Hello, everyone. Welcome back to "WoT If?". This week's topic will be the former damane, Alivia.
Also, this WILL NOT contain spoilers from A Memory of Light's Prologue, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 11, or Tor's daily previews. Please refrain from posting any spoilers from A Memory of Light in the comments section. The A Memory of Light spoiler discussion board can be found here.
To me, Alivia has been one of the biggest mysteries in the series. There aren't too many theories about her, at least that I could find. I think that is so intriguing. It seems that everyone just accepts her—readers and characters alike. Ever since she was first introduced, I've had a hard time understanding the characters' acceptance of her. She's always stood out to me as being out of place with Rand's inner circle. So, let's look a bit closer at her and see if we can find out what she's hiding.
Alivia is first introduced—though not mentioned by name—in The Path of Daggers, Chapter 23, "Fog of War, Storm of Battle." She is one of five damane captured by Rand during his fight against the Seanchan. It's in Winter's Heart when we first hear anything about her, though. And the things we learn are that she was collared at age thirteen or fourteen, has been a damane for more than four hundred years, and she hates sul'dam (Chapter 8, "Sea Folk and Kin"). A leashed woman for over 400 years and she hates sul'dam? How unlikely is that? Damane are broken. It would take so much effort for one to want to be free of the collar.
In fact, the other two Seanchan damane don't want to be let off their leashes. Why would Alivia? The Randland damane want to be free, but they are still very beaten down; Reanna says, "I doubt either one could stand up to a sul’dam. I think if a sul’dam ordered either to help her escape, she would, and I fear she might not fight too hard if the sul’dam tried to collar her again." Yet Reanna says Alivia, "hates all the sul’dam, and she certainly makes a good show of it, snarling at them and cursing them, but…". How is it possible for women used to freedom to be cowed by the sul'dam but not a woman—a Seanchan woman—who has been leashed for 400 years? This should be a huge red flag to readers because of the impossibility of it.
So, after Alivia is let out of the a'dam, she is supposed to have a Kinswoman with her at all times, but rarely does. No one appears to do anything about it. Nynaeve tells her, "You aren’t supposed to go anywhere without an escort!" and then later, "You won’t let me see you without two or three Kinswomen again, if you know what’s good for you" (Winter's Heart, Chapter 11, "Ideas of Importance"). But, that very same day, Nynaeve takes Alivia with her when she leaves with Rand. Why?
This is just outrageous, the way she is instantly trusted and taken into the group. I can see a bit of reasoning on Nynaeve's part, though. She has been struggling with keeping to the Aes Sedai hierarchy—which is based on strength. She has used her own strength as a tool to get what she wants from others, so she would need to follow the rule as well. Alivia is stronger than Nynaeve, so it would be only Aes Sedai politics, maybe even subconsciously on Nynaeve's part.
Even so, how did Alivia even discover Nynaeve was leaving? Or did Nynaeve go and seek out the ex-damane? That seems even more unlikely since Nynaeve is obviously uncomfortable around the woman.
After leaving the Palace in Caemlyn, the party goes to Far Madding. It's here that Min has a viewing of Alivia:
Chapter 25, "Bonds"
“Rand, I like Alivia. I do, even if she does make Nynaeve have kittens left and right.” One fist planted on her hip, Min leaned forward and pointed a finger at his nose. “But she is going to kill you.” She bit off every word.
“You said she was going to help me die,” he said quietly. “Those were your words.”
Finally, we have someone who is suspicious of Alivia, though it makes Rand trust her more, for some reason. But the woman continues to be in their group. Why don't they interrogate her? Why don't they do something to find out her reasoning for hating sul'dam and wanting to help Rand? The fact that this is accepted without any explanation is mind boggling, to me.
Because of Min's viewing, even Nynaeve won't trust Alivia—though why she trusted her in the first place is a mystery. Nynaeve and Lan discuss it briefly:
Knife of Dreams
Chapter 20, "The Golden Crane"
“I don’t want to leave Rand alone with Alivia that long.”
“He trusts her, Nynaeve. I don’t understand it, but there it is, and that’s all that matters.” She sniffed. As if any man knew what was good for him.
This exchange can go both ways. A popular theme in the series is women knowing what's best, and another is women not understanding when they think they do. So, this could be foreshadowing either way, but I thought I'd point it out.
So, Alivia wanders free, not being taught by the Aes Sedai, but paying attention to their weaves. She is able to learn something just by seeing it done once (Knife of Dreams, Chapter 20, "The Golden Crane"). That means any channeling she sees, she can duplicate. This includes all the secret weaves that Sisters don't even pay attention to. Perhaps even secret weaves used to keep a wooden box—with the Domination Band inside—safe?
This leads me to my ultimate conclusion. Though there's very little evidence, I'm going to speculate anyway. I think Alivia was ordered by a sul'dam to gather information about their captors. They were captured by Rand, the Dragon Reborn, so the sul'dam could have told her to spy on him by any means possible. I think that's one of the only explanations for why Alivia was so eager to get the collar off: she was ordered to. Surely a damane would only be willing to be uncollared if she was ordered to. I think this is proved by the other Seanchan damane's insistence that they need to remain collared.
Either that, or there's another explanation: she is a Darkfriend. There is a certain sense of foreboding around Alivia, in the things I pointed out and other places. Perhaps she used Compulsion on Nynaeve to get to go along with the group? I did hint that she might have been the one who helped Elza get the Domination Band out of Cadsuane's room. Let's look at that a bit closer.
Cadsuane has the Domination Band in a document box in her quarters (The Gathering Storm, Chapter 14, "A Box Opens"). She disarms the box (which has inverted weaves on it that capture a person with Air, makes sounds like trumpets blasting, and has flashing lights) and shows the contents to Sorilea and Bair. Later, when the box had been opened, the wards didn't go off (Chapter 23, "A Warp in the Air"). Rand says servants searched Cadsuane's room; they would have mentioned if anyone was stuck floating with weaves of Air.
Sorilea saw the box disarmed, and likely armed, though it's not mentioned. But Cadsuane showed Sorilea the weaves she used on Semirhage, so it seems likely. Now, there have been a few theories that Bair might be a Darkfriend, but she can't channel, so she couldn't disarm the box. Sorilea as a Darkfriend is unlikely. But, what if Sorilea practices the weaves and Alivia happens to see? The next time we see Alivia, Rand thinks: "To the side, Alivia watched her [Min] go with curiosity. The former damane had stayed aloof recently, as if biding her time, waiting until she could fulfill her destiny in helping Rand die" (The Gathering Storm, Chapter 29, "Into Bandar Eban"). No other time has the damane been "aloof" in personality. If anything, she's overbearing. Why would Alivia suddenly be aloof? Because she's afraid of drawing the eye since her involvement with the Forsaken.
I think Alivia is working on one of those two sides. And her "helping Rand die" will not be for his own good, like he believes.
That's all for this edition. We have a break next week for the holidays, but the week after will be my last minute predictions for A Memory of Light. Thanks for reading!