Thursday, February 28, 2002


By Linda

Bloodknife’s Ring

The Seanchan assassins, the Bloodknives, wear on the middle finger of their right hand a black stone ter’angreal ring carved as a vine with thorns which grants them:

strength and speed, and would shroud them in darkness, allowing them to blend into shadows.
The incredible abilities came at a cost, however, for the rings leeched life from their hosts, killing them in a matter of days. Removing the ring would slow that process slightly, but once activated—done by touching a drop of one's own blood to the stone ring while wearing it—the process was irreversible.

- The Gathering Storm, The Death of Tuon

The ter’angreal certainly makes the Bloodknife hard to see: even the enhanced senses of a Warder barely detected one (The Gathering Storm, A Fount of Power). Demandred identified the power of the Bloodknife ring as the Night’s Shade weave (A Memory of Light, The Last Battle).

Damane only know how to make one type of ter’angreal—a’dam—so the rings are from the Age of Legends or early in the Third Age, and are presumably retrieved if possible to be reused.

The Bloodknives receive a benediction from the Empress (one of whose parallels is Queen of the Dead, see Tuon essay) as though they had died:

"May your death bring victory," she said softly, speaking the ritual words. "May your knife draw blood. May your children sing your praises until the final dawn."

- The Gathering Storm, The Death of Tuon

They are effectively dead men walking, who give their lives in exchange for enhanced assassin abilities, just as Grey Men and Women do in service to the Dark One and are thus one of the parallels the Seanchan society has with the Shadow. The Bloodknives’ ability to blend into shadows is reminiscent of another creature of the Shadow: Myrddraal. Many mainlanders liken the strange creatures the Seanchan use in battle to Shadowspawn, and of course ravens are important symbols for both the Seanchan and the Shadow, Ishamael having encouraged Luthair’s invasion of Seanchan.

The assassins are also like ninjas, and thus one of many examples of the Seanchan society’s strong resemblance to Japan. The roles of ninjas were sabotage and espionage as much as assassination and their abilities were the subject of legends. Tuon (who also has parallels with a Japanese Emperor) stated the role of Bloodknives was to cause as much damage as possible to the enemy, on this mission to be achieved by assassinating Aes Sedai.

The wording used to describe the ter'angreal's functions (leech, shroud) suggest influence from games such as Magic the Gathering. There are Magic the Gathering cards with leeching spells similar to that of the Bloodknives’ ter’angreal, notably certain black-coloured spell cards (and Brandon Sanderson said on Twitter on November 10th that he favours Magic decks composed of black- and blue-coloured cards). For example, with the Magic card called Hatred you pay x life and your creature gets x stronger, just as the Bloodknives receive strength and speed in exchange for losing life. Hatred is an appropriate description of this mission aimed at weakening the Dragon Reborn by assassinating as many of the hated and feared Aes Sedai as possible. The Bloodknife killed by Gareth Bryne died with the words ‘marath’damane’ (his target) on his lips. Another black card called Unholy Strength strengthens the creature’s power far more than its toughness, just as the Bloodknife has enhanced powers but is ultimately weakened by the ter’angreal. There are other Magic cards that could also be considered apt descriptions. Some Magic cards grant the ability called ‘shroud’ which makes creatures untouchable by their opponent’s attacks. The Bloodknives are “shrouded in darkness” by their ter’angreal.

We do not know if the ter’angreal of the first dead Bloodknife was even found let alone recovered from his body. The other four Bloodknives must have taken off their rings when no targets were in the offing so they could last quite a time:

Question: How long does that affect last? Days?
Answer: That affect can be stretched if they take it off, for several weeks. It is going to kill them eventually. If they are wearing it straight, it’s not going to last long, a matter of days, but if they take it off they can hide for a matter of weeks. So, there are four unaccounted for, who have orders to kill as many Aes Sedai as they can.

