Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Of Herbs and Luck in Robert Jordan’s The Dragon Reborn (Part 20)

Welcome back to Week 20 of our read of The Dragon Reborn. It was July 4th this past week, and while I didn’t personally feel like celebrating the U.S. and its ridiculous, over-the-top birthday, I did see a lot of fireworks. Which got me thinking—as so many things do, these days—about the Wheel of Time, and what I think is going to come of the Chehkov’s gun that is Mat’s roll of fireworks. What important plot point will it serve? As a distraction? An impromptu weapon? Something else? I know they are going to be important, but I don’t yet know how. It was sure fun to speculate though, as everyone at the barbecue oohed an aahed over the red white and blue blossoms in the sky and drank entirely too much beer.

Which I feel like Mat might also approve of.

But first, we must check in with Egwene, Elayne, and Nynaeve. Two of whom are suffering mightily, and I’m not just talking about being seasick. Riversick. You know what I mean.

Aboard a ship called the Darter, Egwene struggles to keep her stomach in check, which prevents her from being able to take in the city as the boat comes in towards the docks of Tear. At least she is able to be on deck, though, as Nynaeve is so ill she’s been forced to stay in her cabin the whole voyage, with Elayne keeping her company and holding a bucket. The corkscrew motion the ship takes as it sails is to blame, but the captain, Canin, has little sympathy or patience for them. They’ve hidden their serpent rings and adopted false names, so the Captain has little impetus to be polite to passengers who were sick the whole trip.

Thinking of her Aes Sedai ring reminds Egwene of the other ring, the ter’angreal that helps her navigate Tel’aran’rhiod. Her dreams make no more sense to her now than they ever have, though she’s had many of them. The Seanchan. Whitecloaks using Master Luhan as bait in a trap. Perrin with a falcon on his shoulder and having to choose between an axe and a blacksmith’s hammer. Mat dicing with the Dark one and shouting—to her, Egwene thinks—that he is coming. Rand, hunting Callandor in the dark while six men and five women dance around him, some hunting him, some ignoring him, some trying to guide him to the sword and others trying to stop him. One of them, Ba’alzamon, has eyes of flame and wants fiercely to see Rand dead.

Rand in that dry, dusty chamber again, with those small creatures settling into his skin. Rand confronting a horde of Seanchan. Rand confronting her, and the women with her, and one of them was a Seanchan. It was all too confusing. She had to stop thinking about Rand and the others and put her mind to what was right ahead of her. What is the Black Ajah up to? Why don’t I dream something about them? Light, why can’t I learn to make it do what I want?

Still, Egwene tries to maintain what dignity she can in front of Captain Canin, and makes a point of not rushing to get off the boat. Nynaeve, emerging from below decks while leaning on Elayne, does her best to keep her dignity as well and return to walking under her own steam. Still, they are on the docks soon enough and Egwene takes a moment to look out over Tear. The city, built on entirely flat land, is big and impressive, though not as beautiful as Caemlyn or Tar Valon, but Egwene has trouble looking at anything but the Stone of Tear.

To Egwene it looks like a great hill or small mountain, all gray stone and looking like it rose right out of the ground itself. She has heard that the Stone is the greatest and oldest fortress in the world, the first one built after the Breaking of the World.

“Made with the Power,” Elayne murmured. She was staring at the Stone, too. “Flows of Earth woven to draw stone from the ground, Air to bring it from every corner of the world, and Earth and Fire to make it all in one piece, without seam or joint or mortar. Atuan Sedai says the Tower could not do it, today. Strange, given how the High Lords feel concerning the Power now.”

“I think,” Nynaeve said softly, eyeing the dockmen moving around them, “that given that very thing, we should not mention certain other things aloud.” Elayne appeared torn between indignation—she had spoken very softly—and agreement; the Daughter-Heir agreed with Nynaeve too often and too readily to suit Egwene.

But Egwene still admits to herself, grudgingly, that Elayne only agrees with Nynaeve when she is right, as she is on this occasion. In Tear, any woman even associated with Tar Valon would be watched. She whispers agreement into Elayne’s ear, not wanting Nynaeve to hear, but she can sense Nynaeve’s satisfaction anyway.

