|Players in the Liar's Game
For no particular reason, I thought Id try my hand at speculating on who are, and who are not, Black Ajah. Starting with a list of those we already know: (Only currently living sisters are included)
Definitely Black Ajah: Liandrin. (Has her last name ever been mentioned?) Temaile Kinderode. Berylla Naron. Falion Bhoda. Rianna Andomeran. Chesmal Emry. Eldrith Jhondar. Marillin Gemalphin. Jeaine Caide. Asne Zeramene. Galina Casban. Katerine Alruddin. Delana Mosalaine. Alviarin Freidhen. Talene Minly. Elza Penfell.
Definitely not Black: Moiraine Damodred (wherever she is). Siuan Sanche. Elaida do Avriny aRoihan. Egwene alVere. Elayne Trakand. Nynaeve Mandragoran. Toveine Gazal. Seaine Herimon. Pevara. Yukiri. Saerin Asnobar. Doesine. Ferane Neheran. Suana Dragand. Zerah Dacan. Cadsuane Melaidhrin. Merana Ambrey. Sarene Nemdahl. Nesune Bihara. Jesse Bilal. Lemai. Jenare. Akoure. Desandre. Carniele. Gabrelle. Ayako.
Note on the above list: I make the decision of 'definitely not Black' if the Aes Sedai in question fills at least one of the following criteria;
- Has had her thoughts/point of view revealed in some detail with no indication that she serves the Shadow. (The one exception here is Verin Mathwin: although we have seen her point of view, frequently and on relevant topics, we have also seen her tell what appears to be an out-and-out lie. Until this is explained, we can't definitely rule her out.) Originally I accepted any point of view scene as proof, but we saw several brief scenes from Elza's point of view before she was established as Black that gave nothing away.
- Has, during the course of the books, taken or retaken the First Oath on the Oath Rod and subsequently stated that she is not Black Ajah or a Darkfriend.
- Is a member of a group stated to contain no Black sisters, eg, current Ajah heads, the Aes Sedai sent to attack the Black Tower.
And yes, I probably have left some names out. Email me if you can think of any I missed. But note that while there are several sisters who are very unlikely to be Black Ajah, if they are not listed above (and assuming I haven't forgotten them) their innocence has not been proved. So, theoretically ANY Aes Sedai not on the list could be Black, but only those for whom there is some evidence are considered in this essay.
Now, let the speculation begin! Current candidates for Black Ajah-hood are:
Sheriam: shes up to something. In The Dragon Reborn, a Gray Man was found in the novices quarters with a crossbow bolt through its chest. Sheriam, as Nynaeve pointed out, did not wonder who shot the crossbow. Maybe she already knew. (On the other hand, maybe she just didnt want them wondering about what they shouldnt, or didnt want to sound uncertain in front of Accepted. Aes Sedai dignity, et cetera.) Several people have pointed out that Mistress of Novices would be an ideal position for the Black Ajah to do their recruiting from. True, but that doesnt mean they got it. And in The Path Of Daggers, Sheriam is shielded and interrogated regarding Egwene, by someone she seems to know. The fact that torture is necessary suggests that if Sheriam is Black, she's not in there willingly; however, I suspect that the whole episode had nothing to do with the Shadow and that Sheriam is being blackmailed by one or other of the Sitters.
Teslyn: she might be up to something. Tenuous evidence, but in A Crown of Swords she appears to be doing her best to get Joline mad at Elaida, and in The Path Of Daggers Nynaeve comments that Teslyn seems to be ready to turn against Elaida. Judging by Alviarins actions, the Black Ajah goal is to cripple and discredit Elaida. Then again, she may simply hold a grudge against Elaida for being removed from the Hall. Toveine isnt Black, but she certainly has every intention of flaying Elaida alive if she gets the chance. Elaida is very good at making enemies.
Annoura: Even more tenuous, here, but since I've heard it frequently - In A Crown Of Swords Cadsuane demanded to know what Merana and Annoura knew about 'that vileness right after the Aiel War.' The 'vileness' almost certainly refers to either the killing of Tamra Ospenya or the slaughter of boys and young men who might be the Dragon, both by the Black Ajah. Merana, who we know is not Black, reacted with confusion, having no idea what Cadsuane was referring to. Annoura, on the other hand, almost dropped her cup, and her answer was somewhat hurried and breathless. Myself, I think she was simply scared of Cadsuane - isn't everyone?
Velina: My turn to offer tenuous evidence; As Alviarin referred to Black sisters, in the plural, among the Sitters, at least one besides Talene is Black. Elaida notices that for some reason Velina flinched when Alviarin entered the room. Actually, though, the Velina-is-Black hypothesis is based more on a hunch, and the fact that I don't like her, than anything else. We can all be irrational at times, but I'm putting this here so if she does turn out to be Black I can claim the credit for saying it first.
Merilille: Someone, presumably a Darkfriend, killed Adeleas and Ispan, and whoever it was was someone Adeleas knew and trusted. A sister Aes Sedai fits that criterion. Merilille was the choice of the Gray Ajah in Salidar to head the embassy, and the most prominent of the Gray Sitters is the known Black Delana.
Careane: As with Merilille, she had the opportunity to kill Adeleas and Ispan, and being the lowest-ranking sister in the group, would have been the most likely to be sent with tea if the Aes Sedai wanted to keep the Kin away from what was happening there. Which they probably would have. Two more points; Careane was the one who, whether accidentally or not, threw the farm into chaos by revealing her face, and Adeleas was surprised that Careane, who was a novice along with Zarya, failed to recognise her.
Sareitha: The identity of the killer can be narrowed down to one of the Aes Sedai in that group, but there is no evidence against Sareitha other than fitting that classification.
Vandene: There are a number of believers in the theory that Adeleas died because she had found out Vandene was Black. I, personally, disagree with this theory. Certainly, if she had killed her sister, she would make some pretence of hunting down the killer to cover herself, but would she go so far? Nynaeve and Elayne have both noticed that Vandene hardly eats or sleeps at all any more. On the other hand, Vandene's sharpness regarding Zarya and Kirstian's investigations could be interpreted as the desire to keep them off her trail.
The other Vandene theory, which may fit better, is that Vandene discovered Adeleas was Black and killed her because of it; her grief and distraction would then be genuine. This theory is discussed in more detail in the essay Crimsonthorn.
One more thing: I have heard the assertion that Leane is or was Black Ajah. The person making the assertion didn't explain it, but did claim that he had read several compelling theories on the subject. Assuming this was not a misinterpretation or confusion of characters, I would appreciate it if anyone who is aware of these compelling theories would explain them to me. I have read and reread all nine books several times and have never found any evidence to support this. Nor, in the months this essay has been written, has anyone else supplied any. Anyone who can enlighten me, please email me.
But for now theres no real evidence who is and isnt Black. Irritating as it is, well just have to Read And Find Out.
Dont you hate that phrase?