Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Memory of Light Read-Through #1: Prologue— Bayrd and Isam POVs.

By Linda

Bayrd POV

Bayrd is the first of many fans’ names in A Memory of Light. There had been a few in earlier books: as a fundraiser for charity, or to acknowledge contributions such as those of the beta readers. This article details them: Character Names Derived from Readers' Names.

The scene follows on from When Iron Melts of The Gathering Storm showing the escalation of wrongness in the world due to the Dark One’s touch and his efforts to overturn the proper and natural order of things.

The night smelled wrong.

A Memory of Light, Prologue

Food is rotten; stone abides, however. The men thought that sunrise would return all to normality as it regularly does to the village of Hinderstap.

Ironically Jarid Sarand blames the wrongness on the Aes Sedai but they were the ones adversely affected in The Gathering Storm. Jarid’s forces are badly affected because Jarid is distracted with his own concerns and is not fighting the Shadow, as were the Aes Sedai under Elaida. Belief and order give strength, as Herid Fel said, and what Jarid believes is wrong, and his commitment to the Light and the Dragon is weak. He disbelieves the Last Battle is upon them, and, hence he becomes a focus of wrongness.

All of the army command have a rethink about Jarid:

“He wasn't always this bad, was he? Bayrd thought. He wanted the throne for his wife, but what lord wouldn't want that, given the chance? It was hard to look past the name. Bayrd's family had followed the Sarand family with reverence for generations.

A Memory of Light, Prologue

Devoted retainers turn against Jarid—ones whose families have served for decades. They become insubordinate and disrespectful, which is against the proper social order. All abandon Jarid because his plans and interpretation of information are comprehensively wrong, as Elaida’s were. However, Elaida did not have the same amount of overt insubordination due to the Tower’s tenacious administrative and political structure. Elaida had lost support, but she was taken before the Aes Sedai deserted her. The Tower did not pursue her release from the Seanchan, however.

Bayrd is making a weapon from the Land for the Last Battle—a stone spearhead as made in ancient times. This seems right and undoes at least some of the wrongness:

There was something powerful about crafting the spearhead. The simple act seemed to push back the gloom. There had been a shadow on Bayrd, and the rest of the camp, lately. As if . . . as if he couldn't stand in the light no matter how he tried. The darkness was always there, weighing him down. He woke each morning feeling as if someone he'd loved had died the day before.

It could crush you, that despair. Why would making a spearhead change that? You're being a fool, Bayrd. It just seemed to him that the mere act of creating something—anything—fought back. That was one way to challenge . . . him. The one none of them spoke of. The one that they all knew was behind it, no matter what Lord Jarid said.

A Memory of Light, Prologue

There is great power in creating, especially in making something with which to defend the Land against the Shadow.

On the other hand, note that Bayrd could not even think of the euphemism “Dark One” in his mind, an extreme version of not naming the Dark One. This makes focussing on the fight against the Shadow that much harder, even if it keeps Bayrd from attracting the Dark One’s attention.

The Dragon is reborn, old bonds are broken, old oaths done away with . . . and I'll be hanged before I let Andor march to the Last Battle without me.

A Memory of Light, Prologue

Bayrd speaks strongly but he could be killed for desertion. Desertion is punished severely in normal times. In this scene Jarid threatens and then tries to kill his mutinous guards.

Bayrd and the soldiers abandon Jarid and affirm their strong commitment to the Dragon and the Land. While their success in making weapons against the Shadow strengthened their resolve, looking at it the other way, their determination to fight enabled them to overcome the Dark One’s touch and make weapons. They were not using their metal weapons to fight the Shadow and these weakened and melted.

This scene ties to some earlier scenes:

  • The Gathering Storm, When Iron Melts, when Egwene promises to free Leane and expresses confidence that Elaida’s tyranny will soon be over and the bars of Leane’s cell promptly melt, then the cell floor, and the ceiling. It’s almost as though Egwene’s vow triggered the change. The Yellows were slow to react to the ‘attack’ on reality. Once Leane was free, everything solidified again.

