Monday, July 30, 2001

A Time For Iron: Moiraine's Rescue



by Linda

In Knife of Dreams, A Village in Shiota, Mat agreed to go with Thom (and another man - probably Noal, since he volunteered) to the world of the Aelfinn and Eelfinn to rescue Moiraine. Moiraine emphasised in her letter that this would be a very risky venture, and that the game Foxes and Snakes will be useful in indicating the way to successfully beat the ‘Finns.

Foxes and Snakes is actually an account of dealings with the Aelfinn and Eelfinn and shows players that the only way to beat the ‘Finns is to cheat. The game is started by chanting: "Courage to strengthen, fire to blind, music to daze, iron to bind" and making the sign of the Aelfinn and Eelfinn: the triangle and the wavy line through it. When Mat went into the doorway ter’angreals, he was asked:

"You have brought no lamps, no torches, as the agreement was, and is, and ever will be. You have no iron? No instruments of music?"

- The Shadow Rising, Into the Doorway

The Finns appear to be vulnerable to these things: when Rand felt threatened in the realm of the Aelfinn he made a sword of fire, which they could not bear to look at (The Shadow Rising, Into the Doorway). Since these four items are prohibited in the agreement, smuggling them in - or the materials for creating them - would be the way to beat the Aelfinn and Eelfinn; to cheat them.

Courage they already have, since they dare to go at all, knowing the risks. Music, too; Thom’s bard’s voice is a musical instrument. Or he could construct a simple instrument such as a flute or pan-pipes 'on the run' from a wooden tube taken into their world. It can be cut to length/s and/or finger holes carved in it. (I notice that the cover of Towers of Midnight shows Noal carrying a rod.) Another instrument that could be made in Finnland is a mouth harp. Being a drone instrument it has been used as an aid to induce trances and is associated with magic ("music to daze"). Melodies can be made by changing the shape of the mouth to create different overtones.

For fire there are Aludra’s "firesticks," or ‘strikers’, matches by any other name:
"Aludra had everyone trying out her strikers, or firesticks . . . They certainly would light a fire or a lamp. They could also burst into flame if the blue-gray heads rubbed against each other or anything else rough."

- The Fires of Heaven, A Question of Crimson
Mat is familiar with these and could take some to make fire at will.

Iron is more problematic. Some have suggested Mat’s ashanderei for iron, but Mat actually acquired the ashanderei from the Eelfinn, so presumably it doesn’t intimidate them too much. Iron would be the trickiest thing to smuggle in. Cuendillar is a possibility, since it starts out as iron, but they currently don’t have access to any. Another possibility could be blood. It contains iron. The Finns themselves are always described as very pale – as though they don’t have iron-rich blood like us.

Egwene had a Dream which seems to describe Moiraine’s rescue:

Mat throwing dice with blood streaming down his face, while Thom Merrilyn put his hand into a fire to draw out the small blue stone that now dangled on Moiraine’s forehead.

- The Fires of Heaven, What Can Be Learned In Dreams

The kesiera is something personal of Moiraine’s and is therefore symbolic of her. The dream shows the dangers: Mat is injured in the face, but he still rolls the dice. I.e. He is relying on his luck while bravely playing the game against the ‘Finns. Thom is putting his hand into a fire – knowingly risking death or injury – to save Moiraine.

The dream seems to contain the four prohibited items of courage (Thom’s and Mat’s actions), music (Thom himself), fire (matches) and iron (the blood on Mat’s face). According to the rhyme, the iron is to ‘bind’ in some way. In our world, blood was often used to make agreements binding. I don’t think the three men will think of this; I think that it will be one of Mat’s ‘lucky’ rolls of the dice; he is injured in the face (eg by losing an eye) and the resulting blood turns events in their favour.

The dice in the dream may refer to the game of Foxes and Snakes and that they need to use their knowledge of this game to effect a rescue. It could also mean they rely on Mat’s luck to succeed. Even with luck, knowledge, cunning and determination, the venture is still very risky and any one of them could die or become a captive of the Finns.

