The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: The Shadow Rising, Part 18

Hi, y’all! Welcome back to another Wheel of Time Re-read post! Today we are covering Chapters 49-51. Getting down to the wire here on The Shadow Rising, kids!

I’m glad everyone liked my crappy haikus! Unfortunately I’m on about two hours’ sleep right now so this intro will not be nearly as interesting. Them’s the breaks, eh?

Previous entries can be found here. There are spoilers everywhere, but you should know that by now.

And I got nothing else interesting to say, introductorially. Perhaps you should clink a link and read on, huzzah?

Chapter 49: Cold Rocks Hold

What Happens
Rand looks around, but doesn’t see anything different in the landscape to indicate they have arrived. He asks where it is, and Aviendha looks at him like he’s crazy. Rhuarc tells him he will see, and heads toward a fissure in the rocks ahead. The Jindo follow him, as do the Wise Ones’ group, and the Shaido begin setting up camp. Rand offers a hand up to Aviendha, saying that he needs to be able to hear her if she’s going to keep him from making a mistake. She hesitates, glancing at the Maidens, but then allows him to pull her up, hanging on with a squawk as he heels his horse into a gallop to catch up. Rand is surprised to see Couladin in the group with Rhuarc, Heirn, and Amys, and more puzzled when the man looks at him with amusement as well as contempt. Mat gallops up, and asks what this place is.

Rand told him, and he frowned at the towering rock face of the butte. “You could hold that thing for years, I suppose, with supplies, but it isn’t a patch on the Stone, or the Tora Harad.”

“The Tora what?” Rand said.

Mat rolled his shoulders before answering. “Just something I heard of, once.”

Mat is not pleased to hear that the peddlers are unlikely to be leaving soon, with all the clans coming. The party heads into the fissure, which soon widens into a vast canyon which contains the strangest town Rand’s ever seen; the Aiel with him all break into ululating cries and bang pots and spears to announce their arrival. They make their way to the end of the canyon where a large flat-topped boulder is situated. Amys has run ahead, and when Rand and the others reach the boulder she is standing there with Lian, the roofmistress of Cold Rocks Hold.

The wavering, high-pitched cries dwindled away to nothing as Rhuarc halted before the boulder, a step closer than Heirn and Couladin. “I ask leave enter your hold, roofmistress,” he announced in a loud, carrying tone.

She gives it, adding warmly that Rhuarc will always be welcome. Heirn steps forward and asks leave to come beneath her roof, which she also grants. Then Couladin swaggers forward and asks leave to enter Lian’s hold, at which she frowns, and a buzz of shocked murmurs rise from the surrounding Aiel. Rand asks Aviendha quietly what’s wrong, and she replies in disbelief that Couladin asked permission as a clan chief, and if Lian refuses him for the insult, it will cause trouble with the Shaido. She berates Rand for not listening to her, and tells him that it is Lian’s right to refuse anyone, even He Who Comes With the Dawn, because women here are not powerless like wetlander women. Rand shakes his head, amused, and tells her he’d like her to explain to the Women’s Circle in Emond’s Field one day how powerless they are.

“You have my leave,” Lian began—Couladin smiled, swelling up where he stood—”to step beneath my roof. Water and shade will be found for you.” Soft gasps from hundreds of mouths made quite a loud sound.

Couladin is infuriated, and storms back into the crowd, clutching his forearms. Aviendha explains softly that Lian has welcomed him as she would a beggar, and so insulted him deeply without insulting the Shaido. Then she fists him in the ribs and tells him it’s his turn, and he’d better not dishonor her teaching. Rand dismounts and walks up beside Rhuarc; he bows, even though none of the other men had, and asks leave to come beneath Lian’s roof. Then he hears Aviendha’s breath catch, and realizes he was supposed to say the other thing, but Lian stares at him a moment and then remarks that such modesty is becoming in a man. She curtsies awkwardly to him, in return for his bow.

