Saturday, October 23, 2010

Analysis of Minor Characters #6: Aludra

By Linda

As Mistress of the Illuminators’ Chapter House in Cairhien, Aludra was very much monarch of all she surveyed. She strikes me as being rather rough to work for, distrustful of her employees:

"All is in readiness, you say?" the woman demanded. "You are certain, Tammuz? All?"
The man spread his hands. "Always you check behind me, Aludra. All is in readiness. The display, it could be given this very moment."
"The gates and doors, they are all barred? All of the. . . ?"

- The Great Hunt, The Shadow in the Night

and peremptory in her judgement:

"I am not to blame for this, Aludra," the man protested. "I have been sure to put everything where it belonged, and the punks, they were - "
"You will not speak to me, Tammuz! A great pig does not deserve to speak like a human!" Aludra's voice changed in answer to another man's question. "There is no time to prepare another. Galldrian, he must be satisfied with the rest for tonight. And one early. And you, Tammuz! You will set everything right, and tomorrow you will leave with the carts to buy the manure. Does anything else go wrong this night, I will not trust you again even with so much as the manure!"

- The Great Hunt, The Shadow in the Night

although we don’t know if she had cause to treat Tammuz harshly.

The checkpoint she sets up in Mat’s camp in The Gathering Storm which applied even to Mat is partly a symptom of this, but also a safety measure since she is dealing with dangerous substances.

Aludra was held responsible for the destruction in Cairhien and cast out of the Guild. She become a vagabond, since she had no money, and to keep herself from starving she made and sold fireworks – which have a limited market in times of chaos and famine. This became known to the Guild and they sent Tammuz and three others to kill her, ostensibly for betraying Guild secrets, but actually for violating their sole production and marketing rights.

The Guild’s secrecy and exclusivity is why fireworks have not become widespread and/or used as weapons.

No longer bound by Guild activities, Aludra is free to innovate as much as she wants. Moreover she also escapes the Seanchan’s enslavement of the Illuminators, a punishment that resulted from Guild secrecy:

“The Guild doesn't exist anymore, Aludra. The chapter house in Tanchico is gone...They refused to let Seanchan soldiers inside the compound, and fought, tried to, when they broke in anyway. I don't know what happened—maybe a soldier took a lantern where he shouldn't have—but half the compound exploded, as I understand it. Probably exaggeration. But the Seanchan believed one of the Illuminators used the One Power, and they..." He sighed, and tried to make his voice gentle. Blood and ashes, he did not want to tell her this! But she was glaring at him, that bloody club poised to split his scalp. "Aludra, the Seanchan gathered up everyone left alive at the chapter house, and some Illuminators that had gone to Amador, and everybody in between who even looked like an Illuminator, and they made them all da'covale…

- Winter’s Heart, In Need of a Bellfounder

and is now apparently the sole free Illuminator.

Aludra is defensive about violating Guild rules:

“I do not tell the secrets of the Guild, no matter what that Tammuz says, but I will not let myself starve while I can make fireworks. I am no more in the Guild, so the laws of the Guild, they do not apply to me now.”

- The Dragon Reborn, A Hero in the Night

Yet she is still loyal despite being cast out and hasn’t succumbed to Mat’s repeated pressure:

"In any event," she went on, unaware of his scrutiny, "I will not give you the Guild secrets. You must understand this, yes?"
Mat winced. He had been working on her for days to bring her to this point, ever since a chance visit to Valan Luca's traveling show revealed that she was here in Ebou Dar, and all the while he had dreaded that she would mention the Illuminators' Guild. "But you aren't an Illuminator anymore, remember? They kicked ... ah ... you said you left the Guild."

- Winter’s Heart, In Need of a Bellfounder

Aludra has been well and truly enmeshed in trickster Mat’s ta’veren. At first out of obligation to Mat:

“This is like a story,” she said. “I am rescued by a gleeman and a young hero” - she frowned at the men sprawled on the stable floor - “from these whose mothers were pigs!...I must reward you, but I have no money. However, I have something that is perhaps as good as gold. Maybe better. We shall see what you think.”
… “Fireworks,” Thom said. “I knew it. Aludra, you must not do this. You can sell those for enough to live ten days or more at a good inn, and eat well every day. Well, anywhere but here in Aringill.”
Kneeling beside the long strip of oiled cloth, she sniffed at him. “Be quiet, you old one you.” She made it sound not unkindly. “I am not allowed to show gratitude? You think I would give you this if I had no more for selling? Attend me closely.”

