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 38: Maidens of the Spear
Egwene and Elayne embrace saidar while Nynaeve stands with her arms crossed as a firm expression on her face. The person facing them is a woman no older than Egwene herself. Her hair color, and her clothing, indicate that the woman is Aiel.
Egwene feels a certain awed affinity for the woman and cannot think of why until she realizes the woman looks like Rand’s cousin. The Aiel woman introduces herself as Avienda of the Nine Valleys Sept of the Taardad Aiel. She adds that she is Far Dareis Mai, a Maiden of the Spear. Avienda pauses for a moment before going on, saying that while the three of them do not have the look on their faces, she and the others have seen the rings. She tells them that in their lands, they have women much like the Aiel Wise Ones, called here Aes Sedai.
Avienda: Are you women of the White Tower or not?
Egwene feels unease, looking around and seeing that there are no bushes or thickets for anyone else to hide behind. Nynaeve answers Avienda calmly that they are women of the White Tower and then adds that whether anyone might consider them wise is another matter. She asks Avienda what she wants of them. Avienda smiles, and Egwene realizes that she is quite lovely, before the Aiel woman tells Nynaeve that she talks as the Wise Ones do – to the point and with small suffering of fools.
She tells Nynaeve that one of them lies gravely hurt and adds that Wise Ones often heal those who are so injured. She asks them if they will aid her injured comrade. Egwene is in disbelief at Avienda’s tone, which seems to distinguish little between asking for aid to a friend who is dying and how one might ask for a cup of barley flour. Nynaeve answers slowly that she will help if she can but is clear that she will not make promises about success. Avienda replies that death comes for everyone and that we can only choose how to face it when it comes.
Suddenly two women in Aiel garb stand up no more than ten paces away, one out of a fold in the that Egwene did not suppose could even hide a dog, and another out of grass that reached only her knees. They both lower their black veils as they stand. That gives Egwene another jolt as she remembers Elayne told her the Aiel only don veils when they think they might have to do killing. Avienda leads them back toward the thicket they had already passed.
Egwene finally releases saidar, deciding that the women could likely stab her with spears before she could do anything with it, and she also decides they are not likely to attack them, though she is unsure of how they will respond if Nynaeve cannot heal their friend.
Elayne introduces herself, including her royal title, to the other two Aiel women as Nynaeve and Avienda stride ahead. One of the women introduces herself as Bain of the Black Rock sept of the Sharaad Aiel. The shorter blonder Aiel woman introduces herself as Chiad of the Stones River sept of the Goshien Aiel. Egwene finally introduces herself as Egwene al’Vere, daughter of Marin al’Vere in The Two Rivers. Ban asks Elayne and Egwene if they are First Sisters. Egwene thinks that they mean Sisters in the sense used in the White Tower and answers yes, while Elayne simultaneously answers no. Elayne then explains to Egwene that with the Aiel, First Sisters refers to women who share the same mother. She then tells the two Aiel women to excuse their ignorance as they know little of their people.
Elayne: I sometimes think of Egwene as First Sisters but we are not blood kin.
Chiad: Then why do you not speak the words before your Wise Ones? Bain and I became First Sisters.
Egwene asks them how they can become First Sisters and then asks forgiveness as most of what she knows of the Maidens of the Spear comes from what Elayne has told her. Egwene explains that she knows they fight in battles but do not care for men, thinking that it sounds like they are a cross between female Warders and the Red Ajah. The two Aiel women again look confused and ask the she means by not caring for men. Bain tells them that what they say comes near the truth but also misses it completely. She explains that when they wed the spear, they pledge to be bound to no man or child, adding that some do give up the spear for a man or a child, but once given up the spear cannot be taken back. Chiad adds that a woman who has chosen to go to Rhuidean also gives up the spear because a Wise One cannot be wedded to the spear. Bain looks at Chiad as though she is explaining that rain comes from clouds, though she also looks at Egwene and Elayne as though they might not know this. Bain admits that this is true, about Rhuidean, though she says some struggle against it and Chiad agrees. Egwene thinks that she and Bain sound as though they are sharing something between them.
Bain returns to her discussion of the Maidens and tells them that Maidens do not dance the spears even when their clans do. She explains that since her clan and Chiad’s clan have had blood feud for hundreds of years, both risked her own life going to see the Wise Ones from the other’s clan to be pledged as First Sisters. After this, she says that they now guard each other’s backs in battle, as is proper, and that neither will let a man come into her bed unless he also comes into the bed of the other as well. She says that she would not say they do not care for men, though, and asks Egwene if they have made the truth clear to her. Egwene faintly tells them that they have and sees bewilderment in Elayne’s eyes. Egwene thinks to herself that they are not anything like the Red Ajah, though perhaps they have some things in common with the Green. Egwene struggles to imagine sharing a man with Elayne and sees the spots of color in her friend’s cheeks which indicate she is thinking of the same – and Egwene is certain she is thinking of Rand. Egwene believes though that neither of them can have Rand.
They arrive at the copse and find two more Aiel beneaththe trees – Jolien of the Salt Flat sept of Nakai clain and Dailin of the Nine Valleys sept of the Taardad Aiel. Dailin is injured, with sweat matting her hair, and red staining the bandages around her middle. Avienda explains that Dailin took a sword from one of the Treekiller’s soldiers who thought they were among the bandits that infest this land.
