Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Games Are Different From Puzzles in Robert Jordan’s New Spring (Part 4)

This week on Reading The Wheel of Time, I have a lot of empathy for Moiraine and Siuan, because I too felt like I was just waiting for something to happen. There’s a lot of interesting information in Chapters Six and Seven, but it’s also a little irksome watching Moiraine and Siuan devote so much time and energy to pondering over lists of babies when we know that nothing is going to come of any of it. Rand isn’t on that list, ladies!

I wonder if Tamra thought of the possibility of the mother dying; after all, she specifically said that the bounty is for the mothers. If the mother died in childbirth, which is certainly possible, especially if she’s giving birth in some soldiers’ camp and possibly near fighting, is there any wording to give the money to the father of such a child? Or to whomever has adopted that baby? Obviously even that wouldn’t have helped find Rand, but you would think Tamra would have considered all the angles.

In any case, Moiraine and Siuan don’t know how long they are going to be searching for the Dragon Reborn, but they are starting to get some inkling of just how difficult that search will really be.

The next morning, a novice knocks on Siuan’s door before sunrise, letting them know when the Accepted are expected at the stables. The novice, Setsuko, gives them envious looks; she knows that she will never gain the shawl, but she still has to stay in the Tower as a novice until the Aes Sedai are certain she can channel without harming anyone. She even talked about running away for a while, until she was sent to Merean’s study and learned not to say such things.

Novices did run from time to time, and even the rare Accepted who flinched at what lay ahead of her, but they were always caught eventually, and their return to the Tower was painfully unpleasant to say the least. It was much better for everyone if that could be avoided.

Normally Moiraine would find something comforting to say, but they don’t have much time to eat before they are expected to be on their way, and Moiraine has to rush back to her own room to get ready. She finds Siuan already waiting for her in the hall, along with Sheriam, who tells them that the Aiel are definitely retreating. She’s puzzled by the grins on Siuan and Moiraine’s faces; Moiraine tries to pass over their eagerness to try to get closer to Dragonmount as excitement for another day out riding.

Suddenly all activity stops, because Merean, wearing her shawl, has come into the Accepted gallery. That can only mean two things; either someone is in very big trouble, or she’s come to summon one of them for testing. A few of the Accepted linger hopefully, while others scurry away. Moiraine thinks about how foolish that is—looking guilty in front of Merean guarantees she’ll sniff out whatever it is you did wrong. She comes over in front of Siuan, Sheriam, and Moiraine. Moiraine finds herself almost unable to breathe, thinking about how she isn’t ready, while the two women beside her look desperately eager.

She sends Sheriam away, and then tells Moiraine that she has spoken with the Amyrlin, who agrees that Moiraine must be in shock. They agree that she shouldn’t go out with the other Accepted, and to keep her from being left to brood, she’ll be assigned the duty of copying out the less-legible lists brought in by the others. Moiraine tries to think of an argument against this plan but Siuan swoops in at once, telling Moiraine what a good idea it is and explaining to Merean that Moiraine hadn’t slept at all last night. But Siuan’s eagerness slips when Merean replies that Siuan should join Moiraine in the task.

She leads them to a small, windowless room, where they find a writing table and chairs and all the accoutrements they need for the task. The pile of papers is not encouraging, but at least there’s a fire going in the hearth.

When Merean leaves, Moiraine asks what exactly Siuan was thinking, and Siuan responds that this way Moiraine will get to see all the names, not just the ones she takes down herself. Or rather they both will—Siuan didn’t expect to be roped into the task. Suddenly she remembers what Merean said about Moiraine being in shock and demands to know what that was about.

Last night, revealing her woes had seemed out of place, a trifle compared to what they knew the world faced, but Moiraine had no hesitation in telling her now. Before she finished, Siuan enveloped her in a strong, comforting hug. They had wept on each other’s shoulders much more often than either had availed herself of Merean’s. She had never been as close to anyone as she was to Siuan. Or loved anyone as much.

Siuan talks Moiraine about her uncles and how many of them are wonderful men, but that there are two, drunkards and thieves and bullies, who her father wouldn’t even allow in his house.

