The Dragon Reborn (Chapter 23): Sealed

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 23: Sealed

Egwene steps out of the silver arch cold and stiff with anger.

Egwene: Is that all there is for me? To abandon him again and again? To betray him, to fail him, again and again? Is that what there is for me?

Suddenly she realizes that all is not as it should be. The Amyrlin is there now, as Egwene has been taught that she will be. She also sees a shawled Sister from each Ajah and they are all staring at her worriedly. Two Aes Sedai now sit in each place around the ter’angreal with sweat running down their faces. The ter’angreal hums, almost vibrating, and violent streaks of color tear the bright light inside the arches. The glow of saidar briefly envelops Sheriam as she puts a hand on Egwene’s head. The Mistress of Novices announces to the others that Egwene is well. Sheriam says that Egwene is unharmed in a way that sounds as if she had not expected her to be unharmed.

Tension seems to go out of the other Aes Sedai facing Egwene. Elaida lets out a long breath and then hurries away for the last chalice. Only the Aes Sedai around the ter’angreal do not relax. The hum lessens and the light flickering signals the ter’angreal is settling. The Aes Sedai look though as if they are fighting it every inch of the way. Egwene asks what happened and Sheriam tells her gently to be silent.

Elaida comes, close to running, and hands the silver chalice to the Amyrlin. Egwene hesitates only a moment before kneeling. The Amyrlin empties the chalice slowly over Egwene’s head.

Siuan: You are washed clean of Egwene al’Vere of Emond’s Field. You are washed clean of all ties that bind you to the world. You come to us washed clean in heart and soul. You are Egwene al’Vere, Accepted of the White Tower.

The last drop splashes onto Egwene’s hair as the Amyrlin tells her that she is sealed to them now. The last words seem to have a special meaning just between Egwene and the Amyrlin. Siuan thrusts the chalice at one of the other Aes Sedai and produces a gold ring in the shape of a serpent biting its own tail. Egwene trembles as she raises her left hand. She trembles again as the Amyrlin slips the Great Serpent ring onto the third finger. When she becomes Aes Sedai, she can wear the ring on the finger that she chooses, or not at all if it is necessary to hide who she is. However, the Accepted wear the ring on the third finger of their left hand. Unsmiling, Siuan pulls Egwene to her feet.

Siuan: Welcome, Daughter.

She kisses Egwene on the cheek, formally. Egwene is surprised to feel a thrill at being called Daughter instead of Child. As a Novice, she has always been called Child. The Amyrlin kisses her other cheeks and welcomes her again. Then she steps back, regards Egwene critically, and speaks to Sheriam. Siuan tells Sheriam to get Egwene dry and into some clothes before ascertaining again that she is well. Sheriam replies in surprise that she knows Egwene is well and that she saw Egwene’s delving herself. Siuan eyes the ter’angreal, grunts, and says that she means to know what went wrong tonight. Then she strides away purposefully.

Most of the other Aes Sedai join Siuan around the ter’angreal which is now only a silver structure of arches on a ring. Sheriam tells Egwene that the Mother is worried about her, causing Egwene to ask how much reason she had for the worry. Sheriam does not answer. Instead she waits for Egwene to dry and then hands her a white dress, banded with the colors of the seven Ajahs – the standard dress of all Accepted. Egwene slips into the dress with a flash of disappointment. She wonders why she does not feel any different despite the ring and the dress of the Accepted.

Elaida walks over, her arms filled with Egwene’s novice dress and shoes, her pouch, and the papers Verin gave her. Egwene makes herself wait for Elaida to hand everything over rather than reaching to snatch them away. She thanks Elaida and tries to eye the papers surreptitiously. She cannot tell if they have been disturbed. The string around the papers is still tied by Egwene wonders how she would know if Elaida has read all of them. She squeezes her pouch under the cover of the novice dress and feels the peculiar ring inside of it. Egwene is not sure if she would have minded Elaida taking that ring from her.

The Red Sister tells Egwene that she did not want her to be brought forward tonight. She says it is not because of what happened tonight – as no one could have foreseen that – but because she says Egwene is a Wilder. Egwene tries to protest but Elaida continues on.

Elaida: Oh, I know you learned to channel under Aes Sedai teaching. But you are still a Wilder – a Wilder in spirit, a Wilder in ways. You have vast potential else you would never have survived in there tonight. But potential changes nothing.

