Thursday, November 20, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #53: Chapter 46 - Working Leather

By Linda

Androl POV
In this chapter we see destruction versus creation in action: one of the schools Rand established to preserve and make advances in knowledge is being fractured by Taim, and in a smaller way Androl is creating useful objects while his tools are being stolen.

Like Perrin, Androl is a craftsman who takes pride in doing a job well. He is not creating a Great Work, as Perrin did, but is illustrating the importance of small things. Androl’s plot is to show how small things done with care and thought can make an enormous difference:

One of the tricks to life was paying attention to the small details. Focus, make the small things right. If each stitch was secure on an armguard, then it wouldn't fray or snap. That could mean the difference between an archer lasting through a barrage or having to put away his bow. One archer wouldn't make a battle. But the small things piled up, one atop another, until they became large things.

Towers of Midnight, Working Leather

As a weak channeller, Androl is a ‘small thing’ himself – in Taim’s eyes at least – but he is skilful and careful to make the most of his abilities and talents to an impressive degree. Logain values talent and experience rather than raw power.

Androl had a block so that only if he was touching his craft materials could he channel. He is atypical of men in being weakest in Earth, normally a power men are strong in. It’s appropriate that having travelled so much everywhere, more than anyone except possibly Jain Farstrider, he is better than anyone at the Travelling weave.

Androl is wary of addiction and thinks the power of saidin terrible as well as wonderful. He notices that his fears have reversed:

The darkness outside hadn't frightened him, nor had stories of Trollocs and Fades. But men who could channel . . . that had terrified him. Now he found himself here, grown into his middle years, suddenly afraid of the dark but completely at peace with men who could channel.

Towers of Midnight, Working Leather

His world has been overturned – a strong theme in the last few books as the Dark One undermines the order of the Pattern with chaos and tries to make Rand the Lord of Misrule, a mockery of the role of Creator’s champion. Soon he will come to love a Red sister, a senior member of an Ajah sworn to neutralise men who can channel. Her world, too, is being overturned.

Darkness is indeed more to be feared than Asha’man. The taint showed Androl that…

The factions in the Black Tower are so strong that they are open in their hostility. Taim’s faction is much more destructive in their weaving. They are better at being weapons, since they have no scruples and probably keep knowledge to themselves of the more destructive weaves to have an advantage over Logain’s faction. Their destructive skill is also a reminder that the Shadow is inimical to the Pattern and good.

It’s interesting that all the Dowtry family accompanied Jonneth to the Black Tower. According to Androl, Canler is older than “Emarin” (more on this in a later post). Emarin has assimilated well to the Black Tower and doesn’t flaunt or press his rank. He is probably better educated than most nobles since he knows where the obscure island of Retash is.

Androl steadfastly allows Coteren to bully him because Logain’s supporters are out-classed in numbers and channelling strength.

Logain’s faction is losing men to Taim’s faction because they want promotion. For some this would be due to simple ambition, for those with a little more insight, there is the added spur of safety. The non-Asha’man in Logain’s faction are afraid of being bonded by Aes Sedai, and resentful that Taim gave permission for the bonding. Taim’s aim was to have them turn to him for promotion to Asha’aman and therefore exemption from bonding, which gives him the opportunity to corrupt them. The previous lure to turn to the Shadow – protection from the taint - was removed by Rand.

Androl is angry that Rand hasn’t been to the Black Tower to sort out the problems, but acknowledges that the Dragon has earned redemption though cleansing saidin. The men feel more than anger; they believe that Rand is mad, until Emarin vouches for him. This is enough to reassure them and they decide to look for evidence that will make Rand listen to their warnings. Such is the Dragon’s reputation – real and calumnied - that even his supporters are unimpressed with his activities and decisions.

This is a straightforward chapter for a straightforward character. Androl does have his secrets, though. Yet he is trustworthy and reliable, which is why the men look to him for leadership. Androl accepts the role even though he feels unqualified for it because it needs to be done. His instructions are sensible and his judgment sound, even though he is not certain yet what going on. He is not sure which would be worse; being right, or being wrong.

The chapter has its secrets too:

"The men who take Taim's private lessons learn too quickly," Nalaam said. "Nensen was barely powerful enough to be considered for Dedicated just a short time ago. Now he's full Asha'man.

- Towers of Midnight, Working Leather

This could be due to the male channeller learning while linked into a mixed circle as this conversation between Rand and Asmodean shows:

Rand cut him off. "You are not teaching me very well."
"As well as may be expected, under the circumstances. You can grasp saidin every time you try, now, and tell one flow from another. You can shield yourself, and the Power does what you want it to." He stopped playing and frowned, not looking at Rand. "Do you think Lanfear really intended me to teach you everything? If she had wanted that, she would have contrived to stay close so she could link us…I've told you I am not a very good teacher, especially without a link.”

- The Fires of Heaven, Pale Shadows

It seems that circles can be used to learn channelling rapidly. This is yet another useful function of the mixed circles now available at the Black Tower. The quote above shows that ‘teaching circles’ can be quite small, as small as just two men and one woman, but no smaller; the woman is necessary to link the men, and the man to teach the other man how to use saidin.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #52: Chapter 45 - A Reunion

By Linda

Elayne POV

Egwene falls a long way short of explaining to Elayne exactly why Gawyn’s return was timely. Dream messages seem to be rather like tweets.

