Reading the Wheel of Time: The Black Ajah Revealed in Robert Jordan’s New Spring (Part 10)

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This week in Reading the Wheel of Time, Moiraine realizes that adventures aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, as the plot starts to pick up speed, Siuan stumbles upon the existence of the unthinkable, and a lot of people die under mysterious circumstances. It’s Chapters 17 and 18 of New Spring! No time to waste, let’s get started!

After three months, the search for the Dragon Reborn is starting to lose some of its shine for Moiraine, as she sits sipping honeyless tea in a home in Canluum. She’s impatient, having already learned that the woman she is speaking to isn’t the mother of the baby Dragon, and trying to hide it as Jurine Najima retells the story of the infant’s death. The boy, along with his older brothers and his father, all died when the barn caught fire and burned down, and the distraught woman can’t understand how her normally careful husband could let a fire start, or why the boys were in the barn with him, or how the barn burned so quickly.

Moiraine reminds Jurine that there is a reason for things, and that even if they can’t see the reason, they can find comfort in knowing that the Wheel weaves the pattern and that the pattern is of the Light, then realizes that she doesn’t have enough age or authority (since she is traveling in disguise) for the sentiment not to come off condescending.

“It’s just that Josef was always so lucky, my Lady Alys. Everyone spoke of it. They said if Josef Najima fell down a hole, there’d be opals at the bottom. When he answered the Lady Kareil’s call to go fight the Aiel, I worried, but he never took a scratch. When camp fever struck, it never touched us or the children. Josef gained the Lady’s favor without trying. Then it seemed the Light truly did shine on us. Jerid was born safe and whole, and the war ended, all in a matter of days, and when we came home to Canluum, the Lady gave us the livery stable for Josef’s service, and…”

She trails off into grief, hugging her two daughters to her, and Moiraine makes herself linger long enough to express more condolences and to cover her own relief that the dead baby isn’t the baby she is seeking.

Outside, Moiraine draws her cloak about her, wondering at the way the locals referred to such frigid weather as “new spring,” and mentally drawing a line through another name in the book. She isn’t particularly optimistic that she will be the one to find the child, rather than one of Tamra’s searchers, but she intends to continue hunting anyway. She keeps clear of the Aes Sedai in the streets, even though she doesn’t see anyone she knows, and makes her way back to the Inn where she is staying. She hadn’t realized when she booked her room that there would be so many sisters also staying there, and she wishes now she had settled for a hayloft somewhere instead.

None of the sisters staying at The Gates of Heaven know Moiraine from the Tower, but they of course sensed her ability to channel once they got close to her. Fortunately a mistaken impression made by one of the sisters has everyone believing that Moiraine is a wilder, a woman who learned to channel on her own.

She starts towards the stairs, avoiding the sisters and their warders seated at various tables, when she hears a voice addressing her and turns to see Larelle Tarsi, who taught Moiraine in several of her novice and Accepted classes, and Merean. Short of Sierin herself, they are pretty much the last Aes Sedai Moiraine wants to see. If either of them says anything about who she really is, rumor that Moiraine Damodred is traveling in disguise will reach the wrong ears very quickly, and Moiraine wouldn’t be surprised if sisters are sent to bring her back to the Tower in short order.

​​Felaana, sitting alone at a nearby bench, turns around to offer advice that this wilder refuses to go to the tower, that she’s very secretive and stubborn. She also claims to be 22, though the age rule has been broken a few times, if the woman is willing to write that she is 18. Larelle cuts her off sharply, saying that the rules weren’t made to be broken and that “this young woman” won’t lie about her age. She urges Felaana to leave her alone, and Felaana clearly intends to argue until she catches sight of someone on the stairs above Moiraine and turns back to her book. Larelle and Merean also look like they’d like to be anywhere else as Moiraine reluctantly turns to see what has everyone’s attention.

