Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Aes Sedai History: New Era


By Linda

This essay, the second of two on the history of the Aes Sedai, details the events affecting the Tower in the New Era in chronological order and with discussion of issues affecting Aes Sedai as they became important. The first essay details events from the Breaking until the end of the Hundred Years War in FY 1117.

After the conflict with Artur Hawkwing, the White Ajah was allied with the Blue in the Hall and against the Red:

There was no love lost between Red and White; they had stood on opposite sides in the Hall of the Tower for a thousand years. White stood with Blue…

- The Shadow Rising, Seeds of Shadow

Early in the New Era, bonding a man as Warder against his will was quite common and would not have been remarked upon (A Crown of Swords, A Morning of Victory).

Also early in the New Era, the entire ceremony for raising Aes Sedai was conducted with all present naked except for their shawls to prove their gender (a parallel with the legendary Pope Joan) and probably had been for centuries. The new sister was paraded through the quarters of all Ajahs, with the second newest sister calling out for the other Ajahs to come and see a new sister (New Spring, Just Before Dawn) – perhaps an indication of Ajah rivalry.

Rabayn Marushta was raised Amyrlin from the White, after the death of Selame in 5 NE. She ruled for 31 years.

Dalaine Ndaye was raised from the Gray in 36 NE and ruled for 28 years. She was the first Amyrlin not of the Blue-Green-White alliance since Bonwhin.

Edarna Noregovna was raised from the Blue in 64 NE and ruled for 51 years. Edarna was a very strong Amyrlin and is believed to have been the most politically skilled woman ever to hold the staff and stole (Crossroads of Twilight, What the Oath Rod Can Do).

A possible parallel is Pope Innocent III, pope from 1198-1216, who was very politically skilled. During his reign, considered to be the height of the medieval papacy, he lessened imperial German influence in Italy, increased the power of the papacy in Rome and Sicily, obtained the support of France, and influenced the politics of France, Sweden, Bulgaria, Spain and England. He brought the papacy into the forefront of medieval politics.

Balladare Arandaille was raised from the Brown in 115 and ruled for 27 years. The first Brown Amyrlin of the New Era, she believed it was:

the moral duty of an Amyrlin to explain herself to the common people

- The Gathering Storm, In The White Tower

once a crisis was passed and wrote an explanation of her reign and what she had done during the Kavarthen Wars.

Medanor Eramandos was raised from the Grey in 142 and ruled for 29 years.

Kiyosa Natomo was raised from the Green in 171 and ruled for 26 years.

Catala Lucanvalle was raised from the Yellow in 197 and ruled or 26 years.

Elise Strang was raised from the Grey in 223 and ruled for 21 years.

Comarra Zepava was raised from the Blue in 244 and ruled for 32 years.

Serenia Latar was raised from the Grey in 276 and ruled for 30 years. Serenia is notable for what happened to her corpse - hanged by Whitecloaks:

the only Amyrlin the Children had ever managed to hang. She had been dead already, of course, live witches being somewhat hard to hang, but that was beside the point. Six hundred and ninety-three years ago, justice had been done according to the law.

- Lord of Chaos, Red Wax

It would be interesting to know how Whitecloaks got hold of the body of an Amyrlin and how closely they followed their law. Judging from Asunawa’s thoughts regarding Morgase, a queen who had merely trained at Tar Valon, the accused witch is formally tried, forced to confess and then hung:

He had all the details in his mind, each day of her trial with ambassadors on hand from every land that could still produce one, until finally her dramatic confession, wrung from her so skillfully no one would ever find a mark, and then the ceremonies surrounding her execution. A special gallows just for her, to be preserved afterwards to mark the occasion.

- Lord of Chaos, Red Wax

Did the Whitecloaks hold a trial for a dead Amyrlin? It is quite possible they followed their law strictly and ceremonially for such a momentous and triumphant occasion. If so, this could be an allusion to the Cadaver Synod, the ecclesiastical trial of the dead Pope Formosus held in Rome in 897. During the proceedings, the decomposing body of Formosus, who died nine months earlier, was dressed in his papal vestments and seated on a throne while Pope Stephen VI conducted the trial. Formosus was accused of aspiring to be Archbishop of Bulgaria and Pope, opposing the emperor, deserting his diocese without papal permission, despoiling the cloisters in Rome, performing divine service while under interdict, and conspiring with others to destroy the papacy.

At the end of the synod, Formosus was found guilty, his election as pope was declared invalid, all of his acts as pontiff were annulled, his corpse was stripped of its vestments, and the three fingers used for consecrations were hacked off. The body was then dressed in ordinary clothes and buried. Shortly thereafter it was exhumed and thrown into the River Tiber

- Catholic Encyclopedia

from whence it was retrieved. The verdict was reversed by Pope Theodore II.

Doniella Alievin was raised from the Brown in 306 and ruled for 26 years.

Aliane Senican was raised from the White in 332 and ruled for 23 years.

Suilin Escanda was raised from the Blue in 355 and ruled for 41 years.

Nirelle Coidevwin was raised from the Green in 396 and ruled for 23 years.

Ishara Nawan was raised from the Blue in 419 and ruled for 35 years.

Cerilla Marodred was raised from the Grey in 454 and ruled for 22 years.

Igaine Luin was raised from the Brown in 476 and ruled for 44 years.

Beryl Marle was raised from the White in 520 and ruled for 13 years.

It is implied that Corianin Nedeal died in about 525 NE:

“I understand from Anaiya that you might become a Dreamer. The last was Corianin Nedeal, four hundred and seventy-three years ago, and from what I can make of the records, she barely deserved the name.”

- The Dragon Reborn, A World of Dreams

During her life she studied thirteen dream ter’angreal (of supposedly unknown use) that require channelling, the last to do so until they were stolen by the Black Ajah (The Shadow Rising, What Lies Hidden), and also stole and removed from the records a dream ter’angreal that does not require channelling. She kept this twisted stone ring with her “most of her life” according to Verin ( The Dragon Reborn, A World of Dreams). Verin found a box containing the ring and notes Corianin made about

everything she had learned in fifty years of studying that peculiar ter’angreal. A secretive woman, Corianin. She had kept by far the greater part of her knowledge from everyone, trusting it only to these pages.

- The Dragon Reborn, A World of Dreams

They may include information on parts of the Pattern she read in Tel’aran’rhiod (as Wise Ones state a Dreamer can do,The Shadow Rising, Beyond the Stone). As a Dreamer, Corianin may (or perhaps should) have had precognitive dreams. If so, they may be recorded in her notes and might have influenced Verin’s actions. Corianin never officially reported her findings on the thirteen dream ter’angreal even though it is obvious she knew what they were. The Tower believed that it was extremely rare for two ter’angreal to have similarities in function and had no idea that they owned thirteen of them with the same function.

Eldaya Tolen was raised from the Blue in 533 and ruled for 16 years.

Alvera Ramosanya was raised from the Yellow in 549 and ruled for 29 years.

Shein Chunla was raised from the Green in 578 and ruled for 23 years. She squandered her power as the Amyrlin and ended up as a puppet of the Hall. She began as a strong Amyrlin, firmly in charge of the Tower and the Hall, but alienated most of the sisters in the Tower with her autocratic manner until the Hall tired of her. They considered deposing Shein but could not agree on a replacement and so:

They left her in place and forced a penance on her whenever she tried to issue an order of any kind. Any kind at all. …The Hall ran Shein and the Tower. But they mishandled a great deal themselves, largely because each Ajah had its own goals and there was no hand to shape them into a goal for the Tower. Shein's reign was marked by wars all over the map. Eventually, the sisters themselves got tired of the Hall's bungling. In one of the six mutinies in Tower history, Shein and the Hall were pulled down.

- Knife of Dreams, Honey in the Tea

Shein was deposed and exiled for life where fifty-one years later, after four attempted restorations, the sisters guarding her smothered her in her sleep with a pillow (The Path of Daggers, Stronger than Written Law). The official records say that Shein died in the Tower of natural causes.

Elements of Shein’s history are derived from a few popes whose authority was squandered or overshadowed by that of rulers and resulted in their deposition followed by attempted restoration. The closest parallel is probably Benedict IX, who was the only Pope to rule for three discontinuous periods: 1032 to 1044, 1045, and 1047 to 1048. His unpopularity led the Romans to force him from Rome in 1044 and replace him with Pope Silvester III, sometimes considered an antipope. He returned to the papacy in 1045, but then resigned. He unsuccessfully tried twice (in 1046 and 1047) to depose the popes who followed him and was elected again to the papacy in 1047, but deposed the following year. In 1049 he refused to appear to answer charges of simony and was excommunicated. It is uncertain how his life ended – some say he died soon after deposition, others that he died in exile, others that he continued to agitate to be re-elected. Shein had four attempted restorations and her deposition and death are carefully guarded secrets.

Gerra Kishar was raised from the Gray in 601 and ruled for 37 years. Gerra is listed among the greatest Amyrlins. She raised the influence and prestige of the White Tower to that prior to the advent of Artur Hawkwing and kept the Tower under her control by playing one faction in the Hall against another (The Path of Daggers, Stronger than Written Law). Gerra, with her skill in factional politics, has some similarities with Pope Julius II, pope from 1503-1513, who played the European nations against each other to increase the power of the Church.

During Gerra’s reign, Reanne Corly was put out of the Tower for failing her test for Accepted (A Crown of Swords, The Kin).

It was about this time that the last publicly known passing of a Warder bond occurred. Passing a bond is not illegal, but became against custom by late in the New Era (A Crown of Swords, A Morning of Victory).

Varuna Morrigan was raised from the Green in 638 and ruled for 43 years. Shein Chunla was killed in 652 after the fourth attempt at restoring her rule. Therefore Varuna’s, and perhaps Gerra’s, reigns were undermined at times.

Cemaile Sorenthaine was raised from the Grey in 681 and ruled for 24 years. When elected, Cemaile dreamed of raising the prestige of the Tower to that of the days before the Trolloc Wars, when no ruler held a throne without the Tower's approval and commissioned an elaborate clock in anticipation of her success (A Crown of Swords, Prologue), but she achieved only failure and became completely powerless long before the end of her reign (The Path of Daggers, Unexpected Absences), the Ajah Heads eventually ruling in secret instead of either Cemaile or her Hall to prevent “complete disaster”(The Gathering Storm, Sealed To The Flame).

A lot of the popes in the 10th century were weak - puppets of the Emperor or Roman aristocrats – and some in other centuries were too: for instance, Martin IV (1281-5) was totally under the control of the Sicilian king Charles of Anjou. Probably the closest parallel is the 12th century Pope Paschal II (1099-1118) who was ambitious for the papacy, but lost papal prestige. Considered a weak pope, Pascal II tried to assert his authority over the Emperor and ended up yielding it to him.

It was in Cemaile’s reign that the Yellow Ajah emergency signal was last used prior to the very public White Tower split (The Fires of Heaven, A Signal). The emergency may have something to do with the problems besetting Cemaile (or problems with Cemaile) since the Yellows often allied with the Greys in the Hall and Cemaile was raised from the Grey.

During Cemaile’s reign the Tairens ceased collecting items of the Power. The redstone doorway from Mayene (secretly studied by Aes Sedai) was one of the last items added to the Great Holding (The Shadow Rising, Doorways).

Kirstian ran away from the Tower after less than one year as a novice (The Path of Daggers, Crimsonthorn) probably during Cemaile’s reign.

Cadsuane Melaidhrin was born at the end of this reign or the beginning of the next.

Marasale Jureen was raised from the Yellow in 705 and ruled for 27 years.

It was during Marasale’s reign that Cadsuane last encountered a task she couldn’t perform. This memorable occasion was probably when she met Norla:
But then, over two hundred and seventy years had passed since she last encountered a task she could not perform.

- A Crown of Swords, Diamonds and Stars

Cadsuane sympathized with her [Nynaeve]. Somewhat. It was a lesson not everyone could learn in the Tower. She herself, full of pride in her new shawl and her own strength, had been taught by a near toothless wilder at a farm in the heart of the Black Hills.

