This subsection contains information on and discussion of questions about channeling, dreamwalking, the OP, and OP-related objects.
In [TGH: 40, Damane, 484], Egwene's sul'dam describes how the Empress will sometimes make a man wear the bracelet of the a'dam connected to a damane. Sometimes nothing happens, and sometimes "both die, screaming." We see something similar happen in [TFOH: 32, A Short Spear, 370] when Rand tries to free the damane in Seanchan. A third example is in [ACOS: 8, The Figurehead, 164], when Aran'gar frees Moggy from the a'dam while Egwene is wearing the bracelet: "A sudden stab of pain through that pocket of sensations in the back of her head.... Had she felt it directly, it would have been numbing. As it was, her eyes bulged in shock. A man who could channel was touching the necklace around Moghedien's neck; this was one link no man could be brought into."
What's happening here? Well, it seems as if the men who are affected by the a'dam are those who can channel, or maybe who have the ability to learn. According to Elayne's study of the a'dam, it works by creating an uneven link between channelers, in which the bracelet holder has complete control. So possible explanations for the "die screaming" effect are:
Descriptions of the item:
Semirhage and Elza Penfell use a set on Rand in The Gathering Storm [TGS 22: The Last that Could be Done]. Rand escapes them, by channeling the True Power and destroys the Domination Band, then balefires Semirhage and Elza. It is not known what happened to the other copies.
[Daniel Rouk, Burr Rutledge, Andrea Leistra, Pam Korda, Leigh Butler]
In the AOL, there were multiple "Oath Rods." They were apparently fairly common devices used to discipline criminals who could channel. The Forsaken refer to them as a type of "binder"; according to Sammael [ACOS: 40, Spears, 631], Oath Rods only work on channelers, and the one he gives to Sevanna only works on female channelers. There are other types of binding devices, such as "binding chairs" that work on anybody.
One of the first references to "binding" is in [LOC: 6, Threads Woven of Shadow, 136]. Graendal is showing off her Sharans. While discussing the Sharan channelers, Sammael asks her if they 'bind themselves like criminals.' Sammael thinks he's revealing something Graendal didn't know, but she thinks about how she found out about the AS use of the Oath Rod from Mesaana [LOC: 6, Threads Woven of Shadow, 138]. We later find out Mesaana is in the White Tower. The only "binding" that we know about that occurs in the White Tower is the bonds willingly taken by Aes Sedai via the Oath Rod.
Next scene: [LOC: 6, Threads Woven of Shadow, 139-143] Semirhage is torturing the Aes Sedai, and thinking on how she was "wronged" because the Age of Legends Servants didn't understand why she gave a little pain with her healing. After all, nobody complained when they owed their life to her. She recollects that she was given two choices, to be severed, or to accept binding. The actual quote is "to be bound never to know her pleasures again, and with that binding be able to see the end of life approach." This illustrates that "binding" is in fact as Sammael said, something done to criminals.
In [Guide: 3, The Age of Legends, 37], we learn about the criminal justice system in the AOL. "When the perpetrators of violent acts were caught, they were not sent to prison. Rather, they were constrained... against repeat offenses. This binding made it impossible for the criminal ever to repeat his crime." In [Guide: 5, The Dark One and the Male Forsaken, 54], we also find out that this binding was done with the OP. Describing Balthamel, ne Eval Ramman, it says, " More than once he supposedly came very close to being bound with the Power against doing violence."
Next, we have [ACOS: 40, Spears, 630-631], in which Sammael gives Sevanna an OR, which he probably got from the Ebou Dar stash. He explains how it works: "'You might call it an Oath Rod,' Caddar said...'It only came into my hands yesterday, and I immediately thought of you.'... 'All you need do is have your AS...or any woman who can channel, hold the rod and speak whatever promises you wish while someone channels a little Spirit into the number. The marks on the end of the rod?'...'It only works on women?' [Sevanna said.] 'Women who can channel, Sevanna,' Caddar said."
Finally, in WH we are introduced to the "Chair of Remorse", a ter'angreal in the Tower that is used to punish criminals, "to experience carefully selected consequences of their crimes" [WH: Prologue, Snow, 17]. Though it doesn't seem as though the Chair is used for any actual binding, the fact that it can be used on non-channelers and channelers alike brings Sammael's mention of "binding chairs" strongly to mind, and Seaine doesn't know if the manner in which modern AS use it is anything like what it was used for in the AOL.
We learn a few other things about the OR and binding:
The question is: is the "ageless" look attributed to Aes Sedai in the Third Age something unique to them, or is this appearance attained by all channelers? If it is only found in modern AS, then it seems likely that the look is caused by the Oath Rod-- one of the only major differences between the current Aes Sedai and other channelers.
What is the Ageless Look? It is not mere youthfulness. People looking at AS with the look are unable to put any age at all to them. Here is evidence:
Note: the Ageless Look takes some time to manifest itself after a woman is raised to full AS. 1) Elaida's spy in Caemlyn is "'A Red Sister....Newly raised, so she can easily pass for other than AS.' She meant that the woman had not yet taken on the agelessness..." [TFOH: Prologue, The First Sparks Fall, 16] 2) In [ACOS: 24, The Kin, 408], Elayne says, "I don't think anyone has ever reached that [the Ageless Look] until they've worn the shawl at least a year or two, sometimes five or more."