Everyone had believed Cadsuane Melaidhrin dead somewhere in retirement until she reappeared at the start of the Aiel War, and a good many sisters probably wished her truly in her grave. Cadsuane was a legend, a most uncomfortable thing to have alive and staring at you. Half the tales about her came close to impossibility, while the rest were beyond it, even among those that had proof. […] It was said she bent Tower law where it suited her, flouted custom, went her own way and often dragged others with her.

Cadsuane remarks that she could profit from ten years in white, and stops what Moiraine would say with a look. Rumor speaks of Cadsuane kidnapping a King of Tarabon who turned out to be a channeler, and even that she had once assaulted an Amyrlin, though of course that can’t be true. She orders Larelle and Merean to bring her, and Moiraine is escorted to a separate room where she is made to stand while the others sit and study her. She struggles to keep her temper and not say anything she will regret.

Cadsuane demands to know why Moiraine, a new sister, is out of the Tower in disguise, and Moiraine answers that new sisters also need Warders, and that she has been told that Bordermen make fine Warders. Cadsuane then presses Larelle and Merean for information on Moiraine, and they report on her skill and how quickly she passed for Accepted as well as on her “high spirits” and fondness for pranks. Merean adds;

“Novice and Accepted, she was sent to my study more often than any three other girls. Except for her pillow-friend Siuan. Of course, pillow-friends frequently get into tangles together, but with those two, one was never sent to me without the other. The last time the very night after passing for the shawl.”

She continues to explain the attempt to sneak mice into Elaida’s bed, and that the two were caught—she thinks they must have been the first to be raised to Aes Sedai while too sore to sit down. Moiraine is furious that Merean would share such intimacies with others—how close she and Siuan are is no one else’s business, nor are any punishments Moiraine might have experienced. She frostily tells Cadsuane that she knows everything she needs to, and that Moiraine must go pack, as she means to depart for Chachin.

She regrets her hasty tongue immediately, worried that Cadsuane is one of the searchers and will figure out what Moiraine’s up to. Cadsuane merely tells Moiraine that she can leave when Cadsuane tells her she can, and orders her to serve them wine. Merean and Larelle ask why Cadsuane is so interested in Moiraine, and the older sister shocks everyone by remarking that she might live another thirty years, or only three. When she and Meilyn, who is older than Cadsuane, are gone, it will be a sharp drop down to the next five, two of whom are Moiraine and Siuan and one of whom is currently in retirement. Despite everyone’s discomfort, she continues to expand upon the dwindling numbers and strength of the Tower. She says that she would hate to see Moiraine wasted before she reaches her full potential, and that she’s more likely to get robbed and murdered than find a Warder.

Thus, Cadsuane declares that she must be guarded, and that since Larelle and Merean are going to Chachin, Moiraine can travel with them. All three women try to get out of the arrangement, but Cadsuane is steadfast and then dismisses Merean and Larelle. Alone, Moiraine tells Cadsuane that she did not promise to wait two or three days until Larelle and Merean depart, and that she has affairs that must be attended to. Cadsuane is dismissive, telling her that the first lesson of the shawl is that you have only begun learning, and the second is caution.

“You will take great risks in your life, if you live long enough. You already take more than you know. Heed carefully what I say. And do as I say. I will check your bed tonight, and if you are not in it, I will find you and make you weep as you did for those mice. You can dry your tears afterward on that shawl you believe makes you invincible. It does not.”

She leaves Moiraine standing alone, reeling, trying to decide if Cadsuane is one of the searchers, why she would cut Moiraine so neatly out of the search for one week but not completely, tumbling through questions until she realizes that this is getting her nowhere.

She makes her way out of the inn, ignoring the curious and somewhat sympathetic looks of the various patrons, wishing for Siuan and her ability to solve puzzles. To her astonishment, she glimpses a young woman peeking in the doorway and realizes that it is, in fact, Siuan, who nods at her and gestures up the street.

She follows Siuan at a distance down the street, worry mounting. Eventually, Siuan ducks down an alley and Moiraine follows, and is struck to see fear glittering in her friend’s eyes. She begs Moiraine to tell her that the boy has been found, that they can hand him over to the Tower with a hundred sisters watching him. Confused, Moiraine tells her that she hasn’t found the child yet, and is even further confused and shocked when Siuan begins to cry.

