Monday, June 4, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #22: Chapter 15 - Use A Pebble

By Linda


Nynaeve POV

The completely different costumes of the Tairen nobles and commoners are a statement that they are different species altogether and not just people with different status. This emphasis can only widen the social division. The wide straw hats with flat tops should be conical straw hats – coolie hats (see costume article for Tear).

Nynaeve feels a storm of Wrongness in the north, and she feels a disturbing chill when she is around Asha’man, but does not associate the two. Yet the origin and effects of the two are the same. Naeff is delusional but Nynaeve judges that other Asha’man are worse, which means they must be pretty bad.

A bubble of evil sucked the life force or reality from part of Tear. The area looks washed out, like the less probable If Worlds. People and buildings were affected, but not the bedrock; transient stuff, as can be changed in Tel’aran’rhiod (and I’m speaking from the perspective of a geologist here).

No life, no sense that he had ever been alive. His body wasn't even flesh…It was eerie, to see this hollow area. Like a gouged-out eye socket in an otherwise healthy face.

Towers of Midnight, Use A Pebble

"Their substance was removed. Everything crumbled the moment we touched it."
"He would do this to the entire world," Rand said,

Towers of Midnight, Use A Pebble

It has been remarked by the Forsaken that the area near Shayol Ghul is as malleable as Tel’aran’rhiod, but this bubble had far longer lasting effects on the environment.

Nynaeve wants to Heal the sickness or Wrongness of the world. This desire may well make a difference at Shayol Ghul. Determined to Heal, she discovers that the taint madness is a network of evil thorns:

The darkness had tiny, thornlike projections stuck into Naeff's mind.

Towers of Midnight, Use A Pebble

and they have to be detached and their puncture wounds repaired before a counterweave removes the tangle. The tangle reminds me of Verin’s Compulsion.

Nynaeve did this all by intuition, due to feelings of frustration. Aes Sedai think that one can only channel when feelings are controlled or put aside, but Nynaeve could only get around her block to weave when overcome with emotion. Because she learned that way, she is more practised at weaving while under duress. On the other hand, she had to nearly die before she surrendered and broke her block.

Rand has enormous darkness in his mind, so he is very affected by taint, perhaps more than those who are raving. This Darkness is balanced with Light – yet the Light seems to have the upper hand at the moment. The many thousands of barbs form a “Crown of Thorns” and would be a Jesus parallel. It will be a massive job to remove them if Nynaeve uses the method she used on Naeff.

What did create the Whiteness that coats the taint – the power of positive thought, or memories of love – and Light?

Nynaeve wonders how Rand could think with so much darkness pressing on his brain. Good question. She assumes that both the Darkness and the Light were there when she last Healed Rand, which was after Semirhage attacked and that she can see them because she has improved in Delving since then. We “know” that the Light wasn’t there until a few days ago.

Even in the Age of Legends few could Heal mental illnesses with the One Power, so Nynaeve has just done something really remarkable, brought about because she wouldn’t succumb to the Dark One’s pressure to despair.

Rand says if Nynaeve becomes dispassionate or controlled it would ruin her. It was ruining him:

"I tried to be like them, though I wouldn't have admitted it. Cold. Always in control. It nearly destroyed me. That is strength to some, but it is not the only type of strength.”

Towers of Midnight, Use A Pebble

For one thing, controlled can lead to controlling and dispassionate to uncaring. We see that in the Aes Sedai as a whole. Furthermore, there is an emphasis on appearances and decorum in Aes Sedai society.

"To be Aes Sedai is to be calm," Nynaeve replied.
"To be Aes Sedai is to be what you decide it is," Rand said,

Towers of Midnight, Use A Pebble

Music to Nynaeve’s ears I would have thought.

Nynaeve is put out by taking advice from Rand. She sees Tam’s influence in him, and Rand has acknowledged elsewhere what he owes his father, saying that he was brought up better than Lews Therin was.

The Emond’s Fielders thought Moiraine to be distant, but now Rand says she cared. And in truth she did help villagers after Winternight and Whitebridge. Hers is necessarily a tough love.

Rand thanks Nynaeve for her care and admits he really needs it. He opens up and explains his rationale for breaking the seals:

"Opening the Bore will not free him immediately, though it will give him more strength. It must be done regardless. Think of our task as climbing a tall stone wall. Unfortunately, we are delaying, running laps before attempting the climb. Each step tires us for the fight to come. We must face him while still strong.”

Towers of Midnight, Use A Pebble

When Nynaeve says she believes Rand, he asks her to plead his case to Egwene. I don’t think Egwene listened, or Nynaeve even got to do it, since her opposition is as strong as ever at the end of the book. Judging by her thoughts in the previous scene, Egwene would regard any of Nynaeve’s commendations as merely being “under his influence”.

