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Who betrayed Egwene in COT?




One of the thus far unanswered questions is who ratted out Egwene's plans to turn the harbor chain into cuendillar which led to Egwene's capture in CoT, ch 30.

I believe it was one or several of the five Sitters sent by the Tower Ajah heads to Salidar: Takima, Magla, Faiselle, Saroiya and Varilin.


Let's go through the list of possible suspects and examine each from the point of view of knowledge of Egwene's plans, motives, opportunity and evidence.

Part of the difficulty here is that a lot of people knew of Egwene's plans, if not of her personal participation in the operation which she decided upon at the very last minute and didn't tell anybody about.

Egwene told the Hall about her plan (CoT, ch 30) so they all knew and may have told many others. Kairen (before she was killed), Leane and Bode obviously knew. Siuan knew. Gareth Bryne knew (CoT, ch 30). The sisters sworn to Egwene may have known although this is not altogether clear.

Clearly, Leane, Bode, Bryne and Siuan can be safely discounted as suspects.

Let's look at the others.

  • Nicola and Areina
    • Knowledge of the plan: Most likely not. They left several days before the plan was carried out (CoT, ch 30) and would be very unlikely to know about it beforehand anyway.
    • Motive: Maybe. Nocola tried to blackmail Egwene and this is the kind of info she might have thought would help her get special privileges in the Tower.
    • Opportunity: Yes, but only if they found out about Egwene's plan (how?) before running away from her camp which was at least 3 days earlier and those plans were already set by that date. This is unlikely as Egwene seems to have only just decided on her plans in COT, ch 30.
    • Evidence. Don't see much. Nicola was very surprised at seeing Egwene in the Tower. She apologized for running away immediately but not for betraying Egwene's plans about the harbor (why not if she was responsible?). Not when she first saw her, not at any time later. Egwene also never considered the possibility that she was to blame which supports the notion that Egwene at least didn't think Nicola knew about her plans. She was likely a red herring by RJ. He was very fond of those.
    • Conclusion: It was not Nicola or Areina.


    • Knowledge of the plan: Most likely yes. Egwene thought she knew and accused her directly.
    • Motive: Definitely.
    • Opportunity: Possibly. She was involved in the negotiations with the Tower although her role there was much reduced by the Sitters.
    • Evidence. Clear evidence to the contrary. She is not Black (confirmed on the oath rod and in her POV) so we know she can't lie and she told Egwene straight out that it was not her.
    • Conclusion: It was not Beonin for sure.


    • Knowledge of the plan: Yes. She is a Sitter.
    • Motive: Not really. She is scheming against Egwene and doesn't like a number of reforms Egwene instituted but the last thing she would want was to help Elaida which would have been the result of Leane and Bode being captured. She is a Blue. Siuan thinks that no Blue would have been behind Egwene's betrayal (KoD, ch 1) when considering Lelaine as a possible suspect and I agree with that. Also, the capture of Leane (who was part of the plan all along) could give the Tower knowledge of Traveling. There is absolutely no way Lelaine would want that.
    • Opportunity: Don't see one. She is not involved in the negotiations directly. How would she do it? The information would have to be delivered to the Tower in such a way that it was believed.
    • Evidence. The only thing that might be considered as evidence is her rather insulting attitude toward Egwene in a meeting on the day Egwene was captured (CoT, ch 30). But this likely had a different cause. It is later revealed (KoD, ch 1) that she just unmasked Faolain as spying on her on Egwene's behalf. That could easily explain her behavior in the last meeting with Egwene. So this was likely another red herring by RJ. Did I mention that he was fond of red herrings?
    • Conclusion: Most likely it was not Lelaine.


    • Knowledge of the plan: Yes. She is a Sitter.
    • Motive: Same as with Lelaine. She is scheming against Egwene too and doesn't like many of the changes, the latest being Egwene's plans for the Kin (CoT, ch 30) that Egwene reveals in their last meeting. But again, the very last thing she would want was to help Elaida, in particular by possibly giving her access to Traveling.
    • Opportunity: Same as for Lelaline. Don't see how she could have done it.
    • Evidence: Don't see any. In fact, we have circumstantial evidence to the contrary. Romanda has a couple POVs after Egwene's capture (KoD, ch 31 and tGS, ch 26) where she thinks about the event and of Egwene and Bode (who would have been the one captured if Egwene didn't switch places with her) but not of the betrayal which would have been more than natural if she was the culprit. Yet, her ruminations about Bode are completely mundane. Same with her thoughts about Egwene.
    • Conclusion: It almost certainly wasn't Romanda.


    • Knowledge of the plan: Maybe. She is a high ranking Blue and in cahoots with Lelaine. Lelaine could have told her.
    • Motive: Same as with Lelaine. And again, she is a Blue, just as Lelaine and none of them would do anything to help Elaida. Prolonging the siege by keeping the harbors unblocked would not be on her agenda. And neither would be giving Elaida access to Traveling.
    • Opportunity: Same as for Lelaline. Don't see how she could have done it.
    • Evidence: Don't really see any. Only mentioned her because she was a new face around Egwene and was present during her last day interactions with Romanda and Lelaine.
    • Conclusion: It most likely wasn't Maigan.

