Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #11: Chapter 8--That Smouldering City


By Linda

Elayne POV

This is a short chapter to quicken the pace as we go into the Last Battle.

Viewing Caemlyn, Elayne quotes what Birgitte said in Towers of Midnight immediately after seeing the dragons tested:

If dragons can do that to a city, she thought, surveying the hole that Talmanes had made in the nearest wall, the world will need to change. Everything we know about warfare will change.

A Memory of Light, That Smouldering City

Defensive city fortresses will no longer be the protection they once were; they are becoming obsolete. Channelling—especially using powerful angreal or sa’angreal or in a ring—would also be able to destroy fortresses, but Aes Sedai are bound to not use the Power as a weapon and other channellers didn’t have the angreal or the knowledge to link.

Elayne is disappointed that Talmanes is respectful and polite to her—his Queen. She expected that Mat would have “corrupted” him. However, none of the Band’s officers became casual to royalty due to Mat’s influence. Vanin was already disdainful of nobles when he joined up; and the others follow the social customs of the time. In fact, many of Mat’s officers are nobles. Mat is outside the normal social order, as trickster figures are. (Vanin is also a trickster figure, the only other trickster in the Band, see Tricksters article).

Yet Bashere is not formal with Elayne and she complains about that—from a noble who is almost of equal rank with her. She reminds herself he is worth cultivating because he is Tenobia’s heir (and was therefore her equal a few months earlier.) Elayne is often excitable—she has a tendency to think in italics—but she is particularly illogical here.

Bashere persuades Elayne to announce that Rand is the father of her unborn children. The Saldaean general doesn’t object to her going to war while pregnant—because it shows the seriousness of the situation and reminds them of what they are fighting for. Also there are no safe places. Elayne resents being advised by her advisors—by men, she says, but she doesn’t like it when Birgitte does it either. Nevertheless she follows his, and Birgitte’s, good advice.

Elayne has given orders to destroy Caemlyn and steels herself to watch it happen. In the face of serious things she is brave and focussed; like Mat, she fusses about the small stuff—such as protocol.

The scene also perhaps references the apocalyptic book Revelation, which features as a large inspiration for Tarmon Gaidon, Armageddon. Apart from the breaking of the Seven Seals and the Horn being the Last Trump, Elayne is a parallel of the distracting pregnant woman in Revelation, and M’Hael is a dark St Michael fighting the (good) Dragon. Chapter 18 of Revelation speaks of the fall of the city of Babylon:

“Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit…Therefore her plagues will come in one day—death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire…The kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’…‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate.’ “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!”

Revelation 18, verses 2, 8, 10, 19-20

A city overrun comprehensively by the Shadow is a parallel of Babylon. The good guys stand far off and watch Caemlyn burn. (Babylon, city of fornicators, is also a parallel of Graendal—the whore of Babylon—as I will discuss in the chapter where she falls.)


Androl POV

The Darkfriends took the trouble to dig Logain’s faction out of the collapsed area so they could Turn them to Shadow. There are not enough Dreadlords, so they are going to the trouble of forcibly making them—and it is expensive of time, Myrddraal and Dreadlords’ energy. As an example of the Shadow’s lack of Dreadlords, the shields on Logain’s faction are tied off.

Turned Dreadlords are the weakest quality of Darkfriend, though, according to Lanfear. They lack creativity or perhaps even much will. Evin is a good example. Killing the opposition’s channellers deprives the Light of channellers, whereas Turning them adds to the loss since the Shadow gains the channellers. Just not as useful people as the original. This parallels the situation with the Seanchan taking damane; most of which are broken so they accept their fate and perform as meekly as possible. Fortuona thinks it is a waste to kill free channellers, she prefers the Seanchan use them against the other side. Those at risk of being enslaved or broken disagree: better to die as Nalaam did than be Turned or collared.

The scene shows the effect of character strength on fighting the Shadow. Stronger characters don’t give in and are much more effective in staving off the Shadow. While the strongest people don’t succumb, they suffer more during the lengthy efforts to break them. This logically leads to Rand and his battle with the Dark One, who is/will be surely harder to battle than even 13 fades and 13 Dreadlords.

The assault is mostly psychological—not physical—torture and is very traumatic, as Logain’s and Emarin’s psychological condition will show, again paralleling Rand. There seems to be a brief period in the process without channelling:

The silence taunted him. Why couldn't he hear any sounds? Then he sensed something. Channeling… A few moments later, Taim's cronies returned. Evin squatted down beside Androl.

A Memory of Light, That Smouldering City

This is when the Myrddraal contribute their true power links. Fades can’t or don’t actually channel, as this description of Semirhage’s procedure shows:

It was Semirhage who discovered that a circle of thirteen, using thirteen Myrddraal as a sort of filter, could turn anyone who could channel to the Shadow

The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time

Then channelling resumes at the end stage for the actual Compulsion of character motivation and traits. The weakest channellers are more vulnerable, but also suffer less. Evin was psychologically weaker because he lacked self-confidence due to anxiety:

"I feel great. No more fear, no more worry.”

A Memory of Light, That Smouldering City

He now looks on the bright side of the outcome because, with his faults having become the major part of his character, he has no regrets over being Turned. It's all good. And really bad.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #10: Chapter 7--Into the Thick of It


By Linda

Elayne POV

The chapter title refers to the thick of the Last Battle that they abruptly enter as well as the thick of the trees around the tent. The darkening of the meeting is explained by the rapid growth of a dozen trees, hundreds of feet tall in under five minutes, that Rand achieved—probably by singing, since none of the Asha’man reacted to him channelling. For once, positive shadows, not negative. On his approach to the meeting site, Rand made grass grow and later in the book, Mat tells us how Rand was able to make things grow rapidly.

