It can be visited in one's sleep, but events there are real; it is also possible to enter physically. The series proper commences almost twenty years later in the Two Rivers , a near-forgotten district of the country of Andor. An Aes Sedai, Moiraine , and her Warder Lan , arrive in the village of Emond's Field, secretly aware that servants of the Dark One are searching for a young man living in the area. Nynaeve al'Meara , the village wise-woman, later joins them. Gleeman Thom Merrilin also travels with the group.
The first novel depicts their flight from various agents of the Shadow and their attempts to reach the Aes Sedai city of Tar Valon. Thereafter the protagonists are frequently split into different groups and pursue different missions toward the cause of the Dragon Reborn, sometimes thousands of miles apart.
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As they struggle to unite the various kingdoms against the Dark One's forces, their task is complicated by rulers of the nations who refuse to lose their autonomy; by the zealots styling themselves 'the Children of the Light', who do not believe in the prophecies; and by the Seanchan , the descendants of a long-lost colony of Artur Hawkwing 's empire. The Aes Sedai also become divided on how to deal with the Dragon Reborn. Deriving its name from that of Armageddon in Christian eschatology, Tarmon Gai'don is the apocalyptic battle wherein the Dragon Reborn opposes Shai'tan, while their followers fight elsewhere.
In the series, many characters possess special powers. Within the fictional world, some of these abilities are widely known and understood, while others are undocumented; some are depicted as unique. Some characters take the reappearance of ancient abilities as a sign that the Last Battle is coming. Channelers can access a natural power source called the "One Power", while Shai'tan can grant access to a separate power, the "True Power".
Very little is written in the series about the True Power, while the One Power is described extensively.
The One Power consists of five elemental "Powers": earth, water, air, fire, and spirit. Channelers often have particular strength in at least one Power, more commonly earth and fire in men and water and air in women; strength in spirit is equally rare between the sexes. A channeler creates a "weave" to achieve a specific effect by placing individual "flows" of the five Powers in a specific geometric configuration.
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The One Power has two aspects: "saidin", used by men; and "saidar", used by women. They differ sufficiently that no woman can teach a man to channel and vice versa , and they can be used in drastically incompatible ways, though they sometimes achieve functionally identical effects. The True Power similarly differs from both. Male channelers are usually stronger than women, but women have advantages at "linking" with other channelers to harness more power; an individual's strength is quantified by the amount of the One Power he or she can channel at once.
Some men and women are born with the "spark" to channel; these individuals will spontaneously begin to channel around puberty, but without formal training 3 in 4 suffer a fatal illness caused by channeling. Those who survive are called "wilders", and often are unaware of the existence or nature of their powers. Channelers are constrained by any restriction they believe applies; wilders often possess a "block" that allows them to channel only under specific circumstances such as experiencing a particular emotion.
The majority of channelers lack the spark and will channel only if taught. Channelers can determine if a person of the same sex has the spark or is capable of learning to channel.
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A channeler with the spark who receives instruction is not at risk of death and is not normally considered a wilder. Channelers have a longer lifespan than non-channelers, in proportion to their strength; from early adulthood, channelers age more slowly than non-channelers, and the strongest channelers can live over years. Shai'tan tainted saidin at the end of the Age of Legends, causing any male channeler to go insane usually very destructively and die; the Breaking was caused by the world's male channelers simultaneously going insane, while in the Third Age male channelers are neutralized in various ways as they come of age.
Channelers are treated in different ways by different cultures within the series. In the Westlands, channeling is viewed as synonymous with the Aes Sedai, an organization that survived from the Age of Legends and which views channeling as its proprietary domain; some Aes Sedai refer to channelers from other traditions as "wilders", even if they are not self-taught. Aes Sedai are respected in most Westland nations, and they rule the city-state of Tar Valon. Aes Sedai are divided into seven "ajahs" named after colors and dedicated to different purposes; Red Ajah members seek out men who can channel and "gentle" them remove their ability to channel.
Also in the Westlands are the Kin, consisting of women who studied in Tar Valon but left without becoming Aes Sedai due to lack of desire or ability to complete their training. The Aes Sedai are aware of the Kin, who are very discreet, but are unaware that the Kin actually outnumber them. Among the Sea Folk, a seafaring Westlands culture, female channelers are expected to become "Windfinders", ship's navigators; the profession is also open to non-channelers.
Every generation, the Sea Folk send a few weak channelers to Tar Valon, successfully concealing the prevalence and strength of their channelers. Aiel channelers are expected to become Wise Ones, the culture's spiritual leaders, as are all Dreamwalkers; other worthy women may become Wise Ones without these special powers. Male Aiel channelers go into the Blight, expecting to die after killing some of Shai'tan's creatures; unbeknownst to the Aiel, Shai'tan actually captures and corrupts these men. Shara is secretly ruled by its female channelers, the Ayyad, through figurehead monarchs; the Ayyad keep their male offspring as breeding stock before killing them.
The Seanchan believe channelers are subhuman and dangerous; they enslave female channelers with the spark, while those capable of acting as their handlers are, unbeknownst to themselves and other Seanchan, those who can learn to channel. Male channelers are executed. Certain "objects of the One Power" exist. Robert Jordan uses the capitalized word "Talent" to refer to two distinct types of abilities sometimes possessed by channelers; the text also sometimes uses "Talent" to refer to abilities unrelated to the One Power and possessed by non-channelers.
