What Lies Hidden.. and what might the Wise Ones Know About It?
Another aspect of The Shadow Rising I like is as the characters become more knowledgeable, Jordan began expanding in greater and more precise details fundamental elements of the series like the One Power (which appeared until book four a lot more "magical") and tel'aran'rhiod. Another factor that probably contributed to this "expansion" is that Robert Jordan developed the "first trilogy" over a decade but in parallel, going through several drafts (as I pointed out, it became three books only a some point in the creative process, it started as one book), all the while refining his ideas and concepts for the rest of the series. When he began writing the fourth book, the first he had nothing written for after the publication of the previous volume, his concepts and ideas for it had matured for many years.
In What Lies Hidden, we get our first "real" visit of tel'aran'rhiod – in the sense that it's (debatedly) the first time the World of Dreams is presented in full the way it would be from now on, devoid of the unexplained or more approximate/elastic elements of the earlier books, as Egwene herself discovers more about her Talents and the rules of tel'aran'rhiod, including how much she doesn't yet know.
Robert Jordan introduced a little recap about the ring and Corianin Nedeal. While this is the last time (IRRC and The Wot Encyclopedia didn't miss a reference) she will be mentioned by name in the series, but Jordan has insisted quite a lot on her in the early books. Are there secrets from Corianin Nedeal that are yet to come? How does the discovery of her diary factors (or not) in Verin's plan? Corianin has gone down in the chronicles as a Dreamer of limited talent. Is this the truth or a misconception she fed herself? Has she hidden her most important prophetic dreams in her diary, not revealing them to anyone but the woman who would find her. What does the diary contain that Verin decided not only never to reveal its content to other sisters but also decided after some hesitation not to show it to Egwene, letting what need to happen happen. Personally, I expect we aren't done with Corianin's secrets, I suspect her diary didn't contain so much secrets about her Talent and tel'aran'rhiod but some sort of 'The Nedeal Prophecies' she wished to keep secret from the Shadow. Verin, much more rapidly than Moiraine, seemed to puzzle out what Perrin and Mat are meant to do – and I often wonder if Corianin didn't mention another Dreamer to come... I'm quite eager to discover what Verin's plan is, and what were her real motivations for giving the Ring to Egwene.
In this chapter, we also discover that a Dreamer can develop the skill to read the weave of the Pattern – past, present or future – into the Unseen World itself. It is a skill Egwene has not really used "on-screen" so far (though perhaps Perrin's "windows/visions" are an example). We know the Wise Ones know how, it's likely Egwene has learned it by now, but she has not use it. As she roams Tanchico, however, we may have gotten an example of how the World of Dreams may be twisted to reflect some truths about the present. This happens after Egwene concentrated on looking for dangers in the city:
"She pulled herself back to why she was there. What would be a sign of the Black Ajah? Or of this danger to Rand, if it existed? Most of the white buildings were plastered, the plaster chipped and cracked, often showing weathered wood or pale brown brick beneath. Only the towers and the larger structures – palaces, she supposed – were stone, if still white. Even the stone had tiny fissures, though, most of it; cracks too minute for the eye to catch, but she could feel them with the Power in her, spiderwebbing domes and towers. Perhaps that meant something. Perhaps it meant Tanchico was a city not looked after by its inhabitants. As likely that as anything else."
First, it should be noted all these fissures are not described at all in scenes set in the real world. They seem to be obvious signs that Moghedien's will is on the city – Moghedien who is described as a venomous spider who likes to hide in dark cracks and fissures. There is also an ongoing civil war. These signs readable in TAR are useless to Egwene, who doesn't know the city or the woman. Amys later in the scene will do a little better: she can also sense a feeling of evil Egwene missed, and mentions the city is dying, eating itself out. But that's all – she doesn't know Moghedien (or the Black Ajah) either – nor the city, and she points this out to Egwene. It seems that much can be read in the subtle differences between the real world and the reflection in tel'aran'rhiod – but a knowledge of the location is necessary to make much out of this. It's notable that Egwene's attention was attracted to the odd 'spiderwebbing' fissures after using a method similar to 'Need' – this may be an indication on her talent's strength. Perhaps it was possible through strength of will to get TAR to show more, though I suspect that method could be deadly.
