Friday, September 30, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #45: Chapter 42 - Before the Stone of Tear

By Linda


Rand is confronted with an unresolvable conflict and breaks down:

We don't know the names of the women who were in Graendal's palace, Lews Therin said. We can't add them to the list.
Rand tried to ignore the madman. That proved impossible. Lews Therin continued.
How can we continue the list if we don't know the names! In war, we sought out the Maidens who had fallen, We found every one! The list is flawed! I can't continue!
It's not your list! Rand growled. It's mine, Lews Therin. MINE!
No! the madman sputtered. Who are you? It's mine! I made it. I can't continue now that they're dead. Oh, Light! Balefire? Why did we use balefire! I promised that I would never do that again.

The Gathering Storm, Before the Stone of Tear

He used balefire to destroy Graendal because it’s the only sure way to get rid of a Forsaken but as a result he can’t add the names of the women he killed as collateral damage to his list. Rand can’t atone for their deaths in the way he usually does.

He realises that he is begin forced to commit evil – become a Kinslayer – by the Dark One. While “the devil makes him do it”, this is not a valid excuse. Both of his personalities know this. The Rand personality accepts and is prepared to pay the apparent price:

"It doesn't matter, as long as the world survives. They cursed me before, swore at Dragonmount and by my name, but they lived. We're here, ready to fight. Again and again."

The Gathering Storm, Before the Stone of Tear

The Lews Therin side of him is horrified and distressed:

So many names we don't know, Lews Therin whispered. So many dead by our hand.
And it was just the beginning.

The Gathering Storm, Before the Stone of Tear

This self-flagellation is dangerous to his well-being as well as futile. He/they can’t know the names of everyone, female and/or male, who dies for him or is killed because of him, as he just proved to himself. He needs to express care and encourage cooperation, rather than try to do everything and shut himself off from people and beat himself up internally.

Who is the more mad? Rand denies any conflict when Min feels disquiet:

"I am well, Min," he said. "I was thinking."

The Gathering Storm, Before the Stone of Tear

This is both untrue and a scary indication of the extent of his dissociation and the unfeeling state of his Rand personality.

While previously Rand did at least as much good as bad, if not more, the growing influence of his link to Moridin and the corruption from using balefire has led to his doing more harm than good, to the extent that he can’t deny it:

Each time he'd conquered a kingdom before, he'd left it better than when he'd arrived. Rand had removed Forsaken tyrants, brought an end to warfare and sieges. He'd cast out Shaido invaders, he'd delivered food, he'd created stability. Each land he'd destroyed had, essentially, been saved at the same time.
Arad Doman was different. He'd brought in food—but that food had drawn even more refugees, straining his supplies. Not only had he failed to give them peace with the Seanchan, he had appropriated their only troops and sent them up to watch the Borderlands. The seas were still unsafe. The tiny Seanchan empress hadn't trusted him. She would continue her attacks, perhaps double them.
The Domani would be trampled beneath the hooves of war, crushed between the invading Trollocs to the north and the Seanchan to the south. And Rand was leaving them.

The Gathering Storm, Before the Stone of Tear

Nor can he justify the extent he has made things worse.

He used Arad Doman to deal with the Seanchan, and to track down Graendal, and he took its troops and general to defend the Borderlands. No wonder Arad Doman is now such an Arid Domain.

Rand decides he will be more overt about his location and activities because Lan is riding to Tarwin’s Gap. There is little time left. Bashere doesn’t know what would draw the Borderlander monarchs away from the Blight at such a crucial time. Rand announces that the army in Tear is going to Shayol Ghul and not Arad Doman. He assumes the Seanchan will take Tear and Illian while they go to Shayol Ghul. Rand doesn’t mind if Ituralde stays in Saldaea and holds back the Shadow, or returns to Arad Doman and holds back the Seanchan. Bashere admits the situation is such a mess that there is no right answer.

Nynaeve and Cadsuane are not with Rand. He doubts they are working together, because he thinks they can hardly bear to be in the same room, but he is mistaken. They are meeting about finding Perrin and tracking down Tam to bring him to Rand - although Cadsuane hasn't told Nynaeve much yet about the plan yet.

Rand is now so corrupt that the entire food delivery turned rotten. The best thing he can do for Arad Doman at the moment is leave. And he does so because he has no answers, not knowing how or why it is happening. He may think it is his ta’veren effect. And Tear cheers as he arrives. This makes him feel more guilty than not worrying about Arad Doman’s approaching starvation does.

Rand and the Land are stuck in a dreadful positive feedback loop, where the blighting of one exacerbates that of the other. No wonder they are both in a parlous state. Moreover Rand’s:

ta'veren effect seemed to be growing more powerful, causing increasingly greater distortions. And more dangerous ones.

The Gathering Storm, Before the Stone of Tear

This reflects his darkening character and his violent mood swings which have grown more powerful and more dangerous.

Rand thinks Weiramon a fool. Lews Therin says he likes him, which shocks Rand because in Rand’s opinion Lews Therin doesn’t like anyone. Lews Therin says Weiramon is honest:

More than I am, for certain! A man doesn't choose to be an idiot, but he does choose to be loyal. We could do much worse than have this man as a follower.

