Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Out of Samara and Back Into Tel’aran’rhiod in Robert Jordan’s The Fires of Heaven (Part 29)

Well, it’s been over 90℉ in NYC the past few days but down in the 60s today, so I feel appropriately ready to tackle this week’s chapters as Nynaeve and her entourage finally escape Samara and head downriver towards Salidar. Sure, they’re still cooped up with a misogynist ship captain and a lot of fears and regrets, but at least they’re on the move. We’ll see moods lighten and a little bit of hope come back, not just for our protagonists but for some other folks as well. It’s a nice little montage reprieve, and a good bit of character work as we cover Chapters 48 and 48 of The Fires of Heaven.

As soon as she gets back to the wagon, Nynaeve changes her dress and goes through the items hidden in the stove to pick out what she wants to carry: the twisted stone ring; the coffer of gems from Amathera; the letters-of-rights given to them by Siuan as well as one of the letters stating that the bearer acts in the name of the Amyrlin (most people don’t know about Siuan being deposed, so they might still be useful); and three of the six purses. She leaves the a’dam, the two other ter’angreal, and the silver arrow. Finally, she grabs the bag with the cuendillar seal inside, trying to tell herself that she’s imagining the strong feeling of evil she senses, as though she can feel the Dark One trying to break through. She stuffs it hastily into the folds of a dress and wraps it up in the middle of her bundle of clothes.

The atmosphere in the wagon turns frosty when Elayne arrives and sees what Nynaeve has left for her to carry, but neither woman says anything to the other as they pack. Nynaeve considers that a boat will be just as confining as the wagon. Outside they find the men ready and waiting for them, as well as Birgitte, whose new outfit reminds Nynaeve very much of the one she wore in Tel’aran’rhiod. Various members of Luca’s company come to say farewell, and Nynaeve reluctantly accepts two more boxes of firesticks from Aludra. Nynaeve is a little surprised when Cerandin doesn’t swing by, given her affection for Elayne, but she’s also relieved, given her own relationship with the woman. Luca brings Nynaeve some bedraggled wildflowers and more declarations of his love for her and her beauty, as Nynaeve stands there embarrassed and red-faced.

She throws the flowers to the ground as soon as they are out of sight of the wagons, where they find the rest of the Shienarans waiting for them. Nynaeve ignores their curious stares, stomping angrily ahead, furious at Luca for embarrassing her and at Lan for never giving her flowers, not having Luca’s dedication to carrying her off and making her love him.

Men and their word! Men and their honor! Wedded to death, was he? Him and his personal war with the Shadow! He was going to live, he was going to wed her, and if he thought differently on either point, she intended to set him straight. There was only the small matter of his bond to Moiraine to deal with. She could have screamed in frustration.

Birgitte and the men spread out to flank Nynaeve and Elayne, which makes Nynaeve feel a bit foolish since there is no danger in sight. When they actually reach Samara, though, she suddenly wishes they had a hundred more men. There is smoke rising from the walls. The empty streets are strewn with destroyed property as well as corpses, and they can hear angry buzzing in the distance as they walk. A mob appears suddenly, and Elayne and Nynaeve both embrace saidar as the torrent of people comes rushing down on them. Nynaeve is ready to channel if she must, but the charge splinters on the Shienaran’s swords. Juilin fights beside them as Thom picks up stragglers that manage to get through and Birgitte calmly shoots arrows into the eyes of the attackers.

Yet if they held the mob, it was Galad who broke them. He faced their charge as though awaiting the next dance at a ball, arms folded and unconcerned, not even bothering to bare his blade until they were almost on top of him. Then he did dance, all his grace turned in an instant to fluid death. He did not stand against them; he carved a path into their heart, a clear swath as wide as his sword’s reach.

It’s Galad from whom their attackers eventually turn and flee, and Nynaeve feels nauseous at how graceful and handsome he looks even when he’s wiping blood from his blade on the coat of a corpse. For once she has no urge to heal the wounded people around her, but she does say thank you aloud to her companions, truly grateful even though it hurts to admit that they did something she couldn’t do. The group hurries on, and while they hear more people around them they aren’t bothered by anyone until they finally encounter a group of two dozen Whitecloaks. Galad speaks to them and they are allowed to pass.

