Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #31: Chapter 24 - To Make A Stand

By Linda


Elayne POV

Elayne foolishly tries to pull rank on her medical advisor. For this consultation, Melfane happens to be wearing blue and white, traditional nurses’ colours (see here for discussion of Wheel of Time midwifery).

Last scene, Elayne realised the stupidity of putting her babies and throne at risk, but here she is back at it again, this time objecting to advice. She thinks it is unfair she has been prescribed bed rest to recover from traditional Aes Sedai Healing, which draws on the patient’s vitality as well as the Healer’s energy. It was rather unfair on her babies that she was nearly killed in the previous chapter. She should be thankful all turned out OK and accept the consequences.

Birgitte feels outraged and betrayed that Elayne didn’t trust her. She also feels she has no role here in this life beyond what Elayne provides her. In part this is due to her consciousness of her previous lives and the lack of Gaidal in this one so far. What neither has considered is that if Elayne is killed Birgitte will very likely die too, although I know that Birgitte’s courage would make no allowances for that.

Some important information is exchanged in this POV. Mat is told that the Shadow are after him personally, which Verin also told him in The Gathering Storm, but the women omitted to inform him that an invasion of Caemlyn is imminent. Perhaps they don’t really believe, or want time to think about it. Ironically, Verin told him about the threat in her letter, believing he would read it early. Mat discusses with Elayne how to kill the gholam.

Elayne tallies that three Darkfriends were killed and four escaped, but actually four were killed: Lounalt, Chesmal, Temaile and Eldrith. Hanlon, Shiaine, Falion and Marillin are on the loose. If she acted on the information it would have been worth the cost, but as far as we know she did not.

Ituralde POV

The Borderlands are really feeling the need for their forces away in the south. The Shadow took advantage of Paitar Nachiman’s desire to speak to Rand to encourage the monarchs to take as many forces as they would. I believe they subverted the expedition as much as possible and that at least one of the rulers has a Darkfriend advisor. (For instance, Paitar’s own advisor, the dissatisfied and divisive Kyril Shianri is a possibility). The situation is just too convenient for the Shadow to be otherwise. At the Cleansing of saidin we saw that Lanfear had been hanging out north of Shadar Logoth – which means the Borderlands.

Ituralde has Aes Sedai as well as Asha’man Healing his troops. This reminds me that Memara, the Red who was sent to Saldaea by the Tower at Alviarin’s suggestion, has not re-surfaced.

The Traitor’s Banner seems to be an extant device adopted by Yoeli to rally forces against the appointed authority (Torkumen). He probably would not have time to invent something and is not a noble so he doesn’t have any colours of his own.

The Queen’s representative, Torkumen, ignores the crisis and demands time for private meditation. He claims the Trollocs are not urgent because they are always there. One would think his orders not to be disturbed so pathetic that they would be rejected, yet obviously many obeyed them. Yoeli and his men fought and killed quite a few soldiers loyal to Torkumen to open and hold the gates to rescue Ituralde’s men, actions that still haunt the soldier.

Torkumen tries to frighten Ituralde and Yoeli from continuing to fight the Shadowspawn. Yet if what they have done is enough to merit what he threatens them with, why would they back out now? You can only be executed once.

Ituralde believes all ties are superseded now that the Dragon is here and Tarmon Gai’don is coming. He names Torkumen Darkfriend, but Torkumen is more shocked when Ituralde cut him off, cursed him and left. Likely Torkumen joined the Shadow due to ambition and would not take being ignored.

Yoeli accepts that Torkumen is either a fool (an incompetent) or a Darkfriend. He won’t use gateways to escape Maradon and leave it to the Shadow. This foreshadows Rand’s refusal to abandon the city also.

Likewise Ituralde will make his stand here (hence the chapter title) to hold the city until messages are delivered for reinforcements, and it will be a marathon stand. Maradon is named after the ancient Greek town of Marathon, where the Battle of Marathon occurred in September 490 BC. It was a decisive battle in which the Athenians drove off the first Persian invasion of Greece. The Athenian army was to be commanded by ten generals, each of whom was to hold operational command for one day. (This change in command is a real life parallel to the Battle of the Shining Walls in the Aiel War). The generals were evenly divided on whether to await the Persians or to attack them, and the tie was broken by a civil official, Callimachus, who decided in favour of an attack. Four of the generals then ceded their commands to the Athenian general Miltiades, thus effectively making him commander in chief.

The Greeks could not defeat the Persian cavalry on the open plain, and waited until the cavalry were temporarily absent from the Persian camp, whereupon Miltiades ordered an attack upon the Persian infantry. Miltiades reinforced the flanks of his forces and decoyed the Persian’s strongest troops into pushing back the Greek centre. The Greek flanks then suddenly wheeled in and surrounded the Persians. The Persian troops fled to their ships with great losses.

According to legend, an Athenian messenger was sent from Marathon to Athens, a distance of about 25 miles (40 km), and there he announced the Greek victory before dying of exhaustion. This tale became the basis for the modern marathon race.

Yoeli made a stand too, to defend Maradon, and also to behave honourably and protect others from the Trollocs. In honour of Ituralde’s and the Saldaean’s efforts, Rand will stand against the Shadowspawn army and exhaust himself destroying them by channelling unaided more than anyone else could have with a sa’angreal.

Perrin POV

Perrin is distressed the Whitecloaks are forcing him to fight them because it is a waste of forces on both sides that should fight the Shadow. Faile is more bigoted in her attitude and has no qualms about destroying the Whitecloaks. This ties in with the previous POV where Saldaeans fight over whether to rescue people fighting Shadowspawn, or to follow orders and keep them out.

Galad’s seal of a winged silver sword, point-down, which Balwer doesn’t recognise, emphasises the sword of Damocles, part of the origin of the Damodred name. Definitely the threat of death (and ultimately extinction) hangs over the Whitecloaks.

Galad doesn’t sign letters with his name, only with his title. The position is more important to him than the status. He is not interested in the cult of monarch, just in doing the job.

When Perrin plays chase with wolves, or fails at it, Hopper appears to guide him. It’s necessary: Perrin is fearing for his humanity again but then picks up on Hopper’s hints on how to manage himself:

Perhaps he wasn't like the wolves because he was a wolfbrother. Perhaps he was a wolfbrother because he was like the wolves. He didn't need to control them. He needed to control himself.

Towers of Midnight, To Make A Stand

Elyas found his balance between wolf and man after some effort. Perrin has to also, or else he believes he will end up like Noam. (Noam seems a more convincing or balanced wolf now than was in Jarra – or at least in Tel’aran’rhiod he is. Back in The Dragon Reborn, he was probably new to wolfbrotherhood, and still had not fully abandoned being human.)

With instruction, Perrin moves by scent in Tel’aran’rhiod with eyes closed. He is actually using “need” to go to where he needs to be, just as female Dreamwalkers do, only they don’t use scent, but only their will. That doesn’t mean they are any better at it, just slightly different, more passive.

Like the Aiel Dreamwalkers, Hopper is a rather careful tutor:

You are too young. These things are beyond you.
"Too young?" Perrin said, standing. "Hopper, the Last Hunt is nearly upon us!"
Hopper lay down, head on paws.
"You always tell me that I'm too young," Perrin said. "Or that I don't know what I'm doing. Well, what is the point of teaching me, if not to show me how to fight men like Slayer?"

Towers of Midnight, To Make A Stand

Good point.

Perrin decides to meet the Whitecloaks, although he fears it may be the wrong decision based on his visions in the dream.

