Thursday, June 30, 2011

New Article Released: Wheel of Time Tricksters


By Linda

There are quite a few trickster figures in the Wheel of Time series and they are some of the most popular characters due to their daring and subversive, yet very human natures, and their power to enchant other characters and the reader. I’ve wanted to write an essay on them for over a year now and have finally done so. In it I describe the typical characteristics of trickster figures in myth and legend and how Jordan has incorporated them into his trickster characters Mat, Thom, Noal, Vanin, Fain, the Aelfinn and Eelfinn, and of course, Verin. Without their almost accidental abilities to twist events, dodge disaster, or get past boundaries, the Pattern of the Last Days and the books would be far worse off.

Since balance and boundaries are important themes in the Wheel of Time, I should briefly mention that the opposite of the cheeky tricksters, the anti-tricksters, if you like, would be the Ogier: also lovable, but in no way subversive, manipulative, suave or cunning. Tricksters are morally ambivalent and shamelessly or haplessly untrustworthy, and the Ogier are anything but that. If, for some reason, an Ogier changed to the extent of showing such characteristics that would be a trick indeed.

The Thirteenth Depository has also reached 1.5 million page views and the release of my Redressing the Balance and the Boundaries – Wheel of Time Tricksters essay celebrates that.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #28: Chapter 25 - In Darkness



By Linda


WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT

Sheriam POV

Rebel Aes Sedai sharing tents inevitably forms or strengthens bonds between sisters and hopefully breaks down selfishness. Sheriam is accommodated by herself and uses a separate tent – Egwene’s - to work in. She has four times the space as the average Aes Sedai, so I guess that makes her four times more selfish and less cooperative.

Chesa, the maid Sheriam chose for Egwene, is very attached to Egwene and worries about her being captive. There was a time she was suspected of being a Darkfriend, but her concern shows she probably isn’t one.

Halima was the one punishing Sheriam. Not a great surprise, although Sheriam never commented that her abuser wasn’t using saidar. Presumably she has previously encountered Forsaken who hid their ability or weaves from her and assumed Halima was doing the same.

So being a member of the Black Ajah is rough, and Sheriam feels sorry for herself. She is not committed to the Shadow’s cause but is in it only for personal gain. She justifies her apostasy and treason by claiming that all Aes Sedai would backstab to get ahead and Black sisters just go that little bit further...It was very amusing that after Sheriam stops moaning she gets to savour peace for a few seconds and then senses a woman of great strength about to enter her tent. Mesaana isn’t hiding her ability this time, even though if Sheriam can sense her outside, so could other Aes Sedai nearby.

Sheriam assumes that someone very strong in the Power will be high in the Shadow’s hierarchy. (Aes Sedai follow a “might is right” policy like the Shadow, the only band of female channellers to do so.) Since she considers that this figure could be an exalted aide, she also knows that there are strong female channellers who aren’t Aes Sedai/Black Ajah. Sheriam is really alarmed by this figure whether Chosen or powerful servant.

Mesaana likes her black ribbons illusion; she wears it again in Towers of Midnight. It is customary to grovel for most Forsaken, but Mesaana is in a hurry this time and tells Sheriam to skip these preliminaries. I guess she is conscious that she shouldn’t waste time in the rebel camp because she hasn’t disguised her ability. She probably didn’t mask her strength in the Power to scare Sheriam into line quickly.

A Chosen ordered Sheriam to raise Egwene, or more properly to take up Siuan’s and Leane’s suggestion. Halima arrived in Salidar a few days before Egwene was summoned by the rebels to be raised, so it was probably she who gave the order. Mesaana wants Egwene deposed. She tells Sheriam to steal all 19 sleepweavers in 3 days to keep Aes Sedai out of Tel’aran’rhiod and then travels back to the White Tower without bothering to hide her destination from Sheriam. It is curious that she threatened to punish failure for her second, offhand command, but not her first command.


Egwene POV

Egwene is determined to be dignified despite her abuse. She is beaten every day, denied clean clothes, and is only out of her unlit cell and seated on a chair because she has visitor. Her jailers are still following Tower law and allowing visitors.

Elaida’s tactic of showing off to the Sitters backfired since a senior member of five Ajahs witnessed her break the law. She tried to forestall a trial but failed. Her argument is that Egwene is a Darkfriend and so she expelled her from the Tower and then beat her. I don’t know how she justified this to herself, since no formal charges have been laid, and apart from being summary justice (illegal), it’s not the appropriate punishment for a Darkfriend anyway. The Tower is worse than a backward village:

"It will not stand," Seaine said, consolingly. "This is not some backward village, where the Dragon's Fang scrawled on someone's door is enough to convict."
Egwene raised an eyebrow. She'd been raised in "some backward village," and they'd had enough sense to look for more than rumors in convicting someone, no matter what the crime.

The Gathering Storm, In Darkness

Elaida’s behaviour is not an offense for which she could be deposed. The maximum punishment is formal censure and a month’s penance. She would retain the shawl – an error: it should be stole. Elaida is losing credibility. Egwene worries that Elaida will hide her away and she will be inaccessible to visitors or unable to influence events.

The Tower is badly affected by the Dark One’s weakening of the Pattern, his spreading ofWrongness, perhaps because a Forsaken and so many Black Ajah are in residence. The blighting is less of a problem in the rebel camp, despite having about the same number of Black sisters, so maybe Mesaana makes the difference. Also, belief and order give strength, as Herid Fel wrote, and the Tower is very disordered and its residents are short on belief in the Tower’s administration and hold on events. The rebels are comparatively better focussed.

Yellow sisters are now in the basement and the second kitchen is on the sixth level. This kitchen will be needed soon, when the Tower reunifies and 1000 novices arrive; so it has risen in prominence, which is appropriate since food and nutrition are very important now. The Yellows have not been doing their bit to help against pestilence and have been dumped in the basement. However Yellow sisters should not have had rooms on the sixth level because the bottom half of the Tower is for communal use, not Ajah living quarters, according to The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time.

The remainder of the novices have been brought up to the 21st and 22nd levels, so they too have risen in prominence and will soon save the Tower from the Seanchan. The Browns are now in the novice wing, symbolising that Aes Sedai are not as well trained or knowledgeable as they think. This is another error. The Tower was described as being divided vertically with the Ajahs each having equal pie-shaped wedges of each floor and not owning whole floors:

Each Ajah occupies one of seven pie-shaped sections in the top half of the huge main Tower containing living quarters for its members as well as meeting rooms and workrooms reserved for that Ajah, though some members of the Brown have rooms in or near the huge library as well. These sections are equal in size, although the Ajahs are not, but even the largest Ajah, the Red, does not come anywhere near filling its allotted space. The main Hall of the Tower and all common rooms are located in the lower half of the building.

