With a humble nod and a genuine display of respect, we're introduced a well spoken and respected woman named Sister Margaret. She's both scribe and interrogator. She's both religious figure by day and dungeon keeper by night. (And judging from the second season of Legend of the Seeker, I'm going to assume that she is one of the Sisters of the Light.)
Woken up late at night, she isn't pleased to find herself face-to-face with a prisoner named Nathan. Nathan was a prophet with the ability to see the future. (Together with Jebra, there seems to be a lot of people in in the world that can see the future, doesn't it?) After a little verbal jawing between Sister Margart and Nathan, many things come to light:
- Nathan has been a prisoner of the Sister of the Light for a very long time.
- Judging by the way he's treated, Nathan's power of prophecy is either unique or at least very rare. (Although I wonder what kinds of comparisons and contrasts exists between him and Jebra.)
- Nathan's power is so powerful that he's no longer treated as a person, but as a tool. Apparently, his power is so powerful that it's because of his whispers into a whore's ear that a war erupted 8 years ago. His words, based on his prophecies, can alter history itself.
Nathan reveals to Sister Margaret that there has been a "fork" in a prophecy. A little more chatter reveals that a fork describes a potential divergence in possible fates and one of those fates has become invalid. When asked how important the fork was, he replies stating that it effects a "core prophecy."
Through his description, he depicts the death of Darken Rahl by Richard. And interestingly enough, this fork occurred that very day. Meaning that while our heroes were saving the day off at the People's Palace, the Sisters of the Light were busy bees, paying very little mind to our heroes plight. Even more interestingly, it seems that although Sister Margaret was familiar with Darken Rahl, the Mother Confessor, and the Seeker, they did not dominate her thoughts. In other words, the adventures depicted in Wizard's First Rule was not a singular priority or even a singular interest when it comes to the work that the Sisterhood focuses. In the first book, we the readers were led to believe that the Boxes of Orden and the fate of the Seeker was the most important event ever to happen in the history of man. And now in this book, we're led to believe that event was just one of many important events, most of which have yet to happen.
Nathan explains to Sister Margaret that on the first day of Winter, when the Seeker faced off with Darken, there were two possible outcomes. He goes on to explain that one of these outcomes were good and the other was very bad: the dark lord would either be defeated or he would be victorious. Sister Margaret assumes that the death of the dark lord would be a good thing, but Nathan quickly corrects her. He reveals to her that it's because Darken dies that the Keeper will be unleashed unto the world and that their fates under the dark lord would have been a much more preferable outcome.
Startled, surprised, and a little fearful, Sister Margaret's head starts spinning, wonder what to do next. Nathan interrupts her thoughts one more time and reveals that he's been holding out on the Sisters this entire time. He likens the Sisters as chickens attempting to decipher holy writ. He tells her that all of their "work" is child's play when compared to the true way these prophecies are supposed to be seen.
Using his power on her, Nathan show her how he himself experience the prophecies. Her mind is whisked back and forth from mental image to mental image. It comes in a rush. She see's and experiences it in a way none of the Sisters were ever aware. And then she's back, crying herself back to a respectable level of composure. And before the night is done, Nathan orders her never to tell anyone else of what he has shown her this night. If she ever told anyone, he would deny it and he would deny it all to his grave.
Futzing With Time in Serialized Stories
Personally, I love all stories that have to do with time travel or futzing with time in general... as long as it's done right. When I was younger I always joked that every cartoon & TV show I ever watched always threw in the obligatory "time travel episode" and/or the obligatory "Honey I Shrunk The Kids! episode" at the end of that show's life cycle. In a lot of ways, over the years, my mind has been programmed to see "time travel" injected into any series as the beginning of the end. It's that one last whacky adventure where anything could happen. Most of the time the execution of story ended up just fine. But after it was done you kind of look around and ask, "where do they go from here?" Time travel has been so engrained in my mind as the pinnacle of adventure for any hero in any story in any world. And then there are the terrible episodes...
Sometimes when time travel is used, the rules of the boundaries of time travel is their specific universe are violated... or they aren't reasoned out by the heroes in a logical manner... or it just becomes an excuse to create an odd parade of historical events and/or long lost ancestors and/or long lost ancestors altering historical events.
My point is that these episodes have much potential to be very good, but they can also end up horribly wrong.
Prophecy & visions have similarities with time travel (and Goodkind even desribes prophecy as "messages across time"), but it's not exactly the same. And now that I think about it, I think it's relatively uncommon to have a story with an abundance of prophecy in addition to the absence of time travel. I'm interested to see where Goodkind takes the story because of this odd half-way territory that he's steered the series towards. And much like all of those cartoons I watched when I was a kid, if those episodes were the "beginning of the end" of those series, I'm wondering how Goodkind plans to land the story back on its feet when all the hijinks are over... and then continue on for 9 more books. "Where does he go from here?"
Where is this taking place exactly? Although this information is intentionally kept hidden, it'll be interesting to find out. I only have 3 guesses (and they're broad guesses): They're either in some obscure corner of the Midlands or they're in an obscure corner of D'Hara or they're in a new land entirely. Of those 3 choices, I'd say D'Hara is the least likely. If they were in D'Hara, the prophecy of Darken Rahl would have been uppermost on Sister Margaret's radar.
Now that I think about it, as far as geography goes, Goodkind never described any oceans, seas, or any natural borders besides a few mountain ranges and the great plains in front of the People's Palace. Goodkind has spent a bare minimum talking about geography at all. As far as I know, Westland, the Midlands, and D'Hara might as well be rectangles smooshed up next to one another, with the Midlands in the middle. As far as I know, planets as we know them might not exist at all and the world is flat...? It's never described what is to the West of Westland and what is to the East of D'Hara. Maybe it's the end of the world that falls off into a never ending chasm? Who knows?
The Ripple More Important Than Once Thought?
I seems that I titled Chapter 1 a little more appropriately than I originally intended. Truthfully, when trying to think of a title, I got tickled with the idea of titling every chapter 1 of every book as "Not Your Ordinary..." (The 1st chapter of Wizard's First Rule was titled, "Not Your Ordinary Seeker" and the 1st chapter of this book was titled, "Not Your Ordinary Little Girl.")
(My powers of unintentional precognition have struck once again.)
(I didn't ask for these powers.)
With no specifics, Nathan referenced the "ripple in the pond" as an important event and that it had just occurred. And of course, we all know that the "ripple" is Rachael. I suppose in retrospect it makes sense since out of all the potential characters, she's the person Goodkind decided to open this book with.