Friday, July 16, 2010

Knife of Dreams Read-through #15: Lording It Over Chaos

By Linda

One of the most interesting things about Knife of Dreams is that it begins and ends with the cryptic phrase “Let the Lord of Chaos rule”. Semirhage recites this after she informs Suroth of how she destroyed the Seanchan Imperial family and the Empire:

This time, Semirhage’s laughter was so shocking that it shut off Suroth’s tears. That head of fire was thrown back, emitting great peals of mirth. At last she regained control, wiping away tears of flame with fiery fingers. “I see I didn’t make myself clear. Radhanan is dead, and her daughters, and her sons, and half the Imperial Court, as well. There is no Imperial family except for Tuon. There is no Empire. Seandar is in the hands of rioters and looters, and so are a dozen other cities. At least fifty nobles are contending for the throne, with armies in the field. There is war from the Aldael Mountains to Salaking. Which is why you will be perfectly safe in disposing of Tuon and proclaiming yourself Empress. I’ve even arranged for a ship, which should arrive soon, to bring word of the disaster.” She laughed again, and said something strange. “Let the lord of chaos rule.”

- Knife of Dreams Prologue

and Taim says it after he agrees that the Red Ajah can Bond those Asha’man (all three ranks) who are willing:

Pevara blinked in spite of herself. "'Very well'?" She must have misunderstood him. He could not have been convinced so easily.
Taim's eyes seemed to bore into her head. He spread his hands, and it was a mocking gesture. "What would you have me say? Fair is fair? Equal shares? Accept 'very well' and ask who will let you bond them. Besides, you must remember the old saying. Let the lord of chaos rule." The chamber erupted with men's laughter.
Pevara had never heard any saying like that. The laughter made the hair on the back of her neck try to stand.

- Knife of Dreams Epilogue

Rand is associated with chaos since

Order burns to clear his path

- Lord of Chaos, Epigram

as the Prophecies say, but so is the Dark One, as Verin explains:

The Dark One is the embodiment of paradox and chaos, the destroyer of reason and logic, the breaker of balance, the unmaker of order.”

- The Dragon Reborn, A World of Dreams

It’s a risky tactic as Mesaana observed back when it was first proposed in Lord of Chaos: letting Rand rule while ‘aiding’ that rule as chaotically as possible. (With 'friends' like that, who needs enemies? No wonder Rand is paranoid.)

Examples are:
  • Sammael ‘aided’ Rand by dispersing his enemies the Shaido, thus widening their pillaging front;

  • another Forsaken (Lanfear?) ‘aided’ Rand by deluding Masema into encouraging his Dragonsworn to pillage; and, as shown above,

  • Semirhage ‘aided’ Rand by destroying invader Tuon’s support behind her.

As Lord of Chaos, Rand is effectively being linked with the Dark One and we saw the result of this in Knife of Dreams and The Gathering Storm: Rand became dark, the Land became Blighted and the Dark One’s touch on the Land increased.

The Shadow can hide their real intentions within the chaos as Sammael said:

"The rest [of the Shaido] are scattered from Illian to Ghealdan. As to how or why? Maybe al'Thor did it, for his own reasons, but I certainly wouldn't have wasted most of them if it was my work, now would I?" He laughed again; caught up in his own brilliance.

- A Crown of Swords, Spears

On the other hand, so can the Pattern protect, hide, or aid Rand in the same way without the Shadow noticing until too late. As Graendal observed, the Pattern is now so unstable it’s now quite hard to find even such very strong ta’veren:

Finding ta'veren was never as simple as you made out, and now it's harder than ever. The whole Pattern is in flux, full of shifts and spikes."

- Knife of Dreams, At the Gardens

At the end of Knife of Dreams Tuon returns to her base, having avoided attempts to kill her, and establishes order, one of her strongest motifs. Rand may be Lord of Chaos, but Tuon is Lady of Order (see Tuon essay).

And finally six brave Reds arrive at the Dark Tower and find a child soldier, and a harsh, cruel regime. Taim now has 100 full Asha’man, all trained personally by him and owing him their positions and loyalty (as Logain warned Rand). The Reds have ostensibly been given the permission they sought but will they survive this dangerous expedition? How many will leave the Black Tower alive? Will some of the fleeing Black sisters be sent there to enable Taim’s group to make rings?

