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 46: To Come Out of the Shadow
Nynaeve and the others hear distant shouts as they approach the building where the damane are housed. The crowds are picking up and there is nervousness in the street. Elayne peers over at the building with the golden hawk banner flapping in the wind and asks what is happening. Nynaeve replies that it is nothing to do with them. Min adds that Nynaeve hopes. Min increases her pace ahead of the others and disappears inside the damane house. Nynaeve shortens her grip on the leash and tells Seta that she wants them to make it through this as much as they do. The Seanchan woman says fervently that she does. She keeps her chin on her chest to hide her face and swears that she will cause them no trouble.
As they turn up the gray stone steps a sul’dam and a damane appear at the top of the stairs. After one glance to be certain that the woman in the collar is not Egwene, Nynaeve does not look at them again. Nynaeve feels sweat trickling down her spin until she realizes that the Seanchan are paying them no more attention than she is paying them. Nynaeve pushes open the door and they go inside. Whatever the excitement is beneath Turak’s banner, it does not extend here to the damane house. Inside the entry hall, the room of women are all marked out by their dresses – some in green servants’ garb like Min, while others are in the forked lightning dress of a sul’dam and others in the plain gray of a damane. Min, standing at the other end of the room, makes eye contact with Nynaeve before starting further into the house. Nynaeve follows. No one seems to give them a second glance.
Near the back of the house, Min takes a narrow staircase that spirals upward. Nynaeve pushes Seat up the stairs ahead of her. This end of the house is silent except for the soft sounds of weeping. Wordlessly, Min opens a door and goes inside. They follow her. The room beyond is divided into smaller rooms with a narrow hallway leading to a window. Nynaeve crowds after Min as she hurries to the last door on the right and goes inside. A slender dark haired girl in gray sits at a small table with her head resting on folded arms. Even before she looks up, Nynaeve knows that it is Egwene. A ribbon of shining metal runs from a collar around her neck to a bracelet hanging on the wall. Her eyes widen at the sight of them. As Elayne closes the door, Egwene gives a sudden giggle and then presses her hands to her mouth to stifle it.
Egwene: I know I’m not dreaming because if I was dreaming you’d be Rand and Galad on tall stallions. I have been dreaming. I thought Rand was here. I couldn’t see him but I thought…
Min dryly suggests that Egwene can wat for them if she would like. Egwene tells them that they are all beautiful – the most beautiful thing she has ever seen – and she then asks them how they did it. Egwene gives a squeak when she sees Seta in the damane collar. Her voice then hardens and says that she would like to put the sul’dam in a pot of boiling water. Elayne asks what they have done to her.
Elayne: What could they do to make you want something like that?
Egwene never takes her eyes off of the Seanchan woman and says that she would like to make her feel it. She tells the others that Seta did that to her. As she says Seta made her feel as though she was neck deep in boiling water, she cuts herself off to tell Elayne that she does not know what it is like to wear one an a’dam. Egwene says that she can never decide whether Seta is worse than Renna but she says that they are all hateful. Nynaeve can feel how terrified the Seanchan woman is and it is all that she can do not to make the woman’s terrors come true then and there. Egwene asks if they can take the collar off of her. Nynaeve channels a trickle and the collar opens. With an expression of wonder, Egwene touches her neck. Nynaeve directs her to change into some clothing in Elayne’s bundle. As she does, Nynaeve asks her why she did not simply run.
Egwene then explains how the a’dam works. She tells them that a damane cannot move the bracelet from the place where the sul’dam left it. She further explains that channeling makes the wearer of the collar sick unless the sul’dam is wearing the bracelet. Just that morning, Egwene discovered how the collar can be opened without using the one power. However, touching the catch with the intention to open it makes her hand knot up into uselessness.
Nynaeve begins to feel sickened by the bracelet on her wrist. She unfastens the silver cuff, closes it, and then hangs it on one of the pegs. She tells Seta not to believe that this means she can shout for help now. Seta whispers in a panic that Nynaeve does not mean to leave here in the room with the collar around her neck. She begs to be tied and gagged so that she cannot give an alarm, instead. Egwene gives a mirthless laugh. She tells the others that Seta will not call for help and she tells the sul’dam that she had better hope that whoever finds her takes the a’dam off of her and decides to keep her secret.
Elayne: What are you talking about?
