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 18: Healing
Lamps lit the wall passes deep into the Tower where Sheriam took Egwene, Nynaeve, and Layne. The doors they passed where shut tight and some of them were designed cleverly so that they remained unseen until Egwene is on top of them. She sees no other people. These are not places even Aes Sedai come often. She shivers and at the same time feels sweat on her back.
Down in this part of the Tower, novices test for becoming Accepted. Also down here Accepted take The Three Oaths after passing their final test. Egwene realizes that no one has ever told her what happens to an Accepted who fails. Down here is where some of the Tower’s angreal and sa’angreal are kept and it is also home to the places where the ter’angreal are stored. The Black Ajah had struck at those store rooms. Egwene is nervous about some of them lying in wait ahead of them.
When Sheriam suddenly comes to a stop, Egwene lost in thought squeaks in surprise. As the other women look at her, she apologizes and tells them that she was thinking of the Black Ajah. Sheriam kindly tells her not to think on it and says she has years yet before they become her concern. Sheriam then instructs the women to stay against the wall and remain silent after entering. They enter.
The square room inside the door they enter is spacious. The only furnishing is a long stone table draped with a white cloth in the middle. Mat is on that table, fully clothed, save for coat and boots. His eyes are closed and his face is so gaunt that Egwene wants to cry. His labored breathing makes a hoarse whistle. The Shadar Logoth dagger lays sheathed on his belt with the ruby hilt of the dagger gathering light so that it seems to glow like some fierce red eye.
The Amyrlin Seat stands at Mat’s head. Leane Sedai stands at his feet. Four other Aes Sedai stand on one side of the table and three stand on the other side. Sheriam joins the three, one of which is Verin. Egwene recognizes Serafelle, another Brown Sister. She also sees and recognizes Alanna Mosvani of the Green Ajah and Anaiya of the Blue. Both of these Sisters began her training in learning to open herself to the One Power and Anaiya tested her regularly regarding her potential abilities as a Dreamer. The rest of the Aes Sedai are unknown to her except one cool eyed woman that she believes is a White. Only the Amyrlin and the Keeper wear their stoles.
Despite the calm on the faces of the women at the table, Egwene thinks that she sees signs of uncertainty – tightness around the mouth and unconscious smoothing of skirts. An Aes Sedai that Egwene does not know sets a plain and polished box on the table and opens it. From its nest in red silk lining, the Amyrlin takes out a long fluted wand the length of her forearm. No one alive knows what the wand is made of.
Egwene has never seen the wand before but she recognizes it from a lecture that Anaiya gave to the novices. It is one of the few sa’angreal, and perhaps also the most powerful, that the Tower possesses. Egwene clutches the hands of Nynaeve and Elayne on either side of her. She thinks that if they had tried to heal Mat, as they had discussed, they likely would have killed him.
The Amyrlin announces that she will meld the flows. She says that the power needed to break the bond between Mat and the dagger is very close to the same power that would kill them. She begins.
Mat is still unconscious but his hand tightens on the dagger and he mutters something that sounds like a denial. A glow appears around each Aes Sedai. Their lights merge with each other until there is only one light. To Egwene’s eyes, this glow diminishes the light of the lamps to nothing. In that brightness is an even brighter light – a bar of bone white fire.
Egwene feels a pull to embrace the power and to add her ability to the joined ability around the table. Elayne tightens the grip on her hand. Nynaeve takes a step toward the table and then stops with an angry shake of her head. Egwene thinks to herself that she could do it – but she does not know what it is that she could do. She is almost overwhelmed by the strength of the light.
On the table, Mat thrashes and mutters incomprehensibly. He does not loosen his hold on the dagger and his eyes remain closed. Slowly he begins to arch his back with his muscles straining until he shakes. Only his heels and shoulders touch the table. His hand on the dagger springs open and quivering creeps back from the hilt by force. His lips pull back from his teeth in a snarl.
Egwene mutters that they are killing him and that they three must do something. Nynaeve tells her, softly, that if they stop them – if they can stop them – Mat could die. Nynaeve says that she does not think she could handle half of that much of the power and then pauses as if she has just heard her own words, that she could channel half of what ten full Aes Sedai did with a sa’angreal.
Nynaeve whispers to the other two that they must trust the Aes Sedai and that Mat has no other chance. Suddenly Mat shouts loud and strong.
“Muad’drin tia dar allende caba’drin rhadiem!” Arched and struggling, eyes squeezed shut, he bellowed the words clearly. “Los Valdar Cuebiyari! Los! Carai an Caldazar! Al Caldazar!”
Egwene frowned. She had learned enough to recognize the Old Tongue, if not to understand more than a few words. Carai an Caldazar! Al Caldazar! “For the honor of the Red Eagle! For the Red Eagle!” Ancient battle cries of Manetheren, a nation that had vanished during the Trolloc Wars. A nation that had stood where the Two Rivers was now. That much, she knew; but in some way it seemed for a moment that she should understand the rest, too, as if the meaning were just out of sight, and all she had to do was turn her head to know.
