Friday, October 29, 2010

Analysis of Minor Characters #7: Vanin

By Linda

Vanin is a mirror of Mat, just as Gaul is of Perrin. He is the older version of what Mat would like to be: a scruffy anti-noble master horseman and thief, a good fighter who avoids both fighting and work as much as possible.

There’s quite a bit of hero worshipping in Mat’s attitude to Vanin at first:

Dripping sweat, Chel Vanin reined his dun gelding in before Mat. In a rough gray coat that fit his balding bulk like a sack, he sat his saddle like a sack, too. Vanin was fat, and no getting around it. Yet improbable as it seemed, he could ride anything ever born, and he was very good at what he did.
Long before they reached Maerone, Mat had surprised Nalesean, Daerid and Talmanes by asking for the names of the best poachers and horse thieves among their men, the ones they knew were guilty but could not prove anything against…
Those seven men he took aside and told that he needed scouts, and that a good scout used much the same skills as a poacher or horse thief. Ignoring fervent denials that they had ever committed any crime whatsoever—more from each than from Talmanes and Nalesean combined, and just as eloquent if far coarser— he offered pardons for any thefts done before that day, triple pay and no work details as long as they reported the truth. And a hanging for the first lie; a lot of men could die from a scout's lie. Even with the threat they leaped at it, probably more for less work than for the extra silver…
The last, named by all three just before him, had been Chel Vanin, an Andoran who had lived in Maerone but ranged wide on both sides of the Erinin. Vanin could steal a hen pheasant's eggs without disturbing her on the nest, though it was unlikely he would fail to put her in the sack too. Vanin could steal a horse out from under a nobleman without the nobleman knowing it for two days. Or so his recommenders claimed in tones of awe. With a gap-toothed smile and a look of utter innocence on his round face, Vanin had protested he was a stableman and sometime farrier, when he could find work. But he would take the job for four times the Band's normal pay. So far, he had been more than worth it.

- Lord of Chaos, Heading South

They had advance scouts out, of course, but none of them were as good as Vanin. Despite his size, the man could sneak close enough to an enemy fortification to count the whiskers in the camp guards' beards and never be seen. He'd probably make off with their stew, too.

- The Gathering Storm, On a Broken Road

Vanin can spy out the lay of the land anywhere, avoid detection by Warders and yet detect them in turn, and according to Siuan, find out things before she puts them under his nose (Lord of Chaos, A Sudden Chill and The Colour of Trust).

Mat recognises Vanin as a fellow trickster figure, just as he did the similarly named Verin. Verin and Vanin are both disregarded because of their weight and their innocuous facades, Verin’s being prattling and Vanin’s sleepy.

Like Mat, Vanin is naturally scruffy:

His coat appeared to have been slept in for a week; it always did, even an hour after one of the serving women ironed it.

- A Crown of Swords, The Triumph of Logic

It’s a sign that they don’t follow the rules.

Vanin spits on the ground when he hears or speaks of something he doesn’t like, just as Mat spits on his hand when making a bargain. Along with their untidy appearance, spitting reflects the earthiness typical of tricksters (more on this in a forthcoming Trickster essay).

Vanin, like Mat, respects his skin too much to fight, although he is skilled when he does: he

was the only man who had not been in two dozen scrapes already; for some reason, men looking for trouble walked as wide of Vanin as they did Nalesean. The only difference was that Vanin seemed to like it that way.

- A Crown of Swords, The Triumph of Logic

Mat, too, avoids fights unless forced. Both men also avoid work; Vanin usually sleeping whenever possible:

Vanin sat up on his barrel, looked around, found nothing moving, and settled himself back again with his eyes shut.

- A Crown of Swords, A Note From the Palace

The men were all waiting in the Redarms' long room near the stables, everyone on their feet except Vanin, who lay sprawled on one of the beds with his fingers laced over his belly. Vanin said a man had to take rest when he could.

- A Crown of Swords, Promises to Keep

or perhaps reading:

Vanin, a balding suety heap, was lying on one in his shirtsleeves, an open book propped on his chest. Mat was surprised the man could read.

- Winter’s Heart, Pink Ribbons

He has even tricked the Band into permitting this indolence:

And with Vanin, too, but Vanin possessed skills that he considered put him above raising tents, and the Redarms agreed with only a little reluctance.

- Crossroads of Twilight, A Cluster of Rosebuds

Vanin and Mat both regard horses at least as highly as, if not higher than, people, perhaps because they so often take advantage of the latter.

Mat himself points out that Vanin has not stolen a horse since Mat has known him (Knife of Dreams, Dragon’s Eggs). Instead it is Juilin the thief catcher who has stolen something for Mat!

Tricksters like to reverse the roles of people, and are no respecters of rank. Vanin managed to extract information from an Aes Sedai (women notoriously unforthcoming with information) about mountain passes, which helps him move secretly from one country to another. He doesn’t like nobles or acknowledging their rank - at least until Elayne charmed him.

This caused the first cracks in Mat’s admiration for Vanin:

There was no "my lord" nonsense from Vanin. He made no bones about not liking nobles. With the unfortunate exception of Elayne.

- A Crown of Swords, The Triumph of Logic

The day Mat saw Vanin knuckle his forehead to her, heard him murmur, "Thank you, my Lady," without a trace of irony, that day Mat nearly swallowed his tongue.

- Lord of Chaos, The Wandering Woman

Vanin shifted his feet, shook his head. "A waste of time," he said flatly. "Lady Elayne would never go anywhere like that. The Aiel woman maybe, or Birgitte, but not Lady Elayne."
Mat closed his eyes for a moment. How had Elayne managed to ruin a good man in so short a time? He kept hoping that enough time away from her influence would set Vanin right, but he was beginning to lose hope.

- Lord of Chaos, Weave of the Power

and Mat was disappointed in Vanin when he was intimidated by Joline:

"What was this?" Joline demanded of Vanin. "You've finally determined where we are?"
"Bloody well have," Vanin said, then unabashedly scratched himself. Good man, Vanin. Mat smiled. Treated all people the same, Vanin did. Aes Sedai and all.
Joline stared Vanin straight in the eyes, looming like a gargoyle atop some lord's mansion stonework. Vanin actually cringed, then wilted, then finally looked downward, abashed. "I mean, I have indeed, Joline Sedai."
Mat felt his smile fade. Burn it all, Vanin!

- The Gathering Storm, On a Broken Road

Vanin’s susceptibility to seasickness also probably lowered him in Mat’s eyes:

Vanin bringing up the rear and staring gloomily at the choppy river; he claimed to have a tender belly when it came to boats.

- A Crown of Swords, Six Stories

It’s such an unheroic weakness.

Finally there’s a turnabout where, far from being admirable in Mat’s eyes, Vanin fears losing status or annoying Mat. After fully informing Talmanes of events in Altara, he stayed clear of Mat to avoid being told off:

The two riders slowed to a walk short of Mat, and Vanin reined in to let Talmanes approach alone. It was not shyness. There was nothing shy about Vanin. He leaned lazily on the tall pommel of his saddle and spat to one side through a gap in his teeth. No, he knew Mat would not be best pleased, and he meant to stay clear.
"Vanin brought me up to date. Mat," Talmanes said.

- Knife of Dreams, Attending Elaida

Vanin was particularly defensive about having to use the map-maker’s maps to guide them into Murandy:

"Vanin! Where on the Dark One's blistered backside are we?"
The fat former horsethief looked up. He rode a short distance behind Mat, and he carried a map of the area unrolled and folded across a board so he could read it in the saddle. He'd been poring over the bloody thing the better half of the morning. Mat had asked him to get them through Murandy quietly, not get them lost in the mountains for months!
"That's Blinder's Peak," Vanin said, gesturing with a pudgy finger toward a flat-topped mountain just barely visible over the tips of the pines. "At least, I think it is. It might be Mount Sardlen."...
The map belonged to the master mapmaker; it was only because of his presence that they'd been able to find this roadway in the first place. But Vanin insisted on being the one to guide the troop—a mapmaker wasn't the same thing as a scout. You didn't have a dusty cartographer ride out and lead the way for you, Vanin insisted...
Of course, there was also the fact that Vanin seemed threatened by the presence of the mapmaker, as if he were worried about being unseated from his position guiding Mat and the Band. Mat had never expected such an emotion from the overweight horsethief. It might have been enough to make him amused if they weren't lost so much of the flaming time.

