Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #12: Chapter 5 - Writings

By Linda


Gawyn POV

Sleete is an odd Warder with his long hair and unshaven face. Wilder seeming than the average Warder, he is, however, careful and observant. He noticed the forced door and the scrap of black silk. He speaks to Gawyn as an equal, when Gawyn is still a Lord rather than a Warder.

Which brings us to the question: why would Hattori want a second Warder when she hasn’t tasks to occupy Sleete? Is it like getting a second dog to keep the first company?

Sleete is underused in his role, as is his Aes Sedai Hattori. He’s bored, probably, and his unkempt appearance may be a silent protest against the Aes Sedai ranking system. Sleete and Hattori show us the unfairness of a system where, no matter the skill, experience or judgement of someone, they are permanently relegated to the bottom on an innate measure. In a way he is meant as a foil to Gawyn, to show what it is like for well-trained and adept men to be placed in lesser roles.

Finally Gawyn starts to think of how he was trained to behave and act instead of just losing his temper or using force. Yet even thinking of his mother’s example diverts him into wanting to kill Rand in revenge for his mother. He is ashamed of his bullying, but not of condemning someone without evidence, only hearsay. Gawyn’s mood is still all over the shop.

The official explanation of four Aes Sedai deaths is that the Black Ajah are killing them after arriving by gateway. In this chapter Gawyn is more logical and open-minded than Aes Sedai, which means their judgement is dire indeed. The Aes Sedai are convinced they know what is going on, and so ignore evidence, eg that no channelling has been sensed. Egwene might argue that the killer/s disguised their ability and wove reversed weaves, but the Black Ajah only knows how to do the latter, not the former. If the Black Ajah had this skill, they would have killed with the Power, because a knife is slower and potentially messier for the killer. Had any Aes Sedai tested for resonance or read the residues, as the rebel delegation sent to the site of the Cleansing did, they would have found out that no channelling was used at all.

Gawyn realises Egwene is holding back information and manages to pry it out of her. She believes the crimes are all the responsibility of Mesaana. She can’t see that more than one power would be out to destroy the Tower at this time even though at least three powers – Shadow, Seanchan and Whitecloaks – are known to want to do so, and one attacked a short while previously.

Gawyn has correctly deduced that the murders are being committed by an assassin. He says the investigations are making a lot of assumptions, yet he did over Rand supposedly killing his mother. His suggestion to Chubain to question servants, to see if an assassin is among them or if they have noticed something, is a good one.

This highlights the fact that the Tower has no police. The Aes Sedai police themselves and the people in Tar Valon. In future I think the Red Ajah will police channellers and may have Warders to help them (see this theory).

Kateri Nepvue, the young White who ignored Egwene’s warning and worked with her back to door, symbolically turned her back on the supposedly mundane doings in the Tower. Unfortunately they were less mundane than she thought. Working with your back to the door is very bad feng shui – for obvious reasons. Her name is a nod to Kate Nepveu who does the Lord of the Rings re-read on

The books have been opened to any man to try out for Warder, just as they are for women to test for novice. The old Warder grounds represent part of Gawyn’s past and haunt him. He notes in passing that Elaida’s palace, which she planned to be large enough to rival the Tower, is still there. This building may play an important role in the future when the male and female channellers unite.

Egwene won’t allow those who don’t believe in her authority to serve her. She is formal with Gawyn to push her Amyrlin role at him until he accepts it. She thinks he is not obedient enough to be trusted or can’t be trusted to be obedient when he needs to be.

Egwene and Gawyn argue over nearly everything, while thinking the other is unreasonably refusing to see the merits of what they say. When Gawyn presses Egwene to get sisters to take Warders, she immediately defends the sisters’ rights, while Gawyn thinks of the sisters’ responsibilities:

“The Aes Sedai are assets that belong to humanity. You cannot afford to let them go about unprotected."

- Towers of Midnight, Writings

Considering the times, he is right, as Egwene grudgingly admits. Aes Sedai are supposed to serve humanity, not just themselves, whatever the times.

Gawyn objects strongly to Egwene’s request to stop guarding her door. He is appalled she is using herself for bait. Desperation at trying to stop the murders has led her to this step worthy of Gawyn in its recklessness. And I’m reminded of the Tower law that applies unless martial law is operating:

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

- A Crown of Swords, A Pair of Silverpike

The Tower hasn’t officially declared law on anybody. This law has been in force for over two thousand years (after the Black Ajah revealed itself in the Trolloc Wars) and restricts Amyrlins from travelling abroad without the Hall’s permission, little knowing how much danger an Amyrlin could find at home.

Egwene POV

The tea has not spoiled. Is this the case for foodstuffs that were in the Tower when Rand visited and were “blessed” by his presence, or is it stock imported from Caemlyn and thus under the protection of those linked to Rand? It could be either, since food has been staying wholesome near Rand and his three ladies. Mat and Perrin also extend a preserving influence, as we saw with Perrin in Chapter 2.

Egwene can’t keep aloof from Gawyn because she is finding him irresistible. He clouds her judgement and she fears it would be worse if they bonded. It might help each trust and understand the other though. Later when they do bond it is after Gawyn has shown her his merits while letting her do her role.

Egwene is writing to Darlin that Rand plans to break the Seals hoping he will join her coalition against this, because Rand trusts and respects Darlin and therefore would take notice of his objections.

Graendal POV

Graendal’s pet is probably High Lady Alteima who was in Caemlyn when she went there and killed Asmodean. Alteima hasn’t been seen since that day.

Graendal is in hiding or self-imposed exile after Aran’gar’s death. Her lair is remote and uncomfortable, somewhere she would never be predicted to be. Yet she knew that she could not hide from the Dark One due to the ties she has to him, so it is a futile gesture, something she has never made before.

Graendal is predictable so she can occasionally do the unexpected to her advantage or others’ detriment. On the other hand, Moridin acts predictably insane so others don’t see – or even look for - any pattern to his actions.

Speaking of his “insanity”, Moridin has a fire burning when the day is already warm. It makes Graendal uncomfortable and adds to her fear. Soon she has trouble maintaining composure and ignoring temperatures near Moridin and feels he has some influence of the Dark One. It is probably really so, but he is also manipulating her so she is more susceptible to it and intimidated by it.

Before the intimidation takes too strong a hold, she pretends to be loyal and obedient and manages to persuade Moridin that her confusion was not feigned (even though he was sceptical) and that she deliberately let Rand find her and kill hundreds of people. Aran’gar was just unfortunate collateral damage because she did not flee. Graendal claims this was all her plan to make Rand feel pain – in this case via guilt:

This event would not sit easily within him, and speaking of him as Lews Therin to Moridin would reinforce that. These actions would tear at al'Thor, rip at his soul, lash his heart raw and bleeding. He would have nightmares, wear his guilt on his shoulders like the yoke of a heavily laden cart.
She could vaguely remember what it had been like, taking those first few steps toward the Shadow. Had she ever felt that foolish pain? Yes, unfortunately. Not all of the Chosen had. Semirhage had been corrupt to the bone from the start. But others of them had taken different paths to the Shadow, including Ishamael.
She could see the memories, so distant, in Moridin's eyes. Once, she'd not been sure who this man was, but now she was. The face was different, but the soul was the same. Yes, he knew exactly what al'Thor was feeling.

Towers of Midnight, Writings

She is right, but it is insight after the event and serendipity as far as she is concerned. Graendal’s commentary on her and Moridin’s descent into evil shows the path Rand nearly went down. This scene also shows what you can achieve if you lie well enough. Note that Graendal did not jump to conclusions about Moridin’s identity. Unlike other more impulsive and opinionated characters.

The Dark One speaks directly to Moridin, an indication he is so strong that there is little time left before he is freed of his prison. Graendal has to get on quickly if she wants to take Moridin’s place. Her description of the Dark One’s avatar as “that horrid creature Shaidar Haran” sounds Enid Blytonish to me.

