Monday, November 30, 2015

A Memory of Light Read-Through #4: Chapter 1— Eastward the Wind Blew

By Linda

Rand POVs

This is the second last time that the wind rises in the books—the last is in the epilogue. The chapter title emphasises the poignant moment. The wind represents chi or prana, the breath of the world, and brings the story to life. Most symbolically, this time it rises in the Mountains of Mist. The winds have risen in a variety of locations on the mainland—and also once in Seanchan (Towers of Midnight) and on a Sea Folk island (The Path of Daggers)—but it rose in two places more than once: Braem Wood (twice, The Fires of Heaven, A Crown of Swords) and the Mountains of Mist (three times, The Eye of the World, The Dragon Reborn and A Memory of Light). By having the wind rise in the same place in the first and last books of the series, the story comes full circle. The wind blew most of the directions of the compass, and even down; it blew south three times and east four times.

Refugees are also heading east as though dispersed by the wind. Carried along with them, the reader witnesses the extensively diseased and infertile land, and abandoned villages. The world is dying, consumed, as the fires at Merrilor consume wood. It is the end times for this Age, but hopefully an ending rather than the ending for the Wheel. The sun is blotted out, leaving a perpetual dim light which is neither day nor night. We are in limbo, on the verge of the Underworld. The Dark One, Lord of the Underworld, gains power from death—including that of the day or night as Liandrin explained so long ago:

At dawn the day was born, just as twilight gave birth to night, but at dawn, night died, and at twilight, day. The Dark One's power was rooted in death; he gained power from death, and at those times she thought she could feel his power stirring.

The Great Hunt, The Shadow in Shienar

Therefore his power is gaining at a fast rate from this, the prolonged death throes of day and night, and he is flexing that power to crush all things.

With such impending doom, it seems shocking that the Dragon Reborn laughs, exhibiting normal, even positive, behaviour, as he delights in Perrin’s tale of the events leading to the Battle of Emond’s Field. Rand wants to hear about the people, not just the deeds. He needs to care about them now and during his trials, so that he remembers what these are for.

The Dragon is stunned that he is going to be a father, and realises why Elayne didn’t tell him before—he was too dark and unstable to approach. Even now, Perrin insists on talking to Rand when he is genuine and open. Rand is reassured that Perrin’s core is still the same. His own core should be too. Rand thinks he hasn’t changed, just accepted and adopted the role, but that in itself was a huge change.

By measuring and feeling reassured at how much his friends are unchanged, Rand rather overlooks their achievements. He is surprised at the accomplishments of his friends – the size of Perrin’s army and its loyalty, for instance, and how Perrin is a very approachable king. Rand has to be a remote ruler, above humanity, and a symbol without being a figurehead. He is worn down by this physically and mentally. Rand doesn’t think that Perrin might have forged his hammer. Familiarity leads to under estimation from both Rand and Egwene. Another good characteristic of Perrin that is often overlooked is that he shares the credit with others who helped, and actively promotes them to Rand. In turn, Rand compliments Perrin on how well he leads—looks after his people.

When Rand likens his past life/ancestral memories to a clear recollection of a dream, he received understanding from Perrin, who likewise has memories to draw upon—wolf ones—and is a Dreamer besides.

Rand is concerned about being distracted when he should be focussed on the Merrilor meeting to unify the world. He is sure that the Shadow wants to prevent unity and realises that this is why Mierin is trying to disturb his balance and manipulate him. Likewise, the attack on Caemlyn is another attempt. In fact, this has been a tactic of the Shadow since the series began: the Shaido, the White Tower schism, the Whitecloaks, the Seanchan Return, and more; it’s just that finally Rand has the clarity to see it.

As an influential ruler, Rand thinks that Elayne would help his planned alliance. Anything drawing her away from this would weaken it and undermine the meeting of nations. Perrin demurs because Elayne is on the “other side”. Rand says there is disagreement, but not an “other” side. (This is not true in the case of the Seanchan, who are being set up to be a third side.) Rand declares that Elayne must stay, to join the Coalition. Perrin points out that she should try to protect or salvage her homeland (as he did for the Two Rivers in The Shadow Rising). Rand says it is too late for anything except evacuation, although he is tempted to use the Asha’man. They will check to see if the city really is lost, but won’t fight anything until the coalition signed.

Perrin is displeased when Rand pragmatically wonders if the attack will backfire on the Shadow and make Elayne more accepting of Rand’s ideas. (She already did agree with them until Egwene dissuaded her). He quickly realises that the Trollocs probably entered through the Caemlyn Waygate. Perrin says they can try and disrupt that point of entry, and Rand teases him about knowing stuff he should not. The upshot is that Rand will send help for evacuating city, though.

