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The Black Ajah of the Aes Sedai is a secret Ajah, consisting of Darkfriend Aes Sedai who masquerade as sisters of other Ajahs and who have forsaken their Three Oaths in order to serve the Dark One. Reports of its existence have been vehemently denied by the White Tower for millennia, however the mass execution of most Black sisters among the rebel Aes Sedai proves the Black Ajah does indeed exist. The leader of the Black Ajah is a very powerful woman, who sits at the head of the Supreme Council and answers directly to the Forsaken.

Although they are channelers, the Black Ajah does not stand higher than non-channeling Darkfriends. They have tried to assert their superiority before, but failed; despite the One Power, many Black Sisters fell to assassins, and they were forced to publicly admit they were merely the equal of other Darkfriends.

Size

Due to the secretive nature of the Black Ajah, its exact size was unknown to all except its leader. However, Verin Mathwin spent decades compiling a coded list of Black sisters, including their Ajahs.[1] During the Great Purge, Egwene al'Vere commented that six more Black sisters were found outside of Verin's list, however, the former Ajah of four of them is unknown (this means that Verin missed at least two Black Ajah hearts).

Below are the number of Black sisters per legitimate Ajah in Verin's list plus the two revealed later. The percentage shows the proportion of sisters per Ajah revealed to be Black.

  • Red: forty-eight (making at least 24% of all Red sisters actually Black, possibly because they hunted the future Dragon and were known to hate men, making them attractive candidates for the Black)[2]
  • Green: thirty-eight (21%)
  • Gray: thirty-two (22%)
  • Brown: twenty-eight (21.5%)
  • Yellow: twenty-one (17.5%)
  • Blue: twenty-two (23% high density is probably because they have the greater and more efficient eyes-and-ears system, and are known to be ambitious and good at intrigues)
  • White: seventeen (17.5%)
  • Unknown Ajah: 4
  • Total: 210 (22%―at a minimum, between one-fifth and one-fourth of all Aes Sedai were Black Ajah)

The Great Purge

Among the Rebel Aes Sedai the majority of Black sisters, around fifty, was captured and sentenced to death, nonetheless twenty were able to flee. Instead, the very day of reunification the majority of the Black sisters inside the Tower, around sixty, were able to flee before the Great Purge started. Adding the eighty escaped to the seventy Blacks among the Unaligned sisters it can be calculated that around one hundred and fifty Black sisters where able to join the Shadow during the Last Battle. To them we have also to add the many Aes Sedai captured and Turned in the Black Tower.

Demographics

The demographics of the Black Ajah put them across all nationalities:

All remaining Black nationalities are unknown.

History

Although the Black claimed to have been around since the Age of Legends, the truth was that they were formed by Ishamael during the Trolloc Wars, or so he claimed. There were certainly sisters who would have been Black Ajah had it existed between the Breaking and the Trolloc Wars, and some served the Dark One. Sisters who had done so during the Breaking survived, and recruited others, forming into small groups. Most fought against one another, and by the end of the Breaking they remained fragmented.

Like the legitimate Aes Sedai after the Breaking, most were either swept up or wiped out by the formation of the White Tower. The groups continued fighting with one another after; they were threatened by the adoption of the Oath against lying and against using the Power as a weapon, and were only able to survive because most legitimate Aes Sedai refused to believe the Black existed.

It was only shortly before the Trolloc Wars when Ishamael appeared, forcing these groups to combine into the Black Ajah. The name itself was a joke to him; he was also the first to replace the Three Oaths with the Black Ajah's own three - to make them more effective, to bind themselves to him, and to help ensure they would not reveal the existence of the Black by living too long or by losing the ageless look.

Membership

Most sisters who join the Black Ajah were not Darkfriends before they did so. They worked for years as ordinary sisters until members of the Black Ajah suspected that they may be susceptible to swearing allegiance to the Shadow. Liandrin was a Darkfriend before she came to Tar Valon and sought out the Black Ajah from the day she arrived,[3] but we know that Galina Casban[4] was a black sister for all but five of the nearly ninety years she wore the shawl.

