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Weekly Topic: Alviarin: The Head of the Snake

Alviarin Freidhren   

19 members have voted

  1. 1. Was Alviarin a competent Head of the Black Ajah?

  2. 2. Is Alviarin still a threat while she is alive?

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With the Wheel spinning full circle and the main plot finished, discussion will inevitably die down. To keep the Wheel spinning, I have decided it would be a good idea to look back on various aspects of the wheel and perhaps uncover some hidden gems that we may have missed. 
So from now on, every Monday we will create a topic discussing an aspect of the WoT and hope to create discussion. 
The big characters have been recently discussed, I thought to start with an interesting, but somewhat forgotten character.


Alviarin Freidhen, White Sister, Keeper of the Chronicles and Head of the Black Ajah. 


Perhaps fittingly, Alviarin's history remains a mystery. The earliest piece of history we have is her promotion to Head of the Black Ajah, when Ishamael kills the former Head Jarna Malari for her plan to kill the Dragon Reborn after his birth. 


Thus, Alviarin has been the Head of the Blacks for 20 years, in the most turbulent time in history. Rising from the ashes of her predecessor just as the Dragon is Reborn - witnessing the return of the imprisoned Forsaken and the Last Battle itself. Considering the mortal danger a Darkfriend faces, not only from their foes, but their own people, it is quite remarkable she managed to stay alive and (arguably) unharmed for such a long time as the Black Ajah's Leader. 


As we know, the Forsaken are a volatile and unpredicatable lot, who would not hesitate to kill any that displeases them - as Ishamael demonstrated with Jarna. Most Darkfriends would dread meeting even one of the Forsaken. Alviarin has served at least two with regular contact. In the 20 years before EotW, she was under the undeniably insane Ishamael, then picked up by Mesaana who she has to work with personally. 


Even the Dark One himself - Shaidar Haran, the DO given flesh - personally marks her as his. 


What is it about Alviarin that draws the attention of the high and mighty? 


Alviarin is a far more dangerous enemy than it seems. She works from the shadows, and is often overlooked in favour of the more dominant Forsaken, but is a force behind the scenes. 


Her most prominent role was, of course, Elaida's Keeper of the Chronicle. In league with Mesaana, she sides with Elaida and engineers Suian's downfall and the split of the White Tower. In the process, she manages to secure her position as Keeper. 


Why not Amyrlin? 


An Amyrlin of the Shadow is an easy target. If she was discovered, the entire White Tower would rally against her. However, with Elaida - a stern, later insane woman, but not Darkfriend - the situation becomes murky. Factions form between the Light's own forces, with no common enemy to bring them together. 


However, as the 2nd in command, she remains in the shadows, yet has enough power to make devastating changes. She applies them with effect. 


Indeed, even we the readers are fooled. When we think about the White Tower rebellion - who do we think of? Elaida, Suian and Egwene. 

Elaida is perhaps one of the most hated characters in the WoT. Yet before her decent into madness in the latter part of the series, it was in fact Alviarin who engineers most of the outrageous plans laid at Elaida's feet. 


Indeed, Alviarin plays a pivotal role in Elaida's warped nature. Elaida's hate of Alviarin's treatment of her fuels greater anger and more foolish decisions. 


What strikes me about Alviarin is the fact that she is the one that gets things done. Mesaana may have had control of the plots within the Tower - Elaida may have been Amyrlin - but it was Alviarin who made things happen. It was Alviarin who convinced Elaida to take her into her confidences, and most probably convinced her to act. It was Alviarin who gained the Keepers stole. It was Alviarin who countermanded Elaida's orders and sowed the seeds of chaos within the White Tower. Mesaana was safe in hiding and while her efforts were not negligable, it seems that Alviarin did most of the actual work - at great risk to herself. 


That is another thing that makes Alviarin a noteworthy character. She is the one who is put in the most danger. Mesaana is safe in her disguise, Elaida is safe in her insanity. Alviarin is vulnerable, she has only her wits to rely on. If she is discovered, her fate is sealed by the axe. 


Even when Elaida regains control of the situation and she is reduced, she manages to survive. Failure for the Shadow is often punished severely, but Alviarin escapes such punishment and retains her position as the Black Ajah Head. Shaidar Haran - the DO itself - even goes out of its way to preserve her from Mesaana's wrath. Something which is extraordinarily rare in the ranks of those who serve the Shadow. 


