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[Leigh Butler, Drew Holton]
The big cliffhanger of COT leaves us with several questions, but the central one is this: who ratted out Egwene's Sooper Sekrit Plan?
There are several possibilities, both for who the traitor was on the Rebel AS side and who captured Eg (and probably Leane too) on the Tower AS side (obviously, each influences the other).
There are also a couple of significant events preceding the operation that probably have something to do with the betrayal. One is the death of Kairen Stang [COT: 30, What the Oath Rod Can Do, 652], who was supposed to be Leane's counterpart in the undertaking. Another is Nicola Treehill's disappearance. Yet another is the unexplained absence of Faolain.
One thing to note at the outset: Egwene's captors are surprised at her identity. Some people have taken this to mean that the capture itself was unplanned, and the AS who captured her were just guarding the wall or something - i.e. there was no betrayal. However, this is highly improbable. The use of forkroot means that the ambush was almost certainly planned, rather than being merely fortuitious - as Ben Goodman points out, forkroot has to be brewed into a tea, which is kind of difficult to carry around "just in case". The precision of the abduction and the lack of a general alarm also suggest that they were forewarned of the plan. It's very unlikely Egwene's captors were there by happenstance; their surprise merely indicates that neither the traitor nor her collaborators on the other side knew about Egwene's last-minute decision to replace Bode.
Siuan, Leane, Bode, and Kairen Stang (before she died) also knew, obviously, since they were key players in the plot. Gareth Bryne was in on it [COT: 30, What the Oath Rod Can Do, 664], as was Theodrin; presumably the mysteriously absent Faolain was aware of the plan as well, though we can't know that for sure.
There is also a possibility that Nicola (and Areina) knew.
A few of these people can be eliminated outright as suspects. Kairen, being dead and all, can be safely rejected. There's no way Siuan was responsible. Gareth Bryne, Leane and Bode are all extremely unlikely culprits as well. Let's look at the remaining suspects.
[Tiana, to Egwene]: "Ever since we found out she has the Foretelling, she's been Foretelling two or three times a day, to hear her tell it. ... battles with the Seanchan or the Asha'man, an Amyrlin imprisoned..." [COT: 17, Secrets, 431, emphasis mine]It's been pointed out that Nicola doesn't remember what she Foretells, but Areina or her "family" were clearly telling her everything she said while tranced out, so that's no obstacle. Indeed that brings up another suspicious connection: Sheriam fiercely lobbies Egwene to let Nicola's "cousins" off the hook for covering up her escape. This could be just because Sheriam's own beatings have left her super-sensitive (so to speak) on the issue of corporeal punishment, but another way to look at it is that she is worried about what they might reveal under duress about either Nicola's escape or her other Foretellings, or both [Patrick Cotrona].
Of course, it could also be that Nicola did run away to the Tower, but had nothing to do with the betrayal. She may have guessed what her "Amyrlin imprisoned" prophecy meant and simply decided to pick the winning side before it all went down. She could even have gone to the Tower in order to help Egwene, unlikely as that may seem.
"The White Tower makes mistakes upon ocasion. It is impossible to live or move without making mistakes. But we live and we go on, and if we sometimes need to conceal our mistakes, whenever possible, we rectify them. Even when it is painful."
[COT: 30, What the Oath Rod Can Do, 672]
"When I was a little girl, I dreamed of becoming Aes Sedai. From the day I reached the White Tower, I tried to live as an Aes Sedai. I have lived as Aes Sedai, and I will die as Aes Sedai. This cannot be allowed!"
[COT: 30, What the Oath Rod Can Do, 668]
Halima would definitely have wanted the plan to fail and keep the two factions deadlocked, but in a strange way that counts as evidence against her - the capture of any Rebel AS, especially two who know how to Travel and make cuendillar, gives a distinct advantage to the Tower faction. Halima's interest is in keeping the conflict at a stalemate. Wouldn't a more efficient way of thwarting the plan while still giving no advantage to either side be to kill Leane and Bode, too? Why only Kairen?
Does the method of the capture itself shed any light on who's responsible? Well, that's a subject of some debate.
"She had just time to realise that someone had embraced the Source not far away, above her on the wall, then something struck the boat, struck her, and she was aware of cold water enveloping her, filling her nose, her mouth. Darkness." [COT: 30, What the Oath Rod Can Do, 677]The passage makes it sound like Eg's captors used the OP not only to sink/destroy the boat, but also to strike Eg herself. It's been argued that this is proof that Eg's assailants had to be Black Ajah, since the Third Oath prevents non-Black AS from using the OP as a weapon.
It's not quite as clear-cut as that, though. There's no reason to doubt that the AS on the wall used the OP to sink the boat, but the phrase "struck her" is ambiguous. Eg is very disoriented at that point, and the second she feels something hit her she realizes she is in the water. So what "struck her" could have been her body hitting the water.
But even so, Sebastian Redl argues, an attack on the boat constitutes using the OP as a weapon: "Remember the passage earlier in the book where Egwene and Bryne watch the ships going to the harbor. Egwene then thinks that a sister could probably not even make herself form the weaves to sink ship because of the mere possibility! that the crew might drown [COT: 16, The Subject of Negotiations, 393]. There was a possibility that Egwene would drown too."
Jeff Taylor counters, "This is not really Black Ajah evidence. Aes Sedai seem to take a very narrow view on the Third Oath. As long as the attempt was not to kill her outright, an AS can use the Power to attack her without it qualifying as being 'used as a weapon.' If the Aes Sedai just wanted to sink the boat, they probably could do it, as long as they didn't 'intend' to kill anyone." It's also worth pointing out that the possibility of Egwene drowning, close to the wall, with a bunch of AS standing by to fish her out of the drink, was much more remote than the possibility that multiple panicking sailors on a ship sinking far out in the middle of the river would drown.
And any interpretation of the Third Oath that allows for locking someone in a box and beating them repeatedly is probably loose enough to allow for sinking a boat under someone, as long as you have every intention of rescuing them.
The forkroot is similarly inconclusive. Every AS in the Tower, BA or otherwise, knows about the drug by now, and AS queasiness about its existence is not reason enough to suppose they would refuse to use such a surefire and energy-efficient method of containing a renegade channeler.
Yeah, but she doesn't need to channel to enter T'A'R the regular way, does she? So she could go find Elayne or Avi or someone in their sleep and raise the alarm, right?
This was the subject of some debate, but Peter Reid observes, "What everyone who's arguing this point is missing is the fact that it appears that when one is loaded up with forkroot, one cannot Dream. Recall that when Nynaeve captures Moghedien, she feeds her forkroot in T'A'R, which not only takes away her ability to channel, but also causes her to have to leave T'A'R. I think it's said that forkroot puts you into too deep a sleep to be able to enter T'A'R.
"So the whole point is moot. As long as Egwene is being fed forkroot, she won't be able to channel or to Dream. If they decide to stop the forkroot and shield her the traditional way, then she should be able to return to Dreaming."
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