Jaymie here. I’ll be discussing a wide variety of topics related to The Wheel of Time. Like many of you, I’ve been reading WoT since the Age of Legends, so we’ll have lots to cover together…WoTever comes to mind.
WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS
Affecting change out in Randland or as Sitters in the Hall, who’s the biggest badass of them all?
In this series, I’ll take a look at our own G.L.O.W. – the Glorious Ladies of WoT, specifically the smooth-cheeked, serenity-filled, skirt-smoothing, shawl-adjusting, butt-kicking Aes Sedai. I’ll select the most badass sister from each Ajah, as well as a runner-up for the title.
In Part One, we chose out the most badass Aes Sedai of the Green, Red, and Gray Ajahs.
The Blue, Yellow, White, and Brown Ajahs saw their badass representatives hailed in Part Two.
Part Three…well, let’s see what dirty deeds comprise a Black Ajah Badass.
ANOTHER WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS
The Black Ajah. Oh, these nasty, nasty ladies.
After lauding the bravery and accomplishments of the Badasses in Parts 1 and 2, it was tough to give these minions of the Dark One the same kind of distinction. But someone had to do it. And thanks to Robert Jordan, I was given some complex, startlingly well-written, and deliciously evil characters through which to sort.
At first, I tried to think of characteristics that distinguished the Black sisters from the non-Dark sisters, like sneaking, conniving, word-twisting…then I saw Blight in my head yelling at Batman, “DO YOU HAVE THE SLIGHTEST IDEA HOW LITTLE THAT NARROWS IT DOWN?”
But for real, we can add murdering—LOTS of murdering—to the Black Ajah resume, along with actual lying. We can also add aligning events to the desires of the Forsa—I mean, Chosen and the Dark O—dang it, Great LORD.
A Few Contenders
The obvious literal choice for Most Badass Aes Sedai of the Black Ajah is Verin Mathwin. But as she sacrificed her very life to thwart the Dark and reveal herself as a double agent for the Light, we simply cannot, in good conscience, brand her as Black. Besides, as we saw in Part Two, she wholly and unequivocally already owns the title of the Badass of the Brown.
Liandrin was our first real introduction to a sister of the Black Ajah, as she and her pretty face and hostile personality led our young heroines straight into Seanchan hands. (And I am stoked to see Kate Fleetwood play Liandrin in the upcoming TV show. STOKED, I say!)
Liandrin was mean and nasty and just what we as readers hoped to get from our first real glimpse at a member of the nervously-whispered-about Black Ajah. Sadly, she was but reduced to a sniveling mess by her mistress Moghedien before the end of Book 5 (The Fires of Heaven).
A multitude of other Black sisters did their jobs well (and were fun to read while they did them):
Elza Penfell was compelling as she served Rand in hopes of delivering him to the Dark in the Last Battle. Katerine Alruddin’s ambition and sheer viciousness made her one to watch. Sheriam Bayanar’s revelation as a Black sister was fairly shocking, since she felt like our Mistress of Novices, too. Her impact was huge as she had the trust of the heroines (and of US, dammit) early on, and later kept things lively and discombobulated at the Rebel camp. But she was also a scaredy-cat and her reasons for going Dark (other people are better at stuff than me!) were quite lame.
We also got to know very well the unpleasant ladies who fled the Tower with Liandrin. They each had Dark shiny moments in their own right, with lots of torture, murdering, cat adopting, and bawdy song-singing with ousted monarchs.
But two Black sisters stood out from the pack in terms of nastiness, their impact throughout the series, and their fascinating endings. And both were so obnoxiously exceptional that I flip-flopped between Winner and Runner-Up right up until press time.
Alviarin Friedhen (Black/White)
This woman was a straight-up sociopath. The Black Ajah normally recruits from among novices and Accepted, but this nut job had committed her first murder long before coming to the Tower; hell, it was before she even knew she could channel.
In terms of impact, Alviarin ended up with two of the most powerful titles a woman in the series could have: head of the Black Ajah (a title bestowed by Ishamael himself) and, after helping Elaida depose Siuan, Keeper of the Chronicles in the White Tower. As Keeper, she at first manipulates Elaida, then outright controls her. Later, Alviarin does fall from her Keeper power, but shows back up at the Last Battle as a new Dreadlord.
Alviarin’s character receives an unexpected (and, oh, I’ll just say it: fun!) ending during the Last Battle as she is tricked into entering an Ogier stedding (Androl, holla!). She and the Dark channelers with her are greeted by the stedding’s Eldest, who will accommodate them for as many years as they need to “reconsider their path.”
Galina Casban (Black/Red)
The wicked ways of Galina gave us some huge story arcs: she got to kill sisters gathered by Tamra Ospenya to hunt for the Dragon Reborn; 20 years later she got to capture the Dragon Reborn in a box and beat him daily, thus beginning the downward spiral of Rand into his counterproductive harder-than-steel persona (Dumai’s Wells, anyone? Yep, we can thank Galina for that). Additionally, her character gave us eyes on the Shaido and their leadership.
After she was captured by the Shaido and severely, relentlessly abused by the Wise One Therava, Galina’s grit and perseverance saw her through multiple escape attempts. Each time the attempts failed, and each time she was harshly punished. That didn’t stop her from taking one last shot at flight by blackmailing fellow Shaido captive Faile into helping her. Faile complied and Galina was so tantalizingly close to freedom. But she was caught for the final time, right before Therava announced the Shaido were done in the wetlands and would return to the Waste.
“Something had broken in her. She was Galina Casban, Highest of the Red Ajah, who sat on the Supreme Council of the Black Ajah, and she was going to be Therava’s plaything for the rest of her life. She was Therava’s little Lina. For the rest of her life. She knew that to her bones. Tears rolled silently down her face.” (Knife of Dreams, Ch. 30, Outside the Gates)
Wow. What an ending.
What do you think? Who did I miss? Do you agree or is someone else a bigger badass of the Black Ajah?