Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Theme of Wrongness



By Linda



Bubbles of evil, living death, rot, foul stenches, large-scale sterility and the appropriation of a person’s will or body are all examples of wrongness – going against the Pattern, the proper order of things. The wrongness and horrors of the Last Days are a great tribulation and they come from a few sources, mainly originating with the Dark One.

The Dark One is inimical to the Pattern which is why his essence, the True Power, damages the Pattern. Yet good and ill are the warp and woof of the Pattern according to Moiraine, so while the Dark One is outside the Pattern, the Shadow’s effects on it are part of the Pattern. Each soul has to make their choice whether to keep with the Light or not.

Since Mordeth’s wrongness developed from a desire to destroy the Dark One, it too could be said to have been caused by the Shadow - although at second hand and entirely out of Mordeth’s choice.

People have a choice to do good or at least not commit evil, and channellers (non-Seanchan ones at least) are permitted to use most weaves with only Compulsion and balefire forbidden. Compulsion is the theft of will, a person’s capacity to choose their actions and desires. In extreme cases the victim is effectively living dead:

The only minions she’d [Graendal’d] let out of her sight were under Compulsion so heavy that it would kill them to remove it.

- Towers of Midnight, Prologue

The ultimate appropriation or compulsion of a person would be the turning of a channeller to the Shadow. This forced apostasy is the theft of a person’s integrity. The process brings character and moral defects to the fore at the expense of any positive characteristics, and the result of this effectively irreversible action (TOR Question of the Week) is someone deeply wrong:

Tarna smiled, a grimace that looked completely unnatural on her face. Like the smile on the lips of a corpse. She turned back to her writing.
Something is very, very wrong here, Pevara thought.

- Towers of Midnight, Gateways

And he saw what Norley had seen. Something was deeply wrong, something not quite alive inside those eyes. This didn't seem to be a man, but a parody of one.

- Towers of Midnight, Something Wrong

Balefire is another example of wrongness as its large-scale usage shows:

A wave of wrongness washed over her, a warping in the air, the Pattern itself rippling. A balescream, it was called—a moment when creation itself howled in pain.

- Towers of Midnight, Prologue

It is just a weave, as Perrin says in Towers of Midnight Darkness in the Tower, and can be performed by any channeller (those too weak to make it individually can link with others, use an angreal or the balefire rod ter’angreal), but it is evil, no matter who does it or for what purpose. So, Egwene was right to protest that it is not just a weave at all.

Balefire undoes time and causality, those foundations of the Pattern. In Lord of Chaos, the Dark One asked Demandred to unleash balefire – to use it to weaken the Pattern faster. Undoing time makes it possible for death to be undone by the weaver, if the being or thing balefired killed something in their last moments, although the Dark One can’t undo the death of the balefired. However, weakening the Pattern increases the Dark One’s touch on the world and he can reincarnate non-balefired souls and also warp reality.


Dark One

Shadowspawn are the first example of wrongness in the series, but they were created by a human, even if one touched by the Shadow. On the other hand the Blight is all the Dark One’s work and spreads his wrongness in the form of large-scale rot and sterility, unseasonal weather, monstrous mutation and foul stenches across continents:

"This is the best weather we've seen all year," Egwene said, shrugging out of her own cloak.
Nynaeve shook her head, frowning as if listening to the wind. "It feels wrong. "
Rand nodded. He could feel it, too, though he could not say what it was exactly he was feeling. The wrongness went beyond the first warmth he could remember out of doors this year; it was more than the simple fact that it should not be so warm this far north…
Mile by mile the corruption of the Blight became more apparent. Leaves covered the trees in ever greater profusion, but stained and spotted with yellow and black, with livid red streaks like blood poisoning. Every leaf and creeper seemed bloated, ready to burst at a touch. Flowers hung on trees and weeds in a parody of spring, sickly pale and pulpy, waxen things that appeared to be rotting while Rand watched. When he breathed through his nose, the sweet stench of decay, heavy and thick, sickened him; when he tried breathing through his mouth, he almost gagged. The air tasted like a mouthful of spoiled meat. The horses' hooves made a soft squishing as rotten-ripe things broke open under them.

- The Eye of the World, The Blight

Perrin will not sense such wrongness again until So Habor.

According to Perrin, Shadowspawn smell of the Blight, for instance this wrongness and rotten smell:

The wrongness was still there, in the air. He'd assumed that the dreamspike was causing it, but he had apparently been wrong. The air smelled like the Blight.

- Towers of Midnight, Wounds

is revealed to be a large Shadowspawn ambush. Sometimes Shadowspawn smell powerfully of burnt sulphur, the brimstone of hell:

Almost burnt sulphur; that was only a pale imitation of this smell. It had a reek of… wrongness, of something that did not belong in this world.

- Crossroads of Twilight, The Scent of a dream

The Dark One does not belong in this world since his intent is to destroy it. Is the Blight an example of the world the Dark One would create, or just a result of his efforts to destroy the real world?

The same applies to the area around Shayol Ghul, even in Tel’aran’rhiod, as Rand describes:

Rand did not want to look toward the left side of the room. The fireplace was there. The stones that formed floor, hearth and columns were warped, as if they had been melted by an extreme heat. At the edges of his vision, they seemed to shift and change. The angles and proportions of the room were wrong.

- The Gathering Storm, A Place To Begin

Is this the Dark One’s own “reality” or merely his efforts at corrupting the Creator’s reality?

The next example of the Dark One’s wrongness is the bubbles of evil that warp reality. There was a tiny one at the beginning of The Great Hunt: a wind which held Rand while Lan’s practice sword whacked hard him in the chest. At first, his touch being weak, the Dark One sensibly aimed the bubbles squarely at the three ta’veren – their very ta’veren-ness probably making this process easier.

The second bubble spectacularly burst in Tear in The Shadow Rising, affecting all three ta’veren simultaneously, and with witnesses present. Perrin was attacked by his axe. Its murderous fury dissipated when Perrin 'disarmed' it by burying the axe in the door. In an Alice in Wonderland scene, the rulers on Mat’s playing cards came to life and tried to kill him until he knifed them. Rand was attacked by images of himself that stepped out of reflective surfaces. The three reflections didn't cooperate; each wanted to take over Rand's body for itself, a sure sign the Shadow was involved, or they bore the essence of the Shadow, since the Shadow is always uncooperative. One tried to suck Rand’s life force, but he absorbed its life force instead and then drew up that of the remaining reflections.

Moiraine suggests the attack was caused by evil leaking from the Dark One's prison as the Seals weaken:

“As the seals holding the Dark One’s prison weaken,” she said after a time, “it may be inevitable that a ... miasma ... will escape even while he is still held. Like bubbles rising from the things rotting on the bottom of a pond. But these bubbles will drift through the Pattern until they attach to a thread and burst.”

- The Shadow Rising, Reflection

The effects of the bubble are similar to a trap in Tel'aran'rhiod: each of the men fights what they each hate or fear, yet depend on most.

Rand is afraid of his role as doomed saviour/Dragon and of his destiny to break the world. Perrin is afraid of his berserker tendencies and lust to kill and of being unable to protect those close to him from battle. Mat, whose fears seem almost trivial beside those of Rand and Perrin, is afraid of the One Power (represented by the Amyrlin, and how appropriate that Mat, who fears the One Power so, was attacked first by the Amyrlin card) and of his luck in gaming or battle not being in his favour and he disdains but uses nobles (rulers of the suits, which he gloated about holding in his hand).

Some chapters later, Mat and Rand were attacked by a bubble of evil in Rhuidean. By Knife of Dreams, the warping of reality is almost commonplace and physical reality seems quite plastic:

Impossible as it seemed at first, the interior of the Tower sometimes changed. People got lost trying to find rooms they had been to dozens of times.

- Knife of Dreams, Honey in the Tea

The palace in Caemlyn also had corridors and stairs move in Knife of Dreams. In both places, the populace is uncared for and the fight against the Shadow set aside while the leadership is mired in dispute. Just as the residents have lost track of the danger the world is in, so they can’t find their way about physically either.

In a perverted way the changes in the physical environment are reflecting or even commenting on the human situation around them. So while the Dark One’s aim is to incite fear and despair in people by spreading chaos and corruption, there is still meaning in where and how reality changes.

In The Gathering Storm, the novices’ rooms in the east wing and the majority of the Brown Ajah quarters on the Twenty First and Twenty Second levels changed places, and the Yellow Ajah on the sixth level traded places with the second kitchen in the basement (The Gathering Storm, In Darkness). It’s one way to show that Aes Sedai know far less than they think and need to leave the Tower more…The novices will play a crucial role in defending the Tower against the Seanchan, better than many Aes Sedai. Also with so many novices to join the Tower, the second kitchen will become more important, hence its rise out of the depths.

Leane’s cell morphed in a most alarming manner to free her (and nearly killed her while it did so; The Gathering Storm, When Iron Melts). And again, the signs were commenting that she was imprisoned unjustly, even if they had no regard for her personal safety.

As Egwene was being taken to serve Elaida:

The hallway ended abruptly in a stonework wall set with a bright tile mural. The image was that of an ancient Amyrlin, sitting on an ornate golden seat, holding forth her hand in warning to the kings and queens of the land. The plaque at the bottom declared it to be a depiction of Caraighan Maconar, ending the rebellion in Mosadorin. Egwene vaguely recognized the mural; the last she'd seen it, it had been on the wall of the Tower library. But when she'd seen it there, the Amyrlin's face hadn't been a mask of blood. The dead bodies depicted hanging from the eaves hadn't been there either.

- The Gathering Storm, The Nature of Pain

The direct way to Elaida’s rooms is blocked: they have to detour through the Red Ajah’s quarters, just as most initiates can’t approach Elaida, who relies on, or trusts, only her former Ajah. She no longer uses the traditional apartments for the Amyrlin much lower down in the Tower near the Hall. Elaida can’t be reached promptly, showing the poor communication in the Tower, fatal in The Gathering Storm, and the way she has set herself apart and above.

