What up, yo: welcome to the Wheel of Time Re-read!
I hope that all of you up here with me in the Northeast are enjoying the frozen tundra-like mien, because I’m really, really over it, myself.
Today’s entry covers Chapters 22 and 23 of A Crown of Swords, in which it might be bunnies, or maybe midgets, but probably not. Also, hangovers.
Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index is here, in which you can find links to news, reviews, and all manner of information regarding the newest release, The Gathering Storm, and for WOT-related stuff in general.
This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels, up to and including Book 12, The Gathering Storm. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
And that’s what that is, so now, the post!
Chapter 22: Small Sacrifices
Elayne stands with Nynaeve in front of the Wandering Woman, and wishes she were still in bed. She hopes Aviendha and Birgitte learn something useful watching Carridin today, and feels proud that Aviendha had not even considered coming along to make sure Elayne did what they had agreed. Nynaeve stares at the inn with horror, and repeats again that she will not apologize. Elayne thinks of how Nynaeve had been carrying on all morning about wearing funereal white, and claiming she wasn’t able to Heal Birgitte’s hangover, and tells Nynaeve that she agreed to this, so to quit sulking. She ignores Nynaeve’s splutters and further protests, and goes in, asking the skinny servant girl inside for “Master Cauthon”; the girl eyes them sullenly, muttering something about “gilded women,” and directs them upstairs. Nynaeve opines that Mat must have “pushed his attentions” on the girl, but Elayne continues to ignore her as they go upstairs. She hesitates at Mat’s door, and Nynaeve quickly takes advantage, insisting that Aviendha’s “drivel” is impossible.
“We did not agree to anything impossible, Nynaeve.” Keeping her voice firm took an effort. Some of what Aviendha had suggested, apparently in all seriousness . . . She actually had suggested letting the man switch them! “What we did agree to is quite possible.” Barely.
She knocks, and Nynaeve tries to leave when there is no answer, so Elayne just goes in; Nynaeve follows with a sigh. Mat is on his bed, still fully dressed, with a wet cloth over his eyes and the foxhead medallion hanging out of his shirt, which makes Elayne’s fingers itch. He mumbles for “Nerim” to go away, or bring him a new skull, and Elayne tells him it’s not Nerim. Mat stares blearily at them with bloodshot eyes, and Elayne feels satisfaction that he seems more miserable than Birgitte. He demands to know what they’re doing here “in the middle of the night,” and Nynaeve asks sharply if he remembers talking with Birgitte. Mat goes alert (well, alerter) and asks what Birgitte told them.
“She informed us of your demands, Master Cauthon,” Elayne said formally. This must be how it felt to stand before the headsman’s block, there was nothing for it but to keep her head high and face whatever came proudly. “I wish to thank you from my heart for rescuing me from the Stone of Tear.” There, she had begun, and it had not hurt. Not very much.
Nynaeve just glowers, until Elayne flicks her ear with Air, and then finally mumbles the same. Mat shrugs uncomfortably and says it was nothing, and then asks them to send Caira in on their way out. Elayne is outraged, and then Nynaeve lunges for his throat and Elayne has to restrain her. Mat has his head bowed and doesn’t notice any of this. Steeling herself, Elayne continues that they also apologize for the delay in thanking him, and the way they’ve treated him since, and to show it, they promise not to “belittle or demean” him in any way, nor to give him orders (Nynaeve winces), to tell him where they are going and when, and to listen to his advice.
Light, she had no wish to be Aiel, no wish to do any of this, but she wanted Aviendha’s respect. “If you . . . if you decide that we are . . . ” Not that she had any intention of becoming a sister-wife—the very idea was indecent!—but she did like her. “ . . . are putting ourselves in needless danger . . . ” It was not Aviendha’s fault that Rand had caught both their hearts. And Min’s as well. “ . . . we will accept bodyguards of your choosing . . . ” Fate or ta’veren or whatever, what was, was. She loved both women like sisters. “ . . . and keep them with us as long as possible.” Burn the man for doing this to her! It was not Mat Cauthon she meant.