Most of the channellers panic and reach for the source when Perrin mentions that the trees are like Great Trees in a stedding. But they are not in a stedding. Egwene reminds them all that there is a limit to Rand’s powers—and he can’t create steddings.

Elayne is quick to call a meeting before resistance grows to her being placed above the other monarchs and generals. Bryne volunteers his maps to Elayne, but declines defending Andor with her. Understandably, he has moved on from his position in Ador. After the meeting, he compliments Elayne on how well she ran it, showing her that he has no hard feelings towards her.

The generals’ plans are: to keep Tarwin’s Gap plugged as long as possible, to prevent the Trollocs from spreading out of Kandor and Caemlyn into surrounding regions, and (at Rhuarc’s suggestion) to protect Rand at Shayol Ghul. Elayne won’t let the Aiel make their own dispositions at Shayol Ghul. She overrules Amys, Aviendha and Rhuarc, following Rand’s insistence that there are to be no independent generals.

Agelmar suggests that they attack the Caemlyn Waygate from inside. In fact, Brandon wrote a scene for A Memory of Light where Perrin led forces into the Ways to close the Waygate on that side, and the Ogier showed up to drive the Black Wind off with their song. However, it was cut due to the length of the book and because the scene was a sideline to the Last Battle.

Instead, Bryne suggests a way to lure the Trollocs out of Caemlyn and a position to ambush them. It is decided to hit Caemlyn hard for a quick victory, since the Shadow’s numbers are smallest there, to reduce the battle fronts from four to three.

The generals realise the significance of having four great captains and four battlefronts—it is not a coincidence. Mind you, it is never suggested that the Aiel have a Great Captain, though in earlier books Bruan was hinted to be one:

even Rhuarc considered Bruan a deadly fighter and a devious tactician.

The Fires of Heaven, Rhuidean

While Bryne is in Kandor, Bashere in Andor and Agelmar in Shienar, Ituralde will lead the Aiel and others at Thakan’dar—and he does very well. He remarks that he never thought that he’d fight alongside Aiel.

Ituralde shows symptoms of trauma from the battle for Maradon. Considering his physical and mental state, it is all the more impressive that he held out the longest (or best) against Graendal’s Compulsion.

Perrin warns Elayne against sending someone to the Black Tower for help and to be careful about the Black Tower because something is wrong there. Without thinking, Elayne says she is always careful. Possibly Birgitte would disagree.

Loial’s mother Covril says that she argued the Ogier should open the book of translation and flee, but did not truly believe it was the right thing to do (which could mean that she believed it might be right—or half-believed it was right). I always wondered about Covril’s allegiances…All her actions had relatively innocent explanations, but had potentially dark outcomes.

In this case, she claims that she argued to test her belief and that of other Ogier, and to prove that staying was the best thing to do:

"An argument must have opposition if it is to prove itself, my son," she said. "One who argues truly learns the depth of his commitment through adversity. Did you not learn that trees grow roots most strongly when winds blow through them?"

A Memory of Light, Into the Thick of It

Presumably through the branches and not the roots.

Rand’s growth of Great Trees proves to the Ogier that they should stay and fight the Shadow (for Rand).

Elayne wants Perrin to be quartermaster for the armies but he insists that he must help Rand. Faile volunteers for the job, but Elayne doesn’t trust her. She tries speaking circumspectly about the Horn to Perrin, but he mentions it openly. It had been hidden in a strong room in the Tower and moved just before the Shadow broke into the room.

Perrin points out to Elayne that Faile is a good choice to guard and deliver the horn to Mat because she is not close to Elayne, Egwene or Mat. They will start making supply runs now to establish a pattern, and also because they are needed.


Lan POV

The night is too dark for Trollocs to see. Dusk is a time of strength for them—they can outsee humans then. Also, as Liandrin says:

At dawn the day was born, just as twilight gave birth to night, but at dawn, night died, and at twilight, day. The Dark One's power was rooted in death; he gained power from death, and at those times she thought she could feel his power stirring.

The Great Hunt, The Shadow in Shienar

The Dark One’s power is the True Power which Shadowspawn contain, so they too are strengthened at dusk. Full sun, of course, is too bright for them.

Lan is surprised that a king, Easar of Shienar, bows to him. The Borderlanders will follow Lan as overall leader of these forces. Easar explains:

”You raised the Golden Crane. We were sworn to come to your aid, so we have."

A Memory of Light, Into the Thick of It

Simple and honourable loyalty.

Lan gives a rousing speech to turn the men from despair and self-pity. Easar quotes a poem and smiles at his memories of what makes the poem relevant to him (his wife, probably, and his grief at her death). The poem speaks of someone damaged, but accepting this and continuing on nevertheless. The Malkieri king is damaged—has been from infancy after his family, home, country, and even role were destroyed.

Lan formally accepts the role of leader of the armies at Tarwin’s Gap. He has a dig at Rand when he says he will do his duty:

"What am I?" Lan asked, swinging into the saddle. "Some sheepherder from a forgotten village? I will do my duty.”

