Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Crossroads of Twilight Read-through #7: Keeping Up With the Black Ajah

By Linda

I thought it might be instructive to see what some of the more active members of the Black Ajah were doing in Crossroads of Twilight, especially in hindsight now that we know far more members of the Black Ajah after The Gathering Storm than we did.

With Rand


Elza tried to prevent Erian and Sarene from informing Rand that someone was using their Warders to track them down and would meet up with them soon. She also tried to limit Cadsuane’s access to Rand, but she wanted to stay in Rand’s favour more and that wasn’t the way to do so (Crossroads of Twilight, Ornaments).

Elza revealed to the reader that she is Black Ajah and that she knows of a Black Sister, Fera, who is a captive in Cairhien. She commanded her Darkfriend Warder Fearil to kill anyone who threatens Rand and was deciding who else he has to kill (Crossroads of Twilight, A Strengthening Storm).


Verin took Harine and her small retinue to Tear, picked up information on what is going on there and reported to Cadsuane. Then she got sucked into a conversation with Nesune on snakes (Crossroads of Twilight, Ornaments).

With the Rebels


Sheriam became upset when Egwene talked with anyone privately because she had to pass on what goes on to Aran’gar and the more she knew the better Aran'gar would be pleased. She found Delana’s raising of the subject of negotiations with the Tower Hall frightening; Aran’gar wouldn’t want the negotiations to succeed. Sheriam didn’t realise Delana’s aim was to prevent them succeeding by getting Egwene to interfere. (It didn’t work.)

Sheriam was against Moria’s suggestion of making an agreement with the Black Tower and wept when the Hall voted yes.

It was Sheriam who presented the rebel Mistress of Novices Tiana’s report on runaway novices to Egwene. Sheriam was amused that Nicola’s group covered for her and that it was not certain when Nicola ran away. She tried to erode Egwene’s credibility by suggesting she show favouritism to the Emond’s Field novices. Neither reaction is appropriate for a former Mistress of the Novices.


Delana was acting more positively than Sheriam. She bestowed her support in such a way as to cause more division, offense or fear:

One day she could be the very image of a Gray negotiator seeking consensus, and the next so strident in her arguments that every Sitter within hearing got her back up. She had been known to set the cat among the pigeons in other ways, too. No fewer than three times now, she had demanded the Hall make a formal declaration that Elaida was Black Ajah, which inevitably led to an awkward silence until someone called for the sitting to be adjourned. Few were willing to discuss the Black Ajah openly.
Delana would discuss anything, from how they were to find proper clothes for nine hundred and eighty seven novices to whether Elaida had secret supporters among the sisters, another topic that gave most sisters a case of the prickles.

- Crossroads of Twilight, The Subject of Negotiations

What seemed like incompetent behaviour for a Grey was designed to have the effect it did. She deliberately annoyed Egwene by telling her that people are gossiping over who will be her Warder and raising the subject of Egwene Bonding Bryne and telling her he wouldn’t be a good idea. It’s all perfect stuff for annoying a young woman.

Delana tried to prevent negotiations between the rebel and Tower Sitters by getting Egwene to interfere. She told her that the rank and file Aes Sedai and the rebel Ajah Heads will support Egwene if she forbids talks and offered Egwene her support in the Hall, hers and enough others to stop the negotiations. Her aim was to sow dissension between the rebel Ajah Heads and Sitters and between Ajahs, and to tie the rebels up in conflict so they don’t negotiate with the Tower. This is why Delana was appalled when Egwene agreed with Beonin that negotiations should start.

Delana arrived late to the Sitting of Hall on negotiations with the Black Tower, probably because Aran’gar was giving her orders. She reluctantly voted in favour of negotiations so her vote reflects Aran’gar’s command, not her own wishes.


Anaiya’s assessment of Moria was prescient:

A hard woman, harder than Lelaine in some ways. Tougher, anyway. She won’t scruple at things that might make Lelaine balk. I’m very much afraid she will press for an assault on the city as soon as possible. If the Forsaken are moving so openly, on such a scale, then better a wounded Tower that’s whole than a Tower divided.

