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Transcript: Why would anyone be a Darkfriend?

Hey everyone welcome to Barside Chats! I'm Brian the Gleeman, and I'm Matt he Innkeeper, and this is a Wheel of time Podcast from The Dusty Wheel


Matt: (laughs) I love this -- When you posed this topic to me I was like ahhh shoot. We must have answered this question in some of the many thousands of discussions we've had about the Wheel of Time. But that's a great question. I like pulling back and just considering the plight of the Darkfriends. Wasn't Peter or Paitr -- I don't know how to pronounce his name -- isn't he one of the most famous Darkfriends?


Brian: He's one of the first ones that you meet, right?


Matt: He kind-- Doesn't he have that moniker for being kinda that like, he must've been like a newbie?


Brian: Right.


Matt: (laugh) He doesn't know exactly how to be a Darkfriend. That's how I got that feel for that guy.


Brian: He got the little name tag at the welcoming ceremony. And he went out and he did his best, he really did. It was just terrible. He was a terrible Darkfriend.


Matt: So when you say "why would anyone be a Darkfriend?" to me, it's like, well, clearly performance doesn't really matter, right? Like, if your ability to you know be the best Darkfriend, and they only keep the best? Then that's not relevant, right? It's like the whole football thing. You know, I played football growing up. I didn't have to try out! I just showed up and they accepted me. Right? Like, dude wants to exercise with us and run on the field, and we can throw him in there and beat up on him, you know, and let the pro team or the seniors or what are they -- the varsity? I'll be the part of team B. So maybe that's one of the first reasons I'd go with: because anyone can be a Darkfriend. It requires zero skills, according to [Paitr]. (laugh)


Brian: Yeah, and I think that's right. I think that the uh, barrier to entry is so low that just anybody and their mother could just join at any time. But, but why would you want to do that? Like, in the name, think about the name. Darkfriend. Dark, dark friend. A Darkfriend is obviously a bad person. Most people aren't bad people. I mean, the Dark One is the name of the bad guy in the book! It's the Dark One, the Lord of the Dark! This is all a very big sign that you're doing something very bad, so why would you, if you're [Paitr], why would you want to become a Darkfriend? What's in it for you?


Matt: Well maybe it's like that whole concept of I get a club of people; I get some friends because I don't have any friends. But then I don't have to do much. What I mean by that is: it's not like he's near Shayol Ghul, right? He's not among the elite recruits. He's just some dude in some far off place, and he doesn't have to do much, he probably gets paid a little bit, he has some friends, he thinks he's cool because he has, you know, he's probably seen a couple of deaths and murders at this point, right? I think I saw something from Robert Jordan where Robert Jordan said when they recruit you, when you're made, in essence, when you're, uh, uh, I can't think of the word -- it's the...um, cell, there we go -- the Darkfriend's cell decides you, Brian, are some -- a candidate. Like, at that point, you will either join them or you will be killed. That was Jordan's explanation for, like, how does this recruiting happen. Basically, it's like, you're either going to join this group or die. The barrier for entry is just: they want you as part of that group. And that's it! It doesn't sound like you have to do much other than murder the occasional person that doesn't want to join (laugh). I mean, I mean, that's probably not the first signup, that's probably not on the first pledge. It isn't like, you just see it happen, and you're like "well, of course, they have to die or else they'll tell everybody about us."


Right, it becomes that "us versus them" thing, so maybe that's another reason why you become a Darkfriend is, uh, you know, you get to -- you know, maybe you hate the people in your local village. You know? Maybe the Wisdom like Nynaeve bugs the hell out of you, and you just don't like her. And then someone comes up to you and says "You know what? I don't like her either and I'm hoping we can be friends. In fact, I'm hoping we can be DARKfriends." (laughts)


Brian (laughts) I think that's a great pitch to be a Darkfriend is like we have mutual enemies, everybody sucks except for us, and we can band together, be a team. I think your point about "you don't do much" is very valid--


Matt: Yeah!