- The Gathering Storm, On a Broken Road

lest he lose his privileges and just be an ordinary member of the Band.

So will Vanin fade into the Band, or will he regain his prominence with some skilful trickery or thieving?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Towers of Midnight Chapter 2 Discussion

By Linda

My discussion on Questions of Leadership, Chapter 2 of Towers of Midnight, available for free in audio form on has been posted here. It contains spoilers. Chapter 2 follows on directly from the Prologue so if you haven’t read that not click the link.

I was using jump breaks to hide spoilers in home page posts, but have discovered that these don't work on all the RSS feeds.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Part #15 of Costume of the Wheel of Time

By Linda

The costume style of Illian was added to the Wheel of Time Costume article today. It is typical of 18th to 19th century Western Europe.

One of the pitures in this section is of a woman in blue that reminded me of Moiraine with her keseira wearing an Illianer dress.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Analysis of Minor Characters #6: Aludra

By Linda

As Mistress of the Illuminators’ Chapter House in Cairhien, Aludra was very much monarch of all she surveyed. She strikes me as being rather rough to work for, distrustful of her employees:

"All is in readiness, you say?" the woman demanded. "You are certain, Tammuz? All?"
The man spread his hands. "Always you check behind me, Aludra. All is in readiness. The display, it could be given this very moment."
"The gates and doors, they are all barred? All of the. . . ?"

- The Great Hunt, The Shadow in the Night

and peremptory in her judgement:

"I am not to blame for this, Aludra," the man protested. "I have been sure to put everything where it belonged, and the punks, they were - "
"You will not speak to me, Tammuz! A great pig does not deserve to speak like a human!" Aludra's voice changed in answer to another man's question. "There is no time to prepare another. Galldrian, he must be satisfied with the rest for tonight. And one early. And you, Tammuz! You will set everything right, and tomorrow you will leave with the carts to buy the manure. Does anything else go wrong this night, I will not trust you again even with so much as the manure!"

- The Great Hunt, The Shadow in the Night

although we don’t know if she had cause to treat Tammuz harshly.

The checkpoint she sets up in Mat’s camp in The Gathering Storm which applied even to Mat is partly a symptom of this, but also a safety measure since she is dealing with dangerous substances.

Aludra was held responsible for the destruction in Cairhien and cast out of the Guild. She become a vagabond, since she had no money, and to keep herself from starving she made and sold fireworks – which have a limited market in times of chaos and famine. This became known to the Guild and they sent Tammuz and three others to kill her, ostensibly for betraying Guild secrets, but actually for violating their sole production and marketing rights.

The Guild’s secrecy and exclusivity is why fireworks have not become widespread and/or used as weapons.

No longer bound by Guild activities, Aludra is free to innovate as much as she wants. Moreover she also escapes the Seanchan’s enslavement of the Illuminators, a punishment that resulted from Guild secrecy:

“The Guild doesn't exist anymore, Aludra. The chapter house in Tanchico is gone...They refused to let Seanchan soldiers inside the compound, and fought, tried to, when they broke in anyway. I don't know what happened—maybe a soldier took a lantern where he shouldn't have—but half the compound exploded, as I understand it. Probably exaggeration. But the Seanchan believed one of the Illuminators used the One Power, and they..." He sighed, and tried to make his voice gentle. Blood and ashes, he did not want to tell her this! But she was glaring at him, that bloody club poised to split his scalp. "Aludra, the Seanchan gathered up everyone left alive at the chapter house, and some Illuminators that had gone to Amador, and everybody in between who even looked like an Illuminator, and they made them all da'covale…

- Winter’s Heart, In Need of a Bellfounder

and is now apparently the sole free Illuminator.

Aludra is defensive about violating Guild rules:

“I do not tell the secrets of the Guild, no matter what that Tammuz says, but I will not let myself starve while I can make fireworks. I am no more in the Guild, so the laws of the Guild, they do not apply to me now.”

- The Dragon Reborn, A Hero in the Night

Yet she is still loyal despite being cast out and hasn’t succumbed to Mat’s repeated pressure:

"In any event," she went on, unaware of his scrutiny, "I will not give you the Guild secrets. You must understand this, yes?"
Mat winced. He had been working on her for days to bring her to this point, ever since a chance visit to Valan Luca's traveling show revealed that she was here in Ebou Dar, and all the while he had dreaded that she would mention the Illuminators' Guild. "But you aren't an Illuminator anymore, remember? They kicked ... ah ... you said you left the Guild."

- Winter’s Heart, In Need of a Bellfounder

Aludra has been well and truly enmeshed in trickster Mat’s ta’veren. At first out of obligation to Mat:

“This is like a story,” she said. “I am rescued by a gleeman and a young hero” - she frowned at the men sprawled on the stable floor - “from these whose mothers were pigs!...I must reward you, but I have no money. However, I have something that is perhaps as good as gold. Maybe better. We shall see what you think.”
… “Fireworks,” Thom said. “I knew it. Aludra, you must not do this. You can sell those for enough to live ten days or more at a good inn, and eat well every day. Well, anywhere but here in Aringill.”
Kneeling beside the long strip of oiled cloth, she sniffed at him. “Be quiet, you old one you.” She made it sound not unkindly. “I am not allowed to show gratitude? You think I would give you this if I had no more for selling? Attend me closely.”

- The Dragon Reborn, A Hero in the Night

By saving Aludra Mat repays her for some of damage Rand did to her life. He appreciates her lack of greed:

She had never even looked at the gold and silver that had spilled from his pockets when he fell; it glittered and sparkled among the straw in the lantern light. Ah, Light, I cannot let her go hungry, I suppose. He scooped up as much as he could reach quickly. “Uh . . . Aludra? I have plenty, you can see. I thought perhaps . . . ” He held out the coins toward her. “I can always win more.”
She paused with her cloak half around her shoulders, then smiled at Thom as she swept it the rest of the way on. “He is young yet, eh?”
“He is young,” Thom agreed. “And not half so bad as he would like to think himself. Sometimes he is not.”

- The Dragon Reborn, A Hero in the Night

but later he is plain manipulative:

Most women were more amenable after a few kisses...
"No," she said, suddenly brisk. "You will go, and return in two or three days. I have the work to do, and you are too distracting with all of your questions and wheedling. No; no arguments! You will go now."

- Winter’s Heart, In Need of a Bellfounder

Mat attempted to make Aludra relent, but the woman might as well have been cast bronze herself. Well, she was considerably softer than bronze once she finally let him put an arm around her, yet kisses that left her trembling did nothing to slacken her resolve.
"Me, I do not believe in telling a man more than he needs to know," she said breathlessly, sitting beside him on a padded bench in her wagon. She allowed no more than kisses, but she was very enthusiastic about those.

- Winter’s Heart, An Offer

The theme of secrets is important in the Aludra-Mat-Thom relationship:

“I would like to know something, Aludra,” Thom said. “How did you light that lantern so quickly in the dark?”
Stopping short of the door, she smiled over her shoulder at him. “You wish me to tell you all of my secrets? I am grateful, but I am not in love. That secret, not even the Guild knows, for it is my discovery alone. I will tell you this much. When I know how to make it work properly, and work only when I want it to, sticks will make my fortune for me.”

- The Dragon Reborn, A Hero in the Night

Aludra is aware of people’s desire to know her secrets but she won’t divulge unless she is in love ( and presumably to someone who loves her). In the end she is prepared to do so if Mat solves the puzzle she has set - because she does love him

She [Aludra] eyed him, looking just faintly uncomfortable. Because of Tuon, he suspected...

Aludra was staring at him. Their eyes met for a moment, and Mat realized he'd probably been too curt with her. Maybe he was uncomfortable around her. A little. They'd been getting close before Tuon. And was that pain, hidden in Aludra's eyes?
"I'm sorry, Aludra," he said. "I shouldn't have talked like that."
She shrugged.
He took a deep breath. "Look, I know that . . . well, it's odd how Tuon—"
She waved a hand, cutting him off. "It is nothing. I have my dragons. You have brought me the chance to create them. Other matters are no longer of concern. I wish you happiness."
"Well," he said. He rubbed his chin, then sighed. Best to just let it pass.

- The Gathering Storm, Legends

but Mat avoids being responsible for manipulating her into telling her secrets while leaving her love unrequited by taking her with him - he’s a married man now.

