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.
This post contains spoilers for New Spring.
The fashion of Arad Doman focused predominantly on that of the women. The only clear depiction of male attire is that of Basram during the Aiel War, which is definitely military, rather than civilian. “The hood of his cloak slid back, revealing his conical steel helmet…vertical bars of his faceguard” (p. 2). He is described as wearing gloves and being armed with a horsebow.
Most people of Arad Doman were of a copper complexion and slim. “Copper-skinned Domani women in fancifully worked cloaks – doubtless merchants; most Domani women seen abroad were” (p. 64). Tamore Alkohima was a highly praised seamstress in Tar Valon. She was “fair-skinned for a Domani” (p. 190). Leane Sharif, Aes Sedai of the Blue Ajah, was “willowy and as tall as most men” (p. 162). Jeaine Caide, a “slim, copper-skinned Domani” was Aes Sedai of the Green Ajah (p. 158). However, there are always exceptions. At the Blue Rose Inn, there was a “plump copper-skinned woman wearing a much thicker dress than Domani women usually did” (p. 225).
The Domani fashion for women was generally “clinging and little short of sheer” (p. 304). Three women at the Evening Star Inn wore “bright Domani dresses” and “tall chain-necklaces of gold that covered their entire necks” (p. 316). Tamore Alkohima wore a “pale green dress, elegant and simple at the same time” which “spoke well of her talents, though it did cling in an alarming manner, molding her in a way that left no doubts of exactly what lay beneath the silk” (p. 190). Duhara Basaheen was the Keeper raised from the Red Ajah. “Her dark dress was so slashed with scarlet it might as well have been scarlet” (p. 206).
Male military fashion of Arad Doman included conical helmets with vertical bars across the faceguard. Women’s fashion generally included sheer and clinging gowns as well as embroidered cloaks and tall necklaces.
There have been many reaction pieces to the trailer for the Amazon Prime adaptation for the Wheel of Time. People have shared their hopes for the show while others have shared their critiques of what the trailer have showed us. These reactions have demonstrated what many of us already know: fans of The Wheel of Time have a great love for the series and a desire to see this adaptation done well. We want to see our favorite scenes played out onscreen, to see the swordfights, the comic interplay between the members of the Women’s Circle and the Village Council of Emond’s Field, and even to feel the fear in Shadar Logoth.
Why do we want to experience these events onscreen when we have built them up in our minds and imagined them? Speaking for myself there are a few reasons, the first of which is: I want validation. I want to be able to say, “Yes! That’s how I always pictured it in my head. I’m glad someone else imagined it the same way.” Another reason I want to experience the saga onscreen is because I want more people to like what I like. Some people are more drawn into sights and sounds than they are to the written word; if the sights and sounds of a show or a movie are going to draw someone in more effectively than a book, than get it produced!
As for why I want people to be drawn into the series: The Wheel of Time series has been a part of my life since 10th grade, in 1999. I would bring the paperback books to school and read them before class, after class…and during class when I could get away with it. I would let the words paint a picture in my mind and escape whatever I had been going through in my real life. I also remember the excitement that I had when one of my classmates started reading the books; someone else, that wasn’t a family member, was experiencing the world of WoT for themselves. Again, there was that shared experience.
And here, at TarValon.Net, we know that the desire to share our individual experiences with the Wheel of Time has brought us together. Sometimes, making one’s way through the series can seem like a slog; including New Spring, there are 15 books in the series, and the books are not thin. Other times, we want to voice dissatisfaction with particular characters with whom we do not empathize. Yet, we also want to share our favorite scenes or to say how our favorite character is clearly better than another.
So as we prepare for the coming of the Amazon Prime show, I hope we can all welcome new people into our love for the Wheel of Time. And I also hope that we’ll be able to say, “That scene, I wasn’t sure about it at first, but it really does the books justice.” Most of all, I would like the show to remind us why we fell in love with the series in the first place.
Warderball is back for our 11th season! Follow along as Tar Valon.Net’s finest battle against each other every week in head-to-head fantasy football matchups! We’ve got returning players and some new additions that should make for a great season. We’re going to introduce the teams and we had league commissioner, Braedan Fearghal, weigh in on each team’s potential MVP.
Atane’s Accomplices: Atane is a newcomer to the league this year. We can definitely see he is a Chiefs fan with four of his players coming from Kansas City. His best pick looks to be Tyreek Hill. Week 12 should be interesting with four “starters” on a bye that week.
Band of the Red Hand: Xander is a league veteran returning to the action. His top pick is Ezekiel Elliot.
Barrani Jokers: Rand is back again this year to angrily shake his cane in everyone’s direction. Patrick Mahomes should give his team a definite boost all season.
