Friday, September 11, 2009

The Storm is Coming! #2: Looking into TGS' Tears from Steel

We now return and conclude our dialogue about Chapter One, this time looking in details at the characters, at Brandon's characterizations, the plot points and our theories on where this might go from here, the timeline and chronology, the ever amusing matter of Asmodean - and of course plenty of speculation about the mysterious you-know-what. Be warned, this is a long one!

Looking into TGS' Tears from Steel, Part Two

This post discusses everything from chapter one of The Gathering Storm, available for free upon registration (also free) at

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Dominic: The Wind carries us from Tar Valon over the scattered small communities on Caralain Grass (in effect, the wind is following in reverse the travels of Egwene after she left Rand early in The Dragon Reborn, Verin brought them out of Falme over the Caralain Grass, passing Dragonmount and the location of her future rebel camp, and then to Tar Valon), crossed the mountains of Mist when something unnatural from the Blight up north pushes it south to eastern Arad Doman, or the Mad Mad Land, as I like to call it, where we see a clear sign that the Wind is behaving 'madly, flowing in two different directions at once’.

It's a testimony to Jordan's long term planning of the series, to its cohesiveness in themes and motifs too, that so long ago he placed Graendal, the psychiatrist, as the well-hidden 'Queen' of the total bedlam that has become Arad Doman through the series, at her instigation of course - fanning the spark lit by Rand himself at Falme, and that he waited for Rand to face the matter of his own madness before he brought him to this location…and close to Graendal's lair.

Linda: Graendal vowed in Lord of Chaos, “she would sow chaos till the harvest made Demandred’s lungs explode.” Arid Domain is what Arad Doman refers to and look at the state of it now. Also real world Domani are female professional singer-actors belonging to the lower classes in the Punjab. They use exaggeration, absurdity, malapropism, comic gags and lewd references in their performances, so they fit into the theme of the Mad Land.

Dominic: They indeed fit well with the theme. There was a shade of this already back in Lord of Chaos, when this theme was introduced. Rand's rule (and Couladin's destruction) has brought into austere and ordered Cairhien the unruly and more colourful Foregaters. The streets of the City itself are now for the first time full of acrobats, jugglers, musicians, comedians - disorder as Cairhienin see it. The palace itself is now full of young women learning the sword and entering foolish duels. Rand himself, still far more conscious of the 'court of fools' allure of it all at this point of the series, mutters to himself his entourage of over protective Maidens and foolish sycophants looks as if he's leading a parade, that all that is missing are drums and trumpets. It's the Pied Piper of fairy tales motif - Jordan had Rand disguised as a Gleeman apprentice, once - and he played flute. Rand plays his tune, and people everywhere follows, dazzled, like mad - old bonds breaking, disorderly changes coming from everywhere.

Arad Doman is the ultimate 'upside down' world of the series - and as the Last Battle approaches, we see the theme of the Lord of Misrule/Lord of Unreason/King of Fools (which I will explore in depth in the last of the Lord of Chaos Read-through posts) pick up pace. In Arad Doman, nothing is reasonable anymore: there is no one to rule, the General of the land (himself raised from the common class and made a lord) is away fighting the Seanchan and before that the various factions were all running around from one end of the country to another like mad dogs chasing their tails - allied armies suddenly clashing with each other in the middle of the night not knowing friend from foes anymore nor where everybody really was - which in this land is usually not where they were expected to be. The ruling class has been transformed into entertainers - musicians, acrobats - or into servants for Graendal's palace - the land itself left to anarchy and starvation, the Dragonsworn not even acting as one group under one leader but as several competing groups. At the centre of this nation-wide asylum, is the Queen of Madness herself, playing with everyone's minds. It should be noted that one of Graendal's pet obsessions, almost her motto, is that "everyone has a proper place and should play the role he/she is best suited to play, for the greater good of society". She may have had in mind a hierarchical social order in her days as a respected intellectual and ascetic. but as Graendal her ideas of order equate chaos, and "a proper place for everyone" rhymes with her pleasures and interests. And this is the land Rand enters, as he faces what is perhaps his greatest enemy: himself, his own growing madness.

Linda: Graendal’s philosophy of ‘everyone in their place for the greater good of society and serving here’ is a mockery of the social structure of the Seanchan, who are being prevented from taking control of Arad Doman. They too have a society based on a proper place for everyone and serving the Empire and Empress; but where they would bring order, Graendal brings chaos.

Dominic: Nothing is as it seems in Arad Doman and you can never know when someone is gonna act out of character, or irrationally - because of Graendal's compulsion of a plethora of players. It should be extremely hard for Rand to find his way through this labyrinth, this asylum, and it should do wonders to help his paranoia! I wouldn't be surprised that Graendal forces Rand to enter this "dance of fools" ongoing in Arad Doman and leads him on a merry chase. The fact she gave orders so Ituralde brought the Seanchan into this madness - which he did by driving them mad, or blind, with fury), is very ominous for the Light at this juncture.

Rand is approaching this with a reasonable if ambitious, rational plan of a truce and alliance for the duration of the Last Battle. Rationality is however in very short supply in Arad Doman at this point (readers placing massive hopes in Ituralde must be reminded it may not all go smoothly - he too has been "touched" by Graendal under her disguise of Lady Basene, to whom he paid a call to in Lord of Chaos. He is also counting himself on the Dragonsworn, whom he needs), and Tuon herself is little less keen to see plots and schemes in everything, and to give in to paranoia about the Tower than Rand is.

Before we get too far into the discussion of the scene itself, what did you think of Brandon's characterization of Rand and Min and the others?

Linda: Sometimes their expression is not quite right. When Rand called Asmodean a weasel of a man it seemed the wrong word for me. It grated. Min I thought pretty consistent with how RJ portrayed her. Cadsuane doesn’t stride, RJ usually described her walk as smooth, a glide. Also, there was the art reference. That didn’t work. Otherwise she was well enough. Lews Therin was excellently done and Nynaeve was good. Rand was as mad as a cut snake, as we say here, and I think that worked very well.

Dominic: There are definite signs that RJ is not at the helm anymore. Little things. Rand has not been so keenly aware or interested in what people wear or go through in some time now. Rand is also explaining too much, which is a departure from the way RJ wrote it. Min seemed pretty much dead on, so far, and so is Nynaeve. Cadsuane is so far well done too. A minor detail that someone pointed out to me is that Brandon made her move around a little too much. Jordan usually avoided making Cadsuane move, she's like a rock, unflappable. Her use of an artistic metaphor in the context of torturing, as if considering torture an art, was a bit odd too, coming from her. I would have expected something more…down to earth. These are minor details, however. In general the thoughts, the dialogue, the body language of the characters was well executed, and there are a very good attention to details - like this link between something Rand said mirroring something Graendal spoke of books ago. Brandon is doing a great job, and I think expecting him to have had the time to study and analyse every last detail of each POV character to reproduce it to absolute perfection as if he was Robert Jordan is not a completely reasonable expectation. If he keeps up the good work he's done with that scene through the book, it's gonna work very well, I think. When we get into the thick of the story - which I'm pretty sure will be quite exciting, I'm pretty sure I will stop noticing every little difference and oddities. I will get used to them, and to Brandon's prose for WOT, after a while.

Linda: Rand thinks the tents of Bashere's army look like stones on a board, he sees the army as something to be manipulated, as a war game. Distancing oneself from people is a sign of mental illness.

Dominic: This is the imagery of Moridin himself, used by Moridin himself - to see the world as a strategy board, on which he moves the pieces at his whims - and even cheats by playing both sides. It's fairly ominous that Rand sees the world the same way more and more, insists so much on using everyone instead of being the inspirational, charismatic leader the world needs to follow, the hard sacrifice of their own interests they need to emulate from Rand, if the world is to survive the Last Battle. And yes, it's certainly a worrying sign of madness. We're approaching the point where what Cadsuane and Sorilea partnered up to do will become vital.

Linda: Lews Therin bleeds across the link to Rand. What about Moridin? The two taints in Rand’s side….No wonder Rand and Moridin are blurring a little. It fits in with what I wrote about Moridin’s tactics in my Taim/Moridin theory, the way they surround him within and without.

Dominic: Rand using everyone, forcing everyone to do what he decides, of having a role for everyone and deciding who will do what is also, not coincidentally at all, a parallel to Graendal's philosophy and methods, and to her little circus of pets. We'll see which one manages best to put "everyone in their proper places" for "the common good".

Incidentally, this early line puts Rand in direct opposition to Graendal's thinking, but not at all in a positive way:

Besides, he didn’t need to understand women in order to use them.

Linda: It’s also a measure of his self-loathing over using women.