  • Knife of Dreams, The Importance of Dyelin, when Ellorien is challenged about whether she would contribute to the Last Battle:

    "Tarmon Gai'don is coming soon, Ellorien," Elayne said. "You won't be able to remain on your estates then." Ellorien paused, looking over her shoulder. "When Tarmon Gai'don comes, Traemane rides for the Last Battle, and we ride behind the Lion of Andor."

  • Towers of Midnight, A Terrible Feeling, when all the weapons in Perrin’s camp attack their owners, except Perrin’s hammer, and are deactivated by soil, and A Making, when Perrin makes a power-wrought hammer and affirms that he will take their oaths and lead them at the Last Battle, and

  • The Gathering Storm prologue, where humble Borderlanders are the first to react and go north to fight at the Last Days. Their dedication and courage contrasts with the reckless actions and ambitions of nobles. They are turning their best tools into weapons to fight the Shadow so that there is a chance for them to be able to plant crops again. The people could all starve, but if they don’t fight they will all die anyway.

  • Baryd believes in the Dragon as well as the onset of the Last Battle:

    I have an oath older than the one to your family, anyway. An oath the Dragon himself couldn't undo. It was an oath to the land. The stones were in his blood, and his blood in the stones of this Andor.

    A Memory of Light, Prologue

    Bayrd has an oath to the Land but the Dragon is one with the Land.

    Isam POV

    The nameless town in the Blight is a previously unknown shanty town or ghetto of the Shadow. It is a corruption of a real town, just as the Eye Blinders are a corruption of real Aiel, as Isam observes:

    After Moridin passed, Isam finally took a sip of his dark drink. The locals just called it "fire." It lived up to its name. It was supposedly related to some drink from the Waste. Like everything else in the Town, it was a corrupt version of the original.

    A Memory of Light, Prologue

    It is consistent with the view of the devil as the ape of god.

    The scene explains some of Isam’s background and motivation. We know Isam was brought up by someone not allied to the Shadow:


    Was Isam raised by the Shadow directly, by his mother, or by someone else?

    Robert Jordan

    By someone else. Read and find out.

    Robert Jordan at DragonCon

    Isam only feels safe when he is physically in Tel’aran’rhiod, in the dream. In contrast, channellers protect their dreams when they sleep. Isam has the ability and confidence to spy on the Forsaken in the dream. There, he is as skilled as the most skilled of the Forsaken and better than them at not being seen. (Or else he would not have survived.)

    Isam is more interested in killing Perrin than Rand—he’s not really interested in Rand. Either he has convinced himself that Rand wouldn’t be much of a challenge or else he unconsciously feels that Rand is out of his league and is avoiding thinking about it. It’s academic, since although he was ordered multiple times to kill Rand, he was always pulled away by others before he completed the task. Competition and disunity have prevented the Shadow’s success.

    Luc was in charge of the Shadow’s Two Rivers campaign. Both Luc and Isam wondered if Isam was sent there to be kept away from important events – such as Rand going to Rhuidean or perhaps the derailing of the Black Ajah’s plans in Tanchico.

    He hates what the Town did to him and is conscious of how he might otherwise have turned out, if not for his capture. He feels empathy for a feral child.

    Isam openly sweats while worrying about which Forsaken is meeting him in the Town. Perrin thought that Isam lacked composure in the Two Rivers when they were staking each other:

    The slanting light illuminated it clearly. Dark hair and blue eyes, a face all hard planes and angles, so reminiscent of Lan's face. Except that in that brief glimpse Slayer licked his lips twice; his forehead was creased, and his eyes darted as they searched. Lan would not have let his worry show if he stood alone against a thousand Trollocs.

    The Shadow Rising, The Price of a Departure

    And Slayer was in the dream where he was far more skilled than Perrin at this stage.

    In contrast, as Perrin would have predicted, Lan showed no worry while actually fighting Demandred. Lan is far above Isam in courage and determination. Both men had traumatic upbringings, but Isam didn’t have care, though.

    The term “Eye Blinders” refers to spitting in Dark One’s eye, which is what the Aiel male channellers who are sent to the Blight say they will do. Instead, once there they are Turned into, or voluntarily become, Darkfriends—or accept death or stilling as Cyndane indirectly explains:

    “Is there . . . Is there really no way to resist being Turned? Nothing they can do?"

