Thursday, February 28, 2002

Doorways and Arches

By Linda

One property arches and doorways seem to have in common is that they may only be used once by the same individual, which makes them unlike most other ter’angreal, which can be reused as needed.

- The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time

It is not known where, when, or how the person entering these ter’angreal is transported, but while they are in the ter’angreal everything has the texture of reality (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time).

Accepted Arches

The Accepted ter’angreal, discovered in the Trolloc Wars, has three rounded, silver arches, each just tall enough to walk under, sitting on a thick silver ring with their ends touching each other. Arches and ring are all of one piece (The Great Hunt, The Testing).

Three Aes Sedai sitting on the floor where the arches touch the ring channel into the ter’angreal to activate it. When activated, light flickers a while in the interior of the ter’angreal and then glows, filling the space and making it opaque (The Dragon Reborn, The Price of the Ring).

Whatever its original purpose, the Aes Sedai use the ter’angreal to test novices by making them face their greatest fears. The ter’angreal ferrets them out and makes them seem real or perhaps takes them to a place where they are real (The Shadow Rising, Doorways).

The candidate goes naked through the three arches of the ter’angreal in turn: the first for what was, the second for what is, and the third (the worst) for what will be. As they enter or leave, they feel consumed or plucked apart by the light in the ter’angreal. It is not known if it works the same for male channellers (nudity would ensure the candidate’s gender is correctly known and implies not) or non-channellers or whether male channellers can activate it. While the experience seems real, it is not known if it actually is. It is different for every woman who enters:

some have come out bearing the actual wounds of hurts taken inside. Others have been cut to the bone inside, and come back without a mark...The ancients said there were many worlds. Perhaps this ter'angreal takes you to them. Yet if so, it does so under very stringent rules for something meant just to take you from one place to another.

- The Great Hunt, The Testing

The places that novices visit while testing for Accepted are other realities, but it's not quite that simple. Anyone being tested is merely a visitor, or rider, on whoever she is in that world. Some of those who have not come back have died, and some have become absorbed in the different reality, but that is not to say that they are still alive in any sense that we would recognize. You really don't want to stay in the other reality, no matter how terrific it might seem.

- Robert Jordan, interview

Unlike other candidates, Nynaeve retained her knowledge of being able to channel in all three trips through the arches and safely channelled when threatened (The Great Hunt, The Testing). This is considered dangerous, since the first two Aes Sedai to test the ter’angreal were warded, so that they kept their memories and channelled the Power, and returned burned out.

Egwene’s trips through the arches were also atypical. She had brought a dream ter’angreal into the room with her, and this resonated with the Accepted ter’angreal, since they were both linked through Tel’aran’rhiod (commonality, see Introductory section). The resonance interfered with the Accepted ter’angreal’s function so that Egwene was partly aware of what was happening in the room and of the conflict between reality and the illusions of the ter’angreal. Traps were still woven from her fears, and included incorrect knowledge that Egwene believed was correct, such as that she was stronger than 13 Aes Sedai and that she could have the ageless look even though she never swore on the Oath Rod (The Dragon Reborn, The Price of the Ring). Due to her strong Talent for the Dream, some of her experiences were prophetic to a degree (that she became Amyrlin without swearing on the Oath Rod, was imprisoned in the Tower and denounced in the Hall) and she also ‘knew’ true, secret knowledge that few Aes Sedai know (about how channellers can to be turned to the Shadow). Her Talent and her channelling strength also allowed her to return safely from the malfunctioning ter’angreal. Nynaeve also had a precognitive experience: she heard of Sharina Melloy in her third trip through the arches and subsequently discovered she is a real person.

