Rand is working on some really complicated plan. Details to follow.
Chapter 4 (A Sense of Humor): As if Rand wasn't having trouble with the heat in Caemlyn (and the Aiel worry about him getting a chill!), he Travels south to meet the army massing near Illian. Rand wants to hit Sammael. He still can't get the assorted peoples in his forces to work together fully. The Tairens and Cairhienin would just as soon stay as two separate groups, both of them totally pretend the Aiel don't exist, and the Aiel still can't get over their view of the Cairhienin as oathbreakers and treekillers. We get another glimpse of Aiel humor. Then Rand tells a joke to try to show the Aiel that he has a sense of humor. Not only do they not get it, but they don't even realize it's a joke at first. The weird thing is, I found the Aiel jokes funnier. I understood Rand's joke, but it never made me laugh. Rand realizes as he goes into the command tent that he has yet to hear a peep from Lews since he yelled at the inner voice to shut up last chapter. I have this sinking feeling that Lews Therin will still be silent when Rand really needs to hear from him. Some of the Tairen nobles decide that they won't support Rand, and enever showed up to join the army. Instead they go to hide out in the forests of Haddon Mirk. From what we read, you could get totally lost in Haddon Mirk. Rand decides that Sammael is more important, and Haddon Mirk isn't the sort of territory worth chasing anyone down in anyhow. He orders the rebels stripped of their lands and titles, which pretty much floors everyone present. He still hasn't been able to break the Tairen conviction that being a noble makes you a better specimen of human being by default. Which is kind of like the attitude many have had in the real world throughout history. Weiramon, the Tairen commander, has an overall plan that isn't that good, but Rand wants to go with it anyway. Apparently the big army is just a diversion and Rand, Mat, and Bashere have a special plan of their own that no one else knows about. Then Rand meets with the AIel separately, and they have heavy objections to Rand's battle plan. They don't know it's a diversion either. So what is Rand planning? Can't wait to find out.
Chapter 5 (A Different Dance): Cut to Mat, who is in a town along the Andor-Cairhien border. The Band of the Red Hand has taken up pretty much the whole twon. Mat goes on his daily rounds, today inspecting the inns in the town. We learn that some of the Band can get rowdy, so Mat has instituted a police system of Redarms who keep the peace. The Redarms are docked for any damages caused by brawls out of their pay to motivate them to do the job well. Rand has been visiting Mat secretly in Mat's room to keep him updated on what is happening. Somehow rumors of Rand being in town have gotten out. Mat still has a bunch of voices in his head. Apparently they help him dance as well as plan battles. There's a lot of Hunters of the Horn in the town. I wonder if any of them might be spies for Sammael, or for someone else. The band moves out southward along the river at dawn the next day. All part of the plan... whatever it may be.
Chapter 6 (Threads Woven of Shadow): Here we have a tour through the Forsaken. Sammael stops in to visit Graedel. SHe isn't very forthcoming with him, trying to distract him with her Compelled pets performing a circus acrobat routine. Interesting here is that some of them are the rulers (well, ex-rulers now) of the land beyond the Aiel Waste, which we know next to nothing about. Also interesting is the little tidbit that it was Sammael that sent the Trollocs to attack the Stone of Tear way back in Book Four. The Dark One wants Rand left alive for some weird reason; Sammael thinks the Dark One might name Rand Nae'blis. Now hang on. Didn't Demandred get made Nae'blis back in the prologue? And isn't keeping Rand alive a pretty dumb move, since Rand is dedicated to defeating the Dark One? Does Professor Moriarty, in the middle of one of his evil criminal plots, make a point of protecting Sherlock Holmes? Does the Legion of Doom plot to take over the world and at the same time decide "Oh yeah, Superman, Batman, and the rest of them, let's leave them alone"? Has the Dark One ever considered how badly this can come back to bite him? Sammael thinks Rand is coming after him, and has a retreat set up, but isn't willing to leave Illian just yet. He makes a gateway back there, and cuts one of her servants totally in two. Gotta watch out for those gateways.
Cut to Graendal having asome thoughts about the meeting. She manipulated Sammael into sticking with Illian, it turns out. She wants Rand out of the picture, but isn't willing to anger the Dark One by killing him, so she tricks Sammael into battling Rand... whenever and however that happens. If Rand dies, she benefits. If Rand wins, Sammael dies, and she still benefits. Sly one, isn't she? Apparently the Dark One has also offered to make her Nae'blis. Maybe the Dark One just likes pitting his Forsaken against each other. Also, we learn that the Forsaken have an agent within the White Tower in Mesaana. I wonder who she's pretending to be? I foresee a sudden revelation down the line that such-and-such was really Mesaana all along. (Now let's find out who you really are...) Another tidbit is that the Forsaken had no idea that the modern Aes Sedai swear magically binding oaths with an Oath Rod. Mesaana found this out and accidentally passed it on to Graendal.
Cut to Semirhage. She is in some secret lair somewhere, but not her own. She has been summoned to break an Aes Sedai's will. She hates being pulled away from her charge, even though said charge is a willful child of some sort. We don't know anymore, but I guess we will sooner or later. Whatever Semirhage spends her time on normally, it is sure to be important. Shaidar Haran was the one who ordered her here. The Dark One gave her orders that a command from the new Myrdraal is like a command from him. She accidentally kills this Aes Sedai's Warder, but he is unimportant. She leaves the Aes Sedai (Cabriana, her name is) screaming in pain. Oh, one more thing. That raid on the Stone of Tear by Trollocs, the one that we just found out Sammael was responsible for? Turns out it was unauthorized by the Dark One. And the bit toward the end of the raid where some Trollocs were fighting other Trollocs? Turns out the second batch of Trollocs was sent by Semirhage on orders from Haran to stop Sammael's batch from achieving their objective... undoubtedly to kill Rand. Hmmm. No one ever said the Forsaken get along with each other. Well, someone might have said it at some point. But that person would be wrong.