Brian: --a very good one. Um, what do Darkfriends do, uh, while the Forsaken are locked up? I mean, for thousands of years, they've done nothing but recruit people and kill the occasional person who didn't want to join, so what's the deal? Do they have pot luck dinner nights?


Matt: (laughs) No but you just brought up a great -- oh my gosh -- you just brought up a great point, which is, you know, recruiting a Darkfriend at the Breaking of the World, at the end of the Age of Legends, you know the Forsaken are getting together, and you know we're having all those wars before the very end. I'm sure recruiting then, you did have to do things. (laugh) It's like, you were being pulled into a war. And what you're saying is here at the end of the Third Age, why would you be a Darkfriend at the end of the Third Age? Because there's not much to do! Right, like (laughs) there's no big baddie. I mean, yeah, some Myrddraal comes along, you may have to deal with him. You might have seen a Trolloc once, you know, but probably not. Like, uh, you probably didn't called up there. You didn't have to do much. You probably got food.


Matt: I mean, you're bringing up some obvious -- Okay, we're kinda getting into that territory like, where it sounds like terrorism and cults (laughs) okay, "why would anyone be a terrorist?" You know, like, there probably is some aspect of, like, you know, uh, I don't know if poverty is the right word, but absence of will. You know, like, "I don't know where I belong", and here's a group that thinks you belong with them, you know, um, and you don't have to do much. There's not a ton of oversight, as far as we know. At least, until the Forsaken are out, right? Once the Forsaken come out, then things are changing up a little bit. But you see, right? This is a little bit of a -- this isn't a huge spoiler, but we get -- and I'll try not to ruin anything for those of you listening, but you get this idea that Darkfriends are not used to Forsaken. (laugh) Right? Like that's kind of a new thing for them. I love your point that you brought up there. Yeah, what did they have to do? And it doesn't sound like they had to do that much.


Brian: I mean, they didn't have to do much because there was nobody to boss them around. But there was clearly some sort of hierarchy, right? Because, uh, at some point the Forsaken do come back, and they go straight to the Darkfriends and say "hey, you're our minions now, and you're gonna do whatever we, uh, tell you to do," but how would they know where they were if there wasn't a system in place? So there's clearly a group of people who are coordinating a lot of this stuff, even if they are like cells like, you know, almost like terrorist cells where nobody knows who anybody else is, but there's still a system in place. And you would think that over the course of three thousand years either the system would be eliminated completely, or it would grow so big that, you know what, let's just say everyone's a Darkfriend.


Matt: (laughs)


Brian: if everybody recruits two people, then suddenly within a couple of generations, you've got everybody. So it's a very weird, it's a weird, uh, system when you stop and think about it.


Matt: I was gonna say it's like a multi-level marketing (laughs)


Brian: It's a pyramid scheme for the Dark One


Matt: I was trying to find out this answer. Let me read out this answer. Because this asks a question about just how many Darkfriends there are. In 1994, Tom Burke asked Robert Jordan, he said that he told Robert Jordan that some on the Net thought every other person was a Darkfriend. He replied, "I've heard." And then Tom said, "I told him that my feeling was that the number of Darkfriends in Randland were probably between one in ten thousand to one in a hundred thousand." Robert Jordan replied, "Closer to the latter. Of course we see more of them, because of the ta'veran." So, interesting, so Robert Jordan is saying that Darkfriends are closer to one in one hundred thousand. That's not as many -- I would've thought there were a lot more. Like, I'm --


Brian: There should be a lot more.


Matt: I'm kinda confused by that answer.


Brian: If you look at, like, Baerlon, there should be... two.


Matt: (laughs) Right, right!


Brian: And if that number's correct, there should be two of them, and there's clearly more than that. You get to Caemlyn, maybe there's ten. But the number is probably closer to one in ten thousand.