While we're on the topic of spiders, I'll point out something else which is 'classic Jordan'. This is far from the only reference to spider and webs he has used during scenes set in Tanchico or scenes involving Moghedien. Elayne will point Thom and Juilin's spiderweb of contacts in the city, for example. It's another way in which he loved to use symbolic elements and metaphors. There are several in this chapter, notably animal symbolism. Egwene will 'fly free like a falcon' (a common allusion to Faile's characters), she will sees many flies in Tanchico (the spider's preys), she will see a pack of lean feral dogs hunting the streets (darkhounds will hunt the streets of Rhuidean) – and the most interesting one: she will see an hidden lion (most often pointing to Rand or Elayne) looking at something far away she can't see, and closer a boar-like creature that doesn't see the Aiel woman about to throw a spear at it. Later in the scene, the boar-like creature will charge at her and she's barely escape. The boar symbolism points to Gawyn. He will soon be threatened by women, by Elaida who will try to have him killed in LOC – Galina decided it would be by Aiel. There is of course the viewing of Gawyn that he might be either a threat or a saviour to Egwene.
We also get our fist glimpse of Birgitte in TAR, and through Egwene's comments, the confirmation that the characters are not aware the Heroes are always reborn as Heroes under new names and appearances, and awaiting in TAR between these incarnations – they only know, from the legends, that the Heroes are tied to the Horn and will come back from the dead at its call.
The chapter ends with the meeting of Egwene and Amys. Amys's decision to teach Egwene has always puzzled me. We see in this chapter that the Aiel oral tradition has kept track of the Tower's dreamwalkers. She knows it's been a long time since the last one. Has Corianin been strictly observed by the Wise Ones, or did she have contact with them? Did she mention them in her diary? Is this what so interested Verin when she met her first Aiel and tried to make them talk of the Wise Ones and the fact they could channel? Did she give the Ring to Egwene because of the obvious connection between Rand and the Aiel, in the hope Egwene would meet the Aiel dreamwalkers?
And what truly motivated a secretive Wise One like Amys to take the stunning, and as far as we know unprecedented, step of inviting suddenly an Aes Sedai to come to the Wise Ones, to discover secrets they have kept from the sisters for millennia? Was it strictly because Egwene had a natural talent and was in danger for her life if it remained untrained? Or does the Wise Ones know something about a Tower Dreamer to come? Later, on Chandaer – Amys will say that they had seen nothing about Egwene coming to Rhuidean with Rand, but that's not the same as saying they knew nothing about Egwene. The Wise Ones still have many secrets – they obviously know something about the possibility Aiel return serving the Aes Sedai – but what they know about this, and how it may come about, is a secret they have so far managed to keep. It's interesting that Egwene, if she has her way, looks like she'll be the one tying the Aiel to the Tower again. Do the Wise Ones suspected it all along? Are there prophecies related to this we don't know about?
It's interesting how little Jordan was able to reveal about the Wise Ones. We have learned about LTT from Rand, we have learned much about the Tower's secrets from the fact Egwene became Amyrlin, and once Nynaeve and Elayne became Aes Sedai. Mat has given us many bits from earlier times. But by not making Aviendha a full Wise One yet, we have no main character who can give us full insight into the Wise Ones. Among the 'secrets' we still have no idea if the Aiel female line holds secrets only the Wise Ones and not the clan chiefs see in the Glass Columns – and what they could be. Has Jordan waited so long to make Aviendha return to Rhuidean a second time because important pieces of the puzzle will be revealed in those scenes, by showing her trip to the Columns, or simply from what she'll witness around as she returns to the city? There were many Tuatha'an in the Waste around the time of TSR, and the chiefs said many Ail taken by the bleakness have joined them. It's very possible, even likely that those Tinkers have been told about the Aiel's past by now, and how this past was revealed (the Wise Ones, once the secret was revealed by Rand, saw no point in not telling those who asked them what the Aiel's past was). Will there be Tinkers in Rhuidean? Rand was stunned by the state of the city when he very briefly (and pseudo-secretly) went in Winter's Heart. Has he missed details, or has it changed even more by now, could Aviendha find the Aiel and Tinkers there already re learning Singing?