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 48: Following the Craft
Egwene stands slumped, head down, against the rail of the Darter as their ship arrives to Tear. Her stomach seems to be sloshing around inside of her like milk in a stone jug. She, Elayne, and Nynaeve had done little in the way of planning, on their journey, as Nynaeve could seldom go ten minutes without vomiting. The increasing warmth as they travel down river did not help. Egwene tries hard to keep her mind off of thoughts of sickness.
The captain calls to Egwene as Mistress Joslyn – the name she gave him upon boarding the ship. He tells her that they are docking, reminding her that she has mentioned repeatedly that she is eager to be ashore. He voice does not hide his eagerness to be rid of his three passengers. Egwene thanks him with all of the dignity that she can summon.
As the ship docks, Egwene feels her two rings on a cord around her neck and thinks of her recent dreams and how little she can make of them. Sometimes when wearing the ring she gets glimpses of Rand, Mat, or Perrin, and more of those three in her own dreams without the ter’angreal. She also dreamed of the Seanchan, a Whitecloak putting Master Luhhan in the middle of a huge toothed trap for bait, Perrin with a falcon on his shoulder and also Perrin choosing between the ax he wears on his belt and a hammer. She also does not know what it means that Mat is dicing with The Dark One and shouting – at her – that he is coming. She also sees Rand sneaking through utter darkness toward Callandor while all around him six men and five women walk, some hunting him while others ignore him. Some of the group are guiding him toward the shining crystal sword while others are trying to stop him from reaching it.
One of the men in the group of eleven has eyes of flame and he wants Rand dead with a desperation that Egwene can nearly taste. She thinks that she knows him – Ba’alzamon – but she does not recognize the others. She dreams also of Rand in a dry dusty chamber with small creatures settling into his skin. She also sees Rand confronting a horde of Seanchan, confronting her and the women with her – and one of them is a Seanchan. She decides that all of this is too confusing.
As she wonders why she cannot dream of the Black Ajah, and how to make the ter’angreal ring do what she wants, she instructs the captain to have their horses put ashore. She continues by saying she will tell Mistress Maryim and Mistress Caryla that they have arrived. He informs her that he has already sent a man to inform them and that their animals will be on the dock just as soon as his men can rig a boom to unload them. He still sounds pleased to be rid of them.
Nynaeve and Elayne appear, laden with their bundles and saddlebags. Egwene hurries down to grab her own things and by the time she returns, her mare is on the dock and Elayne’s horse is dangling in mid air. She looks out at the city, built on flat ground and crisscrossed with muddy roads. She then notices the Stone of Tear and can hardly believe the massive fortress was built and not carved out of a mountain. Elayne stares at the Stone, too, and murmurs next to Egwene that the fortress was made with the One Power. Nynaeve whispers to them that they should be careful in Tear not to speak of certain things aloud, leaving Elayne torn between a desire to agree with Nynaeve and indignation as she had whispered quietly to Egwene.
Egwene thinks Elayne has been too ready to agree with Nynaeve on all matters despite also believing that Nynaeve’s admonition is likely right. A strong odor of fish hangs in the air. Finally Nynaeve’s stallion is lowered onto the dock and she begins to saddle it almost immediately. Egwene is not eager to ride a horse, after the long ride on the boat, but one look at the muddy streets tells her that riding is the best option. She saddles her own horse quickly.
They ride in silence for a while until Nynaeve is finally able to speak. She suggests that they need to locate Liandrin and the others as quickly as possible without alerting them to the fact that the three of them are asking after them.
Nynaeve: I confess I have not thought of a way to do this yet. Do either of you have any suggestions?
Elayne: A thief-taker.
Elayne explains that while thief-takers serve the rulers of Tear, people sometimes pay them to find people who have stolen things from them. Egwene suggests then that they should find an inn before searching out a thief-taker but Nynaeve immediately and firmly tells her that they cannot stay in an inn. She adds that since Liandrin knows them, and the others likely do also, that they will be keeping an eye on the inns of the city while waiting for them to follow the trail they set for them. Nynaeve says that she means to spring their trap in their faces but not with the three of them inside.