- Winter’s Heart, The Hummingbird’s Secret

and was forced to earn the ter’angreal ornaments she now wears (see Cadsuane's Ornaments article).

Feragaine Saralman was raised from the Blue in 732 and ruled for 22 years.

Myriam Copan was raised from the Green in 754 and ruled for 43 years. Myriam is one of the very few Amyrlins who managed to move from political weakness to strength during their reigns (The Path of Daggers, Stronger than Written Law). Pope Urban II (1099-1099) also moved from a position of political weakness to relative strength.

The last group of non-Aes Sedai female channellers to be dispersed by the Tower were the Daughters of Silence (794—798 NE). They:

consisted of two Accepted who had been put out of the Tower and twenty-three women they had gathered and trained. All were carried back to Tar Valon and punished, and the twenty-three were enrolled in the novice book. Only one of those, Saerin Asnobar, managed to reach the shawl.

- Crossroads of Twilight, Glossary

Zeranda Tyrim was raised from the Brown in 797 and ruled for 20 years.

Parenia Demalle was raised from the Grey in 817 and ruled for 49 years. She was the last Amyrlin elected from the Red-Yellow-Grey axis for 160 years. From this time on the Blue-White-Green axis was very strong politically - Amyrlins were elected almost exclusively from these Ajahs in alternation (except for one Brown) until Sierin; and then another two Blues. The Reds can barely get even one of their allied Ajahs elected, whereas previously, more Amyrlins were raised from the Yellow or the Grey. There was no Yellow Amyrlin in nearly 300 years and no Red since Bonwhin until Elaida.

Sereille Bagand was raised from the White in 866 and ruled for 24 years. Sereille was a byword for fierceness and is remembered as one of the greatest Amyrlins. When she was Mistress of Novices it was not under a White Amyrlin, but probably Parenia Demalle, a long-ruling Amyrlin raised from the Grey, since Seaine and Pevara were novices under Sereille and were raised Aes Sedai the year Sereille became Amyrlin (A Crown of Swords, Sealed to the Flame).

Sereille raised the influence and prestige of the White Tower to that prior to Artur Hawkwing and firmly controlled the Tower by the sheer force of her will (The Path of Daggers, Stronger than Written Law).

Sereille’s fierceness is a parallel of very stern Popes, such as Leo the Great, or Cistercian popes who were all very austere. Benedict XII, for instance was a rigid, austere Cistercian and learned theologian (the White Ajah study philosophy and theology) who improved the discipline of the Church, was firmly against corruption, made financial and fiscal reforms and put an end to nepotism (just as Sereille was Mistress of Novices under a non-White Amyrlin). Of all the Avignon popes, Benedict was the only one who had enough strength of will to keep a stance of neutrality and not become a lapdog of the French King.

For Sereille’s high standing as an Amyrlin, perhaps her closest parallel is Pope Nicholas I, who reigned from 858 to 867 and is one of the great popes. Considered a saint, he consolidated Papal authority and power and greatly improved its position and influence among the Christian nations of Western Europe.

It was during Sereille’s reign that a strain developed between the Blue and Yellow Ajahs due to interference in the actions of sisters:

Something more tense with the Yellow, with sisters of each accusing sisters of the other of interfering with their actions in Altara some hundred years past.

- New Spring, Changes

This may be the origin of the animosity between Romanda and Lelaine, or added justification for it.

Aleis Romlin was raised from the Green in 890 and ruled for 32 years.

At some stage Cadsuane fled the White Tower for ten years to avoid being raised Amyrlin (A Crown of Swords, Diamonds and Stars) and the end of Sereille Bagand’s reign is the most likely time. Amyrlins are usually over 200 years old when raised (see Aes Sedai Laws and Customs: Administration essay), and Cadsuane would have been 200 in 905. The Hall may have intended to raise Cadsuane instead of Aleis, which would have been slightly young but Cadsuane was of great standing as well as strength. It is less likely that the Tower would have wanted to raise another Green straight after Aleis, since at this date there had not been consecutive Amyrlins from the same Ajah since before Bonwhin. Cadsuane retired the year after Noane, the Amyrlin following Kirin, was raised so she did not run away for ten years then.

The last judicial stilling of a woman prior to Siuan and Leane was before 899 NE (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time).

Kirin Melway was raised from the Brown in 922 and ruled for 28 years.

In 928 NE, Verin last made a serious mistake (The Path of Daggers, Prologue). This is probably when she was forced to join the Black Ajah or die.

Vandene and Adeleas retired from the White Tower to write the history of the Third Age (The Great Hunt, Watchers) in about 928 NE and they would have been about 200 years old. Zarya Alkaese (aka Garenia Rosoinde) ran away just before they retired ( The Path of Daggers, Crimsonthorn) and Sarainya ran away at the end of Kirin’s reign or the beginning of Noane’s reign (A Crown of Swords, The Kin).

Noane Masadim was raised from the Blue in 950 and ruled for 23 years.

Shortly after 949 NE, Verin began keeping a brooch angreal within reach; perhaps she felt the times, or her task of investigating the Black Ajah, had become dangerous (The Path of Daggers, Prologue). Interestingly, this coincides with the end of a Brown Amyrlin’s rule and the beginning of a Blue Amyrlin’s reign.

In about 951, Cadsuane retired for the first time (25 years before the Aiel War began, A Crown of Swords, Diamonds and Stars) at approximately 245 years of age. This is rather early considering her strength.

In 953 NE, Malkier was overrun by Trollocs and fell to the Blight. The Tower sent more than a hundred sisters to Malkier but they were too late to save it and the Tower pretended they did nothing rather than be known to have failed (New Spring, An Answer). The fall of Malkier could be likened to the sack of Constantinople by Turkish armies in 1453:

The horror of that fall attended by so much bloodshed filled Christendom with dismay. [Pope] Nicholas V sent 29 galleys to aid the Christians of the city, but they arrived too late.

- P. G. Maxwell-Stuart, Chronicles of the Popes

with the important difference that the Papacy did not hide their failure, or feel any need to.

In 961 NE, the Tower, with Merana as Tower representative, tried to negotiate the Fifth Treaty of Falme between Arad Doman and Tarabon to end the contention for Almoth Plain but the treaty failed (Lord of Chaos, The Crown of Roses).

Towards the end of Noane Masadim’s reign, Gitara Moroso of the Blue Ajah was counsellor to Queen Mordrellein of Andor and is believed to have encouraged Luc Mantear to go to the Blight in 971 (Lord of Chaos, Tellings of the Wheel). A year later she persuaded Tigraine that she must go to the Aiel Waste to become a Maiden of the Spear and remain there until the Maidens go to Tar Valon or disaster would befall the world. Gitara remained Queen Modrellein’s councillor until the Queen died in 972 NE.

Between 971 and 974, while Elaida was Accepted, she secretly Foretold that the Royal House of Andor held the key to winning the Last Battle.

Tamra Ospenya was raised from the Blue in 973 and ruled for 6 years. As was stated above this is the first time since before Bonwhin (or the first time ever) that consecutive Amyrlins were raised from the same Ajah.

Tamra had an all Blue administration: her Keeper at the time of New Spring (979 NE) was Gitara Moroso and then Aeldra Najaf and her Mistress of Novices was Merean Redhill. Tamra's hair was lightly streaked with gray, so she was probably over 200 when elected, but nowhere near 300. As Amyrlin Tamra was much loved and was one of the few, or even the only, New Era Amyrlins who were of all Ajahs and no Ajah. Pope John XXIII would make a fitting parallel for her in the affection she was held, and he was quite the unifier.

Romanda retired soon after Tamra was raised. She was about 265 years old; and thus retired later than Cadsuane even though she is somewhat weaker in the Power than Cadsuane. Her reasons for retiring were due to thwarted ambition according to Siuan (The Path of Daggers, The Law). Romanda tried to be elected Amyrlin upon Noane’s death, but she was turned down by Lelaine and allies because of the Yellow-Blue crisis that was resurfacing, and because of the Lelaine-Romanda personal antagonism too. At a fairly advanced age, she would have given up hope of still being alive (or seen as a viable candidate) to be elected Amyrlin on Tamra’s natural death. Consecutive Blue Amyrlins represented not only a victory for the axis of Ajahs opposed to her own, but also a political triumph for her rival Lelaine and thus doubly galling. (In fact, the Blues managed to get a second pair of consecutive Amyrlins elected from the Blue once Romanda was not there to balance them. Of course, Romanda’s retirement kept her alive for the Tower schism.)

In about 974 NE, Martine Janata of the Brown Ajah was burned out while studying a ter’angreal and fled the Tower as soon as she was able.

In 974-5 NE, as soon as it became clear that Morgase Trakand would gain the throne in the Succession, Elaida became close to her (A Crown of Swords, Prologue). Once on the Lion Throne, Morgase was presented with the great serpent ring by the Tower (The Fires of Heaven, Memories) in recognition of Andor’s long support for the Tower, and also to remind her of her obligations.

Cadsuane came out of retirement at the beginning of the Aiel War (A Crown of Swords, Diamonds and Stars). She had two Warders with her who were quite old but tough. (She probably deliberately didn’t Bond young men because she was old herself and they would die at her death.) During the War she went to Far Madding where she found Aleis Barsalla, the First Counsel, to be overweening and deflated her ego (Winter’s Heart, Among the Counsels).

The Aiel War occurred from 976 to 979 NE. Aes Sedai were involved in organising a coalition of nations to fight the Aiel. Marya Somares, a Gray sister of great experience in negotiations, held a seat for the Tower on the Aiel War council, advised by Azil Mareed, a Domani captain in long service to the Tower who commanded the Tower Guard (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). The fighting came close to Tar Valon in the final days of the war, and all Aes Sedai except the Keeper and Amyrlin went to the battlefield to Heal the injured.

In the last days of the war, Gitara Moroso Foretold the birth of the Dragon Reborn and died. Taking advantage of the absence of Aes Sedai in the Tower, Tamra sent Accepted, against custom, out of Tar Valon to the soldiers’ camps to collect details of all babies born within Tar Valon’s environs during the ten days snow was on the ground under the guise of collecting a list of names for the Tower’s bounty of 100 gold crowns for each baby born in Tar Valon or the camps in thanksgiving for Tar Valon’s safety.

The Blue Ajah Head, Eadyth was also a Sitter at this time, which is unusual for the Blues, due to her great competence (New Spring, Entering Home). Her political skill may account for the election of two Blues in a row as Amyrlins and ultimately either directly or indirectly perhaps the next pair, which was a very rare, perhaps unique, occurrence. (Eadyth’s white hair indicates great age and she may have died before Marith was raised). The Blues were also particularly successful in recruiting new sisters at the end of the Aiel War, even though they are one of the smallest Ajahs, again perhaps due to Eadyth (or merely a plot device!).

Interestingly, there is no sign of the future Amyrlin Marith Jaen among the Blues in the Tower in New Spring. Was she later elected because of her absence from the Tower at this time?

In 979 the Blue Ajah had slightly strained relations with the White Ajah, for reasons known only to the White (New Spring, Changes). This is likely the result of Alviarin’s machinations.

Tamra selected one senior sister known for her strict adherence to the law from each of the White (Meilyn Arganya), Brown (Valera Gorovni), Grey (Aisha Raveneos), Yellow (Ludice Daneen) and Green (Kerene Nagashi) Ajahs and set them to hunting for the Dragon Reborn using the list of babies the Accepted collected (New Spring, The Itch). Siuan and Moiraine secretly made their own copies. Jarna Malari, Grey Sitter and Head of the Black Ajah, noticed Tamra calling in senior sisters to give them instructions for a mission and wanted to know why badly enough to torture the information out of Tamra and kill her. Chesmal and Galina took part in this interrogation (Winter’s Heart, A Plan Succeeds) and probably helped make it seem as though Tamra had died in her sleep (A Crown of Swords, Prologue). Alviarin believes Tamra told them comparatively little – she told them that the Dragon had been reborn, just not when – but Galina describes Tamra as “keen to tell all she knew” (A Crown of Swords, Spears).

