Sunday, October 26, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #51: Chapter 44 - A Backhanded Request

By Linda

Morgase POV

Morgase feels that she has no defined role now. When she was a maid, she found it a less lonely life. There were more people her rank, and less responsibility, to compensate for the hard work. Morgase resents that her former servants Breane and Lamgwin were formally released by Faile back to her service. However, they did have an agreement with Faile, and by the rule of contract in this world can't just walk off with someone else. Morgase knows this so she shouldn’t feel insulted.

In the aftermath of Morgase’s unmasking, both Faile and Morgase feel hardly done by. Faile feels uncomfortable that Morgase was higher than her in status and reputation, but accepted employment as her maid. Now that she has been unmasked, Morgase expects due acknowledgement of her position with immediate and ungrudging restoration of her privileges. Underlying this discomfort is the issue of nobility, and inherited rank, which most nobles like to think is absolute, whereas people of humbler origin in more egalitarian societies are not so keen to grant. For example, in Cairhien when Colavere was stripped of her rank:

"I—I demand the headsman," Colavaere managed in a strangled voice. Her face sagged. She had become old on the spot, and her eyes were mirrors of stark terror. But with nothing left, she fought on, for the scraps. "It is—it is my right. I will not be... hanged like some commoner!"
Rand seemed to struggle with himself, shaking his head in that disturbing way. When he spoke at last, his words were winter cold and anvil hard. "Colavaere Saighan, I strip you of your titles."…
Perrin could catch murmurs from the assembly behind him now. This was unheard of. None understood why she was not to die. And the rest! Estates had been confiscated before, but never all, never nobility itself. Nobles had been exiled, even for life, but never to a farm.

A Crown of Swords, A Broken Crown

Contrast this with Breane, Morgase’s maid, who was a Cairhienin noble, yet has remained in cognito and never hints at expecting better. She too loves a commoner, and part of her reluctance to acknowledge her former rank is that he would then be so far beneath her, socially.

Morgase is conscious that she could undermine Elayne but feels that it is worth the risk for the help she could give her daughter. Such an activity would also give Morgase a purpose, which she lacks at the moment.

Morgase has discouraged - or at least not encouraged – Tallanvor because she fears more hurt since her other relationships ended badly. Her husband was a threat to her throne; he was as effective as Gaebril in his own way in undermining her position. It is Tallanvor who softens first. Morgase wanted Tallanvor to propose but he won't because she is known to be of much higher rank than he and has a duty to Andor. Morgase refuses to sacrifice herself again because this could be the end of the world. She wants something to hope for and work towards. Thankfully Lini speeds up matters greatly by insisting they marry.

Perrin POV

Perrin maintains order and calm in camp by making the most of everything and being positive. The forest with the sap sucked out of it overnight is similar to what happened in Tear in The Gathering Storm from a bubble of evil. Both are examples of Wrongness caused by the Dark One with the aim of damaging the land and causing despair and chaos.

Perrin is trading food for materials for weapon making. Food is still available in Caemlyn due to Elayne's influence (and her link to Rand) and a little is still in Whitebridge, or at least reaching that town from Caemlyn.

When he is hardening the weapons, Neald is probably Aligning the Matrix (see Weaves and Talents) to make metal stronger. Neald is the only exponent of this talent that we see.

As the final part of her bargain with Faile, Berelain publishes her condemnation of the rumours that she slept with Perrin. People believe her because they see her with Galad. It’s a great relief to Perrin and Faile. Perrin is puzzled by Faile's explanation of the difference between herself and Berelain. However, he is decisive about Faile being the one to go meet with Elayne and this pleases Faile.

Enter the happy couple into their quiet talk. Morgase demands Perrin marry her and Tallanvor since there is no one better available. He thinks her request is not very warm, but then acknowledges she has a point in not seeing him as a lord. On the other hand, mindful of his position and feeling she should set an example of respecting and upholding the position of the aristocracy, she then agrees that he is a lord and should be treated as such. Morgase bargains with Perrin that if he marries them--helps her--she will help him with Elayne. From Faile’s response to Morgase’s offer, Perrin thinks Faile might want to split from Andor. He doesn't. In fact, Faile wants to bargain rather than accept what Elayne and Morgase decide.

As he joins the impromptu ceremony, Galad puts one of Verin’s letters in his pocket. We never find out what is in the letter which makes him frown. It isn’t that Rand is his brother, because Gawyn enlightens him about that in A Memory of Light. Maybe it informs him that Byar had something wrong with him (in which case it’s a bit late) or that a particular Whitecloak is a Darkfriend.

