Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Knife of Dreams Read-through Post #8: New Theory: The Ogier Stumped

By Linda

It’s been a while, but I have posted a new theory, The Ogier Stumped, on the subversion of the Great Stump, to Theory Corner.

When I was working on a title for my theory, I started thinking about the many meanings of the word ‘stump’ and how they are all relevant to the Ogier.

The mundane reference is to the stump of a dead and beloved Great Tree where the Ogier meet. But ‘stump’ means other things too.

It can be the remainder of a body part after the rest has been cut off. And other remnants too. The result of the Great Stump may be that some, perhaps sadly many, Ogier depart using the Book of Translation, leaving a remnant to fight alongside humans at the Last Battle.

It is also a heavy step – stumping along – and reminds us that the Ogier are very large and slow unless pressed. Stump can directly mean ‘leg’ as in ‘stir your stumps and get out of here’. Will the Ogier stir their stumps? And to leave, or to war?

Considering the debates that occur at the Ogier meeting place, it is apt that ‘stump’ is a figurative place of political speech-making, and as a verb, means to make political speeches.

To stump is also to challenge or dare someone to do something and, more suggestively, to nonplus someone. The hot debate at the Stump between Loial and his mother may well result in each side being nonplussed at the others’ arguments. Loial's mother is a great orator and has already heard Loial's arguments (she thinks) and will have planned what to say against them. Loial will bring the challenging news that there are Seanchan Ogier and some are on the mainland, but they have been left out of this debate. Will Covril’s faction dare to take the Book of Translation, open it and leave?

My dictionary tells me that in the US South one can also ‘stump’ one’s toe.

Stumps play a large part in the game of cricket, since it is important for them to be intact. A batsman can be put out if the stumps he is protecting are hit and disarranged by the ball the bowler hurls, or, if the batsman is out of his position, a fieldsman throws. The batsman is also given out if he is ‘stumped’ by the wicketkeeper disarranging the stumps with the ball when the batsman is out of position. And of course, the stumps are removed at the end of each day’s play, hence the phrase ‘to up stumps’ meaning 'to leave’.

The ‘Great Stump’ is a wonderful name choice with many potent layers of meaning.

If the Ogier are out of position when the Last Battle comes, they and the world would be stumped. Shades of the Borderlander armies.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Knife of Dreams Read-through #7: The Ogier and their Great Stumps

By Linda

The last Great Stump was held after Hawkwing’s death, presumably to discuss whether to participate in the War of Hundred Years. From Covril’s and Loial’s exchange:

"And by the War of the Hundred Years we had learned not to get ourselves tangled in human affairs."
"The War of the Hundred Years was a human affair, and none of ours.”

- Knife of Dreams, Vows

the Ogier played a part in that war and at least some Ogier regretted it, perhaps many. The now accepted reclusiveness of Ogier may stem from this.

According to Loial the Great Stumps have a large number of Ogier attendees:

For a moment, he saw the crowds standing all around him, hundreds and hundreds of men and women waiting to hear his words, perhaps several thousand.

- Knife of Dreams, Vows

and oratory is very important.

The current Great Stump at Stedding Shangtai, which has been meeting since before Elder Haman, Speaker Covil and Erith set out to look for Loial (over 6 months), has been debating whether or not to open the Book of Translation and flee now that Tarmon Gai’don is approaching.

Book of Translation

The Book of Translation appears to be a teleportation device which the mainland Ogier have that can take the Ogier to another world.

The Ogier may have departed and returned to the main world in a previous Age, since they certainly expect to again and important events repeat in the cycle of Ages:

[they] must leave this world eventually so [they] can come to it when the Wheel turns…That is written.”

- Knife of Dreams, Vows

It is not known where this piece of history or prophecy is written or the context in which it is expressed.

If the mainland Ogier leave this world and their stedding on which they are so dependent, will the Longing overtake them and kill them? Loial deduces the Elders at the Great Stump must have found suitable answers to this or the Stump would have ended already (Knife of Dreams, Vows).

How does the book work? All who wish to depart probably have to stand near book – perhaps touching each other – when it is opened.

The fact that Ogier have a device which can move them to another world and that their Stedding are not reflected in Tel’aran’rhiod implies they are not native to the main world.

If the Ogier had used the book before in other Ages as Covril implies, then in the immediate period following such a mass exodus very few Ogier would be around, just the remnant population descended from those who were not present when the Book was opened and so did not leave the world. Ogier would rarely be seen and, coupled with their preference for remote habitats, would become legendary. In our world there are similar legendary giant beings that are ‘sighted’ on occasion. These are parallels of the Ogier and are discussed in the Ogier parallels article now posted on the blog.


The Seanchan Ogier did not become dependent on Stedding during the Breaking (TOR Questions of the Week). They are more actively involved with humans in a military and police role and may refuse to be transported by the Book of Translation when they are finally informed of it being opened. Since they have had a very different history to the mainland Ogier post Breaking, they may not even now know about the device.

I expect that the subject of the Gardeners will finally be brought up at the Great Stump onscreen. If all who wish to be transported must be in proximity to the Book when it is opened and the Gardeners are not there, a large part of the Ogier will be left behind. The Gardeners also should have the opportunity to participate in the Great Stump debate since there is only the one opportunity to leave.


Loial himself believes that the Ogier should not flee Tarmon Gai’don; they should stay and fight the Shadow alongside the humans. After all, if the Dark One wins Tarmon Gai’don, he will kill Time and remake the worlds in his image and there will be no safe worlds to flee to (Knife of Dreams, Vows).

"In the War of the Shadow, we did not huddle in our stedding, hoping no Trollocs or Myrddraal would be driven to enter. We did not open the Book of Translation and flee. We marched alongside the humans and fought the Shadow. In the Trolloc Wars, we neither hid in the stedding nor opened the Book of Translation. We marched with the humans and fought the Shadow. In the darkest years, when hope seemed gone, we fought the Shadow…The War of the Hundred Years was a human affair, and none of ours. The Shadow is our affair. When it is the Shadow that must be fought, our axes have always grown long handles. Perhaps in a year, or five, or ten, we will open the Book of Translation, but if we do it now, we cannot run away with any real hope of safety. Tarmon Gai'don is coming, and on that hangs the fate not only of this world, but of any world we might flee to. When fire threatens the trees, we do not run away and hope that the flames will not follow us. We fight. Now the Shadow is coming like wildfire, and we dare not run from it."

- Knife of Dreams, Vows

Therefore opening the book before Tarmon Gai’don would be futile at best. At worst, by not contributing, the Ogier may ensure the Shadow wins.

As Loial was explaining this, the Pattern illustrated it – with an enormous Shadowspawn attack courtesy of a Forsaken.

Elder Haman agrees with Loial, but thinks the debate at the Great Stump will last a year or two yet. (Of course, we know from the imminence of the Last Battle that it cannot.) Covril thinks she will bring them to a decision in only a month or two.


Loial’s mother wants the Book of Translation opened as soon as possible. She is a very influential speaker:

She had once spoken from sunrise to sunset in favor of a very unpopular position without a single interruption, and the next day, no one had risen to Speak against her.

- Knife of Dreams, Vows

To say nothing of having considerable stamina.

Having heard Loial’s argument, I suspect she is working on ways to counter it.

So far no main or second tier character has had a close relative exposed as a Darkfriend. It could be that Loial will be one of the select few. Jordan said that Ogier could be Darkfriends:

Q: Why can't Ogier channel the One Power?
RJ: Why can't fish sing? Why can't sparrows do the tango? Why can't I figure my own income tax? I'd really like to know the answer to that last one!
Q: Can they be Darkfriends?
RJ: Of course.

- Wotmania/Dragonmount Interview, 2002

and Covril’s exhortation that the Ogier not contribute to the Last Battle is very suggestive. The Shadow would find their absence very convenient.

As of Knife of Dreams, Vows, the Seanchan Ogier had been on the mainland for over 6 of our weeks. Loial may be the first Ogier to inform the Stump that they need to be included in discussion too.

I’ll be posting a theory on Covril soon to the Theory Corner based on this article.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Knife of Dreams Read-through #6: New Article on Weaves and Talents

By Linda

Knife of Dreams contains a few new things regarding channelling.

A new talent was described in the chapter A Different Skill: that of ‘reading’ ter’angreal, and new weaves for use in battle were revealed when Lews Therin seized the source during the Trolloc attack. Logain angrily and unjustly accused Rand of withholding knowledge, having had a gutful of dark cliques at the Black Tower. Rand could hardly explain that it wasn’t his knowledge, but some other guy in his head’s...By early in the next book Logain might have some idea of what happened.

Men and women linking to channel became far more widespread in Knife of Dreams, and we see early signs that the saidin and saidar used together do more than either power alone:

It was pure Fire, and the blazes were ferocious, fiercer than she [Nynaeve] would have expected from Fire alone.

- Knife of Dreams, The Golden Crane

The rebels make a big production out of linking or Bonding with men, as we saw with all the talk in the rebel Hall (influenced to a degree by the Black Ajah there), but Cadsuane’s group just got on and did it. Then they made the best of the situation. Elaida’s Hall never considered the matter at all. Nynaeve, who admittedly was exposed to the worst of tainted saidin for hours on end, strongly indicated she has no wish to experience saidin again:

But of course they would be using saidin as well, and who could say what they were adding from that murderous chaos? The little she could recall of being linked with Rand left her with no desire ever again to go near that.

- Knife of Dreams, The Golden Crane

Could be "famous last words".

I’ve written quite a few articles on channelling, including one on Weaves and Talents now republished here on the blog in updated form. It discusses the mechanics of channelling in general and details each of the Talents plus all the different weaves we see in the books. There is also a section on linking.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Knife of Dreams Read-through #5: What Elayne Expects

By Linda

In Knife of Dreams the Wise Ones ensured that Elayne finally consulted a midwife. She had already had a thorough medical examination via Caressing the Child in Crossroads of Twilight.

In our world medical care during pregnancy and birth during the 17th century was given by female midwives. It was not until after a surgeon attended a mistress of Louis XIV in 1663 that male midwives, “accoucheurs”, were accepted. In the Wheel of Time series, midwives are female (possibly even in Amadicia, where herbalists are male):

"Pity he can't learn my craft, but no one would buy herbs from a man. Or have a man midwife." Melfane laughed uproariously at that ridiculous notion.

- Knife of Dreams, The Importance of Dyelin

It is the rise of skilled male Healers such as Flinn, which may change attitudes.

