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 23: The Testing
Nynaeve warily eyes the huge chamber far beneath the White Tower. She eyes Sheriam at her side just as warily. The Mistress of Novices seems expectant and perhaps even a little impatient. Prior to this moment, in the Wisdom’s first few days in Tar Valon, Sheriam had never seemed nothing other than serene. The domed room has been carved out of the bedrock of the island. The walls are made of pale smooth stones. Centered under the dome is a thing made of three round silver arches with each just tall enough to walk under. The three arches are on a thick silver ring touching each other. Arches and ring together are all of one piece. Nynaeve cannot see what lies inside the arches because the light there flickers oddly. In each place where arch touches ring, an Aes Sedai sits barelegged on the floor staring at the silvery construction. Another Aes Sedai sits nearby beside three silver chalices. Nynaeve has been told that each of the chalices are filled with clear water. All four Aes Sedai wear their shawls as Sheriam is wearing hers.
Nynaeve is still wearing one of the dresses she was given in Fal Dara – pale green embroided with small white flowers. Nynaeve mutters that they first left her to stare at her thumbs and now everything is in a rush.
Sheriam: The hour waits on no woman. The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills and when it wills. Patience is a virtue that must be learned but we must all be ready for the change of an instant.
Nynaeve tries not to glare. She has learned, to her irritation, that Sheriam sometimes sounds like she is quoting sayings even when she is not. Nynaeve asks what that thing is and Sheriam replies to her that it is a ter’angreal. The Wisdom replies irritably that telling her it is a ter’angreal tells her nothing. She asks what it does. Sheriam explains to her that ter’angreals do many things. They are remnants of the Age of Legends that use the One Power. She explains that each ter’angreal does a specific thing. She says another ter’angreal in the Tower makes oaths binding. Sheriam says that if Nynaeve is raised to full Sisterhood she will take her final vows holding that ter’angreal.
Sheriam: Speak no word that is not true, to make no weapon for one man to kill another, never to use the One Power as a weapon except against Dark Friends and shadowspawn, or in the last extreme of defending your own life, that of your Warder, or that of another Sister.
Nynaeve shakes her head believing all of that sounds like either too much to swear or too little. Sheriam says that once Aes Sedai were not required to swear oaths. Sheriam says that many of them wish it were so, still. She then notes that the Wheel turns and the times change. Sheriam explains that the oaths allow the nations to deal with them without fear that they will throw up their own power against them. Sheriam then remarks that she is trying to teach Nynaeve what any other woman in her situation would have learned over the course of years through novice training. Sheriam redirects their conversation to ter’angreal. She tells the Wisdom that Aes Sedai do not know why they were made. She explains that Aes Sedai dare only to use a handful of them and she says that the uses to which they are put may be unlike their original purpose. Sheriam says that most ter’angreal, Aes Sedai have learned to their cost, to avoid.
Nynaeve shivers and and says that Sheriam wants her to walk into this ter’angreal. Sheriam tells Nynaeve that they know what this ter’angreal does – it brings one face to face with her worst fears. She then smiles pleasantly and says no one will ask her after what she faced.
Sheriam: Every woman’s fears are her own property.
Nynaeve vaguely thinks about her nervousness regarding spiders – especially in the dark. She suspects though that this is not what Sheriam means. Sheriam tells her that if Nynaeve wants to stop now, she will write her name in the novice book. Nynaeve says that she wants to proceed.
Sheriam then tells her two thing that no woman hears until she is in the room. First, she says, once you begin, you must continue until the end. She tells Nynaeve that anyone who refuses at some point to go on will be put out of the Tower with enough silver to survive for one year and never allowed back Second, Sheriam says that Nynaeve will know danger in this testing. She tells her that some women enter through the arches and never come back out again. Sheriam says that when the ter’angreal was allowed to grow quiet, the women simply were not there and they were never seen again. She tells Nynaeve that if she is to survive, she must be steadfast.
Sheriam gives Nynaeve one last chance to turn back and put her name in the novice book. Nynaeve gives the arches a sidelong look. She steels herself and thinks that if she is to make Moiraine pay for what she has done to Emond’s Field, she needs the freedom to study granted to the Accepted. Nynaeve says aloud that she is ready.
