Monday, July 30, 2001

First Strike by Aes Sedai Damane

by Linda

This theory explains how the Seanchan will finally be able to use Aes Sedai damane as weapons.

Egwene had a dream of a long line of women wearing Great Serpent rings using the One Power against the White Tower:

She had dreamed of the Seanchan, too, of women in dresses with lightning bolts woven on their breasts, collaring a long line of women who wore Great Serpent rings, forcing them to call lightning against the White Tower.

- The Dragon Reborn, Questions
Women wearing such rings are Accepted or Aes Sedai. While an Accepted is not bound by the Three Oaths against using the One Power as a weapon, and thus could easily fulfil this dream, there aren’t a great many of them. The Seanchan would have to get hold of them all and then some. Since Egwene dreamt of a lot of ring-wearing damane, Aes Sedai damane must be participating also. There are many Aes Sedai out of the Tower, two thirds of the Aes Sedai, in fact - Cadsuane’s and Rand’s factions, captives from the Tower, rebels and complete independents - that the Seanchan could collar before they need raid the Tower itself.

Readers have expressed doubts this dream could be fulfilled by Aes Sedai damane due to the Oath against using the Power as a weapon apparently overriding the a’dam, but it is quite possible. After all, the Oath makes exceptions: the One Power can be used as a weapon against Shadowspawn, or if the life of the Aes Sedai, her Warder's life or that of another sister is in very great danger.

The Seanchan know almost nothing about the Oaths Aes Sedai swear, but they do know that they have been unable to make Aes Sedai damane lie, or to use the One Power as a weapon. So far the Seanchan have found the few Aes Sedai damane to be useless as weapons, as is spoken of openly among Deathwatch Guards such as Karede, and der’suldam.

Still, she [Mylen, an Aes Sedai damane] could do nothing without Melitene, and she was useless as a weapon, a fact that had made her hang her head when he [Karede] pointed it out to the der’sul'dam.

- Knife of Dreams, Under an Oak
This is about to change.

Unlike on the mainland, all the Seanchan military analyse battles and discuss possible improvements in tactics:
“They call their army the Ever Victorious Army for a reason. It’s never lost a war. Battles, yes, but never a war. When they lose a battle, they sit down and work out what they did wrong, or what the enemy did right. Then they change what needs changing for them to win… The Seanchan all do it. That’s been their way for a thousand years. They change what they have to change, but they don’t give up.”

- Crossroads of Twilight, Ornaments
The inability of Aes Sedai damane to be used as weapons is a weakness as the Seanchan see it. But thanks to a tongue-flapping Aes Sedai, that is about to change. Musenge, Karede’s second, was present when three Aes Sedai were part of Mat’s forces which wiped out a large number of rabble:

"You could join in any time, Joline," he [Mat] said. "Third rank! Loose!"
The Aes Sedai shook her head irritably. "I must be in danger. I don't feel in danger yet." Teslyn nodded. She was watching the charge as if it were a parade, and a not very interesting one at that…
"I think," Joline said slowly. "Yes. I feel in danger, now." Teslyn simply drew back her hand and threw a sphere of fire larger than a horse's head. The explosion hurled dirt and pieces of men and horses into the air. It was about bloody time! Facing in three directions, the Aes Sedai began hurling fireballs as fast as they could swing their arms, but the devastation they wrought did nothing to slow the attack.

- Knife of Dreams, Prince of the Ravens
This battle will surely be much discussed by the Seanchan: the Prince of the Ravens, Tylin’s Toy, in command and winning against large numbers, the use of shrapnel grenades, and Aes Sedai using the One Power as a weapon. Of their own will. Something the Seanchan want to get them to do.

So now the Seanchan have the secret: the Aes Sedai can use the Power as a weapon, if they feel in personal danger, if they feel their lives depend on it. The first testing of this would be putting an Aes Sedai damane and her sul’dam right in the front line of battle – with the sul’dam’s fear magnified through the a’dam and added to her own sense of danger, the Aes Sedai damane will be able to fight. However, this is limiting Aes Sedai damane to the climax of the battle or to defence. According to Egwene’s dream, Aes Sedai are going to be forced to call lightning against the Tower, forced to attack it, strike first. How? They will be made afraid enough of their personal safety to do so. Just as Musenge heard Joline say.

