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After the chaos of the Breaking of the World, ten nations arose on the new landmass that had formed between the Aryth Ocean and the Spine of the World. These ten great kingdoms, vast and sprawling, allied together in the Compact of the Ten Nations and sought to regain the beauty, tranquillity and richness of the Age of Legends. They may have succeeded, had they not been overrun in the horrors of the Trolloc Wars. After three and a half centuries of gruelling warfare, humanity survived but the Ten Nations didn’t, splintering apart and collapsing into twenty-nine lesser states, the Free Kingdoms, which would endure for another thousand years until the rise of Artur Hawkwing, the High King.
The Breaking of the World lasted for between 239 and 344 years. The Breaking continued as long as male channellers of the One Power endured. Thanks to the Dark One’s taint on saidin at the end of the War of the Shadow, every male channeller of the One Power went insane and used their powers to devastate the world, triggering volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, tearing the earth apart, plunging entire landmasses into the oceans, causing tidal waves and pulling new lands up out of the depths of the sea.
The female Aes Sedai, and some ordinary people, dedicated themselves to the job of killing male channellers wherever they found them. For the Aes Sedai, they could also still them, leaving them alive but stripped of the ability to channel (although this was scant kindness in such a harsh world as they remained twisted and insane). For every male channeller killed or gentled, the intensity of the Breaking lessened. For the last few years and maybe decades of the Breaking, it was more of a background event with the occasional major earthquake rather than the continuous, world-destroying chaos it was at its height (hence the disagreement about when precisely it ended).
Toma dur Ahmid was a scholar and historian living in what would become the nation of Safer (it is believed that Toman Head was named for him, indicating he was a scholar of some repute, although much of his work has been lost today). Toma devised a new calendar system by backtracking through dates and consulting with other sources, including possibly Brown Ajah sisters of the reconstituted Aes Sedai. From these he was able to discern when the last male Aes Sedai was killed or gentled (almost two centuries earlier) and numbered all subsequent years as After the Breaking. This calendar, the Toman Calendar, had gained widespread acceptance by circa 200 AB.
During the Breaking, all of the high civilisation of the Age of Legends was lost. Most cities were destroyed, drowned or devastated, and the few that survived were abandoned, as their tall buildings were no longer safe. New cities and towns were founded, some of wood, others of stone as people had to rediscover how to build things from scratch. The earliest city founded in the newly-formed Westlands was almost certainly Tear. Aes Sedai took the massive stone hill located where Tear now lies and used the Power to shape it into a fortress known as the Stone of Tear. The city took shape around it, either late in the Breaking or early immediately afterwards. Parts of the Panarch’s Palace in Tanchico date back even further, to the Age of Legends, with friezes and other items depicting now mostly incomprehensible images of life in that Age. These objects are believed to have been saved during the Breaking and installed in the Palace when Tanchico – originally called Mainelle – was built very soon after the Breaking.
Other cities were founded and built, and from these cities new nations arose and spread. When their borders met, skirmishes and even war resulted. The arising of the nation of Safer, on the west coast, and Manetheren to its east, beyond the Mountains of Mist, seems to have been particularly contentious, despite the presence of the mountains as a natural boundary between them. The precise nature of the two nations’ enmity is speculative, but it may have been down to control of Lake Somal, the largest freshwater lake on the continent, and the Manetherenese comfort and skill in navigating mountain ranges, which they found relatively easy to live in and cross (the highway linking the city of Manetheren and Jara’copan, extending through what most would consider impassable terrain today, is a sign of this). King Aedomon of Safer invaded Manetheren, where he was met by King Buiryn at the Battle of Midean’s Ford. Although Manetheren was defeated and Buiryn slain, the battle bled the Saferi army so badly it had to withdraw. It is assumed this war took place during the first two centuries After the Breaking.
In 47 AB the approximately sixteen largest factions claiming to be descended from the Aes Sedai of the Age of Legends met and agreed to form a new, unified organisation. After initial problems with this (including a disagreement that led to a brief civil conflict), construction began of the Aes Sedai city, Tar Valon, in 98 AB. Both human construction workers and Ogier stonemasons were involved, and the One Power was used to strengthen the buildings as they were created. It took over a century for Tar Valon to be completed, with the final buildings completed in 202 AB. During this period the slowly-growing nations had the same idea and commissioned Ogier stedding to help build their own cities as well.
In 209 AB Mabriam en Shareed, Queen of Aramaelle and also Aes Sedai, called a grand meeting of the rulers at Tar Valon. They she proposed an alliance of the ten kingdoms, an end to border wars and disputes and an attempt to strengthen humanity against the still-extant (although quiet) threat of the Shadow. The negotiations were long, complex and difficult, but ultimately prevailed thanks to Aes Sedai mediation. With Aes Sedai ruling several of the kingdoms, or married to their kings or acting as their advisors, it was possible to overcome areas of dispute and finalise borders and responsibilities. By the end of negotiations, the Compact of the Ten Nations (sometimes called the Second Covenant of Tar Valon, the first presumably being the meeting of 47 AB) was established and signed by the following rulers:
The Compact of the Ten Nations endured for over eight centuries. During this time humanity regained some of what had been lost in the Breaking. Other grand cities were built (Londaren Cor, the new capital of Eharon, was built after Tar Valon and was reportedly even more beautiful), new art forms developed and technology improved. Hopes were high that all that had been lost could be regained.
This was not to be. Circa 1000 AB, reports came of a massive Shadowspawn assault on the northern Jaramidian city of Barsine, located in the western Mountains of Dhoom. A horde of Trollocs, larger than anything seen since the War of the Shadow, struck south into Jaramide, burning and destroying everything in its path. A similar horde struck into Aramaelle, via Tarwin’s Gap. The nations rallied to the defence, but the tidal wave of Shadowspawn could not be held back. Three centuries of warfare followed, the Trolloc Wars, of which more will be related elsewhere.
