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 39: Threads in the Pattern
Jolien puts an unsteady hand on where Dailin’s wound had been and gasps when she touches smooth skin. Nynaeve snaps to wash Dailin and to dress her. Jolien, Chiad, and Bain all leap to obey. Avienda laughs saying that she has heard a Wise One in the Jagged Spire sept is said to be able to do this and also one in the Four Holes Sept but she claims she always thought it was boasting. She then tells Nynaeve that she owes her a debt adding that Dailin is her Second Sister – her mother’s sister’s daughter. She explains that since Dailin is close blood that she owes a blood debt.
Nynaeve tells Avienda that if she wishes to pay her, she can tell her whether there is a ship docked at Jurene. Avienda replies, noting her wonder at the existence of ships, that one was there yesterday when she scouted. Nynaeve announces that they had best be on their way but Elayne asks for a moment to ask an additional qestion.
Elayne: Avienda, why have you come all this way and put up with such hardships?
Avienda: We have not come far at all. We were among the last to set out. The Wise Ones nipped at me like wild dogs circling a calf, saying I have other duties.
Bain returns and speaks up, saying that they seek the one foretold – He Who Comes With the Dawn. Chiad adds that this man will lead them out of The Threefold Land. She says that the prophecies say he was born of Far Dareis Mai. Elayne looks startled and replies that she thought Maidens of the Spear are not allowed to have children. Avienda explains that if a Maiden bears a child, then she gives the child to the Wise Ones of her sept, and that they then pass the child to another woman in such a way that none know whose child it is. Avienda explains that every woman wants to foster such a child in the hope that she will raise He Who Comes With the Dawn. Chiad adds that a Maiden who has given birth also has the option to give up the Spear and marry the child’s father. Avienda tells Elayne that the Wise Ones say the prophesied one is to be found in the Wetlands.
Blood of our blood, mixed with the Old Blood, raised by the Ancient Blood, not ours.
Avienda appears to choose her words carefully and asks if she may asks them a question. She asks why three Aes Sedai walk a land where the only hand without a knife in it is too weak with hunger to grasp the hilt. She asks where they are going and Nynaeve answers her briskly that they are going to Tear unless they all stand there talking for so long that the Heart of the Stone crumbles to dust. The Aiel women all pause and become tense. Avienda replies that this is a strange thing and wants to know why they are going there. Nynaeve carefully answers her that they are hunting evil women, Darkfriends.
The Aiel comment that this is a strange thing and then Nynaeve, Egwene, and Elayne go. Once the three women are some distance away, Egwene tells Elayne that she was shocked that she named herself and her station, pointing out that the Aiel War was not that long ago. Elayne explains that one thing she was taught about the Aiel is that they did not consider the Aiel War to be an actual war. She explains that they saw themselves like thieftakers or headsmen than warring armies. They crossed the Spine of the World, she says, to come after King Laman of Cairhien for cutting down Avendoraldera, a cutting from a chora tree called Avendesora. Thus, she says, for the Aiel the war was not a war, but instead was an execution.
Elayne asks Egwene if she knows who He Who Comes With the Dawn must be. Egwene almost stops walking and asks Elayne if she means Rand. Elayne tells her that while she does not know many of The Prophecies of the Dragon, she can remember a few lines:
On the slopes of Dragonmount shall he be born, born of a Maiden wedded to no man.
Elayne then points out to Egwene that Rand looks like an Aiel, but then adds that Rand also looks like the pictures she has seen of Tigraine, too, though she vanished before Rand was born. Elayne concludes that Rand’s birth mother was a Maiden of the Spear. Egwene thinks about what she knows of Rand’s birth. She knows that Rand was raised by Tam after his mother Kari died, though she now thinks that if what Moiraine has told them about Rand is true, that those two could not be Rand’s real parents. She also thinks that sometimes Nynaeve seems to act as though she knows a secret about Rand’s birth though she doubts anyone could ever pry it from her.
