Sunday, April 2, 2017

A Memory of Light Read-through #28: Chapter 25—Quick Fragments


By Linda

Siuan POV

Siuan boldly tests the Amyrlin (despite being a VERY junior Aes Sedai) but then realises that even more intimate memories could have been passed on to the Shadow. Myrelle, who, incidentally, now has new Warders (plural) from the Black Tower, informed the Aes Sedai about the Turning and how that could be seen in the person’s eyes. However, Siuan is not sure what form this difference takes and how obvious it is really is:

If we can't tell, Siuan thought, then we're already doomed. She would have to trust the Amyrlin as she had so many times before.

A Memory of Light, Quick Fragments

She can’t bring herself to think about it in a plain fashion, which may be adding to the problem. There has been too much pretending there is no Black Ajah and no corruption of channellers. Siuan decides she just has to trust the Amyrlin. Ironically, as far as trust goes, she is looking in the wrong direction. Her own Warder has been corrupted under her nose—the guy she trusts above all other men—and a large portion of their army is doomed.

Egwene is not sure if she trusts Rand’s statement that the Seanchan fight the Shadow. Note that the Seanchan’s top general was not Compelled or corrupted through his dreams, only a second-tier general was. Moghedien’s mode of operation is indirect, as against Graendal’s bold, direct methods. It succeeded for longer, too.


Rand’s POV

Rand’s firmness prevents the Dark One from closing the way down to the Pit of Doom upon the party. Dark One tries to intimidate them with sound, instead. It works on Moiraine, not much on the other two.

At the end of the road, there is no fire, only nothingness. No illusions. Not even Shaidar Haran, now. They also find Moridin being the Dark Knight: on one knee, head bowed, sword “held before him, tip resting against the ground”. Most tellingly, he is at the edge of the light, neither fully in one or the other, but his eyes are almost completely covered in saa.

Moridin wants that nothingness, a negative nirvana in which he will be freed from the cycle of rebirth. Nirvana is a Buddhist concept in which the person reaches non-self and Emptiness—has no consciousness. It is the end of rebirth by stilling the fires (apt!) that keep the process of rebirth going. Moksha, on the other hand, is a Hindu concept in which the cycle of rebirth ends with the soul being united with, and understanding, the whole universe as the Self. To gain his Nirvana, he is prepared to destroy the whole world’s reincarnation cycle and doom them to rebirth into a dark universe. He will weaken Rand, if he can, to help the Dark One win in exchange for the promised oblivion, even though he knows that Dark One is a liar.

The woman that Rand senses is in trouble is Elayne, who has channelled to exhaustion.


Lan POV

Lan realises he is a target of the Shadowspawn army. The only thing surprising about this is that Lan took so long to consider that they would target him.

When he goes up a hill to view the battlefield for a change, he is just in time to see that too many reserves were sent to fill a gap in their lines. He will check the mistake, which leads to the unmasking of Agelmar’s Compelled mind—but not soon enough.


Perrin POV

The chapter title refers to the “quick fragments of an enormous battle” that Perrin sees; plus the quick fragments of a few POVs. No one can see it all. Of interest is that Perrin sees snake-like people in the dream fighting—these are Aelfinn, I expect. Perrin is the only one of the three ta’veren who has never seen them before.

When Perrin sees wolves waiting near Shayol Ghul, he remarks that they don’t say what they’re waiting for. The Last Hunt; they have told Perrin this before.

From Min’s viewing, Perrin knows that Rand will need him at some point, but can’t wait here for that like the wolves are. There is too much for him to do.

Perrin uses Mah’alienir (which does miss sometimes, for all that it's named after Thor’s hammer) to smash Slayer’s arrow from the air, and is led into a troop of red-veiled Aiel. He shows mercy to the two Aiel channellers and doesn’t kill them in Tel’aran’rhiod in case they can't be reborn, a mercy they didn’t show to the wolves. This is before he learns that they were Turned. By Aiel terms, this earns him great ji. He outdoes Gaul, who killed one who could channel. Lanfear says that people don’t die forever if killed in Tel’aran’rhiod, but Perrin realises she could be lying. Gaul kills them after Perrin determines that he cannot Turn them back to the Light. Slayer escaped back to the waking world, and Perrin sets up a message relay service among the wolves to let him know when Slayer returns. He's efficiently set up the final confrontation with Slayer.

