Thursday, November 20, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #53: Chapter 46 - Working Leather


By Linda

Androl POV
In this chapter we see destruction versus creation in action: one of the schools Rand established to preserve and make advances in knowledge is being fractured by Taim, and in a smaller way Androl is creating useful objects while his tools are being stolen.

Like Perrin, Androl is a craftsman who takes pride in doing a job well. He is not creating a Great Work, as Perrin did, but is illustrating the importance of small things. Androl’s plot is to show how small things done with care and thought can make an enormous difference:

One of the tricks to life was paying attention to the small details. Focus, make the small things right. If each stitch was secure on an armguard, then it wouldn't fray or snap. That could mean the difference between an archer lasting through a barrage or having to put away his bow. One archer wouldn't make a battle. But the small things piled up, one atop another, until they became large things.

Towers of Midnight, Working Leather

As a weak channeller, Androl is a ‘small thing’ himself – in Taim’s eyes at least – but he is skilful and careful to make the most of his abilities and talents to an impressive degree. Logain values talent and experience rather than raw power.

Androl had a block so that only if he was touching his craft materials could he channel. He is atypical of men in being weakest in Earth, normally a power men are strong in. It’s appropriate that having travelled so much everywhere, more than anyone except possibly Jain Farstrider, he is better than anyone at the Travelling weave.

Androl is wary of addiction and thinks the power of saidin terrible as well as wonderful. He notices that his fears have reversed:

The darkness outside hadn't frightened him, nor had stories of Trollocs and Fades. But men who could channel . . . that had terrified him. Now he found himself here, grown into his middle years, suddenly afraid of the dark but completely at peace with men who could channel.

Towers of Midnight, Working Leather

His world has been overturned – a strong theme in the last few books as the Dark One undermines the order of the Pattern with chaos and tries to make Rand the Lord of Misrule, a mockery of the role of Creator’s champion. Soon he will come to love a Red sister, a senior member of an Ajah sworn to neutralise men who can channel. Her world, too, is being overturned.

Darkness is indeed more to be feared than Asha’man. The taint showed Androl that…

The factions in the Black Tower are so strong that they are open in their hostility. Taim’s faction is much more destructive in their weaving. They are better at being weapons, since they have no scruples and probably keep knowledge to themselves of the more destructive weaves to have an advantage over Logain’s faction. Their destructive skill is also a reminder that the Shadow is inimical to the Pattern and good.

It’s interesting that all the Dowtry family accompanied Jonneth to the Black Tower. According to Androl, Canler is older than “Emarin” (more on this in a later post). Emarin has assimilated well to the Black Tower and doesn’t flaunt or press his rank. He is probably better educated than most nobles since he knows where the obscure island of Retash is.

Androl steadfastly allows Coteren to bully him because Logain’s supporters are out-classed in numbers and channelling strength.

Logain’s faction is losing men to Taim’s faction because they want promotion. For some this would be due to simple ambition, for those with a little more insight, there is the added spur of safety. The non-Asha’man in Logain’s faction are afraid of being bonded by Aes Sedai, and resentful that Taim gave permission for the bonding. Taim’s aim was to have them turn to him for promotion to Asha’aman and therefore exemption from bonding, which gives him the opportunity to corrupt them. The previous lure to turn to the Shadow – protection from the taint - was removed by Rand.

Androl is angry that Rand hasn’t been to the Black Tower to sort out the problems, but acknowledges that the Dragon has earned redemption though cleansing saidin. The men feel more than anger; they believe that Rand is mad, until Emarin vouches for him. This is enough to reassure them and they decide to look for evidence that will make Rand listen to their warnings. Such is the Dragon’s reputation – real and calumnied - that even his supporters are unimpressed with his activities and decisions.

This is a straightforward chapter for a straightforward character. Androl does have his secrets, though. Yet he is trustworthy and reliable, which is why the men look to him for leadership. Androl accepts the role even though he feels unqualified for it because it needs to be done. His instructions are sensible and his judgment sound, even though he is not certain yet what going on. He is not sure which would be worse; being right, or being wrong.

The chapter has its secrets too:

"The men who take Taim's private lessons learn too quickly," Nalaam said. "Nensen was barely powerful enough to be considered for Dedicated just a short time ago. Now he's full Asha'man.

- Towers of Midnight, Working Leather

This could be due to the male channeller learning while linked into a mixed circle as this conversation between Rand and Asmodean shows:

Rand cut him off. "You are not teaching me very well."
"As well as may be expected, under the circumstances. You can grasp saidin every time you try, now, and tell one flow from another. You can shield yourself, and the Power does what you want it to." He stopped playing and frowned, not looking at Rand. "Do you think Lanfear really intended me to teach you everything? If she had wanted that, she would have contrived to stay close so she could link us…I've told you I am not a very good teacher, especially without a link.”

- The Fires of Heaven, Pale Shadows

It seems that circles can be used to learn channelling rapidly. This is yet another useful function of the mixed circles now available at the Black Tower. The quote above shows that ‘teaching circles’ can be quite small, as small as just two men and one woman, but no smaller; the woman is necessary to link the men, and the man to teach the other man how to use saidin.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #52: Chapter 45 - A Reunion


By Linda

Elayne POV

Egwene falls a long way short of explaining to Elayne exactly why Gawyn’s return was timely. Dream messages seem to be rather like tweets.

It’s Elayne’s link to Rand that causes the positive effect on the Pattern in Caemlyn – the slowing of rotting, the break in the thick grey clouds the Dark One created to hide the sun. Since the Creator is the light of the world and associated with the sun, source of life and fertility, the Dark One was blotting out the link to the Creator. The aim is to bring on depression and despair, and weaken the land spiritually as well as physically.

Elayne gets “modern” obstetric care, as I’ve explained in the Private Lives article. Her midwife has her basking in sunlight to make vitamin D for bone health. In this scene she feels the quickening – the movements of the babies – an important event in pregnancy. For a first time mother this is usually at 16-20 weeks. Perhaps the difficulty of channelling in pregnancy is due to fluctuating hormones preventing calmness. Elayne’s emotions jump around normally, so she may be more affected by this than most while pregnant.

Elayne’s recognition of the necessity of international alliances foreshadows her later meeting with Perrin and Faile. Perrin’s decision to bring Faile to the meeting is clever as well as fair. As the heir to a foreign crown, not a ruler of a city-state, she is an important part of an alliance between nations, and will tip the balance in Perrin’s favour in Elayne’s mind. Perrin and Faile are just too well connected to treat roughly.

Cairhienin noble/s are undermining Elayne before she can gain the Cairhien Sun crown by presenting her as an invader. Elayne and her advisors quickly deduce that the apparently impartial nobles are behind it.