Egwene: I have thought about it a great deal. Thinking was all I could do when they left me alone up here. Sul’dam claim they develop an affinity after a few years. Most of them can tell when a woman is channeling whether they are leashed to her or not. I wasn’t sure but Seta proves it.
Elayne: Proves what?
Egwene: Nynaeve, a’dam only work on women who can channel. Don’t you see? Sul’dam can channel the same as damane.
Seta groans through her teeth and shakes her head in wild denial. A sul’dam would die before admitting she can channel. Egwene explains that sul’dam never train the ability so that they never learn to do anything with it, but they can channel. Nynaeve says that she thought the Seanchan leash all of those who can channel but Egwene corrects her to say that they leash all of those that they can find. She says they find women who are born with the ability to channel. The rest of the woman who can channel – the vast majority – are those not born with it but can learn to do it. Those women who can learn become sul’dam. Seta is moaning ‘no’ repeatedly under her breath.
Elayne states that she knows Seta is horrible but that she feels as though she should help her somehow noting that Seta could become one of their Sisters. Nynaeve opens her mouth to say that they need to worry about helping themselves when the door opens. Renna steps into the room and demands to know what is going on here. Renna looks at Nynaeve and says that she did not give anyone else permission to link with her pet Tuli. She cuts off as her eyes fall on Egwene wearing Nynaeve’s dress instead of damane gray – Egwene with no collar around her throat. Renna never has a chance to yell. Before anyone else can move, Egwene grabs the pitcher form her wash stand and smashes it into Renna midriff. The pitcher shatters and the sul’dam loses all of her breath, doubling over. As she falls, Egwene jumps on her with a snarl, reaching for the collar she had been wearing, where it still lies on the floor, before snapping it around Renna’s neck. With one jerk on the silver leash, Egwene pulls the bracelet from the peg on the wall and fits it around her own wrist.
Renna gives a tremendous convulsion and her eyes bulge almost out of her face. Egwene holds her hands over the woman’s mouth to prevent screams from coming out but hoarse sounds can still be heard. Renna’s heels drum on the floor. Nynaeve tells her to stop it and she pulls Egwene off of the other woman. Nyaeve tells her again to stop it. Renna lays gray faced and panting.
Suddenly Egwene throws herself against Nynaeve, sobbing raggedly at her breast.
Egwene: She hurt me, Nynaeve. She hurt me! They all did. They hurt me and hurt me until I did what they wanted. I hate them. I hate them for hurting me. And I hate them because I couldn’t stop them from making me do what they wanted.
Nynaeve gently smooths Egwene’s hair. She tells her that it is alright to hate them and she says that they deserve it. She adds though, still gently, that it is not alright to let them turn her into what they are. Seta’s hands are on her face and Renna touches the collar at her throat disbelievingly. Egwene straightens and wipes the tears away from her eyes. She adamantly says that she is not like them. She adds though that she wishes she could kill them and says that they deserve it. Min stares grimly at the two sul’dam while Elayne says Rand would kill someone who did a thing like that.
Nynaeve: Men often mistake killing and revenge for justice. They seldom have the stomach for justice.
Nynaeve had often sat in judgment with the Women’s Circle. Sometimes men came before them believing that women might give them a better hearing than the men of the Village Council. The Wisdom is always the one who pronounces judgment rendered by the Women’s Circle. Nynaeve picks up the bracelet that Egwene discarded and then closes it. She announces that she would free every woman here if she could and she adds that she would also destroy every last a’dam, too. Nynaeve puts the bracelet of Renna’s a’dam on the same peg from which Seta’s bracelet now hangs. Nynaeve tells the two women that if they are quiet, perhaps they will avoid notice for long enough that they are able to remove the collars from each other. She says that perhaps if they have done enough good in their lives, they will manage it. She then says that if not, someone will eventually find them and ask a great many questions before removing the collars.
Nynaeve: I think perhaps you will learn first hand the life you have given to other women. That is justice.
Renna wears a fixed stare of horror and Seta’s shoulders shake as she sobs into her hands. Nynaeve hardens her heart and leads the others out of the room. No one pays them any more attention on their way out as when they entered. Nynaeve suspects that she has the sul’dam’s dress to thank for that. However, she cannot wait to change into something else – anything else – even the dirtiest rag.
The girls are silent until they are out on the cobblestone street again. Egwene suddenly says that they will need horses and she says that she knows which stable Bela was taken to by the Seanchan. Nynaeve tells her that they will have to leave Bela here before suddenly Min asks where everyone is. Nynaeve sees that the street is empty. The crowds out on the streets when they arrived are gone. Every shop and window on the street is shuttered tight.