He was pleased to see healthy flowers on Dragonmount in Tel’aran’rhiod. They were a welcome change, and a sign of the hope, really, that comes from Dragonmount.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Arthurian Battle of Caemlyn

By Linda


Years ago I noticed the similarity between the names Caemlyn and Camlann (the place where King Arthur's final and fatal battle against Mordred took place and most combatants died), the number of major characters in Caemlyn with Arthurian names and the prevalence of Celtic themes in Caemlyn (see Arthurian myths and Arthurian Who's Who), and theorised in the Origin of Place Names article that there would be a huge battle at Caemlyn as part of the Last Battle. And at the end of Towers of Midnight we saw it begin with a great fire (of London?)

Andor has English influences, specifically the England of Arthurian myth and of the Tudor Queens, hence, perhaps, the great fire. Its western province or ‘colony’ of the Two Rivers is similar to the early American colonies, notably the Carolinas. In fact, Jordan, a resident of South Carolina, said that he lived in the Two Rivers. Elayne has parallels to Elaine the Lily Lady and Queen Guinevere of Arthurian myth, and to the long-reigned Queen Elizabeth I. Her mother Morgase has parallels to Morgause, sister of Morgan le Fay, and to the historic Queen Mary I of England who, once married to a prince of England’s rival nation Spain visited atrocities on religious grounds on her people, just as Morgase had her close supporters abused while under Rahvin’s Compulsion.

Caemlyn has been under threat from the beginning of the series: the first major city to be so.This is due to Rand; he is the trigger for the Shadow to attack. Lan is the first to point out that the Shadow is prepared to destroy any city Rand stays in or takes an interest in:

"But we're in Caemlyn," Egwene said. "They can't get to us as long as-"
"They can't?" the Warder cut her off. "The Fades are building their numbers in the countryside. That's plain enough from the sign, if you know what to look for. Already there are more Trollocs than they need just to watch all the ways out of the city, a dozen fists, at least. There can only be one reason; when the Fades have enough numbers, they will come into the city after you. That act may send half the armies of the south marching to the Borderlands, but the evidence is that they're willing to take that risk. You three have escaped them too long. It looks as if you've brought a new Trolloc War to Caemlyn, sheepherder."
Egwene gave a gasping sob, and Perrin shook his head as though to deny it. Rand felt a sickness in his stomach at the thought of Trollocs in the streets of Caemlyn. All those people at one another's throats, never realizing the real threat waiting to come over the walls. What would they do when they suddenly found Trollocs and Fades in their midst, killing them? He could see the towers burning, flames breaking through the domes, Trollocs pillaging through the curving streets and vistas of the Inner City. The Palace itself in flames. Elayne, and Gawyn, and Morgase ... dead.
"Not yet," Moiraine said absently.”

The Eye of the World, Old Friends, and New Threats

This is Foreshadowing of the battle of Caemlyn (and of armies from the south going to the Borderlands). And Moiraine is correct, the attack will come later.

Egwene’s sorrow and horror were reprised in the Accepted ter’angreal:

As far as she could see in every direction lay ruin and desolation, buildings that looked as if they had been torn apart by madmen, thick plumes of smoke rising from the fires still burning. There were people in the streets, bands of armed men prowling, searching. And Trollocs. The men shied away from the Trollocs, and the Trollocs snarled at them and laughed, harsh guttural laughter. But they knew each other, worked together.
A Myrddraal came striding down the street, its black cloak swaying gently with its steps even when the wind gusted to drive dust and rubbish past it. Men and Trollocs alike cowered under its eyeless stare. “Hunt!” Its voice sounded like something long dead crumbling. “Do not stand there shivering! Find him!”…
She had trained herself not to see the dead buried in the refuse heap Trollocs and Darkfriends had made of Caemlyn. She could do nothing for the dead.

The Dragon Reborn, The Price of the Ring

and Rand’s fears of Shadowspawn attacking Caemlyn were actualised in a ‘small’ way when Rahvin brought some Shadowspawn in to the city to defend his throne in The Fires of Heaven, but once Rand balefired him, the Aiel drove them off. Worse was Rahvin’s attack on Andor’s unity and leadership, which set the stage for Morgase’s departure and abdication, and the Succession. During the siege Moridin ordered Darkfriends to set fires:

“Can you shift guards away from the food warehouses? It would please me if some of those actually burned. I am tired of attempts that always fail.”
“That I cannot do,” he muttered. “Not unless you expect me to go into hiding right after. They keep a record of orders that would make a Cairhienin wince. And it wouldn’t do any good anyway, not with those bloody gateways bringing in more wagons every bloody day.” In truth, he was not sorry for that. Queasy over the means used, certainly, but not sorry. He expected the palace would be the last place in Caemlyn to go hungry in any case, but he had lived out sieges on both sides of the lines, and he had no intention of ever boiling his boots for soup again. Shiaine wanted fires, though.

Crossroads of Twilight, Gathering Darkness

and the Shadow will finally commit arson on a grand scale at the end of Towers of Midnight, to add to the chaos, terror and destruction of the long-portended Shadowspawn attack.

In Arthurian myth, King Arthur left Mordred in charge of Britain while he fought on the continent, but the traitor Mordred took advantage of Arthur’s absence to claim the crown and Guinevere. Arthur hurriedly returned and defeated Mordred in battle at Camlann, but both were fatally wounded in the fight. Apart from the death of the two leaders, it was a very costly battle in lives: none survived on Mordred’s side and only a few on Arthur’s. After the battle the wounded Arthur was taken to a barge:

Now put me into the barge, said the king. And so he did softly; and there received him three queens with great mourning; and so they set them down, and in one of their laps King Arthur laid his head. And then the queen said: Ah, dear brother, why have ye tarried so long from me? Alas, this wound on your head hath caught over-much cold. And so then they rowed from the land, and Sir Bedivere beheld all those ladies go from him…thus was he led away in a ship wherein were three queens; that one was King Arthur’s sister, Queen Morgan le Fay; the other was the Queen of Northgalis; the third was the Queen of the Waste Lands. Also there was Nimue, the chief lady of the lake…

- Le Morte D’Arthur, Sir Thomas Malory, Book XXI, Chapters V and VI

Likewise there will be a titanic battle at Caemlyn, perhaps crucial to the outcome of Tarmon Gai’don. Rand has not gone near the city since Winter’s Heart, when he left Elayne to it and Taim in charge of the nearby Black Tower. The traitorous Taim has taken advantage of Rand’s absence to turn the Black Tower to his own cause and so may represent Mordred here.

Another possibility for Mordred is Moridin, who gave orders for Elayne’s rule to be undermined. He commands the Black Ajah in Caemlyn, the ones that were tricked by Elayne into warning her that Caemlyn was soon to be attacked (Towers of Midnight, Foxheads). Since Moridin claims to be playing both sides of the board (ostensibly ‘helping’ Rand at times in order to further the Shadow’s – or at least his own – cause), and has people on both sides helping him, he is traitorous. And, of course, if Taim is Moridin this parallel becomes even stronger. Other possibilities for the identity of Mordred are Mordeth/Fain (although he is now in the Blight) and Demandred.

On the opposite side of the battle, Talmanes has been left in charge of the Band while Mat went to rescue Moiraine. He is the highest ranked leader of forces remaining around the city.

As well as being Elaine the Lily Lady, Queen Elayne is one of Rand’s three Guinevere figures. She allowed people to think Hanlon fathered her child, the very man who claims her unwilling body as his reward, while the actual father has no idea Elayne is even pregnant.

