Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Rand Plans and Egwene Meets Her Toh in Robert Jordan’s Lord of Chaos (Part 21)

This week in Reading The Wheel of Time, Egwene reveals some secrets intentionally, while others are revealed by accident. Both Egwene and Mat are given new assignments, and Aviendha gets closer to addressing her toh towards Elayne. It’s time for Chapters 32 and 33 of Lord of Chaos.

It’s time to recap!

Egwene doesn’t go back to the Palace after Rand’s visit to Cairhien, but she’s aware that basically everyone is jumpy and distressed, including the Wise Ones. The apprentices try to step lightly, but they’re scolded and punished much more frequently than usual. Therava and Emerys, two of the Shaido Wise Ones, come to visit, and they bring Sevanna, insisting that she, too, is a Wise One. Egwene is certain that they are spying, but since such things are unthinkable to the Aiel, her concerns are ignored while the Shaido are given free run of the tents, and Sevanna enjoys sending Egwene, specifically, on petty errands. The Shaido also seem very interested in the strained mood among the Wise Ones.

A few of the Wise Ones talk a few of the Maidens into sneaking into Arilyn’s palace where the Aes Sedai are staying, but they are immediately caught by the Aes Sedai, thrashed, and thrown out. Fortunately the Aes Sedai only assumed that the Aiel were there to steal, and did not guess that any Wise Ones were behind the action.

All the apprentices try to lie low, and Egwene stays away from the tents most of the time, largely to avoid losing her self control around Sevanna. She enjoys her daily meetings with Gawyn, but the rest of the time passes impossibly slowly. On the third day, she sneaks down to the docks and haggles with a boatman to row her out to the Sea Folk ship. Elayne has told her about the Coramoor, and Egwene is hopeful that Rand has met with her by now and secured another ally. But more importantly, she is hopeful that she might be able to persuade a Windfinder to teach her some weather channeling.

When they reach the ship she calls to ask to come aboard, and a rope ladder is dropped down. When she reaches the rail she looks over it and sees a woman dressed in the way Elayne had described for her, and Egwene at once recognizes the Windfinder’s ability to channel. A moment later someone cuts the rope and she plunges downward with a scream and into the water below. Hampered by her skirts she struggles to reach the surface again, and is surprised when the boatman is there to pull her out of the water. The Windfinder is there at the railing, along with two other women. They shout at her that disguises do not fool them, and that she does not frighten them, and that they are all refused the gift of passage.

The wizened boatman picked up his oars, but Egwene pointed a finger straight at his narrow nose. “Stop right where you are.” He stopped. Dunking her. Not a word of common courtesy.

Drawing a deep breath, she embraced saidar and channeled four flows before the Windfinder could react. So she knew weather, did she? Could she divide her flows four ways? Not many Aes Sedai could.

Egwene puts a shield around the Windfinder, then uses Air to lift all three women up off the deck and out over the river and as high as she can, then drops them. All three women turn their bodies and dive elegantly into the river, and Egwene is infuriated when they don’t scream as she did. She contemplates hauling them back up again when she suddenly realizes the pettiness of what she is doing, and more importantly, that she is channeling in full view of any Aes Sedai who might be around the docks.

She uses saidar to dry her clothes and instructs the terrified boatman to take her to the riverbank, not back to the city, and jumps out, running all the way back to her tent.

The following few nights Amys takes her on short trips to Tel’aran’rhiod, after which she is examined for any signs of ill effects. And on the seventh night, they take her to meet the Aes Sedai in the World of Dreams. It is only while getting ready for bed that Egwene realizes that one of the Aes Sedai might make mention of the fact that she is only Accepted, and she wonders why she never thought about it before. Still, she tells herself that she will not be a coward, and that she will face whatever will come.

