Throughout the Wheel of Time evil arises in many forms. At its core it is a story of good versus evil. If you’ve read the books you know that there is a lot more to it than that, but strip away at the 100s of plot lines and the skeleton you are left with is a tale of light against dark. Rand and our heroes come up against some incredibly unique and diverse adversaries across the 14 mammoth books but the one enemy we see most is the Trolloc.
Trollocs are bio engineered half man half beast creatures of pure death and destruction. They were created by the Forsaken Aginor during the War of Shadow to be more aggressive, stronger and ultimately more deadly than the humans fighting for the forces of light. They serve in the series as a means to provide a very serious threat to our characters but also highlight our heroes fighting prowess. As Rand starts to learn how to wield a sword or when Perrin starts swinging around his axe/hammer combo Trollocs start to fall by the hundreds and it’s what keeps the story entertaining. Can you imagine 200 pages going by without seeing our heroes at the least cut off one agent of evils head? Similar to orcs in the Lord of the Rings, Trollocs provide the cannon fodder for our good guys to take swings at without killing anyone important to the story. It’s not to say they don’t pack a punch themselves. As early as the first few chapters a Trolloc nearly kills Tam Al’thor. They stamp their authority early in the story and show us that they mean business.
Roughly 5% of all Trollocs reproduction via breeding results in a Myrddraal. More man than beast, these creatures are vastly more intelligent than their Trolloc relatives, being able to control and command the Trollocs making them a far more effective fighting force. They provide far more tests to the side of good as they challenge them on both a mental and physical level often able to outsmart their enemies. Their first appearance, when Rand sees one on the road, is a truly chilling moment. We see the Myrddraal continue to provide such entertainment as they remain a constant threat throughout the series. Often in other series, enemies that are threatening at first become almost pointless later in the story. Whilst this is true of some of the channellers such as Rand, for the likes of Mat, Perrin and other none Power uses they are still frightening and skilled enough to cause serious harm and therefore remain relevant to the story throughout.
One of the most intriguing shadowspawn is the Gholam. Another one created by Aginor in the War of Shadow, the other Forsaken allowed him to create only 6, 3 male and 3 female, as they feared what such powerful creatures, immune to the Power, could do to them. By the time of our story only one has survived, but so powerful is it that it provides a lot of trouble for our band of heroes. They appear as a man, yet it is only the appearance that they share. They have no skeleton, or any other bodily organs. They are immune to most normal attacks and seemingly feel no pain. Due to lack of skeleton they are able to squeeze through tiny cracks as if made of smoke. Throughout the story the Gholam provides an excellent nemesis to Mat. They both have similar attributes as the Gholams sinister intelligence clashes excellently to Mat’s cunning wit. They are both also exceptionally fast and one excellent moment were they exchange throwing knives made me smile like a grinning Trolloc.
The character I found the most interesting amongst the agents of the Dark One was Slayer. I love a character that is literally cloaked in mystery. How and why he came to be is almost unknown. We know that he consists of two souls, Isam Mandragoran and Luc Mantear. However these two characters were both known to be on the forces of good. Isam was of the royal blood of Malkier and related to Lan! Luc was of the royal blood of Andor and Rand’s uncle! Isam was forced into the blight after the fall of Malkier and was raised in The Town, a nest of darkfriends and Samma N’Sei, so its not hard to see how he may have turned to the Shadow. However Luc was a good man, and was sent into the blight by Aes Sedai Gitara Moroso to seek out his glory. Somehow whilst out there murdering trollocs Luc has met with Isam and the two have found their way to Shayol Ghul. Birgitte states that he is a new occurrence which means he has never been part of the pattern before but hints he may be an old evil. Whether or not Jordan himself planned to reveal more about Slayer before he died I don’t know but it is interesting to think of an old evil taking a completely new form in the pattern. However he came to be the two men fused to become one being and was named Slayer. Whether one or both of these men originally had the ability of a dreamer it is unknown but together they are able to enter the dream world and are one of the most deadly uses of it. Even most of the Forsaken fear Slayer for his ability there. His ongoing battle with Perrin throughout the books is one of the best head to heads in the series. He’s a character you can never predict and his incredible ability makes him a threat to every character on the side of good. He almost kills Rand once or twice and it’s only Perrin’s skill and perseverance that saves Rand and the world from death. It just makes Slayer as a character so much more interesting that he is linked to two of the most important men in the book, Rand and Lan. It’s a shame we don’t see more interaction and acknowledgement between these three characters but at the same time I feel Jordan wanted to keep this character as mysterious as possible. It’s part of the characters charm after all.
Darkfriends provide the remaining bulk of the Dark Ones forces. Apart from maybe trollocs these are the most numerous enemy that the group come up against in the series. Rand couldn’t swing a cat by the tail with smacking a darkfriend on the head. Not that Rand would want to hurt a cat, unlike some darkfriends (am looking at you Eldrith!). The most prominent Dark Friend is of course the sadistic, terrifying and rotten Padan Fain. He plays one of the more central villainy roles in the series but I will cover him in part 3 as we need to take more time to look at him and his influence. The darkfriends ranking system is one that I found very interesting. Unlike in normal society where normally the richer or more noble you are the higher your ranked, Darkfriends seem to be ranked on either their commitment to the dark one or the history of evil. One major player in the series who serves as a Dark friend is Jaichin Carridin who is a high ranking officer in the children of light. Yet he acknowledges that he is ranked far below a beggar in the streets of Tear named Cully who he would need to bow to in other circumstances. Mili Skane, a highly trained assassin, is ranked below Jaichin but is allowed to kill him on the orders of Morridin. Their order seems chaotic which is no surprise as that is what they are looking to encourage. Darkfriends are found throughout the who world from the two rivers and Padan Fain to the Aiel waste and Mats spearwife lover. Even Aes Sedai rank are part of this Darkfriend network.
That brings me to of course the Black Ajah. Founded by Ishamael after the War of Power they was forced to obey him. He provided them with oaths that went against those taken up by the Aes Sedai, forcing them to remain secret. Their goal was to weaken the White Tower, encourage division and discourage the search for more Aes Sedai. By the time of the Last Battle it was thought that over 20% of the White Tower was sworn to the Black Ajah. These ladies provided some of the most fascinating moments in the series. I would liken their order to that of a school ground. Their constant bickering and squabbling for power and control, all this whilst under complete control was at times laughable but always entertaining. That’s not to say they don’t supply constant threat for the side of light. Liandrin is one of the most frequently featured Black Ajah in the series. Early on we see her set a trap for Egwene and co resulting in Min taking a severe beating and Egwene being collared. At one point she even tried to take on a Forsaken which shows the ambition of some of these girls. Of course she is beaten, basically stilled and tortured afterwards. Most are very evil. Galina on her good days uses her strength and influence in the tower to sexually abuse her lesser women and on her bad days tortures Rand. Alviarin was already a Darkfriend before she entered the tower and rose to become head of the council of thirteen. Merean was a part of the tower for nearly 200 years and was considered kind and fair. She raised Siuan and Moiraine to the shawl. Yet she then tried to kill Moiraine. Yet Sheriam only joined the Black Ajah to improve her political status and was very upset to be caught up with the Dragon Reborn and the Forsaken. She joined out of greedy, not being evil. Even amongst the Black Ajah many different type of evil can be seen. As is evident throughout all Jordan’s books what may appear black and white at first soon is revealed to be in many different shades of grey. This is evident even in some members of the Darkfriend club who may not be what they appear, such as a certain Verin, however we will discuss double agents, redemption and misguided good/evil in part 3.