Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #53: Chapter 50 - Veins of Gold

By Linda


This is a wonderful chapter, even without considering that it was finished by another author.

Rand sits at the top of the world, but isn’t feeling on top of the world; he’s about as low as he can go (a critical example of the reversal of order the Dark One has wrought). Dragonmount’s vent is on his left, as is his own side wound. For so much of what Rand does and remembers in this scene, it is indeterminable whether these are his own insights or memories from Lews Therin, although for the philosophy of reincarnation, it is largely the same thing. Rand is blending with Lews Therin before his epiphany. Had he not, he would never have undergone this transformation because he wouldn’t have listened to, or perhaps even been talked to, by Lews Therin.

His nausea when reaching for the Power seems to be due to his creeping corruption, and not from the conflict between his Lews Therin and Rand personalities. After all, he is blending with Lews Therin here and yet feeling sicker than ever. The worst attack was when he tried to commit genocide with the Power.

Rand is also linked even closer to Moridin, to the extent that he is considering the validity of Moridin’s philosophy:

"What if he is right?" Rand bellowed. "What if it's better for this all to end? What if the Light was a lie all along, and this is all just a punishment? We live again and again, growing feeble, dying, trapped forever. We are to be tortured for all time!"

- The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

A terrible thing for the Light’s champion to say or feel, but then being the Light’s champion is no picnic. Rand muses on what his role is: the sheltering hand or the slaying hand (the one holding the sword)?

What was he? What was the Dragon Reborn? A symbol? A sacrifice? A sword, meant to destroy? A sheltering hand, meant to protect?
A puppet, playing a part over and over again?

- The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

His inner turmoil is now an existential crisis. From what Graendal says in Towers of Midnight, many of the Forsaken had a severe crisis (moral?) before they turned to the Shadow:

How will Lews Therin react to what he has done? Destroying an entire fortress, a miniature city of its own, with hundreds of occupants? Killing innocents to reach his goal? Will that sit easily within him?"
Moridin hesitated. No, he had not considered that. She smiled inwardly. To him, al'Thor's actions would have made perfect sense. They were the most logical, and therefore most sensible, means of accomplishing a goal.
But al'Thor himself . . . his mind was full of daydreams about honor and virtue. This event would not sit easily within him, and speaking of him as Lews Therin to Moridin would reinforce that. These actions would tear at al'Thor, rip at his soul, lash his heart raw and bleeding. He would have nightmares, wear his guilt on his shoulders like the yoke of a heavily laden cart.
She could vaguely remember what it had been like, taking those first few steps toward the Shadow. Had she ever felt that foolish pain? Yes, unfortunately. Not all of the Chosen had. Semirhage had been corrupt to the bone from the start. But others of them had taken different paths to the Shadow, including Ishamael.
She could see the memories, so distant, in Moridin's eyes. Once, she'd not been sure who this man was, but now she was. The face was different, but the soul was the same. Yes, he knew exactly what al'Thor was feeling.
"You told me to hurt him," Graendal said. "You told me to bring him anguish. This was the best way."

- The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

His actions, had he carried them out, would have qualified Rand for Forsaken at the least, as Graendal implies with her thoughts that feeling manipulated into doing dark deeds and agonising about them afterwards are the first steps toward joining the Dark One. The pressure and peril of Rand’s role, his anguish at being manipulated to unwilling evil and his trauma at the abuse, as well as the demands heaped on him, have led to this.

Rand’s thoughts show that he was always aiming for hardness rather than strength:

He had thought that if he made himself hard enough, it would take away the pain.

- The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

He is in pain because the Shadow is wounding the Land and the people and Rand is one with the Land and champion of the people. The Shadow has wounded him personally, too, in order to strike at the Land as well as him.

Rand believes everything began to go wrong after Moiraine’s death, which he caused. But we know Moiraine isn’t dead. Therefore perhaps things are not wrong at all. Rand had hope before Moiraine “died”, and it died when she did. But she isn’t dead, just gone, and his hope likewise isn’t irrecoverable; both return after great suffering.

In Rand’s mind, Moiraine’s death is associated not only with losing hope, but being put in a box. The chapter encapsulates the underlying premise, the basic theme Jordan wanted to explore in this story: what would be like to be a messiah?

"What if you were tapped on the shoulder and told you had to save the world?"

- Robert Jordan in an interview

And one under sentence not just of death, but corruption and madness as well. The pressures have caused changes in Rand:

He understood what would be required of him, and he'd changed in the ways he thought he needed. Those changes were to keep him from being overwhelmed. Die to protect people he didn't know? Chosen to save mankind? Chosen to force the kingdoms of the world to unite behind him, destroying those who refused to listen? Chosen to cause the deaths of thousands who fought in his name, to hold those souls upon his shoulders, a weight that must be borne? What man could do these things and remain sane? The only way he had seen had been to cut off his emotions, to make himself cuendillar.

- The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

but finally he will be backed into adopting the philosophy that “the more things change, the more they stay the same" (after all, that’s how Jordan’s Pattern of Ages works).

Rand has been chosen by the Pattern or Creator, but in the quote above he makes it seem as though he is little different from those who chose to turn to the Shadow – the Chosen. It’s a matter of how Rand imposes his mission and, in his darker moments, his will, on the people.

To his and the world’s great cost, Rand thinks having feelings is a failure, and that the pain he experiences will bleed him dry. His conscience vanished when he tried to kill Tam. Now Rand is worried that having reached his goal to feel nothing, he is too unfeeling and possibly amoral:

Without that voice, did Rand dare continue? If it was the last remnant of the old Rand—the Rand who had believed that he knew what was right and what was wrong—then what did its silence mean?

- The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

Bad news is what it means.

Rand immediately puts these valid concerns aside and expresses despair about the cycling of time and being reborn to remake mistakes. He also rages against lapses of time causing loss of knowledge and history. Moridin, too, was angry at the knowledge that had been lost to him through history:

The reasons, like the source of the name, were lost in the mist of time. That troubled him sometimes, enraged him, what knowledge might be lost in the turnings of the Wheel, knowledge he needed, knowledge he had a right to. A right!

- The Path of Daggers, Prologue

but Moridin wants the knowledge for himself; he’s not worried about the effect of ignorance on others’ lives.

Jordan’s opening philosophical paragraph:

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose around the alabaster spire known as the White Tower. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.

- The Gathering Storm, Tears From Steel

is rephrased by Rand in a dark way at the book's end:

"We live the same lives!" he yelled at them. "Over and over and over. We make the same mistakes. Kingdoms do the same stupid things. Rulers fail their people time and time again. Men continue to hurt and hate and die and kill!"
Winds buffeted him, whipping at his brown cloak and his fine Tairen trousers. But his words carried, echoing across the broken rocks of Dragonmount…
"What if I think it's all meaningless?" he demanded with the loud voice of a king. "What if I don't want it to keep turning? We live our lives by the blood of others! And those others become forgotten. What good is it if everything we know will fade? Great deeds or great tragedies, neither means anything! They will become legends, then those legends will be forgotten, then it will all start over again!"

The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

The wind, prana or chi, the breath of Life that initiates each book has been whipped into a tempest by Rand’s rage.

The chapter title Veins of Gold refers to love, Tears from Steel, anguish. There is an acceptance in the ‘standard’ version of the philosophy that is not in Rand’s rages. He regards this world as illusion and a vale of tears and rails against the right and proper order that is the Pattern. Like the Amayar, he nearly ended the Time of Illusion, so disillusioned was he with the Pattern and his crushing role to save it. The Cycle of Ages is meaningless to Rand in his current state. History forgotten over time means there is a risk that the same errors are repeatedly made. Is Rand not doing exactly that right now? He doesn’t know all his past lives yet; not the ones with joy and love, only Lews Therin’s traumatic later life. These kinder, more balanced memories transform Rand and he sees the point, the purpose, of the Wheel. He has found insupportable the impartiality of the Pattern, which seemingly is not taking sides (although it has given Rand a big help by making him so strongly ta’veren.)

Rand knows pain of heart as Moridin ordered, although it has backfired on the latter. So while Rand is thinking that Moridin’s philosophy of nihilism might be worthwhile and that Moridin might be right, Moridin is feeling exhausted by Rand’s duty, pain and turmoil and looks forward to the end. Moridin can’t separate his own feelings too easily from Rand’s:

"I feel so tired," Moridin continued, closing his eyes. "Is that you, or is it me?