She finds Amys and Bair already in the Dream version of the Heart of the Stone, and realizes that she’s appeared in an Accepted’s dress. Fortunately, the Wise Ones are in a heated discussion and not looking at her, so she’s able to change without them noticing. Amys and Bair are just complaining about the Aes Sedai not being on time when they suddenly appear, and Egwene recognizes the mysterious blue-eyed woman she’s seen in Tel’aran’rhiod before, wearing a Blue shawl.

The moment the Aes Sedai set eyes on Egwene they begin a formal recitation, telling Egwene that she is summoned to the Tower and is commanded to return without question or delay.

The three spoke in unison. “It is well to fear the summons of the Hall. It is well to obey in haste and humility, unasking. You are summoned to kneel before the Hall of the Tower and accept their judgment.”

Egwene struggles to maintain her composure, wondering what penalty she will receive for her transgression. She tells them she will come as soon as she can, but that it is a long way and she doesn’t know exactly where Salidar is. Sheriam suggests that the Wise Ones may be able to help, and that “Siuan is sure it will require no more than a day or two if you enter Tel’aran’rhiod physically.” But the Wise Ones answer that such a thing is evil and whoever does it loses part of themselves.

Tension mounts between the two groups when Beonin suggests that the Wise Ones can’t possibly know if that’s true, since they’ve never tried it, and Egwene knows she has to do something before the Wise Ones decide that they need to teach the Aes Sedai a lesson. She tells them that she thinks she might know how to do it and is willing to try. She’s disheartened by the looks the Wise Ones give her, but then Sheriam begins giving directions and the mysterious young Blue conjures up a huge, three dimensional map of sorts. Sheriam praises her, and Egwene is surprised to hear that her name is Siuan. She tells herself that it must be a coincidence.

She promises to come as soon as she can, either in the dream or by another way, and the Aes Sedai repeat the ritualistic words before disappearing. Amys and Bair do as well, leaving Egwene alone before she sadly steps out of the Dream and back into the waking world. She forces herself to be brisk as she starts looking through her belongings, telling herself that she won’t cry over the part of her life that is now over.

Back in Tel’aran’rhiod, Rand steps out from behind the columns.

He came here sometimes, to look at Callandor. The first visit had been after Asmodean taught him to invert his weaves. Then he had changed the traps laid around the sa’angreal so only he could see them. If the Prophecies could be believed, whoever drew it out would “follow after” him. He was not sure how much he did believe any longer, but there was no sense taking chances.

Rand finds himself wondering if it was his ta’veren tugs on the Pattern that caused him to be here on the same day that Egwene and the Wise Ones met with the Aes Sedai and unwittingly gave him the location of the hidden Aes Sedai… and of Elayne.

Egwene arranges for a letter to be sent to Gawyn. saying she has go go away and asking him to wait for her. Bair, Amys, and Sorilea arrive as she’s considering her old green riding dress. Egwene tells them that she doesn’t have time to be punished. This surprises the Wise Ones, who remind her that she is no longer their pupil now that she is leaving to return to her sisters. They’re also surprised when she thinks they’re angry with her.

Egwene stared from one to another, especially Amys and Bair. “But you told me how wrong you think what I’m going to do is; you said I must not even think about it. I said I wouldn’t, and then I went ahead and worked out how to do it.”

This finally eases the tension in the room, as Sorilea tells the others that Egwene could be Aiel. Egwene realizes that it wasn’t the fact that she is planning to try to enter Tel’aran’rhiod in the flesh that was bothering them, because although they disapprove, the Aiel believe that you do what you have to do and accept the consequences. It was the lie that bothered them, and Egwene feels the heavy weight of the other lies she’s told.

Their faces darken when she admits to having gone into Tel’aran’rhiod after they told her not to, and then admits that she is not a full Aes Sedai, but only an Accepted. She compares it to being an apprentice, and watches Sorilea’s lips tighten. They still don’t say anything, and a part of Egwene’s mind tells her to leave now, that making the Aes Sedai wait will only increase the trouble she’s in. Instead, she gathers all her courage and stands to face them. She tells them that she has toh, and asks them to help her meet it.