So the way this parallel may play out is that Elayne will return to defend her city and be captured again (just as Guinevere seemed to require rescuing every other day). Rand, hearing of the danger she is in, rushes to Caemlyn to save her and the city. Another possibility is that Mat takes Rand’s place as King Arthur here and rescues Elayne. There is a long-standing wrangle between Mat and Elayne of him rescuing her and her unwilling to have toh to him. This would mean that the fatal duel between Rand and his Mordred figure and his subsequent departure on the boat takes place elsewhere and elsewhen (since Elayne will be there).

King Arthur’s departure on the boat for Avalon is paralleled in Nicola’s Foretelling of:

"The lion sword, the dedicated spear, she who sees beyond. Three on the boat, and he who is dead yet lives. The great battle done, but the world not done with battle. The land divided by the return, and the guardians balance the servants. The future teeters on the edge of a blade."

- Lord of Chaos, Dreams and Nightmares

and Melaine’s and Bair’s dream of Rand

“on a boat with three women whose faces they could not see and a scale tilting first one way and then the other”

- Lord Of Chaos, Matters of Toh).

Why, with so many channellers around would they use a boat instead of Travelling? The boat may be a Skimming platform, Skimming being a way travelling if you don’t know your starting place well.

While the three queens do not seem to be precisely paralleled by Jordan, the Queen of the Wastelands likely represents Aviendha (the dedicated spear). Nicola describes the other two women on the boat as the lion sword (Elayne) and she who sees beyond (Min). Morgan le Fay, King Arthur’s sister may be a parallel of Elayne here, who Rand feared was closely related to him by blood (but she is not). One of the queens exclaims over Arthur’s head wound. In Towers of Midnight, Nynaeve attempted to Heal the madness of the taint in Rand and exclaimed at the presence of Light as well as Darkness in Rand’s mind. Perhaps this delicate balance is overthrown in A Memory of Light, and Rand has problems with his mind once more. We saw Lanfear’s quite effective attempt to destroy Rand’s refuge in his dreams at the end of Towers of Midnight. Malory indicates that Nimue (a parallel of Nynaeve, as Lan’s wife Lady of the Thousand Lakes) was also among the women on the funeral barge, in addition to the three queens. Just because the soothsayers speak of three women and Rand on a boat doesn’t mean that Nynaeve is not also there. There are a couple of significant foreshadowings that Nynaeve will bring back someone from the dead – or at least someone perceived to be dead.

As for “he who is dead yet lives”, Sir Bedivere witnesses what appears to be Arthur’s transportation into the otherworldly realm of Avalon, an obvious parallel to Tar Valon in The Wheel of Time full as it is of long-lived women with magical powers. However on the following day, Sir Bedivere goes to a hermitage and there finds a hermit lamenting over a newly made tomb. The hermit says that at midnight

“here came a number of ladies, and brought hither a dead corpse, and prayed me to bury him; and here they offered an hundred tapers, and they gave me an hundred besants.”

Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XXI, Chapter VI

Bedivere believes that these ladies must have been the queens he saw taking King Arthur away on the boat, even though, significantly, the hermit does not identify the corpse as Arthur’s, and there is the lasting legend that King Arthur lives on or will live again. Min had a viewing of three women standing over a funeral bier with Rand on it (The Eye of the World, Strangers and Friends) and Darrel Sweet portrayed Rand’s body on a bier with the three women grieving around it. The Aelfinn prophesied that to live, Rand must die (Lord of Chaos, Connecting Lines).

“The world not done with battle” phrase in Nicola’s foretelling is probably an allusion to the continuing and escalating war of Tarmon Gai’don, and I believe that the “great battle” soon to be “done” is the Battle of Caemlyn/Camlann.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #30: Chapter 23 - Foxheads

By Linda


Elayne POV

The foxhead medallion is not a simple metal or simple mix of metals even, since Elayne can’t really identify its composition. I guess it is a magical alloy, although perhaps it is made of a transmuted metal, an element new to the Wheel of Time world. This may be why Elayne’s copies don’t work as well as the original: she hasn’t got the composition right. Elayne’s version can be overridden with enough power, and it prevents the holder from channelling. In fact it’s getting close to a version of Far Madding’s ter’angreal that prevents channelling.

The name Lucky Man Theatre Troop sounds east Asian, a reference to the Japanese influence in Cairhien.

Elayne has tempted Ellorien with a fashionably novel version of her favourite saga. Her enthusiasm contrasts with Elayne and Birgitte’s ennui and disinterest in players (no theatre, if you pardon the pun). By playing hard to get, Elayne lured Ellorien into speaking to her, and then used the opportunity to emphasise that her intentions were kindly.

Sylvase is deeply damaged by her abusive grandfather, and it is understandable that she killed him (see post on this here). She is a very dark character, but at least she probably did not turn to the Shadow in her desperation.

Elayne is determined to undo the damage that Morgase did. Finally she has to face the ethics of questioning captive Darkfriends, specifically whether to use torture or not:

Birgitte had taken the captives alive ostensibly so that they could be questioned, then tried by the White Tower. But that meant they had no reason to speak; they knew their ultimate end would be execution. So Elayne either had to be willing to bargain with them, or she had to let the questioner take extreme measures.
A queen had to be hard enough to allow these things. Or that was what her teachers and tutors had explained. There was no question as to the guilt of these women, and they had already done enough to earn themselves death a dozen times over. Elayne wasn't certain how far she herself was willing to descend, however, to pry their secrets free.
Besides, would that actually do any good? Ispan had had some kind of Compulsion or oaths binding her; these were likely to have the same. Would they be able to reveal anything useful? If only there were a way to. . . .

Towers of Midnight, Foxheads

Foxes are tricky, and with her pair of foxhead medallions Elayne attempts some trickery in this chapter to circumvent having to use torture. Had Birgitte herself not wandered off in boredom, Elayne would not have been able to attempt such a risky tactic alone. You might say Elayne’s POV shows the dangers of being bored during a performance.

And so to the logical result of Elayne’s blind faith in Min’s viewing: Elayne risks herself to gain information from Chesmal. She makes a mistake in her questioning by showing that she doesn’t know as much as she should, but she did learn of the Shadow wanting Mat dead, and their impending invasion of Andor. A sceptical Brown, Eldrith was not fooled by a seeming Chosen. Elayne made another mistake in not tying off the shield she wove.

The foxhead ter’angreal saved her from channelling, but she was still vulnerable to physical attack. Elayne thinks like an Aes Sedai: if she can channel, no mere physical attack can harm her. Yet she was wrong. Something else Elayne should have borne in mind is that the ter’angreal only stops direct weaves, not indirect ones.

The scene always reminds me of Romanda’s quip that one does not need intelligence to be a Green, only courage. That’s a bit harsh here, but Elayne did show more courage under fire than deftness.

Finally Elayne realises the sense of what Birgitte has been saying:

She couldn't die. Min had said . . . We could be misinterpreting. Birgitte's voice returned to her. Any number of things could still go wrong.

Towers of Midnight, Foxheads

but she is at the point of death before she does so.

Birgitte has supplied prudence to Gaidal Cain each lifetime, yet she is having a hard time doing the same for Elayne.

Hanlon escaped, as did Falion and Marillin. His orders were to free the Black sisters or kill them.

Gawyn POV

Gawyn was right to leave Egwene at the end of this scene. She doesn’t want a partner, but an underling, as this quote shows:

"I didn't ask for your protection! I asked for your obedience!”

