Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Nynaeve Confronts Her Fear in Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt (Part 13)

Halloween is fast approaching, so it feels appropriate that this week’s Reading The Great Hunt post is number thirteen. Since I was born on a Friday the 13th, I always enjoy the spooky dates, and consider thirteen a lucky number. But while it’s lucky for me, it’s less lucky for Nynaeve, who is really getting put through the wringer this week—or rather, through the ter’angreal. I originally intended to cover both chapters 23 and 24 this round, but after I finished my analysis of Nynaeve’s experience, I found that it was quite long enough (and dense enough) to be a whole post all on its own.

Chapter 23 opens with Nynaeve standing with Sheriam in the doorway of a chamber beneath the White Tower. There are other Aes Sedai present, all dressed formally in their fringed shawls, seated around a construction of large silver arches. Nynaeve complains to Sheriam that, after being left waiting all morning, suddenly everything’s in a rush.

“The hour waits on no woman,” Sheriam replied. “The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills, and when it wills. Patience is a virtue that must be learned, but we must all be ready for the change of an instant.”

Nynaeve tried not to glare. The most irritating thing she had yet discovered about the flame-haired Aes Sedai was that she sometimes sounded as if she were quoting sayings even when she was not.

Nynaeve asks what the construction is, and Sheriam explains that it is a ter’angreal, and like angreal and sa’angreal, it is a remnant of the Age of Legends that uses the One Power. She also explains that ter’angreal are somewhat less rare than the other two, that some work on their own and some require channelling to activate them, and that they were made to specific purposes. She tells Nynaeve that they have one ter’angreal in the tower that makes oaths binding, and explains that when Aes Sedai are raised to full sisterhood they take their final vows holding it.

“To speak no word that is not true. To make no weapon for one man to kill another. Never to use the One Power as a weapon except against Darkfriends or Shadowspawn, or in the last extreme of defending your own life, that of your Warder, or that of another sister.”

Nynaeve observes that the oaths seems like both too much to swear, and too little, and Sheriam explains that the oaths were not always necessary, but that now they are taken to reassure the people of the world, so that fear of the Aes Sedai Power would be mitigated in the eyes of the nations of the world. She also tells Nynaeve that there is far too much history for them to play catch up now, and re-centers their focus on the ter’angreal. She tells Nynaeve that most of the ter’angreal in Aes Sedai possession aren’t even in use, because they don’t know what they are built for, and because ter’angreal are very dangerous; Aes Sedai have been burned out or killed trying to use them.

The arches however, are a ter’angreal that the Aes Sedai do understand, and Sheriam explains that it will show Nynaeve her greatest fears. It has been explained to Nynaeve that she must walk through each arch in turn, but there is more that no hopeful Accepted is allowed to know until she enters the room.

Two things I will tell you now that no woman hears until she is in this room. The first is this. Once you begin, you must continue to the end. Refuse to go on, and no matter your potential, you will be very kindly put out of the Tower with enough silver to support you for a year, and you will never be allowed back.” Nynaeve opened her mouth to say she would not refuse, but Sheriam cut her off with a sharp gesture. “Listen, and speak when you know what to say. Second. To seek, to strive, is to know danger. You will know danger here. Some women have entered, and never come out. When the ter’angreal was allowed to grow quiet, they—were—not—there. And they were never seen again. If you will survive, you must be steadfast. Falter, fail, and.…” Her silence was more eloquent than any words. “This is your last chance, child. You may turn back now, right now, and I will put your name in the novice book, and you will have only one mark against you. Twice more you will be allowed to come here, and only at the third refusal will you be put out of the Tower. It is no shame to refuse. Many do. I myself could not do it, my first time here. Now you may speak.”

Nynaeve considers the question, but her resolve firms quickly when she remembers how much she wants the freedom to ask questions and learn what she wants to learn, because that is how she will find a way to make Moiraine pay. She tells Sheriam that she is ready, and they enter into the chamber. The other Aes Sedai begin a ritual discussion, and then Nynaeve is required to undress, and she folds everything neatly, hiding Lan’s ring in the folds of her clothes so that no one’s attention is drawn to it. And then she turns back to the ter’angreal arches. She feels cold, but determined that no one will see her fear.