Sierin Vayu was raised from the Gray in 979 and ruled for 5 years. Sierin’s election was due to the desire for change, and perhaps the speed of the election indicates a political move against the Blues. Some in the Hall may have disagreed with Tamra’s vast expenditure of money (Sierin certainly did) on the bounties – hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bounties of 100 gold crowns is a lot of money. Tamra made her decision without consulting other Aes Sedai since all were out Healing the injured. The Sitters would not have appreciated the reason given for the bounty either – thanksgiving makes the Tower seem weak (even if the money was popular with the recipients), as though it only just survived. In summary: a lack of consultation and lowering of Tower’s prestige.

The Blues had no argument against electing a Grey Amyrlin who could consolidate the Grand Coalition made for the Aiel War. They may have made the calculation, like the Cardinals would have done, that with a Red-Gray shared-rule - a more extremist reign - they had a good chance to actually strengthen the position of the Green/Blue/White alliance for the next election. This sounds like a calculation Lelaine would make.

It is expected that an Amyrlin chooses her Keeper and Mistress of Novices from her former Ajah, but Sierin had a Red administration: her Keeper was Duhara Basaheen and her Mistress of Novices was Amira Moselle. Sierin – or the Grey Ajah - could be considered in a weak political position since she did not have Greys as her Keeper and Mistress of Novices, and indeed she may have chosen Reds in return for their support as much as for her own natural inclination. When Sierin was raised Aes Sedai, everyone was surprised she chose the Grey Ajah over Red. This might have been due to ambition: she wanted to choose Red, but wanted to be Amyrlin eventually more, and so she chose Grey, the neutral Ajah. And her strategy worked.

For a few years after the Aiel War, sisters of the Grey Ajah travelled from capital to capital, trying to keep the Grand Coalition from disintegrating (A Crown of Swords, Diamonds and Stars). Merana was one of these, and Annoura may or may not have been one of them.

The Tower planned on interfering in the question of who would rule Cairhien now that Laman and his brothers were dead. They wanted to put Moiraine on the Sun throne and quizzed her carefully as to rival claimants. Moraine did not want to rule and fled the Tower, disobeying Sierin who had told her to stay put (New Spring, Changes).

Cadsuane was seen in the Borderlands early in Sierin’s reign and then retired for the second time to Ghealdan some time after. Just before she went back, she searched the Tower library thoroughly for information on the Dragon and on Callandor because she had suspicions that the Dragon was now an infant (The Path of Daggers, The Bargain) which led her to studying the Prophecies of the Dragon carefully and having an insight about Callandor (The Gathering Storm, Reading the Commentary). She set her eyes and ears to watch Moiraine and Siuan for years but did not learn anything useful until 998 NE, when they were in Shienar (Winter’s Heart, Wonderful News).


The vileness is Cadsuane’s term for the killing of two Amyrlins and many sisters (especially senior ones) and the illegal gentling of men which occurred for some time after the Aiel War (A Crown of Swords, Diamonds and Stars and Sealed to the Flame). Acting on the information tortured from Tamra that the Dragon had been reborn, Jarna began this vileness (A Crown of Swords, Prologue).

979 NE could be seen as a pivotal year in Tower history: Rand and two other ta’veren had been born, the Aiel War threatened Tar Valon, the Red/Blue animosity intensified (including that between Elaida and Moiraine and Siuan), an Amyrlin was murdered, many sisters were killed, men were killed on suspicion of being possible channellers or were gentled illegally, the Black Ajah began to be noticed - all groundwork for the schism to come.

Sisters of the Black Ajah arranged for lucky men to be killed on the chance that one of these was the Dragon Reborn. The illegal gentling was for the same reason: if the Dragon were gentled he would not be able to defeat the Dark One. This gentling could not take place in Tar Valon, lest the Dragon be recognised during the course of his trial, so such suspects were gentled on the spot. Aes Sedai who objected or tried to bring these crimes to the attention of the Tower administration were killed: the ‘great many sisters’ who died soon after the Aiel War.

In 981 Galina Casban, already in the Black Ajah, became Head of the Red Ajah (Lord of Chaos, Prologue). It is likely that the Reds’ participation in the illegal gentling of men widened from ‘Black’ Reds to include other Reds once she became Ajah Head. From the Black Ajah’s point of view, the Reds’ involvement in the vileness was necessary to find and kill the Dragon Reborn since they had the numbers and the experience, and this was made easier when Galina became Red Ajah Head. Senior Reds were completely unaware Galina was Black until she was exposed by the Black Ajah hunters in 1000 NE.

Ishamael surfaced in 982 and was furious that Jarna Malari had interrogated and killed an Amyrlin and set in motion the deaths of many sisters (and of course, men). These actions were all too open for Ishamael’s taste, risking the exposure of the Black Ajah, and he killed Jarna by trapping her in a ter’angreal, punished the rest of the Supreme Council painfully until convinced they were not responsible for the decision, and made Alviarin head of the Black Ajah in Jarna’s place. He was not worried about the Black Ajah neutralising the Dragon Reborn, since the illegal gentling of men continued and by 983 was rife. Thom Merrilyn’s nephew Owyn was gentled in his village by sisters of the Red Ajah on orders from senior Red sisters (The Shadow Rising, Deceptions).

These crimes were covered up apparently for the good of the Tower: the Chronicles only record sixteen male channellers found in the last twenty years, when actually twenty-four were, as recorded in the Thirteenth Depository (A Crown of Swords, Prologue). Eight, including Owyn, were never taken to the Tower to be tried and gentled as required by law. Elaida was personally involved in the illegal gentling of men and the three Red Sitters were aware of the illegal gentling.

Chesmal Emry, a Black sister, believed Sierin was about to order her arrest (and perhaps that of other Black sisters), most likely for questioning about the deaths of Tamra and her Searchers, and induced Red sisters to kill Sierin (Winter’s Heart, A Plan Succeeds) in 984. This belief may have been correct – Siuan wrote Sierin an anonymous note in 979 NE claiming the Black Ajah had murdered Tamra and her searchers and Sierin may have investigated it – or it may have been a false belief. It is ironic that Sierin had a Red administration when it was Red sisters who murdered her. Even Sierin’s Keeper and/or Mistress of Novices may have been involved in her murder.

The Reds believed they were doing the right thing: that Sierin was about to expose their illegal gentling of men, perhaps even blame them for sisters’ deaths or declare them Darkfriends, and they were trying to save their Ajah. They may also have believed their illegal gentling was right.

Pevara is troubled by the crimes the Reds committed. She was sure the Black Ajah existed because of the vileness and thinks (correctly) that they – well, one of them - manipulated the Reds. However, she has revealed nothing on the matter as bound by law, since the vileness was Sealed to the Flame by the next Amyrlin, Marith Jaen raised from the Blue (A Crown of Swords, Sealed to the Flame).

The Reds’ crimes were at least partially exposed and dealt with by Marith. No culprits were found because the Red Ajah closed ranks, either to save their Ajah from disgrace or because they felt their actions justified or both. Marith punished the Red Sitters instead with unchairing, birching and exile to hard labour on an isolated farm (The Path of Daggers, The Extra Bit and Robert Jordan on his blog), and commanded the subject Sealed to the Flame. Those Aes Sedai who know this restricted knowledge include Marith’s Keeper (unknown), the Sitters of the Hall, the ajah Heads, the exiled Red Sitters, senior Reds including Elaida and Pevara (who was not a Sitter then) and the Brown sisters who keep the Thirteenth Depository. Seaine was not raised a White Sitter until 986, and either has not read the Thirteenth Depository in true White unworldliness, or else not all the events (Sierin’s murder, for instance) were recorded in the secret archives. According to Toveine’s thoughts, Elaida was involved closely enough in the crimes to have deserved a share of the blame (The Path of Daggers, The Extra Bit). The Black Ajah’s role has not yet been exposed.

The vileness is thus still unfinished business and a big part of the political scene since Tamra. It was part of the reason why the Hall believed or suspected that the Reds murdered Sierin even though no culprits were exposed, and exiled the Red Sitters; why there was a political swing from the Reds to the Blues which increased the Red/Blue animosity; why senior Aes Sedai were prepared to believe Siuan's and Leane's lies about the Reds setting up Logain as a false Dragon; why some Sitters would not support Elaida whether they knew/suspected she was involved or not; and why Cadsuane in retirement formed her own faction of trusted Aes Sedai. Finally, the deaths of so many Aes Sedai resulted in a lack of strong senior candidates for Amyrlin.

Marith Jaen was raised from the Blue in 984 and ruled for 4 years. This is the shortest rule we know of since the Year of Four Amyrlins 150 years after the founding of the Tower (see Aes Sedai History from the Breaking to the Hundred Years War essay). The names of her Keeper and Mistress of Novices are not known.

After the vileness due to the murder of so many sisters, especially senior sisters such as Tamra’s searchers, the number of possible candidates for Amyrlin had decreased markedly. The Red-Yellow-Grey alliance had little chance of one of their sisters being raised Amyrlin and the Blues were back because the Reds were disgraced over Sierin’s death and the illegal gentling of men.

Investigation appears to have taken a little time after the new administration settled in, then the three Red Sitters, Toveine Gazal, Tsutama Rath and Lirene Doirellin were unchaired, birched and exiled in 985 NE without any public explanation (The Path of Daggers, The Extra Bit). Pevara Tazanovni, Teslyn Baradon and Amira Moselle took their places in the Hall.

Interestingly, Moiraine found out about the illegal gentling of Owyn at least, and who was involved in it (The Shadow Rising, Deceptions). Some have speculated that Siuan told Moiraine once she became Amyrlin and had access to the Thirteenth Depository. However would the risk be worth it to Siuan? It is just as likely that the Blue Ajah’s excellent spy network uncovered some of the Reds’ crimes.

In 988 Marith died. How is a mystery. Siuan’s predecessor is never talked about in the series. Was Marith someone else who came to a sticky end? Or was she very old when elected?

Siuan Sanche was raised from the Blue in 988 and ruled for 11 years until deposed.

The three short reigns and rapid changes in administrations limited the long term planning for the White Tower’s internal and external affairs. This led the Hall to seek a long period of stability by breaking with the established tradition of twenty to thirty year reigns and look at younger candidates for Amyrlin. The choice must have been much wider in that range than in the group of old sisters at the end of their lifespans, which had been further reduced by the Black Ajah’s murders.

The agreement to consider a much younger Amyrlin implies that the deaths of at least two of the three short-reigned Amyrlins were believed to be natural old age. Even if some Sitters knew or suspected otherwise, that was publicly how they explained the deaths to each other.

The first four potential candidates the Hall considered as Marith’s replacement had all been Aes Sedai for less than fifty years, but the Hall could not decide between them. This is not surprising, because such a young Amyrlin would have a two hundred year reign (if not deposed or killed) and no Ajah wanted to let another Ajah, even an ally, rule that long, not to mention it would destroy the hopes of the Sitters themselves of being Amyrlin one day. Finally Seaine Herimon suggested Siuan, who had been Aes Sedai for only ten years, but who was very strong in the Power and had a reputation as a very good administrator.

Despite knowing that Siuan could have a two hundred and fifty year reign, the Hall raised her. Siuan thought the Hall exhausted; perhaps it had grown tired of the restrictions placed on it to prevent it deliberating too long over selecting a new Amyrlin (A Crown of Swords, The Figurehead). Some Sitters, like Seaine, wanted a long period of stability in the Tower; others calculated that while strong in the Power Siuan could be easily manipulated for many years because she was relatively inexperienced. The Red Ajah may have agreed to so long a reign for a Blue because Alviarin decided a young and inexperienced Amyrlin in those years when the Dragon Reborn might show up any day really suited her and she ordered Galina to encourage her Sitters to vote for it. After all, if Siuan turned out to be stronger than expected, the Blacks could always ruin her reign, cause chaos and do in the Blues at one stroke (which of course they did).

