Thursday, March 31, 2011

Two Weeks until JordanCon 2011!

By Linda

In a couple of weeks’ time, at JordanCon 2011 in Atlanta, I will be demonstrating metal thread and purl (coils of metal wire) embroidery for costuming. My contemporary embroidery "Tree of Life" (Yep, it's Avendesora as World Tree!) shows metal purls. Such decoration was for high status clothing which is why Rand’s clothes are almost exclusively embroidered in metal thread rather than silk or wool (see Rand's coat sleeve embroidery).

Using a blademaster’s heron motif as an example, I’ll show how to prepare the fabric, how to use the metal threads and purls and the stitches and effects that are made with them. The motif is about 3 inches high.

I will supply the metal threads and purls and have spares of a few other requirements icluding fabric. If you are going to the Con and are interested in joining me, bring:

  • A 15” square of medium weight fabric basted onto the same size calico square, choose and buy your fabric in a solid colour that you like and that would look good with the metal on it,

  • 8” embroidery hoop,

  • a reel of Guterman sewing thread #968 for gold or #8 (pale grey) for silver depending on which metal you chose (or a similar brand, the idea is to have matching thread for the metal),

  • Embroidery or craft scissors,

  • Fine embroidery needles (eg size 10)

  • Thick darning needle.

I can email a scan of the heron motif to be traced on before class. Just comment below if you wish me to send you one.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #10: Chapter 8 - Clean Shirts

By Linda


Siuan cannot Listen to the Wind, but watches the weather constantly, a relection of her origins in a community of outdoor workers. The length of time the sky warns of danger indicates the strength of the storm coming; the further ahead the storm is foreshadowed, the worse it will be. Should Siuan put to sea or stay in safe harbour? Later in the book she will definitely “put to sea” and Egwene’s captivity will be the impetus for it. Siuan relates Egwene’s captivity to the lowering sky, since like the sky it could be a great catch or a great disaster. Mostly it was a success and prevented, or more properly mitigated, a disaster.

Siuan thinks Aes Sedai are good at creating order. In the previous chapter Rand said Arad Doman is beyond the ability of Aes Sedai to fix. So, as we will see, might the Tower itself be.

The rebel Aes Sedai are shocked that Egwene leads in her own right, so much so that even when not there, and moreover held captive, she has not been ousted. Ironically, Lelaine did her own bit for this by holding the Hall to Egwene’s commands. Lelaine is a better, or more ruthless, politician than Romanda and wants to be seen supervising Siuan and consulting with her. She has adopted Egwene’s policies as her own; for instance, she pretends to accept old novices. Siuan fears if Egwene doesn’t return soon Lelaine will take Egwene’s place and the rebels will crumble. The first will cause the second. Egwene says if she doesn’t return, then Lelaine will indeed have to be it. Lelaine considers her position strong enough to openly speak of Siuan as her attendant now. Using Siuan as an attendant gives Lelaine status since Siuan is not only Egwene’s aide but a former Amyrlin.

The scene highlights the flaws of the Aes Sedai system – the manipulating, the scheming, the prejudices etc. Siuan is learning from the bottom all the mistakes she made while Amyrlin, such as dismissing women because they lacked visible power, and being manipulated because of it. Will this newfound insight play a role in Siuan’s career in the future?

Among Aes Sedai, weakness can give freedom. Hattori’s Warder Sleete explained in Knife of Dreams that if other sisters are uninterested in what an Aes Sedai does because she is so low ranked, she can pretty much do what she likes, so long as strong sisters don’t think it interferes with what they want to do. Siuan is looking forward to being free to live a normal life with Bryne after the Last Battle.

In love Siuan is emotional and defends those close to her, such as Egwene and Bryn and manipulates Lelaine rather clumsily at first. This is causing her to lose influence among cold and ambitious Aes Sedai and if it continues her loyalty will be in doubt too.

Siuan wants to earn Bryne’s respect. She does not want to be in debt to Lelaine, so she resorts to manipulating Lelaine by playing on Aes Sedai stereotypes of men as untrustworthy, even though she just finished thinking of how trustworthy Bryne was:

Light, the man was strict enough to make Warders look sloppy in keeping their oaths.

The Gathering Storm, Clean Shirts

It is Aes Sedai hypocrisy to label men as untrustworthy when men don’t need the Power to keep their word, but Aes Sedai don’t keep their word if they can help it even when bound by the Power.

Siuan actually manages to make Lelaine feel obliged to her, thus showing some of her old skill. She realises she is using her skills more now that she is weak than she did when she held a position of strength.

Full of emotion herself, Siuan banters with Bryne, trying to needle him for a reaction. I loved this thrust and parry:

"Light, woman," he muttered, almost under his breath. "If I'd known you were Aes Sedai before chasing you to Salidar . . . if I'd known what I was doing. . . ."
"What?" she demanded. "You wouldn't have hunted me down?"
"Of course I would have," he said indignantly. "I'd have just been more careful, and perhaps come better prepared. I went off hunting boars with a rabbit knife instead of a spear!"

The Gathering Storm, Clean Shirts

Siuan was looking for him to admit that he would have been frightened off by her being Aes Sedai, but he manages to outdo her easily and manipulates her with openness and sincerity into explaining her oathbreaking. Like many who demand answers to leading questions, he found them pretty sobering. He still would have hunted her down though.

Siuan feels she has gained the upper hand as well as his respect, although she is shocked she opened herself to him and told such a secret. She has always been a fisher of secrets, and tends to hoard her catch. Then Bryne shocks her by revealing how much he has deduced about how she communicates with Egwene and gains the upper hand. The two lovers are evenly matched.

Now that the Land has become Blighted, Siuan regrets not appreciating the fertility of the Land more. This parallels her questioning whether she should have joined the Green Ajah when she was reinstated. The Green Ajah is focussed on love and life, which is why they will defend the Land at the Last Battle. Siuan’s appearance in Tel’aran’rhiod, wearing a skimpy slip, then a green dress – a reference to Greens, who can marry their Warders – show how much she longs for him.

The violent storm in the sky in Tel’aran’rhiod, contrasting with the oppressively overcast sky in the waking world, reflects what is soon to come. Siuan doesn’t recognise it as the future (or likely future) though, so she misses the opportunity to “read the dream”. Egwene never remarks on the sky either.

When told of Halima being a Forsaken who probably wielded saidin and escaped capture, Egwene was calm, as she also was about saidin being clean. She realises there is probably a Forsaken at the White Tower if one was with the rebels.

Egwene thinks Asha’man bonding Aes Sedai an atrocity; and that Rand is responsible whether he knew of it or not. (In Towers of Midnight, A Good Soup, Nynaeve points out that by a similar token Egwene is responsible for the Aes Sedai who chained and beat Rand.) Siuan thinks bonding equal numbers of Asha’man is not a fair trade:

Did this Asha'man say who gave Rand permission to commit such an atrocity?"
"He's the Dragon Reborn," Siuan said, grimacing. "I don't think he feels he needs permission. But, in his defense, it appears he didn't know it was happening. The women his men bonded were sent by Elaida to destroy the Black Tower."
"Yes." Egwene finally showed a sliver of emotion. "So the rumors are accurate. All too accurate." ...
Siuan just shook her head. "We've been offered forty-seven Asha'man to bond as restitution, of sorts, for the women al'Thor's men bonded. Hardly a fair trade, but the Hall decided to accept the offer nonetheless."
"As well they should have," Egwene said. "We shall have to deal with the Dragon's foolishness at a later date. Perhaps his men acted without his direct orders, but Rand must take responsibility. Men. Bonding women!"

The Gathering Storm, Clean Shirts

I really shook my head over this exchange. Especially after thinking of the number of Warders over the centuries who were manipulated into being Bonded without really knowing what they were agreeing to. Hypocrisy is raised to a fine art among Aes Sedai.

Egwene sees that Lelaine is building Egwene up in order to take her place. She is more astute than Siuan, who has become so partisan that she is not inferring as well as she used to. When Egewne frowns over Siuan’s remark that there would be advantages in having less strength in saidar and therefore less rank, she may be thinking of her own situation, dosed with forkroot, yet still displaying the leadership qualities of an Amyrlin.

Siuan feels that being in love for the first time in twenty years is very remarkable and in honour of the occasion will not take revenge on Gareth for outsmarting her about the ter’angreal. She seems very young in this scene.

The original dream ter’angreal is not with the rebels as was stated in this chapter. Nynaeve and Elayne took it with them to Ebou Dar and used it to meet with Egwene in Tel'aran'rhiod (Lord or Chaos, Weaves of the Power). Later, in Caemlyn, Elayne lent it to Aviendha to take with her to Arad Doman (Knife of Dreams, A Different Skill), since Elayne apparently could not make it work when she became pregnant (yet it does not require channelling). This is a long running error.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Post #25 of Wheel of Time Costume

By Linda

The costume styles of the Tarabon were added to Part 2 of the Wheel of Time Costume article today. Taraboner dress and hair fashion has a strong Arab and African influence.

For the full Costume article from the beginning click here.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #9: Chapter 7 - The Plan For Arad Doman

By Linda


Nynaeve, like Siuan, keeps constant tabs on the weather, as does anyone who lives in communities whose living is based on out-of-doors work. Nynaeve has the Talent of Listening to the Wind, whereas Siuan does not (otherwise she might have sensed the Tower coup before it happened.) Listening to the Wind is a passive Talent of Air and Water (The Eye of the World, Listen to the Wind); the channeller doesn’t actually channel a weave. It is a mild type of precognition in which the channeller is aware that good or bad events are upcoming (The Path of Daggers, To Keep the Bargain). It may not be particularly rare, since Moiraine was quite familiar with it. In the Two Rivers, Nynaeve mainly sensed the weather and the state of the crops – important events in a quiet farming community. Since then she has sensed far more dangerous events, such as upcoming attacks. Right now, Nynaeve is hearing the gathering storm – not actual weather, but the Dark One’s storm, heralded by Rand’s emotional storm.

Nynaeve and Daigian, the weakest and strongest Aes Sedai, have an interesting conversation. Both are not fully accepted by the mainstream Aes Sedai; one because she only just made it, and the other because she hasn’t proven herself yet. In the next book Nynaeve herself will only just make the grade. (Although the test was unfairly harsh).