The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time

Egwene encourages Seaine and her fellow independent Sitters to remind the Hall and other Aes Sedai that the Last Battle approaches and they should work together, not divide further. She worries that Elaida could have her executed for falsely claiming to be Amyrlin, but decides to stay firmly on her chosen course. Belief has certainly given Egwene strength.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #27: Chapter 24 - A New Commitment



By Linda


WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT

Allowances should be made for Gawyn because he has sleep deprivation, but honestly, his blindness and arrogance is so annoying in this chapter. He says the White Tower doesn’t deserve his allegiance and he can’t go back to the Younglings either. That’s right looked at from either point of view, I guess. He has taken the fork in the road Egwene dreamt in A Crown of Swords probably some time ago, but now is open about it. The wavering he has experienced these last few months has been revealed publicly.

Gawyn behaves badly and expects privileges and acknowledgement of his rank when he has abandoned its responsibilities. Bryne puts him in his place.

"The watch sergeant was belligerent, and I had no patience for the posturing of a fool. This seemed the best way."
"The best way to what?" Bryne asked. "Outrage me?"
"Look," Gawyn said, "perhaps I was hasty, but I have an important task. You need to listen to me."
"And if I don't?" Bryne asked. "If I instead throw you out of my camp for being a spoiled princeling with too much pride and not enough sense?"
Gawyn frowned. "Be careful, Gareth. I've learned a great deal since we last met. I think you'll find that your sword can no longer best mine as easily as it once did."
"I have no doubt of that," Bryne said. "Light, boy! You always were a talented one. But you think that just because you're skilled with the sword, your words hold more weight? I should listen because you'll kill me if I don't? I thought I taught you far better than that."

The Gathering Storm, A New Commitment

Gawyn is just as belligerent as the watch sergeant, what with threatening Bryne if he makes him leave the camp and then again when Bryne tells him the state that Andor descended to in Gawyn’s absence. Bryne knew Gawyn attacked soldiers to get his attention. The general radiates calm and command and makes Gawyn ashamed of his behaviour. He admits to being hasty and then to being a fool. All very true, and understated if anything. Gawyn is not good at introspection, which is why he has little insight into himself or objectivity about himself and his relations with others.

Gawyn is like Elaida in believing that might is right; in his case might is based on swordsmanship instead of strength in saidar.

Gawyn can’t imagine Egwene not wanting to be rescued, and is convinced he has to rescue her. His plans after he saves her are so different from reality:

I’ll save her somehow. Then I'll talk some sense into her and bring her away from all of the Aes Sedai. Perhaps even talk sense into Bryne. We can all get back to Andor, to help Elayne.

The Gathering Storm, A New Commitment

The one in dire need of sense is Gawyn.

Bryne insists on keeping his oaths, unlike just about everyone else, and reminds Gawyn that he made an oath to Elayne. Gawyn says he puts Egwene first. Bryne wonders why Gawyn is not helping Elayne and realises he led the Younglings. Immediately he sees Gawyn as an enemy commander. Gawyn says he left that command (just as he left Elayne) and swears he will reveal nothing of the rebel camp to the Tower Aes Sedai. Bryne is sceptical, to Gawyn’s surprise, but that is due to Siuan renouncing her oath.

Bryne understands that Gawyn doesn’t know what Egwene is to him because he is in the same situation with Siuan. Egwene seems to need rescuing all the time and Gawyn seems to spend most of his time walking away from people he has sworn to aid and withholding that aid. Bryne wants Gawyn to return to Andor and leave Egwene to the rebels and their army. Gawyn asks why Bryne isn’t in Andor and that opens a can of worms.

Gawyn is disbelieving that Morgase exiled Bryne on pain of death and even more so about Morgase’s weakness for Gaebril. In fairness, she acted entirely out of character due to Compulsion so it’s no wonder Gawyn was incredulous.

When Bryne says:

"Al'Thor saved Andor, son. Or as near to it as a man could."
"How could you say that?" Gawyn said, pulling his hand away. "How could you speak well of that monster? He killed my mother!"
"I don't know if I believe those rumors or not," Bryne said, rubbing his chin. "But if I do, lad, then perhaps he did Andor a favor. You don't know how bad it got, there at the end."
"I can't believe I'm hearing this," Gawyn said, lowering his hand to his sword. "I won't hear her name soiled like that, Bryne. I mean it."
Bryne looked him directly in the eyes. His gaze was so solid. Like eyes carved of granite. "I'll always speak truth, Gawyn. No matter who challenges me on it. It's hard to hear? Well, it was harder to live. No good comes of spreading complaints. But her son needs to know. In the end, Gawyn, your mother turned against Andor by embracing Gaebril. She needed to be removed. If al'Thor did that for us, then we have need to thank him."

The Gathering Storm, A New Commitment

Gawyn immediately blames what Bryne said on Rand, although that is a long leap of ‘logic’ even for him. There is a likeness here to his brother Galad in having strongly held beliefs, the difference being that Galad’s actually have thought behind them and are reassessed when contrary evidence comes to hand. Gawyn is more like a Questioner or rabid Whitecloak and dispenses with the requirement of evidence. Seeing Gawyn’s reception of this news, Bryne explains further:

She gave the kingdom to that snake. She sent her allies to be beaten and imprisoned. She wasn't right in her mind. Sometimes, when a soldier's arm festers, it needs to be cut free to save the man's life. I'm pleased at Elayne's success, and it is a wound to speak these words. But you have to bury that hatred of al'Thor. He wasn't the problem. Your mother was."

The Gathering Storm, A New Commitment

Bryne’s words are wise and his suggestion that Gawyn get Elayne to confirm them is a good one. Gawyn seems ridiculous in his blindness.

Gawyn tells Bryne of a mystery Aes Sedai among the washerwomen. Both men suspect she is a spy from the Tower, but Shemerin is an outcast. Her yellow kerchief shows that Shemerin can’t give up thoughts of the Yellow Ajah or the affiliation of a lifetime. Bryne is so nicely tactful with her. Shemerin didn’t chat with the other women; they knew she was higher ranked than they. She is ashamed of losing her rank, hence her seeming masochism. She cannot switch off her loyalties despite Elaida’s treatment of her. Without the Tower she has nothing, hence she has become a fringe dweller to the rebels. I agree with Romanda that Elaida’s decree – considering the effect it has had on Shemerin, which must have been obvious when she was still in the Tower - is disgraceful.