It would be interesting to know how Siuan acquired her reputation outside her Ajah as a skilled administrator within ten years of being raised. Secretly she was the Blues’ spymaster but perhaps she was also high on the council that runs Tar Valon or had a prominent position in the Tower bank. She was always likely to be a Sitter in a hundred years and perhaps Ajah Head or Amyrlin in two hundred years.

Her Keeper was Leane Sharif and her Mistress of Novices Sheriam Byanar, both of whom were very young for these positions. Sheriam, at least, did not enjoy her position and blamed Siuan (The Path of Daggers, Out On Thin Ice).

In 996 Siuan Sanche made a progression through Cairhien, Tear, Illian, and finishing up in Caemlyn before returning to Tar Valon. The Tower had identified a young border lord named Dulain as a man who could one day truly unify Murandy, with Tower aid, and Siuan commanded Morgase and Gareth Bryne to keep their soldiers away from him lest he be killed (The Fires of Heaven, Trapped).

Logain was a false Dragon from Ghealdan who declared himself in 997 and overwhelmed the armies of Ghealdan and threatened Murandy. He was captured and gentled in 998 NE and held in the Tower for some months. Cadsuane, who was nearby, came out of retirement to take part in his capture. He escaped along with Siuan, Leane and Min following the Tower coup in 999 (see below).

After nearly nineteen years of searching, Moiraine decided to look for the Dragon Reborn in the Two Rivers. She made very careful preparations – such as altering Lan’s bond so it would pass to Myrelle if she died – and was allowed to take an angreal. Siuan’s and Moiraine’s plan was to take the Dragon Reborn to the Tower, where he could be educated, protected, guided and controlled – kept safe and away from the world until needed to fight the Dark One. Events luckily prevented this plan from happening.

Siuan did pretty well considering her inexperience – better than any Sitters would have predicted. Egwene thought that Siuan pressed ahead too quickly in her reign, stretching herself too thin, and this caused her fall (The Gathering Storm, News in Tel’aran’rhiod). Perhaps Siuan over-compensated for her youth, or was impatient with the slow pace of Aes Sedai deliberations when her vital tasks were not yielding results.

By 998 NE a number of Sitters was concerned about what Siuan was up to. Siuan was seen as favouring her former Ajah and Moiraine in particular and there was opposition to her journey to Shienar. The Green Sitters suggested Moiraine be exiled to a farm under the supervision of Red sisters. Her entourage to Shienar consisted of two sisters from each Ajah; those we know the names of are: Anaiya and Maigan from the Blue, Verin and Serafelle from the Brown, Alanna from the Green, Liandrin from the Red, and Carlinya and Alviarin from the White. The entourage included at least three Black sisters, one of which was head of the Black Ajah. There was a move against the entourage having Blue sisters to deprive Siuan of the support of her former Ajah. While in Shienar there was an attempt on Siuan’s life (The Great Hunt, Leavetakings). Siuan may have been meant to die soon after she was observed meddling behind closed doors with Elaida's "dangerous ta'veren", the Horn, and Moiraine, a sister seen by the Hall as disobedient at the time. Rand’s ta’veren pull tugged the arrow in his direction enough that another man was killed instead. It was the events in Shienar that alerted Cadsuane about what Siuan and Moiraine had been up to (Winter’s Heart, Wonderful News) and induced her to start gathering those sisters she trusted.

Some time during 998-9 NE Mesaana was freed from the Bore and established herself in the White Tower with the aim of tying up the Aes Sedai in a useless internal conflict so that they couldn't gain control of Rand or form a coalition against the Shadow. The Aes Sedai were to be 'wasted' or 'neutralised' - that was the strategy and it has largely been successful. (No wonder Cadsuane is hopping mad with both sides.) Siuan had to go because she had a string on Rand in Moiraine, which was the last thing the Shadow wanted. The Shadow wanted Rand vulnerable to attack, and open to their influence with no Aes Sedai advising him.

Mesaana did not have the Black Ajah all to herself. For example, Liandrin's group left for Tear to do a job for Be’lal and/or Lanfear, and then were to get the men's adam and/or help set up Taim as a false Dragon. The scattering of Liandrin's group occurred while Ishamael was unavailable - but they are now under his control.

An indication of Siuan’s ignorance of the true extent of the Black Ajah is that the very Aes Sedai tasked with compiling information on these thirteen Black sisters for the three Accepted was herself Black. She obtained the Supreme Council’s reluctant consent to do as Siuan asked (The Gathering Storm, A Visit From Verin Sedai). Thus the Black Ajah was aware from the beginning of Siuan’s attempts to sniff them out, but did not depose Siuan until over two months later.

Mazrim Taim was a Saldaean false Dragon who declared himself and was captured in 998 by Aes Sedai including Cadsuane. Having done her part, she left the group taking Taim to the Tower (A Crown of Swords, Diamonds and Stars). Taim escaped in the night at Denhuir east of the Black Hills in 999 (The Shadow Rising Deceptions). Two sisters were killed.

In 999, Queen Morgase of Andor went to Tar Valon and, in a fury at finding Elayne was out of the Tower, broke the thousand year agreement with the Tower by refusing to take her Aes Sedai advisor Elaida back to Andor with her.

As a further sign of turmoil, by 999 NE Siuan’s Hall had more than one Sitter under one hundred: Elaida was one and there was another, since Siuan tells Egwene that the rebel Hall has nine young Sitters of which eight were raised in Salidar (The Path of Daggers, Unexpected Absences, and see The Composition and Politics of the Halls 998-1000 NE). This may indicate the influence of the Black Ajah, since she also had four Black Sitters in her Hall.

The strongest parallel for Siuan and the political lessons she taught Egwene is Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527). He wrote a book on monarchical politics, Il Principe (The Prince) in an attempt to return to politics as an advisor to Lorenzo de' Medici. The way Siuan taught Egwene politics by using examples of the successful and unsuccessful Amyrlins of the past to avoid mistakes is what Machiavelli does in his book. Siuan’s failures while Amyrlin have explanations in The Prince: Machiavelli advises Princes not embark on such complex schemes that they lose touch with what is really happening day-to-day in their Court. There are places in his writings where he says, in effect, that if the ruler is to save the state in any crisis, or retain his own position in power, he must be prepared to act unethically. The division of power in the rebel and White Tower, and the way Siuan and Egwene generated conflicts in the rebel Hall to control it is straight from The Prince. So is the principle of Tower stability, and the view that the survival of the White Tower justifies all the means taken to ensure it. Many Aes Sedai were willing to accept Elaida for this reason.

Two other politicians known for their pragmatic politics are Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642) and Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898).

Richelieu was convinced that the state should not follow the code of Christian ethics appropriate for individuals, but that in statecraft the ends justify the means – 'reason of state' was his term. He steered King Louis XIII of France successfully to increase the power of the monarchy and built a stable and powerful monarchy for France.

Bismarck initiated the use of Realpolitik, which again advocated the principle of the end justifying the means. Realpolitik justified any political action, regardless of its legality or morality. The use of, and triumph over, external enemies to unite the state internally, was a typical tactic of Bismarck and is reminiscent of Siuan and Egwene using the fear of the Band of the Red Hand to unite the rebels and move them north.

Siuan has some similarities to Pope Boniface VIII, pope from 1294 to 1303:

By his profound knowledge of the canons of the Church, his keen political instincts, great practical experience of life, and high talent for the conduct of affairs, Boniface VIII seemed exceptionally well qualified to maintain inviolate the rights and privileges of the papacy as they had been handed down to him. But he failed either to recognize the altered temper of the times, or to gauge accurately the strength of the forces arrayed against him; and when he attempted to exercise his supreme authority in temporal affairs as in spiritual, over princes and people, he met almost everywhere with a determined resistance…Though certainly one of the most remarkable pontiffs that have ever occupied the papal throne, Boniface VIII was also one of the most unfortunate. His pontificate marks in history the decline of the medieval power and glory of the papacy.

- Catholic Encyclopaedia

Boniface was captured in Italy by a party of horsemen under Guillaume de Nogaret, an agent of King Philip IV of France, and Sciarra Colonna. The King of France and the Roman aristocratic family of Colonna demanded that Boniface resign, but he said he would 'sooner die'. Boniface was released from captivity after three days, and died of shock a month later.

Siuan had great administrative and political skills but was unlucky to be ruling at a time when the Forsaken were free of the Bore and bent on subverting the Tower. She was unaware of the extent of Black Ajah activity around her. When Siuan was imprisoned and stilled, Elaida certainly hoped she would die but she was released from captivity by Min.


The Tower coup occurred in 999 NE and was instigated by Elaida, who was encouraged by Alviarin. Driven by personal dislike of Siuan and ambition for herself and her Ajah, Elaida used the pretext that Siuan had hidden knowledge of the Dragon Reborn from the Hall to depose her. In her mind, it made no difference whether Siuan and Moiraine were setting up a false Dragon (strange that this should occur to her) or whether he really was the Dragon Reborn; Siuan should be deposed. It seems the Red Ajah may take advantage of false (or real) Dragons to rise to power.

A Red Sitter, Amira Moselle, stepped down soon after Elaida returned to the Tower from Andor and Elaida replaced her (see TOR Questions of the Week article). Elaida had Galina’s support to raise an Amyrlin from the Red again after so long, especially by deposing an Amyrlin from the Blue; but aside from Ajah ambition, Galina wanted to remove a strong Amyrlin with ties to the Dragon Reborn.

From Alviarin’s point of view, Elaida represented a golden opportunity for the Black Ajah to replace Siuan with an Amyrlin who owed her high position to the Head of the Black Ajah. Close to Elaida, Alviarin would know, and influence if possible, every decision the Amyrlin made. Elaida was so ambitious that she took Alviarin’s encouragement for granted (thinking it only logical), even though it made little political sense for the White to abandon the Amyrlin one of them had proposed, and no doubt Galina gave Elaida bad advice about this deal with the White.

Once Elaida was a Sitter, she determined which Sitters would probably agree to depose Siuan and when she called a sitting of the Hall to depose Siuan, these eleven Sitters were the only ones who received notification (see TOR Questions of the Week article and The Composition and Politics of the Halls 998-1000 NE article). (This may not be legal; it could be a type of collusion, see Aes Sedai Laws and Customs: Society essay). The deposing of Siuan and the raising of Elaida were contingent on each other – a package deal of an incompetent Blue and a Red qualified to handle a male channeller – and were voted on in the same sitting. Elaida broke custom and very nearly broke the law in the way she deposed Siuan without publicly charging her (The Path of Daggers, Unexpected Absences), or trying her with an opportunity to defend herself of the charges (The Fires of Heaven, The Practice of Diffidence). Moreover, deposition and stilling is considered probably too harsh a penalty for not informing the Hall of the Dragon Reborn and hiding him from the Tower (The Fires of Heaven, The Practice of Diffidence).

Siuan and Leane were taken to the underground cells to be interrogated. Galina helped to break Siuan and torture information out of her. She enjoyed leading the circle that stilled Siuan (A Crown of Swords, Spears).

Being an inexperienced Sitter, Elaida assumed that the Tower had always bowed to the will of the Hall and Amyrlin and was completely unprepared for the violence her actions created (see TOR Questions of the Week article). Immediately after Siuan’s arrest was announced, two or three hundred workmen hired by Danelle of the Brown Ajah (Mesaana’s alias, Towers of Midnight, Stronger Than Blood) tried to seize the Tower and provoke violence. There was fighting between the Ajahs and everybody who opposed Elaida either fled or was killed. A Blue Sitter was among the casualties. Warders of Blue and Green sisters tried to free Siuan and Leane before they were stilled but Gawyn rallied the Warders’ students and they beat the Warders off. When Min, Siuan and Leane left the Tower, the workmen were guarding the gates beside the Tower guards (The Shadow Rising, The Truth of a Viewing).