“Usually, it’s both of them together setting on the same poor fellow with fists and boots and anything that comes to hand. One day, they’ll hang for killing somebody, if they haven’t already. When they do, I won’t shed a tear. Some people just aren’t worth a tear.”

Moiraine tells Siuan that she always knows the right thing to say, but that Moiraine will still pray for her uncles. Siuan answers that she’ll pray for hers too, but she’s not going to fret herself over them.

They go to breakfast, not rushing as the other Accepted do, lingering over their food and a second cup of tea. Eventually, however, one of the cooks comes out to glare at them. Even Siuan gives under Laras’s gaze, and they hurry back to their room and set to work.

First they separate the easily legible lists from the rest, which is about half. Moiraine is a bit dismayed by the numbers, and also by how vague some of the details are, with birth locations like “born within sight of Tar Valon’s walls” or “within sight of the White Tower.” Other notes include details about mothers who left the camps before the bounty was announced, or whose identities are relayed second and third-hand and might not even be accurate.

They break for lunch, and Elaida shows up in the afternoon to stand around peering over their shoulders, as though to study their writing. She finds nothing to criticize, however, and leaves without speaking. By suppertime, they have found no names that they feel could possibly belong to the child they are seeking.

She doesn’t sleep well that night, but finds herself eager to get back to writing the names. No novice has been sent to tell them to ride out with the others today or give them any other orders. Still, when they have begun sorting through the new additions to the stack of papers, two clerks—a woman and a handsome young man—walk in and seem surprised to see them. The woman announces that she doesn’t like being assigned a task only to find someone else doing it, and tells the young man off for smiling at them. Siuan urges Moiraine to keep working.

The clerks return with the Amyrlin herself, just as they’ve begun copying names. The female clerk looks smug as Siuan and Moiraine bound to their feet to curtsy. Moiraine moves so hastily that she realizes too late that the pen is still in her hand, and it leaves a stain on the white wool of her dress. She tells herself she must be calm.

Tamra studies them for a while, then says that she intended for them to have a free day to read or study, or to practice for their testing. She seems to come to a decision after a moment, and asks Moiraine if she is still troubled by her uncles’ deaths.

“I had nightmares again last night, Mother.” True, but once more they had been of a baby crying in the snow, and a faceless young man breaking the world anew even while he saved it. The steadiness of her own voice amazed her. She had never thought she would dare give an Aes Sedai answer to the Amyrlin Seat.

Tamra nods, and tells her that if she feels like she needs to be occupied then they may continue, and to leave a note with their finished work when they are ready to be replaced.

Half turning, she paused. “Ink is very difficult to remove, especially from white cloth. I won’t tell you not to channel to do it; you know that already.” Another smile, and she gathered up the gray-haired clerk, herding her from the room.

Moiraine stares after Tamra as the Amyrlin makes soothing noises at the clerk in shock, then looks down at the stain and announces wonderingly that the Amyrlin just told her to use the Power to clean her dress. Siuan argues that Tamra said no such thing, and Moiraine explains that you have to listen to what people mean, as well as what they say. This is a skill integral to the Game of Houses, after all.

Generally Accepted are forbidden from using the Power for chores, but they are taught how so that they can do it when they are sisters. Moiraine creates the weave of Earth, Water, and Air, and watches the stain glisten and shrink into a small, dry bead that falls off the cloth into her hand. She remarks that she might keep it as a memento.

Siuan asks what Moiraine would have done if a sister had walked in, and if she would have tried to play the Game of Houses with her. Moiraine gets flustered, directing them back to the work at hand.

After about an hour, Moiraine finds a name that gives her pause, a male child born west of the river on the same day as Gitara’s Foretelling, “within sight of Dragonmount.” After some thought, Moiraine takes a new, empty piece of paper and copies out all the information for the boy, Bili Mandair. Then she notices that Siuan is writing in a small book, while keeping an eye on the doorway. She remarks that “you have to be prepared,” and Moiraine nods and slides her piece of paper over for Siuan to copy Bili’s details. Tomorrow she will bring her own book.