Once the ter’angreal has set the trap using the candidate’s fears, a shining silver arch appears briefly to allow the candidate to exit the ter’angreal by the same arch they went in. This is the test on whether they want to be Aes Sedai badly enough. The ‘memories’ that the ter’angreal makes to test the candidate conflict with the memories to return when they see the silver arch. If the candidate falters in returning, the ‘memories’ made by the ter’angreal grow stronger. Most candidates find leaving traumatic, and some do not return; they are not there when the ter’angreal is allowed to go quiet. Nynaeve overstayed her time through the third arch and the shining silver arch disappeared. She pictured it in detail in her mind, in a similar way to creating something in Tel’aran’rhiod, and it started to form. She drew in a great amount of saidar to create the exit arch. Nynaeve had two thorn pricks when she left the ter’angreal and they Healed with a scar, to Sheriam’s surprise, just as Verin’s injury gained in Tel’aran’rhiod did.

A novice is given three tries at facing her fears with the ter’angreal. If she still cannot at the third trial, she is put out of the Tower. However, once she has begun and entered an arch, she must continue to the end of the testing. If she refuses at any point, she is put out of the Tower. This is because each person can only use the ter’angreal once, so they cannot make subsequent attempts to pass the test.

Within the ter’angreal, the candidate appears to remember nothing except the last thing said to her before entering; hence the Aes Sedai are careful that this is the instruction on how to return: The way back will come but once, be steadfast (The Great Hunt, The Testing). Each time she leaves the ter’angreal her memories return.

Aes Sedai Oval Ring

The ter’angreal used for testing for the shawl is a great oval ring, narrow at top and bottom, its rounded rim arm-thick. Standing unsupported vertically well above a span in height and perhaps a pace across at its widest, it glitters in constantly changing swirls of silver, gold, green and blue (New Spring, It Begins). Seven Aes Sedai, one from each Ajah, kneel around the ring and channel all Five Powers in a complex weave to activate it. When activated, the colour-shifting increases in speed until they are flashing, then the air within the ring turns milky white and the ring revolves silently on its base. The Amyrlin also participated in Nynaeve’s test.

The candidate’s instructions are given by a senior Aes Sedai while another Aes Sedai touches the back of the candidate’s head with a weave and implants the instructions with a reminder to remember. When the candidate sees a sign of a six-pointed star of two overlapping triangles (perhaps the Star of David or Solomon’s seal, an important symbol used on talismans and a sign of Solomon’s legendary authority to make demons serve him (C. Lindahl, J McNamara and J Lindow, Medieval Folklore, and the hexagram of alchemical symbolism), she must go to it promptly and steadily and only then embrace the Power. The candidate is unable to channel until she reaches the star. She must begin the required weave immediately and not leave the sign until the weave is completed. The sign will reappear to mark the way and she must go promptly and calmly to it. And so on for 100 correct weaves in order and in perfect composure.

Due to her strength of character and in the Power and her prior experience in Tel’aran’rhiod, Nynaeve was able to circumvent these rules:

She embraced the Source, and something seemed to try to stop her. Something like a shield. She pushed it aside with difficulty and Power flooded her... “ I...well, actually I could remember what I was supposed to do, but not the reasons." Nynaeve grimaced. "That's why I broke the rules. I thought they were just arbitrary. I couldn't remember why I wasn't supposed to run, so in the face of seeing people die, it seemed silly to walk."
"The rules are supposed to hold strongly, even though you don't remember them," Egwene said. "And you should not have been able to channel before reaching the marker. That is in the very nature of the test."
Nynaeve frowned. "Then how—"
"You've spent too much time in Tel'aran'rhiod. This test ... it seems to function much in the same way as the World of Dreams. What we create in our minds became your surroundings." Egwene clicked her tongue, shaking her head. "I warned them that this might be a danger. Your practice in the World of Dreams made you innately able to break the test."

- Towers of Midnight, A Choice

The candidate steps into the ring naked and is in a place similar to Tel’aran’rhiod. At Dragoncon in September 2005, Jordan likened this ter’angreal to:

an uber-virtual reality device where what happens is entirely controlled in this case by the sisters controlling the device, but it is a virtual reality that is so terrific that it is reality for you. You die, you are dead. No game over, start again. You are dead.

