be the case when Rand left Rhuidean in The Fires of Heaven, A Departure, with Aiel traders in the city to organise the rebuilding of the city with Aiel help.

Rand also thought otherwise in his version of the changes he made to Rhuidean while fighting Asmodean:

The fog was almost gone from the ruined city; only a few wispy sheets remained to drift among the buildings still standing beneath the sinking sun. The valley floor tilted sharply to the south now, and water spilled out of the great rent across the city, the gash that went all the way down to where that deep hidden ocean of water lay. Already the lower end of the valley was filling. A lake. It might reach nearly to the city eventually, a lake maybe three miles long in a land where a pool, ten feet across drew people. People would come to this valley to live. He could almost see the surrounding mountains already terraced with crops growing green. They would tend Avendesora, the last chora tree. Perhaps they would even rebuild Rhuidean. The Waste would have a city. Perhaps he would even live to see it.

The Shadow Rising, The Traps of Rhuidean

The water Rand brought to the surface can grow sufficient flora to change the city’s climate and make it rain there more often, which would also make agriculture easier for those living there. Aviendha thinks the lake Rand created should be called Tears of the Aiel rather than Tears of the Dragon, but Rand has agonised over the destructive effect he has had on nations and individual people. The Aiel might be hardly done by in Aviendha’s opinion, but other nations have lost as much, and Rand far more.

Rhuidean’s destiny has been fulfilled and its purpose broken. There is no need for Aiel leaders to go to Rhuidean for knowledge anymore, Aviendha thinks. For herself, Aviendha could not be more wrong. There was a great need for her to go. Being told is one thing, but confirmation – and first-hand knowledge – quite another. That’s why the ter’angreal was programmed and installed in the first place.

Aviendha’s vague impressions of memories from the rings ter’angreal (another source of knowledge that breaks illusions) confirm the sense of Nakomi’s judgement. Rand broke the Aiel’s traditions and considering that Aiel tend to over-identify with them, this could have destroyed their identity. For some Aiel, it did. Aviendha realises that they can’t hold onto their traditions without them fulfilling an actual function. This leads to her questioning the function of Aiel traditions.

Aviendha chooses to continue with tradition and enter Rhuidean, even though she thinks it is not as meaningful now. This was a very important choice. The ter’angreal supplies her with first-hand knowledge of a future she couldn’t imagine, and what needed to learn, but really didn’t want to.

I will go on, she decided. Pass through the glass columns. Perhaps her worries were true, and the passage was now far less meaningful, but she was genuinely curious to see what the others had seen. Besides, knowing one's past was important in order to understand the future.
Wise Ones and clan chiefs had been visiting this location for centuries. They returned with knowledge. Maybe the city would show her what to do about her people, and about her own heart.

Towers of Midnight, A Reunion

There she will see the result of traditions being distorted by personal ambition and hatred.

Aviendha is wrong in thinking Rand will be a king after the Last Battle if he survives:

If he survived the Last Battle-and she intended to fight hard to make certain he did--he would still be a wetlander king. And then there was Elayne. Aviendha and she were going to be sister-wives, but Elayne would never leave Andor. Would she expect Rand to stay with her? Would that mean Aviendha would need to as well?

Towers of Midnight, A Reunion

(He might be one again eventually, or at least a noble, but first he will be an anonymous wanderer, because, officially, he did not survive.) She wonders how living arrangements between her, Elayne and Rand will work out – and that was for the simple situation of Rand being a king. It’s noticeable that she doesn’t think of Min in these plans.

Wise Ones can’t be made gai’shain by Aiel law, which is why the Aiel are so angry with the Seanchan. In some ways da’covale are like gai’shain. Worse for the Wise One channellers, damane are potentially on a par with da’tsang. Aviendha (and other Wise Ones) feel the Tower is also a threat to Wise Ones.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #51: Chapter 44 - A Backhanded Request

By Linda

Morgase POV

Morgase feels that she has no defined role now. When she was a maid, she found it a less lonely life. There were more people her rank, and less responsibility, to compensate for the hard work. Morgase resents that her former servants Breane and Lamgwin were formally released by Faile back to her service. However, they did have an agreement with Faile, and by the rule of contract in this world can't just walk off with someone else. Morgase knows this so she shouldn’t feel insulted.