Caraighan Maconar was an Amyrlin raised from the Green Ajah who ended a rebellion; and here her face is covered with blood as she raises her hand in warning; Egwene would have chosen the Green Ajah and she bled profusely after Elaida’s beating. The bodies hanging in the picture is a warning to Egwene and the Reds of where division will lead the Tower if a peaceable end to the rebellion is not found: the deaths of Aes Sedai, Warders and servants as happened during the coup, and perhaps also executions, considering the vengeful nature of Elaida. Deaths do soon happen: people are killed when the Seanchan raid the Tower. There would have been fewer if Elaida and the Hall had heeded Egwene’s warning of the attack, and also if the Tower leadership and communication was functioning correctly. More deaths follow as the Black Ajah are purged from the rebel and Tower Aes Sedai and many are executed. Caraighan’s portrait has moved out of the library, out of history, into the light of the present. It is a timely reminder (or an arrogant taunt considering how much the Shadow stage-managed the coup) that the Aes Sedai need to end their own rebellion, cleanse themselves of Darkfriends and start working to unite the nations.

Even though the changes to reality are frightening and unpredictable and often nasty, they have meaning; reality appears to change in response to strong moral issues or important events such as rebellion, injustice, arrogance, or power struggles. It really is the Time of Change. The Dark One is the embodiment of chaos, but chaos theory is not senseless. It is however very difficult to fathom, as Verin attested.

If people hold onto beliefs and maintain community order, they are less affected by the Dark One’s touch because “belief and order give strength” against the Shadow, as Herid Fel said. The aim of spreading chaos is to tip the world into a downward spiral of negativity and wrongness which breaks the integrity of the Pattern and gives strength to the Dark One.

Another major horror of the Last Days is the appearance of ghosts and of the living dead in various forms. This is an increasingly major motif of the series and I’ve written about it here. Even the Ogier dead are unquiet.

Loial said the Ogier dead don’t enter the Stedding, yet the Stedding represent where the Ogier came from; Ogier are so native to the Stedding that they are tied to them. Things touched by the Shadow are reluctant to enter Stedding, the Stedding being more “right” than anywhere else, as shown by the greater fertility and complete lack of violence within Stedding, so perhaps this exclusion of Ogier dead is proof of the wrongness of death being undone.

Things touched by the Shadow are also reluctant to enter running water (The Eye of the World, Shadow’s Waiting and The Fires of Heaven, Gateways ) – running water symbolising the cleansing power of nature – so perhaps no bubbles of evil or warping of reality can occur on moving water or at sea.

As well as visiting horrors and terrifying monsters on people, the Dark One is undermining the Pattern by corrupting the Land and the Dragon. Rand is one with the Land, so injuring Rand damages the Land and vice versa. The result is disease (dis-ease) and sterility, with crops not growing, plants dying, birth deformities in animals, pestilence and famine rife.

The Dark One’s power or essence is inimical to Creation:

The Great Lord’s essence forced the Pattern, straining it and leaving it scarred. Even something the Creator had designed to be eternal could be unraveled using the Dark One’s energies. It bespoke an eternal truth—something as close to being sacred as Graendal was willing to accept. Whatever the Creator could build, the Dark One could destroy.

- Towers of Midnight, Prologue

For instance, Travelling by True Power damages the Pattern and requires moving outside it:

To his ears, the world screamed as he used the True Power to rip a small hole and step outside the Pattern.

- A Crown of Swords, Patterns Within Patterns

Even channellers entitled to use the True Power suffer damage from it. When Ishamael reveals himself to Rand and boasts of his ability to recover from injuries:

The mask came away. It was a man's face, horribly burned. Yet between the black-edged, red crevices crossing those features, the skin looked healthy and smooth. Dark eyes looked at Rand; cruel lips smiled with a flash of white teeth. "Look at me, Kinslayer, and see the hundredth part of your own fate." For a moment eyes and mouth became doorways into endless caverns of fire. "This is what the Power unchecked can do, even to me. But I heal, Lews Therin. I know the paths to greater power.

- The Great Hunt, Kinslayer

we see that his boast is somewhat empty. His severe burns are healing, true, but he has flaming eyes and mouth: burned without, and burning by hellfire within, he shows the effects of too much True Power as well as the One Power. The corruption of the True Power can’t be Healed. We don’t know what the final symptoms of overuse of the True Power are, but they are fatal and terrible according to Moghedien (A Crown of Swords, Mindtrap) and Demandred (Winter’s Heart, Wonderful News). It’s interesting that red and black are Ishamael’s colours and here they mark his face.

Slayer is a human monstrosity, a shape-shifter created by the Dark One from Luc and Isam that only Perrin and the wolves recognise:

[Slayer] smelled wrong, like staleness and wolf's blood.

- Towers of Midnight, Darkness in the Tower

With two souls in one body, abilities given him by the Dark One, and his frequent entry into Tel’aran’rhiod in the flesh eroding his humanity, it is no wonder Slayer smells wrong. He is unnatural; an abomination.


Mordeth/Fain

Mordeth’s power was born of the intention to fight the Dark One, but in evil way. This is another example of wrongness. The people of Aridhol chose to fight evil unscrupulously without regard for doing good. In the end the power of Shadar Logoth is almost as sterile and corrupt as the Dark One’s power. The inhabitants of Shadar Logoth killed each other and thereafter almost nothing could live or grow in the city. Mordeth, an unclean spirit, lurked in the ruins awaiting a body to appropriate. He was a spirit that lurked to catch an unwary person and is another example of the living dead.

(We saw the early stages of potentially another dark power in Masema and his Dragonsworn, but this was prevented by Perrin’s group.)


The Good Guys

Rand nearly went down the Shadar Logoth route and also the Dark One’s route (or Moridin’s at least). Far from perfect, he represents humanity at its most conflicted or mistaken, although with a huge potential and desire for good.

The Shadow attempted to corrupt the Light’s champion - corrupt the incorruptible- by forcing him to commit evil acts, notably use balefire, the ultimate sin. Rand found the lure of the most powerful sa’angreal also very corrupting, no matter how good his intentions when using them, and even attempted to resurrect a young girl in Tear.

Nynaeve is one character who represents humanity at least conflicted or mistaken. The brilliance of her Healing, representing the restoration of proper order, and intensity of her desire to Heal are signs of this. However she is not perfect either and nor is she intended to be by Jordan.

Perrin as Nature in all its wildness and nurturing expression of the Pattern is most sensitive to Wrongness (just as Mat, most eager to stay alive, is most sensitive to the living dead). Yet Perrin, like Rand, attempted to resurrect a loved one – Hopper in Tel’aran’rhiod:

And Hopper lives, Perrin thought. He does! I can smell his coat, hear him loping in the grass.
A wolf appeared before him, forming as if from mist. Silvery gray, grizzled from years
of life. Perrin thrilled in his power. It was real.
And then he saw the wolf's eyes. Lifeless.
The scent turned stale and wrong.

- Towers of Midnight, And After

Perrin attempts the wrongness of the living dead just as Rand did back in Tear.

Mat is not especially sensitive to wrongness:

"Something feels wrong about these folk, Mat." Talmanes spoke very softly, glancing over his shoulder.
"While you've been playing, I've been talking to them. They don't care about the world. The Dragon Reborn, the Seanchan, nothing. Not a care."
"So?" Mat said. "They're simple folk."

- The Gathering Storm, The Tipsy Gelding

It wasn’t until the Hinderstap townsfolk starting killing each other and trying to kill him that Mat realised how wrong the place was:

There was an odd wrongness about the entire experience. Was the curfew intended to keep this from happening, somehow? Had Mat, by staying, caused all of these deaths? Blood and bloody ashes.
Did no place in the world make sense anymore?

- The Gathering Storm, Night in Hinderstap

It took a personal threat to make him notice.

There is no obvious reason why Hinderstap is trapped between living and dead, a whole town immersed in wrongness as Thom explains:

“Something's wrong in the world. There's a snag in the Pattern here. The town unravels at night, and then the world tries to reset it each morning to make things right again."

- The Gathering Storm, Night in Hinderstap

In So Habor there is rottenness, filth and unquiet dead and silent living:

Berelain blinked in surprise, but no one laughed. It was fool talk, yet Perrin thought the hair on the back of his neck really was standing stiff. Something was very wrong, here. The Aes Sedai seemed not to sense it… So Habor did not even whisper. It barely seemed to breathe…And weevils thriving in winter, in freezing cold? There was worse wrong in So Habor than spirits walking, and every instinct told him to leave at a dead run, without looking back.

- Crossroads of Twilight, In So Habor

and with more reason than at Hinderstap:

Lord Cowlin fled the town for fear of his wife’s spirit. It seems there was doubt as to how she died.

- Crossroads of Twilight, In So Habor

The wrongdoing of the local lord, the guardian of the Land, and his subsequent abandonment of his role, made the town susceptible to the Dark One’s touch.

Nature is the physical representation of the Pattern. This is the underlying philosophy behind the Seanchan’s use of the movements of animals as omens to determine where the Pattern is headed, and how it is unfolding. By blighting nature and spreading other forms of wrongness, the Dark one aims to break the Pattern enough that prophecy will be prevented from being fulfilled.

This post took longer to write than I anticipated, not just because of Real Life, although I have had plenty of that these last few weeks.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Theme of Living Dead



By Linda



The theme of the living dead began in the early books with Grey Men and Zomaran, then the restoration of dead Forsaken in Lord of Chaos and the appearance of ghosts in Crossroads of Twilight, and is more prominent than ever in The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight. The weakening of the distinction between living and dead is part of the wrongness the Shadow brings to combat the Light, balancing creation with destruction and natural with unnatural (the subject of my next essay).

Doomsday, a time of Judgement, literally approaches; heralded by the Last Trump, in this case the Horn of Valere summoning dead Heroes. We had a trial run in The Great Hunt to confirm Mat as the Hornblower and summoner of the Dead. The Dark One as Lord of the Grave has increased his touch on the world and so his henchman Death has also been granted, or obtained, more power. However the Light’s King of the Dead, Mat, and his Queen, Tuon (a name associated with the Underworld; see Mat and Tuon essays), have likewise gained in influence, and Fain, Mat’s dark opposite, has developed some impressive living death and death dealing powers.


The Unquiet Dead

Ghosts have been appearing since Crossroads of Twilight,, a sign that Tarmon Gai’don is near:

"Taim very likely will have to wait on the Last Battle, whatever he's about," Verin said suddenly. Her knitting, a shapeless lump that might have been anything, sat in her lap. "It will come soon. According to everything I've read on the subject, the signs are quite clear. Half the servants have recognized dead people in the halls, people they knew alive. It's happened often enough that they aren't frightened by it any longer. And a dozen men moving the cattle to spring pasture watched a considerable town melt into mist just a few miles to the north."