Elayne’s midwife examines Elayne’s urine daily, even tasting it. One obvious disease that would show in the urine is diabetes of pregnancy, which would result in sweet-tasting urine. Liver disease results in orange or brown urine, kidney disease, foamy or red urine, and white urine can signify infection. Examination of urine (uroscopy) for color, consistency, smell, and sometimes taste, has been used regularly since ancient times and was still performed during the 18th century, as was examination of faeces.

Examination of Elayne’s eyelids would indicate whether she was anaemic (this is still done). Elayne’s heart is checked with an early stethoscope, as will be the babies’ hearts after the quickening, the first movements of the baby able to be felt, has occurred, usually around weeks 16-20 for a first pregnancy. The Wise Ones also use simple stethoscopes (Lord of Chaos, An Embassy) and do not rely on Healing for medical care, but practise preventative medicine with diet, herbs and exercise:

"No midwife?" Nadere said incredulously. "Who tells you what to eat and drink? Who gives you the proper herbs? Stop looking daggers at me, woman. Melaine's temper is worse than yours could ever be, but she has sense enough to let Monaelle govern her in these things."

- Knife of Dreams, A Different Skill

Elayne’s midwife has (correctly) forbidden alcohol, which certainly would not have happened in the 17th and 18th centuries, since plain water was often unsafe to drink and alcoholic drinks were consequently very popular. (Coffee and tea also became popular in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries respectively). Other ‘modern’ advice given to Elayne is to read to, and have music played to, her babies. Elayne is also weighed daily, which would have been atypical (Knife of Dreams, The Importance of Dyelin).

Birth was usually at home in the 17th and 18th centuries, which was a good thing, since hospitals were dangerous hotbeds of infection due to the lack of infection control. Limited pain killers or intervention were used, just as in the Wheel of Time world:

“Since you ask questions, what would you do to ease birthing?” [asked Nynaeve].
Mother Guenna snorted. “Apply warm towels, child, and perhaps give her a little whitefennel if it was an especially hard birth. A woman needs no more than that, and a soothing hand.”

- The Dragon Reborn, Following the Craft

Not exactly true.

Childbirth was dangerous to women in the 17th and 18th centuries and it remained so, despite several advances, until well into the 20th century, with both deaths and injuries occurring. Maternal death affected all social classes, and in Europe one in 200 pregnancies (0.5%) ended in the death of the mother. In developing countries, maternal mortality is still a major problem and can be as high as 1% in areas with poor health care. The causes are sepsis, obstructed labour, haemorrhage and hypertensive disease. (In the series, a long-lasting effect of the Shadow-induced famine and poor nutrition will be pelvic deformities caused by rickets leading to a higher rate of difficult and fatal births.)

However dangerous for the mother, childbirth was, and is, well over 20 times more dangerous for the baby. Infant mortality rates were as high as 20-30% prior to the 20th century and were still 7% in the UK in 1935:

In the late 16th/early 17th centuries over 12% of all children born would die within their first year…Approximately 2 per cent of babies born in the Elizabethan period died before the end of their first day of life. Death claimed a cumulative total of 5 per cent within the week, 8 or 9 per cent within a month, and 12 or 13 per cent within a year, with a slightly higher rate of infant mortality in the later seventeenth century."

- Carolyn Freeman Travers, Dead at Forty

Elayne tells us that there is a high infant mortality rate in the Wheel of Time world:

"My babes and I are safe." Elayne laughed, hugging back. "Min's viewing?" Her babes were safe, at least. Until they were born. So many babies died in their first year. Min had said nothing beyond them being born healthy.

- Knife of Dreams, A Different Skill

Twins are especially at risk. To have both born healthy and strong was not at all common.

It’s interesting that the only “on-screen” pregnancies are both of twins. Readers have hypothesised that Elayne’s twins are/will be the Heroes of the Horn, Calian and Shivan:

and Shivan the Hunter behind his black mask. He was said to herald the end of Ages, the destruction of what had been and the birth of what was to be, he and his sister Calian, called the Chooser, who rode red-masked at his side.

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

They are not described as twins, just as brother and sister, and it is Shivan who marks the end of the Age. Since the Age is to end soon, he must have been conceived at the very least, if not actually already born. Of course, this time they might be twins.

Pregnancy interferes with the ability to channel. It is harder to touch the Source or weave the flows. The mood swings of pregnancy and the resulting loss of calm may be part of the reason why. This difficulty often grows worse as the pregnancy progresses and the mother will be unable to channel at all while in labour or giving birth. That will make Elayne vulnerable; however Aviendha left the Shadow-shielding dagger ter’angreal with her (see Ter’angreal article). The difficulty with channelling ceases after the child is born (Crossroads of Twilight, What Wise Ones Know).

Women channellers are unaffected by morning sickness, but it is not known if they are immune to post-natal blues or depression. The thought of Elayne the drama queen with the baby blues is not a pretty one.

It has been 6 WOT weeks, 8 to 9 of ours, since the twins were conceived. Normally she would be considered to be 2 of our weeks further along, being since her last period. Elayne complains of breast tenderness, and frequency of urination, and her fatigue is also due in part to her pregnancy.

The earliest she could feel the babies move would be at 12 of our weeks since conception, about 9 WOT weeks, far more likely would be 2 to 3 of our weeks after that.

With nearly 30 of our weeks of her pregnancy to go, there's a fair bit of time left before the Last Battle if she is to give birth during its climax.

Elayne doesn't know the twins are a boy and a girl, just that they will be born healthy. Aviendha and Birgitte got so drunk after Min told them this that they don't remember her viewing properly. Min is the only one who can give either future parent the full information.

Rand has not yet been informed of Elayne’s pregnancy, the reason being the women think he has enough to worry about already. And his sanity has not been too crash hot either. When he does eventually find out, no doubt he will stress out (and be annoyed at not being told sooner). He’ll want to rush to Elayne’s side. If Rand thought Elayne was placing herself in danger, pregnant or not, he would try to prevent it.

There is a Dragon who pursues a pregnant woman in Revelation – in fact Revelation has quite a few parallels with Wheel of Time end times. The important difference is that in Revelation the Dragon is named as Satan. Early in the series quite a few of the Two Rivers folk, like many people in the Third Age, equated the Dragon with the Dark One due to his insane deeds. There is also the possibility that Taim or one of the male Forsaken may be set up as a dark Dragon to do evil in Rand’s name. Joiya Byir claimed this was a plot of the Black Ajah in The Shadow Rising. So it is uncertain if the real Dragon or a false Dragon chases after Elayne. It could, or course, be both.

In Revelation the Dragon and his angels fight Michael [a parallel of the M’Hael] and his angels (Rev 12:7). The dragon loses and is hurled to earth and his angels with him. He pursues a pregnant woman, and then continues to fight on Earth and amasses great power. The Dragon champions two beasts, the second of which is the false prophet [Masema was one who played this role]. The first is probably the antichrist [the Naeblis, and or Shaidar Haran or the Forsaken in general]. The Dragon, false prophet and beast gather great forces for Armageddon. After the battle, the Dragon, Satan, is thrown into the abyss by the rider called Faithful and True and is bound for a thousand years. (Rev 20:2-9).

Which ever side pursues her, the passage suggests that Elayne’s pregnancy is important to the Last Battle.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Knife of Dreams Read-through #4: Thom's Mysterious Words to Selucia

By Old Salt

The purpose of this article is to explain the cryptic remarks Thom made after the fight with Darkfriends in the streets of Maderin. Here is a brief recap of those events.

Tuon demanded that Mat take her to a “low” inn, one of those called a “hell”. Thom, of course, knew just the spot, a slightly seedy inn called the White Ring. Thom, Mat, Tuon and Selucia went and nothing much happened except that Mat won some gambling with dice, and was recognized by Darkfriends. When they left the inn they were set upon by a large group of Darkfriends. Mat rushed to the attack shouting at Tuon to run and for Thom to get her away. After Mat finished killing the Darkfriends, the last one which Tuon herself killed, he turned and saw more dead Darkfriends sprawled around Thom and Selucia. Thom then says.

”I’m an old man,” Thom said suddenly, “and sometimes I imagine I see things that can’t be, but luckily, I always forget them.”

Selucia paused to look up at him coolly. Lady’s maid she might be, but blood seemed not to faze her at all. “And what might you be trying to forget?”

“I can’t recall,” Thom replied. Selucia nodded and went back to examining his wounds.

Mat shook his head. Sometimes he was not entirely sure Thom still had all his wits. For that matter, Selucia seemed a shovel shy of a full load now and then too.

- Knife of Dreams,A Hell in Maderin

So what was Thom talking about here? Did Tuon channel? No. Mat was close by, and as distracted as he was, he would have noticed his foxhead medallion going cold against his chest. Besides, Tuon has already said that she will not channel.

“I am nothing like these women, Toy. Nothing like them. Perhaps I could learn, but I choose not to, just as I choose not to steal or commit murder. That makes all the difference.”

- Knife of Dreams, A Short Path

Did Selucia channel? No. Again the fact that Mat’s foxhead medallion did not get cold proves there was no channeling involved. So what is Thom so quickly trying to forget he saw? The answer is actually quite simple. Selucia is not only Tuon’s maid but also her bodyguard.

Tuon smiled. Selucia’s mother had given her to Tuon for a cradle-gift, to be her nursemaid, and more important, her shadow, a bodyguard no one knew about. The first twenty-five years of Selucia’s life had been training for those jobs, training in secret for the second.

- Winter’s Heart, What a Veil Hides

Selucia’s secret is still holding. She was the cause of those half dozen dead Darkfriends. Knowing the Seanchan, and given the fact that Selucia has trained for a quarter of a century, it probably took her little time to take care of the business of protecting Tuon. That was the sight that had Thom ‘misbelieving’ what he saw. Thom is also a very astute observer, and knows that both Selucia and Tuon want Selucia’s talents as a bodyguard to remain a secret. Thom’s cryptic remarks are his way of letting them both know that the secret is safe with him.

Thom is not remarking about anything strange or extraordinary. His comments, as weird as they sound to Mat, are just a very deft way of letting Selucia and Tuon know that Selucia’s “second” occupation is still a secret. From Mat, for one.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Knife of Dreams Read-through #3: Forsaken Actions and Plans in Knife of Dreams

By Linda

Moridin, the Naeblis

In Knife of Dreams At the Gardens, Moridin called a meeting to make sure all Forsaken are in line. No Forsaken is to follow their own plans. Nor are they to send Trollocs or Myrddraal out of the Blight; they must report immediately to him if any are seen. The Forsaken are not to harm Rand in any way, but Mat and Perrin must be killed. With so little time left before the Last Battle, Moridin thinks the Pattern won’t have time to make ta’veren alternative aides with as much following as these two have and so they can be removed to weaken Rand.

