Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #25: Chapter 22 - The Last That Could Be Done

By Linda


And now for one of the pivotal chapters of The Gathering Storm, due to the effect its events have on Rand's character.

Semirhage POV

The Lady of Pain likes to receive physical pain as well as give it, although she much prefers the latter. She’s not that tough on blows to the ego though: the humiliation of her treatment made her cry and according to the Dark One has broken her. It didn’t take long. Semirhage’s ego is over-inflated and fragile. Mengele, one of her parallels, was just as psychologically brittle when captured (see Semirhage essay).

Semirhage mistakes rationalising for rational reasoning, but then she isn’t honest with herself, as her hypocritical claim that she experiments on people, while others merely abuse them, shows.

The Dark One confirmed that Semirhage was ordered to capture Rand and that she is judged to have failed greatly. She doesn’t dare lie or make excuses to Shaidar Haran, yet Moghedien did so, in the Pit of Doom, no less, and Graendal lies and makes excuses to Shaidar Haran at the end of Towers of Midnight.

Semirhage says the Dark One’s punishment for failure would make anything Aes Sedai could think up seem childish. Childish was exactly what worked on Semirhage and she found that it wasn’t that childish at all…

When Semirhage sees the three Aes Sedai sprawled on the floor she assumes they are all dead. So much for her Healing talent. Elza tells Semirhage that she must remove Verin’s compulsion (and it is referred to as such, despite Verin’s modest disclaimer). Semirhage is delighted because of the opportunity to observe the nasty effects. Afterwards Elza is dazed looking from having the Compulsion removed, but is coherent enough. Had Semirhage listened to Elza they would both probably be alive.

Shaidar Haran removed Semirhage’s shield but didn’t remove Elza’s Compulsion. Someone told where the a’dam was and how to get it. As reported on Terez’ Interview Database, Shaidar Haran has limitations:

Brandon hinted at some severe limitations on Shaidar Haran to affect the physical world. He says that a lot of actions that people assume to be those of Shaidar Haran in the book in one particular scene were physically carried out by Elza. He further indicated that Shadar Haran would have been incapable of physically placing the collar himself.

Q: You mention that Shaidar Haran has quite a few limitations on his power. Can you give us a few concrete examples of these limitations?
A: Shaidar Haran needs a minion to do most of his work for him. Elza was essential to Shaidar Haran in getting things done.

Q. How did Elza defeat the wards on Cadsuane's plain wooden box?
A. Elza had been given knowledge of several rarely known weaves, and in other ways made into a tool of Shaidar Haran. Not all of it was pleasant for her.

The simplest way would have been for a saidar channeller who witnessed the weaves to demonstrate them to Elza. Sorilea is the only one we know of that fits. But Elza was also given other knowledge as Sanderson says above.

Shaidar Haran appeared in black with a red light. Moridin claims red and black as his own, but it is the Great Lord’s livery.

Rand POV

The Blight is advancing very quickly. However the lack of Shadowspawn raids is very unusual. And ominous.

Bashere is aware that Tenobia could well be angry with him for following Rand and not asking her for orders. Rand admits that bringing 50 thousand soldiers into a nation was an act of war, but the rulers have left their nations under-defended. He wants Domani forces in Saldaea rather than Dragonsworn Saldaeans because they will be less of a problem, not of disloyalty to Rand, but of upsetting other Saldaeans. Ituralde had problems anyway in Towers of Midnight with being regarded as an invader.

Rand promises Ituralde 100 Asha’man by the end of the week. Lews Therin is convinced that no Asha’man can be trusted and that they will turn on him and Rand. I guess we’ll see if he’s right in A Memory of Light.

Rand wonders why Moridin helped him in Shadar Logoth against Sammael. Moridin only wants Rand dead beforetime if he thinks the Shadow is losing, otherwise he’d rather Rand save himself by removing a disobedient and unreliable Forsaken (who is also a rival of Moridin).

Rand is frightened that his dreams are no longer safe due to his link with Moridin. The Shadow let his dreams alone long enough for Rand to get over this, and then Cyndane breaks through…

Lews Therin says Min is right about needing to break the Seals. He explains the little he knows about Sealing the Bore. Something has to touch the Dark One, to bridge the gap, but then the Dark One is able to taint it. Therefore if something has to bridge the gap it must be something the Dark One can’t taint, like, say, the Shadar Logoth evil.

