In this section, it’s the big payoff to the pent up tension in the battle of the sexes.
The animosity between the sexes isn’t as strong here, but Elayne still gets angry at Gareth and considers the reason is something to do with his scornful treatment at Morgase’s hands. Nynaeve deals with other women, so has no men to complain about, except for when her followers all frustrate her one last time before taking jobs with Bryne’s army. Mat is set upon by Melindhra who tries to drive a knife through his heart, because some oaths are stronger than others. Min and Elayne decide they are willing to share Rand’s affection. This decision somehow convinced some fans of the sordid minds of male authors. The point of the young women’s attitude is to show they freely choose to find a solution to their relationships, and to contrast it with someone who can’t or won’t do that.
Sharing Rand is a big deal, because the emotional payoff of the book, and the battle between the sexes, comes about when Lanfear dramatically refuses to share him. Lanfear had fully intended to be the one who took his virginity, to become his carneira as the Malkieri say. Rand’s shy and honorable demeanor implied she could trust that he wouldn’t tumble any woman into a bed, and she was right. Rand believed his duty was to marry Aviendha. Lanfear wanted him to say that to her, and tie him to her forever. She really blew it.
In the end, it might not have mattered if Aviendha had in fact slept with Rand, because sharing a room and cavorting before him naked should have started sufficient rumours to reach Lanfear’s ears in any case. Given Kadere’s methods, it is likely that he correctly recognized the meaningful subtle hints between Rand and Aviendha, but there is enough circumstantial evidence he could just as easily convinced himself of it even if it weren’t true.
All of the grudging remarks on the opposite sex, all of the spiteful comments, and jokes at each other’s expense, so much more strongly displayed in this book than in any of the previous ones, is designed to lead up to this incident. Lanfear is a woman scorned, and she will kill the other woman who laid a hand on her man. This is as fierce and furious a rift between a man and a woman as is possible. Since Lanfear couldn’t be around stalking Rand through the whole book, other means had to be used to build up the expectation for the reader that men and women just can’t get along. Men will perceive Lanfear as a crazy stalker bitch, women will see her as a poacher trying to claim a man who is taken, but may sympathize with the emotions caused by infidelity.
It is the most memorable scene of the book, because it has a greater emotional punch than the later battle with Rahvin. It plays on the emotions of Rand, Aviendha, Elayne and Lanfear. Adding extra gravity to the scene, Moiraine dies to do what Rand could not, and causes Lan to be lost as well. Rand has fully matured now: he has led men, he has no mentors left, and he has had a lover.
A lot of setup for the next book is established; a new status quo: Nynaeve and Siuan are blackmailing each other, the Tower in Exile has begun preparations to resist Elaida, emissaries are on their way to meet Rand, and Rand is a ruler of nations. It is a far cry from the status quo at the beginning of this book where everyone was slowly marching somewhere.
The process of teaching people to use Tel’aran’rhiod has begun. First it was Nynaeve and Elayne, now Siuan and the Salidar rebel leaders. The Aes Sedai hardly believe the World of Dreams exists, but they are eager to exploit its possibilities.
With foreknowledge of later events, the entire question of why the rebels even exist comes to mind. In a panic, many Aes Sedai fled the Tower, and the Blues let it be known that they would gather in Salidar. Once any sister from another Ajah learned this, if they weren’t actually told outright, the word would have spread through the networks of eyes and ears. The Ajah heads hatch a plan to let the rebels enough time to cool their emotions. They send ‘Sitters’ to guide the rebels to a reunification within a few months while they guide Elaida. Elaida learns of Salidar through the Reds’ own network of spies, or from an ambitious ass-kisser, or from the Blacks who are aiming for the opposite of the Ajah Heads, which is to keep the division deep and lasting. Elaida sends her own agents to bend the rebels into submission, one of whom is in the small council overseeing Salidar. Thom and Juilin describe pulling down Elaida as madness, so how does the rebellion get off the ground?
Into the seemingly sensible Ajah head plans entered Siuan, with her own plan to overthrow Elaida. The Blacks in Salidar latch onto her claims, hoping to keep the rebels rebellious. Readers know next to none of any of this, and will learn most of it in 4-6 books from now. Yet it was conceived and planned by the author at about this time. First, he had to establish a familiar structure, so he introduced the council, with one member from each Ajah, and Sheriam who is the link to the deposed regime, and currently has no Ajah of her own since she is Mistress of Novices. This is the only important detail to convey to readers: it is a mirror of the White Tower, with all the same structure and relationships.
The question of how to break cuendillar is raised again, and even though I have the answer, I am saving it for an epic theory, coming soon.
Guide the reader into an unfamiliar situation by establishing some familiar touchstones they can use as reference points.