They catch up with Nynaeve who appears to be racing toward Jurene. Elayne compliments how well she handled things with the Aiel. Egwene adds that was the first time she ever really paid attention to what happens in a healing and she says that it makes the process of weaving lightning look like mixing an oatcake. A surprised smile appears on Nynaeve’s face as she murmurs a thank you. They march on ahead for another mile when Egwene notices men with slings in time to shout for the others to look out. Something then struck her head and darkness drank in everything.
Sometime later, Egwene feels herself swaying and something moving under her as well. He head seems to be nothing except pain. She discovers quickly that her hands are bound. She opens her eyes enough to see that she is tied across the back of a horse with her wrists and hair hanging down. So many rough dressed men and horses are around her that she cannot see whether Nynaeve and Elayne are captured as well. She is filled with a sudden panic and rage. When she attempts to reach for saidar, the pain of the attempt is immense and she moans quietly.
Not long later, the men and horses stop at a camp and Egwene realizes there must be at least a hundred other men here. Her eyes find Nynaeve and Elayne bound head down across saddle-less horses, the same as she is. Neither seems to be stirring. Egwene’s hope fades that one of them might be free, to help the others escape. She thinks to herself that she cannot stand to be a prisoner again. Gingerly she tries to reach for saidar again and the pain is not so bad this time but it is still too much for her to deal with and also embrace saidar.
A man shouts that one of them is awake, referring to Egwene, so Egwene tries to hang limp and to look unthreatening. When a man approaches her, she tries telling him that she will not harm him but she is not sure how much she says before something comes crashing into her head again.
Waking the next time is easier for Egwene. There is a taste of sour wine and something bitter in her mouth. Strips of lamplight shine through a crudely made wall but she lies in darkness and on her back, on dirt she thinks. She pushes herself to her hands and knees and is surprised to find she is not tied in any way. Except for one wall of peeled logs, the other walls all seem to be made of rough stone. She is able to see Nynaeve and Elayne lying sprawled on the dirt. There is blood on Elayne’s face but neither she nor Nynaeve move except for the rising and falling of their chests.
Egwene hesitates between trying to wake them and seeing what lies on the other side of the wall. She decides to peak through the log wall so that she can see what is guarding them before trying to wake them. She peaks through a crack by the door and into the next room – and she sees that the room is huge. A dozen men sit around the room but all eyes are on one large fair-haired man who might be handsome but for his dirty face. The outer door opens, revealing night outside, before a lanky man with his ear cut off enters. He announces that someone they are waiting on has not come yet and he adds that he does not like dealing with that kind.
The big fair haired man murmurs about three Aes Sedai and how there are good prices for them if one has the belly for dealing with the right buyer. One of the men says that they must be Aes Sedai and that the rings prove it. Another man picks up a small circle on the table and Egwene gasps and feels at her finger, realizing that they took her ring. The man with the missing ear mutters that he does not like this business and that any one of the three captives could kill them all. He asks what will happen if one of them wakes before the buyer comes. A fat man with a sneer announces that they will not wake, adding that his granny taught him of the stuff they fed the women, saying that they will all sleep until sunrise.
Egwene works her mouth around the sour wine taste thinking that whatever it was, his granny lied to him. Egwene crawls to Nynaeve and as near as she can tell she seems to be sleeping. She shakes her and to her surprise, Nynaeve’s eyes shoot open. Just as Nynaeve begins to speak Egwene gets a hand over her mouth, then whispers to her that they are being held prisoner and that there are a dozen men on the other side of the wall with more still outside. She says that the men gave them something to make them sleep but that it was not very successful.
Nynaeve pulls Egwene’s hand aside and whispers that she remembers now. She grimaces and twists her mouth before braking an almost silent laugh. Nynaeve tells Egwene that the men gave them sleepwell root mixed in wine. Nynaeve asks Egwene if she remembers what sleepwell root does and Egwene replies that it clears headaches so one can sleep. She says that it makes one drowsy but that is all. All that the men accomplished was to clear the pain of being hit in the head.