Matt: That doesn't make any sense, because in Caemyln -- I thought I heard that Caemlyn's population was around three hundred thousand. So this would suggest there's three. (laughs) But he did say "closer to the latter," but even if you went one in fifty thousand, that's still only six. So I kind of -- oh man, this is one of those "Robert, this doesn't make any sense!" You have to go with what we saw in the books, and I can't go -- I know this answer from Jordan -- now I'm going to buy us something here. I'm gonna buy us. This is a paraphrased answer, so I think we're, I think we're safe, I think we're safe to say it's paraphrased, it doesn't make a lot of sense. So Tom Burke, I apologize, but I can't believe you. (laughs) I can't believe in the one in one hundred thousand notion of Darkfriends. I feel like it has to be more than that, I feel like we've seen that it's more than that.


Matt: I mean, even Paitr, right? He was sitting in some town of maybe -- I don't know -- a couple hundred people, maybe a thousand people. I mean, I feel like it's probably closer to that like, one in a thousand. Makes more sense to me. Because even one in ten thousand, but if this makes sense -- Maybe there's just lots of killing. Because maybe they -- Robert Jordan said they recruit all the time. Like, that's their job. Like you said, why would you join and be a Darkfriend? Clearly you have to be good at sales. (laugh) Or you have to think you're good at sales. Like you, you wouldn't (unintelligible) if you hated the recruiting aspects of the job. And maybe that's Peter -- Paitr, I can't remember how to pronounce his name -- but maybe that's him, which is just like, "I suck at sales, but I have to do it," so he's that really awkward sales person who comes to your door and he's like, "Hi. I have these things that some guy behind me wants me to say are really cool. Will you buy one for me?" (laughs) You know, like, uh (laughs) But yeah, why would you be a Darkfriend? I think you have to be good at selling yourself and selling yourself.


Brian: They have to be good at that, but they also have to be, I dunno, don't they also have to be dumb enough to get into this system in the first place? Don't we make fun of people in multilevel marketing schemes? We do, so this is the fantasy equivalent of a pyramid scheme, and they're all a bunch of idiots.


Matt: Yes. Okay. That's true. One of the things Robert Jordan brought up was one way to attract attention is to be the kind of person that would kill for gain. So you can attract recruiting attention if you're willing to kill for gain. Now, Jordan pointed out that you could also attract legal attent-- like, the authorities (laughs) You're gonna attract a lot of attention, but you don't want to be seen, 'cause if you're found out, then the Darkfriends are all over you. You know, that is a good question. You have to be stupid enough or just maybe sociopathic enough. Maybe... Maybe this is really just a cult of sociopaths?


Brian: That makes sense. That makes sense. That's a very generous way to put it, I guess. They're all stupid. But it does show that, like, not just anybody can be a Darkfriend. We said the barrier to entry is nothing, but like, you wouldn't go after, you know, uh, Miss Goody Two Shoes i-in-in your local town, because she's probably going to tell everybody that you're a Darkfriend.


Matt: (laughs)


Brian: Unless you can kill her before she can do that, then you're screwed. So you obviously don't want anyone to know. Which leads me to my next qusetion for you, Matt. Why WOULDN'T you want to be a Darkfriend?


Matt: (laughs) You'll have to preface that


Brian: Let me see if I can give more context around that. In the Wheel of Time, there is good and evil. Like, there's the Creator and there's the Dark One. Uh, and this is accepted as fact. There are no atheists as far as we know. Everyone knows, everyone agrees that the Creator created the world, locked away the Dark One at the moment of creation. Here we are. There's also no evidence of any sort of concept of an afterlife, of like a Heaven or a Hell. You just get reborn. So! In that case, there is no consequence for being a Darkfriend. You're not going to go to hell for being a Darkfriend. You know, but, at the same time, if you're a Darkfriend, you get to meet some cool Forsaken


Matt: (laughs)


Brian: You're taking a chance, you're taking a chance that if the Dark One wins you're gonna get power. You're gonna, you know, all of the reasons that all the other characters in the books that are Darkfriends say they are Darkfriends. They want more power, they want money, or they want respect. Like, the chance that they could get that -- get them is a non-zero chance from there perspective. There's no downside to it. Right now they don't have power, they don't have respect, they don't have friends. Joining the Dark Side, being a Darkfriend, they do get all those things. In that case, why wouldn't you want to be a Darkfriend?


