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2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
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By and large, each cell of Darkfriends recruits people it thinks are likely candidates, though they need to do so very carefully, studying them, sounding them out slowly. Darkfriends are always on the lookout for new members, since they feel very much like an oppressed minority and want to increase their numbers. Once a move to recruit is made, though, either it succeeds or the failed candidate dies.
For someone seeking actively to become a Darkfriend, generally one begins by trying to attract the attention of those who already are Darkfriends. One fairly safe way is to let comments drop that indicate that you don't think the Light is all it's cracked up to be, that praying to the Creator seems useless etc. If this comes to the wrong ears, you might be in varying degrees of trouble depending on what country you are in and who it is that overhears, but you are unlikely to get worse than a flogging from the authorities and possibly only a stern warning to watch your talk from somebody in a tavern, perhaps accompanied by a clout on the ear. Although someone might decide to slip a knife into you in some rougher areas of some towns. It's only relatively safe. By the by, claiming not to believe in the Creator is a good way to avoid recruitment by the Darkfriends. After all, if there is no Creator, how can the Dark One be imprisoned, and if he isn't, then why hasn't he taken over and rewarded the faithful? One of the fastest ways to attract attention is to show yourself willing to kill to advance yourself or simply for gain. That doesn't mean that every strongarm who's willing to slit a throat to steal a purse is a Darkfriend. Some of those might well be horrified by the suggestion. This method has its drawbacks, of course, since if you attract the attention of the authorities first, you are very likely to end up with a noose around your neck or a trip to the headsman's block.
In the White Tower, Black sisters watch novices and Accepted closely for any indication that they might be leaning toward the Shadow or susceptible to the promises of the Shadow. They also watch other sisters, since people do change. Not every Black sister was recruited on the day she gained the shawl nor soon after. Merean had a fine position for watching novices and Accepted, but many sisters teach. Some do little else, but others take turns at it for various periods, so Merean was not necessarily the primary recruiter during her time as Mistress of Novices, not even among those in her charge.
Elaida wasn't a Sitter when she led the arrest of Siuan, but she had organized it, managed to arrange for a rump Hall of the Tower to vote on deposing Siuan and raising her in Siuan's place. By the time Siuan was arrested, Elaida was the "legal" Amrylin Seat, so of course she was leading the Sitters.
As for her change of heart of the Black Ajah, she bounces on whether or not she believes in their existence. When she has convinced herself that they do exist, she is vehement on the subject, but uneasy over Darkfriend sisters, and so manages to convince herself that she was mistaken, whereupon she becomes vehement about their non-existence. But then she becomes uneasy over the possibility that they do exist after all and convinces herself that they really do after all, whereupon.... I have even had a character in the White Tower comment that sometimes Elaida doesn't seem to know from one day to the next whether or not she believes in the Black Ajah.
CORRECTION: Answering these questions, I have always taken the assumption that I knew the books well enough that I did not need to refer to my notes. My answer for the Week 20 Question showed that I was mistaken. I said that Elaida was never a Sitter, but no sooner was that answer posted than my assistant Maria, who also is a fan, came to me with the relevant passage where Elaida is mentioned as a Sitter. I went to my notes, and after a lot of checking, I found the following in a file working out exactly how some points were to be structured and making sure that I had all the details covered. Somehow, I had never incorporated it into the base notes, perhaps because it seemed such a small matter, Elaida having been a Sitter for such a short time and then only as prelude to replacing Siuan and Amyrlin.