She continues on and says that she does not believe that Egwene will ever be a part of the White Tower in the way that the rest of them are. She suggests that it would have been better for Egwene to learn enough not to harm herself and then to return to her sleepy village. She then quickly turns and stalks away. Egwene thinks as she goes that if Elaida is not Black Ajah that she is the next thing to it.

Egwene mutters to Sheriam that she could have said something or helped her. Sheriam replies that she would have helped a Novice. She says that Egwene is Accepted now and that it is time for her to learn to protect herself. Egwene tries to study Sheriam’s eyes. She knows that Sheriam had as much opportunity as Elaida to study her papers and read through the list of names.

Egwene: Sheriam, what did happen tonight and don’t put me off.

The Mistress of Novices’ eyebrows rise almost to her scalp at Egwene’s tone. Egwene hastily rephrases her question to name Sheriam as Sheriam Sedai. She then asks forgiveness. Sheriam reminds Egwene that she is not Aes Sedai yet but despite the steel in her voice a smile touches her lips. She then answers to say that she does not know what happened except that she fears Egwene almost died.

Alanna joins them and asks who knows what happens to those who do not come out of the ter’angreal. The look she gives Egwene is almost diffidence. She says that she should have stopped the testing as soon as she noticed the reverberation. She explains that it returned while Egwene was inside the arches, one thousand fold, or even ten thousand fold. She says that the ter’angreal almost seemed to be trying to shut itself off form saidar, or to melt itself through the floor. She tells Egwene that she has her apologies but says that words of apology are not enough.

Alanna: I say this and by the First Oath you know it is true. To show my feelings I will ask the Mother to let me share your time in the kitchens. And yes, your visit to Sheriam, too. Had I done as I should, you would not have been in danger of your life and I will atone for it.

Sheriam’s laugh is scandalized as she tells Alanna that the Mother will never allow that. Sheriam says it is unheard of. Egwene tells Alanna Sedai that what happened was not her fault as she wonders why the Green Sister is doing this. She thinks that perhaps this is a show to convince Egwene that she did not have something to do with what almost happened and so that she can keep an eye on Egwene, too. Egwene decides that she is letting her imagination run away with her when she pictures an Aes Sedai up to her elbows in greasy pots, three times per day, for the sole purpose of keeping an eye on her. However, she also knows that it is unthinkable for Alanna to do as she says she will. In any case, though, Egwene at least knows Alanna had no chance to see the list of names given to her by Verin while she was tending the ter’angreal.

Alanna insists that if she had done as she was supposed to do, it would never have happened. She adds that the only time she has ever seen anything similar to this before was years earlier, when they tried to use one ter’angreal in the same room as another that may have been in some way related to the first. She says it is extremely rare to find two ter’angreal such as that. Alanna tells Egwene that the pair of ter’angreal melted and that every Sister in the room had such a headache for a week that they could not channel a spark.

Egwene’s hand tightens around her pouch as she feels the stone ring. Alanna notices the change of her expression and asks her what is the matter. Egwene realizes that she caused the problem with her testing. She tells Alanna that she did nothing wrong and says a bit too vehemently that she has no reason to share in her punishments. Sheriam is taken aback by Egwene’s tone but agrees with her. Alanna shakes her head and Egwene changes the subject by asking her slowly what it means to be Green Ajah.

Sheriam’s eyes open wide with amusement. Alanna grins openly.

Alanna: Just with the ring on your finger and already deciding which Ajah to choose? First, you must love men. I don’t mean be in love with men. Love them. Not like a Blue who merely likes men so long as they share her causes and do not get in her way. And certainly not like a Red who despises them as if every one of them were responsible for the Breaking.

Alviarin, the White Sister who came with the Amyrlin, gives them a cool look. Alanna says that she must not love men like a White who has no room in her life for any passions at all. Egwene politely says that this is not exactly what she meant. She says she wants to know what it means to be a Green Sister. Egwene is not certain Alanan will understand because she is not certain she herself understands what she wants to know. Alanna nods slowly as if she does understand.

Alanna: Browns seek knowledge, Blues meddle in causes, Whites consider the questions of truth with implacable logic. We all do some of it all, of course, but to be a Green means to stand ready.