    [*]Black Ajah (Sheriam, Delana, Moria) and/or Aran'gar

    • Knowledge of the plan: Yes.
    • Motive: Absolutely. They want to prolong the Tower division as much as possible and with the harbors blocked Egwene would get a distinct advantage. I'm not sure, however, that Aran'gar would have wanted the Tower to get access to Traveling as this would tilt the advantage in the conflict to them. As this old FAQ points out it would have been better from Aran'gar's point of view to kill both Leane and Bode, rather than let them fall into Tower's hands.
    • Opportunity: Pretty problematic IMO. How would they do it? They can't just Travel to Tar Valon and pass an anonymous note to somebody in the Tower. With this kind of information there should be a clear trail for it to be considered credible. Apparently, whoever betrayed Egwene didn't tell the Tower everything. The Aes Sedai who captured Egwene don't understand what she did to the harbor chain (KoD, prologue). Elaida doesn't know about it either (KoD, ch 1). She is stunned to hear that Egwene can make cuendillar. Before Egwene nobody has been able to make cuendillar for thousands of years. Without that bit of info the intel about the threat to the harbor chain would have to come from very trusted sources in order to be taken seriously. After all, what could she possibly do to the chain which would constitute a threat to the Tower if the ability to turn it into cuendillar is taken out of the picture?
    • Evidence: Don't really see any. In Aran'gar's POV in KoD, prologue it's fairly clear that she didn't plan this. She is pissed that Egwene got captured but she doesn't think, even to herself, that it was her operation. It's highly unlikely that the others would have done it on their own and without Aran'gar's blessing. Next, we have Sheriam's POV in tGS, ch 25. She thinks of Egwene's capture but not of anything that looks like her own involvement in it. And after she is unmasked as Black, she confesses to many plots but not to this one, at least so far as the readers know. One would think that if Sheriam mentioned her involvement in this, Egwene would have remarked on it as it concerns her directly and she was quite interested in the identity of her betrayer(s).
    • Conclusion: It probably wasn't Aran'gar and her crew.

Now we come to the last and my favorite group of suspects - the anti-ferrets, i.e., the Sitters sent by the Tower Ajah heads to infiltrate Salidar. We learn in tGS, ch 43 that the Ajah heads in the Tower sent Sitters to Salidar to steer the Salidar Aes Sedai back to the Tower. They are not named, but there is no need. They are very easy to identify. In fact, they have been so suspicious that they have been apparently called the footdragging five by the fandom. They are Faiselle, Magla, Saroiya, Takima and Varilin. As this is not at all new and I agree with everything in that post by luckers I will be somewhat brief. These five were Sitters before the split. They are from five different Ajah: White, Grey, Green, Yellow and Brown. The Ajah heads sent at least one Sitter from each of those Ajahs. They voted against the declaration of war against Elaida (tPoD, ch 19). All anti-ferrets would vote against that for sure. That should make at least one "No" vote from every Ajah other than Blue, so five "No" votes in total. The only other person who voted against the war was Romanda, who is definitely not an anti-ferret. This nails the anti-ferrets down to this particular group of five and to nobody else. They acted in unison on other matters related to unification too. They and Beonin were the ones pushing for negotiations with the Tower (CoT, ch 16). They (and Delana, who changed her vote) were also, exactly the whole group of Sitters opposed to an alliance with the Black Tower (CoT, ch 20), likely because it would make the Tower unification under Elaida more difficult as she would never support it. They took over the negotiations with the White Tower from Beonin. In fact, they and Beonin are the only people ever mentioned by name as taking part in the negotiations. So they could have even comprised the entire negotiating team. Let's examine them according to the criteria used for the other suspects.

  • The anti-ferrets: Faiselle, Magla, Saroiya, Takima and Varilin
    • Knowledge of the plan: Yes. they are all Sitters and Egwene informed the Hall of her plans to block the harbor, but not of her own participation.
    • Motive: Absolutely. It's mentioned in CoT, ch 30 (the day of Egwene's capture) that they are upset that the negotiations are not going well.
      “The talks are going badly,” she [Romanda] said in that high, musical voice. She still made it sound a proclamation. “Varilin is chewing her lips in frustration. Magla is frustrated, too, for that matter, and even Saroiya. When Saroiya starts grinding her teeth, most sisters would be shouting.” Excepting Janya [not an anti-ferret], every Sitter who had held a chair before the Tower divided had insinuated herself into the negotiations. They were talking with women they had known in the Hall back then, after all. Beonin was nearly reduced to running errands.
      the last thing they'd want was for the harbors to get blocked as it would tilt the balance in the siege further towards Egwene's army and make their task even more difficult than it already is. They would also not at all mind giving the Tower access to Traveling.
    • Opportunity: Definitely. They are conducting daily negotiations with the Tower Sitters in Darein. These negotiations are fully supported by the Ajah heads in the Tower (excluding the Reds) (CoT, ch 21) and the negotiating team might even include some of the Tower Ajah heads such as Suana and Ferane (both are now Sitters for the Tower) who sent them to Salidar in the first place. In fact, out of all possible suspects they are the only ones who have a credible opportunity to do this.
    • Evidence: Mostly discussed already. The anti-ferrets are at the negotiations every day, including the day of Egwene's capture and Varilin has recently taken charge of the negotiations (CoT, ch 30). They are also seen by Beonin heading back to Darein the day after Egwene was captured who makes very extensive observations about them.

