Taim's 'Escape', Joiya's 'Lies' and the Borderland 'Aes Sedai'
Ok, so apologies, this is a long one. Bear with me though, I think it's good.
In The Shadow Rising Taim is mysteriously freed from his Aes Sedai captors in the village of Danhuir, just east of the Black Hills. Nothing is ever uttered about it other than that it was done in stealth during the night and that two Aes Sedai died in the attempt [tSR; 17, Deceptions]. Rand tells Taim that he heard that Taim was broken out by some of his followers [LoC; 11, Lessons and Teachers], but Taim avoids commenting on it.
The scarcity of information is strange in itself. In three thousand years no captured False Dragon later escaped. Egwene states that...
And the Warders would be ringing the courtyard against the possibility that someone might try to free the man to be gentled. The remnants of Guaire Amalasan’s armies had attempted it, at the end of what some called the War of the Second Dragon, just before Artur Hawkwing’s rise had given Tar Valon other things to worry it, and so had Raolin Darksbane’s followers, long years earlier. Whether Rand had any followers or not, she could not remember, but Warders remembered such things, and guarded against them.
[tSR; 22, The Price of the Ring
And Elaida supports their success.
"As for Taim...." The name burned her mouth; the only false Dragon ever to escape being gentled once in the hands of Aes Sedai.
[aCoS; Prologue, Lightnings]
So how did anyone manage to sneak past the gaiden, kill two Aes Sedai, and free Taim without raising an alarm? Why did the Aes Sedai reporting to Leane not speak of how this was managed? Why did the Aes Sedai not persue Taim? And what happened to these followers? For that matter, what happened to the Aes Sedai?
In [tSR; 5, Questions] Joiya has this to say...
"The false Dragon, Mazrim Taim, who was captured in Saldaea, can channel with incredible strength. Perhaps as much as Rand al’Thor, or nearly so, if the reports can be believed. Before he can be brought to Tar Valon and gentled, Liandrin means to break him free. He will be proclaimed as the Dragon Reborn, his name given as Rand al’Thor, and then he will be set to destruction on such a scale as the world has not seen since the War of the Hundred Years."
Now obviously this is a lie. Liandrin followed through on Amico's confessions, not Joiya's, and of course the Black Ajah are Oath bound against revealing active BA plans (whether as a part of the Don't Betray The Great Lord Oath Verin dodged around, or one of the others).
Adeleas told Nynaeve in Elayne's hearing that the woman spilled out volumes about old plots of the Black Ajah, those she had not been involved in much more enthusiastically than those she was, yet even when they pressed her hard--Elayne could not quite make herself ask how they pressed--and she let slip the names of Darkfriends, most were certainly dead and none was a sister. Vandene said they were beginning to fear she had taken an Oath--the capital was audible--against betraying her cohorts.
[tPoD; 20, Into Andor]
Yet despite this it is quite strange that Joiya would fabricate an event that actually occurs. Taim being the first False Dragon to be freed once in Aes Sedai custody in three millennia is odd. Taim doing so after another person spoke of a plot to free him stretches incredulity, especially when you add the fact that someone went to efforts to keep Siuan unaware of Joiya's claims
Protecting the Lie
Moiraine strives to warn Siuan.
“You have until they are put on the ship, though I very much doubt either will change her tale now. My advice is to concentrate on Tanchico. If Joiya speaks truly, it will take Aes Sedai and Warders to guard Mazrim Taim, not just the three of you. I sent a warning to the Amyrlin by pigeon when I first heard Joiya’s story. In fact, I sent three pigeons, to make sure one reaches the Tower.”
[tSR; 6, Doorways]
Yet later Siuan states those pigeons never arrived.
One message from Moiraine that the al'Thor boy had Callandor, then nothing in the weeks since, although rumors in the streets were already beginning to get his name right. Still nothing.
[tSR; 47, The Truth of a Viewing]
Moiraine seems to think three pigeons ensure delivery of her message, so a simple accident seems unlikely, and therefore someone must have intercepted the messages. So the question is this, why would anyone seek to destroy lies and fabrications? Unless of course they aren't. I draw your attention to Ispan's tactic of dealing with the loyalty oath: "the woman spilled out volumes about old plots of the Black Ajah, those she had not been involved in much more enthusiastically than those she was."
I suggest Joiya was doing precisely the same thing. It is, in fact, a very Aes Sedai way around the Oath. Joiya was revealing an old plot that she'd heard and either thought thrown away, or else already achieved and therefore safe to reveal.
Who Freed Taim; How Did They Do It?