Mat and Olver sit in Mat’s tent, playing Snakes and Foxes. Mat has Olver roll the dice every time, so that his luck doesn’t factor into the game. The moves lead to them losing, as the fox and snake pieces are moved across the board.

Only a child’s game, and one you would not win so long as you followed the rules. Soon Olver would be old enough to realize that, and like other children, stop playing. Only a child’s game, but Mat did not like the fox getting him, and even less the snakes. It brought back bad memories, even if one had nothing to do with the other.

Olver comments that they almost won, and resets the board before chanting the opening rhyme: “Courage to strengthen, fire to blind, music to dazzle, iron to bind.” He asks why the lines are said, and Mat admits that he doesn’t know. Olver asks a lot of questions, usually beginning with why, that Mat doesn’t know the answer to. But the line does tickle something in his mind, some memory perhaps, or fuzzy space where his own memories are missing.

Daerid comes into the tent, and Mat tells Olver that it’s time for bed. He also tells Daerid that he’ll cut his throat if the man ever tells anybody about it, but Daerid teases that Mat is turning into a wonderful father, and that the boy resembles him. Growing more serious, he tells Mat that the Lord Dragon is coming into camp.

Mat goes out past the guards around his tent and the sentries posted throughout the camp. Rand is striding towards him, along with two veiled Aiel and Aviendha. Rand asks to speak to him alone, and Mat takes him back into his tent. Aviendha comes in as well.

Rand tells him that he wants Mat to bring Elayne safely to Caemlyn, and that Aviendha is coming too. Mat personally doesn’t know why Rand would want to go find her, but suggests that Rand go himself, kiss her, and throw her on a horse. Rand unrolls a map to show Mat where Elayne is, and explains that it has to be Mat and the whole Band. He tells Mat about the Aes Sedai there, that he’s heard it is hundreds but wouldn’t be surprised if it’s closer to fifty. He wants to set the band down about 20 miles away so that the Aes Sedai will have plenty of time to find out that they are coming.

Rand thinks that it will be easy to cow the frightened rebels into letting Elayne go, and tells Mat to offer them Rand’s protection. Then Mat is to escort Elayne and any Aes Sedai who want to come straight to Caemlyn, gathering in any Dragonsworn he finds along the way. Mat is upset by everything Rand says, and does not believe for a moment that he can intimidate fifty Aes Sedai, never mind make it easily through Murandy and Altara, riding across the lands of nobles who will certainly not take it lying down. He reminds Rand that this movement might draw Sammael north—the whole purpose of his army’s march is to pull Sammael’s attention east. But Rand insists that Sammael will only see that Mat is escorting the Queen of Andor to Caemlyn. Mat reluctantly agrees to have his men ready in two hours.

Rand also tells Mat that Bodewhin is in Caemlyn, along with some other Two Rivers girls, on their way with Verin and Alanna to train to be Aes Sedai. He tells Mat that Egwene might be in Salidar by the time Mat gets there, and to try to help her out of trouble if he can. Finally he gives Mat a letter, addressed to Thom and written in a feminine hand. Then he leaves abruptly, and Mat tells an eavesdropping Olver to fetch Talmanes, Nalesean and Daerid.

Mat tells Aviendha that he’s in charge and that he expects no trouble, and she replies that she knows how to follow, calling him “battle leader” and threatening him in the same breath.

When Nalesean entered with Daerid and Talmanes, he greeted them with, “We are going to tickle some Aes Sedai under the chin, rescue a mule, and put a snip-nosed girl on the Lion Throne. Oh, yes. That’s Aviendha. Don’t look at her crosswise, or she’ll try to cut your throat and probably slit her own by mistake.” The woman laughed as if he had made the funniest joke in the world. She did not stop sharpening her knife, though.

