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.
This article contains spoilers for through A Crown of Swords.
This month our journey takes us to A Crown of Swords, Chapter 21 “Swovan Night” where we meet up with Matrim Cauthon and Birgitte Silverbow, starting with confrontation and uncertainty, and ending with the forming of a delightful friendship.
In The Eye of the World, our merry band of travelers took shelter in Shadar Logoth. While there, our ta’veren trio met with one Mordeth who asked them for help. Mat was particularly brilliant and took a dagger from Shadar Logoth. This dagger carried the taint of the city, making him intensely distrustful of everyone around him, as well as physically ill. Moiraine did what she could to contain the taint, but it was too ingrained by that point for her to do more on her own.
At the end of The Great Hunt, we saw Mat blow the Horn of Valere, calling the Heroes of the Horn back from their slumber to help drive back the Seanchan. Temporarily at least.
Unfortunately, when Mat was finally permanently separated from the dagger he took from Shadar Logoth, he lost many of his memories, including those of blowing the Horn. This made it so when he met Elayne’s Warder – Birgitte Silverbow – he didn’t recognize her. He assumed she was simple another Hunter for the Horn, looking for adventure.
Until Swovan Night, a festival celebrated in the southern portion of the main continent in Randland, most notably, for this scene at least, Ebou Dar.
Mat returned to his room, having been informed that there was a woman waiting for him. When he entered his room, he saw Birgitte, and a memory rolled in.
There was no hope, with Seanchan to the west and Whitecloaks to the east, no hope and only one chance, so he raised the curled Horn and blew, not really knowing what to expect. The sound came golden as the Horn, so sweet he did not know whether to laugh or cry. It echoed, and the earth and heavens seemed to sing.While that one pure note hung in the air, a fog began to rise, appearing from nowhere, thin wisps, thickening, billowing higher, until all was obscured as if clouds covered the land. And down the clouds they rode, as though down a mountainside, the dead heroes of legend, bound to be called back by the Horne of Valere. Artur Hawkwing himself led, tall and hook-nosed, and behind him came the rest, little more than a hundred… Mikel of the Pure Heart, and Shivan the Hunter… and his sister Calian, call the Chooser… Amaresu, with the Sword of the Sun… and Paedrig, the golden-tongued peacemaker, and there, carrying the silver bow with which she never missed…
He pushed the door shut, trying to lean against it. He felt dizzy, dazed. “you are she. Birgitte, for true. Burn my bones to ash, it’s impossible. How? How?”
(A Crown of Swords, 459-460)
Birgitte saw right away that he remembered and she was not happy. She did not want anyone knowing she had been a Hero of the Horn. For ages she had known her fate. Gaidal Cain would be born, then she would be born. They would find each other, and fulfill their duty together. Then they would die and wait together in tel aran’rhiod. When Moghedien tore her from the pattern, all that certainty vanished. She couldn’t be certain she would ever see Gaidal again, in fact it seemed fairly certain that she would not. She couldn’t be sure that she was truly Birgitte Silverbow anymore rather than just a woman out of her time who was quite good with a bow. The more people who knew who she had been, the more pressure there would be on her to be that Hero. In the end, Mat knowing who she was ended up being a relief, an outlet for her, but at this point in time, it felt more like an added weight. One more person with mile-high expectations.
The woman of legend gave a resigned sigh and propped his bow back in the corner next to his spear. “I was ripped out untimely, Hornsounder, cast out by Moghedien to die and saved by Elayne’s bonding.” She spoke slowly, studying him as if to be sure he understood. “I feared you might remember who I used to be…”
Who she used to be, indeed. Fists on hips, she confronted him challengingly, no whit different form the Birgitte he had seen ride out of the sky. Even her clothes were the same, though this short coat was red ad the white trousers yellow. “Elayne and Nynaeve know and kept it from me, true? I weary of secrets, Birgitte, and they harbor secrets as a grain barn harbors rats….”
“You have your own secrets.” The way she looked at him, you would have thought he was a tavern puzzle. “For one, you’ve not told them you blew the Horn of Valere. The smallest of your secrets from them, I think…”
“What secrets do I have? Those women know my toenails and dreams…”
“… I am no hero now, only another woman to make my way. And as for your secrets. What language do we speak, hornsounder?”
He opened his mouth… and stopped, really hearing what she had just asked. Nosane iro gavane domorakoshi, Diynen’d’ma’purvene? Speak we what language, Sounder of the Horn? He hair on his neck tried to stand. “The old blood he said carefully. Not in the Old Tongue. “An Aes Sedai once told me the old blood runs strong in – What are you bloody well laughing at now?”
“You, Mat,” she managed while trying not to double over… She knuckled a tear from the corner of her eye. “Some people speak a few words, a phrase or two, because of the old blood. Usually without understanding what they say, or not quite. But you…. One sentence you’re an Eharoni High Prince and the next a First Lord of Manetheren, accent and idiom perfect. No, don’t worry. Your secret is safe with me.” She hesitated. “Is mine with you?”
He waved a hand, still too flabbergasted to be offended. “Do I look like my tongue flaps?” he muttered. Birgitte! In the flesh! “Burn me I could use a drink.” Before that was out of his mouth he knew it was the wrong thing to say. Women never –
“That sounds the right notion to me,” she said. “I could use a pitcher of wine, myself. Blood and ashes, when I saw you’d recognized me, I nearly swallowed my tongue.”
(A Crown of Swords, 460-462)
Why I Love This Scene
The Birgitte-Mat friendship was always one of my favorite friendships in the entire series. They each held a secret the other desperately wanted to keep hidden, but one didn’t trust the other because they had the power of the other’s secret. Rather, their friendship was strengthened because they knew the other held their secret and would keep it safe. They could let down their hair, to some extent, around each other because they didn’t need to hide.
Besides, it was always fun to see someone shock Elayne and her manners, and Mat and Birgitte together did that admirably! Birgitte also wouldn’t put up with Elayne’s petty, juvenile treatment of Mat. When she learned that Mat had rescued her in the Stone of Tear from the Black Ajah as well as a Forsaken, and in return they had gotten upset with him and belittled him, Birgitte didn’t pull any punches.
“The Black Ajah.” Birgitte’s voice was flatter than the floor tiles. “And one of the Forsake. Mat never mentioned them. You owe him thanks on your knees, Elayne. Both of you do. The man deserves it. And Juilin as well.”
(A Crown of Swords, 471)
No one in this series ever really treated anyone else very well, but I was always particularly upset by how Elayne and Nynaeve treated Mat. It made them seem arrogant and juvenile. Yes, he had been young and brash, playing ridiculous pranks and not always being responsible, but he was still growing up. If you never give someone a chance to grow up, how are they ever supposed to finally be grown up?
It seems like Rafe is digging into the books! He’s obviously a fan, as those copies are very well read — look at that tape on the side of The Eye of the World! Is he reading the first three books because he’s just starting a re-read to refresh himself, or is he reading these three books specifically because they’re what’s going to make it into the first season? Robert Jordan always said that he envisioned the first book in The Wheel of Time starting with the Two Rivers and ending at The Stone of Tear, so could that be where the television series is heading?