Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Storm is Coming! #7: More Waste of Aes Sedai

More Waste of Aes Sedai

By Linda

In 2005 BobH compiled a list of all Aes Sedai who are 'out of action' for one reason or another and why, and we republish his Dead, Captured and Missing Aes Sedai article here as part of our recap for The Gathering Storm. It's interesting that since the series began, over 10% of the Aes Sedai have died, been taken prisoner, or are missing.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Storm is Coming! #6: The Nature of Reading Pleasure

We continue our dialogue on the advanced material from The Gathering Storm already released. After some hesitation, we've decided to keep our series about the prologue for next week and tackle immediately chapter two, The Nature of Pain.

I'll spill the beans right away, there wasn't any pain involved at all for us two. Whatever The Nature of Pain may evoke, reading Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson's chapter two, dealing with a much anticipated event, most definitely stimulated our pleasure, not our pain centers.

The Nature of Reading Pleasure:
A commentary on The Nature of Pain, chapter two of The Gathering Storm

This post discusses everything from chapter two of The Gathering Storm, available for free upon registration (also free) at

Click here to expand the rest of this post

Dominic: A surprise chapter! This is a really awesome and unexpected treat. Thanks to those involved with this at Macmillan/Tor Books - you're getting really good at making these WOT fans happy. And what an amazing chapter it is. Without any hesitation, this is my favourite excerpt from TGS released so far.

Linda: Which is why we're analysing this one before the Prologue! :) But it is very good indeed.

Dominic: Honey in the Tea from Knife of Dreams was perhaps the best Egwene chapter so far in the story, one of my personal favourites anyway and perhaps one of my favourite chapters of the last book at the same time. And The Nature of Pain is an excellent follow-up to Honey in the Tea, same tone, same themes, same emotional moments.

So you were right Linda, we did get the dinner after all.

Linda: So we have; I always thought it was artistically right that we do so. But that's jumping forward a bit.

Dominic: It sounds like, for a while anyway, Egwene's and Rand's story lines will not be synchronized. Unless Steven Cooper blundered (and I doubt it, but we'll investigate! There are doubts around about the moon phases in COT/KOD etc.), the dinner is set 2 days before the capture of Semirhage, weeks before the first chapter and some scenes in What the Storms Means, like Tylee's, and 3 days before Faile's. As amazing and satisfying as the dinner with Elaida turns out to be, I confess I'm a bit worried about the asynchronous story lines. It's unusual for Robert Jordan to do this. The last time he did it was within Crossroads of Twilight, and while I actually love this book, I find it has quite important structural problems. I'm very curious now to know why RJ did this again - why he didn't simply push the dinner further on the timeline as he well could, make it happen not nine days after Egwene's capture but twenty or so. Why did he want to have two or three extra weeks for Egwene? We'll see after reading The Gathering Storm.

But the confusion jumping in the timeline like this causes aside (is Mesaana's scene in the prologue coming before or after this? Has Pevara's group gone to the Black Tower yet at this point? etc.) I have only praise for this chapter.

Linda: Is time so important with reality unravelling? It's like we're getting glimpses of chaotic events. It does make things seem more chaotic to me. The reader becomes as uncertain as the characters.

Dominic: :) Confusing the reader in such a complex story is a good thing? ;) Seriously, there's certainly a deeper reason behind this choice, one we won't see before we get to read the full book. It may not even have to do with Egwene's story line as such. For instance, RJ may have stalled Egwene because he intends to tell events happening in the rebellion he couldn't go into in Knife of Dreams third act, while giving us foreknowledge of the fact the Reds will go to the Black Tower in a few weeks.

Linda: We can't tell until we are able to look at the book as a whole.

Dominic: Indeed.

It is without a doubt the excerpt which gets the closest so far to Jordan's prose. I suspect it's been at least drafted by him - the differences in style and pacing are far less noticeable here but whatever involvement there actually was from Brandon, his hand is really not as easily perceivable in those scenes. The tone, the characterization, the descriptions, the scenes' structure, the dialogue - everything has a convincing Jordan touch. If this is a chapter Brandon wrote from an outline or just the dialogue or a narrated description of the scene by Jordan, this is an impressive feat. There are a few oddities, like reference to Meidani's bust, instead of bosom - I can't find any instance of Jordan using that word except to describe a statue - calling Elaida's bowl a "soup cup" or some formulations like "they began their soup"; Egwene referring to loyalists to mean Elaida's supporters - a term fans use widely but never Jordan himself so far. Despot is another word that was so far absent from the series. We could be doing Brandon an injustice by concluding Jordan finalized this chapter just because it's so good, and so close to the feel of previous chapters in The Wheel of Time. Perhaps what we have here is Brandon with one full story line behind his belt and attacking his second one?

Linda: I noticed too. The words were un-Jordan like, I thought.

Dominic: At a recent Q&A with Brandon in Montréal, he mentioned that he believed Jordan has worked the most on chapters and scenes which interested him the most, that many of those were not necessarily chapters readers would find the most the obvious to tackle early in the process, while he left notes or an outline for material we might consider "very important" scenes. He hinted that a lot of material RJ wrote is concerned with character development and "character moments". This Egwene chapter definitely could fall into that category. We get hints of the "final Egwene" in there, of a major development in her characterization.

Linda: Well I consider this chapter very important to the plot. For a start, Egwene changes her tactics in this chapter, she arranges to meet with Meidani, she impresses very favourably compared to Elaida to the other characters as well as the reader, the list goes on!

Dominic: Oh, certainly. I didn't mean character development at the exclusion of plot relevance – Jordan usually meshed both aspects, but to me this remains above all a character development chapter, and a great one at that. I would not be surprised to discover eventually Jordan has advanced a lot of these, for the major players (but that remains all speculative, until and unless Brandon publishes his planned book on the writing of the project, and that's for after the third book). The rest of the character development can be articulated around those chapters and they would be terribly important to drive the plot in the right direction. Assuming Jordan himself worked on this one, I'm sure chapters like this are great help and boon to Brandon. I'm betting it's easier to develop ideas to bridge gaps in the plot than to write someone else's characters' big turning points like this one. This chapter is a really great landmark for Egwene, a great guide for her characterization, and a bit of a surprise after Honey in the Tea. Brandon is great at this sort of scenes in his books, those and more social scenes, though he tends to under use them for some reason. I have great hopes for his handling of Egwene's story line. I might be biased though. I would find Egwene much easier to write than Rand. There's a part of Rand that feels so much driven by personal experience as a soldier that I would find intimidating to write - not that I could, anyway - but even just imagining character development for Rand from this point on is more daunting. A lot more that for Egwene, for me.

Linda: Well Egwene is a lot saner than Rand!

Dominic: Misguided at times, but certainly not mentally ill like him indeed!

You know Linda how I love mirroring and parallelling, how I admire The Shadow Rising and the mid-series books for this, how good RJ was at developing the same themes in the various story lines, and how well he's succeeded especially at making Rand and Egwene follow parallel paths - both of them tapped on the shoulder and handled powers and duties, destinies, they did not ask for. I'm very much looking forward to a book that will return to this in full and center on Egwene and Rand. I was extremely happy when I learned this is how Brandon decided to split AMOL. And we already see this at play, in an extremely promising way. Rand's tears, or lack thereof, and here Egwene's, their respective ways of dealing with physical pain - and Egwene's rather admirable fortitude and strength, not to let pain and impossible odds touch her spirit. When we hear her think
"victory was always a reason for happiness, no matter how one's pride or one's skin burned",

We're a long way from Rand. Rand and Egwene are in different situations - and Rand has gotten very traumatic experiences that changed him a lot more than Egwene was marked (with the exception of her captivity as damane), but while Rand is more and more desperate, Egwene is really playing the hand she's been dealt. Whatever Egwene's issues are and will be, they won't ever be Rand's. They have gone in completely different directions, on this at least. Egwene is learning humility, and learning to fight from a very weak position, in a way radically different than Rand did and still does. Basically, we see in Egwene the willow bending to the storm winds Cadsuane wishes Rand to become, instead of the Oak that threatens to break apart in the storm that she fears Rand is. And Storm is gathering, time is running short.

Linda: Not only that, Rand is often as tyrannical as Elaida. With the same motives. As Egwene won't fail to notice, and tell him too, if he's still like he was in KOD or Chapter 1 (or even worse) when they meet up again.

Contrast Egwene with Rand in only the chapter before. Being hard isn't the answer, one must understand what is important and make it one's duty to right wrongs, keep the people together, and fight back. Egwene will soon discover the Shadow in Tower - that it is not all Elaida's doing and that the Shadow is much more dangerous and insidious than Elaida.

Dominic: Rand's tyranny is especially dangerous coupled with his growing despair. The last thing Rand should become is a Betrayer of Hope among the Light, if his own depressed mood is spreading around him. This additional parallel between Rand and Ishamael, who came to believe Creation was pointless and joined Shai'tan to help end it all, had escaped me reading chapter one. The contrast with Egwene who is turning herself into an inspirational figure, a real leader, made me see it.

Linda: With Moridin surrounding Rand within and without, how could Rand not? The only good thing is that there is a price for Moridin too: he is becoming as wounded as Rand the Fisher King. They really are blending.

Dominic: Silviana's "relationship" with Egwene is taking an extremely interesting direction. Not exactly unexpected after KOD, but it's very satisfying to watch it evolve. The way this is going, Egwene would find herself far more respected and even admired by supporters she finds in the Tower than she ever was in the Rebellion. There she was just the child dumped on the Amyrlin Seat. In the Tower, she is climbing the ladder step by step, proving these women why she should be their Amyrlin. The Rebels never got the chance to see that Egwene. She rather outwitted them, often with Siuan's help. Now it's different.

Linda:Romanda had begun to give her begrudging respect. Lelaine just wanted her job! Everyone else there felt manipulated. All of them could convince themselves that somebody else actually guided Egwene. In the Tower, no one can do that. She is proving her worth to them.