Birgitte’s increase of Andoran soldiers on the borders may have taken troops out of Caemlyn. On one hand, fewer are in Caemlyn to defend the city against the Shadowspawn coming through the Ways. On the other hand, fewer get killed in this Shadowspawn attack, and will fight elsewhere in the Last Battle. Caemlyn falls, but masses of Shadowspawn will be destroyed in an explosion. Elayne has made reasonable decisions based on the intelligence she gained from the Black Ajah – they just happen to be the wrong ones. Since Shadowspawn can’t traverse gateways, Elayne and her council don’t see how the Shadow could just invade the city without marching through Andor. They have not considered the Ways.

After so long apart, the joy of reunion makes Elayne a little demonstrative to Galad, but he doesn’t notice it to return it. The half-siblings have not had a close relationship in the past and he is too focussed on uniting Elayne with her mother. One of the things they have in common is mutual love for Morgase. Elayne and Galad clash almost immediately – a continuation of their long stalemate. In some ways, Galad performs for Elayne the same role that Egwene and Nynaeve do for Rand: remind her that she can’t do whatever she pleases. Since they are fairly dignified and the conflict is not resolvable, Morgase ignores it. She doesn’t take sides.

Elayne and Dyelin are at first alarmed that Morgase’s return will bring confusion, something Galad never expressed any concern for, but Elayne quickly deduces that Morgase abdicated. How surprised she was that the Whitecloaks did not lie to her about holding Morgase.

When Galad says he is Lord Captain Commander, Elayne turns to her mother for confirmation, even though she knows Galad never lies. She would be furious if he openly doubted she is Aes Sedai or Queen in this way. Once things settle down in the reunion, Elayne is so pleased to see Galad that his literalness and formality don’t grate on her - she just accepts them. A nice change.

Both Elayne and Morgase are aware that many nobles – and citizens- are angry with, and hate, the former Queen. Morgase doesn’t want Aes Sedai to Heal her Compulsion – very few could, anyway. She doesn’t tell Elayne she is married or to whom although perhaps Morgase tells Elayne about Tallanvor when she narrates her story. Elayne is shrewd enough to fill in the blanks. Conversely, Morgase disapproves of Rand, but is trying to withhold judgement.

As a fulfilling official role, Elayne thinks of putting Morgase in charge of western Andor – but Perrin is there already. He is a force to be reckoned with and a rebel without trying to be one. The recent Andoran queens never actually governed the Two Rivers so Perrin stepped into a vacuum. It’s too late for them to try and replace him now. He did more for the people than they ever will.


Aviendha POV

Aviendha thinks how peaceful it all is in the Three-fold Land. The peace of Rhuidean was mentioned by Bair and others in The Shadow Rising in a slightly different context:

“The peace of Rhuidean be on you. Who comes to Chaendaer may return to their holds in peace. There shall be no blood on the ground.”

The Shadow Rising, Beyond the Stone

Back then, the city was dead most of the time, except when Aiel visited to be painfully tested. In this scene, the peace is actual – and extended to the whole Three-fold Land in Aviendha’s mind. (Yet the Three-fold Land, with its feuds and raids, is not a particularly peaceful place.) The city is clean because it is underpopulated and newly resettled. The cities Aviendha has visited were long-settled and thriving. Rhuidean is a bit of a show city: planned and now inhabited. It appears to be a paradise. This is deceptive, considering what Aviendha is about to learn.

Aviendha reminds us that Rand’s role is a, or rather, the breaker:

Once Rhuidean had been shrouded in protective mists. That was before Rand had come. He'd broken the city in three very important, very discomforting ways…
Rand caused so many problems.

Towers of Midnight, A Reunion

and she is correct that Rhuidean was one of his important sites of breaking. Rand removed the mists from Rhuidean - demystified the city literally as well as figuratively. Concurrently he ripped away the Aiel’s feelings of being special people, and ripped away their illusions.

Rhuidean’s protective mists, making it a hidden city, were wards. They are long dispersed so Aviendha can’t sense them and doesn’t know how they protected the city.

The destruction did not end there. The dome of fog that had hidden Rhuidean for so many centuries was dissipating; the underside no longer glowed, and harsh sunlight poured through great new gaps…
I destroy. Always I destroy! Light, will it ever end?
"I do like to see men fight, but you two cannot even stand." Lanfear moved into Rand's view, surveying the devastation. "You have made a thorough job of it. Can you feel the traces? This place was shielded in some way. You did not leave enough for me to say how."

The Shadow Rising, The Traps of Rhuidean

Rand had taken away the mist. The city had shed its dome like an algai'd'siswai unveiling his face. She didn't know how Rand had caused the transformation; she doubted that he knew himself.

Towers of Midnight, A Reunion

The wards were broken when Rand fought Asmodean. Aviendha thinks there won’t be shops in Rhuidean; it is too sacred a city for commerce in her opinion. This was not going to be the case when Rand left Rhuidean in The Fires of Heaven, A Departure, with Aiel traders in the city to organise the rebuilding of the city with Aiel help.

Rand also thought otherwise in his version of the changes he made to Rhuidean while fighting Asmodean:

The fog was almost gone from the ruined city; only a few wispy sheets remained to drift among the buildings still standing beneath the sinking sun. The valley floor tilted sharply to the south now, and water spilled out of the great rent across the city, the gash that went all the way down to where that deep hidden ocean of water lay. Already the lower end of the valley was filling. A lake. It might reach nearly to the city eventually, a lake maybe three miles long in a land where a pool, ten feet across drew people. People would come to this valley to live. He could almost see the surrounding mountains already terraced with crops growing green. They would tend Avendesora, the last chora tree. Perhaps they would even rebuild Rhuidean. The Waste would have a city. Perhaps he would even live to see it.

The Shadow Rising, The Traps of Rhuidean

The water Rand brought to the surface can grow sufficient flora to change the city’s climate and make it rain there more often, which would also make agriculture easier for those living there. Aviendha thinks the lake Rand created should be called Tears of the Aiel rather than Tears of the Dragon, but Rand has agonised over the destructive effect he has had on nations and individual people. The Aiel might be hardly done by in Aviendha’s opinion, but other nations have lost as much, and Rand far more.

Rhuidean’s destiny has been fulfilled and its purpose broken. There is no need for Aiel leaders to go to Rhuidean for knowledge anymore, Aviendha thinks. For herself, Aviendha could not be more wrong. There was a great need for her to go. Being told is one thing, but confirmation – and first-hand knowledge – quite another. That’s why the ter’angreal was programmed and installed in the first place.

Aviendha’s vague impressions of memories from the rings ter’angreal (another source of knowledge that breaks illusions) confirm the sense of Nakomi’s judgement. Rand broke the Aiel’s traditions and considering that Aiel tend to over-identify with them, this could have destroyed their identity. For some Aiel, it did. Aviendha realises that they can’t hold onto their traditions without them fulfilling an actual function. This leads to her questioning the function of Aiel traditions.