- The Dragon Reborn, A Hero in the Night

By saving Aludra Mat repays her for some of damage Rand did to her life. He appreciates her lack of greed:

She had never even looked at the gold and silver that had spilled from his pockets when he fell; it glittered and sparkled among the straw in the lantern light. Ah, Light, I cannot let her go hungry, I suppose. He scooped up as much as he could reach quickly. “Uh . . . Aludra? I have plenty, you can see. I thought perhaps . . . ” He held out the coins toward her. “I can always win more.”
She paused with her cloak half around her shoulders, then smiled at Thom as she swept it the rest of the way on. “He is young yet, eh?”
“He is young,” Thom agreed. “And not half so bad as he would like to think himself. Sometimes he is not.”

- The Dragon Reborn, A Hero in the Night

but later he is plain manipulative:

Most women were more amenable after a few kisses...
"No," she said, suddenly brisk. "You will go, and return in two or three days. I have the work to do, and you are too distracting with all of your questions and wheedling. No; no arguments! You will go now."

- Winter’s Heart, In Need of a Bellfounder

Mat attempted to make Aludra relent, but the woman might as well have been cast bronze herself. Well, she was considerably softer than bronze once she finally let him put an arm around her, yet kisses that left her trembling did nothing to slacken her resolve.
"Me, I do not believe in telling a man more than he needs to know," she said breathlessly, sitting beside him on a padded bench in her wagon. She allowed no more than kisses, but she was very enthusiastic about those.

- Winter’s Heart, An Offer

The theme of secrets is important in the Aludra-Mat-Thom relationship:

“I would like to know something, Aludra,” Thom said. “How did you light that lantern so quickly in the dark?”
Stopping short of the door, she smiled over her shoulder at him. “You wish me to tell you all of my secrets? I am grateful, but I am not in love. That secret, not even the Guild knows, for it is my discovery alone. I will tell you this much. When I know how to make it work properly, and work only when I want it to, sticks will make my fortune for me.”

- The Dragon Reborn, A Hero in the Night

Aludra is aware of people’s desire to know her secrets but she won’t divulge unless she is in love ( and presumably to someone who loves her). In the end she is prepared to do so if Mat solves the puzzle she has set - because she does love him

She [Aludra] eyed him, looking just faintly uncomfortable. Because of Tuon, he suspected...

Aludra was staring at him. Their eyes met for a moment, and Mat realized he'd probably been too curt with her. Maybe he was uncomfortable around her. A little. They'd been getting close before Tuon. And was that pain, hidden in Aludra's eyes?
"I'm sorry, Aludra," he said. "I shouldn't have talked like that."
She shrugged.
He took a deep breath. "Look, I know that . . . well, it's odd how Tuon—"
She waved a hand, cutting him off. "It is nothing. I have my dragons. You have brought me the chance to create them. Other matters are no longer of concern. I wish you happiness."
"Well," he said. He rubbed his chin, then sighed. Best to just let it pass.

- The Gathering Storm, Legends

but Mat avoids being responsible for manipulating her into telling her secrets while leaving her love unrequited by taking her with him - he’s a married man now.

"I suppose now you want to learn how to make the secret powders, yes? Well. 1 did promise. I am the Guild, now," she added bitterly, removing the box's lid. It was an odd box. a solid piece of wood drilled with holes, each of which held a thin stick. She plucked out one and replaced the lid. "I can decide what is secret."
"Better than that, I want you to come with me."

- Knife of Dreams, Dragons’ Eggs

Early in her exile Aludra realised that she could keep her secrets and the Guild’s so long as she sells her products. Of course once explosives, artillery and matches are produced and used on a large scale they cannot be kept secret anymore.

Thom kept Aludra’s secret that they had met before (Lord of Chaos, The Colour of Trust) and Thom has plenty of secrets of his own.