Now, let us look at the descriptions of all other channelers, to see that they do NOT have the Ageless Look.
As dark of face and hair as he [Sammael], and beautiful enough to tighten Sevanna's mouth, she wore red silk, cut to expose even more of her bosom than Someryn showed.... Right then, she did not care whether the woman could move mountains or barely light a candle. She must be Aes Sedai. She did not have the face, yet some Sevanna had seen did not. [She's probably thinking about Egwene, who was masquerading as AS]
[ACOS: 20, Patterns Within Patterns, 353]
If the WOs had the same ageless look as Aes Sedai, Sevanna would not think of "the face" as an identifying feature of AS.
"Harine did a lot of the talking, and so did a young, pretty woman in green brocade with eight earrings altogether, but the pair in plain silk put in occasional comments....Harine turned so calmly there might never have been any hasty conference. "This is Shalon din Togara Morning Tide, Windfinder to Clan Shodein," she said with a small bow toward the woman in green brocade, "and this is Derah din Delaan Rising Wave....""
"She [Derah] made a small bow toward the fourth woman, in yellow. "This is Taval din Chanai Nine Gulls, Windfinder of White Spray." Only three rings hung from each of Taval's ears, fine like those of the Sailmistress. She looked younger than Shalon, no older than himself."
As noted above, no AS gets the Ageless look until after they've been raised to full AS [ACOS: 24, The Kin, 408]. This is not a matter of time spent channeling, or of strength in the OP, but of passing a certain point-- being raised.
In L:NS and TPOD, we get ample evidence that swearing on an Oath Rod produces a physical effect-- some kind of "tightening" of the skin:
This "tightening of the skin" could be what causes the Ageless Look, kind of like a permanent face lift.
Nobody in all of Randland has the Ageless look besides AS raised in the White Tower. Thus, there must be something done to them in the raising ceremony which brings about the Ageless Look. The only such thing of which we know is swearing on the Oath Rod. Given the evidence that we have, it must be the OR which causes agelessness. The only other possibility is that there is something else done in the Raising ceremony which we don't know about and which causes the agelessness. Any such thing would have to involve the woman's channeling ability, in order to explain why the Agelessness vanishes when a person is stilled. There may indeed be other items used in the AS-Raising ceremony besides the Oath Rod, as indicated by this quote: [LOC: 39, Possibilities, 513] "Romanda wanted to use gateways to remove the OR and certain other items...from the Tower so they could make true AS in Salidar while depriving Elaida of the ability." These items may be used in the AS TEST, as opposed to the actual final ceremony, though.
A final effect of the OR is that it seems to shorten the lifespan of channelers bound by it. It seems to work this way: use of the OP increases one's lifespan by a great deal. The more you channel, the better the anagathic effect. Being bound by the OR decreases one's lifespan, or perhaps lessens the anti-aging benefits of channeling. In any case, the net effect is that OR-bound channelers live longer than non-channelers, but not as long as channelers who are NOT bound by the OR.
Evidence that Oathbound channelers don't live as long as nonbound ones:
From these quotes, we can conclude that the maximum lifespan of modern AS is around 300 years.
Ages of other channelers:
From the evidence that we have, modern-day AS have a shorter maximum lifespan than other channelers. As with the Ageless look, there must be something done in the AS-raising ceremony which causes this. The only such thing of which we are aware is being bound by the OR. Again, there is a possibility that there is some other thing in the ceremony which we don't know about, and which causes this effect. However, there is less chance of this being the case with the shorter lifespan than with the ageless look.
This is because we have independent evidence from Semirhage. In [LOC: 6, Threads Woven of Shadow, 139-143] Semirhage is thinking about how the AOL AS wanted to "bind" her to put an end to her medical malpractice. The actual quote is "to be bound never to know her pleasures again, and with that binding be able to see the end of life approach." Now, we know that "binding" of channelers (esp. female channelers) was done with an OR. Semirhage seems to be thinking that the binding would cut her life short.
Elayne and Nynaeve have certainly come to the same conclusion. Nynaeve and Elayne's reactions to Egwene's announcement that she will swear the Oaths on the OR as soon as they get the Tower back are worth quoting in their entirety:
"'That's madness!' Nynaeve burst out... 'You know what it does; the Kin are proof! How many Aes Sedai live past three hundred? Or reach it? And don't tell me I shouldn't talk about age. That's a ridiculous custom, and you know it. Egwene, Reanne was called Eldest because she was the oldest Kinswoman in Ebou Dar. The oldest anywhere is a woman called Aloisia Nemosni, an oil merchant in Tear. Egwene, she's nearly six...hundred...years...old! When the Hall hears that, I'll wager they'll be ready to put the Oath Rod on a shelf.'
"'The Light knows three hundred years is a long time,' Elayne put in, 'but I can't say I'm happy myself at the prospect of perhaps cutting my life in half, Egwene.'" [WH: 10, A Plan Succeeds, 238]
It doesn't get much clearer than that.
Speaking of that scene, what about Egwene's plan on how to get around the age limitation while still having AS swear the Oaths? Will that actually work?
Egwene's idea is that AS raised to the shawl will swear on the OR as usual, and that when they get close to the upper-age limit on sworn AS of 300, they could be released from the OR and sent to live with the Kin for, presumably, another 300 years or so.