Gawyn is solidly on character – if annoying – and Bryne is well-drawn too. However the phrase “White Tower loyalists” grates. Neither side has used this term before. Only the readers.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #26: Chapter 23 - A Warp In The Air



By Linda


WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT

Cadsuane sees straight away why Corele and Nesune were left alive while Daigian was killed. Warders would raise the alarm. However they should have noticed that something had happened to their Aes Sedai. Corele and Nesune were put in a trance, but neither saidin nor saidar weaves could be detected. They may have been reversed weaves, or the True Power. Weaves of the True Power would not be sensed by others at all, so it is more likely that Shaidar Haran did this bit.

Cadsuane was not in her quarters but out in the Wise Ones’ camp. What a coincidence that the very night she was visiting the Wise Ones – at their invitation? - after showing one of them where she kept the a’dam, she was burgled. Cadsuane has a paralis net plus knowledge and strength. It was essential that she not be there.

It is interesting that when Rand suddenly shows Cadsuane the remnants of the a’dam only partially on view, we get told of Sorilea’s reaction:

"Do you recognize that, Cadsuane?" al'Thor said, nodding toward something metallic sitting on the bed, mostly hidden by the sheets.
Hesitantly she walked forward. Sorilea looked over, expression unreadable. Apparently, she didn't wish to be drawn into the conversation when al'Thor was in such a mood.

The Gathering Storm, A Warp in the Air

Maidens reported immediately to the Wise Ones while Cadsuane was entering the room. A Maiden held Cadsuane’s box so the Wise Ones knew of it before Rand showed Cadsuane. I think Sorilea blanked her expressions because she knew more than anyone else how the a’dam was betrayed to the Shadow and was wary about either Rand or Cadsuane reading her body language.

The male access key was left behind in Cadsuane’s room by whoever stole the a’dam and Rand has it now. Elza would know its function since she was at the Cleansing. A Wise One would not necessarily since no Aiel was there. Shaidar Haran might not want any person, even Moridin, to have that much Power. Maybe it wants Rand to despair and break the World and that is why it was left. Alternatively it may never have been told the access key was there. Cadsuane blames Forsaken for being able to disarm her box. But Sorilea was there when Cadsuane disarmed it and could have learned how to do it. Cadsuane earlier noted what a quick study Sorilea is for weaves even if she is weak in the Power. Sorilea could demonstrate the weave to Elza (since she can do that, even if her weave is too weak to be effective) and then Elza fetch the a’dam at Shaidar Haran’s command. Elza would follow an order exactly and not take anything she wasn’t ordered to.

Rand demonstrates balefire for Narishma and explains why they have to use it. He openly speaks of having Lews Therin’s memories to prove he knows the consequences of the weave.

Cadsuane thinks Rand insolent when he doesn’t answer her. She is annoyed with his overconfidence and stubbornness. Rand ignores her. Both are too angry and alarmed to talk. Cadsuane wonders how Rand survived. She refuses to apologise; she is over confident and stubborn just like Rand. He exiles her and threatens to kill her. He didn’t even react to Min when she objects.

Only Narishma is considerate enough to ask Min how she is. For some reason Min hasn’t been Healed.

Rand is really dark because he just used the True Power and balefire:

There was a danger to it, a shadowy cast to his eyes that struck her with more fear than she'd thought her aging heart could summon. As she watched, the air around him seemed to warp, and she could almost think that the room had grown darker... from the corner of her eye, she saw a deep darkness emanating from al'Thor, warping the air even further.

The Gathering Storm, A Warp in the Air

The shadow or darkness which warps the air is an after-effect of drawing the True Power. Foolishly Cadsuane says Rand doesn’t kill women. Considering what Semirhage forced him to do, she could hardly have said anything more stupid. He threatens that he can now kill solely by warping the Pattern to do his will:

"Cadsuane," he said softly, "do you believe that I could kill you? Right here, right now, without using a sword or the Power? Do you believe that if I simply willed it, the Pattern would bend around me and stop your heart? By... coincidence?"
Being ta'veren didn't work that way. Light! It didn't, did it? He couldn't bend the very Pattern to his will, could he?
And yet, meeting his eyes, she did believe. Against all logic, she looked in those eyes and knew that if she didn't leave, she would die.

The Gathering Storm, A Warp in the Air

What a bully Rand has turned into. This seems to be the corrupting influence of the Dark One (and how immediate it is!) – not that Cadsuane knows why he is like this. No wonder Cadsuane is terrified, in part for her life, but also for what he has become. She is powerless and doesn’t know what to do about the changes to Rand.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #25: Chapter 22 - The Last That Could Be Done



By Linda


WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT

And now for one of the pivotal chapters of The Gathering Storm, due to the effect its events have on Rand's character.

Semirhage POV

The Lady of Pain likes to receive physical pain as well as give it, although she much prefers the latter. She’s not that tough on blows to the ego though: the humiliation of her treatment made her cry and according to the Dark One has broken her. It didn’t take long. Semirhage’s ego is over-inflated and fragile. Mengele, one of her parallels, was just as psychologically brittle when captured (see Semirhage essay).

Semirhage mistakes rationalising for rational reasoning, but then she isn’t honest with herself, as her hypocritical claim that she experiments on people, while others merely abuse them, shows.

The Dark One confirmed that Semirhage was ordered to capture Rand and that she is judged to have failed greatly. She doesn’t dare lie or make excuses to Shaidar Haran, yet Moghedien did so, in the Pit of Doom, no less, and Graendal lies and makes excuses to Shaidar Haran at the end of Towers of Midnight.

Semirhage says the Dark One’s punishment for failure would make anything Aes Sedai could think up seem childish. Childish was exactly what worked on Semirhage and she found that it wasn’t that childish at all…

When Semirhage sees the three Aes Sedai sprawled on the floor she assumes they are all dead. So much for her Healing talent. Elza tells Semirhage that she must remove Verin’s compulsion (and it is referred to as such, despite Verin’s modest disclaimer). Semirhage is delighted because of the opportunity to observe the nasty effects. Afterwards Elza is dazed looking from having the Compulsion removed, but is coherent enough. Had Semirhage listened to Elza they would both probably be alive.

Shaidar Haran removed Semirhage’s shield but didn’t remove Elza’s Compulsion. Someone told where the a’dam was and how to get it. As reported on Terez’ Interview Database, Shaidar Haran has limitations:

Brandon hinted at some severe limitations on Shaidar Haran to affect the physical world. He says that a lot of actions that people assume to be those of Shaidar Haran in the book in one particular scene were physically carried out by Elza. He further indicated that Shadar Haran would have been incapable of physically placing the collar himself.

