Welcome back to my re-read, recap, and reaction to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. This post will only have spoilers through the current chapter.
You can find my previous chapter recaps HERE.
Chapter 5: The Shadow in Shienar
The word “stilled” hangs in the air. Stilling is the term used to describe when a woman who can channel the One Power is permanently cut off from the One Power. Stilling, as a punishment for Aes Sedai, is so uncommon that every novice in the White Tower is required to learn the name of everyone Sister who has suffered the punishment. Women handle stilling no better than men handle gentling, the male equivalent of being cut off from the One Power.
Moiraine tells Siuan that Leanna would never betray her. Siuan counters that Leanna might not consider it a betrayal. Moiraine replies that the two of them were chosen by the Pattern to fulfill their part in the prophecies. She says that the prophecies must be fulfilled. She then admits that the fulfillment of these prophecies is treason to everything else they were taught.
Siuan says that only two Amyrlin Seats have been stripped of stole and staff since the Breaking of the World. One suffered the punishment because she betrayed Manetheren out of jealousy over Eldrene’s powers. Another suffered the punishment for attempting to use Artur Hawkwing as a puppet to control the world. Siuan notes that both deposed Amyrlins were of the Red Ajah and replaced by Blue Sisters. She says that this history is why the Red has not had an Amyrlin since the time of Artur Hawkwing and it is the reason why the Red would look for any pretext to pull down an Amyrlin that originated from the Blue Ajah. Siuan says she has no wish to be the third Amyrlin to be pulled down. She says that while Moiraine would be stilled and turned loose to live whatever amount of life she has left, Siuan would not be allowed to leave the Tower. The two previous Amyrlins who were pulled down were kept in the White Tower as scullery maids as a caution to all who see them about what can happen to even the mightiest of Sisters.
Moiraine is stunned to hear Siuan talking this way. She wonders where her friend’s strength has gone.
Moiraine: Look at me, Siuan, look at me. Are you saying that you want to give up after all these years? After all we have done? Give up and let the world go? And all for fear of getting a switching for not getting the pots clean enough?
Siuan turns to face her and is angry. She says she remembers which of the two of them squealed the loudest, during a switching, when they were novices. Abruptly Siuan slaps the table with a loud crack. She tells Moiraine she is not suggesting that they give up. Angrily, she also says she does not propose to watch everything they have worked for slide out of her hands. She tells most of her troubles with the Hall of the Tower stem from Moiraine herself.
Siuan: Even the Greens wonder why I haven’t called you to the Tower and taught you a little discipline. Half of the Sisters with me think you should be handed over to the Reds and if that happens you will wish you were a novice again.
Siuan tells her that they had a plan to locate the boy and bring him to Tar Valon where they could keep him safe and guide him. She says Moiraine has only sent her two messages since leaving the Tower. The first was to tell her that she was entering the Two Rivers and the second to say she was leaving Caemlyn for Shienar.
Siuan: Fal Dara not Tar Valon, with the Blight almost close enough to touch.
Moiraine returns to being calm now that Siuan is showing so much more life. She tells her that they forgot, in their planning, what they were dealing with. She tells Elaida is wrong and that Artur Hawkwing was never so strongly ta’veren.
Moiraine: The Wheel will weave the Pattern around this man as it wills, whatever our plans.
This time Siuan is the one who is shocked and she tells Moiraine that it sounds like she is saying they should give up, stand aside, and watch the world burn. Moiraine tells her she is not suggesting they stand aside but she tells the Amyrlin that the world will burn one way or another whatever they do.
Siuan shivers before placing her hand on the golden trunk. She unlocks it and reveals The Horn of Valere inside. The Amyrlin tells Moiraine that Agelmar pushed the Horn into her hands as soon as the welcome ended. He told her that he was afraid of entering his own strong rooms with it in there. She tells Moiraine that Agelmar said the temptation was too great to remove it and use it. Siuan then confesses to Moiraine that the Horn makes her skin crawl. She says she could not possibly sleep if it were in the next room so she says Agelmar will need to take it back into his strong room.
The prophecies state that the Horn will not be found until just before the Last Battle. Siuan is troubled that they are so close to the end. She also wonders whether they have been wrong all of these years. She asks Moiraine what happens if Logain was the one or if Mazrim Taim, the false dragon in Saldaea is the one? Moiraine tells her that neither of them is the one.
Moiraine: The Pattern does not demand a dragon but the one true dragon. Until he proclaims himself, the Pattern will continue to throw up false dragon, but after that, there will be no others. If Logain or the other were the one, then there would be no others.
[reciting] “For he shall come like the breaking dawn and shatter the world again with his coming and make it new.”
