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Great Lord of the Dark
11-18-2012, 02:59 PM
I have to pick at this scab again.

The Dark One asked if Demandred would unleash the Balefire in his service, and Demandred got cold sweats thinking about it, before agreeing.

To unleash the balefire, Demandred presumably needs many willing channelers, the most obvious repertoire of them being assembled in Murandy. Using Murandians also makes sense because then he can use regional jealousies to motivate them to backstab their Andoran neighbours while they're putting down an attack on Caemlyn by Trollocs, who get to do all the hard work before Murandians arrive with their balefire. That'll show 'em!

Well, there are admittedly a few flaws with this theory, so the runner-up balefire candidacy goes to the Sea Folk. It makes sense for Demandred to seek them out and get them to unleash balefire at those land-loving freaks. When the Master of Swords bares his blades, unswerving respect for his higher rank will make every Windfinder blast white bars of light across the landscape, remorselessly killing all humans, even reducing each other to floating motes to undo all the supplying of Rand's troops. He'll have no food, no supplies, in the middle of the Last Battle. Demandred just has to bide his time and devise a way to communicate with the dispersed Windfinders while Rand himself directs where the ships go.

Alright, so the Windfinders may have reservations about this plan, and they aren't compelled in any way, but you can't say the same for the Seanchan! With Semirhage out of the way, Demandred can step out of the Shadows and take control of the sul'dam, and have them balefire Rand's armies when he thinks they've finally made alliance! The damane have to balefire when they're told! And the sul'dam have to obey or they'll be made damane too! There are enough of them to unleash plenty of balefire. In a position of power and authority, he just has to convince the sul'dam they owe allegiance to him, not the Empress, and convince them his blackmail makes sense, when they have every reason to laugh him off. He'll just have to collar every one of them to make the threat stick. And hope none of them turn the balefire on him.

Well, if control is what's needed to have a compliant balefire-ready army, there are really only two choices. One of those has been revealed as a possible ace in the hole in the preview chapters of A Memory of Light. Only the slyest of theorizers might have guessed this force existed, and it's yet to be seen if Demandred has his hands on it.

The other, long-standing possibility is the Black Tower. Over time Mazrim Taim has created a willing force of male channelers that can be taught balefire and are eager to use it. Without theorizing about some non-existent group of Darkfriend channelers over the last seven books, which would have precipitated the same kind of snarky responses as I delivered above, the Black Tower remained the only possible place where there was evidence of both the numbers and the willingness of the channelers to unleash balefire.

Demandred's biggest gamble now is unleashing his balefire and hoping there's enough left of the world for him to rule afterward. If he doesn't have a willing army of channelers to unleash balefire, then there's no gamble, and he's failed massively. Therefore, he is either at the Black Tower, or with some previously unknown group of Darkfriend channelers.

It may now be truer in principle than in fact, but for all intents and purposes, Demandred is Mazrim Taim.

I love this game.

Dom
11-18-2012, 03:45 PM
I always took the DO's question to Demandred to be purely rhetorical, a test of his dedication (akin to asking "Would you destroy everything if I asked you to?"), and his too great hesitation to answer evidence enough for Shai'tan of his lack thereof: he was no substitute to Ishamael. If he was even considered a candidate for real, Demandred threw himself out of the race for Nae'blis that day.

The DO had the means to destroy Creation with balefire in the AOL when he had millions of channelers in his service, and he didn't take it. He even let if he didn't rather order it) his followers abandon the use of balefire completely mid-war. Is it fear too many Chosen aside from a (purely theoretical) nihilistic faction following Ishamael would turn against him if they puzzled out his agenda of final destruction that stopped him from ordering the use of balefire to continue? Quite possibly.

Demandred would probably do everything he could to stop Moridin and Shai'tan if he knew their real agenda, he'd simply become obsessed with accomplishing it in Rand's place. Demandred's probably the Chosen most obsessed with landing himself the top position - no way he would agree to end it all in one big nothingness, and balefire on a large scale happens to be one thing the Chosen all know could bring this about, because they've seen it almost happen and gave up balefire on a large scale. The DO's question made Demandred lose his means, he hesitated too much before saying he'd answer..

Great Lord of the Dark
11-18-2012, 08:14 PM
Well if it's all rhetorical, then Demandred could just as easily be amongst the servants at any inn in Far Madding. But the rhetorical interpretation is a valid one. But if he failed at the test the Dark One gave him, then the interpretation at the end of that book must be akin to groveling. "I can't do balefire boss, but look what I did get you!" Certainly nothing to make readers wow in anticipation. Look at this bad guy, he's content, nay pleased, that he's only bringing Rand's 2nd or 3rd worst fear to the Last Battle, letting someone else do the heavy lifting.

I'm betting the ever more frequent use of balefire was meant to imply the greatest threat in the Last Battle would be balefire, and therefore someone actually does have to unleash it. It wouldn't have to be Demandred, but since he's the one who was asked, it seems more likely it would be him.

I agree with your theories regarding the cessation of balefire in the Age of Legends. But that's why Demandred's gambling now. He knows the risks, and he can't live up to his reputation if he falters. He may throw in the towel at the end, for the reasons you state, but I don't think he has yet. He threw in with what he thinks were the better odds, but he didn't consider whether he'd earn a prize worth winning. Demandred's role is one of the doubter, like an atheist who can't subscribe to the slim possibility there is a Creator when the odds and evidence are overwhelming that there isn't one. His role should mirror Rand's and be one where he puts the whole shebang in jeopardy with his gamble.

Sporkster
11-27-2012, 08:31 AM
The most interesting point you make here is that Demandred needs a bunch of balefiring commando channelers to effect the chaos he is working towards. I had always thought it was a solo project for him, maybe fueled by an angreal or perhaps a sa'angreal. He would need something like that to create the kind of balescreams we saw (or so I believe) in KoD. With support, it becomes more believable that he can cause that kind of damage to the Pattern.

It's one of my favorite open questions, as the theory linked in my sig demonstrates. :)