Friday, March 26, 2010

Winter's Heart Read-through Post #6: Mysterious Slayer

By Linda

In Winter’s Heart, Slayer attempted to kill Rand on the orders of a Forsaken, but killed two other people instead.

All Forsaken know of Slayer and he knows all of them. Darkfriends other than Forsaken beg his favours:

Few save the Chosen knew how to reach him, and none of the men among those few could channel, or would have dared trying to command him. His services were always begged, except by the Great Lord himself, and more recently by the Chosen

- Winter’s Heart, To Lose the Sun

No Darkfriend Asha’man knows how to reach him. Some of the Black Ajah probably do, since he thinks that “few save the Chosen would dare try to command him”, and surely Aes Sedai would be among those few. High up male and female Darkfriends also probably know how to reach him.

After the failed attempt he reported to the disguised Forsaken and was convinced his patron is a man. However definite evidence for his opinion is lacking and the Forsaken are adept at disguising their appearance and voices, so he could be wrong…

When Isam was an infant, his mother Breyam fled Malkier with him, but was killed by Trollocs. Isam was spared because the Shadow saw he could be useful. Yet he was not raised directly by the Shadow:

Question: Why was the infant Isam spared death at the hand of the Trollocs?

Jordan: Possible political use later. You’ve got somebody who is related to the royal family of Malkier and you can raise him exactly the way you want, you can instil whatever belief system you want. He’s a blank slate and he might be a very powerful tool.

Question: Was Isam raised by the Shadow directly, by his mother, or by someone else?

Jordan: By someone else. Read and find out.

- Robert Jordan at Dragoncon

Isam’s alter ego Luc left Andor in about 973 NE, a year before Tigraine did. Gitara Moroso probably convinced him:

that his fame lay in the Blight, or his fate. Others said it was that he would find the Dragon Reborn there, or that the Last Battle depended on him going.

- Lord of Chaos, Tellings of the Wheel

It doesn’t sound like Luc was a Darkfriend at that time. (Andor seems to have been beset by Aes Sedai with the Foretelling who try to manipulate the royal family.)

According to the Dark Prophecy, Isam met Luc in the Mountains of Dhoom and one killed the other:

Luc came to the Mountains of Dhoom.
Isam waited in the high passes.
The hunt is now begun. The Shadow's hounds now course, and kill.
One did live, and one did die, but both are.

The two souls now coexist in the one body and they hunt and kill for the Shadow and for themselves.

By both Isam’s and Luc’s thoughts, Luc is now as evil as Isam and as focussed on being the Shadow’s henchman. How did the change occur? Luc can only have been forcibly turned to the Shadow by 13 linked Dreadlords and 13 Myrddraal if he could channel. However, he could have been corrupted by psychic leakage along his link to Isam, as Rand was with Moridin after a few months. With a far longer time to take effect, and no escape, this corruption could be entirely successful. In the Two Rivers when Luc remarks to Perrin:

I know something of taking an enemy into your bosom. His blade goes in quicker when he is close.

- The Shadow Rising, The Tinker’s Sword

he may have been referring to Isam’s soul corrupting his rather than their duel.

Slayer was granted many gifts, and not necessarily only by the Dark One. One gift was the transmigration, and therefore continued life, of one soul - we don’t know which - into the body of the survivor of their duel.

Another of these gifts is the ability to shape-shift. On exiting or entering Tel’aran’rhiod, Slayer can choose whether to ‘be’ Luc or Isam:

Slayer just chooses who he will be when he steps into or out of Tel'aran'rhiod. The stepping in and out is part of the mechanism for his change. He couldn't do it in the middle of a street, say, not without the stepping in or out. Which might be a little noticeable, since he would vanish from sight for a perceptible time.

- Robert Jordan on his blog

This includes their persona, appearance and scent. Both Isam and Luc have hardly human scents, probably because they enter Tel’aran’rhiod frequently in the flesh, which results in a loss of the person’s humanity. Slayer is a shape-shifter who changes human form, while Perrin shape-shifts mentally from man to wolf. Perrin worries that he might lose his humanity when he does this. Isam/Luc presumably do not worry about losing their humanity.

Slayer’s ability to enter and leave Tel’aran’rhiod physically without making a gateway is also probably one of his gifts. What he has not been granted is immunity to poison or any weapon (Winter’s Heart, Out of Thin Air).