To add to their peril/woes there are possibly Black sisters present with them already – as part of their number. Javindhra, who is supposedly Elaida’s lapdog, smirks when she says that news of Dumai’s Wells is spreading to discredit Elaida no matter how hard the Red Ajah leadership works (Knife of Dreams Prologue). It sounds as if she is aware of Alviarin’s order to do this. She wears ‘almost black’ clothing, often a sign of a Black sister. Desala, who has a notoriously nasty temper among an Ajah full of harsh characters, is another contender.

And has the Shadow’s plan worked? The last we heard, the Dark One thought so.

This post ends my Knife of Dreams read-through, which has been the longest to date that I have attempted solo. Next week I shall post some new library articles. There are only a few weeks until the Towers of Midnight prologue is released (about early September, according to Sanderson).


RabidWombat said...

I was confused by your article on whether or not you thought that Rand was the Lord of Chaos. I don't think that Rand is; rather, I think it refers to a general state of chaos and was probably an expression from the age of legends.

There are a couple of quotes where it is obvious that the DO wants chaos. One is in CoS from the PoV of SH iirc after he watches Samaael disperse the Shaido and is wondering if that serves chaos or not. The second is a PoV from Graendal, in PoD or WH I think, where she muses that the DO wanted to sow chaos and that she would sow chaos until Demandred's (lungs?) exploded. Further Taim's actions at the end of KoD does not help Rand at all but does serve chaos.

If Javindhra is a BA then she is one that Verin did not catch, since Egwene knew who the BA sitters were and did not mention her when musing about the other sitters. Further she mused that Duhara was black and wondered if the other red sitters were on the same errand and black as well. I suppose it is possible that Egwene didn't know that Javindhra was a red sitter when she thought that.

My gut feeling tells me that Desala is not BA as well. But my gut has been very wrong lately; it felt that Sheriam, Moria, and Larissa weren't BA as well. I even knew that one of the Salidar six betrayed the search for the BotW and I figured that there was at least one more BA sitter in Salidar.

Linda said...

Taim's actions seem to be what Rand orders, so in that sense they serve him - Rand is allowing AS to bond Asha'man. BUT they are more designed to create confusion and division, since Taim knew very well that Rand didn't give the Tower any such permission. It's the same with Taim putting the wrong 'deserters' on the list, and then claiming it was all a misunderstanding.

OK, back to who is Lord of Chaos, which in our world would be the equivalent of the Lord of Misrule. The Shadow are trying to make Rand the Lord of Chaos. They want to destroy Rand's leadership by making a mockery of it. Associating Rand with chaos also links him to them - to the Dark One.

The risky part of their strategy is that the chaos can backfire - as we saw on a few occasions. Also the Pattern can provide Rand with a few breaks without the Shadow noticing until too late.

Verin caught most, but her miss rate is about 5% as near as I can calculate. That leaves a few nasty surprises here and there. I think Javindhra is one of them. Desala might have been on Verin's list and just not been read out by Egwene. Out of more than two hundred she only told us a few names. She did't even tells us who were the extras Verin didn't identify.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the DO thrives where there is political chaos and unrest- therefore the Lord of Chaos could be referring to just that- the chaos necessary to break the seals to the prison. (We see the seals breaking where found in lands that are in civil war, turmoil, or otherwise wildly unstable.

We also know that Ishamael/ Moridin planted the seeds for chaos with his corruption of Artur Hawkwing- those actions directly led to the Return- the reclaiming of lands by the Seanchan. The Return has arguably been the single most destructive force we have seen in the world, taking precious energy and resources away from the fight for the shadow. The seals hold in the nations allied with Rand, they break in the ones conquered by the Seanchan. You get the sense that the order imposed is the "Fascists make the trains run on time" type of order. Might then the Lord of Chaos be either Moridin himself, or, perhaps more literally, a Seanchan lord, perhaps one whose actions have sown chaos? If a male Forsaken was directly behind the Seanchan invasion (Moridin or Demandred), and is settign himself up to rule through the evil empire, the prophecy could be quite literal in nature.