Through her sobs, Siuan explains that they are all dead, Aisha and Kerene, Valera and Ludice and Meilyn. There are reasons for their deaths, accidents and attacks by bandits, but when Moiraine points out that even Aes Sedai have accidents, she shakes her head. Dragging barrels for them both to sit on, she tells Moiraine that Meilyn returned to the Tower about a month ago. Since Siuan had heard of the other deaths, she decided to speak to her. She snuck into her room and hid under the bed, so the servants wouldn’t see her when they came to turn down Meilyn’s sheets, and fell asleep there. She woke in the morning to find that Meilyn’s bed hadn’t been slept in, and snuck out again. During breakfast, however, Chesmal Emry came in to announce that Meilyn had been found in her bed, having died in the night.

Moiraine is shocked, and cautiously suggests that the Red Ajah might kill a sister suspected of protecting a man who could channel, but Siuan explains that Yellows delved Meilyn’s body, found no evidence of anything, and declared it a natural death.

“But I know it wasn’t. It couldn’t be, not the way they found her. No marks. That means the Power, Moiraine. Could even a Red do that?” Her voice was fierce, but she pulled the bundle up, clutching it on her lap. She seemed to be hiding behind it. Still, there was less fear on her face than anger, now.

She goes on to point out that Tamra was also said to have died in her sleep, and that the other deaths have followed her. Siuan’s conclusion is that someone noticed what Tamra was doing and wanted to know what she was up to enough that they put the Amyrlin Seat to the question.

“They killed her to hide it, to hide what they’d done, and then they set out to kill the rest. Which means they don’t want the boy found, not alive. They don’t want the Dragon Reborn at the Last Battle.”

Moiraine notes how careful Siuan is being to avoid putting a name to the “they” she keeps referring to. Still, while putting someone to the question doesn’t violate the three oaths, murder using saidar does. So she says the words herself, naming the Black Ajah.

Siuan admits that she stuck a note, her handwriting disguised, under Sierin’s door explaining the suspicions about the Black Ajah, though she realizes that if the Black Ajah is real they could be anyone, even Sierin. Moiraine agrees that they can’t trust anyone but themselves. She tells Siuan about her encounter at the inn, and Siuan agrees that Cadsuane might be Black Ajah, but she might also just be one of Tamra’s searchers. Any of them might be either.

Siuan wants to leave immediately, but Moiraine has Cadsuane’s threat to worry about. Since no one knows that Siuan is in Canluum, Moiraine gives her some money and sends her on ahead to Chachin to search out Lady Ines, while Moiraine leaves first thing in the morning and will stop to look up Avene Sahera on the way. Siuan protests that she has enough money but eventually accepts half Moiraine’s coins, grumpily. She leaves, and Moiraine heads back towards the inn, thinking about how insignificant her worries about being punished by Sierin seem now and wishing she’d chosen Green instead—she’d like to have several warders watching her back now.

She finds herself scanning the crowd anxiously, worried about Darkfriends now as well as the Black Ajah. Coming into the inn, she spots a man with braided hair wearing bells speaking with a woman who is just out of sight—but Moiraine catches sight of a fringed shawl on the woman’s arm.

She would not have thought twice of it if not for thinking about the Black Ajah and Darkfriends. The Light knew, Aes Sedai did speak to men, and some did more than speak. She had been thinking of Darkfriends, though. And Black sisters. If only she could have made out the color of that fringe.

She finds both Merean and Larelle sitting near the door, and both wearing their shawls, and watching Cadsuane, also in her shawl, going back into the sitting room with a pair of hard looking, gray-haired men. She considers that any one of them might be looking for a warder—Cadsuane is Green Ajah, and neither Merean nor Larelle have a Warder as far as Moiraine as well. She thinks that perhaps the man with the bells was rejected as a candidate and puts the incident out of her mind.