Rand is peeved that Lews Therin doesn’t have an answer on how to seal the Bore, but if he did, Lews Therin would have done things differently then and now. Rand seems to only tolerate Lews Therin for his knowledge. While Rand thinks that maybe if women had been included there might have been a successful outcome to the sealing of the Bore, we know from what RJ said that this wouldn’t have worked:

The result of this was that Lews Therin carried out his plan with only male Aes Sedai, so there were only male Aes Sedai channeling there, which was a lucky thing, because if there’d been women as well, then both saidin and saidar would have been tainted.

RJ at a booksigning

It would have been worse if anything. Rand is right; there surely is more to it than including women.

It is interesting that Rand thinks he could break the rules by killing the Dark One just as it is necessary to break the rules to win against the trickster Finns.

Rand wants Min’s approval and holds back a little from being too hard:

Except that Min didn't want him to be hard. He didn't want to frighten her, of all people. There were no games with Min; she might call him a fool, but she did not lie, and that made him want to be the man she wished him to be. But did he dare? Could a man who could laugh also be the man who could face what needed to be done at Shayol Ghul?

The Gathering Storm, The Last That Could be Done

He thinks:

It would take a hard man to face his own death, to fight the Dark One while his blood spilled on the rocks. Who could laugh in the face of that?

The Gathering Storm, The Last That Could be Done

Rand doesn’t need to laugh; he just doesn’t need to be hard or brutal either. As usual, balance is the key.

Rand is crushed by all his duties and impending sacrifice. Going one step further, Lews Therin is expressing a wish for nothingness like Moridin:

We die. You promised we could die!
Only if we defeat the Dark One, Rand said. You know that if he wins, there will be nothing for us. Not even death.
Yes . . . nothing, Lews Therin said. That would be nice. No pain, no regret. Nothing.
Rand felt a chill. If Lews Therin began to think that way . . . No, Rand said, it wouldn't be nothing. He would have our soul. The pain would be worse, far worse.

The Gathering Storm, The Last That Could be Done

Rand says that to frighten Lews Therin off from wanting nothingness. Is Lews Therin infected by the link to Moridin? Or Moridin by Lews Therin’s despair? Whichever way, Lews Therin, being the madder part of Rand’s personality, is showing the effects sooner than Rand is.

Rand says:

He had worked hard to make them think he was a man without affection. At times, he feared that his ruse had become reality.

The Gathering Storm, The Last That Could be Done

He’s right; this is a dangerous ploy because an act can become real if it is done often or really convincingly.

Rand thinks a moment of running to his father would be a fatal weakness to him and to Tam. He’s wrong about this as he shows in Towers of Midnight in Tear. It’s an indication of how much he changed over the two books.

The prophecy of Rand living by dying is interpreted by Rand to refer to his legacy of memories and histories. At his most negative he believes this will be war, famine and chaos; when he is more positive, he hopes his schools will be effective. Either way he thinks he can’t worry about afterwards:

To do so would be to take his eye off the goal. And what is the goal? that voice seemed to say. Is it to survive, or is it to thrive? Will you set the groundwork for another Breaking or for another Age of Legends?

The Gathering Storm, The Last That Could be Done

Indeed, his spiritual state is important as Cadsuane has said from early on. The Gathering Storm shows what happens when Rand reaches a spiritual nadir: despair, violence and contemplation of genocide.

Min encourages Rand to relax but he brushes her off saying it is not a time for laughter:

"You would have me be happy while children starve and men slaughter one another? I should laugh to hear that Trollocs are still getting through the Ways? I should be happy that the majority of the Forsaken are still out there somewhere, plotting how best to kill me?"

The Gathering Storm, The Last That Could be Done

He makes a nonsense of her suggestions by taking it to its extreme. He did something similar when he suggested that laughing was the alternative to being hard.

Rand becomes suspicious when Min mentions Cadsuane and accuses her of manipulating him on Cadsuane’ behalf. Then he feels he went too far by distrusting Min and backs down. At that moment Semirhage strikes with the male a’dam.

Semirhage tested the male a’dam previously and has apparently spent a lot of time working with the female a’dam. How and when?

