Best Scenes of The Wheel of Time - May 2018
***This article contains spoilers from the books up to and including The Gathering Storm***
Recall that in The Great Hunt, Egwene was taken captive by the Seanchan. There were a lot of bad things that happened, but the most significant was how she started to lose her identity. She was actively trying to resist, she even had Min who was allowed to visit her every week to help her remember, but the damane training was working, she was being trained.
With help she escaped and continued on her adventures. She traveled, studied under the Aiel, was raised Amyrlin in Salidar, marched on Tar Valon, laid siege to Tar Valon, and was captured by Elaida. Elaida demoted her back to novice, but since Egwene was too strong in the Power for a novice, Elaida kept her drugged with forkroot. Egwene was then paraded around the Tower, sent to attend individual people to try to prove a point to those Aes Sedai as well as to Egwene that Elaida was powerful. This did not go according to plan.
After some time, most people Egwene interacted with came to see that she was so much more level-headed and Aes Sedai-ly than Elaida was that it undermined Elaida pretty significantly. Egwene also gained the loyalty of the novices. One of my favorite moments in the series happened during Egwene’s time in captivity in the Tower.
ilviana hesitated, and then the strapping began. Oddly, Egwene felt no desire to cry out. It hurt, of course, but she just couldn’t scream. How ridiculous the punishment was!
She remembered her pain at seeing the sisters pass in the hallways, regarding one another with fear, suspicion and distrust. She remembered the agony of serving Elaida while holding her tongue. And she remembered the sheer horror at the idea of everyone in the Tower being bound by oath to obey such a tyrant.
Egwene remembered her pity for poor Meidani. No sister should be treated in such a way…
Each of these things was a pain inside of Egwene, a knife to the chest, piercing the heart. As the beating continued, she realized that nothing they could do to her body would ever compare to the pain of soul she felt at seeing the White Tower suffer beneath Elaida’s hand. Compared with those internal agonies, the beating was ridiculous.
And so she began to laugh…
Silviana was regarding her with a concerned expression. “Child?” she asked. “Are you all right?”
“I am quite well.”
“You… are certain? How are your thoughts?”
She thinks I’ve broken under the strain, Egwene realized. She beats me and I laugh from it.
“My thoughts are well,” Egwene said… “Can’t you see it?” Egwene asked. “Don’t you feel the pain? The agony of watching the Tower crumble around you? Could any beating compare to that?”
I understand, Egwene thought. I didn’t realize what the Aiel did. I assumed that I just had to be harder and that was what would teach me to laugh at pain. But it’s not hardness at all. It’s not strength that makes me laugh. It’s understanding…
“I cannot refuse to punish you,”Silviana said. “You realize that.”
“Of course,” Egwene said. “But please remind me of something. What was it you said about Shemerin? Why was it Elaida got away with taking the shawl from her?”
“It was because Shemerin accepted it,” Silviana replied…“I will not make the same mistake, Silviana. Elaida can say whatever she wants. But that doesn’t change who I am, or who any of us are… And so, when you beat me, you beat the Amyrlin Seat. And that should be amusing enough to make us both laugh.” (The Gathering Storm, 79)
This moment was when Egwene achieved Aiel-hood in my eyes. She had an Aiel’s ji, she could feel her toh, and here she found her strength. Strength comes, not through decree and subjugation, but through understanding and the will to use it.
Egwene’s captivity worsened, but all this really accomplished was to earn Egwene more loyalty within the Tower.
- The Scene
Egwene was wakened from a tel’aran’rhiod meeting with Siuan by Nicola, a loyal novice in the Tower. Nicola was injured and panicking, shrieking of Shadowspawn attacking the Tower, “In the air, serpents that throw flame and weaves of the One Power!” It only takes Egwene a moment to realize it was actually the Seanchan.
… the Tower shook violently. Dust and smoke exploded down a side passage off the hallway.
