Wed
Nov 9 2011 1:00pm

Thinking Dark Thoughts: The Wheel of Time Roundtable, Week 1

Welcome to the Wheel of Time Roundtable! In this new weekly mini-series from Tor.com, we’ll be asking a panel of Wheel of Time experts a number of questions that look at the upcoming final volume in this long-running fantasy series: A Memory of Light.

The questions will range from the specific, to the silly, to the broad, eventually encompassing the Wheel of Time’s legacy itself.

Each week a different question will be posed to our panelists, then you, the commenters, will be invited to join in. Let’s meet our panel, and read the first question, below.

Our experts are:

Leigh Butler: She of this very site’s long-running and deep-cutting Wheel of Time Reread. (Don’t worry, this won’t interfere with the reread or the Song of Ice and Fire Read.)

Jason Denzel: He of the internet’s premiere comprehensive Wheel of Time fansite: Dragonmount.

Matt Hatch: He of the Wheel of Time online think tank: Theoryland.

Jennifer Liang: She of Dragonmount, as well as the chair for JordanCon and director of Wheel of Time content at DragonCon. She also hosts the Wheel of Time Tor.com Facebook and Twitter portals, both of which aggregate Wheel of Time content across the web.

 

Time and again, these four have proven their talent at dissecting and studying the huge world of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. Knowing that, we set them loose on the first roundtable question:

In Knife of Dreams, The Gathering Storm, and Towers of Midnight, the forces of light have turned the shadow at nearly every opportunity. Semirhage, Mesaana, and Graendel have been sent packing, the Black Ajah have been rooted from the White Tower, the Prophet has been dispatched, the hordes of the Dark have been met in battle at the edge of the Blight, and perhaps most importantly, Rand is no longer crazy enough to dissolve
the world around him in despair.

The forces of the Shadow seem unable to stand against the momentum that Rand and co. are sustaining, but Moridin’s ultimate plan has yet to be revealed. Do you think the Shadow on the ropes or are our heroes close to springing the ultimate trap?

Jason Denzel: There’s no doubt that the good guys have finally caught a few breaks. But I don’t necessarily think we can say they have an advantage. There’s still a massive hoard of Trollocs up in the blight. Caemlyn has apparently fallen. The Black Tower is ready to implode. And who the heck knows where Demandred is, right? Padan Fain is creepier and deadlier than ever. You can sum his evilness up in two words: Undead Trollocs. I mean, really... how can UNDEAD TROLLOCS possibly spell good news for the heroes?

Oh, and don’t forget that there’s this... you know.... invincible evil God of Evil about to break loose on the world. A God of Evil who, just by rattling the bars of his cage, corrupts the laws of nature.

No, sir. I think the good guys have got their work cut out for them still. But I suppose it’s nice that they managed to kill off some of the weaker Forsaken, like the Evil School Teacher Mesaana (no offense, Jenn), and managed to convince Rand to get some mountain-top therapy and stop hurting little puppies.

Mark my words, folks: The Last Battle will not be without heroes’ bloodshed, and surprises we never dreamt of. If the heroes win, it won’t be without a huge cost.

Jennifer Liang: If you’d asked me this question before I’d read the end of The Gathering Storm, I would have said that things looked pretty dire for Team Lightside. The corruption in Rand’s heart, mirroring the corruption in the land, were so extensive and so severe that it seemed like even Rand’s victory would be a terrible thing to contemplate. The Shadow had managed to infiltrate to the highest levels of the White Tower and distract the Aes Sedai with internal problems, making them unable to effectively fight back. The largest nations are torn by civil wars. All the large scale institutions are in a state of collapse.

While Rand’s epiphany on Dragonmount doesn’t change that an enormous amount of resources and manpower were spent already fighting large-scale entropy, it does give some shred of hope that survival is possible. Rand’s presence now seems to hold the Shadow at bay, rather than increasing entropy around him. And his friends have begun to take command of the remains of the large scale institutions like the White Tower, or nation states like Andor and Cairhien. Steps like this don’t assure the Light of victory, but they make it possible.

Leigh Butler: Well, obviously I think there is some endgame here that we do not know about yet. Additionally, while TGS and ToM had some decisive victories for the Light, there were also plenty of indications that there are more, and probably worse, obstacles yet to be overcome.

For one, there is Lanfear’s extremely ambiguous reappearance at the end of ToM, which could represent a temptation or at least a severe distraction for Rand even though he’s apparently gotten over his jag of Crazy. It’s long been acknowledged (by me, but I’m not the only one) that Rand’s love of chivalry as an extreme sport is one of his biggest Achilles’ heels (if not the biggest). So there’s definitely a potential problem there.

Secondly and very ominously, Moridin has been conspicuously scarce for most of the second half of the series, and even the other Forsaken apparently have no idea what he’s been up to, by and large. However, vague references to “building forces,” and the fact that Moridin seems to have shacked up in the Blight for the duration, are certainly very suggestive, er, suggestions of what he might have been up to all this time. I’m thinking “vast numberless horde of Shadowspawn” (possibly heralded by the imminent incursion into Caemlyn we learned about at the end of ToM) is enough to put a major crimper in anyone’s day.

Last and definitely not least, there is Rand’s inadvertent use of the True Power to kill Semirhage in TGS, and all that implies. Which is to say, nothing good AT ALL. This to me is the single most worrying development in the entire latter half of the series, and I maintain that that event and its eventual consequences will be the pivotal factor in the entire Last Battle.

How? Well, I ain’t sure yet. I guess I’ll have to Read And Find Out.

Matt Hatch: I see an arsenal of guns being dusted off, and a few ripped down from mantles, to blow holes in the best laid plans (and theories).

