The scene opens on the Field of Merrilor. An army of common folk has arrived—or more like, accumulated. Rand didn’t send them, he inspired them: they are Dragonsworn.
Egwene informs us that Merrilor was originally a tower fortress. Her clothing far outshines Gawyn’s in status. For the first time, he is wearing Warder’s clothing, not prince’s—a significant change in his attitude to his role.
Gawyn correctly assesses that Perrin will take Rand’s side, but wrongly assumes Perrin’s army will be a—or the—problem:
"This many armies, this many loyalties, all rubbing against one another. Aybara and his force could be a spark that sends us all up like a firework."When it comes down to it, Egwene’s party was arguably the most disruptive at the meeting.
Towers of Midnight, Something Wrong
Egwene thinks Rand subconsciously wants to be talked out of breaking the Seals – which it is her duty to do. How content she is that Gawyn is not arguing with her:
Ever since that night with the assassins, he had started doing as she asked. Not as a servant. As a partner dedicated to seeing her will done.Yet she is not correct in her judgment. Rand didn’t announce his intentions to break the Seals as an appeal for her to talk him out of it: it was a considered tactic to get Egwene to publicly unify opposition to his plan so he only had to overcome it once.
Towers of Midnight, Something Wrong
Gawyn should privately argue or discuss alternatives with Egwene – she sees this as one and the same – even if he ultimately carries out her will. (Another Aes Sedai queen, Elayne, was at first dismayed to discover that her Warder insisted on discussion, but now accepts it.) What should be a fine balancing act went too far one way – Gawyn not taking her seriously -- and now too far the other. Egwene thinks the Hall’s disagreement more than enough for her, although she is encouraged that the Hall is no longer working behind her back—and is, in fact, explaining their disagreement to her—and she doesn’t intend to ignore them. She is determined that the Hall will work with her. However this also makes Egwene work with them. A delicate balance as she says. She needs to develop the same balance with Gawyn but it never happens.
Egwene notices the bloodknives’ rings around Gawyn’s neck—they clank like an unmusical death knell—and from her thoughts has previously asked about where he got them. Gawyn didn’t say. She intends to ask again, but events overtake her.
Gawyn finally learns how wrong he was about Rand killing his mother. Like Galad he was tempted to do evil because of a wrong assumption. This scene shows the dangers of such assumptions leading to fatal decisions. Discussion can be positive, not just cause procrastination.
Androl has a deep sense of right and wrong regarding the Land; he attributes this to having worked it over the years. Considering his great weakness with the Power, he has an amazing Talent with Travelling. With the Dreamspike operating, he doesn’t find the weave difficult to make, as do the others who are stronger, but less Talented—it just unravels. Nevertheless he was nearly able to hold it in place. This foreshadows when he does successfully force the weave past the block, shortly before the Dreamspike is deactivated (A Memory of Light, Doses of Forkroot). The men have realised that something is trapping them at the Black Tower. With the gates guarded, they can’t leave. Sensibly they are going to check if there are any blank spots, although the trap is comprehensive. They don’t yet realise that others can’t Travel in. It is possible to do so if one knows the key to the Dreamspike (see Dream Terangreal article).
Norley seems ingenuous, and Androl sets him to spy. He determines that there is something wrong with Mezar. Apart from now following the dark faction, he has the wrong expression, and his gaze appears partly dead. This is our first look at someone Turned to the Shadow.
Mezar returned after supposedly searching for Logain and reassured everyone that Logain is fine and will be back soon. Norley realises that Mezar is now untrustworthy and Logain could be a prisoner of Taim or another Darkfriend. The men are going to segregate themselves from Tain’s faction so they can’t be taken as easily. Again,this doesn’t buy them time, really; it is the lack of Black sisters for Turning the men which does so.
Androl is desperate enough to try an alliance with the Red sisters. He believes the Reds won’t side with Taim, but at least one (Javindhra) is probably a Darkfriend and the others are being Turned one by one. Only Pevara remains allied to the Light now. Because the Reds have been slow to bond Asha’man, Androl thinks they are actually planning something else, such as gentling them all. Actually their reluctance is due to dissension. And fear. There are so many wrong assumptions in this chapter. (Perhaps the most since Elaida expounded so hilariously to Alviarin in A Crown of Swords.) But also some right ones.
Androl can read Pevara quite well, which bodes well for their future relationship. He suggests that they work together as men and women did in the Age of Legends. She agrees to talk with him. This is quite a contrast to Egwene and Gawyn at the beginning of the chapter. Fortunately for Androl, Pevara is one of the few Aes Sedai who would seriously consider cooperation.