- Crossroads of Twilight, Surprises

Moria said she wants Elaida executed. This was calculated to stymie negotiations with the Tower or put rebel Sitters off suggesting them.

Moria, along with Escaralde and Malin, called a Sitting to hear about the expedition to Shadar Logoth. She deliberately allowed the belief that their circles were inadequate without the inclusion of men to become known to the rank and file Aes Sedai:

“I do fear it be too late for that,” Moria said loudly. She had to speak loudly, to be heard over the murmur of sisters talking excitedly behind the benches, a hum like a huge beehive. “What has been said has been said, and heard by too many sisters for anyone to try shutting the words away now.” Her bosom rose as she pulled in a deep breath, and she raised her voice a notch louder. “I do put before the Hall the proposal that we do enter into an agreement with the Black Tower, that we may bring men into our circles at need.”

- Crossroads of Twilight, Surprises

Such a controversial resolution would sow more division among the rebels and between the rebels and the White Tower. There is also considerable danger to the Aes Sedai going to the Black Tower while Darkfriend Taim is in charge there.

The way these three Sitters worked together is suggestive. Escaralde and Malin may not have been present in the Hall in The Gathering Storm when the rebel Sitters used the Oath Rod to prove they were not Darkfriends.

In the White Tower


Alviarin kept Meidani away from Elaida at the beginning of Crossroads of Twilight – perhaps she had news from Sheriam as to which sisters were sent as ferrets (Crossroads of Twilight, Prologue).

Mesaana sent Alviarin out of the Tower for almost a month. In that time Alviarin met with Darkfriends that were commanded by other Forsaken. She visited Shadar Logoth for her own knowledge (Crossroads of Twilight, A Mark). Her last stop was to see what condition the female sa’angreal on Tremalking was in after the Cleansing. Had it been usable, there was no chance Alviarin would seize it for herself. She can’t channel strongly enough to use it safely:

I [Verin] can think of few women strong enough to survive the flows through the sa’angreal in Tremalking. The Amyrlin, of course, Moiraine and Elaida. Perhaps one or two others. And three still in training.

- The Great Hunt, On the Scent

While she was away, Elaida freed herself from Alviarin’s clutches despite being bound to obey Alviarin’s will. Elaida called a Sitting of selected Sitters and got Alviarin deposed from the Keeper’s position. When Elaida threatened Alviarin with execution for treason, Alviarin panicked and summoned Mesaana with a ter’angreal emergency signal.

Shaidar Haran also responded to it as well as Mesaana. Alviarin witnessed the start of Mesaana’s punishment and was marked by Shaidar Haran as a creature of the Shadow as Jordan explained:

“You are marked as mine,” the Great Lord rasped. “Mesaana will not harm you, now. Unless I give her permission.”

- Crossroads of Twilight, A Mark

The mark that Alviarin received from Shaidar Haran was not the same as that given to the Forsaken, though it shares one function: Shadowspawn will recognize her as belonging to the Dark One. They will not obey her as they will the Forsaken, however, but she doesn't have to worry about one trying to kill her, either. She is not any sort of lesser Chosen. You might think of it more like the tattoo some people get put inside the ear of their dog, an identification so others will know who the dog belongs to as soon as they see it.

- TOR Question of the Week

Alviarin noticed Talene behaving suspiciously and will try to find out why she looked at Doesine and Yukiri and didn’t speak up to Elaida. She has been commanded by Shaidar Haran to find the threat to the Black Ajah and thinks Talene will be her starting point.


Katerine arrived at the hamlet of Dorlan and refused to explain to the other returned Aes Sedai what happened to her after Dumai’s Wells (Crossroads of Twilight, Prologue). Once she heard of the boatman Narenwhin used to go downriver to Dorlan, Katerine went off to be rowed to Tar Valon and condescended to take Tarna with her. Katerine took an interesting the Younglings while in Dorlan.

