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 27: Tel’aran’rhiod
The room Egwene has been given in the Accepted’s Quarters is little different than Nynaeve’s room. Her bed is slightly wider. Her table is smaller. Her rug has flowers instead of scrolls. Compared to her room in the Novice’s Quarters, Egween believes it seems like a room in a palace.
All of them worked in the kitchens for two meals after their trip to the store rooms. While doing the work, they try to puzzle out whether what they found is a trap or whether it is something to divert the search. They wonder also if the Amyrlin knows of the things and if she did, why had she not mentioned them. Talking amongst themselves provided no answers and the Amyrlin never appeared so that they could ask her.
Verin had come into the kitchens after the midday meal blinking as if she was not sure why she was there. When she saw Egwene and the other two on their knees among the cauldrons and kettles, she looked surprised for a moment. She then walked over and asked, loud enough for anyone to hear, whether or not they had found anything. Elayne, with her head in a huge soup kettle, had banged her head on the rim backing out. Her huge blue eyes seemed to take up all of her face. Nynaeve answered Verin that they have found nothing except grease and sweat. Verin nodded as if that was the answer she had been seeking. Verin then told them to keep looking before peering around the kitchen, frowning again, as though puzzled to find herself there. Then she left.
Alanna also visited the kitchens after midday. She collected a bowl of big green gooseberries and a pitcher of wine. Elaida, Sheriam, and Anaiya all appeared as well. Alanna had asked Egwene if she wanted to know more of the Green Ajah and also inquired as to when the three of them are going to get on with their studies. The first few weeks of an Accepted’s studies are difficult. If they do not choose the direction of their studies, though, the direction is chosen for them. Elaida, when she visited, stared at them stern faced with hands on her hips. Sheriam did the same in almost the identical pose. When Anaiya visited, she stood the same way, but her look was one of concern. However, once she saw them glancing at her, her face became a match for those of Elaida and Sheriam. None of the visits meant anything that Egwene can see. Sheriam had reason to check on them, as well as on the Novices in the kitchens and Elaida had reason to check in on the Daughter Heir of Andor. As for Alanna, she was not the only Aes Sedai who came for a tray to take back to her rooms. Half of the Sisters in the Tower are too busy for meals. Egwene thinks that Anaiya might well be concerned for her Dreamer – not that she would do anything to ease a punishment set by the Amyrlin Seat herself.
As Egwene hangs her dress in the wardrobe, she tells herself that even Verin’s slip could have been perfectly ordinary. The Brown Sister is often absent-minded. Of course, Egwene wonders if it was a slip. As Egwene readies for bed, Nynaeve stands by the fire tugging her braid. Elayne sits at the table making nervous conversation. Elayne brings up the Green Ajah and states that she might choose it herself. She says then she could have three or four Warders and perhaps marry one of them.
Elayne: Who better for Prince Consort of Andor than a Warder? Unless it is…
Elayne trails off blushing. Egwene feels a pang of jealousy she thought she put down long ago. She feels sympathy as well. She asks herself how she can be jealous when she cannot look at Galad without shivering as if she is melting. Egwene tells herself that Rand was her but is not hers any longer.
Egwene: [thinking] I wish I could give him to you, Elayne, but he is not for either of us I think.
She adds to her thoughts that it may be well and good for the Daughter Heir of Andor to marry a commoner, so long as he is an Andoran, but it will not be so if that man in the Dragon Reborn. She tells Nynaeve she is ready. Nynaeve hands her the pouch and a long thing strip of leather. Nynaeve suggests that perhaps it will work for more than one person at once and she suggests that she might be able to go with Egwene. As Egwene runs the leather strips through the ring, tying it around her neck, she asks Nynaeve if she would leave Elayne to watch over both of them alone when the Black Ajah may know them.
Elayne says stoutly that she can do it. She adds that perhaps alternatively she could go with Egwene and let Nynaeve keep guard. Elayne points out that Nynaeve is the strongest channeler when she is angry and if there is need for a guard, they can be certain that Nynaeve will be angry. Egwene shakes her head and asks what if the ring does not work for two. She says they would not know until they’ve woken up and then at that point they would have wasted a night. Egwene tells both of them that they cannot waste even one night if they are to catch up. Egwene then tells them that besides all of that, she will feel better with both of them watching over her.
Her unspoken thought is that she will feel better in case someone comes while she is asleep – a Gray Man or the Black Ajah or something else that has turned the White Tower from a place of safety into a dark woods with snares. Their faces show that they understand.
