Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #21: Chapter 18 - A Message in Haste

By Linda


The messages passed on in haste were not just to Bryne; there were also messages to Siuan and to the rebel camp.

Bryne wants Siuan to learn self-defense. Obviously he senses the dangerous undercurrents among the rebels besides the exposure of a Forsaken some time earlier.

Siuan guesses – or hopes – that Beonin was the one to betray the Travelling weave to the Tower Aes Sedai and not Egwene or Leane. The risk that the Tower breaks one or both of them is weighing on her mind. This plus Lelaine’s efforts to replace Egwene as Amyrlin are what spurs Siuan to rescue Egwene against orders.

Siuan takes responsibility for the poor state of the Aes Sedai. She recognises that she should have worked harder at fostering cooperation between the Ajahs when she was Amyrlin. Elaida has only been Amyrlin a short time (12 months), not long enough in Siuan’s view to cause a collapse in a strong social structure, therefore the Aes Sedai were not strongly knit. To her credit, Siuan does not make the excuse that the Black Ajah has played a part in the schism; if she were leading well enough they would not be able to make the inroads they did.

There is evidence of the influence of the Black Ajah among the rebels in this chapter. The discussion about replacing wooden walkways with something more permanent is a sign the delaying and divisive tactics of the Black Ajah are working. The Shadow wants to keep the Aes Sedai divided, and encouraging the rebels to stay put is a logical move. The Black Sitter Moria casts doubt on Ashmanaille’s report that Elaida has Travelling because the Black Ajah are under orders to make sure the siege continues, and this news marks the end of the siege.

Lots of novices were gathered around the Sitting when Narishma revealed that Aes Sedai had been bonded and the taint cleansed. However the news that a Forsaken was exposed on that day is apparently not general knowledge. (Certainly the Shadow wouldn’t want it known. And few Sitters would want the camp to know that one of the Forsaken had easy access to the Hall and the Amyrlin.) Novices are feeling free to stop their activities to be spectators at Sittings of the Hall, so Tiana is not an effective Mistress of Novices. Is she a poor choice, or has her status been undermined by Sheriam?

After Aran’gar fled the camp, Sheriam lost weight stressing out over whether the Forsaken would return. She has been calmer recently because no Forsaken has turned up. Sheriam frowns when Siuan wisely warns Bryne that the Tower has Travelling because as a Black sister Sheriam’s task is to prolong the siege. The message has gone and she is powerless to prevent it. Other Aes Sedai are too busy being indignant that they don’t have sole rights to a weave anymore. Aes Sedai are engrossed in politicking rather than the Last Battle.

Sharina thinks Narishma’s revelations were more important than those of Ashmanaille. She has never been to the Tower and is probably going to be like Nynaeve and be unimpressed by Tower politics.

Lelaine takes full advantage of the novices’ lack of supervision in her exercise of crowd psychology. When people are anxious they thirst for news. By letting crowds hear something moderately exciting they will overreact and one can distract them so the really important news can be kept secret. Sharina says Lelaine did this; Ashmanaille reported to her first and Lelaine let the news ‘slip’. Lelaine also discouraged the Hall from being Sealed to the “Flame”. Sharina is right that the news that was kept secret last time was of Aran’gar’s exposure and escape. This time the secret news is of Lelaine’s manoeuvrings to replace Egwene. (Even the Hall is not fully conscious of this yet.)

Lelaine wanted everyone in the camp to listen in and then stew over the uselessness of the siege and the army. If Lelaine can make Elaida seem more a threat to the rebels, she can arrange for a call for Egwene to be replaced. Siuan did not see this; Lelaine is not confiding in Siuan and Siuan is also distracted by Bryne. Sharina notices that Siuan has been working hard to keep Lelaine and Romanda too busy to push for Egwene’s removal. Ironically Lelaine’s efforts to make Elaida seem a threat are balanced by the Blacks discounting it, and so nothing is happening.

Sharina tells Siuan her insights because she knows if any Sitter becomes Amyrlin her progression will be halted or derailed. She really wants to channel so she wants Egwene back. That is ample reward on its own.

Many Borderlander nations still send tribute to the Tower – Kandor is one. They are financially penalising themselves compared to other nations, but maybe they get more consideration by the Aes Sedai in return. The Aes Sedai started out dependent on tributes, but three thousand years later they have their own more lucrative resources now – bridge tolls, levies, income from properties. Those Aes Sedai who die without relatives probably will property to the Tower. Grateful rich clients probably make donations to the Tower.

There are a couple of errors in this chapter. The Sitting should have been Sealed to the Hall, not the Flame. Sealing to the Flame is for the Amyrlin to impose - and she isn’t even in the camp.

Sharina thinks that it has been “a few months” since Narishma visited the rebels. It has been two months.


Frank said...

I think Tiana was just an ineffective Mistress. She never really seemed to have a handle on it. MAYBE she could have dealt with a "normal" load, but definitely not the expanded rolls of Egwene's reforms. I don't know why, but I've just always been very curious as to how and why she was chosen in the first place, and also why Verin gave Rand's letter to her specifically to deliver. We'll probably never know, and in the latter place there might not be a really interesting reason (though Sneaky Verin being sneaky as she was, it's hard not to see anything she ever did in that lens).

Linda said...

I agree Frank, it would be so good to know why she was chosen as Mistress of Novices. I guess Verin chose her as someone who would make a promise that she didn't think she would be called on to keep but then keep it anyway.