At the end of the wars the Trolloc threat was defeated. The tide turned at the Fourth Siege of Tar Valon in 1290 AB and the Battle of Maighande in 1301 AB, both victories orchestrated by the Soldier Amyrlin, Rashima Kerenmosa of the Aes Sedai (she lost her life in the latter, the largest battle fought since the War of the Shadow). Fifty years later, the last Trolloc horde south of the Blight was destroyed, ending the conflict. Aramelle, Almoren, Aridhol, Manetheren and Coremanda had fallen during the war, and the remaining nations had begun to break apart from the political, social and military stress of such prolonged warfare. Twenty-nine new nations arose in their wake, of which more will be told later.
Aelgar was located in the south-west of the Westlands. It stretched from the mouth of the River Andahar almost to the mouth of the River Eldar, and from the Mountains of Mist to the Shadow Coast. Aelgar contained all of the modern territory of Amadicia and parts of north-western Altara and most of Tarabon.
Its capital city was Ancohima, of which all trace has been lost, and its other Ogier-built cities were Condaris, Mainelle (modern Tanchico) and Shar Honelle.
Relatively little is known of Aelgar, aside from its borders and some of its cities. The location of its capital is unknown. It is known that it was a wealthy country, presumably based on trade (as Tarabon is today), and its early king Ramedan being called “Goldentongued” suggests that the nation may favoured honeyed diplomacy as its way of resolving issues, possibly in light of the more fractious relationship between Safer and Manetheren to the north.
Aelgar survived the Trolloc Wars but collapsed afterwards, being divided between the kingdoms of Balasun and Kharendor.
Almoren was located in the east of the Westlands. Its borders are the River Erinin in the west, the Spine of the World in the east and the River Iralell to the south. Its northern border with Aramaelle was set during the Compact. Almoren contained all of modern Cairhien and significantly more territory to the north, beyond Kinslayer’s Dagger, and south, beyond the Maraside Mountains.
Its capital city was Al’cair’rahienallen, which became modern Cairhien. Its other Ogier-built city was Jennshain.
Little is known of Almoren, except it was a rich and powerful kingdom. It controlled the western end of Jangai Pass, so all merchants and peddlers heading for Shara across the Aiel Waste had to travel through Almoren, and it was also close to Tar Valon. Its capital, Al’cair’rahienallen (“Hill of the Golden Dawn” in the Old Tongue), was famed for its wealth.
During the Trolloc Wars, Almoren was overrun and completely destroyed, although enough of the capital survived to be subsequently rebuilt as Cairhien. Almoren’s territory was divided between the successor kingdoms of Shandalle, Tova (which inherited Cairhien as its capital), Ileande, Hamarea and Khodomar.
Aramaelle was located in the north-east of the Westlands. It was one of the “Borderlands” of its day, although that term was not used at the time. Its borders were the Spine of the World to the east, the Mountains of the Dhoom to the north, the Plain of Lances to the west and the headwaters of the River Haevin to the south. Aramaelle contained all of the territory belonging to Malkier, Shienar and Arafel, and most of Kandor. The Black Hills were also part of the kingdom.
Its capital city was Mafal Dadaranell (modern Fal Dara). Its other Ogier-built cities were Anolle’sanna, Cuebiyarsande and Rhahime Naille.
Aramaelle was one of the first nations to coalesce after the Breaking, allying very early on with the Aes Sedai whilst Tar Valon was still under construction, and also identified the still-extant threat from the Great Blight. It was Queen Mabriam of Aramaelle who, with Aes Sedai help, negotiated the Compact of the Ten Nations.
Despite Aramaelle’s forward-thinking acts, it was the first kingdom to fall during the Trolloc Wars, with its capital city utterly obliterated and the rest of the kingdom overrun. The symbol of the rule of Aramaelle was a signet ring, which was inherited by the rulers of Rhamdashar, one of the nations that arose from Aramaelle’s ruins, and then by its own successor kingdom, Malkier. The fact that the ring of Aramaelle has survived the better part of four thousand years suggests it was created with the One Power.
As well as Rhamdashar, the kingdoms of Oburun, Elsalam and Roemalle also arose on the former territory of Aramaelle after the Trolloc Wars.
Aridhol was located in the central-western part of the Westlands. It was bordered by the River Arinelle to the south, the River Haevin to the east and the foothills of the Mountains of Mist to the west, with a negotiated border with Jaramide to the north. Aridhol was the smallest of the Ten Nations. Aside from a very narrow strip of land along the bank of the Arinelle, which is now part of western Andor, none of Aridhol’s territory intersects with that of a modern nation.
Its capital city was also called Aridhol, located on the banks of the Arinelle in the far south-western corner of the kingdom. It is the most well-preserved city from this period, but no-one dares enter it now. During the Trolloc Wars something bizarre and unnatural happened to the city and it became known as Shadar Logoth, “Shadow’s Waiting”, and both humans and Shadowspawn fear to approach it. It’s other Ogier-built cities were Abor’maseleine and Cyrendemar’naille.
During the Trolloc Wars Aridhol was threatened by invasion from the north-east after Aramaelle’s destruction. King Balwen Mayel despaired, as his nation was small, less well-populated and less militarily powerful than others. Balwen loved his country and would have done anything to save it and to preserve his beautiful city for the future. A counsellor named Mordeth took advantage of this zeal, suggesting they turn the tactics of the Shadow against it. Aridhol became a hard, cold and martial land where any sacrifice and any tactic was worthwhile to gain victory. Aridhol became a land of paranoia and darkness. Aridhol’s old ally, Manetheren, attempted to win the kingdom back to the light and failed.