He offhandedly agreed with Demandred that the Seals must be found and directed the Forsaken to search for them.

Moridin’s playing mind-games with the other Forsaken, putting out more chairs than ‘necessary’ to make them wonder what he knows or doesn’t know. And what they don’t know that he does.

Graendal implied she chose the setting for the meeting. Lews Therin equated being ‘at the Gardens’ with a relaxing day out (Knife of Dreams, News For the Dragon). If she did make the backdrop, possibly with Moridin’s approval or instructions, she was probably trying to make this unconscious association in the other Forsaken’s minds to take them off their guard. She says that these sort of associations have an affect even on the most sophisticated (The Path of Daggers, New Alliances). With the Forsaken comparatively at ease, the mind-reading zomaran can read their thoughts, and contrary to what the other Forsaken believe, very likely pass on to Moridin what they sense. It would explain his widely acknowledged preference for them.

Aran’gar, whose POV it is, associated the Gardens with expensive goodies and winnings obtainable only by cheating, and thought up a couple of schemes at the meeting – one to squeeze Graendal, the other to kill Moridin and get the mindtraps of Moghedien and Cyndane.

Moridin made it obvious even to someone as unobservant as Aran’gar that he holds the mindtraps of Cyndane and Moghedien and that Mesaana has been punished.

A couple of other things Moridin did prior to or during Knife of Dreams are: he ordered Semirhage to capture Rand without harming him (The Gathering Storm, Prologue), which she attempted, and he had established a black fortress deep within the Blight in the northeast. Graendal noted that she was “on the second level of a deep black tower" in The Gathering Storm, Prologue with crops already being grown in the surrounding area.

Moridin feels nausea when Rand seizes saidin and Rand feels nausea when Moridin channels (Knife of Dreams, Within the Stone) (see Crossroads of Twilight Post #5: Visions of Others for an exploration of this).


While Aran’gar has previously disguised herself as other Forsaken, she didn’t disguise herself as Sammael and order Shadowspawn to attack Rand’s group at Algarin’s manor. Aran’gar left the rebel Aes Sedai with Delana just prior to being exposed by Romanda, and her whereabouts are unknown. She formed an alliance with Graendal probably before her abrupt departure (The Gathering Storm, Prologue) and aims to use Graendal’s Darkfriend contacts in ways she thought Graendal would disapprove and kill Graendal when she is no longer useful (Knife of Dreams, At the Gardens).

Aran’gar also plans to kill Moridin and take over Cyndane’s and Moghedien’s mindtraps. Good luck with that.

Cyndane and Moghedien

These two have been rallying Darkfriends and trying to kill Mat and Perrin at Moridin’s orders according to Graendal (The Gathering Storm, Prologue).

It was probably Cyndane who sent Masema a vision of Rand in his dreams ordering him to kill Perrin (The Gathering Storm, Prologue). “Dream hauntings” were Lanfear’s speciality. Masema’s madness began early in The Dragon Reborn when very few Forsaken, perhaps only Ishamael and Lanfear, knew of the significance of Mat and Perrin.


Demandred said he has been looking for the last three Seals (Knife of Dreams, At the Gardens). From Moridin’s complacent smile, he knows where they are and can access them when he wants, or he isn’t worried about any other Forsaken finding them. Moridin might think the Seals don’t have to be in the Shadow’s hands to open the Bore at the Last Battle.

Demandred has apparently been making his rule secure and gathering for war (The Gathering Storm, Prologue).


Aran’gar thinks Graendal has a wider range of Darkfriend contacts than she. Graendal told Aran’gar that Cyndane was not Lanfear because she is weaker in the Power than Lanfear was (Knife of Dreams, At the Gardens). It is not known if Graendal believed this at that time or was dissembling. She allowed Aran’gar to toy with her, when Graendal never lets herself be the lesser of any pair, although she will flirt with someone she intends to kill or who intends to kill her (A Crown of Swords, Patterns within Patterns). It looks like Graendal has Aran’gar sussed out.

By The Gathering Storm, Prologue she had formed an alliance with Aran’gar.


Mesaana’s punishment by Shaidar Haran for not attending the Cleansing or Forsaken meetings and not following Moridin’s orders was publicised at the Forsaken meeting as a warning to the others (Knife of Dreams, At the Gardens). Unheeded in Aran’gar’s case.

Mesaana wanted Aran’gar to sow further dissension among the rebels. She didn’t want Egwene captured because she assumed the rebellion would then fall apart ( Knife of Dreams, At the Gardens) despite having been warned previously by Aran’gar that Egwene is not a figurehead.

Graendal believes she knows which Aes Sedai in the White Tower is Mesaana’s alias.


As her contribution to ‘let the Lord of Chaos rule’, Semirhage killed the entire Imperial family of Seanchan and sent a ship to the mainland to inform the Return (Knife of Dreams, Prologue). She then encouraged Suroth to find and kill Tuon and become Empress.

From her words:

"Perrin Aybara and Mat Cauthon," Semirhage murmured, inspecting the two shapes. "So that is what they look like. Who knows, Moridin. If you had shared this with us before now, they might already have been dead."

- Knife of Dreams, At the Gardens

she has seen both Mat and Perrin, not just Mat.

Moridin ordered Semirhage to capture Rand and not harm him (The Gathering Storm, Prologue). She disguised herself as Tuon and aimed to collar Rand and his entourage with a’dams. In a reflex action, Semirhage burned Rand’s hand off and damaged his eyesight in contradiction to her orders and was captured by Rand’s group (Knife of Dreams, A Plain Wooden Box). She did not expect that two of the party would have ter’angreal protection devices.

These Forsaken are dead and apparently not reincarnated: Asmodean, Be’lal, Osan’gar, Rahvin, Sammael.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Knife of Dreams Read-through #2: Suroth Rules OK!

By Linda

They might be on opposite sides, but Elaida and Suroth have things in common: a desire to “rule the world” that ended in their enslavement, and being closely influenced by a Forsaken. Their respective Forsaken were long-time allies, but with very different modes of operation. Mesaana exploited lines of weakness, while Semirhage took a more ‘hands on’ approach.

Suroth is less arrogant than Elaida, but she is almost as prone to erroneous beliefs, as evidenced in the Knife of Dreams Prologue:

  • Tylin had surely been killed with the One Power, by a sul’dam and her damane. [Nope.]

  • At least one sul’dam had been necessary to uncollar the Sea Folk damane. [Nope again.]

  • She did not believe they [Bethamin and Seta] were involved [in freeing the Sea Folk damane], though they had been in the kennels. They certainly had reasons enough to sneak away and seek employment far off, with someone ignorant of their filthy secret, someone like this Egeanin Tamarath who had stolen a pair of a damane. Strange that, for one newly raised to the Blood. Strange, but unimportant; she could see no way to tie it to the rest. Likely the woman had found the stresses and complexities of nobility too much for a simple sailor. Well, she would be found and arrested eventually. [Egeanin actually put an a’dam on Bethamin, so she knows better than anyone that sul’dam can become damane. And Suroth completely misjudges Egeanin and her participation in events.]

  • For the death of the acknowledged heir to the Crystal Throne, her apology would be protracted, and as painful as it was humiliating; it might end with her execution, or much worse, with being sent to the block as property. Not that it would actually come to that...[Well it did since Suroth tried to kill the heir.]

  • “The Aiel are less of a problem every day,” she [Suroth] told him firmly, “and a few [Whitecloak] deserters are nothing.” [Seven thousand Whitecloaks are something.]

  • “He [Turan] is to send me Rodel Ituralde’s head if he has to hound the man across Arad Doman and into the Blight. And if he fails to send me that head, I will take his.” [Rodel Ituralde took Turan’s head.]

When a character starts making a series of incorrect deductions, you know they are soon to make an irrevocable fall. Many of Suroth’s errors are given while she lies in the dark - symbolic of her moral, as well as informed, state.

Ironically it was Liandrin who came in with light, representing the beginnings of correct information, just as Alviarin played informant to Elaida. Not that Suroth and Elaida were aware of the favour or cared; Suroth promptly had Liandrin beaten and wanted to kill her, and Elaida also had Alviarin beaten as soon as she regained her power and threatened Alviarin with execution.

Suroth enjoyed lording it over a former Aes Sedai:

She certainly owed no explanations to property, yet once Liandrin did become completely trained, she would miss these opportunities to grind the woman’s face in how far she had fallen... Except, she enjoyed owning the former Aes Sedai who once had been so haughty with her. Making her a perfect da’covale in every way would be a great pleasure.

- Knife of Dreams, Prologue

She had plans for her:

It was time to have the woman collared, however. Already irritating rumors buzzed of an uncollared marath’damane among her servants. It would be a twelve-day wonder when the sul’dam discovered she was shielded in some way so she could not channel, yet that would help answer the question of why she had not been leashed before. Elbar would need to find some Atha’an Shadar among the sul’dam, though. That was never an easy task—relatively few sul’dam turned to the Great Lord, oddly— and she no longer really trusted any sul’dam, but perhaps Atha’an Shadar could be trusted more than the rest.

- Knife of Dreams, Prologue

but we don’t know if she carried them out. It would take time for Elbar to find Darkfriend sul’dam and Semirhage’s prompting to find and kill Tuon probably seemed more urgent.

Apparently Darkfriend damane need to be paired with Darkfriend sul’dam. Note that Suroth has arranged this before since she seems familiar with the process.

What if Suroth had followed her first instinct and had Liandrin killed?

yet an urge swept over her to strangle Liandrin with her bare hands. A second death hard on the heels of the first would intensify the Seekers’ interest in her household, if they learned of it, but Elbar could dispose of the body easily; he was clever in such tasks.

- Knife of Dreams, Prologue

Does Liandrin have a part to play yet? It will be interesting to see what Elaida, that great denier of the Black Ajah, says if they meet. If Liandrin was collared, perhaps this is why the Pattern arranged it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Knife of Dreams Read-through #1: Titles: From Crossroads of Twilight into Knife of Dreams

By Linda

In this post I shall look at the symbolism of these two book titles.

Crossroads of Twilight

“And it shall come to pass, in the days when the Dark Hunt rides, when the right hand falters and the left hand strays, that mankind shall come to the Crossroads of Twilight, and all that is, all that was, and all that will be shall balance on the point of a sword, while the winds of the Shadow grow.”

