Sunday, June 1, 2003

Towers Of Midnight Chapter 1: Apples First

By Linda

Towers of Midnight opens with glimpses of conditions on the Seanchan continent. Appropriately one of the first references after the Dark One’s impenetrable cloud cover starving the world of light (the Light) and animals from the If worlds is of thirteen (midnight) black towers:

The killing field surrounded thirteen fortresses, tall and cut entirely from unpolished black marble, their blocks left rough-hewn to give them a primal feeling of unformed strength. These were towers meant for war. By tradition they were unoccupied. How long that would last—how long tradition itself would be remembered in a continent in chaos—remained to be seen.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

Total war prevails on the whole Seanchan continent. There seem to be Seanchan prophecies that this would happen at the end of time:

Men did not whisper that this might be the end of times. They yelled it. The Fields of Peace were aflame, the Tower of Ravens was broken as prophesied and a murderer openly ruled in Seandar. This was a time to lift one’s sword and choose a side, then spill blood to give a final color to the dying land.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

The wind then bids farewell to Seanchan and heads to the mainland:

The wind howled eastward over the famed Emerald Cliffs and coursed out over the ocean. Behind, smoke seemed to rise from the entire continent of Seanchan.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

Since the Emerald Cliffs are in Normany, France and their counterparts are the White Cliffs of Dover across the English Channel, perhaps they are a reference to the Seanchan invasion.

Near Dragonmount it’s now early afternoon in late spring/early summer.

The Land is so blighted that some plants are behaving like those in the Blight:

And then there was the incident that had killed Graeger. The man had walked around a corner over in Negin Bridge and vanished. When people went looking, all they found was a twisted, leafless tree with a gray-white trunk that smelled of sulphur.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

People are blaming each other. Almen Bunt, whom we met in The Eye of the World, scorns that, but he’s looking at the Aes Sedai as scapegoats:

The Dragon’s Fang had been scrawled on a few doors that night. People were more and more nervous. Once, Almen would have named them all fools, jumping at shadows and seeing bloody Trollocs under every cobblestone.
Now . . . well, now he wasn’t so sure. He glanced eastward, toward Tar Valon. Could the witches be to blame for the failed crop? He hated being so close to their nest, but Alysa needed the help.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

During Rand’s darkest night (so far) all the apples in the orchard shrivelled and fell, as Rand’s hope shrivelled and nearly fell. There is little food or fertility in the Land. Almen despairs:

Staring down those neat, perfect rows of useless apple trees, Almen felt the crushing weight of it. Of trying to remain positive. Of seeing all his sister had worked for fail and rot. These apples . . . they were supposed to have saved the village, and his sons.
This is it then, isn’t it? he thought, eyes toward the too-yellow grass below. The fight just ended.
Maybe it was time to let go.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

Rand did too – only much more so.

Almen, who as his name shows, represents all men, all humanity, appears to sense the end of Rand’s fight, but unexpectedly for him the ending was not in despair, but in pure sunlight. The trees immediately re-bloom and fruit and the ground absorbs the rotten windfalls.

Those apples seemed to shine. Not just dozens of them on each tree, but hundreds. More than a tree should hold, each one perfectly ripe.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

These are the Platonic ideal of apples; a localised Utopia.

This restoration of health is similar to what happened after Rand’s major victory at Eye when he defeated two Forsaken and destroyed a Shadowspawn army while channelling without the taint and the Blight promptly receded a considerable distance. Rand said it was his presence that undid Dark One’s Blighting, ie he did not channel. His presence has healing properties as well as restoring fertility to the Land, but nothing ‘unnatural’:

Almen watched the man until he vanished, then dashed toward Alysa’s house. The old pain in his hip was gone, and he felt as if he could run a dozen leagues.
“Apples,” Almen said. “What else bloody grows on apple trees! Listen, we need every one of those apples picked before the day ends. You hear me? Go! Spread the word! There’s a harvest after all!”
Almen continued on, and as he did, he noticed for the first time that the grass around him seemed greener, healthier.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

It also indicates what power and influence the Way of the Leaf must have had in the Age of Legends.