When ordered to stay away from Rand, Graendal says she wants to strike at Perrin. This is to gain standing with the Dark One and Moridin since they commanded in Knife of Dreams that Mat and Perrin be killed. It is the most advanced of her plans, so perhaps she was already planning to gain credit this way, and thus the most likely to succeed, as well as being something the Dark One and Moridin want. Graendal knows it will ruin Rand if Perrin falls. Moridin says it will do far more because he knows the three ta’veren form a tripod which supports the world and that all three are needed at the end to win against the Dark One. It shows Mordin’s level of knowledge, due to his study of the Prophecies, his knowledge of theology, his closeness to the Dark One and perhaps his talent for Tel’aran’rhiod.

Moridin has been collecting objects of the Power to deprive others of them as much as have them for himself. From his thoughts in The Path of Daggers he is personally not that interested in ter’angreal:

It was possible they were carrying away some item he could use - an angreal attuned to men, perhaps - but the chances were small. For the rest, the ter angreal, the greatest likelihood was that they would kill themselves trying to puzzle out how to use them. Sammael was a fool to have risked so much to seize a collection of no one knew what, but then, Sammael had never been half as clever as he thought.
He himself would not disrupt his own plans merely on the off chance, to see what scraps of civilization he could find. Only idle curiosity had brought him here. He liked to know what others thought important. But it was dross.

The Path of Daggers, Unweaving

Of course he might have changed his mind since. Moridin has a strong influence on the Black Tower and after Sammael’s death, the Black Tower stripped his Illian apartments. Perhaps those objects ended up here, locked away from possible theft. Graendal is greedy for the ter’angreal and tries to ask for one, which annoys Moridin. I think it is out of character for her to be so clumsy. She had only just avoided some stiff punishment.

Moridin lends her a dreamspike and Slayer to kill Perrin. The other dreamspike is at the Black Tower, with Moridin’s knowledge and permission, trapping Aes Sedai and Asha’man to be turned to the Shadow, as we shall see, again showing his strong links to the Black Tower. Interesting that there is a key to dreamspikes (I have collected what is known of them here).

Surprisingly, he shows Graendal the Shadow’s prophecies. She had no idea they existed. Few know of them, even among the Chosen:

"They have long been known to me," Moridin said softly, still studying the book. "But not to many others, not even the Chosen.”

Towers of Midnight, Writings

So some who do know are not Chosen? Would these be Isam, or Asha’man, or the highest ranked, non-channelling Darkfriend/s? And few, if any, of the Chosen know of them besides Moridin himself. Why then did he show them to Graendal?

Moridin sounds rather like the Dark One to Graendal, so he really has the weight of the Dark One’s authority. He forbids Graendal to kill any more of the Chosen until Perrin is dead. This is a hint that Graendal killed Asmodean and that Moridin knows this.

Both study the book of the Shadow’s prophecies covered in pale tan leather. Human leather is pale and the book cover may be one of the Shadow’s many parallels to Nazism. Some Nazis had articles made from the tanned skin of those killed at concentration camps. Both Ishamael and Graendal have parallels to Nazi officials who were propagandists (Hitler (Ishamael, but the Dark One more so, see Three Strands Common to the Forsaken article) and Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister (Graendal and Ishamael)), or owned articles covered in human leather (Himmler, Hitler’s head of the SS (Ishamael), and Ilse Koch, an SS overseer at Buchenwald concentration camp (Graendal, see Graendal essay).

The Foretellers for the Shadow were held in isolation. The Shadow keeps knowledge to itself. Their prophecies appear to say Perrin will die by the Shadow’s hand (but Moridin predicts not by Graendal’s hand, which is true so far). Moridin says there may be other interpretations, but he believes their interpretation is correct, anyway.

His command to Graendal to bring him “the head of this wolf” indicates that the passage they were looking at may be this part of the epigram:

In that day, when the One-Eyed Fool travels the halls of mourning, and the First Among Vermin lifts his hand to bring freedom to Him who will Destroy, the last days of the Fallen Blacksmith's pride shall come. Yea, and the Broken Wolf, the one whom Death has known, shall fall and be consumed by the Midnight Towers. And his destruction shall bring fear and sorrow to the hearts of men, and shall shake their very will itself.

Towers of Midnight, closing passage

For alternative interpretations of this passage see here. If this was the passage they looked at, their interpretation may not be correct. The Broken Wolf whom Death has known could be Isam rather than Perrin, but more of this in the link and in the last read-through instalment for Towers of Midnight. We really don’t know which prophecy they read.

In earlier times wolves often had a bounty on their heads due to the danger they posed to the populace. Someone declared a wolf’s head was declared outlaw. Perrin was exiled by Rand and carries a wolf head banner (see Perrin essay). He is an outlaw because he killed Whitecloaks.

Moridin’s thoughts earlier may imply that Graendal shouldn’t be able to see True Power weaves:

The True Power, drawn directly from the Great Lord, could neither be seen nor detected except by who wielded it.

A Crowns Of Swords, Patterns Within Patterns

True, Graendal is allowed to draw on it weakly, but the quoted passage implies that only the weaver can see what the True Power is doing. Secret knowledge again.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #11: Chapter 4 - The Pattern Groans

By Linda


Perrin POV

The chapter opens with the wrongness theme (see Wrongness essay) literally uppermost. Blighted plants are thriving better than natural ones:

What kind of world is it where the Blight is the good alternative?

- Towers of Midnight, The Pattern Groans

It is a world turning upside down, and now the Blight has come to Ghealdan. In the centre of the wrongness is a village built of what sounds like palm logs or bamboo and palm leaves – a tropical island settlement complete with sand in the middle of the continent:

The buildings were huts built from an odd type of wood, like large reeds, and the roofs were thatch—but thatch built from enormous leaves, as wide as two man's palms. There were no plants here, only a very sandy soil.

- Towers of Midnight, The Pattern Groans

The building is probably of the current time, but it has moved location. We have also seen buildings that were out of the time, but may have been at more-or-less the right location. Such manipulations are like Tel’aran’rhiod.

"The Pattern groans," Berelain said softly. "The dead walking, the odd deaths. In cities, rooms vanish and food spoils."
Perrin scratched his chin, remembering a day when his axe had tried to kill him. If entire villages were vanishing and appearing in other places, if the Blight was growing out of rifts where the Pattern was fraying . . . Light! How bad were things becoming?

- Towers of Midnight, The Pattern Groans

The event in Tear Perrin remembers was the second bubble of evil that we saw damaging the Pattern. The first was in Shienar when Rand was pushed into the path of Lan’s practise sword by the wind.

Perrin sees that Tel’aran’rhiod not only reflects the waking world but anticipates it. In the dream the storm in the sky appears more violent and threatening, and closer– but Perrin is sensitive to Tel’aran’rhiod and the ta’veren and the Dragon’s bannerman would attract wrongness. Perrin, Rand and Mat were the first targets of the Dark One.

And then we see that Perrin still hasn’t shaken off his own wrongness. Perrin thinks that becoming a wolf means losing his (human) identity. Yet Hopper accepts him as both wolf and man. Man/wolf is Perrin’s identity.

He realises the village where he saw Noam is not far from where his army is camped. This is not a coincidence, as he also realises. Perrin needs to figure out who he is and contact with Noam helps some, but Hopper helps far more. Perrin won’t understand Noam until late in the book after he has sorted himself out and become victorious.

I can't ignore my problems! Perrin thought back.
Yet you often do, Hopper sent.
It struck true—more true, perhaps, than the wolf knew.

- Towers of Midnight, The Pattern Groans

I think Perrin underestimates Hopper.

The parts of what Perrin tried to make – Thor’s hammer Mjolnir – in the dream at the beginning of the book have turned up in Tel’aran’rhiod.

The rectangle is the capping bracket – the capstone of the hammer. As the key part to completing the hammer, its heat burnt the grass around it in Tel’aran’rhiod, just as the hammer will burn Trollocs later. Remarkably the burned area remained, when Tel’aran’rhiod usually heals itself readily. Contemporaneously with this dream is the burning of the Blighted tropical village in Ghealdan in the waking world by the Wise Ones. This also is probably not coincidence.