Nynaeve snuffs the candles one by one and Elayne moves the chairs beside the bed. Egwene closes her eyes and tries to think sleepy thoughts, however, she is too conscious of the thing lying between her breasts. The ring seems to weigh as much as a brick now. Nynaeve begins to hum softly and Egwene recognizes a nameless wordless tune that her mother used to hum to her when she was little. Her thoughts drift to home and to Rand and Perrin. She wonders who the woman in white and silver was. Sleep comes.
Egwene stands among rolling hills. Butterflies float above blossoms with wings flashing yellow and blue and green. Two larks sing to each other nearby. The breeze holds the delicate balance just between cool and warm that comes just between winter and spring. It is a day too perfect to be anything other than a dream. She looks down at her dress and laughs delightedly. It is exactly her favorite shade of sky blue silk. She sticks out a foot to peak at her slipper. The only jarring thing is the ring of multi-colored stone around her neck on a leather cord. She takes it into her hand and it feels as light as a feather. She thinks that if she tossed it up it will drift away. She is not afraid of the ring any longer and she tucks it inside the neck of her dress to get it out of the way.
Aloud, she says that this is Verin’s terl’aran’rhiod and that it does not look dangerous to her. Verin had told her it was, though, and Black Ajah or not Egwene does not see how any Aes Sedai can tell a lie right out. Just to see if she can, she opens herself to the One Power. Saidar fills her. She channels a flow lightly and delicately into the breeze. The butterflies form spirals and then circles linked with circles. She lets it go and the butterflies settle back. She knows that myrddraal and Shadowspawn can sense channeling and she thinks that just because she cannot imagine them in this place does not mean that they are not there. She remembers also that the Black Ajah have all of those ter’angreal studied by Corianin Nadeal. The thought is a sickening reminder of why she is here. She decides to look around and takes a step.
She finds herself standing in the dank dark hallway of an Inn. There is no sound and all of the doors along the hall are shut tight. Just as she wonders who is behind the plain wooden door in front of her it swings silently open. The room within is bare and cold moans through open windows. A large dog is curled up on the floor. A large shaggy haired young man sits leaning back against the pillar in only his small clothes. His head is lolling as if asleep. A massive chain runs around the pillar and across his chest. Asleep or not, his own hands hold the chain tight, to prison himself against the pillar.
Egwene steps into the room and asks Perrin what is the matter with him. The dog uncurls itself and stands. It is not a dog, but a wolf, black and gray, lips curling back from glistening white teeth. Its yellow eyes regard her like they might regard a mouse – a mouth the wolf intends to eat. Egwene steps back hastily into the hall in spite of herself. She shouts at Perrin to wake up and tells him that there is a wolf. She shouts for Perin to wake up and tell the wolf that she is a friend while she thinks on Verin’s warning that what happens in The World of Dreams happens to your body as well.
She embraces saidar and the wolf stalks nearer. Perrin’s head comes up. Now two sets of yellow eyes regard her.
Perrin: Hopper! No, Egwene!
The door swings shut before her face and total darkness envelops her. She cannot see but she feels sweat beading on her. She hears a frog and crickets. Her eyes adjust and she dimly makes out trees all around her. Clouds blanket the stars and the moon is a thin sliver. Off to her right is a camp fire. She considers for a moment before moving. Wanting to wake up had not been enough to take her out of Ter’aran’rhiod. She still has not found out anything useful, either. She thinks though that she has not yet been hurt in any way so far. But she has no idea who or what is at that camp fire. She thinks that it could be myrddraal and also that she is not dressed for running around in the forest. The last thought causes her to believe that she is being foolish.
Taking up her silk skirts, she creeps closer. She might not have Nynaeve’s skill at woodcraft but she knows enough not to step on dead twigs. At last she peers around the trunk of an old oak and at the camp fire. The only one there is a tall young man sitting and staring into the flames. Rand. The flames do not burn wood or anything that she can see. The fire merely dances above a bare patch of ground. Before she can move Rand raises his head. She is surprised to see he is smoking a pipe. He looks tired. He asks roughly who is out there.
Rand: You’ve rustled enough leaves to wake the dead so you might as well show yourself.
Egwene’s lips compress but she steps out anyway and announces herself. She tells him that it is a dream and that she must be in his dreams. He is on his feet so suddenly that she stops dead. He seems in some way larger than she remembers and a touch dangerous also. Rand sneers and asks if she thinks he does not know it is a dream. He adds that he knows that makes it no less real. Rand shouts into the night.
Rand; How long will you try? How many faces will you send? My mother? My father? Now her. Pretty girls won’t tempt me with a kiss, not even one I know. I deny you, Father of Lies. I deny you.
