The Dragon Reborn (Chapter 21): A World of Dreams

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 21: A World of Dreams

Egwene scrubs her hands with a hand towel as she hurries down a dimly lit corridor. She has washed them twice but they still feel greasy. She had not though that there could be so many pots in the world and today had been bake day. Buckets of ashes had been hauled from the ovens, and the hearths cleaned, and the tables rubbed bone white with fine sand, and the floors scrubbed on hands and knees. Her white dress is stained by ash and grease. Her back aches and she wants to be in her bed, however, Verin had come to the kitchens supposedly for a meal to eat in her rooms. However, while she was there, she whispered a summons to Egwene in passing.

Verin’s quarters are above the library. The corridors there are used only be a few other Brown sisters. There is a dusty air to the hallways there as though the women there are too busy with other things to have the servants clean very often. The passages there take odd turns and twists, sometimes dipping or rising unexpectedly. The tapestries are few, with dull paintings, apparently cleaned as seldom as everything else here. Many of the lamps are unlit.

Egwene thought that she had the hallway to herself except for seeing a flash of white up ahead. She thinks it is perhaps a novice scurrying on a task. She can hear her shoes making echoes on the tile and decides that this is not a comfortable place for one thinking of the Black Ajah. Finally she finds what Verin had told her to look for – a dark paneled door at the top of a rise. Egwene raps on the door and enters hurriedly on the heels of Verin telling her to come inside.

Egwene enters the room before stopping and staring. Shelves filled by books and odd artifacts line the walls except for where maps are hanging. She sees an opening for what must lead into an inner room and goes inside. Candlesticks have been stuck about the room in a haphazard fashion. She finds Verin seated behind a table as cluttered as everything else in the room.

Verin begins discussing a scrap of paper she is holding. She tells Egwene that it is the only writing of its kind to survive the Breaking. She refers to another Aes Sedai, Roselle, who wrote barely two hundred years after the Breaking who claimed that time two hundred pages had survived. However, Verin says that what she is holding is the only one remaining that she knows of. She tells Egwene that Roselle says that the information on the paper contains secrets that the world is not ready to face. Egwene is not sure how to respond and asks her what it says.

Verin reads her the direct translation.

Heart of the Dark, Ba’alzamon, name hidden within name shrouded by name. Secret buried within secret cloaked by secret. Betrayer of Hope. Ishamael betrays all hope. Truth burns and sears. Hope fails before truth. A lie is our shield. Who can stand against the Heart of the Dark? Who can face the Betrayer of Hope? Soul of Shadow. Soul of the Shadow, he is…

Verin then stops with a sigh. She tells Egwene that it ends there and asks what she makes of it. Egwene tells her that she does not know and says that she does not like it. Verin asks her why she should like it or understand it. She then tells Egwene that she has studied this scrap of paper for nearly forty years and she neither likes nor understands it. Verin carefully places the page inside a folder and then casually stuffs the folder into a pile of papers. She then tells Egwene that she did not come here for that.

Verin rummages across the table and comes up with a handful of pages covered in a thin spidery hand. She tells Egwene that this is everything known about Liandrin and the women who went with her – including names, ages, Ajahs, and where they were born. Verin tells her that this is everything she could find in the records. She adds that this also includes how each of the Black Sisters performed in their studies. Verin also tells her that the pages include what they know of the ter’angreal that the Black Sisters took. She admits that the latter is not much.

A sudden wave of suspicion overtakes Egwene. She wonders whether the Brown Sister is leaving anything out. She knows that the Amyrlin trusts Verin only because she has to. Egwene wonders whether Verin is Black Ajah herself. She then gives herself a shake. Egwene thinks that she traveled all of the way from Toman Head to Tar Valon with Verin. She decides that she will not believe that this plump scholar might be a Darkfriend. Egwene tells Verin that she trusts her.

Verin tells Egwene that the paper may be very important or it might be a waste of paper. She tells Egwene that the list is not the only reason she summoned Egwene. She starts moving stacks of paper on the table to make space.

Verin: I understand from Anaiya that you might become a Dreamer. The last was Corianin Nadeal, four hundred and seventy-three years ago. And from what I can make of the records she barely deserved the name. It would be quite interesting if you do.

Egwene tells Verin that Anaiya tested her and adds that the Blue Sister could not be sure that any of her Dreams foretold the future. Verin tells her that foretelling the future is only a part of what a Dreamer does. She says that this is perhaps the least part. Verin tells Egwene to look here and then draws a number of parallel lines with her finger in the space that she has cleared on her desk. The lines are in dust which is atop the old beeswax.

