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 29: A Trap to Spring
Nynaeve, Elayne, and Egwene work in the kitchens. Laras, who is the chief cook but called by most “the Mistress of the Kitchens” oversees them. Laras is a large woman with numerous chins by Nynaeve’s estimation. She carries a long-handled wooden spoon like a scepter. The spoon is not for stirring. Rather, it is for smacking those under her. Nynaeve once tried smiling at the woman to no effect and her attempt to stop and talk to her had been a disaster.
Nynaeve is able to put up with being overseen by Aes Sedai because she knows she must learn to channel if she is ever going to get back at Moiraine for pulling the lives apart of those from her village. Nynaeve’s hatred for Moiraine is the primary thing that keeps her going. However, being treated as a lazy none-too-bright child by Laras is almost more than she can handle.
Elayne mutters about Laras as she goes, saying that if she strikes her with that wooden spoon once more she will have Gareth Bryne arrest her. Egwene whispers to Elayne to be quiet. As she starts to tell Elayne about Laras’s ears, the large woman turns around as if to signal she did hear. Just then though the Amyrlin Seat enters the kitchen like a whirlwind. Leane, the Keeper of the Chronicles, is nowhere to be seen. Nynaeve exhales that at last they will have a chance to speak with Siuan.
Unfortunately, the Amyrlin does not look her way. She does not look at anyone. Siuan runs her fingers across a tabletop scrubbed bone white and grimaces as if they are covered in filth. Lara is at Siuan’s side in an instant but the Amyrlin’s flat stare stops her cold. Siuan marches around the kitchens, sneering and staring at everything, and then at the women working in the kitchens. Siuan’s frown sets the girls carrying plates and bowls to the dining hall to a run. By the time she completed her tour of the kitchens, everyone woman inside is working twice as fast as she had been. Laras is the only one even daring to glance at her.
The Amyrlin stands in front of the roasting spit, fists on hips, and glares at Lara. The large woman drops her eyes, does something that might have been a curtsy, and then joins the women at the soup kettles. She is now standing only a couple of feet from where Nynaeve, Egwene, and Elayne are working. The Amyrlin mutters that if the women in the kitchens are this easily cowed, perhaps they have been getting away with too much for too long.
She catches Elayne’s eyes and raises her voice loudly enough to almost rattle the walls.
Siuan: There are some words I will not tolerate in a young lady’s mouth, Elayne of House Trakand. If you let them in I will see them scrubbed out.
Everyone in the kitchen jumps. Elayne looks confused and indignation creeps across Egwene’s face. Nynaeve gives her head some small frantic shakes, as if to tell the others to pay attention to what Siuan is doing. Egwene does open her mouth, though, and the Amyrlin roars for her to be silent. She then calls for Laras to find something that will teach two girls to speak when they should. Roughly she asks The Mistress of the Kitchens if she can manage that. Laras comes wobbling faster than Nynaeve could have believed she was able. She grabs an ear of both Elayne and Egwene all the while repeating “Yes Mother, as you command Mother” breathlessly. She hurries both of them out of the kitchen as if eager to escape the Amyrlin’s stare.
The Amyrlin is now standing close enough to Nynaeve to touch her yet she keeps her back toward her still. A young cook nearby catches her eye and then gives a squeak as she hurries away across the floor. She then mutters quietly to Nynaeve that she did not mean for Egwene to be caught in that. She barely moves her lips and it looks to everyone else as if she muttering to herself.
Nynaeve keep her head down, continues turning the spit she is is working at, and mutters a reply that she thought Siuan would be keeping a close eye on them. The Amyrlin replies that if she comes to stare at them every day some would grow suspicious. She continues by saying that she plans to have them brought to her study after the midday meal to scold them for not choosing their studies.
Siuan: But there is news that cannot wait. Sheriam found another gray man, a woman, dead as last week’s fish and not a mark on her.
The Amyrlin continues saying that the Gray Man was laid out in Sheriam’s bed right where she could find her. Nynaeve stiffens for a moment before muttering that Sheriam had a chance to see the lists that Verin made for Egwene. She adds that Elaida had a chance to see them also. She clarifies that she is making no accusations but says both had the chance. Nynaeve adds that Egwene said Alanna behaved oddly as well. Siuan says that Alanna is Arefellin and that people from her country have strange ideas about honor and debts. She says though that she can keep an eye on her. She then asks Nynaeve if they have learned anything useful.