Dominic: This one was meant to echo a reflection made by Graendal about Sammael in Lord of Chaos:

(...) she suppressed contempt, kept the streith steady in a calm fog. He had never understood that you must understand people to make them do as you wished. (Lord of Chaos, To Understand a Message)

That's the sort of subtleties I was a bit afraid we might lose, but obviously my worries were for nothing. Brandon has done has done his homework well - returning to the Graendal chapters for material he might use for allusions and mirroring. I'm very pleased with Brandon's work, seeing that sort of things right from the start of the book.

I have great hopes for this Arad Doman story line. I've long wanted for Graendal to play a more central role - and to have her involved with Rand at last would be a dream come true. With Moridin, she is by far my favourite Forsaken.

Linda: Until Semirhage’s strike in KOD, the Forsaken women have been underused for quite some time.

Dominic: Let's return to the location:

This manor, with a green in front of it, surrounded by trees is really "classic Robert Jordan". A big building, a retreat, where Rand and his inner circle live in common, taking the place of the Inn in Emond's Field. We have the Green in front. The Green, and the colour of the same name, is a symbol for Life. As I mentioned in a previous article, it is not the colour of Battle, but the colour of what the Light is fighting to save. It is similar to soldier wearing the banners of the Lord or nations they fight for, their uniforms bearing the colours of their land. The Green Ajah stands for Life and will fight the Last Battle for the forces of Light and Life, against the black of death and the Shadow of the Dark One.

Linda: The light-eating black banner of the Shadow in the Trolloc Wars.

Dominic: Ye, exactly. The Black that obliterates, reflecting the nihilistic nature of Moridin/Ishamael and his Master.

Here we see the Green trampled and almost devoid of life. It is an image that goes all the way back to The Eye of the World, when Jordan described the Green as a place to protect, something precious. The Bonfires of Bel Tine (symbolizing battle, and the tree ta'veren) were to be placed "safely away from the Green", not to destroy it. Interestingly, the Retreat itself, a log house, is an image of the stacked logs of the bonfires in Eye of the World - and by the look of the cover, something is gonna explode in front of the house... much as Fain's wagon did at Bel Tine. This location is definitely meant to evoke Emond's Field at the beginning of The Eye of the World. Same period of the year, incidentally. Bel Tine is roughly a month past, and now we see things are even worse, spring even more delayed, and pitiful, than it was in 978 NE, when the story began, after the previous harsh winter had just ended.

Linda: You rely on the cover, after those of the previous books (eg LOC and TSR!) and the mock-up one? :D It could be something blasts a way out of the manor.

Dominic: LOL! Well, the cover art always reflected more the positioning of the series as the Fantasy version of good old-fashioned chronicles in the vein of Dumas's mix of adventure, romance, secrets and plots and history or even L'Amour's books on the American West etc. than they do reflect the plot and characters faithfully. It's frightening to speculate over those covers sometimes - from Leprechauns in The Great Hunt to Egwene cooking for everyone on The Shadow Rising's cover! In this case, however, by front of the manor I was referring to the apparent blown up door, indeed... Fain was similarly invited into the Winespring Inn, most welcome in fact. At Winternight, his wagon full of fireworks exploded in front of the Green, the Bel Tine pole also burned that night, and the bonfires were used to destroy the remains of the Shadow's creatures - festival and entertainment twisted into danger, chaos and battle again. This explosion on the cover art of The Gathering Storm might similarly be the start of some mayhem. We'll see.

At a later stage in the series, in TSR, the Green of Emond's Field became the place where the animals, the women and the children were taking refuge, surrounded by the Companions. By the end, the Green had to admit soldiers, the Children of the Light's camp was there - their job was to defend the people (which they didn't do, they rather left). Part of the Green had to be trampled like this, sacrifices had to be made in order to win the fight (the animals went during the siege, as the campaign progressed Perrin saw less and less on the Green - the fields having been destroyed, they were being eaten) This imagery of the sacrifice of part of 'What's Green" to wage war returned in Caemlyn later, when Elayne had to raze several of the city's beautiful parks to make space for her army. It was present too in the location design for Fal Dara - a wide band of land is cleared out of all trees all around the city - and this was reused in Emond's Field as well. RJ even had Loial be part of those forced to make this sacrifice.

Linda:It was the battle for Emond’s Field that this reminded me of, with Bashere’s light cavalry instead of the Children of the Light’s cavalry. Also Dain has been turned against Perrin by misinformation and Fain. Will Bashere, around whom Min sees something dark, also be turned against Rand (by torture? Compulsion?) as Min fears?

Dominic: Bashere is indeed the most likely candidate in Rand's entourage to come in contact with Lady Basene, who as we know is believed by the Dragonsworn to be a faithful and wise supporter of their cause. The Domani Lord hiding Rand, no doubt he's one of the Dragonsworn, is a friend of Lord Bashere. It doesn't bode well.

To conclude on the design of the place:

At this new location, the metaphor of the Green returns again, into these new "Woods in the West". This time it is even more ominous, with the Green almost already destroyed by the winter and devoid of any life - leaving little for soldiers living on it to trample, their camp arranged "like a stones board".

Of course, there is the ever-present spring and little stream, representing the True Source and completing the evocation of Emond's Field. The description has some ominous elements (like the yellow strickfinger reeds) but it is fresh water for the Asha'man - of course, Saidin is clean now, yet Rand is sick when he embraces the source:

To the far left of the green, running below the modest hill where the manor rested, a twisting stream cut the ground, sprouting with yellow stickfinger reeds and scrub oak that had yet to send out spring buds. A small waterway, to be certain, but a fine source of fresh water for the army.

I don't know if this location was created or not by Robert Jordan himself, but Brandon is again showing some flair in the way he used it. It's the Wheel of Time all right, it all feels right.

Linda: The aim of stones being to surround numbers of your enemy’s pieces rather than take them piece by piece…

Dominic: Yes, it's about building territories and long-term planning, and avoiding being surrounded. Some Go players would say Rand may be making a mistake focusing so much on this corner, leaving the initiative to his foes to subtly place important pieces elsewhere while he looks the other way. He may no see the traps being set around his other territories.

It's an interesting point that Brandon chose to have the wind blow Rand's banners in one direction, and nature in another (and it's finally the banners that were wrong). but it didn't last. Nice metaphor there of the Shadow's attempt to corrupt what Rand does, to make him fight in the wrong direction.


Let's now get into the character interaction.


The exchange had ended with Rand losing a hand but gaining one of the Forsaken as his prisoner. The last time he’d been in a similar situation, it hadn’t ended well. He still didn’t know where Asmodean had gone or why the weasel of a man had fled in the first place, but Rand did suspect that he had betrayed much about Rand’s plans and activities.

First, it's interesting that Rand is perfectly aware of the dangers of holding a Forsaken, and remembers what happened with Asmodean (or what he thinks happened, anyway!) and this makes me extremely eager now to get a Nynaeve POV and see how she projects her own experiences with Moghedien into her situation facing Semirhage. But before we get to Nynaeve, let's clear out the Asmodean question. This mentions, as well as the confirmation later on that Rand remembers very well what Asmodean told him about Graendal and her location is interesting.

Linda: Does Rand have any solid basis for believe his plans and activities have been betrayed to the Shadow? Or is he just assuming this – it’s a reasonable assumption, if wrong.

Dominic:I cannot make my mind whether this is foreshadowing, or if Brandon here has used the classic Jordan device of having a character, for lack of information, miss what is obvious to the readers. The fact Asmodean knew Graendal's location was always considered a 'clue', by those who favour her as the killer, that Graendal might have had a very good reason to come to Caemlyn and make sure Rand was not planning to come after her next, because she knew Asmodean might have betrayed her.

This makes me wonder a great deal if Brandon won't surprise us all and have included the resolution of the murder, a minor mystery that over the years have become the series's most famous, and a big favourite of the fans, in a scene from the prologue. What do you think of the idea? Initially, Robert Jordan didn't intend to reveal the solution. It has become so big with the internet phenomenon he changed his mind and promise that if he couldn't find a place for it in the last book, he would explain it one day on his Blog. As it turned out, Brandon explained Jordan did not pick a place in AMOL - it was not part of the outline. Brandon himself saw a place where it could go, and Harriet agreed with his choice. It seems obvious the revelation won't have big ramifications, as it would have meant changing Jordan's intentions for the story. Putting it in a climactic part of the book might also betray a bit Jordan's intentions - and perhaps more importantly, making Rand discover the truth would certainly betray Jordan's intentions - and make "too big a deal" of it. What do you think of the idea Brandon might have chosen to get it out of the way early, to reveal it in a scene in the prologue, then showed us Rand still in the dark, and paranoid, about it?

Linda: Some would stop reading for quite a while to recover from the revelation! For this reason it would surprise me, even though the murder solution would be banal – the reason why it didn’t happen on screen, I think, or wasn’t explained in a later scene. “Getting it out of the way early” isn’t a good reason for putting it in the Prologue. I go the other route and say that Rand’s broodings on this issue will increase to heighten our hopes and interest.