Rand invites Nyneave back to him when she can; and definitely for Shayol Ghul. He plans to use Callandor and wants two women he can trust to use it with him. Nynaeve is proud that she is one he can trust. Judging by the A Memory of Light book cover, Moiraine will by the other supporting Aes Sedai (see here).

The wounds in Rand’s side would suck in vast amounts of saidar. The True Power and Shadar Logoth power are antithetical to each other, but parasitic on the One Power.

Rand advises Nynaeve against going to the Black Tower because he knows something is happening with the Asha’man there, but has too much to do to figure out how to handle this yet. I groan at the plot device of Zen miracle-worker Rand being utterly unable to do anything about that Darkfriend factory.

Nynaeve treats Rand as she would any close friend and then feels silly. But he needs to be treated like a normal person and an Aes Sedai needs to behave like a normal person. This shows Nynaeve being overly influenced by Aes Sedai in her efforts to earn status and the respect of sisters like Cadsuane.

Egwene POV

After Rand left Tar Valon, the clouds returned, the staleness and rottenness grew, and food stores dwindled. Egwene knows it is due to the Land being one with the Dragon, although she still has a negative view of his state of mind, even after the strong demonstration that he currently radiates health vibes.

Saerin, Yukiri and Seaine are Egwene’s keen supporters, which is fortunate for her, since she is seen as not favouring the rebels.

The ways Mesaana could avoid swearing the Three Oaths on the Oath Rod (if it can’t be disabled for a short time, something that would be obvious in public anyway, since I doubt it could be inconspicuous) are:

  • Use another, hidden, Oath Rod while using the Tower one.

  • Disguise another non-Darkfriend woman as her and have her take her place.

  • Disguise what people hear her say as swears (so long as no one can lip-read).

While Egwene thinks Mesaana may have used still yet another method, Sanderson says Mesaana did use one of those above – one of the latter two, most likely:

He told me that one of the three ways the Aes Sedai had surmised was correct. Considering it probably would have been mentioned if they found an Oath Rod among her things, that it probably was the weave the investigators had rediscovered.

Sanderson at Towers of Midnight booksigning

Egwene tells Seaine and Yukiri to keep investigating Mesaana’s role in the recent murders, yet Mesaana isn’t involved in them. I wonder what evidence they overlook in their efforts to prove that Mesaana was the culprit.

Saerin is sceptical that Mesaana led Dreadlords into battle in the Age of Legends, and she did stay behind the scenes for most of the battle in the White Tower in this book. Yet during the War of Power:

she held several field commands for the Shadow, showing herself to be an adequate general at best but as a governor of conquered territories she blossomed.

The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time

Mesaana is capable rather than skilled or powerful. She did the dirty or boring but necessary jobs, such as training new recruits, to make herself indispensable and advance. Mesaana is angry that she appears inadequate compared to the others.

Saerin says Mesaana sounds like an Amyrlin. I disagree; this is not what an Amyrlin does. It’s a heavy-handed “explanation” of why Mesaana is in the White Tower. She is there because it is a way to get the Dark One’s favour, and though she was running risks, she also had access to useful tools – both people and things. Yet she never seemed to dare make much use of *angreal. All the Forsaken except Moridin make their excuses for that. Sammael made a serious attempt at Ebou Dar and Moghedien did too to a degree.

Egwene realises Mesaana has remained in the White Tower to try and make up for her failure to break the Tower and kidnap Rand. She resolves to use herself as bait in a “subtle” trap for Mesaana.


Dolphineus said...

You must be calm to channel. Its a lie. We have seen proof after proof throughout the series. Here is my thinking.

As the super girls learn to channel saidar, we also learn. We learn you have to be in complete control of yourself. You have to maintain calm. Why? Is it a requirement to channel saidar? No, it's not. Nynaeve is proof. She channels while angry. It should be impossible, right? But it is possible. She does it all the time.

Since it clearly IS possible to channel while angry, why are all the Aes Sedai taught that way? Probably because it is the easiest way to *teach* how to channel. Plus, would you really want volatile teen age emotions running loose who can channel? Think of the carnage, lol!

In addition, the Forsaken always refer to the Aes Sedai as children. They mock them for not knowing what they are doing. It is not a knowledge of weaves they are referring to. It is because the Forsaken see Aes Sedai running around channeling like little children do. To the Forsaken, the modern day Aes Sedai are running around doing little more than novice exercises. The Forsaken are repeatedly surprised by how much the modern day channelers are able to accomplish when they can barely channel at all. Little more than children!

We have seen little snippets of what happened during the Breaking, mostly thru Rand's visit to Rhuidean. We saw bands of people traveling together. A more or less mobile society. The earth still heaved and mountain ranges rose up and seas rushed in. We know it persisted for many decades, perhaps even centuries. If not the Breaking itself, the bands of nomadic peoples. Maybe all they had time to teach the children was enough to make sure they could safely embrace the source, and wouldn't lash out with it, adding to the breaking.