At one point Jarna Malari, a Sitter for the Gray Ajah, arrives and asks Moiraine to walk with her. Moiraine can’t imagine what the woman might want, but walks in silence until Jarna chooses to speak. Eventually the Aes Sedai remarks that she has heard that Moiraine is still troubled by her uncles’ deaths, and Moiraine tries to make an affirming sound without outright lying. Then Jarna asks who Moiraine thinks will ascend to the Sun Throne now that Laman and all his brothers are dead. Moiraine is shocked that a Sitter would ask her opinion on politics, even in this case.

She admits that she assumes the throne will pass to another House, and Jarna agrees that House Damodred has acquired an ill reputation. Moiraine doesn’t like hearing that, even though it’s true.

“Your half-brother Taringail is denied by his marriage to the Queen of Andor,” Jarna went on. “A ridiculous law, but he cannot change it unless he is king, and he cannot become king until it is changed. What of your elder sisters? Are they not well thought of? The… taint… seems largely to have skipped your generation.”

Moiraine explains why her sisters are liked but ill-suited to rule (leaving out some details) and that they would gain no support from the other houses. Jarna studies Moiraine for some time, then gives her permission to return to work. When Siuan asks what Jarna wanted, Moiraine answers that she isn’t sure, but it’s a lie. It’s the first lie she’s ever told Siuan.

By the end of the day, six more Sitters have come to talk to Moiraine, and Tsutama Rath is so blunt as to ask outright if Moiraine has ever thought of being Queen of Cairhien.

Thus she gained another nightmare to join the babe in the snow and the faceless man. She sat on the Sun Throne wearing the shawl of an Aes Sedai, and in the streets outside, the mobs were destroying the city.

There have been no Aes Sedai queens in over a thousand years, and even before then, few dared to rule openly as such. But the only way Moiraine can think of to escape such fate, if it is chosen for her by the Tower, is to run away as soon as she gets the shawl, and not come back until the danger is past. She spends most of the night praying that she will be tested soon. She still doesn’t feel ready, but she needs to escape.

The next day brings more names to add to their books, but Moiraine realizes that no one is going to report that her child was born on the slopes of Dragonmount. Not everyone knows the Prophecies well or the correct versions, but the connection to Dragonmount is one of the most notorious details. No woman would want to admit she gave birth to a boy who might turn out to be the Dragon Reborn. The child they sought would surely be hidden behind such a half truth. She realizes that the women will have to be questioned, and very carefully, without revealing what the questioners are seeking; it will be like playing Daes Dae’mar with the world.

Moiraine is just putting her little book away as Tamra comes in. She worries that the Amyrlin saw her slipping it away into her belt pouch, despite hiding the motion in her curtsy.

Suddenly, the notion of asking forgiveness rather than permission seemed very frail. Discovery would gain them neither. In all likelihood, discovery would bring rustication, working on an isolated farm from sunrise to sunset, cut off from friends and studies, forbidden to channel. For novices and Accepted, that was the penultimate penalty, one last chance to learn correct behavior, before being sent away forever. Far worse than blistered hands, though, it would certainly separate them forever from the hunt for the child.

Tamra remarks, dryly, that she would have thought that they’d be bored by now, especially Siuan, whose dislike for such work is well known. Moiraine, noting that the lies come more and more easily, claims that the lists help her govern her thoughts. Tamra gives permission for them to continue, as long as their studies don’t suffer. Then she gives Moiraine a note to carry to Kerene Nagashi in her rooms.

Moiraine always likes having a task that sends her to the Ajah quarters. After all, you can learn a lot about people, seeing where they lived. Even Aes Sedai let their guard down there a little.

All the Ajah quarters are decorated differently, and Moiraine studies the Green Ajah’s with interest, noting the repetition of swords and other weapons in the motifs, as well as the Power-preserved tapestries depicting old battles. No Aes Sedai has gone to battle since the Trolloc Wars, and the Greens generally fight for justice using their Warders’ swords, but they are all waiting for Tarmon Gai’don.

She also notes the number of men. Most Warders for the other Ajahs have rooms in the Guard’s barracks or even in the city, while the Greens often quarter in their Aes Sedai’s own apartments. Some of them note her as she passes, while other are occupied in playing music or singing, or sparring with practice swords. Moiraine observes Rina Hafden cheering on two such.