Mat slowly looks at her, and comments mockingly that that she sounds like she has “an iron rod down her throat,” and asks Nynaeve if all that applies to her too.
“I won’t shout at you,” Nynaeve shouted. “And all the rest, too. I promise, you . . . you . . . !”
Mat clutches his head in pain at her volume, and mutters something like “flaming dice,” and it occurs to Elayne that he would be a very good source to learn “pithy” language from. Finally, Mat thanks Nynaeve, and says Birgitte said something about finding something for them; Nynaeve tells him that he won’t find it, but will accompany them to find it. He sneers and observes she’s backtracking already after promising to do what he says, and tells them if they want “a tame ta’veren on a leash” they can go ask Rand or Perrin. Nynaeve retorts that they promised no such thing, and Elayne points out that they promised to listen to his advice, not that they would have to take it, but sees Mat does not agree. She elects to let it go for the moment, and sits and explains to him about the Bowl. He becomes intrigued, but states flatly at the end that neither of them is setting foot outside the Palace, much less inside the Rahad, again without a squad of Redarms, and reminds them about the note in his coat, not to mention Carridin and Darkfriends. Elayne counters that they cannot hide, and Nynaeve adds that the Redarms thing is not sensible (choking off “ridiculous”); he doesn’t have enough soldiers to cover all four of them. Mat mutters that he supposes Aviendha and Birgitte don’t need “minders”; Nynaeve turns purple, and Elayne can’t decide whether it would be worse if he’d insulted them like that on purpose, or without realizing it. He asks if that’s all Birgitte told them, and Nynaeve snaps an affirmative; she and Elayne are both startled at his look of pleased surprise. Nynaeve then tells him he might as well work off his hangover by moving his things into the palace.
“The Wandering Woman is plenty good enough,” he began angrily, then stopped, a wondering expression spreading over his face. A horrified expression, Elayne would have said. That should teach him to growl when he had a head like a melon.
[…]Haggard eyes stared right through her. “Why did they bloody well have to stop now?” he moaned, so softly she barely heard. What under the Light did he mean by that?
“The rooms are fit for a king, Master . . . Mat. Tylin herself chose them, just down from her own. She has taken a very personal interest. Mat, you wouldn’t have us offend the Queen, would you?”
One look at his face, and Elayne hurriedly channeled to push open the window and empty the washbasin through it. If she had ever seen a man about to lose the contents of his stomach, he was staring red-eyed at her right that minute.
She tells him they must all make sacrifices, and does not understand why this makes him laugh hysterically and snarl at the same time. She offers to let Nynaeve Heal his hangover (reflecting that if ever Nynaeve was angry enough to channel, it was now), but Mat refuses with a sneer. But then he hesitates and adds sincerely that he thanks her for asking, and Elayne stares at him, wondering if Rand was going to be as confusing as Mat. They leave his room after making him promise to start moving to the palace, and Nynaeve shakes her fist at the ceiling and predicts that Mat will make trouble. Setalle Anan appears and observes that they will make more trouble for Mat than he ever could, and doubts she’s ever seen “so much foolishness poured into just two dresses.” Elayne wants to know just who she might be, and Setalle introduces herself before hustling them both inside an empty room. Nynaeve waves her serpent ring at her, but Setalle bulldozes over their protests to inform them that Mat Cauthon might “dandle them” on his knee, but he won’t harm them; but if they keep “this” up, they’ll harm him. Elayne tries to introduce herself by full title, but Setalle interrupts to hope that they can at least channel somewhat to be putting on this charade. Furious, Nynaeve embraces saidar and wraps Setalle completely up in Air. To Elayne’s surprise, this does not faze Setalle at all, and she continues, telling them what will happen if the real Aes Sedai in the Palace get their hands on them, and the only reason Setalle isn’t going to tell them is because she likes Mat and doesn’t want him to get in trouble too. Nynaeve again tries to interject, but Setalle rolls right over her words.