The Domination Band (see A'dam article for more on both types) prevents movement and channelling unless the controller allows it. It is more enslaving than the female a’dam. While being abused by Semirhage through the a’dam Rand has a flashback of his captivity by Elaida’s embassy. It was in the box that Rand split Lews Therin off from himself more:

Rand could remember communicating with the madman; Lews Therin had started to respond to him only shortly before that day. Rand hadn't been willing to see Lews Therin as part of himself.

The Gathering Storm, The Last That Could be Done

He doesn’t acknowledge his Lews Therin fragment until he is at least as bad as Lews Therin and fully realises it.

When he tells Semirhage that she can’t do anything more to him she reacts as though Rand has challenged her. She makes him attack Min instead. Rand refuses to kill Semirhage as Lews Therin urges; instead she forces him to torture Min. It was a futile suggestion anyway because Rand can’t do what Semirhage won’t allow while the a’dam is being used on him.

Semirhage should be taking Rand to Shayol Ghul but decides to play with him first. She tries to make him kill Min physically. This, plus a flashback of Lews Therin killing Ilyena, drives Rand to draw on the True Power through his link to Moridin. First he went emotionally cold, then dead. When Asmodean was teaching Rand how to seize saidin in the void, Rand always went emotionless. Asmodean said Rand could or would go beyond that in time:

Aviendha began dividing them while he seized saidin, filling himself with life and death, molten fire and liquid ice.
“Split them equally,” he told her. He knew his voice was cold and emotionless. Asmodean had said he could go beyond that, but he had not managed to so far.

The Fires of Heaven, A Short Spear

but Rand took a very long time to do so and may only have fully achieved this in Towers of Midnight. Rand has always had this tendency to suppress his feelings - the heart of stone.

The unseen face would be that of Moridin. We know from earlier chapters how closely they are tied now.

Lews Therin thinks the True Power/Dark One - they are the same in his mind - is death and betrayal. Semirhage thinks the Dark One betrayed her by allowing Rand to draw the True Power rather than let her be disobedient and put her little games first above the Dark One’s commands.

The True Power is totally addictive as we soon learn. The modest amount Rand uses to kill Semirhage and Elza rivals in seductiveness what Rand can draw through the Choedan Kal. The Dark One = overkill. Not just kill.

Rand knows how to use the True Power, so the knowing must be part of its access:

Rand raised a hand and, filled with the power he did not understand, wove a single weave.

The Gathering Storm, The Last That Could be Done

The bracelets were not destroyed by True Power balefire, but the weave did not hit them directly.

Lews Therin thinks he and Rand are damned by using the True Power, especially True Power balefire.

Rand is still emotionally numb. Now he knows what it is like to kill a loved one while fully aware thanks to Semirhage. He thinks the worst has been done to him and he can make himself strong enough to withstand it now:

Once, weeks ago, he had decided that he must become stronger— where he had been iron, he had decided to become steel. It appeared that steel was too weak. He would be harder, now. He understood how. Where he had once been steel, he became something else. From now on, he was cuendillar.

The Gathering Storm, The Last That Could be Done

But he isn’t making himself stronger. Cadsuane was right when she told Sorilea that Rand confuses strength and hardness. In fact he does so in the quote above. At this point Rand is not strength, only hardness. Perrin is strength (see Perrin essay). Rand is making himself harder and more brittle just as Fain found Elaida was compared with Siuan:

He had been surprised to find Elaida on the Amyrlin Seat. Better than what he had expected, though. In many ways she was not so tough, he had heard, as the woman who had worn the stole before her. Harder, yes, and more cruel, but more brittle, too. More difficult to bend, likely, but easier to break.

The Fires of Heaven, Prologue

Rand is now staying emotionless in a different void. A void is nothingness just as Lews Therin and Moridin advocate. Rand states that they can’t bend or break him and thinks he’s safe from that. But he’s not safe because he can break himself as we shall see.


Shadar said...

Linda -- Do you want to speculate on how Rand gained access to the TP?

* With the DO's permission (as a part of the DO/SH's plan
* WIth the DO's permission (a spur of the moment decision, the plan was for Semi to being Rand to SG)
* Without the DO's permission (Access through the link to Moridin)
* Without the DO's permission (Access through the level of stress/speths that Rand sunk to)

Anonymous said...

