Saturday, May 9, 2009

Forsaken vs Rand ... how they matched up when they tried




by Dr. Saidin

Some Forsaken have taken the plunge and tried directly to kill Rand. Let’s evaluate how each has done…

In the first place we have Aginor who took his time trying to kill Rand. Perhaps one could forgive him for his arrogance, considering Rand was completely untrained at that stage. Still, if you are going to kill someone, do it – don’t talk about it. Aginor made the classical mistake common to villains i.e. he tortured us with a prolonged account of why he was so formidable and great. This gave Rand time to search for a solution, namely to notice saidin for the first time, which ultimately led to Aginor overdrawing on the Power and dying.

Aginor returned later as Osan’gar and he attempted to kill Rand after following him around for months. Sadly, Osan’gar destroyed a corner of the palace that Rand wasn’t even occupying. It was a near miss, but still incompetent. Later he tried to balefire the Dragon Reborn at the Cleansing and exposed himself to the wrath of the Callandor circle – only to be killed for the second time. Aginor has proven himself to be tactically barren, and highly incompetent in this regard. He admits he was never made for this purpose, but his efforts in this regard are still strikingly brainless for a man of his power.

Ishamael has tried several times to kill Rand. His plan to turn the Dragon to the Shadow has been daft from the beginning. He has no evidence that the Dragon ever served the Shadow, and he risked everything on a whim that it could be done. Furthermore, his efforts made the Shadow seem very unappealing. Instead of bribery and coercion, he used threats and insults to the notoriously proud and stubborn Rand al’Thor. He took part in swordfights using a quarterstaff, and was found to be lacking. He revealed himself to Rand knowing that he was inches from Callandor – the final mistake that cost him his life. Overall, his plot has been weak at best, and his undertaking of it, even worse. He has been severely burned by Rand, and stabbed in the chest twice.

Be’lal tried his luck. His plan was to force Rand to desperately reach for Callandor to save his life, and thus break the warding around the sa’angreal and then kill Rand. It was a good plan, although risky for a few reasons. He knew that Rand could channel, and even in his presence, Rand channeled a sword of fire. He thus believed he could overwhelm Rand and bend him to his will i.e. free the sword. This was arrogance that could have cost him his life. Secondly, he was completely unaware of Ishamael floating above him, ready to descend. It is not unlikely that Ishamael was planning to kill Be’lal if he managed to obtain the sword. Finally, Be’lal noticed Moiraine, and once again instead of killing her, spoke about his intention to kill her. Those few seconds provided her with the time to weave balefire and to kill him. He did lure Rand to Ilian expertly using his friends as bait, but his plan to force the Dragon Reborn to free Callandor was risky, and probably stupid.

Asmodean actually didn’t plan to kill Rand – he merely wanted the Choedan Kal. However, when he did decide to, he made one of the best efforts of all of the Forsaken. He literally threw all he had at Rand, and never hesitated. Every chance he had, he sent death towards Rand, which Rand managed to dodge or survive. From enormous walls of fire to inverted blades of Air, he never held back at all. When he finally got hold of the sa’angreal, he pulled every scrap of saidin he could into himself, and tried to smash Rand out of existence. It was due to back luck that he ultimately lost – Rand’s small angreal and Lanfear’s treachery. His best tactic was to not challenge the Dragon Reborn, but evade him and go for the prize – and perhaps later return. Compared to Sammael, Asmodean didn’t perform any worse in a duel with the Dragon Reborn… and Sammael did pretty well.

Rahvin was indeed killed for his pride, as the Dark One said. I once queried how Rahvin could sit on his throne while Rand and the Aiel attacked him. RJ responded by saying that Rahvin had planned a chessboard-like defense that he expected Rand to fall into. He didn’t count on Rand’s ability to Travel. Rand says that Rahvin had been clever in his attacks and spent only a moment trying to kill him before running off. His trap in TAR was excellent and caught Rand off-guard, but it was a drawn out duel because of the Forsaken’s pride and poor insight. He had been warned by Lanfear in the very same book that several male Forsaken had fallen to Rand, and yet he relied on wardings and Trollocs to finish off the Dragon Reborn, instead of attending to the act himself. When it did spring on him, he had no choice but to flee.

