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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While Brandon's hamfisted handling of the Egwene-Gawyn relationship makes any hope of really understanding what he/Jordan intended here impossible, I do think this event, considered on its own, rather makes Egwene's point for her. If Gawyn hadn't interfered, Egwene would have netted a Bloodknife, which would have meant she would know Mesaana wasn't the killer, and also figured out a lot more about the Bloodknives themselves. Not least, she could have sent the rings to Elayne to study and discover the properties and weaknesses of. Gawyn really put a spanner in the works here.