The question, of course, is whether the OR actually makes one age faster, or simply dictates a cutting-off point. Cadsuane, for example, seems to have aged about as much as Reanne - but Reanne is better than a century older. This would seem to argue that the OR makes you age faster, and that removing the Oaths from, say, a 250-year-old AS would not actually help her live past 300.
However, as Amy Gray points out, when Siuan and Leane were stilled, they lost a good twenty years in appearance. All the evidence indicates that the age they look now is the age they would have looked if they had aged (and slowed) naturally (if, say, they had been WOs or Windfinders). We can safely conclude that their rejuvenation was a result of having the Oaths removed. The implication, then, is that Egwene's plan should actually work, and a released AS would revert to whatever age she would have had if she had never been bound.
As a last tidbit for thought, Elayne raises the interesting question of what would happen in reverse - if someone already over the age limit imposed by the OR then swears on it. Hmm...
The primary effect of the OR is to compel obedience to oaths sworn on it. It probably does this by tapping into the oathbound channeler's own channeling ability in some unknown way. (We know this because the binding to the oaths vanishes when the oathbound woman is severed.) It has some secondary effects, in particular 1) it shortens the lifespan of the bound channeler, and 2) it probably causes the bound channeler to develop the "ageless look" unique to modern AS. It is unknown if these secondary effects are deliberate (i.e. a kind of death sentence and a way of marking criminals, respectively) or if they are an inherent side effect of the binding mechanism.
I asked RJ about Aes Sedai-forged weapons, like Lan's sword that never needs sharpening: was the Power just used in the manufacturing process, to change the structure of the steel to make it extra-strong, or was a flow of the Power somehow incorporated into the steel? "The Power was used in blending the metals (and other materials...) and altering the structure. There is no source of the Power in these weapons, nor do they draw on the Power like angreal...." [from RJ letter 4/95]
In the same letter, RJ said that when a Fadeblade strikes Power-wrought metal, the reaction produces blue sparks. This implies that Fadeblades are Power-wrought metal, as when we see the two Fades dueling during the fight in the Stone in [TSR: 10, The Stone Stands, 135].
This also implies that Thom Merrilin had Power-wrought daggers during the incident in Whitebridge [TEOTW: 26, Whitebridge, 318], which has always struck most people as rather odd. RJ addressed this question in the post-WH Dromen & Demonen chat:
Q: If a Fade's blade will not produce lightning except against other Thakandar-wrought blades, and Power-wrought blades, why do Thom's daggers produce it when he attacks the Fade at Whitebridge?
RJ: Thom's daggers did not produce the effect. It was produced before Thom reached the Fade.
Steven Cooper remarks, "Having checked [the passage], RJ is not quite right in saying the effect was produced before Thom reached the Fade - first Thom crashes into the Fade, then 'The air in the square flashed an eye-searing blue'. However, it certainly seems from this response that RJ never intended to give the impression that Thom had OP-wrought daggers."
A channeler can sense another channeler, under various conditions:
However, there seems to be some confusion of exactly how far the range on male-male sensing is. Here are some examples:
[From the aol.com Q-and-A session with RJ, 27 June, 1996]:
Question: Can gateways be created at non-right angles to the ground? If not, why not? If yes, why haven't we seen them?
RJ: They can be, and you haven't seen it because there's been no need to do it. And also some of the people who can make gateways don't know how to do it.
"When anything is destroyed with balefire, it ceases to exist before the moment of its destruction, like a thread that burns away from where the flame touched it. The greater the power of the balefire, the further back in time it ceases to exist. The strongest [Moiraine] can manage will remove only a few seconds from the Pattern...For as far back as you destroy [something], whatever it did during that time no longer happened. Only the memories remain, for those who saw or experienced it." [TFOH: 6, Gateways, 119]
That pretty much explains it. Something that is BFed is erased backwards in time; the amount of erasing depends on the amount of Power put into the BF. Rand, at full power, with an angreal, managed to erase Rahvin back about half an hour. Note that balefire does NOT erase every single action the victim performed in his life. When Rahvin was BFed, Morgase did not become un-Compelled, sitting back in the Caemlyn palace. If Lanfear were balefired, the Bore would not cease to exist, since it was created over 3000 years ago, and I doubt that the capacity for creating that strong a beam of BF exists. (Plus, if it WAS done, the poor Pattern would probably unravel completely; see below.)
This one has cropped up time and again over the years, but RJ appears to have contradicted himself over the answer.
For instance, William Carew reported that RJ said, at a Brisbane signing in 1999, that if the balefire from Person C was strong enough, then yes, Person B would come back to life.
But, contrariwise, Paul Ward received a letter from RJ (dated March 2000) in which he stated, "The balefire weave exists wholly or partly outside time, which removes it from its own effect." Which implies the opposite.
The description of balefire leaves us one important question: does "burning one's thread from the Pattern" mean that one's soul is destroyed forever, and one can never be reborn? John Novak finally got an answer for this from RJ at a post-TPOD book-signing [Northern Virginia - 21 November, 1998]:
Balefire: I'm right. (This was my question) What this means is, if someone is balefired, the Dark One can't reincarnate them. But they CAN be spun back out into the wheel as normal. Balefire is NOT the eternal death of the soul. He also made a comment to the effect that even in the absence of balefire, there may be circumstances where the Dark One cannot bring someone back.
