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 25: Questions
Egwene lays across Nynaeve’s bed, chin in her hands, watching Nynaeve pace back and forth. Elayne is sprawled in front of the fireplace studying the list of names Verin has produced. The list of the stole ter’angreal sits on the table. Egwene’s dreams the previous night had been troubling but she is finding it difficult to trust any Aes Sedai – including Anaiya – enough to discuss them. Yet, she does wish that she had some way of interpreting those dreams.
She had dreamed of the events from her trip through the ter’angreal. She had also dreamed of the Seanchan collaring a long line of Aes Sedai and forcing them to call down lightning against The White Tower. She had a dream about Whitecloaks binding her father’s hands. She supposes that the latter was brought on by homesickness. There had been a dream of Rand reaching for a sword made of crystal and not noticing a fine net being dropped over him. She dreamed of Rand kneeling in a parched chamber where wind blows dust across the floor – creatures like the one on the Dragon Banner but much smaller – flew on that wind and settled into his skin. She dreamed of him walking down into a great hole in a black mountain. She dreamed of Rand confronting Seanchan. Of the last she is uncertain but she knows that the others must mean something.
Before Egwene had learned the truth about the Black Ajah, she had done careful questioning of Anaiya. The Blue Sister told her that a Dreamer’s dreams about ta’veren are almost always significant. The more strongly the ta’veren, the more that “almost always” becomes “certainly.” Mat and Perrin are ta’veren too and she also dreams of them. She dreamed of Mat with a falcon on his shoulder and Perrin with a hawk – only the hawk holds a leash in her talons. Egwene is almost convinced somehow that both hawk and falcon are female and that the hawk is somehow trying to fasten the leash around Perrin’s neck. She dreams of Perrin – with a beard! – leading a huge pack of wolves that stretches as far as the eye can see.
She dreams about Mat placing his own left eye on a balance scale. She also dreams about Mat hanging by his neck from a tree limb. She dreamed of Mat and the Seanchan though she dismisses that as a nightmare. She also dismisses a dream of Mat speaking the Old Tongue as something that came from what she heard during his healing. She sighs and the sigh turn into another yawn. She and the others had gone to Mat’s room after breakfast to check on him only to find him gone. Egwene thinks to herself that Mat is probably well enough to go dancing.
Light, now I will probably dream about him dancing with Seanchan.
Egwene shifts her position on the bed to look at her friends again. Elayne is still reading. Nynaeve’s pacing has slowed. Egwene expects Nynaeve to say something again. The former Wisdom stops and tells Elayne to put the list away. She says that Verin gave them rubbish. She asks aloud whether this is all that Verin had or whether Verin gave them rubbish on purpose. This statement is as Egwene had expected. She thinks it will be about half an hour until Nynaeve says it again. Elayne replies to her that knowing their names helps as does knowing what they look like.
Egwene remembers Nynaeve in the hallway, holding a candle, as she exited Sheriam’s office first thin that morning, ready for her own appointment with the Mistress of Novices. She thinks that this is why Nynaeve is so irritable. Egwene thinks to herself that if Elayne’s pride can stand those visits, Nynaeve’s should as well.
Elayne speaks out saying that Liandrin was the only Red. She points out that all of the other Ajahs lost two Sisters, each. Nynaeve told her to be quiet, calling her Child. Elayne responds by giving her a meaningful look and holding up her hand to display her own Great Serpent Ring. She then continues. Elayne points out that no two Sisters on the list were born in the same city and no more than two were born in the same country. She says the Amico Nagoyin was the youngest, only a few years older than Elayne and Egwene. She then adds that Joiya Byir could be their grandmother. Egwene does not like that one of the Black Ajah shares her daughter’s name. Meanwhile, Nyneaeve replies coolly to Elayne asking what this information tells them.
Elayne: It tells us that it is all too neat. What chance that thirteen women chosen solely because they are Darkfriends could be so neatly arrayed across age, across nations, across Ajahs? Shouldn’t there be perhaps three Reds, or four born in Cairhein, or just two the same age if it was all chance? They had women to choose from or they could not have chosen so random a pattern. There are still Black Ajah in the Tower, or elsewhere we don’t know about. It must mean that.
Nynaeve gives her brad a ferocious tug before conceding that Elayne could be right. Nynaeve says that she had been hoping all of the Blacks went with Liandrin when Elayne replies that they do not even know that she is their leader. She continues and speculates about why they went to so much trouble to hide a pattern, except for a lack of a pattern. She says that there must be a pattern to the Black Ajah’s membership that this list was attempting to obscure.
Nynaeve: Elayne, if watching your mother’s court taught you to think like this then I am glad you watched closely.
