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The Vileness is the term used by the Aes Sedai to describe a period of extreme unpleasantness in their recent history in which Tower law was flouted and several innocent people were killed. Unknown to the majority of sisters also two Amyrlin Seat and dozens of senior and very influential Aes Sedai were assassinated. The Vileness deepened the existing tensions between several of the Ajahs, most notably between the Blue and Red.
Unknown to many, the Black Ajah had a significant hand in events as well.
For centuries, a secret cadre of Darkfriends who were also Aes Sedai existed within the White Tower. The Black Ajah selected sisters from amongst all of the Ajahs to serve them, and it worked in great secrecy. One of the reasons for the Black Ajah's existence was to provide the Shadow with access to the Dragon Reborn,[verify] since it was assumed that the Aes Sedai would locate then either take control of or ally with the true Dragon Reborn when he emerged. The Black Ajah was led by a single woman[verify] and reported to the Forsaken Ishamael during the rare periods when he was at liberty from Shayol Ghul.
The Black Ajah's roleEdit
After Gitara Moroso's death the Black Ajah heard rumours connecting the death with a Foretelling, one that had the Amyrlin Seat, Tamra Ospenya, closeted and making secret and hasty plans mainly with influential senior sisters.
Suspecting that Tamra had discovered the Black Ajah existence on 979 NE, Jarna Malari, a Gray sitter and also the leader of the Black, ordered the kidnapping of the Amyrlin and put her to the question. But the Amyrlin was stubborn. While Jarna learned that the Dragon had been reborn, she did not learn when this event had occurred before Tamra died from the interrogation. She therefore did not know that the Dragon Reborn was an infant, only just born. So Jarna decided to show initiative by tracking down and murdering the Dragon Reborn.
Immediately she started a great deadly hunt, an even more intensive search than usual for men who could channel, for every male of any age who showed any sign that they might be able to channel or to be a ta'veren. Even a rumour, a hint was enough. And since being lucky or having a sudden rise to relative prominence were among the sign to look for, it was a very bad and nasty time for men with a bit of fortune. For that reason hundreds men were killed secretly by "accidents" procured by Black sisters. When it was not possible they where accused to be channelers and killed with the excuse that they were "trying to escape" or the like, especially by Black sisters.
When Sierin Vayu of the Gray Ajah succeeded Tamra as Amyrlin, Duhara Basaheen, a Red, was named as her Keeper of the Chronicles, a break with tradition as the Amyrlin and Keeper usually came from the same Ajah. Duhara however was also Black Ajah. She was, therefore, ideally positioned to view information from the Aes Sedai's vast intelligence network. The vaguest report of a man who proved unusually lucky would result in the dispatch of Black Ajah sisters to kill him. One of the earliest and highest-profile such casualties was Prince Diryk, the second son of Queen Ethenielle Cosaru Noramaga of Kandor, who had survived a fifty-foot fall by chance. The killings of such "lucky" males, as chronicled in New Spring, revealed to Moiraine Damodred and Siuan Sanche that the Black Ajah did not know how old the Dragon Reborn was, giving them a little more time to act.
Known Aes Sedai killed by the Black during the VilenessEdit
Apart the hunt to the Dragon Reborn himself, the Black Ajah also started a campaign to eliminate all the Aes Sedai secretly involved by Tamra in the search of the infant. In this way the Black Ajah not intentionally but systematically killed many sisters, which potentially were to be candidate to the Amyrlin Seat. In fact Tamra asked the help of many of the most influential Aes Sedai of her age. Thus opened the way for the choosing of more young sisters for the role of Amyrlin, as Siuan Sanche. Fortunately the Black never learned that Siuan and Moiraine were aware of the Dragon to be reborn as an infant.