“Trying to keep up the lie does no good, Nynaeve. You look to be, oh, twenty-one give or take a year, so you might be as much as ten years older if you’ve already reached the slowing. You might even have worn the shawl four or five years. Except for one thing.” Her head, the only part of her she could move, swiveled toward Elayne. “You, child, aren’t old enough to have slowed yet, and no woman has ever worn the shawl as young as you. Never in the history of the Tower.”
She goes on that since Elayne can’t be Aes Sedai, therefore Nynaeve isn’t either, as no Aes Sedai would travel with a woman pretending to be a sister. Elayne frowns, wondering how an innkeeper who definitely cannot channel knows words like “slowing,” and reasons she must have gone to the Tower only to be turned away. She tells Nynaeve to release Setalle, planning to take her across to the Palace to learn for herself that they were not lying, but Setalle still won’t let anyone get a word in edgewise, telling them that she can help them; there is a group of women who “take in strays,” and Setalle will take Elayne and Nynaeve to them for Mat’s sake, but she needs to know if they truly ever were in the Tower, or are wilders. Elayne is over this and is ready to leave, but Nynaeve doesn’t move, asking for more information on this group. Setalle tells her they are called “the Circle,” and there are about fifty of them, who can help wilders or those who have been put out of the Tower find a life, and asks again if they were in the Tower. Nynaeve replies that they were told to leave the Tower, and Elayne is aghast, insisting that they are Aes Sedai, but Setalle laughs at her and tells them to take off their rings.
Elayne made a fist and thrust it behind her back. And watched Nynaeve meekly slip her ring off and tuck it into her belt pouch. Nynaeve, who howled every time Merilille or Adeleas or any of them forgot she was a full sister!
“Trust me, Elayne,” Nynaeve said.
Which Elayne would have had an easier time of if she had any notion what the woman was up to. Still, she did trust her. Mostly. “A small sacrifice,” she muttered.
Setalle tells her to quit pouting and come along. Elayne decides she is going to kick Nynaeve as soon as she gets a chance. Hard.
And the détente begins! YAY.
The whole scene in general is just tons of fun. I remember being vastly pleased at the nature of the promises Elayne and Nynaeve made, though I can see how it would make them choke, especially when you consider that they are making such promises to, so they believe, an irresponsible wastrel who would take every advantage of power over them, and who, thanks to the medallion, they have no method of controlling if he gets out of hand.
Given that, I have to give Elayne mad props in this chapter for so thoroughly sticking to her guns and going through with her promise to Aviendha. It’s even more impressive when you consider that she has no real cultural or personal basis for feeling impelled to do so; as a non-Aiel princess, after all, I don’t imagine she’s had a whole lot of practice at having to apologize or humble herself to anyone, ever—anyone she doesn’t regard as having rightful authority over her, anyway (meaning that I’m not counting her mother and such).
It might be nicer, of course, if she wanted to apologize to Mat because he genuinely deserves the gesture, as opposed to through loyalty to an outside party (Aviendha), but as I have comfortable foreknowledge of what’s going to happen to Elayne’s opinion of Mat by the end of ACOS, I can magnanimously give her the bye; it’s still the right thing to do, even if not precisely for the ideal reasons. So, yay Elayne.
Also, her flicking Nynaeve with Air was hilarious.
Nynaeve, of course, behaves abominably through this entire episode, but somehow I still continue to find her hysterical; I laughed out loud when she lunged for Mat like a crazy person. As I’ve observed before, as a character Nynaeve tends to slide back and forth over the “caricature” line, and this is definitely one of those times where she’s being played for laughs, in my opinion. Although, I do believe there is a more serious aspect to her behavior: I’ve Got A Theory, naturally, which I will expound upon in a moment.
The theme of rewarding sincerity continues here, as it’s only when Mat temporarily drops his guard and thanks Elayne for offering Healing that she first really begins to look at him as something other than a giant imposition. The first of many such small moments of awesome between them.
And actually, the fact that it is only at that point that she compares him to Rand indicates (to me, anyway) that this is one of the first times she sees Mat as a person, instead of a infuriating and puzzling—and unsettling—man.