Dominic:Nynaeve is well executed by Brandon in this scene. I'm really looking forward to more involvement from her in the story. I've missed her dearly in the last books - though the Golden Crane scenes, so great and moving, compensated a little. Speaking of that, it doesn't look like she told Rand yet where Lan has gone... Paranoid as he is becoming and obsessed with making all the decisions for the Light, he's not going to like this initiative much, I'm afraid.

Linda:Semirhage's diagnosis whether real or false is undermining Rand. Supposedly she rarely lies, but she'll say anything to inflict pain. Is this paradoxical? Or is somebody wrong?

Dominic: I've always believe Semirhage told the truth about the diagnosis of insanity and one of its cause, but I'm not sure she told the full truth about "successful integration" being the only hope to avoid "terminal madness". I know this divides psychiatrists - or so I've heard. What Semirhage spoke of was the method used with the famous patient with multiple personalities known as Sybil. This method of integrating the personalities as one complete individual has apparently caused disasters too, patients who in the process didn't become 'one' but they lost some their personalities that played vital roles, and they became completely dysfunctional, even catatonic - in essence, terminal madness. The other, I believe more modern approach, is to bring the various personalities who share the "host body" to realise each other's importance and place, and to bring them to work together as teammates, letting the one best suited to handle any given situation take the lead momentarily. Lews Therin, for instance, is far better placed then Rand to lead war, and to use the One Power, while Rand is the one with the understanding of the present world, and of the people around him. Did Semirhage make a slip and gave Rand what he must do to avoid terminal insanity, or did she present as the solution what Graendal believed was the best way to make Rand fall into madness? I don't know. This can really go either way - it's impossible to be sure what exactly inspired Jordan for this situation. I somehow doubt he intended to make this fall into a debate over psychiatric methods... Interestingly, however, only Graendal may have any answer for Rand about what he truly faces.

Linda: Graendal claimed no belief in ‘past lives’ anyway, judging by what she said in The Fires of Heaven, Prologue:

“It may well be that, as many believe, all are born and reborn as the Wheel turns….”

I’m not keen on relying on corrupt doctors. Nor on ones that disbelieve the source of the problem.

Rand is steel, but Lews Therin is tears. How apt that Rand sees through watery eyes. With corruption (and tears) all through the chapter, I wonder if the steel is stainless or not!

Dominic:Good one! :D There's really no question that LTT's tears have left many traces on Rand, like corrosion - the whole issue about women is eating Rand up. So I would say, not stainless steel - more like a really badly made alloy that might rust, or shatter! Rand thinking of himself as steel is interesting. In Knife of Dreams, this was part of the metaphors Cadsuane used to speak of Rand's dangerous hardness : steel shatters. There is incidentally a nice allusion to tears and laughter being mixed up in this passage, very Jordanesque:

Yes, that was definitely sobbing, not laughter. Sometimes it was hard to tell with Lews Therin.

Linda:Like Rand’s an expert on feelings! HE just suppresses all his, or distances himself from them. No wonder he finds it hard to tell! Incidentally the way he does distance himself from feeling is akin to living wrapped in the Oneness as Lanfear recommended as a way to become great. Great…

Dominic: Asmodean told Rand once his loss of all emotions once he has embraced the Source isn't normal, that he should have been able to surmount this effect of achieving the Oneness. Rand mused he was never able to achieve what Asmodean was trying to teach about it. As for following Lanfear's advice on becoming "great". Phaww! as Cadsuane would say. Her own conception of her greatness wasn't exactly reassuring!

Linda:Rand's concentration on need is like using need in Tel'aran'rhiod: bending one's situation to suit one's will.

Min's viewings are also doing harm. Her viewing of two men merging could just as easily have been Moridin and Rand. Too bad she gave no description of the other man she saw.

Dominic: Prophecies and foreknowledge have been well established as a double-edged sword through the series - as you've discussed in some of your articles and in your read-through posts. Many of them have helped a great deal - but they've most often showed the path to unpleasantness and sacrifice. We saw this with Tigraine and Moiraine, notably. And they do indeed some harm - the Karaethon Cycle itself as played a perverse role in the Third Age. How many innocents have died from people trying to fulfil those prophecies, like False Dragons? A lot. It played a role very similar to that of the Apocalypse of John (Revelation) through history. For each of those who see it like the Green Ajah as a hope and a warning to get ready - a program they must join, there are all those who like the Red Ajah prefers to see in it the list of what mustn’t happen. Elaida's thinking is also very twisted - she basically sees her role as preventing the chaos heralded by the prophecies, at all cost - which most of the time amounted to fighting against what has to happen, while she basically sees the great battle itself as a simple matter of dumping the Dragon at Shayol Ghul on the right day and let him to the rest (with a sharp eye on him, to gentle him right after if he has not died) - so basically, Elaida sees no role to play at the Last Battle - it's all preventing what has to happen before, and making sure to kill the Dragon after so nothing happens after. As for fighting the Battle? Nothing, it's not for her.

Linda:I always found Elaida’ attitude to Rand’s role in the Last Battle deeply unpleasant. It’s a great expose on why the concept of one sex or one person being guilty of ‘original sin’ is irredeemably unjust. I’m more egalitarian and inclined to spread culpability wider and across boundaries.

Dominic: The Karaethon Cycle and prophecies have created a great deal of Elaidas, who fight for their own interests against what must happen, and who don't see the role themselves must play at the Dragon's side and behind him, fighting for humanity's survival. Interestingly, these people are often among those who are the best educated in the prophecies, like many Aes Sedai and nobles, while those most prone to follow the Dragon, or become Dragonsworn even, are the common folks. So yes, the prophecies have a very harmful aspect in the series.

Linda:A nice example of belief giving strength, as Herid Fel said. Their faith leads the humbler folk to concretely aid Rand - starting with Mat and Perrin, who have barely read the prophecies. (Mat might know something of them from his memories, though he hasn’t mentioned this).

Dominic: As for Rand himself may well be painting himself in a corner, following some prophecies and thinking he has them all figured out, like the North-South-East-West as one verse. For the one related to Rhuidean, he was right in a general way - what truly happened greatly surprised him. The riddle he solved about the Cleansing went a bit to his head, I'm afraid. "Who thinks he turns the Wheel of Time may learn the truth too late", as the saying goes.

Linda:The Seanchan's lack of reply to Rand may be due to Tuon not being back yet.

Dominic: It's more likely she has not been there long enough to reach a decision of what to do - though it may become indicative of her strategy that she refuses to answer. We are heading for a clash of opposed prophecies. Rand is convinced to be in the right, but so is Tuon. For the Seanchan, it is vital to complete the return and have the Dragon serve the Crystal Throne before the Last Battle or else all is lost. Asking Tuon to renounce this would be similar to convincing Rand he has to let Elaida decide what must be done.

But let's look a bit in the chronology. Brandon left us a vague clue to place this chapter in the timeline:

Elayne. She was distant, far to the east, but he could still feel her bundle of emotions in his head. At such a distance, it was difficult to tell much, but he thought she was . . . relieved. Did that mean that her struggle for power in Andor was going well?

From the events in Knife of Dreams and following the ever excellent chronology of Steven Cooper (priceless resource for hardcore fans) , Elayne may have felt relieved on and after Adar 7, the day she defeated Arymilla at dawn and won the throne in the evening.

Linda: That’s reasonable.

(We've now redone the following part of the discussion, thanks to RabidWombat for pointing to us the big timeline clue we had missed!)

Dominic: But as RabidWombat pointed out, there is this additional indication, which proves it's actually at least a week later than that, perhaps more:

This building was one in a long line of manors, estates and other remote hiding places Rand had used during the last few weeks. He’d wanted to keep moving, jumping from location to location, following the failed meeting with Semirhage.

Semirhage was captured on Aine 25, the day before the Battle of Malden, and Elayne won the throne on Adar 7, ten days later. That's a week. We have to add at least another, perhaps more to account for 'a few weeks'.

  • Lan began his ride to the East 2 days after Semirhage's capture. He might be close to Maradon in Saldaea by now, probably not yet in Kandor. (Linda:No indeed. I expect trouble near Maradon – the battle of Marathon no less!)
    This sounds too early for a battle, unless he is forced to stop there and spends much time in Maradon. Who would fight Lan in the Borderlands, though? Linda:My suggestions: There's been fighting in the Borderlands over Rand, encouraged by Forsaken such as Lanfear (who was in the north in WH), or maybe it's the first attack out from the Blight. A (long-distance!) runner is sent to Lan from Maradon for military aid or to warn him of a coming attack. The Red sister Memara that Alviarin sent to pull Tenobia into line may cause trouble.