“The first time,” Sheriam said, “is for what was. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.”

Nynaeve hesitated. Then she stepped forward, through the arch and into the glow. It surrounded her, as if the air itself were shining, as if she were drowning in light. The light was everywhere. The light was everything.

Nynaeve finds herself standing naked in a stone maze, and is confused as to how she has come to be there or what happened to her clothes. As she wonders where she is and how she arrived, a voice in her thoughts answers “The way out will come but once.”

She starts though the maze, hoping that she will find some clothes before she finds any people, and tries to remember what she knows about the trick to solving mazes, but she can’t quite manage it. She wanders for a while, trying different patterns to her turnings, and when she grows frustrated at finding a dead end, that same voice answers her again “The way out will come but once.”

After a while of wandering and trying to find the trick of the maze, Nynaeve becomes aware of someone else, catching glimpses out of the corner of her eye or feeling a presence behind her, only to find it gone when she turns around. Frightened, she eventually begins to run from the figure, and although she has always been faster than the boys in her village, she suddenly finds her pursuer in front of her.

She skidded to a stop, the uneven paving stones rough under her feet. “I am Aginor,” he said, smiling, “and I have come for you.”

Her heart tried to leap out of her chest. One of the Forsaken. “No. No, it cannot be!”

“You are a pretty one, girl. I will enjoy you.”

Suddenly Nynaeve remembered she wore not a stitch. With a yelp and a face red only partly from anger, she darted away down the nearest crossing passage. Cackling laughter pursued her, and the sound of a shuffling run that seemed to match her best speed, and breathy promises of what he would do when he caught her, promises that curdled her stomach even only half heard.

Nynaeve searches desperate for an escape, again hearing the words “The way out will come but once. Be steadfast.” She continues to run, listening to Aginor yell, and her fear changes to anger. She feels the flowering in herself, opening up, and just as Aginor is about to catch her she turns, throwing her arm out at him, and a ball of fire leaves her hand and strikes Aginor in the chest. Aginor hollers at her.

Abruptly there were clouds in the sky, threatening billows of gray and black. Lightning leaped from the cloud, straight for Nynaeve’s heart.

It seemed to her, just for a heartbeat, as if time had suddenly slowed, as though that heartbeat took forever. She felt the flow inside her—saidar, came a distant thought—felt the answering flow in the lightning. And she altered the direction of the flow. Time leaped forward.

With a crash, the bolt shattered stone above Aginor’s head. The Forsaken’s sunken eyes widened, and he tottered back. “You cannot! It cannot be!” He leaped away as lightning struck where he had stood, stone erupting in a fountain of shards.

Grimly Nynaeve started toward him. And Aginor fled.

Nynaeve pursues him, aware of the flow of saidar, aware of it around her in the trees and stones, vaguely aware of Aginor doing something that makes the stone heave and tumble around her, makes the wind fight her, but she pushes on, determined and uncaring of her own discomfort. She redirects the stones and wind Aginor throws at her, trapping him, and the lightning she calls strikes ever closer to him. He is fighting to hold her attack at bay, but she can feel herself winning, slowly, inch by inch.

And then the doorway appears. Nynaeve is distracted enough by it that Aginor manages to crawl away, and she’s frustrated, knowing that it will take time to find him again. But she knows that if she doesn’t find him first, he will regroup and find her. But the doorway is there. For a moment she considers following him, and then she turns towards the doorway, angry, threatening whoever is responsible for her predicament with the same treatment that Aginor got, and scrambles through the arch.

