Tuesday, July 31, 2001

Shattered Seals

by Fanatic-Templar

This theory attempts to explain several of the discrepancies in the ending of The Eye of the World, namely, the broken cuendillar seal, the retreat of the Blight and Shai’tan’s release of his grip on winter.

The Waning of the Seal

The Seal on Shayol Ghul waxes and wanes with the turning of the Wheel. It is through this cycle that Ishamael was capable of escaping the Bore at multiple periods throughout the Third Age. It is therefore also reasonable to deduce that Shai’tan’s power in the world during these periods was also stronger. Because Ishamael had the fiery eyes that come from the use of the True Power in The Eye of the World, we know that at least enough of the Dark Lord’s power was available for Ishamael’s use.

The Nature of the Seal

Knowing that the Bore is a hole in the Pattern, we can ascertain that the world of The Wheel of Time and Shai’tan’s reality are separate. If we also suppose that the physical cuendillar seals had to be destroyed before he could touch the world, then the obvious conclusion is that the heartstone seals hold the saidin Seal intact, and not the other way ‘round. Thence, we are left to conclude that Shai’tan could not touch the world, except as permitted by the Seal’s waning periods as described above. And if the cuendillar seals must be destroyed for Shai’tan to touch the world, then Shai’tan cannot touch the world until the seals are destroyed. Because the seals are in this world, Shai’tan is also prevented from touching them until at least one of the seals is broken in the first place.

Putting the two previous points together, and knowing that one of the seals did break, we reason that the breaking of the first seal could only happen during one of the waning periods.

The Dark One’s Blight

We know that the Great Blight is dependent on the Shadow’s influence. It is centered around Shayol Ghul and advances when those who resist the Shadow are defeated, as happened with Malkier ( More Tales of the Wheel, The Eye of the World. ) However, the Blight does not react directly to the Shadow’s influence. Despite the breaking of at least four of the seven seals, the release of the Forsaken and Shai’tan’s increased capacity to touch the Pattern; the Blight has remained eerily quiet. This implies that Shai’tan has conscious control over the Blight, and that its growth comes through his direct influence. Thus, for the Blight to spread, Shai’tan must use part of his power.

The Tainted Weather

We also know that Shai’tan’s touch on the weather requires expenditure of power on his part. We know this directly from the thoughts of Moridin:

The Great Lord would not be pleased. He had strained from his prison to touch the world enough to fix the seasons in place. The Path of Daggers, Unweaving.

So, like the Blight, the weather’s influence requires energy on the part of the Lord of Twilight.

Spring in Shienar

In The Eye of the World, The Wheel Turns shows that not only has Shai’tan’s grip on winter been released, but that the Great Blight has retreated from the border! Based on our previous conclusions, the reasoning is evident. Shai’tan’s power has weakened, or he used it all on another task. But what could have weakened Shai’tan so much? The common answer, the one that Moiraine uses is Rand wounding Ba’alzamon. But Ba’alzamon is also wounded in The Great Hunt, and finally killed in The Dragon Reborn. In neither of these instances do we hear of the Blight receding, so this can obviously not be the answer. Another possibility is that the use of the Eye of the World weakened the Blight. Since Rand did not target the Blight with saidin, then it would be the use of the Eye itself that causes this retreat. But then, why does the Blight recede from the edges, and not from the Eye itself? To the contrary, we see that the Blight finally does touch the Green Man’s gardens, something it could not do before. And still that would not explain the correction of the weather. So. If not a weakening of Shai’tan’s power, then presumable his power was otherwise employed.

Broken Heartstone

There is one fundamental difference between the seal under the Eye and the rest. The other seals were no longer indestructible. Morvrin breaks the shard of the Tanchico seal between her fingers ( To Teach, and Learn, The Fires of Heaven ) and Moiraine peels a sliver off an intact disk ( Rhuidean, The Fires of Heaven. )The first seal, however, breaks Lan’s Tairen steel knife. Even though it is shattered. Thus, the method in which that Seal was destroyed is entirely different from that which destroyed the others. The later seals were weakened over time, presumable through Shai’tan’s touch. But as we noted at the beginning of this theory, Shai’tan cannot touch the world until one of the seals have been broken. The difficulty then is destroying the first seal. After that, the others can be withered away.