Perrin’s perspective shows that the Pit of Doom is a black hole, a negative singularity—the end of everything.

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Memory of Light Read-through #27: Chapter 24—To Ignore the Omens


By Linda

Tuon POV

Tuon believes her cumbersome garments are assassin-proof and will let her free quickly if she is attacked. However, she has to promptly recognise an attack to be able to save herself.

Beslan doesn’t understand Mat anymore – he has changed since his visit to Sindhol, and yet not. After some pressure from the Empress, the King of Altara has accepted that he has to remain to rule and not go off to battle.

Tuon consciously followed omens—fate—to marry Mat, and have a child by him. So did Mat also follow prophecy. Tuon’s following of omens—regarding them as an indication of event in the Pattern—is no more foolish than going to another world to ask aliens to tell your future and following that. Neither would have married the other if they had not felt pressured by divination to do so.

Divination by omens is augury in its widest sense. It follows the ancient principle of “as above, so below” or that microcosm reflects macrocosm. For more on this, see the Workings out of Fate and Omens articles. We only see passive divination such as dreams, sooth-saying or omens in the series; there is no cleromancy, sortilege or star-gazing.

The chapter title refers to the validity of omens alongside the other types of divination in the series, and also to what the consequences would have been if Tuon had not married Mat—if she ignored the omens. She also followed the omens regarding Rand, which were the strongest possible, and now perhaps Min:

Perhaps the omens would show Fortuona someone else fitting as a Truthspeaker.

A Memory of Light, To Ignore the Omens

The Empress is on the lookout now for a new one. “Seek and you shall find.” After all, a diviner very much participates in their divination process. As does the querent. The *Finns chose how to answer Mat’s questions from what they saw, and he “chose” what questions to ask. Even being impulsive and changing your mind about what to ask is a choice.

The Seanchan very much follow social Darwinism—the fittest survive or rise to the top in society—as does the Shadow. It is something important that they have in common. For the Seanchan, it is a way of accepting a coup rather than being outraged at a violation of proper order. The sudden replacement of one ruler for another stronger, bolder or luckier one is all for the good of the empire and not a usurpation. Yet Tuon is a parallel of an order goddess and brings order to the world.

In contrast, Mat is an outsider and not easily confined in an elaborate uniform or social structure. This is symbolised by the way he “kept snagging [his uniform] on things” in this chapter. Tuon appreciates how his dis-orderliness keeps her rivals off balance, although it does the same to her, too, at times. The fact that he isn’t a rival to her makes her want to protect him. In many ways, Mat challenges Fortuona’s beliefs and values most of all.

Fortuona is undecided how to fit Mat into her military command structure, at least in part because she is unsure of his full capabilities. Galgan is even more unsure, and is waiting to see if Mat undoes himself. Of course, the risk is that Mat outdoes Galgan. The outsider has Galgan unsettled. Betting on Mat because he impressed Karede, Fortuona gives Mat a new name—one with much symbolism—and pronounces him second to Galgan in command of her armies. Galgan must now include him in all decisions.

Tuon is aware that doing battle against the Shadow leaves her exposed in Altara—but to what? The Shadow is the battle that everyone is fighting. All selfish land-grabbing has been postponed to well beyond the Last Battle. With some effort, Mat pushes Tuon to agree to move to save Egwene’s army. Tuon is tempted to capture all the Aes Sedai so she would be invincible in Seanchan. But the Last Battle must be fought. The Empress considers breaking the treaty she signed even though she is a law and order figure. She is weighing everything here until Mat pushes her to keep her word. She thinks Mat is chaos; but she would have aided it, not he. Finally she decides to contribute to the Last Battle. The Seanchan Essanik prophecies gave the Empress a nice mention and it would have been quite a paradox if she ignored that:

The prophecies clearly showed that the Empress would defeat those who served the Shadow, and then she would send the Dragon Reborn in to duel with Lighteater.