She finds that the landlord has moved someone else into Lady Alys’s private room, to make space for more Aes Sedai. Moiraine is affronted by the way he speaks to her, frustrated by the lack of deference, and then goes upstairs to meet the merchant who she’ll be sharing a bed with. Haesel Palan is chatty, and doesn’t give the deference that Lady Alys would normally be given after having seen the encounter the supposed wilder had with the Aes Sedai earlier. She even lectures Moiraine on how she should prepare for the Tower, advice that is both wrong and ridiculous. She struggles to sleep that night, even without her roommate and the storm outside, the thought of Darkfriends and the Black Ajah would have kept her awake. She imagines Tamra being dragged from her bed to be tortured, imagines other Aes Sedai and even herself in the same position, and when the door to her room opens early in the morning, she takes hold of as much saidar as she can. But it is only Cadsuane, who mutters about Moiraine being a “fool girl” as she leaves.

Moiraine counts to one hundred, then gets to her feet and dresses quietly, careful not to wake the snoring merchant. She decides taking her saddlebags will draw too much attention, and only takes what she can fit in the pockets of her cloak as she slips carefully out of the room.

 

Alright, we’re starting to get into the thick of the plot now. Clues are being laid, the Black Ajah has shown up, and Moiraine’s been set on a path to finally meet Lan. I have to say, it’s fascinating to watch Moiraine do the same thing she was doing when we first met her, but twenty years earlier with no experience. For example, I believe this is the first time, chronologically speaking, that we’ve heard her break out the old “the Wheel wills” mantra. She immediately feels like she doesn’t have the gravitas to pull it off the way she does when she repeats the saying to Rand and the others, and even to her peers like Siuan. As we go on through these chapters and then through Moiraine’s first encounter with Lan (we’re so close! Pond Water is next week!) we’ll see many other ways she lacks the outward grace, composure, and innate sense of authority that she seems to carry so effortlessly by the time we see her in The Eye of the World.

She thought that the hunt for the Dragon Reborn was going to be some grand adventure, and in a way she was right. But Moiraine is quickly learning about how mundane and painful travel can be, and that adventures feel different to live in than they do in stories. It’s the same lessons our young Emond’s Fielders have been learning, and it’s kind of striking to realize that only twenty years separate their lessons from Moiraine’s. Twenty years is a long time, of course, but in some ways it’s not much time at all, especially when you consider that channelers can sometimes live for a few hundred years. Moiraine has changed so much, gained so much wisdom and experience. I wonder if she spent the whole twenty years outside of the Tower, or if she ever went back to stay for a while. She knows how to act like an Aes Sedai, and I suppose many sisters might spend a good portion of their career out in the world, but there’s something about being functionally exiled for her whole career as an Aes Sedai that marks Moiraine as more of an outsider than I had originally considered her to be. It’s almost a little sad, somehow. But also so interesting to see this part of her story!

It’s easy to see many of Nynaeve’s personality traits in young Moiraine. Granted, Moiraine has more experience in the world than Nynaeve had when she and Elayne left the Tower, but it’s not really as much as it first appears—Moiraine went from living in Cairhien to being a novice and then Accepted, her comings and goings restricted to Tar Valon. Certainly she has much more education about other lands, but she’s never had to live in them, or done much interacting with people from other cultures other than fellow novices and Accepted, who were expected to adopt the same customs and rules that she was: those of the White Tower. And so we see in her some of the same disdain we see in Nynaeve—she’s judgmental of the way other cultures do things, and is shocked when they don’t adhere to Moiraine’s own opinions about what is right and proper. Moiraine comes from nobility and is already an Aes Sedai, while Nynaeve was Wisdom of a small village, but the attitude is almost identical.

