The Forsaken were channelers who served the side of the Shadow in the War of Power. They were known to followers of the Shadow as "Those Chosen To Rule The World Forever," or simply the Chosen. Among the Atha'an Shadar (Seanchan Darkfriends) they are known formally as Da'concion, or "the Chosen Ones". The Aiel call them the Shadowsouled.
Although during the War of Power there were dozens of Forsaken leading the armies of the Shadow, as time passed, the term "Forsaken" came to refer to only the thirteen most powerful among them, who were caught in the sealing of the Bore and imprisoned with the Dark One. The horrific deeds of each were remembered long after their disappearance. In the Third Age, these thirteen were such infamous symbols of the Shadow that mothers would use stories of their exploits to frighten children.
A well known catechism about the Forsaken is as follows: "The Dark One and all the Forsaken are bound in Shayol Ghul, bound by the Creator at the moment of Creation, bound until the end of time," or a similar variant. This is incorrect, of course, as the Forsaken were not even born until the Age of Legends, and it is unclear if there even was an original "moment of Creation"—nor is the imprisonment forever. Due to the general weakening of the Seven Seals, some, perhaps all thirteen, had escaped by 997 NE, and all were certainly free by 998 NE.
In the Age of Legends, those who could channel the One Power afforded the most status and honor as Aes Sedai, living up to the literal translation "servants of all." They employed their various Talents in ways that served the good of society. If a channeler used the Power in a way that was harmful or deceitful, which was relatively rare, he or she would be bound as a criminal by a binder that prevented a repeat offense. Although some such individuals existed who were immoral, there existed little or no opportunity to prosper through corrupt means as service to humanity, in general, was the means by which one could acquire status.
It is noted that the idea of violence and war was supposedly a lost term in the Age of Legends, that the release of the Dark One spurred such evil deeds that gave the Forsaken their names and reputations, but this is incorrect. It is known that several of the Forsaken were sadistic in the application of their Talents to the general public, some even being fond of an ancient and -at the time- bloodless sport called "Swords" that allowed people to take part in a form of violence that they considered tame.
This changed when the Dark One's touch entered the world. It began when research at the Collam Daan led to an energy source, seemingly outside the Pattern, which could be tapped by both men and women equally, without the restrictions associated in the gender split of the One Power. Led by researcher Mierin Eronaile, later known as Lanfear, a bore was drilled where the Pattern was thin, into the energy source so tantalizing - and straight through into the Dark One's prison. The Bore had been created, and the effects the Dark One had on the world would affect society at its basest level, and cause the Collapse.
With the release of the Dark One upon the world, the worst attributes of human nature were rediscovered and nurtured in all corners of the world; from violence and corruption to open hate, anger, selfishness and disgust, all these things blossomed where once there had been a near Utopia.
In addition, there were now rewards for evil acts, the Dark One disdained the way the Pattern was run and encouraged those discontent with their lot with the simplest and most alluring thing that humans can be offered, the option for power in a bid to sow chaos and destruction on the thing he hated. Average people who swore allegiance to the Shadow called themselves Friends of the Dark and were promised immortality, while those who dedicated themselves to the Dark One and could channel were given the highest status and became the "Chosen", scientists and inventors who sought power and notoriety were encouraged to subvert their arts to create things for the ever increasing forces of the Shadow.
Those who were the bravest and most ambitious chose to swear allegiance to the Dark One directly, by Travelling to the seat of his power and swearing the oaths at Shayol Ghul. Of those Channellers who were called Chosen - given new names by the rest of humanity and collectively called the Forsaken - many fell, were turned or were seduced to the Shadow, but of these men and women, thirteen stood head and shoulders above all other Friends of the Dark due to their deeds in fighting for the Shadow.
Many of the male Forsaken, including Sammael, Rahvin, Demandred, and possibly Be'lal all joined due to their jealousy of Lews Therin. Others - particularly Semirhage - were utterly corrupt from the beginning, or, like Lanfear, they joined for the promise of power and immortality. Ishamael, who was something of a nihilist even before the Bore was drilled, was unique in that he joined because his logic concluded that humanity was doomed, as the Dark One could achieve permanent victory, while humanity could never truly destroy the Dark One without losing their free will. As victory was impossible, he reasoned that it would be better to join the Shadow and rule for a time before the Dark One brought the world to an end.
