Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #55: Chapter 48 - Near Avendesora

By Linda

Aviendha POV

Aviendha thinks that she's the first to go through the glass columns in Rhuidean since Rand's advent. She and Rand are perhaps the two most important visitors to Rhuidean and the columns.

The remaining ter'angreal have been taken away from the plaza where Avendesora grows. While Aviendha assumes Aiel took them, it may have been Moridin, considering his large hoard and recently acquired items. Avendesora is the World Tree:

There stood an enormous tree, branches spread wide like arms reaching to embrace the sun. The massive tree had a perfection she could not explain. It had a natural symmetry-no missing branches, no gaping holes in its leafy upper reaches. It was particularly impressive since, when she'd last seen it, it had been blackened and burned.
In a world where other plants were dying without explanation, this one healed and nourished faster than ever should have been possible. Its leaves rustled soothingly in the wind, and its gnarled roots poked through the ground like the aged fingers of a wise elder. The tree made her want to sit and bask in the simple peace of the moment.
It was as if this tree were the ideal, the one after which all other trees were patterned. In legend it was called Avendesora. The Tree of Life.

Towers of Midnight, Near Avendesora

Chora trees are a construct, and therefore not natural. In this case they are more than natural—much more—rather than less than natural, as the Shadow’s constructs are.

Sheltered by Avendesora, Aviendha ruminates on the knowledge from her ancestors that she knew she would gain. Mat, too, ruminated under Avendesora prior to going through the redstone doorway, and was hung on the tree after gaining ancient memories, a reference to Odin, Mat's parallel, who hanged himself on the World Tree to gain knowledge. Aviendha did learn one new thing:

She'd anticipated a noble decision, where honor overcame the inferior lifestyle dictated by the Way of the Leaf.

Towers of Midnight, Near Avendesora

but everything else was as expected. The decision was not a noble one. In fact, it is surprising that she thought it would be a noble decision when by Aiel standards it can't be noble if it involves breaking oath. Pragmatic, perhaps, but not noble. Aviendha is comforted that the Aiel’s previous lapse could be redeemed by meeting their toh at the Last Battle.

The Jenns' decision to take up a weapon was an impulse, not a decision. Because Aiel society knows only fighting, they see it as honourable, and many of those who want to achieve or earn status in Aiel society do so through battle. Therefore there is an underlying desire to battle even when there is no reason to fight, as she will see in columns, which can lead to corruption. Despite being in the wetlands for some time, Aviendha still is parochial, which shows the depth of Aiel prejudice, due to the nation not having regular peaceful contact with other societies. It is this attitude, plus continuation of warfare as a way of life which will potentially lead to the Aiel’s downfall.

More and more, she was coming to believe that tradition for the sake of tradition was foolishness. Good traditions-strong, Aiel traditions-taught the ways of ji'e'toh, methods of survival.

Towers of Midnight, Near Avendesora

Until now, the Aiel have fought to survive. But what if gets in way of survival? What if it becomes disruptive to society? The Aiel need a mechanism to deal with conflict or aggression that doesn't involve warfare.

Probing the ter’angreal shows Aviendha that the glass columns are receptive:

Indeed, the pillars seemed . . . alive, somehow. It was almost as if she could sense an awareness from them.
That gave her a chill. Was she touching the pillar, or was it touching her?

Towers of Midnight, Near Avendesora

so that they know each Aiel visitor's ancestral line and therefore what scenes and POVs from the past to replay, and, as it turns out, the most likely future. The ter’angreal can read both ways along the Wheel. Not surprisingly they are too profound or complex for Aviendha to read. As she walks away she sees a scene from the distant future. Aviendha thinks she may have re-set the ter'angreal when she tried to read one. She has faith the columns show what the Aiel need to know, that they grant wisdom as well as knowledge.

Malidra is pretty much at the end of Aviendha's line—she may even be the end. The girl is a fearful scavenger who thinks, like most who lack knowledge of science, that the Seanchan’s technology is magic.

Aviendha’s viewings in the glass columns compare and contrast strikingly with Rand’s experiences in The Shadow Rising. Malidra is a mirror to Rand’s ancestor, Rhodric, who didn't believe in snow, and had experienced only drought.

Malidra had heard stories of a place beyond the distant mountains, where the land was green and food grew everywhere.
She didn't believe those lies.

Towers of Midnight, Near Avendesora

Malidra follows the Lightmakers, whereas Rhodric followed the Jenn Aiel and the Aes Sedai. However the Lightmakers gave her nothing; they killed her for trying to take, as she would have killed them for their belongings, whereas Rhodric helped the future Cairhienin and also served the Jenn.

