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Shienar is located in the far north-east of the Westlands, and famed as the most martial of the modern kingdoms. It is located on the very front line against the Shadow; whilst all of the Borderlands hold the line against the Blight, Shienar has to guard Tarwin’s Gap, the preferred invasion route for Shadowspawn armies into the Westlands since the Breaking of the World. Shienar has inherited this responsibility from Malkier, a great nation now fallen into ruin.
The history of Shienar is very similar to that of Saldaea and the other Borderland kingdoms.
In terms of recent history, Shienar has spent most of the time since the War of the Hundred Years acting in a rearguard position to Malkier to the north and Arafel to the east, sending troops to help both when needed. Over the course of the centuries, Shienar was fortified with the idea of becoming a fallback position should Malkier fall.
Alas, in 955 NE this came to pass.
Breyan Mandragoran was the wife of Lain, eldest brother of King al’Akir Mandragoran of Malkier. She was an extremely proud woman, proud of her husband and his skills at war. She was also jealous of al’Akir’s place on the throne, believing Lain to be more deserving of the crown. She was supported by Cowin Gemallen, one of the Great Lords of Malkier, who urged her to demonstrate Lain’s superior bravery and leadership skills.
Breyan took the suggestion and at her request Lain led a thousand lancers into the Great Blight. The plan was for them to travel to the Blasted Lands themselves and then return unharmed, having visited great ruin on the Shadow in the meantime. King al’Akir was furious, even ordering his brother not to go, but Lain disobeyed out of honour and a genuine love for his wife and for their son, the two-year-old Isam. Of course, he never returned. Breyan was grief-stricken and called al’Akir coward and traitor for not riding with his brother into the darkness. Al’Akir forgave his sister-in-law’s outburst as nothing more than a guilty conscience, but underestimated her duplicity. From that day forwards Breyan plotted to remove al’Akir from the throne and replace him with her son Isam. Of course, this meant that al’Akir and his own infant son, Lan, had to die.
Cowin Gemallen became Breyan’s confidant and agreed to support her plans for a coup. He convinced enough of his men to join the conspiracy and stripped the Blightborder fortress he commanded of men, sending them back to the Seven Towers to help in the attack. However, Gemallen was a black-hearted Darkfriend and stripped the fortress in order to allow Trollocs, Myrddraal and Draghkar invaders in. During the invasion Breyan was killed and her son Isam fell into the hands of the Myrddraal.
Gemallen thought that Malkier would surely fall, but al’Akir rallied his troops and held the enemy at bay. In a startling display of bravery and ingenuity, the king’s most trusted scout, Jain Charin, slipped through the Trolloc lines and took Gemallen prisoner in his own castle. He then dragged him back to the Seven Towers, where he faced al’Akir in single combat and perished.
Now the Trollocs moved again, laying waste to the country. Al’Akir abdicated his throne to his son, naming him al’Lan Mandragoran and granting him the title of a Diademed Battle Lord. They also gave into his care a blade forged in the War of the Shadow itself, a blade made with the One Power. Al’Lan, only eighteen months old, was sent south to Fal Dara in the care of Jain Charin and a dozen of Malkier’s finest warriors. Many died, but the survivors and Lan reached Shienar safely. In the meantime, al’Akir fought the last defence of the Seven Towers, but in the end, he fell and Malkier was destroyed. Within a mere two years the Blight had surged southwards, corrupting all the land that had been Malkier. The Seven Towers became toppled ruins and the Thousand Lakes became poisonous.
Lan was raised alternately on the new frontier in Fal Dara and at Shienar’s capital, Fal Moran. At the age of sixteen he declared war on the Blight, vowing never to rest until Malkier had been avenged. In 979 NE, after the Battle of the Shining Walls, he met an Aes Sedai of the Blue Ajah named Moiraine Damodred in Kandor. After learning of her mission, he agreed to become bonded as her Warder. He has only ever suspended his war with the Blight, however, never abandoning it.
Of the other Malkieri survivors, most died in battle but one went on to gain much fame across the world. Jain Charin, later called Jain Farstrider, became a legendary traveller. He explored all the nations of our land and also travelled extensively amongst the Sea Folk and the Aiel, even venturing as far afield as Shara. His legendary travelogue Travels is possibly the biggest-selling book written since the Breaking. Jain, more than sixty years old yet still hale, disappeared in the 990s NE whilst on one of his adventures and is presumed dead.
Shienar became the new Borderland on the front line, its great fortress-city of Fal Dara committed to defending Tarwin’s Gap. Lord Agelmar Jagad, believed by many to be the greatest living military mind, has been given command of the fortress with orders to throw back the Shadow should it seek to come south again.
Shienar extends from its south-western corner – an obscure and unimportant region known as the Field of Merrilor – to the north-eastern frontier in the Spine of the World for almost 700 miles, but on average is only a bit more than 200 miles wide. The borders are considered to be the River Mora to the west, the River Erinin to the south, the Spine of the World to the east and the Blight to the north.
Western Shienar, watered by two significant rivers and their tributaries, consists of wide open plains and fields, which provide the kingdom with its food. The east and north of the country is far more rugged and mountainous. The Spine of the World dominates the eastern part of the country, with the Niamh Passes linking Shienar to the northern Aiel Waste. This pass is sometimes used by the Aiel to raid into Shienar, resulting in Shienar building a fortress known as Ankor Dail to guard the frontier. Although the Shienarans respect the Aiel’s skill in battle, they consider the raids to be a dangerous distraction from the threat of the Shadow in the north.
In the central-northern part of the country lies Fal Moran, the capital city. A heavily-fortified settlement, it is the seat of the royal family and is the centre of the nation’s economy and culture.
To the north lies the Blightborder. Just fifty years ago, this border ran much further north on the far side of Malkier, but the collapse of that nation has brought the Blight to Shienar’s front door. Shienar maintains a series of fortresses along this frontier, designed for mutual defence and support. The largest and most notable of these is Fal Dara, built on the ruins on the ancient Ogier-built city of Mafal Dadaranelle. Fal Dara is the mustering point for the northern armies and the closest stronghold to Tarwin’s Gap. The fortresses of Fal Sion, Camron Caan and Mos Shirare lie on the frontier as well, but further away.
North and east of Fal Dara lies Tarwin’s Gap, the great pass that separates the Mountains of Dhoom from the Spine of the World. More than 350 miles long, the pass leads from the Shienaran frontier directly into the Great Blight itself, giving Shadowspawn armies an easy route of access into the Westlands.
Directly north of Fal Dara lies the fallen kingdom of Malkier.
Malkier was located north of Shienar and Arafel, on both sides of the jagged Mountains of Dhoom. The mountainous kingdom was built around defence, with numerous fortresses and outposts guarding multiple passes leading north into the Great Blight. Measuring 700 miles from east to west and around 200 miles across, it matched Shienar in size but exceeded it in defensive capability. Its capital was also called Malkier, although it was much more commonly called the Seven Towers, for the seven great towers rising above its walls, towering above the surrounding lakes. More than a thousand lakes (according to legend) ringed the nation, providing additional defensive options against an attacking enemy. The Seven Towers were located in the south of the country, fairly close to Fal Dara across the border.
After the fall of Malkier, the Blight overran its territory. Many of the lakes dried up, the crops died and the sickening malaise of the Blight infested everything. The Blightborder moved some 200 miles south from its former location to the northern frontier of Shienar.
250 miles north-west of the Malkieri frontier, across a wide swathe of the Great Blight, lies the forbidding mountain of Shayol Ghul. Ringed by the Blasted Lands, a land of scorched earth where nothing can grow, Shayol Ghul is a towering volcanic mountain, rivalling or exceeding storied Dragonmount in size. According to myth, Shayol Ghul is the location of the Dark One’s prison, although this is not quite accurate; the Dark One’s prison is located outside of the Pattern altogether. Shayol Ghul or, more accurately, the Pit of Doom at its heart is the location where the Pattern has thinned enough so it is possible to directly communicate with the Dark One, should one be so insanely inclined.
Like its neighbours, Shienar is a hereditary monarchy advised by noble houses. The respected King Easar Togita is the current ruler of Shienar. Much authority falls on the commander of his armies, currently Agelmar Jagad, Lord of Fal Dara and Defender of Tarwin’s Gap. Lord Agelmar is an acknowledged military genius, a master tactician who has orchestrated major victories against invading Shadowspawn armies with superior numbers on dozens of occasions.
Shienar enjoys an extremely close alliance with Arafel to the west and with Tar Valon as well.
Military and Population
Like its neighbours, Shienar is a nation on a permanent war footing. The entire kingdom is arranged around a defence in depth and also in preventing the Shadow from striking behind the lines: every street and alley of every town and city is lit at night to prevent Myrddraal from gaining access. Every settlement, no matter how small, is defended by stout walls. Every man, woman and child is taught how to fight, forage and, if necessary, flee.
This makes assessing its population and military strength difficult, especially as the line between civilian and soldier in Shienar is more blurred than in any other nation (even the other Borderlands). However, it is known that the four Borderland nations combined can muster about 400,000 troops, suggesting that their combined population is around 40 million. Shienar sent 29,000 troops to the Battle of the Shining Walls, more than any other nation, and still had more than enough to defend the Blightborder, suggesting that Shienar’s total military potential is greater than any other Borderland nation bar the considerably larger Saldaea.
Shienar specialises in the art of heavy cavalry, of using massed, heavily-armoured cavalry formations to break open Trolloc ranks and inflict colossal damage with heavy lances. Shienaran military tactics combine overwhelming strength with surprising elegance and tactical flexibility.
Shienar is a heavily militarised nation, but it does engage in trade along the Erinin with Tar Valon, Cairhien, Andor and distant Tear, some 2,500 miles to the south. It also trades with the other Borderland nations. Its militarised nature means that it produces enormous quantities of armour, weapons and missile projectiles, most of which it keeps for itself but it does assist the other Borderlands with supplying their forces where necessary.
The Shienarans are, understandably, a somewhat grim-faced people who maintain a state of constant vigilance against the Shadow, even moreso than the other three Borderlands. The Shienarans know that it was relaxing their guard and engaging in political games which doomed Malkier, and they will not suffer the same fate.
That said, the Shienarans are not a completely humourless people. The lesson of Aridhol from the Trolloc Wars, which tried to defeat the Shadow by becoming more ruthless still, has also been learned. Shienarans know how to celebrate life and have time for songs, laughter, family and friends…as long as they do not weaken their watch on the Blight.
Shienaran dress is relatively modest. The closest thing to a national dress or custom is that Shienaran men often shave their faces and sometimes their head, apart from a topknot.
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Kandor and Arafel are the central Borderlands, located to the east of mighty Saldaea in the west and populous Shienar in the east. They are two of the lesser-known nations of the land, with relatively little interest or influence in southern nations, but are still important nations charged with the defence of the Blightborder.
Kandor and Arafel’s histories are very similar to that of Saldaea.
In terms of their recent history, Kandor and Arafel allied in 953 NE to send an army to relief of Malkier. They are unable to arrive in time to save the nation but, allied to the Shienarans, they inflicted a devastating defeat on the Shadowspawn forces which had sacked the Seven Towers at the Battle of the Stair of Jehaan. The Shadowspawn were broken and routed, but Malkier had been effectively destroyed, and attempts to hold back the Blight failed.
Kandor and Arafel also both mustered large armies to march to the relief of Tar Valon during the Aiel War, but the army of Kandor was recalled to deal with a fresh Trolloc incursion in the north. Arafel’s army, however, successfully took part in the Battle of the Shining Walls, with 21,000 troops (the fifth-largest contingent) commanded by Lord Hirare Nachiman (presumed to be the brother of King Paitar). Lord Nachiman was killed during the battle.
In 979 NE Kandor was visited by tragedy when Prince-Consort Brys, the husband of Queen Ethenielle, and their son Diryk both died, apparently falling from the Aesdaishar Palace to their deaths. Foul play was suspected, but never proven.
Kandor is approximately 500 miles wide from east to west and between 250 and 300 miles across from north to south. Murandy and Mayene (if counted as a nation rather than a city-state) are the only kingdoms which are definitively smaller than Kandor. Kandor counts its borders as the Blight to the north, the Plain of Lances to the west, a tributary of the Erinin to the east and a more flexible border in the south, where settlements give way in the face of the open, empty countryside north of the Black Hills.
Kandor is mostly flat with temperate countryside located in the south and more mountainous terrain in the north.
Kandor’s capital city is Chachin. Although not usually counted as one of the great cities of the Westlands, Chachin is said to rival Tear in size. It is located around several hills with three great mountains rising out from the centre of the city. The Aesdaishar Palace, the location of the Throne of Clouds, is located on the peak of the tallest mountain, some 5,000 feet above the rooftops of the rest of the city. The city is surrounded by an immense drymoat which completely encircles it, with twenty-four bridges crossing it to gates. Each bridge is overlooked by guardtowers and formidable defences.
Other towns and villages in Kandor include Canluum, Ravinda and Manala.
Arafel measures almost 700 miles across at its widest point and 300 miles from north to south, although the border with Shienar cuts a large swathe of territory out of the south-eastern part of the kingdom. Arafel’s borders are the River Mora to the east, the River Erinin to the south, a tributary of the Erinin to the west and the Blightborder to the north.
Arafel’s capital is Shol Arbela, the City of Ten Thousand Bells. It is the fashion in Arafel for people to wear bells in their clothes and the city is reportedly home to many other bells as well. Shol Arbela is not counted as one of the great cities of the Westlands and may be one of the newest capitals, as it was built after the Trolloc Wars (as it is neither Ogier-built nor built on the ruins of an Ogier-built city). It is notable as one of the largest non-Ogier-built cities constructed since the end of the Breaking.
Other settlements in Arafel include Tifan’s Well and Jakanda.
Both Kandor and Arafel are hereditary monarchies, like Saldaea, with the monarch supported by the noble families of the realm. The current ruler of Kandor is Queen Ethenielle Cosaru Noramaga and the current ruler of Arafel is King Paitar Nachiman.
Military and Population
Both Kandor and Arafel are nations mobilised for war, with a string of heavily-defended fortresses and watchtowers along their northern borders. Both nations have strong military forces, with Arafel specialising in the use of swords in battle. Some Arafellin schools of swordmastery train in style that uses two swords simultaneously. This style is less practical against human opponents, but against slower Trollocs allows for a considerable amount of damage to be inflicted in a short space of time.
In terms of population, it is known that the four Borderland nations combined can muster about 400,000 troops, suggesting that their combined population is around 40 million. Kandor, as the smallest of the four kingdoms, almost certainly musters the smallest force but this is unclear. It is known that Arafel was able to spare 21,000 troops to send to the Shining Walls without weakening their defence of the Blightborder, whilst Kandor’s army had to return to meet a renewed raiding threat, suggesting that Arafel is the militarily stronger of the two nations.
Kandor thrives on trade, particularly trade extending along the Blightborder from Maradon in the west to Fal Moran in the east, and thence south to Tar Valon. Kandor has a powerful merchants’ guild which ensures the smooth flowing of trade via Chachin’s trading houses.
Arafel’s economy is less defined, although it does seem to have a native bell-making trade and is also located on key trade routes between the other Borderlands and Tar Valon. The River Erinin flows along Arafel’s southern border, giving it easier trade access to the rich markets of the south.
Kandor and Arafel, like Saldaea, are made up of straight-talking, military-minded people, but Kandori merchants buck this trend somewhat by being shrewd negotiators. Kandori are otherwise straightforward and modest.
The Arafellin are a slightly more flamboyant people, noted for the bells they wear in their hair and clothes which jingle merrily (apart from in the military, where they are removed to ensure their position is not given away). The Arafellin are also noted for their obsession with honour, taking umbrage if their honour is impugned and admitting fault and even requesting punishment if warranted. Outsiders find Arafel’s obsession with honour to be unusual.
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Saldaea is the largest of the Borderlands, the four great nations which stretch across the northern edge of the Westlands. The Borderlands have charged themselves with the defence of the Blightborder, to hold back the Shadow in the north until the Last Battle comes.
After the Breaking of the World, the northern-most kingdoms to come into existence were Jaramide in the west, and Aramaelle in the east. The two nations were enormous, populous and well-prepared for war. The two kingdoms fortified the Mountains of Dhoom and defeated numerous small Shadowspawn incursions for a thousand years. Then, circa 1000 AB, the Trolloc Wars erupted. A vast horde of Shadowspawn struck south through the western Mountains of Dhoom and destroyed the great Jaramidian city of Barsine. Another horde struck south, destroying Mafal Dadaranelle, the capital of Aramaelle. For three and a half centuries Shadowspawn overran the Westlands, until they were finally defeated for good at the epic Battle of Maighande.
In the aftermath of the Trolloc Wars, three new kingdoms arose along the northern border: Basharande in the west, Elsalam in the centre and Rhamdashar in the north-east. These three nations pledged themselves to stopping another Trolloc Wars from erupting ever again and maintained vigilant defences along the Blightborder. However, the Blight had grown more virulent since the days of the Trolloc Wars and the border had been pushed back from the Mountains of Dhoom in several locations.
During the Consolidation, the three kingdoms sent troops to fight Artur Hawkwing, but not so much as to endanger the defence of the border. Hawkwing defeated all three kingdoms and made them part of his empire. He reorganised the three kingdoms into five distinct provinces, with shorter lines of communication and supply, as well as commissioning fortresses and watchtowers along the border. The five provinces were named, from west to east, Saldaea, Kandor, Arafel, Shienar and, in the north, Malkier.
Hawkwing’s planning proved invaluable: in FY 987 a vast Trolloc horder invaded the Westlands and bled itself considerably on the defences. Its vast size meant that it did finally manage to break through the Borderland lines and invade the Westlands properly, but the delay had given Hawkwing time to assemble a colossal army to meet them with. The Battle of Talidar, fought south of the Shienaran provincial border, saw the Trolloc horde shattered and destroyed. The ruin visited upon the Shadowspawn was so great that all activity along the Blightborder was reduced for half a century.