- The Gathering Storm, A Place To Begin

Not only does Rand think Moridin might be right, he no longer feels the wrongness of the Shadow, so strongly is he influenced by his link to Moridin.

The Creator’s champion declaiming:

What if the Light was a lie all along, and this is all just a punishment? We live again and again, growing feeble, dying, trapped forever. We are to be tortured for all time!"

The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

shows very dark religious feelings indeed. There must be hope and love or life is untenable.

Yet when Rand drinks in saidin, the male elixir of life made by the Creator, he feels glory.

Dragonmount might have had a tremor due to Rand holding so much saidin (and rage). Men are strong in Fire and Earth, after all.

It is true that the Dragon left the world wounded (by both world war and the Dark One’s taint), limping forward as civilisation collapsed, but Rand thinks it was rotting. Not so; only now is it rotting because the Shadow (and the madness from the taint, which makes men rot) has a strong hold on him who is one with the Land.

Graendal complains how hard it is to get good wine with everything rotten, but Moridin provided some. Is this a reverse influence from Rand through their link, or an example of changing places in a way?

Rand is holding more Power than when he cleansed saidin because then he was in a circle with Nynaeve and the overall strength of the circle is not as great as the separate strengths of each channeller in it added together, no matter how large the circle, so a channeller can’t draw as much Power as they normally could (The Path of Daggers, The Breaking Storm).

While Rand is so dark, he is repeatedly described with solar imagery (so we don’t lose hope ourselves in the outcome of his long dark night of the soul, a sign he will come about on the winds of despair):

He felt himself alight with the Power, like a sun to the world below…He was the sun. He was fire. He was life and death.

- The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

His warmth gives light, his burning rage death.

The role of the Light's champion is rough with so little support from the Creator: only the one contact with the Creator in The Eye of the World, when the Creator told Rand he wouldn’t take a direct part. The Forsaken have far more contact with the Dark One, who is a paranoid out-of-control freak. This is reassuring to them, but also very threatening.

The Last Hour as Rand described it to Tuon in another chapter whose title is the antithesis of this one:

"You believe the Last Battle is close, then?" she asked.
"Close?" al'Thor asked. "It is as close as an assassin, breathing his foul breath upon your neck as he slides his knife across your skin. It is close like the last chime of midnight, after the other eleven have struck. Close? Yes, it is close. Horribly close."

- The Gathering Storm, A Halo of Blackness

almost occurred in this chapter:

The Power hesitated inside him, like the headsman's axe, held quivering above the criminal's neck.

- The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

The battle within Rand was almost the last battle. It was Lews Therin and Tam who provided the input that made Rand change his view. The Creator believes in individual choice, the Dark One in his personal will. When Rand understands the purpose of the Pattern, and indirectly, choice, he remembers all his lives and also communes with the Land/Creation in the light of the globe in the hand of the access key. The sa’angreal represents Rand holding the world in his hand. And not breaking it after some consideration.

His epiphany occurs when Rand realises that rebirth gives souls the chance to love each other and be with each other again. Rand expresses the desire to fix his mistakes and get it right this time. History repeating is a chance to change outcomes for the better, not just the certainty that people will make the same mistakes repeatedly.

Rand is no longer going to crush the world that is in the palm of his hand, but shelter it (or help the Creator shelter it) and so destroys the sa’angreal and access key that symbolised the potential to destroy Creation.

Having removed the temptation of absolute power, there are signs that he is an even stronger channeller alone in Towers of Midnight than he was with the sa’angreal.

Rand is at one with the world and with Lews Therin and at peace within himself. Clouds open as his gloom lifts and he sees the sun. It shines on him. He has finally relearned laughter, at least, as Cadsuane wishes, although she didn’t have much to do with it. Therefore I don’t think this is the thing that Cadsuane is to teach all the Asha’man that Min saw in her viewing (A Crown of Swords, A Crown of Swords).

For a chapter almost exclusively about Rand, there is a lot of the Forsaken in it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #52: Chapter 49 - Just Another Man

By Linda


For a short, quiet chapter, there is a great deal in it. It’s not just another chapter.

His first time in Ebou Dar, Rand walks around feeling nothing special – any man and everyman. Shortly, at the beginning of Towers of Midnight, upon coming down from Dragonmount, the first person he will meet will be Almen (all men) Bunt.

The Seanchan treat all citizens well unless they break the law, including that against channelling independently. They go out of their way to establish peace, law and stability in any lands they conquer so the populace accept them and don’t rebel. Otherwise they would have to tie up resources quelling insurrection. Their rule is tyrannical, and yet not:

They were conquerors. He felt their lands shouldn't be peaceful. They should be terrible, full of suffering because of the tyrannical rule. But it wasn't like that at all.
Not unless you could channel. What the Seanchan did with this group of people was horrifying. Not all was well beneath this happy surface. And yet, it was shocking to realize how well they treated others.

The Gathering Storm, Just Another Man

Currently Rand’s rule is also a tyranny of sorts, and because he is manipulated by the Shadow and exposed to the Shadow, the land is rotten around him.

Even pariahs like the Tinkers are not only accepted among the Seanchan, but encouraged to fulfil a useful civic function (and stay in one place): taking in late travellers, mending pots (the traditional occupation of real world tinkers), sewing uniforms, etc. Traditionalists among the Tinkers are concerned because they expect to find the Song while wandering like pilgrims as they search. Yet in 3000 years they haven’t done so. The Song truly is “as much a part of them as the Way of Leaf.” The two are intertwined together – they can’t have the Song, or the technique of Singing, unless they follow Way of the Leaf.

Rand, a, or the, pariah, joined the Tinkers’ camp for a night. Once, they served him as Da’shain Aiel. Ran always had mixed feelings about them: the Aiel prejudice against the Lost Ones and the mainland view of of Tinkers as idle thieves versus the knowledge that they kept one of the covenants, the First, to the Way of the Leaf, but broke the Second, to serve the Aes Sedai, unlike the Aiel who kept neither. Dressed in humble, everyman clothes, Rand carries a staff, a symbol of pilgrimage and search for wisdom. Like the Hermit of the Tarot (see Rand essay), he is solitary and separate from society, because he dare not speak his identity, and soon he will use the light of the access key and sa’angreal as guidance to ‘light his way’. Only, it will be the wrong way, which is why he casts aside his staff before he seizes the Power to destroy. Wisdom will slowly and painfully come from accepting this.

Perrin’s dream of Rand wearing rags and a rough cloak, and with a bandage covering his eyes (The Shadow Rising, To the Tower of Ghenjei) is fulfilled here. Min too had a viewing of Rand with a beggar’s staff in The Eye of the World. Rand is beggaring himself financially to feed the starving and is himself emotionally and spiritually bankrupt. He is blind to his psychological problems and where he has gone astray. Both images also allude to Rand in his role of Fisher figure in Moridin's Sha'rah game (The Path of Daggers, Deceptive Appearances).

Rand feels the full culpability of being Kinslayer and is full of self-loathing:

He had nearly killed his father. He hadn't been forced to by Semirhage, or by Lews Therin's influence.
No excuses. No argument. He, Rand al'Thor, had tried to kill his own father. He'd drawn in the Power, made the weaves and nearly released them…
Lews Therin had been able to claim madness for his atrocities. Rand had nothing, no place to hide, no refuge from himself.

The Gathering Storm, Just Another Man

Rand is wrong; he too is insane.

The Seanchan have made a safer society than Rand has been able to. He is a danger to society himself, having nearly killed his own father and now planning genocide. Still, unbeknownst to Rand, Tuon has had two of her siblings killed:

His wife-to-be had had a brother and a sister assassinated? After they tried to have her killed, true, but still! What kind of family went around killing one another? The Seanchan Blood and the Imperial family, for starters. Half of her siblings were dead, assassinated, most of them, and maybe the others, too.

- Knife of Dreams, A Short Path

The Seanchan have conquered those nations which were not politically strong. As we saw in The Shadow Rising, they sent spies to determine which nations were weakest. To their credit, once they have conquered them, they do improve the stability and order of these nations markedly.

Rand is still bent on destroying his enemies because they have defied him. He is more concerned about whether if he uses a lot of power to destroy the Seanchan, he will attract Forsaken, than he is about the effect of using such large amounts of balefire. Once he decides to do it he leaves his staff behind; it’s not a pilgrimage now, but an attack. His isolation has led to alienation:

It felt so odd to be just another foreigner.
The Dragon Reborn walked among this people, and they did not know him.

