If you want to go to the very first post on the Atlas of Ice and Fire, click here.
Some other useful links:
If you want to go to the very first post on the Atlas of Ice and Fire, click here.
Some other useful links:
Narrative Atlas 1: The Eye of the World – From the Two Rivers to Shadar Logoth
These maps cover the first part of our heroes’ journey in The Eye of the World (Book 1 of The Wheel of Time). For a detailed summary of The Eye of the World, please follow this link.
The story begins on Winternight in the 998 NE, the final night of winter and the evening preceding Bel Tine, the celebration that marks the arrival of spring. This date falls on 8 Aine in the local calendar, approximating 23 March in our calendar. This is Day 0 of the Wheel of Time story and our subsequent counts will be (with varying degrees of approximation) from this date. Note that the dates are taken from Steven Cooper’s excellent Wheel of Time Chronology.
The story opens on the Quarry Road just west of Emond’s Field, the largest village in the rural, bucolic backwater known as the Two Rivers.
The Two Rivers
The Two Rivers is a self-governing, semi-autonomous district of the Kingdom of Andor. It is located in the far south-western corner of Andor and is located almost 1,200 miles from the capital at Caemlyn. The Two Rivers has not seen an Andoran tax collector in generations and has no noble lord who rules over the area. The nearest large town, Baerlon, is a clear 100 miles from the northern border of the Two Rivers.
The reason for this is that Andor’s population is spread quite thin west of Whitebridge on the Arinelle. It is likely that Caemlyn would have let all of western Andor go its own way generations ago if it wasn’t for the mineral wealth in the Mountains of Mist. Raw materials, resources and precious metals are quarried in the mountains, in and around mining villages like Comfrey, and then shipped down to Baerlon for further transit on to Caemlyn. Andor has focused its power in keeping open the Caemlyn Road all the way to Baerlon and making sure banditry is not a problem in the western districts. The Two Rivers, as a quiet and orderly backwater, has been allowed to go its own way.
The Two Rivers measures about 130 miles from north to south and is almost 200 miles along its longest axis from west to east. The district is named for the two rivers which border it: the River Tarendrelle, locally known just as the Taren, to the north and the Manetherendrelle (known locally as the White River) to the south. A third river, the Winespring Water, is located at the heart of the district, flowing eastwards from Emond’s Field into the swamps of the Mire.
The Two Rivers is reasonably large overall, but the amount of populated and inhabitable space is considerably smaller. The Sand Hills, the foothills of the Mountains of Mist, are located to the west and are sparse and arid, with few good sources of water. To the east, the Winespring Water, Taren and White River come together in a confusing morass of marshes known as the Mire, with the Waterwood to the north-east. The land here is swampy and not very fertile. As a result, the populated regions are limited to the main north-south highway (known as the Old Road south of Emond’s Field and the North Road to the north), the Westwood and the open countryside between the Westwood, the Mire, the Waterwood and the rivers.
There are only four settlements of note in the Two Rivers. From north to the south these are Taren Ferry, on the northern border; Watch Hill; Emond’s Field; and Deven Ride. Emond’s Field is the largest village in the district but is still quite small. All four settlements seem to have populations in the hundreds at best.
Working out the population of the Two Rivers overall is challenging due to a lack of firm data. However, based on the numbers that the Two Rivers later deploys in battle, it appears that the total population of the district runs from 10,000 at the extreme lower end to 50,000 at the upper end. If the latter seems implausible, it’s worth remembering the scale of the map: the Two Rivers is called “small” and “a backwater” but it’s actually about a quarter the size of England. It should also be recalled that the population of the Two Rivers increases dramatically between The Eye of the World and the sixth book in the series, Lord of Chaos (but we shall cover that later).