The Tower announced publicly that Siuan and Leane were charged with arranging Mazrim Taim's escape and freeing Logain and they had been deposed and stilled as punishment. According to Min, they were not quite named Darkfriends, although Gawyn thought they were named as Darkfriends (The Shadow Rising, The Truth of a Viewing). By the time Siuan, Leane, Min and Logain reached Andor, rumours had spread that Leane and Siuan were executed and Logain was dead.

Elaida a’Roihan was raised from the Red Ajah in 999 by instigating a coup against Siuan Sanche. Her Keeper was Alviarin Freidhen and then Tarna Feir, and her Mistress of Novices Silviana Brehon and then Katerine Alruddin.

Elaida began from a position of political weakness; she owed Alviarin the Keeper’s stole for delivering a vote from the White Ajah required for reaching the greater consensus to raise an Amyrlin (and also the Black, but Elaida doesn’t know that). Otherwise, Elaida’s efforts at deposing Siuan would have failed and she would have been imprisoned at the least:

And Alviarin knew full well why she wore the Keeper's stole instead of someone from the Red. The Red Ajah had favored Elaida unanimously, but the White had not done so, and without wholehearted support from the White, many others might not have come round, in which case Elaida would have been in a cell instead of sitting on the Amyrlin Seat. That is, if the remains of her head were not decorating a spike for the ravens to play with. Alviarin would not be so easily intimidated as the others.

- The Fires of Heaven, Prologue

While Sierin Vayu also had an administration from a different Ajah to her own, the big difference between Sierin and Elaida is that Reds are normally allied to the Greys while Elaida had to gain the support of an Ajah from the Red’s rival axis.

Elaida has strong similarities with Pope Urban VI, Pope from 1378 to 1389. He was elected after one of the shortest conclaves in history because the Roman populace were threatening to riot unless an Italian or Roman was chosen as the next pope (Catholic Encyclopedia) and was the last Pope to be elected from outside the College of Cardinals (roughly equivalent to the Hall). The uproar from the populace continued and the cardinals considered electing another Pope. There was thus confusion as to Urban’s legality. Elaida was also rapidly raised to Sitter and then to Amyrlin. There was violent protest (aided by false workmen hired by Danelle/Mesaana) at the way Elaida deposed Siuan, flouting custom and almost breaking the law and this resulted in the Blues and their allies rejecting Elaida as Amyrlin and leaving the Tower. There is some question as to Elaida’s legality due to her dubious methods, the number of Black Sitters who voted for her, and the absence of Blues in the Hall when she was raised.

Once installed, Urban VI behaved in an arrogant and imperious manner, abusing the cardinals and high dignitaries of the Church and insulting Otto of Brunswick, the husband of Queen Joanna of Naples. The cardinals found Urban’s behaviour so intolerable that a substantial proportion of them removed to Castel Sant'Angelo, where they were protected by armed soldiers. Meanwhile, the cardinals loyal to Urban VI proposed either a general council or a compromise. Urban’s opponents refused all measures of compromise and were bent on forcefully deposing Urban. Seven days later they published a letter making false and damaging accusations against Urban. They elected Clement VII as their pope (antipope) and the Great Western Schism began. Each side had its own pope and College of Cardinals and each side excommunicated the other. The schism would last from 1378 to 1417; nearly 40 years.

Elaida also behaved in an arrogant and imperious manner, demoting Aes Sedai to Accepted, kidnapping King Mattin Stepaneos of Illian, declaring the Blue Ajah disbanded, kidnapping and abusing the Dragon Reborn, considering introducing a fourth Oath of fealty to the Amyrlin, handing severe penances to Sitters and her supporters (A Crown of Swords, The Triumph of Logic) and unchairing Joline and Teslyn, two Sitters who had supported her during the coup and sending them far from the Tower to the least important post she could think of. A fair percentage of Elaida’s supporters regretted raising her Amyrlin. Elaida’s opponents were bent on deposing her and raised an army. They publicised the damaging claim that the Red Ajah set Logain up as a false Dragon – a false claim which they believed to be true. The Aes Sedai had two Halls, with two Amyrlins claiming to represent them – a true schism.

Pope Urban’s whole reign was a series of misadventures and he became daily more estranged from the older members of the Sacred College (Catholic Encyclopaedia). His behaviour was so disastrous that some believed him insane. Cardinals in his own college considered deposing or arresting him, but they were exposed and imprisoned (likewise, a senior member of Elaida’s own Ajah denounced her behaviour in the Hall and was demoted and imprisoned by Elaida (The Gathering Storm, News in Tel’aran’rhiod)). Some were executed, which alienated the rest of his faction. Pope Urban VI refused the proposal of a general council, which he had formerly actually proposed, insulted ambassadors and finally proclaimed a crusade against his rival Clement VII. Urban conveniently died before raising enough troops to attack Clement. His mode of death is uncertain; in some accounts he died of injuries caused by a fall from his mule, in others, he was poisoned by the Romans (Catholic Encyclopaedia)

Partly due to Alviarin’s machinations and partly to Elaida’s own poor decisions, Elaida has also presided over a series of misadventures:

  • Her embassy to Rand failed and only thirteen out of the thirty-nine delegates eventually returned to the Tower, the worst disaster in the history of Tower even including the Trolloc Wars (A Crown of Swords, Sealed to the Flame). Of those ‘lost’, three died, three were stilled and then Healed, twenty were captured by Rand and one was captured by the Shaido (see Elaida's Embassy To Rand article). Most of the Embassy swore fealty to Rand.

  • Her delegation of fifty one sisters to the Black Tower was captured and bonded to Asha’man (a disaster even worse than the failed embassy to Rand).

  • She made decrees which disunited the Tower and divided the Ajahs into armed camps (The Path of Daggers, The Extra Bit)

  • She made a public decree which alienated the Dragon Reborn by suggesting he lay under their authority, was granted their protection and could only be approached through the White Tower (The Path of Daggers, An Unwelcome Return).

  • Despite receiving warnings from Egwene, she denied the Seanchan were a threat or could attack the Tower and didn’t believe that they could enslave channellers (The Gathering Storm, The Nature of Pain) and left the Tower unprepared for the raid.

Had Elaida been prepared to accept shame, Alviarin would have been unable to blackmail her. Red sisters murdered an Amyrlin to avoid shame though. They are unable to accept the consequences of their actions and then commit worse actions to hide the previous ones.

Furthermore the kidnapping of Rand and the disbanding of the Blue appears to have been Elaida’s own idea. Without knowledge of Alviarin’s true allegiance and control of Elaida, Elaida’s actions would seem insane. For example Elaida herself described her decree giving each Ajah authority over any sister in its quarters as insanity (The Path of Daggers, An Unwelcome Return). And Elaida’s construction of a palace taller than the White Tower in such difficult and dangerous times could be considered megalomania, a type of insanity.

Elaida believes the Amyrlin is an absolute monarch, not first among equals; even the Roman Emperor Augustus was careful to name himself ‘first citizen’ to maintain the Senate’s prestige. She claimed that she is Tower Law, and has limitless power, a parallel with Louis XIV of France who said “I am the State” in a judicial context. And like Louis XIV, she was constructing a personal palace. Her treatment of Shemerin is a good example of both her absolutism and the Hall’s lack of objection (Knife of Dreams, Honey in the Tea). Elaida aspired to be like Louis XIV of France, but in actuality she was like Napoleon III. He plotted to destroy the existing order in Europe and intentionally precipitated conflicts to have the Holy Alliance revoked, but was very poor at seeing what the diplomatic picture truly was. Napoleon III was a man of great schemes and ambitions that came to nothing for lack of foresight, as is Elaida, who ironically has Foretellings, but consistently misinterprets them. People thought him cunning and mysterious (he was called The Sphinx of the Tuileries), but Bismarck (a parallel of Siuan) outmanoeuvred him and established Germany as the dominant force in Europe.

Elaida was unable to prevent talks between Sitters of both sides, but insisted on conditions (such as the disbandment of the Blue Ajah) which effectively ensured their failure (Crossroads of Twilight, A Mark). The Great Western Schism continued for another three Popes after Urban’s death, but the Aes Sedai schism was resolved far sooner.


In 999 NE, open division occurred in the Tower for the first time since its founding. Previously, all Aes Sedai have presented a united front even before their servants (A Crown of Swords, A Pair of Silverpike) and have never let the world know of any rebellion (The Path of Daggers, Unexpected Absences). Rebellion is a split among the Aes Sedai in which Aes Sedai customs and laws, or dogma, are still accepted and followed – just not the leadership. It is thus not an heresy, but a schism, and is considered treasonous (see Aes Sedai Laws and Customs: Society essay). As has been discussed earlier, schisms have occurred in the Catholic Church, and those who sever themselves from the communion of the Church and yet believe the Church’s dogma are sometimes thought of as rebellious (Catholic Encyclopaedia). Many (most?) of the Tower’s rebellions were in the distant past, since Elaida thinks of ‘ancient rebellions’. This very public schism is a parallel of the Great Western Schism of the Catholic Church, which lasted 40 years until 1417.

As well as schism in the Catholic Church, the Aes Sedai split also has similarities with the American Civil War. The rebels gathered in the south and the White Tower with all the items of power are in the north. The rebel general is Bryne, who rides a horse named Traveller, just like R E Lee. Egwene is portrayed as like Lincoln, trying to unite the factions.

Rebellion occurred in the 15th to 16th century convents when rival candidates for abbess each commanded considerable support and the losing candidate and her clique refused to obey the victor. The rebels were forced (by threat of imprisonment in various other convents) to show outward obedience and humility to the new abbess (Mary Laven, Virgins of Venice).

Even the Ancient Roman republic had rebellions where the plebeians seceded – physically departed from the rest of the Roman community. While these rebellions have some similarities with the current Aes Sedai rebellion, they are more similar to Tower mutinies and are therefore discussed in the Mutiny section of Aes Sedai Laws.

The rebels left the Tower and gradually gathered at Salidar, birthplace of Deane Aryman. As well as Blues, this gathering had many Greens, but also representatives of all Ajahs (including eight of the original Tower Sitters, see The Composition and Politics of the Halls 998-1000 NE article) except the Red. Just over one third of the total Aes Sedai were represented there. A council of six (Sheriam, Myrelle, Anaiya, Morvrin, Beonin and Carlinya) was in charge of the rebels at first. The original idea was for dialogue between the rebels and the Tower (encouraged by Elaida’s mole, Beonin, and perhaps the Sitters present, since every Sitter who was previously in the Tower Hall negotiated with the Tower delegation (Crossroads of Twilight, A Mark) to resolve the schism). It was not until Siuan turned up with Logain and lied about the Reds setting him up as a false Dragon that they decided to formalise their rebellion into an alternative administration with its own Hall, Amyrlin, etc.

The schism was part of the Shadow’s plot to tie up the Aes Sedai and prevent them from making a positive contribution to the war against the Shadow. (The rebel Black Sitters Delana and Moria did all they could to prolong it or promote further division.) That it was counterproductive is something Aes Sedai finally acknowledged:

“The Brown is quite clear on the historical precedents. You have all read the secret histories, or should have. Whenever the Tower has been divided against itself, disaster has struck the world. With the Last Battle looming, in a world that contains the Black Tower, we can no longer afford to remain divided a day longer than need be.”

- Crossroads of Twilight, A Mark

Yet this has not been all to the Shadow’s benefit, since the schism was a godsend for Rand.


There have been times when the Tower has been cautious, but until the advent of the Dragon Reborn it has collectively never feared anyone (The Fires of Heaven, Prologue), and certainly no Aes Sedai has ever before sworn fealty to any man (Knife of Dreams, Honey in the Tea). Aes Sedai loyalty is to the Tower and to the Aes Sedai as a whole, even above the lands of their birth. Until now, all Aes Sedai have presented a united front even before their servants (A Crown of Swords, A Pair of Silverpike) and have never let the world know of any schisms or rebellion (The Path of Daggers, Unexpected Absences).

