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 10: Secrets
Egwene ignores her companions to stand in her stirrups, hoping to see a glimpse of Tar Valon in the distance. All she can see is something indistinct gleaming white in the morning sunlight. It must be the city of on the island because Dragonmount had appeared on the horizon the morning before.
Dragonmount is where Lews Therin Kinslayer had died. Prophecies and warning have been made regarding the mountain. As a result, travelers generally try to avoid the mountain even if they are traveling to Tar Valon. Egwene has reason not to stay away from Tar Valon, though. Only there can she find the training she needs.
Egwene: I will never be collared again.
She pushes the thought away but it comes back, turned about, to a thought that she will never lose her freedom again. Once Egwene returns to Tar Valon, Anaiya Sedai will begin to test Egwene’s dreams again in the hope of discerning whether or not Egwene is a Dreamer. So far the Blue Sister has found no evidence that she is.
Egwene’s dreams have been troubling since leaving Almoth Plain. Aside from dreams of the Seanchan, which cause her to wake sweating, she dreams more and more of Rand. She dreams of him running toward something but also away from something. She peers toward Tar Valon and thinks that Anaiya will be there and perhaps also Galad. Upon thinking of Galad, she blushes in spite of herself and then banishes him from her mind. She chides herself to think about the weather or anything else.
Egwene sits back in her saddle and Nynaeve asks her if she is talking to herself again. Nynaeve continues and says that it would be better if she is keeping watch. Egwene holds her tongue instead of retorting that she was watchin for Tar Valon. Egwene thinks to herself that Nynaeve forgets too often that she is not the Wisdom of Emond’s Field any longer. She thinks Nynaeve also forgets that she is no longer a child. Egwene reminds herself though that Nynaeve wears the ring of an Accepted and that she does not, yet.
There are six in their traveling party altogether. Four of them are women, which is odd in and of itself, but the group also includes a man slung on a litter between two horses. Egwene thinks to herself that their group is only six but contains innumerable secrets – secrets that would likely have to be kept even in the White Tower. She thinks to herself that life was simpler back home.
Egwene asks Nynaeve if she thinks Rand is alright before hastily adding Perrin to her query. She thinks to herself that she cannot afford any longer to pretend that she will one day marry Rand. She does not like this and is not entirely reconciled to it, but she knows it. Nynaeve asks Egwene if her dreams have been troubling her again. Egwene says that from the rumors she has heard, she can no longer tell what is going on. She adds that the rumors they have heard have all of what she knows turned around and twisted.
Nynaeve: Everything has been wrong since Moiraine came into our lives. Perrin and Rand… they will have to take care of themselves for now. I’m afraid we will have something to worry about ourselves. Something is not right. I can feel it.
Egwene asks if she knows what it is and Nynaeve tells her that it feels almost like a storm. The former Wisdom studies the sky and says again that it feel like a storm is coming. Nynaeve has always been able to foretell the weather. All Wisdoms are expected to do it though many cannot. Since leaving Emond’s Field, her ability has grown or changed. The storms she feels now sometimes have to do with men, rather than wind. Egwene bites her underlip and thinks that they cannot afford to be stopped or slowed. She thinks that this is for Mat’s sake as well as other reasons that might even be more important than the life of one village youth – even if he is her childhood friend.
Verin Sedai rides apparently lost in thought with the hood of her cloak pulled forward until it all but hides her face. She is of the Brown Ajah. Brown Sisters usually seem to care more for knowledge than for the world around them but Egwene is not so certain of Verin’s detachment. The Brown Sister has placed herself hip deep in the affairs of the world by being with them. Elayne, of an age with Egwene, but golden haired and blue-eyed where Egwene is dark, rides back beside Mat’s litter where he lays unconscious. She watches him with the worry that they all feel. Mat has not roused for three days.
The lean long haired man on the other side of Mat’s litter, Hurin, appears to be trying to look everywhere without anyone noticing. Egwene and Nynaeve slow to allow the litter to catch up with them. Nynaeve asks the man if he senses something. Elayne lifts her eyes suddenly intent. The man rubs the side of is long nose and says “trouble.”
Hurin is a thief-taker for the King of Shienar though he does not wear a Shienaran warrior’s top knot though the sword-breaker at his side is worn with use. Years of experience seem to have given him a talent for sniffing out wrong-doers – especially those who have done violence. Twice on their journey thus far he advised them to leave a village after being there less than an hour. The first time they all refused saying that they were too tired. However, before the night was through, the Innkeeper and men from the village had tried to murder them in their beds. The would-be murderers were simple thieves rather than Darkfriends but considered strangers fair gleanings. Worse, the rest of the village knew of this and not only did not warn them, they agreed with the sentiment about strangers. The party was forced to flee a mob in the middle of the night.