The Gathering Storm, A Halo of Blackness

On Seanchan terms, that would be quite an omen to ignore. Galgan thinks Tuon has made a big mistake, but she is betting on Mat and the omens she couldn’t ignore that she hasn’t.


Lan POV

Even Lan is affected by the foreboding, menacing black clouds. In part this is because he doesn’t think they have delayed the Trollocs well enough and won’t be reinforced in time.

Lan disregards Agelmar’s complaints of troubled dreams. Yet they must be unusual if such an experienced soldier and general is concerned by them. Perhaps his own have been protected for so long that he takes this for granted. Agelmar’s concerns are a sign that Graendal’s attacks on the generals’ dreams are starting to bite.

Despite what Lan says about Nynaeve being at Shayol Ghul some time earlier, the eclipse happens in this chapter and it occurred shortly before the party entered Shayol Ghul. Lan is referring to Rand taking his party near Thakan’dar to testing the artham dagger prior to entering the Shadow’.


Elayne POV

The eclipse occurs as Elayne’s exhausted troops are in position. The Queen makes a fine rallying speech convincing her troops that they must fight to save the Land so the Light will return. Resistance is not enough; they must destroy the Shadow. As Rand gives his blood for salvation, so the Land also gives the blood of the people for salvation.

Elayne presses Birgitte into obedience. She is very much in Queen mode, and not an Aes Sedai needing protection or counsel. For the good of all, she has to make a contribution to the battle with her channelling. Birgitte is hurt at first, but concedes that Elayne has a point.

The Andoran queen doesn’t mention the sun shining again in this scene, but eclipses last about seven minutes at the longest, and they can’t be total everywhere. This eclipse is total from Shayol Ghul to Cairhien. It doesn’t end until after Elayne’s speech.

Elayne finally sees what Birgitte saw in Towers of Midnight—that anyone can use the cannon for large-scale devastation with a modest amount of training—and it frightens her. Ironically, this is the effect that the One Power has on non-channellers. It’s a reminder of how right Rand was to make the peace treaty between all parties.


Ituralde POV

Even prior to the battle, Windfinders are using the Bowl of Winds that they earned to counteract the Dark One’s storms. The Sea Folk are interested in technology, such as the steamwagons. The Sea Folk see their potential as land transport of heavy goods in bulk along regular, perhaps ultimately railed, routes, performing a similar role to rakers and cargo ships in shipping lanes. In contrast, Ituralde thinks they are not as good as a team of horses.

Unlike the other armies, who are under threat, Ituralde feels adequately prepared. Nevertheless, he doesn’t expect to win, because he is outnumbered. Like Mat, he can assess when an army is about to break before it is obvious. Ituralde has post-traumatic stress disorder and has flashbacks as he watches the Trollocs advance. Alsalam calms him enough to refocus. The Domani general knows he has to win here and keep the Shadowspawn out of Thakan’dar. All other fights are lesser; this one is to protect Rand.

Every other fight—every battle man had fought, and was fighting—would be meaningless if Ituralde lost here.

A Memory of Light, To Ignore the Omens

Ituralde is a bit of a trickster, like Mat and unlike the other generals, and he will use all the tricks he can think up to buy Rand time. He is the right one of the generals for this job. He is also the strongest in himself of the generals, as it happens, and resisted and survived Graendal’s Compulsion—no mean feat, especially as he feels a wreck compared to how he was before Maradon.

Aes Sedai recognise eclipses as short-lived natural phenomena, but everyone else is ignorant of them, even nobles. In keeping with the chapter title, this eclipse is an omen. As discussed in the previous chapter, it symbolises the potential end of world and the fight of light and darkness, but also the conjunction of saidin and saidar fighting together for good or ill. It also symbolises Rand as the unconquered sun hidden from the Dark One by the artham dagger.

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Memory of Light Read-through #26: Chapter 23—At the Edge of Time


By Linda

Gawyn POV

Gawyn doesn’t recognise Demandred’s original name. Who and what the Forsaken were before their fall has been completely dwarfed by what they became. Their demonization was well-earned—and they gloried in the fame and power it gave them.