Great post as always. I had never given much thought to how Fain/Mordeth would be involved in the LB til now. Seems to get very little screen time for someone who could forever change the balance of wots dualistic world.

Anonymous said...

This whole thing always seemed to me like a setup by the Dark One, especially with that old POV from Semi where she thinks to herself that she won't be sacrificed. I mean, choosing Semirhage of all people to capture Rand? It was pretty much guaranteed what she'd do.

Anonymous said...

Pretty certain that the DO has wanted Rand to draw on the TP for a long time, and certainly wouldn't mind risking Semirhage to that end.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Just wanted to comment on something i noticed in the post which is this:

Therefore if something has to bridge the gap it must be something the Dark One can’t taint, like, say, the Shadar Logoth evil.

Do you think this could perhaps be what Padan Fain will be used for when Rand is sealing the bore. Just wondering, it sort of intrigues me.

Linda said...

Thanks all for all your comments. They're great ones. Keep'em coming!

Shadar and Anon: I think that Rand drew the TRue Power through Moridin with the Dark One's permission. It is so addictive and corrupting that it would suit the Dark One very nicely to touch Rand in this way. (Sorta like touching an armed enemy Aiel-style.) Semirhage was sacrificed because she didn't follow orders and put her games first, as I said.

Anon: Yes, that's what I was getting at when I said that Fain/Mordeth or something else of the Shadar Logoth evil would qualify to bridge the gap.

t ball said...

I could see Fain's dagger becoming a focus point/buffer. It seems the one power can touch it without being tainted. Perhaps, though, Fain himself becomes the buffer. I can see him willingly attacking the Dark One, he's loony and driven enough.

Two theories: 1) Fain will make Rand bleed on the rocks, attacking him just as Rand is attempting to seal the Dark One. Fain inadvertently becomes the seal/buffer in this way. 2) Callandor magnifies the taint, maybe it magnifies the Shadar Logoth evil as well? channeling with it to attack Fain at the time of theory 1, and the SL evil is magnified enough to create a new prison? Seems farfetched but I like it.

Anonymous said...

If Fains involved i would think the nature of SL evil would destroy itself and the DO when the two came into contact rather than becoming a seal. Rand said before that he wants a way to kill the DO rather than continue the endless cycle of battles. (Number nine on the impossible tasks list perhaps)

And im not sold on the Dark One giving permission for Rand to use the True Power. I wouldnt think that Moridin would need permission everytime he uses it. He has been granted access to use the TP whenever he needs and in this case Rand drew it through him like the two were joined in a circle. Also why would the DO rather have punished Semirhage when Rand was almost his.

Anonymous said...

Moghedien, Lanfear, Sammael, and Graendal all disobeyed the DO just as much if not more so, while Semirhage had actually succeeded in capturing Rand and fully intended on bringing him to Shayol Ghul. To destroy her at that point would be placing more significance on utter obedience than the actual task of delivering Rand to the DO. The DO doesn't care if Rand is emotionally traumatized; in fact, it seems that's what he wants, as Moridin later orders it. If he wanted to punish Semirhage, he could have waited until she brought Rand to him then dealt with her. Of course, you could argue that it was actually Moridin who wanted to get rid of Semi at that point, independently of the DO, but then that would have effectively been countermanding Shaidar Haran.

Linda said...

Well sometimes they do seem to place more significance on utter obedience than on strategy. I think she was punished as much for injuring Rand and therefore Moridin as for playing around when she was supposed to take Rand to them. And they certainly wanted Rand to use the True Power and be corrupted by it. It all fitted together.

Anonymous said...

Semirhage was the only forsaken i couldnt relate to at all maybe why i dont like cadsuane very much as she admits they are a lot alike.

i like most the forsaken, does this make me a bad person?

Anonymous said...

Linda: But at the cost of overall strategy? I can see one of the other Forsaken being petty enough to do that, but that doesn't seem to be the way the DO operates, at least as described by RJ when discussing how he punishes his subordinates. If Semirhage was intended to bring Rand to Shayol Ghul all along, it just doesn't make sense to interfere with it before the mission's accomplished when she could just be snuffed out or mindtrapped afterward. It's not like a Forsaken could run from Shaidar Haran. What happened was probably according to the Shadow's plan -- i.e., she was intended to be sacrificed all along -- minus perhaps Rand losing his hand.