Aviendha chooses to continue with tradition and enter Rhuidean, even though she thinks it is not as meaningful now. This was a very important choice. The ter’angreal supplies her with first-hand knowledge of a future she couldn’t imagine, and what needed to learn, but really didn’t want to.

I will go on, she decided. Pass through the glass columns. Perhaps her worries were true, and the passage was now far less meaningful, but she was genuinely curious to see what the others had seen. Besides, knowing one's past was important in order to understand the future.
Wise Ones and clan chiefs had been visiting this location for centuries. They returned with knowledge. Maybe the city would show her what to do about her people, and about her own heart.

Towers of Midnight, A Reunion

There she will see the result of traditions being distorted by personal ambition and hatred.

Aviendha is wrong in thinking Rand will be a king after the Last Battle if he survives:

If he survived the Last Battle-and she intended to fight hard to make certain he did--he would still be a wetlander king. And then there was Elayne. Aviendha and she were going to be sister-wives, but Elayne would never leave Andor. Would she expect Rand to stay with her? Would that mean Aviendha would need to as well?

Towers of Midnight, A Reunion

(He might be one again eventually, or at least a noble, but first he will be an anonymous wanderer, because, officially, he did not survive.) She wonders how living arrangements between her, Elayne and Rand will work out – and that was for the simple situation of Rand being a king. It’s noticeable that she doesn’t think of Min in these plans.

Wise Ones can’t be made gai’shain by Aiel law, which is why the Aiel are so angry with the Seanchan. In some ways da’covale are like gai’shain. Worse for the Wise One channellers, damane are potentially on a par with da’tsang. Aviendha (and other Wise Ones) feel the Tower is also a threat to Wise Ones.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #51: Chapter 44 - A Backhanded Request


By Linda

Morgase POV

Morgase feels that she has no defined role now. When she was a maid, she found it a less lonely life. There were more people her rank, and less responsibility, to compensate for the hard work. Morgase resents that her former servants Breane and Lamgwin were formally released by Faile back to her service. However, they did have an agreement with Faile, and by the rule of contract in this world can't just walk off with someone else. Morgase knows this so she shouldn’t feel insulted.

In the aftermath of Morgase’s unmasking, both Faile and Morgase feel hardly done by. Faile feels uncomfortable that Morgase was higher than her in status and reputation, but accepted employment as her maid. Now that she has been unmasked, Morgase expects due acknowledgement of her position with immediate and ungrudging restoration of her privileges. Underlying this discomfort is the issue of nobility, and inherited rank, which most nobles like to think is absolute, whereas people of humbler origin in more egalitarian societies are not so keen to grant. For example, in Cairhien when Colavere was stripped of her rank:

"I—I demand the headsman," Colavaere managed in a strangled voice. Her face sagged. She had become old on the spot, and her eyes were mirrors of stark terror. But with nothing left, she fought on, for the scraps. "It is—it is my right. I will not be... hanged like some commoner!"
Rand seemed to struggle with himself, shaking his head in that disturbing way. When he spoke at last, his words were winter cold and anvil hard. "Colavaere Saighan, I strip you of your titles."…
Perrin could catch murmurs from the assembly behind him now. This was unheard of. None understood why she was not to die. And the rest! Estates had been confiscated before, but never all, never nobility itself. Nobles had been exiled, even for life, but never to a farm.

A Crown of Swords, A Broken Crown

Contrast this with Breane, Morgase’s maid, who was a Cairhienin noble, yet has remained in cognito and never hints at expecting better. She too loves a commoner, and part of her reluctance to acknowledge her former rank is that he would then be so far beneath her, socially.

Morgase is conscious that she could undermine Elayne but feels that it is worth the risk for the help she could give her daughter. Such an activity would also give Morgase a purpose, which she lacks at the moment.

Morgase has discouraged - or at least not encouraged – Tallanvor because she fears more hurt since her other relationships ended badly. Her husband was a threat to her throne; he was as effective as Gaebril in his own way in undermining her position. It is Tallanvor who softens first. Morgase wanted Tallanvor to propose but he won't because she is known to be of much higher rank than he and has a duty to Andor. Morgase refuses to sacrifice herself again because this could be the end of the world. She wants something to hope for and work towards. Thankfully Lini speeds up matters greatly by insisting they marry.


Perrin POV

Perrin maintains order and calm in camp by making the most of everything and being positive. The forest with the sap sucked out of it overnight is similar to what happened in Tear in The Gathering Storm from a bubble of evil. Both are examples of Wrongness caused by the Dark One with the aim of damaging the land and causing despair and chaos.

Perrin is trading food for materials for weapon making. Food is still available in Caemlyn due to Elayne's influence (and her link to Rand) and a little is still in Whitebridge, or at least reaching that town from Caemlyn.

When he is hardening the weapons, Neald is probably Aligning the Matrix (see Weaves and Talents) to make metal stronger. Neald is the only exponent of this talent that we see.

As the final part of her bargain with Faile, Berelain publishes her condemnation of the rumours that she slept with Perrin. People believe her because they see her with Galad. It’s a great relief to Perrin and Faile. Perrin is puzzled by Faile's explanation of the difference between herself and Berelain. However, he is decisive about Faile being the one to go meet with Elayne and this pleases Faile.

Enter the happy couple into their quiet talk. Morgase demands Perrin marry her and Tallanvor since there is no one better available. He thinks her request is not very warm, but then acknowledges she has a point in not seeing him as a lord. On the other hand, mindful of his position and feeling she should set an example of respecting and upholding the position of the aristocracy, she then agrees that he is a lord and should be treated as such. Morgase bargains with Perrin that if he marries them--helps her--she will help him with Elayne. From Faile’s response to Morgase’s offer, Perrin thinks Faile might want to split from Andor. He doesn't. In fact, Faile wants to bargain rather than accept what Elayne and Morgase decide.

As he joins the impromptu ceremony, Galad puts one of Verin’s letters in his pocket. We never find out what is in the letter which makes him frown. It isn’t that Rand is his brother, because Gawyn enlightens him about that in A Memory of Light. Maybe it informs him that Byar had something wrong with him (in which case it’s a bit late) or that a particular Whitecloak is a Darkfriend.

Perrin mistakenly believes Morgase when she says she wants a simple exchange of oaths as her wedding ceremony. He seizes on her disclaimer because he feels defensive or unqualified to say more to someone much older and higher rank than he. For the same reason, he wanted them away quickly after. Faile plans to train him to do it better. Poor Perrin; he thought – hoped-- that this was a one-off. He was moved by their love and vows, but ended up sounding dismissive, he was so embarrassed by the whole thing, when he should be gracious and congratulatory. Faile will make up for it with the celebration.