Saddling their own horses after none of the sailors so much as bother to look their way, the women ride off into the city through flat, muddy streets. Nyneave asks if any of them have an idea how to begin looking for Liandrin and the others, and Elayne immediately suggests a thief-taker. She explains to them that thief-takers serve the rulers of their lands—in this case, the High Lords—but not exclusively, and can be hired by people to find things that were stolen, or sometimes, to find people. At least that is how it is in Andor, and Elayne doesn’t think it will be much different in Tear.

Egwene suggests they find rooms at an inn and then look for a thief-taker, but Nynaeve has other ideas. Convinced that Linadrin and co. will be looking for people following their trail, she can’t offer a better idea other than “I’ll know it when I see it” as she leads them through the streets of Tear. Egwene observes how most of the shops seem unprosperous and most of the people somewhat beaten down, and notes the platforms people put on the bottom of their shoes—if they have shoes—to keep them out of the mud. Eventually Nynaeve leads them down an alley to the back of the house, going right up to the back door and knocking, as Egwene asks what’s going on.

“Did you not see the herbs in the front windows?” Nynaeve knocked again.

“Herbs?” Elayne said.

“A Wisdom,” Egwene told her as she got down from her saddle and tied Mist alongside the black. Gaidin is no good name for a horse. Does she think I don’t know who she means it for? “Nynaeve has found herself a Wisdom, or Seeker, or whatever they call her here.”

A big, muscular woman answers the door, reminding Egwene of Mistress Luhhan by her clear strength and of the Amyrlin by her accent. Nynaeve tells her she needs something to soothe a queasy stomach.

In the pleasant, full kitchen, Nynaeve asks what the woman, Mother Guenna, will give her, and this prompts a discussion about various herbs and remedies. Nynaeve makes one apparent misstep by asking whether they will have to put up with the rain much longer—“I’m not a Sea Folk Windfinder,” the Wise Woman answers, and, “The Defenders take that sort of thing for next to Aes Sedai work”—but they quickly fall into an intense discussion, testing each other’s knowledge and occasionally explaining when one or the other is unfamiliar with a particular plant. It begins to grow on Egwene’s nerves after a while.

“I will remember that,” Nynaeve said. “You mentioned using sheepstongue root for eye pain. I’ve never heard—”

Egwene could stand it no longer. “Maryim,” she broke in, “do you really believe you’ll ever need to know these things again? You are not a Wisdom any longer, or have you forgotten?”

“I have not forgotten anything,” Nynaeve said sharply. “I remember a time when you were as eager to learn new things as I am.”

“Mother Guenna,” Elayne said blandly, “what do you do for two women who cannot stop arguing?”

Mother Guenna observes that the easiest way for two people to stop fighting is to keep away from each other, but if that is impossible, she does have a secret cure, which costs a silver mark each and only works because those who receive the cure never want to tell anyone else about it after—she takes them out back and sticks both of their heads into the rain barrel until they agree to stop arguing, with a promise that if they don’t, she’ll repeat the process for free using the river.

She’s just as content that the girls don’t intend to spend those silver marks, because she enjoys their company, and lately the only people who come to her are those seeking a cure for bad dreams. Growing serious, she adds that it’s just nice to see some faces that don’t look broken down and defeated. She tells them her first name is Ailhuin, and asks them if they’d like to stay for tea, and even supper, prompting Nynaeve to admit that she was hoping to rent a room.

Ailhuin takes time before replying, then admits that she has three spare rooms and while she doesn’t intend to hire them out, she will choose either to let them stay or not, depending. She observes that they ride fine horses, as fine as lords might ride, and that Nynaeve is knowledgeable enough that she should already have “herbs hanging in [her] window,” and yet the three of them are here far from home—from Andor, she guesses. Ailhuin would like to know why, if they’re running away from something, or after something; if she likes the answer, she’ll give them the rooms for free, and they can buy some meat for the table if they want, since prices are dear.

Nynaeve, very carefully, answers that they are after some people, who stole things from Nynaeve’s “mother” and committed murder. As Ailhuin questions why they did not send men to do the work, Nynaeve answers that “those who might have come in our place were killed,” meaning the three murdered Aes Sedai, but allowing Ailhuin to think she means their men. Egwene realizes that Nynaeve is trying to keep to the Three Oaths. She’s cutting it fine, but when her distress at doing so shows on her face, Ailhuin mistakes it for grief and assures Nynaeve she doesn’t have to say more.

