Thursday, August 28, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #46: Chapter 39 - In The Three-fold Land

By Linda

Aviendha compares the appearance and dangers of the Three-fold Land to that of the Westlands to the latter’s discredit. Yet both have hidden dangers: for all that Aviendha thinks the snake’s den is obvious, she has personally seen five people fall to such a snake’s ambush, and there would be many more killed that she did not see. As other characters say, there are no safe places. It’s a matter of the dangers one knows:

It was always preferable to face the enemy or the danger you could see than to fear the one that hid behind the faces of lying wetlanders.

Towers of Midnight, In The Three-fold Land

She has been afraid in the Westlands because a) she doesn’t understand Westland society well enough to recognise the dangers, particularly Darkfriends, and b) she left the Three-fold Land soon after Rand’s advent brought Darkfriends out of hiding, so she associates the Westlands with the horrors of the Last Days and the Three-fold Land with comparative stability and safety.

While Aviendha is parochial, she is honest with herself that, for all its unfamiliarity, she has enjoyed life in the Westlands. However she sees this as a weakness for luxury. Running to Rhuidean to follow custom has reminded her of Aiel ways and brought out her insular side. She is determined that all Aiel should return to the Three-fold Land, to become strong again with their traditions reaffirmed. At this stage she hasn’t considered that she could live in the Westlands without luxury if she wished. Too much hanging about in palaces recently.

The approaching end of Aviendha’s apprenticeship has “brought her honour back”. While she was an Apprentice and not a Maiden she felt low in status. Once she goes through the glass columns and is fully initiated as a Wise One Aviendha feels that she will have enough status to be Rand’s equal partner, and therefore can propose to him without being the lesser of the two.

And now for Aviendha’s meeting with the mysterious Nakomi. When Aviendha closes her eyes, I think she falls asleep and reaches Tel’aran’rhiod. The rest of the chapter is in Tel’aran’rhiod, although Aviendha is unaware of this. She didn’t hear Nakomi approach because in Tel’aran’rhiod Nakomi can just will herself at a place. The fire was warmer than it should be, according to the amount of tinder Aviendha put on it, and it had more coals than it should have, which is further evidence of Tel’aran’rhiod. Nakomi willed the fire hotter so it could cook tubers, and the roots cooked faster than they “should” – in the time it takes to make tea! Moreover the food tasted better than expected, so much so that it amazes Aviendha, who has dined royally recently, again indicative of Tel’aran’rhiod. Aviendha nearly doubted her taste test, but quickly rationalised that this was evidence of the superiority of the Three-fold Land. I smiled when the fourth wall of Aviendha’s dream was nearly broken here, but parochialism won the day. Nakomi vanishes – Aviendha can’t trace her – and so do her belongings once Aviendha leaves them and Nakomi thinks of them as gone.

So why was Nakomi hanging about in Tel’arna’rhiod? We haven’t seen any Dreamwalkers dream “across time”, as it were. So she either dwells in Tel’aran’rhiod or has reached it from the contemporary world. Nakomi may be a Hero of the Horn waiting for her rebirth or for the Horn of Valere to call her to the Last Battle. Her conversation with Aviendha is reminiscent of Birgitte’s contact with Perrin, Elayne and Nynaeve in Tel’aran’rhiod in the early books. When Nakomi appeared in the real world at Thakan’dar and spoke to Rand, the Horn had been blown and Heroes were still abroad in the waking world.

Aviendha queried Nakomi on where she is from, and got a cryptic answer:

"I am far from my roof," the woman said, wistful, "yet not far at all. Perhaps it is far from me. I cannot answer your question, apprentice, for it is not my place to give this truth."

Towers of Midnight, In The Three-fold Land

Nakomi's home and people are far from her and unreachable because she is dead, yet still feels tied to the Aiel. Looking further, Nakomi is far from the main world, yet not. Tel’aran’rhiod surrounds the waking world, yet as a shade, Nakomi cannot touch it. By the precepts, those dwelling in Tel’aran’rhiod can’t speak to someone who knows they are in Tel’aran’hiod, but then Aviendha doesn’t know. To tell Aviendha that she is a dead Hero would be to make Aviendha aware she is in Tel’aran’rhiod, and so, violate the precepts. It might also make Aviendha more doubtful of what Nakomi says.