Exactly what Mordeth did is unclear, although some claim he may have visited the mysterious Tower of Ghenjei that lay within the nation’s borders, and gained a potential weapon to use against the Shadow. The nature of this weapon was unclear, as it consumed the entire city of Aridhol in a blanketing, evil fog known as Mashadar. It is believed every single living thing in Aridhol was killed. This evil was different and indifferent to the evil of the Shadow; a Trolloc army invaded Aridhol and destroyed the other cities of the kingdom, but when it camped in the capital it promptly vanished, every single Shadowspawn apparently slain and their bodies consumed.
King Balwen gained his wish: the city of Aridhol survived…after a fashion. Nature did not overrun the ruins, the stone buildings remained mostly standing and the city’s glory was preserved, but only as a cold, lifeless monument known afterwards as Shadar Logoth, “Where the Shadow Waits” or “Shadow’s Waiting” in the Old Tongue. Those who spend time in Shadar Logoth do not return, and those who have tried to ransack the city have come to horrific ends. It is said that Mashadar and maybe Mordeth himself still haunt the city, somehow.
Aridhol was shunned, but the people outside of the capital eventually rallied and founded a new nation called Masenashar, which arose after the Trolloc Wars.
Coremanda was located in the centre of the Westlands. Its borders were the rivers Haevin and Luan to the north, along with the Black Hills; the River Erinin to the east; the rivers Manetherendrelle, Arinelle and Haeven to the west; and the Hills of Kintara and River Cary to the south. Coremanda contains the modern eastern half of Andor and most of Murandy. The great plain known as Caralain Grass was also located in the kingdom.
Its capital city was Shaemal, of which all trace has been lost. Its other Ogier-built cities were Hai Caemlyn (Old Caemlyn, which survives as the city centre of modern Caemlyn) and Nailine Samfara.
Coremanda was a rich and powerful nation, its capital of Shaemal famed for its great crystal dome. Coremanda, located at the heart of the continent, was a great centre of trade with goods from all over the Westlands passing through its borders.
The destruction of Aramaelle to the north, Aridhol and Manetheren to the west and Almoren to the east eventually led to Coremanda being outflanked and invaded from several directions. It could not stand against such numbers. Shaemal’s great crystal dome was shattered and the city destroyed in such detail that almost no trace of it exists today. Even its location is debatable (although some have pointed to western Caralaine Grass, near the exact centre of the continent where Artur Hawkwing later planned to built a city, as a likely location). Other parts of Coremanda were more fortunate, with the second city of Hai Caemlyn resisting several attacks. After the Trolloc Wars ended, Hai Caemlyn was rebuilt and greatly expanded as New Caemlyn (later just Caemlyn), which became the capital city of Caembarin.
Other nations that arose out of the ruins of Coremanda were Aldeshar, Nerevan and Dal Calain.
Eharon was located in the south-central region of the Westlands. Its borders were the River Manetherendrelle and River Shal to the east; the River Cary and River Storn to the north; the River Eldar to the west; and the Sea of Storms to the south. Eharon’s territory is today claimed by Altara, western Illian and south-western Murandy.
Eharon’s capital city was Londaren Cor, built after Tar Valon by (apparently) the same Ogier stonemasons who built that city. Londaren Cor was built around three hills known as the Dancers, with the seat of the ruler being known as the Palace of the Moon. Its other Ogier-built cities were Barashta (modern Ebou Dar) and Dorelle Caromon (modern Illian).
Eharon was famed for its civility, its dances and lavish ceremonies. As a major centre of trade, controlling two of the largest and richest ports on the south coast, it was rich, powerful and peaceful. The Trolloc Wars ended that. After the fall of Manetheren and Coremanda, Eharon was invaded by Shadowspawn armies. Londaren Cor and Barashta were sacked and destroyed. When the Trollocs reached Barashta, they effectively divided the continent in two. However, in the process they overextended themselves and were driven back with very heavy losses. Eharon, remarkably, survived the destruction of both its capital and largest port, with the surviving nobility and military presumably using Dorelle Caromon as their new capital. As the war wound down, the ruins of Barashta were reclaimed and a new city built over the ruins, Ebou Dar.
When the Free Kingdoms arose, parts of Eharon’s borders were snatched away by the rising kingdoms of Nerevan and Esandara. The rest of Eharon was renamed as Shiota, becoming one of the most powerful kingdoms of the period between the Trolloc Wars and the rise of Artur Hawkwing.
Essenia was located in the south-east of the Westlands. Its borders were the River Manetherendrelle and River Shal to the west, the Hills of Kintara and River Iralell to the north, the Spine of the World and Drowned Lands to the east and the Sea of Storms to the south. Essenia contains the entire modern territories of Tear and Mayene, as well as most of Haddon Mirk and the Plains of Maredo.
Essenia’s capital city was Aren Mador (modern Far Madding). Its other Ogier-built cities were Dalsande and Tear.
Essenia is intriguing as the only one of the Ten Nations not ruled by a monarchy. Instead, it was ruled by a council of nobles, the chairman and representative of whom was known as the First Lord. The modern nation of Tear, one of Essenia’s successors, seems to have modelled itself after this system. Essenia’s largest city was Tear, near the south coast, but intriguingly the rulers decided to make Aren Mador (modern Far Madding) their capital. This may have been down to defence, as Aren Mador was located on an island in the middle of a large lake with easily-defended bridges linking it to the surrounding countryside. In addition, Aren Mador was the home of a powerful ter’angreal known as the Guardian, which made channelling within the city impossible. This put the rulers on an even keel with their Aes Sedai advisors and visitors.