- Brandon Sanderson interview

Gawyn Trakand had three Bloodknife ter'angreal he retrieved from those he killed. A former Seanchan noble told Gawyn:

"Once they are given a charge, they often will not last more than a few weeks. At most, they survive a month [30 days]."

- Towers of Midnight, A Good Soup

The rings would have been discovered when Gawyn’s body was retrieved.

Personal Defense Systems

At least two ter’angreal jewellery defense systems exist: one worn by Cadsuane and one found in the Ebou Dar cache and worn by Nynaeve. They are designed to be used by women channellers. Each is described separately in the Cadsuane’s ornaments article and The Cache from Ebou Dar article. An angreal is also part of Cadsuane’s defense system and it is described in the Angreal article. They were developed during the Age of Legends but Cadsuane’s was made during the Breaking since it contains some ter’angreal Rand doesn’t recognise, when, as Cadsuane thinks:

an Aes Sedai might find many hands turned against her, most especially those of men who could channel.

- Crossroads of Twilight, Ornaments

These ter’angreal could be Jordan’s ‘reverse engineered’ origins of talismans or amulets, personal items that are, or were, believed to have magic powers to protect their wearers from misfortune, witchcraft or disease or to bring good fortune.

Cadsuane’s Hair Ornaments Defense System

Cadsuane has several small golden moons, stars, birds and fish which she wears as hair ornaments. Of these, two birds, three moons (two of them intertwined), at least two fish and at least one star are a ter’angreal defence system against other channellers. Semirhage referred to them as a paralis-net in The Gathering Storm, The Last That Could Be Done.

When Cadsuane was newly raised to the shawl, she earned these ornaments from Norla, a very old wilder in the Black Hills (Winter’s Heart, The Hummingbird’s Secret). Since Cadsuane does not know the function of three of her ornaments (a moon and two fish), it may well be that Norla died while Cadsuane still had to earn or learn about the last three.

The swallow indicates the direction of someone channelling close enough to threaten—within three miles—but not how far away the channeller is, or whether saidin or saidar was channelled (Winter’s Heart, With the Choedan Kal). It ignores saidin and saidar being used together:

What the maker was particularly interested in detecting was men channeling, but a man channeling in combination with a woman was, by definition, safe, because no woman was going to link with a man unless she knew absolutely that he was sane and not going to go over the edge into insanity while they were linked. Thus, saidin and saidar being worked in combination could be ignored, and in fact would be a distraction, since this was and is a warning device. Cadsuane’s ter’angreal won’t point to the two halves of the Power being wielded in combination.

- Robert Jordan, Crossroads of Twilight, Prologue ebook Q&A

The hummingbird is a well, a container for saidar, though a fairly small one (Winter’s Heart, The Hummingbird’s Secret). It stores enough saidar to make a very small gateway:

"I will have that gateway ready," Cadsuane continued more softly. "But it will be very small. The well will only give me enough to make one we'd have to crawl through.”

- Towers of Midnight, A Testing

Nynaeve’s well holds considerably more (see below). It is filled by embracing saidar through it as though it were an angreal and allows the wearer to store saidar so that it can be accessed if they are shielded ( Q&A 2003), or in a stedding or a warded place like Far Madding that would otherwise prevent channelling.

An eight-pointed star with four long and four short rays vibrates when a man who can channel is within thirty or forty paces, even if he is not actively channelling. The more men who could channel, the harder the star quivers (Crossroads of Twilight, Ornaments).

A six-pointed star covers the skin of the wearer with a thin “armour” when triggered, that reduces the effect of a blow by dissipating it over the whole armour (The Wheel of Time Companion). Only the wearer can see the armour. It protects against a sword or a mace as well as a knife.

