A’dam are ter’angreal which form an involuntary link between the bracelet wearer (controller) and the collar wearer (slave) – involuntary on the collar-wearer’s part, that is.
For over 2000 years after the Breaking, the Aes Sedai on Seanchan warred and contended and unscrupulously subjected the population. When Luthair Paendrag began his conquest, an Aes Sedai named Deain, believing that he would eventually win, tried to curry favour by bringing him an Aes Sedai collared with an a’dam that Deain had made. Her idea was that Luthair could use channellers in his armies to overcome Aes Sedai and to serve him rather than themselves. Deain made more a’dam and some years later sul’dam – those who could channel only with training - were selected to be used (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). This greatly accelerated the process of collaring Aes Sedai – now labelled as marath’damane, those who must be leashed. Deain herself was eventually collared (The Great Hunt, Damane). Over time, women who could channel were eventually regarded as dangerous animals rather than people; animals that had to be leashed and controlled or they would turn everyone into their property (The Shadow Rising, Hidden Faces). It was forgotten that sul’dam had the potential to learn to channel.
In appearance, the a’dam is a collar and bracelet of cunningly worked silvery metal connected by a leash. According to Elayne, the bracelet and collar have ‘absolutely identical matrices’ (Lord of Chaos, Prologue). It forms an involuntary link between two women: the dominant bracelet wearer and the enslaved collar-wearer. This is why the sul’dam must be a woman who can channel too. The leash is not an actual necessity (The Fires of Heaven, A Question of Crimson); apart from aiding physical restraint, it is a mark of subjection for the damane, and indicates which damane is linked to which sul’dam. A’dam are made by certain damane with the ability to make ter’angreal, who are more valued and have better conditions than most (The Great Hunt, Damane). These are the only type of ter’angreal damane make (The Gathering Storm, booksigning).
The opening catch of an a’dam is well concealed (for obvious reasons) and the sul’dam discourage people from watching closely while they open an a’dam (The Great Hunt, A Plan). The bracelet is the easier to open: by squeezing top and bottom not quite opposite the leash. The sul’dam can do it one-handed. The collar requires both hands – pressing spots on either side where the leash attaches, then twisting and pulling one way, then the other, while still pressing (Winter’s Heart, A Plan). The a’dam fits itself to anyone who puts it on (The Wheel of Time Companion).
An a’dam must touch skin to work – hence it is placed on the wrist of a sul’dam and the neck of a damane. On a neck, it emphasises the fact that a damane is a ‘domesticated’ animal, and of course can’t be amputated without killing the damane.
A sul’dam can wear more than one bracelet (eg one on each wrist) and thus control more than one damane (Knife of Dreams, A Short Path).
A’dam are apparently not as vulnerable to resonance as other ter’angreal, since they can be used in close proximity to each other.
While among the Seanchan, Semirhage spent “much time working with” female a’dam and found that they:
”allow some small measure of freedom, relying on nausea as an inhibitor”Not altogether true, since the restriction on movement without a bracelet wearer is based on pain.
- The Gathering Storm, The Last That Could be Done.
The ter’angreal creates a link between the two women so that the wearer of the bracelet can inflict her wishes and desires upon the collared woman (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time) and thereby make the damane channel as the sul’dam wishes. Instead of the sharing of emotions of a normal link, the a’dam magnifies the emotions of the sul’dam to force the damane to obey. When a sul’dam orders a damane, the damane feels an urge to obey. This can be suppressed to a degree, but the Seanchan train a damane to obedience. When damane and sul'dam are joined, whatever hurt the sul'dam feels, the damane feels twice over. This not only prevents the damane attacking her sul’dam, but ensures the damane uses her abilities to protect her sul’dam from danger (The Great Hunt, Damane).
