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ne Power disguises

by Great Lord of the Dark: 2005-06-22 | 6.53 out of 10 (15 votes)

Previous Categories: Miscellaneous

This theory is a thorough study of using the Power as a disguise, and what the implications are for Forsaken who disguise themselves.

First, there are four major weaves with subtle differences described in the series that allow one to change their appearance:

1. Illusion (White Tower version)

Illusion is a weave taught at the White Tower. In LoC, Alanna uses this weave to impress novices: Alanna stood in the middle of the common room unchanged—to Verin, at least—but the Illusion's head touched the ceiling beams.

Obviously, this is the same weave Moiraine used in Baerlon to fool Whitecloaks in tEotW, as Rand recalls: They think to impress me spinning the Mirror of Mists? Lews Therin's incredulous laugh faded into mad giggles. Rand did not need the man's explanation; he had seen Moiraine do something like this once. Asmodean had called it the Mirror of Mists too, and also Illusion.

Which leads us to the second weave...

2. Illusion (Age of Legends version), also called Mirror of Mists.

This is similar to the White Tower's version of Illusion, except for two things: the weave is inverted, making the disguise undetectable to channelers as well, who might otherwise see the glow of saidar. A second weave is also used to hide the ability to channel, making the disguise complete.

In tPoD, Alviarin believes Mesaana must be using the White Tower's version of Illusion when in fact it is the AoL version: Alviarin flung herself from her knees onto her belly before the woman who seemed made of dark shadows and silvery light. Seizing the hem of Mesaana's dress, she rained kisses on it. The weave of Illusion—it must be that, though she could not see a single thread of saidar any more than she could sense the ability to channel in the woman who stood over her—did not hold completely, with her frantically shifting the skirt's edge. Flickers of bronze silk with a thin border of intricately embroidered black scrollwork showed through.

And again in CoT: Silver eyes frowned from a face of smoke, with silver lips drawn in a tight line. It was only Illusion, and really not done any better than Alviarin could have. A flash of green silk skirt embroidered with elaborate bands of bronze showed as Mesaana glided across the Domani carpet. But Alviarin could not see the weaves that made the Illusion any more than she had felt those the woman had used to arrive or cast the room in shadows.

Elayne and Nynaeve also use the AoL version learned from Moghedien who still uses her own disguise to pose as Marigan: Not with all of their "discoveries" coming from Moghedien. There had been a good many, beginning with "inverting," so a weave could not be seen by any but the woman who had woven it, yet they had not passed everything on. How to hide your ability to channel, for one. Without that, Moghedien would have been unmasked in hours—any Aes Sedai within two or three paces of a woman could sense whether she could channel—and if they learned how to do that, they might learn how to penetrate it. And how to disguise yourself; inverted weaves made "Marigan" look nothing at all like Moghedien.

Some limitations are also revealed: In truth, no one gave her and Birgitte a second glance, though Birgitte's aged face was often challenging and she herself was tall for an Ebou Dari woman. That was what they saw, by way of not so simple weaves of Air and Fire that Elayne had inverted and tied off herself. When Elayne looked at Birgitte, she saw a woman with fine wrinkles at the corners of black eyes and black hair touched with gray. The disguises were easier the closer you stayed to how a person really was, so the hair flowing down Birgitte's back, tied in four places with tattered green ribbon, was considerably longer than Ebou Dari women wore it, but then Elayne had not cut her hair either, and no one seemed to pay it any mind. It was a perfect disguise; she just wished she did not have to sweat as well. With the addition of the even more complex weave of Spirit that masked a woman's ability to channel, Elayne had walked right by Merilille on her way out of the palace that morning.

We get to see Forsaken's POV about this weave as well: His skin tingled slightly as she channeled, and for an instant her image changed. Her skin became coppery but dull, her hair and eyes dark but flat; she appeared gaunt and frail, a once-beautiful Domani woman slowly losing a battle against illness. He barely stopped his lip from curling. One touch would prove the angular contours of that face were not hers—only the most subtle use of Illusion could pass that test—but Graendal seemed wedded to flamboyance.