Nynaeve notices that the Amyrlin did not mention keeping any eyes on Sheriam or Elaida. She continues saying that while she does not understand why the Amyrlin trusts Else Grinwell, the message sent through her was helpful. In short quick sentences, Nynaeve tells of the things they found in the storeroom under the library. She makes it seem as though only she and Egwene had gone and she does not mention Egwene’s use of the ter’angreal and the dream of the Stone of Tear. In fact, she does not mention that Egwene has possession of a ter’angreal at all because she cannot bring herself entirely to trust the Amyrlin.
When Nynaeve is done, the Amyrlin is silent for so long that Nynaeve begins to wonder if the woman had heard her report. As she is about to repeat herself, a little louder, the Amyrlin finally speaks. She tells Nynaeve that she sent no message through Else or otherwise. She adds that the things Liandrin and the others left were searched thoroughly and burned after nothing was found. She says that as for Else Grinwell, she was put on a trading vessel and sent back to her mother ten days ago.
Nynaeve tries to swallow the lump that has formed in her throat. The Amyrlin’s words make her think of bullies taunting smaller children. The bullies are always so dismissive and contemptuous of the smaller children that they make little effort to disguise their snares. Her blood boils at the idea of the Black Ajah being so contemptuous of her and yet, that they could set this snare at all fills her stomach with ice.
Nynaeve: Light, anybody I talk to could be Liandrin or any of the others.
The Amyrlin asks her softly what she means to do about this so obvious trap. She asks if she means to fall into this one also. Nynaeve’s face reddens but she replies that she knows this one for a trap before springing it. She tells the Amyrlin that the best way to catch who set a trap is to spring it and then wait for him or her to come. Siuan givs a vexed sigh and says that perhaps it is the best way. Siuan then says she will put gold in her room for the journey while letting it be whispered about that she has sent them out to a farm to hoe cabbages.
Siuan: Will Elayne be going with you?
Nynaeve forgets herself enough to stare at the Amyrlin for a moment. Siuan tells her that setting Morgase back onto the proper path will be hard enough without the Queen of Andor believing she has sent the Daughter Heir out to sea on a leaky skiff. She adds that this way she can say straight out that this is none of her doing.
Siuan says abruptly that this has gone on long enough and tells Nynaeve to ask anything else she might want to know, as quickly as possible. Nynaeve quickly asks her what Callandor is. This time it is the Amyrlin who forgets herself, half turning toward Nynaeve before jerking herself back.
Siuan: They cannot be allowed to have that.
She takes a deep breath and tells Nynaeve that no more than a dozen women in the White Tower know what Callandor is. She says that only perhaps as many outside of the Tower know. She says to Nynaeve that the High Lords of Tear know but they never speak of it, except when a new High Lord is being raised. She explains that The Sword That Cannot Be Touched is a sa’angreal and only two more powerful were ever made. Siuan adds that the other two were never used.
Siuan: With Callandor in your hands, Child, you could level a city at one blow. If you die keepign that out of the Black Ajah’s hands, you, and Egwene, and Elayne, all three, will have done a service for the whole world.
Nynaeve asks how they could take it saying that she thought only The Dragon Reborn could touch it. The Amylin gives her a sideways look sharp enough to carve the roasts on the spit Nynaeve is turning. Siuan tells her that the Black Ajah might be after something else and shares that the Stone of Tear holds nearly as many ter’angreal as The White Tower. When Nynaeve whispers that she thought the High Lords hate anything to do with the power, Siuan tells her that they do, and that it is her belief that this is why they collect and hide away the things to do with the power that they find.
She tells Nynaeve that The Stone of Tear will fall as one of the signs that the Dragon is reborn. She goes on about the pride of the High Lords before giving herself a shake and asking Nynaeve if that is all. Nynaeve replies that it is.
Nynaeve: Light, it always comes back to Rand, doesn’t it, always back to The Dragon Reborn.
