There aren’t many hoofprints to track in The Dragon Reborn. Bela carries Egwene to Tar Valon and stays there for the rest of the book while every other character scampers around. Has The Dark One lost interest in our heroes? Hardly, considering the orders Darkfriends and Forsaken receive to continue attacking them, however, there was one element in the status quo The Dark Onc couldn’t stand:
Bela got sick of bailing Ishamael out of scrapes.
Think about it:
- At the end of The Eye of the World, Bela was present, Rand duelled Ishamael, aka Ba’alzamon, and Ishamael survived a seemingly mortal would.
- At the end of The Great Hunt, Bela was present, Rand duelled Ishamael, aka Ba’alzamon, and Ishamael survived a seeming mortal wound.
- At the end of The Dragon Reborn, Bela was NOT present, Rand duelled Ishamael, aka Ba’alzamon, and Ishamael dies from a mortal wound inflicted in that duel, leaving a body behind as proof.
Clearly, the presence of the Dark One was the lynchpin in keeping Ishamael around in his firey-eyed, Age of Legends persona. Bela kept him around initially, not because he was useful, but because he was, if you’ll pardon the metaphor, the only horse in her stable. The other Forsaken had been away from the world for three thousand years and needed a bit of time to wake up before they could be useful. That bought Ishamael a year and two “get out of death free” cards, but the third time around Bela decided enough was enough and let Ishamael’s foolishness take him on a trip to her eternal domain.
I hear what you’re saying, you what I’ve said is all well and good, but Ishamael’s death is just circumstantial evidence in the fight to prove The Dark One’s real identity. You’re right, the real proof lies in the seals.
- After the fight at the Eye of the World one seal was broken.
- After the Battle of Falme two seals were broken.
- After the Taking of the Stone of Tear one seal was found intact.
- The only other broken seal was discovered books later, and I’ll give you one guess which horse was found in a nearby stable.
The difference between these events was simple. Bela was not present at the Stone of Tear, and why should she be? With three seals broken The Dark One can bust out the rest of the Forsaken, can touch the world enough to influence the weather in severe ways over the course of years, and let’s not forget those pesky bubbles of evil. That’s all she needs to deliver the world to Tarmon Gai’don. In the end she’s much better off in the Tower, nurturing the coup that will all but destroy the Aes Sedai and drive the world further towards chaos.