“The Car’a’carn has leave to enter my hold. For the chief of chiefs, there is ever water and shade at Cold Rocks.”

Couladin stares at Rand with hatred and stalks off; Mat tells Rand he’d better watch his back with that one, but Rand replies that Couladin isn’t the one he needs to worry about.

Moiraine to one side and Lanfear to the other. How could I have more danger than that? It was nearly enough to make him laugh.

Rhuarc puts an arm each around Lian and Amys and tells Rand he met his wife Amys, and now he must meet his wife Lian. Rand’s mouth drops open, and Mat splutters incredulously. Rhuarc frowns and says he thought Aviendha was teaching Rand Aiel ways; Amys comments dryly that likely she’s been teaching him Maiden hand talk or similarly useless things. Rand quickly sticks up for Aviendha, and says he would like her to continue as his teacher, and then wonders why he said that. Aviendha starts to say something, but Amys stares her down, and she shuts her mouth. Lian warmly invites Rand and Mat to come and get food and rest. At her house, Rand and Mat are joined by Lan, Moiraine, Egwene and the other Wise Ones, and Lian is deeply respectful to Moiraine and Egwene; Rand remembers that Lian has not been to Rhuidean and so only knows the general legend that the Aiel had failed the Aes Sedai. He notes that she refuses to accept a guest gift from Moiraine as too great an honor, but did not hesitate to accept his, which tells him something about the relative importance of the Car’a’carn and an Aes Sedai. Moiraine comments that the Three-fold Land will surely see more Aes Sedai now, which does not please the Wise Ones at all. As they eat, Rand watches Lian and Amys, who smile at each other as much as they do at Rhuarc, and catches himself thinking that he couldn’t see Elayne and Min agreeing to such an arrangement, and decides the sun has cooked his brains. Aviendha spends the meal explaining every last thing to him in excruciating detail with clenched teeth. Rand says to her quietly that he doesn’t know what he’s done to her, but if she does not want to teach him he’s sure someone else could be found. Aviendha grits backs that he has done nothing to him, nor ever will, and continues right on with her lecture. Mat looks deeply grateful to not be involved, and Rand thinks maybe a bribe would help. Finally Bair gives Aviendha a look that shuts her up, and Rhuarc tells Rand that two clan chiefs, Jheran of the Shaarad and Bael of the Goshien, have already arrived at Alcair Dal, and Erim of the Chareen is on his way. Rand confirms with Rhuarc that the Shaarad and Goshien have blood feud, and wonders if maybe gathering all the clans together is not a recipe for disaster, after the way the Shaido behaved at Rhuidean; maybe he should go on ahead to Alcair Dal. Melaine and Bair speak up sharply for their respective clans, and declare they are not like the Shaido.

“None of which answers Rand al’Thor’s question,” Rhuarc said. “If you go to Alcair Dal before all of the chiefs arrive, those who have not come yet will lose honor. It is not a good way to announce that you are Car’a’carn, dishonoring men you will call to follow you. The Nakai have furthest to come. A month, and all will be at Alcair Dal.”

Seana puts in that it will be less, as Bruan intends to run the whole way. Rand thinks it is too long, but there was no choice, and ruefully muses that it’s not like the stories where everything goes the way the hero wants it, even with ta’veren influence. He asks Rhuarc how many will resist him.

“I cannot be sure in it,” the clan chief replied around his pipestem. “When you show the Dragons, they will know you. There is no way to imitate the Dragons of Rhuidean.” Had Moiraine’s eyes flickered?

Rhuarc is sure of Bruan and Dhearic of the Reyn, but says the Shaido are certain to make trouble, either from Couladin or from Sevanna, the widow of the previous clan chief. He thinks most of the others will follow, but there is no way to be sure. He asks again if Rand will not consider wearing Aiel clothing, and Rand answers that he will not be a pretend Aiel, and the Dragons on his arms will have to be enough. Moiraine suddenly asks where he intends to “lead the spears to war once more”.