- Knife of Dreams, News for the Dragon

The dead walking are due to the Dark One loosening the Pattern and changing reality. As Lord of the Grave, he has influence over the dead and aims to break the Pattern, so everyone, perhaps even his Elect, will be dead.

In the Tower:

Women were seen walking out of walls, or into them, often in dresses of old-fashioned cut, sometimes in bizarre garb, dresses that seemed simply lengths of brightly colored cloth folded around the body, embroidered ankle-length tabards worn over wide trousers, stranger things still. Light, when could any woman have wanted to wear a dress that left her bosom completely exposed? Egwene was able to discuss it with Siuan in Tel'aran'rhiod, so she knew that these things were signs of the approach of Tarmon Gai'don. An unpleasant thought, yet there was nothing to be done about it. What was, was, and it was not as if Rand himself was not a herald of the Last Battle.

- Knife of Dreams, Honey in the Tea

Rand himself is associated with a rise of the dead - both quiet and unquiet. Nynaeve, Cadsuane, Merise and Corele observed a procession of about 200 people walking around the city wall of Bandar Eban carrying a coffin. The apparition occurred nightly after Rand arrived. As it foreshadowed, Rand did bring death to the city, in part due to his deficiencies as a ruler.

Even the Ogier, those champions of naturalness and rightness, have experienced the living dead. The first of these was Trayal, whose mind/soul was destroyed by the Black Wind.

Loial reports that Ogier dead are now standing outside the stedding looking in. Perhaps they can’t enter a stedding. Things of the Shadow are very reluctant to enter such places – they are almost unable to - and apparitions have the Dark One’s touch. The only apparitions that are not ‘wrong’ are those called by the Horn.


King and Queen of the Dead

Mat was aware of ghosts walking before the other members of the menagerie were: for example on the road into Jurador Mat saw ghosts but Tuon and Seleucia saw nothing (Crossroads of Twilight, Something Flickers).

As King of the Dead, Mat has witnessed and avoided two deathtraps. In Altara he and his companions encountered a sizeable village. Mat noticed that it had no surrounding farms and its inhabitants ignored the menagerie and a peddler and called a halt. The peddler’s animals started screaming in terror.

Hat in hand, the round peddler leaped down to see what was the matter with his horses.
Landing, [the peddlar] lurched awkwardly and looked down toward his feet. His hat fell from his hand, landing on the hardpacked road. That was when he began screaming. The paving stones were gone, and he was ankle-deep in the road, just like his shrieking horses. Ankle deep and sinking into rock-hard clay as if into a bog, just like his horses and his wagon. And the village, houses and people melting slowly into the ground. The people never stopped what they were doing. Women walked along carrying baskets, a line of men carried a large timber on their shoulders, children darted about, the fellow at the grindstone continued sharpening his hatchet, all of them nearly knee-deep in the ground by this time…
Would the man die, or was he being carried to wherever those dead Shiotans were going? That was what had caught him about those buildings. That was how country people had built in Shiota for near enough three hundred years…
When the last of the thatched rooftops and tall chimneys melted away. Mat let out a long breath. Where the village had been was another meadow decked out in cat daisies and jumpups where red and yellow butterflies fluttered from blossom to blossom. So peaceful. He wished he could believe the peddler was dead.

- Knife of Dreams, A Village in Shiota

This is a murderous apparition. The ghosts descended into the earth, the underworld, taking a live man and his horses with them. And it all occurred in front of the King of the Underworld, whose party was safe, thanks to his warning.

In The Gathering Storm, Mat went to a town of living dead, Hinderstap.

"We aren't sure if it was something we did, or just a cruel curse by the Dark One himself," the mayor said.
"It was a normal day, early this year, just before the Feast of Abram. Nothing really special about it that I can remember. The weather had broken by then, though the snows hadn't come yet. A lot of us went about our normal activities the next morning, thinking nothing of it.
"The oddities were small, you see. A broken door here, a rip in someone's clothing they didn't remember. And the nightmares. We all shared them, nightmares of death and killing. A few of the women started talking, and they realized that they couldn't remember turning in the previous evening. They could remember waking, safe and comfortable in their beds, but only a few remembered actually getting into bed. Those who could remember had gone to sleep early, before sunset. For the rest of us, the late evening was just a blur."

- The Gathering Storm, Night in Hinderstap

The town’s inhabitants kill each other and any visitors each night, but are returned to ‘life’ each morning with the visitors they killed trapped with them. Any inhabitants who leave are returned to the town in the night. Even suicide doesn’t work as an escape route. Objects, however, retain any physical damage and must be repaired. (It’s like the reverse of Tel’aran’rhiod, the World of Dreams, where objects aren’t affected long term by changes, but beings are totally affected by any change to them. What happens in Tel’aran’rhiod seems real, but what happens in Hinderstap in the night seems like a dream, albeit a very bad one, and fades).

As Thom explains:

"It's just . . . well, it's a sad tale. Something's wrong in the world.
There's a snag in the Pattern here. The town unravels at night, and then the world tries to reset it each morning to make things right again."

- The Gathering Storm, Night in Hinderstap

"It's as if the darkness itself intoxicates them," Thorn said while Mat helped Delarn into his saddle. "As if Light itself has forsaken them, leaving them only to the Shadow...."

- The Gathering Storm, Night in Hinderstap

The Light’s King of the Dead (see Mat essay), got his own people out of the town alive (apart from three soldiers) and therefore out of the loop. Mat called the dead Heroes to battle at Falme and will do so again, and has worked out how those unable to channel can kill large numbers of people, even channellers. No wonder some people in Andor say that Mat is the Dark One:

No, that was the Dark One. No, Mat was the Dark One!

Towers of Midnight, The End of a Legend

a blurring of the Light and Dark Kings of the Dead. On the other hand, the Seanchan believe Mat’s band itself may be spirits:

I know we've killed some [of Mat’s soldiers]—the reports claim it, at least—but they don't even leave their dead behind. Some fools have begun whispering that we're fighting spirits." Fools he might consider them, but the fingers of his left hand hooked in a sign to ward off evil.

- Knife of Dreams, A Cup of Kaf

Recently Mat received a letter from a woman thought to be dead, and another from a woman under a double death sentence: so she could betray the Dark One and for being a Darkfriend. Their ‘dead’ status is the first thing each letter affirms. Mat, like Anubis, the Ancient Egyptian god who weighs the dead, has to weigh these women and their requests to choose which to fulfil. This fits in with the Doomsday/Last Judgement theme.

Mat has similarities to real world Kings of the Underworld due to the frequency he has visited the infernal Otherworld of the ‘Finns, his escape from the living dead in Hinderstap, his witnessing of the peddler being dragged alive to the Underworld with the phantom Shiotan village, his survival of hanging and later being struck by lightning, his role as son of battles and the summoner of the dead Heroes of the Horn and the respect he quickly gained from Tuon’s Deathwatch Guard.

In The Gathering Storm,Mat’s consort Tuon as Queen of the Dead actually sent out what are effectively living dead, assassins she declared dead with her blessing to do her bidding as though they were shades from the Underworld. The bloodknives are like the Lord of the Grave’s Grey Men but are not soulless.

She expects death at every turn and embraces it; she

had been dodging assassinations since she could walk, and she had survived them all. She anticipated them. In a way, she thrived because of them.

- The Gathering Storm,

Only the Queen of the Underworld would thrive on death attempts.

Despite the vigilance of the Deathwatch Guard, Tuon has been declared dead twice before:

Only a few were aware that she had vanished twice before, and had been reported dead, to the very arrangement of her funeral rites, all by her own contriving. Whatever the reasons for her disappearance, though, he had to find and protect her. So far he had no clue how. Swallowed by the storm. Or perhaps by the Lady of the Shadows [Death]. There had been countless attempts to kidnap or assassinate her, beginning on the day of her birth.

- Crossroads of Twilight, The Tale of a Doll

Considering how often ‘three times makes true’ in the Wheel of Time series, there will probably be a third time Tuon is given up for dead. If her ability to channel is discovered before the Seanchan change their attitude to channellers, she, like all damane, will become an unperson, struck from the rolls as though she had never existed. For now, her people will continually wish her as Empress to live forever – the Queen of the Dead does not die? Though when she finally begins to channel, Tuon potentially could live for what seems like forever to the average person.

She declared ‘Tuon’ dead in The Gathering Storm, but Tuon is not exactly dead, her old name is still contained within her new name.

Tuon is not a goddess of death (that is Semirhage, see Semirhage essay, and it is appropriate that the Seanchan refer to death as the Lady of the Shadows, when such a female mass murderer lived among them at their rulers’ side) but she is Queen of the Underworld having been touched by death so many times and lived with death at her shoulder. In many mythologies they are two different roles, as they are here.


Rand

Rather than avoiding or eluding them, Rand has destroyed or incapacitated the living dead close by him: Grey Men in the early books, most recently he balefired Semirhage so she can’t be rebirthed by the Dark One, killed the rebirthed Aran’gar thanks to Graendal, and seriously sapped the spirit and energy of Moridin through second-hand pain and despair (an unintended side-effect of Death’s own strategy). Rand has destroyed one long dead city and exposed another. Only the dead at a distance to Rand appeared unhindered by him: for instance the ghostly funeral procession in Arad Doman that Nynaeve, Cadsuane and co saw.

Yet Rand, too, is a dead man walking, being destined to make the ultimate sacrifice for the world and thereby, even more pertinent to this theme, to live by dying. It has brought him to despair and contemplation of mass annihilation once already. If Rand fails in such a way that the Dark One wins, time itself will be killed and Rand’s soul will never be reborn again.

Another example of the blurring of the living and the dead is Rand’s awareness of memories from his past lives, something Nynaeve thinks is not good:

Memories from another life, memories he had no right to. There was a reason the Creator allowed them to forget their past lives.