- Crossroads of Twilight, Opening Prophecy

To be at a crossroads is to feel one must make a crucial choice of where to go next. In Crossroads of Twilight, Perrin chose his hammer over his axe. Rand chose to ally with the Seanchan, since he felt he could not do anything about Taim or the Shadow. Mat decided to woo Tuon and bring about his fated and long dreaded marriage. Egwene chose to take Bode’s place and thus was taken to the Tower.

Twilight is the onset of darkness, in this case that of Knife of Dreams and The Gathering Storm, and of the end of a time period - the Third Age or the world. In darkness, one cannot be sure of the outcome.

Folklore abounds of people meeting the devil, or evil creatures in general, at crossroads. Likewise, the Dark One’s power is especially strong at twilight and at crossroads or graveyards (The Fires of Heaven, Gateways and Crossroads of Twilight, The Scent of a Dream) and so Shadowspawn are especially dangerous there or then. Crossroads of Twilight is therefore double jeopardy and an indication that the strength of the Dark One is increasing greatly. Perhaps because the right hand (of the Dragon) falters and the left hand strays; though Mat’s and Perrin’s misdirection is nothing compared to what Rand does in The Gathering Storm. Does their faltering allow the Crossroads or Twilight to happen? Or do they falter because the Shadow has grown strong? Most likely it is both, in some sort of positive feedback loop. Like Jordan said, you can look both ways along a Wheel.

In earlier times in Europe, murderers were hanged at crossroads, their corpses displayed on gibbets there and eventually buried there too so that their spirits would be “bound” to that place. The idea was to prevent the dead spirit from wandering the land as a lost soul or as an animated corpse. It was also to show any evil spirits lurking at the crossroads that they will be punished for any wrongdoing – a kind of spitting in the eye of the devil.

Crossroads and twilight being liminal, “in between” or transitional, the Dark One can tweak the Pattern or warp reality most easily there. That’s why they’re dangerous. On the plus side, major transformations can occur at liminal places bringing knowledge or understanding of the “other side” or of the deeper self.

It could be that Rand, like certain mythical beings such as Lleu (who has parallels with Lews Therin, see Lews Therin essay), can only be killed in a liminal place. The Bore, being a place where the reality of the Wheel of Time everyday world is thinnest and allowing access to the Dark One, is such a place. Perhaps the most liminal place. Someone as strongly ta’veren as Rand might only be killable at the strongest possible liminality. This was the case with Lleu.

After twilight, we have the night where dreams destroy or are destroyed; with the risk this night is endless. Dreams also bring knowledge or understanding either of the future or of the self. Note that while moving into and out of dreams and the dream world one is in a liminal state.

Knife of Dreams

The sweetness of victory and the bitterness of defeat are alike a knife of dreams, from Fog and Steel by Madoc Comadrin

Knife of Dreams opening epigram

Knife of Dreams means dreams are slashed or killed or are dangerous. They are illusory or double-edged and come at a cost even if they succeed.

There were costly victories in Knife of Dreams – those of Mat, Galad, Ituralde, Elayne, and Perrin. Galad won his duel but doesn’t want the job or the responsibility of leading the Whitecloaks, especially when they will have to work with one ‘evil’ to fight another. Mat’s and Perrin’s victories were ugly: Mat changed the rules of war in the Third Age, and in so doing his group revealed their new weapons and how Aes Sedai can be used in battle, and Perrin, the Wild Man and Wolf King, had to permit the enslavement of Wise Ones. Elayne won the Andoran throne but is faced with the morality of interrogation and allies of dubious loyalty. Ituralde’s victories were illusory. He won battles, but knew he couldn’t win the war against the Seanchan. Rand captured Semirhage, but lost his hand to save Min. Moreover Semirhage told others of his madness, so it is now public.

Those who were defeated were Suroth, Sevanna, Shiaine, and Arymilla. Suroth’s ‘dream’ of being empress led to her enslavement, the worst fate she could imagine, as did Sevanna’s dream of marrying the Car’a’carn and ruling the Aiel. Arymilla’s dream of being Queen led to her being captured and to her House’s imminent financial ruin.

The Aes Sedai idea of bonding Asha’man at the Black Tower may really come to bite them. Reanne Corly’s dream of joining the Green Ajah ended in her murder while asleep by a Green sister. This simple dream lost was to me especially sad.

As for dangerous dreams, Masema’s dreams were used as a knife by a Forsaken (probably Lanfear) to increase his insanity and to urge him to kill Perrin. In the White Tower the warning in Egwene’s dream of the Seanchan attack was to no avail.

And with the The Gathering Storm? Forget dreams, the dark storm of reality is about to hit.

Friday, June 11, 2010

New Article Released: Character Names Parallels - P

By Linda

Today I posted an article on possible sources for character names starting with P in the Reference Library. The main entries are Perrin, Pedron Niall and Perival Mantear.

Next week I will start the Knife of Dreams read-through.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Way of Kings Preview

By Linda

Brandon Sanderson's next new book The Way of Kings, the first in a ten volume series, will be published on 31st August 2010. However, from 12 pm today (10th June 2010) TOR are releasing the Prelude and Prologue to all and the first three chapters to users with free registration.

The Way of Kings Prelude is quite as mysterious as RJ's Dragonmount and the Prologue is intriguing and exciting. They certainly made me impatient for the whole book!

The Prelude and Prologue Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings are posted below. For the next three chapters follow the link at the end and log in to

Kalak rounded a rocky stone ridge and stumbled to a stop before the body of a dying thunderclast. The enormous stone beast lay on its side, riblike protrusions from its chest broken and cracked. The monstrosity was vaguely skeletal in shape, with unnaturally long limbs that sprouted from granite shoulders. The eyes were deep red spots on the arrowhead face, as if created by a fire burning deep within the stone. They faded.

Even after all these centuries, seeing a thunderclast up close made Kalak shiver. The beast’s hand was as long as a man was tall. He’d been killed by hands like those before, and it hadn’t been pleasant.

Of course, dying rarely was.

He rounded the creature, picking his way more carefully across the battlefield. The plain was a place of misshapen rock and stone, natural pillars rising around him, bodies littering the ground. Few plants lived here. The stone ridges and mounds bore numerous scars. Some were shattered, blasted-out sections where Surgebinders had fought. Less frequently, he passed cracked, oddly shaped hollows where thunderclasts had ripped themselves free of the stone to join the fray.

Many of the bodies around him were human; many were not. Blood mixed. Red. Orange. Violet. Though none of the bodies around him stirred, an indistinct haze of sounds hung in the air. Moans of pain, cries of grief. They did not seem like the sounds of victory. Smoke curled from the occasional patches of growth or heaps of burning corpses. Even some sections of rock smoldered. The Dustbringers had done their work well.

But I survived, Kalak thought, hand to breast as he hastened to the meeting place. I actually survived this time.

That was dangerous. When he died, he was sent back, no choice. When he survived the Desolation, he was supposed to go back as well. Back to that place that he dreaded. Back to that place of pain and fire. What if he just decided . . . not to go?

Perilous thoughts, perhaps traitorous thoughts. He hastened on his way.

The place of meeting was in the shadow of a large rock formation, a spire rising into the sky. As always, the ten of them had decided upon it before the battle. The survivors would make their way here. Oddly, only one of the others was waiting for him. Jezrien. Had the other eight all died? It was possible. The battle had been so furious this time, one of the worst. The enemy was growing increasingly tenacious.

But no. Kalak frowned as he stepped up to the base of the spire. Seven magnificent swords stood proudly here, driven point-first into the stone ground. Each was a masterly work of art, flowing in design, inscribed with glyphs and patterns. He recognized each one. If their masters had died, the Blades would have vanished.

These Blades were weapons of power beyond even Shardblades. These were unique. Precious. Jezrien stood outside the ring of swords, looking eastward.


The figure in white and blue glanced toward him. Even after all these centuries, Jezrien looked young, like a man barely into his thirtieth year. His short black beard was neatly trimmed, though his once-fine clothing was scorched and stained with blood. He folded his arms behind his back as he turned to Kalak.

“What is this, Jezrien?” Kalak asked. “Where are the others?”

“Departed.” Jezrien’s voice was calm, deep, regal. Though he hadn’t worn a crown in centuries, his royal manner lingered. He always seemed to know what to do. “You might call it a miracle. Only one of us died this time.”

“Talenel,” Kalak said. His was the only Blade unaccounted for.

“Yes. He died holding that passage by the northern waterway.”

Kalak nodded. Taln had a tendency to choose seemingly hopeless fights and win them. He also had a tendency to die in the process. He would be back now, in the place where they went between Desolations. The place of nightmares.

Kalak found himself shaking. When had he become so weak? “Jezrien, I can’t return this time.” Kalak whispered the words, stepping up and gripping the other man’s arm. “I can’t.

Kalak felt something within him break at the admission. How long had it been? Centuries, perhaps millennia, of torture. It was so hard to keep track. Those fires, those hooks, digging into his flesh anew each day. Searing the skin off his arm, then burning the fat, then driving to the bone. He could smell it. Almighty, he could smell it!

“Leave your sword,” Jezrien said.


Jezrien nodded to the ring of weapons. “I was chosen to wait for you. We weren’t certain if you had survived. A . . . a decision has been made. It is time for the Oathpact to end.”

Kalak felt a sharp stab of horror. “What will that do?”

“Ishar believes that so long as there is one of us still bound to the Oath-pact, it may be enough. There is a chance we might end the cycle of Desolations.”

Kalak looked into the immortal king’s eyes. Black smoke rose from a small patch to their left. Groans of the dying haunted them from behind. There, in Jezrien’s eyes, Kalak saw anguish and grief. Perhaps even cowardice. This was a man hanging from a cliff by a thread.

Almighty above, Kalak thought. You’re broken too, aren’t you? They all were.

Kalak turned and walked to the side, where a low ridge overlooked part of the battlefield.

There were so many corpses, and among them walked the living. Men in primitive wraps, carrying spears topped by bronze heads. Juxtaposed between them were others in gleaming plate armor. One group walked past, four men in their ragged tanned skins or shoddy leather joining a powerful figure in beautiful silver plate, amazingly intricate. Such a contrast. Jezrien stepped up beside him.

“They see us as divinities,” Kalak whispered. “They rely upon us, Jezrien. We’re all that they have.”

“They have the Radiants. That will be enough.”

Kalak shook his head. “He will not remain bound by this. The enemy. He will find a way around it. You know he will.”

“Perhaps.” The king of Heralds offered no further explanation.

“And Taln?” Kalak asked. The flesh burning. The fires. The pain over and over and over . . .