The moment she is through, her memory returns, and she finds the chamber and the Aes Sedai waiting exactly as they had been when she stepped through. The Red Sister pours a chalice of water over her head, intoning that Nynaeve has been washed clean of any crimes she may have committed, and any crimes that were committed against her

Sheriam takes her hands and leads her to the next arch, telling Nynaeve that she is doing well, and that if she remembers her purpose, she will continue to do well. Nynaeve asks if the experience was as real as it seemed to be, and Sheriam admits that no one knows. The memories always feel real, and some women emerge from the experience with real injuries, although others could sustain terrible ones while inside and yet return unscathed. Sheriam believes that it is not real, but that the danger itself still is. But when Nynaeve mentions how easily she could channel, Sheriam is surprised.

“It isn’t thought necessary to give a warning, since you shouldn’t be able to remember it, but.… This ter’angreal was found during the Trolloc Wars. We have the records of its examination in the archives. The first sister to enter was warded as strongly as she could be, since no one knew what it would do. She kept her memories, and she channeled the One Power when she was threatened. And she came out with her abilities burned to nothing, unable to channel, unable even to sense the True Source. The second to go in was also warded, and she, too, was destroyed in the same way. The third went unprotected, remembered nothing once she was inside, and returned unharmed. That is one reason why we send you completely unprotected. Nynaeve, you must not channel inside the ter’angreal again. I know it is hard to remember anything, but try.”

Nynaeve promises not to channel, and is then taken up to the second arch. This second time, Sheriam intones, is for what is.

Nynaeve steps through, and is surprised to see the brown dress she is wearing, although she doesn’t know why it should be surprising. She is Emond’s Field, and happy to be there, until she starts to notice how worn and neglected the village looks. After being rudely greeted and then dismissed by Cenn Buie, Nynaeve goes into the inn, looking for Bran al’Vere, but finding his wife, Marin instead. Merin starts up, asking if Nynaeve has brought Egwene home. Nynaeve struggles to remember where Egwene is, but answers that she hasn’t.

Merin tells her that Bran is dead, that Cenn Buie is mayor now, and Malena, the new Wisdom, must not know that Nynaeve has come back. She explains how the new Wisdom showed up just when they needed help, and that children kept getting sick, requiring that Melena stay, despite the fact that she is a horrible bully and everyone is afraid of her. She browbeats people into doing what she wants, and even beats them with a stick. She knocked Alsbet Luhhan down, and when Bran and Haral Luhhan told her to leave, they both got sick and died. Marin tells Nynaeve that Malena mixed medicine for them, and that Marin saw her put grey fennel in it.

Horrified, Nynaeve asks how Marin could know that Malena poisoned the men and not go to the women’s Circle about it, and Marin answers that Malena turns on those who question her, accusing them of not walking in the Light and drawing the Dragon’s Fang on their doors. And then sometimes their children get sick and die. Nynaeve insists that she has to do something, ignoring the voice whispering “The way back will come but once” as she urges Marin to stand up and tell the Circle that Malena is responsible for so many children getting sick. Marin agrees, as long as Nynaeve will come with her and be their Wisdom again.

They go out, but haven’t gotten far when they spot the woman Marin identifies as Malena.

Something made Nynaeve look over her shoulder. Behind her stood a silver arch, reaching from house to house, glowing whitely. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.

Marin gave a soft scream. “She’s seen us. Light help us, she’s coming this way!”

Malena stalks toward them, and Marin begs Nynaeve to come away, to run and hide, because she hates Nynaeve and anyone who will speak of her or aid her. Her terror is palpable as Nynaeve struggles to remember that this is not real, that the way out will only come once. But theses are her people, and they need her. With a tremendous effort, she tears herself away, running toward the arch as Marin screams for help behind her. She passes through it.

Staring, Nynaeve staggered out of the arch, barely aware of the chamber or the Aes Sedai. Marin’s last cry still rang in her ears. She did not flinch when cold water was suddenly poured over her head.

“You are washed clean of false pride. You are washed clean of false ambition. You come to us washed clean, in heart and soul.” As the Red Aes Sedai stepped back, Sheriam came to take Nynaeve’s arm.

