Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #11: Chapter 8--That Smouldering City


By Linda

Elayne POV

This is a short chapter to quicken the pace as we go into the Last Battle.

Viewing Caemlyn, Elayne quotes what Birgitte said in Towers of Midnight immediately after seeing the dragons tested:

If dragons can do that to a city, she thought, surveying the hole that Talmanes had made in the nearest wall, the world will need to change. Everything we know about warfare will change.

A Memory of Light, That Smouldering City

Defensive city fortresses will no longer be the protection they once were; they are becoming obsolete. Channelling—especially using powerful angreal or sa’angreal or in a ring—would also be able to destroy fortresses, but Aes Sedai are bound to not use the Power as a weapon and other channellers didn’t have the angreal or the knowledge to link.

Elayne is disappointed that Talmanes is respectful and polite to her—his Queen. She expected that Mat would have “corrupted” him. However, none of the Band’s officers became casual to royalty due to Mat’s influence. Vanin was already disdainful of nobles when he joined up; and the others follow the social customs of the time. In fact, many of Mat’s officers are nobles. Mat is outside the normal social order, as trickster figures are. (Vanin is also a trickster figure, the only other trickster in the Band, see Tricksters article).

Yet Bashere is not formal with Elayne and she complains about that—from a noble who is almost of equal rank with her. She reminds herself he is worth cultivating because he is Tenobia’s heir (and was therefore her equal a few months earlier.) Elayne is often excitable—she has a tendency to think in italics—but she is particularly illogical here.

Bashere persuades Elayne to announce that Rand is the father of her unborn children. The Saldaean general doesn’t object to her going to war while pregnant—because it shows the seriousness of the situation and reminds them of what they are fighting for. Also there are no safe places. Elayne resents being advised by her advisors—by men, she says, but she doesn’t like it when Birgitte does it either. Nevertheless she follows his, and Birgitte’s, good advice.

Elayne has given orders to destroy Caemlyn and steels herself to watch it happen. In the face of serious things she is brave and focussed; like Mat, she fusses about the small stuff—such as protocol.

The scene also perhaps references the apocalyptic book Revelation, which features as a large inspiration for Tarmon Gaidon, Armageddon. Apart from the breaking of the Seven Seals and the Horn being the Last Trump, Elayne is a parallel of the distracting pregnant woman in Revelation, and M’Hael is a dark St Michael fighting the (good) Dragon. Chapter 18 of Revelation speaks of the fall of the city of Babylon:

“Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit…Therefore her plagues will come in one day—death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire…The kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’…‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate.’ “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!”

Revelation 18, verses 2, 8, 10, 19-20

A city overrun comprehensively by the Shadow is a parallel of Babylon. The good guys stand far off and watch Caemlyn burn. (Babylon, city of fornicators, is also a parallel of Graendal—the whore of Babylon—as I will discuss in the chapter where she falls.)


Androl POV

The Darkfriends took the trouble to dig Logain’s faction out of the collapsed area so they could Turn them to Shadow. There are not enough Dreadlords, so they are going to the trouble of forcibly making them—and it is expensive of time, Myrddraal and Dreadlords’ energy. As an example of the Shadow’s lack of Dreadlords, the shields on Logain’s faction are tied off.

Turned Dreadlords are the weakest quality of Darkfriend, though, according to Lanfear. They lack creativity or perhaps even much will. Evin is a good example. Killing the opposition’s channellers deprives the Light of channellers, whereas Turning them adds to the loss since the Shadow gains the channellers. Just not as useful people as the original. This parallels the situation with the Seanchan taking damane; most of which are broken so they accept their fate and perform as meekly as possible. Fortuona thinks it is a waste to kill free channellers, she prefers the Seanchan use them against the other side. Those at risk of being enslaved or broken disagree: better to die as Nalaam did than be Turned or collared.

The scene shows the effect of character strength on fighting the Shadow. Stronger characters don’t give in and are much more effective in staving off the Shadow. While the strongest people don’t succumb, they suffer more during the lengthy efforts to break them. This logically leads to Rand and his battle with the Dark One, who is/will be surely harder to battle than even 13 fades and 13 Dreadlords.

The assault is mostly psychological—not physical—torture and is very traumatic, as Logain’s and Emarin’s psychological condition will show, again paralleling Rand. There seems to be a brief period in the process without channelling:

The silence taunted him. Why couldn't he hear any sounds? Then he sensed something. Channeling… A few moments later, Taim's cronies returned. Evin squatted down beside Androl.

A Memory of Light, That Smouldering City

This is when the Myrddraal contribute their true power links. Fades can’t or don’t actually channel, as this description of Semirhage’s procedure shows:

It was Semirhage who discovered that a circle of thirteen, using thirteen Myrddraal as a sort of filter, could turn anyone who could channel to the Shadow

The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time

Then channelling resumes at the end stage for the actual Compulsion of character motivation and traits. The weakest channellers are more vulnerable, but also suffer less. Evin was psychologically weaker because he lacked self-confidence due to anxiety:

"I feel great. No more fear, no more worry.”

A Memory of Light, That Smouldering City

He now looks on the bright side of the outcome because, with his faults having become the major part of his character, he has no regrets over being Turned. It's all good. And really bad.

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