Nakomi was able to track Aviendha’s thoughts very well, as an Aiel would. She tested Aviendha about her opinion of Rand and the Westlands, and made sure Aviendha believes Rand’s revelation. Aviendha’s negative opinion of the Westlands and her belief that they are supposedly weakening the Aiel earned Nakomi’s disapproval. Nakomi’s favourable opinion of the Westlands, emphasising their beauty and lushness, is as though they are familiar to her, as they would be if she had roamed about Tel’aran’rhiod long term and had cut ties with the Three-fold Land. She would be unlikely to feel this way had she remained in the Waste or only left it recently; recent contact with the Westlands would inspire the kind of wariness or alienation expressed by Aviendha.

Nakomi deftly drew out Aviendha’s concerns about the Aiel being weakened, and the effect of Rand’s revelation that the Aiel are Oathbreakers and no better than the despised Cairhienin. It is the bleakness resulting from this shame which has broken the Aiel – their hypocrisy and oath-breaking – not the Westlands themselves. Aviendha does not yet accept this.

Following the Dragon and fighting in the Last Battle will redeem the Aiel and meet their toh and thus restore their honour. Nakomi emphasises that serving the Dragon was the whole point of their time in the Three-fold Land and it is now time to move on.

The effect of their encounter is to make Aviendha more pro the Waste - where food tastes better than that in a palace - but also disturbed that old ways of violence may not have any purpose, let alone honour. Nakomi wants the Aiel to stop their violence and join the other nations. The Aiel need to embrace the Fourth Age as well as modern ways; right now they are too tribal and traditional. What Aviendha sees next will show her their degradation if they don’t.

Aviendha does not see that toh being met means the Aiel are free of the Three-fold Land, raiding and violence; just as the Sharans are free of the Pattern after playing their adversarial part in Last Battle. Nakomi makes her point and leaves; she doesn’t want to overdo it, or argue with Aviendha, but just nudge her in right direction. And, of course, there are the precepts, too.

Nakomi’s name is reference to Nokomis, the grandmother of Nanabozho/ Manabozho, the trickster figure of the Ojibwe Nation. She is in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem The Song of Hiawatha:

By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
Dark behind it rose the forest.

In fact, in the Ojibwe language, the language of the traditional tale on which Hiawatha is based, Nokomis means “my grandmother” (see Character Names N article for further discussion of Nokomis/Nakomi and Hiawatha/Rand).

Nakomi is not literally Rand’s grandmother although she is wise and knowledgeable. Bair said her name was ancient, and recognisably Aiel, so it is likely she is a Hero who was an Aiel from the distant past in one of her recent births, particularly considering her legendary name.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #45: Chapter 38 - Wounds

By Linda

Egwene POV

Mesaana is bolder and more desperate; she does need success, as Egwene surmised, especially after her boasts to the other Forsaken. Moghedien is cowardly; she feared domination enough to accept the a'dam, which is why it worked on her. Using a metaphor that Cadsuane explained to Rand, Moghedien does not have the strength of the oak, she survives by being a willow and bending until the stronger force passes. Rand firmly refused to be like the willow; he is far too stubborn. Two Rivers stubbornness is a useful character trait for Tel’aran’rhiod as we see for both Egwene and Perrin.

Egwene was dependent on her weaves in Tel’aran’rhiod in this scene. She also tended to concentrate on punishing or revenging particular Darkfriends, which is a dangerous strategy. Egwene says she was not surprised by the things Perrin did, but he outperformed many, including Egwene. She was complacent in more than one way here: of her ability, of her strategy, and of the Shadow’s plans. Yet she was distracted easily enough by Alviarin, Ramola and Katerine and was collared with an a’dam.

Nicola was another over-confident one, especially considering that she had little innate Tel’aran’rhiod talent and not much training. The Accepted was sly and impatient, but she was given ideas above her station by Egwene earlier in Towers of Midnight. Silviana warned Egwene against it:

"You didn't swear them to silence. They are Accepted, and they will brag about being trained with the ter'angreal!'
"I'm depending on it," Egwene said, walking to the study door.
Silviana raised an eyebrow.
"I don't intend to let the girls come to harm," Egwene said. "In fact, they'll be doing a lot less in Tel'aran'rhiod than they probably suspect from what I just said. Rosil has been lenient with me so far, but she'll never let me put Accepted in danger. This is just to start the proper rumors."…

"So long as you intend them to find you, and not those girls," Silviana said, voice calm—but iron. She had been the Mistress of Novices.
Egwene found herself grimacing, thinking of the things that had been expected of her as an Accepted.Yes, Silviana was right. She would have to take care not to subject Nicola and Nissa to similar dangers. She had survived, and was stronger for it, but Accepted should not be put through such trials unless there was no other choice.

Towers of Midnight, A Call To Stand

Egwene used the Accepted; and, in Nicola’s case, used her up.

The name Melaina name means “black one” (see Character Names M article), so it’s interesting that Melaine made herself dark-coloured as camouflage.