If this is the case, then why is BF so bad? It must be a question of scale. If lots of BF is used on many targets, as it was during the War of Power, the Pattern will become quite ragged and begin to unravel, like an old pair of jeans. If large quantities of BF are used, then there will be obvious problems with causality, as there were in the aftermath of Rahvin's death. Thus, it's not a good idea to use strong BF, and it's not wise for many people to use it regularly.
John Walter Biles explains: The Pattern unravels permanently because in a war of mass destruction with balefire, you can yank threads out of the Pattern faster than they can be replaced. Yeah, they can EVENTUALLY be reborn, but unless the total population of all of creation is static, then they won't be reborn instantly. More importantly, it screws up causality. That's why the Pattern can unravel; it's not that you run out of threads, it is that if you nuke an entire city, every consequence of every action by everyone in the entire city is suddenly undone back to point X. Given the amount of balefire nuking a city takes, you can make quite a mess. Do enough damage to the Pattern faster than it can repair itself, and it still comes apart.
The real question being asked here is: what is the difference between the soul of a Forsaken killed by ordinary means and the soul of one killed by balefire? Timothy Itnyre explains:
"The only difference is that the Forsaken killed by balefire dies in the past; at the moment of contact with the balefire, they are already dead and their soul has gone on to wherever souls go when you're dead. In a normal death, the Forsaken's soul departs at the moment of death. The only difference then is the timing of the soul's departure. This would indicate that the Dark One's inability to resurrect balefired souls has to do with the timing rather than actual physical properties of balefire. In LOC, the Dark One laments his inability to resurrect Rahvin: '"RAHVIN DEAD IN HIS PRIDE. HE SERVED WELL, YET EVEN I CANNOT SAVE HIM FROM BALEFIRE. EVEN I CANNOT STEP OUTSIDE OF TIME"' [LOC: Prologue, The First Message, 15].
"The crucial clue is in the last line where the Dark One says that he cannot step outside of time. The Dark One must claim the Forsaken's soul before it goes off to the afterlife; in the case of a balefire victim, the Dark One would have to go into the past to get the soul. Since the Dark One cannot step outside of time, he cannot save those souls. Therefore, balefire prevents the Dark One from claiming souls."
Read the previous paragraphs about what BF does, and why it is dangerous to use. Now, supposing that 1) the DO has a corporeal body which could BE balefired, and 2) enough BF could be produced to zap the DO back 3500 years (neither of which is at all certain), consider what would happen to the poor Pattern of All Creation if one of the prime movers in its weaving was BFed. The end of the world would probably happen for sure, then.
Remember that the DO is the source of the whole history of the Third Age. Everything everybody has done for the past 3500 or so years has been affected in some way by the DO. Why is Joe Al'Schmoe of the Two Rivers a farmer in a forgotten province of Andor, and not a citizen of one of the most powerful, strongest nations in Randland? It's because Manetheren was destroyed in the Trolloc Wars, which were initiated by Ishamael, who was the DO's right-hand-man throughout the Third Age.
Another point (via G.G. Kay's Fionavar Tapestry) is that maybe the DO doesn't even have a thread to balefire. After all, the DO's prison exists "outside the Pattern." Perhaps the DO itself does, too. (NB: the no-body/no-thread argument applies to "Why doesn't somebody BF the DO," no matter if you try to BF him back 3500 years or 3 seconds. The "Pattern" argument does, as well - if there is no DO, what happens the next time the Wheel comes around to the AOL/Third Age again?)
[Pam Korda, John Novak]
Skimming requires knowledge of destination and Traveling requires knowledge of origin [TFOH: 6, Gateways, 121]. For example, Aviendha Travels to Seanchan which she obviously doesn't know a thing about, but she knew the bathroom real well.
Skimming is what Rand does in [TSR: 58, The Traps of Rhuidean, 670-671] to chase Asmodean to Rhuidean, and in [TFOH: 54, To Caemlyn, 645-646] to bring the Aiel strike force to Caemlyn. It apparently works by creating a tunnel through some other space from the point you are at to the point where you want to go. Going through this tunnel takes a finite amount of time, and one person can chase another through it, as Rand chased Asmodean. Egwene learns from Moggy that Skimming (as opposed to Travelling) is "a way to journey from a place you did not know well to one you did." [ACOS: 9, A Pair of Silverpike, 175]. The above "chasing" thing contradicts something Egwene says about it in [ACOS: 12, A Morning of Victory, 241]: "If two sisters wove gateways on the same spot only moments apart, aiming to Skim to the same place, they would not see one another, not unless it was exactly the same spot, with the weaves exactly identical." So, either this is a difference between men's Skimming and women's, or Rand managed to exactly duplicate Asmo's weave, or RJ messed up. The Skimming place has some similarity to TAR, and may be a part of TAR. [ACOS: 12, A Morning of Victory, 240].
Traveling is a far simpler, far more direct, far quicker means of transport. Traveling opens a "gate" from one physical point to another. Men do this by boring a hole in the Pattern, so to speak, while women do this by making the Pattern in both locations identical [LOC, 37, When Battle Begins, 491]. Moghedien and Rand are of the opinion that using the wrong method would be catastrophically bad. Stepping through the gate, one instantly changes location. Asmodean tells Rand that, unlike Skimming, Traveling requires only knowledge of the starting point [TFOH: 6, Gateways, 121].