There will be no creation of Mah’alleinir, Perrin’s masterpiece so vital to the Last Battle, until he works on his problems, the pieces of himself he does not understand.

You couldn't make a thing until you understood its parts. He wouldn't know how to deal with—or reject—the wolf inside him until he understood the wolf dream.

- Towers of Midnight, The Pattern Groans

Perrin needs to understand his own parts so he can make himself stronger and then temper everyone else.

Hopper can’t see precognitive visions in windows but he does see the burned patch that the hammer’s ‘capstone’ left and links it to Perrin’s poor psychological state after Faile was captured. Perrin is in a poor psychological state again – or is it still? - and attributes it to worrying about Faile’s capture and how to get her back. In Hopper’s opinion it was due to Perrin denying his role as Wolf King and leader of a human army. When Hopper says that the newest pup blames the elders of the pack he thinks Perrin is blaming the wolves for his problems. With his Two Rivers stubbornness, Perrin isn’t even at risk of giving in to the wolves, although he fears he is. A fair part of this fear came from seeing Noam in the waking world and from Moiraine’s partly mistaken information.


didn't like what he'd called a human tendency to wish to control things.

- Towers of Midnight, The Pattern Groans

The wolf wants humans to accept things as they are and make the best of them instead of complaining and trying to change things without knowing what they are doing.

As a shapeshifter (or mind shifter), Perrin fears not coming back to his dominant form. Hopper equates Perrin’s belief that he will lose himself completely if he joins in as a wolf as an example of wrongness, and a nihilistic one.

These things you think, Hopper sent, displeased. How can you think such images of nothing? The response was accompanied by images of blankness—an empty sky, a den with nobody in it, a barren field.

- Towers of Midnight, The Pattern Groans

The wolf’s point is that Perrin has to be the best he can be in either shape and in firm control of who he is and who he wants to be. And also to stop whining and get over it.

Perrin loves being in the Wild. He is King of the Wild (see Perrin essay), just as his tempestuous wife is its Queen:

The forest was his. It belonged to him, and he understood it…
So much a part of the world around him, yet master of it at the same time?

- Towers of Midnight, The Pattern Groans

In Tel’aran’rhiod the Wild is wilder, since domesticated creatures do not show up there. After fearing to join in the hunt because he might stay a wolf, Perrin then gets carried away and has to be restrained from killing the stag. It is typical of him to hold back and then overdo it. Feelings that are dammed up eventually burst out violently. He horrifies himself when he is tempted to turn on Hopper – his mentor – for balking him of his prey. This parallels Rand turning on Tam in The Gathering Storm (yet to happen on the timeline). Hopper forces Perrin to admit that his true feelings are worry, not fear. Perrin realises that Hopper’s teaching is going to make him exert himself to the utmost and accepts it. Hopper is very much the animal spirit guide to Perrin the shaman (see PerrinPerrin essay).

Hopper has accepted Perrin’s demand to be taught:

Perrin had demanded that Hopper train him to master the place. Very inappropriate for a young wolf—a kind of challenge to the elder's seniority—but this was a response. Hopper had come to teach, but he would do it as a wolf taught.

- Towers of Midnight, The Pattern Groans

Perhaps it was something of a royal command from the Wolf King, but more importantly, Hopper has an undercurrent of worry for the Last Hunt. Hopper knows that if Rand makes the wrong choice there won’t be Tarmon Gai’don and the world is lost. Likewise all three ta’veren have to be there. Hence he will help Perrin become “wolf plus”.

Perrin has three visions, something that only happens when he is personally under threat – usually from Shadowspawn. The first is of Mat fighting against himself, while a shadowy figure creeps upon him with a knife. The shadowy creature is probably the gholam that was tracking Mat. Mat fighting himself in different guises may refer to Mat’s memories or to his different roles that pull him in different directions. Or both these things.

The second is of:

sheep, suddenly, running in a flock toward the woods. Wolves chased them, and a terrible beast waited in the woods, unseen. He was there, in that dream, he sensed. But who was he chasing, and why? Something looked wrong with those wolves.

- Towers of Midnight, The Pattern Groans

Perrin figures out at least some of the meaning:

"My armies here, they're being herded, Faile. Like sheep being driven to the butcher."
He suddenly remembered his vision from the wolf dream. Sheep running in front of wolves. He'd thought himself one of the wolves. But could he have been wrong?
Light! He had been wrong about that. He knew what it meant, now. "I can feel it on the wind," he said. "The problem with gateways, it's related to something happening in the wolf dream. Somebody wants us to be unable to escape this place."

- Towers of Midnight, Judgement

It seems Perrin’s initial thought was that the wolves were him and his army chasing Whitecloak sheep. But the wolves smell wrong to Perrin and so does this interpretation. The wolves of wrongness are more likely Isam – who called himself a wolf when he speaks with Perrin – and the dreamspike with which he trapped and killed wolves and tries to do likewise to Perrin’s group. The hidden beast is probably the Shadowspawn ambush.

The last vision is of thousands of people, including ones Perrin knows, walking toward a cliff. This may represent all the people walking toward the Last Battle and the possible end of everything. Rand has not yet had his epiphany, so the Light are likely to lose at this point.

Galad POV

Galad has sent a letter to the remnant of the Children and Questioners with the Seanchan explaining events and ordering them to join him. Nothing comes of this in Towers of Midnight.

In order to make the Questioners less exclusive and less adversarial, they have been split and mixed with the Children. It is a great idea of Galad’s to stop them setting themselves apart from the other Whitecloaks. He explains the errors of the Questioners:

The Questioners often could not tell the difference between a hardened Darkfriend, a person who was being influenced by Darkfriends, and a person who simply disagreed with the Children."

Towers of Midnight, The Pattern Groans

Naturally the Children object to allying with Aes Sedai. Galad says Aes Sedai are nothing compared to the Dark One and the Children must fight at the Last Battle with whoever else fights. They also need to set an example to the nations. With far less strength and no power base, Whitecloaks are vulnerable now and therefore can’t be arrogant anymore. Of course, they never should have been. Galad says they have to use diplomacy in their dealings with others (just as he is with the Children in this speech), and need to earn the respect of the nations and rulers. Yet he doesn’t know how to get the Whitecloaks accepted within the nations without having to bow to rulers or intimidate them with their forces as they used to do. The Children have similar problems to Aes Sedai, who have also demanded respect, kept themselves apart, and lost face by contributing nothing to the war against the Shadow.

Galad decides he needs to be very precise in his orders to Byar, who otherwise becomes a liability. Byar now rides Asunawa’s white horse, a very distinctive animal that sets him apart from the others. Byar is supposedly pristine but has Asunawa’s errors of excessive zeal and paranoia. Soon we see that Byar is touched by the Shadow. There are hints that Asunawa was too: his strange behaviour, reading The Way of the Light like a new recruit, and the smell of the Blight near him in the camp in Crossroads of Twilight Prologue. His behaviour was also divisive and weakened the Children.

The men are worried. This situation mirrors Perrin’s POV in the same chapter, although in a reverse way: it is Perrin the leader who worries more than his troops. Galad does not worry because it is pointless; since he can’t know the Pattern, he accepts the Pattern as it is and does his best within it. When Perrin accepts his role in the Pattern, a lot of his worrying will ease and his leadership will improve. An important difference between Perrin and Galad is that Perrin has a wife, who was captured and treated harshly, and Galad does not. And now the two men are coming together thanks to Byar bringing Perrin’s camp followers to Galad. (Byar’s statement “We may have a situation here” sounds too modern.)

Galad is observant and shrewdly sceptical in this scene. He has had good training, and, unlike his brother Gawyn, has made the best of it.