The Gathering Storm, A Conversation With the Dragon

Other Asha’man also hear voices from their previous incarnations, which Cadsuane thought was due to the taint on saidin. Moridin, the Forsaken most affected by the Dark One’s touch by virtue of his extensive usage of the True Power, also claims to recall some of his past lives, though not to the extent that Rand has:

I know every name you have used through Age after Age, long before you were even the Kinslayer." Ba'alzamon s voice began to rise in intensity; sometimes the fires of his eyes flared so high that Rand could see them through the openings in the silk mask, see them like endless seas of flame. "I know you, know your blood and your line back to the first spark of life that ever was, back to the First Moment…The battle we two have fought-do you remember any part of that? Do you have any glimmering that we have fought before, battles without number back to the beginning of Time? I know much that you do not! That battle will soon end. The Last Battle is coming. The last, Lews Therin. Do you really think you can avoid it? You poor, shivering worm. You will serve me or die! And this time the cycle will not begin anew with your death. The grave belongs to the Great Lord of the Dark. This time if you die, you will be destroyed utterly.

The Great Hunt, Kinslayer

That troubled him sometimes, enraged him, what knowledge might be lost in the turnings of the Wheel, knowledge he needed, knowledge he had a right to. A right!

The Path of Daggers, Deceptive Appearances

At the climax of The Gathering Storm, when Rand had his epiphany:

He remembered lives, hundreds of them, thousands of them, stretching to infinity.

The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold


Fain

In The Eye of the World, Fain merged with the parasitic and long dead soul of Mordeth which lingered as a ghost in Shadar Logoth. Like other Underworld figures in the series, his powers have increased greatly, and he now deals instant death to Myrddraal, but those Trollocs he kills rise from the dead to do his bidding:

The mist struck.
It rolled over the Trollocs, moving quickly, like the tentacles of a leviathan in the
Aryth Ocean. Lengths of it snapped forward through Trolloc chests. One long rope whipped above their heads, then shot forward in a blur, taking the Fade in the neck.
The Trollocs screamed, dropping, spasming. Their hair fell out in patches, and their skin began to boil. Blisters and cysts. When those popped, they left craterlike pocks in the Shadowspawn skin, like bubbles on the surface of metal that cooled too quickly…
The corrupted Trollocs climbed to their feet behind him, lurching into motion, spittle dropping from their lips. Their eyes had grown sluggish and dull, but when he desired it, they would respond with a frenzied battle lust that would surpass what they had known in life.
He left the Myrddraal. It would not rise, as rumors said they did. His touch now brought instant death to one of its kind.

Towers of Midnight, Prologue

It is as though Fain/Mordeth takes the place of the Myrddraal the Trollocs were linked to, but in a far more effective way. In his efforts to fight evil, Mordeth out-Shadowed the Shadow and is now openly using them as his own.


Creatures of the Shadow

The Shadow can and do turn channellers to their side with weaves created by thirteen Dreadlords filtered through thirteen Myrddraal, and like Fain’s turned Trollocs, such turned channellers are both corrupted and dead-seeming:

And he saw what Norley had seen. Something was deeply wrong, something not quite alive inside those eyes. This didn't seem to be a man, but a parody of one. A shadow stuffed inside human skin.

Towers of Midnight, Something Wrong

Tarna smiled, a grimace that looked completely unnatural on her face. Like the smile on the lips of a corpse…The coldness-almost lifelessness-she'd seen in Tarna's eyes still chilled her.

Towers of Midnight, Gateways

The eyes are “windows to the soul” and in these people they look dead. This is more than the dazed or fogged look seen on those under heavy Compulsion (see below).

Grey Men are Darkfriends who, in the ultimate act of dedication, give their souls away to the Dark One so they can be more effective as assassins. Alive but with their humanity extinguished, they blend in with background. As Egwene dreamed in The Dragon Reborn, Fires in Cairhien, they are not really there. They are alive, but lifeless and we have never heard one speak.

Lanfear tells us that Grey Men and Myrddraal are denied dreams (The Dragon Reborn, Daughter of the Night). Grey Men are not truly alive; Myrddraal are “slightly out of phase with time and reality”. Fain may be a more effective compeller of Trollocs than a Myrddraal is because he is most definitely in phase with time, even if he isn’t with reality.

Another example of the living dead are the zomaran, a type of Shadowspawn created by Aginor. They have the appearance of identical, beautiful young men and women but with dead and soulless eyes:

He smiled, but it did not touch his black eyes, eyes more lifeless than simply dead. Most men would have felt uncomfortable having that gaze on them. Moridin merely took the goblet and motioned the servant away.

The Path of Daggers, Deceptive Appearances

Naturally the dead – quiet or unquiet – hold no fears for Death. He uses Zomaran, who have limited ability to read minds and only short term memory, as servants – and reliable spies.

The gholam is a construct of the Shadow which is almost unkillable, being impervious to magic and most physical attacks. It looks like an ordinary human but is hugely stronger and has no bones. Mat hopes that it is falling endlessly through the void in a living death.

Slayer is a being with two souls in one body after the other body died. Not that we know which lived and which died.

During the merger of Luc and Isam, Slayer was extensively revamped by the Dark One, being given special powers, including the ability to enter Tel'aran'rhiod at will. However, immunity to weapons and poison was not one of these abilities. So both Isam and Luc exist, even though one of them died, but they are not unkillable.


Forsaken

The Forsaken like to overpower the mind and will of people with Compulsion to a greater or lesser degree. A complex weave that is placed on the brain in layers, Compulsion makes the victim feel love, devotion or worship for the channeller. It can be varied in extent from mindless devotion, which erases mind and personality, to subtle influence.

Graendal is a prolific user of all grades of Compulsion and is very skilled at it. After all, she studied mental illness, including that which cannot be treated with the One Power, prior to turning to the Shadow. For short term aims she usually uses the mild version of Compulsion, although she struck heavily at Moghedien and Cyndane with it in The Path of Daggers. Her servants however usually have their minds obliterated:

The only minions she’d let out of her sight were under Compulsion so heavy that it would kill them to remove it.

Towers of Midnight, Prologue

There was no real person in this head, only layered weaves of Compulsion.
Instructions cleverly designed to wipe whatever personality this poor wretch had and replace it with a creature who would act exactly as Graendal wished…
His eyes weren't blank from being dazed as she'd thought; they were more empty than that. When Nynaeve had been younger, new to her role as Wisdom, a woman had been brought to her who had fallen off of her wagon. The woman had slept for days, and when she'd finally awoken, she'd had a stare like this one. No hint that she recognized anyone, no clue that there was any soul left in the husk that was her body.
She'd died about a week later…
"You needn't bother," Rand said. "He is dead."
Nynaeve confirmed the death for herself. Then she snapped her head up, looking at Rand. What right did he have to look as exhausted as she felt? He had done barely anything! "What did you—"
"I did nothing, Nynaeve. I suspect that once you removed that Compulsion, the only thing keeping him alive was his anger at Graendal, buried deeply. Whatever bit of himself remained, it knew the only help it could give were those two words. After that, he just let go. There was nothing more we could do for him."

The Gathering Storm, A Conversation with the Dragon

Consequently Rand considered Graendal’s pets already dead before he killed them:

"There looked to have been dozens, maybe hundreds, of people living in that palace!"
"Each one made into an idiot by Graendal's Compulsion," Rand replied. "She never lets anyone close to her without destroying their mind first. The boy she sent to work the jail barely knew a fraction of the torture most of her pets receive. She leaves them without ability to think or act—all they can do is kneel and adore her, perhaps run errands at her command. I did them a favor."

The Gathering Storm, A Force of Light

Living dead, and considering what happened to Kerb when Nynaeve removed Graendal’s Compulsion he had a point.

The Forsaken are part of the theme of the living dead. Four of them were reincarnated. Rand and Ishamael are linked by the way they have witnessed each other die - and been a crucial participant in that death:

"You [Ishamael] are dead," Rand repeated stubbornly.
"So are you. I watched you die, you know. Lashing out in a tempest, creating an entire mountain to mark your cairn…[after he brought Lews Therin the knowledge of what he had done]
Another name for the Dark One was Lord of the Grave. Yes, it was true, even if Rand wished he could deny it. Why should he be surprised to see his enemies return, when the Dark One could restore the dead to life?

The Gathering Storm, A Place to Begin

As Cyndane and mind-trapped, Lanfear wishes she were dead, or perhaps had stayed dead. Death tortures her each day and Heals her when she is about to die - or so she claims. After losing a battle of wills with Egwene in Tel’aran’rhiod, Mesaana is now living dead. She is as mindless as Trayal.

The death goddess Semirhage was killed in The Gathering Storm. She tortured an entire city during the War of Power, made thousands of people assist in breaking each other slowly, just for the Hell of it.

Even prior to his reincarnation as Moridin (Death), Ishamael told Rand “The dead belong to me!" in The Eye of the World,, The Stag and Lion, and he did manipulate Howal Gode’s shade after Rand killed the Darkfriend.

The Death god Moridin not only now wishes he were dead, he wishes for everything to be annihilated. As Ishamael, Moridin once thought the end of time would liberate him and grant him power:

The death of time will bring me power such as you could not dream of, worm."

The Eye of the World, The Stag and Lion

But now that he is Death, he hopes that the end of time will mean the end of everything, including him:

"The only path is to follow the Great Lord and rule for a time before all things end. The others are fools. They look for grand rewards in the eternities, but there will be no eternities. Only the now, the last days."
He laughed again, and this time there was joy in it. True pleasure.

The Gathering Storm, A Place to Begin

After all, if there is nothing – when all is dead – there is nothing that can die. Death is no more:

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou thinkst thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me…
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppies or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke. Why swellst thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die!

John Donne

As an example of how both sides have been affected by the Dark One’s efforts to undermine the Pattern and manipulate all to his side, Death, the Lord of the Grave’s champion and his opposite, the Creator’s champion, companionably sit and listen to rats dying in the heat of a corrupt fire:

Moridin snorted softly, but said nothing. Rand turned back to the flames, watching them twist and flicker.
They formed shapes, like the clouds, but these were headless bodies, skeletal, backs arching in pain, writhing for a moment in fire, spasming, before flashing into nothing.
Rand watched that fire for a time, thinking. One might have thought that they were two old friends, enjoying the warmth of a winter hearth. Except that the flames gave no heat, and Rand would someday kill this man again. Or die at his hands.

The Gathering Storm, A Place to Begin

And now we are at the Last Moment, “as close as an assassin, breathing his foul breath upon your neck as he slides his knife across your skin“ as Rand described it (The Gathering Storm, A Halo of Blackness), poised between living and dead.

