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 39: Flight from the White Tower
Egwene and Elayne incline their heads briefly toward each group of women that they pass as they make their way through the White Tower. The Tower is crowded today with people from outside the Tower – making it easier for them to pass through unnoticed by Aes Sedai or Accepted. They are all wearing clothes that they brought with them to Tar Valon, with skirts divided for horse riding. Their nice dresses has led everyone who has seen them to take them for nobles, petitioners, or at least women of wealth. Min trails behind the other three of them dressed as a servant. She carries four sets of saddle bags bulging with warm clothes. They also pilfered packets of clothing from the kitchens.
Abruptly, Min whispers Aes Sedai. Ahead, they see Takima of the Brown Ajah. She teaches novice classes and would recognize one of her pupils at one hundred paces. Upon the sight of her, and before she notices them, Nynaeve turns down a side corridor without breaking stride. There, in the next hallway, they find an Accepted hauling a red-faced novice by the ear. After they pass, Egwene says that the Accepted was Irella and the Novice was Else Grinwell. Neither of the Tower initiates noticed who they are.
In an empty hall, Nynaeve finds a flight of stairs. They take it down until it lets them out into the dusty south stables where Novice horses are kept. Nynaeve strides into the stables as if she owns it. Bela and Nynaeve’s gray mare stand in stalls near the doors. She tells the one groomsman inside to saddle their horses. He stares at her and she shows him her Great Serpent ring. She hopes that he may not know the difference between an Accepted who wears the ring and an Aes Sedai. The man tells her that he was told two women would be coming – one an Accepted and one a Novice. He said nothing was said about four of them. Nynaeve sharply tells him to see about saddling the other two horses or he will have need of Liandrin’s healing.
The groom mouths the name Liandrin and then goes about saddling the horses. When Min and Elayne return with their own horses, Nynaeve again tells him that he was no doubt told to keep all of this quiet. She tells him he is still required to remain silent. She also says that he should think on what Liandrin might do if he fails to keep quiet. As they ride out, Elayne tosses him a coin and tells him that it is for his trouble. Outside the stables, Elayne catches Egwene’s eye.
Elayne: Mother always says a stick and honey work better than a stick alone.
Egwene says that she hopes to need neither a stick or honey at the city gate. However, when they reach the gate, there is no telling whether anyone has spoken with them or not. They are waived through without a glance or a cursory bow. Guards are meant to keep the dangerous out. These guards have no instructions about keeping anyone inside. The women next ride through the streets of the city keeping an eye out for Aes Sedai who might be out and about in the city. Egwene feels more than a glimmer of relief when the Ogier Grove comes into view.
The Great Trees are now visible beyond the rooftops. The Grove has the look neither the tameness of a park nor of the haphazardness of the depths of a forest. It seems to be the ideal of nature – as if this is the most beautiful forest that could be. No one looks twice as the four women ride in under the trees and the city is quickly lost to view. Nynaeve mentions that Liandrin told them to meet her at the North end of the Grove and says that there does not appear to be any point farther north. She then cuts off as two horses burst forth from a copse. Liandrin’s glossy black mare rears its hooves as she reigns it in sharply. She is furious.
Liandrin scolds Nynaeve and Egwene about her instructions to tell no one. Elayne breaks in and tells the Aes Sedai that Egwene and Nynaeve did not tell them, she says that they overheard the conversation, by accident, and that they want to help Rand. Elayne adds, belatedly, that they want to help the other boys also. Liandrin studies them and says that she had made arrangements to take care of them in the Tower, however, as they are here, they can come also.
Elayne politely asks Liandrin what she means by taken care of and the Red Sister tells her that she and Min are known to be friends of these two.
Liandrin: Do you not think that there are those who would question you when you are found to be gone? Do you believe the Black Ajah would be gentle with you just because you are heir to a throne? Had you remained in the Tower you might not have lived the night.
That statement silenced all of them. Liandrin wheels her horse and calls for all of them to follow her. They ride deeper into the Grove until they come to a large fence with a gate. Liandrin pulls a key from her cloak, unlocks the gate, and leads them inside. Nynaeve demands to know where they are going but Liandrin does not answer. As Nynaeve complains that they should be taking a ship rather than riding into the forest, Liandrin suddenly stops and points to a thick slab of stone, carved intricately with vines and leaves.