“Well struck, Waylin! Oh, very well struck, Elyas!” For size, they might have been twins, though one was dark and clean-shaven, the other fair, with a short beard. Grinning, they moved faster and faster. Their sweat-sodden shirts clung to broad shoulders and backs, yet the pair seemed fresh and untired.

Through a doorway she sees an Aes Sedai named Jala Bandevin teaching a blushing Warder to dance, and Moiraine notes that though the man seems no older than twenty, he would not have been bonded if he hadn’t already had all the requisite skills. Finally she finds Kerene’s door, which bears a sword lacquered in red, gold, and black. She wonders what the lacquering means, and suspects she never will know, since she does not plan to choose green. Still, it bothers her not knowing; every time she identifies something she doesn’t know, that feeling of ignorance becomes an itch on her shoulder-blade that she can’t quite scratch.

Inside Kerene’s room she finds more tapestries and mementos of war, along with some portraits of Kerene’s family. All of those pictured would be dead by now, of course, after having lived ordinary lifespans while Kerene’s was extended by the Power. Moiraine hands the letter over to Kerene, who is working on some embroidery. The Warders ignore Moiraine’s arrival, but as Kerene reads they set aside what they are doing and stand ready, waiting. Kerene tells Moiraine that she will carry the message herself and starts for the door, the Warders right behind her. As they go, she tells the Warders that Tamra wants her urgently but doesn’t say why, and Moiraine smiles to herself. Sometimes people forget that servants, or Accepted, have ears. Keeping silent and listening is a good way to learn things.

She meets Siuan in the corridor and learns that she was just sent to deliver a message to one of the Gray sisters. Siuan assumes it’s the same message, and wonders what Tamra could want with a Gray and a Green together. Moiraine wonders how Siuan could be so good at puzzles and yet not see what Moiraine sees, and, after checking to see that no one is around to hear, quietly informs her that Tamra is recruiting searchers.

“What matter could be more urgent to Tamra right now than the boy-child, Siuan?” she said patiently. “Or more secret, so she dares not put the reason on paper? That secrecy means that she believes the Reds cannot be trusted. That is what you were right about. More than that, how many other sisters will at first want to deny that this child really is the one prophesied? Particularly if he evades discovery until he is a grown man and already channeling. No, she means to use sisters she is sure of to search for him. Where I was wrong was in thinking he would be brought to the Tower. That would only expose him to the Reds, and others who might be untrustworthy. Once found, Tamra will send him into hiding. His education will be at the hands of her searchers, the women she trusts most.”

Siuan clapped a hand atop her head. “I think my skull will explode,” she muttered. “You built all of that from two messages, and you don’t even know what they said.”

The next day Tamra sends more messages, to Meilyn Arganya, a White; Valera Gorovni, a Brown; and Ludice Daneen, a Yellow. Like Kerene and Aisha, they are all women who keep very strictly to Tower law, and who have been Aes Sedai for over a hundred years. This seems to Moiraine like too few searchers, though other messages might have been carried by the new Keeper, Aeldra Najaf. She and Siuan even spend time spying in the corridor to the Amyrlin’s study, trying to decide if any of the Aes Sedai going in and out might be others recruited to hunt for the Dragon Reborn. Eventually Aeldra catches Moiraine lingering, and asks her what she is doing. Moiraine answers, honestly, that she’s just looking at the sisters going in and out of the Amyrlin’s study, and Aeldra assumes that she is daydreaming about wearing the shawl, and gently advises that her time would be better spent in study and practice. She asks after Moiraine’s dreams, and Moiraine has to outright lie and say that they aren’t as bad now.

“Good, then.” Aeldra’s smile returned, but she shook a mildly reproving finger under Moiraine’s nose. “Nevertheless, daydreaming in doorways is not proper for one of the Accepted, child. If I see it again, I will have to take notice. You understand me?”

“Yes, Aes Sedai.” There would be no more spying. Moiraine began to think she would scream from that cursed itch.