Matt: I think for me I couldn't do it because of that aspect of just personally being asked to kill somebody would just ruin me. I just, I, that's why, the idea that.. You know, maybe if being a Darkfriend was maybe a couple notches below that? You know, (laughs) to be this Darkfriend, maybe you have to, I dunno, steal a candybar or something


Brian: Yeah, like kick a dog or something.


Matt: Yeah, right. Like, I'm not telling anyone that's listening here I'm going to steal some candybars or kick dogs, don't believe that. But purely on the idea that we're in this world, but yeah, I think you're right. There is a temptation to, especially if you come to believe those things, to just try it out. Right? So you can say, you can flip this and say "Why would you become a Darkfriend?" "Because I want to try being a Darkfriend," you know? And I don't know the repercussion of trying it out. You know, I realize that I'll probably get killed if I sucked at it or I failed at it, but yeah, I think -- I guess I -- I like to just not do what other people want me to do, so I wouldn't be a Darkfriend because if someone was like recruiting, I'd be like "Bleh, no, I don't wanna do that. You can't make me do something." I don't like the idea of other people making me do things. I feel like that's where the Dark One and I -- we wouldn't see eye to eye. He'd want me to do stuff, and I'd be like "screw it, I'm not doing this stuff," and I'd die. Let me flip this question to you, then. Why wouldn't -- along all these premises we just discussed, why wouldn't you want to be a Darkfriend?


Brian: Why wouldn't I want to be a Darkfriend? I wouldn't want to be a Darkfriend because, um, I have friends and I have power and I have respect, so I'm not one of these people that needs, that seems to need a group of secretive, furtive people to feel like I belong, um. I also have personally seen enough movies and comics and read enough books to know that, you know, what good and evil are. But if I were in the world of the Wheel of Time, of course, um, that's a different question, and I think that if, it depends -- going back to your point, how much do I believe in the, uh, religion so to speak. Which is, do I believe in rebirth, do I believe that the Creator and the Dark One are real things. If I believe that the Dark One is a myth and Myrddraal are a myth and Trollocs are myths and the Heroes of the Horn is just a legend that we tell the kids, like, then, then maybe, maybe there's no downside to it, maybe, you know, it's just me finding a group of people that I enjoy and realizing that I'm sufficiently on the outskirts of society that people might want to kill me for doing this, and therefore killing other people is self-defense -- pre-emptive self-defense! I personally don't get it, I don't understand why anyone would be a Darkfriend. This has always been one of the points in the books that has bothered me a little bit. Which is, anybody -- all these people are Darkfriends, and everytime I see them I'm like "Why? Why? Why are you doing this?" and sometimes they explain it and I'm like "That's stupid" and sometimes they explain it and I'm like "Oh, okay, that makes sense. It was a bad decision, but that makes sense." You know, it's just one of those things that I think about when I read the books, and it--


Matt: Okay, how about this? You just brought up an interesting point. Meeting a Myrddraal. Right? So um, let's (unintelligible) I'm some dude in a village. I don't maybe have a ton of friends, it's not like I don't have any friends. I have some skills, maybe I don't have a ton of skills. I'm just doing whatever, I'm going to work as a blacksmith like my dad. But I've never met Aes Sedai. People have told me about all these people that do amazing things, and I've never felt amazing -- that I could do amazing things. But I hear that there are people that were lucky enough to just be born into it, they get to go and do -- they get to go and do and be something, and I just get to be this blacksmith. And then somebody comes to me and says, "hey, so Myrddraal exists." and I say "They don't exist. Aes Sedai don't actually exist, all this stuff is mythical." "Well, if you come to this meeting at seven o'clock tonight, you know, out back, behind the inn... Wear your cloak. And uh, you're going to meet one." And I'm like "whatever. I'll go. But this is make-believe, but I'll show up because I don't believe this is actually true." And then I do meet a Myrddraal and then I feel that fear. And the Myrddraal comes up, and looks me, right? Stares at me -- I guess "stares" is the wrong word (laughs)


