Berelain sur Paendrag Paeron is the ruler of a tiny nation, yet she has been kept prominent throughout the series. Her skills as a ruler have been demonstrated to us. She is a descendent of the most noted ruler of the Westlands in the Third Age, Artur Hawkwing, who is revered by mainlanders and Seanchan alike.
Berelain was presented to Tylee, a Seanchan army officer now of the Low Blood, and Tylee’s reaction was to regard Berelain as a distant cousin of Tuon:
And you, my Lady. Sur Paendrag. That would mean from Paendrag?"Berelain responded with a disclaimer, but her existence as the sole person in the world besides Tuon with Hawkwing’s blood in her veins is now known to the Seanchan. All the rest of the Imperial family were murdered by Semirhage. And the above passage is foreshadowing that Berelain may well end up claiming more than Mayene…
"My family is descended from Artur Paendrag Tanreall," Berelain replied, holding her head high. An eddy in the breeze brought a whiff of pride among the patience and perfume. They had agreed that Perrin was to do all of the talking—she was there to dazzle the Seanchan with a beautiful young ruler, or at least to lend weight to Perrin with it— but he supposed she had to answer a direct question.
Tylee nodded as though that were exactly the answer she expected. "That makes you a distant cousin of the Imperial family, my Lady. No doubt the Empress, may she live forever, will honor you. So long as you make no claims to Hawkwing's empire yourself, anyway."
"The only claim I make is to Mayene," Berelain said proudly. "And that I will defend to my last breath."
- Knife of Dreams, A Deal
Tuon has two things working against her as Empress. The first is that she is a strong and capable ruler and a unifying figure who brings order – exactly what the Shadow doesn’t want. They will aim to get rid of her if the Seanchan start focussing on the Last Battle instead of dividing and distracting the westlands and enslaving women channellers.
Secondly she is an experienced sul’dam – which means she is on the verge of being able to channel. The ability of sul’dam to learn to channel is a ticking bomb in Seanchan society. Tuon’s situation is mirrored by the experienced sul’dam Bethamin who became aware she had the potential to channel. This was confirmed to Bethamin when the a’dam held her. Forced to spend time with three Aes Sedai, monstrous and potentially murderous marath’damane in her eyes, she was spooked by them into channelling (Knife of Dreams, A Cold Medallion). Bethamin’s fear for her life drove her to channel and her experience as a sul’dam helped her do so. (It’s ironic because Aes Sedai are bound not to kill with the Power, so Bethamin was in no more danger from them than she would be from any other person).
Bethamin is not a sparker who was missed by testing: she said she had been tested for the collar annually until age 25 as is every woman including sul’dam:
Even sul'dam had to undergo the yearly testing, until their twenty-fifth naming day, and she had passed by failing every time.Alise and Reanne remarked that the sul’dam felt like they were on the verge of channelling:
- Winter’s Heart, Questions of Treason
"They [the sul’dam] still deny they can channel," Alise muttered, folding her arms beneath her breasts, and frowned at the woman facing Reanne. "They can't, really, I suppose, but I can feel . . . something. Not quite the spark of a woman born to it, but almost. It's as if she were right at the brink of being able to channel, one foot poised to step over. I have never sensed anything like it before.”Only a conscious and determined attempt to channel – such as with teaching, or for fear for their lives - will make a sul’dam take that step and channel.
- Winter’s Heart, Sea Folk and Kin
I believe that Tuon, like Bethamin, will be forced by events to channel in order to save her life or the Empire, or the life of someone important to her. Tuon has tempted fate by denying she is like a marath’damane:
"I am nothing like these women, Toy. Nothing like them. Perhaps I could learn, but I choose not to, just as I choose not to steal or commit murder. That makes all the difference."and she will find out that an inborn ability is not like a matter of morality. She plays the role of Nemesis to the mainland ( see Tuon essay) and I think that she will also be her own Nemesis by channelling. She will channel in front of the Seanchan, not during a parley with Rand, so that it cannot be passed off as Aes Sedai trickery or Rand's trickery.
- Knife of Dreams, A Short Path
The Empress channelling would be the ultimate expression of disorder or the world overturned in Seanchan eyes. Just the sort of thing the Shadow would find useful, as useful, in some ways, as Tuon’s death. It would create division and chaos, with some staying loyal to their goddess-like Empress, and others looking for an alternate, non-channelling ruler. This is where Berelain comes in, especially if Faile has her way.
Faile has twice expressed a desire to punish Berelain for her attempts at seducing Perrin by shaving her bald:
“Farm girls in Saldaea have a way of dealing with women who poach others’ men. If you do not swear to forget Perrin Aybara, I will shave your head as bald as an egg. Perhaps the boys who tend the chickens will pant after you, then!”If Faile does this, Berelain will look like one of the Seanchan Imperial family, who shave their heads. Moreover Berelain is descended from Artur Hawkwing and flies Hawkwing’s hawk standard. She may become an alternative ruler for the disaffected – one who doesn’t respond to either the collar or the bracelet of an a’dam. A certified non-channeller.
- The Shadow Rising, Customs of Mayene
Briefly, to extinguish that hateful thought, she pictured herself shaving Berelain bald. She was a jade and a trull!
- The Path of Daggers, Changes
Apart from sowing division among the Seanchan, the Shadow may also promote Berelain as an alternative ruler because they have strong links to her. While Berelain’s Aes Sedai advisor, Annoura, could be Black Ajah, she and Berelain appear to have fallen out, and Berelain wouldn’t be able to keep her anyway should she fall in with Seanchan.
However, Berelain herself delivered a letter from Lanfear to Rand in Tear. That, plus her attempts to undermine Perrin, suggests she is under the influence of the Shadow. She could be one of those working for Moridin unknowingly, or she could be a Darkfriend. Either way, the Shadow uses her. They will do so even further: to undermine Tuon, sow chaos and weaken the Seanchan.