The Gathering Storm, Before the Stone of Tear

Yes, Rand could have Taim as a follower! Actually a man can choose to be an idiot – or at least appear one. Just as he can choose to appear loyal.

Anaiyella is wearing Weiramon’s colours although we don’t know what these colours are. I had deduced a long time previously that Weiramon is a Darkfriend (see Darkfriend article) and this hinted to me that Anaiyella is one also. “Wearing his colours” may further indicate that she is one of the underlings in his circle, or that these colours are those of the Forsaken who commands them both.

Rand kept his tongue. Arguing with the madman was pointless. Lews Therin made decisions without reason. At least he wasn't humming about a pretty woman again. That could be distracting.

The Gathering Storm, Before the Stone of Tear

As I said above, which one is mad? Rand is so dissociated that he doesn’t accept the Lews Therin personality as a part of himself, or that it is having an influence on him despite him asking Lews Therin for advice and information and using his knowledge.

And a pretty woman doesn’t distract Rand too? It’s all Lews Therin’s fault! If the devil doesn’t make Rand do it, Lews Therin (Lucifer) does!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #44: Chapter 41 - A Fount of Power

By Linda


This chapter follows on from the previous chapter and has more POV changes to increase the sense of action and tension. In keeping with the chapter title, each POV is of someone in high position at risk of losing power, or of someone who was formerly in a high position.

Gawyn POV

Bryne’s comment that:

"You can never control everything in a city this size, Siuan. Those bridges, in a way, they give you a false sense of control. Sure, for an invading army, this city is impenetrable—but a place like this, tighter than a tick, can still have a dozen holes big enough for fleas to slip through."

The Gathering Storm, A Fount of Power

shows why Siuan (and other Amyrlins) could be undermined. They are too prone to believe long-lasting structures and organisations as impregnable. The Blues’ former information-gatherer does not know as much as she thought she did – a lesson difficult for her to learn – and humble, disregarded Aes Sedai such as Shemerin can have crucial bits of information.

Bryne’s judgement foreshadows how successful the Bloodknives will be in hiding and striking from the shadows.

Gawyn is impatient throughout this exchange; he is concerned that he won’t be in time.

Siuan objects to the use of Tower Guard uniforms as disguises because they are symbols of a sacred duty. Bryne points out that they are her enemy because she is no longer Amyrlin.

Saerin POV

Saerin is organising the fighting because no senior Aes Sedai better qualified – such as a Green Sitter or the Amyrlin - is around. Her tactics are sensible and reasonable. She orders Captain Chubain to be Healed, and to organise his men to use bows and also to scout, and to get poor fighters such as the Yellows or Browns to form a body of Healers in the command centre and to roam the fighting groups. All the while, Saerin feels embarrassed at how poor the Aes Sedai are at defending themselves, and how disunited they are.

The Black sister Katerine tries to take control and go on offensive but Saerin’s summary of the danger and their poor showing makes her back down. Was she going to make the Seanchan raid more successful as part of her instructions from the Black Ajah? Or was she just making an individual power grab for herself and was ignorant that she could be captured?

Egwene POV

Egwene is angry that the damage could have been minimised if Elaida had listened and prepared. She is determined to make this raid cost the Seanchan and has killed about 12 to’raken at this stage. The novices are forcing the Seanchan soldiers back from the stairs. They are not children anymore, and have been more successful at fighting than many full Aes Sedai. It is good training for the Last Battle.

Bryne POV

The rescue party is fighting 30 Seanchan soldiers who ran out of Tower. Gawyn is fighting brilliantly. Bryne realises the Seanchan are withdrawing and therefore they are running out of time to rescue Egwene. (He doesn’t know how disorganised the Tower is – although Saerin is doing a reasonable job of restoring order.)

Captives are being winched from the Tower roof onto to’raken. The east wing, which formerly housed the novices and now is part of the Brown Ajah quarters - is badly damaged. Bryne wonders if Ogier will rebuild the damaged sections or if the Tower will ever be the same.

Bryne doesn’t really connect Siuan with the “stern woman” he met years earlier. He becomes angry that she might be in danger when she wonders off. She says she has been before. As with Lan and Nynaeve, in fact more so, there is a power struggle between them. Unlike Lan and Nynaeve, whose marriage vows provided a way of managing this fairly, they will have to work this out for themselves.

Siuan senses Bryne’s dismay that some injured men will die and wants to Heal them. Bryne doesn’t argue. If she hadn’t been so caring, perhaps they would have died. Bryne prevented the Bloodknife from using his poisonous knife on Siuan but is poisoned himself. Siuan remembers Min’s viewing of:

“If you [Siuan] want to stay alive, you had better stay close to him.” Despite the heat, Min shivered. She had only ever had one other viewing with an ‘if’ in it, and both had been potentially deadly. It was bad enough sometimes knowing what would happen; if she started knowing what might… “All I know is this. If he stays close to you, you live. If he gets too far away, for too long, you are going to die. Both of you. I don’t know why I should have seen anything about you in his aura, but you seemed like part of it.”