Trickster Mat lures Perrin to him and surprises him. Perrin notices that Mat is now dressed finely when he used to scorn and criticise Rand for it. Perrin still doesn't dress up. It’s been quite a while since two ta’veren were together in one place and it brings a sense of rightness to the area. There will never be three ta’veren together again, although it came fairly close on the slopes of Shayol Ghul. At the end of A Memory of Light, the three heroes were no longer ta'veren.

Mat has “died” twice and refers to this when he says airily:


"A lifetime," Mat said. "Maybe two. I lose count."

Towers of Midnight A Backhanded Request

In fact, Mat isn't sure which escape from death is the relevant one. (Jordan confirms it was when Mat was struck by Rahvin’s lightning in Caemlyn, which was undone by Rand’s balefire.)

Perrin is surprised to see that Mat has a badger. In a way, he shouldn’t be; it hearkens back to Mat's younger exploit at the start of The Eye of the World, where he and Dav planned to let loose badger:

Mat's brown eyes twinkled with mischief, as usual. "Dav and I caught a big old badger, all grouchy at being pulled out of his den. We're going to let it loose on the Green and watch the girls run. "

The Eye of the World, An Empty Road

A hand suddenly jutted out from behind the trunk, holding a brown sack. "I caught a badger," a familiar voice said. "Want to let it go on the village green?"

Towers of Midnight A Backhanded Request

The badger has some close associations with Perrin. Like the badger, Perrin was pretty grouchy at being pulled out of his comfort zone in this chapter. And he is King of the Wild (see Perrin essay). The badger is a fierce and tenacious wild creature. Perrin badgered himself by constantly brooding over his animal/human balance and leadership duties.

Mat’s badger is also a reference to "easing the badger", the name of an Illianer inn (see The Great Hunt inns) where Perrin and Moiraine realised that a Forsaken was out to kill them. Although then it was a single Forsaken, Sammael, who had Perrin (and Moiraine) in his sights, but now it’s Moridin who wants Perrin and Mat dead, and has ordered the other Forsaken to see to it.

Easing the badger has sexual connotations and in fact at the end of the scene Perrin uses the phrase:

How had he gotten past Grady? Light! Perrin shook his head to himself, then bent to untie the sack and ease the poor badger Mat had captured.

Towers of Midnight A Backhanded Request

Some trousers and small clothes are closed tied with a drawstring. Morgase and Tallanvor are shortly to consummate their marriage.

There’s a certain irony that careless blithe Mat is warning careful Perrin about the Shadow being out to kill them. As for Mat getting past Grady unnoticed, trickers are good at penetrating borders. (see Tricksters essay)

It seems apt that a backhanded request gets a backhanded ceremony.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #50: Chapter 43 - Some Tea


By Linda

This chapter is more about showing the development of relationships rather than events.


Galad POV

Galad and Perrin continue to find common ground, which promises well for the alliance they make. Galad appears to have rejected the Cairhienin custom of scheming and dissembling in favour of candour:

Others often responded with anger when Galad said what he thought, but he was coming to realize that he didn't need to hold himself back with Perrin. This man responded well to honesty.

Towers of Midnight, Some Tea

I guess Galad is following his Andoran heritage; even though some think he goes too far. With Aes Sedai being as great at, or greater than, scheming as Cairhienin, Cadsuane uses candour as a trap or a weapon:

Cadsuane preferred to be direct, when possible. She had tripped up any number of clever people who had not believed she meant exactly what she said.

The Path of Daggers, New Alliances

Cadsuane and Galad are both considered annoying, or at least heavy-going, by many people around them; they are both competent with very high standards. Another thing they have in common is that the groups they lead have been regarded as pariahs by the populace – and with good reason.

Like Perrin, Galad may be direct, but he is not naive. He is now more conscious that Aes Sedai Healing can come with strings. Not particularly so the aid of the Wise Ones, though, except for creating greater obligations to Perrin and straying from Whitecloak beliefs. These are considerations Galad didn’t have to worry about when he was a noble without an official position.

He'd allowed an Aes Sedai to Heal him. "Once you've committed your reserves, there's no use holding back your scouts," Gareth Bryne was fond of saying. If he was going to let Aes Sedai save his men, then he might as well accept their Healing.
Once, accepting Aes Sedai Healing hadn't bothered him nearly so much.

Towers of Midnight, Some Tea

It is true that the Whitecloaks were already saved by channelling, so Galad may as well have further channelling save more of them.

While Perrin talks to Galad about trust, Galad is wondering if Perrin is trustworthy:

"And these Asha'man claim they are free of the taint?" Galad asked, as he and Perrin Aybara picked their way through the aftermath of the battle.
"They do," Perrin said. "And I've a mind to trust them. Why would they lie?"
Galad raised an eyebrow. "Insanity?"…
"Perhaps," Perrin said. "Perhaps the Asha'man are mad, and the taint isn't cleansed. But they've served me well, and I figure they've earned the right to be trusted until they show me otherwise. You and your men might well owe your lives to Grady and Neald."…

"Either you are a Darkfriend of unsurpassed cunning, or you really did as you said-coming to save my men despite your treatment at our hands. In that case, you are a man of honor.”

Towers of Midnight, Some Tea

By the same token, Perrin has earned the right to be trusted, after organising the rescue of the Whitecloaks. While letting Whitecloaks die would have made Perrin’s life easier, he wants them alive if only to fight at the Last Battle. As is typical of Perrin, he is concentrating on what is important, rather than convenient in the short term. As the Whitecloaks also should.

Galad insists each Whitecloak be given the choice of accepting Healing or not -- a conscience vote. In an earlier battle, each Aiel was given this choice, yet now the Wise Ones are peeved if their ministrations are refused. Perhaps they too are focussed on what is important. Galad is impressed the Wise Ones listen to Perrin; it seems they weren’t listening to him. Perrin accepted Galad’s insistence on choice even though he wants everyone who can fight the Shadow to do so, but does remind Galad that Travelling, Healing and battle weaves, are all forms of channelling. If one is accepted, why should not others?

Perrin will let Galad join him only if he takes oath that the Whitecloaks will go where told and fight when told. Galad didn’t reject the request out of hand, even though Perrin killed Children and may be a Darkfriend. Despite his belief that every fighter is needed, Perrin would not take the Whitecloaks with him without the oath. When Galad becomes convinced Perrin is good because of his compassion for the wounded and efforts to find and save them, he realises there is good reason to swear an oath. In turn, Perrin vows to look after the Whitecloaks like his other forces.

Once the deal is done, Galad feels weakened, which Perrin correctly identifies as a result of being pulled by a ta’veren. The Whitecloaks thought they encountered Perrin to punish him – because they had already judged him. Perrin says they met because he needed them (or the Pattern did); for Galad to fight Demandred and to hook up with Berelain, who will pass on the weave-breaking ter’angreal to Lan. And the Whitecloaks to be added to the Last Battle’s forces.


