Monday, March 27, 2017

A Memory of Light Read-through #27: Chapter 24—To Ignore the Omens

By Linda

Tuon POV

Tuon believes her cumbersome garments are assassin-proof and will let her free quickly if she is attacked. However, she has to promptly recognise an attack to be able to save herself.

Beslan doesn’t understand Mat anymore – he has changed since his visit to Sindhol, and yet not. After some pressure from the Empress, the King of Altara has accepted that he has to remain to rule and not go off to battle.

Tuon consciously followed omens—fate—to marry Mat, and have a child by him. So did Mat also follow prophecy. Tuon’s following of omens—regarding them as an indication of event in the Pattern—is no more foolish than going to another world to ask aliens to tell your future and following that. Neither would have married the other if they had not felt pressured by divination to do so.

Divination by omens is augury in its widest sense. It follows the ancient principle of “as above, so below” or that microcosm reflects macrocosm. For more on this, see the Workings out of Fate and Omens articles. We only see passive divination such as dreams, sooth-saying or omens in the series; there is no cleromancy, sortilege or star-gazing.

The chapter title refers to the validity of omens alongside the other types of divination in the series, and also to what the consequences would have been if Tuon had not married Mat—if she ignored the omens. She also followed the omens regarding Rand, which were the strongest possible, and now perhaps Min:

Perhaps the omens would show Fortuona someone else fitting as a Truthspeaker.

A Memory of Light, To Ignore the Omens

The Empress is on the lookout now for a new one. “Seek and you shall find.” After all, a diviner very much participates in their divination process. As does the querent. The *Finns chose how to answer Mat’s questions from what they saw, and he “chose” what questions to ask. Even being impulsive and changing your mind about what to ask is a choice.

The Seanchan very much follow social Darwinism—the fittest survive or rise to the top in society—as does the Shadow. It is something important that they have in common. For the Seanchan, it is a way of accepting a coup rather than being outraged at a violation of proper order. The sudden replacement of one ruler for another stronger, bolder or luckier one is all for the good of the empire and not a usurpation. Yet Tuon is a parallel of an order goddess and brings order to the world.

In contrast, Mat is an outsider and not easily confined in an elaborate uniform or social structure. This is symbolised by the way he “kept snagging [his uniform] on things” in this chapter. Tuon appreciates how his dis-orderliness keeps her rivals off balance, although it does the same to her, too, at times. The fact that he isn’t a rival to her makes her want to protect him. In many ways, Mat challenges Fortuona’s beliefs and values most of all.

Fortuona is undecided how to fit Mat into her military command structure, at least in part because she is unsure of his full capabilities. Galgan is even more unsure, and is waiting to see if Mat undoes himself. Of course, the risk is that Mat outdoes Galgan. The outsider has Galgan unsettled. Betting on Mat because he impressed Karede, Fortuona gives Mat a new name—one with much symbolism—and pronounces him second to Galgan in command of her armies. Galgan must now include him in all decisions.

Tuon is aware that doing battle against the Shadow leaves her exposed in Altara—but to what? The Shadow is the battle that everyone is fighting. All selfish land-grabbing has been postponed to well beyond the Last Battle. With some effort, Mat pushes Tuon to agree to move to save Egwene’s army. Tuon is tempted to capture all the Aes Sedai so she would be invincible in Seanchan. But the Last Battle must be fought. The Empress considers breaking the treaty she signed even though she is a law and order figure. She is weighing everything here until Mat pushes her to keep her word. She thinks Mat is chaos; but she would have aided it, not he. Finally she decides to contribute to the Last Battle. The Seanchan Essanik prophecies gave the Empress a nice mention and it would have been quite a paradox if she ignored that:

The prophecies clearly showed that the Empress would defeat those who served the Shadow, and then she would send the Dragon Reborn in to duel with Lighteater.

The Gathering Storm, A Halo of Blackness

On Seanchan terms, that would be quite an omen to ignore. Galgan thinks Tuon has made a big mistake, but she is betting on Mat and the omens she couldn’t ignore that she hasn’t.


Even Lan is affected by the foreboding, menacing black clouds. In part this is because he doesn’t think they have delayed the Trollocs well enough and won’t be reinforced in time.

Lan disregards Agelmar’s complaints of troubled dreams. Yet they must be unusual if such an experienced soldier and general is concerned by them. Perhaps his own have been protected for so long that he takes this for granted. Agelmar’s concerns are a sign that Graendal’s attacks on the generals’ dreams are starting to bite.

Despite what Lan says about Nynaeve being at Shayol Ghul some time earlier, the eclipse happens in this chapter and it occurred shortly before the party entered Shayol Ghul. Lan is referring to Rand taking his party near Thakan’dar to testing the artham dagger prior to entering the Shadow’.

Elayne POV

The eclipse occurs as Elayne’s exhausted troops are in position. The Queen makes a fine rallying speech convincing her troops that they must fight to save the Land so the Light will return. Resistance is not enough; they must destroy the Shadow. As Rand gives his blood for salvation, so the Land also gives the blood of the people for salvation.

Elayne presses Birgitte into obedience. She is very much in Queen mode, and not an Aes Sedai needing protection or counsel. For the good of all, she has to make a contribution to the battle with her channelling. Birgitte is hurt at first, but concedes that Elayne has a point.

The Andoran queen doesn’t mention the sun shining again in this scene, but eclipses last about seven minutes at the longest, and they can’t be total everywhere. This eclipse is total from Shayol Ghul to Cairhien. It doesn’t end until after Elayne’s speech.

Elayne finally sees what Birgitte saw in Towers of Midnight—that anyone can use the cannon for large-scale devastation with a modest amount of training—and it frightens her. Ironically, this is the effect that the One Power has on non-channellers. It’s a reminder of how right Rand was to make the peace treaty between all parties.

Ituralde POV

Even prior to the battle, Windfinders are using the Bowl of Winds that they earned to counteract the Dark One’s storms. The Sea Folk are interested in technology, such as the steamwagons. The Sea Folk see their potential as land transport of heavy goods in bulk along regular, perhaps ultimately railed, routes, performing a similar role to rakers and cargo ships in shipping lanes. In contrast, Ituralde thinks they are not as good as a team of horses.

Unlike the other armies, who are under threat, Ituralde feels adequately prepared. Nevertheless, he doesn’t expect to win, because he is outnumbered. Like Mat, he can assess when an army is about to break before it is obvious. Ituralde has post-traumatic stress disorder and has flashbacks as he watches the Trollocs advance. Alsalam calms him enough to refocus. The Domani general knows he has to win here and keep the Shadowspawn out of Thakan’dar. All other fights are lesser; this one is to protect Rand.

Every other fight—every battle man had fought, and was fighting—would be meaningless if Ituralde lost here.

A Memory of Light, To Ignore the Omens

Ituralde is a bit of a trickster, like Mat and unlike the other generals, and he will use all the tricks he can think up to buy Rand time. He is the right one of the generals for this job. He is also the strongest in himself of the generals, as it happens, and resisted and survived Graendal’s Compulsion—no mean feat, especially as he feels a wreck compared to how he was before Maradon.

Aes Sedai recognise eclipses as short-lived natural phenomena, but everyone else is ignorant of them, even nobles. In keeping with the chapter title, this eclipse is an omen. As discussed in the previous chapter, it symbolises the potential end of world and the fight of light and darkness, but also the conjunction of saidin and saidar fighting together for good or ill. It also symbolises Rand as the unconquered sun hidden from the Dark One by the artham dagger.