This theory is that Shai’tan withdrew his power from the Blight and the weather because he knew the Dragon had been Reborn, and that he needed greater latitude before the world united against him. He withdrew all his power, and focused it into the Seal that was closest to Shayol Ghul, and destroyed it.

One final piece of evidence is that Aginor and Balthamel were released before Ishamael was wounded. Thus, the seal was already broken while it was under the Eye.


tamyrlink said...

so are you postulating(?) that the Great Lord focused his power and broke the seal, purposely freeing Aginor and Balthamael because he knew they were close to the top of the seal(or however they phrased it)?

i like this theory...cuz it explains how The Mad Scientist and The Pervert ended up there...the timing of which i had never questioned.

LoialT said...

but Shai'tan did touch the world... The Blight, the TP, the cyclical weakening all suggest that he had limited access to the world at certain periods, but always enough to maintain the Blight. Also, the Blight doesn't retreat until AFTER Ishamael is wounded, after Aginor and Balthamel are dead, after Rand severs/shields/somethings that big black cord of TP.

Isn't it possible that the saidin in the Eye was continually strengthening the seal (any use of the OP against cuendillar only strengthens it)? That as Rand drained it the DO focused all his energy on it or that it was like suddenly removing a support keeping up a roof with a mountain on top. It shattered because of this sudden structural change in the seal. Maybe this was the "first" layer and Shai'tan had spent the last 3000 years leaning on it, where as the other focal points could be drained in a different fashion and more quickly.

I still think the Blight retreated because of the victory for the light and the sudden decrease of TP being channeled in the world after Rand cut Ishy off. Remember that the polity with the greatest degree of belief and order (Seanchan) has actually made the Blight largely disappear.

About the timing of Aginor and Balthamel, I had always thought that with each cycle the prison grew weaker and the rebirth of the Dragon further shook things up. They had been released at least long enough before we see them to get orders and make plans.

rosered3791 said...

Just a couple of thoughts: When Aginor and Balthamel arrive "one cloak was a dark gray, the other almost as dark a green, and they seemed musty even in the open air." Which suggests that they had not been free from their prison for very long. Also,"Balthamel leaned forward, his mask's eyes on the white stone opening, as if he wanted to go straight in. "So long without," Aginor said softly. " So long." Suggests that they had not channelled saidin in a very long time. And again when Aginor is chasing Rand "Deep-sunken eyes burned at him from that drawn parchment face; somehow, it seemed less withered than before, more fleshed, as if Aginor had fed well on something." As Aginor fed on the One Power he became more fleshed out and less withered. So assuming they had not been free for long and they were free because the seal had been broken on the dark ones prison would mean that the dark one had very recently broken the seal. Maybe when the blight rose up against the group as it rode to the eye the dark one was throwing his power to the eye to break the seal even while his army of halfmen and trollocs were assaulting Tarwins gap. But I don't think so. I think that the patch was already weakening as Moiraine said and that is why the two forsaken were freed. After all there were all kinds of barriers that were weakening, Perrin is a good example. I think the seal was broken after they drained the eye of the world. The eye had "the power to mend the dark ones prison, or destroy it completely." In draining the eye I think they started that destruction.
As for the blight quieting and winter losing its hold I think it was a combination of things his army was defeated, two of the forsaken are dead and Ishamael is wounded. And lets not forget the rebound of his power when Ishamael was cut off from the dark ones power. But either way it made me think of some things that I had not noticed till I read your theory thanks for posting it.

Fanatic-Templar said...