Brian: Right (laughs)


Matt: He stands in front of me here, and I feel just -- and maybe he even in some ways touches -- uh, you know. Basically I'm saying maybe I can feel the power, and then my Darkfriend recruiter says, "Yeah, this stuff is actually real. The Dark One has power." And, you know, it was my first experience with the Power of whether it's for the Dark one or the Creator, happens to be on the Dark One's side, would that tempt you in? If you were in my position, would you all of the sudden be like, "Okay. like, I've never been recruited by the Aes Sedai. They're not sharing their power with me. No one's coming to make me great. But here's someone that actually does seems like they have power. Would it be a temptation?


Brian: I think it absolutely would. I think especially in that circumstance you just described I would be pissing my pants for one thing.


Matt: (laughs)


Brian: Good thing I have a cloak. And the second is the -- you're right, the power of the Myrddraal, the power of the Dark One being right in front of me would be mind-blowing. It would change -- completely change the world for me. And having that happen right in front of my own eyes... whenever your world changes dramatically in an instant, you are not thinking clearly for a long period of time. And so I would immediately probably buy into the hype, and believe whatever anybody told me, because if a Myrddraal is standing in front of me, anything could happen. And if anything could happen, then why not join this group that has power? And I'd deal with the consequences later. Like, it's unlikely that the Myrddraal is like "Hey you wanna be a Darkfriend? Come on in and now go kill your mother." Like, that's not gonna -- that's -- they're not going to do that right then. They'll be like "yeah, come on in, we'll give you power, here's all your friends, here you get a new badge, you know you get a little ID card--


Matt: (laughs)


Brian: "-- and you go off and let us know if any ta'veren come in, and uh, and then we'll catch up." And that's it. And you think "Great, I got an ID card, I get to meet new people? Why not?!"


Matt: Well, especially if it comes with a promise that the work you do is not so labor intensive, right? So here's these individuals, right? It's hard for us I think to imagine it the way we live. Not that we don't -- I get up, and I go to work. It's not physically tiring in that way, but it is, uh, mentally tiring, I guess, typing on a-- it's not the physical tiring of being a blacksmith. But you go into this seventeenth century world that Robert Jordan has at the end of the Third Age, and things are tough! Right? You don't have the comforts that maybe we experience. You don't have all of this where we're like, "Oh, no thanks, I might meet a Myrddraal, but I still wanna watch Netflix." You know what I mean? I mean, like, I still want to go to the store and buy a steak, and cook it. Like, sure, Myrddraal power seems interesting, but I could go to my car or whatever it is, I can go buy something with a credit card. It's not going to add that much complexity to my life, or someth-- the benefit isn't that great. But this Myrddraal coming there -- a couple things here, the Myrddraal doesn't kill you. Right? You imagine the Myrddraal is going to, but all of the sudden, the Myrddraal becomes an ally. Like, he's not, he's not there to kill you. He's now on your side. It's the concept that the bully that you don't like is the one that's taking your lunch. (laughs) The bully that's taking other people's lunch money and giving it to you... you feel a little bit weird about it, but he's on YOUR side, and he has power and he's using it for your advantage.


Matt: Imagine you're that kid, and the Myrddraal leaves in cool Myrddraal fashion.. "Man, that was sweet. I wanna be able to do that." And then your recruiter buddy's like, "hey, by the way, let your dad know, uh, that you got a new job, you'll be working with me. Tell him don't worry about it. And all of a sudden, your dad's -- now it kinda creates this conflict between you and your father. Your father is thinking you need to be working. "I need to teach you these skills, how else are you going survive in the world." So all of the sudden, that power and access to that, is breaking the bond that you thought you had or needed with your father, and all of the sudden, you're not developing an X skill, you're moving on to, to becoming a recruiter. So you're basically picking the power that's offered here, because it's the first taste of potential comfort in the world, right? You don't have to wake up every morning, you don't have to sell your wares. You don't have to, you know, be a farmer and go through all the difficulties there, you don't have to pick one of these things. You can just make a living telling people about this power that you found.


