Friday, September 16, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #41: Chapter 38 - News in Tel'aran'rhiod

By Linda


Unlike with nearly all other Aes Sedai, Egwene and Siuan have an honest and open relationship. Egwene says she is her real self with Siuan, and Siuan is the same, really. She doesn’t have to grovel to Egwene, nor pretend she doesn’t feel anything for Gareth Bryne.

Siuan is “holding herself to the Oaths” and “choosing not to lie” –in other words, finally learning to live by the spirit of the Oaths and thus becoming honourable (and worthy of Bryne, who has always lived that way.)

Egwene is determined to stay the course in the Tower no matter what, or else there is no hope of removing Elaida. It is a true trial by ordeal: a test of endurance and courage. The two women to and fro over tactics against Elaida. Siuan thinks Elaida will barely be punished for assaulting Egwene with the Power. Egwene thinks any punishment will undermine Elaida further. Siuan says Elaida could have Egwene executed for being a Darkfriend. Egwene says Elaida has no evidence, but if it comes to execution, then Siuan can rescue her. Really Siuan’s motives are to get Egwene to return to the rebels.

Siuan used news of Gawyn joining the rebels to test Egwene and get Ewene to accept her advice on how to react when being tested. She mentions Gawyn’s frequent visits to Lelaine and Romanda to remind Egwene that in her absence they are the power in the camp; two contending power sources, which emphasises the division in the camp. (Unknown to Siuan, he’s trying to get one of them to agree to rescue Egwene.)

Egwene is rightly disgusted with the factions and infighting. The rebels are little better than the Tower. The Tower has been fractured by the Black Ajah and Elaida’s prejudices and correspondingly, the Black Ajah is obviously at work among the rebels. The rebels’ other problem is not a prejudiced leader, but an absent one.

Siuan warns Egwene against stretching herself too thin, trying to lead the rebels by remote in Tel’aran’rhiod at night while resisting Elaida’s regimen by day and all the while in solitary confinement in inhumane conditions. Egwene compares herself to Rand, and appreciates what he went through; he endured worse for longer, confined in a much smaller area and unable to use Tel’aran’rhiod for respite. She feels they both have suffered Elaida’s punishments and weren’t broken. Rand was certainly bent out of shape though.

Siuan accepts that Egwene has truly fulfilled her potential to be Amyrlin.

After their talk Egwene feels a need to visit the rebel camp in Tel’aran’rhiod. Reading the dream, she sees for herself the fractures there and realises Siuan is right that she can’t be absent much longer.

Another realisation is that the Aes Sedai can’t have two Towers because people will lose their awe of them and monarchs may organise training of channellers themselves. These channellers would then owe their loyalty to the monarch. The Aes Sedai have been right to hold themselves apart from state as was done in the Age of Legends, but their mistake is that increasingly in the Third Age they have not served the state. What Egwene doesn’t realise, because she has not been among ordinary folk since Tear, is that the awe has already been lost, especially now that people know that are other groups of channellers, and always have been. Aes Sedai are not so special. Nor does Egwene understand that channelling women and men should not be separate.

Egwene needs to see a Tinker camp in Tel’aran’rhiod. She wonders if the Tinkers will dance at the end of the Age. Is there a place for them at the advent of Last Battle? Are they going to hide from the Last Battle? This vision shows that they and their dancing are important and will contribute. Egwene needs to understand this.

She sees their dancing as representing freedom to live in peace and love:

They would dance right up until the day when the Pattern burned away, whether or not they found their song, whether or not Trollocs ravaged the world or the Dragon Reborn destroyed it.
Had she let herself lose sight of those things which were most precious? Why did she fight so hard to secure the White Tower? For power? For pride? Or because she felt it really was best for the world?

The Gathering Storm, News in Tel’aran’rhiod

but it is even more than that.

Tinkers look back to the previous Age and uphold the values of that time. Half of the values. They accept the Pattern and do nothing to distort its fulfillment. They have retained the values of non-violence, but not those of service.

