Friday, 8 June 2012

A Crown of Swords - Chapters 14-17

In this section, all the players are introduced in Ebou Dar
Throughout the Ebou Dar sections, there are a number of players: Mat, Elayne, Nynaeve, Thom, Juilin, Olver, Nalesean, Vanin, Aviendha, Merilille, Sareitha, Careane, Adeleas, Vandene, Joline, Teslyn, Tylin, Beslan, Setalle, Jaichim, Shiaine, Old Cully, Sammael, Falion, Ispan, Nesta, Malin, Dorile and a gholam. These players move about interacting with each other to bring the search for the Bowl of the Winds to its conclusion.
We’ve already seen that Elayne, Nynaeve and Aviendha have begun preparing for the day they find the Bowl of the Winds by entering into a bargain with Sea Folk. In stories you will often see parallel tasks being carried out by different people, but less often will you see characters multi-tasking the different steps needed and preparing for future events ahead of time. In this case it allows later events to take place rapidly. The Sea Folk can simply be summoned and show up when needed.
The first piece to fall into place is the suggestion that Mat can be used to help find the Bowl of the Winds. Being ta’veren, he has already established the needed relationships with Setalle that will lead to its hiding place. We are re-introduced to Mat doing all the things that Nynaeve can’t stand: gambling, ogling, drinking, swearing. Mat’s behaviour and Nyaneve’s low tolerance for it are presented as the major obstacle. This is a switch from the physical obstacle of searching the Rahad which has proven insurmountable so far. By shifting the obstacle to one of character traits, the reader will be more involved in their interactions, and have a more rewarding reading experience.
Mat’s involvement draws the villains in. Mat recognizes Shiaine, who visits Jaichim, who in turn recognizes Mat from the secret orders placed in his mind by Ishamael. Jaichim feels a need to kill Mat, but the mere suggestion is dismissed by Sammael who can’t afford to let Rand get wind what he is up to. Sammael gives explicit orders not to touch Mat unless it turns out Mat is there looking for Sammael or acting against him in some way. Jaichim now has contradicting orders from two Forsaken, and the fact that one of them is dead does not make Jaichim any safer from the consequences of not carrying out his orders to kill Rand and his allies. No one survives disobedience, but Jaichim skirts as close as he can, ignoring Sammael’s orders to find the cache and setting Shiaine to kidnap Mat. Jaichim serves many masters, but none more important than himself.
Sammael sends a helper to get rid of any Aes Sedai impeding the search: the gholam who tore Herid Fel apart. Meanwhile, a pair of Black Ajah working on Moghedien’s orders to find the cache come close to a clue by interrogating a Wise Woman. Despite the fact that Moghedien is probably dead, they dare not stop what they are doing.
 The stage is now set for all of these players in the main plotline to race towards the same objective, coming closer and closer to an eventual confrontation.
Mat needs to tell the women about his discovery. In the Tarasin Palace he bumps into every Aes Sedai except the ones he is looking for. Mat’s nature is to be contrary. He will do an aboutface on an action that was important to put Nynaeve in her place a moment ago in order to put off someone else now. He acts purely in the moment, on impulse and instinct, changing his opinions entirely on the whim of the moment. Mat’s opinions are made clear in a sentence where the substitution of a noun provides humour, feeling and tension: The two groups stared at one another as if trying to see who could out-Aes Sedai who. Mat next meets Tylin and Beslan, who will be willing to help in any way they can, now that Mat is a close friend of the family. Once again the ta’veren provides what is needed before it is known what is needed. Beslan acts much like Mat, living for the moment, yet Mat immediately sees himself as the reasonable one, as always in order to try avoid doing anything against his will.
 Teslyn is sharp and prepared, either hearing Mat was in the palace and seeking him out to place a note in his pocket, or carrying one around for the eventual moment she would meet him. By telling Joline she acts like a child, she manipulates Joline into resisting Elaida’s orders. She is as contrary as Mat. The secondary plot of trying to capture Elayne and Nynaeve is established. A second group is also trying to nab the women. The Black Ajah are ready to put aside their search and try for Moghedien’s hated enemies instead, also shifting from a physical obstacle to one based on character and relationships.
Now the remaining players will be drawn towards those participating in the main plotline.
The attempts on Mat begin, and the first cluster of Darkfriends falls. Mat is unobservant about their purpose, but when a second group led by Old Cully falls, he puts two and two together, in a fashion.
The first of several mystery characters shows up. An old man with memory gaps observes the comings and goings of the Black Ajah. It is not obvious that he is under Compulsion and is spying for Graendal. He also doesn’t show up again, so readers are left to wonder why he appears at all. It does set a precedent for the later mystery characters who show up spying on Sammael and helping Rand, so their appearance will not feel as contrived.
Writing Lessons:
Obstacles related to character and personality are more interesting than physical obstacles.

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