- The Fires of Heaven, Trapped

and Heals him. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy as Bryne points out:

“You'll have to thank Min next time you see her, Bryne. She just saved both of our lives."
"But I wouldn't have been poisoned if I hadn't come!"
"Don't try to apply logic to a viewing or Foretelling like this," Siuan said, grimacing. "You're alive. I'm alive. I suggest we leave it at that.

-The Gathering Storm, A Fount of Power

Siuan accepts prophecy without reservation and is pragmatic about its paradoxes.

Bryne knows Siuan is fairly exhausted from the Healings she performed but doesn’t argue when she suggests they get on with looking for Egwene.

Egwene POV

Egwene used herself up defending the Tower. She thinks:

I was a burning warrior, a hero called by the Horn. They won't dare face me again.

-The Gathering Storm, A Fount of Power

But she is wrong: the Seanchan will come again. Egwene reckons that more to’raken escaped than were killed. (The Seanchan sent hundreds.) Her losses were thankfully light: three novices died out of more than sixty, and one Aes Sedai out of forty. Ten damane were captured. It was probably Saerin who organised sisters to put the fires out.

The success of the raid is physical proof of the parlous state of the Aes Sedai; while Egwene protected them from their own inadequacies as best she could, they still came out badly.

Gawyn and Siuan completely misunderstand what has happened and why Egwene is alone and unable to channel. (Egwene sent the novices to bed and the Aes Sedai went to give aid elsewhere.)

Siuan uses the sa’angreal to open a gateway back to boats and to camp. Egwene is too tired to protest being removed from the Tower:

No! Egwene thought, clawing through her drowsiness, forcing her eyes open. I'm winning, don't you see? If I offer leadership now, when the rubble is being cleared, they'll see me as Amyrlin for certain! I have to stay! I have to—

-The Gathering Storm, A Fount of Power

Saerin POV

More than twenty Aes Sedai died and not all reports are in. They are only Healing those who would not survive without it; otherwise they use healall. Healall is the name of a real world plant, Prunella vulgaris (illustrated right), which is used to treat a variety of ailments including wounds.

Stone root (Collinsonia canadensis) is also called heal all and is used on bruises and wounds; however Prunella vulgaris is more popular.

Saerin realises that Egwene is far from a novice and in fact outdid them all. The Tower novices who fought are also now far from novices.

Mair was not captured with Elaida because the Seanchan assumed she was dead. Had she been taken the Tower would not know Elaida’s fate for certain.

Elaida POV

Somehow Elaida was removed from her room, tied with ropes and winched onto a to’raken while barely conscious. Forkroot was not used since she could reach for the Source OK and would have remembered being forced to swallow a liquid. Perhaps they used some other drug that could be inhaled or injected under the skin.

Karma bites Elaida:

  • She who beat Egwene, and wants to have her maid beaten because she didn’t do things right despite being warned, is herself “beaten” for ignoring the warnings of a sul’dam and of Egwene. Note that she was given a warning after the first infraction, and beaten the second.

  • She who discounted the existence of the a’dam is now wearing one.

  • She who insisted she was an absolute monarch is now a slave.

The Empress usually treats damane well, far better than do other sul’dam, but will she Elaida? Or should I say Suffa? Elaida’s new name hints not. Her name indicates she will suffer, but so perhaps will her captors, since she is often insufferable. The Seanchan may have to take Elaida’s Foretellings on sufferance.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #43: Chapter 40 - The Tower Shakes -

By Linda


The changing POVs in this chapter rapidly increase action and tension.

Chapter Title

The Tower physically shakes under the Seanchan attack, but also spiritually, since the Aes Sedai are ill-prepared and quite helpless and the organisation is crumbling due to being undermined by the Black Ajah and Elaida’s mismanagement.

The attack illustrates the motif of the lightning struck tower popular in Renaissance thought. In one fifteenth century Tarot card deck, the Tower is a large crumbling stone structure with flames emerging from its side (Robert M Place, The Tower: History, Symbolism and Divination) as shown in the Charles VI Tower tarot card right.

The Tower card

represents the fire that purifies – the process of destruction that is necessary before we can rebuild… In the mystical quest, the Tower represents the burning away of the egotistical urges that stop one from joining with the One.

Robert M Place, The Tarot: History, Symbolism and Divination

and suggests

the destruction of an out-dated philosophy which is unable to adapt to new conditions…The lesson here is that any structure is only defensible as long as it remains flexible and capable of evolution; life itself is in a state of constant flux and no merely human construction can hope to survive if it cannot adapt.

Alfred Douglas, The Tarot

The card has connotations of sudden catastrophe, destruction and the downfall of pride. This is the effect the attack had on the Tower. It was the final trigger for the Aes Sedai to finally accept their inadequacies.

Over the centuries the card has had various titles: Fire, the Thunderbolt, the Tower (see see Il Meneghello Soprafino Tarocco card left), the House of God (Charles VI Tarot card above right) and the House of the Devil. All seem appropriate here.

Jordan was never content to show just one example of a symbolic element, and so the White Tower is not the only Tower to be suddenly rent: its opposite the Black Tower is also prophesied to be attacked (“rent in fire and blood”, to be precise) although with perhaps quite different results.

