Monday, October 26, 2015

A Memory of Light Read-Through #2: Prologue— Talmanes, Egeanin and Aviendha POVs

By Linda

Talmanes POVS 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12

Talmanes has a series of POVs interspersed among the other Prologue POVs to maintain suspense. They are glimpses of the trials Talmanes and the Band went through to save the dragons—and also many Andorans. At first they coerced mercenaries to help them secure a corridor to the western city gate through which the refugees could leave the city, but when this was cut off by the Trollocs, as expected, Talmanes persuaded Guybon to order his troops to leave the Palace and help them protect the southern gate for refugees.

Once Talmanes might not have shown concern for the ordinary folk—peasants or labourers—but Mat has had a positive influence on him: he is more socially responsible and caring, and less arrogant. Talmanes admires Mat for caring as well as being a brilliant general:

There was a softness to the man equal to his genius—an odd, but inspiring, combination.

A Memory of Light, Prologue

Mat the trickster is a social anomaly, refusing to be pigeonholed or have his behaviour limited, which is why Talmanes:

still didn't rightly know whether to think of Mat as a lord or not.

A Memory of Light, Prologue

Despite having the worst sort of Thakandar blade wound, Talmanes remained focussed on saving the dragons, and kills a second a second Myrddraal that was complacent—not knowing that Talmanes had nothing left to lose. His action saved his troops because they would never have been able to eliminate all the Trollocs it was linked to.

The Band overcame tremendous odds to reach the dragons but Aludra criticised them for taking so long to help her. She is sarcastic to Talmanes, so he returns the favour:

"This, it is a new revelation to you?" Aludra asked. "As if I haven't been trying to do that very thing. Your face, what is wrong with it?"

"I once ate a rather sharp cheese, and it has never quite sat right with me."… "What about my face?" Talmanes raised a hand to his cheek. Blood. The Myrddraal. Right. "Just a cut."…

"More Trollocs, my Lord. Lots of them! They're filling in behind us."

"Lovely. Set the table. I hope we have enough dinnerware. I knew we should have sent the maid for that five thousand seven hundred and thirty-first set."

"Are you . . . feeling all right?" Aludra asked.

"Blood and bloody ashes, woman, do I look like I'm feeling well? Guybon! Retreat is cut off. How far from the east gates are we?"

A Memory of Light, Prologue

It turns out that he likes being cryptically sarcastic and ironic; he has a subtle, dry humour.

Maybe if I smiled more when I made jokes, he thought idly, leaning against the side of the barricade. Then they'd understand what I meant. That, of course, raised the question: Did he want people to understand? It was often more amusing the other way. Besides, smiling was so garish. Where was the subtlety?

A Memory of Light, Prologue

Talmanes laughed hysterically at the irony of the situation, to the surprise of the others, who see no graveyard humour, only tragedy. He laughs up his sleeve at people, enjoying fooling them, showing that he is an ideal companion for a trickster. It’s a sign of his dire straits that he is more open than usual, and our opinion of him changes as a result. These are his first POV in the series. Disconcerted by this, Aludra starts stating the obvious, after she criticised Talmanes for it, so Talmanes got his own back.

It was a mercy in more ways than one that Talmanes refused the offer of a mercy killing because he then thinks of a way to escape the Trollocs while the others are defeatist. A further step in his “nothing left to lose” situation is that the pain is no longer growing because the taint has consumed him already. With the Trollocs waiting to rush in and seize the dragons, Aludra offers to destroy them. Talmanes realises that they can use most of the dragons to kill the Trollocs and the rest to blast a hole in the wall on the other side of the square to escape.

Egeanin POV

Egeanin intends Bayle to stick to the law, to reform him. Bayle wants to go off away from the conflict, but she is going to give information and help—offer herself—to Nynaeve and Elayne to stave off depression and loss of identity and redeem her honour after being demoted. She has not explained this even to Bayle until now.

She might be Shipless, but she would not let herself slip into the depths and drown.