In this environment they must calmly make 100 different weaves perfectly and in precise order while the Aes Sedai operating the ter’angreal try to distract the candidate and break her composure. Most of the weaves are complex, designed solely for the test, and none of them actually do anything nor produce anything dangerous if done incorrectly (New Spring, Practice). They must be woven very rapidly (New Spring, Shreds of Serenity). Most unusually, they don’t require hand gestures to make either, because the channeller will have to make other weaves at the same time that do require gestures. It is not known if this ter’angreal works the same on men (the requirement to be naked indicates perhaps not) or on non-channellers, or whether male channellers can activate it.

The first weave is to create something with very thin flows of Air, what is not specified (New Spring, Practice), since it will vary according to the situation created in the ter’angreal. Tying off is allowed. A mistake with this weave can make a deafening thunderclap. Nynaeve made a wall in her test.

The second weave is one of the complex and useless sort, requiring all of the Five Powers:

Air and Fire so, and Earth thus. Spirit, then Air once more. For some reason, you could not hold these weaves only partly done for very long or they collapsed into something else entirely. Spirit again, then Fire and Earth together…Air again, then Spirit and Water, all placed precisely… Earth again, then Fire, then more Air. The thing was beginning to look like the most hopeless knot in the world…More Spirit laid down and Earth threaded through...More Air, and Fire like so, followed by Water, Earth and Spirit. Then all five at once. Light what a ghastly tangle! And not finished yet…

- New Spring, Practice

The weaves cannot be held because the test is to force the channeller to make other weaves while doing this complex one. Any faltering will result in failure.

The forty seventh weave makes the sound of bells, the forty eighth makes a burning blue star shoot in the air and the forty ninth makes jets of air (Towers of Midnight, A Choice). The sixty second weave, if done incorrectly, collapses in a tangle of Earth, Air, Water and Spirit that leaves the skin clammy (New Spring, Shreds of Serenity). The eighty first weave is a very complex weave of Fire, Air and Spirit that creates three slightly different coloured rings of fire in the air which glow with unusual light and the eighty second weave is complex and makes a popping sound ( The Gathering Storm, The Plan For Arad Doman). The last weave produces a shower of shining colourful flecks if woven correctly and will painfully redden the skin if done incorrectly (New Spring, It Finishes).

The candidate experiences many different environments, situations, enemies and attacks, all seemingly real, but she lives entirely in the moment, remembering nothing of before the ter’angreal and forgetting events after each attack. Not until she leaves the ter’angreal does her memory return fully.

The test for each candidate is different and is tailored to what the Aes Sedai know of her character (New Spring, It Finishes) plus perhaps things the ter’angreal takes from her mind:

"You can sometimes create visions and situations based on the mind of the woman being tested," Egwene said. "It is an odd experience, using this ter'angreal. One that I am not certain I understand."...
Unlike the test to be raised to Accepted—which was made entirely by the ter'angreal—this test involved the sisters actively working to make Nynaeve prove herself.

- Towers of Midnight, A Choice

They probably plan beforehand what scenarios to use with each of the 100 weaves to best distract the channeller from making the weave calmly and correctly.


Death could result from being unable to overcome an attack, since injuries are real, or from refusing to leave loved ones behind in the ter’angreal. The candidate can also fail by making a mistake in the weave, losing composure, or by channelling when not on the sign, although the latter is not supposed to be possible. There may be good reason for the prohibition against channelling when not on the sign; it may be dangerous or fatal. If a candidate fails and survives failing, she collects her things, says goodbye and is put out of the Tower (New Spring, It Finishes). Some women never come out of the ter’angreal, but they cannot be killed by the actual weaves of the test; they must fail to escape the physical or emotional attacks. Any injuries received within the ter’angreal are real, just as in Tel’aran’rhiod. As well as sustaining injuries which required Healing, Nynaeve also lost part of her braid.

Weaving balefire while in the ter’angreal destabilises it, and could destroy it and kill the candidate and those operating the ter’angreal.