The rumour of a gigantic stone which fell to earth destroying a city and leaving a crater north of Andor is probably derived from the destruction of Shadar Logoth.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Wheel of Time Embroidery Collection #6: Nynaeve's Dress

By Linda

This next instalment of my occasional series on Wheel of Time embroideries is on a sampler I did of one of Nynaeve’s dresses given to her in Shienar. It is the first dress she wears that is not Two Rivers woollens so it is a landmark garment:

Her dress was pale blue silk, embroidered in snowdrop blossoms around the neck and down the sleeves. Each blossom centered on a small pearl, and her belt was tooled in silver, with a silver buckle set with pearls. He had never seen her in anything like that. Even feastday clothes back home might not match it.

The Great Hunt, Dark Prophecy

This remark of Rand’s shows his naivety at this time. I am quite sure that Nynaeve’s feastday clothes could not match this outfit. She would not own a dress of silk, let alone one of such an impractical colour that would get marked very easily. Moreover the embroidery includes precious ‘stones’ - the pearls – and there are more on her belt buckle. It is a very beautiful and expensive outfit.

My aim in this series is to embroider samplers of the garments in materials and colours consistent with what would have been available in RJ’s world. For Nynaeve’s dress I decided to do the bodice embroidery and played around with a few designs. Real world snowdrops are bulb plants with strap-like dark green leaves and three-petalled flowers that hang from the stem (see photo right). (Garden varieties can have more petals.) Very quickly I realised that I could not get a design with leaves and hanging flowers to work, so I decided on an end-view of the flowers with the pearl in place of the cup part of the flower.

I embroidered the flowers in white soie d’alger silk thread on pale blue silk satin. The satin I found was thin so I used double thickness. Then I attached a pearl bead to each flower with green silk thread. Snowdrops have small dots of green on the carpel so I added a few small stitches in a single strand of green silk around the pearl. Since the sampler is a demonstration piece for my workshop Enhancing Male and Female Wheel of Time Costumes at JordanCon in Atlanta next month, I marked the neckline in a strand of the green silk.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #10: Chapter 3 - The Amyrlin’s Anger

By Linda


Egwene POV

In Towers of Midnight, Rand’s subthread ends with him floating in his personal dream world, whereas Egwene’s subthread starts with her floating in the world dream world, rather than a personal one. Both are haunted by Forsaken in their previously peaceful and relaxing dreams. Egwene was having a happy dream of Gawyn in a setting partly Tar Valon, partly Two Rivers. (In her dreams it doesn’t look like Gawyn has much say in where and how they live.) It is suddenly interrupted by thirteen black towers representing the thirteen Forsaken. Moridin/Ishamael is the tower which collapsed and then regrew tallest of all, as he was killed, reincarnated and anointed Naeblis. Six Forsaken remain at this time: Moridin, Lanfear, Moghedien, Demandred, Mesaana and Graendal. Egwene falls to the ground as though the dream overwhelms her.

The fledgling eagles crying for their mother are Aes Sedai depending on the Amyrlin. The serpent Mesaana is nestled in the Aes Sedai nest/bosom. Egwene “knows” the meaning of this dream and quickly becomes convinced Mesaana has defeated the Oath Rod somehow.

In her final dream, an enormous crystal sphere – the world or perhaps the Dark One’s prison – is cracking as the Dark One corrupts it. Rand breaks the ropes holding it together; breaks the world as he is prophesied to do. We don’t know whether this is a good idea or not. The twenty-three stars shining on the sphere could represent the full Hall of Sitters and Amyrlin and Keeper, or twenty-three major groups at the Field of Merrilor when Rand tells them his price for fighting the Dark One and his plans to break the Seals.

The world-wide dreams in the void remind Egwene of the world outside Tar Valon, which Aes Sedai are supposed to serve and too rarely go out into:

The dreams of all the people here—some from her world, some from shadows of it—reminded her why she fought. She must never forget that there was an entire world outside the White Tower's walls. The purpose of Aes Sedai was to serve that world.

- Towers of Midnight, The Amyrlin’s Anger

Egwene is calling in Elayne and Nynaeve – two actually doing great things out in the world - not just to raise them Aes Sedai, but to see they follow the Aes Sedai party line.

Siuan POV

The chapter title is The Amyrlin’s Anger and there are two Amyrlins in it. Unlike Egwene who felt slighted by Rand and expressed anger, Siuan feels no resentment or anger at not being the one to receive the Dragon. She does feel some regret though:

"I always thought I would be the one in there," Siuan said softly, just for Bryne. "That I would receive him, guide him. I was the one who was to be sitting in that chair."

- Towers of Midnight, The Amyrlin’s Anger

The missing Amyrlin Elaida was noted for her anger and vengefulness. Siuan is annoyed at Elaida because she prevented Rand from being “safely in Aes Sedai care”, as if Siuan still clings to that mistaken plan even after seeing scores of Aes Sedai exposed as Darkfriends.

Saerin has reliable reports on Rand’s temperament. So does Siuan, therefore she has access to the Blues’ network despite her low rank. The Blues do make the most of each member’s abilities, so perhaps she is spymaster again. Was Aeldene Black? TheBlue Ajah’s intelligence network is the most extensive and an obvious infiltration target for the Black Ajah. Siuan is playing the nosey intelligence agent to the hilt, trying to find out how Saerin got her duelling scar. Saerin is more than a match for her – and far above Siuan in rank, so Siuan would be violating protocol by hassling a Sitter in this way.

Their final access to the Hall is tiled like wet blood – symbolising that there is more bloodshed yet to come in the Tower. The tiles should be white – logic/purity – and yellow – healing/ warmth.

The Ajahs have years’ worth of distrust for each other, according to Siuan, and yet Elaida didn’t rule for years. Some of the distrust developed during Siuan’s reign. We saw evidence of that in The Great Hunt when Siuan described the doings of the Hall to Moiraine. As Amyrlin, Siuan was too divisive as she realises when she compares herself to Egwene:

I did well as Amyrlin, but I couldn't do that. Lead by presence instead of force, uniting instead of dividing.

- Towers of Midnight, The Amyrlin’s Anger

Siuan regrets that her mistakes allowed Elaida to take over. Bryne points out that Siuan also paved the way for Egwene and taught her much, and assures Siuan that Egwene and the Tower think Siuan did well. This is balm to Siuan, but she won’t let Gareth Bryne complement her or be too close to her. Egwene’s body language indicates that she may be feeling more positive to Siuan, perhaps even sensing Siuan’s feelings at this point or recognising what she owes Siuan.

Bryne has superb confidence, hence his serenity. (He also has some fatalism, as soldiers do.) He notes that Aes Sedai may lack confidence:

”Are they in control of their emotions? Or do those emotions just never change? If one is always concerned, one will always look the same."

- Towers of Midnight, The Amyrlin’s Anger

Siuan asks “what is age to Aes Sedai?” It’s experience. Or can be, if an Aes Sedai acts or goes out into the world. Hence it is one of the ways Aes Sedai rank themselves, but a secondary way.

The implication is that Rand is so unassuming as Everyman that he can pass unnoticed. The advent of Rand makes the Tower panicky. The Aes Sedai shield him with two full circles, yet he is quite unworried. The Aes Sedai are not, however. Even with the Dragon shielded so thoroughly, many Aes Sedai still hold the power when he arrives. It is a wonder he wasn’t shivering with all the goosebumps he would be feeling.

Rand looks like an Aes Sedai – serene and in control. Judging by what he channelled even in Knife of Dreams, Vows, he could break through the shields of two circles of thirteen.

Rand’s eyes are ageless. Siuan thinks he is

seeing through the light of a thousand lives compounded in one.

- Towers of Midnight, The Amyrlin’s Anger

Rand did see all his lives on Dragonmount during his epiphany the day before, but only retains Lews Therin’s life in detail.

The Warders surprise themselves by allowing Rand to pass through their barrier and talk to Siuan. No one dares touch him. Bryne perhaps came closest in the way he was prepared to defend Siuan; he is a better Warder than the others.