When Hawkwing died in FY 994 and the War of the Hundred Years erupted, the five Borderland provinces declared themselves sovereign kingdoms. They also signed a compact, a treaty of mutual aid and defence. They would help one another hold back the Shadow and they would not make war against the other nations except in self defence. The rulers who signed this compact were King Rylen t’Boriden of Saldaea, King Jarel Soukovni of Kandor, Queen Mahira Svetanya of Arafel, Queen Merean Tihomar of Shienar and King Shevar Jamelle of Malkier. Accordingly, during the War of the Hundred Years the five Borderland kingdoms did not become embroiled in the fighting, aside from defending their southern borders from occasional incursions by neighbouring kingdoms.
The history of the Borderlands is one of unwavering vigilance against the Shadow, maintaining the defences along the Blightborder and mounting scouting expeditions into the Blight (to destroy Shadowspawn before they might gather into a threatening horde). As such, the five nations have had relatively little in the way of the interesting histories of other nations, filled with war, political intrigue and civil strife, as such distractions would invariably prove fatal.
Saldaea is the largest of the four extant Borderlands, larger than Shienar and Arafel combined. It is also one of the largest kingdoms on the continent, comparable to Cairhein in size and only outsized by Andor. It stretches for just over 1,000 miles from the west coast to the Plain of Lances and for 650 miles from north to south at its widest point. The Aryth Ocean marks the western border, with the Blightborder extending along the entire northern border. The Plain of Lances and the north-western tip of the Black Hills make up the eastern border. The southern border is defined by rivers, tributaries of the mighty Arinelle.
Southern Saldaea is made up of dense forests and fertile fields, well-watered by the huge River Arinelle and its very numerous tributaries. A well-maintained highway connects Maradon to Bandar Eban, the capital of Arad Doman, some 1,600 miles to the south-west, and villages and waystops can be found along this road. In the north-west the terrain becomes hilly and then mountainous, until the great Banikhan range is reached. The Banikhan Mountains shield inner Saldaea from the worst of the weather off the Aryth Ocean, hence its nickname as the “Sea Wall of Saldaea”. West of the Banikhan range there is a sloping coastal plain which abruptly drops into the ocean in a craggy morass of cliffs, rocks and reefs, which stretch in an unbroken arc for hundreds of miles from near Saldaea’s south-westernmost border to where the Mountains of Dhoom tumble into the ocean in a mess of islands in the north. It is impossible to find a good port on this coast even for the most skilled Sea Folk navigator, resulting in its name of World’s End.
In the north, the terrain becomes less varied and gives way to plains stretching to the forbidding Mountains of Dhoom, which may be glimpsed distantly on the northern horizon. However, the sickly infestation known as the Blight has moved south of the Mountains of Dhoom since Artur Hawkwing’s day, resulting in a broad stretch of hostile territory between the mountains and the northern border of Saldaea: the Blightborder. Saldaea has built an enormous number of fortresses, watchtowers and outposts along the border, linked by signal fires and beacons to garrisons to allow them to mutually support one another.
In the east, south of the Blightborder, the terrain gives way to large, rolling plains, perfect for large-scale cavalry activities. This is the Plain of Lances, where the armies of Saldaea and Kandor have drilled for large-scale military operations for generations.
The lifeblood and spine of Saldaea is the River Arinelle. This river rises north of Saldaea, in the Blight, before flowing south past the capital at Maradon. It turns south-west at Saldaea’s southern border, joined by numerous lesser rivers and streams along the way. The Arinelle is navigable by medium-sized ships all the way from Maradon to Illian, some 2,500 miles to the south, flowing through the nations of Andor and Altara along the way.
Saldaea’s capital and largest city is Maradon. This square-shaped city is built on the ruins of Deranbar, the Ogier-built capital of Jaramide ere its fall in the Trolloc Wars. Maradon is built close to a bend in the Arinelle, allowing the river to present a formidable obstacle to attacking enemies. There are also, quite deliberately, no bridges over the Arinelle between Maradon and the Blight, forcing an attacking Shadowspawn army to either cross the river under sustained attack or go hundreds of miles out of their way to the east before looping back to attack the city. Maradon’s walls are tall and extremely thick, with numerous defensive redoubts for archers, catapults and trebuchets. There are additional walls inside the city and strong defences around the Cordamora Palace as well. Combined these make Maradon arguably the most strongly-defended city on the subcontinent, certainly for its huge size. Only Tar Valon and Far Madding, on their islands with massive walls as an additional layer of defence, are arguably more difficult to attack.
Other towns and villages in Saldaea include Bashere, Tyr and Sidona, all holdings of House Bashere; Irinjavar, Mehar and Kayacun, a village close to the Sea Wall.
Saldaea is a hereditary monarchy, with the monarch ruling with the approval of the noble houses of the realm. The current ruler of Saldaea is Queen Tenobia si Bashere Kazadi. Despite her youth, Tenobia has proven herself to be an able ruler of her kingdom.
Saldaea maintains close ties with Tar Valon and of course is strongly allied to the other Borderland nations, particularly Kandor, its neighbour to the east.
Military and Population
Saldaea is a nation in an almost permanent war footing, due to the ever-pressing threat of the Blight. This makes assessing its population and military strength difficult. However, it is known that the four Borderland nations combined can muster about 400,000 troops, suggesting that their combined population is around 40 million. Saldaea, as the largest of the four kingdoms, would likely be the most populous of the four but this is uncertain.
Saldaea specialises in the art of light cavalry, of using massed cavalry formations to harass enemy ranks and pick off stragglers, and also to cover great distances at speed.
Saldaea’s enormous size and more varied terrain compared to the other Borderlands means that it is able to exploit more natural resources and thus increase its income relative to them. Saldaea exports lumber, ice peppers fur along the Arinelle to markets in Andor, Altara, Murandy and Illian, and along the great south-western road to Arad Doman, as well as south-east to Tar Valon and the Erinin trade routes. As a result Saldaea is comfortably rich nation, which is useful given the not-inconsiderable cost of its military readiness to face the Shadow.
Saldaeans, like most Borderlanders, are a no-nonsense people who prefer plain-speaking and honesty. They despise the political game-playing and deal-making of the southern kingdoms. Most Saldaeans are trained in the art of personal combat. This is true of Saldaean women, who are trained with the knife and close-quarter fighting to defend themselves. Saldaean women accompany the men on campaign (unless into the Blight), and have been known to command armies in battle and formulate military strategy.
Saldaeans are quite proper and correct in public but are known to be a surprisingly passionate people in private; the infamous sa’sara dance of seduction, practised by Saldaean women, is credited with starting at least three wars.
Two of the more remarkable, if relatively minor, episodes in the history of the Seven Kingdoms took place during the reign of King Jaehaerys I Targaryen, the Conciliator, the Westerosi king who sat the Iron Throne longer than any other.
Elissa Farman was the middle child of Lord Marq Farman of Fair Isle. Born in 29 AC, she had an elder brother, Franklyn, and a younger, Androw. From a young age Elissa loved the sea and learned to sail by the age of 14, circumnavigating Fair Isle to show her skill. By the age of 20, she had sailed her own ship as far north as Bear Island and as far south as the Arbor.
Fair and athletic, Elissa was a strong match for any noble house, but to Lord Marq’s regret, she seemed uninterested in marrying to strengthen the family’s fortunes. Her forthright manner seemed to “scare off” potential suitors, many of whom were unwilling to indulge her interest in the sea (and many of them came from castles inland, far from the sea, to Elissa’s horror). In 49 AC Elissa’s younger brother Androw married Princess Rhaena Targaryen, the widow of King Maegor the Cruel. Elissa and Rhaena became close, with more fanciful maesters speculating on the nature of their relationship. Lord Marq died in 50 AC and Franklyn became Lord of Faircastle, ordering Rhaena to leave (as he personally disliked her and the cost of maintaining her household and her dragon had become exorbitant). Elissa chose to leave with Rhaena; when Franklyn tried to stop her, ordering her to marry for the good of the family, he and his men were overpowered by Rhaena’s supporters (not to mention fear of her dragon). Elissa sailed Rhaena and her household to Dragonstone, a daring voyage right around Westeros, and remained there with her.
However, a rift had opened between Princess Rhaena and Elissa. Elissa, free of the responsibilities to her family, now expressed her heart’s desire: the fastest and greatest ship ever built, with the goal of crossing the Sunset Sea to find whatever lay on its far shores. Rhaena refused to indulge Elissa and they quarrelled. Elissa found in Princess Aerea, Rhaena’s younger daughter also kept likewise close to Rhaena’s side against her will, a kindred spirit. By 54 AC Elissa could no longer be kept cooped up and angrily petitioned Rhaena to be allowed to leave. Rhaena agreed, but Elissa’s departure was more dramatic than expected: shortly after taking ship for Pentos from Driftmark, it was discovered that she had stolen three dragon eggs from the clutch of Rhaena’s own steed, Dreamfyre. Learning of this event, King Jaehaerys was apoplectic with rage and sent hunters and representatives to the four corners of the known world searching for the dragons, to no avail.
The true story did not become clear until years later. Taking the name “Alys Westhill”, Alissa Farman had travelled by ship to Pentos and then overland to Braavos, itself an impressive feat (the overland route through the tall mountains north of the Velvet Hills is not for the faint-hearted). In Braavos she has gained an audience with the Sealord of Braavos, offering him the three dragon eggs in return for his help in building the greatest ship ever to set sail. The Sealord was unable to resist the lure of having his own dragons to defend the former Secret City, built to defy the Valyrian slavers and their dragons, and accepted.
The Braavosi ship builders, claiming to be the greatest in the world, bent themselves to the task of building a ship which had to be fast but also capable of carrying provisions for an extended trip away from land and surviving on the open ocean; the latter was unusual given that most captains hugged the coasts between destinations for safety and succour. Only the Summer Islanders and their great swan ships dared the open ocean away from the sight of land. It took over a year, but eventually the task was done and the great carrack Sun Chaser was completed. “Captain Westhill” took the ship south through the Stepstones, turning west for Oldtown.
By this time, Elissa’s departure had had unforeseen consequences. Princess Aerea Targaryen was heartbroken from her friend’s departure and traumatised when Androw Farman poisoned a large contingent of the castle in a jealous rage. Aerea begged to be allowed to leave Dragonstone for King’s Landing, and Queen Alysanne was happy to accept but Princess Rhaenys refused in a fury. Aerea’s anger finally broke. She made her way to the Dragonmont where the unclaimed dragons of House Targaryen laired and there seized a dragon mount for her own. But not just any dragon, but the greatest in the history of House Targaryen: Balerion the Black Dread, the former steed of King Aegon Targaryen the Conqueror and his son Maegor the Cruel, one of the largest and most powerful dragons to have ever flown. Although advanced in years, even by dragon standards, Balerion was still a great beast. He submitted to Aerea, and then took to the skies, bearing her away from Dragonmount late in 54 AC. The Targaryen dragonriders took to the skies to find Aerea and Balerion, but no trace could be found. They scoured both Westeros and Essos for news, but a few wild rumours aside, there was no credible lead.
The arrival of the Sun Chaser in Oldtown harbour late in 55 AC attracted some considerable comment, for “Captain Westhill” had a deep purse and a crazy ambition, to cross the Sunset Sea and return. The maesters of the Citadel were intrigued, as they agreed that the world was round and that it should be possible to cross the Sunset Sea to land on the far side…and even keep sailing and thus come to the lands of the Jade Sea and thence Essos and Westeros from the east, a total circumnavigation of the globe. The length was staggering (the maesters quibbled over the figures, but it was estimated to be well over twenty thousand miles and possibly much more) but it was at least possible. The fact that Westhill’s ship design was unproven and that no Westerosi ship had even made the much more modest 12,000-mile trip to Asshai and back in one voyage (and wouldn’t until Corlys Velaryon and the Sea Snake, roughly twenty-five years later), however, caused severe doubts amongst would-be crewmen.
As a result of these vacillations, it took Elissa several months to both crew and outfit her ship for the voyage. This was enough time for Lord Donnel Hightower to become suspicious (given that Jaehaerys had warned all his lords to be on the lookout for a rich female sailor with a hankering for the deep sea) and send his grandsons Eustace and Norman to investigate. Rather than arrest Farman, they instead became enamoured of her plan and pledged to support it, raising the funds for their own ships, the Lady Meredith and Autumn Moon, to join the expedition. The small fleet finally set sail from Oldtown on the 23rd day of the third moon of 56 AC. It did not take long for word of the expedition to reach the king, who realised what had happened.
The expedition’s departure was soon followed the resolution of the mystery of Princess Aerea and Balerion. Approximately three weeks later, on the 13th day of the fourth moon of 56 AC, Balerion the Black Dread’s unmistakable shadow fell over the city of King’s Landing. The dragon landed in front of the Red Keep and, to the considerable shock of all who saw him, was clearly wounded. A massive jagged gash a full nine feet long was visible in his side, still bleeding smoking blood. Aerea was clinging to Balerion’s back, but was gaunt and clearly dying. She was treated by Septon Barth and Grand Maester Benifer, but they had seen nothing like her symptoms before. She was being cooked from the inside out, and attempts to lower her temperature by putting her in a bath of ice did not prove effective. More disturbing were the “things” moving under her flesh, which seemed to be trying to burrow their way out. As Aerea died, these worm-like creatures succeeded in breaking out of her body…only to die smouldering in the ice. Barth and Benifer had all trace of the creatures destroyed and Aerea was cremated with rapid haste. Balerion was retired to the newly-built Dragonpit and put under guard whilst his own wounds were treated.
Meeting with the king and the small council, Barth and Benifer proposed an answer to the mystery. Aerea had had no destination in mind when fleeing Dragonstone, only an urgent desire to escape and find a home. It was known that dragons responded to their rider’s whims in a manner not fully understood, and Balerion may have responded by taking her home…his home, the smouldering volcanoes of Valyria under their ashen skies. Balerion had hatched in one of the Fourteen Fires, the great volcanic chain across the neck of the Valyrian Peninsula. When still young, he had travelled with the Targaryen family to distant Dragonstone, and thus survived the Doom, the simultaneous eruption of all of the Fourteen Fires, the greatest cataclysm in the history of the world. The destruction of Valyria had obliterated its empire in a single afternoon of blood, fire and death. Legends and stories of Valyria made mention of firewyrms, strange, horrible and hostile creatures lurking in the mines under the Fourteen Fires. The destruction of Valyria may have allowed these creatures to roam free across the surface of Valyria, where it was known that the Doom still held sway. Aerea had been “infected” with the creatures in some fashion and even Balerion had been injured by something in the ruins of the Freehold. It was a miracle that Aerea had survived long enough to reach home.
Whether this was the answer to the mystery was unclear, but King Jaehaerys soon issued a proclamation that has never been rescinded: no ship that has landed on or near Valyria, or sailed through the Smoking Sea, is permitted entry to any port in Westeros. Subjects of the Iron Throne are forbidden, on pain of absolute death, from trying to sail to Valyria, or from returning to Westeros thereafter. The ban was arguably not necessary – almost no captain in the known world was willing to go anywhere near Valyria – but it was cemented in law, and defied but rarely (Gerion Lannister, on his mad quest to find the lost Lannister sword Brightroar, may have been the last to try in 291 AC).
The fate of the Sun Chaser and Elissa Farman was less clear, but eventually the mystery was resolved. On the 7th day of the 1st moon of 59 AC, the Lady Meredith made landfall back in Oldtown harbour. The ship was battered and much-patched, and Ser Eustace Hightower and his crew were gaunt and clearly traumatised from all that they had seen. The crew had been augmented by sailors from the Summer Isles, to replace those lost earlier in the voyage. After seeking refreshment, Eustace told the tale to his grandfather.
The expedition had left Oldtown on the 23rd day of the 3rd moon of 56 AC, sailing south by southwest out of Whispering Sound. The voyage had been blessed with fair weather and good winds, and they had passed numerous fishing vessels and even, curiously, a whaler out of distant Ib. By the 12th day out of port, the flotilla was estimated to be as far south as the Summer Islands and further west than any sailor had sailed before. Celebrations were held, but these soon turned sour. For two weeks the fleet lost the wind and had to be towed by row boats, for slow and tedious progress. Then a massive storm broke, followed by another two days later, and then another. The Autumn Moon was destroyed in that third storm, set aflame by lightning and then swallowed by a monstrous wave (that some of the sailors on Lady Meredith swore blind was hiding a kraken within it). Ser Norman Hightower died in that catastrophe. Lady Meredith survived, but severely damaged. The Sun Chaser returned and helped the Meredith limp to a small group of three islands located just to the west. Elissa had discovered the islands several days earlier (Sun Chaser was considerably faster than the Hightower ships) and named them Aegon, Rhaenys and Visenya.
The three islands were beautiful. Blessed with fruit and food never before tasted by Westerosi, they were a genuine new discovery. Ser Eustace declared this was a discovery enough and vowed to return to Westeros. Elissa was incredulous; the three islands were small, the largest only a third or so the size of Dragonstone, and although impressive they were not going to justify the enormous cost of the trip, or the ruinous loss of life. She was pressing on. Ser Eustace wished her well, but knew his crew would never tolerate a further adventure, having seen the fate of their sister ship. The last Ser Eustace saw of the Sun Chaser it was fitting its name, sailing directly into the setting sun.
Ser Eustace’s voyage home, however, was far more traumatic even than the voyage out. One useful piece of new knowledge established by the expedition was that the prevailing current and winds on the southern Sunset Sea were oriented to the west; beating into the wind and current, Lady Meredith made miserable time heading north and east. A whale crashed into the ship, doing structural damage so severe that Eustace was unwilling to chance the long voyage to Oldtown, instead turning east for the Summer Islands. Finally, some months after leaving Aegon Island, Lady Meredith made landfall…on the north-western coast of Sothoryos. Their reckoning had been off and they had passed south of the Summer Islands, instead washing up on the shores of the ill-omened and barely-explored southern continent. It took more than a year to patch up Meredith sufficiently for the voyage home, and during that year most of the original crew died from horrible fevers, tick bites, wild animal attacks and other means to horrible to recount. It would not have been possible for them to leave, had a Summer Islander ship not happened across the stricken vessel and helped them limp to the islands. After a further refit (lasting months) at Tall Trees Town, the Meredith had finally left for home.