Egwene climbs to her feet, crying, and looks around at the Aiel women lounging around on cushions and being served tea by a gai’shain. They are all women who Egwene told she was Aes Sedai. A few had claimed that Egwene had no toh towards them but that they would stay for the tea, while others had been furious. All those except the ones who claimed she had no toh towards them had taken turns beating Egwene with a belt she provided from among her things, and she’s ashamed of the way she cried and screamed during it. She asks shakily if it is over, only to be reminded by Amys that only Egwene knows the worth of her own honor.

It is up to Egwene to decide if it has been enough, as it had been in her power to decree a lighter punishment, but after a moment she lies back down on the carpets and stretches out, determined to be brave this time, to be properly Aiel and not cry out. But instead, Amys drops the belt and declares “This woman has no toh towards me.” The words are repeated by Bair.

“This woman has no toh toward me,” Sorilea said forcefully. Bending, she smoothed damp hair from Egwene’s face. “I knew you were Aiel in your heart. Do not be overproud now, girl. You have met your toh. Get up before we think you are boasting.”

They help Egwene to her feet, offering her a handkerchief as well as hugs and smiles. All the women do, after declaring that Egwene has no toh towards them. Egwene is shocked by the smiles, but remembers that toh does not exist once it has been met, and that the transgression that earned it is erased once the toh is met.

They are reluctant to leave her—the custom would be to remain eating and drinking with Egwene the rest of the night, but Egwene doesn’t have the time. She finds, once it is only her, Sorilea, Amys, and Bair, that she wants to cry for an entirely different reason, and tells them all how much she will miss them. Sorilea tells her that if she’s lucky the Aes Sedai will turn her away and she can come back to become Sorilea’s apprentice. She’s certain that Egwene will have her own hold in a few years, and already has a husband picked out for her. Bair and Amys promise to meet her in Tel’aran’rhiod to keep her informed of events and what Rand is up to. Bair is even willing to keep teaching her, though Amys is keeping her promise to never teach Egwene again if she disobeyed.

Amys tells Egwene not to worry that her toh towards Rhuarc will not go unmet, and that he will give her the opportunity when they meet once more. In truth, Egwene had forgotten all about Rhuarc, but she only says that she’s very grateful, while privately resolving to seek out another way to meet that toh. Finally Sorilea reminds them that Egwene needs to go, and they reluctantly leave, though not before Sorilea can give Egwene some final advice.

“We are always more afraid than we wish to be, but we can always be braver than we expect. Hold on to your heart, and the Aes Sedai cannot harm what is really you, your heart. They are not nearly so far above us as we believed. May you always find water and shade, Egwene. And always remember your heart.”

Egwene decides that she will need the strength she showed here in Salidar; she does not know for certain that they have discovered her secret, but can’t think of why else she would have been summoned so coldly.

She reminds herself that Aiel do not surrender before battle is joined, and sets off towards that battle.

 

The concept that toh doesn’t exist when it is met, that it becomes like the circumstances under which it was incurred never happened, is an interesting one, and I think Egwene’s experiences here might be the clearest example of how the scriptures of ji’e’toh, of honor and obligation, are very different than other concepts of societal rules and punishments. The Aiel have both, of course. For example, Egwene is often punished by the Wise Ones for disobedience or bad behavior, because there are rules around how she must behave as an apprentice to them. Being told to dig a hole after she won’t stop questioning Sevanna’s motives, for example—that’s a punishment that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with toh. In the same way, Aviendha incurs toh towards Liah when she tries to start something with her, but if she had chosen to fight Liah, she could have been punished for that act both by Liah and by the Wise Ones. This seems to have something to do with societal status—Aviendha reminds herself that, since she is neither still a Maiden nor a full-fledged Wise One, if she lost a fight, Liah could choose not to take her gai’shain.