A Memory of Light, Prologue

Egeanin is also very distressed about sul’dam being able to learn to channel, and that Seanchan power is therefore built on a lie. The Seanchan Empire has lost honour in Egeanin’s eyes; but the Empress rationalises this away by emphasising the difference between innate ability and usage, and learned ability—the power of choice. Yet events can force even a sul’dam into channelling despite her previous intentions, as Bethamin shows in Knife of Dreams, A Cold Medallion. It’s a very thin line. (The Aiel also live a lie: as to their origins and the oaths they forsook.)

Now, months after she had discovered the truth, her mind could not encompass all of the implications. Another might have been more interested in the political advantage; another might have returned to Seanchan and used this to gain power. Almost, Leilwin wished she had done that. Almost.

But the pleas of the sul'dam . . . growing to know those Aes Sedai, who were nothing like what she'd been taught . . .

A Memory of Light, Prologue

While Egeanin has spent a lot of time worrying about this, she has been oblivious to the consequences of her surrender of the male a’dam to the Seanchan. Nynaeve’s chastisement is a rude awakening. She determines that with this extreme loss of honour further penance is warranted: she must be da’covale to the Amyrlin. Killing herself would be too easy a way out.

"Yes," Leilwin said softly. She understood now. "I regret breaking my oath, but—"

"You regret it, Egeanin?" Nynaeve said, standing, knocking her chair back. "'Regret' is not a word I would use for endangering the world itself, bringing us to the brink of darkness and all but shoving us over the edge! She had copies of that device made, woman. One ended up around the neck of the Dragon Reborn. The Dragon Reborn himself, controlled by one of the Forsaken!"

Nynaeve flung her hands into the air. "Light! We were heartbeats from the end, because of you. The end of everything. No more Pattern, no more world, nothing. Millions of lives could have winked out because of your carelessness."

"I . . ." Leilwin's failures seemed monumental, suddenly. Her life, lost. Her very name, lost. Her ship, stripped from her by the Daughter of the Nine Moons herself. All were immaterial in light of this.

A Memory of Light, Prologue

Aviendha POV

Aviendha is not reprimanded for breaking the taboo of the glass columns ter’angreal and entering it twice. Instead, the Wise Ones steel themselves for the added burden of the Aiel being at risk of degenerating and being ruined.

Bair has faith that the columns work to help the Aiel and that the future they show must therefore be able to be changed. She thinks the visions are a warning rather than irrevocable fate. Sorilea says this is irrelevant because they must try to change it regardless. Nor does the vision mean that the Last Battle will be won, because if it is lost, the Dark One breaks the Pattern and all prophecy is void.

Aviendha realises that the Merrilor meeting, where Rand will make demands of the other allied nations, but not the Aiel, is pivotal to the Aiel’s future. Also that regardless of whether Rand did or did not include the Aiel in his Bargain, the Wise Ones would feel insulted.

To give the Aiel an exemption from his price—if, indeed, that was what he intended—was an act of honor. If he had made a demand of them with the others, these very Wise Ones might have taken offense at being lumped with the wetlanders.

A Memory of Light, Prologue

Aviendha rightly thinks the most important task she will ever do is prevent the Aiel’s road to ruin. But this depends on seeing her children raised better. These are things she would never have known if she had not attempted to ‘read’ the glass columns ter’angreal.

The Wise Ones are pleased that Rand accepts his destiny—has embraced death—and believe that his sacrifice should not be undervalued by the Wetlanders; that it is acceptable for him to demand the nations to follow his wishes in exchange. The Aiel have truly followed Rand—even when they thought his commands or plans foolish—but most of the other nations, on the whole, have not, due to division or scheming or distraction.

Bair takes it upon herself to validate Aviendha’s vision. She feels that she is more expendable because she is not a channeller, and yet also very experienced and strong.

Aviendha asks Bair if she knows of a Nakomi. Bair says Nakomi is an ancient name (see Character Names N). It is a reference to the Song of Hiawatha, and so is part of Jordan’s premise that our history becomes the Wheel of Time world myth and vice versa.