Nynaeve understands that she has weakened status in common with Daigian:

Unfortunately, Nynaeve's position was still questionable. Egwene had raised her to the shawl by decree, just as she'd raised Elayne: there had been no testing, nor had Nynaeve sworn on the Oath Rod. To most—even those who accepted Egwene's place as the true Amyrlin— those omissions made Nynaeve something less than Aes Sedai. Not an Accepted, but hardly equal to a sister.

The Gathering Storm, The Plan for Arad Doman

Nyaneve is not a ‘proper’ Aes Sedai in her attitudes:

She was Aes Sedai now, but that didn't mean she stopped being who she was.

The Gathering Storm, The Plan for Arad Doman

In Towers of Midnight Rand will tell her it’s OK to be as she is and pressure her not to change.

Nynaeve does as Daigian wishes out of consideration for her grief. Corele manipulated Nynaeve into learning the one hundred weaves for the test for the shawl and thus keep Daigian busy. It was a wise move. Nynaeve needs to know the weaves even if she doesn’t do the test; the fact that she knows them strengthens her position. The weaves are almost too easy for Nynaeve. She never has to have a second go.

Daigian uses “dear” when she speaks to Nyaneve because using Nynaeve’s name would imply equality. Accepting an almost Aes Sedai as her equal would drop Daigian even lower in the eyes of other Aes Sedai. No one shows Nynaeve any mercy in Aes Sedai ranking.

Nynaeve cannot control her feelings as well as Daigian. Nor does she truly understand Daigian’s feelings about Eben. Because they are not a spousal or blood tie, but one of aunt-like affection, Nynaeve thinks they are not strong. I really thought this very immature and arrogant of her, even judgemental, and it was quite right of Daigian to patronise Nynaeve a little.

Nynaeve suggested she Heal Daigian to remove the grief of the broken Warder Bond because she thinks grief borne of the Bond is less genuine. The Bond was made first, true, but affection grew on both sides and was strong. Love doesn’t have to be from marital or blood relationship to be genuine. Also Nynaeve doesn’t consider that her own case of wishing to Bond a man because they love each other is not unique. Siuan and Gareth are another such couple.

Nynaeve impulsively speaks her mind to Daigian about the unjust and faulty Aes Sedai system of ranking by strength in the Power. Daigian is at first insulted at the reminder, but says nothing because Nynaeve is so far above her, and then when Nynaeve continues her point which is the opposite of offensive, Daigian becomes embarrassed since she so rarely gets praise. (The only other time was from Cadsuane.) Nynaeve only stops because she doesn’t want Aes Sedai to stand up to her. In some ways she still wants the ranking to continue so she is the tallest poppy whether she merits or not. It’s rather hypocritical of her. Yet she politely excuses herself to Daigian, a courtesy which many other Aes Sedai would not bother with, proving her genuine respect for Daigian, and after that Daigian treats her as an equal and refers to her by name.

Nynaeve rushes off to Rand’s meeting mistakenly feeling defensive that Rand didn’t think to include her. She considers herself more experienced than he and criticises the number of times he’s been hurt and trapped due to his rashness. Yet she has her own list of narrow escapes – Falme, Tear, Tanchico, Amadicia, Tel'aran'rhiod...although fewer recently.

She still has illogical feelings about Rand’s situation:

I should never have let that woman take him from the Two Rivers, she thought. Look what it's done to him.
She immediately frowned at her own foolishness. If Rand had stayed in the Two Rivers, he would have gone mad and perhaps destroyed them all—assuming, of course, the Trollocs, the Fades or the Forsaken themselves hadn't accomplished the task first. If Moiraine hadn't come for Rand, he'd now be dead. With him would have gone the light and hope of the world. It was just hard to abandon her old prejudices.

The Gathering Storm, The Plan for Arad Doman

but caught them this time. In some ways Nynaeve’s prejudices are what is best about her – her moral values in particular – but it contributes a lot to her hypocrisy too. And to the way she looks down on men in general.

And speaking of abandoning her old prejudices, here she is conceding that Moiraine did something absolutely right and vital.

Rand’s mood now makes Nynaeve fearful of him:

Nynaeve eyed him, surprised at how tight her own nerves had become. He was just a wool-headed villager, no matter how much influence he'd found. He was.
But she could not shake away that look in his eyes, that flash of anger. Holding a crown was said to change many men for the worse. She intended to see that didn't happen to Rand al'Thor, but what recourse would she have if he suddenly decided to have her imprisoned? He wouldn't do that, would he? Not Rand.

The Gathering Storm, The Plan for Arad Doman

Earlier she lectured Rand that he should marry Min. He won’t because he says it will bring Min more pain. (Rather like what Lan said to Nynaeve...) Nynaeve denies this in one breath and thinks Rand has a point in the next.

The female Choedan Kal frightened Nynaeve and she wants Rand to not use the male one. She’s right that it is too great a temptation, as we will soon see.

Nynaeve competes with Cadsuane and is always on the defensive around her. Many readers take Nynaeve’s part against Cadsuane but both women have similar attitudes and a blunt way of getting their point across and getting their own way. Cadsuane sets a high benchmark for Nynaeve and as a consequence Nynaeve feels she is her true rival. She really desires Cadsuane’s approval. Despite what Nynaeve says, Cadsuane doesn’t order people about on account of her age – for a start, as Nynaeve knows very well, age is a secondary factor in Aes Sedai ranking. Cadsuane is a living legend due to what she has done. True merit, really, although her strength helped. She earned her ter’angreal in some way so that they too came through merit. In fact, her power was useless against their original owner (see Cadsuane's Ornaments article).

Nynaeve learned from the girls’ mistakes with Moghedien that Semirhage should have been stilled immediately. She and Elayne were greedy for knowledge and as a result Moghedien ultimately got away. Semirhage doesn’t get away but she damages Rand (and the world) to a terrible degree before he kills her.

In The Ways of Honour the Aiel thought Rand would be pleased with what they have achieved in Arad Doman, but to their dismay he is harsh, arrogant and unreasonable. Rand’s dark mood swings remind Nynaeve of the storm she can feel in the north, the Blight. It is Rand’s link to Moridin, the Shadow’s chief henchman, that she senses. Cadsuane forces Rand to be reasonable. Nynaeve regretted not daring to do so herself but she’s not up to it. For instance, she shivers at Rand’s familiarity with Graendal’s habits. Like the Wise Ones she’s an observer here.

Bael is complimentary of Ituralde, saying he draws the Seanchan’s ire better than Rand does.

Aiel and Bashere want Rand to seize Arad Doman for his own. Rand thinks it won’t work because it would take too many resources. Yet he commands them to pacify the nation and restore order with even less resources and little force.

Rand wants the merchant councillors seized to keep them safe from Graendal and to get them to choose a new king. Like many nobility, they’re more interested in gaining power for themselves.

Starting at the coast, the Aiel are to work their way inland pacifying the country. Rand thinks the Domani will soon flock to the Aiel if they offer food and safety since there is none anywhere else. The Aiel ask for some Saldaeans to ease Domani concerns about following Aiel. Nynaeve is complementary about Rand’s plan.

Rand insists that the Aiel are what he says they are:

"You are what I say you are, Bael," Rand said quietly.
"We are still free people, Rand al'Thor," Rhuarc said.
"I will change the Aiel with my passing," Rand said with a shake of his head. "I don't know what you'll be once this is all through, but you cannot remain what you were.”

The Gathering Storm, The Plan for Arad Doman

That’s true. The Aiel are destined to take back their places of old, and also to be destroyed (see Aiel Prophecy article). I think that at least some will readopt the Way of the Leaf, while others may become keepers of Rand’s Peace. As Aviendha will see in Towers of Midnight if the Aiel remain as they are they are doomed.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

23 Days to JordanCon 2011 in Atlanta

By Linda

Yesterday the hardworking and inventive JordanCon team released the preliminary JordanCon program and there’s lots of interesting items lined up, including:

  • an entirely new track devoted to gaming;

  • a writer's track where you can meet authors, learn writing skills and find out how A Memory of Light is going;

  • panels on the Tower of Ghenjei, the Black Tower (which I’ll be leading), Aviendha’s experiences in the Waste, gunpowder weapons;

  • Mat Hatch of Theoryland will preside over the last WOT theory panel ever – if A Memory of Light is published before next April, I guess;

  • Saturday’s costume contest, social and charity auction for the Mayo clinic,
  • and
  • workshops on costuming, metal embroidery, sword forms and Warder training.

You can even audition for Dragonmmount’s WOT video(!).

There really will be heaps to do.

After a little online shopping, I finally have all the metal threads and purls (coils of metal) in silver and gold (see my haul in the photo below left) to take for the embroidered heron I’ll be doing and am preparing samples and the motif. The photos above are of two herons I sewed last year. The heron is suitable for ornamenting a blademaster’s collar, but the techniques learned can be applied to any costume, male or female.

My Taraboner silk dress below right has gold metal thread and purls across the bodice. I still haven't made a transparent half-veil for it yet!

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #8: Chapter 6 - When Iron Melts

By Linda


Ituralde POV

Ituralde makes war feel very personal and real; he doesn’t distance himself from its horrors. He also wants to know the identities of the noblemen/officers (the same thing in aristocratic societies) he is fighting. Ituralde does what needs to be done when it is needed.

Out of earshot, the Great Captain explains to Turan how he duped the Seanchan. His plan relied completely on them being deceived by appearances from the air. Nevertheless it cost him 50% of his forces. Moreover he has to constantly change tactics because the Seanchan learn and adapt so quickly to the tactics of others; which means he is basically improving the military tactics of the Seanchan.

Turan was going to fall on his sword, but asks Ituralde for a mercy killing instead. Both generals are blademasters; they just duelled to death with their armies.

Leane POV

Leane’s living conditions are austere but not inhumane. She has a proper bed, meals, ample water, acceptable sanitary conditions, and is allowed visitors for a short period each day. Nor is she tortured or assaulted, because it is illegal to harm a prisoner during interrogation. On the down side, she has no privacy, no soap, and no alternative garb. She is not in solitary confinement, but is ignored by those who shield her. As well as being shielded she is also given forkroot. Leane is a weak channeller, yet she has two Aes Sedai shielding her, so the aim of the drug is probably to make her feel helpless.

