In this section, Mat’s appearance in Salidar sets events in motion.
Now that Rand has discovered Salidar, he has sent Mat to bring Elayne back to Caemlyn. Elayne has other ideas. The dance that ensues is comedic both for Mat’s misjudging of the situation and for his inability to accomplish his mission without jumping through several hoops first.
First, Mat somewhat correctly guesses that Aviendha and Elayne will confront each other over Rand. He misjudges who will have the upper hand, since he doesn’t realize ji’e’toh will prevent Aviendha from lifting a finger against Elayne, but will instead have her offering to die at Elayne’s hand to make up for her ‘mistake’. Mat is so concerned about Elayne that he happily leaves Aviendha in difficult situations to keep her away from Elayne. Aviendha’s discomfort is all the funnier because it was unnecessary, even as it provides Mat with gleeful satisfaction that he’s doing well.
Next, Mat correctly guesses that there is no good reason why Egwene should have been made Amyrlin. He thinks only a poor blind fool would take a position all but certain to lead to the headsman, and Egwene has more sense than that! Yet for all his admonitions about the trouble they’ll be in for impersonating the Amyrlin, he shows no qualms about sitting in her chair and tossing her cushions on the floor! Just what was he expecting to say if the Amyrlin he expected walked in?
After much argument about who is right and who is in danger, Mat is able to foil Egwene’s prodding thanks to his ter’angreal. As wrong as he is about the details, he cannot be forced, budged or reasoned with until he gets his way. Once Egwene reasons that he’s made a promise, she is able to make him dance to her tune, and gets him to commit to a trip to Ebou Dar before Elayne heads north with him. If she does.
Egwene declares that Mat’s Dragonsworn will taint the rebels by association. They need to distance themselves from them. They also need to be concerned about the next surprise Rand might drop on them with Traveling: Asha’man. The fears and concerns are convincing, but Egwene still needs to present them in a way that will be accepted by the three factions vying for control of the rebels.
The ability to Travel opened up many story and plot possibilities, and several are quickly closed with the strategic consideration that the ability must not be given to Elaida’s Aes Sedai. By taking away all the possibilities where a rebel might be captured by one of Elaida’s people, the advantage of Traveling is reduced to very limited occasions, such as the trip to Ebou Dar. In essence, the rebels have a tool that can be used once by surprise.
Thom tells Mat the story of the woman who needed rescuing, but didn’t in the end. He advises helping them do what they want instead of what he wants. Trying to force people to behave in a particular way is a characteristic of the villainous cultures: Children of the Light, Shadar Logoth, Seanchan, Tairen High Lords, and Forsaken. Thom’s appeal should work on Mat, since he is constantly complaining about being badgered to do one thing or another by someone who thinks they know better.
Once Elayne and Aviendha decide they can share Rand, they speak of Min, which naturally leads into Min’s chapter. For all that some readers find the three women’s acceptance of the situation unreasonable, men and women can have informal arrangements of the sort, the stereotypical ones being the sailor with a woman in every port, or the traveling salesman. For whatever reason, people are frequently capable of accepting they only get to share part of a person’s life and know that others are doing exactly the same thing with the same person. This discussion about Rand’s love life comes right after Thom’s appeal to Mat. The point is the same, and one the three women have embraced: Let Rand and the other women do what they want, do not try to impose your will on the others.
Min’s approach to seducing Rand is to pretend she’s not trying to seduce him while blatantly acting in just that way. She challenges Rand to admit he finds her attractive and will not relent in her behaviour until he does. Whatever he chooses to do, Rand is stuck either canoodling with Min, or admitting he’d like to do more. In this story, women always have the power over romance and sex, and any man who takes a more direct approach is a villain. Egwene notes even Mat somehow only pursues those women who want to be pursued.
Min instantly befriends Melaine, averting much trouble. Once she is treated as a Wise One, she is allowed to come and go as she pleases, passing through ranks of bodyguards unmolested. Giving Min the ability to move about unhindered avoids having to explain how she got past the guards every time she comes for a visit. A small investment in this scene avoids plot holes later on, and also raises Min’s ranking to be on somewhat even footing with the other women.
Taim reacts badly to Rand naming him the second Asha’man. The readers made the obvious connection with the tale of Demandred, who was always second to Lews Therin. Demandred hasn’t been seen since spying on Elayne in Tel’aran’rhiod, but Lews Therin mentioned him in possible relation to Shadar Logoth. If this scene didn’t put the idea in their head yet, they will still have it by the end of the book. But we’ll save discussing the theory that Taim is Demandred for the final post on this book.
In a scene mirroring the earlier one where Elaida’s Aes Sedai secretly met with the nobility of Cairhien, the rebel delegation is doing the same with the exiled nobles of Andor. Min’s listing of the delegation is forgettable, and Seonid and Masuri are stereotypical Green and Brown Ajah. Out of the delegation, only Merana matters, along with her position in relation to Verin and Alanna, who have managed to distinguish themselves in the reader’s mind due to their past actions.
Look for plot holes by examining whether your characters are doing things that a minor character could never get away with.