I really do think that this is what Cadsuane is trying to tell Moiraine. Of course from Siuan and Moiraine’s point of view, she could just as easily be Black Ajah as anyone else, but from a narrative standpoint I feel like we’re dealing with an Aragorn situation. You know, that thing that Frodo says when the hobbits first meet Aragorn in Bree and are deciding if they can trust him—that a servant of the enemy would “seem fairer and feel fouler.” A narrative red herring, if you will. This is the same reason I was sure from the get-go that Elaida wasn’t Black, even before we found out about Alviarin. The fact that Cadsuane throws her weight around, that she’s blunt and ignores Aes Sedai politeness and custom, makes her seem threatening to Moiraine, but if any of the Aes Sedai that Moiraine has encountered outside the Tower were to turn out to be Black, I’d guess it’d be Larelle, or Merean, or even Felaana, all of whom seem like more typical, normally-behaved Aes Sedai, and therefore make me very suspicious.

Also, I just really like Cadsuane. After the chapters on Tower politics and seeing all the ridiculous and even harmful practices and customs, it was very refreshing to see someone throw them aside so casually, and I get the feeling that Cadsuane has the perfect mixture of power and age to be that kind of person. She’s old enough that she’s realized how bullshit some of the Tower’s rules are and to not want to waste time disguising or dancing around harsh truths. She’s not afraid to say what others hide behind, to name the dwindling of the Tower or to admit the truth of Aes Sedai ages—and of course since she’s basically the strongest in the Power of any living Aes Sedai, custom grants her the authority to bend rules and demand that the Aes Sedai who rank below her accept her choices. So, as is often the case in these things, only those whom the rules favor have the ability to choose to disregard those rules.

I get why Moiraine is reminded of Siuan. Siuan also likes to discard rules that she doesn’t care for, and is very adaptable and focused on her goals. She doesn’t get stuck focusing on how she is doing something, and can easily pick a new path, a new tactic, when she needs to. (And really, this is a trait that she and Moiraine share, no doubt one of the reasons they get on so well.) She also falls immediately back into her old way of speaking as soon as it’s allowed again, and I love the idea that Siuan never actually changed, she just acted the part required of her as long as she had to, and then returned to her own personality and way of being the second she was able. Kind of like how she’s been playing humble since her stilling, pretending to “know her place” with the Salidar Aes Sedai while never deviating from the purpose to which she has dedicated her life. Never believing that she’s less than them or owes them deference just because they’re stronger in the Power now that she’s had her ability taken.

I wonder if Cadsuane is still alive in the “present day” of Rand’s story. I don’t believe I’ve encountered her so far, but I’m only through The Fires of Heaven so there’s still lots of room for her to show up again. I hope she does. I can imagine she’d have a different, slightly more pragmatic approach to Rand than your average Aes Sedai. And she is a Green, and “born to command” as Moiraine observes. Rand could always use more generals, and I feel like Cadsuane deserves to get to be a part of the Last Battle. It would feel unfair to be a powerful Green and be so close, but not quite make it to the thing you’ve dedicated your entire life to. Like the Wheel wills, but it owes Cadsuane this. And me. It owes me this.

But yeah, I don’t think she’s Black Ajah. And I don’t think she had any nefarious designs on Moiraine. I think she was looking at the younger sisters as an experienced elder would, aware of how little Moiraine understands of the world and how vulnerable she is in it. The Power doesn’t make Moiraine as safe and secure as she believes it does, and Cadsuane is speaking from a long life of experience, as we see when she lectures Moiraine after Larelle and Merean have left. “I know better than most how hard [caution] is to find when you’re young and have saidar at your fingertips and the world at your feet,” are her exact words, and I think it’s pretty clear that she’s remembering her own youth when she says it.

And once again I am reminded of Nynaeve in the way that Moiraine is too wrapped up in her own mission—and her own indignation—to hear what Cadsuane is actually saying. Yes, Moiraine may know more than Cadsuane (if Cadsuane is not one of Tamra’s searchers). But Cadsuane doesn’t know the importance of Moiraine’s mission or why she needs to hide her true identity, and is operating from a place where all she sees a newly raised Aes Sedai putting herself in danger for no apparent reason; it’s pretty fair of her to ask what urgent business a woman who has only had the shawl for a few months could have out here in the Borderlands.

