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 42: Falme
Nynaeve and Elayne hide in an alleyway as a pair of women linked by a silvery leash pass by. They do not allow that pair to come too close to them. Nynaeve’s eyes follow the sul’dam and the damane through the crowd. Even after weeks in the town, the sight of a damane sickens her. She cannot imagine doing that to any woman, not even Moiraine or Liandrin. Nynaever corrects herself and thinks that she might do that to Liandrin.
Still trying to follow them with her eyes, she notices a man in the throng down the street. She has only a flash of a big nose and a scrawny face. He wears a Seanchan robe though he is no Seanchan – despite also having a Seanchan servant of a high degree with one temple shaved. Nynaeve thinks incredulously that the man looks like Padan Fain.
Elayne suddenly asks Nynaeve if they can move on now and mentions an apple merchant who is looking at his stock as though some are now missing. Nynaeve hisses at her quietly that they do not need to steal while looking at Elayne’s pockets which are bulging. Elayne asks her in turn about how often she has been ‘not hungry’ in the last few days accusingly. Everything in Falme has cost considerably more than she expected. Down the street she asks Elayne to give her one of the apples. It is small and hard but crunches with a delicious sweetness.
Nynaeve asks Elayne how she managed it and suddenly stammers to ask her if she used the One Power to get them. Elayne replies, with no embarrassment, that she only used the power a little. She says that she caused the stack of melons to topple and took them while the man at the booth was distracted putting them back. Elayne tells Nynaeve that she looked carefully to be certain that there was no damane close by.
After a small party of Seanchan soldiers go by, Elayne replies to Nynaeve that she has seen her use the One Power with a damane in plain sight. Nynaeve mutters that she had made certain the women were not looking at her. Nynaeve says that she only used a trickle. Elayne incredulously responds that they had to spend three days hiding in their room while the Seanchan searched the town for whomever had done it. Nynaeve says that she had needed to find out of it is possible to unfasten the damane collars. She and Elayne, prior to that, had both thought that the damane are prisoners eager to escape. They learned through this event that it was the damane who raised the cry.
Elayne complains that the people of Falme should resist the Seanchan. Nynaeve sighs but she agrees that Elayne is at least partially right. At first, she thought their submission was at least partially a pose. However, after weeks in the town, she has found no evidence of any resistance at all. Initially, she had looked for help from locals in finding and freeing Egwene and Min. However, all of the locals she has spoken with take fight at even the mention of opposing the Seanchan. She stopped asking before she began drawing the wrong sort of attention. In truth though, she cannot imagine how the people fight against monsters and Aes Sedai.
Up ahead of Nynaeve and Egwene are five tall stone houses, the largest in the town. Above the rooftop on the next street, the hawk banner of the High Lord Turak flaps in the wind. From their vantage point, they can see some of the comings and goings from the house but not all. Only women go in and out of the houses that they are watching and most of those women are sul’dam, alone or with damane in tow. Nynaeve and Elayne are certain that Egwene must be in there and likely Min as well. They have found no sign of Min thus far.
Settling herself on a small crate, Nynaeve digs her hand inside Elayne’s coat for a handful of small apples. There are fewer local folks in this part of town so their view of the houses is less obstructed. As she eats mechanically, Nynaeve tries to play. Being able to open a damane collar does no good unless she can reach Egwene.
From her window, Egwene can see the gardens where damane are being walked by their sul’dam. It is cold out and the trees are all but leafless, however the damane are taken out for air whether they want it or not. Egwene is keeping an eye on Renna down in the garden. As long as Egwene can see her, the sul’dam will not enter and surprise her. Some other sul’dam might come but Renna has charge of Egwene’s training and Renna is the one who wears Egwene’s bracelet four times out of five. If anyone else comes, there is no impediment to entering. There are no locks on the doors of damane rooms. Egwene’s room is small and has no furnishings. Damane have no need for possessions because damane are possessions.
Min has a room similar to this one, however she can come and go as she wishes. Egwene stands back from the window and probes at her collar with the One Power. She cannot tell whether the band is woven or made of links. Sometimes it seems one to her, and sometimes the other. It seems all of a piece all the time. She uses only the tiniest trickle of the power but it still beads her face and makes her stomach clench to do so.
Egwene’s discomfort is a property of the a’dam. If a damane tries to channel without being linked to a sul’dam, then she feels sick. The more of the power that she channels, the sicker that she becomes. Egwene’s leash leads to a bracelet left on a peg jutting out from the wall. If a damane moves the bracelet more than a foot from where the sul’dam most recently placed it, she feels agonizing cramps.
Someone taps on the door and Egwene jumps. Min announces that she is here for her weekly visit. She then slips inside and shuts the door. Her cheeriness sounds forced but she always does her best to keep Egwene’s spirits up. She asks Egwene what she thinks of her new dark green dress of Seanchan cut. Min has a matching cloak on her arm. Egwene cautiously tells her that it is pretty. Min explains that one of the Seanchan decided that if she is going to stay in the houses, she needs to dress as one of the serving girls. She says that they burned her coat and britches after.
Egwene remembers watching her own clothes being burned. She is glad that she did not bring more of the clothes that the Lady Amalisa had given her, though she thinks she may never see them nor the White Tower again. She wears now the same dark gray that all damane wear.