Uncertainly, Egwene tries to speak to him again. She tells him who she is. There is a sword in his hands again, suddenly, and out of nowhere. It’s blade is worked out of a single flame, slightly curved, and engraved with a heron. In a tight voice, Rand says that when his mother visited, she gave him honeycake with the small of poison rank on it. He says that his father had a knife for his ribs.
Rand: She.. she offered kisses, and more.
Sweat slicks his face and his stare seems enough to start a fire. He asks Egwene what she brings. Egwene answers to Rand that he is going to listen to her if she has to sit on him. She gathers saidar and channels the flows to make the air hold him in a net. The sword spins in his hands roaring like an open furnace. She grunts and staggers. It feels as if a rope stretched too tight has broken and snapped back into her. Rand laughs and tells her that he learns. He starts toward her and announces to some unseen person that he could stand any face except hers. Rand’s sword flashes out. Egwene flees. She is not sure what it is that she did, or how, but she finds herself back among the rolling hills and the sunny sky. She draws a deep and shuttering breath.
Egwene thinks of what she has learned. She has learned that The Dark One is still after Rand. She notes though that she knew that already. She thinks she has learned that maybe The Dark One wants to kill Rand, too. That’s different, she thinks, unless perhaps he has gone mad already and does not know what he is saying.
Light, why couldn’t I help him?
She takes another breath and calms herself. She thinks that the only way to help him is to gentle him and she thinks that is equivalent to killing him. She announces to herself that she will never do that. Never. A red bird perches on a cloudberry bush nearby. It tilts its head to watch her cautiously. Egwene addresses the bird.
Egwene: Well, I am not helping myself standing here talking to myself am I, or talkin to you, either.
The bird takes wing as she steps toward the bush. She pulls the stone ring from her dress and wonders why everything is not changing. So far, everything has happened quickly. She wonders if there is an answer here. She looks around uncertainly. She tightens her hand around the ter’angreal. She tells it to take her where she needs to be. She closes her eyes to concentrate and embraces saidar. She feeds a trickle of the One Power into the ring.
Egwene: I need to know what the Black Ajah wants. Take me to the answer.
A woman’s voice says that she has found her way at last and that there are all sorts of answers here. Egwene’s eyes snap open. She stands in a great hall. It’s vast domed ceiling is supported by a forest of massive red stone columns. Hanging in midair is a sword of crystal. She is not certain but she thinks it may be the sword Rand had been reaching for in a previous dream.
An old woman steps out of the shadows of the columns. She is bent and hobbling, leaning on a stick. Ugly does not begin to describe her. Egwene asks her who she is. She asks the woman who she is. The old woman is the first person she has met in tel’aran’rhiod that she did not already know. The old woman introduces herself as Sylvie. She cackles and adds hat she has served Egwene’s family faithfully all of these years. She asks if her face still frightens Egwene and says to her that she should not let it. She says that it serves her as well as a prettier. Egwene replies that it is a strong face and a good face. SHe has no idea who Sylvie is but Sylvie seems to think she knows Egwene. Egwene thinks that maybe SYlvie knows answers.
Egwene asks her about answers and Sylvie replies that The Heart of the Stone is filled with answers and secrets. She adds that the High Lords would not be pleased to see them here. She says none but the High Lords and servants visit this place and laughs that the High Lords do not sweep and mob. Egwene asks her about secrets. Sylvie hobbles toward the crystal sword and answers.
Sylvie: Plots. All of them pretending to serve The Great Lord and all the while plotting and planning to regain what they lost, each one thinking that he or she is th eonly one plotting. Ishamael is a fool!
Sharply, Egwene asks her what she means about Ishamael. Sylvie tells her that it’s just a thing poor folks say. She says that it turns the Forsaken’s powers calling them fools. She adds that even the Shadow cannot take being called fool. She tells Egwene to try it.
Sylvie: Say, ‘Ba’alzamon is a fool!’
Egwene’s lips twitch on the edge of a smile before complying. She then tells Sylvie that she is right and that it actually does feel good. The old woman chuckles. She asks Sylvie about the crystal sword
Sylvie: Callandor, my lady. You know that, don’t you? The sword that cannot be touched.
Abruptly she swing her stick behind her. A foot from the sword, the stick stops with a dull thwack, and bounds back. Sylvie grins wider. She says that it is the sword that is not a sword before adding that precious few know what it really is. She also says that none can touch it save one.
Sylvie: They saw to that, who put it here. The Dragon Reborn will hold Callandor one day and prove to the world he’s the Dragon by doing it. The first proof, anyway. Lews Therin come back for all the world to see and grovel before.