Egwene’s Warder relies on the bloodknife rings to keep himself from being seen. He knows this may kill him—or that is how he interpreted what Egeanin said. The rings endow power similar to that of Myrddraal—to be not easily seen, especially in shadows, and to have increased speed. However, they don't give the ability to move from one shadow to another as Myrddraal can. Gawyn realises their power makes him overconfident, but does nothing to correct this.

He rationalises that he is only using the ter’angreal to protect Egwene and therefore it is justified. What he ignores, or doesn’t understand, is that when, not if, this kills him, she will suffer horribly. Egeanin’s actions show that Gawyn’s risk was probably unnecessary to save Egwene.


Egwene POV

Sharans speak in an emotionally flat way. This may be the result of being trapped by the Pattern, and their lack of choice, or, more properly, that they allowed—felt their duty was—to be trapped by it. The Sharan system of demotion or lower status is forever, because tattoos can’t be removed. Hence people are trapped in their social position.

Egwene acknowledges that Demandred is worse than one of the Seanchan. Until now it is as though the Seanchan were the worst thing she had met—and she has encountered Shadowspawn, a couple of Forsaken—if she but knew it—and Black sisters:

The Seanchan captured and used Aes Sedai, but they didn't slaughter the common people with such recklessness.

A Memory of Light, At the Edge of Time

She needs to escape if only to tell the Tower that Demandred has a large nation behind him. She is puzzled that Demandred doesn’t know where Rand is. He appears to be so busy demanding (that word) Rand come and challenge him that he didn’t sense where he is. And by the end of the chapter it’s too late: Demandred has missed his chance at a duel and Rand has gone to challenge the Forsaken’s boss. The Wyld’s further, increasingly strident, challenges are futile.

To Egwene’s horror, she realises that she has no power at the moment because she can’t use it without being discovered. This is comparable to Siuan’s situation and, like Siuan, Egwene won’t let it break her.

The Sharan channeller is not impressed with Demandred:

She walked around Egwene, looking curious. "You watched the Wyld's little show all the way through, did you? Brave. Or stupid."

A Memory of Light, At the Edge of Time

The woman is quite strong, since she was able to shield Egwene and use two weaves of Air at the same time and also make a light without difficulty. The average Aes Sedai has trouble splitting her weaves more than two ways.

Sharan channellers are not particularly peaceable, judging by what she says:

” Few of the Ayyad would reach for a dagger so quickly, rather than for the Source. You have been trained well."

A Memory of Light, At the Edge of Time

Egwene lets herself panic by comparing her situation with that of when she was a damane. Cue a Seanchan to the rescue rather than Egwene’s knight out of King Arthur’s tales—much to her surprise. Egwene always thinks the worst of the Seanchan, and Egeanin’s role is to change this perception. Egeanin’s skill and bravery rival Egwene’s and cast Gawyn into the shade.

The omens Egeanin speaks of would be Demandred and the Sharan invasion. This is her only reminder of what she braved to go back into the camp to find and save Egwene. Gawyn assumes Egwene found someone rather than was rescued by her. He did not recognise Egwene’s alarm through the bond at all, which may be an effect of the ter’angreal, but could just be that he is a very self-centred, emotionally obtuse person.


Aviendha POV

Shadowforgers are like Trolls in their size, strength, and ferocity, and the way they turn to stone and dirt when killed. Killing them all will stop construction of the Myrddraal’s swords.

The eclipse occurs. Those who witness it think it literally is the end of the world. Certainly, it symbolises the potential end of world and the fight of light and darkness, but also the conjunction of saidin and saidar fighting together for good or ill. It has potent alchemical symbolism, as we shall see later in the book.

Aviendha realises the disadvantages of leadership—responsibility and problem-solving. I love the way she and Rand salute each other.

The passage where Aviendha

thrust her hands forward, letting loose a raw weave, only half-formed. This was almost too much power for her to shape.

A Memory of Light, At the Edge of Time

does not make sense, because Aviendha is a particularly skilful weaver. Caire was able to craft intricate weaves in the Bowl of Winds with her powerful circle (that included angreal). Aviendha’s is a larger circle, though far from full. Perhaps it was that Aviendha’s uses saidin as well, which she is not experienced with.