Now, it's been suggested that what the 3rd Age Randlanders call "Traveling" is not the same thing as the old-time, AOL Traveling. The only evidence to support this theory is the manner in which Ish manifests himself in the TEOTW prologue. He kind of shimmered and appeared--no mention of a "gate" or a doorway. We've not seen anybody else do this, though; all of the other Forsaken use the standard Gate method.
It is possible to do a Traveling-like thing with the TP, by "stepping outside the Pattern," as the Watcher (a.k.a. Ishy) does in [ACOS: 20, Patterns Within Patterns, 358]. At a Brisbane signing in 1999, RJ confirmed that Ishy's strange Gateway in the TEOTW Prologue is due to his use of the TP [report by William Carew].
[Pam Korda, Leigh Butler, Mike Edenfield]
When Elayne tries to use the Power on Mat in [LOC: 38, A Sudden Chill, 504], she describes the effect as "The flows just...vanished." It seems that the medallion works by dissolving or destroying Power flows. At Balticon 30 (April 1996), RJ said that the medallion only works on direct weavings of the Power (both saidin and saidar) against the wearer. Evidence that the medallion protects against saidin comes from [LOC: 44, The Color of Trust, 554]: Halima/Aran'gar channels at Mat and the medallion activates. Halima, being a male soul recycled into a woman's body, channels saidin.
Indirect effects of the Power, such as picking up a rock with Air and throwing it, or lightning (lightning was mentioned by RJ as a specific example), are not blocked. Thus, the failure of the medallion to protect against the lightning strike at the end of TFOH can be explained. Rand's belief that the medallion didn't protect Mat from a man's channeling was in error.
Given all that, there has been some debate over whether the medallion would protect Mat from the effects of the Seanchan Crystal Throne. The throne is supposed to be a ter'angreal that inspires awe and reverence in anyone who comes before it [Guide: 17, Seanchan, 160]. This raises some separate questions, such as exactly how a ter'angreal could "channel" without someone activating it, but the relevant thing to wonder is, is the power of the Throne a direct or indirect effect of the OP? If the former, that implies Mat's medallion would shield him from the Throne; if the latter, the medallion may not be able to protect him from it.
An interesting case to consider is the Mirror of Mists disguise that Lanfear was wearing as Keille in the Waste. Mat had his medallion on the whole time, yet he couldn't see through the disguise any more than anyone else. However, as Owen Pope points out, there is a difference in that the Crystal Throne seems to affect someone's thoughts directly, something like Compulsion, while the Mirror of Mists is probably just an alteration of the environment immediately around the person wearing the disguise (perhaps if Mat had tried to hug Keille, or something...)
So it seems that as long as the "awe" weaves have to touch Mat directly to mess with him, the medallion would protect him from the effects of the Crystal Throne. (Of course, since RJ has said that the action will never actually go to Seanchan, this may be a moot point, but it's interesting to consider.)
In [TPOD: 2, Unweaving, 82], Moridin is waxing wroth on things which the Third Agers can do which were not known in the AOL:
"A way to Heal being severed.... Involuntary rings. Those Warders and the bond they shared with their Aes Sedai.... whenever he thought he had the measure of them, these primitives revealed some new skill, did something that no one in his own Age had dreamed of."
Quite a few people have expressed confusion over what "involuntary rings" are; here is an explanation. A "ring" is a way of referring to a group of linked channelers (such a group has been more commonly called a "circle"). In [TPOD: 2, Unweaving, 83], Moridin wonders about the repercussions of Ny's group using the weather ter'angreal in "a ring"; the implication being that he's wondering what would happen if they used it in a circle. Thus, an "involuntary ring" refers to channelers being linked against their will. We've seen this done, and know the device which makes it possible--the a'dam. The mention of involuntary rings is a reference to the damane, who are linked to the sul'dam involuntarily.
At various points through TPOD, we are hit in the face with the fact that something other than the taint on saidin is wrong with the One Power in general. It is described by both male and female channelers in roughly the same terms, and is widespread enough to cover a radius of hundreds, if not thousands, of miles. When mentioned, the effect of this weirdness is to make the One Power difficult and dangerous, unpredictable, and very hard to control.
This effect began showing up during and after the flight of Elayne, Nynaeve, and their band from the Kin's farm. Two momentous events involving the One Power occurred at the farm. First, the Bowl of the Winds was used to return the weather to its normal patterns. Second, Elayne attempted a dangerous unraveling of her Gateway with disastrous and incendiary results.
It was the first of these events (the weather weave) which caused the weirdness, not the disastrous unraveling. Reasons are as follows:
The weirdness affects not only saidar, but saidin as well. In [TPOD: 24, A Time for Iron, 469], Dashiva describes a similar weirdness. It is important to note that he uses almost the exact same words as Elayne does-- a weave that does not want to form, then forms quickly and violently. It is the same effect.
He went into a relatively detailed explanation to the effect that the Bowl was stressed far, far beyond its original design parameters because of the advanced knowledge of the Windfinders. It was affecting a global pattern, when it was designed for only a small region. Men helping would not have changed anything, and the effects linger most strongly near Ebou Dar, but also along the "spokes" which radiated from that place.
By WH, the weirdness around Ebou Dar has pretty much worn off; none of the damane, Teslyn, or Joline make any comment about saidar acting strangely.
