1.3: How's That Work for the Dark?

This subsection contains information on and discussion of the nature of various things from the Dark Side (e.g. the Taint, the Black Ajah, etc.).

1.3.1: What are those black threads on the male Forsaken?

[Hawk, Pam Korda]

When Rand has battled the male Forsaken, he has sometimes seen black threads, wires, or cords running off from them. This is seen when Rand battles Ishy in [TEOTW: 51, Against the Shadow, 637-640], and Asmodean in [TSR: 58, The Traps of Rhuidean, 671-675]. So what's the deal with these strings?

The thick black threads are the Forsaken's connection to the DO. The connection with the DO is what keeps the male Forsaken from falling prey to the madness from the taint on saidin (see Asmodean's statements to Rand in TSR after his black "thread" was severed). Rand's thread in TEOTW was silver and thinner because it was from that pure pool of saidin that was the Eye of the World.

We've never seen the threads on a female Forsaken, so it is possible that the threads are themselves the protection from the taint. Perhaps they act as a kind of filter on saidin, or a conduit through which the DO siphons off the taint when the Forsaken draws upon the Source.

It's also been suggested that the threads are a connection for channeling the True Power. This isn't very likely. The problems with this idea are:

  1. The female Forsaken can use the TP, but nobody ever sees the black cords on them;
  2. The black cords were seen on Asmodean, and of all the Forsaken, Asmodean is the one who we'd least expect to use the very dangerous TP in an instance where the OP would serve just as well (Skimming); and
  3. From [ACOS book signing, Dunwoody, Georgia; 9 October, 1996, report by Erica Sadun], "Access to the TP is a matter of wanting it and the Dark One letting you. NOT black cords."

Another suggestion is that the presence or absence of the threads could be used to identify male Forsaken. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The black cords are only seen/sensed under very special circumstances. Rand has only seen them in two places--T'A'R and the in-between space used for Skimming. Note that Rand has seen male Forsaken without seeing the cords: Aginor and Balthamel at the Eye, Be'lal in the Heart of the Stone, Moridin in Shadar Logoth, and Dashiva/Osan'gar on many occasions. Furthermore, he doesn't ALWAYS see the black threads when he's in T'A'R with a Forsaken--he never saw them on Rahvin. So, the black threads are not a reliable way to identify Forsaken under any circumstances, even those under which the threads have been seen in the past.

1.3.2: The True Power

[Paul Raj Khangure, Pam Korda]

What do we know about the "True Power"?

  • It is the power of the Dark One. [ACOS: 25, Mindtrap, 412]
  • The ability to use it is granted specifically by the DO [ACOS: 25, Mindtrap, 419]. It may be that one must get permission each time one uses it ("The True Power was denied her [Moggy], of course--that could be drawn only with the Great Lord's blessing" [ACOS: 25, Mindtrap, 416]).
  • At the moment, the only one with the DO's permission to use the TP is Moridin: "[Demandred] himself had never touched the True Power except at need. Great need. Of course, only Moridin had that privilege now, since his...anointing" [WH: 13, Wonderful News, 317]. We can assume that the "anointing" refers to Moridin's being named Nae'blis, but we're not clear on when exactly that occurred.
  • "What can be done with the True Power is very similar to what can be done with the One Power." [RJ, aol.com Q and A session, 27 June, 1996]
  • One sign of extensive TP use is the black dots in the eyes, which Moggy calls "saa." The dots are visible from both the outside [ACOS: 25, Mindtrap, 418] and from the inside [ACOS: 20, Patterns Within Patterns, 356]. We do not know whether the frequency at which an outside observer sees them is the same as that at which the user sees them. It seems likely that they come more frequently when one is actually using the TP, since the Watcher's dots come faster just before he uses it to "Travel": "The black flecks filled his eyes, a horizontal blizzard....To his ears, the world screamed as he used the TP to rip a small hole and step outside the Pattern." [ACOS: 20, Patterns Within Patterns, 358]
  • The TP is much more addictive than the OP. "In the long run, the TP was far more addictive than the OP; a strong will could hold down the desire to draw more saidar or saidin, but she [Moggy] did not believe the will existed strong enough to resist the TP, once the saa appear" [ACOS: 25, Mindtrap, 418]. "It was a drug more addictive than saidin, more deadly than poison" [WH: 13, Wonderful News, 317].
  • The TP is very dangerous, and has a high price. "The final price [for using the TP] was different, but no less terrible." [ACOS: 25, Mindtrap, 419] "There was a price, to be sure, one that grew with each use, but he [the Watcher] had always been willing to pay the price when it was necessary." [ACOS: 20, Patterns Within Patterns, 356] We don't know what this "price" is.
  • As far as Moggy knows, only 30 or 31 people have ever been granted the use of the TP. ("Only twenty-nine others have ever been granted..." [ACOS: 25, Mindtrap, 419]. I dunno if Moggy is counting herself in the 29 (i.e. only 29 others besides Moridin), or not (only 29 others besides the people in the room).
  • The Forsaken have the ability to use the TP. "Among the living, only the Chosen knew how to tap the TP..." [ACOS: 25, Mindtrap, 412]
  • Even among the Forsaken, "few are foolish enough to [use the TP] except in case of dire need" [ACOS: 25, Mindtrap, 412]
  • The TP can not "be detected except by who wielded it." [ACOS: 20, Patterns Within Patterns, 356] This is worded vaguely, but RJ has clarified it: "No one can tell if you're using the True Power except the Dark One, of course." [RJ, Amer. Online chat, 27-6-96]
  • If Moggy's knowledge of the TP is reliable, then only people who can channel the OP can use the TP. We know this from the fact that as soon as Moggy realizes Moridin is a user of the TP, she immediately assumes that he can channel: "This Moridin had tapped into the TP, and more than once. Much more. She knew that some men who could channel survived in this time aside from al'Thor...but she had not expected the Great Lord to allow one that particular honor." [ACOS: 25, Mindtrap, 418]


