Monday, 27 February 2012

The Dragon Reborn - Chapters 49-52

In this section, the Black Ajah finds Egwene and her friends, Perrin crafts a hammer, and Mat arrives too late.
In the World of Dreams, Egwene comes upon the Black Ajah, who appear only faintly while using their own dream ter’angreal. The element of surprise is lost, if they ever had it, since the Black Ajah’s intent was to lure them to Tear, for use in some Forsaken plot. The best thief taker in Tear, Juilin Sandar, isn’t good enough, and he is caught and turned by Liandrin’s thin form of Compulsion. This is the second time Compulsion has been shown, the first was Morgase made docile under Gaebril’s thumb. It is not quite the same as being collared as damane, but the loss of self determination and free will is similar. With Compulsion, the victim can be made to forget what has taken place, with the a’dam, the damane knows but is made to believe they are in their proper place. Egwene, Nynaeve and Elayne are in for a worse fate, since Be’lal is bringing thirteen Myrddraal to Tear to turn them to the Dark One. If the Black Ajah left the White Tower at the behest of Ba’alzamon or Lanfear, they belong to Be’lal now.
Once again, the young women are being used to bait Rand. If it weren’t for the Forsaken being so intent on such a convoluted ploy, leading Rand to Tear to save his childhood sweetheart, they should have been eliminated more directly. They don’t know that Rand is walking the streets of Tear even now, and the ploy to draw him in was unnecessary. They also don’t know that they have unintentionally drawn the other two ta’veren to the city as well.
Liandrin so loves breaking Ailhuin’s spirit, she convinces Rianna to spare her life. She is thus able to tell Mat what he needs to know. When Mat first ignored the signs that would have drawn him to Ailhuin’s home, the Pattern compensates by giving Thom a cold. In search of a remedy, they find Ailhuin. The Pattern works subtly.
When Mat leaves Ailhuin’s home, he feels the dice tumbling in his head, for the first that it is called as such. He has felt the room lurching, felt dizzy, felt feverish, but never before the dice tumbling in his head, as he does when he decides to break into the Stone.
Moiraine and Lan also set off for the Stone of Tear. Perrin is left behind to consider his new hammer. Earlier in chapter 4 of this book, Ba’alzamon tries to convince Perrin to take up his hammer and put aside his axe. In the Great Hunt, Perrin is already thinking about how his hands are made for swinging a hammer, not an axe for killing. In the Eye of the World, Elyas told Perrin to set aside the axe the day he stops hating to use it. With the symbolic hammer and axe at his side, Perrin will spend a long while trying to balance the Builder and the Destroyer in him.
Rand, Mat, Moiraine, and Lan are all bound for the Stone. Deadly Aiel warriors are hiding in the city. Inside the Stone are the three hostages, a baker’s dozen of Black Ajah, and a Forsaken. And the prize: Callandor, a sa’angreal of immense power. Despite the fact that the story meandered with no clear objective, the ending looks to be smashing. The two elements that build the tension the most are the fate awaiting Egwene, Nynaeve and Elayne, and the trap that is waiting for Rand. Take away these two things and there would be little to look forward to.
The scene where Perrin crafts tools in Ajala’s smithy is sometimes called a favorite by readers, but it is doubtful they like it because of their interest in blacksmithing. They could find a reference book for that. It is more likely that the scene provokes an emotional reaction because the four pages tell readers about Perrin, how he thinks, how he acts. I’ll abbreviate the scene to show how Perrin’s character stands out amid the description.
Entering the smithy is a relief, familiarity among the Tairen strangeness. Yard. Equipped to do heavy labour. Tools. Neatly arranged, none missing. Metal, grinding wheels, anvils, forges. A wealth of options. Ready. The blacksmith, experienced, with no apprentices. Hot iron smelled like home. Perrin acts without asking, seeing a need and providing help. Bellows. Slow, steady, even strokes. Perrin guesses what the blacksmith is making. He gives Perrin some metal. Perrin can make anything he wants with it. He examines it, learns its qualities, prepares it to be worked. He examines his equipment, finds appropriate garments. The Blacksmith is pleased so far, Perrin knows the true test lies ahead.  He selects his tools. He heats the metal to the temperature he wants. He knows how the tools function, why they are made that way. He uses them properly, with care. Making nothing fancy, a simple thing. Step by step, always keeping the metal at the temperature he wants. Changing tools when needed to shape his piece, thinking ahead for what will be added to it later. He has decided what the piece will be. Quenching the piece, committing to it. Can’t be undone. Grinding. Slow work, to polish, to temper. Going back to the quenching would destroy what he had done. The final touch remains to be added. A neat piece of work, no wasted motion. A master’s piece. Fine stroking, better than steady. Doffing the apron makes him feel uncomfortable. It is the work that is important, the skill with metal, not the colour of a man’s eyes. The Blacksmith understands. He respects the care and the craft.
The reader can see deep into Perrin’s mind, how he tackles problems, how he deals with people. The blacksmithing provides a pleasant dose of realism, but could have been replaced by any of a dozen other actions. It is the character that matters most, and what the experience means to the character.
Writing Lessons:
Elevate mundane descriptions of the everyday by making them reveal more about your character.

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