More limitations from Nynaeve's POV: Illusion worked best the closer you stayed to what was there before, in shape and size at least, so bits of the Ebou Dari dress flashed through the Domani garment as Elayne whirled to examine herself in one of the room's two large mirrors. She laughed and clapped her hands. "Oh, he will never recognize me. Or you, near-sister."

So we know that the more you deviate from the true shape and size of something, the harder it is to keep the disguise perfect. Mesaana's dress shows because it looks nothing like the shadows and light disguise Mesaana has adopted. Elayne's Ebou Dari dress shows through the Domani garment because they have different shapes, a difference further enhanced by Elayne's rapid movement. Graendal's face and the elderly Basene's have different contours, so her disguise could be penetrated as well.

It would be easy to weave a disguise, and then wear the appropriate clothing to complement it, as Elayne and Nyaneve do in Ebou Dar, to reduce chances of being discovered. Not changing hair would also aid, as shown in the above quote about Elayne. Elayne's disguise adds age marks such as wrinkles, a very subtle change unlikely to be uncovered unless someone is actually touching their skin. If she were to keep her true age showing, and only darkened her skin to an Ebou Dari tint, the size and shape would not have changed, and this would qualify as "the most subtle use of Illusion" that "could pass that test" of not being revealed by touch.

3. The Mask of Mirrors

It is unclear whether the Mask of Mirrors differs from the Mirror of Mists (AoL Illusion). All mentions of it are included below.

Watcher POV: Graendal maintained the Mask of Mirrors that hid her true form, but Sammael had dropped his, golden-bearded again and just head and shoulders taller than she.

Graendal POV: Or maybe at something beyond. He still held the Mask of Mirrors, giving him the illusion of added height. She had dropped hers as soon as the gateway closed.

Rand hides his Choedan Kal: At least once every day, though he had promised himself he would not, he lifted the massive wardrobe of polished blackwood and ivory in his bedchamber, floated it aside on flows of Air and carefully unraveled the traps he had set and the Mask of Mirrors that made the wall seem smooth, all inverted so no other eyes but his could see.

Rand appears as Nuli: Mistress Harfor gaped after Min until she vanished around a corner, then gave her tabard an adjusting tug it did not need. She turned her disapproval on Rand. Even with the Mask of Mirrors she saw a man who towered over her, but Reene Harfor was not a woman to let a small thing like that put her off stride for an instant. "I mistrust the looks of you, Nuli," she said, her eyebrows drawn down sharply, "so you watch your step. You'll watch it very carefully, if you have any brain at all."

Sammael did his best to stay more than arm's reach from Sevanna, which probably indicates that his added height disguise would be disrupted by a touch.

4. Lanfear's disguises

Lanfear adopts a disguise as Keille Shaogi, a very fat woman: The only woman in sight beside Aviendha and the Maidens was walking up from the second wagon, but she certainly did not match that voice, one of the loveliest he had ever heard. Rand frowned at her and shook his head, and he had cause. A foot shorter than Kadere, she must have weighed as much or more. Rolls of fat nearly hid her dark eyes, disguising whether they were tilted or not, but her nose was a hatchet that dwarfed the peddler's. In a dress of pale-cream silk stretched tight around her bulk, with a white lace shawl held above her bead on elaborate ivory combs thrust into long, coarse black hair, she moved with incongruous lightness, almost like one of the Maidens.

Yet Lanfear's disguise, obviously a major change in shape and size and not at all subtle, is not disrupted by touch: Keille watched, round face unreadable, until the white door closed, then suddenly rounded on Mat, who was on the point of slipping away. "Few men have ever refused an offer from me once, much less twice. You should have a care I do not take it in mind to do something about it." Laughing, she reached up and pinched his cheek with thick fingers, hard enough to make him wince, then turned in Rand's direction.

Either Rand and Mat are truly not perceptive (which is odd since Rand suspects either Isendre or Keille might be Lanfear) or Lanfear's disguise doesn't have the same limitations as the other weaves we've described.


Lanfear's ability allows for the possibility that a One Power disguise may exist that alters one's size and shape with no chance of disrupting the weave by touch. If Lanfear knows such a weave, there is a distinct possibility other Forsaken may know it as well.