A topic, it’s worth remembering, that Elayne has actually very little experience with, in spite of all her adventures. It’s easy to forget how young she is, but the (hilarious) line about “pithy” language here reminded me of that if nothing else did, and she deserves no little amount of slack for that, in my opinion. It puts her boneheaded shenanigans with the two letters to Rand in a slightly more sympathetic light too, if you think about it.
Anyway. It’s often a little unclear to me (intentionally, I think) as to what exact thing makes the dice in Mat’s head stop —or rather, not what actually causes them to stop, but what precise result that thing is supposed to lead to that makes it the pivotal decision/event. In this case, though, it’s pretty obvious. The most immediate result of Mat moving into the Palace is That Thing With Tylin, of course, but there’s no way that that’s so earth-shakingly important that the Pattern would get involved. For my money, the result the dice (i.e. the Pattern) is aiming for is that living in the Palace will eventually lead to Mat meeting Tuon. Though, of course, That Thing With Tylin is part and parcel of that…
The irony there, naturally, is that the thing he and Supergirls are actually trying to accomplish (finding the Bowl) ends up having nothing to do with Mat being in the Palace at all.
(Note: We Are Not Talking About That Thing Yet. That means YOU, buster.)
Setalle: I’m torn between really liking her for her loyalty to Mat, and wanting to smack her into next week for being yet another character who thinks strength equals being able to mow down anything in your path, metaphorical or otherwise. Plus, I hate people who interrupt me. I AM TALKING, WOMAN, WAIT YOUR TURN. Sheesh. Also, Moiraine would like a word with you about whether Aes Sedai will travel with a woman pretending to be a sister or not. So There. Thbbt!
The slowing thing, I will talk about when Elayne and Nynaeve discuss it. Elayne’s observation that Setalle definitely cannot channel is interesting, though, in that I think this might be our first real indication that there is a distinct difference between channelers who are stilled or gentled (like Siuan/Leane/Logain) and those who are burned out (like Setalle, aka Martine Jenata, do not argue with me).
We know from Nynaeve’s observations of the former three that channelers can tell that stilled/gentled people once were able to channel, but Elayne clearly thinks that Setalle can’t channel and never could, which indicates to me that burning yourself out is really burning out, as in total damage.
Which is a shame, as it probably means that Nynaeve’s genius Healing method would not work on a burned-out channeler. Pity.
Chapter 23: Next Door to a Weaver
Setalle leads Elayne and Nynaeve through the kitchens, where she pauses specifically to talk to the cook and disparage the notion that “these two” are Aes Sedai; she implies that they’d spent all their money on those dresses to impress Mat and are now penniless, before yanking them both by the ear into the stableyard. Outside, she ignores their outrage to hope that no one will believe Caira’s version of things now, and orders them to follow her and not get lost. Elayne gives Nynaeve a meaningful look, but Nynaeve bolsters herself with the thought that this might get them out of having to rely on Mat, and meekly thanks Mistress Anan for her help. Setalle takes off on foot, warning them to keep up. As they follow, Elayne begins listing, in a cool, cutting tone, all the many useful and/or pleasant things they could be doing with their day, and hopes Nynaeve can explain to her why they are enduring this to go see a bunch of women who feed runaways.
“I do so want to understand, Nynaeve. I would hate to think I’m going to kick you the length of the Mol Hara for nothing.”
Nynaeve’s eyebrows drew down. Kick her? Elayne really was becoming violent, spending so much time with Aviendha. Someone ought to slap some sense into that pair.
Nynaeve replies that fifty women calling themselves “the Circle” doesn’t sound like a random bunch of women to her; it sounds organized. Elayne counters that the Tower would unquestionably break up any such organization if it existed, but even if it does exist, she doesn’t see what it has to do with them. Nynaeve explains that it’s “beyond reason” that fifty channeling women could be in the same city with a giant stash of angreal without knowing about it, and if they do, they can find the Bowl without involving Mat, and can forget those “absurd promises” they made him. Elayne answers that the promises were not a bribe, and they will keep them.
