In this section, Rand is plotting so many things, he must delegate to his followers.
Bashere points out that the first task Rand should delegate to others is the fighting. While Rand’s training under Lan and the Aiel have made him a warrior with few equals, that task can still be taken up by others. Nothing a warrior can threaten him with can hurt Rand so long as he can channel. Bashere says Rand’s task is to deal with the One Power menaces, and the soldiering should be left to soldiers. Learning how to fight five men at once is of no utility, but Rand understands that his remaining foes are likely to work together, now that he’s cut their number in half. After reading the prologue, and this section, readers will see the story being set-up as two opposing teams, one led by Rand, the other by the Dark One, each trying to outmanoeuvre each other.
No one knows Rand’s true plans, so much of what he does is subterfuge to confuse or convince his enemies of his objectives. The plan to attack Sammael with the largest army in the world is a feint, the biggest joke in the world, revealed in a chapter all about humour. But with the meaning of the Dark One’s orders to let the Lord of Chaos rule still unexplained, readers should be wondering whether the joke is on Rand. The intent is to leave the reader with curiosity as to what is really going on, how the myriad plots will play out, and who will get the upper hand. The last book, The Fires of Heaven, began setting up mysteries that would remain unexplained for a long time. Is it any wonder that when this book was released, coincident with the emergence of the internet, that speculation and theorizing about the series took off?
Taim presents himself to Rand to seek amnesty. He is handed a task that Rand has no time or ability for: teaching the men who want to channel. Rand places significantly more importance on the immediate objective of killing Sammael than the long-term objective of building an army for the Last Battle. Lews Therin’s voice rants in Rand’s head, and can hear Rand speak to it as well, giving an example of the risk to any man who follows Rand. Taim offers hope that the madness can be held at bay. Rand has channelled large amounts of the One Power in the two short years he has had the ability, drawing oceans of it through Callandor and his other sa’angreal, the Choedan Kal. Could Taim have drawn less than that in his fifteen years? Has he been granted protection by the Dark One because he is a Darkfriend, or a Forsaken in disguise? Can he be trusted even if he is not evil and is not mad? In the end, necessity and hope push Rand to give Taim a free hand with the male channelers. However, Rand is clear that he wants weapons, even though he expresses a desire to build something, not destroy.
Regarding trust, Rand says he can never trust Aes Sedai, but he can try to use them. Bashere says in the end he will have no choice, he must trust them, or conquer all without them. Rand leans toward conquest, as one expects from the leader of the greatest armed forces in the world. The rebels need Rand as much as he needs them, and while his allies work to tie them to each other, even those efforts are mired in layers of deception. The theme of intricate intertwined plots is everywhere.
While the world overheats in an overlong summer, due to the Dark One’s touch, I wonder about the prophecy describing the Dragon being one with the land, which is relevant to the later books in the series. Once Rand chose to acknowledge he was the Dragon by drawing Callandor, did any link to the land get created? Can the weather patterns be due to Rand’s mistrusting attitude, a reflection of his innermost feelings? Does letting the Lord of Chaos rule mean trying to crush Rand under the burdens of leadership, so that he himself becomes responsible for what afflicts the world?
One of Rand’s answers from the Eelfinn is revealed: To live, you must die, a confirmation of other prophecies. Keeping his questions and answers secret allows Rand to act on the advice without giving away to the reader what his objective is. Curiosity builds, and each answer can later act as an interesting and powerful revelation.
More personal background on the Forsaken is revealed here than in any other part of the story to date. With brief thumbnail sketches, their sins are laid bare. This creates excellent tension between the good and evil teams, making the grudges between them personal. This was sadly lacking from the earliest appearances of the Forsaken. It is good to finally have the intensity of their mutual dislike exposed as well as explaining the stakes of Forsaken victory.
Jordan expresses madness or volatility with a few simple techniques. Rand never quite finishes a conversation, he will make abrupt changes in the topic of discussion, making his interlocutors distinctly uncomfortable. Their negative reactions, no matter their rank, age, or sex, provide consistent reinforcement to the reader that something is off with Rand’s behaviour. Taim is unflappable, hardly caring for swords aimed at his throat or Rand’s anger, but Rand’s illogical actions finally make him react, implying that Rand’s behaviour is quite abnormal.
Use the reactions of other characters to reinforce the characteristics of another character.