After his epiphany, Rand understands and accepts the Pattern and his place in it:

“No. I’m not lost. Finally. It feels like a great long time since I’ve understood the path before me.”

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

He is enlightened (literally, with the sun on him) and is Buddha-like.

Almen thought—for a moment—he could see something around the man. A lightness to the air, warped and bent.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

This is the opposite of the darkness and shadow that was increasingly attached to Rand until his epiphany. There is now true Oneness within Rand as well as with his relation to the Land. However the Shadow is so strong that Rand’s effect is fairly localised around him. Just as the break in the cloud follows him about but can’t widen beyond his vicinity:

“It’s not you who is mad, friend,” the stranger said. “But the entire world. Gather those apples quickly. My presence will hold him off for a time, I think, and whatever you take now should be safe from his touch.”
The man looked back at Almen. Meeting those eyes, Almen felt a strange sense of peace. “

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

The Dark One is making the world mad, turning it upside down, spreading chaos and disorder. These weaken the people. Rand changes the Pattern to Rightness and what is natural. The Dark One is Wrongness/unnatural and his True Power is hatred, destruction and suffering.

Almen Bunt feels as though his conversation with Rand is on two levels and he’s right.

Rand was dark from Lord of Chaos to Winter’s Heart and that caused bubbles of evil and loss of fertility etc and allowed the Dark One to touch the Pattern more. Since Winter’s Heart, the decline in the state of the world and the Pattern , and in Rand’s physical and mental state, accelerated rapidly due to Rand’s sin of using balefire extensively, not just on the Forsaken, but on those captured by Forsaken and also his usage of the True Power. Such great sins affect the Land hugely. Even filtering off the taint - exposing himself to it, a great sacrifice, contributed to sickening Rand and therefore the Land. Rand’s link to Moridin symbolises that Rand became increasingly like the Shadow (risking a repeat of Shadar Logoth as Cadsuane feared) until he could actually use that link to draw on the Dark One’s power.

The state of Rand’s mind and body affect the Land. His wounds, physical and spiritual, are those of the Land. Being the Creator’s Champion is way above the taveren effect, or the power of a Hero of the Horn (although he is those too). This is why at Falme Hawkwing, a great Hero and ta’veren, bowed to Rand:

Hawkwing bowed formally from his saddle to Rand. "With your permission . . . Lord Rand. Trumpeter, will you give us music on the Horn? Fitting that the Horn of Valere should sing us into battle. Bannerman, will you advance?"

- THe Great Hunt, The Grave is No Bar To My Call

However, Masema’s assertion that Rand is the “Creator made flesh” is probably untrue. Masema was shown to be corrupted into great Wrongness.

Rand has now not only changed his attitude to peace, non-hatred and acceptance but shows a willingness to face and mend problems:

The man looked back with a faint grimace. “To do something I’ve been putting off. I doubt she will be pleased by what I tell her.”

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

Rand’s walk from Dragonmount to “She” in Tar Valon (nowhere else is feasible on foot, really) shows how close Rand and Egwene are. Close yet opposing. Rand’s meditations on Dragonmount involved the Pattern, his role in it and the defeat of the Dark One, therefore he is not going to talk about the Black Tower, the Bonding, etc with Egwene, but about what he intends to do now to win.

The condition of the apple orchard between Dragonmount and Tar Valon also refers to Tar Valon itself; in Arthurian myth Avalon was the Isle of Apples. First the apples were blighted - and so was the White Tower. Then they regrew, just like the resolution of the rebellion and the removal of the Black Ajah.

But it also shows Rand will go to Tar Valon and receive a lack of support from the Aes Sedai and maybe a change of heart later.

How has Moridin been affected by Rand’s epiphany? Perhaps we shall see in Towers of Midnight.

Towers of Midnight Chapter 2: Questions of Leadership

By Linda

The chapter contains two POVS, and the chapter title applies to both of them.


Perrin is in the waking world, moving north. He is concerned that he has not met up with Gill and the supply wagons he sent on ahead before the Battle of Malden. Some refugees have left, but he is attracting others:

Turne smelled unwashed and dirty, and above those scents was an odd staleness. Had the man’s emotions gone numb?

