In this section, the Heroes learn important things.
Egwene learns that intense emotion can lead her to be drawn into someone’s dream. There is also a clue that strength with the One Power may be related to the age to which a channeler can live. She also learns that even if she is accepted as Aiel in some circumstances, she is still an outsider to them. She is desperate enough to continue her teaching, she even asks Rand to intercede, which he refuses.
Elayne pulls a fast one on the Aes Sedai, claiming that the Bowl of the Winds needs a man channeling to operate it. It is not really necessary to bind the rebels to Rand, they have already made their plan to have the best offer for Rand by choosing a new Amyrlin, though it remains a closely held secret.
While explaining his intentions to Andoran nobles, Rand learns about his mother’s parentage, which makes him uncomfortable. He has not yet realized that he is worried he is related to Elayne, which would make their romance impossible. This unexpected development fits in nicely with the continuing theme of surprise, and twists, and being the butt end of a joke. As Rand ponders the unlikely set of circumstances that led to the present situation, he has no idea that there are even further twists: Thom killed Taringail and Luc is still about.
Sammael sends a messenger. Rand says no truce with the Shadow.
In Cairhien, Aviendha meets with the Wise Ones, summoned to them by a dream, perhaps? Rand meets with Berelain and Rhuarc, and learns of several developments where people are making a mockery of ji’e’toh, or earning a death penalty because of the laws he passed, or having civil wars over the mere rumour of his existence. Mangin agrees to be hung because of ji’e’toh, and Egwene gets a lesson in its complexity from Niella. Rand learns that judging people, in the criminal sense, is not a simple or pleasant matter. Instead of stepping away from the whole idea of being the lawmaker, he gives orders to his people to enforce the law and to stop dithering.
At the School of Cairhien, Rand meets teachers, researchers and inventors. He has set off a renaissance-like period, or perhaps begun an industrial age. Herid Fel provides key insight into the Last Battle. In a full cycle of the Wheel of Time the people must forget the Dark One exists, the Dark One’s prison must be made whole such that it can be bored into, yet when the seals begin to weaken memory of the Dark One must return eventually if the people are to face him and seal him back up.
The Aiel treat Berelain as a woman of sense and respect, in spite of her floozy behaviour, which Egwene thinks should disqualify her. In the Two Rivers, any promiscuity would get you thumped. Never mind whether you are actually competent at everything else.
There are two very short points of view in this section: Sheriam and Sulin. How important are they? Do they convey anything new about those characters? A closer look is warranted.
Sheriam watches the girls through a crack in the fence rather than openly. Her regret about punishing Nynaeve and Elayne is lessened when she remembers how they talked to her. The regret only exists because they were right; Rand scares the Aes Sedai badly, as confirmed by Morvrin. Carlinya thinks regret is foolish; they are obviously not going to share secrets with Accepted. Sheriam, ever cautious, gives her a warning not to even talk about secrets, as someone may overhear and realize there is a secret being kept. All things considered, they have no options but the course they have embarked on.
What does the reader gain from this passage? Most importantly, while Nynaeve and Elayne wonder about the rebels’ plan, this confirms that they do in fact have one, and they are implementing it as a last ditch effort to stave off being forced to beg for Elaida’s forgiveness. Secondary tidbits are that Sheriam is cautious by nature, something which may not have been obvious when seeing her from another character’s point of view; and that Nynaeve’s explanation for their dithering is likely accurate, they are afraid of Rand. A point of view from someone who knows a bit more of what is going on was necessary to set up the summons a few chapters from now. This section’s focus on the matter at hand also succeeds in further cementing Sheriam’s affiliation with the Heroes, not the villains.
Sulin’s part is just two paragraphs long. She finds it difficult to keep an eye on him with the rules he keeps inventing and his constant attempts to find a few moments of solitude. Her frustration is such that she would even let the more mothering of the Maidens take over his care, something she usually protects him from. She and the other Maidens are devoted to keeping him safe, no matter his wishes.
The Sulin section is pure set-up for later events. Rand wants to have moments to himself, Sulin wants him watched constantly. As events will unfold to give the reader’s sympathy to Rand, the circumstances leading to the lack of protectors when he disappears are being justified in advance. An added bonus is including yet another diverse point of view, so that readers can see that even Rand’s followers all have personal agendas that are not compatible with his own. Everyone has an angle, and how it all plays out is anyone’s guess.
Use short passages to convey an important idea without bogging it down in extra exposition.