It’s Elayne’s link to Rand that causes the positive effect on the Pattern in Caemlyn – the slowing of rotting, the break in the thick grey clouds the Dark One created to hide the sun. Since the Creator is the light of the world and associated with the sun, source of life and fertility, the Dark One was blotting out the link to the Creator. The aim is to bring on depression and despair, and weaken the land spiritually as well as physically.

Elayne gets “modern” obstetric care, as I’ve explained in the Private Lives article. Her midwife has her basking in sunlight to make vitamin D for bone health. In this scene she feels the quickening – the movements of the babies – an important event in pregnancy. For a first time mother this is usually at 16-20 weeks. Perhaps the difficulty of channelling in pregnancy is due to fluctuating hormones preventing calmness. Elayne’s emotions jump around normally, so she may be more affected by this than most while pregnant.

Elayne’s recognition of the necessity of international alliances foreshadows her later meeting with Perrin and Faile. Perrin’s decision to bring Faile to the meeting is clever as well as fair. As the heir to a foreign crown, not a ruler of a city-state, she is an important part of an alliance between nations, and will tip the balance in Perrin’s favour in Elayne’s mind. Perrin and Faile are just too well connected to treat roughly.

Cairhienin noble/s are undermining Elayne before she can gain the Cairhien Sun crown by presenting her as an invader. Elayne and her advisors quickly deduce that the apparently impartial nobles are behind it.

Birgitte’s increase of Andoran soldiers on the borders may have taken troops out of Caemlyn. On one hand, fewer are in Caemlyn to defend the city against the Shadowspawn coming through the Ways. On the other hand, fewer get killed in this Shadowspawn attack, and will fight elsewhere in the Last Battle. Caemlyn falls, but masses of Shadowspawn will be destroyed in an explosion. Elayne has made reasonable decisions based on the intelligence she gained from the Black Ajah – they just happen to be the wrong ones. Since Shadowspawn can’t traverse gateways, Elayne and her council don’t see how the Shadow could just invade the city without marching through Andor. They have not considered the Ways.

After so long apart, the joy of reunion makes Elayne a little demonstrative to Galad, but he doesn’t notice it to return it. The half-siblings have not had a close relationship in the past and he is too focussed on uniting Elayne with her mother. One of the things they have in common is mutual love for Morgase. Elayne and Galad clash almost immediately – a continuation of their long stalemate. In some ways, Galad performs for Elayne the same role that Egwene and Nynaeve do for Rand: remind her that she can’t do whatever she pleases. Since they are fairly dignified and the conflict is not resolvable, Morgase ignores it. She doesn’t take sides.

Elayne and Dyelin are at first alarmed that Morgase’s return will bring confusion, something Galad never expressed any concern for, but Elayne quickly deduces that Morgase abdicated. How surprised she was that the Whitecloaks did not lie to her about holding Morgase.

When Galad says he is Lord Captain Commander, Elayne turns to her mother for confirmation, even though she knows Galad never lies. She would be furious if he openly doubted she is Aes Sedai or Queen in this way. Once things settle down in the reunion, Elayne is so pleased to see Galad that his literalness and formality don’t grate on her - she just accepts them. A nice change.

Both Elayne and Morgase are aware that many nobles – and citizens- are angry with, and hate, the former Queen. Morgase doesn’t want Aes Sedai to Heal her Compulsion – very few could, anyway. She doesn’t tell Elayne she is married or to whom although perhaps Morgase tells Elayne about Tallanvor when she narrates her story. Elayne is shrewd enough to fill in the blanks. Conversely, Morgase disapproves of Rand, but is trying to withhold judgement.

As a fulfilling official role, Elayne thinks of putting Morgase in charge of western Andor – but Perrin is there already. He is a force to be reckoned with and a rebel without trying to be one. The recent Andoran queens never actually governed the Two Rivers so Perrin stepped into a vacuum. It’s too late for them to try and replace him now. He did more for the people than they ever will.

Aviendha POV

Aviendha thinks how peaceful it all is in the Three-fold Land. The peace of Rhuidean was mentioned by Bair and others in The Shadow Rising in a slightly different context:

“The peace of Rhuidean be on you. Who comes to Chaendaer may return to their holds in peace. There shall be no blood on the ground.”

The Shadow Rising, Beyond the Stone

Back then, the city was dead most of the time, except when Aiel visited to be painfully tested. In this scene, the peace is actual – and extended to the whole Three-fold Land in Aviendha’s mind. (Yet the Three-fold Land, with its feuds and raids, is not a particularly peaceful place.) The city is clean because it is underpopulated and newly resettled. The cities Aviendha has visited were long-settled and thriving. Rhuidean is a bit of a show city: planned and now inhabited. It appears to be a paradise. This is deceptive, considering what Aviendha is about to learn.

Aviendha reminds us that Rand’s role is a, or rather, the breaker:

Once Rhuidean had been shrouded in protective mists. That was before Rand had come. He'd broken the city in three very important, very discomforting ways…
Rand caused so many problems.