Egwene’s throat tightens and Nynaeve whispers “a Waygate.” They both remember The Ways all too well. Liandrin has already dismounted and removed the Avendesora leaf from the stone wall, causing the gates to open. As they do open, a dull silvery mirror giving their reflection reveals itself. Liandrin tells Elayne and Min that they do not have to come. She tells them that they can hide here for her until she returns. She suggests that perhaps the Black Ajah will not find them by then. Liandrin’s smile is not pleasant. Elayne says that she will go. Egwene hears Min muttering.
Min: The Light burn you, Rand al’Thor.
Liandrin tells them that she must go last. She eyes the woods as if she is worried that someone may be following them. Egwene goes first. She watches as the rest of them outside move slowly. Time moves differently inside The Ways than outside. But she sees Nynaeve light a pole lantern and guide her horse inside next. The other women soon follow hesitantly. Liandrin is last, replacing the Avendesora leave and riding through while leading the pack horse. She does not wait before tossing the lead line of the pack horse to Min. She rides her glossy black mare along a white line on the ground. The white line is only barely visible from the light made by Liandrin’s lantern. The floor appears to be made of stone eaten and pitted by acid.
The white line leads to a large stone slab covered in Ogier script. The slab is called a Guiding. Liandrin compares the Guiding with a parchment. She stuffs the parchment back into her cloak and leads them on and away from the Guiding. They ride past bridges, ramps, balustrades, and more Guidings. The women ride a ramp down, and down, until they reach a Guiding that appears to be directly beneath one that they had been at before. Elayne tells the others that Elaida told her that the laws of nature do not apply inside The Ways.
Min asks Liandrin how long she means for them to travel in the Ways. Liandrin’s honey colored braids swing before answering that they will stay in until she takes them out. They push on from Guiding to Guiding until Liandrin abruptly dismounts and announces that they are halting for supper and sleep. She tells them that there is food on the pack horse. She tells them to parcel it out and warns them that their journey will take the better part of two days so that they should do that parceling judiciously.
After eating some bread and cheese, Egwene asks Liandrin Sedai what they will do if they encounter The Black Wind. Min mouths the words questioningly as Elayne gives a squeak. Egwene continues sharing what she has learned from Moiraine Sedai – that channeling against the Black Wind will not harm it or stop it. Liandrin sharply tells all of them to not even think of touching the True Source. Then she tells Egwene that if the Black Wind appears she will deal with it. She says that Moiraine does not know so much as she thinks.
Later, Min asks the others what the Black Wind is. Elayne explains and Min replies that The Pattern has a great deal to answer for. She says that she does not know that any man is worth this. Egwene reminds her that she did not have to come. Min says that she could have left but points out that the Pattern does not care much what they want individually.
Min: Egwene, what if after all you are going through for him, Rand doesn’t marry you? What if he marries some woman you have never seen before? Or Elayne? Or me? What then?
Elayne chortles and says that her mother would never approve. Egwene is silent and thinks to herself that Rand might not live long enough to marry anyone. She tries to put lightness in her voice and says that she does not suppose she will marry him. She says that Aes Sedai seldom marry. Then she advises both Min and Elayne not to set their hearts on him.
“I do not think,” her voice caught and she coughed to cover it, “I do not think he will ever marry. But if he does, I wish well to whoever does ends up with him, even one of you.”
She says that Rand is stubborn as a mule and wrong-headed to a fault but she says he is also gentle. Her voice shakes but she turns the quaver into a laugh. Elayne says lightly that however much Egwene says that she does not care, she thinks Egwene would approve less of her marrying Rand than her mother would. Elayne tells her that Rand is more interesting than any man she has ever met. She then says that if Egwene is silly enough to throw him away, she will have only herself to blame – even if Elayne decides to face down both Egwene and her mother, both. She then says it would not be the first time the Prince of Andor had no title before he wed.
