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 13: Punishments
Egwene lies on her bed and stares up the the shadows on her ceiling cast from her flickering lamp. She wishes that she could form a plan of action or reason out what to expect next. Her room is small, windowless, and stark – like all novice rooms. She is once more in a white novice dress, too, but she cannot find joy in having rid herself of the hated Seanchan gray. Her room feels like a prison cell. She starts to think of the cell as being like a collar but stops and glances toward the door. She knows that an Accepted is guarding her door.
Egwene whispers to a tiny hole above her bed which was drilled through the wall into the adjoining novice quarters long ago.
Egwene: Elayne? Are you asleep?
Elayne: [whispering] How could I sleep?
Elayne says that she thought they might be in some trouble but says that she did not expect this. She asks Egwene what she thinks will be done to them. Egwene has no answer and her guesses are not something she wants to voice aloud. She whispers to Elayne that she actually thought they might be treated as heroes upon their return – considering what they were carrying with them and what they discovered about Liandrin. Egwene says that they should be heroes.
Elayne: Should and would build no bridges.
She reminds Egwene that Verin told them they must not speak of either of those to things to anyone other than herself or the Amyrlin Seat. She tells Egwene that she does not think any of this will work out the way that they thought. Elayne whines that all of this is not fair. Elayne asks if she still wants to be Aes Sedai and Egwene says yes. She adds that it is the only way they will ever be safe. Then she provides a new thought which is that she will now allow herself to be stilled.
Elayne pauses and then asks her how she can stop them. She points out that Egwene may be stronger than any Aes Sedai but she does not know enough yet to prevent herself from being shielded by any full Sister. Elayne adds that there are dozens of full Sisters in the Tower. Egwene considers and says that she could run away. Elayne replies that the Tower would come after them. Egwene answers that she is not a simple village girl anymore and she says she can keep out of Aes Sedai hands if she wishes. Elayne tells her that her Mother might protect them if what that Whitecloak said is true. She adds that she never thought she might hope something like that is the truth.
Elayne: If it isn’t, Mother is just as likely to send both of us back in chains.
Elayne asks Egwene if she will teacher her how to live in a village. Egwene blinks and asks questioningly in response if Elayne will come with her. Elayne answers with a long silence before saying that she does not want to be stilled. She then says more firmly that she will not be.
Egwene’s door crashes up and she sits up with a start. Faolain steps into the room and her eyes go to the tiny hole above Egwene’s bed. Similar holes join most of the novice rooms.
Faolain: Whispering with your friend, eh? Well it grows lonely waiting by yourself. Did you have a nice chat?
Egwene opens her mouth but then closes it hastily. She remembers her instructions to answer only Aes Sedai. Faolain tells her to get on her feet and she says that the Amyrlin is not to be kept waiting by the likes of her. She tells Egwene that she is lucky she did not enter the room in time to hear Egwene whispering. Then she orders Egwene to move.
Elayne is already waiting outside with an apple cheeked Accepted looking fiercely determined to be brave. Elayne somehow manages to give the impression that the Accepted is a handmaid carrying her gloves. Egwene hopes that she herself is doing half as well. As the four of them walk, they see no one else in silence. Egwene has never before been into the part of the Tower where the Amyrlin has her rooms. Their shoes make loud clicks on diamond shape floor tiles that repeat the colors of the seven Ajahs.
There are now only a few other women in evidence and everyone is moving quickly. Nynaeve and her Accepted escort joins them, neither of them speaking. The antechamber of the Amyrlin Seat’s study is grand enough for any palace. Egwene has eyes only for the Keeper of the Chronicles, Leane Sedai. Her face could have been carved from smooth brown stone. No one else is present. Leane asks the Accepted if their charges gave any trouble. Faolain tells Leane that Egwene had to be pulled by the scruff of her neck. The other two indicate that their charges gave no trouble. As Faolain complains about Egwene’s lack of discipline, she is cut off by Leane.
Leane: To lead is neither to push or to pull. Go to Marris Sedai, Faolain, and ask her to allow you to contemplate on this while raking the path of the springs garden.