Alliandre POV

Berelain and Faile are acting friendly to change the camp’s opinion of Perrin, as they had agreed to do. Faile is annoyed that Berelain didn’t love Perrin, but just wanted to compete with Faile and win him. To Berelain, Perrin was just a thing to use.

Alliandre tries to persuade Berelain that Faile and Perrin should be together; she respects their marriage. On the other hand, Berelain thinks every relationship needs to be challenged, and thus her actions are justified. She suggests that she could have taken Faile’s place if Faile had died. From these words Alliandre assumes that Berelain has not given up on winning Perrin and is lulling Faile into a false sense of security by letting her annoyance show. Poor Alliandre is comically off the mark, as she sees when Galad shows up.

Berelain is actually thinking of better game – Galad. Her feelings are all stirred up because finally she is genuinely in love, though she rationalises her desires to herself as politically advantageous. “Romance is an unaffordable distraction” to Berelain, but nevertheless Berelain is swept up in it.

Alliandre is happy at the thought that the Whitecloaks would be out of Ghealdan. As a petty “reward” she keeps a silk shirt for herself instead of making it into bandages. The chapter ends on a trivial note.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #49: Chapter 42 - Stronger than Blood


By Linda

Gawyn POV

Egwene mentions that it took quite a while to find Mesaana after the battle in Tel’aran’rhiod because she masqueraded as one of the reclusive sisters. However we never find out what the White Tower did with Mesaana. At this stage, so soon after the battle, Egwene is at a loss.

Warders keep their Aes Sedai emotionally honest:

Looking at her face and feeling the storm inside, Gawyn was given for the first time another perspective on the Warder and Aes Sedai relationship. Warders weren't just bodyguards; they were the ones - the only ones - who saw the truth of what happened within the Aes Sedai. No matter how proficient the Aes Sedai became at hiding emotions, her Warder knew there was more than the mask.

Towers of Midnight, Stronger Than Blood

Normally bonding grounds an Aes Sedai, as Siuan showed, but this bonding seems to have grounded Gawyn. For a time.

Egwene is troubled that Gawyn only saved her by disobeying her; an uncomfortable reminder that she is not infallible. She winces that she was so sure about who the Tower’s attackers were that she concentrated on the Shadow. It is not as if she didn’t know about the Seanchan, and their determination to collar all the Aes Sedai, better than any other Aes Sedai. She even had dreams as yet unfulfilled in which she had contact with the Seanchan. After the Seanchan were repelled she assumed that they were no longer an immediate threat.

The Seanchan were subverted a long time earlier to be a major distraction in the Last Days, as Ishamael cryptically gloated to Rand in Baerlon:

"They will not save you," Ba'alzamon said. "Those who might save you will be carried far across the Aryth Ocean. If ever you see them again, they will be collared slaves, and they will destroy you for their new masters."

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

Ishamael’s plot was effective. He may have been guided or inspired by prophecy – the Shadow’s prophecies or the Karaethon cycle.

Gawyn promises to obey Egwene in anything else so long as she allows him to protect her. This turns out to be an empty promise, with both parts of it violated by Gawyn, especially the oath regarding protecting Egwene. He explains that his newfound acceptance of his role was due to learning to surrender, something he has never been good at it. When Egwene shows that she understood this, he is surprised, but women learn to channel saidar by surrendering and Two Rivers women have trouble with that part. One of Gawyn’s first useful pieces of advice to Egwene - which she listens to - is to delegate things someone else could do.

Sneakily, Gawyn steals the Bloodknives’ ter’angreal rings before an Aes Sedai recognises them as ter’angreal, a result of the Aes Sedai’s oversight in delaying study of the bodies. In a way, he has immediately gone behind Egwene’s back. I don’t believe Warders should reported everything to their Aes Sedai, but the Bloodknives and their ter’angreal are patently Aes Sedai business. This action warns us of what Gawyn’s oath is ultimately worth. (But then he swore to protect Elayne and Andor, too.)


Lan POV

Lan is surprised that people have deduced his route and waited where they could not fail to encounter him. Like Perrin and Rand, Lan won’t lead people to certain death in battle. He feels responsible:

This was what he'd always worried would happen. Reclaiming Malkier was impossible. They would die, no matter how large their force. An assault? On the Blight? Ridiculous.
He could not ask that of them. He could not allow that of them. As he continued down the road, he became more resolute. Those brave men, flying those flags...they should join with the Shienaran forces and fight in a battle that meant something.
He would not take their lives.

Towers of Midnight, Stronger Than Blood

In the Aiel War he was more accepting of the regrettable losses in battle and the responsibilities of a general, but not now. Lan feels it is his duty to defend the land at Tarwin’s Gap and push further north into the Blight, but not anyone else’s (except maybe the Shienarans’).

Nevertheless he is proud that Malkier rallied so readily when it was broken as a nation long ago. It is telling that most Malkieri don’t recognise Lan, their uncrowned king, by sight. He hasn’t moved among his former people much – having associated with Borderlander nobility and armies, and then Aes Sedai, instead. This is probably why he was mistaken about the strength of their national spirit. In turn, their spirit gives Lan strength to bear his responsibilities. Kaisel, a fellow noble, makes him accept them, by reminding Lan of the oath all Borderlanders take.

Nynaeve arranged this army to ensure Lan does not waste his life in a useless gesture of fighting the Blight alone, something Moiraine also tried to prevent back in the time of New Spring by bonding him. The Wheel is turning full circle for Lan. The differences between the three women who have saved Lan in bonding him is remarkable. Moiraine tried to prevent his destruction by focussing him on helping her and then by transferring him to Myrelle, and Myrelle saved him by focussing him on her. Nynaeve encouraged him to do his duty, but expanded it to include all Borderlanders who wanted to join, thus increasing Lan’s likelihood of success – and survival.

The chapter title Stronger Than Blood refers to the Borderlands’ oath. However, other oaths stronger than blood are also referred to in this chapter: the bond between Aes Sedai and Warder, and the Bloodknives’ oath to the Empress (reaffirmed when they activate their rings with their blood).

Monday, September 22, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #48: Chapter 41 - An Unexpected Ally


By Linda

Galad POV

Byar brings up the Shadowspawn invasion of the Two Rivers, one of the Whitecloaks’ lowest hours, as a comparable situation to what is happening. Perrin also saw the comparison and was tempted to leave the Children to their just desserts, but decided to prove he was better than they. The Whitecloaks’ abandonment of their agreement to help the Two Rivers folk was never fully explained to Galad.

Bornhald can see that Byar’s claims that Perrin is being insanely wasteful with his supposed resources in an attempt to gain support are completely illogical. It is Byar’s mind which is twisted in even suggesting such as pointless action. Ironically, Bornhald was the one to make the decision to refuse to help the Two Rivers people fight the Shadowspawn. Perhaps his feelings of guilt or dishonour influenced his reaction to save Perrin from Byar.