Related to the killing of men and boys, the Black Ajah killed directly or indirectly thirty to fifty senior Aes Sedai who might have known that the Dragon had been reborn. We know the names of some of them:
- Tamra Ospenya
- Meilyn Arganya
- Kerene Nagashi
- Larelle Tarsi
- Aisha Raveneos
- Valera Gorovni
- Ludice Daneen
- Sierin Vayu
- Marya Somares
- Cetalia Delarme
Also the Black Ajah itself suffered the consequences of the Vileness. In fact many Blacks were punished when Ishamael discovered what they did without informing him, because he wanted to Turn the Dragon instead to eliminate him.
So the Black Ajah head (Jarna Malari) her two vice-heads and many others in the Black Supreme Council (among them Tesien Jorhald, former Highest of the Red Ajah) were killed atrociously leaving their place to a more young generation of Black Sisters.
Upon gaining liberty from Shayol Ghul in 983 NE, Ishamael demanded a report from Jarna on her activities. As stated above Ishamael was furious with Jarna's work, since he wanted the Dragon Reborn to be turned to the Shadow, not killed outright. He executed Jarna in a spectacular and painful fashion and appointed Alviarin Freidhen as her successor. On Ishamael's orders, Alviarin terminated immediately the search-and-destroy mission. Also a new Highest for the Red was chosen, Galina Casban, which again was Black as well.
The Red Ajah's roleEdit
Whilst the Black Ajah was carrying out their search-and-destroy mission, it occurred to Jarna that they could manipulate the Red Ajah into doing their dirty work for them as well. She instructed the head of the Red Ajah and also a Black sister, to select certain trusted Red sisters to carry out the mission.
Since the Three Oaths prevented them from directly killing individuals, they usually had to circumvent the oaths. The most successful method was to gentle the man on the spot and loudly announce who and what he was before leaving him to the inevitable mob to deal with.
After Ishamael reaction the Red Ajah was ordered to halt as well as the Black, but some Red sisters did not stop, and their hunt continued for another two years, albeit at a slower pace. The Amyrlin Sierin Vayu had intended to crush it but she was assassinated by some Reds instigated by the Black sister Chesmal, who was in suspicion by the Amyrlin.
Finally Marith Jaen was elected as new Amyrlin Seat and she was able to stop the hunt. And she come down hard to those guilty
The precautions were for naught. In 985 NE, Thom Merrilin, the court bard at Caemlyn and the lover of Queen Morgase Trakand, learned that his nephew Owyn had discovered that he could channel and had been found by Red sisters. The Red Ajah gentled him on the spot instead of taking him for trial. When his village discovered that he could channel, he was exiled from the village and died soon after. Although Thom was unable to get any kind of public reaction from the Aes Sedai, his confrontation with Morgase's advisor, Elaida do Avriny a'Roihan, did publicly expose the Red Ajah's activities.
The new Amyrlin, Marith Jaen, and the Hall of the Tower conducted an investigation, was shocked by what it found, and immediately deposed all three of the Red Sitters: Toveine Gazal, Lirene Doirellin and Tsutama Rath. By order of Marith the three Red Sitters were also secretly punished and exiled to do hard work in a farm (officially they went to a voluntary retirement).
Along them many Red sisters directly involved in the hunt-and-kill program were severely punished, but not all. Galina escaped punishment because it was decided to punish only a few at the top and not destroy the whole Ajah, although she was the Highest no one outside the Ajah knew that. Elaida escaped because of her minimal involvement.
The Vileness was mostly kept hidden, even from other Aes Sedai. This is shown when Cadsuane mentions it in the presence of Merana and Annoura, both of the Gray Ajah, but neither appears to know what she is talking about. Only the three Red Sitters and few others were punished, finding and punishing all those who were involved would have weakened not only the Red's reputation but also that of the Tower itself. Therefore most of the sisters who actually carried out the crimes, such as Galina and Elaida, were not harmed at all. Of course, the Black Ajah's hand was not suspected at all.
After Elaida became Amyrlin Seat in 999 NE, she eventually recalled the exiled sitters and gave missions of some importance to sisters involved in the Vileness, further discrediting her in the eyes of some of the other Aes Sedai.