Siuan POV

Gareth and Siuan use each others’ names when discussing whether to rescue Egwene while the Tower is being attacked by the Seanchan. Bryne doesn’t want to rescue Egwene because he gave his word to obey her and she has forbidden it. Siuan feels she must rescue her because Egwene was so traumatised by her Seanchan enslavement as we see confirmed almost immediately in Egwene’s POV.

Egwene POV

Egwene’s first reaction is to flee from the Seanchan:

Egwene shuddered, wrapping her arms around herself. The cool, seamless metal. The nausea, the degradation, the panic, despair, and—shamefully—guilt at not serving her mistress to the best of her abilities. She remembered the haunted look of an Aes Sedai as she was broken. Most of all, she remembered her own terror.
The terror of realizing that she would be like the others, eventually. Just another slave, happy to serve.

The Gathering Storm, The Tower Shakes

but she pulls herself together. She promises to protect Nicola even though she can barely channel. Nicola is comforted despite knowing Egwene’s ability is so restricted. Other novices, too, are inspired and reassured by her leadership.

Egwene shows that there are ways around not being able to channel much – linking and using angreal. She teaches the novices to link so they won’t be defenceless. It is against custom, but custom is so useless as to be dangerous at this time.

Egwene selects ring leaders on the basis of skill and levelheadedness - ie merit, and not on their strength in the Power.

The sa’angreal was in the same storeroom as the smaller ter’angreal, just lying on shelf. This may be an error. Sa’angreal are not mentioned as being kept with ter’angreal in earlier books.

Siuan POV

Bryne follows Siuan around rather than stay with his officers.

Siuan is ready to pay the price of Egwene’s angerat for disobeying her, although in part this is because she thinks Egwene will ultimately be thankful. She is mistaken: Egwene is more than annoyed, she loses trust in Siuan, something Siuan did not consider.

Gawyn only thinks of Egwene and agrees that he will be square with Siuan if she helps him get Egwene out of Tar Valon. Actually, he is so one-track minded that even someone as obsessive as Siuan remarks on it.

Bryne refuses to help them because he won’t help Siuan break her word (and also because they are unlikely to succeed alone). Siuan tries to justify the rescue by saying that Egwene said they could rescue her if she were going to be executed, and for all they know that is the sort of danger she is in.

"Ignorance is not an excuse," Bryne said sternly, stepping closer to her. "You have made oathbreaking far too convenient, Siuan, and I don't want it to become a habit for you. Aes Sedai or not, former Amyrlin or not, people must have rules and boundaries.

The Gathering Storm, The Tower Shakes

Siuan is trying the usual Aes Sedai tricks with oaths, but Bryne is making her keep to the spirit of her oaths, not just the letter. Yet Bryne can’t bear to let Siuan go into danger without him and so breaks his word to Egwene. He sets two conditions: one is that Siuan will Bond him as her Warder. (Weak as she is she is strong enough to do that. This makes sense since no Aes Sedai is said to be too weak to bond a Warder, not even Daigian.) We find out later that the other condition is that they marry.

Bryne is possibly atypical of men in not revealing a similar physical desire for Siuan and possibly speculating on how he could put his newly acquired stamina to good use…

Adelorna POV

Adelorna’s experiences show how Aes Sedai, who can’t use the One Power as a weapon, don’t fight and haven’t had to defend against invasion, were easily defeated by the Seanchan.

The head of the Battle Ajah actually gets collared and then saved by Egwene. Adelorna feels a fool for being captured, then tries to take charge, despite failing a short while before and knowing little about the Seanchan of damane. Egwene is definitely in charge and is prepared to pay for this later:

"I am in command until this threat passes. You will call me Mother. Give me penance later if you must, but for now my authority must be unquestioned. Is that clear?"

The Gathering Storm, The Tower Shakes

And Adelorna obeys and is proud that Egwene respects her toughness.

No Aes Sedai went to get angreal, even by mundane methods. The fate of Adelorna’s group of Greens shows that many Aes Sedai were not linked to others, but defending piecemeal.

Elaida compromised knowledge of Travelling as Egwene knows:

"I'd have never shown you this, save that I just had a report that Elaida has been spreading knowledge of this weave. Knowledge of Traveling has been compromised. That means the Seanchan are likely to have it by now, assuming they've taken any women Elaida taught."

The Gathering Storm, The Tower Shakes

Egwene is prepared to kill captive Aes Sedai to prevent the Seanchan gaining Travelling. The Seanchan will get it; and actually it is Elaida herself who betrays it.

Adelorna realises Egwene could have left the Tower at any time. Egwene says if she did she would be abandoning Tower, since she knew the Seanchan would attack.

Egwene aims to make the Seanchan lose more damane in their raid than they gain captive Aes Sedai.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #42: Chapter 39 - A Visit From Verin Sedai

By Linda


Egwene thinks Verin only recently returned to the Tower from somewhere. Verin says she dropped Tomas off to his family and implies it was a short while before. It has been about 27 days since Verin left Mat. Sanderson said that Verin’s letters had some redundancies in case any of her instructions were ignored or went astray.