Perrin POV

Perrin sees Berelain is terrified but doesn’t understand why; he does not realise she is terrified for Galad, not herself. He explains what the Whitecloaks cannot know: that the armies have been lured and forced to this point, where the Portal Stone is being used to bring in Shadowspawn for an ambush. He correctly deduces that a Forsaken planned it and reassures Faile and Berelain that he has a retreat worked out if things go wrong.

Faile is delighted that Perrin shows such honour. He is prepared to do the right thing no matter what, as Galad always does.


Galad POV

Galad has not fought Trollocs before. His whole army is in same boat, and they break under pressure. To his disappointment he realises that his Whitecloaks are not better than other men:

The Children of the Light were not protected by their goodness; they were falling in swaths, like grain before the scythe. Worse than that, some did not fight valiantly or hold with resolve. Too many yelled in terror, running. The Amadicians he could understand, but a lot of the Children themselves were little better.
They weren't cowards. They weren't poor fighters. They were just men. Average.
That wasn't how it was supposed to be.

Towers of Midnight, An Unexpected Ally

This is an echo of Byar’s claims in the previous chapter that the Light would have protected the Children while they attacked Perrin’s forces. Galad’s perfectionist beliefs are broken.

The Whitecloaks concentrated on looking for humans who may be allied to the Shadow rather than the Shadow’s actual monsters. All Whitecloak forces should have each done a stint fighting in the Blight or the Borderlands to help the Borderlander nations and gain their trust as part of their military training. Their very inexperience proves their unworthiness on their own terms. They can hardly be leaders in the fight against the Shadow if most of their soldiers have never fought a Trolloc.


Perrin POV

Gallenne also expected Perrin to leave the Whitecloaks to their fate once the battle got rough for them. The Mayener sees sense in killing Shadowspawn while there is no risk to themselves but he is impressed with Perrin as a man of “true honour” when he says he will save them.

It is a prompt christening of Mah’alleinir. The hammer is attuned to Perrin and grows warm as he thinks of the slaughter in the Two Rivers and the Whitecloaks’ betrayal of their word. His weapon never burns him, only his target. Its burning of the Shadowspawn is reminiscent of the weave-breaking ter’angreal’s effect on the gholam as well as a mirror of Perrin’s feelings.


Galad POV

The Lord Captain Commander is shown that other forces besides the Children stand against darkness, and moreover, do it better. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the Whitecloaks are shown to be completely inadequate.

Galad is incredulous that all Perrin’s army gave up high ground and came down the hill to save them. Even more impressively, Perrin’s tactic worked. This begs the question of whether Galad would have done the same. He has suspicions that Perrin is a Darkfriend, so probably not. Perrin even lent his horse to Galad.

What’s more, by physically giving up the high ground, Perrin gains the moral high ground over the Whitecloaks, although they are reluctant to admit it.

Galad hints to Perrin that he did this to gain Galad’s favour. These are empty words. If Perrin hadn’t helped, Galad would be dead and Perrin wouldn’t have to worry about any judgment. So Perrin did himself no favour at all. Perrin knows that saving Whitecloaks still won’t dispel doubts against him. This is more a reflection of the Whitecloaks than of Perrin. Perrin says that the Trollocs were aiming for him, but turned on the Whitecloaks when Perrin escaped them. For this reason he feels somewhat responsible. As Lan observed earlier, Perrin has a strong sense of responsibility.

Perrin’s openness pleases Galad and gains his trust. The blacksmith is not scheming or manipulative. Galad wants Perrin to know his judgment in case one or the other dies; he feels he owes it to Perrin. Perrin is satisfied with the fairness of paying compensation and fighting in Last Battle.

Bornhald’s horror at killing Byar when he attacks Perrin is not assuaged by Galad telling him that he did the right thing. Galad understands Bornhald – and also Perrin – and assures Perrin that Bornhald does not hate him, just hates what Bornhald was forced to do: kill a friend. Bornhald redeems himself with this action, though he probably wouldn't agree.

I love the jokey end to this chapter:

Aybara grunted. "You should get to the wounded," he said, hefting his hammer and looking toward where the fighting was still thick.
"I am well enough to fight if I have your mount."
"Well then, let's be on with it." Aybara eyed him. "I'll stay by you, though, just in case it looks like you might fall."
"Thank you."
"I'm fond of the horse."
Smiling, Galad joined him, and they waded back into the melee.

Towers of Midnight, An Unexpected Ally

It shows a strong comradeship, something not that common between members of different groups, let alone ones so disparate and seemingly incompatible.

Galad and Perrin are indeed unexpected allies. A short while earlier, Galad looked on Perrin as a criminal and likely Darkfriend. Perrin hitherto has had only rough treatment from Whitecloaks – assault and betrayal, so it was not easy to predict he would ally with them, either.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #47: Chapter 40 - A Making


By Linda

Perrin POV

The staleness is now left behind in Ghealdan, but all is not right with the land in Andor:

There was no pollen. There were no wolves. Both seemed terrible signs to him.

Towers of Midnight, A Making

No pollen means no fertility, no food. No wolves means no top predator. The world’s ecology has been corrupted, continuing the wrongness theme.

Perrin believes that he can’t do anything about it:

The world was dying. He couldn't save it. That was Rand's job.

Towers of Midnight, A Making

But it is not just Rand’s job; he can’t do it alone. And as we shall see, Rand will have Mat on the battlefield, and Perrin in Tel’aran’rhiod, and everyone making a contribution.

Perrin has spent a lot more time thinking than doing, brooding on his role and on leadership and relationships, but with his thoughts going round in circles. He is distressed that he couldn’t kill Slayer, grieves for Hopper as he does for his dead family, and is also angry that he doesn’t know what the Shadow’s plan was. In this scene he feels impelled to undertake intense physical activity to stop thinking. Soon he’ll finally progress to deciding and then acting. Faile keeps Perrin’s thoughts and feelings in line at this difficult time – this is in keeping with the moderation or temperance role that she plays (see Faile article).

"Fools," Perrin whispered. "Fools to follow me. Fools not to hide."
"You'd really have them do that?" Faile said, angry. "Cower someplace while the Last Battle happens? Didn't you say every man would be needed?"

Towers of Midnight, A Making

She keeps a focus on what is important and encourages others to, too.

The importance of choice is highlighted in this chapter:

The hammer could be either a weapon or a tool. Perrin had a choice, just as everyone who followed him had a choice. Hopper had a choice. The wolf had made that choice, risking more in defense of the Light than any human—save Perrin—would ever understand.

Towers of Midnight, A Making

Perrin made his important choice between the hammer and the axe made back in Crossroads of Twilight. He’s been worried all along that his important choice was between being wolf or human, not realising that he over-thought this issue.