In comparison, Egwene is being beaten mercilessly for any violation, but without drawing blood (which would be illegal, see Aes Sedai Laws and Customs article) and when she is imprisoned later in The Gathering Storm her cell is inhumane.

Leane can see similarities between seduction and leadership. They are both based on confidence and implication – what you can inspire in others.

When Egwene said:

"I will see you free, Leane," Egwene promised, still holding her hand. "Elaida's tyranny cannot last. I'm confident it won't be long now."

The Gathering Storm, When Iron Melts

the bars of the cell promptly melted, then the cell floor, and the ceiling. It’s almost as though her vow triggered the change. The Yellows were slow to react to the ‘attack’ on reality. Once Leane was free, everything solidified again. It reminds me of saying: wax in their hands…

After all, men are wax in Leane’s hands.

Egwene’s POV

Egwene is rightly frustrated that the Tower is disunited at the end of time. But then again in earlier books when she was more under Siuan’s (and Halima’s) influence she promoted division.

She asks:

If even the ground itself could not be trusted, then what could?

The Gathering Storm, When Iron Melts

The alteration to the Tower shows her that nothing in the Tower can be trusted; and certainly not other sisters. It’s some time before this is proved to Egwene though; the events of this chapter are a forewarning, and an indication of how battle-ready most Aes Sedai aren’t.

The novices’ quarters swapped with the Brown Ajah quarters at about the same time Leane was ‘freed’. It reflects that Egwene is called a novice when she isn’t; and now other sisters are among the novices too. The sisters just have to accept the change.

Egwene thinks this is:

A division aptly representative of the less-visible divisions the Ajahs were suffering.

The Gathering Storm, When Iron Melts

but I see it as the divisions between trainees and fully qualified sisters being blurred. They all have a lot to learn.

Later in The Gathering Storm the novices will play a crucial role in defending the Tower against the Seanchan and do far better than the Aes Sedai. These are “Egwene’s children” and she leads them far more effectively than Mesaana will lead her “Black Ajah children” in Towers of Midnight.

The icon for this chapter depicts lace broken or unravelled and refers to exactly that: the Pattern or Age Lace being damaged by the Dark One. This is the first appearance of this icon, although the Dark One has been damaging the Pattern for some time, causing all this Wrongness and reversal or world order.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #7: Chapter 5 - A Tale of Blood

By Linda


Rand's POV

For some reason the Pattern apparently keeps certain Aes Sedai close by Rand:

The Pattern had no place for his onetime insistence that all Aes Sedai be kept at arm's length. It wove as it willed, and experience had shown that Rand needed these Aes Sedai. What he wanted no longer mattered.
He understood that now.

The Gathering Storm, A Tale of Blood

Rand certainly needs Nynaeve (and Alivia); and Cadsuane of course is going to teach all the Asha’man something. The others are much less obvious in importance, but this may be deceptive.

Rand is tempted to trust Corele because she helped Heal him of Fain’s wound. Is he as wrong as he was with Elza, whom he thought pleasant? (At the end of The Gathering Storm Corele pales at the thought of what is at stake in the war: the Dark One breaking the Pattern, so perhaps she is not a Darkfriend).

The two pains of Rand’s side wound are equal. Equal and opposite, but not cancelling each other out as they did at Shadar Logoth, and as Flinn expected they would. Rand believes one or both of the side wounds will spill his blood at Shayol Ghul.

According to the swirling visions Rand sees, Mat is dicing with the Band outside a city – this might be Trustair, but it is not a city, so Caemlyn is more likely. Rand uses the visions as a useful tool now; for instance, he noticed that Tuon has been gone a while from Mat’s side. Perrin will do the same in Towers of Midnight and I guess Mat maybe in A Memory of Light. Mat’s usually last to accept esoteric stuff.

Rand’s demeanour is autocratic and unreasonable unless people show him how hurtful this is:

"I expect no delays. I know you do not like being forced to keep your agreement, but I will suffer no lagging to prove a point. People die because of your slowness."
Harine looked as if she'd been slapped. "Surely," she said, "the Coramoor does not imply that we would not keep to our Bargain."
The Sea Folk were stubborn and prideful, Wavemistresses more than most. They were like an entire race of Aes Sedai. He hesitated. I should not insult her so, not because I am frustrated about other things.

The Gathering Storm, A Tale of Blood

Rand is currently as arrogant as any Aes Sedai himself. In Towers of Midnight he will become like an Age of Legends Aes Sedai.

The Sea Folk either make their male channellers walk the plank or maroon them. These executions were used by real world pirates. Male Sea Folk costume also follows the clothing style of 16th-17th century corsairs and pirates ( see Costume article).

Rand is bitter that no one believes saidin is clean because it could be a delusion, when such an “impossible thing” – one of Rand’s nine, see theory – is a great achievement.

Lews Therin’s memory of Jorlen Corbesan is clear to Rand, much to his horror:

Oh, Light, Rand thought with despair. I'm losing myself. Losing myself in him.
The most terrifying part was that Rand could no longer make himself wish to banish Lews Therin. Lews Therin had known a way to seal the Bore, if imperfectly, but Rand had no idea how to approach the task.
The safety of the world might depend on the memories of a dead madman.

The Gathering Storm, A Tale of Blood

Yet despite this fear, at the end of the book Rand gets extensive past lives memories without losing himself in them. Unfortunately none of these include anything about Sealing the Bore as far as Rand can tell.

In this scene Rand is conscious of the state of mind of those around him, more than he has been in a while. He thinks of Flinn:

Flinn had come to Rand because he wanted to learn Healing.
Rand had turned him into a weapon instead.

The Gathering Storm, A Tale of Blood

Rand feels guilty about this, which is at odds with the harshness leaking through his bond to Moridin. After his epiphany Rand realises that Asha’man are not weapons – or should not be:

"Tell them that I was wrong. Tell them that we're not weapons. We're men.”

Towers of Midnight, A Testing

Elza didn’t say Rand had cleansed the taint until Corelle openly supported Rand. Her explanation of why people are reluctant to accept that saidin is clean is right, though:

"Yes," Elza said, "but be that as it is, you must realize how difficult it will be for others to believe this, Lord Dragon.
During the Time of Madness, it took decades for some people to accept that the male Aes Sedai were doomed to go insane. It will likely take longer for them to overcome their distrust, now that it has been ingrained for so long."

The Gathering Storm, A Tale of Blood

Rand wants to leave something positive and lasting in the world:

What would happen when he died? Wars and devastation to match the Breaking? He hadn't been able to help that last time, for his madness and grief at Ilyena's death had consumed him. Could he prevent something similar this time? Did he have a choice?
He was ta'veren. The Pattern bent and shaped around him. And yet, he had quickly learned one thing from being a king: the more authority you gained, the less control you had over your life. Duty was truly heavier than a mountain; it forced his hand as often as the prophecies did. Or were they both one and the same? Duty and prophecy? His nature as a ta'veren and his place in history? Could he change his life?
Could he leave the world better for his passing, rather than leaving the nations scarred, torn and bleeding?

The Gathering Storm, A Tale of Blood

In The Shadow Rising He Who Comes With The Dawn, Rand said that the thought he is destined to break the world horrified him. So perhaps for his third question he asked the Aelfinn how to prevent this (see The Aelfinn's Answers).

Fulfilling prophecy is Rand’s duty:

My power and influence are meaningless against fate. My freedom is all just an illusion, Flinn.

The Gathering Storm, A Tale of Blood

No one has any answer to that.

Cadsuane's POV

Semirhage ignores Merise’s questions and tells her alarming and revolting things she did in the Age of Legends to intimidate and frustrate her questioners. It’s working:

"This woman, nothing works on her," she said. "She never changes the tone of her voice, no matter what we do to her. Every punishment I can think of only creates more threats. Each one more gruesome than the last!”

The Gathering Storm, A Tale of Blood

Cadsuane is very impatient because she knows she has little time left to do what she needs to do. Mistakenly, she wants to break Semirhage to get her knowledge of weaves – such greed for knowledge led Elayne, Nynaeve and Egwene into keeping Moghedien alive so they could milk her, and then Moghedien escaped. Semirhage will too. Cadsuane is so eager she is even tempted to break her word to Rand that she would follow his strictures, and she is normally one of the few Aes Sedai who does always keep her word.

Cadsuane shows quite a bit of insight in this chapter, first about herself, and then about Semirhage. She’s right that Semirhage thinks she can escape and then revenge herself on them. In the Age of Legends Semirhage so intimidated her jailors that they actually smuggled her to freedom (Knife of Dreams, A Plain Wooden Box).

Cadsuane realises that they would not break Semirhage with pain anyway:

Al’Thor's prohibition on hurting Semirhage was meaningless.
They could not break this woman with pain. Semirhage was the great torturer of the Forsaken, a woman intrigued by death and agony.
No, she would not break that way, even if the means had been allowed them.

The Gathering Storm, A Tale of Blood

Rather unflatteringly for herself, she sees similarities between herself and Semirhage. To figure out how to break Semirhage she has to work out how to break herself. Definitely disturbing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Post #24 of Wheel of Time Costume

By Linda

The costume styles of the Shienar were added to Part 2 of the Wheel of Time Costume article today. The Shienaran men's clothing is similar to European 18th century styles whereas the men's hair looks to a variety of nations. Shienaran women, however, dress in mid-16th century European costume, slashing and all.

For the full Costume article from the beginning click here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #6: Chapter 4 - Nightfall

By Linda


Thanks to Gareth Bryne putting his three stars sigil on his forces – telling the military world who leads them - Gawyn knows who the rebel Aes Sedai’s commander is. No doubt it was quite an unpleasant surprise. The way Gawyn works to elude Bryne shows how good his teacher is and how well Gawyn learned.

Incidentally, Gawyn has not heard that Niall is dead since he speaks of five great captains (Agelmar, Bryne, Ituralde, Niall and Bashere).

Gawyn wonders if he will end up fighting any mentor he ever had:

Am I destined to end up fighting against each and every man who has been a mentor to me?

