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 54: Into the Palace
NOTE: The following chapter summary comes from wot.fandom.com:
Point of view: Elayne Trakand
Elayne, Nynaeve, and Egeanin are on their way to the Panarch’s Palace in a wagon led by Bayle Domon and twenty of his men. Thom and Juilin have been out spreading rumors to start another riot in the city. Once at the palace they carry baskets of ice peppers in disguise to get in past Carridin and his Whitecloaks. They see Marillin Gemalphin feeding a cat, but she is too occupied to notice them.
In the pantry they change to servants’ clothes. They get the breakfast tray for ‘Lady’ Ispan and split up: Nynaeve is going to the museum and Elayne and Egeanin are going after Amathera. The latter two enter Amathera’s room and find Temaile there. Elayne quickly throws her to the wall with Air, knocking her unconscious. They manage to convince Amathera that they are not her enemies, but she is hesitant about trusting them and they have to force her to cooperate as they sneak out.
Point of view: Nynaeve al’Meara
Nynaeve enters the museum and quickly finds the sad bracelets. A maid enters but Nynaeve recognizes her as Moghedien. They both attack and fight each other, but Moghedien is furious when she realizes that they are evenly matched. She says she will give Nynaeve to Rahvin even though he already has a “pretty little queen”. When Moghedien sees the sad bracelets she tells Nynaeve about them; how they are made from cuendillar, how a woman can control a man, how they won’t protect him from the taint, how he will eventually be able to control the woman controlling him, and how two women can use them but that will lessen the control. She also tells her about how they were made after the Bore was sealed, but she found out about them when she broke free. Moghedien was two hundred years old when the bore was made, and still considered young for an Aes Sedai.
To break their deadlock, Nynaeve suddenly throws the bracelets towards Moghedien, disturbing her concentration. In that split second she manages to slam a shield down between Moghedien and saidar. She ties off the shield and binds Moghedien with weaves of Air, picks up the bracelets and finds the seal as well, which has been disguised as another figurine.
As she turns to go, she sees Jeaine Caide pointing the fluted black rod directly at her. She manages to jump out of the way just as the bar of balefire rips through much of the museum. When she looks up again Jeaine is nowhere to be seen and Moghedien is also gone somehow. Nynaeve gathers her things and goes to meet Elayne and Egeanin.
I am admittedly not a fan of Elayne but this is a great chapter for her. She absolutely thrashes a Black Ajah Sister and then physically and verbally puts the Panarch, Amathera, in her place immediately thereafter. Elayne is usually the Supergirl that needs to be nudged into realism. Growing up in a Royal Palace skews her perspective. However, here, she is the one that gets to impose some realism on Amathera. It was great.
One of Jordan’s tricks when writing his characters is to make them completely lacking in self-awareness in at least one way. I usually enjoy this in both Mat and Nynaeve while failing to enjoy it in Elayne. In her case, she is brave, bordering on insanity, but berates herself as a coward. That usually just annoys me. The self-chiding here works and “throw open the doors” (to Egeanin) absolutely delivered. I mention all of this first because the events that follow in the rest of the chapter so thoroughly eclipse this scene.
Now… NYNAEVE!! YES! This is a peak awesome moment for a character who has had many great moments in this series already. Not even the Forsaken like her when she’s angry.
Her fight with Moghedien is one of the best scenes in the entire series so far. First, I absolutely loved that Nynaeve off-handedly thinks about how funny the two of them would look to a man who might walk by and see the two of them just staring hard at each other from ten feet apart. And then Jordan delivers some writing magic.
Moghedien was not suddenly going to hurl all of her strength at her; she already was. The woman was putting out as much effort as she. She was facing one of the Forsaken, and far from being plucked like a goose for supper, she had not lost a feather. She was meeting one of the Forsaken, strength for strength! Moghedien was trying to distract her, to gain an opening before her own strength gave out!
One big upside to writing characters who lack self-awareness is that when they have realizations, it can just be chef’s kiss perfection on the page. That’s what we had here. We (and Nynaeve) have been told since The Eye of the World that she is ridiculously strong, even in comparison to Egwene and Elayne who both have more potential than any Aes Sedai in one thousand years. We have never known what this means, though, in context. This chapter provides the context. She can fight one of the Forsaken and win.
Every truly great character in a fantasy epic has a moment where he or she realizes their full potential for the first time. Those moments are why we read these stories. This is Nynaeve’s moment.
The only missing piece with the fight is that she did not finish Moghedien off. Would it be Nynaeve’s instinct to kill? Probably not. She’s not just a Healer, she is the Healer. That said, one should make exceptions for three thousand year old monsters. This proves to be true, almost immediately, as Moghedien escapes during the aftermath of her fight with Nynaeve. Now the Wisdom of Emond’s Field has to deal with a sneaky Forsaken who has a very specific grudge against her. I guess Nynaeve needs a looming and lurking threat in later books.
Either way, Nynaeve collects the Black Ajah weapon, grabs a seal to the Dark One’s prison, and all she has to do next is find Elayne and escape the Palace. The only trouble is that her fight with Moghedien was felt by every Black Ajah sister in the Palace.