Egwene whispers to Nynaeve that she saw more than one hundred men outside and that someone is apparently coming to buy them. Egwene tells her that she means to do something to that fellow that will make him walk in the light until the day he dies. Nynaeve and Egwene crouch over Elayne and Nynaeve reports that Elayne is hurt badly – that her skull is broken. Egwene asks her if she can do something and Nynaeve cries quietly that she cannot because they took her herbs. Egwene is shocked to see that Nynaeve is on the verge of tears. The older woman grabs Elayne by the shoulders and rasps at her that she should have left her behidn to scrub pots and that she did not bring her all this way just to let her die.
Nynaeve: I will not let you die on me. I will not allow it!
Saidar suddenly shines around Nynaeve and Elayne’s eyes and mouth open wide. Egwene gets her hands over Elayne’s mouth just in time to muffle any sound but as she touches Elayne, Nynaeve’s weaves catch her and cold freezes her to the bone accompanied by heat that sears outward. The world vanishes in a sensation of rushing, falling, and flying. When it finally ends she is breathing hardand staring down at Elayne, who is staring wide eyed back at her. The last of Egwene’s headache is gone and the murmur of voices from the other room indicates that they have not noticed any noises.
Nynaeve is on her hands and knees, head down and shaking. She mutters that healing that way was like peeling off her own skin. She asks Elayne how she is and Elayne replies that she is tired, hungry, and that she remembers men with slings. Hastily Egwene tells her what has happened.
Nynaeve: And now we are going to show these louts what it means to meddle with us.
Saidar shines around her, and then Elayne also. Egwene reaches out for the true source almost gleefully. When they look through the cracks again to see what they have to deal with, they see that there are three myrddraal in the room. One of the fades picks up a ring from the table and Egwene sees now that it is a much heavier gold than the Great Serpent rings. Nynaeve gasps softly and fumbles at the neck of her dress.
The halfman hisses about three Aes Sedai and its amuses sounds like dead things powdering into dust. Another of the halfmen rasps that these three are the ones he seeks and he adds that the human seller will be well rewarded. Nynaeve says softly that they must take the halfmen by surprise and asks what kind of lock holds the door. Egwene can just see the lock on the outside of the door – an iron thing on a chain heavy enough to hold an enraged bull. Egwene tells the others to be ready and then she thins one flow of earth, finer than a hair, hoping the halfmen cannot sense so small a channeling and weaves it into the iron chain.
One of the myrddraal lifts its head and another leans across the table telling the Darkfriend that he itches. He asks if he is sure the Aes Sedai are asleep, and receives a nod of confirmation. The third myrddraal stares at the door behind which the three of them are confined. The chain on the door falls, and the myrddraal snarls, at the same time that the outer door also swings open. Black veiled death flows inside form the night. The room erupts in screams and shouts as men claw for their swords to combat stabbing Aiel spears.
The myrddraal draw blades blacker than their garb and fight for their own lives. Egwene thinks of having once seen six cats all fighting each other and this was that one hundred fold, but within seconds silence reigns. Every human not wearing a black veil lies dead with a spear through him. Two Aiel also lie still. The three myrddraal stand back to back, in the center of the room, with swords in their hands. One of the myrddraal is clutching at his side as if wounded and another has a long gash down its pale face. It does not bleed.
Around the myrddraal circle the five veiled Aiel who are still alive, crouching. From outside come screams and crashes of metal that say more Aiel still fight in the night. Inside the room is a softer sound. As they circle, the Aiel drum their spears against their small hide bucklers. The myddraal seem uncertain because the fear their gaze strikes into every human heart does not seem to touch these.
Aielman: Dance with me, Shaddowman.
Next a woman calls out also, asking the Eyeless to dance with her. Soon all the Aiel are calling out ot the myddraal to dance with them. Just then, Nynaeve straightens and tells the other two that she thinks it is time. She throws open the door and the three women, wrapped in the glow of saidar, step out. For the myrddraal, it seems as though the Aiel no longer exist, and for the Aiel, the same for the myrddraal. Egwene can almost feel the myddraal’s knowledge of its own death in its gaze.