The War of Power and the True Power
The War of the Shadow was largely led by Forsaken. They held positions of power and leadership, commanding armies that ravaged mercilessly against defenders of the Light and innocent civilians alike, and governing territories for the Dark with rule marked by terror. They worked behind the scenes fomenting discord, spreading propaganda, and orchestrating disastrous "accidents." They perpetrated countless atrocities against humanity in the name of science, knowledge, or with no "cause" whatsoever. Acting as Dreadlords, each of the Forsaken was marked in a manner such that no Shadowspawn could disobey them. The mark also enabled the Dark One to find them at any time, such that they cannot hide from their master.
Once there were many Forsaken, at least thirty of high rank, but they schemed against each other as often as against the forces of the Light. Twenty-nine of the Forsaken were given special permission from the Dark One to touch the True Power. This was the unified source of energy originally sought by Lanfear's research, equally accessible to males and females, but only with the access granted personally by the Dark One.
By the last days of the War of Power, none approaching the strength of those now known as the Forsaken still lived, though none had died through the efforts of the Light. The Forsaken schemed and plotted against one another, each vying for the highest honor bestowed by the Dark One, which was to be named Nae'blis: the one who would stand greater than all other Forsaken, to stand higher than all humanity, second only to the "Great Lord" himself. The Dark One encouraged such activity among his servants, as he only wished the strongest to serve him. The Dark One himself had a considerable number of Forsaken killed due to his own suspicions, according to Demandred.
The Forsaken all joined the Dark One for selfish reasons - power, glory, immortality, revenge, freedom from societal restrictions, etc. This selfishness has led Verin Mathwin to make the statement that, for all their power, the Forsaken are actually fairly predictable. The sole possible exception to this was Ishamael, who believed that the cyclic nature of the Wheel made the Dark One's victory inevitable.
After the Bore was sealed, the active members of those who were called Forsaken turned their armies against each other. It is assured that none managed to survive the Breaking.
The lead thirteen however, managed to survive, though trapped. They had been summoned to Shayol Ghul and all thirteen were gathered deep within the mountain when Lews Therin Telamon arrived with the Hundred Companions. The Strike sealed the Bore to the Dark One's prison using the cuendillar seals, imprisoning the Dark One and the thirteen Forsaken.
Scale of power given by The Wheel of Time Companion
The thirteen imprisoned Forsaken were among the thirteen most powerful channelers on the side of the dark, and all of them were considered to be very strong in the One Power. They are ranked below accordingly. The values representing overall strength in the One Power are derived from The Wheel of Time Companion.
There are a number of places in the novels that define the power levels of the Forsaken as they themselves see it which appear to contradict the Companion. However, as the most recently published official source of information for the Wheel of Time series, statements made in the Companion are to be considered canon until such time as new information is published. But also it is important to note that the levels of strength given by the Companion itself in many articles are not totally accurate, in fact ,there are many contradictions or even full mistakes between one article to another, with levels that even do not exist (for instance we can see in the Companion the article relative to Cadsuane and the one relative to Nicola, that are contradicting to each other, or the level of strength given in Sorilea's article, that does not exist in the scale).
Considering this contradictions inside the Companion itself, the data given by it are canon but they are also to be considered cautiously, especially when they are totally in contradiction also with the main books of the series; for instance ,regarding the female Fosraken we can note that Graendal in the main books is always described second only to Lanfear in terms of strength, instead in the Companion Graendal is described two levels below Lanfear and also Semirhage (that are at the top level) and one level below Mesaana.
There are, however, a number of in-universe explanations that may help to correct the confusion. The first of these is that the Companion defines the strength of the Forsaken only in terms of the raw, maximum amount of the One Power that each individual could draw upon at once. But as is the case with the practitioners of any martial discipline, strength alone does not determine the effectiveness of a channeler in battle. Experience, skill, dexterity, reflexes, particular Talents, and other ancillary factors that could offset raw strength are not addressed in the Companion's scale. For instance, Rahvin, despite being stronger than all of the other Forsaken besides Ishamael, appeared to be lower in status than a great number of his peers, including Lanfear, Graendal, and Semirhage, all of whom were considerably weaker than him.