Ailhuin is, however, satisfied with the explanation, and even declares that she has exactly the man they need, a thief-catcher named Juilin Sandar. She goes to fetch him, leaving the three to talk.

“You are learning how to be Aes Sedai, Maryim,” [Egwene] said as she turned from the window. “You manipulate people as well as Moiraine.” Nynaeve’s face went white.

Elayne stalked across the floor and slapped Egwene’s face. Egwene was so shocked she could only stare. “You go too far,” the golden-haired woman said sharply. “Too far. We must live together, or we will surely die together! Did you give Ailhuin your true name? Nynaeve told her what we could, that we seek Darkfriends, and that was risk enough, linking us with Darkfriends. She told her they were dangerous, murderers. Would you have had her say they are Black Ajah? In Tear? Would you risk everything on whether Ailhuin would keep that to herself?”

Egwene rubbed her cheek gingerly. Elayne had a strong arm. “I do not have to like doing it.”

“I know,” Elayne sighed. “Neither do I. But we do have to.”

Egwene turned back to peering through the window at the horses. I know we do. But I do not have to like it.

Egwene privately knows that Elayne is right, but she can’t bring herself to apologize, so the three sit in silence until Ailhuin returns with the man in question, a man wearing a brown coat and carrying a sword breaker and a long, thin staff of jointed wood. He has dark eyes that seem to take in every detail of the room, and Nynaeve clearly chooses not to react when that perceptive gaze falls on her.

He tells them that Mother Guenna told him of their problem, and that he would like to help, but warns that the High Lords may soon need him as well—he has seen men on the rooftops at night, and is certain that thieves are at work within the walls. It is only a matter of time before he is summoned to catch those who may be breaking into merchants’ houses, or even lords’ manors. Whatever he does for them must be done soon.

He admits to being curious about the situation; he’s known women thieves but never a band of women thieves. He tells them he will charge them as little as he can, a copper or two, since they say the things they lost have little value. Elayne asks why he doesn’t have a sword, as the thief-taker she knew in Shienar, and Juilin answers that it wouldn’t be allowed, with the laws in the city. He has heard stories of Shienar and how every man there is a warrior, but in Tear, a man like him would be put in a cell for daring to carry a sword.

He begins to ask them to describe the things they lost, when Nynaeve sets her purse on the table and counts out thirteen silver marks (although Egwene does note she seems to be choosing the lightest ones—even the money the Amyrlin gave them won’t last forever) and tells Juilin over his protests that, when he finds the thirteen women, he will have the same amount again.

Juilin, backed up by Ailhuin’s assurances of his honesty, insists that he doesn’t need anything extra, but Nynaeve cuts him off. After making him promise to only find the women and allow them to recover their property themselves, she begins to describe each of the thirteen Black Ajah in detail, without giving any names. Juilin listens intently, clearly absorbing every word.

“Mother Guenna may have told you this,” Nynaeve finished, “but I will repeat it. These women are more dangerous than you can believe. Over a dozen have died at their hands already, that I know of, and I would not be surprised if that was only a drop of the blood on their hands.” Sandar and Ailhuin both blinked at that. “If they discover you are asking after them, you will die. If they take you, they will make you tell where we are, and Mother Guenna will probably die with us.” The gray-haired woman looked disbelieving. “Believe it!” Nynaeve’s stare demanded agreement. “Believe it, or I’ll take back the silver and find another with more brains!”

“When I was young,” Sandar said, voice serious, “a cutpurse put her knife in my ribs because I thought a pretty young girl wouldn’t be as quick to stab as a man. I do not make that mistake anymore. I will behave as if these women are all Aes Sedai, and Black Ajah.” Egwene almost choked, and he gave her a rueful grin as he scooped the coins into his own purse and stuck it behind his sash. “I did not mean to frighten you, mistress. There are no Aes Sedai in Tear. It may take a few days, unless they are together. Thirteen women together will be easy to find; apart, they will be harder. But either way, I will find them. And I will not frighten them away before you learn where they are.”