There is a crowd of refugees and families at the dock, eyeing the single ship hopefully, and Nynaeve is reminded of the people she couldn’t help in Tanchico. Galad bustles her and Elayne on board where they meet the captain, Agni Neres, with a surly look in his face. He’s eager to get underway, but Nynaeve insists that he allow all those on the docks to board his ship, even those who don’t have money to pay. He looks like he’s going to argue and then suddenly changes his mind. Nynaeve notes Thom, Juilin, and Uno watching her with bland expressions.

With a sharp sniff, she said, “I will see them all aboard before anybody touches a rope,” and went in search of Galad. She supposed he deserved some thanks. He had thought what he was doing was the right thing. That was the trouble with the best of men. They always thought they were doing the right thing. Still, whatever the three had done, they had saved argument.

The first thing Galad does is apologize to her. Neres charged him a high fee for their passage and Galad couldn’t afford to pay for the whole trip, only about half way to Altara. Elayne, eyeing the ruined city, tells him he has done plenty, and he responds again, tiredly, that he did what he promised. Nynaeve notes that, while Galad helped start a war in order to keep a promise, he didn’t use his authority to demand a better price from Neres—Galad didn’t count the cost of doing what was right against himself any more than he does against others.

At the gangplank, he paused, staring at the town as if seeing the future. “Stay clear of Rand al’Thor,” he said bleakly. “He brings destruction. He will break the world again before he is done. Stay clear of him.” And he was trotting up to the dock, already calling for his armor.

Elayne and Nynaeve share a surprised look, which is awkward given how much they have been fighting lately, and Nynaeve tells herself that there is no way Galad knows that they have no intention of returning to Caemlyn.

It’s a bit difficult finding places for all the refugees, but Nynaeve stations the Shienarans around the ship to sharpen their swords while she informs Captain Neres that he is going to find room for everyone and that she is going to let him know what she’ll be paying for everyone’s passage, not the other way around. It still hurts her to count out the money, but it’s worth it, especially when she sees the hope dawning on people’s faces. She’s extremely embarrassed when they find out that she’s the one who paid for their passage and crowd around to fawn over her and thank her, often while crying.

Nynaeve, Birgitte, and Elayne are cramped in Neres’ small cabin. Elayne and Nynaeve argue when Elayne points out that the man is definitely a smuggler. This comes up again later when Nynaeve tells Neres that he has to make more room for the refugees. He refuses to clear anything out of the hold, telling her that the cargo is too valuable, but a combination of Thom flashing his knives and Elayne remarking how odd if might look to the excise men that Neres is headed south with a hold full of goods from the south forces his hand. His mood grows even more sour as they throw everything over the side except fabrics, which Nynaeve designates for bedding.

Neres clearly despises women, to the point where his crew tries not to get caught speaking to any of them, and believes that women are the source of any and all trouble men experience. Because of his attitude, Nynaeve, Elayne, and Birgitte find themselves hiding all their bad temper and animosity towards each other.

Neres’ open satisfaction at having his ridiculous expectations met—he surely would have seen it so—that would have been unbearable. He left them no choice but to swallow their acid and smile.

When Nynaeve realizes that the useful wind that has recently sprung up is a result of Elayne channeling, she confronts her, although she’s careful to look smiling and affable to anyone who might be watching.

From Elayne’s damply glowing countenance and wide eyes, milk and honey should have fountained from her mouth. “You are turning into a frightened rabbit. Pull yourself together. Samara is miles behind us. No one could sense anything useful from that far. She would have to be on the ship with us to know. I was very quick.

Nynaeve’s anger allows her to see the faded residue of the weave, and reflects that working with weather tends to be like rolling a stone downhill—all it really needed was a push. Moghedien might have been able to feel Elayne channeling from Samara, but she could never have been able to pinpoint where it was. And Nynaeve has no desire to spend any more time on that boat than necessary. Still, she tells Elayne that she should have asked, and reminds her that her old nurse isn’t there to come pick her up and wash her face when she runs blindly into a hole. Birgitte, keeping up the same smiling appearance as they, threatens to dunk them both in the river.

As time passes, however, the tension between the three women begins to ebb away. Nynaeve covertly heals some of the injured men, hiding her work under bandages and ointment, and then moves on to the children. Despite never feeling like she cared much for children, she finds herself moved to comfort them, and Elayne and Birgitte soon join her in sitting and playing with the children.