Soldiers would soon follow. Soldiers and sul’dam. With those leashes. Egwene shuddered, warpping her arms around herself. The cool seamless metal. The nausea, the degradation, the panic, despair and – shamefully – the guilt at not serving her mistress to the best of her abilities. Most of all, she remembered her own terror.
The terror of realizing that she would be like the others, eventually. Just another slave, happy to serve.
The Tower shook. Fire flashed in the distant hallways accompanied by shouts and wails of despair. She could smell smoke. Oh, Light! Could this really be? She wouldn’t go back. She wouldn’t let them leash her again. She had to run! She had to hide, flee, escape…
She pushed herself upright.No, she would not flee. She was Amyrlin. (The Gathering Storm, 622)
In spite of her fear, her terror at knowing what would await her should she fail, Egwene engaged the Seanchan.
She wove a gateway into the room containing the angreal and sa’angreal, borrowed an absurdly powerful sa’angreal, and proceeded to rout the Seanchan with the help of the army she organized during the conflict.
She taught the novices how to form a link so their meager strength could be enough to be useful. And then she set to work. She destroyed the sul’dam she came across, which have to be some of the most purely satisfying instants in the entire series, and gave the damane forkroot in order to keep them contained until they could be rehabilitated. There were quite a few Aes Sedai she managed to free from Seanchan captivity, and they shot down as many of the to’raken carrying away new damane as they could.
It wasn’t all fun and mayhem though. We saw Egwene decide to kill as many fleeing Seanchan as they could, including the captives from the Tower. The ability to Travel was too valuable to simply hand over to the Seanchan, it’s true, but also, the life of a damane was not something to be envied. Most, if not all, of those captives would have joyfully chosen that death over their captivity once they understood the nature of it. In any case, this would have been a difficult decision to carry out.
In the end, the Tower withstood the attack, and we were left with a moral dilemma.
Elaida awoke to a very odd sensation. Why was her bed moving? Rippling, undulating. So rhythmic. And that wind! Had Carlya left the window open? If so, the maid would be beaten. She’d been warned. She’d been-
This was not her bed… She reached for the Source, then felt a sudden, sharp pain, as though she had suddenly been beaton on every inch of her body with a thousand rods.
She reached up, dazed, feeling the collar at her throat… What was happening?
A voice whispered from the night. “I shall forgive that little mistake. You have been marath’damane for very long, and bad habits are to be expected. But you will not reach for the Source again without permission. Do you understand?”
“Release me!” Elaida bellowed.
The pain returned tenfold, and Elaida retched at the intensity of it…
“Now, now,” the voice said, patient, like a woman speaking to a very young child. “You must learn. Your name is Suffa. And Suffa will be a good damane. Yes she will. A very, very good damane.”Elaida screamed again, and this time, she didn’t stop when the pain came. She just kept screaming out into the uncaring night. (The Gathering Storm, 653)
Do we rejoice at Elaida’s fate? Or do we despair since we know now know with certainty that the Seanchan will learn to Travel?
Personally, I chose to rejoice. They were bound to learn to Travel eventually and Elaida really, really deserved this fate. This is the last time we truly see Elaida, though we do see Suffa again later.
- Why I Love It
Egwene’s time with the Seanchan in The Great Hunt was a big deal to me. If I’m being honest, I cared more about Egwene getting her revenge on the Seanchan than I did about the forces of good winning the Last Battle. For me, this scene was the emotional highlight of the entire series. We saw Egwene being awesome. She rescued the Tower after it’s been shattered by Elaida, then trampled by the Seanchan. She gets to torch members of the group that enslaved and tortured her. And she gets Aes Sedai calling her “Mother,” and obeying her without a thought. She forms the novices into a white-clad army, marching through the Tower and rolling over the intruders.
All the other Aes Sedai dismiss the novices as being too new, too weak, too… everything, to be able to help. They see only what the novices can’t do. Egwene sees what they can and she uses that. Everyone has limits. None of us can do everything, but all of us can do something.
And have I mentioned that she gets to obliterate some sul’dam along the way? *teeheehee*
- Your Thoughts
What did you think of Egwene’s defense of the Tower against the Seanchan?