Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Towers of Midnight Read-through #59: Chapter 52 - Boots

By Linda

Elayne POV

Events in this chapter are contemporaneous with Rand’s meeting with the Borderlanders: Elayne feels him meeting them after he was tested, and Mat sees him in a tent talking to some people. So the arrival at the Field of Merrilor is the next day.

Elayne feels the responsibility of having security people – of endangering others to be protected:

With Birgitte on one side of her and Guybon on the other—and with both of their horses taller than Elayne's—a would-be assassin would have great difficulty picking her off without first hitting her friends. So it would be for the rest of her life.

Towers of Midnight Boots

This highlights the risks of being a ruler, and becoming a marked person; she will be depending on guards while she holds a throne.

Elayne is affected by Birgitte’s emotions:

Birgitte’s anxiety was contagious, and Elayne found herself holding her reins in a tight grip as Glimmer moved forward.

Towers of Midnight Boots

Fear is contagious anyway, but a Warder bond between two women lacks distance due to similarities in psychology. It is an ‘unbalanced’ bond in Jordan’s philosophy, in contrast to the male-female bond.

Elayne feels Cairhien is not that hostile to her because the people want stability and prosperity. They need a ruler to look after them, and, in turn, Elayne feels the urge to do so, and especially to limit the Game of Houses. However, if not for the Great Game, Elayne would not have gained the Cairhien throne without force of arms or Rand stepping in. Lorstrum and Bertome promoted her to increase their own prospects:

Lorstrum nodded to her with respect. He knew she was manipulating him, but he also accepted that manipulation. She would have to keep a careful watch on him in the years to come.

Towers of Midnight Boots

Elayne assesses him as a worthy rival and is aware that he isn’t putting up with her manoeuvres for nothing – and won’t indefinitely. He is allowing the manipulation in the hope of fulfilling his ambition to gain a throne, or two.

Sashalle openly hands over Cairhien to her on Rand’s behalf in ceremony that leaves Elayne peeved. The new queen is sceptical that one Aes Sedai’s proclamation would work, but she may be underestimating the caretaking that the Aes Sedai in Cairhien have done. On the other hand, Elayne thinks that the nobles’ support might be enough on its own. (I don’t think it’s a case of either/or but that she needed both to support her.) Sashalle’s adopted position might be due to Verin’s Compulsion, which worked on non-channellers as well as channellers. Once Healed, the Red was fervent in swearing to support Rand.

Elayne thought Brigitte’s security checks excessive, but she was wrong. Many other Aes Sedai would be more cautious. Perhaps the assassin tried their luck anyway, since it would discredit Lorstrum, at the least. Or perhaps they know Elayne’s boldness (ie recklessness); the very characteristic Birgitte chided Elayne for at the start of the scene.

The attempt to assassinate Elayne is also a strike at Lorstrum, and maybe Bertome, although Bertome would gain if Lorstrum was blamed. The poisoned needle had the potential to neutralise both Elayne and Lorstrum in one hit.

Elayne is reading the Cairhienin well. Lorstrum owes her for not holding him responsible and he acknowledges this tacitly. I guess this delays Lorstrum’s future threat a little. Elayne uses honey with the Cairhienin—reminding them she is half Cairhienin—and also a stick—threatening them with Rand.

Immediately, she orders the nobles to gather their forces and recruit. It stops them scheming and gets them in the habit of obeying her. And tomorrow is not just another day.


Mat has changed his black scarf for a red – the god of war is rising as he goes to the Tower of Ghenjei.

He feels at peace, but is disgruntled at having to do paperwork. However, he likes the intelligence reports he wheedled out of Elayne. They include tales of wrongness, which he tends to dismiss, as well as false rumour and accurate reports. He is also making plans for crossbow modifications, following up on his conversation with Aludra in Knife of Dreams on improving crossbow arming speed.

The incongruity of quality furniture on bare ground outside a tent is typical of a trickster. Setalle tells Mat she knows he often says things to sock people, putting them off balance to make them do what he wants or allow him to do what he wants. It’s a tactic of tricksters. Fellow trickster Verin did something similar with her prattling hints. Mat claims to be unaware of this – perhaps he does it without thinking or perhaps he doesn’t need to think about it. There is quite a gap in perception in this conversation, in a way. Mat lets Setalle know his negative opinion of Aes Sedai, including Joline, and how they appear from a commoner’s perspective. That doesn’t shock her, but it does annoy her. His point is valid, though.

Despite the gap, there’s a meeting of minds: Mat asks Setalle a personal question about what it is like to be burned out /stilled. She uses a simile to explain. Then she returns the favour by asking him why he dislikes Aes Sedai. Because they boss him around. She says that he has the choice to follow their advice or not, and that they give good advice. Mat is not interested in good advice or the right way—tricksters rarely are. He wants freedom. And choice.