A sul’dam wearing the bracelet knows what the damane is doing with the Power and what not (The Great Hunt, Falme). The sul’dam is also aware of the damane’s feelings and sensations in a separate part of her mind, and can mentally add to them to cause pain (The Great Hunt, Blademaster) or pleasure (Knife of Dreams, A Short Path). She can combine her own abilities with those of the other woman to channel a single linked set of flows herself, although knowledge of this has been forgotten (The Wheel of Time Companion).
Another property of the a’dam is that if a damane tries to channel even the tiniest bit of the Power without a sul'dam wearing her bracelet, she feels sick, and the more of the Power she channels, the sicker she becomes. When a sul’dam next puts the bracelet on, she will also know that the damane tried to channel without a sul’dam.
As well as preventing channelling independently, the a’dam prevents the damane from opening the bracelet and from touching anything the damane considers a weapon. In both cases, once the damane has these thoughts, her muscles knot until she stops thinking them (The Great Hunt, Falme). The a’dam did not prevent Egwene from striking her sul’dam with her fist, however, but the resulting pain effectively discouraged further attacks (The Great Hunt, Damane).
A woman who can channel and is collared cannot move more than a few steps without her bracelet on the wrist of a sul’dam to complete the link (The Shadow Rising, Hidden Faces). If her bracelet is moved from where it was last touched by a sul’dam, a damane experiences agonising cramps (as both Egwene and Joline experienced when they each moved while collared without a sul’dam linking with them).
When Nynaeve forced an a’dam on Moghedien in Tel’aran’rhiod, Nynaeve was in complete control of what Moghedien channelled: if Nynaeve did not want to channel certain flows, they were not channelled (The Fires of Heaven, To Caemlyn).
The a’dam also buffers the amount of power that the damane draws to just short of her maximum ability so that she cannot burn herself out. This was perhaps originally designed to prevent a damane from deliberately burning herself out to escape being enslaved by the a’dam (The Wheel of Time Companion).
The Seanchan test every woman in their governed areas annually until they are 25 (Winter’s Heart, Questions of Treason) to obtain the services of every possible damane and sul’dam. In newly acquired territory they promptly test every woman, then follow their annual testing procedure thereafter. Sul’dam first test for damane by putting the collar on each woman and seeing if they can link with her – feel anything of her through the bracelet. Only those women who have channelled or who have the inborn ability to channel without training and are soon to do so respond to the collar. Every woman who responds to the collar is made damane and is struck from family records and the roll of citizens (The Fires of Heaven, Heading West). Even Morgase, a negligible channeller, was told that by law she should be collared but Suroth wanted to make an exception in her case so that she could have a worse fate (A Crown of Swords, The Irrevocable Words.)
After testing all the women under 25 with the collar, the Seanchan test the women with the bracelet, to see if they can feel what the damane feels. These women have the potential to learn to channel, since the Seanchan have already identified with the collar channellers and those with the inborn spark (The Great Hunt, To Come Out of the Shadow). They are (willingly) taken away to be trained as sul’dam, a respected position.
In order to be part of a link, a sul’dam must have at least the potential to channel. Women who can channel and women with the inborn spark can of course be sul’dam, which is why the Seanchan test for the collar first, to enslave such women as damane, leaving only those who cannot channel without being taught to be sul’dam. Unlike damane, who have the very long lifespans of those who have used the One Power, sul’dam have normal lifespans (confirmed by Jordan, DragonCon, September 2005).
After some years of using the bracelet (ie some time after turning 25, since sul’dam usually fail the test for damane), a sul’dam can tell when a woman is channelling, even if they are not leashed to her, and sense her weaves. Bethamin, for instance, can always sense a damane, and know how strong she is (Winter’s Heart, Questions of Treason). To another channeller, an experienced sul’dam feels similar to a woman with the inborn spark:
Not quite the spark of a woman born to it, but almost. It's as if she were right at the brink of being able to channel, one foot poised to step over.They cannot channel themselves, of course, having never trained. Sul’dam like to link with damane – to feel, however vicariously, the joy of the One Power the damane channels. They call it being complete (The Great Hunt, Falme).