The schism has been a lucky break for Rand, as he is well aware:

Rand's laugh was too hoarse to hold any mirth. ''Do you really think Aes Sedai would leave me alone just because I left them alone? Me? The Tower splitting is the best thing that could have happened for me. They're too busy staring at one another to turn full attention on me. Without that, there'd be twenty Aes Sedai everywhere I turned. Fifty. I have Tear and Cairhien behind me, after a fashion, and a toehold here. Without the split, every time I opened my mouth, there'd be somebody saying, 'Yes, but the Aes Sedai say.' …If the Tower was whole, I'd have so many strings tied to me by now, I could not move a finger without asking six Aes Sedai for permission."
Perrin very nearly laughed himself, and no more in mirth than Rand. "So you think it's better to—what?—play the rebel Aes Sedai off against the Tower? 'Cheer the bull, or cheer the bear; cheer both, and you will be trampled and eaten.’"
"Not that simple, Perrin, though they don't know it," Rand said smugly, shaking his head. "There's a third side, ready to kneel to me. If they make contact again.”

- Lord of Chaos, A Bitter Thought

Rand’s analysis of the advantages of the Tower split was quite valid. Perrin was also right: Rand took a risky course. An example of this is that both the rebel Aes Sedai to whom Rand made the offer and the Red Ajah who made an independent decision think they can bond Asha’man. And in order to sow chaos, Taim is not going to disabuse them. The third side is not Alviarin’s faction as Rand believed, but Cadsuane’s faction. Rand also made his own group that kneel to him.

The White Tower believed it had authority over the Dragon. Both Siuan and Elaida planned to hold him in the Tower. When Rand faced Amyrlin egwene and knew her anger as Elaida Foretold, he behaved respectfully yet stuck to his own agenda. She complained to Moiraine:

"The seals, Moiraine," Egwene said. "He's planning to break them. He defies the authority of the Amyrlin Seat." …
"Oh, Egwene," Moiraine said. "Have you forgotten? 'The unstained tower breaks and bends knee to the forgotten sign . . .’”

A Memory of Light, A Knack

Egwene blushed at this very public reminder. Moiraine, at least, learned from events and granted Rand the freedom and then the authority to act, but then she believes in the Pattern more than most.

Ajah Head Conspiracy

The Ajah Heads were also doing what they could to end the split. Contrary to the custom of not knowing the Heads of other Ajahs, the Tower Ajah Heads have a way of identifying each other, and a protocol on when to collaborate to step in and restore order when the Amyrlin and Hall become out of control and exercised it when the Tower split. In the case of the coup, for instance, one Ajah Head in the Tower may have given one of her Sitters sealed notes for Sitters of other Ajahs to hand to their Ajah Head arranging a secret meeting. These Sitters were obviously not the Black Ajah hunters or Black Sitters. Any past co-operation between Ajah Heads is completely unknown to the current Sitters and the Amyrlin and is therefore not recorded in the Thirteenth Depository (though the Ajah Heads likely played a part in at least one of the six mutinies).

The Black Ajah hunters realised that the Ajah Heads conspired over who would go into the Tower Hall (Crossroads of Twilight, Prologue). However, their conspiracy started sooner and was more extensive than these independent Sitters supposed. The Tower Ajah Heads sent those Sitters not involved in raising Elaida out of the Tower after the Blues, or at least away from Elaida. Since Elaida’s faction was perhaps believed to be at least partially responsible for the murder of a Blue Sitter, other Sitters who did not stand for Elaida may also have been considered at risk. The Sitters sent out were instructed to influence the Blues and stabilise the rebels until the Tower could be united, which was expected to happen in a short time frame (The Gathering Storm, Sealed To The Flame). Hence the election of the too young Sitters that could be easily influenced or were dispensable. (Such collusion over the selection of Sitters for the Hall is a serious crime (see Aes Sedai Laws and Customs: Society essay), which is why the Black Ajah hunters were so insistent that the Hall had a right to know (The Path of Daggers, The Extra Bit)).

Naturally, the Red Ajah Head was not included in this conspiracy and the Blue Ajah Head could not be either, even if the others wanted her to, since she had fled. Meanwhile, the five Tower Ajah Heads planned on leading the Aes Sedai themselves, because

The days of the Last Battle's approach were a special time, requiring special attention. Attention from women of sound, rational minds and great experience. Women who could speak together in confidence and decide on the best course, avoiding the arguments that the Hall got into.

- The Gathering Storm, Sealed to the Flame

However, they didn’t take the division seriously enough and underestimated the rebels:

But they hadn't counted on how resilient, or effective, the rebels would be. A full army, appearing on the shores around Tar Valon in the middle of a snowstorm? Led by one of the greatest military minds of the Age? With a new Amyrlin and a frustratingly effective siege? Who could have expected it? And some of the Sitters they had sent had begun siding with the rebels more than the White Tower!

- The Gathering Storm, Sealed to the Flame

Their supposedly malleable young Sitters were full of themselves, and refused to take direction from their Ajah Heads, adding to the Hall’s lack of decisiveness. (By this stage there were probably five Black Sitters in the Tower Hall, miring the Hall even further.) Moreover members of their own Ajah realised the Ajah Heads were manipulating the Hall and became distrustful of them (The Gathering Storm, Sealed to the Flame).

Egwene al’Vere raised 999 NE

The original intentions of the rebel Aes Sedai were to separate from the Tower and negotiate with the Tower administration for their eventual return. Siuan’s and Leane’s lies about Logain spurred Sheriam’s group of six (Sheriam, Myrelle, Beonin, Morvrin, Anaiya and Carlinya) who were leading the rebels to do more: they sent ten sisters back to the White Tower to tell the other Ajahs that the Reds had set up Logain as a false Dragon, they decided to build an army, establish an alternative Hall and Amyrlin and become a true schism. Siuan and Leane changed the course of events as Egwene was well aware:

“If you hadn't lied in your teeth, we'd all be in Salidar, without an army, sitting on our hands and waiting for a miracle. Well, you would be. They'd never have summoned me to be Amyrlin without your lie about Logain and the Reds. Elaida would reign supreme, and in a year, nobody would remember how she usurped the Amyrlin Seat. She'd destroy the Tower, for sure. You know she'd mishandle everything about Rand. I would not be surprised if she had tried to kidnap him by now, except that she's concerned with us. Well, maybe not kidnap, but she'd have done something. Likely, Aes Sedai would be fighting Asha'man today, and never mind Tarmon Gai'don waiting over the horizon."

- The Path of Daggers, Stronger than Written Law

And ironically her predictions of Elaida’s actions were surprisingly accurate. The rebels still did not intend to do anything more than negotiate, but now they were also trying to negotiate Elaida’s deposition as well as their return. Siuan’s motives were as much about dislike of Elaida and desire for revenge on Elaida and the Reds as removing a usurper who would bungle things.

Sheriam’s group of six ran everything in Salidar until they took up Siuan’s and Leane’s suggestion to raise an alternative leadership to the Tower. Once the rebel Hall was established, the group still had considerable influence – they chose Egwene to be Amyrlin for instance, and the Hall voted in favour of their choice – but they themselves were manipulated by Siuan:

These women had led the sisters gathered here, and now they were discussing who should be presented to their new Hall of the Tower as if that should not be the Hall's choice. It would not be difficult to bring them around, ever so gently, to the belief that the new Amyrlin should be one who could be guided by them. And unknowing, they and the Amyrlin she chose for her replacement would be guided by herself. She and Moiraine had worked too long to find Rand al'Thor and prepare him, given too much of their lives, for her to risk the rest of it being bungled by someone else.

- The Fires of Heaven, The Practise of Diffidence

Ironically, it was Egwene who gradually reduced the influence of Sheriam’s group and raised that of the Hall when she became Amyrlin; ironic because she was elected to be a puppet, and a puppet with handily close ties to the Dragon Reborn. (The Sitters only thought of immediate concerns, and not of the future; now they have realised that a very young Amyrlin would have a very long reign if left to rule (Knife of Dreams, Call To A Sitting)). There were three women who planned to become Keeper and pull the strings on this puppet: Sheriam, Romanda and Lelaine; and one who did not aspire to official authority who also planned on pulling Egwene’s strings: Siuan. Egwene reined in Siuan to a degree and made Sheriam her Keeper because she was familiar, less intimidating and independent of the Hall. Her Mistress of Novices was Tiana Noselle of the Grey.

The rebel Aes Sedai leadership was as riven by divisions or factions as the White Tower: Sheriam’s six (Sheriam, Myrelle, Beonin, Anaiya, Morvrin and Carlinya), Romanda’s faction ( Romanda, Magla, Varilin, Saroiya), Lelaine’s faction (Lelaine, Lyrelle, Faiselle, Takima) and Elaida’s secret supporters (including Beonin), never mind the independent Sitters (Samalin, Malind, Janya, Escaralde, Salita, Kwamesa, Aledrin, Berana) or the Black Ajah (including Delana and Sheriam, both under the control of a Forsaken, Aran’gar, and Moria, who appeared to have different orders) (see The Composition and Politics of the Halls 998-1000 NE article). The too young Sitters were independent, as was Janya, the only former Tower Sitter to be so; the other Sitters formerly in the Tower divided themselves equally between Lelaine and Romanda.

With Siuan as her advisor in Machiavellian style politics, Egwene successfully played Romanda’s, Lelaine’s and Sheriam’s factions against each other. She obtained their agreement to leave Salidar, move north and declare war on Elaida.

The deep personal rivalry between Romanda and Lelaine has a real life parallel in the Orsini and Colonna factions in Italy and their rivalry to gain power over the Holy Seat in medieval and renaissance times. The Colonna family acted against Pope Boniface VIII (Siuan’s parallel) making them similar to the Yellows, traditional allies of the Red, and thus often antagonistic to the Blue. The former Tower Sitters among the rebels may have used Lelaine and Romanda to keep Sheriam and Egwene in check just as the great Italian nobles kept the Pope in check:

to keep the Pope in check they made use of the Roman barons, who, divided into two factions, the Orsini and the Colonna, always had a reason for squabbling amongst themselves; they kept the Papacy weak and unstable, standing with their weapons in hand right under the Pope's eyes.

- Machiavelli, The Prince

If so, they have only partially been successful, due to Siuan’s and Egwene’s political skills. Egwene herself exploited Romanda’s and Lelaine’s mutual antagonism with each other and with Sheriam to steer the rebel Hall in the direction she wanted.

There have been two popes who were about 18 years old when elected: Benedict IX in the 11th century and John XII in the 10th century. Both obtained the papacy through the influence of a powerful parent and were considered entirely unsuitable to be Pope. Egwene too was raised Amyrlin by the influence of her tutor and former ‘mother’ of the Aes Sedai, Siuan, and Sheriam’s group, and was considered entirely unsuitable to be Amyrlin.

Egwene’s early career is like that of Pope Julius II (pope from 1503-1513). He was made a cardinal at 18 by his uncle Pope Sixtus IV (1471–84), who took him under his special charge. In 1503 he was elected Pope after the shortest conclave in history by the unanimous vote of the cardinals, almost certainly by bribery. Egwene was rapidly elected by the Hall at age 18 and taken in charge by Siuan, a former Amyrlin.

Julius II was determined to establish and increase the temporal power of the papacy, which was beset by other nations. He managed to regain control of the Papal States, remove French influence from the rest of Italy and reconciled the two powerful Roman houses of Orsini and Colonna. While he owed his start in the church to his uncle, his own reign was free from nepotism (Catholic Encyclopedia). Egwene owed her raising to Sheriam’s group, but she has been free of nepotism in her rule, refusing to favour any Ajah or novice. In Towers of Midnight, Lelaine and Romanda (equivalents of the Orsini and Colonna) started to work together – against Egwene (Towers of Midnight, A Call To Stand).

