Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #12: Chapter 9--To Die Well


By Linda

Lan POV

Lan and his men remember the deaths of their cohorts in a way that celebrates their deeds in battle when they were killed. The sacrifice of the fallen is appreciated and the grief and trauma of seeing their friends die is eased a little. They are as affected by this horrific attrition as much as Rand is later in the chapter, and, like him, have accepted the likelihood of their own deaths in the war. This helps them, too, to die well.

Lan regards Bulen as a noble fallen because he was the first Malkieri to swear to him as King, and by doing so, made Lan accept his responsibilities as a king. Bulen swore directly to the monarch as a noble would.

Earthquakes are prevalent at the Gap, due to its proximity to Shayol Ghul, but Lan is the first to notice that the cracks in the ground they cause contain nothingness. As usual, Lan is accurate in his assessment: they are fractures in reality, due to balefire and the Dark One unravelling the weakened Pattern. The cracks are breaks in the weave as it wears thin. It is temporary; the Land Heals itself at this stage.

Tenobia shows the zeal for battle, and the idealising of it, that will see her killed. For some time she has surrounded herself with soldiers only and has wanted to do as they did:

As expected, the Queen of Saldaea was accompanied only by Kalyan Ramsin, one of her numerous uncles, a scarred and grizzled man with the face of an eagle and thick mustaches that curved down around his mouth. Tenobia Kazadi tolerated the counsel of soldiers, but no one else.

The Path of Daggers Prologue

“Even Tenobia has never led men in battle. She wanted to once, when I was eight, but Father had a talk with her alone in her chambers, and when he rode off to the Blight she stayed behind." With a rueful grin, she added, "I think you and he use the same methods sometimes. Tenobia exiled him, but she was only sixteen, and the Council of Lords managed to change her mind after a few weeks. She will be blue with envy when I tell her."

The Shadow Rising, Goldeneyes

Battle is necessary, but it is not great. Like the Pattern, it is good and bad.

Lan contrasts her glorification with the praise for fighters and the dead that he has encouraged:

There was a difference, he could feel a difference. Teaching the men to accept that they might die and to revere the honor of the fallen . . . that was different from singing songs about how wonderful it was to fight on the front lines.

A Memory of Light, To Die Well

The usual cure for such zeal is weeks of drill.

Lan is appalled that Agelmar’s plan includes retreating. He wasn’t present at Merrilor, where it was agreed that the Tarwin’s Gap forces would only delay the Trolloc incursion to buy time for the Caemlyn invaders to be destroyed, and likely would have dissented if he were.

"We reinforce Lan, but tell him that his job will be to hold there as long as he can. We place a second force at the border of Kandor, with the purpose of delaying there as well—perhaps a slow withdrawal, as conditions dictate. While those two fronts are held, we can focus our true attention—and our largest army—at breaking the Trollocs in Caemlyn."

A Memory of Light, Into the Thick of It

Lan refuses to countenance retreat. Agelmar reminds him of duty. Since the Shienaran general is following the agreed strategy, he is not yet affected by Compulsion.

Lan compares himself to Rand, who he actually taught:

He remembered teaching that same concept to a youth out of the Two Rivers. A sheepherder, innocent of the world, fearful of the fate laid out before him by the Pattern.

A Memory of Light, To Die Well

Agelmar points out that Lan evades responsibility—the burden of it, when it comes to leading others. Then Lan compares himself to Tenobia:

They will follow me. Like Bulen did. Leading them to death in the name of a fallen kingdom . . . leading myself to the same death . . . how is that any different from Tenobia's attitude?

A Memory of Light, To Die Well

Tenobia’s role in this chapter is to help Lan realise and accept the difference between needless death and noble sacrifice. Dying well and not.

It is so hard for him to abandon Malkier again, but they need to live to fight another day, not sacrifice themselves—unless there is no other choice. Then they will be dying well—the “To Die Well” chapter title.


Egwene POV

Egwene now appreciates the knowledge and experience of Sitters in battle and planning. This is a contrast with The Gathering Storm and even Towers of Midnight, when they looked like fools. Although her assertion that

"I trust General Bryne's battlefield assessment, as does the Hall,"

A Memory of Light, To Die Well

will be bitter words in future.

Elayne suggested that the Aes Sedai establish a hospital far from battle, to protect the Yellows. Silviana is against it—perhaps because Elayne insisted. Egwene isn’t that keen on the idea either, although Gawyn is because he realises that Aes Sedai are not invincible and proved it in Towers of Midnight. The Amyrlin feels she has to respect Elayne’s authority though, but also ponders rejecting Elayne’s idea to maintain Aes Sedai authority. She considers this a strain on their friendship. The clincher in favour of Elayne’s idea is her concern that the Seanchan might capture Yellows if they are not well-protected away from the battle. She fears them more than any Shadow-aligned group. This was na├»ve, as it turns out. They decide on Mayene, as suitable for a hospital, because it is small, unimportant politically and not prominent. Wisely, Egwene gets the Tower trainees to help the Yellows.

Egeanin publicly admits the magnitude of her error with the male a’dam. Her eyes are lowered; and her mistake is almost enough for them to be permanently so. Egwene offers her a way of repaying her debt through information on the Seanchan.

Egeanin doesn’t own even her name – it was given to her by the Empress and everything else taken away. Including her honour. Egwene is surprised that Egeanin swore a strong oath to her because she feels Seanchan are almost Darkfriends. Her role will be to temper Egwene’s attitude to the Seanchan slightly and also to save her. Her information perhaps helps Egwene negotiate with the Empress.

The Amyrlin isn’t quite worrying about the wrong things—more like in the wrong order.