One type of Talent is the aptitude for a particular weave or type of weave. Talents seen in the series include healing Nynaeve al'Meara , manipulating weather many Windfinders , creating "gateways" for instantaneous travel Androl Genhald , and fabricating the indestructible substance "cuendillar" Egwene al'Vere. Such a Talent may manifest as finer control over weaves, the ability to use a weave that would otherwise be beyond the channeler's strength, superior results when using a weave with all other factors equal, or some combination of these benefits.
Some weaves, such as creating cuendillar, function only for a channeler with a corresponding Talent. A Talent can also be some other ability possessed only by some channelers, but distinct from creating weaves of the One Power. Talents of this type include creating ter'angreal Elayne Trakand , divining the purpose of a ter'angreal Aviendha , analyzing an expended weave, "unweaving" a weave Aviendha , predicting the weather Nynaeve al'Meara , recognizing ta'veren on sight Siuan Sanche and Logain Ablar , and "Foretelling" prophecy Elaida do Avriny a'Roihan.
The latter three Talents have no obvious connection to the One Power, but are described as occurring only in channelers. Some abilities depicted in the Wheel of Time are not related to the One Power or the ability to channel. Egwene al'Vere is both a Dreamer and Dreamwalker, and the text never establishes whether or not these are two separate things.
Dreamwalking is well known to the Aiel Wise ones, who use it for society-wide communication; Aiel Dreamwalkers include channelers Amys and Melaine and the non-channeler Bair, who become Egwene's teachers as the last Aes Sedai Dreamer died about five hundred years earlier. No man is explicitly identified as a Dreamwalker in the series, but many of the male and female Forsaken, Shai'tan's top lieutenants, appear in Tel'aran'rhiod, and the male Forsaken Ishamael projects himself into other characters' dreams. The Pattern causes events and the actions of others surrounding a ta'veren to conform to the ta'veren's destiny , usually resulting in occurrences that are possible but unlikely.
Mat has exceptionally good luck at gambling and in battle, while Perrin easily earns the support of others.
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Rand's presence often affects a large area around himself, causing such anomalies as one entire village pairing off in marriage in one day, another village erupting into violence over every disagreement its residents ever had, and a city's newborns being free of birth defects during Rand's residency.
Rand al'Thor is also the "Dragon Reborn," a prophesied savior.
Towards the end of the series, Rand is revealed to have reality warping abilities related to the Dragon Reborn's connection to the Pattern; without channeling, he causes plants to flourish and kindles a pipe. Perrin Aybara and Elyas Machera are "Wolfbrothers," individuals who can communicate telepathically with wolves, which are depicted as sapient. Wolfbrothers also have abilities similar to Dreaming and Dreamwalking, although they are not shown as capable of entering the dreams of others.
The souls of wolves inhabit Tel'aran'rhiod, which they call the "wolf dream," and a Wolfbrother who loses his identity as a man may become a wolf there. Only male Wolfbrothers are depicted in the series. Min Farshaw sees auras and images around people; she does not always understand these visions, but sometimes she instinctively understands them and is always correct in such cases. Min is the only person in the series depicted as having this ability. However, the superstitious Seanchan are apparently familiar with it and consider the images to be omens ; when Empress Fortuona learns that Min possesses this ability, she identifies Min as a "Doomseer" and immediately makes her a top advisor.
Hurin is a "sniffer," one who can detect violence as an unpleasant odor. This ability is apparently accepted by his countrymen; it is considered an asset for his career in law enforcement, and Perrin pretends to be a sniffer to conceal that the true source of his insight is communication with wolves. The Seanchan produce ter'angreal rings that, when touched with the wearer's blood, grant him or her the abilities of a "Bloodknife": increased strength and speed and the ability to blend into shadows, at the cost of dying within a matter of days or weeks.
The books describe several scenarios where Shai'tan gives powers to individuals. People whose souls are removed by Shai'tan become supernaturally inconspicuous "Gray Men," ideal assassins. Padan Fain serves Shai'tan and is given the ability to track Rand al'Thor. Padan Fain later merges with the ghost of the evil Mordeth, gaining the abilities to inculcate others with paranoia and to summon and control a deadly miasma. Shai'tan merges the bodies and souls of Isam Mandragoran and Luc Mantear into the individual known as Slayer, to whom Shai'tan grants powers involving Tel'aran'rhiod, including the ability to travel instantaneously between there and the physical world while awake and without the use of a gateway.
All paperback page totals given are for the most widely available mass-market paperback editions. The page count for the hardback editions do not include glossary or appendix page counts. Jordan expanded this into the stand-alone novel New Spring that was published in January In the first book, The Eye of the World , was repackaged as two volumes with new illustrations for younger readers: From the Two Rivers ,  including an extra chapter Ravens before the existing prologue, and To the Blight  with an expanded glossary.
On several occasions, chapters from various books in the series were released several months in advance of publication. These were released in eBook format as promotional tools for the then-upcoming release. Tor Books published a companion book to the series, entitled The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time , in November , which contains much hitherto unrevealed background information about the series including the first maps of the entire world and the Seanchan home continent.
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