Two intertwined moons go cool when a woman embraces saidar nearby (A Crown of Swords, New Alliances). This is similar in function to Mat’s medallion (see below), which goes cool when someone channels the power nearby and cold when he is touched with saidar or saidin. Like Mat, Cadsuane even wears the ornament touching her skin, which may be as much a necessity for the terangreal to work (as it is for Mat’s) as a way of feeling the temperature change. It dissipates saidin or saidar weaves directed at Cadsuane, just as Mat’s ter’angreal does (The Wheel of Time Companion). Setalle Anan, a former Aes Sedai (probably Martine Janata of the Brown Ajah) had heard a rumour that Cadsuane had a ter’angreal that stopped a direct weave (Knife of Dreams, A Cold Medallion).

A full moon disc partly shaded to leave a brightly shining crescent has an unknown function but Cadsuane wears it anyway (Crossroads of Twilight, Ornaments).

A sleek fish with sharp fins can enable the wearer to pull someone who is holding saidin or saidar into an involuntary circle, with the wearer leading the circle (The Wheel of Time Companion).

A leaping fish is one of two fish ornaments of which Cadsuane does not know the function (Crossroads of Twilight, Ornaments).

A carp is the other fish ornament which has an unknown function.

It would be interesting to know if Rand knows the function of the three ter’angreal that Cadsuane doesn’t know how to use.

One of Cadsuane’s ornaments can disrupt Illusion a short distance away (Knife of Dreams, A Plain Wooden Box ). This is confirmed by Jordan on his blog:

One of Cadsuane's ornaments is a ter'angreal that can interfere with weaves. That is how she was able to disrupt Semirhage's use of Illusion.

According to Cadsuane, none of her ornaments protects against the influence of ta’veren:

None of her ornaments protected against ta’veren. Of course, she did not know what two of the fish and one of the moons did, but it seemed unlikely they did that.

- Crossroads of Twilight, Ornaments

Yet Cadsuane has been remarkably unaffected by Rand’s ta’veren influence, so this is probably a foreshadowing that she is mistaken. Protection against ta’veren would be an entirely passive function for an ornament and thus easily pass unnoticed.

Nynaeve’s Jewellery Defense System

A jewellery defense system was discovered in a box in the Ebou Dar cache (see The Cache from Ebou Dar article). There were spaces in the box where some pieces were missing (The Path of Daggers, A Quiet Place). The jewellery consists of a long gold necklace and slim gold belt, with matching bracelets and finger rings, all studded with red and green and blue gems (Crossroads of Twilight, Ornaments).

The slim golden belt set with very good rubies (Knife of Dreams, The Golden Crane) is a well for saidar and is filled by embracing saidar through it as though it were an angreal (Winter’s Heart, A Portion of Wisdom). The belt allows the wearer to store saidar so that it can be accessed in a stedding or in a warded place like Far Madding that would otherwise prevent channelling. It holds more than Cadsuane’s hummingbird ornament.

The bracelet with pale red stones can cover the wearer with very strong armour so that she would hardly feel a sword hitting her (Winter’s Heart, Blue Carp Street).

The ring with one pale green stone detects someone channelling either saidin or saidar close enough to threaten, even if they have masked their ability and inverted the weave (Knife of Dreams, A Plain Wooden Box ), and may possibly indicate their direction as well:

“Cadsuane showed me what two of my ter’angreal do”…Smiling, Nynaeve thumbed one of the three rings on her right hand, the one with a pale green stone. “I knew this would detect someone channelling saidar as much as three miles away, if I set it, but she says it will detect saidin, too. She seemed to think it should tell me what direction they were, as well, but we could not see how.”

- Winter’s Heart, A Portion of Wisdom.

The stone glows faintly when it detects channelling and it vibrates differently for saidin and saidar:

One of her rings, set with a pale green stone that now appeared to glow with a faint internal light, seemed to vibrate continually on her finger though it did not really move. The pattern of vibrations was mixed, a reaction to saidar and saidin being channeled outside. For that matter, someone could have been channeling inside. Cadsuane was sure it should be able to indicate direction, but she could not say how.

- Knife of Dreams, The Golden Crane

Yet as Rand’s party approached Semirhage, Nynaeve could not tell whether saidin or saidar was being channelled, just that someone was channelling (Knife of Dreams, A Plain Wooden Box ).

