WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT
Verin calls for tea for suspense just as she does when she meets with Egwene.
In this chapter Verin is beginning to be confirmed as a trickster. Mat sees through her because he is one himself (see Tricksters essay). Aes Sedai are tricksters; as their name indicates Aes Sedai are derived from aes sidhe, the fairy folk, and aes sidhe were considered dangerous trickster figures. Care was taken to appease them – or at least not offend them, just as people high and low treat Aes Sedai with regard and wariness and are careful not to offend them. Aes Sedai are described early in the books as tricksome by a particularly reliable and astute character, Tam al’Thor:
”You see, lad, Aes Sedai are tricksome. They don't lie, not right out, but the truth an Aes Sedai tells you is not always the truth you think it is.”Davram Bashere agrees:
The Eye of the World, Tellings of the Wheel
“Aes Sedai are tricksome; no man can know what they'll do or why."Verin is the ultimate Aes Sedai trickster: she tricked the tricksters, both good and bad.
Lord of Chaos, Lion on the Hill
Verin forges a camaraderie with Mat, while tricking the reader as well. It is a masterly performance. I long ago postulated in the Black Ajah article that if anyone infiltrated the Black Ajah successfully it was Verin; but never formalised it as a theory. How I kicked myself after reading The Gathering Storm!
Mat squirms at the thought of a) his ta’veren powers and b) others knowing of them.
Verin thinks Rand is mad but currently in control of himself. She righly judges that his madness is not due just to taint, but to stress and trauma. Mat thinks the cleansing absolutely momentous, as does Moiraine in the next book.
What Verin related to Mat about being pulled by ta’veren may or may not be true. It would be in keeping with her trickster role if it was a complete fabrication. Her tale supposedly accounts for the four week time gap between when she left Rand and when she met Mat. She still has a few letters to deliver, but she may have spent some time already doing so.
One thing her tale does do is make her mission to Mat look all the more important, and thus more likely that he will do as she wishes.
"Curious, wouldn't you say, young Matrim? I accidentally end up here, in your path, right when you have great need of someone to create a gateway for your army?"The Darkfriend who gave Verin Mat’s mugshot thought she was a Darkfriend because she was known to be one. The danger from the Shadow is extreme now. Mat should disguise himself; Verin knows Mat is essential.
The Gathering Storm, The Death of Tuon
The bargain Mat and Verin make over the price of her making a gateway is: wait 30 days without opening her letter, or open it after 10 days and do what it says. Verin thinks if she could be free of the Oaths Mat doesn’t need to defend Caemlyn. She is convinced Mat’s curiosity will get the better of him; she underestimates his loathing of Aes Sedai and the One Power. Mat already plans to use the extra time to make dragons and find out about the Tower of Ghenjei and the *Finns.
Verin apparently used her angreal to make the gateway, probably so she could make a large one for the Band.
Fortuona still contains the name Tuon, so ‘Tuon’ is not entirely dead. The empress kept the name Athaem, which is an anagram of athame, a witch’s knife, and a sign that Tuon will channel. Devi is the Sanskrit word for goddess, and as such is related to ‘the Goddess’ of the Celts, the Goddess of Sovereignty. She embodies the Feminine without which the male divinity is impotent. In other words, she completes him and provides balance. She is pictured right, with Shiva (a parallel of Rand, see Rand essay) at her feet. Devi is a later arrival in Hinduism: the early Hindu goddesses such as Lakshmi (a parallel of Tuon, see Tuon essay) and Parvati were subsumed into her as one ultimate goddess. Tuon’s mother Radhanan also had a Hindu name so it is not surprising that Tuon adopted the name of the Hindu Divine Mother or Goddess of Sovereignty.
The Bloodknives receive a benediction from the Empress (one of whose parallels is Queen of the Dead, see Tuon essay) as though they had died:
"May your death bring victory," she said softly, speaking the ritual words. "May your knife draw blood. May your children sing your praises until the final dawn."They are effectively dead men walking, who give their lives in exchange for enhanced assassin abilities, just as Grey Men and Women do in service to the Dark One and are thus one of the parallels the Seanchan society has with the Shadow. The Bloodknives’ ability to blend into shadows is reminiscent of another creature of the Shadow: Myrddraal. Many mainlanders liken the strange creatures the Seanchan use in battle to Shadowspawn and of course ravens are important symbols for both the Seanchan and the Shadow, Ishamael having encouraged Luthair’s invasion of Seanchan.
- The Gathering Storm, The Death of Tuon
The assassins are also like ninjas, and thus one of many examples of the Seanchan society’s strong resemblance to Japan. The roles of ninjas were sabotage and espionage as much as assassination and their abilities were the subject of legends. Ninjas were covert operators and contrastred wsith samurai, who followed bushido and had strict rules about honour and combat. Tuon (who also has parallels with a Japanese Emperor) described the role of Bloodknives as to cause as much damage as possible to the enemy, on this mission to be achieved by assassinating Aes Sedai.
The wording used to describe the functions of the Bloodknives’ ter'angreal rings (leech, shroud) suggest influence from games such as Magic the Gathering. There are Magic the Gathering cards with leeching spells similar to that of the Bloodknives’ ter’angreal, notably certain black-coloured spell cards (and Brandon Sanderson said on Twitter on November 10th that he favours Magic decks composed of black- and blue-coloured cards). For example, with the Magic card called Hatred you pay x life and your creature gets x stronger, just as the Bloodknives receive strength and speed in exchange for losing life. Hatred is an appropriate description of this mission aimed at weakening the Dragon Reborn by assassinating as many of the hated and feared Aes Sedai as possible. Another black card called Unholy Strength strengthens the creature’s power far more than its toughness, just as the Bloodknife has enhanced powers but is ultimately weakened by the ter’angreal. There are other Magic cards that could also be considered apt descriptions. Some Magic cards grant the ability called ‘shroud’ which makes creatures untouchable by their opponent’s attacks. The Bloodknives are “shrouded in darkness” by their ter’angreal.
The whole mission is “shrouded in darkness”: it leaves in darkness and has a dark aim which will benefit the Shadow: to weaken the Tower and Rand’s support and increase enmity between forces which should unite against the Shadow. Tuon thinks the attack will turn Rand against Seanchan.
As it turned out, the raid happened to also resolve the division in the Tower and remove a surplus, ineffective and antagonistic Amyrlin, but at a high cost to both sides.
To’raken have never been used before in such numbers. It is the start of a true air force.