Elayne smiles and Egwene eyes the older woman thinking that she seems ready to stop being a bear with a sore tooth. Egwene suggests that perhaps the lack of pattern is an attempt to get someone to go looking for a pattern that does not exist. Elayne admits that this might be right, too, before agreeing again that Nynaeve might be right as to the list of information being rubbish. Elayne snatches a paper from the stack in front her of and reads.
Elayne: Rianna has black hair with a white streak above her left ear. If I am close enough to see that then it is closer than I want to be. Chesmal Emry is one of the most talented Healers anyone has seen in years. Light, could you imagine being healed by one of the Black Ajah? Marillin Gemalphin is fond of cats and goes out of her way to help injured animals. Cats!
Elayne declares that this is all useless rubbish but Nynaeve says that perhaps it is and perhaps it is not. She points out to Elayne that she has already found in these papers something for them to look for and she suggests that perhaps they will find more if they are patient. Nynaeve adds that they also have the other list as well. Both she and Elayne look at Egwene and frown worriedly. Egwene avoids looking at the table where the other list lays. The list of ter’angreal has etched itself into her mind. More than half of the thirteen ter’angreal which were stolen were all listed as “use unknown” and all of them were also last studied by Corianin Nadeal. Egwene shivers and says that it is getting so that she does not even like to think of that number. Of the other ter’angreal stolen, many of those with a known use related to sleep in some way. It was almost a relief to Egwene to learn that one of the ter’angreal produced something called balefire. Verin’s note on balefire was written in such a strong hand that it tore the parchment in two places. Verin wrote that it was dangerous and almost impospsible to control.
Nynaeve runs her finger down the list on the table and comments that she has found one Mat would enjoy.
Nynaeve: Item. A carved cluster of six spotted dice joined at the corners less than two inches across. Use unknown save that channeling through it seems to suspend chance in some way, or twist it. Tossed coins presented the same face every time and in one test landed balanced on edge one hundred times in a row. One thousand tosses of the dice produced five crowns one thousand times. Mat would love that.
Egwene gets to her feet and sticks her arm up the chimney until she finds a woolen stock holding a lump inside of it. She pulls down the sock and retrieves a ring from inside of it. She dumps it only the ter’angreal list. Nynaeve suggests that perhaps Verin simply missed the fact that so many of them were last missed by Corianin though she does not sound as if she really believes it. Elayne nods and tells a story of seeing Verin walking once in the rain, so wrapped in her own thoughts that Elayne does not believe the Brown Sister knew it was raining until Elayne put the cloak around her shoulders. Elayne says that Verin could have missed it. Egwene replies that she may have missed it, but if she did not, she had to have known that Egwene would notice as soon as she read the list.
Egwene: Sometimes I think Verin notices more than she lets on.
Elayne sighs and says that they have Verin to suspect as well and points out that if Verin is Black Ajah then the Black Ajah know exactly what they are doing. Elayne then brings up Alanna. All three of them agree that Aes Sedai simply do not do what Alanna did inside Egwene’s testing chamber. Nynaeve, after saying she likes Alanna, tells the other two that the Mother knows of it at least and says that she can keep an eye on the Green Sister far more easily than they can. Egwene asks about Elaida and Sheriam.
Elayne: I have never been able to like Elaida. But I cannot truly believe she is Black Ajah. And Sheriam? It’s impossible.
Nynaeve snorts and reminds the other two that it should be impossible for all of them and she adds that there is nothing to say that the Blacks will all be women that they do not like. She says that she does not want to put this kind of suspicion on anyone and argues that they need more to go on than just that one of them saw something she shouldn’t have seen. Nynaeve says that they will tell the Amyrlin that much if she ever looks in on them as she said that she would. Nynaeve reminds Elayne that the Amyrlin does not know she is helping and Elayne replies that she is not likely to forget before adding that they should have some other way to get word to her.
Elayne: My mother would have planned it better.
Nynaeve: Not if she couldn’t trust her messengers.
Nynaeve tells the other two that it is just as well that the communication between themselves and the Amyrlin is difficult because it means they have a measure of freedom in deciding when and what to do. She puts her hand on the ring Verin gave to Egwene and tells the other two that she will sleep with it tonight. Egwene does not hesitate to take the ring from Nynaeve’s hand.
Egwene: I am the one that they say might be a Dreamer. I do not know whether that gives me any advantage. But Verin said it’s dangerous using this. Whichever of us uses it, she needs any advantage she can find.
Nynaeve grips her braid and opens her mouth as if to protest but when she finally speaks it is to ask Egwene if she is sure. She points out that they do not know for certain that Egwene is a Dreamer and she says that she can channel more strongly than Egwene can. Egwene cuts her off to point out that Nynaeve can only channel more strongly when she is angry. She asks the older woman if she can be sure she will be angry in a dream.
