- “This was no chicken. This was evil manifest.”
- ―Kahlan Amnell, on the chimes[src]
The Chimes, or the Chimes of Death, or Chimes of Doom when translated from High D'Haran, were dangerous underworld magic, that if released into the world of life, would completely absorb magic. The presence of the chimes in the world of the living alone will extinguish magic at an alarming rate. If they were present for too long of a time, magic would never again be restored to the world. Not only do the chimes dissolve all earthly magic, but they also dissolve the world's bond to other worlds - such as the underworld. Some of the damage caused by the chimes would remain forever irreversible without the use of the power of Orden.
The three chimes were known as; Reechani, Sentrosi and Vasi. They represented water, fire, and air respectively. While their gender would be mutable, much like the way the skrin does not have a physical body outside of the underworld, to Zedd they appeared as "queens" of their respective elements, and thus can be considered to have been female. They were said to be beings who, though intelligent, lacked souls of their own.
Apart from draining the world of magic, the Chimes also delighted in horrific forms of cruelty. They enjoyed killing, and often mutilating the bodies of, any victim they ensnared. They also displayed a penchant for attacking pregnant women and unborn children, as was evidenced by Du Chaillu's near drowning and at least one stillbirth in the Mud People's village. The Chime Kahlan encountered in the Mud People's villlage was busily pecking at the dead eyes of Juni, a Mud Person it had killed earlier that day, whose corpse was in close proximity of the body of the stillborn baby.
The Chimes were also said to be extremely vengeful, being soulless beings, and didn't take well to insults. (Indeed, it was probably because he had insulted one that Juni was specifically targeted that day.) According to Richard's research, they were swift beings who could travel through cracks and shadows in the physical world the way the dreamwalkers could slip through the spaces in between a person's thoughts. Because of this, and because of the fact that the chimes were good at hiding, Zedd warned Richard and Kahlan to avoid fires and water whenever they could. The Chimes were able to do things like travel on sparks, disguise themselves as puddles of water, push or lure people off of cliffs, and drown or burn their victims alive. They could also disguise themselves as their unsuspecting victims' deepest desires and longings, causing them to be lured to their deaths more easily.
The chimes were released sometime around the Great War, though they were defeated by Joseph Ander. Ander in fact entrapped the chimes into an artifact known as the Dominie Dirtch which he surrounded around the land of Anderith as a means of defence against intruders.
Thousands of years later, during the Imperial Order War, Mother Confessor Kahlan Amnell spoke the names of the chimes, on the advice of Wizard Nathan Rahl, during a magic ritual to heal her husband Richard Rahl of the plague. This unknowingly released the chimes into the realm of the living which immediately began the process of siphoning Additive Magic from the world.
At first, Kahlan and Richard didn't know of the Chimes and were tricked by Zedd into believing it was a being called the Lurk. This was done so that Richard would travel to the Wizard's Keep without protest where he would be protected since the Chimes can't harm anyone close enough to the place where they were summoned, in this case the Wizards' Keep. This lie was additionally argumented by the fact that Kahlan would have to be Richard's third wife to be able to summon the Chimes. But, the arrival of Du Chaillu, Richard's first wife who he had forgotten and discarded since it was an involuntary marriage, caused the pair to doubt Zedd and travel to Anderith instead, while Cara travelled alone to the Wizards' Keep to get the Sword of Truth and do what Zedd said would stop the imaginary Lurk.
At this point, all Additive Magic was, for at least a time, completely siphoned from the world. However, Richard Rahl ultimately discovered what Joseph Ander had done thousands of years ago, and was able to convince the chimes to consume the spirit of the man who had entombed them; in the process causing them to leave the world of the living, and instead take Joseph Ander's soul to the Underworld, trapping themselves for the sake of revenge.
Unfortunately the contamination of magic caused by the chimes appeared to be permanent. The Chimes caused untold damage to many types of magic in the New World and the Old World, such as bringing down the Boundary that secluded the empire of Bandakar from the rest of the Old World, causing the deaths of many creatures of magic, and contaminating the Chainfire spell, causing it to erase memories unrelated to the subject of the Chainfire Event, and creating gaps in the people affected by Chainfire, allowing a few of them to remember who the Mother Confessor was. The damage caused by the presence of the Chimes was in danger of quickly unravelling the fabric of existence, until Richard used the power of the Boxes of Orden to counter the Chainfire event and restore magic.
Powers and abilities
The presence of the chimes in the world of life was enough to completely erase all traces of Additive Magic. However, as they were themselves underworld magic, Subtractive Magic remained unaffected by their presence. The chimes were also able to possess certain living creatures, and were capable of luring people to their deaths; each chime seemed to use the earthly element that it represented in their attempts to claim the souls of the living.
The Chimes are incapable of doing harm near the place where they were summoned. This compels Zedd to lie to Richard, Kahlan and Cara and send them to the Wizard's Keep, where Kahlan summoned the Chimes and promising them Richard's soul in exchange. Zedd saw it vital that Richard stayed protected since the Chimes were looking for him to take his soul so that they could stay in the Land of the Living.
Anderith Chime song
Came the visions of icy beauty, from the land of death where they dwell. Pursuing their prize with grisly duty, came the thieves of the charm and spell. The bells chimed thrice, and death came a-calling.
Alluring of shape though seldom seen, they traveled the breeze on a spark. Some fed twigs to their newborn queen, while others invaded the dark. The bells chimed thrice, and death came a-calling.
Some they called and others they kissed as they traveled on river and wave. With resolve they came and did insist: every one touched to a grave. The bells chimed thrice, and death came a-calling.
Roving to hunt and gathering to dance, they practiced their dark desires by casting a hex and a beautiful trance, before feeding the queen's new fires. The bells chimed thrice, and death came a-calling.
Till he parted the falls and the bells chimed thrice, till he issued the calls and demanded the price. the bells chimed thrice and death met the Mountain.
They charmed and embraced and they tried to extoll but he bade them in grace and demanded a soul. The bells fell silent and the Mountain slew them all. And the mountain entombed them all.
Relationship to Kahlan
When Kahlan encountered a chime for the first time in the Mud People's village, it had taken the form of a chicken who tried to trap her. The chicken spoke to her, addressing her as 'Mother', which Kahlan assumed to be a reference to her title as Mother Confessor. However, Richard later reasoned that the chimes probably viewed Kahlan as their own mother since she had summoned them into the world of the living. The one who appeared in the Mud People's Village was assumed to have simply wanted to be near its mother, hence the reason that it did not harm Kahlan nor seem to want her to leave its presence. This realization pained Kahlan because she had been the one to summon the chimes, and it implied a terrible perversion of the mother-child relationship. One of Kahlan's greatest dreams had always been to be a mother herself, but now these things of evil considered themselves to be her children. On one level, Kahlan might have had mixed feelings about trying to destroy the Chimes. If she did harbor these feelings, however, they seemed quickly put to rest by the knowledge that the chimes were evil. She considered it her duty as a human, especially as the Mother Confessor, to assist in sending them back to the underworld.
Relationship to Richard
After realizing that the chimes considered her their mother and also weren't attacking Richard, Kahlan realized that they might consider Richard their father via his having been the catalyst for them being called into the physical world. However, Richard reasoned that the Chimes probably just feared him because he was a War Wizard and they sensed a dangerous magic.