There’s something else too. Moiraine wonders if Cadsuane referenced Meilyn and Kerene for a specific reason, and I think it’s quite possible that Cadsuane has heard of some of the deaths that Siuan later reports. Even if she is not one of the searchers and has no knowledge about Gitara’s foretelling or the birth of the Dragon, she might still have noted that these are quite a few accidents in short order. Perhaps she has some kind of suspicions that come from knowledge and experience that Moiraine doesn’t have, and that we the readers don’t either. Her comment that Moiraine is taking more risks that she knows could very well be general, but it could also be incredibly specific.

Of course, I have the benefit of observing from a distance and mulling things over from the safety of my couch. It’s not surprising that Moiraine can’t quite take the same perspective—she’s in the thick of it, living the horror and danger of finding out about the Black Ajah for the first time, of feeling that she and Siuan can’t trust anyone and may very well be next on the hit list of Aes Sedai who are much more experienced than they are. Not to mention they know that the Dragon has just been born, and that the Last Battle and the new Breaking of the world is on its way. Not easy to be clear headed and logically detached in a situation like that; I think even a White might have trouble.

In fact, I was a bit surprised that Siuan and Moiraine have confirmed the existence of the Black Ajah already. Siuan definitely seemed to be realizing their existence for the first time when she decided to make Nynaeve and Egwene her hounds in the hunt for Liandrin and Co. Then again, while Jordan probably hadn’t conceived all of the events of New Spring by that point, what Siuan says or implies to Nynaeve doesn’t have to be the whole truth—I believe she says something about being loath to admit that the Black Ajah might be in the Tower, not that she’s struggling to believe it. I am now tempted to go look through all of Siuan’s sections in The Great Hunt and The Shadow Rising just to see if there are any hints that she’s already perfectly aware that the Black Ajah have been around for a while, but that’s a bit obsessive, even for me. So I’ll move on.

As soon as we found out that Tamra was putting together a scheme and a group of searchers to look for the baby Dragon, I was confused, since The Great Hunt definitely confirmed that only Siuan and Moiraine were aware that the Dragon had been reborn and were secretly searching for him all by themselves. I guess hindsight is 20/20, but I feel like I should have figured that this was what was going to happen! By the end of New Spring every Aes Sedai who was told about Gitara’s Foretelling will be dead, and only Moiraine and Siuan will be spared because the Black Ajah doesn’t know that they’re in on the secret. This also explains how the Dark One began his own hunt for Rand that leads to Trollocs coming to the Two Rivers at the same time that Moiraine does—the Black Ajah told the Shadow what they had learned from Tamra.

And that is, of course, what happened to Jurine Najima’s baby. The Black Ajah has learned the parameters around the Dragon’s birth—they may even have a list of names procured from torturing Tamra or one of the murdered searchers. And while Moiraine figured that this baby was born in the wrong place and doesn’t fit the Foretelling’s requirements, I doubt the Black Ajah would care to take time to interrogate every mother when they could just murder people with the Power and move on. And if they do have the whole list, Moiraine’s going to find a lot more dead children on her journey, a sentence I did not particularly enjoy typing.

I was surprised that Moiraine didn’t take more note of that story. She was bored and annoyed and aware that the child wasn’t the one she was looking for, but there’s a lot Jurine said that doesn’t add up. Moiraine tells Jurine that death is often senseless, but Jurine isn’t pointing out that her husband and sons’ deaths feel meaningless or unfair, she’s saying that the specifics of how it happened are suspicious. Moiraine wasn’t baited into consideration of that fact, but I certainly found myself asking why all three boys were out in the barn at once. And how would they all be trapped if Josef was always so careful? And wouldn’t a fire be the perfect way to consume the evidence of some other cause of death?