Nynaeve gave a start, then realized who it was. She seized the collar of Sheriam’s dress in both hands. “Tell me it was not real. Tell me!”

“Bad?” Sheriam pried her hands loose as if she were used to this reaction. “It is always worse, and the third is the worst of all.”

Nynaeve tells her that she left her people to their doom in order to come back, and Sheriam explains that there will always be a reason not to come back, that the ter’angreal makes traps for you out of your own mind. It is for this reason that it is used as a test, the Aes Sedai ask much of its members, and they must want to be Aes Sedai more than they want anything else. Nynaeve admits that she is afraid of what is to come, and Sheriam tells her that this is good, that anyone seeking to channel the One Power should do so with a healthy feeling of fear and awe. She mentions that Nynaeve doesn’t have to go through the third arch, but Nynaeve knows that she will be put out of the Tower if she doesn’t complete the test, and chooses to continue.

“The third time,” Sheriam intoned formally, “is for what will be. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.”

Nynaeve threw herself at the arch in a run.

Nynaeve is running through a field of wildflowers and butterflies, her horse close at hand, wearing a fine dress, with jewels in her hair, and overlooking the kingdom of Malkier, the Seven Towers standing tall and the city banners flying. Lan rides up to her, dismounts to gather her up in his arms and kiss her, her feet dangling as he lifts her to his height. But she is struck and surprised by the action, and demands that he put her down. Although her memory is fractured, difficult to pin down, she exclaims that she cannot do this, asks for anything but this. She tells Lan that she cannot marry him, which makes him laugh and tell her that saying they are not married might upset their children.

Desperately, Nynaeve searches for the arch, saying that she must leave at once. Lan, not understanding, thinks that she means Emond’s Field and offers to arrange an escort. But Nyenave says she must go alone, repeating that the Queen of the Malkieri couldn’t possibly go to Andor without an escort. His words start to reach Nynaeve despite her best efforts, and she turns to him, repeating the word Queen, asking about their babies.

“Very well,” he said slowly. “As my wife, how could you not be Queen? We are Malkieri here, not southlanders. You were crowned in the Seven Towers at the same time we exchanged rings.” Unconsciously he moved his left hand; a plain gold band encircled his forefinger. She glanced at her own hand, at the ring she knew would be there; she clasped her other hand over it, but whether to deny its presence by hiding it or to hold it, she could not have said. “Do you remember, now?” he went on. He stretched out a hand as if to brush her cheek, and she went back another six steps. He sighed. “As you wish, my love. We have three children, though only one can properly be called a baby. Maric is almost to your shoulder and can’t decide if he likes horses or books better. Elnore has already begun practicing how to turn boys’ heads, when she is not pestering Sharina about when she’ll be old enough to go to the White Tower.”

“Elnore was my mother’s name,” she said softly.

“So you said when you chose it. Nynaeve—”

Nynaeve catches herself, repeating again that she must go, and she sees the arch waiting for her in the trees. Lan asks what he can do to help her, admitting that he is not the best of husbands, and Nynaeve tells him that he is the very best. She finds herself remembering their life together, the memories growing stronger the more she hesitates. Lan tells her that he feels like he is losing her, and touches her cheek. Nynaeve, her eyes fluttering closed under the touch, tells him that she wishes she could stay, but when she opens them again the archway is gone. She pulls away, and as Lan asks her what is wrong, tells him that it is not real.

“Not real? Before I met you, I thought nothing except the sword was real. Look around you, Nynaeve. It is real. Whatever you want to be real, we can make real together, you and I.”

Wonderingly, she did look around. The meadow was still there. The Seven Towers still stood over the Thousand Lakes. The arch was gone, but nothing else had changed.

But Nynaeve remembers that Egwene is still in the White Tower, that Rand can channel, that Mat and Perrin may never regain anything of their own lives. And she remembers that Moiraine, responsible for it all, still walks free. With an effort she begins to form the flower in her mind, giving it cruel thorns, wishing for them to pierce her flesh as she opens herself to saidar. Doing her best to ignore Lan’s pleas and declaration of love, to ignore the memory of Sheriam’s warning about using the power, Nynaeve manages to draw the archway back into being, flinging herself though it as Lan begs her not to leave him.