It is also important to note that there is differentiation within the ranks themselves. For example, two individuals with a strength of ++2 may not be able to draw on exactly the same amount of Power, but would be closer to each other in strength than they would be to a ++1 or a ++3 channeler.
With regard to the pecking order amongst the Forsaken (which was dependent on far more than simply raw channeling ability), all that is known is that, according to Robert Jordan, "Ishamael, Demandred, Lanfear, Graendal, Semirhage, and later Sammael, were always at the top end of the pyramid."
|Name||Strength Level||Notes on status and ability|
|Ishamael||++1||Known beyond any doubt to have been the most powerful of the Forsaken. Like the Dragon, he had reached the maximum level of strength that a human being could achieve in the One Power. When he was resurrected as Moridin, he maintained the same level of power as the same soul inhabited both bodies. Ironically, the fact that he was the strongest of the Forsaken in terms of his channeling abilities is largely irrelevant, as he was known to have used the True Power to what appeared to be the complete exclusion of the One Power, and the amount of the True Power that he was permitted to draw upon vastly exceeded the amount of the One Power he could draw upon.|
|Rahvin||++1||Rahvin was one of only three known individuals to be within the ++1 tier, putting him in the same category as both Rand al'Thor and Ishamael. However, what evidence exists pointed to him having slightly less power than either of those two, as Rand al'Thor was as strong as a human can be with regard to the One Power, and the only other person said to match him was Ishamael. Rahvin's ability and position among the Forsaken are not detailed, but despite his strength, he did not appear to be amongst the more prominent Forsaken.|
|Demandred||++2||Mesaana once stated at one point that had Lews Therin never existed, Demandred would have been the most acclaimed Aes Sedai of the Age of Legends. Even given his tendency to overestimate himself, his strategic planning abilities and combat skills were known to have been extraordinary.|
|Sammael||++2||Known to be strong in the One Power, but little else. Rahvin believed Sammael could overpower Lanfear if necessary. Although reputed for crafting elaborate schemes and being a skilled tactician, Graendal considered him unsubtle and Lanfear implied his tactics had never brought him victory in battle when Lews Therin Telamon had led the opposing force. His strategic abilities tended more towards defense than offense.|
|Aginor||++2||Despite Aginor's considerable strength in the One Power, he appears to have been somewhat subservient to Demandred and flat-out admitted on one occasion to being terrified of Ishamael. As such, his lack of talent for combat with the Power may have contributed substantially to his apparently lackluster stature amongst the Forsaken. In fact, his apparent lack of combat or strategic planning abilities led Demandred to believe that he had been Chosen only due to his expertise at genetic engineering. He retained the same strength in his incarnation as Osan'gar.|
|Balthamel||++3||Based on statements by Robert Jordan, it is speculated that Aginor possessed enough ability to channel the Power so that overwhelming Balthamel in a direct contest of strength would not have been terribly difficult for him. Additionally, Balthamel appeared to have been afraid of Logain Ablar, who, though rated at ++2 in strength in the One Power, was relatively limited in his knowledge of how to use it. He retained the same strength in his incarnation as Aran'gar. His abilities apparently tended more towards espionage than open combat.|
|Asmodean||++3||Known to be the weakest of the male Forsaken. As his strength level is just above Be'lal's, however, it is possible Asmodean was regarded as the "weakest" among the men because his skill in the One Power was the least refined, negating his greater strength. This is lent credence by Asmodean's preoccupation with the arts, rather than martial pursuits.|
|Be'lal||++4||Nothing is known of Be'lal's capabilities aside from his strength level, which is lower than Asmodean's despite Asmodean being regarded as the weakest male Forsaken. It is possible that Be'lal was more skilled in the use of the One Power than Asmodean, negating whatever advantage the latter may have had in raw strength and resulting in Be'lal's higher stature among his peers. He was said to have been envious of Ishamael and Lanfear especially, though the reasons for this envy are unknown. It is more than likely that he was envious of both Ishamael's position as the most favored of the Forsaken and the most powerful amongst them, and of Lanfear's favor, as she was weaker in the power than him.|
