Book; 9: Winter's Heart
Chapter; 1: Leaving the Prophet
Ebou Dar Caemlyn ??? Ghealdan 1 Ghealdan 2 Tar Valon
Mat Elayne Rand Perrin Faile Egwene
Thom Nynaeve Min Elyas Alliandre Rebel Aes Sedai
Julin Aviendha Berelain Morgase Egwene'sArmy
Olver Birgitte 'The Prophet'
The Seanchan Two Rivers army
As the relevant cast list slowly and inexorably builds to some kind of critical mass, I would like to take a moment to discuss just one group. Yes, as promised, it is time for the Seanchan. That's SHAWN-chan by the way, like Jackie's Irish little brother.
The Seanchan first showed up way back in book 2 where they received a darn good spanking from the scooby gang and fled across the sea to regroup. They returned in spectacular fashion at the end of book 7 by dropping a building on Mat. Even after a second, less decisive defeat in book 8 (which I finished in less than a week by the way) they now control Tarabon, Amadicia, Altara and most of Almoth Plain and Arad Doman. They are a force to be reckoned with, the only force on the planet that has so far been able to teach Rand a touch of humility. And they kinda get on my nerves.
The story goes that 1000 years ago, the High king of all Randland, Artur Hawkwing, sent his son Luthair with a great big army to conquer the lands across the Aryth Ocean. This took him, and his descendants, eight HUNDRED years. Frankly I would not be giving that boy his pocket money. Anyway, having done what Daddy said, they built an armada and turned their thoughts to going home, expecting to find the glorious Empire waiting for them with open arms. To their surprise, a lot seems to have changed over the last millennium. Declaring that everybody in Randland is an oathbreaker and a traitor, the only reasonable course of action was of course to invade.
Tarabon and Arad Doman put up little resistance as they were busy having civil wars and definitely seem to have improved under Seanchan rule. Other countries have been less willing but the coupling of a highly trained army and a ruthless bureaucracy has so far won out.
Obviously the new overlords have new laws for their subjects to remember. Whilst bowing to any Seanchan in the street and baldness being illegal are odd, they are a minor inconvenience compared to what they do if you can channel.
The power of the Seanchan throne is built on the Power of the damane, women who can channel, on leashes. The leash, known as an a'dam, controls a channelling woman making her no more than a complicated tool or a well trained animal. Which is exactly how the Seanchan see them. The controllers are known as sul'dam and are amongst the most respected and honoured people on the whole Seanchan Empire.
But there is a dirty secret behind all this power. Although the damane are treated like animals and the sul'dam like heroes, they can, in fact, both channel. Damane are women like Egwene, Elayne and Nynaeve who can channel whether someone teaches them or not, while the sul'dam are like Elayne's mother Morgase, they will never channel unless someone draws it out of them. If this became common knowledge it would destroy the Empire from the inside out, especially since the Empress herself (may she live forever) is know to be sul'dam. But no one seems to be able to come up with a way of spilling the beans. The few Seanchan who have discovered the truth have done everything in their power to cover it up and the war machine simply keeps chugging on, refusing to listen to reason.
But at least they get stuff done. An approach that has finally rubbed off on some of the other characters. With his megalomania given a kicking by the Seanchan boot, Rand has turned away from politics and is concentrating on more interesting things. And the plot moves on!