The second time during their journey when Hurin gave them a similar warning, Verin ordered the party to ride on as soon as Hurin spoke. Now in the present, Elayne asks Hurin what kind of trouble. Hurin begins to tell them that he smells something but cuts himself off to say that he has a hunch and adds that he saw tracks yesterday and earlier today. He warns the rest of them that they need to be wary. He digs in his heels and rides up to speak with Verin Sedai.
Nynaeve, Egwene, and Elayne resolve to do whatever they must do to survive. They all now take it seriously given that Hurin has given a warning and that Nynaeve has told them that she senses a storm coming. They discuss what might happen if they use the One Power as a weapon to defennd themselves and discuss even the possibility that they might be stilled – cut off permanently from saidar – if they take the wrong steps.
They ride on in silence. Egwene leans down and adjusts Mat’s blankets. She is careful not to touch the dagger he is clutching in his hand. He is only a few years older than she is but he appears aged now, with gaunt cheeks and sallow skin. His chest barely moves as he breaths. A lumpy sack lies by his feet and Egwene shifts the blanket to cover that, too. Nynaeve leans down as well as touches Mat’s forehead. She announces that his fever is worse. She says aloud that she wishes she had her medicines with her and admits to the other two that she attempted to heal Mat last night. They are shocked. Egwene even says that she might have killed him. Nynaeve sniffs and says that she was healing for years before she ever met Moiraine. She tells them though that her attempt to heal Mat did not work and she suggests that she needs her medicines in addition to the One Power to make it work. She tells them both that she does not think Mat has very long.
Egwene says that they will have Mat in the White Tower soon and that they will heal him there. She studiously does not look where the blanket covers the sack at Mat’s feet. The other two women do not look at the sack, either. There are some secrets they will all be relieved to shed. Suddenly they see Whitecloak riders ahead.
Elayne: Chidren of the Light. I think we have found your storm and Hurin’s trouble.
Verin pulls up and puts a hand on Hurin’s arm to prevent him from touching his sword. Verin tells all of them to let her do all of the talking. She pushes her hood back to reveal hair with gray in it. Egwene is not certain how old Verin is. Egwene thinks she is old enough to be a grandmother. However, the gray streaks are her only signs of age. Verin tells all of them not to allow the Whitecloaks to make them angry. Her face is as calm as her voice.
Egwene thinks the Aes Sedai’s voice is calm but she sees her measuring the distance to Tar Valon with her eyes. It is now close enough to see but too far away to do any good. The charging Whitecloaks pull up, creating a cloud of dust. The riders spread out in an arc. Very calmly waves her hand in front of her face to dispel the dust. The Whitecloaks’ leader is a young man but he wears two golden knots of rank on the sunburst beneath his cloak.
He announces that there are two Tar Valon witches in their party unless he misses his guess. He adds that their group also has too knits and a pair of lapdogs, one sick and the other old. He asks them where they come from and Verin tells him that they come from the west. She then tells him to move out of the way so that they can continue. She adds that The Children of the Light have no authority here. He replies harshly that The Children have authority wherever the Light is. He tells her to answer his questions and threaten that if she does not, he can take her to their camp where the Questioners can ask.
Egwene thinks to herself that Mat cannot afford continued delay and she thinks it might even be more important that the contents of the sack at his feet not fall fall into Whitecloak hands. Verin tells the Whitecloak that she has answered him. She then asks him if they really believe that they can stop them. She goes on telling them that in some lands they hold sway with threats but not here in sight of Tar Valon.
Verin: Can you truly believe that in this place you will be allowed to carry off Aes Sedai?
The Whitecloak officer shifts in his saddle. He looks back at his men and tells Verin that he has no fear of her or her Darkfriend ways. He then tells her again to either answer him or answer the Questioners. He does not sound as forceful as he had before. Verin opens her mouth as if for idle conversation but before she can speak Elayne does, voice ringing with command.
Elayne: I am Elayne, daughter-heir of Andor. If you do not move aside at once you will have Queen Morgase to answer to, Whitecloak.
Verin hisses at her with vexation. The Whitecloak laughs and tells her that she might soon discover that her mother no longer has much love for witches.
Officer: If I take you from them and return you to her side she will thank me for it.
He tells her that Lord Captain Eamon Valda would like very much to speak with her. He raises a hand, either to signal or gesture. Egwene thinks to herself that there is no more time to wait.
I will not be chained again.