Sheriam starts slowly into the chamber and Nynaeve walks in with her. As if that is a signal, the Red Sister speaks in loud formal tones.
Red: Whom do you bring with you, Sister?
Sheriam: One who comes as a candidate for Acceptance, Sister.
Red: Is she ready?
Sheriam: She is ready to leave behind what she was and passing through her fears gain Acceptance.
Red: Does she know her fears?
Sheriam: She has never faced them but now is willing.
Red: Then let her face what she fears.
Sheriam stops two spans from the arches. Nynaeve stops with her. Sheriam whispers “your dress” to the Wisdom. Nynaeve’s cheeks color. Hastily she removes all of her clothing, down to her stockings, and folds them neatly. She puts Lan’s ring beneath the clothing so that no one can stare at it. She straightens and the ter’angreal is still there. The stone feels cold beneath her feet. She straightens and feels goosebumps all over her body. She decides not to let anyone see that she is afraid.
Sheriam says that the first time is for what was. She warns Nynaeve that the way back will come but once. She tells her to be steadfast. She steps forward into the arch and through the glow. It surrounds her. The light is everywhere and everything.
Nynaeve gives a start when she realizes that she is naked. Then she stares in amazement. A stone wall stands on either side of her, twice as tall as she is, and smooth. The sky above seems flat and ledding. The sun hangs low and red. The ground slopes down in front of her. Ahead, she can see more walls and she realizes that she is in a gigantic maze. She wonders how she came here. A voice comes to her mind and it says that the way out will come but once. Nynaeve decides that she will not find the way out standing still. She mutters that she hopes to find clothes before she finds people. She starts out. She avoids turns until she comes to a fork in the path. She takes the left turn and follows it until she finds another fork in the path. Once more, she goes left. At the third fork, left brings her to a blank wall. Grimly, she walks back to the most recent fork and goes right. This time, it takes her four turnings right to bring her to a dead end. She glares at the blank wall. She asks aloud how she arrived at this place and asks where it is. A voice in her mind says that the way out will come but once. Nyneve is certain there must be a trick to the maze. Her new pattern it to go left, then right, then straight until she comes to a fork. It seems to her to be working. She passes a dozen forkings without finding an end. Out of the corner of her eye, she catches a flicker of motion.
She turns to look but sees only dusty walls. She starts to take another fork and quickly spins at another sign of movement. There is nothing there but now she is sure something was moving. She breaks into a nervous trot in the opposite direction of the movement. Again and again, she sees something move just too quickly to make it out. She runs. She remembers that few boys had been able to outrun her when she was a girl in the Two Rivers. Something in the back of her mind wonders what the Two Rivers is.
A man steps out from an opening ahead of her. His dark clothes have a musty half rotted look. He is old – older than old. Skin like crazed parchment covers his skull too tightly as if there is no flesh beneath. Wispy tufts of brittle hair cover a scabbed scalp. His eyes are so sunken they seem to peer out of two caves. Nynaeve stops. The man introduces himself as Aginor.
Aginor: You are a pretty one, girl. I will enjoy you.
Nynaeve suddenly remembers that she is completely naked. She yells and runs to the sound of cackling. The shuffling run behind her seems to match her best speed. She hears promises of what he will do when he catches her. She searches for a way out frantically. The voice in her mind speaks again saying that the way out will come but once and to be steadfast. As fast as Nynaeve can run, the voice remains always right behind her. Slowly, Nynaeve’s fear turns completely to anger. Sobbing, she cries that he has no right. Within her, she feels a flowering, an unfolding, and opening to Light. Nynaeve bares her teeth and turns to face her pursuer.
Nynaeve turns to face him and flings her first toward Aginor. She is only half surprised to see a ball of fire leave her hand. The fireball explodes against Aginor’s chest knocking him to the ground. He rises, staggering, unaware of the smoldering on the front of his coat. He quivers in rage.
Aginor: You dare! You dare!