Let me explain. Other than the very palpable moments of Rand’s madness in The Gathering Storm and reintegration on Dragonmount, I’ve never felt that either side was close to the proverbial knock-out. Although, I guess, since it’s the final book I should pick a side. And considering the boredom that ensues anytime someone (me) mentions the Wheel as the mechanism for determining why something happened and what may happen in the future from a plot/necessity perspective, I’d rather talk about a Forsaken and a Creep. (No, not Lanfear and Valan Luca.)

Demandred is the bazooka leaning up against the mantle. The Man from Snowy River (he could have been hiding out in Australia, it’s possible). Ever since his glory days as Taimandred and his adoring fan freaks, I’ve been bothered by his absence. It’s too obvious, like the Black Tower going unresolved until the final book. I get it. He’s important. He’s going to kill Ishamael... (Okay, that’s just what I hope happens, much better than seeing Rand fight Ishamael for the fourth time in a single Age.)

I’m sick of wondering when he is going to show up; I’ve hit snooze on that alarm a thousand times since Lord of Chaos. Thankfully, the wait is almost over but now we are in an induced labor situation, so this better be good! Hell, I’ve started wishing with delight that Jordan was screwing with us and that, in fact, Demandred really has been Taim this entire time. Stranger stuff has happened. Like Graendal being...whatever....

Of course, as far as the Shadow is concerned, Demandred is only one piece in the Ishamael sha’rah conundrum. Lanfear plays another key role in pushing/pulling the Fisher along (which just so happens to fit a pet theory), so her resurgence is timely and suspicious and wonderful. And we can’t forget the the Dark Prophecies, the “blank in the Blight,” the Black Tower, the role of the tendrils of the Dark One still deeply entrenched in Rand’s mind thanks to that open slap to the reader’s face from Nynaeve, Rand’s recent use of the True Power and his ongoing and disturbing connection to Ishamael. Oh yeah, and that Creep Fain. Considering the last time they tangled, Shadow versus Shadow and Fain’s growing powers, it’s hard to imagine anything but a darker, devious and destructive tone to the final chapter in this saga, with a few kinky twists.

Oh, just had a fun thought: Fain and Shaidar Haran are the equivalent of a Dark Cain and Abel story...I’m writing that one up!

...it’s a slow slide into madness, I promise.

Chris: Great answers! It seems pretty obvious now that Rand and Co. have only managed to get past level 1 of the Shadow. (Undead Trollocs? Geez...)

Now that our heads are steeped well in the tea of darkness, I’m curious... if you were leading the Shadow’s forces, at this point in the narrative, how would you destroy the Lightsiders/the world/all existence?

Jason Denzel: If I were leading the Dark One’s Evil Forces of Evil™, I’d get smart about it. I’d put complete focus on taking out the Very Important Heroes. I’d force the Forsaken to cooperate, and send them to take out the major threats one as a time. For instance... have them team up to take out the likes of Perrin. None of this “Send Slayer alone” stuff to do the job. I’d send Demandred, Cyndane, and... uh... wow, the rest are dead or out of the picture now, huh? Hmmm. Drat. Scratch that. (Moridin is around, but I’m assuming he doesn’t get his hands dirty.)

I can tell you what I wouldn’t do though. I wouldn’t destroy all of creation. I mean, what’s the point? I’d fall into the category of Forsaken that wants to enjoy the spoils of victory. Once I conquered the world, I’d want to have minions. I’d have Jenn Liang check my email for me. Matt Hatch to ensure my DVR records the right shows. And Leigh Butler to fold my laundry. ’Cause that is worth abandoning the Light and going to the Shadow for.

Chris: I have to be honest, I’d probably use my dark powers to get my laundry done more easily, too. Interesting that you would amass forces on the ta’averen, Jason. Leigh has a different tactic....

Leigh Butler: I would use frickin’ sharks with FRICKIN’ LASERS ON THEIR HEADS. *pinkie*

...Oh, you were wanting a serious answer?

Well, sadly the answer seems pretty obvious (and utterly awful) to me: quit trying to kill the Superboys directly, and instead just kill everyone close to them. Min, Aviendha, Elayne, Faile, Olver, Nynaeve, Tuon, Bashere, Loial, Thom — anyone they rely on for emotional support and/or they care about or love. Tripod falls apart, bam, Light loses.

There. Now I need to go take a shower, and then rescue a puppy or
donate to charity or something.

Chris: I personally would love to see what happens if the Shadow accomplished that. Although there is some definite allure to Jennifer’s approach....

Jennifer Liang: Old school folks at Dragonmount will expect me to drown the world in chocolate pudding, or at very least enslave everyone in my pudding mines. However, I think the real Dark One would take a less whimsical approach. At this point in the story, infiltration isn’t working as well as it once did. Egwene knows who the Black Ajah sisters are, Rand can seemingly spot Darkfriends on sight, and the Shadow in general isn’t doing as well as pretending to be on Team Lightside as they used to. Corruption isn’t working either, Rand is all warm and fuzzy now.

So that leaves outright destruction. The Dark One can try touching the weather again. Or, perhaps he can do something with plate tectonics? A nice earthquake/volcanic eruption/tsunami would do nicely. Barring that, sending wave upon wave of Shadowspawn out of the Blight to burn the world would seriously fuck some shit up.

 

We’ll close on that note this week. (Total destruction being a note one would typically close on.) Chime in below with your own ideas and check back with us next Wednesday as we look at the non-Shadow threats to Rand and company!