Mesaana POV

Mesanna has an old-fashioned way of speaking in this scene:

"Fools they are, and their showing here was pathetic. Punishments will be administered."

Towers of Midnight, Wounds

She is the first Forsaken to sound from another time; and yet did not in A Crown of Swords when she spoke to Alviarin.

Egwene POV

Apparently Semirhage let slip information on the a’dam, perhaps just of its existence, but maybe even details on how it worked.

Moghedien is very skilled in Tel’aran’rhiod but her fearfulness led her to accept domination, or to forget how Tel’aran’rhiod works. She believed in the a’dam Nynaeve put on her in Tel’aran’rhiod.

Mesaana tries intimidation but it didn’t work on Egwene, who had already made up her mind about Mesaana from her appearance:

“She did not look very imposing.”

Towers of Midnight, Wounds

Egwene identifies with the White Tower and gains the strength to break Mesaana from her belief as well as her stubbornness. “Belief and order give strength” as Herid Fel wrote. The order the Tower represents is as a haven of knowledge and stability for over 3000 years. Egwene is the latest of a long and continuous line of Amyrlin Seats. Egwene’s great belief in the White Tower, and the good it represents, gives her the strength to break free of the a’dam and then of Mesaana’s attack.

In fact Mesaana’s role was to break the Tower from within. She was Egwene’s adversary. Egwene had two adversaries: Mesaana, the Shadow’s Amyrlin, a negative and evil trainer, and also Taim, leader of the Black Tower and another evil teacher. Nether had a vocation for their role. Of course it could be argued that Egwene doesn’t have the vocation for teaching either – hers is for leadership and politics – which is why she was partially responsible for the death of a promising but inadequately trained and disciplined Accepted in this chapter.

Breaking Mesaana’s will breaks her mind as well. There are two symbolic aspects here: Mesaana is the Shadow’s goddess of knowledge (and “wisdom”), a dark Minerva (see Mesaana essay, punished by losing her mind. She is physically alive but mentally dead and thus is part of the living dead theme and the wrongness that increases towards the Last Battle. So Mesaana, who sought to break the White Tower, was broken by a newly trained leader gaining strength by thinking about what the Tower stands for. It's a nice bit of irony.

The achievement is not lost on Egwene's companions-in-arms. Amys acknowledges Egwene as an equal. Bair declares the battle over. It is not a good idea to hunt down hidden Black Ajah as Siuan suggests. Melaine thinks the world is in debt to Egwene – but Egwene is in debt to Gawyn. If he had not persisted in his protection of her, she would be dead.

Perrin POV

Perrin is in a nightmare where people are dying for real since those who die in Tel’aran’rhiod die in the real world. Dragonmount is erupting, perhaps reflecting the populace’s view of Rand.

Slayer was resisting the nightmare as Perrin was, so Perrin added to the dream and startled Slayer enough that he was sucked in. Like Egwene, Perrin refused to be sucked into someone’s nasty trap in Tela’aran’riod. Both Dreamwalkers won. Perrin used the nightmare to destroy the dreamspike.

Perrin’s bad leg injury is symbolic of blacksmith gods, who often limped. Bronze Age metalworkers were prone to arsenical poisoning presenting as lameness and skin cancers from the arsenic they added to the copper to harden it when tin was scarce, and the physical appearance of smith gods is an accurate depiction of this.

After Hopper’s tragic death, Perrin finally feels able to leave Tel’aran’rhiod. Hopper’s final words were for Perrin to seek Boundless to explain or show why the balance between wolf and man is different for each man and a matter of choice.

Perrin awakes and quickly focusses on getting his people away from the threat of an ambush which he deduces must be nearby.

Faile realises Perrin is grieving for someone. Hopper will not be reborn.

The wrongness is still present, so it was not due to the dreamspike. The air smells like the Blight. However, when they Travel to Andor, they do not sense the wrongness there.

Egwene POV

Egwene wakes in a mood of relief but also feels the Tower had a costly and narrow escape. Then she sees what Gawyn did and feels the full extent of her overconfidence. If he had not protected her - against her explicit orders - she would never have lived to defeat Mesaana.

Gawyn’s warning message never arrived. Presumably Darkfriends are still intercepting communications.

Gawyn would not have Egwene bond him merely to keep him alive, but only if she had genuine feelings for him.

Egwene and Perrin compare and contrast very well in this sequence of POVs.

Graendal POV

The cushions stuffed with down from Shara are a typical example of Graendal’s self-indulgence, as is the fact that she even thinks of her luxuries at a time like this.