[Leigh Butler, Adrienne Huston]
Cadsuane Melaidhrin sports a hair-ornament the likes of which we've not seen anywhere else in Randland:
"An iron-gray bun decorated with small dangling golden fish and birds, stars and moons." [TPOD: 27, The Bargain, 536]
This thing is mentioned in just about every scene in which Cadsuane appears. Various incidents in TPOD led us to believe it may be an angreal or ter'angreal, and in WH and COT we find out we were right:
"[Cadsuane] made no move to embrace the Source herself. One of her dangling hair ornaments, intertwined golden crescents, was cool at her temple" [TPOD: 12, New Alliances, 275]
This sounds awfully like what Mat's medallion does when someone's channeling near (but not at) him. It's not known whether Cads's crescents only detect the flows, or if it can actually melt them like Mat's medallion as well. It's also not known whether the crescents are only concerned with saidar, but it seems logical to think so, because she has other ornaments that deal with saidin.
RJ clarified this in the interview from the online version of the COT Prologue:
RJ: Cadsuane's ter'angreal was made during the Breaking of the World, at a time when men and women no longer linked, or at least very rarely, since male channelers were going mad at a rate of knots. 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 of 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.
It's still a little confusing as to why a warning device for mad male channelers would also detect saidar. After all, as a female channeler Cadsuane is a perfectly good saidar detector all by herself [Mark Brimicombe], but oh well.
We also learn in COT that there are three ornaments - two fish and a moon - which Cadsuane does not know the function of [COT: 23, Ornaments, 532].
In WH, Cadsuane reflects on where she learned her most important life lessons:
"[Nynaeve] had not been put through the lessons that what must be endured, could be endured. In truth, Cadsuane sympathized with her. Somewhat. It was a lesson not everyone could learn in the Tower. She herself, full of pride in her new shawl and her own strength, had been taught by a near toothless wilder at a farm in the heart of the Black Hills." [WH: 34, The Hummingbird's Secret, 624]
Then in COT, we have:
"A pity she herself had not come to the shawl fifty years later than she had... But fifty years would have meant that Norla died in her little house in the Black Hills before Cadsuane Melaidhrin ever went to the White Tower. That would have altered a great deal of history. For one thing, it would have been unlikely that she would be in anything approaching her present circumstances." [COT: 23, Ornaments, 534]
A few pages later she mentions how she had "begun earning" her ornaments all those years ago in the Black Hills [COT: 23, Ornaments, 536].
So it seems Cads got her ornaments from this wilder, Norla. How Norla got them is anyone's guess.
Where we found the Seals, and their current state (broken or not):
So three seals are still intact (4, 5, and 7), although they are very, very weak. The intact ones are all in Rand's possession (or the possession of people on Rand's side). Also worth noting is that Rand is not aware of the seal Nynaeve found, or that it is broken already [COT: 24, A Strengthening Storm, 558-559].
In the Prologue of COT, Davram Bashere's wife Deira and Lord Dobraine are attacked, separately, in two apparent robbery attempts. We are not told what exactly the would-be thieves were looking for, but on discovering Dobraine, Loial blurts out, "'This is very bad! If there were more than two, Karldin, if they found - !'" [COT: Prologue, Glimmers of the Pattern, 93]. It's been speculated that Bashere and Dobraine were targeted in the belief or hope that they were guarding the seals still in Rand's possession.
Why now is not known, nor why Taim (almost certainly a Darkfriend) gave one to Rand in LOC if the Shadow was only going to want them back later. It's also not clear whether Bashere or Dobraine ever had the seals in the first place.
In [LOC: 29, Fire and Spirit, 418] Nynaeve makes OP history by Healing Logain of being gentled. A few minutes later, she Heals Siuan and Leane of stilling as well. What was interesting is that Logain had apparently been returned to full strength, while Siuan and Leane ended up much weaker in the Power than they had been before their stilling: [Leane speaking] "'I went by Logain's house. Six sisters are maintaining his shield, the same as when he was captured. He tried to break free when he found out we knew he had been Healed, and they said if only five had been holding the shield, he might have. So he's as strong as he ever was, or close enough to make no difference. I'm not. Neither is Siuan'" [LOC: 30, To Heal Again, 429]. Why?
First, we should note that "stilling" and "gentling" are just gender-differentiated names for the same process; in the AOL it was called "severing", and the term was applied to both sexes [Guide: 2, The One Power and the True Source, 21]; this was also mentioned by Moggy [LOC: Prologue, The First Message, 17]. There is no evidence that there is any difference in the method of cutting either gender off from the OP.
That said, there are two main theories for why the disparity with Logain and Siuan/Leane occurred:
Jordan confirmed that it is the second case in a blog entry, "...the Healing of stilling must be done by the other gender to be fully effective. A woman Healing a woman or a man Healing a man results in less than full restoration. It all ties into that theme I keep harping on. Men and women have to work together to be their most effective. And while the weave used by Flinn for Healing is not exactly that used by Nynaeve, either would use the same weave on a man or a woman."
[Leigh Butler, Karan Mehra, Nathan Scott]
A lot of people were confused about the taint-cleansing at the end of WH. How exactly did that whole thing work?
Well, first it should be pointed out that a lot of the confusion stemmed from people trying to understand the cleansing in terms of physics. This ain't physics; it's magic, and therefore by its very nature not inclined to accommodate our idea of How Things Work.