Egwene growls that she will take no more of this and unleashes a flow of fire. Flames burst out of all three halfmen, sprouting in all directions. Even as the flames seem to consume them, the very air pushes them together crushing them into a ball of fire and blackness that grows smaller, with their screams digging at Egwene’s spine. Suddenly something shoots out from Nynaeve’s hands – a thin bar of white light – and then the myrddraal cease to exist as if they had never been. Elayne asks Nynaeve what that was and the older woman tells her that she does not know, looking just as stunned as the rest of them. Egwene thinks to herself that it was balefire. She is not sure how she knows but she is certain of it. Reluctantly, Egwene makes herself release saidar while complaining to herself that once again she did not see a thing of what Nynaeve weaved.
The Aiel unveil themselves hastily, as if to tell them that they are no longer ready to fight. Three of the five Aiel are male, one of them an older man with more than a few touches of gray in his hair. They are all tall and young or old, they all share a calm sureness in their eyes. One of the two women is Avienda. The screams and shouts outside are dying away and Nynaeve starts toward one of the fallen Aiel. The older man tells her that there is no need to check them as they both took Shadowman steel but she still bends to check them anyway. The second person she straightens over is Dailin. As she rises, her face is white and she shouts “burn you” at no one in particular.
Nynaeve: I did not heal her so she could die like this.
Avienda begins to tell her that death comes for all but when Nynaeve rounds on her she falls silent. Avienda then speaks and says that Shadowman steel kills and does not wound. The older man’s eyes flicker in surprise.
Avienda: They know little of some things, Rhuarc.
Elayne speaks up and apologizes for interrupting their dance and suggests that perhaps they should not have interfered. Elayne adds that they were handling things well and suggests that perhaps they offended by putting their noses in. Rhuarc gives a deep chuckle in reply and says that he for one is glad of whatever it was that they did. He adds that they could have killed them but that the myrddraal would have killed at least two or three of them in return. He says that for the young, death is someone they wish to try their strength against but for the old, death is an old friend or lover but one that you do not wish to meet soon.
Nynaeve seems to relax with Rhuarc’s speech, as if meeting an Aiel who did not seem anxious to die leeched the tension out of her. Nynaeve extends both thanks and surprise before asking Avienda if she expected to find them here, and if so, how. Avienda tells her that she followed them and saw the men take them, adding that she was too far back to help. She continues by saying that she know where some of the other Aiel must be, so she gathered a group together to free them. When she mentions finding Rhuarc, she says the did not expect to find any clan chiefs, let alone her own, on this side of the Spine. He tells her that he would not have come except that several Wise Ones stalked him like a ridge cat after a wild goat to make him go.
Rhuarc: The dreams said I must go. Adn they asked if I truly want to die old and fat alone in a bed.
Avienda laughs as if at a great joke, saying that she has heard a man caught between his wife and a Wise One often wishes for a dozen old enemies to fight instead, but a man caught between a wife and three Wise Ones, and the wife a Wise One herself, must consider trying to slay Sightblinder. Rhuarc tells her that the thought came to him. Rhuarc frowns at three Great Serpent rings lying on the floor as well as a much heavier golden ring made for a man’s large finger. He says that all things must change but that he would not be a part of that change if he could set himself aside from it.
Rhuarch: Three Aes Sedai, traveling to Tear.
Egwene says that he spoke of dreams and asks if the Wise Ones know what their dreams mean. He tells her that some do, but if Egwene wishes to know more than that, she must peak to them. He says that perhaps they will tell an Aes Sedai but notes that they will not tell others, except that they must do what the dreams say they must do.
Rhuarc: And that is usually what we would avoid if we could.