49 comments
John Skotnik
1. ShooneSprings
This sounds like it will be a great new feature, thanks for organizing this Chris (and all roundtable members)!
Scott Bair
2. scottbair30
So many puzzle pieces, so little time. I will be sad to have lost features like this in a year or so.....
Cralic
3. Cralic
Awesome guys. Very interesting topics and such. I have fun reading Leigh's re-read (even though I am only on Crown of swords, on my 3rd time through the series). I even got to make it to a WoT Panel at Dragon Con this year, which was pretty awesome. Keep up the good work guys, looking forward to next weeks!
Tricia Irish
4. Tektonica
Now this is fun! Thanks guys for organizing this...great theorists and theories. I'll think about this......
Kev Hamm
5. cavynmaicl
I just wanted to answer the last question, because it seems so obvious, and it's an extension of what Leigh posits: Attack the supporters, but do it in a way that draws them all to one, wrong, place, and then take out the real target while they're busy at that wrong place.

So… send Trollocs to Camelyn which will put Rand there for Elayne, and Egwene there, for Elayne and Rand, and everyone else will flow towards that one city. And then, take a smaller force and get the last of whatever you need to get the Dark One free, and no one will be there to stop you.

I canNOT wait for this book!
Cralic
6. Vince41
Robert Jordan said it best years ago. "Dumb Evil". If the Forsaken had worked together way back before everyone got their super powers this whole series would have been ended by book 3. I am glad that it didnt work out that way but I am thinking that is why the Lightside will win the day!
Rich Bennett
7. Neuralnet
Thanks for doing this... I always enjoy reading/thinking about the WoT. I would say the light side is finally turning the tide a bit, but I agree that Demandred is a total wild card. The lowest point had to be when Rand used the True Power until the mountain top epiphany... Things looked bleakest during that time. But really ever since the light side cleansed Saidin, I have thought that they have a good chance of winning the war and coming out mostly ok.

Also, If I were leading the shadows forces I would really push the crops/supplies spoiling thing... cant win a war if you dont have anything to eat. but I love Leigh's answer too.. Perrin and Rand have already proven that they go a little crazy if anything is going to happen to Faile or Min.
Cralic
8. wcarter4
Step one: start pulling Aes Sedi and competent lightsider generals into TAR and then balefiring the crap out of them.
Step two: Have a male forsaken/sufficiently powerful Ashaman cloak as Rand to attack the white tower
Step three: Rince and repeat tower tactic at Each major Rand allied city, military/Aeil Camp, Seanchan controlled city and Borderlander city.
Step four: party like it's Tarmon Gaidon!
Step five: Realise the DO is NOT going to "remake the world into his own image with you as a ruler" and begin to regret my previous life choices for the limited amount of time left available to me.
Cralic
9. Belarion
Agree with Leigh but I'd take out Faile it would devastate Perrin and if one of the Forsaken is smart (yeah right) they'd promise to bring her back if Perrin joins them.
T C
10. Freelancer
So there are a few things that seem to escape the attention of those wishing to induce Chaos and Pain.

First in my mind is letting four of the five top military minds of the age still breathe. None of the forsaken give them a second thought.

~ There was Rahvin in Caemlyn, within slapping distance of Gareth Bryne, and his sharpest tactic was forced retirement. As a result, Bryne ends up conscripted to lead the Salidar forces to reunite the Tower through siege. Manwhile, Rahvin is still (was still?) balefired.
~ Graendal was running Arad Doman into the dirt, and left Rodel Ituralde unharmed. Yes, she planned to use his deep patriotism and forged orders from "Alsalam" to foment additional chaos, but he sidestepped all that.
~ Agelmar Jagad hasn't been intimately involved in any great tactical schemes lately, but he isn't on that list by accident, and early on in the story numerous Team Dark elements were in or near Fal Dara. Now that the Borderland Rulers have proven Rand's bona fides via super double-secret prophecy, they'll be back to the Blight to stand for the Light, and Agelmar will be an asset.
~ Last but not least, Davram Bashere has been at Rand's side since he chased the escaped Mazrim Taim out of Saldaea. He has quite clearly been a factor in several events which turned in favor of Team Light, he has been easy to find, and piles of evil folk have been in his near vicinity, yet both he and his wife are still alive.

Since there's going to be a massive war, beyond the channeling, knocking off the most clever generals of the opposition ought to be a presumptive top priority. Big time fail for the dark.

More later.
Cralic
11. Taryntula
To elaborate/add on LB's "if I were the leader of the Dark Forces" answer...instead of killing all the Heroes buddies outright...lead them to the Black Tower and let Taim have his way with them. How better to destroy the Light Sid'es morale than have Rand fighting Nynaeve and Elayne? Or Perrin, after spending half the series trying to save her, gets put up against Evil Faile (indistinguishable from Good Faile, I'm sure)? Mat vs. Evil Egwene? Really, that would be the easiest, and most disturbing ways to demoralize and destroy our Heroes.

I hope that none of our peeps get sucked into the circle of 13....I've now scared myself.
Peter Reen
12. pnr060
I was actually pretty relieved when Rand got access to the True Power. If he can't come up with any better plan, at least he might have the backup option of using it to re-seal the DO's prison (even easier if he can channel the TP through Callandor). We know that you can create seals with one power, since LTT did it using only Saidin. There wouldn't be much of a problem for all of the good guys if the DO taints the TP, and it doesn't seem likely that he could eventually corrupt any seals made with it. For all I know, his prison was made with his own power in the first place, and using the TP to close the bore would fix it completely. The only problem is that the DO might have absolute control over the TP, and might be able to just dissolve the new patch as soon as it's made. Although he didn't stop Rand from evaporating Semirhage, so maybe he only controls initial access to the power and not the results of it.
Cralic
13. xolotl
Um...I haven't had time to reread ToM but didn't I read something about red veiled Aile? Wouldn't that mean that all the guys that have been going into the Blight to die have instead been super circled into joining up with the dark side. In this group you have some of the best hand to hand fighters in Randland plus they have been learning with out the pesky little going crazy problem that other super men have had to deal with...did I miss read that or is this a big time issue that wasn't brought up as an issue?
Cralic
14. srJohn1983
Personally I'm all for Demandred being the final boss Ishy is just to insane to live. And I would desttroy the light side by nuking them from orbit.
David Simmons
15. bgdaves
I read or at least thought I read that Ishamael/Moridin might be getting tired of the endless cycle of fighting Rand/Lews Therin Telamon and knows winning for the darkside is not all it was made out to be.