The Gathering Storm, Nightfall

Good question. Gawyn’s crisis of conscience does seem to lead him to fight his mentors – but he’s at war with himself, too, so fighting them is like fighting himself, but at a higher level. Gawyn feels guilty over killing Hammar and Coulin, especially since now he knows Bryne is not in Andor keeping it safe for Elayne. Before that, he could justify his actions on the grounds that Andor and Elayne were not in need of him. Gawyn hypocritically wonders if Elayne is doing her duty to Andor, and is fairly sure she is. His faith is not misplaced; she has even managed to become Queen. Gawyn is aware he is not so dutiful but does nothing about it.

Post-traumatic stress over Dumai’s Wells, and also probably the Tower fighting during the coup, is evident in his inability to think or act consistently.

Gawyn has realised that he made a mistake supporting Elaida as legitimate Amyrlin. He tries to convince himself that Elayne and Egwene didn’t choose to side with the rebels but it’s an argument that has worn thin. Gawyn doesn’t want to choose between sides and is being torn by that. Any civil war will have people who feel as Gawyn does that both sides have merits and faults. Very probably Gawyn doesn’t have any good choices available.

At this stage all the Younglings have unquestioning obedience to the White Tower and Aes Sedai. Except Gawyn. He doesn’t have any for anyone. In part this is due to his high status and in part to his training. Andoran princes go to the Tower to learn from Warders, but are never completely obedient even to their Queen, since it is their job to protect her as well as advise her in war and this may mean going against her wishes at times. They are prepared to die for her though:

Gawyn nodded slowly. Thoughts seemed to be drifting up from the bottom of a well. My blood shed before hers; my life given before hers. "Thank you, Master Tesen. I. ..." My blood shed before hers.... That was the oath he had taken when barely tall enough to peer into Elayne's cradle. "You may trade with.... Some of my men may need...." Gareth Bryne had had to explain to him what it meant, but even then he had known he had to keep that oath if he failed at everything else in his life. Jisao and the others were looking at him worriedly.
"Take care of the peddler," he told Jisao roughly, and turned away.
His mother dead, and Elayne. Only a rumor, but rumors on everyone's lips sometimes had a way of turning out true. He climbed half a dozen paces toward the Aes Sedai camp before he knew it. His hands hurt. He had to look to realize they were cramping from the grip he had on his sword hilt, and he had to force them to let go. Coiren and the others meant to take Rand al'Thor to Tar Valon, but if his mother was dead.... Elayne. If they were dead, he would see whether the Dragon Reborn could live with a sword through his heart!

Lord of Chaos, Prologue

Just as Warders are for their Aes Sedai. (In turn Aes Sedai are supposed to do their utmost to keep them alive; that is why Warders are exempted in the Oaths). The Younglings are not Warders yet, and never will be if Elaida has her way.

We learn of Gawyn’s childhood oath as First Prince of the Sword at the same time that Gawyn starts to believe that Rand killed his mother. Gawyn hasn’t kept his Oath (not entirely his fault since Elayne ran off and no one would tell him where) but this failure has added to his guilt and confusion and clouded his judgement.

Gawyn is certain that Elaida wants the Younglings dead and this is why she ordered the Younglings to harry Bryne’s army. Gawyn hasn’t been told that the rebels have Travelling and so Bryne doesn’t depend on supply lines but it is obvious to Gawyn that his attacks on Bryne are meaningless; he has 300 men versus Bryne’s 50,000. However they are serving the purpose of confirming Elaida’s intentions and making Gawyn question his allegiances.

Gawyn tells Jisao:

"We have to know when to fall back."

The Gathering Storm, Nightfall

Before much longer Gawyn will “fall back” under the strain of his internal questioning and search out his first and only remaining mentor.

Gawyn wants to see the stars in the night sky:

Glancing upward, Gawyn missed the stars. They hid their faces from him behind those clouds... Light, I wish I could see the stars, he thought.

The Gathering Storm, Nightfall

Stars symbolise guidance and guardianship and also hope. They are a point of entry to heaven; and thanks to the Dark One they are now lacking. Gawyn is entering the long dark night of the soul and has nothing to light his way. He has to find his path out of his dilemma without guidance.

The only stars Gawyn is seeing are those on the soldiers of his mentor and soon he’ll see them up close when his internal conflict drives him to Bryne.

Gawyn’s characterisation is very good; my only quibble would be that RJ probably would have used “hunched” or “crouched” rather than “hunkered down” over the back of his horse.

Merana's and Verin's Ages

The Character Ages article has been updated with the new information Maria Simons supplied on Merana and Verin.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Verin Q&A with Maria Simmons

By Linda

Back in September 2010, three Theorylanders (Tamyrlin, Terez and Marie Curie) and I devised a series of questions on Verin which we emailed to Maria Simons. She has now kindly answered them and they are posted below and also at Theoryland.

The Verin List

How old was Verin when she died? If you cannot give us an exact number, is it correct to say that Verin’s age at death was somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 years? If not, will you provide an estimate of her age at death?

Maria: Verin was born in 849NE, making her 151ish at death.

Merana said that every sister knew when each sister of the Tower arrived and how long she trained (LoC, The Crown of Roses) because the Tower keeps records on this. She thought Verin had been Aes Sedai about 40 years longer than she and Merana appears to have been Aes Sedai 70 years (their training time was the same and the novice acceptance age range is only 3 years). Is Merana mistaken in when Verin became Aes Sedai? Or in Verin’s age when she came to the Tower?

Maria: Here's the change we asked for (it hasn't been made in the mmp I'm holding; I don't know if it was elsewhere):

At present reads: Alanna had been six years a novice, Merana only five, but more importantly, Merana had been Aes Sedai ten years the day the midwife laid Alanna at her mother’s breast.

Should read: Alanna had been six years a novice, Merana only five, but more importantly, Merana had been Aes Sedai above thirty years the day the midwife laid Alanna at her mother’s breast.

Verin herself hints that she lied about her age when she joined up. How old was Verin when she joined the Tower?

Maria: 15. Where does she hint that she lied?

Did Verin come to the Tower at a far greater age than is usual? If so, why?

Maria: No.

Even though she lived in Far Madding, did Verin channel prior to going to the Tower to become Aes Sedai? If so, had she begun to Slow before going to the Tower?

Maria: No.

The questions on Verin's age were designed to throw some light on Merana's comments in Lord of Chaos about the relative ages of Alanna, Verin and herself. Since Verin has a touch of grey in her hair (and she is above average in strength in saidar) it was obvious that she was older than Merana indicated, perhaps a lot older. I thought that perhaps Verin lied about her age when she went to the Tower, because there is her statement that if she hadn't been curious she wouldn't have gone to the Tower but remained in Far Madding and married Eadwin. It turns out that what Merana said was an error, which will be changed in the latest round of corrections, plus Verin greyed a little prematurely, instead of at around 200. I will be updating the Character Ages article with the new info later this weekend and posting it Monday. Not that there is much to change for Verin, only Alanna; Verin's age is within the age range I postulate and I also raise the possibility that she greyed prematurely. But all this is now confirmed.

Was there suspicion regarding Verin’s allegiance to the Shadow, as she joined the Black Ajah at such an advanced age? If so, can you name one member of the Black Ajah that was suspicious of her allegiance to the Shadow?

Maria: RAFO.

How common is it for Aes Sedai over the age of 150 to be recruited by the Black Ajah?

Maria: RAFO.

Was Verin’s recruitment into the Black Ajah something she actively encouraged?

Maria: No.

If she did not encourage her recruitment, did Verin accidentally encourage her recruitment? (For instance, did Verin see or hear something, such as the BA signal, that required her to either join or be killed?)

Maria: RAFO.

Will you explain the circumstances that contributed to Verin’s recruitment into the Black Ajah?

Maria: RAFO.

Which Aes Sedai recruited Verin to the Black Ajah?

Maria: RAFO.

As far as Verin’s recruitment and this statement, “I found myself in a position where I could either take the oaths to the Dark One, or I could reveal that I had actually never wanted—or intended—to do so, whereupon I would have been executed,” how long after Verin was in contact with the Black Ajah for the first time, did this moment she describes occur?

Maria: RAFO.

Does swearing oaths constitute becoming a member of the Black Ajah?

Maria: RAFO.

How many Black Ajah are present when a sister swears her new oaths?

Maria: RAFO.

Where is the swearing of oaths to become Black Ajah performed?

Maria: RAFO.

What were the reasons Verin gave the Black Ajah as to why she wanted to join them?

Maria: RAFO.

Prior to her recruitment could Verin have been considered a darkfriend?

Maria: No.

Prior to her recruitment was she someone that sympathized with the Shadow?

Maria: No.

Does the Black Ajah recruit for darkfriends among rejected Novices and Accepted?

Maria: RAFO.

After becoming Black Ajah, was Verin ever caught by a non Black Ajah Aes Sedai unmistakably breaking her original Oaths sworn when becoming Aes Sedai?

Maria: RAFO.

Did Verin ever take the life of another Aes Sedai? If so, is that Aes Sedai mentioned in the books?

Maria: RAFO.

Did Verin ever take the life of a Black Ajah, excluding her own life? If so, is that member of the Black Ajah mentioned in the books?

Maria: RAFO.

Other than the man Verin mentions killing in the prologue of TPoD, did Verin ever take the life of someone that was not an Aes Sedai nor a darkfriend? If so, can you give us a summary of one such event?

Maria: RAFO.

Verin makes many statements throughout the books that are suspect now that we know she was not bound by the Oaths. In regards to the Ter’angreal dream ring, Verin tells Egwene, "I tried it myself, once, some years ago. Anaiya's Healing did not work as well as it should have. Remember that."
During the time Verin gave Egwene the ring she mentioned going to Anaiya to be healed. She didn’t go to a yellow for healing – does Verin hold something over Anaiya? Were they pillow-friends? Or was this simply a case of asking a friend to do a minor healing because she knew she would keep it quiet?

Maria: RAFO.

Was Anaiya Black Ajah?

Maria: RAFO.

How long before giving Egwene the Ter’angreal ring did Verin have it in her possession?

Maria: RAFO.

