Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Great Hunt Read-through #4 : A Grey Man in Fal Dara

A Grey Man in Fal Dara

By Dominic

"A poor shot for a Whitecloak bowman, or even a Darkfriend." Her eyes flickered up to touch Rand's. "If it was at me he aimed." Her gaze was gone before he could read anything on her face, but he suddenly wanted to dismount and hide.
It wasn't aimed at her, and she knows it.

A poor shot, really, or a ta'veren twist of fate that saved the target of this attack?

As Ingtar's party and the Amyrlin's gather for departure in the main courtyard of Fal Dara Keep, a bowman attacks, missing Rand and nearly hitting Siuan Sanche. Siuan immediately concludes the target was the Dragon Reborn, a logical assumption with her limited knowledge of what is really going on from the Shadow's pespective.

But was Siuan right? At the end of the book, before Ingar's last stand, we learn the bowman was a grey man, and the issue of its target is raised again:

"I never knew what he was going to do," Ingtar said softly, as if talking to himself. He had his sword out, testing the edge with his thumb. "A pale little man you didn't seem to really notice even when you were looking at him. Take him inside Fal Dara, I was told, inside the fortress. I did not want to, but I had to do it. You understand? I had to. I never knew what he intended until he shot that arrow. I still don't know if it was meant for the Amyrlin, or for you."

We know from RJ's blog that Ingtar was one of the darkfriends summoned to Ba'alzamon's meeting in the prologue. We know he was ordered to free Padan Fain and to let the Grey Man into the Keep. In The Great Hunt, Ishamael has very elaborate plans to taunt Rand to the Shadow's side. He wants him alive, even at the end he doesn't resolve himself to killing him before he tried one last time to sway him to his side. So why send a Grey Man to kill him at this point? Unless, of course, the target wasn't Rand but the Amyrlin Seat. The other explanation, that the Grey Man was meant to fail and this was an attempt to frighten Rand is very unconvincing. So the most logical target wasn't Rand, but Siuan herself.

Siuan may have considered the shot a very poor one, buy she stood next to the most powerful ta'veren in history. Stranger things have happened near Rand than a deviating arrow...

At this point, Siuan still did not fully realise the real peril she was in; in fact, blinded by the involvement of her archenemy Elaida she still have not figured out she was a main target of the Black Ajah that toppled her in The Shadow Rising.

When Elaida came to report in person to the Hall Moiraine's meddling with ta'veren and Siuan announced her intention to go to Fal Dara, the Hall behaved strangely. The Sitters came close to forbid Siuan from going to Fal Dara altogether (which, we learned much later, could be done by invoking the law preventing an Amyrlin from putting herself in danger - one of the few limiting her executive powers. Even threatening to invoke this law was a blow to Siuan's authority and prestige - the Hall was telling her they didn't fully trust her judgement). The almost unbreakable alliance of the Blue Ajah and Green Ajah, dating back to the days of Artur Hawkwing and Deanne Ariman nearly collapsed in this debate (and yet, it regained at least part of its strength later, hinting that something abnormal was at work in TGH). This alliance was also marked by the beginning of the open enmity between the Red Ajah and Green Ajah. Which came first? How are they linked? What happens in The Great Hunt (and other clues, such as Hawkwing's Green Ajah Aes Sedai advisor) suggests the Green's enmity for the Reds and their alliance with the Blues are linked directly to the Red Amyrlin Bonwhin's conspiracies to control Hawkwing, which nearly destroyed the White Tower. In this light, and knowing the sisters in general were very conscious that Tarmon Gai'don was coming, it makes sense that the Green Ajah would be quite worried by any sign the Blue Ajah may be on the way to repeat Bonwhin's mistakes. Contrary to Siuan's and Moiraine's belief, nobody in the Tower seems to have forgotten their old friendship. It seems that in The Great Hunt, the Green Ajah sent a warning shot accross the bow. But there is more than this, the Green appeared to do the unthinkable and ally itself openly to the Red, even suggesting that Moiraine should be punished and placed in the care of the Red Ajah. There, we might begin to see the machinations of the Black Ajah. One of the Green Sitters, Talene Minly, is black. The Head of the Red Ajah, Galina Casban, is Black as well. Velina, a White Sitter, and Rubinde, another Green, are both leading suspects to be Black Ajah (as we discovered later from an Alviarin POV there is more, at least one but maybe more, than Talene still to be exposed within the Tower Hall.). A white Sitter also acted weirdly and against the long standing alliances in these matters.

However, after opposing Siuan, the Hall backed off and let her have her way, but the vote came close. Finally, at least two of the sisters picked to accompany Siuan to Fal Dara were Black: Liandrin, who we know for certain was present at Ba'alzamon's meeting - and who seemed to have been , and no less than the Head of the Black Ajah herself, Alviarin (who may or not have been present at the meeting). Galina could have ensured Liandrin's choice, but who pushed for Alviarin? Not her Ajah Head, who isn't Black Ajah for certain (this is the main point to suspect Alviarin can count on the support of at least one BA White Sitter who receives orders to favour Alviarin, as choice for the embassy, and later by making her vote for Elaida contingent to the choice of Alviarin as Sitter).

As soon as she vanished from the Amyrlin's party, Moiraine became the target of an assassination attempt, seemingly tracked down by Liandrin, who vanished right after her. By the time of The Great Hunt, Ishamael would have learned of Moiraine's involvement with Rand.

So what should have happened in Fal Dara? What would have been the results if the Shadow's plans had worked?