"I suppose now you want to learn how to make the secret powders, yes? Well. 1 did promise. I am the Guild, now," she added bitterly, removing the box's lid. It was an odd box. a solid piece of wood drilled with holes, each of which held a thin stick. She plucked out one and replaced the lid. "I can decide what is secret."
"Better than that, I want you to come with me."

- Knife of Dreams, Dragons’ Eggs

Early in her exile Aludra realised that she could keep her secrets and the Guild’s so long as she sells her products. Of course once explosives, artillery and matches are produced and used on a large scale they cannot be kept secret anymore.

Thom kept Aludra’s secret that they had met before (Lord of Chaos, The Colour of Trust) and Thom has plenty of secrets of his own.

Mat has his secrets too: that he has his eye on another woman, that he knows the Dragon Reborn, and that he has other peoples’ memories, which will help him deploy these weapons to advantage.

Ironically Aludra nearly reveals too much to the Seanchan much to Mat’s annoyance:

"Are you ready. Aludra?" Mat called.
"Of course I am ready," she replied. "I only wish I had my dragons!" Musenge shifted his attention to her. Burn her, she needed to watch her tongue! Mat wanted those dragons to be a shock when the Seanchan first faced them.

- Knife of Dreams, Prince of the Ravens

Aludra’s work as an engineer and the development and usage of gunpowder and artillery are discussed in the Mat, Fireworks and Bellfounders article and space does not permit me to repeat them here. We see her develop matches and work up and cost her designs for cannon and grenades. At no time does she use any protective clothing.

Mat says that:

Aludra had not come up with a fancy name for them yet. She would, though. She was one for fancy names. Dragons, and dragons' eggs.

- Knife of Dreams, Prince of the Ravens

which made me smile. In my experience, most engineers are not very good at making up names for their creations.

Aludra is focused on making the Seanchan pay for destroying the Illuminators’ Guild:

"The Guild has been my life since I was a girl." She scraped one of the sticks quickly down the side of the box, and the thing sputtered into flame! It smelled of sulphur. "The dragons, they are my life now. The dragons, and revenge on the Seanchan."

- Knife of Dreams, Dragons’ Eggs

She was a fierce woman, Aludra was, and none too pleased at finding herself on the same side as Seanchan, however temporary the arrangement was. It seemed wrong to her that they would see some of her handiwork without being on the receiving end.

- Knife of Dreams, Prince of the Ravens

and has no qualms about developing the weapons’ destructive potential to the fullest, eg the shrapnel grenades which kill and injure horses.

Ironically the means she will use to get her revenge, exploiting the explosive properties of fireworks, pretty much ensures the end of the Guild as an exclusive holder and exploiter of this knowledge anyway.

The Seanchan mistakenly see fireworks only as an inferior version of Sky Lights:

"Listen, Aludra," he said, assuming his most winning smile, "by this time you must know the Seanchan won't look twice at fireworks. Those damane do something called Sky Lights that makes your best fireworks look like a few sparks flying up the chimney, so I hear. No offense meant."

- Winter’s Heart, In Need of a Bellfounder

Why had Toy brought her along? Surely not for her fireworks. Those were pretty enough, but they could not compare with Sky Lights performed by even a half-trained damane.

- Knife of Dreams, As If the World Were Fog

and therefore no competition for channelling. Well I guess they will discover their error soon enough.

Aludra says:

"My dragons, they will be a great power for a man of war."

- The Gathering Storm, Legends

and Mat certainly is that. Mat aims to use cannon to give himself and the Band the means to fight channellers and survive their attacks:

Mat whistled through his teeth, seeing it in his head, explosions erupting among the enemy before they were near enough to see you clearly. A nasty thing to be receiving. Now that would be as good as having Aes Sedai on your side, or some of those Asha'man. Better. Aes Sedai had to be in danger to use the Power as a weapon, and while he had heard rumors about hundreds of Asha'man, rumors grew with every telling. Besides, if Asha'man were anything like Aes Sedai, they would start deciding where they were needed and then take over the whole fight. He began envisioning how to use Aludra's bronze tubes, and right away he spotted a glaring problem. All your advantage was gone if the enemy came from the wrong direction, or got behind you, and if you needed derricks to move these things. . . .

The Band was going to end up fighting Seanchan, and most likely Trollocs as well. And he would be there when it happened. There was no getting around the fact. Try to avoid it how he would, that bloody ta'veren twisting would put him right in the bloody middle. So he was ready to pour out gold like water if it gave him a way to kill his enemies before they got close enough to poke holes in his hide.

- Knife of Dreams, Dragons’ Eggs

Mat and Aludra discuss cannon while setting off fireworks – a public declaration of war.

Mat doesn’t appreciate Aludra’s gift of her work except in how he can keeps his own skin whole.

Let me assure you, each one we finish will be worth a thousand swords in battle."

- The Gathering Storm, Legends

"A miracle, that is what you asked me for, Matrim Cauthon," she replied, handing her nightflower to Leilwin and picking up her writing board. She made some notations on the sheet strapped to the front. "That miracle, I have broken down into a list of ingredients. A feat which is in itself miraculous, yes? Do not complain of the heat when someone offers you the sun in the palm of her hands."
"Doesn't seem so manageable to me," Mat muttered, mostly to himself. "Is this figure the costs?"

- The Gathering Storm, Legends

and complains about how much money, labour and material it will take. Greedily he pushed for even more from her:

"By the way, I nearly forgot. Do you know anything about crossbows, Aludra?"
"Crossbows?" she asked.
"Yes," Mat said, stacking the papers. "I figure there should be a way to make them load faster. You know, like those new cranks, only maybe with some kind of spring or something. Maybe a crank you could twist without having to lower the weapon first."
"This is hardly my area of expertise, Mat," Aludra said.
"I know. But you're smart about things like this, and maybe. . . ."
"You will have to find someone else," Aludra said, turning to pick up another half-finished nightflower. "I am far too busy."

- The Gathering Storm, Legends

but Aludra is done with being used by him.

Naval captain Egeanin realised the potential of Aludra’s work and objected to Mat’s lack of appreciation:

"Mistress Aludra is brilliant," Leilwin said sternly. "You don't understand the gift she is giving you in these plans. Why, if the Empire had these weapons. . . ."

- The Gathering Storm, Legends

This makes Mat boldly ask for Aludra to hand her plans to him, and she sarcastically says he must keep them with his money so that maybe then he will give the plans care and attention.

It will be interesting to see what happens when Mat and Aludra finally meet members of the Rose Academy in Caemlyn. If they do.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Towers of Midnight Newer News

By Linda

My copy of Towers of Midnight just arrived! Here is the title page:

and the Dedication

Both are lovely gestures.

Many thanks to TOR and Team Jordan.

And now to read. And take notes. :)

Towers of Midnight news

By Linda

Chapter 2 of Tower of Midnight, Questions of Leadership, is now available for free in audio format from here. Be warned that it contains spoilers for the Prologue. I hope to post a discussion of the chapter early next week.

A few spoiler free reviews of Towers of Midnight are up:

Jason Denzel’s

Leigh Butler’s and

Matt Hatch’s

I’m a little behind for various reasons, including not having the book yet, but I should have mine posted next week.

The Tower of Midnight book tour schedule:

Tuesday, November 2nd – Midnight (doors open 9 PM)
BYU Bookstore
Wilkinson Student Center (WSC) / University Hill (Brigham Young University)
Provo, Utah 84602

Tuesday, November 2nd – 7:00 PM
Barnes & Noble Booksellers
1725 Arden Way
Sacramento, CA 95815
*With special guests Harriet McDougal and Jason Denzel

Wednesday, November 3rd - 7:00 PM
Joseph-Beth Booksellers
2692 Madison Rd
Cincinnati, OH 45208
*With special guest Harriet McDougal

Thursday, November 4th - 7:00 PM
10720 Preston Road, Suite 1018
Dallas, TX 75230
*With special guest Harriet McDougal

Friday, November 5th – 7:00 PM
Books A Million
7000 Arundel Mills Cir
Hanover, MD 21076-1282
*With special guest Harriet McDougal

Saturday, November 6th – 2:00 PM
5871 Crossroads Center Way
Baileys Crossroads, VA 22041
*With special guest Harriet McDougal

Sunday, November 7th - 3:00 PM
The Harvard Coop
1400 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
*With special guest Harriet McDougal

Monday, November 8th - 7:30 PM
Barnes & Noble Booksellers – Lincoln Triangle
1972 Broadway
New York, NY 10023
*With special guests Harriet McDougal, Maria Simons and Alan Romanczuk

Finally, the Tower Guard volunteers for the signing tour have been selected and are listed here. Congrats to all Chosen Ones!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Part #14 of Costume of the Wheel of Time

By Linda

The costume spotlight is on Gleemen this week with a discussion of their distinctive cloak added to the Wheel of Time Costume article. The garment is far more than self-advertising, indicating their independent and itinerant lifestyle.