 

Ugh, the Green Ajah are just so cool! I’ve kind of thought that they were the coolest Ajah since Egwene asked Alanna about it, and Alanna gave that impassioned speech about the Battle Ajah and standing against the Dreadlords during the Trolloc Wars. And of all the Ajah, they have the strangest mission, in a way. As Moiraine notes here, though the Green Ajah are still involved in the world and even in battles via their Warders, most of being a Green means dedicating yourself to standing ready for the most feared event the future has to offer, an event which very well may not occur in your lifetime. The Green Aes Sedai are soldiers intended for a very specific battle, and not only is that fight more important than any that may come in the interim, they are also forbidden by the third of the Three Oaths to actually be the soldiers they see themselves as. They can guide and employ their Warders in battle, but they themselves cannot fight. They couldn’t even fashion blades for their Warders as the ancient Aes Sedai did, if that knowledge had survived the Breaking or been rediscovered somehow.

It must be a strange existence. I imagine that the Greens feel somewhat apart from the rest of the Aes Sedai. Perhaps that is part of why the relationships between Greens and their Warders seems so intense. In addition to the heightened intimacy brought on by the Warder bond, it is probable that the Greens’ Warders understand them better than their fellow Aes Sedai do. Like Greens, Warders are called to a very specific kind of service and soldiery, which requires a dedication and a sacrifice, not to mention skill, beyond that of an ordinary warrior or guardsman. This commitment is something few outside their profession could understand.

It’s been noted many times in the series, including by Moiraine here, that Greens are fond of men and very close to their Warders. No doubt there is truth to the rumor that many Greens take their Warders as lovers, and we know that they even marry them on occasion. But it’s probably also true that many Aes Sedai interpret the physical and emotional closeness that the Greens share with these men as being more romantic or sexual than they actually are. Just like in our society (and, it seems, in many if not all societies) there is an assertion in the world of The Wheel of Time that men and women are too different to have very close friendships, and that such closeness indicates a romantic interest or sexual desire. The Greens treating men like fellow soldiers, like peers, is going to come off very strangely to the other Aes Sedai and probably anyone else who witnesses it.

I was surprised that Moiraine didn’t have any thoughts about the fact that she knows that Tarmon Gai’don is coming, and that it will occur during the lifetime of at least some of these Green sisters. What would these women think if they knew that the Dragon has been reborn? It will alter the lives of every single person in the world, but it would mean something very particular to the Greens and Warders that Moiraine observes on her way to Kerene’s apartments.

I caught Elyas’s name in there, did you? I loved that little bit of information about him. It’s heavily implied in The Eye of the World that he was a Warder but not, to the best of my recollection, stated outright. Now we know that he was specifically a Warder to a Green, perhaps Rina Hafden, the one who is cheering him on in the sparring match. That hurts a little bit extra, because we know that some Aes Sedai keep their Warders more at arm’s length, but the Greens are usually (always?) very close to the men they bond, so that loss Elyas experienced, of being accused by the Aes Sedai of possibly being a male channeler or some kind of darkfriend, is doubly painful. I wonder if his Aes Sedai stood by him. And I wonder if any of the Warders he killed were also former friends.

How about this description of being a Warder, though:

Once, while hawking with cousins, she had looked into the eyes of a caped eagle, with its ruff of black feathers around its head. Meeting a Warder’s gaze was akin to that. Not fierce, but full of self-knowledge, absolutely aware of their own capabilities, their capacity for violence.

And yet, it was a violence in restraint, disciplined by their own wills and their bonds to their Aes Sedai. Here, they were simply going about their daily lives.

I wonder what Elyas was like before he became a Warder. I always tend to imagine they’re all just like Lan, since he’s the only Warder we know well, but that might not be the case. They must all have the skill, but personalities must vary. Was Elyas a wild one, who needs, as the above quote suggests, his violence to be disciplined by the bond? Are there friendly, chatty Warders who occasionally need to be reminded to take things seriously? I imagine there must be.

Last week I remarked on the fact that novices and Accepted are kind of like prisoners in the Tower. This week there’s the character of Setsuko, who wished to run away from the Tower but who will not be allowed to leave until the Aes Sedai deem her ready. In the meantime she is forced to live as a novice, with all the service and harsh discipline that entails, without ever hoping to see any reward at the end of her suffering. Even Accepted occasionally try to run away, apparently, which is a reminder of how harsh Aes Sedai training and life in the White Tower truly is. I can’t imagine how harsh the punishment for running away is. Kind of makes you think that Nynaeve, Elayne, and Egwene got off easy for their transgressions, doesn’t it?