Regarding names, Bair recommends that Aviendha change one of her children’s names and never speak of the former name to anyone as a way to change the vision the glass columns showed. (Aviendha is not even pregnant yet, but no one doubts the prophetic visions—and nor does the reader.) Bair is determined to change the Aiel’s future and Aviendha sees this is a good and meaningful way to do it. This scene refers to the traditional belief in the power of names.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Memory of Light Read-Through #1: Prologue— Bayrd and Isam POVs.

By Linda

Bayrd POV

Bayrd is the first of many fans’ names in A Memory of Light. There had been a few in earlier books: as a fundraiser for charity, or to acknowledge contributions such as those of the beta readers. This article details them: Character Names Derived from Readers' Names.

The scene follows on from When Iron Melts of The Gathering Storm showing the escalation of wrongness in the world due to the Dark One’s touch and his efforts to overturn the proper and natural order of things.

The night smelled wrong.

A Memory of Light, Prologue

Food is rotten; stone abides, however. The men thought that sunrise would return all to normality as it regularly does to the village of Hinderstap.

Ironically Jarid Sarand blames the wrongness on the Aes Sedai but they were the ones adversely affected in The Gathering Storm. Jarid’s forces are badly affected because Jarid is distracted with his own concerns and is not fighting the Shadow, as were the Aes Sedai under Elaida. Belief and order give strength, as Herid Fel said, and what Jarid believes is wrong, and his commitment to the Light and the Dragon is weak. He disbelieves the Last Battle is upon them, and, hence he becomes a focus of wrongness.

All of the army command have a rethink about Jarid:

“He wasn't always this bad, was he? Bayrd thought. He wanted the throne for his wife, but what lord wouldn't want that, given the chance? It was hard to look past the name. Bayrd's family had followed the Sarand family with reverence for generations.

A Memory of Light, Prologue

Devoted retainers turn against Jarid—ones whose families have served for decades. They become insubordinate and disrespectful, which is against the proper social order. All abandon Jarid because his plans and interpretation of information are comprehensively wrong, as Elaida’s were. However, Elaida did not have the same amount of overt insubordination due to the Tower’s tenacious administrative and political structure. Elaida had lost support, but she was taken before the Aes Sedai deserted her. The Tower did not pursue her release from the Seanchan, however.

Bayrd is making a weapon from the Land for the Last Battle—a stone spearhead as made in ancient times. This seems right and undoes at least some of the wrongness:

There was something powerful about crafting the spearhead. The simple act seemed to push back the gloom. There had been a shadow on Bayrd, and the rest of the camp, lately. As if . . . as if he couldn't stand in the light no matter how he tried. The darkness was always there, weighing him down. He woke each morning feeling as if someone he'd loved had died the day before.

It could crush you, that despair. Why would making a spearhead change that? You're being a fool, Bayrd. It just seemed to him that the mere act of creating something—anything—fought back. That was one way to challenge . . . him. The one none of them spoke of. The one that they all knew was behind it, no matter what Lord Jarid said.

A Memory of Light, Prologue

There is great power in creating, especially in making something with which to defend the Land against the Shadow.

On the other hand, note that Bayrd could not even think of the euphemism “Dark One” in his mind, an extreme version of not naming the Dark One. This makes focussing on the fight against the Shadow that much harder, even if it keeps Bayrd from attracting the Dark One’s attention.

The Dragon is reborn, old bonds are broken, old oaths done away with . . . and I'll be hanged before I let Andor march to the Last Battle without me.

A Memory of Light, Prologue

Bayrd speaks strongly but he could be killed for desertion. Desertion is punished severely in normal times. In this scene Jarid threatens and then tries to kill his mutinous guards.

Bayrd and the soldiers abandon Jarid and affirm their strong commitment to the Dragon and the Land. While their success in making weapons against the Shadow strengthened their resolve, looking at it the other way, their determination to fight enabled them to overcome the Dark One’s touch and make weapons. They were not using their metal weapons to fight the Shadow and these weakened and melted.