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

This staleness is new. We’ve seen people die from corruption of their bodies but perhaps this is a manifestation of a more insidious breakdown – of emotional and mental health. Some new disturbance in the Pattern.

Perrin thinks he should turn people away but he doesn’t; he judges it is better to add them to his forces and stop them from becoming desperate. If he’s one of the few around that has or preserves food, then he’s in the best position to keep people alive:

“Tell me, my Lord,” Turne said as his group began to hike down the line of refugees. “Do you really have food?”
“We do,” Perrin said. “I just said so.”
“And it doesn’t spoil after a night left alone?”
“Course it doesn’t,” Perrin said sternly. “Not if you keep it right.” Some of their grain might have weevils in it, but it was edible. The man seemed to find that incredible, as if Perrin had said his wagons would soon sprout wings and fly off for the mountains.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

Is Perrin’s food is not spoiling an effect of being a strong ta’veren? Rand can actually restore fertility and health to the Land – undo the Dark One’s corruption. This is beyond Mat and Perrin, but can their presence preserve what health there is – hold off the breakdown of reality? Otherwise it seems the presence of living things is necessary to keep other things hale. Anything cut off from living things, rots. Living things must unite, literally stand together, against Dark One. We have too little information yet to work out more.

“Your queen is my liegewoman,” Perrin said as they reached the front of the column. “We’re not stringing anyone up unless we have proof of their crimes. Once everyone is safely back where they belong, you can start sorting through the sell-swords and see if you can charge any of them. Until then, they’re just hungry men looking for someone to follow…You may send someone to talk to the newcomers, Arganda,” Perrin said. “Talk only. Find out where they’re from, learn whether they did serve a lord, see if they can add anything to the maps.”

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

Perrin is being a leader, but doesn’t see it because he doesn’t believe in himself. Turning into a wolf and losing his family and home not surprisingly undermined his self-confidence and left him in a depression-like state.

He thinks he could solve his problems easily if his group were its original size and composition:

[Perrin] himself could Travel back to Rand, pretend to make up--most people would still think that he and Rand had parted ways angrily--and then finally be rid of Berelain and her Winged Guard. Everything could go back to the way it should be.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

Wishful thinking but futile. Things returning to as they were probably isn’t the way it should be, even if it could be achieved.

The Prophet was dead, killed by bandits. Well, perhaps that was a fitting end for him, but Perrin still felt he’d failed. Rand had wanted Masema brought to him...
Either way, it was time for Perrin to return to Rand. His duty was done, the Prophet seen to, Alliandre’s allegiance secure. Only, Perrin felt as if something were still very wrong. To understand something... you have to figure out its parts...

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

Well for a start he has to figure out his own parts that he plays in the Pattern and the parts of his character.

However the wrongness he probably is referring to is the Pattern around him. Perrin can feel the Pattern to some extent, like a scent in the air, not just see the future in Tel’aran’rhiod or his dreams.

Returning to Rand right now would be wrong. Parrin is being warned off going to Rand until some other tasks are done, or events have occurred and it ‘feels right’ to go.

Perrin feels bad that he never did bring Masema to Rand. If he doesn’t fulfill his allotted tasks he feels he has failed. Perrin is very focused, task oriented and has a high work ethic.

Since Malden:

“We must have picked up five thousand people these last few weeks,” she said thoughtfully. “Perhaps more. Odd, in this desolate landscape.”...
“You think this is me? Being ta’veren?”
“Every stop along our trip, you’ve gained more followers,” Faile said. “Despite our losses against the Aiel, we came out of Malden with a stronger force than when we started. Haven’t you found it odd that so many of the former gai’shain are adapting to Tam’s training with weapons?”
“They were beaten down so long,” Perrin said. “They want to stop that from happening again.”
“And so coopers learn the sword,” Faile said, “and find they have a talent for it. Masons who never thought of fighting back against Shaido now train with the quarterstaff. Sell-swords and armsmen flock to us.”
“It’s coincidence.”
“Coincidence?” She sounded amused. “With a ta’veren at the army’s head?”

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

Perrin’s group has been held by the Pattern for this and to encounter the Whitecloaks at the right time.