I thought it was an interesting observation that women who come to the Tower unable to read and write are taught, but that it can be hard to improve the writing of those who already knew how to write but not well. Being Aes Sedai erases so much about class and birth, but there are ways it still comes up, be it in Siuan’s language or some other sister’s penmanship. I wonder if that’s a source of embarrassment or derision among the ranks of Aes Sedai; if people like Liandrin are anything to go by, not all prejudices and former opinions can be stamped out even by Aes Sedai training. And yet it is also true that a woman might come to the Tower, gain the shawl, and rise to the rank of Amyrlin even if she never learns to write well. In a world like this one, that is something very special, perhaps even unique, about how being a channeler changes ones fate.

Speaking of birth, I caught that moment when Moiraine muses that it’s much more likely that the Dragon would be reborn to a peasant or commoner than to a noble. It’s something that I observed early on in the series, and if I’m honest, it still irks me a little that Rand has this super-special bloodline. It kind of feels like how the character of Robin Hood got reinvented over time to be a nobleman rather than a commoner. The Dragon is the people’s hero, and arguably one of the things that makes Rand so good is his upbringing in the Two Rivers. Also making him the descendant of Tigraine feels like cheating a little bit.

The mention of Taringail gave me pause. It’s been a while since I thought about anyone’s lineage. I forgot that the whole point is that Taringail was a Damodred, and that Gawyn and Elayne are related to Moiraine. And Taringail was married to Tigraine before she disappeared, so Galad is also related to Moiraine as well as being Rand’s half brother. So in a way, Moiraine and Rand could almost consider themselves family, though the connection is neither through bloodline or legality, as Tigraine was presumed dead, nullifying her marriage to Taringail and leaving him free to marry Morgase.

Y’all probably know all this, and I do think I covered it a while back, but I needed to write it out again. It makes my brain hurt. Of course, Moiraine could put that all together pretty quickly if she ever found out who Rand’s mother was. Oh, I mean if she wasn’t dead, that is. Probably dead. Maybe dead.

It also makes my brain hurt that Taringail and Tigraine’s names feel so similar. I have too much to remember already, Jordan! Meanwhile her brother’s name is Luc, lol. Haven’t forgotten about that guy either, though it’s been a while since we’ve seen Rand’s uncle passing himself off as a hunter for the Horn in the Two Rivers. Wonder if he’ll show up in Lord of Chaos.

I am really enjoying seeing the push-pull of Moiraine and Siuan working on their Aes Sedai skills. There are so many moments when one will struggle to keep her composure and the other will seem perfectly Aes Sedai, but then they’ll switch. And it’s interesting to see how Siuan’s knack for puzzles doesn’t seem to extend well to human interaction, and how Moiraine’s education in Daes Dae’mar lets her see things that Siuan can’t. But not in every situation.

It was quite funny to me when Siuan was so scandalized by Moiraine’s assertion that the Amyrlin told her to break the rules and use the Power to fix her dress, given that about two chapters ago she was asserting Akarrin’s lecture about following the rules proved that there were times when you can break them. Maybe fear of Moiraine being caught was part of it, but mostly I think Siuan was just frustrated by Moiraine seeing something in Tamra’s words that Siuan doesn’t.

And then there’s Moiraine’s belief that Tamra is sending out searchers for the baby Dragon. To be honest, it hadn’t occurred to me that Tamra might take such action. When we first learned about the events that led Siuan and Moiraine to start their search for the Dragon Reborn, we only learn that no Aes Sedai but them knows about it. We learn that Gitara is dead and infer that Tamra is too—I had just assumed that the Amyrlin swore Moiraine and Siuan to secrecy and then kept the secret herself. But the only reason I made that assumption is because there appeared to be no other Aes Sedai who knew that Gitara had that Foretelling. But of course it doesn’t make sense that Tamra would just sit on her hands about this. Of course she would search for the child, and it would be pretty hard not to tell anyone anything about it. Granted, it’s possible that she’s veiling the truth of what she’s sending them to find.