Very generally speaking, it seems that ji’e’toh has more to do with the kind of person you are, and with having respect for those around you, rather than with the everyday rules by which a society is run. This is why the Aiel acknowledge that sometimes you have to do what you must, even if it violates a precept of ji’e’toh. Doing what you believe is necessary does not prevent the acquisition of toh, but ji’e’toh provides a way to equal the scales after such an act.

I can’t help thinking about Mangin’s death. From his point of view it was right to kill the Cairhienin man who had tattoo copies of the Dragon mark. From Rand’s point of view it was wrong. Part of that is a cultural difference, but mostly Rand is thinking about legalities and the functional need to keep order in this society where he has brought enemies together and forced them to act as allies. Mangin is thinking in terms of ji’e’toh, in which he is both justified in his actions but also has toh towards Rand for violating his decree. Mangin accepts both, even though it means his death.

If only the person who incurred the toh knows the worth of their honor and what the punishment should be, then in theory Mangin should have dictated his own punishment. But since he already knew that Rand decreed hanging, he probably accepted the hanging as culturally dictated, just as Egwene accepts that the accepted way to meet toh for lying is to be beaten by those you lied to. And just as Egwene could have chosen a lesser punishment, such as only taking one blow from each person, ji’e’toh would theoretically allow Mangin to choose a different punishment for breaking Rand’s decree. But he values his honor, and chooses the full punishment, just as Egwene chooses the full punishment in order to make things right. In his eyes, he did what had to be done, but he also accepts the consequences of that action without argument.

I imagine Mangin also knew that Rand would stick to his word even if Mangin argued. His Aiel pride would not let him run from that even if his personal sense of ji’e’toh found the punishment excessive.

Punishment almost seems like the wrong word for the pain or humiliation Aiel undergo in order to meet their toh. It is punishing in nature, certainly, but it is more of a recompense than anything, a way of making repayment to the person you have wronged and a way of restoring your own honor after it has been tarnished. Egwene specifically asks every person she lied to to participate in her beating, receiving pain from those she has inflicted damage upon through her actions. Mangin accepts his hanging not because he believes he owes it to the slain man, or to society, but because he feels he has toh towards Rand, specifically, for disobeying his orders.

Having and meeting toh is not always as straightforward as this, however. For example, Sulin dishonored the gai’shain with whom she used handtalk. Reminding a gai’shain of their life before they put on the white is considered very shaming towards them. She now carries an obligation towards that woman, and chooses to serve in a way that the Aiel view as even more shaming, by dressing and acting as a palace servant. This directly involves the gai’shain Sulin dishonored, but it seems that Sulin debasing (in the eyes of the other Aiel) herself in the same way as she debased the gai’shain, is a repayment in kind. She is showing remorse and respect to the gai’shain maiden by lowering herself. I imagine there are few other ways to repay toh owed to a gai’shain, who are themselves in the middle of serving out their own fulfillment of toh.

Similarly complicated is the fact that, while we’re told again and again that only the person knows the worth of their own honor, it’s not so simple as making your own decisions, enduring whatever punishment you’ve designed yourself, and being cleared of your toh. When Aviendha gets into it with Liah, Liah seems mostly satisfied with Aviendha backing down and acknowledging her behavior; she tells Aviendha that the toh is “very small,” even addressing her as “spear-sister” with apparent sincerity. It is even possible to tell someone they don’t have toh towards you, as a few of the Aiel Egwene lied to chose to do. I suppose if you acknowledge that only the person transgressing knows the worth of their own honor, then it follows that the person transgressed against should be allowed to say whether or not they actually feel they have been dishonored. I remember at some point (not sure exactly when, or even in which book) some of the Wise Ones were discussing the fact that certain Aiel try to become gai’shain for foolish reasons, or without fitting the criteria. It’s the same thing as when Amys points out to Egwene that taking more punishment than your transgression demands is considered boasting. But neither is forbidden, exactly, just as it is not forbidden to take a lesser punishment. You do have to live with the consequences, however, if you decide your honor is worth less than what society considers to be proper.