A note of pride enters Alanna’s voice as she tells Egwene that during the Trolloc Wars the Greens were often known as the Battle Ajah. She says all Aes Sedai helped when and where they could but the Green Ajah was always with the armies. She says that they were the counter to the Dreadlords. She says now they stand ready for the Trollocs to come south again and for Tarmon Gai’don – The Last Battle. She tells Egwene that they will be there and that this is what it means to be a Green. Egwene thanks her and wonders to herself that this is what she was in the world inside her Raising. She wonders if it is what she will be.

The Amyrlin joins them and they sweep deep curtsies to her. She asks Egwene if she is well. Her eyes flick to the papers sticking out of Egwene’s dress and she says that she will know the why of what occurred here tonight before she is done. Egwene’s cheeks redden as she tells Siuan that she is well. Then in the next moment, Alanna surprises her by asking the Amyrlin just what she had said she would ask.

Siuan: I never heard of such a thing! The owner doesn’t muck out with the bilge boys even if he has run the boat on a mud flat!

The Amyrlin glances at Egwene. Worry tightens her eyes, as does anger. She tells the Green Sister that she shares her concern before assenting to allow Alanna to visit Sheriam if it will assuage her feelings. Siuan is explicit though that the meeting is to be strictly between the two of them. She says that she will not have Aes Sedai held up to ridicule, though, even inside the White Tower. Just as Egwene opens her mouth to confess all and give up the ring, Alanna forestalls her by asking about working in the kitchens. Suian angrily tells her not to be ridiculous.

Siuan: You’d be a laughingstock inside the day except for those who decided you were mad. Don’t think it would not follow you. Tales like that have a way of traveling. You would find stories told of the scullion Aes Sedai from Tear to Maradon and that would reflect on every Sister. No. If you need to rid yourself of some feeling of guillt and cannot handle it as a grown woman would, very well, I have told you that you may visit Sheriam. Accompany her tonight when you leave here.

Siuan adds that tomorrow Alanna can start finding out what went wrong here tonight. Alanna agrees in a perfectly neutral tone. As this went on, the desire to confess died in Egwene. Alanna had shown only one brief flash of disappointment – when she realized the Amyrlin would not allow her to join Egwene in the kitchens. Egwene decides that Alanna does not want to be punished any more than any sensible person does. However, Egwene believes that Alanna did want an excuse to be in her company. Egwene knows that Alanna could not have deliberately caused teh ter’angreal to go wild so she wonders whether Alanna is Black Ajah. Wrapped in thought, Egwene hears a throat cleared. The Amyrlin is staring right into her.

Siuan: Since you seem to be asleep standing up, Child, I suggest you go to bed.

For one instant, her eyes flash to the nearly concealed papers in Egwene’s hands. She then tells Egwene that she has much work to do tomorrow and for many days thereafter. Her eyes hold Egwene for just a moment and then she strides away befor any of them can curtsy.

Sheriam rounds on Alanna as soon as the Amyrlin is out of earshot. The Green Sister glowers and takes it all in silence. Sheriam calls her a fool and suggests that she is doubly a fool if she thinks she will go lightly just because they were novices together. Sheriam starts to say that Alanna is taken by the Dragon when she abruptly turns to face Egwene and asks if she did not hear the Amyrlin order her to her bed. She tells Egwene that if she breaths a word of this she will wish Sheriam buried her in a field and then manured the ground. She finishes by reminding Egwene that she will see her in her study first thing in the morning, and not one breath later, before ordering her to go. Egwene goes and her head spins. She wonders if there is anyone she can trust.

She reflects on the fact that the Amyrlin sent them chasing off after thirteen Black Ajah without letting them know that thirteen is just the number of Black Sisters necessary to turn them to the Shadow against their will. She does not want to be alone and hurries to the Accepted’s quarters while thinking that tomorrow she will live here herself. She knocks and pushes open Nynaeve’s door knowing that she can trust her with anything. Inside, Nynaeve is seated in one of the two chairs with Elayne’s head buried in her lap. Elayne is weeping but she lifts a face, red and swollen, when she sees Egwene enter.

Elayne: I could not be that awful Egwene, I just couldn’t.

The accident with the ter’angreal, Egwene’s fear over the papers, and her suspicions of everyone had buffered her in a rough and ungentle way from what happened inside the ter’angreal. Elayne’s words stripped the buffer away and Egwene’s emotions hit her as if the ceiling has collapsed.

Rand her husband and Joiya her baby. Rand pinned and begging her to kill him. Rand chained to be gentled. Before she is aware of moving, Egwene is on her knees beside Elayne with the tears that should have fallen earlier coming out now in a flood.

