In this section, Rand returns as a point of view character while dire events transpire at the Black Tower.
The familiar opening shows a world failing, withering, dying, awaiting the end. Rand’s appearance disrupts that imagery with happiness: Laughter broke the air.
While Moridin’s forces feel assured of victory, Rand is more hesitant, concocting a plan he isn’t sure can work, revealing that he wishes to kill the Dark One himself. The key element of the plan involves breaking the seals on the Dark One’s prison, which drives a wedge between him and Egwene. Egwene has a clue left by a Dreamer, a well known and oft studied clue: Wait upon the Light.
Rand pays attention to Roedran, inciting the reader to do the same, yet it seems unlikely or undesirable to the reader that such a minor character can suddenly play a meaningful role. It turns out that this is a feint; Roedran is being mildly played up to attract attention while keeping the reader guessing about Demandred’s whereabouts a little while longer.
Rand correctly surmises the Shadow wants to prevent the heroes from unifying, and the bold attack on Caemlyn threatens to do just that. More importantly to the story, Caemlyn is the central city, the gleaming jewel on the hill, the heart of the civilization that emerged after Hawkwing’s death. Its fall symbolizes the last cutting of ties to the old, the end of all that was good. It symbolizes that all the people of the world have left is each other now, even though most of their nations and cities still stand.
Talmanes’ overly heroic death is averted by Nynaeve’s healing. This doesn’t sit well, as it indicates an unwillingness to let even a secondary character die, and cheapens the stakes. On a reread, it may instead have been intended to deliberately mislead, so that when well-established heroes die later, it will be even more shocking. If an author goes to such great lengths to keep this character alive, a payoff is expected. Does Talmanes have a critical role to play which no one else can do? Is there some clue in the way he embraced death which he can teach a main hero? Or is this just one of many death and resurrection parallels throughout the story?
Perrin and Elayne urge Rand and Egwene to talk, not argue, when they meet on the morrow.
At the Black Tower, Androl commits to a course of action, abducting and questioning one of Taim’s men. While the characters at Merrilor debate what to do and talk about events at a distance, it is Androl’s sections which provide the excitement. No matter that Androl is a new character and Pevara is a Red Sister, and that readers generally identify with Rand and Egwene closely, having followed their adventures for thirteen books. All it takes is a lack of action on their part to thrust Androl’s plotline to the forefront. It helps that readers are mildly unsure whether Androl’s events take place precisely on the eve of the meeting at Merrilor, and that they expect Taim’s men to play some role in disrupting those proceedings. Readers expect that the Black Tower storyline will play directly into events surrounding Rand. The fact that this turns out to be false doesn’t lessen the excitement immediately felt as Androl’s plan comes apart and he and his followers are overwhelmed as they rescue Logain. Logain’s own role and foretold destiny also help lift this plotline above the main storyline.
Aviendha comes to Rand, and for the last time he makes a halfhearted attempt to try spare a woman any pain. As always, the woman points out that she is truly an equal, and must therefore be allowed to choose on her own what pain and risks she will accept. Rand finally accepts this, and immediately reaps the rewards.
The dreamshard scene reminds readers that Moridin and Rand are linked somehow. The possibility that many of their early interactions took place in a dreamshard is raised, and offers an explanation for many small mysteries from the early books.
However brief the Moridin-Rand scene is, it contains emotive power in the cool verbal parrying between them. In just four pages it covers Lanfear’s relationship with Lews Therin, Moridin’s self-loathing, Rand’s desire to protect his loved ones, dreamshard physics, discussions on fate and destiny, Rand’s ultimate plan revealed to his enemies, and a surprise ability that sends Moridin scurrying. Any interaction between the principal hero and antagonist is bound to excite the reader, and this short section hits with everything it can. Hammering at the raw nerves of either character and addressing their worst fears is wonderfully effective here.
On the back of the hope raised by Rand’s small victory over Moridin, everything runs smoothly for Androl up until the last second, when hope is dashed. This too is a great example of stringing disparate sections together based on the mood the author wants to convey. Rand’s victory leads to Androl’s early success which reinforces expectation of Androl’s ongoing success, right up to the last second.
Readers will perceive importance with the things the author treats with importance.