In the end, Egwene takes punishment to repay her toh to ease her own guilt and make some kind of amends for her lies, but I think the most important reason she chooses to do it is to repair her relationships. If she had chosen no punishment or a lesser punishment, Amys and Bair and Sorilea probably wouldn’t have shunned her, but their friendship would have been destroyed. Egwene doesn’t just earn their forgiveness by showing not only that she has “an Aiel heart” or showing how much she values her own honor. She shows that she values their friendship, that she does not think so little of it that the lies mean nothing, that she is willing to endure pain and humiliation for the sake of these women she has shared so much with.

I really love the title of Chapter of Chapter 33. “Courage to Strengthen” is a reference to the recitation that opens a game of Snakes and Foxes (more on that later), but the phrase applies equally well to Egwene’s experiences in these two chapters. Nynaeve is not the only person in this book learning lessons about how owning up to, and taking responsibility for, your actions can provide peace and and courage. Both when Egwene is contemplating the fact that the Aes Sedai might out her to the Aiel as well as when she is contemplating whether or not to undertake the punishment to repay her toh, she finds that she is more afraid when she is thinking of fleeing, while making a decision to accept what comes gives her steadiness and strength. She’s still afraid of what may come, still struggles under the punishment she receives, but she is able to face it even when she knows there is more to come. I’m always going to be looking askance at Jordan for all the naked corporal punishment his female characters undergo and how he never misses a chance to remind us of a lady’s bruised backside, but I really do like how he’s illustrated Egwene’s strength of character here. Like the Aiel, I admire her sense of honor and her loyalty to those she cares about, and I think both her strength and her morality will serve her well when she becomes Amyrlin.

I mean, that’s definitely what’s happening, right? That whole weird ritualistic summoning was because the Hall wants Egwene to come to Salidar to be made Amyrlin. I’m really interested in seeing how the next few chapters unfold—I’ve figured out that Egwene is going to be the Amyrlin of Salidar and that the plan was initiated by Siuan mostly from textual clues, but I have no idea how it’s going to unfold. The Salidar Aes Sedai haven’t been able to raise anyone to full sister because they don’t have an oath rod, which seems like it’s going to present a pretty big obstacle in making Egwene the leader of the Aes Sedai. Also, I wonder if they have any reasons or justifications for choosing her, specifically, other than her connection to Rand. Obviously Egwene is very powerful, but she’s not the only strong channeler the Little Tower has to choose from.

Boy, Mat sure is going to be surprised if he shows up to collect Elayne and maybe help Egwene out of some hot water with the Aes Sedai, and instead discovers that Egwene is now the Amyrlin Seat in Salidar. I think Rand is being quite overly optimistic in assuming that the Salidar Aes Sedai are so frightened and helpless that they’ll be eager to accept his protection, and that they won’t put up any kind of resistance just because Mat shows up speaking in Rand’s name. This speaks, I think, to how strong an image the Aes Sedai have created of their power and infallibility. Rand assumes the rebels must be a small, unorganized, frightened force because of ​​“[t]he way they go on about the Tower.” Even after the division, both sides of the Tower schism have managed to maintain the same outward Aes Sedai calm, the same narrative of the Tower’s strength, unity, and purity. Despite his willingness and ability to cow the Aes Sedai as he does with Elaida’s embassy, Rand still believes in the narrative the Aes Sedai are showing him.

Egwene has done a good job of maintaining that narrative as well. She has been somewhat more honest with Rand about how strong the division is, because she is willing to speak frankly about her dislike of Elaida and to be clear that Rand cannot trust her or ally himself with her. But Rand’s belief that there are probably no more than fifty Aes Sedai in Salidar shows how well she has kept most everything from him. We know that she feels she needs to protect the Aes Sedai from Rand, and vice versa, but if Egwene had been a little less attached to maintaining the image of the Aes Sedai, she might have been able to be a little more honest with Rand. Even not trusting him enough to tell him where the rebels are, giving him a better sense of the size and stability of the rebels might have given him more impetus to want an alliance, and even more of a reason to trust her desire to be a buffer or mediator between them.