Rand’s fists tightened convulsively, till his knuckles cracked. Trying to be clever with her was dangerous; he should have learned that long since. She remembered every word that she heard, filed it away, sorted and examined until she knew just what it meant.

Mat and Egwene watch him worriedly, but the Aiel do not look perturbed. Rand asks to be excused, and walks out.

First mention of Sevanna AAARRRGGGHHH *throws things*

Ahem! Sorry.

The nuances of Aiel culture are hell to recap (I skipped a lot of it for sanity’s sake) but great fun to read about. This may come off as slightly insulting, but it’s fascinating to me in the same way as reading about ancient Japanese culture was in Shogun. And actually there are more than a few similarities between the two, as I am hardly the first to note: Ji’e’toh is pretty clearly based on both the Bushido code of the samurai era, and the more modern concepts of on and giri (or perhaps it is giri and ninjo; I freely admit that my understanding of Japanese culture is less than stellar). In my opinion it is a credit to Jordan’s worldbuilding abilities that his invented culture gives off such an aura of implied (and actual) complexity that it can be favorably compared with many real ones.

With the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear here that Couladin has already received the counterfeit Dragons on his arms, courtesy of Natael/Asmodean (and wouldn’t I love to have seen how that conversation went), but I am a tad unsure here (because I don’t really remember in detail what happens next, and have not read ahead to confirm) whether Lanfear has any clue that that’s what Asmodean has been up to in the Shaido camp. I think not, based on her behavior in the next chapter, but we’ll see.

On the Aiel polygamy thing: okay, I admit it, I’m curious. Do the sister-wives have sex with each other, or not? Jordan, of course, is very FCC-compliant in his fiction, and so never says one way or the other outright, because that would be Dirty (*rolls eyes*), but it’s a legitimate question. My own theory, based on little more than how I think this ought to be, is that it’s probably a matter of personal preference. Although, I do think I am backed up by my general impression of Aiel mores concerning sexual/romantic relations, which is that the genders of the people involved are a secondary concern, of less importance than insuring the familial stability of beneficial relationships.

*reads last sentence again* Or something similar that makes actual sense. Anyway, I think, therefore, that the sister-wives thing can be either a “friends stick together” thing, or a “friends with benefits” thing, but not necessarily both.

Lian and Amys and Rhuarc, though, are totally having crazy threesome action. Because I Said So.

Chapter 50: Traps

What Happens
Rand heads toward the canyon mouth, wishing that he could trust Moiraine not to hand him to the Tower on a leash. He watches the Aiel going about their daily lives, and notes that most of them watch him with an air of speculation. He reaches the peddlers’ wagons, where Rand is surprised to see that Natael is back from the Shaido camp; Keille is busy bargaining, but pauses to frown at Natael frequently. Rand skirts the wagons and finds the Roof of the Maidens in Cold Rocks. The guards at the door refuse to let him in, scandalized that he would ask, but agree to carry a request in to Adelin. All the other Maidens gather around to watch, grinning, as he goes through the items Adelin has brought him, and picks out an ivory bracelet carved with roses and thorns, which he thinks is fitting for Aviendha. When he tells Adelin who it is for, all the Maidens stop smiling, and Adelin tells him she will take no price for the bracelet.

“Is this wrong?” he asked. How would Aiel see it? “I don’t want to dishonor Aviendha in any way.”

“It will not dishonor her.” She beckoned a gai’shain woman carrying pottery cups and pitcher on a silver tray. Pouring two cups, she handed one to him. “Remember honor,” she said, sipping from his cup.