Mapping the Two Rivers should be straightforward, as Robert Jordan drew a map of the district for inclusion in The Eye of the World. This map was later redrawn by Ellisa Mitchell for the YA two-volume edition of The Eye of the World and then again, this time in full colour, for The Prophecies of the Dragon (the expansion to The Wheel of Time Roleplaying Game). However, Jordan was (at least initially) very reluctant to include maps at all in the books and this map gives every indication of being drawn about five minutes on the back of an envelope to appease the publishers. There are significant differences in orientation between this map and the general map of the Westlands, particularly the more detailed colour map Ellisa Mitchell created for the hardcover endpapers. My map combines the original Jordan map with the general map of the Westlands, resulting in a slight rotation of the Two Rivers from a N-S to a slightly more SW-NE direction, and making the rivers match the general map rather than their somewhat more artificial course on the local map.
The map of Emond’s Field is based on the excellent and definitive map from the Thirteenth Depository blog. Surprisingly, Robert Jordan never drew his own map of the village, despite its importance in the Wheel of Time narrative. Instead, the map draws on Jordan’s descriptions of the village from The Eye of the World, The Shadow Rising and several other books.
Emond’s Field is centred on the Green, a large open space in the centre of the village. Major buildings are clustered around the Green, the largest of which is the Winespring Inn with its distinctive red roof, the village’s largest inn and the home of the mayor, Brandelwyn al’Vere, and his family.
Emond’s Field consists of the businesses and houses you’d expect in a village, but it’s also an amalgamation of farms clustered along the banks of the Winespring Water. The village has grown up around a crossroads of sorts, with the main north/south road through the Two Rivers passes through the village (it’s known as the North Road north of the village and the Old Road to the south) and the Quarry Road leads from the Green westwards towards the Sand Hills, through the Westwood. There is no major road leading east, but there are well-travelled tracks leading to homesteads and farms, such as the Aybara farm which is located north of the Winespring Water, well to the east of the village.
Emond’s Field is built on the site of Aemon’s Field, the site of the last great battle between the army of Manetheren and the invading Shadowspawn hordes during the Trolloc Wars. It was here that King Aemon made the ultimate sacrifice, laying down his life and that of thousands of his men to buy the civilians of the city of Manetheren enough time to escape southwards. Upon his death, Queen Eldrene channelled more of the One Power than it was safe to handle, killing herself and incinerating Manetheren but also obliterating the Shadowspawn army almost to the last creature. The village of Aemon’s Field later sprung up on the site of the battle, the name becoming corrupted over the passage of over 2,100 years.
The Thirteenth Depository makes strong arguments for their placements of major buildings, including the Winespring Inn at the eastern end of the Green and the cluster of houses along the northern edge of the Green, including the Cauthon farm. The al’Thor farm is located several hours travel by horse and cart to the west of Emond’s Field, so probably 10-15 miles away. The Aybara farm may be located a similar or greater distance to the east, along the Winespring Water.
I did place the Luhhan Smithy, which is not shown on the original map. My reasoning for its location east of the Winespring Inn is that the smithy would be located close to the river and further back from the village so as not to disturb the residents (in real medieval towns the smithy might be more centrally located, but with very little through-traffic through Emond’s Field this is less of a concern here).
During the Trolloc raid on Emond’s Field on Winternight, the Luhhan smithy and Cauthon farm take the brunt of the attack and several adjacent buildings are badly damaged, but the village otherwise survives the attack in good order.
From the Two Rivers to Baerlon
After the Trolloc raid on Emond’s Field, the Aes Sedai Moiraine and her Warder Lan convince Rand al’Thor, Perrin Aybara and Mat Cauthon that the Dark One is searching for them and they should leave to protect their homes and families, drawing the enemy after them. The gleeman Thom Merrilin attaches himself to their party, as does the Mayor’s daughter Egwene al’Vere. Seven travellers thus set out from Emond’s Field in the evening of 9 Aine 998 (Day 1 of the series).
The party travels at impressive speed on horseback, making it all the way from Emond’s Field to Taren Ferry in a single night (less than 10 hours or so). This appears to be a distance of between 50 and 60 miles. This would be impressive for a well-provisioned party travelling for a full day, let alone in a single night. However, this is explained by Moiraine using the One Power to enhance the stamina of the horses.