Abruptly there are clouds in the sky, threatening billows of gray and black. Lightning leaps from the clouds right for Nynaeve’s heart. Time seems to slow. She feels the answer from saidar. With a crash, the bolt crashes into stones above Aginor’s head. Aginor’s sunken eyes widen and he says that it cannot be. Nynaeve starts toward Aginor and the Forsaken flees. Saidar is a torrent inside her. She feels the earth rumble beneath her feet and walls topple around her. She scrambles over them and continues her pursuit.
A wind rises and pushes against her but she keeps Aginor in sight. She changes the flow and Aginor tumbles along the passage way like an uprooted bush. She pushes walls of stone in piles around him. Though he pushes back, Nynaeve’s lightnings strike draw ever nearer to the Forsaken.
Sometime gleams off to Nynaeve’s right. It been uncovered by the collapses walls. Nynaeve can feel Aginor weakening. His efforts to against her are growing more feeble. She knows, though, that if she lets him go, he will chase after her as strongly as before. A silver arch stands where stone had been. The arch is filled with soft silver radiance – the way back. Aginor can no longer deflect her blows.
The way back will come but once. Be steadfast. The lightning no longer falls. Nynaeve turns to see the silver arch. She turns back to look at Aginor as he scrambles over the stone in retreat. She hisses in frustration.
The way back will come but once.
Frightened, Nynaeve is relieve to see that the silver arch remains. With a cry of thwarted anger, she climbs over the tumbled stone toward the arch. She mutters to herself about making sure that whoever is responsible for her being here getting what they deserve. She steps through the arch and the light overwhelms her. She steps out of the arch and stops to stare.
The Red Sister raises a chalice high and pours a stream of cool clear water over Nynaeve’s head.
“You are washed clean of whatever sin you may have done,” the Aes Sedai intoned. “And those done against you. You are washed clean of what crime you may have committed and those committed against you. You come to us washed clean and pure in heart and soul.”
Nynaeve shivers as the water pours down her body. Sheriam takes her arm with a relieved smile. She tells Nynaeve that she does well so far. She reminds her that coming back is doing well. The red haired Mistress of Novices leads her around the ter’angreal to another arch. Nynaeve whispers to her that it was so real. She asks if it is real and Sheriam replies that no one knows. She tells Nynaeve that some come out from the arch bearing the actual wounds of hurts taken inside. She says others have been cut to the bone inside before returning without a mark. She tells Nynaeve that it is all a bit different, every time, for every woman that goes in. She tells Nynaeve that the ancients speculated about the existence of other worlds and supposes that the ter’angreal might be a way to them. Then she says that in her opinion, the worlds inside the arches are not real. However, she notes seriously, the dangers inside are real.
Nynaeve tells her that she channeled the power inside and that it was easy to do so. Sheriam misses a step a replies that it is not supposed to be possible inside and that Nynaeve should not be able to remember channeling, either. She studies Nynaeve and says that the Wisdom is unharmed. Sheriam says that in the early days of studying this ter’angreal, a Sister went inside, warded by Sisters from the outside, knowingly channeled, and returned with the ability to channel burned out of her. Sheriam says a second Sister did the same thing and was destroyed in the same way. She says a third Sister went inside unprotected by Aes Sedia from the outside, and returned unharmed but unable to remember what had happened. She says that is one reason they send women into the ter’angreal unprotected. Sheriam advises Nynaeve, if she can, to not channel inside the ter’angreal again. Nynaeve swallows nervously beacause she could not only channel inside, she can also remember everything that happened inside.
They reach the next arch. Sheriam gives her one last warning glance.
“The second time is for what is. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.”
Nynaeve stares at the silver arch wondering what awaits her inside this time. She steps firmly through and into the light.
She stares down at her plain brown dress in surprise. She wonders why she is staring at her own dress. Looking around, she smiles. She is standing on the edge of the green in Emond’s Field with thatched roof houses all around and the Winespring Inn in front of her. The streets are empty. Looking around the village, her smile fades. There is more than an air of neglect in the village. Whitewash is faded in one place, a shutter hangs loose in another. The Inn has a gap in the rooftiles. The Inn door swings open and Cenn Buie steps out. He stops dead when he sees the Wisdom.