This interview with Verin makes Egwene fully realise the risk she has run in taking forkroot. Any Black sister could have killed her had she been alone (but they want her alive and fuelling the division.) To justify her complacency and over confidence she says who could anticipate running into a Black sister. Yet back in The Dragon Reborn she was a lot more careful.

Verin twice suggests to Egwene in this final and desperate conversation that Egwene thank Laras for her. This is something like a last request, and Verin makes it before she even explains her activities and hands Egwene the coded book; the latter should be more important, yet the former takes precedence in Verin’s mind. She tells Egwene that Laras is not a Darkfriend, and is trustworthy and extraordinary. I hypothesise Verin is nudging Egwene to see Laras because Laras will tell Egwene something or give her something vital (eg the Horn of Valere). My theory is detailed here.

Verin, like Egwene, thinks the Tower division and factions foolishness. She was surprised at what Egwene has achieved in breaking Elaida’s regime - and perhaps the Black Ajah’s influence on the Tower division, considering how annoyed they are.

The chapter delivers a lot of information on the Shadow in a revelatory fashion. Verin is convinced the Dark One’s motives and strategy are unpredictable and that Rand’s assumptions are wrong.

The Forsaken’s selfishness makes them predictable to Dark One:

”A tool you can depend upon to act as expected is far more valuable than one you cannot understand.”

The Gathering Storm, A Visit From Verin Sedai

Plus the contention means that only the strongest and craftiest survive. (Note that the Seanchan select their monarch in a similar way).

Verin was believed to be a Darkfriend by the Black Ajah and had to either join up or die. This was probably the serious error she made 70 years ago. She did not want to die, so she chose to join, and to redeem herself by gathering intelligence with the aim of betraying the Shadow:

"I joined them to keep my skin intact," Verin said, smiling. "I'm rather fond of it, though Tomas did go on about these white hairs. Anyway, after joining them, the chance to study them was my making the best of the situation."

The Gathering Storm, A Visit From Verin Sedai

She quotes the wording of one of the Black Ajah Oaths. Speculation on the other Oaths is here.

Verin wonders if there is a purpose to the loophole that allows betrayal of the Shadow in what you believe to be the final hour of your life. Egwene thinks it must be just accident. The wording is dramatically threatening and typical of the trope of the flawed Dark Lord.

Verin took asping rot to execute herself. ‘Asping’ alludes to asp, the venomous snake said to be used in Ancient Egypt for executing criminals who were thought to deserve a kinder death than that from regular executions. Cleopatra was said by Plutarch to have tested various poisons (on others, naturally – rank has its privileges!) and thought that the asp’s venom, which made the victim sleepy and weak, yet without pain, was the least terrible way to die. This is the death she chose herself when she suicided. From Egwene’s description, asping rot has a very similar physical effect although it is a plant, not snake venom.

‘Rot’ refers to fungi, many of which are very poisonous, although they kill in unpleasant ways.

The Calabar bean (Physostigma venenosum) or Ordeal bean also has interesting parallels with asping rot. It is very poisonous and the ground beans infused in water were used in West Africa as an ordeal to prove innocence or guilt:

If the prisoner vomits within half an hour he is accounted innocent, but if he succumbs he is found guilty.

- Maude Grieve, A Modern Herbal

It generally kills within an hour.

The explanation for the survival of the innocent is that they trustingly drank the poison straight down and their body reacted to the rapid dose with intense vomiting and diarrhoea, thus purging the poison from their system before it was absorbed. The guilt sipped their poison and this slower dose was absorbed through the gastro-intestinal tract without being violently ejected as a large dose would be and they died of cardiac arrest (Malcolm Stuart, Colour Dictionary of Herbs and Herbalism).

Verin’s actions in sipping her poison not only allowed her to hand on her report and explanations, but reflect that she accepted her guilt in swearing to the Dark One and for her actions (however reluctant) as part of the Black Ajah and was prepared to pay the price.

And Verin did evil acts as a Darkfriend:

“Light knows I've done enough to require a very special kind of redemption. But it was worth the cost. Worth it indeed. Or perhaps that is simply what I must tell myself."

The Gathering Storm, A Visit From Verin Sedai

Certainly Sheriam was convinced that Verin was a committed Darkfriend.

Verin gives Egwene one book plus the cipher key, yet in The Path of Daggers she thinks of the many books of enciphered notes she has:

One day she would have to write out the cipher she used in her notebooks - a lifetime's worth of them filled cupboards and chests in her rooms above the White Tower library - one day, but she hoped not soon.

The Path of Daggers, Deceptive Appearances

There is no mention of these books in either The Gathering Storm or Towers of Midnight.

Browns gather knowledge so it can be used in the future. Verin excelled herself there, with details on Darkfriend leaders, and the Black Ajah, including their prophecies, factions and their goals and motivations. Only the list of Black sisters has been tapped into so far.

My analysis of Black Ajah numbers is given in the Black Ajah article here. Note that unaligned sisters including, we have to assume, Cadsuane’s faction, must have about one third of the Black sisters.

For an analysis of the Black Sitters and their effects on voting in the Hall see
here. For a listing of the known Black sisters and their deeds see here. Perhaps not sending any Black Ajah among the ferrets returning to the Tower was an oversight on Sheriam’s part.

