Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: The Amyrlin Plans in Robert Jordan’s Lord of Chaos (Part 23)

This week in Reading The Wheel of Time, Egwene gets her start at playing the Game of Houses against her fellow Aes Sedai, and Mat makes a lot of assumptions very loudly.

When Nynaeve and Elayne arrive, they curtsy respectfully to Egwene and address her as Mother until Egwene begs them not to, telling them that they are her friends, and that in private she wants and needs them to be frank and honest with her the way friends are, and not the way people are towards the Amyrlin Seat.

She’s surprised when Nynaeve and Elayne get a little shifty about the subject of their discoveries. They talk about Nynaeve learning to Heal gentling and stilling and about Elayne’s work with ter’angreal, and they try to show Egwene the weaves they use. But they are reluctant to get into anything else, inquiring instead about Egwene’s time with the Aiel and about Rand.

When Egwene tells Elayne that Rand intends to give her the Sun Throne as well as the Lion Throne, Elayne becomes frosty, replying that if she chooses to make her claim on the Sun Throne she will do it in her own right, and that the Lion Throne is already hers. Egwene suggests that Elayne can go to him now, if she likes, but instead of agreeing, Elayne and Nynaeve explain about the weather controlling ter’angreal they located in Ebou Dar. Egwene agrees to do what she can to get them sent there.

She has to explain to them that she has finally figured out why they chose her to be Amyrlin. Part is her connection to Rand, but also because they see her as a girl they can control. Egwene doesn’t intend to allow that, but she will have to be careful at first. Once word spreads that Egwene is the Amyrlin Seat she can start being more forceful, but until then the Hall can take away the stole just as quickly as they gave it.

She tells Nynaeve and Elayne that she can probably play Romanda, Lelaine, and Sheriam against each other, since they are all intent on making themselves the ones she listens too. She also tells them that she raised the two of them because they are her friends and because as full sisters they can help her. She doesn’t know who else she can trust, and she is confident that that they will always tell her the truth.

The mood in the room changes at that, and after a moment Nynaeve confesses, in an anxious whisper, that she captured Moghedien and that she and Elayne have been holding her prisoner in secret, using an a’dam. Elayne adds that this is where most of their discoveries have come from. Egwene is overwhelmed by her thoughts, her hatred of a’dam, her curiosity about how Nynaeve managed to capture one of the Forsaken, and her certainty that if Rand ever found out about this, he would never trust Elayne again.

She sends Nynaeve to fetch Moghedien, then cautiously and obliquely references Birgitte. Egwene intends to keep her promise to pretend not to know anything about the woman Elayne sometimes meets in Tel’aran’rhiod, but Nynaeve had mentioned that Siuan, Leane, and Birgitte were all in on the secret about Moghedien. Elayne suggests that she might be able to talk about it tomorrow.

Egwene tells Elayne that she hopes to forge some sort of association between the Wise Ones and the Aes Sedai. She also wants to bring in more women, women who can learn but were considered too old when the Aes Sedai found them, and those who were deemed too weak to stay in the Tower.

“The Tower has always been severe about excluding people, Elayne. If you aren’t strong enough, you’re put out. Refuse to take a test, and you’re sent away. Fail a test, and out. They should be allowed to stay if they want.”

“But the tests are to make sure you’re strong enough,” Elayne protested. “Not just in the One Power; in yourself. Surely you don’t want Aes Sedai who will break the first time they come under pressure? Or Aes Sedai who can barely channel?”

Egwene is dismissive of this, thinking of how Sorilea would certainly have been put out of the Tower before being allowed to test for Accepted, and tells Elayne that not being Aes Sedai doesn’t make those women useless. She intends for every women who can channel to be connected to the Tower in some way, though she does promise Elayne that she won’t allow Sea Folk girls to be taken away from the Windfinders to be made Aes Sedai instead.

Nynaeve comes in with a serving woman who she introduces as Marigan, but Egwene sees the necklace and deduces that this is, in fact, Moghedien. Nynaeve uses her control over Moghedien to momentarily dispel the illusion around “Marigan” to show Moghedien’s true appearance. Elayne and Nynaeve explain about inverting weaves as Egwene studies Moghedien carefully.

