Monday, October 26, 2009

The Storm is Coming! #21: What the Storm Means, Scene 4 Commentary

This is part four of our mini What the Storm Means read-through as we wait eagerly for our copies of TGS to arrive and it seems those evil storm winds are blowing harder and harder down our necks!

This post discusses the third POV of the Prologue of The Gathering Storm, available at and selected ebook retailers
. It also brushes upon topics from chapters 1 and 2..

Click here to expand the rest of this post

Linda: So, Graendal has enslaved a member of the Merchant Council and is tempted or distracted by Moridin’s messenger; he makes her think about killing Moridin. Graendal’s parallels are really obvious in this chapter: man-hungry Circe in her lair, a palace in a forest above a lake like Hermann Goering’s Carinhall. She doesn’t appear to be as smart as RJ’s earlier portrayals of her. Normally her shallowness is a cover to deceive others, here it is more pervasive.

Dominic: I agree. A few small things are odd in this scene. For example where it begins. Graendal stated once she didn't use rooms with a view in her palace – she hates to have to look at "unruly nature". She has seen Rand before in person (spying on him and the Asha'man emptying Sammael's rooms in Illian), so it's also a bit odd she thinks first of drawings she has of him, especially to notice similarities with Moridin.

I adore Forsaken scenes, though – and I sure hope there are going to become more frequent as Jordan has to keep less and less secrets about them. The little oddities were not enough to ruin the fun. Brandon said previously that most of the prologue was written by RJ. I don't know if this scene is an addition from Brandon or a draft by Jordan he didn't want to alter too much. It's a bit less polished than usual for a Forsaken scene. Perhaps this was RJ "blocking the scene" in first draft before revising it.

Linda: Moridin is in the deep Northeastern Blight in a black stone building with no glass in windows. Shadowspawn out there supposedly only obey the Dark One, not even Moridin. It is hot and very austere. Graendal used to be into austerity, but she isn’t now. Or did she only like her own austerity and not anyone else’s? A thinly veiled holier-than-thou? Just as Graendal has her Carinhall, so Moridin could own multiple towers/fortresses as the Nazis did.

Dominic: The "Guide' implies Graendal in her ascetic days was quite cutting to anyone who didn't meet her standards and no one but herself probably did, just like today even Domani (and Seanchan with their almost naked da'covale, their shea dancers, their use of humans as little more than animals – the damane) fall short of her decadence!

Linda: Moridin has become more stern and authoritative. Like Rand. He is obsessed with killing Mat and Perrin. Graendal wants to kill Rand instead, as probably all the Forsaken except Moridin do, Each one thinks they are the only one who dares to consider killing Rand.

Dominic: The battle lines are being drawn. It's interesting that Jordan chose to wait until the finale to start really building up the area of Shayol Ghul/Thakan'dar/the Blight. The Nazi parallels keep going, but the 'Fantasy' dark land is also emerging here. Brandon and Jordan are fleshing out their "Mordor", to use the most famous such locations in Fantasy.

Linda: Demandred and Mesaana asked for the meeting with Moridin, and didn’t expect to see Graendal. Moiridin invited her along to put them off balance and to humiliate them. And to manipulate Graendal, too. They are asking Moridin for aid in rescuing Semirhage. Graendal knows which Aes Sedai Mesaana is pretending to be and has agents watching her.

Dominic: Mesaana and Demandred's plans must be seriously upset by Semirhage's capture for them to team up openly and beg Moridin for his help. After recuperating his superseding authority over Mesaana's plans (what to do with Egwene, the Black Ajah etc.), he seems now to be taking control of the plans to use the Seanchan, tasking Graendal to act as his agent.

I've always said Moridin is far more adept than meet the eye at manipulating the other Chosen, and that the meetings in the last few books had to seen in this eye.

