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 2: Knowing is half the battle
It occurs to me that given the limited understanding rampant in the Third Age, that the Second must be completely unfathomable. To begin with, almost everything you know about the Age of Legends comes from a largely illegible document found in a basement in Chachin. This document is 200 pages long and large parts are missing. The only reasonably complete part covers Lews Therin’s hateful assault on Shayol Ghul.
We on the other hand find history to be ever-present. We were defeated in the War of Power. Only the gift of the Blight provided us with sanctuary. Tucked away in places none but the Sworn would dare, we have our own communities and places of power. There you would find archives that span nearly three thousand years. Some of us even walked the waking world during the time of the Great Collapse and remember it all too well. Personally, while it is a bit frivolous, I rather miss the Ansaline Gardens.
Your understanding of history strains to remember the Compact of Ten Nations. Most of you believe in a nursery rhyme that says that the thirteen Chosen were bound during the moment of creation. So, let’s set the stage, shall we? The Age of Legends was a time of unlimited energy, expertly managed food supplies, and very little disease. Everyone was at peace and had been at peace for so long that war was forgotten all together. Even the weather was controlled. It was by any reasonable measure a paradise.
As a result, the population was orders of magnitude larger than it should be. The best estimates we have is in the tens of billions but for the sake of argument, call it 12 billion souls. Of that 12 billion, roughly 3% could channel. That leaves 360,000,000 channelers of both sexes and all levels of abilities. With numbers like that, it is easy to see how the male Aes Sedai were later able to Break the World.
The War of Power was truly a global conflict. There were no neutral parties. There were no front lines. The War was literally everywhere, and it wasn’t some pedestrian contest between national states. It was a war of ideologies that would decide the fate of reality itself. Despite what those fools in the “peace faction” would have you believe, there could have never been a matter of negotiation, only victory. As such, no weapon, tactic, or target was off the table.
We literally invented a way to burn whole cities from the Pattern. The weave was so powerful that it was as though they never existed in the first place, and we didn’t stop there. We turned Tel’aran’rhiod into a battlefield. People fought one another in the flesh and anyone who died there could not even be restored by the Great Lord. As horrific as that might be, it pales in comparison to what could be done to people without the proper wards. Hard to reach targets and even entire garrisons could be dragged into the world of dreams and effectively lobotomized, or simply marooned while their bodies slowly wasted away.
Everything was made to serve the war effort. Methods of healing were turned inside out. Targeted compulsion could make traitors out of anyone, and with power-enhanced interrogation techniques there was no such thing as a secret. As it turned out, our most potent weapons were biological in nature. Thanks to the tireless and unhindered work of Ishar Morrad Chuain, later Aginor, we had access to nearly unlimited soldiers and servants. The humble trolloc for example may have serious limitations but if you put enough of them on a problem it will eventually go away.
The forces of the Light had their own strengths. A huge majority of the population was under their purview by default. This allowed them to field massive armies of their own even if it was difficult to replace them. By the end of the War even ten-year-olds had become soldiers. They controlled most of the infrastructure and manufacturing capabilities as well as a better understanding of technology overall. They very quickly weaponized every vehicle that crawled, rolled, or was capable of flight. Not to mention inventing all manner of small arms including the now sadly lost, shock lance.
That same infrastructure gave them the edge in command and control. Which means that not only did they have large armies, that they were able to get them where they needed them to be and have them do exactly what needed to be done. Most importantly, the Light also had a vastly superior ability to make sa’angreal. Everyone knows about Callandor, but it wasn’t until afterwards that we learned about the Choedan Kal. It seems the Forces of the Light were so desperate they made two sa’angreal powerful enough to literally end the world.
Our victory seemed certain, so they might have tried it too. We were very, very close to bringing that conflict to a decisive conclusion. Alas, it is exceedingly difficult to do that after suffering a truly devastating decapitation strike. From the start of hostilities to Lews Therin’s mad gambit, the defining part of the War of Power lasted only ten years.
Even after that period, the Light still had to deal with a vast amount of Shadowspawn and Dreadlords. Some of my fellow scholars like to speculate about what might have happened had the Great Lord’s riposte not driven the male Aes Sedai completely insane. I maintain that after significant but not fatal losses we could have regained the initiative. Then again, I’m popularly considered to be something of an optimist.
In any event, now that I have shared enough history to put the Age of Legends in context, we can move on to discussing exactly what it was that poor Beidomon, and the intrepid Mierin Eronaile found that day.
Coming soon, Part 3: Everything you ever wanted