“Returning to the White Tower, Elaida quickly became convinced that Siuan and Moiraine were engaged in a scheme that involved Rand al’Thor. Indeed, she had suspicions of this before departing Caemlyn for Tar Valon. Moiraine’s presence in Tar Valon had not escaped her, nor that Moiraine had been seen with Rand. If, as seemed the more likely, he was simply a man who could channel who Siuan and Moiraine intended to make use of as a false Dragon, then it was a scheme that was extremely dangerous to the Tower. Revelation of such involvement could easily shatter the Tower’s prestige, and with it the influence that was the primary cornerstone of the Tower’s influence in the world. And if he was indeed the Dragon Reborn, Elaida certainly had no confidence in Siuan’s ability to handle the him, as surely the Dragon Reborn would need to be handled, guided and directed, not to mention controlled. Helped by her long-standing personal animosity toward Siuan and Moiraine, Elaida came to the conclusion that Siuan must be removed for the good of the Tower. This was not something that could be accomplished by an ordinary sister, however the stepping down of a Red Sitter (Amira Moselle) gave her an opening, and she managed to get herself chosen as Amira’s replacement in the Hall of the Tower.
In large part this was because of Galina Casban’s support as head of the Red Ajah, Galina having her own reasons to take any chance to pull Siuan down and, of course, favoring anything that would give the Amyrlin Seat to the Red Ajah again after so long. Galina made no attempt to attain the Amyrlin Seat herself because she knew she had little or no chance of being raised. Elaida, who had been so long away from Tar Valon and thus remained out of the political currents of the Tower, not to mention the favorable mention she had received for her guidance of Queen Morgase and Andor, was another matter.
Once Elaida had a chair in the Hall, it was a relatively simple matter to identify the Sitters who seemed most likely to stand for deposing Siuan, since a number of Sitters were uneasy at best about what Siuan was up to. Her support in the Hall had eroded sufficiently by The Great Hunt that she had opposition to her journey to Shienar. As a Sitter, Elaida was able to call a sitting of the Hall while making sure that only the Sitters she wanted to attend actually received notification. Elaida is a forceful and effective speaker, and her arguments to this bare quorum in favor of deposing Siuan were also her campaign for being raised to the Amyrlin Seat herself, so the vote to depose Siuan was followed immediately by the vote to make Elaida the new Amyrlin. She did not expect the violent reaction that would come from this. She had not had access to the secret histories for very long at this point, so her view was that of most sisters. The Tower had always acceded to the will of the Hall however sisters might grumble. Like many others, she was blind-sided by what she thought she knew.”
So there it is. I offer my apologies for giving an erroneous answer. From now on, I’ll be sure to check my notes.
How does the Black Ajah recruit new members?
Very carefully. You have to understand that EVERY Ajah recruits carefully and subtly. Generally, after all those years as novice and Accepted, your teachers know your character and personality VERY well, and you are guided to the Ajah where you fit. The Black Ajah watches too. And recruitment is a one-shot offer: they offer, and you can accept or die. There are a lot of ways to die that wouldn't lead to any suspicion; for instance, it's pretty easy to kill yourself experimenting with the One Power. Who would think that such a death wasn't accidental?
One thing they do, for instance, is watch new Aes Sedai. Sometimes women get past the final tests and then discover that they don't have anywhere near as much power and freedom as they thought they would have.
Heya. So. Kind of harsh question—you are reported to have inferred recently that the Black Ajah and Nynaeve etc. ability to...
...to be solid and channel properly during the Dream Battle in Towers of Midnight has an explanation. Is this true? I struggle...
... to believe that given the text and my communications with Maria, and was wondering if it was misquoted?
Aight. Literally as I posted the above to Brandon, Maria replied with that this whole issue is a Read and Find Out issue. I'm a douche.
Did anyone check out the ebook to see if any changes have been made to that scene?
Don't think so... been chatting with Maria about it and she's not indicated any changes.
Look for an email soon; there were changes. I'm having a difficult day; I didn't think that you might not have seen an ebook.
The differences were found and posted at Theoryland.
I found the bit with Luckers after I'd done the 2011 Tweets. By date, it fits here best, but the context is not necessarily significant; I can't insert entries anywhere but at the end of an 'interview' page, but I can edit previous entries, so here it is.
