Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #44: Chapter 41 - A Fount of Power

By Linda


This chapter follows on from the previous chapter and has more POV changes to increase the sense of action and tension. In keeping with the chapter title, each POV is of someone in high position at risk of losing power, or of someone who was formerly in a high position.

Gawyn POV

Bryne’s comment that:

"You can never control everything in a city this size, Siuan. Those bridges, in a way, they give you a false sense of control. Sure, for an invading army, this city is impenetrable—but a place like this, tighter than a tick, can still have a dozen holes big enough for fleas to slip through."

The Gathering Storm, A Fount of Power

shows why Siuan (and other Amyrlins) could be undermined. They are too prone to believe long-lasting structures and organisations as impregnable. The Blues’ former information-gatherer does not know as much as she thought she did – a lesson difficult for her to learn – and humble, disregarded Aes Sedai such as Shemerin can have crucial bits of information.

Bryne’s judgement foreshadows how successful the Bloodknives will be in hiding and striking from the shadows.

Gawyn is impatient throughout this exchange; he is concerned that he won’t be in time.

Siuan objects to the use of Tower Guard uniforms as disguises because they are symbols of a sacred duty. Bryne points out that they are her enemy because she is no longer Amyrlin.

Saerin POV

Saerin is organising the fighting because no senior Aes Sedai better qualified – such as a Green Sitter or the Amyrlin - is around. Her tactics are sensible and reasonable. She orders Captain Chubain to be Healed, and to organise his men to use bows and also to scout, and to get poor fighters such as the Yellows or Browns to form a body of Healers in the command centre and to roam the fighting groups. All the while, Saerin feels embarrassed at how poor the Aes Sedai are at defending themselves, and how disunited they are.

The Black sister Katerine tries to take control and go on offensive but Saerin’s summary of the danger and their poor showing makes her back down. Was she going to make the Seanchan raid more successful as part of her instructions from the Black Ajah? Or was she just making an individual power grab for herself and was ignorant that she could be captured?

Egwene POV

Egwene is angry that the damage could have been minimised if Elaida had listened and prepared. She is determined to make this raid cost the Seanchan and has killed about 12 to’raken at this stage. The novices are forcing the Seanchan soldiers back from the stairs. They are not children anymore, and have been more successful at fighting than many full Aes Sedai. It is good training for the Last Battle.

Bryne POV

The rescue party is fighting 30 Seanchan soldiers who ran out of Tower. Gawyn is fighting brilliantly. Bryne realises the Seanchan are withdrawing and therefore they are running out of time to rescue Egwene. (He doesn’t know how disorganised the Tower is – although Saerin is doing a reasonable job of restoring order.)

Captives are being winched from the Tower roof onto to’raken. The east wing, which formerly housed the novices and now is part of the Brown Ajah quarters - is badly damaged. Bryne wonders if Ogier will rebuild the damaged sections or if the Tower will ever be the same.

Bryne doesn’t really connect Siuan with the “stern woman” he met years earlier. He becomes angry that she might be in danger when she wonders off. She says she has been before. As with Lan and Nynaeve, in fact more so, there is a power struggle between them. Unlike Lan and Nynaeve, whose marriage vows provided a way of managing this fairly, they will have to work this out for themselves.

Siuan senses Bryne’s dismay that some injured men will die and wants to Heal them. Bryne doesn’t argue. If she hadn’t been so caring, perhaps they would have died. Bryne prevented the Bloodknife from using his poisonous knife on Siuan but is poisoned himself. Siuan remembers Min’s viewing of:

“If you [Siuan] want to stay alive, you had better stay close to him.” Despite the heat, Min shivered. She had only ever had one other viewing with an ‘if’ in it, and both had been potentially deadly. It was bad enough sometimes knowing what would happen; if she started knowing what might… “All I know is this. If he stays close to you, you live. If he gets too far away, for too long, you are going to die. Both of you. I don’t know why I should have seen anything about you in his aura, but you seemed like part of it.”