Egwene prejudges what Rand will be like, but Rand asks Siuan how Egwene has developed. He knows Siuan has been helping Egwene from the meeting in Tel’aran’rhiod that he spied on and assumes Siuan still has influence with her.

Rand is sure the arrow at Fal Dara was meant for him.

Tiana gives Rand one of Verin’s letters (see Verin and her Letters article). Under Rand’s ta’veren effect she admits she promised to deliver it (and thus couldn’t break her word) because she never thought he’d go to the Tower, or that they’d meet. So Verin’s instructions were to give Rand the letter in the Tower.

Egwene POV

Rand stands on the centre of the Flame, symbolising that he is the focal point of the Aes Sedai, but also overshadows them. He acknowledges that Cadsuane helped him escape the Shadow’s touch by accident, by bringing Tam to him.

Egwene has mixed feelings about Rand and is predisposed to think negatively of him as a dangerous man, criminal, and probably insane. She remarks that Rand sounds cultured now and wonders if he has been tutored. Her thoughts follow the lines of Tuon’s in The Gathering Storm, including the wish for him to defer to her, or at least be her equal.

Her suggestion that Rand is at the Tower to ask for their aid (which it should be their duty to give freely) is foolish when Rand so obviously is not a supplicant, and the White Tower and Aes Sedai on the whole have been of little use to him or made little direct contribution to the War against the Shadow so far. This is something Rand could have pointed out, but forbore. Only some of those Aes Sedai with Rand have helped him.

Rand thought Aes Sedai were the danger to him, when it is the Shadow and himself. He wanted to fight and die on his own terms, which is reasonable. His burden is onerous enough without having any choice. Yet he acknowledges that having insisted on making his own choices, those choices have led to terrible acts:

"I should have wished for such a convenient set of backs upon which to heap the blame for my crimes."

- Towers of Midnight, The Amyrlin’s Anger

Egwene misses the implied insult that Aes Sedai have a low enough reputation that they can take the blame for crimes.

Egwene follows the Aes Sedai idea that

they could decide what to do with him. The Dragon Reborn did need freedom to do as the prophecies said he would, but could they simply let him roam away, now that they had him?

- Towers of Midnight, The Amyrlin’s Anger

He lets them know they don’t have him at all. Gently, where once he would have terrorised them. It’s more effective since it shows confidence and maturity, and makes their attitude unreasonable. Had he been arrogant, enraged and tyrannical, which he would have been only the day before, it would have been very reasonable.

Egwene thinks Rand is speaking of ‘idle philosophy’ and therefore must be mad. Obviously she is not a White. Egwene misunderstands him because she hasn’t been with him for quite a while and knows little about what he has been through.

Rand has come to tell them he will break the Seals and when he does she immediately thinks of her dream of the crystal sphere. She believes cutting its ropes is bad – but will this free it or break it? Or both?

Rand offers little explanation to the Aes Sedai about why he needs to break the Seals. Later that day, he does explain thoroughly to Nynaeve. He expects the Aes Sedai to oppose his idea, and to gather his opposition; in fact, he seems to want them to unite the opposing group and be its focal point. Egwene wants Nynaeve and Elayne to persuade Rand not to because he trusts them. Of course, he trusts them because they listen to him and don’t dismiss what he says. Feeling comfortable with Nynaeve, he takes the time to explain his ideas properly to her, which helps.

Egwene will also try and get large enough group together to confront Rand and persuade him not to break the Seals.

He reminds them that Lews Therin “failed” because the women wouldn’t help and asks the Aes Sedai to contribute saidar this time. Than and now the female Aes Sedai did not agree with or have confidence in the Dragon.

Egwene wants discussion and planning. Rand says she can do the planning. This is what angers her. And then he formally asks to withdraw and intimidates her into not trying to detain him. She’s tempted, but remembers how she criticised Elaida. In this meeting she’s had many of the negative thoughts that Elaida has had, just not as bad.

Egwene realises that the Pattern has arranged for her to be the Amyrlin because she knows Rand and therefore can trust him. (Except that she doesn’t much.) Also because she hopefully isn’t so indoctrinated by the belief that the Tower must hold the Dragon that she wouldn’t try to do so. (Except that she considered it.)

Silvana thinks Egwene wouldn’t hold Rand captive, little knowing Egwene’s thoughts. Egwene rightly thinks she couldn’t have anyway, that he could have broken through a shield easily.

Egwene didn’t feel any fondness for Rand.

One of the major things Egwene knows nothing about is Rand’s loss of his left hand. She who was built up in The Gathering Storm to the point of making previously competent characters such as the Sitters seem silly, now seems silly in this scene compared to Rand (and will against Perrin too) which makes the admiration of the Sitters that she could say anything at all to Rand absurd. Rand’s ta’veren effect made her dizzy after he left, as though she had made a bargain, or done what he wanted against her will. The Sitters were prevented from interrupting their meeting. However Rand wanted Egwene to speak with him, so she felt no constriction preventing her.

This scene is the fulfilment of Elaida’s foretelling that:

"The White Tower will be whole again, except for remnants cast out and scorned, whole and stronger than ever. Rand al'Thor will face the Amyrlin Seat and know her anger."

-A Crown of Swords, Prologue: Lightnings

Rand knows her anger, but he is not put out or put off by it, something Elaida would never had thought. He seems to be going to use Egwene to bring his opposition together – for him to use in some way?

The meeting at the Field of Merrilor is to be on the day before Rand goes to Shayol Ghul – or that is the plan. The Shadow may try to delay Rand’s strike at Shayol Ghul. So may the Pattern. The great meeting will be in 29 days’ time. Caemlyn is probably invaded about the same time as the Merrilor assembly.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #9: Chapter 2 - Questions of Leadership

By Linda


The chapter contains two POVS, and the chapter title applies to both of them.

Perrin POV

Perrin is in the waking world, moving north. It is about a month since Malden although the time line is pretty vague in Towers of Midnight. Judging by Perrin’s vision of Rand outside a burned house, Rand is in Arad Doman. Soon after the Battle of Malden, Perrin’s group was struck with something incapacitating, although it’s written up confusingly, described as a sickness and then snakebites. Some refugees have left, but he is attracting others:

Turne smelled unwashed and dirty, and above those scents was an odd staleness. Had the man’s emotions gone numb?

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

This staleness is new. We’ve seen people die from corruption of their bodies but perhaps this is a manifestation of a more insidious breakdown – of emotional and mental health. Some new disturbance in the Pattern.

Perrin thinks he should turn people away but he doesn’t; he judges it is better to add them to his forces and stop them from becoming desperate and turning to banditry. If he’s one of the few around that has or preserves food, then he’s in the best position to keep people alive:
“Tell me, my Lord,” Turne said as his group began to hike down the line of refugees. “Do you really have food?”
“We do,” Perrin said. “I just said so.”
“And it doesn’t spoil after a night left alone?”
“Course it doesn’t,” Perrin said sternly. “Not if you keep it right.” Some of their grain might have weevils in it, but it was edible. The man seemed to find that incredible, as if Perrin had said his wagons would soon sprout wings and fly off for the mountains.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

Is Perrin’s food is not spoiling an effect of being a strong ta’veren? Rand can actually restore fertility and health to the Land – undo the Dark One’s corruption. This is beyond Mat and Perrin, but can their presence preserve what health there is – hold off the breakdown of reality for a while? Otherwise it seems the presence of living things is necessary to keep other things hale. Anything cut off from living things, rots. Living things must unite, literally stand together, against the Dark One. We have too little information yet to work out more.

Perrin is a just leader (and not just a leader):

“Your queen is my liegewoman,” Perrin said as they reached the front of the column. “We’re not stringing anyone up unless we have proof of their crimes. Once everyone is safely back where they belong, you can start sorting through the sell-swords and see if you can charge any of them. Until then, they’re just hungry men looking for someone to follow…You may send someone to talk to the newcomers, Arganda,” Perrin said. “Talk only. Find out where they’re from, learn whether they did serve a lord, see if they can add anything to the maps.”