The Amyrlin shifts her stole again and frowns and the frenzied scurry throughout the kitchens. She tells Nynaeve that Laras is a good woman and she says she will have to set this right. Nyaneve sniffs and replies that Lara is a sour lump and too happy with her spoon by half. She thought she had replied too quietly to be heard but she hears the Amyrlin chuckle wryly.
Siuan: You are a fine judge of character, Child. You must have done well as the Wisdom of your village. It was Laras who went to Sheriam and demanded to know how long you three were to be kept to the dirtiest and hardest work without a turn at lighter. She said she would not be a party to breaking any woman’s health or spirit no matter what I said. A fine judge of character, Child.
Laras comes back into the kitchen doorway hesitantly. The Amyrlin goes to meet her, smiling. She tells Laras that it all looks very well to her. She says it loud enough for the entire kitchen to hear. She then tells Laras that she is to be commended and says that she thinks she will make “Mistress of the Kitchens” a formal title.
Lara’s face flutters from uneasiness, to shock, to beaming pleasure.
After the Amyrlin goes, Nynaeve smiles at her. Her smile causes the sudden frown on Laras’ face to deepen. The former Wisdom tells herself that she will continue smiling if it kills her. Egwene and Elayne appear twisting their faces and scrubbing their mouths with their sleeves. At a stare from Laras, they dash to their spits and resume their labors. Elayne mutters that soap tastes horrid.
Nynaeve tells them that they will be leaving after the washing up is done. She wishes to herself that she could share the eagerness that suddenly flashes in the other pair’s eyes.
Light send we are not walking into a trap we cannot get out of. Light send it so.
There are several pretty notable things happening in this chapter.
It does not make any sense that Sheriam founds a Gray Man (woman) in her bed, does it? Killed in the act of trying to assassinate someone… sure. That makes sense. The only way to interpret this is that someone is sending her a message specifically. But what message?
- I can reach you even in your bed.
- I intercepted your Gray Man and left it here for you to explain.
Both of those messages imply that Sheriam is communicating with some bad folks.
Are Siuan’s reactions to Sheriam, Elaida, and Alanna something to be believed? Or is she already keeping an eye on them and downplaying them to Nynaeve for reasons of her own?
Siuan is *clearly* rattled – badly rattled – by the revelation that someone walking through The White Tower is able to disguise herself as someone else. Is there another way to interpret her super long pause after Nynaeve’s story about Else Grinwell? Based on the Amyrlin’s reaction, this would seem to be an uncommon ability for even Aes Sedai.
We as the reader knows now that the culprit here is probably a lot worse than Siuan even thinks… it’s one of the Forsaken. By all that we know from the story, Lanfear is an order of magnitude worse than Siuan’s likely conclusion that the Black Ajah have dangerous tricks.
It’s worth remembering as the reader that even though Lanfear has been pretty harmless on screen, so far, her reputation 3,000 years ago was as one of the most evil people to ever live. That reputation was undoubtedly earned.
Nynaeve correctly interprets the situation of their storeroom baiting as one where a bully is so contemptuous of them that she is not even bothering to disguise the snare. Nevertheless, the bully wins on this front and they are going to Tear and doing exactly what she wants.
We learn in this chapter that in addition to Callandor, the Stone of Tear is home to a lot of objects of the One Power. That might be relevant knowledge later. Just to clarify since this was a little confusing when Siuan talked about it. I perceive that The Sword that Cannot Be Touched is pretty widely well-known.. BUT very few people know that it is a sa’angreal.
I kind of enjoyed the strange Else Grinwell shapeshifter revelation’s pairing with the “Laras is a good person” revelation. Jordan is sending the message through Siuan to not judge books by their cover. Clearly Nynaeve was judging Laras for her looks despite being pretty astute most of the time. Siuan does her a favor here by humbling her. The Amyrlin even rubs it in a little by bringing up Nynaeve’s job as Wisdom, too. That is how much she wants Nyaneve to learn the lesson. I believe that she succeeds in getting that across and the evidence is the Wisdom’s determination to smile at Laras regardless of cost to herself.
One more thing: I do not think it is mentioned, for no reason, that two sa’angreal exist which are more powerful than Callandor. We now have two Chekhov’s sa’angreals.
The pace o the book feels ready to pick up from here.