Although now that I say all that, it occurs to me to wonder how clear an idea Egwene herself has about the conditions in Salidar. It has been a while since she’s had a chance to speak to Nynaeve or Elayne (and I’m still so curious as to why Egwene’s dreams have portended disaster if she does speak to them) and it’s only recently that the Hall in Salidar has started to feel more solid and official—Nynaeve just recently noticed how much more like the White Tower the place has become, and even the designation of the Little Tower is new. So perhaps it’s not just a matter of Egwene keeping things from Rand, but that she only knows a little bit more than he himself knows.

Or knew, I should say. Still, whether it’s reasonable for Rand to make the assumptions he’s making based on the information he has, I definitely don’t think things are going to go smoothly for Mat in Salidar. The best case scenario for him is that he is able to explain directly to Elayne that Rand is looking for her and that he intends to put her on the Lion Throne immediately—Elayne already wants to go to Rand, and I think even the Aes Sedai might have a hard time opposing both her and Rand if the whole thing was approached in a formalized manner. Of course, if they make Egwene Amyrlin before Mat gets there, that will have an effect on the outcome as well. I wonder if Egwene will agree with Rand and Elayne’s desire to have her in Caemlyn, or if she’ll have some of her own designs that might conflict with theirs.

I still love reluctant dad Mat very much, and apparently so do his soldiers. Olver is a great character, and becoming his guardian is a very different kind of responsibility for Mat than leading an army—Mat cares about his men and wants to do right by them, but as their general it’s actually logistically important to prioritize his own needs and safety. With a child like Olver, even one who has been given a job and a role in the army, Mat becomes responsible for his physical safety and also his emotional wellbeing. It’s a small moment, but there is such care and restraint in the way that he avoids agreeing with Olver that they almost won/might eventually win Snakes and Foxes but also doesn’t tell the boy that the game is unwinnable.

Speaking of Snakes and Foxes, this definitely has something to do with the redstone ter’angreal doorways and the “foxy folk” and “snakey folk” that Mat (and Rand, and Moiraine) encountered there. I wonder if the game isn’t some evolution, or rather devolution, of a game or set of instructions designed to help teach people how to interact successfully with the beings on the other side of the doorway. It was clear from their reactions to Mat that they were accustomed to having certain terms and arrangements with visitors, presumably Aes Sedai of the Age of Legends. I’m not sure what lessons, exactly, but I think the rhyme from the beginning is the most obvious clue here.

Courage to strengthen, fire to blind, music to dazzle, iron to bind.

We know that the foxy folk, at least, seem to feed off of human emotions, so perhaps the emotion of courage can defend against that experience in some way. Also, in our own western methodology around the fae, which these beings do resemble in some ways, iron is usually said to be harmful or deadly, so it makes world-building sense that the foxy/snakey beings might also be susceptible to iron. The concept that they might dislike fire and be entranced by music also generally tracks—I think it’s safe to assume that the rhyme is instructions on how to protect yourself against these otherworldly beings.

I imagine that’s the memory tickling in the back of Mat’s mind. I wonder if it will surface at some point, or if he’ll put the clues together eventually.

I rather enjoyed Egwene’s emotional outburst to being dunked by the Sea Folk. It’s unclear if she registered that they believed her to be Aes Sedai or not, and it’s a shame she couldn’t keep her temper, but it was entertaining. We don’t see Egwene lash out like that very often; she’s not a very reactive person compared even to some of the Aes Sedai and Aiel. I do wonder how much of her anger was actually an emotional cover for her fear, though—down the side of a ship is a long way to fall, and Aiel skirts are certainly not designed for the water. It’s lucky for Egwene that she’s from the Two Rivers and not actually Aiel, or she would have died for sure.