Perrin mistakenly believes Morgase when she says she wants a simple exchange of oaths as her wedding ceremony. He seizes on her disclaimer because he feels defensive or unqualified to say more to someone much older and higher rank than he. For the same reason, he wanted them away quickly after. Faile plans to train him to do it better. Poor Perrin; he thought – hoped-- that this was a one-off. He was moved by their love and vows, but ended up sounding dismissive, he was so embarrassed by the whole thing, when he should be gracious and congratulatory. Faile will make up for it with the celebration.

Trickster Mat lures Perrin to him and surprises him. Perrin notices that Mat is now dressed finely when he used to scorn and criticise Rand for it. Perrin still doesn't dress up. It’s been quite a while since two ta’veren were together in one place and it brings a sense of rightness to the area. There will never be three ta’veren together again, although it came fairly close on the slopes of Shayol Ghul. At the end of A Memory of Light, the three heroes were no longer ta'veren.

Mat has “died” twice and refers to this when he says airily:

"A lifetime," Mat said. "Maybe two. I lose count."

Towers of Midnight A Backhanded Request

In fact, Mat isn't sure which escape from death is the relevant one. (Jordan confirms it was when Mat was struck by Rahvin’s lightning in Caemlyn, which was undone by Rand’s balefire.)

Perrin is surprised to see that Mat has a badger. In a way, he shouldn’t be; it hearkens back to Mat's younger exploit at the start of The Eye of the World, where he and Dav planned to let loose badger:

Mat's brown eyes twinkled with mischief, as usual. "Dav and I caught a big old badger, all grouchy at being pulled out of his den. We're going to let it loose on the Green and watch the girls run. "

The Eye of the World, An Empty Road

A hand suddenly jutted out from behind the trunk, holding a brown sack. "I caught a badger," a familiar voice said. "Want to let it go on the village green?"

Towers of Midnight A Backhanded Request

The badger has some close associations with Perrin. Like the badger, Perrin was pretty grouchy at being pulled out of his comfort zone in this chapter. And he is King of the Wild (see Perrin essay). The badger is a fierce and tenacious wild creature. Perrin badgered himself by constantly brooding over his animal/human balance and leadership duties.

Mat’s badger is also a reference to "easing the badger", the name of an Illianer inn (see The Great Hunt inns) where Perrin and Moiraine realised that a Forsaken was out to kill them. Although then it was a single Forsaken, Sammael, who had Perrin (and Moiraine) in his sights, but now it’s Moridin who wants Perrin and Mat dead, and has ordered the other Forsaken to see to it.

Easing the badger has sexual connotations and in fact at the end of the scene Perrin uses the phrase:

How had he gotten past Grady? Light! Perrin shook his head to himself, then bent to untie the sack and ease the poor badger Mat had captured.

Towers of Midnight A Backhanded Request

Some trousers and small clothes are closed tied with a drawstring. Morgase and Tallanvor are shortly to consummate their marriage.

There’s a certain irony that careless blithe Mat is warning careful Perrin about the Shadow being out to kill them. As for Mat getting past Grady unnoticed, trickers are good at penetrating borders. (see Tricksters essay)

It seems apt that a backhanded request gets a backhanded ceremony.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #50: Chapter 43 - Some Tea

By Linda

This chapter is more about showing the development of relationships rather than events.

Galad POV

Galad and Perrin continue to find common ground, which promises well for the alliance they make. Galad appears to have rejected the Cairhienin custom of scheming and dissembling in favour of candour:

Others often responded with anger when Galad said what he thought, but he was coming to realize that he didn't need to hold himself back with Perrin. This man responded well to honesty.

Towers of Midnight, Some Tea

I guess Galad is following his Andoran heritage; even though some think he goes too far. With Aes Sedai being as great at, or greater than, scheming as Cairhienin, Cadsuane uses candour as a trap or a weapon:

Cadsuane preferred to be direct, when possible. She had tripped up any number of clever people who had not believed she meant exactly what she said.

The Path of Daggers, New Alliances

Cadsuane and Galad are both considered annoying, or at least heavy-going, by many people around them; they are both competent with very high standards. Another thing they have in common is that the groups they lead have been regarded as pariahs by the populace – and with good reason.

Like Perrin, Galad may be direct, but he is not naive. He is now more conscious that Aes Sedai Healing can come with strings. Not particularly so the aid of the Wise Ones, though, except for creating greater obligations to Perrin and straying from Whitecloak beliefs. These are considerations Galad didn’t have to worry about when he was a noble without an official position.

