A Waygate is a magical construct in Robert Jordan's fictional Wheel of Time series. They are introduced in the first book in the series, The Eye of the World. A Waygate is a doorway carved out of stone; when the correct leaf in the intricate carving of a Chora tree is removed, it opens up, allowing access to an alternate dimension. This alternate dimension leads to other Waygates, which makes travelling through this dimension useful since distances are shorter in the Waygate. Thus, travelling a few miles in the Waygate dimension and exiting into the real word will put one hundreds of miles from one's starting point. In the contemporary era of the Wheel of Time series, Waygates are distinctly less useful as they have (since their creation) become corrupted by the Dark One, and are positively dangerous. Thus, while the characters are sometimes forced to use them, it is at the peril of their lives.
steddings block access to the One Power
; and during the Breaking of the World (the Age of Legends was ended in a terrible war between the Dark One and the human race; Lews Therin Telamon
and his One Hundred Companions sealed the Dark One's bore into the world, but the Dark One reached through the seal and corrupted the male half of the One Power, resulting in a taint which slowly drove the male Aes Sedai insane; in their death throes, they lost all control of their powers, causing an apocalyptic disaster which destroyed their civilization), male Aes Sedai
took shelter in them. This allowed them to not go insane due to the taint on saidin
. However, most channelers
could not long stand being unable to touch the True Source, so they eventually left to see if the taint was gone; unfortunately, it never was.
One group of male Aes Sedai studied Portal Stone worlds and created the Ways as a gift to the Ogier. Grown from the One Power in a world outside of reality, it connected all the Ogier steddings and was always safe to travel, unaffected by the destruction of the land; Ogier would not have to hazard the dangerous outside world or spend much time travelling. Once the last of the male Aes Sedai left the steddings, they gave the Ogier the Talisman of Growing, which allows the Ogier to create new Waygates and thus expand the Ways. As new steddings were rediscovered after the Breaking of the World, new Waygates were created and connected to the steddings.
A Waygate is always located just outside of an Ogier stedding because the Ogier possess the Talisman, and just outside because True Source is not accessible inside, and the One Power is required to create a Waygate. Each Waygate has two Avendesora
leaves on it, one on the outside and one on the inside. This makes it possible to lock Waygates by putting both leaves on one side. When one moves the Avendesora
leaf, the Waygate turns to living plants and two doors swing open to reveal a smoky mirror-like barrier. The Ogier planted many of the Great Trees
in groves across the world to comfort the Ogier stonemasons. Most of these groves have since disappeared, but almost nothing can destroy a Waygate.
The Talisman of Growing
This is a ter'angreal
that responds to Ogier treesinging. They sing the "flower" of the Waygate, the only part that exists in this world. They can only branch off an existing pathway and cannot create Ways or Waygates from two separate points.
Inside the Ways
The Ways are actually alive, although no one understands or remembers how. They are grown of the One Power and do not have our rules of space and time. The pathways of the Ways are suspended platforms, bridges and islands, some go right over top of each other seemingly with no support. You may walk for a day and emerge from a Waygate that is 400 miles from the Waygate you started from, all depending on the paths you take. Paths are marked with large slabs of stone labelled with Ogier Script
and are called Guidings
. The Ways used to be well lit, with trees on the islands for food, and it was always daytime. There was grass on every pathway and all the paths were beautiful in the manner that Ogier loved. The Ways also has had traps laid in it for Shadowspawn
, although their effectiveness is questionable.
The Corruption of the Ways
Almost 2000 years had passed in which the Ways were an excellent means of transportation for the Ogier. But during the War of the Hundred Years
the Ways began to grow dim. Once the bridges began to grow dark, people started to not come out, and some that did return came back mad, raving and screaming about Machin Shin
, the Black Wind. The stone of the pathways is now pitted and rotting, and some of the Ways have collapsed completely. It is theorised that because the Ways were made with tainted saidin
that the Ways were corrupted by it; some think it may be natural to the Ways although still evil. After all, no one knows how deep and long they run (except presumably the Aes Sedai who made them).
- which means black wind
in the Old Tongue
- is a force that hunts the Ways for anything that is alive. Many travellers feel a breeze on them, but there is no wind in the Ways. Such people almost always die, and those that don't, go mad, and often go into terror at the mere sound of wind blowing. Machin Shin is easily identified by the screaming of souls from those who were caught by it. It doesn't seem to think or be sapient in any meaningful way. Machin Shin absorbs souls, and even Aes Sedai who use Delving
are unable to feel anything inside a person taken by it.
The only person to survive direct contact with Machin Shin is Padan Fain. He was so twisted with evil that Machin Shin itself fled from it.
It is also safe to assume that Balefire would frighten Machin Shin, just as even Mashadar, the mindless evil of Aridhol (Shadar Logoth) avoids it at any cost
From the information gathered in the Wheel of Time series, it appears that Machin Shin was formed by the Dark One's taint, which corrupted the Saidin-formed Ways, but changed and is now a separate evil.
Use of the Ways Now
cannot use a Waygate due to Fain's hatred for him imprinting on the Black Wind: every time he attempts to even open a Waygate, Machin Shin waits for him. It even once tried to force itself out of the Ways to absorb Rand in Cairhien
No human or Ogier is allowed to use the Ways anymore as they are far too dangerous to be used, except in the most dire and desperate circumstances; in the later novels, they have largely been superseded by the vastly safer and quicker method of Traveling. It seems that some Waygates have been absorbed by the Great Blight and that they are used to move massive amounts of troops very quickly around the world.