And then there’s the bit where Jurine describes Josef’s ridiculous luck, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how much it sounded like the description of a ta’veren. I feel like I don’t have all the pieces and am probably jumping to conclusions a little, but I kept thinking about Rand’s ta’veren power causing a village to find hidden chests of old coins and things like that. Whatever’s happening, there’s definitely a clue here, and if I were Siuan I would be looking for a pattern for sure. I guess we’ll see what happens when Moiraine finds the next mother and baby.

You know that bit in the “A Scandal in Belgravia” episode of BBC’s Sherlock where all the cases Sherlock can’t solve or gets bored with turn out to be clues to what’s going on with Irene Adler and Mycroft’s plane full of dead people? I’m just imagining some reveal where Jurine’s husband and other clues suddenly all fall into place, and some Black Ajah member all Mycroft Holmes style to Moiraine like “You’ve been stumbling round the fringes of this one for ages. Or were you too bored to notice?”

Anyway, with that weird detour over, I guess I have to acknowledge the whole reveal that Moiraine and Siuan are something called pillow friends. From context, I’m guess that this is a term for novices/Accepted having a sexual side to their friendship in the Tower, but unless there is some huge reveal coming, it sounds like this is just the Aes Sedai version of the “gay until graduation” phenomenon that people ascribe to students in all-girl or majority-female colleges. Obviously Moiraine and Siuan love each other desperately, and I’ve already talked about how tragic it is that events have kept them separated for most of their time as Aes Sedai. I will totally ship them if they end up together, but I don’t think that it’s likely to end up that way. The narrative is clearly setting Siuan up with Gareth Bryne, after all, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we hear one mention of Siuan and Moiraine having a sexual relationship and then the narrative makes multiple references to their attraction to men within the same and following chapter. So yeah, unless there’s more specific information to come I’m just going to walk away from this one.

I did find it interesting that there is an age cap on initiates to the Tower, and it took me a moment to figure out how that is possible. We know that girls who have the spark aren’t given a choice on whether to come. Even if they never turn out strong enough to become Aes Sedai, the sisters want to be sure the girls can control their channeling well enough not to hurt themselves or others. Surely, I thought, they would need to accept any woman of any age? But then perhaps there is a window for discovering you have the spark. It seems to come out in mid to late teenagerhood, so perhaps the cap is because after that time, every woman who is born with the spark will have touched saidar already.

Still, what of wilders like Nynaeve who never realized that they were channeling? If a woman who was a bit older eventually found out she had the ability to channel, why would the tower turn her away? Or perhaps an older woman who always wanted to see if she could learn, but whose circumstances prevented her from coming to be tested when she was young—why would the Tower reject anyone who wanted to learn, especially given their diminishing ranks?

The only thing I can figure is that they’re like the Jedi—they think adult women are too old and set in their ways to be trained to think like Aes Sedai rather than the people they were before. The Aes Sedai are very strict about behavior, custom, and hierarchy so I guess that makes sense. But on the other hand, a woman who is a channeler lives a long time, and even if she were in her 40s or 50s she’d still have many years to devote to service in the Tower, wouldn’t she?

I think this is another example of rules that are adhered to because they are customary, not because they make sense. But maybe there’s some more information that I don’t have yet that explains more fully.

In any case, Moiraine’s path has been set—once again she’s escaping from those who would keep her safe and under their thumb, off to continue looking for the Dragon Reborn. And her encounter with Ryne at the inn will set her feet on their destined path towards Lan, which is very curious and also exciting. Thinking that Ryne might be a Darkfriend will color Moiraine’s opinions and suspicions of Lan as well, and that should prove very interesting.

Join us next week for the long-anticipated dunk in the pond! In the meantime I leave you with an observation about delving. I think I may have encountered the term before now, but I’m not sure, and I definitely wasn’t sure what it means. It seems to refer to the process of checking to see if someone is injured or sick, that thing that happens where the person being touched suddenly feels like they’ve been dunked in cold water. I’m very curious about this process and I hope that Nynaeve learns to do it and we get more explanation around it.

Sylas K Barrett met the love of his life when they were roommates in college, so he’s not really interested in anything less than Siuan and Moiraine ending up married, now.

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