Egwene asks for the bracelet and forces herself to put it on. She feels all of Moghedien’s emotions, fear and self-loathing, hatred at the way her disguise makes her look. Egwene had noticed Moghedien’s pride and being shown in her true form, and this confirms it. Egwene is so cold and stern with Moghedien, threatening to make her disguise form permanent if she so much as puts a foot wrong, and intimating much worse. Moghedien’s fear skyrockets, and Nynaeve and Elayne look at Egwene with shock, but she continues, describing Rand’s method of Traveling and asking Moghedien’s if it will work. The woman answers that it is how men Travel, and that if a woman tries she will be sucked into the space between the threads of the Pattern. She offers to show Egwene how to Travel by making two places in the Pattern identical, but Egwene merely tries it for herself, exactly the way she has theorized. There is a sudden slash of blue light and then a doorway onto the Aiel waste.

Knowing Rand’s precautions around Traveling, Egwene had chosen a specific spot where there were unlikely to be people, but she had not really expected to reach it, and certainly not in such a fashion. She hides her surprise however, and when Moghedien is shocked and asks who taught Egwene, Egwene tells her to never be sure that she doesn’t already know the answer to a question.

Nynaeve, meanwhile, is busy being frustrated because she can’t seem to make herself angry—she wants to see how Egwene made the doorway. Siuan arrives, sees what’s going on, and offers to return later, but Egwene dismisses Moghedien instead, as well as Elayne and Nynaeve.

Once they are gone she sits, adjusts her stole carefully, and gives Siuan a long, cool look.

“I need you,” she said at last. “You know what it is to be Amyrlin, what the Amyrlin can and cannot do. You know the Sitters, how they think, what they want. I need you, and I mean to have you. Sheriam and Romanda and Lelaine may think I still wear novice white under this stole—maybe they all do—but you are going to help me show them differently. I’m not asking you, Siuan. I—will—have—your—help.” All there was to do then was wait.

Siuan regarded her, then gave a slight shake of her head and laughed softly. “They made a very bad mistake, didn’t they? Of course, I made it first. The plump little grunter for the table turns out to be a live silverpike as long as your leg.” Spreading her skirts wide, she made a deep curtsy, inclining her head. “Mother, please allow me to serve, and advise.”

Egwene tells her that she may, as long as it is only advice. Siuan remarks that she never liked Egwene, and Egwene gives her permission to use her first name when they are alone. Then they settle down to business.

In her room, Romanda sits with three other Sitters, ones who had been ready to support her as Amyrlin and who only voted for Egwene to prevent Lelaine from being raised. Across Salidar, Lelaine sits with four Sitters who had supported her, and only voted for Egwene to keep Romanda from becoming Amyrlin. Both groups blame Sheriam, and are gathered to discuss how to lessen Sheriam’s influence now that she has snatched the position of Keeper. Both groups decide to continue without Delana, who is late.

In her room, Delana is trying to convince “Halima” that playing both sides is going to get her caught, but Halima replies casually that some risks must be taken, and that Delana must continue to push for Logain to be gentled or killed. Delana considers trying to kill Halima, but knows that she’ll most likely be the one to die… or worse. She agrees meekly, and hates herself for it.

Later, Siuan has tea with Lelaine, complaining about having to teach Egwene etiquette and suggesting that the girl is stubborn and has a temper. She tells Lelaine that Egwene has been complaining about Romanda wanting to stay in Salidar instead of marching for Tar Valon, and watches Lelaine’s interest with satisfaction.

She would never be Amyrlin again herself, and she was fairly certain that trying to manipulate Egwene would be as futile as trying to manipulate herself had been, and as painful, yet teaching an Amyrlin to be Amyrlin… She looked forward to that as much as she had anything in a long time. Egwene al’Vere would be an Amyrlin to make thrones tremble.”

Meanwhile, Nynaeve goes to see Romanda and Elayne to Sheriam, offering similar stories about the pressure and worry Egwene is experiencing, while in her room, Egwene tries to relax in her bath as Chesa scrubs her back.