Anonymous: If you could relate to Semirhage, who is essentially a glorified serial killer, you'd have a problem. O_o

Anonymous said...

its not the serial killer part i cant relate ive enjoy the idea of killing shutting up next door with a brick at 3am and there music is still blasting. its the enjoying hurting people just to hurt them a least the other ones butchered people for a reason even if the reasons were very childish most people have lashed out at least once for a stupid reason

Anonymous said...

dont worry i havent actually killed next door but i have shouted swear loudly out my window

Drew said...

RE: Anonymous: The Dark One is the ultimate in petty dictators, though, and many of it's orders reveal a shallow, immature mindset. It spent the entire series encouraging the Forsaken to compete which is tantamount to squandering resources whereas it could have simply ordered them to Link, bring Rand to him, and end all the games.

The way the scene plays out, though, it seems that the Dark One was trying to tempt Rand with the True Power by showing how it could work where the One Power had failed.

Anonymous said...

Drew i wonder how much is petty games and how is just trying to get rid of the forsaken would you really want to live forever with them around. Lews Therin got fed of Lanfear and he was sleeping with her, to me he seems as much of a brat as the forsaken some times.

But then how has the dark one wasted resources the strongest and most loyal forsaken are still around the nations are all but impotent because they are divided or on the verge of collapse.
the borderlands are all but overrun by shadowspawn and it took the intervention of someone created to stand up to him to even slow the advance of his army.

what would you have done differently?

Anonymous said...

the one about Rand in this whole series i dont beleive is he that is a talented musician and later an artist and yet he never tried to use this to express himself that way even in private.
doesn't make sense to me for someone with all that emotion inside not to try and find an outlet even if you aren't ready to talk to someone and try to move on, just shouting out the window would have been something.

Anonymous said...

after my last had the vision of him on the cover of crown of swords but with a acoustic guitar playing three days grace never too late.

Lethean Bliss said...

Anonymous: Semirhage's a bit different from the other Forsaken in that aspect, since she literally gets off on doing what she does. Even Balthamel isn't a psychopathic sexual sadist, and I'd guess (s)he'd be the closest to Semi in a contest of psychopathy.

Drew: That's assuming what the Dark One wanted all along. Ishamael should've been able to shield and bundle Rand off to Shayol Ghul to be 13x13ed or mindtrapped the second he found his dreams. Instead Ishamael attacks Rand physically with a staff, and he waits in the shadows right by Callandor as Be'lal tries to corner Rand. Lanfear aids him; Semirhage is ordered to aid him. Demandred and company are apparently ordered not to directly attack Rand, and Moridin later forbids it. The DO essentially allows Rand to kill Semi right before she's about to drag him broken to SG. Clearly the DO needs some other sort of scenario beyond the obvious getting Rand to turn to the Shadow or being axed "prematurely." Perhaps that was what was going on on Dragonmount, and he needed Rand to destroy the Pattern for him. Who knows?

Anonymous: Well, presumably they'd all be killed once the Dark One actually breaks free. lol In any case, I think the Shadow could certainly do more to weaken the Light, particularly assassinating or Compeling important people, especially among Rand's closest allies and the Seanchan.

Anonymous: I can believe it. I love writing and drawing, but when I'm depressed I really don't feel like doing either, and I don't even have a cosmic evil at my heels.

Leyla said...

Anon: your comment about Rand's artistic side is something I've thought about before. I think he simply doesn't have the free time to write a song or draw Min nude, what with a few hours of swordplay followed by some kung fu, then conquering Arad Doman after lunch and slaying a Forsaken for supper.

Anonymous said...

Leyla Supper i know Rand got pretty bad but i dont think he got to the point that he ate people.
drawing min in the nuddy would get her into bed but it wouldnt help him express anything. he had plenty of time and the money after the cleansing when he was resting to paint or draw. ok it might not have helped with Cad around she would prob be a monster critic and min would stick her nose in at first but after he chased them out a few times they would have let him do it and have seen that it helped and made sure he had the time to express himself.

and min would have felt better and that might have helped Rand feel better or feel Min better but in the long run same thing

Lethean Bliss ihave been deprssed to the point i cant get out of bed, music was all i had at that point it let me feel a connection to outside.
ok Rand doesnt have a stereo but he should have tried something.