The Aes Sedai who beat Rand in Lord of Chaos did not necessarily violate the Three Oaths. Jordan explained that the Three Oaths are bound by literal intent and perception. He said that the Aes Sedai could have considered the beatings a just punishment rather than the use of a weapon. He also suggested that not everything that harms you need be considered a weapon. I think he gave the example of a whip used lightly not considered a weapon, versus a whip used to flay skin being considered a weapon. On the subject of the first Oath ("to speak no word that is untrue"), Jordan said that Aes Sedai can say something they believe to be true or something they don't mean literally. As an example of the latter, an Aes Sedai can employ hyperbole and say something like, "I'm going to tie your ears over your head," when she means to do no such thing.
My Comment: I should also point out that at least two of the women who beat Rand are people we know to belong to the Black Ajah. On page 683hb (in Lord of Chaos), it is said that only Galina, Erian, and Katerine beat Rand more than once. We know that Galina and Katerine are Black Ajah, so they aren't bound by the Oaths anyway. Erian is the Aes Sedai whose two Warders Rand killed, so maybe she found some way to justify her punishment of Rand under the Three Oaths. I don't know who else beat Rand (i.e., who beat him only once); the book may say, but I can't find a quote.
Verin is older than most Aes Sedai think, but not as old as some fans think she is. Jordan said specifically that she is not from the Age of Legends. Other than that, he was fairly vague, but he implied that she's no older than, say, 300. "There's a reason why Aes Sedai respect a sister with gray hair," he said.
Additional note: One fan claimed that, at the convention, Jordan said that Verin had never held the Oath Rod. Jordan later denied having said any such thing.
On the second answer: RJ indicated in Sweden in 1995 that he does use a 21-graded scale to keep track of channeler strength.
The first answer appears to be an Aes Sedai answer (avoiding the question). The real answer (at least, the answer that is consistent with the rest of the books) is that RJ probably used a bit of hyperbole in the scene where Mat was Healed in The Dragon Reborn (or rather, Nynaeve did, and she even caught herself...but RJ wrote it in such a way that left room for doubt whether she was amazed at her arrogance or at her potential strength).
The woman with the shielding talent, at least as far as we were shown in A Crown of Swords, was in the Kin (Berowin), and not one of those holding Nynaeve when they went after the Bowl (Falion, who got away, and Ispan, whom they captured). They were linked, and they waited until Elayne went upstairs with most of the Kin, then caught Nynaeve off-guard while she wasn't already holding the Power, and they (rightly) believed the remaining Kin wouldn't interfere. (Erica noted when I interrogated her about this report that these were all quick questions which he answered while signing books, so he was probably too distracted to explain properly—all indications are that he truly enjoyed explaining such things when he had the leisure to do so, and that he also would have gladly admitted to the hyperbole so long as he had time to address the rest.)
I think one of RJ's main points in that scene was that Mat, not being able to see the weaves, wouldn't have any idea what was going on, and therefore neither should we, really. RJ even called our attention to this phenomenon in the battle between Moghedien and Nynaeve at the end of The Shadow Rising:
"A man who came in then, or any woman unable to channel, would have seen only two women facing each other across the white silk rope from a distance of less than ten feet. Two women staring at one another in a vast hall full of strange things. They would have seen nothing to say it was a duel. No leaping about and hacking with swords as men would do, nothing smashed or broken. Just two women standing there. But a duel all the same, and maybe to the death."
The scene in A Crown of Swords was a way of exploring that phenomenon. Presumably Nynaeve was strong enough to break the shield, but it was close enough that it came to a fight much like the Moghedien fight. Meanwhile, Nynaeve says aloud that Falion and Ispan are linked, and she chastises the Kin for not helping her. That tells us all we need to know.
And the silly trivial 'I-just-want-to-know-without-a-doubt-question', which almost got me more than I had planned.
I asked him whether Delana Mosalaine had been raised to the Hall as Sitter before the Tower split or after. Karl-Johan and Jed probably recall our analysis of the Halls a month ago.