Where have we seen the True Power used, before ACOS?

The TP is not new in ACOS. We've seen it and heard of it before, always in the hands of Ishamael. In [TEOTW: Prologue, Dragonmount, xi] Ish uses it to "heal" LTT of his madness. '"I was never very skilled at Healing, and I follow a different power now....I fear Shai'tan's healing is different from the sort you know...." He extended his hands and the light dimmed as if a shadow had been laid across the sun.' Another hint of the TP's existence in TEOTW is Ishy's remark that LTT "called down his precious One Power..." [TEOTW: 14, The Stag and Lion, 205]. The only reason Ishy would have for referring to the OP in this dismissive way is if he had access to another type of Power altogether. In Rand's fight with Ish in [TDR: 55, What is Written in Prophecy, 570], Ishy does something at the end which, in retrospect, is almost certainly a use of the TP: '"I cannot be defeated! Aid me!" Some of the darkness shrouding him drifted into his hands, formed into a ball so black it seemed to soak up even the light of Callandor. Sudden triumph blazed in the flames of his eyes.'

In general, a lot of the weird stuff Ishy did can probably be attributed to the TP. Whenever he was seen, he always had a "seething blackness" surrounding him, which "boiled up" when he was about to do something nasty to Rand (example: the fight at the end of TGH when Ish gives Rand his first unHealable wound). Ish was certainly one of the "fools" who used the TP in cases other than dire need. His lack of humanity is probably part of the "price" one pays for using the TP. His glowing eyes and mouth might be some advanced version of the saa.

In [TSR: 26, The Dedicated, 306], it is mentioned that Lanfear/Mierin had said she "had found a new source for the One Power," usable by both men and women. Considering that her "new source" turned out to be the DO, it is possible that this is a reference to the TP. Whether Lanfear knew that this was the DO or not is a different argument...


Wild Speculation

  • The taint on saidin is due to the TP being mixed into saidin by the DO.
  • The black cords seen on some of the male Forsaken are not taint-protection, but a connection to the TP. The problems with this idea are: 1) The female Forsaken have the ability to use the TP, but nobody has ever seen the cords on a woman; 2) Asmodean is one of the people the cords were seen on, [TSR: 58, The Traps of Rhuidean, 671] and of all the Forsaken, the cowardly Asmodean is, IMO, the least likely to use the TP, given its dangers, especially for something (Skimming) that could be accomplished via the much-less-dangerous OP; and 3) From [ACOS book signing, Dunwoody, Georgia; 9 October, 1996, report by Erica Sadun], "Access to the TP is a matter of wanting it and the dark one letting you. NOT black cords."

1.3.3: Are Black Ajah bound by the Oath Rod?-- Updated

 First, we know that BA can violate the three AS Oaths with impunity:

  • They can violate the Third Oath: In [TSR: 38, 863, Hidden Faces, 438], Liandrin wishes she had the ability to kill with the Power, like Chesmal (another BA). This implies that Chesmal can, and has done so. "New Spring" makes it seem very possible that Chesmal killed a sister named Meilyn, one of Tamra Ospenya's searchers. [L:NS, 669]
  • They can violate the First Oath: In [TFOH: 34, A Silver Arrow, 394], Liandrin attacks the wounded Moghedien, attempting to Compel her. Moggy strikes back, and Liandrin says, "Y-you do not understand, Great M-mistress...I only wished to help you to have the good sleep." This was definitely not her intention. Her intention was to have Moggy be her obedient slave. A few pages later, Liandrin tells Moggy that she will be Moggy's "faithful dog," and in the next sentence tries to get Temaile and Chesmal to try to betray Moggy. If she meant one, the other must be a lie. In [TFOH: 19, Memories, 260], Alviarin says to Fain, "Now answer my questions, or two corpses will be found here in the morning instead of one" (the one being the dead Accepted). Fain thinks to himself, "There would be two in any case, whether he answered her with suitable lies or not; she did not mean to let him live." Obviously Fain thinks she can lie, and do you really think Alviarin meant to let him go?
  • In [ACOS: 40, Spears, 626] Galina makes it clear that the BA are not bound by the Three Oaths: "She had broken free of the Three Oaths on joining the Black Ajah, replacing them with a new trinity..." So, the BA are not bound to the Three Oaths that the non-black AS swear.

