Welcome back to "WoT If?". The look at Padan Fain two weeks back got me thinking about the baddies in the Wheel of Time world, and what roles, if any, some will have in the final book.
Also, this WILL NOT contain spoilers from A Memory of Light's Prologue, Chapter 1, or Chapter 11. Please refrain from posting any spoilers from A Memory of Light in the comments section. The A Memory of Light spoiler discussion board is found here.
Let's start with a quick look at Mashadar, since he's the odd man out—not being Shadowspawn. We talked a bit about Mordeth in the Fain discussion, but I didn't really focus on Mashadar's powers and aspects.
Mashadar is a stealer of souls and memories, according to Brandon Sanderson. It is able—like Machin Shin—to steal the very core of the things it eats. It's suggested that this is one of the reasons Rand chose to cleanse saidin at Shadar Logoth; the taint siphoned off the Source was consumed by Mashadar. Or, rather, they consumed each other. But was Mashadar really eradicated? Let's look at this interview:
Azral Hanan: Can Mashadar destroy True Power and True Power weaves like it destroyed the taint?
Brandon Sanderson: RAFO.
Benjamin Moldovan: Mashadar is gone, isn't it? Would it really hurt to say whether the True Power would be affected?
Brandon Sanderson: Have we ever confirmed that Mashadar is dead? :)
I think this refers to the Mashadar powers that still reside within Fain. We see him using a fog to create zombie Trollocs (Towers of Midnight, Prologue). That's definitely Mashadar, but evolved. I'm not going to go into it all again; look at the Fain post for more details on Fain and Mashadar's possible role in the Last Battle. Or perhaps it's a suggestion that Mashadar will return, even with Shadar Logoth completely gone.
One last thing to note on Mashadar is that, when it touched Sammael, it somehow tainted his thread, which is the reason the Dark One didn't transmigrate his soul. That's pretty tainted if even the Dark One won't touch it. (This, again, reinforces the dueling nature of Shadow evil vs. Shadar Logoth evil.)
Next is Gray Men; though once human, they are listed as being Shadowspawn. They are the Shadow's assassins, people who have willingly given up their souls to the Dark One. First off, I wonder who would be stupid enough to make that bargain. I can't see any benefit for the person in that arrangement. But, apparently, some go through the process.
The interesting thing I found while researching this topic is the connection between Gray Men and someone who is mindtrapped. Robert Jordan said:
Greebs: [Thinking he better get to the questions fast.] Umm, we were wondering if you had to take someone down into the Pit of Doom to make them into a Gray Man, you know, 'cause it seems so similar to mindtrapping someone.
Robert Jordan: Yes...at least that's the way I've always thought of it. It's not easy to remove someone's soul.
The only difference I can see between a Gray Man and the cour'souvra is the surrender seems to be voluntary with the Gray Man. Also, I wonder what the ability to channel has to do with it. The cour'souvra only works on channelers (A Crown of Swords, Chapter 25, "Mindtrap"). Is the same true for Gray Men?
When Moghedien is first entered into the mindtrap she thinks:
A Crown of Swords
Chapter 25, "Mindtrap"
Breaking a mindtrap did not require much more pressure than he was using. She could be on the other side of the world or farther, and it would not matter a hair. The part of her that was her would be separated; she would still see with her eyes and hear with her ears, taste what crossed her tongue and feel what touched her, but helpless within an automaton that was utterly obedient to whoever held the cour’souvra. Whether or not there was any way to get free of it, a mindtrap was just what its name implied.
That sounds very similar to what a Gray Man does: utterly obedient, but with no will of his own. Is it possible that Gray Men are people who have been put into a mindtrap, then had it broken? If it's so difficult to take someone's soul, wouldn't it make sense if there is only one way to do it?
When Aginor made Trollocs and accidentally created Myrddraal, both the One Power and the True Power were used. Robert Jordan said so in an interview:
Wotmania: Ishamael's corpse in The Dragon Reborn had only pits where his eyes and mouth once were. Was this a result of the True Power? If this is true, is the True Power the reason that Fades have no eyes, but some supernatural abilities?
Robert Jordan: The True Power is the reason that Ishamael's corpse had no eyes, just as it was the reason that his eyes had been caverns of flame, but is not precisely the reason that Fades have no eyes. The True Power as well as the One Power was used in creation of Trollocs, which proved to be uncontrollable and useless as soldiers until the first Myrddraal were born, throwbacks to the human stock used in creating Trollocs, but twisted by the inclusion of the True Power in making Trollocs.
First, this is interesting because of the way the True Power seared out Ishamael's eyes. That's a bit off topic, but I wanted to point it out. Also, notice Robert Jordan's Aes Sedai answer by adding in the "not precisely." While the True Power might not be the entire reason Myrddraal have no eyes, it's probably part of the reason. That raises the question of whether Myrddraal can manipulate the True Power themselves.
We learned in Towers of Midnight that the True Power is used to turn rats and ravens into the Dark One's eyes. Graendal thinks:
Towers of Midnight
A dove would be unobtrusive, but using one was more difficult than a raven or a rat, the Great Lord’s own favored eyes. The weave worked better on those than it did other animals. Though, most vermin that watched for the Great Lord had to report back before he knew what they’d seen. Why that was, she was not certain—the intricacies of the True Power’s special weaves never had made much sense to her.
Since the True Power seems necessary to control these vermin, wouldn't that mean someone needs to constantly be using the True Power on them? Wouldn't that mean the first raven seen (The Eye of the World, Chapter 2, "Strangers") could have been controlled by a Myrddraal? It most certainly was spying for the Dark One, and we know there are Myrddraal about. I think it seems logical to assume Myrddraal can manipulate—though probably not channel—the True Power.
Isn't it also interesting that it takes thirteen channelers working through thirteen Myrddraal to change a person to the Shadow against their will? Thirteen weaves of the One Power and thirteen weaves of the True Power?
An answer by Brandon Sanderson in reference to Shaidar Haran has me wondering about the phrasing of his answer.
Question: Was the Compulsion which Elza told Semirhage about Verin's work from after Dumai's Wells, and was it Shaidar Haran who told her about it and to ask Semirhage to remove it?
Brandon Sanderson: Yes.
Question: How did Elza defeat the wards on Cadsuane's plain wooden box?
Brandon Sanderson: Elza had been given knowledge of several rarely known weaves, and in other ways made into a tool of Shaidar Haran. Not all of it was pleasant for her.
Again, Aes Sedai answers. Just because Elza had been given knowledge of weaves doesn't mean she used them in this circumstance. I'm thinking it was Shaidar Haran, and his use of the True Power, that broke through Cadsuane's wards. He's able to shield Moghedien from the One Power (A Crown of Swords, Chapter 25, "Mindtrap"); perhaps through his ability to touch the True Power, he can overcome the One Power.
On top of that, we know that Shaidar Haran is a sort of "shadowy" version of the Dark One in the world (says Robert Jordan). That means he has some of the Dark One's powers, though not all, according to that interview. It seems likely that Shaidar Haran can at least tap into the Dark One's power, or else what would be the point of having him around? And since he is a Myrddraal, I think it likely others share some of those abilities.
I'll save Machin Shin for another time; I think there's a lot to say about it. But next week, we'll look at a quote about Trollocs and see what implications it can have for Rand's "to live, you must die" riddle. Thanks for reading!