Slayer is not meek or fearful. He knows Graendal will be held responsible for the battle's failure. Also, in his opinion, the Forsaken’s plan was inadequate so he feels less respect for her. Rather daring of him to let her know, though, and that adds to her stress. I guess that Slayer thinks that he rates higher with Moridin than Graendal does, and so she won’t anger Moridin further by striking at him. Graendal lets in cold air so she won’t sweat.

She decides to spring the ambush on Perrin even though her attempts to kill him have failed so far. Slayer starts to voice a protest or warning but is ordered to desist. Graendal thinks him insubordinate. She is aware that the odds are against her because Perrin is so strongly ta’veren. Chaos is needed to increase her chances and distract everyone around him.

Graendal believes that she will succeed because she thinks Perrin is the Fallen Blacksmith and that he is prophesied to be killed by the Shadow:

"But this . . ." she said, rereading the passage. "This says Aybara will die!"
"There can be many interpretations of any prophecy," Moridin said. "But yes. This Foretelling promises that Aybara will die by our hand.”

Towers of Midnight, Writings

She actually calls Perrin “Fallen Blacksmith”. The likely passage of the Shadow’s prophecy they are discussing is quoted at the end of Towers of Midnight:

In that day, when the One-Eyed Fool travels the halls of mourning, and the First Among Vermin lifts his hand to bring freedom to Him who will Destroy, the last days of the Fallen Blacksmith's pride shall come.

Towers of Midnight, closing prophecy

But discussion of this passage will come later in the series. Moridin warned Graendal that prophecy is not easy to interpret (and that's certainly the case for this one), but Graendal is convinced they have it right and is determined to spring her trap. The person close by Perrin that she has prepared carefully is Byar. Slayer’s part is probably to order the deployment of Shadowspawn at the ambush site. How could she fail?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #44: Chapter 37 - Darkness In The Tower

By Linda

Gawyn POV

Gawyn remarks that the air is fresher with a clear sky. Endless clouds are part of the wrongness:

The open air felt good - different, somehow, from the same air beneath a cloudy sky. With the last light of dusk fading, the stars shone like hesitant children, peeking out now that the uproar of day had died down. It felt so good to finally see them again. Gawyn breathed in deeply.

Towers of Midnight, Darkness in the Tower

The “rightness” seems to help change his negative thoughts and feelings. Gawyn is in Andor where the wrongness is weaker because Elayne is there, and those linked to Rand have some of his positive influence on the Pattern. Another example is that there is less rotting of food around Perrin.

Gawyn is jealous of Rand’s status:

Much of Gawyn's hatred of al'Thor came from frustration. Maybe jealousy. Al'Thor was playing a role closer to what Gawyn would have chosen for himself. Ruling nations, leading armies. Looking at their lives, who had taken on the role of a prince, and who the role of a lost sheepherder?

Towers of Midnight, Darkness in the Tower

The Andoran Prince has been lost, and will be lost again in A Memory of Light. As First Prince of the Sword he would lead an army but he would not rule nations as Rand does. Currently Gawyn is doing neither. It sounds like he is not content to be Elayne’s advisor and protector. If he were Prince of the Sword he would have higher status than he does now and also be doing what he was trained, and sworn, to do. He thinks about what his status would be if he were Egwene’s Warder: an honourable post but it means stepping aside as far as individual personal achievement is concerned. Finally he understands about serving another, which is what he also would have done as Elayne’s First Prince of the Sword. He was sworn to that job, but never seems to have really understood it or accepted it. Having gained some understanding, Gawyn is more ready to be Egwene’s Warder. As we find out in the next book, that doesn’t mean much because Gawyn is frustrated and discontented with the roles life has offered to him.

Gawyn still has trouble not reaching for his sword when thwarted. He would be a tyrannical ruler if were to rule nations like Rand, but then so was Rand, only a short while earlier. Gawyn manages to restrain himself and ask politely for information. This is Foreshadowing of Gawyn “reaching” (over-reaching?) for his sword in A Memory of Light because he feels that he is not playing an important role, and causing his own, and therefore Egwene’s, death.

From what he learns, he quickly deduces that Egwene is in Tel’aran’rhiod and vulnerable to assassins, and runs through a gateway to the Tower and up to her rooms. Just in time: the dreamspike is immediately brought to Tar Valon and no further gateways can be made until it is gone. Gawyn was the person running to save Egwene in her prophetic dream:

Straps at waist and shoulder held her tightly to the block, and the headsman’s axe descended, but she knew that somewhere someone was running, and if they ran fast enough, the axe would stop. If not…

- A Crown Of Swords, Unseen Eyes

Egwene’s body lies helpless in bed as her mind fights Mesaana and the Black Ajah in Tel’aran’rhiod. Gawyn runs frantically through the Tower to prevent the Bloodknives killing her while she is unconscious. He had to be quick to get a gateway made before they were blocked by the dreamspike and also to get there before the Bloodknives killed Egwene.