Did Verin visit Tel’aran’rhiod more than once? If so, generally speaking, how many times did Verin visit Tel’aran’rhiod prior to her discussion of it with Egwene?

Maria: RAFO.

Compared to Egwene and the Wise Ones, how experienced in Tel’aran’rhiod was Verin?

Maria: RAFO.

Did Verin ever meet with one or more Black Ajah in Tel’aran’rhiod?

Maria: RAFO.

Did Verin ever meet with one or more Forsaken in Tel’aran’rhiod?

Maria: RAFO.

Did Verin have other ways/means, other than through the Ter’angreal dream ring, to get into Tel’aran’rhiod? If so, how did Verin enter Tel’aran’rhiod?

Maria: RAFO.

Was Verin ever in Tel’aran’rhiod after giving Egwene the ring?

Maria: RAFO.

Verin tells Egwene she wasn’t supposed to give Egwene the Ter’angreal ring. Was Verin speaking about Tower law in regards to an Accepted possessing Ter’angreal?
If not, was Verin speaking about the Black Ajah not wanting Verin to give Egwene the ring? If not, what did Verin mean?

Maria: RAFO.

Did the Black Ajah know of the existence of the Ter’angreal ring that Verin gave to Egwene?

Maria: RAFO.

Did the Black Ajah know Verin gave Egwene the ring? If so, when did they find that out?

Maria: RAFO.

Did any of the Forsaken know that Verin gave Egwene the Ter’angreal ring? If so, how long after giving Egwene the ring, did one or more of the Forsaken know Verin gave it to her?

Maria: RAFO.

It is clear that Lanfear is aware of the search for the Black Ajah, as she shows up in the guise of Else and points the girls towards a previously unknown cache of items supposedly belonging to the Black sisters that went missing. Were those items placed there by Lanfear? If not, who placed those Black Ajah possessions there for the girls to discover?

Maria: RAFO.

Did Lanfear become aware of the girl’s search for the Black Ajah through information provided to her by the Black Ajah (excluding Verin)?

Maria: RAFO.

Did Verin report every request made of her by the Amyrlin concerning the girls’ search to the Black Ajah?

Maria: RAFO.

We see Alviarin have meetings with Mesaana. Was Verin ever visited by one of the Forsaken?

Maria: RAFO.

Which of the Forsaken has Verin met, including any she met but was unaware the individual was a Forsaken?

Maria: RAFO.

Has Verin ever been to Shayol Ghul?

Maria: RAFO.

Are the Black Ajah aware of other “black” channelers among other populations of the world?

Maria: RAFO.

Are there other organizations of dreadlords similar to the Black Ajah in other populations of the world? If so, will you name one of those organizations and where they are located?

Maria: RAFO.
Speaking about activities outside of the White Tower, Verin was quite the traveler.
She plays an integral role throughout the series, particularly in the Great Hunt where she displays some of her deceptive personality.
Was Verin sent to Shienar by the Black Ajah?

Maria: RAFO.

Was Verin sent to Shienar by one of the Forsaken?

Maria: RAFO.

Was Verin’s visit to Shienar something she was doing on behalf of the Amyrlin?

Maria: RAFO.

Verin’s behavior throughout some of the earliest books often caused suspicion for many reasons. Specifically, we see Verin speaking privately to two darkfriends.
These meetings now seem more consequential.

Maria: RAFO.

Was Ingtar aware Verin was of the Black Ajah?

Maria: RAFO.

Was Barthanes aware Verin was of the Black Ajah?

Maria: RAFO.

Was Verin responsible in any way for Barthanes death?

Maria: RAFO.

How about Ingtar and his change of heart, did Verin have a hand in his conversion back to the Light?

Maria: RAFO.

Did Ingtar tell Verin about the wolves?

Maria: RAFO.

A couple of other curious events involving Verin occur in The Great Hunt, such as her discussion of Portal Stones with Rand.
Was Verin lying to Rand when she said his use of a Portal Stone was more recent than hers as she had never traveled by one?

Maria: RAFO.

If Verin wasn’t lying to Rand, was Verin ever transported by another channeler previous to this moment with Rand? If she was, who transported Verin?

Maria: RAFO.

If Verin was lying to Rand, from where to where has Verin traveled by Portal Stone? If you cannot give us each trip, what is one trip she made and when did she make it?

Maria: RAFO.

How did Verin come to her knowledge of the symbol for the Toman Head Portal Stone?

Maria: RAFO.

Specific to the different forms of traveling by Portal Stones, has Verin ever been to a Mirror World?

Maria: RAFO.

Did Verin know more about the Chaos theory and the numbers of chaos and Perpendicular worlds than she explained to Egwene? If so, what is something Verin learned about these other dimensions and worlds that you can share with us, which has not been previously divulged either in books or by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson?

Maria: RAFO.

During the trip by Portal Stone to Toman Head, everyone experiences living multiple variations of their lives, an experience similar to some the testing
Ter’angreal. Verin makes the comment after the trip through her alternate lives,
“Though I never thought I…”? Please finish that statement for us…pretty please?

Maria: No.

Verin ends up in the Two Rivers. Who sent Verin to the Two Rivers?

Maria: RAFO.

Did Verin’s trip to the Two Rivers have anything to do with Verin’s plans to betray the Dark One?

Maria: RAFO.

Did Verin ask Alanna to accompany her to the Two Rivers? If not, why did Alanna accompany her?

Maria: RAFO.

Has Alanna been keeping an eye on Verin? After all, twice she went to the kitchens after Verin did, plus she went to the Two Rivers with her, and both went to Fal Dara.

Maria: RAFO.

If it was Verin’s choice to bring Alanna, was Alanna’s emotional state a factor in that choice?

Maria: RAFO.

Did Verin ever use compulsion on Alanna?

Maria: RAFO.

Did Verin ever suspect Alanna of being Black Ajah?

Maria: RAFO.

Was Alanna’s bonding of Rand something she was encouraged to do by Verin?

Maria: RAFO.

Was Alanna’s bonding of Rand something the Black Ajah, Forsaken or Dark One told her to do?

Maria: RAFO.

Did Verin have any idea the Shadow was going to attack the Two Rivers?

Maria: RAFO.

Did Verin know who Luc was?

Maria: RAFO.

Did Verin know of Slayer’s unique nature?

Maria: RAFO.

Have Verin and Slayer ever met, even unknowingly?

Maria: RAFO.

Finally, regarding the infamous scene where Verin and Cadsuane come to a mutual understanding regarding Rand, was Verin considering killing Cadsuane with the “medicine” she had in her possession? If not, was Verin hoping to weave compulsion on her while Cadsuane was doped?

Maria: RAFO.

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #5: Chapter 3 - The Ways of Honour

By Linda


Aviendha is a major character who has had very few POVs. The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight finally change that. The first paragraphs of The Ways of Honour reveal Aviendha’s wariness about eyes watching her:

How could you not care about eyes watching you, eyes that might belong to a man or Maiden holding a spear?

The Gathering Storm, The Ways of Honour

and link back to her POV in The Path of Daggers when she sensed eyes watching her in Ebou Dar:

Skin prickled between Aviendha's shoulder blades as she strode ahead of her companions through palace hallways tiled in dozens of pleasing bright hues. A sense of being watched that she had last felt while still wed to the spear. Imagination, she told herself. Imagination and knowing there are enemies about I cannot face! Not so long ago that crawling sensation had meant someone might be intending to kill her…

And abruptly, the prickling returned.
Aviendha's eyes rose to the windows overlooking the stable-yard. Anyone might be hidden behind the white screens of intricate wrought iron and piercework carving. Tylin had ordered the servants to stay away from those windows, but who would stop Teslyn, or Joline, or. ... Something made her look higher, to the domes and towers. Narrow walks ringed some of those slim spires, and on one, very high, was a black shape haloed by a sharp nimbus from the sun behind. A man. Her breath caught. Nothing in his stance, hands on the stone railing, spoke of danger, yet she knew he was the one who put that crawling between her shoulder blades.
One of the Shadowsouled would not stand there simply watching, but that creature, that gholam. . . . Ice formed in her belly. He could be just a palace servant. He could be, but she did not believe it. No shame in knowing fear.

The Path of Daggers, To Keep the Bargain

It’s a nice turn of the Wheel; a link with recent events while highlighting the fact that the Aiel are always at war, unlike most (all?) other peoples, a way of life diametrically opposite to their previous role as Da’shain. Every day Aiel violate their former covenant. And now they know it. Yet most Aiel still don’t dealt with this except by repression. Ironically Aviendha will be the one who sees where devotion to war will lead the Aiel…

Aviendha currently has an identity crisis, not just over her “in-between” status, but because at the moment she is lower than Rand and she wants their status to be much more equal. She shows considerable insight about Rand:

"He is a man of many burdens," Aviendha said more carefully. "I fear that he makes many of those burdens heavier than they need be. I once thought that there was only one way to be strong, but I have learned from my first-sister that I was wrong. Rand al'Thor ... I do not think he has learned this yet. I worry that he mistakes hardness for strength."

The Gathering Storm, The Ways of Honour

which assures us that she is worthy to be his wife and also a Wise One. And she is right to worry about Rand’s mental state as the rest of The Gathering Storm amply proves.

Aviendha wants to love Rand because she chooses to, not because of fate (see Fate, Free Will and Divining the Pattern). She realises it is not certain they will marry, just that she will have his children. Nor is she sure if she will become first sisters with Min, but is determined that only says she and Min “will reach an accommodation”. Two wives are uncommon among Aiel, and three are unheard of judging by Amys’ amusement (when she is a sister-wife herself).

Aviendha is not the only one uncertain about her role and her relationship to Rand. So are the Aiel:

The clans are uncertain what Rand al'Thor wishes of them."
"He was very clear," Bair noted. "He will be pleased that you and Dobraine Taborwin secured Bandar Eban, as he asked."
Rhuarc nodded. "But still, his intentions are not clear. He asked for us to restore order. Are we then to be like wetlander city guardsmen? That is no place for the Aiel. We are not to conquer, so we do not get the fifth. And yet it feels very much like conquest, what we do. The Car'a'carns orders can be clear yet confusing at the same time. He has a gift in that area, I think."

