Sunday, May 31, 2009
Portal Stones : Interesting Pieces from another Time
In the Great Hunt we are introduced to Portal Stones which can instantly transport a person, or a large group of people to different worlds.
From the beginning, it is insinuated that using a Portal Stone requires a great deal of the One Power. Loial clearly mentions that the strongest of the Aes Sedai who could Travel, could also use Portal Stones. The statement does have several interpretations. Once again, it could follow the slightly flawed statement echoed by Moiraine that only the most powerful Aes Sedai from the Age of Legends could Travel. I say slightly flawed, because while Moiraine may believe that only channelers approaching Forsaken strength can Travel, she is right that it takes a considerably strong woman to Travel unaided. Aes Sedai tend to be stronger in the Power than the average woman. We see later in the series that it takes up to three linked Kin to Travel effectively, and while most Aes Sedai cannot Travel, many above average women such as Verin can.
Loial either means that those who could Travel could also use a portal stone, or he means that out of those who could Travel, only the strongest could use them. I'm inclined to think that it takes a very powerful channeler to wield these ancient relics. I would go as far to say that not even Egwene or Elayne could transport themselves, though Nynaeve and Rand obviously could. Verin says that she would be destroyed long before she channeled enough saidar to transport them, though Verin has always been a dodgy authority on the Power, even for a Brown. For instance, she makes claims that while the Amyrlin, Elaida and Moiraine could wield the Choedan Kal on Tremalking, Logain would be burnt out if he tried. Aes Sedai ignorance is a major theme of the early series, and Moiraine only makes in worse in The Dragon Reborn.
The best evidence comes from Selene, who is Lanfear in disguise. When Rand transports them back to the real world, she regards it as a truly remarkable feat - stating that all of them were transported safely with their horses included. This strongly hints at the fact that Rand was far more powerful than she expected at this stage of the series.
The more saidin or saidar you channel through the symbol of the Portal Stone, the greater the radius of transport. Rand channels while he is sleeping, leading to three of them and their mounts being taken for a ride to a parallel world where the Shadow defeated the Light. Later Rand brings Selene back with them, and she comments on the act. In TSR, Rand takes everyone to the Aiel Waste, though he requires the fat man angreal to aid him, once again pointing to an area of effect which is proportional to the amount of the Power used.
It may be a stretch to call these stones ter'angreal. They seem to predate the Aes Sedai from the Age of Legends. Of course, the Power is not limited to their Age, but the stones are said to be ancient. The stones are not written in any known language such as the Old Tongue, but contain a vast array of symbols. Certain levels depict other portal stones, and once can move between the beacons instantaneously. Other symbols depict worlds, and when one arrives there, one cannot return unless one finds another stone. This is what happened to Rand and his friends.
The stones also appear to react to both saidin and saidar. While only saidin is used to activate them, we see that Verin cites her lack of strength as the reason that she cannot use them, and not the fact that she is a woman. Selene also seems to be very familiar with their use, and she undoubtedly used them to follow Rand to the parallel world where she was 'rescued' if she did not Travel there directly. The stones also have other qualities of ter'angreal. They seem to resist movement, and although one did fall over and was pulled up, they seem to have been minimally affected by the Breaking. On the other hand, many symbols do seem to have been slightly eroded over the years, which is unusual with Power-wrought objects.
These stones probably require considerable skill to use, because Lanfear is not easily impressed. Despite this, it is Rand's great power and dumb luck that save the day. Rand's saidin surge later in the book causes them to miss out on three months of time, and leads them into various parallel existences almost to the same degree as the Wise One ter'angreal in Rhuidean.
The Portal Stones remain a mystery in the series. Anything that predates the Age of Legends is usually not elaborated on, and must usually just be accepted by the readers - such a being a wolfbrother. With Travelling fully established in the series, it is unlikely we will see these devices used again.