The tale spread across Westeros and was the wonder of the moon. A genuine voyage of adventure, discovery and exploration! For a time there was talk of claiming the three islands in the name of King Jaehaerys, or even sending other ships west after the Sun Chaser, but then the idea faded, replaced by some other news. The Hightowers and Targaryens both considered further adventures and dismissed them; reaching the islands was possible but it would be too easy to founder in storms or suffer the fate of the Autumn Moon and its crew.
The fate of the dragon eggs was a more pressing concern: in 57 AC, a year after the Sun Chaser expedition had set out but almost two before Lady Meredith returned, Septon Barth had been named Hand of the King and sent to Braavos; that Sun Chaser was of Braavosi manufacture was clear and it was also abundant clear that “Captain Westhill” was really Elissa Farman. Barth demanded that the Sealord of Braavos return the three dragon eggs immediately. The Sealord demurred any knowledge of said eggs, and threats were made, of dragonfire scouring the Free City of Braavos from the face of the known world, of cloaked figures with shifting faces stalking the streets of King’s Landing and the halls of the Red Keep. A compromise was made, whereby the Sealord of Braavos would ensure that no dragons would ever hatch from these eggs and the Iron Bank would forgive the Iron Throne’s (extremely considerable, at this time) debts, in return for the Seven Kingdoms agreeing not to visit fire and blood on the hundred isles of Braavos. The deal was struck and made, and the dragon eggs passed out of history…for two hundred and forty-one years. But that is another story.
One last interesting coda to this story. Corlys Velaryon, the heir to Driftmark, was but two years old when Elissa Farman struck out across the Sunset Sea. He grew up fascinated by the story, and by the design of the Sun Chaser, which he studied at some length and, some say, may have influenced the design of his own vessels, the Ice Wolf and later the more impressive Sea Snake. He took his ships north into the White Waste beyond even the Lands of Always Winter, searching for a way around the northern end of Westeros only to find none. He sailed the Shivering Sea to the Thousand Isles and Nefer, and became the first Westerosi to pass the Jade Gates and explore the Jade Sea. On his second voyage on the Sea Snake he sailed all the way to Asshai, the eastern-most port of the known world, some 6,000 miles east of King’s Landing. There, in that vast and strange harbour, crowded with ships from hundreds of ports, he spied a decrepit, battered and old ship that, he swore, could only be the Sun Chaser. He was unable to find the ship again or learn who owned it or what had become of his crew, but until his dying day he swore that Elissa Farman’s ship had – somehow – found its way to the far side of the known world, some 8,000 miles and more from where it was last seen, a quarter of a century or more later. How it got there we do not know…but we can speculate.
Mapping the Story
The Targaryen Islands – a new discovery in ASoIaF worldbuilding, courtesy of the book Fire and Blood – are three small islands located in the Sunset Sea. The islands are located south-by-southwest out of Oldtown and Whispering Sound. The Sun Chaser and her companion ships sailed on this bearing for twelve days, by which time they believed themselves to be further south than the Summer Islands, before being becalmed for two weeks. After three huge storms in four days, the surviving ships made landfall on the islands.
The ships travelling on the voyage were two older, more conventional vessels and the Sun Chaser, which is notable as it is described as a “carrack”. Carracks were built for speed and for durability, for long stays on the open sea, in contrast to earlier designs which were mean to stay close to the shore. They were relatively fast, travelling 80 miles per day, and were the predecessor to the later galleon. The Santa Maria, Columbia’s flagship for crossing the Atlantic, was a carrack (the two other ships in the fleet were caravels, considerably faster ships which may be more technologically advanced than any design in ASoIaF). The Lady Meredith and Autumn Moon‘s class of ship is not readily identified, but we know they were slower; Sun Chaser kept outdistancing them and having to stop to let them catch up. Due to reasoning that will become clear, I think it’s best to assume that Lady Meredith and Autumn Moon are “standard carracks” capable of hitting 80 miles per day and that the Sun Chaser is a “super carrack” capable of much faster speeds, maybe comparable to a caravel at 90-100 miles per day.
This creates a problem, as the southernmost tip of the Summer Islands is 1,800 miles south of the south coast of Dorne. To reach that far, the ships would have to be travelling at 150 miles per day, or considerably faster than even the fastest caravel afloat in the 15th Century. We might stretch that (a lot!) for the Sun Chaser, but for two ordinary Oldtown ships, that’s clearly impossible. More likely is that Eustace and Norman got the location of the Summer Islands wrong and thought they were either much smaller or further north (or both) than they really are. After all, although Summer Islanders visiting Westeros is noted as being commonplace, the reverse seems to be much less frequent, and their charts could be wrong.
Also slightly challenging is the description of the islands being “south by southwest” of Oldtown: there is no such cardinal direction. I’m assuming GRRM meant “southwest by south” as south by west, the other possibility, is so close as to dead south that it would not put the fleet as far west as the Lonely Light, although it helps get the ships further south towards the Summer Islands.
On this basis, I have placed the Targaryen Islands approximately 1,450 miles southwest-by-south from Oldtown. This puts them approximately 2,300 miles due west of the northern-westernmost tip of the Summer Islands. The nearest known landfall is the Arbor, about 1,100 miles to the north-east.
Ser Eustace’s later attempts to return to Westeros suggest that he may not be the greatest sailor to ever set sail across the world’s oceans, although the misfortune he encountered did not help.
The question of how the Sun Chaser ended up in Asshai is an interesting one. Based on our previous explorations of the size of the planet, the distance from the western edge of the known world map – which is pretty much where the Sun Chaser vanishes, not far north of the equator – and the eastern edge of the map at the Saffron Straits, just east of Asshai, is approximately 18,500 miles, assuming no landmass in the way. Could the Sun Chaser make such a journey? Perhaps. Carracks could cross the Atlantic and later circumnavigated Africa, although such journeys were risky. Assuming good weather for a majority of the voyage and stops for resupply, Sun Chaser could do such a journey in about 200 days, let alone ~25 years. I think the inference Martin is leading us to make is that there are other landmasses out there in the Sunset Sea between Westeros and the far east of Essos, and Elissa Farman and her crew had many exciting adventures before the Sun Chaser made its way west, past the southern coast of Essos and to Asshai via the Saffron Straits. Whether it was Elissa who piloted it there or someone else, is something we are unlikely to learn the truth of any time soon.
There are other possibilities, though. Sun Chaser could have run into bad luck, the crew killed, and the ship swept south and east past Sothoryos and then up through the Jade Sea to Asshai that way, or captured by pirates and sailed on the Summer Sea as a raider before ending up in Asshai in a different manner, but that’s an altogether less interesting story.
As for the story of Aerea Targaryen, she and Balerion flew from Dragonstone to Valyria and back again, a distance of about 2,600 miles and 5,200 for the round trip. It is interesting that the firewyrms – if that’s what they were – hatched in Aerea on the day she returned to King’s Landing. This may have been a dramatic conceit but it may have also been triggered by the proximity to other living beings: the firewyrms waited until she was near other people and then tried to escape and infect others. Luckily Barth and Benifer’s attempts to save Aerea killed the firewyrms before they could be a threat to anyone else. The story does have interesting ramifications for other elements of the ASoIaF saga (including Euron Greyjoy’s claim to have walked ruined Valyria, which now seems unlikely at best).
Andor is the oldest, largest, most populous, most powerful and most influential of the nations of the Westlands, and one of the richest. It dominates the centre of the continent, stretching from the Mountains of Mist to the River Erinin. It also has a reputation – mostly – for honour, integrity and diplomacy, coupled with military and political strength.
The origins of Andor lie the aftermath of the Breaking of the World, when the great nations of Aridhol, Manetheren and Coremanda arose. All of these cities had Ogier-built cities, most notably Manetheren in the Mountains of Mist, Aridhol on the banks of the Arinelle and Caemlyn (now called Hai Caemlyn, or “Old Caemlyn”). During the Trolloc Wars and their aftermath all three kingdoms were destroyed, but of the three cities only Caemlyn survived (despite enduring multiple sieges).
Before the rise of Artur Hawkwing, the territory now held by Andor consisted of the kingdoms of Farashelle, Aldeshar and Caembarin, which were among the most powerful nations of their day. Artur Hawkwing defeated all three kingdoms and made them part of his empire, but Aldeshar was his most implacable foe. When the kingdom finally fell in the final battle of the Consolidation in FY 963, Hawkwing executed King Joal Ramedar, holding him to blame for the assassination of his first wife and two of his children. Aldeshar and Caembarin were combined into the Imperial Province of Andor, under the rule of Governor Jeorad Manyard, a noted scholar and administrator. Caemlyn, the former capital of Caembarin, was made the provincial capital. By FY 967, following his defeat in the Aiel Waste and his marriage to his second wife Tamika, Hawkwing recanted and appointed King Joal’s daughter Endara Casalain as Governor of the Imperial Province of Andor.
By FY 994 Hawkwing’s rule had turned increasingly sour, with his armies besieging Tar Valon and other forces sent across the sea to invade the lands of Seanchan and Shara. When Hawkwing died unexpectedly with his children dead, missing or far across the ocean, it left a sizeable power vacuum. As the ruler of the most powerful and populous province and with a claim to the throne of Aldeshar, as well as holding the capital of former Caembarin, Endara was urged to take bold action. But she was not the sort of person to do that. Her daughter, the young, fiery and ambitious Ishara, was. She convinced Souran Maravaile, Hawkwing’s finest general this side of the Aryth, to raise the siege of Tar Valon and march to Caemlyn with as many troops as he could rally. This accomplished, Ishara declared herself Queen of Andor, a sovereign nation that would hold fealty to no man or woman. The jockeying for power among other generals and governors erupted into open hostilities: the War of the Hundred Years.
For roughly 123 years the Westlands was torn apart in constant warfare. Nations arose and collapsed within months of one another. The Aes Sedai did their best to mediate a peace, and sometimes negotiated truces that held for a few years, but in the end the chaos always resumed. One of the few constants of the war was Andor, ruled by the Queen on the Lion Throne (a convention not established by Ishara, but adopted within three generations after only women had survived the rigours of warfare to rule). Within a few decades it had expanded to the Cary in the west and the Erinin in the east, and for a long time held these borders, consolidating its power. Towards the middle part of the war four rival kings allied to bring Andor down, but were intercepted on the march and defeated in a bloody battle west of the Cary. The Battle of Four Kings marked a new beginning for Andor’s power, and as the other nations tired of the fighting Andor expanded westwards all the way to the Mountains of Mist, reaching its current borders before the end of the fighting. In the thousand years since then, Andor has seized parts of Murandy in border skirmishes and attempted to expand its borders in the wake of the fall of Caralain to the north and Kintara to the south, but has fallen back to its traditional borders for a lack of resources to hold more territory.
For a thousand years Andor has held firm, strengthened by its strong martial tradition, its firm alliance with Tar Valon (Andor is one of the few nations to openly welcome Aes Sedai advisors) and its strong, diversified economy. It also plays the games of politics and influence well, negotiating tricky border disputes with Murandy, Altara and Cairhien whilst (mostly) avoiding open warfare.
Andor’s recent history has been less steady: in 965 NE Andor and Cairhien went to war for control of trade along the Erinin. After three years of conflict with no clear result, King Laman Damodred of Cairhien and Queen Mordrellen Mantear of Andor made peace and even established an alliance, sealing it with the marriage of Laman’s nephew Taringail to Mordrellen’s daughter, Tigraine. The match proved an unhappy one, with Tigraine’s life made a misery by her rude, arrogant husband, despite the son he gave her (Galadedrid, born in 970). In 971 Queen Mordrellen’s martial eldest son, Luc, left Andor to seek glory by fighting in the Borderlands. He apparently acquitted himself well for several months before being reportedly killed by Shadowspawn. Queen Mordrellen was shocked and her health affected, but she may have rallied had Tigraine not also then disappeared without a trace in 972.
Mordrellen’s death triggered the brief and relatively unbloody Third Succession War, which ended with the noble houses uniting behind the young but utterly formidable Queen Morgase Trakand. Morgase married Taringail to appease Cairhien but made it clear she would not tolerate Taringail’s rudeness, dismissing him contemptuously if he made a scene of himself and not involving him in any affairs of state or diplomacy. How their children, Gawyn (b. 978) and Elayne (b. 981), were even conceived given their parents’ mutual antipathy remains a matter for some speculation.
During this period King Laman Damodred made a devastatingly rash miscalculation and triggered the invasion and near-ruin of his country by the Aiel. The Aiel War raged up and down the Erinin for two years and Andor was forced to commit troops due to its alliance with Cairhien. More than 28,000 Andoran troops under Captain-General Aranvor Naldwinn assembled to face the Aiel at the Battle of the Shining Walls in 978 and acquitted themselves with honour and valour, Naldwinn leading his men from the front and dying valiantly. Command of the army transferred to Captain-General Gareth Bryne, who has commanded the armies of Andor ever since.
In 984 Taringail died in a freak hunting accident, with some believing that his death was less of an accident than it appeared and some even believing that he was conspiring to take the throne. The truth of the matter remains unclear. Some years later, Morgase quarrelled with the noted court bard (and some say her lover) Thomdril Merrilin over a matter related to the Aes Sedai and he left the Royal Palace under a cloud. Surprisingly, given her relative youth, Queen Morgase never took another husband despite suitors from both within Andor and from foreign powers.
Andor is a huge country, stretching for almost 1,700 miles from its far western border in the Mountains of Mist to the banks of the River Erinin in the east. Andor is quite narrow, averaging at around 300 miles in width from north to south, but this extends to about 500 miles at its widest point. The edge of Caralain Grass and the banks of the Arinelle define most of the northern border, whilst the southern is more varied, defined by (from west to east) the River Manetherendrelle; a stretch of northern Altara seized in some long, half-forgotten border conflict; the northern edge of the Cumbar Hills; the southern edge of the Splintered Hills; the headwaters of the River Storn; a lower stretch of the River Cary; the northern flanks of the Hills of Kintara; and the southern slopes of the Chishen Mountains.
Aside from the foothills of the various mountain and hill chains, Andor is mostly flat, open countryside, fertile and crisscrossed with farms, smallholdings and villages. There is also one very large woodland area, Braem Wood in the north-east of the country, although this is less one giant forest than a large stretch of frequently forested countryside, broken up by gaps for farms and towns.
Andor is located entirely inland with no sea coast, but it does have the unique advantage of sitting on both of the Westlands’ major river networks. The Erinin defines the border with Cairhien and permits (via the port of Aringill) Andoran traders and travellers fast access to Tar Valon and the Borderlands to the north, Cairhien to the east and Tear and the Sea of Storms to the south. The Manetherendrell-Arinelle network passes through the west of the country, giving Andorans fast access via the port of Whitebridge to Saldaea in the far north-west and the markets of Altara, Murandy and Illian in the south.
Andor’s capital and largest city is Caemlyn. One of the oldest cities in the land, it is also one of the largest, exceeded in size only by Tar Valon and matched only by Illian, Tear and perhaps Cairhien and Tanchico. More than 300,000 people live within and outside Caemlyn’s walls. The city is defended by tall, well-maintained walls and several fortified gates, with a second layer of Ogier-built walls defending the old city at its core. The Royal Palace of Andor rises impressively from a hill in the middle of the city. Caemlyn has been besieged scores of times, including during the Trolloc Wars and the War of the Hundred Years, but it has never fallen to an enemy. The city is also accounted one of the most beautiful ever built, again arguably only exceeded by Tar Valon and long-destroyed Londaren Cor. A network of roads link Caemlyn to Tar Valon to the north; Cairhien (via Aringill) to the east; Far Madding, Tear, Illian and Lugard to the south; and Baerlon to the west, via the wide length of the country.
Andor’s population outside of the capital is spread relatively thinly, but there are several notable large towns (big enough to be accounted small cities, perhaps) including New Braem, Baerlon (which is the effective capital for the western part of the country), Whitebridge and Aringill. Other known villages and larger towns include Emond’s Field, Deven Ride, Watch Hill and Taren Ferry in the Two Rivers district; Comfrey in the Mountains of Mist; Arien, Four Kings, Breen’s Spring, Market Sheran and Carysford on the Caemlyn Road; Kore Springs and Jornhill in Braem Wood; Danabar, Damelien, Buryhill, Forel Market, Harlon Bridge and Cullen’s Crossing to the south of Caemlyn.
Andor matches Altara for the number of nations it shares borders with, with five countries located along its edges: Arad Doman to the north-west, Ghealdan to the south-west, Altara and Murandy to the south and Cairhien to the east. However, the border with Arad Doman lies in the Mountains of Mist and the passes through the mountain are remote and dangerous. The border with Ghealdan is also theoretical, as the large, thick and dangerous Forest of Shadows (also called the Great Blackwood) lies along it. There are no villages on the Ghealdanin side of the border for at least a hundred miles and crossing the fast-flowing, rapid-strewn Manetherendrelle in this region is ill-advised. Nobles have occasionally suggested opening a trade route through the Two Rivers and the Forest of Shadows to Jehannah, but Andor prefers to keep the border closed, perhaps concerned that Amadicia and the Children of the Light further south might be more tempted use it as a way into the “soft underbelly of Andor.”
Andor is divided into two distinct regions by the River Arinelle. The eastern half (closer to two-thirds) of Andor is, by far, the more densely-populated half and the location of almost all of Andor’s towns, villages and cities. The great Caemlyn Road, which runs the entire east-west length of the nation (and, via Cairhien, even further to Jangai Pass and the Aiel Waste), passes through frequent villages and towns between Whitebridge and Aringill, but west of Whitebridge, where the road runs through the rugged Hills of Absher, there are only infrequent and isolated hamlets and inns until the town of Baerlon is reached, in the shadow of the Mountains of Mist.
Western Andor is also noted for the ruins from ancient days that dot the hillsides and riverbanks. Most forbidding of these is the immense ruined city located on the banks of the Arinelle, north and east of Baerlon. This city is called Shadar Logoth (“Shadow’s Waiting” in the Old Tongue) and was once Aridhol, the capital of the kingdom of the same name, destroyed in the Trolloc Wars. However, Aridhol was not defeated by Trollocs. It was instead consumed by an evil unleashed within its walls by a man known to history only as Mordeth. Since that time Shadar Logoth has been avoided by everyone, and the few stupid enough to venture inside its walls in search of treasure have never been seen again. Further downriver is a valley which has had multiple statues carved into the rock on both sides of the water, each statue believed to represent a ruler of a long-ago kingdom (probably Manetheren or Aridhol, or both). Time has worn the faces of many of the statues almost smooth. Much further downriver is a tall, silver tower which can be spotted from the river. Known as the Tower of Ghenjei, the tower is tall, featureless and lacks any kind of entrance. It is generally avoided.