Egwene’s dream appears to be a very neat precognitive summary of what is needed. Alas that a time for iron involves blood-letting for Mat, even if it does get Moiraine back.

14 comments:

LoialT said...

I really like this theory, but I am somewhat unsure if blood really counts as iron. There seems to be general agreement that the ashanderei, being steel, would not have the same effect as iron. Steel is an alloy of iron and other stuff, but blood is certainly not pure iron either. In fact, it contains considerably less iron than steel, and it is all bound up in other molecules.

We also have evidence that the Eelfinn skin people and make clothes out of their flesh. Presumably this process would involve dealing with human blood, and yet it does not appear to be a big problem for the finns.

I love the idea of the firesticks and Thom's singing. Both involve CREATING the forbidden elements in the realm of the Finns. Blood would be more like smuggling, but perhaps we might see a little chemistry at work here (Mat has shown more interest in this science than any other main character). It's been way too long since my high school chem classes, but I wonder if there is a not too difficult way to produce pure iron from an alloy or other compound? Maybe even something involved in the explosives Mat is pursuing? Total speculation, but I would hugely appreciate any responses from those more chem-savvy.

Linda said...

Well they have to smuggle the matches in; they can't make those there even if they knew how. (I'm assuming Aludra doesn't go.)

As for the Finn's skinning people - that's done when they are dead, surely. They can drain the blood carefully so it doesn't touch them. The dead don't bleed much anyway.

Them getting spattered with blood, now, that's different.

As for obtaining iron from steel, or from ore, that needs a lot of heat. A lot. Iron ore would probably qualify as iron anyway and they would probably react to it, too, especially magnetite, which is magnetic. I doubt you'd be able to smuggle it past them to get in.

The ashandarei may not even be steel. The metal it's made of isn't named.

These items have to be spur of the moment stuff, something they have on hand; they can't stop and say, OK now let's build a smelter/foundry and make us some iron.

LoialT said...

Well, it was worth a shot. But if it requires that much heat, you are almost certainly correct. Whatever they have at hand will need to be relatively simple.

Further, the binding of blood in the series has already been established for the Borderland rulers as well as them not being sure why they do so in the first place (perhaps some echo of a memory with the Finns?).

Another option is that Moiraine will be part of this. Perhaps she will use the power to create iron from blood. Or she could be the source of fire even (like when Rand used his fire sword). Of course, if it were that easy then she could just sing too (her voice is always described as musical, after all). To me this is further evidence that she was stilled, or is lacking something that only Mat, Thom, and Noal can provide.

Noal seems to be the biggest variable. Why does it have to be him, if it is indeed Noal who is the other man? What aspect of courage, fire, music, and iron does he (in particular) bring? Or is there something else about the Finns that he alone knows? Perhaps he is needed to tell Moiraine something about Isam or Lan that she didn't know. I am not sure what that would be, though.

In the end, I suspect that this scene will be pretty surprising given how long we have known its basic outline and had it foreshadowed in dreams and visions. As (I believe) Dominic suggested, RJ likely had a trick up his sleeve for the rescue. I can't wait to find out!

Anonymous said...

I agree that Tom's voice could be a musical instrument, but I think they may stop by Caemlyn and find the music box that Ahvienda identified. Almost everything else she identified could have a significant use in the rest of the books. The music box isn't an actual instrument so it would not specifically break the rule. The only problem with this is if it needs someone to channel for it to work. I don't think anything was mentioned about that.

Anonymous said...

I think Anonymous up ^ here hit the nail directly on the head.

Rebel said...

Iron in blood comes down to the "Magneto Controversy". People are so blinded into believing that we have huge amounts of iron in our bodies, because well, Magneto could use it to move people around and stuff! If it was in a comic book or a movie, then it MUST be true! However, the simple fact is: we don't have a LOT of iron in our bodies.

I don't believe that iron will come from blood. The entire human body only holds about 4 total grams of iron. Even if we bled Mat dry, that really wouldn't be a significant threat to the Finns.

Has anyone considered the fact that iron, even altered by the One Power to be strong, still is iron? I was wondering if the iron they use to cheat the Finns might be Cuendillar.