Egwene refuses to give Nynaeve the satisfaction of asking where they will stay but Elayne does. Elayne says aloud that if she made herself known, and if she could make anyone believe it is her in her current clothes and with no escort, that they would all be welcome in any noble house in Tear due to the good relations between Andor and Tear. She adds though that there would be no keeping it quiet. Nynaeve tells her that she will know where to stay when she sees it and asks for them to let her look.
The streets are not crowded and Egwene thinks that is likely due to their muddy nature. She shops do not look prosperous and she seldom sees anyone go into one. The houses that she sees often have tiles or slate missing from their roofs. This part of Tear at least is poor and few people seem to care to try any longer. Almost nobody looks at them. Most of the people she does see are walking barefoot. Men and women alike wear straw hats. The women who wear shoes do so with wooden platforms tied to the bottom of them, to keep them out of the mud.
As Egwene is wondering where she might buy wooden platforms for her shoes, Nynaeve suddenly turns her black horse down a small alleyway. Egwene glances at Elayne before they both follow. The alley leads to a small yard behind a house, fenced in by the buildings around it. Nynaeve dismounts and ties her reigns to a fig tree. A line of stones are laid out in a path toward the backdoor of the house and Nynaeve strides ahead to the door and knocks.
Egwene asks Nynaeve why they stopped her and the former wisdom asks her if she missed the herbs in the front windows. As Elayne repeats “herbs” in a voice of confusion, Egwene explains that this is the house of a wisdom.
A woman opens the door just enough to look out suspiciously. When she opens the door all the way, Egwene sees that she is stout and muscular. She speaks to them in an accent like the Amyrlin’s and asks how she can help them. Nynaeve tells her that she needs something to calm her stomach and she suggests that one of her two companions might need the same. The woman points out that she can tell from their voice and dress that they are not Tairens and then introduces herself as Mother Guenna. She invites them inside to get something for their stomachs.
Inside, Nynaeve asks what type of tea she plans to give them and makes suggestions. The other woman said she would give them what Nynaeve suggests but has not had a recent opportunity to glean – so she is giving them something else of which Nynaeve is not familiar. The two women then begin to discuss their craft. Nynaeve asks her casually if they can expect the weather to continue as it has for much longer and Mother Guenna replies that she is not a Sea Folk Windfinder, adding that even if she could predict the weather, she would not admit it as the local Lords consider that the next thing to Aes Sedai work. She returns Nynaeve’s attention to a discussion of their craft, leading the two women to begin quizzing each other over what they know of herbs and healing.
Finally Egwene, impatient, asks Maryim if she really believes she will ever need to know this information again, causing Nynaeve to snap back that she can remember a time when she was as eager to learn new things as she is. Elayne then breaks in to ask Mother Guenna what she recommends for two women who cannot stop arguing. The older woman recommends such women stay apart, but when pressed about circumstances wherein the two women cannot stay apart, she says she collects money from the arguing women and then sticks their heads inside a rain barrel, out back, until they agree to stop arguing. Elayne bursts out laughing as Nynaeve says, in a voice much too light, that she may have once done something very like that herself. Egwene hopes her own expression looks nothing like Nynaeve’s. The Tairen woman explains that nobody ever shares with anyone else the details of the cure so that she always has someone seeking the cure out once every couple of months. This sets Elayne off into peels of laughter again.
When it is clear that she will not have to cure anyone in the room of arguing, Mother Guenna is pleased and tells them that she is enjoying their company. She says that most of the people visiting her lately have been searching for a way to help with bad dreams. She looks at the three women and tells them that it is good to see three faces who do not seem ready to jump over the side and drown. She expresses hope that they will come by to visit her again while they are in Tear. This leads Nynaeve to suggest that they might hire out rooms from her. Mother Guenna does not answer right away but instead stirs her tea. When she speaks she points out that she noticed the quality of the horses they are riding, that Nynaeve knows enough of the craft to practice it on her own, and that Elayne must be from Andor due to her speech and her hair color. She asks the three of them if they are running away from something or running after something. Mother Guenna tells them that if she likes their answer, she will let them have rooms upstairs.