And it is interesting that Mesaana is now in pure white. I often think she's got a main disguise (Danelle, not an original theory as it's the most popular one) and several secondary ones she uses briefly, at need, to be able to move where she needs to in the Tower now it's so divided – including fictitious or "borrowed" novices, IMO.

Linda: A woman – a Darkfriend? A Black Sister? – reported to Mesaana and Demandred that Semirhage didn’t intend to harm Rand, and that injuring him was a reflex. Did this woman witness it personally, or was she told by other witnesses? Elza was not personally present during the attack. Maybe the informant was a sul’dam or damane, yet all were revolted by Semirhage’s declaration of her identity.

Dominic: It's an interesting mystery. It has to be someone on the Seanchan side of things, IMO. I can't see how someone from Rand's side could have known "Tuon's" no doubt very precise instructions on how to handle the meeting.

Another puzzle is the sul'dam Falendre's remark that the whole venture was a secret one by Anath herself and she doubted Tuon was even aware of this. My guess is that she means Anath (and Suroth we know she was involved, she's the one Bashere met, but Falendre probably doesn't know this) organized the whole thing acting as Tuon's Voice, gave the orders to sul'dam etc. but that Falendre now doubts the real Tuon was involved, after she's discovered that Anath used a disguise.

Linda: Semirhage knows Demandred would kill her for killing Rand, because that is his prerogative. Big deal. Demandred is not convincing here.

Dominic: Indeed. Demandred appears really upset. He's seriously lost ground to Moridin and is reduced to distancing himself from any possible betrayal while implying Semirhage wouldn't go against him. The little "someone disguised as Sammael sent Trollocs in the Ways" affair (which I still think may have been done at Moridin's orders in truth – to decimate Rand's extremely dangerous inner circle before Semirhage's capture attempt), coupled with the fact Mesaana already lost major ground to Moridin in Crossroads of Twilight is haunting the trio. And Moridin tops it off by announcing that Semirhage had direct (and obviously secret) orders from him! More humiliation for Demandred. Moridin may be playing with fire there. There are only so many slights Mesaana will endure – she's turned to the Shadow over one such – just as there are only so many humiliation Demandred will suffer before losing control. These two are a bit cornered now – to humiliate themselves this way by begging to Moridin they must be all too aware they've also lost ground to Shai'tan, but pushing Demandred's buttons too far is a high risk game. I've always suspected this guy could sabotage the Shadow's greater plans down the line, either by getting into his mind that he could remove Moridin and be named number one in his place, or by pure spite if he sees his way to the top is definitely blocked (the "If I can't be number one, no one will" reasoning). More than anyone else, Demandred is serving Demandred alone, and loyal only to himself at the end of the day.

Linda: All the Forsaken are planning on killing Rand if they can and none worry about big shot Demandred paying them out for it.

Dominic: Indeed. Demandred must be getting desperate to even come up with something like this.

Linda: Moridin’s orders to Semirhage were to capture Rand. She is to be punished for injuring him when this was forbidden and Demandred and Mesaana are forbidden to rescue her.

Dominic: I suspect she's right where Moridin wanted her to be. Not in the circumstances he hoped for maybe (it's how to see how success wouldn't have made this easier, even if Rand was later to be freed) but I sense that Moridin's has not given up yet on what he intended Semirhage to accomplish. I highly suspect he meant her to attempt to get Rand rid of the Shadar Logoth wound interfering with the True Power inflicted one. It seems to be causing the sickness.

Linda: Rand’s injury pains Moridin, which is why he doesn’t want Rand harmed physically. He’s going to go for psychological pain instead. Will he be wrong about emotional injuries? Moridin’s trying to drive Rand over the edge, but will he feel it too? Is Moridin already somewhat irrational? He’s showing a raw temper like Rand and all his lighter mockery is gone.

