WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT
Dreamspikes do multiple things, not just block gateways, but they are valued for this one ability now. Presumably they were invented during the War of Power or late in the Collapse. I think the staleness that Perrin smells around an activated Dreamspike is from the flow of the Pattern being blocked.
To a wolf, one weapon is the same as another, but they are more discriminating about their foes. It is this exchange that highlights to Perrin the difference between the hammer and the axe – that one of them can be used to make as well as destroy. This is similar to the distinction the Jenn Aiel made during the Breaking regarding edged tools: a knife or spear can be used to obtain food, but a sword is only for killing. Perrin too is distinguishing between his foes. He is trying to avoid killing Whitecloaks so they can fight their common enemy, the Shadow. The difficulty is getting the Whitecloaks to understand the same. Some do, as we saw in earlier chapters, but, as in many groups, the extremists are more vocal than those with more moderation and understanding.
The best leaders often don’t want the responsibility given to them, or the trust lain in them, but they accept it. It is the latter that Perrin is taking so long to realise.
Perrin decides there should not be a battle, and asks the Wise Ones to help him prevent it. The Aes Sedai won’t do so; they see it as using the One Power as weapon, yet they would be using the One Power to prevent battle. I suspect the Aes Sedai were already disinclined to do this, not wanting to channel at Whitecloaks, and easily convinced themselves they were bound not to.
By showing the Whitecloaks he can really hurt them, Perrin bluffs them into being more malleable.
Galad also wants to prevent battle. He says it’s possible that they don’t understand what is going on, and wonders if he was influenced by Byar and Bornhald into misjudgement.
In this scene Min’s viewing of Berelain falling for a man in white is fulfilled, and returned on Galad’s side. Galad literally wears white, but the viewing could also encompass his purity as well. To a degree, Galad is amenable to Perrin’s suggestions because he wants to make a good impression on Berelain.
Galad notices that Perrin is a “woodsman risen to be a lord.” This is the King of the Wild motif of Perrin’s character (see Perrin essay). As befits a wild man, Perrin is as casual and blunt with Galad as he is with anybody. Even Niall might have had trouble turning his words into something else.
Galad can’t walk away without dealing justice. He is surprised Perrin is serving tea at a war parley, because he thinks it is inappropriate, since where there is such conflict, and lack of trust on both sides, the possibility of poisoned food and drink increases tension between parties.
The tea is a vehicle to introduce Morgase back into Galad’s life. Galad realises that he killed Valda for something Valda didn’t do – but still justifies it on the grounds that Valda deserved it for assaulting Morgase. Then he wonders if that is true. (It is, so Galad was right, but he couldn’t know that for sure. Naturally Valda did not tell Galad whether his sexual encounter with Morgase was forced.) Galad gave Valda a trial by combat under the Light, yet Galad doesn’t see the outcome as “proof” of Valda’s guilt. Once, Galad would have. Once, Galad would have accepted that the outcome of a trial under the Light shows whether the accused is guilty or not.
Interestingly, Perrin is not too shocked when told Morgase is his queen. Galad assumes Morgase abdicated after Perrin “captured” her, but it was after the Seanchan conquered the Whitecloaks and she gave forced consent to Valda. Morgase assures Galad that Perrin is not a Darkfriend, and Perrin that she will judge the trial fairly.
I thought Galad had great character development in this chapter:
I killed Valda, Galad thought immediately. Killed him for the death of my mother. Who is not dead. I have done evil.The perfect man has never been shown to be in error before – let alone to such a serious degree.
Towers of Midnight, Parley
Galad insists there must be a trial – a fair one - and that the Whitecloaks must prove their claims. No longer is a trial by combat or battle enough in Galad’s eyes to prove guilt or innocence. His own error proved that to him. There must be evidence and a say from both sides.
Byar is forced to see reason and quiet his protests by Galad. It’s impressive that someone under Compulsion still respects Galad enough to go against their programming.