1.4.11: What was up with the Forsaken at the Cleansing? --Updated
[Leigh Butler, Doug Stanley]
The Battle of Shadar Logoth was an unqualified rout for the Shadow. Cadsuane's little band of channelers not only successfully defended Rand and Nynaeve from half a dozen Forsaken, but gave the bad guys a fair ass-kicking while they were at it, killing one FS (Osan'gar) and driving off the rest. (We're not told what if any injuries the rest of the Forsaken sustained, but it seems safe to assume that at least a couple were wounded in the battle; it doesn't seem that any besides Osan'gar were actually killed.)
So what we'd like to know is this: why were the Forsaken so badly prepared for the fight that a bunch of "half-trained children" trounced them thoroughly? Why would Moridin have them all gate in willy-nilly, with no apparent plan of attack and no conventional back-up forces of any kind?
It's been suggested that Moridin caused the fiasco deliberately - that he purposefully sent in the Forsaken unprepared, either to teach them a lesson ("NOW will you work together, dammit?"), to whittle down their numbers, or because for some unknown reason he actually wanted the Taint cleansed.
However, this doesn't seem very likely, especially the last suggestion. There's no possible benefit to Moridin or the Shadow in general to have the DO's greatest revenge on the world (the Taint) erased and Rand and the Asha'man able to channel free from the spectre of madness and a rotting death. It's clear from the various reactions at the Coffee Hour that cleansing the Taint is a Bad Thing for the Forsaken.
As for the idea that Moridin was deliberately reducing the Forsaken's numbers, it's doubtful that Moridin is that stupid or wasteful - there are few enough of the Forsaken left as it is. While it's true that the Forsaken have always schemed against each other as much as against the good guys, the whole point of the "reining in" of the FS Moridin's been doing since his reappearance is to get them to quit the backstabbing and start being an effective group of evildoers. Moridin doesn't need to kill anybody off; he's already in charge. In the same vein, Moridin also doesn't need to set up practical examples of why the Forsaken should work together when he can simply force them to do so.
So if Moridin didn't set them up to fail, what's the deal?
Well, probably what Moridin didn't anticipate is that the Good Guys, especially Rand, finally got a clue. After all, the Forsaken's attack would have worked if Rand had tried cleansing the Taint the way he originally planned to do it - i.e. with just himself and Nynaeve. The two of them would have been defenseless if Cadsuane and Co. had not tracked Rand down and bullied him into taking them along. The only thing the FS knew was that Rand and a female channeler were there, occupied with wielding ungodly amounts of the Power, not that anyone else was with them - and since Rand made the decision to take along Cadsuane and the rest immediately before going to Shadar Logoth, the FS had no opportunity to learn of the change in plans.
Also, prior to that point, who would have thought that Aes Sedai and Asha'man would actually work together, linking to form circles? (Apparently mixed-gender circles hugely magnify the strength of the individual channelers.) How could Moridin have anticipated that Rand would let someone else use Callandor? Moridin also had no knowledge of Alivia, who outclasses Nynaeve, or of the impressive cache of angreal and ter'angreal Nynaeve and Cads had between them. [Dave Rothgery]
Finally, the way events fell out, the Forsaken didn't have any real way to formulate a plan. They didn't know when, where, or how Rand was going to make the attempt to cleanse the Taint; the only thing they could do was wait to detect gargantuan amounts of the Power being channeled, and go try and stop Rand from finishing the task.
Some other questions/objections:
Why didn't Moridin join the others? One fancloth-covered TP channeler could have tipped the balance [Sean T. McCulloch].
A: In [TPOD: Prologue, Deceptive Appearances, 43], Moridin recalls the disastrous result the last time he tried to confront Rand directly (i.e. he died). It's clear he's not anxious to try that again anytime soon. As for fancloth, even if anyone besides Moridin knows how to do it, it very well may require time to prepare (creating and donning a full-body suit of it), time the FS didn't have. There is also Aaron Cote's suggestion that perhaps Moridin is having the same kind of problems with channeling that Rand is (see section 2.3.16 and section 2.1.7), and that's why he was a no-show.
Q: Where were Semirhage and Mesaana?
A: Mesaana was playing hooky, and got severely punished for it. Semirhage was present, but Jordan didn't mention her.
Semirhage was present at Shadar Logoth, though not seen. You didn't see Graendal, either, though admittedly Moghedien thought of her, thinking it would be good if she or Cyndane died. If I always tried to show everyone who was present at a battle or the like, the books would be a LOT longer than they are now. And those battles would get rather boring, a list of names. Go down the checklist and make sure everyone gets mentioned. Boring. Anyway, Mesaana was the only one who tried to sit it out. By the way, Moridin also was not present, for reasons that will become self-evident as you read on.
Q: Why not gate in a horde of Trollocs, or a gholam, or at least some Darkfriends?
A: We learn during the attack on Algarin's manor in KOD that Trollocs and other Shadowspawm cannot pass through a Gateway and survive. [KOD 19: Vows]
Q: If circles magnify strength so much, why didn't the Forsaken form one?
A: Doug Stanley sums it up thusly: "Forming one circle would have been quite stupid, even if they were willing to do so. It's doubtful they could withstand an attack from Callandor even with a circle, and with Rand's forces broken up into several widely spaced groups, they would face multiple simultaneous attacks from different directions. The only defense, really, is to dodge such attacks, by running or gating, which is hardly feasible while linked."