Of course it was already likely Aes Sedai freed Taim because of the issues with non-channelers achieving it, but I wanted to lay out the above as foundation for the next step--how it was achieved. I used to believe the Black Ajah had sent out a second group of Sisters to intercept Taim's captors and free him, but I no longer think that is the case. An open confrontation would have sent rumours charging of One Power battles, and there were none. From there Aes Sedai face the same issues in freeing Taim by stealth as anyone else did.
I suggest instead that all or most of the sisters sent after Taim were Black Ajah.
Is That Even Possible?
Only one in five sisters were Black, so it seems unlikely this could occur by chance, however in [aCoS; Prologue, Lightnings] Alviarin decides the ensure no Black Sisters are sent to the Black Tower. If Alviarin can influence the exclusion of sisters being selected for a team of 51 from a pool of 250, then I have no problems with the idea that she could influence the selection of 13.
It fits neatly--Anaiya says those sister were already in Saldaea by the time tGH began [tGH; 4, Summoned], so perfect timing for knowledge of it to filter through the Hearts and reach Joiya (or Liandrin if Joiya was telling the truth about over-hearing the knowledge from her). What is, perhaps, confusing is what the timing says about the purpose of this mission.
If, as Anaiya states, the Aes Sedai had already reached Saldaea at the beginning of tGH, then something very, very weird happened. Specifically six whole months pass. That's right, Anaiya states that the Aes Sedai should be in Saldaea during the first days of Amadaine, and Taim is taken in the last few day of Nesan. That's early June to late November that the Aes Sedai were in Saldaea, near Taim--and they achieve nothing. They weren't even the ones to take Taim down. I mean there is Aes Sedai ineffectiveness, and there is active deception.
I of course think that Taim is Taim, and was always a darkfriend, and therefore was ordered to become a False Dragon as an early defamation and chaos spreading tactic--indeed, one may notice the similarities between Joiya's 'lies' and the role Taim actually played if you look at him as an always-darkfriend. Under that plan the Black Aes Sedai would have been ordered to let him play his role, and only took him when forced too by Rand's sky-born theatrics.
However, since I don't want to turn this into a 'what is Taim' discussion, and undoubtedly the Moridinists and Turned-Taim's will see this as potential proof that their theory is incorrect I will point out that the mission could as easily just have been enacted to let a Lightfriend Taim work his own chaos as a False Dragon, and only after his capture was it decided to turn/ensoul him. It's even possible a similar plan was enacted with Logain before Cadsuane came out of hiding and took him down, only with things being more peaceful and Logain's larger fame they couldn't easily 'escape' him in order to turn him.
So, it doesn't matter what you think Taim is, what is important is do you buy my suggestion that the sisters sent to take him down were over-padded with Blacks commanded to thwart attempts to capture him in order to generate chaos and a general bad name for the Dragon, and that these women freed him of their own free will, and lied in their letter to Siuan about how he was freed by stealth (one notes that that chapter was entitled 'Deceptions) and that it was knowledge of this plan (which Joiya would see as completed and done with, and thus betrayable) that Joiya used in her 'fabrications'?
Because if you do, we can move forward. ;D
What Happened After Taim Was Freed
What Happened To Taim
It's possible Taim did try to re-announce himself Dragon, and couldn't as Moiraine suggested he wouldn't be able to, but I suspect that was the only actual lie Joiya used. Irrespective we know Taim ended up with Rand.
What Happened To The Aes Sedai
Of course it’s possible they returned to the Tower, yet there is no mention, and given Elaida's fury about Taim that seems... odd. From there, the Tower was broken during that time. What do a cabal of Aes Sedai do in such a situation? Pretty much the same as what Verin and Alanna looked to do, what the Aes Sedai at the Silver Swan seem to be doing--they retreat, find a base, and look to learn more.
So they were on the Maradon Road when Taim 'escaped'? Where does an enterprising Aes Sedai head from there--that's right, you guessed it, the Borderlands where Aes Sedai are respected, and where there is turmoil which they could exploit to gain influence. Shortly after this time we get this...
"You hardly expected me to leave Coladara behind, Ethenielle," he said in soothing tones, "even if I could have kept the preparations from her." She had not; his favorite sister was Aes Sedai, and Kiruna had given him a deep fondness for the Tower. Ethenielle had not expected it, but she had hoped. "Coladara had visitors," he continued. "Seven of them. Bringing them along seemed prudent, under the circumstances. Fortunately, they require little convincing. None, in truth."
"The Light illumine and preserve our souls," Ethenielle breathed, and heard near echos from Serailla and Baldhere. "Eight sisters, Paitar? Eight?" The White Tower surely knew every move they intended, now.
