Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #53: Chapter 50 - Veins of Gold

By Linda


This is a wonderful chapter, even without considering that it was finished by another author.

Rand sits at the top of the world, but isn’t feeling on top of the world; he’s about as low as he can go (a critical example of the reversal of order the Dark One has wrought). Dragonmount’s vent is on his left, as is his own side wound. For so much of what Rand does and remembers in this scene, it is indeterminable whether these are his own insights or memories from Lews Therin, although for the philosophy of reincarnation, it is largely the same thing. Rand is blending with Lews Therin before his epiphany. Had he not, he would never have undergone this transformation because he wouldn’t have listened to, or perhaps even been talked to, by Lews Therin.

His nausea when reaching for the Power seems to be due to his creeping corruption, and not from the conflict between his Lews Therin and Rand personalities. After all, he is blending with Lews Therin here and yet feeling sicker than ever. The worst attack was when he tried to commit genocide with the Power.

Rand is also linked even closer to Moridin, to the extent that he is considering the validity of Moridin’s philosophy:

"What if he is right?" Rand bellowed. "What if it's better for this all to end? What if the Light was a lie all along, and this is all just a punishment? We live again and again, growing feeble, dying, trapped forever. We are to be tortured for all time!"

- The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

A terrible thing for the Light’s champion to say or feel, but then being the Light’s champion is no picnic. Rand muses on what his role is: the sheltering hand or the slaying hand (the one holding the sword)?

What was he? What was the Dragon Reborn? A symbol? A sacrifice? A sword, meant to destroy? A sheltering hand, meant to protect?
A puppet, playing a part over and over again?

- The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

His inner turmoil is now an existential crisis. From what Graendal says in Towers of Midnight, many of the Forsaken had a severe crisis (moral?) before they turned to the Shadow:

How will Lews Therin react to what he has done? Destroying an entire fortress, a miniature city of its own, with hundreds of occupants? Killing innocents to reach his goal? Will that sit easily within him?"
Moridin hesitated. No, he had not considered that. She smiled inwardly. To him, al'Thor's actions would have made perfect sense. They were the most logical, and therefore most sensible, means of accomplishing a goal.
But al'Thor himself . . . his mind was full of daydreams about honor and virtue. This event would not sit easily within him, and speaking of him as Lews Therin to Moridin would reinforce that. These actions would tear at al'Thor, rip at his soul, lash his heart raw and bleeding. He would have nightmares, wear his guilt on his shoulders like the yoke of a heavily laden cart.
She could vaguely remember what it had been like, taking those first few steps toward the Shadow. Had she ever felt that foolish pain? Yes, unfortunately. Not all of the Chosen had. Semirhage had been corrupt to the bone from the start. But others of them had taken different paths to the Shadow, including Ishamael.
She could see the memories, so distant, in Moridin's eyes. Once, she'd not been sure who this man was, but now she was. The face was different, but the soul was the same. Yes, he knew exactly what al'Thor was feeling.
"You told me to hurt him," Graendal said. "You told me to bring him anguish. This was the best way."

- The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

His actions, had he carried them out, would have qualified Rand for Forsaken at the least, as Graendal implies with her thoughts that feeling manipulated into doing dark deeds and agonising about them afterwards are the first steps toward joining the Dark One. The pressure and peril of Rand’s role, his anguish at being manipulated to unwilling evil and his trauma at the abuse, as well as the demands heaped on him, have led to this.

Rand’s thoughts show that he was always aiming for hardness rather than strength:

He had thought that if he made himself hard enough, it would take away the pain.

- The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

He is in pain because the Shadow is wounding the Land and the people and Rand is one with the Land and champion of the people. The Shadow has wounded him personally, too, in order to strike at the Land as well as him.

Rand believes everything began to go wrong after Moiraine’s death, which he caused. But we know Moiraine isn’t dead. Therefore perhaps things are not wrong at all. Rand had hope before Moiraine “died”, and it died when she did. But she isn’t dead, just gone, and his hope likewise isn’t irrecoverable; both return after great suffering.

In Rand’s mind, Moiraine’s death is associated not only with losing hope, but being put in a box. The chapter encapsulates the underlying premise, the basic theme Jordan wanted to explore in this story: what would be like to be a messiah?

"What if you were tapped on the shoulder and told you had to save the world?"