They are all touched by the refugees’ stories of lost homes and families. There are only old and very young men, and not one woman has a husband with her. Their scraps of hope and determination tug at Nynaeve—three in particular. The first is Nicola, who lost her fiancé when he decided it was his duty to follow the Prophet and was later killed. The second is Marigan, a healer who dealt in herbs and cures but couldn’t save her husband, and now has two sons to take care of.

Mobs searching for Aes Sedai chased her into hiding after she had cured a man of fever and rumor had turned it into bringing him back from the dead. That was how little most people knew of Aes Sedai; death was beyond the power to Heal. Even Marigan seemed to think it was not.

And the third is Areina, who left her home to travel to Illian to try to stop her younger brother from taking the oath as a Hunter of the Horn, but was unable to find him and somehow ended up taking the oath herself. She’s been traveling and searching, hoping still to find her brother and not really believing that the Horn exists, and has clearly had a hard time of it.

Even so, she had no intention of giving up or seeking sanctuary, or a peaceful village. The world was still out there, and Areina meant to wrestle it to the ground. Not that she put it that way, but Nynaeve knew it was what the woman meant.

Nynaeve sees herself in all three of the women’s stories, but she relates the most to Areina, whose too-free tongue seems to be responsible for most of her troubles. Nynaeve doesn’t really acknowledge this to herself, however, though she does think that Areina could benefit from looking to Nynaeve as an example. She wants to help all three of the women, if she can.

At one point Nynaeve and Elayne have a squabble about having enough room on the bed and Nynaeve references Elayne’s mother’s palace. She doesn’t understand Birgitte’s reaction to learning Elayne’s identity or Elayne’s evident satisfaction, but after the two have a talk it seems like something has settled between the two of them.

She and Elayne wash the dye out of their hair, which lifts Nynaeve’s spirits further. On the third day they reach Boannda, where the refugees disembark—all except Areina, Nicola, and Marigan and her two sons, who declare that they want to stay with Nynaeve. Neres declares that he is glad to be rid of all of them, only to learn that Nynaeve and her companions will be traveling on to Salidar. His yelling makes Nynaeve angry enough that she channels to make him feel like he’s being bitten by horseflies, which makes Birgitte laugh.

That night, Nynaeve takes out the stone ring and travels to the Heart of the Stone in Tel’aran’rhiod, where she forces herself to wait and periodically call out to Egwene, as she struggles to keep control over her appearance in the dream and frets over Moghedien. When she allows herself to wake, Elayne asks anxiously about Egwene, but Nynaeve only answers that she is tired of being afraid and a coward.

Elayne was there in an instant, holding her and smoothing her hair, and an instant later, Birgitte pressed a cloth dampened in cool water against the back of her neck. She cried herself out to the sound of them telling her she was not a coward.

Birgitte admits that if she thought Moghedien was hunting her, she would run and hide, and that there is no more cowardice in that than in refusing to stand in front of a charging s’redit. She reminds Nynaeve that she must choose her own ground to face Moghedien.

Meanwhile Elayne takes out one of the other ter’angreal, and tells Nynaeve that they will return together, to prove that Nynaeve is not a coward. They go back to the Stone, then to the palace in Caemlyn, and then to Emond’s Field, where Nynaeve puzzles over some of the banners and over the very big house that is under construction at the edge of the village.

They flashed to the White Tower, to Elaida’s study. Nothing had changed there, except that only half a dozen stools remained in the semicircle in front of Elaida’s table. And the triptych of Bonwhin was gone. The painting of Rand remained, with a poorly mended tear in the canvas across Rand’s face, as if someone had thrown something at it.

Going through Elaida’s box of papers, they find that she knows about Rand entering Cairhien, and that she is apparently angry and frustrated about a number of things. They return each night afterwards, discovering that Elaida has sent an emissary to Salidar to invite the Aes Sedai there to return. They also learn that she is frantic over trying to find someone named Davram Bashere, and that she has forbidden anyone to say Mazrim Taim’s name aloud. They also practice control, not wanting to be caught helpless again, practicing calling things into existence and learning how to hold someone in the Dream against their will. They can’t figure out how Egwene came to them in their personal dreams, however.

The night they go to meet Egwene, Nynaeve tries out using the disk (Neres’ continued bad mood had sparked enough anger for her to channel) and finds that one definitely doesn’t feel as present in Tel’aran’rhiod as when using the ring. She finds that even saidar feels misty and distant to her—all but the flow of spirit that she wove into the ter’angreal disk in order to use it.