Towers of Midnight, Foxheads

So indignant because she is convinced Mesaana would have walked into her trap. When Gawyn says the attacker wasn’t one of the Forsaken, but a man with a sword, that made his actions even less justifiable in her mind. Egwene, like Elayne, is confident she could deal with a non-channeller and would have captured his or her, never thinking that four Aes Sedai have been killed.

"I told you that I had taken precautions," she continued.

Towers of Midnight, Foxheads

But were they the right precautions?

I wonder what all the properties of a bloodknife are? The three blood-coloured rocks inset into the blade – which give the knife and therefore the assassin their name – must have some significance. The Seanchan must have believed that the Bloodknives would be able to kill plenty of marath’damane or they would not have sent them. They would not want to waste valuable forces. Four dead so far is only one each. And of course, Egwene doesn’t know how many of them are loose or that they could work together…

Egwene needs to respect Gawyn’s role more, and think on why even Aes Sedai strong in saidar have Warders. Sometimes you can’t channel your way out of trouble – due to Oaths, injury, exhaustion, etc. In this chapter Egwene and Elayne are both over-confident in their powers as strong channellers, and, one sooner, the other later, comes a cropper through not taking ‘mundane’ precautions or allowing themselves to be protected.

Even at such a trying time Gawyn takes time to arrange positions for his former men, showing his ‘worthiness’ for a supportive, protective role.


Nazar calls Lan ‘son’ just as Lan does Bulen.

A reverse war of attrition, a veritable war of accumulation, is being waged on Lan. Like Rand, he too wants to act alone and deny others the opportunity to aid or participate, and is stubbornly giving as little ground as possible on this. So far the men have forced Lan to acknowledge that stealth wasn’t working, but he was able to impose his kingly will on them to not reveal his identity or summon others to their caravan.

The whole chapter shows the dangers in acting by yourself against the power of the Shadow.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #29: Chapter 22 - The End of a Legend

By Linda


Gawyn POV

The Dark One’s cloud cover hides everything at night – whether whole or broken:

In darkness, one couldn't tell the difference between a beautifully intricate mural and a wall full of mismatched tiles. At night, the most beautiful of Tar Valon's buildings became another dark lump.
And at night, the holes and scars on the White Tower were patched with a bandage of darkness. Of course, on a night as dark as these clouds caused, one also couldn't tell the Tower's color. White or black; at night, it didn't really matter.

Towers of Midnight, The End of a Legend

or good or evil. It seems Gawyn fears the Darkness is trying to get people to confuse good and evil by hiding which is which.

Procrastination has put Gawyn in limbo. He has no specific allegiance because while he loves Egwene, he is not supporting her yet. Nor, as we saw in her last scene, has she truly earned that support yet. Gawyn is pulled to Egwene as strongly as if they were already bonded, while he wanders the Tower at night like a lost soul.

Now that they have seen Aes Sedai life up close, some Younglings are having second thoughts about becoming Warders. They’ve been in battle and are no longer interested in guarding one woman on her tasks. They want to live as other men do, and not apart. Despite being unable to sort his own mind out, Gawyn was decisive and constructive enough in how to help these former Younglings.

Gawyn thinks Bryne’s position is also anomalous: Warder to the former Amyrlin (now low-ranked), great captain and general of the rebel army.

The maps on the walls of Bryne’s rooms bring home the imminence of the Last Battle. One of the maps has the Field of Merrilor marked. By mapping the defences available to the north of Tar Valon, Bryne seems to have assumed any attack on Tar Valon will be from the Blight. Yet it could also be via the Ways or, if it were the Seanchan, from any direction. Bryne has a map with a village near Dragonmount strongly marked – the one where Rand performed his miracle – so after Rand visited the Tower Bryne traced Rand’s movements.

Bryne reminds Gawyn that the last time he insisted on helping Egwene he “upset weeks’ worth of her work to reunite the Tower.” (He also probably hastened that reunion.) Gawyn thinks Bryne is suggesting he leave Egwene unprotected. Bryne denies this; he is actually suggesting Gawyn protect her in a way that fits in with her plans. However, her plans are flawed, being based on erroneous assumptions, and so this would not work.

From Bryne’s questions to Gawyn, we can see that Bryne analyses his own aims and motives logically, and then follows a plan that is likely to fulfil them. He tells Gawyn that he is too narrow – concentrating only on Egwene (like Perrin does on Faile) – and impulsive. Perhaps Galad gets on with Perrin so well because he senses his similarities with his younger brother. Galad’s forethought gives him freedom to act quickly and appropriately, whereas Gawyn acts on feeling, not thought, and does his thinking later. This is handy in battle and most emergencies. Bryne says this gives Gawyn strength, which is interesting, because Perrin is a strength figure. In human mode, Perrin gives a lot of forethought to situations. In wolf mode, he acts on instinct, like Gawyn. Until Perrin accepted both sides of himself, integrating himself, he too was in limbo, and irritating everyone with his procrastination.

Bryne’s advice to Gawyn to find a position and a goal for himself rather than just concentrating on Egwene is excellent. But I don’t think he followed it, as we shall see in later chapters of the read-through.

Bryne repeated his previous advice to Gawyn that Gawyn should think before he acts, but Gawyn doesn’t seem to be very good at thinking. Or perhaps more correctly, much of his thinking is intuitive, not logical. Bryne makes a good point that:

”you've never had to face what to do when your instincts lead you in the wrong direction."

Towers of Midnight, The End of a Legend

Gawyn has not had to face the consequences of having the wrong reaction before. Earlier, Galad was warned by Morgase to be prepared for the consequences of a wrong decision. Being in the Light is no guarantee that you will get it right.

They are interrupted by Siuan. Her complaints that men think women are their personal messengers didn’t fit the conversation.

As Gawyn prepares to do what Egwene asks, he hears hint of a Bloodknife. He catches on quickly to look for darkness. Appropriately, Egwene is dressed in red - the colour of the Ajah against men - when Gawyn barges in and springs her trap.


Before our eyes we see Jordan’s theme of history turning to myth in practise. Legends are being created about Mat: he is described variously as Prince of Ravens, Lord of Luck or the Dark One, and has diced with death for his future, and never lost a fight. The story about the city of the dead awakening was created by the Band, Mat thinks. All the tales are of luck and death: his roles as Luck/Fortune or King of the Underworld, and not as a war, trickster, Fool or hero figure. (See my long Mat essay for all Mat’s roles and themes). Mat is regretting becoming legendary, because it makes him a tall poppy to cut down, aconspicuous target. Noal/Jain knows what it is like to be famous or notorious, yet despite his strong hints, Mat still hasn’t deduced Noal’s identity. This is a long-running joke.

The laws of Andor are being imposed harshly and seemingly illogically:

Men hanging for poaching trees? What next? Men hanging for stealing dirt?

Towers of Midnight, The End of a Legend

Yes, if it is the right sort of dirt, such as a mineral deposit. Illegal mining, like illegal logging, can have harsh penalties. This is foreshadowing of how valuable such resources will become as technology, both mechanical and ter’angreal, is advanced.

Thom says the *Finns must have bargained with the Aes Sedai that built the doorways in the first place, so Aes Sedai must have something the *Finns want. What they like is to steal the ability to channel. Why would Aes Sedai bargain away that, or even risk it?

