The Black Ajah of the Grey Tower is an secret society of Darkfriends who masquerade as brothers and sisters of other Ajahs. They have all pledged themselves to the Great Lord of the Dark, either by swearing the Three Dark Oaths or by travelling to Shayol Ghul to make their oaths in person.
The Black Ajah is devoted to the service of the Great Lord of the Dark. By recruiting others into following their desires for their own personal goals, the hand of the Shadow gains power and influence over the world of men.
Although the men and women of the Black Ajah are selfish, power-hungry individuals, they also understand power in numbers. They watch out for one another in their own twisted ways, and their ability to gather and assemble information is extraordinary for such a large and secretive organization. The motto is perhaps, "Scratch my back and I'll scratch yours... as long as it's not more advantageous for me to stab you instead."
At any given time, because the membership of the Black Ajah is made up of individuals out for their own gain, the overall goal of the Ajah as a whole depends on who might be in leadership or in favour.
In the Black Ajah, powerful weaves such as Compulsion and Rending can be taught and practised. Initiates need to learn the arts of deception, observation, and murder. If you are diligent, clever, and ruthless, then the keys to power will be handed to you.
Being in the Black Ajah does not mean doing whatever you please. The structure of the Black Ajah is very hierarchical. Members are always watching each other for signs of weakness. You must be willing to endure and overcome pain. You must be willing to patiently wait until the time is right for revenge. This means having the sense to serve and obey without question. There is very little room for stupid mistakes in the Black Ajah.
Only the Supreme Council knows the identity of every member. The Ajah is organized into Hearts. Each member knows two others; these three are called a Heart. Each member also knows at least one person outside of his/her Heart. Messages are passed rapidly down the chain of command.
The notes are often tucked into a place where the recipient will have no choice but to find them, such as coat pockets, belt pouches, or slipped under the door of their private quarters.
The way the paper is folded means as much as the words themselves. For example, a note folded slightly crooked is to be passed on without looking, and messengers know better than to peek. A square note is to be opened, read, and burned. And a diagonal fold meant that the instructions are to be obeyed immediately without question.
Those are just the simplest folds. There are also various seals, and envelopes, and creased corners, and coloured strings tied around the papers. The list of hidden meanings stretches on and on and on. For instance, a white string (the colour of mourning) means that the name written in the note is to be murdered.
The same goes for the lighting of candles, or the location of messages, or the secret hand signals that are used between the Black Ajah and their spies. The Black has many secrets to divulge, but do not have the luxury of teachers or lessons. New members must learn on the fly.
Learning ranks are never accepted into the Black Ajah. However, the learning ranks may accidentally learn of the Black Ajah or purposefully seek it out. If any person seems likely to turn to the Shadow, then they will be tested without their knowledge. The person may be engaged in a philosophical discussion, or placed in a morally ambiguous scenario. They may also be tested for the ability to keep secrets, to lie, to obey orders, and to murder. Once this pre-testing is complete and the person has gained full rank, then they are eligible for the Oath-Breaking Ceremony or to be taken to Shayol Ghul.
The Dark Oaths
The Dark Oaths are:
- I shall obey all commands given by those placed above me in service to the Great Lord
- I shall prepare for the day of the Great Lord's return
- I shall hold close the secrets of the Black Ajah, unto the hour of my death
The initiate is taken from bed while sleeping. They are shielded, blindfolded, and knocked unconscious with a weave that induces sleep. The ceremony takes place in a small windowless room, and is witnessed only by the hooded members of the Supreme Council. Only the Supreme Council knows the identity of all members of the Black Ajah.
The initiate is stripped naked and bound by their hands and feet. Then they are awakened and forced to kneel. A knife is pressed to the initiate's throat and a mirror is brought so that the initiate may watch him/herself bleed to death if the wrong answer is given.
They are asked only one question: "Do you wish to join the Black Ajah?"
Since the initiate is currently bound by the original Three Oaths, they must answer honestly. If the answer is "No," then the person dies, but not before being tortured for every bit of information that they may have.
If the answer is "Yes," then the knife and mirror are removed. The Oath Rod is thrust into the initiate's hands and one of the Supreme Council of the same gender as the initiate channels a thread of Spirit. The initiate is ordered to say: "I forswear all oaths that bind me."
Undoing the Oaths is extremely painful and the initiate usually collapses.
After this, the initiate is ordered to swear the three Dark Oaths in the name of the Great Lord. Then, they are told: "You will be tested for a year and a day, to prove your worth. Listen carefully." Instructions are issued. The initiate's performance during this testing period is critical to their eventual ranking within the Black Ajah.
Finally, the initiate is once again knocked unconscious by the weave that induces sleep and taken back to their bed. They will not wake until the next morning.
Being taken to Shayol Ghul is the exact same process as the Oath-Breaking Ceremony, except that it occurs in the Pit of Doom. The Pit is accessed through a long tunnel and opens into a vast and deep lava-filled cavern with a small ledge above it. The top is open to the sky.
There is no mirror and knife. The initiate is simply asked if they want to join the Black Ajah. The Great Lord can discern the truth of the answer. Then the initiate swears the Dark Oaths.
The Black Ajah is led by a group of four channellers, collectively known as the Supreme Council. One member, called the Supreme Leader, is the leader of the Supreme Council and thus the de facto Head of the Black Ajah. The other three may be considered analogous to the Sitters of other Ajahs.
The Supreme Council are the ultimate authority over the entire Black Ajah. They are always hooded and dressed in thick black robes. Their voices and any other identifying characteristics are hidden by weaves of disguise.
The current Supreme Leader is Deyeniye.
The other members of the Supreme Council include an Aes Sedai from the Blue Ajah, an Asha'man from the Green Ajah, and an Asha'man from the White Ajah.