Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Memory of Light Read-Through #5: Chapter 2—The Choice of an Ajah

By Linda

Pevara POV

The spontaneous combustion of people is a new manifestation of Wrongness:

Earlier in the week, common people in the Tower—none of the Asha'man—had begun bursting into flame. Just . . . flame, inexplicably. They'd lost some forty people. Many still blamed a rogue Asha'man, though the men had sworn nobody had been channeling nearby.

She shook her head, watching a group of people trudge past on the muddy street outside. She had been one of those, at first, who had called the deaths the work of an Asha'man gone mad. Now she accepted these events, and other oddities, as something far worse.

A Memory of Light, The Choice of an Ajah

That’s really something for a Red to admit: that there are worse things than a male channeller.

The event refers to a real world myth of spontaneous human combustion where people appear to have burned up almost completely with no apparent source of ignition.

Pevara is terrified of reality unravelling and of being trapped where she could be Turned to the Shadow. Her allies are men she once would have captured and severed as a job well done. Yet she comes to not only appreciate them, but depend on them, which shows a) how adversity makes for strange bedfellows, b) the irony of her situation and c) how many good men were lost to the taint.

Androl thinks that they should get Pevara out because it is not her battle, and it is unfair that she is in danger. (Everyone is in danger from the Shadow’s war, however, and must fight.) He is happy to have her help, though. Each feels responsible for the other. Pevara wants to give the Asha’man “guidance” so they don’t fall to the Shadow. She is prepared to use herself as bait to do it, and is insulted that they think she needs rescuing from danger.

Androl is highly motivated by curiosity, rather like a Brown. He regards Aes Sedai as hedged in by custom and tradition.

Pevara refuses to believe that the Source is cleansed because men are still affected by the taint. (Its damaging effects on the male channellers were not undone by the cleansing. No new damage will occur, though.) Androl thinks the Reds should give up their purpose:

"You have two choices as an Ajah," Androl continued. "You can either continue to hunt us—ignoring the proof that we offer, that the Source is cleansed—or you can give up on being Red Ajah."

"Nonsense. Of all Ajahs, the Reds should be your greatest ally."

"You exist to destroy us!"

"We exist to make certain that men who can channel do not accidentally hurt themselves or those around them. Would you not agree that is a purpose of the Black Tower as well?"

A Memory of Light, The Choice of an Ajah

The Reds need to change, not disband. In truth Egwene had new duties in mind for them. Their best role would be to police both male and female channellers. After all, the White Tower became quite black for a while. The chapter title refers to the Red Ajah’s choice of a new role, and also reflects on Pevara's own choice of the Red Ajah all those years ago. Many have thought that the Green Ajah would have suited her better.

Pevara is strongly attracted by Androl’s character, particularly his mixture of passion and humility, but put off by his channelling ability. She tries winning him over by taking an interest in, and getting him to talk about, his work. He sees through her tactic of putting him at ease, and challenges her to admit the Asha’man make her feel awkward. To his surprise she admits it, then she explains why.

Soon Pevara is trapped into admitting the trauma of her past. She says more than she intends because she is so intrigued and impressed by Androl. In turn, he admits that she is different from other Aes Sedai. Somewhat disingenuously, she makes light of her differences—and also of the usual attitudes of Reds. Androl isn’t fooled. He is polite, but rejects her offer of working with her and accepting her guidance. She is annoyed—she thinks that her liking of men should be enough to earn his trust and for her motivation and decisions to be in their best interests. Yet she doesn’t believe the Source is cleansed.

Pevara says men channelling is terribly unnatural. She actually means it is a type of Wrongness; but now she is wrong (as in incorrect) and Androl disputes her out-of-date attitude. This scene harks back to when Rand linked with Nynaeve to cleanse saidin, a feat which Pevara does not believe was successful. It also mirrors Merise and Corele linking with their Asha’man after the cleansing, which they attended.

Androl follows up on their discussion in the Prologue and asks her about forming a circle—a measure of trust. When they do so, Pevara panics for an instant at first, as perhaps any Red would. Compare this with Toveine’s reaction when only touched with saidin:

She swallowed. Hard. It had to be the male part of the Power holding her up. She had never been touched by saidin before. She could feel the thick band of nothing snug around her middle. She thought she could feel the Dark One's taint. She quivered, fighting down screams...
He was a man who could channel.
And he had her shielded and a prisoner.
The shriek that burst from her throat startled even her. She would have held it back if she could, but another leaped out behind it, higher still, and another even higher, another and another. Kicking wildly, she flung herself from side to side. Useless against the Power. She knew that, but only in a tiny corner of her mind.