The Gathering Storm, Just Another Man

The Dragon Reborn will die for these people and yet they don’t recognise him, nor does he know them. He has cut himself off from humanity and realises this as he walks anonymously among them but doesn’t notice that he is thinking inhumanely. No wonder his own father barely recognised his character.

He sees them as his people but he is prepared to kill them:

It will be a mercy, Lews Therin whispered. Death is always a mercy. The madman didn't sound as crazy as he once had. In fact, his voice had started to sound an awful lot like Rand's own voice.

The Gathering Storm, Just Another Man

They are as mad as each other. Once, Rand wept for women who died in his name, now death is a mercy. And his musings on balefire are ominous:

He could give those walls a purity they had never known, a perfection. That would make the building complete, in a way, in the moment before it faded into nothingness.

The Gathering Storm, Just Another Man

Nihilism as purifying sounds like Ishamael/Moridin’s philosophy (for comparison see here. The reason why Ishamael swore to the Dark One is because the Dark One plans to destroy the world (and rebuild it in his own image).

Rand sickens himself with his decision to commit genocide. The sickness is due to the war within himself over how corrupt he is now. The Land, being one with him, is blighted by his corruption, and he, one with the Land, is blighted in return. It is a positive feedback loop. Because of this close link between the Creator’s champion and the Land, following the philosophy of “as above, so below,” it is very bad for the world if Rand commits evil acts. The Shadow can win just by manipulating him into such sin, however well meaning Rand is, effectively corrupting him to their side, just as in the sha’rah game if the Fisher is forced onto the opponent’s colour on the goal row it is a conclusive win for the player.

Even in the extremity of his nausea Rand still holds onto power, so fond of it or reliant on it he has become:

But he held on to saidin. He needed the power. The succulent, beautiful power.

The Gathering Storm, Just Another Man

Humbling himself was the first step to ‘meeting his toh’ and restoring his honour as an Aiel would, and the shame he felt in Ebou Dar when people innocently showed concern for him while he secretly considered committing genocide underlines this. The strong sense of community and caring in Seanchan society prevents Rand from demonising them enough to justify obliterating them. He Skims away on an Aes Sedai symbol disc, which also represents a Seal on the Dark One’s prison. Rand is astride “good” and “bad”, creation and destruction, healing and corruption, trying to Seal away the Shadow. He is not balanced though, quite the opposite; he is so unbalanced that he is literally insane. He is increasingly merging with Les Therin in this chapter:

He didn't know if the thought was his or if it was Lews Therin's. The two were the same.

The Gathering Storm, Just Another Man

and this will be complete before the end of the book. Rand thinks the Pattern pushed him to destroy because destruction was necessary. His statement that “he was destruction” is a link with the Hindu god Shiva (see Rand essay). The Pattern wants him to realise before the Last Battle that destruction should be carefully limited. Perhaps it is necessary for Rand to know what evil is like so he can beat it? He needs to be dark before he finds light; he needs to be corrupt through his link with Moridin so he can cut himself off from Moridin. (This link also ties Moridin up for a while.)

First Rand Skims to where he fought the Seanchan with Callandor and both sides lost. He also lost control of himself in that battle thanks to Callandor. Then the Dragon Travels to Dragonmount where he died and was born again and will be reborn (transfigured). It is the end of one cycle right now. Three thousand years ago Dragonmount marked the end of one Age.

Dragonmount is the counterpoint to Shayol Ghul, centre of good to its centre of evil. Such solitary volcanic mountains represent the axis mundi, the sacred centre or heart of the world. In this case the mountain was formed by the death of the Creator’s champion and was the place of the soul’s rebirth. Dragonmount is one with Rand and both have wounds which bleed. We don’t know when Dragonmount had a volcanic explosion which tore away a section of mountainside and left a wound like the maw of a beast. Was it when Rand was wounded at Falme? When Rand fought Rahvin in Caemlyn, Rand roared like a beast. He seethes inside like a volcano and his temper is volcanic.

Under an overcast sky – unenlightened – Rand looks down at the access key – a small statue of a man holding a globe in one hand. Rand is now holding the world in his sole hand. He has the power to destroy the world. But, like his parallel Heracles (see Rand essay; Hercules' pal Atlas being a parallel of Perrin) he also has the world resting on his shoulders for a while.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #51: Chapter 48 - Reading The Commentary

By Linda


This chapter confirms that Cadsuane has a scholarly streak. She has probably studied the Karaethon Cycle as much as Verin has, and carefully records as much information as she can on Min’s viewings of Rand. However no character has correlated Min’s viewings of people close to Rand (eg Mat, Perrin and Nynaeve) with what she sees around Rand to see if they chime with any of the prophecies. This interrogation started when Nynaeve came to Cadsuane and agreed to help. Just as Cadsuane uses Nynaeve’s desire for esteem, so she uses Min’s desire for knowledge to keep her at her side and helping her.

So far, the Empress is the only living woman (as Fortune and as the raven) mentioned in the Karaethon Cycle. (The Prophecies of the Dragon also refer to Tigraine, the Maiden; and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a couple of lionesses (Nynaeve and Elayne) and a falcon and a hawk in there too.) The prophecy

He shall hold a blade of light in his hands, and the three shall be one

The Gathering Storm, Reading the Commentary

has been almost ignored by commentators, therefore by Jordan’s Law of Inverse Significance, it is crucial to the war against the Shadow. Cadsuane long ago realised that Callandor was the blade of light referred to – therefore she is one of the few who knew what Callandor was, since only a dozen Aes Sedai even knew it was a sa’angreal according to Siuan (The Dragon Reborn A Trap To Spring). She researched it, probably to find out why it is called the blade of ruin (Towers of Midnight A Storm of Light) and learned of its flaws: that it magnifies the taint and has no buffer against over-drawing the Power. Min and Cadsuane agree that there is more about Callandor than they know. I discuss my ideas on how this prophecy might be fulfilled here in the Prophecies of the Dragon article.

Rand still “sees” – talks to – Nynaeve regularly but cuts himself off from Min more than ever. Min senses that Rand fears becoming the Kinslayer again:

He put up walls when she was near—not to keep her out, but to keep the real him in. As if he was afraid of what the real him would do, or could do, to those he loved...

The Gathering Storm, Reading the Commentary

and we see the outcome of this at the end of the chapter.

Cadsuane likes doing embroidery, and knows only too well how it helps thought (as do I), but Min dislikes embroidering intensely, so she is negative about Cadsuane’s way of keeping her group occupied while they wait anxiously for the outcome of Tam’s meeting with Rand, but leaving her, and their, minds free to think. Adding to the tension is their inability to listen in on the conversation, presumably because Rand wards his rooms against eavesdropping.

Beldeine has the usual Aes Sedai disregard for non-channellers’ or “commoners’” abilities and judgement. Cadsuane shows Beldeine this attitude is wrong and objectionable and she runs off – and has not been seen since…

Mins has a viewing of Nynaeve grieving over a body:

And . . . what was that vision that was suddenly hovering above Nynaeve's head? She was kneeling over someone's corpse in a posture of grief.

- The Gathering Storm, Reading the Commentary

Someone Nynaeve is close to dies. This could be Lan, or someone else close to her. It could be Rand; she could be one of the three mourners around his bier/pyre, or she mourns him on her own.

There is a black knife in Beldeine’s future:

For instance, the black knife that spun around Beldeine's head recently could mean anything.

- The Gathering Storm, Reading the Commentary

This sounds like an assassin’s knife. The knife might be that of a Bloodknife trying to kill her as a marath’damane. Beldeine left Cadsuane’s presence precipitately in this chapter after being rebuked.

Tam sensed the room grow darker when Rand entered it and blames Cadsuane. She manages to remind Tam to control himself. Cadsuane uses the Power against Tam just as Rand did. Nynaeve, who used to use sticks on people, protests. Tam calls Nynaeve by her old title of Wisdom, and Nynaeve returns the compliment by calling Tam wool-head a short while later. Cadsuane Tam calls a bully: he has never liked Aes Sedai, which accounts for his automatic blaming of Cadsuane for Rand’s hatred of her, and for not bringing him to Rand sooner, when Tam chose to stay away from Rand. There are definitely faults on both sides here.