So I think and Moridin might switch sides or maybe help defeat the dark one. Maybe he tries and Demandred takes him out. That's my crazy theory and I am sticking to it.
Kimani Rogers
16. KiManiak
Thank you Powers That Be at Tor.com; this feature could be all kinds of fun. And, since you asked for our opinions…

Re: Question 1
I think that the Shadow is still very much ahead as of the end of ToM. There is still a difference in opinion that could lead to a major schism amongst the Lightsiders in the form of Egwene. The Seanchan are still a major wild card. The majority of the nations have been notified, but there are still a number of potential heavy hitters that may not be inclined to help (Sea Folk and their bargain; the Shaido because their dogs) or just haven’t been included (the Lightside can’t use Shara and its forces at all? Really?).

The Shadow still has Moridin, Demandred, Cyndane, Moghedien and whatever’s left of Graendal; not to mention the Black Ajah, and Taim’s 13x13 factory at the Black Tower. Also, Moridin’s cache of ter’, sa’ and regular angreal and most likely the knowledge to use them all properly and to their full, devastating potential.

The Light has a lot of work to do. And even if they succeed, there’s the chance that the future may unfold similar to what Aviendha saw on the “way-forward-machine.”

Re: Question 2
I like the 3 suggestions from our panel, but I’m probably most leaning towards Jennifer Liang’s methods. F stuff up! The Darkside has the benefit of at least 5 elite, Alpha Class channelers with the skill and training to use their abilities to the fullest (we’ll exclude Taim because we don’t really know his origin and full abilities, yet).

At this point and time, the Lightside really only has one Alpha Class channeler with skill and training in the vast majority of the aspects of the Power: Rand. Nynaeve doesn’t know the various AoL weaves (the female equivalent of Blossoms of Fire, Arrows of Fire and Deathgates, to name a few). Alivia neither. Unless Moiraine asked the Finn for that skill, then no Lightside female has that knowledge. It would require Rand to link with a woman and show them the weaves using Saidar, and we have no evidence that he’s done that yet.

Anyway, the Darkside has the advantage in use of the Power. Then you can factor in all of the BA, Dark channelers and those 13x13ed. Add in the Trollocs, Fades, Draghkar, and whatever other goodies the Shadow’s been holding back in the Blight, and they could freaking decimate the forces at the Field of Perrilor.

Plus, they have this ace in the hole: The Dark One. He’s indirectly influencing the world already; who’s to say what other kind of influence he can exert.

Anyway, massive destruction. Overwhelm the Forces of Light while they’re still disjointed and unfocused. Shoot, even a few female versions of inverted weaves of Blossoms of Fire while the camp is sleeping (using the timeline at the end of ToM) would be devastating. Rand couldn’t detect it (as far as we know, anyway) and the current AS wouldn’t know how to properly counter it.

Just a few thoughts…
Valentin M
17. ValMar
Great new feature!

Second question needs a bit of tweaking though. Team Dark aren't really on the same page. All the mayhem and slaughter in Caemlyn, Tarwin's Gap, Maradon, etc, maybe fun but it's a second fiddle to the game the DO and Moridin are really playing. What the different Darkness players want to achieve?
Dave West
18. Jhirrad
Jenn - I have no doubt that you would enslave everyone in your pudding mines. That has been your mission in life for as long as I've known you!

In re Q2 - Here's something which has always, ALWAYS bothered me. We talk about the DO being all-powerful Evil of Evils with his Evil Band of Evil Henchman. And there's the idea that once he breaks free, DOOM. But in the AoL, he was as free as he will be now. Granted, we assume he's managed to enlarge that hole in his prison, but he was already able to touch the world to a degree before. It's clear, that as Jason says, there's no point in ruling a world that has become desolate.

I also agree with Jason that it has never made sense the whole model of "Send Slayer by himself to kill Perrin" or whoever. Obviously the biggest problem within the ranks of the Shadow is one of leadership. OK, Moridin finally becomes Nae'blis, but even then, he doesn't exercise that power, and the DO continues to allow and even encourage in-fighting amongst his Chosen. Without one leader on hand that they turn to in order to unite them behind their common goal, the odds of them emerging victorious are lower. They have overwhelming power, but unfocused, it's not that useful. Think of the great firecracker in the hand analogy used in Armageddon.

If I were on the side of Shadow, let's say Moridin, I would take Shadar Haran, all of the Forsaken left alive, all of the Black Ajah, and a whole bunch of Grey Men, and take out all the big players. Stealth with the use of Grey Men while the other defenses are overwhelmed by incredible force.
Cralic
19. Gwolf
I think I'll go with Tam here. The real opposition to the DO is the pattern. Weaken it enough, and you can kill off the taveren. And bust the DO out. So hit it on multiple fronts. Have men kill men, ashaman against AS, more ghosts (that borderland terangreal would help here) and as much disorder as possible. Set Tuon to attack Rand. Get lanfear and moggy to give people nightmares and assasinations. Get the taveren to become hopeless - betrayals by close friends or the appearance of betrayal.