The section is unusual in containing photos of recently handmade pieces in historic styles. Many thanks to my friends Annette and Robin for the loan of photos of their works.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Analysis of Minor Characters #5: Balwer

By Linda

Sebban Balwer is an interesting character with surprising depths. While there’s definitely more to him than he lets on, let’s start with the surface.

In appearance he is narrow, pinched and dry. He is described as bird-like, or as unnoticeable as a lizard on a branch (Knife of Dreams, As If the World Were Fog). There is little physical aspect to him; he doesn’t do much except listen, remember and draw conclusions.

Balwer strikes me as a guy who realised he would physically never impress and therefore uses his unassuming appearance and peoples’ stereotypes or beliefs to advantage against people. Morgase, for instance, thought:
What help could this prissy little stick of a man offer?

- A Crown of Swords, The Irrevocable Words

This anonymity is a major reason why Niall employed Balwer:

A man no one would ever suspect, or credit if he was named to them.

- Lord of Chaos, Plans

Valda completely fell for it and, always a good recommendation, believed Balwer useless.

Balwer’s dryness extends to his character; he is fussy and disapproving. Perrin thinks Balwer’s feelings lack passion. He can certainly hate or be suspicious, but in a cold manner. Perhaps Balwer shows most feeling when slighted: he doesn’t, or can’t, suppress his body language, although he can control his face:

His secretary's face remained as prim as ever, but he began dry-washing his hands the way he did when he felt insulted.

- Lord of Chaos, Plans

On his own recommendation, Balwer possesses a good memory and writes elegantly, is adept at shaping himself to his employer’s needs and keeps secrets well. (In fact the word secret-ary originally meant keeper of secrets.) Perrin would add that Balwer has a sharp mind, and a sharp tongue with underlings or equals.

Balwer finds as many secrets as he can; he is always gathering information. He takes pride in his skill at it, and, like Moridin, doesn’t like to admit he has failed to find out something:

For a moment Balwer's mouth tightened as though drawstrings had been pulled shut. "I do not know yet, my Lord." Balwer never liked admitting there were any human secrets he could not ferret out.

- Lord of Chaos, Plans

If you nearly always succeed, it’s hard to accept not doing so.

His reports are succinct and entirely verbal; he appears to writing nothing down, unlike, say Norry.

As well as shaping himself to his situation, Balwer has tried to shape his masters but has been less successful at that: neither Niall nor Perrin responded much. However, Balwer did teach Perrin the value of knowledge:

One thing he had learned from Balwer. Knowledge could be very useful, and you never knew which scrap would turn out worth more than gold.

- Knife of Dreams, A Manufactory

and evidence. Balwer does not believe anything without evidence:

Perrin could not prove Masema’s meetings with the Seanchan, and telling anyone how he had learned of them would only add to his present difficulties. That gave Balwer problems; he was a man who liked evidence.

- Crossroads of Twilight, The Forging of a Hammer

Niall…suspected the Tar Valon witches' sins were among the things Balwer did not believe in.

- Lord of Chaos, Plans

Where Omerna believed everything, Balwer believed nothing, perhaps not even in Darkfriends, or the Dark One. If Balwer did believe in anything, it was looking over men's shoulders, listening to their whispers, rooting out their secrets. Of course, he would have served any master as well as he did Niall, but that was all to the good. What Balwer learned was never tainted by what he knew had to be true, or wanted to be true. Disbelieving everything, he always managed to root out truth.

- Lord of Chaos, Plans

Disbelieving everything, he suspects everyone:

According to him, what your friends said and did could be as interesting as what your enemies planned, and that was when you were sure they were your friends.

- Crossroads of Twilight, When to Wear Jewels

and wants to know what they think and do. Even his boss Niall:

Balwer's eyes never left Niall's face by so much as a flicker, but Niall knew the tiny ball of paper on the floor would end up in the man's hands unless he burned it.

- Lord of Chaos, Plans

This is what led him to spying.

Thanks to Perrin’s ta’veren effect, we learn a little about Balwer’s recruiting methods:

“The lady will do very well, my Lord,” Balwer said softly, watching Selande vanish into the darkness among the carts. This approval was a surprise; he had tried to talk Perrin out of using Selande and her friends on the grounds they were hotheaded and unreliable. “She has the necessary instincts. Cairhienin do, usually, and Tairens to some extent, at least the nobles, especially once—“He cut off abruptly, and eyed Perrin cautiously. If he were another man, Perrin would have believed he had said more than he intended, but he doubted Balwer slipped in that fashion.

- Crossroads of Twilight, The Forging of a Hammer

It sounds like Balwer puts pressure on people in some way to spy, or at least pulls the nobles into line. He has no qualms about ordering nobles to report (Crossroads of Twilight, The Forging of a Hammer).

Amusingly Balwer judged Cha Faile on first impressions, until he discovered that they were already a spy ring.

More than once Perrin remarks that Balwer can look after himself. Balwer is never afraid either, even though the rest of Morgase’s group are. Can or does he use weapons? Or does he rely solely on his admittedly effective camouflage? Perhaps focussing on gathering information prevents fear.

Perrin remarks on how quietly Balwer moves as well as how easily he can be disregarded, so presumably he gathers some information by lurking.

Perrin has not figured out why Balwer gives his reports privately. One reason is that it’s Perrin’s responsibility who is told what and the consequences of this (eg Aram passing info on to Masema). It’s not Balwer’s fault if Perrin is indiscreet or tells someone who is indiscreet. Moreover, Balwer of all people knows how information can change just in one telling, whether deliberately or accidentally.

Is Balwer’s pretence that he isn’t a spymaster harmless, as Perrin thinks? Obviously the more people who know what Balwer does, the more they are on their guard and the harder his job is.

When he worked for Niall, Balwer didn’t just collect information, he spread propaganda and arranged rebellions and deals:

  • Balwer learned that King Mattin Stepaneos, despite pretending to accept Niall’s proposal, agreed to something with the White Tower, though he didn’t learn what (Lord of Chaos, Plans). (This was to go to the Tower.)

  • He was told that Davram Bashere is in Caemlyn with thirty thousand light horse, but thought more likely half that or less. (Actually it was less than one third).

  • He also knew the Borderlanders were fighting over whether Rand was the Dragon Born and they hadn’t resolves this as of Lord of Chaos.

  • In Tear, Balwer's agents had convinced Tedosian and Estanda to join Darlin, turning a show of defiance into real rebellion, and the man was confident the same could be done in Cairhien, and in Andor.

    - Lord of Chaos, Plans

More recently, after Malden, Balwer wanted to interrogate the Shaido Wise Ones, and did obtain information from the Shaido and Brotherless captives:

"Well, my Lord, there is much of great interest to learn. For instance, it appears that many of the Shaido are ashamed of their clan's behavior. The Wise Ones themselves were at odds. Also, they have had dealings with some very curious individuals who offered them objects of power from the Age of Legends. Whoever they were, they could make gateways...The 'objects' the Shaido were given are very suspect, by my estimation. The Aiel were duped, though for what reason, I cannot yet fathom. However, if we had more time to search the city. ..."

- The Gathering Storm, Leaving Malden

He openly regretted that Perrin allowed the Seanchan to take the Shaido damane and suggested questions for the Wise Ones be sent to the Seanchan. He anticipates no trouble getting information out of the Aiel.

Niall thinks Balwer has the suspicious nature of an Amadician, but lacks the manipulative or strategic skill of a Cairhienin:

"Enough, Balwer." Niall sighed. Sometimes he wished Balwer were not an Amadician, but a Cairhienin who had taken in the Game of Houses with his mother's milk. "Morgase is more committed to me every day, whatever she believes.

- Lord of Chaos, Plans

Considering that Perrin saw through Balwer, Niall was probably right.

With his empirical, pragmatic beliefs and his preparedness to disregard rank, Balwer is more modern than many of the other characters – post the Age of Enlightenment in outlook. In the Wheel of Time society it is unusual for a commoner to command nobles. He does allow them to make their reports to Perrin personally. Is this a sop to their honour? Or morale? Or to make sure Perrin listens?