Egwene: I couldn’t help him Nynaeve. I just left him there.

Nynaeve flinches as if struck before embracing Egwene as well as Elayne. She tells both of them that it eases with time. She adds that one day they will make them pay their price before telling them again to hush, hush.

REACTION:

I’m not going to spoil beyond this chapter. That said, there are a few very subtle things that happen here that are kind of interesting in light of future events and what we find out later.

With respect to what we just read, Egwene is now Accepted. We learn – or think we learn at least – that the silver arches are closely related in some way with Egwene’s newly acquired Dream ter’angreal. That definitely raises some interesting questions about how real her experiences inside the arches might actually have been.

We are also given another reason not to like Elaida. The Red Sister makes kind of a public show of not liking Egwene. On the heels of Egwene’s trip through the arches, and Elaida’s role there as her arch-enemy, it really paints Elaida as a villain with the reader. However, if we keep in mind that Elaida has no idea what happened in the ter’angreal, and if we remember in Chapter 17, that Elaida tells all of them that she intends to protect them, then maybe something else is going on here. Did she make a public show of disapproval of Egwene… to protect Egwene? That actually seems likely to me. Distance yourself from her publicly so that nobody notices what you are trying to do for her privately. The giveaway, in my opinion, is how flimsy her argument is that Egwene is a Wilder and the fact she did not say the same things to her privately when she had the chance. So to me at least, that whole thing had the feel of theater. I’m also not sure that Sheriam bought it. Sheriam did not say a word during Elaida’s entire tirade. “You need to learn to protect yourself” is a weird justification for her silence.

Does it matter that Elaida was Black in the arches? Maybe. Maybe not. Perhaps Elaida from another world did turn Black. That does not mean *this* Elaida is Black. But it might mean she is persuadable to that cause. That said, of course, she might just be Black. Heck, maybe all of the Aes Sedai in the room were Black.

Sheriam has been so warm of late that we forget she has been the most overtly shady Aes Sedai we have met thus far. The Gray Man incident… happened. Alanna was also pretty strange in this chapter. She gives Egwene, inadvertently, the explanation for what happened. My guess is that she will inquire with the Sisters in the room as to whether any of them had a ter’angreal on her person during the Raising ceremony. Egwene is correct – it seems – that she was almost brazenly seeking out an opportunity to be alone with her. It seems likely that Sheriam and Siuan both picked up on that brazen effort and Siuan shuts it down.

Speaking of Siuan… would it have been useful to share with Egwene that 13 Black Sisters can turn her to the Shadow against her will? The only reason I can think for Siuan to share that is if she is trying to scare her out of taking on the job. Does it make sense that if the Amyrlin Seat herself is Black that she’d try to slow walk Egwene, Elayne, and Nynaeve into a Black Ajah “turn ’em Black” trap in this way? Surely there are easier ways for Siuan to have sprung that on them. But we’ll see. My read of things thus far is that Siuan views Egwene as a tool. She is willing to risk losing or breaking her tools due to how few of them she has.

All in all, I think Siuan seems the least SUS of all the Aes Sedai mentioned in this chapter… if for no other reason than that I think her motivations don’t make sense. Countering the tone of Egwene’s perspective, I also don’t really think Elaida is a Black baddie, either. The other two though? Very suspect.

We end with Nynaeve comforting the two new Accepted and vowing revenge against all Aes Sedai. Her anger is a consistent source of comfort.

As for the ceremony itself… it’s hard to imagine carrying the emotions of the arches a long time after. The way that we consume entertainment in the 21st century means that we’re a bit desensitized to our feelings. Nynaeve is still hurting months later from her own Accepted ceremony. She does not take in a steady stream of true crime novels, horror movies, etc. There are fewer things on her emotional slate to deaden her emotions. All of her feels seem likely to be about real things.

Specifically for Egwene… if the arches actually reflect her deepest fears, then her greatest and deepest fear is failing Rand. Despite all the Galad and Gawyn talk, spurred by Elayne, she CLEARLY loves Rand deeply and nothing has changed for her emotionally even as the circumstances for how best to help him have changed. That fear of failing Rand was reflected three straight times. Nothing else is more important to Egwene. That’s a big thing to keep in mind when Elayne is trying to steal her boyfriend and Egwene is playing along.

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