Egwene opens herself to the One Power. She focuses on the ground, a small patch of ground in front of the Whitecloak horses, and thinks to herself that they will not take her. With a roar, the ground in front of the officer erupts with a fountain of dirt and rocks going as high as his head. Screaming, his horse rears and the man rolls out of his saddle like a sack. Before he hits the ground, Egwene focuses on the ground in front of the other Whitecloaks and the ground throws up another explosion. She notices a third and then a fourth eruption beside her own. She sees that Nynaeve and Elayne are also embracing saidar. Hurin stares around him, mouth open, and as frightened as the Whitecloaks. Verin is wide-eyed with astonishment and anger.
Then the Whitecloaks run away – all except the officer. He shouts at Verin to kill him as she killed his father. Verin ignores him and stares at her companions. Under Verin’s gaze, Egwene, Elayne, and Nynaeve let go of saidar.
Verin: What you have done is an abomination. An abomination! An Aes Sedai does not use the Power as a weapon except against Shadowspawn or in the last extreme to defend her life!
Nynaeve breaks in heatedly that the Whitecloaks were ready to kill them. Elayne argues at the same time that they were not really using the One Power as a weapon as they did not actually hurt anyone or even try to hurt anyone. Verin snaps at her and tells her not to split hairs with her. Nynaeve asks Verin about the officer who has not run off.
Nynaeve: He was about to take us prisoner. Mat will die if he does not reach the Tower soon.
Egwene knows what Nynaeve is struggling not to say aloud – that they cannot let the sack fall into anyone’s hands but the Amyrlin’s. Verin looks at the Whitecloak wearily and tells the other three that he was only trying to bully them and that he knew very well that he could not make them go anywhere that they did not want to go. She tells the three of them that she could have talked them past him with a little time and a little patience. Egwene wants to mend some of the damage that she has done and apologizes to the officer.
Egwene: We have come a long way, all the way from Toman Head, and if I weren’t so tired I would never have…
Verin: Be quiet, girl!
The Whitecloak suddenly snarls. He asks if they were at Falme and half draws his sword. The narrow-faced officer goes on in a fury telling them that his father died at Falme and that Byar told him. He shouts that the witches killed his father for their False Dragon. He promises to see them dead for it. Verin mutters about impetuous children letting their mouths flap and then tells the officer to go with the light before guiding her horse around him. The officer’s shouts follow them as they ride past.
Officer: My name is Dain Bornhald. Remember it, Darkfriends. I will make you fear my name.
As his shouts fade into the distance behind them, they ride in silence. Finally Egwene says aloud that she was only trying to make things better.
Verin: You must learn that there is a time to speak all of the truth and a time to govern your tongue, the least of the lessons you must learn, but important if you mean to live long enough to wear the shawl of a full Sister. Did it never occur to you that word of Falme might have come ahead of us?
Verin tells them to always plan for the worst so that all of their surprises will be pleasant ones as Elayne breaks in to ask her what the officer meant about her mother. She says aloud that he must have been lying as she would never turn against Tar Valon. Verin replies that the Queens of Andor have always been friends of Tar Valon but she adds that the world is strange and all things change. A village come into view ahead of them. Verin tells them that they must now truly be on their guard as the real danger now begins.
Whenever I hear the word “Secrets” I always think of the Conan sketch of the same name:
Child Byar rode from Toman Head all the way to Amadicia to speak with the leader of the Whiteloaks – Pedron Niall. He gives his report and then he rides all the way back across the continent and finds Geofram Bornhald’s son. He manages all of this in the same span of time that Verin’s party travels from Falme to Tar Valon?
Maybe he at least took a boat up river? The travel here doesn’t make much sense to me.
As for the uh, dust up, with the Children, I am completely on Verin’s side in the aftermath. What a colossally dumb thing for the Supergirls to do. I can kind of give Egwene a bit of a pass considering she is still recovering from weeks of mental abuse and torture. But Nynaeve and Elayne both should have known better and both should have been ready to jump in and keep Egwene from acting the fool. Egwene then made it all worse by sharing too much information in her attempts to apologize. My girl Egwene is usually more astute than that.
That said, maybe this whole situation is avoided if Verin is a less detached leader. The girls clearly could have benefited from someone like Moiraine establishing in them a renewed belief in chain of command. It says a lot about their journey so far that they had no belief that Verin could handle the situation.
What’s going on with Morgase? Do you think she found out that the White Tower misplaced her daughter? That might be the sort of thing that could cause a rift to a centuries old relationship. It’s funny that this does not occur to Elayne. It’s also funny that someone who grew up in and around politics so badly misread the situation with the Whitecloaks. Did she really think threatening them with Andor was going to work?
The girls who were important enough for the Black Ajah to reveal itself in kidnapping them have returned to Tar Valon. The danger is only beginning.