This helps explain an otherwise puzzling discrepancy in the text: the fact it then takes the party an additional six days to travel from Taren Ferry to Baerlon, a distance of just 100 miles. This is just 16 miles a day, a somewhat poor pace for people on foot, let alone horses. However, the slow pace can be explained by the horses needing time to recover from their One Power-enhanced flight and by the party travelling off-road where possible, avoiding farms and houses. The travelling time may also have been reduced by Lan’s weapons practice sessions with the boys and Moiraine’s One Power training sessions with Egwene.
Baerlon is the largest settlement in all of Andor west of Whitebridge. Rand and his friends are over-awed by the settlement on first viewing, describing it as a huge city (to Thom Merrilin’s amusement). In truth, Baerlon is a reasonably large town at best. It has 20-foot-tall wooden walls and guard towers, and two gates. The Caemlyn Road passes right through the town, leading to Whitebridge (some 620 miles to the south-east) and the mining villages in the Mountains of Mist to the west. Given that there only appear to be two gates, the road presumably splits just west of the town, with one road running north and west to the mountains and another south to the Two Rivers.
Baerlon is apparently bigger than Emond’s Field, Watch Hill and Deven Ride combined (and possibly Taren Ferry as well), although this is not necessarily saying much. The town is large and prosperous enough for all of the buildings to have chimneys and slate roofs, although clearly not rich enough to stretch to stone walls. There are farmsteads all around the town, presumably supplying it with food. The town has at least nine inns and taverns, including the Stag and Lion, where the party takes residence.
The party spend only one night and one day in Baerlon, although it is eventful: they are intercepted at the inn by Nynaeve al’Meara, the Emond’s Field village Wisdom. Rand meets Min Farshaw for the first time, and she has her first “viewing” of his destiny. Rand also meets Padan Fain, a peddler who frequently visits Emond’s Field, only to find that he is acting very strangely indeed. After Rand almost inadvertently picks a fight with three Children of the Light, he is confronted by a Myrddraal. The presence of the Myrddraal spooks Moiraine and she decides that the party should leave Baerlon as soon as possible.
After a brief altercation with the Children of the Light at the east gate (variously named as both the Caemlyn Gate and the Whitebridge Gate), which Moiraine ends with a powerful illusion, the party heads east along the Caemlyn Road.
No previous map of Baerlon exists, so I had to create this one from scratch. The only reference available was the illustration of Baerlon from the graphic novel version of The Eye of the World, which is lacking fine detail, but nevertheless suggests a somewhat circular town athwart the Caemlyn Road.
From Baerlon to Shadar Logoth
It appears at this point that Moiraine’s plan is to simply follow the Caemlyn Road all the way to at least Whitebridge and possibly Caemlyn, before heading north to Tar Valon. However, this plan rapidly becomes untenable: substantial Trolloc forces have been brought into the area and start threatening to surround the party. Making it the 620 miles to Whitebridge (let alone the 1,250-1,300 miles by road to Caemlyn from Baerlon) clearly becomes impossible.
With reluctance, Moiraine shifts course and the party heads north, crossing the rough countryside of the Hills of Absher, before making it to the ancient, foreboding city of Shadar Logoth on the banks of the Arinelle.
This part of the journey has always been problematic to map. As the crow flies, it is about 110 miles from Baerlon to Shadar Logoth, but the party is not travelling in a straight line. Instead, they travel south-east along the Caemlyn Road for three days before they are intercepted by Shadowspawn and forced to flee north towards Shadar Logoth.
With the best will in the world, it is not possible to reduce the distance from where our heroes leave the Caemlyn Road to Shadar Logoth to less than 80 miles, but they seem to cover this distance in a single day; it is still light when they reach Shadar Logoth. Assuming they made an early start on Day 11 and the detected the Trollocs quite early on, this still only gives them between 9 and 10 hours or so to make it that distance. They are helped by being on horseback, but the terrain is rough (even through Lan reports that the southern hills are far rougher than the northern).
One assumption that can perhaps be made is that, although it is not stated in the text, Moiraine uses the One Power to enhance the horses once again so they can make about 8-9 mph, even on the hilly terrain. This makes the ability to cross the distance more plausible (although it’s still a bit of a stretch).
The party reaches the outskirts of Shadar Logoth in the late afternoon of the 11th day after leaving Emond’s Field, 19 Aine 998 NE, roughly approximate to 3 April in our calendar. We shall pick up their adventures there next time.