It was apt that Egwene convinced Elaida that Silviana has been doing her job well, even though it wasn't Egwene's intention to do so.

Silviana is reading up on the Lives of Amyrlins. Interesting.

Dominic: Yes this was a very funny touch. I sense you'd probably give much to get your hands on this book (if it existed!)

Linda:Well of course! It would do very nicely for my Aes Sedai History articles! :D

Egwene is indeed beginning from a position of weakness and working to one of strength, as only the really great Amyrlins have done (see Aes Sedai History: New Era article). And this is her second time doing this. She did well among the rebels, but now she is even lower, but looks to achieve even greater things and earn even greater respect.

Dominic: Egwene was never a "favourite" for me. She's very far from me, perhaps the most remote among the main characters, with Mat (I'm afraid my personality leans more toward Nynaeve, with a dollop of Perrin… and a bit of Cadsuane). I've always had misgivings about her choice to embrace Siuan's anti-Elaida crusade, to accept to use the lies about the Reds to get this war going. But in this chapter, she's finally reached the point I had hoped she would come to eventually, and turned her back on this. I'm impressed by her decision, her wisdom. She is treading very dangerous waters and she doesn't know it yet but now that she's abandoned the idea of making the Tower crumble from the inside, rather seeking to recreate unity and order behind her, she's declared war on Mesaana and her plans. Her plans to divide Elaida's supporters were not altogether different from Mesaana's. With someone as naturally divisive, petty and tyrannical as Elaida, Mesaana has gotten it easy so far, as Egwene could see it Honey in the Tea - her attempts to divide going almost magically too well (I still think they do, among the novices!). Now Mesaana's got herself an opponent, and one working from the shadows. It will be an exciting story line to follow.

Linda: I don't have favourites! The characters all have their good and bad points. Egwene is right; she has changed. She realised Elaida isn't important, it's the Tower that is important. So now she's leaving behind Elaida to tackle Mesaana's schemes head-on. It is at this point that she becomes truly worthy of her (potential) position.

Dominic: I don't play favourites much either when I read WOT. It would be more accurate to say I find Egwene less engaging on a personal level than Perrin, Nyaneve Faile, Tuon or Mat. Her story line is still my favourite, for all that.

Linda: Egwene isn't perfect - she speaks of Rand needing guidance and assumes that the Seanchan would overrun Andor before they reached the Tower. These are errors of judgment, although the one about the Seanchan is far more understandable than the one about Rand.

Dominic: Rand needs some guidance, some restraints too, but the big question is more whether he needs Egwene's sort of guidance. I don,t think he does. She was never very good at seing his real needs – through she thinks she does and at least intends to help, nor is she so good at dealing with him without sparking pointless arguments defeating both their purposes. Nynaeve is much better at this, so is Cadsuane. Egwene still sees this too much from the classic White Tower perspective. Had she gone to Rand early as "The Amyrlin Seat", after Dumai's Wells, this might have resulted not in mutual comprehension but in a barely repairable break up.

I get the feeling her Dreams could correct her error of judgment about the Seanchan, down the line. I think you agree with me it's doubtfully a coincidence that Robert Jordan chose to dose his Dreamer with a drug derived for a plant based closely on mandragora, with its famous oracular connotations. More precise, more dire dreams are forthcoming, I would say. I think at some point the Seanchan attack may become the determinant factor for Egwene.

I think she might recenter her present strategy down the line, when she realises the Seanchan attack is really imminent, no matter that news from Andor say different, and that Elaida does worse than nothing about it. I think then Egwene might decide it's time to risk everything, even her life, because it's her duty as Amyrlin to prepare her people for this. She may abandon the concept of rebel/loyalist even further, teaching Travelling, and asking women to spread this knowledge, whether they believe her prophecies or not (Sorilea-style, under forkroot she can't channel enough to make the weave work, unless she starts developing a resistance to it, as many speculate she might). And there's the fact she may learn from Beonin that Elaida is treating Gateways as a secret weave (Elaida is as paranoid as Rand and doesn't trust anyone else leaving the Tower, she's arranged so only "her Reds" can run around, not the other Ajahs. As we seen in the KOD epilogue, this secrecy culture again has turned against her, with the Reds using it to implement a plan Elaida would most vehemently disapprove of). It's meaningful and leader-like actions like this, more than a plot twist that I see as a possible way Egwene gets put on trial. Inverted weaves and disguising the ability to channel could be other weaves Egwene passes on.

Linda: That could happen, Dom. I discuss the possibility of resistance, or even of a cumulative toxic effect, in that forkroot article.

The rebels have had a renaissance in learning due to sharing and being more inclusive in their recruiting. Not so sure about the disguising weaves - that would be too much of a gift to the Black Ajah. I would hold that back if I were her.

Dominic: This is precisely the harmful 'Old Tower' reasoning that I hope Egwene will further abandon Linda. "Let's keep all our secrets, knowledge is power" - bringing weaves to their graves just in case it could profit someone else more than themselves. That has cost the sisters terribly over the years, and the world that could have benefited from those weaves being known and used by Aes Sedai. Elaida could feed thousands of bellies with a few weeks of work on farms each spring - instead she wastes her talent on growing roses in winter. Should Egwene hold back on weaves that might save hundred of sisters from slavery on the chance she's passing knowledge to a few black sisters, knowledge that for all she knows they already possess from Blacks among the rebels, because they've secretly known them or that else a Forsaken might give to the Black Ajah at any time (not so likely, but Egwene doesn't know this). The Aes Sedai are about as protective of their secrets as the Shadow, and we see how undermined the Shadow is by this, and the fact they see rivals more than allies in their colleagues. Egwene, Rand… they have to tear down walls and end divisions, and make everyone stronger, if they wish to win.

Linda: From your own essay on knowledge, those who would gain knowledge have to prove they are worthy of it. The Aes Sedai are far from worthy yet. I'm with Verin on this one! A small measure of trust only as Egwene said about Beonin.

Disguising their ability to channel won't save them from the a'dam.

Dominic: Only as long as the Seanchan follow a "collar first, ask questions later" tactic, though. The Seanchan may have so much on their hands that they have to ignore women in whom the damane don't sense the ability, at least during the attack itself. That could be enough for some to regroup and escape. Inverting/reversing would at least protect the secret of gateways from the Seanchan.

Linda: Up until now they have tested all women in any area they overrun.

Dominic: Fooling a damane who don't prioritize them because they don't feel the ability might be enough for quite a few sisters to be able to skim away. I think it would be irresponsible on Egwene's part as a leader not to at least try to give the sisters a potential mean of escape, if Elaida still refuses to believe her or take any measure against the Seanchan. This reminds me of Logain's anger when he thought Rand had kept those extremely effective battle weaves from the Asha'man on purpose, in Knife of Dreams.

Linda: And Egwene may well do so - she is caring more about the Tower as an organisation than many who have been there decades, if not centuries.

Of course if all these weaves are in the open, Mesaana might be exposed once they work out a way to undo them.

One thing that I saw while analysing Egwene's Dreams is that the precision in dreams comes with the Dreamer's understanding while she Dreams. It is perhaps only from this time on, with Egwene on the verge of appreciating not only what Elaida has done but also the part the Shadow plays in the destruction of the Tower that this can happen. Until she learns this, I don't think her dreams can be as detailed.

Dominic: Egwene is very smart. She's about to learn a Forsaken was placed near her and interfered with her Dreams. She still fears the patterns of young sitters in both Halls may be linked to the Black Ajah (wrongly, but this will still influence her) - and Delana, coincidentally, was one of them. It may not be long before she learns the Black Ajah also knows everything going on in Elaida's study.

Linda: Well she'd have to deduce that was what Aran'gar was up to. She's still a way off contacting the BA hunters. Meidani may not even be able tell or even hint to her if she has been commanded not to due to the Oath she took.

Dominic: She may not have to learn about them. I doubt Meidani can reveal anything, but on the other hand Meidani may not be able to keep the secret of her contacts with Egwene from the Hunters for very long. Sooner than later, Egwene might find not only Meidani in her rooms when she goes for a lesson, but Yukiri.

Egwene doesn't really need to figure out what Halima was up to to suspect there's a Forsaken involved in the Tower as well, IMHO.

Linda: Well she hasn't thought of that so far! In either group.

Dominic: But she doesn't yet know about Halima. Soon she will, presumably. Siuan would make a terrible mistake to keep this from Egwene.

It's amazing how much Egwene learned from her stay with the Aiel. Some see Egwene has a mercurial character, who always jump from one thing to the next, is always two steps ahead and doesn't pay attention to what she is doing. But no, that's really not Egwene. She absorbs a lot, and work hard. It's impressive how deeply the WO's lessons and her observations of them and the Aiel in general have sunk in. What she learned is a lot more than dreamwalking skills. She's learned to be strong; she learned to become a warrior. Combined with the political skills instilled by Siuan, Egwene is turning into a formidable woman.

Linda: I particularly remarked Egwene's shame as like the warrior Sulin's when she was temporarily a servant to work off her toh to gai'shain.

Dominic: This was a very funny yet inspiring moment indeed. I also loved how RJ/Brandon have brought Egwene back to her very roots and pointed it out: she was the innkeeper's daughter again in that dinner scene. Pretty much all her life was brought back in this chapter: Wise One apprentice, Black Ajah Hunter, companion of Rand, Aes Sedai and Amyrlin, Accepted, Novice and Inn serving maid. Rand the shepherd, and Egwene the servant girl in the common room at an Inn which is a metaphor for the Tower/Hall. Egwene is more and more finding the Servant of All in herself, though it still grates her to see herself as such.