Western Andor would have likely broken away centuries ago to become its own nation or, more likely, a region of independent townships and villages if it wasn’t for the great mines in the Mountains of Mist. Silver, gold, iron and copper are mined in the mountains, sent down to villages like Comfrey for refinement and then shipped in great, well-protected trade caravans via Baerlon to the eastern half of the country. For this reason the Lion Throne treats the western districts with a light touch, taxing rarely if at all and focusing on keeping the much more lucrative mines open and happy with the rule of a city almost two thousand miles away.
One of the largest such districts is the Two Rivers. Remote and bucolic, the Two Rivers is so-named because it lies between the two headwater arms of the Manetherendrelle; the Tarendrelle (or Taren) to the north, flowing out of the mountains via the glorious waterfall of Eldrene’s Veil, and the White River (or Manetherendrelle proper) to the south, so named for its fast-flowing waters and rapids. There are no mines in the Two Rivers, Manetheren having exhausted them millennia ago, and relatively little of value beyond farms and sheep. The Two Rivers have no lord or nobles and Caemlyn has allowed it to go its own way for several centuries. The Two Rivers may define the meaning of the word “backwater”: a sleepy, remote place where nothing of import has happened in over two thousand years, and where it is highly unlikely that anything important will ever happen again.
Andor is ruled by a Queen (never a king), who sits on the Lion Throne in the Royal Palace of Andor and wears the Rose Crown. Rule is passed in a matrilineal line of descent from mother to daughter. The oldest daughter is known as the Daughter-Heir and is expected to learn the art of ruling, command and political intrigue. The oldest son is known as the First Prince of the Sword and is expected to command the Andoran armies, advise his sister in military matters and, if necessary, defend her with his life. If there is no son of suitable age, a Captain-General will be appointed commander of the royal armies. If there is no daughter, a Succession may take place, where control of Andor passes from one house to another.
Successions are fraught and tense affairs, but rarely violent; Andor has suffered only three civil wars for the Lion Throne in a thousand years, and for the most part widespread bloodshed is avoided. Andor projects an image of unity and strength at odds with many of its neighbours (particularly Altara, Murandy and Cairhien) and internal divisions are, to the outside world at least, downplayed and forgotten about almost as soon as they arise.
There are nineteen major noble houses in Andor. These are: Trakand, Anshar, Arawn, Baryn, Caeren, Candraed, Carand, Coelan, Gilyard, Haevin, Taravin, Mantear, Marne, Northan, Norwelyn, Pendar, Renshar, Sarand and Traemane. There are numerous lesser noble houses, but these are only ones with enough power and influence to claim the Lion Throne.
The known ruling Queens of Andor are: Ishara Casalain (FY 994-1020), Alesinde Casalain (FY 1020-35), Melasune Casalain (FY 1035-46), Termylle (FY 1046-54), Maragaine (FY 1054-73), Astara (FY 1073-85), Telaisien (FY 1085-1103), Morrigan (FY 1103-14), Lyndelle (FY 1114 – c. FY 1165/30 NE), Modrellein (c. 300 NE), Mordrellen Mantear (c. 950-972 NE) and the current Queen Morgase Trakand (972 NE – present). The current Daughter-Heir of Andor is her daughter, Elayne Trakand (b. 981).
Andor is also noted for its close alliance with Tar Valon: the Daughter-Heir of Andor is by tradition (even if incapable of channelling) sent to the White Tower for training in politics and many aspects of rule and the First Prince of the Sword is combat-trained by Warders. In return the Aes Sedai provide the Queen with a permanent advisor. The current such advisor is Elaida do’Avriny a’Roihan of the Red Ajah.
Military and Population
Andor is reputed to have the most disciplined, well-trained and largest army south of the Borderlands, and easily the largest army that can be fielded by any one nation on its own (Cairhien before the Aiel War may have come within reasonable distance, but it was still fewer). In times of exceptional need Andor can rally over 200,000 men to arms, although gathering them from the kingdom’s remote borders and keeping them supplied whilst they assembled would probably be quite difficult. Since the War of the Hundred Years, Andor has never needed to rally its entire military potential to arms, although it has fought border skirmishes with Murandy and Cairhien which has on occasion required the deployment of tens of thousands of troops. The last major deployment of the Andoran army was during the Aiel War, when 28,000 troops were sent to the Grand Alliance at the Battle of the Shining Walls.
Andor’s military is fronted by an elite unit known as the Queen’s Guard. The Guard is a large formation (numbering in the thousands) consisting of cavalry, missile troops, pike and foot. The Queen’s Guard is barracked in and around Caemlyn and charged with the defence of the capital and the Royal Palace. The Guard recruits from both the nobility and the commons and strives to promote on merit, minimising the politicking and the buying of commissions and ranks which has stymied the military professionalism of nations such as Cairhien and Murandy. The Guard’s commander, if not the First Prince of the Sword (due to there not being a male heir or if he is clearly incompetent), is a Captain-General whose tactical judgement, sword skill and valour in battle must be beyond question. The current Captain-General is Gareth Bryne, accounted as one of the “Great Captains” of the Westlands.
Beyond the Queen’s Guard, most of the noble houses of Andor each maintain a standing formation numbering (varying on the size of the house) of between dozens and the high hundreds of troops. The quality of these troops varies, but the houses who hold land along the Erinin border with Cairhien and the mountainous border with Murandy train their forces to a very high standard to deal with any unwanted border incursions.
The population of Andor is estimated at approximately 20 million, making it the most populous nation in the Westlands.
Andor is a large country with a rich and diverse economy. Since Cairhien lost the right of passage across the Aiel Waste, Andor has overtaken it in terms of riches, and only Arad Doman and Tear are believed to seriously challenge Andor’s economic supremacy.
The kingdom is a known trade centre, with the city of Caemlyn located athwart several lucrative overland trade routes linking cities such as Tar Valon, Cairhien, Illian, Tear, Lugard and Far Madding. The Caemlyn Road also runs down the length of the nation like a spine, allowing trade to move freely. The Erinin provides swift access to the markets of Tear, Tar Valon and the eastern Borderlands, whilst the Arinelle-Manetherendrelle basin provides access to Saldaea, Altara, Murandy and Illian.
In terms of natural resources, Andor is blessed by deep mines in and under the Mountains of Mist, producing everything from tin to silver. Braem Wood is a prime source of lumber, the rivers provide immense bounties of fish and the mostly flat countryside east of the Arinelle is excellent for grazing, for everything from cattle to wool to fine horses (although not as fine as those of Tear). Andor is also prime farming country, growing immense fields of barley and wheat. Other strong exports include ironwork, tabac and wheat (mostly to Cairhien). The Andoran gold mark is also noted for its strong stability, making it the preferred international trade currency for many nations over their own native coinage.
The Andorans are a somewhat serious people compared to many others, sober and with a strong sense of national pride. They engage in political intrigue out of necessity but do not love it and have not made a national sport of it as the Cairhienin have (and the Tairens have – poorly – imitated). They fight bravely and with distinction on the battlefield, but do not have a martial, bloody culture as the Borderlands do. Andoran merchants are successful and canny, but they do not have it in their very lifeblood like the Domani.
All of that said, Andorans are strong, loyal allies and make formidable, impressive enemies. They can be passionate and fierce, but to strangers show a more guarded face until their true worth can be assessed.
Andoran dress is relatively restrained and modest for both men and women.
Note on the Maps
There has been a questionable issue with maps of Andor since the release of The Eye of the World, namely the location of Shadar Logoth. In the text of The Eye of the World the characters travel to Shadar Logoth from Baerlon in just two days of flight, over the Hills of Absher. Allowing for the rough terrain, this would put Shadar Logoth at significantly less than 100 miles from Baerlon, and this is achieved (if barely) by placing the ruined city on the river at the closest point to the town. However, this is significantly to the west of the great northern swing of the river; the Arinelle runs from Maradon in Saldaea into Andor, swinging east towards Whitebridge before meeting the Manetherendrelle. The obvious solution means putting Shadar Logoth on a tributary of the Arinelle rather than the Arinelle itself. This would be doable (by calling the river the Upper Arinelle or somesuch) if if wasn’t for the fact that Bayle Domon and Spray had sailed down the river from Maradon and stopped near Shadar Logoth for the night; there’s no logical reason for him to sail a hundred miles or more up a tributary to park up for the night before resuming the trip.
I considered several solutions, but the obvious one – moving Baerlon further north and east and closer to the bend of the river – caused new problems with the travel time from the Two Rivers to Baerlon, not to mention Baerlon’s fixed position on numerous iterations of the official maps. In the end I compromised on moving Shadar Logoth somewhat further east and moving the confluence of the Arinelle with its tributary some distance west. Although not perfect, this solution I believe mostly resolves the issue.
Cairhien is one of the largest and, until recently, one of the most powerful of the modern nations. It lies in the far east of the subcontinent, hard against the Spine of the World, and the largest pass through those mountains lies on Cairhien’s border, linking the Westlands to the Aiel Waste and the mysterious lands of Shara beyond. Cairhien itself is a land of squabbling nobles dominated by political intrigue taken to the extreme of an artform, known as the Game of Houses.
The origins of Cairhien lie in the Breaking of the World. Near the end of that period of chaotic upheaval, one well-organised band of survivors founded a city on the banks of a great river. This city became known as Al’cair’rahienallen, the “Hill of the Golden Dawn”. Just before the building of the city, a caravan of battered refugees sought shelter with the same band of survivors. They were given water and shelter before being allowed to pass onwards to the Jangai Pass and the Aiel Waste, becoming the ancestors of the modern Aiel.
Al’cair’rahienallen grew into a great city and then a kingdom, Almoren. Stretching from Haddon Mirk to north of Kinslayer’s Dagger and from the River Erinin to the Spine of the World, Almoren was a great and powerful kingdom. King Coerid Nasar brought Almoren into the Compact of the Ten Nations and it endured for over eight centuries until the eruption of the Trolloc Wars. Almoren was overrun and destroyed during the conflict.
Following the end of the war, Almoren’s former territory was divided between the kingdoms of Tova, Shandalle, Ileande, Hamarea and Khodomar. These nations endured in relative peace for over nine centuries until rise of the false Dragon, Guaire Amalasan, in Darmovan on the west coast of the continent, three thousand miles away. Amalasan’s armies swept eastwards across the southern nations in a tide of steel and fire, bringing almost half the continent under his rule before he launched an invasion of Khodomar in FY 943. King Artur Paendrag Tanreall, the youthful ruler of Shandalle, had already fought Amalasan to a standstill several times but had not managed to defeat him due to poor logistics and support from allies. This time, fighting much closer to home with stronger lines of supply and support, Artur “Hawkwing” (as he was already nicknamed) defeated Amalasan at the Battle of the Jolvaine Pass, in the Maraside Mountains. His Aes Sedai allies shielded and captured Amalasan and spirited him north to Tar Valon for gentling. Amalasan’s armies pursued and Hawkwing defeated in battle on the streets of Tar Valon itself.
The Aes Sedai were indebted to Hawkwing for their deliverance, to the utter fury of the Amyrlin Seat, a particularly vindictive sister of the Red Ajah known as Bonwhin Meraighdin. Bonwhin encouraged other nations to attack and destroy Hawkwing, starting with proud Tova, which bordered Shandalle to the east and held the great city of Cairhien (formerly Al’cair’rahienallen) as its capital. Hawkwing defeated Tova’s much larger army and captured the capital, forcing Tova to submit to his rule. Over the next twenty years, Hawkwing conquered all of the Westlands, uniting them into one empire.
Upon Hawkwing’s death in FY 994, the empire collapsed. A group of nobles seized control of Cairhien and held a great ball, declaring the refounding of Tova. They were brutally assassinated, sparking months of fierce fighting and intrigue. At the end of the process, Matraine Colmcille emerged as the first King of the Kingdom of Cairhien. Over the course of more than a century of warfare, Cairhien’s borders spread to approximately their modern boundaries.
In the succeeding centuries, Cairhien prospered. After the collapse of the kingdoms of Hardan to the north and Mar Haddon to the south, Cairhien extended its borders to rival those of ancient Almoren. However, it could not hold this territory gradually returned to its current levels.
In 509 NE, the Cairhienin were unexpectedly visited by a delegation of Aiel, from the wastelands beyond the Jangai Pass. The Aiel had realised that the Cairhienin were the descendants of those who had given their ancestors water and shelter during the Breaking. The Aiel declared peace with the Cairhienin and granted them a sapling of Avendesora, the Tree of Life. The sapling was placed in front of the Sun Palace and grew to become Avendoraldera, the first chora tree outside the Aiel Waste in over three thousand years. The Aiel also granted the Cairhienin the Gift of Passage, allowing them to cross the Waste to trade with distant Shara. The Aiel had always allowed individual merchants, peddlers and gleemen to make the crossing, but the Cairhienin alone were allowed to send immense trade caravans across the Waste. Soon exotic goods such as ivory, silk and spices were flowing back west. Cairhien grew immensely rich from this trade.
Cairhien’s great rival was – and remains – Andor to the west. As large and possibly more populous, with much greater natural resources, Andor dominated the centre of the continent and was the only kingdom with major ports on both the Arinelle-Manetherendrelle river network and the Erinin basin to the east, greatly enriching trade. Cairhien and Andor clashed several times over trading rights along the Erinin, and several times went to war, although never conclusively. The two nations were too well-matched and both found war to be a distraction from their internal politics.
In 965 NE Andor and Cairhien clashed once again, resulting in a three-year conflict marked by political manoeuvring, assassinations and fraught diplomacy, but only brief military action. In 968 Queen Mordrellen Mantear of Andor and King Laman Damodred of Cairhien agreed to suspend hostilities and usher in a new era of peaceful cooperation. To this end, Mordrellen’s daughter and heir Tigraine married Laman’s nephew Taringail. The match was political, and Tigraine’s dislike for Laman became clear. Despite this, they managed to have a son, Galadedrid, born in 970. The following year, Tigraine’s brother Luc disappeared and was believed dead, having been urged to seek his destiny fighting on the Blightborder. Tigraine, bereft, disappeared herself in 972. Mordrellen, bereft, died from grief and the stress of it. The brief Third Succession War raged for several months afterwards, until the young Lady Morgase of House Trakand gained enough power to take the Lion Throne. Morgase married Taringail to appease Cairhien, but where Tigraine was timid, Morgase was formidable and strong. Taringail found his bullying that had proved so effective against Tigraine was ineffectual on Morgase, and his power and influence at court – and that of Cairhien – waned.
Frustrated, King Laman began scheming anew to strengthen his house’s position. As a minor part of his planning, in 976 he cut down Avendoraldera and used it to create a great throne, one that was the envy of all. But when word of this made its way across the Dragonwall to the Aiel Waste, they were incensed. Four full clans of the Aiel crossed the Jangai Pass and invaded Cairhien in force. The Cairhienin military responded piecemeal and was cut to pieces. The city of Cairhien was besieged and then sacked, its topless towers set alight and half the city burned (although the Aiel took steps to protect the Great Library). Laman himself fled with as much of his army as he could assemble. Moving at speed, they fled south and played cat-and-mouse with the Aiel in Haddon Mirk for months before being flushed out. The High Lords of Tear, alarmed at the Aiel horde Laman was bringing down on them, gave him the means to cross the Erinin and escape, but the Aiel (despite their fear of any water too large to jump across) pursued. Fighting raged along both banks of the Erinin, with Laman fleeing north again, embroiling Andor in the fighting.
These delaying tactics gave the Aes Sedai time to convince many of the Westland nations to send troops to stand against the Aiel at Tar Valon itself. In the final month of 978 NE the Battle of the Shining Walls took place. The Aiel, despite being heavily outnumbered by the assembled might of the west, defeated the Cairhienin forces and King Laman was summarily beheaded. Satisfied, the Aiel undertook a strategic withdrawal back to the Waste.
Laman’s death triggered the Fourth War of Cairhienin Succession, which ended by mid-979 NE with King Galldrian of House Riatin seizing the Sun Throne. This was something of a poisoned chalice: large swathes of Cairhien were a smouldering wasteland, left burning by the Aiel War. Over the next nineteen years, Cairhien would be rebuilt and old animosities would resume, particularly after Lord Barthanes rose to lead House Damodred with the ambition of retaking the Sun Throne.
Cairhien is located in the far east of the Westlands, hard against the Spine of the World. It lies between two smaller mountain ranges running out of the Spine, Kinslayer’s Dagger to the north and the Maraside Mountains to the south. The western border is defined by the River Erinin. Cairhien shares a border with only one other nation, Andor along the Erinin. It’s attempts to secure more territory north (to Shienar) and south (to Tear) have failed for a lack of people and troops to hold these territories.
Cairhien measures approximately 860 miles across from west to east (aside from in the north, where it extends further east into Jangai Pass) and approximately 570 miles across from north to south. It is exceeded in size in the Westlands only by Andor, and is rivalled by Saldaea. The countryside is hilly and mountainous along the northern, eastern and southern borders, but flatter and more fertile in the central regions and especially the western, along the great Erinin, Alguenya and Gaelin rivers and numerous lesser bodies of water.
The River Gaelin rises in the north-east of Kinslayer’s Dagger, near its meeting with the Spine, and flows south and west for over 660 miles before it meets the Alguenya. The Alguenya’s source is in the open countryside beyond the Dagger, from where it flows south for over 800 miles before it meets the Erinin. These two rivers dramatically increase the flow of water into the Erinin (which starts to widen noticeably south of Cairhien) and also act as formidable defensive lines to the west and north.