If Hopper “died forever” after being killed in Tel’aran’rhiod, he can’t become a Hero of the Horn, since they are spun out of Tel’aran’rhiod into the waking world to work the will of the Wheel. I doubt his sacrifice went unregarded though.

Perrin’s desire for physical action was literally constructive in that it led to creating an amazing weapon. His act of creation parallels his dream of making something in Towers of Midnight Prologue when he brooded over all his unresolved issues (see Post #3: Prologue, Perrin POV read-through post). It has been too long since he used his artisanal skills. Not since Tear, the day he made his first “master’s piece”, as acknowledged by the smith, has he created anything at a forge. He has forged things metaphorically though, such as this army, and that has kept his eye and hand in.

As the Tairen smith hoped, the hammer led Perrin back to the forge to create a marvel….to become a smith god.

Man, if I have ever seen anyone made to hold a smith’s hammer, it is you. So take it. Keep it.”
Perrin closed his hand around the haft. It did feel right. “Thank you,” he said. “I cannot say what this means to me.”
“Just remember the ‘one day,’ man. Just you remember it.”

The Dragon Reborn, The Hammer

Very prophetic words from the smith. Perrin

felt a need to create, as if to balance the destruction he'd seen in the world, the destruction he'd helped create…

The world was cracking, breaking further each day. It needed help, right now. Once a thing shattered, you couldn't put it back together.

Towers of Midnight, A Making

You have to start all over again. Perrin made a hammer in actuality as he dreamed. It is a symbol of his army and his leadership of it, forged together truly to be guided by him.

While focused at his work, Perrin identifies or merges with the forge.

He breathed in and out, his lungs working like bellows. His sweat was like the quenching waters. His arms were like the anvil. He was the forge…
He felt something leaking from him, as if each blow infused the metal with his own strength, and also his own feelings. Both worries and hopes. These flowed from him into the three unwrought pieces...

as if all of his strength and emotion had been forged into the metal.

Towers of Midnight, A Making

He sees he is making a hammer – as he did in the dream. During the process he makes a lot of noise and quaking:

Blow after blow. Those beats were so loud. Each blow seemed to shake the ground around him, rattling tents.

Towers of Midnight, A Making

Perrin’s bucket of molten liquid is like lava. Smith gods are associated with earthquakes and volcanoes, for example the Ancient Greek god Hephaestus or the Ancient Roman god Vulcan, who have strong links with Perrin. The Norse thunder god, Thor, another parallel of Perrin, also shook the ground as he made deafening thunderclaps.

Noisy it might be, but the work is meditative and melts away Perrin’s resistance and rigid thinking habits so he can transform. He forges himself as he forges his hammer. Finally he knows what he is doing and why. The hammer is all steel – Perrin has steeled himself, and is tempered now.

Perrin won’t lead the army unless they acknowledge and accept the risks; give informed consent. Nine people, eight channellers plus Perrin, made the hammer; nine is the most yang (positive, active) number (see Number symbolism essay).

At the forge, Perrin leaves his old hammer, symbolic of his old self, behind. What is his new hammer? Its name, Mah’alleinir, is a reference to Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer, with which he fought giants and never missed his target. The old tongue meaning of “He who soars” is an acknowledgement of Hopper, who wanted to fly.


Faile POV

Berelain immediately seizes on the implications of power-wrought weapons and blades. She fears Perrin will attack the Whitecloaks so that he will not have to submit to them. Faile is pretty sure that he won’t. Perrin confirms that he will keep his word.

Faile realises Perrin would never have suited Berelain because of what she thinks him capable of. Galad is similar in character to Perrin, but Berelain has idealised him and looks up to him as much as Faile does Perrin. Berelain claims Rand would be pleased if she married someone close to him. Back in Tear, she rejected Mat as too like her, which is why she didn’t respond to his greetings, much to his shock (The Shadow Rising, Rumours). (He is used to his advances going over well, and so is she.) Berelain expects Rand and Perrin to be like royalty or aristocrats and play pragmatic politics, but they aren’t. Not wanting to go against her own long-held principles of concentrating on advancing the standing of her country and her rulership, she justifyies her desire for Galad on the grounds of political advantage. Faile is not fooled. She agrees to help Berelain dissuade Perrin from attacking the Whitecloaks if he appears to as payback for Berelain backing off and restoring Perrin’s honour. So convincing is Berelain that Faile actually wonders what Perrin plans. Berelain pleads but it is not necessary.


Perrin POV

Elyas asks Perrin if he is “one of us” finally – a wolf. Perrin says no; he is who he is, which is half wolf and half human. He wonders if over-thinking has been the problem. Umm, yes. Encouragingly, he decides to worry less, and just be. At last he has found his balance. This is part of the necessity of balance theme of the books. In many ways he is a very successful Wolfbrother because he is balanced.

The army only now feels unified because Perrin is a proper leader. He is concentrating on doing, on performing his actual duties and not letting responsibility weigh him down.

As Perrin realises, he is a symbol to all these people. People can lose faith in a symbol if it is unworthy to be followed or looked up to. When Berelain damaged Perrin’s reputation and integrity by implying Perrin was unfaithful, she made him less worthy to be followed. Faile sensed the loss of regard and what it meant to Perrin and his army and acted to have it restored.


Galad POV

Galad fears his choices – his beliefs – were mistaken. He feels everything has been wrong since Morgase returned. It is because he killed a man for the wrong reason and therefore did evil. So things cannot be right. In fact, Morgase’s very existence proved that Galad can make big mistakes. Morgase drove this home by relating how she made a mistaken judgement, and also by openly regretting that she did not teach him the world is not black and white. Galad is aghast that right is harder to recognise than he previously believed. He did what seemed right regarding Valda and yet strictly speaking it wasn’t. Valda committed a crime – more than one crime – just not the crime that Galad thought. His conscience disturbed, Galad considers surrendering to Perrin to prevent the Whitecloaks being killed, mirroring Perrin’s contemplation of surrendering to Galad a short while earlier. But Perrin is a Darkfriend, Galad believes, so he feels unable to do so. He fears the Children may be wiped out before the Last Battle. This is a reasonable fear – the nearby Shadowspawn army is aiming to do just this. The Whitecloaks’ mistake is in believing Perrin is the Shadowspawn’s leader, when he is their target. As Perrin makes plain, he is indirectly responsible for the army attacking the Whitecloaks.