  • It should be around a month after Loial left for Stedding Shangtai. It is early for a Loial POV, and it's possible he is the 'main character' but that Brandon hinted most people wouldn't place near the top of the "main cast list" who won't be in the first book at all.

  • The odds that Perrin or someone from his group appears in the prologue are high - we are 'a few weeks' after Malden too..

  • The first scene is a month or maybe even a little more after Egwene was told she will 'attend Elaida' that night. If this scene is shown on screen, it will have to happen in the prologue itself - otherwise we will be told of its aftermath, or what came out of it.

  • It is over a month after Merise and Narishma visited the Rebel Hall and brought them Rand's message about bonding Asha'man. As we see, they have returned. Rand may have been told Egwene was not present at the Hall's gathering, didn't send any message to him. Of course, the Rebels would have tried to hide the fact she had been captured. This unexplained complete silence from Egwene, this lack of any personal answer to his 'gesture' of conciliation regarding the fact Asha'man have forced bonded sisters, may well play a role in Rand's paranoid outburst against her at the end of the chapter. Egwene is ignoring Rand, has nothing to offer him or tell him via his envoys. Not knowing she's a prisoner, he doesn't understand. (Linda: Again there may be something in the Prologue that leads to Rand’s outburst. None of those with Rand can enlighten him anyway.)
    yes, indeed. It increases a lot the odds some Asha'man are in the outer camp of the Rebels, after all.

  • Even if Rand's 'few weeks' are just two, that would be two days after the estimated date (Steven didn't find hard evidence to set the date in stone) on which Tuon arrived to Ebou Dar. This also the estimated date at which the Red Ajah party visited the Black Tower, ruling out much development about this in the prologue, unless perhaps a scene of the return journey.

  • Both Mat and Tuon could well have prologue scenes, so could Elayne.

  • The Rand scene must take place not all that long - a week, perhaps two after Lord Itulrade managed to trap the Seanchan army between two Domani armies. We have a fairly good idea of what he's done, from the epilogue of KOD. We might get to see it from his POV in the prologue, or learn what he is planning to do next. Many readers believe his next move is to force the Seanchan from the coast into a stedding south-east of Arad Doman, where he will turn around and force the battle, in effect catching them between hammer and anvil, as there's another army, twice as big as his own, in their back. He might also get reports from Dragonsworn among his allies that 'a leader', the Dragon, has now come to them.

So I guess Elayne's relief Rand felt may have come following her crowning in the Great Hall. It's a possible scene for near the end of the prologue, which would tie with Rand's comment.

Linda: Rand's comment is meaningless without something of Elayne (direct or indirect) in the Prologue.

Dominic: In a general way, I think it's safe to conclude at least some of the events in the Prologue will return those sub-threads to the timeline of KOD, as Jordan often did at the beginning, and it's unlikely the Rand scene is beyond the end of the month of Adar.. There may be some gap in Egwene's story line, which is way behind. I wouldn’t totally rule this out, as you know Linda I've expressed doubts about the certainty that we would see Elaida's dinner with Meidani happen 'on screen'. I still it wad odd for Jordan to foreshadow an upcoming scene so openly, that it would be more in keeping with his style to pick this one up in the aftermath, days later - for instance in a scene where Egwene endures even harsher punishment, or has new limitations, because of how things went with Elaida, which of course she would detail for us in that scene, through her thoughts.

Linda: I disagree. Think of Tallanvor getting Perrin to agree to dealing with the Seanchan: we saw that long foreshadowed meeting. This meeting between Elaida and Egwene is such a set-piece in my view – the two Amyrlins side-by-side, one cast down, one raised up; a confrontation a long time in the making. It needs to happen on screen.

Dominic: A direct Elaida-Egwene confrontation would be a momentous moment indeed, but my reasoning on this is that the dinner may just be the beginning of a string of meetings between them through the book. To give you an example, Egwene might tell us in her first POV that after her attitude at the dinner, Elaida decided to break her herself, and she is now forced to attend Elaida regularly, and how she intends to use this. There are ways like this to skip ahead without losing much, as we'll get the Elaida/Egwene confrontation in her study anyway. Not that I'm sure we won't see their first meeting, but it's a possibility, I think.

Linda:Only the Last Battle matters - now Rand sounds like Masema. Yet Rand has made a conscious decision not to use torture - not to be prepared to do anything to win. Cadsuane, who wanted Rand less dark and unfeeling, less like Shadar Logoth, thinks he should permit torture. Go figure.

Dominic:Rand is becoming more and more irrational, whenever his obsessions factor in, such as placing even the most evil women on the planet under his blanket protection from harm. He is obsessed with Tarmon Gai'don and what must be done - he is rightly worried about the Shadow's plans - and what may have been betrayed to the Forsaken of his own, yet he is depriving Nynaeve and Cadsuane from doing "what must be done", in effect severely limiting what they can do, evacuating any gain in taking the risk of holding Semirhage prisoner. In this case, the logical conclusion was to order the execution of Semirhage then, if Rand doesn't want to condone the use of the only means by which she might volunteer anything at all. But of course he won't allow this either. This is taking a fairly alarming turn, all the more with Lews Therin's warnings. He's been wiser about such things than Rand before - his instinct Taim was bad news, notably.

Linda: He doesn’t want to corrupt women – either by allowing their torture, or allowing them to torture others. You seem to be approving of torture for Semirhage, yet Rand’s attitude harkens back to Lews Therin’s links with your beloved Da’sahain Aiel, you know! :P My own view is that Semirhage’s torturers will be degraded long before they learn anything from her. As someone into S&M, presumably she can tolerate or even enjoy it. Or is this going to be yet another example of the Forsaken dishing out what they can’t take themselves? I wouldn’t bet on it. I would bet on it being a degrading experience for the torturers though.

Dominic: In the matter of Semirhage, I would have had her executed. I wouldn't trust anything she reveals, anything she taught. Of course, that's a opinion based on the knowledge the characters have at the moment. Cheating, with the knowledge that the Dark One may well bring her back, it's a far more difficult decision - but it's not the one the characters have to make, right now, as they don't know about transmigration. But I think Rand is a fool letting Cadsuane and Nynaeve get anywhere near Semirhage. If they could use torture, I think it would still be more harmful to them in the long run, but letting them meet her when there's not even any point to it is foolishly dangerous. If he refuses to kill her, she should be isolated, without any contact.

Rand's attitude to women is not black-and-white, however. Rand's obsession to prevent harm to any woman (and children) is also a link to his humanity, shows he isn't quite completely detached from the world - and he isn't "an hopeless case" for the efforts of Cadsuane and Sorilea. Personally, I see this personality trait shared by Lews Therin and Rand, their immense suffering at the deaths of women and children, as an intentional safeguard in the basic persona of the Dragon. This "saviour" could too easily become a monster, if his suffering and horror at seeing innocent die wasn't so great - so I think it's part of his burden that he must endure, and learn to cope, with those losses. But Rand has not learned to cope well and it's threatening to shatter him, so overall, at the moment, it is far more alarming than reassuring to see him go this way, and still be so incapable of facing what must be done with women like Semirhage, Graendal or Mesaana. It is well to remember that Graendal knows this weakness in Rand all too well - not only that, but she was convinced Rand was hunting down Sammael and wouldn't stop until he died, all because Sammael had killed Maidens of the Spear - and she was dangerously close to the full truth of it. She already knows too much about Rand, understands too much about him and the way he thinks, for comfort. With all the women around Rand now, It's a weakness Graendal might easily seek to exploit.

I wonder a lot what the Wise Ones will make of Rand keeping a rabid dog as prisoner and preventing her interrogation. They have called Rand a "massive fool" after his fight with Lanfear.

Linda: Executing Semirhage seems the better idea; it’s the law after all.

Cadsuane is dressed in green and yellow - life and healing, Nynaeve is in grey and yellow - mediation and healing - and Alivia in red - war (not Red Ajah since she's never been indoctrinated). War is about all Alivia knows.

Dominic: Jordan also liked to use Red as the colour of blind fanaticism ("seeing red"), from the Red Ajah and their excesses, to the Red Crook of the Questioners. It is a fairly ominous colour on Alivia but not directed at Rand. Cadsuane and Nynaeve might want to be cautious around her, though.

Linda: How amusing that the Red Ajah now allows Asha’man Warders , whereas Rand has a ‘Red’ Warder in Alivia. I think this symmetry is intended, after all, she feels she owes her freedom to Rand. Red clothes would have to be the most defiant gesture a slave can make after nearly 400 years dressed only in grey.

Cadsuane's strict discipline of Rand in previous books is now paying off. She has only to look at him now to make his behaviour more acceptable.