Nynaeve tells her that they are chasing after some people who stole something from them. Guenna asks why they are not leaving this task to men and points out that she knows Andor is as civilized as Tear. Nynaeve replies that there is no one else but them and that those who might have come in their place were killed. Mother Guenna interprets this to mean that the thieves killed their men and tells them that she will not dredge up their grief. Nynaeve continues on, though, adding that these murderers and thieves are women, and Darkfriends, and that they are dangerous as any men.
Nynaeve: You wondered why we did not seek an inn. That is why. They may know we follow and they may be watching for us.
Mother Guenna tells her that of the four most dangerous people she knows, two are women, and one of the men never carries a sword. She tells them that Darkfriends are fools and that she is not afraid of fools. Then she asks if they can prove these allegations to bring them to authorities at the Stone. Nynaeve replies that they will hae proof when the women are location.
Mother Guenna tells them that they do need a man in this and that she knows just the one. She says he is the dangerous man she knows who is not a swordsman.
Mother Guenna: Juilian Sandar is a thief-catcher, the best of them. I do not know how it is in Andor but here a thief-catcher will work for you or me as soon as for a lord or merchant and charge less at that.
She tells themthat he will be able to find thse women, if they can be found, and then bring their things back without them ever having to go near the women they are chasing. Nynaeve agrees reluctantly before Mother Guenna hurries out.
After she is gone, Egwene tells Nynaeve that she is learning to be Aes Sedai and that she manipulates people as well as Moiraine. Elayne then gets up, stalks across the floor, and slaps Egwene’s face.
Elayne: You go too far. Too far. We must live together or we will surely die together.
Elayne continues berating Egwene, in defense of Nynaeve, until Egwene speaks and says she doe snot like having to mislead people. Elayne agrees before saying that they do have to. Egwene peers out the window and thinks to herself that she knows that they have to do this but she reiterates to herself that she does not have to like it.
I am not a big fan of Jordan’s introduction of constant bickering into his story. That said, the bickering made Elayne’s slap a joy for me.
It’s not exactly unrealistic for a group of people traveling to begin bickering at each other but it’s not fun to read about it. I have spent most of this series not liking Elayne – given her strange and ungrounded obsession over Rand and her overt efforts to steal him from Egwene right in Egwene’s face. I guess it’s in character then for her to slap Egwene in the face.
(Thought: Does Elayne secretly hate Egwene?)
Nynaeve comes up with a place to stay that should be off of the Black Ajah’s radar. Good for her. Lest we forget, Nynaeve also master-minded Eggy’s escape from the Seanchan, too, which you might think would have bought her more lasting support from her former apprentice and not less – but human nature is not something that always makes sense.
Probably the most interesting things to come from this chapter are Egwene’s dreams.
- A Whitecloak putting Master Luhhan in the middle of a huge toothed trap for bait. (It appears in the future that Emond’s Field either runs into trouble with the Whitecloaks or Master Luhhan leaves Emond’s Field and meets Whitecloaks.)
- Perrin with a falcon on his shoulder (Faile is with Perrin now.)
- Perrin choosing between the ax he wears on his belt and a hammer (an existential future weapons choice crisis.)
- Mat is dicing with The Dark One and shouting – at her – that he is coming. (We already know this and it’s probably just as well that the girls do not understand this dream as they would likely make no proper use of Mat and Thom.)
- Rand sneaking through utter darkness toward Callandor while all around him six men and five women walk, some hunting him while others ignore him. Some of the group are guiding him toward the shining crystal sword while others are trying to stop him from reaching it. (The eleven here are almost certainly the remaining Forsaken and this implies all eleven are now free. Keep your eyes peeled for clues! We also learn here that they are not working together.)
- One of the men in the group of eleven has eyes of flame and he wants Rand dead with a desperation that Egwene can nearly taste. She thinks that she knows him – Ba’alzamon – but she does not recognize the others. (Should Egwene recognize Ba’alzamon? Has she met him? Maybe she heard the boys describe him?)
- Rand in a dry dusty chamber with small creatures settling into his skin. (Future happenings.)
- Rand confronting a horde of Seanchan, confronting her and the women with her – and one of them is a Seanchan. (The Seanchan will be back!)