Uncertain, he copies her, and to his surprise she kisses him on either cheek. Then he has to repeat the ceremony with every Maiden there, which takes quite a while. He finally escapes and finds Aviendha beating carpets outside Lian’s house. When he gives her the bracelet, telling her it is a gift for teaching him, she stares at him expressionlessly, and says that she has never worn a thing that would rattle and give her away before. Rand says, but she can wear it now that she is to be a Wise One. She agrees flatly, and puts on the bracelet. He asks again if it is a dishonor, and explains to her about Adelin and the tea-sipping ceremony. She shudders, and explains they think he is trying to attract her interest, and have approved as if Aviendha were still a Maiden. Rand is dismayed, and starts to say he will set them straight, but she cuts him off furiously and tells him that would dishonor her; they must think as they will now.

With a glance at the bracelet, she added, “You truly know nothing, do you? You know nothing. It is not your fault.” She seemed to be repeating something she had been told, or trying to convince herself. “I am sorry if I ruined your meal, Rand al’Thor. Please go.”

Rand suspects the apology was on orders, but thinks that she sounds sincere, and hopes maybe she will grow more civil to him soon. He enters Lian’s house, where the Wise Ones are talking, and asks Amys if she ordered Aviendha to apologize to him, but Amys says a forced apology is no apology, and would not have done so. Rand tells them that he knows Aviendha is their spy, and Melaine admits that they had thought he might not see beyond a pretty young woman, but they had not reckoned on her tongue, among other things. Rand demands to know why they want her to stay with him then, now that the jig is up, and Amys ripostes, asking why he lets her stay. Rand replies that at least this way he knows who the spy is. Bair says, then everyone is satisfied.

“She will not find out what you want.”

“What we want?” Melaine snapped; her long hair swung as she tossed her head. “The prophecy says ‘a remnant of a remnant shall be saved.’ What we want, Rand al’Thor, Car’a’carn, is to save as many of our people as we can. Whatever your blood, and your face, you have no feeling for us. I will make you know our blood for yours if I have to lay the—”

Amys cuts her off and tells a gai’shain to show Rand to his room. He goes, wondering what Melaine’s last words had meant, and mocking himself for wondering if she had meant a trap. He scandalizes the gai’shain woman by asking for wash water; then she scandalizes him by offering to wash him. He drifts off thinking about traps, and dreams that he is swimming in a pond in the Two Rivers. Min and Elayne jump in with him, landing on either side.

Two strokes would take him to either woman. Away from the other. He could not love both of them. Love? Why had that popped into his head?

“You do not know who you love.”

He turns to see Aviendha on the back, dressed as a Maiden. He invites her in to the water, and is interrupted by a laugh from the other side of the pond. He sees a beautiful naked woman there, and thinks that he knows her. She asks if she should allow him to be unfaithful to her even in his dreams, and he knows that Min, Elayne and Aviendha are gone. She dives in and swims to him, embracing him tightly. She tells him she will make sure he never forgets this; he says slowly that he knows her, and this isn’t right. He tries to pull away, but she holds him fast.

“I ought to mark you.” There was a fierce edge in her voice. “First that milk-hearted Ilyena and now… How many women do you hold in your thoughts?” Suddenly her small white teeth burrowed at his neck.

Bellowing, he hurled her away and slapped a hand to his neck. She had broken the skin; he was bleeding.

“Is this how you amuse yourself when I wonder where you have gone?” a man’s voice said contemptuously. “Why should I hold to anything when you risk our plan this way?”

Suddenly the woman is back on the back, clothed in silver and white, talking to a man-sized blur. She sneers that he is as bad as Moghedien, creeping about like the Spider and hiding. The blur asks why should he associate with her if she cannot control her appetites? If he is to take risks, it should be for more than “pulling strings on a puppet”. Dangerously, she asks what he means, and Rand somehow senses that the blur is unnerved by her anger; then it vanishes, and the woman gives Rand an irritated look and disappears as well. Rand wakes, and feels the tooth marks still on his neck.

Lanfear. He had not dreamed her. And that other; a man. A cold smile crept onto his face. Traps all around. Traps for unwary feet. Have to watch where I step, now. So many traps. Everybody was laying them.

