Monday, February 28, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #2: Prologue POVs 4-6

By Linda


This post covers the second half of The Gathering Storm Prologue, starting with Graendal’s POV.

Graendal’s parallels are really obvious in the first scene of this POV: man-hungry Circe in her lair, which is a palace in a forest above a lake like Nazi leader Hermann Goering’s Carinhall (see Graendal essay for more on her parallels). She has enslaved a member of the Merchant Council and is tempted or distracted by Moridin’s messenger; he makes her think about killing Moridin.

She doesn’t appear to be as intelligent as RJ’s earlier portrayals of her. Normally her shallowness is a facade to deceive others, here it is more pervasive. For example, she criticises Mesaana’s appearance and suggests Mesaana joined the Shadow for research opportunities. Yet Graendal made a different and rather better diagnosis of Mesaana’s motives in Lord of Chaos. Graendal also daydreams of putting Moridin under Compulsion to serve her as her pet. She is fooled by one of Moridin’s serving men:

There was silence in the too-black room for a time, and then a servant in a crisp red uniform entered, bearing two cups. He was an ugly thing, with a flat face and bushy eyebrows, worth no more than a passing glance.

- The Gathering Storm, Prologue

He was probably watching her while she disregarded him and so was definitely worth more than a passing glance. (This servant appears to be the reverse of the beautiful, white-clad zomaran, but perhaps has a similar role in unexpectedly ‘reading’ Moridin’s guests.)

Moridin is in the deep Northeastern Blight in a black stone building with no glass in windows. Just as Graendal has her Carinhall, so Moridin could own multiple towers/fortresses as the Nazis did. Shadowspawn in this part of the Blight supposedly only obey the Dark One, not even Moridin. It is hot and very austere. Graendal used to be into austerity, but she isn’t now. Or did she only like her own austerity and not anyone else’s? A thinly-veiled holier-than-thou?

Moridin has become more stern and authoritative – more like Rand. He stands staring at nothing like Rand does. Rand and Moridin are merging. Moridin, the would-be captor of the Fisher King, is himself becoming like the Fisher King.

Unlike Rand, Moridin is obsessed with killing Mat and Perrin. Graendal wants to kill Rand instead, as probably all the Forsaken except Moridin do. Each one thinks they are the only one who dares to consider killing Rand against orders. Moridin doesn’t want Rand dead yet until he is in the right place at the right time:

”He is to live unharmed until he can face me at that last day.”

- The Gathering Storm, Prologue

The other Forsaken disregard this. Does Moridin think that the Pattern will look after Rand until the Last Moment or when Rand breaks the Seals and that is the Shadow’s chance to kill him and win?

Graendal sees Moridin as:

lacking in imagination lately. Everything of black and red, and all focused on killing those fool boys from the village of Rand al'Thor.

The Gathering Storm, Prologue

Is Moridin unimaginative? Or setting them an example of focus? Or is he fooling them all?

Demandred and Mesaana asked for the meeting with Moridin, and arrived together for moral support and to show a united front to Moridin while they ask his aid in rescuing Semirhage. They didn’t think that anyone else would be there that would need fooling – least of all Graendal. Graendal should have known this or been quicker to figure it out.

Moiridin invited her along to put them off balance and to humiliate them; and to manipulate Graendal, too, to make her feel like she should, and could, outdo Demandred, Mesaana and the hapless Semirhage and do what Moridin wants.

A woman – a Darkfriend? A Black Sister? – reported to Mesaana and Demandred that Semirhage didn’t intend to harm Rand, and that injuring him was a reflex. Did this woman witness it personally, or was she told by other witnesses? Elza was not personally present during the attack. Maybe the informant was a sul’dam or damane. The fact that all the Seanchan were revolted by Semirhage’s declaration of her identity means nothing, such is her reputation on both sides.

Demandred says that Semirhage knows he would kill her for killing Rand, because the Dragon’s death is his prerogative. Big deal. Demandred is not convincing here. All the Forsaken are planning on killing Rand if they can and none worry about big shot Demandred paying them out for it.

There will be no rescue of Semirhage as punishment for her failure and because she injured Rand when this was forbidden. and Demandred and Mesaana are forbidden to rescue her.

Rand’s injury pains Moridin, which is why he doesn’t want Rand harmed physically. He’s going to go for psychological pain instead. If he thought he wouldn’t be affected by it, or that it would be less difficult to bear than physical pain, he was wrong. Or maybe he was willing to bear it. The way Moridin lives now – the bleakness and discomfort – would add to Rand’s misery, as would Moridin’s displeasure and frustration with Semirhage. Quite probably Moridin’s fortress serves the dual purpose of adding to Rand’s discomfort through the link, while also intimidating other Forsaken. Moridin’s trying to drive Rand over the edge, but will he feel it too? Moridin’s showing a raw temper like Rand and all his lighter mockery is gone. This becomes obvious when the two souls meet in Tel’aran’rhiod as their old, true selves.