“We guard the Jenn,” Jeordam said. “It is they who travel with Aes Sedai.”

The Shadow Rising, The Road to the Spear

Aviendha debates the significance of Malidra’s scene and dares to go into the columns twice (which is forbidden) to gain knowledge. As it turns out, the Aiel will destroy themselves if she does not. Rand’s ancestor, Mandein, and all other Aiel leaders, had to go to Rhuidean because otherwise the Aiel would destroy themselves (The Shadow Rising, The Road to the Spear).

She is pleased that Da'shain had honour and respect:

The Aiel in the Age of Legends had been peaceful servants, respected. How could they have started as scavengers?

Towers of Midnight, Near Avendesora

Aviendha thinks it is better to die than become a scavenger. The Da'shain Aiel would rather die than be violent or kill.

The Aiel have been choked off economically as well as physically. Due to social disruption, they have lost knowledge on surviving in the Waste. Shaving in the desert is a sign of high standards. In Malidra’s time, the Aiel folk are bearded, a sign of their greater decay, not being able to spare the water, tools and time to shave.

In the next POV, Rowahn was charged to maintain Aiel customs:

Her father had inherited his clothing from his grandfather, along with a charge. Follow the old ways. Remember ji'e'toh. Fight and maintain honor.

Towers of Midnight, Near Avendesora

- the few customs that are remembered. Likewise the Jenn were charged to follow the Way of the Leaf:

“The Trees of Life.” When he still looked at her blankly, she shook her head. “Three little trees planted in barrels. They care for them almost as well as they do for themselves. When they find a place of safety, they mean to plant them; they say the old days will return, then. They. I said they. Very well. I am not Jenn anymore.” She hefted the shortened spear. “This is my husband now.” Eyeing him closely, she asked, “If someone stole your child, would you talk of the Way of the Leaf and suffering sent to test us?”

The Shadow Rising, The Road to the Spear

and accept suffering as a test of faith. Rowahn looks on the Aiel’s trials as a punishment which they must endure:

"We must rebuild," her father said, surveying the wreckage.
"Rebuild?" said a soot-stained man. "The granary was the first to burn! There is no food!"
"We will survive," her father said. "We can move deeper into the Waste."
"There is nowhere else to go!" another man said. "The Raven Empire has sent word to the Far Ones, and they hunt us at the eastern border!"
"They find us whenever we gather!" another cried.
"It is a punishment!" her father said. "But we must endure!"

Towers of Midnight, Near Avendesora

Once the settlements are abandoned, and the Aiel scattered, they are doomed as a people.

Aviendha’s descendant, Tava, returned the child to the grateful mother and then helped gather sand and dirt, just as Rand’s ancestor, Jeordam, helped the Jenn retrieve a daughter and other womenfolk.

Aviendha moves backwards in the future as she progresses. Forward, and back, as Rand did.

Rand’s feet moved of their own accord. Forward. And back in time.

The Shadow Rising, The Road to the Spear

Unwillingly, Aviendha realises that the Ravens and Lightmakers are Seanchan. The Far Ones would be the Sharans.

Rand saw the corruption of the Da'shain Aiel, Aviendha sees the corruption and decay of the Aiel. Da'shain would be just as upset to see their people abandon the Way, as Aviendha is to see the Aiel abandon ji'e'toh and lose honour.

This sub-thread has real world parallels in the displacement and destruction of North American indigenous peoples (and of those of other countries) by invaders with more advanced technologies, and to the Trail of Tears in particular. It also is a reverse Exodus, since the Aiel have strong parallels with the Israelites, showing what happens if the Aiel do not follow the spirit of the Dragon’s peace pact and leave the promised land of the Wetlands that he led them to, isolating themselves in the Waste.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Aviendha and Elayne in the Palace

By Linda

This post is a celebration of the Thirteenth Depository’s 2.5 millionth page view this week.

In Crossroads of Twilight, Elayne and Aviendha dressed for a series of audiences. When Elayne asked, Aviendha selected a royal outfit:

For someone just doing a favor, she pored over the clothes that Essande pulled out with a great deal of interest before deciding on a dark blue velvet slashed with green, and a silver net to catch her hair. They were her clothes, made for her, but since reaching Caemlyn she had avoided them as if they were crawling with death’s-head spiders. Stroking the sleeves, she hesitated as if she might change her mind, but finally she let Naris do up the tiny pearl buttons.
She declined Elayne’s offer of emeralds that would have suited the gown admirably, keeping her silver snowflake necklace and heavy ivory bracelet, but at the last minute she did pin the amber turtle to her shoulder…
Or maybe it was Aviendha’s horn-hilted knife, which she tucked behind her green velvet belt…
Rasoria gave a start when Aviendha entered the anteroom in her high-necked velvets. The Guardswomen had never seen her in anything but Aiel garb before.