A Memory of Light, Into the Thick of It

and declares that he will make any man under him also do his duty. Mind you, it was not that long ago that Lan was reluctant to take on the responsibility for others as part of doing his duty. Rand and Lan have some important similarities. Easar smiles again—at the dig, or at Lan taking on the role he was born and trained to do? Perhaps both. This scene has a strong undercurrent of acceptance.

Lan feels that his army—including the Asha’man—is very united. Lan has five Asha’man, all Borderlanders, one from each nation. He would prefer the Asha’man made gateways, healed or did other useful tasks rather than killed Trollocs.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Ter'angreal Articles Updated


By Linda

I've now completed updating all the ter'angreal articles with information from The Wheel of Time Companion and from Robert Jordan's notes. Major changes include the Choedan Kal access keys, a'dam and jewellery ter'angreal.

The updated articles are:

  • Ter'angreal and Allied Items
    (short cut to Access Keys, A'dam and Jewellery ter'angreal) and
  • The Cache from Ebou Dar, as well as

  • Cadsuane's Ornaments.

  • Monday, May 9, 2016

    Angreal and Sa'angreal Article Updated


    By Linda

    I've been working to update blog articles with information from The Wheel of Time Companion and from Robert Jordan's notes. Today the Angreal and Sa'angreal article was updated. We now have additional information on the working of sa'angreal.

    Thursday, April 7, 2016

    A Memory of Light Read-Through #9: Chapter 6—A Knack


    By Linda

    Perrin POV

    Egwene and Rand’s spat went on long enough for Moiraine to arrive and gauge the meeting.

    Perrin’s positive thoughts are really noticeable after Egwene’s negativity in the last chapter. For instance, he is proud and impressed that Mat freed Moiraine. When he sees Mat riding through the countryside, he wonders where Mat is going—to Ebou Dar, as it happens—but doesn’t judge. With his abilities, Perrin’s POVs represent truth or accuracy in a situation. Perrin is likely the most reliable of the narrators.

    Rand is stunned into disbelief that Moiraine is back. She gives a philosophical explanation as she has so often in the past: “The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills”. But then, Nynaeve and Min are also shocked. Min had given up on her viewing that Moiraine still had essential deeds to accomplish:

    She had not really lied when he asked her what viewings she had kept back. Not really. What good to tell him he would almost certainly fail without a woman who was dead and gone?

    - A Crown Of Swords, Into The Woods

    Min sighed regretfully, but it was not as if she had really expected Moiraine to turn up alive. Moiraine was the only viewing of hers that had ever failed.

    - A Crown Of Swords, Into The Woods

    —and now Moiraine is about to do one of these essential deeds.

    Egwene gives Moiraine a formal greeting as Amyrlin, which Moiraine doesn’t take very seriously. Moiraine has less strength in saidar than previously—which means by tradition she should have been much meeker around the Amyrlin—but more in everything else. She points out that she gets credit for discovering the Amyrlin, and by implication reminds Egwene that she owes a lot to Moiraine. Then Nynaeve, in turn, shocked Moiraine by hugging her. Moiraine is not used to physical demonstrations in public, and has typical Cairhienin reserve. Nynaeve has very mixed feelings about Moiraine, but from this point on, the two women work together quite well.

    Darlin may be thoughtful at Moiraine’s return because his wife-to-be is Moiraine’s cousin. Also he maybe have heard of things about her from Caraline.

    Egwene informs Moiraine—complains, really—that Rand is exacting a price for his sacrifice. She puts a negative spin on it, as she did all the previous chapter. After reading the treaty herself, Moiraine responds by quoting the Karaethon Cycle, including prophecies already fulfilled that she relates in a new way. When Egwene and Gregorin protest Rand’s conditions and plans, she counters them with prophecy.

    "'He shall slay his people with the sword of peace,' " Moiraine said, " 'and destroy them with the leaf.'…'The unstained tower breaks and bends knee to the forgotten sign . . .' "

    A Memory of Light, A Knack

    The first prophecy was about Rand breaking the Aiel, but now also the other nations, with peace. Rand’s peace is twofold: that from victory over the Shadow certainly had a lot of bloodshed, but that between the nations will hugely alter the Aiel and Seanchan, if not the other nations. In the second prophecy quoted above, the White Tower will bow to Rand and his wishes more than once. Not what Egwene wanted to hear. Moiraine doesn’t perhaps yet know the full story of the aftermath of Dumai’s Wells, but we do.

    A few people offer Rand constructive criticism. Saerin is complimentary about the treaty, but says the Seanchan need to be included in it. Elayne notices the lack of any conflict resolution procedure. Both are sensible points. The treaty will be void if the Empress does not sign. Then Aviendha says that the Aiel must be included in the peace, which is quite ironic considering other nations are complaining about being pressured into it. Quite a few rulers want to expand their nations at the expense of others. Perrin sees that the Aiel could be the enforcers of the peace, since they need to be doing purposeful things. Other nations think that the Aiel can be manipulated their way.

    Rhuarc fears this will be an end to the Aiel. Rand says it is a beginning. Privately, however, he remembers what Aviendha told him; that some Aiel believed that Rand would completely destroy the Aiel:

    ". . . your dream now . . . when you wake from this life, we will be no more . . ."

    -A Memory of Light, A Knack

    As mediators of peace—sworn to be via the treaty—they will have a variation of their old role in the Age of Legends, serving and helping the Dragon.

    Cadsuane is very approving. So is Elayne.