Rand thinks Demandred is behind the attack because he was the first to discover the art of war, perhaps even writings derived from the real world book of that title, or even Sun Tzu’s actual book. This is not necessarily so, however, since the other Forsaken also learned how to wage war. It is a red herring for us, as we see when Demandred finally reveals himself.

Rand thinks how, as Lews Therin, he inspired Demandred’s betrayal by competing with him. Contrast this with Mat’s and Perrin’s camaraderie and Rand’s more generous acknowledgement. Mat’s competition with Rand in front of the Empress is a teasing one and ends with Rand laughing.

The common people express their fear to Rand, who comforts them by reminding them of the prophecies. The major function of prophecy is to give guidance and hope, and, therefore, comfort. Rand warns people that there will be earthquakes and storms as the Dark One Breaks the world. It helps people control their fear if they expect danger.

Rand warns Balwer that Elayne will have spies amongst Balwer’s clerks. He is not concerned about what they find out because he will be announcing everything tomorrow. Taking a leaf out of Perrin’s book, he then praises Balwer, showing consideration and encouragement.

While Perrin is apologetic of Faile’s wariness of Rand, Rand privately thinks Faile is right not to trust him and also to think that Rand will hurt those close to him.

Perrin warns Rand that the Merrilor meeting could end in battle, and also that the cuendillar Seals are the Amyrlin’s responsibility. Rand agrees. He persuades Perrin of the value of breaking the Seals to reforge the seal on the Dark One’s prison anew, rather than make a patch. Perrin thinks this is very reasonable and should convince Egwene. Rand is doubtful because Egwene is not a craftsperson. Perrin says that she is very clever and will understand their argument. Egwene represents the conservative faction, though.

Rand wonders if sealing the Dark One away is the answer, when perhaps something more permanent, like killing him, might serve better. “I’m coming for you,” he thinks of the Dark One. In a few chapters he will tell Moridin to say this very phrase to Shaitan. The Dragon doesn’t feel ready for the end, but it has come. He is not afraid, though.

Rand’s madness took the form of his Lews Therin personality trying to take over. Yet the memories from Lews Therin had a good purpose: they showed him the mistake of pride leading to arrogance, by trying to do everything himself. Lews Therin’s parallel, Lucifer, fell because of pride:

Pride fills me. I am sick with the pride that destroyed me!
Lord of Chaos, A Saying in the Borderlands

Soul of fire, heart of stone, in pride he conquers, forcing the proud to yield.

A Crown of Swords , Opening epigram

How many have died for my pride? Lews Therin moaned. How many have died for my mistakes?

The Path of Daggers, Answering the Summons

The taint both sent Rand mad and enabled him to understand/know his past lives and where he went wrong. The way evil undoes itself—the irony of it—scares him. It is also a sign that he can redeem himself by the very thing that damned him, as Christ undid Adam’s sin.

Perrin will support Rand so long as there is no fighting among themselves. This is fine for Rand, who intends to unite the people. They must have unity this time.

Egwene POV

Egwene uses Travelling to avoid notice and speculation. She wonders what Siuan would have gotten up to with the weave, but the way the Tower was at that time, it is more likely that people would have gated in to kill her. As Tuon’s guard recognised, Travelling is a potential security risk without a dreamspike or other guardian. The knowledge of Travelling also means that the Hall can’t enforce the law against the Amyrlin leaving the Tower without permission. Unless martial law is operating, the Amyrlin has to inform the Hall of any intended travel, so they can establish there is no danger, since it is against the law for her to deliberately endanger herself without the Hall’s agreement:

The Amyrlin Seat being valued with the White Tower itself, as the very heart of the White Tower, she must not be endangered without dire necessity, therefore unless the White Tower be at war by declaration of the Hall of the Tower, the Amyrlin Seat shall seek the lesser consensus of the Hall of the Tower before deliberately placing herself in the way of any danger, and she shall abide by the consensus that stands.

- A Crown of Swords, A Pair of Silverpike

Most Amyrlins would protest: where is the danger in quickly ducking out and back by gateway?

When Elayne suggests that they let Rand break Seals, Egwene is shocked and appalled. In her opinion, Elayne is so besotted with Rand that her judgement has been affected. In keeping with the undercurrent of underestimation the young Emond’s Fielders have for each other, Egwene also assumes that Rand’s scheme is reckless and foolish. The situation is a potential replay of the standoff between Latra Posae and Lews Therin in the Age of Legends when Latra Posae gathered the agreement of all powerful female Aes Sedai in the Fateful Concord to not participate in Lews Therin’s strike on Shayol Ghul. This time it would be the refusal to agree to the treaty and is the potential disaster that Moiraine averts as Min’s viewings foresaw:

She had not really lied when he asked her what viewings she had kept back. Not really. What good to tell him he would almost certainly fail without a woman who was dead and gone?