She tells Egwene that the High Lords of Tear do not like having it here and explains that they like nothing to do with the One Power. She asks Egwene what one of the Forsaken wouldn’t give to hold Callandor. Egwene stars at the sparkling sword. She knows that if the Prophecies of the Dragon are true, and if Rand is the Dragon as she claims, that Rand will wield this sword one day. She cannot see how it will ever come to be, though. She wonders if the Black Ajah knows a way to take it. She thinks also that if they know it that she can figure it out.
Cautiously Egwene reaches out with the One Power probing at whatever holds and shields the sword. Her probe touches something and stops. She can sense which of the five powers have been used here – air, fire, and spirit. She can trace the intricate weave made by saidar, set with a strength that amazes her. There are gaps in the weave, spaces where her probe should slide through. When she tries, it is like fighting the strongest part of the weave head on. It suddenly hits her what she is trying to force her way through. She lets her probe vanish. Half of the wall is woven with saidar and the other half woven with saidin.
Footsteps echo at a distance. Egwene cannot hell how many there are or from what direction they are coming. Sylvie gives a start and stares off among the columns.
Sylvie: He’s coming to stare at it again. Awake or asleep, he wants…
She stop and seems to remember Egwene. She tells Egwene that she must leave now. She says he must not find her here or even know she has been. Egwene is already backing in among the columns. Sylvie follows flapping her hands and waving her stick. Egwene says that she is going and adds that she just has to remember the way. She fingers the stone ring and tells it to take her back among the hills. Nothing happens. She channels a hairlike flow into the ring and makes the same command. Nothin happens. The boots are closer.
Sylvie: You don’t know the way out.
She tells Egwene to let poor old Sylvie take her out. She puts her arms around Egwene and begins to push. The boot steps have stopped. Egwene thinks that he is probably staring at the crystal sword now. The old woman’s fingers are now tangled among the stone ring. Egwene tells her not to touch it. Sylvie whispers.
Sylvie: Safe in your bed.
Pain annihilates the world. With a throat wrenching shriek, Egwene sits up in the dark. Sweat rolls down her face. For a moment she has no idea where she is. She moans about how much it hurt. She runs her hands over herself. She is sure her skin must be scored but she cannot find a mark. Nynaeve’s voice tells her that they are here. Egwene throws herself toward teh voice and wraps her arms around Nynaeve’s neck in sheer relief.
Egwene: Oh Light, I am back. Oh, Light, I am back!
Nynaeve says Elayne’s name and in a moment one of the candles is giving a small light. Elayne pauses with a candle in hand, and flint and steel in the other. She smiles and then every candle in the room bursts into flame. She stops at the wash stand and comes back to the bed with a cool damp cloth. She asks worriedly if it was bad. Elayne says that Egwene never stirred or mumbled so they did not know whether to wake her or not. Hurriedly Egwene fumbles the leather cord from around her neck and then hurls it and the stone ring across the room.
Egwene: Next time we decide on a time and you wake me after it.
She had not realized until speaking that she has decided there will be a next time. She says softly though that she will not go back tonight. Nynaeve asks her what happened. Egwene lays ack on the bed and tells them. The only thing she leaves out is the part about Perrin talking to the wolf She leaves the wolf out altogether. She thinks that the wolf is Perrin’s secret to tell. The rest she gives word or word describing everything. When she is done she feels emptied.
Elayne asks Egwene if Rand looked hurt. She adds that she cannot believe Rand would ever hurt her. Nynaeve says dryly that Rand will have to look after himself for a while longer. Elayne blushes and Egwene thinks that she looks pretty doing it. In fact, Egwene realizes that Elayne looks pretty doing anything. Nynaeve continues by bringing up Callandor. She says that The Heart of the Stone was marked on the plan. She says that she thinks they know where the Black Ajah is.
Elayne: It does not change the trap. If it is not a diversion, it is a trap.
Nynaeve smiles grimly and says that the best way to deal with the trap is to spring it and then wait for whoever it is that set it to come. Egwene asks if she means that they go to Tear. Nynaeve nods She tells the other two that The Amyrlin has cut them loose, it seems. She says that at least they know the Black Ajah is in Tear and they know who to look for there. Continuing, she adds that in the Tower, all that they can do is sit and stew in their own suspicions and wonder if there is another Gray Man out there.
Nynaeve: I’d rather be the hound than the rabbit.
Elayne says that she has to write to her mother. After the looks they give her, her voice becomes defensive.
Elayne: I have already vanished once without her knowing where I was. If I do it again.. you do not know Mother’s temper. She could send Gareth Bryne and the whole army against Tar Valon. Or hunting after us.