Verin: Let these represent worlds that might exist if different choices had been made – if major turning points in the Pattern had gone a different way.

Egwene says that these are the worlds reached by the Portal Stones to show that she had listened to Verin’s lectures on the journey from Toman Head. Verin tells her this is right but adds that the Pattern may be even more complex than that. She tells Egwene that the Wheel weaves their lives to make the pattern of an Age. Howver, she says, the Ages themselves are woven into something called an Age Lace. She asks Egwene who could know if their reality is even a tenth part of the full Weaving.

Verin: Some in the Age of Legends apparently believes that there are still other worlds, even harder to reach than those in the Portal Stones if that can be believed.

Verin draws more lines crossing the first set. For a moment, Verin stares at them. She suggests that perhaps The Wheel of Time weaves a still greater Pattern from other worlds. Verin then wipes off her hands and tells Egwene that in all of these worlds, a few things are constant. She says that the Dark One is imprisoned in all of them. In spite of herself, Egwene steps closer to peer at the lines Verin has drawn. Egwene asks Verin how it can be that the Dark One is imprisoned in all of them. Egwene asks if Verin is saying that there is a Father of Lies for each world. The thought of so many Dark Ones makes Egwene shiver. Verin tells her no. She says that there is one Creator who exists everywhere at once for all of these worlds. She adds that in the same way there is only one Dark One.

Verin: If he is freed from the prison the Creator made on one world, he is freed on all. As long as he is kept prisoner on one, he remains imprisoned on all.

Egwene protests that this does not seem to make sense. Verin explains it by telling Egwene that the Dark One is the embodiment of paradox and chaos. He is the unmaker of order and reason. Egwene takes in a breath and then asks Verin what this has to do with being a Dreamer. Verin tells her that it has nothing to do with it except that they all must confront the Dark One in their own way. She tells Egwene that the Pattern did not bring Rand al’Thor into the world for no reason. She then tells Egwene that Rand will face the Dark One assuming he survives for that long. Egwene asks forgivness bfeore asking Verin why she is telling her about all of this if it has nothing to do with being a Dreamer.

Verin stares at Egwene as though she is being dense. Then she tells Egwene that there is a third constant other than the Creator and The Dark One. She tells Egwene that there is a world that lies within all of these worlds at the same time. She amends her statement to say it might be more correct to say that this world surrounds all of them.

Verin: Writers in the Age of Legends called it Tel’aran’rhiod – The Unseen World. Perhaps ‘The WOrld of Dreams’ is a better translation.

Verin tells Egwene that many people – including those who would never even think of Channeling – sometimes glimpse Tel’aran’rhiod in their dreams. She says that sometimes they even catch glimmers of these other worlds through it. She tells Egwene to think of some of the peculiar things she has seen in her own dreams. She then tells Egwene that a Dreamer – a true Dreamer – can enter Tel’aran’rhiod. Egwene tells Verin that she does not think she is a Dreamer. She starts to cite Anaiya’s failed tests but Verin cuts her off by telling her that the tests prove nothing one way or the other. Verin adds that Anaiya still believes that Egwene may very well be one anyway. Egwene mutters that she will find out one way or the other eventually.

Verin tells Egwene that she has no time to waste and that the Amyrlin entrusted her and Nynaeve with a very dangerous task. She tells Egwene that she must reach out for any tool that she might be able to use. Verin then digs a red box from under her table. The box is large enough to hold sheets of paper. Verin only opens the box a crack before pulling out a ring carved from stone. It contains flecks of blue and brown and red and it is too large to be a finger ring. She hands Egwene the ring. Egwene reaches out to take her and her eyes widen in surprise. Though looking like stone, the ring feels harder than steel and heavier than lead. The circle of it is twisted.

Verin: Corianin Nadeal had that ring in her possession for most of her life. You will keep it now.

Egwene almost drops it. She is stunned that Verin is giving her a ter’angreal. Verin seems not to notice Egwene’s shock and says that according to Corianin Nadeal, the ring eases the passage to The World of Dreams. Verin tells Egwene that she claims it will work for those without the ability to channel as well as for those who are Aes Sedai – so long as you are touching it when you sleep. Verin tells Egwene that there are dangers. She adds that the World of Dreams is not like other dreams – what happens there is real. She shows Egwene a faded scar on her arm and shares that she tried the ring once herself many years ago. She then adds that Anaiya’s healing did not work as well as it should have.