Oh and keep them too busy to think - Launch trolloc attacks and hit and run attacks by gateway. Assasinate top leadership - military and political, etc etc.
Birgit
20. birgit
Moridin or Demandred should set up a factory for AOL weapons. Mat has cannons, but if the Shadow has shocklances and sho-wings and the like they are still more advanced. They also should teach BA and turned Asha'man to make ter'angreal like balefire rods.
Jonathan Levy
21. JonathanLevy
Here's a completely different perspective:

What if the Dark One has already lost, and knows it?

In TGS Verin tells us that no-one really knows what the DO wants and how he is fighting his war.

In Rand's dreams with Moridin we learn that Moridin - whose understanding of the DO's objective is greatest - is working towards the destruction of the Wheel.

In ToM, during Rand's epiphany, the Wolves tell Perrin that one path leads towards the Last Battle, and the other... does not, implying that it means the end of all creation.

Well, Rand made his choice, and the wolves rejoiced. The pattern was not undone by the Dragon.

And in retrospect, all of the DO's actions via Moridin seem to have been aimed at destabilizing Rand's mind (e.g. his instructions to Graendal to bring him anguish) - in other words, towards getting a different result on the peak of Dragonmount.

So - what if the DO missed his chance this time around, and the Last Battle is just an empty ritual? One that the Wheel and its ta'veren are foretold to win one way or another?

What if the Dark One knows this?

What if all of his actions in AMoL will not be the clever stratagems of a mastermind working towards victory, but the vengeful tantrum of a sore loser?
Cralic
22. Lsana
I think both questions may result from a mistaken assumption:

The questions seem to be assuming that Tarmon Gaiden is a literal, physical battle. That Dark has certain resources (Forsaken, Shadowspawn, Black Ajah, etc.), Light has certain resources (Ta'veren, Wolves, White Tower, Asha'man, etc.), and the battle will be won by the side who can win this particular game of Risk. If that's the case, I have to say that Team Light is kicking butt. Most of the Forsaken have been eliminated, huge numbers of Bkack Ajah have been killed and none seem to be left in the tower, Light-side channelers can destroy Shadowspawn hundreds at a time...yeah, the Dark seems to have a few victories, such as whatever is happening in Caemlyn, but they are far outnumbered by the Light's victories.

However, I don't think that that is the Dark's endgame. The Dark One is the Lord of the Grave. He's served by death and destruction, and it doesn't matter particularly whose death it is. Anything particularly valuable to him, he can bring back. The only way to prevent that is by using balefire...but balefire destroys the pattern, and the Dark One wins that way too.
Cralic
23. Padraic_Seebrr
In regard to the first question, while the light has certainly had its victories, we still do not know the state of the Borderlands other than Saldea. Kandor and Arafel may be overrun by hordes equal to what attacked Maradon, and with the borderlands weakened by the leaders chasing Rand they are in no state to defend themselves.

Coupled with Caemlyns fall in the heartland, the Shadow is in an excellent position to take out major tactical resistance in one blow.
Cralic
24. Doorman
Im 50/50 on who will end up with the prize. My problem is with Mo. Where does she fit in? Is she the big player I was hoping for or just a love smitten has been aes sedia. Pretty disapointed the way that last chapter finished. I was hoping for the White Wizzard. I hope she is the Kick Ass aes sedia Of them all; But?
Cralic
25. mike123
I am not so sure about the fall of Caemlyn being a certainty. In Avi's way forward machine we see that Caemlyn stands. Granted we don't know in what condition, but I hardly think we will actually see the destruction of Caemlyn. I suspect that it will be a battle, but I think the Light side will prevail there.
Cralic
26. mike123
Ok so I had a thought when reading about the shadowspawn creatures. I recall a conversation while reading by the forsaken about wurms and that the current ones arent mature. Anyone else recall this in book? My question and I can't recall if this was ever discussed is what are mature wurms? Could they be dragons? if this has been discussed before, let me know where.
Cralic
27. sweetormiger
This is a very great addition to all the other places for theorizing and stuff. HUGE Thank you to all of you who take the time to organize such things - you are greatly improving my down times...
now I have to agree with one of the 'crazy theories' posted here...
--Moridin has realized that having the DO powers are only good to a certain extend, so he wants his own share - Demandred might very well be in support of that - bigger chance of staying alive and actually be able to control some of those nasty selfish habits they harbor. Of course feeling that way and acting on it will be their doom.
--I too agree that Caemly will not be totally destroyed because of Avi's future cast in the Crystal theater.
--Creepy Fain just might be the DO himself, I keep associating his 'growing' power of being death with every breaking Seal that supposedly holds the DO in his prison (maybe i have joined the crazy theorizors). The DO has not been discribed as a physical being, so just like the Creator uses Rand et al as his 'weapon's' - I can see the DO having to use someones physical body for his great deeds.
-- Of course creepster Fain could be the personification of PA to the DO Shaidar Haran, though whoever he turns out to be, I feel he won't survive as RaMaPerEgNyElMiAvi will eventually kick his slick nasty but back to being locked in doom.
I am looking forward to finding out which one of the 'good' guys will turn out to be a member of DO (h) Club - I am sure (not the Verin type either) there is at least one!
..looking forward to more Roundtables!
Thanks again!
Virginia Zajesky
28. gingerpeachy
Hey! What do you think Verin was about when she used a form of compulsion on the Aes Sedai prisoners?

What is the purpose of the gathered leaders from Saldea, etc.?
Cralic
29. Kessler
I agree with JonathanLevy, that it could be battle is already lost by the Dark. However, it may be not about throwning a temper tantrum, but about setting ground for the next one. The world in this turn of the wheel was almost bad enough to drive Dragon Reborn to surrender, so the more good is destroyed in the Torman Gaidon, the less would be left to rebuild and make a new age better.

For example, the bad future Aviendha saw, would leave the world's channelers enslaved - so the Dragon Reborn of the next turn of the wheel would have to work to save the world in a much darker world as channelers slavery would corrupt society and hinder progress.
Chris Chaplain
30. chaplainchris1
Awesome post and and awesome new series for Tor.com! Thanks everyone.