Byar blames Galad for their predicament. Galad says that he acted with honour by having a trial, but Byar believes they should have just attacked. In Galad’s opinion they would be utterly defeated by Perrin’s forces if they did so. Byar’s counter that the Light would have protected them should also hold now, but Byar illogically denies this. And the Light doesn’t protect the Whitecloaks from being killed by Shadowspawn.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Towers of Midnight Read-through #46: Chapter 39 - In The Three-fold Land


By Linda

Aviendha compares the appearance and dangers of the Three-fold Land to that of the Westlands to the latter’s discredit. Yet both have hidden dangers: for all that Aviendha thinks the snake’s den is obvious, she has personally seen five people fall to such a snake’s ambush, and there would be many more killed that she did not see. As other characters say, there are no safe places. It’s a matter of the dangers one knows:

It was always preferable to face the enemy or the danger you could see than to fear the one that hid behind the faces of lying wetlanders.

Towers of Midnight, In The Three-fold Land

She has been afraid in the Westlands because a) she doesn’t understand Westland society well enough to recognise the dangers, particularly Darkfriends, and b) she left the Three-fold Land soon after Rand’s advent brought Darkfriends out of hiding, so she associates the Westlands with the horrors of the Last Days and the Three-fold Land with comparative stability and safety.

While Aviendha is parochial, she is honest with herself that, for all its unfamiliarity, she has enjoyed life in the Westlands. However she sees this as a weakness for luxury. Running to Rhuidean to follow custom has reminded her of Aiel ways and brought out her insular side. She is determined that all Aiel should return to the Three-fold Land, to become strong again with their traditions reaffirmed. At this stage she hasn’t considered that she could live in the Westlands without luxury if she wished. Too much hanging about in palaces recently.

The approaching end of Aviendha’s apprenticeship has “brought her honour back”. While she was an Apprentice and not a Maiden she felt low in status. Once she goes through the glass columns and is fully initiated as a Wise One Aviendha feels that she will have enough status to be Rand’s equal partner, and therefore can propose to him without being the lesser of the two.

And now for Aviendha’s meeting with the mysterious Nakomi. When Aviendha closes her eyes, I think she falls asleep and reaches Tel’aran’rhiod. The rest of the chapter is in Tel’aran’rhiod, although Aviendha is unaware of this. She didn’t hear Nakomi approach because in Tel’aran’rhiod Nakomi can just will herself at a place. The fire was warmer than it should be, according to the amount of tinder Aviendha put on it, and it had more coals than it should have, which is further evidence of Tel’aran’rhiod. Nakomi willed the fire hotter so it could cook tubers, and the roots cooked faster than they “should” – in the time it takes to make tea! Moreover the food tasted better than expected, so much so that it amazes Aviendha, who has dined royally recently, again indicative of Tel’aran’rhiod. Aviendha nearly doubted her taste test, but quickly rationalised that this was evidence of the superiority of the Three-fold Land. I smiled when the fourth wall of Aviendha’s dream was nearly broken here, but parochialism won the day. Nakomi vanishes – Aviendha can’t trace her – and so do her belongings once Aviendha leaves them and Nakomi thinks of them as gone.

So why was Nakomi hanging about in Tel’arna’rhiod? We haven’t seen any Dreamwalkers dream “across time”, as it were. So she either dwells in Tel’aran’rhiod or has reached it from the contemporary world. Nakomi may be a Hero of the Horn waiting for her rebirth or for the Horn of Valere to call her to the Last Battle. Her conversation with Aviendha is reminiscent of Birgitte’s contact with Perrin, Elayne and Nynaeve in Tel’aran’rhiod in the early books. When Nakomi appeared in the real world at Thakan’dar and spoke to Rand, the Horn had been blown and Heroes were still abroad in the waking world.

Aviendha queried Nakomi on where she is from, and got a cryptic answer:

"I am far from my roof," the woman said, wistful, "yet not far at all. Perhaps it is far from me. I cannot answer your question, apprentice, for it is not my place to give this truth."

Towers of Midnight, In The Three-fold Land

Nakomi's home and people are far from her and unreachable because she is dead, yet still feels tied to the Aiel. Looking further, Nakomi is far from the main world, yet not. Tel’aran’rhiod surrounds the waking world, yet as a shade, Nakomi cannot touch it. By the precepts, those dwelling in Tel’aran’rhiod can’t speak to someone who knows they are in Tel’aran’hiod, but then Aviendha doesn’t know. To tell Aviendha that she is a dead Hero would be to make Aviendha aware she is in Tel’aran’rhiod, and so, violate the precepts. It might also make Aviendha more doubtful of what Nakomi says.

Nakomi was able to track Aviendha’s thoughts very well, as an Aiel would. She tested Aviendha about her opinion of Rand and the Westlands, and made sure Aviendha believes Rand’s revelation. Aviendha’s negative opinion of the Westlands and her belief that they are supposedly weakening the Aiel earned Nakomi’s disapproval. Nakomi’s favourable opinion of the Westlands, emphasising their beauty and lushness, is as though they are familiar to her, as they would be if she had roamed about Tel’aran’rhiod long term and had cut ties with the Three-fold Land. She would be unlikely to feel this way had she remained in the Waste or only left it recently; recent contact with the Westlands would inspire the kind of wariness or alienation expressed by Aviendha.

Nakomi deftly drew out Aviendha’s concerns about the Aiel being weakened, and the effect of Rand’s revelation that the Aiel are Oathbreakers and no better than the despised Cairhienin. It is the bleakness resulting from this shame which has broken the Aiel – their hypocrisy and oath-breaking – not the Westlands themselves. Aviendha does not yet accept this.

Following the Dragon and fighting in the Last Battle will redeem the Aiel and meet their toh and thus restore their honour. Nakomi emphasises that serving the Dragon was the whole point of their time in the Three-fold Land and it is now time to move on.

The effect of their encounter is to make Aviendha more pro the Waste - where food tastes better than that in a palace - but also disturbed that old ways of violence may not have any purpose, let alone honour. Nakomi wants the Aiel to stop their violence and join the other nations. The Aiel need to embrace the Fourth Age as well as modern ways; right now they are too tribal and traditional. What Aviendha sees next will show her their degradation if they don’t.

Aviendha does not see that toh being met means the Aiel are free of the Three-fold Land, raiding and violence; just as the Sharans are free of the Pattern after playing their adversarial part in Last Battle. Nakomi makes her point and leaves; she doesn’t want to overdo it, or argue with Aviendha, but just nudge her in right direction. And, of course, there are the precepts, too.

Nakomi’s name is reference to Nokomis, the grandmother of Nanabozho/ Manabozho, the trickster figure of the Ojibwe Amerindians. She is in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem The Song of Hiawatha:

By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
Dark behind it rose the forest.

In fact, in the Ojibwe language, the language of the traditional tale on which Hiawatha is based, Nokomis means “my grandmother” (see Character Names N article for further discussion of Nokomis/Nakomi and Hiawatha/Rand).

Nakomi is not literally Rand’s grandmother although she is wise and knowledgeable. Bair said her name was ancient, and recognisably Aiel, so it is likely she is a Hero who was an Aiel from the distant past in one of her recent births, particularly considering her legendary name.