Monday, January 31, 2011

Analysis of Minor Characters #9: Dobraine

By Linda

Dobraine Taborwin appears a typical Cairhienin noble at first: well-informed, politically astute, and careful:

Asmodean nodded. “But before that, two of them did speak to me, once they were certain I was not a Tairen spy. Lord Dobraine, and Lady Colavaere. They clouded everything in so many hints and innuendos that I cannot be certain, but I would not be surprised if they mean to offer you the Sun Throne. They could bandy words with . . . some people I used to be acquainted with.”

The Fires of Heaven, After the Storm

“As you say,” Dobraine repeated, tucking the packets into his coat. His face betrayed no emotion, now. An experienced player in the Game of House, was Dobraine.

Winter’s Heart, Snow

He is as prudish as any of his countrymen:

"Perhaps," Dobraine said, shrugging slightly, "yet half the noblewomen in the city now wear bright colors in imitation of the Lady Min. Breeches that display their legs, and many in coats that do not even cover their ..." He coughed discreetly, realizing that Min's coat did not cover her hips completely... Besides, she thought it really was a slip; Lord Dobraine Taborwin was not the sort to make even slightly rough jokes.

The Path of Daggers, The Bargain

“I've travelled on a Sea Folk ship, and it is peculiar! Bare legs are not in it!”

The Path of Daggers, The Bargain

Yet he wears more ornament than is customary:

His signet ring was a carved ruby, and he wore another at his collar, not much larger yet flamboyant for a Cairheinin.

Winter’s Heart, Snow

and has shaved his head in the Cairhienin soldiers’ hairstyle (the Celtic tonsure, see Cairhienin costume). He adopted it before Rand took control of the city. It is a sign he fights for Cairhien, but also makes him seem harmless to other more ruthlessly and recklessly ambitious nobles.

Also unlike most Cairhienin, he is prepared to act boldly against Aiel:

"We can decide what to tell them after we tie and gag her." He moved as if to do it, even pulling a dark green scarf from his coat pocket, but Perrin caught his arm.
"She is Aiel, Dobraine," Berelain said. "A Maiden of the Spear. I do not understand the livery."
Surprisingly, it was Berelain who received a warning glare from Sulin.
Perrin exhaled slowly. And he had wanted to protect the white-haired old woman from Dobraine. The Cairhienin looked at him questioningly, raised the hand holding the scarf a little; apparently he still favoured binding and gagging.

Lord of Chaos, The Feast of Lights

and against even the most senior of Aes Sedai, informing her that he freed her captives (Winter’s Heart, Wonderful News).

He dropped his impassive and secretive persona and spoke out to Rand about the Sea Folk bargain, which he thought a poor one:

"Every city on water?" Dobraine exclaimed. "Do they mean here, too?" He leaped to his feet and began pacing, spilling more of his wine than Min had. He did not seem to notice. "A mile square? Under the Light alone knows what peculiar laws?...And what of the customs duties, and docking fees, and . . ." Suddenly he rounded on Rand. He scowled at the Aes Sedai, who paid him no mind, but it was to Rand he spoke, in a tone bordering on roughness. "They will ruin Cairhien in a year, my Lord Dragon. They will ruin any port where you allow them to do this."

The Path of Daggers, The Bargain

It shows his care for his country. Not entirely reassured by Rand, he later grumbled about the bargain where Cadsuane could hear; perhaps he hoped she could influence Rand or the Sea Folk on the matter (Winter’s Heart, Wonderful News). This is the only time we know of that Dobraine has voiced objections to Rand’s arrangements. Otherwise he is remarkably obedient. The Fires of Heaven glossary explains that Dobraine Taborwin is:

a high ranking lord of Cairhien who believes in keeping the letter of his oaths.

Is this a hint that he doesn’t necessarily follow the spirit of the oath? So far this hasn’t been apparent.

He has kept his soldier’s hairstyle, perhaps as a sign he will obey Rand as his armsman. It is a good tactic; he has survived and even prospered.

However, Rand has been sceptical at times:

Rand had no illusions that Dobraine liked him more than any of the others did, or that he would not try to gain advantage where he could, but Dobraine actually seemed ready to hold to the oath he had sworn.

The Fires of Heaven, News Comes To Cairhien

and he was openly distrustful while in the grip of paranoia induced by the taint and his link to Moridin.