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Tar Valon is the largest, most populous and richest city in the Westlands, as well as one of the oldest and certainly the oldest to have survived (mostly) intact since its founding. An independent city-state located halfway between the Borderlands and the rich kingdoms of Andor and Cairhien, it is famed as the home and primary headquarters for the Aes Sedai, the wielders of the One Power.
In the Age of Legends, the Aes Sedai – “Servants of All” in the Old Tongue – were channellers of the One Power, both male and female. They were loosely organised in a guild, commanded by the Hall of the Servants. The Hall – both the body and the building in which it operated – was located in Paaran Disen, the largest and most beautiful city in the world.
At the end of the War of the Shadow, the Dark One’s curse tainted saidin, the male half of the True Source, driving all male channellers insane on the instant. In their insanity they destroyed civilisation and almost wiped out humanity in a series of tumultuous earthquakes, tidal waves and volcanic eruptions known as the Breaking of the World. The Breaking lasted for some three centuries and was ended only when the last male Aes Sedai was killed or gentled (cut off from the Power).
In the aftermath of the Breaking, numerous organisations of women able to channel had formed. These had been begun by female Aes Sedai survivors of the Age of Legends, who had found and trained girls. The process had been complicated by the loss of the art of Travelling (able to travel thousands of miles in an instant with the Power), possibly due to the constantly shifting ground making it impossible to “learn” a location in the world and work out how to Travel to another. The groups trained others and so on. By the end of the Breaking it appears that few or no Aes Sedai from before the chaos survived.
How many groups of female channellers emerged from the chaos of the Breaking is unknown. What is known is that these groups soon began jostling for power and influence with one another, sometimes violently. It may well be that the Westlands may have gone the way of Seanchan, a shifting quilt of kingdoms ruled by Aes Sedai warlords, had not reason prevailed.
In 47 AB a grand convocation was held of female channellers. Approximately sixteen factions were represented, possibly more, and the names of twelve representatives are recorded: Elisane Tishar, Mistora Caal, Karella Fanway, Azille Narof, Saraline Amerano, Dumera Alman, Salindi Casolan, Catlynde Artein, Biranca Hasad, Mailaine Harvole, Nemaira Eldros and Lideine Rajan. It appears that each woman represented a separate group or organisation claiming to be Aes Sedai. During this conference it appears there was an agreement to ally these factions into one “true” Aes Sedai organisation. Each one of the separate factions was to become an ajah, a political alliance within the larger organisation. Ajah were a creation of the Aes Sedai in the Age of Legends, temporary groups which came together on certain issues. It appears they were prevented from becoming permanent factions due to the divisiveness, factionalism and tribalism this encouraged (believed by some to have resulted in significant chaos in the period before the Age of Legends began). Groups such as the Hundred Companions and the Fateful Concord were ajah of the War of the Shadow, for example.
Once the agreement was made to ally the Aes Sedai together, it was also decided they would need a base of operations. The wide island on the River Erinin within sight of Dragonmount, the burial mound of Lews Therin Telamon and reportedly the place where he would be reborn, was a natural choice. However, the amalgamation of the Aes Sedai was not smooth. It appears that, at a certain point, Lideine Rajan and Mailaine Harvole rebelled against the way things were being handled and tried to break away from the nascent organisation. At the end of the resulting conflict, circa 77 AB, Lideine was stilled and Mailaine forced to surrender.
In 98 AB construction of both the city of Tar Valon and the White Tower began. Ogier stonemasons were contracted and the One Power was employed in both endeavours. By this year the organisation of the Aes Sedai had become established, with Elisane Tishar listed as the first Amyrlin Seat (a title descended from the First Among Equals of the Age of Legends Aes Sedai, who wore the ring of Tamyrlin). The Hall of the Tower had been established to advise her, consisting of seven advisors: Caal, Fanway, Narof, Amerano, Almoan, Casolan and a newcomer, Kiam Lopiang. This suggests that the earlier twelve ajah had by now amalgamated into seven, with Lopiang perhaps representing Mailaine Harvole’s now-reconciled faction.
