The Hunt for the Black Ajah
Author: Atarah al'Norahn
Angry at the fact that Alviarin is exerting authority over her and blackmailing her into obeying her, Elaida makes plans to expose her as a traitor. She visits Seaine, one of the White Sitters, to determine if she can trust her with leading an inquiry. Having established that she can indeed trust Seaine, Elaida tells her that she suspects that someone arranged for an order of hers to be countermanded. She also says that she has reason to believe that someone has been privately communicating with the Dragon Reborn. When Seaine asks Elaida what she wants her to do, Elaida tells her, “I want you to follow the stench of treason, no matter where it leads or how high, even to the Keeper herself.” She emphasizes the fact that Seaine must keep quiet about it (ACoS, Ch. 32).
Although Elaida means for Seaine to uncover evidence that Alviarin is a traitor so that she can be punished, Seaine thinks that Elaida means for her to search out Darkfriends in the White Tower. This misunderstanding leads to a hunt for the Black Ajah within the Tower (ACoS, Ch. 32; KoD, Prologue).
Although Seaine has been sworn to secrecy, and breaking that secrecy is akin to treason, she knows that she will not be able to hunt the Black Ajah on her own. She goes to find the one sister in the Tower that she knows she can trust, Pevara Tazanovni, a Red Sitter whose family was killed by Darkfriends years ago (ACoS, Ch. 32).
Reaching Pevara’s rooms, Seaine tells her about her meeting with Elaida. Pevara agrees to help her. Seaine states that, “Logically, a Black sister must be able to lie despite the Oaths” (ACoS, Ch. 32). They decide to look at reports of things that have happened within the past year. If they can prove that a sister did something other than what she reported, they can prove that they have found a Black sister. They try to decide who they can trust to make a part of the inquiry, but despite the fact that Seaine passed Talene on the way to Pevara’s rooms and thought that, if possible, she would bring her into the inquiry as she is a trusted friend, Pevara counsels caution. In the end, they don’t actually bring anyone else into the hunt for some time, and even then it is not by their choice (ACoS, Ch. 32; TPoD, Ch. 26).
They begin their search. They decide to use the lowest basement of the Tower for their purposes, as no one has been there for at least a century. They test the Oath Rod and learn that oaths can be removed in much the same manner that they are taken. It is very painful however; both Seaine and Pevara remove the oath to tell no lies, in order to test the rod, and it results in pain so intense that they both end up weeping. They then re-swear the oath (TPoD, Ch. 26).
At first, the mistakenly believe that Zerah Dacan is a member of the Black Ajah, but they soon set this straight. When they learn that she is actually a rebel, sent into the Tower to spy and spread rumour, they force her into helping them. They force her to give them the names of the other "ferrets" (TPoD, Ch. 26).
While down in the basements after having determined that Zerah is not of the Black Ajah, four other Sitters, Saerin, Talene, Yukiri and Doesine, walk in on them, having followed them down to the basements after Yukiri discovered them sneaking around. They want to know what Seaine and Pevara are doing, but they refuse to tell until Saerin discovers that they have the Oath Rod with them. Saerin manages to puzzle everything out, and re-swears the oath to speak no lies before declaring, before the other five in the room, that she is not a Darkfriend. Seaine and Pevara retake the oath after her, followed by Yukiri and Doesine. Talene, however, protests as they do so that it is ridiculous, that there is no such thing as the Black Ajah and that she will not put up with even the suggestion. Suspicious, the others refuse to let her leave the room (TPoD, Ch. 26).
Suspicious that Talene is a Black sister, Seaine, Pevara, Saerin, Yukiri and Doesine decide that she must be questioned. Saerin, as the highest sister among them, takes charge. They place Talene on the Chair of Remorse, with Doesine channelling to make it work. The Chair of Remorse causes the person who is on it to have horrible visions of the consequences of things that they have done and is usually only used on criminals. They have to subject Talene to it three times before she finally breaks (WH, Prologue).