Tinker camps are described as always having singing and dancing. They are the group that execute the Cosmic Dance and it is important for the Pattern that they continue to do so. (Rand is Shiva, the cosmic dancer ( see Rand essay). Their dance is the harmony of the spheres. This is what the Song symbolises.

From this vision Egwene does come to understand that life is about more than one cause; it’s also about love and marriage as well as fighting the Last Battle. Note that she doesn’t mention children (the future). The Dark One will kill any future.

And then it is on to the divided Tower in Tel'aran'rhiod, divided against other Aes Sedai and against itself. Egwene stands before the White Tower under a boiling sky (the influence of the Dark One) and a shadow from the Tower falls directly on her, indicating the direct threat of the Black Ajah and also the Seanchan. She feels she is holding the Tower upright, staving off imminent collapse. Egwene’s actions are what do hold the Tower up against the Shadow and the Seanchan.

Silviana is apparently being used as a scapegoat, punished for not controlling Egwene since Elaida can’t prove Egwene is a Darkfriend:

"Indeed," Katerine said. "If the novices are out of control, then should not the blame fall on the one who was to train them?"
So Elaida had realized that she could not prove Egwene was a Dark-friend. Deflecting attention to Silviana was a clever move; if Elaida was punished for using the Power to beat Egwene, but Silviana was punished far more for letting Egwene get out of control, it would save face for the Amyrlin.

The Gathering Storm, News in Tel’aran’rhiod

Katerine has promoted further division – this time in her own Ajah – for the Shadow’s cause.

A Red Amyrlin turns on a highly regarded Red Mistress of Novice, the ultimate madness in Aes Sedai terms (the ultimeate expressions of the theme of wrongness in the Tower, as Aes Sedai would see it). Aes Sedai and Sitters are more likely to rebel. The Reds too have lost face and they know it:

“Most of the members of the Red are not taking your release well. They see it as a major failing on Elaida's part."

The Gathering Storm, News in Tel’aran’rhiod

Saerin reveals that Elaida did not turn on Silviana until Silviana denounced Elaida as unlawfully treating Egwene. Elaida tried to demote Silviana, who refused to accept it as she advised Shemerin to do in the same position. Elaida then demanded that Silviana be stilled and executed. Such a punishment is the maximum penalty for rebelling against the Amyrlin, a form of treason (see Aes Sedai Serious Crimes article). The fact that the Hall is undecided on such a critical issue shows how far it has been corrupted by the Black Ajah.

Egwene sees the danger of this division in the Tower, Saerin only the division in the Red Ajah:

"Child, the Red Ajah is crumbling! Its members are turning against one another, wolves attacking their own pack. If Elaida is allowed to go through with killing one of her own Ajah, whatever support she had from within the ranks will evaporate. Why, I wouldn't be surprised, when the dust settles, to see that the Ajah has undermined itself to the point that you could simply disband it and be done with them."
"I don't want to disband them," Egwene said. "Saerin, that's one of the problems with Elaida's way of thinking in the first place! The White Tower needs all of the Ajahs, even the Red, to face what is coming. We certainly can't afford to lose a woman like Silviana just to make a point.”

The Gathering Storm, News in Tel’aran’rhiod

At first Saerin questions the child Egwene taking command, until she admits that she, the most senior Tower Sitter, doesn’t want to be in command herself.

Note that Elaida has no Keeper. There is no one to record her reign or to manage her office, double proof that she is not achieving anything.

While Elaida must be removed, it should not be at the cost of the Tower collapsing. Egwene won’t have victory at any price. She offers to drink forkroot so that the Reds can go and save their Ajah and Silviana. It is probably one of her noblest gestures.

Verin takes a sip of her poison tea when Egwene enters her room; the start of her final clock, since a small dose is fatal (see Herbs and Other Medicines article). In one of the best chapter cliffhangers in the series, she shows Egwene that she is not bound by the Oaths.


TrueCrew said...

As always, great essay.

But Elaida does have a Keeper, though an absent one at present, in Tarna Feir.

Linda said...

That's why I say that Elaida hasn't got one. Moreover when she was there she didn't listen to her.