Crossroads of Twilight, High Seats

Andoran women’s clothing tends to the Elizabethan, with square or high necklines, slashing and full sleeves. While she was attaining the crown Elayne was determined to make a statement, so everything they wore was very high status.

Aiel shifts are probably made of the same algode fabric as their blouses, but mainland nobility have silk shifts, which real world nobility would not have had - they would have worn the more comfortable and practical linen. I made Aviendha a teal-coloured silk shift (see photo right). It is sleeveless because I haven’t designed a good long-sleeved shift yet. It’s a task for 2015. The main problem is that the dolls don’t have compressible hands. Aviendha’s shift is embroidered with single feather stitch at neck and hem and trimmed with ivory silk lace at the hem.

Her petticoat is teal silk dupion with an embroidered border at hem and waistband in blue and green silk (stitches from bottom up: squared Palestrina knot, chain, straight, chevron, French knots, chain, detached chain) and navy silk lace (see photos below). The laces and fabrics I use are often vintage. The waistband is closed with button and loop.

Knowing Aviendha’s feelings about low-cut clothing, it’s not surprising she chose a high-necked gown in dark blue. Its fabric-silk velvet-is very expensive, more than Elayne’s. I cut it in the Elizabethan style with a very fitted V-shaped bodice and sleeve slashes. I modelled the skirt slashes, which real world western clothing did not have due to their impracticability and difficulty in sitting right, on the slashes in doublets of the time photo right). I embroidered it with silk buttonhole threads (stiches: back stitch, French knots, cross stitch, detached chain) and pearl and silver beads (see photos below, the dress front is on the left and the back on the right). Velvet is difficult to sew because it marks easily and more or less permanently. Beads were a popular trim on Elizabethan dresses and doublets. The dress is lined with green satin and dupion silk and has hook and eye closures at the back – and the line of pearl beads mentioned in the text. With the dress is a green velvet belt with silver buckle.

For jewellery, Aviendha wore her ivory bracelet and silver snowflake necklace and carried the turtle angreal. Her hair was constrained by a silver net (called a caul back then). I made two styles.

Finally, she has ivory silk stockings and navy blue shoes.

Elayne’s outfit was also sumptuous, though not described in detail:

“Essande, the green silk with the sapphires, I think. And sapphires for my hair, too. The large sapphires”…
The white-haired woman made sure that Elayne wore a small dagger with sapphires on the scabbard and pommel, hanging from a belt of woven gold.

Crossroads of Twilight, High Seats

Elayne’s shift as made of light green silk with cream vintage tatted lace (see photo above right). Her petticoat was of avocado green silk dupion embroidered with purple lilies and green leaves in satin and split back stitch outlined in couched gold thread in an authentic style of the early 1600s. I embroidered a braid-like border of chain and straight stitch in light green silk. The petticoat is closed with a button and loop, and is trimmed with gold and silk braid (see photos below).

Elayne’s square-necked Elizabethan-style dress is in bright green silk dupion lined with deep cornflower blue habutai silk. The dress is be-jewelled with dark blue beads surrounded by gold beads. The sleeves are slashed and the sleeve wings have rows of gold and blue beads. Trimming the cuffs and hem is blue and gold braid (see photos below). The dress is closed at the back with buttons and loops. To complete the dress is a gold belt. I have not yet made Elayne’s dagger and scabbard to hang from it - another task for 2015 – but I have made her necklace of sapphires in a golden setting.

Finally, Elayne has ivory stockings (see shift photo above) and dark cornflower blue shoes.

Here are some photos of Elayne and Aviendha in Elayne’s apartments. They have not quite finished dressing - Elayne has not had the sapphires added to her hair yet and Aviendha is not wearing her turtle angreal (which I have made).

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #54: Chapter 47 - A Teaching Chamber

By Linda

The title refers to Elayne’s sitting room, as well as Tuon’s damane training room. Even the private room at the Happy Throng had a useful exchange of knowledge, although it contrasted with the previous two venues in hosting an equitable and harmonious exchange.

Faile POV

Perrin intends to find out why gateways don’t work to the Black Tower in the next day or so, but he is delayed.