Dominic: Indeed, and behind civility in a more general way is self-control. By forcing him to be polite, Cadsuane is trying to keep him sane, to make him hang to a reasonable sanity, to fight his own crisis of paranoia and blind fury. It works, after a fashion - it is a progress, anyway, if he strives to keep control in fear or annoyance of Cadsuane. It will be interesting to see how she adapts, if she does, her methods now that the truth is out about his "voices" - and what the Wise Ones will make of that too, if they learn about Lews Therin. The Aiel have been the most oblivious of all about Rand's sanity - they act as if it wasn't even an issue of if nothing was out of the ordinary. If anything, the Maidens indulge him - and occasionally fed his paranoia. There have been scenes with Rand talking aloud or laughing for no reason, and they maidens remained around him, pompous around this 'mad king". Of course, there are some to say the Maidens themselves aren't much saner than Rand!

Linda:None of the women said anything about what was obviously an episode of insanity. They too let it pass.

The dragon on Rand's handless arm has no head. This refers to Rand's insanity which is now open and known to those around him and handicapping him. Is Cadsuane mad trying to force a madman to be polite? Can this help him keep those he needs around him? It would have earlier, but now that his madness is overt, I don’t think so.

Linda: And now to the great mystery item: Rand's fancy new sword. Beware: unearthed does not have to mean literally dug up. It can also mean recently found - like in a storeroom, or whatever. A lacquered scabbard isn't going to do too well in the ground without protection. Regarding the sword, it is hard to know what to make of this since we are not starting at the beginning of the book.

Dominic: Indeed we are not, and I indeed suspect a lot there's a previous scene in the prologue about it. I'm going a bit on a limb here, as I don't know nearly enough about the way Brandon will handle the writing to more than guess at his point, but if this was Jordan writing, this sounds not so much as a developing mystery/foreshadowing but as one of those instances where the reader knows more about something than the character does. The real mystery may be why Rand recognized this sword from his own memories, that it did not come from Lews Therin. Of course, this comment by Rand implies Lews Therin too might have recognized this sword.

It is "centuries old" and "unearthed recently". There is a dragon on the scabbard. Rand comments as if this sword had been specifically made for him, which of course implies that it hasn't and Rand knows that, and suggests it hasn't been made for Lews Therin either. So who exactly would dare use the sigil of Lews Therin, a few centuries ago? The sigil is well-known by educated people, it's been established early on. Moiraine recognized it on the banner at the Eye instantly, and several people have gasped in fear or shock seeing it the first time. It's an unlikely symbol for anyone in the Third Age to be associated with, beside False Dragons and their followers.

It is not impossible, I guess, that this is Lews Therin's own sword, coming from a stasis box. Rand may have read about it in Tear, or saw a verse about LTT's sword while reading the Prophecies.

Linda: I think it’s Lews Therin’s.

Dominic: If this was Robert Jordan writing, I would say it's very unlikely. He didn't use the expression "centuries old" to refer to the Age of Legends, over 30 centuries in the past. Brandon might have, however. It's hard to tell. But it's unlikely, or ill-chosen if he did. For comparison's sake, that would be like us speaking of ancient Egyptian artefacts or something from the time of Jesus Christ as "centuries old". So I'll go and assume for now the sword/scabbard is from the New Era or not much before it - and this becomes "odd" indeed that Rand implies Lews Therin may still have recognized it.

Linda: That’s why I favour it being LT’s. Rand recognised it too, perhaps from a book illustration, since he didn’t see anything of LT in the glass columns.

Dominic: If this is not Lews Therin's sword, who could have used his sigil, with not only the right creature but the right colour? And why would Rand consider it a amazing coincidence that he is given this sword at this point?

But first, who gave it to Rand? He speaks of "they", and he is in Arad Doman. I think the most likely suspects are the Domani Dragonsworn, one of which has offered Rand his country retreat. They are the most likely, by far, to have made him a gift, though I wouldn't rule out the Merchant's Council either. A group of Domani, in any case.

There is an interesting bit of symbolism to dig up there: Rand has now only one hand, with which to handle this sword. Through the scene, he grips it, point down. The hand griping a sword, point down, is the sigil of Arad Doman, a symbol of determination and self-sacrifice - of facing price of the blade, for the nation (on the sigil, the hand is griping the blade itself). This is extremely fitting for Rand at this point, and this is not the first time strong symbolism is attached to him receiving a new sword. He picked up the inheritance of Tam's past as warrior when he left the Two Rivers, He got a sword of the One Power (Callandor) when he willingly accepted who he was in Tear and was thus proclaimed himself Dragon to the world, removing the sword of light from the heart of the shadow (and driving it in the Heart of the Dark!). In the Aiel realm, after he entered Rhuidean and became 'He Who Comes with the Dawn" (the rising sun - and he torched Avendesora in passing - the symbolic tie to Laman's Sin is obvious) - sparking a second Aiel War of a sort as Couladin invaded the Wetlands in return, Rand was given, by a Da'shain Aiel descendant, Aviendha, the sword of the king of the land of the rising sun, Laman of Cairhien. Symbolically, Aviendha was repledging the Aiel to Lews Therin, making him the leader. Lews Therin was forced to commit violence, yet the Da'shain followed him. The Aiel still hate swords, but Aviendha still gave one to Rand, symbolically acknowledging his role, perhaps like the Da'shain once acknowledged by serving Lews Therin in non-combatant capacities that it was his role, his destiny, to fight. Today's Tinkers would turn their backs on him probably - their ancestors seemed to have known better.

I'll cut this discussion short as I have enough now to make my point: each sword Rand got in the story marked very important symbolic moments for the character, driving him forward. Taking the warrior road, telling the world who he was and beginning to learn the OP for real, accepting to bring War to Cairhien to stop Couladin. This new sword won't make exception. Does it symbolize that Rand has to continue to fight no matter what - even with one hand gone and his vision impaired, a sign that he is the Dragon and that's his role to the end? Or is it a trap of some kind, a lure from the fact the time is coming when he needs to find new ways than weapons to vanquish the Shadow - Lews Therin didn't seal the Bore by fighting himself, but through cleverness and daring? Is it a sign he must fight the Seanchan, or a trap someone set to make him fight them? It's way too early to tell, only the full book (and maybe even the last three books) will allow us to interpret this new sword's symbolism properly and in context. Symbolism doesn't really made a good crystal ball, it most of the time required a great deal of the "full picture",

Now to conclude discussion of the sword, here's my theory about it:

The dragon on the scabbard is decidedly odd. The only historical character I could see adopting this sigil is a false Dragon. No one else, this symbol has been feared and hated since the Breaking. Lews Therin is not perceived as a hero by many, and as the Kinslayer by most. So, the sword of a false Dragon. Depictions of Lews Therin's blade may very well exist, and in the books Rand read in Tear he may well have come upon one. This sword could be a replica of it. This would explain why Rand believes Lews Therin could have recognized it, and why himself did. If it belonged to a False Dragon, it would explain why Rand muses it's as if it had been made for him (but hasn't). Of course, even if Rand recognized it as a replica of Lews Therin's sword from descriptions he read, and realized the sword is only centuries old, is not a confirmation he knows for certain who this blade belonged to. In that area of the land, the most likely False Dragon candidate is Guaire Amalasan, who proclaimed himself nearby, over a thousand years ago. Amalasan's archenemy was Artur Hakwing, the heir of which Rand is about to face.

Linda: There’s nothing to stop the sword from having been used by Amalasan (the Second Dragon) as well as LT (the Dragon).

Dominic: It's an interesting idea. I still find odd Rand's remark that it's as if the sword had been made for him, but he knew better in this context. Rand has long adopted what was Lews Therin, his banner/titles, his titles, as rightfully is. But it's still a possibility it's LTT's, or a forgery.

Is it purely a coincidence that Rand is given this sword now? I doubt it. I will go on a limb and speculate that in the prologue there is a scene where Lady Basene, Graendal, arranges for this sword to be given to Rand by the Dragonsworn. If we have her POV, she probably explains the provenance of the sword, and what she means by sending it to Rand. Considering the fact she apparently has figured out about Lews Therin sharing his mind - if Semirhage tells the truth - this would be the opening gambit of an ominous mind game with Rand, the foe that has just entered her realm.

Linda:There's no laughter or tears in Rand, yet there is in Lews Therin. Rand's probably madder than Lews Therin since Lews Therin is more aware of what has happened than Rand is.

