WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT
Siuan cannot Listen to the Wind, but watches the weather constantly, a relection of her origins in a community of outdoor workers. The length of time the sky warns of danger indicates the strength of the storm coming; the further ahead the storm is foreshadowed, the worse it will be. Should Siuan put to sea or stay in safe harbour? Later in the book she will definitely “put to sea” and Egwene’s captivity will be the impetus for it. Siuan relates Egwene’s captivity to the lowering sky, since like the sky it could be a great catch or a great disaster. Mostly it was a success and prevented, or more properly mitigated, a disaster.
Siuan thinks Aes Sedai are good at creating order. In the previous chapter Rand said Arad Doman is beyond the ability of Aes Sedai to fix. So, as we will see, might the Tower itself be.
The rebel Aes Sedai are shocked that Egwene leads in her own right, so much so that even when not there, and moreover held captive, she has not been ousted. Ironically, Lelaine did her own bit for this by holding the Hall to Egwene’s commands. Lelaine is a better, or more ruthless, politician than Romanda and wants to be seen supervising Siuan and consulting with her. She has adopted Egwene’s policies as her own; for instance, she pretends to accept old novices. Siuan fears if Egwene doesn’t return soon Lelaine will take Egwene’s place and the rebels will crumble. The first will cause the second. Egwene says if she doesn’t return, then Lelaine will indeed have to be it. Lelaine considers her position strong enough to openly speak of Siuan as her attendant now. Using Siuan as an attendant gives Lelaine status since Siuan is not only Egwene’s aide but a former Amyrlin.
The scene highlights the flaws of the Aes Sedai system – the manipulating, the scheming, the prejudices etc. Siuan is learning from the bottom all the mistakes she made while Amyrlin, such as dismissing women because they lacked visible power, and being manipulated because of it. Will this newfound insight play a role in Siuan’s career in the future?
Among Aes Sedai, weakness can give freedom. Hattori’s Warder Sleete explained in Knife of Dreams that if other sisters are uninterested in what an Aes Sedai does because she is so low ranked, she can pretty much do what she likes, so long as strong sisters don’t think it interferes with what they want to do. Siuan is looking forward to being free to live a normal life with Bryne after the Last Battle.
In love Siuan is emotional and defends those close to her, such as Egwene and Bryn and manipulates Lelaine rather clumsily at first. This is causing her to lose influence among cold and ambitious Aes Sedai and if it continues her loyalty will be in doubt too.
Siuan wants to earn Bryne’s respect. She does not want to be in debt to Lelaine, so she resorts to manipulating Lelaine by playing on Aes Sedai stereotypes of men as untrustworthy, even though she just finished thinking of how trustworthy Bryne was:
Light, the man was strict enough to make Warders look sloppy in keeping their oaths.It is Aes Sedai hypocrisy to label men as untrustworthy when men don’t need the Power to keep their word, but Aes Sedai don’t keep their word if they can help it even when bound by the Power.
The Gathering Storm, Clean Shirts
Siuan actually manages to make Lelaine feel obliged to her, thus showing some of her old skill. She realises she is using her skills more now that she is weak than she did when she held a position of strength.
Full of emotion herself, Siuan banters with Bryne, trying to needle him for a reaction. I loved this thrust and parry:
"Light, woman," he muttered, almost under his breath. "If I'd known you were Aes Sedai before chasing you to Salidar . . . if I'd known what I was doing. . . ."Siuan was looking for him to admit that he would have been frightened off by her being Aes Sedai, but he manages to outdo her easily and manipulates her with openness and sincerity into explaining her oathbreaking. Like many who demand answers to leading questions, he found them pretty sobering. He still would have hunted her down though.
"What?" she demanded. "You wouldn't have hunted me down?"
"Of course I would have," he said indignantly. "I'd have just been more careful, and perhaps come better prepared. I went off hunting boars with a rabbit knife instead of a spear!"
The Gathering Storm, Clean Shirts
Siuan feels she has gained the upper hand as well as his respect, although she is shocked she opened herself to him and told such a secret. She has always been a fisher of secrets, and tends to hoard her catch. Then Bryne shocks her by revealing how much he has deduced about how she communicates with Egwene and gains the upper hand. The two lovers are evenly matched.
Now that the Land has become Blighted, Siuan regrets not appreciating the fertility of the Land more. This parallels her questioning whether she should have joined the Green Ajah when she was reinstated. The Green Ajah is focussed on love and life, which is why they will defend the Land at the Last Battle. Siuan’s appearance in Tel’aran’rhiod, wearing a skimpy slip, then a green dress – a reference to Greens, who can marry their Warders – show how much she longs for him.
The violent storm in the sky in Tel’aran’rhiod, contrasting with the oppressively overcast sky in the waking world, reflects what is soon to come. Siuan doesn’t recognise it as the future (or likely future) though, so she misses the opportunity to “read the dream”. Egwene never remarks on the sky either.
When told of Halima being a Forsaken who probably wielded saidin and escaped capture, Egwene was calm, as she also was about saidin being clean. She realises there is probably a Forsaken at the White Tower if one was with the rebels.
Egwene thinks Asha’man bonding Aes Sedai an atrocity; and that Rand is responsible whether he knew of it or not. (In Towers of Midnight, A Good Soup, Nynaeve points out that by a similar token Egwene is responsible for the Aes Sedai who chained and beat Rand.) Siuan thinks bonding equal numbers of Asha’man is not a fair trade:
Did this Asha'man say who gave Rand permission to commit such an atrocity?"I really shook my head over this exchange. Especially after thinking of the number of Warders over the centuries who were manipulated into being Bonded without really knowing what they were agreeing to. Hypocrisy is raised to a fine art among Aes Sedai.
"He's the Dragon Reborn," Siuan said, grimacing. "I don't think he feels he needs permission. But, in his defense, it appears he didn't know it was happening. The women his men bonded were sent by Elaida to destroy the Black Tower."
"Yes." Egwene finally showed a sliver of emotion. "So the rumors are accurate. All too accurate." ...
Siuan just shook her head. "We've been offered forty-seven Asha'man to bond as restitution, of sorts, for the women al'Thor's men bonded. Hardly a fair trade, but the Hall decided to accept the offer nonetheless."
"As well they should have," Egwene said. "We shall have to deal with the Dragon's foolishness at a later date. Perhaps his men acted without his direct orders, but Rand must take responsibility. Men. Bonding women!"
The Gathering Storm, Clean Shirts
Egwene sees that Lelaine is building Egwene up in order to take her place. She is more astute than Siuan, who has become so partisan that she is not inferring as well as she used to. When Egewne frowns over Siuan’s remark that there would be advantages in having less strength in saidar and therefore less rank, she may be thinking of her own situation, dosed with forkroot, yet still displaying the leadership qualities of an Amyrlin.
Siuan feels that being in love for the first time in twenty years is very remarkable and in honour of the occasion will not take revenge on Gareth for outsmarting her about the ter’angreal. She seems very young in this scene.
The original dream ter’angreal is not with the rebels as was stated in this chapter. Nynaeve and Elayne took it with them to Ebou Dar and used it to meet with Egwene in Tel'aran'rhiod (Lord or Chaos, Weaves of the Power). Later, in Caemlyn, Elayne lent it to Aviendha to take with her to Arad Doman (Knife of Dreams, A Different Skill), since Elayne apparently could not make it work when she became pregnant (yet it does not require channelling). This is a long running error.