Setalle presses further to ask why Mat doesn’t like nobles. It’s not dislike, he says, just that he doesn’t want to be one. To her surprise, he uses a metaphor of boots: Talmanes, for instance, has too many pairs. Some are just for appearances. Nobles are too rich, have too much time, and lead an overly complicated life, in Mat’s opinion. Three pairs of boots—one for mess, one for most occasions and a really good pair for when you need to walk far—are sufficient.

Lie all tricksters, Mat is underestimated, but he sees what’s important and essential. It is not necessary for the aristocracy to complicate their clothing because they have a responsible position and have to make complex decisions. Setalle is impressed with his insight – though to her it is unconventional. Mat likes being unconventional. He considerately doesn’t drink straight from the jug until she leaves.

Mat tells Setalle indirectly that he’s keeping her there to see to Olver if he doesn’t escape the *Finns.

Verin the trickster is an undercurrent in this scene: Mat is tempted by her letter, but resists. He feels the surest way to resist is to decide never to open it. This follows immediately upon being reminded how bossy Aes Sedai are. It’s as if the Pattern were keeping him from succumbing to the temptation of the letter. Verin used him to do a task, or tried to, but was counting on successfully manipulating him via his curiosity. It didn’t work. His dislike of orders and work was stronger. Burning the letter unopened would be a more certain way of not reading it, but he doesn’t think of it: the Pattern needs someone else to open it.

Mat is alarmed that Birgitte was in the Tower of Ghenjei two months and couldn’t escape. And everyone broke the rules, yet most perished. Mat is not the only rule-breaker around. It is extreme luck that breaks many at once.

Probably the best part of this chapter was the triumph of the rule breakers over the ‘rule-setters’ (as Mat thinks of them): Birgitte rewarding herself for saving Elayne by sitting on the throne first, and Mat tweaking the nose of Setalle, former Aes Sedai.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Towers of Midnight Read-through #58: Chapter 51 - A Testing

By Linda

It's interesting that this chapter is titled 'A Testing', not 'The Testing'-just one of many, as Cadsuane warned Rand would happen. Siuan also warned Egwene that she would be continually tested.


Callandor shimmers even while it is still – like the glass columns ter’angreal do when active. It feels warm and alive – again like the glass columns—when held by a non-channeller. Perhaps this was due to the presence male channellers.

Rand feels that Hawkwing’s sword Justice represents the past—Hawkwing manipulated by Ishamael—and Callandor the future – how to survive by trapping Moridin and using him to defeat the Dark One.

Min sees Callandor gripped in a black hand. I immediately thought that this represented Moridin or Shaidar Haran. She worries that Callandor will be used against Rand, but he accepts it. He’s more concerned about the Black Tower, and has tried Travelling there, but even with his current strength and abilities he couldn’t get through. From Lews Therin’s memories, he may suspect a dreamspike is in operation and therefore a Forsaken is behind it. While Rand appears open, there is still much he doesn’t say, or only half explains, in this sequence. Naeff is to tell Logain’s faction that they are not weapons, but men, and to gather information on what is going on. Rand appears to realise there are two factions, and that Taim’s men are not receptive to him, and represent a huge danger.

Cadsuane doesn’t want Callandor seen and Rand obligingly puts it away. After agreeing to Cadsuane’s suggestions, Rand shows her that he knows more about her ter’angreal than she does due to firsthand experience as Lews Therin. The ter’angreal he doesn’t recognise are probably the ones against men channelling. He lets her and everyone know that he has “ancestral memories” – and gently intimidates Cadsuane to stop patronising him. He also says that age is not necessarily proportional to wisdom and refers to himself as much as to her, which can be taken either way. He is a young man who has gained a lot of wisdom, and an old soul who has been unwise at times.

Far Madding always was anti-technology due to fearing what it could do. Lews Therin found this frustrating, but Rand sympathises with their attitude:

"The Guardians are newer, but the city was here long ago. Aren Deshar, Aren Mador, Far Madding. Always a thorn in our side, Aren Deshar was. The enclave of the Incastar-those afraid of progress, afraid of wonder. Turns out they had a right to be afraid. How I wish I had listened to Gilgame . . ."

Towers of Midnight, A Testing

The old story of power corrupting. The name ‘Far Madding’ is a reference to Far From the Madding Crowd (the title of a Thomas Hardy novel) and emphasises the separationist policy of the city-state.