In the aftermath of Morgase’s unmasking, both Faile and Morgase feel hardly done by. Faile feels uncomfortable that Morgase was higher than her in status and reputation, but accepted employment as her maid. Now that she has been unmasked, Morgase expects due acknowledgement of her position with immediate and ungrudging restoration of her privileges. Underlying this discomfort is the issue of nobility, and inherited rank, which most nobles like to think is absolute, whereas people of humbler origin in more egalitarian societies are not so keen to grant. For example, in Cairhien when Colavere was stripped of her rank:

"I—I demand the headsman," Colavaere managed in a strangled voice. Her face sagged. She had become old on the spot, and her eyes were mirrors of stark terror. But with nothing left, she fought on, for the scraps. "It is—it is my right. I will not be... hanged like some commoner!"
Rand seemed to struggle with himself, shaking his head in that disturbing way. When he spoke at last, his words were winter cold and anvil hard. "Colavaere Saighan, I strip you of your titles."…
Perrin could catch murmurs from the assembly behind him now. This was unheard of. None understood why she was not to die. And the rest! Estates had been confiscated before, but never all, never nobility itself. Nobles had been exiled, even for life, but never to a farm.

A Crown of Swords, A Broken Crown

Contrast this with Breane, Morgase’s maid, who was a Cairhienin noble, yet has remained in cognito and never hints at expecting better. She too loves a commoner, and part of her reluctance to acknowledge her former rank is that he would then be so far beneath her, socially.

Morgase is conscious that she could undermine Elayne but feels that it is worth the risk for the help she could give her daughter. Such an activity would also give Morgase a purpose, which she lacks at the moment.

Morgase has discouraged - or at least not encouraged – Tallanvor because she fears more hurt since her other relationships ended badly. Her husband was a threat to her throne; he was as effective as Gaebril in his own way in undermining her position. It is Tallanvor who softens first. Morgase wanted Tallanvor to propose but he won't because she is known to be of much higher rank than he and has a duty to Andor. Morgase refuses to sacrifice herself again because this could be the end of the world. She wants something to hope for and work towards. Thankfully Lini speeds up matters greatly by insisting they marry.

Perrin POV

Perrin maintains order and calm in camp by making the most of everything and being positive. The forest with the sap sucked out of it overnight is similar to what happened in Tear in The Gathering Storm from a bubble of evil. Both are examples of Wrongness caused by the Dark One with the aim of damaging the land and causing despair and chaos.

Perrin is trading food for materials for weapon making. Food is still available in Caemlyn due to Elayne's influence (and her link to Rand) and a little is still in Whitebridge, or at least reaching that town from Caemlyn.

When he is hardening the weapons, Neald is probably Aligning the Matrix (see Weaves and Talents) to make metal stronger. Neald is the only exponent of this talent that we see.

As the final part of her bargain with Faile, Berelain publishes her condemnation of the rumours that she slept with Perrin. People believe her because they see her with Galad. It’s a great relief to Perrin and Faile. Perrin is puzzled by Faile's explanation of the difference between herself and Berelain. However, he is decisive about Faile being the one to go meet with Elayne and this pleases Faile.

Enter the happy couple into their quiet talk. Morgase demands Perrin marry her and Tallanvor since there is no one better available. He thinks her request is not very warm, but then acknowledges she has a point in not seeing him as a lord. On the other hand, mindful of his position and feeling she should set an example of respecting and upholding the position of the aristocracy, she then agrees that he is a lord and should be treated as such. Morgase bargains with Perrin that if he marries them--helps her--she will help him with Elayne. From Faile’s response to Morgase’s offer, Perrin thinks Faile might want to split from Andor. He doesn't. In fact, Faile wants to bargain rather than accept what Elayne and Morgase decide.

As he joins the impromptu ceremony, Galad puts one of Verin’s letters in his pocket. We never find out what is in the letter which makes him frown. It isn’t that Rand is his brother, because Gawyn enlightens him about that in A Memory of Light. Maybe it informs him that Byar had something wrong with him (in which case it’s a bit late) or that a particular Whitecloak is a Darkfriend.

