Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #49: Chapter 42 - Stronger than Blood

By Linda

Gawyn POV

Egwene mentions that it took quite a while to find Mesaana after the battle in Tel’aran’rhiod because she masqueraded as one of the reclusive sisters. However we never find out what the White Tower did with Mesaana. At this stage, so soon after the battle, Egwene is at a loss.

Warders keep their Aes Sedai emotionally honest:

Looking at her face and feeling the storm inside, Gawyn was given for the first time another perspective on the Warder and Aes Sedai relationship. Warders weren't just bodyguards; they were the ones - the only ones - who saw the truth of what happened within the Aes Sedai. No matter how proficient the Aes Sedai became at hiding emotions, her Warder knew there was more than the mask.

Towers of Midnight, Stronger Than Blood

Normally bonding grounds an Aes Sedai, as Siuan showed, but this bonding seems to have grounded Gawyn. For a time.

Egwene is troubled that Gawyn only saved her by disobeying her; an uncomfortable reminder that she is not infallible. She winces that she was so sure about who the Tower’s attackers were that she concentrated on the Shadow. It is not as if she didn’t know about the Seanchan, and their determination to collar all the Aes Sedai, better than any other Aes Sedai. She even had dreams as yet unfulfilled in which she had contact with the Seanchan. After the Seanchan were repelled she assumed that they were no longer an immediate threat.

The Seanchan were subverted a long time earlier to be a major distraction in the Last Days, as Ishamael cryptically gloated to Rand in Baerlon:

"They will not save you," Ba'alzamon said. "Those who might save you will be carried far across the Aryth Ocean. If ever you see them again, they will be collared slaves, and they will destroy you for their new masters."

The Great Hunt, The Grave Is No Bar To My Call

Ishamael’s plot was effective. He may have been guided or inspired by prophecy – the Shadow’s prophecies or the Karaethon cycle.

Gawyn promises to obey Egwene in anything else so long as she allows him to protect her. This turns out to be an empty promise, with both parts of it violated by Gawyn, especially the oath regarding protecting Egwene. He explains that his newfound acceptance of his role was due to learning to surrender, something he has never been good at it. When Egwene shows that she understood this, he is surprised, but women learn to channel saidar by surrendering and Two Rivers women have trouble with that part. One of Gawyn’s first useful pieces of advice to Egwene - which she listens to - is to delegate things someone else could do.

Sneakily, Gawyn steals the Bloodknives’ ter’angreal rings before an Aes Sedai recognises them as ter’angreal, a result of the Aes Sedai’s oversight in delaying study of the bodies. In a way, he has immediately gone behind Egwene’s back. I don’t believe Warders should reported everything to their Aes Sedai, but the Bloodknives and their ter’angreal are patently Aes Sedai business. This action warns us of what Gawyn’s oath is ultimately worth. (But then he swore to protect Elayne and Andor, too.)


Lan is surprised that people have deduced his route and waited where they could not fail to encounter him. Like Perrin and Rand, Lan won’t lead people to certain death in battle. He feels responsible:

This was what he'd always worried would happen. Reclaiming Malkier was impossible. They would die, no matter how large their force. An assault? On the Blight? Ridiculous.
He could not ask that of them. He could not allow that of them. As he continued down the road, he became more resolute. Those brave men, flying those flags...they should join with the Shienaran forces and fight in a battle that meant something.
He would not take their lives.

Towers of Midnight, Stronger Than Blood

In the Aiel War he was more accepting of the regrettable losses in battle and the responsibilities of a general, but not now. Lan feels it is his duty to defend the land at Tarwin’s Gap and push further north into the Blight, but not anyone else’s (except maybe the Shienarans’).

Nevertheless he is proud that Malkier rallied so readily when it was broken as a nation long ago. It is telling that most Malkieri don’t recognise Lan, their uncrowned king, by sight. He hasn’t moved among his former people much – having associated with Borderlander nobility and armies, and then Aes Sedai, instead. This is probably why he was mistaken about the strength of their national spirit. In turn, their spirit gives Lan strength to bear his responsibilities. Kaisel, a fellow noble, makes him accept them, by reminding Lan of the oath all Borderlanders take.

Nynaeve arranged this army to ensure Lan does not waste his life in a useless gesture of fighting the Blight alone, something Moiraine also tried to prevent back in the time of New Spring by bonding him. The Wheel is turning full circle for Lan. The differences between the three women who have saved Lan in bonding him is remarkable. Moiraine tried to prevent his destruction by focussing him on helping her and then by transferring him to Myrelle, and Myrelle saved him by focussing him on her. Nynaeve encouraged him to do his duty, but expanded it to include all Borderlanders who wanted to join, thus increasing Lan’s likelihood of success – and survival.

The chapter title Stronger Than Blood refers to the Borderlands’ oath. However, other oaths stronger than blood are also referred to in this chapter: the bond between Aes Sedai and Warder, and the Bloodknives’ oath to the Empress (reaffirmed when they activate their rings with their blood).

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