Through Egwene, we are reminded that evil can appear likeable and that unlikeable doesn’t mean someone is evil.

When I read this chapter, I kicked myself because I had written in the Black Ajah article years before that if there was any agent of the Light infiltrating the Shadow it would be Verin. I never wrote it up as formal theory though. Ah well.

Like Cadsuane, Verin had quite a collection of objects of the Power: her book invisibility ter’angreal, the dream ter’angreal she gave to Egwene (this works under even extreme secrecy since it doesn’t require channelling), and an angreal.

Saerin judges that the Reds warned Elaida not to protest her censure, or else she would lose what support they are prepared to give her. Elaida was not deposed because Egwene said she did not want the Red Ajah to fall. Egwene suspects Elaida did a deal with Tsutama to submit to the will of the Hall in exchange for Silviana being punished but to a lesser degree. Therefore Elaida still had influence in her Ajah. Via the Black, perhaps, since the Black probably didn’t want Elaida deposed.

Egwene is determined every suspected Darkfriend will be given the chance to prove herself. She realises the gathering of rebel sisters in Salidar and then their procrastination was probably a part of the Shadow’s plan. She believes the same of her own raising, but actually the latter was used by the Shadow.

Egwene’s orders to Siuan to watch Sheriam and Moria were given quite baldly, with no explanation about how she knows who is in the Black Ajah. Therefore Siuan thought rescuing Egwene more important.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #41: Chapter 38 - News in Tel'aran'rhiod

By Linda


Unlike with nearly all other Aes Sedai, Egwene and Siuan have an honest and open relationship. Egwene says she is her real self with Siuan, and Siuan is the same, really. She doesn’t have to grovel to Egwene, nor pretend she doesn’t feel anything for Gareth Bryne.

Siuan is “holding herself to the Oaths” and “choosing not to lie” –in other words, finally learning to live by the spirit of the Oaths and thus becoming honourable (and worthy of Bryne, who has always lived that way.)

Egwene is determined to stay the course in the Tower no matter what, or else there is no hope of removing Elaida. It is a true trial by ordeal: a test of endurance and courage. The two women to and fro over tactics against Elaida. Siuan thinks Elaida will barely be punished for assaulting Egwene with the Power. Egwene thinks any punishment will undermine Elaida further. Siuan says Elaida could have Egwene executed for being a Darkfriend. Egwene says Elaida has no evidence, but if it comes to execution, then Siuan can rescue her. Really Siuan’s motives are to get Egwene to return to the rebels.

Siuan used news of Gawyn joining the rebels to test Egwene and get Ewene to accept her advice on how to react when being tested. She mentions Gawyn’s frequent visits to Lelaine and Romanda to remind Egwene that in her absence they are the power in the camp; two contending power sources, which emphasises the division in the camp. (Unknown to Siuan, he’s trying to get one of them to agree to rescue Egwene.)

Egwene is rightly disgusted with the factions and infighting. The rebels are little better than the Tower. The Tower has been fractured by the Black Ajah and Elaida’s prejudices and correspondingly, the Black Ajah is obviously at work among the rebels. The rebels’ other problem is not a prejudiced leader, but an absent one.

Siuan warns Egwene against stretching herself too thin, trying to lead the rebels by remote in Tel’aran’rhiod at night while resisting Elaida’s regimen by day and all the while in solitary confinement in inhumane conditions. Egwene compares herself to Rand, and appreciates what he went through; he endured worse for longer, confined in a much smaller area and unable to use Tel’aran’rhiod for respite. She feels they both have suffered Elaida’s punishments and weren’t broken. Rand was certainly bent out of shape though.

Siuan accepts that Egwene has truly fulfilled her potential to be Amyrlin.

After their talk Egwene feels a need to visit the rebel camp in Tel’aran’rhiod. Reading the dream, she sees for herself the fractures there and realises Siuan is right that she can’t be absent much longer.

Another realisation is that the Aes Sedai can’t have two Towers because people will lose their awe of them and monarchs may organise training of channellers themselves. These channellers would then owe their loyalty to the monarch. The Aes Sedai have been right to hold themselves apart from state as was done in the Age of Legends, but their mistake is that increasingly in the Third Age they have not served the state. What Egwene doesn’t realise, because she has not been among ordinary folk since Tear, is that the awe has already been lost, especially now that people know that are other groups of channellers, and always have been. Aes Sedai are not so special. Nor does Egwene understand that channelling women and men should not be separate.

Egwene needs to see a Tinker camp in Tel’aran’rhiod. She wonders if the Tinkers will dance at the end of the Age. Is there a place for them at the advent of Last Battle? Are they going to hide from the Last Battle? This vision shows that they and their dancing are important and will contribute. Egwene needs to understand this.

She sees their dancing as representing freedom to live in peace and love:

They would dance right up until the day when the Pattern burned away, whether or not they found their song, whether or not Trollocs ravaged the world or the Dragon Reborn destroyed it.
Had she let herself lose sight of those things which were most precious? Why did she fight so hard to secure the White Tower? For power? For pride? Or because she felt it really was best for the world?

The Gathering Storm, News in Tel’aran’rhiod

but it is even more than that.