Rand has curious ways to gather the sheep nowadays, however. He's not returning to his roots yet, but he might have to, sooner or later. Jordan made several allusions to this in past books, one of the most obvious was at the beginning of A Crown of Swords, when after being made the King of Fools/Lord of Chaos by Elaida's cronies and driven out of town, as the character of Carnival was in medieval festivals, he made an unexpected return and found his flock running out of control. But as he delved on this problem in Caemlyn he's not remembered how he dealt with this as a shepherd (when, say, he felt asleep and woke to find the sheep scattered), it rather increased his paranoia and tyranical tendencies. He dealt with this the opposite way a shepherd would have. Rand will have to understand he is a shepherd of people, not the big bad wolf freezing them in terror to make them all obey. He needs to let his allies use their own judgment more. His best allies already do, in his back.

But to get back to Egwene at the dinner, there was even a nice little nod to Bonwhin there, with the Amyrlin washing the floor, and doing her own dishes in the kitchens.

Linda: It's the potential fate of every false Amyrlin. The fact that Egwene accepts her tasks and does them without being forced is going to show that, like corporal punishment the Aes Sedai dread and overuse, it's not that big a deal for one of great spirit and resolve.

Dominic:Interesting that Katerine Alruddin is shown wearing black-and-red. Of course it is in itself meaningless (ie: it isn't a livery) beyond the fact those are the colours of her "two Ajahs", the red and the black, but Jordan often liked to use elements like this as clues. Katerine may well be a "guardian" Moridin set on Egwene. He mustn't trust Mesaana very far to obey his orders to leave Egwene alone.

Linda: Like Javindhra wears a red so dark it's almost black, as though there's some confusion as to her Ajah. I'm not sure I see Katerine's attire as more than that, although someone, perhaps one of the Forsaken, did take the trouble to order Darkfriends to arrange Katerine's escape from the Aiel in Cairhien for her to return to Tar Valon. That would mean there is something important for her to do as a Red or among the Reds.

Dominic: I doubt there were Forsaken involved in her escape. I think she was clever enough to use the Darkfriend recognition signal and she found help - among the gai'shain, it appears. But Katerine is certainly becoming a "prominent" Black sister in the recent books. It sounds like Jordan indeed had something in mind for her. She's taken the place of Liandrin then Galina have held for a while as the Red-Black "figurehead" in the story.

Javindrah is indeed suspect. Duhara - the Sitter Elaida assigned to her former position as advisor to the Andoran ruler, is another wearing red, almost black.

Dominic: Barasine's reaction to Egwene's tirade about the harm Elaida is causing to the Red Ajah is interesting (and so is the fact Silviana seems to have heard it all!). It does look like we have another in Barasine we can consider a very improbable Black Ajah candidate, from her reaction and its sharp contrast to Katerine's. It sounds like a distinct possibility, more and more, that the Red Ajah itself might end up pulling down Elaida. Between Tarna, Pevara, Tsutama and now Silviana, the seed of a solid group of prominent Reds extremely critical of Elaida may be forming, and Egwene may be gaining herself a great supporter in Silviana (we might even want to speculate what RJ might have in mind for Tiana, why she could be replaced by Silviana down the line!).

Much needs to happen before this would result in reconciliation, though. We might be getting close to the Reds wishing to repudiate Elaida and perhaps even planning it, but still a long way from them extending a hand to the rebels. Much bad blood between them and the Blue, the price of Siuan's lies about the False Dragons is still haunting the Tower, and tainting the rebels' cause. Will Siuan take the blame on her shoulders eventually, admit that she fooled everyone and the Blue Ajah is not to blame? Her lies may become the greatest hindrance to final reconciliation down the line. Siuan in her own way has done a great deal to split the Ajahs, the Red and Blue, the Blue and its ally the Green she put aside a completely in matters regarding Rand. The White Tower conflict has always been so interesting to follow because there's faults on both sides, extremely harmful decisions, prejudices, personal rivalries and revenges and schemes hatched on both sides - and the way Siuan began it aftet the Coup with a personal crusade to destroy the Red Ajah and Elaida, the way Lelaine is still seeing the crisis as a path to personal power she knew before the Coup she would never attain, has tainted the Blue Ajah's cause over the months a great deal. In a way, the Red Ajah, the non-black Red Ajah, has fared better so far at keeping the moral high ground - though it's admittedly not fair to consider Siuan's lies, or Lelaine's schemes as 'The Blue", any more than Elaida is "The Red AJah".

Linda: Well they know what Elaida's like best of all, surely! A case of your own family being your harshest critics.

I too doubt Barasine is Black.

The Blues also played their part in the rebellion. There are two sides to every separation after all.

Why is Alviarin late? Has she been delayed by arranging something about Talene, or an attempt to capture Yukiri or Doesine? Or receiving instruction for the BA now that Aran'gar and Delana were forced to leave the rebels (which happened earlier that day, if the timeline is right).

Dominic: It's a good question. Another possibility would be her having been sent out on an errand by Mesaana and returning late. I somehow doubt she's made a successful attempt to capture Yukiri or Doesine yet (the way the Hunters are on their guard will make her task difficult), because the Pevara POV in KOD (epilogue, set many days later, we presume) suggests nothing earth-shattering has happened in the Black Ajah Hunt in the last weeks. This would be a shame to have a scene like this happen off-screen, too.

Linda:It is more likely to have been Talene or especially the flight of Delana/Aran'gar that has stirred the Shadow in the Tower. Alviarin was scurrying because she was late so there was no cancellation or rescheduling of her punishment.

Dominic: It seems a bit early to me for Mesaana (a least lucky for Mesaana that her spies or whatever means she uses to watch the rebels got her this report so fast) to know already about Halima and summons Alviarin, though a summons from Mesaana over something else is quite possible - she wouldn't care one bit Alviarin gets in trouble with Silviana. As for Talene, that too might be odd, considering that Pevara doesn't mention the Hunt at all in her last KOD POV - and Alviarin herself would very much care not to be late, I doubt she'd organize Talene capture or search right at the time of her appointment with Silviana, and when Egwene finally glimpses her, she looks cowed, no slip that she might feel otherwise. My impression was that Talene has been safely hidden where the BA won't find her, too. My bet is really that nothing major has happened in regard to the Black Ajah Hunt since KOD at this point. I could be very wrong too - Jordan liked to make big leaps in that storyline. I suspect Alviarin and the BA may be doomed soon - it's the fact they are everywhere and there is no easy way to catch them all (in both Aes Sedai factions and everywhere else) without forewarning the others that may become a big problem to handle - that and the false sentiment of safety the sisters may develop if the Hunt succeeds too well. Mesaana may remain in the shadows, and I highly suspect she has a hidden army of her own among the novices. An unexpected plot twist would be that Alviarin is identified as Black, but the Oath Rod is not available to question her. Mesaana would have to find her, and kill her, before Alviarin can talk.

Linda: Regarding Talene: she's not capturing Talene, but looking for her. Or passing out orders to do so and collecting their replies. Alviarin has to go around all her message drop off points to find out what is going on. More and more this absence of Talene would seem an emergency to her.

Dominic: But is that a good enough reason to miss her appointment with Silviana? It's humiliating enough as it is without making it worse by arriving late.

Linda:With Shaidar Haran and Mesaana breathing down her neck? And the headsman's block on the horizon? I think it might be!

I really enjoyed the portentous mural of Caraighan Maconar. And something to add to my Aes Sedai early history article. smile.gif They were traversing red and green tiles when a picture of a legendary Green Amyrlin warns off two Reds taking a 'Green' novice/Amyrlin to a Red Amyrlin. Caraighan had blood on her face, and bodies of the slain around her - a warning of what disunity will lead to or a reminder of the Tower split. Interesting that this mural is normally in the library - a lesson of history, plus hints at secret knowledge.

Dominic: It reminded me of the apocalyptic paintings of Bosch, and various allegories of Death, and in general of medieval and renaissance eschatological paintings. Egwene mentions this painting has been twisted by Shai'tan's touch, however. Normally, the people in the eaves aren't dead, and Caraighan's face isn't bloody.

Curiously, the images than came to mind for me are not related to the internal conflict. First, I saw an apocalyptic mirror of Egwene herself. Elaida isn't the only one with ambitions to bring the Tower back to its glory of old, of rulers and the Dragon being "guided". Caraighan belonged to the era when this was true. They're ambitions Egwene might very well have to abandon, all these ideas about Tar Valon's grandeur, that it needs to stand above everything else etc. It would be a good reason to make Egwene lose the city and Tower, and realise it's not what's important about Aes Sedai. I've always felt that Egwene's true path was in the end to bring the Aes Sedai back to their roots, to be revered and respected because they serve the world. Another way to put it: Egwene might have to make the the Aes Sedai worthy of the Aiel's respect again.

Linda: I meant what their disunity will cost the world. The Shadow has deliberately wasted them in this fashion. Like the Brown Sitters say, whenever the Tower was divided in history, disaster struck the world, this time more than any other. And I bet some of those old disasters were covered up to a degree!

Dominic: The second image that came to mind about the painting is Elaida and her wordly ambitions. Elaida's plans would bring the world death.

Linda: Indeed. Are bringing.

Dominic: The third metaphor I see there is the Tower and the Seanchan. The Seanchan are coming with the intent to make Tar Valon pay for all its manipulations of rulers, Hawkwing in particular, of course. The picture is a dire omen, if it's the case.

Linda:We're back to the Elaida-Bonwhin parallel again!

Dominic: Yes, I really see Egwene, "the child from Salidar", as a new Deane Aryman, if not in the sense Siuan sees it that way, as another Blue triumph over the Red Ajah. Aryman's accomplishment was not so much pulling down Bonwhin - it's even unknown if she had any direct role in this - it's to have rebuilt the Tower, brought it back from the brink of destruction.

Linda: Egwene is servant of the Servants. She has endured three of the four traditional forms of Aes Sedai punishment: Labour, Deprivation and Mortification of the Flesh. Now comes Mortification of the Spirit.

The greater pain of Mortification of the Spirit leads Egwene to realise the absurdity of corporal punishment and also that overuse of Mortification of the Spirit is wrong. She showed much disgust at Elaida's (mis)treatment of Meidani and Shemerin.