That said, channeling is still a (mostly) internally consistent system of cause and effect, so we can use physics to construct analogies for what happened, in lieu of strictly literal explanations. We'll all just have to live with the fact that the analogy will not be perfect.
Rand's thoughts sum up the basis for the prevailing theory/analogy:
"The male and female halves of the True Source were alike and unalike, attracting and repelling, fighting against each other even as they worked together to drive the Wheel of Time. The taint on the male half had its opposite twin, too. The wound given him by Ishamael throbbed in time with the taint, while the other, from Fain's blade, beat counterpoint in time with the evil that had killed Aridhol" [WH: 35, With the Choedan Kal, 637].
Rand, using untainted saidar, formed a hollow tube, with one end touching the male half of the True Source and the other end touching Shadar Logoth. The weave did not form as he expected it to, but it worked as he intended.
He forced saidin through the pipe of saidar, pumping the tainted Power into Shadar Logoth. He did not, as some people thought, send all of saidin through SL, because that's impossible. What he seems to have done is pump saidin through the conduit until he felt the taint layered on top of it shift, and begin flowing into SL of its own accord, forming that huge black dome. Then he just had to hang on until all the taint went through into SL, and then collapse the conduit.
Basically it was a siphoning effect. Evan "Skwid" Langlinais explains: "The taint being the evil of The DO, and SL being an evil which was created to fight the DO's evil, the two attract one another like opposite magnetic polarities, and cancel one another out in the end. To get some of the taint into SL, Rand had to channel an immense amount of saidin, but this was still miniscule compared to the infinite quantity of saidin contained in the True Source. Once a sufficient quantity of taint was dumped into SL, SL consumed it at a rate greater than that of which Rand was dumping saidin into SL, and the taint was pulled along like it was being siphoned off the top."
This theory assumes two things:
The second item is not really in dispute, since to all appearances that's exactly how the taint behaved. However, there have been objections to the first, contending that there is no evidence that the taint and the SL evil would be actually attracted to each other.
Well, there are three reasons to think that the taint and the SL evil are attracted to each other. First, we saw examples, in TEOTW and elsewhere, that Mashadar did attack Trollocs and other Shadowspawn much more aggressively than it did ordinary humans. When Rand was being chased by Trollocs through SL in TEOTW, the tendrils of Mashadar only drifted toward Rand when he charged past, but when the Trollocs tried the same, the tendrils "swung uncertainly for a moment, then struck like vipers" [TEOTW: 20, Dust on the Wind, 251]. It stands to reason that the evil of SL would make the distinction, since creations of the DO are the original and (still) paramount target of Aridhol's hatred. It's not such a big leap to suggest that it would similarly be attracted to the taint, another creation of the DO.
Second, while in Caemlyn during TEOTW, Moiraine tells the gang that the SL dagger (which Mat was carrying at the time) would attract creatures of the Shadow to them. [TEOTW: 41, Old Friends and New Threats, 529]
And third, Rand's thoughts comparing the relationship of DO evil/SL evil to that of saidin/saidar explicitly indicate that they behave the same way. He specifically says "attracting and repelling". Since his plan appears to have worked just fine, there's no reason to think he was wrong.
Rand appears only briefly in COT, but that chapter makes clear that he is still experiencing dizziness and double vision whenever he wields saidin [COT: 24, A Strengthening Storm, 548]. So what's up with that? Assuming that the taint really has been cleansed, Rand's problems must come from some other source.
The dizziness problem didn't show up as a recurring affliction until TPOD. At the time it was thought that maybe it had something to do with the OP weirdness around Ebou Dar (see section 2.3.12), but the problem was both present before the Bowl was used, in ACOS, and has persisted since the phenomenon subsided (not to mention happening when Rand was nowhere near Ebou Dar, as well). So while the weirdness in Ebou Dar certainly didn't help Rand's condition, it could not have been the cause of it.
In [ACOS: 41, A Crown of Swords, 656-657], Rand is helped in his battle against Sammael in Shadar Logoth by a mysterious channeler (the Wanderer). When the two of them are threatened by Mashadar, both Rand and the Wanderer balefire the fog:
[Rand's] free hand rose, and balefire shot upward, a bar of liquid white fire slicing across the wave sinking toward them. Dimly he was aware of another bar of pale solid fire rising from the other man's hand that was not clasping his, a bar slashing the opposite way from his. The two touched.
Head ringing like a struck gong, Rand convulsed, saidin and the Void shattering. Everything was doubled in his eyes, the balconies, the chunks of stone lying about the floor. There seemed to be a pair of the other man overlapping one another, each clutching his head between two hands.
Since the Wanderer was Moridin (see section 1.2.3) and Rand didn't sense the use of saidin at all, Moridin's balefire had to have been created using the True Power. Since this is also the first time Rand experiences double vision while wielding saidin, it's logical to conclude that crossing the streams is Bad, and that this event is the source of Rand's dizziness problem.
It's not clear at this point why exactly the incident had this effect on Rand, but it's probably due either to an adverse reaction between the OP and TP, or to some bad paradoxical mojo caused by balefire trying to act upon other balefire.