As to the questions, I think Lsana @22 is right on. I think Team Light's in deep trouble b/c it's making the same mistake most of the comments have been...assuming it's a physical fight. The DO is served by death, yes; and also by chaos. Having Forsaken die so easily is not important; breaking down institutions, shredding the laws of nature, spreading disorder, fear, rumor...these are important. As Herid Fel taught us, disorder feeds the DO's strength, and makes his freedom (and the destruction of the world) more likely.

Rand's attempts to impose order - often, in TGS, using the tactics of an awesomely powerful jack-booted thug - didn't help much. He was, I guess, hoping to hold things together by main force; but he was grasping people and nations so hard that they were splintering, threatening to fly apart at any moment. And his presence was beginning to warp the Pattern toward darkness more and more. Now, with his mountaintop epiphany, his presence seems to bring greater order. Given both these effects, the positive and the negative, it's no wonder that the DO so wanted to corrupt or subvert Rand. (More on that in a bit.)

So what we have at this point is widespread chaos, marked by a few attempts to restore order.

1. Ephiphany Rand brings order with him; and he's organized the Aiel, Tear, etc.
2. Elayne's finally brought some order to Andor, and seemed on the way to establishing greater order (building on Rand's earlier successes and failures) to Cairhien.
3. Egwene's rooted out the Black Ajah and Mesaana, reunited the chaotic/schismatic Aes Sedai, and united the Tower and rebel forces under her and Gareth Bryne's leadership.
4. Perrin's maintained some kind of order for the people of the Two Rivers and the various refugees.
5. The Seanchan invasion caused massive chaos - but oddly, *within* their realm, they bring peace and order. Mat will be, hopefully, key ending the chaotic clashing between Team Rand and Team Slaver Empire...excuse me, I must have meant Seanchan Empire...and uniting them for Team Light.

In that light, the assault on Caemlyn assumes great significance, as the attempt to undo what order Elayne has brought and bring even greater death and chaos back into play. In that light, all the fighting will have its metaphysical significance, even if the fighting won't ultimately stop the DO. If the Lightside forces can resist chaos, they can inhibit the DO. I'm reminded of Rand and Ishamael fighting during tGH - when their battle was somehow tied to the battle between the Seanchan (for the Shadow) and the Heroes of the Horn (for the Light).

In my recent reread of TEOTW, I was struck again and again by how many opportunities the Shadow had to kill Rand and his friends, and how they pass up those opportunities time after time. So when we talk about the Dark being on the ropes, or the Light winning victories, or what the Dark's real endgame is, it's worth noting that from the beginning the Dark One didn't want to kill the Dragon. It wanted to subvert him. In early books repeated attempts were made to seduce or intimidate him into explicitly serving the DO.

In middle books, and on into TGS, emphasis shifted to hardening and corrupting Rand, making him know anguish and despair. The attempts to make him serve the Dark One overtly seem to have been surrendered; but the DO was making him sometimes serve unknowingly. As by using the True Power, say, or nearly destroying the world.

The ONLY way I see the Light really being ahead is that now those attempts (as of the end of TGS) have failed as well, and the DO is reduced in some ways to having to kill Rand if it wants to get it's way.

My only question is WHY the DO wanted to subvert or corrupt Rand rather than kill him. Surely it's not necessary for Rand to be the one to free the DO from his prison? Everything we "know" says that the DO is struggling to break free and eventually will if not stopped. I'm guessing that in some way only the Dragon can repair the Bore...and that whatever makes this so also makes him uniquely qualified to shatter the DO's prison for good. Maybe the DO can eventually get free without him; but maybe Rand being corrupt or arrogant enough to do it for him would've been easier in some way.

I dunno, there's something I'm not getting. Hopefully Brandon and Ephiphany Rand will figure it out...
Chris R
31. up2stuff
pnr @ 12,

the problem with Rand using the TP against the Dark One is that for all intents and purposes, it IS the Dark One. It cant be tainted, or rather it is a taint in itself, i.e. Moridin's Saa and a gozillion times more addictive besides.
Cralic
32. Kartikeya GS
Actually, after Aviendha's vision of the would-be future in ToM, I am sorta in a George RR Martin frame of mind - let the good guys lose (or be unceremoniously thwarted)! The only thing that seriously has my attention is the resolution of the Black Tower conundrum! I always believed that the Asha'man were the coolest! Logain! Do something!
Cralic
33. Stargazer
Up2stuff @ 31, I think that's exactly why that has to be the solution. At one point in ToM, Rand says to Min basically "I can't figure out how to seal the bore without touching the DO with the one power, which is what let him taint it last time." Solution: touch him with a power he can't "taint" because it already is (and which you don't care about any damage to, in any case). I've held thata same opinion as pnr @ 12 ever since I read that passage.

And the prophecy about "the three must be as one" with Callandor is about Rand, Nyn, and some other male channeler in a circle wielding both halves of the OP and the TP together simultaneously to seal the bore. That's my hypothesis, anyway! :-)
Nadine L.
34. travyl
This is so great: to get to read all of yours opinions on one site ... (especially for somebody like me, who joined the WOT-fan-comunity, somewhat late) - THANKS for organizing this and participating...

I think somebody already said it, but I disagree with J. Denzel about Caemlyn fallen. It is burning yes but a section of the band including Olver is there - they might get a chance to save Caemlyn before everything is lost.

When I read your comments I'm beginning to dread aMoL - there sure are a lot of awful dark plans, which might come to pass.
Chris R
35. up2stuff
TP access is granted by the DO, BUT he has control over how much. Moridin has free access, yes but Greandal can only access a relatively small amount according to her viewpoint at Natrim's Barrow when she tweaks the other forsaken's ear. (Cant remember Osangar or Arangar).