I couldn't help thinking that Elaida' rooms are not just lavish but tasteless too, due to it containing every extravagant example of every style. And more to come. It mirrors Elaida's personality at the moment - her desire for extreme power and to impose extreme punishments. As early as A Crown of Swords Elaida showed she believed her position was an absolute monarchy and, as can happen, it has developed into tyranny.

Dominic: Elaida indeed has a very "new rich" and unhealthy attitude toward luxury and the trappings of power. Her idea of decorating is to pile up stuff and place them in order "just so" - with little care for the greater picture or where the objects should naturally go to make a better ensemble. They must go where she insisted they should go - Elaida deals very badly with notions of chaos - she doesn't have the mind to see the patterns through it. And the time is indeed long gone since Elaida had the Bonwhin triptych in her study, to remind her of failure and the price of it. The connection with Bonwhin is one reason why I so wish that it's Elaida, not Egwene, who faces the Seanchan attack as Amyrlin. I don't know... it's just too perfect an end for Elaida, I guess. The Bonwhin/Hawkwing vs. Elaida/Rand connection, and then the sheer weight of the tangle of Prophecies related to this: her misinterpretation about "her triumph", her blindness and reject of Egwene's prophecies - she even makes fun of them, her ignorance of the Return's.

Linda: Egwene is appalled at Elaida's dismissive attitude and also thinks it just if Elaida ended up collared.

I guess I should make a prediction here : I always thought that when the Seanchan strike Egwene would be in cells or on trial or even about to be executed and Elaida would be reigning supreme. Elaida's rooms are high in the Tower, if the Seanchan land from the air onto the roof as I think they will, then Elaida will be one of the first to be attacked...I really do not think (and never have thought) that Egwene will be leading the Aes Sedai when the Seanchan strike. Egwene will be saved by a Seanchan and led up to the roof where she and her rescuer will flee by air. From the Seanchan.

Dominic: I interpret the Dream you're alluding to here differently. I don't think Egwene will climb to the roof, I think this Dream is rather a metaphor for the fact she will make herself/find herself the leader during the attack or its aftermath, and flee with a group of women, with Seanchan help (My bet has long been on Tylee for this, as you know, we'll discuss this when we analyse her prologue scene). Tuon's family has been waiting for a thousand years for revenge over the White Tower, and Tar Valon She will collar most sisters, but I expect her to judge and execute many as well - Elaida and Sitters she can find, notably. There's no point in collaring damane if they exceed the number of sul'dam. The vengeful attitude of the High Blood and Tuon Paendrag might be what revolts Tylee and other Seanchan who are beginnign to fear the Return may be catastophic in the end, and an alliance for the last battle better - and lead her to organize an escape.

I think the mention in an earlier book by Elaida of "her head on the walls for the ravens to play with" will turn out to be foreshadowing of her final fate.

Linda: As they did with the Watchers on Toman Head? Repeatedly?

Dominic: Put her in a cage on the wall, shielded or stilled, until she dies? That would be cruel, but the Seanchan's justice can be very cruel – and with Tar Valon they might fall further into excesses.

Elaida is more and more the tyrant Bonwhin seems to have been every day. She deserves to pay a price, if as a character symbolic of what's wrong with the Tower. I've always found it more likely that Siuan is the one offered a chance at redemption, not Elaida. As I finished my re read of Lord of Chaos a few days after reading Tears from Steel, I was reminded how Elaida and Galina's plan to kidnap Rand, how he was treated and the horrible price to pay for saving him from these women, is one of the most evil and enduringly harmful action in the whole series. Rand has never been the same after Dumai's Wells, the hundred of women added all at the same time to "The List", the threat to Min, the barbaric way he was treated (and Galina did nothing Elaida would not have condoned). So much of what Rand has become has been forged in the blood and fire of Dumai's Wells. One of the most harmful blow to the Light came not from the Shadow, but at the instigation of Elaida, as the repercussion of Elaida's mistaken worldview and cruelty.

Linda: I agree whole-heartedly. There is no respect for anyone's rights there, no decency. And of course there's the contrast in the two leaders. Elaida arrogant and cruel and with poor judgment, whereas Egwene gave reassurance and showed understanding, resolve and strategy.

Egwene ate what Elaida ate. Equal. Elaida's food was infested with vermin, Egwene's is not mentioned as being so. The Tower is offering to sustain them equally, but the trappings are different ,and moreover Egwene obtained more benefit and pleasure from her meal than Elaida did.

Dominic: It's not so much the vermin I noticed, nice touch, but the fact that Elaida's food was served in elaborate dinnerware, and had been "ameliorated" with ingredients Egwene's food didn't have - and she got the poorer part of the loaf - and she hate in the kitchens, and did her own dishes. All the trappings of power vs, real leadership, the necessary vs. luxury. Very amusing that the fancy soup of Elaida ended up mostly on the floor (while Egwene ate everything she got)! There was definitely a metaphor intended in this mirroring of their two dinners.

Linda:Definitely yes. And the dinner isn't going to be a one-off. So, Dom, maybe it's the next time Egwene waits on Elaida that the confrontations all happen! After all, Elaida suggests Egwene would be sent to a windowless cell if there are any further infractions. Very suggestive! :D It sure made me laugh.

Dominic: I think this chapter actually mean to start shifting the focus away from Egwene vs. Elaida a bit. Egwene has decided that Elaida isn't a worthy enemy, that she is her own worst enemy – and that she needs to start re building instead of focussing on bringing Elaida down. I think Egwene will not go down in a showdown, but trying to make herself the leader that will save the sisters from the Seanchan, and ready for Tarmon Gai'don. I would not be surprised if in growing desperation Egwene could eventually extend a hand to Elaida, a hand Elaida will refuse, after which Egwene will take matters in her own hands. I think she will lose Tar Valon ultimately, but get a better prize: she will learn the true worth of the Aes Sedai, the true power of the Aes Sedai, and their true mission - and it is not their vaunted Tower and their "most magnificent city in the world" and making the world dance to their tune. It is to serve the world, and to be part of it.

Linda: And we are back to how the Aes Sedai were in the Age of Legends, when the Aiel were proud to serve them. The Wise Ones made it plain to Egwene that the Aes Sedai nowadays are a paltry lot with little ethics and loyalty for all their oaths. This too Egwene learned and is now seeing proved before her very eyes.

Dominic: Egwene still has much to learn about the Three Oaths and the Binder. She should question herself more about what the Aes Sedai have done over the centuries to require the "shield" of those Oaths against accusations, as Egwene put it early on. I don't think we've reached her "final reasoning" on the matter. Siuan has clouded her judgment on this issue, IMO. The Three Oaths are useless and harmful, unless the Aes Sedai have the deep conviction, and dedication, to live by them - which for the First at least, they do not – in flagrant contrast to their seriousness about the Second and Third, which they hesitate and ponder a lot more on before deciding to use or not their loopholes. The First, in particular, is a very harmful smokescreen. I always found that Siuan's reasonning that "the Oaths are what make us Aes Sedai instead of a bunch of wilders" is deeply flawed - one just has to look at the well-deserved respect real servants of their people, like the Wise Ones and Windfinders to see it. They never needed any Oath not to use the One Power as a weapon except in dire need, not to take sides in War, for their word to be listened to and respected. In contrast, the Aes Sedai aren't respected for themselves or their service (with the notable exception of the Shienar so far, but even high ranking and educated Saldaeans like the Basheres have much reservations about Aes Sedai - we certainly don't see Agelmar's reverence for Aes Sedai in Deira or her daughter), the power of the White Tower is respected, and feared. I really hope Egwene changes her mind about the Oaths before the end; changes her mind about the true role of the Aes Sedai's institutions, and their place in the world.

Linda: The Oaths are only good if you follow the spirit of them and not just the letter; and if you are doing so, then you don't need them. You are already trustworthy and will be trusted.

The Aes Sedai bind themselves like criminals; which most of them aren't, but they sure are crooked.

Dominic: Exactly. They wanted to put behind them a reputation of schemers and liars, but theye ended up reminding people constantly that they are. It has convinced people that it's part of their nature even, that the Oath is an halter to prevent them from lying straight out all the time. Which, in the Age of Legends, it would have been if compulsive lying had been a bindable offense!

There is a very interesting theme ongoing and becoming really important with Egwene, one that I suspect will bear many children motifs. It gained speed in Knife of Dreams with the affair of the Thirteenth Depository, but it's with the new additions in The Nature of Pain that I really saw it. The Tower has made an art form of hiding all its mistakes, all its failures even those they aren't fully responsible for, burying them deep, never accounting for them. The glorious Tower History is a pile of half-lies and worse, of pseudo-wisdom and self proclaimed omnipotence, which dangerously most sisters believe to be the truth. All the buried lessons of the past, all the hidden truths, have generated this culture of near infallibility so widespread among the sisters. Far from learning from their mistakes, from History, they doom themselves to repeat their mistakes and hide them once more. This is the exact opposite of what Egwene has learned from ji'e'toh, of admitting your faults, paying for them and learning from them, and move on, grow in wisdom and experience. And now Egwene is set on destroying this culture of secrecy, sharing the lessons she knows, making the Aes Sedai face the ugly, the garbage in the streets, the failures of Elaida and past Amyrlins. If she continues in this logic, she may force the dirty secrets to come out too: admitting the lies about Logain, etc.

Linda: It comes down to knowledge, doesn't it? Knowledge and its misuse and suppression. No wonder the Aes Sedai have declined when they think they know everything already, keep so much secret and deny their mistakes. They don't even truly know themselves, let alone anything else.

Dominic:I begin to suspect RJ's real purpose behind her revelations to Bennae about the secret histories is not to generate a crisis but not make the culture of secrecy crumble, and to give Egwene witnesses who might corroborate what she may reveal to the whole Tower at a crucial moment.

Elaida believes what she wants to believe. Egwene is interested in the truth.

Linda: They make a crisis of confidence in the leadership - not just in Elaida, but the Hall and the whole system. This may trigger the mutiny Egwene was aiming for originally, even though now Egwene may have changed her mind on whether this would be good for the Tower.