Suddenly he realizes he is not alone in the room, and instantly seizes saidin and leaps to his feet, channeling all the lamps alight and wrapping the intruder in Air. Then he sees it is Aviendha, and releases the flows binding her immediately. She scrambles up, and shakily says she doesn’t think she will ever get used to that from a man. Rand snaps at her that she’d better get used to it, and demands to know why she is here. Aviendha says that the Wise Ones are watching him “from outside”, and then trails off, but Rand abruptly gets it, and realizes they have been spying on his dreams, and asks harshly how long. Aviendha says she was not supposed to tell him, and Seana said something about it being too dangerous tonight, which is why they are taking turns watching the door. He says that still doesn’t answer his question, and Aviendha starts saying something about not being able to protect him without a spear, but then Rand realizes he feels something wrong in the air, and brings up his fire sword. He creeps into the outer room, Aviendha following with bared knife, and finds a Draghkar feeding on a gai’shain. The Draghkar tries to hypnotize him, but Rand, wrapped in the Void, walks up to it and slices its head in two. Aviendha checks the gai’shain and says she is dead, and then throws herself flat as Rand sends a bar of fire over her head, to kill the second Draghkar in the doorway. He tells her to rouse the spears. She obeys, and he goes outside to find Seana dead in the garden. Pandemonium breaks out in the canyon as Trollocs attack; Mat and Rhuarc run up, and Rhuarc hands Rand a shoufa. Rand starts to put it on, and then laughs and says to let them see his face, and runs toward the fighting.

Mat kills another Trolloc and curses Rand for getting him into this again. A Maiden stops beside him and compliments his spear work, calling him “gambler”, and comments that the Trollocs might have forced a way in were it not for the Aes Sedai.

“There weren’t enough for that,” he said without thinking. “They were meant to pull attention here.” So those Draghkar would have a free hand to reach Rand?

“I think you are right,” she said slowly. “Are you a battle leader among the wetlanders?”

He wished he had kept his mouth shut. “I read a book once,” he muttered, turning away. Bloody pieces of other men’s bloody memories. Maybe the peddlers would be ready to leave after this.

He stops by the wagons and find Isendre there. He tells her she’s safe now, making sure to lean on his spear so she would see it, but she turns without a word and goes inside the wagon, slamming the door. Mat stalks off, vowing to go back to bed, and runs into Rand and Aviendha; both are expressionless, and Mat thinks they deserve each other. Moiraine enters the circle of light cast by Rand’s sword and tells him the Draghkar were surely meant for him this time; he replies calmly that he knows.

Moiraine’s lips compressed, and her hands were too still on her skirts; she was not best pleased. “Prophecy is most dangerous when you try to make it happen. Did you not learn that in Tear? The Pattern weaves itself around you, but when you try to weave it, even you cannot hold it. Force the Pattern too tight, and pressure builds. It can explode wildly in every direction. Who can say how long before it settles to focus on you again, or what will happen before it does?”

Rand says dryly that it makes as much sense as any of her explanations, and asks what she wants. She replies that she wants him to confide in her, or does he think he’s learned everything he needs to know after one year away from his village? Rand replies that he will confide in her if she says plainly and clearly that she won’t try to hinder him, and won’t try to use him for the Tower’s ends. She replies that she will do nothing to hinder him fulfilling his destiny, but she will not watch him lay his head on a chopping block. He tells her that’s not good enough, and in any case he wouldn’t confide in her here. He adds that even dreams have ears, and Mat notices that Aviendha hunches a bit. Rhuarc approaches and tells Rand it will likely be Gray Men next, and he wants to put guards around Rand at all times; for some reason, the Maidens have volunteered. Rand agrees, sounding a bit uneasy, and Aviendha hunches even further. Mat asks about the Shaido, and whether it would be better to have them inside in case of another attack, but Rhuarc says he wouldn’t bring a thousand Shaido inside Cold Rocks even if Grassburner were coming, but in any case, the Shaido have already left. Rand asks which way they went, and Rhuarc says north; no doubt Couladin means to meet Sevanna on the way and influence her against Rand.