Nynaeve says they warned Tam that Rand was unstable; Tam says Rand is nearly insane. Rand actually is insane as the women know, but had they told Tam that, he would have likely refused to cooperate. When Tam wants to know why Rand is in this state, Cadsuane says it is irrelevant – which it isn’t, but she’s in a hurry trying to solve a pressing problem: Rand’s threat to wipe out the Seanchan. Moreover she doesn’t know the full extent of Rand’s psychological problems, notably the corrupting link with Moridin. If Tam had known how hostile Rand was to Cadsuane, he wouldn’t have told Rand that Cadsuane had advised him. Min makes the excellent point that they have made things worse by assuming they can make Rand do what they want. Corele is finally neither flippant nor complacent as she contemplates Rand committing genocide.

Min feels Rand Travel long after he did so, as though there is a time lag with the Bond, which I found to be a plot devide to delay the information until the end of the chapter.

Cadsuane is portrayed more negatively in this chapter than any scene previously, and also inconsistently: she disciplines Beldeine to be civil and then behaves at least as badly to Tam herself. Previously, she treated non-channellers better than this. The only character who behaves well in this scene is Min.

Cadsuane is right: they can’t save Rand, only he can save himself. That’s often the way with mental illness.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #50: Chapter 47 - The One He Lost

By Linda


Rand is actually feeling insane but it takes him a while to work out why. It’s not rage from the Borderlanders trying to manipulate him into Far Madding where he can’t channel which has driven him over the edge, but shame from the way he treated Hurin, who revered him. Long ago, Hurin told Nynaeve that if ever she needed him, he would come, and Nynaeve has worried about Rand repressing his feelings, so in a way, this has happened. A trigger was needed to break a hole in the wall Rand has built around himself and the Pattern has sent Hurin (as an answer to Nynaeve’s concerns) to be the first of these. Tam, whose arrival Nynaeve had a hand in, will be the second.

Rand likens himself to the Stone of Tear: too hard to be natural or human, and just as legendary. Also just as impregnable: very difficult to break into, but doable when you know how. They both are major landmarks of the Age and have copious twists and turns within. The Aiel were impressed with the labyrinthine defences of the Stone, and Rand doesn’t have internal landmarks and so can’t read himself. The Heart of the Stone held Callandor, and is now empty; Rand’s heart is also currently empty as the prophecy “pray that the heart of stone remembers tears” foretold.

He wanders through the Stone while wandering through his own mind. This physical activity is an effort to distract himself from his internal furore. His mind is insane, but his heart isn’t; they are at war with each other over what he is doing to himself and others to cope with his overwhelming role.

Rand has hardened himself in the mistaken belief that it will make him stronger and it hasn’t worked. The inescapability of his fate is crushing him and he refers to this verse of the Shadow’s taunting dark prophecy:

“Two roads before him, one to death beyond dying, one to life eternal.
Which will he choose? Which will he choose?
What hand shelters? What hand slays?

- The Great Hunt, Blood Calls Blood

while looking at his hands, which illustrate the suffering he is undergoing:

Two hands. One to destroy, the other to save. Which had he lost?

- The Gathering Storm, The One He Lost

The chapter is even named after this self-questioning as emphasis.

So which of his hands did Rand lose? The sheltering one or the killing one? Hands are symbols of one’s humanity as well as one’s power. The appetite that Rand has in The Gathering Storm for using vast sources of power – the Choedan Kal, the True Power – is accelerating his loss of humanity. In a way losing his hand marked both his loss of humanity and also the necessary sacrifice of power he will make at the end of this book.

As an aside, this hand symbolism is used in more than one way in prophecy. Rand also has Perrin and Mat:

The right hand falters and the left hand strays

- Crossroads of Twilight, Opening Prophecy

Will he lose one of them permanently or temporarily?

Osan’gar and Aran’gar are/were not hands, but daggers. They were even told they were to be tools used by the Dark One, and not permitted to be, or capable of, directing in their own right.

Hurin reminds Rand of his earlier self, although that brings a reminder that his friends already feared him back then. It is almost like meeting himself in an If world, and in its own way almost as dangerous as that paradox would be.

Lews Therin says they are not facing up to the past. In fact they need memories of their past lives because if they don’t learn from the past they will keep making the same mistakes. This is disastrous in a world with cyclic time.

Rand has been seeing Ishamael (or Moridin) in his dreams:

The changes that had come upon him then [after Falme]—realizing that he had to kill, that he could never return to the life he had loved— were things he could not dwell on. He'd headed out toward Tear, almost delirious, separated from his friends, seeing Ishamael in his dreams.
That last one was happening again.

The Gathering Storm, The One He Lost

Perhaps Moridin is trying to manipulate or trap him in his dreams as he did in the early books, or maybe, due to their link, they each experience some of the other’s dreams. Rand has been separated from his friends and is insane so more than the last thing is happening again.

To use Callandor (“safely”) the man has to link with a woman and let her control the flows. Rand says he has to subject himself to her will. He certainly has to trust her. But he has to do that before they link because she can’t force him to link with her. (A man can’t even be forced into a full circle (Lord of Chaos and A Crown of Swords Glossary). He must open himself to the Source and she reaches out to him. If he doesn’t cooperate, the link can’t happen.

Rand’s own distrust is exacerbated by his link with Moridin. Trust is no part of any of the Forsaken – so much so that they barely think of trust at all.

Callandor is associated with the Dragon Reborn, just as Excalibur is associated with King Arthur, a major parallel of Rand’s (see Rand essay). He felt he could do anything when he first used it in Tear and seems invincible while holding it – after all, it stopped Ishamael’s balefire in Tel’aran’rhiod, which seemed a big deal at the time until Perrin stopped balefire in Tel’aran’rhiod in Towers of Midnight). In Arthurian myth Excalibur’s scabbard protected Arthur from mortal injury and when Morgan le Fay stole the scabbard it left Arthur vulnerable. Callandor doesn’t have a scabbard and is as dangerous to its wielder as it is empowering. Rand feels Cadsuane appropriated Callandor, but hasn’t demanded its return since he prefers the Choedan Kal which is stronger and not flawed in the manufacture. The Choedan Kal’s flaw is that it offers so much power that it very soon corrupts. It magnifies its wielder’s character flaws, while Callandor magnified the taint on saidin.

Rand is worried that Callandor features in the prophecies, whereas the Choedan Kal doesn’t. It might be in disguised form, since he using used it to cleanse saidin, a landmark event, and it has corrupted him. So it has played a large role, even if ultimately it won’t be as large as Callandor’s role. It is ironic that Rand didn’t dare use Callandor and left it in Tear lest it corrupt him. Even as far as Callandor is concerned, it is not entirely the sa’angreal themselves, but the power they offer that is the most corrupting thing about them.

The Choedan Kal represents the freedom to do anything – complete god-like powers, in other words. Callandor forces some constraints on its wielder, especially that of cooperating with someone else.

Lews Therin says brute power won’t control the Dark One - after all; the Dark One is a god himself. Rand can only equal him, not outdo him. To win he needs to do or have something the Dark One doesn’t, or can’t.

Rand tells the Defenders to stop guarding the Heart of the Stone:

"Guard this place no more," he said to the Defenders. "There is nothing here of worth. I'm not sure if there ever was."

The Gathering Storm, The One He Lost

His own heart is unguarded and still is in Towers of Midnight - look at the effect Lanfear had. He seems to think Callandor is little value to him, yet is angry Cadsuane has it.

Rand rages against any constraints he perceives and any defiance or disobedience, and considers genocide against the Borderlanders and/or Seanchan. If the latter were destroyed, they couldn’t invade the nations while he fights to save everyone at Shayol Ghul. The Creator’s champion committing such an atrocity would be disastrous for the Land and the Pattern. While Rand considers mass killing, Lews Therin reminds him of his efforts to restore the girl killed in battle in the Stone, the battle commemorated in the tapestries around them. Rand tried to use the god-like powers of a sa’angreal until he saw what a travesty it was.

After deciding to kill the Seanchan and sending Maidens off to gather their spear sisters, he returns to his rooms and almost doesn’t recognise his father from behind; Tam being out of context. Rand’s mind is out of all context. Tam doesn’t have great physical strength, but has great moral and spiritual strength.