    Moiraine makes Rand see that he can’t oversee the battles. He has the wrong attitude for winning military battles. Rand is against the Amyrlin being the general—and Egwene doesn’t protest this, even though it was her aim to win this role for the Tower. Moiraine seems to have made her reconsider. Moiraine then tells Egwene that she will break the Seals, and leads her to understand her dream of Rand walking to Shayol Ghul on shards (of the Dark One’s prison):

    Him walking toward a burning mountain, something crunching beneath his boots. She stirred and whimpered; the crunching things were the seals on the Dark One's prison, shattering with his every step.

    -Lord Of Chaos, A Pile of Sand

    The shards are the broken Seals—that “what men made shall be shattered”. Moiraine makes Rand give the Seals to Egwene and Egwene promise that she will break them.

    As an Accepted, Moiraine studied philosophy, and she really shows this in this chapter. Perrin doesn’t follow Moiraine’s philosophy of trusting the Pattern to make things happen right. He believes in making his own way, and not relying on the Pattern. For all that wolves are supposed to be fatalistic, Perrin isn’t:

    Moiraine always had believed in following the weave of the Pattern and bowing to the Wheel's turnings. Perrin didn't see it that way. He figured you made your own path, and trusted in your own arms to do what needed to be done. The Pattern wasn't a thing to depend on.

    A Memory of Light, A Knack

    Perrin has been far less trusting of the Pattern since he learned how the good and bad were mixed within it. In his eyes this made it far from a masterwork, and therefore not to be relied upon.

    Rand gets Egwene to sign first. Faile sees that Rand brought all who supported him, and relied on Egwene to bring and unite the waverers and outright opponents. Then he only had to get her to sign—and the rest had to follow. Elayne is the last to sign and Rand gives her the leadership of the armies as an incentive.

    Faile then wonders about the damane the Seanchan have taken and the nations also. Rand considers damaging their forces if they don’t sign—yet all will be needed in the Last Battle. Of course the Empress considered not participating in Tarmon Gaidon and standing aside to take advantage of the weakened world after. This is selfish and short-sighted, since the Seanchan’s participation ensured victory.

    The mainlanders assume the Empress will hold to the treaty if she signs it. For all that other Seanchan take pride in honouring all oaths they take, Fortuona signed and then considered breaking the treaty. Mat was the one who insisted she keep her oath and shamed her into it.

    Rand decides publicly that he will allow the Seanchan the captives that they have taken because they have done good with the bad. Balance.

    Rand asks that the generals send some forces to save Lan’s army first. This is the reverse of his dark pronouncements that he would let Lan distract the Shadow and strike elsewhere without sending any forces to aid Lan.


    Lan POV

    Lan is pleased that Kaisel of Kandor accepts the realistic outcome of their battle. The Malkieri are proud to go down in one last charge.

    Lan realises that everyone deserves the choice of fighting for the Light. Like Rand, Lan did not want the responsibility of leading others to their deaths. He never learned how to bear the responsibilities of kingship in practise by watching his parents. Compare this with Faile instructing Perrin:

    "Perrin, my father says a general can take care of the living or weep for the dead, but he cannot do both."
    "I am not a general, Faile. I am a fool of a blacksmith who thought he could use other people to help him get justice, or maybe revenge. I still want it, but I don't want to use anyone else for it any longer."
    "Do you think the Trollocs will go away because you decide your motives are not pure enough?" The heat in her voice made him raise his head, but she pushed it back to the pillow almost roughly. "Are they any less vile? Do you need a purer reason to fight them than what they are? Another thing my father says. The worst sin a general can commit, worse than blundering, worse than losing, worse than anything, is to desert the men who depend on him."

    The Shadow Rising, Among the Tu’atha’an

    Part of the compact between noble and commoner, ingrained in Faile from her birth, was that nobles provided safety and security. And a part of giving security was to remind people that evil times were not forever. If today was bad, then tomorrow would be better, and if not tomorrow, then the day after. She wished she could be certain of that herself, but she had been taught to give those under her strength even when she had none herself, to soothe their fears, not infect them with her own.

    Lord of Chaos, Prologue

    Lan knows he must be responsible for his soldiers; he just didn’t want to have any soldiers with him to be responsible for.

    By pulling slowly out of the Gap, Lan’s forces unknowingly enabled their reinforcements to join them very easily. The timing is perfect. The Wheel weaves.

    Lan never had conventional childhood and development and had not previously sworn the Malkieri oath to defend. Andere insists Lan show pleasure at their rescue and victory and he laughs. Rarely, if ever, has Lan laughed in the series until now. It’s nice to end a chapter with joy.

    Monday, March 7, 2016

    A Memory of Light Read-Through #8: Chapter 5—To Require a Boon


    By Linda

    Rand POV

    At the start of a momentous day, Rand reaches out and feels the Land:

    He could feel it, the land itself, like a faint Warder bond. Beneath his feet, grubs crawled through the soil. The roots of the grasses continued to spread, ever so slowly, seeking nutrients. The skeletal trees were not dead, for water seeped through them. They slumbered. Bluebirds clustered in a nearby tree. They did not call out with the arrival of dawn. They huddled together as if for warmth.
    The land still lived…
    He could hear the land breathing, could sense a beetle on a leaf half a league away…

    A Memory of Light, To Require a Boon

    His perspective and understanding has widened:

    "Thank you," he said, fetching a towel and tossing it to her. "You would consider most of what we did during the Age of Legends to be crackbrained and irresponsible. That was a different time, Aviendha. There were many more channelers, and we were trained from a young age. We didn't need to know things like warfare, or how to kill. We had eliminated pain, hunger, suffering, war. Instead, we used the One Power for things that might seem common… We wanted our lives to be perfect, so we ignored imperfections. Problems were magnified through inattention, and war might have become inevitable if the Bore hadn't ever been made.”