“I mean to go to Alcair Dal,” Rand said firmly. “Now. I will apologize to any chief who feels dishonored by coming late, but I’ll not let Couladin be there any longer before me than I can manage. He won’t stop at turning Sevanna against me, Rhuarc. I cannot afford to hand him a month for it.”

Rhuarc pauses, and then says maybe he is right. He says they will leave at sunrise, but Rand counters that they must be on their way before first light; there are no customs to cover him. Rhuarc is taken aback, and Rand asks Mat if he is coming.

He certainly did not intend to let the peddlers get away from him, not his way out of the Waste. “Oh, I am right behind you, Rand.” The worst of it was, it felt right saying that. Bloody ta’veren tugging at me! How had Perrin pulled free? Light, I wish I was with him right now.

Mat stalks off to get a little sleep, leaving Rand chuckling behind him.

And the metaphorical-if-not-actual sexual shenanigans continue! Interesting that Rand’s love quadrangle is explicated in a chapter named “Traps”. Coincidence? Okay, probably. But still.

Lanfear’s obligatory Crazy aside, I can’t decide what I think in general about Rand’s Three Women Thing. There is the obvious inclination to think it’s kind of prurient and heh-heh-heh, but then again I will say that Rand’s feelings for all three of them are never portrayed that way. I’m not sure that makes it okay, but it at least makes it easier to swallow.

Someone (I’m sorry that I don’t have the moral fortitude to go find out who) brought up in the comments the very astute observation that “fated to be in love” is not necessarily much more fun a destiny than “fated to die to save the world”, when you really look at it, since from that perspective you’re stuck with the person in question whether you’re actually compatible with them or not. So I suppose it’s a matter of opinion whether Jordan meant the romance between Rand and Min/Elayne/Aviendha to be something that could have believably developed on its own, or if it is prophetically determined for some practical future-event-enabling thing. I guess we’ll find out?

Lanfear and Asmodean: Asmodean is portrayed overall as the weakest of the Forsaken, not necessarily in terms of strength in the Power (though that might be the case too for all I know), but in the sense of being cowardly and unambitious; he just wants to play his guitar harp, maaaan. But I say it takes a certain bravery to stand up to the utter Crazy that is Lanfear, and not only that, but to sneak around behind her back while they’re practically living on top of each other. I mean, yeah, that’s about to backfire on him horribly, but hey. Points for trying, Asmo!

On the Wise Ones: I sympathize with their problem here, that this unknown outsider boy is responsible for the survival or extinction of their entire culture, but nevertheless I find the notion of spying on someone’s dreams to be unethical in the extreme. If I were in Rand’s shoes I would be livid. That is so not cool, y’all.

Also, was Melaine seriously thinking that if she proposed to Rand he would actually accept? Because, you know, no.

Mat: in general I love his progression toward being a Great Battle Leader, but the quote above with the Maiden talking to him has always struck me as a massive clunker of an exchange. One of the few, fortunately, but, yeah. I mean, come on: I ain’t no strategist, but observing there were too few Trollocs to put up a real fight is hardly planning Waterloo; it certainly did not merit that kind of response from the Maiden, if you ask me.

Of course, if the nameless Maiden here is actually future would-be assassin Darkfriend Melindhra, all bets are off. So there’s that.

Moiraine: getting desperate, are we? Nicely done, on Jordan’s part I mean. She is calm and still and all, but you can tell she is about to freak the hell out on Rand at any moment. And I know she can’t lie, but even so, am I the only one that thinks the exploding Pattern quote sounds like bullshit?