Perrin mistakenly believes Morgase when she says she wants a simple exchange of oaths as her wedding ceremony. He seizes on her disclaimer because he feels defensive or unqualified to say more to someone much older and higher rank than he. For the same reason, he wanted them away quickly after. Faile plans to train him to do it better. Poor Perrin; he thought – hoped-- that this was a one-off. He was moved by their love and vows, but ended up sounding dismissive, he was so embarrassed by the whole thing, when he should be gracious and congratulatory. Faile will make up for it with the celebration.

Trickster Mat lures Perrin to him and surprises him. Perrin notices that Mat is now dressed finely when he used to scorn and criticise Rand for it. Perrin still doesn't dress up. It’s been quite a while since two ta’veren were together in one place and it brings a sense of rightness to the area. There will never be three ta’veren together again, although it came fairly close on the slopes of Shayol Ghul. At the end of A Memory of Light, the three heroes were no longer ta'veren.

Mat has “died” twice and refers to this when he says airily:

"A lifetime," Mat said. "Maybe two. I lose count."

Towers of Midnight A Backhanded Request

In fact, Mat isn't sure which escape from death is the relevant one. (Jordan confirms it was when Mat was struck by Rahvin’s lightning in Caemlyn, which was undone by Rand’s balefire.)

Perrin is surprised to see that Mat has a badger. In a way, he shouldn’t be; it hearkens back to Mat's younger exploit at the start of The Eye of the World, where he and Dav planned to let loose badger:

Mat's brown eyes twinkled with mischief, as usual. "Dav and I caught a big old badger, all grouchy at being pulled out of his den. We're going to let it loose on the Green and watch the girls run. "

The Eye of the World, An Empty Road

A hand suddenly jutted out from behind the trunk, holding a brown sack. "I caught a badger," a familiar voice said. "Want to let it go on the village green?"

Towers of Midnight A Backhanded Request

The badger has some close associations with Perrin. Like the badger, Perrin was pretty grouchy at being pulled out of his comfort zone in this chapter. And he is King of the Wild (see Perrin essay). The badger is a fierce and tenacious wild creature. Perrin badgered himself by constantly brooding over his animal/human balance and leadership duties.

Mat’s badger is also a reference to "easing the badger", the name of an Illianer inn (see The Great Hunt inns) where Perrin and Moiraine realised that a Forsaken was out to kill them. Although then it was a single Forsaken, Sammael, who had Perrin (and Moiraine) in his sights, but now it’s Moridin who wants Perrin and Mat dead, and has ordered the other Forsaken to see to it.

Easing the badger has sexual connotations and in fact at the end of the scene Perrin uses the phrase:

How had he gotten past Grady? Light! Perrin shook his head to himself, then bent to untie the sack and ease the poor badger Mat had captured.

Towers of Midnight A Backhanded Request

Some trousers and small clothes are closed tied with a drawstring. Morgase and Tallanvor are shortly to consummate their marriage.

There’s a certain irony that careless blithe Mat is warning careful Perrin about the Shadow being out to kill them. As for Mat getting past Grady unnoticed, trickers are good at penetrating borders. (see Tricksters essay)

It seems apt that a backhanded request gets a backhanded ceremony.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #50: Chapter 43 - Some Tea

By Linda

This chapter is more about showing the development of relationships rather than events.

Galad POV

Galad and Perrin continue to find common ground, which promises well for the alliance they make. Galad appears to have rejected the Cairhienin custom of scheming and dissembling in favour of candour:

Others often responded with anger when Galad said what he thought, but he was coming to realize that he didn't need to hold himself back with Perrin. This man responded well to honesty.

Towers of Midnight, Some Tea

I guess Galad is following his Andoran heritage; even though some think he goes too far. With Aes Sedai being as great at, or greater than, scheming as Cairhienin, Cadsuane uses candour as a trap or a weapon:

Cadsuane preferred to be direct, when possible. She had tripped up any number of clever people who had not believed she meant exactly what she said.

The Path of Daggers, New Alliances

Cadsuane and Galad are both considered annoying, or at least heavy-going, by many people around them; they are both competent with very high standards. Another thing they have in common is that the groups they lead have been regarded as pariahs by the populace – and with good reason.

Like Perrin, Galad may be direct, but he is not naive. He is now more conscious that Aes Sedai Healing can come with strings. Not particularly so the aid of the Wise Ones, though, except for creating greater obligations to Perrin and straying from Whitecloak beliefs. These are considerations Galad didn’t have to worry about when he was a noble without an official position.