The Gathering Storm, The Ways of Honour

Aiel society is a very ordered one, with honour and obligation strictly adhered to. They – and perhaps the Mainland Seanchan – are the only society which has held together thus far. True, the Brotherless and Shaido split from them; and other Aiel stay gai’shain or join the Tinkers, but the Aiel are hardly broken as yet (and their breaking must be bad if Aiel Prophecy remarks on it), or destroyed with the leaf as the Karaethon Cycle says. Therefore they are going to break further. It’s likely this very group of Rhuarc, Aviendha, Amys, Melaine and Bair, who muse on what Rand wishes of them, will be involved in it.

Rhuarc thinks Aiel should not be keepers of peace or order for other nations, yet this would be a worthy role for them on a continent-wide scale after the Last Battle, rather than breaking the peace pact and trying to conquer the Seanchan as Aviendha saw they would do in her trip through the glass columns (see Aviendha's visions). Aviendha will be the one to work out what will be required of the Aiel in the future after seeing the consequences of the Aiel staying warriors in Towers of Midnight. This Foreshadowing is extremely important.

Aviendha is much beset by the Wise One’s seemingly incomprehensible punishments. I must admit I got impatient with Aviendha by the end of the chapter. Amys’ question to Aviendha “How many Wise Ones went with Rhuarc?” was a hint, as was Bair’s question about whether Aviendha is a Wise One. Because she said no, Aviendha was punished. Cause and effect, which Aviendha can’t see. In her mind she has put them far above her and so she really is not ready to join them. Aviendha secretly feels a failure for accepting wetlander attitudes and habits (this also colours her belief in what the Aiel’s future role should be until she is rudely disabused in the glass columns in Rhuidean.) She would otherwise have spoken up sooner, I think.

The Wise Ones are not just testing Aviendha when they ask her opinions. They aim to show her that she is their equal if she realises it and what her role would be if she joined them.

Amys reassures Aviendha that she was not been weakened by living with wetlanders, and in fact benefited from it. Being with Elayne has widened Aviendha’s attitudes and taught her the responsibilities of a ruler.

Aviendha nearly understands what the Wise Ones are doing:

It was almost as if the punishment was the thing the Wise Ones wanted her to learn, but that could not be.

The Gathering Storm, The Ways of Honour

The Wise Ones set Aviendha a da’tsang type of task. Apart from pushing Aviendha to desperation from shame, this also serves a purpose in showing Aviendha what it would be like to be condemned to that status forever, something the Wise Ones point out to her later.

The contrast between the Wise One’s training and leadership style with that of the Aes Sedai in the previous chapter is marked; as is their discipline and integrity:

Honor didn't come from being punished, but accepting a punishment and bearing it restored honor. That was the soul of toh—the willing lowering of oneself in order to recover that which had been lost.

The Gathering Storm, The Ways of Honour

Aes Sedai need to learn this. Hopefully Egwene will teach them. Some Aes Sedai take punishments in an arrogant fashion:

Sometimes sisters set themselves penances, in order to maintain the proper balance between pride and humility—that balance was much prized, supposedly, and the only reason given usually—but certainly none sought to have one imposed. Penance set by another could be quite harsh, and the Amyrlin was supposed to be harder in this than the Ajahs. Either way, though, many sisters made a haughty display of submission to the greater will of the Aes Sedai, an arrogant showing of their lack of arrogance. The pride of humility, Siuan called it.

A Crown of Swords, An Oath

but Melaine spoke of Aiel who do the same:

“Some gai’shain now make an arrogance of humbleness,” Melaine said disapprovingly. “They think they earn honor by it, taking obedience and meekness to the point of mockery. This is a new thing and foolish. It has no part in ji’e’toh.”

The Shadow Rising, Beyond the Stone

The chapter begins the theme of the blurring between the living and the dead in this book; the literal rise of the underworld as the Lord of the Grave strongly touches the world, a theme which I shall discuss at the end of my chapter-by-chapter read-through of The Gathering Storm. The Domani refugees the Aiel scout are almost living dead in Aviendha’s eyes:

Were they so eager to wake from the dream? Aviendha did not fear death, but there was a very big difference between embracing death and wishing for it.

The Gathering Storm, The Ways of Honour

Rhuarc corroborates this:

"The dead walk," the Taardad clan chief said, "and men fall at random to Sightblinder's evil, their blood corrupted like the water of a bad well. Those might be poor folk fleeing the ravages of war. Or they might be something else. We keep our distance."

The Gathering Storm, The Ways of Honour

Had the folk been part of the Dark One’s warping of the Pattern, his imposition of Wrongness, the Aiel could not have “kept their distance” from them.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #4: Chapter 2 - The Nature of Pain

By Linda


The Nature of Pain marks huge changes in Egwene’s understanding as well as her tactics. Before, she was still influenced by the beliefs and attitudes of her mentor Siuan. Now she begins to rise above the divisions in the Tower, and decides not to break it further; and will ultimately unify it against the real enemy: the Shadow. Serving at Elaida’s dinner underlined that Egwene will be the Servant of All in truth – as Aes Sedai should be. Egwene has moved away from Siuan's Machiavellian politics and desire for revenge. Seeing the Tower from the underside, among the servants and novices, has made her realise the bad side to the divisions, rivalries, secrets and the arrogant games the privileged play. They make an easy breeding ground for the Shadow, as she will soon discover.

At the beginning of the chapter Egwene thinks Aiel laugh during torture because they are hard enough to accept pain to the point of not feeling it much, at the end she realises they laugh because they don’t let physical pain affect their spirit:

“My thoughts are well,” Egwene said. “I don’t laugh because I’ve been broken, Silviana. I laugh because it is absurd to beat me.” The woman’s expression darkened. “Can’t you see it?” Egwene asked. “Don’t you feel the pain, the agony of watching the Tower crumble around you? Could any beating compare to that?” Silviana did not respond.
I understand, Egwene thought. I didn’t realize what the Aiel did. I assumed that I just had to be harder, and that was what would teach me to laugh at pain. But it’s not hardness at all. It’s not strength that makes me laugh. It’s understanding.

The Gathering Storm, The Nature of Pain

(This is why Aiel usually use shame as punishment, especially severe punishment. Egwene's shame in bowing to Elaida can be compared to that of the warrior Sulin's when she was temporarily a servant to work off her toh to gai'shain.)

Egwene is slightly mistaken here in confusing strength and hardness. Understanding is what gives Egwene strength. Strong, rather than hard, is what the Wise Ones want Rand to be, but he refused to listen and so very nearly broke at the end of The Gathering Storm.

Egwene’s and Rand’s story lines run in parallel and yet contrast beautifully in this book. Being hard isn't the answer, one must understand what is important and make it one's duty to right wrongs, keep the people together, and fight back. Rand will finally realise this in his existential crisis at the end of the book. Egwene will soon discover the Shadow in Tower - that the Tower’s disintegration is not all Elaida's doing and that the Shadow is much more dangerous and insidious than Elaida.

Egwene cries a little, but remains strong and sane. Rand has no tears, but is mad and brittle. Egwene is the willow as Cadsuane described it to Rand, brushed by the tempest of events, but able to spring back and remain firmly in the ground; Rand is the rigid oak which will crack. Yet Rand has potentially a much stronger position than Egwene with more supporters (in both senses of the word). He suffers more though – post-traumatic stress as well as insidious poisoning of the spirit. It is the latter that Egwene has thankfully been free of. With Moridin so closely linked to Rand, surrounding Rand within and without, how could Rand not become almost another Betrayer of Hope? The only good thing is that there is a price for Moridin too: he is becoming as wounded as Rand the Fisher King.

Influenced by the Shadow, Rand is often as tyrannical as Elaida and with the same motives. Egwene was all set to point out Rand’s despotism when they met in Towers of Midnight, but he had already moved on from that.

In this chapter Egwene compares very well with Cadsuane too – in strength of character and resolve and in respect for others whether they are weaker or stronger than herself - especially for those weaker than herself. Cadsuane is considerate of those who are making an effort and doing their best, and merciless on those who are not. The fact that the Wise Ones respected Cadsuane almost from the first is telling. Elaida has no respect for anyone's rights, no decency. In her dealings with other Tower initiates, Elaida is arrogant and cruel and with poor judgment, whereas Egwene gave reassurance and showed understanding, resolve and strategy.

Egwene isn't perfect. She speaks of Rand needing guidance – the sort the Tower likes to give - and assumes that the Seanchan would overrun Andor before they reached the Tower. These are errors of judgment, although the one about the Seanchan is far more understandable than the one about Rand. In the previous chapter, Rand, following classic attitudes to Aes Sedai, assumed Egwene would gentle him.

Egwene is beginning from a position of weakness and working to one of strength, as only the really great Amyrlins have done (see Aes Sedai History: New Era article). And this is her second time doing this. She did well among the rebels, but now she is even lower, but looks to achieve even greater things and earn even greater respect.

Romanda had begun to give her begrudging regard, while Lelaine just wanted her position! The other rebel Sitters felt manipulated. All of them could convince themselves that somebody else actually guided Egwene. In the Tower, no one can do that. She is proving her worth to them. At Elaida’s dinner she seized the opportunity to make the first steps in speaking with Meidani and ultimately the Tower Sitters.

It was apt that Egwene convinced Elaida that Silviana has been doing her job well, even though it wasn't Egwene's intention to do so. Silviana is reading up on the Lives of Amyrlins to perhaps look for precedents or parallels to Elaida and Egwene. Egwene realises Elaida isn't important, it's the Tower that is important. So now she's leaving behind Elaida to tackle Mesaana's schemes head-on. It is at this point that she becomes truly worthy of her (potential) position.

Elaida’s unfitness for her high position is emphasised by her rooms being tasteless as well as ostentatious, due to them containing every extravagant example of every style, with more to come. It mirrors Elaida's personality at the moment - her desire for extreme power and to impose extreme punishments. As early as A Crown of Swords Elaida showed she believed her position was an absolute monarchy and, as can happen, it has developed into tyranny.