She had taken her first step as Amyrlin, marshaled her outnumbered army and begun her attack. She remembered hearing Rhuarc say once that when battle began, a battle leader no longer had any real control of events. Now all she could do was wait. “Even so,” she said softly, “I think the Wise Ones would be proud.”

It’s not yet midday, but already hot in the bare and brown forest Mat and his Band are riding through. Aviendha is walking beside Pips, watching everything as though not trusting the Band’s scouts to keep her safe. They have been riding across Altara for three days without sighting a single Dragonsworn, or anyone else for that matter. Mat hopes that will hold, and is more preoccupied with how he’s going to keep Aviendha from Elayne’s throat. He’s been leading the Band as slowly as he can, camping early and setting out late, but he knows that can’t last forever.

Vanin comes riding up, reporting to Mat that he found the Aes Sedai about eight or ten miles to the west. There are Warders in the woods, as well—Vanin’s two fellow scouts have been snatched by them. He estimates somewhere between two and four hundred Aes Sedai, and reports that they also have an army camped to the north that is about twice the size of Mat’s own.

Talmanes, Nalesean and Daerid come riding up in time to hear that report, and everyone’s expressions are grim even after Mat reminds them that they haven’t come to fight. He orders the Band to prepare for an attack, clearing ground and setting up barricades.

Mat intends to sit and wait for someone to come out from the village and ask what they are doing there, but as soon as Aviendha knows which direction Salidar is in she starts walking, and Mat is alarmed thinking that she’ll either get into it with some Warders or make it to Elayne. Quickly he orders Talmanes to take command, and Olver to stick close to Daerid. Ordering Vanin and the two new bannermen carrying Rand’s banners to accompany him, he hurries Pips to catch up to Aviendha, who inexplicably asks to be let up onto the horse.

Mat has no idea why she wants to ride now, but hauls her into the saddle behind him anyway. As they ride, Aviendha asks about Olver. Earlier the boy had tried to stick a knife in her, and had remained hostile even after Mat tried to explain the difference between Shaido and the other Aiel. He explains about the Shaido killing the boy’s father, and his mother dying soon after as Olver tried to care for her. He asks if Aviendha believes she owes the child something. Aviendha answers curtly that she didn’t kill either parent, and that they were treekillers, so there is no reason she would have toh. She does, however, tell Mat that he isn’t caring for Olver properly and that the boy is too young to spend all his time with young men.

No one tries to stop them from riding into the village, but Mat can tell by the expressions that everyone knows who they are. He catches sight of a golden-haired woman in yellow trousers who tugs at some bit of his memory, but he’s so used to being vaguely reminded of people long dead that he dismisses it, assuming she’s another Hunter for the Horn.

He reins in and tells a dark-haired Aes Sedai that he is looking for Egwene, Elayne, and Nynaeve. The woman seems momentarily surprised, then agrees to lead him to the Amyrlin Seat. Mat feels more than uneasy as Rand’s predictions are again proven wrong—these women aren’t terrified, they have their own Tower and an Amyrlin.

When they stop, Aviendha slips off Pips but doesn’t go anywhere. As they wait, Aes Sedai begin to gather around them, peering curiously at Aviendha and at Mat. One Aes Sedai—he vaguely recognizes Anaiya—pushes a young woman in white to the front and the girl, Nicola, explains that she can see a sort of glow around Mat. Aniya tells her that she has discovered her first Talent, that she can see ta’veren.

But Aniya’s attention slips quickly from Mat to Aviendha, and suddenly many Aes Sedai are crowding around her, asking if she knows she can channel, suggesting how much more power she could develop if she became a novice, and asking if many Aiel girls die of a mysterious wasting sickness when they are a little younger than Aviendha is now.

Nynaeve appears, asking Mat what he’s doing here and if he has anything to do with the army of Dragonsworn about to attack them. Mat replies that he is in command, actually, and Nynaeve grouchily agrees to take him to the Amyrlin. Aviendha tries to call out for Mat, but he ignores her, satisfied that she can’t go tearing off after Elayne while she is surrounded by curious and demanding Aes Sedai.