Balwer accepts the rules and structure of society. However he is not ideologically or emotionally tied to any employer as say, Thom and Norry are. Nor is he after personal recognition:

Omerna he put up with, knowing the man a fool, much preferring to remain hidden himself, but he did not like Niall receiving reports that bypassed him, from men he did not know.

- Lord of Chaos, Plans

And probably not material gain, since Perrin never thinks of how much he’s paying Balwer.

His motivation appears to be job satisfaction in solving puzzles or knowing what’s really happening, personal achievement, and influence over important people. Like a Seeker, Balwer must know all.

That explains why he is a spymaster, but why did he free Morgase?

"Why? Master Balwer, I'll not shun any true offer of help, but why would you risk yourself? These Seanchan will make you regret it, should they find out."
"I laid my plans before they came," he said carefully. "It seemed... imprudent... to leave the Queen of Andor in Valda's hands. Consider it my way of repaying him. I know I am not much to look at, Majesty..." [appearances again]He hid a self-deprecating cough behind his hand. "... but the plan will work.

- A Crown of Swords, The Irrevocable Words

Spite? Justice for their murder of Niall? Like Teslyn with Elaida, part of his motivation is to do harm to Valda and Asunawa:

Valda is a dangerous man, and Rhadam Asunawa, the Grand Inquisitor, makes Valda seem pleasant. And I fear neither has any love for your own Lord. Forgive me." He bowed again, hesitated, then went on smoothly. "If I may say so, my Lord's display of Manetheren's banner is inspired. My Lord will be more than a match for Valda and Asunawa, if he takes care."
Watching him bow himself away, Perrin thought he knew part of Balwer's story now. Clearly, he also had run afoul of the Whitecloaks. That could take no more than being on the same street with them, a frown at the wrong time, but it seemed Balwer had a grudge.

- The Path of Daggers, Tangles

He attached himself to Perrin for the same reason: to help someone who could keep the Whitecloaks away and do harm to them.

Perrin might be the first employer Balwer could trust and feel attached to:

The man appreciated it when Perrin saw the value of what he reported.

- Winter’s Heart, Leaving the Prophet

But, Master Balwer, you’ve been trying to . . . guide . . . me to this since Selande left us. From now on, if you have a suggestion to make, make it. Even if I say no to nine in a row, I’ll always listen to a tenth. I’m not a clever man, but I’m willing to listen to people who are, and I think you are. Just don’t try poking me in the direction you want me to go. I don’t like that, Master Balwer.” Balwer blinked, then of all things, bowed with his hands folded at his waist. He smelled surprised. And gratified. Gratified? “As you say, my Lord. My previous employer disliked me suggesting actions unless I was asked. I won’t make the same mistake again, I assure you.” Eyeing Perrin, he seemed to reach a decision. “If I may say so,” he said carefully,“I have found serving you . . . pleasant . . . in ways I did not expect. You are what you seem, my Lord, with no poisoned needles hidden away to catch the unwary. My previous employer was known widely for cleverness, but I believe you are equally clever, in a different way. I believe I would regret leaving your service. Any man might say these things to keep his place, but I mean them.”...
“I see no reason for you to leave my employ. Just tell me what you want to do and let me decide, don’t try to prod. And forget the flattery.”
The little man bowed once more. He had never been this formal before.

- Crossroads of Twilight, The Forging of a Hammer

After this exchange, Balwer respects Perrin and also feels gratified to be valued by him as more than a tool.

Balwer believed what Perrin said, and noticeably speaks up after this:

"However, I grew curious. Did you have to let the Seanchan take all of the captive Shaido channelers with them?"

- The Gathering Storm, Leaving Malden

“I won't deny I would enjoy a chance to strike a blow at the Whitecloaks," Balwer said in that dry-as-dust voice, "but in truth I feel I owe this Galad Damodred a debt of gratitude." Perhaps his grudge was against this Valda personally. "In any case, you have no need of my advice here. Events are in motion in Malden, and if they weren't, I doubt you'd hold back even a day. Nor would I have advised it, my Lord. If I may be so bold, I am quite fond of the Lady Faile."

- Knife of Dreams, As If the World Were Fog

He speaks up about his feelings for Faile and Valda and is perhaps emotionally involved in employers for perhaps first time. He would never have said anything like this earlier in the books.

What does the future hold for Balwer? He feels like he owes Galad a debt of gratitude, so does he pay that debt? He probably would like working for Galad: a Cairhienin who is both just and predictable.

And then there is his disbelief in the Horn:

"Do you believe the Horn of Valere will call dead heroes back to save us, Balwer?"
"Perhaps, my Lord," Balwer said, folding his hands fussily. "Perhaps not. I would not count on it, myself."

- Lord of Chaos, Plans

Does he get to witness this event? He might well if he stays close to Perrin the Bannerman.

And finally there’s Perrin’s observation that

Balwer’s thin voice was dry and precise, just like its owner. He would sound the same with his neck on a headsman’s block.

- Crossroads of Twilight, The Forging of a Hammer

which sounds like Foreshadowing.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Wheel of Time Embroidery Collection #5: The Dragon Banner, Late Third Age

By Linda

After embroidering a series of Wheel of Time clothing samples, such as Rand’s cloak, and coat sleeves, red and black, I thought it would be fun to attempt the Dragon banner. The dragon being an important motif in Chinese decoration, this project fitted in with a study of Chinese embroidery that I’ve been making for a group exhibition.

We were given a good description of the banner when it was uncovered at the Eye of the World along with the Horn of Valere and a Seal:

A long, white banner spread out, lifting on the air. Rand could only stare. The whole thing seemed of a piece, neither woven, nor dyed, nor painted. A figure like a serpent, scaled in scarlet and gold, ran the entire length, but it had scaled legs, and feet with five long, golden claws on each, and a great head with a golden mane and eyes like the sun. The stirring of the banner made it seem to move, scales glittering like precious metals and gems, alive, and he almost thought he could hear it roar defiance.
"What is it?" he said.
Moiraine answered slowly. "The banner of the Lord of the Morning when he led the forces of Light against the Shadow. The banner of Lews Therin Telamon. The banner of the Dragon."

- The Eye of the World, There is Neither Beginning Nor End

It is no accident that the Creator’s champion is the Dragon, since in Chinese thought the dragon had supernatural power and was king of the elements and lord of nature, bringing the rains and making the land fertile. The five-clawed dragon also came to symbolise the Chinese Emperor, and so had supreme temporal power too, and this is the dragon depicted on the Dragon Banner. In the Age of Legends, Lews Therin could summon the Nine Rods of Dominion, which were actual people, so he effectively had ultimate authority. Like the dragon of Chinese mythology he had power over the great forces of nature through his immense strength in the One Power - as strong as a channeller could be. The Dragon is one with the Land and his wounds, physical or mental, become the Land’s wounds. If he is blighted, so is the Land.

Jordan’s Dragon also encompasses the European symbolism of the dragon as a destructive force making it much more ambivalent: born to save the world and Heal the Land, the Dragon is also a great danger to it, and despite his best intentions, does as much evil as good. To reflect this I decided to embroider the dragon in materials and stitches common to both European and Chinese cultures – satin, back, couching and straight stitches in silks and gold thread. However, I sewed the dragon’s body in needlelace of single buttonhole stitches hand-made in situ to give a scaly effect. Lace is entirely a European development. Chinese embroiderers typically would have used spirals of gold thread to symbolise the dragon’s scales.

The dragon symbol on the banner is in serpentine side view. I decided it should represent both dragons, Rand and Lews Therin, and reflect the danger of the times with the world completely out of balance and the Seals on the Dark One’s prison breaking. The banner was last seen at Falme when Rand fought Ishamael in the clouds. So on my version of the banner the dragon rushes through the clouds roaring triumphant defiance and clasping a Seal. He has blue eyes, like Rand’s, and red eyebrows, since Rand has red hair. Lightning crackles along his body.

The Seal on the banner is out of shape. Is the Dragon crushing it in his grip or holding it together?

Lews Therin urged Rand to break the Seal Taim presented him:

Only four seals stood between humankind and the Dark One. Four, if the last was still whole. Only four, standing between humankind and the Last Battle. How well did they still hold, weakened as they were?
Lews Therin's voice came up like thunder. Break it break them all must break them must must must break them all break them and strike must strike quickly must strike now break it break it break it....
Abruptly he heard the words he was muttering hoarsely. "Must break it now break them all break it break it break it." Abruptly he realized he had his hands over his head, holding the seal, ready to smash it to the white pavement.

