Friday, October 8, 2010

Analysis of Minor Characters #4: Pevara

By Linda

The Ajah vetting process is effective, since we’ve seen only a few women who have chosen the ‘wrong’ Ajah – Leane Sharif, Sierin Vayu, and the subject of today’s Minor Characters Analysis post.

Pevara Tazanovni is a Red who should have been Green. Her good friend Seaine believed Pevara chose the wrong Ajah:

It was sad that she had chosen Red, no matter how good her reasons, because she still liked men. The Red did attract women who were naturally suspicious of men, of course, but others chose it because the task of finding men who could channel was important. Whether they liked men, or disliked them, or did not care one way or the other in the beginning, however, not many women could belong to the Red for long without taking a jaundiced view of all men. Seaine had reason to believe Pevara had served a penance shortly after attaining the shawl for saying that she wished she had a Warder; since reaching the safer heights of the Hall, she had openly said Warders would make the Red Ajah's work easier.

- A Crown of Swords, Sealed to the Flame

Pevara is resistant to the Reds’ anti-men ethos and independent in her thinking, mostly due to these characteristics:

Seaine had always admired the other woman's strength of will, but really, sometimes it was pure stubbornness.

- The Path of Daggers, The Extra Bit

She has the bold courage Romanda says is the main requirement of a Green (and epitomised by, say, Elayne Trakand). Yukiri remarks on it:

“Let Talene go to this meeting,” she [Pevara] said. “We’ll all go. They won’t expect us. We can kill or capture them and decapitate the Black at a stroke. This Supreme Council must know the names of all of them. We can destroy the whole Black Ajah.”
Lifting an edge of the fringe on Pevara’s shawl with a slim hand, Yukiri frowned at it ostentatiously. “Yes, red. I thought it might have turned green when I wasn’t looking. There will be thirteen of them, you know.
Even if some of this ‘Council’ are out of the Tower, the rest will bring in sisters to make up the number.”
“I know,” Pevara replied impatiently. Talene had been a fount of information, most of it useless and much of it horrifying, almost more than they could take in. “We take everyone. We can order Zerah and the others to fight alongside us, and even Talene and that lot. They’ll do as they’re told.” In the beginning, she had been uneasy about that oath of obedience, but over time you could become accustomed to anything.
“So, nineteen of us against thirteen of them,” Yukiri mused, sounding much too patient. Even the way she adjusted her shawl radiated patience. “Plus whoever they have watching to make sure their meeting isn’t disturbed. Thieves are always the most careful of their purses.” That had the irritating sound of an old saying. “Best to call the numbers even at best, and probably favoring them. How many of us die in return for killing or capturing how many of them? More importantly, how many of them escape? Remember, they meet hooded. If just one escapes, then we won’t know who she is, but she’ll know us, and soon enough, the whole Black Ajah will know, too. It sounds to me less like chopping off a chicken’s head than like trying to wrestle a leopard in the dark.”

- Knife of Dreams, Prologue

and jokes that Pevara must be wearing a green shawl.

Traumatised by the Shadow’s murder of her family, Pevara chose the Ajah she thought would best enable her to uncover Darkfriends:

Pevara's eyes, as dark as her own were blue, became stone, and swept to the mantel above her fireplace, where miniatures of her own family made a precise line. They had all died while she was a novice, parents, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles and all, murdered in a quickly suppressed uprising of Darkfriends who had become convinced the Dark One was about to break free. That was why Seaine had been sure she could trust her. That was why Pevara had chosen Red—though Seaine still thought she could have done as well and been happier as a Green— because she believed a Red hunting men who could channel had the best chance of finding Darkfriends. She had been very good at it; that plump exterior covered a core of steel. And she possessed the courage to say calmly what Seaine had been unable to bring herself to utter.

- A Crown of Swords, Sealed to the Flame

The irony being that many of her fellow Reds are Darkfriends. The Red Ajah has a higher proportion of its numbers sworn to the Shadow compared to the other Ajahs. About 24% of the Black Ajah are Red, which is about 25% higher than would be expected, considering that Reds represent about 19% of the total Aes Sedai population.

Pevara has known for twenty years that the Black Ajah exists:

I have been sure the Black Ajah exists for...." Strangely, Pevara became hesitant, peering into her teacup like a fortune-teller at a fair. "What do you know of events right after the Aiel War?"
"Two Amyrlins dying suddenly in the space of five years," Seaine said carefully…"A great many sisters died in those years, as I recall. Do you mean to say you think the... the Black Ajah had a hand in that?" There; she had said it, and the name had not burned her tongue.
"I don't know," Pevara said softly, shaking her head "You've done well to wrap yourself deep in philosophy. There were ... things ... done then, and Sealed to the Flame."