Q: You mention that Shaidar Haran has quite a few limitations on his power. Can you give us a few concrete examples of these limitations?
A: Shaidar Haran needs a minion to do most of his work for him. Elza was essential to Shaidar Haran in getting things done.

Q. How did Elza defeat the wards on Cadsuane's plain wooden box?
A. Elza had been given knowledge of several rarely known weaves, and in other ways made into a tool of Shaidar Haran. Not all of it was pleasant for her.

The simplest way would have been for a saidar channeller who witnessed the weaves to demonstrate them to Elza. Sorilea is the only one we know of that fits. But Elza was also given other knowledge as Sanderson says above.

Shaidar Haran appeared in black with a red light. Moridin claims red and black as his own, but it is the Great Lord’s livery.


Rand POV

The Blight is advancing very quickly. However the lack of Shadowspawn raids is very unusual. And ominous.

Bashere is aware that Tenobia could well be angry with him for following Rand and not asking her for orders. Rand admits that bringing 50 thousand soldiers into a nation was an act of war, but the rulers have left their nations under-defended. He wants Domani forces in Saldaea rather than Dragonsworn Saldaeans because they will be less of a problem, not of disloyalty to Rand, but of upsetting other Saldaeans. Ituralde had problems anyway in Towers of Midnight with being regarded as an invader.

Rand promises Ituralde 100 Asha’man by the end of the week. Lews Therin is convinced that no Asha’man can be trusted and that they will turn on him and Rand. I guess we’ll see if he’s right in A Memory of Light.

Rand wonders why Moridin helped him in Shadar Logoth against Sammael. Moridin only wants Rand dead beforetime if he thinks the Shadow is losing, otherwise he’d rather Rand save himself by removing a disobedient and unreliable Forsaken (who is also a rival of Moridin).

Rand is frightened that his dreams are no longer safe due to his link with Moridin. The Shadow let his dreams alone long enough for Rand to get over this, and then Cyndane breaks through…

Lews Therin says Min is right about needing to break the Seals. He explains the little he knows about Sealing the Bore. Something has to touch the Dark One, to bridge the gap, but then the Dark One is able to taint it. Therefore if something has to bridge the gap it must be something the Dark One can’t taint, like, say, the Shadar Logoth evil.

Rand is peeved that Lews Therin doesn’t have an answer on how to seal the Bore, but if he did, Lews Therin would have done things differently then and now. Rand seems to only tolerate Lews Therin for his knowledge. While Rand thinks that maybe if women had been included there might have been a successful outcome to the sealing of the Bore, we know from what RJ said that this wouldn’t have worked:

The result of this was that Lews Therin carried out his plan with only male Aes Sedai, so there were only male Aes Sedai channeling there, which was a lucky thing, because if there’d been women as well, then both saidin and saidar would have been tainted.

RJ at a booksigning

It would have been worse if anything. Rand is right; there surely is more to it than including women.

It is interesting that Rand thinks he could break the rules by killing the Dark One just as it is necessary to break the rules to win against the trickster Finns.

Rand wants Min’s approval and holds back a little from being too hard:

Except that Min didn't want him to be hard. He didn't want to frighten her, of all people. There were no games with Min; she might call him a fool, but she did not lie, and that made him want to be the man she wished him to be. But did he dare? Could a man who could laugh also be the man who could face what needed to be done at Shayol Ghul?

The Gathering Storm, The Last That Could be Done

He thinks:

It would take a hard man to face his own death, to fight the Dark One while his blood spilled on the rocks. Who could laugh in the face of that?

The Gathering Storm, The Last That Could be Done

Rand doesn’t need to laugh; he just doesn’t need to be hard or brutal either. As usual, balance is the key.

Rand is crushed by all his duties and impending sacrifice. Going one step further, Lews Therin is expressing a wish for nothingness like Moridin:

We die. You promised we could die!
Only if we defeat the Dark One, Rand said. You know that if he wins, there will be nothing for us. Not even death.
Yes . . . nothing, Lews Therin said. That would be nice. No pain, no regret. Nothing.
Rand felt a chill. If Lews Therin began to think that way . . . No, Rand said, it wouldn't be nothing. He would have our soul. The pain would be worse, far worse.

The Gathering Storm, The Last That Could be Done

Rand says that to frighten Lews Therin off from wanting nothingness. Is Lews Therin infected by the link to Moridin? Or Moridin by Lews Therin’s despair? Whichever way, Lews Therin, being the madder part of Rand’s personality, is showing the effects sooner than Rand is.

Rand says:

He had worked hard to make them think he was a man without affection. At times, he feared that his ruse had become reality.

The Gathering Storm, The Last That Could be Done

He’s right; this is a dangerous ploy because an act can become real if it is done often or really convincingly.

Rand thinks a moment of running to his father would be a fatal weakness to him and to Tam. He’s wrong about this as he shows in Towers of Midnight in Tear. It’s an indication of how much he changed over the two books.

The prophecy of Rand living by dying is interpreted by Rand to refer to his legacy of memories and histories. At his most negative he believes this will be war, famine and chaos; when he is more positive, he hopes his schools will be effective. Either way he thinks he can’t worry about afterwards:

To do so would be to take his eye off the goal. And what is the goal? that voice seemed to say. Is it to survive, or is it to thrive? Will you set the groundwork for another Breaking or for another Age of Legends?

The Gathering Storm, The Last That Could be Done

Indeed, his spiritual state is important as Cadsuane has said from early on. The Gathering Storm shows what happens when Rand reaches a spiritual nadir: despair, violence and contemplation of genocide.

Min encourages Rand to relax but he brushes her off saying it is not a time for laughter:

"You would have me be happy while children starve and men slaughter one another? I should laugh to hear that Trollocs are still getting through the Ways? I should be happy that the majority of the Forsaken are still out there somewhere, plotting how best to kill me?"

The Gathering Storm, The Last That Could be Done

He makes a nonsense of her suggestions by taking it to its extreme. He did something similar when he suggested that laughing was the alternative to being hard.

Rand becomes suspicious when Min mentions Cadsuane and accuses her of manipulating him on Cadsuane’ behalf. Then he feels he went too far by distrusting Min and backs down. At that moment Semirhage strikes with the male a’dam.

Semirhage tested the male a’dam previously and has apparently spent a lot of time working with the female a’dam. How and when?