This scene ties to some earlier scenes:

  • The Gathering Storm, When Iron Melts, when Egwene promises to free Leane and expresses confidence that Elaida’s tyranny will soon be over and the bars of Leane’s cell promptly melt, then the cell floor, and the ceiling. It’s almost as though Egwene’s vow triggered the change. The Yellows were slow to react to the ‘attack’ on reality. Once Leane was free, everything solidified again.

  • Knife of Dreams, The Importance of Dyelin, when Ellorien is challenged about whether she would contribute to the Last Battle:

    "Tarmon Gai'don is coming soon, Ellorien," Elayne said. "You won't be able to remain on your estates then." Ellorien paused, looking over her shoulder. "When Tarmon Gai'don comes, Traemane rides for the Last Battle, and we ride behind the Lion of Andor."

  • Towers of Midnight, A Terrible Feeling, when all the weapons in Perrin’s camp attack their owners, except Perrin’s hammer, and are deactivated by soil, and A Making, when Perrin makes a power-wrought hammer and affirms that he will take their oaths and lead them at the Last Battle, and

  • The Gathering Storm prologue, where humble Borderlanders are the first to react and go north to fight at the Last Days. Their dedication and courage contrasts with the reckless actions and ambitions of nobles. They are turning their best tools into weapons to fight the Shadow so that there is a chance for them to be able to plant crops again. The people could all starve, but if they don’t fight they will all die anyway.

  • Baryd believes in the Dragon as well as the onset of the Last Battle:

    I have an oath older than the one to your family, anyway. An oath the Dragon himself couldn't undo. It was an oath to the land. The stones were in his blood, and his blood in the stones of this Andor.

    A Memory of Light, Prologue

    Bayrd has an oath to the Land but the Dragon is one with the Land.

    Isam POV

    The nameless town in the Blight is a previously unknown shanty town or ghetto of the Shadow. It is a corruption of a real town, just as the Eye Blinders are a corruption of real Aiel, as Isam observes:

    After Moridin passed, Isam finally took a sip of his dark drink. The locals just called it "fire." It lived up to its name. It was supposedly related to some drink from the Waste. Like everything else in the Town, it was a corrupt version of the original.

    A Memory of Light, Prologue

    It is consistent with the view of the devil as the ape of god.

    The scene explains some of Isam’s background and motivation. We know Isam was brought up by someone not allied to the Shadow:


    Was Isam raised by the Shadow directly, by his mother, or by someone else?

    Robert Jordan

    By someone else. Read and find out.

    Robert Jordan at DragonCon

    Isam only feels safe when he is physically in Tel’aran’rhiod, in the dream. In contrast, channellers protect their dreams when they sleep. Isam has the ability and confidence to spy on the Forsaken in the dream. There, he is as skilled as the most skilled of the Forsaken and better than them at not being seen. (Or else he would not have survived.)

    Isam is more interested in killing Perrin than Rand—he’s not really interested in Rand. Either he has convinced himself that Rand wouldn’t be much of a challenge or else he unconsciously feels that Rand is out of his league and is avoiding thinking about it. It’s academic, since although he was ordered multiple times to kill Rand, he was always pulled away by others before he completed the task. Competition and disunity have prevented the Shadow’s success.

    Luc was in charge of the Shadow’s Two Rivers campaign. Both Luc and Isam wondered if Isam was sent there to be kept away from important events – such as Rand going to Rhuidean or perhaps the derailing of the Black Ajah’s plans in Tanchico.

    He hates what the Town did to him and is conscious of how he might otherwise have turned out, if not for his capture. He feels empathy for a feral child.

    Isam openly sweats while worrying about which Forsaken is meeting him in the Town. Perrin thought that Isam lacked composure in the Two Rivers when they were staking each other:

    The slanting light illuminated it clearly. Dark hair and blue eyes, a face all hard planes and angles, so reminiscent of Lan's face. Except that in that brief glimpse Slayer licked his lips twice; his forehead was creased, and his eyes darted as they searched. Lan would not have let his worry show if he stood alone against a thousand Trollocs.