Cenn: So you’ve come back, have you? Well, you might as well be off again.
He spits at her feet and then hurries past her. She follows him with her eyes and finds signs of neglect all throughout the village. She shakes her head and enters the Inn thinking to herself that she will have more than one word with Mayor Bran al’Vere about this. Inside, the common room is empty except for one woman, with a graying braid, aimlessly wiping a table top. The room seems dusty.
Marin al’Vere jumps, clutching her throat, and stares. She looks years older than Nynaeve remembered. She immediately asks Nynaeve about Egwene and asks if she has brought her daughter home. Nynaeve says no and struggles to remember where Egwene is. The way back will come but once. Mistress al’Vere sags. She says she had been hoping.
Marin: Ever since Bran died…
Nynaeve: Bran is dead?
Nynaee cannot imagine Bran dying. Marin jumps to her feet and peers out a window. She tells Nynaeve that if Malena knows she is here that there will be trouble. Marin says she just knows Cenn went scurrying off to find her. Marin tells Nynaeve that Cenn is the mayor now. Nynaeve is stunned. Marin explains that Malena had the entire Women’s Circle pressed against their husbands to vote for Cenn. Each of them did believing that the others would make a better choice.
Nynaeve asks who Malena is and Marin explains that she is the new Wisdom from Watch Hill. Nynaeve notes aloud that Marin is afraid of this woman. She asks Marin how the Women’s Circle could choose a Wisdom like her. Marin explain that Malena came to Emond’s Field the day that Mavra Mallen had to return to Devon Ride. Marin says that when Malena arrived some children took sick and Malena looked after them. She says that night some sheep started dying and she looked after them, too. Marin says that it just seemed natural to choose her before saying abruptly that Malena is a bully.
Marin: She browbeats you into doing what she wants. She keeps at you and keeps at you until you’re too tired to say no anymore. And worse – she knocked Alsbet Luhan down.
Marin relays a story of the fierce new Wisdom beating Alsbet all around the village green with a stick. She says that nobody who saw had the nerve to try and stop it. When the men found out, Bran and Harral Luhhan said the Wisdom had to go even if they were interfering in Women’s Circle business. Marin says that some of the Circle might have listened to them but Bran and Harral both took sick the same night and died within a day of each other. Marin lowers her voice. She tells Nynaeve that Malena made medicine for them. The new Wisdom had said it was her duty even if the two men had spoken against her. Marin whispers to Nynaeve that she saw gray fenyl in what Malena took away with her.
Nynaeve gasps. She asks the other woman if she is certain. Marin nods. Nynaeve asks her why she did not go to the Circle if she even suspected such a thing and Marin replies that the new Wisdom had proclaimed that Bran and Harral did not walk in the Light. The new Wisdom told the villagers that this is why they died. Marin says that Pete al’Caar only said that she did not have the way with healing that Nynaeve had and Malena drew the Dragon’s Fang on her door, in full view of the village, so that they could see her with the chalk in her hand. Marin says that both of Pete’s boys were dead before the week was over. Marin then tells Nynaeve that Pete hung himself after. Marin shudders and her voice is so soft that Nynaeve can barely hear her. Marin says that she still has four living daughters under her roof. Marin says that she wants to keep those girls alive.
The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.
Marin tells her that the Women’s Circle is afraid of Malena but she notes that Malena is good with the children. She then states that there are always children sick these days. Nynaeve tells Marin that Malena is keeping children sick so that the village will believe that they need her for their sake. Nynaeve asks her if anyone in the Circle is not afraid. Marin says everyone is afraid but one or two might listen.
Marin: If enough of the Circle listens, will you be our Wisdom again? I think you might be the only one who won’t back down to Malena.
Nynaeve suppresses the voice in her head that says the way back will come but once. She tells Marin to put on a cloak. Outside, Marin crouches trying not to be seen. Soon, Nynaeve sees a tall scrawny woman striding toward the Inn. Nynaeve thinks to herself that the woman ha a look of wiry strength and a set, determined slash of a mouth. Cenn Buie scuttles along in her wake. Marin whispers the woman’s name.
Something makes Nynaeve look over her shoulder. Behind her stands a silver arch.