“Better that one man should suffer than ten,” Jezrien whispered. He seemed so cold. Like a shadow caused by heat and light falling on someone honorable and true, casting this black imitation behind.

Jezrien walked back to the ring of swords. His own Blade formed in his hands, appearing from mist, wet with condensation. “It has been decided, Kalak. We will go our ways, and we will not seek out one another. Our Blades must be left. The Oathpact ends now.” He lifted his sword and rammed it into the stone with the other seven.

Jezrien hesitated, looking at the sword, then bowed his head and turned away. As if ashamed. “We chose this burden willingly. Well, we can choose to drop it if we wish.”

“What do we tell the people, Jezrien?” Kalak asked. “What will they say of this day?”

“It’s simple,” Jezrien said, walking away. “We tell them that they finally won. It’s an easy enough lie. Who knows? Maybe it will turn out to be true.”

Kalak watched Jezrien depart across the burned landscape. Finally, he summoned his own Blade and slammed it into the stone beside the other eight. He turned and walked in the direction opposite from Jezrien.

And yet, he could not help glancing back at the ring of swords and the single open spot. The place where the tenth sword should have gone.

The one of them who was lost. The one they had abandoned.

Forgive us, Kalak thought, then left.

“The love of men is a frigid thing, a mountain stream only three steps from the ice. We are his. Oh Stormfather . . . we are his. It is but a thousand days, and the Everstorm comes.”

—Collected on the first day of the week Palah of the month Shash of the year 1171, thirty-one seconds before death. Subject was a darkeyed pregnant woman of middle years. The child did not survive.


Szeth-son-son-Vallano, Truthless of Shinovar, wore white on the day he was to kill a king. The white clothing was a Parshendi tradition, foreign to him. But he did as his masters required and did not ask for an explanation.

He sat in a large stone room, baked by enormous firepits that cast a garish light upon the revelers, causing beads of sweat to form on their skin as they danced, and drank, and yelled, and sang, and clapped. Some fell to the ground red-faced, the revelry too much for them, their stomachs proving to be inferior wineskins. They looked as if they were dead, at least until their friends carried them out of the feast hall to waiting beds.

Szeth did not sway to the drums, drink the sapphire wine, or stand to dance. He sat on a bench at the back, a still servant in white robes. Few at the treaty-signing celebration noticed him. He was just a servant, and Shin were easy to ignore. Most out here in the East thought Szeth’s kind were docile and harmless. They were generally right.

The drummers began a new rhythm. The beats shook Szeth like a quartet of thumping hearts, pumping waves of invisible blood through the room. Szeth’s masters—who were dismissed as savages by those in more civilized kingdoms—sat at their own tables. They were men with skin of black marbled with red. Parshendi, they were named—cousins to the more docile servant peoples known as parshmen in most of the world. An oddity. They did not call themselves Parshendi; this was the Alethi name for them. It meant, roughly, “parshmen who can think.” Neither side seemed to see that as an insult.

The Parshendi had brought the musicians. At first, the Alethi lighteyes had been hesitant. To them, drums were base instruments of the common, darkeyed people. But wine was the great assassin of both tradition and propriety, and now the Alethi elite danced with abandon.

Szeth stood and began to pick his way through the room. The revelry had lasted long; even the king had retired hours ago. But many still celebrated. As he walked, Szeth was forced to step around Dalinar Kholin—the king’s own brother—who slumped drunken at a small table. The aging but powerfully built man kept waving away those who tried to encourage him to bed. Where was Jasnah, the king’s daughter? Elhokar, the king’s son and heir, sat at the high table, ruling the feast in his father’s absence. He was in conversation with two men, a dark-skinned Azish man who had an odd patch of pale skin on his cheek and a thinner, Alethi-looking man who kept glancing over his shoulder.

The heir’s feasting companions were unimportant. Szeth stayed far from the heir, skirting the sides of the room, passing the drummers. Musicspren zipped through the air around them, the tiny spirits taking the form of spinning translucent ribbons. As Szeth passed the drummers, they noted him. They would withdraw soon, along with all of the other Parshendi.

They did not seem offended. They did not seem angry. And yet they were going to break their treaty of only a few hours. It made no sense. But Szeth did not ask questions.

At the edge of the room, he passed rows of unwavering azure lights that bulged out where wall met floor. They held sapphires infused with Stormlight. Profane. How could the men of these lands use something so sacred for mere illumination? Worse, the Alethi scholars were said to be close to creating new Shardblades. Szeth hoped that was just wishful boasting. For if it did happen, the world would be changed. Likely in a way that ended with people in all countries—from distant Thaylenah to towering Jah Keved—speaking Alethi to their children.

They were a grand people, these Alethi. Even drunk, there was a natural nobility to them. Tall and well made, the men dressed in dark silk coats that buttoned down the sides of the chest and were elaborately embroidered in silver or gold. Each one looked a general on the field.

The women were even more splendid. They wore grand silk dresses, tightly fitted, the bright colors a contrast to the dark tones favored by the men. The left sleeve of each dress was longer than the right one, covering the hand. Alethi had an odd sense of propriety.

Their pure black hair was pinned up atop their heads, either in intricate weavings of braids or in loose piles. It was often woven with gold ribbons or ornaments, along with gems that glowed with Stormlight. Beautiful. Profane, but beautiful.

Szeth left the feasting chamber behind. Just outside, he passed the doorway into the Beggars’ Feast. It was an Alethi tradition, a room where some of the poorest men and women in the city were given a feast complementing that of the king and his guests. A man with a long grey and black beard slumped in the doorway, smiling foolishly—though whether from wine or a weak mind, Szeth could not tell.

“Have you seen me?” the man asked with slurred speech. He laughed, then began to speak in gibberish, reaching for a wineskin. So it was drink after all. Szeth brushed by, continuing past a line of statues depicting the Ten Heralds from ancient Vorin theology. Jezerezeh, Ishi, Kelek, Talenelat. He counted off each one, and realized there were only nine here. One was conspicuously missing. Why had Shalash’s statue been removed? King Gavilar was said to be very devout in his Vorin worship. Too devout, by some people’s standards.

The hallway here curved to the right, running around the perimeter of the domed palace. They were on the king’s floor, two levels up, surrounded by rock walls, ceiling, and floor. That was profane. Stone was not to be trod upon. But what was he to do? He was Truthless. He did as his masters demanded.

Today, that included wearing white. Loose white trousers tied at the waist with a rope, and over them a filmy shirt with long sleeves, open at the front. White clothing for a killer was a tradition among the Parshendi. Although Szeth had not asked, his masters had explained why.

White to be bold. White to not blend into the night. White to give warning.

For if you were going to assassinate a man, he was entitled to see you coming.

Szeth turned right, taking the hallway directly toward the king’s chambers. Torches burned on the walls, their light unsatisfying to him, a meal of thin broth after a long fast. Tiny flamespren danced around them, like insects made solely of congealed light. The torches were useless to him. He reached for his pouch and the spheres it contained, but then hesitated when he saw more of the blue lights ahead: a pair of Stormlight lamps hanging on the wall, brilliant sapphires glowing at their hearts. Szeth walked up to one of these, holding out his hand to cup it around the glass-shrouded gemstone.

“You there!” a voice called in Alethi. There were two guards at the intersection. Double guard, for there were savages abroad in Kholinar this night. True, those savages were supposed to be allies now. But alliances could be shallow things indeed.

This one wouldn’t last the hour.

Szeth looked as the two guards approached. They carried spears; they weren’t lighteyes, and were therefore forbidden the sword. Their painted red breastplates were ornate, however, as were their helms. They might be darkeyed, but they were high-ranking citizens with honored positions in the royal guard.

Stopping a few feet away, the guard at the front gestured with his spear. “Go on, now. This is no place for you.” He had tan Alethi skin and a thin mustache that ran all the way around his mouth, becoming a beard at the bottom.

Szeth didn’t move.

“Well?” the guard said. “What are you waiting for?”

Szeth breathed in deeply, drawing forth the Stormlight. It streamed into him, siphoned from the twin sapphire lamps on the walls, sucked in as if by his deep inhalation. The Stormlight raged inside of him, and the hallway suddenly grew darker, falling into shade like a hilltop cut off from the sun by a transient cloud.

Szeth could feel the Light’s warmth, its fury, like a tempest that had been injected directly into his veins. The power of it was invigorating but dangerous. It pushed him to act. To move. To strike.

Holding his breath, he clung to the Stormlight. He could still feel it leaking out. Stormlight could be held for only a short time, a few minutes at most. It leaked away, the human body too porous a container. He had heard that the Voidbringers could hold it in perfectly. But, then, did they even exist? His punishment declared that they didn’t. His honor demanded that they did.

Afire with holy energy, Szeth turned to the guards. They could see that he was leaking Stormlight, wisps of it curling from his skin like luminescent smoke. The lead guard squinted, frowning. Szeth was sure the man had never seen anything like it before. As far as he knew, Szeth had killed every stonewalker who had ever seen what he could do.

“What . . . what are you?” The guard’s voice had lost its certainty. “Spirit or man?”

“What am I?” Szeth whispered, a bit of Light leaking from his lips as he looked past the man down the long hallway. “I’m . . . sorry.”

Szeth blinked, Lashing himself to that distant point down the hallway. Stormlight raged from him in a flash, chilling his skin, and the ground immediately stopped pulling him downward. Instead, he was pulled toward that distant point—it was as if, to him, that direction had suddenly become down.

This was a Basic Lashing, first of his three kinds of Lashings. It gave him the ability to manipulate whatever force, spren, or god it was that held men to the ground. With this Lashing, he could bind people or objects to different surfaces or in different directions.

From Szeth’s perspective, the hallway was now a deep shaft down which he was falling, and the two guards stood on one of the sides. They were shocked when Szeth’s feet hit them, one for each face, throwing them over. Szeth shifted his view and Lashed himself to the floor. Light leaked from him. The floor of the hallway again became down, and he landed between the two guards, clothes crackling and dropping flakes of frost. He rose, beginning the process of summoning his Shardblade.

One of the guards fumbled for his spear. Szeth reached down, touching the soldier’s shoulder while looking up. He focused on a point above him while willing the Light out of his body and into the guard, Lashing the poor man to the ceiling.

The guard yelped in shock as up became down for him. Light trailing from his form, he crashed into the ceiling and dropped his spear. It was not Lashed directly, and clattered back down to the floor near Szeth.

To kill. It was the greatest of sins. And yet here Szeth stood, Truthless, profanely walking on stones used for building. And it would not end. As Truthless, there was only one life he was forbidden to take.