Yet the Tower embassy was convinced Dobraine could not be persuaded to act against Rand, whereas they weren’t with Berelain (or thought Dobraine wasn’t worth the trouble and she was):

"Ten?" Dobraine said. "I had only one visit. I thought she was disappointed when I made it clear I had sworn fealty to the Lord Dragon.”

Lord of Chaos, The Feast of Lights

To keep his oath Dobraine was prepared to die rescuing Rand:

"You will not go alone, Ogier," Dobraine said. "I can have five hundred men I trust by tomorrow. What we can do against six Aes Sedai, I do not know, but I keep my oaths."

Lord of Chaos, The Feast of Lights

and expected to do so:

'The Lord Dragon is down there?" Dobraine asked, looking across Rhuarc. Perrin nodded. "And you mean to go in there and bring him out?" Perrin nodded again, and Dobraine sighed. He smelled resigned, not afraid. "We will go in, Lord Aybara, but I do not believe we will come out." This time Rhuarc nodded.

Lord of Chaos, Dumai’s Wells

Dobraine has been remarkably successful in identifying and negotiating through the various plots in Cairhien:

Dobraine watched Meilan and Maringil, though why was anyone's guess.

Lord of Chaos, Matters of Toh

Rand didn’t understand the politics yet. Dobraine knew Meilan and Maringil each were plotting for the throne, and Colavaere too:

"Today Cairhien has suffered two misfortunes. This morning, Lord Maringil was found dead in his bed, of poison it appears. And only a short while later High Lord Meilan apparently fell victim to a footpad's blade in the streets. Most unusual during the Feast of Lights."
"Why are you telling me this?" Perrin said slowly.
Dobraine spread his hands. "You are the Lord Dragon's friend, and he is not here." He hesitated, and when he went on, it seemed he was forcing words. "Last night, Colavaere dined with guests from a number of the smaller Houses. Daganred, Chuliandred, Annallin, Osiellin, others. Small by themselves, but numerous. The subject was alliance with House Saighan and support for Colavaere for the Sun Throne. She made little effort to hide the meeting." Again he paused, weighing Perrin with his eyes. Whatever Dobraine saw, he seemed to think it called for more explanation. "This is most strange, because both Maringil and Meilan wanted the throne, and either would have had her smothered with her own pillows had they learned of it…
Yet I am convinced Colavaere had Maringil and Meilan killed to make her own way to the throne safe. She would never have dared had she thought the Lord Dragon would ever return."
"So that is why." A small, vexed frown creased Berelain's forehead. "I have proof she had a servant put poison in Maringil's wine—she was careless, and I brought two good thief-catchers with me—but I did not know why." She bowed her head slightly, acknowledging Dobraine's admiring look.

Lord of Chaos, The Feast of Lights

Dobraine’s approval of Berelain shows he gives credit where credit is due; he also has a sense of justice:

"Treason and murder." Dobraine sounded satisfied. Those whimpered screams did not touch him. "The penalty is the same, my Lord Dragon. Death. Except, by your new law, it is hanging for murder."

A Crown of Swords, A Broken Crown

"He should have sent her to the block," Dobraine muttered, and Perrin shrugged uncomfortably. From the man's tone, it was not clear whether he meant that that was what the law called for or that it would have been more merciful. Dobraine did not understand. Rand could have sprouted wings first.
Faile's fan slowed to barely moving, and she eyed Dobraine sideways over the crimson lace. "Her death might be best for everyone. That is the prescribed penalty. What will you do, Lord Dobraine?" ...
The Cairhienin gave her a level look in return while thrusting his gauntlets behind his sword belt. “What I was commanded to do. I keep my oaths, Lady Faile."

A Crown of Swords, Old Fear and New Fear

He refused to violate his oaths and act against Rand’s orders.

Dobraine warned Rand that Berelain and Faile were targets for retribution due to their part in bringing down Colavaere:

"Dobraine tells me he's already heard whispers in the palace that you betrayed Colavaere. Those who supported her might be afraid to say boo to me, but they'll pay to have a knife stuck into you." And Faile, too, according to Dobraine; that was being taken care of. "But they won't have a chance, because you are going back to Mayene. Dobraine will take your place here until Elayne claims the Sun Throne."