She falls through the arch, sobbing and shouting at Sheriam how much she hates the Aes Sedai. Sheriam remarks easily that almost every woman says the same thing, that it is not easy to be forced to face one’s fears, but she is shocked to find a long thorn dug into each of Nynaeve’s palms. She pulls them out and heals Nynaeve’s hands, surprised anew when, despite the healing, there are two small scars left behind.

Nynaeve can see there are other Aes Sedai in the chamber now, including the Amyrlin. Nynaeve remembers how she was instructed and steps forward to kneel before the Amyrlin, who pours the last chalice of water over her head.

“You are washed clean of Nynaeve al’Maera from Emond’s Field. You are washed clean of all ties that bind you to the world. You come to us washed clean, in heart and soul. You are Nynaeve al’Maera, Accepted of the White Tower.” Handing the chalice to one of the sisters, the Amyrlin drew Nynaeve to her feet. “You are sealed to us, now.”

The Amyrlin’s eyes seemed to hold a dark glow. Nynaeve’s shiver had nothing to do with being naked and wet.

 

Knowing about the oaths that the Aes Sedai swear and how the has thrown a different light on so many things I thought I understood about their order and their function in the world. Since the moment Moiraine arrived in Emond’s Field back in The Eye of the World, pretty much everyone who learned of her real identity has, with sidelong looks and suspicious tones, remarked about how untrustworthy Aes Sedai are, how they will never bluntly lie to your face, but that they will also never say what they really mean, twisting their words to manipulate you into doing and thinking what they want you to do and think. It is one of the first things Rand thinks about when he considers whether or not to accept Moiraine’s help in healing Tam after the Trolloc attack on Emond’s Field—the fact that Aes Sedai are considered to be so untrustworthy.

I never expected such a straightforward reason as to why the Aes Sedai don’t lie, and while the oath is probably quite helpful when dealing with rulers and nations and those in power, those who have the education and understanding to know about the oaths, for everyday people this actually seems to have spiraled into a suspicion of trickery and deceit. Not that there aren’t plenty of other reasons to see the Aes Sedai in that way, including the fact that they really do manipulate people and events all the time, and of course that since the Breaking the saidar side of the One Power has come under suspicion for its relation to the tainted saidin. But I wonder if this binding oath hasn’t had the effect of further isolating the Aes Sedai from common people who aren’t able to know the intricacies of how their Power and the ter’angreal work. Which is a shame, since the oath is specifically designed to reassure non-channelers.

Then again, Nynaeve notes how the oath is both “too much and too little” and I think that it is also designed with that same Aes Sedai “trickery”; it contains just enough restrictions to reassure and yet limits the Aes Sedai as littl eas possible. I also have a lot of questions about how this oath pertains to members of the Black Ajah—right now they are still a rumor (except for Moiraine, Adeleas and Vandene figuring out their existence in the last chapter) but once they are known to be real, it seems like ferreting them out has to end up being more complicated than just asking each Aes Sedai to answer “yes” or “no” to the question “Are you part of the Black Ajah?” Perhaps the Dark One has provided them the ability to break the ter’angreal oaths? I was pretty suspicious of Verin’s claim that Moiraine sent her to follow Ingtar and Rand, but she doesn’t imply that Moiraine sent her, she straight-up says it, so either that was truth, or Verin can lie somehow. Maybe she got out of swearing the oath? Or maybe she found a way to break it. Or maybe the truth is much more complicated than I can guess right now and Moiraine did send her.

At least Nynaeve won’t have much of a problem with that part of the oath, since she would much prefer to speak her mind, even when she really shouldn’t. Not exactly a person who goes for the white lies to spare someone’s feelings, or even the clever lies to protect herself. I’m just saying, if your main motivation in life is to become powerful and get revenge on another powerful person, maybe don’t make how much you want to get at her so painfully obvious, Nynaeve.