Alternately, it seems obvious that any One Power disguise that does not alter one's size and shape is subtle enough to pass the test of touch without being discovered. Weaves to alter the size and shape of a person or clothing can be detected through touch or simple movement, with the possible exception provided by Lanfear.

For your reference, I've listed below every use of One Power disguises I could find, both confirmed and possible.

1. Moiraine at Baerlon

2. Lanfear as Selene

3. Lanfear as Else

4. Rahvin as Gaebril

5. Sammael as Lord Brend

6. Be'Lal as High Lord Samon

7. Lanfear as Keille

8. Asmodean as Natael

9. Moghedien as Gyldin

10. Moghedien as Marigan

11. Graendal as Basene

12. Demandred as Taim

13. Alanna in Caemlyn

14. Nynaeve, Elayne, Aviendha and Birgitte as Ebou Dari

15. Aes Sedai at Rand in Caemlyn

16. Rand hides Egwene in Cairhien

17. Sammael as Caddar

18. Graendal as Maisia

19. Rand hides his ter'angreal

20. Mesaana as a mysterious woman of Light and Shadows

21. Rand as Nuli
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Tamyrlin: 2005-07-20

I agree, Lanfear provides us with substantial proof that the limitations of the Mask of Mirrors is not the only way such an illusion can be created. The Mask of Mirrors illusion used by most would seem to be a temporary means of disguise to be used in a casual setting. I wonder if Graendal and Sammael don't use Lanfear's way, because they only needed a simple deception. Likely, Lanfear's illusion is a more time consuming process, more detailed in its execution that doesn't make sense as a quick solution. Lanfear knowing how to use it, does suggest it is known by other Forsaken, at the very least. Well put together, I think you are right, there is another illusion device that enables Forsaken to become someone else entirely, that is practically beyond any capability of detection.


Callandor: 2005-07-20

**Either Rand and Mat are truly not perceptive (which is odd since Rand suspects either Isendre or Keille might be Lanfear) or Lanfear's disguise doesn't have the same limitations as the other weaves we've described.**

Or, the only place were the disruption would be is at the tips of her fingers, which are currently hidden by pinching Mat.


Gareth: 2005-07-20

Maybe lanfear used a combination of real disguise and illusion, like stuffing something into her dress to look fat and use illusion to chenge her face.

Well, that's the general idea, and with a little more subtility...


ThunderWalker: 2005-07-20

I would think it easy to make yourself larger -- just surround yourself with slightly hardened air, of whatever shape you want. The trick would be to give it the flexablity for movement as well.

Just a One Power prosthesis.

So Lanfear's "Keille" disguise could be illusion, but trick touch, since it is adding bulk as well.

I would think reducing your size would probably be impossible. Unless you could "Heal" some weight off :)


Narianna: 2005-07-21

one power can't be used to increase (and correspondingly)deacrease one's height.

in one of rand's POV he mentions that sammael always wanted to be tall and resented the fact that it can't be done with one power.


Traveller: 2005-07-21

Maybe, also because she made herself fatter, it would be harder to see past the illusion. I always thought that you could see flashes of for example dress through an illusion of a dress, when they overlapped, because they moved so much. Keille however has a large bulk, so Lanfear would never waver into anyone's view. Also because she walks so carefully, her legs probably don't push the skirt too far out. I think that it is also important to notice that Keille always wore white, as did Lanfear, so if white flashed through, it would probably be invisible.


Yaga Shura: 2005-07-21

"I would think reducing your size would probably be impossible. Unless you could "Heal" some weight off :) "

i don't know that it would be impossible per se. very hard to keep undetected if the change was big, but that's the same for all the OP disguises. It's really no different from any of the others in principle.


Great Lord of the Dark: 2005-07-21

To respond to a few points:

The Power can't permanently make someone taller is what Sammael laments. The illusion weave he uses to visit Sevanna does in fact make him appear taller than he actually is, and he stays an arm's length from the Shaido at all times, so as not to have his disguise disrupted, as it is much more than a subtle change. I imagine added height is more complex and easier to disrupt because many things can't be faked, such as stride, where one's voice comes from and so on. Sammael's comment does make one wonder what marvels of 'cosmetic surgery' could be accomplished with the Power in the AOL. Breast enlargement, hair dyeing, tanning, liposuction, etc?