|Lanfear||1(+12) originally, 2(+11) as Cyndane||Widely rumored during the Third Age to have been the second strongest of the Forsaken due to her infamy, it turned out that she is actually only the ninth strongest of the thirteen. Rahvin was of the opinion that either he or Sammael would have been able to overpower Lanfear if it had been necessary. As noted above, Lanfear carried an Angreal with her at all times, one which was so powerful that it was judged to nearly be a sa'angreal and which was unknown to possibly all of the other Forsaken. It allowed her to deceive others, such as Rand al'Thor, into believing she was significantly more powerful than she actually was. Lanfear lost a notable amount of her natural channeling capabilities during her time as a captive of the Eelfinn, and her subsequent resurrection Cyndane retained this loss (though, even as Cyndane, she allegedly remained the most powerful of the female Forsaken). Moiraine Damodred retained her angreal.|
|Semirhage||1(+12)||Her strength in the One Power was never elaborated on, but it is implied she was an extremely dexterous weaver due to her mastery of torture techniques and understanding of the workings of the human body. Despite having been in the same power tier as Lanfear, she did not have the same level of authority that Lanfear had.|
|Mesaana||2(+11)||In the prologue to the fifth book it is noted that: "Mesaana...matched well with Semirhage on most points...had strengths to lay against weaknesses". However, Mesaana was known to demonstrate a measure of deference to Semirhage. Brandon Sanderson noted that Mesaana was weaker than Nynaeve, although Nynaeve's raw strength level was 4(+9) with an eventual potential of 3(+10). It is possible that the ease with which Nynaeve learned new weaves allowed her to eclipse Mesaana's own skills relatively quickly, or that Mesaana was not terribly skilled with combative weaves or was not a very dexterous channeler.|
|Graendal||3(+10)||Graendal was described as having been the second most powerful of the female Forsaken, but in terms of raw strength, it appears as though she was in fact fourth amongst them. In spite of having less raw channeling ability than a number of her female compatriots, her skill in using combative weaves, her dexterity, and her various other talents may have offset her relative lack of strength enough for her to have been considered second in "power'. Additionally, she was known (though not by the other Forsaken) to carry an angreal, though hers was not nearly as powerful as that carried by Lanfear. This may have also contributed to her reputation for strength. She retained the same strength in her incarnation as Hessalam.|
|Moghedien||4(+9)||Known to be the weakest of all of the Forsaken in terms of pure strength in the One Power. However, her mastery of Tel'aran'rhiod was unsurpassed (with the possible exception of Ishamael's skill there, as he was the only known Dreamer amongst the Forsaken), despite Lanfear claiming to have had superior abilities in the dream world.|
Ishamael, the first of the Chosen to reveal himself, haunted the dreams of Rand al'Thor, Mat Cauthon, and Perrin Aybara, suspecting one of them to be the Dragon Reborn and attempting to turn them to the Shadow. He was badly burned by Rand during a skirmish in Tel'aran'rhiod, during the same struggle that killed Aginor, and was wounded again in another battle in the skies above Falme. He was finally killed in the Heart of the Stone after Rand defeated him a third time, with Callandor.
Besides the partially trapped Ishamael, Balthamel and Aginor were sealed closest to the surface of the metaphysical prison and were not protected from the effects of aging along with having nightmares. Time wore away at their bodies leaving both gruesomely disfigured, but no less powerful. Their proximity to the surface of the Bore also meant they were first among the trapped Chosen released into the current Age.
They set themselves to controlling the Eye of the World, but were foiled by the Green Man and Rand's inexpert channeling. Balthamel was killed by the dying Someshta, while Aginor was killed in a struggle with Rand over the pure saidin pool.