    "A person can resist for a short time," she said. "A short time only. The strongest will fail eventually. If you are a man facing women, they will beat you quickly."

    "It shouldn't be possible," Perrin said, kneeling. "Nobody should be able to force a man to turn to the Shadow. When all else is taken from us, this choice should remain."

    "Oh, they have the choice," Lanfear said, idly nudging one with her foot. "They could have chosen to be gentled. That would have removed the weakness from them, and they could never have been Turned."

    A Memory of Light, Doses of Forkroot

    The Eye Blinders are apparently constrained to only kill those who cannot channel—something that Moridin is not bound by. Isam knows they like to kill the Talentless, even him, who is fairly high up the Darkfriend hierarchy, and uniquely skilled besides, but they are not allowed to kill each other, because that would be wasteful.

    Perhaps the Aiel lowered their veils in anticipation of killing the Dragon Reborn.

    It appears that another Aiel male channeller has been caught—one that has been sent to the Blight to fight Dark One. This is what Isam means by thinking:

    Isam would have assumed that the practice had ended, once the taint was cleansed.

    A Memory of Light, Prologue

    There is no need to send male channellers to the Blight now, but some are continuing the custom. They are more likely to be from remnants of the Brotherless or Shaido, but could still be from other clans, despite Rand’s intention to change the custom, because Aiel are reluctant to change.

    Isam encountered Aiel channellers—even Turned ones—in his childhood, so there have been Black sisters in the town in the past to Turn Aiel channellers; perhaps there have been for centuries. Once there is a large number of Eye Blinders, they can do the Turning (these rings can all be male), but women will Turn men far more easily. At least in the Blight there would not be the difficulty of gathering 13 Myrddraal together.

    Isam respects Moridin and Cyndane, although he doesn’t recognise the latter’s real identity. Cyndane is not in disguise as Isam thinks, but has a new body. She is desperate for Rand’s death. Lanfear has changed; she is not a spoiled child anymore, but a vengeful woman scorned. Cyndane says the other Forsaken have renounced their claim on Isam. This may not be true.

    Cyndane orders two Turned Aiel to accompany Isam, but did not command them to follow his orders. She appears to be revolted by the Turned Aiel:

    "They will accompany you," the Chosen said. "You shall have a handful of the Talentless as well to help deal with al'Thor's guards." She turned to him and, for the first time, she met his eyes. She seemed . . . revolted.

    A Memory of Light, Prologue

    As she explains to Perrin,

    "They've been Turned," she said. "I've always found that to be a wasteful business. You lose something in the transformation—they will never serve as well as if they'd come willingly. Oh, they'll be loyal, but the light is gone. The self-motivation, the spark of ingenuity that makes people into people."

    "Be quiet," Perrin said. "Turned? What do you mean? Is that . . ."

    "Thirteen Myrddraal and thirteen Dreadlords." Lanfear sneered. "Such crudeness. Such a waste."

    A Memory of Light, Doses of Forkroot

    She is also unimpressed if she has to use Compulsion to manipulate someone—it is cheating, and therefore beneath her. Turning is the ultimate in Compulsion.


    Brandon said...

    I've been checking on a regular basis to see when you would start your read-through of Memories of Light. I enjoy all of your posts, but I specifically enjoy the read-throughs. You are extremely insightful and seem to catch nuances, details, and obscure references that I never quite find. I am always caught offguard at least once during each read-through with some insight that I had never even considered. Thank you for your thoughts and for putting so much of your own time into these. I just wanted you to know your efforts and work are appreciated!

    Linda said...

    Thank you, Brandon, for your kind encouragement. I have a demanding day job and it's not always easy to make the time to write these. Encouragement means a great deal!

    Anonymous said...

    I can only agree with Brandon - keep up the good work, Linda!!

    - Anders

    Linda said...

    Thank you!

    Anonymous said...

    I may find the posts va little while after you load them, but count me in on loving these read throughs. The insights and call backs are amazing!