One of the things I found very interesting about the three parts of the trail was how viewing them in concert gave me a different interpretation than considering them individually. So, for example, the first arch seemed fairly basic to me. Nynaeve passes through and is confronted with an experience that rehashes fears from her past; fear and frustration with not having all the answers, fear of sexual assault, and fear of Aginor, specifically, having encountered him in the Greenman’s grove at the end of The Eye of the World. But she faced her fear of him and overcame it; once she had done so, the way out appeared to her. However, having seen the traps laid by the ter’angreal in the second and third trip through the arches, I realized that Nynaeve facing her primal fears is only one part of the arches’ test, and not really the most important part. The real test in the first ordeal is in Nynaeve facing her desire for revenge. She doesn’t just protect herself from Aginor’s attack, she attacks him back, traps him, and wants to punish him. When he escapes she’s frustrated, and although the concern that he will come for her again sounds like a logical one, she has already found her way out. The arch is there, it will take her to safety away from him, and still she is tempted to try to find Aginor in the hope that the arch will wait for her. And even when she does make the choice to leave, it is with anger, and that need for revenge is turned upon a new source— whoever is responsible for her being in that place.

I’ve said it before, and I will continue to say it, Nyenave’s anger is definitely a trap for her, and while her motivations of revenge might sustain her in the short term, they will hamper her eventually, distract her from what’s really important. I understand why she’s angry at Moiraine but in the light of reason, she has to know that Moiraine didn’t cause Rand to be a channeler, or Egwene for that matter. Even if Nynaeve still believes that the Trollocs wouldn’t have come if Moiraine hadn’t first, she’s deluding herself in placing all the blame into this one symbolic scapegoat. And she’s doing that because she is scared of the larger truth, so I guess I shouldn’t really be making the distinction about the test after all. For Nynaeve, her anger is her expression of fear, and so making her face one is making her face the other.

I wonder if the fact that she can remember to channel inside the arches has something to do the test as well, given how scared she is to connect with her Power. Confronting that fear seems like an important test, and maybe it was necessary for the ter’angreal to provide her the ability to use it safely.

The second test is the most easy to understand, since Nynaeve has been very open both to others and in her own narration about her identity as Wisdom of Emond’s Field, and her intense feeling of duty to those people. She feels that she has had to choose whether to abandon Rand, Mat, Perrin, and Egwene or to abandon the rest of the village. She has had to accept that she is unable to fulfill her duty as she sees it to be—to bring the four of them back home—and has furthermore had to accept the ways in which being a natural channeler has separated her from that identity as Wisdom in its own right. And I wonder if that isn’t really what she’s angry at Moiraine over. Moiraine was no more than the deliverer of information, but by telling Nynaeve of her abilities, she started a process in which Nynaeve had to make some very hard decisions. Unlike Egwene, Nynaeve didn’t need to be trained at the White Tower to save her own life. Unlike Rand, Perrin, and Mat, she wasn’t being chased by the Dark One for some terrifyingly unknowable reason, becoming a danger to friends and strangers alike. Nynaeve could have gone home, been Wisdom, the only use of her power listening to the wind and the occasionally healing that she herself didn’t quite understand. But she would have known, always, what else she was and what other worlds she had turned her back on. And in that way, the shattering Nynaeve’s happy ignorance is the only thing that Moiraine actually did to her.

So Nynaeve is forced, in the second arch, to face her biggest fears of the moment; that she has abandoned her duty to her village and that they are suffering because of it. Because guilt can often be an expression of fear, too, and Nynaeve is forced to confront that guilt/fear by seeing the imagined disasters turned up to eleven and then having to choose to turn away when things were at their very worst and people she cared for were begging for her help. The ritualized cleansing that followed spoke of her being washed clean of false pride and ambition, but I think the last one that the Amyrlin gives is more appropriate to Nynaeve’s second ordeal; that she is washed clean of being Nynaeve of the Emond’s Field.