Essenia may have been the nation that survived the Trolloc Wars in the best shape: both Aren Mador and Tear survived the war untaken. If so, it did not help: Essenia split apart after the war into the nations of Fergansea, Moreina, Talmour and Esandara.
Jaramide was located in the north-west of the Westlands. Its borders were the Aryth Ocean to the west, the Mountains of Dhoom to the north, the River Dhagon and River Akuum to the south and the Plain of Lances to the east. All of modern Saldaea, parts of far western Kandor and a large part of Arad Doman were located within Jaramide’s borders.
Jaramide’s capital city was Deranbar (modern Maradon). Its other Ogier-built cities were Barsine, Allorallen (modern Bandar Eban), Canaire’somelle and Nashebar.
Jaramide was one of the largest, most powerful and richest of the Ten Nations. It consisted of numerous cities, many of whom may have had a notable degree of autonomy: the ruler of Jaramide was known as the “High King” or “High Queen”, a title not used again until Artur Hawkwing, who ruled over an empire where local governors had a notable degree of autonomous power.
Jaramide, like Aramaelle to the east, was one of the ancestors of the Borderlands. It maintained watchtowers along the Blight, with the city of Barsine located in the Mountains of Dhoom themselves. Barsine, famed for its golden spires, guarded the narrow western passes through the mountains but was also a great trading city in its own right, exporting lace across the continent. Circa 1000 AB Barsine was attacked and destroyed by a vast Trolloc horde. This horde was halted in battle further south, but at the same time an even bigger horde invaded Aramaelle via Tarwin’s Gap and destroyed the capital at Mafal Dadaranell (with some suggesting the Jaramide invasion may have been a feint), thus beginning the Trolloc Wars.
Jaramide was on the front line of the Trolloc Wars, fighting fiercely against the Shadow. This became more desperate after Aramaelle to the east and Aridhol to the south-east both fell, allowing the Shadow to launch constant attacks from several directions. Fortunately, the Shadowspawn were more intent on destroying Manetheren and Eharon in an attempt to split the Ten Nations in two, which allowed Jaramide to survive.
After the end of the Trolloc Wars circa 1350 AB, Jaramide collapsed and splintered into the smaller nations of Abayan, Oman Dashar, Indrahar and Basharande.
Manetheren (“Mountain Home” in the Old Tongue) was located in the central-western region of the Westlands. Its borders were the River Arinelle to the north, the Arinelle and Manetherendrelle to the east, the River Eldar and Damona Mountains to the south and the Mountains of Mist and Lake Somal to the west. The western part of Andor, all of Ghealdan and the northern half of Altara all lay within the borders of Manetheren.
Manetheren’s capital city was also called Manetheren and was located in the lower Mountains of Mist, between the headwaters of the Manetherendrelle to the south and the Tarendrelle to the north. Its other Ogier-built cities were Corartheren, Jara’copan (in the foothills of the Mountains of Mist) and Shanaine (modern Jehannah).
Manetheren is one of the most famous of the Ten Nations, stories and songs from its time surviving even to the present. It was built on mineral wealth, with immense mines springing up in the Mountains of Mist producing gold and silver. Fast-flowing rivers made the land fertile and provided rapid transit across the kingdom. For defence, the capital city of Manetheren was built high up in the hills, in the eastern flanks of the mountains themselves, and was a storied wonder. Even the Ogier seemed speechless at what they had created and the city became a spectacle of the continent. Only Tar Valon and Londaren Cor could rival its beauty.
Also famed was the martial zeal of Manetheren. The kingdom’s mineral wealth was jealously coveted by others. Safer and Manetheren fought numerous wars before the Compact of the Ten Nations ended such struggles. Still, enmity between the two kingdoms endured even to the Trolloc Wars. Manetheren’s foremost military force was the Band of the Red Hand, an elite formation which was famed for its skill, its versatility and its speed. Unusually, membership of the Band was opened to people from other kingdoms so the Manetherenese could learn from the military traditions of other nations. The organisation of the Illianer Companions and the Children of the Light owes something to the Band’s practical but flexible approach to warfare.
Manetheren’s rulers were rich and powerful. The kingdom enjoyed a strong alliance with Tar Valon and several Aes Sedai became queens of the kingdom.
During the Trolloc Wars it would have been easy for Manetheren to seal its borders, fortify the river crossings and hold back, secure that it could always pull back to the near-impregnable capital to ride out the conflict. However, hiding was not Manetheren’s way. The Manetherenese military, with the Band of the Red Hand in the vanguard, took the field and marched to the aid of its allies, fighting on the front lines, retiring to regroup and resupply but always returning to the thick of the fighting. The forces of Manetheren became known as the “thorn in the Dark One’s foot and the bramble in his hand”, the most implacable enemy of the Shadowspawn during the Trolloc Wars. Manetheren became acclaimed as the “sword that could not be broken” for its undefeatable will.
Manetheren’s northern flank was held by its close ally Aridhol. After the fall of Aramaelle, Aridhol came under pressure from the Shadow. Manetheren provided aid where it could, but it appeared that King Balwen Mayel was falling into despair. Under the guidance of the enigmatic counsellor, Mordeth, Balwen put into place harsh laws and merciless discipline, turning Aridhol into a cold and brutal land to better resist the brutal tactics of the Shadow. Concerned at what was happening, King Thorin al Toren al Ban sent his son Prince Caar to swing Aridhol back to the light. Instead, the Manetherenese delegation was killed and Caar imprisoned and tortured. Caar escaped back to the Mountain Home. Furious, King Thorin sent Manetheren’s army against Aridhol, believing the nation had fallen to a fate worse than the Shadow. They found the capital city a cold, abandoned mausoleum. Sensing great evil and danger, King Thorin returned home after leaving orders that the city was not to be approached by anyone. Thus was born the legend of Shadar Logoth.