He'd allowed an Aes Sedai to Heal him. "Once you've committed your reserves, there's no use holding back your scouts," Gareth Bryne was fond of saying. If he was going to let Aes Sedai save his men, then he might as well accept their Healing.
Once, accepting Aes Sedai Healing hadn't bothered him nearly so much.

Towers of Midnight, Some Tea

It is true that the Whitecloaks were already saved by channelling, so Galad may as well have further channelling save more of them.

While Perrin talks to Galad about trust, Galad is wondering if Perrin is trustworthy:

"And these Asha'man claim they are free of the taint?" Galad asked, as he and Perrin Aybara picked their way through the aftermath of the battle.
"They do," Perrin said. "And I've a mind to trust them. Why would they lie?"
Galad raised an eyebrow. "Insanity?"…
"Perhaps," Perrin said. "Perhaps the Asha'man are mad, and the taint isn't cleansed. But they've served me well, and I figure they've earned the right to be trusted until they show me otherwise. You and your men might well owe your lives to Grady and Neald."…

"Either you are a Darkfriend of unsurpassed cunning, or you really did as you said-coming to save my men despite your treatment at our hands. In that case, you are a man of honor.”

Towers of Midnight, Some Tea

By the same token, Perrin has earned the right to be trusted, after organising the rescue of the Whitecloaks. While letting Whitecloaks die would have made Perrin’s life easier, he wants them alive if only to fight at the Last Battle. As is typical of Perrin, he is concentrating on what is important, rather than convenient in the short term. As the Whitecloaks also should.

Galad insists each Whitecloak be given the choice of accepting Healing or not -- a conscience vote. In an earlier battle, each Aiel was given this choice, yet now the Wise Ones are peeved if their ministrations are refused. Perhaps they too are focussed on what is important. Galad is impressed the Wise Ones listen to Perrin; it seems they weren’t listening to him. Perrin accepted Galad’s insistence on choice even though he wants everyone who can fight the Shadow to do so, but does remind Galad that Travelling, Healing and battle weaves, are all forms of channelling. If one is accepted, why should not others?

Perrin will let Galad join him only if he takes oath that the Whitecloaks will go where told and fight when told. Galad didn’t reject the request out of hand, even though Perrin killed Children and may be a Darkfriend. Despite his belief that every fighter is needed, Perrin would not take the Whitecloaks with him without the oath. When Galad becomes convinced Perrin is good because of his compassion for the wounded and efforts to find and save them, he realises there is good reason to swear an oath. In turn, Perrin vows to look after the Whitecloaks like his other forces.

Once the deal is done, Galad feels weakened, which Perrin correctly identifies as a result of being pulled by a ta’veren. The Whitecloaks thought they encountered Perrin to punish him – because they had already judged him. Perrin says they met because he needed them (or the Pattern did); for Galad to fight Demandred and to hook up with Berelain, who will pass on the weave-breaking ter’angreal to Lan. And the Whitecloaks to be added to the Last Battle’s forces.

Alliandre POV

Berelain and Faile are acting friendly to change the camp’s opinion of Perrin, as they had agreed to do. Faile is annoyed that Berelain didn’t love Perrin, but just wanted to compete with Faile and win him. To Berelain, Perrin was just a thing to use.

Alliandre tries to persuade Berelain that Faile and Perrin should be together; she respects their marriage. On the other hand, Berelain thinks every relationship needs to be challenged, and thus her actions are justified. She suggests that she could have taken Faile’s place if Faile had died. From these words Alliandre assumes that Berelain has not given up on winning Perrin and is lulling Faile into a false sense of security by letting her annoyance show. Poor Alliandre is comically off the mark, as she sees when Galad shows up.

Berelain is actually thinking of better game – Galad. Her feelings are all stirred up because finally she is genuinely in love, though she rationalises her desires to herself as politically advantageous. “Romance is an unaffordable distraction” to Berelain, but nevertheless Berelain is swept up in it.

Alliandre is happy at the thought that the Whitecloaks would be out of Ghealdan. As a petty “reward” she keeps a silk shirt for herself instead of making it into bandages. The chapter ends on a trivial note.