Nynaeve goes to her knees beside the injured woman and lifts her bandages enough to peer under them, wincing at what she sees. Nynaeve asks if they have moved the woman since her injury, noting that there is scabbing but that it is broken open. Avienda tells Nynaeve that Dailin wanted to die near water, glancing once at the river and then quickly away again. Nynaeve calls them fools, saying that they could have killed her with an injury like that, and then repeats disgustedly that she wanted to die near water. She mutters that just because they carry weapons like men does not mean they need to think like men. Nynaeve pulls a deep wooden cup out of the bag and pushes it at Chiad and tells her to fill it, saying she needs water to mix her herbs so that Dailin can drink them.
Avienda tells Nynaeve that if the had not brought her to the water, they never would have found her, which draws a snort from Nynaeve. Avienda says that the Wise Ones use powders but she had not heard that Aes Sedai do as well. Nynaeve snaps that she uses what she uses as Chiad and Bain comment quietly that she truly does sound like one of their Wise Ones. Egwene tries to lower the tension by getting the group to talking, telling them not to be uneasy about the river, and suggesting that they could swim in it near the banks. Elayne shakes her head as Avienda tells her that she saw a Shienaran does this swimming thing once.
Egwene: I don’t understand. I know there isn’t much water in the Waste but you said you were a Stones River sept, Jolien. Surely you have swum in the Stones River.
Jolien looks at her awkwardly and ask if swimming means to get into the water with nothing to hold onto. She tells Egwene that before crossing the Dragonwall she had never seen flowing water she could not step across. She tells Egwene that some claim the Stones River had water in it once but she adds that is only boasting. She tells Egwene that there are only the stones and that there oldest record says that there was never anything in it except stones, going back to when her sept claimed the land originally. Egwene looks around at the Aiel women and sees that far from soothing things with conversation, she has instead put them more on edge. She embraces saidar and prepares flows of air to seize everyone if need be. Elayne shakes her head at Egwene, again, as Avienda abruptlytells her that she would never harm an Aes Sedai, whether Dailin lives or dies.
Egwene has the sudden feeling that Avienda is trying to sooth them. Elayne replies that Avienda that she was taught, admitting she knows little of her people, that Aiel donot harm women unless they are wedded to the spear. Bain looks at Elayne again as if she is not quite correct and explains that if a woman not carrying weapons attacked her, she would drub that woman until the woman learned better. Elayne looks again at Egwene but she does not let go of saidar, despite what Elayne thinks and the Aiel say.
Just then, Nynaeve lifts up Dailin’s head and pours the mixture into her mouth, and orders her to drink. Avienda tells Egwene and Elayne that under no circumstances would an Aiel attack an Aes Sedai, sharing that it is said amongst their people that once, before the Breaking of the World, that the Aiel served the Aes Sedai and failed them. She says that perhaps that is the sin that sent them to the Three Fold Land but she admits she does not know. She tells them that no one knows what the sin was except the Wise Ones or perhaps the Clan Chiefs, and they do not say.
Avienda: It is said that if we fail the Aes Sedai again they will destroy us.
Nynaeve mutters again to Dailin to drink it all and she begins complaining about swords, muscles without brains, and fighting, growing angrier as she speaks. She lowers her head and lays a hand on her brow. Avienda asks the other two about Nynaeve getting angry. Elayne answers them that it is alright and Egwene says it is much better than alright though admitting that she is getting angry. Suddenly the glow of saidar surrounds Nynaeve and Dailin starts up with a scream. In an instant, Nynaeve is leaning her back down and the glow of saidar fades around her.
Egwene thinks to herself that she saw what Nynaeve did though she is not sure she could make out the many flows or the way Nynaeve had woven them. To Egwene, what Nynaeve had done in those few seconds seemed like sewing four carpets at once, while blindfolded. Nynaeve uses the bandages to wipe away blood from Dailin and there is no wound or scarring left behind. With a grimace, Nynaeve takes the bloodied cloths and throws them into the river, telling the others to wash the rest of the blood off after returning. She also instructs the others to put clothes on her, as she is cold, and to be prepared to feed her as well. Nynaeve kneels by the water to wash her hands.
This is mostly an information dump chapter, about the Aiel, but there are a few cool things that happen.
We actually get to see Nynaeve do some One Power healing and I cannot quite remember if we have seen that before. It’s cool. Her abilities are orders of magnitude more impressive than Egwene’s and the innkeeper’s daughter from Emond’s Field is supposed to be – other than Nynaeve – the most powerful Aes Sedai in a thousand years.
We learn that the Aiel have their own women who can channel, that those women to to a place called Rhuidean, and if you were paying attention then you noticed that Avienda can either channel or learn to do so. She notices when Egwene embraces saidar and tries to calm her down and ease her worries.
I suspect the “we sinned against the Aes Sedai” stuff will come back up again at some point. That felt important.
We get a more clear sense in this chapter that “the Waste” is a very accurate description of where the Aiel are from, though the water and swimming comments are played for comedic effect.