Cairhien lies in the shadow of the Spine of the World, the largest and most impressive mountain range in the known world. It runs from north to south for over 2,500 miles and is consistently more than 200 miles wide, with numerous smaller ranges running from it eastwards into the Aiel Waste. In the west there are two such “child ranges”, Kinslayer’s Dagger and the Maraside Mountains. The Spine defies easy categorisation. It is made up of multiple mountain chains running in parallel to one another, building one upon the other to truly staggering heights. Snow glistens on the peaks of the Spine even in the hottest and longest summers at its southern end, and very few people who have tried to scale the peaks of the Spine have returned alive; those who do report that even breathing becomes difficult the higher one climbs.
The Spine is breached by three major passes (along with Tarwin’s Gap, the wide pass between the northern end of the Spine and the Mountains of Dhoom where the two meet in the far north): the Niamh Passes in south-eastern Shienar; the wide Jangai Pass on the eastern border of Cairhien; and a little-known pass that runs from the southern headwaters of the River Iralell to the Ogier Stedding Shangtai (beyond which lies the Waterless Sands).
The Jangai Pass is approximately 200 miles long, running from the town of Selean to Taien, the fortress-town at the southern feet of the pass on the very edge of the Aiel Waste. Both settlements were destroyed in the Aiel War and have been resettled reluctantly, but the lure of gold for supplying the merchants and peddlers bound for Shara is strong.
Both Kinslayer’s Dagger (so named as it seems to point from the Spin towards distant Dragonmount, where the Kinslayer Lews Therin Telamon died at the end of the War of the Shadow) and the Maraside Mountains are considerably smaller and less impressive than the Spine, but both are formidable enough to block easy travel north and south. Northbound merchants take the river or skirt the Dagger to the west, whilst southbound merchants can brave Jolvaine Pass through the Maraside Mountains.
Cairhien’s capital city is also called Cairhien. A large, square city built to a grid-like pattern, it lies on the River Alguenya just south of the confluence with the Gaelin. A road links Cairhien all the way to Jangai Pass, with the town of Eianrod located roughly halfway along the road. The town of Tremonsien lies to the north of the capital, in the foothills of Kingslayer’s Dagger. It is a trade centre for miners and merchants braving the long journey through the wilderness to Shienar. Morelle lies to the south, roughly halfway from the capital to the Iralell. Small fishing villages like Jurene dot the banks of the Erinin. Cairhien’s biggest port on the Erinin is Maerone, located opposite the Andoran town of Aringill. This is a site for trade between the two nations, but also for military tensions during times of conflict between the two kingdoms. Also notable is Stedding Tsofu, located very close to Cairhien. It is the closest Ogier stedding to a major city. The Ogier have been engaged in rebuilding the Topless Towers of Cairhien, along with other structures destroyed in the Aiel War, but it is slow going due to Cairhien’s economic woes since the end of the war.
Cairhien is ruled by a single King or Queen. The position is hereditary, but it is not unknown for houses to lose the right to rule by being displaced either in war or through political intrigue.
The noble houses of Cairhien are constantly engaged in what they call Daes Dae’mar, the Game of Houses. The houses constantly ally, split apart and form new alliances in a bewildering, ever-shifting landscape of allegiances and agreements. Military action, in the form of civil war, is rare (Cairhien has only endured four in a thousand years, each relatively brief) and possibly considered uncouth. The Cairhienin instead practice politics like an art form; forcing an enemy to capitulate and accept defeat is considered far more difficult – and thus a greater accomplishment – then simply killing them. That said, assassination is also an expected part of the Game.
Military and Population
Cairhien’s military potential is believed to be greater than Illian, Shienar or Tear, although perhaps not as much as Andor. However, the Aiel War saw most of Cairhien’s army destroyed piecemeal before it could consolidate, and much of the rest slaughtered in the two gruelling years of combat that followed. Barely 7,000 men survived to reach Tar Valon, and were no match against the Aiel.
Cairhien’s disunity, due to its fractious and unpredictable internal politics, and the lack of a major military opponent apart from Aiel, means that Cairhien has never deployed the bulk of its military in one place for assessment. Cairhien has no standing elite military formation of note either, and the nation has not produced a Great Captain in some time either. That said, some of the Cairhienin houses produce troops of a higher quality and follow the military arts closely. Of these, House Taborwin probably possesses the finest and most disciplined soldiers.
Cairhien’s population is difficult to assess, but it is believed that Cairhien is more populous than Tear or Illian but not as populous as Andor, putting its population somewhere between 10 and 15 million.
Cairhien is a large country with a potentially rich, diversified economy, including mines in Kinslayer’s Dagger and the Spine of the World, fishing on the country’s numerous rivers and food production on the immense fertile plains between the mountains and the rivers. However, the country’s economy was destroyed in the Aiel War of twenty years ago and it has only barely started to recover.
For almost five hundred years, immense caravans were allowed to cross the Aiel Waste from Cairhien to Shara and back again, carrying wealth beyond imagining: exotic birds, jade, ivory, silks and precious gemstones unknown in the west. These items commanded stiff prices on the open market and allowed the Cairhienin to undercut the Sea Folk (who otherwise were the only people able to trade freely with the Sharans, by sea), who had to traverse a much greater distance to the trade ports at the far southern end of Shara.
The wealth this brought to Cairhien was fabulous, and may have discouraged the nobles from pursuing other sources of income. At the outbreak of the Aiel War, the Aiel shut down the silk route and prevented Cairhienin merchants from crossing the Waste. Along with the depredations of the Aiel War, this caused the Cairhienin economy to collapse. Famine was only averted when Tear started selling grain to Cairhien up the Erinin. The Cairhienin nobility has been slow to enter the food production business (perhaps seeing it as less honourable than their former ties to trade), resulting in the nation still being dependent on these grain shipments even as vast amounts of prime farmland go unexploited in the interior of the country.
With firmer leadership Cairhien could again become one of the richest countries in the Westlands, but this seems unlikely at present.
Cairhienin tend to be shorter in stature than most and favour order. They are reserved in dress and speech, often preferring to follow conversations rather than lead them. They are a wary people, sometimes suspicious and occasionally paranoid. The Game of Houses is drilled into them, the nobility especially, and thus they spend a lot of their time analysing every situation for every possible advantage and disadvantage before committing themselves.
Cairhien clothing is reserved and dark in colour for the nobles, although commoners prefer more colourful and less reserved colours. Commoners also tend to enjoy revels and parties more, and sometimes nobles will join in such parties, letting their guard drop. This is most notable during the Feast of Lights, a particularly free-spirited celebration given the dour nature of many Cairhienin.
A vast arc of territory unclaimed by any nations is located in the southern and south-eastern part of the Westlands. This territory begins on the Sea of Storms in the narrow buffer zone between Tear and Illian before extending north, across the Plains of Maredo, to the Hills of Kintara. It then turns east, cross the wide River Erinin and extends all the way to the Spine of the World and Maraside Mountains, crossing the vast boglands of Haddon Mirk along the way.
Of old, this region was claimed by Essenia and Almoren, two of the Ten Nations. Essenia’s great capital city, Aren Mador was built on an island in a lake in the foothills of the Hills of Kintara. The region prospered for some ten centuries before it was overrun by Shadowspawn during the Trolloc Wars. Almoren was destroyed but Essenia managed to rally and drive the Shadowspawn back, Aren Mador’s impregnable island location and the second city of Tear with its massive Stone making both impossible to capture or sack.
After the end of the Trolloc Wars the territory became divided between smaller countries. Fergansea dominated the southern plains, whilst Esandara incorporated the highlands and uplands. Esandara inherited Aren Mador as its capital, but for reasons still debated by historians it was renamed as Fel Moreina (the kingdom of Moreina itself lay to the south and east, incorporating much of modern Tear). The kingdom of Talmour was founded in Haddon Mirk, with Khodomar to the north, hard against the Maraside Mountains.
The region prospered again, but during the War of the Second Dragon almost the entire region was conquered by the false Dragon Guaire Amalasan. Leaving Talmour and Khodomar engaged in battle (but not fully taken), he moved north to cross the Maraside Mountains and invade Tova, but was instead met and defeated by an army out of Shandalle led by King Artur Paendrag Tanreall. The Battle of the Jolvaine Pass was fought at the foot of the Jolvaine Pass in northern Khodomar, one of the most significant battles in history.
Following Amalasan’s defeat, the region fell into chaos and infighting as Amalasan’s generals fought among themselves and survivors of the former regimes fought to regain their thrones. During the following two decades, the armies of Artur Paendrag, now known as the Hawkwing, swept over the region and conquered it in the name of the High King.
After Artur Hawkwing’s death and the outbreak of the War of the Hundred Years, the region was swept by storm and fire several times. Esmara Getare conquered the Plains of Maredo and the Hills of Kintara in FY 1090 before launching an invasion of Andor which was swiftly defeated. In the aftermath of this assault, the conquered territories revolted, becoming the sovereign kingdoms of Maredo (with its capital at Fel Moreina now renamed Far Madding), Kintara and Mar Haddon.
Over the next thousand years, as the population of the Westlands declined, this region suffered more badly than most. The Plains of Maredo were less inviting and harder to farm than the territory in neighbouring Murandy, Illian or Tear, leading to a gradual migration into neighbouring regions. The Hills of Kintara likewise saw a drain of people as they moved north into Andor. Mar Haddon was particularly badly hit, as the unfavourable soil and marshy conditions made farming difficult and the region was prone to outbreak of disease. Gradually people left, moving north across the Maraside Mountains into Cairhien or south into Tear. All three kingdoms collapsed within a few centuries, with only Far Madding left as an independent city-state and a few isolated villages and towns to be found here and there.
During the Aiel War, the Cairhienin army took refuge in Haddon Mirk, which confounded the pursuing Aiel for some months until the High Lords of Tear, fearing the Aiel horde on its border, convinced King Laman to cross the Erinin and retreat north. The result was a series of battles along the shores of the river and somewhat inland as Laman led the Aiel northwards through Andor and towards his eventual fate at Tar Valon, far to the north.
This region is one of the most varied in terms of geography in the Westlands, consisting of wide, arid and flat plains in the south-west, extending north to the more temperate and tall Hills of Kintara in the north and then across the Erinin into the vast marshes of Haddon Mirk in the east. These geographic features create significant barriers to travel and settlement, and explain the low population in the region despite its vast size.
The Plains of Maredo are large, extending across the borders of both Illian and Tear. Illian maintains hill forts along the Doirlon Hills in the far south-west of the plains to defend against possible Tairen aggression. It is more than 400 miles from the Sea of Storms to the lake on which Far Madding is located at the far northern end of the plains. From west to east the plains measure some 450 miles across in the north, from the headwaters of the River Shal to the banks of the River Erinin. They widen considerably further south.
The plains are large, flat and somewhat dry, with no major rivers passing across them. Tear and Illian have used the plains as battlefields for centuries, but the problems with resupply and foraging have meant that invasions in one direction or the other have usually petered out with no major strategic gains achieved.
The city of Far Madding is the largest major settlement in the entire region. Built by Ogier masons shortly after the Breaking, it is one of the oldest and best-preserved cities in the Westlands. It was originally known as Aren Mador and then Fel Moreina before becoming known as the Far Madding during or after the War of the Hundred Years. The city is considered impregnable, and has indeed never been taken in battle. It is located on an island in a large lake at the feet of the Hills of Kintara. Three narrow and easily-defended (or even collapsed) bridges link the city to the mainland and the lake, fed by winter runoff from the hills, is difficult to poison. The lack of rivers linking the lake to other waterways makes it impossible to bring in naval forces to help besiege the city. As a result, the city has rarely suffered attack. The city’s impregnability has been reinforced by a powerful, ancient ter’angreal known as the Guardian, which prevents channelling within the city or within several miles, preventing Dreadlords from attacking the city during the Trolloc Wars.
Major roads link Far Madding to Caemlyn (some 470 miles to the north), Illian (some 800 miles to the south-west) and Tear (some 520 miles to the south-east).
North of Far Madding and the Plains of Maredo lies a large upland area. The Hills of Kintara dominate this area, ranging from rolling hills to tall peaks on the borderland between hill and mountain. This upland complex consists of several distinct ranges, including the Tunaighan Hills to the north (which extend close to Caemlyn, the capital of Andor) and the taller and more rugged Chishen Mountains to the north-east. There is a large pass through the central portion of the hills (which carries the highway linking Caemlyn to Far Madding).
East of the River Erinin lies one of the largest and least-welcoming regions of wilderness on the entire subcontinent: Haddon Mirk. Almost 700 miles wide, this region consists of forest, marsh, swamp and boglands, occasionally interrupted by rivers, lakes and more stable areas of open countryside. It’s a confusing morass which, due to rivers shifting their courses and the soft ground, defies detailed mapping. The River Iralell, running down from the immense glaciers and valleys of the Spine of the World, feeds the region with constant fresh water.
Despite its much vaster size, Haddon Mirk is not as hostile or uninhabitable as the Drowned Lands to the south-east, on the borders of Tear and Mayene. Various nations have existed in the region for millennia and it is possible to live in the Mirk. Small villages and hamlets still exist there. However, the Mirk also makes an excellent base of operations for rebels, bandits and outlaws, who sometimes use it to strike into Tear to the south. The Tairen High Lords have sometimes swept the Mirk for such outlaws, but have never been able to bring enough force to bear to claim the territory for themselves.
This region has no government, aside from the city of Far Madding. Far Madding is ruled by the Counsels, a council of thirteen women who command all aspects of the city’s organisation, trade and defence. Aleis Barsalla currently serves as First Counsel, the chairwoman of the council and representative of the city in foreign dealings.
Far Madding’s lifeblood is trade. It is perfectly situation on the main trade routes running from Tear and Illian to Caemlyn and Tar Valon. With river transport being more expensive and more easily cut off by war or river pirates, the cheaper option of overland trade is more attractive for some merchants. Far Madding’s relatively southerly location also means that its markets are open all year around, giving the city a constantly bustling, busy feel as it enriches itself.
Military Forces and Population
Far Madding has no standing army, only a City Guard of a few hundred experienced officers and watchmen.
Far Madding is a large and significant city, but it is not counted as one of the great cities of the land. Thus, the city’s population is probably well under 200,000.
Far Madding is an outright matriarchy, with only woman allowed to have and hold positions of power and authority.
Women’s fashion in Far Madding is centred on high-necked dresses which extend right up to the chin, with embroidery of animals such as birds being common.
Much of the rest of the region is made up of hardy, independent and tough-minded folk who rely on themselves first and foremost.
Tear is one of the most powerful of the modern nations, a large kingdom on the far south-eastern coast of the Westlands. It is unusual in being the only nation of the modern era not ruled by a monarchy. It is also a nation famed in prophecy, for it is said that the first sign of the coming of the Dragon Reborn will be the fall of the great Stone of Tear to his armies.
The history of Tear began during the Breaking of the World, when Aes Sedai aware of the Foretelling of the Dragon Reborn used the One Power to create the Stone of Tear. Not as tall as the White Tower but probably greater in volume, the Stone is a huge mountain of stone, riddled with galleries and chambers. In the Heart of the Stone the Aes Sedai secreted Callandor, the Sword That Is Not a Sword, one of the most powerful sa’angreal ever created, and wove around it wards so that none but the Dragon Reborn could touch it.
The Stone became a bulwark during the latter part of the Breaking, people flocking to the protection it offered. A great city took shape around it, also called Tear. As the Breaking ended and new nations arose, the mighty kingdom of Essenia was founded with its capital at Aren Mador (modern Far Madding) to the north-west. Alone among what would become known as the Ten Nations, Essenia was ruled by a council of nobles rather than a single king or queen. Tear joined the burgeoning nation, becoming its largest and most famous city, but not its capital. In 209 AB First Lord Cristol of Essenia brought the nation into the Covenant of the Ten Nations.
During the Trolloc Wars, armies of Shadowspawn penetrated as far south as Essenia, but were unable to take either Aren Mador on its heavily-fortified island, or Tear, defended by the Stone. Essenia survived the conflict but collapsed in its aftermath. The city of Tear became the capital of a new kingdom, Moreina. Relatively little is known of Moreina, save that it was a monarchy and a High Governor who was given responsibility for the Stone of Tear.
In late FY 942, during the War of the Second Dragon, Moreina was invaded by the armies of the false Dragon Guaire Amalasan. His armies overran much of Moreina and besieged the city of Tear, but were unable to breach the Stone. More than thirty Aes Sedai had journeyed from Tar Valon to bolster the city’s defences and prevent the Stone falling to Amalasan. Amalasan, frustrated by the deadlock, led his armies north instead into Talmour and Khodomar, where fate delivered him to Jolvaine Pass just as an army led by the young King Artur Paendrag Tanreall was crossing, resulting in Amalasan’s defeat, capture and gentling and Hawkwing’s rise to power.
A few years later, as the armies of the Westlands marched against Artur “Hawkwing” only to be defeated one after the other, the nation of Moreina chose willingly to ally with Hawkwing and become part of his growing empire. The armies of Moreina bolstered Hawkwing’s own and contributed to his conquest of the continent.
Late in Hawkwing’s reign, the city of Tear was chosen as one of the places where a great fleet was to be assembled and prepared for an assault on Shara, the mysterious land beyond the Aiel Waste. The invasion was launched in FY 993 but was apparently defeated, the Sea Folk reporting that, after some initial successes, the fleet was destroyed and the army either slaughtered or captured. Certainly none ever returned to the Westlands afterwards.
Artur Hawking died in FY 994; almost immediately upon news of his death breaking, Lord Istaban Novares and Lady Yseidre Tirado seized the city of Tear and a stretch of surrounding countryside, declaring the founding of the sovereign nation of Tear. Many lords and ladies in the city supported them, others in the countryside opposed them. Thus Tear became either the first or second nation of the modern era founded (around the same time as Queen Ishara Casalain founded the kingdom of Andor). With none of the Tairen nobles gaining enough support to declare themselves King or Queen, they instead formed a coalition of equals, the Council of High Lords. Over the course of the War of the Hundred Years they pushed the borders back in all directions and secured a significant amount of the former territory of Moreina with a notable exception: the peninsula to the east of the Bay of Remara had been seized by the city-state of Mayene, which firmly held it against every attempt by Tear to take control. Tear could have brought significant superiority of numbers to bear, but border clashes with the nations of Illian to the west, Maredo to the north-west and Mar Haddon to the north meant that Tear could not risk expending the strength required in case they were attacked from another direction.