Anonymous said...

Leyla it seems more like kickboxing than Kung Fu to me
think the Seanchan are a bit more Kung Fu than the Aiel.

And how do you cook a sadist?
i think she would have been very bitter so slow roasted in a red wine sauce with pasta and fried shrooms and onions.
but that is just my style maybe a texan would have deep fried her with mustard bit late now.
Rahvin and sammy are a bit over cooked now but you could sprinkle them on a salad.

wow i have been spending way to much time at theoryland im considering how to cook a forsaken that site drives you GAGA

Anonymous said...

Lethean Bliss assassinating or Compeling important people you say why?

one the dumb one seems to need Rand to get out or why is he keeping him around?

yes theyn have pushed for chaos but it seems like a controlled chaos, you have to be able to predict the outcome or it is to dangerous.
you dont know who will have the courage to fill a leaders place and step up and if the DO has really done this a hundred times he would know that and wouldnt be stupid enough to risk it.
you cannot count on people falling apart once the leadership is gone . yes arad doman has gone down the crapper but that was because the leaders pulled it apart with the shadow helping here and there.
people will look for someone to tell them what to do but if everyone in charge is gone someone new will take over.

and if they killed off everyone in power bu darkfriends the new leaders would last about a week. a radical change in direction after a mass murder doesnt work and the forsaken knew this and played it slow to make it look like they were reacting to threats or to increase the nations power they couldnt just declare andor for the shadow and go on the attack.
real world version= the nazi leaders took power but moved slow at first to make sure people didnt freak and revolt. by the time they moved openly people either were to scared to resist or figured at least it wasnt them this time.
also helps if you have people no one likes to blame for all a nations hardships and move against them first i guess which the nazi and forsaken leadership did. hitler had communists and jews, sammy had tear, Aes Sedai and whitecloaks but if sammy had taken power and said you now serve the shadow lets attack altara he would have been castrated and left to die by a mob.

Manetheren said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Manetheren said...


I am coming late to this post, but have a slightly different view.

Due to the nature and spirit of the Dark One's Oaths (as revealed by Verin), Semirhage was destined to fail and is also the reason why so many darkfriends are gaining minor victories, but ultimately failing. The Dark One's Oaths are based largely on selfishness. Obey the Great Lord, but stay selfish. If his followers strictly obeyed their orders, the Shadow would probably win, but the selfish nature of the Oaths eventually gets the better of the Shadow's followers.

If Semirhage had just followed orders and taken Rand, the Shadow could have used him to its ends, even killing women (if at an impersonal level). But Semirhage got selfish and decided to make Min pay for embarrassing her as well as revel in Rand's Ultimate Torture,looking into his love's eyes as he slowly extinguishes her life. As a result, he makes a terrible sacrifice (not knowing it was the DO's own power) to preserve the life of one who loves him unquestioningly, who loves her back and also to preserve what little good/morals/honor/dignity/hope (though he claims to have none of the last) he has left, mentally and physically. I think he did pull through Moridin without the Dark One's permission, but I am certain the Dark One was just as pleased with the result than a forced turning, probably even more so. The Dragon Reborn turning willingly to the Shadow would be a greater prize to the Dark One that a forced one. But then this ultimately failed due to the selfish spirit of the Dark Oaths.

I think this also the Pattern and his being Ta'veren kicking in to help him. If he doesn't break free, the Light loses, so those aspects are being what they are and kicking in in some way to help. The Dark One is bound, so some extent, to the Pattern, hence the Loopholes in the Dark Oaths.

Rand keeps the Choeden Kal with him at all times now, not just for its protection, but also for his protection. Drawing through it will be an adequate addicting substitute to the True Power and this is probably the only thing that prevents him from taking/drawing/using the True Power and is essential in his final mental battle on Dragonmount. Keeping hold of maximum Saidin prevents taking the True Power and helps in Rands reforging. He still comes close to destroying the world, but at least holding Saidin gives him a chance.