Several decades later, Prince Caar’s son Aemon became King of Manetheren. His wife was Eldrene ay Ellan ay Carlan, an Aes Sedai of exceptional strength and skill. They led their nation as a formidable team, Aemon as a general and soldier of renown and Eldrene as a statesman and ruler of the home front. The strategic position at this time (c. 1200 AB) was increasingly desperate: Aramaelle, Aridhol and possibly Almoren had fallen; Jaramide and Coremanda were under concerted attack; and Tar Valon had already faced several sieges. Despite this, news of a large Shadowspawn army moving south with its flank exposed to Manetheren was something Aemon could not ignore. He took the bulk of Manetheren’s army and destroyed the Shadowspawn force at the Battle of the Field of Bekkar, the Field of Blood.
But this battle was a feint. Word came from the north of a vast Shadowspawn horde, one of the largest seen in the war, moving south towards Manetheren itself. King Aemon force-marched his army back home. He was unable to gain the Arinelle before the leading elements of the Shadow forces had already crossed the river and secured a bridgehead, so he fell back on the next defensive line: the River Tarendrelle. Two large bridges crossed the Tarendrelle and Aemon resolved to form a new defence here.
Word had been sent for aid, to Safer, Aelgar, Eharon and beyond, and even to Tar Valon where Eldrene’s girlhood acquaintance Tetsuan now ruled as Amyrlin Seat. Several of these kingdoms were close enough to send troops by land, and possibly even small forces and Aes Sedai reinforcements by the Ways (the Aes Sedai-created “tunnels” through reality linking several Ogier Waygates together). But Tetsuan harboured a grudge against Eldrene for their childhood together in the White Tower. Eldrene had been accounted more beautiful and stronger in the Power. If she had remained in the Tower, she would probably have been elected Amyrlin instead of Tetsuan. Burning with jealousy, Tetsuan refused to send aid and encouraged several of Manetheren’s allies to also withhold their strength, warning the attack was a ruse designed to weaken their own borders.
Thus, Manetheren’s army faced the Shadow alone. The Battle of the Tarendrelle was a gruelling nine-day engagement where the Manetherenese threw back wave after wave of Shadowspawn as they tried to cross the river, until it ran red with their blood. Initially Manetheren held the east bank, which allowed them to directly fight the Shadow at full strength for nine days. They then fell back to the west bank, firing the bridges behind them, and used missile fire to slaughter Shadowspawn before they could cross. However, the nine-day action on the east bank, although logical given the expected reinforcements, proved to be a mistake. Too many troops had been lost to effectively hold the west bank despite the defensive benefits of the river.
The action gave time for the city of Manetheren to be evacuated. Civilians were sent south and west in great floods, to seek safety in the southern cities of Jara’copan and Shanaine and, when it became clear they would not hold, then Aelgar, Eharon, Safer and other parts of the Ten Nations.
On the eleventh day of combat, the Shadow gained the southern bank of the Tarendrelle. With reinforcements pouring across, King Aemon gave the order to retreat. A running battle lasted for several days, until his surviving forces reached a crossroads to the east of the city of Manetheren. There he made his final stand, holding the Shadow at bay through another full day of battle before he was finally overwhelmed and slain in what became known as the Battle of Aemon’s Field.
At the moment of his death, his wife Eldrene channelled far more of the One Power than was safe or advisable. The torrent of Power obliterated the Shadowspawn army that stood victorious on Aemon’s Field, killing the Dreadlords and Myrddraal accompanying it. The torrent of Power went on and on, consuming not just the Shadowspawn but also the entire city of Manetheren. Eldrene herself was destroyed by the force she had unleashed, but leaving behind no trace of Shadowspawn south of the Tarendrelle. It would be many, many years before the Shadow dared to venture south again, to begin the invasion of Eharon.
For her part in delaying the relief of Manetheren and for sacrificing hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of lives to her own vanity, Tetsuan was deposed from the Amyrlin Seat. She was stilled and put to work as a scullery maid. She died three years later.
After the end of the Trolloc Wars, Manetheren’s territory was divided between the newly-established kingdoms of Farashelle and Dhowlan.
Safer was located in the central-western region of the Westlands. Its borders were the rivers Akuum and Dhagon to the north, the Mountains of Mist to the east, the Aryth Ocean to the west and a negotiated border with Aelgar to the south. Safer consisted of the southern half of Arad Doman, all of Almoth Plain and Toman Head and the northern half of Tarabon.
Safer’s capital city was Iman (modern Katar). Its other Ogier-built cities were Miereallen modern Falme) and Shainrahien. Modern Falme has no evidence of Ogier construction, as Miereallen was utterly destroyed during the Trolloc Wars it left behind no trace. Falme is merely built in the same vicinity.
Safer rose early in the period after the Breaking. It’s scholar Toma dur Ahmid was the one who created the Toman Calendar. Safer was militarily powerful and ambitious, clashing with Manetheren over control of mines in the Mountains of Mist and of the freshwater Lake Somal. Such enmity ended with the signing of the Compact, but the two nations remained on icy terms for some years afterwards.
During the Trolloc Wars, Safer’s army marched to the relief of several of the other kingdoms, most notably Jaramide who was nearly overrun early in the war. Although Jaramide and Safer both, more or less, survived the wars, they did not do so intact and several of Safer’s cities were destroyed in the conflict. Safer’s forces were too far away to help Manetheren when the latter was invaded and destroyed, and conflicting information from Amyrlin Tetsuan delayed the sending of reinforcements until it was far too late.