Elaida’s meal was served elaborately with the formality of a multicourse meal as the phrase “they began their soup” shows. This is the first such meal we have seen onscreen. Egwene the servant ate more than Elaida (whose meal was destroyed) and with more genuine enjoyment and then considerately cleaned up after herself to spare the kitchen staff.

Egwene ate what Elaida ate. Elaida's food was infested with vermin, Egwene's is not mentioned as being so. The Tower is offering to sustain them equally, but the trappings are different, and moreover Egwene obtained more benefit and appreciation from her meal than Elaida did.

It's the potential fate of every false Amyrlin to become a servant, as Red Amyrlin Bonwhin’s fate reminds us. The fact that Egwene accepts her tasks and does them without being forced is going to show that, like corporal punishment the Aes Sedai dread and overuse, it's not that big a deal for one of great spirit and resolve. Like Bonwhin, Elaida nearly destroyed the Tower, and like Deane Aryman, Egwene, who has “Salidar connections”, will rebuild it.

In Knife of Dreams Egwene, the servant of the Servants, endured three of the four traditional forms of Aes Sedai punishment: Labour, Deprivation and Mortification of the Flesh. In this chapter comes Mortification of the Spirit. The greater pain of Mortification of the Spirit leads Egwene to realise the absurdity of corporal punishment and also that overuse of Mortification of the Spirit is wrong. She showed much disgust at Elaida's (mis)treatment of Meidani and Shemerin.

Elaida threatens to send Egwene to a windowless cell if she makes any further infractions and this is what happens at the next meal Egwene serves. Back when we had a preview of this chapter before the full book was published, I predicted that when the Seanchan struck Egwene would be in the cells, or on trial, or even about to be executed and Elaida would be reigning supreme. The closeness of Elaida's rooms to the Tower roof where the Seanchan land from the air would ensure that Elaida will be one of the first to be captured...

Egwene is appalled at Elaida's dismissive attitude and also thinks it just if Elaida ended up collared, but when she heard it had actually happened she pitied her. The Seanchan aim to bring justice to the Aes Sedai for their manipulations against Artur Hawkwing.

The Tower’s disunity will cost them dearly - and the world, too. The Shadow has deliberately wasted the Aes Sedai in this fashion. Like the Brown Sitters say, whenever the Tower was divided in history, disaster struck the world; this time more than any other. And I bet some of those old disasters were covered up to a degree!

Throughout its history the Tower has consistently hidden all its mistakes and failures, real and perceived, never accounting for them. Consequently they have never learned from them and are doomed to repeat them, which is how the division has succeeded. In contrast the Aiel admit their errors, pay for them fully, and then move on, growing stronger and wiser for the experience.

A major theme of the Aes Sedai sub-plot is knowledge; knowledge and its misuse and suppression. No wonder the Aes Sedai have declined when they think they know everything already, keep so much secret and deny their mistakes. They don't even truly know themselves, let alone anything else.

The rebels have had a renaissance in learning due to sharing new weaves and being more inclusive in their recruiting. If all these weaves are in the open, even those the Shadow may misuse, there is the opportunity to work out a way to counter them. We saw this in Towers of Midnight, when Sitters explored the Oath Rod’s weaknesses.

The existence of the Thirteenth Depository is still suppressed even in the Ajah which is its caretaker, let alone from the rest of the Tower. (I thought this would be exposed and dealt with in The Gathering Storm but it was not.) Other secret knowledge is the Reds’ culpability in the vileness after the Aiel War (see here), the knowledge of what the Oath Rod does, Siuan’s and Leane’s lies about the Reds setting up false Dragons…

The Wise Ones made it plain to Egwene that the Aes Sedai nowadays are a paltry lot with little ethics and loyalty for all their oaths. Egwene is now seeing this proved before her very eyes. The Oaths are only good if you follow the spirit of them and not just the letter; and if you are doing so, then you don't need them. You are already trustworthy and will be trusted. The Aes Sedai bind themselves like criminals; which most of them aren't, but they sure are crooked.

It is Egwene’s task to reunify the Aes Sedai and restore them to a group worthy of the Wise One’s respect. And we are back to how the Aes Sedai were in the Age of Legends, when the Aiel were proud to serve them.

On the down side, in the Age of Legends Latra Posae led the female Aes Sedai into denying Lews Therin their support and Egwene is perilously close to reprising this role as of Towers of Midnight due to her lack of understanding and contact with Rand. The division in the Age of Legends was along gender lines, whereas in the late Third Age it is more by Ajah. (Although gender division remains.) While Elaida has caused and increased division, the Blues also played their part. There are two sides to every separation after all. Siuan in her own way has done a great deal to split the Ajahs. Not just the Red versus the Blue, she also disregarded the Blues’ long-time allies, the Green, over the advent of the Dragon Reborn. She hasn’t admitted her culpability though, so it is just that post-unification she is no longer influencing Aes Sedai leadership.

The Red Ajah came close to pulling down Elaida after Egwene pointed out to some Red sisters the damage Elaida was doing to the Reds’ reputation.

The Shadow’s presence in this chapter is denoted by Alviarin, who hurries to her appointed beating, and the portentous alteration and translocation of the mural of Caraighan Maconar. Alviarin was late for her punishment because she was either looking for Talene, or passing out orders to do so and collecting replies. Alviarin has to go around all her message drop off points to find out what is going on. More and more this absence of Talene would seem an emergency to her.

Her lateness and hurrying emphasises her subjection – a full Aes Sedai, head of the Black Ajah, yet more fearful than Egwene. But with Shaidar Haran and Mesaana breathing down her neck or the headsman's block on the horizon I think Alviarin has reason to give her Black Ajah tasks priority and risk more pain and humiliation in Silviana’s study.

Caraighan’s portrait was formerly in the library and did not have blood on Caraighan’s face or bodies of the slain around her. The Pattern has been twisted by the Dark One and mural reflects that – or was caused by it. Two Reds were taking a 'Green' novice/Amyrlin to a Red Amyrlin along red and green tiles when a picture of a legendary Green Amyrlin warns them off.

The painting’s corruption could refer to both Elaida and Egwene. Both want to “guide” the Dragon Reborn and monarchs and bring the Tower back to its old glory and strength, just by different methods. Caraighan performed such actions. The warning is that this would be disastrous whether done by Egwene or Elaida.

The painting also has similarities to real world medieval and renaissance apocalyptic paintings such as by Durer or Bosch, and warns of Aes Sedai plans or inactions bringing disaster to the world.

I noticed a few anomalies in the writing in this chapter: Egwene referring to loyalists to mean those Aes Sedai who supported Elaida, the usage of despot, and of bust rather than bosom when describing Meidani’s chest. They number fewer than in Tears From Steel, though. There are no time markers in The Nature of Pain, however, such as whether the Reds have left for the Black Tower yet, and if so, how long ago.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Post #23 of Wheel of Time Costume

By Linda

The costume styles of Shara and the Shadow were added to Part 2 of the Wheel of Time Costume article today. There isn't much information on Shara, but I had a bit of fun with the Shadow.

For the full Costume article from the beginning click here.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #3: Chapter 1 - Tears From Steel

By Linda


In The Gathering Storm the wind starts at the White Tower, a centre of power for three thousand years. That position has been seriously undermined. It’s now isolated in its own little state and has been broken and corrupted - by different people as the text hints: Elaida and Siuan broke it and Mesaana and the Black Ajah corrupted it.

More signs of corruption and civil disorder in Tar Valon are the bold street toughs. The Tower no longer manages its city well. Elaida is too busy and Aes Sedai eyes are turned elsewhere: on each other.

A few of the city's buildings are described and their forms presage some important issues of the book. The dome hinting at the form of a rising sun refers to Rand. He finally visits Tar Valon “soon”. The building is dwarfed by the Tower as are all the other buildings in the city and this reflects the Aes Sedai perspective on Rand and the world. Or how the Aes Sedai would like to see themselves in relation to Rand. But Dragonmount dwarfs the Tower…

Since flowing water usually refers to saidar, the fountain of two waves crashing together:

There a fountain sprang from the top of a building itself, cresting what appeared to be two waves crashing together.

The Gathering Storm, Tears From Steel

could refer to the Tower/rebel conflict or at least the upcoming Elaida/Egwene confrontation and also foreshadows the Seanchan attack on TV, which will include large numbers of damane. Elaida's rooms are near the top of the Tower, and at least part of the Seanchan attack will land on the roof, just as the fountain is on top of a building.

The two buildings of women reaching hands to each other:

a pair of steep three-story buildings stood opposite one another, each crafted into the form of a maiden. The marble creations — half-statue, half-dwelling — reached with stone hands toward one another as if in greeting, hair billowing behind, immobile, yet carved with such delicacy that every strand seemed to undulate in the wind's passing.

The Gathering Storm, Tears From Steel

reminded me of Egwene's dream of a Seanchan woman who will reach a hand to pull Egwene to safety. The two groups need to reconcile their attitudes to their respective female channellers. Another conflict in need of reconciliation is that of the rebel and Tower Aes Sedai. They will finally rejoin at the end of this book.

Even at the beginning of the White Tower’s foundation when the buildings were constructed there were dissenting groups of Aes Sedai forcibly made to join, and there have been mutinies at irregular intervals…and schisms too. The Tower unity has been a façade at times.

Much is made of the contribution men are making to the city in this chapter. The men are portrayed positively, more so than the Aes Sedai, who let the city decline. The Tower Guard are clean, unstained and white.

Then there's the irony of Reds working with men, and it's to weaken the city defenses further to remove the half-cuendillar harbour chain. This also reminded me of the six Reds gone to bond Asha'man Warders and the barrier of the Black Tower’s walls and the dreamspike which in Towers of Midnight will force the Reds and Logain’s faction to work together to break them.

Reds are destroying the Tower’s defences – chipping away at stones - just as Elaida destroyed Tower unity. In fact it is the outcome of Elaida’s divisiveness. The Tower’s stone defences are warded, and the Reds’ unravelling of these wards so men can remove the walls is symbolic of the Reds no longer needing to protect the world against male channellers but, as Pevara’s group shows in Towers of Midnight, working with men against a greater danger. Tsutama’s decree that Reds can bond male channellers as Warders is also chipping away at Reds’ prejudices.