Egwene tells Min that she does not think she will ever be going back. She then explains that Renna gave her a test the day before. Egwene was able to pick out the copper and iron ore using the One Power without picking them up. Min says that this does not seem as bad as the rest, like making things explode like fireworks. Min asks if she could have lied and Egwene says no. She explains that Renna knows exactly what Egwene is doing when she is wearing the bracelet. Egwene says that after her test, Renna took her outside the town and Egwene was able to point directly to an overgrown and abandoned iron mine. She says that she can feel the iron ore in the ground. Egwene says that Renna sensed the iron ore as soon as she did and she says her sul’dam was so excited that she promised Egwene a pudding with her supper.
Egwene continues saying that she is now too valuable to be wasted making things explode. She says only a handful can find ores in the ground. Egwene hates what the Seanchan make her do with the power but she is also sure that she can handle much more of the One Power than she could when she left Tar Valon.
Min smiles and tells Egwene that she has found a ship for the two of them to escape on. She tells Egwene that he says he will take them with or without the Seanchan. Egwene tells Min that if he will take her that she should go with him. Egwene explains that because she is valuable now, she will be sent back to Seanchan on a ship within a few days. She says that she ship is just for her. Min’s grin vanishes. She shouts that there has to be a way out of her and that there has to be a way to take that collar off of her neck. Egwene leans back against the wall. She tells Min that the Seanchan have captured women from near and far and that she knows of two Aes Sedai among those who have been captured and collared.
Min is shocked. She suggests that Egwene let her talk to them thinking that the women might be able to help them. Egwene sighs and tells her that they cannot even help themselves. One of the Aes Sedai is called Ryma though the Seanchan call her something else. The Sister wanted to make certain that Egwene knew her name. Egwene explains that she told her between bouts of tears. She tells Min that the Seanchan make her answer to the name Pura. Egwene explains that the woman was crying because she is beginning to stop fighting against the a’dam and their treatment. Egwene says that the woman cannot even take her own life without permission and she tells Min that she knows how the Aes Sedai feels.
Min tells Egwene not to think of harming herself and Egwene assures her that she will not even if she could. She asks Min to see her knife. Egwene reaches for the hilt and a soft quiver goes through the muscles of her arm. As her hand comes within a foot of the knife, a cramp suddenly contorts her fingers. Egwene tries to force her hand closer and the cramp seizes her entire arm. With a groan she sags back. Min stares incredulously. Egwene explains that damane are not allowed to touch a weapon of any kind. She says even their meat is cut for them. Egwene says that she does not want to hurt herself but she could not even if she did want to.
Egwene explains that the sul’dam and the a’dam are training her. She says that she cannot touch of anything that she thinks of as a weapon, including a pitcher of water. Egwene says that a couple of weeks ago, she considered hitting Renna with a pitcher of water and could not pour wash water after for three days. Renna explained to her that she had to convince herself that she would not use ever use it as a weapon before she could touch it again. Egwene tells Min that she is trying to fight them, but they are training her as surely as they are training Pura.
Egwene claps a hand over her mouth and says that the woman’s name is Ryma and that she has to remember her name is Ryma of the Yellow Ajah. Egwene babbles panicked and asks Min to remember both of them – Ryma of the Yellow Ajah and Egwene al’Vere, not Egwene the damane.
She asks Min if she will do that. Min snaps at her to stop that right this instant and she says that if Egwene gets shipped off to Seanchan she will be right there with her. Min tells Egwene that she does not think she will be shipped off to Seanchan. She reminds Egwene that she has read her, using her unique ability to see images of someone’s future. Min says that she sees things that link her to Rand, Mat, Perrin, and even Galad. She asks how any of that can happen if the Seanchan take her across the ocean. Egwene suggests that the Seanchan might conquer the whole world. Min calls her a ninny but Egwene snaps back that she is being practical. She reiterates to Min that if the ship captain will take her, she needs to go with him.
The door swings open and Renna steps in. Egwene and Min jump to their feet and bow. Egwene watches sharply as the sul’dam takes down the bracelet and opens it. As the bracelet closes on Renna’s wrist, a look comes onto her face that makes Egwene’s heart sink.
Renna: You have been channeling.
There is a spark of anger in her eyes. Renna suggests that she has been too lenient and that she made a mistake in letting Egwene keep her own name. Renna says that she had a kitten called Tuli when she was a child. She says Tuli is Egwene’s new name. Renna dismisses Min. Min gives her an anguished look and then leaves.
Renna tells Egwene that she must punish her severely for this. Renna explains that they will both be called to the Court of the Nine Moons and she says that she will not allow Tuli to disgrace her before the eyes of the Empress. Renna says that she will stop when Egwene tells her how much she loves being damane and how obedient she will be after this.
Renna: And Tuli, make me believe every word.
The theme of both of these sections centers on “surrender for the sake of survival.” In the Nynaeve and Elayne section, they notice the lack of fight in the townsfolk. In the Egwene section, we hear about the slow surrender of even an Aes Sedai to the a’dam and the sul’dam using it.
How does one handle something like that? Well… one surrenders. That’s what makes the whole thing grotesque.
Lest anyone fear that Egwene will be sent to Seanchan though, we should remember that 1) Rand is arriving / has arrived at Toman Head, and 2) Min’s visions always come true. Who can say whether the outcome will be as good for the collared Aes Sedai.
As a subtle aside now, Egwene has powered up in these last few weeks. She can now do things with the One Power that full Sisters have never thought of doing. I suspect that will come into play at some point. Angry Nynaeve can also throw fireballs and call down lightning. The two women from the Two Rivers are going to be very formidable very soon.
One final thought – I can’t say that I will feel bad for Renna if things go ill for her soon.