Welcome back to my chapter-by-chapter read-through and recap of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. The spoilers ahead are only through the current chapter.
Chapter 21: Listen to the Wind
Nynaeve wakes up alone beneath a tree beside the Arinelle River. She sees no sign of her companions. She remembers her escape from Shadar Logoth. She encountered trollocs only once – outside of the city – and despite being only thirty spans in front of her, they sniffed the air at her approach and then went the other direction.
They know the sent of who they want and it is not me. The Aes Sedai is right, it seems, the Shepherd of the Night swallow her up.
Nynaeve leads her horse downriver looking for tracks her companions may have made. After covering about four miles, she smells smoke. Knowing the only way to learn whether it is a companion, or trollocs, is to look, she sneaks toward the fire. There she finds the Aes Sedai and the Warder talking.
She listens from a hiding spot. Lan has not been able to find any of the others from their party and he reports that all sign of the myrddraal and trollocs are now gone. He also expresses worry and disbelief about the number of trollocs – almost 1,000 – that they faced the previous night. Lan points out that the trollocs must have been sent after it was discovered that the smaller group sent to the Two Rivers on Winternight was not enough. His disbelief is in how they managed to send a force so large across such a great distance so quickly and unseen. Moiraine replies that The Ways are closed and that there has not been an Aes Sedai powerful enough to Travel since the Breaking of the World.
Moiraine tells Lan to worry about the things they can control. She reports that one of the boys is across the river, alive, and that two other boys are miles downriver. She says that her bond with the two moving south downriver has been broken for hours. They speculate that the Halfmen have two of them but Moiraine will not accept the possibility of any of them being dead. Nynaeve puzzles over what Moiraine means.
Suddenly Moiraine notices Nynaeve and tells her she can come out from her hiding place. Nynaeve approaches Moiraine angrily and asks what plot she has enmeshed Egwene and the others in. Moiraine offers her tea. When Nynaeve tells her she does not want tea, Moiraine tells the Wisdom that she can also wield the One Power.
Moiraine says she can sense the ability in Nynaeve and that sense is how she knew Nynaeve was hiding behind the tree just now. Moiraine also says that Nynaeve can sense the ability in others – which is why she knew Egwene could be a Wisdom. Moiraine continues, firmly. She tells Nynaeve about her uncommon skill as a Wisdom. The Aes Sedai points out that unlike most Wisdoms, Nynaeve actually can listen to the wind in a fashion. Nynaeve suddenly realizes that Moiraine is telling the truth. But she continues to deny it. The Aes Sedai goes on. She tells Nynaeve that around 8 to 10 years ago, the Wisdom got something that she wanted in a way that was not explainable. Moiraine continues by saying that a week to ten days later, Nynaeve became sick with a fever or chills but for only a few hours. Moiraine tells her that she would have experienced headaches, numbness, or a feeling of exhilaration or giddiness that led to her taking a foolish chance.
Nynaeve sits down. She remembers but she continues to deny it. Moiraine continues. She tells the Wisdom that she knows Nynaeve must have used the One Power to heal either Perrin or Egwene. The Aes Sedai tells her that after you have used the One Power on another person, “an affinity” develops. This affinity, says Moiraine, is how Nynaeve was able to find their party in Baerlon so easily. Moiraine asks if it was Perrin or Egwene that she healed?
Nynaeve mumbles that it was Egwene. She does not like, but is willing to admit to herself, that Moiraine is telling the truth. She describes to Moiraine a time when she healed Egwene of “break bone fever.” A week later, Nynaeve became sick with chills for a few hours. Moiraine tells Nynaeve that she was very lucky. Moiraine tells her that most women who touch the One Power, without training, eventually die. Nynaeve remembers a pair of women, both apprentices to Wisdoms, who died in the manner that Moiraine describes untrained women dying.
Moiraine tells Nynaeve that she can become more powerful than even Egwene. Moiraine goes on to say that she believes Egwene may eventually be one of the most powerful Aes Sedai in centuries. Nynaeve asks Moiraine not to tell the others about what they have just discussed.
Moiraine suddenly tells Lan that she believes they need to begin traveling south. After she tells him that she does not believe Nynaeve will be accompanying them, the Wisdom argues and insists that she will be joining them. Lan tells her that she can join them if she wants to join them.
Nynaeve asks Moiraine how she knows where the boys are. Moiraine explains that she gave each of the boys a token and that the token created a bond that allows her to know roughly where they are located. She goes on to explain that she needs to follow the two boys who lost their coins because they may be in greater danger. She also explains that even the boy across the river will be traveling south toward White Bridge and she hopes to find him there.
Moiraine does not believe the two without their coins are dead. She also does not know where Egwene is or if she is alive. Moiraine explains that searching for Egwene might be fruitless because it is possible she is with the two who seem to be in danger down the river. She might also be with the boy across the river. Searching for her though may delay finding the two boys who have lost their tokens, though, and the delay could be perilous. Nynaeve takes one look around at the forest behind her, wondering if Egwene is back there, somewhere, hiding where she had spent the previous night, and then Nynaeve joins the other two and begins a ride south.
Nynaeve decides to herself in that moment that she can use the One Power and that she can use it against Moiraine.
Nynaeve – very reluctantly – admits to herself that she must have some ability to channel the One Power. From the perspective of her upbringing, this was something akin to finding out that she was partially a monster. At the end of the chapter, she seems to decide something like “well, if I am a monster, I will use my monster talent to take out other monsters such as this one.”
I don’t want to undersell how big a revelation this is for her, though. She has gone from a person who is more sure of herself – rightly or not – than anyone in her region to someone who now has to question her own identity, the knowledge she grew up with, etc. That’s not a small thing. Unlike the rest of her hometown party, her sense of identity has the deep roots of adulthood and authority.
Did you notice the symptoms of the effects of channeling without a teacher? Very interesting information.
I think this is the first time we find out Nynaeve’s last name. al’Meara.
I looked up what her name means at The Thirteenth Depository: It’s a testament to how carefully names and story arcs reflect each other in Jordan’s books. I removed the spoilers in the quoted section below but you will see them if you follow the link so be forewarned.
In Greek mythology, Maera was the hound of Icarius, and was turned into the Dog Star, Sirius. Icarius was a follower of the wine god Dionysus and was killed by shepherds while on his travels. His daughter Erigone was worried about her father, and set off with Maera to find him. Maera led her to his grave, and both were so over come with grief that they each killed themselves. Dionysus placed them in the sky as the constellations Virgo (Erigone), Boötes (Icarius), and Sirius (Maera).
Maera was the daughter of Proetus and a companion of the virgin goddess Artemis. When she became Zeus’ lover, Artemis killed her. Nynaeve has excellent woods-craft skills, befitting a friend of the goddess of the hunt. (Her skills are also consistent with the hound Maera).
Maera was also an alternative spelling for Mara, the demon in Buddhist teachings who tempted Buddha with illusions. Mara personifies unskilfulness and distraction from the spiritual life.
Meara is also similar to the word mere, meaning lake—Nynaeve (Lady) of the Lake.
Al’Meara is similar to Almira, a personal name meaning princess, a surname and a place name. It may allude to Almira Hart Phelps (1793‒1884), the 19th-century American educator and writer who strove to raise the academic standards of education for girls.