When they bring her awake after the third time, it appears as if Talene will still refuse to forswear all the oaths that bind her as a Darkfriend and re-swear the Three Oaths; just as she is about to be put under for the fourth time, however, she forswears her oaths. The pain of having them removed by the Oath Rod is so horrible that she immediately begins to howl, screaming until she has to stop to draw breath before beginning to scream again, convulsing and arching up until only her heels and her head still remain on the Chair of Remorse. After the procedure is done and she collapses, she re-swears the Three Oaths; she is also made to swear a fourth oath to obey Saerin, Seaine, Pevara, Yukiri and Doesine. Saerin asks her if she is Black Ajah, and Talene replies that yes, she is (WH, Prologue).
Pevara declares that before they hand Talene over to Elaida, she wants to learn as much as they can. Hearing this, Talene informs them that to tell Elaida means death, because Elaida herself is of the Black Ajah. Her reasoning for this is that the Supreme Council of the Black Ajah knows about every decision that Elaida makes before it is even made. Saerin declares that she will not believe Elaida to be Black without more proof, and Pevara agrees. As they believe that it was Elaida who set Seaine on the search for the Black Ajah in the first place, it therefore doesn’t make sense to them for her to be a Darkfriend. However, just to be safe, it is decided that they will not tell Elaida until they know enough that they can cripple the Black Ajah with one blow. In addition, if she is Black Ajah, then Seaine is in danger because the Black Ajah therefore knows about her search; Saerin tells the others that they will all have to ensure Seaine’s safety. It is here that Pevara and Seaine tell the others about Zerah and the other rebel ferrets who will be able to help them in their search (WH, Prologue).
Before they leave the room, the Sitters discuss their situation at length. Yukiri wants to hand the rebels over the Hall immediately, Pevara wants to use the rebels, and Doesine wants to kidnap every sister in the White Tower to determine whether they are of the Black Ajah (WH, Prologue).
Because they know that they cannot keep Talene hidden for long before the Green Ajah begins to wonder where she is, Talene is allowed to seemingly walk free, though in truth she is guarded closely and still under oath to obey the hunters (CoT, Prologue). At one point, Alviarin notices that when Elaida asks if the Green Ajah supports the idea of negotiations with the rebel Aes Sedai, Talene looks to Yukiri and Doesine, even though as the senior Green Sitter she should have informed Elaida of her Ajah’s stance (CoT, Ch. 21). Talene tells the hunters all she knows about the Black Ajah, including the names of the only three Black sisters she knows: Atuan Larisett, Galina Casban and Temaile Kinderode. Galina and Temaile are out of the Tower, so Atuan is the only one that the hunters can investigate. Even though they are making progress, however, the hunters intend to wait until they have “the Black Ajah wrapped up and tied” before they inform anyone of their findings, as they are afraid that once they let the secret out of the bag, the Black Ajah will manage to get revenge on them before they are taken care of (CoT, Prologue).
The ferrets end up proving very useful to the hunters, and Yukiri, who originally had argued that the ferrets should be handed over to the Hall to be tried, is now glad that they did not do so (CoT, Prologue).
Although Seaine thinks that Elaida cannot be Black Ajah as they are all still alive despite the fact that two months have passed since the hunt was initiated, Saerin still insists that Seaine take precautions and not be out in public more than she has to. When Seaine tries to convince Yukiri of the fact that she is safe, Yukiri tells her that she will have to put up with being looked after until all of them can be sure that she is, indeed, safe. The situation exasperates Seaine to no end, and she means to speak to Saerin about it again (CoT, Prologue).
Two weeks after Pevara, Seaine, Saerin, Yukiri and Doesine discover that Talene is Black Ajah, Yukiri and Meidani, one of the ferrets, walk through the Halls talking about Atuan Larisett. Meidani reports to Yukiri that there are no records that can be checked on her, as every time she has left the Tower in the last ten years it has been for her own affairs. Celestin and Annharid, the two Yellow ferrets, are trying to find out who Atuan’s close friends in the Yellow Ajah are for further investigation. Doesine is trying to arrange for Atuan to be questioned, as they are both of the Yellow Ajah, but it is difficult since it is imperative that nobody finds out what they are up to (CoT, Prologue).