    A Memory of Light, To Require a Boon

    The good centuries of the Age of Legends—the paradise—were paid for by hundred years of Collapse, ten years of world war and over three hundred years of Breaking. Rand thinks it was worth it. I’m not sure that it was.

    The opening of the Bore just accelerated problems that were already in society. While knowing this, Rand is still not thinking of how to defuse conflict and handle disagreements. Rand may be poor at this, because he expects people to either see issues the way he does or behave the way he does. This is a lead-in to Merrilor, where the flaws in Rand’s treaty are quickly revealed and he gets entangled in countering Egwene.

    Rand asks Aviendha what is wrong but she diverts him skilfully enough that he doesn’t notice. However, she does refer indirectly to what is worrying her—the terrible risk of the Aiel decaying—by trying to do something about it. She warns him that she will ask for a boon at the meeting, although she doesn’t know what it will be, just that she believes it will be important and will change his plans. Aviendha plays fair—Rand implies that he will/would grant whatever it is, but she doesn’t want that. Always merit and fairness with Aviendha.


    Egwene’s POV

    Prophetic dreams are disturbing Egwene’s sleep. In her dream, the cracking world is the breaking up of reality as a result of balefire, and the cords lashing it together are the flame of Tar Valon weave that Egwene will create. This weave is not in her mind at this stage; she still thinks balefire is invincible.

    The frozen pillar of glass that almost seems like a column of light is the crystal pillar created as she died, a physical manifestation of the Light from her soul and her weave.

    Not surprisingly, Egwene is annoyed at Gawyn reading her mail from Elayne. He also insisted that she sleep in the White Tower in a bed because she was exhausted. It was a ruse to avoid assassination attempts in Merrilor as well as to get better rest. Egwene is much more accepting of these precautions after the Seanchan attack.

    One positive thing that she does in this chapter is order all sisters strong enough to provide Healing and gateways for Andor. The Tower is finally helping nations properly, as Egwene takes a leaf out of Tamra’s book.

    Egwene doesn’t dare arrive late at Merrilor because while she isn’t there Rand would persuade rulers to accept that he will break the Seals. She goes expecting to combat him. She also expects that the forces Rand has summoned will fight each other without her intervention. In fact, she stirred them up.

    Did Rand realize what he'd done here? Putting soldiers together like this, leaving them edgy and uncertain, was like tossing a handful of fireworks into a stewpot and setting it onto the stove. Eventually, things were going to start exploding.
    Egwene needed to manage the chaos. She strode out of her tent, Gawyn a step behind and to her left, and smoothed her face. The world needed an Amyrlin…
    Best to be quick. Her presence would calm the rulers, perhaps prevent problems. They wouldn't like being near so many Aiel.

    A Memory of Light, To Require a Boon

    I think she exaggerates her influence on the rulers. "The world needed an Amyrlin”—the Amrylin the world needs doesn’t have to be Egwene. For all that Egwene is jealous of her prerogatives, there is always another Aes Sedai suitable to be Amyrlin. Not so for the Dragon. It’s rather a prophetic phrase in itself, considering that she will be dead before the end of the Last Battle after making a far greater contribution than she does here. This scene is not her finest hour by any means. She is at her best in battle, be it against the Seanchan or the Shadow, and her antagonistic attitude causes problems here.

    Egwene tallied up everybody for who they will support. In spite of herself, she is finally acknowledging the importance of the meeting that was Rand’s initiative. Nevertheless, her belief in the superiority of the Tower—and the Amyrlin—is total.

    Darlin also wonders if the meeting is going to be disastrous:

    "Some old rivalries run deeper than the ocean's depths, Mother. I can almost wonder if this meeting was the work of the Dark One, hoping that we would end up destroying one another and doing his work for him."

    A Memory of Light, To Require a Boon

    The Shadow would not take the risk, particularly with having two of the three ta’veren in one place. When it last happened—in Towers of Midnight—Perrin could feel a sense of rightness.

    Egwene anticipates that Rand would want to direct the forces personally in the Last Battle, but his battle will be with the Dark One—and on a spiritual level—and he will be fully occupied. At this point in the scene, Egwene intends to have the Tower “acknowledged as leading the collective forces against Shadow”, but she doesn’t personally push for this in the meeting. I guess she wants other rulers to suggest it, otherwise it looks like a cheap power grab.

    Egwene remarks on how Rand has grown in confidence and cunning. So has she. She doesn’t see this as bad if he can be reasoned with. The same applies for Egwene. This is why a third party—Moiraine—is needed to mediate.

    Rand makes grass grow as he walks along, restoring health to the Land locally (by singing under his breath) to remind them of his role. And induce awe. He will do the same to the Empress. The erection of the tent showcases his channelling ability.

    Egwene pauses to score a small victory over Roedran before entering the tent and the fray:

    All understood that this confrontation was, at its core, between Rand and Egwene. Or, rather, the Dragon and the Amyrlin Seat.

    A Memory of Light, To Require a Boon

    I wonder if Cadsuane intended to step up if Moiraine had not?

    Egwene assumes that Rand’s politeness is not genuine. She is quite a sour-puss at Elayne’s pride in Rand. Her own respect for him is very grudging. (As was Cadsuane’s when Rand met the Borderlanders in Towers of Midnight, A Testing).