Sheriam’s six did not inform the Hall that they had sent ten sisters – two from each Ajah except the Blue and Red - to rapidly return to the White Tower and spread the information (false, but they did not know that) about the Reds setting up Logain as a false Dragon because they feared some of the Sitters might be on Elaida’s side, or worse, might be Black Ajah. The irony is that one of Sheriam’s own group was Elaida’s mole, and Sheriam herself a Black who presumably had permission or was instructed to send the ferrets to the Tower to increase division; but they were correct about the presence of Black Sitters in the Hall. However:

If the Hall learned they had sent sisters to sway the Aes Sedai in Tar Valon, and worse, kept the fact from the Hall for fear of Darkfriends among the Sitters, they surely and certainly would spend the rest of their lives in penance and exile. So the women who had believed they could somehow twitch Egwene about like a puppet, after the greater part of their influence with the Hall melted, instead found themselves sworn to obey her. That was rare even in the secret histories; sisters were expected to obey the Amyrlin, but swearing fealty was something else again. Most still seemed unsettled by it, though they did obey.

- The Path of Daggers, Unexpected Absences

Prior to the exposure of Delana, the Hall would have been furious at the suggestion of a Black Sitter. Furthermore, undermining Tower leadership and unity by secretly spreading information – fomenting discord – is a serious crime (see Aes Sedai Laws and Customs: Society essay). In an example of Realpolitik that impressed even Siuan, Egwene used their fear of exposure to coerce them into swearing an oath of fealty and obedience to her; her own idea, and something that had never been done or very rarely. (Elaida too considered introducing an oath of fealty.) Four other sisters swore fealty to Egwene out of loyalty and frustration (Faolain and Theodrin) and fear that their breaking of custom would be exposed (Myrelle and Nisao).

Against custom, Egwene decreed that the novice book was open to women of any age with the potential to channel and consequently the rebels gained about a thousand novices. She also raised four Accepted to Aes Sedai by decree.

Another idea Egwene had was to associate all female channellers with the Tower in a two-tiered system of full Aes Sedai who are bound by the Three Oaths (higher) and associates of the Tower who are not (lower). This arrangement could be likened to the two types of nun in the 15th to 16th century convents: choir nuns (Aes Sedai) and lay sisters (non-Aes Sedai such as the Kin). Nun and lay sister are mutually exclusive religious paths. Whether Egwene’s plan is ever implemented in this form is another matter. The Three Oaths may ultimately be discontinued (see below).

However she has brokered an agreement with the Wise Ones and Windfinders for each group to send two of their most promising apprentices or Accepted to each group for a period of no less than six months but no more than two years. They must follow the rules of the society they are billeted to. At the end of their training they must return to their people for at least one year. After that they can apply to join which ever group they choose (Towers of Midnight, An Invitation).

The rebels had a renaissance in knowledge: they developed Healing weaves, Travelling, ter’angreal making and cuendillar. This knowledge was extended to all, even novices, unlike in the Tower, where Elaida allowed a favoured few to learn these weaves.

When Nynaeve Healed Logain, the rebels were confronted with a dilemma: by law he should be re-stilled, but the Dragon Reborn had declared an amnesty on male channellers and they wanted his support. Egwene arranged for Logain to be freed.

Nynaeve and Elayne went to Ebou Dar to find the Bowl of Winds, which they used to restore the seasons. They also found a treasure trove of items of the Power and female channellers and made a Bargain with the Sea Folk of knowledge for knowledge: aid in using the Bowl in exchange for Aes Sedai to teach Sea Folk. The requirement for Aes Sedai teachers was later sustituted with the gift of dream ter’angreal to the Sea Folk and the return of any of the Sea Folk Aes Sedai who wish to leave the Tower (Towers of Midnight, An Invitation).

Aran’gar gained access to Egwene by inflicting saidin-induced headaches that only she could remove and then proceeded to interfere with Egwene’s Dreams so that she could not remember them (Crossroads of Twilight, In The Night). She murdered two of Egwene’s maids, partly because they were spying on Egwene for Romanda and Lelaine and might expose her, and partly to gain better access to Egwene, since she needed to be physically near Egwene to affect Egwene’s dreams (Knife of Dreams, At the Gardens). Through bullying Sheriam, Aran’gar obtained more information on Egwene’s plans (The Gathering Storm, In Darkness). She also murdered Anaiya and Kairen lest she make a slip about knowledge gained from Cabriana and be exposed. Aran’gar, Delana and her maid fled the rebel camp just as Romanda solved the murders.

Egwene was captured when she took the place of Bode and turned the Tar Valon harbour chain to cuendillar so that ships could not dock in the harbour and supply Tar Valon (see Egwene, Leane and the Harbour Chains article). Leane was captured too, before she could complete her task. The Tower Aes Sedai had been informed of the rebels’ plan and were waiting, but they did not prevent the almost complete blocking of the harbours. Only the rebel Hall and those taking part supposedly knew of the plan. Whoever betrayed it to the Tower did so to prolong the Tower split for one of three reasons: to favour the Shadow, to shore up Elaida’s position or to buy time to bring Egwene down. Two likely contenders are Lelaine and Delana. If it was Delana, she would be aiding the Shadow who want to keep the Aes Sedai fragmented. If it was Lelaine, she would be keeping the split going until she could take Egwene’s place. She threatened Egwene with deposition in Crossroads of Twilight, What The Oath Rod Can Do, and a failure of Egwene’s plan would have weakened Egwene’s standing and thus could be used to strengthen Lelaine’s. The traitor was not Beonin: she could not return to Elaida until she could convince herself that Egwene was no longer Amyrlin. Until then, her oath of fealty held her to obey and support Egwene. It was Nicola, which is why she apologised to Egwene when she was captured.

Egwene was determined to behave with dignity in the Tower and as the Amyrlin Seat and not to be broken by Tower discipline. She was demoted to novice and served the Tower in truth – as a servant of the Servants - and also comforted and advised novices, Accepted and even Aes Sedai. During her lessons she reminded sisters of problems under Elaida and informed a sister of the Thirteenth Depository.

Pope Julius II, Egwene’s parallel, increased his power and the Church’s power by playing the nations against each other. Egwene did the same with the rebel factions. Siuan said Egwene had it in her to be like Gerra Kishar (who is also a parallel of Julius II) who was another manipulator of factions. However, this is divisive, not uniting.
Egwene originally intended to bring down Elaida by inciting the Aes Sedai to mutiny, but that would have strengthened division.

While Egwene was in the Tower, Lelaine positioned herself to be raised Amyrlin in Egwene’s stead:

"Egwene al'Vere is the lawful Amyrlin Seat," Lelaine said finally. “Until she dies. Or is stilled. Should either happen, we would be back to Romanda trying for the staff and the stole and me forestalling her." She snorted. "That woman would be a disaster as bad as Elaida. Unfortunately, she had enough support to forestall me, as well. We'd be back to that, except that if Egwene dies or is stilled, you and your friends will be as faithful to me as you've been to Egwene. And you will help me gain the Amyrlin Seat in spite of Romanda."

- Knife of Dreams, When Last Sounds

but was outpaced by events. Interestingly towards the end of the Great Western Schism in the Catholic Church, there were three men claiming to be Pope.

Merise Haindehl of the Green Ajah and her Warders, including Jahar Narishma, visited the rebel Hall with an offer from Rand to the rebel Aes Sedai to bond 47 Asha’man (Knife of Dreams, Call to a Sitting). The Asha’man must be soldiers or Dedicated and cannot refuse. The rebel Sitters voted in favour of the offer, having already agreed an alliance with the Asha’man was necessary. They sent 6 Sitters (including Lyrelle, Naorisa Cambral (Delana’s replacement) and Salita) plus Myrelle, Nisao, Faolain and Theodrin to the Black Tower. The Black sisters among them fled before Egwene sent messengers with warnings. The rebel expedition camped outside the Black Tower's walls because they arrived after the six Red sisters, who had first pick (Towers of Midnight, A Choice). (As it turned out, the Shadow had ‘first pick’ at the Reds; only Pevara escaped joining the Shadow.) Some of the expedition returned to the unified Tower, other sisters, eg Seaine, joined them. After the Black Tower coup, 46 Asha’man stayed behind voluntarily to become Warders.

Shadow and Counter-shadow in the Tower

Alviarin was ordered by Mesaana to force Elaida to break the Tower further and blackmailed her to swear obedience by threatening to expose to the Hall the full extent of Elaida’s failed missions. This had repercussions that worked against the Shadow.

Firstly the Shadow’s continued efforts to prolong and increase the divisions between the Ajahs destabilised Elaida’s reign so much they nearly capsized it altogether, losing their puppet. Furthermore, as we saw in The Path of Daggers, The Extra Bit, if the Ajahs weren’t hostile to each other, Talene would not have glared at Seaine and Seaine might have told a Black Sitter she was starting a hunt for Darkfriends…

Secondly, in her efforts to free herself from Alviarin’s control and imposed physical punishment, Elaida asked the White Sitter Seaine to search for treasonous sisters, such as those who have countermanded her orders (Lord of Chaos, A Matter of Thought, a parallel with Pope John XIX (ruled 1024-1032) whose decisions were countermanded by Emperor Conrad II (Chronicles of the Popes)) or contacted the Dragon Reborn independently, and even hinted at the Keeper, but was misunderstood. Seaine thought she wanted her to hunt for Darkfriends in the Tower – Black Ajah. She enlisted the help of her former friend Pevara of the Red, and they were voluntarily joined by three more Sitters (Saerin, Yukiri and Doesine) and then forcibly and illegally induced the ten sisters (including Zerah, Bernaile, Meidani, Jennet, Celestin and Annharid) that Sheriam’s group sent to spread the lies about Logain to join them (The Path of Daggers, The Extra Bit and Winter’s Heart, Prologue).

By Knife of Dreams, they had uncovered and illegally bound with the Oath Rod four Black sisters including a Black Sitter but got no further. Meidani revealed their existence to Egwene, who was encouraged that some sisters were working with those of other Ajahs and took on board their methods of exposing Black sisters with the Oath Rod. Verin gave Egwene a detailed report on the Black Ajah’s identities, beliefs and activities (see Black Ajah article). Egwene then exposed many Black sisters with wholesale usage of the Oath Rod and stilled and executed them. Fifty were found among the rebels (The Gathering Storm, The Tower Stands) and an unknown number in the White Tower, but twenty Black sisters escaped from the rebels and about sixty from the Tower. Verin reported that there are Darkfriends among the novices and the Accepted, so presumably they were purged too.

Mesaana remained in the Tower and evaded the Oath Rod by one of three methods:

First, it is possible that the woman has another Oath Rod. Others were once said to exist, and it's plausible that one rod could release you from the oaths of another. Mesaana could have been holding one secretly. She could have taken the Three Oaths while holding our rod, then somehow used the other to negate those oaths before swearing that she was not a Darkfriend."
"Tenuous," Egwene said. "How would she have released herself without us knowing? It requires channeling Spirit."...
"This is the reason Mesaana would have needed a second Oath Rod. She could have channeled Spirit into it, then inverted the weave, leaving her linked to it...This one is the least likely of the three," Seaine said. "The second method would be easier. Mesaana could have sent a look-alike wearing the Mirror of Mists. Some unfortunate sister—or novice, or even some untrained woman who could channel—under heavy Compulsion. This woman could have been forced to take the oaths in Mesaana's place. Then, since this person wouldn't be a Darkfriend, she could speak truthfully that she wasn't”...
"You said there was a third possibility?" Egwene asked.
"Yes," Seaine said. "We know that some weaves play with sound. Variations on vocal weaves are used to enhance a voice to project to a crowd, and in the ward against eavesdropping—indeed, they're used in the various tricks used to listen in on what is being said nearby. Complex uses of the Mirror of Mists can change a person's voice. With some practice, Doesine and I were able to fabricate a variation on a weave that would alter the words we spoke. In effect, we said one thing, but the other person heard another thing entirely."
"Dangerous ground to walk, Seaine," Saerin said, her voice gruff. "That is the kind of weave that could be used for ill purposes."
"I couldn't use it to lie," Seaine said. "I tried. The oaths hold—so long as the weave was there, I couldn't speak words that I knew another would hear as lies, even if they were truth when they left my lips. Regardless, it was an easy weave to develop. Tied off and inverted, it hung in front of me and altered my words in a way I'd indicated. "Theoretically, if Mesaana had this weave in force, she could have taken up the Oath Rod and sworn whatever she wished. 'I vow that I will lie whenever I feel like it' for instance. The Oath Rod would have bound her with that vow, but the weaves would have changed the sounds in the air as they passed her lips. We'd have heard her saying the proper oaths."