Egwene says that Elayne could stay in Tar Valon. Elayne replies that she will not let the two of them go alone. She also says that she will not stay in the Tower wondering if the Sister teaching her is a Darkfriend or if the next Gray Man will come after her. She gives a small laugh before saying that she will also not work in the kitchens while the two of them are off adventuring. She says that she just has to tell her mother that she is out of the Tower on the Amyrlin’s orders so that she will not become furious if she hears rumors.She adds that she does not have to tell her mother where they are going or why.
Nynaeve replies that she had better not adding that her mother would very likely come after her if she knew. She adds also that she cannot know how many hands her letter will pass through before it reaches her mother. Elayne says that this is all another thing and she reminds them that the Amyrlin does not know that she is one of them. She says she has to send the letter with no chance of the Amyrlin seeing it. Nynaeve’s rows furrow and she says she will have to think on that. She suggests that they might be able to find someone who will carry the letter after they leave the city. They discuss their lack of money and the special papers that the Amyrlin gave to Nynaeve and Egwene. They hope that the orders will work on ship captains.
Egwene asks abruptly when they will leave. She asks if they will do it tonight. Nynaeve appears to consider it for a moment but then shakes her head. She tells Egwene that she needs sleep. She adds that they will give the Amyrlin one more chance to seek them out. She suggests that they pack lighty and make plans to get out of the Tower withotu anyone noticing. She says that if the Amyrlin does not reach out to them by midday, she plans to be on a tradiing ship before prime bells sound. The other two women agree with that plan. Egwene says that the sooner the better as far as she can see. Nynaeve says that they had all best get some sleep.Egwene tells Nynaeve in a small voice that she does not want to be alone tonight. It pains her to make the admission. Elayne adds that she does not either. She tells the other two that she keeps thinking about the Soulless. She says that they frighten her even more than the Black Ajah. Slowly, Nynaeve says she does not really want to obe alone herself. She eyes the bed whre Egwene is laying. She says it looks big enough for three if everyone can keep her elbows to herself. Later as they are shifting about tring to find a way to lie that does not feel crowded, Nynaeve suddenly laughs.
Egwene: What is it? You are not that ticklish.
Nynave: I just thought of someone who would be happy to carry Elayne’s letter for her. Happy to leave Tar Valon, too. In fact, I’d bet on it.
Let’s put on our thinking caps, class. Obviously there’s something up with Sylvie. Other than Perrin, have we met any (human) characters who can visit the World of Dreams who cannot also channel? No.
What did Sylvie do / say that stands out? She was openly contemptuous of Ishamael and Ba’alzamon. How many characters in the novels thus far have been openly contemptuous of Ba’alzamon? Only one.
Sylvie is a Darkfriend. Only Darkfriends ever say “The Great Lord.” One of The Black Ajah might be in The World of Dreams and attempting to manipulate Egwene… but would she shout that Ba’alzamon is a fool and encourage Egwene to do the same? I very much doubt it. That’s the kind of move a peer of Ba’azamon might make, though.
She also went out of her way, at the end, to get a look at Egwene’s stone ring. Have we met any characters recently who wanted to get a better look at Egwene’s stone ring? Yes we have.
In their brief conversation, she seemed to overtly connect The Dragon Reborn’s destiny to Tear. Has anyone else of late been trying to draw the Supergirls’ attention to Tear? Yes.
Egwene saw both Perrin and Rand. Neither visit went particularly well. I retain the utmost respect for Egwene for her decision to keep Perrin’s wolf secret.. a secret. She could have shared some of that and left the other two women to puzzle over it. She did not. She’s loyal and true. She’s the best. We know from her Accepted’s testing that Egwene still loves and cares for Rand DEEPLY. It was good to see that when Rand saw her, he shouted at someone that using Egwene’s face was the bridge too far for him. “Not her.” That unseen someone had already used his mother and father. Rand obviously still loves Egwene, too.
The girls are now planning to run away from the Tower again. This time they know they are walking into a trap. So that’s an improvement over their last trip away from the Tower. Given what they now know about The Black Ajah, it is hard to fault their desire to leave Tar Valon. I think Nynaeve is right in the sense that they at least know what they are facing ahead of them in Tear (or they think that they do at least.) They are likely surrounded by Black Sisters in the Tower – based on Elayne’s solid interpretation of Verin’s notes – and they do not know which of *those* are Black Ajah.
Clearly Mat is about to get involved in their story. I look forward to that reunion quite a lot. It seems as though Nynaeve is now planning to help Mat escape the city, too. We’ll see if the Amyrlin gets in the way of this planning. I suspect that she will at least a little bit.