    Rand also allows entry to, and nods in respect to, Cadsuane, as though she is an alternative Amyrlin. She is to Wise Ones also—and to the Sea Folk. She has held herself apart from the White Tower conflict, although that would not have saved the Tower from the Seanchan. We never see her meet Egwene, or comment on the Seanchan attack.

    Egwene reads Perrin as worried, but trusting Rand. Perrin knows what Rand intends—especially with the Seals—and agrees with it. His worry is about how the meeting will go, and the mood of the people there.

    Rand’s quizzing of Roedran is a nod to fans’ theory that Roedran was Demandred. It was popular, but incorrect. When Rand asks “where are you?” he is wondering aloud about Demandred’s whereabouts. It turns out to be a very good question.

    Rand points out what went wrong in the War of Power and how they are not as skilled or well-equipped as the Age of Legends was. Very tellingly he looks at Egwene when he says that everyone fancied themselves a general. (In fact, she was planning to claim this position for the Tower, as he suspected.) He also doesn’t want nations fighting each other the moment the war is over. Egwene diverts attention away from the rulers at this point by saying that Rand is over-stepping himself, and he should let events play out and not “bend the world to your whims.” She suggests that he would be a tyrant. Yet Amyrlins and Tower have behaved in this fashion for centuries. It’s a fine hypocrisy. Her language is very negative here.

    Rand is not expected to survive, so it would be a bit hard to be tyrannical after the Last Battle. Plus Egwene has suborned to her cause two leaders who owe Rand their positions if not their fealty, without him objecting. Hardly what a tyrant would countenance. Rand answers her digs in a positive manner with an actual, concrete treaty. The Aes Sedai are “troubled” because they have lost the initiative and been side-stepped. It is more difficult to counter something so definite and formed at short notice. Egwene dismisses Rand’s conditions as foolishness.

    The Amyrlin claims to be the Watcher over the Seals when she didn’t know where they were. Yet the remaining Seals are in Rand’s possession, so Watcher appears to be an empty title. Rand says that he approached her about the Seals. She disputes this because he made neither request nor demand but told her what he was going to do with them. He implies it was as much as she was entitled to, possibly more, considering that he possesses them, while she knew nothing of their location.

    Egwene thinks his plan to break the Seals to remake the seal on the Dark One’s prison anew is too risky; he thinks it is worth it. I suspect that similar arguments would have been made regarding using the Choedan Kal to cleanse the taint. Low-ranking Aes Sedai quizzed him on it, but acceded to his arguments. Again, using the Choedan Kal was something that Cadsuane did not argue against. Like Moiraine, Cadsuane has tended to let Rand run free, trusting in the Pattern to arrange for him to do what he should. What they both tried to influence was his sanity and how he related to others.

    Egwene would reprise patching the Bore as a “safer” plan. It’s Latra Posae versus Lews Therin again. Two immovable sides need a third for resolution. In the Age of Legends, opening the bore did not directly and immediately damage reality, so claiming that shattering the Seals would destroy the world is alarmist. Likewise, using the Choedan Kal was wrongly believed would crack the world like an egg.

    What would be disastrous for the world is exactly what Egwene wants—repatching the prison as per before. I wonder if she would be so sanguine if saidar was at risk. She has been reading Aes Sedai writings on the Bore and says that White Tower was founded in part to prevent the bore being re-opened. They would fall afoul of the law of diminishing returns if they follow Egwene’s plan of patching the patch. It is likely that the Dark One would make the taint again, but Egwene says they’d be ready for that. However, they would not be adequately prepared since the Choedan Kal were needed to remove the taint. These sa’angreal were made before the taint and no longer exist.

    Rand takes a leaf out of Egwene’s book and accuses Egwene of promoting the re-tainting of saidin because male channellers undermine her authority. Basically he is accusing her of being sexist. Her thoughts do back his claim that she is sexist.

    Then he completely appals her by saying that he wants to kill the Dark One. When he told Aviendha this, she considered it carefully as a reasonable tactic. Egwene exclaims that Rand’s insane and he says, yes, that was the price to be the Dragon—to fight the Dark One you have to be mad. Egwene says that he should be guided by the White Tower. He counters that they guided him by beating him and locking him in a box. There is no answer to that. Just as when Egwene repudiates the Empress because of her inhumane treatment as a damane. The Empress felt she lost face talking to an escaped slave, but to the reader she lost face by lying. As the Aiel declared, the Aes Sedai had no honour after their embassy violated parley to capture and torture Rand.

    The treaty appears to be quite a good and robust document because Galad announces that the Whitecloaks will sign it, and the Sea Folk were impressed with it. It needs to cover two more nations, though.

    Many rulers say that the Borderlanders are desperate and therefore their judgment is poor. They don’t seem to realise this will be them in a matter of weeks if they don’t unite and fight. The southerners want the Seanchan dealt with more urgently than the Trollocs. (Some don’t really believe in Shadowspawn.)

    Egwene thinks that Rand is like an Aes Sedai in being angry but showing calmness. She is about to “take control of the meeting” when she notices that it is getting dark. Great Trees are growing outside either by the Land, or Rand himself, as a way of making them feel awe at him. The loss of light makes the attendees uncertain enough to quieten down. It is also symbolic that the nations are losing their way, lost in the dark of ambition.