When Egwene and Amys arrive, Amys is surprised to see both of them. They try to ask Egwene how she came to them in their dreams but she cuts them off hurriedly, telling them everything she already told them in that visit, confusing them both. Nynaeve is surprised at the additional piece of information about Mat killing Couladin and leading soldiers. Elayne asks if Rand is well.

“As well as can be expected,” Amys said. “He drives himself hard, and listens to no one. Except Moiraine.” Amys was not pleased.

“Aviendha is with him almost all the time,” Egwene said. “She is taking good care of him for you.”

They learn that Rand is practicing both Aiel fighting and swordsmanship every day, and that he spends so much time ordering the lords and ladies in Cairhien about and then chasing them to make sure they did as they were told that the Maidens have to chase him down to get him to eat. He has also started a strange school for craftspeople, and no one knows why except possibly Moiraine. He has also seemingly forgotten about the Shaido, and has sent half of the Aiel to Tear. Everyone is frustrated that they don’t know what he is planning or why.

Egwene makes another sly reference to Sheriam’s study, then asks what Elayne and Nynaeve have been up to. They do their best to relay everything while avoiding any mention of Birgitte, since she has still not given them permission to tell anyone about her. Amys asks if they are certain that the Salidar Aes Sedai will support Rand, and Elayne assures her that they need the legitimacy that supporting the Dragon Reborn (which Elaida does not) will give them.

They then have to explain how both Nynaeve and Elayne are in Tel’aran’rhiod at the same time. Amys decides that she doesn’t much like the idea of any woman who can channel being able to come into Tel’aran’rhiod.

Once Amys is gone the other three travel to Sheriam’s study, where Egwene immediately begins to upbraid them for not keeping her trip to their dreams a secret. She tells them that only a Dreamwalker can enter someone else’s dreams, then vanishes. Nynaeve is so embarrassed that she loses her hold on her anger, and therefore saidar, waking abruptly. She splashes some water on her face and upbraids herself for “flapping her tongue like a brainless girl” and ruining her chance to fix the balance of power between her and Egwene. Elayne wakes shortly after, to explain that she didn’t learn anything interesting going through Elaida’s study except that she intends to demote Shemerin to Accepted. Nynaeve wonders if that’s possible, and Elayne remarks that Elaida seems to be just doing whatever she wants.

Elayne wishes she could have sent a message to Rand.

“I did not even have a chance to send a message to Rand.” Elayne got in after, and the lamp winked out. The small windows let in only dribbles of moonlight. “And one to Aviendha. If she is taking care of him for me, then she ought to take care of him.”

“He isn’t a horse, Elayne. You don’t own him.”

“I never said I did. How will you feel if Lan takes up with some Cairhienin woman?”

Nynaeve tells her not to be silly, and falls asleep worrying that Lan, surrounded by noblewomen, will forget who he belongs to.

On the fifth day they disembark on a forested shore that is supposedly where Salidar is, and once again Nicola, Marigan, and Areina declare their intention to stay with Nynaeve. She thinks they’re in for a bit of a shock when they find out where they’re going.

Elayne asks Nynaeve if she’s thought about how they’ll be received.

They had crossed half the world, or near enough, and defeated the Black Ajah twice. Well, they had had help in Tear, but Tanchico had been all their doing. They brought news of Elaida and the Tower she was willing to bet no one in Salidar had. And most importantly, they could help these sisters make contact with Rand. “Elayne, I won’t say they will greet us as heroes, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they kissed us before today is done.”

She tells Uno to clear a path and they set off, hoping Neres hasn’t dropped them off in the wrong place.

 

So apparently Jordan’s new overly-repetitive narrative moment is focusing on the difficulty of doing up buttons on dresses. It’s become a sort of metaphor for Nynaeve, Elayne, and Birgitte’s fighting, I guess, and perhaps the narrative’s way of subtly suggesting that we should cut Elayne more slack for liking her performance breeches so much. We get it, women’s clothes are a hassle and Nynaeve should stop being such a prude about low-cut tops. Or something.

I enjoyed the little reminders of Lan and Nynaeve’s feelings for him. We can’t go a single chapter without being reminded that Elayne has laid claim to Rand, but Nynaeve has her own hero to miss and worry about. I found her annoyance that Lan hasn’t given her flowers very cute, actually, and I can certainly sympathize with the frustration of getting too much attention from the wrong man while the one she loves is busy telling her that all he can give her is a widow’s veil. A bit too much drama from both these men, if you ask me. If you’re going to give a woman your special king’s ring, spend time with her, and tell her you loved her, I think you’ve at least implicitly stated that you’re interested in more. So that’s my ruling, Lan. Get that woman some flowers.