Mike Edenfield expands on the latter idea: "The crossing of the balefire weaves is not the cause of Rand's problems, it's just the catalyst. The real cause was having an uber-strong weave balefired out of existence... This would basically undo the weave back in time up to several minutes, from historical balefire usage. It makes perfect sense, now that I think about it, for that effect to make saidin 'waver'... you are still channeling the balefire but suddenly you weren't really channeling it before now so how can you 'still' be channeling a weave that you never began etc etc. I can see how that'd seriously screw things up."
In KOD Rand has a vision of Moridin also becoming ill and being aware of his channeling when he weaves a gateway in Tear. [KOD 22: To Make an Anchor Weep] Aaron Cote suggests that perhaps Moridin is having problems channeling, and that's why he didn't show up to help the other Forsaken at Shadar Logoth at the end of WH.
[Leigh Butler, Jeffrey Yu]
In COT, strange things seem to be happening to saidar. Egwene notes that the Rebel camp's food is rotting and weevils are appearing in the Rebels' grain supply even though Keepings had been woven to prevent such things: "It was as though saidar itself was failing" [COT: 17, Secrets, 418]. Later, Alviarin smugly observes that there are rats in the Tower: "The Great Lord's eyes riddled the Tower, now, though no one seemed to have noticed that the wardings had failed. She did not think it was anything Mesaana had done; the wards simply no longer worked as they were supposed to. There were... gaps" [COT: 21, A Mark, 501-502].
So, what's the cause for this failure of saidar? One possibility that immediately leaps to mind is that perhaps the Cleansing was responsible for it.
The general theory goes: the Cleansing "overstressed" the One Power, sort of the same way using the Bowl did in Ebou Dar, only even more so since so much more Power was used in the Cleansing, and that's why saidar is failing.
Tim Bruening and others speculate that this may be the beginning of the end of channeling altogether. After all, if Randland is a future - or past - Earth, then use of the OP has to disappear at some point. It has often been theorized that the disappearance of the OP will be what marks the end of the Third Age.
However, there are a couple of problems with this theory.
For instance, if the Cleansing is to blame, why does it only seem to be affecting saidar and not saidin? Is it affecting saidin? The only POV we get from a saidin channeler in COT is Rand's, which isn't very helpful in determining whether saidin has been affected similarly or not, since Rand is having his own separate problems with channeling (see section 2.3.16). You'd think, though, that the various Asha'man who appear in COT would have made some mention of it or at least seem concerned or upset, if something was wrong with saidin, but they seem uniformly just cheerful that it is clean. Donald Harlow points out that, far from indicating failure, Jur Grady's Gateways are getting bigger [COT: 8, Whirlpools of Color, 229] (though that's probably more an indication of an increase in Grady's personal strength than anything else).
A possible way to explain why only saidar seems affected: it was only the female access key that melted.
Be that as it may, the second and far greater difficulty with the idea that the Cleansing weakened saidar is that the weakening and gaps are isolated incidents. There are numerous examples of AS, Windfinders, etc. using saidar in COT for any number of activities without noting that saidar is weaker.
A variation on this idea is that the Taint was not actually destroyed, but merely diluted and spread between the two halves of the Power, so now saidar is slightly tainted and that's why it's acting weird. However, this seems really unlikely. Rand and all of the Asha'man seem certain the Taint is completely gone, and while their judgment on the matter may be suspect, it seems impossible that saidar channelers would fail to notice if saidar had become tainted. And besides, the taint never weakened saidin, only made it feel icky.
Ryan Ward theorizes that the Black Ajah is responsible for the failed wards, but if so it seems odd that Alviarin is not aware of this ploy. Plus it seems like a rather random thing for the BA to do.
The first thing to note is that these isolated instances of saidar failing all seem to be concerned with one thing: vermin. Weevils in the grain, rats in the Tower. In addition to those specific wards failing, Eric Fulton tells us that there was an earlier reference to rats in the Tower, in [WH: Prologue, Snow, 15]. It's part of a theme: Karede notes the increase of rats in Ebou Dar [COT: 4, The Tale of a Doll, 154], Perrin has adventures with weevils in So Habor, and Elayne is told that her stores of food are rotting at unnatural rates [WH: 8, Sea Folk and Kin, 191].
Putting all this together, Drew Holton offers: "Actually, I don't think that saidar itself is weakening per se, I think it's the latest sneaky blow of the Dastardly DO. The general thrust seems to be an increasing rise in vermin and decay in general, and probably neither saidar nor saidin will stop it. We basically have a rise in rats, weevils and food rotting here. Well, the DO has tried to starve Randland with Perpetual Winter and Summer, now he's rotting the food supply directly."
Inverting a weave is hiding it once it has been finished and tied off, so that even another channeler cannot tell it is there. Rand learned inverting from Asmodean, and used it on a number of occasions, most notably to put traps around Callandor and to hide the access ter'angreal for the Choedan Kal. The Supergirls also learned it from Moggy.
Reversing a weave, on the other hand, is hiding the weave as it is being woven, so your opponent cannot tell you are in the act of channeling, or even that you are holding the Power. It's first mentioned in WH; Cyndane, Graendal and Demandred all use reversed webs during the Battle of Shadar Logoth. Verin observes Graendal using it:
Using the full strength of her circle, [Verin] wove her shield, and watched aghast as it rebounded. The woman was already embracing saidar, though no light shone around her, and she was immensely strong!
[WH: 35, With the Choedan Kal, 646-647]
As far as we know, only the Forsaken know about reversing, so far.