- Robert Jordan in an interview

And one under sentence not just of death, but corruption and madness as well. The pressures have caused changes in Rand:

He understood what would be required of him, and he'd changed in the ways he thought he needed. Those changes were to keep him from being overwhelmed. Die to protect people he didn't know? Chosen to save mankind? Chosen to force the kingdoms of the world to unite behind him, destroying those who refused to listen? Chosen to cause the deaths of thousands who fought in his name, to hold those souls upon his shoulders, a weight that must be borne? What man could do these things and remain sane? The only way he had seen had been to cut off his emotions, to make himself cuendillar.

- The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

but finally he will be backed into adopting the philosophy that “the more things change, the more they stay the same" (after all, that’s how Jordan’s Pattern of Ages works).

Rand has been chosen by the Pattern or Creator, but in the quote above he makes it seem as though he is little different from those who chose to turn to the Shadow – the Chosen. It’s a matter of how Rand imposes his mission and, in his darker moments, his will, on the people.

To his and the world’s great cost, Rand thinks having feelings is a failure, and that the pain he experiences will bleed him dry. His conscience vanished when he tried to kill Tam. Now Rand is worried that having reached his goal to feel nothing, he is too unfeeling and possibly amoral:

Without that voice, did Rand dare continue? If it was the last remnant of the old Rand—the Rand who had believed that he knew what was right and what was wrong—then what did its silence mean?

- The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

Bad news is what it means.

Rand immediately puts these valid concerns aside and expresses despair about the cycling of time and being reborn to remake mistakes. He also rages against lapses of time causing loss of knowledge and history. Moridin, too, was angry at the knowledge that had been lost to him through history:

The reasons, like the source of the name, were lost in the mist of time. That troubled him sometimes, enraged him, what knowledge might be lost in the turnings of the Wheel, knowledge he needed, knowledge he had a right to. A right!

- The Path of Daggers, Prologue

but Moridin wants the knowledge for himself; he’s not worried about the effect of ignorance on others’ lives.

Jordan’s opening philosophical paragraph:

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose around the alabaster spire known as the White Tower. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.

- The Gathering Storm, Tears From Steel

is rephrased by Rand in a dark way at the book's end:

"We live the same lives!" he yelled at them. "Over and over and over. We make the same mistakes. Kingdoms do the same stupid things. Rulers fail their people time and time again. Men continue to hurt and hate and die and kill!"
Winds buffeted him, whipping at his brown cloak and his fine Tairen trousers. But his words carried, echoing across the broken rocks of Dragonmount…
"What if I think it's all meaningless?" he demanded with the loud voice of a king. "What if I don't want it to keep turning? We live our lives by the blood of others! And those others become forgotten. What good is it if everything we know will fade? Great deeds or great tragedies, neither means anything! They will become legends, then those legends will be forgotten, then it will all start over again!"

The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

The wind, prana or chi, the breath of Life that initiates each book has been whipped into a tempest by Rand’s rage.

The chapter title Veins of Gold refers to love, Tears from Steel, anguish. There is an acceptance in the ‘standard’ version of the philosophy that is not in Rand’s rages. He regards this world as illusion and a vale of tears and rails against the right and proper order that is the Pattern. Like the Amayar, he nearly ended the Time of Illusion, so disillusioned was he with the Pattern and his crushing role to save it. The Cycle of Ages is meaningless to Rand in his current state. History forgotten over time means there is a risk that the same errors are repeatedly made. Is Rand not doing exactly that right now? He doesn’t know all his past lives yet; not the ones with joy and love, only Lews Therin’s traumatic later life. These kinder, more balanced memories transform Rand and he sees the point, the purpose, of the Wheel. He has found insupportable the impartiality of the Pattern, which seemingly is not taking sides (although it has given Rand a big help by making him so strongly ta’veren.)

Rand knows pain of heart as Moridin ordered, although it has backfired on the latter. So while Rand is thinking that Moridin’s philosophy of nihilism might be worthwhile and that Moridin might be right, Moridin is feeling exhausted by Rand’s duty, pain and turmoil and looks forward to the end. Moridin can’t separate his own feelings too easily from Rand’s:

"I feel so tired," Moridin continued, closing his eyes. "Is that you, or is it me?

- The Gathering Storm, A Place To Begin

Not only does Rand think Moridin might be right, he no longer feels the wrongness of the Shadow, so strongly is he influenced by his link to Moridin.

The Creator’s champion declaiming:

What if the Light was a lie all along, and this is all just a punishment? We live again and again, growing feeble, dying, trapped forever. We are to be tortured for all time!"