Dominic: Gone, or he shed one of his layers of masks? I always suspected Moridin's "insanity" is more than a little explained by the fact his final goals are largely Shai'tan's and for another human, especially the Chosen who all seem to imagine they'll live eternally in a kind of evil Golden Age after Shai'tan's victory, his thoughts and actions are frightening and irrational. I think Moridin is aware of what he inspires and how he's seen, and uses it – that a few of his "madman" oddities (rats on his shoulder and what not) are actually calculate moves. He is insane, after a fashion, but rational in his own way, which is less and less the human way.

Linda:Humiliated or not, Demandred and Mesaana tell something of their plans. Mesaana thinks she will have all Aes Sedai serving the Shadow and that the White Tower will soon to fall to her. She is gaining followers all the time – some knowingly, others not. Who are these followers? And who are they following?

Dominic:Interesting indeed that Mesaana says "more and more join (her) cause each day", whether they know it or not. I seriously doubt she means an increase in Black Ajah ranks by this. I still have hopes my theory that she's mounted herself an hidden network of novices/accepted will turn out close to the truth.

Linda:Demandred prepares for war, and says he will be ready. So he’s not quite ready yet. He’s ruling someone or something. Neither we nor Graendal have any idea what Demandred is doing. Graendal thinks he’s a fool to bear a grudge against Lew Therin, that it is a waste of energy and time. Is he with Borderlander armies?

Dominic: I still doubt so – that he is anywhere in person, I mean. He may be involved with several different groups and busy coordinating them so they each play the role he intends them to play (and preparing for war doesn't necessarily – and he may have agents among the Bordermen indeed. But by and large I'm still quite convinced Demandred wisely put in place everything he thought he needed for Taim to build him the army he didn't think he would ever have for Tarmon Gai'don when Rand delivered him this opportunity on a silver platter by putting Taim in charge and distancing himself from the Black Tower - without falling into the same trap as Sammael, Rhavin or Be'lal by ever getting involved directly and showing his hand. I think he's managed to fool Graendal and the others that he got involved only in a spontaneous fashion around the time of Winter's Heart. I suspect the third blow to the trio might come from there, when a bit like Logain who realised the most dangerous faction of the Asha'man army is loyal to Taim and not Rand that Demandred might similarly discover that Moridin has placed safeguards to ensure Mazrim Taim understands where real authority and rewards comes from in the Shadow, and what Demandred can do with the Asha'man might turn out to be what Moridin intends him and this army to do in Tarmon Gai'don. Demandred may enjoy a taste of the medicine he served as Barid Bel Medar to Lews Therin in the War of Shadow.

Linda:Graendal doesn’t know that Aran’gar left the rebels at least two weeks earlier. Lanfear and Moghedien are rallying Darkfriends and trying to kill Mat and Perrin. It was probably Lanfear who set Masema up to kill Perrin. And Masema’s plan nearly worked too.

Dominic: Assuming the scene actually takes place weeks after Aran'gar's departure and not just days after Semirhage's capture. I'm totally confused about the synchronicity of the various story lines at this point. Are we really seeing Mesaana here weeks after chapter 2 in Egwene's story line, or are we seeing her a few weeks earlier, days after Semirhage's capture, when Rand started moving to Arad Doman, days after Aran'gar departed and Egwene has just attended Elaida, a few days after the attempts to kill Mat and Perrin were made? I'm not a big fan of jumping back and forth on the timeline like this.

I agree with you Cyndane most likely is the one who used Masema – we'll discuss this a bit more in the last post of this series. I also believe it's her who used her skills to locate ta'veren and was responsible for the first failed attempts in KOD, in Almizar and Maderin, on the same day.

Linda: As an example of her shallowness and ditzy blondishness, she criticises Mesaana’s appearance and suggests Mesaana joined the Shadow for research opportunities. Yet Graendal made a different and rather better diagnosis of Mesaana’s motives in Lord of Chaos. Graendal also daydreams of putting Moridin under Compulsion to serve her as her pet.