Rand makes a half-reference to Gilgamesh, the Mesopotamian hero king of the Epic of Gilgamesh who built a wall to keep his people safe and searched for the secret of eternal life. Like many legendary figures in the real world, or The Wheel of Time, he was also an historic person. The stedding ter’angreal installed at Far Madding were a kind of wall to keep the people safe from channelling. The earlier communities perhaps banned channelling or were like gated communities.

Min fears Rand has the memories of a madman which will corrupt him, but Rand assures her that he and Lews Therin always were each other, being the same soul, so it makes no difference. Both of them have made mistakes and been arrogant. The important difference is that Rand was raised better, and people close to him kept him more grounded. He lists the three women he loves, the two he takes to Shayol Ghul, and Mat and Perrin and his father. They have made him stronger, so he was able to overcome despair. It’s noticeable that he doesn’t mention Egwene, but does mention Moiraine.

Cadsuane is less patronising to Rand after his previous push-back, and advises him to show strength, not arrogance. The Borderlanders will want to fight for Rand. Rand is a bit dubious becauses he senses that they are here to challenge him, but doesn’t know how or why. He returns her courtesy by thanking her. Cadsuane’s personal thoughts, that Rand has persuaded the Borderlanders to follow him against the odds, show she wasn’t as confident as she appears here.

Rand can see King Easar’s grief, but the others don’t. Cadsuane gives a brief assessment of each ruler, and Min her viewings of them – and it’s noticeable that they all have them

The Borderlanders should be at home to fight the Shadowspawn incursions, but felt that finding Rand is more important. They expected to be back much sooner, but were delayed by the weather (part of the Pattern) and Rand moving around so much. Rand insists on facing them alone, and he commands the Aiel to let them hit him; he turns the other cheek as Jesus did. They injured him because he has injured the nations. Well the Dragon is one with the Land and each takes on the wounds of the other. Cadsuane points out that he was prophesied to break the world and therefore shouldn’t be punished for it.

When they ask him how Tellindal Tirraso died, he is hugely upset they know her name because he still feels guilt from accidentally killing her. In this Age he made a list of all those he killed or died for him.

Demandred’s Eighty and One—Demandred being the One, no doubt—which aimed to get Lews Therin is symbolic of the number eighty one being one more than a combination of justice and perfection, and thus Demandred trying to outdo and then kill the Creator’s Champion.

Cadsuane POV

Cadsuane is uncomfortable in Far Madding, but Rand, who also supposedly can’t channel there is comfortable with armies and thirteen unallied Aes Sedai around him. Well, she wanted him to show strength. This also shows how much Rand has changed, and Cadsuane acknowledges this and gives grudging respect. Then she reassures herself that she is still needed.

Kiruna is not the only Aes Sedai the Nachiman family has produced—an earlier one could Foretell. Her prophecy is that the Arafellin King must confront Rand and test his restraint by bloodying him; test whether he is ready to sacrifice himself freely and without resentment. If Rand hasn’t the memories of Lews Therin he must be killed so the world ends. It’s not so much that Lews Therin’s knowledge is essential, but more that Rand needs to be integrated with Lews Therin—be more than Lews Therin—and understand him to win against the Dark One. It’s OK—probably good, even—if Rand hopes to survive, though. Rand thinks the testing was a foolish risk – but Arafellin are gamblers.

The reason why Rand thinks it was foolish is that he believes prophecy shows what can happen if conditions are met, not what will happen. Paitar thinks that if Rand was killed for not having Lews Therin’s memories he could be replaced at very short notice:

"Only a month earlier," Rand said. "I wouldn't have had the memories to answer you. This was a foolish gambit. If you had killed me, then all would have been lost."
"A gamble," Paitar said evenly. "Perhaps another would have risen in your stead."
"No," Rand said. "This prophecy was like the others. A declaration of what might happen, not advice."

Towers of Midnight, A Testing

Self-fulfilling prophecies are a danger as well as a conundrum.

The Creator’s Champion is not easily replaced though. Rand says that if he came to them before his epiphany on Dragonmount, he would have balefired them (with the True Power) for the assault. Cadsuane wonders at this—she doesn’t know about True Power—but I bet she researches it now, and a good thing, too.

Rand tells the Borderlanders that he was barely able to save Maradon and without his gateways they can’t get back to protect their lands. However, in exchange for their oaths he will have their Aes Sedai taught Travelling. Tomorrow he’ll hold a meeting with world leaders then go to Shayol Ghul to break the Seals, “break what he must break”. He says the Foretelling proves what he will do, which contradicts the caveat he just made on prophecy. He gives them an hour to decide and will apologise to Hurin while he waits. Meanwhile Cadsuane wants to check out their Aes Sedai, to see what their allegiances are, presumably.

The end is to happen soon. Cadsuane wonders if they are ready but she doesn’t ask herself if the Shadow is ready.