In addition to keeping an eye on Atuan, Yukiri orders Meidani to renew an old friendship with Elaida so that the Amyrlin can be watched for signs of whether or not she is Black Ajah. Yukiri also tells Meidani to keep an eye on Alviarin, since it is known that Alviarin sees all of Elaida’s papers. Although Yukiri thinks to herself that this isn’t enough to accuse Alviarin of being a Darkfriend, it means that the hunters are at least entertaining the idea (CoT, Prologue).
Atuan Larisett is finally kidnapped by the hunters and forced to re-swear the Oaths, plus the extra oath. She admits to being a member of the Black Ajah, and gives up two more names: Karale Sanghir and Marris Thornhill. Both happen to be currently in the Tower. Karale Sanghir is questioned soon after, and both she and her Warder turn out to be Darkfriends. Her Warder ends up taking poison as soon as he learns that his secret is out; this is actually lucky, according to Yukiri, as the Oath Rod only works on those who can channel, and they do not have enough people to have him guarded. Karale is soon followed by Marris Thornhill, who also admits to being Darkfriends. All four Darkfriend Aes Sedai who have been caught to this point claim that they have rejected of the Shadow, insisting that they repent of their sins and walk in the Light once again (KoD, Prologue).
Once captured, both Karale and Marris each give up two more names. Unfortunately, all four of these sisters are out of the Tower. The hunters are therefore at a standstill (KoD, Prologue).
On the day that Marris Thornhill breaks, Yukiri gives Pevara some startling news. The night before, Talene received a summons from the Black Ajah’s Supreme Council. Afraid that she is to be questioned, Talene begged Saerin to hide her, and Saerin ends up putting her in one of the rooms in the basement. Although this is precaution against being found out by the Black Ajah, Pevara thinks that Talene should be allowed to go to the meeting, followed by all of the hunters, the ferrets, and the captured Black Ajah, so that the Black Ajah’s Supreme Council can be captured. Seaine claims that the hunters would have nineteen people to the Supreme Council’s thirteen, until Yukiri reminds her that the Supreme Council would have others watching to make sure that the meeting is not interrupted (KoD, Prologue).
Talene’s summons by the Supreme Council likely has to do with Yukiri and Doesine. Alviarin now suspects the two of them because of the way that she previously saw Talene defer to them. Shaidar Haran has informed her that there are people within the Tower who are trying to destroy the Black Ajah, and that she is to find them and bring them to him (CoT, Ch. 21). Yukiri and Doesine are a “very small seed of hope” to her, as she feels that only a threat to the Black Ajah can save her from the Dark One’s displeasure (KoD, Prologue).
While Pevara and Yukiri speak of this summons, Seaine approaches them with more startling news. She has just finished speaking with Elaida, who wanted to know how Seaine’s inquiry into Alviarin’s “treasonous correspondence with the Dragon Reborn” is going. The hunters now know that Elaida has not set them to hunt the Black Ajah, which was the only assurance they had that Elaida herself is not Black Ajah (KoD, Prologue). Nevertheless, they continue to meet until Meidani takes Egwene to them. She tells them to continue the work, but to release the ferrets and to focus more on healing the rifts between the Ajahs (TGS, Ch. 12). They use the Oath Rod to test the trustworthiness of Nicola Treehill so she can run messages where sisters cannot go. Because of this, the Oath Rod is not where it should be when Verin looks for it.
Verin, a member of the Black, resorts to other measures to bring Egwene information on the Black Ajah; her life's research. Verin takes poison and dies in Egwene's novice room. Egwene reads through the list of known Black sisters, part of the two books Verin has entrusted to her. When Meidani checks on Egwene to bring her news, Egwene instructs her to report to the others and inform them to take any reasonable risk to capture Alviarin who stands high in the organisation of the Black (TGS, Ch. 39). With the distraction of the Seanchan attack the hunters did not manage to capture Alviarin before she escaped (TGS, Epilogue).
Egwene cleanses the Rebel Aes Sedai, beheading over fifty of the seventy Black Ajah amongst them (TGS, Ch. 45). When the Tower is unified sixty Black sisters in the Tower escape, only the weakest are captured (TGS, Epilogue).