Wise Ones' Apprentice Three Rings

The ter’angreal to test Wise Ones’ apprentices is in Rhuidean, and consists of three dull grey metal rings, each more than two paces across, standing on edge and joined at the middle (The Fires of Heaven, A Departure). The naked woman is sent with a last reminder to return (The Shadow Rising, Beyond the Stone) as the novices are for their testing. She steps into one ring—which one does not matter, or is a matter of fate (The Fires of Heaven, A Departure)—and sees all of her possible lives, every decision made differently. The ter’angreal works without channelling. Aes Sedai may have studied the If worlds in order to make this ter'angreal. Some cannot face the future and do not return from the rings (The Shadow Rising, Beyond the Stone). Again, it is not known if the ter’angreal works the same way for men. The requirement for nudity may indicate it does not.

No one could remember so many possible futures, but a woman retains enough to have a sense of what things will happen in her life—whether she wants them to or not—and what things won’t happen—no matter how much she wants them to. Often, she does not remember until an important choice is on her and then there may be a hint or a mental warning.

The Wise Ones appear to have asked Aviendha what she experienced:

"You know your fate, Aviendha. You will be a Wise One of great strength and great authority, and more besides.”

- The Shadow Rising, Among the Wise Ones

They may do this to all apprentices, or perhaps they asked Aviendha because she was struggling against her fate and their commands. Aviendha may have volunteered the information to explain her actions. Aviendha learned she would love Rand, find sister-wives, become an important Wise One and more. She had a warning that it would be a bad idea to go to Rand while there was an enormous amount of the Power being channelled (Crossroads of Twilight, A Blazing Beacon).

From her trip to the rings, Moiraine knew that becoming Rand’s lover would be disastrous. She also discovered that without her sacrifice, Lanfear would either enslave or kill Rand (The Fires of Heaven, Fading Words). One good reason Lanfear had to be removed is because she knew Rand had the two access keys to the Choedan Kal and would press him to use them with her, especially since her jealous rage had brought her to the point of open action. She might kill him if he refused to share them with her; or if she were able to Compel or seduce him, enslave him so they could use them together.

Moiraine also saw all possible consequences of that confrontation in the rings: she would be trapped in the Eelfinns’ world and believed dead even though she is alive. If she was to be rescued successfully, Thom, Mat and another man were the ones that must make the attempt. And it would be so risky that any of them, including Moiraine, could die or they could all live and die as captives of the Eelfinn (Knife of Dreams, A Village in Shiota). Even the timing was important: Mat must not see Moiraine’s letter to Thom until he asks about it. Moiraine knew that Mat would know how to find her (through the Tower of Ghenjei) and she also saw that the game of Foxes and Snakes would be important in effecting her rescue (see Foxes and Snakes article).

It is unknown when the Aiel began to use this ter’angreal and if the Aes Sedai in Rhuidean advised them through the Dream on its use. It may not be used in the way it was originally intended to be used. The rings are still in Rhuidean and no one is allowed to enter them without the Wise Ones’ permission (The Fires of Heaven, A Departure). They were roped off, and were one of only two ter’angreal remaining in the open in Rhuidean (Towers of Midnight, Near Avendesora, the other being the Glass Columns).

Twisted Redstone Doorway in Rhuidean

This ter’angreal is a large twisted doorframe of polished redstone with three lines of triangles points down along each upright. The triangles are apparently the sign of the Eelfinn (foxes), whose realm this doorway opens to. Any person can step through the doorway, since channelling is not required, but they can use the ter’angreal only once. In this ter’angreal there is an agreement with the Eelfinn: the petitioner can ask three requests and the Eelfinn will always grant them, though perhaps in a way not intended by the petitioner, and at a very high price. As well as the price, the Eelfinn savour the petitioner’s experiences and emotions and perhaps forge a mental link so they can harvest their experiences and memories (see below). The petitioner must also abide by the treaties and agreements and carry no iron, instruments of music or devices for making light (The Shadow Rising, Rhuidean). The ter’angreal was in Rhuidean, but was taken by Kadere’s wagons to Cairhien. It is now destroyed.