Rhuarc stoops to pick up the heavier golden ring, and on it is a crane flying above a lance and crown. Egwene recognizes it as Lan’s ring. Nynaeve quickly snatches it from Rhuarc’s hand and he makes no move to take it back. He says that one of the Aes Sedai carries a ring he heard of as a boy, the ring of Malkieri kings. He tells the room that the Malkieri rode with the Shienarans, against the Aiel, during his father’s time, and says that they were good in the dance of the spears but that Malkier fell to the Blight.
Rhuarc: It is said only a child king survived and he courts the death that took his land as other men court beautiful women. Truly this is a strange thing, Aes Sedai. Of all the strange sights I thought I might see when Melaine harried me out of my own hold and over the Dragonwall, none has been so strange as this. The path you’ve set me on is one I never thought my feet would follow.
Nynaeve replies that she has set no paths for him and adds that all she wants is to continue her journey. He asks if her journey is so urgent that she would travel these dangerous lands in the dark. She struggles visibly before replying no but says that she means to leave with the sunrise.
In the morning, at dawn, the Aiel produce a breakfast of tough dried meat. After eating, Nynaeve, Elayne, and Egwene choose out horses from the Darkfriend camp to ride on their journey to Tear. The Aiel accompany the three of them, afoot, and there are nineteen of them in total and they keep up with the horses easily. When the thatched rooftops of Jurene come into sight, Rhuarc bids them well.
Rhuarc: May you always find water and shade. Perhaps we will meet again before the change comes.
As the Aiel curve away to the south, Avienda, Bain, and Chiad wave a hand in farewell.
Jurene is a small place, of wooden houses, and the White Lion banner of Andor flies over it. Fifty of the Queen’s Guards hold it and the captain of the group says that they were placed here to make a safe place for refugees to flee to Andor. Elayne keeps her face well hidden in her cloak but none of the soldiers seem to associate her red-gold hair with the Daughter Heir. In fact, some of the soldiers asked Elayne to stay and Egwene is unsure of whether Elayne is pleased or shocked. Egwene told the men who asked the same of her that she has no time for them.
None of the three are wearing their rings now as Nynaeve convinced the other two that they do not want to be recognized as Aes Sedai in Tear. There is a ship in the village, tied to a single stone dock. Egwene is dismayed when she sees it as it is twice as wide as the Blue Crane. The captain of the vessel blinks at Nynaeve in surprise when she asks if his ship is fast. He tells her that the ship has no need to be fast, given its cargo, and says that he saw the Blue Crane still hung up on something upriver and suggests that outcome is what you can expect with a ship that is fast. Nynaeve pays their fares with such a look on her face that Egwene and Elayne avoid talking to her until long after The Darter has left Jurene.
This chapter is sooo long but the scene of the Aiel attack on the Darkfriend camp makes it all worth it. It’s just a chef’s kiss perfect true introduction to the Aiel.
“Dance with me, Shadowman,” one of the Aiel called suddenly, tauntingly. He sounded like a young man. “Dance with me, Eyeless.” That was a woman. “Dance with me.” “Dance with me.”
The way that the three girls kill the three myrddraal is also epic. Nynaeve (re)discovers balefire and Egwene is sure of it though none of them know how/what she did. I suspect that Egwene is sure it was balefire because of reincarnation and the way that there is some vague past life remembrance that occasionally happens with our main characters. Obviously balefire is a big deal within the story because Jordan continues bringing it up. In case we have forgotten, the Aiel mentioned itin the previous chapter.
One other really cool thing from this chapter is that the Aiel know who Lan is by reputation. Lan is just *that* dude. A little more subtly we pick up that the Aiel are more in tune with events in “the Wetlands” than the other way around. We also pick up that some Wise Ones can channel and that some of them can Dream like we are told Egwene can Dream.
We learn – before the myrddraal die – that one of htem at least is after Egwene, Elayne, and Nynaeve. We know that it was a Lanfear plot to send the girls to Tear. Now we know a myrddraal was hunting them already. Is that her, too, or is Ba’alzamon trying to prevent them from getting there?
Regardless, everyone is on their way to Tear and that now apparently also includes the Aiel. That little side detour the girls took to switch boats was a big deal.