When she is revealed to be Black Ajah, even still she manages to escape. (Although the execution of the Rebel AS days before the Tower AS helped out.)


After this, she, under Mesaana's command, gathers the remaining Blacks for their assault on Egwene in TaR. Here she shows her prowess in battle as well as on the political field. Despite almost no training in TaR, she manages to kill Shevan and Carlinya (along with Tava, her compatriot) while evading the vastly more experienced Wise Ones and Egwene herself - who later defeats Mesaana - and regroups the survivors of the Blacks to make an escape. 


In addition to her work in the White Tower, she also holds sway in the Black Tower. Revealed in aMoL, she is in control of a strike team of Dreadlords at the Fields of Merrilor and has even bonded Nensen, one of the male Dreadlords. As Head of the Black Ajah, she would most likely have organised the AS used to Turn the Asha'man in the Black Tower, if not played an active role in Turning some personally. 


As events unfolded, she is tricked by Androl and Pevara and lead to the Ogier Stedding, where she remains a live captive. 


She is perhaps - Moghedien aside - the most dangerous channeler of the Shadow left alive. Considering her unique ability to escape from deadly situations, can we really rule Alviarin out for good? 


Feel free to discuss everything and anything Alviarin. 



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I think Alviarin was probably one of the top three villains in terms of actual effectiveness.  She achieved a lot more than many of the Forsaken did.  So many of the evil characters had character flaws which brought their own ruin upon them, but Alviarin was continually cold and calculating.  I think she found the perfect balance for a villain in terms of being able to swallow her pride and grovel to her higher ups when need be, but at the same time be continually on the look out for opportunities to prove herself.  You never felt she was at risk of slipping up due to pride (e.g. like Liandrin) or failing to do enough to make herself stand out.


I do think it was a pretty big gamble to assume that the AS would turn against each other rather than Elaida.  While the BA obviously had a big influence on the decision to still and depose Siuan, its quite staggering to think that there were several Light-side AS involved in this, and willing to depose Siuan on very shaky ground.  Elaida's behaviour and decrees gave plenty of opportunity for the Sitters to call for her deposition as well.

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I agree you have to examine Alviarin in terms of her personality. The fact that before she was a black, she was a white is telling. Is she dangerous? Of course, but she's also cold, calculating, and logical. Think of circumstances from her point of view- the DO is gone (freeing her in a sense), the WT is closed to her (the black ajah is eradicated), and the world is now full of open channelers (making her less unique).


Alviarin isn't the type to seek revenge for its own sake, so I don't see her going after any of the good guys on a vendetta like Moghedien might.  Were she to escape of be set free, my guess is that she would consider herself a free agent and go about her business with a blank slate. Sure she might get up into some self serving nastiness, but nothing of any particular scale or importance.

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Surely her fate will be at least stilling if not execution?  I can't see her getting out of a stetting unaided, and I think the psychological blow of the DOs defeat would prevent any other DFs remaining trying to assist her.

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Surely her fate will be at least stilling if not execution?  I can't see her getting out of a stetting unaided, and I think the psychological blow of the DOs defeat would prevent any other DFs remaining trying to assist her.

If she were handed back to the WT, I don't doubt her fate would be stilling AND execution. Cadsuane don't play. That being the case, I don't know that the ogier would turn her over to that doom. Escape is always a possibility (if unlikely) but lets also not rule out the Saruman-Treebeard scenario. At some point they may simply deem her reformed and let her go lest the stedding drive her mad or kill her via not touching the source for so long. If the ogier refuse to kill her or see her killed, allowing her to leave at some point is really their only option.

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I think for me it hinges on her reasons behind staying in the WT after being demoted from Keeper.  Did she stay because she was more frightened of Mesanna, DO in general, other Dark Friends...  Or did she stay because she thought there was a way out.  If it was the former I don't think there's much chance of her being a threat in the future, if it was the latter then maybe.  Her approaches to Eg may indicate the latter, but if so her 'breakdown' was very convincingly played.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Yes I think she could become an important foe in the future, there are still DFs out there who may attempt to free her although I think the Trollocs will probably fall into infighting the Shadow will hold together sufficiently to continue its clandestine operations, and in the Blight they shall hold together sufficiently to repel any invasions that could exterminate them. I wonder what is happening with Shayol Ghul though, it sounded like the Blasted Lands were turned green and essentially taken out of the Blight, but was the Town destroyed? It seems to me that Eyeblinders and Trollocs could focus their attentions on retaking their holy sites...

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