Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Crossroads of Twilight - Chapters 13-14

In this section, much happens, but Elayne accomplishes little.
These are the fourth and fifth chapters in this book dedicated to Elayne and Caemlyn. Elayne reminds her friends that she has to take the long view. Even if she is trying to gain the throne, she cannot set aside the work that needs to be done to prepare the queendom for the Last Battle. Her goal is not simply to win the contest for the throne, but to win the support of the Andoran people for the long term. She makes several seemingly minor decisions throughout this section, none of which have any immediate consequences, but they may have delayed consequences that she will not know the result of until much later, when it is too late to change them. In a typical Mat sequence, the result of his gamble is immediately known, while in Elayne’s version, the dice are thrown and it may be a book or two later before we know how the dice have landed. While this makes sense in the political arena, a delayed payoff creates an expectation that the payoff will be that much more rewarding when it finally comes.
Elayne receives the support of four High Seats, though in truth Dyelin did the legwork and they are siding with Elayne because of loyalty to her mother, or antipathy towards the other claimants. So far, Elayne’s actions or character has not proven particularly relevant in her budding support.
The High Seats are young, naïve, and simplistic. But there is agreement that they are good material to be shaped, some having had good training, others being perceptive, and others being amenable to guidance from Elayne and Dyelin. I cannot escape the perception that Elayne as Queen is meant to embody the Light itself, and many of the judgments she passes on the individual Andorans she meets seem like the Creator choosing out who pleases him best.
Elayne’s two most important servants, the First Clerk and the First Maid, give her reports on the state of affairs in the Palace and the city. They discuss spies in the Palace, which Elayne is pragmatic about. They develop a strategy to counteract the attempted arsons in the city. Most troubling is a report that Arymilla has borrowed so much money from the banks that their only hope of seeing repayment may be to help her to the throne so she can receive enough income to make good on the debts. Other High Seats have vanished, and it is unknown whether they have settled in for the winter or are marching towards Caemlyn, their allegiance yet unknown.
Elayne is subjected to a weave to check the health of her babies, for she learns she has two. A thought is spared for Rand before she begins to fret over the difficulties if they are twin girls, which would present all manner of difficulties for the Succession. True to character.
Merilille has fled with a Sea Folk apprentice, creating another headache for Elayne. It may be that those moments spent in the dressing room or bathing are the only moments when she can be herself and not encumbered by her quest to gain the throne. She keeps many different plates spinning, coming back to each one ever so briefly, but she doesn’t actually get much done. At the end of these five chapters, I’m hard pressed to say what she has accomplished, despite the many things that have happened in her favour or against it. If Elayne is acting as a symbol for the Creator, then not taking a direct hand is appropriate. But even so, failing to do things is a sin that readers do not easily forgive.
Writing Lessons:
Delaying the payoff creates an expectation of a bigger and better payoff.

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