Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #20: Chapter 17—Older, More Weathered

By Linda

Mat and Rand have not been in the same place since Lord of Chaos. They won’t be again until the last moments at Shayol Ghul, and then only approximately. There is also the period after Rand has “died”, until he sneaks away, but by this time Rand, at least, may have ceased being ta’veren.

Rand is wearing red, black and white. Mat notes that he is regal, older and more weathered—like Lews Therin, but in Moridin’s colours. These are also the colours of the Aes Sedai banner.

Tuon and her entourage panic when Rand is brought in. Even Mat starts to, because he thinks Rand is mad. In Mat’s opinion, proof of this is that Rand is not afraid of being taken captive. Mat has done all he could to avoid Rand—including avoiding thinking about him. The first thing Rand says is that Mat led him to Tuon. This makes Tuon furious because she feels betrayed by Mat.

It doesn’t last; Mat indignantly discovers that Tuon has his medallion. While she is embarrassed a little at the theft, she is ruthless enough that her feelings of shame are brief. Yet in Knife of Dreams Tuon was outraged at being disguised as a thieving servant in the menagerie.

Rand says that it is futile for Mat to try and keep away from him because the Pattern will never allow it. That’s true, but they have been apart more often than not. The two have a funny bragging contest, typical of Celtic culture.

Mat tells Rand in an offhand way that he cares about him–despite expecting him to go mad—and that he is looking a lot better, even like a winner. And Tricksters have an eye for winners. Mat tries to pass off his poor treatment of Rand during The Great Hunt as teasing, but it rings hollow.

Convinced that Rand is in over his head, Mat offers to talk to Tuon, but the Dragon addresses her formally himself. Tuon claims Rand as a captive ruler who has resisted her, and says he should have remembered his oaths to Hawkwing. To her surprise, he turns her own arguments against her. One of Tuon’s major roles is as a Nemesis figure, including to herself.

It is obvious from her words that if Hawkwing’s heir were still ruling on the mainland that the Seanchan would not have submitted to the heir’s rule but contended with them. After all, the Seanchan are Hawkwing’s heirs also, and contend continually among themselves for the opportunity to rule. Tuon dismisses Rand’s scenario as a non-issue.

Then Rand overturns her claim as the only legitimate heir of the only man to unite and rule the empire. Rand says that he, as Lews Therin, has an older and more complete claim and scares all of them with his powers. There are timely threatening rumblings of thunder that are unexplained. More explicable is how Rand restores the land while shielded; he uses Singing, as Mat observes.

Like his “cleansing of the temple” at Maradon, it has a mundane explanation and yet also shows great skill. There is a show of force and power with nothing to attack. It also demonstrates Rand’s fitness to rule—just as Tuon is fit to rule due to her establishment of social order, so Rand is fit to rule because he restores health and fertility—natural order—to the Land. Rand says he could have easily killed her, but she has done well for nations under her, and so he has stayed his hand.

Mat and Rand both point out to the Empress that her rule is not strong and she has nothing to spare to fight on more fronts. Tuon insists on keeping damane she has—the unspoken reason being that her rule is too dependent on them. It’s not surprising that Mat and Tuon want to get away from Rand; he is someone they can’t control or outwit.

Rand bows to Tuon on one knee as he offers her peace and alliance in exchange for her help in fighting Last Battle and fulfils a Seanchan prophecy that he would bow or kneel—the paraphrasing varies—to the Crystal Throne:

"I must find a way to make contact with the Dragon Reborn as soon as possible. He must kneel before the Crystal Throne before Tarmon Gai'don, or all is lost.” The Prophecies of the Dragon said so, clearly.

Winter’s Heart, What a Veil Hides

He must bow before the Crystal Throne before the Last Battle can begin.

The Gathering Storm, Gambits

Bowing among the Seanchan bowing is formal, either signifying an oath made, as when Egeanin bowed to Elayne, Nynaeve and co in Tanchico after making a vow to them ( The Shadow Rising, Into the Palace); or obeisance of one lower to one higher. Naturally, the Empress would see bowing and kneeling as the same, since everyone makes obeisance to her, and she would not conceive of anyone merely making a courtesy to one who sat the Crystal Throne. The Prophecy indicates that the Dragon Reborn and the Empress as a personification of the Throne must make a courteous agreement before the Last Battle begins. The more Dragon-centric mainland prophecies foretold that he would “bind the Nine Moons”—the name of the Seanchan Court—"to serve him”, which seemed to be in conflict with the Seanchan prophecy and pointed to the latter as an impostor. As it happened, both were true.

By her stated reckoning, the Empress and the Dragon are of equal rank, although his display of restoring the Land shows him as more powerful and holy than her, and therefore Rand’s extra courtesy actually puts her at a disadvantage because she is obligated to him. His prestige is such that his excessive courtesy makes her look inferior or arrogant, and his argument over their respective lineages makes her look like a Johnny-come-lately and lower than he, especially after he exercises his powers. This is not how Tuon expected the prophecy to be fulfilled. Rand undermined her but also offered her help. Balance.

