Friday, January 30, 2015

Towers of Midnight Read-through #57: Chapter 50 - Choosing Enemies

By Linda

Elayne POV

Politics and scheming are central in this chapter. On the positive side, Elayne takes a major step toward uniting another country for the Last Battle. On the negative, it provides the background for why Rand’s treaty is a great idea, since Elayne knows very well how close the Last Battle is, yet she wants to gain the throne for personal ambitions more than for doing Cairhien a public service. (Proved when she objected just as loudly as any other ruler at Rand’s limitation of national borders.)

As Rand said before she made her objections known:

Even Elayne had gobbled up another country when the opportunity presented itself. She would do so again. It was the nature of rulers, the nature of nations. In Elayne's case, it even seemed appropriate, as Cairhien would be better off beneath her rule than it had been.

How many would assume the same? That they, of course, could rule better—or restore order—in another land?

A Memory of Light, To Require a Boon

Elayne stages her demotion of Elenia Sarand, Naean Arawn and Arymilla Marne. The women have been abandoned by their Houses, which they bankrupted. She expects they would suicide rather than face them.

Since they can’t be ransomed, Elayne seizes their estates for the crown so she can put them to use to further her own ambitions: she uses the estates of the failed candidates for one throne to garner support for another. This includes assuming their considerable debts to support the bankers. Even if the destitute Houses could afford to pay, it would further the feuds between them and House Trakand.

The scene mirrors that of Rand stripping Colavaere, who had committed crimes as well as “usurped” his position. He stripped her of her titles and lands, whereas Elayne stripped the Houses of their lands. Elayne directly compares the two events, an awareness unusual for mirroring sub-threads.

His [Bertome’s] cousin, Colavaere, had received a similar punishment from Rand, though that had not affected her entire House.

Towers of Midnight, Choosing Enemies

Elayne summoned those of middling power in Cairhien. Riatin is a powerful House but has lost political influence because the Head, Toram, has vanished (killed by Lan in Winter’s Heart). The Andoran Queen needs to cultivate these people because they stand in her way to gain the Sun Throne.

Andorans are bored by the Game of Houses and think it unnecessary. Yet it is essential if they want to successfully negotiate with Cairhienin. For all that Elayne thinks Cairhienin are skilled in the Game of Houses, she speaks of waiting for various nobles to catch on. Either she is being portrayed as more skilful than they, or else her overtures are so crudely done they think they are missing what she’s on about. (It’s probably meant to be the former).

Her intentions should have been obvious by now-sending some of the Band to the city had been an obvious move, nearly too obvious for the subtle Cairhienin.

Towers of Midnight, Choosing Enemies

Obvious or not, the Cairhienin were in no position to do anything about it. Elayne thinks they wonder if she will promote a Cairhienin as a candidate to the throne to gain an ally. Surely they are not so naïve as to think this, since, as a Damodred, Elayne has a strong claim AND Rand announced she was to have the throne.

In fact, Lorstrum explains that their reticence is because no one dares to try for the throne in case Rand is annoyed with them - for stepping into a place he has announced for Elayne (harkening back to the Colavaere situation again). Elayne was peeved Rand did this and ignores this hint because she wants to win the throne in her own right as a Damodred. Obliquely she suggests that Cairhienin might educate her about her Cairhienin heritage, reminding them that she has a strong claim to the throne. Very tactful and polite of her.

Then she bribes them to promote her claims to gain a bloodless ascension.

But what if she gave lands within Andor to some of the Cairhienin nobility? What if she created multiple bonds between their countries? What if she proved that she would not steal their titles-but would instead be willing to give some of them greater holdings? Would that be enough to prove that she didn't intend to steal the lands of the Cairhien nobility and give them to her own people? Would that ease their worries?

Towers of Midnight, Choosing Enemies

Also a very quick one; though some groundwork was laid by sending half the Band there about a week earlier (Towers of Midnight, A Reunion). Which is smart considering that there is little time left before the Last Battle.

On the Andoran side, she also offers Cairhienin lands to the three dispossessed nobles to give them a second chance and a new start away from Andor. One of the most positive outcomes of this scene is the mercy she shows to Elenia, Naean and Arymilla.

”If I were to find you and your husband a place to form a new seat in Cairhien, would you take what is given?"

Towers of Midnight, Choosing Enemies

For all that Elayne worries about Jarid Sarand’s whereabouts and intentions, he is not likely to survive to be a problem, as we see in the next book. Elenia reminds me of a harder, more ruthless Elayne. They have similar colouring, control and courage. It will be some time before Arymilla and Naean regain any confidence, if ever.

In contrast, Morgase somewhat regretted that she made a kind of peace with her rivals:

When she assumed the throne she had pardoned them for everything they had done during the Succession, as she had pardoned everyone who opposed her. It had seemed best to bury all animosities before they could fester into the sort of plotting and scheming that infected so many lands. The Game of Houses it was called-Daes Dae'mar-or the Great Game, and it led to endless, tangled feuds between Houses, to the toppling of rulers; the Game was at the heart of the civil war in Cairhien, and no doubt had done its part in the turmoil enveloping Arad Doman and Tarabon. The pardons had had to go to all to stop Daes Dae'mar being born in Andor, but could she have left any unsigned, they would have been the parchments with those seven's names…They had had to pry their jaws open to swear fealty, and she could hear the lie on their tongues. Anyone would leap at a chance to pull her down, and all seven together.

The Fires of Heaven, Memories

and it seems the rivals regretted it too. The peace didn’t work; the Seven Houses had no wish for it. Will Elayne’s re-establishment work better? They will owe her (and may come to resent it) and it will take time for them to gain influence in a new land.

Morgase thinks Elayne brilliant, but Dyelin is uncomfortable with the risks she takes. Perhaps this shows that Dyelin’s temperament is unsuitable for ruling, but also that Morgase is over-confident. Myself, I don’t think Elayne was that skilled a player, it was more a matter of her holding an unbeatable hand. Elayne is making bonds between Andor and Cairhien to make herself less unique and to show that both sides will benefit. It is an excellent way for both countries to unite. Long-term she may bequeath the countries to different children. Although at this stage, with Rand about to depart anonymous, there’s not much chance for more children unless he returns under a new identity. Perhaps Elayne’s daughter will inherit both crowns with her twin brother as her protector and supporter

Lorstrum and Bertome agree because each sees the chance to take both thrones. As the chapter title indicates, Elayne is choosing her competition. They won’t be a real threat for ten years, she estimates, and she will play each against the other.

This is more like Egwene’s situation in Salidar in some ways. She had to go against custom and promote some Accepted to Aes Sedai to be less of an anomaly. Then she played Romanda and Lelaine off against each other, and also had Sheriam to deal with.

Elayne is surrounded by enemies as we shall see.

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