One thing I notice is that the world of the Wheel of Time has almost the exact same physical laws as our world. Hence, the old rule that "no thing can be transformed into a different thing, it is only changed in state" must apply here. I haven't seen anyone with the power turning coppers into gold marks when money is low. This means, the process of making Cuendillar is NOT transmutation... it's merely an enhancement or changed state of the original element: Iron.

Jordan liked balance. There are three people who go in to the Flinn world to rescue Moraine: Mat, Thom and the third (I'll just use Noal for argument's sake). There are three physical things (not counting courage) needed to cheat the Flinns: Light, Music, Iron.

Most likely, each person is associated with a specific item. Music simply is too obviously something associated with Thom. It's mostly realistic to say that Mat's special item will be the fire sticks for making light, simply because he's the one most closely associated with Aludra and in using them to light fuses on his little grenades and stuff. This leaves Iron.

Iron is hard to guess, as an item, how it will be used, but it seems pretty sure bet that it will have to do with Noal. There's a lot of mystery about Noal, his motives, his history, and other issues. I'd be willing to go with an idea that he could have a bit of cuendillar with him, or some other form of non-obvious iron. I'd be looking at hints about him, and most especially his past, to look for the form Iron will take in the quest.

Linda said...

In just the same way, people are blinded by quantity. If some is good, more must be better.

I never said there was a lot of iron in blood.

How do we know how much will defeat them? There doesn't need to be a lot of iron to defeat the Finns - just the right kind. After all, Mat's ashandarei never upset them at all, nor Mat's steel knives and obviously steel contains considerable quantities of iron.

Four 'items' are needed to win not three. So it is not a simple matter of one thing from each person.

And Rand did a spot of transmutation in Tear in The Shadow Rising - he said he turned feathers into a flower for the majhere and tried to do the same for Elayne. The lily he left on Elayne's pillow in Winter's Heart that she could not imagine where he had gotten in the middle of winter might have been a successful attempt.

Joel T said...

Well, it seems to me that this is a jail break, not a visit through a doorway to make a bargain. They will go in packing everything they need, Music (Thom's flute / harp), Light (Aludra's firesticks), Courage (uh, they all seem to have loads of this), and Iron. I am going to guess they are going to pick up some iron, in what shape, no idea, but could be knives. They are going to sneak in, and try to find Moiraine.

Linda said...

They need to cheat to win yes, but they have to do it without being caught, and that means without bringing something that obviously violates the agreement.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure that the Ashendari is male cuendillar for the following reasons:
1. It's black.
The seals were black and white, but the Aes Sedai only made white cuendillar. Where'd the black come from? Male Aes Sedai.

2. It doesn't need sharpening.
Or rather, it's never mentioned that it does. Presumably, it doesn't need it because it's indestructable, being Cuendillar.

3. It's definatly not just plain old steel. What kind of steel is black. Not grey, Black.

What does this mean? The Finns aren't afraid of Cuendillar, so the Ashendari shouldn't phase them, so it can't be the source of iron.

What the real question is, is what does Jain*coff*NOAL bring to the table? I mean, all three have courage, Mat has fire, Thom has music, what is Noal's source of iron?

Anonymous said...

"Presumably, it doesn't need it because it's indestructable, being Cuendillar."

If the ashan'darei were made of cuendillar, we'd already know about that (Tuon, Mat, the girls, Birgitte - one of them would have commented on that and people (nobles etc.) would sometime gasp at Mat's ashan'darei as it would be a really huge cuendillar object, worth a fortune.

It's highly doubtful the AS would have used this material for mass producing weapons in the WOS. It's overkill for the purpose. It is far more likely an "unknown alloy" from the AOL, different but similar to that used for the swords (that don't break nor need sharpening either). The ashan'darei may be a late WOS low-tech weapon, when the advanced stuff like shocklances could no longer be produced by either side. If you face channellers with an ashan'darei, you have bigger worries than them breaking your weapon with the Power.

I think it's fairly useless to try to be sneaky about cheating the Finns. It's not like Mat and co. are entering the ToG with the pretense to make a deal. Mat knows this, and if he's right, the Finns know this too.