I loved the realism of the moment as well, the acknowledgment of how dangerous it is to have lots of clothing on, and how easy it is to get turned around under the water. The bubble trick Egwene uses here is something that I was taught as a kid, and I think it’s really interesting that it’s something that Two Rivers kids are taught as well.

We just encountered the idea that lifting things with the Power is a pretty advanced move when Siuan was realizing that her Healing isn’t complete, and now we see it here again with Egwene, who is aware that most Aes Sedai can’t divide the flows four ways, and who also encounters her limits in how high she can lift the three Sea Folk women. It’s another little piece of understanding how the One Power works.

As entertaining as the section was, though, it’s a shame Egwene couldn’t find a way to reach the Sea Folk and talk to the Windfinder. Rand doesn’t seem too keen on ever reaching out to them, and he and Egwene could both use the allies. Maybe Elayne will be able to open up negotiations between the Sea Folk and the Aes Sedai at some point, since she has managed to gain their trust and since the Sea Folk have proven more receptive to the concept of the Aes Sedai if they, too, follow the Coramoor.

I’m really curious to know if there’s any truth to the Wise Ones’ belief that entering Tel’aran’rhiod physically causes people to lose parts of themselves. It’s certainly possible that it is true, but it’s also possible that this belief resulted from the fact that it is a trick that’s often employed by the Forsaken, and because being in the Dream in the flesh gives so much more power than a Dreamer has. Either way, it’s a good reminder that there are plenty of things that channelers can do, even do instinctively, that aren’t exactly good for themselves or the Pattern—both Nynaeve and Rand created balefire before they even knew what it was, and one could certainly make the argument that balefire should not be used in any circumstances, no matter the need. If that is true, where else is it also true?

I’m also desperately curious about this new (to me) bit or prophecy that someone is supposed to draw Callandor after Rand. My first thought was to wonder if it might be Logain, now that he’s a channeler again, but I think it’s more likely to be a character we haven’t met yet. Logain may be destined for glory, but he’s probably done with his False Dragon days. But will the person who draws it and who will “follow after” Rand be an enemy at first, perhaps another man trying to claim to be the Dragon? Or will it be an ally hoping to help Rand and fight beside him? Or is the follower going to be a successor of some sort, taking over the leadership of the male channelers after Rand defeats the Dark One at Tarmon Gai’don. Heck, it’s a stretch but “follow after” could even be a reference to the next Dragon, Rand’s soul reincarnated down the line.

In any case, Egwene is set to return to the Aes Sedai and accept the fate the Hall has decreed for her, and Rand is going to delay his plans for Sammael in order to retrieve Elayne. I’m left musing over the reminder that Egwene chose to be a student of the Wise Ones—I knew this, but I kind of forgot to consider the impact of it. She isn’t like Aviendha, who is given no choice. Egwene wanted to learn from the Wise Ones, which means every hardship, punishment, and scripture (even the ones she broke) were things she chose, actively, again and again. She could have walked away at any time. She stayed because the knowledge was worth it, but also because she really did come to love the Aiel, and to feel at home among them. Her Aiel heart isn’t just about courage and honor, and it’s really sad to see her have to leave them. I wonder if she’ll ever feel as at home with the Aes Sedai, especially if she ends up being made Amyrlin soon.

But we’ll have to keep reading to find that out! Next week is Chapter 34 and 35, and possibly 36 as well. We’ll see how I do. In the meantime I hope everybody has a lovely week, and gets to do something relaxing they really enjoy. After all, none of our heroes are getting that.

Sylas K Barrett is kind of hoping that Mat and Aviendha will become friends. They have a similar spirit, and his joke about her cutting the soldiers’ throats and her own by mistake seemed very in keeping with Aiel humor, and the way the different societies like to raz each other. I think their relationship would be really fun, and that Mat would actually admire Aviendha a lot if he got to know her.

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