In this section, possible future plots are laid, both good and dreadful.
Nynaeve heals madness, a feat considered impossible by three millennia of Aes Sedai, who simply took the easy path of gentling men rather than study them. Once the easy path was institutionalized, deviating from it was not well looked upon. As has been done in earlier books, before Nynaeve does her Healing, it is established that she first Delves a person, telling her what is wrong with them.
Nynaeve healed gentling and stilling by building a bridge across a gap in the afflicted person. She can heal Compulsion by weaving its reverse pattern. She helped cleanse saidin by funneling the immensity of the taint through a filter. She heals madness by meticulously pulling one barb at a time and healing the spot where it penetrated the brain. Could stopping the Dark One and sealing the Bore again be done similarly to any of these, or as a combination of all four?
A bubble of evil once again represents the situation at hand. Everyone in a several block radius of a neighbourhood in Tear has been turned into a fine powder. When Nynaeve and Naeff pile it up, and she adds fire, the spark sets it all off in a fiery flash. A mad Asha’man acts similarly, having his very essence ground away, until something sets him off, and he is caught in irrationally mad behaviour, destroying everything around him.
Nynaeve feels insignificant in the face of such monumental forces of evil, but she realizes it is important to feel the little victories, for futility is what the Dark One wants her to feel. This is in line with Rand’s realization that it is not the big epic things that matter most, it is the immediate, local things that matter in the long run, that when repeated in the thousands across the land, create the fabric that the Dark One seeks to unravel.
Nynaeve is invited to Shayol Ghul, to accompany Rand at the Last Battle. Rand had decided this prior to seeing Nynaeve and learning of her feat, yet it is presented as a natural consequence of Nynaeve’s ongoing dedication to her community. Rand hands out compliments and takes criticism gracefully. He has taken on a role similar to his father, and is seen as such by Nynaeve, further cementing the fact that he has fully matured and is ready for the Last Battle.
Egwene learns the Oath Rod can be beaten, and rather easily at that. The weave allowing sounds to be heard differently is simply a means of doing what most Aes Sedai do anyway, which is to twist the truth. Egwene has the Aes Sedai researching Mesaana’s character traits, looking for clues to understand her and eventually defeat her. Egwene’s intense personal focus on Mesaana builds up interest in their eventual confrontation. That focus stems from the comparison of Mesaana being the Shadow’s Amyrlin, a direct and personal comparison to Egwene. The realization that she is the target, and the decision to use herself as bait adds to the personal nature of their conflict. Without these elements, there would be nothing but plot driving this storyline forward.
Perrin and Faile celebrate an anniversary, coming mostly clean with secrets they held back previously. As cathartic as it is talking about captivity and running with wolves, they both avoid the topic of infidelity. Perrin guesses why Faile won’t talk about Rolan, but now ascribes it to fondness, nothing more. Faile won’t let Perrin talk about Berelain, reserving the duty of dealing with her and the rumours for herself. On the surface, no cheating took place for either of them, but I still have nagging doubts that this is a case of willingly unreliable narrators, convincing themselves and each other of the truth they want to believe.
Perrin has a weakness: Faile, and he is told that he must accept that weakness, since it is a part of him that he cannot change, and makes him who he is.
Perrin contrasts his unforgiving attitude towards Rolan with the Whitecloaks’ attitude towards him. Empathy is something readers should identify with, since it is hoped they feel empathy towards the main characters. Showing empathetic characters who can see from someone else’s point of view makes them likeable, while unempathetic characters may feel readers with dislike, disgust, horror, or dread.
Mat’s followers are parting from his company, and will almost certainly be seen with Egwene next. I just noticed Olver shares a name with the author. Did he include a young version of himself in the story?
Elayne continues to believe Min’s Viewing makes her safe, then considers doing the very thing Rand warned Nynaeve not to: approach the Black Tower. No matter which order these two elements are presented in, the end result is dread.
Show empathy to make characters likeable, and do not show it to make readers uncertain or negative towards the characters.