During this period the Aes Sedai carried out a purge of other groups claiming the title. This purge was thorough and widespread. During this period the Aes Sedai also established firm influence through the nascent city-states and nations, with several Aes Sedai rising to command these polities as governors and sometimes Queens.
By the time Tar Valon was completed in 202 AB, the current formal organisation of the White Tower had come into being. The Aes Sedai were split into seven permanent Ajah, each represented by a colour: Blue, Brown, Green, Grey, Red, Yellow and White. Each Ajah is represented in the Hall of the Tower by three Sitters, for twenty-one Sitters in total. The Amyrlin Seat is the head of the Tower, the first among equals, with the Keeper of the Chronicles serving as her aide-de-camp.
This organisation remains in place today, despite the numbers of Aes Sedai falling. The White Tower was designed to hold 3,000 women, with room for future expansion, meaning the original number of Aes Sedai was likely between 2,000 and 2,500. That number was approximately 1,250 during the Aiel War, some 3,254 years after Tar Valon’s completion. The reduction in numbers is slow, but steady. Some Aes Sedai believe this is down to the Aes Sedai practice of gentling or killing male channellers “winnowing” the ability to channel out of the human race, whilst others point to the lack of proactive Aes Sedai recruitment: since far more women can learn to channel than have the inborn spark, the majority of these will go undetected unless found by an Aes Sedai. The potential number of Aes Sedai sisters, given the population of the Westlands, is likely in the tens of thousands at least, but the White Tower prefers a smaller, more flexible organisation.
In 209 AB Mabriam en Shareed of Aramaelle, both Queen and Aes Sedai, called a meeting at Tar Valon between the rulers of the ten nations that had arisen. At this meeting was signed the Compact of the Ten Nations, binding them to peaceful coexistence and mutual trade and alliance in face of the Shadowspawn threat. The Aes Sedai likely played a key role in mediating this treaty. The treaty held for eight centuries, through the rise of the false Dragon Raolin Darksbane in 335 AB (whose followers mounted the first assault on Tar Valon when he was captured, which was repulsed) until the Westlands were invaded by Shadowspawn hordes in 1000 AB, marking the beginning of the Trolloc Wars.
The Aes Sedai proved key in defeating the Shadow during the wars, particularly the leadership and impressive military acumen displayed by Rashima Kerenmosa, the Soldier Amyrlin. Rashima’s bold leadership saw the Fourth Siege of Tar Valon (1290 AB), which saw Shadowspawn storming the city, end in a stunning victory, followed by her planning for the Battle of Maighande (1301 AB), the largest battle fought since the War of the Shadow. The surviving armies of the Ten Nations crushed the Shadow, slaughtering so many Myrddraal and Dreadlords that the Trollocs went out of control and lost all battle discipline. This reduced the rest of the war to a prolonged mopping-up exercise. Rashima gave her life and that of her five Warders in the battle, personally slaying nine Dreadlords in direct combat.
During the Free Year period, Aes Sedai influenced remained key but somewhat dwindled. After Queen Sulmara of Masenashar (c. FY 450) no Aes Sedai are reported as ruling nations and respect for the organisation, although still present, was less all-encompassing. A particular blow to the organisation was the Black Fever, which swept across the continent in FY 937-939 and killed millions of people. Although the Aes Sedai helped where they could, the number of sick people was too high and the number of Aes Sedai (particularly Yellow sisters, who specialised in Healing) too low. This was followed by the opportunistic rise of Guaire Amalasan, a false Dragon. Seizing control of the Kingdom of Darmovan in FY 939, he embarked on a campaign of conquest which, by the spring FY 943, had delivered a third of the continent into his hands. He was defeated by Artur Hawkwing at the Battle of Jolvaine Pass in FY 943, who then delivered him to Tar Valon to be gentled. Hawkwing then had to help defend Tar Valon from a counter-attack by Amalasan’s followers in a fierce battle that reached the White Tower itself. Hawkwing was credited with saving Tar Valon, to the unmitigated fury of the Amyrlin Seat, Bonwhin Meraighdin, who could not countenance the idea of a man saving the White Tower. Bonwhin spent almost fifty years trying to destroy Hawkwing, including manipulating other nations into attacking him and – as certainly Hawkwing believed – arranging the deaths of his wife and children. The latter incident (although doubted by historians and Aes Sedai) inspired Hawkwing to break all ties with Tar Valon and besiege the city in starting in FY 975. In FY 992 Deane Aryman, a Sitter for the Blue Ajah, exposed evidence confirming that Bonwhin had tried to manipulate and control Hawkwing against the Hall of the Tower’s command. Bonwhin was deposed and stilled only two years before Hawkwing’s own death from advanced age.