Like the Accepted and Aes Sedai ter’angreal described above, when the person steps through, they experience white light, only in this ter’angreal it is more extreme and accompanied by a vast roar of sound (The Shadow Rising, Rhuidean). The doorway allows entry to another world, where different natural laws operate, and the light and sound are a reflection of the gulf between the two worlds and the ‘distance’ travelled in one step.

In the world of the Eelfinn, the doorway stands in a large star-shaped chamber with a dull white floor and many thick black columns, each with eight ridges, the edges of which glow with a soft yellow light. The Eelfinn are very tall, pale and lean with very wide shoulders and narrow waists. They give the impression of foxes with their large colourless eyes, narrow-jawed faces, pointed ears, gruff voices and stiff, reddish hair (The Shadow Rising, Rhuidean). They are predatory—their black kilts are held up by human leather straps. Mat believes that the Eelfinn never come to the main world side of the twisted doorway ter’angreal for longer than minutes at a time (Knife of Dreams, Dragons Eggs).

When Mat stepped through, he made his requests entirely by chance, not knowing anything about the Eelfinn and thinking the agreement was the same as with the Aelfinn (see below). He asked for the holes in his memories to be filled and received the memories of men who entered the Eelfinn’s world and returned to live and die in the Westlands. None of Mat’s memories date from before Maecine of Eharon (400‒500 years before the Trolloc Wars; and thus over 2500 years ago), or from after Arthur Paendrag Tanreall (1000 years ago) and none of the memories are of childhood or growing up. How did the Eelfinn get these memories? According to Robert Jordan:

At least a partial answer will be coming up in the next main sequence book, so I guess you could say this is a RAFO. But I will say that if I said those adventurers all entered through the two ter'angreal, I misspoke. A good many entered through the Tower of Ghenjei, which was more widely known in earlier years, if never exactly a household name.

Mat thinks the Eelfinn create some sort of link to any human who visits them, a link that allows them to copy all of the person’s memories after that right up until the moment that person dies (Knife of Dreams, Dragons Eggs). He also believes that the Eelfinn, and maybe the Aelfinn too, therefore know everything Mat now does or experiences through this link (Knife of Dreams, A Village in Shiota).

Mat also asked for a way to be free of Aes Sedai and the Power and received a medallion ter’angreal that breaks a web (stops direct weaves from touching him, see the Jewellery section). His last ‘request’ was for a way out to be away from the Eelfinn and back in Rhuidean. They returned him to Rhuidean, but hanged him from Avendesora (an Odin parallel, see Mat essay) because he did not offer them any payment or price. Rand was luckily able to revive him. Mat thought they fulfilled their request just be returning him and that the ashandarei was a taunt, but he had it backwards: it was the real fulfilment of his request, the hanging in Rhuidean was their price.

Moiraine and Lanfear also went through the ter’angreal. This was Moiraine’s doing; she saw from the Wise Ones' ter’angreal (see above) that Lanfear had to be removed or else she would kill or enslave Rand. As Moiraine forced them both through the doorway, she clawed Lanfear’s bracelet angreal away.

Immediately they entered embracing saidar, white light filled the doorway. Lightning appeared around the ter’angreal, which gave off a buzzing noise and then burned (The Fires of Heaven, Fading Words). A ter’angreal usually melts when misused or overloaded in some way. Some have speculated that the ter’angreal burned because Lanfear had entered the ter’angreal once before and Moiraine’s actions had caused the agreement to be violated (but see below for Mat’s experience in Tear). The theory is that the gateway opened for Moiraine but she pushed Lanfear through with her at exactly the same time. When the Finns detected the breach they sealed the gateway.

However, Moiraine and Lanfear might have cut the connection between worlds with their channelling. At a booksigning, Jordan said that the door way burned in part because both were channelling and the world on the other side of the doorway has a radically different set of natural laws (Original WOTFAQ).

Moiraine wore her best clothes and jewellery (The Fires of Heaven, Choices), presumably because this is what she saw herself wearing in the Wise Ones' ter’angreal. They may have come in handy to pay the Eelfinn and indeed when we see her in Towers of Midnight, she is naked. One of her requests was for the angreal bracelet. Lanfear was also granted three requests since she went into the Eelfin’s doorway and that holds the Eelfinn to the bargain, but later said she was held by both Aelfinn and Eelfinn (Winter’s Heart, With the Choedan Kal).