Leane dismisses Faolain and the other two Accepted. From the depth of Faolain’s curtsy, she shoots a furious look at Egwene. The Keeper pays no attention to the women leaving and instead studies the three women in front of her while tapping a finger on her lips. Finally Leane lifts her hands toward the Amyrlin’s study and tells the three of them to enter. Nynaeve steps forward promptly and opens one of the doors. Leane follows them inside. Once inside, the three of them stand in a line at the Amyrlin’s table and wait. Long minutes go by before the Amyrlin raises her head. Egwene feels as though hours are passing. However, once Siuan’s blue eyes fix on each of them in turn, Egwene decides that she could have waited longer.
Amyrlin: So, our runaways return.
Nynaeve: We did not run away, Mother.
The former Wisdom is obviously straining for calm. Her voice shakes with emotion – primarily anger. Nynaeve begins saying that Liandrin told them they must go with her but the loud slap of the Amyrlin’s hand on the table cuts her off.
Amyrlin: Do not invoke Liandrin’s name her, Child!
Leane watches all of them with a stern serenity. Elayne then bursts out that Liandrin is Black Ajah. Siuan replies that this is suspected and as good as known. She tells them that Liandrin left the Tower months ago and that twelve other women went with her. She tells them that none have been seen since. She adds that before they left, the women tried to break into the storeroom where the angreal and sa’angreal are kept. She says that they succeeded in entering the room where the smaller ter’angreal are stored.
Amyrlin: They stole a number of those including several we do not know the use of.
Nynaeve stares at the Amyrlin in horror. Egwene thinks that there is no telling what those women might do with those remnants of the Age of Legends. Unlike angreal and sa’angreal, ter’angreal do not enhance the ability to channel the One Power for their users. Instead, the more common ter’angreal do things with the One Power. No one truly understands most of them. Some ter’angreal require active channeling in order to work while other ter’angreal will work for anyone.
Some ter’angreal are in use by Aes Sedai today – even though the use is not likely to be for the purpose for which the ter’angreal was made. The white rod that Accepted hold while taking their oaths and being raised to Aes Sedai is a ter’angreal. The ter’angreal binds Aes Sedai to their Oaths. Another ter’angreal is the site of a test before a novice is raised to Accepted. As Egwene worries over what the woman might have stolen, Siuan goes on.
Amyrlin: Theft is the least of what they did. Three Sisters died that night as well as two Warders, seven guards, and nine of the servants. Murder – done to hide their thieving and their flight. It may not be proof they were Black Ajah but few believe otherwise, nor do I in truth.
Nynaeve suddenly demands to know why they are being treated as criminals. Siuan barks a laugh and tells her that it is likely her salvation that no one in the Tower other than Verin, Leane, and herself suspect she has anything to do with Liandrin. She tells them that if it were known – much less their demonstration for the Whitecloaks – the Hall of the Tower might vote to still all three of them before they can take a breath. Nynaeve begins to protest that this is not fair and not right. Siuan stands. That is all but it cuts her off short.
Egwene thinks her suddenly silence is wise. She has always believed that Nynaeve is as strong-willed as it is possible to be. However, that belief is challenged by the Amyrlin. She pleads internally for Nynaeve to keep her temper. Egwene speaks.
Egwene: Mother, forgive me for speaking, but what do you intend to do to us?
Amyrlin: Do to you, Child? I intend to punish you and Elayne for leaving the Tower without permission and to punish Nynaeve for leaving the city without permission
She tells them that they are all to visit Sheriam’s Sedai study whereupon she will switch them until they all wish that they had a cushion to sit on for the next week. She tells them that she has already had this announced to the novices and to the Accepted. Egwene blinks in surprise. Elayne grunts. Nynaeve takes it without shock. Punishment is usually between the Mistress of Novices and whoever is called to her. The Amyrlin explains that the announcement is part of the punishment. She tells them that she has also had it announced that they are assigned to the kitchens to work with the scullions until further notice. She adds that she has let it be whispered that further notice might just mean the rest of their natural lives. She asks the three of them if she hears any objections. They all tell her that they do not object.
Siuan stares at a piece of paper on the table and tells them that if any of them had been silly enough to object, she had a further punishment which would have had the objector cursing her mother for letting her father steal that first kiss. Siuan mutters about the three of them letting themselves be whisked out of the Tower and then tells them that she will teach all of them to think. She returns the conversation to what she intends to do with them and mentions that all of them have learned much since leaving the Tower before adding sharply that they have also learned some things that she intends to see them unlearn.