Gawyn is finally roused to protect others and think more of himself for doing so, rather than thinking OF himself. Again this is what he was brought up to do as First Prince of the Sword. His fight in the dark against the Bloodknives in Egwene’s room is probably his finest hour. Only the fact that they keep fighting gives him hope they haven’t killed Egwene already. He puts his decision to protect into action and is taking grievous wounds while defending Tower from them, even if Egwene is dead. His solution to combat the Bloodknives’ powers is to take the risk of fighting in the dark, where there are no Shadows to distract or mislead. Egwene’s maid was caught in Egwene’s trap and is a helpless witness.

Egwene POV

Carlinya’s death in Tel’aran’rhiod against the Shadow fulfils Min’s viewing of a raven tattoo:

For an instant, Min saw an image of a raven floating beside her [Carlinya’s] dark hair, more of a drawing of the bird than the bird itself. She thought it was a tattoo, but she did not know its meaning.

-The Fires of Heaven, Sallie Daera

Many readers thought the raven tattoo meant she would be captured by the Seanchan and made da’covale, since da’covale are marked with a raven tattoo, whereas Min’s viewings of those taken as damane involve the a’dam. However ravens are also symbols of the Shadow. It was a representation of a raven (and the Shadow) since Tel’aran’rhiod is not the ‘real world’ but the World of Dreams.

The Wise Ones consider whether to join Egwene in fighting Forsaken. Such a dangerous battle is not one to go into lightly – even though they did enjoy it. The Dreamspike traps Black Ajah, Wise Ones and Aes Sedai alike.

Mesaana almost overwhelmed Egwene’s mind in Tel’aran’rhiod; she had to flee to escape the Forsaken. The Wise Ones camouflage themselves for ambush, thus showing more skill than Egwene who Egwene attacks in an obvious pattern.

Perrin POV

Perrin denies Slayer is a wolf. He is a wolf of wrongness – a human Darkhound, in a way. Slayer, with two souls in one body, and losing his humanity through frequently entering Tel’aran’rhiod in the flesh, is emblematic of wrongness.

Slayer worries that Perrin will drop the dreamspike into Dragonmount’s vent. Or Perrin was meant to think so. Perrin isn’t sure which, but either way it does give him an idea of how to destroy it.

To fight Slayer, Perrin became a wolf in Tel’aran’rhiod fully, and feels a rightness that he should be so. Perrin doesn’t try to offload the dreamspike as he intended, but keeps it with him.

In this scene Perrin and Slayer are equally matched. In contrast, Perrin out classed Egwene in Tel’aran’rhiod. Egwene is shown as not quite experience enough or skilled enough for Tel’aran’rhiod battles in this chapter. When Egwene grabs at Perrin with Air, Perrin undoes her restraints and stops weaves including balefire. He warns Egwene about the dangers of the World of Dreams, just as she has done to channellers who are novices in Tel’aran’rhiod. What Egwene tried to do was a big mistake; had Perrin been held by Egwene’s bonds of Air, he would have been at the mercy of the Shadow.

Distracted by Perrin’s presence and skill, Egwene was nearly killed by the Black Ajah. Perrin sees Egwene under attack and gives her some timely reminders of how Tel’aran’rhiod works. In the meantime, Hopper is severely injured. Perrin helps Egwene at the cost of Hopper. While Perrin is distracted by Hopper’s peril, Slayer is the stronger in Tel’aran’rhiod.

Perrin worked out how to replenish his blood in Tel’aran’rhiod. He can’t heal himself though. Slayer implies there are ways to do so.

Mesaana POV

With an offhanded thought, she strapped Katerine's back with lines of Air. Failure needed always be punished. Consistency was the key in all forms of training.

Towers of Midnight, Darkness in the Tower

Mesaana consistently is uncaring, as an earlier POV shows:

Mesaana could be cruel where necessary, and she did not care what Semirhage did to others.

Lord of Chaos, Prologue

The Dreamspike is as much a hindrance as it is a help. It pins Egwene’s people in place but also prevents the Black Ajah luring them elsewhere to an ambush (and the Aes Sedai would probably have fallen for it, given their track record). Mesaana assumes Egwene knows where the dreamspike is, because non-channellers don’t handle objects of the Power effectively, supposedly, nor are they entrusted with them.