On Hawkwing’s death, his general Souran Maravaile lifted the siege of Tar Valon and marched to aid Ishara Casalain in securing the Lion Throne of the newly-declared sovereign kingdom of Andor. Within days, Aes Sedai sisters were riding to every corner of the Westlands, hoping to forestall that chaos they sensed was coming. They failed.
The War of the Hundred Years was a particular low point for the Aes Sedai, who were unable to bring their influence to bear to mediate an end to the conflict. The war petered out by itself. A combination of the Aes Sedai’s failure and the rise of the Children of the Light, a military ascetic group who believed that the Aes Sedai were Darkfriends for their use of the Creator’s blessed power, saw Aes Sedai influence and respect tumble (along with their numbers) in the subsequent thousand years.
In 978 NE Tar Valon became the hinge on which the fate of the Westlands turned…or so it was popularly said. Two and a half years earlier, four clans of the Aiel had swarmed out of the Waste and sacked Cairhien. King Laman had retreated south into Haddon Mirk and fought a lengthy guerrilla war before finally winning support from Tear and Andor. His armed crossed the Erinin and fled north, pursued by the Aiel. It was realised that if the Aiel could be delayed enough, the Aes Sedai could negotiate a Grand Alliance between all the Westlands nations to meet the Aiel in battle at Tar Valon itself, which could be fortified and turned into a trap for the Aiel armies. After some tense negotiations (particularly with Amadicia and the Children of the Light), the Aes Sedai succeeded. More than 170,000 troops in official contingents from ten kingdoms, along with mercenaries and irregular forces (such as a band of Malkieri veterans led by Lan Mandragoran and an small force from Arad Doman under Rodel Ituralde), arrived to meet the Aiel force of approximately 70,000. The resulting battle was declared a victory, as the Aiel force withdrew and returned to the Waste. However, in reality the Aiel simply withdrew the second they had achieved their objective – killing King Laman for the crime of cutting down the tree Avendoraldera, a gift from the Aiel to the Cairhienin given five centuries earlier – and no longer had any need to press the attack.
This engagement – the Battle of the Shining Walls, sometimes called the Blood Snow – remains the largest battle fought since the War of the Hundred Years. The Aes Sedai hoped it would usher in a new age of cooperation between the nations, but alas this did not come to pass.
Tar Valon is located on an island in the middle of the River Erinin, approximately 400 miles north-west of Cairhien and almost 1,600 miles upriver from the city of Tear. The Erinin splits in half around the island city, with the western branch of the river called the Alindrelle Erinin and the eastern branch the Osendrelle Erinin.
The city sits on a relatively flat river plain, with the only major feature breaking the horizon being the mountain known as Dragonmount. Located more than thirty miles south-west of the city, Dragonmount is huge. The height of the mountain has not been firmly charted past twenty thousand feet, but it is known that it is very difficult to breathe high on the mountain. The peak is almost unreachable due to a massive rent in the side of the mountain, which spews lava and smoke into the sky on a regular basis. Dragonmount is believed to be the tallest mountain in the world, taller even than any peak in the Spine of the World and much more dramatic for the way it rises from the plains alone. There aren’t any other mountains or even significant highlands until the Black Hills some 250 miles west of Dragonmount.