The way back will come but once.
Marin gives a soft scream saying that Malena has seen them and she says the woman is coming their way. Malena walks toward the slowly with a cruel smile growing with every step. Marin tugs at Nynaeve’s sleeve and tells her that they have to run. The silver arch pulls Nynaeve’s eyes. Nynaeve shakes her head. She thinks that this is not real. With a sob, Nynaeve tears her arm from Marin’s grasp and plunges toward the silvery glow. Marin’s shriek for help hounds her as the glow of the light envelopes her.
Nynaeve staggers out of the arch. Marin’s cries ring in her ears. She does not flinch as the water is poured over her head.
“You are washed clean of false pride. You are washed clean of false ambition. You come to us washed clean in heart and soul.”
The Red Sister steps back and Sheriam comes to take Nynaeve’s arm. The Wisdom gives a start and then seizes the collar of Sheriam’s dress in both hands. She pleads with the red-haired Aes Sedai to tell her that it was not real. Sheriam pries her hands loose as if she is used to this reaction. Sheriam tells her that the third arch is worst of all. Nynaeve says that she left her friend, her people, in the Pit of Doom to come back. Nynaeve thinks to herself that she has to make Moiraine pay.
Sheriam tells her that there is always some reason not to return. She explains that the ter’angreal weaves traps from one’s own mind. The purpose of the test of to be certain that every Aes Sedai wants to be Aes Sedai more than anything else. Nynaeve says that she is afraid and Sheriam says that she should be.
Sheriam: You seek to be Aes Sedai, to channel the One Power. No one should approach that without fear and awe. Fear will keep you cautious. Caution will keep you alive.
Sheriam turns Nynaeve to face the final arch. Before she steps back, she tells Nynaeve that no one will force her to enter a third time. Nynaeve replies, saying that if she refuses, she will be put out of the White Tower. Sheriam nods. Nynaeve says she is ready.
“The third time,” Sheriam intoned formally, “is for what will be. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.”
Nynaeve throws herself at the arch in a run. Laughing, she runs through swirling clouds of butterflies rising from wildflower rising from a hilltop meadow. Her gray mare dances nervously so as not to frighten the animal more. Butterflies settle on her dress, on flowers of embroidery, or they flitter around the sapphires and moonstones in her hair, hanging loose about her shoulders.
Below the hill, the necklace of one thousand lakes spread through the city of Malkier reflecting the Seven Towers with golden crane banners hanging therefrom. The city has gardens but Nynaeve prefers this wild one on the hilltop.
The way back will come but once But steadfast.
The sound of hooves make her turn. al’Lan Mandragoran, King of Malkier, leaps from his horse and strolls toward her through the butterflies, laughing. His face has the look of a hard man but the smiles he wears for her softens the stony planes. She is surprised when he gathers her into his arms and kisses her. Her feet dangle a foot in the air and she kisses him back. Suddenly she pushes at him and says no. She asks to be let go and put down. Puzzled, he puts her down. She says aloud “not this” and backs away from him. She asks to please face Aginor again instead of this. Lan asks her if she is well and calls her “my love.” She tells him not to call her “my love” and says she cannot marry him. Lan startles her by throwing back his head and laughing.
Lan: Your implication that we are not married might upset our children, wife. And how are you not my love? I have no other and will have no other.
Nynaeve says that she must go back. Desperately she looks for the arch. She says that she must go back. Lan replies asking if she means to Emond’s Field. He then says if she wishes it that he will send letters to Morgase and arrange for an escort. Nynaeve mutters “alone” and looks around more for the arch. Lan goes on saying that the Queen of the Makieri cannot go through Andor unescorted. He says that it would scandalize Morgase. He goes on to say that he thought she and Morgase are friends. Nynaeve replies to the onslaught of news hesistantly.
Nynaeve: Queen? We have babies?
Lan: Are you certain that you’re well?
