Friday, July 2, 2010

Knife of Dreams Read-through #9: The Broken Bargain

By Linda

In Knife of Dreams, To Make An Anchor Weep, we learn of the mass murder/suicide of the Amayar. This was triggered by the female Choedan Kal statue melting after the Cleansing:

"The Amayar were all dead or dying. Men. women"—her voice broke—"children…Everywhere I have been, it was the same. They gave their children a poison that put them into a deep sleep from which they did not waken. It seems there was not enough of that to go around, so many of the adults took slower poisons. Some lived long enough to be found and tell the tale. The Great Hand on Tremalking melted. The hill where it stood reportedly is now a deep hollow. It seems the Amayar had prophecies that spoke of the Hand, and when it was destroyed, they believed this signaled the end of time, what they called the end of Illusion. They believed it was time for them to leave this . . . this illusion"—she laughed the word bitterly— "we call the world."
"Have none been saved?" Zaida asked. "None at all?" Tears glistened on her cheeks, too, but Harine could not fault her on that. Her own cheeks were wet.
"None, Shipmistress."
Zaida stood, and tears or no tears, she held the aura of command, and her voice was steady. "The fastest ships must be sent to every island. Even to those of Aile Somera. A way must be found. When the salt first stilled after the Breaking, the Amayar asked our protection from brigands and raiders, and we owe them protection still. If we can find only a handful who still live, we still owe it."

- Knife of Dreams, To Make An Anchor Weep

Moghedien was amazed that the sa’angreal had survived that long while being used at that level (Winter’s Heart, With the Choedan Kal) so it is no great surprise to learn that it disintegrated on completion of the task. According to the Amayar’s prophecies its destruction heralded the end of time, what they called the end of Illusion and they killed themselves to ‘go on’ before everyone else. Like all other people in the Wheel of Time world we have encountered, the Amayar were millenarian, believing in the division of history into periods that are multiples of thousand years, with each period ending in a trauma and with the promise of a return to an Age of happiness, and apocalyptic, believing in the world’s progress to a prophesied cataclysmic appointed end, but they had no messianic beliefs, no prophecy of a world saviour who will avert the Dark One’s victory and the end of time, to give them hope. The Amayar’s beliefs and their consequences are discussed in the Time of Illusions article now republished on the blog.

Soon after the Breaking, the Amayar asked the Sea Folk to protect them from marauders. They had a pacifist philosophy – called the Water Way later in the Third Age – and were probably descended from the Da’shian Aiel. The Mistress of the Ships said the Sea Folk (as a whole) still owe the Amayar that protection (Knife of Dreams, To Make An Anchor Weep). The word ‘owe’ implies some sort of obligation. Since the Sea Folk never do anything without receiving something in exchange, and the intra-Age period was a time of extreme hardship when even the most self-sacrificing altruistic people resorted to selfishness and pragmatism, presumably the original agreement was a very long-running Bargain of some kind. The Sea Folk are the sole marketers and distributors of “Sea Folk porcelain” and fine glassware which is, or rather was, actually made by the Amayar (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). They charge considerably higher prices for it than they pay the Amayar:

The Atha'an Miere generally receive credit for their craftsmanship, but the Amayar do not care. They are aware of the mainland, know the prices charged by the Atha'an Miere, and are satisfied with the prices they receive, which is all that matters to them.

- The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time

and would have made a tidy profit from it over the centuries. The Sea Folk also have exclusive use of devices such as spectacles (The Shadow Rising, The Wavedancer) probably crafted by the Amayar. At least in part, such craftsmanship is probably what the Amayar offered the Sea Folk in exchange for protection. Their excellent lenses, the best known anywhere, for instance, would have been immediately useful. Note that the agreement was made just after the Breaking, not during, so trade in non-essential items would be starting to resume.

Logain insisted that the Sea Folk give higher priority to their bargain with Rand and meet their obligations to him first, before those of protecting and saving the Amayar. The Sea Folk were aghast at the consequences of all their fastest ships being committed to Rand’s bargain; of being unable to give medical aid and protect the Amayar, and not fulfilling their bargain. They didn’t immediately consider that they could Travel to the islands rather than sail there, although hopefully that realisation came after not too much hand-wringing. We have yet to see the consequences of the enforced change in the priorities of their obligations, including how lower ranked Sea Folk feel about it.


Dida said...

Nice overall summary, Linda. =o)

Though I myself wouldn't claim that any Sea Folk, whether Windfinder or not, is descended from Aes Sedai. It's implied the Sea Folk Clans were once Da'Shain Aiel, as the Aiel Clans and Tinkers once were in the 2nd Age too.

Aiel Wise Ones are channelers, but there not descended from Aes Sedai but Da'shain Aiel. Likewise there are a few Da'Shain descended Tinkers who later became Aes Sedai channelers. If Sea Folk Windfinders a group were descended from Aes Sedai, why did twenty Windfinders sweat in Ebou Dar?

Nynaeve, Elayne, Thom, Juilin once all received the 'gift of passage' from Tear to Tanchico for nothing in return. It truly was a 'gift'. That particular course of action by a Sea Folk Sailmistress was paid for from Coine din Jubai Wild Wind's own personal account. Coine turned down up to 3,000 gold crowns to instead freely serve those who follow the Coramoor.

“Sailmistress, we have offered you a gift of passage, if it pleases you. If it does not, may I ask what would?”

Coine came back to the table to look at the letter-of-rights again, then pushed it back to Nynaeve. “I do this for the Coramoor. I will see you safe ashore where you wish, if it pleases the Light. It shall be done.” She touched the fingers of her right hand to her lips. “It is agreed, under the Light.”

Source: The Shadow Rising, Chapter 19 "The Wavedancer" - Elayne point of view, with Nynaeve, Windfinder Jorin & Sailmistress Coine.

It is implied by Coine's interpretation of the Jendai Prophecy that the Sea Folk must serve the Coramoor at his coming.

Bluntly, the Mistress of Ships Zaida was put in a absolutely horrible position serve the Coramoor and follow the Jendai Prophecy or break that same Jendai Prophecy, Sea Folk Clans Bargain with the Coramoor and instead attempt to save the remaining Amayar?

Zaida wanted a compromise, she wanted to be able to keep both Bargains. It's as if the Sea Folk Clans were suddenly technically insolvent because their cash flow dried up. There are only so many Windfinders, ships to go around, and the Coramoor claimed every single one of them.

Linda said...

It's implied the Amayar were once Da'shain Aiel, not the Sea Folk.