Mat thinks the info in her letter was gained from the *Finns, but many of her actions are due to her trip through the rings and some of her knowledge of the *Finns and the Tairen doorway came from books. Mat thinks the *Finns want him and Moiraine and assumes Moiraine was lured back by their answers to her questions – or they knew she would return because they read her fate. They had to answer her questions, but they didn’t have to answer straightforwardly (and they may not have):

"Yes, but they don't have to answer straightforwardly," Mat said. "They didn't with me. They answered knowing she would come back to them. And they gave me what they did knowing I'd get pulled back, too. They want me. They want us."

Towers of Midnight, The End of a Legend

True, but their answers to Moiraine may not have been designed to lure her back. She would not have ‘wasted’ her questions on anything other than her tasks to see the Last Battle won. Although in typical Jordan/Sanderson fashion of holding everything back to the last book, we still don’t know what they are.

Mat fears the *Finns can harvest his memories – and are harvesting them – as they did to those men whose memories they gave to him. It is hard to know if this is right, and we may never know, unless Moiraine has any answers.

Mat says:

"No trades, Thom, no bargains. We go in fighting and we don't leave until we have her."

Towers of Midnight, The End of a Legend

Noal says going to the *Finns' land is something he needs to do. He never explains why adequately, which I think is an oversight. There was a place in later chapters where he could have, and it would have added to the drama.

The three adventurers take stock of what they will carry:

Fire – lanterns, torches, matches, grenades (roarsticks), nightflowers
Music – harp, flutes, drums, cymbals
Iron – knives, shortswords, chains, iron band for ashandarei.

The dice are rolling in Mat’s head. Mat feels he owes Moiraine for taking him away from the boring old Two Rivers. At this time, Rand is very grim and solitary; therefore the scene is before his epiphany.

Mat is very nervous at how empty the Caemlyn streets are. Finally someone recognises Mat and tries to kill him for the bounty.

Birgitte POV

This POV has a “Night at the Opera” scene. I don’t think Birgitte’s wish that ‘players’ die out will be fulfilled. Birgitte is quite conservative in her tastes. Combining theatre and opera terminology – player, diva, aria, theatre.

Birgitte is mulling over what memories she has left; she draws on them as Mat does on his, and she is traumatised when she forgets any one of them lest she become a woman without a past. She accepts that she won’t be with Gaidal this time around, and believes that this life is unique and against the Pattern, which is trying to fit her in. Yet she may meet him – he is an infant somewhere – and we know from Min’s viewing:

Besides, those multitudes of images and auras flashed by too quickly for her to make out any clearly, but she was certain they indicated more adventures than a woman could have in one lifetime. Strangely, some were connected to an ugly man who was older than she, and others to an ugly man who was much younger, yet somehow Min knew they were the same man.

- Winter’s Heart, A Lily in Winter.

that this is the rarer alternative Pattern of her lives when she is much older than Gaidal.

The entertainment Elayne is sponsoring is for a privileged few. It contrasts with the more egalitarian Ogier, who believe beauty is for all, high and low.

Mat plays the role of charming trickster in the Palace. He says he let the guards catch him. Two dozen coins all showing heads is way over 1 in 1000 odds (that’s the odds for 10 heads).

Birgitte looks on her life with a happy old age as boring. She sounds like Mat. I loved Birgitte’s comments about Old Snert’s physical attractions. It’s an amusing and refreshing counterpoint to Mat’s frequent comments on the pretty features of the women he encounters.

Birgitte gives Mat a lot of useful info on the *Finns and their world. She doesn’t know why they love Aes Sedai though. It is because channellers have enhanced senses and reactions and the *Finns feed off this, and can also “eat” their ability to channel.

It’s interesting that if you enter by the doorways you won’t penetrate far into the *Finns’ realm. We saw this in The Shadow Rising where Mat was taken to a bargaining room fairly near the entry. As I theorised, blood has strong effect on the *Finns.

Cheating is expected. The *Finns are tricksters and try to cheat while following the letter of agreements, like Aes Sedai (who are also tricksters, see my essay on Tricksters). People will lose unless, or even if, they violate the agreement.

Birgitte’s wish to the Eelfinn was to be for Gaidal to be healed of his brain injury. The *Finns have a reputation for brain surgery! Hence their successful ‘operation’ on Mat. She got lost because the directions bent, so she never found her original route.

How the legend of Birgitte’s visit to the Tower of Ghenjei ever was created is a mystery since she did not leave the *Finns' world, and now it is apparently extinct. This is what the chapter title refers to. The end of that Birgitte legend is the opposite of the legends in the making earlier in this chapter.

And they rush off to rescue Elayne.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Memory of Light Predictions

By Linda

With feelings of anticipation tinged with a little sadness, it’s time I posted my predictions for the Last Book of the Wheel of Time. Since there is so much left to be resolved, and I won’t get another chance to Foretell, I have written double the number of previous predictions.

The list is a summary of predictions I’ve discussed in various articles (to which I've linked) plus new ones.

1. Aviendha tells the Aiel their choices: to fight in the Last Battle and be destroyed, or adopt the Way of Leaf and learn Singing. Some do one, some the other. Afterwards: the surviving fighters become a peace-keeping force for Rand’s pact between nations. (Those who adopt the Way already keep peace.) This causes huge ructions, including the exposure of some Aiel Darkfriends, eg Sorilea. Theory

2. Demandred brings his forces against the Light and against Moridin. They appear unexpectedly via the Ways. There is a contingent from Seanchan. Theory

3. Aes Sedai damane attack the White Tower as part of Seanchan strike force. The Aes Sedai are put in fear of their lives by the sul’dam in order to over-ride their Oath against using the One Power as a weapon. Theory

4. Tuon is forced to channel and this splits the Seanchan. Berelain is looked to by some as an alternative ruler. Three times in the books a woman has wished Berelain was shaved bald, and she may well be, which makes her look like one of the Imperial Family. Theory

5. The Ogier split over whether to open the Book of Translation. Loial's mother is a Darkfriend or is being manipulated by them to persuade the Ogier to leave and not fight at the Last Battle. Theory

6. Probably my oldest theory after Caemlyn being Camlann: Taim is Moridin (Theory). Logain strikes at Taim/Moridin, drives him out of the Black Tower, perhaps even kills him. One false Dragon deserves another. This is his glory that few men can achieve. Cadsuane may be there; she is the only Aes Sedai we know of has met both and with her ter’angreal can reveal Taim’s disguise.

7. Lanfear manages to unbalance Rand and make him dark again for a time. She is an expert at sending people mad. Look at Masema: she manipulated him from Falme until his death.

8. The shade of Rand’s mother Kari al’Thor makes an appearance, linking back to the end of The Eye of the World.

9. Rand with Callandor and Shaidar Haran wielding a black blade duel. Rand's third question to the Aelfinn was on how to avoid Breaking the World again, and using Callandor while linked with two women is the way to avoid that.

10. Egwene has united the opposition to Rand breaking the Seals, hence making it easier for him to identify and deal with them in one go. Rand not only expected her to, he wanted her to do so.

11. Javindhra and Desala are Black Ajah. They are part of the circle turning channellers to the Shadow at the Black Tower. Annoura is a Black sister with Perrin.