Faile had impressed upon Perrin the need to be formal to satisfy protocol and dignity so that they don’t appear as hicks or supplicants at Elayne’s court. Having set their own strategy, Faile then turns to reading the strategy behind Elayne’s words:

In many ways, being a lady was much like being a merchant, and she had been trained well for both roles.

Towers of Midnight, A Teaching Chamber

Faile is so comfortable with the Asha’man that she relies on them for protection. She quickly deduces Rand may be the father of Elayne’s unborn children (not that Faile knows there are twins). She probably also remembers their closeness in Tear, though she doesn’t mention it here.

After due ceremony, Perrin acts naturally to Elayne, not nervous or conciliatory. Quite like the Two Rivers populace he represents. Elayne’s emphatic statement of:

"I will do the best for my realm, regardless of the cost."

Towers of Midnight, A Teaching Chamber

makes her sound like Galad, who also never counts the cost. Only, he wouldn’t feel the need to declare it.

Faile is unimpressed with the way Elayne pointedly reminds Faile and Perrin that she is Aes Sedai. Furthermore, Elayne’s threats to execute them look foolish. There is a lack of finesse here; Elayne’s “righteous” anger doesn’t achieve what she wants.

While Elayne expects Perrin to take the opportunity of Elayne’s officially announced gratitude to ask for her pardon in declaring himself a lord, Faile decides to buy more time and probe for more information. She and Perrin had planned various scenarios for this meeting. Faile is being a Temperance figure, a popular trope in Renaissance times, mediating between opposing forces with rational thought.

Quick off the mark, Elayne sent envoys to the Two Rivers to raise the subject of taxes. She says the crown ignored the Two Rivers previously because it was not in rebellion. Perrin points out that Andor couldn’t defend the region from Trollocs, so why should they pay for what she can’t supply? Elayne offers to pardon them and send troops to protect them. Perrin says this is too late, because the Two Rivers want lords now. He already fought against the people’s will and lost. The meeting is at an impasse, since Elayne doesn’t want to set a precedent in ennobling him to grant the Two Rivers their lord. Perrin stubbornly refuses to back down.

At this point Morgase speaks up in Perrin’s favour, as promised, and reminds Elayne of the irresistibility of Perrin’s ta’veren power. The underlying problem is that Elayne expects that Perrin and Faile to seize the opportunity to make their own kingdom (not lordship), as she herself will shortly do in Cairhien. I suspect that Elayne is well trained to run a functioning state, but not in developing a new area. Had Dyelin, Norry and Reene Harfor not kept Andor’s systems intact, Elayne would have a far greater struggle. In Faile’s and Perrin’s assessment, the Two Rivers is not interested in being a nation, just in surviving. Life there is neither easy nor secure. It has much in common with the Borderlands, as Faile noted in The Shadow Rising. Since the Andoran crown has not supplied any services in generations, Perrin and Faile push for a continuation of no taxation in the Two Rivers. Elayne is peeved because she was hoping to institute some revenue raising. What a contrast between Elayne and Perrin: due to historic lines on a map, Elayne asks for money first, and then may give something in return. Perrin gave to the people first, before he even thought of taking. After not yielding to Elayne, Perrin and Faile give in return by suggesting they make an alliance of nations, as the Seanchan and Rand have each done, with Elayne at its head.

After consideration of the succession line, Elayne suggests that if Faile becomes Queen of Saldaea, one of their children should become lord of the Two Rivers. Going a step further, Elayne wants one of their children to marry into the Andoran royal line. Perrin insists that his offspring will make their own choices.

Again Morgase suggests the solution: to give the Two Rivers to Rand, thereby justifying the autonomy of the Two Rivers (which it had through being neglected as an undeveloped area relying on its own resources for survival). Perrin then becomes his steward. But there will be taxes put into a fund in Rand’s name that Perrin can draw on to supply the needs of the region.

In this scene Elayne is rather like Tuon, who features in the second scene of this chapter; pushy, and jealous of her rights.

Tuon POV

Of Tuon’s imperial names, two are new and refer to the goddess Fortuna, and Devi, the Indian mother goddess. Her other two names are a witchcraft dagger, representing the occult danger to herself and others that Tuon is because she could learn to channel, and a reference to the Pendragon family of myth.

This is Tuon’s first appearance as Empress. Her cloth-of-gold gown is literally cloth woven of very fine gold wire (perhaps with silk to make it lighter, and less expensive, as was often done) (see Costumes article). The Byzantine empire was a notable source of cloth-of-gold fabric; the scheming Seanchan have minor parallels with this empire. However, they have far more with Imperial China (and Japan and Ancient Egypt) and Tuon is dressed like a Chinese empress. The ban on naming the Empress is a custom of Imperial Japan and the title “She Whose Eyes Look Upward” has an Ancient Egyptian flavour.

