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1.2.5: Moridin's Nine Sha'rah Players

In [TPOD: Prologue, Deceptive Appearances, 42-43], Moridin is playing his favorite AOL strategy game (against himself):

"A complex game, sha'rah, ancient long before the War of Power. Sha'rah, tcheran, and no'ri ... each had adherents ... but Moridin had always favored sha'rah. Only nine people living even remembered the game. He had been a master of it."

This section, in particular the "nine people living" bit, could be very important, or it could mean nothing. People have interpreted that bit in two ways: 1) "Only nine people living even remembered the game [existed]." 2) "Only nine people living even remembered [how to play] the game." The former interpretation means that we can, conceivably, count off which of the Forsaken are alive, to Moridin's knowledge. The latter interpretation does not give us so much knowledge, although it still tells us a little. So, who could these "nine" be?

Since the game is unknown in the Third Age, the nine must be from the AOL. The only people around from the AOL are the Forsaken. The ones who are around who we know that Moridin knows about are: Moridin, Moghedien, Mesaana, Graendal, Semirhage, and Demandred. That's six. Add Lanfear, who is Cyndane (see section 1.2.4) and the occupant of Moridin's second mindtrap. That's seven. The Forsaken Coffee Hour in WH indicates that Moridin has known about Aran'gar and Osan'gar for a good long time - certainly since TPOD. That leaves only Sammael in doubt. (Rahvin, Be'lal, and Asmodean are permanently dead, so they are not in the counting.) Including all of the viable possibilities, the total reaches ten, which is one more than the nine enumerated by Moridin. If we cannot eliminate Sammael, then we must conclude that Moridin was referring to nine people who could play the game, and that one of the Forsaken simply wasn't into board games.

Sammael died at the end of ACOS. This makes him a good candidate for not being counted among the nine, or does it? Note that Moridin's second scene in TPOD is in [TPOD: 2, Unweaving, 81-84], where he watches Elayne and Nynaeve's party depart the Tarasin Palace via gateway. This scene occurs the same day that they use the Bowl of Winds. From [TPOD: 7, A Goatpen, 160], Perrin thinks that "more than half a week" (over five days in Randland) has passed since "a lace of OP streaking high across the sky had created quite a stir among the AS and WOs. And with Grady and Neald.... Neald said it made him think of wind." This description matches with that of the Bowl's action. The next day, Perrin meets Queen Alliandre, and she mentions that "four days ago Illian fell to the Dragon Reborn." [TPOD: 10, Changes, 228] This matches with the timing as figured from data in ACOS: The using/finding of the Bowl occurs the day after the Festival of Birds, when Nynaeve meets and marries Lan. The Festival of Birds is six nights before the half-moon [ACOS, 29, The Festival of Birds, 454]. Rand's attack on Sammael takes place two days after his injury at the hands of Fain [ACOS: 41, A Crown of Swords, 617], and the injury took place on the day Min assures Rand that their "comforting" was mutually voluntary. This is four days before the half-moon. Thus, we can conclude that the Moridin scene in Chapter 2 to TPOD takes place two days before Sammael dies in Shadar Logoth.

There is no indication that Moridin's timeline flows backwards in TPOD between the scene in the Prologue and the scene in Chapter 2. The reasonable conclusion is that the Chapter 2 scene occurs after the Prologue scene, and thus, both occur before the fight between Rand and Sammael. This implies that Sammael was definitely alive when Moridin pondered about the nine players.

So, if Moridin meant "only nine people living even remembered the game existed," then we can only conclude that RJ did some extremely poor writing, and the scene with Moridin in the Prologue of TPOD occurs after the scene with Moridin in Chapter 2 of TPOD, even though there is absolutely no indication that this is the case.

One other option is that Moridin is not including himself in the nine people who remember the game, but if that were the case, it would have made more sense to say "Only nine other people even remembered the game."

On the other hand, if Moridin meant "Only nine people living even remembered how to play the game," then the sentence doesn't mean much.

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