The prophecy was certainly useful: it was the belief that Rand needed to kneel to her which brought Tuon to parley with Rand; otherwise she would never have gone near him.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #19: Chapter 16—A Silence Like Screaming

By Linda

While the thinking and talking continues, the action definitely steps up its pace in this chapter. The silence like screaming is the agony of those whose voices are never heard—or who don’t have a voice, but still suffer the horror of corruption and destruction.

Loial POV

Loial doesn’t truly understand hastiness, especially the other side of it—impatience. Humans won’t listen to someone all day, and yes, they do miss out on a lot because of that. The Ogier notice that people live faster because of their shorter lives, but they don’t realise this gives humans a very different perception of time. Loial feels that the Ogier are complacent about the long time they have and so achieve far less. Of course, currently, the risk is that the Ogiers’ very long lives will be cut short.

On the other side, humans do not sense the health of the land as well or deeply as Ogier do. With the Ogier being quiet and deep, the intensity of their arousal into battle fury is all the more unexpected. Loial’s rage is at the corruption and ruination of the land and living things, and at being deprived of peace and forced to kill. The Ogier feel forced to live like Trollocs, and in their rage turn around and out-Trolloc the Trollocs—at least in battle.

Ogier were named after ogres as well as after Ogier Street (itself named after the Ogier family) in Charleston. This scene is when they really show that they are ogres.

Galad POV

The Ogiers’ transformation into ogres scares the Whitecloaks. One of the Children—Golever—thinks that they must be Darkfriends. On the whole, anything that scares the Whitecloaks is believed by them to be allied to the Shadow. The best thing Galad can do for the Children is stop this simplistic thinking.

Rand and Moiraine POV

Rand’s thoughts of “If what Thom said was true, Mat might be the key [to making a pact with the Seanchan]”—refers to the fact that Mat has married the Empress.

Rand kind of regrets not trusting Moiraine. Although she counters him that he did trust her, but wanted to do everything himself. He now freely says that he can’t. Yet even while thinking that he should trust Moiraine, Rand doesn’t tell her anything about Callandor—especially that it is a True Power sa’angreal. Ironically, he destroyed the male Choedan Kal because it was too dangerous, yet Callandor is at least as dangerous as the Choedan Kal was, if not more. The immensity of the One Power that could be pulled through the Choedan Kal balanced the lure of channelling the True Power unaided, yet Callandor is a sa’angreal for the True Power…

However, Rand does tell Moiraine that he aims to kill the Dark One. He thinks he will be able to do this more easily than sealing it way. I am reminded of the Aiel saying that “Even a child can kill”. Re-sealing the Dark One in its prison would be harder, but also much more constructive, as the system of toh would indicate. Moiraine says the Dark One is part of the Wheel and implies that destroying it would damage the Pattern. From what we see when the Dark One and Rand exchange visions at Shayol Ghul, she is probably is right about this, but for the wrong reason. She is worried about causality, but the Dark One offers people choice, and that is its most important role in the Pattern. Rand thinks killing the Dark One will be another of his impossible tasks, his “nine impossible things” as Nicola Foretold, and a parallel with Hercules’ labours.

Moiraine is not fooled by Rand’s bluff that his memories make him old. If that were so, Mat would be old, and Perrin with the wolves’ collective memory probably even older.

Moiraine has apparently heard about the previous failed meeting with Tuon—from her agents, or perhaps from Nynaeve. Like Rand’s abilities, Moiraine’s seemingly magical ability to know things and acquire information may have a mundane explanation.

While Moiraine regards the pact with the Seanchan as an unnecessary distraction, Rand sees it as essential to winning. This time, Rand is right: the Seanchan must join in the fight in the Last Battle. After that, it is important that they be part of the peace pact, as Aviendha’s visions in the glass columns showed. Moiraine has emphasised Rand’s destructive and divisive side, but in order for him to right Lews Therin’s mistakes, he must also be unifying.

Moiraine now acknowledges that Rand is mature, probably because he did not snap at her when she says he is just a youth. She broods that doesn’t know if his ideas are right. What is unspoken, is that her ideas may not be right either. In actuality, each has some things correct, and some not. The Blue sister trusts in the Wheel to weave things right, yet wishes she could understand it.


Unsurprisingly, everyone is in awe of Lan’s feat of killing two Myrddraal simultaneously. As Lan(celot), he is the best of the best, truly “the highest knight on life”. The scene looks ahead to when he does what no one else can do and kills Demandred.

Kaisel is concerned that the Saldaean women, including the queen, are fighting in battle. Lan believes that it is not worth objecting about. Yet Tenobia is killed later on after Agelmar’s judgment is corrupted. Of course, many other rulers and nobles perish in the Last Battle. Everyone has to do their part, and Lan thinks Kaisel is stupid about women in thinking they shouldn’t fight. The Malkieri King’s been among Aes Sedai a long time; it has changed his Borderlander views.

Lan’s plan relies on the Trollocs being so ravenous that they are distracted with eating their dead. It works until the channellers arrive. Asha’man Deepe refuses to retreat when M’Hael attacks and is killed. Realising Deepe’s error of judgment, Lan is also nearly killed, which would have been a triumph indeed for the Shadow if he had been.