- Lord of Chaos, A New Arrival

and he barely resisted doing so.

Cadsuane’s embroidery also focussed on the breaking of the Seals:

The major image on her piece of embroidery was finished, a man's hand clutching the ancient symbol of the Aes Sedai. Cracks ran across the black-and-white disc, and there was no telling whether the hand was trying to hold it together or crush it. She knew what she intended, but time would tell what was truth.

- The Path of Daggers, New Alliances

Now that we are nearly at the end of the series, it seems particularly timely to look at the Dragon Banner anew and remind ourselves too of the Seals, and I did so in the guise of this banner. The Heroes of the Horn must follow the Banner and the Dragon. Will the Seals be broken by Rand or the Dark One when they do so?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Towers of Midnight Chapter 1 Discussion

By Linda

My discussion on Apples First, Chapter 1 of Towers of Midnight, available for free on has been posted here. It contains spoilers. I was using jump breaks to hide spoilers in home page posts, but have discovered that these don't work on all the RSS feeds.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Analysis of Minor Characters #4: Pevara

By Linda

The Ajah vetting process is effective, since we’ve seen only a few women who have chosen the ‘wrong’ Ajah – Leane Sharif, Sierin Vayu, and the subject of today’s Minor Characters Analysis post.

Pevara Tazanovni is a Red who should have been Green. Her good friend Seaine believed Pevara chose the wrong Ajah:

It was sad that she had chosen Red, no matter how good her reasons, because she still liked men. The Red did attract women who were naturally suspicious of men, of course, but others chose it because the task of finding men who could channel was important. Whether they liked men, or disliked them, or did not care one way or the other in the beginning, however, not many women could belong to the Red for long without taking a jaundiced view of all men. Seaine had reason to believe Pevara had served a penance shortly after attaining the shawl for saying that she wished she had a Warder; since reaching the safer heights of the Hall, she had openly said Warders would make the Red Ajah's work easier.

- A Crown of Swords, Sealed to the Flame

Pevara is resistant to the Reds’ anti-men ethos and independent in her thinking, mostly due to these characteristics:

Seaine had always admired the other woman's strength of will, but really, sometimes it was pure stubbornness.

- The Path of Daggers, The Extra Bit

She has the bold courage Romanda says is the main requirement of a Green (and epitomised by, say, Elayne Trakand). Yukiri remarks on it:

“Let Talene go to this meeting,” she [Pevara] said. “We’ll all go. They won’t expect us. We can kill or capture them and decapitate the Black at a stroke. This Supreme Council must know the names of all of them. We can destroy the whole Black Ajah.”
Lifting an edge of the fringe on Pevara’s shawl with a slim hand, Yukiri frowned at it ostentatiously. “Yes, red. I thought it might have turned green when I wasn’t looking. There will be thirteen of them, you know.
Even if some of this ‘Council’ are out of the Tower, the rest will bring in sisters to make up the number.”
“I know,” Pevara replied impatiently. Talene had been a fount of information, most of it useless and much of it horrifying, almost more than they could take in. “We take everyone. We can order Zerah and the others to fight alongside us, and even Talene and that lot. They’ll do as they’re told.” In the beginning, she had been uneasy about that oath of obedience, but over time you could become accustomed to anything.
“So, nineteen of us against thirteen of them,” Yukiri mused, sounding much too patient. Even the way she adjusted her shawl radiated patience. “Plus whoever they have watching to make sure their meeting isn’t disturbed. Thieves are always the most careful of their purses.” That had the irritating sound of an old saying. “Best to call the numbers even at best, and probably favoring them. How many of us die in return for killing or capturing how many of them? More importantly, how many of them escape? Remember, they meet hooded. If just one escapes, then we won’t know who she is, but she’ll know us, and soon enough, the whole Black Ajah will know, too. It sounds to me less like chopping off a chicken’s head than like trying to wrestle a leopard in the dark.”

- Knife of Dreams, Prologue

and jokes that Pevara must be wearing a green shawl.

Traumatised by the Shadow’s murder of her family, Pevara chose the Ajah she thought would best enable her to uncover Darkfriends:

Pevara's eyes, as dark as her own were blue, became stone, and swept to the mantel above her fireplace, where miniatures of her own family made a precise line. They had all died while she was a novice, parents, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles and all, murdered in a quickly suppressed uprising of Darkfriends who had become convinced the Dark One was about to break free. That was why Seaine had been sure she could trust her. That was why Pevara had chosen Red—though Seaine still thought she could have done as well and been happier as a Green— because she believed a Red hunting men who could channel had the best chance of finding Darkfriends. She had been very good at it; that plump exterior covered a core of steel. And she possessed the courage to say calmly what Seaine had been unable to bring herself to utter.

- A Crown of Swords, Sealed to the Flame

The irony being that many of her fellow Reds are Darkfriends. The Red Ajah has a higher proportion of its numbers sworn to the Shadow compared to the other Ajahs. About 24% of the Black Ajah are Red, which is about 25% higher than would be expected, considering that Reds represent about 19% of the total Aes Sedai population.

Pevara has known for twenty years that the Black Ajah exists:

I have been sure the Black Ajah exists for...." Strangely, Pevara became hesitant, peering into her teacup like a fortune-teller at a fair. "What do you know of events right after the Aiel War?"
"Two Amyrlins dying suddenly in the space of five years," Seaine said carefully…"A great many sisters died in those years, as I recall. Do you mean to say you think the... the Black Ajah had a hand in that?" There; she had said it, and the name had not burned her tongue.
"I don't know," Pevara said softly, shaking her head "You've done well to wrap yourself deep in philosophy. There were ... things ... done then, and Sealed to the Flame."

- A Crown of Swords, Sealed to the Flame

It seems out of character for someone obsessed with finding Darkfriends to have not done anything about the Black Ajah when they suspected its existence. Perhaps the fact that the events in question were Sealed to the Flame, and therefore revealing them would be treason, a capital offence, stopped her. It appears to have stopped her explaining the matter to Seaine.

However, recent events are not under this stricture and Pevara is going to make the most of any information on the Black Ajah even if she is exiled:

“Before we give her to Elaida, Saerin, I want to dig out as much as we can.
Names, places, anything. Everything she knows!” Darkfriends had killed Pevara’s entire family, and Seaine was sure she would go into exile ready to hunt down every last Black sister personally.

- Winter’s Heart, Prologue

Green she perhaps should have been, but Pevara is totally loyal to her Ajah:

But could sending fifty-one sisters into captivity be called doing well? Could Dumai’s Wells, with four sisters dead and more than twenty delivered into another sort of captivity, to a ta’veren? No matter. Elaida was Red—had been Red—and far too long had passed since a Red gained the stole and staff. All the rash actions and ill-considered decisions seemed things of the past since the rebels appeared, and saving the Tower from the Black Ajah would redeem her failures.

- Knife of Dreams, Prologue

Nevertheless she is not Ajah-centric, and takes her responsibilities as a Sitter seriously for the good of the whole Tower:

But there were other matters she had to deal with. She was a Sitter, not simply a hunting dog. She had the White Tower to think of, and Aes Sedai far from the Tower. And the future.

- Crossroads of Twilight, One Answer

When not pushed too far by problems piling up as they did in Knife of Dreams Prologue, Pevara is a careful thinker; cautious and sceptical about who might be a Darkfriend, unlike Seaine, who would have recklessly told all to her friend Talene in The Path of Daggers, The Extra Bit had Pevara not persuaded her otherwise. Pevara realised the Healing of stilling and gentling and the Bonding of Aes Sedai by Asha’man changes their status completely. Tarna thought up the idea that the Reds should Bond Asha’man to bring them under control, but it was Pevara who immediately considered the practicalities of which Red sisters would do so (Knife of Dreams, Attending Elaida).

She was appalled by the parlous state of Tower unity:

Warders wearing swords and plainly guarding their Aes Sedai’s back, in the Tower. That was all too common, yet Pevara could have wept at it. Only, there were too many reasons for weeping to settle on one; instead she set about solving what she could.

- Knife of Dreams, Prologue

but did not let it overwhelm her. It is a pity that the Black Ajah hunters' efforts did not achieve more.

When not hunting Darkfriends Pevara is a kindly woman:

Quite plump and not tall—in truth, for a Kandori, she was short—Pevara was also quite pretty, with a merry twinkle in her dark eyes and a ready smile.