Dominic: Indeed. Sometimes in this scene it's like Graendal's IQ has taken a few blows! The remark would have suited Aginor like a glove, but as far as we know Mesaana's interest to join the Shadow was to avenge a slight by sabotage of research, scholarship and scientific accomplishments – to eradicate what the War left of AOL civilization and through vandalism and assassinations of scholars and scientists, and indoctrination of the next generation, she was ruining any hopes to bring it back if the Shadow lost. The magnitude of the destruction and death from the Breaking aside, she's probably the individual who's single-handedly did the greatest contribution to the disappearance of knowledge from the AOL. Research opportunities indeed.

Linda: Moridin is rewarding Graendal in advance – tempting her with a carrot – to get her to prevent Rand pacifying Arad Doman, and to bring him emotional pain. The latter order is added seemingly as an afterthought, but is probably more important to his strategy. He’s motivating Graendal rather than ordering her, so perhaps her task is a very risky one. I guess the example of Semirhage has sobered them all up.

Dominic: I suspect Moridin promised the very same rewards to Semirhage, and will promise them to the next person he needs. Moridin is milking everyone for all they're worth, and turns on anyone if and when he needs to. Aiming at the destruction of everything, he's not worried about leaving a legacy or anything of the kind. Using people's greed for rewards that are actually out their reach has been his modus operandi since… prfft.. the prologue of The Eye of the World, at the very latest!

Linda: Moridin stands staring at nothing like Rand does. Same stance. Moridin, the would-be captor of the Fisher King, is himself becoming like the Fisher King. Rand and Moridin are merging.

General observation about the Shadow: In my opinion RJ held too much over for the climax of the series. He kept too much of the Forsaken’s plans and actions secret as a surprise, so that the reader doesn’t feel the threat they pose to the Light. It is not fully obvious in last few books how well the Shadow is doing, whereas if we knew more of where they are or what they are planning, we would fear more for the heroes and heroines. If the Forsaken are out of sight, they are out of mind. The Forsaken were also portrayed as less menacing, more foolishly disunited in these books and are only now appearing as nasty again.

Dominic: I prefer to wait until the series is over to make my final judgment on this. Unlike many others I feel the very chaotic nature of things within the Shadow's rank is frightening in itself. I agree with you that Jordan has left us a bit too much in the dark and could have increased the threat of the Chosen's presence in the series.

Could we have learned in advance much more without understanding too much too soon (and perhaps get frustrated because the plans we understood we forever advancing in the shadows? I'm reminded of the Adeleas murder mystery here, and also of the "too young Sitters" mystery about which RJ left us clues very early on) I don't know. If for instance Demandred is involved behind the scenes with having made sure Taim knew enough to build him a male army (and is there a hidden female counterpart somewhere trained by Mesaana maybe?), would it have been satisfying to learn this books ago and watch him do nothing with it because he was saving them for the Last Battle? RJ's performance at using his villains can be fully judged only once we know their plans. My feeling is that after the death of Sammael, we're dealing with a bunch of Forsaken, Aran'gar and Osan'gar aside (and in a lesser measure Graendal's, whose plans are more fluid and open enough to seize opportunities), who are all bent on solid preparations for the Day of Return and clever enough to hide. Waiting until now to start revealing much could turn out to be very satisfying (and change our vision of the mid-series from LOC to KOD forever, when we'll finally be able to catch on all sort of news clues in hindsight).


As always you're welcome to leave us your comments (in the forums only as we temporarily disabled the Blog's Comment feature to avoid spoilers), or to come join us in the ongoing discussion of What the Storm Means on our forums.

All unattributed quotes in this article are from What the Storm Means, Prologue of The Gathering Storm, by Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson, to be released by Tor Books on October 27th. Chapter One (in written form) and Chapter 2 (from the audio version of the book) are currently available for free on, upon free registration to the site. The prologue, What The Storm Means, is currently on sale as an ebook from many online retailers (visit for details).

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