- Winter’s Heart, Sea Folk and Kin
A stilled channeller wearing the bracelet can still sense what the damane feels – as Leane and Siuan did in Lord of Chaos, Prologue - but can’t affect her through the a’dam. If a stilled channeller wore the collar, a sul’dam might sense something of her feelings, but the sul’dam would not be able to make her channel. A burned out channeller would not sense anything at all through the bracelet or respond to the collar.
The damane does the actual channelling For this, they are regarded as animals. Their physical needs (even sexual needs to a degree, see Pillowfriends article) are taken care of. They live a very long time, like other channellers. Stilled or burned out channellers cannot respond to the a’dam (Jordan, Dragoncon, September 2005).
Since damane can’t touch weapons, their meat is cut for them. No damane is ever left alone where she might jump from a height or throw herself into a river (The Great Hunt, Falme). The Seanchan have no illusions that all damane are happy.
Aes Sedai damane cause a few problems for sul’dam due to their Oath not to use the One Power as a weapon except to defend their lives, their Warder's life, or another sister's life. According to Robert Jordan,
The Aes Sedai captured by the Seanchan are indeed useless as weapons, except against Shadowspawn or Darkfriends, because they are bound by the Three Oaths, and that limits their value considerably since being weapons is a major use for damane. Damane are used for other tasks, however, including finding ores for mining, for some mining operations where it would be too dangerous or uneconomical to use human miners, and in some construction projects, especially where something very large or with a need for added strength is envisioned. The first two both require a high ability in Earth, which has faded considerably on "this" side of the Aryth Ocean and to a smaller degree of the other side, but construction projects and others things, such as producing Sky Lights, are well within the abilities of collared Aes Sedai. The Three Oaths don't inhibit them there at all.The Seanchan should soon realise that an Aes Sedai can use the weapon if she fears for her life, or the life of another sister. It would then be a matter of making the Aes Sedai believe that her life depends on using the Power as a weapon…We can thank Joline for blabbing this in front of the Seanchan.
The a’dam is an unusual ter’angreal in that it is apparently designed for saidar users and yet is strongly affected by saidin users. Normally, a ter’angreal designed for saidar is completely unresponsive if touched by a channeller who uses saidin, and vice versa. But not the a’dam.
If a male channeller or one with the potential to channel puts on the bracelet of an a’dam, both he and the damane wearing the collar would die screaming (sport for Seanchan royalty, The Great Hunt, Damane). If such a man touches the collar, the damane wearing the collar feels great pain. A sul’dam wearing the bracelet of that a’dam would also feel pain. If he is holding the Power while doing so, the Power would rush through him into them. For example, Rand, while holding the Power, tried to remove a damane’s collar. The damane convulsed in agony and the sul’dam gasped with pain. Rand felt saidin rush through him into them, and Aviendha likewise felt ‘the Power’ (saidin?) rushing into them (The Fires of Heaven, A Short Spear).
This is quite a design fault. Obviously there must be some explanation, some reason why the a’dam, as Egwene says, is one link no man can be brought into (A Crown of Swords, The Figurehead.)
The answer must lie in the way the ter’angreal is made. The programming of the a’dam is that the bracelet wearer is completely dominant and has to have the ability to channel saidar. If a male channeller wears the a’dam bracelet with a female channeller wearing the collar, he must be in control, as a man would in a link between one man and one woman and as the bracelet is programmed to do; but he is not a saidar channeller. This partially conflicts with the a’dam’s programming and pain (partial or attempted linking) or death (actual linking) is the result, as is common with misused ter’angreal. If the collar were put on a man who can channel with a female sul’dam wearing the bracelet, this would completely conflict with the a’dam’s programming because not only is he a channeller of saidin, but he should be in control of the link, since a man has to be in control in a link between one man and one woman. The collared man and the sul’dam would die, and the a’dam could well melt or explode and other channellers nearby be affected as well.