Nynaeve leads on, muttering about Rand frightening people and Mat watching his step, Lord General or no, and telling Mat that she doesn’t know what the Amyrlin is going to make of this. They pass through the common room to a room in the back, and Mat stops dead just inside.

There was Elayne, pretty as anything with that golden hair, but playing at the grand lady with every inch of her, in green silk with a high lace neck, and one of those condescending smiles, and raised eyebrows. And there was Egwene, seated behind a table, a questioning smile on her face. And a seven-striped stole over her pale yellow dress. Taking a quick peek outside, he shoved the door to before any of the Aes Sedai could see in.

Thinking that this is some kind of stupid joke, Mat stalks across the room, grabbing the stole from Egwene and hauling her bodily out of the chair as he mutters about what the Aes Sedai will do if they catch them. The foxhead medallion goes suddenly cold, and he realizes that they tried to use the One Power on him.

Mat dumps the cushions on the floor and sits in the chair, brushing off Egwene’s attempts to talk by telling her that they shouldn’t have lashed out “with your bloody power.” Steamrolling their questions, he tells Elayne that he’s taking her back to Caemlyn if he can keep Aviendha from killing her, tells Egwene that Rand says he will send her back to the Wise Ones, and tells Nynaeve that she can come too, but that he’ll warm her bottom if she yanks her braid at him.

He also tells them to let him do the talking when the “poor blind fool they’ve chosen for Amyrlin” arrives, and that she can’t be very smart if she allowed herself to be shoved into the position of Amyrlin of a village in the middle of nowhere. He tells Egwene that since she has obviously figured out how to Travel she can open a gateway to Caemlyn for them, and once they are gone “can run off and get themselves killed by Elaida.”

Finally pausing, he asks them if they have anything to say, and can’t believe that once again he’s saving them and they aren’t even saying thank you. Just then a novice knocks on the door and comes in, asking Egwene if she needs anything and calling her Mother.

“No, Tabiya.” Egwene pulled the striped stole from under his hat and settled it on her shoulders. “I want to talk with General Cauthon alone a little longer. Tell Sheriam I will send for her shortly, to advise me.”

“Close your mouth before you catch flies, Mat,” Nynaeve said in tones of deepest satisfaction.”

 

As I was saying last week, there is a really neat little reshuffling going on with Siuan and Egwene sort of changing places in the group of four that were originally part of Siuan’s hunt for the Black Ajah. Egwene is now the Amyrlin; it’s her army and her attack, as she puts it at the end of Chapter 37. Siuan, meanwhile, has joined Elayne and Nynaeve in the ranks of that secret army. However, they have a lot of new advantages this time around. Siuan’s expertise will be an invaluable resource for Egwene, I’m sure. And while she is young and untried in the role of Amyrlin or as an Aes Sedai, Egwene has learned a lot that the Aes Sedai do not teach, different types of discipline, a different relationship to the One Power and the authority that it grants over others, not to mention her Dreamwalking and rediscovery of saidar-based Traveling. Siuan recognizes much of her own strength, stubbornness, and canniness in Egwene, and I think her estimation of Egwene matches my own.

Nynaeve and Elayne are also more experienced, talented, and powerful than they were back when Siuan set them to hunt Black Ajah in the White Tower. Even Nynaeve with her block. They also have Leane and Birgitte on their side, and I’m sure both will have their own roles to play in Egwene’s game of manipulation. They also have Moghedien as a resource, which is dangerous but very useful all the same. Rather than Nynaeve and Elayne passing off “discoveries” to Sheriam, Egwenee will have direct access to whatever else can be gleaned from Moghedien, and as Amyrlin, can decide how to best use it to the Aes Sedai’s advantage, rather than relying on Sheriam and the Hall to make those choices.