After the conclusion of the wars, Safer’s territory broke apart into the kingdoms of Oman Dashar, Elan Dapor and Darmovan.
Notes on the Map
The map is based on the map of the Ten Nations provided in The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. This map is very small and lacking in detail, so a few judgement calls had to be made on where to place the borders.
Cities are only placed where we know their exact location or can infer them from information in the text.
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The White Tower is the primary stronghold, training academy and redoubt of the modern Aes Sedai, the wielders of the One Power. It is located in the centre of Tar Valon, the largest city of the Westlands, on an island in the middle of the wide and fast-flowing River Erinin. It is located north-west of Cairhien, north-east of Andor and south of the Borderlands, to the east of the Black Hills.
The White Tower is the largest artificial structure in the Westlands (discounting the Stone of Tear, which is a natural structure converted into a fortress), and reportedly the world, although the Seanchan claim that the Court of the Nine Moons in Seandar is both larger and more impressive, along with several other structures in the empire. The truth of this remains unknown.
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, factionalisation and tribalism this encouraged (believed by some to have resulted to 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 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) 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. Bonwhein was deposed and stilled only two years before Hawkwing’s own death from advanced age.
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.
Design & Layout of the White Tower
The White Tower is 600 feet tall and measures 300 feet across at the base, tapering to 200 feet wide at the top. The Tower is connected to two wings which each extend 300 feet from the main tower and are 150 feet tall apiece. At the rear of the White Tower, but a separate building altogether, is the palatial Tower Library. Several other structures are located in the same compound, including quarters for Warders and stables.
The White Tower is divided into 40 distinct levels. The top 20 levels are roughly 12 feet tall apiece, with the bottom 20 levels being about 15 feet tall apiece. The wings contain 15 levels apiece, with ceilings about 8.5 feet tall. The floors are roughly each 1.5 feet thick. The Tower’s structural strength is provided by the cunning stonemasonry of the Ogier combined with the One Power, which effectively fused the entire building into one solid structure. The roof is flat and provides for impressive views over the city and the surrounding countryside. The Tower includes significant subterranean storage, extending hundreds of feet below ground.
The entrance to the White Tower is a wide gateway which leads to a meeting and visitor’s hall. Behind the hall are the kitchens and dining rooms. The novices and Accepted share one dining room and the Aes Sedai another, both two-floor rooms. The ground floor also contains the study of the Mistress of Novices and the testing chamber where novices become Accepted. The 3rd level contains the Amyrlin Seat’s traditional offices and chambers, with the office of the Keeper of the Chronicles located nearby. Some Amyrlins have considering adopting a splendid office on the 40th level at the very top of the Tower instead, but the practicality of climbing such a distance every day makes this a rare occurrence).
The Hall of the Tower, the largest audience room in the Tower itself, is located close to the ground floor, possibly on the 2nd or 3rd floor. A very large room overlooked by a tall window facing towards Dragonmount, the Hall is used by the Hall of the Tower to discuss matters of import, with an audience area which allows the entire White Tower to assemble (if required).
Teaching rooms, classrooms, workshops, audience chambers and administrative offices fill the rest of the lower half of the Tower (Levels 1-20). The relatively small number of Aes Sedai currently in existence means that that many of these rooms and chambers go unused for years at a time. Some staff and servants also have their quarters in this part of the Tower, although most are workers native to Tar Valon who walk in from their homes in other parts of the city.
The upper half of the Tower is the home of the Ajahs. These twenty floors are divided into “pie slices”, with each Ajah possessing one-seventh of the pie. This means that each Ajah effectively has twenty floors of quarters, meeting rooms and dining rooms to themselves. Some Ajahs, such as the Red, object to the equal distribution of space, as they have twice the numbers of the Grey or White Ajah. However, even the Red do not come close to filling their quarters, rendering the matter somewhat moot for now.
The two wings of the Tower are divided into “wells,” fifteen-level circular structures which rise up through the centres of the wings. They are open to the sky, with courtyards in the middle. There are least two wells in each wing. One is home to the novice, another (in the other wing) is home to the Accepted. The numbers are so low at present that the novices only fill two galleries of their particular well. The wings also contain some classrooms, storage and recreation facilities.
The White Tower is run by a complex bureaucracy consisting of gardeners, masons, clerks, cleaners and cooks, all answering to a group of Aes Sedai assigned with the maintenance and running of both the Tower and Tar Valon itself. This council reports directly to the Keeper of the Chronicles, who brings such matters as are relevant to the Amyrlin Seat.
The White Tower and Tar Valon are protected by the Tower Guard, an experienced and well-trained army. The Tower Guard number 12,000 and are responsible for defending Tar Valon and the surrounding bridge towns, as well as patrolling the surrounding countryside for dozens of miles in all directions. They police the city walls and streets, and some can be found at the entrance to the Tower grounds.
The Aes Sedai themselves and their Warders generally consider themselves more than capable of defending themselves and the Tower should it prove necessary.
Note on the Map
The diagram of the Tower – the first ever to be assembled, I believe – is based on the descriptions in the novels, The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time and The Wheel of Time Encyclopedia.
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Altara is one of the largest nations in the Westlands, extending from the River Manetherendrelle to the Sea of Storms and from the River Eldar to the Damona Mountains. Its capital is Ebou Dar, one of the great cities of the continent, and the kingdom sprawls over a vast amount of relatively densely-populated territory, containing numerous towns, villages and small cities, separated by rich, fertile countryside. Several of the great highways of the Westlands run through Altara, and its sea links are highly favourable as well.