Those who might be willing to become a member of the Black Ajah are likely those who find the Three Oaths chafing and who delight in the power an Aes Sedai has over non-channelers, even having been known to abuse it. The Black Ajah allows them to exploit their power free of the restrictions of Tower Law and the Oaths, but at the price of swearing to the Shadow. Like most Darkfriends, they probably did not feel the truth of their fealty to the Shadow until the arrival of Ishamael a few years after the Aiel War.

Tower initiates

The position of teachers of the novices and the Accepted makes it easier for the Black Ajah to know every student very well before they even become Aes Sedai. Thus are women groomed for the Black Ajah, or perhaps singled out as possible candidates, from very early on in their training.[verify] As the Black Ajah does not recruit from among Tower initiates, having a Black sister as Mistress of Novices is a very handy way of keeping tabs on those girls when they are raised to the shawl. Previous Mistresses of Novices who were also Black Ajah include Merean Redhill, Sheriam Bayanar, and Katerine Alruddin.

Aes Sedai who show suitability are watched and tested. However, if a woman locates a trace of the Black Ajah, she is immediately kidnapped and brought before the Supreme Council. She is asked if she wishes to join; if she says no, she is tortured and drained of all information before being killed. If she says yes, she is sworn in at once, though she would still be tested for a year. She would be given tasks and watched; none of these tasks were vital, but were used as a test. These tasks would place one in danger, or exposed to ridicule or harsh penances. Many of a Black Sister's chances for advancement were determined in that first year.

Organization

The Black Ajah is administered by a Supreme Council, alternatively called the Great Council, which consists of thirteen sisters who meet while hooded so that none may know the identity of another. If one member of the council dies, then another is raised in her place, thereby keeping a constant number in the leadership of the Black Ajah. The Great Council is headed by one woman, who knows the identity of every sister in the Ajah.

Within the Black Ajah, sisters are organized into "hearts," groups of three women who know each others' identity and who in turn each know one sister from another heart.[5] Only the head of the Great Council knows the full structure of the Ajah concerning how all the hearts are interlinked and which sisters they contain.[6] It is unlikely the division of sisters into hearts survived the Great Purge as the purpose was to help maintain secrecy in the Tower, no longer necessary with the remaining members relocated from the Tower.

Discipline

Black Ajah sisters were treated harshly for the smallest mistake. No excuses were accepted, and punishments were dealt with increasing severity. Death was not uncommon. Though deaths would be made to look as if having died in bed or in an accident, every Black sister knew she would be made to scream for a long time before finally being killed.

Leaders

Alviarin Freidhen

Alviarin Freidhen (right), head of the Supreme Council of the Black Ajah.

The head of the Great Council of Thirteen is Alviarin Freidhen, who was raised to the position by Ishamael. The head of the Ajah is usually the most senior of the Supreme Council; an exception was Alviarin, who was handpicked by Ishamael from a lower rank after he severely punished and/or killed many of the leaders for their male chaneller pogrom (the Vileness).

Only the head of the Ajah knows the identities of every member. Part of her raising is for every member of the Supreme Council to give her all the identities of the Black sisters that she knows.

Supreme Council

Only the Head knows the identities of all the other Council members. The Council always meets hooded. They seldom did. Council members carried out all punishments, even for one another; handled induction of new Black sisters; and questioned other sisters or important persons. All this was done to preserve anonymity.

Every member of the Council knew the names of some Black sisters; enough so that not even several deaths could disrupt the structure.

Apart from Alviarin the remaining twelve members of the council are not all known, among them there was Galina Casban who used to be vice to Alviarin and also Sheriam Bayanar was member of the council, since Egwene says that Verin mentioned her as "a leader among the Black Ajah." [7]

Known members of the Council:

Hearts

Hearts are groups of three sisters, who knew each other. Each sister would also know one other outside their heart. Known hearts include:

Each sister in a heart would be known by a different member of the Council, thus allowing for messages to be passed between hearts.