I loved the way Egwene handled Moghedien, using everything she’s learned from the Aiel and hiding her own pain and horror around interacting with an a’dam. I also loved the way she handled Siuan. It was beautiful. And she’s right—the Wise Ones would be proud. I can’t help thinking about Rand’s arrangement with Moiraine. Like Rand needed Moiraine’s teaching, Egwene needs the expertise only Siuan can provide. Moiraine’s oath of obedience gave Rand the ability to trust her to advise, not manipulate, while Siuan’s new position within the Aes Sedai makes supporting Egwene in her best interests—especially now that Egwene has proven to be too sharp and stubborn to be manipulated as Siuan had first intended. And really, as much as Siuan would prefer to be calling the shots, being part of Egwene’s secret inner circle is in many ways a step up from having to manipulate Egwene through manipulating Sheriam and co.

Speaking of Sheriam, I still can’t shake the feeling that there’s something going on with her. I have long wondered if she might be Black Ajah, mostly because of the incidents with the gray men back in The Dragon Reborn. There really hasn’t been anything else suspicious since then—she’s definitely hungry for power, but that’s hardly rare among the Aes Sedai. Perhaps it’s merely that she’s been so central and worked so closely with Elayne and Egwene and Nynaeve basically from the beginning. I fully believe that there are more Black Ajah in Salidar than just Delana, and narratively speaking, one of them almost has to be someone who is important to the Little Tower and to our heroes, and someone the reader is invested in. So unless Leane was to turn out to be that person, Sheriam best fits that bill. She’s always had a friendly relationship with the girls, and she was also a close friend of Siuan and Moiraine when they were Accepted. Also, if I were the author, I would have a hard time passing up the symbolism of having the Keeper of the Little Tower also turn out to be Black Ajah, just as the Keeper of the Big White Tower is. Such a choice would definitely fit Jordan’s style as well.

That’s all just hypothesis though. What’s more certain is that Egwene definitely has an eye towards building up the strength of the Aes Sedai. She confirms to Elayne that part of the reason for her desire to unite all female channelers under the Tower is because of Rand’s amnesty, which makes sense. But I don’t think it’s just about rivaling Rand—Egwene is looking to make the Tower as strong as possible because she, too, knows that Tarmon Gai’don is coming, and that numbers are part of any battle. As head of the Aes Sedai, she wants to unite the Windfinders, the Wise Ones, and all other channelers under her leadership in the same way that Rand is trying to unite all the nations under his. Some she will rule, such as Westland women who are not strong enough in the power or of the right temperament to become Aes Sedai. Others she will form an alliance with, like the Wise Ones. In the same way, Rand has made himself the ruler of Tear, and will do so with any other nations he has to, but he also wishes to ally himself with any rulers who will willingly follow him. This is why he needs Elayne so badly—he can secure Cairhien and Andor to his cause without being stuck also governing them.

Egwene’s new approach is much more egalitarian than the traditional Aes Sedai way. Her observation that Sorilea would have been put out of the Tower without even being allowed to test for Accepted really drives home the extent of the limitations the Aes Sedai place on who can be among their number, which is especially absurd when you consider how few there are these days. But the Aes Sedai image and the traditions of the Tower are so important to them that they’ve held onto the exclusive, elitist nature of their order past the point of it serving them.

You can see this same close minded approach in other areas. The Aes Sedai are so deeply mistrusted for reasons that aren’t their fault, or weren’t initially at least. Now, their desire to appear strong and untouchable in the face of that mistrust has contributed to their alienation from the rest of the world. The destruction of Malkier is a perfect example of this. Moiraine tells Lan in New Spring that the Aes Sedai were unable to help Malkier because its destruction came so quickly that they literally couldn’t travel fast enough to get there in time, but rather than admit that the power of the Aes Sedai isn’t infinite, they allowed the world to believe that they chose to allow Malkier’s fall, for some unknowable Aes Sedai reasons.

You can imagine how that would look to other countries allied to the Aes Sedai, or those who were uncertain about such a connection. The Aes Sedai are trying to protect themselves by seeming cool, aloof, and unknowable, but such choices enhance the world’s belief that they are inhuman and untrustworthy—if they apparently allowed Malkier to be overrun, who is to say that they wouldn’t abandon any nation, or every nation, if it suited their secret Aes Sedai whims?