Elayne’s Female A’dam
The first ter’angreal Elayne made was an altered copy of an a’dam and it was soon used on Moghiedien (Lord of Chaos, Prologue). It is a silver bracelet and collar with no leash and was made from silver and other metals. Moghedien could walk around the camp, but not channel independently, escape or undo the collar herself. Nor did she commit violence. She was held by the a’dam whether anyone was wearing the bracelet or not. Halima, a channeller of saidin, was hurt when she removed Moghedien’s collar. Presumably it remained in Halima’s possession. Egwene had the bracelet, but it is unknown if she carried it when she was captured.
Also called a Domination Band, this ter’angreal consists of two jointed bracelets of dull black segmented metal and a wide collar. All three are made of cuendillar. A female channeller touching either bracelets or collar feels old and sharp pain, sorrow and suffering (The Shadow Rising, Need, and Into the Palace).
The male a’dam was made during the Breaking (The Gathering Storm, The Last That Could Be Done). Presumably, women tried to make a device that would enable them to control male channellers despite the taint. Making them from cuendillar ensured their unbreakability. When Semirhage obtained access to the Domination Band and, presumably a male channeller to use it upon, she found it could completely compel the male channeler to obey. Wearing the collar, a man is unable to channel without permission of the dominant bracelet wearer, and cannot move or speak without her permission either. He can be forced to move and/or channel as the bracelet wearer desires. If he tries to reach for saidin he experiences agony.
However, according to Moghedien the device does not control men very successfully:
”Put the collar on a man who channels, and a woman wearing the bracelets can make him do whatever she wishes, true, but it will not stop him going mad, and there is a flow the other way, too. Eventually he will begin to be able to control you, too, so you end with a struggle at every hour. Not very palatable when he is going mad. Of course, you can pass the bracelets around, so no one has too much exposure, but that does mean trusting someone else with him… Or two women can each wear one bracelet, if you have someone you trust enough; that slows the seepage considerably, I understand, but it also lessens your control, even if you work in perfect unison. Eventually, you will find yourselves in a struggle for control with him, each of you needing him to remove your bracelet as surely as he needs you to remove the collar.”Problems stemming from the taint are no longer an issue, but the question of control remains. A man cannot be brought involuntarily into a ring, no matter how large (Lord of Chaos and A Crown of Swords Glossaries); hence the control the a’dam confers is temporary, especially in the ring of one man and one woman, because a man must be in control. This is why there are two bracelets to this a’dam.
- The Shadow Rising, Into the Palace
Semirhage naturally makes no mention that the male will eventually gain some control over the bond, but she may not have known this either. (Moghedien is a far more wary person than Semirhage). It does explain why, in desperation, Rand was able to access the True Power through his link to Moridin and destroy the cuendillar collar with ‘enormous spears of Fire and Air’ (The Gathering Storm, The Last That Could Be Done). Sanderson explained this occurrence at a booksigning:
The True Power works by destroying the Pattern. Everything that is done with it involves damage to the Pattern. For example, when we see Ishamael Travel, he does so by poking a hole in the Pattern. Cuendillar can be destroyed using the True Power.The Shadow apparently planned to use this a’dam to enslave Rand, but Nynaeve and Elayne found it first in the Panarch’s museum in Tanchico. They gave it to Bayle Domon to be cast into the deepest part of the ocean, but he was stopped and searched by the Seanchan before he could do so. Egeanin presented the a’dam to Suroth (a Darkfriend), and damane made at least four more male a’dam since Semirhage took five to her ‘parley’ with Rand. They were in Rand’s possession for a time (Knife of Dreams, A Plain Wooden Box): one Seanchan copy was used by Semirhage to abuse Rand (and Min) and was destroyed by him with the True Power; the other four were given by Cadsuane to retired Aes Sedai to guard (The Gathering Storm, A Box Opens). Hopefully they are still there. Moreover, perhaps the Seanchan have more copies.
Written by Linda, August, 2005 and updated January 2016