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.


Anonymous said...

"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."

This is, to put bluntly, bunk. As shown in New Spring, the BA and the Shadow knew about the Dragon being reborn from day 1. Alll Siuan accomplished was keeping the "good" Aes Sedai in the dark.

Linda said...

She didn't tell the Hall that Moiraine was wandering around with a little book that had all the possible boy babies born on/near Dragonmount in those crucial days and was methodically tracking them all down. The Black Ajah did not have access to the full list since they never had anyone doing the same (but killing these children) for 20 years.

Nor did Siuan tell the Hall that Moiraine had identified Rand as the Dragon Reborn and two fellow ta'veren even though she visited Fal Dara to see the three.

Anonymous said...

The Black Ajah never knew what age the dragon reborn was, as evidenced in New Spring by the killing rampage of any man of any age suspected of chanelling. And even the so called 'good' Aes Sedai where far from reliable in this regard. To paraphrase JK Rowling: "The Aes Sedai are not dived into good women and Black Ajah". Elaida anyone? Or pretty much most Reds?

I think the real problem with this issue is that given the events in New Spring, Siuan the Armyrlin displays far too much ignorance of the Black Ajah in The Great Hunt & Dragon Reborn to be plausible.

Anonymous said...

The situation of the 5 Ajah Heads always made me think of the way the story of Mara and the 3 foolish kings ends.


Linda said...

I agree, Landro.