- A Crown of Swords, Sealed to the Flame

It seems out of character for someone obsessed with finding Darkfriends to have not done anything about the Black Ajah when they suspected its existence. Perhaps the fact that the events in question were Sealed to the Flame, and therefore revealing them would be treason, a capital offence, stopped her. It appears to have stopped her explaining the matter to Seaine.

However, recent events are not under this stricture and Pevara is going to make the most of any information on the Black Ajah even if she is exiled:

“Before we give her to Elaida, Saerin, I want to dig out as much as we can.
Names, places, anything. Everything she knows!” Darkfriends had killed Pevara’s entire family, and Seaine was sure she would go into exile ready to hunt down every last Black sister personally.

- Winter’s Heart, Prologue

Green she perhaps should have been, but Pevara is totally loyal to her Ajah:

But could sending fifty-one sisters into captivity be called doing well? Could Dumai’s Wells, with four sisters dead and more than twenty delivered into another sort of captivity, to a ta’veren? No matter. Elaida was Red—had been Red—and far too long had passed since a Red gained the stole and staff. All the rash actions and ill-considered decisions seemed things of the past since the rebels appeared, and saving the Tower from the Black Ajah would redeem her failures.

- Knife of Dreams, Prologue

Nevertheless she is not Ajah-centric, and takes her responsibilities as a Sitter seriously for the good of the whole Tower:

But there were other matters she had to deal with. She was a Sitter, not simply a hunting dog. She had the White Tower to think of, and Aes Sedai far from the Tower. And the future.

- Crossroads of Twilight, One Answer

When not pushed too far by problems piling up as they did in Knife of Dreams Prologue, Pevara is a careful thinker; cautious and sceptical about who might be a Darkfriend, unlike Seaine, who would have recklessly told all to her friend Talene in The Path of Daggers, The Extra Bit had Pevara not persuaded her otherwise. Pevara realised the Healing of stilling and gentling and the Bonding of Aes Sedai by Asha’man changes their status completely. Tarna thought up the idea that the Reds should Bond Asha’man to bring them under control, but it was Pevara who immediately considered the practicalities of which Red sisters would do so (Knife of Dreams, Attending Elaida).

She was appalled by the parlous state of Tower unity:

Warders wearing swords and plainly guarding their Aes Sedai’s back, in the Tower. That was all too common, yet Pevara could have wept at it. Only, there were too many reasons for weeping to settle on one; instead she set about solving what she could.

- Knife of Dreams, Prologue

but did not let it overwhelm her. It is a pity that the Black Ajah hunters' efforts did not achieve more.

When not hunting Darkfriends Pevara is a kindly woman:

Quite plump and not tall—in truth, for a Kandori, she was short—Pevara was also quite pretty, with a merry twinkle in her dark eyes and a ready smile.

- A Crown of Swords, Sealed to the Flame

who is appalled at the harshness of Asha’man training:

Pevara resisted the instinct to think of him as equivalent to an Accepted and the other two as novices. Novices and Accepted were kept safe and guided until they knew enough of the Power to become Aes Sedai. By all reports, Soldiers and Dedicated were considered ready for battle almost as soon as they learned to channel. And they were forced from the first day, pressed to seize as much of saidin as they could, made to use it almost continually. Men died from that, and they called it "training losses," as if they could hide death behind bland words. The thought of losing novices or Accepted in that fashion curdled Pevara’s stomach, but it seemed that the men took it in stride.

- Knife of Dreams, Epilogue

and revolted by the Black Ajah’s methods:

What they had learned about the Black Ajah’s means of putting someone to the question was as nauseating as it was incredible.
Forcing a woman into a circle against her will? Guiding a circle to inflict pain? Pevara felt her stomach writhing.

- Knife of Dreams, Prologue

As Seaine said in A Crown of Swords, Sealed to the Flame, Pevara has audacity and nerve, which is why she planned and led the Reds’ expedition to the Black Tower to Bond Asha’man:

They would return to the grove for the same reason, unless matters went very badly. In which case, they might never return. She had thought this task must be carried out by someone who combined the highest diplomatic skills with the courage of a lion. Well, she was no coward, at least. She could say that much of herself.

- Knife of Dreams, Epilogue

As I said in the The Black Ajah article early this year, there is a danger that single or small groups of Aes Sedai may be turned to the Shadow now that so many Black Ajah are loose. At least seven women channellers are needed for a circle of thirteen to weave the flows through thirteen Myrddraal. This number has rarely been together outside the Tower until now. At the Black Tower they could be supplemented by the seemingly considerable numbers of Black Asha’man there, leaving the rest of the Black Ajah for other duties. It would be monstrous if Pevara was one channeller they turned to the Shadow. But the woman with the courage of a lion has entered the lion’s den. Can she escape intact?

Pevara was suggested to me for analysis by Luckers of Dragonmount during a brainstorming session with me at WorldCon 2010.


shadar said...