Sammael, Be'lal, and Rahvin became political powers, assuming the identities of Lord Brend in Illian, High Lord Samon in Tear, and Lord Gaebril in Andor respectively. All three died battling Rand al'Thor. Be'lal was killed in the Stone of Tear by Moiraine Damodred using balefire, while Rand distracted him. Both Rahvin and Be'lal were killed by balefire, so neither may be reincarnated by the Dark Lord. It is believed that Sammael was killed by Mashadar at Shadar Logoth.
Lanfear first appeared as Selene; she tried and failed to lure Rand to her side with her sultry beauty and whispers of glory. She was eager to reclaim Lews Therin, her once-lover, as her own in his new incarnation as Rand al'Thor, but he was no more interested than he had been in his previous lifetime. Lanfear posed as a peddler named Keille Shaogi and, along with Asmodean disguised as the gleeman Jasin Natael, led a train of Darkfriend merchants into the Aiel Waste. They intended to disrupt Rand's plans with the Aiel, and to get closer to Rhuidean and the access keys of the Choedan Kal.
In Rhuidean, Rand cut Asmodean's ties to the Dark One, at which point, Lanfear betrayed and shielded Asmodean. Asmodean was forced to teach him much about channeling the One Power as his power, limited by a partial shield courtesy of Lanfear, allowed. Asmodean was eventually killed in Caemlyn by Graendal.
Lanfear died in Cairhien after she learned that Rand had taken a lover. She confronted Rand at the docks of Cairhien, meaning to kill him, but Moiraine tackled her and they both fell into a twisted redstone doorframe, which subsequently melted to the ground, trapping them both in the land of the Aelfinn and the Eelfinn. She was drained of power and killed for the pleasure of the Aelfinn and Eelfinn.
Semirhage attached herself to the seat of power in Seanchan. She took the guise of Anath Dorje, Truthspeaker of the Seanchan Daughter of the Nine Moons, and also controlled the High Lady Suroth, a known Darkfriend. Failing to control Tuon, Semirhage had the entire royal family in Seanchan murdered, plunging Seanchan into chaos. She then gave Suroth the task to find and kill Tuon and promised her the Crystal Throne if she succeeded. Semirhage plotted to capture Rand al'Thor by tricking him into attending a meeting where she posed as High Lady Tuon herself but, forewarned, Rand captured Semirhage, though not without injury. She was killed by Rand, who escaped her use of the Domination Band by accessing the True Power and channeling balefire at her.
Mesaana positioned herself in the White Tower, posing as Danelle Sedai. She had a hand in stirring up the chaos during the White Tower Schism, manipulating Elaida by way of Alviarin of the Black Ajah. Mesaana had planned to have the Dragon Reborn within her hands within a couple of months after the White Tower delegation went to meet him. There were a number of Black sisters in that embassy who kidnapped and tortured Rand, likely due to Mesaana's orchestration of events.
When the plan failed to deliver Rand to the Tower, Mesaana remained there and continued to plot, using the Black Ajah as her tools. On the other hand, some Aes Sedai were aware of her presence in the Tower. After stalking Egwene al'Vere in the White Tower, Mesaana coordinates an aggressive attack in Tel'aran'rhiod. She fights against Aes Sedai, Wise Ones, and Egwene until the latter delivers an overpowering blow that fractures her mind. Though her body is alive, Mesaana remains only as a limp, mindless husk.
Graendal disappeared into Arad Doman, plotting to aid the Shadow's cause under the guise of the ailing Lady Basene. Moridin hinted to her that there will be a place, a promotion for her, subordinate to him but above the rest of the Chosen if she were to cause Rand great anguish, while not harming him. She must not allow Rand to restore order in Arad Doman. Rand tried to kill her with balefire that destroyed the entirety of Natrin's Barrow, and Rand believed he had succeeded in eliminating Graendal from existence.
Graendal survived the attempt on her life, however, escaping through a gateway at the last moment. She was forced to flee Arad Doman, failing to keep Rand from gaining a foothold in Arad Doman. To regain favor from the Nae'blis, Graendal later tried to kill Perrin Aybara, but failed in this too. She was punished harshly by Shaidar Haran for her failure, and her punishment included being killed and reborn in a physically ugly body. During the Last Battle, she uses her mastery of Compulsion to manipulate the commanders of the Light into blundering strategic decisions.
