In this section, the heroes act on the information they have, and flee the Two Rivers. The party is rounded out by an adventurous Egwene and a potentially insidious and troublemaking Thom. They both have good reason for wanting to join, and Moiraine has good reasons for allowing them to. Her argument is one of necessity. She wants to leave as soon as possible, and with as little notice as possible. She’s eager to have dibs on Egwene, and figures she can deal with Thom later if he proves troublesome. Thom knows it too, but he’s in a mood to undermine an Aes Sedai despite the possible consequences. He’s the first of many who will purposefully do what they must, then pay the price.
We don’t need to know Moiraine and Lan’s and Thom’s backstory to understand what they are doing, and that they are highly motivated to do it. The motivations can be made clear in time. If you read New Spring, then you might have a slightly more trusting attitude towards Moiraine and Aes Sedai. We don’t know how Tam knows what he knows, but he tells Rand to watch the ‘tricksome’ Aes Sedai. It’s an effective way to build tension, when you have two or more mentor-type characters who are offering opposing advice, and the hero must make a decision lacking crucial information. Because of the openness and honesty of the relationships each of them fosters, Rand’s trust will quickly fall in the order: Tam, Thom, Moiraine.
Moiraine will get a strong last place finish due to her interest in getting Egwene to the White Tower for Aes Sedai training. Egwene would be a prize to attract Moiraine even if the Trollocs had not attacked. Making sure Rand knows she’s going to Tar Valon creates an extra motivation for Rand to complete the journey, but Moiraine does not realize it will come at the cost of her trustworthiness and credibility.
It’s practically inevitable that Rand would mistrust Aes Sedai. Even if he hadn’t been mistrustful of the legends in the first place, even if he wasn’t resentful of Moiraine dragging Egwene along, the very first thing the bad guys do after they’ve been routed by the Aes Sedai is to attack the boys in their dreams. It’s not a face-to-face attack, just an immediate attempt to discredit the Aes Sedai by showing Tar Valon as a place of danger. An attempt to separate the boys from their protector. Given the role that the World of Dreams plays in the series, I can’t accept that this is just some random nightmare, or that Rand would accidentally dream himself to Shayol Ghul.
The standout writing is in Moiraine’s telling of the Fall of Manetheren. Not just an info-dump, not just a means to escape an angry mob, Moiraine’s tale reveals the character of the Two Rivers folk, and situates them in a much larger world, historically and philosophically. Manetheren’s opposition to the Dark One is renewed by Moiraine’s tale, proving that you can’t kill an idea. Drawing on the tale of the Fall of Manetheren, the boys will find their own resolve to endure later perils.
Stories told by your characters are not only an effective way to reveal backstory, but to form other characters as they respond to the stories they hear. Make your stories reveal more than just past events.