However, the BA still have the Ageless look and the shortened lifespan which are characteristic of people bound by the OR. They have to, in order to blend in with non-black AS. So, it is likely that the "new trinity" of Dark Oaths sworn by the BA are taken on the Oath Rod. There is further evidence for this. Galina knows that Oath Rods can be used to remove Oaths: "If [Sevanna's "binder"] was a second Oath Rod, it could be used to remove any oath she swore now" [TPOD: 11, Questions and an Oath, 255]. This is not general knowledge among AS (Seaine and Pevara, both high-ranking AS, had to figure that out by themselves), so we can conclude that she knows it from experience. That is, the BA are freed from the Three Oaths via the Oath Rod. It means that the BA induction involves the Tower's OR-- Galina is only familiar with the Tower's Rod (Number 3). It's therefore reasonable to guess that the Black Ajah Oaths are administered via Oath Rod.

So what are these Black Oaths?

According to Verin, one of the Oaths is "I swear not to betray the Great Lord, to keep my secrets until the hour of my death." [TGS 39: A Visit From Verin Sedai] This explains why the golden girls can't get Ispan to spill her guts about the BA no matter what they do [TPOD: 20, Into Andor, 399].

Also note Joiya Byar's "confession" about the supposed BA plan to use Taim as a False Dragon to discredit Rand. That obviously never happened, and so it appears that Joiya lied, while her fellow prisoner, Amico, told the truth about the plan to get something in Tanchico to harm Rand. This fits well with the idea that the BA swear an Oath not to betray the Ajah. Amico, having been stilled, was released from any Oaths that she took on an Oath Rod. Thus, she could spill the beans when pressed. Joiya, however, had no such release, so had no alternative than to either lie, or to grovel saying "I'd LIKE to tell you, really, but I can't!!" [Laura Parkinson]

For the rest, we can make reasonable guesses. There is almost certainly some kind of oath of servitude to the Great Lord, the same kind of oath the Forsaken have spoken of swearing. There is also likely an Oath of secrecy.

However, the Oath is probably more specific than "keep the Black Ajah a secret", since BA have told outsiders that the Black Ajah exists - Liandrin for instance [TGH: 5, The Shadow in Shienar, 66]. Adeleas said that in particular she could not force Ispan to reveal the names of other Black sisters no matter what she did. So the second Oath is likely along the lines of "do not reveal the identity of any Black sister to someone not sworn to the Dark Lord", or some such [David Chapman].

1.3.4: Are the Seals connected to the Taint?-- Updated

Probably not, given the last chapter of WH. Rand used the "anti-Taint" of Shadar Logoth in conjunction with the mega-sa'angreal (the Choedan Kal) to cleanse the Taint on saidin. There is absolutely zero evidence that the seals played any part in the cleansing.

There is, of course, some lingering support for the idea, mostly because of Cadsuane's doubts that saidin had truly been cleansed. If, as the theory went, the seals are the link that allow the DO to touch saidin and leak Taint into it, Rand could have just cleared off what was there, and soon more Taint will appear (somewhat like cleaning up an oil spill but not removing the pipe that's leaking oil into the water in the first place).

However, there's no real reason to give Cadsuane's misgivings more weight than Flinn and Narishma's assertion that saidin is clean. One would presume people who actually channel saidin would have more authority to judge that than a saidar channeler, after all. Jahar Narishma confirms this when addressing the Salidar Hall. "Saidin is clean." And Merise, the Green sister who bonded him coroborates: "I took time to be convinced...Yet I am convinced. It is clean." [KOD 23: A Call to a Sitting]

Herid Fel's note ("Belief and order give strength. Have to clear rubble before you can build"), therefore, was most likely referring to his earlier discussion with Rand, in which he said that at some point the Bore had to be sealed like new (not patched with the seals the way it is now), so that the Wheel of Time can come full circle to the AOL and the breaching of the Bore again. It makes sense, then, that the seals would all have to be broken and the patch removed before Rand can heal the break in the DO's prison like it never was.