- Towers of Midnight, Use A Pebble

Forewarned by a Dream (Towers of Midnight, The Amyrlin’s Anger), Egwene tried to lure Mesaana into the open. Mesaana had access to the Black Ajah fugitives via the dream ter’angreal she made Sheriam steal from the rebels. They attacked the Aes Sedai in Tel’aran’rhiod and tried to lure them elsewhere into an ambush, but Perrin had brought a dreamspike to Tar Valon and no one could move from the area. Two sisters, Carlinya and Shevan, and an Accepted, Nicola, were killed by the Black Ajah and 6 Black Ajah were killed in return. The remaining Black Ajah fled at Mesaana’s orders. Egwene duelled Mesaana in Tel’aran’rhiod and broke her mind.

The Seanchan

Egwene dreamt of the Seanchan attacking the Tower and nearly destroying it (see Egwene's Dreams article).

Robert Jordan has said in the TOR Question of the Week that the previously unconquered Tower has a flat roof and thus it would be a parallel of Eben Emael in Belgium which the Nazis captured in World War II. It:

was reputed to be the most powerful fortress in the world, capable of withstanding the heaviest pounding of bombs and shells and of holding out indefinitely against any attack…The fort had a vast flat roof, on which gliders filled with shock troops and engineers were to land and capture the fort from there. In the event, nine gliders landed successfully, carrying seventy-eight men who attacked the gunports at close quarters with grenades and flamethrowers, shattered the armoured gun turrets with new hollow charge explosives that spread flames and gas in the chambers below, and blew up the ventilating system. Within an hour; at a cost of six killed and nineteen wounded, those seventy-eight men had neutralised 700 defenders, trapping them inside their own impenetrable fortress; after Stuka attacks and hand-to-hand fighting in the underground tunnels, they surrendered the next day, when conventional German troops arrived.

- Anthony Read, The Devil’s Disciples

This is a parallel of the Seanchan raid on the White Tower. (The Seanchan have some resemblance to the Nazis with their thousand year Empire and use of forced labour (slavery)). Sul’dam and damane on to’raken and raken attacked the Tower from the air with flames and explosive weaves. Forces were unloaded through the holes they punched in the building. Aes Sedai captives were taken to the roof and hauled up onto the to’raken (The Gathering Storm, A Fount of Power).

The Seanchan’s raid showed the Aes Sedai how poor their leadership was and the extent and danger of the division in the Tower. The cost of this raid was: the loss of the ruling Amyrlin, Elaida, the capture of nearly forty initiates, including over two dozen full Aes Sedai, and the deaths of an unknown number of Tower initiates, soldiers and perhaps servants.

In return Egwene killed over thirty raken and to’raken and an unknown number of Seanchan and their Aes Sedai captives, and captured at least ten dmane, which she intends to train as Aes Sedai. The Aes Sedai will be able to learn the damane’s weaves to use against the Shadow or in extremis; this counterbalances the Seanchan’s gain of Travelling.

Egwene’s effective defence of the Tower, underlining all the Tower’s weaknesses, played no small part in the Tower Aes Sedai leadership raising her Amyrlin and acceding to her demands to let her army enter, accept the rebels back in fellowship and reinstate the Blue Ajah (The Gathering Storm,The Tower Stands).

Four Bloodknives remained in the Tower and killed four sisters while they probed Tower defences, removing their ter’angreal rings when not active so they could live longer. Finally during the battle in Tel’aran’rhiod three Bloodknives tried to attack Egwene as she lay helpless in bed, but were fought off and killed by Gawyn Trakand.

After the Seanchan were taught Travelling, Fortuona intended to attack the White Tower a second time (Towers of Midnight, A Teaching Chamber), which, had it occurred, would have fulfilled Egwene’s Dream of a long line of women wearing Great Serpent rings forced to call lightning against the White Tower (The Dragon Reborn, Questions, see Egwene's Dreams). The Tower’s treasures of the One Power and extensive archives would be an additional prize. The Seanchan would want to capture the Hall (= the Curia) and the Amyrlin (= the Pope), just as Hitler intended to capture the Vatican (a parallel of Tar Valon) and its archives and art treasures. However events outpaced the Seanchan, and the Empress made a truce with Rand and Egwene to keep the lands they have now, and not collar any woman with the Ring.

Reunification and – Reformation?

Egwene berated the Hall for its complicity in Elaida’s mismanagement and went through Elaida’s belongings and interviewed sisters to try and determine Elaida’s plans to be prepared for any repercussions (The Gathering Storm, Bathed in Light). After the Hall met in secret to try and circumvent Egwene’s power, Egwene manipulated them into giving her sole authority over dealing with the Dragon Reborn, and then into passing a law that

if any Sitter leaves the White Tower, her Ajah must appoint a surrogate to vote for her while absent. I propose that it be written into Tower law that no meeting of the Hall can be convened unless every Sitter or her surrogate either is present, or has sent word directly that she cannot attend. I propose that the Amyrlin must be informed—and given a reasonable amount of time to attend if she wishes — of every meeting of the Hall, save when she cannot be found or is indisposed in some way.

- Towers of Midnight, A Call To Stand

The new law was passed by the greater consensus and was designed to stop the Hall from a practise that has been used for "treachery, backbiting and division", and that was easily subverted by the Shadow. It forces the Hall to move relatively openly and prevents it from secretly circumventing the Amyrlin’s authority.

Just like the Catholic Church in the 16th century, the White Tower may undergo its own Reformation in the future. The Tower schism highlighted deep divisions and problems that were there before. The Ajah system, with its secrecy and rivalry and even support of lawbreakers, was a major factor in the schism. The other major contributor was personal antagonism and unresolved misunderstandings, but again rival Ajahs were involved.

The Oath Rod was used to Compel sisters and also to bind Black sisters to the Shadow and hide that binding. While in the short term the Oath Rod has been effective in exposing Black sisters, the existence of the Three Oaths does not make the Aes Sedai trustworthy. If no Aes Sedai swore Oaths, the Black Ajah couldn’t either. The populace don’t believe the Oaths work, and considering how many Aes Sedai are law-breakers they have a point. The last straw for Aes Sedai will be the knowledge that the Oaths cut their lifespan in half: swearing Oaths no one believes will seem pointless.

The Tower’s custom of exclusivity and elitism has kept the Aes Sedai remote from the populace and too arrogant to truly help them or serve them. This was highlighted during Nynaeve’s test for the shawl:

"I did what I had to. Who among you would not run if you saw people in danger? Who among you would forbid herself to channel if she saw Shadowspawn attacking? I acted as an Aes Sedai should."
"This test," Barasine said, "is meant to ensure that a woman is capable of dedicating herself to a greater task. To see that she can ignore the distractions of the moment and seek a higher good."
Nynaeve sniffed. "I completed the weaves I needed to. I maintained my focus. Yes, I broke my calm—but I kept a cool enough head to complete my tasks. One should not demand calmness for the mere sake of calmness, and a prohibition on running when there are people you need to save is foolish...My goal in this test was to prove that I deserve to be Aes Sedai. Well, then, I could argue that the lives of the people I saw were more important than gaining that title. If losing my title is what would be required to save someone's life—and if there were no other consequences—I'd do it. Every time. Not saving them wouldn't be serving a higher good; it would just be selfish."...

"Pray the others don't realize that," Egwene said. "It would not be good for them to determine that you would place anything before the White Tower."
"I wonder if," Nynaeve said, "we sometimes put the White Tower—as an institution — before the people we serve. I wonder if we let it become a goal in itself, instead of a means to help us achieve greater goals."
"Devotion is important, Nynaeve. The White Tower protects and guides the world."
"And yet, so many of us do it without families," Nynaeve said. "Without love, without passion beyond our own particular interests. So even while we try to guide the world, we separate ourselves from it. We risk arrogance, Egwene. We always assume we know best, but risk making ourselves unable to fathom the people we claim to serve."

- Towers of Midnight, A Choice

With a hierarchy based on strength in the Power and not excellence in skill, ability, character or judgement, it is perhaps not surprising the system became corrupt. They were shown up against the Wise Ones and Windfinders.

The Tower sustained immense losses in the Last Battle, with over half its numbers including the Amyrlin, falling in battle, and a further fifth of its numbers joining the Shadow. The thousand Novices and Accepted were used in Healing, not battle, and are the beginnings of a renewal of the Aes Sedai. The Hall has selected a new Amyrlin, Cadsuane, and she believes in keeping her word and the spirit of the Law. She is also not tied to custom. There is an in principle agreement with the Windfinders and the Wise Ones to exchange knowledge through their most promising trainees. Cadsuane also has no hatred of the Seanchan or of male channellers. And so there will be Reformation.


Written by Linda, July, 2006 and updated September 2013

Contributors: Dominic


Anonymous said...

Small typo... Urban II was Pope from 1035-1099 (you have 1099-1099)

Raymond said...

Nice article...I really enjoyed reading it again. I have one problem. If the captured Aes Sedai are going to be "forced to call lightning against the White Tower" (The Dragon Reborn, Questions), does that mean that their oath to not use the power as a weapon will be removed? After all, the other sisters that have been captured by the Seanchan have been useless as weapons(need a reference, but I know it's in one of the earlier books).

Linda said...


No it doesn't mean they need to have the Oath removed.

Joline revealed to the Seanchan that Aes Sedai can use the Power as a weapon if they feel in danger of their lives.

One way would be to put the Aes Sedai damane right in the firing line of battle. Another would be for the sul'dam to threaten them with death if they don't fight.

There has been mention of mutilation of damane for disobedience. Egwene was threatened with it in The Great Hunt and Mat worried about the Sea Folk being mutilated in Crossroads of Twilight. Mutilated damane could be paraded in front of the Aes Sedai damane to make them believe the sul'dam's threats to kill them if they don't fight.

There's a theory on this issue in Theory Corner (top left of the home page).

alreadymad said...

News in Tel'aran'rhiod only mentioned Shemerin, a Yellow. She was part of the inner circle that supported Elaida, though.

LordJuss said...


I'm not certain the following line agrees with the text.

"[Ishamael] was not worried about the Black Ajah neutralising the Dragon Reborn, since the illegal gentling of men continued and by 983 was rife."

The quote from aCoS:Prologue says "Ishamael killed her predecessor in his wrath at discovering what Jarna Malari had begun, yet it had not ended for another two years, after the death of another Amyrlin."

This specifically states that Ishamael killed Jarna for what she had begun (the vileness) not for killing Tamra. The reason it didn't end for two years was because once non-Black sisters were involved (and probably Sierin herself) there was no way of ending it.

This also links to Ishamael's wish to keep Rand alive in the first couple of books as he wished to turn him to the Shadow.



Molly said...

Just wanted to point out that Sierin's Keeper, Duhara, was a Black sister; this likely helped the Vilness proceed, either without detection or with her encouragin Sierin. Also, given Chesmal's boasting about how Sierin was killed for almost finding her out, as well as the Black Ajah, it seems likely that Sierin took Siuan's note about the Black Ajah seriously and confided her search in her Black Keeper. YOu have to wonder whaat else Duhara did in this period.

Linda said...

Quite true, Molly.

Perhaps Sierin discussed the contents of Siuan's message with Duhara, although surely Siuan Sealed it to the Flame. Not that that might necessarily stop Sierin.

Anonymous said...

Linda, you forgot that Sierin Vayu also fired every male clerk woking for the white tower administration (New Spring). they all got the boot. really a very bad move, they have a lot of info that can give the WT and the Amyrlin massive trouble if they are hired by monarchs, white cloaks and merchants.

Linda said...

She did, but none of the men every seems to have done so, and now that the Tower has purged itself of the BA, the info is no longer useful. Pretty much a missed opportunity.