He has obtained knowledge of the Finns and might have entered the Tower of Ghenjei in Tel’aran’rhiod in The Shadow Rising, which is a very dangerous thing to do. Quite remarkably, the Shadow’s information on the three ta’veren was passed on to him. An example of communication in WOT!

We don’t know what other abilities or gifts Slayer has. He may have some immunity to the One Power – why else was Slayer considered able to kill Rand? Perhaps he obtained a weave breaking ter’angreal from the Finns – this would explain where he got his knowledge of the Finns and his possible ability to come and go from the Tower of Ghenjei.

Slayer’s Deeds

  • It was probably Luc, or Slayer in Luc mode since Slayer probably existed then, who killed Janduin in the Blight after the Aiel War (The Shadow Rising, He Who Comes With the Dawn).

  • Slayer killed one Grey Person in the White Tower – the Grey Woman found in Black sister Sheriam’s bed or the Grey Man who tried to kill Egwene and Nynaeve.

  • Isam killed Amico and Joiya in Tear (Winter’s Heart, Out of Thin Air). Slayer gloated over assassinating two Aes Sedai in the Stone of Tear and a Gray Man in the White Tower yet did not reminisce about killing a renegade Forsaken (Asmodean), which would be an even rarer and highly prized event, so he probably did not.

  • He brought Trollocs and Myrddraal to the Two Rivers by the Ways.

  • He brought two Grey Men to the Two Rivers to kill Fain (The Shadow Rising, Assurances and A Missing Leaf). The order to kill Fain was still current as of Winter’s Heart, Wonderful News.

  • Both Isam and Luc kill wolves in Tel’aran’rhiod.

  • Luc encouraged the Two Rivers people to stay on their farms and defy the Whitecloaks.

  • Isam shot at Nynaeve in Tel’aran’rhiod (The Shadow Rising, A Cup of Wine).

  • Luc tried to lower the morale of Perrin’s group so they didn’t hunt Trollocs, then sent Trollocs to attack the group in a different direction and greater numbers than they expected.

  • He led a group of Two Rivers men to antagonise the Whitecloaks.

  • He was furious that Taren Ferry was attacked by Trollocs and people escaped across the river to spread information about what was happening. He rightly blamed this on Fain and knew his alias of Ordeith (The Shadow Rising, The Tinker’s Sword).

  • Isam tried to kill Perrin in Tel’aran’rhiod and was shot by him in return.

  • As Luc he deliberately revealed himself eavesdropping on the three girls in Tel’aran’rhiod so that Temaile would see him (Winter’s Heart, A Plan Succeeds).

  • Slayer was ordered by a Forsaken to kill Rand (Winter’s Heart, Out of Thin Air) and killed two other people mistakenly in the Crown of Maredo inn rooms that Rand and co left suddenly.

Slayer’s Names

Isam is a personal name meaning 'protection, security, pledge'. He is pledged to the Dark One and was given gifts to carry out assassinations. His surname Mandragoran refers to Mandragora officinarum (mandrake), the real world equivalent of forkroot (see HerbsHerbs article), a very poisonous plant which in earlier times was believed to have certain magical powers. Its forked root, seemingly resembling the human form, was thought to be in the power of dark earth spirits.

Dried mandragora roots were thought to be given to sorcerers by the Devil so that they could summon and consult the spirit in a time of need. The Forsaken can summon Slayer, who has magical abilities enabling him to be used as the Dark One’s henchman. Note that drake is another name for dragon. Forkroot can nullify the ability to channel and may hint that, as speculated above, Slayer has some immunity, or an item that grants him some immunity, to channelling. He certainly has no fear of the Forsaken and was considered able to kill Rand, who one would think sleeps with a ward around him.

Mantear has the connotations of tearing men (‘man tear’).


Anonymous said...

Hi Linda,

I cannot say how much you and Dom`s posts on this blog mean to me. It has greatly enhanced my love of the Wheel of Time. Thank you for putting forth the effort. It was a fluke that I started reading the Wheel of Time when EOTW came out. I noticed some of the layering of symbols before, but much more so now.

Lawen "been reading the Wheel since it came out" Griffith

Linda said...

Thank you for your kind words.

As for me, I nearly didn't keep reading after the EOTW. It was the Prologues of Book 1 and 2 that kept me reading, those and the things that weren't like Tolkien, that I thought had potential... :D