At the end of Crossroads of Twilight, she was part of the group that captured Egwene and Leane as they changed the harbour chain to cuendillar.


Talene was bound to obey the Black Ajah hunters but otherwise moved about the Tower.

Atuan Larisett

Atuan was under surveillance while the Black Ajah hunters awaited an opportunity to interrogate her.

In Caemlyn


Careane suggested they be prepared to flee Caemlyn if the huge usage of Power moves closer and that they take the Kin with them (Crossroads of Twilight, Talk of Debts). She was encouraging Elayne to leave Caemlyn. Careane had been ordered to kill some of the Kin (at Marillin’s suggestion) and might have preferred to get out of it since it was a risky task likely to end in exposure.


Marillin went out on errands often. She was apparently as much under Shiaine’s orders as Falion (Crossroads of Twilight, Gathering Darkness).


Falion was worked extremely hard as a maid:

Her maid’s dress was simple truth; she did the work of four or five women by herself, maids and scullions and spit-girl, sleeping when she could and truckling whenever Shiaine frowned.

- Crossroads of Twilight, Gathering Darkness

Hanlon pretended to be forcing himself on Falion as part of her punishment, but whenever they weren’t being worked or watched they exchanged information in her room. Falion asked Hanlon about:

the Aes Sedai in the palace or those she called the Kin, or about the Sea Folk. Silly questions. Who was friendly with whom, and who unfriendly. Who exchanged private words and who avoided one another. What he had heard them say.

- Crossroads of Twilight, Gathering Darkness

Falion was trying to determine the ranking of the female channellers and the political currents. She was also interested in who Careane was talking with because they might be Darkfriends.

Falion could channel again now but she was still being punished by Shiaine. In fact, Shiaine increased her punishment by making her sleep with Murellin because Falion suggested her punishments should cease. Falion asked Hanlon for a sleeping draught to put into Murellin’s drink.

With the Shaido


Galina threatened to tell Sevanna who Faile’s husband was unless she stole the Oath Rod from Therava’s tent (Crossroads of Twilight, Traps). She betrayed Faile’s hidden knife to Sevanna so Faile and co couldn’t escape before they got the rod for Galina. Therava used Galina very harshly, humiliating her constantly. Galina slept in Therava’s tent.

The Secret of the Black Ajah

Sisters have come close to revealing the existence of the Black Ajah, but as of Crossroads of Twilight no one had ever made official charges, or had them raised against them:

Since the founding of the Tower, no sister had ever been charged with being Black Ajah. Oh, there had been suspicions by individual sisters, and from time to time Aes Sedai had died to make sure those suspicions never went further, but never had it come to official charges. If Elaida was willing to speak openly of the headsman’s block, she must be close to bringing charges. Very close. Black sisters had been made to disappear, too, when suspicions grew too great. The Black Ajah remained hidden whatever the cost.

- Crossroads of Twilight, A Mark

The fiction that there is no Black Ajah ends in Knife of Dreams so Crossroads of Twilight is the last book in which the Black Ajah is truly secret.


Joe ST said...

shouldnt there be a large spoiler warning about verin...

Furyn said...

An excellent summary. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Liandrin and her group already revealed themselves. Did Siuan really manage to keep their actions secret or are sisters still in denial about them?

Linda said...

Thanks Furyn.

Anonymous: Yukiri, a Sitter, was not aware that Temaile was Black or committed those crimes until Talene revealed Temaile was a member of her heart. This is in the COT Prologue. So it was not public knowledge. Or even recorded anywhere.

Linda said...

At the time of COT I mean.

Anonymous said...

More precisely, the Hall was aware of the murders and thefts (which were not common knowledge among the rest of the Tower. God knows how Siuan has presented this to the Hall...), and measures were implemented (someone to stand guard in front of the vaults, and wards).

But you're right. Unless Jordan made a mistake somewhere, we're lead to believe from Yukiri in COT that the 13 sisters who left were never named as BA or even as suspects in the murders/thefts in the Hall (that is, in the Tower. This became known much earlier in Salidar, because of the girls' report).