- The Fires of Heaven, Trapped

and Heals him. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy as Bryne points out:

“You'll have to thank Min next time you see her, Bryne. She just saved both of our lives."
"But I wouldn't have been poisoned if I hadn't come!"
"Don't try to apply logic to a viewing or Foretelling like this," Siuan said, grimacing. "You're alive. I'm alive. I suggest we leave it at that.

-The Gathering Storm, A Fount of Power

Siuan accepts prophecy without reservation and is pragmatic about its paradoxes.

Bryne knows Siuan is fairly exhausted from the Healings she performed but doesn’t argue when she suggests they get on with looking for Egwene.

Egwene POV

Egwene used herself up defending the Tower. She thinks:

I was a burning warrior, a hero called by the Horn. They won't dare face me again.

-The Gathering Storm, A Fount of Power

But she is wrong: the Seanchan will come again. Egwene reckons that more to’raken escaped than were killed. (The Seanchan sent hundreds.) Her losses were thankfully light: three novices died out of more than sixty, and one Aes Sedai out of forty. Ten damane were captured. It was probably Saerin who organised sisters to put the fires out.

The success of the raid is physical proof of the parlous state of the Aes Sedai; while Egwene protected them from their own inadequacies as best she could, they still came out badly.

Gawyn and Siuan completely misunderstand what has happened and why Egwene is alone and unable to channel. (Egwene sent the novices to bed and the Aes Sedai went to give aid elsewhere.)

Siuan uses the sa’angreal to open a gateway back to boats and to camp. Egwene is too tired to protest being removed from the Tower:

No! Egwene thought, clawing through her drowsiness, forcing her eyes open. I'm winning, don't you see? If I offer leadership now, when the rubble is being cleared, they'll see me as Amyrlin for certain! I have to stay! I have to—

-The Gathering Storm, A Fount of Power

Saerin POV

More than twenty Aes Sedai died and not all reports are in. They are only Healing those who would not survive without it; otherwise they use healall. Healall is the name of a real world plant, Prunella vulgaris (illustrated right), which is used to treat a variety of ailments including wounds.

Stone root (Collinsonia canadensis) is also called heal all and is used on bruises and wounds; however Prunella vulgaris is more popular.

Saerin realises that Egwene is far from a novice and in fact outdid them all. The Tower novices who fought are also now far from novices.

Mair was not captured with Elaida because the Seanchan assumed she was dead. Had she been taken the Tower would not know Elaida’s fate for certain.

Elaida POV

Somehow Elaida was removed from her room, tied with ropes and winched onto a to’raken while barely conscious. Forkroot was not used since she could reach for the Source OK and would have remembered being forced to swallow a liquid. Perhaps they used some other drug that could be inhaled or injected under the skin.

Karma bites Elaida:

  • She who beat Egwene, and wants to have her maid beaten because she didn’t do things right despite being warned, is herself “beaten” for ignoring the warnings of a sul’dam and of Egwene. Note that she was given a warning after the first infraction, and beaten the second.

  • She who discounted the existence of the a’dam is now wearing one.

  • She who insisted she was an absolute monarch is now a slave.

The Empress usually treats damane well, far better than do other sul’dam, but will she Elaida? Or should I say Suffa? Elaida’s new name hints not. Her name indicates she will suffer, but so perhaps will her captors, since she is often insufferable. The Seanchan may have to take Elaida’s Foretellings on sufferance.


luvtheedragon said...

this reminds me of a theory that i had about the last blood-knives striking Mat ... and Tuon intervening afterwards

Manetheren said...

I believe the count of "hundreds of to'raken" is incorrect. Unless the number was increased without us knowing after Tuon's meeting with Rand, I am fairly certain the announced battle plan called for 50 to 60 total Raken and To'raken (which was considered an expensive risk in air forces, but worth it). I remember this because I specifically remember being impressed with Egwene taking out around 30 of them all together and saying "awesome more than 50% of their forces."

BTW, I know Rand and Perrin make her look like a child in comparison when she encounters them in Towers of Midnight, but Egwene was truly epic in this book. I was super pleased to read this after the long, drawn out (though interesting) siege started in Winter's Heart.