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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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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.
Basically the Ajah heads had a small selection pool to start with. Their primary criteria were: a) loyalty to the Ajah Heads, would they do as they were told? b) would they be acceptable to the Aes Sedai in Salidar? c) finally did the Ajah Heads think they could be persuasive?
A comment was made about age, Brandon’s answer was to reiterate the limited nature of the Ajah Heads selection pool, the fact that most of the Aes Sedai Sitters that were sent were young was coincidental. He did go on to mention that the “too young Sitters” was a completely different matter.
He then went on to say which Sitters remain in power after reunification will be dealt with quietly. The most likely default will be who was Sitter/Head before the split.