“This is all going to end in a few days, Faile,” he said. “Once we have Gateways again, I’ll send these people to their proper places. I’m not gathering an army. I’m helping some refugees to get home.”

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

He will help refugees return, but he probably is also gathering an army. After all Artur Hawkwing named him the Dragon’s bannerman back at Falme. This is one of his pieces, his roles.

Perrin feels he was a poor leader, but Faile has asked around:

“They say that you kept Arganda contained, and put out flare-ups in camp. Then there’s the alliance with the Seanchan, the more I learn of that, the more impressed I am. You acted decisively in a time of great uncertainty, you focused everyone’s efforts, and you accomplished the impossible in taking Malden. Those are the actions of a leader.”
“Faile...” he said, suppressing a growl. Why wouldn’t she listen? When she’d been a captive, nothing had mattered to him but recovering her. Nothing. It didn’t matter who had needed his help, or what orders he’d been given. Tarmon Gai'don itself could have started, and he’d have ignored it in order to find Faile.
He realized now how dangerous his actions had been. Trouble was, he’d take those same actions again. He didn’t regret what he’d done, not for a moment. A leader couldn’t be like that.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

It was a dangerous time and he had to steer the best possible course through the problems. Leaders can’t be bogged down in regrets or indecisiveness. They must decide, act, and move on.

Because he did what he thought necessary without deliberating long on it, he dismisses his actions.

Perrin was a blacksmith. It didn’t matter what Faile dressed him in or what titles people gave him.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

Being a blacksmith is another of his roles and I think he will make at least one important object for the Last Battle as well as forge a huge army. Of course, he can be a blacksmith and other things as well.

Where Perrin sees their quest in the south as a failure, and a narrowly averted disaster, Faile see the positive results:

“Yes, indeed,” she said, musingly. “I’ve been thinking on this for the last few weeks, and - odd though it seems - I believe my captivity may have been precisely what we needed. Both of us.”

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

Perrin needed to stop the Prophet, extend his forces and bring certain people together. He had to be a leader, and face his dark side. It takes time to do the latter because it’s a task no one wants to do. Aes Sedai try to accelerate the process with their testing ter’angreal, but I don’t think they’re successful.

Faile needed to learn to work with others and lead them, and to stop her silly games with Perrin and Berelain. She now no longer toys with him or expects him to play by her rules only. For instance, Perrin expected her to insist he yell at her in this scene, but she did not.


The Whitecloaks are a short distance north of Perrin. It is a day or so since Galad nobly surrendered himself to the Questioners rather than have the Children fighting one another. They were rough:

He was still naked, and with tentative fingers he determined that there was dried blood on his face. It had come from a long gash in his forehead. If he didn’t wash it soon, infection was likely. He lay on his back, staring up at the pinprick lights, breathing in and out with care. If he took in too much air at once, his side screamed.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

This is standard torture technique as Semirhage described it:

Alone, in the dark, with the pain

- Lord of Chaos, Threads Woven of Shadow

Egwene was left in a similar situation in The Gathering Storm. However, Aes Sedai are legally not allowed to draw blood or break bones or allow others to do so for them. From what we’ve been told, Questioners only ever use torture in their interrogations.

Most of the action in this POV is off-screen and we see Galad’s reactions to his circumstances and his reasons for his actions:

Then, methodically, he cleaned the grime and blood from his face. The cleaning gave him a goal, kept him moving and stopped him from thinking about the pain. He carefully scrubbed the crusted blood from his cheek and nose. It was difficult; his mouth was dry. He bit down on his tongue to get saliva…
The wound to his head, the dirt on his face. . .these things were marks of victory for the Questioners. He would not leave them. He would go into their tortures with a clean face.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

We needed to read Galad’s thoughts to truly judge his worthiness as a leader.