The Domination Band (see A'dam article for more on both types) prevents movement and channelling unless the controller allows it. It is more enslaving than the female a’dam. While being abused by Semirhage through the a’dam Rand has a flashback of his captivity by Elaida’s embassy. It was in the box that Rand split Lews Therin off from himself more:

Rand could remember communicating with the madman; Lews Therin had started to respond to him only shortly before that day. Rand hadn't been willing to see Lews Therin as part of himself.

The Gathering Storm, The Last That Could be Done

He doesn’t acknowledge his Lews Therin fragment until he is at least as bad as Lews Therin and fully realises it.

When he tells Semirhage that she can’t do anything more to him she reacts as though Rand has challenged her. She makes him attack Min instead. Rand refuses to kill Semirhage as Lews Therin urges; instead she forces him to torture Min. It was a futile suggestion anyway because Rand can’t do what Semirhage won’t allow while the a’dam is being used on him.

Semirhage should be taking Rand to Shayol Ghul but decides to play with him first. She tries to make him kill Min physically. This, plus a flashback of Lews Therin killing Ilyena, drives Rand to draw on the True Power through his link to Moridin. First he went emotionally cold, then dead. When Asmodean was teaching Rand how to seize saidin in the void, Rand always went emotionless. Asmodean said Rand could or would go beyond that in time:

Aviendha began dividing them while he seized saidin, filling himself with life and death, molten fire and liquid ice.
“Split them equally,” he told her. He knew his voice was cold and emotionless. Asmodean had said he could go beyond that, but he had not managed to so far.

The Fires of Heaven, A Short Spear

but Rand took a very long time to do so and may only have fully achieved this in Towers of Midnight. Rand has always had this tendency to suppress his feelings - the heart of stone.

The unseen face would be that of Moridin. We know from earlier chapters how closely they are tied now.

Lews Therin thinks the True Power/Dark One - they are the same in his mind - is death and betrayal. Semirhage thinks the Dark One betrayed her by allowing Rand to draw the True Power rather than let her be disobedient and put her little games first above the Dark One’s commands.

The True Power is totally addictive as we soon learn. The modest amount Rand uses to kill Semirhage and Elza rivals in seductiveness what Rand can draw through the Choedan Kal. The Dark One = overkill. Not just kill.

Rand knows how to use the True Power, so the knowing must be part of its access:

Rand raised a hand and, filled with the power he did not understand, wove a single weave.

The Gathering Storm, The Last That Could be Done

The bracelets were not destroyed by True Power balefire, but the weave did not hit them directly.

Lews Therin thinks he and Rand are damned by using the True Power, especially True Power balefire.

Rand is still emotionally numb. Now he knows what it is like to kill a loved one while fully aware thanks to Semirhage. He thinks the worst has been done to him and he can make himself strong enough to withstand it now:

Once, weeks ago, he had decided that he must become stronger— where he had been iron, he had decided to become steel. It appeared that steel was too weak. He would be harder, now. He understood how. Where he had once been steel, he became something else. From now on, he was cuendillar.

The Gathering Storm, The Last That Could be Done

But he isn’t making himself stronger. Cadsuane was right when she told Sorilea that Rand confuses strength and hardness. In fact he does so in the quote above. At this point Rand is not strength, only hardness. Perrin is strength (see Perrin essay). Rand is making himself harder and more brittle just as Fain found Elaida was compared with Siuan:

He had been surprised to find Elaida on the Amyrlin Seat. Better than what he had expected, though. In many ways she was not so tough, he had heard, as the woman who had worn the stole before her. Harder, yes, and more cruel, but more brittle, too. More difficult to bend, likely, but easier to break.

The Fires of Heaven, Prologue

Rand is now staying emotionless in a different void. A void is nothingness just as Lews Therin and Moridin advocate. Rand states that they can’t bend or break him and thinks he’s safe from that. But he’s not safe because he can break himself as we shall see.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #24: Chapter 21 - Embers and Ash



By Linda


WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT

Perrin POV

Black clouds and silence spread all through Tel’aran’rhiod from Shayol Ghul. They are very persistent and reflect the real blighting of the world, not the usual transitory weather. It’s a Foreshadowing that the Last Hunt comes that can be read in the dream long before it happens in the waking world.

The wolves believe that:

If Shadowkiller falls to the storm, all will sleep forever. If he lives, then we will hunt together.

The Gathering Storm, Embers and Ash

And the title of this book is The Gathering Storm...

Perrin has been literally left hanging in Tel’aran’rhiod. He needs Hopper to show him how to jump down from the sky since he’s somewhat hamstrung still by his fear of the wolf part of himself and of losing his humanity. Perrin asks Hopper for help in controlling himself or suppressing his wolf side. Hopper encourages Perrin to be more wolf-like, if anything, in Tel’aran’rhiod. Perrin demands that Hopper teach him and then endangers himself by pulling himself more strongly into Tel’aran’rhiod. Unimpressed with Perrin’s petulance, Hopper boots him out of the dream.


Faile POV

Even Aes Sedai told Faile that Perrin spent the night in Berelain’s tent. I wonder which ones? Faile has not doubted his faithfulness though. Perrin assures Faile that if she was pressured to be unfaithful in Malden to acquire a protector, then he accepts this. Faile is insulted a bit, but it is close enough to what happened. It’s one reason why she keeps her relationship with Rolan secret. The other is that she thinks Perrin would have been upset he had killed Rolan unjustly after he aided them. Perrin would not have been though; he lumped the Brotherless and the Shaido in together as equally culpable.

In Malden Faile learned the true responsibility of a noble. Perrin is still learning to accept the responsibilities of a leader. Faile is content that both of them grew a lot in the last two months:

She actually felt a stab of guilt for the times she had lorded over Perrin, trying to force him—or others—to bend to her will. Being a noblewoman meant going first. It meant being beaten so others were not. It meant sacrificing, risking death, to protect those who depended upon you.

The Gathering Storm, Embers and Ash

noble in character as well as rank. Faile is very fond of Bain and Chiad and says they are more loyal than those who have sworn to her:

They were more loyal—even—than those who had sworn to her. Loyal to her, yet free of oaths to her. A contradiction only Aiel could pull off.

The Gathering Storm, Embers and Ash

Actually what they show is true friendship. It says a fair bit about court life and nobles’ relationships that Faile thinks this is something remarkable that only the Aiel would do.