12. Laras knows where the Horn of Valere is. Egwene finally visits Laras as Verin asked, and is told. Theory

13. Rand has done five or six impossible things (cleansed saidin, destroyed the Shadar Logoth evil, broken a cuendillar a’dam while wearing it, channelled the True Power through his link to Moridin, destroyed a huge Shadowspawn army unaided by channelling as much saidin as should need a very strong sa’angreal, and made apples regrow on an entire orchard), so he has three or so remaining to do: cleanse the Ways, defeat the Dark One, and die but continue to live. Theory

14. The horn-handled dagger ter’angreal is used to hide Rand from the Shadow. Theory

15. The Red Ajah will police channellers after the Last Battle. Theory

16. Egwene dreamt that she would be saved by a Seanchan with a sword on her back. This could be Egeanin or Tylee. We don’t know how Tylee wears her sword. Egeanin wore one when she was a soldier, but she isn’t one now. However, she may well start wearing one again.

17. Raen’s remarks:

"In any case, I do not think the song could be found in a city... Sometimes I worry that they [the Aiel] might know the song, though I suppose it isn't likely."

- The Eye of the World, The Travelling People

are foreshadowing that Singing will be ‘rediscovered’ in the Aiel city of Rhuidean.

18. Tenobia dies, as does Davram Bashere, and so Faile and Perrin inherit the Broken Crown.

19. The other two of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse will be more active: famine and pestilence. (Not that war or death are slacking off in any way.) Two notable period of history with bad plagues are the Black Death, which was at a time of terrible harvests, and the Great Plague of London which also had a Great Fire concurrently.

20. Mat’s opposite that he will fight is Padan Fain, the dark trickster of the series, while Perrin’s opposite is Isam. Isam is the Broken Wolf mentioned in the Shadow’s prophecy at the end of Towers of Midnight.

My son's predictions:

Moghedien will escape her mindtrap.

The Land of Madmen will feature in A Memory of Light.

Here are links to three articles on the loose ends of the series I wrote a few months ago:

As Yet Unfulfilled Prophecies
Nagging Unanswered Little Questions
Reappearance of Minor Characters

Thursday, July 12, 2012

At Last: Demandred

By Linda

Until now, Demandred has held back (or been hidden by the author), but if he is ever going to strike on-screen, this is his only remaining chance. As he has always intended, he will strike at Moridin as well as Rand.

In The Gathering Storm Prologue, when Moridin asked him about the status of his preparations, Demandred said:

"My rule is secure," Demandred said simply. "I gather for war. We will be ready."

He was careful not to give any location, or even hint of where his forces are. Moridin may think he knows, but Demandred may have secreted extra in at least one other location.

In this Age the Shadow requires a general the equal of Mat Cauthon. Looked at the other way, the Pattern had to arrange for someone allied to the Light to be as good a general as Demandred, and as successful a gambler, too. The Shadow are well aware of the difference luck makes, and in the early books often commented on Lews Therin’s good fortune. After a lot of effort, Mat is both a brilliant general and a lucky gambler.

The Age of Legends was the equivalent of the Ancient Roman republic (see The Age of Legends essay) and enemies of Rome parallels of the Forsaken (see Three Strands Common to the Forsaken article). Demandred is a parallel of Hannibal, renowned for bringing elephants over the Alps to invade the Republic, the ultimate unexpected movement of forces or ultimate movement of unexpected forces. I think Demandred will move his forces via the Ways from “unlikely” places such as Seanchan.

One could compare the heights and depths of the paths and islands in the Ways with the steep passes of a mountain range. The Seanchan literally have elephants (s’redit) of course, but there are creatures from the If worlds trained for war that could also be brought to terrify mainland forces and cause chaos. These animals were able to eradicate all the Shadowspawn on the Seanchan continent (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time) so they’d be a very useful addition to any army wanting to fight or defend itself against the Shadowspawn attacking the Westlands, whatever side that army is on.

So when Graendal remarks:

Demandred liked having armies to command, but there were none left moving in the world.

The Gathering Storm Prologue,

This is not altogether true: there are plenty on the Seanchan continent and, as Graendal muses, perhaps some on the mainland that have been at least partly subverted. Demandred may well have some forces in Murandy - not enough to be a threat to Moridin – and others elsewhere. It always puzzled me, with so many nations/areas and so few Forsaken, why some Forsaken haven’t drawn on more than one nation. Demandred has always liked using proxies, according to Sammael (Lord of Chaos, Threads Woven of Shadow), and by doing so he can amass armies in various locations until the time comes to move them into position on the gaming board.

I see him as being the general of all the Shadow's forces, but having some of his own personal forces in reserve to take control of areas he's conquered, destroy armies in his own name, or strike at Rand and Moridin.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #28: Chapter 21 - An Open Gate

By Linda


Perrin POV

When I read Seonid’s speech I always think of a weekly business strategy meeting, side-tracks and all, with powerpoint presentation. She even says the word “presentation”. (I hope I haven’t now ruined the chapter for anybody). And already Perrin is barely listening. He wonders why he has trouble concentrating, but a strategy meeting isn’t a hunt or a battle, and Perrin’s mind focusses best on physical or concrete things. However, he does note people’s reactions to the intelligence gathered:

Seonid is interested in going to Tear.
Faile is privately worried about Perrins’ reception by Elayne in Andor.
Annoura suggested they ally with the Seanchan.
The Wise Ones are furious that the Seanchan have made Wise Ones damane. The way Edarra speaks, the Seachan have made Wise Ones other than Shaido gai’shain:

"They have chained Wise Ones," Edarra said, her too-young face growing dark. She smelled dangerous. Angry but cold, like the smell before a person planned to kill. "Not just Shaido, who deserve their fate.”

- Towers of Midnight, An Open Gate

I’m not sure what other Wise Ones would have been captured by the Seanchan. Unless Edarra merely means they have taken Shaido gai’shain and Wise Ones damane:

"I doubt Rand wants a war between you," Perrin said.
"A year and a day," Edarra said simply. "Wise Ones cannot be taken gai'shain, but perhaps the Seanchan ways are different. Regardless, we will give them a year and a day. If they do not release their captives when we demand them after that time, they will know our spears. The Car'a'carn cannot demand any more from us."

- Towers of Midnight, An Open Gate

but then surely she can't believe that the Wise Ones, who led their people to these actions, don't deserve their fate. This speech also foreshadows what Aviendha will see in the glass columns.

The Wise Ones went behind Perrin’s back and asked the Asha’man for a gateway to Caemlyn. And so Morgase finally learns of Rahvin activities. Perrin has the wrong idea about Morgase's reaction to the news:

What was wrong with Maighdin? Erratic behavior like that was disturbing; all too often, it was followed by some manifestation of the Dark One's power.

- Towers of Midnight, An Open Gate

Since it was the result of learning of a Forsaken’s channelling, in a way it actually followed a manifestation of the Dark One’s power.

Perrin feels it is wrong to fight the Whitecloaks because they will be needed to fight against the Shadow. Unlike the Whitecloaks, he is not interested in zealous hatred. Ironically, when Balwer was with Whitecloaks, Niall noted his lack of zeal, whereas now Balwer is obsessed with damaging the Whitecloaks. (This is due to his abuse at the hands of Valda, as well as Valda’s murder of Niall.)

Balwer obtained a copy of Perrin’s and Mat’s likenesses from criminals in Cairhien and tried to find out who would pay to have Perrin dead. From this, Perrin realises Balwer didn’t just visit the Cairhien school and is not just a secretary. Balwer didn’t lie to Perrin about his connection to the Whitecloaks, but didn’t say that he served the Lord Captain Commander. Perrin deduced that Balwer was a spy. Balwer is appalled that Perrin wants to pay him more, but Perrin believes in paying people what they’re worth so they stay loyal. (Definitely an ideal employer). Balwer likes that Perrin doesn’t use his information for “betraying or compromising those around him.” This is odd, for a spymaster. Ironically Galad would also be like that, if he employed a spymaster. Balwer refuses pay, and thinks that Perrin is doing wonderful things with his info.

