In which Perrin and Egwene are rescued from Whitecloaks, Rand meets Elayne and visits with the queen, Basel Gill faces down Whitecloaks, Moiraine et al. arrive in Caemlyn, Mat’s possession of the dagger is discovered, and a decision is made to travel the Ways to seek the Eye of the Word (title drop!).
In a long series full of Lan’s badassery, this sequence has one of the very best examples (below the jump):
Byar opened his mouth, and as Perrin waited for sentence to be pronounced, things began to happen too fast for thought.
Suddenly one of the guards vanished. One minute there were two dim shapes, the next the night swallowed one of them. The second guard turned, the beginning of a cry on his lips, but before the first syllable was uttered there was a solid tchunk and he toppled over like a felled tree.
Byar spun, swift as a striking viper, the axe whirling in his hands so fast that it hummed. Perrin’s eyes bulged as the night seemed to flow into the lantern light. His mouth opened to yell, but his throat locked tight with fear. For an instant he even forgot that Byar wanted to kill them. The Whitecloak was another human being, and the night had come alive to take them all.
Then the darkness invading the light became Lan, cloak swirling through shades of gray and black as he moved. The axe in Byar’s hands lashed out like lightning . . . and Lan seemed to lean casually aside, letting the blade pass so close he must have felt the wind of it. Byar’s eyes widened as the force of his blow carried him off balance, as the Warder struck with hands and feet in rapid succession, so quick that Perrin was no sure what he had just seen. What he was sure of was Byar collapsing like a puppet. Before the falling Whitecloak had finished settling to the ground, the Warder was on his knees extinguishing the lantern.
The first chapter also features a character-revealing moment from Nynaeve—she comments on her own fear in her internal monologue but it doesn’t stop her from acting any more than it will throughout the series. Her refusal to succumb to her fear leads to her discovery of Bela in the Whitecloaks lines, cementing a trend for a long line of improbably occurrences that keep Bela in the story.
These are mostly setup chapters. What is remarkable, though, is that they don’t just set up the end game for the book. There are a lot of characters running around in these chapters who we will see much more of later. Byar, Basel Gill, Lamgwin, Morgase, Gawyn, Elayne (one of the six main characters), Elaida.
I have to say that Moiraine is a little overly credulous about the references to the Eye dropped in her lap, even considering the role that fate plays within the world of the story. But, hey, it all works out in the end. And it gets us in the Ways . . .
You can find all of my reread posts at The Wheel of Time Reread Index.