    On the whole, the rulers feel that the bargain is one-sided—that they are giving up too much for salvation. Rand says that they have no choice. Egwene feels Rand’s force of will swaying them and protests. She calls his bluff. Rand feels that always female channellers are against him. Egwene is jealous of the White Tower’s privileges but the Aes Sedai have done little in recent decades to deserve such. Many others have done far more. The Aes Sedai are leaning on past glories like idle aristocrats. It is those Aes Sedai who have left the Tower who have done good work for Rand and the nations—Cadsuane, Nynaeve, Pevara, Verin, Moiraine and Elayne, for instance. This was the Shadow’s tactic, but the Tower succumbed to it the most.

    At this point, Egwene becomes uncertain and fears that she is going too far. In fact, she and Rand both privately feel this way.

    Egwene is unlikeable in this chapter with barely a pleasant thought for most people in the tent. This is quite a contrast to Perrin’s POV in the next chapter. For example, Egwene thinks Elayne besotted and is very judgmental of Berelain. While Berelain’s behaviour to Perrin and Faile was very poor, Egwene does not know the full extent of it and had this attitude to Berelain in Tear (where Berelain pursued Rand for a while for political reasons). She could never understand the Wise Ones’ good opinion of Berelain.

    Rand says his sacrifice must be willing. True. It must be his free choice—a willing martyrdom. Otherwise it is an execution-type sacrifice, more suited to the Shadow than the Light.

    The Sea Folk think it’s reasonable that people do something for the Dragon in exchange for what he will do for them. The rulers take him for granted, even behaving like he’s not really necessary. Or irreplaceable. Elaida took it for granted that Rand would not do his duty—his role—unless forced. (The nobles, and Elaida herself, are the ones who qualify for this). Egwene takes it for granted that Rand will have the wrong idea about the Last Battle and needs her to take charge. She has not been there when he did his great deeds—often, she was captive or being rescued at the time. Egwene tends to underestimate her other friends. She abuses him and he her. It’s quite a relief when Moiraine enters.

    To sum up and check Egwene’s superior judgment on Rand’s conditions:

    The treaty is untenable—actually it is a very good idea but is imperfect as yet until the Aiel and Seanchan are included. Draw.
    Rand should not lead the Last Battle—Egwene is correct on this.
    The Seals should not be broken; patch the patch instead— Egwene is wrong.

    50%. Not a super score.

    With Moiraine’s encouragement of some re-thinking and cooperation, we get a better result.

    Wednesday, February 10, 2016

    Ages of Characters Article Updated



    The Ages of the Characters article has been hugely expanded with information from The Wheel of Time Companion on training time for Aes Sedai as well as ages of many characters.

    Tuesday, February 9, 2016

    A Memory of Light Read-Through #7: Chapter 4—Advantages to a Bond


    By Linda

    Androl POV

    The chapter opens with each of the bonded pair confessing to the other. A feature of their double bond is that there can be few secrets between them, as they increase their ability to read each other’s thoughts. Pevara has probably rarely spoken to anyone of how long-time family friends murdered her family. Androl feels her pain and loneliness. She has no loved ones outside the Tower and few friends within it—and no Warder or lover. Her family would be long dead even if they had not been murdered.

    Androl’s sympathy for her—or the realisation that she also has sad and painful secrets—leads him to tell of his father being able to channel and suiciding because he was succumbing to the taint. Androl realised that he might be able to channel (although unlike his father, Androl doesn’t have the spark, but could learn) and he went to the Black Tower to find out. This is the information that Pevara went fishing for earlier in A Memory of Light.

    Androl can’t accept that someone can be forced to be evil. (Nor does Perrin.) He hates the idea of moral choice being removed from people, because it’s the most important choice. Lanfear says that channellers also have the choice to die or be severed to avoid being Turned, but many don’t do this.

    Pevara wishes that she could access the Chair of Remorse at the White Tower to break Dobser, as the independent Sitters did to Talene. However, by understanding Dobser’s psychology, Emarin is able to manipulate him into divulging what they want to know. This impresses Pevara. It is interesting that Emarin proposes building a Grey Tower where both men and women channellers can work together. By the end of the book, the group will be working closely together without any formality.

    As part of his act, Emarine speaks patronisingly of Logain. Logain is not a farmer—but a lord, albeit minor. Emarin tells Dobser his true identity and Dobser says that Taim would not like the competition from such a high status Asha’man, and everyone else would fawn on Emarin.

    Taim knows that voluntary Darkfriends are more useful than forced ones. He has also taught how to break a tied-off shield. Rand broke one with Lews Therin’s input in Lord of Chaos.

    Rand POV

    Rand identifies his location as a dreamshard, created by a powerful Dreamwalker—in this case, Ishamael/Moridin. Despite being in danger, he doesn’t exit the dream because his curiosity overrides his caution. He knows that he is not as good as some of the Forsaken with dreams, and this dreamshard has obviously been made by a talented one. Solar characters, such as Rand, Aviendha and Graendal, have less ability with dreams and prophecy, which are lunar skills. Rand is taking a risk. While Moridin shouldn’t have been able to break Rand’s wards without him knowing (and this says danger as much as the dreamshard), he knew that Rand would come to the dreamshard. The implication is that this is because the two men are linked from the crossing of their balefire streams of opposing powers—but Moridin says they have been linked as opposites for Ages. All Ages? Opposites attract as well as contend. As usual, Moridin is very theological/philosophical with Rand.