Perrin is right in thinking that he may need his army to protect him. (But they need him to protect them. Balance.)

Like many a meeting, it didn’t change anything: Perrin’s strategy is still the same.

Ituralde POV

Ituralde expects the Trollocs to stop and lay siege to Maradon, allowing his forces time to escape them. He doesn’t realise the Shadow will take the city quickly because the Darkfriend Lord in control of the city will let them in.

A Darkfriend probably blew the trumpet too soon, and so mucked up the retreat. Only determination to keep Trollocs out of Arad Doman keeps Ituralde going. So much heroism, so awful they have been abandoned.

They are saved by a defiant force of Saldaeans. It was noble of them to go against the military and social hierarchy to this extent. By this action they also saved Maradon, because Ituralde was able to defend the city until Rand finally arrived.

Morgase POV

Morgase is in shock as she realises what really happened to her. Her mood is paralleled in the landscape. Thin sunlight shines on a pool, reflecting the rays of knowledge illuminating her memory:

A thinner patch of clouds blew past, allowing fingers of sunlight to reach down from the overcast sky. That splintered light shone in rays through the clear water, making patches of light on the pool's bottom. Minnows darted between the patches, as if investigating the light.

- Towers of Midnight, An Open Gate

Her thoughts are the minnows.

She is disgusted to discover she was used as a pawn again. At the beginning of her reign she owed many people her position, including her husband Taringail, who was the former husband of the Daugher-Heir. It took ten years to free herself from obligation and dependence. Unlike Elayne, Morgase still doesn’t know Thom killed Taringail.

As Tallanvor approaches, the light on the pool dims:

The light from above dimmed, the thinner clouds moving on. The shafts of light faded, and the minnows scattered.

- Towers of Midnight, An Open Gate

Morgase hasn’t made up her mind about Tallanvor – he confuses her and she doesn’t know what to do.

Tallanvor announces that he will go to Tear to join the army to fight in the Last Battle. However Morgase is looking on him more favourably because people told her to what lengths he went to free her from the Shaido. She has never had such devotion before, but then she has never been in such straits before.

A leaf falls on the pool, symbolising Tallanvor’s impact on her mind. This looks ahead to Faile commenting that “the last leaf finally fell” when Tallanvor and Morgase come to Perrin to ask him to marry them:

A leaf fell from above and struck the pool. With a lobed margin and verdant richness, it should have had a long life yet.

- Towers of Midnight, An Open Gate

He falls toward her, bitterly believing he would be better without her because he thinks she still pines for Gaebril and he knows Gaebril didn’t love her. Morgase tells him who Gaebril was. She knows she still is susceptible to the Compulsion Rahvin wove on her, but has no love for him. She asks Tallanvor to say while she thinks. Hence the pool is still, even though her mind whirling. It reminds me of the saying “Still water run deep.”

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #27: Chapter 20 - A Choice

By Linda


And so we come to the testing of Nynaeve, when Jordan said he included Moiraine’s test for Aes Sedai in New Spring because he wasn’t going to show any test in the main series books. Many readers thought that it would be unexciting because we had seen one before, but Moiraine’s test was a (mostly) typical one, conducted with fairness and propriety, except for Elaida’s spiteful inclusion of Moiraine’s family at the end. It set the standard of what is acceptable and showed us by comparison how much Nynaeve’s test deviated from the norm. For a full writeup of the Aes Sedai test and the testing ter’angreal see here.

Nynaeve thinks the Tower’s cellars are worth better use than storage. This is foreshadowing that they already are being put to another use – by the Black Ajah.

How pleasant it is to see that the Tower has a Mistress of the Novices who gives approval based on merit and skill and is not frightened of change.

Nynaeve doesn’t explain herself often, but gives acceptable explanations to Rosil for why she is already acting like an Aes Sedai so as to not be rebellious or arrogant to her. Since she was already decreed Aes Sedai by the Amyrlin, she wants to respect that. And later, Egwene goes out of her way in allowing an excessive test to prove her decree. So this was a more important reason than Nynaeve knew. Most Aes Sedai would try to pretend that their unconventional raising never happened, though they would always lose some status for it, like they would if they were a wilder (which Nynaeve also is), but Nynaeve wears it as a badge of honour.

Nynaeve is to be tested by seven Sitters. Even more atypically, the Amyrlin is also present. Nynaeve knew that Egwene would be tough to justify raising her early. Since even three Sitters can judge an Aes Sedai in a legal trial, there is an aura of legal judgment in Nynaeve’s testing, probably lost on Nynaeve, though. This becomes more crucial when Nynaeve weaves balefire, even though she was not in the real world. And shines an even poorer light on the Sitters’ subsequent behaviour.

The deviations from custom start at the preliminaries: with Nynaeve’s declaration that she will depart in knowledge of herself – very true - and would show herself worthy – which she did, though some thought it was the wrong worthiness. Nynaeve means she will prove herself to them.

Nynaeve’s experience with channelling under pressure can be seen in the way she noticed that the weave of Spirit placed on the candidate not only affects memory but is rather like Healing. She already knew too much. As early as the second weave she was disputing her instructions.

The Trollocs were wrong as though the Aes Sedai creating this segment of the test had never seen them and is typical of the Aes Sedai’s ivory tower mentality. In contrast, Nynaeve’s standard of weaves is superb. This is hardly the woman of whom Cadsuane said:

Her ability with Healing was little short of miraculous, her ability with almost anything else dismal.

- Winter’s Heart, The Hummingbird’s Secret

Even while in the test she knows someone is to blame for her suffering and that they want her to fail. If Nynaeve wasn’t so stubborn, she might have.

The cruel test involving ill children that Nynaeve recognises as a situation she had been in before was during her testing for Accepted, where a malevolent Wisdom was making kids sick.

At the 81st weave she rebelled against keeping calm, because the test involved the Two Rivers, and in her emotional state she was able to overcome the restriction against channelling before she reached the star.

Nynaeve completely woke up to what was going on during the last weave. She remembered her test for Accepted when she left Lan, a test made from her mind, not created by others, and for the sake of her own self-respect, refuses to leave him this time. She is not going to play their game. In order not to leave Lan behind, she wove balefire, which disrupted the ter’angreal function. The Aes Sedai should have stopped their stupid game right then, but kept sending Darkhounds.

What if Nynaeve had, say gone back into the shed on the last weave, and slept? She would not have come out of the ter’angreal; the Aes Sedai would have destroyed their best and second strongest (Sharina is stronger, see Saidar Strength Ranking). For spite. What would Rand, Lan, etc, have said? The Aes Sedai showed incredibly poor judgement here. A fair portion of this is jealousy of her strength and skill.

I don’t blame Nynaeve for hating the Aes Sedai conducting this test. They behaved despicably. It serves them right that they had to exhaust themselves keeping the ter’angreal under control.

What happens in the ter’angreal, like in Tel’aran’rhiod, is real for the person’s body. They remember what happened, too. Nynaeve’s braid was burnt off in the ter’angreal and is gone in reality. It is a sign she can’t control her anger by gripping it anymore, but will have to express it another way.

Saerin is outraged at the excessive nature of the test. It was not a proper test in her judgement. The other Sitters say that it is unimportant that the test was unfair, unimportant that they behaved unethically, because Nynaeve didn’t pass due to lack of decorum. Hmmm…I think they pre-judged her as unworthy and tried to make her fail to prove it. She nearly died.