Rand is able due to Moridin's access and their weird conjoined Balefire thing. I dont think he will channel the TP and I dont believe that angreal can conduct TP either.

I was actuall just mirroring the thought myself that if the seal was remade with the TP, the DO might be able to work around it. I dont think that will be helpful. Could be wrong thought.

I just think that "The DO was sealed away by the Creator in the Moment of Creation" does not allow for any DO influence in the creation of his Prison.
Birgit
36. birgit
--Creepy Fain just might be the DO himself, I keep associating his 'growing' power of being death with every breaking Seal that supposedly holds the DO in his prison (maybe i have joined the crazy theorizors). The DO has not been discribed as a physical being, so just like the Creator uses Rand et al as his 'weapon's' - I can see the DO having to use someones physical body for his great deeds.

Mordeth is a different kind of evil that is not compatible with the DO. The two kinds of evil fight each other in Rand's wounds and that gave him the idea for cleansing the Taint. Shaidar Haran is the DO's avatar.

And the prophecy about "the three must be as one" with Callandor is about Rand, Nyn, and some other male channeler in a circle wielding both halves of the OP and the TP together simultaneously to seal the bore.

Callandor can only be used safely by a circle of one man and two women. Is it possible to channel the OP and the TP at the same time? That is the only way Rand could be using all three powers in a Callandor circle (unless he somehow brings Moridin into the circle through their link as the TP channeler).
John Massey
37. subwoofer
Lanfear. Well, if she can come back, will LTT's long dead wife make an appearance? That would throw Rand off his game.

As for the rest, how hard can it be to kill non-channelers? It seems like Dark Friends get pulped by accident, these guys can't find a guy with yellow eyes or Mat? Freakin' hat wearing, spear-thingy carrying, scarf/scar hiding Mat? Perhaps look for a large army following a RED HAND banner...

IIRC Moiraine, Verin and a few others were pussy footing around not channeling because they didn't want to attract any undue attention to a channeler being in the area. When Rand goes off that has to be like a 400 ft neon sign in the sky "Dragon Reborn here->". Moridin, the Forsaken, DO can't come down on him like a ton of bricks, especially when Rand was running for his merry life in the first few books trying to keep ahead of his enemies? This "timing" thing does smack of an Austin Powers/ Dr. Evil lame super villian lets the good guy live thing.

Woof™.
Cralic
39. blazoner
Taim IS Demandred, else there wouldn't be a dream spike in the BT. The forsaken are too stingy with AOL tech, even amongst themselves. They would never have given some upstart savage their prized technology and information.

Taim/Demandred is using compulsion on his BT minions, not 13x13, as that maintains his position of control, rather than allowing the minions to follow after their own goals in serving the DO.

Padin Fain is the last vestage of Shadar Logoth, and it is the SL taint that is needed as a buffer between the DO and the walls of his prison, as it was used to funnel and destroy the taint on Saidin.

As to the mountaintop epiphany being the DO losing - not the war, but a major battle. Otherwise, Moiraine Damodred would not have needed rescuing "to save the world," and Mattrim Cauthon wouldn't have needed to give up "half the light of the world."

As for using tTP to seal the bore, I find it highly unlikely, as its very nature is anathema to those goals. Not an impossibility, but highly improbable.

Team Light is definitely making more headway than they were expected to, but as stated by others here, the DO doesn't want Rand dead, he wants Rand corrupted.
Shaidar Haran is the DO's avatar, literally the DO's physical manefestation.
Moridin/Ishamael may end up with a case of buyer's remorse, but that doesn't mean he'll be effective in turning against the DO....
...TBC....
Cralic
40. Takahari_ds
Rand has to use the true power...that is what Lews Therin did wrong when he sealed the bore with the cuendillar discs...only the true power (the dark ones own source) can seamlessly seal the dark one outside of time like it was before lanfear drilled the original bore.

Rand has said repeatedly he knows where Lews Therin went wrong...using saidin/saidar was the wrong thing to do, and it allowed the counterstroke that tainted saidin.

I also agree I think Fain is the conduit. He is needed to ensure the dark one cannot break free because the TP was used to seal his /her prison.

As for Demandred...Ive always thought Taim, but I don't know anymore (one of the male forsaken is running things in Seandar)...even if he is...it has always been said that Demandred had his own motives...maybe he and the black tower will fight alongside Rand because he is sick of the dark one and he just wants to be free. Without the black tower I don't see how the light stands a chance.

If Taim is Demandred Logain doesn't stand a chance unless his Aes Sedai warders come into play...with a man can't the circle expand to like 27?

Moridin/Ishamael...I can't even speculate his role in the final battle...I really think him or demandred is gonna flip sides...(assuming demandred is Taim...which im still not sure he is).

Too many things to speculate..Im cant wait for the book!
Cralic
41. Xtrafresh
Interesting theories all round, let me jump in and add my 0.02$.

Fain (to me) has always been a mirror image of Gollum. His blind obsession, his disconnect from all other living things, and even his appearance all point there, and as a plot element, I think he'll carry more or less the same function. To achieve victory, Rand will have to do something horrible that he cannot get himself to do, and Fain will step in and do it. Wether it be killing himself, Elayne, betraying the light, whatever, I do not know, and i'm on the edge of my seat for it.

One theory I have always harbored is that eventually, the DO will succeed in corrupting Rand, after which Rand is killed by Fain.

Another possibility: at some point, it will all come down to a simple choice, made by Rand (a la Malloread by Eddings). Both the Creator and the DO NEED Rand (or rather, the Dragon) for this choice, which is why they both tug on him but cannot get rid of him. Go back all the way to TEOTW, prologue, and you will see exactly this happening: the DO tempting LTT to serve him in exchange for bringing Ilyena back.