Rand POV

Rand feels a responsibility for the casualties of war, which parallels Lan’s feelings. Thanks to his epiphany on Dragonmount, he is further down that road than Lan. The Malkieri king has dreaded this for over 20 years, and probably would have died needlessly in the Blight years ago if Moiraine hadn’t bonded him in New Spring. His wife and queen, Nynaeve, considers dying well to be dying of old age in bed:

She wanted to howl with fury. People should die after a long life, in their own beds, surrounded by family and friends. Anything else was waste. Pure miserable waste!

Lord of Chaos, Dreams and Nightmares

Elayne is trying to sort out in her mind where her relationship with Rand will go—or might go. Rand doesn’t know. After all, he doesn’t know his survival prospects. If one woman was Rand’s wife, she would be above all other people except Rand. With three, no single person is so elevated. There is also the implication that Rand’s burden is so great that he needs three to help, and sustain, him.

The Dragon expects to leave his children fatherless and that he will never know them. He never knew his biological father, and yet appears to be alright. Rand has to be dead to his father at least, and probably his children for many years, if not forever, for his death to be convincing. This was his true sacrifice—his and theirs. Being free of the burden of being the Dragon was his reward. He advises Elayne not to call her boy Rand because the expectations will be too large. They should live their own lives without that. There will still be bad enough expectations though: in Aviendha’s vision, her four children were treated very atypically by the Aiel and this did not turn out well. Elayne says Rand must have some hope. Rand says he hopes for the world but expects, and accepts, his own death.

Rand thinks Elayne is a good coordinator of battle plans. Elayne brushes his praise aside and says it is due to her training from Morgase and Bryne. Rand compares this dinner with their time in Tear, when he really began to know her and love her. They share common responsibilities and interests. Elayne notices that Rand finds being responsible for peoples’ lives and deaths a great burden. He wasn’t trained to this from an early age like her. (However, Lan was and also finds it very hard to bear.) Rand realised on Dragonmount that he made himself hard, so the burden wouldn’t hurt, but became uncaring. Being hunted down and abused did not help. He needs to care or else his strategies become unscrupulous—as Mordeth’s were.

Elayne is impressed that Rand has Lews Therin’s knowledge now. She sees the opportunity:

"I am him. I always was. I remember it now."

Elayne breathed out, eyes widening. "What an advantage."

Of all the people he had told that to, only she had responded in such a way. What a wonderful woman.

A Memory of Light, To Die Well

whereas Nynaeve saw the danger and the pain:

No man should have to remember the failures of Lews Therin Telamon.

The Gathering Storm, A Conversation with the Dragon

Here he admits to himself that growing grass was “some other trick”—and not being ta’veren, or channelling, as so many have suggested. In A Memory of Light, Older, More Weathered, we find out that this trick is the technique of Singing gained from Lews Therin’s knowledge.

Elayne insists that everyone has the right to do their bit in the war. It is not only important to her, but also to the Pattern. This is the starting point of what Rand needs to realise at the last. He thinks that he knows this now, but it is not really the case.

Because the Dark One is pushing evil into the Pattern, only good events surround Rand now. Earlier, he attracted both positive and negative events; extremes of the Pattern, but balanced. Rand was everyman then – representative of all. Now he represents the Light to balance the Dark One. The more the Dark One touches the world, the more the Pattern gets Rand to provide change to undo it.

When Elayne asks if there can be never be good in the world, she means lack of evil. There is good right then and there, but there is also evil. The world is not a Paradise and cannot be. The Age of Legends thought it was—but they were mistaken and the result was terrible apocalyptic war.

"There were many good years. Good decades, good centuries. We believed we were living in paradise. Perhaps that was our downfall. We wanted our lives to be perfect, so we ignored imperfections. Problems were magnified through inattention, and war might have become inevitable if the Bore hadn't ever been made."

A Memory of Light, To Require a Boon

Rand thinks the Pattern is not about good or evil. Moiraine would add that it is about both of them and choosing between them.

“The Creator is good, Perrin. The Father of Lies is evil. The Pattern of Age, the Age Lace itself, is neither. The Pattern is what is. The Wheel of Time weaves all lives into the Pattern, all actions. A pattern that is all one color is no pattern. For the Pattern of an Age, good and ill are the warp and the woof.” Even riding through late-afternoon sunshine three days later, Perrin felt the chill he had had on first hearing her say those words. He wanted to believe the Pattern was good. He wanted to believe that when men did evil things, they were going against the Pattern, distorting it. To him the Pattern was a fine and intricate creation made by a master smith. That it mixed pot metal and worse in with good steel with never a care was a cold thought.

The Dragon Reborn, Within the Weave

Perrin thinks that the Pattern should be good only, and the world a paradise. Rand sees the impersonalness of Pattern and has found it hard to bear. His role is so overwhelming he’d rather make it obsolete.

Rand’s error has led him to want to kill the Dark One and remove evil from the Pattern. He sees the Dark One as alien to Pattern and sabotaging it. Yet sabotage can be foreseen—or at least expected—and woven into the Pattern, along with measures to counteract it. Rand is viewing the Pattern from one side only and his perception is flawed.

Rand gives Elayne a Seed, which Cadsuane thinks is a type of ter’angreal. Where did Rand obtain it? From one of his hoards of ter’angreal? (He is a typical dragon in having hoards.) Hopefully Elayne studies the Seed so she learns how to make them before she turns it into an angreal.

In exchange she gives him the artham dagger. He didn’t recognise it at first, so he can’t read ter’angreal. Yet Lews Therin knows of artham, although no one had succeeded in making one when he was alive. They exchange gifts as equals. No one else does that with Rand.

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.