Egwene, raised in a small, rural village far from a life of politics and Aes Sedai, is bringing a very different perspective to being an Aes Sedai. That isn’t to say that she doesn’t agree with plenty of aspects of how the White Tower is run or that she’s going to completely upend every tradition. But she is thinking more holistically about the One Power and its uses. The Wise Ones, she believes, don’t miss a single girl born with the spark, and every single one of them is trained to become a Wise One. Not only that, but a woman can become a Wise One even without the ability to channel, which ties channelers and non-channelers together in authority and interests. The Wise Ones are connected to their people, not removed the way the Aes Sedai are.

There are merits to both systems, of course, and in the case of the Aes Sedai they have many nations, not just one people, to look after. But Egwene is clearly thinking like a Wise One here, and, as she herself puts it, like a general. She knows she needs the numbers, and she knows that sometimes those very weak in the Power can be incredible assets. She isn’t dismissing the intelligence or usefulness of other people just because they aren’t as strong in the Power. And more importantly, she’s not dismissing the fact that people can have important, useful roles in the fighting even if they aren’t able to measure up in the particular way the White Tower demands of full sisters.

There is some fun irony in the fact that the Aes Sedai are asking Aviendha if she knows that she can channel and if many girls die of a wasting sickness in the Waste, meanwhile Egwene is considering that she doesn’t think the Wise Ones miss a single girl, and how many have died on the other side of the Dragonwall? These musings come shortly after her thoughts, while traveling Tel’aran’rhiod, that “Everyone had believed for so long that Aes Sedai knew everything that Aes Sedai believed it, too.” The Aes Sedai have forgotten to question themselves and be open to new ideas, probably in that same quest for seeming invulnerable in front of others.

You see that Egwene is farther along in her realization of the Aes Sedai’s flaws and vulnerability than Elayne and Nynaeve are. Nynaeve’s observations of the strengths and weaknesses of the Aes Sedai are often based more on her emotional reaction than logical observation, while Elayne still buys many of the myths of the Aes Sedai, unaware of the checks upon the Amyrlin’s power by other Aes Sedai, and fully buying into the idea that Aes Sedai serenity equals Aes Sedai strength. All three are still loyal to the Aes Sedai, and still consider all sisters their family, but it will be interesting to see what other changes, what evolution, they bring to the concept of what an Aes Sedai is and should be as they grow into power and authority, and as the approach of Tarmon Gai’don generates different demands and stresses on those who wear the shawl.

Also, can we talk about how Aran’gar’s attempt to divide and weaken the Salidar Aes Sedai is part of what paved the way for Egwene to become Amyrlin? I love this. By sowing discord amongst the Sitters and supporting both factions, Delana helped cause everyone to vote for Egwene rather than Romanda’s supporters risking Lelaine’s ascension, and vice-versa. For all that Siuan and Leane have been manipulating Sheriam and Sheriam has been manipulating the Hall, Aran’gar’s intervention might actually be the only reason the plan to install Egwene succeeded. No doubt Aran’gar believes that this will further weaken the Salidar Aes Sedai—just as Sheriam and the Hall think her young and easily manipulated by them, Aran’gar no doubt believes that an inexperienced leader will result in the already tenuous cohesion of Salidar to fall apart. And just as Egwene intends to play Sheriam, Romanda, and Lelaine against each other, Delana will be behind the scenes furthering the divide between Romanda and Lelaine and their respective supporters. That will probably continue to work in Egwene’s favor. It will be interesting to see what comes of Aran’gar’s push to have Logain killed or re-gentled—I wonder why that is such a priority, especially given that a powerful channeler succumbing to madness is really a boon to the Dark. Is it to keep Logain from becoming an asset to Rand? Or is there some other reason, such as Delana’s suspicion that Aran’gar is afraid of Logain? I can’t think why that would be, but anything is possible.