I probably pronounced the name wrong because he just looked at me. I prompted by saying, "Delana, the Gray Sitter who we know is Black. Siuan's old friend from novicedom."
No...now you have to be careful with this, because this is a kind of spoiler for people that haven’t read far enough, but the Oath Rod is what was in the Age of Legends called a binder. It was used on criminals. If you committed a violent act, or some sort of criminal act, with a binder, someone who could channel could be constrained from ever doing that again, and the result of having three of the Oaths, is the ageless appearance. One would not produce agelessness, but even one would shorten life, and three of them put a cap on Aes Sedai’s lives, on how long they could live.
Does this mean that the Black Ajah has also at least three oaths sworn on the Oath Rod?
Yeah, they do. Just not the same ones. [laughter]
Of course. Does this imply that the Oath Rod is definitely not one of the Nine Rods of Dominion?
Oh yes, definitely. No. I don't think it was. No, the Oath Rods are not the Nine Rods of Dominion, no. There were a fair number of binders available around the world.
Were they numbered?
Yes, they were numbered.
Because we've seen two so far and they had numbers on them . . .
Yeah, they were numbered.
Uh...well...I'll have to check that. MAFO. Good question.
From Winter’s Heart, chapter 12, Rand speaking to Elayne, Aviendha, and Min: “Anyway, Alanna Mosvani got there ahead of you, and she didn’t bother asking . . . I’ve been bonded to her for months now.”
I asked around about this because I believed that Mato had misheard the name, and that the question was actually about whether Egwene knew about the bonding. (Many people pronounce it egg-WEEN instead of the proper egg-WAIN, so it's easy for those people to hear 'Elayne' when 'Egwene' is pronounced correctly.) The question was asked by Roga, a Stormleader, and he clarified:
If this question came from the Dallas signing, then it was from me. I asked about Egwene.
The reason behind the question was, I wanted to know: if Alanna's name had been on Verin's list in The Gathering Storm, would Egwene have passed over it? However, Brandon pointed out that Verin knew about the bond, so unless she had some reason to keep quiet, I'd think she should've made some kind of special warning note if Alanna had been in her list.
Egwene did not know.
Verin makes many statements throughout the books that are suspect now that we know she was not bound by the Oaths. In regards to the ter'angreal dream ring, Verin tells Egwene, "I tried it myself, once, some years ago. Anaiya's Healing did not work as well as it should have. Remember that."
During the time Verin gave Egwene the ring she mentioned going to Anaiya to be healed. She didn't go to a Yellow for Healing—does Verin hold something over Anaiya? Were they pillow friends? Or was this simply a case of asking a friend to do a minor healing because she knew she would keep it quiet?
Oh yeah, I also asked about the Tel'aran'rhiod fight (that was actually during the walk to the restaurant) and if the Black Ajah shouldn't have been more blurred out. See discussion at Readandfindout.com.
I mean, you can tell us now.
Well, you’re phrasing these questions in such a way that...
I know, I know. I was trying to be...
You’re being nice. No, I appreciate that. I’m not complaining that you’re phrasing these in a way...um, I think that there is a decent chance that those could go in the encyclopedia.
It was pretty close. She did a good job.
That is interesting, because I'm still speculating that there may be other Black Ajah working around that haven't been discovered, and actually I have a whole load of questions I'd love to ask, but I just know they're all gonna be…you know, "Read and Find Out" answers. It always amazes me that Egwene spent so much time under Halima's thumb, in a way, that I can't believe that the only weaves that she laid on her were producing migraines. It makes you wonder if there isn't some hidden Compulsion weave going on there, that we'll find out later that maybe some of the Black Ajah in the White Tower could take advantage of. You know, there are so many things like that that I just know…
Yeah, I don't wanna go there.
I don't think that there's any Black Ajah left in the White Tower currently.
I wouldn't wanna bet my life on that. I don't think there are many.
Other than Mesaana who's hiding somewhere because she can defeat the Oath Rod, or so thinks Egwene herself in the end of The Gathering Storm.