And that was his own.

At the tenth beat of his heart, his Shardblade dropped into his waiting hand. It formed as if condensing from mist, water beading along the metal length. His Shardblade was long and thin, edged on both sides, smaller than most others. Szeth swept it out, carving a line in the stone floor and passing through the second guard’s neck.

As always, the Shardblade killed oddly; though it cut easily through stone, steel, or anything inanimate, the metal fuzzed when it touched living skin. It traveled through the guard’s neck without leaving a mark, but once it did, the man’s eyes smoked and burned. They blackened, shriveling up in his head, and he slumped forward, dead. A Shardblade did not cut living flesh; it severed the soul itself.

Above, the first guard gasped. He’d managed to get to his feet, even though they were planted on the ceiling of the hallway. “Shardbearer!” he shouted. “A Shardbearer assaults the king’s hall! To arms!”

Finally, Szeth thought. Szeth’s use of Stormlight was unfamiliar to the guards, but they knew a Shardblade when they saw one.

Szeth bent down and picked up the spear that had fallen from above. As he did so, he released the breath he’d been holding since drawing in the Stormlight. It sustained him while he held it, but those two lanterns hadn’t contained much of it, so he would need to breathe again soon. The Light began to leak away more quickly, now that he wasn’t holding his breath.

Szeth set the spear’s butt against the stone floor, then looked upward. The guard above stopped shouting, eyes opening wide as the tails of his shirt began to slip downward, the earth below reasserting its dominance. The Light steaming off his body dwindled.

He looked down at Szeth. Down at the spear tip pointing directly at his heart. Violet fearspren crawled out of the stone ceiling around him.

The Light ran out. The guard fell.

He screamed as he hit, the spear impaling him through the chest. Szeth let the spear fall away, carried to the ground with a muffled thump by the body twitching on its end. Shardblade in hand, he turned down a side corridor, following the map he’d memorized. He ducked around a corner and flattened himself against the wall just as a troop of guards reached the dead men. The newcomers began shouting immediately, continuing the alarm.

His instructions were clear. Kill the king, but be seen doing it. Let the Alethi know he was coming and what he was doing. Why? Why did the Parshendi agree to this treaty, only to send an assassin the very night of its signing?

More gemstones glowed on the walls of the hallway here. King Gavilar liked lavish display, and he couldn’t know that he was leaving sources of power for Szeth to use in his Lashings. The things Szeth did hadn’t been seen for millennia. Histories from those times were all but nonexistent, and the legends were horribly inaccurate.

Szeth peeked back out into the corridor. One of the guards at the intersection saw him, pointing and yelling. Szeth made sure they got a good look, then ducked away. He took a deep breath as he ran, drawing in Stormlight from the lanterns. His body came alive with it, and his speed increased, his muscles bursting with energy. Light became a storm inside of him; his blood thundered in his ears. It was terrible and wonderful at the same time.

Two corridors down, one to the side. He threw open the door of a storage room, then hesitated a moment—just long enough for a guard to round the corner and see him—before dashing into the room. Preparing for a Full Lashing, he raised his arm and commanded the Stormlight to pool there, causing the skin to burst alight with radiance. Then he flung his hand out toward the doorframe, spraying white luminescence across it like paint. He slammed the door just as the guards arrived.

The Stormlight held the door in the frame with the strength of a hundred arms. A Full Lashing bound objects together, holding them fast until the Stormlight ran out. It took longer to create—and drained Stormlight far more quickly—than a Basic Lashing. The door handle shook, and then the wood began to crack as the guards threw their weight against it, one man calling for an axe.

Szeth crossed the room in rapid strides, weaving around the shrouded furniture that had been stored here. It was of red cloth and deep expensive woods. He reached the far wall and—preparing himself for yet another blasphemy—he raised his Shardblade and slashed horizontally through the dark grey stone. The rock sliced easily; a Shardblade could cut any inanimate object. Two vertical slashes followed, then one across the bottom, cutting a large square block. He pressed his hand against it, willing Stormlight into the stone.

Behind him the room’s door began to crack. He looked over his shoulder and focused on the shaking door, Lashing the block in that direction. Frost crystallized on his clothing—Lashing something so large required a great deal of Stormlight. The tempest within him stilled, like a storm reduced to a drizzle.

He stepped aside. The large stone block shuddered, sliding into the room. Normally, moving the block would have been impossible. Its own weight would have held it against the stones below. Yet now, that same weight pulled it free; for the block, the direction of the room’s door was down. With a deep grinding sound, the block slid free of the wall and tumbled through the air, smashing furniture.

The soldiers finally broke through the door, staggering into the room just as the enormous block crashed into them.

Szeth turned his back on the terrible sound of the screams, the splintering of wood, the breaking of bones. He ducked and stepped through his new hole, entering the hallway outside.

He walked slowly, drawing Stormlight from the lamps he passed, siphoning it to him and stoking anew the tempest within. As the lamps dimmed, the corridor darkened. A thick wooden door stood at the end, and as he approached, small fearspren —shaped like globs of purple goo—began to wriggle from the masonry, pointing toward the doorway. They were drawn by the terror being felt on the other side.

Szeth pushed the door open, entering the last corridor leading to the king’s chambers. Tall, red ceramic vases lined the pathway, and they were interspersed with nervous soldiers. They flanked a long, narrow rug. It was red, like a river of blood.

The spearmen in front didn’t wait for him to get close. They broke into a trot, lifting their short throwing spears. Szeth slammed his hand to the side, pushing Stormlight into the doorframe, using the third and final type of Lashing, a Reverse Lashing. This one worked diff erently from the other two. It did not make the doorframe emit Stormlight; indeed, it seemed to pull nearby light into it, giving it a strange penumbra.

The spearmen threw, and Szeth stood still, hand on the doorframe. A Reverse Lashing required his constant touch, but took comparatively little Stormlight. During one, anything that approached him—particularly lighter objects—was instead pulled toward the Lashing itself.

The spears veered in the air, splitting around him and slamming into the wooden frame. As he felt them hit, Szeth leaped into the air and Lashed himself to the right wall, his feet hitting the stone with a slap.

He immediately re oriented his perspective. To his eyes, he wasn’t standing on the wall, the soldiers were, the blood-red carpet streaming between them like a long tapestry. Szeth bolted down the hallway, striking with his Shardblade, shearing through the necks of two men who had thrown spears at him. Their eyes burned, and they collapsed.

The other guards in the hallway began to panic. Some tried to attack him, others yelled for more help, still others cringed away from him. The attackers had trouble—they were disoriented by the oddity of striking at someone who hung on the wall. Szeth cut down a few, then flipped into the air, tucking into a roll, and Lashed himself back to the floor.

He hit the ground in the midst of the soldiers. Completely surrounded, but holding a Shardblade.

According to legend, the Shardblades were first carried by the Knights Radiant uncounted ages ago. Gifts of their god, granted to allow them to fight horrors of rock and flame, dozens of feet tall, foes whose eyes burned with hatred. The Voidbringers. When your foe had skin as hard as stone itself, steel was useless. Something supernal was required.

Szeth rose from his crouch, loose white clothes rippling, jaw clenched against his sins. He struck out, his weapon flashing with reflected torchlight. Elegant, wide swings. Three of them, one after another. He could neither close his ears to the screams that followed nor avoid seeing the men fall. They dropped round him like toys knocked over by a child’s careless kick. If the Blade touched a man’s spine, he died, eyes burning. If it cut through the core of a limb, it killed that limb. One soldier stumbled away from Szeth, arm flopping uselessly on his shoulder. He would never be able to feel it or use it again.

Szeth lowered his Shardblade, standing among the cinder-eyed corpses. Here, in Alethkar, men often spoke of the legends—of mankind’s hardwon victory over the Voidbringers. But when weapons created to fight nightmares were turned against common soldiers, the lives of men became cheap things indeed.

Szeth turned and continued on his way, slippered feet falling on the soft red rug. The Shardblade, as always, glistened silver and clean. When one killed with a Blade, there was no blood. That seemed like a sign. The Shardblade was just a tool; it could not be blamed for the murders.

The door at the end of the hallway burst open. Szeth froze as a small group of soldiers rushed out, ushering a man in regal robes, his head ducked as if to avoid arrows. The soldiers wore deep blue, the color of the King’s Guard, and the corpses didn’t make them stop and gawk. They were prepared for what a Shardbearer could do. They opened a side door and shoved their ward through, several leveling spears at Szeth as they backed out.

Another figure stepped from the king’s quarters; he wore glistening blue armor made of smoothly interlocking plates. Unlike common plate armor, however, this armor had no leather or mail visible at the joints— just smaller plates, fitting together with intricate precision. The armor was beautiful, the blue inlaid with golden bands around the edges of each piece of plate, the helm ornamented with three waves of small, hornlike wings.

Shardplate, the customary complement to a Shardblade. The newcomer carried a sword as well, an enormous Shardblade six feet long with a design along the blade like burning flames, a weapon of silvery metal that gleamed and almost seemed to glow. A weapon designed to slay dark gods, a larger counterpart to the one Szeth carried.

Szeth hesitated. He didn’t recognize the armor; he had not been warned that he would be set at this task, and hadn’t been given proper time to memorize the various suits of Plate or Blades owned by the Alethi. But a Shardbearer would have to be dealt with before he chased the king; he could not leave such a foe behind.

Besides, perhaps a Shardbearer could defeat him, kill him and end his miserable life. His Lashings wouldn’t work directly on someone in Shardplate, and the armor would enhance the man, strengthen him. Szeth’s honor would not allow him to betray his mission or seek death. But if that death occurred, he would welcome it.

The Shardbearer struck, and Szeth Lashed himself to the side of the hallway, leaping with a twist and landing on the wall. He danced backward, Blade held at the ready. The Shardbearer fell into an aggressive posture, using one of the swordplay stances favored here in the East. He moved far more nimbly than one would expect for a man in such bulky armor. Shardplate was special, as ancient and magical as the Blades it complemented.

The Shardbearer struck. Szeth skipped to the side and Lashed himself to the ceiling as the Shardbearer’s Blade sliced into the wall. Feeling a thrill at the contest, Szeth dashed forward and attacked downward with an overhand blow, trying to hit the Shardbearer’s helm. The man ducked, going down on one knee, letting Szeth’s Blade cleave empty air.

Szeth leaped backward as the Shardbearer swung upward with his Blade, slicing into the ceiling. Szeth didn’t own a set of Plate himself, and didn’t care to. His Lashings interfered with the gemstones that powered Shardplate, and he had to choose one or the other.