Nynaeve looks toward the harbor and sees a line of soldiers marching toward them. It feels to her as though all of them have eyes on her. Min whispers to her that more soldiers are behind them, too, and she says that she does not know which group will reach them first. Nynaeve looks toward the harbor filled with tall boxy Seanchan ships. She cannot make out Spray and prays that it is still there. Nynaeve says that they will walk right past the soldiers. Elayne asks her what she will do if they want her to join them. She reminds Nynaeve that she is still wearing a sul’dam’s dress.
Egwene states that she will not go back and that she will die first. She says that she will show them what they taught her. Nynaeve sees a glow around her and yells ‘no’ to her but it is too late. With a roar like thunder, the street erupts beneath the approaching Seanchan soldiers. Still glowing, Egwene spins to face the other way up the street and the thunderous roar is repeated. Dirt rains down on the women. Shouting Seanchan soldiers shout and take cover where they can. Within moments, the soldiers are all out of sight.
Nynaeve: You fool! We are trying not to attract attention.
There is no hope of that now. She hopes that they can work their way around the soldiers taking cover and make it to the harbor. Nynaeve is aware that the damane behind them must also be aware of what happened as there is no way they could have missed that. Egwene growls again that she will not go back to the collar.
Suddenly a fireball begins falling directly toward them. Nynaeve shouts at everyone to run. She dives herself, landing hard, and losing her breath. She looks back to see that the cobblestone where they had been standing is now a blackened and chipped circle ten paces across. Nynaeve sees Elayne but of Min and Egwene there is no sign. Nynaeve has a look of horror. Elayne seems to understand her thoughts and points violently down the street. They had gone that way.
Nynaeve scoots toward the edge of the alley down which she jumped to peak out. A head sized fireball flies directly toward her. She leaps back just before it hits the stone corner of the building where her head had been. Anger has her awash in the One Power before she is aware of it. Lighting strikes out of the sky land somewhere up the street near the origin of the fireball. Another jagged bold splits the sky before she runs down the alley. Behind her lightning lanced the mouth of the alley where she had been standing.
If Domon doesn’t have that ship waiting, I’ll, Light, let us all reach it safely.
Bayle Domon jerks erect as lightning strikes across the sky somewhere in the town – and then again. He thinks to himself that there are not enough clouds for that. A ball of fire hits a rooftop just above the docks. The docks were empty of people except for a few Seanchan. A man appears from one of the warehouses with a grolm at his side. They vanish up a street and away from the water. One of Doman’s crew members jumps for an ax and he raises it high. In two strides, Doman seizes the ax with one hand and the man’s throat with the other.
Doman: Spray do stay until I do say sail, Aedwin Cole.
Yarin shouts that they have gone mad. Just then, an explosion rumbles across the harbor sending the gulls up into screaming circles. Lightning crashes again inside Falme. Yarin says that the damane will kill them all and he argues that no one will see them leave in the midst of this chaos. Doman replies that he gave his word.
Hurry woman, Aes Sedai or whatever you be, hurry.
Geofram Bornhald eyes the lightning over Falme and dismisses it from his mind. A huge flying creature flies wildly to escape the bolts. He thinks that if there is a storm, it will hinder the Seanchan as much as it hinders him. Nearly treeless hills hide the town from him and him from it. His thousand men lay spread out to either side of him rippling along the hollows between hills. Bornhald tells Child Byar to go now. Byar touches hand to heart and goes.
Bornhald raises his voice to tell his men that the legion will advance at a walk. With a creak of saddle, the long line of Whitecloak men move slowly toward Falme.
Rand peers around the corner at the approaching Seanchan before grimacing and ducking back into the narrow alley between two stables. They Seanchan will be there soon. The cuts he has from Turak burn but there is nothing to be done for them now. Lightning crashes across the sky again and he feels the rumble of its plummet through his boots.
Mat, Perrin, and Hurin are in another alley watching another group of Seanchan soldiers. The place where they left their horses is close now, if they can only reach it. Rand mutters to himself that Egwene is in trouble. He has the feeling in his head as if pieces of his life are in danger. Egwene is one piece – one thread of the cord that makes his life. But he can feel others also, and they are all threatened down in Falme. He knows somehow that if any of those threads is destroyed, his life will never be complete and the way that it is meant to be. Rand does not understand it but the feeling is certain.