He'd allowed an Aes Sedai to Heal him. "Once you've committed your reserves, there's no use holding back your scouts," Gareth Bryne was fond of saying. If he was going to let Aes Sedai save his men, then he might as well accept their Healing.
Once, accepting Aes Sedai Healing hadn't bothered him nearly so much.

Towers of Midnight, Some Tea

It is true that the Whitecloaks were already saved by channelling, so Galad may as well have further channelling save more of them.

While Perrin talks to Galad about trust, Galad is wondering if Perrin is trustworthy:

"And these Asha'man claim they are free of the taint?" Galad asked, as he and Perrin Aybara picked their way through the aftermath of the battle.
"They do," Perrin said. "And I've a mind to trust them. Why would they lie?"
Galad raised an eyebrow. "Insanity?"…
"Perhaps," Perrin said. "Perhaps the Asha'man are mad, and the taint isn't cleansed. But they've served me well, and I figure they've earned the right to be trusted until they show me otherwise. You and your men might well owe your lives to Grady and Neald."…

"Either you are a Darkfriend of unsurpassed cunning, or you really did as you said-coming to save my men despite your treatment at our hands. In that case, you are a man of honor.”

Towers of Midnight, Some Tea

By the same token, Perrin has earned the right to be trusted, after organising the rescue of the Whitecloaks. While letting Whitecloaks die would have made Perrin’s life easier, he wants them alive if only to fight at the Last Battle. As is typical of Perrin, he is concentrating on what is important, rather than convenient in the short term. As the Whitecloaks also should.

Galad insists each Whitecloak be given the choice of accepting Healing or not -- a conscience vote. In an earlier battle, each Aiel was given this choice, yet now the Wise Ones are peeved if their ministrations are refused. Perhaps they too are focussed on what is important. Galad is impressed the Wise Ones listen to Perrin; it seems they weren’t listening to him. Perrin accepted Galad’s insistence on choice even though he wants everyone who can fight the Shadow to do so, but does remind Galad that Travelling, Healing and battle weaves, are all forms of channelling. If one is accepted, why should not others?

Perrin will let Galad join him only if he takes oath that the Whitecloaks will go where told and fight when told. Galad didn’t reject the request out of hand, even though Perrin killed Children and may be a Darkfriend. Despite his belief that every fighter is needed, Perrin would not take the Whitecloaks with him without the oath. When Galad becomes convinced Perrin is good because of his compassion for the wounded and efforts to find and save them, he realises there is good reason to swear an oath. In turn, Perrin vows to look after the Whitecloaks like his other forces.

Once the deal is done, Galad feels weakened, which Perrin correctly identifies as a result of being pulled by a ta’veren. The Whitecloaks thought they encountered Perrin to punish him – because they had already judged him. Perrin says they met because he needed them (or the Pattern did); for Galad to fight Demandred and to hook up with Berelain, who will pass on the weave-breaking ter’angreal to Lan. And the Whitecloaks to be added to the Last Battle’s forces.

Alliandre POV

Berelain and Faile are acting friendly to change the camp’s opinion of Perrin, as they had agreed to do. Faile is annoyed that Berelain didn’t love Perrin, but just wanted to compete with Faile and win him. To Berelain, Perrin was just a thing to use.

Alliandre tries to persuade Berelain that Faile and Perrin should be together; she respects their marriage. On the other hand, Berelain thinks every relationship needs to be challenged, and thus her actions are justified. She suggests that she could have taken Faile’s place if Faile had died. From these words Alliandre assumes that Berelain has not given up on winning Perrin and is lulling Faile into a false sense of security by letting her annoyance show. Poor Alliandre is comically off the mark, as she sees when Galad shows up.

Berelain is actually thinking of better game – Galad. Her feelings are all stirred up because finally she is genuinely in love, though she rationalises her desires to herself as politically advantageous. “Romance is an unaffordable distraction” to Berelain, but nevertheless Berelain is swept up in it.

Alliandre is happy at the thought that the Whitecloaks would be out of Ghealdan. As a petty “reward” she keeps a silk shirt for herself instead of making it into bandages. The chapter ends on a trivial note.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #49: Chapter 42 - Stronger than Blood

By Linda

Gawyn POV

Egwene mentions that it took quite a while to find Mesaana after the battle in Tel’aran’rhiod because she masqueraded as one of the reclusive sisters. However we never find out what the White Tower did with Mesaana. At this stage, so soon after the battle, Egwene is at a loss.