A Crown of Swords, As The Plow Breaks the Earth

Dobraine thinks Elayne has a good claim to the Cairhien throne and a better one than Colavaere:

”Colavaere is the key. She knows as well as any that the Lord Dragon means the Sun Throne for Elayne Trakand." He grimaced. "Elayne Damodred, she should be. Taringail should have insisted Morgase marry into Damodred instead of marrying into Trakand himself; she needed him enough to have done it. Well, Elayne Trakand or Elayne Damodred, she has as strong a claim to the throne as any, stronger than Colavaere's by far.”

Lord of Chaos, The Feast of Lights

Judging from what Morgase said in Towers of Midnight, An Open Gate about how Taringail had more power than she early in their marriage Dobraine’s assessment is accurate.

Dobraine’s comments also show why he had no hesitation in garnering support in Cairhien for Elayne as Rand wished and why he was thje only worthy choice for Rand’s Steward in Cairhien. He could be trusted to hand the throne on to Elayne.

Rand was greatly helped by Dobraine’s informative reports on affairs in Cairhien:

"Toram Riatin appears to have vanished," Dobraine said, "though rumor, at least, says he still lives, worse luck. Rumors also say that Daved Hanlon and Jeraal Mordeth - Padan Fain, as you call the man - have deserted him. By the way, I have settled Toram's sister, the Lady Ailil, in generous apartments, with servants who are . . . trustworthy." By his tone, he clearly meant trustworthy toward himself. The woman would not be able to change her dress without him knowing. "I can understand bringing her here, and Lord Bertome and the others, but why High Lord Weiramon, or High Lady Anaiyella? It goes without saying, of course, that their servants also are trustworthy."

The Path of Daggers, The Bargain

Bertome at least is somewhat untrustworthy; Ailil later showed she was not a problem. Dobraine appears not to know why the Tairens were kept in Cairhien; but he should have been able to work it out. There was nowhere else safe to keep them until Darlin had full control of Tear.

Rand left a lot up to Dobraine:

“The top one names you my steward in Cairhein,” he said, handing the packets to Dobraine. A third still nestled next to his chest, for Gregorin den Lushenos, making him steward in Illian. “So there’ll be no trouble with anyone questioning your authority while I’m gone.” Dobraine could handle that sort of trouble with his armsmen, but best to make sure no one could claim ignorance or doubt. Maybe there would be no trouble to handle if everyone believed the Dragon Reborn would descend on transgressors. “There are orders about things, I want done, but aside from those, use your own judgment. When the Lady Elayne lays claim to the Sun Throne, throw your full support behind her... “You’ll know when to deliver the other. Whether to deliver it. Pry him out if need be, and decide by what he says. If you decide not, or he refuses, I’ll pick someone else. Not you.”
Perhaps that was brusque, but Dobraine’s expression hardly changed. His eyebrows rose slightly at the name written on the second packet; that was all. He made a smooth bow. Cairheinin usually were smooth. “It shall be as you say. Forgive me, but you sound as though you mean to be gone for a long while.”

Winter’s Heart, Snow

including when or if to give Darlin Rand’s letter appointing him Sterward of Tear. Cadsuane thought Dobraine had not told Rand she was holding Caraline Damodred and Darlin but she was wrong. Rand already had a good idea of it. Dobraine decided to give Rand’s letter of authority to Darlin and free the pair; he was bold enough to tell Cadsuane so also (Winter’s Heart, Wonderful News). Much to Samitsu’s surprise, Dobraine did not abuse his authority, but followed Rand’s wishes exactly. He has been a great support to Rand, and it nearly cost him his life when Darkfriends attacked him to get access to the Seal they thought he might have.

Min thought that losing even one of Dobraine, Bashere or Logain would be a blow (and losing all three might take Rand a year to recover, which he doesn’t have) (Crossroads of Twilight, A Strengthening Storm).

Rand decided Arad Doman was in such desperate straits that Dobreaine and large force of Aiel should be moved there to restore order. Social order had completely broken down but Dobraine brought Bandar Eban under control.

He received praise from an unlikely source – an Aiel clan chief, who normally despise Treekillers:

Bael shook his head. "Dobraine Taborwin has done well with Bandar Eban," he said, "but Rhuarc spoke rightly when he called this land broken.