In the scene with the last of the Jenn, when the first Aiel clan chiefs are chosen, we see a *very old* Aes Sedai. One who was alive and remembers the Age of Legends. They are always commenting .. how much has been lost?

Maybe the teaching of channeling was lost. There were no more male teachers, so fine, it's a given that it was lost. But what if the women lost their knowledge of channeling too? The only knowledge that survived the Breaking was novice training. How not to kill yourself as you learn to touch the source. Keep calm. Don't do this. You can't do that. Don't even try this.

But so much of it clearly *is* possible. How many times have the Super Girls done things they shouldn't be able to? Why? The biggest difference in them (Avienda too) is they haven't been taught what is *impossible*.

Rand channels while angry. A lot. But he *learned* to channel using the Flame & the Void. A meditation technique. One where he fed all emotion in to the flame, until there was no emotion left, he floated in the void. But once he learned, and was able to reliably sieze the source, he was full of emotion. Like all the bloody time!

"To be Aes Sedai is to be calm," Nynaeve replied.
"To be Aes Sedai is to be what you decide it is," Rand said,

This exchange is what made me just think of it. Nynaeve herself does a great job of defending emotions after kicking some serious ass on her test.
The test to raise a woman to full Aes Sedai may have one been simply the *novice graduation test* device. After all, how many times throughout the books has someone wondered if the ter'angreal correctly, or if it was designed for something completely different.


Fragrant Elephant said...

Off the cuff, I'd agree with you, Dolphineus. Apart from Nynaeve, another proof would be Egwene during her Seanchan captivity. As damane, Egwene was made to channel under extreme duress, but did well enough that she was marked out for return to Seanchan. Clearly, you can channel even if you're furious/ in agony / super sad. Of course, the argument can be made that the sul'dam were calm while the damane were channeling. Who knows.

It would be interesting to see the teaching techniques used by the Wise Ones and Windfinders.

Anonymous said...

the only time channeling is truly imposable is when blocked, or if hit on the head. even if angry you need some degree of concentration and focus.

Linda said...

I think you have to be calm at first, until you are confident or capable. After that, you can be more 'free' with your emotions and still weave fine.

The Forsaken's comments when Rand was learning to channel illustrate this. Lanfear asked Rand about how he shot arrows so accurately, and was pleased when he described the Oneness to her, saying that he should wrap himself in it at all times and then he would find uses for it that he never suspected. (The main use being that he would channel more easily.) Yet Asmodean said that with practice amd experience Rand could more beyond having to be in the void when he channelled.

With their emphasis on decorum, composure and on being apart from the world, most Aes Sedai never do go beyond requiring calm to channel. After long years like this, it is no wonder they can't channel while feeling strong emotion.

Manetheren said...

I agree that the light coating the barbs in Rand's mind is keeping him balanced and currently has the upper hand. But healing them before the last battle would be a mistake unless the darkness could be pulled leaving the light there. I think the taint is maintaining the link to his past life, but the light is forcing it to stay stable/balanced with a leaning to the positive. I also believe that the light Nynaeve is seeing is the strength of the One Power, whole and complete(Saidin and Saidar combined showing how it can repel the power of the Shadow). To pull the network and heal his brain would kill the connection to Lews Therin and rob him of knowledge he direly needs, to avoid repeat mistakes or or bad choices. Should he "live" afterwards, repair it and let him try to live the rest of his life as Rand.

Anonymous said...

An odd idea struck me - apologies if it has been raised and debunked already. If Rand is killed and sent to TAR and subsequently pulled out from there as Birgiite was, could this have the effect of restoring him to his factory setting, so to speak, i.e. without the taint (or the light)?

Linda said...

This theory has been raised before, but not debunked. It could happen that way, and Birgitte's story would have paved the way for the possibility.

Anonymous said...

it can happen, but remember the spider had to 'short circuit' the pattern to do this. there is no telling what kind of long term effects this will have on the pattern. also, there is no guarantee rand will be a taverren if brought back this way. his tavereen warping of the pattern maybe his only buffer to winning the last battle.

TyranAmiros said...

If Danelle was real, and not merely a persona created by Messaana, it would make the most sense that Messaana has the real Danelle somewhere and simply sent her in her place. Like how Semirhage and Aran'gar used Cabriana, it could be that Messaana has her compelled, and she's not really a darkfriend, so when she retook the oath, whe was truly telling the truth.

Linda said...

Tyranamiros: Danelle was a known Aes Sedai, just not well known. The Forsaken tend to kill those they impersonate, so she was probably no longer 'on hand' for Mesaana to use.