"This test," Barasine said, "is meant to ensure that a woman is capable of dedicating herself to a greater task. To see that she can ignore the distractions of the moment and seek a higher good."

- Towers of Midnight,A Choice

There is no higher good than saving people:

"My goal in this test was to prove that I deserve to be Aes Sedai. Well, then, I could argue that the lives of the people I saw were more important than gaining that title. If losing my title is what would be required to save someone's life—and if there were no other consequences—I'd do it. Every time. Not saving them wouldn't be serving a higher good; it would just be selfish."

- Towers of Midnight,A Choice

Too bad the Servants of all have forgotten this.

Egwene let Nynaeve put the Sitters in their place. As leader, she should have reinforced it though. But Sanderson tends to let one character at a time shine at climaxes, and builds them up in the scene by making others look weak or foolish.

Egwene warned the Sitters before the test that Nynaeve might be able to break it due to her high level of experience. This was true, but it may have increased their resolve to make the test excessive. Egwene herself made some of the worst trials – notably the ones with the Two Rivers and Lan. So she not only condoned its vengeful nature, but contributed to it to justify her own judgement. She put that ahead of Nynaeve’s life and career. And the Last Battle too. It is probably the worst thing she has ever done. I wonder if this was wholly what Sanderson intended here. I suppose it was ‘obvious’ that Nynaeve would survive, and therefore it was OK for Egwene, a character built up so greatly as the font of wise leadership in The Gathering Storm, to behave this way here. I disagree.

Nynaeve definitely would choose Lan over the Tower and after this example of the Tower’s leadership, who would blame her? And for good reasons:

"I wonder if," Nynaeve said, "we sometimes put the White Tower—as an institution—before the people we serve. I wonder if we let it become a goal in itself, instead of a means to help us achieve greater goals."

- Towers of Midnight,A Choice

Very tactful for Nynaeve, especially considering the circumstances. Egwene believes:

"Devotion is important, Nynaeve. The White Tower protects and guides the world."

- Towers of Midnight,A Choice

But the White Tower isn’t doing so! It just tried to kill the one of them who has been doing that, and succeeding best at helping Rand. Except for Cadsuane’s faction, the Aes Sedai are otherwise not contributing at all.

And again Nynaeve makes a tactful but so accurate reply:

"And yet, so many of us do it without families," Nynaeve said. "Without love, without passion beyond our own particular interests. So even while we try to guide the world, we separate ourselves from it. We risk arrogance, Egwene. We always assume we know best, but risk making ourselves unable to fathom the people we claim to serve."

- Towers of Midnight,A Choice

The Aes Sedai need reform. They are no longer exclusive, and are found wanting compared to other groups of female channellers who live amongst their society. Egwene apologises for her poor leadership, as well she should:

I'm sorry. I couldn't be seen favoring you, but perhaps I should have put a stop to it. You did what you weren't supposed to, and that drove the others to be increasingly severe…Many seemed to consider your victories a personal affront, a contest of wills. That drove them to be harsh. Cruel, even."

- Towers of Midnight,A Choice

No perhaps about it: Egwene should have held them to the proper limits of testing. They were outraged Nynaeve was able to best them, but they nearly killed her.

"I survived," Nynaeve said, eyes closed. "And I learned a great deal. About me. And about us."

- Towers of Midnight,A Choice

We all learned a great deal about Aes Sedai.

Nynaeve wants to be accepted by the Aes Sedai, but no longer does she depend on it. She used to be quite approval-seeking, something that stemmed from insecurity at her early promotion to Wisdom, but she truly grew up in this chapter. It’s not the first chapter in which she grew, but the one where the final polish was made.

The Sitters try to get Nynaeve to swear never to use balefire, because it is illegal to even use it. With seven Sitters, one from each Ajah, there is a legal aspect to this. She ignores it all; she is ever the breaker of arbitrary rules. Aes Sedai are all bound by rules – laws and customs, a plethora of them, as you can see here and here – so they all behave similarly, but don’t do so of own judgment or desire. They are made to behave a certain way, rather than voluntarily behaving ethically. As with the Three Oaths, they follow the letter of rules rather than the spirit. Warned by Rand not to change, Nynaeve insists on continuing to follow the spirit of laws. She points out that balefire is needed against the Shadow, something the Sitters can’t judge on, never having been up close to the Forsaken, or Darkhounds.

Ironically, a Green Sitter was incredulous that Nynaeve intends to go to Shayol Ghul. She tells them:

”Rand has asked it of me, though I would have gone if he hadn't."

- Towers of Midnight,A Choice

She out-Greens a Green here. And nobly says that if they can’t trust her judgment they shouldn’t raise her.

Nynaeve is way out of their league – far stronger and more skilled than they, far more ethical!, married to a king, trusted advisor to Dragon Reborn, reproacher of the Empress, even, if they but knew. And they were going to reject her. Egwene actually had to point out some of this to head them off:

"I would be careful," Egwene said to the women. "Refusing the shawl to the woman who helped cleanse the taint from saidin—the woman who defeated Moghedien herself in battle, the woman married to the King of Malkier—would set a very dangerous precedent."

- Towers of Midnight,A Choice

They might think being rejected would put her below them, but actually it would make them less relevant. And be extremely bad for recruiting. A very dangerous precedent indeed; more so than Egwene knew.

The three Ajahs concerned with Aes Sedai causes and battles – Green, Blue and Red – vote no. Those concerned with knowledge, consensus and healing vote yes. The latter are less divisive.

Nynaeve even breaks long tradition to get Lan’s bond. It is a dramatic illustration of how she puts him before the Tower. She would also put Rand before Tower. (I certainly don’t disagree with her actions.)

Note that she was able to Travel to the Black Tower. The dreamspike was not yet operating. The rebel embassy there feels exposed, somewhat under siege. They have set many fires around their camp. The guards let Nynaeve straight in because she was wearing a serpent ring, therefore they will let through an Aes Sedai turned to the Shadow (like Tarna). They won’t distinguish. I have a bad feeling about this.

The rebels have been made to wait until the Reds have chosen. (With Reds of questionable allegiance, such as Javindhra, and now Tarna, whose new allegiance is pretty obvious, delaying their choice and departure). There were Black Ajah among the rebel embassy, but Nynaeve unfortunately didn’t ask for more details; she was too focussed on getting Lan’s bond and getting back to Tower. The embassy has been in regular contact with Egwene via messengers.

Nynaeve thanks Myrelle for saving Lan (and it really was a feat and not without potential personal cost) and then threatens her to hand him over. Very Nynaeveish.

The chapter A Choice refers to an important theme in the books: that of fate versus free will, and the role that the exercise of free will, choice, plays in the Pattern. Nynaeve had a whole series of tests of her choice to be Aes Sedai. At the end of her tests, she made the big choice to use balefire so she did not have to choose between Lan and the Tower. (This illustrates so well the Aes Sedai fallacy that sisters must devote themselves wholly to the Tower at the expense of loved ones.) Nynaeve chose to violate tradition and get Lan’s bond straight away. This was a good thing, since the Dreamspike was set up soon after.

Egwene had to choose between justifying her choice to raise Nynaeve, and holding the test to an appropriate level of difficulty. The fact that she chose the former shows she is not as good a leader as she is made out to be in chapters where she is supposed to shine.

The Aes Sedai testing Nynaeve had to make a choice too: on whether to reject the best of them all.

The test itself is gravely flawed because it is too open to misuse by the candidate’s colleagues with scores to settle.