Braedan’s Bombers: League commissioner and our very own expert hopes Davante Adams can keep his team at the top of the league.
Brady Is God: New England’s own and world traveler Cursor surprisingly doesn’t have Tom Brady on his team. He does have Dak Prescott who was leading a top ranked offense in Dallas last season before an injury. Hopefully he can pick up we’re he left off.
Brotherhood Without Banners: If this is your team, please let us know! With a new QB and their top receiver out for at least six games in New Orleans, Alvin Kamara should rack up the points this season.
Daestruction: Aaron Jones should run all over the opposition this season and lead Daegan to victory.
Dark One’s Luck: Stefan Diggs led the league in receiving last year. Hopefully he can take the lead again this year for Feros.
Esteban Diego De Castile: Esteban is a long time returning player. He’s got Christian McCaffery who will be the star player in Carolina. He should bounce back after being injured for most of last season.
Madhar’s Minions: Madhar is back again. He looked to draft some solid running backs to lead his team, but unfortunately drafted Ravens running back JK Dobbins just hours before a season-ending injury in preseason. Luckily he still has Derrick Henry as a number one RB.
Qo’noS Targs: Ravens fan Alora has four players from Baltimore on her team. One is dual threat quarterback Lamar Jackson. With their starting running back out for the season, Lamar should rack up points in the air and on the ground.
Valyrian Steelers: Dalvin Cook should lead the way for Agoroth’s team this season.
We’ll check back in each week to see how these players are doing for their teams. Good luck to everyone and have a great season!
The Junior Members Journey: Soldiering to be Accepted
I recently demoted. I’m in no rush and taking my time to experience the journey all junior members undergo. I decided I would take time in each group to learn the glue that binds each of them. While taking these steps I have interacted with the totality of our junior membership, found two distinct paths that have nothing to do with the channelers or Gaidin, and come to understand some unique challenges junior members face. In this experience I’ve found dynamics I wasn’t anticipating, and cannot stress enough that the community needs to understand what it’s like to be a junior member.
There is No Sorting Hat Here
In Harry Potter a magical hat is dropped on first years’ heads and uses some magical formula based on students’ personality, desires, values, goals, and history to decide which house the students would be most suited for. Thus, their home for the duration of their years at Hogwarts is generally decided within a minute. Done. The White Tower is not Hogwarts and the process of finding one’s home here is a lot more complex than putting an old hat on the head — and hoping the student in front of you doesn’t have lice. Here, individuals make the choice for themselves and the best way to do so is by guesting with Companies and Ajahs. This is where things get tricky and where the senior membership bears the burden of improving.
Not all Junior Members Are The Same
Since the inception of TarValon.Net, a major struggle has been defining the differences between the book-world, and our world. Members have long-allowed their understanding of Ajahs from the books heavily influencing finding their home within TarValon.Net. With a sometimes more urgent need to find that home, the disconnect between our differences from the books can become lost to new members. This has always been the case and a challenge. Now we are facing further complexities as we anticipate adding another world into the mix; that of the television show. We are not servicing anyone by leaving members to understand our groups from only outside media.
Personally I’ve been a member of TarValon.Net for many years. I know many on and off the boards. I’ve met many and I have relationships with many outside the site. I went so far as to marry one! This brings both benefit and burden to my guesting experiences. Let’s face it, there are preconceived notions on all sides. What we need and have asked for is the opportunity to hit a reset button and get to know Companies and Ajahs anew.
We have another set of Accepted and Soldiers who are climbing the ranks for the first time and being new(er) to the tower, their path is very different from my own. The preconceived notions that I have may be incorrect — but they don’t even have that to work with, in trying to learn what each group is all about.
Hitting the Wall
This is where Accepted and Soldiers are struggling, and this is where we need the Senior Members to help us out! Visiting sitting rooms and great rooms we are finding no one there, and when they are so quiet new members cannot get to know anyone. Soldiers and Accepted trying to find their home don’t have the opportunity to see the ways that our Tower’s Ajahs are different from the books and how our Companies differ from one another. Worse still is when we keep facing more active common rooms they are occupied by long-time senior members who are dismissive and disinterested in meeting new people. They present us with a brief hello, but seek neither to get to know us — or show us who they are. The junior membership is frustrated. We need the community as a whole to be involved, we need you to be able to tell us who you are, what you’re about, to allow us to see where we mesh and where we don’t.
If the senior membership continues to dismiss and ignore new members, things are only going to compound with the arrival of new members who are TV-only fans. We have no idea how the Ajahs will be depicted on the show and new members with only that information will again, not know where to go. This community needs to know who the junior members are at least as much as we need to know how the senior members have chosen to divide themselves.