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2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
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First off, Dreadlords was the name given to men and women who could channel and sided with the Shadow in the Trolloc Wars. Yes, the women were called Dreadlords, too. They might have liked to call themselves "the Chosen," like the Forsaken, but feared to. The real Forsaken might not have appreciated it when they returned, as prophecies of the Shadow foretold would happen. Some of the Dreadlords had authority and responsibility equivalent to that of the Forsaken in the War of the Shadow, however. They ran the Shadow's side of the Trolloc Wars, though without the inherent ability to command the Myrddraal that the Forsaken possess, meaning they had to negotiate with them. Overall command at the beginning was in another's hands.
Forsaken was the name given to Aes Sedai who went over to the Shadow in the War of the Shadow at the end of the Age of Legends, though of course, they called themselves the Chosen, and despite the tales of the "current" Age, there were many more than a few of them. Since they occupied all sorts of levels, you might say that many were equivalent to some of the lesser Dreadlords, but it would be incorrect to call them so. At the time, they were all Forsaken—or Chosen—from the greatest to the least.
Some of those Forsaken the Dark One killed were every bit as high-ranking as the thirteen who were remembered, and who you might say constituted a large part of the Dark One's General Staff at the time of the sealing. With the Forsaken, where treachery and backstabbing were an acceptable way of getting ahead, the turnover in the upper ranks was fairly high, though Ishamael, Demandred, Lanfear, Graendal, Semirhage, and later Sammael, were always at the top end of the pyramid. They were very skilled at personal survival, politically and physically.
In large part the thirteen were remembered because they were trapped at Shayol Ghul, and so their names became part of that story, though it turned out that details of them, stories of them, survived wide-spread knowledge of the tale of the actual sealing itself. Just that they had been sealed away. Other Forsaken were left behind, so to speak, free but in a world that was rapidly sliding down the tube. The men eventually went mad and died from the same taint that killed off the other male Aes Sedai. They had no access to the Dark One's protective filters. The women died, too, though from age or in battle or from natural disasters created by insane male Aes Sedai or from diseases that could no longer be controlled because civilization itself had been destroyed and access to those who were skilled in Healing was all but gone. And soon after their deaths, their names were forgotten, except for what might possibly be discovered in some ancient manuscript fragment that survived the Breaking. A bleak story of people who deserved no better, and not worth telling in any detail.
Good question, though not all of the forces involved could use gateways. (Rafo! Rafo!) Think of the ability to Travel in terms of moving troops via aircraft, and you will begin to get the picture. Even with the largest possible circles, there are limits to the size of gateways and thus limits to the front along which you can move troops out through it, the numbers you can commit simultaneously. Of course, you can use multiple gateways, but each is still only so large and can admit only so many soldiers at a time.
So-called front lines were very fluid, but you couldn't fling your forces in anywhere without regard to what would be surrounding them or how you were going to re-supply, reinforce or withdraw them. Although no one has shown it so far in the books, there are ways to interfere with the making of a gateway—and ways to defend against interference—so the battle would take place on many levels. Yes, any area you hold can be attacked by your enemy, and you can attack any area that he holds. (Part of the result was great destruction and a great fall-off in the ability to produce high tech items. By the time the Bore was sealed, soldiers were already much, much more likely to ride horses and carry swords than to ride armored vehicles or aircraft and carry shocklances, which had all become very rare.) But holding an area is not impossible so long as you can successfully disrupt your opponent's attempts to make gateways into it. Even if he manages to get those first soldiers in, if you can disrupt his ability to reinforce, re-supply or withdraw, it becomes another Dien Bien Phu for him. Of course, if you fail, then it becomes Gettysburg or Waterloo, a bloody fight that will be decisive for somebody. At least until the next "decisive" battle is fought. Remember, that designation is always given after the fact, by historians.
The Strike at Shayol Ghul
Many people have asked about a short piece of writing called "The Strike at Shayol Ghul". Most people want to know: "Is it actually real, and if so, what does it say?"