My guess is that the trio of rescuers will rather go for objects which are practical to carry (small, light) and to use in a confrontation.

For fire, Aludra's matches seems a given because they can light a fire fast. All three men might have them just to be safe. However, no doubt Aludra has a few trade secrets to make a convenient small torch that would last a while and make a blinding light but don't explode (perhaps like those rat tails thingy for kids).

As for music, Thom's voice sounds like a very silly notion... he doesn't have to fool the Finns he brings nothing, he just has to play music to dazzle them. Anyone can sing, and singing is like the one thing Thom doesn't do as a performer. His harp would be very impractical (to carry and to play music) and Thom's fussy about it. A flute sounds by far the best option. An experienced player can play the flute without gaps to breath - not as easy with singing.

As for iron.... it seems it's the one thing we still don't know about.

(...)

Anonymous said...

(...) because I think it's not something the characters already have with them. Jain may be the one using iron but I really doubt he will be "the source".


Rand blinded the Finns with his fire sword. They came en masse to push him back to the ter'angreal. So, blinding them is not enough to defeat them. It basically just keeps them at bay.

It's probably much the same with music. It must "dazzle them" for as long as you play, but the instant you stop you're probably in big trouble and don't stand much of a chance to escape.

So IMO, you blind the Finns to keep them away from you or block their way or open a path (if they block you way out, for example, or block your path to the place Moiraine is kept). You dazzle them when you want to make them harmless to get close enough to bind on with an iron object. My feeling is that when an iron object touch them, they can't move, no more than if you tied them up. This would mean the trio needs a huge lot of small iron objects (this is probably what's in the bag shown on the cover).



So if we look at it in terms of "gameplay":

- Fire frees a spot on the board so you can move on it (it forces the Finns to step back to clear your path). You cheat by forcing the Snakes and Foxes to relinquish a spot they hold.

- Music stalls/confuses the Finns while it plays. When dazzled, you can stand on their "spot" and they can't catch you. You cheat by moving back a few steps, or bypassing them and moving a few steps forward (when they don't hear the music anymore, they resume moving, though). I wouldn't be surprised a "downside" is that music attracts the Finns. The more you play, the more come to you, and when you stop...

- Iron is the next cheat. It binds the Snakes and Foxes on the spots they stand on the board, and those that are bound are harmless. If you manage to bind them all, the board is all yours. However, you probably have no chance to bind a Finn without dazzling it first (you need that to stand on the same spot they are on the board, so to speak).

To bind a Finn, you preferably need to be two (or have an instrument of music you can hold and play with one hand). Noal doesn't know Moiraine, and Mat is hopeless with music, so that's obviously Thom's job to provide the "entertainment" while Jain will bind the Finns he "dazzle". Meanwhile, that leaves Mat to run around with "fire" until he finds Moiraine, then his way back to Thom/Jain and the exit.

One could theorically cheat solo with only music or fire, but it sounds more reckless than courageous. Based on what happened to Rand, he got lucky his source of fire couldn't run out and he knew the way out. With a torch in their maze, you'd probably clear a path, but eventually end up surrounded by blinded Finns that are waiting for your fire to run out...

As for music (if you're alone), it sounds like the problem might be at the exit. You'd probably need to stop playing to open the "gateway" and that's when you screwed.

The idea that you absolutely need all three cheats to win is a bit nonsensical, though. It depends on the situation and your luck. Rand won with only fire, so to speak.

(...)

Anonymous said...

(...) because I think it's not something the characters already have with them. Jain may be the one using iron but I really doubt he will be "the source".


Rand blinded the Finns with his fire sword. They came en masse to push him back to the ter'angreal. So, blinding them is not enough to defeat them. It basically just keeps them at bay.

It's probably much the same with music. It must "dazzle them" for as long as you play, but the instant you stop you're probably in big trouble and don't stand much of a chance to escape.

So IMO, you blind the Finns to keep them away from you or block their way or open a path (if they block you way out, for example, or block your path to the place Moiraine is kept). You dazzle them when you want to make them harmless to get close enough to bind on with an iron object. My feeling is that when an iron object touch them, they can't move, no more than if you tied them up. This would mean the trio needs a huge lot of small iron objects (this is probably what's in the bag shown on the cover).