The Path of Daggers, The Extra Bit

It would be a rare Red who would even agree to Linking with a man.

The link feels better than Pevara thought it would. Androl complements her on her strength. Pevara doesn’t fear him, only saidin. She asks him to stop the link, but he doesn’t because he is intoxicated with the level of saidar that she can draw. This makes her panic again, much more, as she fears he could use her power against her. He stops when he realises she is really frightened, but she bonds him so she will have control. When she admits she has bonded him, he is angry that she forced herself on him and bonds her back. In this case, the man is weaker, becomes excited at borrowed strength and doesn’t listen to the woman’s requests to be released. She is determined not to be powerless again in their relationship and forces a bond on him. In retaliation he forces one on her. Neither behaved well on this issue.

The upshot will be that neither will be “guiding” or controlling the other: they must cooperate. Their link will enforce rapid understanding as well as enable them to plot secretly against the Dreadlords.

Pevara doesn’t know that, unlike non-channeller Warders, channeller Warders can’t be Compelled, as Alanna indicates:

"If you had to bond a man without asking him," Kiruna demanded in that commanding voice, "why, by the Light most holy, have you not used the bond to bend him to your will? Compared to the other, that is only slapping his wrist."
Alanna still had small control of her emotions. Color actually flooded her cheeks, partly in anger by the way her eyes flashed, and assuredly partly in shame. "Has no one told you?" she asked, too brightly. "I suppose no one wants to think of it. I certainly do not." Faeldrin and Seonid looked at the floor, and they were not the only ones. "I tried to compel him moments after I bonded him," Alanna continued as if noticing none of it. "Have you ever attempted to uproot an oak tree with your bare hands, Kiruna? It was much the same."
Kiruna's only reaction was a slow widening of her eyes, a slow deep breath. Bera actually muttered, "That's impossible. Impossible."

Lord of Chaos, The Mirror of Mists

Since Androl can’t undo his Bond, Pevara doesn’t suggest releasing hers. (She doesn’t indicate either way, but she may not know how to release a bond, either, since she only learned how to bond someone shortly before her trip to the Black Tower.) Aes Sedai rarely admit lack of knowledge.

Each experiences the other’s self and is very rapidly able to read the other. The Bonds didn’t cancel each other out; they augmented each other.

The news that Welyn and Jenare have been Turned confirms that Taim holds Logain and brings them back to the real problem at hand.

Aviendha POV

Over 100,000 people are at Merrilor. The world is holding its breath—not just for the Last Days, but also for the alliance of nations. It is so important.

Aviendha is going to Elayne for details of the Caemlyn attack, and to ask about Rand. The Aiel need to have a purpose after the Last Battle, and she is determined to work out that purpose. The Wise One now realises that going back to the Waste after the Last Battle would be a…well…waste, and destroy them ultimately. The Aiel must participate in the world and move with the times. Moreover, the Seanchan will never leave them alone. Aviendha considers whether attacking the Seanchan now is the answer, rather than waiting some years, as the Aiel did in her glass columns vision. She wonders why the Seanchan in her vision waited so long to attack; it is because they were bound by the treaty until the Aiel violated it. This part of the vision seems to have passed her by. Like many people filled with hatred and fear, she assumes the Seanchan will do their worst without compunction and so thinks she should therefore strike first herself. Already Aviendha is so distrustful that she assumes the Seanchan would violate an oath, even though she has no reason, just hatred, to think otherwise. The Aiel are already speaking of fighting the Seanchan, who would attack them. She appears to have forgotten that the Aiel were once oathbreakers and that her children deceive others to incite them to break the Dragon’s peace treaty.

There is a wry comment in this scene on one group perceiving others as backward: Aviendha thinks inheritance of a position is backward, whereas many peoples think the Aiel are backward.

Aviendha will spend the night with Rand because it is probably her last chance. However, she doesn’t think about not having taken contraception, so she probably can’t fall pregnant now—in fact the physical characteristics of her children in her vision show that she conceives some time after Rand exchanges bodies with Moridin. She asks Elayne’s assent and will also ask Min’s.

Rand deliberately annoys Elayne in his letter by being commanding; impressively, she is annoyed, even while she sees through his reverse psychology. It makes her proud of him.

Elayne and her advisors accept that Caemlyn is lost. They will wait until the Trollocs starve themselves out; and try to rescue people trapped in the city with gateways in the meantime. Birgitte is set to figuring out a way to lure Trollocs out of Caemlyn to a site of their choosing.

Sleeper Darkfriends opened the Caemlyn Waygate for Shadowspawn. There will be more sleepers activated in A Memory of Light.