Dominic: This may not even surface until very late in the crisis. The Brown Ajah, dedicated to knowledge and teaching it, has played a central role in hiding the obliteration of important knowledge and the twisting of lessons from the past (and the Browns are extremely conscious of the value of historical lessons, not to repeat mistakes you need to know the truths of the past well), through a long line of Sitters who kept the truth from the Brown Historians, who said nothing as they were teaching history they knew to be false, from Brown Librarians who collaborated to this crime against History. Even if Bennae eventually spreads this to her whole Ajah, the Brown may dither a long time before admitting this shame and revealing the existence of the Thirteenth Depository to the rest of the Tower. We are in days when an Amyrlin can disband an Ajah she's unpleased with, or punish failures most harshly. There are a lot of reasons in all of this for the Brown sisters who learn the truth to keep quiet, perhaps until/unless Elaida uses History she knows to be false to justify something.

Linda: So the Browns do as the Reds did about the vileness and hide the shame to their Ajah?

Dominic: Something like that maybe, until one decides to speak up, perhaps, and they shouldn't perpetuate this even more now that they know the truth.

Linda:The Amyrlin is participating in the cover-up though. If she punishes them it will be for revealing the Tower History is lies, not for lying to cover-up the hidden history in the first place.

Dominic:I know you believe Egwene will pay dearly for her revelations down the line, but I'm not as convinced. I'm not convinced Bennae will ever reveal to anyone else what first put her on the trail of the Secret Histories. The worst "talking to" Egwene might have to face about it might come from Siuan, when she learns what Egwene has done.

I really liked the parts with Egwene and Meidani, the comfort, the praise, the chiding. Again, more contrast with Rand - and of course with Elaida.
Interesting possibilities have now opened, with Egwene's instructions to have Meidani summons her for "lessons". How long before Egwene ends up meeting with the Black Ajah Hunters? It's a moment I have long anticipated, I'm glad to see it sounds more and more probable.

Linda: They were always going to meet! Even if it's in the cells. ;)

Egwene compares very well here with Cadsuane too - the strength and the respect for others whether they are weaker or stronger than herself - especially for those weaker than herself. Cadsuane is considerate of those who are making an effort and doing their best, and merciless on those who are not.

Dominic: This is one thing that makes Cadsuane a good leader, a magnet around whom sisters gather, and can follow a single direction. Cadsuane can make this work, which is fairly unique among groups of Aes Sedai in the series. She also as a keen eye for talents and skills and for making the most of them, making those who possess them proud of them - she empasizes Daigian's sharp mind and Samitsu's Healing skills, what they do best rather than point out their weaknesses. She also has a keen eye for flaws and weaknesses, but Cadsuane's attitude to them is almost always to bring people to see them in themselves and work hard to root them out - it's the way she approaches Nynaeve, for instance. Cadsuane's group appeared in the series in sharp contrast to Egwene's Hall, Merana's embassy, Elaida and her cronies. It's one more reason why I wish Egwene is forced to abandon the Tower and escapes with a group of sisters she has unified as one, and goes to Rand. I would love to get interactions between Cadsuane and Egwene (far more than the potential Moiraine/Cadsuane conflict that excites many readers). If Egwene manages to keep the sort of attitude she's demonstrating at the Tower in her dealings with Rand, Cadsuane could be very impressed with her. Egwene is already pretty much what Cadsuane hopes Rand would become.

Linda: Cadsuane punishes people until they mend their ways. :) The fact that the Wise Ones respected her almost from the first is telling.

Dominic: Indeed.

I really like how the ending mirrors the beginning of the chapter. At the beginning, Egwene thinks this:

She hadn't yet managed to embrace and accept the pain as the Aiel did, but she felt that she was close. The Aiel could laugh during the most cruel of tortures. Well, she could smile the moment she stood up. Each laugh she endured, each pain she suffered, was a victory. And victory was always a reason for happiness, no matter how one's pride or one's skin burned.

At the end, during the second session with Silviana that day, she's made it, and she can finally laugh:

And so she began to laugh. It wasn’t a forced laugh. It wasn’t a defiant laugh. It was the laughter of disbelief, of incredulity. How could they think that beating her would solve anything? It was ludicrous! The lashing stopped. Egwene turned. Surely that wasn’t all of it.

Silviana was regarding her with a concerned expression. “Child?” she asked. “Are you all right?”

“I am quite well.”
“You . . . are certain? How are your thoughts?”

She thinks I’ve broken under the strain, Egwene realized. She beats me and I laugh from it.

“My thoughts are well,” Egwene said. “I don’t laugh because I’ve been broken, Silviana. I laugh because it is absurd to beat me.” The woman’s expression darkened. “Can’t you see it?” Egwene asked. “Don’t you feel the pain, the agony of watching the Tower crumble around you? Could any beating compare to that?” Silviana did not respond.

I understand, Egwene thought. I didn’t realize what the Aiel did. I assumed that I just had to be harder, and that was what would teach me to laugh at pain. But it’s not hardness at all. It’s not strength that makes me laugh. It’s understanding.

Those are really great moments.

The Nature of Pain was for me an excellent chapter, a very strong and very promising beginning for Egwene's story line - Jason Denzel said in his review that Egwene really shone in The Gathering Storm and basically stole the show for him. After this chapter, I have no problem believing that. If the rest of her story line is even nearly as solid as this beginning, we're in for a really great treat. I also appreciated the touches of wry humour in there, despite the seriousness of the issues and the dark mood of the chapter. Wry remarks by Silviana like "Besides, Light only knows what kind of trouble you'll be in by this evening." and are really classic Jordan - whoever wrote them - and made me smile a lot. Egwene herself is developping quite a sense of humour - comparing Katerine as a royal cupbearer and such was funny, and the fact Egwene can still see little things this way despite her predicament is another mark of Aiel influence.

Linda: Egwene has reformed somewhat away from Siuan's Machievellian politics and desire for revenge. Seeing the Tower from the underside, among the servants and novices, has made her realise the bad side to the divisions, rivalries, secrets and the arrogant games the privileged play. An easy breeding ground for the Shadow, as she will soon discover.

Dominic: The hints that this understanding is coming are there. Egwene doesn't know the answer, but she's already beginning to formulate the question:

Who could take joy in seeing the Aes Sedai unraveling like aged canvas? Who could feel glad that Tar Valon, the grandest of all great cities, was piled with refuse?

Linda: A terrific and thought-provoking chapter. I long to know what happens next!

Dominic: So do I! This chapter already engrossed me in the story. The further we'll get into the book, the more excruciating the wait for the rest of the book will be. Part of me really wishes now that Tor releases one or two more chapters in a few weeks, but part of me hopes they stop at chapter 2. I guess the part of me that's dying to know what happens in chapter 3 triumphs, though!

Linda: I'd rather wait and get the whole book and read steadily. It's only 4 weeks to go!

Dominic: By the way, what would be your prediction for where we go next Linda? Are we getting back to Rand, or are we going to Mat and/or Tuon chapter? A Siuan or Rebellion chapter with the aftermath of Halima and Delana's escape?

Linda: RJ would normally stay with a related POV - another Aes Sedai in the Tower - one of the BA hunters, or Alviarin - or perhaps we move to the rebels.

Dominic: We could also get the meeting of Siuan and Egwene in tel'aran'rhiod that night. It will be interesting to see how Siuan reacts to Egwene's new strategy, so opposed to Siuan's political philosophy.


And that concludes our dialogue on chapter two of The Gathering Storm. As always you're welcome to leave us your comments, or to come join us in the ongoing discussion of The Nature of Pain on our newly opened forums.

All unattributed quotes in this article are from The Nature of Pain, chapter two of The Gathering Storm, by Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson, to be released by Tor Books on October 27th. Chapter One (in written form) and Chapter 2 (from the audio version of the book) are currently available for free on, upon free registration to the site. The prologue, What The Storm Means, is currently on sale as an ebook from many online retailers (visit for details).

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Storm is Coming! #5: The Waste of Aes Sedai: Murder, Schism and...Mutiny?

The Waste of Aes Sedai: Murder, Schism and... Mutiny?

By Linda

As part of the recap for The Gathering Storm, it seems very timely to republish my essay on the Aes Sedai History in the New Era on the Thirteenth Depository.

While the essay has interesting information on the early years of the New Era, it is of course the last twenty that have direct bearing on what is currently happening among the Aes Sedai. The following are the points of greatest relevance to the Aes Sedai world view for The Gathering Storm. If you think I’ve skipped bits here and there, it’s for reasons of space; rest assured that they are there in the essay, which goes into all this in far greater depth and with real world comparisons besides.

979 NE could be seen as a pivotal year in Tower history: Rand and two other ta’veren had been born, the Aiel War threatened Tar Valon, the Red/Blue animosity intensified (including that between Elaida and Moiraine and Siuan), an Amyrlin, Tamra Ospenya, was interrogated about the advent of the Dragon Reborn and murdered, many sisters were killed, men were killed on suspicion of being possible channellers (and therefore the Dragon Reborn) or were gentled illegally (for the same reason), and the Black Ajah began to be noticed - all groundwork for the schism to come. This is what Cadsuane is referring to when she speaks of the ‘vileness’ after the Aiel War in The Path of Daggers, Diamonds and Stars.


Sisters of the Black Ajah arranged for lucky men to be killed on the chance that one of these was the Dragon Reborn. The illegal gentling was for the same reason: if the Dragon were gentled he would not be able to defeat the Dark One. This gentling could not take place in Tar Valon, lest the Dragon be recognised during the course of his trial, so such suspects were gentled on the spot. Aes Sedai who objected or tried to bring these crimes to the attention of the Tower administration were killed: the ‘great many sisters’ who died soon after the Aiel War.