Mat has his secrets too: that he has his eye on another woman, that he knows the Dragon Reborn, and that he has other peoples’ memories, which will help him deploy these weapons to advantage.

Ironically Aludra nearly reveals too much to the Seanchan much to Mat’s annoyance:

"Are you ready. Aludra?" Mat called.
"Of course I am ready," she replied. "I only wish I had my dragons!" Musenge shifted his attention to her. Burn her, she needed to watch her tongue! Mat wanted those dragons to be a shock when the Seanchan first faced them.

- Knife of Dreams, Prince of the Ravens

Aludra’s work as an engineer and the development and usage of gunpowder and artillery are discussed in the Mat, Fireworks and Bellfounders article and space does not permit me to repeat them here. We see her develop matches and work up and cost her designs for cannon and grenades. At no time does she use any protective clothing.

Mat says that:

Aludra had not come up with a fancy name for them yet. She would, though. She was one for fancy names. Dragons, and dragons' eggs.

- Knife of Dreams, Prince of the Ravens

which made me smile. In my experience, most engineers are not very good at making up names for their creations.

Aludra is focused on making the Seanchan pay for destroying the Illuminators’ Guild:

"The Guild has been my life since I was a girl." She scraped one of the sticks quickly down the side of the box, and the thing sputtered into flame! It smelled of sulphur. "The dragons, they are my life now. The dragons, and revenge on the Seanchan."

- Knife of Dreams, Dragons’ Eggs

She was a fierce woman, Aludra was, and none too pleased at finding herself on the same side as Seanchan, however temporary the arrangement was. It seemed wrong to her that they would see some of her handiwork without being on the receiving end.

- Knife of Dreams, Prince of the Ravens

and has no qualms about developing the weapons’ destructive potential to the fullest, eg the shrapnel grenades which kill and injure horses.

Ironically the means she will use to get her revenge, exploiting the explosive properties of fireworks, pretty much ensures the end of the Guild as an exclusive holder and exploiter of this knowledge anyway.

The Seanchan mistakenly see fireworks only as an inferior version of Sky Lights:

"Listen, Aludra," he said, assuming his most winning smile, "by this time you must know the Seanchan won't look twice at fireworks. Those damane do something called Sky Lights that makes your best fireworks look like a few sparks flying up the chimney, so I hear. No offense meant."

- Winter’s Heart, In Need of a Bellfounder

Why had Toy brought her along? Surely not for her fireworks. Those were pretty enough, but they could not compare with Sky Lights performed by even a half-trained damane.

- Knife of Dreams, As If the World Were Fog

and therefore no competition for channelling. Well I guess they will discover their error soon enough.

Aludra says:

"My dragons, they will be a great power for a man of war."

- The Gathering Storm, Legends

and Mat certainly is that. Mat aims to use cannon to give himself and the Band the means to fight channellers and survive their attacks:

Mat whistled through his teeth, seeing it in his head, explosions erupting among the enemy before they were near enough to see you clearly. A nasty thing to be receiving. Now that would be as good as having Aes Sedai on your side, or some of those Asha'man. Better. Aes Sedai had to be in danger to use the Power as a weapon, and while he had heard rumors about hundreds of Asha'man, rumors grew with every telling. Besides, if Asha'man were anything like Aes Sedai, they would start deciding where they were needed and then take over the whole fight. He began envisioning how to use Aludra's bronze tubes, and right away he spotted a glaring problem. All your advantage was gone if the enemy came from the wrong direction, or got behind you, and if you needed derricks to move these things. . . .

The Band was going to end up fighting Seanchan, and most likely Trollocs as well. And he would be there when it happened. There was no getting around the fact. Try to avoid it how he would, that bloody ta'veren twisting would put him right in the bloody middle. So he was ready to pour out gold like water if it gave him a way to kill his enemies before they got close enough to poke holes in his hide.

- Knife of Dreams, Dragons’ Eggs

Mat and Aludra discuss cannon while setting off fireworks – a public declaration of war.

Mat doesn’t appreciate Aludra’s gift of her work except in how he can keeps his own skin whole.