      Five mounted sisters riding slowly eastward, none carrying the light of saidar, caught her eye. Each was followed by a small entourage, generally a secretary, a serving woman, perhaps a serving man as well in case of heavy lifting, and some Warders. All rode with their hoods up, but she had no difficulty making out who was who. Varilin, of her own Gray, would have been tall as a man, while Takima, the Brown, was a tiny thing. Saroiya's cloak was flamboyant with white embroidery— she must use saidar to keep it so sparkling bright—and a pair of Warders trailing Faiselle marked her as clearly as her brilliant green cloak. Which made the last, wrapped in dark gray, Magla, the Yellow. What would they find when they reached Darein? Surely not negotiators from the Tower, not now. Perhaps they thought they must go through the motions anyway. People frequently continued to go on as they had been after all purpose in it had been lost. That seldom lasted long with Aes Sedai, however.
      “They hardly seem to be together at all, do they, Beonin? You might think they just happened to be riding in the same direction.”... Beonin glanced at the departing Sitters. They did appear to be riding in the same direction by chance more than riding together. It was a measure of her upset this morning that she had failed to note that. “Perhaps,” she said turning to face her unwanted visitors, “they are contemplating the consequences of last night, yes, Ashmanaille?”--KoD, ch 2
      I bet they are!
      They seem to be in a strange mood. This is understandable. Their plan sort of worked but they likely never wanted for Egwene to get captured. They formally acknowledged her as Amyrlin after all. This is serious betrayal. She might get executed after all and they raised her. This might also explain why their reaction to Egwene's capture is so different from Beonin's. They are pretty much in the same position, yet, while Beonin bolts to the Tower as soon as Egwene is captured, none of the anti-ferrets do. Why not? Beonin also considers further negotiations pointless and is very surprised to see them going back to Darein (see the above quote). Why don't the anti-ferrets feel the same way? My guess is that they feel responsible for Egwene's capture and believe they must stay where they are and continue the negotiations because of it. They are in a very conflicted situation indeed. The anti-ferrets involvement in Egwene's betrayal might also explain Takima's rather strong reaction to Egwene's appearance in the unified Hall in ToM, ch 27, when the Hall is discussing how to curb Egwene's powers. All of the anti-ferrets are present which is not really surprising, given their extensive struggles with Egwene before the unification
      Lelaine was the only Blue, and there was also only one Brown: Takima, who looked sick. The ivory-skinned Brown wouldn't meet Egwene's gaze.--ToM, ch 27
      She is likely still feeling guilty about betraying Egwene earlier. She never fessed up to that. In light of that her reaction in this scene is perfectly understandable. Saroiya, another anti-ferret, can't look at Egwene either.

      "All right, then," Rubinde said. "I believe we were going to hear from Saroiya next."
      The blocky White was one of the Sitters who had left the Tower when Elaida was raised, but she had made her share of trouble in Salidar. Egwene was not surprised to see her here. The woman stood, pointedly not looking at Egwene. "I will add my testimony. During the days of. . . uncertainty within the Tower"—that would mean the division; few sisters liked to speak of it outright—"the Amyrlin did exactly as Romanda indicated. We were taken by surprise when she called for a declaration of war."Within the law, there are provisions that give the Amyrlin almost total power when official war is declared. By being goaded into making war with Elaida, we gave the Amyrlin the means to subject the Hall to her will." She looked around the room, but did not turn to Egwene.
      Lelaine and Romanda on the other hand have no such troubles.
      Both Romanda and Lelaine were in attendance. They met Egwene's gaze evenly... Romanda didn't seem embarrassed at all by what they had done here. She looked directly at Egwene.
      Romanda's and Lelaine's reactions are the more natural ones here (and Takima's isn't). Why should they be embarrassed? They are doing exactly what the Hall is supposed to do. Takima might be embarrassed because not the whole Hall is present but this is really par for the course for the old Sitters, which includes Takima. That's how things have been done in the Tower in the past. Again, neither Romanda nor Lelaine feel any guilt. Their reactions also further support their innocence in regards to Egwene's capture in CoT.
    • Conclusion: The people who betrayed Egwene were most likely some or all of the anti-ferrets. They had the strongest motive, the best opportunity and there is some circumstantial evidence pointing in their direction. It's not clear if they were working as a team and were aware of each other's missions (most likely not), so possibly not all of them were involved.



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Thank you so much herid! This troubles me every time I do a re-read. I've never picked up on the little clues. Thanks for easing my mind!

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Thanks for the comment! Don't worry about not noticing the clues. Even if I'm right about this the individual clues are pretty small and spread out over several books - just as RJ liked to do. They only make a good case when taken all together.

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