Humiliated or not, Demandred and Mesaana tell something of their plans. Mesaana says she will have all Aes Sedai serving the Shadow and that the White Tower will soon fall to her. She claims she is gaining followers all the time – some knowingly, others not. Who are these followers? And who are they following? We didn’t see much evidence of it in The Gathering Storm or Towers of Midnight. Graendal regards Mesaana’s claims as unsubstantiated boasts.

Demandred prepares for war, and says he will be ready. So he’s not quite ready yet. Is he conning Moridin as much as Mesaana is? He’s ruling someone or something supposedly. Neither we nor Graendal have any idea what Demandred is doing. Graendal thinks he’s a fool to bear a grudge against Lew Therin; that it is a waste of energy and time. Is Demandred with the Borderlander armies? Or on the Seanchan continent?

Graendal has spies on the Borderlander camp but has seen no sign of other Forsaken there. She knows which Aes Sedai Mesaana is pretending to be and has agents watching her. Graendal doesn’t know that Aran’gar left the rebels at least two weeks earlier. She has only just discovered that Semirhage was masquerading as a high-ranking Seanchan.

Lanfear and Moghedien are rallying Darkfriends and trying to kill Mat and Perrin, according to Graendal. She’s probably right: it was probably Lanfear who set Masema up to kill Perrin – her typical modus operandi of dreams and madness was used; and Masema was nearly successful.

Graendal thinks that:

Moridin was gathering the Great Lord's forces for the Last Battle, and his war preparations left him very little time for the south.

The Gathering Storm, Prologue

Despite what Graendal thinks, Moridin probably is doing more than war preparations. Moridin, like Demandred, is very hard to read and keep tabs on, as Graendal discovers on her next visit to Moridin’s fortress in Towers of Midnight.

Graendal didn’t know what to make of Moridin’s looking at her while rebuking Mesaana:

"You will speak when I give you leave, Mesaana," he replied coldly. "You are not yet forgiven."
She cringed, then obviously grew angry at herself for it. Moridin ignored her, glancing over at Graendal, eyes narrow. What was that look for?

The Gathering Storm, Prologue

Again, this is something that Graendal should be able to work out. Moridin looks at Graendal with narrowed eyes because he is seeing if she is taking note of the situation or to make her take note. (And Graendal oversteps far more than Mesaana does.) His look is also designed to annoy Demandred and Mesaana by reminding them they are pleading in front of Graendal.

Moridin tempts Graendal with a carrot, offering a small reward to her in advance, to get her to prevent Rand pacifying Arad Doman, and to bring him emotional pain. The latter order is added seemingly as an afterthought, but is probably more important to his strategy of getting Rand to despair. It very nearly worked. Rand nearly did the Dark One’s job of destroying everything including himself. Moridin is motivating Graendal rather than ordering her, so perhaps her task is a very risky one. I guess the example of Semirhage has sobered them all up.

Ituralde’s POV shows his skill as one of the Great Captains. In this scene he fools the Seanchan and the reader into thinking he has far more forces than he does and that the Seanchan will be attacked on two fronts. Like his later battle in the Borderlands, his victory is one few others could achieve but comes at a high cost. Knowing how good he is, his vain struggles to save Maradon in Towers of Midnight are all the more impressive. Ituralde is the king of lost causes and unwinnable battles.

Will Ituralde have his wish to have access to raken for aerial surveillance? He is one for whom the Seanchan now have great respect, so he may direct some of their forces in the Last Battle. Mat Cauthon can’t be everywhere.

In Masema’s POV we see that despite his words the Prophet’s heart isn’t too pure, but full of personal ambition. He isn’t thinking about how he can help Rand to victory, but about what Rand’s victory will do for him. Masema wants to be raised up to the level just below Rand as his Prophet:

Think not of the past, think of the future, when the Lord Dragon would rule all of the land! When men would be subject only to him, and to his Prophet beneath him. Those days would be glorious indeed, days when none would dare scorn the Prophet or deny his will.

The Gathering Storm Prologue

From what Lanfear told Rand, Asmodean dreamed of something similar:

He dreams of you triumphing over the Great Lord and putting him up beside you on high.

- The Fires of Heaven, Gateways

The two men are not that far apart. They both induced large groups to butcher innocents, ravage the countryside and provide an unwelcome distraction. Masema betrayed the Creator, and Asmodean the Dark One and probably both were meddled with by Lanfear. Masema lost his sanity, Asmodean most of his channelling ability. Both men professed allegiance to Rand, but were not that useful, and both were ambushed and killed by women.