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

Perrin is being a leader, but doesn’t see it because he doesn’t believe in himself. Turning into a wolf and losing his family and home not surprisingly undermined his self-confidence and left him in a depression-like state.

He thinks he could solve his problems easily if his group were its original size and composition:

[Perrin] himself could Travel back to Rand, pretend to make up--most people would still think that he and Rand had parted ways angrily--and then finally be rid of Berelain and her Winged Guard. Everything could go back to the way it should be.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

Wishful thinking but futile. It follows on from his contemplation in the Prologue of ‘unbecoming’ a Wolfbrother. Things returning to as they were probably isn’t the way it should be, even if it could be achieved, not for winning the Last Battle, at least.

Perrin feels bad that he never did bring Masema to Rand. If he doesn’t fulfill his allotted tasks he feels he has failed. Perrin is very focused and task oriented, and has a high work ethic.

The Prophet was dead, killed by bandits. Well, perhaps that was a fitting end for him, but Perrin still felt he’d failed. Rand had wanted Masema brought to him...
Either way, it was time for Perrin to return to Rand. His duty was done, the Prophet seen to, Alliandre’s allegiance secure. Only, Perrin felt as if something were still very wrong. To understand something... you have to figure out its parts...

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

Well for a start he has to figure out his own parts that he plays in the Pattern and the parts of his character.

However the wrongness he probably is referring to is the Pattern around him. Perrin can feel the Pattern to some extent, like a scent in the air, not just see the future in Tel’aran’rhiod or his dreams.

Returning to Rand right now would be wrong. Perrin is being warned off going to Rand until certain tasks are done, or events have occurred and it ‘feels right’ to go.

Since Malden he has gained five thousand or more people and the refugees with him are training successfully with weapons. Perrin’s group has been held by the Pattern for this and to encounter the Whitecloaks at the right time.

“This is all going to end in a few days, Faile,” he said. “Once we have Gateways again, I’ll send these people to their proper places. I’m not gathering an army. I’m helping some refugees to get home.”

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

His army has strengthened (and Perrin is associated with strength and strengthening (see Perrin essay). He will help refugees return, but he probably is also gathering an army. After all Artur Hawkwing named him the Dragon’s bannerman back at Falme. This is one of his pieces, his roles.

Perrin feels he was a poor leader, but Faile has asked around:

“They say that you kept Arganda contained, and put out flare-ups in camp. Then there’s the alliance with the Seanchan, the more I learn of that, the more impressed I am. You acted decisively in a time of great uncertainty, you focused everyone’s efforts, and you accomplished the impossible in taking Malden. Those are the actions of a leader.”
“Faile...” he said, suppressing a growl. Why wouldn’t she listen? When she’d been a captive, nothing had mattered to him but recovering her. Nothing. It didn’t matter who had needed his help, or what orders he’d been given. Tarmon Gai'don itself could have started, and he’d have ignored it in order to find Faile.
He realized now how dangerous his actions had been. Trouble was, he’d take those same actions again. He didn’t regret what he’d done, not for a moment. A leader couldn’t be like that.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

It was a dangerous time and he had to steer the best possible course through the problems. Leaders can’t be bogged down in regrets or indecisiveness. They must decide, act, and move on. Because he did what he thought necessary without deliberating long on it, he dismisses his actions.

Perrin was a blacksmith. It didn’t matter what Faile dressed him in or what titles people gave him.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

Being a blacksmith is another of his roles and it comes to the fore in Towers of Midnight when he makes an important object for the Last Battle as well as forges a huge army. Of course, he can be a blacksmith and yet other things as well. It takes him a long while to realize this. He’s not one for multi-tasking.

Where Perrin sees their quest in the south as a failure, and a narrowly averted disaster, Faile see the positive results:

“Yes, indeed,” she said, musingly. “I’ve been thinking on this for the last few weeks, and - odd though it seems - I believe my captivity may have been precisely what we needed. Both of us.”

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

Perrin needed to stop the Prophet, extend his forces and bring certain people together. He had to be a leader, and face his dark side. It takes time to do the latter because it’s a task no one wants to do. Aes Sedai try to accelerate the process with their testing ter’angreal, but I don’t think they’re successful.

Faile needed to learn to work with others and lead them, and to stop her silly games with Perrin and Berelain. She now no longer toys with him or expects him to play by her rules only. For instance, Perrin expected her to insist he yell at her in this scene, but she did not.

Galad POV

The Whitecloaks are a short distance north of Perrin. It is a day or so since Galad nobly surrendered himself to the Questioners rather than have the Children fighting one another. They were rough:

He was still naked, and with tentative fingers he determined that there was dried blood on his face. It had come from a long gash in his forehead. If he didn’t wash it soon, infection was likely. He lay on his back, staring up at the pinprick lights, breathing in and out with care. If he took in too much air at once, his side screamed.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

This is standard torture technique as Semirhage described it:

Alone, in the dark, with the pain

- Lord of Chaos, Threads Woven of Shadow

Egwene was left in a similar situation in The Gathering Storm. However, Aes Sedai are legally not allowed to draw blood or break bones or allow others to do so for them. From what we’ve been told, Questioners use only torture in their interrogations.

Most of the action in this POV is off-screen and we see Galad’s reactions to his circumstances and his reasons for his actions:

He would not run. He could not avoid what was coming. Even if he could escape, fleeing would invalidate his bargain with Asunawa. But he would face his enemies with self-respect...It wasn’t the cloak, the uniform, the heraldry, or the sword that made a man. It was the way he held himself.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

We’ve heard Lan express similar thoughts. Like Egwene, Galad also embraces pain.

Then, methodically, he cleaned the grime and blood from his face. The cleaning gave him a goal, kept him moving and stopped him from thinking about the pain. He carefully scrubbed the crusted blood from his cheek and nose. It was difficult; his mouth was dry. He bit down on his tongue to get saliva…
The wound to his head, the dirt on his face. . .these things were marks of victory for the Questioners. He would not leave them. He would go into their tortures with a clean face.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

We need to read Galad’s thoughts to truly judge his worthiness as a leader.

Removing dirt from himself symbolizes the way Galad refuses to let his character be sullied by the actions of others. It also reminds me of this part of the testing ritual for Accepted:

"You are washed clean of what sin you may have done," the Aes Sedai intoned, "and of those done against you. You are washed clean of what crime you may have committed, and of those committed against you. You come to us washed clean and pure, in heart and soul."

The Great Hunt, The Testing

but done completely in private. Galad has no need to prove his integrity to anyone or have someone tell him he has integrity. As further symbolism, he did not blink when bright Light shone into the dark tent.

Demanding perfection, his expectations that the Children should be superior to others in virtue, courage, truthfulness, etc are sorely disappointed at times until Morgase shows him that he is unrealistic about people (and himself).

Galad did not fear death or pain. He had made the right choices. It was unfortunate that he’d needed to leave the Questioners in charge; they were controlled by the Seanchan. However, there had been no other option, not after he’d walked out of those trees and into Asunawa’s hands.
Galad felt no anger at the scouts who had betrayed him. The Questioners were a valid source of authority in the Children, and their lies had no doubt been convincing. No, the one he was angry at was Asunawa. He took what was true and muddied it, clouding the understanding of men. There were many who did that in the world, but the Children should be different.
Soon, the Questioners would come for him, and then the true price for saving his men would be exacted with their hooks and knives. He had been aware of that price when he’d made his decision. In a way, he had won, for he had manipulated the situation best.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

Galad is correct, which he always tries to be. He did win; by showing Asunawa up so much that the troops rebelled.

