The “Spin the Wheel” series on Tor.com gives readers a chance to choose which entries from the The Wheel of Time Companion encyclopedia, coming get revealed in these sneak peeks and it looks like our first randomly generated pick is a big one! Congrats to Comment #49 dragontrainer for selecting “Oath Rods – historical and current use of”!
And congrats to Wheel of Time readers, because that means they get the entirety of the substantial “Oath Rod” entry, along with a bonus entry for “Nine Rods of Dominion.”
Oath Rod — A ter’angreal used by the White Tower to bind an Accepted to the Three Oaths on becoming Aes Sedai. A smooth white rod about as thick as a woman’s wrist or a little slimmer, and approximately one foot long, it looked like ivory, but felt smoother, not quite like ivory, not quite like glass, and was very cool to the touch; not cold, but distinctly cool. It was very hard, harder than a steel bar, though no heavier than the ivory it appeared to be, and was unmarked except for a flowing symbol incised in one end; this was a numeral, as used in the Age of Legends, and represented the number three. Some thought the numeral stood for the Three Oaths. The rod was simply held in the hand while a little Spirit was channeled into the numeral. What ever was promised, even if not in the form of an oath, was then binding on the person holding the rod until they were released.
The Oath Rod was a relic of the Age of Legends, although the Aes Sedai of
the Third Age did not know that. Binders, as they were called then, were used in the Age of Legends to bind people who were incorrigibly violent, because of personality flaws or madness. If the person being bound could not channel, an Aes Sedai had to power it, but the effect was the same. The older one was when bound, the more it restricted. That is one reason it was used relatively seldom and only if nothing else would work. It was used instead of a death penalty, too—though in a way, in the terms of the Age, it was a death penalty—to bind someone not only not to commit their crime again but to spend the rest of their lives, if necessary, making restitution.
There was a perception of pressure with each oath taken; this pressure was
uncomfortable at first, as though one was wearing a garment that covered one from the top of one’s head to the soles of one’s feet and was too small, or as if one’s skin was too tight. This pressure faded over a period of months, usually taking about a year to vanish entirely, but while it existed, it seemed quite real, and in a way was quite real. That is, an injury or bruise taken while the pressure existed would hurt more, just as if there really was pressure on it. It was the cumulative effect of three oaths taken together that produced the strong feeling of one’s skin being too tight. One oath by itself would produce some of the same effect, but not quite as intense and not lasting so long. If oaths were removed and then retaken, the physical effect was the same as for taking them for the first time. Swearing again to an oath already taken and not removed produced only a momentary feel of pressure which faded immediately.
It was the Three Oaths, taken on the Oath Rod, which actually produced the ageless look of Aes Sedai. The ageless look did not come on immediately. Its progression was only very roughly in proportion to strength in the Power, with considerable variation among people of the same strength. For someone who was very strong, it would take at least a year, and as much as three or four was not at all uncommon. The average Aes Sedai took five or so years, while the weakest to reach the shawl could take as long as ten or more.
It was possible to be broken free of the oaths with the use of the Oath Rod. This was a very painful process, which had various side effects, most if not all temporary, but all unpleasant in one way or another. They included temporary physical weakness and loss of will, a temporary inability to channel and considerable pain; being released from one oath was very painful; being released from all three at one time was agonizing. This breaking was done by the Black Ajah prior to inducting a woman into their ranks, and the Oath Rod was also used by them to bind themselves to their own three oaths. Being stilled or burned out also removed oaths sworn, although that fact was not generally known.
Without the Oath Rod, a channeler’s age was somewhat in proportion to
strength, though it wasn’t an exact proportion. Stronger channelers lived longer, up to more than eight hundred years for a Forsaken-class channeler. Aging occurred at a rate that would take channelers from the age at which one slowed to the apparent age of sixty or so. This relatively young maximum apparent age was an artifact of the healthful effects of the One Power. With the Oath Rod, Aes Sedai lifespans were capped at about three hundred years maximum.
Nine Rods of Dominion — Nine individuals in the Age of Legends who served as regional governors of the world at the time. Ishamael said that Lews Therin had summoned them, which was an indication of Lews Therin having had ultimate authority.