Communication was by letter-drop and the like, with methods for determining if a message was genuine. Orders and reports were passed in this way. There were signs or signals for Black Ajah sisters to use in identifying themselves, though this was usually only done in emergencies or on order.

There were also public signals, such as one placed in public areas which was a sign to leave the Tower immediately (this was probably used before Egwene's purge, which allowed the majority of Blacks in the Tower to escape). Each Black knew that she would have to go to a secret place, where she would meet other Blacks. No Black would ever tell another Black of her specified place, as she would be punished severely for that.

A sister could be summoned to a meeting with one or more hooded sisters to receive orders or to give a report. This summons was often done by simply being snatched and brought, and one would never know what the purpose of the meeting was beforehand.

Replacing the Three Oaths

The members of the Black Ajah are not bound by the Three Oaths, but they do have three replacement oaths.[4] The Wheel of Time Companion revealed all three:

1) I shall obey all commands given by those placed above me in service to the Great Lord

2) I shall prepare for the day of the Great Lord's return

3) I shall hold close the secrets of the Black Ajah, unto the hour of my death.

Involvement with the Chosen

It is thought that the Black Ajah was founded by Ishamael, who was not bound completely into Shayol Ghul as the rest of the Forsaken were.[verify] Since the release of the other Forsaken, Mesaana, Be'lal, Lanfear and Graendal have all come to the White Tower and spoken with Alviarin.

The Black Ajah is nominally controlled by Mesaana, who is undercover in the White Tower. This is because she controls Alviarin Freidhen, the head of the Black Ajah, who knows the identities of all Black Sisters.

During the Battle in Tel'aran'rhiod, Egwene al'Vere mentally overpowered Mesaana. Her mind was destroyed, and a Brown sister called Danelle was then found as a non-sentient invalid. This led the White Tower to conclude that Mesaana had either been Danelle the entire time, or had been impersonating the original Danelle.[8]

The truth is, however, that the Black Ajah are as subject to the whims of the Forsaken as any other Darkfriends and know they have no choice but to obey any of the Chosen should they command it. Not only that, but they would have to obey any non-channeling Darkfriend that may stand higher than them in Darkfriend circles.

Goals

Among the aims of the Black Sisters the primary one was surely to undermine the authority of the White Tower in the face of the world.

Another one was to dwindle the number of initiates aligned to the Light. Surely the Blacks favored the Aes Sedai policy to not search about new Novices, but instead to wait candidates to come spontaneously to the Tower. Also it can be guessed the Black favored the policy to keep the Book of Novices open only to a narrow age range of young channelers. So even if the Tower was built to host three thousand Sisters, there were less than one thousand at the eve of the Last Battle.

Due to the fact that the Aes Sedai's medium strength in the One Power dwindled dramatically during the time (but not among other female channeler groups), it can also be guessed that the Black Sisters eliminated systematically (with false accidents) every candidate to the shawl who showed a great potential; the same also against candidates with some particular Talent as dreamwalking.

As did Alviarin while Keeper of the Chronicles, it can be guessed finally that the Blacks fostered every conflict and quarrel to keep high the rivalry and discord between the Ajah and among Sisters in general.

Contacts with other Darkfriends

The Black Ajah had contacts with some other Darkfriend cells, though they were not part of the loose Darkfriend organization. It was a matter of irritation among the Blacks that the Darkfriends did not bow to them. Many times, the Black tried to assert control; but the other groups always fought back fiercely, and Blacks were disadvantaged by their ageless look, which identified them easily. A few hundred years ago, the Black made their last humiliating attempt, and were forced to publicly renounce their claims of command and accept a reduction of their Darkfriend votes from five to one. This meant they could only cast one vote during Darkfriend councils, making them equal to the smallest and weakest of Darkfriend groups.