Ailhuin reassures them again that Juilin is no fool, and trustworthy, but Nynaeve shivers and observes that it will rain again before morning, that she can feel a storm coming. They eat and clean up, Nynaeve and Ailhuin talking while Elayne works on some embroidery and Egwene can’t manage to stop her mind from turning. Eventually they are shown up to separate rooms, but as soon as Ailhuin is gone they gather together in Egwene’s for the now-nightly ritual of traveling into Tel’aran’rhiod.

Feeling uneasy, Egwene tells them to wake her after only an hour, and the two urge her to be careful before she falls into sleep.

Egwene finds herself on the familiar rolling hills, this time wearing a green silk dress embroidered with golden birds. She has learned some tricks for navigating Tel’aran’rhiod, and immediately empties her mind the same way she would have if she was embracing saidar, except instead of allowing the rosebud to form and open, she makes herself imagine every detail of the Heart of the Stone until it feels so real that she could reach out and touch it. Then she opens her eyes and finds herself in the Dream World Heart of the Stone.

The columns were there, and Callandor. And around the sparkling sword, almost as dim and insubstantial as shadows, thirteen women sat cross-legged, staring at Callandor as it revolved. Honey-haired Liandrin turned her head, looking straight at Egwene with those big, dark eyes, and her rosebud mouth smiled.

Egwene awakes with a start, momentarily unable to explain to her worried friends what has happened. It’s the only time since the very first that she has woken without Nynaeve and Elayne’s help, and she doesn’t know how she got back. Finally, as the storm breaks outside, she manages to get out the words; “They are waiting for us. And I think they know we are in Tear.”

Meanwhile, Mat is playing stones against Thom as rain drums overhead on the deck of the Swift. He’s chafing under the time the voyage is taking, and tired too—he’s been too worried to sleep—but Thom tells him that he could be a good player if he puts his mind to it. At the same time, though, the gleeman places a stone that puts him in a position to win. Mat asks if Thom has ever lost a game, and Thom replies that Morgase used to beat him about half the time.

The captain comes down to inform them that they’re tying off at the docks of Tear, complaining of how fast he had to sail and demanding the rest of his payment. Mat, annoyed at finding a riverman who doesn’t play dice, pays him and packs up his things, tucking everything close to his body under his cloak, especially the fireworks. Thom asks if he’s ready to sell the things, but Mat wants to find out how they work, and is looking forward to the fun of setting them off.

They make their way ashore in the rain and immediately sink into the muddy streets, but there’s nothing for it so they forge ahead, Mat declaring his intent to find an inn and then immediately go out looking. Thom urges that a few hours will make no difference, that there are hundreds of inns in Tear, many of them small ones with no more than a dozen rooms, and that Comar will have to search for weeks, just like they do.

The mention of small inns gets Mat thinking of home, thinking of how, as much as he sometimes wishes none of them had left home, neither Rand nor Egwene really had a choice. Mat himself doesn’t think he could settle for small farms and cows, after seeing how big the world is, but he thinks that Perrin might still have a chance to go home again, and finds himself mentally urging Perrin to go home while he still can.

Mat doesn’t think any of the girls would stay in this part of the city, given the mud and the stink of fish—Thom points out that he might be surprised by what women will put up with—and they pass through the city gates into the nicer cobblestone streets. Almost at once they come upon an inn called the White Crescent, and immediately secure a room. Mat is surprised when Thom, for all his talk of waiting and the rain and sleep, follows him back out into the storm. He reminds Mat that people talk to a gleeman, and that he doesn’t want something bad to happen to the girls anymore than Mat. Still, despite Thom performing and Mat dicing, they are unable to learn anything; when the lessening rain starts to show the coming light of dawn, Thom declares that if they don’t go back to the inn he’s going to go to sleep right there in the rain.

Mat stared blearily up the street at a tall man in a cloak hurrying around a corner. Light, I am tired. Rand is five hundred leagues from here, playing at being the bloody Dragon. “What? Three inns?” They were standing almost in front of another, The Golden Cup according to the sign creaking in the wind. It looked nothing like a dice cup, but he decided to give it a try anyway. “One more, Thom. If we don’t find them here, we’ll go back and go to bed.” Bed sounded better than a dice game with a hundred gold marks riding on the toss, but he made himself go in.