Galad did not fear death or pain. He had made the right choices. It was unfortunate that he’d needed to leave the Questioners in charge; they were controlled by the Seanchan. However, there had been no other option, not after he’d walked out of those trees and into Asunawa’s hands.
Galad felt no anger at the scouts who had betrayed him. The Questioners were a valid source of authority in the Children, and their lies had no doubt been convincing. No, the one he was angry at was Asunawa. He took what was true and muddied it, clouding the understanding of men. There were many who did that in the world, but the Children should be different.
Soon, the Questioners would come for him, and then the true price for saving his men would be exacted with their hooks and knives. He had been aware of that price when he’d made his decision. In a way, he had won, for he had manipulated the situation best.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

Galad is correct, which he always tries to be. He did win; by showing Asunawa up so much that the troops rebelled.

He would not run. He could not avoid what was coming. Even if he could escape, fleeing would invalidate his bargain with Asunawa. But he would face his enemies with self-respect...It wasn’t the cloak, the uniform, the heraldry, or the sword that made a man. It was the way he held himself.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

We’ve heard Lan express similar thoughts. Like Egwene, Galad also embraces pain.

“Stop!” Galad said. “I gave orders to you three. Bornhald, there is blood on your cloak! I commanded you not to try to free me!”
“Your men obeyed your orders, Damodred,” a new voice said...
“I see,” Galad said. “You have turned your swords on fellow Children.”
“What would you have had us do?” Brandel asked, looking up from his kneeling position.
Galad shook his head. “I do not know. Perhaps you are right; I should not chide you on this choice. It may have been the only one you could have made. But why did you change your minds?”
“We have lost two Lords Captain Commander in under half a year.” Harnesh said in a gruff voice. “The Fortress of the Light has become a playground for the Seanchan. The world is in chaos.”
“And yet,” Golever said, “Asunawa marched us all the way out here to have us battle our fellow Children. It was not right, Damodred. We all saw how you presented yourself, we all saw how you stopped us from killing one another. Faced with that, and with the High Inquisitor naming as Darkfriend a man we all know to be honorable... Well, how could we not turn against him?”

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

Asunawa is not a Darkfriend, but may have been influenced by the Shadow, just as Elaida was.

The Sitters are the political representatives of advisors and academics. This is why the divisions played out differently among the Aes Sedai compared to the Whitecloaks. Being bound not to commit violence with the One Power, can spread to not using violence in other ways too. The same goes for warfare. Alternatively, being used to violence or warfare increases the risk of using it without considering whether other means might serve better.

Galad realizes all choices likely to be bad – in the sense of ‘not good’.

If the Perfect Knight is not good enough and is claimed to be evil, then nobody is good.

“You accept me as Lord Captain Commander?”
The three men bowed their heads. “All the Lords Captain are for you,” Golever said. “We were forced to kill a third of those who wore the red shepherd’s crook of the Hand of the Light. Some others united with us; some tried to flee. The Amadicians did not interfere, and many have said they’d rather join with us than return to the Seanchan. We have the other Amadicians – and the Questioners who tried to run - held at swordpoint.”
“Let free those who wish to leave,” Galad said. “They may return to their families and their masters. By the time they reach the Seanchan, we will be beyond their grasp.”
The men nodded.
“I accept your allegiance,” Galad said. “Gather the other Lords Captain and fetch me supply reports. Strike camp. We march for Andor.”
None of them asked whether he needed rest, though Trom did look worried.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

We don’t know if they let the guarded Questioners go. Asunawa and most Questioners are not the good shepherd despite wearing shepherd symbolism. It would be interesting to know if Einor Saren was killed or tried to flee. Or if there are Darkfriend Questioners remaining alive.

Egwene castigated the Hall because they did not act decisively or in the interests of the Tower. The Sitters were played by the Darkfriend Sitters not to, though. As might be expected, Darkfriends probably are rarer among the Children than among Aes Sedai. In the Age of Legends, half the Aes Sedai went over to the Shadow. In the Third Age, it is about a quarter.

Galad didn’t feel wise or strong enough to bear the title he did. But the Children had made their decision.
The Light would protect them for it.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

Like Perrin, Galad doesn’t want the job and he too doubts he should be leader. If he had no doubts, if he was unaware of or denied his shortcomings, he (and Perrin too) would not be as good as a leader.

The cut-down version: the chapter title, Questions of Leadership, says it all really. Both men question whether they are worthy. Others assure them they are and insist they lead on. Not surprisingly they get more followers.