The Gathering Storm, The Plan for Arad Doman

Rand was not impressed however and even became distrustful:

"Lord Dragon," Dobraine said smoothly, bowing to Rand as he approached. "I deliver to you the city of Bandar Eban. Order has been restored, as you commanded."
"I asked you to restore order to the entire country, Dobraine," Rand said softly. "Not just one city."
The nobleman wilted slightly.
"You have one of the merchant council for me?" Rand asked.
"Yes," Dobraine said. "Milisair Chadmar, last to flee the city's chaos." His eyes were eager. He had always been stalwart, but was that a ruse?
Rand had trouble trusting anyone lately. The ones who seemed most trustworthy were the ones you needed to watch the most. And Dobraine was Cairhienin. Dared Rand trust anyone from Cairhien, with their games?
Moiraine was Cairhienin. I trusted her. Mostly.
Perhaps Dobraine hoped that Rand would choose him as king in Arad Doman. He had been steward of Cairhien, but he—like most others—knew that Rand intended Elayne for the Sun Throne. Well, Rand might give this kingdom to Dobraine at that. He was better than most.

The Gathering Storm, Into Bandar Eban

Rand thinks he is thwarting Dobraine’s ambitions. Alternatively, perhaps Dobraine simply wants to please Rand and have him acknowledge his efforts and achievement. In his dark mood Rand abruptly sent Dobraine to Tear even though Rand knew more remained to be done in Arad Doman:

He turned to Dobraine. "You have done well here," he said to the lord. "Even if you haven't brought order as widely as I wish. Gather your armsmen. Narishma has been instructed to provide a gateway for you to Tear."
"Tear, my Lord?" Dobraine asked, surprised.
"Yes," Rand said. "Tell Darlin to stop pestering me with messengers. He is to keep gathering his forces; I'll bring him to Arad Doman when I decide the time is right." That would be after he met with the Daughter of the Nine Moons, which meeting would determine much.
Dobraine looked faintly crestfallen. Or was that just Rand's interpretation? Dobraine's expression rarely changed. Was he imagining his hopes of this kingdom withering away? Was he plotting against Rand?
"Yes, my Lord. I assume I'm to leave immediately?"
Dobraine has never given us reason to doubt him. He even gathered support for Elayne to take the Sun Throne!
Rand had been away from him too long. Too long to trust him. But best to get him out for now; he'd had too much time to get a foothold here, and Rand didn't trust any Cairhienin to avoid games with politics.
"Yes, you leave within the hour," Rand said, turning to walk up the graceful white stairs.
Dobraine saluted, stoic as always, and left out the front doorway. He obeyed immediately. No word of complaint. He was a good man. Rand knew he was.
Light, what is happening to me? Rand thought. I need to trust some people. Don't I?
Trust. . . ? Lews Therin whispered. Yes, perhaps we can trust him. He cannot channel. Light, the one we can't trust at all is ourselves. . . .
Rand clenched his jaw. He would reward Dobraine with the kingdom if Alsalam couldn't be found.

The Gathering Storm, Into Bandar Eban

Rand’s behaviour is peremptory. Dobraine behaves like a soldier and even salutes Rand. Rand fluctuates in his opinion of Dobraine. Dobraine’s reaction could be simple disappointment at Rand’s criticism and distrust. After all, he nearly died for Rand.

Dobraine's house colours are blue and white and his con is blue with two white diamonds. (Lord of Chaos, The Sending). Blue represents infinity, eternity, truth, faith, purity, and spiritual and intellectual life (Jack Tressider, Symbols and their Meanings). It is the most detached and least material colour. White represents purity, truth, innocence and initiation. Together both colours are reassuring about Dobraine’s motives and loyalty.


uglycat said...

thanks for doing another minor character! these are fun to read-- RJ was great at giving these guys a life of their own. more life than i pick up when i read them, so these articles are always informative.

tball said...

Seeing Dobraine's moments all in one place like that really highlights his character. I hadn't realized how consistently solid he had been.

Linda said...

Thanks tball and uglycat. Dobraine is solid - as in unexciting. The most interesting thing is why the glossary said that he followed the letter of his oaths. It makes some uncertainty for which there really is no evidence.

Mattrickster said...

I think that Dobraine is that rarity - an honest Cairhienin. He plays "the Game of Houses" by keeping his word. Which in Cairhien society would keep the rest of the Cairhienin Nobles off balance,sure that he is playing deep.

Linda said...

Mattrickster: So far that is entirely correct.

BTW, I have just edited the Trickster section of my Mat essay with updates for TofM. :)

Anonymous said...

Linda - we need to know his connection to Brienne, stat! Any basis in the text anywhere? Rob

Linda said...

I talk about that a bit in Noble Houses of Cairhien. There's no info on what their familial relationship is.