Ingtar tells Rand that one man can hold fifty where they are standing. The two stables are close together with barely enough room for two men to stand side-by-side in the alley between them.
Ingtar: One man holding fifty at a narrow passage. Not a bad way to die. Songs have been made about less.
Rand tells him there is no need for that, he hopes. A rooftop in the town explodes and Rand wonders how he is going to get back into Falme once the Horn is safely out of the town. Rand thinks to himself that he has to reach Egwene. Softly, Ingtar speaks.
Ingtar: I never knew what he was going to do. A pale little man you didn’t seem to really notice even when you were looking at him. Take him inside Fal Dara I was told, inside the Fortress. I did not want to but I had to do it, you understand? I had to. I never knew what he intended until he shot that arrow. I still don’t know whether it was meant for the Amyrlin or for you.
Rand feels a chill and stares at Ingtar. He asks the other man what he is saying. Ingtar says that human kind is being swept away everywhere. He says that nations fail and vanish. He adds that Darkfriends are everywhere and Southlanders neither seem to notice nor care. He says that Borderlanders fight and yet despite all that they do, every year the Blight advances. He adds that while this is happening, Southlanders think trollocs and myrddraal are a Gleeman’s tale.
Suddenly Ingtar tells Rand that it seemed the only way. He asks Rand why they should be destroyed for Southlanders when they could make their own peace.
Ingtar: Better the Shadow, I thought, than useless oblivion.
He says that the choice seemed so logical, then. Rand grabs him and tells him to say it plain. Ingtar’s eyes shine with unshed tears. He tells Rand that he is a better man than he is, whether he be a shepherd or a Lord. Ingtar tells him that the prophecy says that whoever sounds it should think not of glory but only salvation. Ingtar confesses that it was his own salvation he was thinking of. He confesses his hope to be the one to sound the Horn, lead the Heroes of the Horn against Shayol Ghul, so that perhaps he would be saved.
Ingtar: No man can walk so long in the Shadow that he cannot come again into the Light. That is what they say. Surely that would have been enough to wash away what I have been and done.
Rand releases his hold on the other man and sags back against the stable wall. Rand tells him that he thinks wanting to is enough. Rand says that he thinks all Ingtar has to do is stop being one of them. Ingtar flinches as if Rand has said it out – Darkfriend.
Ingtar: Rand, when Verin brought us here with the Portal Stone, I lived other lives. Sometimes I held the Horn but I never sounded it. I tried to escape what I had become but I never did. Always there was something else required of me. Always something worse than the last until I was – you were ready to give it up to save a friend. Think not of glory. Oh Light, help me.
Rand does not know what to say. It is as if Egwene has told him she murdered children. It is too horrible to be believed and too horrible for anyone to admit unless it is true. After a time, Ingtar speaks again. He tells Rand that there has to be a price. He says there is always a price. He says that perhaps he can pay his price here. He adds that it is every man’s right to choose when to sheath the sword – even a man like himself.
Before Rand can say anything, Hurin comes running down the alley. He tells them that the patrol turned aside, down into the town. He advises the two of them that they had better do the same. Ingtar tells Rand to go. Ingtar turns to face the street and does not look at Rand or Hurin again. He tells them to take the Horn where it belongs. He says that he has always known the Amyrlin should have given Rand the charge. He says that all he ever wanted was to keep Shienar whole and to prevent them from being swept away and forgotten.
Rand: I know, Ingtar. The Light shine on your Lord Ingtar of House Shinowa. And may you shelte rin the palm of the Creator’s hand… the last embrace of the Mother welcome you home.
Hurin gasps. Ingtar says thank you. A tension seems to go out of Ingtar. For the first time since the night of the trolloc raid on Fal Dara, Ingtar stands as he did when Rand first met him – confident and relaxed. Intent.
Rand turns to find Hurin staring at both of them. Rand tells the Sniffer that it is time for them to go. Hurin begins to protest about Lord Ingtar but Rand says that he does what he has to. Hurin nods and Rand trots after him. Rand can hear the steady tred of the Seanchan’s boots but he does not look back.
This chapter… oh my goodness.
Let’s just go character by character:
- Nynaeve is the absolute best. Her plan works. She walks right into the damane house and walks right back out with a free Egwene in tow. She is appropriately furious, level-headed, gentle, and hard. I don’t care about Elayne’s title, the Wisdom of Emond’s Field is a QUEEN.