Sarene thinks that there is a difference between Dreadlords and Black Ajah. Maria of Team Jordan verified that there is not, really. It may be that Sarene sees a difference in Black sisters if they are openly fighting in battle.

Graendal uses the True Power to Travel away and leave her minions to bite the dust.


Rand POV

The Eclipse shows the danger to Rand, who is Sol Invictus, the unconquered sun (see Rand essay), as he meets the Dark One. The conjunction is wearing off as Rand goes up the path to enter Shayol Ghul.

Thom stays outside to guard the entrance. His smile is infectious and keeps their spirits up—as he has done in inns throughout the lands.

Moiraine enters Shayol Ghul armoured in her shawl, Nynaeve in her best yellow gown. Rand thinks that Nynaeve looks older without her braid, which puzzles him because it is the traditional sign of womanhood in the Two Rivers. Perhaps Nynaeve looks more timeless when not bound by one culture. Or perhaps Rand has also changed, so to him, the braid doesn’t mean what it once did. Maybe Rand is reacting to Nynaeve’s weight of responsibility and not her outward appearance. Another possibility is that what Rand sees is genuine, and the three oaths may be starting to take effect. For all his memories, Rand is still making clueless remarks about women’s clothing. Nynaeve could not have afforded such an expensive gown in the Two Rivers. No Two Rivers woman could.

Rand wears an outer layer of royalty, but underneath his shirt is in the Two Rivers style, a symbol that he and the series have come full circle. Then and now. The Two Rivers is closest to Rand’s heart, and being raised so well there has been his saving grace. As he enters his wound opens and he drips blood on rocks of Shayol Ghul, fulfilling prophecy.

Rand asks the women politely to make a circle, unlike Aviendha in this chapter commanding the formation of hers. The women are concerned that Rand keeps the lead of their circle. He intends to be seized by Moridin, as portended by the eclipse.

Rand is no longer worried about survival; he is worried about doing it right. This is probably the optimal frame of mind to approach the contest. He is reassured by the Creator that it is the right time, which confirms that the Creator spoke at the end of The Eye of the World, where Rand fought and defeated Ishamael. As the next chapter shows, the Dark One can’t sense Rand on the threshold of Shayol Ghul because of the Artham blunt dagger, so it wasn’t he who spoke.


Friday, January 27, 2017

A Memory of Light Read-through #25: Chapter 22—The Wyld


By Linda

Egwene POV

The higher the status of the Sharans, the fewer tattoos they have (see Costume article). Their male channellers are feral, and take pride in how dangerous they are. They have been dehumanised in their upbringing, and glory in that, because the fear they now arouse in others is a type of power. As former breeding stock, they have never had power. The male channellers wear rampant, aggressive vine tattoos from an early age, while the female channellers have a tree tattoo on their back with its branches bearing leaves onto their face. The Sharans appear to be starving their former rulers. Or have they withered away under the contempt of their ex-subjects at how they are puppets bound to the Pattern?

Egwene wonders why the Sharans have invaded now. We will find out that they are the antagonists of the mainland armies, fighting on the side of the Shadow in the hope of liberation from the Pattern that has held them in thrall until this moment. As unforseen and deadly invaders, they represent a combination of the Mongol Horde invading the West and also the Carthaginians invading the Ancient Roman Empire with Demandred as the Great Khan (a mirror and rival to Rand, the Car’a’carn) and the great general Hannibal, respectively.

Demandred uses the True Power to Travel to the site. His superior abilities are shown in how he finds Leane hidden among the tents and carries her to him with weaves. Yet he overlooks Egwene, a stronger channeller, on the perimeter. Leane is brave and controlled. Demandred uses her as a messenger to Rand to deliver his challenge and threat:

”If he does not, I will slaughter and destroy. I will seize his people. I will enslave his children, I will take his women for my own. One by one, I will break, destroy, or dominate everything he has loved."

A Memory of Light, The Wyld

Demandred’s excuse that he killed the newly captured slaves because the Sharans had no time for them and they would suffer without training, and presumably, being provided for properly, has a parallel in the Mongols enslaving who they wanted in the areas they invaded and killing the rest. Demandred and Rand both share parallels with Genghis Khan: Rand in a positive way with his union of the war-like and feuding Aiel clans (see Rand essay) whom he took back to the Westlands, and Demandred in a very negative way with his invasion of the Westlands committing atrocities. Demandred emphasised this very similarity to both Leane and Gawyn (A Memory of Light, The Wyld and The Last Battle).