Elaida, then a Sitter, was curiously one of those who made early the connection between the BA, the murders and Liandrin and her associates, which was rather a bit out of character for her (Jordan at some point seems to have completely forgotten about these episodes when Elaida was a Sitter, including the fact that she's been one for a while... Later on it seems this scene where Elaida names Liandrin and her group BA to Elayne has slipped from his memory as well).

How Siuan found out that the 12 women who went away were all associates of Liandrin remains a bit of a mystery. From the way Yukiri presents things in COT, Siuan could no more than guess (except for Liandrin herself, that is - and this only after the girls brought their news) the 12 women who left at the time were all BA. With Verin gone, one wonders who she turned to to investigate who had left the Tower around that time. Probably not Sheriam, as it seems the Shadow didn't realise Siuan knew too much and was hunting the BA, before Siuan made the mistake of charging Verin to gather the information for her hunters. In a way, Siuan and Leane are colateral damages of Verin's mission. Siuan was probably doomed in the long run, but it may well be Verin's report that she put people in charge of hunting down the BA that doomed her (which Siuan, in a way, had foreseen... and not without irony two out of three women she decided to trust with this were BA). She got a reprieve only because Ishamael died at the wrong time, and Alviarin would never have pulled down an Amyrlin without a Chosen's permission. She probably had to wait for Mesaana's first contact with her to present her with a plan.

Anonymous said...

About the conflicting actions of Sheriam, Delana, Moria and Nacelle.

This has all the appearances of an internal conflict within the Shadow between "the gars" and Mesaana/Demandred.

Osan'gar nearly fucked everything up at the Black Tower, with his attempt to kill Rand. Eventually, Demandred must have learned who Dashiva really was.

Mesaana also learned what Aran'gar was up to before Aran'gar knew she was in the Tower.

It sounds like Mesaana set up Aran'gar for the fall. I think it's her, not Aran'gar, who arranged to get Anaiya and Kairen killed, "stupidly" leaving bodies and saidin residues behind. Aran'gar was much more cautious than this, even to kill mere maids. Semirhage knew all there was to know to tip Mesaana/Demandred about "Halima".

I don't think Aran'gar was discussing with Delana the proposal of negotiations with the BT before the Hall's sitting, simply because how could Aran'gar know this would come up at that sitting? If she was in contact with Moria, Aran'gar would never have let this happen, and Moria would never have undertaken this on her own.. so she must have been following Mesaana's orders to bring up this proposal, and work hard to make it pass in the Hall). It's far more likely Delana was late because was getting instructions on how to react in the Hall to the report about Shadar Logoth. Mesaana was faster and outplayed Aran'gar on this. Delana was so reluctant to cast her vote because she had to guess on the spot, without ever discussing this issue with her boss, if Aran'gar would want her to vote in favour of negotiations, thereby ensuring she's be part of that faction and might be able to influence further decisions as Aran'gar would instruct, or if she had to vote against it, at the risk of being pushed aside by the faction.

And then, Mesaana threw another rock in the pond: she had Nacelle, another BA, "discover" a weave to detect saidin weaves.

Mesaana may also very well have had a forewarning about Rand's offer from "her woman near Rand". It would have been a child's game for Elza to point out to Narishma they should not forget to warn the rebels about that female Forsaken channelling saidin.

With or without Romanda or Lelaine finding out the truth about the murders, with Nacelle's weave and Narishma's information Aran'gar's safety was too seriously comprised to stay. Delana was not even longer around to hear that Halima had been exposed as a Forsaken and herself as BA. They fled before the sitting was over.

Mesaana made a huge mistake, though. She lost her self control at a meeting and very unwisely revealed to Aran'gar she was in the White Tower.

It was then a child's game for Aran'gar to puzzle out that beside getting rid of her, Mesaana pushing so hard for an alliance with the BT must be because Demandred is involved at the BT.