Dominic: That wouldn't surprise me. Lews Therin has been rudimentarily healed of madness by Ishamael right before he died, after all. Did the madness return after he died? Hard to tell, but unlikely. We do not know if the Taint channelled by Rand affected him too. He often struck me not so much as insane but as a shattered and desperate man, crushed by the weight of the War of Shadow, by the Kinslaying and by the fact he failed to gain peace by dying. Suicidal, certainly, and completely at a loss to explain what is happening to him, why he is caught in this living nightmare and incapable of action - but not technically "raving mad". The fact Lews Therin is unable to act often lead him to panic and raving, but that is not necessarily a sign of madness. Seeing what must be done, and being incapable of acting, or making Rand understand, must be maddening at times. In truth, Lews Therin made several wise or insightful remarks to Rand through the series - some of them dead on the money, some of them more out of context, as if he didn't understand clearly what he saw. There's been instances were Rand rejected Lews Therin's remarks as "madness" because he didn't understand them (his comment on taxes in KOD, notably), and even instances where he simply didn't understand the remarks of a wiser, more experienced man, who knows more about life, betrayals, love etc. than Rand himself. Lews Therin, mad or not, has been very harmful however - his guilt, his despair, his losses and obsessions have "changed" Rand a lot, and not for the better.

This promises to be a very fascinating book, but not necessarily a path in which it will be emotionally easy to follow Rand, as he continues his descent. It's not going to be easy for those who love him either, or seek to help him, like Nynaeve, Aviendha and Min, Cadsuane, Sorilea, Alivia.

Linda:Or for readers who up until now have identified with Rand. Even if we didn’t have Jason’s warning that Rand’s behaviour gets ugly, we can see this is likely from this chapter.

Dominic: Jason Denzell spoke in his review of Brandon/RJ bringing Rand to places he didn't expect him to go. I have little doubt this is an apt description. Chapter one definitely gave the tone.


And that concludes our dialogue on chapter 1 of The Gathering Storm. We are now both eagerly awaiting the prologue, What The Storms Means next week!

All unattributed quotes are from Tears from Steel, chapter one of The Gathering Storm, by Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson, to be released by Tor Books on October 27th. Chapter One currently is available for free on, upon free registration to the site.


George said...

These were a fascinating read! Thank you for writing them.

FYI, it is being suspected that the sword is Justice, Artur Hawking's sword that Rand saw at Falme.

Dominic said...

You're welcome. Glad you enjoyed it.

The description of Justice we got is rudimentary - it is 'great' and 'shining like a mirror' and doesn't exclude the possibility it's the Sword in chapter 1.

However, the biggest problem I have with the sword being Justice is the dragon on the scabbard. Hawkwing is from a time that faced one of the most devastating False Dragon is history (Amalasan) and he spent years hunting and defeating him. The Amyrlin at the time was a Red.

It sounds... extremely unlikely and terribly hard to rationalize what would have possessed Hawkwing to put on his scabbard Lews Therin's sigil. With a world just wrecked by a False Dragon, his followers still around, that sounds completely out of character.

But let's say the scabbard was recently made for Rand, and only the sword is old (though it's a bit at odd with what Rand said). What made Rand muse then that it's as if it had been made for him specifically but was actually centuries old?

I really doubt it's Justice. If Justice ever shows up (beside in Hawkwing's hand at the last battle), it would be more likely among the Seanchan. Itself, or a replica, might be part of the imperial regalia, perhaps entrusted to Tuon for the Return (in the DP, the Seanchan come to "slay" the ancient wrong - slay it with the sword of justice?), News got to Seanchan of Hawkwing's death - perhaps his sword made the same voyage.

It's actually the fact the Tuon, Hawkwing's heir, and Rand, the Dragon, will be in opposition that made me think Rand may have been given not Artur's sword, but Amalsan's, his archefoe. Amalasan did use another known AOL sigil, what Rand calls now the Banner of Light. His sword may be infamous, like Justice, for all we know.

Of course there's always the possibility this sword's history is far more mundane than all our theories! But it's fun to theorize on new stuff at this point :) It's been so long!

Fanatic-Templar said...

Yet Rand has made a conscious decision not to use torture - not to be prepared to do anything to win. Cadsuane, who wanted Rand less dark and unfeeling, less like Shadar Logoth, thinks he should permit torture. Go figure.

I think Sidious mentioned this previously, but one of the problems with Rand's decision is that he's not opposing the torture of Semirhage out of some moral aversion for the act, but because the victim is a woman.

As to the sword, I am quite certain it is a replacement for the Dragon Sceptre, that severed bit of Seanchan spear that was hurled at him in The Fires of Heaven. For this reason, I quite like the idea of the sword being Amalasan's, the Sceptre was a weapon used by the Seanchan against the Dragon, Amalasan's sword would be a weapon used by a False Dragon against Hawkwing.

tamyrlink said...

i agree with LT not being completely mad, and Rand often failing to heed him or misunderstanding what he is talking about. for example:

in WH, when Rand meets Verin on the streets, after Verin leaves LT mutters "that woman frightens me", and Rand agrees, thinking LT refers to Cadsuane, whom he and Verin were discussing.
but i have always felt that LT was talking about Verin and Rand failed to heed his advice. also, didnt Moiraine specifically mention Verin in her letter about not trusting Aes Sedai?

Dominic said...

Hi Ben

I like quite a lot the tie to the Dragon Scepter.

It had occured to me as well that the sword might replace it. The Scepter was meant as a warning about the Seanchan, yet Rand walked straight into a trap.

Amalasan's sword would be like a warning that Tuon might treat him little different than her ancestor treated Amalasan.

It hinges a lot of where he really got that sword from - who gave it to him. If it's Graendal who's behind the gift, it promises nothing good.

The hypothesis I like the most so far is that it's the sword of Amalasan but it was meant to be a replica of Lews Therin's.

Dominic said...

but i have always felt that LT was talking about Verin and Rand failed to heed his advice. also, didnt Moiraine specifically mention Verin in her letter about not trusting Aes Sedai?

It's been too long since I've read WH the last time, I don't remember who LTT was talking about.

Like Moiraine (or Siuan, or Elaida), Verin doesn't care much for the good of Rand al'Thor (few do, in the end. Nynaeve and such - and to an extent Cadsuane does - she sees the young man in Rand more than most do), but I'm sure Verin cares very much for the Dragon Reborn, and in a positive way for the Light (she's one of proven non-darkfriends, invoking the Light in her POV and all). It's the other Aes Sedai who should be most frightened of her - she obviously has a fairly low opinion of her sisters's judgement when it comes to Rand, and she's not afraid to take means she must to prevent them from what she thinks might harm Rand : destroying the efforts of the Rebel embassy, compulsion, even murder.

Matthew J said...

Thank you Dominic and Linda for your thoughtful work! In the 45 days to come, you are the only thing keeping me going. It is incredibly refreshing to see so much literary deconstruction applied to Jordan's work, and I especially enjoy having the foreshadowing and motifs highlighted, so they can be more deeply appreciated as we draw to our epic conclusion.

Is there any way you could put up a small "about us" page where you describe your goals, how you started and why you do what you do?

your prolific updates are appreciated, can't wait to read some more!

Matthew J

Bigerich said...

Linda:Like Rand’s an expert on feelings! HE just suppresses all his, or distances himself from them. No wonder he finds it hard to tell! Incidentally the way he does distance himself from feeling is akin to living wrapped in the Oneness as Lanfear recommended as a way to become great. Great…

Dominic: Asmodean told Rand once his loss of all emotions once he has embraced the Source isn't normal, that he should have been able to surmount this effect of achieving the Oneness. Rand mused he was never able to achieve what Asmodean was trying to teach about it. As for following Lanfear's advice on becoming "great". Phaww! as Cadsuane would say. Her own conception of her greatness wasn't exactly reassuring!

I always thought this was just Lanfear's (or Mesaana's :P) way of pushing Rand to seize saidin, which is why she seemed so satisfied when he explained to her about the Void.

LoialT said...

Thanks Linda and Dominic! I love you guys.

I am almost certain that Rand has not actually SEEN this sword before. He didn't see it in the portal stone futures. He didn't see it in the columns. LT is not the source of the recognition, and I believe the "oddly" part was simply because Rand was recognizing something very very old on his own. Maybe it is a replica, or even the original owned by LT. Yet I also feel pretty confident that its most recent owner was Amalasan (one of the only historical characters in the books we know came from the Arad Doman region).

The significance of "unearthing" it at this point without others knowing what it really is does puzzle me, however. It could be a reminder/foreshadowing of Amalasan's fate at the hands of Hawkwing, but Rand knows that his not a false dragon and that there is no Ta'veren to challenge him. If the gift is from Graendal, then it might be she who doesn't understand the history of the blade. If it is a replica or even the actual sword of LT as well as Amalasan's, then Graendal might recognize for one reason while Rand does for another (a classic case of the confusions found everywhere in WOT).

Yet even if Graendal was off the mark, I believe she has already succeeded in her goal. Rand already feels as if the blade were made for him. His muscle memory may be integrating with Lews Therin's even as he is unaware of the sword's true origin/design.

LoialT said...

Also, do we know for sure the Alivia is not/did not torture Semirhage? Rand was surprised that she had participated in the "information gathering." It could be that he didn't formally forbid Alivia and that Cadsuane and Nynaeve have or will take advantage of this. Secondly, I forget if there are any theories about why Alivia is so fanatical towards Rand, but is there any evidence that Verin compelled her?