Meanwhile there’s Mat, showing his whole backside here in a very Mat-like way. It’s a bit wild to watch him consider how to keep Aviendha from murdering Elayne. He doesn’t know that Aviendha’s feelings about her connection to Rand are exactly the opposite of what he assumes—guilt, not jealousy; toh, not rivalry—but it still feels a bit extreme to assume that Aviendha’s going to jump right to murder. I think it shows how true it is that Mat’s view on Aiel hasn’t evolved the way Rand’s has. This even comes up when Olver tries to knife Aviendha—Mat tries to explain the difference between the Shaido and the other Aiel, but doesn’t really understand the difference himself. In Mat’s defense, some Aiel were recently sent by one of the Forsaken to kill him. But it’s also pretty racist to paint all the Aiel with the same brush, which is what most Westlanders do.

I wonder if any of Mat’s behavior towards Egwene, Elayne, and Nynaeve is at least in part a disguise for his own fear. He’s quite apprehensive arriving in Salidar, seeing how much stronger the Aes Sedai here are, seeing their numbers and their army that’s twice as large as his. Then, when he tells them to let him do all the talking with the Amyrlin when she arrives, he says things like “I know all about her army, but I have one too,” and she “can’t be very bright” if she let herself be shoved into the job, and “these madwomen can run off and get themselves killed by Elaida.” It’s hard to say how much he fully believes what he is saying and how much is bluster. He might very well believe that these women don’t stand a chance against Elaida—he wasn’t impressed with the front room of the Little Tower—but I don’t think he finds the Salidar Aes Sedai quite as hopeless and pathetic as he claims.

His possession of the foxhead medallion really changes the dynamic here. There are lots of ways that the Aes Sedai—including Nynaeve, Egwene, and Elayne—are capable of abusing their abilities when they interact with non-channelers, and often do. But channeling—ostensibly to restrain him—when Mat began manhandling Egwene was not one of those moments. We don’t know which of the three tried to use the Power on him, but it very well could have been Egwene herself, reacting defensively to being grabbed, hauled, and forcibly stripped of her stole. The fact that Mat is impervious to channeling reminds me a little bit of Siuan and Bryne and the way she was confronted with his size and strength and how different it felt when she didn’t have the ability to match and exceed it using saidar. And Mat then decides that they don’t get to have a conversation, that the women have forfeited their right to speak by using the One Power, but that he has the right to use his physical strength against them.

I guess this is another argument for Warders. It’s too bad Birgitte wasn’t in the room when all this was going down.

Mat’s sexism is apparent here in many ways. I can certainly understand why he wouldn’t immediately believe that Egwene was the Amyrlin, but he doesn’t stop at assuming he’s being pranked. He assumes that they are all idiots who have no idea how badly they will be punished for this prank, even though they are prospective Aes Sedai and have been living and working with them, and he is an outsider who knows very little. Obviously Mat’s fear of the Aes Sedai is a factor here as well, but he displays a similar attitude towards Aviendha and the way he judges her intelligence and assumes jealousy and recklessness. He also judges Aviendha for brushing her hair and putting on jewelry, thinking that a woman would take time to fix her hair if the world was ending—but the world isn’t ending, and it’s not very odd to think that you would want to make a decent impression arriving at the residence of three or four hundred Aes Sedai under the Dragonbanner.

And then there is the way he reacts to Elayne. Mat is generally against royalty and nobility, which is understandable and even laudable. But he always specifically thinks of Elayne as “playing” the great lady and always taking Elayne’s kindness and warmth as an attempt at manipulation. The girl is the Daughter-Heir and a future Queen, Mat. However you feel about queens in general, she isn’t “playing” at anything.

Next week we’ll cover two more chapters (39 and 40) but first I have a confession to make: It has been five and a half books, and I just realized that Mat’s horse is named Pips because “pip” is the word for the markings on dice and on suits of cards. Just now, y’all. Not because I didn’t know the word. Just didn’t make that connection. Getting into the nitty gritty of foreshadowing and plot analysis, but missing the obvious details.

But that’s part of the fun of doing a read, so I can’t really be mad about it. I hope everyone has a great week, and I’ll see you all back here next week!

I mean, Pips is just a cute sounding name for a horse even if you don’t get the reference.

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