Just as the inability to update his list of fallen women due to using balefire caused conflict, so the presence of Tam causes even greater conflict over the change in his identity from past to present. Relations are awkward between father and son like they just met.

Rand feels an urge to hug his father, yet doesn’t because he feels guilty over not thinking of Tam much recently. He had given up on being among Two Rivers people. Rand thinks Mat and Nynaeve have changed, as well as Perrin and Egwene. He is angry that Perrin used Two Rivers folk when he has refused to. Tam praises Perrin’s leadership to Rand, which isn’t likely to make him feel any kinder right then. Even more unwisely, Tam says “they've gone and made a king out of” Rand. Rand is already annoyed at perceived manipulation attempts. He won’t or can’t reassure Tam that he thinks of him as his father:

The Dragon Reborn couldn't have a father. A father would be a weakness to be exploited, even more than a woman like Min. Lovers were expected. But the Dragon Reborn had to be a figure of myth, a creature nearly as large as the Pattern itself. He had difficulty getting people to obey as it was. What would it do if it were known that he kept his father nearby? If it were known that the Dragon Reborn relied upon the strength of a shepherd?

The Gathering Storm, The One He Lost

What a sad scene this is, with Rand so emotionally crippled. He has hamstrung himself worse than Perrin ever did. No wonder his inner voice, long suppressed, is screaming quietly. He is very formal and stilted in his thanks to his father:

"You did well, Tam," Rand found himself saying. "By keeping the truth from me, you likely saved my life. If people had known that I was a foundling, and discovered near Dragonmount no less—well, word would have spread. I might very well have been assassinated as a child."

"You have done a great service, Tam al'Thor," Rand said. "By protecting and raising me, you have ushered in a new Age. The world owes you a debt. I will see that you are cared for the rest of your life."

The Gathering Storm, The One He Lost

and even refers to his father by his full name. Pompous isn’t in it. He sounds like the worst sort of Seanchan Emperor, a family renowned for its dysfunctionality.

Tam killed a blademaster in front of witnesses. While he regrets it greatly, he judges it was necessary. Rand says:

"The ones that need to be done often seem the ones that we least like to have to do."

The Gathering Storm, The One He Lost

Does he feel this much regret for killing Forsaken?

Rand tells Tam that he feels the Pattern and prophecies are using him as a puppet until he is killed for sacrifice. Tam disagrees – everyone has a choice. Rand may feel like he doesn’t have a choice but that is because he is a person of integrity. While he is limited in what he can do, he has leeway in choosing why he does stuff. He can only choose why he fulfils his duties. Tam says it is not certain Rand will die, but Rand won’t run from it, so he shouldn’t whine about it. Tam thinks the Pattern won’t demand everything of Rand and give him nothing.

Tam is annoyed that Cadsuane did not bring him to Rand sooner, but it is not Cadsuane’s fault. Tam even admits that he deliberately kept away from Rand so, he didn’t interfere with Rand’s decisions. Rand feels manipulated again and this time his suppressed feelings explode. He makes Tam tell him what Cadsuane told him to say and then flies into a psychotic rage. He can’t suppress it:

Rand wrestled with his rage on one side and saidin on the other. They threatened to crush him between them.
This was why he needed to be strong. Couldn't they see? How could a man laugh when confronted by forces like these?

The Gathering Storm, The One He Lost

At the height of his rant he accuses Tam of pretending affection and manipulating him for Cadsuane.

He had lost control. But he didn't care. They wanted him to feel. He would feel, then! They wanted him to laugh? He would laugh as they burned!
Screaming at them all, he wove threads of Air and Fire. Lews Therin howled in his head, saidin tried to destroy both of them, and the quiet voice inside Rand's heart vanished.

The Gathering Storm, The One He Lost

A hair from re-becoming the Kinslayer, hr realises how corrupt he now is and flees to Ebou Dar.

The symbolism of the red and yellow rug in Rand’s rooms is interesting. Yellow for the Healing he needs (and Nynaeve’s aid) and Red for the blood he sheds and the trauma he experiences at the hands of the Red Amyrlin’s embassy.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #49: Chapter 46 - To Be Forged Again

By Linda


Siuan seems politically clueless in this chapter. I know she is a mere foil to Egwene by this stage – a means to show Egwene in the best possible light, as are so many other Aes Sedai that have reached high office – but this is overdone. Siuan is supposed to be one of the brightest as well as politically deft women in the Tower. Here she is as blinded by emotion as Elaida would be, maybe more.

she heard Siuan arguing outside the doors with one of the sisters, claiming that Egwene had already been raised, and that this ceremony wasn't needed. Egwene quieted Lairain with a raised hand and called out to Siuan.
Siuan peeked in the door.
"I was raised by the rebels, Siuan," Egwene said sternly. "These women deserve the chance to stand for me as well. Otherwise, I will never have a claim to their loyalty. The ceremony must be performed again."

The Gathering Storm, To Be Forged Again

Once I am finished with the ceremony, I will greet them and formally accept their apology for their rebellion and welcome them back into the Tower."
"Accept their apology?" Siuan asked incredulously.
"They rebelled against the Tower, Siuan," Egwene said, looking at her. "Whatever the need of what they did, there is reason for apology."
"But you were with them!"
"I no longer represent just them, Siuan," Egwene said firmly. "I represent the Tower. The entire Tower. And the Tower needs to know that the rebels regret the division. They needn't lie and say that they wished they had stayed, but I think it is appropriate for them to express sorrow over the hardships the division caused. I will acquit them, and we can get on with healing."

The Gathering Storm, To Be Forged Again

We never see the rebels express an apology; they just stood like penitents while Egwene reproached and absolved them.

It is Siuan who brings Egwene a change of shoes even though servants met with Egwene when she arrived and two Tower Aes Sedai prepared her for the ceremony. In a way this is the former Amyrlin’s ceremonial foot-washing scene for Egwene – where in the traditional version the prospective Amyrlin asks the seated Sitter to allow her to serve and washes her feet.

Tesan asks Egwene if Gawyn is her Warder. Therefore she fully accepts Egwene as Aes Sedai, although two days earlier Egwene was classified as a novice in the Tower, and has never taken the test for Aes Sedai.

Thanks to the Seanchan blasting holes in the Tower, the Hall and Dragonmount are in the line of sight of each other now. This links them together and shows they need to work together. The holes symbolised the Aes Sedai’s need to unite and to remember that the Last Battle and Rand’s sacrifice are imminent. Rand, as Dragonmmount, can “see” into Hall now. The Tower is open to world, even their inner most deliberations. There is a hole in the Aes Sedai Hall until Egwene starts to reunite the Sitters. She commissions a commemorative rose window for the physical hole in the Hall.

The Amyrlin Seat was nearly destroyed by the Seanchan, just as the Tower had one Amyrlin stolen by them and were nearly unable to find a replacement. The Amyrlin sits with her back to Dragonmount and watches over the Sitters rather than him and defends them against him. Certainly the last three Amyrlins were at loggerheads with Rand. Egwene is still disagreeing with Rand’s actions.

The Hall scene reminds Egwene of her test for Accepted (see ter’angreal article). Saerin is the oldest Sitter in the Hall and runs the ceremony. When Romanda regains her Seat, she will replace Saerin as the oldest. Seaine is described negatively as having “calculating” eyes, and unjustly so. Suana is back to being round-faced again. Egwene wonders if Javindhra and Pevara are Black like Duhara. Javindhra probably is (see the Black Ajah article), although we know Pevara isn’t.

The Hall actually told the Reds not to raise Sitters and send them, and the Reds were easily cowed due to feeling as though they are responsible for Elaida’s failure, or fearing that without Elaida the Tower will turn on them:

"The Red Ajah is in disgrace?" she asked quietly of Tesan.
The White nodded, braided hair brushing the sides of her face. "The Reds, you needn't worry about them," she said in her light Taraboner accent. "Following Elaida's disappearance, they retreated back to their quarters. The Sitters here, they worried that the Red would choose new Sitters quickly and send them to this proceeding. I believe some . . . curt missives from the Hall of the Tower were enough to cow them."

The Gathering Storm, To Be Forged Again

The vote to raise an Amyrlin has to be the greater consensus: at least one Sitter from each Ajah is required, with a minimum of eleven Sitters present and every Sitter who is present must stand (A Crown of Swords, Glossary). This still hasn’t happened in Egwene’s case; while it could be argued that the Blues stood for her in Salidar where they were all gathered, the Red Ajah was effectively disbarred representation by the other Ajahs (The Gathering Storm, To Be Forged Again).