SteelBlaidd said...

A mirroring I saw thanks to my reading of this blog.
Rand's thoughts here:

“I said no!” Rand said. “You will question her, but you will not hurt her!” Not a woman. I will keep to this one shred of light inside me. I’ve caused the deaths and sorrows of too many women already.

echo Dain Bornhald's in tSR ch 56

“Clean!” Bornhald roared at him. “If we must die here, we will die clean!” He wrenched his head back to Perrin, spittle on his lips.

Anonymous said...

From: Nero

Very well done. I feel like I am back in English class, but going over a book I actually care about.

As for the sword bit, it could very well be both Amalasan's sword and Justice, hence the markings and Rand's recognition. I will need to check what we do know about the history and battles between Amalasan and Hawking, to see if this fits, but Hawking could very well of taken this sword after Amalasan's defeat. It has just been too long since I read the guide book.

Dominic said...

That's good :) And what of this bit:

"I will keep to this one shred of light inside me".

If he loses of his forced to let go of that shred, all that would remain is a memory of light. :)

I expect we'll see plenty of little references to the original title in the first book like this, as it was written before the choice to split AMOL was made.

To Loialt:

I forget if there are any theories about why Alivia is so fanatical towards Rand, but is there any evidence that Verin compelled her?

It seems she's so fanatical in hatred of the Seanchan's slavery and because Rand saved her from it.

There's no evidence that Verin didn't compel her, but Alivia was like this almost from the start, and she's so strong and adept in fighting that in Verin's place I would not have tried that weave on her.

If the gift is from Graendal, then it might be she who doesn't understand the history of the blade.

Maybe. I was thinking along the lines that perhaps the story that it was discovered recently is Graendal's invention and actually some Domani family or another (perhaps even Alsalam's) has had it secretely for centuries. There's a strong Dragonsworn sentiment in Arad Doman, and it's hard to tell what is Graendal's doing and what is genuine. Amalasan might have "secret admirers" still among the Domani nobility. That the sword was recently discovered and the people who gave it to Rand didn't know what it was might be the result of Graendal's compulsion.

To Bigrich:

I always thought this was just Lanfear's (or Mesaana's :P) way of pushing Rand to seize saidin, which is why she seemed so satisfied when he explained to her about the Void.

It's a bit the same thing - she wanted a proof he could channel, and was trying to awaken his ambition and desire for power. She needed that, to convince him down the road to join her.

To TruthPanda:
Thanks for all the nice words. It is the way for us too to keep going until we finally get the book!!

Is there any way you could put up a small "about us" page where you describe your goals, how you started and why you do what you do?

Ah yes, it's a good idea. We might do something like that when the TGS posts leave us the time.

It is incredibly refreshing to see so much literary deconstruction applied to Jordan's work

This I owe a lot to a teacher, when I was about 15, who told me one day that if I really liked a book it was worth delving into it and get the most from it, whatever critics, scholars or snobs might think of it - that analysing popular literature might be even more rewarding than doing it for a stuffy classic, if the book meant something to me.

Dominic said...

To Nero:

The idea that Hawkwing seized Amalasan's sword is interesting too. That he renamed it Justice would even be fitting. OTOH, I still have the problem that he would have kept the scabbard.

What we know of Amalasan is this, and suggestive as you'll see:

- He was named "The Second Dragon" - that in itself is a program, and a testimony to his infamy.
- From "internal evidence" (the guide says) he was very well-educated, with great knowledge of the KC. This makes the hypothesis that he got himself a replica of LTT's sword (or claimed it was the real one) based on some scholarly books plausible
- He used the ancient symbol of Aes Sedai as his banner, on blue (Logain copied that from him)
- In the battle in which Amalasan was captured, Hawkwing and Aes Sedai rushed straight for his banner and got him. There are stories of a man-on-man duel between them, but the guide points it's unlikely because of Amalasan's ability to channel and that Hawkwing himself has always denied it). There's a possibility he seized his sword there, I guess, but that he made it Justice is bizarre - I bet this would be famous, and that bit would have surfaced already, when the characters spoke of Justice - they know the tales well, they grew up on them.
- Amalasan's supporters were very devoted to him, would "have followed him to the Pit of Doom".
- The whole Amalasan-Hawkwing story has a very important place in the Guide, which could be indicative of something, and we also know it's one of the sections for which RJ himself essentially provided everything (Teresa Patterson said so, said she had virtually no freedom to write about Hawkwing, RJ provided nearly everything for those sections)

The only mention of Justice in
the Guide is that Hawkwing called for it during his illness at the end of his life.

It's a disctinct possibility Hawkwing seized Amalasan's sword as a trophy, but I'm pretty sure he would have discarded the scabbard had he made it his own.

On another tangent, others in the general west coast area who might have kept Hawkwing era paraphernalia would be the Watchers in Falme. If the Paendrags ever owned Amalasan's sword, it might have ended up in Falme eventually (which was in the nation of Darmovan, from which the Second Dragon came).

Gadget said...

Nice analysis, especially about the symbolic connection between Rand/Amalasan and Tuon/Hawkwing and the conflict it implies. This brings to mind Min's vision about how Rand will be hurt twice by women who can channel. The first time was obviously Rand's capture by the Tower embassy, which drove him further over the brink. I very much fear that second time will be in this book, with Rand's capture and subsequent treatment by Seanchan driving him over the edge.

RabidWombat said...

The events of chapter 1 occur a few weeks after Rand captured Semirhage. We know this from one of Rands thoughts about traveling around from place to place after capturing Semi. So either Elayne is feeling relieved about something else or some part of the timeline is wrong.

Dominic said...

You're right, we had missed this one. I'll correct this part of the post tonight.

The day Elayne won would make it just over a week. Not enough.

What I said about this not going too far ahead of Adar 15 still stands, though - perhaps 2, 2.5 weeks (10-day ones). Rand was already moving around quite a bit according to Elayne at the end of KOD.

So either we skip ahead quite a bit in Egwene's storyline, or there'll be quite a bit of her in the prologue - as if we add 10-15 days to our estimate, she's now way behind Rand's scene - almost a month after the "dinner".

moondiva said...

To Gadget

Rand has been hurt a second time by a woman that can channel...he lost his hand when he met Semi. Does that count?

To Dominic

Is it too early or late to talk about Min's viewing of Avi having 4 babies from Rand with something strange about it?

Glad I found you guys. Like your analysis and fans' input.


Linda said...

Gosh I'm rather late to this! Time zones again, sigh. (I shall so enjoy buying buying TGS, though. I'll be 16 hours ahead of US east coast time by then, and will buy it before the midnight signing in Utah! :D)

Thanks all for your comments. :) (Do keep'em coming!)

Deborah: It doesn't properly count because Perrin had no hope of being there. There's more hurt to come for Rand from channelling women, and Perrin will again try to stop it.

RabidWombat: Thanks for the correction. I've added the new version now.

TruthPanda and Nero: What they forget to tell you in class is that such analysis should be done on books you care about! If you want to. Then you really get something out of it. The point of reading is enjoyment and learning, and if analysis adds to that, great, go ahead and do it. If not, then don't.

I come from a very egalitarian area in Australia (which means it's very egalitarian!) - so we analysed all text levels and types. And I've always read all sorts of stuff, even things quite out of the common - I'm very curious! That really helps with complex books like WOT, because RJ did the same.

Joseph said...

I went looking over at theoryland and didn't see this so I think imight have an original Loonie Theory(tm).

Basically we know that Hawkwing has said that he and LTT have fought against each other and side by side on numerous occasions. Is there anything that says that LTT and Rand are the only incarnations of th Dragon soul in this age?

Could the Dragon Soul have been spun out to be Guaire Amalasen too?

Relik said...

Hi there!

First of all, thanks for this site and all the articles, I have been enjoying myself immensely reading all this. :)

On to the new sword of Rand: Isn't there a possibility that Rand's comments are not relevant for both sword and scabbard?

Namely, when he thinks

"It looked as if it had been designed specifically for Rand—and yet it was centuries old, unearthed only recently"

this might be only relevant for the design of the scabbard, while

"He had told no one, not even Min, that he had recognized the weapon"

could be read as only pertaining to the blade itself.

old salt said...

Thanks a lot for this, wonderful discussion. On Egwene:
I feel sure that we will see the full Elaida dinner, either in the prologue or as a flashback. (Maybe a "neutral party" flashback? Tarna? that would be fun) In any case I agree with Linda that this meeting is just too important to leave to off stage descriptions. An additional note: Sanderson has shown that he's "in tune" with readers desires and is willing to cater somewhat to them. I would be willing to bet that the Elaida/Egwene dinner is at the top of most fans 'want to see' lists. I can't see Sanderson relegating such an important scene from plot, foreshadowing, symbolic and fan interest points; to an off stage ex post facto description.