When Egwene was first captured, she was frightened and coerced with horror stories of mutilation of damane who were not obedient:

Damane are too valuable to be killed out of hand, but you might find yourself not only soundly punished, but absent a tongue to speak or hands to write. Damane can do what they must without these things.

- The Great Hunt, Damane
As a reminder, this maltreatment surfaced again in the later books. In Crossroads of Twilight, mutilations were passed off as rare, but it was reluctantly admitted they do happen:

“Are you certain about the Windfinders who were caught? I’ve heard talk about cutting off hands, or feet.” Mat swallowed a sour taste…
Egeanin’s head jerked, and for a moment he thought she would ignore his question. “Talk from Renna, I’ll wager,” she said, with a dismissive gesture. “Some sul’dam talk about that nonsense to frighten recalcitrant damane when they’re new-leashed, but nobody’s done it in, oh, six or seven hundred years. Not many, anyway, and people who can’t control their property without...mutilation...are sei’mosiev to start.” …
“Shamed or not, they do it,” he snapped.

- Crossroads of Twilight, Time To Be Gone
Mat was right, mutilations might be rare, but they happen. If a couple of Aes Sedai damane were mutilated in front of the others, all the Aes Sedai damane would be very afraid for themselves. And of all damane, those who are/were Aes Sedai would be the ones most likely to be maltreated by the Seanchan because the Seanchan all fear Aes Sedai and fear incites violence and cruelty. Cruelty out of necessity is an unpleasant and persistent undercurrent in the books. Even the good guys are prepared to mutilate: Perrin did so trying to get information from an Aiel. (And the moral issues involved in interrogating Darkfriends are becoming important in Elayne’s and Cadsuane’s groups.) If dire threats of mutilation are carried out on Aes Sedai damane for disobedience, then from the Aes Sedai damane’s point of view, their lives will depend on obeying their sul’dam and disobeying them becomes very dangerous. So much so that when their sul’dam say: “Attack or we will kill you”, when a knife is literally or figuratively held at their throats, they will believe and fear for their lives enough to overcome the Oath and attack with the Power.


Aes Sedai damane will be forced to use the One Power against the Tower. Just as Egwene dreamt.


JanDSedai said...

The other loophole is if the Aes Sedai think their enemies are darkfriends. They might well consider the Rebels having taken the Tower to be a darkfriend event.

Shadar said...

It looks like you might have written this pre-TGS. I think you're right - but it will be Tuon who remembers (see the scene in TGS where she tries to remember what Matrim said) rather than Captain Musenge.

Anonymous said...

Do all the dreams have to come true? We have not seen any evidence that they haven't, but it is said many times that dreams are what might or probably happen. This could be a dream that is not fulfilled. It was dreamt early in the series, and much has changed since then. The seanchan are broken, they now have a small enough force that Rand or Egwene could eliminate them by themselves either using the BT and the Borderland armies who are now sworn to follow Rand or the Tower Aes Sedai and the large Tar Valon Army. Also the empress herself has married and could have a drastic change of heart, especially if she channels.

Linda said...

I think that the Seanchan are far from broken. So far the empress has not had a change of heart despite her marriage. She just authorised the second attack on the Tower.

That could change if she channels, but then at least some of the Seanchan will demand a new empress if she channels.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that Aes Sedai can be made to use the One Power as a weapon by threatening them, or threatening another Aes Sedai. The exact wording of the third oath is:

"Under the Light, I vow not to use the One Power as a weapon, except against Shadowspawn, or in the last defence of my life, the life of my Warder, or that of another Sister.
tPoD, ch 26, The Extra Bit"

Note that this states that an Aes Sedai can only use the One Power in defence of her life, the life of her Warder or that of another sister. I do not believe that using the power on someone 'innocent' qualifies as defence.