In this section, peculiar characters take center stage and banners are raised.
Aviendha’s appearance in Chapter 39 is awkward because it is only the third time her name has been mentioned in this book. Long time readers will of course know who Aviendha is, yet it is odd to leap into her quest without even a reminder that she had been sent on it. Only a few short chapters ago, the Wise Ones were speaking with Egwene, which offered an excellent set-up for her to learn her friend was making her second trip to Rhuidean.
Aviendha doesn’t tell anyone that she has traveled some distance from Rhuidean so that she can run the last stretch to get there. She meets an Aiel woman named Nakomi, who bizarrely appears as though from nowhere and vanishes just as mysteriously, after leaving Aviendha with some troubling thoughts to ponder. The manner of her abrupt departure despite Aviendha’s keen senses and tracking vaguely implies a greater purpose to her appearance, rather than a random encounter. Aviendha doesn’t dwell on her words much later, so the reader is left to wonder whether this was a dream, a time-disjointing hallucination brought on by burning brush, a visit from a more knowledgeable person such as another Wise One, a Forsaken, an Aes Sedai, or a future Aviendha, or worst of all, a divine intervention. I cross my fingers for random encounter, because Aviendha could have had these thoughts on her own with no need for mysterious old women.
Perrin forges a hammer, and becomes powerfully linked to Norse myth. He also decides to be a leader of men, and raises his flag. He realizes the truth of one of his dreams, and decides to save the Children of the Light, for he thinks they are still in danger from the trap laid for him.
Berelain and Faile discuss Perrin’s identity, and later Alliandre reflects on it as well. Perrin is not calculating and does not do what is advantageous, he does what he feels is right. This is what led him to defend the Children of the Light instead of attacking them. Faile was right about him, and Berelain was wrong, and one last time, I can’t help but see that even when these women are honest with each other, they are not honest with each other. Faile’s and Berelain’s feud ends as agreed, with Faile using her own political acumen to give Berelain some help in reeling in her new man and free Perrin from her clutches for good. It wouldn’t have happened any differently if Perrin had slept with Berelain to gain her help in freeing Faile.
Why show Alliandre’s perspective at all, given that we’ve never been shown it up until now? One hint may be the silk shirt that she salvages from the pile of garments being rent for bandages. Cutting clothes up for bandages is a metaphor for tearing up something good like a marriage, but when Alliandre rescues the shirt that she intends to make a sash out of, it represents that even troubled relationships may sometimes be saved, and something worthwhile made out of them. Alliandre’s point of view is the only one from an outsider which comments on Faile and Perrin’s relationship, effectively reaffirming that they are the ones best able to decide whether to pursue or end it, and their opinions of each other outweigh any other truths.
Elyas leaves to join the wolves. For Perrin to lead wolves effectively, he’ll have to be in Tel’aran’rhiod, leaving Elyas to lead the wolves of the waking world, if they congregate rather than spread out.
Gawyn gets the Bloodknives’ rings, an ominous development that leaves readers wondering whether he’ll put them on, knowing the cost.
Lan raises his banner to lead his people, just as Perrin did. Lan’s reluctant rise to leadership was much shorter than Perrin’s, but conveyed quite effectively. Lan cannot change his character, part of which is his horse, which is what causes him to be recognized at last.
Remind readers of what characters are doing if they’ve been off-screen for too long.