Lanfear lost because of her supreme arrogance that she could draw out Rand’s death into the most painful death imaginable. She made a serious mistake in not killing him instantly, but went for shielding and pain weaves. Although her efforts slowly did attain success, she paid no attention to her surroundings on several occasions, which allowed Moiraine to sneak up on her. She could have fallen prey to an Aiel spear, or a fireball from another channeler due to her fixation on Rand. There was no plot – just an impulsive and emotional reaction to Rand’s ‘transgression’. While it is undeniable that she overwhelmed everybody present in that scene, it was a foolish tactic and it certainly cost her everything.

Sammael probably had the best Forsaken plan regarding Rand. He warded Ilian and took precautions in the event that Rand ever arrived in his city. He then set up the duel on his own terms by allowing Rand to follow him to Shadar Logoth. Whether this was a good idea or not, is debatable. Shadar Logoth hates the Light as much as it does the Shadow, and the city would be as dangerous for him as for Rand. However, Sammael’s ease at targeting Rand implies that he may have warded that city too. It was only due to extreme bad luck i.e. Moridin helping a defeated Rand, and Mashadar creeping up on him silently from behind, that Sammael was killed. Sammael also attacked Rand earlier in the series during the Siege of Cairhien. His attacks were long-distance and opportunistic. He waited for Rand to become exhausted before he initiated the assault. The entire time he eluded Rand. Sammael proved to be unlucky in many respects, but also demonstrated why he was one of the greater generals from the Age of Legends. Of all of the Forsaken, he has made the most direct and hostile attempts to slaughter Rand, from attacking the Stone, the Waste, and the treehouse, and forming a great defense in the event that Rand should arrive. It came down to Mashadar ending his fate, though ultimately he was about to be balefired by Rand if it had not occurred.

Semirhage seems to have some sort of convoluted plan up her sleeve. It’s difficult to rate her due to the potentially complex plot she created to capture Rand, or perhaps her sheer idiocy in this regard. Direct confrontation was not her plan. Either way, it strains credibility that she thought she could leash some of the most powerful channelers in the world alone, and with the help of no more than a few damane. There are too many aspects of this battle that remain unknown. She surely didn’t think that she could neutralize the Dragon Reborn with a small fireball. Even the simplest barrier would have deflected it, and at the same time she couldn’t guess that he suffered from an internal conflict with Lews Therin. Either way, it was a short, useless battle, and she failed utterly no matter what she planned.

Forsaken who have as yet not attempted to challenge Rand include Aran’gar, Demandred, Graendal, Mesaana and Moghedien. While many may have targeted the hill at the Cleansing, we cannot evaluate who did what and how effective it was.

In summary…

1. The Good
- Sammael
- Asmodean
- Rahvin

2. The bad
- Be’lal
- Semirhage

3. The ugly
- Lanfear
- Ishamael
- Aginor/ Osan’gar

17 comments:

Theodor said...

Nice list, I agree with almost everything except your placing of Aginor at the bottom:

1. At the first battle at the "Eye of the World" I believe, exactly as you stated in your earlier post, that Aginor because of his state was severly weakened. Something that helped Rand in that battle...

2. And are we even sure Aginor assisted in the attack in Carhien, or couldn´t he just have joined in later?? His main motive seems to have been to stay and see if Rand was dead, and then disengage if Rand was alive.

3. And at his final battle I actually think that he performed better then all of the other forsaken that was involved in said battle. Instead of walking arrogantly through the forest like Graendal, or trying to blast his way through like Demandred, he was smart and sneaked his way past. And in the end it was just bad luck that Elza saw him in time. He propably thought that the cuddling "couple" Jahar and Merise was the main protection, and didn't know that Elza was stalking around controlling their power through a circle...

Quite a good performance considering that he's mainly a scientist and not a warrior...

Dr Saidin said...

Thanks for the response, Theodor. I don't agree with you, mainly for the following reasons...