- A Crown of Swords, Sealed to the Flame

who is appalled at the harshness of Asha’man training:

Pevara resisted the instinct to think of him as equivalent to an Accepted and the other two as novices. Novices and Accepted were kept safe and guided until they knew enough of the Power to become Aes Sedai. By all reports, Soldiers and Dedicated were considered ready for battle almost as soon as they learned to channel. And they were forced from the first day, pressed to seize as much of saidin as they could, made to use it almost continually. Men died from that, and they called it "training losses," as if they could hide death behind bland words. The thought of losing novices or Accepted in that fashion curdled Pevara’s stomach, but it seemed that the men took it in stride.

- Knife of Dreams, Epilogue

and revolted by the Black Ajah’s methods:

What they had learned about the Black Ajah’s means of putting someone to the question was as nauseating as it was incredible.
Forcing a woman into a circle against her will? Guiding a circle to inflict pain? Pevara felt her stomach writhing.

- Knife of Dreams, Prologue

As Seaine said in A Crown of Swords, Sealed to the Flame, Pevara has audacity and nerve, which is why she planned and led the Reds’ expedition to the Black Tower to Bond Asha’man:

They would return to the grove for the same reason, unless matters went very badly. In which case, they might never return. She had thought this task must be carried out by someone who combined the highest diplomatic skills with the courage of a lion. Well, she was no coward, at least. She could say that much of herself.

- Knife of Dreams, Epilogue

As I said in the The Black Ajah article early this year, there is a danger that single or small groups of Aes Sedai may be turned to the Shadow now that so many Black Ajah are loose. At least seven women channellers are needed for a circle of thirteen to weave the flows through thirteen Myrddraal. This number has rarely been together outside the Tower until now. At the Black Tower they could be supplemented by the seemingly considerable numbers of Black Asha’man there, leaving the rest of the Black Ajah for other duties. It would be monstrous if Pevara was one channeller they turned to the Shadow. But the woman with the courage of a lion has entered the lion’s den. Can she escape intact?

Pevara was suggested to me for analysis by Luckers of Dragonmount during a brainstorming session with me at WorldCon 2010.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Part #13 of Costume of the Wheel of Time

By Linda

The section on Ghealdanin costume was added to the Wheel of Time Costume article today.

I was originally going to add Gleemen with it, but the latter has turned out to be a large section and also requires me to sew a sample.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Towers Of Midnight Prologue: Scenes 5 and 6

By Linda

This post discusses the last two POVs of the Prologue of Towers of Midnight, available at and selected ebook retailers.

My commentary is hidden under the link because it contains spoilers.

Click here to expand the rest of this post


It’s hard to know how to refer to this character. He truly is neither Fain nor Mordeth, as he says. It looks like he will rename himself soon (I wonder what?), but until then, I guess Fain will have to do.

Fain plans to kill Rand personally and then the Dark One and is moving through the Blight to that long prophesied meeting in Shayol Ghul. He’s devastating the Shadowspawn there as he goes.

He has an obsession with red blood on black vegetation and under black skies:

Blood dripped from the tip of the dagger down onto the weeds. Crimson spots to cheer him. Red below, black above. Perfect. Did his hatred cause that storm? It must be so. Yes.
The drops of blood fell beside spots of darkness that appeared on dead leaves and stems as he moved further north into the Blight...
The creature that had been Padan Fain opened his mouth in glee, closing his eyes to the tumultuous black sky and raising his face, lips parted, enjoying his feast. After it passed, he sighed, holding his dagger tighter--cutting his flesh.
Red below, black above. Red and black, red and black, so much red and black. Wonderful.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

It reminds me of the ‘red on black’ prophecy in the Karaethon Cycle:

Twice dawns the day when his blood is shed.
Once for mourning, once for birth.
Red on black, the Dragon's blood stains the rock of Shayol Ghul.
In the Pit of Doom shall his blood free men from the Shadow.

- The Great Hunt, Discord

and the red and black of Moridin’s livery. That’s three uses of this symbol: Rand, Moridin and Fain.

Cutting his hand is important to Fain; he seems to celebrate his kills by shedding his own blood in this way, and it mirrors Rand’s blood sacrifice.

Fain’s other obsession is hatred of the Dark One and his compulsion to hunt Rand. He loves the Dark One’s tempest because it inspires him:

The sky was black. A tempest. He liked that, though he hated the one who caused it.
Hatred. It was the proof that he still lived, the one emotion left. The only emotion. It was all that there could be.
Consuming. Thrilling. Beautiful. Warming. Violent. Hatred. Yes. It was the storm that gave him strength, the purpose that drove him.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Fain is literally consumed by hatred. He hates the Dark One, but he also likes what the Shadow likes. The Shadow is an old friend as well as an old enemy, as Aginor said of the Shadar Logoth evil at The Eye of the World. The Shadar Logoth evil that Mordeth made is so extreme in fighting the Shadow that it became like the Shadow. Another instance in the Towers of Midnight Prologue of the story coming full circle.

Mashadar is acting like Fain’s pet animal, rubbing around his ankles. With it, he can kill Myrddraal instantly. Aginor made the Trollocs and Myrddraal by twisting human and animal genetic stock with the True Power. Fain can corrupt the bodies of Trollocs and link with the undead Shadowspawn to him like a Myrddraal, only more effectively.

Their eyes had grown sluggish and dull, but when he desired it, they would respond with a frenzied battle lust that would surpass what they had known in life.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Madness has made Fain free – of the Pattern and of the Dark One:

He was mad. That was good. When you accepted madness into yourself--embraced it and drank it in as if it were sunlight or water or the air itself--it became another part of you. Like a hand or an eye. You could see by madness. You could hold things with madness. It was wonderful. Liberating.
He was finally free.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Jordan said that Fain has a lot of skills and abilities outside of channelling and in some ways, has unwittingly side-stepped the Pattern. We certainly see that here.


The last scene of the Prologue shows us the arrangements for Borderlander security and the care in designing the defenses. Despite the number of soldiers taken south, there is no lack of forces to man it.

There is a feeling of rising creepiness as the Shadowspawn attack approaches; a realisation that the defences aren’t going to be enough:

It was time for Tarmon Gai’don. And looking out into that storm, Malenarin though he could see to the very edge of time itself. An edge that was not far distant. In fact, it seemed to be growing darker. And there was a blackness beneath it, on the ground northward.
That blackness was advancing.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

He’s certainly seeing the Last Days.

Keemlin’s courage and sacrifice are moving. Unfortunately it seems inevitable that these outlying fortresses – and maybe towns and cities further in - will be destroyed.

Malenarin’s affirmation that:

But every man atop that Tower knew their duty. They’d kill Trollocs as long as they could, hoping to buy enough time for the messages to do some good. Enough time for lamps to be lit, for mirrors to be focused, warnings to be sent.
Malenarin was a man of the Borderlands, same as his father, same as his son beside him. They knew their task. You held until you were relieved.
That’s all there was to it.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

foreshadows that other Bordlerlander centres are/will be in the same predicament – such as those where Ituralde, Lan, etc are. Some might be saved or relieved but not all. Maybe even the nations will go under.

Is Malenarin right when he says:

The queen would not have gone south to seek a false Dragon, no matter how cunning or influential he might be. She believed.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Hopefully it was the right move by the Queen. Maybe the Borderlander rulers have unwittingly preserved a substantial part of their forces to be better used elsewhere.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Towers Of Midnight Prologue: Scene 4

By Linda

This post discusses the fourth POV of the Prologue of Towers of Midnight, available at and selected ebook retailers.

My commentary is hidden under the link because it contains spoilers.

Click here to expand the rest of this post


The long promised dead mules that show Jordan’s credentials as a Southern writer feature in this scene:

Nearby, bulbous forms floated down in the river, to catch upon rocks. Some were the corpses of men, but many were larger. Mules, he realized, catching a better look at a snout. Dozens of them. They’d been dead for some time, judging by the bloat.
Likely, a village upstream had been attacked for its food. This wasn’t the first group of dead they’d found.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

If people are fighting over food, it’s a wonder the mules weren’t eaten instead of let float down the river.

The Children of the Light are lost in gloom and discomfort. While everyone is moaning about the mire, the corruption and the vermin, Galad notices that there are healthy and beautiful patches. He thinks the rottenness and the mire are testing the Children, but actually it also symbolises them. Only Galad can see the potential for good in the situation or find the way out of their problems – though like he said, it was a difficult way.