Good riddance to Valan Luca though—that guy was annoying. Granted, we had to deal with Captain Neres for a bit, but he’s also in the rear view mirror now too. I found Neres and his misogyny pretty boring, really, and it felt like he was just there to make me miss Bayle Domon, the fun kind of smuggler and a much better character. I wonder how Domon is doing; it’d be nice to see him again at some point.

I’ve also been wondering what Perrin is up to and if we’re ever going to see him in The Fires of Heaven, but I guess now we know he’s building a big house. Or more likely, the folks of the Two Rivers are building him a lord’s manor despite his protests. Friends, I miss Perrin. I would like to have Perrin back soon please.

Galad is more interesting, but also just so vexing as a character. For some reason, he always makes me think of Spock in original series Star Trek. He swans around being more logical and more talented than everyone else, always saving the day and being super calm about it. Like, where does this guy get off being such an incredible swordsman along with the most handsome dude in all of creation, and the son of a queen, and a high-ranking Whitecloak and everything else? He’s perfect except for one really big, really important thing. Whereas Spock’s soul is the most human Kirk has ever met, Galad doesn’t seem to have any connection to empathy or kind emotions. Maybe that will change in time as he experiences more of the world, or maybe that will lead him down a bad path. Only time will tell, I suppose.

In the meantime, I find Galad’s character incredibly frustrating. I don’t blame Elayne for her feelings at all. If he were my brother, I’d be in exactly the same mindset.

I do wonder if Galad suspects that they aren’t going back to Caemlyn. I feel like he’d be a bit naïve not to—the guy is a lot of things, but he’s no dummy. Perhaps he realizes that there’s only so much he can do to force them, since he’s unwilling to abandon his position with the Children, and is just hoping for the best. Plus he must feel relieved getting them away from Samara and the menagerie, which is an improvement in their situation even if they aren’t safe at home in the palace.

I really enjoyed the description of the action in Chapter 48, the way the mob broke on the Shienaran defense like a wave against a rock, and the way Thom swept up stragglers with his knives and Birgitte shot coolly and never missed. The battles in The Wheel of Time are getting more horrific and bloody as time goes on, not least because these are battles between two groups of humans, rather than humans against Shadowspawn. The image of ordinary men screaming the prophet’s name and throwing themselves on the Shienarans’ swords is even more chilling than the idea of Trollocs doing it, especially when we get to the part where some of them are wielding pikes and pitchforks with heads stuck on them.

It’s a stark reminder of the prophecy that the Dragon is going to Break the World again. Rand didn’t authorize any of Masema’s actions. He doesn’t even know about them, but his very existence has catapulted these events into motion. Even before Rand sets foot in a country or seats himself in the capital, political and social upheaval is sparking all over the world. Knowing how much guilt the guy is carrying, I hate to think how Rand will react when he hears about Samara, and about what Masema is up to. I suspect he’ll feel compelled to do something about it, but he has so many responsibilities already on his plate that he might find it impossible to make room for this one. I suppose if he really wants to go Daes Dae’mar about, it he could have Masema assassinated, but I’m not sure Rand’s quite ready to commit to that way of doing things. Not yet, anyway. In any case, someone would have to replace Masema in any case and figure out how to manage his followers. It wouldn’t help to make that man into a martyr.

I am endlessly curious about Elayne and Birgitte’s discussion after Birgitte found out that she’s Warder to the future Queen of Andor. What does she think of this fate that she didn’t choose for herself? Why was Elayne looking disgruntled at the end of the conversation? (Maybe she tried to press that idea of obedience?) I really hope we get to find out more, next time we get an Elayne POV.