Moghedien took command of a small group of Black Ajah sisters, but was defeated and captured by Nynaeve al'Meara and controlled with an a'dam. She was released by Aran'gar and summoned to Shayol Ghul, where she was mindtrapped by Moridin.
Service beyond the grave
By the beginning of the Last Battle only Demandred and Moghedien survived in their original forms. Some of the dead Forsaken have been resurrected in new bodies by the Lord of the Grave: their new incarnations are named Osan'gar, Aran'gar, Moridin, Cyndane, and Hessalam.
Moridin is nae'blis, lord of the Forsaken, and the reincarnation of Ishamael.
Cyndane is the reincarnation of Lanfear, but is currently out of favor with the Dark Lord and, like Moghedien, is mindtrapped by Moridin.
Aran'gar, the reincarnation of Balthamel, was placed in a woman's body but still channeled saidin. She recently hid with the Salidar Aes Sedai using the alias Halima Saranov. She worked as secretary to Delana Mosalaine, a Black sister posing as Gray, and servant of the Amyrlin Seat Egwene al'Vere. When her cover is compromised by an Asha'man sensing her saidin, she flees. Aran'gar is destroyed by Rand al'thor's balefire while in Natrin's Barrow. Graendal had shielded her, which prevented Aran'gar's escape.
Responsible for the deaths of Asmodean and Aran'gar through balefire, and Mesaana's defeat within the White Tower, Graendal has earned the Great Lord's disfavor. She was last seen about to be punished by Shaidar Haran. Her punishment would include being killed and reborn in a very physically ugly body; her new name was Hessalam.
Demandred was the last Forsaken to be accounted for. He was once suspected to be masquerading as Mazrim Taim, but that theory has been disproved. During the Last Battle, he was revealed to have taken on the persona of Bao the Wyld, leader of the nation of Shara. He was killed by Lan Mandragoran during the Last Battle on the Field of Merrilor.
Mazrim Taim was named Chosen by Moridin shortly before the Last Battle and took the name M'Hael. Graendal was killed and brought back as an ugly old woman given the name Hessalam, which is "without forgiveness" in the Old Tongue.
- Moghedien (Collared by Seanchan after the Last Battle ends)
- Graendal (as Hessalam) (under deep compulsion due to an accident while battling Aviendha, she now fawns over Aviendha)
- Mesaana - Brain dead
- Aginor/Osan'gar - Burned when tried to drain too much Power from the Eye of the World/Killed with Fire by Elza Penfell
- Asmodean - Killed by Graendal
- Balthamel/Aran'gar -Killed by Someshta/Killed with balefire by Rand al'Thor
- Be'lal - Killed with balefire by Moiraine Damodred 
- Rahvin - Killed with balefire by Rand al'Thor
- Sammael - Killed by Mashadar
- Semirhage - Killed with balefire by Rand al'Thor
- Ishamael/Moridin - Killed by Rand al'Thor in the Heart of the Stone of Tear/Killed when Rand sealed the Bore
- Lanfear/Cyndane - Killed by Moridin in Sindhol for resurrection/Neck snapped by Perrin Aybara
- Demandred - Beheaded by Lan Mandragoran
- M'Hael - Killed by Egwene al'Vere using the Flame of Tar Valon
- The Eye of the World, Chapter 1
- The Dragon Reborn, Chapter 51
- The term Dreadlords may not be the most accurate description, as some assert that the term didn't appear until after the sealing of the Bore.
- Towers of Midnight, Chapter 5
- A Crown of Swords, Chapter 25
- With the possible exception of Ishamael, who appears to have joined the Shadow due to the perceived logic of the impossibility of humankind's fight against the Dark One.
- The Gathering Storm, Prologue
- A Memory of Light, Prologue
- Towers of Midnight, Chapter 38
- Winter's Heart, Chapter 35
- Towers of Midnight, Glossary
- Towers of Midnight, Prologue
- The Dragon Reborn, Chapter 55
- The Fires of Heaven, Chapter 55
- A Crown of Swords, Chapter 41
- The Gathering Storm, Chapter 22