Elayne bit her underlip, frowning. All that iciness seemed to have vanished; she was herself again, apparently. Finally she said, “We would never have gone to the inn without Master Cauthon, so we’d never have met the remarkable Mistress Anan or been taken to this Circle. So if the Circle does lead us to the Bowl, we have to say he was the root cause.”
Mat Cauthon; his name boiled in her head. Nynaeve stumbled over her own feet and let go of her braid to lift her skirts. The alley was hardly as smooth as a paved square much less a palace floor. At times, Elayne in a taking was better than Elayne thinking clearly.
Nynaeve changes the subject to complain that no one has ever treated them the way Setalle just did, even those who doubted their veracity as Aes Sedai. Elayne notes that she thinks Setalle must have gone to the Tower at some point, as she knows things she shouldn’t otherwise; Nynaeve doesn’t care, but promises herself that Setalle will acknowledge her as Aes Sedai eventually. Setalle leads them through the city, stopping to chat with every innkeeper along the way, and tell them the same humiliating story about Elayne and Nynaeve she’d given her cook. Nynaeve observes miserably that they’ll never be able to show their faces at any of these places, which Elayne icily suspects is precisely the point; Nynaeve knows Elayne will make her sorry later if this idea doesn’t pay off, and tries to reassure her that the Circle will lead them right to the Bowl. Elayne is less than convinced. At length they arrive at a rather rundown-looking house next to a weaver shop, and Setalle warns them to watch their tongues and not embarrass her. A gray-haired maid is surprised to see Setalle, but lets her in respectfully and takes her off, admonishing Elayne and Nynaeve to wait. Nynaeve smiles as she senses a woman channeling, then another; Elayne’s protests grow less certain. They overhear Setalle speaking to a woman she calls Reanne. Reanne cannot believe Setalle has brought them there; Setalle apologizes and offers to “submit herself” for judgment, which shocks Reanne, who begs her forgiveness in turn. They enter the room, and Nynaeve is surprised to see Reanne looks considerably older than Setalle.
Why would the older woman humble herself so to the younger, and why would the younger allow it, however halfheartedly?
She’s also surprised at Reanne’s strength, which is at least at Sheriam or Kiruna’s level. She concludes Reanne must be a wilder, as she thinks the Tower would have held on to a woman like this no matter what, if she had ever been there. Reanne eyes them and supposes they’ll have to do something with them if they are what they claim, and then jumps and looks at Setalle, setting off another round of apologies and counter-apologies. They are interrupted when a middle-aged Cairhienin woman in a red belt (Berowin) barges in with a Saldaean woman about Nynaeve’s age (Garenia); Reanne chastises Berowin, and Nynaeve shoots Elayne a triumphant look; both newcomers can channel as well, Garenia strongly enough to match Lelaine or Romanda. Elayne sighs and silently concedes the point. Setalle Anan frowns at Garenia, and remarks that she closely resembles a woman she “met” once, Zarya Alkaese. Garenia blinks, and answers that is her grandmother’s sister’s name; Setalle laughs softly, and comments it was a long time ago. Reanne jumps in and politely kicks Setalle out, and Setalle leaves.
“Setalle!” Garenia exclaimed as soon as the innkeeper was gone. “That was Setalle Anan? How did she—? Light of Heaven! Even after seventy years, the Tower would—”
Reanne shuts her up and tells Nynaeve and Elayne to stay silent while they confer. As the others huddle off to the side, Elayne asks Nynaeve how much longer they must put up with this farce, and Nynaeve hisses at her to be quiet, trying to listen. She overhears Reanne say they might be wilders, which makes the others react with disgust. Nynaeve points out to Elayne in a whisper that Berowin is wearing a red belt, which makes seven Wise Women they’ve seen who not only can channel but who are clearly not native to Ebou Dar; Elayne is incredulous at what Nynaeve is suggesting, insisting that the Tower would have long ago squashed anything so widespread. Nynaeve replies that maybe the Tower doesn’t know, but she doesn’t really believe her own words. They are interrupted as they are both shielded from the Source; Reanne seizes them with flows of Air and runs them across the room, warning them they will held to strict rules of obedience if they are allowed to stay. Enraged, Nynaeve tries to burst the shield, but even though Berowin (who holds the shield) is much weaker in the Power than most Aes Sedai, the shield only stretches; Berowin smiles and comments that shielding is nearly a Talent with her, and she “could hold one of the Forsaken.” Nynaeve gives up, scowling, and Elayne comments to her that they could be drinking blueberry tea right now. Reanne tells her to be quiet.