A ring with a flawless sapphire goes cold when someone nearby is angry or hostile (Knife of Dreams, The Golden Crane).

One of the jewellery pieces can stop direct weaves of the Power, since Cyndane’s weave disintegrated when it reached Alivia:

Just as it [the ball of fire] reached the woman, almost close enough to singe her garments, the web of Fire unravelled. The woman did not do anything; the net simply came apart! Cyndane had never heard of a ter’angreal that would break a web, but it must be that.

- Winter’s Heart, With the Choedan Kal

Of course, Cyndane soon worked out that the wearer is still vulnerable to indirect attacks with the Power, especially if they are inverted.

This unknown piece functions in a similar way to Mat’s medallion. It may be the ring that detects saidar and saidin, or it may be one other of the pieces of jewellery.

Nynaeve took the jewellery with her when she left Caemlyn with Rand and it was put to good use by Alivia during the cleansing of saidin (Winter’s Heart, With the Choedan Kal). Without it, Alivia might not have survived her encounter with Cyndane. It came in handy when Nynaeve met Semirhage, too (Knife of Dreams, A Plain Wooden Box ). Prior to going into Shayol Ghul Nynaeve again removed the bulk of her jewellery (A Memory of Light, cover artist Michael Whelan) presumably to lend it to someone else for their protection.

Mat’s Medallion

Mat has a medallion that stops direct weaves of the power so long as it is touching his skin. It is a silver foxhead with the pupil of the fox’s eye in the form of the ancient symbol of Aes Sedai (The Shadow Rising, Imre Stand), and is almost the size of his palm. The single eye of the fox is probably foreshadowing of events in Towers of Midnight when Mat sacrificed an eye to save an Aes Sedai (Brandon Sanderson interview). While the ter’angreal was made of silver, it was transformed during its fashioning and is no longer this metal, but something new and unknown (Towers of Midnight, Foxheads). This is analogous to the real world belief in alchemists transmuting base metals into gold, see Alchemical Symbolism article).

The weaves used to create the medallion are complex. The shape of the medallion is not important, but the amount of silver used to make it is important (Towers of Midnight, Foxheads).

The medallion goes cool when someone channels nearby (as does one of Cadsuane’s ornaments, see above) and icy cold when someone channels weaves of saidar (The Fires of Heaven, Gateways) or saidin (Halima in Lord of Chaos, The Colour of Trust) at the wearer. These weaves then unravel. The more power being channelled, either nearby or at the wearer, the colder the medallion gets (Knife of Dreams, A Cold Medallion).

However the medallion does not stop the effects of indirect weaves of the power, such as the power-wrought lightning Rahvin wove that hit Mat in Caemlyn, or the dung that was flung at him with the power by Adeleas (Lord of Chaos, The Wandering Woman).

According to Robert Jordan, the medallion also protects Mat’s dreams:

A side effect of his foxhead medallion, though he doesn't know it. This was not part of the intended purpose of making the medallion; it's a true side effect.

- Robert Jordan, TOR Question of the Week

The medallion burned the gholam badly when it touched him, but was unaffected itself. Weaves also melt when they touch a gholam, as though it has abilities like the medallion (A Crown of Swords, Six Stories). Perhaps the gholam was injured by resonance or interference from the medallion, in the same way that a ter’angreal being actively used melts if there is another ter’angreal with a common function nearby. The medallion is the first thing the gholam has encountered that harms it (The Path of Daggers, Unweaving) and Mat speculates that the medallion could kill the gholam.

And if that weren’t enough, the medallion physically blocked Melindhra’s blade from stabbing Mat in the heart (The Fires of Heaven, News Comes to Cairhien).

Elayne was very eager to study the ter’angreal but was concerned about how she could do so, because it stops direct weaves. However Nynaeve’s jewellery includes a ter’angreal that stops direct weaves (see above) yet does not stop the wearer channelling (Winter’s Heart, With the Choedan Kal). Therefore if Elayne held the ter’angreal in her hands she would be able to channel into it, as she discovered when Mat lent it to her for three days as part of their bargain for Andor to fund the building of the dragons.