Siuan tells Moiraine that she knows there is more to tell and nothing of it good. Moiraine takes the leather pouch from her belt and spills the contents on the table. It appears to be a bag of fragmented pottery but when the Amrylin Seat touches a piece, her breath catches.
The making of cuendillar was lost with the Breaking of the World but whatever made from it prior survived the cataclysm. No known force can break it – even the One Power. The Amyrlin hastily puts the pieces together until they form a disk the size of a man’s hand, half blacker than pitch, the other half whiter than snow, the colors meeting along a sinuous line unfaded by age. This is the ancient symbol of Aes Sedai before the Breaking of the World, when men and women wielded the One Power together. Half of the symbol is now called The Flame of Tar Valon and the other half is called The Dragon’s Fang. Only seven like this disk were ever made. After staring for a long while, Siuan says that it is one of the seals on The Dark One’s prison.
The Amyrlin Seat is referred to as The Watcher of the Seals but one secret hidden from the world is that no Amyrlin since the Trolloc Wars has known where any of the seals are located. Siuan notes that if the seals are already breaking, they may have no time at all. Moiraine tells her that they have little time but the time that they have may be enough.
Siuan tells Moiraine that she saw the boy from the courtyard during the welcome. She has the Talent of seeing ta’veren. She says the boy blazed like the sun and the sight of him made her afraid down to her toes. She asks Moiraine if the boy is the one they have sought all these years and Moiraine tells her that he is. Siuan asks if the boy can channel and Moiraine tells her that he can. Moiraine tells Siuan his name.
Siuan: Rand al’Thor. It does not sound like a name to inspire fear and set the world on fire.
The Amyrlin asks if Rand is safe in Fal Dara with all the Aes Sedai in tow with her. She tells Moiraine that she cannot answer for them if they learn Rand can channel. Moiraine tells her that Rand is safe for the moment.
Moiraine tells Siuan that she plans to induce Mat and Perrin to carry the Horn of Valere to Illian. She says, though, that there is a problem with Mat.
Moiraine: He carries a dagger from Shadar Logoth.
Siuan: Shadar Logoth! Light! Why did you ever let them get near that place? Every stone of it is tainted. There isn’t a pebble safe to carry away.
Moiraine tells Siuan that she thought she was going to need to send Mat to Tar Valon for healing but she hopes that with so many sisters in Fal Dara the work may be done where they are. Moiraine believes that herself, Siuan, and two others, in addition to her angreal, should suffice to complete Mat’s healing.
Siuan replies that the Hall wants the angreal back because she has been deemed unreliable. Moiraine says they will think worse of her before the end. She explains to Siuan that Mat will be easy to sell on the idea of being part of the Horn’s story. She believes Perrin will not be a much more difficult sell. As a result, she believes Rand will be persuaded to go with them so long as he believes he is traveling without Aes Sedai. Siuan is surprised that she would want to leave him unattended by Moiraine says that it is unavoidable. However, she says Illian will follow the Dragon Reborn if he presents the King with the Horn of Valere. She plans to be there for that. Moiraine says that Rand will not need to work to gather nations because he will begin with a nation and an army at his back.
Siuan asks her about whether Rand will name himself the Dragon. Moiraine replies that she has the means to see him named that way whether he wills it or not. She also says that even if she fails, the Pattern will not fail in seeing that it happens.
Siuan wants to begin planning immediately and Moiraine says that they have been alone for too long already. Moiraine says that they can contrive another meeting tomorrow. They agree to meet in the morning. When Moiraine leaves, Leanna gives her a sharp look and darks into Siuan’s chamber. Moiraine attempts to put on a chastened face. She decides that there is much work to be done so she quickens her step and moves deeper into the keep.
Two thousand Children of the Light arrive at a village in Tarabon on the edge of Almoth Plain for a meeting. Geofram Bornhald wonders what this meeting is about. He remembers his earlier meeting with Pedron Niall in Amador but learned little.
In the meeting, Bornhald told Niall that there are houses in Caemlyn that view the White Tower as they do and that they are ready to lay claim to the throne. Bornhald says that he left Eamon Valda in charge when he left Caemlyn but Valda seemed intent on following the Daughter Heir to Tar Valon. Bornhald tells Niall that he believes Valda is likely to attempt a kidnapping of the Daughter Heir of Andor or an attack on Tar Valon itself. Niall told Bornhald that Valda walks in the Light but also that Bornhald is the best battle commander among the Children. He further told Bornhald that he is to assemble a full legion of Children and take them into Tarabon avoiding any eyes attached to a tongue that might speak. He also tells him that if anyone does see them, they must be silenced.