Gaul fought twelve men to get Chiad back and also managed to acquire Bain in all that fighting. He is doomed to have the pair of them. Gaul, Bain and Chiad mirror the situation of Perrin, Berelain and Faile. Both men love one woman but can’t seem to escape the other. Each pair of women makes their male sweat. Bain and Chiad perhaps aim to get Gaul to be fond of, or at least appreciate, both of them. Their teasing of Gaul is one of togetherness and friendship, while Berelain and Faile are rivals where there can be only one victor. They are contending over Perrin.

Faile and her three fellow ex-slaves hold a memorial service for those who helped them escape Malden and died for it. They acknowledge their debt, their toh and their guilt. Faile still doesn’t know if her distraction of Rolan was deliberate or not. Lacile actually killed Jhoradin herself. Faile killed Kinhuin, Alliandre’s protector. All to protect Perrin. How wise of Bashere to prepare his daughter for situations when she has to kill someone that she didn’t want to because she sees it as necessary.

Rolan’s piece of turquoise is kept from the miniature pyre of belongings by Faile as a memento of the dead and their sacrifice. Turquoise is popular with Amerindians and the Aiel have parallels with American Indians. In Europe turquoise is a symbol of friendship or esteem and means “forget-me-not”.

The embers and ash which are all that remains of their Aiel protectors’ belongings reminds Faile of a proverb:

The past was a field of embers and ash, an old Saldaean proverb said, the remnants of the fire that was the present.

The Gathering Storm, Embers and Ash

I thought it so succinctly wise. Perhaps my favourite bit of the chapter.


Perrin POV

Laying alone in the dark, Perrin decides to make decisions. He has three issues to work out: his acceptance of leadership, controlling his inner wolf and allowing Faile to go into danger.

He resolves to face his problems over leadership:

He wanted either to be free of all of these people who followed him, or to learn how to accept their loyalty.

The Gathering Storm, Embers and Ash

but still has no idea which way he will jump though. That’s not surprising, considering that a short while earlier he needed help jumping in Tel’aran’rhiod. He’s stuck mentally.

Perrin needs to allow Faile to go into danger. Perhaps the realisation that she will be in danger whatever she does will help him face up to it.

He hasn’t decided which way he will go on each of the three problems, just that he is going to think about each problem first. The decision that he will consider and decide eases his mind a little.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #23: Chapter 20 - On a Broken Road



By Linda


WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT

The map-maker’s map allowed them to find an old road, possibly dating to the Age of Legends. Is it a road from the past or to the past? Or the road to the Underworld?

Talmanes mocks Mat, but Mat is too busy mocking womankind to notice. I guess the Cairhienin lord is amused by twenty year old Mat’s claim to vast experience. And why is Mat complaining bitterly? One reason is that Mat feels bad about the deaths in battle that he is responsible for. Another is that Mat thinks he can’t be lucky because he couldn’t escape battle – or marriage. Yet he appears to have come out ahead from both. Certainly richer! (And Mat is the god of wealth.) That’s good if you take the materialistic view of life. And Mat often does. Mat always wanted to be rich, and now he’s married to the richest woman on the planet. So why is he complaining?

Which brings us to the third reason: he’s missing Tuon and worried about her safety. Talmanes appals Mat by saying he sounds husbandly. In defiance, Mat is determined not to give up gambling and drinking. Talmanes teases him again, saying he’s becoming boring, but he stops and offers sympathy when he realises Mat is miserable. Mat won’t talk about it. He’s very tense but refuses to admit it is because of Tuon.

Vanin feels his position is threatened by the map maker. Mat used to really admire Vanin as a mature man with the sort of trickster skills he’d like to acquire. But he is a fully fledged trickster now and finds Vanin’s insecurity and weaknesses amusing (see here for an analysis of Vanin’s character development).

As egalitarian as Mat, Vanin tries to treat Aes Sedai exactly as he does everyone else but backs down at just a look from Joline.

Mat naively thinks Joline couldn’t hurt him with the Power if he wasn’t wearing his medallion because she is bound by the Three Oaths. He is mistaken: she only has to think of it as ‘discipline’ or ‘punishment’. Teslyn stopped Joline from hitting Mat with indirect weaves of the Power in Knife of Dreams, A Short Path.

Teslyn respects Mat; the first man she ever has (see this post analysing Teslyn’s character). Mat almost regrets rescuing the Aes Sedai because they show little gratitude. Yet as far as appreciation goes, Teslyn was well worth rescuing.

Joline and Teslyn are on poor terms with each other, partly because Teslyn is starting to stand up for herself again. Prior to her capture she used to be very dominant:

As inexorable as Elaida, she ground down whatever lay in her path. They stood as equals in every real way, certainly, but not many managed to prevail over Teslyn without a clear advantage.

A Crown of Swords, The Triumph of Logic

but she no longer is; an effect of her traumatic enslavement.

Joline tries to get more horses than is reasonable out of the Band. This, and Vanin backing down makes Mat be rude to her and bluntly show her the faults in her plan. Ultimately he will earn her respect too.

Teslyn is disappointed in Mat for being rude to Joline. Not necessarily because he is being unpleasant to an Aes Sedai, but because he is showing bad manners. Mat has rarely insulted anybody before. Mat is ashamed; he wants Teslyn’s respect. This is not something he’s ever worried about before with Aes Sedai. Talmanes is surprised that Mat is not prepared to pay such a price to get rid of the Aes Sedai, but Mat won’t be ripped off by them or pushed around. After all, as he keeps telling himself in Towers of Midnight, he’s a married man now.

Mat realises that to get food will require a lot of money and so brings his whole chest with him into Hinderstap. Perhaps he already has an idea of how he is going to get them to sell food: which is to be an Odin/Loki combination; a trickster. (An essay on Tricksters in the series is currently being written.) Talmanes openly goes along for the ride. (For an in-depth analysis of Talmanes, see here).

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #22: Chapter 19 - Gambits



By Linda


WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT

It is the day after Suroth’s demotion. Her interrogation is already yielding information. However Suroth can’t have confessed to being a Darkfriend because Tuon has no thoughts on that and also the Shadow hasn’t killed Suroth.

This chapter has the first usage in the series of the title Highest Daughter when referring to Tuon, but then Tuon hasn’t held court as Daughter of the Nine Moons before.

Yuril, Tuon’s Hand commanding her Seekers has not played a part yet. It’s striking that she never thinks of any information he has passed to her, or anything he has ever done or organised. Does the corruption we know is present in the Seekers start at the top?

Tuon doesn’t think of Anath as being able to channel; as a marath’damane. She doesn’t believe all of the reports regarding Anath’s attempt to capture Rand, especially that Anath is a Forsaken or even a marath’damane. Well she wouldn’t want to, would she?