Recorded Activities

  • Involvement in the so called "Vileness"
  • The murder of all sisters involved in the search for the Dragon Reborn after his birth, and the murder of many others simply suspected of being involved. Many senior Aes Sedai (in terms of strength and experience) were killed.
  • The murder of two recent Amyrlin Seats (Tamra Ospenya directly, Sierin Vayu indirectly).
  • Be'lal and Mesaana sent a group of thirteen Blacks to Tear, in the hopes of capturing the Dragon Reborn. They fled the Tower with several ter'angreal, murdering a score of people along the way.
  • The murder of the Novice Sahra Covenry.
  • Involvement in the deposition of Siuan Sanche and election of Elaida as new Amyrlin Seat
  • The attempted assassination of Egwene, in both the real world and the World of Dreams.
  • To foster division between the rebel Aes Sedai and loyalist Aes Sedai, for instance with the election of a new Hall and a new Amyrlin among the rebels and voting in favour of every divisive act as the declaration of war against Elaida or the alliance with the Asha'man
  • To foster division between the Ajah inside the White Tower

Future

With the existence of the Black Ajah having been proven, and with the subsequent persecution of all Black sisters in the re-unified White Tower, it seems the Black may be on the brink of extinction. But more than 150 Black sisters evaded capture and have fled the White Tower; they remained hidden until the Last Battle.

After the Dark One's defeat, many Black Sisters are dead or captured, and, with no more of the Forsaken free and Alviarin captured, they are leaderless.

List of current Black sisters

See also Category:Black Ajah

Alphabetical table

Name White Tower Ajah and Saidar strength Status Faction / Group / Association Darkfriend Controller
Alviarin Freidhen White 17(5) Held captive in Stedding Sholoon White Tower Mesaana
Amico Nagoyin Yellow 27(15) Dead: Killed by Slayer Liandrin's group Moghedien
Asne Zeramene Green 18(6) Dead: Killed during kidnapping of Elayne Trakand Liandrin's group Be'lal, Moghedien
Atuan Larisett Yellow Unknown: Possibly executed White Tower None
Berylla Naron Blue 27(15) Presumed dead following the Last Battle Liandrin's Group Moghedien
Birlen Pena Unknown Alive: Escaped after the Battle of Tar Valon White Tower Moghedien
Careane Fransi Green 27(15) Dead: Killed by Vandene Namelle Salidar Rebels Unknown

Chai Rugan

Brown Alive: Escaped after the Battle of Tar Valon White Tower
Chesmal Emry Yellow 18(6) Dead: Killed by Elayne Trakand Liandrin's Group Moghedien
Dagdara Finchey Yellow 19(7) Presumed Dead: Executed in White Tower Purge Salidar Rebels
Delana Mosalaine Gray 18(6) Dead: Killed at Natrin's Barrow Salidar Rebels Aran'gar
Duhara Basaheen Red 23(11) Dead: Killed by Aviendha at the Last Battle White Tower
Eldrith Jhondar Brown 16(4) Dead: Killed during escape from Caemlyn Liandrin's Group Moghedien
Elza Penfell Green 25(13) Dead: Killed by Rand al'Thor Sworn to Rand Semirhage
Evanellein Gray 20(8) Dead: Killed by Egwene al'Vere White Tower Mesaana
Falion Bhoda White 17(5) Dead: Killed by Aviendha at the Last Battle Liandrin's Group Moghedien
Fera Sormen White 33(21) Alive Sworn to Rand
Galina Casban Red 14(2) Gai'shain of the Shaido Aiel White Tower Unknown, possibly Mesaana
Ispan Shefar Blue 17(5) Dead: Killed by Careane Fransi during the murder of Adeleas Namelle Liandrin's Group Moghedien
Jarna Malari Gray Dead: Killed by Ishamael White Tower None
Jeaine Caide Green 18(6) Dead: Killed by Thom at the entrance to the Pit of Doom Liandrin's Group Moghedien
Joiya Byir Gray 28(16) Dead: Killed by Slayer (with Amico) Liandrin's Group Moghedien
Karale Sanghir Gray May have been executed in purge OR escaped White Tower None
Katerine Alruddin Red 15(3) Dead: Killed by Egwene al'Vere in Tel'aran'rhiod White Tower Mesaana
Larissa Lyndel Yellow 28(16) Dead Salidar Rebels
Liandrin Guirale Red 14(2) Alive: Permanently Shielded Leader of twelve other Black Members Moghedien
Marillin Gemalphin Brown 15(3) Presumed dead following the Last Battle Liandrin's Group Moghedien
Marris Thornhill Brown 44(32) May have been executed in purge OR escaped White Tower