However, both Altara’s size and the stubbornly independent nature of the kingdom works against it. The ruler’s remit runs no more than a few days ride from Ebou Dar. Rather a unified, strong kingdom under a central authority, the nation is instead a hodgepodge of noble fiefdoms, many quarrelling with one another or defiant of the ruler in Ebou Dar and, especially, their taxes. Altara is a land of unfulfilled potential, a potential rival to Andor and Cairhien if only it could unify for one purpose.
Altara’s territory was originally claimed by Eharon, one of the Ten Nations founded after the Breaking of the World. Eharon’s capital city was Londaren Cor, site of the Palace of the Moon, from where rulers such as King Temanin dispensed justice and wisdom. Londaren Cor was built by the same Ogier masons who completed Tar Valon, and it is alleged that the arts they learned in the building of Tar Valon were perfected at Londaren Cor, making it the most beautiful city in the Westlands. It was King Temanin who brought Eharon into the Compact of the Ten Nations.
During the Trolloc Wars, Shadowspawn armies passed through the fallen kingdoms of Aridhol and Manetheren to attack Eharon and drive to the sea in an effort to split the Ten Nations in two. This campaign initially appeared successful, with the Trolloc armies sacking Londaren Cor and its port, Barashta. However, the Trolloc forces overextended themselves and were destroyed. Despite the loss of both its capital and major port, Eharon was able to rally and survived the war, if only barely.
Londaren Cor was abandoned, but Barashta was rebuilt larger than before to become a new city, Ebou Dar. Eharon’s territory was divided between several nations, with most of the kingdom reconstituted as Shiota, with kingdoms such as Nerevan and Esandara arising out of other parts of the territory. The rulers of Shiota counted themselves as the true heirs of Eharon, however, and launched several campaigns to conquer the former territories of Eharon and restore the former nation. These campaigns were finally halted circa FY 500 when Nerevan and Esandara united and invaded Shiota. Although Shiota proved victorious in a gruelling engagement near the ruins of Londaren Cor, the campaign appears to have dissuaded it from further adventures.
During the War of the Second Dragon, Shiota was conquered by the false Dragon Guaire Amalasan, who used its territory and military forces to prosecute his campaign further north and east. After Amalasan’s defeat and gentling, the High King Artur Hawkwing invaded and conquered Shiota as part of his empire. The region was reorganised as an Imperial Province, with its capital at Ebou Dar. Towards the end of his reign, Hawkwing used Ebou Dar, Illian, Tear and Mayene as the construction ports for a vast fleet to be used in the invasion of Shara in FY 993; this invasion proved unsuccessful. Hawkwing died the following year, plunging the Westlands into the chaos of the War of the Hundred Years.
During the war, King Maddin secured control of Ebou Dar and kept the city safe during a prolonged period of chaos and uncertainty. He named himself King of Altara, and won the support of a loose coalition of nobles. This coalition appears to have been fragile and more of an alliance of equals, with Maddin as a first among equals, than a capitulation to a higher royal authority. At the end of the war, Maddin’s descendants found themselves ruling a nation in name only.
In the thousand years since then, various rulers have tried to unify Altara more tightly, but with very limited success. This changed in 957 NE when the armies of Amadicia, allied to the Children of the Light, invaded Altara in force. The Altaran nobles in the west of the country rallied under Ebou Dar’s banner to resist the invasion, but the rest of the kingdom was more divided. Fortunately, King Mattin Stepaneos den Balgar of Illian saw the threat for what it was and, aided by Murandian mercenaries, came to Altara’s aid. A series of battles followed, including the Battle of Moisen (a disaster for Amadicia and the Children) and the epic Battle of Soremaine, where King Mattin was captured and held to ransom. Despite winning that battle, the Children had to admit they simply lacked the numbers to hold a country as vast, populous and unruly as Altara and withdrew.
Attempts to unify Altara against the threat of Amadicia and the Children of the Light were successful in the immediate aftermath of the conflict, but soon dissipated once the threat receded. In 978 NE Altara agreed to support the Grand Alliance during the Aiel War, but, as usual, bickering and disagreements saw many lords and nobles refusing to join the effort for one reason or another. In the end, only 3,500 Altaran troops took part in the battle, a rather pitiful number for such a populous nation.
Altara occupies a wide swathe of fertile, temperate countryside in the south-central region of the Westlands. The maximum north-south distance of the kingdom is 1,100 miles and its maximum width approaches 700 miles. Cartographers argue, but Altara’s size appears to rival that of Saldaea, and it is only definitively outsized by Andor and Cairhien.
Altara shares borders with more nations than any other: Amadicia and Ghealdan to the west, Andor to the north, and Murandy and Illian to the east. The Sea Folk island of Qaim also lies about 500 miles to the south-west. Altara’s borders are set as the Sea of Storms to the south, the River Eldar to the west, Garen’s Wall to the north-west, the River Manetherendrelle (and a mutually-agreed border with Andor) to the north, and the River Manetherendrelle, the Damona Mountains and Kabal Deep to the north-east and east.
Northern Altara, lying north of the Jehannah Road and Garen’s Wall, appears to be more remote and sparsely populated, with few major towns and notable roads passing through the region.
The Jehannah Road crosses northern Altara, linking the great capitals of Jehannah and Lugard. A string of Altaran trade towns and prosperous villages line this trade route, enriched by merchants. The most notable is Remen, a major port on the Manetherendrelle just west of the Murandian border.