To LoialT,

We do not know when the Blight retreats, all we know is that it is between when they enter and when they leave. It's very unlikely that Ishamael's wounding is responsible, because as mentioned in the theory, Ishamael is also wounded at Falme, and then killed in the Stone of Tear. Rand also severs Ishamael's black chord - his connection to Shai'tan - in the Stone, so if any of these incidents were to deal a strong enough blow to Shai'tan to make the Blight recede, it would be that one. But it doesn't.

Ultimately, Ishamael, like the other Forsaken, is just a human in Shai'tan's service, and their life or death is inconsequential to him, it does not drain his own powers in any way to have them die.

As to the Seanchan blight, it is also useful to know that they are on the other side of the world from Shayol Ghul (which isn't as far as it sounds, really, since the Blight seems to form a sort of arctic circle) and that the Seanchan themselves are doing Ishamael's will.

And if it was the Eye that was reinforcing the Seal and keeping it intact, then why would Shai'tan wait for Rand to drain the Eye, rather than strike at one of the six unprotected Seals?

LoialT said...

To Fanatic-Templar,

I hadn't really thought about it, but you are definitely right that we can't pinpoint when exactly the Blight retreats. It very well could have been before Rand arrived at the Eye, but as rosered3791 pointed out, the Blight seemed to rise up right before they found they Eye. This could be because Shai'tan was pulling back the Blight to focus his power there, or it could be evidence that the Blight had not retreated.

I still think that the seal was placed IN the Eye for a reason, and the best I can think of is the constant paradoxical refrain that cuendillar is indestructible and that any force or OP used against it will "only make it stronger." How is something indestructible made stronger? How could that be measured? I think it is a clue to how it functions, but also a clue to why the AOL Aes Sedai might have placed it within the pool of saidin. Of course, I could be wrong here. There is no "material" reason that the Horn or Banner needed to be immersed in saidin, but they were there as well. It may simply have been a good place for safe-keeping.

You are also correct that Ishy's other defeats had no effect on the Blight. As for the scene in the Stone, Rand cut wires (plural), like the ones that he saw on Asmodean. These are described differently than that one big black pulsating cord disappearing into the distance that we saw at the end of tEotW. Perhaps that has something to do with it. Maybe by that time the seals were just sufficiently weakened that the DO didn't need to strain as much to do what he wanted.

Side Note: When Ishy calls on the DO for aid against Rand and Callandor in T'A'R and the darkness swells, what was happening? Was that some super surge of TP or was the DO actually present? Is the limit to how much TP one can channel determined by strength in the power or is it up to the DO?

I anticipate that we will soon have a better sense of just what went on at the Eye (and I still have faith that it wasn't just an early-series fluke) as what went on at the sealing is revealed. How did Ishy manage to (partially) escape in the first place? Was the Blight always around, or did it expand after the sealing? Was the seal layered, or were each of the anchor points (the cuendillar seals) equally accessible to the DO? Maybe even the taint had something to do with the gradual weakening of the seals. In any event, thanks for posting this theory!

Manetheren said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Manetheren said...

In reference to the Blight not receding until after Rand's victory at The Eye, think of the effects of The Blight's transgressions and regressions has a positive or negative feedback. Shifting a ton of power to focus on one seal (not necessarily agreeing with this focused attack on the seal in The Eye, just saying) and thus weakening The Dark One's influence would make The Blight fallback, but it wouldn't be an immediate regression.

The effects of climate change in the real world, for example, don't cause a huge abrupt change in the environment, but instead experiences a bit of a lag affect as the rest of the environment adjusts to the climate change. The average world temperature has increased 1 or 2 degrees over the last decade or two or three, but all the icebergs haven't all of a sudden melted and raised the ocean level 20 meters sinking coastal cities.

The Blight still contains living organisms, though vile, twisted and deadly, but they are still organisms and plant-life nonetheless. So The Dark One's abrupt shift of power wouldn't cause the immediate death or conversion of said life and Blight regression, but a slow dying off as the power used to feed these things is no longer present, and thus dying off /falling back to where their food source lies.