One thing that's always bothered me a bit about WoT is that there are no clear win conditions. What does either side need to achieve, in order to claim a win? Does the Blight need to be cleansed? Does the DO have to be destroyed, or is locking him back up good enough?
Does the DO want the destruction of the Wheel, or just to control/remake it to his own image? Does he need Rand, or any of the Forsaken, or anyone at all for that matter?
Cralic
42. Saetana
I really really REALLY want to know where Demandred is and what he has been up to - is he someone we know or a total stranger? Careful readers will also have noted that it appears Callendor will be involved in the Last Battle, Min is trying to find out how. I also want to know what will happen with Egwene and her petulant insistence that "she knows best" - she is a child compared to Rand/Lews Therin and I'm dying to see how he deals with it. My guess is the armies will go to fight the hordes of the Shadow (led by Mat?) and only a small group will go to Shayol Ghul. Did anyone else remember the Shadow Aiel that appeared in TToM? That does not bode well....
Cralic
43. Dagon
I personally think the Shadow, like every super vilain in every piece of fiction ever produced is becoming more and more inept as the end of the series draws near. Otherwise how can Light win?

If I were the leader of the DO's forces, an overpowered Forsaken (*cough* Morridin *cough*) for example, I would not concentrate on anything but the removal of Rand. Powerful as he is, there is no way he can possibly withstand a coordinated assault by 5 or 6 full circles led by the remaining forsaken. Not to mention Shaidar Harran can obviously turn off the One Power. If the Shadow put their heads into it they could balefire the living shit out of him. And there is nothing he can do. Or have a huge circle of all the Shadow's channelers burn whatever city he's in out of existence. No escape, no rebirth, no nothing. Light can't win the Last Battle without him and even if they do, next time there won't be a Dragon to unite them. So who cares about his friends really? Sure, send shadowspawn, grey men, darkfriends, whatever after them, pillage cities, put pressure on the borderlands, distract the heroes, but ultimately Rand is the only real threat to the Shadow's victory.
Cralic
44. Saetana
@Dagon - I don't think Moridin dares to kill Rand because of the weird connection between them, remember when Rand lost his hand and Moridin appeared to be having problems with his (although it was not actually missing)? This is why he is so insistent none of the other Foresaken kill Rand. I think this connection between the two of them is going to turn out to be very meaningful in the final novel ;o)
Alice Arneson
45. Wetlandernw
@Dagon - there are numerous flaws in your proposal, not the least of which is that neither the DO nor the Nae'blis have shown any desire to have Rand killed. Another is that balefire does not prevent rebirth, so the Dragon would still come back to fight them. The DO knows that none of your strategies would give him the final victory he desires, so he's trying to do something else, though it's not yet clear to the reader exactly what that "something else" looks like.

Edit for clarity: While the Dragon would not be back to fight immediately, he would be reborn to fight again in another Age.
Cralic
46. Saetana
@Wetlandernw - Balefire DOES prevent rebirth as it wipes that person from the pattern as if they had never existed. Remember that the Dark One could not bring back the Foresaken who had been killed by balefire like he did with the others? He actually remarked on the fact that it was not possible ;o)
Alice Arneson
47. Wetlandernw
Saetana - Apples and oranges. Balefire prevents the DO from "rebodying" someone (transmigrating the soul), because it removes their thread from the Pattern backwards in time so that he can't get it. He has to be able to grab the soul very shortly after death to put it in a new body, and for someone who has been balefired, the window of opportunity is gone before he knows it's there.

Rebirth, however, is a completely different thing, and RJ was very specific that balefire does not prevent it. In fact, the only way we know of that a soul can be forever removed from the Pattern is in Tel'Aran'Rhiod - a.k.a. the Wolf Dream, where death is death forever. Brandon has reiterated this in various interviews and q&a session, stating that Maria had looked it up and was quite firm that balefire does not prevent the normal rebirth of a soul.

Some have speculated that RJ originally intended balefire to be the permanent death of the soul but changed his mind; I don't know about that, but when asked directly about it, he was quite firm.

Incidentally, balefire doesn't remove the person from the Pattern "as if they had never existed." It only removes their actions backwards in time, proportional to the strength of the balefire used, for a matter of minutes or (at the very most) a few days. Before that, their existence is undisturbed.
Martijn Coppoolse
48. vor0nwe
Takahari_ds@40: The wrong thing to do, was only using saidin and not saidar. Somehow, the bore will have to be undone, not patched, in order for the bore to be drilled the next time the AoL comes around. I’m betting that saidin, saidar, Padan Fain and perhaps even the True Power will have a role in achieving this. Not sure about the how, yet.
Perhaps I prefer waiting for the book. :-D
a a-p
49. lostinshadow
@48 I seem to remember an interview where RJ stated that had LT had convinced the women to use sairdar along with saidin, both would have been tainted so maybe that's an indication that something else is needed?

I believe that now that Rand has made his choice, the DO & Co are likely to try and kill him. My understanding of what the wolves told Perrin is that had Rand chosen otherwise, there would have been no need for a Last Battle because the DO would have unequivocally won for all ages to come.

Now that Rand has chosen, DO has to go for option 2, which as someone stated above is probably to make the world as dark as possible so that it is easier for the DO to get the Dragon to turn to his side next time the wheel weaves as it will.

This is also why I don't think Rand could be converted to the dark side or even use the TP any more...he has made his choice and it is irrevocable (this time round).

Which is why if I were the DO I would really focus on his three loves and hope to derail his sanity. I would also begin harrying and killing off as many ogier and wolves as I could since those two seem to be light side soldiers only.

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