He immediately sees Comar sitting at a table playing dice, laughing loudly as he is clearly winning against all comers. It’s easy to see the disgruntled looks on the other patrons’ faces, and especially the innkeepers, but everyone seems to be just sitting there and taking it anyway.

Mat reminds himself to be cautious and look at things from every angle. He and Thom begin a conversation with the innkeeper, who tells them the man is some outlander merchant.

“If you have never seen him before,” Mat said, “how do you know he is a merchant?”

The innkeeper looked at him as if he were stupid. “His coat, man, and his sword. He cannot be a lord or a soldier if he’s from off, so he has to be a rich merchant.” He shook his head for the stupidity of foreigners. “They come to our places, to look down their noses at us, and fondle the girls under our very eyes, but he has no call to do this. If I go to the Maule, I don’t gamble for some fisherman’s coins. If I go to the Tavar, I do not dice with the farmers come to sell their crops.” His polishing gained in ferocity. “Such luck, the man has. It must be how he made his fortune.”

“He wins, does he?” Yawning, Mat wondered how he would do dicing with another man who had luck.

The innkeeper explains that the man doesn’t always win, but he wins often enough. After he explains the details, Thom offers that he is using weighted dice, and switching them out occasionally for an honest pair in order to avoid the obviousness of winning every toss. After having the innkeeper provide two sets of dice, Thom shows him and Mat how the sleight of hand is done, fooling them both despite how closely Mat is watching. When Mat suggests that the innkeeper have Comar arrested, the man balks, explaining that someone like him would be in chains just for accusing a merchant. Comar could probably kill him; the Defenders—as the city Watch are called in Tear—would say he had earned it.

So Mat picks another plan to expose Comar, and ignores both the innkeeper and Thom’s warning as he crosses the room and sits down opposite Comar.

Comar studied Mat’s coat and grinned nastily. “You want to wager coppers, farmer? I do not waste my time with—” He cut off as Mat set an Andoran gold crown on the table and yawned at him, making no effort to cover his mouth. “You say little, farmer, though your manners could use improving, but gold has a voice of its own and no need of manners.” He shook the leather cup in his hand and spilled the dice out. He was chuckling before they came to rest, showing three crowns and two roses. “You’ll not beat that, farmer. Perhaps you have more gold hidden in those rags that you want to lose? What did you do? Rob your master?”

He reached for the dice, but Mat scooped them up ahead of him. Comar glared, but let him have the cup. If both tosses were the same, they would throw again until one man won. Mat smiled as he rattled the dice. He did not mean to give Comar a chance to change them. If they threw the same toss three or four times in a row—exactly the same, every time—even these Defenders would listen. The whole common room would see; they would have to back his word.

He spilled the dice onto the tabletop. They bounced oddly. He felt—something—shifting. It was as if his luck had gone wild. The room seemed to be writhing around him, tugging at the dice with threads. For some reason he wanted to look at the door, but he kept his eyes on the dice. They came to rest. Five crowns. Comar’s eyes looked ready to pop out of his head.

“You lose,” Mat said softly. If his luck was in to this extent, perhaps it was time to push it. A voice in the back of his head told him to think, but he was too tired to listen. “I think your luck is about used up, Comar. If you’ve harmed those girls, it’s all gone.”

“I have not even found . . .” Comar began, still staring at the dice, then jerked his head up. His face had gone white. “How do you know my name?”

He had not found them, yet. Luck, sweet luck, stay with me. “Go back to Caemlyn, Comar. Tell Gaebril you could not find them. Tell him they are dead. Tell him anything, but leave Tear tonight. If I see you again, I’ll kill you.”

“Who are you?” the big man said unsteadily. “Who—?” The next instant his sword was out and he was on his feet.

Mat barely has the ability to snatch up his quarterstaff in time. He struggles to ward off Comar’s blows, and even loses his staff after a few moments and has to grab Comar’s wrist to keep the blade from coming down on him. He manages to throw Comar off by heaving with his legs and snatches up his staff again… only to find that Comar has, impossibly, landed on the overturned table and broken his back.