Demandred also misused religion to demoralise and terrorise, as Genghis Khan did at Bukhara:

“I am the flail of god. Had you not created great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you.”
.
The Forsaken was an agent of Shaitan claiming to be an equivalent of the Dragon, the Creator’s champion who is as much a scourge as a saviour, and whom he threatened.

Demandred’s claim that he fulfilled Sharan prophecy is true:

"Just as the people here awaited him with prophecy, just as they showered him with glory, the people of my land awaited me. I have fulfilled their prophecies. He is false, and I am true."

A Memory of Light, The Wyld

although he didn’t believe it. His mistake is in thinking that the promised one of the Sharan prophecy was the Dragon—it wasn’t. Their prophecy was separate to the Karaethon Cycle and the antithesis of it. Both men are prophesied ones.

Demandred’s title of “He Who Is Owned Only By the Land” is a claim that is also true, and in a way that Demandred did not intend. Rand is one with the Land and the Land one with him. Demandred is owned by his hatred of, and obsession with, Rand. Demandred sees himself as an equal and rival to Rand, and wants to steal everything that Rand has. He never imagined that Rand would ignore him, and not consider him at all. It is the ultimate insult to the Forsaken.


Perrin POV

Perrin wonders why Lanfear gave him knowledge of the Dreamspike. It was to buy his trust and regard; to keep Rand safe for her to kill, and thereby earn the Dark One’s obligation; and to keep Perrin busy in the Dream until she needed him.

Perrin must call the Last Hunt for the wolves; they can’t hunt the Darkhounds on their own, just as the Heroes of the Horn need the Dragon’s banner at the least to fight. The Wolf King follows up on the wolves’ advice that Graendal is in the Dream. She was in Ituralde’s tent reading reports, which would give her intelligence of the Light’s military plans, and then went to Bashere’s dream.

In her ugly new body, Graendal is all the more determined to be the Naeblis. She now looks like Grendel the man-eating monster. It is as though her beautiful parallels, the ancient Greek Aphrodite and Circe, have been robbed of their beauty, but are still capable of destroying men. Graendal was in Tel’aran’rhiod in the flesh, which allowed her to channel at her full strength. She thinks that actual pitched battles against the Light are far less useful than destroying the generals of the Light’s armies, but as we see, a general can be replaced. Perrin is more than a match for Graendal in Tel’aran’rhiod, although he balked at killing her. By Aiel thinking, the greater honour would be taking her captive, as Aviendha did.

Lanfear criticises Perrin for not killing Graendal, but she has an obvious self-interest there, in reducing her competition. While she would not be allowed to kill a colleague at this time, Perrin could. She tells him that not killing women is a weakness. Ironically, he will kill one—and only one—woman, and it is her.

Lanfear tries to manipulate Perrin, but he rejects her charms. She plies him with knowledge instead; this time about Slayer being able to physically enter and leave Tel’aran’rhiod at will. Just knowing that it can be done inspires him to ask the right questions, which leads to him killing Slayer and Lanfear and protecting Rand.

Moridin is too occupied to keep a watch on Lanfear. Nevertheless, Lanfear declines to help Perrin with an action because she will be further punished if found out. She wants Perrin to become powerful in his own right, and tempts him with power and the good he could do with it. He rejects her temptations, while acknowledging her beauty. Again she dispenses knowledge as a lure and tells him whose dream Graendal just invaded: Bashere’s. Did she recognise it and if so was it because she has looked herself?

What is Moridin up to? Moghedien implied that he no longer cared to inflict for cruelty. Is this due to ennui or just being too busy? Rand hasn’t gone to Shayol Ghul yet, but perhaps Moridin has, or he is giving final orders prior to doing so. While he is despairing of his existence, and only wishes to be free of the cycle of rebirth, he assumes it will only happen with the Dark One’s victory, so he can’t sit around in a depressed state, but must continue prosecuting the Shadow’s plans.