The Great Hunt Prologue: Ishamael and the Darkfriends
The Prologue shows more of Ishamael’s skill at manipulating people and reading the Pattern than his thoughts as a philosopher and theologian. We are shown that Darkfriends are millenarian extremists. According to Damian Thompson in The End of Time, millenarian extremism:
often arises from feelings of deprivation in matters of status, wealth, security or self-esteem…All millenarian movements are distinguished by the abnormal behaviour of their adherents, which can range from retreat to the wilderness to await the End to acts of unimaginable violence to bring it about…The millenarian sense of identity, too, is distinctive. It invariably possesses a narcissistic, self-righteous quality... It is also paranoid.The Forsaken and Darkfriends are well developed as a millenarian cult. This is hardly surprising, since they were established more than three thousand years ago and it is their master, the Dark One, who wants to end the world as it currently is. From the Shadow’s point of view, their victory will usher in an eternity of rule under the Dark One – a dark eternity of an evil paradise where they will be the elect.
The Forsaken have highly abnormal behaviour and have committed acts of incredible violence to free the Dark One and usher in the Age of the Shadow. Their first attempt to free the Dark One resulted in the War of the Power in the Age of Legends. All of them are narcissistic, self-righteous and paranoid. Many Darkfriends are in the same mold:
Unlike the Forsaken, Darkfriends have not known immortality, yet they have survived as a society for over three thousand years, serving and waiting for Tarmon Gai’don: the Last Battle…Some extremists are deeply dedicated to obtaining freedom for the Dark One and thus immortality and dominion for themselves.The Shadow has a millenarian catechism:
- The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time
“The Great Lord of the Dark is my Master, and most heartily do I serve him to the last shred of my very soul…Lo, my Master is death’s Master. Asking nothing do I serve against the Day of his coming, yet do I serve in the sure and certain hope of life everlasting…Surely the faithful shall be exalted in the land, exalted above the unbelievers, exalted above thrones, yet do I serve humbly against the Day of his Return…Swift come the Day of Return. Swift come the Great Lord of the Dark to guide us and rule the world for ever and ever.”Ishamael assures the Darkfriends that the Day of Return is near and restates his ‘promise’ to the followers:
- The Great Hunt Prologue
“Fear not, for the Day of your Master’s rising upon the world is near at hand. The Day of Return draws nigh. Does it not tell you so that I am here, to be seen by you favoured few among your brothers and sisters? Soon the Wheel of Time will be broken. Soon the Great Serpent will die, and with the power of that death, the death of Time itself, your Master will remake the world in his own image for this Age and for all Ages to come. And those who serve me, faithful and steadfast, will sit at my feet above the stars in the sky and rule the world of men forever. So have I promised, and so shall it be, without end. You shall live and rule forever.”This is the ultimate millenarian cult. It is more extreme than the general millenarianism pervading the Third Age.
Note that not only is the name Shai'tan sacred (to all but Ishamael as we saw in The Eye of the World Prologue), but so is Ba’alzamon (to Darkfriends only).
So who are the Darkfriends at this gathering?
Apart from Ba’alzamon, Myrrdraal, Trollocs and Zomoran there were over a hundred darkfriends including:
- an Illianer noblewoman wearing a low cut scarlet dress and golden slippers (gold thread embroidered slippers are very expensive)
- a man or woman in a hooded grey cloak
- a Domani noblewoman with a swan neck and very long black hair, wearing a golden bracelet with her House Sigil
- a Shienaran right-handed soldier with a sky blue coat (Lord Ingtar’s presence was confirmed by RJ on his blog: “Yes, Ingtar was seen at the Darkfriend social” and this is almost certainly him)
- a male Tuatha’an, wearing green pants and a yellow coat
- a Tairen High Lord with silver-worked boots
- an Andoran Queen’s Guard, with golden lion-head spurs
- a very slender Sea Folk Man, with a six-pointed star tattoo on his right hand (although it could be a woman)
- two Aes Sedai (Liandrin’s presence is confirmed at this meeting)
RJ intended to show the large number and diversity of Darkfriends. Of the hundred at this meeting, many are apparently never seen again.
Barthanes Damodred wasn’t at the social, since he needed Fain’s description to identify Rand.
Comar did not recognise Mat so he was not the Andoran officer of the Queen’s Guards at Ishamael’s Darkfriend social. Hanlon was also a Darkfriend officer in the Queen’s Guard and then the White Lions, and is quite possibly the one at the meeting.
Regarding the High Lord of Tear who wore “elaborately silver-worked boots”, there are a limited number of High Lords (see The Nobles of Tear article) and of them, Weiramon is the one acting most suspiciously and he is the only one to wear such boots. (It is remarked more than once that Weiramon’s sigil is very similar to Lanfear’s – not a suggestion that he is her, but that he is also allied to the Shadow.) Weiramon may have been undermining the effectiveness of Rand's attacks from the inside. His conversation with Darkfriend Asha’man Gedwyn in The Path of Daggers showed that he is sometimes not so stupid at all. Weiramon and all Darkfriends are discussed further in the Who is a Darkfriend article.
The Darkfriend attendees we have identified came into close contact with at least one of the three ta’veren. The Darkfriends were located in Illian, Tear, Arad Doman, Caemlyn, Tar Valon… were some of these Darkfriends spies for the other Forsaken? At the time of the meeting, the other Forsaken were only recently released form the Bore. The Darkfriends had long been instructed by Ishamael and before that, Myrddraal and higher up Darkfriends.
From Carridin’s observations we see that many Darkfriends are too stupid or arrogant to don convincing disguises. His observations on the whole were shrewd. Carridin was alarmed that Ishamael was more ruthless and hard than he.