Having seen an owl omen in the night, she wears an owl headdress, whereas the Chinese empress would wear a phoenix crown:

She had heard an owl above her window the last night, and it had not flown away when she looked out. An omen indicating great care should be taken, that the next days would be ones of important decisions. The proper response was to wear jewelry with powerful symbolism.

Towers of Midnight, A Teaching Chamber

The owl is indeed an iffy omen, begin a symbol of knowledge, but also of witchcraft, and a harbinger of death. Tuon will only be dressed as elaborately and expensively again when she meets the Aes Sedai.

The words “beast” and “tools” are used by Tuon to describe damane. Hence having dehumanised them, she can watch damane being broken or worked without a qualm and find it soothing. She liked breaking marath’damane, but has to forego it now, since the Empress can’t lower herself to do “work”.

Fortuona “allows” Beslan to keep his culture. That culture has its good side, such as loyalty and keeping oaths of fealty, for instance, which might have something to do with it. It is interesting that the Seanchan place such emphasis on honouring oaths and serving, yet their nobles completely ignore oaths of fealty to satisfy personal ambition on the grounds that if their liege can’t forestall them they deserve to be overthrown. “Selfishness must be preserved” as Verin would say.

Like Elayne, Tuon is very conscious to exert her authority. This takes the form of watching closely to see that everyone does as they should. Her subjects appease her if they are not able to do their job perfectly, and she takes her time to accept their apologies to warn them not to take her good will for granted.

Elaida – now “Suffa”-ring – makes her fateful reappearance and demonstrates Travelling. It is obvious that Elaida has indeed been treated harshly, and interesting that the sul’dam can get a damane to perform a weave which the sul’dam knows exists but has no knowledge of how to work. Prior to Elaida’s demonstration, Tuon hadn’t believed in the weave. This is part of the knowledge theme developed in this chapter.

Melitene investigated the unravelled gateway near Ebou Dar and nearly has the explanation correct. Because two different events occurred close together – overstraining the Bowl of Winds and partially unravelling a weave – it was not easy to determine what happened. Both the Bowl and the unweaving used techniques that required knowledge and skill.

While Galgan looks at the possible usage of Travelling as an attacking tactic, as he was asked, Beslan sees the dangers. Tuon sees that it could be used to effect in leashing the White Tower as key to winning Last Battle, taking Seanchan and Westlands:

“I want each and every damane we control to be brought back to the city. We will train them in this method of Traveling.”

Towers of Midnight, A Teaching Chamber

The result is that all damane are gathered together in time for the Last Battle. Since damane can’t link, they would be limited in who has sufficient strength to make the weave.

The plot failed because the Seanchan ran out of time, and were tied with treaties by Rand and Egwene. Tuon could, of course, violate them – and has considered doing so – but her emotional ties to Mat and reluctance to lose face in his eyes will restrain her.

Perrin POV

Thom and Perrin tease Mat about being married. Fools and Tricksters rarely want to be tied another person, they prefer to be free of responsibility so they can follow their whims. Mat's embarrassment is very typical. Tricksters won’t be confined by convention or rules and Fools are not very teachable:

"Oh, I've been taught," Mat said. "I just never learned."

Towers of Midnight, A Teaching Chamber

Mat is both, so he is particularly untameable, as Tuon has discovered.

The butt of Mat’s attentions is Grady, who is depressed about the lack of contact with his wife and child. The joke is on Mat when his memories of his former lives are exposed after he reacts to the obscure story of Villiam Bloodletter.

The Happy Throng inn is a salute to the Dragonmount website, with innkeeper Master Denezel being webmaster Jason Denzel.

It’s interesting that Crimson and Golden, the aliases of Mat and Perrin respectively, are also two of the Dragon’s three colours. The other colour is white, the colour residing in Rand’s mind since his epiphany. The Dragon has abandoned aliases and hiding:

Tell him I've tired of minions, that I'm finished with his petty movement of pawns. Tell him that I'm coming for HIM!"

A Memory of Light, Advantages to a Bond

Ta’veren as strong as Mat and Perrin are very hard to hide, yet the Forsaken have to be dodged. Mat protects himself, or intends to, with his wits. All Tricksters declare that, but get themselves into, and out of, trouble with them. Perrin used to feel like the slow-witted side-kick to Mat the Trickster, but not anymore.