The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

shows very dark religious feelings indeed. There must be hope and love or life is untenable.

Yet when Rand drinks in saidin, the male elixir of life made by the Creator, he feels glory.

Dragonmount might have had a tremor due to Rand holding so much saidin (and rage). Men are strong in Fire and Earth, after all.

It is true that the Dragon left the world wounded (by both world war and the Dark One’s taint), limping forward as civilisation collapsed, but Rand thinks it was rotting. Not so; only now is it rotting because the Shadow (and the madness from the taint, which makes men rot) has a strong hold on him who is one with the Land.

Graendal complains how hard it is to get good wine with everything rotten, but Moridin provided some. Is this a reverse influence from Rand through their link, or an example of changing places in a way?

Rand is holding more Power than when he cleansed saidin because then he was in a circle with Nynaeve and the overall strength of the circle is not as great as the separate strengths of each channeller in it added together, no matter how large the circle, so a channeller can’t draw as much Power as they normally could (The Path of Daggers, The Breaking Storm).

While Rand is so dark, he is repeatedly described with solar imagery (so we don’t lose hope ourselves in the outcome of his long dark night of the soul, a sign he will come about on the winds of despair):

He felt himself alight with the Power, like a sun to the world below…He was the sun. He was fire. He was life and death.

- The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

His warmth gives light, his burning rage death.

The role of the Light's champion is rough with so little support from the Creator: only the one contact with the Creator in The Eye of the World, when the Creator told Rand he wouldn’t take a direct part. The Forsaken have far more contact with the Dark One, who is a paranoid out-of-control freak. This is reassuring to them, but also very threatening.

The Last Hour as Rand described it to Tuon in another chapter whose title is the antithesis of this one:

"You believe the Last Battle is close, then?" she asked.
"Close?" al'Thor asked. "It is as close as an assassin, breathing his foul breath upon your neck as he slides his knife across your skin. It is close like the last chime of midnight, after the other eleven have struck. Close? Yes, it is close. Horribly close."

- The Gathering Storm, A Halo of Blackness

almost occurred in this chapter:

The Power hesitated inside him, like the headsman's axe, held quivering above the criminal's neck.

- The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

The battle within Rand was almost the last battle. It was Lews Therin and Tam who provided the input that made Rand change his view. The Creator believes in individual choice, the Dark One in his personal will. When Rand understands the purpose of the Pattern, and indirectly, choice, he remembers all his lives and also communes with the Land/Creation in the light of the globe in the hand of the access key. The sa’angreal represents Rand holding the world in his hand. And not breaking it after some consideration.

His epiphany occurs when Rand realises that rebirth gives souls the chance to love each other and be with each other again. Rand expresses the desire to fix his mistakes and get it right this time. History repeating is a chance to change outcomes for the better, not just the certainty that people will make the same mistakes repeatedly.

Rand is no longer going to crush the world that is in the palm of his hand, but shelter it (or help the Creator shelter it) and so destroys the sa’angreal and access key that symbolised the potential to destroy Creation.

Having removed the temptation of absolute power, there are signs that he is an even stronger channeller alone in Towers of Midnight than he was with the sa’angreal.

Rand is at one with the world and with Lews Therin and at peace within himself. Clouds open as his gloom lifts and he sees the sun. It shines on him. He has finally relearned laughter, at least, as Cadsuane wishes, although she didn’t have much to do with it. Therefore I don’t think this is the thing that Cadsuane is to teach all the Asha’man that Min saw in her viewing (A Crown of Swords, A Crown of Swords).

For a chapter almost exclusively about Rand, there is a lot of the Forsaken in it.


Donnie said...

Great post on a great chapter. So I have a few questions/remarks:

Re Moraine: You wrote about her death as a traumatical event for Rand, and I agree. But I also think she had a very ambiguous role for Rand (while she was alive). She guided him the way which she thought was right for the world, but she saw him (more and more) only as the dragon reborn who had to fulfill his role - like a puppet or a tool, what Rand claimed so often - and not so much as a human being. This became very clear in TSR were she told Elayne, that there is no place for love in Rand's life (as the dragon reborn).
But as you pointed out, he needs to be human to save humanity (maybe that's also the reason why the creator cannot take part and needs his champion, in a way).
Moiraine dedicated her full life to find and guide the dragon reborn and maybe because of this (and the fact that he had to, because there was noone else) she thought he had do the same willingly and put everything else apart. She was also troubled when Lan began guiding Rand into standing up for himself in TGH, because she thought Lan was working against her - but he wasn't - he just wanted to help Rand into not breaking under his fate but to stand up and find a way to shoulder it.
In a way it was Moiraine who tapped on Rand's shoulder an told him he had to save the world.