These posts take quite a time to prepare, longer than a simple read-through post. I don't know when the next one will be finished, hopefully within the week, but it is on the theme of Wrongness.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

As Yet Unfulfilled Prophecies for A Memory of Light



By Linda



There are still quite a few unfulfilled prophecies, some of them quite mysterious and portentous and obviously relating to the Last Battle; others, more minor, may remain unfulfilled. They are divided according to soothsayer.


Prophecies of Dragon (mainland and Seanchan) (see here for full article with discussion and details)

  • The blood of the Dragon Reborn on the rocks of Shayol Ghul will free mankind from the Shadow.

  • His blood on the rocks of Shayol Ghul, washing away the Shadow, sacrifice for man's salvation.

  • What does it mean that he shall bind the nine moons to serve him?

  • “The Prophecies say I have to bind the nine moons to me.”

  • Light is held before the maw of the infinite void, and all that he is can be seized.

  • and the Blade will bind him by twain.

  • For one thing, he [the Dragon Reborn] must kneel to the Crystal Throne before Tarmon Gai'don.

  • He must bow before the Crystal Throne before the Last Battle can begin.

  • The prophecies clearly showed that the Empress would defeat those who served the Shadow, and then she would send the Dragon Reborn in to duel with Lighteater.



  • Aiel Prophecy (see here for full article)

  • “It says we will be changed, and find again what was ours, and was lost.”

  • “Melaine and Bair dreamed of you [Rand] on a boat with three women whose faces they could not see and a scale tilting first one way and then the other.”

  • “Melaine and Amys dreamed of a man standing by your side with a dagger to your throat, but you did not see him.”



  • Dark Prophecy (see here for full article)

  • Graendal and Moridin believe that one of its Prophecies foretells that the Shadow will succeed in killing Perrin. Moridin qualifies this by pointing out that the imagery in prophecies can have more than one interpretation (he wrote a book on Analysis of Perceived Meaning in the Age of Legends). Moreover he chose the prophecy that Graendal read. Earlier in the chapter he told Graendal that she would not succeed in killing Perrin, and he was right. This may have been his opinion or it could be that the details of the prophecy he thinks predicts Perrin’s death are obviously nothing to do with Graendal’s plot.

  • Lo, it shall come upon the world that the prison of the Greatest One shall grow weak, like the limbs of those who crafted it. Once again, His glorious cloak shall smother the Pattern of all things, and the Great Lord shall stretch forth His hand to claim what is His. The rebellious nations shall be laid barren, their children caused to weep. There shall be none but Him, and those who have turned their eyes to His majesty. In that day, when the One-Eyed Fool travels the halls of mourning, and the First Among Vermin lifts his hand to bring freedom to Him who will Destroy, the last days of the Fallen Blacksmith's pride shall come. Yea, and the Broken Wolf, the one whom Death has known, shall fall and be consumed by the Midnight Towers. And his destruction shall bring fear and sorrow to the hearts of men, and shall shake their very will itself.
    And then, shall the Lord of the Evening come. And He shall take our eyes, for our souls shall bow before Him, and He shall take our skin, for our flesh shall serve Him, and He shall take our lips, for only Him will we praise. And the Lord of the Evening shall face the Broken Champion, and shall spill his blood and bring us the Darkness so beautiful. Let the screams begin, O followers of the Shadow. Beg for your destruction!



  • Egwene’s Dreams (see here for full article)

  • There had been a dream of him [Rand] walking down into a great hole in a black mountain, a hole filled with a reddish glare as from vast fires below

  • Him [Rand] walking toward a burning mountain, something crunching beneath his boots. She stirred and whimpered; the crunching things were the seals on the Dark One's prison, shattering with his every step.

  • Rand holding a sword that blazed like the sun, till she could hardly see that it was a sword, could hardly make out that it was him at all.

  • Rand confronting her, and the women with her, and one of them was a Seanchan.

  • Rand in chains, and it was he who was screaming.

  • Several concerned Rand, not all bad, but all odd. Elayne, forcing him to his knees with one hand.

  • Logain, laughing, stepped across something on the ground and mounted a black stone; when she looked down, she thought it was Rand’s body he had stepped over, laid out on a funeral bier with his hands crossed at his breast, but when she touched his face, it broke apart like a puppet.

  • Rand, wearing different masks, until suddenly one of those false faces was no longer a mask, but him.

  • The vision changed. She saw an enormous sphere made of the finest crystal. It sparkled in the light of twenty-three enormous stars, shining down on it where it sat on a dark hilltop. There were cracks in it, and it was being held together by ropes. There was Rand, walking up the hillside, holding a woodsman's axe. He reached the top and hefted the axe, then swung at the ropes one at a time, chopping them free. The last one parted, and the sphere began to break apart, the beautiful globe falling in pieces. Rand shook his head.

  • There had been a dream of Mat and Seanchan, too, but she was willing to dismiss that as a nightmare.

  • Gawyn. Then she was standing in the road in front of him, and he reined in. Not because he saw her, this time, but the road that had been straight now forked right where she stood, running over tall hills so no one could see what lay beyond. She knew, though. Down one fork was his violent death, down the other, a long life and a death in bed. On one path, he would marry her, on the other, not. She knew what lay ahead, but not which way led to which. Suddenly he did see her, or seemed to, and smiled, and turned his horse along one of the forks…

  • A dream of a storm, great dark clouds rolling without wind or rain, while lighting forks, every one identical, rent the earth.

  • A golden hawk stretched out its wing and touched her, and she and the hawk were tied together somehow; all she knew was that the hawk was female.

  • She [Egwene] was struggling up a narrow, rocky path along the face of a towering cliff. Clouds surrounded her, hiding the ground below and the crest above, yet she knew that both were very far away. She had to place her feet very carefully. The path was a cracked ledge barely wide enough for her to stand on with one shoulder pressed against the cliff, a ledge littered with stones as large as her fist that could turn under a misplaced step and send her hurtling over the edge. It almost seemed this was like the dreams of pushing millstones and pulling carts, yet she knew it was a true dream.
    Abruptly, the ledge dropped away from under her with the crack of crumbling stone, and she caught frantically at the cliff, fingers scrabbling to find a hold. Her fingertips slid into a tiny crevice, and her fall stopped with a jolt that wrenched her arms. Feet dangling into the clouds, she listened to the falling stone crash against the cliff until the sound faded to nothing without the stone ever hitting the ground. Dimly, she could see the broken ledge to her left. Ten feet away, it might as well have been a mile off for all the chance she had of reaching it. In the other direction, the mists hid whatever remained of the path, but she thought it had to be farther away still. There was no strength in her arms. She could not pull herself up, only hang there by her fingertips until she fell. The edge of the crevice seemed as sharp as a knife under her fingers.
    Suddenly a woman appeared, clambering down the sheer side of the cliff out of the clouds, making her way as deftly as if she were walking down stairs. There was a sword strapped to her back. Her face wavered, never settling clearly, but the sword seemed as solid as the stone. The woman reached Egwene’s level and held out one hand. “We can reach the top together,” she said in a familiar drawling accent…
    She had dreamed of a Seanchan before, a Seanchan woman somehow tied to her, but this was a Seanchan who would save her.

  • A man lay dying in a narrow bed, and it was important he not die, yet outside a funeral pyre was being built, and voices raised songs of joy and sadness.

  • Everything shook. The room of past and present seemed to shatter, shredding into swirling smoke. Egwene stepped back, gasping, as Gawyn ripped apart as if made of sand. All was dust around her, and thirteen black towers rose in the distance beneath a tarlike sky.
    One fell, and then another, crashing to the ground. As they did, the ones that remained grew taller and taller. The ground shook as several more towers fell.
    Another tower shook and cracked, collapsing most of the way to the ground—but then it recovered and grew tallest of all.
    At the end of the quake, six towers remained, looming above her. Egwene had fallen to the ground, which had become soft earth covered in withered leaves.



  • Foretellings (see here for full article)

  • “The Black Tower will be rent in blood and fire, and sisters will walk its grounds.”

  • "The lion sword, the dedicated spear, she who sees beyond. Three on the boat, and he who is dead yet lives. The great battle done, but the world not done with battle. The land divided by the return, and the guardians balance the servants. The future teeters on the edge of a blade.”

  • “battles with the Seanchan or the Asha’man, the Dragon Reborn doing nine impossible things”



  • Min’s Viewings (see here for full article)

  • “a bloody hand and a white-hot iron, three women standing over a funeral bier with you on it, black rock wet with blood. . .”

  • “Twice he’s [Perrin] going to have to be there, or you…If he’s not, something bad will happen to you. Very bad.”

  • “I saw you [Rand] and another man. I couldn’t make out either face, but I knew one was you. You touched, and seemed to merge into one another, and…” Her mouth tightened worriedly, and she went on in a very small voice.” I don’t know what it means, Rand, except one of you dies, and one doesn’t.”

  • An open cavern, gaping like a mouth. Bloodstained rocks. Two dead men on the ground, surrounded by ranks and ranks of Trollocs, a pipe with smoke curling from it.

  • “I see you [Rand], a brilliant white sword held in your hand, wielded against one of black, held by a faceless darkness.”

  • A glowing sword, Callandor, being gripped in a black hand. She gasped.
    "What did you see?" Rand asked softly.
    "Callandor, held in a fist. The hand looks to be made of onyx."…

  • “a broken crown, and trees flowering all around him [Perrin].”

  • and above Elayne's [head], a red-hot iron and an axe. They meant trouble, she was sure, but it seemed distant, somewhere in the future.

  • what was that vision that was suddenly hovering above Nynaeve's head? She was kneeling over someone's corpse in a posture of grief.

  • Another Accepted came to replace one already there, and to Min’s eyes bars floated in front of her apple-cheeked face, like a cage.

  • Suddenly, for a moment, that flaring halo of gold and blue shone about his [Logain’s] .

  • “You’d think, if there was any justice, she [Faolain] would have an unpleasant future ahead of her.”

  • An image flickered above Enaila’s head and was gone. A wreath of some sort.

  • Maraconn and Gueyam were going to die too, bloody deaths in battle, Min thought.

  • “one day you [Harine] will be the Mistress of the Ships.”

  • “It’s Cadsuane. She is going to teach you something, you and the Asha’man. All the Asha’man, I mean. It’s something you have to learn, but I don’t know what it is, except that none of you will like learning it from her. You aren’t going to like it at all.”

  • the black knife that spun around Beldeine's head recently could mean anything.