You know, doing this read has been a really interesting way to experience a new story. I’m doing a close read of each chapter and going over everything twice, which means I definitely catch things I probably wouldn’t have if I was just reading for pleasure, or missed on the first read-through. One line in particular caught my eye this week, while I was writing up the recap: Elayne’s claim that Moghedien “would have to be on the ship” to have known that Elayne was channeling. It’s a line that might not mean anything other than what it appears to… However, I know Jordan and his writing fairly well now, and there’s a chance that this is a sneaky little hint that Moghedien is on the ship somehow. I have no idea how she would have found them in time to get on the ship, but she does know what Birgitte and Nynaeve look like, so if she spotted them from some street in Samara or happened to be on the docks when they arrived to board the Riverserpent

There’s no way for me to know right now if I’m being very clever or totally off-base, but what’s fascinating to me about this idea is that I can’t see how Moghedien could have gotten on the ship without Nynaeve’s decision to bring all the refugees on board. Perhaps she could have bought passage as well, if she offered Neres enough money or disguised herself as a male sailor, but that doesn’t seem too likely. Which means that she was following the group, watching from the docks, trying to figure out how to get to them while they’re surrounded by Shienaran soldiers, frustrated and about to lose them… and then Nynaeve invited her and everyone else right onto the ship.

I wonder if she’s one of Nynaeve’s three favorites. Nicola, Marigan, and Areina all remind her of herself in some way, and I could see Moghedien intentionally picking a disguise that would appeal to Nynaeve, so that she can get close. She is the spider, after all. Part of me thinks that, if she’s using the Power to disguise herself, Elayne should be able to sense it—and Nynaeve too, whenever she’s angry enough—but Lanfear was able to wear her disguise without Moiraine noticing it, so there must be some trick to weaving a disguise that we haven’t learned yet.

Those of you who have already read the books are either throwing things at your screen right now or finding this section a bit silly, depending on whether I am right or not. In the meantime, I’m just worrying about the possibility that Elayne and Nynaeve are escorting Moghedien (and maybe two of Lanfear’s former crew as well?) straight to Salidar. Either way, I expect we’ll get a final confrontation between Nynaeve and Moghedien by the end of The Fires of Heaven—they’ve each won one round, so we have to have the final deciding match.

It was such a relief to have Nynaeve finally break down and confess her struggles to Birgitte and Elayne, and to see them be there for her. I feel like, after putting her through the wringer and giving her a lot of character growth, the narration has been dragging its feet on actually letting that growth show. For example, while Nynaeve is still letting her emotions rule her, she has clearly learned a lot about how much she lies to herself about her feelings, and it’s been a bit irksome to see the narration insist that she’s still lying to herself about things; she should be past insisting to herself that she isn’t being as cranky as Birgitte and Elayne, although it makes sense that she would refuse to admit such a thing to others.

She does have her more self-aware moments, such as right in the beginning of Chapter 48 when she’s packing up the valuables, choosing out the ring and leaving the other ter’angreal, avoiding the a’dam but deciding to carry the seal even though she can barely stand to touch it. She’s even aware that she’s thinking about Moghedien to avoid thinking about something worse—the feeling of evil that has started to seep through the seal. I think the choice to carry the seal shows how Nynaeve’s particular brand of maturity works: She hates touching the a’dam too, but she also doesn’t see a particular importance in preserving the thing. She is willing to take on the responsibility of the seal because of its importance, however, and in fact I don’t think her sense of duty would allow her to leave it for Elayne—Nynaeve is still too protective to leave that burden to another, even if Elayne might see that choice as as condescending or controlling.

In any case, I’m hopeful that Nynaeve’s conversation with Elayne and Birgitte will help convince her that bravery isn’t the absence of fear. Nynaeve needs to learn how to cope with the presence of fear as she makes her choices, how to ask for help and how to act rationally in the face of her difficult emotions. Admitting her fear and weariness to her friends will hopefully be a step in the right direction. And of course Birgitte is right: Nynaeve can only face Moghedien in a moment and situation of her own choosing. Raw power isn’t enough, and surprise is the thing that makes Moghedien the most dangerous.

The way Nynaeve advocates for the refugees is a nice moment. I like that she combines the promise of money with threats, and I like seeing the protector side of Nynaeve coming to the forefront again. This is such an important aspect of her character and it has been, understandably, rather lost lately. She doesn’t feel able to protect anyone so of course we’re not seeing that from her, but she still is that person and this is an important reminder.

Her empathy for Areina, Marigan and Nicola is also a really good character moment. Probably because she’s so out of touch with her own emotions, Nynaeve has trouble understanding people who are different from her. She doesn’t understand Elayne’s desire to make things, or why people would want to live different kinds of lives than the one Nynaeve wants for herself. But when she connects, she connects deeply, and she can be very empathetic in her own way, especially to common people and their suffering. We can see the Village Wisdom in her, and how that position meant more than being bossy and in charge of the women’s circle.

