Monday, May 18, 2009

The Great Hunt Read-Through #1- Ishamael and the Darkfriends

The Great Hunt Prologue: Ishamael and the Darkfriends

by Linda

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 World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time

The Shadow has a millenarian catechism:

“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.”

- The Great Hunt Prologue

Ishamael assures the Darkfriends that the Day of Return is near and restates his ‘promise’ to the followers:

“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)

  • Cairhienin

  • Kandori

  • Saldaean

  • Ghealdanin

  • 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.


BobH said...

I really enjoyed reading this chapter the first time around (still do, for that matter). It was the first indication, to me, that WoT was more than a teenagers-on-a-quest story - that it would have adult themes (i.e. themes the average 12 year old wouldn't necessarily fully appreciate), and there would be a depth to the story that wasn't readily evident in TEotW.

In fact, I've really enjoyed ALL of the "Shadow Chapters" - i.e. those where the Forsaken interact amongst themselves, or with their minions - sprinkled throughout the story. I wouldn't have minded in the least had there been a few more of them, honestly.

As for the chapter itself ... one question that gets brought up regularly is ... How did the all the DFs get to the meeting?

There are 2 ideas that get proposed the most, neither of which I find particularly convincing.

The first is that Myrddraal escorted them, using their move-in-the-shadows trick, like we saw Shaidar Haran do with Moghedien, in ACoS, for example. We know that a Myrddraal escorted Fain to SG back when he was "made into the the Dark One's hound", so there is precedence for this idea.

The problem I have with that idea is ... when a Myrddraal first appears at the actual DF meeting, Carridin sort of freaks out and rants about it - i.e. he reacts as if this is his first encounter with a Fade since he arrived, not like someone who was escorted to the meeting by one.

Similarly, at the end of the chapter, when the zomaran escorts Carridin back to his room, he tells Carridin that someone will be along soon to show him the way to his destination, and Carridin doesn't react like that "someone" would be a creepy Myrddraal he just ranted about paragraphs before.

The other idea is that Ishamael brought them, either using OP Gateways or TP Traveling.

But, there are potential problems with that idea, too.

First is, we don't even know if Ishamael was capable of doing that, yet (whether with the OP or the TP). He certainly didn't(couldn't?) when he had Fain brought to SG 3 (and 2) years previously. And, in TEotW, he had trouble manifesting near Shadar Logoth to force the Shadowspawn to enter, and that "manifesting" must have involved some sort of Traveling.

Perhaps after the Seal was broken in TEotW (the one found at the Eye) Ishamael became strong enough to open Gateways (assuming he was too weak, prior to that), but even if he was strong enough, the second issue I have is that it seems unlikely to me that he would stoop to opening 100+ Gateways in various secluded spots around SG (the DFs departed, and presumably arrived, in secret, without seeing one another) to enable the DFs to step through (he wouldn't have had to step through himself; he could have told all the DFs in advance, via their dreams, to be at such-and-such a place at such-and-such a time, and then to step through the waiting Gateway once there). That onerous task seems beneath him.

So, if not Myrddraal, and not Ishamael himself, then who brought the DFs there?

The only other idea I have is ... maybe the Shadow has other resources of which we are unaware. And, Ishamael utilized those resources to get the DFs there.

For example, if he had (female)wilders who knew how to Travel (how they could have been taught to do so is problematic, though), THEY could have opened Gateways for the DFs. RJ said at Dragon'Con'05 that the Dark One "now [unlike the AoL] has very few [channelers in his service], he’s got the Black Ajah, and a few wilders, and some stuff I ain’t going in to". So, it could be the wilders or the "other stuff" who brought the DFs there.

It's a bit farfetched, I realize, but I feel compelled to examine farfetched ideas since the two common ones are problematic, IMHO.

Dominic said...

Since it's fairly well established the scene took place in the tel'aran'rhiod reflection of Ishamael's palace, there may very well have been a series of tied-off gateways to the real-world left by Ishamael in one of the rooms. A zomora would come and escort each darkfriend in turn to this 'gateways' room.

But the travel with the Myrddraal idea remains by far the one that makes most sense. I think the Forsaken are too lazy to play doorman to over a hundred darkfriends.

Carridin's reaction to the Myrddraal is very ambiguous. I was re reading the paragraph, and my feeling is that he hates them, hates them for the fear they inspire him. RJ didn't want to reveal the means through which he came to the meeting, so the lack of direct reminescence can be brushed off this way. It seems very possible Carridin had a recent experience with a Fade, that left him a bad taste. He sort of think to himself: 'I fear you now halfman, but come the day of Return I will be your master'. From the way Shaidar Haran did it to bring Moghedien to Moridin, it sounds even possible each darkfriend was ordered to a precise spot in shadow and may not even have seen the Myrddraal that transported him. SH was nowhere to be seen on arrival. Of course this is all massively speculative, as Shaidar Haran can channel the True Power and we're unsure what with him is Fade powers and what is TP powers.

What we can establish for certain is that with the timeline, Carridin and a few others like Liandrin and Ingtar didn't have the time to make the trip to Shayol Ghul and back by their own means (Ingtar, incidentally, went south). We also know Carridin arrived into the building directly as he didn't see its outside. He didn't know how it looked from the outside, wasn't sure it was a palace. He didn't seem to know exactly where he was either.

By the way, this seriously undermines the argument of those who believe (a weird belief, IMO - when she is so clearly involved in the Fal Dara events) that Alviarin wasn't the second Aes Sedai at the meeting on the basis that she is impressed by the fact Fain went to the Pit of Doom.

Another thing that speaks of 'special transportation' is the number of non-Shienaran darkfriends involved at Fal Dara, who ended up in Fain's group of Trolloc fodder. It's hard to believe Ishamael had so many in the area, it's fairly obvious a lot of those DFs were transported close to Fal Dar instead of the departure point.