  • a tempestuous love affair, of all things! The woman [Sarene] was ice, however beautiful. And there was nothing useful in knowing some man would melt her!

  • One red-and-green aura spoke of honours, and fame. A huge building appeared above her [Nesune’s] head and vanished. A library she would found.

  • Among all those images spilling around Rand and the women, suddenly an aura flashed, blue and yellow tinged with green, encompassing them all [Sorilea, Erian, Elza, Beldeine, Sarene and Nesune]. And Min knew its meaning. She gasped, half in surprise, half in relief…
    “They will serve you, each in her fashion, Rand’” she said hurriedly. “I saw it.” Sorilea would serve him? Suddenly Min wondered exactly what “in her fashion” meant.

  • Aviendha would have Rand’s babies, too. Four of them at once! Something was odd about that, though. The babies would be healthy, but still something odd.

  • “But she [Alivia] is going to kill you.” She [Min] bit off every word.
    “You said she was going to help me die,” he [Rand] said quietly. “Those were your words”… “Helping me die isn’t the same as killing me,”

  • there’s something…dark…in the images I saw around Lord Davram. If he turns against you, or dies…

  • “Tenobia has a spear hovering over her head," Min said. "Bloody, but shining in the light, Ethenielle will soon be wed-I see that by white doves. She plans to do something dangerous today, so be careful. The other two have various swords, shields and arrows hovering about them. Both will fight soon.”

  • “I see dark clouds, pushed away by the sunlight's warmth... I see trees, growing green again, bearing fruit. I see a field, the crops healthy and full.” She hesitated. "I see the Two Rivers, Rand. I see an inn there with the mark of the Dragon's Fang inlaid on its door. No longer be a symbol of darkness or hate. A sign of victory and hope.”
    He looked to her.
    Min caught something from the corner of her eye. She turned toward the people sitting on the street, and gaped. Every single one had an image above them. It was remarkable to see so many viewings, all at once, flaring to light above the heads of the sickly, the weak, and the abandoned, "I see a silver axe above that man’s head," she said, pointing to a bearded beggar, who lay against a wall, his chin down against his chest. "He will be a leader in the Last Battle. That woman there—the one sulking in the shadows-—she will be trained by the White Tower and become Aes Sedai. I can see the Flame of Tar Valon beside her, and I know what it means. That man over there who looks like a simple street tough? He will save her life. I know he doesn't look like it, but he will fight. All of them will. I can see it!"
  • Thursday, November 10, 2011

    The "Little" Questions for A Memory of Light



    By Linda


    As well as the major questions regarding the activities of the villains, how the good guys will win, etc, there are plenty of lesser questions floating around. Here are a few that I would like answered in A Memory of Light:

    • What did the Tinker message “Tell the Dragon Reborn…” refer to?


    • Which King and Queen did the Black Ajah kill? Why? Galina was involved, therefore it was within the last 85 years.


    • Were there two gholams wandering around, or one?


    • Who has Rand’s angreal?


    • How did Marith Jaen, Siuan’s predecessor, die?


    • Why does Harine’s swordmaster know how to ride?


    • Did the Murandian mechanic ever get to Caemlyn and what did he do there?


    • What did Lanfear ask for in the *Finns' world in the Age of Legends? And this time? (Moiraine's questions and wishes and Rand's third question will surely all be revealed).


    • Who was the apple-cheeked Accepted that Min viewed as in a cage?


    • Why did Theodrin behave oddly when she was with the rebels?

    Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    Full Circle to A Memory of Light



    By Linda


    Minor characters we haven’t seen for a while that may reappear. I am assuming that important characters like Logain, Toveine and Gabrelle and Teslyn and Joline’s group will do so, and the various monarchs, nobles, high ranking Aes Sedai, and military generals and captains and high up Darkfriends.

    Here is the start of a list of quite minor characters that may make cameos in A Memory of Light:

    Nieda and Bili of Easing the Badger inn

    Three Two Rivers boys who ran off (Dav Ayellin, Ewin Finngar, and Elam Dowtry)

    Cauthon and al'Vere families

    Kari al'Thor (her soul)

    Cenn Buie

    Elyas

    Raen and Ila (Tinkers)

    Ailhuin Guenna (Tairen)

    Lini

    Murandian mechanical engineer who was going to Caemlyn - though Mat’s crossbows are already loading at modern speed

    Einor Saren if he wasn’t killed in the Questioners purge

    Dain Bornhald

    Almurat Mor the Seanchan seeker

    Tylee Kirghan

    Karede, Ajimbura and Musenge

    Tuon's favoured damane: Lidya, Dali and Dani, Charral, Sera, Mylen

    Yuril, Tuon's Hand that commands her Seekers

    Hartha, Seanchan Gardener

    Ronde Macura, discoverer of forkroot's effects on channellers

    Agni Neres, riverboat captain

    Kin Tovere, inventor

    Mervyn Poel, inventor

    Idrien Tarsin, head of Rand's school in Cairhien

    Laras, Queen of the White Tower Kitchens

    Uno Nomesta


    Black Ajah

    Rhianna Andomeran, Berylla Naron and Jeaine Caide sent on missions by Moghedien

    Falion Bhoda, Marillin Gemalphin,

    Liandrin

    Talene

    Duhara

    Fera


    Darkfriends

    Suroth

    Shiaine and Daven Hanlon

    Amellia and Jorin Arene

    Weiramon and Anaiyella

    Old Cully

    Elegar

    Nan Belman


    Aes Sedai

    Talaan and Merilille

    Coladara, Paitar Nachiman’s Aes Sedai

    Memara the Red who was sent to Saldaea


    I don't expect all of these characters to appear, but a fair selection may.

    Wednesday, November 2, 2011

    The Gathering Storm Read-Through #54: Epilogue - Bathed in Light



    By Linda


    WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT

    Egwene POV

    Egwene’s thoughts about her desk lamps are perhaps a dig at reviewers like myself:

    They were shaped like women holding their hands into the air, a burst of flame appearing in each set of palms. The calm yellow light reflected on the curves of their hands, arms and faces. Were they symbols of the White Tower and the Flame of Tar Valon? Or were they instead depictions of an Aes Sedai, weaving Fire? Perhaps they were simply relics of a previous Amyrlin's taste.

    The Gathering Storm, Bathed in Light

    suggesting that sometimes an object is itself and nothing more. Mind you, Egwene (and the author) omitted the suggestion that I would have made: the lamps might represent the Amyrlin and the Keeper working side by side; something there was very little of under Elaida’s reign. The lamps are decorative but functional. Egwene’s room is as austere as Elaida’s was opulent.

    The Aes Sedai are fearful of offending Egwene, perhaps overly so? I guess Elaida had everyone prepared for the worst sort of tyranny, and Egwene’s execution of a heap of (undoubtedly criminal) Aes Sedai have not thrown her in a kindly light either, and added to the fear, if anything.

    We never found out what was found among Elaida’s effects. Or even if they did get around to examining them. Or whether Egwene has questioned each Tower Aes Sedai yet. She plans to train damane as Aes Sedai, just as Nynaeve and Elayne encouraged the Kin to rehabilitate and re-humanise former damane.

    Egwene’s choice of a Red Keeper – from the antithesis of the Ajah she would have chosen – shows her relative political weakness. Or perhaps it forestalls developing political weakness.

    Nearly forty initiates, more than twenty four of them Aes Sedai, were captured by the Seanchan. Sixty Tower Black Ajah escaped, plus twenty more from rebels. Probably the escaped Black Ajah from the rebel camp warned those Blacks in the Tower. Over one hundred women have been lost to the Tower in a couple of days.

    Egwene deduces that Mesaana worked out a way to defeat the Oath Rod. The Forsaken was bold and rather courageous to take the calculated risk and stay to be tested. It may indicate how desperate Mesaana is for a personal victory for the Shadow.

    Silvana and Egwene found the sun shining on Dragonmount reassuring and comforting, so much so that Egwene wants the day marked. Interesting that innocents – novices, referred to as children – saw it first. It has been many weeks since the sun shone, since Rand was not dark. He is Sol Invictus, the unconquered sun here (see Rand essay), and is at his best in this role.

    The chapter begins with candlelight in the guise of channelled light and ends with the restoration of natural light – saidin and saidar turn the wheel, but they are a candle beside the Light of the World.


    Epigram

    The closing prophecy is from the Essanik Cycle. This is the first we learn that the Seanchan version of the Prophecies has a different name, and that they are different enough to have been separated not just from the mainland Prophecies, but from the original “native” Seanchan Prophecies of the Dragon.

    The many that become one at the end of time probably refers to the nations uniting together. As regards

    the last storm shall gather its angry winds to destroy a land already dying.
    And at its center, the blind man shall stand upon his own grave.
    There he shall see again, and weep for what has been wrought.

    The Gathering Storm, Bathed in Light

    The world is dying from being blighted by the Dark One. Rand is the last storm who in his rage at the world worked himself up into a tempest to destroy this failing world. He nearly failed the world himself.

    He is at the centre of the storm, standing on Dragonmount, which was created by Lews Therin as he died.

    Rand froze. The winds blew against him, but he could not be moved by them…All was still. Even with the tempest, the winds, the crashes of thunder. All was still.

    The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

    Rand was blind to the mistakes he was making and the corruption and madness he was carrying within him.

    We don’t see Rand weep on Dragonmount, though he was upset enough at what the world and he had come to. He was too angry. He laughed after his epiphany though. Laughter and tears – the things Cadsuane said Rand needed to re-learn or the world was doomed.

    Saturday, October 29, 2011

    The Gathering Storm Read-Through #53: Chapter 50 - Veins of Gold



    By Linda


    WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT

    This is a wonderful chapter, even without considering that it was finished by another author.

    Rand sits at the top of the world, but isn’t feeling on top of the world; he’s about as low as he can go (a critical example of the reversal of order the Dark One has wrought). Dragonmount’s vent is on his left, as is his own side wound. For so much of what Rand does and remembers in this scene, it is indeterminable whether these are his own insights or memories from Lews Therin, although for the philosophy of reincarnation, it is largely the same thing. Rand is blending with Lews Therin before his epiphany. Had he not, he would never have undergone this transformation because he wouldn’t have listened to, or perhaps even been talked to, by Lews Therin.