Galad could have taken the Children back, as Bornhald wished, but refused to; he was correct when he said that it would lead to the past. A confrontation with the Questioners lies ahead and Galad’s nobility and goodness will hopefully weaken the authority of the Questioners.

Doing what was right was the most important thing in life. It required any sacrifice. At this time, the right thing to do was flee. Galad could not face Asunawa; the High Inquisitor was backed by the Seanchan. Besides, the Last Battle was more important.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Since he is fleeing towards Asunawa, he will have to face him. If he survives that, he can then focus the Children on the Last Battle.

There is much in this scene about Whitecloak beliefs as well as Galad’s beliefs:

Valda--the Lord Captain Commander before Galad--had turned out to be a murderer and a rapist.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Galad is only half right. When he finds out Morgase alive and that therefore half his justification for killing Valda was false, he may well have a crisis of conscience. Contrary to the Children’s belief, the truth wasn’t validated by ordeal under the Light.

“If the Lord Captain Commander’s cause had been honorable, would he have fallen to me in a battle under the Light? If I were a Darkfriend, could I have slain the Lord Captain Commander himself?”
Harnesh didn’t answer, but Galad could almost see the thoughts in his head. The Shadow might display strength at times, but the Light always revealed and destroyed it. It was possible for the Lord Captain Commander to fall to a Darkfriend--it was possible for any man to fall. But in a duel before the other Children? A duel for honor, under the Light?

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Trial by ordeal was a belief prevalent in Medieval and earlier times. Whitecloaks dress in medieval style too. The rest of the mainland has attitudes and technology (except in the case of weaponry) of 16th to 18th centuries.

The Whitecloaks’ faith leads them to fatalism:

“Tell me, do the Children of Light surrender?”
Golever shook his head. “We do not. The Light will prove us victorious.”
“And if we face superior odds?” Galad asked.
“We fight on.”
“If we are tired and sore?”
“The Light will protect us,” Golever said. “And if it is our time to die, then so be it. Let us take as any enemies with us as we may.”
Galad turned back to Asunawa. “You see that I am in a predicament. To fight is to let you names us Darkfriends, but to surrender is to deny our oaths. By my honor as the Lord Captain Commander, I can accept neither option.”

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

just as belief in the Pattern and its revelation though prophecy does for other mainland groups. Not all the Children follow the Karaethon Cycle, especially the leadership. Niall thought it legend:

The Last Battle truly was coming. Not the Tarmon Gai’don of legend, with the Dark One breaking free to be faced by the Dragon Reborn. Not that, he was sure. The Aes Sedai of the Age of Legends might have made a hole in the Dark One’s prison at Shayol Ghul, but Lews Therin Kinslayer and his Hundred Companions had sealed it up again. The counterstroke had tainted the male half of the True Source forever and driven them mad, and so begun the Breaking, but one of those ancient Aes Sedai could do what ten of the Tar Valon witches of today could not. The seals they had made would hold.
Pedron Niall was a man of cold logic, and he had reasoned out how Tarmon Gai’don would be. Bestial Trolloc hordes rolling south out of the Great Blight as they had in the Trolloc Wars, two thousand years before, with the Myrddraal-the Halfmen-leading, and perhaps even new human Dreadlords from among the Darkfriends. Humankind, split into nations squabbling among themselves, could not stand against that.

- The Dragon Reborn, Prologue

Rand al'Thor was a false Dragon and a tool of the Tower. The world was full of fools who could not think. The Last Battle would not be some titanic struggle between the Dark One and a Dragon Reborn, a mere man. The Creator had abandoned mankind to its own devices long ago. No, when Tarmon Gai'don came, it would be as in the Trolloc Wars two thousand years ago and more, when hordes of Trollocs and other Shadowspawn poured out of the Great Blight, tore through the Borderlands and nearly drowned humanity in a sea of blood.

- Lord of Chaos, Prologue

Asunawa calls it heresy:

“The Last Battle comes, Asunawa. We haven’t time for squabbling. The Dragon Reborn walks the land.”
“Heresy!” Asunawa said.
“Yes,” Galad said. “And truth as well.”

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Some Aes Sedai consider male channellers as heretical and the extremists see them as tainted or abandoned of the Light (apostate) (The Dragon Reborn, The Price of the Ring), or even as unbelievers (see Aes Sedai Attitudes to Male Channellers article).

Galad doesn’t seem concerned that the fulfilment of prophecy – or what is truly happening – is heretical. His junior officer also accept the existence of the Dragon Reborn and Galad’s statement that they will ally with Rand against the Shadow.

“It’s a good plan though,” Trom said, then lowered his voice. “I’ll admit, Damodred. I worried that you’d refuse leadership.”
“I could not. To abandon the Children now, after killing their leader, would be wrong.”
Trom smiled. “It’s as simple as that to you, isn’t it?”
“It should be as simple as that to anyone.” Galad had to rise to the station he had been given. He had no other option. “The Last Battle comes and the Children of the Light will fight. Even if we have to make alliances with the Dragon Reborn himself, we will fight.”

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

The last sentence foreshadows that the Whitecloaks will do so.

Bornhald and Trom don’t call Galad Lord Captain Commander or my Lord. They also try to advise him. Galad impresses them almost against their inclination. In contrast, Byar does give Galad his title and is overly inspired by his speech.

Galad inspires the Children rather than bullies them:

However, memories of lessons Morgase had taught--lessons he hadn’t understood in his youth--were nagging at him. Lead by example. Require strength, but first show it.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

He not only shows strength, but also in a short while, goodness and nobility.

“Where is the victory of this swamp? I refuse to feel its bite, for I am proud. Proud to live in these days, proud to be part of what is to come. All the lives that came before us in this Age looked forward to our day, the day when men will be tested.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Galad’s speech about the swamp foreshadows that he will refuse to be weakened or corrupted by Whitecloak attitudes or the Questioners.

In this scene Galad mirrors Egwene. Both were delivered into the hands of their opponents by supposedly loyal personnel, athough Galad was trying to avoid his opponent while Egwene was making a strike against hers. Elaida said Egwene was a Darkfriend to justify attacking her with the Power. The Questioners have no need of hypocrisy or restraint - or do they? Asunawa seems to consider Galad easy prey but he was quickly out reasoned just as Elaida was by Egwene.

Asunawa appears to lie, or else he’s as good as Elaida in convincing himself he saw what he needed to see:

“But I would not call that fight fair. You drew on the powers of Shadow; I saw you standing in darkness despite the daylight, and I saw the Dragon’s Fang sprout on your forehead. Valda never had a chance.”

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Ironically it was Valda who told us Asunawa never actually lies (A Crown of Swords, Prologue). Asunawa is more concerned about power and influence than the welfare of the men.

“You cannot hinder the Hand of Light in such a way! This would give them free rein to seek the Shadow!”
“And is it only fear of questioning that keeps us in line, Asunawa?” Galad asked. “Are not the Children valiant and true?”

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

A lot of this is a power grab. Valda owed Asunawa his position to the extent they collaborated to assassinate Niall. (Asunawa then threatened to get someone else as Lord Captain Commander, but Valda foresaw this and brought forces into the Fortress (A Crown of Swords, Prologue)). Galad is more revered than Asunawa is feared and owes him nothing, therefore with him as Lord Captain Commander Asunawa would lose power and influence.

Asunawa’s influence is reduced further by Galad’s noble gesture:

“Galad,” Bornhald said softly. “Don’t do this. We can fight. The Light will protect us!”
“If we fight, we will kill good men, Child Bornhald,” Galad said, without turning. “Each stroke of our swords will be a blow for the Dark One. The Children are the only true foundation that this world has left. We are needed. If my life is what is demanded to bring unity, then so be it. You would do the same, I believe.” He met Asunawa’s eyes.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

He is definitely leading by example which is why Bornhald finally acknowledges his title:

Galad turned his sword and handed it out to Bornhald. “Return to our men; tell them what happened here, and do not let them fight or try to rescue me. That is an order.”
Bornhald met his eyes, then slowly took the sword. At last, he saluted. “Yes, my Lord Captain Commander.”

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Galad owed Bornhald and Trom for their support, but now they owe him. And so ultimately will all the Whitecloaks – except Asunawa and maybe the other Questioners.

Overall a great scene which really brought Galad into his own and showed us his thoughts.