So if we look at it in terms of "gameplay":

- Fire frees a spot on the board so you can move on it (it forces the Finns to step back to clear your path). You cheat by forcing the Snakes and Foxes to relinquish a spot they hold.

- Music stalls/confuses the Finns while it plays. When dazzled, you can stand on their "spot" and they can't catch you. You cheat by moving back a few steps, or bypassing them and moving a few steps forward (when they don't hear the music anymore, they resume moving, though). I wouldn't be surprised a "downside" is that music attracts the Finns. The more you play, the more come to you, and when you stop...

- Iron is the next cheat. It binds the Snakes and Foxes on the spots they stand on the board, and those that are bound are harmless. If you manage to bind them all, the board is all yours. However, you probably have no chance to bind a Finn without dazzling it first (you need that to stand on the same spot they are on the board, so to speak).

To bind a Finn, you preferably need to be two (or have an instrument of music you can hold and play with one hand). Noal doesn't know Moiraine, and Mat is hopeless with music, so that's obviously Thom's job to provide the "entertainment" while Jain will bind the Finns he "dazzle". Meanwhile, that leaves Mat to run around with "fire" until he finds Moiraine, then his way back to Thom/Jain and the exit.

One could theorically cheat solo with only music or fire, but it sounds more reckless than courageous. Based on what happened to Rand, he got lucky his source of fire couldn't run out and he knew the way out. With a torch in their maze, you'd probably clear a path, but eventually end up surrounded by blinded Finns that are waiting for your fire to run out...

As for music (if you're alone), it sounds like the problem might be at the exit. You'd probably need to stop playing to open the "gateway" and that's when you screwed.

The idea that you absolutely need all three cheats to win is a bit nonsensical, though. It depends on the situation and your luck. Rand won with only fire, so to speak.

(...)

Anonymous said...

(...) But it seems very likely the trio brings all three, for all that.


Five more observations:

- Fire/a torch is self-explanatory, as Rand told Mat about it in TDR, and Mat has matches to light something fast. Music can always be guessed at logically, but iron is a real puzzle and suggest Birgitte will have to get involved and explain about the binding with iron (and thus give more details about music/fire while she's at it).

- It sounds like Mat will have to buy custom-made small iron objects. If they can be anything, he's likely to go with something like thin and small iron discs/tokens/coins (that would look like the game's pieces, actually...), easy to carry in large quantity in a bag. It would be like Mat to have something stamped on those discs in the vein of the medallion and ashan'darei bear symbols. It could be his "sigil" (fox and ravens) though the Red Hand and it's motto sounds terribly appropriate. "Frozen" Snakes and Foxes with discs bearing an open Hand and "time to roll the dice" on their forehead... Mat would just love that. He will be involved with metal workers in TOM.

- The fact Thom removes the kesiera from a fire suggests something will go quite wrong with the "fire" aspect and Mat will set a fire. It wouldn't be a first for Aludra, and Mat... (we've got a few accidental fires or close calls with those in the series). As for dicing, it stands for moving accross the board in the game, and Mat will be wounded/incapacitated in the chase (thus setting fire by accident?). By my ideas, Mat should be the one looking for Moiraine, but it appears something goes very wrong for Mat and Thom will find her (or her and Mat).

- If there's a "bargain" involved in the end, it sounds likely to focus on the binding. Mat might try to have the Finns free him of his ties to them to accept unbind them from the iron objects. While the Finns are "bound", Mat might try to force answers out of them. He thinks they still owe him answers.

- Did RJ plan to do anything with his observation that mentionning Shai'tan's name could have far worse consequences in Finnlands than the human world (and if we look at how ta'veren strained these realms, it seems it may be bad for more than the person saying the name). I get a feeling that is how Lanfear got out of there: she was held prisoner and in her despair tried to get Shai'tan's attention. This had consequences for the realms, and the Finns killed her (punishment, or to make sure she wouldn't say the name again).

-Theo