Egwene utters the humble ceremonial responses in a firm voice, and with anything but humble thoughts going on in her head. (Not that the latter would be unusual in a prospective Amyrlin.) She was raised for the same reason Siuan was:

Because she was the only one they could all agree upon. There were smiling faces in this group. But they were the smiles of women who had succeeded in keeping rivals off of the Seat. Either that, or they were the smiles of women who were relieved that someone was stepping up to take leadership. And, perhaps, there were some who smiled because they weren't the ones who had to take the Seat. Its recent history had been fraught with danger, dissension, and two dramatic tragedies

The Gathering Storm, To Be Forged Again

We don’t know how Siuan’s predecessor died, but upon her death the Sitters had grave misgivings over losing so many Amyrlins – three – in ten years: Tamra, Sierin and Marith. They are not idiots as Egwene realises, but they are self-interested:

Choosing someone they wouldn't mind seeing fall. Taking a risk, but not putting themselves in direct danger.

The Gathering Storm, To Be Forged Again

No dissenting Sitters remain seated. The Sitters appear to regret this, but each let someone else take the risk, lest they earn the Amyrlin’s hostility.

Saerin asks Egwene if she really wants the role when it is a heavy responsibility. This is not part of the ceremony, but was said out of compassion for Egwene’s youth. Egwene says she is already bearing this responsibility and will continue to while she is alive.

The first thing Egwene does is free Silviana and berate the Sitters for not doing their duty as a check on the Amyrlin. They protest at first and finally feel shame. Only Silviana did her duty and therefore is worthy to be raised Keeper. Egwene also wants the Reds to be included again and to feel she wants to work with them. She followed the Ajah Heads’ tactics of appeasing the injured party by electing one of them.

Silviana’s surname shows her strong advocacy of the law, since a brehon was a judge in ancient Ireland, although more of an arbitrator, umpire, and expounder of the law, than a judge in the modern sense (Encyclopaedia Britannica). The Brehon Laws were a civil rather than a criminal code, and governed everyday life and politics in Ireland until the Normans invaded in 1171. The laws were concerned with the payment of compensation for harm done and the regulation of property, inheritance and contracts; there was no state-administered punishment for crime in early medieval Ireland. It was a strongly hierarchical and tribal society, with rules of kinship within the clan determining status and therefore rights and obligations. Solidarity within the clan was also an important characteristic.

Silviana as novice mistress metes out punishment for civil infringements: minor misdemeanours of novices and Accepted, penances of Aes Sedai and violations of Aes Sedai hierarchies. Criminal law is dispensed by the Hall of the Tower. The Aes Sedai are strongly hierarchical (according to strength in saidar) and tribal (Ajahs) just like early Ireland. Silviana did her duty and took the consequences according to the law.

Egwene has plans of renewal and expansion for the Red Ajah. My theory is that they will be given the task of policing channellers just as Red shields are police among Aiel (see here) she wants them to stop stereotyping men and get out of bad habits; they have promoted some terrible leaders.

Finally Egwene admits her own culpabilities and absolves everyone:

"Bear your shame, Sitters, but bear it with determination. Do not let it break you. The time for healing has begun, and there is no longer any use in pointing fingers. You failed. But you are all that we have. We are all that the world has."

The Gathering Storm, To Be Forged Again

The Sitters are still divided along Ajah lines, but then Egwene asked the rebels to stand according to their Ajah.

Even weak sisters can link to Travel and so access storerooms with items of the Power.

Silviana is sobered by how much things will change – the novices of all ages, the Oath Rod undoing Oaths, the storerooms needing to be warded with any sister otherwise able to gain access by Travelling – even if some have to link to do so. But Egwene has no ties with long customs of the Tower and her closest friends even less. Times are forcing change and it is long overdue. The White Tower is/was ossified.

Egwene gives a rousing speech to the troops pointing out the disgrace of disunity and then inspiring them with promising a glorious future once they are unified.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #48: Chapter 45 - The Tower Stands

By Linda


Egwene wears the colour of blood, anger and violence as she moves through the camp toward Tar Valon. It is also the opposite of the colour she would have chosen both on the colour wheel and the political wheel: green. The symbolism here is more overt – Egwene says of her red dress “this is symbolic” - than Jordan would typically write. Six Ajahs are represented among the rebels, and Egwene is the only one dressed in the Reds’ colour. She is of all Ajahs and none, working hard at unifying them.

Egwene thinks Bryne’s army would decide the war, but they didn’t; Egwene and the Tower Sitters did. There is no big force of Tower Guards on display at the bridge because the Aes Sedai are going to raise Egwene Amyrlin and also because they want to appease the rebels rather than appear a threat to them. And there is useful work for the soldiers to do in the city. In the recorded histories, open and secret, there has never been an open attack by Aes Sedai on Aes Sedai, so Egwene is reluctant to attack. She is mindful of her legacy, just as she lectured the Reds on how their legacy is that of Elaida’s. However, she will make the gateway to Tar Valon and take responsibility personally for the attack.

In the last hour of her life, as she faced execution, Sheriam confessed to crimes after saying she would never do what Verin did: poison herself to tell all as she died. Verin joined up so she wouldn’t die and then killed herself to betray the Shadow; Sheriam joined up happily and betrayed the Shadow at the last in the hope she wouldn’t die. Sheriam was perhaps horrified at the repercussions of her betrayal of the Dark One at the last moment. This scene:

They'd placed her head on the block and taken it off, just like the others. That scene would always be vivid in Egwene's mind—her former Keeper, lying with her head pressed against the stump, blue dress and fiery red hair suddenly bathed in warm golden light as a thinner section of clouds moved in front of the sun. Then the silvery axe, falling to claim her head.

- The Gathering Storm, The Tower stands

fulfills Min’s viewing of Sheriam:

Sheriam’s tilted green eyes fixed immediately on Min’s face. Rays of silver and blue flashed about her fiery hair, and a soft golden light; Min could not say what it meant.

- The Fires of Heaven, Sallie Daera

All three colours are there: Sheriam in blue and the silver axe, bathed in golden light. They are positive colours because her death was a positive event, removing a leader of the Black Ajah.

Fifty executions make Egwene realise that there are worse things than corporal punishment. Egwene refuses to keep Black sisters alive for interrogation due to the risk they could be rescued. She is the first to realise the danger of greed for information. This theme is discussed in Dom’s excellent Price and Prize of Knowledge essay (though it has not been updated for The Gathering Storm or Towers of Midnight).

The executions followed due legal process and Verin’s sacrifice is probably only acknowledged privately at this stage. She identified more than 95% of the Blacks among the rebel Aes Sedai. There were no false positives apparently. It is good that Verin was so careful as well as thorough.

A lot (almost twenty) of the Blacks got away. We don’t know how they were alerted; perhaps by Darkfriend soldiers among Bryne’s guard or Darkfriend servants. These people are consistently disregarded by Aes Sedai.

Lelaine’s and Romanda’s competition for Egwene’s favour is both phoney and pathetic – and futile.

It has been many days since the rebels sent their delegation to the Black Tower and no one has apparently enquired about the lack of contact from them until Egwene did, despite Aes Sedai thinking Asha’man are dangerous. I found this an unrealistic blind spot.

Four of those sworn to Egwene are in the delegation. Only one of the four would be a “proper” candidate for bonding a Warder, although Myrelle already has five Warders. Nisao has a Warder and Faolain and Theodrin are not fully regarded as Aes Sedai. Someone is trying to reduce Egwene’s faction: one was captured, one murdered, and also one beheaded, so now only three remain with her: Morvrin, Siuan and Carlinya, and Carlinya was killed in Towers of Midnight – but by then the entire Tower owes fealty to Egwene as Amyrlin.

The original dream ter’angreal which Sheriam stole is actually supposed to be with Elayne, not the rebels as stated in this chapter. This is a long running error. Nynaeve and Elayne took the ter’angreal with them to Ebou Dar and used it to meet with Egwene in Tel'aran'rhiod (Lord or Chaos, Weaves of the Power). However, it has not worked for Elayne since she became pregnant (an error, it doesn’t require channelling), and so Elayne lent it to Aviendha to take with her to Arad Doman (Knife of Dreams, A Different Skill).