1. Yes, I think he was weakened, but it should make no difference. Being weaker doesn't mean you should overdraw or do stupid things. It means you should be extra careful.

2. RJ responded once when someone asked how Osan'gar could remain next to Rand's side for so long and then suddenly attack. RJ said that Osan'gar finally cracked and couldn't resist trying to kill Rand. That is confirmation that he tried.

3. We only have a small glimpse of the Cleansing. Remember all those jagged lightnings which struck the hilltop? Those were woven by different Forsaken, and even the Forsaken you mentioned all said that they attacked Rand and then were attacked by the Callandor circle. So they all tried. Osan'gar actually died, so that makes him the only true loser among the Forsaken there. He might not have even faced a circle or group of channelers like the others did.

randomremarks said...

Nice article but I think it is possible to argue that Mesaana has challenged Rand, but that she did so indirectly via proxies in the Black and Red Ajah. This resulted in Rands capture and later rescue by Perrin and Taim in LOC.

rAndy aL said...

A couple of points:

Aginor - we don't know that he helped blow up the palace. He did try to kill Rand just after this, but he might not have known about the attack in advance.

Ishamael wasn't actually trying to fight Rand until book 3. I'm also going to ignore his sword fight, because that sequence was just too weird to explain. But he still did make the same mistake of taking out Moiraine instead of Rand, and then revealing himself instead of attacking.

Lanfear - that wasn't a tactic. It's lucky Moiraine knew this was coming, or she might have come up with one before attacking.


Of course, attacking a known taveren is pretty stupid in itself. I'd rate anyone who survived attacking Rand higher than these examples, but it doesn't seem to happen...

Fanatic-Templar said...

Be'lal: He did lure Rand to Ilian expertly using his friends as bait,As I recall, Rand was never even aware of the wondergirls' presence, so Be'lal's plan fails pretty massively in that he didn't even let his prey become aware of the bait.

Sammael: I would also note that Sammael defied Rand openly from the very beginning. Even right after Rand had taken Tear, Moiraine was counseling him to attack Sammael at Illian. No other Forsaken has endured such a long-lasting and direct conflict with Rand. I give Sammael much respect as one of the most impressive villains the Forsaken has produced.

Dominic said...

I agree on Be'lal Ben. This whole story line is fairly transparent, IMO.

Rand brings up the girls and Be'lal dismisses their importance out of hand (both as a bait and as a threat) - even brushes the topic aside with an hand gesture, and adds 'I confess surprise that you cared enough to make them useful'. What he says about them being untrained also imply he dismissed them as a potential threat, unlike Liandrin's opinion, we can surmise.That's fairly obvious, and this can't be intepreted in many ways... Be'lal wasn't responsible for bringing the girls to Tear or even for the idea of capturing them in Tear. Liandrin's group are the ones who captured them and convinced Be'lal to keep them prisoners, that they could be useful, or that they could be a threat,. Be'lal seems not to have believe either but... as Rhavin points out... Be'lal is not one who fear to seize potential opportunities to improvise, ending up with overcomplicated plans. He did keep the girls, but it's obvious he didn't plan on using them, because he didn't really believe they could be useful.

Perrin's Wolf Dream reveals who put the girls on the track of the Black Ajah in the Tower, who manipulated Liandrin and co. into capturing them for Be'lal:

"Egwene and Nynaeve and Elayne stood looking at a huge metal cage, with a raised door held on a heavy spring. They stepped in and reached up together to loose the catch. The barred door snapped down behind them. A woman with her hair all in braids laughed at them, and another woman all in white laughed at her.".

It was Lanfear's doing. Lanfear wanted Rand to take Callandor to defend himself against the male forsaken. She's the one who knew and believe the girls made a useful bait - and probably useful allies as well. She sent the girls to Rand as allies and let ta'veren do the rest - she was at Falme, she knew. She is also obviously the one who ordered Slayer to stop the Gray Man sent by Ishamael to kill them in the Tower, after he realised post EOTW and even more at Falme Rand's 'companions' were becoming a threat. He sent Grey Men against all of them in TDR: Perrin since he left the Mountains, the girls in the Tower, Mat as he left the Tower, and Rand. Meanwhile, Lanfear goaded all of Rand's allies - she visited Perrin's Dreams, visited Mat, sent the girls to Tear, pointed the way to Egwene in tel'aran'rhiod and then "helped' the girls to enter the Stone of Tear by manipulating Liandrin's group into capturing them.