As Comar dies, he murmurs to Mat that he is a fool to think that Comar is the only one hunting them, and that they won’t live until… and then he falls still. Mat curses his luck for abandoning him, since Elayne and the others aren’t safe and now he has no idea who to look for. Then he’s shaken to his senses by the innkeeper pulling at his arm.

“You must go. You must. Before the Defenders come. I will show them the dice. I will tell them it was an outlander, but a tall man. With red-colored hair, and gray eyes. No one will suffer. A man I dreamed of last night. No one real. No one will contradict me. He took coin from everyone with his dice. But you must go. You must!” Everyone else in the room was studiously looking another way.

They are bustled out, but Mat is too preoccupied with his thoughts to make the speed Thom is urging.

“It’s the luck,” Mat mumbled. “I’ve figured it out. The dice. My luck works best when things are… random. Like dice. Not much good for cards. No good at stones. Too much pattern. It has to be random. Even finding Comar. I’d stopped visiting every inn. I walked into that one by chance. Thom, if I am going to find Egwene and the others in time, I have to look without any pattern.”

Thom doesn’t understand what Mat is talking about. In any case, he urges that they are soaked through and exhausted, and those facts finally start registering in Mat’s brain. The gleeman has been coughing increasingly all night, too, and Mat finally consents to head back for a little sleep before he continues his search.


So… Thom’s got a cold. He’s gonna need a Wise Woman, right? I feel like that would be one way for Mat to find Nynaeve, Egwene, and Elayne… just randomly go find a healer for Thom and walk right into Ailhuin’s house. Since that is apparently how the luck works.

I apologize for the heavy reliance on excerpts this week, but some of those Mat bits were just too good to summarize! Mat has rapidly become one of the most interesting characters in these books and I’m really excited to watch him—and his super power—develop. Mat is swiftly developing this feeling of almost being a demigod of some kind, and it reminds me a little of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, the way his stranger powers keep showing up, and he half doesn’t understand them and half instinctually does. It’s also notable that he hasn’t once tried to fake being self-interested or hide his genuine love and concern for the girls. Maybe he’s too worried to think about appearances or posing, and it’s nice to see those barriers dissolve.

But oh my goodness, that innkeeper is going to describe Rand to the Defenders, so our poor Dragon Reborn is going to have yet another set of people trying to track him down and capture him! I can’t blame Mat for not catching it; there was a lot going on and he has no reason to think Rand would be anywhere near Tear (even though he just saw him in the streets). Oh Jordan, I love how your dramatic irony keeps me yelling at the pages.

There’s also a lot of irony in Nynaeve behaving in such a very classic Aes Sedai manner. Nynaeve loves to be mysterious and do her own thing, then let people be surprised by her cleverness. It’s like watching Sherlock Holmes—especially Cumberbatch’s. Or, you know, Moiraine. Granted, I’ve made that comparison a few times before now, but to have Egwene make the same accusation takes things to a whole different level.

Still, it really isn’t surprising. Even before the reader had a sense of what it takes to be an Aes Sedai, what the Three Oaths are or why they exist, or where the girls’ journey would lead them, it was easy to see that Nynaeve was a dramatic soul and a control freak, who viewed herself as just a little bit better than most people. Moiraine is the same, and I think that Egwene might be rather the same too. She was a bit more humble when we met her, but she was also younger; her confidence has shot up rapidly as she’s gained experience in the world and in channeling.

And really, Aes Sedai or no, that’s where the conflict between Nynaeve and Moiraine and between Egwene and Nynaeve truly lies. They’re too similar, and so rather than complementing each other, they’re bouncing off one another and competing for the same spaces. Nynaeve viewed Moiraine as a threat to the younger Emond’s Field folks’ safety, sure. But she also hated having another woman around who gave orders that she expected to be always obeyed, never explained her thinking, and acted as an authority over everyone around her the exact same way Nynaeve was accustomed to behaving as the Wisdom of Emond’s Field. And now, Egwene is starting to become more powerful and self-assured, and to establish her own independent skill and thinking. She still sees fully-fledged Aes Sedai as an authority over her (although her experience with the Seanchan has altered her ability to so easily accept even deserved authority) but she and Nynaeve are both Accepted now, and their age gap is becoming less and less important. Her thoughts about not having to like what they’re doing were such a perfect echo of some of Nynaeve’s inner monologues when dealing with Moiraine it was chilling.