Tinkers look back to the previous Age and uphold the values of that time. Half of the values. They accept the Pattern and do nothing to distort its fulfillment. They have retained the values of non-violence, but not those of service.

Tinker camps are described as always having singing and dancing. They are the group that execute the Cosmic Dance and it is important for the Pattern that they continue to do so. (Rand is Shiva, the cosmic dancer ( see Rand essay). Their dance is the harmony of the spheres. This is what the Song symbolises.

From this vision Egwene does come to understand that life is about more than one cause; it’s also about love and marriage as well as fighting the Last Battle. Note that she doesn’t mention children (the future). The Dark One will kill any future.

And then it is on to the divided Tower in Tel'aran'rhiod, divided against other Aes Sedai and against itself. Egwene stands before the White Tower under a boiling sky (the influence of the Dark One) and a shadow from the Tower falls directly on her, indicating the direct threat of the Black Ajah and also the Seanchan. She feels she is holding the Tower upright, staving off imminent collapse. Egwene’s actions are what do hold the Tower up against the Shadow and the Seanchan.

Silviana is apparently being used as a scapegoat, punished for not controlling Egwene since Elaida can’t prove Egwene is a Darkfriend:

"Indeed," Katerine said. "If the novices are out of control, then should not the blame fall on the one who was to train them?"
So Elaida had realized that she could not prove Egwene was a Dark-friend. Deflecting attention to Silviana was a clever move; if Elaida was punished for using the Power to beat Egwene, but Silviana was punished far more for letting Egwene get out of control, it would save face for the Amyrlin.

The Gathering Storm, News in Tel’aran’rhiod

Katerine has promoted further division – this time in her own Ajah – for the Shadow’s cause.

A Red Amyrlin turns on a highly regarded Red Mistress of Novice, the ultimate madness in Aes Sedai terms (the ultimeate expressions of the theme of wrongness in the Tower, as Aes Sedai would see it). Aes Sedai and Sitters are more likely to rebel. The Reds too have lost face and they know it:

“Most of the members of the Red are not taking your release well. They see it as a major failing on Elaida's part."

The Gathering Storm, News in Tel’aran’rhiod

Saerin reveals that Elaida did not turn on Silviana until Silviana denounced Elaida as unlawfully treating Egwene. Elaida tried to demote Silviana, who refused to accept it as she advised Shemerin to do in the same position. Elaida then demanded that Silviana be stilled and executed. Such a punishment is the maximum penalty for rebelling against the Amyrlin, a form of treason (see Aes Sedai Serious Crimes article). The fact that the Hall is undecided on such a critical issue shows how far it has been corrupted by the Black Ajah.

Egwene sees the danger of this division in the Tower, Saerin only the division in the Red Ajah:

"Child, the Red Ajah is crumbling! Its members are turning against one another, wolves attacking their own pack. If Elaida is allowed to go through with killing one of her own Ajah, whatever support she had from within the ranks will evaporate. Why, I wouldn't be surprised, when the dust settles, to see that the Ajah has undermined itself to the point that you could simply disband it and be done with them."
"I don't want to disband them," Egwene said. "Saerin, that's one of the problems with Elaida's way of thinking in the first place! The White Tower needs all of the Ajahs, even the Red, to face what is coming. We certainly can't afford to lose a woman like Silviana just to make a point.”

The Gathering Storm, News in Tel’aran’rhiod

At first Saerin questions the child Egwene taking command, until she admits that she, the most senior Tower Sitter, doesn’t want to be in command herself.

Note that Elaida has no Keeper. There is no one to record her reign or to manage her office, double proof that she is not achieving anything.

While Elaida must be removed, it should not be at the cost of the Tower collapsing. Egwene won’t have victory at any price. She offers to drink forkroot so that the Reds can go and save their Ajah and Silviana. It is probably one of her noblest gestures.

Verin takes a sip of her poison tea when Egwene enters her room; the start of her final clock, since a small dose is fatal (see Herbs and Other Medicines article). In one of the best chapter cliffhangers in the series, she shows Egwene that she is not bound by the Oaths.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

DragonCon 2011 Report

By Linda

Due to a rush of catching up on my paid job, my family and also jetlag after returning home, I haven’t posted anything here for some days.

This is the last of my “What I did on my vacation” reports and covers the wonderful carnival that is DragonCon. DragonCon is held on the first weekend of September in Atlanta and attracts a huge crowd. This year was no exception. The Dealers’ and Exhibitors’ Halls were particularly chockers, but I persevered and got a wolf-brother ring from Badali jewelry for my older son and two anime series for my younger son.

My first panel was on Wheel of Time technology and discussion mostly centred on combining channelling and gunpowder weapons in various ways in the Last Battle. We also looked forward to the next age, when the experiments on gas, aeronautics, steam power, etc underway may lead to a more advanced technology.

The Saturday morning parade is amazing. It was quite hot, but I had applied sunscreen and wore a hat, so I was fine. However the massive size of the crowd was completely unexpected to me, and nor did I expect the number of vehicles in costume as well as people. Such a high standard! But our Wheel of Time group had a great representation (see photos).