It's fairly easy to follow the various plots of the Forsaken in TDR, RJ gave each different methods and remained consistent through the book: Grey Men are sent by Ishamael, Darkhounds by Sammael, Fades and brigands (foreshadowing his 'White Lions') and Comar by Rahvin - and what relates to Dreams (incl. Slayer) is the doing of Lanfear.

Be'lal was caught at the Stone completely unprepared. He had a full circle of 13 Black Sisters and weapons to take care of Rand and didn't even use them (he didn't even searched the vaults) - they were not even on stand by. His whole plan wasn't ready: the BA had the means to kill or capture Rand the second he took callandor: a stunner (which Moghedien seized in Tanchico and then gave back to a BA), a balefire rod (again seized by Moghedien then given back) etc. He toyed with the idea of turning the girls to the Shadow, but dithered. It's as if he didn't even track Rand's approach properly nor really expected Rand, not even when Moiraine showed up and he had her neutralized by the BA (or thought he did) - and this raise the question: were the dreams of Callandor sent to bait Rand really his doing, or were they also Lanfear's doing.

If they were Lanfear's, then the whole plot suddenly makes more sense, why she goaded Perrin and Mat (both were irresponsive, she gave up), why she sent the girls as potential allies and let ta'veren do the rest. She had seen in Falme the whole 'companions' brought together, and what happened. Notice she was there in person at the Stone. If things went wrong, she would not have let Rand die.

This also seems to explain the (mute) scene with Rahvin, Be'lal and Ishamael in tel'aran'rhiod. If Ishamael and Be'lal knew for fact Rand was coming for Callandor, they could have prepared. IMHO, the scene rather went that way: Rahvin accused Be'lal of being up to some dangerous game, with Rand heading east, his fetching of 13 BA... he accused him of trying to lure Rand to Tear to take Callandor instead of guarding Callandor from the Dragon. Be'lal denied this was his plan and doing, Rahvin didn't believe him and things got heated. Ishamael put a stop to their argument and warned them something was up. Rahvin went back home convinced Be'lal was up to some intricate plan, a conviction the news Elayne was heading for Tear only increased, convincing him further that Be'lal was planning to use Elayne in some intricate plot against his own powerbase as soon as he had Callandor. They never figured out Lanfear was pulling all the strings, at least not until Lanfear came to officially throw the glove at Ishamael's feet, challenging him openly. Then Ishamael began to unravel the web and see his real peril - leading him to his desperate move to kill Rand at the Stone... and leading him also to his attitude toward Cyndane... of all the transmigrated Forsaken, the one he displays a personal grudge toward.

ryaneherbert said...

I think all the forsaken haven't won is because as Ishamael realized after his run in with Rand in TDR, a direct assualt won't work on him because of his Tavereness(sp). The wheel is making sure he reaches his destiny, I think the only time a win/loss senario will ever be possibly is at the climax of TG. Therefore Ishamael has the right idea now, to put all his pieces into position and wait for the LB.

Anonymous said...

Moghedien should be on the list as the totally useless crap, below even the ugly.

LordJuss said...

Nice analysis. I like Dominic's take on Be'lal's plan - it's similar to mine, although I've never decided whether Lanfear had convinced him that they were working together (she managed it with some others).

Regarding Aginor at the Eye - it seems to me that he never intended to kill Rand. All the servants of the Shadow in that book work to capture, not kill (which is primarily why the three boys survive at all). Presumably this is on the direct orders of Ishamael who wants the Dragon turned rather than dead. In fact, all Ishamael's 'accidental' messages about the Eye only make sense as a trap - essentially a guarantee that the Dragon would go there eventually where he could be picked up. It's true that Aginor screwed up by over-drawing (possibly drawing as much as he would *normally* have been able to before he was sealed) but his aim was to capture, not kill.