The omens Tuon observes work as well as others’ dreams and soothsaying do. Note that reading omens is egalitarian in that it requires no special ability and thus all can do it. We were introduced to the Seanchan’s way of reading the Pattern late, making it too easy to dismiss it as superstition. It is well to remember that Tuon dismisses as mere superstition many things the reader accepts as reliable precognition or a manifestation of the Pattern. For instance she still refuses to believe in ta’veren.

Tuon sees her first Trolloc heads and realises Mat wasn’t lying. She wants Mat back (purely for information, of course!) and is surprised that she admitted this to Selucia. So Tuon does keep some things hidden from her. Both women realise that other information from Mat that they have previously dismissed could be true. Even with the heads – and the Seanchan are big on evidence – some of the Seanchan didn’t believe in Trollocs, or that they would attack Ebou Dar.

Tuon is surrounded by white – flagstones, pillars, spires – and brightness. She prefers white tiles to coloured rugs. Rand, on the other hand, is surrounded by shadow and darkness, gloom. She has a very positive attitude, he is despairing. She is order, he is chaos. The bright light around Tuon reflects her very positive attitude. Or perhaps helps inspire it. Another leader surrounded by white is Rand’s half-brother Galad, although in his last POV he was mired in mud. The Whitecloaks were stained by the questionable beliefs and attitudes of the Questioners.

This chapter encapsulates many of Tuon’s roles and parallels, especially of goddesses. As her passion for the proper order of things shows she is an order and justice figure:

Order, Tuon thought, keeping her face still. I represent order.

- The Gathering Storm, Gambits

Bringing the world back into order was going to be very, very difficult. Perhaps impossible. Tuon straightened her back. She had not thought to become Empress for many years yet. But she would do her duty.

- The Gathering Storm, Gambits

Chaos. The entire world was chaos… Order. Here in Ebou Dar, there was order, even in the fields of tents and wagons outside the city. Seanchan soldiers patrolled and kept the peace; there were plans to clean out the Rahad. Just because one was poor was not a reason—or an excuse—to live without law. But this city was just a tiny, tiny pocket of order in a world of tempest.

- The Gathering Storm, Gambits

Tuon has a very different leadership style to Elaida. She is consciously preventing division and squabbling – as Elaida has not, and as Egwene also will. Like many justice figures she is merciful and just and not tyrannical, again in contrast to Elaida and also Rand. See Tuon essay for more discussion on Tuon’s parallels to order and justice goddesses.

She also has links with sea goddesses. Tuon, who crossed the ocean with thousands of great ships, announces publicly in her audience hall with its ceiling painted with gulls and fishers at sea, and the walls a soft blue, that maritime Ebou Dar will be her seat, and this while wearing a pleated gown of the deepest sea blue, a white cape fluttering behind her like wave foam (The Gathering Storm, Gambits). Her fingernails were lacquered blue in this scene, instead of their previous red.

Tuon was originally going to rule from Tar Valon (Knife of Dreams, A Village in Shiota) to destroy the influence of the Aes Sedai and emphasise that she conquered them. This is ironic, considering that Tuon herself can learn to channel and will very probably do so and thus could join them. But she has now stated that her capital will be a sea port.

As the wife of lucky Mat, Tuon is Lady Luck and will soon take the name of the goddess of Fortune. It helps to explain her survival of so many assassination attempts. Another reason, as the name Tuon indicates, is that she is Queen of the Dead (see Tuon essay) and who can kill such a figure? In Finnish mythology the Underworld is called Tuonela and is ruled by Tuoni and Tuonetar. In this chapter Tuon says she thrives on death attempts and only the Queen of the Underworld would do that. Her husband Mat is King of the Dead (see Mat essay). Later she will bless the living, declare them dead and send the living dead to fight in her name as though they were shades from the Underworld.

Tuon thinks all oaths equal in importance. She is yet to realise that if people feel coerced into an oath, they do not feel bound by it. She feels they shouldn’t swear in the first place if they refuse to be bound by it, and be prepared to die instead. Elaida, like most Aes Sedai, has to keep the letter of her Oaths, but avoids keeping the spirit of them. However, if an Aes Sedai believes she has to keep the spirit of her Oaths, then she will. Shemerin is one such. Tuon recollects that Mat said something that implied there was a way around three Oaths and may yet work out how to use Aes Sedai damane in battle. Here is my theory on it.

Finally, Tuon shows her links with war goddesses such as Freya, and the Morrigan, when she considers the Return to be at war with the Aes Sedai, and soon, with Rand as well.

Beslan is much more kingly and responsible than Tuon thought. Tuon spoke to him directly to startle him out of his perfect act, but actually he was worthy of the honour as well as able to act with the best.

Tuon knows she can’t afford to provoke the Altarans into uprising. If Beslan swears fealty to Empire he will have a more secure and effective rule. She proves to him with reports of how the Seanchan have improved order and conditions in Altara. The Seanchan are big on evidence - well, evidence that they collect themselves; not so good on evidence others show them. (I’m thinking of the Trollocs’ heads here, which some in the audience refused to accept.)

Galgan disrupts Beslan’s oath of fealty saying it is not the proper way to do it. I am somewhat suspicious of his motive. Suroth was able to weaken the Seanchan forces greatly by wasting them. Yet could she have done as well without the general agreeing to it? The Seanchan lost one hundred thousand in Arad Doman. Galgan showed very little dissent for orders that led to disaster. Perhaps he too is a Darkfriend – with both of them ignorant of the other’s allegiance – and takes advantage of what he sees as Suroth’s “mistakes”. Dark clothing is often a sign of a Darkfriend and Galgan wears dark armour...

Galgan discourages Tuon from meeting the Dragon Reborn, again, seemingly innocently. It is adding up though. He thought Tuon would head back to Seanchan, and said he thought they should stay here. Was he trying to sow confusion in her mind? If so, it didn’t work. Galgan is known to be prudent as well as ambitious. This is a recipe for an effective Darkfriend. Or just a negative man.

The Return is slower than expected in conquering the mainland, despite the nations not aiding each other. This, too, is suggestive.

The Seanchan want to raid the White Tower to weaken the Aes Sedai and to gain access to weaves. Galgan is all for it. They think such a large number of Aes Sedai could disable Seanchan if they fought. It would be true if the Aes Sedai were not bound by the Three Oaths. Galgan says he doesn’t know if the Dragon Reborn is connected to the Aes Sedai or not. They must assume an attack on the White Tower will anger him, but also weaken him. (Actually it triggered the reunion of the Aes Sedai and the purging of the Black Ajah and so strengthened them.)