It does make me worry though. If one of those women does turn out to be Moghedien, Nynaeve might struggle anew with faith in her own judgment and with shame over her own impulse to kindness and care. That wouldn’t be good.

I think Nynaeve is probably being a little (a lot) too optimistic about their likely reception in Salidar. Elayne’s point to Amys that the Salidar Aes Sedai need to back Rand is certainly correct, but they should know better than to underestimate Aes Sedai politics. More importantly, for the girls at least, the Aes Sedai in Salidar are going to treat them like Accepted again, requiring them to follow that lovely strict discipline that Nynaeve chafed under before, and that I think both of them are going to find themselves incredibly frustrated by very quickly. Nynaeve has spent this whole time trying to make people (mostly Thom and Juilin) accept her authority, and she’s about to not have any. Elayne probably isn’t going to feel any better about that fact than Nynaeve will, either.

I don’t think Sheriam and the others will go so far as to blame them for leaving the Tower—that was ordered by the Amyrlin in power, after all—though they might have some sharp words for Siuan. That doesn’t mean that they will approve of all the choices Elayne and Nynaeve (not to mention Egwene) have made since they left the Tower, or that the girls’ achievements will change how the Aes Sedai regard them. I mean, maybe they will, but I’m more skeptical than Nynaeve is about it. Even the news about Rand could be taken badly; just because the Aes Sedai need to ally themselves with him doesn’t mean they’ll be happy about it, and there’s always the chance they’ll take that out on the messengers.

I wonder what Siuan and Leane will make of their return. Nynaeve was so resentful of Siuan when she was Amyrlin and had power over her, but now she may find that they are more allies than enemies. Leane, Siuan, Nynaeve, and Elayne now have something in common—they’ll all be chafing under the same authority, trying to get what they want to happen without letting Sheriam and the others know that they’re scheming. And there’s Min to consider, as well as Birgitte. I imagine that Nynaeve and Elayne will continue keeping Birgitte’s secret, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy for the archer to feel comfortable around all those Aes Sedai.

Maybe one of the three women who followed Nynaeve will turn out to be Moghedien and the Salidar Aes Sedai will have their whole settlement disrupted all over again. I’m most suspicious of Areina right now, although Marigan and her creepy kids (oh no, what if she stole some children and used compulsion on them!) are starting to raise some of my suspicions.

It doesn’t sound like Elaida is doing well, though. I don’t think the woman really had a sense of what it takes to be the Amyrlin Seat even for a united, peaceful Tower. We’ve seen her use threats, punishment, and insults to get what she wants from the other Aes Sedai, and her approach really lacks the subtlety we saw from Siuan. The latter was perfectly capable of throwing her authority around, of course, but she knew when to do it, and when to use more gentle or sophisticated methods. Aes Sedai are used to rigid, even militaristic hierarchies, but they are not weak people, and aren’t just going to submit to endless, unwarranted abuse. They are not novices anymore, and I think Elaida looks down on everyone else to her own detriment.

Of course, one wonders how much of Elaida’s failures might be due to the interference of Alviarin, as well.

I’m just as curious as everyone else about Rand’s new school. It makes perfect sense to me that he’d want to do some building, since so much about being the Dragon is related to death and destruction. Moiraine’s observation that everyone has the urge to leave something behind felt really profound to me, especially if she herself expects to die soon. That looming fate is something she and Rand share now, even though they might not realize how much the other feels it. But the comment also reminds me of Elayne’s desire to make things. So much of her and Rand’s courtship has been behind the scenes or in a montage, and other than the burden of being designed to rule it can be hard, sometimes, to say what they see in each other. But this interest in making and in fostering craftsmanship is a personality trait they both share, and it’s a really interesting one. I’m excited to learn more.

And oh, I really feel bad for Moiraine. It seems like everyone’s baffled and frustrated by her behavior, and I know she’s operating under a burden no one around her can even guess at. I wish we knew more about what she was thinking.

 

Two more chapters next week, and we’ll find out if my predictions about Salidar are right. Then we’ll head back to Cairhien to catch up with Rand. Would a Moiraine POV be too much to hope for? Probably.

Sylas K Barrett is going to continue to ponder how disguises work in regards to channeling, and wonder if he’s right about Nynaeve’s new friends. He feels like he’s getting to an almost Rand-like level of not trusting anyone at this point.

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