Kelly West submits a theory along these lines: "Rand's last question to Fel had been whether there was a reason to break the seals before TG. My feeling is that the Pattern is trying to heal the Bore naturally and that the patch is holding the Bore open, like a cork used to stop the bleeding of an open wound. That is why Taim gave the seal to Rand; the DO does not want them broken yet. During the War of Power whatever device was used to open the Bore probably also held it open, or the DO used a portion of his power to hold it. Now the reality drill is long gone, I'd imagine, and the DO would not want to waste his power when an alternate system was already in place.

"Tarmon Gai'don is when the DO wants the seals broken. At that time he has the greatest chance of being freed totally. Why at this time? Because at this time the Balefire will be flying at full power and the Pattern is at it's greatest chance of unraveling. You see, my theory is that the DO's prison is the Pattern itself. As long as any thread remains unbroken in the Pattern the DO cannot be completely free. (BTW, this is also why I feel Nae'blis means the last to die. The Forsaken are still threads in the Pattern.) During the AOL the DO was still bound to Shayol Ghul. The patch blocked his direct touch and he had to feed his power through Ishamael."

1.3.5: What is the deal with Black Ajah and Warders? --Updated

Can Black Ajah have Warders? Would a Warder know if his AS was Black?

The answers are: yes, and depends.

We know BA can have Warders; one of the Greens from Liandrin's posse complained about having to leave her Warders behind when they fled the Tower [TSR: 38, Hidden Faces, 439]. (This may have been Asne Zeramene, who has four Warders (per WH); presumably Jeaine Caide has at least one Warder as well, but Jeaine has been MIA since Tanchico, in TSR, and we don't have any information on her Warders or lack thereof.)

So, given that BA can have Warders, we now need to ask what the deal with Black Ajah Warders is. RJ has said several things on the subject. At a post-TPOD signing in Seattle, he told Kevin Bartlett that the easiest thing would be to pick a Darkfriend for a Warder.  At a post-TPOD signing in Pennsylvania, RJ "made some comments about how Warders of the BA might sometimes meet with 'accidents' so the BA can remain secret. Alternatively, BA might intentionally bond Darkfriends." [Melinda Yin] To confirm, Verin reveals that her Warder, Tomas, is a Darkfriend as well. [TGS 39 :A Visit from Verin Sedai]

Finally, at a post-TPOD signing in Northern Virginia, he discussed the topic. John Novak's synopsis: "If an Aes Sedai becomes Black Ajah, the Warder would know instantly that something was up, but wouldn't know exactly what. The Black Ajah has three choices, then - hope the Warder is a Darkfriend or amenable to being one, hide the affiliation, or arrange for an accident. Yes, this would be painful for the Aes Sedai, but it might become necessary. The process of becoming Black Ajah is evidently quite painful in its own right and thus probably involves more than just swearing new Oaths on the Rod. (I submit that this is why the Red Ajah is rife with Black Ajah - they have an easier time actively recruiting from that pool. By the same token, I claim that the Green Ajah is more pure than the others.)"

Eldrith Jhondar (formerly a Brown), we discover in WH, also has a Warder, named Kennit. Kennit was the reason Eldrith, Asne, Temaile Kinderode, and Chesmal Emry were eventually forced to flee Samara, where Moghedien had sent them: "What had sparked the decision to leave was the arrival of Eldrith's Kennit in the town, sure that she was a murderer, half convinced she was Black Ajah, and determined to kill her no matter the consequences to himself" [WH: 10, A Plan Succeeds, 244].

This plus the rest of Asne's POV clears up most of our questions about the BA and Warders. We now know that BA Warders do not necessarily have to be Darkfriends, but that at least some are; one of Asne's Warders, Powl, is a DF, the other three are not. (Note that, apparently, this has not been realized by the non-Black AS. For all the talk of Black Ajah, not a single person has mentioned the possibility of Black Warders.)

We also learn (from both this and from Elayne's POV later) that the Warder bond can be masked, which explains how a BA could do her dastardly deeds while bonded to a non-DF Warder. Asne seems to have no fear that she cannot compel her three non-DF Warders into obeying her, while it's clear that Eldrith has no control over Kennit; likely this is because Asne has never let her masking slip while doing bad things, the way Eldrith did (or because Eldrith is simply not as good at compelling her Warder as Asne is).

Lastly, it appears that while BA will kill their Warders to protect their secret, they are very reluctant to do it. Asne doesn't find it surprising that Eldrith would choose to flee rather than allow Kennit to be killed and suffer the inevitable result.

There has been some indication that the Warders referred to in TSR were murdered. It's possible they were, as long as they were Jeaine's and not Asne's, but Eldrith's behavior makes it less likely to be the case. Plus, since we know that Asne's Warders were (a) left behind, (b) not all DFs, and (c) not killed, it doesn't make sense that Jeaine's would have been, whether they were Darkfriends or not.