As the Shardbearer turned, Szeth sprinted forward across the ceiling. As expected, the Shardbearer swung again, and Szeth leaped to the side, rolling. He came up from his roll and flipped, Lashing himself to the floor again. He spun to land on the ground behind the Shardbearer. He slammed his Blade into his opponent’s open back.

Unfortunately, there was one major advantage Plate offered: It could block a Shardblade. Szeth’s weapon hit solidly, causing a web of glowing lines to spread out across the back of the armor, and Stormlight began to leak free from them. Shardplate didn’t dent or bend like common metal. Szeth would have to hit the Shardbearer in the same location at least once more to break through.

Szeth danced out of range as the Shardbearer swung in anger, trying to cut at Szeth’s knees. The tempest within Szeth gave him many advantages— including the ability to quickly recover from small wounds. But it would not restore limbs killed by a Shardblade.

He rounded the Shardbearer, then picked a moment and dashed forward. The Shardbearer swung again, but Szeth briefly Lashed himself to the ceiling for lift. He shot into the air, cresting over the swing, then immediately Lashed himself back to the floor. He struck as he landed, but the Shardbearer recovered quickly and executed a perfect follow-through stroke, coming within a finger of hitting Szeth.

The man was dangerously skilled with that Blade. Many Shardbearers depended too much on the power of their weapon and armor. This man was different.

Szeth jumped to the wall and struck at the Shardbearer with quick, terse attacks, like a snapping eel. The Shardbearer fended him off with wide, sweeping counters. His Blade’s length kept Szeth at bay.

This is taking too long! Szeth thought. If the king slipped away into hiding, Szeth would fail in his mission no matter how many people he killed. He ducked in for another strike, but the Shardbearer forced him back. Each second this fight lasted was another for the king’s escape.

It was time to be reckless. Szeth launched into the air, Lashing himself to the other end of the hallway and falling feet-first toward his adversary. The Shardbearer didn’t hesitate to swing, but Szeth Lashed himself down at an angle, dropping immediately. The Shardblade swished through the air above him.

He landed in a crouch, using his momentum to throw himself forward, and swung at the Shardbearer’s side, where the Plate had cracked. He hit with a powerful blow. That piece of the Plate shattered, bits of molten metal streaking away. The Shardbearer grunted, dropping to one knee, raising a hand to his side. Szeth raised a foot to the man’s side and shoved him backward with a Stormlight-enhanced kick.

The heavy Shardbearer crashed into the door of the king’s quarters, smashing it and falling partway into the room beyond. Szeth left him, ducking instead through the doorway to the right, following the way the king had gone. The hallway here had the same red carpet, and Stormlight lamps on the walls gave Szeth a chance to recharge the tempest within.

Energy blazed within him again, and he sped up. If he could get far enough ahead, he could deal with the king, then turn back to fight off the Shardbearer. It wouldn’t be easy. A Full Lashing on a doorway wouldn’t stop a Shardbearer, and that Plate would let the man run supernaturally fast. Szeth glanced over his shoulder.

The Shardbearer wasn’t following. The man sat up in his armor, looking dazed. Szeth could just barely see him, sitting in the doorway, surrounded by broken bits of wood. Perhaps Szeth had wounded him more than he’d thought.

Or maybe . . .

Szeth froze. He thought of the ducked head of the man who’d been rushed out, face obscured. The Shardbearer still wasn’t following. He was so skilled. It was said that few men could rival Gavilar Kholin’s swordsmanship. Could it be?

Szeth turned and dashed back, trusting his instincts. As soon as the Shardbearer saw him, he climbed to his feet with alacrity. Szeth ran faster. What was the safest place for your king? In the hands of some guards, fleeing? Or protected in a suit of Shardplate, left behind, dismissed as a bodyguard?

Clever, Szeth thought as the formerly sluggish Shardbearer fell into another battle stance. Szeth attacked with renewed vigor, swinging his Blade in a flurry of strikes. The Shardbearer—the king—aggressively struck out with broad, sweeping blows. Szeth pulled away from one of these, feeling the wind of the weapon passing just inches before him. He timed his next move, then dashed forward, ducking underneath the king’s follow-through.

The king, expecting another strike at his side, twisted with his arm held protectively to block the hole in his Plate. That gave Szeth the room to run past him and into the king’s chambers.

The king spun around to follow, but Szeth ran through the lavishly furnished chamber, flinging out his hand, touching pieces of furniture he passed. He infused them with Stormlight, Lashing them to a point behind the king. The furniture tumbled as if the room had been turned on its side, couches, chairs, and tables dropping toward the surprised king. Gavilar made the mistake of chopping at them with his Shardblade. The weapon easily sheared through a large couch, but the pieces still crashed into him, making him stumble. A footstool hit him next, throwing him to the ground.

Gavilar rolled out of the way of the furniture and charged forward, Plate leaking streams of Light from the cracked sections. Szeth gathered himself, then leaped into the air, Lashing himself backward and to the right as the king arrived. He zipped out of the way of the king’s blow, then Lashed himself forward with two Basic Lashings in a row. Stormlight flashed out of him, clothing freezing, as he was pulled toward the king at twice the speed of a normal fall.

The king’s posture indicated surprise as Szeth lurched in midair, then spun toward him, swinging. He slammed his Blade into the king’s helm, then immediately Lashed himself to the ceiling and fell upward, slamming into the stone roof above. He’d Lashed himself in too many directions too quickly, and his body had lost track, making it difficult to land gracefully. He stumbled back to his feet.

Below, the king stepped back, trying to get into position to swing up at Szeth. The man’s helm was cracked, leaking Stormlight, and he stood protectively, defending the side with the broken plate. The king used a onehanded swing, reaching for the ceiling. Szeth immediately Lashed himself downward, judging that the king’s attack would leave him unable to get his sword back in time.

Szeth underestimated his opponent. The king stepped into Szeth’s attack, trusting his helm to absorb the blow. Just as Szeth hit the helm a second time—shattering it—Gavilar punched with his off hand, slamming his gauntleted fist into Szeth’s face.

Blinding light flashed in Szeth’s eyes, a counterpoint to the sudden agony that crashed across his face. Everything blurred, his vision fading.

Pain. So much pain!

He screamed, Stormlight leaving him in a rush, and he slammed back into something hard. The balcony doors. More pain broke out across his shoulders, as if someone had stabbed him with a hundred daggers, and he hit the ground and rolled to a stop, muscles trembling. The blow would have killed an ordinary man.

No time for pain. No time for pain. No time for pain!

He blinked, shaking his head, the world blurry and dark. Was he blind? No. It was dark outside. He was on the wooden balcony; the force of the blow had thrown him through the doors. Something was thumping. Heavy footfalls. The Shardbearer!

Szeth stumbled to his feet, vision swimming. Blood streamed from the side of his face, and Stormlight rose from his skin, blinding his left eye. The Light. It would heal him, if it could. His jaw felt unhinged. Broken? He’d dropped his Shardblade.

A lumbering shadow moved in front of him; the Shardbearer’s armor had leaked enough Stormlight that the king was having trouble walking. But he was coming.

Szeth screamed, kneeling, infusing Stormlight into the wooden balcony, Lashing it downward. The air frosted around him. The tempest roared, traveling down his arms into the wood. He Lashed it downward, then did it again. He Lashed a fourth time as Gavilar stepped onto the balcony. It lurched under the extra weight. The wood cracked, straining.

The Shardbearer hesitated.

Szeth Lashed the balcony downward a fifth time. The balcony supports shattered and the entire structure broke free from the building. Szeth screamed through a broken jaw and used his final bit of Stormlight to Lash himself to the side of the building. He fell to the side, passing the shocked Shardbearer, then hit the wall and rolled.

The balcony dropped away, the king looking up with shock as he lost his footing. The fall was brief. In the moonlight, Szeth watched solemnly— vision still fuzzy, blinded in one eye—as the structure crashed to the stone ground below. The wall of the palace trembled, and the crash of broken wood echoed from the nearby buildings.

Still standing on the side of the wall, Szeth groaned, climbing to his feet. He felt weak; he’d used up his Stormlight too quickly, straining his body. He stumbled down the side of the building, approaching the wreckage, barely able to remain standing.

The king was still moving. Shardplate would protect a man from such a fall, but a large length of bloodied wood stuck up through Gavilar’s side, piercing him where Szeth had broken the Plate earlier. Szeth knelt down, inspecting the man’s pain-wracked face. Strong features, square chin, black beard flecked with white, striking pale green eyes. Gavilar Kholin.

“I . . . expected you . . . to come,” the king said between gasps.

Szeth reached underneath the front of the man’s breastplate, tapping the straps there. They unfastened, and he pulled the front of the breastplate free, exposing the gemstones on its interior. Two had been cracked and burned out. Three still glowed. Numb, Szeth breathed in sharply, absorbing the Light.

The storm began to rage again. More Light rose from the side of his face, repairing his damaged skin and bones. The pain was still great; Stormlight healing was far from instantaneous. It would be hours before he recovered.

The king coughed. “You can tell . . . Thaidakar . . . that he’s too late. . . .”

“I don’t know who that is,” Szeth said, standing, his words slurring from his broken jaw. He held his hand to the side, resummoning his Shardblade.

The king frowned. “Then who . . . ? Restares? Sadeas? I never thought . . .”

“My masters are the Parshendi,” Szeth said. Ten heartbeats passed, and his Blade dropped into his hand, wet with condensation.

“The Parshendi? That makes no sense.” Gavilar coughed, hand quivering, reaching toward his chest and fumbling at a pocket. He pulled out a small crystalline sphere tied to a chain. “You must take this. They must not get it.” He seemed dazed. “Tell . . . tell my brother . . . he must find the most important words a man can say. . . .”
Gavilar fell still.

Szeth hesitated, then knelt down and took the sphere. It was odd, unlike any he’d seen before. Though it was completely dark, it seemed to glow somehow. With a light that was black.

The Parshendi? Gavilar had said. That makes no sense. “Nothing makes sense anymore,” Szeth whispered, tucking the strange sphere away. “It’s all unraveling. I am sorry, King of the Alethi. I doubt that you care. Not anymore, at least.” He stood up. “At least you won’t have to watch the world ending with the rest of us.”

Beside the king’s body, his Shardblade materialized from mist, clattering to the stones now that its master was dead. It was worth a fortune; kingdoms had fallen as men vied to possess a single Shardblade.

Shouts of alarm came from inside the palace. Szeth needed to go. But . . .

Tell my brother . . .