Bornhald: Is it war my Lord Captain Commander? There is talk in the streets, wild rumors, about Artur Hawkwing’s armies come back.
Niall also told Bornhald that he will meet a messenger in a village called Alcruna and there he will receive his final orders. Bornhald asks more questions but Niall tells him that he will be told what he must know when he reaches Alcruna. Suddenly Niall looks even older than his age. He tells Bornhald that there are forces at work beyond what he knows or what he can know. He then says to ask him no more.
Back in the present, Bornhald is relieved that he has managed the journey without killing innocents in order to arrive in secret. He sees his scouts returning with Children of the Light who arrived ahead of them. They dressed similarly to most Children except that behind the golden sun bursts on their chests are red shepherd’s crooks. This identifies them as Questioners. They use hot irons and pinchers to pull confessions from Darkfriends. Bornhald believes Questioners decide guilt before beginning their torture.
He is surprised that he has been sent to this village to meet Questioners. The leader of their group tells Captain Bornhald that they have been waiting for him. He introduces himself as Einor Saren, second to Jaichim Carridin who commands the Hand of the Light in Tarabon. The Questioners is an informal title – their actual title is The Hand of the Light. They say it means The Hand that digs out truth. Questioners do not like the name Questioners. Saren tells Bornhald that there is a bridge at the village and to have his men cross it. Saren tells Bornhald that they can talk inside the village inn.
Bornhald tells Saren that he was told by Niall to avoid all eyes. Saren assures him that the village has been pacified. Bornhald growls internally about what that likely means and wonders to himself if the Questioners were stupid enough to kill the villagers for secrecy and dumb enough to throw their bodies into the river to trumpet their deed to everyone downriver. Saren tells Bornhald that the surrounding villages are not governed beyond their local mayor and that their orders are to bring the region to the Light. He tells Bornhald that there will be many Darkfriends in such places. Bornhald complains that he has brought an entire legion across Tarabon in secrecy to root out a few Darkfriends.
Saren tells him that if he seeks battle, he will likely find it. He says that The Strangers have a great force on Toman Head – perhaps more than Tarabon nd Arad Doman combined could throw back if they could stop their own bickering long enough to work together.
Saren: If the strangers break through, you will have all the fighting you can handle. The Taraboners claim the strangers are monsters, creatures of the Dark One. Some say they have Aes Sedai to fight for them. If they are Darkfriends, these strangers, they will have to be dealt with, too in their turn.
Bornhald: Then the rumors are true. Artur Hawkwing’s armies have returned.
Saren then tells Bornhald, again, to move his men across the river. He says that he will give Bornhald further orders inside the village. Then he rides away. When they are gone, Bornhald calls for Child Byar. He tells Byar to move the men across the river and to make camp.
Liandrin moves through the women’s apartments. She reaches the Lady Amalisa’s chambers. The Lady Amalisa and other women are sitting as one of them stands and reads aloud to the others. The book purports to read pronouncements of how men should behave toward women and women toward men. The group laughs in enjoyment at each pronouncement. Liandrin is not amused. When the women become aware of Liandrin’s presence, silence replaces laughter. All but Amalisa scramble to their feet. The Lady Amalisa rises to her feet and tells the Aes Sedai that she honors them with her presence.
Liandrin speaks to the air and states that she will speak to the Lady Amalisa alone and she says that the rest of them will leave now. Once all of the women leave, Amalisa attempts to speak with Liandrin. She is cut off.
Liandrin: Do you walk in the Light my daughter?
For most, the question would cause doubt and unease. To a Shienaran, from a noble house and the blood of soldiers, the question is an insult. Liandrin realizes she made a mistake by Amalisa’s reaction.
Amalisa: My line has fought the Shadow since before there was a Shienar. Three thousand years without fail or a day’s weakness.
Liandrin shifts her tactics but does not retreat. She walks over to find the book which Amalisa and her friends had been reading before her arrival. She throws the book into the fire. The fire leaps. At the same instant, the lamps in the room flare, too, flooding the chamber with Light.
Liandrin asks her if she believes men can be corrupted by the Blight, against their will, by walking through it. She tells Amalisa that she is of the Red and that she seeks out all men who are corrupted. She then asks Amalisa why she believes the Amyrlin Seat is present. She tells Amalisa that she hunts corrupted men both high and low. When she says this, she places added emphasis on high. Amalisa drops to her knees and pleads that she cannot mean Lord Agelmar.
In Amalisa’s doubt and confusion, Liandrin strikes her with the One Power using a trick she learned before arriving at the Tower as a novice. Tears trickle from Amalisa’s eyes. The fire in the room returns to normal and Liandrin softens her voice.
