In this section, a catalytic event heralds impending disaster.
Demira, an Aes Sedai with the rebel embassy in Caemlyn, is ambushed by a handful of Aiel in the alleyways of the city. The sudden violence inflicted on her in the last paragraph contrasts sharply with the two pages she spent idly wondering about her library books, and with the nearly two hundred pages of non-violent storytelling that preceded it. It is enough of a shock to leave a queasy feeling in the reader’s mind, an unsettling sense that things have taken a sudden and unexpected turn for the worse.
In short order, the ramifications are felt. Verin has taken over the rebel embassy by virtue of her rank among Aes Sedai and Merana’s new deference to her. Demira has concocted a plan to let Rand know their displeasure. And the reader knows that the rebels have just blown their chance to get on the same side as Rand.
Obviously Rand didn’t send the Aiel, so who was it? Demira noticed the Aiel following her, which implies they weren’t real Aiel. The cadin’sor might not match the city as well, but Demira is not particularly observant. They used the term ‘witches’, implying they are Whitecloaks. And Padan Fain has been sitting around Caemlyn looking for some new way to prick Rand. While the Forsaken may have as much to gain as Fain, the mode of attack and the people carrying it out match his followers.
Mat does his best to tweak the Aes Sedai’s noses in Salidar by hanging a banner which is actually their ancient symbol. He dances with almost every important character among the rebels: Halima is the most beautiful woman he had ever seen in his life, yet Mat remembers seeing Lanfear. When Halima realizes her attempt to lay hands on Mat Cauthon has been foiled, she quickly backs off; the ter’angreal keeps the Forsaken from doing anything to him. Siuan rejects him, Leane kisses him, Myrelle offers to bond him. He plays into Egwene’s hands with the orders he leaves for the Band, and honors her publicly when no other Aes Sedai will. When the Gateway is too short, Mat has to tell his men to dismount right after telling them to mount.
Adeleas and Vandene channel against Mat continually to test the limits of his ter’angreal. Elayne tries to assert her Queenliness over her subject. Nynaeve can’t stand being near him. And Mat’s sourness shows in his judgmental and funny commentary on everything around him. Notice how the humourous sentences are structured to keep the punchline for the end.
… a cloudy liquid the lanky woman insisted was made from plums, but which tasted as if it would remove rust.
… a scruffy two stories of white-plastered bricks in a scruffy village of white-plastered bricks and flies called So Tehar.
… a woman with hips that looked as though a man’s fingers might break from giving them a pinch.
In Ebou Dar, men walked small around women, and forced a smile at what they would kill another man for. Elayne would love it. So would Nynaeve.
Mat feels the dice in his head again, and selecting an inn at random makes them stop. His own description is that he feels this sensation when his luck is running strong in the gambling. It was always there when there was a battle in the offing. And it seemed to come where there was a vital decision to make, the sort where the wrong choice might get his throat cut.
Elayne and Nynaeve act towards Queen Tylin in the way that Mat does with everyone. They speak truthfully and plainly, having interpreted a phrase from the Queen slightly incorrectly. They may be inexperienced, or rebelling against expected Aes Sedai behaviour after being put in their place by Adeleas and Vandene, but their approach will find favour with Tylin.
Jaichim Carridin is in the palace as well, and is turning into a regular opponent of Elayne and Nynaeve.
Perrin finally makes his appearance in Caemlyn, just in time to meet his in-laws. They are portrayed in such a way that Perrin’s preference to face Trollocs is reasonable. Their appearance is prefaced by a seemingly unnecessary point of view from a young Saldaean soldier named Vilnar. He describes his potential father-in-law’s expectation, his readiness to face Trollocs contrasted with his reluctance to face Aes Sedai, and his preference to face both together than to be the one who brings Faile to her mother. It’s only a page, and does a middling job of introducing Deira as a fearsome woman, a job that could have been done from Faile’s point of view, or Perrin’s for that matter. Perrin also gives Rand another chance to reminisce about their carefree youth.
Structure your humourous sentences to deliver the punchline at the end