The city of Tar Valon fills the entire island of the same name, which is eight miles long and three miles wide at its widest point. The entire island is surrounded by thick, impressive walls, approximately 50 feet tall and punctuated by sixty-four guard towers, each around 100 feet high. The walls are smooth, but there are river gates at the base of the towers which allow small ships to dock; these alleviate passenger pressure on the bridges. The river gates can be sealed very easily in times of war, so as not to make a weak point in the defences. The walls, guard towers and many of the buildings within Tar Valon are made of a beautiful white stone, the result of Ogier workmanship. Tar Valon has a long-standing contract with Stedding Jentoine (located 300 miles to the west, in the Black Hills) for the upkeep and maintenance of the city. The site of the walls from afar is breathtaking, and led to them being dubbed the Shining Walls.
Six long, arching bridges link the city to the mainland; even the shortest of these bridges is still over a mile long. At the foot of each bridge is a town or village which has sprung up to support trade: clockwise from the north-east, these are Luagde, Daghain, Osenrein, Alindaer, Darein and Jualdhe. Some speculate that in time these towns may grow into cities of their own, suburbs of a greater Tar Valon metropolitan area. Each bridge (and each gate it leads to) are named for the town in question, and each bridge is heavily fortified by gatehouses at both ends. The towns themselves have been sacked, occupied and burned several times in war.
At the northern and southern tips of the islands are two great harbours, named Northharbor and Southharbor. The Shining Walls extend in massive white circular arcs around each harbour, with a gap for entry and exit. Larger ships, up to Sea Folk rakers, can dock in these ports. There are also additional docks along the inland banks of the river for larger cargo vessels, or if the main harbours are full. Each harbour possesses a massive chain and winch-houses (elegantly hidden in the walls) to seal the harbour off in times of siege.
From the harbours, massive boulevards (capable of handling at least six wagons abreast) lead to the very centre of the city. Larger boulevards also radiate out from the centre to each of the bridges. These boulevards are the city’s main thoroughfares, sometimes lined with trees but mostly lined with impressive buildings. The city is dotted with beautiful structures constructed by the Ogier over 3,000 years ago, including a building in the shape of a cat and another as a shoal of fish. Many of these buildings are filled with businesses reflecting the nature of the building; the cat building is now the home of the Blue Cat Inn, for example, and the shoal of fish building is the home of the Great Fish Market.
At the very centre of the city is the White Tower. The tallest building constructed in the Westlands since the Breaking (although the Stone of Tear contains a greater volume), the White Tower is 600 feet tall and over 300 feet wide at its base, tapering to 200 feet wide at the top. The central tower is divided into 40 levels above ground (with an unknown number of basements and subbasements), with the lower twenty containing classrooms, lecture halls, meeting rooms, administration, services and the Hall of the Tower. The upper twenty contain the living quarters for the seven Ajahs. Two wings extend out some 300 feet on either side of the central tower, one containing living quarters for the Accepted and the other for the novices. The White Tower was built to house some 3,000 Aes Sedai (on the assumption that many more would be out working in the world), but with only 400-500 sisters present at any one time and only forty novices currently enrolled in the Tower (as of early 998 NE), the building can feel strangely empty.
Behind the White Tower is a palatial building which houses the Tower Library, the greatest accumulation of knowledge in the known world (only challenged by the Great Library of Cairhien, although even this is generally considered to be inferior). Other buildings dot the Tower grounds, including the quarters and practice yards for the Warders and several surprisingly elaborate stables, which are multi-level affairs with impressive facilities for the upkeep and care of the Tower’s huge number of horses (since each sister and Warder require a riding horse each, alongside pack animals). The Tower grounds are surrounded by their own walls and gates, although the gates are usually left open (albeit guarded at all times). The Sunrise Gate and Tarlomen’s Gate are two of the gates through the walls.
Dotted throughout the city are more towers of varying height, although even the tallest do not challenge the White Tower. These towers are sometimes solitary but occasionally are linked to nearby towers via skybridges. These towers are serve a variety of functions, some being homes but others being places of trade or commerce.
Commerce is the lifeblood of Tar Valon; with no nation to support the city, it instead relies heavily on its status as an independent city-state with reasonable taxes and a commanding position on transcontinental trade routes. Merchants’ guild halls dot the city (including an elaborate branch of the Kandori Guild), as do banks. House Dormaile of Cairhien has made an impressive profit from the Tar Valon establishment, which is so trusted that it does extensive business with the Aes Sedai themselves. This is also why the city is packed with inns, fine eateries and other places where business can be conducted.