Egwene: Light, we don’t even know if anyone can channel in a dream. If one of us has to do it, and you are right, it is the only connection that we have, it shoudl be me. Maybe I really am a Dreamer. Besides, Verin did give it to me.
Nynaeve looks as if she wants to argue but at last she gives a grudging nod. She adds that she and Elayne will be there and suggests that maybe they can wake Egwene up if something goes wrong. Elayne nods at this. Now that it is decided, Egwene feels a queasiness in the pit of her stomach.
Egwene suddenly becomes aware of a woman standing in the doorway in Novice white with her hair in long braids. Nynaeve asks Else if no one ever taught her to knock. Egwene hides the stone ring inside her fist. She has the strangest feeling that Else had been staring at it. Else replies calmly to Nynaeve that she has a message for her. Her eyes study the table and the three women gathered around it. Else says that the message is from the Amyrlin.
Nynaeve asks her what the message is. Else replies that the belongings left behind by Liandrin and the others are in the third storeroom on the right from the main stairs in the second basement under the library. Else glances at the papers on the table again and then leaves.
When she goes, Egwene feels as if she cannot breathe.
Egwene: We are afraid to trust anybody and the Amyrlin decides to trust Else Grinwell of all people?
Nynaeve replies that Else cannot be trusted not to blab to anyone who will listen. Nynaeve starts for the door but Egwene grabs up her skirts and darts past her at a run. She catches a glimpse of white and dashes after it. Egwene thinks that Else must be running too to be so far ahead already. The flash of white disappears down another ramp. Egwene follows. A woman turns to face her at the foot of the ramp. Egwene stops in confusion. Whoever she is, this is not Else. The woman is dressed in silver and white silk, and she sparks feelings Egwene has never had before. She is taller, more beautiful than Egwene by far, and the look in her black eyes makes Egwene feel small and scrawny and none too clean. Egwene thinks that this woman cn probably channel more of the power than she can, also.
Light, she is probably smarter than all three of us put together on top of it.
Abruptly, Egwene realizes the way her thoughts are going and she stops. The woman tells Egwene that she is bold to go running about like that, alone, where so many murders have been done. She sounds almost pleased. Egwene asks pardon and explains that she is looking for a novice that came this way. Egwene describes Else and asks the woman if she saw her. The tall woman looks Egwene up and down in an amused way. She cannot be sure but she thinks the woman glanced at the clenched fist by her side where she still holds the stone ring. The woman tells Egwene that she does not thnk that she will catch up to her. She adds that she saw her running quite fast.
Egwene addresses her as Aes Sedai and when she does, something like anger or annoyance flashes on the woman’s face. She tells Egwene that she has taken up enough time with her right now and adds that she has more important matters to see to. She then orders Egwene to leave her. So strong was the command in her voice that Egwene turns and is three steps up the ramp before she realizes what she is doing. When she turns back, the gallery is empty. She looks around. There is no woman in silver and white anywhere.
Lanfear. We have seen her look like Selene before. We have seen her disappear randomly before (when she was with Rand in Cairhein she vanished from her room at the Inn completely unseen.) We have seen her travel kind of impossibly fast – again in Cairhein (on the night Rand invented gunpowder, “Selene” was with him, and after they parted ways she somehow arrived at Rand’s Inn and left a note for him there before he got back.)
Here… she appears to have just disguised herself as Else Grinwell. It’s strange though because we are given at least the impression that Selene just looks like a younger Lanfear. Else looks quite different. But assuming Lanfear can do an Else disguise, that means it is highly likely that when Mat left for his outing in the previous chapter, he ran into a disguised Lanfear and caught her completely off guard. Something about the idea of Mat unsettling Lanfear makes me laugh. Maybe the disguise has something to do with her insistence that Mat not stand too close to her?
In this chapter, Lanfear sets the girls up to go look for more information on the Black Ajah. She tells them where to go. Is it likely that the information about the storeroom came from Siuan? Probably not. Or… it was at least not likely Siuan’s original idea.
It’s fair to assume that the Forsaken knows *exactly* what the girls are up to. Otherwise why give them instructions about finding the Blacks. How could she know to pull that string unless either A) she has been spying on them for a while, or B) she has an inside source. I recall that Egwene saw a flash of white in the hallway when she went to visit Verin. Perhaps that was Lanfear, too.
On the topic of inside sources, I think Elayne makes a pretty compelling argument, based on her study of the notes, that there are still a LOT of Black Sisters in the White Tower. That’s fun.
The girls did not spend much time discussing the new information that Black Sisters could forcibly turn people to the Shadow if they can channel. That omission feels odd. Shouldn’t they have brought up how this gives them doubts about Siuan?
It sounds like Egwene will be visiting The World of Dreams sometime soon. It seems likely that the Black Ajah knows how to visit, too.