Another error is that Siuan is described as diminutive, whereas in earlier books she was of average height. Her emotional reaction to the appearance of Tower Aes Sedai almost triggers the attack. Yet in an earlier chapter she lectured Egwene on controlling her body language and looking out for others testing her strength as Amyrlin.

Egwene’s assumption that Mesaana would flee the Tower was wrong. Yet Egwene didn’t assume the Tower wouldn’t attack her:

But expectations like that one—assuming that she was safe—were what had gotten Egwene captured in the first place. She was Amyrlin. She couldn't risk herself. It was frustrating, but she knew that an end had come to her days of solitary action, striking out as she saw fit.
She could have been killed, rather than captured, all those weeks ago. The Salidar rebellion would have floundered, and Elaida would have continued as Amyrlin.

The Gathering Storm, The Tower Stands

Egwene distrusts Elaida more than Mesaana in this scene. She is more mindful of the potential threat Elaida poses, anyway, at this stage. Plus she realises some possible repercussions of her actions.

The White Tower’s “blackened holes, like spots of corruption on an otherwise healthy apple” remind us of the lingering corruption there: the Black Ajah, Mesaana, and also the Bloodknives. As Egwene acknowledges:

It stood defiant of those who would break it, within and without.

The Gathering Storm, The Tower Stands

As the chapter title indicates, the Tower is still standing despite its holes and next it will stand for Egwene.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #47: Chapter 44 - Scents Unknown

By Linda


The chapter title refers to what Hurin smells – Rand, and the massive violence and death within and around him (from using the True Power and his link to Moridin). As far as character degradation goes, we are in uncharted territory.

Rand says he will use Lan’s stand at Tarwin’s Gap as a diversion rather than send troops to him. He won’t do what his enemies expect and will go to Shayol Ghul instead. Behind him the Trollocs will invade nations but once their fists divide Bashere’s army will take them from behind.

Nynaeve is using everything she can think of to persuade Rand otherwise, but is being ignored. He is not responding to her goads, either. She worries that Rand is suppressing all emotion and will implode from the pressure:

He seemed so emotionless, but she had seen the beast get free and roar at her. It was coiled inside him, and if he didn't let his emotions out soon, they would devour him from the inside.

The Gathering Storm, Scents Unknown

She is torn between going to Lan or staying to help Rand. Nynaeve thinks she can be calm – but she can’t. She always lets her emotions out, which is why she is a bad liar. An emotionally healthy one though.

Rand thinks Lan is making this stand because he wants to die:

"Rand," Nynaeve said, her anger fading to horror. "Lan will die!"
"Then who am I to deny him that?" Rand said. "We all deserve the chance to find peace."
Nynaeve found her mouth hanging open. He actually believed that! Or he was convincing himself to believe it, at least.
"My duty is to kill The Dark One," Rand said, as if to himself. "I kill him, then I die. That is all."

The Gathering Storm, Scents Unknown

Lan expressed a similar attitude when he was focussed on the duty given him as a baby: to avenge Malkier’s death. This is how Rand has come to terms with his fate – and thinks he will atone for his dark deeds.

Who is Rand, to deny people? Well, he is denying Nynaeve any hope of lasting marriage and children.

Nyaneve can see the consequences of this strategy:

The Seanchan would wage their war to the south and the west. The Trollocs would attack from the north and the east. The two would meet, eventually. Andor and the other kingdoms would be turned into a massive battleground, the people there—good people, like those in the Two Rivers—would have no chance against such warfare. They'd be crushed.

The Gathering Storm, Scents Unknown

It is a different fulfillment of the prophecy that:

"The north shall he tie to the east, and the west shall be bound to the south."

-A Crown Of Swords, Ta'veren

Instead of Rand tying the north to the east he will “allow” or “cause” the Trollocs to do so, while the Seanchan bind the west to the south. Either fulfillment could happen.

Nynaeve was told by Cadsuane to find out where Perrin is and then she will be given more responsibility. They don’t want her interfering or doing her own thing, and hence are keeping her ignorant. However, if she refuses to help, how would they find Perrin? Wise One Dreamwalkers, who could have contacted Perrin’s Aiel in their dreams, have said nothing to Cadsuane. Is it that they don’t want these Aes Sedai to know what they can do, even at great cost? Or is it some plot of the Shadow? Or a plot hole?

Cadsuane knows Rand is aware of where Perrin is. Rand says he, Mat and Perrin are connected.

Nynaeve thinks Narishma’s words worthwhile:

"I want to trust them. I know them for good people. But good people can do the wrong thing. Particularly when men who can channel are involved."

The Gathering Storm, Scents Unknown

And the Borderlander rulers could have done the wrong thing, as we see in Towers of Midnight. This testing nearly ended badly, both here and later in Far Madding. If Rand had gone to them before his epiphany, or didn’t gain enlightenment.

Rand vows he will never again put himself in to the power of another. He probably changed this view after his epiphany, or it became temporarily irrelevant as he has a god-like effect on the Pattern, but it will be interesting to see if the Shadow can manipulate him again on this issue.

He seriously considers raining fire or lightning upon the Borderlander army to give them “encouragement to do their duty and obey him and seems to think these are one and the same. Nynaeve had to talk him out of it. Instead he challenges them to return to their positions in the Blight.

As a reward for caring about Rand, he tells her where Perrin is camped. Rand is like a Warder whose Aes Sedai has died; he is consumed by the knowledge of his impending death and can’t care about others.

Nynaeve wonders if the approaching storm to the north she can sense is gathering in the Blight. It seems closer than that. I think she senses the event where Rand will consider destroying the world – Dragonmount.

Nynaeve’s room moved higher up in the Stone of Tear in the night, her doorway opening onto a wall of stone so that she was sealed in. It symbolises that she’s risen high in the world, and perhaps in Rand’s esteem, but is cut off from doing things and is stonewalled.

Cadsuane patronises Nyaneve to goad her into “proving herself” to be of use. She wants to know more than whether Nynaeve is of use, but if she can be trusted and self-disciplined. Cadsuane is so commanding that Nynaeve wants to obey her and earn her approval. Once aware of this, Nynaeve rebels and demands to know Cadsuane’s plans before she tells her anything. Cadsuane doesn’t answer but pointedly asks how Rand’s meeting went. It is an excellent reality check for them all (and directly refers to the reason why Cadsuane wants to find Perrin). Cadsuane is determined to break through Rand’s darkness.

In contrast, Corele seems ludicrously light-hearted and complacent. She thinks there will certainly be a happy ending to the Last Battle because Min has viewings of the time after. Wrong. If the Dark One wins, he breaks the Pattern, invalidating the prophecies (except presumably some of the Shadow's prophecy.) This forces Nynaeve to divulge information of Perrin’s location, and then Cadsuane tells Nynaeve her plans as a reward.

Cadsuane's knowledge level is that of a scholar. This shows she used her long life wisely and didn’t rely only on her strength in Power. Min and Cadsuane understand the philosophy and theology of the Pattern.

Nynaeve had the choice of whether to help Cadsuane help Rand, and indirectly Lan. Rand fears to go to Far Madding but after his epiphany he doesn’t. He thankfully didn’t think of using the True Power at this time, but does in Towers of Midnight but is not longer inclined to do so.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #46: Chapter 43 -Sealed to the Flame

By Linda


Egwene POV

Egwene is convinced being removed from the Tower means a failure. Actually the distance between the Tower and her allowed the Tower Aes Sedai to feel they assessed the political situation and her suitability objectively. It also kept her from possible politicking and emphasised how she has nothing to do with the animosity between Ajahs and the Tower’s failure of leadership.

Siuan is used to being in command and more recently of acting secretly on her own as Egwene recognises. She condoned Siuan’s behaviour by not objecting.

Egwene says secrecy is a danger and that it pulled down Siuan:

It was a danger—secrecy. It was what had pulled down Siuan. The woman's time as head of the Blue Ajah's eyes-and-ears had taught her to be parsimonious with information, doling it out like a stingy employer on payday. If the others had known the importance of Siuan's work, perhaps they wouldn't have decided to work against her.

The Gathering Storm, Sealed to the Flame

While Amylin, Siuan never told the Aes Sedai or even the Hall what she was trying to do. Had she though, Rand would have been killed; with so many Black Sitters in the Hall. She was right to keep her plans secret even though it meant she could be undermined by the Black Ajah or ambitious women. It was the price Siuan paid.

