In this section, Perrin, Egwene and Gawyn conclude their greatest battles.
Egwene brings together Aiel, Sea Folk and Aes Sedai, the first of several groups who must find common ground before the Last Battle. She finally reveals her vision for their future cooperation, and by making a few concessions, she successfully gains their approval.
Aes Sedai shouldn’t make laws that they can’t enforce – or they will appear to be either idiots or tyrants.
The battle follows a format that switches from character to character, which is useful given the tight quarters and different locales. Egwene- Perrin – Gawyn – Egwene –Perrin – Gawyn - Perrin –Egwene - Perrin – Gawyn – Mesaana – Perrin – Egwene – Perrin – Egwene - Perrin – Graendal. Mesaana’s appearance introduces the excitement of an impending trap, and its placement immediately after Gawyn succumbs to his wounds gives that threat an emotional boost.
Perrin and Slayer use Tel’aran’rhiod in a variety of inventive ways during their battle. As discussed previously, I anticipate a significant portion of the Last Battle to take place in Tel’aran’rhiod, so this back and forth parrying using the realm’s properties gives the reader a deeper understanding of what is and isn’t possible.
After speaking with his sister, Gawyn realizes he doesn’t need recognition, he needs to make the world better, which he can do by stepping aside and becoming Egwene’s warder and also be free to love her. He realizes Egwene is trying to set her trap that night, and rushes to her side, conveniently entering Tar Valon just before Perrin cuts off access to it by bringing the dreamspike there. The timing of Gawyn’s return is somewhat based on his realization that Egwene is in danger, and reminds readers that he is impulsive, but close calls like this always risk raising the suspicions of readers that it happened this way because the author needed it to, not because of the characters themselves. Perrin’s appearance in Tar Valon fits this bill even more so.
Other tactics in Tel’aran’rhiod are shown by Egwene and the Aes Sedai. Egwene is trapped by the dreamspike, but so is Mesaana. Mesaana’s authoritative knowledge reveals the dreamspike’s powers. Egwene and Nynaeve develop tactics to search and destroy Black Ajah. Bair has awesome camouflage. When Perrin and Egwene chastise each other, Perrin gives Egwene a clue about force of will when he deflects some balefire.
Perrin thinks he can destroy the dreamspike in lava, though he should be able to simply shroud it in lava as various Forsaken tried to do to Rand on several occasions. Less probable manifestations in Tel’aran’rhiod seem to be more susceptible to being undone, so it may not have worked as well as the nightmare did. The sudden appearance of the nightmare behind Slayer is once again too convenient, though Perrin’s anguish at seeing Hopper killed may have attracted it, or even caused it.
Gawyn enters Egwene’s chambers to find two Bloodknives. The addition of a third figure adds to the intensity and is a simple and effective way to make the situation direr. The author doesn’t have to reveal the entirety of the threat right away, revealing it gradually creates more intensity. Gawyn evens the odds by purposefully disadvantaging himself by extinguishing the lights.
Egwene acts predictably, falls into Mesaana’s trap. An a’dam on her neck, she calms herself, hearing words deep within her, deeper than her terror or fear, words which anchor her identity to the foundation of the White Tower itself. The verbal sparring goes heavily in Egwene’s favour, as every argument Mesaana uses is undermined by Egwene’s tenacious self-knowledge. As Egwene imagines herself as immovable as a mountain, Mesaana’s comparatively insignificant will crumples, shredding the Forsaken’s mind. AWESOME! I expect Rand’s battle in A Memory of Light to resemble this. An earlier example of using Tel’aran’rhiod to alter someone’s identity made this slightly more understandable to readers, but was not necessary, given the rich and detailed explanation during Egwene and Mesaana’s conflict.
Egwene wakes and bonds Gawyn, a reward for each of them overcoming their deepest personal fears. Perrin wakes and moves his people to safety.
Graendal has one last tool near Perrin, but who?
Beware of convenient events, which can raise the reader’s disbelief.