To Szeth’s people, a dying request was sacred. He took the king’s hand, dipping it in the man’s own blood, then used it to scrawl on the wood, Brother. You must find the most important words a man can say.

With that, Szeth escaped into the night. He left the king’s Shardblade; he had no use for it. The Blade Szeth already carried was curse enough.

The Way of Kings will be out on August 31, 2010, but you can continue reading on right now! Click here for three more chapters. If you’re already a member of, just sign in to get reading; if not, signing up is free and only takes a minute.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Part 5 of Costume in the Wheel of Time

By Linda

The section on Altaran and Ebou Dari modes of dress was added to the WOT Costume article today. We traverse quite a bit of Altara and, as is typical of Europe, the costume varies regionally as we do so.

Monday, June 7, 2010

New Article Released: Character Names Parallels - O

By Linda

Today I posted an article on possible sources for character names starting with O in the Reference Library. Olver and Owyn are the main entries.

On Wednesday I'll be posting the Altara section of the WOT Costumes article.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Crossroads of Twilight Read-through #8: Perrin's Affairs

By Linda

At the climax of his thread in Crossroads of Twilight (In So Habor and What Must Be Done chapters) Perrin shifts gears character-wise. In So Habor he was careful and temperate, sensing what is wrong and wanting to heal it. Later back at the camp his great strength and fortitude combined with his wildness to produce actions that alarmed even Masema’s rabble.

As this indicates, there are two sides to Perrin: the wild man/wolf berserker/shaman and the sky god/smith god/creator. The conflict they cause within him is symbolised by the lure of his axe versus his hammer, being a cutter versus being a shaper.

During the preparation for So Habor, the main evidence of the Wild Man is in the way he noticed his decorative surroundings or his fancy clothes only to scorn them. Perrin took a back seat and let Berelain and Annoura plan the approach to So Habor:

The First of Mayene and an Aes Sedai should know what they were about in a thing like this.

- Crossroads of Twilight, In So Habor

Giving Berelain responsibility also gave him a respite from her tiresome harassment and slander. Yet Perrin is the first to realise the incongruity between the clean seed samples and the filth everywhere else in the town and insist on seeing the grain in the warehouses.

Like an Ogier, another creature of the Wild, Perrin is sensitive to the feel of a place. It’s not just his sense of smell. In fact, So Habor smelled so bad that Perrin’s nose was effectively non-functional, but he sensed the Pattern of So Habor better than anyone:

“I think we should find somewhere else,” Perrin said. That fellow had been afraid of more than yellow eyes. This place felt . . . askew.
“We are already here, and there is nowhere else,” Berelain replied in a very practical voice. In all that stink, he could not catch her scent; he would have to go by what he heard and saw, and her face was calm enough for an Aes Sedai. “I’ve been in towns that smelled worse than this, Perrin. I’m sure I have. And if this Lord Cowlin is gone, it won’t be the first time I’ve dealt with merchants. You don’t really believe they’ve seen the dead walking, do you?”
What was a man to say to that without sounding a pure wool head?

- Crossroads of Twilight, In So Habor

In the Wheel of Time a Lord and the Land he cares for are one. There is corruption in So Habor because Lord Cowlin committed murder, and of his Lady at that, a representative of the Goddess of Sovereignty (see Arthurian themes essay). The crime goes unpunished and her ghost is unquiet. Other ghosts are walking too:

“The dead are walking in So Habor. Lord Cowlin fled the town for fear of his wife’s spirit. It seems there was doubt as to how she died. Hardly a man or woman in the town has not seen someone dead, and a good many have seen more than one.
Some say people have died from the touch of someone dead. I cannot verify that, but people have died of fright, and others because of it. No one goes out at night in So Habor, or walks into a room unannounced. People strike out at shadows and surprises with whatever is to hand, and sometimes they have found a husband, wife or neighbor dead at their feet.”

- Crossroads of Twilight, In So Habor

With the Dark One’s power increasing, the local lord’s great crime and then dereliction of duty has resulted in the corruption of the town and the weakening of the Pattern there. It provided an entry point for the Dark One.

The town streets are dim and shadowy symbolising a lack of Light. So Habor is dying; it barely seemed to breathe according to Perrin. Perrin thinks the townsfolk don’t care anymore. The people show a deadness of spirit.

He is convinced more is wrong than just the dead walking:

There was worse wrong in So Habor than spirits walking, and every instinct told him to leave at a dead run, without looking back.

- Crossroads of Twilight, In So Habor

Without any Lord or Lady to care for it, the Land sickens and dies. Perrin knows the Pattern is askew, warped by Dark One. Lord Cowlin’s behaviour attracted the Dark One’s touch, or made it stronger there. It is a Foreshadowing of what Rand will cause in Arad Doman. So Habor warns Perrin of what can happen if a Lord abandons duty.

At the warehouse that Perrin sensibly insisted on seeing, he showed that he is a Strength figure as well as a Wild Man:

Perrin pointed to a two-story warehouse chosen at random, no different from any other, a windowless stone building with a wide pair of wooden doors held shut by a wooden bar that could have done for a ceiling beam at the Golden Barge.
The merchants suddenly recalled that they had forgotten to bring men to lift the bars. They offered to go back for them. The Lady Berelain and Annoura Sedai could rest in front of the fire at the Golden Barge while workmen were fetched. They were sure Mistress Vadere would lay a fire. Their tongues went still when Perrin placed his hand beneath the thick beam and shoved it up out of the wooden brackets. The thing was heavy, but he backed up with it to give him room to turn and toss it down on the street with a crash. The merchants stared. This might have been the first time they had ever seen a man in a silk coat do anything that could be called work.

- Crossroads of Twilight, In So Habor

moving the thick beam out of the bracket with one hand. Strength was a popular theme in the arts in Renaissance and early modern times, and was exemplified by particular heroes. In myth the hero often has a Wild Man companion to help him on his quest. Perrin is one of the rarer types of hero in being his own Wild Man, although he has other Wild Man aides, such as Elyas and Gaul, and is himself the Wild Man companion that Rand needs to help him fulfil the quest of defeating the Dark One.

Perrin gave strength to his people, consciously calming the servants by appearing unconcerned at the creepiness of So Habor. Never regarding towns positively in normal circumstances, he wouldn’t send his people into So Habor because they might be corrupted. Nor would he allow any Aes Sedai to remain there. We have yet to see the consequences of this decision. While the Aes Sedai Healed the wounded at Malden, the Wise Ones did so too and were at least as good at it. All three Aes Sedai must yet have some part to play in Perrin’s thread.

Yet Perrin himself felt an urge to help and heal the town. This is his shaman (of wolf totem) aspect. Perrin wants to save and Heal but decisions on duty are his weakness and Berelain tells him he can’t save everyone:

Did she [Berelain] think he felt guilty? Balanced against Faile’s life, the troubles of So Habor could not budge the scales a hair. But he turned his bay so he was looking at the gray town walls across the river, not the hollow-eyed children piling up empty sacks. A man did what he could.

- Crossroads of Twilight, What Must Be Done

Fortitude, bearing what has to be borne or having the strength to do what has to be done, is one of the strongest themes around Perrin, as strong as wildness and being an artisan. Regarding the latter theme, even amid all his worries Perrin misses being a blacksmith:

His hands itched for farrier’s tools. It seemed years since he had changed a horse’s shoes, or worked a forge.

- Crossroads of Twilight, What Must Be Done

These reminders of what he would rather be doing might indicate what he soon needs to be doing. But back at the camp kind and gentle Perrin has to face hurting someone to save someone else:

Embrace pain. There had to be pain, when you put a man to the question. He had not let that thought form in his head before this. But to get Faile back. . . .

- Crossroads of Twilight, What Must Be Done

Masema dehumanises the Aiel to justify the use of torture and claims they don’t really feel the pain. Aram’s eyes are nearly as mad as Masema’s because Masema is leading him astray, but Perrin doesn’t make the association.

Anyway, Aram says his attitude comes from Perrin:

“It has to be done,” Aram said, half pleading, half demanding. He was on Masema’s other side, clutching the edges of his green cloak as if to keep his hands from the sword on his back. His eyes were almost as hot as Masema’s. “You taught me that a man does what he must.”
Perrin forced his fists to unknot. What had to be done, for Faile.

- Crossroads of Twilight, What Must Be Done

A Tinker excusing the use of torture on a random captive and effectively encouraging someone to perform it is a potent sign of corruption. And he claims it is Perrin’s teaching.

The onlookers from Masema’s and Perrin’s groups were contemptuous of Perrin, believing he was too kind-hearted to use torture. And he doesn’t; he uses maiming instead and scares even the maniacs and outlaws:

Even Masema was staring at him as if he had never before seen the man standing there with an axe. When he turned to go, Masema’s men and the Ghealdanin alike parted in front of him as though to let a whole fist of Trollocs through.

- Crossroads of Twilight, What Must Be Done

Perrin can’t run from the smell of blood he carries with him on his axe. Blood that has never looked so black before. He is conscious of the evil that he did and for nothing as it turned out. The blood on his face mirrors that on his conscience. Perrin’s face indicates how the world sees him – as bloody – and how he sees the world - through a mask of blood.

Perrin blames his actions on haste, as an Ogier would. He worries about being a berserker, and underneath that, of losing his humanity. Elyas is sure that Perrin won’t become fond of maiming people.

Perrin’s strong links to the Wild embodies the Land fighting the Shadow for its own survival. He years to return the Land and the People to their natural state, to what they are meant to be doing.

As the ultimate expression of the corruption theme of these chapters, Tallanvor arrives with offers of a deal that might be almost as bad as allying with the Shadow:

Seanchan. And damane. Yes, that would be like taking the Dark One’s help.

- Crossroads of Twilight, What Must Be Done

Perrin is determined to take it. As the chapter says, it is what must be done. And Perrin bears it with fortitude.

The results were quite positive overall as we shall see in the Knife of Dreams Read-through in a couple of weeks.

Perrin has been hung up on choices because he is reluctant to cause pain or damage and feels responsible if these happen to his followers. At the end of Crossroads of Twilight the first of his choices were made – the hammer and not the axe – and after he rescues Faile, more choices will follow.

The motifs of the Wild Man, Strength, Temperance, shaman of the wolf totem, sky gods, and smith gods along with real world parallels making up Perrin’s character are explored further in the newly written Perrin essay now published on the blog. Essays on the other two ta’veren, Rand and Mat, were published last year. This essay completes the triad. I’ve also written an essay on one of their Ladies, the Empress, and am currently writing another on Faile in which somehow Berelain insisted on coming along for the ride. Well she would.