- Egwene. I just can’t with the “she hurt me” section. Ugh. UGH. This whole section was just so well done – from Egwene’s disbelieving giggle at seeing her rescuers to her fury at Renna to the sobbing to the unhinged and unreasonable behavior when they were trying to escape. It was all too real. I also love that Egwene figures out the Seanchan secret. In hindsight, it seems a little obvious to us readers. Damane = women born with the spark to channel and sul’dam = women who can learn to channel.
It is probably a testament to how little I care for the Seanchan that I was more or less okay with her one-on-one attack of Renna and the subsequent ill-advised attacks on the Seanchan soldiers. I guess in the first instance, I cheered, and in the second instance, I supported her while questioning her tactics.
- Min. Did not have a whole lot to do in all of this but did her part well. Her funny line about Egwene waiting for Rand and Galad fit the moment really well.
- Elayne. “Rand would kill someone who did a thing like that.” What is wrong with her? Seriously. She drops an out of the blue line like that in pretty much every scene she is in. I understand that Jordan is laying it on thick, so that nobody misses Elayne is into Rand. But none of that explains her behavior from a character motivation standpoint. Elayne is not lacking in social skill. It thus stands to reason that these weird off-handed comments about Rand – EVEN IN MOMENTS LIKE THIS – are calculated acts of social manipulation on her part. Even now, she is still trying to steal Egwene’s boyfriend.
I guess she redeems herself slightly during the escape by letting Nynaeve know that Egwene and Min are alive.
- Bayle Domon: Loyal and true. He is a smuggler but he is also a man of his word.
- Bornhald: Chaotic situation needs something to put it over the top… how about add some Whitecloaks? We kind of know from the previous Bornhald section that he is not as secret to the Seanchan as he believes himself to be. But in Falme, thanks to Egwene, it might not matter at the moment.
- Rand: I am really intrigued by the section where he can feel the parts of his life, that some of them – more than just Egwene – are in danger, and how he needs to protect them. Does this mean that the people around Rand are as protected by his ta’veren-ness as he is? It seems that way.
Rand really handles the section with Ingtar well. He gives Ingtar the Shienaran funeral rites. For whatever reason, this seems to undo Ingtar’s internal turmoil. Maybe it broke the man’s ties to the Shadow, too. (Hopefully Book 3 does not start with Ingtar being tortured posthumously in the Wheel of Time version of hell.)
- Ingtar… is a Darkfriend! He’s just a Darkfriend who wants out. That explains his fanaticism about finding the Horn. The logic of “if I sound the Horn and lead the Heroes of the Horn against the Shadow, that will surely save me” makes sense. It’s interesting that in his other lives he is always tasked with finding it despite the fact that in Rand’s other lives he does not always even leave Emond’s Field. How is the Pattern making that happen?
We do not know all of Ingtar’s crimes. He confesses to Rand (unbeknownst to Ingtar, the Savior of the World, probably) about letting the man into Fal Dara who nearly killed him early in the book. We also know that a Shienaran soldier was in the Darkfriend gathering in the prologue of this book AND that Ingtar was gone for a few weeks around the time of that gathering.
Is his reasoning for joining the Shadow justified? It makes sense to me. Imagine fighting monsters for a living – the same living all of your ancestors also had going back thousands of years – and your work just means that people south of you do not believe in monsters. Despite your best efforts, you know you or your descendants will eventually lose the fight. When you lose the fight with the monsters, the Southerners might finally believe they exist, but it means that you died. Resentment and hopelessness seem pretty reasonable as reactions go.
Let’s talk about a bigger picture issue in this series. Does it make sense that Southerners do not believe in Shadowspawn? No. Everyone on the continent participated in the Trolloc Wars two thousand years ago. Of course, we know that with some in the South, they do believe. They just do not spend any time thinking about them. The trollocs are someone else’s problem. Tam believes in Shadowspawn. During the events of Winternight, in Book 1, he gives Rand what little knowledge he has about fighting them. It is likely that the other men on the Village Council in Emond’s Field also believe in a similar manner. Thom believes. But is it also likely that Southern parents tell their children that Shadowspawn are not real? Yes, of course. Why would you want your kids worrying about something that nobody in your country has seen in two thousand years.
Is there anything like this in the real world? The closest comparison I can conjure up are UFOs.
Small child: Are UFO’s real?
Mom: [glares at Dad]
Of course, now many of the world’s news outlets are reporting on UFOs and the public for the most part is just yawning at the reports.