Later in the book men will fight to protect the Aes Sedai and to rescue Egwene. Egwene planned that men should do any fighting to settle the schism too. If the Aes Sedai fight each other they can never be reunited.

While the Tower’s perimeter is being broken with the aid of men, the rebel camp’s perimeter now excludes men:

There was a tight perimeter between the inner camp and the outer one, a perimeter that had most recently been intended to exclude men, particularly those who could wield saidin.

However looking on men as ‘the danger’ was shown to be a fallacy in Knife of Dreams, since the danger came from a woman channelling saidin, and from one of their own Sitters.

In the rebel camp novices are being washerwomen. It’s symbolic of the Aes Sedai ‘washing its dirty linen in public’ and not hiding the shame of its disunity and the Black Ajah from the world.

Novices are beating rugs among the rebels, while their Amyrlin is a novice and is being beaten in the Tower. In the next chapter Egwene will say that she feels like a beaten rug after a session with Silviana.

The wind at the start of each book shows us ‘which way the wind is blowing’. It is the breath of the world: the world’s prana or chi, a reflection of the world’s vital spirit or energy flow.

The wind sweeps west from the White Tower past the rebels and is blocked and re-directed south to Rand by something from the Blight. It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good... as the saying goes. Its journey shows that Rand’s and Egwene's story lines are linked (and will be the central part of the book).

Much of this path is the reverse of that which Verin took Egwene, Elayne, Nynaeve, Mat and Hurin along in The Dragon Reborn and is another linking of Egwene and Rand.

The wind also symbolically moves from the beginning of the Third Age, where men are excluded, through to the chaos of now and indicates the extent of the Shadow’s influence on events. “Arid Domain” is what Arad Doman refers to and look at the state of it now. And as the interference from the Blight suggests, the chaos gets worse in The Gathering Storm. Graendal vowed in Lord of Chaos,that “she would sow chaos till the harvest made Demandred’s lungs explode.”

Rand is in Arad Doman to restore order and to protect it from the Seanchan. Graendal’s philosophy of ‘everyone in their place for the greater good of society and to serve her’ is a mockery of the social structure of the Seanchan, who are being prevented from taking control of Arad Doman. They too have a society based on a proper place for everyone and serving the Empire and Empress; but where they would bring order, Graendal brings chaos. Ituralde used Graendal’s orders to rally Domani and Taraboners into striking at the Seanchan and madden them enough to trap them.

Rand thinks the tents of Bashere's army look like stones on a board; he sees the army as something to be manipulated, as a war game. Distancing oneself from people is a sign of mental illness.

Rand is linked to Moridin, who fancies himself as a gamemaster and has previously used the board game metaphor for the way he directs and controls events – and cheats by playing both sides. The aim of stones being to surround numbers of your enemy’s pieces rather than take them piece by piece…

As he has in the past, Lews Therin bleeds across the link to Rand. There is leakage between Moridin and Rand too, shown in how they reflect each others’ stance and attitude. Rand’s likening of the Saldaean camp to a stones board and his thoughts:

Besides, he didn’t need to understand women in order to use them.

The Gathering Storm Tears From Steel

may be an influence from Moridin.

Graendal is all for everyone being in their “proper” place as defined by her so they can serve her as Rand is, but she believes it is essential to understand the people you want to manipulate. Ironically she had this thought in response to Sammael’s puzzlement over why Rand got upset when women died fighting for him...(Lord of Chaos, To Understand a Message).

Rand’s comment also expresses his self-loathing over feeling forced to use women, as though he knows how much his integrity of character has gone downhill, but can’t /won’t do anything about it. Yet.

Semirhage’s capture reminds Rand sharply of his own capture by the Tower embassy. This is why he won’t allow her to be tortured as he was. He doesn’t want to corrupt women either by allowing their torture, or allowing them to torture others. He doesn’t want to be like those Aes Sedai. And in fact the key to breaking Semirhage isn’t torture but another kind of cruelty – humiliation.

Semirhage's diagnosis of Rand’s madness:

"He’s insane... Clearly, he is hearing Lews Therin's voice. It makes no difference that his voice is real, however. In fact, that makes his situation worse. Even Graendal usually failed to achieve reintegration with someone who heard a real voice. I understand the descent into terminal madness can be . . . abrupt." Her lips curved in a smile that never touched her dark eyes.

Knife of Dreams, A Plain Wooden Box

whether real or false is not surprisingly undermining Rand. Supposedly she rarely lies, but she'll say anything to inflict pain. Is this paradoxical? Or is somebody wrong?

Graendal claimed no belief in ‘past lives’ anyway, judging by what she said in The Fires of Heaven, Prologue:

“It may well be that, as many believe, all are born and reborn as the Wheel turns….”

I’m not keen on relying on corrupt doctors. Nor on ones that disbelieve the source of the problem.

Rand’s state is steel, but Lews Therin is tears:

Yes, that was definitely sobbing, not laughter. Sometimes it was hard to tell with Lews Therin.

The Gathering Storm, Tears From Steel

Since Rand just suppresses all his feelings, or distances himself from them it’s no wonder he finds it hard to distinguish them. Incidentally the way he does distance himself from feeling is akin to living wrapped in the Oneness as Lanfear recommended as a way to become great. Great…

Rand says he has become steel – the man of steel, Superman. But Superman had a vulnerability. After Semirhage tortures him Rand tries to be cuendillar man, so hard he is now a statue, catatonic and unbending, not just unyielding. Finally he becomes a genuine super man at the end of the book by being neither steel nor cuendillar.

How apt that Rand sees through watery eyes at this stage. With corruption (and tears) all through the chapter, I doubt he is stainless steel. Lews Therin cries on Rand’s behalf.

Rand assumes he and Lews Therin will merge although as he discovers at the end of The Gathering Storm they were never two. Min's viewing of two men merging could just as easily have been Moridin and Rand. Too bad she gave no description of the other man she saw.

Rand's concentration on need is like using need in Tel'aran'rhiod: bending one's situation to suit one's will.

Need. No longer was it about what Rand wanted or what he wished. Everything he did focused only on need, and what he needed most was the lives of those who followed him.

The Gathering Storm, Tears From Steel

He does this increasingly through The Gathering Storm so that only the strongest is able, or dares, to withstand his will. Tuon and Nynaeve being two.

When Rand thinks that “Only Tarmon Gai'don matters” he sounds like Masema. Yet Rand has made a conscious decision not to use torture - not to be prepared to do anything to win. Cadsuane, who wanted Rand less dark and unfeeling, less like Shadar Logoth, thinks he should permit torture. Go figure.

Nynaeve says Semirhage is dangerous beyond reason. Rand found out how right she was. Semirhage did not scruple to do more to Rand than even the worst he could think of.

Cadsuane is dressed in green and yellow, representing life and healing, Nynaeve is in grey and yellow - mediation and healing - and Alivia in red - war (not Red Ajah since she's never been indoctrinated). War is about all Alivia knows.

How amusing that the Red Ajah now allows Asha’man Warders, whereas Rand has a ‘Red’ Warder in Alivia. I think this symmetry is intended, after all, Alivia feels she owes her freedom to Rand. Red clothes would have to be the most defiant gesture a slave can make after nearly 400 years dressed only in grey. A genuine Red, Teslyn, vowed to do anything for Mat in return for being freed from the Seanchan.None of the women with Rand could bring themselves to say anything about what was obviously an episode of insanity.

The dragon on Rand's handless arm has no head. This refers to Rand's insanity which is now openly known to those around him and is handicapping him. Is Cadsuane mad trying to force a madman to be polite? Can this help him keep those he needs around him? Barely. There's no laughter or tears in Rand, yet there is in Lews Therin. Rand's probably madder than Lews Therin since Lews Therin is more aware of what has happened than Rand is.

Rand expresses a dark view of Egwene in this chapter and in Chapter 1 of Towers of Midnight she will reciprocate. Part of Rand’s bitterness is leakage from Lews Therin who is angry that the women wouldn’t help at Shayol Ghul:

They refused to help us, you know. Refused! Said my plan was too reckless. That left me with only the Hundred Companions, no women to form a circle. Traitors! This is their fault. But. . . but I'm the one who killed Hyena. Why?

The Gathering Storm, Tears From Steel

and this leads into the vital questions of how to seal the Bore and what the role Egwene and the female channellers will payin this, and how to get men and women working together in balance.

How pitiful Rand has become:

My eyes see as if in a fog, my hand is burned away, and the old wounds in my side rip open if I do anything more strenuous than breathe. I'm dry, like an overused well. I need to finish my work here and get to Shayol Ghul. Otherwise, there won't be anything left of me for the Dark One to kill.

The Gathering Storm, Tears From Steel

Rand’s insight into his condition is more accurate than he knows. He is blind (foggy vision), losing his humanity (symbolised by losing one hand) and tainted, constrained so he can barely move safely. He is unable to cry due to being “dry” but Lews Therin leaks tears. As he realises after his epiphany, he does need to get to Shayol Ghul before the Dark One is too strong.

We have been told that Rand’s sword was Artur Hawkwing’s: it was confirmed by Kathana Travaeler of Dragonmount that this is the sword Justice through direct email correspondence with Brandon and Maria. This fact has not yet been used in the books.

The elation Rand feels from Elayne through the bond would be when Elayne secured the support she needed for the throne at the end of Knife of Dreams. The mood didn’t last long.

Brandon’s characterisation in this chapter is quite good, but there are out-of-character expressions. When Rand called Asmodean a weasel of a man it seemed the wrong word for me. It grated. Min I thought pretty consistent with how RJ portrayed her. Cadsuane doesn’t stride, RJ usually described her walk as smooth, a glide. Also, there was the art reference which didn’t work. Otherwise she was well enough. Lews Therin and Rand were excellently done and Nynaeve was good.

I shall end this post with some foreshadowing for A Memory of Light that also links with viewings Min has recently had on swords:

Rand reaching for his sword— a useless gesture, now. The loss of his hand, though it wasn't his primary sword hand, would leave him vulnerable if he were to face a skilled opponent. Even with saidin to provide a far more potent weapon, his first instinct was for the sword. He'd have to change that. It might get him killed someday.

The Gathering Storm Tears From Steel

So it might.