Brian: I think so too. I want to change the subject slightly a little bit. We've been talking as if all of the Darkfriends are, are lower-class, middle-class people like you and me, but what about the nobles? What about the nobility? What about the channelers? What about the tradesmen and the people with money and influence, who already have influence and power? Why would they become a Darkfriend? What makes a princess say "You know what, this life is stupid. I want to be a Darkfriend."


Matt: Yeah, so this is a good question. This isn't really spoiler territory either, but this, I want to bring in a piece of information that we learn about the Age of Legends. We look at Elan Moran, we look at Ishamael, and, we can see -- at least we're told stories Jordan's given us about people who had power, you know, had prestige, were elite in society that did end up choosing to become, in essence, a glorified Darkfriend. You know? Now, there's this -- a lot more -- their elite Darkfriend-ism is a lot different than the Paitr version of this. They -- to me, that one is all about power, right? It's not about comfort, it's not about how much money, it's about the promise of power, I think, over others, right? This -- not only -- you're not just A noble, you're not just A king, you could become THE king. No one, right? You can, you can have this, you can have power over everyone, like this guy named Lews Therin that we are friends with. You get to be his boss, you get to be everyone's boss. You get to have all of the things that I have. I think there's some temptation aspect there. I think that's one of the main reasons why people with power... they want, they want to have more. Let's say that you're at a party. You have, you're -- whatever -- you're Elon Musk, a billion dollars, and Bill Gates has five, all of the sudden... Like, I know he technically has more access than I do. So it's the, getting the King of the Hill aspect I think is what -- that's the first thing I would say. Do you have a -- is that the main reason that you think this happens, or, like, what else would drive you in this position if it wasn't being the king of the hill?


Brian: I think the King of the Hill is probably one of the biggest ones. It's-- There are probably two more cases that I can think of. One is... boredom. If you're a wealthy, if you're like already the king of your hill --


Matt: (laughs)


Brian: If you're the, if you're the, the big fish in your pond, you might feel like "Well, I-I've conquered my little world. What else is there to do? I'm already rich, I'm already famous, I've already got everything I could possibly want. And I'm bored. I want a little adventure, I want a sense of danger, I want a sense of, of risk that I can't get because my guards won't let me leave the castle, and my wife is nagging me all the time, you know, and the servants keep bringing me food, and I can't try something new. You know, like, the sense of boredom that might come from being, you know, trapped in your castle and trapped in your position of power, uh, I think that's one of them them. I think that's probably a reason that a lot of the -- that's probably half the reasons that one half of these want more power and the other half would be "I'm bored and I wana try something new."


Brian: Third, the third group is people who are -- you, you alluded to this earlier -- they're the true believers. They're the ones who have, through some way or another, come to the conclusion that being a Darkfriend is the right way to go. That it's the, the, the truth of the universe eventually leads to the Dark One winning. It's the idea that time might be a wheel, but it doesn't have to be a wheel forever. The Dark One wants to break it. And if he can-- if time's a wheel, and it just over and over and over and over, then the Dark One, then eventually the Dark One can break it, I'm gonna be on top, because I'm a Darkfriend and the Dark One likes me. And I think there's that, you know, sort of logic. That's one possible strain of logic there. There's others in that I really believe that the world is a terrible place and everybody needs to die. The Thanos Hypothesis, if you will, of, you know, most of the world sucks and they should die. And the Dark One's that gonna let me accomplish that, for not necessarily for an evil purpose, but -- and maybe in my mind, while the -- this is the right move, we need to separate the wheat from the chaff. Uh, so those are the two things I can think of, other than just pure power.


Matt: What's interesting about this is we find out when it comes to creating the Bore back in the Age of Legends, when they were -- when that research group found another Power access -- you know, the temptation is to believe that, you know, all of them once the Bore was created must have like, "Oh yes, now we can get somehow or something back by researching it, I want this thing," but as far as I recall, the only one that had taken that up -- and it was years later -- was Mierin. She was the only one that did this. Even in the search for power, there's always going to be just a few people who go over the edge. Right?