Lan says that he better take her to Sharina Sedai. Nynaeeve says no. She continues thinking to herself that this is not real and that she will not be pulled into it. Lan asks her how, as his wife, she could not be Queen. He tells her that she was crowned in the Seven Towers at the same time that they exchanged rings. She notices their wedding rings. He tries to brush her cheek with his hand and she steps back six paces. He goes on telling her that they have three children though only one of them can properly be called a baby. Lan tells her that Aric is almost to her shoulder. Elnore is learning how to turn boys’ heads when she is not pestering Sharina about when she will be old enough to go to the White Tower. Nynaeve says softly that Elnore was her mother’s name. Nynaeve again reiterates that she will not be pulled into it again this time.
Beyond Lan, she sees the silver arch. The trees had hidden it before. She turns toward it. Lan catches her hand and she cannot make herself pull away. He tells her that he does not know what is troubling her but he vows to make it right. She murmurs that he is the very best of husbands and to her horror she begins remembering him as her husband. She can feel the memories growing stronger.
The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.
Lan tells her that he feels as though he is losing her. He puts a hand on her cheek and she closes her eyes. He tells her to stay with him and she says that she wants to stay. When she opens her eyes, the arch is gone. Nynaeve shouts “no, no” and Lan turns her to face him. She tells him that this is not real. He says that it is real. He looks around, wonderingly, and everything is still there except the arch. She thinks that she really could stay in this place with Lan. Then she remembers other things.
Egwene is alone in the Tower. Rand will channel and go mad. She wonders if Mat and Perrin can take back any shred of their own lives. Angrily, she also remembers that Moiraine, who tore all of their lives apart, is still walking free. Nynaeve whispers that she must go back. She pulls free of Lan. She forms a flowerbud in her mind – a white bud on a black thorn branch. She makes the thorns sharp and cruel wishing they could pierce her flesh. Saidar fills her with Light. Lan asks her what is the matter.
Staring at where the silver arch had been, she tries to find some trace of it. There is nothing. She tries to picture it in her mind, in every detail, first there between her and the trees. It forms where it has been but flickers. Lan tells her that he loves her and she ignores him, drawing at saidar until she could feel the heat from it. The form of the arch steadies. Fire and pain seem to fill her. She runs toward the silver curved arch. She does not look back. Marin’s voice, pleading with her, was honey beside the sound of Lan’s anguished voice pleading with her not to leave him. The white glow consumes her.
Naked and sobing, Nynaeve stumbles though the arch and falls onto her knees. Sheriam kneels beside her. Nynaeve glares at her and tells her that she hates her. She says that she hates all Aes Sedai. Sheriam tells her that almost everyone woman who completes this testing says much the same thing at the end of it. Suddenly Sheriam asks Nynaeve what is ths. She turns Nynaeve’s hands up. Driven through the palm of each of her hands is a long black thorn. Sheriam draws them out carefully. Nynaeve feels the cool healing that follows. When each thorn comes free, it leaves only a small scar on the front and back of each hand. Sheriam frowns and says that there should not be any scaring. She also asks how Nynaeve only got two thorns, both placed so precisely. She says that if Nynaeve had been in a blackthorn bush, she should be covered in scratches and thorns.
Nynaeve: I should. Maybe I thought I’d already paid enough.
Sheriam agrees that there is always a price. She tells Nynaeve to come with her and take what she has paid for. She gives Nynaeve a slight push forward. The Wisdom realizes there are more Aes Sedai in the chamber. The Amyrlin in her striped stole is now present, with a shawled sister from each Ajah also with her. They are all watching Nyneve. Remembering Sheriam’s instruction, Nynaeve totters forward and kneels before the Amyrlin. Siuan tips the last chalice over Nynaeve’s head.
“You are washed clean of Nynaeve al’Meara from Emond’s Field. You are washed clean of all ties that bind you to the world. You come to us washed clean in heart and soul. You are Nynaeve al’Meara, Accepted of the White Tower.”
Siuan hands the chalice to one of the other Sisters. The Amyrlin draws Nynaeve to her feet.
Siuan: You are sealed to us now.
The Amyrlin’s eyes seem to hold a dark glow. Nynaeve’s shiver has nothing to do with being naked and wet.
A Nynaeve POV chapter? Um, yes please. And thank you.