Elayne’s Medallions

Elayne was given access to Mat’s medallion for three days and was able to make imperfect copies of the foxhead medallion:

Less powerful weaves slid off anyone holding it, but very powerful ones could not be deflected for some reason. And, more problematic, it was impossible to channel while touching the copy.

- Towers of Midnight, Foxheads

After she decided that the shape of the medallion wasn’t important, she made medallions in the shape of a thin silver disc marked with a rose.

Bronze and Steel Medallions

Half a dozen large medallions in bronze or steel, most worked with strange patterns, were found in the Ebou Dar cache (The Path of Daggers, A Quiet Place) and were taken to Caemlyn. Any of these may also be protective ter’angreal. It is not known if Elayne kept them with her or if they were lost in the sacking of Caemlyn.

Other Jewellery

Finger rings, earrings, necklaces, bracelets and buckles, many of a very peculiar pattern (The Path of Daggers, A Quiet Place), were also found in the Ebou Dar cache and were taken to Caemlyn. These ranged from tiny ones that must have been meant for children to heavy ones that surely would be uncomfortable to wear, according to Robert Jordan’s Aes Sedia notes—although this was edited out of the published book. Some of these pieces could also be protective ter’angreal. Five earrings, six finger rings and three bracelets are for talking to people a long way off (Knife of Dreams, A Different Skill) and would have been useful for organising forces in the Last Battle had they known how to make them work. It is not known if Elayne kept them with her or if they were lost in the sacking of Caemlyn.

Elayne’s portion of the Ebou Dar cache also contained a thin and flexible gleaming silver circlet that had been padded inside at one time, according to Jordan’s Aes Sedai notes. It strongly tempted Elayne to put it on, and she found it hard to resist.


Written by Linda, August, 2005 and updated March, 2013 and January and May, 2016


Don B said...

A couple of quick comments on the Magic: the Gathering parallels in the Bloodknives section:

- "Shroud" in Magic is exclusively in blue and green (with a few weird white cases); a better parallel might be "Intimidate" (formerly "Fear" when it was an exclusively black ability), where a creature with Intimidate can't be blocked ("detected" in the WoT context) except by creatures of the same color or by artifact creatures. (Although that's not really correct either, since it's not being noticed that's key, rather than scaring the victims; maybe it would be better to just draw the blue parallel.)

- There is no card called "Unholy Glory"; I think you're thinking of "Unholy Strength", which has the effect you describe. A better parallel (both namewise and effectwise) would be Twisted Experiment (which gives +3/-1, so it increases deadliness while weakening the creature) or (even better) Grave Servitude, which gives +3/-1 and turns the creature black! Surely increased strength at the price of health, becoming black (dark), and "serving to/from the grave" are a perfect match.

Linda said...

Thanks for your comments. :) My consultant on Magic the Gathering was mortified that he got the name of Unholy Strength wrong. I've correct that.

I did say that shroud was an ability on multiple cards.

The other cards you suggested are also good parallels.

Anonymous said...

First off, Linda, love your articles, very insightful. Just had a quick thought on Mat's medallion: If the gholam are just constructs of the power, couldn't the medallion harming it just be because of the effect of disrupting the weaves that make it up? Just a thought.....

Scooter said...

Great work as always on the ToM update. I just wanted to let you know you missed one spot. In the section on the Twisted Doorway in Rhuidean, you ended with,

"Interestingly, Mat ‘received’ an ashanderei, which he did not ask for – a freebie. Lucky Mat! ;)"

As ToM showed us, Matt realized that the Snakes and Foxes don't give anything for free and that the ashanderei was, in fact, exactly what he asked for, the means of exiting their world.

Linda said...

Thanks Scooter. I have reworked this. :) I've got less free time to work on these ATM than I'd like.