Elayne: But you won’t be that silly so don’t try to pretend that you will. No doubt you will choose the Green Ajah and make him one of your Warders.
Egwene makes herself go along with Elayne but says that if she becomes Green she will have ten Warders. Min watches her frowning and Nynaeve watches Min thoughtfully. They all fall silent. Sleep comes slowly and fitfully. She dreams of the man whose eyes are on fire. His eyes are not masked this time. His skin is horrible with almost healed burns. He looks at her and laughs. Soon, Egwene feels the toe of Liandrin’s riding boot to wake her. She feels as though she has not slept at all.
The Red Sister pushes them hard through the next day with only their lanterns to serve as a sun. They only stop to sleep the second day when they are wobbling in their saddles with fatigue. Then she allows them only a few hours of sleep before pressing on again. Ramps, bridges, islands, and Guidings are so numerous that Egwene has long since lost count of them. Finally, Liandrin rides away from a Guiding, not toward another bridge but down a white line that leads toward the darkness. They all hurry to follow. Ahead, the Aes Sedai is already removing the Avendesora leaf from a carving on a Waygate. She announces that they have arrived.
This is one of those “the characters are traveling and not much happens” chapters. The story within the story here is what the women talk about.
After a bit of pressing from Min, Egwene says aloud that she doubts she will marry Rand. This is probably the first time that she has made this confession aloud. It’s painful for her and I do not believe that she means it in her heart even if she does think it may be true in her mind. This is a confession born from what she thinks is best rather than what she actually wants. Put this another way, if Egwene thought that there was *any* chance that she might save Rand from channeling and madness, she would not give this confession.
Elayne continues to humorously and self-deprecatingly imply her own future marriage to Rand aloud to Egwene. She does it gently and makes it sound as though the whole thing might be Egwene’s own idea. This is a clever, subtle, manipulation and done on purpose, I think. One moment, she poses the idea and says her Mother would never approve. She tells Egwene that she knows Egwene will not approve. Then she says that she may face down both her mother and Egwene to marry Rand. She spins this entire conversation in such a way that her statement about facing down Egwene to marry Rand comes off as Egwene’s idea.
She’s been working toward stealing Egwene’s boyfriend since she met Egwene. She is trying to do it with Egwene’s blessing no less, too.
The question I have though is why. Elayne met Rand once. She knows that Elaida was fascinated by Rand – so much so that she searched the city for him. She knows that everyone they ran into on the way to Tar Valon seemed to have met Rand and remembers him. I understand her *interest* in him as an oddity. That does not explain her desire to marry him, though. It’s strange.
Min’s behavior is also strange. Why ask Egwene what happens if Rand does not marry her? Why imply that he might marry herself or Elayne or someone else instead? Min’s behavior has a potential explanation. Nynaeve studies her in this chapter because I think the Wisdom has an inkling of where Min’s interest in Rand comes from. Min keeps mentioning the Pattern and how it does not care what the people in the Pattern actually want. Nynaeve probably suspects that Min knows something about Egwene and Rand’s future together, due to her Pattern reading ability, and Nynaeve has probably picked up on the fact that Min is hinting at it but not spelling it out.
As between the two women who are after Egwene’s boyfriend, Elayne seems manipulative to me and Min seems… trapped… by fate. She does not want her part in Rand’s future to be hurtful to Egwene.
On the topic of Nynaeve, I think she does something clever – and on purpose – before they leave the city. She mentions Liandrin’s name to the stableman more than once so that he will remember it. She likely knows that Aes Sedai will ask him questions when they discover their group are all gone out of the Tower. She knows they will check the stables for their horses and find those horses gone, too. Since she does not trust Liandrin, she is making certain that the search party will link their disappearance to Liandrin. By doing this, Nynaeve is making it more likely that if Liandrin betrays them that someone else will know where to look for them.
It’s interesting to me that Liandrin tells Elayne and Min that they likely would not have survived the night in the White Tower. I wonder if that is true. Liandin probably had plans to have them killed so I suspect it is. Perhaps the Pattern is protecting them by bringing them along for the journey with Egwene and Nynaeve.