Nynaeve surprises Egwene by saying that she knows they have done things that they should not and she also adds that they will henceforth try to live as though they have taken the Three Oaths. The Amyrlin grunts and tells her to see that she does. She tells them that if she could, she would put the Oath Rod in their hands tonight.
Amyrlin: As it is, you Elayne and you Egwene are to be raised to the Accepted.
Elayne gasps and Egwene stammers a shocked “thank you, Mother.” Leane shifts where she stands. Egwene does not think the Keeper looks pleased. The Amyrlin tells them not to thank her. She adds that their abilities have gone too far for them to remain novices. She tells Elayne and Egwene that some will think they should not have the ring after what they have done. She thinks though that the sight of them up to their elbows in greasy pots will mute the criticism. She also reminds them that the first few weeks of being Accepted are very difficult. She tells them that their worst days as a novice will seem like a fond dream by comparison.
Siuan: But I don’t believe that you’ll complain, will you?
Nynaeve’s face is a mixture of deep sympathy and horrified remembrance of her own first weeks as an Accepted. Egwene and Elayne tell her that they will not complain.
Siuan changes the subject and tells Elayne that her mother was not all pleased by her disappearance. Elayne squeaks in surprise that her mother knows. Siuan tells Elayne that she missed her mother’s visit to the Tower by less than a month. She adds to Elayne that she might not have survived that meeting with Queen Morgase had she been there. Elayne tells Siuan that she can imagine her mother’s anger.
Amyrlin: I don’t think you can, Child. You may have ended a tradition that began before there was an Andor.
She tells them that Morgase refused to return with Elaida and says that for the first time ever, The Queen of Andor does not have an Aes Sedai advisor. Siuan adds that Morgase was ready to remove her two brothers from their training with the Warders but shares that Gawyn and Galad managed to talk their way out of that themselves, though she does not know how.
Siuan tells Elayne that the Queen left a letter for her with Sheriam which states an intention of taking Elyane home to Andor as soon as it is safe for Elayne to return. Siuan tells her that Morgase is certain that Elayne will be capable of channeling, with the a risk of killing herself, in no more than a few months.
Elayne: But I want to learn, Mother. I want to be Aes Sedai.
Siuam smiles at her grimly and says tha she has no intention of letting Morgase have her. She tells Elayne that she has the potential to be stronger than any Aes Sedai in one thousand years Siuan says she will not let her go until she achieves the shawl as well as the ring.
Siuan: I will not let you go. Do I make myself clear?
Elayne sounds uneasy when she answers yes and Egwene does not envy her being caught between the Queen of Andor and the Amyrlin Seat. Just then, Siuan instructs Leane to take Elayne to Sheriam’s study. She tells her Keeper that she has a few words still to say to Egwene and Nyneve. She adds that she does not think they will enjoy hearing what she has to say. Egwene and Nynaeve exchange startled looks.
Elayne follows Leane out.
The human expectations juxtaposed with the political realities of this situation are well executed here. Does it make sense to imagine being greeted as heroes? Of course. Does it make sense that Siuan has to punish them severely and do everything possible to keep others from connecting the girls to the Black? Of course. (How would the Tower possibly know/risk that the girls are all Black and left voluntarily? How could the Tower risk the three most powerful new channelers in a thousand years being Black?)
It is noteworthy that twelve Aes Sedai left with Liandrin – meaning thirteen total Black Sisters left all at once That seems like a lot. We do not know much about ter’angreal yet but this chapter redirects the Reader to them and kind of lets us know that they will be a future focus.
My guess appears to be correct regarding the Whitecloak being aware that Elayne was missing – and that giving rise to his comment about Morgase. Why did it not occur to Elayne before this moment that her mother might be aware of her absence? She is young… but she is suppposed to be bright, right?
It also makes sense that Elayne and Egwene should be raised to Accepted. They both likely know more than any Accepted instructor who might teach their Novice class. That’s especially true for Egwene. I suspect also that raising Elayne might be designed to smooth things over with Morgase. So this is politically expedient and the right thing to do based on knowledge. That said… there’s zero chance that this goes over well with other women in the Tower. It would be politically savvy to befriend all three of these young women – as they will eventually be three of the most powerful women on earth – but there is a lot of short term thinking that happens in competitive environments, I think.
That “apple cheeked Accepted” still does not have a name. That’s… odd.
Why send out Elayne? Me thinks she needed a reason to send Leane away. She probably ants to talk about Rand and get more detail about Falme. We’ll see.