Chapter 51: Revelations in Tanchico

What Happens
Egeanin, Elayne, and Nynaeve are trying to eat a traditional Domani meal with eating sticks called sursa, with little success. Egeanin asks Rendra why she is serving the cuisine of Tarabon’s enemy, and Rendra replies it is the fashion, and not a good idea to go against it. Elayne asks if she really thinks there would be riots over what food inns are serving, and Rendra replies that with the mood in the city the way it is, there’s no telling what would set the mob off. Egeanin growls about “no order”, and Rendra laughs and says she remembers what order is; perhaps they will have it again some day. Then she grins and remarks that forks and spoons are under the napkins, and leaves; Nynaeve and Egeanin grin at each other and dive for the utensils, but Elayne beats them both. Elayne has been greatly enjoying Egeanin’s company for the past week, and admires her forthright manner, but wishes they had not been mired up in the inn so often for Egeanin to find; the near constant riots since Amathera’s investiture had kept them inside, and Thom’s promised carriage had been suspiciously slow in arriving. Nynaeve asks Egeanin what questions she has today; Egeanin frowns and begins to bring up the women she knows they are looking for, but is interrupted by Bayle Domon, who strides in to say he has found them, but cuts himself off when he sees Egeanin. He says, “You!”, and to Elayne’s shock Egeanin leaps up and attacks him. Domon throws her down, and Elayne immobilizes them both with Air and demands to know what is going on. Domon growls that Egeanin is Seanchan. Nynaeve and Elayne exchange shocked looks, but Egeanin does not deny it, and Elayne lets them both up.

“Seanchan,” Nynaeve growled. She clutched a fistful of her long braids, then gave her hand an odd stare and let go, but her brows were still furrowed and her eyes hard. “Seanchan! Worming your way into our friendship. I thought you had all gone back where you came from. Why are you here, Egeanin? Was our meeting really an accident? Why did you seek us out? Did you mean to lure us somewhere your filthy sul’dam could lock their leashes around our throats?” Egeanin’s blue eyes widened fractionally. “Oh, yes,” Nynaeve told her sharply. “We know about you Seanchan and your sul’dam and damane. We know more than you. You chain women who channel, but those you use to control them can channel too, Egeanin. For every woman who can channel that you’ve leashed like an animal, you walk by another ten or twenty every day without realizing it.”

Egeanin replies that she knows, to Nynaeve’s surprise; she reasoned it out. She and Domon half-flirtatiously compliment each other on their fighting skills, and Elayne tries to reconcile this new knowledge with the fact that she likes Egeanin. Nynaeve seems to be having no such difficulty, and snarls to Egeanin that she need not think she will collar them. Egeanin replies that she has no such intention, but only wanted to learn from them, and admits that she likes them, much to her own surprise. She explains that she was sent back to find the sul’dam that had been left behind after Falme, and by accident had discovered that the a’dam would hold the one she found, but adds that she let the woman go last night.

“I will pay dearly if that is ever discovered, but after talking with you, I could not…” Grimacing, she shook her head. “That is why I stayed with you after Elayne revealed herself. I knew Bethamin was a sul’dam. To discover the a’dam held her, that she could… I had to know, to understand, about women who could channel.”