"And I have five more," Tenobia put in as if announcing she had a new pair of slippers. "They found me just before I left Saldaea. By chance, I'm sure; they appeared as surprised as I was. Once they learned what I was doing--I still don't know how they did, but they did--once they learned, I was sure they'd go scurrying to find Memara." Her brows furrowed in a momentary glare. Elaida had miscalculated badly in sending a sister to try bullying Tenobia. "Instead," she finished, "Illeisien and the rest were more intent on secrecy than I."
[tPoD; Prologue, Deceptive Appearances]
If I'm correct about the freeing of Taim, and those Aes Sedai didn't return to the Tower, then they would almost certainly have split up--that many Aes Sedai together would attract too many eyes--and from there they would seek to get near power, influence events. Notice that Illeisien seems as bent on secrecy as Tenobia--that surely indicates a specific purpose. She has her own agenda which she is guarding from Elaida.
There is a problem with the numbers, however. Coladara was not part of the original group, which means one of the originals is missing. That actually makes sense--why lie to Siuan about two sisters dying and then only have to explain them all still being alive? I'd suggest two Lightbound Aes Sedai went with the original group, and had to be killed to cover tracks--in which case there is another random amongst the Borderlanders. If this is the case I'd suggest they'd be with the group that approached Coladara because that would mean the originals split 5/6, which makes sense.
But wait, this is all fairly circumstantial, right? What do I have other than the general location and a sense of what the Aes Sedai might do in their situations?
The Borderlander 'Aes Sedai'
The Borderlander Aes Sedai are often mentioned and never seen. There is something of a feeling of doom about them--just as there is about the eventual meeting between Rand and the Borderland rulers. Why, you ask? A combination of the following viewings.
1. The strongest things I see about [Perrin] are a wolf, and a broken crown, and trees flowering all around him. [TEOTW: 15, Strangers and Friends, 181]
2. "I saw an aura around you [Rand] in the throne room. Aes Sedai are going to hurt you. Women who can channel, anyway. It was all confused; I'm not sure about the Aes Sedai part. But it might happen more than once." [LOC: 41, A Threat, 532]
3. "Twice Perrin's going to have to be there, or you [Rand]...." "If he's not, something bad will happen to you." "Very bad." [LOC: 46, Beyond the Gate, 578-9]
4. "And there's something... dark... in the images I saw around Lord Davram. If he turns against you, or dies..." [COT: 24, A Strengthening Storm, 547]
The Broken Crown is the Crown of Saldaea. For Perrin (and Faile) to attain it, Davram and Tenobia need to die. From there, the first of the two times Perrin needed to be there for Rand involved Rand being hurt by Aes Sedai. It doesn't seem implausible to suggest the second might also give Min stated Rand might be hurt by Aes Sedai 'more than once'. Following that, consider circumstance; a meeting that has been building for five books is coming soon; bringing Tenobia and Bashere together, and thus putting them in a position to suffer the same fate. Meanwhiles, around the same time Perrin states: "He needed to seek out Rand. He could feel something tugging at him, pulling him. Rand needed him." in [tGS; 7, Leaving Malden].
The suggestion therefore is that the mysterious and ominously absent Aes Sedai with the Borderlanders will make a move on Rand during the meeting. In what results Tenobia and Davram will be killed, Rand will be hurt, and Perrin will save the day, gain the Broken Crown, and probably consolidate the Borderlander armies under him. But how could that many Black sisters have just stumbled together? The organisation of the Black Ajah essentially forbids it, and it can't be that Illesien and the others were ordered to seek out the Borderlander rulers--Tenobia states: "They found me just before I left Saldaea. By chance, I'm sure; they appeared as surprised as I was."
Two aberrantly large groups of blacks in the same area for no discernable purpose and not acting on orders? Intro Taim's cabal of Black Sisters.
This was a long one, I know. I considered breaking it in two--Freeing Taim and the Borderland Aes Sedai--but ultimately I think they sit better together. In any case the summary of my theories are as follows...
The Shadow wanted Taim free to cause havoc, for whatever reason, and so when Aes Sedai were sent to deal with him Alviarin made sure that they were mostly Blacks. These Blacks successfully stove off the capture of Taim for six months until he fell and they were forced to take him, and then they intentionally released him later, claiming he was freed.
Following this they broke in two groups and headed north, joining Paitar and Tenobia respectively. They now sit amongst Borderlanders waiting for the meeting with Rand, where they will act. Tenobia and Bashere will die in this attack, and Rand will be hurt, but Perrin will save the day.
So I guess what I'm saying is... yay Perrin?