Masema admits the failure of his Dragonsworn movement was his fault – but for the wrong reason. He regrets not killing Perrin long ago in The Great Hunt, before Masema even followed Rand. The night before the battle of Malden Masema saw a vision of Rand commanding him to kill Perrin. He sent Aram to do it. The “vision’ was probably created by one of the Forsaken; Lanfear is the most likely perpetrator. Sending people mad and manipulating their dreams was her modus operandi in the Age of Legends. Moreover Masema’s uncertain mental state can be traced back to early in The Dragon Reborn, when very few of the Forsaken knew where Rand was or who he was with. Lanfear was one who did.

Wandering in dark woods is symbolic of Masema’s state of mind. His memories of life as Masema are blurry, another sign of mental manipulations such as induced insanity or Compulsion.

Can someone be blamed for being sent mad or going mad?

Masema blames Darkfriends for the high casualty rate he suffered at Malden. He assumed the Dragon would protect the Dragonsworn (from afar, even) and lead them to victory. Likewise in the next book, Galad believed the Children would be strong and protected by their belief in the Light and the Creator, until casualties showed him otherwise. His sanity contrasts with Masema’s. One minute Masema is proud and fond of followers, the next contemptuous and thinking they are cowardly or Darkfriends. However, Asunawa also accused Whitecloaks of being Darkfriends when things did not go his way.

This scene of Faile killing Masema reinforces that Faile is important in her own right. The Prophet started out like John the Baptist, and unlike Salome, Faile “took his head” personally. Ambushing Masema in the woods while dressed in green, she is Wild Woman defending her Wild Man husband (see Faile and Berelain and Perrin essays for more on their parallels).

Just as Masema and Asmodean mirror each other, so the Dragonsworn and Darkfriends are both millenarian extremists.

Masema’s followers were renowned for their abnormal, often violent, behaviour in their efforts to recruit for the Dragon. Masema’s concentration on the Dragon’s rebirth and imminent salvation of the world and rejection of everything else as useless is typically millenarian. He preached that belief in the Dragon and obedience to his word is enough to ensure the defeat of the Shadow.

The Forsaken/Darkfriends are far more developed as a millenarian cult. This is hardly surprising, since they were established more than three thousand years ago and it is their master, the Dark One, who wants to end the world as it currently is. From the Shadow’s point of view, their victory will usher in an eternity of rule under the Dark One – a dark eternity of an evil paradise where they will be the elect. Many Darkfriends are in the same mould:

Unlike the Forsaken, Darkfriends have not known immortality, yet they have survived as a society for over three thousand years, serving and waiting for Tarmon Gai’don: the Last Battle…Some extremists are deeply dedicated to obtaining freedom for the Dark One and thus immortality and dominion for themselves.

- The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time

On the other hand, while the Whitecloaks are religious extremists, they showed little acceptance of the Dragon as the Creator’s surrogate and most showed little interest in the Last Battle at all, let alone feel it is imminent, until Galad took charge.

At death Masema’s soul falls into the void. It doesn’t sound like the Creator was impressed with him.


Frank said...

I wonder if that look Moridin gave Graendal was about Asmodean, and her temporary IQ drop was partly a ploy on Sanderson's part to keep cards close to the vest about that and other things that Graendal could have revealed in her POV. Not a terribly elegant stratagem, especially since there was no NEED to have a Graendal POV, but it's possible.

Never thought of the Faile/Masema, Salome/John the Baptist parallel. Interesting. Makes me think of Faile dancing the za'sara (or whatever it's called) and Salome's dance.

Linda said...

Frank: Yes, the erotic dance is one of the links between Salome and Faile. Details are in the Faile essay. I didn't want to get side-tracked in the read-through post.

I think the difference in Graendal was just the change in author.

Molly said...

I was so disappointed with Graendal's POV; hers are some of my favorites, generally, and she is by far my favorite Forsaken. They are usually so informative and interesting but this one really fell short for me.

Great read-through Linda!

Linda said...

Molly: Yes, Graendal wasn't as astute in this chapter, so she wasn't as interesting.

Bob-o-matic said...

The whole Demandred comment makes it seem obvious to me that Demandred is hiding out as the guy who is ruling Murandy/Lugard (his name escapes me). The quote is "My rule is secure" indicating that this is fairly recent, and the only ruler we know to have come into power lately is that guy, and the meeting with Talmanes later in the book indicates that he did just recently gain the throne. Why Demandred would pick such a seemingly unimportant place to rule is beyond me, but I suppose it is right in the middle of Rands primary strongholds in Illian, Tear and Cairhein.

Linda said...

Bob: that is one of the more popular power bases for Demandred.

Anonymous said...

i dont know about that linda have just read a theory that demandred is bashere made me chuckle

Anonymous said...

From Murandy he can strike against the Seanchan and cause a lot of damage to their forces without drawing any negative attention from Rand or Elayne. Then he can turn around and stab Rand/Elayne in the back when they're not expecting it.