In this section, there is harsh reaction to failures.
Tel’aran’rhiod makes its first appearance in some time. Egwene meets with Aviendha, and finally discuss Rand’s cleansing of saidin from their perspectives. Egwene shares the view that it was the Forsaken, and how that has driven the rebels to commence talks with the Black Tower. Aviendha doesn’t think the Wise Ones would have taken such a radical course of action. She manages to be evasive about what she knows, while probing Egwene’s reasoning. Even if the Forsaken didn’t scoop Shadar Logoth out of the earth’s crust, the Asha’man still must be dealt with, so Egwene will proceed with the Hall’s decision, but recognizes the danger Mazrim Taim poses.
Egwene has a number of prophetic dreams, and catalogues them. This is blatant foreshadowing, and is of course of interest to the reader who has the means to decipher some of them. Mat will kill men with an Illuminator’s help; Egwene will be saved by a Seanchan; the Seanchan will attack the White Tower. These give readers something to look forward to, and create expectations that can either be fulfilled or foiled, depending on the author’s desire.
Anaiya is killed, along with her warder, obviously by Aran’gar who is looking to reinvigorate the distrust between Aes Sedai and Asha’man that seems to have fallen to the side with the recent vote to open talks between them. Nisao may uncover the killer, but it’s more likely Anaiya was simply killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, for any Aes Sedai killed with saidin will do.
In the White Tower, Alviarin returns from Tremalking. There is no clue why Mesaana sent her there for a month, though perhaps she went to other places as well, giving orders to Darkfriends? She doesn’t even reveal exactly what is happening there after the use of the Choedan Kal fulfilled an Amayar prophecy. She notes wards are failing in the White Tower, similar to how Egwene noted rotting food that had been preserved using the One Power. Was it Rand’s use of so much of the One Power that did it, or is this a new result of the Dark One’s touch?
The three Sea Folk Aes Sedai manage the most secret records of the White Tower. It would be funny if they had been passing the most privileged information to the Sea Folk all these years.
Alviarin gets anxious about some rumour that every one has heard but her. The other Aes Sedai watch her in a way that indicates they know something she doesn’t. She soon learns Elaida has replaced her, and becomes certain that she is in danger of being revealed. In her panic she summons Mesaana, bringing her into the open for the first time since saidin was cleansed, and into the clutches of Shaidar Haran. Her failure to follow orders merits a punishment even Alviarin doesn’t want to see. Alviarin is set a task to deliver the Black Ajah Hunters to Shaidar Haran. Obviously, she does not intend to fail.
Elaida treats the negotiations the same way as Egwene, not taking them seriously at all unless her all but impossible conditions are met.
Pevara, one of the Hunters, has received a message from Toveine, revealing they have been bonded by Asha’man. Tarna, the new Keeper, thinks this news is inconsequential to her plan to bond Asha’man. Pevara disagrees, implying it is too late to bond Asha’man, they might instead be bonded by them.
The happenstance that both Rebels and Tar Valon Aes Sedai are entertaining the idea of joining with the Black Tower in some fashion provides both a question of who will get there first and implies that one way or another, there will be some treaty between the two forces before the Last Battle.
Alviarin’s evil isn’t depicted directly here, but she has enough peculiar characteristics and behaviours to give readers a queasy feeling about her:
Her pride is to the point where any rumour of weakness is avoided, but more so if others are aware of it: To have anyone hear such things said, and to her face!
She considers inconveniencing others for no reason but to spare her own inconvenience: Today, though, by the time Alviarin had climbed close to eighty spans, she was seriously considering making Elaida move back down.
She strives to act in a manner which is aloof from the general population: She prided herself on her icy detachment, always presenting a cool unruffled surface.
She is mean: She almost wanted to tell Zemaille what was happening on Tremalking, just to see whether the other woman would flinch.
She lacks common human emotions: Mercy was for those afraid to be strong.
You don’t need evil actions to make a character villainous; their unconventional thoughts can give effective and subtle feelings of wrong-doing.