Matt: It's, like, the Mordeths of the world. You know, it's one thing to search for other power and more power, but really to sell yourself and sell your soul to get it? That's a really unique class of people. I kind of wonder, like to me, maybe that's closer to what Robert Jordan meant by one in one hundred thousand, (laughs) you know, like, maybe he wasn't talking about your general little recruit in a village. But your elite Darkfriend? It's going to be a really, really small portion, because there's just so few of them that would actually go as far enough to get the access and power that, like -- we know there are lots more Forsaken, but not tens of thousands of them. We know that there are other Dreadlords and other Chosen in this way, but it's something that's very elite.


Matt: And there's some aspect to that, right? It's not just search for power. It's be the first person. Be one of a small group of people that gets to do something that no one else in this world gets to do. What would you give for that? You know, for example, let's say, someone came to you, Brian, and said "Only five people that have ever lived on Earth will be allowed to ever go to Mars. Five people. No one else will ever go to Mars or be allowed to. And we're talking about billions of human beings." There's somebody on this earth right now that would be willing to press the button and kill a thousand people to be one of those five people. You know what I mean? There are people that are like, "Yeah, I will step over as many people and destroy as many lives as possible, if I can say and be in history one of those five, because that makes me special. That makes me memorable and elite in a way that nobody else will--" And to me that elitism, that desire to just have that moment and be part of that moment that only a few people -- I think that drives a (indistinct).


Brian: I totally agree. Just to kinda wrap this up a little bit. We talked about your average layperson Darkfriend, we talked about being a superpowerful Darkfriend, why they might do that. Do you think that there is -- just to mix some real-world, uh, sociopolitical stuff -- do you think there's a socioeconomic divide between Darkfriends? Do you think, like, the only person that could go to Mars in your scenario is the rich and powerful one, or do you think little [Paitr] down here in this little town could be one of them?


Matt: I don't think so. I think you have to look at this -- now, not as dramatic as, like, bank accounts and that. Because Paitr, maybe he's just a really good murderer. Maybe he's a really good psychopath who just kills his way into prominence. So can somebody, like, the famed building Facebook out of your garage? Yeah, like, can you be that guy? You can. But you and I both know a lot of software developers who never were. Right? There were tens of thousands that never were going to be. But we also know that once you make it there, you can build seven thousand terrible apps and still be one of the elite developers -- or you can have an elite software development company and suck at it. But as long as you get there, once you have access, so yes I think there's a divide when it comes to Darkfriends and how likely it is that they're going to be one of the elite.


Matt: I think there's certainly there's a socioeconomic difference, right, there's a glass -- the tainted ceiling, whatever you want to call that, that we have to break. I think ther certainly is a tainted ceiling that are less powerful to begin with, less overall difference. Socioeconomic capability, for sure. What do you think?


Brian: I think, um, I think you're right, I think there's some people that have a leg up on others. You mentioned Mierin earlier as you know investigating this new source of Power that wound up being, um, the Dark One. That's not a spoiler, that's in like the first book somewhere.


Matt: (laughs)


Brian: She's just a researcher. She's basically like a PhD or postdoc at a university. She's not like a rich and famous person. She's not a high-powered celebrity. She's just like a researcher. Uh, and she discovers this power and, you know, becomes memorable, she's in the history books, she's in the books.


Matt: I mean, I mean, and I have to -- technically, she did date Lews Therin. So... (laughs)


Brian: That's true! But before or after--


Matt: Yeah, I'm pretty sure before. But you can definitely look at her, I guess, we don't really -- trying to think we really know more about -- like, it's not like we have her yearbook (laughs)


Brian: Right.


Matt: We don't know that detail. One would assume for her, maybe she was on Tinder, and maybe Lews Therin swiped right or left, I don't know, and he finds Mierin and they start dating. Or maybe she had her own, she might have already been part of a prominent family and that's how they met. Like you're saying, maybe Lews Therin was really into, you know, "research", you know (laughs).