These crimes were covered up apparently for the good of the Tower: the Chronicles only record sixteen male channellers found in the last twenty years, when actually twenty-four were, as recorded in the Thirteenth Depository (A Crown of Swords, Prologue). Eight, including Owyn, were never taken to the Tower to be tried and gentled as required by law. Elaida was personally involved in the illegal gentling of men and the three Red Sitters were aware of the illegal gentling.

Chesmal Emry, a Black sister, believed Amyrlin Sierin Vayu was about to order her arrest (and perhaps that of other Black sisters), most likely for questioning about the deaths of Tamra and her Searchers, and induced Red sisters to kill Sierin (Winter’s Heart, A Plan Succeeds) in 984. The Reds believed they were doing the right thing: that Sierin was about to expose their illegal gentling of men, perhaps even blame them for sisters’ deaths or declare them Darkfriends, and they were trying to save their Ajah. They may also have believed their illegal gentling was right.

The Reds’ crimes were at least partially exposed and dealt with by the Amyrlin following Sierin, Marith Jaen. No culprits were found because the Red Ajah closed ranks, either to save their Ajah from disgrace or because they felt their actions justified or both. Marith punished the Red Sitters instead with unchairing, birching and exile to hard labour on an isolated farm (The Path of Daggers, The Extra Bit and Robert Jordan on his blog), and commanded the subject Sealed to the Flame. Those Aes Sedai who know this restricted knowledge include Marith’s Keeper (unknown), the Sitters of the Hall, Galina, the exiled Red Sitters, senior Reds including Elaida and Pevara (who was not a Sitter then) and the Brown sisters who keep the Thirteenth Depository. The Black Ajah’s role has not yet been exposed.

The vileness is thus still unfinished business and a big part of the political scene since Tamra. It was part of the reason why the Hall believed or suspected that the Reds murdered Sierin even though no culprits were exposed, and exiled the Red Sitters; why there was a political swing from the Reds to the Blues which increased the Red/Blue animosity; why senior Aes Sedai were prepared to believe Siuan's and Leane's lies about the Reds setting up Logain as a false Dragon; why some Sitters would not support Elaida whether they knew/suspected she was involved or not; and why Cadsuane in retirement formed her own faction of trusted Aes Sedai. Finally, the deaths of so many Aes Sedai resulted in a lack of strong senior candidates for Amyrlin.

Siuan Sanche

The previous three short reigns and rapid changes in administrations limited the long term planning for the White Tower’s internal and external affairs. This led the Hall to seek a long period of stability by breaking with the established tradition of twenty to thirty year reigns and look at younger candidates for Amyrlin. The agreement to consider a much younger Amyrlin implies that the deaths of at least two of the three short-reigned Amyrlins were believed to be natural old age. Even if some Sitters knew or suspected otherwise, that was publicly how they explained the deaths to each other.

The first four potential candidates the Hall considered as Marith’s replacement had all been Aes Sedai for less than fifty years, but the Hall could not decide between them. This is not surprising, because such a young Amyrlin would have a two hundred year reign (if not deposed or killed) and no Ajah wanted to let another Ajah, even an ally, rule that long, not to mention it would destroy the hopes of the Sitters themselves of being Amyrlin one day.

Despite knowing that Siuan could have a two hundred and fifty year reign, the Hall raised her. Siuan thought the Hall exhausted; perhaps it had grown tired of the restrictions placed on it to prevent it deliberating too long over selecting a new Amyrlin (A Crown of Swords, The Figurehead). Some Sitters, like Seaine, wanted a long period of stability in the Tower; others, including the Black Ajah, calculated that while strong in the Power Siuan could be easily manipulated for many years because she was relatively inexperienced. After all, if Siuan turned out to be stronger than expected, the Blacks could always ruin her reign, cause chaos and do in the Blues at one stroke (which of course they did).

Some time during 998-9 NE Mesaana was freed from the Bore and established herself in the White Tower with the aim of tying up the Aes Sedai in a useless internal conflict so that they couldn't gain control of Rand or form a coalition against the Shadow. The Aes Sedai were to be 'wasted' or 'neutralised' - that was the strategy and it has largely been successful. (No wonder Cadsuane is hopping mad with both sides.) Siuan had to go because she had a string on Rand in Moiraine, which was the last thing the Shadow wanted. The Shadow wanted Rand vulnerable to attack, and open to their influence with no Aes Sedai advising him.


The Tower coup occurred in 999 NE and was instigated by Elaida, who was encouraged by Alviarin. Driven by personal dislike of Siuan and ambition for herself and her Ajah, Elaida used the pretext that Siuan had hidden knowledge of the Dragon Reborn from the Hall to depose her. In her mind, it made no difference whether Siuan and Moiraine were setting up a false Dragon (strange that this should occur to her) or whether he really was the Dragon Reborn; Siuan should be deposed. It seems the Red Ajah may take advantage of false (or real) Dragons to rise to power.

From Alviarin’s point of view, Elaida represented a golden opportunity for the Black Ajah to replace Siuan with an Amyrlin who owed her high position to the Head of the Black Ajah. Close to Elaida, Alviarin would know, and influence if possible, every decision the Amyrlin made. Being an inexperienced Sitter, Elaida assumed that the Tower had always bowed to the will of the Hall and Amyrlin and was completely unprepared for the violence her actions created (see TOR Questions of the Week article).

Elaida a’Roihan

Elaida began from a position of political weakness; she owed Alviarin the Keeper’s stole for delivering the support of the White Ajah (and also the Black, but Elaida doesn’t know that). While Sierin Vayu also had an administration from a different Ajah to her own, the big difference between Sierin and Elaida is that Reds are normally allied to the Greys while Elaida had to gain the support of an Ajah from the Red’s rival axis.

Partly due to Alviarin’s machinations and partly to Elaida’s own poor decisions, Elaida has presided over a series of misadventures:

  • Her embassy to Rand failed and only thirteen out of the thirty-nine delegates eventually returned to the Tower, the worst disaster in the history of Tower even including the Trolloc Wars (A Crown of Swords, Sealed to the Flame). Of those ‘lost’, 3 died, 3 were stilled and then Healed and 20 were captured (see Elaida's Embassy To Rand article). Most of the Embassy swore fealty to Rand.

  • Her delegation of fifty one sisters to the Black Tower was captured and bonded to Asha’man (a disaster even worse than the failed embassy to Rand).

  • She made decrees which disunited the Tower and divided the Ajahs into armed camps (The Path of Daggers, The Extra Bit)

  • She made a public decree which alienated the Dragon Reborn by suggesting he lay under Aes Sedai authority, was granted their protection and could only be approached through the White Tower (The Path of Daggers, An Unwelcome Return).

Had Elaida been prepared to accept shame, Alviarin would have been unable to blackmail her. Red sisters murdered an Amyrlin to avoid shame though. They are unable to accept the consequences of their actions and then commit worse actions to hide the previous ones.

Elaida believes the Amyrlin is an absolute monarch, not first among equals; she claims that she is Tower Law, and has limitless power, a parallel with Louis XIV of France who said “I am the State” in a judicial context. And like Louis XIV, she is constructing a personal palace. She is ensuring her downfall and probably that of the Hall which complied with her. Her treatment of Shemerin is a good example of both her absolutism and the Hall’s lack of objection (Knife of Dreams, Honey in the Tea).


In 999 NE, open division occurred in the Tower for the first time since its founding. Previously, all Aes Sedai have presented a united front even before their servants (A Crown of Swords, A Pair of Silverpike) and have never let the world know of any rebellion (The Path of Daggers, Unexpected Absences). Rebellion is a split among the Aes Sedai in which Aes Sedai customs and laws, or dogma, are still accepted and followed – just not the leadership. It is thus not an heresy, but a schism and is considered treasonous. Schisms have occurred in the Catholic Church, and those who sever themselves from the communion of the Church and yet believe the Church’s dogma are sometimes thought of as rebellious (Catholic Encyclopaedia). This very public schism is a parallel of the Great Western Schism of the Catholic Church, which lasted 40 years until 1417.

Rebellion occurred in the 15th to 16th century convents when rival candidates for abbess each commanded considerable support and the losing candidate and her clique refused to obey the victor. The rebels were forced (by threat of imprisonment in various other convents) to show outward obedience and humility to the new abbess (Mary Laven, Virgins of Venice).

The rebels left the Tower and gradually gathered at Salidar, birthplace of Deane Aryman. As well as Blues, this gathering had many Greens, but also representatives of all Ajahs (including eight of the original Tower Sitters, see The Composition and Politics of the Halls 998-1000 NE article) except the Red. Just over one third of the total Aes Sedai were represented there. A council of six (Sheriam, Myrelle, Anaiya, Morvrin, Beonin and Carlinya) was in charge of the rebels at first. The original idea was for dialogue between the rebels and the Tower (encouraged by Elaida’s mole, Beonin, and perhaps the Sitters present, since every Sitter who was previously in the Tower Hall is now negotiating with the Tower delegation (Crossroads of Twilight, A Mark) to resolve the schism). It was not until Siuan tuned up with Logain and lied about the Reds setting him up as a false Dragon that they decided to formalise their rebellion into an alternative administration with its own Hall, Amyrlin, etc.

The schism was part of the Shadow’s plot to tie up the Aes Sedai and prevent them from making a positive contribution to the war against the Shadow. The Ajah Heads were doing what they could to end the split.

Ajah Head Conspiracy

Contrary to the custom of not knowing the Heads of other Ajahs, the Tower Ajah Heads have identified each other and talked privately (although hostile in public). This may be unique to this time of turmoil, or the Ajah Heads may always have had a way of identifying each other and a protocol on when to collaborate to step in and restore order when the Amyrlin and Hall become out of control. Or, more mundanely, one Ajah Head may have given one of her Sitters sealed notes for Sitters of other Ajahs to hand to their Ajah Head arranging a secret meeting. These Sitters were obviously not the Black Ajah hunters or Black Sitters.