Twisted Redstone Doorway in Tear

This ter’angreal is a large twisted doorframe of polished redstone with three sinuous lines running down each upright from top to bottom (The Shadow Rising, Into the Doorway). It looks unstable but does not move easily. The sinuous lines are apparently the sign of the Aelfinn (snakes), whose realm this doorway opens to. Any person can step through the doorway, since channelling is not required, but they can use the ter’angreal only once. When Mat stepped through the doorway a second time, he was not transported; the ter’angreal did not work at all.

In this ter’angreal there is an agreement with the Aelfinn: the petitioner can ask three questions about past, present, or future and the Aelfinn will always answer them, though perhaps in a way not always understood by the petitioner. The petitioner must ask all three questions and hear the answers before they leave because otherwise the agreement cannot be fulfilled, since the petitioner cannot re-enter this ter’angreal. Frivolous questions are punished, though what may be serious for one can be frivolous for another. Most importantly, questions touching the Shadow have dire consequences for the petitioner—they may be killed or injured if they ask them (The Shadow Rising, Doorways). The answers are true so long as they are about the petitioner’s own future.

How are the Aelfinn able to read the future of a petitioner? Moiraine speculates:

That world is . . . folded . . . in strange ways. I cannot be clearer. It may be that that allows them to read the thread of a human life, read the various ways it may yet be woven into the Pattern. Or perhaps it is a talent of the people. The answers are often obscure, however.

- The Shadow Rising, Into the Doorway

If the Aelfinn do read the thread of a human life, it may be necessary for that person to be in front of them, or in their world at least. This would explain why their answers to questions about the future of other people are not true. They truly are alien however.

In exchange, the Aelfinn savour the petitioner’s experiences and emotions. It is not known if the Aelfinn link to the person and harvest their memories and experiences as the Eelfinn apparently do (see above). The petitioner must also abide by the treaties and agreements and carry no iron, instruments of music or devices for making light (The Shadow Rising, Into the Doorway). The Old Tongue is the preferred language of trade.

The ter’angreal is in Tear in the Great Holding. It used to be in the possession of the Firsts of Mayene, who used its answers to help defend Mayene from Tear (The Shadow Rising, Doorways). About three hundred years ago, a First, Halvar, donated the ter’angreal to the High Lords as a goodwill gesture to convince them that Mayene would always put its own interests after those of Tear.

Like the Accepted and Aes Sedai ter’angreal, the person experiences white light on entering and leaving, only in this ter’angreal it is more extreme and accompanied by a vast roar of sound (The Shadow Rising, Into the Doorway). The doorway allows entry to another world, where different natural laws operate, and the light and sound are a reflection of the gulf between the two worlds and the ‘distance’ travelled in one step.

In the world of the Aelfinn, the ter’angreal stands in a large round chamber with a floor tiled in spirals of white and yellow stripes and many spiral yellow columns with glowing spheres atop. The Aelfinn are very tall and thin and have straight black hair. They give the impression of snakes with limbs: they have scaly skin, eyes with vertical pupils and layers of yellow cloth winding around their bodies (The Shadow Rising, Into the Doorway). When Mat went to the worlds of the Aelfinn and Eelfinn he found that the ter’angreal had been destroyed (Towers of Midnight, The One Left Behind) possibly by Moridin when he went there to find Lanfear/Cyndane.

While in the ter’angreal, Mat heard a bell toll, the walls rang with reverberations and the ground shook. This was because Mat and Rand, two strong ta’veren were in the ter’angreal at the same time. According to Moiraine:

“One of you would have been bad enough, but two ta’veren at once—you might have torn the connection entirely and been trapped there.”

- The Shadow Rising, Into the Doorway

The questions they asked and the answers they received are discussed in The Aelfinn's Answers article.


Written by Linda, August, 2005 and updated March, 2013

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