Egwene tells Verin that she will be careful. Internally, Egwene thinks that her dreams are bad enough as they are and that she does not want dreams that leave scars. She also thinks that she wants to learn and badly. Egwene picks up the papers that Verin gave to her. Verin reminds her to keep the ring hidden and tells her that no Novice or Accepted should have a thing like this in her possession. She adds though that it may prove useful. Verin then sends her out and reminds her that she must be up early to help with breakfast.

“““““““““

Verin sits looking at the door for a long time after it closes. Pulling the red box to her, she opens it all the way and frowns at what nearly fills the space. It contains page upon page written in a precise hand with the black ink nearly faded after almost five hundred years. These are Corianin Nadeal’s notes, nearly everything the Aes Sedai learned in nearly fifty years of studying that particular ter’angreal. Verin thinks to herself that Corianin was a secretive woman and that she kept by far the greater part of her knowledge from everyone. Only chance and a habit of rummaging through old papers in the library had lead Verin to her notes.

As far as Verin has discovered, no Aes Sedai other than herself is aware of Corianin’s ter’angreal. Corianin had managed to erase its existence from the records. Verin considers burning the manuscript just as she considered giving it to Egwene. She just cannot bring herself to destroy knowledge. She also thinks, as to Egwene, that what will happen will happen. She closes the lid ono the box and wonders to herself where she left that page. She searches for the leather folder and Egwene is already out of her mind.

REACTION:

Egwene sees a white flash up ahead of her when going to Verin’s room. It might be a novice. Might it also be Lanfear? We know she’s out and about. Speaking of the Forsaken, how about this note:

Heart of the Dark, Ba’alzamon, name hidden within name shrouded by name. Secret buried within secret cloaked by secret. Betrayer of Hope. Ishamael betrays all hope. Truth burns and sears. Hope fails before truth. A lie is our shield. Who can stand against the Heart of the Dark? Who can face the Betrayer of Hope? Soul of Shadow. Soul of the Shadow, he is…

This seems to link Ba’alzamon with Ishamael. The first couple books have mentioned off handedly that Ishamael is out and about though it appears at least we have not met him yet. We also know that Ba’alzamon is out and about. Everyone seems to believe that Ba’alzamon is the Dark One directly but we have seen Ba’alzamon demonstrate limitation and injuries. We have also seen Lanfear react toward Ba’alzamon with a certain amount of disdain. Ba’alzamon = Ishamael would explain all of this.

Why would Verin share that information with Egwene? Perhaps she wants Egwene to better understand what *really* happened in Falme? How might that fit with (maybe) seeing Lanfear in the hallway? (It just seems extremely coincidental to me that we see a white flash seconds before Egwene thinks of the Black Ajah and a chapter after we see “Selene” in Mat’s room.) And now that I’m thinking about it, Verin is the Aes Sedai who finds the reference to Lanfear in the dungeons of Fal Dara. Is there a link between Verin and Lanfear? Verin joins Mat and Perrin’s party in The Great Hunt just as Selene joins Rand, Hurin, and Loial. It’s not for nothing that Egwene has a moment wherein she really doesn’t trust Verin.

The bulk of this chapter is spent exploring The Wheel of Time’s cosmology and Tel’aran’rhiod – The World of Dreams – in particular. This is the place where the multiverse connects. Rare people called “Dreamers” can visit as can people who have the right ter’angreal. Whatever happens there is real.

We should assume that we have seen this place already. Dreams that are not dreams… where things that happen can be real? Injuries can return with you to the real world? All of the Ba’alzamon dreams fit that description.

Earlier in this book, Moiraine told Perrin that his Wolf Dreams may be connected to this place also. If we accept that the wolf dreams are connected, or that they are the same place exactly, then we know that Ba’alzamon, Lanfear, and other Big Baddies lurk in The World of Dreams… because Perrin sees them there. Perrin being able to visit means that channeling is not necessarily a prerequisite for being a Dreamer… that fact will likely come up again.

We don’t learn much from Verin’s POV at the end of the chapter except that she is holding out a lot of information from Egwene. She just sent Egwene to a place that is extremely dangerous and did not equip her with as much knowledge as she could have.. by a long shot. She does not express any animosity toward Egwene. But she does not seem heavily invested in Egwene’s success.

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