Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Crossroads of Twilight - Chapters 23-26

In this section, Rand reappears and makes the first of several fateful decisions to come
The title of the book, Crossroads of Twilight, implies a choice of roads, either of which could be leading toward darkness or light. Rand is the first character faced with a decision that involves major concessions on his part. Readers have already been warmed up for this since the Rebel Sitters voted to enter talks with the Black Tower, and Tarna has proposed a course of action that is anathema to other Red Ajah.
Cadsuane’s introductory paragraph describes a dividing line “The air in the room was just sufficiently warmer than outside…”, and uncertain outcomes “…to put a mist on the glass panes set in the red-painted casements, and the glass contained bubbles besides, but Cadsuane stood peering out as if she could see the dreary landscape clearly.” Descriptions of the farmers outside and the weather also act as metaphors for the situation she and Rand are in. It’s one of the more obvious uses of this technique in this book, which has had subtler than usual metaphors worked into the descriptive text. So subtle I often can’t tell if one is even there.
Cadsuane ponders everything she sees, perceptively picking up on many subtleties, and continuing to represent the Light itself. She still can’t figure Verin out completely, another clue that the Brown has some Shadowy motivations. Cadsuane tells Merise that however she decides to handle her Warder is probably right, implying that such matters are not affairs the Light mixes in. Cadsuane judges Nynaeve, who acts as Rand’s conscience, as a frivolous girl, full of passions, who only rarely demonstrated that she had a brain. Nynaeve is still wearing her angreal and ter’angreal, either to protect Rand or out of wariness of him. Cadsuane remains uncertain about whether saidin has been cleansed of the Dark One’s taint, trusting more to Merise’s bond with Narishma than to either of their own observations from linking with one of the men. She would have more faith if she had that bond herself, leading her to reflect once again on the wilder in the Black Hills who taught her that what must be endured, can be endured, and who may have given Cadsuane her collection of ter’angreal. Is that the same lesson Cadsuane must teach Rand? Since this reminder has come up, it seems likely to be so. She wonders at the affinity between Rand and Alivia, not knowing of Min’s viewing regarding her helping Rand to die. Rand himself is in a poor place, hardened, tired, and nearly disabled from the sickness caused by the taint.
As has so often been the case, Robert Jordan uses the sun to describe a character’s mood and situation: Midafternoon sunlight should have been slanting through the windows of Rand’s bedchamber, but a hard rain was falling outside, and all the lamps were lit to hold off a twilight darkness.
Rand too can almost see visions of his fellow ta’veren when he thinks of them. Other times an almost familiar face appears, accompanied by dizziness. Rand grasps saidin and we get the first description of clean saidin, for once not accompanied by a description of the taint. He has begun thinking of his weaves as webs, as Lews Therin does.
Logain has traveled to Rand’s hiding place, accompanied by several warders, Asha’man, Bashere’s men and Loial. Logain’s aura still speaks of glory to come.
Loial managed to have the majority of Waygates closed and guarded. This isn’t quite attacking the Shadow’s supply lines, but it is the only defense humanity has put up as of yet.
Rand and Cadsuane learn about the bonded Aes Sedai with Logain. It was a very nice and unexpected twist to have the Aes Sedai become the Warder. Rand worries that the Tower will want to balance things by asking to bond Asha’man, a suggestion Tarna has already brought up and Cadsuane has independently decided should be done.
Logain warns about Taim’s influence on the Asha’man, and the orders he gives which supposedly come from Rand. Rand is irritated that Logain isn’t thankful for the cleansing he performed. Rand gets philosophical about the Creator, thinking “A gardener did not weep for each blossom that fell.” He is trying to convince himself that is true.
Rand puts the Black Tower to the side, and broods upon the attempts to acquire the seals on the Dark One’s prison. He can’t fight the Shadow and Seanchan at the same time, so he sends Logain, Bashere and Loial to arrange a truce with the Seanchan.
His decision is based on recent conversations with Alivia, but also on his failed attempt to stop the Seanchan from invading Illian. He set them back for a few months, but their way is to learn and adapt and overcome. A useful trait to have on his side, if he can get it. Making a truce with an enemy to fight a greater enemy is the choice that each character will have to make in the lead-up to the Last Battle.
Perrin needs food for his troops, so he is setting off to the walled town of So Habor. While this is a realistic problem a commander might face, it is also mundane, making it likely readers will find it uninteresting as a focal point of the story. As it happens, the town of So Habor is one of the most interesting locales in the book, which is unfortunately a poor reflection on the rest of the book.
His first view of the area is abandoned fields and seemingly uninhabited houses. Empty. Men manning the town’s walls are filthy and unkempt. They ask how they can tell whether Perrin is alive. It seems a foolish question but it points to the moral turmoil from which he is suffering. We don’t get an immediate answer to what happened in the town, but the consequences are plain enough. Fear, living in filth, distrust. Perrin sees that the clean grain samples are kept in sealed jars, with well-cut threaded lids.  Their best is kept hidden away unless they need to show it off to someone. He demands to see the rest of the grain. It is heavily contaminated with vermin, crawling with weevils. Each sack is almost half weevil, half grain. The grain can only be cleaned by sifting through it carefully, winnowing out the insects. It is a metaphor for Perrin’s fate. He is at the halfway point, like a sack of grain, teetering towards being devoured by the weevils, needing to be winnowed to preserve the grain. He judges that ghosts and weevils don’t explain all that is wrong with the people of So Habor; they have simply given up, and in doing so the badness has been allowed to fester and grow inside them as it has consumed their warehouses. It’s all explained away as the Dark One’s touch, but the scene was placed here to show a possible fate for Perrin. So Habor serves a similar purpose as Shadar Logoth did in The Eye of the World.
Writing Lessons:
Location, weather, events, behaviour: anything can be used as a metaphor.
Mundane problems make a mundane story.

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