LJ.

TheWheelWeaves... said...

"Be’lal tried his luck. His plan was to force Rand to desperately reach for Callandor to save his life, and thus break the warding around the sa’angreal and then kill Rand. It was a good plan, although risky for a few reasons. He knew that Rand could channel, and even in his presence, Rand channeled a sword of fire. He thus believed he could overwhelm Rand and bend him to his will i.e. free the sword. This was arrogance that could have cost him his life. Secondly, he was completely unaware of Ishamael floating above him, ready to descend. It is not unlikely that Ishamael was planning to kill Be’lal if he managed to obtain the sword. Finally, Be’lal noticed Moiraine, and once again instead of killing her, spoke about his intention to kill her. Those few seconds provided her with the time to weave balefire and to kill him. He did lure Rand to Ilian expertly using his friends as bait, but his plan to force the Dragon Reborn to free Callandor was risky, and probably stupid."

---'He did lure Rand to TEAR expertly using his [....]', not Illian!

LordJuss said...

As is said above, it really isn’t clear in the Dragon Reborn whether Lanfear is working with Be’lal or just messing with his plans. Having thought about this for a few days, here’s why I think the former is more likely.

If we make the assumption that the two are not working together, the sequence of events looks like this:

• Be’lal takes Tear and decides to use Rand to get at Callandor. He can’t make Rand come so he sits and waits. Whatever his plans are, they involve 13 BA who he borrows from Mesaana (we know she was involved from LoC and Alviarin remembers meeting Be’lal).
• The 13 BA go to Tear.
• Lanfear independently starts prompting Rand with dreams to get him to claim Callandor.
• The girls arrive at the Tower and are set to hunt the Black 13.
• The BA find out about this through Verin but for some reason allow it to go ahead.
• Lanfear decides to send the girls to Tear to act as further bait for Rand in case he hasn’t got the hint but doesn’t tell Be’lal as they aren’t working together. (This might also be to provide Rand with help but in that case, why allow them to be captured?).
• Lanfear plants evidence pointing to Tear.
• Lanfear meets Egwene in T’a’r and prevents her and Be’lal from meeting so Egwene isn’t put off the trip.
• Before the girls are captured, Lanfear starts putting them in Rand’s dreams in a cage [tDR:32] (this could be Be’lal providing that Mesaana has told him the girls are coming to Tear – but how would Mesaana know they were going there?).
• The girls arrive in Tear and the Black 13 somehow know they are coming (or at least seem to).
• The girls are captured.
• Be’lal somehow finds out their relation to Rand – from Liandrin perhaps.
• Be’lal now sends images of them being harmed to Rand in his dreams (despite the fact that we have no evidence that he knows how to get to Rand’s dreams – this must be the case as, during the confrontation in the Stone, Be’lal expects Rand to know that he has the girls captive).
• Rand arrives and Moiraine toasts Be’lal.

There seem to be several parts of this narrative that, while they match the evidence, are logically unlikely. This is particularly true for Be’lal finding out the girls know Rand and Be’lal expecting Rand to know he has them prisoner. On a related front there are far more effective ways that Lanfear could have mucked up Be’lal’s plans.

Making the assumption that Be’lal, Mesaana and Lanfear are working together, the events look like this.

• Be’lal takes Tear and decides to use Rand to get at Callandor. Lanfear already knows how to get to his dreams so she agrees to prompt him to come to Tear now, when he is barely trained and not very strong. Whatever Be’lal’s plans are, they involve 13 BA who he borrows from Mesaana (we know she was involved from LoC and Alviarin remembers meeting Be’lal).
• The 13 BA go to Tear.
• The girls arrive at the Tower and are set to hunt the Black 13.
• The BA find out about this through Verin.
• Mesaana, Lanfear and Be’lal realises that they can be used as bait for Rand in case he hasn’t got the hint.
• Lanfear plants evidence pointing to Tear
• Lanfear meets Egwene in T’a’r and prevents her and Be’lal from meeting so Egwene isn’t put off the trip.
• Before the girls are captured, Lanfear starts putting them in Rand’s dreams in a cage.
• The girls arrive in Tear and the Black 13 know they are coming because Be’lal has told them (having been told by Lanfear).
• The girls are captured.
• Rand arrives and Moiraine toasts Be’lal.