Towers of Midnight, A Reunion

and she is correct that Rhuidean was one of his important sites of breaking. Rand removed the mists from Rhuidean - demystified the city literally as well as figuratively. Concurrently he ripped away the Aiel’s feelings of being special people, and ripped away their illusions.

Rhuidean’s protective mists, making it a hidden city, were wards. They are long dispersed so Aviendha can’t sense them and doesn’t know how they protected the city.

The destruction did not end there. The dome of fog that had hidden Rhuidean for so many centuries was dissipating; the underside no longer glowed, and harsh sunlight poured through great new gaps…
I destroy. Always I destroy! Light, will it ever end?
"I do like to see men fight, but you two cannot even stand." Lanfear moved into Rand's view, surveying the devastation. "You have made a thorough job of it. Can you feel the traces? This place was shielded in some way. You did not leave enough for me to say how."

The Shadow Rising, The Traps of Rhuidean

Rand had taken away the mist. The city had shed its dome like an algai'd'siswai unveiling his face. She didn't know how Rand had caused the transformation; she doubted that he knew himself.

Towers of Midnight, A Reunion

The wards were broken when Rand fought Asmodean. Aviendha thinks there won’t be shops in Rhuidean; it is too sacred a city for commerce in her opinion. This was not going to be the case when Rand left Rhuidean in The Fires of Heaven, A Departure, with Aiel traders in the city to organise the rebuilding of the city with Aiel help.

Rand also thought otherwise in his version of the changes he made to Rhuidean while fighting Asmodean:

The fog was almost gone from the ruined city; only a few wispy sheets remained to drift among the buildings still standing beneath the sinking sun. The valley floor tilted sharply to the south now, and water spilled out of the great rent across the city, the gash that went all the way down to where that deep hidden ocean of water lay. Already the lower end of the valley was filling. A lake. It might reach nearly to the city eventually, a lake maybe three miles long in a land where a pool, ten feet across drew people. People would come to this valley to live. He could almost see the surrounding mountains already terraced with crops growing green. They would tend Avendesora, the last chora tree. Perhaps they would even rebuild Rhuidean. The Waste would have a city. Perhaps he would even live to see it.

The Shadow Rising, The Traps of Rhuidean

The water Rand brought to the surface can grow sufficient flora to change the city’s climate and make it rain there more often, which would also make agriculture easier for those living there. Aviendha thinks the lake Rand created should be called Tears of the Aiel rather than Tears of the Dragon, but Rand has agonised over the destructive effect he has had on nations and individual people. The Aiel might be hardly done by in Aviendha’s opinion, but other nations have lost as much, and Rand far more.

Rhuidean’s destiny has been fulfilled and its purpose broken. There is no need for Aiel leaders to go to Rhuidean for knowledge anymore, Aviendha thinks. For herself, Aviendha could not be more wrong. There was a great need for her to go. Being told is one thing, but confirmation – and first-hand knowledge – quite another. That’s why the ter’angreal was programmed and installed in the first place.

Aviendha’s vague impressions of memories from the rings ter’angreal (another source of knowledge that breaks illusions) confirm the sense of Nakomi’s judgement. Rand broke the Aiel’s traditions and considering that Aiel tend to over-identify with them, this could have destroyed their identity. For some Aiel, it did. Aviendha realises that they can’t hold onto their traditions without them fulfilling an actual function. This leads to her questioning the function of Aiel traditions.

Aviendha chooses to continue with tradition and enter Rhuidean, even though she thinks it is not as meaningful now. This was a very important choice. The ter’angreal supplies her with first-hand knowledge of a future she couldn’t imagine, and what needed to learn, but really didn’t want to.

I will go on, she decided. Pass through the glass columns. Perhaps her worries were true, and the passage was now far less meaningful, but she was genuinely curious to see what the others had seen. Besides, knowing one's past was important in order to understand the future.
Wise Ones and clan chiefs had been visiting this location for centuries. They returned with knowledge. Maybe the city would show her what to do about her people, and about her own heart.

Towers of Midnight, A Reunion

There she will see the result of traditions being distorted by personal ambition and hatred.

Aviendha is wrong in thinking Rand will be a king after the Last Battle if he survives:

If he survived the Last Battle-and she intended to fight hard to make certain he did--he would still be a wetlander king. And then there was Elayne. Aviendha and she were going to be sister-wives, but Elayne would never leave Andor. Would she expect Rand to stay with her? Would that mean Aviendha would need to as well?

Towers of Midnight, A Reunion

(He might be one again eventually, or at least a noble, but first he will be an anonymous wanderer, because, officially, he did not survive.) She wonders how living arrangements between her, Elayne and Rand will work out – and that was for the simple situation of Rand being a king. It’s noticeable that she doesn’t think of Min in these plans.

Wise Ones can’t be made gai’shain by Aiel law, which is why the Aiel are so angry with the Seanchan. In some ways da’covale are like gai’shain. Worse for the Wise One channellers, damane are potentially on a par with da’tsang. Aviendha (and other Wise Ones) feel the Tower is also a threat to Wise Ones.