First, it is real. Robert Jordan wrote it and it was included in the BaltiCon printed program. It's about four pages long in printed form, and is now available on the Web courtesy of Tor Books. Copies of the convention program, which includes the story, may still be available. See Colette Schleifer's announcement for information.
The free availability of The Strike at Shayol Ghul on the eeb makes this summary rather superfluous (I wrote it when Strike was only available in printed form, in very limited quantity) but I'm keeping it here for completeness. Now on with my summary.
In "The Strike at Shayol Ghul", Jordan describes the events leading up to the Sealing of the Bore from the perspective of a Third Age historian (at about the time of the story) who discovered some fragmented manuscripts that were written shortly after the Breaking. The single biggest fact revealed is that the during the War of the Shadow, the Aes Sedai were considering two alternate plans for defeating the Dark One.
Lews Therin proposed that the Dark One be resealed in his prison by plugging the Bore. The plug would be inserted by thirteen linked male and female channelers and would be held in place by the seven seals, which were focus points of the weaving. 20,000 soldiers would accompany them to Shayol Ghul, where the Bore could most be sensed. Lews Therin's plan had supporters and opponents. Opponents argued that the Seals required precise positioning, and that any slight error would tear the Bore open wider.
The alternate plan, which also had its share of supporters and detractors, was to build two large sa'angreal (one for saidin, one for saidar) and use them to build a new prison around the old one for the Dark One. The sa'angreal were so powerful that special "key" ter'angreal had to be constructed for channelers to use them safely. Opponents of this plan expressed concern that the sa'angreal could fall into the control of channelers following the Shadow or be misused accidentally by channelers serving the Light. Either way, the sa'angreal were expected to be powerful enough to destroy the world and beyond. Opponents also worried that while the sa'angreal might enable the building of a wall strong enough to contain the Dark One's strength right then, the Dark One was gradually chipping away at the Bore and gaining more power in the world. At some point, he might become powerful enough to tear down the new wall.
Supporters of each plan began preparation, even though the Aes Sedai as a whole failed to reach a consensus.
Latra Posae, an outspoken female Aes Sedai, considered Lews Therin's plan so dangerous that she organized support amongst the female Aes Sedai against it. In fact, she obtained the unanimous agreement of every female AS of significant power—in other words, every female Aes Sedai who could possibly be asked to assist in the force that would place the seven seals into the Bore to seal it shut. They believed this effectively halted Lews Therin's plan, as the men who supported him could not link without any cooperating women. (It was believed that correct placement of the seals required a linked group of the most powerful male and female channelers.)
While the Aes Sedai were fighting over which plan should be used, the Shadow advanced rapidly. Lews Therin decided that something had to be done right away, so he covertly organized 113 male channelers who supported his plan (they were later called the Hundred Companions, a slight miscount) and over 10,000 soldiers who were also loyal to him. The force stormed Shayol Ghul, when all thirteen Forsaken were there, and put the Seals into place.
At the moment of the resealing, the Dark One drove all of the surviving Hundred Companions (about 68, at that point) instantly insane. The Dark One also tainted saidin, although this wasn't discovered until after hundreds of other male channelers had been driven mad from it.
Reads the introduction of the manuscript: "Whoever reads this, if any remain to read it, weep for us who have no more tears. Pray for us who are damned alive."
From the BBoBA: "These oaths were not always required, but various events before and since the Breaking caused them to be necessary. The Second Oath was the first adopted after the War of the Shadow."
And according to Sheriam, "Once, Aes Sedai were not required to swear oaths. It was known what Aes Sedai were and what they stood for, and there was no need for more. Many of us wish it were so still. But the Wheel turns, and the times change. That we swear these oaths, that we are known to be bound, allows the nations to deal with us without fearing that we will throw up our own power, the One Power, against them. Between the Trolloc Wars and the War of the Hundred Years we made these choices, and because of them the White Tower still stands, and we can still do what we can against the Shadow."
So we have the Second Oath was adopted first, and the other two added between the Trolloc Wars and the War of a Hundred Years (if we believe Sheriam, anyway, and I can see no reason for a lie on this one).