Tuon and Galgan think it is more urgent to weaken and subdue Dragon Reborn. Tylee enters at a crucial moment. Galgan says she should speak. Tylee hasn’t shaved her head much, just the minimum acceptable. It shows she is not that keen on her change of station and is not overwhelmed by it either. Tylee dares to speak up in dissent – even though she is newly Low Blood – saying that the Seanchan should ally with the Dragon Reborn and not be his enemy.

Many of the low Blood would be so in awe at meeting one of the Empress's household, much less the Highest Daughter, that they would not dare speak. Yet this woman offered suggestions? In direct opposition to Tuon's published will?

The Gathering Storm, Gambits

Only Selucia follow Tylee’s advice and advises Tuon as Truthspeaker:

"A difficult decision is not always a decision where both sides are equally matched, Tuon," Selucia said suddenly. "Perhaps, in this case, a difficult decision is one that is right, but requires an implication of fault as well."

The Gathering Storm, Gambits

It is interesting that Selucia was against the attack. Tuon had thought to go to Rand

in strength, his armies defeated, the White Tower torn down? She needed him brought to the Crystal Throne under very controlled circumstances, with the understanding that he was to submit to her authority.”

The Gathering Storm, Gambits

but decides to delay the attack on the White Tower and meet Rand first. For order’s sake:

Order must be brought to the world. If she had to do that by lowering her eyes slightly and meeting with the Dragon Reborn, then so be it.

The Gathering Storm, Gambits

It buys her time to plan and to secure her position. It also delays her attack on the Tower until Gawyn is able to rescue Egwene, Elaida is thoroughly undermined and Verin passes on her crucial information.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Gathering Storm Read-Through #21: Chapter 18 - A Message in Haste



By Linda


WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT

The messages passed on in haste were not just to Bryne; there were also messages to Siuan and to the rebel camp.

Bryne wants Siuan to learn self-defense. Obviously he senses the dangerous undercurrents among the rebels besides the exposure of a Forsaken some time earlier.

Siuan guesses – or hopes – that Beonin was the one to betray the Travelling weave to the Tower Aes Sedai and not Egwene or Leane. The risk that the Tower breaks one or both of them is weighing on her mind. This plus Lelaine’s efforts to replace Egwene as Amyrlin are what spurs Siuan to rescue Egwene against orders.

Siuan takes responsibility for the poor state of the Aes Sedai. She recognises that she should have worked harder at fostering cooperation between the Ajahs when she was Amyrlin. Elaida has only been Amyrlin a short time (12 months), not long enough in Siuan’s view to cause a collapse in a strong social structure, therefore the Aes Sedai were not strongly knit. To her credit, Siuan does not make the excuse that the Black Ajah has played a part in the schism; if she were leading well enough they would not be able to make the inroads they did.

There is evidence of the influence of the Black Ajah among the rebels in this chapter. The discussion about replacing wooden walkways with something more permanent is a sign the delaying and divisive tactics of the Black Ajah are working. The Shadow wants to keep the Aes Sedai divided, and encouraging the rebels to stay put is a logical move. The Black Sitter Moria casts doubt on Ashmanaille’s report that Elaida has Travelling because the Black Ajah are under orders to make sure the siege continues, and this news marks the end of the siege.

Lots of novices were gathered around the Sitting when Narishma revealed that Aes Sedai had been bonded and the taint cleansed. However the news that a Forsaken was exposed on that day is apparently not general knowledge. (Certainly the Shadow wouldn’t want it known. And few Sitters would want the camp to know that one of the Forsaken had easy access to the Hall and the Amyrlin.) Novices are feeling free to stop their activities to be spectators at Sittings of the Hall, so Tiana is not an effective Mistress of Novices. Is she a poor choice, or has her status been undermined by Sheriam?

After Aran’gar fled the camp, Sheriam lost weight stressing out over whether the Forsaken would return. She has been calmer recently because no Forsaken has turned up. Sheriam frowns when Siuan wisely warns Bryne that the Tower has Travelling because as a Black sister Sheriam’s task is to prolong the siege. The message has gone and she is powerless to prevent it. Other Aes Sedai are too busy being indignant that they don’t have sole rights to a weave anymore. Aes Sedai are engrossed in politicking rather than the Last Battle.

Sharina thinks Narishma’s revelations were more important than those of Ashmanaille. She has never been to the Tower and is probably going to be like Nynaeve and be unimpressed by Tower politics.

Lelaine takes full advantage of the novices’ lack of supervision in her exercise of crowd psychology. When people are anxious they thirst for news. By letting crowds hear something moderately exciting they will overreact and one can distract them so the really important news can be kept secret. Sharina says Lelaine did this; Ashmanaille reported to her first and Lelaine let the news ‘slip’. Lelaine also discouraged the Hall from being Sealed to the “Flame”. Sharina is right that the news that was kept secret last time was of Aran’gar’s exposure and escape. This time the secret news is of Lelaine’s manoeuvrings to replace Egwene. (Even the Hall is not fully conscious of this yet.)

Lelaine wanted everyone in the camp to listen in and then stew over the uselessness of the siege and the army. If Lelaine can make Elaida seem more a threat to the rebels, she can arrange for a call for Egwene to be replaced. Siuan did not see this; Lelaine is not confiding in Siuan and Siuan is also distracted by Bryne. Sharina notices that Siuan has been working hard to keep Lelaine and Romanda too busy to push for Egwene’s removal. Ironically Lelaine’s efforts to make Elaida seem a threat are balanced by the Blacks discounting it, and so nothing is happening.

Sharina tells Siuan her insights because she knows if any Sitter becomes Amyrlin her progression will be halted or derailed. She really wants to channel so she wants Egwene back. That is ample reward on its own.

Many Borderlander nations still send tribute to the Tower – Kandor is one. They are financially penalising themselves compared to other nations, but maybe they get more consideration by the Aes Sedai in return. The Aes Sedai started out dependent on tributes, but three thousand years later they have their own more lucrative resources now – bridge tolls, levies, income from properties. Those Aes Sedai who die without relatives probably will property to the Tower. Grateful rich clients probably make donations to the Tower.

There are a couple of errors in this chapter. The Sitting should have been Sealed to the Hall, not the Flame. Sealing to the Flame is for the Amyrlin to impose - and she isn’t even in the camp.

Sharina thinks that it has been “a few months” since Narishma visited the rebels. It has been two months.