Brian: (laughs)


Matt: Maybe he was the professor, if you know what I mean. The cliche professor who's like "hey, who's the knew PhD student that's part of the team. Nice to meet you. We should go out and eat. Here's -- let's do dinner and a movie or something!" We don't know what that relationship was, but she had some access there. So I just wanna -- I want to throw that in there. There was a little bit of access. And maybe she tasted power, and then she lost it, and then this gave her a way to get power back, and maybe even power over the person, over Lews, in a way, or give her enough power that she thought she could (indistinct). (laughs)


Brian: I think that's an excellent point. I would push back just a little bit, though, and say, like, think about the other Forsaken that we know about. I don't believe that any of them are necessarily, or not all of them are necessarily wealthy or powerful. Aginor, for example, was a researcher as well who worked in a lab creating mutants and things like that.


Matt: Wasn't Mesaana a teacher?


Brian: She was a teacher.


Matt: Yeah, and Graendal was like a therapist? Or something like that?


Brian: Yeah, that's right. And so the socioeconomic divide is there, everything we just mentioned is quote/unquite a white collar job, but I don't think it's necessarily as stark as it would be today, in like an American society with Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerbergs and Elon Musks of the world. But I do think it would be -- it's not impossible, there's a couple of examples where a very low-level Darkfriend can rise in the ranks very quickly, so I don't think it's impossible, but I do think it would be--


Matt: Maybe the tainted ceiling isn't as difficult to break as those proverbial ceilings in our world. So maybe it does happen or it happened more often than I remember. You know, as far as, you know, like you said, Mesaana and Graendal and these others who we're not told what families they come from, but it doesn't sound like they came from very elite, powerful people. You know, or families and such. Yeah, that's a good point. Maybe the divide isn't as significant. Maybe it really comes down to just how vicious and -- and how well you survive. Are you a survivor? Like, Moghedien. Right? That's the whole -- how they talk about Moghedien, is this idea that she can survive, right? As the Spider she can survive, and it's this idea that all of these Forsaken that are still left are certainly survivors. So not only are they vicious and capable of making it through all of these other vicious people, but they're also survivors. (laughs)


Matt: So maybe that's the more important indicator: are you a -- can you survive? And maybe that's something we can revisit later, which is, you know, not only -- you brought up this question: Why would anyone be a Darkfriend? How would you survive? How as a Darkfriend, as a burgeoning Dreadlord that wants to become a Forsaken, how is it possible to ever make it there without somebody else taking your, like, there's plenty of dead people around you on your way up that ladder. What made the elites? That's the next compelling question. What is it that got them past the twenty, thirty, forty other people past, every year, every ten years to get up--


Brian: I think that's a fantastic question and maybe that'll be the topic of one of our future episodes. But just one final question for you before we wrap this up. If you do come face-to-face with a Myrddraal, will you become a Darkfriend?


Matt: (laughs) Oh man. I don't know. If that -- maybe this goes back to that cliche spiritual experience, right? Will you feel like it was this fetishized spiritual experience that you're having -- that i would have, or would I just be completely bonkers out of my brain just wanting to get away, and as soon as he left, I would move. I would move to the Land of Madmen or something. I'd never want to see one again.


Brian: (laughs)


Matt: I think it all comes down to how you interpret that experience, right? Just like, whatever, bring up any fetish in the world. One person might look at it and think "that's disgusting" or "I wouldn't do that," somebody else has that experience and to them it's a different emotional, different physical experience. So it all depends. It depends on what my reaction would be in that moment to that Myrddraal! But I can't say that I -- I don't know. I'm gonna have to leave you with that. I don't know.


Brian: I think I would. Because I like being alive. And it's been shown that Myrddraal can find you wherever you go, so I'm gonna do it. I'm gonna do it. I'm gonna be a Darkfriend.


Matt: This is a great question for all of our listeners right now. Ask yourself that. You never knew Aes Sedai, or anything like that, but your first meeting to real power in the world and in life you'll ever have is a Myrddraal face-to-face, and you walk away alive. Do you join Team Dark One? I love that question.


Brian: It's a great one! Let's leave it there.


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