Warders keep their Aes Sedai emotionally honest:

Looking at her face and feeling the storm inside, Gawyn was given for the first time another perspective on the Warder and Aes Sedai relationship. Warders weren't just bodyguards; they were the ones - the only ones - who saw the truth of what happened within the Aes Sedai. No matter how proficient the Aes Sedai became at hiding emotions, her Warder knew there was more than the mask.

Towers of Midnight, Stronger Than Blood

Normally bonding grounds an Aes Sedai, as Siuan showed, but this bonding seems to have grounded Gawyn. For a time.

Egwene is troubled that Gawyn only saved her by disobeying her; an uncomfortable reminder that she is not infallible. She winces that she was so sure about who the Tower’s attackers were that she concentrated on the Shadow. It is not as if she didn’t know about the Seanchan, and their determination to collar all the Aes Sedai, better than any other Aes Sedai. She even had dreams as yet unfulfilled in which she had contact with the Seanchan. After the Seanchan were repelled she assumed that they were no longer an immediate threat.

The Seanchan were subverted a long time earlier to be a major distraction in the Last Days, as Ishamael cryptically gloated to Rand in Baerlon:

"They will not save you," Ba'alzamon said. "Those who might save you will be carried far across the Aryth Ocean. If ever you see them again, they will be collared slaves, and they will destroy you for their new masters."

The Great Hunt, The Grave Is No Bar To My Call

Ishamael’s plot was effective. He may have been guided or inspired by prophecy – the Shadow’s prophecies or the Karaethon cycle.

Gawyn promises to obey Egwene in anything else so long as she allows him to protect her. This turns out to be an empty promise, with both parts of it violated by Gawyn, especially the oath regarding protecting Egwene. He explains that his newfound acceptance of his role was due to learning to surrender, something he has never been good at it. When Egwene shows that she understood this, he is surprised, but women learn to channel saidar by surrendering and Two Rivers women have trouble with that part. One of Gawyn’s first useful pieces of advice to Egwene - which she listens to - is to delegate things someone else could do.

Sneakily, Gawyn steals the Bloodknives’ ter’angreal rings before an Aes Sedai recognises them as ter’angreal, a result of the Aes Sedai’s oversight in delaying study of the bodies. In a way, he has immediately gone behind Egwene’s back. I don’t believe Warders should reported everything to their Aes Sedai, but the Bloodknives and their ter’angreal are patently Aes Sedai business. This action warns us of what Gawyn’s oath is ultimately worth. (But then he swore to protect Elayne and Andor, too.)


Lan is surprised that people have deduced his route and waited where they could not fail to encounter him. Like Perrin and Rand, Lan won’t lead people to certain death in battle. He feels responsible:

This was what he'd always worried would happen. Reclaiming Malkier was impossible. They would die, no matter how large their force. An assault? On the Blight? Ridiculous.
He could not ask that of them. He could not allow that of them. As he continued down the road, he became more resolute. Those brave men, flying those flags...they should join with the Shienaran forces and fight in a battle that meant something.
He would not take their lives.

Towers of Midnight, Stronger Than Blood

In the Aiel War he was more accepting of the regrettable losses in battle and the responsibilities of a general, but not now. Lan feels it is his duty to defend the land at Tarwin’s Gap and push further north into the Blight, but not anyone else’s (except maybe the Shienarans’).

Nevertheless he is proud that Malkier rallied so readily when it was broken as a nation long ago. It is telling that most Malkieri don’t recognise Lan, their uncrowned king, by sight. He hasn’t moved among his former people much – having associated with Borderlander nobility and armies, and then Aes Sedai, instead. This is probably why he was mistaken about the strength of their national spirit. In turn, their spirit gives Lan strength to bear his responsibilities. Kaisel, a fellow noble, makes him accept them, by reminding Lan of the oath all Borderlanders take.

Nynaeve arranged this army to ensure Lan does not waste his life in a useless gesture of fighting the Blight alone, something Moiraine also tried to prevent back in the time of New Spring by bonding him. The Wheel is turning full circle for Lan. The differences between the three women who have saved Lan in bonding him is remarkable. Moiraine tried to prevent his destruction by focussing him on helping her and then by transferring him to Myrelle, and Myrelle saved him by focussing him on her. Nynaeve encouraged him to do his duty, but expanded it to include all Borderlanders who wanted to join, thus increasing Lan’s likelihood of success – and survival.

The chapter title Stronger Than Blood refers to the Borderlands’ oath. However, other oaths stronger than blood are also referred to in this chapter: the bond between Aes Sedai and Warder, and the Bloodknives’ oath to the Empress (reaffirmed when they activate their rings with their blood).