The Great Hunt: Chapter 23
Author: Val a'Shain
Chapter Icon: Flame of Tar Valon
Point of View: Nynaeve
Setting: The White Tower
Nynaeve takes her test for Accepted.
Nynaeve is waiting in a room beneath the White Tower to take the Accepted test. She is slightly irritated at first having to wait for no apparent reason and now being rushed. The Mistress of Novices has explained to her what she should know for the test. In the room a big ter'angreal, a remnant of the Age of Legends is glowing faintly in the dark. The ter'angreal is shaped like three big arches and seems to be made out of one piece. Nynaeve must walk through the arches three times and face her fears. She will remember very little of her life in the real world. Once for what was, once for what is and once for what will be. Falter along the way and she will be put out of the Tower.
Nynaeve is also told that some people don't come back. They just disappeared after the ter'angreal was quieted down. Informed of the task she must perform and the risks attached Sheriam asks her for the last time if she is ready to take the test. She is allowed to refuse three times without being put out of the Tower. Thinking of how Moiraine turned the lives of Egwene, Rand, Perrin and Mat upside down she steels herself and proclaims she is ready.
"The way back will come but once, be steadfast." With those last words of advice Nynaeve steps through the arch. She finds herself, naked as the day she was born, in a strange sort of labyrinth. Obviously she is not going to find the exit by standing there so she starts walking. There is no indication of where the exit might be and Nynaeve gets frustrated by her lack of progress. Then she sees something moving from the corner of her eye. When she turns around there is nothing but she sees movement somewhere else now. She is convinced someone is following her and starts running. Then a very old-looking man steps out of the next corridor in front of her. He is Aginor, one of the Forsaken. Nynaeve becomes acutely aware of her nakedness when he says he'll enjoy her. She tries to run away again but Aginor follows her. Nynaeve now gets very angry and reaches for the source. She calls lighting down on a very surprised Aginor. He responds in kind but he is no match for Nynaeve's anger. She feels his resistance is weakening. Then the arch appears. The way back comes only once. Very frustrated she lets the Forsaken go and steps in to the arch.
Memories come crashing back into Nynaeve as she steps through the arch. A relieved Sheriam takes her through the next step of the ritual. Nynaeve demands to know if what she's experienced inside the ter'angreal is real but Sheriam can't answer that question. She is very surprised to learn Nynaeve could channel inside the ter'angreal. Most people don't remember they can in the first place and it is a dangerous thing to do. Nynaeve is warned not to do it again.
When Nynaeve steps in to the arch for a second time she finds herself in the Two Rivers. It's not the village she left behind though, she sees traces of neglect everywhere. Determined to have a word about this with the Mayor Bran al'Vere she sets out to the Winespring Inn. On the way she meets Cenn Buie who is even more unpleasant than usual towards her. Arriving at the inn she meets Marin al'Vere. She looks years older than Nynaeve remembers her. Marin wants to know if she brought Egwene back. Nynaeve can't exactly remember where Egwene is, but she knows the girl isn't with her. Marin tells her about the state of the village. The new Wisdom, Malena, turned out to be a bully. She is not afraid to use poison to kill people or driving people to suicide to get her way. Marin accuses the new Wisdom of murdering her husband, among other things, and bullying the men into electing Cenn in his stead. The village lives in fear of her. A furious Nynaeve sets out to confront the new Wisdom but when she leaves the inn the arch appears. Nynaeve is torn between helping her village and Marin, who begs not to leave her alone, and returning to the Tower. She chooses the Tower and steps through the arch.
A crying Nynaeve again demands to know if what she has seen is real, knowing she will not get an answer. Sheriam is sympathetic but also tells her the third time is worst of all. Stopping now would mean being put out of the Tower, Nynaeve has no choice but to go on.
Stepping through the third arch she finds herself in Malkier. Lan is with her but she feels something is not right. A confused Lan asks if everything is well with his Queen and the mother of his children. Nynaeve can't bear this last test and wants to leave immediately. Lan is seriously worried about her now. He asks her where she wants to go. Finally Nynaeve sees the arch and sets out for it. Lan follows her. For a moment she is tempted to stay but telling a very upset Lan all of it is not real she steps through the arch. Lan calls after her. "Please don't leave."
Again Nynaeve is in tears. She proclaims she hates all Aes Sedai. Sheriam tells her this is a quite common response for women who just passed the Accepted test. Examining Nynaeve's hands, she finds two long black thorns driven through her palms. Healing will not remove all the scars even though, according to Sheriam, it should have. Nynaeve now notices that the Amyrlin has arrived to complete the ritual. She is now Nynaeve al'Meara, Accepted of the White Tower.
- How did Nynaeve reform the arch?
"The way back will come just once" is a standard that all testees are told.