In this section, The Center of All Good Things is riven from within, while Rand considers the snakes in his own midst.
The description of the White Tower in the prologue, as the center of the known universe, and the heart of opposition to the Dark One, pays off here. Rand had an ally in the Amyrlin Seat, the ruler of the Aes Sedai. While Rand has been worried about Siuan and Moiraine’s plots, the reader has been privy to Siuan’s thoughts at least, and knows that their aid should be welcome and useful to Rand. The White Tower and Siuan have been portrayed as difficult allies, but clearly on Rand’s side. Now Siuan has been deposed.
The new Amyrlin Elaida has been portrayed as a bully, difficult, controlling and egotistical, and a member of the Ajah who is most likely to gentle Rand. We’ve heard about the disastrous reigns of two prominent Red Amyrlins, one who betrayed Manetheren, and one who mishandled Artur Hawkwing. Elaida’s ascension is the worst possible outcome so far as Rand is concerned. There have been hints that the Red Ajah may flout the law, such as when Owyn was gentled without trial. Heck, after his escape even Mazrim Taim wasn’t getting a fair trial under Siuan’s rule. If Siuan can do that out of necessity, what can Elaida do out of misguided necessity or misinterpretation of her Foretellings?
The suddenness of the Tower’s fall provides a great shock to the reader. Watching Alviarin and Elaida plot would have removed any surprise and replaced it with dread. Instead, the last we saw was a murdered novice and farmer, with no indication of any immediate threat to Siuan or Min, just skulking in the shadows off-page. There is little advantage in dragging out the description of the schism in a step by step process for the sake of including some action or suspense. Due to Min’s viewings any overt buildup would give away the timing of it coming true and the end result. Readers may identify with Min since the focus has been on her, but they don’t have the same affinity for the other White Tower characters. Any danger which others are put in is of minor consequence, so just as well to gloss over it. Only three characters in the Tower have mattered enough to reveal much about them: Min, Siuan and Gawyn.
Since Siuan is an ally, and a knowledgeable mentor character that is meant to be trusted later, there is a need to make her more sympathetic. This is accomplished in part by taking away her power and authority, by forcefully changing her identity from ruler to peasant. Had the same happened to Elaida, we’d likely raise a cheer, when it happens to Siuan, the reaction is one of disgust and horror. How can they do that a woman? And it is a simple woman that the reader sees, not a ruler. The way Laras talks down to Siuan, the way Aes Sedai, warders, and Elaida herself won’t condescend even to glance in her direction when she is on her knees, the loss of her ageless look, her newfound ability to lie, all of these demonstrate that Siuan is no longer anything more than a woman with determination.
The fighting in the Tower should not have resulted in death, yet not everyone is bound against using violence, and they only form they are prevented from using under most circumstances is the One Power. Regular weapons may still be used, as may warders. Elaida understood that if her plan were to fail, she herself may be in mortal danger, so she made sure to have enough strength on her side to win any confrontation. With armed men stalking the halls, any Aes Sedai might interpret the incursion as menacing her life, that of her sisters, or even being an obvious Darkfriend attack, for who else would dare attack the Tower openly? Each side interprets the situation as only being possible if the opponents are Darkfriends. With such high stakes, there is more opportunity to rationalize and find loopholes in the Three Oaths, resulting in battle, death and murder. Doing everything short of outright naming Siuan a Darkfriend may have been necessary to Elaida’s side simply to motivate and enable their forces. Even if an Aes Sedai kills with the Power in the heat of battle, they need only find a believable rationale or loophole, and no one can call them Black Ajah.
Rand lacks the ability to interpret his dreams, or distinguish between ordinary dreams and foretelling dreams. Lanfear intrudes into the prophetic Waterwood bathing dream and also fails to understand its meaning. She is also interrupted in her attempt to seduce Rand properly (I remember Thom’s line about an education every man should have once in his life) by Asmodean. This gives Rand the confirmation he wanted about the spies among the caravans. He now knows that Lanfear has brought an ally with her, and the ally is greedy and wants something extra to sweeten the pot for the risk he puts himself in. Does Rand make the connection to the goodies in Rhuidean yet? He suspects Isendre, does he also suspect Kadere instead of Natael?
Waking, Rand belatedly realizes that he is not so clever for keeping the spy he knows about, Aviendha, near him. The Wise Ones allow him to believe it, until Aviendha lets on that the real spying takes place in tel’aran’rhiod. Whether Rand makes a connection or not, the author is deliberately placing this latest insight about spying and decoys right after the exchange between Lanfear and Asmodean. Aside from being a decoy, the Wise Ones may have other motives in keeping Aviendha with Rand, based on insight gained from dreams or Rhuidean. Dreams seems most likely. They certainly have enough foreknowledge of events to avoid entering tel’aran’rhiod the night that Lanfear is there, perhaps because they do not want to let the Shadow know they have this ability. Lanfear or any other Forsaken could certainly act to protect their dominion over the World of Dreams, so discretion is the best course of action. Of course, Lanfear never does kill anyone, so long as she feels confident that her plans are not menaced. And her plans always revolve around making Rand love her.
The Shadowspawn once again provide a break in the relatively uninteresting travel across the desert. This battle is better than the last, with more danger, more substantial threats. Whichever Forsaken is trying to kill Rand hasn’t tried warding the Shadowspawn as Liandrin did when she tried to kill Moiraine. The stakes are raised when the Draghkar eliminate a Dreamwalker. Seana may have been a peripheral character, but the implication of a viable threat is better than what was served up in the Trolloc encounter at Imre Stand.
Remove scenes which don’t serve your purpose or the story.