The Black Ajah hunters realised that the Ajah Heads conspired over who would go into the Tower Hall (Crossroads of Twilight, Prologue). However, their conspiracy may have started sooner and be more extensive than the Black Ajah hunters supposed. The Tower Ajah Heads may have sent those Sitters not involved in raising Elaida out of the Tower after the Blues, or at least away from Elaida. Since Elaida’s faction was perhaps believed to be at least partially responsible for the murder of a Blue Sitter, other Sitters who did not stand for Elaida may also have been considered at risk. The Sitters sent out may have been instructed to influence the Blues and stabilise the rebels until the Tower could be united. Hence the election of the too young Sitters that could be easily influenced or were dispensable. As further evidence, the White and Yellow Ajah Heads (both Sitters) and all three Green Ajah Sitters (heavily pressured by the Green Ajah Head) met with Elaida to strongly emphasise that talks between the Tower and the rebels would continue (Crossroads of Twilight, A Mark). Naturally, the Red Ajah Head was not included in this conspiracy and the Blue Ajah Head could not be either, even if the others wanted her to, since she had fled.

Such collusion over the selection of Sitters for the Hall is a serious crime, which is why the Black Ajah hunters were so insistent that the Hall had a right to know (The Path of Daggers, The Extra Bit).

Shadow and Counter-shadow in the Tower

Alviarin was ordered by Mesaana to force Elaida to break the Tower further and blackmailed her to swear obedience by threatening to expose to the Hall the full extent of Elaida’s failed missions. This had two repercussions that may work against the Shadow:

Firstly the continued efforts to prolong and increase the divisions between the Ajahs may shorten Elaida’s reign by triggering a mutiny. Therefore the Shadow are likely to destabilise Elaida’s reign too much and capsize it altogether, losing their puppet.

Secondly, in her efforts to free herself from Alviarin’s control and imposed physical punishment, Elaida may have inadvertently done something to redeem herself. She asked the White Sitter Seaine to search for treasonous sisters, such as those who have countermanded her orders but was misunderstood. Seaine thought she wanted her to hunt for Darkfriends in the Tower – Black Ajah. She enlisted the help of her former friend Pevara of the Red, and they were voluntarily joined by three more Sitters (Saerin, Yukiri and Doesine) and then forcibly and illegally induced the ten sisters (including Zerah, Bernaile, Meidani, Jennet, Celestin and Annharid) that Sheriam’s group sent to spread the lies about Logain to join them (The Path of Daggers, The Extra Bit and Winter’s Heart, Prologue).

By Knife of Dreams, they had uncovered and illegally bound with the Oath Rod four Black sisters including a Black Sitter. Alviarin noticed Talene’s atypical behaviour and intends to question her, probably with a circle of Black sisters.

Elaida managed to free herself from Alviarin while Alviarin was out of the Tower and hinted that Alviarin would be executed for treason. Alviarin assumed that Elaida knows she is Black and reported this to Mesaana who disregarded her. However, Shaidar Haran took Alviarin’s information seriously and set her to find those hunting the Black Ajah.

Egwene al’Vere

Sheriam’s group of six ran everything in Salidar until they took up Siuan’s and Leane’s suggestion to raise an alternative leadership to the Tower. Once the rebel Hall was established, the group still had considerable influence – they chose Egwene to be Amyrlin for instance, and the Hall voted in favour of their choice – but they themselves were manipulated by Siuan.

Ironically, it was Egwene who gradually reduced the influence of Sheriam’s group and raised that of the Hall when she became Amyrlin; ironic because she was elected to be a puppet, and a puppet with handily close ties to the Dragon Reborn.

The rebel Aes Sedai leadership was as riven by divisions or factions as the White Tower: Sheriam’s six (Sheriam, Myrelle, Beonin, Anaiya, Morvrin and Carlinya), Romanda’s faction ( Romanda, Magla, Varilin, Saroiya), Lelaine’s faction (Lelaine, Lyrelle, Faiselle, Takima) and Elaida’s secret supporters (including Beonin), never mind the independent Sitters (Moria, Samalin, Malind, Janya, Escaralde, Salita, Kwamesa, Aledrin, Berana) or the Black Ajah (including Delana, under the control of a Forsaken, Aran’gar) (see The Composition and Politics of the Halls 998-1000 NE article). The too young Sitters are independent. Janya is the only Sitter who was formerly in the Tower that is now independent; the other former Tower Sitters divided themselves equally between Lelaine and Romanda.

With Siuan as her advisor in Machiavellian style politics, Egwene successfully played Romanda’s, Lelaine’s and Sheriam’s groups against each other. She obtained their agreement to leave Salidar, move north and declare war on Elaida.

Aran’gar gained access to Egwene by inflicting saidin-induced headaches that only she could remove and then proceeded to interfere with Egwene’s Dreams so that she could not remember them (Crossroads of Twilight, In The Night). She murdered two of Egwene’s maids, partly because they were spying on Egwene for Romanda and Lelaine and might expose her, and partly to gain better access to Egwene, since she needed to be physically near Egwene to affect Egwene’s dreams (Knife of Dreams, At the Gardens). She also murdered Anaiya and Kairen lest she make a slip about knowledge gained from Cabriana and be exposed. Aran’gar, Delana and her maid fled the rebel camp just as Romanda solved the murders.

Egwene was captured when she took the place of Bode and turned the Tar Valon harbour chain to cuendillar so that ships could not dock in the harbour and supply Tar Valon (see Egwene, Leane and the Harbour Chains article). Leane was captured too, before she could complete her task. The Tower Aes Sedai had been informed of the rebels’ plan and were waiting, but they did not prevent the almost complete blocking of the harbours. Only the rebel Hall and those taking part supposedly knew of the plan. Whoever betrayed it to the Tower did so to prolong the Tower split for one of three reasons: to favour the Shadow, to shore up Elaida’s position or to buy time to bring Egwene down. Two likely contenders are Lelaine and Delana. If it was Delana, she would be aiding the Shadow who want to keep the Aes Sedai fragmented. If it was Lelaine, she would be keeping the split going until she could take Egwene’s place. She threatened Egwene with deposition in Crossroads of Twilight, What The Oath Rod Can Do, and a failure of Egwene’s plan would have weakened Egwene’s standing and thus could be used to strengthen Lelaine’s. Interestingly towards the end of the Great Western Schism in the Catholic Church, there were three men claiming to be Pope. The traitor was not Beonin: she could not return to Elaida until she could convince herself that Egwene was no longer Amyrlin. Until then, her oath of fealty held her to obey and support Egwene.

Egwene is determined to behave with dignity in the Tower and as the Amyrlin Seat and not to be broken by Tower discipline. She was demoted to novice and is serving the Tower in truth – as a servant of the Servants - and has also comforted and advised novices and Accepted. During her lessons she has reminded sisters of problems under Elaida and informed a sister of the Thirteenth Depository. Leane and now Beonin and the ten rebel ferrets are aiding her.

Merise Haindehl of the Green Ajah and her Warders, including Jahar Narishma, visited the rebel Hall with an offer from Rand to the rebel Aes Sedai to bond 47 Asha’man (Knife of Dreams, Call to a Sitting). The Asha’man must be soldiers or Dedicated and cannot refuse. The rebel Sitters voted in favour of the offer, having already agreed an alliance with the Asha’man was necessary.


Six times in Tower history, when the Hall and Amyrlin were locked in turmoil or stalemate, so that inconsistent or ill-advised decisions are made, or even none at all, the rank and file sisters mutinied – rose up and forced the Hall and Amyrlin to resign and caused the election of a new Amyrlin and Hall. This is only recorded in the secret histories (A Crown of Swords, A Morning of Victory) and maybe not the full story even then (for example whether Ajah Heads played a role).

The present public schism between the Tower and the rebel Aes Sedai with two Amyrlins and Halls may also only be resolved with a mutiny. Egwene aimed to incite one by reminding the Tower Aes Sedai of Elaida’s failures and the Tower’s problems (fomenting discord, a serious crime) and informing the rank-and-file Aes Sedai of the existence and contents of the Thirteenth Depository (treason, a very serious crime). This may all come to a head soon in the Tower as Egwene encourages Aes Sedai to consider the state of the Tower administration.


The schism has been a lucky break for Rand, as he is well aware:

Rand's laugh was too hoarse to hold any mirth. ''Do you really think Aes Sedai would leave me alone just because I left them alone? Me? The Tower splitting is the best thing that could have happened for me. They're too busy staring at one another to turn full attention on me. Without that, there'd be twenty Aes Sedai everywhere I turned. Fifty. I have Tear and Cairhien behind me, after a fashion, and a toehold here. Without the split, every time I opened my mouth, there'd be somebody saying, 'Yes, but the Aes Sedai say.' …If the Tower was whole, I'd have so many strings tied to me by now, I could not move a finger without asking six Aes Sedai for permission."
Perrin very nearly laughed himself, and no more in mirth than Rand. "So you think it's better to—what?—play the rebel Aes Sedai off against the Tower? 'Cheer the bull, or cheer the bear; cheer both, and you will be trampled and eaten.’"
"Not that simple, Perrin, though they don't know it," Rand said smugly, shaking his head. "There's a third side, ready to kneel to me. If they make contact again.”

- Lord of Chaos, A Bitter Thought

Rand’s analysis of the advantages of the Tower split was quite valid. Perrin was also right: Rand took a risky course. An example of this is that both the rebel Aes Sedai to whom Rand made the offer and the Red Ajah who made an independent decision think they can bond Asha’man. And in order to sow chaos, Taim is not going to disabuse them. The third side is not Alviarin’s faction as Rand believed, but Cadsuane’s faction. Rand also made his own group that kneel to him.

The issue of whether the Tower has any authority over the Dragon is unresolved. Elaida obviously thinks she does, and displayed two objects – Bonwhin’s triptych and Cemaile’s clock – as a reminder of how not to exert authority. Rand is yet to “face the Amyrlin Seat and know her anger” (A Crown of Swords, Prologue) as Elaida Foretold will happen.

Impending Attack

Egwene has dreamt of the Seanchan attacking the Tower and nearly destroying it (see Egwene's Dreams article). This will change everything. While the attack will be disastrous for the Tower, Egwene will be saved from execution (probably for treason) by a Seanchan.