Liandrin: Daughter, no one wants to see you and Agelmar thrown to the people as Darkfriends. I will help you but you must help.
Amalisa is confused. Liandrin is not able to force anyone to do or believe something through she has tried. However, with her trick, she is able to make people open to her arguments. She can make them want to believe her. Liandrin tells her to obey and answer truthfully. Amalisa agrees to answer truthfully.
Liandrin tells her that Moiraine came to Fal Dara with a Darkfriend. Lady Amalisa corrects her and says that the Darkfriend came later and that he is in the dungeons now. Liandrin then asks if her Moiraine is often in company with the Darkfriend speaking to him alone. Amalisa tells her that Moiraine speaks with him only sometimes and that Moiraine wishes to find out why he came to Fal Dara.
Liandrin then asks Amalisa where the three young men Moiraine arrived with are to be found. She says she has been to their rooms and they were not there. Lady Amalisa says that she does not know. When Amalisa says that surely Liandrin does not believe the boys are Darkfriends, Liandrin says no. She then says that they are worse than Darkfriends and that the entire world is in danger by them.
Liandrin: They must be found. You will command your servants to search the keep. And your ladies. And yourself. Every crack and cranny.
Liandrin tells her to do the work personally and to speak of it to no one. She tells Amalisa that the boys must be removed from Fal Dara in secrecy and taken to Tar Valon. Amalisa then agrees but she tells the Aes Sedai she does not understand the need for secrecy.
Amalisa: No one here will hinder Aes Sedai.
Liandrin: Of the Black Ajah you have heard?
Amalisa is stunned and frightened. She tells Liandrin that it is a vile rumor and that there are no Aes Sedai who serve the Dark One. Fearfully, she tells Liandrin that she does not believe it.
Aes Sedai are known to become very angry with those who even mention the Black Ajah, let alone those who say they believe in its hidden existence. Whatever strength remaining in Amalisa there had been seeps out when Liandrin tells her that the Black Ajah is not only real, it is within Fal Dara’s walls. She offers Amalisa her personally protection if she walks in the Light and follows her orders. Amalisa agrees.
Liandrin turns and walks toward the door while Amalisa continues to watch her anxiously from her knees. Liandrin then tells her to rise.
Liandrin: If you fail the world, if you fail me, that wretched Darkfriend in the dungeon will be your envy.
In the hallway outside, Liandrin feels her skin prickle. The hallway is empty and yet she is sure there had been eyes on her. She tells herself that she is taken by fancies.
The dungeon is pitch black. Padan Fain sits on the edge of his cot with a smile on his face. He is waiting for something. The door to the outer guard room opens spilling in Light. Fain stands. He tells the figure in the doorway that he is not who he expected. Fain then raises his head at something unseen, and yet felt, beyond the dungeon’s stone ceiling.
Fain: It isn’t over yet. The battle’s never over.
The Moiraine/Siuan section is more “getting to know a new character / infodump” but there were a couple of interesting bits from this section.
Moiraine tells Siuan that Rand is so highly ta’veren that they only have a fingernail’s grip on him, that they cannot make plans for him, etc. Then she lays out an elaborate plan to send the three Emond’s Field boys to Illian with the Horn of Valere in tow and to have Rand forcibly (if necessary) named Dragon Reborn and to have an army behind him when that happens.
Overall, we get some hints at their relationship. They are besties who have been pretending not to be besties for a long number of years. They started on some quest together, regarding The Dragon Reborn, a couple of decades ago. They both know that whatever they have planned could get them stilled (i.e. cut off from the One Power.)
Obviously the Whitecloaks in Tarabon are bad guys. They murdered an entire village and Bornhald’s primary reaction was to wonder how the bodies were disposed of. Bornhald is probably the best Whitecloak we have met so far, by the way. The big part of this section is to draw our attention to “the Strangers” on Toman Head. Artur Hawkwing’s armies returned? With monsters? And fightin’ Aes Sedai? Remember that “Toman Head” rumors were part of Moiraine’s “news of the world” section when she was talking to other Aes Sedai before going to meet with Siuan.
Liandrin seems awfully… Darkfriendy. Is that a word? I am going to say it’s a word. She has a trick with the One Power that she uses to get people to kind of do what she wants. She burns books indiscriminately. She thinks people should kneel to her. On the other hand, she never refers to the Dark One as her Master or anything, in this section. It is also interesting that she feels eyes on her in the hallway. Is that Fain or something else?
Speaking of Fain, this chapter ends with the beginnings of what appears to be a jailbreak. We shall see.