Melvara

Unknown Unknown
Merean Redhill Blue 14(2) Dead: 979 NE. Killed by Moiraine Damodred White Tower None
Mestra Unknown Dead: Killed by Egwene in the Battle of Tel'aran'rhiod
Miyasi White May have been executed in purge OR escaped White Tower
Moria Karentanis Blue 25(13) Dead: Executed (Rebel Camp Purge) Salidar Rebels
Nacelle Kayama Green 36(24) May have been executed in purge OR escaped Salidar Rebels
Nalaene Forrell Yellow Alive Sworn to Rand al'Thor
Nesita Red May have been executed in purge OR escaped White Tower
Notori Unknown Dead: Killed by Nynaeve al'Meara in the Battle in Tel'aran'rhiod

Ramola

Unknown Alive
Rianna Andomeran White 21(9) Held captive in Stedding Sholoon Liandrin's Group Moghedien
Sedore Dajenna Yellow 19(7) Dead: Killed by Egwene a'Vere in the Battle in Tel'aran'rhiod White Tower
Sheriam Bayanar Blue 14(2) Dead: Executed (Rebel Camp Purge) Salidar Rebels Aran'gar, Mesaana
Talva Yellow Dead: Killed by mistake by Alviarin Freidhen in the Battle in Tel'aran'rhiod White Tower
Talene Minly Green 15(3) Alive: Escaped before the Battle of Tar Valon White Tower
Temaile Kinderode Gray 17(5) Dead: Killed by Jaq Lounalt, failing to escape Caemlyn dungeon Liandrin's Group Moghedien
Velina Behar White Alive 25(13) White Tower
Verin Mathwin Brown 17(5) Dead: Suicide to allow betrayal of Black Ajah Herself None
Zanica Unknown (surely she is not Blue Ajah because she is a loyalist, and also she is not Red Ajah as she has a Warder) May have been executed in purge OR escaped White Tower

Table by Ajah

Red Green Gray Brown Yellow Blue White (Unknown)
Duhara Basaheen Asne Zeramene Delana Mosalaine Chai Rugan Amico Nagoyin Berylla Naron Alviarin Freidhen Birlen Pena
Galina Casban Careane Fransi Evanellein Lorn Eldrith Jhondar Atuan Larisett Ispan Shefar Falion Bhoda Melvara
Katerine Alruddin Elza Penfell Jarna Malari Marillin Gemalphin Chesmal Emry Merean Redhill Fera Sormen Mestra
Liandrin Guirale Jeaine Caide Joiya Byir Marris Thornhill Dagdara Finchey Moria Karentanis Miyasi Notori
Nesita Nacelle Kayama Karale Sanghir Verin Mathwin Larissa Lyndel Sheriam Bayanar Rianna Andomeran Ramola
Talene Minly Temaile Kinderode Nalaene Forrell

Velina Behar

Zanica
Sedore Dajenna
Talva

Notes

  1. The Gathering Storm, Chapter 39
  2. TWORJTWOT
  3. The Fires of Heaven, Chapter 18
  4. 4.0 4.1 A Crown of Swords, Chapter 40
  5. Crossroads of Twilight, Prologue
  6. Crossroads of Twilight, Chapter 21
  7. The Gathering Storm, Chapter 43
  8. Towers of Midnight, Chapter 42
Ajahs of the Aes Sedai

Blue | Green | Yellow | Red | White | Gray | Brown | Black