Now that the Black Ajah has come out into the open the Amyrlin will have an easier time of it.

Egwene is conscious that she could fall into the same habits that her teacher has. It is good that she examines her own behaviour. She consciously curbs her body language so she can’t be read; something Siuan encouraged her to do.

For this important occasion Egwene is dressed in green and yellow - the Battle Ajah and Healing - just as in The Gathering Storm The Tower Stands she consciously wears red.

Egwene’s comments on the Amyrlin’s ability to handle events: leads us to compare her, Siuan and Morgase – and even Elaida:

She'd once thought, mistakenly, that the Amyrlin wouldn't be so easily tossed about by random twists in the Pattern. She was supposed to be in control. Everyone else spent their days reacting, but the Amyrlin was a woman of action!
She was realizing more and more that being the Amyrlin wasn't different. Life was a tempest, whether you were a milkmaid or a queen. The queens were simply better at projecting control in the middle of that storm. If Egwene looked like a statue unaffected by the winds, it was actually because she saw how to bend with those winds. That gave the illusion of control.
No. It was not just an illusion. The Amyrlin did have more control, if only because she controlled herself and kept the tempest outside her.

The Gathering Storm, Sealed to the Flame

Morgase was certainly swept aside by a tempest of events. So was Siuan. The Shadow derailed them both even though they had self-control. These were not random twists in the Pattern! Bending with the winds is what Cadsuane advises Rand to do and he rejected (Knife of Dreams, News For the Dragon).

She swayed before the needs of the moment, but her actions were well-considered. She had to be as logical as a White, as thoughtful as a Brown, as passionate as a Blue, as decisive as a Green, as merciful as a Yellow, as diplomatic as a Gray. And yes, as vengeful as a Red, when necessary.

The Gathering Storm, Sealed to the Flame

Perhaps Egwene’s list of qualities for an Amyrlin is overly idealistic. Although in The Dragon Reborn Alanna said that Aes Sedai each do something of all the Ajah’s aims.

She regrets the necessity to force herself on the White Tower but there is little time left before the endgame and before the White Tower recovers from the Seanchan. They need to unify, and need to purge themselves. She did it all on one day.

All her idealistic deliberations are derailed when she sets eyes on Gawyn.

Egwene thinks Galad never worries about anything. Galad’s POV in Towers of Midnight shows how erroneous this is. The difference between Galad and Gawyn is the latter’s unbridled passion and recklessness.

He slept on the ground in front of her tent like a devoted dog or slave. He doesn’t act like a First Prince of Sword – not because of the devotion, but because he abandoned his duties – so I guess it is not surprising that he doesn’t accept Egwene as Amyrlin and therefore didn’t trust her judgement. Yet there are plenty of Queens and High Seats in Andoran history who unexpectedly gained their position very young and led in their own right.

Some rebels judge correctly that Egwene will order the military assault on Tar Valon.

I felt a foreboding Foreshadowing when Egwene says:

"I will do what must be done, Gawyn," she said, meeting his eyes. "For the good of the Aes Sedai and the WhiteTower. Even if it is painful. Even if it tears me apart inside. I will do it if it needs to be done. Always."

The Gathering Storm, Sealed to the Flame

For once he believes her and takes notice.

Jesse POV

The five “most powerful women in world” meet in what is effectively a closet. (Also, the Seanchan Empress might argue their title and right to power.) They are able to hold this meeting now, because Ferane and Suana as Sitters are in recess for a short while.

Suana was described as round-faced and plump earlier in The Gathering Storm not lanky and bony:

If only she could spend some time with plump, round-faced Suana.

The Gathering Storm, Unexpected Encounters

Even privately, the Ajah Heads don’t refer to the Thirteenth Depository by name. (We are not so coy here on this blog).

Jesse accepts the Ajah Heads’ culpability and errors though this shows mainly in her refusal to take sole blame. Somehow the Ajah Heads know Tsutama is Red Ajah Head, although they haven’t invited her to join them. They blame Elaida on the Reds even though they (or their Sitters) elected her and let her ignore law and custom. The Aes Sedai leadership should not depend on the Reds curbing Elaida. This is the weakness of the power-based ranking when women are raised young on their strength in the Power. (And Siuan marketed Egwene to the rebels on the same basis.)

By choosing atypical or young women, they made the Hall dysfunctional, especially when the Black Sitters are added on top (although the Ajah Heads never knew about those.) The mystery of the too young Sitters is finally explained: the Ajah Heads sent some Sitters out after the rebels to steer them towards reconciliation, and replaced them with temporary placeminders. Not only did they undermine the Hall with their choices, but their rank and file lost faith in them.

They decided it was a good idea for the Ajah Heads to run things at the time of the Last Battle. After all, Elaida is (was) a too young Amyrlin.

They assumed the rebellion would be easily resolved, but the Black Ajah took up Siuan’s and Leane’s suggestions to increase the effectiveness of rebellion and thereby prolong and promote the division. The Black thought Egwene would be easily controlled. After all, Siuan (who had all these great ideas they used) thought the same.

Bryne the Black never got around: in part he was too clever and brave/honourable. They underestimated him.

Letting Elaida disband Blues was indeed the Ajah Heads’ gravest error. There was then every reason for the rebels to fight on. Not only was it against three thousand years of custom, it made the Hall look pathetic.

The Ajah Heads have great difficulty admitting mistakes or accepting blame. There is too much competition between them, which is why they won’t raise one of themselves as Amyrlin. The same goes for suggestions for other sisters as Amyrlin. They are working together but the division between Ajahs is very apparent.

With such a lack of trust amongst themselves and the Ajahs, Egwene who is of no Ajah is the only solution. She has even acted in the job and she merits it better than any of them: she defended them all effectively, while Elaida, being away from the heart of the Tower, got captured. The Ajah Heads and Sitters didn’t stand up to Elaida, but she did.

Adelorna the Green Ajah Head is the first to propose Egwene, who would have chosen the Green Ajah.

The Ajah Heads hope to unify the Tower too, by adopting the rebels’ Amyrlin, just as Egwene hopes to appease the Reds by choosing her Keeper from among them.

Choosing Egwene will end their hope of rule, but itdidn’t work anyway as Serancha points out.

Siuan POV

By Ajah law, Blues don’t marry (New Spring, Just Before Dawn); but Siuan will – like a Green. It foreshadows change.

Siuan regrets losing Egwene’s trust; but thinks it worth it because the rebels were falling apart, plus Siuan thought Egwene was in danger.

Bryne is worried that Siuan regrets bonding him as Warder (or feels he pressured her to Bond him.) He understands her now, is assured she is honourable, and is content to wait for marriage until she feels her duty is done. She is content and allows herself to be supported by him – a little…

Siuan is a perfectionist and is very hard on herself. She is very competitive with him and is bothered that he might think her self-centred and won’t let him see her wrong-footed.

Egwene POV

It is the second youngest Sitter who is supposed to weave the ward against eavesdropping if it is required. Closed sessions of the Hall are Sealed to the Hall (The Path of Daggers, The Law and Knife of Dreams, Call to a Sitting) not to the Flame. (The youngest Sitter always starts the Hall’s sessions by threatening with the law those who would interrupt proceedings.)

As she had threatened, Mesaana punished Sheriam in the night with the loss of a finger for failing to get one dream ter’angreal.

Egwene said she doesn’t think the Aes Sedai should publicly admit that there are Black sisters, but do so only in the Hall. Yet they can’t hide it, and Egwene is about to organise a purge and execution of Black sisters. This statement of hers doesn’t make sense and seemed foolish to me.

I love the question “Do you consort with the Forsaken?” So very like real world witch hunts.

Egwene read Verin’s book some more and learned about the hearts.

Note that Sheriam never doubted Verin’s commitment to the Shadow. Egwene had to trap the Blacks into revealing themselves because her accusations would never be believed.

The Sitters re-swore the oaths in order of age and therefore follow the usual Sitters’ seniority.

Romanda baulked at Egwene’s authority early in session, but after Egwene takes command and exposes two Darkfriends and suggests how to cleanse all the others, Romanda refers to her willingly and properly as Amyrlin.

Lelaine, a senior Blue, is the one to publicly voice horror for the invasion of Tar Valon. Yet the Blues played a major part in the rebellion.