The Shadow Knows is an ongoing series about things Dark as seen by a mysterious, Friend of the Night. As such, they are written from a certain point of view and cannot be taken as the absolute truth. These articles are intended to be entertaining, and at times might contradict accepted canon. Viewer discretion is advised.
Part 7: Chasing the Dragon
Lews Therin Telamon, also called The Dragon. He was First among the Servants and the Commander in Chief of the Armies of the Light during the War of Power. He also masterminded the spear tip assault that sealed the Bore. He was a lightning rod; he was loved and respected worldwide but also reviled for hubris. Then again, is it really hubris if you can back it up? He was without a doubt a brilliant general, and perhaps the most powerful channeler of his time. He was by any measure a titan and dominated any field or room he deigned to grace with his presence. Yet, some of his closest friends found him so toxic that they turned their coats rather than continue to have to deal with him.
Many people like to compare themselves with Lews Therin. This is especially true amongst the Chosen, with Demandred perhaps making the best claim to that dubious honor. Demandred was born the day after Lews Therin, he was almost as strong in the power, and almost as capable of a commander as the Dragon. It is an interesting argument. The idea that someone could be that good at so many divergent things. The problem here is, absolutely no one was anywhere close to Lews Therin. I mean that, absolutely no one. Not Demandred. Not Ishamael. No one.
How can I be so absolutely certain about this? Well, that is a simple matter to deduce. People who are close to one another in skill level or power naturally compete very closely with one another. This simply isn’t the case. If for example Demandred was only a sliver less than the Dragon, he should have beaten him more often. The best example of this occurs when Blademasters duel one another. There is certainly a range of talent, practice, and age that goes into determining which duelist is the most successful. That being said, I would expect those win rates somewhere around 60/40.
There isn’t anyone amongst the Sworn who could claim anywhere near that success rate when facing Lews Therin on a one-to-one basis. Ishamael did “humble him in the Hall of Servants” but he got away with it only because the Dragon let him leave. Demandred did see a certain amount of military success but only because he had Sammael, and Be’lal to guard his flanks. Think about that for a moment. It took the three greatest generals amongst the Chosen, and a minimum of a four to one advantage in numbers to push his army to anywhere near the breaking point.
It is important to note that to even manage that, they had some very specific advantages. All three of them were once close friends and confidants of the Dragon. He and Be’lal took swords from a sport to the battlefield. Demandred was his strong right hand, and all four of them had to reinvent the very concept of war out of whole cloth. Collectively they literally wrote the book and it was very much a collaborative effort. They knew how one another thought and each other’s war-fighting abilities intimately. The three Chosen had all of those advantages and they still could not bring the War of Power to a decisive conclusion before the Dragon put an end to it his way at Shayol Ghul.
There are those who like to point out that prior to Lews Therin’s great gamble, the Light had not retaken any territory in the last year of the War at all. Therefore, the Light was destined to lose had things been allowed to run their course. True enough, they were definitely on the back foot. But that argument only works at face value. The enemy was capable of coming to the aid of neighboring provinces had they wanted to do so. The fact of the matter is that there wasn’t anything within their reach that they actually wanted.
Despite the Dragon’s public image, he could be utterly ruthless when it suited him. For example, midway through the war, the Light’s strategic vision changed radically. In the beginning their goal was the protection of civilians and their liberation should they be captured by our armies. That changed to focusing on our outright destruction and civilians became a secondary concern at best. You see, liberation came at a terrible price. Even if the area did not merit specific attention by one of the Chosen, they all quickly became living nightmares.
As I mentioned in an earlier episode, the Age of Legends enjoyed a vastly inflated population due to their mastery of the weather and food production / distribution. As a result, cities were large, sprawling affairs. This proved to be a great boon where logistics were concerned. All those people made it easy for Trollocs to fill their cookpots. It also meant that there were a higher number of people with skills useful to the war effort. These were immediately relocated behind the lines. The rest were left to starve. In time the most vicious would become Friends of the Night and bolster our conventional armies. I won’t even get into what the Myrddraal were want to do when they were not on duty.
Captured cities were nothing short of hellscapes. Ultimately The Lord of the Morning left tens of millions of innocent people to death and worse because it wasn’t worth the resources it would take to save them. To his way of thinking they could always deal with the collateral damage after the primary threat had been removed. Until then, civilians were a distraction.
The closest thing he had to an actual rival was Ishamael. The Betrayer of Hope is a complicated individual, one that I will cover more completely in the future. He clings to the belief that he and Lews Therin have always opposed one another through the Ages. This is not true. Shadow Souled do not get reincarnated in the same way that the champions of the Light do. Ishamael, regardless of the name he uses or the body he takes, has always only had this one life. He is also not Ta’veren. Lews Therin on the hand is the most powerful Ta’veren the world has ever seen.
Ishamael was only able to compete at all because he had nearly unlimited access to the True Power, and at times the direct intervention of the Great Lord. Even with all of that, he still lost far more than he ever won. Ishamael is a capable if uninspired commander. But he had none of the flair and genius that the Dragon enjoyed. As a result, he never beat Lews Therin in the field. On those occasions where the two of them dueled with the Power, Ishamael also failed to defeat his nemesis. More recently, he faced the Dragon Reborn at Falme and outright died as a result.
Not bad for an unschooled farm boy. The Betrayer of Hope had every possible advantage and he still wasn’t able to put Rand al’ Thor down. This is not to say that there are not any ways to deal with the Dragon Reborn. They are mostly asymmetrical in nature because direct assaults are almost certainly bound to fail. But that is a discussion for another time. In the end, obsessing about the Dragon or his most recent incarnation is a waste of time and energy. If most of the Chosen focused more on the mission and less on Lews Therin, we would have already won.
Next, Part 8: Hungry like the Wolf.

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