Fractions or Factions?
The Aes Sedai not only are split into three groups, but two of the groups are further split into factions. This is all part of Mesaana’s plan to mire the Aes Sedai in useless division to prevent them from unifying the nations or aiding the Light’s cause. So far it has been very successful. Likewise Siuan had to go at the earliest opportunity, since she had a tie to the Dragon Reborn through Moiraine.
As an aside, one of Cadsuane’s most positive aspects, recognised by senior figures of other nations including the Aiel, is that she has properly focussed on the war against the Shadow and aiding Rand to win it and keeps her group, the third faction, on track also.
The White Tower
The book opens with Elaida and a council of twelve Aes Sedai: one Brown (Danelle), one Green (Joline), one Yellow (Shemerin) (and three unhappy Ajahs), four Reds (including Teslyn and Javindhra), two or three Greys (Andaya and Evanellein) and two or three Whites (including Alviarin). Some of those around Elaida are Sitters, or soon to be Sitters. It is also interesting that Andaya, who is on Elaida's council, was chosen by Serancha as a too-young replacement Sitter.
Alviarin was given the Keeper’s job as a reward for bringing Elaida support. Elaida thinks:
And Alviarin knew full well why she wore the Keeper's stole instead of someone from the Red. The Red Ajah had favoured 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.In other words she believes that some other Sitters followed the Whites, who never do anything without a logical reason. Yet at best Alviarin convinced one White Sitter, Velina, to vote against Siuan and stand for Elaida, since the White Sitter Seaine was not asked to the Sitting, and Saroiya joined the rebels. This is hardly ‘wholehearted support’ no matter how vehement Velina was. The voting pattern may have had more to do with the Black Sitters (it is likely there was more than one Black Sitter besides Talene, since we know from Alviarin’s thoughts in A Crown of Swords, that Elaida’s Hall has Black Sitters plural) and which of the other Sitters in their Ajah they could persuade to follow their lead, than any White Ajah influence. That White vote was crucial though, since in order to depose an Amyrlin, there must be a Sitter present from each Ajah except the Amyrlin’s former Ajah and all present must stand in favour.
- The Fires of Heaven, Seeds of Shadow
By the chapter To Boannda about 43 days later, only six stools remain in Elaida’s study – and this is also the size of Elaida’s faction in the Hall in A Crown of Swords. Note that Elaida unwisely made her own faction smaller by sacking two Sitters, and angering three Ajahs, including the Yellow, long time allies of the Red. Or is it previous long time allies?
Elaida shows both favouritism and bullying in her leadership - not a wise combination, especially in a politically fragile regime. Such a style was a gift to Mesaana and Alviarin, making their task of fracturing the Aes Sedai in the Tower even easier. None of their enforced commands, issued from A Crown of Swords onwards, would appear unusual or against Elaida’s character.
Elaida wants Rand shielded in the Tower as though he were some wild beast. She seems to think that he could be dragged to Tarmon Gai’don on a leash, and somehow beat the Dark One without ever having been taught anything, including how to channel; all without diminishing Elaida’s greater glory. Elaida has been doing some selective reading of the Prophecies.
It is ironic that the Tower ostensibly split over Rand, because Siuan and Elaida had similar plans for him originally: to keep him in the Tower, although the Blues were prepared to educate him. Moiraine at least realises it was the wrong plan by the time of the chapter What Can Be Learned in Dreams, and that he must be allowed freedom to learn and affect the world. (Just like any young person).
In Salidar, a faction of six (Sheriam, Morvrin, Myrelle, Carlinya, Beonin and Anaiya) is running things when Siuan arrives.
Sheriam says that what was done to Siuan and Leane followed the letter of Aes Sedai law narrowly, but was malignantly unjust and an extreme distortion of the law’s spirit. (I have an essay on Aes Sedai laws and customs which will be posted in the coming weeks.) Most of the charges should have been “laughed away.” Carlinya says not the charge that Siuan knew of Rand and conspired to hide him from the Tower. Sheriam nods but says this is still not sufficient for the penalty given. Siuan should have been tried openly and given a chance to defend herself (The Fires of Heaven, The Practice of Diffidence).
To prevent the rebels returning to the Tower, and to revenge herself on the Reds, Siuan lies about the Red Sisters setting Logain up as a false Dragon. It is a measure of the depth of the division, and perhaps the low reputation of the Reds, that not only are they believed without any dissenting voices, but no Aes Sedai expresses surprise. At this stage Romanda and Lelaine aren’t in Salidar, since Sheriam is rated the strongest channeller there (see Saidar Strength article). This is also why these six can act as though they can present a candidate for Amyrlin to a proposed new Hall, rather than let the Hall choose. An Amyrlin they can guide is also highly palatable to them.
When Nynaeve arrives in Salidar she decides to stay to ensure that the rebels support Rand (The Fires of Heaven, To Teach and To Learn). The presence of someone close to Rand is required to remind them of the main game, to familiarise them with his character enough that they don’t get frightened away from the idea and to reassure them that they have someone Rand knows and trusts with them to advise them and make him look favourably on them. Moreover, by throwing their support behind Rand, the rebels gain credibility at the expense of the Tower. (Elaida’s solution to this was to kidnap Rand, but that is for the next book).
Egwene is of a similar opinion, but thinks Rand is too hard, independent and distrustful of Aes Sedai to be palatable to them:
The way he was now, they (rebel Aes Sedai) would be more likely to gentle him, or at least send thirteen sisters of their own, than help him. She would have to stand between them in Tel’aran’rhiod, she and Nynaeve and Elayne, and hope those Aes Sedai had committed themselves too far to back out before they discovered how near the brink he was.The Composition and Politics of the Halls 998-1000 NE, an article detailing the Sitters of Siuan’s, Elaida’s and Egwene’s Halls, their voting patterns and factions and a discussion of the young Sitters is now published on the Thirteenth Depository.
- The Fires of Heaven, News Comes To Cairhien