    His nausea when reaching for the Power seems to be due to his creeping corruption, and not from the conflict between his Lews Therin and Rand personalities. After all, he is blending with Lews Therin here and yet feeling sicker than ever. The worst attack was when he tried to commit genocide with the Power.

    Rand is also linked even closer to Moridin, to the extent that he is considering the validity of Moridin’s philosophy:

    "What if he is right?" Rand bellowed. "What if it's better for this all to end? What if the Light was a lie all along, and this is all just a punishment? We live again and again, growing feeble, dying, trapped forever. We are to be tortured for all time!"

    - The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

    A terrible thing for the Light’s champion to say or feel, but then being the Light’s champion is no picnic. Rand muses on what his role is: the sheltering hand or the slaying hand (the one holding the sword)?

    What was he? What was the Dragon Reborn? A symbol? A sacrifice? A sword, meant to destroy? A sheltering hand, meant to protect?
    A puppet, playing a part over and over again?

    - The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

    His inner turmoil is now an existential crisis. From what Graendal says in Towers of Midnight, many of the Forsaken had a severe crisis (moral?) before they turned to the Shadow:

    How will Lews Therin react to what he has done? Destroying an entire fortress, a miniature city of its own, with hundreds of occupants? Killing innocents to reach his goal? Will that sit easily within him?"
    Moridin hesitated. No, he had not considered that. She smiled inwardly. To him, al'Thor's actions would have made perfect sense. They were the most logical, and therefore most sensible, means of accomplishing a goal.
    But al'Thor himself . . . his mind was full of daydreams about honor and virtue. This event would not sit easily within him, and speaking of him as Lews Therin to Moridin would reinforce that. These actions would tear at al'Thor, rip at his soul, lash his heart raw and bleeding. He would have nightmares, wear his guilt on his shoulders like the yoke of a heavily laden cart.
    She could vaguely remember what it had been like, taking those first few steps toward the Shadow. Had she ever felt that foolish pain? Yes, unfortunately. Not all of the Chosen had. Semirhage had been corrupt to the bone from the start. But others of them had taken different paths to the Shadow, including Ishamael.
    She could see the memories, so distant, in Moridin's eyes. Once, she'd not been sure who this man was, but now she was. The face was different, but the soul was the same. Yes, he knew exactly what al'Thor was feeling.
    "You told me to hurt him," Graendal said. "You told me to bring him anguish. This was the best way."

    - The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

    His actions, had he carried them out, would have qualified Rand for Forsaken at the least, as Graendal implies with her thoughts that feeling manipulated into doing dark deeds and agonising about them afterwards are the first steps toward joining the Dark One. The pressure and peril of Rand’s role, his anguish at being manipulated to unwilling evil and his trauma at the abuse, as well as the demands heaped on him, have led to this.

    Rand’s thoughts show that he was always aiming for hardness rather than strength:

    He had thought that if he made himself hard enough, it would take away the pain.

    - The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

    He is in pain because the Shadow is wounding the Land and the people and Rand is one with the Land and champion of the people. The Shadow has wounded him personally, too, in order to strike at the Land as well as him.

    Rand believes everything began to go wrong after Moiraine’s death, which he caused. But we know Moiraine isn’t dead. Therefore perhaps things are not wrong at all. Rand had hope before Moiraine “died”, and it died when she did. But she isn’t dead, just gone, and his hope likewise isn’t irrecoverable; both return after great suffering.

    In Rand’s mind, Moiraine’s death is associated not only with losing hope, but being put in a box. The chapter encapsulates the underlying premise, the basic theme Jordan wanted to explore in this story: what would be like to be a messiah?

    "What if you were tapped on the shoulder and told you had to save the world?"

    - Robert Jordan in an interview

    And one under sentence not just of death, but corruption and madness as well. The pressures have caused changes in Rand:

    He understood what would be required of him, and he'd changed in the ways he thought he needed. Those changes were to keep him from being overwhelmed. Die to protect people he didn't know? Chosen to save mankind? Chosen to force the kingdoms of the world to unite behind him, destroying those who refused to listen? Chosen to cause the deaths of thousands who fought in his name, to hold those souls upon his shoulders, a weight that must be borne? What man could do these things and remain sane? The only way he had seen had been to cut off his emotions, to make himself cuendillar.

    - The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

    but finally he will be backed into adopting the philosophy that “the more things change, the more they stay the same" (after all, that’s how Jordan’s Pattern of Ages works).

    Rand has been chosen by the Pattern or Creator, but in the quote above he makes it seem as though he is little different from those who chose to turn to the Shadow – the Chosen. It’s a matter of how Rand imposes his mission and, in his darker moments, his will, on the people.

    To his and the world’s great cost, Rand thinks having feelings is a failure, and that the pain he experiences will bleed him dry. His conscience vanished when he tried to kill Tam. Now Rand is worried that having reached his goal to feel nothing, he is too unfeeling and possibly amoral:

    Without that voice, did Rand dare continue? If it was the last remnant of the old Rand—the Rand who had believed that he knew what was right and what was wrong—then what did its silence mean?

    - The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

    Bad news is what it means.

    Rand immediately puts these valid concerns aside and expresses despair about the cycling of time and being reborn to remake mistakes. He also rages against lapses of time causing loss of knowledge and history. Moridin, too, was angry at the knowledge that had been lost to him through history:

    The reasons, like the source of the name, were lost in the mist of time. That troubled him sometimes, enraged him, what knowledge might be lost in the turnings of the Wheel, knowledge he needed, knowledge he had a right to. A right!

    - The Path of Daggers, Prologue

    but Moridin wants the knowledge for himself; he’s not worried about the effect of ignorance on others’ lives.

    Jordan’s opening philosophical paragraph:

    The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose around the alabaster spire known as the White Tower. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.

    - The Gathering Storm, Tears From Steel

    is rephrased by Rand in a dark way at the book's end:

    "We live the same lives!" he yelled at them. "Over and over and over. We make the same mistakes. Kingdoms do the same stupid things. Rulers fail their people time and time again. Men continue to hurt and hate and die and kill!"
    Winds buffeted him, whipping at his brown cloak and his fine Tairen trousers. But his words carried, echoing across the broken rocks of Dragonmount…
    "What if I think it's all meaningless?" he demanded with the loud voice of a king. "What if I don't want it to keep turning? We live our lives by the blood of others! And those others become forgotten. What good is it if everything we know will fade? Great deeds or great tragedies, neither means anything! They will become legends, then those legends will be forgotten, then it will all start over again!"

    The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

    The wind, prana or chi, the breath of Life that initiates each book has been whipped into a tempest by Rand’s rage.

    The chapter title Veins of Gold refers to love, Tears from Steel, anguish. There is an acceptance in the ‘standard’ version of the philosophy that is not in Rand’s rages. He regards this world as illusion and a vale of tears and rails against the right and proper order that is the Pattern. Like the Amayar, he nearly ended the Time of Illusion, so disillusioned was he with the Pattern and his crushing role to save it. The Cycle of Ages is meaningless to Rand in his current state. History forgotten over time means there is a risk that the same errors are repeatedly made. Is Rand not doing exactly that right now? He doesn’t know all his past lives yet; not the ones with joy and love, only Lews Therin’s traumatic later life. These kinder, more balanced memories transform Rand and he sees the point, the purpose, of the Wheel. He has found insupportable the impartiality of the Pattern, which seemingly is not taking sides (although it has given Rand a big help by making him so strongly ta’veren.)

    Rand knows pain of heart as Moridin ordered, although it has backfired on the latter. So while Rand is thinking that Moridin’s philosophy of nihilism might be worthwhile and that Moridin might be right, Moridin is feeling exhausted by Rand’s duty, pain and turmoil and looks forward to the end. Moridin can’t separate his own feelings too easily from Rand’s:

    "I feel so tired," Moridin continued, closing his eyes. "Is that you, or is it me?

    - The Gathering Storm, A Place To Begin

    Not only does Rand think Moridin might be right, he no longer feels the wrongness of the Shadow, so strongly is he influenced by his link to Moridin.

    The Creator’s champion declaiming:

    What if the Light was a lie all along, and this is all just a punishment? We live again and again, growing feeble, dying, trapped forever. We are to be tortured for all time!"

    The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

    shows very dark religious feelings indeed. There must be hope and love or life is untenable.

    Yet when Rand drinks in saidin, the male elixir of life made by the Creator, he feels glory.

    Dragonmount might have had a tremor due to Rand holding so much saidin (and rage). Men are strong in Fire and Earth, after all.

    It is true that the Dragon left the world wounded (by both world war and the Dark One’s taint), limping forward as civilisation collapsed, but Rand thinks it was rotting. Not so; only now is it rotting because the Shadow (and the madness from the taint, which makes men rot) has a strong hold on him who is one with the Land.

    Graendal complains how hard it is to get good wine with everything rotten, but Moridin provided some. Is this a reverse influence from Rand through their link, or an example of changing places in a way?

    Rand is holding more Power than when he cleansed saidin because then he was in a circle with Nynaeve and the overall strength of the circle is not as great as the separate strengths of each channeller in it added together, no matter how large the circle, so a channeller can’t draw as much Power as they normally could (The Path of Daggers, The Breaking Storm).

    While Rand is so dark, he is repeatedly described with solar imagery (so we don’t lose hope ourselves in the outcome of his long dark night of the soul, a sign he will come about on the winds of despair):

    He felt himself alight with the Power, like a sun to the world below…He was the sun. He was fire. He was life and death.

    - The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

    His warmth gives light, his burning rage death.

    The role of the Light's champion is rough with so little support from the Creator: only the one contact with the Creator in The Eye of the World, when the Creator told Rand he wouldn’t take a direct part. The Forsaken have far more contact with the Dark One, who is a paranoid out-of-control freak. This is reassuring to them, but also very threatening.

    The Last Hour as Rand described it to Tuon in another chapter whose title is the antithesis of this one:

    "You believe the Last Battle is close, then?" she asked.
    "Close?" al'Thor asked. "It is as close as an assassin, breathing his foul breath upon your neck as he slides his knife across your skin. It is close like the last chime of midnight, after the other eleven have struck. Close? Yes, it is close. Horribly close."

    - The Gathering Storm, A Halo of Blackness

    almost occurred in this chapter:

    The Power hesitated inside him, like the headsman's axe, held quivering above the criminal's neck.