Since the War of the Hundred Years, Tear has grown rich on trade and fishing, along with its lucrative position at the mouth of the River Erinin, which provides easy access for trade and travel to Andor, Cairhien, Tar Valon, Arafel and Shienar upriver. It has suffered several attempts by false Dragons to take the Stone, all of them defeated.
The most recent major conflict fought by Tear was during the Aiel War. After the initial Aiel armies decimated Cairhien and drove King Laman Damodred’s army from the kingdom in disarray, Laman fought a desperate holding action through the Maraside Mountains and into Haddon Mirk. Aware that Laman was leading the Aiel towards their borders, Tear formed an army and agreed to assist Laman on the condition that he crossed the Erinin (with their ships) and moved away from their territory. Laman agreed and the Aiel followed (despite their fear of water), leading the war instead into Andor and, many months later, to the fateful final engagement near Tar Valon. Tear sent 24,000 troops to the Battle of the Shining Walls under High Lord Astoril Damara.
Tear’s recent history has been dominated by its rivalry with Illian to the west, which has resulted in three major and numerous smaller wars being fought between them, the bloodiest being the six-year war between 970 and 976 NE which was curtailed only by the Aiel War. Tear also has a tense relationship with Mayene to the east, which it claims as a province (and which Mayene denies) and a difficult relationship with the Aes Sedai: channelling is outlawed in Tear and Aes Sedai are discouraged from visiting, although in practice the Tairens find it difficult to stop them if they insist. Tear also has internal tension, with the High Lords dominating the Lords of the Land (the lesser nobility and high-ranking middle class) and the working classes (whom the Tairen nobility considers almost subhuman) with arrogance and near tyrannical contempt. As a result Tear, for all its riches and military power, is an unhappy land.
Tear is located on the Sea of Storms in the south-eastern corner of the Westlands. It stretches for 880 miles from the Plains of Maredo to the Bay of Remara, and for most of its length extends inland for about 240 miles, apart from in the far south-east where a peninsula juts about 250 miles out into the Sea of Storms, forming the western coast of the Bay of Remara.
Tear is the only nation of the modern era which does not share land borders with any other nation; it used to have a direct border with Illian on the Plains of Maredo but some decades ago this was pulled back with a buffer zone of unclaimed territory lying between them to reduce tensions. The northern border is somewhat flexible, lying as it does against the great marshland known as Haddon Mirk.
Most of Tear enjoys a warm climate, comfortably cooled by breezes off the Sea of Storms. Olives grow freely and the nation has vast pastures where large herds of horses are bred.
The capital of Tear, also called Tear, is one of the oldest and largest cities in the Westlands. The city consists of an inner city, walled and paved, and an outer city, unwalled and muddy, with a poor port quarter known as the Maule. The city’s skyline is dominated by the Stone, which is located in the northern part of the city. Heavily fortified, the mountain-like Stone has been attacked and besieged more than a hundred times but it has never fallen in battle.
The city of Tear lies on the eastern banks of the wide River Erinin about 100 miles north of where it flows into the sea. Between the city and the sea lies a vast delta known as the Fingers of the Dragon, consisting of rocky outcroppings, marshes, confusing dead ends and tidal pools. Tairen pilots guide ships through the Fingers (for a price). The High Lords of Tear have ordered that no other port or harbour should be built on the Fingers, lest it threatens the capital’s supremacy.
The same law has discouraged the construction of any town or city within the borders of Tear that might threaten the capital’s position, with the residents of each town taxed according to the population of the town, encouraging people and businesses to live in smaller villages. The exception is Godan, the nation’s major port on the Bay of Remara, located some 720 miles east of Tear itself. Godan was exempted from the law due to the need for a Tairen stronghold in close proximity to Mayene as a staging ground for a possible invasion.
Tear is unique among the modern nations by not having a single ruler. Instead, it is ruled by the Council of High Lords (and High Ladies). This council is made up of the heads of the most powerful noble houses of Tear, although this can vary wildly; the Council has had as few as six representatives and as many as twenty-three. The High Lords are ambitious and scheme against one another, but their ambitions against Illian and Mayene have encouraged a greater degree of cooperation than is seen in Cairhien.
Below the High Lords are the Lords of the Land, lesser nobles with smaller holdings. Below the Lords of the Land are the middle classes and peasantry, but the nobles of Tear hold them to be unimportant and indeed contemptible.
Military and Population
Tear’s military is decentralised, with each noble raising troops as needed. The only long-standing elite military formation are the Defenders of the Stone, who are tasked with holding the Stone of Tear (and, to a lesser extent, the entire capital city). The Defenders are well-trained and formidable, but their military doctrine is based on defending a fortified position rather than taking the offensive in the field.
Tear’s huge population of horses means that the country fields much larger cavalry divisions than other nations, and has led to military commanders dramatically overestimating the effectiveness of heavy horse. Infantry are held in contempt, despite the relatively poor performance of Tear’s heavy cavalry against locked walls of Aiel spears during the Aiel War, the last major military conflict Tear took part in.
Tear’s population is estimated at being comparable to Illian’s, between 5 and 10 million. Tear is said to rival Caemlyn and Illian in size, suggesting a population of around 300,000 in the capital, perhaps more.
Tear has a diversified economy, which has helped it avoid economic distress during times of hardship in any one sector. Tear itself is a great trading port and the gateway to the Erinin. Trading ships from Andor, Cairhien and even the Borderlands of Arafel and Shienar stop regularly at Tear, whilst ocean-going ships head westwards to Illian, Altara and Tarabon. Tear guards the Fingers of the Dragon fiercely, forcing all ships that pass to pay a toll to gain access to the river.
Olive groves provide Tear with tremendous wealth. As well as being a delicacy, Tairen olive oil is used as an ingredient in fine meals across the continent. Tairen oil is also used for lamps and is exported across the Westlands (despite strong competition from Mayene’s oil, which many hold as superior). Tear also enjoys excellent fishing in the Sea of Storms just off the nation’s long coast.
Tear’s countryside is mostly flat and consists of pasture, olive groves and farmland. The nation produces a huge grain surplus every year. Much of this grain is shipped up the Erinin to Cairhien, which is still recovering from the depredations of the Aiel War. Although this sounds generous, the Tairen lords demand a high price from the Cairhienin for this largesse.
The final cornerstone of Tear’s economy is horses. Tairen horses are simply the finest in the known world and are widely admired (if grudgingly, in the case of Illian).
These combined factors have made Tear possibly the richest kingdom in the Westlands, and explains why people do business with the nation despite the overwhelming arrogance of its rulers.
The Tairen nobility are known for their fashion, with men wearing colourful coats and breeches and women wearing silk dresses. The lowborn wear considerably more muted colours and are known to wear straw hats to protect them from the sun. Both commoners and nobles in the city of Tear itself wear clogs, wooden shoe-raisers, to protect their footwear from the thick mud that permeates the outer city.
Mayene is a city-state located to the east of Tear, at the tip of the peninsular forming the eastern and south-eastern shores of the Bay of Remara. Mayene also claims the entire peninsular to the north, as far as the swamp known as the Drowned Lands. Tear claims the entire region as a renegade province, although the Mayeners are quick to note that Tear has never controlled the region and they have always been independent.
It is unclear when Mayene was built, although it existed during the latter part of the Free Years era. It was part of the Kingdom of Moreina (where Tear’s claim to the city dubiously comes from) and then became the south-eastern-most port of Artur Hawkwing’s Empire. When Hawkwing assembled his fleet to invade Shara, Mayene, as the nearest city to Shara (although still more than 2,000 miles from the Sharan coast) was one of the launching points for the invasion.
After the fleets to invade Seanchan and Shara were launched, the only direct heir to Artur Hawkwing left in the Westlands was Laiwynde, a daughter of Hawkwing and his second wife Tamika. In FY 994 Laiwynde and her infant son Tyrn were both reported killed in an accident. Hawkwing himself died a few days or weeks later; the lack of an apparent heir contributed to the outbreak of the War of the Hundred Years.
When Tear was founded, shortly after Hawkwing’s death, the High Lords laid claim to all of the territories of the former Kingdom of Moreina, including Mayene. Mayene, however, had declared itself a sovereign nation as well. As it took many decades for Tear to secure its borders on the Bay of Remara and as the threat from its direct neighbours to the north and west were more pressing, Tear never enforced its claim to Mayene.
In FY 1004, ten years after Hawkwing’s supposed death, a young man appeared in Mayene claiming to be Tyrn sur Paendrag Mashera. He had survived the death of his mother and gone into hiding to avoid assassination. His claim was recognised in Mayene and he was made First Lord of the City. This was initially a ceremonial position but over his lifetime, Tyrn’s good advice and governance saw him become effectively the ruler of the city in all but name. In FY 1054 his daughter Miselle succeeded him as the First Lady of Mayene, which was now the formal title for the ruler of the city. A council of other nobles, known as Seconds, was formed to help administer the city and its territories. Over time the title was shortened to the First of Mayene.
Mayene survived the War of the Hundred Years, although it was sacked twice during the conflict. The city was rebuilt even stronger after each assault and was soon surrounded by formidable walls and outlying defences which have been maintained to this day, further dissuading military adventures from neighbouring Tear.
Mayene’s history since the War of the Hundred Years has been one of careful strategic and political manoeuvring, keeping Tear at bay by skilfully employing both negotiation and resolve. Due to its isolation and distance from the rest of the continent, Mayene has not played a major role in affairs apart from the Aiel War, when it sent a small detachment of Winged Guards to the Battle of the Shining Walls.
Mayene is a relatively small city built around a splendid harbour. Although small compared to Tear or Caemlyn, it is very well-defended. Geography and fortifications make attacking the city a formidable task, only achievable with tens of thousands of casualties.
The territory controlled by Mayene consists of the peninsula along the south-eastern coast of the Bay of Remara. This territory extends about 120 miles inland from the city itself to the Drowned Lands, and around 80 miles across the peninsula.
The Drowned Lands are a large saltwater swamp extending across the entire peninsula north-east of Mayene. They are about 160 miles wide. The swamp is murky, with few open waterways, and infested with hostile creatures such as water lizards, nedar (tusked water pigs), soetam (large aquatic rats), swamp cats and varieties of swamp deer, including the spikehorn and forkhorn. The Drowned Lands inhibit overland travel to Mayene. They also discourage travel around the southern end of the Spine of the World to the north-west.
North of the Drowned Lands lies the far south-western extent of the Aiel Waste, although few Aiel live in this region. The most notable location in this area is Stedding Shangtai, the home of some of the Ogier’s finest stonemasons. To the east and north-east lies the hostile, vast desert known as the Termool.
Mayene is ruled by the First of Mayene, currently Lady Berelain sur Paendrag Paeron. The rulers of Mayene claim descent from the High King Artur Hawkwing via his daughter Laiwynde and grandson Tyrn. This claim is not taken very seriously outside of Mayene. The First is advised by a council of Seconds, who each hold responsibility for a different sector of the economy, society or military.
Military and Population
Mayene is defended by the Winged Guards, an elite, permanent military formation numbering in the low thousands. The Winged Guards are tasked with defending the city itself and the person of the First. Although a small army, the Winged Guards have established an impressive reputation for military skill.
Mayene is said to be an impressively-sized city, but is notably smaller than Ebou Dar, Caemlyn or Illian. On that basis, the population of the city is probably not higher than 200,000 and may be significantly less.
Mayene’s economy rests on the oilfish shoals, a type of fish which is both a delicacy and produces an impressive oil which burns with much greater efficiency than that found in neighbouring Tear. Mayener oil is sold across the continent and also to the Sea Folk (the Sea Folk island of Cindaking is located just 150 miles from Mayene). Mayene is also favourably placed on the Sea Folk shipping lanes running south to Cindaking, west along the coast to Tremalking and south-east to one of the Sea Folk archipelagos off the coast of Shara.
Mayeners are straight-talking, no-nonsense people who are known for their bluntness and forwardness. However, to those who prove friends and allies, they are also exceptionally and fiercely loyal. Mayeners have a reputation for personal toughness, with the Firsts of Mayene being trained to defend themselves from Tairen assassins from a young age.
Although they can be uncomfortably honest, the rulers of Mayene are also known for skilful diplomacy, forging key alliances to discourage Tairen aggression and protect their borders.
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Murandy is one of the smallest nations of the modern era, a roughly circular nation squeezed between the larger powers of Andor, Illian and Altara. Like Altara, Murandy is a nation more in theory than fact, divided between bickering nobles who only unify in the face of external threats.
The territory currently occupied by Murandy was originally claimed by Coremanda, one of the Ten Nations of the Covenant. Coremanda was destroyed during the Trolloc Wars, with the nations of Aldeshar and Nerevan claiming the territory now held by the Murandy. During the War of the Second Dragon, Nerevan was conquered by the false Dragon Guaire Amalasan and later liberated by Artur Hawkwing, who also conquered Aldeshar in FY 963 to bring the entire continent under his rule.
When Hawkwing died in FY 994, his empire collapsed in the many-sided, confusing conflict known as the War of the Hundred Years. The nation of Andor arose to the north-east, but for generations the Queens of Andor were only able to hold small parts of the former province of the same name. Lugard, an important trading city on the main road from Caemlyn to Ebou Dar, became a much fought-over prize, changing hands with startling regularity. In FY 1047 Lady Katrine do Catalan a’Coralle amassed sufficient manpower to seize Lugard in battle and hold it against all comers. She crowned herself the first Queen of Murandy, but was assassinated only a year later. Her successors managed to hold the small nation together despite repeated attacks, eventually forming a confederation of local lords working together with the ruler in Lugard.
By the time the War of the Hundred Years ended, c. FY 1117, Murandy had secured its modern-day borders, which it has held to the modern day.
Murandy has not played a major role in continental affairs, being much consumed by political infighting. It has been, at different times, influenced by Andor to the north and Illian to the south. In 957 NE, the Children of the Light invaded the kingdom of Altara. Fearing that, if successful, Murandy would be next, the Murandian lords joined with the King of Illian in launching a punitive military expedition to drive the Children out of Altara. Despite a middling (at best) military performance, they succeeded and Altara was liberated.
In 978 NE Murandy sent approximately 4,000 troops to help defend Tar Valon at the Battle of the Shining Walls. Due to a lack of obvious military leadership and political intrigue, the army was commanded by a rotating council of nobles. It did not distinguish itself notably on the battlefield.
Murandy consists mainly of hill and river country, some of the hills large enough to be considered low mountains. Its borders are considered to be the River Cary to the south and east, the Splintered Hills in the north and the Cumbar Hills and the River Manetherendrelle to the west and south-west. Then nation is approximately 480 miles across at its widest point. Its major rivers include the Storn, the Reisendrelle and the Cary.
Murandy’s capital and largest city is Lugard, a trading town where, it is said, there are more inns and markets than private residences. The city is noted for its somewhat battered and rude appearance, with apparently little interest in civic pride. Apart from the Royal Palace, there are no real buildings of note in the capital city. The city’s walls are a crumbling ruin, with no-one willing to stump up the coin to repair them. Lugard has a reputation for licentiousness, rude behaviour and crime, with numerous gangs prowling the back alleys and rooftops in search of easy prey. If it wasn’t for the city’s convenient location between the cities of Illian, Ebou Dar, Jehannah and Caemlyn, it would likely be avoided altogether and left to crumble into ruin.
The known towns and city-states of Murandy include Lugard, Inishlinn and Mindea. Villages include Hinderstap and Trustair near the Andoran border.
Murandy is ruled by a hereditary ruler based in Lugard. The King or Queen of Murandy holds only nominal power; as in Altara, the ruler is merely the most powerful noble in the capital (and sometimes not even then), with other lords or ladies perhaps holding more power in other cities or out in the countryside. The current King of Murandy is Roedran Almaric do Arreloa a’Naloy, a somewhat cunning man who holds the ambition of uniting Murandy properly as a nation under his rule. The success of this remains to be seen.
Military & Population
Murandy’s divisiveness, and the determination of the nobility to keep power out of the throne’s hands, means it lacks any elite military formation as exists in other lands. Each noble instead maintains his own private guard, which vary wildly in quality and discipline. Whenever Murandy has had to muster an army for battle, such armies usually number under 10,000 in strength, often half that. This suggests that the population of Murandy may be just 1 million or less, making it the least-populous nation in the Westlands (bar only city-states like Mayene or Far Madding).
Murandy has sour relations with Andor to the north, due to a history of border skirmishes (skirmishes which Andor, with twenty times Murandy’s population and vastly more in military skill, has invariably won). Murandy has better relations with Illian to the south, with whom it has cooperated in successful foreign ventures (albeit more due to Illian’s forces than Murandy’s) on several occasions.
Murandy’s wealth comes from trade. Lugard, despite being widely regarded as a cesspool of human vice and inequity, is well-positioned for trade between Andor, Tar Valon and Cairhien to the north and Altara, Amadicia Ghealdan and Tarabon to the west and south-west, and Illian to the south. The nation has various natural resources, including mineral wealth under the Cumbar Hills to the west, which add to its relative prosperity despite its small size and population.
Murandians are usually friendly, charming and outgoing…as long as they think you have something they want. They make excellent merchants, well-known for their haggling skills and abilities at negotiation (although Domani merchants are usually known to outwit them). Their dress sense is a hodgepodge of styles, usually in opposition to whatever is in fashion at the time in Andor .
The Kingdom of Illian is a relatively small but extremely powerful nation located on the Sea of Storms, at the mouth of the vast River Manetherendrelle. The city of Illian is one of the largest on the continent. The interior is made up of smaller towns and cities thriving on trade between other powers to the east and west. The nation has a strong sense of national pride, making it almost the inverse of Altara to the west or Murandy to the north.
Illian has a strong, long-running enmity with Tear to the east. The two nations have clashed many times for control of trade along the Plains of Maredo and also control of fishing rights on the Sea of Storms.