She asks what they intend to do with her. Nynaeve hesitates, and changes the subject, asking Domon if he really had found them. Domon doesn’t answer, staring meaningfully at Egeanin, and Elayne says she doesn’t think Egeanin is a Darkfriend, to which Egeanin chimes in angrily that she certainly is not. Domon is doubtful, but tells them that two of the women they described are at the Panarch’s Palace. Nynaeve is skeptical, considering that the Whitecloaks occupy the Palace at the moment, but Domon is certain. Juilin enters, sporting fresh wounds, and asks to speak to Nynaeve alone, but Nynaeve says she supposes he’s found the women at the Palace too, and Juilin shoots Domon a dirty look before confirming that he had seen Jeaine Caide from a distance, who surely had to be the only Domani woman in all of Tarabon at the moment. Domon and Juilin snipe at each other for a moment, ignoring Elayne’s attempts to say they had both helped, and then Thom enters; he is quite disgruntled to learn that he’s been beaten to the punch regarding the Black Ajah’s whereabouts, though Elayne makes it sound like she and Nynaeve had found it out. Nynaeve casually tells Thom and Juilin that Egeanin is Seanchan, and then ignores their protests, making them all sit down to eat while they decide what to do. Thom remarks that the problem is deciding whether Amathera is ally, dupe, or captive of the Black Ajah, and Juilin counters that the real problem is how to reach her whatever her situation is. They discuss the problem through the meal, with Thom and Domon surprisingly supporting Egeanin’s contributions over Nynaeve’s objections. They finally decide they need more information, though Nynaeve has to wrap the men up in Air to convince them it’s okay to leave her and Elayne alone with a Seanchan.

“You keep a taut crew,” Egeanin said as soon as the door closed behind them.

“Be quiet, Seanchan!” Nynaeve folded her arms tightly; she seemed to have given up trying to pull at those braids when she was angry. “Sit down, and—be—quiet!”

They wait, Nynaeve pacing angrily. Thom comes back to report several times, ignoring Elayne’s pleas that he stay behind over his added wounds. The day goes by, with the men only turning up false leads while riots grow and fade outside, until Nynaeve confronts the three of them and tells them to give up for now, ignoring their protests. She and Elayne arrange for a pallet to be set up in their room for Egeanin, who submits calmly to being searched for weapons; Elayne objects when Nynaeve insists she be bound with the Power, but Nynaeve retorts angrily that she is Seanchan, and Elayne acquiesces. Nynaeve takes the dream ring and tells Elayne to wake her in an hour. After she falls asleep, Egeanin comments to Elayne that she thinks Nynaeve hates her, but Elayne does not; Elayne tells her not to be so sure, but reassures Egeanin that they will not hurt her. She settles down to wait for Nynaeve.

Not to be overly grandiose about it, but this chapter pretty accurately demonstrates one of the major problems with people, in that they often maddeningly insist on being individuals worthy of admiration even when their cultural background contains everything you might abhor. I imagine an analogous situation in our world might be making friends with someone you think is really cool, and then discovering they are a member of the Nazi party.

I’ve not experienced anything quite that dramatic in my own life, but I’ve had similar enough to appreciate the sensation. I remember meeting this one guy at a party who was nice and articulate and witty (and cute), and I was really enjoying talking to him, until he casually mentioned that in his opinion Hurricane Katrina was a judgment on New Orleans for being a den of sin, and it was a shame the whole place and everyone in it hadn’t been wiped off the map.

Let’s just say the conversation went… south, after that. So to speak.

My point is, I have total sympathy for Nynaeve’s dilemma here, because Egeanin is a member of a society who would like nothing more than to enslave and torture anyone like Nynaeve for life, and yet unlike Party Guy is not only a generally admirable person (her letting the sul’dam go at great personal risk proves that if nothing else does), but has declared that it was Nynaeve’s (and Elayne’s) influence that made her reject her own cultural conditioning. Which is great… if you believe it. And while we know that Egeanin is sincere, Nynaeve of course has no such assurance.

This dilemma, by the way, is another thing which nicely defines Elayne and Nynaeve’s respective characters, in a way that is completely believable for both of them. Nynaeve’s natural reaction, as a person who lives on the outside of her skin and has never seen the value of hiding her emotions, is to be pissed, and growly, and conflicted. Elayne, on the other hand, is cursed with the ability to see both sides, and is therefore automatically diplomatic and inclined toward the peacemaker view, which is something instilled in her by training but I think also by personal inclination. I have sympathy for both of their positions.

Other than that there isn’t a whole lot to say about this chapter, which is a ramp up for Shit About To Happen, which we will get to next time.

So here’s to next time, eh? See you Friday. Finish line in sight!


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