“Our report of you says you both are forward and contentious, that you chase after men and lie. To which I add that you cannot follow simple instructions. All of which must change if you seek our help. All of it. This is most irregular. Be grateful we’re willing to speak to you.”
Elayne glares at Nynaeve, and Nynaeve answers Reanne that they do need their help, and tries to ask them about the Bowl, but Reanne cuts her off to pepper them both with questions only women who had been novices in the Tower would know the answer to, switching them with Air whenever they try to say anything else. Elayne is furious, but answers most of the questions, since Nynaeve only knows a few of them, having never been a novice. At length, Reanne supposes Nynaeve had really been there, since if Elayne had primed her with the answers she would have done a better job. Nynaeve forces herself to be polite, and tells them again that they are looking for a ter’angreal called the Bowl of the Winds, and need their guild or Circle’s help looking for it. Reanne tells her there is no guild, only a few friends, and they have nothing to do with ter’angreal/angreal/sa’angreal, as they are not Aes Sedai. The term “Aes Sedai” is imbued with reverential awe. She begins explaining to them how their initiation will go, starting with a trip to the country, and Elayne interrupts to tell Nynaeve that enough is enough; clearly they do not have it. She takes out her ring and puts it on, and declares to Reanne et al that she is Elayne Trakand, High Seat of House Trakand, Daughter-Heir of Andor and Aes Sedai of the Green Ajah, and she demands they release her immediately. Garenia and Berowin react with disgust and horror, respectively; Reanne warns her not to continue with that particular lie, and asks Nynaeve if she persists in “this madness” as well. Nynaeve is about to lie again, but Elayne shouts her name, and Nynaeve wearily answers that she is Aes Sedai of the Yellow Ajah.
“The true Amyrlin Seat, Egwene al’Vere, raised us to the shawl in Salidar. She’s no older than Elayne; you must have heard.” Not a glimmer of change in those three hard faces. “She sent us to find the Bowl of the Winds. With it, we can mend the weather.” Not a flicker of change. She tried to hold her anger down; she truly did. It just oozed up despite her. “You must want that! Look around you! The Dark One is strangling the world! If you have even a hint of where the Bowl might be, tell us!”
Reanne stands, and regrets that they will not accept her help. She gives them each three silver marks, and tells them they will be gone from Ebou Dar by sunrise tomorrow, after which she will begin circulating their descriptions, and make sure the sisters in the Palace hear about them, as well as the Whitecloaks; she is done with them. Nynaeve sullenly allows herself to be herded out, but tries to entreat Garenia and Berowin once more on the way; Berowin hesitates, but Garenia gets in Nynaeve’s face and says if it were up to her she would send them to “the farm” no matter what they say, which would teach them to be grateful. Berowin snaps at her that they hold no one against their will, and orders her to apologize.
And wonder of wonders, the woman who would have stood very close to the top had she been Aes Sedai looked sideways at the woman who would have stood near the bottom, and blushed crimson. “I ask forgiveness,” Garenia mumbled at Nynaeve. “My temper gets the better of me sometimes, and I say what I have no right to. I humbly ask forgiveness.” Another sidelong glance at Berowin, who nodded, producing a sigh of open relief.
Nynaeve and Elayne’s shields are released, and the women shove them out into the street and slam the door.
Talk talk talk talk talk talk sheesh.
Hokay. First, Nynaeve and my Theory about her and Mat. By rights this should be in the commentary to the previous chapter, maybe, but it was reading this chapter, and Nynaeve’s over-the-top reaction to Elayne’s reasoning about Mat being the cause of their getting to meet the Kin, that crystallized it in my mind, so deal.
