On the surface, the chapter title refers to Mat choosing a patch for his eye, but Elayne has to choose which ground to fight on, and Egwene has to choose whether to avoid Tel’aran’rhiod.
The chapter also shows the danger of not looking below the surface. Years ago, Bryne advised Gawyn and Elayne against being over-confident or lulled by appearances.
Be careful of currents, he'd said. River currents are one of the most dangerous things under the Light, but only because men underestimate them. The surface looks still because nothing is fighting it. Nothing wants to. The fish go along with it and men stay out of it, all except the fools who think to prove themselves.Elayne remembers his lesson, but Gawyn did turn out to be a fool that had to prove himself.
A Memory of Light, The Choice of a Patch
Bashere looks well, but isn’t, and that is the case for Bryne, too. The Saldean’s oversight in not thinking of the river is pretty damning, even if he isn’t used to large rivers, since maps have been emphasised all along. To his surprise, Elayne talks of trust:
"You show surprising faith in me for someone you have known a very short time." "Rand trusts you," Elayne said. "Even during the dark times, Bashere—when he would look at every second person around him with darkness in his eyes—he trusted you."Unfortunately Bashere is no longer able to be trusted.
A Memory of Light, The Choice of a Patch
Tel’aran’rhiod shows the wearing down of the Land. It has a time-worn look, and is in dire need of renewal; the Age has gone on too long. Such renewal was initiated by sacrifice in ancient times and it seems that the Land now desperately needs Rand’s sacrifice. Remarkably, the Stone still stands as it was, perhaps because it was wrought by the One Power.
Bair confirms Aviendha’s vision in the glass columns. Wise Ones will now need to make three visits to Rhuidean: one for the rings ter’angreal and two for the glass columns. I expect that many qualified Wise Ones will want to see for themselves what the columns show of the future. In the Wheel of Time world, anything done three times has added potency, or “trueness”. Melaine worries at the change, but the glass column ter’angreal shows that the Aiel must change. Or, looking at it another way, they must stick to the spirit of their old ways by educating and training their leaders thoroughly, even if they adapt to life outside the Threefold Land. This way they know which of their traditions are worthwhile and why. The women don’t make decisions for the men, but presumably prospective clan chiefs should also make two trips through the columns.
The vision shows that Aviendha’s children were not well-trained; they were given power too early and not by merit, but because of who their father was. An earlier wannabe Aiel aristocrat, Sevanna, planned for her children to inherit her power and ruined the Shaido before she was stopped.
The first cracks in reality are appearing in Andor, the Borderlands and the Blight, and the cause is correctly deduced to be the Shadow’s use of balefire. The Dreamers decide to not use it, although they acknowledge that some crucial people are alive because this rule was disobeyed. Nevertheless, they are not going to fight balefire with balefire. As upholders of the Pattern, Aes Sedai are already forbidden it. Egwene thinks about how Perrin said that balefire is only another weave. This hints that this most powerful of weaves could be countered, as any other weave can and gets Egwene thinking about solving this.
The Wise Ones decide that Tel’aran’rhiod is now too dangerous to visit unless there is great need. Egwene farewells the World of Dreams “until she Dreams again”. This turns out to be quite an Aiel-like farewell, since according to Aiel belief she awoke from the Dream without visiting it again and won’t be back until she is reborn. Unless she was made a Hero of the Horn. However, after she died, her spirit spoke to Rand before the Horn was blown, but did not appear elsewhere and she was not heard from or seen after the Horn was sounded.
Egwene has realised that Rand deliberately angered her at their last two meetings to manipulate her quite successfully. To her surprise, Rand wants to give her a remembrance gift. It is a ribbon, a simple gift for one of the most powerful women in the world. She feels it is an unnecessary distraction at a time of war; although when she understands that Rand seeks a reconciliation with her, she comes around. She says that he’s been difficult—but so has she. And why wouldn’t they, since they both have been through a great deal.
Lews Therin knew that the Seals would fail. The seals that Egwene hands to Rand are cuendillar, but not genuine. They were probably switched during the robbery, which was made to appear as though the thieves were successfully driven off without taking anything.
When Gawyn learns Rand is Galad’s brother, he feels that Rand and Elayne are connected too closely. As this family tree shows, they are not related by blood, sharing no parents.
In the past, Mat the trickster disliked being watched—because it was usually due to distrust or envy. Now he dislikes the way lower ranked Seanchan won’t look at him. They still watch him—just not his face. While Mat’s egalitarian values are offended, there are practical repercussions too. Mat can’t tell when he is being watched or not and will just have to assume that he is, which makes sneaking around more difficult.
The freckled woman helping the Seanchan tailor clothe Mat is Moghedien, as we find out later. She is disguised as a So’jhin.
Mat refuses to let his old clothes be destroyed, despite being distracted by the valuable jewellery. Nor will he accept any fancy clothes yet—just military wear. Of course, military clothing can be quite fancy enough.
The Prince still picks out rubies in preference to other jewels. Apart from being very valuable, their red colour links them to Mars, god of war. The servants take his lead and drape him in them. Mat is being outfitted in a style is similar to Chinese military clothing in the Western Zhou, or in the much later Qing dynasty, (see Costume in the Wheel of Time article), and also to costume worn by Samurai warriors and courtiers of the Edo period in Japan. The Seanchan have strong links to both China and Japan. Paltron cloths are a reference to the pauldron of armour. The Qing and Samurai robes have pronounced shoulder padding to imitate armour. The dark green colour of his clothes is for the Two Rivers—but also links him with the Deathwatch Guards.
Mat realises he doesn’t need to gamble to get money now. It’s his luck to have married someone so rich that such challenges are meaningless. He always wanted riches and now he has them; but his new position offers a lot of responsibility and no fun. Like a bargain with the Eelfinn, he got what he wanted but it isn’t turning out as expected. Mat fears that his gambling and trickery days are over, but, considering Seanchan politics, they are certainly not. It’s just that the stakes have permanently changed from money to lives.