- A Crown Of Swords, Into The Woods

Min sighed regretfully, but it was not as if she had really expected Moiraine to turn up alive. Moiraine was the only viewing of hers that had ever failed.

- A Crown Of Swords, Into The Woods

Egwene believes that the Light can’t risk having the Bore open for too long – and that’s how events played out. Considering that Rand was mistakenly planning on killing the Dark One right up until this time, this was providential. The Shadow’s theft of the Seals prevented them being broken earlier, and so the Bore was not opened until the last possible moment. So Egwene is, or was, right.

However, currently Egwene is not convinced that the Bore needs to be opened at all. The phrase “Wait upon the Light”, a critical bit added by the Dreamer Amyrlin, gives her pause, because of the weight of a Dreamer’s (potentially prophetic) words.

The young Emond’s Fielders tend not to underestimate Nynaeve—just each other—but a telling mirror of this occurs when Nynaeve remarks that she is impressed that Moiraine (with whom she competed and who is weaker in the power than she) Healed Tam of a Thakan’dar blade with an angreal. This while Nynaeve herself Heals a patient as desperately ill as any Semirhage Healed.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Memory of Light Read-Through #3: Prologue— Androl and Moghedien POVs

By Linda

Androl POV

Androl and Pevara deal with their nervousness in different ways: he is making something to keep his mind occupied, while she is chattering and questioning. Androl lets Pevara know that he is aware of her questioning others about him and that he finds it under-handed. He also shows her he knows why she is doing it: to find out why a man would choose to learn to channel—or see if he could. To his surprise she replies honestly. She is a better person than he thought. While talking to her, Androl is trying to force himself to be calm, like a woman wanting to channel saidar.

Pevara suggests that they try to link. This technique is something Androl didn’t know existed. When she patronises him about his lack of knowledge, he says no man may know everything, implying that anyone, including women, who claims to know all are wrong.

Androl assures Pevara that he is weak in the Power, even though he is a leader. This is not something an Aes Sedai would expect, since it is the opposite of Aes Sedai custom. Perhaps she thinks he is trying to fob her off, but she will soon find out he is being truthful.

The Red tries to flatter Emarin at the expense of the other Asha’man present and he insults her politely—or at least, mocks her. Androl thinks she missed his sarcasm, but sarcasm doesn’t work if it is ignored. So they came off about equal.

Emarin and Pevara are working out ways to escape, but Androl wants to bring everyone out who isn’t a Darkfriend. Moreover, the Asha’man will not abandon the families that they brought to the Tower. Events ensure that Androl ends up having his way.

Emarin notices Androl’s slip when he speaks of the Knoks rebellion. He is observant, but so is Androl, who has deduced that Emarin is using his brother’s name and is Lord Algarin of House Pendaloan. Like Androl’s family, the Pendaloans have the genes for channelling in their family. While the reader might assume that there are also female channellers as well as male ones in such a family, we often don’t see both genders of channellers in the one family. The inheritance is therefore probably separate and sex-linked (which makes sense, considering the two Powers are gender specific.) Halima/Arangar, the only woman able to channel saidin, is an unnatural creation of the Dark One, and an example of Wrongness. Algarin/Emarin is very unusual in judging people by merit and not background, and (mostly) respecting Aes Sedai—especially for a Tairen High Lord.

Androl sees this time as a test for the Asha’man to prove their fitness for self-governance and independence. They can’t run to others and yet demand to be their own people. Most of Logain's faction are resentful that Rand has not come to the Black Tower but not Androl. Rand has got other things to do, but the Black Tower was a very important thing and Rand was blind on this and distracted by the Shadow.

Pevara explains that people are being Turned to the Shadow. She sees the Black Tower as fallen under the Shadow’s influence. (Little does she know the degree to which the White Tower was run by the Shadow.) Androl wants to overthrow that influence and make the Black Tower a refuge, a positive place for male channellers—something that Pevara hasn’t really considered should happen.

Androl points out that evil people don’t inspire loyalty only self-interested allies, which gives them an advantage. He is a reluctant leader and looks on his role as temporary until Logain returns. In his opinion, the Asha’man all belong to the Black Tower, not any one person.

Regarding forcibly freeing the Black Tower from the Shadow, Androl doubts that Aes Sedai can fight well due to lack of experience. This is a reasonable inference, although the Reds and Greens do practise. The White Tower has not been that peaceable in the last years—although Pevara will not admit to any fighting among Aes Sedai. However, the sisters have battled Darkfriends and Shadowspawn less than they might. Androl also points out that Asha’man will ally with Taim to fight off Aes Sedai if sisters try to play a large part.