The Dark Prophecy was issued as a threat and a taunt (remember that Liandrin was adamant it shouldn't be erased). We tend to focus a lot on the parts concerning Rand, and Lanfear, but there are other important elements. The first concerns Isam Mandragoran and reveals he may have survived and haunt the High Passes. Moiraine very cleverly, if somewhat disloyaly to her warder, decided to keep her understanding of the verse secret from anyone, especially from Lan. Lan is bound by Oath to avenge the fall of Malkier, and Isam's mother and the darkfriend Cowin Fairheart were responsible for it. Had Lan learned about the prophecy, it may well have resulted in a doomed expedition to find Isam in the Blight, separating him from Moiraine. Moiraine herself was ordered back to Tar Valon, to explain herself to the Hall and placed in the care of the Red Ajah, as well say she would have fallen into the hands of Galina Casban.

Liandrin, under the cover of the Red Ajah, was mostly concerned with making sure Rand was brought back to Tar Valon - she said as much to Lady Amalisa.

The Horn of Valere was to be brought to Shayol Ghul, away from the hands of the Light.

As for Siuan Sanche, she was to die. She was the target of the Grey Man. We know how concerned Ishamael was that the Black Ajah must not expose itself. Siuan's murder was to happen away from the Tower, after the Hall, spurred by the Black Sitters, expressed strongly its worries that the Amyrlin left the Tower and the Blue Ajah stood staunchly behind the Amyrlin. Alviarin was present in Fal Dara, in position to make a report to the Hall and to influence the other representatives. The Black Ajah would have stood ready to increase its power in the Hall, perhaps even by pushing for the election of Elaida, with the Blue position undermined by 'Siuan's fiasco'. The attention of the Tower was also brought, again by the Dark Prophecy, to their mortal enemy now advancing on Almoth Plain: the Seanchan. It would have had devastating effect if the Tower went to war, or tried to ally the nations against the Seanchan so early: the Light would still fight the Light bitterly by the time Tarmon Gai'don began... not that between the Tower coup and the conflict between Rand and the Seanchan the Shadow has not succeeded in part in bringing this back on track, at least for now.

In a single blow, Ishamael would have had the BA take over the Tower; brought Moiraine into the hands of the Black Ajah, separate her from her warder to send him where Isam would kill him; put Rand into the control of the Tower and the Red and Black Ajahs - and link him to Lanfear - making his predictions/threats to Rand about the Tower trying to use him a reality, with himself in the position to offer Rand his only way out: join him. Alternatively, he could have had him turned to the Shadow, a circle of 13 BA being easy to gather around him in Tar Valon. He would also have focussed the Tower on an early war with the Seanchan that would have plunged the whole continent in chaos.

But everything went wrong for Ishamael: Moiraine kept the revelation that Isam may be alive a secret from everyone, including Lan (which is disloyal to him and his Malkieri Oaths, but it saved his life and preserved him for her cause). She managed to escape from the Amyrlin's party that was bringing her back to Tar Valon. Immediately, Liandrin followed her, and an assassination attempt was made and failed... thanks to Lan. Rand's ta'veren effect managed to save Siuan's life: the Light still needed her, warming the Seat for Egwene and becoming her mentor. It would take a long time yet before the Black Ajah had another opportunity to topple Siuan Sanche without raising attention on themselves, using Elaida (again? It may well be Galina who ordered/invited her to come report to the Hall). Starting the War with the Seanchan would take even longer, and by that time they would find Rand between them and the Tower.

Worse of all, the Mordeth wilcard was still hidden to Ishamael as it was to Moiraine and the Light, and it sent many of his plans in disarray. Fain heard of Toman Head from the Myrddraal and decided to go there to gain himself a power base, preventing the Myddraal from bringing Ishamael the Horn. He vanished in Cairhien, seemingly managing to hide his trail from Ba'alzamon, who seemed totally unaware of his presence in Falme. Ingtar betrayed the Shadow and embarked on a quest for redemption, making all efforts to retrieve the Horn. In the end, Ishamael was forced into another direct confrontation with Rand, the Seanchan were pushed back to the sea, delaying their invasion long enough for Rand and the Tower to at least have a chance. His further attempt to use Nynaeve and Egwene to bring Rand's attention on the Seanchan also failed. A second Seal broke, and not only Ishamael had to contend with the meddling of Lanfear, but from then on he had now to deal with the competing plans and rivalries of all the other Chosen. After Falme, the attempts by Ishamael to kill Rand would begin.

While the events in The Great Hunt were not a complete disaster for the Shadow - Ishamael seesm to understand at least to an extent that with ta'veren even the best plans can fail (he would stop wasting ressources against Mat and Perrin altogether until KOD) and he had many 'plans B', but the wound in Rand's side aside, The Great Hunt offers quite a string of failures - no wonder Lanfear will confront Ishamael and his beliefs he pulls all the strings openly in the next book.


Theodor said...

Nice, great article.

Animeeyez said...

Wow, You have me convinced. I never even thought a second thought about whether it was a shot aimed at Rand or Siuan... thats kinda embarassing. :D

Fanatic-Templar said...

Hmm... I just accepted it too. I figured it was Fain's doing though, since Ishamael and Lanfear, the other two important enemies at the time, wanted Rand alive.

That conclusion was built upon a faulty basis though, this makes much more sense.

Dr Saidin said...

I don't think ta'veren had much to do with Rand surviving the assassination attempt - if it was indeed aimed for him. Rand has been critically injured before, and once even by a stray Seanchan arrow. I have doubts about whether the Pattern actively protects him, though I'm willing to listen to debates either way.

As for the Reds and the Greens, I thought that screamed Black Ajah as soon as I read it. The BA became very active in this book. It seems that even though Black Sisters almost never speak, Liandrin had mobilized most of the rest of the rebellious group in TDR to kill Elayne and Min. Luckily the girls followed Liandrin to Toman Head.

Regarding the prophecy, I don't think it had much to do with Lanfear or Isam. I'm seriously considering the fact that it was Shadow propaganda. Verin says as much.