    - The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

    The battle within Rand was almost the last battle. It was Lews Therin and Tam who provided the input that made Rand change his view. The Creator believes in individual choice, the Dark One in his personal will. When Rand understands the purpose of the Pattern, and indirectly, choice, he remembers all his lives and also communes with the Land/Creation in the light of the globe in the hand of the access key. The sa’angreal represents Rand holding the world in his hand. And not breaking it after some consideration.

    His epiphany occurs when Rand realises that rebirth gives souls the chance to love each other and be with each other again. Rand expresses the desire to fix his mistakes and get it right this time. History repeating is a chance to change outcomes for the better, not just the certainty that people will make the same mistakes repeatedly.

    Rand is no longer going to crush the world that is in the palm of his hand, but shelter it (or help the Creator shelter it) and so destroys the sa’angreal and access key that symbolised the potential to destroy Creation.

    Having removed the temptation of absolute power, there are signs that he is an even stronger channeller alone in Towers of Midnight than he was with the sa’angreal.

    Rand is at one with the world and with Lews Therin and at peace within himself. Clouds open as his gloom lifts and he sees the sun. It shines on him. He has finally relearned laughter, at least, as Cadsuane wishes, although she didn’t have much to do with it. Therefore I don’t think this is the thing that Cadsuane is to teach all the Asha’man that Min saw in her viewing (A Crown of Swords, A Crown of Swords).


    For a chapter almost exclusively about Rand, there is a lot of the Forsaken in it.

    Tuesday, October 25, 2011

    The Gathering Storm Read-Through #52: Chapter 49 - Just Another Man



    By Linda


    WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT

    For a short, quiet chapter, there is a great deal in it. It’s not just another chapter.

    His first time in Ebou Dar, Rand walks around feeling nothing special – any man and everyman. Shortly, at the beginning of Towers of Midnight, upon coming down from Dragonmount, the first person he will meet will be Almen (all men) Bunt.

    The Seanchan treat all citizens well unless they break the law, including that against channelling independently. They go out of their way to establish peace, law and stability in any lands they conquer so the populace accept them and don’t rebel. Otherwise they would have to tie up resources quelling insurrection. Their rule is tyrannical, and yet not:

    They were conquerors. He felt their lands shouldn't be peaceful. They should be terrible, full of suffering because of the tyrannical rule. But it wasn't like that at all.
    Not unless you could channel. What the Seanchan did with this group of people was horrifying. Not all was well beneath this happy surface. And yet, it was shocking to realize how well they treated others.

    The Gathering Storm, Just Another Man

    Currently Rand’s rule is also a tyranny of sorts, and because he is manipulated by the Shadow and exposed to the Shadow, the land is rotten around him.

    Even pariahs like the Tinkers are not only accepted among the Seanchan, but encouraged to fulfil a useful civic function (and stay in one place): taking in late travellers, mending pots (the traditional occupation of real world tinkers), sewing uniforms, etc. Traditionalists among the Tinkers are concerned because they expect to find the Song while wandering like pilgrims as they search. Yet in 3000 years they haven’t done so. The Song truly is “as much a part of them as the Way of Leaf.” The two are intertwined together – they can’t have the Song, or the technique of Singing, unless they follow Way of the Leaf.

    Rand, a, or the, pariah, joined the Tinkers’ camp for a night. Once, they served him as Da’shain Aiel. Ran always had mixed feelings about them: the Aiel prejudice against the Lost Ones and the mainland view of of Tinkers as idle thieves versus the knowledge that they kept one of the covenants, the First, to the Way of the Leaf, but broke the Second, to serve the Aes Sedai, unlike the Aiel who kept neither. Dressed in humble, everyman clothes, Rand carries a staff, a symbol of pilgrimage and search for wisdom. Like the Hermit of the Tarot (see Rand essay), he is solitary and separate from society, because he dare not speak his identity, and soon he will use the light of the access key and sa’angreal as guidance to ‘light his way’. Only, it will be the wrong way, which is why he casts aside his staff before he seizes the Power to destroy. Wisdom will slowly and painfully come from accepting this.

    Perrin’s dream of Rand wearing rags and a rough cloak, and with a bandage covering his eyes (The Shadow Rising, To the Tower of Ghenjei) is fulfilled here. Min too had a viewing of Rand with a beggar’s staff in The Eye of the World. Rand is beggaring himself financially to feed the starving and is himself emotionally and spiritually bankrupt. He is blind to his psychological problems and where he has gone astray. Both images also allude to Rand in his role of Fisher figure in Moridin's Sha'rah game (The Path of Daggers, Deceptive Appearances).


    Rand feels the full culpability of being Kinslayer and is full of self-loathing:

    He had nearly killed his father. He hadn't been forced to by Semirhage, or by Lews Therin's influence.
    No excuses. No argument. He, Rand al'Thor, had tried to kill his own father. He'd drawn in the Power, made the weaves and nearly released them…
    Lews Therin had been able to claim madness for his atrocities. Rand had nothing, no place to hide, no refuge from himself.

    The Gathering Storm, Just Another Man

    Rand is wrong; he too is insane.

    The Seanchan have made a safer society than Rand has been able to. He is a danger to society himself, having nearly killed his own father and now planning genocide. Still, unbeknownst to Rand, Tuon has had two of her siblings killed:

    His wife-to-be had had a brother and a sister assassinated? After they tried to have her killed, true, but still! What kind of family went around killing one another? The Seanchan Blood and the Imperial family, for starters. Half of her siblings were dead, assassinated, most of them, and maybe the others, too.

    - Knife of Dreams, A Short Path

    The Seanchan have conquered those nations which were not politically strong. As we saw in The Shadow Rising, they sent spies to determine which nations were weakest. To their credit, once they have conquered them, they do improve the stability and order of these nations markedly.

    Rand is still bent on destroying his enemies because they have defied him. He is more concerned about whether if he uses a lot of power to destroy the Seanchan, he will attract Forsaken, than he is about the effect of using such large amounts of balefire. Once he decides to do it he leaves his staff behind; it’s not a pilgrimage now, but an attack. His isolation has led to alienation:

    It felt so odd to be just another foreigner.
    The Dragon Reborn walked among this people, and they did not know him.

    The Gathering Storm, Just Another Man

    The Dragon Reborn will die for these people and yet they don’t recognise him, nor does he know them. He has cut himself off from humanity and realises this as he walks anonymously among them but doesn’t notice that he is thinking inhumanely. No wonder his own father barely recognised his character.

    He sees them as his people but he is prepared to kill them:

    It will be a mercy, Lews Therin whispered. Death is always a mercy. The madman didn't sound as crazy as he once had. In fact, his voice had started to sound an awful lot like Rand's own voice.

    The Gathering Storm, Just Another Man

    They are as mad as each other. Once, Rand wept for women who died in his name, now death is a mercy. And his musings on balefire are ominous:

    He could give those walls a purity they had never known, a perfection. That would make the building complete, in a way, in the moment before it faded into nothingness.

    The Gathering Storm, Just Another Man

    Nihilism as purifying sounds like Ishamael/Moridin’s philosophy (for comparison see here. The reason why Ishamael swore to the Dark One is because the Dark One plans to destroy the world (and rebuild it in his own image).

    Rand sickens himself with his decision to commit genocide. The sickness is due to the war within himself over how corrupt he is now. The Land, being one with him, is blighted by his corruption, and he, one with the Land, is blighted in return. It is a positive feedback loop. Because of this close link between the Creator’s champion and the Land, following the philosophy of “as above, so below,” it is very bad for the world if Rand commits evil acts. The Shadow can win just by manipulating him into such sin, however well meaning Rand is, effectively corrupting him to their side, just as in the sha’rah game if the Fisher is forced onto the opponent’s colour on the goal row it is a conclusive win for the player.

    Even in the extremity of his nausea Rand still holds onto power, so fond of it or reliant on it he has become:

    But he held on to saidin. He needed the power. The succulent, beautiful power.

    The Gathering Storm, Just Another Man

    Humbling himself was the first step to ‘meeting his toh’ and restoring his honour as an Aiel would, and the shame he felt in Ebou Dar when people innocently showed concern for him while he secretly considered committing genocide underlines this. The strong sense of community and caring in Seanchan society prevents Rand from demonising them enough to justify obliterating them. He Skims away on an Aes Sedai symbol disc, which also represents a Seal on the Dark One’s prison. Rand is astride “good” and “bad”, creation and destruction, healing and corruption, trying to Seal away the Shadow. He is not balanced though, quite the opposite; he is so unbalanced that he is literally insane. He is increasingly merging with Les Therin in this chapter:

    He didn't know if the thought was his or if it was Lews Therin's. The two were the same.

    The Gathering Storm, Just Another Man

    and this will be complete before the end of the book. Rand thinks the Pattern pushed him to destroy because destruction was necessary. His statement that “he was destruction” is a link with the Hindu god Shiva (see Rand essay). The Pattern wants him to realise before the Last Battle that destruction should be carefully limited. Perhaps it is necessary for Rand to know what evil is like so he can beat it? He needs to be dark before he finds light; he needs to be corrupt through his link with Moridin so he can cut himself off from Moridin. (This link also ties Moridin up for a while.)

    First Rand Skims to where he fought the Seanchan with Callandor and both sides lost. He also lost control of himself in that battle thanks to Callandor. Then the Dragon Travels to Dragonmount where he died and was born again and will be reborn (transfigured). It is the end of one cycle right now. Three thousand years ago Dragonmount marked the end of one Age.

    Dragonmount is the counterpoint to Shayol Ghul, centre of good to its centre of evil. Such solitary volcanic mountains represent the axis mundi, the sacred centre or heart of the world. In this case the mountain was formed by the death of the Creator’s champion and was the place of the soul’s rebirth. Dragonmount is one with Rand and both have wounds which bleed. We don’t know when Dragonmount had a volcanic explosion which tore away a section of mountainside and left a wound like the maw of a beast. Was it when Rand was wounded at Falme? When Rand fought Rahvin in Caemlyn, Rand roared like a beast. He seethes inside like a volcano and his temper is volcanic.

    Under an overcast sky – unenlightened – Rand looks down at the access key – a small statue of a man holding a globe in one hand. Rand is now holding the world in his sole hand. He has the power to destroy the world. But, like his parallel Heracles (see Rand essay; Hercules' pal Atlas being a parallel of Perrin) he also has the world resting on his shoulders for a while.