“Stop!” Galad said. “I gave orders to you three. Bornhald, there is blood on your cloak! I commanded you not to try to free me!”
“Your men obeyed your orders, Damodred,” a new voice said...
“I see,” Galad said. “You have turned your swords on fellow Children.”
“What would you have had us do?” Brandel asked, looking up from his kneeling position.
Galad shook his head. “I do not know. Perhaps you are right; I should not chide you on this choice. It may have been the only one you could have made. But why did you change your minds?”
“We have lost two Lords Captain Commander in under half a year.” Harnesh said in a gruff voice. “The Fortress of the Light has become a playground for the Seanchan. The world is in chaos.”
“And yet,” Golever said, “Asunawa marched us all the way out here to have us battle our fellow Children. It was not right, Damodred. We all saw how you presented yourself, we all saw how you stopped us from killing one another. Faced with that, and with the High Inquisitor naming as Darkfriend a man we all know to be honorable... Well, how could we not turn against him?”

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

Asunawa is not a Darkfriend, but may have been influenced by the Shadow, just as Elaida was.

The Sitters are the political representatives of advisors and academics. This is why the divisions played out differently among the Aes Sedai compared to the Whitecloaks. Being bound not to commit violence with the One Power can spread to not using violence in other ways too. The same goes for warfare. Alternatively, being used to violence or warfare increases the risk of using it without considering whether other means might serve better. Galad tried hard enough to reconcile the opposing groups without violence. There is no right answer to the Children’s problems. All choices likely to be bad – in the sense of ‘not good’ – as Galad realizes.

If the Perfect Knight is not good enough and is claimed to be evil, then nobody is good.

“You accept me as Lord Captain Commander?”
The three men bowed their heads. “All the Lords Captain are for you,” Golever said. “We were forced to kill a third of those who wore the red shepherd’s crook of the Hand of the Light. Some others united with us; some tried to flee. The Amadicians did not interfere, and many have said they’d rather join with us than return to the Seanchan. We have the other Amadicians – and the Questioners who tried to run - held at swordpoint.”
“Let free those who wish to leave,” Galad said. “They may return to their families and their masters. By the time they reach the Seanchan, we will be beyond their grasp.”
The men nodded.
“I accept your allegiance,” Galad said. “Gather the other Lords Captain and fetch me supply reports. Strike camp. We march for Andor.”
None of them asked whether he needed rest, though Trom did look worried.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

We don’t know if they let the guarded Questioners go. Asunawa and most Questioners are not the good shepherd despite wearing shepherd symbolism. It would be interesting to know if Einor Saren was killed or tried to flee. Or if there are Darkfriend Questioners remaining alive.

Egwene castigated the Hall because they did not act decisively or in the interests of the Tower. The Sitters were manipulated by the Darkfriend Sitters not to, though. Their fault is that they allowed themselves to be manipulated. As might be expected, Darkfriends probably are rarer among the Children than among Aes Sedai. In the Age of Legends, half the Aes Sedai went over to the Shadow. In the Third Age, it is about a quarter.

Like Perrin, Galad doesn’t want the job and he too doubts he is up to it or should be leader:

Galad didn’t feel wise or strong enough to bear the title he did. But the Children had made their decision.
The Light would protect them for it.

- Towers of Midnight, Questions of Leadership

If he had no doubts, if he was unaware of or denied his shortcomings, he (and Perrin too) would not be as good as a leader. However, he doesn’t whine about the duty (or indeed about anything) and just does as well as he can.

The chapter title, Questions of Leadership, says it all really. Both men question whether they are worthy. Others assure them they are and insist they lead on. Not surprisingly they get more followers.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #8: Chapter 1 - Apples First

By Linda


Towers of Midnight opens with glimpses of conditions on the Seanchan continent. Appropriately one of the first references after the Dark One’s impenetrable cloud cover starving the world of light (the Light) and animals from the If worlds is of 13 (midnight) black marble towers:

The killing field surrounded thirteen fortresses, tall and cut entirely from unpolished black marble, their blocks left rough-hewn to give them a primal feeling of unformed strength. These were towers meant for war. By tradition they were unoccupied. How long that would last—how long tradition itself would be remembered in a continent in chaos—remained to be seen.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

They’re meant for war but marble is not a strong rock and isn’t that suitable for a fortress. In the next chapter Egwene will dream of 13 black towers who represent the Forsaken.

The ground around the thirteen towers is kept free of cover even though they are unoccupied. On the mainland the surrounds of Borderlander towns are likewise kept bare so Shadowspawn can’t sneak up unawares. However in Seanchan it is merely a tradition and not a current threat, and it is just as likely that the Seanchan fortress was assailed in the distant past by humans as by Shadowspawn (and the memory of that event may even have been corrupted over time). There is foreshadowing that this is soon to change.

Total war prevails on the whole Seanchan continent. There seem to be Seanchan prophecies that this would happen at the end of time:

Men did not whisper that this might be the end of times. They yelled it. The Fields of Peace were aflame, the Tower of Ravens was broken as prophesied and a murderer openly ruled in Seandar. This was a time to lift one’s sword and choose a side, then spill blood to give a final color to the dying land.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

A murderer rules in Seandar openly. Considering the habits of the Seanchan blood, there certainly have been murderous Empresses before, just unacknowledged. There's no indication of whether the new ruler is male or female. This murderer may be one of the Forsaken or a Darkfriend, or just the usual ruthless and ambitious ruler. The ‘side’ that people are supposed to choose is whether to fight for the Light or not. Instead people are distracted by petty ambitions.

The wind then bids farewell to Seanchan and heads to the mainland:

The wind howled eastward over the famed Emerald Cliffs and coursed out over the ocean. Behind, smoke seemed to rise from the entire continent of Seanchan.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

The Emerald Cliffs are in France and they are counterparts of the White Cliffs of Dover across the English Channel. Perhaps they are a reference to the Seanchan invasion.

Near Dragonmount it’s now early afternoon in late spring/early summer.

The Land is blighted and plants are behaving like those in the Blight:

And then there was the incident that had killed Graeger. The man had walked around a corner over in Negin Bridge and vanished. When people went looking, all they found was a twisted, leafless tree with a gray-white trunk that smelled of sulphur.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

People are blaming each other. Almen Bunt, whom took Rand and Mat into Caemlyn in The Eye of the World, scorns that, but he’s blaming the Aes Sedai:

The Dragon’s Fang had been scrawled on a few doors that night. People were more and more nervous. Once, Almen would have named them all fools, jumping at shadows and seeing bloody Trollocs under every cobblestone.
Now . . . well, now he wasn’t so sure. He glanced eastward, toward Tar Valon. Could the witches be to blame for the failed crop? He hated being so close to their nest, but Alysa needed the help.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

Since then he has had a price put on his head for being a Queen’s Man. Rand himself is a Queen’s man.

During Rand’s darkest night (so far) all the apples in the orchard shrivelled and fell, as Rand’s hope shrivelled and nearly fell. There is little food or fertility in the Land. Almen despairs:

Staring down those neat, perfect rows of useless apple trees, Almen felt the crushing weight of it. Of trying to remain positive. Of seeing all his sister had worked for fail and rot. These apples . . . they were supposed to have saved the village, and his sons.
This is it then, isn’t it? he thought, eyes toward the too-yellow grass below. The fight just ended.
Maybe it was time to let go.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

Rand did too – only much more so. Rand’s dark mood and the Dark One’s touch have affected the whole world. If Rand is affected by the Dark One, so is the world. If he can remain unaffected, the Dark One’s blighting of the world is reduced. Currently there is no sun even in Seanchan, except where Rand is.

Almen, who as his name shows, represents all men, all humanity, appears to sense the end of Rand’s fight, but in a kind of delayed effect, with the ending in pure sunlight. The trees immediately re-bloom and fruit and the ground absorbs the rotten windfalls.

Those apples seemed to shine. Not just dozens of them on each tree, but hundreds. More than a tree should hold, each one perfectly ripe.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

These are the Platonic ideal of apples. Utopian, since they are ready before their normal time because people need them.