Tar Valon is an extremely safe city, with the streets well-lit and frequently patrolled by the Tower Guard. The areas near the docks but away from the boulevards, where the buildings crowd more closely together and there are back-alleys and narrow lanes, are the closest Tar Valon gets to rough quarters, but even these are very safe compared to similar districts in, say, Tanchico or Tear (and nothing in Tar Valon or the surrounding towns comes close to the Rahad of Ebou Dar).
Tar Valon is notable for the amount of greenery within its walls, considering that space is at a premium. There are several small parks and several noble families and rich businesses maintain small estates even within the city walls. Most notable, however, is the Ogier Grove. Located in the south-east of the city and over two miles wide, the Grove also acts as a park and meeting place. It is surrounded by white walls, but these are penetrated by frequent arches, allowing people in and out of the grove at their leisure rather than having to search for a specific gate. Near the heart of the Grove is a Waygate, which, according to rumour, can allow people to travel from the Grove in Tar Valon to those in other cities (although some have been destroyed, buried or built over) via the Ways. The Ways have become dangerous to travel, so the Waygate has been sealed off by thick gates and is guarded at all times.
Tar Valon is administered by a city council which is under the authority of the Aes Sedai. Several sisters sit at the head of this council and are appointed by the Hall of the Tower. They in turn report to the Hall, the Keeper of the Chronicles and the Amyrlin Seat. The council is generally efficient enough that governance of the city is left to its hands without troubling the Aes Sedai’s upper hierarchy. The council also holds representatives from the guilds, banks, nobles, Tower Guard and businesses.
Military and Population
Tar Valon is defended by the Tower Guard, a highly-trained elite force whose modest name belies their capabilities. The Guard are a multi-disciplinary force consisting of crossbowmen, footsoldiers and cavalry. As well as defending the Tower itself, they police the city and patrol the outlying hinterlands of the city-state. During the Aiel War, other 12,000 soldiers served in the Tower Guard, although it is unclear if this is its peacetime strength as well.
The population of Tar Valon is in constant flux, with thousands of merchants, travellers and visitors leaving the city on any given day and thousands more arriving. However, the average population of Tar Valon and the bridge towns on any given day is estimated at 500,000. This makes Tar Valon comfortably the most populous city in the Westlands, close on twice the population of the next-largest city (reportedly Caemlyn).
Tar Valon is the richest individual city in the Westlands and its economy may be stronger than that of some entire countries. The city’s lifeblood is trade, which comes from its control of the River Erinin. Trade from Tear, Andor and Cairhien flows northwards along the river and goods from Arafel and Shienar come south along the river, with substantial goods also coming overland from as far as Saldaea (whose capital, Maradon, is almost 1,200 miles from Tar Valon). Even the Sea Folk trade at Tar Valon, despite its discomforting distance (almost 1,700 miles) from the sea.
Tar Valon’s trade economy is bolstered by the presence of numerous banks, guilds and trading houses within the city, attracted by the city’s position athwart several key trade routes linking north and south, east and west, as well as its reputation for honesty, security and safety.
Tar Valon is also the home of the Aes Sedai. Although the Aes Sedai do not, as a rule, sell their use of the One Power to the highest bidder, they do entertain offers and requests from individuals and nations to lend their aid in particular endeavours of mutual interest. The low number of Aes Sedai and the growing distrust of them among more distant nations means that this it is a rare event, but occasionally the Aes Sedai will grant their services.
Finally, Tar Valon is a neutral and respected power (if not as respected as it once was), and its location makes an idea location for meetings between major governments. Andor, Cairhien and the Borderlands are all relatively nearby and enjoy good relations with Tar Valon, and use it (and, sometimes, Grey sisters) to mediate trade deals or peace treaties.
Tar Valon is a melting pot of peoples, cultures and representatives from every nation in the Westlands and beyond, to the Sea Folk islands. The streets at the height of the trading season can be a riot of colours, styles and different types of people. Still, the city tends to follow the Aes Sedai preference for more modest clothing and restrained behaviour, with licentiousness generally frowned upon.
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.