Back at the WOT track room, once we cooled off, we discussed Perrin’s character development and his forging and dreaming talents and where this may lead next. Then in the Wheel of Time graphic novel panel Team Jordan member Maria Simmons explained her role as continuity editor. New Spring is now complete and quite a few issues of the Eye of the World have been published. Volume 1 of The Eye of the World graphic novel was released today. I asked Maria what her favourite scene was in The Eye of the World graphic novel, but there are many scenes she likes.

The WOT track had two Wheel of Time costuming panels, held on consecutive days: one for the Westland nations, and one for the “others” - Seanchan, Shara, Aiel and Sea Folk. WOT costume is something I have written about extensively here. I talked about the Empress’ cloth of gold dress – a reference to the Machiavellian Byzantine empire, which was renowned for cloth of gold, a fabric made of a silk warp and either thin gold weft threads or silk wrapped with gold weft threads. There are also influences of China (the hair styles of the Low Blood and dress of the public servants) and Ancient Egypt (pleated garments and wigs and also the attire of the dacovale) in Seanchan costume.

Sharan costume also shows influence of China, as well as Africa, and the Sea Folk are dressed like corsairs and also have a strong Indian influence. The Sharan who was trying to sell the technology of sericulture is a parallel of those who smuggled silkworms to the West. Someone in the audience asked if the Seanchan grow silk themselves. In Knife of Dreams, we see that a Seanchan Seeker knows that silk comes from silkworms, not common knowledge on the mainland. Moreover the Blood wear the fabric so it is possible that they acquired sericulture, or that they may have always had it since the Breaking. There is a tale that Christian monks smuggled the caterpillars and the knowledge out of China and sold it to the Byzantine Empire in the middle of the 6th century AD, which may be a parallel to the Seanchan having “stolen” the knowledge from the Sharans, especially since we know they are big on espionage.

Saturday night was the WOT track’s karaoke night and was tremendous fun. There were games and competitions too in the WOT track: Are You A Darkfriend?, team and individual trivia games and the Costume Contest.

The Ogier and Black Tower panels were a couple of my favourites. Much information has been held back for the last book on these two groups.

Discussion on the Ogier centred on the Book of Translation, stedding, Ways and parallel worlds. I raised the possibility that there are Darkfriends at work among the Ogier (and RJ said Ogier could be Darkfriends) encouraging them to open the Book of Translation (however this is done) to depart the main world for some other world and not participate in the Last Battle. It’s so convenient to the Shadow that surely they are encouraging it. However, since we know that the Dark One is present in all worlds and if he is freed in one he is freed in all, the Ogier can’t escape the peril of the Shadow simply by fleeing as Loial’s mother implies. She is my prime candidate for Darkfriend (see theory). So amazed was Jennifer Liang at this theory that she tweeted that I was a Darkfriend. Presumably she meant that this is why I recognise or suspect so many!

The audience participation was fantastic, and led to some great insights. During the discussion I remembered Loial saying that “It’s not the Ogier makes the stedding but the stedding the Ogier.” Since the Seanchan Ogier do not have the Longing to the degree that the mainland Ogier do (they were never cut off from their stedding during the Breaking because there were more stedding in Seanchan) and are violent, it may be that dependence on the stedding make Ogier pacifist. Loial has survived some years outside, enough that Elder Haman feared for his health, and he has fought and killed in battle, something that mainland Ogier rarely do.

In the Black Tower panel we looked at Logain being MIA and what he may do that gives him glory and fulfils the dream of his stepping over Rand’s shell of a body while laughing; also at the likelihood that Perrin will destroy the dreamspike since he knows how this can be done, and at Androl and the Reds.

Jennifer Liang (Dragonmount and TorDOTwot) and I talked about our blogging: what we blog about and how we use Twitter and Facebook.

Sunday night I went to the Time Travellers’ ball with WOT friendsand heard some great music and saw some really great costumes. Actually, really great costumes were everywhere at DragonCon.

On the last day we discussed the Hero’s Journey which has up to 17 stages (as listed on Wikipedia):

1. The Call to Adventure
2. Refusal of the Call
3. Supernatural Aid
4. Crossing the First Threshold
5. Belly of the Whale

6. The Road of Trials
7. Meeting with the Goddess
8. Woman as Temptress
9. Atonement with the Father
10. Apotheosis
11. Ultimate Boon

12. Refusal of the Return
13. Magic Flight
14. Rescue From Without
15. Crossing the Return Threshold
16. Master of Two Worlds
17. Freedom to Live

It is important to remember that Jordan plotted everything in triplicate and the heroes are no exception. All three ta’veren are undertaking their own hero’s journey. Despite it not being necessary for the story to have all 17 stages, it looks like Jordan’s series does and for all three heroes. Although Jordan has met all of the stages, he does so in often unpredictable ways.

After this last panel we discussed possible panels for next year (if only I can be there!) and then it was time to say our goodbyes. I had a wonderful time at DragonCon, and would thoroughly recommend it, not just for the WOT track, but for the art show, the Dealers and Exhibitors, the socials and workshops, the stars and the great variety of discussion tracks. Best of all, though, is catching up with all my WOT friends, and making new ones.

Thanks to the hard work of the WOT track and DragonCon organisers for a great convention, and also to my fellow panelists and audience.