Last POV, Gawyn made much of how he had learned and accepted his supporting role, but here he is being restless and discontented again. Instead of killing Trollocs with a long polearm, he wants to duel with the Trollocs with a sword, control the fight and beat them. He is thinking of himself and not protecting the Amyrlin, even if only by staying whole. Her attitude that she didn’t need protecting rubbed off on him, who wants a bigger, more important part on the world stage. It’s not that no Trollocs break through the lines of Aes Sedai—they do; but the killing power of the channellers makes Gawyn feel feeble in comparison. The prince envies the soldiers fighting—who are just doing what is necessary—and would not make a good general due to his hunger for glory.
On the other hand, Gawyn’s tactics for protecting the Amyrlin are sound. However, he is somewhat complacent that the Aes Sedai are winning their war. It’s noticeable that Gawyn gives all other Aes Sedai the honorific except Keeper Silviana, who does not like him, or he her.
Egwene’s group now know that some Asha’man are Dreadlords and immediately fear that all those in the Black Tower may be. Yet the Aes Sedai have direct experience of some of their own being Dreadlords, but not all. Likewise, Egwene still distrusts Leilwin because she is Seanchan.
Gawyn is in the throes of deciding to take risks with the bloodknives’ rings. (For more information on these ter’angreal see here.) Leilwin sees the rings and tells him more about them. Gawyn warns Leilwin and Domon off mentioning assassins and rings to Egwene, because he is tempted to use the rings to fight on the battlefield and Egwene would undoubtedly make him hand them over if she knew he had them. This is the early warning of Gawyn wandering off to win glory. Aes Sedai claim all ter’angreal as their property on the grounds that such objects are either useless or dangerous to others, and Gawyn’s case is a vindication of this attitude.
Rand debates whether killing the Dark One will remove Trollocs from the Land—in other words, whether they are linked to him. Events show that they have to be killed individually or along with their Myrddraal and will not be undone if the Dark One is cut off from the world.
Aginor made monsters because he could, not because he was cruel or mad. It appals Rand to think that the souls of people may be reborn as Trollocs. However, once they are twisted, it appears that these souls are reborn as Shadowspawn thereafter:
A Trolloc, however, bears a twisted, or corrupted soul, and would be reborn as a Trolloc. Though frankly, a Trolloc's soul is such a pitiful thing, it hardly seems worth calling a soul.To lift the soldiers’ spirits, Rand makes it obvious at the end of his stint fighting, that he had fought with, and for, them. It also convinces Demandred that Rand is staying in the battlefields. The Forsaken never imagines that Rand went to Shayol Ghul quite early in the war and completely overlooks even the possibility that Rand bypassed him. This highlights the extent of his obsession, since Demandred otherwise is a master tactician.
- Robert Jordan Q&A
After showing himself at the three active battle fronts, it is nearly time for Rand to go to Shayol Ghul. Rand acknowledges to himself how much of his sanity he owes to Min, who concentrated on helping him do what he wants rather than instructing him or controlling him.
Speaking of instructors, Cadsuane shows Rand that she knows what Rand is doing—giving people remembrance gifts—which is of concern to her, because it shows that Rand expects to die, and means he may not even seek to live. Rand’s feelings on his sacrifice are understandably very private and he doesn’t let on to anyone his hopes but quietly asks Alivia offscreen to prepare for his departure. Cadsuane probably always intended to use Alivia in the defense of Shayol Ghul, as Rand suggests.
Cadsuane says that she has never cared so much for Rand that she would not trade his life for the world. I think that those who love Rand would at least agonise over the choice. The Green keeps testing Rand by being annoying and pressing on his vulnerabilities—so that he keeps control of them. Rand realises this is valuable practice, though unpleasant, and indeed it does help him in his battle with the Dark One. He lets Cadsuane know indirectly that she will never get a regard gift, but it would be more of a surprise to her if she did. She knows the price for using rough techniques.
Cadsuane’s intelligence gathering is very good: she knows the Black Tower men have finally escaped. Rand realises that Perrin might have helped with that. He feels guilty about staying away from the Black Tower, and has trouble resisting going there, which irritates Cadsuane that he could risk everything trying to free the men himself. It has been a real danger since Rand’s epiphany; before it, he was too dark to make a rescue attempt. I guess Rand was going to feel bad either way, since he was responsible for creating the Black Tower, but falling into the Shadow’s trap there would have made the situation much worse. Another, even greater, danger was if Rand had not ignored Demandred.
Lan recognises that he, like Deepe, would take an opportunity to kill an important henchman if given it. This is foreshadowing of his fight with Demandred, just as Gawyn’s discontented fiddling with the ter’angreal rings is his.
The POVs of the three men in this chapter are linked, with Lan being somewhere between Gawyn and Rand. He is well beyond being a fallen Prince like Gawyn, but is a hidden monarch like Rand, expected to die fighting the Shadow; yet he has played a properly supporting role to more than one powerful woman ungrudgingly and unstintingly for twenty years. The sort of supporting role Gawyn was brought up to do.
Mandarb fought his way back to camp despite being wounded, and Lan promises his horse a peaceful retirement. For the first time, he thinks about life after the battle and the possibility of living with Nynaeve happily ever after—something he has never even allowed himself to imagine before. Like Rand, Lan is starting to hope. Lan is conscious of his similarities to Rand: both were born to fight the Shadow, and die doing so, since the Shadow is endless. Cadsuane and Elayne both encouraged Rand to hope for life after defeating the Dark One. Lan thinks his mentoring and then friendship with Rand broke through his hard shell even before Nynaeve (who also played a large part). In Rand’s case, it was Min—as he acknowledges above—and also Moiraine, with the latter also keeping Lan alive. Both men are weighted with duty and aspire to impossibly high standards.
The chapter ends on a seemingly innocuous note about being human—and therefore fallible. Baldhere has misgivings of Agelmar’s tactics, because he is making mistakes. Lan reminds him that Agelmar is human, but Baldhere still feels that there is something wrong. Unfortunately he is right.
When Lan meets with him, Agelmar faces up to these concerns calmly and admits he is making mistakes. The Great Captain says he will listen to advice, but won’t be undermined or have his command watered down. While it could be argued that Lan made a mistake in trusting Agelmar on this, it would indeed have undermined their military effort if every move was argued over by a committee. Besides, as real world experiences show, a committee is no less difficult to derail.
This is the first sign that the Great Captains are being corrupted. Aes Sedai ward their dreams against invasion and the warder bond protects their warders to a lesser degree, but it never occurred to them that anyone else would need such protection. This is another result of the Aes Sedai holding themselves apart—and above.