If this is largely correct, then it means we can expect Aran'gar in TOM to focus on getting her revenge against Mesaana and Demandred. She's... very well positionned to make trouble as TGS begins. She likely has the information Graendal really wants badly (Demandred's plans) and Graendal has the information Aran'gar will want the most: Mesaana's disguise in the Tower.

Aran'gar may have had a role in whatever happened to delay the rebel envoys. My personal guess is that Aran'gar came to them in Caemlyn disguised as Taim's negotiator... and redirected the embassy to Logain.

My prediction is that Aran'gar will have a role to play in Mesaana's downfall and it will succeed, but Demandred will take out Aran'gar, and whatever plans there was to have a WT/Taim faction's alliance will become obsolete the moment the BA escapees take refuge there. Demandred will have his mixed gender army, but much smaller than he expected.

Linda said...

Anonymous: You are jumping the gun a bit. I'll look at the Black Ajah again in the Knife of Dreams read-through.

LordJuss said...


Regarding Elaida naming Liandrin and her group as BA in tDR, RJ addressed this in one of the questions of the week. Essentially Elaida can't make up her mind. When presented with the murders and the departure of Liandrin's group she (and presumably other Red Sitters - she says "we think") decide that they must have been responsible and so are Black Ajah.

But she hates the very idea of the Black Ajah, so she convinces herself that she must have been wrong (Galina may have had a hand in this. Something along the lines of "Oh no my dear it was clearly a coincidience"). Over time she worries again and changes back, and so we start over.

As for how the murders were presented, I've wondered that myself. Presumably, Siuan claimed that the murders had been carried out by Darkfriends who had got into the Tower (all true, but not the whole truth). Given the number of sisters coming and going from the Tower at any one time, only Siuan and Leane may have had the information as to exactly who left on the night in question.



Anonymous said...

"RJ addressed this in one of the questions of the week."

I know, but it's not Elaida's beliefs that are really a problem (though Jordan's explanation, that came before Maria's corrections of his misconceptions about Elaida's back story, is not very convincing: Elaida is presented as a woman who almost never changes her opinions, even in the face of evidence), it's the contradiction in how Jordan presented the Liandrin events in TDR vs. in the BA hunt story line.

In TDR, Elaida knows as much as Siuan. She speaks of a group who knows. This group was limited, because Siuan said few in the Tower knew the whole truth. This group had to be the Hall, because Siuan clearly implied the Hall knew:

" if it were known you had gone off with Liandrin, the Hall might very well vote for stilling the three of you before you could take a breath."

She wouldn't say that unless the Hall knew the connection between Liandrin, her group and the murders/thefts. She wasn't only trying to frighten the girls. There was no reason for her to complete the statement in her head as "if the Hall knew the connection between Liandrin and the murders, that is".

Later in the book, Elaida, a Sitter indeed knows everything:

"Liandrin and her... companions leave us. There will inevitably be comparisons. We are sure Liandrin and those who went with her are Darkfriends. Black Ajah."

Elaida can't lie, that had to be the truth as she knew it, and she's affirmative. Not "might" or maybes, but "sure", "there will" etc.

Elaida knew who perpetrated the murders. She states it, so she must had believed it at the time, and her "we" are sure these women are DF, so they had some evidence. Elaida was also serious about Elayne needing her protection from those "we"'s eventual suspicions. Siuan referred to that too, and specified the danger was the Hall. Her "we" have some influence, since she believes they might make trouble for Elayne. ELaida's "we" have to be the Hall too.

But in COT for Yukiri the news that Temaille is BA comes as a revelation. She remembers then Temaille left the Tower around the time sisters were murdered, and thinks they'll have to look into who else has left at the time.

And it's not only Yukiri. Pevara, Seaine also never make the connection, nor Shevan. Those four never saw any proof or even suspicions discussed in the Hall that the BA existed, that's clear. All four were Sitters by TDR. They never knew about any group of sisters who committed the murders and left the Tower together. They speak as if they only know the story as Siuan let leak it, about DFs entering the Tower and committing murder (she speaks of the rumours for the servants, however, not the sisters). It's clearly as if Jordan by that point thought this was the only way the story was known.