This is similar to what happened after Rand’s major victory at Eye when he defeated two Forsaken and destroyed a Shadowspawn army while channelling without the taint and the Blight promptly receded a considerable distance. Rand said it was his presence that undid the Dark One’s Blighting, ie he did not channel. His presence has healing properties as well as restoring fertility to the Land, but nothing ‘unnatural’:

Almen watched the man until he vanished, then dashed toward Alysa’s house. The old pain in his hip was gone, and he felt as if he could run a dozen leagues.
“Apples,” Almen said. “What else bloody grows on apple trees! Listen, we need every one of those apples picked before the day ends. You hear me? Go! Spread the word! There’s a harvest after all!”
Almen continued on, and as he did, he noticed for the first time that the grass around him seemed greener, healthier.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

It also indicates what power and influence the Way of the Leaf must have had in the Age of Legends.

The break in the cloud seems to follow Rand.

After his epiphany, Rand understands and accepts the Pattern and his place in it:

“No. I’m not lost. Finally. It feels like a great long time since I’ve understood the path before me.”

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

He is enlightened (literally, with the sun on him) and is Buddha- and Jesus-like, but all too human in the way he would rather avoid potential scenes and trouble.

Almen thought—for a moment—he could see something around the man. A lightness to the air, warped and bent.

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

Halo effect? This is the opposite of the darkness and shadow that was attached to Rand until his epiphany. There is now true Oneness within himself as well as with his relation to the Land. However the Shadow is so strong that Rand’s effect is fairly localised around him. Just as the break in the cloud follows him about but can’t widen beyond his vicinity:

“It’s not you who is mad, friend,” the stranger said. “But the entire world. Gather those apples quickly. My presence will hold him off for a time, I think, and whatever you take now should be safe from his touch.”
The man looked back at Almen. Meeting those eyes, Almen felt a strange sense of peace. “

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

The Dark One is making the world mad, turning it upside down, spreading chaos and disorder. These weaken the people. Rand changes the Pattern to Rightness and what is natural. The Dark One is Wrongness/unnatural (see Wrongness essay) and his True Power is hatred, destruction and suffering.

Almen Bunt feels as though his conversation with Rand is on two levels and he’s right.

Rand was dark from Lord of Chaos to Winter’s Heart and that caused bubbles of evil and loss of fertility etc and allowed the Dark One to touch the Pattern more. Since Winter’s Heart, the state of the world and the Pattern has steadily worsened, as has Rand’s physical and mental state, due to Rand’s extensive usage of balefire, not just on the Forsaken, but on those captured by Forsaken and also his usage of the True Power. Such great sins affect the Land hugely. Even filtering off the taint - exposing himself to it, a great sacrifice, made things worse. Rand’s link to Moridin symbolises that Rand became increasingly like the Shadow (just as Cadsuane feared, and as happened with Aridhol/Shadar Logoth) until he could actually use that link to draw on the Dark One’s power.

The state of Rand’s mind and body affect the Land. His wounds, physical and spiritual, are those of the Land. Being the Creator’s Champion is way above the ta’veren effect, or the power of a Hero of the Horn (although he is those too). This is why at Falme Hawkwing, a great Hero and ta’veren, bowed to Rand:

Hawkwing bowed formally from his saddle to Rand. "With your permission . . . Lord Rand. Trumpeter, will you give us music on the Horn? Fitting that the Horn of Valere should sing us into battle. Bannerman, will you advance?"

- The Great Hunt, The Grave Is No Bar To My Call

However, Masema’s assertion that Rand is “Creator made flesh” is probably untrue. Masema was shown to be corrupted into great Wrongness.

Rand has not only changed his attitude to one of peace, non-hatred and acceptance but is willing to face and mend problems, if a bit reluctantly:

The man looked back with a faint grimace. “To do something I’ve been putting off. I doubt she will be pleased by what I tell her.”

- Towers of Midnight, Apples First

Rand’s walk from Dragonmount to “She” in Tar Valon (nowhere else is feasible, really) shows how close Rand and Egwene are. Close yet opposing. Dragonmount casts a shadow on Tar Valon.

The condition of the apple orchard between Dragonmount and Tar Valon also refers to Tar Valon itself – Avalon was the Isle of Apples. First the apples were blighted and corrupted - and so was the White Tower. Then they regrew, just like the resolution of the rebellion and the removal of the Black Ajah in Tar Valon.

It also shows Rand will receive a lack of support from the Aes Sedai in Tar Valon, and maybe a change of heart later.

We don’t see how Moridin has been affected by Rand’s epiphany except that it is probably he who arranges for Lanfear to manipulate Rand at the end of Towers of Midnight.

Almen feels Rand’s pull on him – to fight at the Last Battle?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Towers of Midnight Read-Through #7: Borderlander POV

By Linda


The last scene of the Prologue shows us the arrangements for Borderlander security and the care in designing the defenses. It has lasted since the Trolloc Wars, but it hasn’t really been tested until now. Two hundred and fifty soldiers is laughably inadequate and there is a feeling of doom as the Shadowspawn attack approaches. The defences aren’t going to be enough:

It was time for Tarmon Gai’don. And looking out into that storm, Malenarin though he could see to the very edge of time itself. An edge that was not far distant. In fact, it seemed to be growing darker. And there was a blackness beneath it, on the ground northward.
That blackness was advancing.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Malenarin is certainly seeing the Last Days. His house symbol is of an oak aflame. The oak is a symbol of nobility and endurance. Fire is both a creative and destructice energy and can be purifying, transforming or regenerative. Both symbols are strongly masculine, appropriate in a soldiering house with a strongly protective character.

Keemlin’s courage and sacrifice are moving. Unfortunately it seems inevitable that these outlying fortresses, and towns and cities further in, will be destroyed.

The Borderlander saying that:

To have a duty was to have pride—just as to bear a burden was to gain strength.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

could be best illustrated by Rand and Perrin. From the beginning Lan judged these two promising becuase they had a sense of duty and strength similar to his own. Rand is linked with both duty and pride:

Soul of fire, heart of stone, in pride he conquers, forcing the proud to yield. He calls upon the mountains to kneel, and the seas to give way, and the very skies to bow.

- A Crown of Swords, opening text

while Perrin's strong sense of duty has not made him proud. Perrin is the epitome of a strength figure (see Perrin essay), perhaps because, unlike Rand, he did not make himself excessively hard (one cruel act against the Shaido).

In the Aiel's view, Rand has finally stopped trying to be as strong (hard?) as stone - the heart of stone which must remember tears - and has

instead achieved the strength of the wind.

- Towers of Midnight, A Vow

Cadsuane warned Rand that he should not model himself on the oak, which is strong and can endure much, but will ultimately break under the burden, but should emulate the willow:

"Stone cracks from a hard enough blow," she said, her face an Aes Sedai mask of calm. "Steel shatters. The oak fights the wind and breaks. The willow bends where it must and survives."
"A willow won't win Tarmon Gai'don," he told her.

- Knife of Dreams, News For the Dragon

Unlike the masculine oak, the willow is a feminine symbol of patience and strength in flexibility. It was always unlikely that the strongly masculine Dragon would find this advice palatable.

Malenarin’s affirmation that:

But every man atop that Tower knew their duty. They’d kill Trollocs as long as they could, hoping to buy enough time for the messages to do some good. Enough time for lamps to be lit, for mirrors to be focused, warnings to be sent.
Malenarin was a man of the Borderlands, same as his father, same as his son beside him. They knew their task. You held until you were relieved.
That’s all there was to it.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

foreshadows that other Bordlerlander centres are/will be in the same predicament – such as those where Ituralde, Lan, etc are. Some might be saved or relieved but not all. Nations, even, will go under.

When Ishamael warned Rand back in The Great Hunt that huge armies would come:

Armies you have not dreamed of will yet come.

- The Eye of the World, Against the Shadow

he wasn’t lying.

Is Malenarin right when he says:

The queen would not have gone south to seek a false Dragon, no matter how cunning or influential he might be. She believed.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Hopefully removing such a large proportion of their defences was the right move. Maybe the Borderlander rulers have unwittingly preserved a substantial part of their forces to be better used elsewhere, but their nations will pay for it.