This article contains spoilers through A Crown of Swords.
This month we’ll be taking a slightly darker turn into chapter 25 Mindtrap in A Crown of Swords. We’ll be catching up with the delightful Moghedien as she faces some hard consequences.
Recall in The Shadow Rising that Nynaeve ran into Moghedien in Tanchico. After an exciting kerfuffle, Nynaeve won but Moghedien escaped. Later, in The Fires of Heaven, Nynaeve came across Moghedien in tel’aran’rhiod and managed to capture her by creating an a’dam and then feeding her forkroot tea. They ouind her in the waking world and placed her in a real a’dam. While in captivity they compelled her to share knowledge of weaves from the Age of Legends.
The scene opened with Moghedien, trapped in a memory.
Tears leaked from Moghedien’s eyes, down cheeks that already glistened. She twitched on her hard pallet, arms and legs jerking as she fought desperately, futilely, to wake. She was no longer aware that she dreamed – all seemed real – but deep memories remained, and in those depths, instinct shrieked and clawed for escape.
from A Crown of Swords, 526
She was being held in a bubble of sorts, forced to relive the chosen events endlessly until finally released. Time did not work the same within the vacuole so she could be held there for hours or centuries. She was fortunate that she was only there for a couple of days to the outside world, but there’s no telling just how many times she had to relive her punishment.
Halima (also known as Aran’gar, and formerly known as Balthamel) released her from the a’dam and gave her the summons to the Pit of Doom. Moghedien obeyed the summons and met Shadar Haran at the entrance. We then see her worry grow as the entrance to the Pit display quite clearly how the Dark One feels about each particular visitor.
She was well familiar with the sloping tunnel ceilinged in stone daggers like fangs, the walls glowing with pale light. Many times she had made this downward journey since the day so long ago when she first came to make obeisance to the Great Lord and pledge her soul, but never as now, never with her failure known in all its magnitude… Things could be done here that could be done nowhere else. Things could happen here that could happen nowhere else.
She gave a start as one of the stone fangs brushed her hair, then gathered herself as best she could. Those spikes and blades still cleared the strange, too-tall Myrddraal easily… she was forced to move her head around their points now. Reality was clay to the Great Lord here, and he often made his displeasure known so. A stone tooth struck her shoulder, and she ducked to go under another… She bent lower, scurrying crouched in the Myrddraal’s wake, trying to get closer. Its stride never changed, but no matter how quickly she scuttled, the interval between them did not lessen. The ceiling descending, the Great Lord’s fangs to rend traitors and fools, and Moghedien dropped to hands an knees, crawling, then flattened to elbows and knees… Moghedien slithered on her belly, pulled herself along with her hands, pushed with her feet. Stone points dug at her flesh, caught at her dress. Panting, she wriggled the last distance to the sound of ripping wool.
(A Crown of Swords, 526-527)
The trip into the Pit of Doom was distressing enough, with the Dark One nearly crushing her in his displeasure. Unfortunately for her, she survived the descent.
The Dark One spoke of her failure – being captured and then teaching his enemies – and Moghedien, tried to downplay it. She tried to convince him it was just a ploy. She was working from the shadows, just as she always had. She had taught the Dark One’s enemies some true weaves, but she had also taught them weaves which made them ill when they tried to use them. She hadn’t truly failed, she was just using an unorthodox technique!
He was not impressed.
MY CHOSEN ARE ALWAYS THE STRONGEST. MY HAND MOVES…
No. She knew she was going to die, but this Myrddraal would not eat one shred of her! She reached to embrace saidar, and her eyes bulged. There was nothing there. Nothing!…
In those stunned moments, the Myrddraal forced her mouth open, scraped the blade along her tongue, then nicked her ear. And as it straightened with her blood and saliva, she knew, even before it produced what appeared to be a tiny, fragile cage of gold wire and crystal. Some things could only be done here, some only to those who could channel, and she had brought a number of men and women for this very purpose.
“No,” she breathed. Her eyes could not leave the cour’souvra. “No, not me. NOT ME!”
Ignoring her, Saidar Haran scraped the fluids from the knife onto the cour’souvra… With a flick of tis wrist, it tossed the mindtrap out over the lake of molten stone…
Moghedien forgot the Myrddraal. She flung out her hands toward the Bore. “Mercy, Great Lord!… I beg mercy, I beg! MERCYYYYYYY!”
YOU MAY SERVE ME STILL.
The voice flung her into ecstasy beyond knowing, but at the same instant the sparkling mindtrap suddenly glowed like the sun, and in the midst of rapture, she knew pain as if she had been immersed in the fiery lake. They blended, and she howled, thrashing like a mad thing, thrashing in endless pain, endless, until after Ages… the tiny mercy of darkness overwhelmed her.
(A Crown of Swords, 529-530)
She wasn’t given any time in the vacuole to embrace the darkness, instead the memory immediately began again. We do not know how many times she had to relive the memory of her fall from grace, and the agony that accompanied the Dark One’s “mercy,” but we can easily infer that it was more than a few.
Why I Love It
Before this chapter, we knew that the Dark One does not abide failure, but we also knew that the Forsaken were held to a different standard than were your run of the mill Darkfriends. Out of everyone who had served the Dark One’s cause, these were the elect and they had been granted significant access as well as significant power because of that status. Common Darkfriends failed all the time and were punished, but the Forsaken never seemed to face the same quick punishment.
Until now. Here we saw how the Dark One handles true failure from his Chosen, and it wasn’t pretty.
The Wheel of Time handles some pretty meaty topics, but it leaves a lot to the interpretation of the reader. We know of bad things happening, but we rarely see the nitty gritty of the bad things happen. In this chapter though, we are left with no doubt about just how terrible Moghedien’s fate is. We walked with her as she learned that her status had been changed from One Step Away From the Great Lord, to Worm, and we saw her writhing in agony after being granted leniency. We also saw that she was made to relive the humiliation, terror, and then torment over and over with no time to catch her breath. Time moves differently both in the vacuole and near the Bore, so she could very well have been in physical pain for years, every time she relived the memory.
This scene puts a lot into perspective. Egwene faced some pretty trying punishments during her time with the Aiel, and in her time as a captive of the Seanchan. Rand’s confinement leading up to Dumai’s Well, Mat’s experience with the dagger from Shadar Logoth, each of our characters have gone through some extremely difficult experiences, but none of them quite measuree up to what the Dark One meted out in this chapter. It was almost enough to make me feel sorry for Moghedien.
I love this scene because it illustrated just how important it was that the Dark One not win the war. It is one thing to hear that the Dark One is evil, we should defeat him, but it is something entirely different to see what the consequences of losing that battle will be for all those who opposed him. Here, in this chapter, we got to see the severity of those consequences, and we came away from it with a rekindled sense of desperation to win this war.