I was reading over my commentary for LOC recently, and saw that I had remarked at being puzzled about this before, that Nynaeve basically just freaks the bloody hell out when it comes to Mat in any way, and wondering why it left me with the impression that Nynaeve is actually frightened of him, which made no sense to me at the time.
But it occurs to me that there have in fact been two different specific occasions when Mat frightened Nynaeve—not annoyed her or disturbed her, but actually scared the living crap out of her. The second and lesser one was very recently, in Salidar, when she realized Mat was unaffected by saidar and thought he was going to—well, I suppose I have to imagine that she thought he was going to spank her, since that’s apparently what happens to grown freakin’ women in Randland when—
Agh. *deletes two paragraphs*
So that’s one time Mat scared Nynaeve, but the first and (I theorize) much more frightening incident happened alllll the way back in TEOTW, when Moiraine et al found Mat in Caemlyn, almost totally consumed by the Shadar Logoth dagger. Here, I’ll quote the relevant bit:
“Pretty Nynaeve,” Mat spat. “A Wisdom isn’t supposed to think of herself as a woman, is she? Not a pretty woman. But you do, don’t you? Now. You can’t make yourself forget that you’re a pretty woman, now, and it frightens you. Everybody changes.” Nynaeve’s face paled as he spoke, whether with anger or something else, Rand could not tell.
I’m going to attempt to not overanalyze this (hah), but both of these incidents involve Mat doing something that would be frankly terrifying to someone like Nynaeve —which is to say, he pierced her defenses. Both physically and emotionally, in each respective case.
Granted, Mat was not exactly himself in the Caemlyn incident, but then again, what made that whole scene so unnerving (for everyone, including the reader) was that in a way it was Mat, only distorted to the worst possible version of himself. The things he said to each of them came from knowing them, and seeing what they each had to hide, and cruelly dragging it out into the open and using it against them. The impulse to do so may have come from the dagger, but Mat himself provided the method —and it was a chillingly effective one.
And I’m willing to bet that Nynaeve, of all the gang, would have been the one most likely to subconsciously remember that, and be frightened of it. Not that it was fun for any of the others either, but to someone as guarded and fundamentally insecure as Nynaeve, such an attack would be even worse. And combined with Mat’s general lack of respect for boundaries or propriety even when not under the influence of an evil dagger, and then his later (seeming) total immunity to channeling, well. I would venture to say that of all of Our Heroes, Mat is the only one, even excepting Rand, whom Nynaeve finds genuinely threatening to her personally—even if only subliminally. And anyway, subliminal threats are more often than not the worst ones; it’s even scarier when you don’t even know why you’re scared, methinks.
And so Nynaeve reacts to Mat the same way she does to anything that scares her, which is of course to get very, very angry at it. Ta da.
I’m not saying that all this makes Nynaeve’s behavior toward Mat okay, mind you. Clearly not. But if I’m right, at least it makes it a little less insane (or even out of character, dun) than I had previously considered it, which is a relief, so I’ll take it even if no one else does.
As a last note on this, I’m pretty sure that once the Supergirls leave Ebou Dar, Nynaeve and Mat are never together again (as of the end of TGS). I’m also now realizing that while I clearly recall Elayne’s warming to Mat by the end of ACOS, I don’t actually remember how Nynaeve and Mat’s relationship stands by the time they separate. So now I’m frankly very curious about what motivates Nynaeve to pose her impassioned (and awesome) defense of Mat in TGS, since in light of all the above it’s actually a rather startling one-eighty.
Assuming, of course, I’m not completely talking out of my ass with this whole theory, which is always possible. But I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for that.
Well, that got a lot more verbose than I thought it would, so I think I’m going to stop here, and leave discussion of the Kin and Setalle and alla that for the next chapter; it probably fits better there anyway.
So that’s our show, kids! Y’all be excellent in commentage, now. Have a great weekend, and assuming we don’t enter a new ice age by next Friday, I’ll see you then!