But if she’s not, if Moiraine is right that Tamra is filling these women in and intending for them to find the baby Dragon and hide him away somewhere, that means at least five other Aes Sedai besides Moiraine and Siuan who know that the Dragon was reborn. And if they do… then where are they all twenty years later when Moiraine and Siuan are working alone on the search for Rand? It’s only twenty years—that’s not much to Aes Sedai who live for a few hundred, right?

I vaguely remember something at some point about Moiraine having been a possibility for the Cairhienin throne and not wanting it, but I feel like it wasn’t more than a throwaway line in The Great Hunt or The Dragon Reborn. But now we’re seeing that it was a lot more complicated than a passing thought, and it hadn’t occurred to me that the Aes Sedai would have wanted to put one of their own on the throne, probably because we know that Aes Sedai don’t rule, and that Andor is one of the few places that openly admits ties to the Tower, what with sending their Queens there. Of course, Elayne has thought before about how she intends to be fully Aes Sedai and Queen of Andor, which hasn’t come up before because the former queens have had little or no channeling ability. Obviously I already know that Moiraine avoided being made Queen of Cairhien, but I can’t help wondering what that would have been like for her. Such a different life than the one she lived as a traveler, searching the world with only Lan at her side through most of it.

All that observation about how gaining the shawl would be an escape from virtual imprisonment in the Tower suddenly has an entirely different meaning. But if the Sitters want Moiraine to stay where they can keep an eye on her, they could still forbid her from leaving the Tower even when she becomes a full Aes Sedai, right? Would Moiraine go against them, even if it meant disobeying a direct order from one of them, or from Tamra herself?

You know, I kind of feel like she would.

And if you really think about it, as much as being a novice or an Accepted is a certain kind of imprisonment, becoming Aes Sedai doesn’t really make you free. There are the Three Oaths, after all, and a strict set of rules and hierarchies that sisters are expected to follow. Look at the way Elaida behaved around Meilyn. Look at the way all Aes Sedai are expected to behave towards the Amyrlin. And then there’s this quote, from Moiraine seeing the family portraits in Kerene’s rooms.

That was the pain borne by Aes Sedai. Families died, and everything you knew vanished. Except the Tower. The White Tower always remained.

In some ways, in the long run, Setsuko might end up a lot more free than a woman who wears the shawl. She’ll have less power and authority, of course. But she may very well have more freedom.

The way Moiraine describes her need to know things, like an itch on her shoulder blades that she can’t scratch, made me think she almost could have been a Brown. Ultimately she’s too dedicated to the world, and the Brown Ajah seems to be focused more directly on book learning, at least as far as I can tell from the descriptions we’ve been given of them. Siuan even misses some of the signs of the resources being amassed against her because she dismisses it as Browns not keeping an eye on things, rather than a direct plan.

Then again, there’s Verin. She’s always struck me as very like Moiraine, despite being older and more motherly-seeming. She seems to notice everything, and uses people’s assumptions about Browns to slip under the radar, much like Moiraine observes that an Accepted can learn a lot just by keeping her mouth shut and listening. Maybe Verin is a bit unusual for a Brown, or even chose the Brown over another Ajah that might technically have suited her personality better in the hopes of gaining some of those advantages.

I wonder if Jordan assigned the Ajah color as an homage to Radagast from The Lord of The Rings. That guy was checked out of the goings on in the rest of the world just like the Brown Ajah supposedly are, although for nature rather than book learning and ancient knowledge.

Next week we’ll tackle Chapters Eight and Nine, in which things heat up for Moiraine and Siuan in a variety of ways. I am very excited to get to the testing, since I’ve wondered for a long time how similar or different it is from the experience of being raised to Accepted. I’m less excited to deal with Elaida again, but then so are Siuan and Moiraine, so there’s that.

Until then, I leave you with another delicious bit of Robert Jordan’s prose I really enjoyed, in which he describes how Merean Sedai moves. I just love it.

Gliding ahead of them like a plump swan on a stream, a fast-swimming swan, she led the way to a small windowless room a little down from the Amyrlin’s apartments and across the corridor.

Sylas K Barrett would also like to know what those lacquer colors on the sword are, thank you. Maybe Elayne or Egwene will find out when they choose Green.

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