— Moiraine Damodred
Balefire is a weapon of the One Power usable by both male and female channelers. Its widespread use during the War of Power began to cause the Pattern to unravel, and it was subsequently banned from use by all wielders of the One Power.
When a target is struck with balefire, its thread in the Pattern is destroyed, in an amount proportional to the power of the balefire strike. This translates to both the target's existence, and actions up to a certain point, being retroactively erased. For example, when Rand al'Thor used it to destroy a Darkhound that had attacked Matrim Cauthon by breaking through a door and salivating all over his arm (a lethal occurrence), the door that the Darkhound smashed apart had only a small hole in it, and Mat had only a single drop of saliva on his arm..|*|. No effect on the, vitality of the, Pattern for the darkhound...|*|. The stronger the balefire, the further back in time the object in question will be burned from the Pattern.
This can have serious consequences on the Pattern; the use of an extremely powerful blast of balefire to destroy a great number of lives at once has been shown to produce an effect referred to as a "balescream," the sound of the Pattern itself groaning under the strain of rearranging itself around such a large gap. The use of balefire in great amounts, or in areas or situations in which the Pattern is already thin, can cause cracks in the fabric of reality; pitch black cracks will form in objects that appear to extend into complete oblivion. In most cases, these cracks simply turn into the mundane cracks of a damaged object within a few seconds. However, in situations of extreme damage to the Pattern, these cracks can widen and consume the reality around them. All events that could have been said to have "happened" before the destruction of an individual's thread are remembered by any other individual, though the physical reality of the situation is now changed; anyone that was witness or party to the "reversal" of time will still remember all the events that were undone as if they had actually happened even if the effects themselves no longer exist.
Examples of use
During the War of the Shadow, the use of balefire had a horrible effect on the pattern. Whole cities were burned out of existence and the pattern was almost destroyed before both sides realized its full effects. Even the Forsaken and Dreadlords were hesitant to use balefire after it was realized how dangerous it is.
Balefire can even bring people back from the dead, or rather, retroactively prevent them from dying in the first place; Aviendha, Asmodean and Matrim Cauthon were brought back to life when Rahvin was hit by balefire with enough force to undo the attack that caused their deaths. In another instance, Mat was saved when the Darkhounds that attacked him were burned away to the point before injuring him.
The Dark One is unable to resurrect any person who is killed by balefire, mentioning himself that he is not capable of "stepping outside of Time." As balefire technically causes a person to die in the past, the Dark One can only resurrect someone within a certain time-span, with balefire exceeding that limit.
In terms of defense against it, no strictly defensive weave of the One Power is able to stop it. Cuendillar is the only substance known to withstand balefire's effects, but whether it is capable of blocking or deflecting it is unknown. Callandor, while infused with the Power, was observed on one occasion to have the ability to part a stream of balefire and it is suspected that the crystal sa'angreal is made of a type of cuendillar.
A blast of balefire can intercept and stop another blast, but this has only occurred once, by accident, and with strange results. When Rand and Moridin's balefire blasts struck one another in Shadar Logoth, they canceled one another out, but formed an unexplained link between them.
During the battle to free Logain, channeler Androl Genhald was able to divert Mazrim Taim's balefire through a coin-sized gateway. These three instances are the only known occurrences of balefire being either blocked or diverted in the waking world.
In Tel'aran'rhiod, where thoughts can alter reality through the application of sufficient willpower, Perrin is able to block balefire with the palm of his hand. Additionally, balefire will only travel a certain distance and will only penetrate through so much solid matter, depending on the amount of Power behind it. The stronger the blast, the farther it will travel, and the more matter it will be able to consume before extinguishing. It is also described as being phenomenally hot, though this property is somewhat irrelevant as the heat of the weave is presumably not what causes its reality-warping effects.
Typically, when struck with balefire, the target's colors will reverse (a Halfman will appear as white clothes on a black body instead of black clothes on a white body), and the object will fade away. When Rahvin was struck with a very powerful bolt however, he simply vanished without the typical scenario, leaving only what appered to be dust motes.
In order for a channeler to create balefire, he or she, relatively speaking, must be very strong in the Power. There is a ter'angreal (shaped as a long, thick black rod, similar in appearance to the oath rod) capable of producing balefire, allowing this inconvenience to be circumvented, though they are almost impossible to control, for reasons unknown. Intuitively, the more powerful a channeler, the greater the blast of balefire that can be produced. A relatively weak channeler like Moraine can only produce a stream around as thick as a typical human finger, while a channeler such as Rand al'Thor, who is as powerful as a channeler can be, can produce a stream thicker than the body of a typical man.
During the Last Battle, the forces of the Shadow were ordered to pick up usage of balefire again, which was used frivolously and recklessly upon several battlefields, particularly upon the Field of Merrilor, to the point where existence itself nearly unraveled, much like in the war of the previous Age. Then-Amyrlin Seat, Egwene al'Vere, found, as her last act, a counter-weave of sorts; it patched up the cracks in the land and turned crystalline those who had given themselves to the Shadow. Egwene named it the Flame of Tar Valon.
Balefire is a very complex weave composed by many of the five powers. To weave balefire usually it is necessary a certain amount of ability and strength, so only the most powerful channellers can use it proficiently without the aid of an angreal.
There is at least one particular ter'angreal, the fluted black rod, that produces balefire and it can be used even by a weak channeller, but it is very difficult to control and extremely dangerous to the wielder. It was stolen from the White Tower by Liandrin's Group of Black Sisters.
Notable people balefired
- Be'lal (balefired by Moiraine)
- Rahvin (balefired by Rand)
- Semirhage (balefired by Rand)
- Liah (balefired by Rand)
- Elza Penfell (balefired by Rand)
- Aran'gar (balefired by Rand)
- Delana Mosalaine (balefired by Rand)
- Kwamesa (balefired by Demandred)
- Einar (balefired by Demandred)
Notable places damaged or destroyed by balefire
- Panarch's Palace (heavily damaged by the fight between Nynaeve and Jeaine Caide who was using the fluted black rod)
- Royal Palace of Andor (heavily damaged by the fight between Rand and Rahvin)
- Natrin's Barrow (obliterated by Rand)
- Field of Merrilor (heavily damaged by the prolonged use of balefire from Demandred and many Dreadlords)