The nation of Eharon arose after the Breaking of the World, securing much of the territory currently held by Altara and Illian. Its capital was Londaren Cor and its major ports were Barashta in the west and Dorelle Caromon to the east. During the Trolloc Wars, Londaren Cor was razed to the ground and Barashta mostly destroyed (later being rebuilt as Ebou Dar). The Eharonian government retreated to Dorelle Caromon which, defended by vast marshes extending around the city (apart from a single causeway), resisted several attacks until the Shadowspawn were driven from the region in abject defeat. After the wars, Dorelle Caromon was renamed Illian and became the springboard for the reclamation of much of Eharon, which became a new kingdom named Shiota.
Shiota fell to the false Dragon Guaire Amalasan in the War of the Second Dragon and was then liberated by Artur Hawkwing. Illian became a great trade port and centre of mercantile trade in the Hawkwing Empire. It was also one of the ports responsible for the building of the vast fleet designed to attack Shara in FY 993. After Hawkwing’s death in FY 994, the continent descended into the anarchy known as the War of the Hundred Years.
Circa FY 1090, a powerful noblewoman named Lady Esmara Getare seized Illian in battle. From there she conquered all of Illian and the Plains of Maredo, including the city of Far Madding. If she’d stopped there, she may have survived and left behind a legacy of one of the most powerful nations in the Westlands. Instead, she overreached and launched an invasion of Andor which was defeated. Getare was captured by Queen Telaisien and spent ten years as her “guest” before her death (apparently by assassination).
Lord Nicoli Merseneos den Ballin stepped into the breach in Illian, declaring himself the first King of the nation shortly after Getare’s capture. He was supported by a populace tired of war, but faced opposition from other nobles, nine of whom were powerful enough to offer a real challenge. To placate them, Ballin suggested the founding of a body to advise him, known as the Council of Nine. To maintain the support of the commons, he also founded a body known as the Assemblage, where common people – although in practice more often merchants and ship-builders – could also be represented.
This tripartite system has been applauded for the system of “checks and balances” it places on the rulers, preventing anyone from becoming too powerful or tyrannical (it has often also been criticised for being slow and prone to political logjams). It has also been a notably petty system: when King Nicoli told the Council they could build a palace in the Square of Tammaz opposite his own but it had to be smaller, they built an exact replica of his residence only 2 feet smaller in every dimension.
Since this time, Illian has become a very powerful kingdom. It proved its military mettle during the Whitecloak War of 957 NE, when it helped Altara and Murandy defeat the Children of the Light and Amadicia. During the Aiel War in 976-78 NE it sent armies against the Aiel on several occasions, most notably at the Battle of the Shining Walls when it sent 26,000 troops to help defend Tar Valon (one of the largest troop contributions, behind only Shienar and Andor).
Illian measures approximately 630 miles from north to south and about 570 miles from east to west at its widest point, although it is considerably narrower in the north. Its borders are held to the the Doirlon Hills on the Plains of Maredo in the east (the so-called “East Wall” of Illian), the Damona Mountains to the north-west and the River Cary in the far north.
Illian is dominated by the mighty River Manetherendrelle, which bisects the nation from its north-western corner to where it flows into the sea. The Manetherendrelle and its primary tributary, the Arinelle, form the greatest river network on the continent (although the Erinin is the more impressive single river), forming an inland transport network extending all the way from Maradon in Saldaea, over 2,500 miles to the north. Other tributaries also provide river-bound links to Lugard in Murandy. Two other tributaries – the Shal and the Cary – are also notable rivers within Illian’s own borders, providing both transport and trade for the nation’s citizens and merchants.
The Manetherendrelle flows into the Sea of Storms via a vast, marshy drainage basin. The city of Illian itself is located on one of the few stretches of flat uplands in this area. The surrounding terrain is virtually uncrossable, meaning the city has no need for walls: even during the Trolloc Wars, the hordes of Shadowspawn could find no reliable method of crossing the marshes to attack Dorelle Caromon (as Illian was called at the time). As a result, Illian is one of the oldest cities on the continent, never being razed or destroyed as Barashta (now Ebou Dar) was. Much of the original Ogier construction in the city is still visible. The city is centred on the Square of Tammaz, with the King’s Palace and the Great Hall of the Council located at opposite ends. Both palaces are identical save the Great Hall, as previously mentioned, is 2 feet smaller in every dimension. Illian is a city of grand and small canals, bridges, raucous taverns and merchant houses, with a bustling port (one of the busiest on the continent), known as the “Perfumed Quarter” for its fragrance.
Located to the west of Illian are the Nemarellin Mountains, a relatively low range of mountains running along the coast of the peninsula on which Illian sites. When the kingdom was founded the border with Altara ran along the northern edge of the mountains, hence the range’s nickname as the “West Wall” of Illian. Since that time Illian has seized significant territory from Altara and pushed the border back hundreds of miles to the north-west. The mountain range helps protect Illian from the worst of the ceranos storms which form over the Sea of Storms to the south-west and tend to blow north and east across Kabal Deep and the mountains.
Illian is ruled by a hereditary ruler known as the King or Queen. They wield significant power, particularly in foreign affairs and military matters, but are advised by the Council of Nine. The Council consists of the nine most powerful nobles in the country after the ruler and they act as a check on the their power. Both bodies also have to answer to the Assemblage, made up of merchants and other notable “common people” of the kingdom. The result is arguably the most democratic system of government in the Westlands, but also (even more arguably) the least efficient.
The current King of Illian is Mattin Stepaneos den Balgar, who has sat on the Royal Throne for over forty years. He led Illian to victory (despite being captured and ransomed) in the Whitecloak War and also commanded the Illianer army in person at the Battle of the Shining Walls. Despite his age, he is known for his shrewdness and skill at military command. King Mattin enjoys good relations with Tar Valon and the Aes Sedai, but somewhat colder relations with both Amadicia and Tear.
Military and Population
Illian’s army is a source of great national pride. Illian’s army is large, well-disciplined and formidably trained, with great military exercises regularly held on the Plains of Maredo in the east of the country. Great hill forts and castles can be found in the Doirlon Hills and on the borders with Murandy and Altara. Illian’s generals are of a reasonable calibre, including King Mattin himself, although none are considered Great Captains.
Part of Illian’s military success is down to its army’s open-mindedness. Foreigners are welcomed into the military, especially veterans from other kingdoms with knowledge of their ways of fighting. Illian’s army has a tradition of adapting to enemy tactics rather than constantly trying the same thing again and again. Particularly formidable is the military formation known as the Illianer Companions, an elite fighting force known for its bravery and steadfastness. The Companions have been credited with significant victories during the Whitecloak War (where their valour alone allowed the army to escape a trap set by the Children of the Light at Soremaine) and the Aiel War (where a Companion detachment defeated an Aiel force on the very slopes of Dragonmount itself).
Based on the military force Illian sent to the Shining Walls and assuming that was only half of the kingdom’s full military potential, Illian’s population may be roughly estimated at somewhere between 5 and 10 million. The city of Illian is said to be the rival of Caemlyn in physical size and population, putting the city’s population at roughly 300,000.
Illian enjoys mineral wealth from the Damona and Nemarellin ranges, but its lifeblood is trade by land, river and sea. Illianer river boats sail up the Manetherendrelle network all the way to Maradon in Saldaea, stopping at Whitebridge (in Andor), Lugard (in Murandy) and Remen (in Altara) along the way. Illianer ocean traders can be found as far afield as Bandar Eban in Arad Doman. Illian is the greatest naval power of the Westlands, although not as accomplished as the Sea Folk in naval technology.
Illianers come in many shapes and sizes, but most are fiercely proud of their nation and its achievements. They make fine soldiers, excellent merchants and canny politicians.
Illianer fashion consists of long coats with raised collars. Men are known for impressive beards, but leave their upper lip shaved. Women favour wide-brimmed hats held in place by scarves wound around the neck. Both men and women favour elaborate footware.
For reasons that are a subject for conjecture, Illian (and Dorelle Caromon before it) has had a strong historical link to the Horn of Valere, a powerful artefact said to be able to summon the armies of the dead to fight for the wielder. The Horn’s whereabouts have been unknown for thousands of years, so Illian occasionally calls Great Hunts for the Horn, where brave adventurers (or, more usually, bored noble youngsters) gather to take the oath to find the Horn and return it to Illian. Many great adventures have been launched in this fashion, collected together in impressive bardic cycles of heroism, adventure and, the less romantically-inclined may say, foolishness. The last Great Hunt was called 400 years ago, but it is rumoured that the King and Council of Illian are considering calling a new one in the near future.
After the chaos of the Breaking of the World, ten nations arose on the new landmass that had formed between the Aryth Ocean and the Spine of the World. These ten great kingdoms, vast and sprawling, allied together in the Compact of the Ten Nations and sought to regain the beauty, tranquillity and richness of the Age of Legends. They may have succeeded, had they not been overrun in the horrors of the Trolloc Wars. After three and a half centuries of gruelling warfare, humanity survived but the Ten Nations didn’t, splintering apart and collapsing into twenty-nine lesser states, the Free Kingdoms, which would endure for another thousand years until the rise of Artur Hawkwing, the High King.
The Breaking of the World lasted for between 239 and 344 years. The Breaking continued as long as male channellers of the One Power endured. Thanks to the Dark One’s taint on saidin at the end of the War of the Shadow, every male channeller of the One Power went insane and used their powers to devastate the world, triggering volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, tearing the earth apart, plunging entire landmasses into the oceans, causing tidal waves and pulling new lands up out of the depths of the sea.
The female Aes Sedai, and some ordinary people, dedicated themselves to the job of killing male channellers wherever they found them. For the Aes Sedai, they could also still them, leaving them alive but stripped of the ability to channel (although this was scant kindness in such a harsh world as they remained twisted and insane). For every male channeller killed or gentled, the intensity of the Breaking lessened. For the last few years and maybe decades of the Breaking, it was more of a background event with the occasional major earthquake rather than the continuous, world-destroying chaos it was at its height (hence the disagreement about when precisely it ended).
Toma dur Ahmid was a scholar and historian living in what would become the nation of Safer (it is believed that Toman Head was named for him, indicating he was a scholar of some repute, although much of his work has been lost today). Toma devised a new calendar system by backtracking through dates and consulting with other sources, including possibly Brown Ajah sisters of the reconstituted Aes Sedai. From these he was able to discern when the last male Aes Sedai was killed or gentled (almost two centuries earlier) and numbered all subsequent years as After the Breaking. This calendar, the Toman Calendar, had gained widespread acceptance by circa 200 AB.
During the Breaking, all of the high civilisation of the Age of Legends was lost. Most cities were destroyed, drowned or devastated, and the few that survived were abandoned, as their tall buildings were no longer safe. New cities and towns were founded, some of wood, others of stone as people had to rediscover how to build things from scratch. The earliest city founded in the newly-formed Westlands was almost certainly Tear. Aes Sedai took the massive stone hill located where Tear now lies and used the Power to shape it into a fortress known as the Stone of Tear. The city took shape around it, either late in the Breaking or early immediately afterwards. Parts of the Panarch’s Palace in Tanchico date back even further, to the Age of Legends, with friezes and other items depicting now mostly incomprehensible images of life in that Age. These objects are believed to have been saved during the Breaking and installed in the Palace when Tanchico – originally called Mainelle – was built very soon after the Breaking.
Other cities were founded and built, and from these cities new nations arose and spread. When their borders met, skirmishes and even war resulted. The arising of the nation of Safer, on the west coast, and Manetheren to its east, beyond the Mountains of Mist, seems to have been particularly contentious, despite the presence of the mountains as a natural boundary between them. The precise nature of the two nations’ enmity is speculative, but it may have been down to control of Lake Somal, the largest freshwater lake on the continent, and the Manetherenese comfort and skill in navigating mountain ranges, which they found relatively easy to live in and cross (the highway linking the city of Manetheren and Jara’copan, extending through what most would consider impassable terrain today, is a sign of this). King Aedomon of Safer invaded Manetheren, where he was met by King Buiryn at the Battle of Midean’s Ford. Although Manetheren was defeated and Buiryn slain, the battle bled the Saferi army so badly it had to withdraw. It is assumed this war took place during the first two centuries After the Breaking.
In 47 AB the approximately sixteen largest factions claiming to be descended from the Aes Sedai of the Age of Legends met and agreed to form a new, unified organisation. After initial problems with this (including a disagreement that led to a brief civil conflict), construction began of the Aes Sedai city, Tar Valon, in 98 AB. Both human construction workers and Ogier stonemasons were involved, and the One Power was used to strengthen the buildings as they were created. It took over a century for Tar Valon to be completed, with the final buildings completed in 202 AB. During this period the slowly-growing nations had the same idea and commissioned Ogier stedding to help build their own cities as well.
In 209 AB Mabriam en Shareed, Queen of Aramaelle and also Aes Sedai, called a grand meeting of the rulers at Tar Valon. They she proposed an alliance of the ten kingdoms, an end to border wars and disputes and an attempt to strengthen humanity against the still-extant (although quiet) threat of the Shadow. The negotiations were long, complex and difficult, but ultimately prevailed thanks to Aes Sedai mediation. With Aes Sedai ruling several of the kingdoms, or married to their kings or acting as their advisors, it was possible to overcome areas of dispute and finalise borders and responsibilities. By the end of negotiations, the Compact of the Ten Nations (sometimes called the Second Covenant of Tar Valon, the first presumably being the meeting of 47 AB) was established and signed by the following rulers:
The Compact of the Ten Nations endured for over eight centuries. During this time humanity regained some of what had been lost in the Breaking. Other grand cities were built (Londaren Cor, the new capital of Eharon, was built after Tar Valon and was reportedly even more beautiful), new art forms developed and technology improved. Hopes were high that all that had been lost could be regained.
This was not to be. Circa 1000 AB, reports came of a massive Shadowspawn assault on the northern Jaramidian city of Barsine, located in the western Mountains of Dhoom. A horde of Trollocs, larger than anything seen since the War of the Shadow, struck south into Jaramide, burning and destroying everything in its path. A similar horde struck into Aramaelle, via Tarwin’s Gap. The nations rallied to the defence, but the tidal wave of Shadowspawn could not be held back. Three centuries of warfare followed, the Trolloc Wars, of which more will be related elsewhere.
At the end of the wars the Trolloc threat was defeated. The tide turned at the Fourth Siege of Tar Valon in 1290 AB and the Battle of Maighande in 1301 AB, both victories orchestrated by the Soldier Amyrlin, Rashima Kerenmosa of the Aes Sedai (she lost her life in the latter, the largest battle fought since the War of the Shadow). Fifty years later, the last Trolloc horde south of the Blight was destroyed, ending the conflict. Aramelle, Almoren, Aridhol, Manetheren and Coremanda had fallen during the war, and the remaining nations had begun to break apart from the political, social and military stress of such prolonged warfare. Twenty-nine new nations arose in their wake, of which more will be told later.
Aelgar was located in the south-west of the Westlands. It stretched from the mouth of the River Andahar almost to the mouth of the River Eldar, and from the Mountains of Mist to the Shadow Coast. Aelgar contained all of the modern territory of Amadicia and parts of north-western Altara and most of Tarabon.
Its capital city was Ancohima, of which all trace has been lost, and its other Ogier-built cities were Condaris, Mainelle (modern Tanchico) and Shar Honelle.
Relatively little is known of Aelgar, aside from its borders and some of its cities. The location of its capital is unknown. It is known that it was a wealthy country, presumably based on trade (as Tarabon is today), and its early king Ramedan being called “Goldentongued” suggests that the nation may favoured honeyed diplomacy as its way of resolving issues, possibly in light of the more fractious relationship between Safer and Manetheren to the north.
Aelgar survived the Trolloc Wars but collapsed afterwards, being divided between the kingdoms of Balasun and Kharendor.
Almoren was located in the east of the Westlands. Its borders are the River Erinin in the west, the Spine of the World in the east and the River Iralell to the south. Its northern border with Aramaelle was set during the Compact. Almoren contained all of modern Cairhien and significantly more territory to the north, beyond Kinslayer’s Dagger, and south, beyond the Maraside Mountains.
Its capital city was Al’cair’rahienallen, which became modern Cairhien. Its other Ogier-built city was Jennshain.
Little is known of Almoren, except it was a rich and powerful kingdom. It controlled the western end of Jangai Pass, so all merchants and peddlers heading for Shara across the Aiel Waste had to travel through Almoren, and it was also close to Tar Valon. Its capital, Al’cair’rahienallen (“Hill of the Golden Dawn” in the Old Tongue), was famed for its wealth.
During the Trolloc Wars, Almoren was overrun and completely destroyed, although enough of the capital survived to be subsequently rebuilt as Cairhien. Almoren’s territory was divided between the successor kingdoms of Shandalle, Tova (which inherited Cairhien as its capital), Ileande, Hamarea and Khodomar.
Aramaelle was located in the north-east of the Westlands. It was one of the “Borderlands” of its day, although that term was not used at the time. Its borders were the Spine of the World to the east, the Mountains of the Dhoom to the north, the Plain of Lances to the west and the headwaters of the River Haevin to the south. Aramaelle contained all of the territory belonging to Malkier, Shienar and Arafel, and most of Kandor. The Black Hills were also part of the kingdom.
Its capital city was Mafal Dadaranell (modern Fal Dara). Its other Ogier-built cities were Anolle’sanna, Cuebiyarsande and Rhahime Naille.
Aramaelle was one of the first nations to coalesce after the Breaking, allying very early on with the Aes Sedai whilst Tar Valon was still under construction, and also identified the still-extant threat from the Great Blight. It was Queen Mabriam of Aramaelle who, with Aes Sedai help, negotiated the Compact of the Ten Nations.
Despite Aramaelle’s forward-thinking acts, it was the first kingdom to fall during the Trolloc Wars, with its capital city utterly obliterated and the rest of the kingdom overrun. The symbol of the rule of Aramaelle was a signet ring, which was inherited by the rulers of Rhamdashar, one of the nations that arose from Aramaelle’s ruins, and then by its own successor kingdom, Malkier. The fact that the ring of Aramaelle has survived the better part of four thousand years suggests it was created with the One Power.
As well as Rhamdashar, the kingdoms of Oburun, Elsalam and Roemalle also arose on the former territory of Aramaelle after the Trolloc Wars.