Well, you still have the Black Ajah that escaped, too.
Yeah, there was a lot of those that got out.
And we have Maria and Alan just sitting there going, "Yep, yep; you do." [laughter]
No, I was just thinking that she was minimizing headaches. What a horrible thing for migraine-sufferers.
Oh, listen…I get migraines. I have complete and total sympathy for anybody that gets migraines, but it seems to me like that probably wasn't the most…probably wasn't the only thing that she was doing to poor Egwene.
Well, the consensus that we…that was in the WoTFAQ when I was editing that article this summer was that Halima doing something to suppress Egwene's Dreaming talent so that she was not getting messages about the future any more, from whatever causes this to happen, and so the headache is the side-effect of that. I don't know if this is true or not; this is just the fan speculation from the WoTFAQ, but it is very telling that as soon as she gets away from Halima and is in the White Tower, her Dreaming ability comes back, because she had been having nightmares that she couldn't remember before about being chased by something, or something like that, and then when she gets into the White Tower, she stops having those nightmares, and she starts having the prophetic dreams again.
And she stops having headaches as well.
Yeah, and the headaches go away. And she does not make the connection in Knife of Dreams when she first sees this happen. I don't remember if she makes the connection in The Gathering Storm when she finds out about Halima's infiltration of the Salidar Aes Sedai. I have to go back and reread The Gathering Storm in the next couple of weeks, because I'm a little fuzzy on the details there.
Mm-hmm. Well, it certainly seems plausible. [laughter]
I'm not surprised that you guys have got this down to an art.
You guys give the perfect Aes Sedai answers.
I love it when I ask Maria and Alan things that relate to FAQ, and they'll just kind of smile and nod at me and go, 'That's a good guess!'
I was going to say another Aes Sedai answer, but then...I wonder if we’re going to get the Asha’man known for convoluted answers, but then they don’t have the oath rod to get around. They can say whatever they want to at all times.
They'll just blow you up and have done with it.
Yeah. They are refreshingly direct about their methods.
The idea for the "short" novels came about because of a comment I made to Tom Doherty concerning the writing of New Spring. I almost always find that my initial plans for what to put into a story are too ambitious, and if I had followed the initial guidelines I set up for New Spring, it would have been somewhere between half again and twice as long, much too long to have fit Legends. Very early in the writing, I decided to cut down some of the storylines and alter others to make them shorter. Tom's idea was that I should, in effect, restore the cuts, though it will be more complex than that because I never wrote them in the first place. I had long ago promised Tom that I would do another novella-length or longer story, and it was when he reminded me of that that this came up.
New Spring, of course, concerns events around the time of the birth of Rand al'Thor, with the "program" launched by the Black Ajah against men who might be able to channel (and the resulting deaths of many senior Aes Sedai, which in turn led to many Aes Sedai reaching positions of authority at younger ages that normally would have been expected) in the background, and the whole wrapped around the first meetings of Lan and Moiraine and the revelations of how someone as junior as Moiraine became part of the search for the Dragon Reborn and why Lan gave up his personal war against the Blight to become Moiraine's Warder. The framework of the other two stories I have in mind center around, first, Tam finding the infant and how and why a man who had risen to a position of some authority and responsibility as a soldier in the elite Companions threw that over to return to his childhood home and become a farmer, and second, around how and why Moiraine and Lan reached the Two Rivers just at the point that the Shadow's search for the young man who would become the Dragon Reborn had also focused in on the Two Rivers. There are some clues to events in those time frames in the larger books, though certainly not indications of everything that will be in those stories. That is, somebody might be able to pick up a few clues by close reading and study, but not the whole picture.
These three short novels will be spaced out between the larger novels, with (knock wood) the revised New Spring coming out some time late next year.
I don't know.
(later in email she told me that she had answered this for someone else, with time to think about it.)
I believe that any Black Ajah da'tsang got the Black Ajah signal that the jig was up, and scarpered. I don't know anything else.