And Egwene even has skills Nynaeve does not, such as her ability to channel without being angry first, and of course her skill as a Dreamer. She doesn’t see why Nynaeve should be still considered a leader or an authority in her life, and while I don’t entirely agree with her conclusions, I can certainly see where she’s coming from. It actually makes me feel more confident in her possible future as Amyrlin, because it’s clear that whatever happens, there’s going to be a huge shake-up in the way the Aes Sedai society works, as the Dragon comes into his own and the world is broken all over again.

I imagine Nynaeve and Elayne will be a crucial part of that new structure, as well, although Elayne’s part may end up having more to do with being a ruler than an Aes Sedai, or some combination thereof. I wonder if Nynaeve’s love of, and devotion to, herbs won’t stay with her throughout her career, maybe even find a place in Aes Sedai healing. Just because they look down their noses at using anything besides the Power in healing doesn’t mean they are right to, after all. And with people like Egwene and Nynaeve rising in the ranks, who knows what types of channeling might be rediscovered. Or even invented for the first time.

I had a chuckle over the two of them being miffed at having to saddle their own horses, though. Guess those Aes Sedai graces really are sinking in, and in more places than just over who wants to be in charge. Also Egwene is right—Gaidin is a ridiculously obvious and silly name for Nynaeve’s horse.

I love it anyway.

I was uncertain if Egwene’s encounter with the thirteen Black Ajah was real or symbolic. Were they actually aware of her presence in Tel’aran’rhiod, either because they were also in the Dream World or because they could somehow sense across the veil, or whatever you would call it, between the worlds? Or was the fact that Liandrin looked at her more a symbolic occurrence, the foretelling aspect of Egwene’s talent trying to warn her that Liandrin knows she’s there, kind of like how she keeps seeing Mat calling that he is coming? Either way, I think that they need to start getting on their guard in the real world—Liandrin and co. might be waiting for the three to come to them, but it’s also quite possible they’ll be more proactive and come out to get them.

After all, I’m still not certain that they were the ones who left the trail for Nynaeve to find—it could have been Lanfear laying false clues to put the three on the trail for her own reasons. I do think it’s worth noting, also, that both Egwene and Perrin are frustrated that they can’t get the dreams to do what they want or give them the answers that they want, when it seems likely that the dreams are telling them exactly what they need to know—they just don’t have the skill to translate it yet. Granted, Perrin is “too new” yet, and Egwene might be too; just because Verin decided to give her the ring doesn’t mean she’s really ready to have to use it. That’s the trouble with events outpacing you: You have to grow with them, not the other way around.

A few final thoughts:

  • Ailhuin mentioned a fisherman finding cuendillar in the river. We haven’t heard much about cuendillar lately, and I wonder if that reminder is foreshadowing something.
  • There’s definitely some foreshadowing going on with The Travels of Jain Farstrider. That book was mentioned in the first two novels as well, I believe, but it keeps appearing and appearing now, more often than any other of the popular stories the Emond’s Field kids know. At first I put it down to the fact that Jordan seems to be generally more into repetition in The Dragon Reborn than he was in the first two books, but now I’m thinking this is a more specific choice.
  • Ailhuin. Alsbet Luhhan. I see what you did there, Jordan.
  • I don’t know why I keep recapping the details of what Egwene is wearing in Dream Land, when I don’t tend to bother with clothing the rest of the time. I just keep expecting it to be relevant somehow. Interesting that she uses the same trick to navigate as she does to embrace saidar.
  • Oh Mat. That was Rand, honey.

Next week I plan to cover three more chapters (50-52) but I haven’t finished them yet so if they end up being too dense I might drop it down to two. Until then, I wish you all a happy week full of good luck and friendship in surprising places. As for me, I suddenly feel the hankering to go cook some fish for dinner.

Sylas K Barrett started watching Season 3 of Stranger Things this week, and although the rat thing is a classic horror-movie homage all he could think of was that maybe Ba’alzamon was there, standing just off-screen, exploding those babies. Brr. Yuck.


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