As for local disruptions, it is possible that Lanfear's illusipn was only interrupted at her fingertips were pressed against Mat's skin, thereby hiding them. It should then be equally obvious that a subtle change such as skin colour would also, at most, only be disrupted at the point of contact, thereby hiding the disruptions as well.


mako0424: 2005-07-22

just a quick point thats also coincedentally a much debated point, we have discussed that Lanfear's beauty is synthetic either with a Mask of Mirrors so to speak or maybe the Eel'finn, well what if she actually looks fat and short and didnt use a disguise at all, just a point for fun, i dont believe it either though.


Cyberkil: 2005-07-22

Actually in this case we're talking about two types of detection. Sight and touch. Any sight disruption could have been concealed by the contact, but there is a difference when you are pinched by a chubby hand and when you are pinched by the slender hand that I assume Lanfear truly has. Unless Mat is really dense (and I wouldn't put it past him at that point in the books) he should have been able to tell the difference if there was one.

Perhaps the difference between the AOL versions Mirror of Mists and Mask of Mirrors is solidity. An extra Air component to defeat detection by touch. (Such as Rand's Mask of Mirrors disguise of the wall for the Choedan Kal)

It is possible that the Mask of Mirrors used as Lanfear uses it either takes a person who is very strong in the power (wasn't she among the strongest of the Forsaken?) or even that it takes a Talent to use it as she does.

Also, some minor points in your list of disguises:

2. Lanfear as Selene - I don't think this was a disguise, there was no need, no one could recognize her in this time. The description for Selene still jibes with every description for Lanfear I've heard.

4. Rahvin as Gaebril - Same as above, is there a quote that shows him (and Asmodean) dropping a disguise?

8. Asmodean as Natael - Same as above

12. Demandred as Taim - Didn't Jordan outright state that Taim is not Demandred?

Great research by the way. I like the in depth study you've done.


JakOShadows: 2005-07-22

I agree with the general concensus here. Lanfear does not use a different weave than the mask of mirrors. It would only be disrupted where she touched and that would be the fingers, not to mention at that point, there would be very little difference comparative to size and shape. But besides that good research. I agree with everything else you said.


El Bogarto: 2005-07-22

Cyberkil, Selene did look different than Lanfear. When she drops the disguise in TSR, she grows more lush, riper, etc.

A younger, less mature Lanfear, but still Illusion.

Maybe she was worried she would jog Lews Therin's memory or something.


IshaSamMoridin: 2005-07-22

*2. Lanfear as Selene - I don't think this was a disguise, there was no need, no one could recognize her in this time. The description for Selene still jibes with every description for Lanfear I've heard.

4. Rahvin as Gaebril - Same as above, is there a quote that shows him (and Asmodean) dropping a disguise?

8. Asmodean as Natael - Same as above *

lanfear was using a disqise as Selene, as she drops it when she confronts him in the Stone.

neither asmodean nor rahvin needed disquises at these points, due to the fact that noone had a clue what the forsaken looked like. they did not wear one.


Anubis: 2005-07-23

This theory is one of the best written I have seen in a while. It provides all the necessicary information without going overboard, while giving the reader the chance to research and form their own opinion. I like it.


Cyberkil: 2005-07-27

El Bogarto, you are absolutely right. Actually a day after I wrote that, I reread the section where she dropped her illusion. Smacked myself in the forehead I did.

Same thought crossed my mind though that she was afraid of jogging his memory, but I don't think she really believed that Rand would remember anything of Lew Therin. She seems very surprised the first time Rand displays any knowledge of her from Lews view point. (The famous "And you loved power!" in the Stone of Tear)


Anubis: 2005-07-30

"'Either Rand and Mat are truly not perceptive (which is odd since Rand suspects either Isendre or Keille might be Lanfear) or Lanfear's disguise doesn't have the same limitations as the other weaves we've described.'

Or, the only place were the disruption would be is at the tips of her fingers, which are currently hidden by pinching Mat."

I think that his point was that Mat felt fat pudgy fingers pinch him and not skinny sexy Lanfear fingers. But I could be wrong.