Let me assure you, each one we finish will be worth a thousand swords in battle."

- The Gathering Storm, Legends

"A miracle, that is what you asked me for, Matrim Cauthon," she replied, handing her nightflower to Leilwin and picking up her writing board. She made some notations on the sheet strapped to the front. "That miracle, I have broken down into a list of ingredients. A feat which is in itself miraculous, yes? Do not complain of the heat when someone offers you the sun in the palm of her hands."
"Doesn't seem so manageable to me," Mat muttered, mostly to himself. "Is this figure the costs?"

- The Gathering Storm, Legends

and complains about how much money, labour and material it will take. Greedily he pushed for even more from her:

"By the way, I nearly forgot. Do you know anything about crossbows, Aludra?"
"Crossbows?" she asked.
"Yes," Mat said, stacking the papers. "I figure there should be a way to make them load faster. You know, like those new cranks, only maybe with some kind of spring or something. Maybe a crank you could twist without having to lower the weapon first."
"This is hardly my area of expertise, Mat," Aludra said.
"I know. But you're smart about things like this, and maybe. . . ."
"You will have to find someone else," Aludra said, turning to pick up another half-finished nightflower. "I am far too busy."

- The Gathering Storm, Legends

but Aludra is done with being used by him.

Naval captain Egeanin realised the potential of Aludra’s work and objected to Mat’s lack of appreciation:

"Mistress Aludra is brilliant," Leilwin said sternly. "You don't understand the gift she is giving you in these plans. Why, if the Empire had these weapons. . . ."

- The Gathering Storm, Legends

This makes Mat boldly ask for Aludra to hand her plans to him, and she sarcastically says he must keep them with his money so that maybe then he will give the plans care and attention.

It will be interesting to see what happens when Mat and Aludra finally meet members of the Rose Academy in Caemlyn. If they do.


Val Mickey said...

Aludra has a bow, and is going to Caemlyn. Will we see Birgitte with her exploding arrows?

Anonymous said...

Nice one again!

"In my experience, most engineers are not very good at making up names."
no wonder Australians are the most racist folks in the world!!!

Linda said...

Anon: Hmmm...I think I better qualify what I said a little.

Val: I don't think Aludra does have a bow. Birgitte's exploding arrows at Falme were a result of her not being incarnate at the time. They were from Tel'aran'rhiod, like her. Not physically a part of the real world, even though they could act upon it.

Anonymous said...

Oh don't worry Linda, there are always whiners around. My experience with engineers, and I have lots of friends who either are engineers or study engineering, is that they are often brilliant people.

But most of them, not very good at names.


Linda said...

Starvid: The engineers I know say that engineers should not name their inventions because they aren't good at it.

Mik said...

This is from experience, because I *am* an engineer working at a Design & Development department. (I'm a Developer, with a background in Construction & Building Technology)

And let's just say that there are other people who are much better at reaching the market with the concepts & products I come up with. Much, much better. That includes names... :)

On topic:
I don't have much to add about Aludra, besides that I think you've got it all covered.

What I'd like to add is about the name "Illuminators". In general the name itself reminds me of two things;

1: figuratively speaking, it reminds me of progress, great thinkers & of intellectual enlightenment.

2: literally, it's a name representing someone who brings Light. It's fitting that Illuminators (bringers of light) drop like flies and disappear as Rand develops into a hard, uncaring puppet-master.

It might be far-fetched, but it fits pretty well with what Egeanin said about Aludra being "brilliant" (both a term for smart and radiating light).

Just my two fire-crackers worth..

Linda said...

Aludra seems to be quite an entrepreneurial sort of engineer.

Mik: Illuminators also refers to the Illuminati, I think. Not that Illuminators conspire to influence world affairs, but they do have their secrets which they hold on pain of death. And the spilling of those secrets - the explosive power of gunpowder and how to make it - will indeed lead to a new world order.

The Illuminati were said to be modelled on the Freemasons, an organisation that Jordan belonged to.

Anonymous said...

Aludra knows gun powder, but she also seems to know about higher yield explosives. The "roar sticks" from the way they are described sound like sticks of TNT to me