    Rand distracts him by commenting on Mierin. It’s super-effective; Moridin is enraged. Rand himself has mixed feelings about Mierin. In many ways he has left her behind. However, if she is alive, he can hope that Moiraine may come back. This aside is a setup for Merrilor.

    Moridin’s world reflects the real world and also Tel’aran’rhiod in being filled with dying lifeforms. Like everyone who turns to the Shadow, he doesn’t create independently. Rand turns this around by doing to the dreamshard what intends to do, was born to do, in the real world—restore health and fertility.

    Moridin hoped that Lanfear would distract Rand, though he doesn’t indicate this when Rand says her contact was a waste of time. Instead, he agrees, then attempts to make Rand anxious with hints that Lanfear will attack Aviendha (whom Rand is sleeping beside) even though Lanfear doesn’t have an interest in this anymore. Moridin is trying to press Rand’s buttons but it is not working; Rand doesn’t respond. Moridin correctly says that Lanfear hates and blames Rand for her fate. Her poorly concealed plan is to kill him at Shayol Ghul.

    Rand indicates that he used to fear Moridin but not any longer. He wonders aloud if their early dream contacts were in a dreamshard or Moridin invaded his dreams. Moridin says nothing. Rand remembers the horrors of his solo flight to Tear when he was afraid to sleep (which made his mental health more precarious) because he was tormented in his dreams.

    Rand can “almost see fires burning” in Moridin’s eyes, which will happen for real if he continues to use the True Power. Perhaps Rand senses that the flame eyes and mouth are not far off. He says that Ishamael was mad and so is Moridin. You have to be mad to serve the Dark One (or he makes you mad—a boss to drive you insane). Moridin dismisses this and says everything will be killed soon. Rand has great empathy now; he can feel Moridin’s desire for death, trapped into eternal service to the Dark One. This is something to make Moridin think later, drive him on. Like Emarin, Rand may have successfully undermined his opponent with knowledge of his psychology.

    Moridin may be the first dark champion with enough theological and philosophical understanding to realise the true horror of his predicament and choices—which would add to his madness—fully appreciating how he has damned himself and feeling that he is an eternal tool of Fate. (Faust is a parallel of Moridin, and so is Lucifer in a way, although Lucifer is also a parallel of Lews Therin (see Lews Therin essay). The two men are very similar.) Right and wrong can be a hair’s breadth away: just one poor choice too many, one step too far…

    Rand intends to break their eternal contention, which Ishamael has always dwelt upon, gloried in, even though, ironically, the Naeblis is tired to death of it. The Creator’s champion will ignore Moridin and fight the Dark One. He attacks Moridin’s dreamshard with “rightness” which Moridin protests is wrong. At first Moridin compares this with Rand’s miracles which have a mundane explanation. (We see Rand “sing” under his breath to make the Empress’ garden bloom.) Rand also uses empathy too, though, his ability to feel or know what others are feeling—something beyond Moridin:

    Rand could feel his shock…”You hate yourself. I can feel it in you.”

    A Memory of Light, Advantages of a Bond

    The two men are the same height—emphasising that they are evenly matched. Rand is not the tallest person in the mainland, so Moridin could have been taller.

    Are Rand’s “miracles”, or Labours always mundane? He does use knowledge and skill to do “impossible” things: he cleansed saidin—which Forsaken thought was impossible. In this case he deduced that the dreamshard would operate in a similar way to Tel’aran’rhiod, and imposed his will accordingly.

    Rand declares that he is coming for the Dark One as he restores life to the dreamshard. Moridin protests “This isn’t”…possible, what is supposed to happen…

    The Dragon stands beneath a blazing sun—that “dreadful heat of the Light” as described at the Eye of the World—shining in a dark place, and, as at the Eye, he “burns” Moridin. He is the solar character and also exemplifies the power of Rightness. Breaking the conditions of the shard, and alarming Moridin, is a matter of strong will. Rand sighs that it is not so easy in the real world. As he, and we, will see in Merrilor. But sometimes Rand is wrong and needs to be side-stepped.

    Moreover, Rand is not an autocrat and should not be one. The power of the Light is in democracy and consensus and many working for the common good. Rand’s major voice of opposition at Merrilor will sacrifice everything for the Light. A third voice—Moiraine—will be the one to unify, or at least reconcile, the opposing parties.

    Pevara POV

    Pevara is shocked when she sees Asha’man kill—it brings home to her that they are weapons (which they are trained to be). She realises that she needs to shield her private thoughts—a disadvantage of the bond. This is ostensibly the explanation of the chapter title, but it also applies to the Rand/Moridin link. Rand and Moridin have a disadvantage too (one can corrupt the other and find the other). Androl points out that Aes Sedai do kill, because gentling always kills the man—it just is slower. An inconvenient truth for Pevara.

    Androl deploys everyone and then figures out how to find the right tunnel in the dark by feeling where the water is flowing. This impresses Pevara, who is assessing him all the time, although Logain’s faction are quite familiar with his judgement and just follow him. Strength in the Power really is not everything. Her main concern is whether Androl has wandered a lot due to boredom or discontent or because he is looking for where he belongs, where he is accepted. He can feel her analysis and leaves it up to her to understand him. They really do well together, considering that they began out of desperation and then fear.

    Jonneth has satisfaction of shooting Coteren with the very weapon he derided.

    The cells are so small that the prisoner would feel like they are being buried alive. Logain immediately wants to know Pevara’s Ajah. She doesn’t think it matters—and it didn’t. But the roof caves in.