Before the Testing begins, we learn a little bit more about Aes Sedai. Sheriam gives a short explanation of what ter’angreal are. Unlike angreal and sa’angreal, they do not magnify the One Power (like the little statuette we see Moiraine use from time to time.) Ter’angreal are something like machines that use the One Power. In the years after the Breaking Aes Sedai lost the purpose of many/most of the ter’angreal and may be using some others in ways not intended by their creators. In addition to the three arches featured in this chapter, we learn about a ter’angreal that Aes Sedai swear oaths on when they are raised to full Sisterhood.
Alrighty then. Let’s talk about the testing. Nynaeve is going to face her greatest fears, past, present, and then future. She thinks about her fear of spiders then she starts the test.
Test 1: Nynaeve is walking through a maze, naked, and is being chased by Aginor. Nynaeve met Aginor near the end of The Eye of the World. That meeting did not go well for her though I believe Balthamel is the one who actually picked her up. I’m glad Jordan brought that back up again here. Whether Nynaeve has talked about nearly dying at the hands of a couple of her world’s version of a demon/devil/warlock type figures, the trauma of that event (which happened to her friends, too, and she could not protect them) is still lying beneath the surface in her mind. She’s a human being. That said… Nynaeve is not a normal human being. In Test #1, she eventually gets fed up with the harassment from Aginor, gets angry, and then tries to destroy him.
The test is whether she’d give up defeating a Forsaken (something she was just about to do), one one one, to join the White Tower. Win an argument in front of the Supreme Court, as a civilian, or join Harvard Law School? Nynaeve chooses law school, err, the White Tower.
Test 2: Nynaeve is back in Emond’s Field. She finds out that the new Wisdom is all kinds of wicked (keeps children sick, murdered Bran al’Vere and Harral Luhhan and others, used fear to take control of the political structure of Emond’s Field, etc.)
I kind of laughed when Marin confided fearfully in Nynaeve that Malena is a bully. I mean, she is complaining about a bully… to Nynaeve? Since this is all built in Nynaeve’s mind we are learning that one of Nynaeve’s worst fears is that a bully would take over as Wisdom in her place. I love Nynaeve but is she a bully? Uh, yeah. Does she realize that she is a bully? I guess not. The difference for her, I suppose, is that her own bullying is done from a heart of gold (AND IT IS.)
This test is whether Nynaeve will give up being Wisdom, in her heart, to join the White Tower. She does.
Test 3: She never really let herself buy into this one. But the test is whether she could give up her heart’s desire for a future with Lan in exchange for joining the White Tower. I think it says something about Nynaeve that love is something she distrusted immediately and also the thing she had the hardest time relinquishing when it was in her grasp. I also loved that for her, for NYNAEVE, love is running through a field of butterflies, hair unbraided, married to a King. Our hot tempered, hair-braided, no nonsense, stout woolen Two Rivers dress wearing Nynaeve… well, we got a glimpse into her heart.
The story doesn’t mention it, at least not to this point, but there are plenty of inferences that Nynaeve has no living family at all. In this chapter, we are told that Elnore *was* her mother’s name. We have never met her relatives, siblings, etc. She has not mentioned them as being alive, at least. She fondly and fiercely embraces what her father taught her (tracking well enough to impress Lan, etc.) but we get no indications that he or any members of the al’Meara family are alive beyond Nynaeve herself. I think a lot of her personality – the rough edges and the deep *need* to take care of people – is born out of deep pain and loneliness. Imagine someone who is eventually an expert healer thinking back about her own family and wishing she knew then what she knows now. Adding to that, she picked a job in Emond’s Field that set her apart from the rest of the community and frequently at odds with them, too. It’s no wonder that she is so much the way that she is.
Regarding Test #3’s disappearing and then reappearing arch situation: We’ll get some clues later in the series about what happened here with Nynaeve making it reappear. The thorns in the palm remind me of the hand injuries Rand suffered from Ba’alzamon in TEOTW.
Anyway. I love this chapter. I’m a big fan of the Nynaeve character. I also appreciate the sense of foreboding at the end of the chapter because of what she’s just done. Even if you join the Illuminati for good reasons (revenge can be a good reason, I guess), there are still strings attached to you once you do it.