About 24% of the Black Ajah are Red, which is about 25% higher than would be expected, considering that Reds represent about 19% of the total Aes Sedai population.
Did you mean "blacks" instead of "Reds" here?

Jack said...

Wording numbers and statistics in paragraph form always runs the risk of ambiguity. I think Linda meant it this way: Reds compose 19% of the Aes Sedai population, so you would expect Red/Blacks to be 19% of the Black Ajah. But they actually account for 24% of the Black Ajah, which is 5% higher than if things were spread totally evenly. That extra 5% is 25% higher than the expected number of 19%.

Frank said...

Some of the Reds' higher proportion of Blacks might have something to do with Galina. She was apparently very active in the subtle "recruitment" the Ajahs do, and it's not inconceivable that she consciously tried to get Reds who would be amenable to going Black as well.

Has there been any word, BTW, about those 30-40,000 words about Pevara et al. in the Black Tower that Brandon didn't think would fit into any of the books? He said he might release it on his site, I presume after the book is released, but I don't know what Tor or Harriet would have to say about that. Anyone heard anything?

DeAnna said...

Oh where to begin? Thanks for doing Pevera. She's an amazing secondary character and one I've cheered about seeing even if only in passing.

The Red Ajah is a matter I've debated about for a while now (having spent a long time playing a red at's roleplaying community) and I don't know that Pevera's point of view is so odd as it is that the other Ajahs and the world has a slanted view of the Reds and we have seen relatively few of that Ajah (most of whom needed to be 'hard', 'stupid', or 'evil' for story purposes)

That's not to say that a fair number of Reds aren't card carrying men-haters... but, I also could see where women who had sympathy for their condition and a desire to protect the world, would also sign up to the Ajah's cause thusly welcoming in a large variety of women into their fold (and accounting for why they are the largest ajah.)

The Red Ajah's purpose is a tangible one where you can clearly see the results of your hard work (the Yellows can also claim this as healers) and because (until recently) it's not one that is needed every day, it leaves a woman a lot of time to do other things that help the world.

I can't claim to have any inside information on Mr. Jordan's creation but even his most (seemingly) 2D groups (White Cloaks?) also had deeper and more honest roots than what they appear whenever they walk into a scene. I suspect the same can be said of the Red Ajah otherwise why would it be the largest Ajah in the Tower? I can't imagine that many girls would be excited to sign up under the meanest sisters in the Tower... unless you really believe that many women are men-hating, power-hungry, bad-guys.

And if that's the case... I suspect the White Tower and dear Egwene are in for a lot more trouble yet to come. Probably enough to fill another book series!

Linda said...

Jack: Thank you. Yes, that is exactly what I meant to say.

Frank: Nothing more has been said about Pevara. Hopefully there will be a scene or two at the Black Tower in Towers of Midnight.

Deanna: I really like Pevara. She is such a positive character. It worries me though, that the most appealing Red is such an atypical Red. Tarna and Teslyn, both of whom I've also looked at, are Reds with more pleasant aspects yet they have some question marks hanging over them. Pretty much all Reds except Pevara have at least one strong negative trait.

If a sister is not skilled in Healing but would like to do something concrete and important for the world the Red Ajah would be an obvious one to consider. Hence its large size.

Both the Reds and the Whitecloaks have suffered through having too inflexible a dogma - contrast them with the Browns say! What we've seen of the Whitecloaks so far under Galad has been far interesting than when Niall or Valda led them. (Even though Niall was a fascinating character.)

Incidentally Balwer might be the next minor character I look at.

Frank said...

I don't know if Pevara is negative-trait-free, though. I think she's a bit too ruthless at times, especially with the rebel moles. I mean, not that she should have been all sweetness and light, but she did want, and arguably did, go overboard with them.

I think I read Jordan say once that the Reds are the largest Ajah because they do what most people, including the girls that go to the Tower in the first place, think the Aes Sedai are really good for: finding, binding, and eliminating male channelers.

BTW, I wonder who readers think is the "Worst" Ajah: Red or White. The Reds at least DO something. I mean, I'm a fine lover of philosophy, but the White do seem rather useless and terribly niche. They could be subsumed in the Brown with no trouble. I don't think we've seen one who is really "logical." Alviarin, for instance, has never seemed "really" White, no matter how competent she is. (And I don't know if it was just a goof on Jordan's part, but I've always been struck by the wrongheadedness of her wondering why there needed to be many kinds of arithmetic, since logic at the high level the Whites would be discussing among themselves would be virtually indistinguishable, in some ways, from math. Surely she had training in that! And surely other White sisters, at least, would be in that Depository more than it appears they are, if Alviaran's observation that she'd never seen another sister there is true.)

A hearty "YES!" to doing Balwer. He's a wonderful character, though I admit I don't quite "get" him, probably because we have virtually no idea of his inner life.

Jack O' Shadows said...

My vote is for Chel Vanin next, I am very intrigued by the talented sack of suet.