Robert Jordan has said in the TOR Question of the Week that the previously unconquered Tower has a flat roof; thus it would be a parallel of Eben Emael in Belgium which the Nazis captured in World War II. It:

was reputed to be the most powerful fortress in the world, capable of withstanding the heaviest pounding of bombs and shells and of holding out indefinitely against any attack…The fort had a vast flat roof, on which gliders filled with shock troops and engineers were to land and capture the fort from there. In the event, nine gliders landed successfully, carrying seventy-eight men who attacked the gunports at close quarters with grenades and flamethrowers, shattered the armoured gun turrets with new hollow charge explosives that spread flames and gas in the chambers below, and blew up the ventilating system. Within an hour; at a cost of six killed and nineteen wounded, those seventy-eight men had neutralised 700 defenders, trapping them inside their own impenetrable fortress; after Stuka attacks and hand-to-hand fighting in the underground tunnels, they surrendered the next day, when conventional German troops arrived.

- Anthony Read, The Devil’s Disciples

This could be an indication of how the Seanchan take the Tower. Hitler also intended to capture the Vatican (a parallel of Tar Valon) as he informed SS General Karl Wolff:

“I want you to use your troops to occupy the Vatican and Vatican City, immediately if possible, to secure the Vatican’s fabulous archives and art treasures as well as the pope’s Curia [the official body that governs the Catholic Church]. Bring [the Pope] north so he does not fall into the hands of the Allies or under their political influence. I want the Pope brought to Germany, if possible, or, depending on political and military developments, to neutral Liechtenstein.”
- John H. Waller, The Unseen War in Europe

The Tower has treasures of the One Power and extensive archives. The Seanchan would want to capture the Hall (= the Curia) and the Amyrlin (= the Pope). The Seanchan have some resemblance to the Nazis with their thousand year Empire and use of forced labour (slavery).

Another impending attack is that of famine and disease – with garbage in the streets, civic infrastructure collapsing and rats and other vermin rife. The Great Famine and the Black Death in fourteenth century Europe were exacerbated by poor leadership, just as the Tower has largely ignored the current perilous state of the world.

Weighed Down By Law and Custom

The White Tower is in need of reform and just like the Catholic church in the 16th century, may undergo its own Reformation if it survives the Seanchan attack. The Tower schism has highlighted deep divisions and problems that were there before. The Ajah system, with its secrecy and rivalry and even support of lawbreakers, was a major factor in the schism. The other major contributor was personal antagonism and unresolved misunderstandings, but again rival Ajahs were involved.

The Tower’s custom of exclusivity and elitism has kept the Aes Sedai remote from the populace and too arrogant to truly help them or serve them. With a hierarchy based on strength in the Power and not excellence in skill, ability, character or judgement, it is perhaps not surprising they have become corrupt.

And again, the Tower is learning that they are not exclusive - there are four large separate groups of female channellers and a Black Tower of male channellers. With the public schism, Aes Sedai have risked their prestige and identity only to discover they cannot be restored as before. The Seanchan and Tarmon Gai’don will ensure that. There must be Reformation.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Great News: Audio version of Chapter 2 of the Gathering Storm now available on

This just came in from

It looks like the good folks at Tor Books intend to keep the WOT fans on the edge of their seats until October 27 with surprises. They are now giving us chapter two, The Nature of Pain, an Egwene POV (the Egwene chapter, if you follow my meaning. Linda will be happy to know).

Here's the official announcement:

Chapter Two Audio of The Gathering Storm Available Now-Only for Members

Membership has its privileges!

We had such great success with the release of Chapter One from The Gathering Storm on that we decided we just couldn't stop there.

For all of our new and pre-existing members, we've got a little present. Consider it half love-letter (totally platonic, we swear!), half-thank you for being part of our community.

In conjunction with Macmillan Audio, we bring you the entirety of Chapter 2 of The Gathering Storm, from the upcoming audiobook.

on Just log in to listen, enjoy, and discuss.
The audio is live now

As with previous officially released excerpts (What the Storm Means, Tears From Steel), we are allowing full discussion of this new material in the newly opened forums. Keep them to the What The Storm Means/Tears from Steel/The Nature of Pain sub-forum, however, and we will ask you to label threads about it with (Chapter 2 spoilers) for the next couple of days, until everyone coming to the forums has learned of the chapter's availability and got time to read it.

Halfway into it, it's great stuff, Egwene's writing is feeling "just right".

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Few Site News

Some of you might wonder about our silence in the last couple of days, so here are a few updates about what we are up to:

  • First of all we are hard at work discussing What the Storm Means (which we both enjoyed a lot, by the way) and condensing those discussions into a scene-by-scene read-through of the prologue. We're both very eager to share the results with you and engage in discussion thereafter. The first prologue article should be ready in a few days.

  • Linda is also hard at work finishing the indexing of a bunch of still unavailable articles from the Wotmania FAQ section days. This month and the next, our focus will be on the articles we find most pertinent to read (or re read) in preparation for the new book.

  • On my side (and with Linda's help), I'm preparing the next The Storm is Coming! maps/articles/who's whos to follow our first ones about Arad Doman and Domani. I'm hoping to get one done for the end of the week. The two more "challenging ones" (lots and lots of research involved for those), concerning Tar Valon and Northern Altara, will come during October.

  • Give a bit of a shine to your crystal balls, the "10 predictions for TGS" challenge should be up and running very shortly. We'll announce the winner(s) of the prologue challenge at the same time.

  • Last but not least, the "bigger news". As hopefully you've noticed, we both enjoy a lot engaging in discussion with people visiting this blog, and with the new WOT material just released and much more not far away, our interest in discussion is only going to increase. We've opened this Blog first and above all to share with others our passion and enthusiasm for the Wheel of Time series, and interaction with other fans was always an important aspect for us. We find that doing so with Blogger's Comment feature is increasingly confining and limited, and over the last months some of you have written to us about that as well, and suggested options we could explore (thanks to Animeeyez in particular, it's your suggestion we ended up choosing).

    For some time now, we've used a private Message Board for the Blog Team's communications. We've decided the best and easiest solution to the Comment feature's limitations would be to open public forums on our "private" site. We've come up with three sections:

    • The core of the Message Boards is a section devoted to the Thirteenth Depository itself. You can go there to discuss or comment on articles from the Reference Library and on the Read-through posts. We have added a section for "Ask Zemaille", if you have any nagging question about the series we or the other posters can answer. The "Ten predictions for TGS" challenge is hosted there as well, and you're more than welcome to post your own Theories or discuss each others' in the Theory Corner section (those theories, like the predictions will continue to be featured on the Blog's main page as well). Finally, there's a sub-forum for the map-making projects. There I'll post drafts of upcoming maps for comments/suggestions and occasional requests to Blog readers for help researching the necessary information through the series. There's already a very early draft of a map of Tar Valon there, as well as the quotes I've already gathered to further develop this map. We will begin to add links to forum threads in our blog posts, though feel free to keep using the Comment feature if it's more convenient for you.
    • We've added a few Wheel of Time discussion forums. A WoT site wouldn't be complete without those. When The Gathering Storm is released, Linda and I will no doubt do again what we like to do and visit many of the well-known WOT MBs around, from Theoryland to Dragonmount, etc. following the most interesting discussions there and occasionally participate. However, with all the work on the Blog and the too limited time left at our disposal to really engage ourselves anywhere else on a regular basis, the best chance to join us in discussions of the new book and the previous ones will be in the Blog's forums. This is going to start small, and might remain fairly small, but from experience there's something to be said for small communities and more sustained discussions between a few posters. Think of it as a complement to the really big boards around. Everyone from experienced posters on the big boards who drop by for a visit to first time readers are welcome. Don't be shy. We may have long years of experience in WOT communities (mostly Wotmania) but one of our main interest has always been to share our enthusiasm with younger readers and encourage them to get the most out of what Robert Jordan has to offer. Beside, we're far from omniscient and the series is too gigantic for anyone to maintain an encyclopedic knowledge of it. Our own knowledge of the series has been built, is maintained and will continue to be added to, in a large part through interactions with a lot of other WOT fans.
    • Finally, we've set up a more relax section for posters to get to know each other and the Blog team, have fun, post about movies or books or anything that may be of interest to other WOT fans. That sub-forum we called The Inn, a nod to the activity/social thread Linda and I introduced at Wotmania in our days as admins there.

    So that's our new forums. We welcome all of you who wish to participate as posters and lurkers. Many of the sub-forums are accepting guest/anonymous posting, notably the Blog-centered ones. Some require people to be registered members, either to reply or to start threads. We've try to keep the forum rules to a minimum - they can be found on the MB itself. The rules we are most adamant about are those concerning TGS spoilers. Please read carefully before posting to be sure you're at the right place to post about Tears from Steel or What the Storm Means. The little information about the book posted by Brandon, Harriet or Tor and from Jason Denzel's review are fair game, however any other information about the content of the book beyond the prologue and chapter one isn't allowed and won't be until we open the forums to TGS discussions at large shortly after October 27th. If more authorized non-spoiler reviews surface, we'll add them to this list, but mention of any other review's content is currently forbidden (there's none that are real and not pranks at the moment, to our knowledge). Should a "spoiler crisis" happen (following leaks or unethical behaviour from people who get advanced copies etc.) between now and October 27 we'll implement our alternative solution to protect ourselves and our posters from the spoilers.

    Tor Books and Orbit seem committed to maintaining a blanket of secrecy over the book, for which we are grateful, so hopefully none of this will be necessary and everyone will get the chance to discover The Gathering Storm with a fresh eye and all the impact its secrets and surprises are supposed to have.

    We're hoping for a relax and convivial ambiance, and we're counting on everyone who join us to help us achieve that goal. The forums will be as lightly moderated as we can manage.

    There's now a permanent link to the forums right below the Indexes on the left side, but here's the link.