With a loud pop of tearing leather, the golden-sheathed dagger rose from Mat’s belt, hung a foot above his straining body. The ruby glittered, seemed to send off crimson sparks, as if it, too, fought the Healing.
Mat’s eyes opened, and he glared at the women standing around him. “Mia ayende, Aes Sedai! Caballein mirain ye! Inde muagdhe Aes Sedai misain ye! Mia ayende!” And he began to scream, a roar of rage that went on and on, till Egwene wondered that he had breath left in him.
Anaiya lifts a dark metal box from under the table and sits it beside Mat, opening the lid. She then bends again for a set of tongs. She grasps the floating dagger in them carefully as if it is a poisonous snake. Mat’s scream grows frantic. The red ruby shines furiously. Anaiya puts the dagger into the box and then snaps the lid down. As soon as the dagger is hidden, Mat’s shriek cuts off and he collapses. An instant later, the glow surrounding the Aes Sedai at the table winks out. The Amyrlin announces hoarsely that it is done.
Some of the Aes Sedai sag visibly with sweat beading on more than one brow. Verin comments aloud that it is fascinating that the Old Blood could flow so strongly in anyone. Nynaeve speaks up and asks if Mat is healed. The Amyrlin asks one of the Aes Sedai to see that Mat is taken back to his room. As she goes to summon bearers for Mat, several of the other Aes Sedai leave as well. Nynaeve asks more harshly if Mat is alright. Sheriam raises an eyebrow at her tone and the Amyrlin replies that Mat is as well as he can be. She states that only time will tell what the long term effects are but says that the bond with the dagger is broken. She tells Nynaeve that Mat now needs rest and as much food as can be gotten into him. Siuan says that Mat should live.
Elayne asks the Amyrlin what Mat was shouting. The Amyrlin gives Mat a quizzical look and then tells her that he was ordering soldiers.
Siuan: In a battle two thousand years gone, I would say. The Old Blood comes again.
Nynaeve protests and says it was not all about a battle. She points out that she heard him say “Aes Sedai” too. She then belatedly remembers to add the honorific, Mother. Siuan considers quietly whether to answer or what to answer. She finally speaks and tells them that she believes for a time the past and the present, for Mat, were one.
Siuan: He was there and we were here and he knew who we were. He commanded us to release him. “I am a free man, Aes Sedai. I am no Aes Sedai meat.” That is what he said.
Leane sniffs loudly and some of the other Aes Sedai mutter under their breaths. Egwene interjects that Mat could not have meant that as it sounds as Manetheren was allied with Tar Valon. Siuan tells her that it is true that Manetheren was an ally but she adds that no one can know the heart of a man – not even he himself.
Siuan: A man is the hardest animal to put on a leash and the hardest to keep leashed even when he chooses it for himself.
The Amyrlin points out that the three of them have pots to scrub in the kitchens. Egwene asks if the might stay with Mat if he might still die but the Amyrlin tells her she has chores to do. Egwene knows she does not mean the pots. Egwene, Nynaeve, and Elayne curtsy and then follow Sheriam out. Mat has still not moved.
An exorcism! Or something like it, I suppose. I think hearing a loved one speak in a dead language under these circumstances would be pretty terrifying. I for one never want to hear anyone angrily shouting at me in Latin or ancient Greek while visiting them in the hospital – especially if they are almost levitating off their bed. Would it be funny to be the Speaker though? I guess that depends on the circumstances.
Doctor: What brought you here today and why does it concern you?
Me: Audi Iuppiter et tu Iane Quirine dique omnes caelestes vosque terrestres vosque inferni audite…
Doctor: Actually, I’m just going to take a look in the back of your throat.
That said, this is one of the scenes I am most looking forward to in the new TV series. It doesn’t really play as scary in the text so much as it comes across as “oh, there are some exciting layers to Mat we will explore going forward.” Speaking in the Old Tongue is something particular to Mat and it is something he did prior to picking up the dagger. That history probably removes most of the “spooky” vibes of this scene for me. On screen though I think this could be pretty chilling – especially with all the back arching and rage roars. It’s interesting too that both in The Eye of the World and here Egwene feels as though she can almost understand what Mat is saying. If Mat has a really strong Old Blood tie to ancient Manetheren, then it seems Egwene does also.
One other little side note on this chapter is that we get a glimpse again of just how strong Nynaeve might eventually be. Egwene and Elayne are supposed to be the strongest Aes Sedai in a thousand years, eventually, and Moiraine told us earlier in the series that they are like candles next to the bonfire that is Nynaeve (The Great Hunt Ch. 4.) Here we have Nynaeve measuring herself – not too unfavorably – against a room filled with Aes Sedai while they are using a sa’angreal. She strong.
One wonders what it must be like to be an Aes Sedai around Nynaeve. They’re probably some combination of terrified and in awe of her. Of course, the people who know Nynaeve and love her feel that way about her even when not factoring the One Power into their analysis.