Dominic said...

You're welcome Peter!

About the dinner, I'm really uncertain. It could be an excellent scene, but Jordan often skipped over scenes like that we were certain would happen on-screen.

People were sure we'd get an amazing Elaida vs. Egwene confrontation at the beginning of KOD too. There wasn't one in the whole book.

I really don't know about this one. It depends a lot of what is supposed to happen there. Where was RJ going with this. The outcome of that dinner may simply be that Egwene is forced to attend Elaida daily from now on, leaving plenty of occasions for the big confrontation.

I know Linda believed some major turning point happens in that scene (basically that Egwene ends up accused of treason because of what she told Bennae and put in a cell) but personally with perhaps 12 or 15 WT/Rebel chapters, I think what she has in mind precipitates things way too much.

My reasonning is that perhaps all that comes out of that dinner is Elaida deciding to break Egwene herself, and Meidani reporting about the dinner to the BA Hunters.

I guess if this scene is in the prologue, it could be told from Meidani's POV, not Elaida nor Egwene. And Jordan could have chosen not to show the dinner itself but the scene of Meidani reporting about it to the BA hunters, and a POV of Egwene.

It's Meidani who's walking a tighrope there. Egwene intends to use the ferrets, and Meidani's at that dinner because the BA Hunters are forcing her to spy on Elaida. The instant Egwene contacts the ferrets, whatever she tolds the ferrets is going straight back to Seaine and co.

In any case, depending of where the plot is going, I can imagine anything from RJ showing the dinner to giving us its direct aftermath with a POV from Meidani, Egwene, Elaida (or even one of the BA hunters) to picking this story line up days or more later.

old salt said...

to Dom:
"My reasonning is that perhaps all that comes out of that dinner is Elaida deciding to break Egwene herself, and Meidani reporting about the dinner to the BA Hunters"
To my mind this would be out of character for Elaida. Ever since fomented the coup, she's been a delegater, passing out tasks for others, rarely doing anything herself. We haven't see and "hands on" from her since the coup. And even then she left the questioning of Suian and Leanne to others. Besides, don't you think that if she takes over the "breaking" of Egwene that it will severely undermine Silviana's authority? I think to Elaida's mind set (severe meglomania) that she can't be seen training a "mere novice".

bookrazy said...

Hey guys!
Great job! Loved the analysis, and it has really set the tone for the arrival of TGS. If we're going to see such stuff for the whole novel, there's nothing more I could ask for to make my read interesting. Thanks!

One point though,
Lan began his ride to the East 2 days after Semirhage's capture.

Is this correct? Didn't Lan begin his journey a few days before?

Dominic said...

Thanks for the comments! It's always great to hear from you guys.

And you're right, the 'after' should be before, a residue from the rewrite of the chronology we've missed. I'll correct this, thanks for pointing it out.

Merrill said...

Thanks a lot for this, and I look forward to reading the whole thing, but I must note that Ituralde has been avoiding orders from the king (from Graendal, actually) for quite some time now. I do not think it bodes all that ill for the Light at all that he is about to crush the Seanchan army per the Prologue of TGS. This is not at Graendal's orders, and I think her overconfidence suggests that she is not yet aware of it.

Merrill said...

Here are the relevant quotes from the prologue of Crossroads of Twilight:

Or if someone ignored his order to evade couriers from the King. They all knew his reasons, though, and even the most stiff-necked shared them, though few were willing to speak of the matter aloud. He himself had moved like a wraith racing on a storm since he received Alsalam’s latest command.

And, later:

He was loyal to his oaths, and Alsalam was a friend, besides, but the orders the King sent could not have been better written to achieve chaos. Nor could they be ignored. Alsalam was the King. But he had commanded Ituralde to march north with all possible speed against a great gathering of Dragonsworn that Alsalam supposedly knew of from secret spies, then ten days later, with no Dragonsworn yet in sight, an order came to move south again, with all possible speed, against another gathering that never materialized. He had been commanded to concentrate his forces to defend Bandar Eban when a three-pronged attack might have ended it all and to divide them when a hammer blow could have done the same, to harry ground he knew the Dragonsworn had abandoned, and to march away from where he knew they camped. Worse, Alsalam’s orders often had gone directly to the powerful nobles who were supposed to be following Ituralde, sending Machir in this direction, Teacal in that, Rahman in a third. Four times, pitched battles had resulted from parts of the army blundering into one another in the night while moving to the King’s express command and expecting none but enemies ahead. And all the while the Dragonsworn gained numbers, and confidence. Ituralde had had his triumphs—at Solanje and Maseen, at Lake Somal and Kandelmar—the Lords of Katar had learned not to sell the products of their mines and forges to the enemies of Arad Doman—but always, Alsalam’s orders wasted his gains.

This last order was different, though. For one thing, a Gray Man had killed Lady Tuva trying to stop it from reaching him. Why the Shadow might fear this order more than any other was a mystery, yet it was all the more reason to move swiftly. Before Alsalam reached him with another. This order opened many possibilities, and he had considered every last one he could see. But the good ones all started here, today. When small chances of success were all that remained, you had to seize them.

The fact that the Gray Man killed Lady Tuva does not mean that Graendal didn't want him to get this order--but only Moridin, among the Forsaken, or the Hand of the Shadow himself, knew enough about her to dispatch a Gray Man. Or perhaps it was ordered by Graendal herself in a deep game to convince Ituralde to follow the order. But... The "Little Wolf" had not yet given her reason to suspect he would not follow Alsalam's orders. In fact, he had followed them when he knew they were wrong. As evidenced in the second paragraph of quotes above.

So... was Graendal out traipsing around with Sammael as pet "Maisi" and her control over Alsalam slipped a bit? Or did she underestimate Ituralde (probably due to him following so many stupid orders, which, as noted above, he felt bound to do by his oaths), and expect he would be killed in a futile attack on the Seanchan?

I suspect the latter is strongly possible.

old salt said...


You have missed one crucial bit of information. There was no grey man. Graendal invented the story to convince Ituralde of the importance/urgency/validity of the note. She even tells her dark friend minion to make sure that he smears the envelope with human blood on the off chance that someone can tell the difference between it and animal blood. I forget exactly where this scene is, I'm thinking PoD, but I'm not sure. In any event she definitely wants Ituralde to get the note! I do agree that she has underestimated Ituralde's ablilities tho, if he is successful he will pretty end the Domani civil war, something the Shadow definitely does not want.

Old(she really really wanted him to get and believe that note)Salt

Dominic said...

That's exactly it Peter.

Another very important point to note is that Ituralde is obeying "Alsalam's" last orders. He went in hiding then to make sure no more orders would come to countermand those ones, as had happened systematically before.

It's an open question whether Graendal did continue her games with contradictory orders to many people, or if she intended to leave Ituralde free to obey this one. So far there's no sign that she interferred afterward in Ituralde's back with the loyal Lords or the Dragonsworn leaders - at least they all obeyed Ituralde's orders to join up and hide in the mountains, perhaps at Graendal's own instigation - it's suspicious a bit that it went so well.

It does look like Graendal intended to bring the Seanchan into Arad Doman. Did she wanted them to bring about the conquest of Arad Doman so she could get into a new phase of collecting more pets and beginning to spread her chaos beyond AD in the Seanchan campaign through those High Blood running conquered Bandar Eban? IMO, that's probably what she intended, to get herself local Seanchan pawns to use - to expand what she was doing in AD to the whole east and south-east, using the conquerors of AD, then what? To use the Seanchan once she has enough of them in hand to pit them against the rest of the Westlands? Possibly. Graendal is extremely ambitious, and she didn't know at the time this was roughly the plan of Semirhage. Graendal too may have thought it a good idea to use the Seanchan and throw them against the Tower and Rand, undercutting Mesaana's powerbase, not knowing Mesaana and Semirhage already had this in mind.

If I'm right, her efforts to undermine Ituralde and his allies should only begin soon now the Seanchan are in AD - or should have... it's quite hard to tell how she will alter her plans now that Moridin is promising her rewards to go along with his wishes (but he might have need for her to take over from Semirhage eventually. Having Graendal compel Tuon would solve the Shadow many headaches...). Moridin himself offering a kind of partnership on the one end, and Aran'gar on the other, Graendal is really sought after these days!

Merrill said...

Thank 'ee, Old Salt! I vaguley remember that now, although I, too, am unsure which book. I think it must have been just befoe Crossroads of Twilight, from which I drew the above quote.

And thanks, Dominic; I tend to think she really underestimated him and expected him to get killed in Almoth Plain or Tarabon, but I do think you're right, that she intended to draw the Seanchan north. Thanks a lot for the interesting commentary!

Merrill said...

Editing! Meh...