    The Shadow Rising, The Price of a Departure

    And Slayer was in the dream where he was far more skilled than Perrin at this stage.

    In contrast, as Perrin would have predicted, Lan showed no worry while actually fighting Demandred. Lan is far above Isam in courage and determination. Both men had traumatic upbringings, but Isam didn’t have care, though.

    The term “Eye Blinders” refers to spitting in Dark One’s eye, which is what the Aiel male channellers who are sent to the Blight say they will do. Instead, once there they are Turned into, or voluntarily become, Darkfriends—or accept death or stilling as Cyndane indirectly explains:

    “Is there . . . Is there really no way to resist being Turned? Nothing they can do?"

    "A person can resist for a short time," she said. "A short time only. The strongest will fail eventually. If you are a man facing women, they will beat you quickly."

    "It shouldn't be possible," Perrin said, kneeling. "Nobody should be able to force a man to turn to the Shadow. When all else is taken from us, this choice should remain."

    "Oh, they have the choice," Lanfear said, idly nudging one with her foot. "They could have chosen to be gentled. That would have removed the weakness from them, and they could never have been Turned."

    A Memory of Light, Doses of Forkroot

    The Eye Blinders are apparently constrained to only kill those who cannot channel—something that Moridin is not bound by. Isam knows they like to kill the Talentless, even him, who is fairly high up the Darkfriend hierarchy, and uniquely skilled besides, but they are not allowed to kill each other, because that would be wasteful.

    Perhaps the Aiel lowered their veils in anticipation of killing the Dragon Reborn.

    It appears that another Aiel male channeller has been caught—one that has been sent to the Blight to fight Dark One. This is what Isam means by thinking:

    Isam would have assumed that the practice had ended, once the taint was cleansed.

    A Memory of Light, Prologue

    There is no need to send male channellers to the Blight now, but some are continuing the custom. They are more likely to be from remnants of the Brotherless or Shaido, but could still be from other clans, despite Rand’s intention to change the custom, because Aiel are reluctant to change.

    Isam encountered Aiel channellers—even Turned ones—in his childhood, so there have been Black sisters in the town in the past to Turn Aiel channellers; perhaps there have been for centuries. Once there is a large number of Eye Blinders, they can do the Turning (these rings can all be male), but women will Turn men far more easily. At least in the Blight there would not be the difficulty of gathering 13 Myrddraal together.

    Isam respects Moridin and Cyndane, although he doesn’t recognise the latter’s real identity. Cyndane is not in disguise as Isam thinks, but has a new body. She is desperate for Rand’s death. Lanfear has changed; she is not a spoiled child anymore, but a vengeful woman scorned. Cyndane says the other Forsaken have renounced their claim on Isam. This may not be true.

    Cyndane orders two Turned Aiel to accompany Isam, but did not command them to follow his orders. She appears to be revolted by the Turned Aiel:

    "They will accompany you," the Chosen said. "You shall have a handful of the Talentless as well to help deal with al'Thor's guards." She turned to him and, for the first time, she met his eyes. She seemed . . . revolted.

    A Memory of Light, Prologue

    As she explains to Perrin,

    "They've been Turned," she said. "I've always found that to be a wasteful business. You lose something in the transformation—they will never serve as well as if they'd come willingly. Oh, they'll be loyal, but the light is gone. The self-motivation, the spark of ingenuity that makes people into people."

    "Be quiet," Perrin said. "Turned? What do you mean? Is that . . ."

    "Thirteen Myrddraal and thirteen Dreadlords." Lanfear sneered. "Such crudeness. Such a waste."

    A Memory of Light, Doses of Forkroot

    She is also unimpressed if she has to use Compulsion to manipulate someone—it is cheating, and therefore beneath her. Turning is the ultimate in Compulsion.