Both of these descriptions are consistent with the facts shown in the book but, IMHO, the latter is much more convincing. I suspect not everyone will agree with me but it’s difficult to make a further judgement without knowledge of exactly what Be’lal’s plan was once Rand arrived and what Lanfear planned to do about it. I think it’s pretty certain she didn’t mean Be’lal to survive.

As for what Be’lal was planning… well I might post on that once my thoughts have settled a bit.

Cheers,

LJ.

NikkoMarini said...

I have been reading all of this and other sources of information, but what i cannot figure out is. How many of the Forsaken has Rand killed. Im still reading The Path Of Daggers, i just want to know how many are dead.?

Linda said...

4 directly and 1 indirectly. The indirect one was Aginor at The Eye of the World when he burned out trying to prevent Rand from using the pool of pure saidin at the Eye.

There's an article on the blog here on the Forsaken and their deeds and current status, but it has spoilers.

Morakai said...

strange how you can come up with the phase of mind about the forsaken. I could blame a little on the author about depicting their overall strengths and weaknesses. Tho to say Ishmael and Lanfear were incompentent states you barely absorbed the books let alone enjoyed it from both sides. Rand " like all heroes " will always side on top but out of sheer luck most the times. Not until the Gathering Storm (pity when brandon sanderson took over) do you really see the depths of Rand and his companions (not the hundred this time, just friends which are men and women, aes sedai and non power weilders. The Forsaken won the first time it was just luck lews sealed the borr... Ishmael will beat rand ... tho i think Padan Fain will remember who cursed him all them years ago. His power hasnt even really been evaluated in the books.

Let the Dragon Ride the Winds Of Time Again

Kai

Drew said...

I think you can count Moghedien as one of the Forsaken to target Rand. Her plot was just very indirect. She was trying to obtain a male a'dam in order to infiltrate and capture Rand. She spent most of her time fighting Nynaeve and Elayne, though, so she could be seen as a failure and was dragged down by her weakness.

TrueCrew said...

Good list. However, I'd bump Be'lal, Lanfear and Ishy up a notch.

As you mention, Be'lal was only undone by Moiraine. He just didn't expect any 3rd age AS to know Balefire. She certainly didn't at the Eye.

Lanfear had Rand beat, it was over. She even had her own angreal. Anyone who had him beat but for the intervention of another has to be at least a good attempt. Lanfear did have him beat (though it was partly Rand's fault).

And in retrospect, I think Ishy's attempts to turn Rand deserve a little more credit. Fair enough through tDR, but after tGS, time t re-assess. He almost had him. And he almost killed him with that quarterstaff.

Lastly, I think the fact that Rand didn't kill Rahvin, Nynaeve did deserves mention.

Manetheren said...

The early failures of some of the Forsaken to kill Rand due to poor tactics or clumsiness on their parts can easily be understood though to us they may come off as stupid, trivial or poor writing. As the Forsaken have expressed since the beginning, they consider the current people and channelers to be a bunch of backwater simpletons; granted they grudgingly admit the Aes Sedai have developed a few interesting new weaves (e.g. warder bonding). They themselves came from higher tech, more "civilized" (as they see it) times with more powerful and skilled channelers. In essence, they are caught up in their own superiority and arrogance that they are in every single way better than the people of the current age, especially to an even more "backwater" country bumpkin Rand Al'Thor. The Forsaken have to preen and posture to show how great they are in comparison to the now reborn Lews Therin, who has, in their eyes, fallen to the edge of savagery. Therefore, they underestimate and are unprepared for Rand's actions, or those of others who help, when they occur. A master can anticipate another master with similar training, but a neophyte with a different mindset and culture is unpredictable. True, the ta'veren thing does help protect Rand, but it's not an unbreakable barrier of protection. So in essence, the Forsaken get themselves killed.