Moghedien POV

The final scene of the Prologue is the Forsaken meeting in a locale controlled by the Nae’blis. Moridin likes to confound as well as intimidate, and so his little world has floating stone, a breeze that doesn’t ripple the water surface, and burning water. The dream shard is attached to Tel’aran’rhiod, yet is unaffected by it. This is consistent with Ishamael’s books on reality and meaning (Analysis of Perceived Meaning, Reality and the Absence of Meaning, and The Disassembly of Reason) and also with his strategy of distracting the other Forsaken with his ‘crazy’ and alarming ideas.

Moghedien is subtle in her use of motifs and symbolism but still emphasises that she is not wearing livery. The wind with screams on it seems designed to disturb Moghedien by reminding her of her punishment. However, she is not fearful when Moridin threatens to give her mindtrap to Demandred and instead opportunistically tries to lower Demandred’s standing—but it doesn’t work. Demandred is strongly favoured currently.

The Spider thinks she wasn’t careful enough if she got mind-trapped. But doing nothing is also a move that results in disaster as often as success. Just a few moments ago, she was bolder, but Moridin’s warning of a return to captivity makes her fearful; fearful of losing her mindtrap that she holds. Does this foreshadow what happens when she is collared?

It turns out that Moghedien kept information back from Egwene, Nynaeve and Elayne. Knowledge in all its forms—correct, partial and corrupt—is an important theme of the books—see Knowledge essay.

The scene shows that both Demandred and Moridin are unbalanced now that the finale is upon them. Moridin is withdrawn and brooding – uncaring in evil. His efforts to destroy Rand’s soul have backfired and he is despairing and tired of his greatly prolonged life. Demandred is obsessed with achieving personal triumph and “satisfaction” over Rand.

However, obsessed or no, Demandred is more observant than Moghedien, who also has changed. She is crushed, and overwhelmed to a degree, and missing things. It was only through Demandred that she noticed the sea is full of people—souls—being tortured. Moridin/Ishamael is always surrounded by such torture and pain. Moghedien is glad to see someone worse off than her. Is that why the Forsaken surround themselves with suffering? Blinded by ambition to be higher than everyone else, and yet they gloat over seeing people in the worst states. So petty and vulnerable to punishment.

No one knows what Demandred is up to—except Moridin probably. In turn, Demandred is probing Moridin, watching for weakness. Moridin killed Lanfear to free her from Sindhol (which is the name of a world, not of the creatures who live there).

As Hessalam, Graendal is hideous. Literally a monster, Graendal the man-eating bewitcher has now become Grendel the monster of legend, (see Graendal article). Moghedien gloats over this, but envies Hessalam’s strength in the Power. She recognises Graendal by her tone and body language and enjoys the irony of Graendal’s ugly state. She feels Graendal got her just desserts and that Graendal, despite her power and abilities, is no longer above her:

Moghedien almost chortled with glee. Graendal had always used her looks as a bludgeon. Well, now they were a bludgeon of a different type. How perfect! The woman must be positively writhing inside. What had she done to earn such a punishment? Graendal's stature—her authority, the myths told about her—were all linked to her beauty. What now? Would she have to start searching for the most horrid people alive to keep as pets, the only ones who could compete with her ugliness?

This time, Moghedien did laugh. A quiet laugh, but Graendal heard. The woman shot her a glare that could have set a section of the ocean aflame all on its own.

Moghedien returned a calm gaze, feeling more confident now. She resisted the urge to stroke the cour'souvra. Bring what you will, Graendal, she thought. We are on level footing now. We shall see who ends this race ahead.

A Memory of Light, Prologue

It is hard to say who ended the race ahead. Graendal would be the happier of the two, although as mindless as all those she enslaved, while Moghedien has her mind, but is unfree. Who is better off? For Graendal, ignorance is bliss. Moghedien has hope of escape, but maybe not much chance. The point is that neither won.

Finally we get to the ostensible point of this meeting: Taim has been raised to Chosen. He will be known by his self-adopted title of M’Hael, which means leader and is a reference to Hitler’s title of Der Fuhrer and also to St Michael who leads a host against the Dragon at Armageddon (see Names of the Shadow). Moridin introduces him formally to force the other Forsaken to accept M’Hael’s rise and status and also to point out his successes and their failures.

Speaking of failures, Moghedien is resentful that Moridin has not been punished for his failures and his need to be rescued. The difference is that Ishamael died serving the Dark One, though, not serving himself.

Moghedien feels insulted at having to assist Demandred by watching over one of the armies (Seanchan) and even more when she is threatened by Moridin in front of the others.

Fun in the Last Days. Moridin’s meeting parallels Rand’s meeting in a couple of chapters’ time. Both are having unity problems.