In COT, the Hall in TDR has not linked the murders of sisters to any other Aes Sedai, and the sisters who left at the time were never even considered as "a group".

By ACOS and later books, the vision of Jordan is rather that the Hall never knew it's sisters who committed the murders in TDR, and Liandrin and those we left were never identified as "a group", let alone as the culprits of these murders. It's not those obvious events Pevara brought up in ACOS as evidence the BA exists, it's the "vileness". It's not Liandrin Seaine brought up, but the deaths of Amyrlins.

It really looks as if Jordan had not only forgotten about Elaida being a Sitter, but has actually overlooked altogether those scenes with Elaida while she was a Sitter, when he started the BA hunt story line, that and the fact Siuan spoke to the girls as if the Hall knew the connection between Liandrin and the murders.


Linda said...

I agree Anonymous that Jordan's handling of Elaida as a Sitter and what the Hall knew of the murders contradicts later scenes where no one knows anything about Liandrin's group or BA in general. And Elaida's backstory is an afterthought

LordJuss said...


To be clear, I also agree that the contradiction was initially a mistake and that Elaida's story was added later. However, given that is the explanation as provided by RJ, we have no option but to take it at face value and try to make the facts as presented fit.

Given the quotes in tDR and the later lack of knowledge in CoT, the implication is that some (but not all) of the Hall connected the murders at the time but later changed their minds. It's possible that they adjusted their opinions under pressure from both Siuan and from Black Sisters, neither of whom would want the connection made.



belugakid said...

Hi. One thing I noticed in Alviarin’s PoV, not really that important to the main story, but a rather revealing detail was in Alviarin’s thoughts on both the “elevator” and the Ninth Depository. We are finally told what some of the other Depositories at the Tower’s library was - a collection on a particular subject, Maths. I think it is VERY revealing that a White Ajah Aes Sedai has no idea what importance mathematics plays in both science and technology. For a sister of the rang of Alviarin - that would mean that a lot of knowledge indeed was lost during the Breaking of the World. We could argue that the Brown Ajah would know and have studied the materials in there, but still, even though Alviarin is a Darkfriend, it would have been common knowledge for a member of the Ajah dedicated to studying logic and philosophy, that - the importance of Mathematics to science and knowledge altogether.
Ironically, not a few moments after leaving the 9th depository, Alviarin regrets the lack of “a thing called elevator”.
It is VERY revealing that she couldn’t make the connection between “different techniques for calculation” and something easily built, had one studied them.

Linda said...

The White Ajah holds women of two different disciplines that require logic: mathematics and philosophy. Someone skilled or interested in one is not necessarily skilled or interested in the other. Some women will do both.

We know about technology, but the Third Age people don't. That's the point about this scene. The loss of knowledge has been huge. Rand's schools are all about regaining knowledge.

Alviarin's previous confrontation with Elaida (when they discuss intelligence reports and Elaida Foretells) was all about false knowledge and also wrong interpretation of knowledge. Foretelling is knowledge gained in a magical way.

belugakid said...

Something else I couldn't put my finger on last night when I wrote my previous comment was where we had "seen" an elevator in the Third Age... And, the Sea Folk land again this one too, as well as the superior knowledge about weather and astronomy, which all helped them survive at sea. The elevator they use is a fairly simple platform, which is man-pulled. With appropriate/large enough gears, the elevator would have worked for a much larger vertical distance. All left for Alviarin to do would be to Power it up with the standing flows, or by man-power, if it had a bell attached to it so the poor fellas would know when to pull. All achievable, even without all technological knowledge that superior to what they had in hand.
Knowledge was not only lost, but it's spread was looked at with terror, experimenting with the Power was "dangerous and that's all there is to it". Absolute blend with the Mediaeval thoughts of our world, the Aes Sedai.
I know you have written a lot of articles on the matter, that's just one bit of RJ's way of having made the reader pull their hair that bugged me a great deal.