And then the third test. I wasn’t surprised to see this situation at all. Lan’s rejection is a huge source of pain for Nynaeve, and the trap this time is not her own anger or guilt but rather her own desires. Her own hope, maybe. She’s not great with hope and optimism, as she showed in her completely inability to address Lan’s reasons besides “I embarrassed myself, I get it, you don’t love me,” which is so clearly the opposite of what Lan said. Thus, the arch provides her with the ability to have what she really wants—tempts her with happiness and freedom rather than guilt or fear or anger—and in doing so forces her to make the choice to turn away. Because in the real world, it was Lan’s choice, and Nynaeve ultimately had no say. The arche require her to face making the choice for herself, to turn away from her dream of happiness.

What alarmed me the most about Nynaeve’s dream life with Lan is the fact that the third arch is supposed to show what is to come. Now, I imagine it’s not actually showing the real future, just as I don’t think it showed what is actually going on in Emond’s field. Like the first ordeal, it is an amalgamation of truth from Nynaeve’s life mixed with her hopes and fears and foibles. But I can’t help wondering if Nynaeve might get some part of a future with Lan, only to have to make a choice to turn away because of another commitment to the Aes Sedai. Maybe they will have another conversation about their feelings for each other, only to have Nynaeve be the one to say she can’t commit because of her duty to something or someone else. That would gut-wrenching.

I really don’t know what to think about Nynaeve’s use of channeling after it was said to be dangerous, besides my observation that maybe it is necessary for her particular trial. Since even the Aes Sedai using the ter’angreal know little about its use, it may be that the wielding of the Power by the first two Aes Sedai testers wasn’t actually what burned them out, but something to do with the wards, or how they were using the Power, or why they were using it. Maybe because Nynaeve is fully part of the experience, so is her wielding; in other words, she is using the Power in conjunction with the ter’angreal rather than against it. That would make more sense of the fact that she was able to recall the arch, as well. It’s also possible, although probably pretty unlikely, that the ter’angreal is simulating the use of the power just as it simulates everything else in the experience.

Although that seems especially unlikely given that Nynaeve emerged with those thorns in her palms, thorns she apparently… made? Somehow? And the fact that they didn’t heal the way Sheriam expected is really curious, given that we know other women have been injured in the arches and were clearly able to be healed perfectly. And just as the healing isn’t as simple as it’s supposed to be, neither is is the washing clean; you can say Nynaeve al’Maera has been freed from the ties that bind her to the world and that she belongs to the White Tower now, but no ritual and no ter’angreal is going to make that true unless Nynaeve decides that it is.

She must be really tired of hearing “the wheel weaves as the wheel wills” by now. I would be, I know, because nothing is more annoying, when you are feeling powerless, than to be reminded of how powerless you really are. I wonder how different Aes Sedai engage with the idea of the Pattern and Fate; the mantra seems to be used as a comfort by Moiraine, a reminder that there is a greater hand in this work than her own, but it can also feel, I imagine, like a chastisement or a restriction. It’s always interesting how different people engage with the idea of fate or a higher power which makes choices that are beyond an individual human’s control or even understanding. I’ve engaged before with the question between free will and immutable destiny in the world of The Wheel of Time, and it seems like the more we learn the more questions there are to ask. But knowing how Nynaeve is, she definitely doesn’t seem like the sort to ever be comfortable with anything being outside of her control, ever. And although I bet she grows and adapts over time, I also don’t see her ever really coming over to a place of great serenity and connection with a spiritual self in harmony with the Wheel and its Pattern. But I bet she can’t wait to learn how to heal with the Power.

Next week we have a very exciting set of chapters, and we get a lot of new faces back and one of my early predictions comes true. Please, hold your applause. See you down in the comments friends!

Sylas K Barrett can always appreciate a character whose strengths and weaknesses are the exact same traits. But he would like to see Nynaeve put her logical brain to use a little more. All those questions and learning she’s about to embark on will probably be good for her.

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