About Rand remembering all his past lives: Was there an exact reference to it? I wasn't sure about that. So if he remembers all his lifes, shouldn't he now know a proper way to seal the DO's prison as it was before the bore was drilled (and without tainting Saidin or Saidar)? In an earlier age this must have happend and it seems likely that it was the dragon's soul in another incarnation who did it.

Master Ablar said...

To Donnie: It said in the passage that Rand remembered hundreds of lives, thousands of lives, stretching to infinity.
However I think Brandon said that after that moment, he only remembered his life as LTT.

About what Cadsuane has to teach Rand and all the Ashaman, I never thought it was laughter and tears either. After all, not only is it hardly something they would not like learning, but some like Grady, Neald and Naeff can probably be said to already have learned it.

The only thing I can think that the Ashaman as a whole dislike, would be the Aes Sedai. And by that I mean the whole Aes Sedai and what they represent. Some individual Ashaman probably get along with some individual Aes Sedai, but as a whole, they don't like the Aes Sedai.

So whatever it is she's going to teach them, I think it probably has to do with the Aes Sedai. To trust them, or work with them, or anything they won't like.

Donnie said...

@Master Ablar:
Yes, now I remember this passage. The thing that was troubling me was that Rand later said he was Rand and Lews Therin, as he is Rand and remembers the life of Lews Therin like a dream, but did not mention the other lives.

t ball said...

@Donnie -- I see Moiraine as having gone through the same growth as Rand after being with the finns. She was single-minded about finding and then guiding Rand, not allowing herself to feel emotion easily.

Now, though, like Rand, she is more open and loving/willing to be loved, and I am very much looking forward to seeing her and Rand meet again. She obviously has a big role to play (Min's vision of Rand failing without a woman dead and gone or something) and I expect it to be a crucial scene.

Linda said...

Thanks everyone. These are all very good comments.

Manetheren said...

I found it interesting in this chapter, the irony that Lews Therin's voice provided the one moment of clarity/hope, which was profound enough to make Rand realize. Since LTT's voice started its been: kill him, kill her, destroy them all, we're murderers, we're doomed, we're insane, I want to die, etc. At the moment Rand finally agrees with his inner LT voice, Lews Theren pops up and says, "but wait...what about..."

Gave me goosebumps. Well this whole chapter did.

Jeff W said...

As I was reading Winter's Heart today, I found a reference to what Veins of Gold means. After Aviendha, Min, and Elayne bond Rand as a warder, they use the term to describe the good parts of Rand that they recognize in/through the bond.

Winter's Heart Chapter 12 - A Lily in Winter

...but even as she laughed, tears streamed down her sun-dark cheeks. "The veins of gold. Oh, the veins of gold. You do love me, Rand." -Aviendha

His emotions were too rigid, though, like a knot of hardened pine sap, almost stone. Yet laced through them, golden veins pulsed and glowed whenever he looked at Min, or Aviendha. Or her. He did love her. -Elayne POV

I think that the Veins of Gold chaper in Gather Storm refers to the good parts of Rand winning out over the "hardened pine sap" parts.

Russ said...

Although I like this scene, and the results, I thought the exectution could've been a little better.

The whole viewing of past lives should've been expanded on. There could've been something similar to portal stone in TGH or Rhuidean in TSR. Plus there was no real explanation of what prompted the flood of memories. I guess I picture something along the lines of that much power forcing him to read the pattern infinitely backward, and it being a "flicker, flicker, flicker" kind of thing. Just seemed a little hollow the way it was written.

One other small critique is the use of the word "stupid" during Rand's rant. I don't recall that word being used in the series, and it just didn't fit.

Other than that, I thought almost destroying creation was an appropriate climax to Rand's struggle with sanity, and it was a very powerful moment that got a lot of emotional response out of me.

Linda said...

The past lives were glossed over to the extent that some readers missed that it involved all his past lives. I guess they were too many or too fleeting to do an If world type montage.

Regarding the word "stupid", all the Two Rivers folk except Mat actually used that fairly often in the early books.