Aridhol was located in the central-western part of the Westlands. It was bordered by the River Arinelle to the south, the River Haevin to the east and the foothills of the Mountains of Mist to the west, with a negotiated border with Jaramide to the north. Aridhol was the smallest of the Ten Nations. Aside from a very narrow strip of land along the bank of the Arinelle, which is now part of western Andor, none of Aridhol’s territory intersects with that of a modern nation.
Its capital city was also called Aridhol, located on the banks of the Arinelle in the far south-western corner of the kingdom. It is the most well-preserved city from this period, but no-one dares enter it now. During the Trolloc Wars something bizarre and unnatural happened to the city and it became known as Shadar Logoth, “Shadow’s Waiting”, and both humans and Shadowspawn fear to approach it. It’s other Ogier-built cities were Abor’maseleine and Cyrendemar’naille.
During the Trolloc Wars Aridhol was threatened by invasion from the north-east after Aramaelle’s destruction. King Balwen Mayel despaired, as his nation was small, less well-populated and less militarily powerful than others. Balwen loved his country and would have done anything to save it and to preserve his beautiful city for the future. A counsellor named Mordeth took advantage of this zeal, suggesting they turn the tactics of the Shadow against it. Aridhol became a hard, cold and martial land where any sacrifice and any tactic was worthwhile to gain victory. Aridhol became a land of paranoia and darkness. Aridhol’s old ally, Manetheren, attempted to win the kingdom back to the light and failed.
Exactly what Mordeth did is unclear, although some claim he may have visited the mysterious Tower of Ghenjei that lay within the nation’s borders, and gained a potential weapon to use against the Shadow. The nature of this weapon was unclear, as it consumed the entire city of Aridhol in a blanketing, evil fog known as Mashadar. It is believed every single living thing in Aridhol was killed. This evil was different and indifferent to the evil of the Shadow; a Trolloc army invaded Aridhol and destroyed the other cities of the kingdom, but when it camped in the capital it promptly vanished, every single Shadowspawn apparently slain and their bodies consumed.
King Balwen gained his wish: the city of Aridhol survived…after a fashion. Nature did not overrun the ruins, the stone buildings remained mostly standing and the city’s glory was preserved, but only as a cold, lifeless monument known afterwards as Shadar Logoth, “Where the Shadow Waits” or “Shadow’s Waiting” in the Old Tongue. Those who spend time in Shadar Logoth do not return, and those who have tried to ransack the city have come to horrific ends. It is said that Mashadar and maybe Mordeth himself still haunt the city, somehow.
Aridhol was shunned, but the people outside of the capital eventually rallied and founded a new nation called Masenashar, which arose after the Trolloc Wars.
Coremanda was located in the centre of the Westlands. Its borders were the rivers Haevin and Luan to the north, along with the Black Hills; the River Erinin to the east; the rivers Manetherendrelle, Arinelle and Haeven to the west; and the Hills of Kintara and River Cary to the south. Coremanda contains the modern eastern half of Andor and most of Murandy. The great plain known as Caralain Grass was also located in the kingdom.
Its capital city was Shaemal, of which all trace has been lost. Its other Ogier-built cities were Hai Caemlyn (Old Caemlyn, which survives as the city centre of modern Caemlyn) and Nailine Samfara.
Coremanda was a rich and powerful nation, its capital of Shaemal famed for its great crystal dome. Coremanda, located at the heart of the continent, was a great centre of trade with goods from all over the Westlands passing through its borders.
The destruction of Aramaelle to the north, Aridhol and Manetheren to the west and Almoren to the east eventually led to Coremanda being outflanked and invaded from several directions. It could not stand against such numbers. Shaemal’s great crystal dome was shattered and the city destroyed in such detail that almost no trace of it exists today. Even its location is debatable (although some have pointed to western Caralaine Grass, near the exact centre of the continent where Artur Hawkwing later planned to built a city, as a likely location). Other parts of Coremanda were more fortunate, with the second city of Hai Caemlyn resisting several attacks. After the Trolloc Wars ended, Hai Caemlyn was rebuilt and greatly expanded as New Caemlyn (later just Caemlyn), which became the capital city of Caembarin.
Other nations that arose out of the ruins of Coremanda were Aldeshar, Nerevan and Dal Calain.
Eharon was located in the south-central region of the Westlands. Its borders were the River Manetherendrelle and River Shal to the east; the River Cary and River Storn to the north; the River Eldar to the west; and the Sea of Storms to the south. Eharon’s territory is today claimed by Altara, western Illian and south-western Murandy.
Eharon’s capital city was Londaren Cor, built after Tar Valon by (apparently) the same Ogier stonemasons who built that city. Londaren Cor was built around three hills known as the Dancers, with the seat of the ruler being known as the Palace of the Moon. Its other Ogier-built cities were Barashta (modern Ebou Dar) and Dorelle Caromon (modern Illian).
Eharon was famed for its civility, its dances and lavish ceremonies. As a major centre of trade, controlling two of the largest and richest ports on the south coast, it was rich, powerful and peaceful. The Trolloc Wars ended that. After the fall of Manetheren and Coremanda, Eharon was invaded by Shadowspawn armies. Londaren Cor and Barashta were sacked and destroyed. When the Trollocs reached Barashta, they effectively divided the continent in two. However, in the process they overextended themselves and were driven back with very heavy losses. Eharon, remarkably, survived the destruction of both its capital and largest port, with the surviving nobility and military presumably using Dorelle Caromon as their new capital. As the war wound down, the ruins of Barashta were reclaimed and a new city built over the ruins, Ebou Dar.
When the Free Kingdoms arose, parts of Eharon’s borders were snatched away by the rising kingdoms of Nerevan and Esandara. The rest of Eharon was renamed as Shiota, becoming one of the most powerful kingdoms of the period between the Trolloc Wars and the rise of Artur Hawkwing.
Essenia was located in the south-east of the Westlands. Its borders were the River Manetherendrelle and River Shal to the west, the Hills of Kintara and River Iralell to the north, the Spine of the World and Drowned Lands to the east and the Sea of Storms to the south. Essenia contains the entire modern territories of Tear and Mayene, as well as most of Haddon Mirk and the Plains of Maredo.
Essenia’s capital city was Aren Mador (modern Far Madding). Its other Ogier-built cities were Dalsande and Tear.
Essenia is intriguing as the only one of the Ten Nations not ruled by a monarchy. Instead, it was ruled by a council of nobles, the chairman and representative of whom was known as the First Lord. The modern nation of Tear, one of Essenia’s successors, seems to have modelled itself after this system. Essenia’s largest city was Tear, near the south coast, but intriguingly the rulers decided to make Aren Mador (modern Far Madding) their capital. This may have been down to defence, as Aren Mador was located on an island in the middle of a large lake with easily-defended bridges linking it to the surrounding countryside. In addition, Aren Mador was the home of a powerful ter’angreal known as the Guardian, which made channelling within the city impossible. This put the rulers on an even keel with their Aes Sedai advisors and visitors.
Essenia may have been the nation that survived the Trolloc Wars in the best shape: both Aren Mador and Tear survived the war untaken. If so, it did not help: Essenia split apart after the war into the nations of Fergansea, Moreina, Talmour and Esandara.
Jaramide was located in the north-west of the Westlands. Its borders were the Aryth Ocean to the west, the Mountains of Dhoom to the north, the River Dhagon and River Akuum to the south and the Plain of Lances to the east. All of modern Saldaea, parts of far western Kandor and a large part of Arad Doman were located within Jaramide’s borders.
Jaramide’s capital city was Deranbar (modern Maradon). Its other Ogier-built cities were Barsine, Allorallen (modern Bandar Eban), Canaire’somelle and Nashebar.
Jaramide was one of the largest, most powerful and richest of the Ten Nations. It consisted of numerous cities, many of whom may have had a notable degree of autonomy: the ruler of Jaramide was known as the “High King” or “High Queen”, a title not used again until Artur Hawkwing, who ruled over an empire where local governors had a notable degree of autonomous power.
Jaramide, like Aramaelle to the east, was one of the ancestors of the Borderlands. It maintained watchtowers along the Blight, with the city of Barsine located in the Mountains of Dhoom themselves. Barsine, famed for its golden spires, guarded the narrow western passes through the mountains but was also a great trading city in its own right, exporting lace across the continent. Circa 1000 AB Barsine was attacked and destroyed by a vast Trolloc horde. This horde was halted in battle further south, but at the same time an even bigger horde invaded Aramaelle via Tarwin’s Gap and destroyed the capital at Mafal Dadaranell (with some suggesting the Jaramide invasion may have been a feint), thus beginning the Trolloc Wars.
Jaramide was on the front line of the Trolloc Wars, fighting fiercely against the Shadow. This became more desperate after Aramaelle to the east and Aridhol to the south-east both fell, allowing the Shadow to launch constant attacks from several directions. Fortunately, the Shadowspawn were more intent on destroying Manetheren and Eharon in an attempt to split the Ten Nations in two, which allowed Jaramide to survive.
After the end of the Trolloc Wars circa 1350 AB, Jaramide collapsed and splintered into the smaller nations of Abayan, Oman Dashar, Indrahar and Basharande.
Manetheren (“Mountain Home” in the Old Tongue) was located in the central-western region of the Westlands. Its borders were the River Arinelle to the north, the Arinelle and Manetherendrelle to the east, the River Eldar and Damona Mountains to the south and the Mountains of Mist and Lake Somal to the west. The western part of Andor, all of Ghealdan and the northern half of Altara all lay within the borders of Manetheren.
Manetheren’s capital city was also called Manetheren and was located in the lower Mountains of Mist, between the headwaters of the Manetherendrelle to the south and the Tarendrelle to the north. Its other Ogier-built cities were Corartheren, Jara’copan (in the foothills of the Mountains of Mist) and Shanaine (modern Jehannah).
Manetheren is one of the most famous of the Ten Nations, stories and songs from its time surviving even to the present. It was built on mineral wealth, with immense mines springing up in the Mountains of Mist producing gold and silver. Fast-flowing rivers made the land fertile and provided rapid transit across the kingdom. For defence, the capital city of Manetheren was built high up in the hills, in the eastern flanks of the mountains themselves, and was a storied wonder. Even the Ogier seemed speechless at what they had created and the city became a spectacle of the continent. Only Tar Valon and Londaren Cor could rival its beauty.
Also famed was the martial zeal of Manetheren. The kingdom’s mineral wealth was jealously coveted by others. Safer and Manetheren fought numerous wars before the Compact of the Ten Nations ended such struggles. Still, enmity between the two kingdoms endured even to the Trolloc Wars. Manetheren’s foremost military force was the Band of the Red Hand, an elite formation which was famed for its skill, its versatility and its speed. Unusually, membership of the Band was opened to people from other kingdoms so the Manetherenese could learn from the military traditions of other nations. The organisation of the Illianer Companions and the Children of the Light owes something to the Band’s practical but flexible approach to warfare.
Manetheren’s rulers were rich and powerful. The kingdom enjoyed a strong alliance with Tar Valon and several Aes Sedai became queens of the kingdom.
During the Trolloc Wars it would have been easy for Manetheren to seal its borders, fortify the river crossings and hold back, secure that it could always pull back to the near-impregnable capital to ride out the conflict. However, hiding was not Manetheren’s way. The Manetherenese military, with the Band of the Red Hand in the vanguard, took the field and marched to the aid of its allies, fighting on the front lines, retiring to regroup and resupply but always returning to the thick of the fighting. The forces of Manetheren became known as the “thorn in the Dark One’s foot and the bramble in his hand”, the most implacable enemy of the Shadowspawn during the Trolloc Wars. Manetheren became acclaimed as the “sword that could not be broken” for its undefeatable will.
Manetheren’s northern flank was held by its close ally Aridhol. After the fall of Aramaelle, Aridhol came under pressure from the Shadow. Manetheren provided aid where it could, but it appeared that King Balwen Mayel was falling into despair. Under the guidance of the enigmatic counsellor, Mordeth, Balwen put into place harsh laws and merciless discipline, turning Aridhol into a cold and brutal land to better resist the brutal tactics of the Shadow. Concerned at what was happening, King Thorin al Toren al Ban sent his son Prince Caar to swing Aridhol back to the light. Instead, the Manetherenese delegation was killed and Caar imprisoned and tortured. Caar escaped back to the Mountain Home. Furious, King Thorin sent Manetheren’s army against Aridhol, believing the nation had fallen to a fate worse than the Shadow. They found the capital city a cold, abandoned mausoleum. Sensing great evil and danger, King Thorin returned home after leaving orders that the city was not to be approached by anyone. Thus was born the legend of Shadar Logoth.
Several decades later, Prince Caar’s son Aemon became King of Manetheren. His wife was Eldrene ay Ellan ay Carlan, an Aes Sedai of exceptional strength and skill. They led their nation as a formidable team, Aemon as a general and soldier of renown and Eldrene as a statesman and ruler of the home front. The strategic position at this time (c. 1200 AB) was increasingly desperate: Aramaelle, Aridhol and possibly Almoren had fallen; Jaramide and Coremanda were under concerted attack; and Tar Valon had already faced several sieges. Despite this, news of a large Shadowspawn army moving south with its flank exposed to Manetheren was something Aemon could not ignore. He took the bulk of Manetheren’s army and destroyed the Shadowspawn force at the Battle of the Field of Bekkar, the Field of Blood.
But this battle was a feint. Word came from the north of a vast Shadowspawn horde, one of the largest seen in the war, moving south towards Manetheren itself. King Aemon force-marched his army back home. He was unable to gain the Arinelle before the leading elements of the Shadow forces had already crossed the river and secured a bridgehead, so he fell back on the next defensive line: the River Tarendrelle. Two large bridges crossed the Tarendrelle and Aemon resolved to form a new defence here.
Word had been sent for aid, to Safer, Aelgar, Eharon and beyond, and even to Tar Valon where Eldrene’s girlhood acquaintance Tetsuan now ruled as Amyrlin Seat. Several of these kingdoms were close enough to send troops by land, and possibly even small forces and Aes Sedai reinforcements by the Ways (the Aes Sedai-created “tunnels” through reality linking several Ogier Waygates together). But Tetsuan harboured a grudge against Eldrene for their childhood together in the White Tower. Eldrene had been accounted more beautiful and stronger in the Power. If she had remained in the Tower, she would probably have been elected Amyrlin instead of Tetsuan. Burning with jealousy, Tetsuan refused to send aid and encouraged several of Manetheren’s allies to also withhold their strength, warning the attack was a ruse designed to weaken their own borders.
Thus, Manetheren’s army faced the Shadow alone. The Battle of the Tarendrelle was a gruelling nine-day engagement where the Manetherenese threw back wave after wave of Shadowspawn as they tried to cross the river, until it ran red with their blood. Initially Manetheren held the east bank, which allowed them to directly fight the Shadow at full strength for nine days. They then fell back to the west bank, firing the bridges behind them, and used missile fire to slaughter Shadowspawn before they could cross. However, the nine-day action on the east bank, although logical given the expected reinforcements, proved to be a mistake. Too many troops had been lost to effectively hold the west bank despite the defensive benefits of the river.
The action gave time for the city of Manetheren to be evacuated. Civilians were sent south and west in great floods, to seek safety in the southern cities of Jara’copan and Shanaine and, when it became clear they would not hold, then Aelgar, Eharon, Safer and other parts of the Ten Nations.
On the eleventh day of combat, the Shadow gained the southern bank of the Tarendrelle. With reinforcements pouring across, King Aemon gave the order to retreat. A running battle lasted for several days, until his surviving forces reached a crossroads to the east of the city of Manetheren. There he made his final stand, holding the Shadow at bay through another full day of battle before he was finally overwhelmed and slain in what became known as the Battle of Aemon’s Field.
At the moment of his death, his wife Eldrene channelled far more of the One Power than was safe or advisable. The torrent of Power obliterated the Shadowspawn army that stood victorious on Aemon’s Field, killing the Dreadlords and Myrddraal accompanying it. The torrent of Power went on and on, consuming not just the Shadowspawn but also the entire city of Manetheren. Eldrene herself was destroyed by the force she had unleashed, but leaving behind no trace of Shadowspawn south of the Tarendrelle. It would be many, many years before the Shadow dared to venture south again, to begin the invasion of Eharon.
For her part in delaying the relief of Manetheren and for sacrificing hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of lives to her own vanity, Tetsuan was deposed from the Amyrlin Seat. She was stilled and put to work as a scullery maid. She died three years later.
After the end of the Trolloc Wars, Manetheren’s territory was divided between the newly-established kingdoms of Farashelle and Dhowlan.
Safer was located in the central-western region of the Westlands. Its borders were the rivers Akuum and Dhagon to the north, the Mountains of Mist to the east, the Aryth Ocean to the west and a negotiated border with Aelgar to the south. Safer consisted of the southern half of Arad Doman, all of Almoth Plain and Toman Head and the northern half of Tarabon.
Safer’s capital city was Iman (modern Katar). Its other Ogier-built cities were Miereallen modern Falme) and Shainrahien. Modern Falme has no evidence of Ogier construction, as Miereallen was utterly destroyed during the Trolloc Wars it left behind no trace. Falme is merely built in the same vicinity.
Safer rose early in the period after the Breaking. It’s scholar Toma dur Ahmid was the one who created the Toman Calendar. Safer was militarily powerful and ambitious, clashing with Manetheren over control of mines in the Mountains of Mist and of the freshwater Lake Somal. Such enmity ended with the signing of the Compact, but the two nations remained on icy terms for some years afterwards.
During the Trolloc Wars, Safer’s army marched to the relief of several of the other kingdoms, most notably Jaramide who was nearly overrun early in the war. Although Jaramide and Safer both, more or less, survived the wars, they did not do so intact and several of Safer’s cities were destroyed in the conflict. Safer’s forces were too far away to help Manetheren when the latter was invaded and destroyed, and conflicting information from Amyrlin Tetsuan delayed the sending of reinforcements until it was far too late.
After the conclusion of the wars, Safer’s territory broke apart into the kingdoms of Oman Dashar, Elan Dapor and Darmovan.
Notes on the Map
The map is based on the map of the Ten Nations provided in The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. This map is very small and lacking in detail, so a few judgement calls had to be made on where to place the borders.
Cities are only placed where we know their exact location or can infer them from information in the text.