Bisecting the nation diagonally from south-west to north-east is the Great North Road, which links the capital at Ebou Dar with Lugard and Caemlyn, the rich capitals of Murandy and Andor. This is the spine of Altara, with numerous towns and villages located along its length, including Weesin, Alkindar, Jurador and Coramen. Just off the road, near Runnien Crossing, lie the ruins of Londaren Cor, the ancient capital of Eharon. In the north-east the Great North Road has to cross the Damona Mountains, a low range of jagged peaks created during the Breaking of the World. The Damonas are treacherous mountains, a maze of canyons, hills and abrupt cliff-faces. The five-mile-wide Molvaine Gap carries the road through the mountains, although travellers are wary of the Malvide Narrows, where bold bandits sometimes seek easy prey.
The River Eldar is another major trade artery of the nation, linking Ebou Dar to Amadicia and Ghealdan, as well as providing an impressive defensive bulwark against Amadician incursions. Small towns and villages dot the riverbanks or are located further inland, such as Salidar, Cormaed and So Eban.
There are no cities in Altara to rival Ebou Dar, but there are plenty of large, fortified towns with populations comfortably in the thousands, such as Malden and Maderin. These towns are the home of rich and powerful nobles, some arguably more powerful than the monarch in the capital, who pay little heed to royal decrees issued there.
Ebou Dar itself, located in the far south-western corner of Altara, is one of the great cities of the land, exceeded in size by the likes of Tanchico, Tar Valon and Caemlyn but still formidable in terms of its population and wealth. The city is located on both sides of a wide harbour formed by the mouth of the River Eldar. On the north-western side lies Ebou Dar proper, a city of orderly, wide canals, well-maintained streets and impressive shops. The city is ruled from the Tarasin Palace, located on Mol Hara Square. On the south-eastern side of the bay lies the Rahad, the so-called “low” city which is less well-maintained and mostly inhabited by poorer citizens. The Rahad is regarded as dangerous, with duelling, disorderly behaviour and murders frequent occurrences.
Altara has the misfortune to sit on the unruliest part of the Sea of Storms; vast tempests known as ceranos form far out to sea to the south. In the autumn these storms smash into the south coast of the Westlands between the Shadow Coast and Tear, causing disruption to shipping and trade. Fortunately, southern Altara is protected from the worst of the storms by the Venir Mountains, a coastal range extending from just east of Ebou Dar to Arran Head. East of Arran Head, separating Altara from the north-western coast of Illian, lies Kabal Deep, an impressive bay noted for being extremely deep and dangerous during the ceranos season.
The known towns and settlements of Altara are Ebou Dar, Alkindar, Brytan, Coramen, Cormaed, Ionin Spring, Jurador, Maderin, Malden, Marella, Moisen, Mosra, Nor Chasen, Remen, Runnien Crossing, Salidar, Sehar, So Eban, So Habor, So Tehar, Soremaine and Weesin.
Altara is, in theory, a hereditary monarchy, with the King or Queen ruling from the Throne of the Winds, located in the Tarasin Palace in Ebou Dar. In practice, the King or Queen is actually just the ruling lord or lady of Ebou Dar and sometimes not even the most powerful noble in the kingdom. The current ruler, Queen Tylin Quintara of House Mitsobar, has been more successful than most. Her father was barely the most powerful nobleman in Ebou Dar when he took the throne, and at times did not even fully control the city. Tylin has extended her house’s rule to around 100 miles outside of Ebou Dar, including several notable towns and villages, but her writ does not really extend much further than that.
In practice, Altara is divided into a hodgepodge of petty fiefdoms ruled by nobles who spend most of their time bickering or squabbling with one another. The only reason the nation is not more chaotic and violent is the fear that Amadicia, Murandy or Illian may attempt to annex Altaran territory if they sense weakness.
Military and Population
Altara is, by some counts, the third-largest kingdom in the Westlands and its population is certainly very large, considering the frequency of inhabited towns and villages in the nation. However, its military is risible at best. There is no elite standing formation as in most nations, with the closest being the city guard of Ebou Dar. Some nobles retain companies of elite fighting men, especially those close to the borders with Amadicia, Murandy, Illian and Andor, but these tend to be very small. Altara has not produced a Great Captain in its recorded history. Its military reputation, as shown in the Whitecloak War of 957 NE and the Aiel War of 976-978 NE, is poor.
Altara is a major trade thoroughfare, with merchants heading west to Tarabon and Arad Doman, east to Illian and Tear and north to Murandy and Andor. Three great roads carry merchant traffic to far-off lands, and the Eldar and Manetherendrelle rivers are major transport hubs leading deep into the continental interior. Ebou Dar is also the largest port and waystop on the coast between Tanchico, more than a thousand miles to the north-west, and Illian some 800 miles to the south-east. Altara also exports food supplies and wines from the farms dotted across its vast countryside.
Altara is unusual in that the defining feature of its culture is its lack of a coherent culture which holds sway across the entire nation. Those living in the far north of the kingdom, for example, are more similar in mode, dress and speech to Ghealdan or Andor than to Ebou Dar, and the same for those living close to the border with Illian.
Still, a distinct culture has emerged in Ebou Dar. The society is not exactly matriarchal – the ruler can be King or Queen, with the eldest child inheriting regardless of sex – but it does give significant weight and power to women. Ebou Dari women carry marriage knives as a way of displaying their marital and social status, and if they have had children or not. These knives are not ceremonial, and may be deployed swiftly to answer an insult (perceived or real). Dari women are trained in the art of combat from a young age, due to the frequent duels they expect to fight in their lifetimes. Dari men are also skilled with blades as part of the duelling culture.
Ebou Dar is also known as the home of the Kin, a loose group of unmarried wise women, herbalists and healers who live in and around the city. The Kin are famed for their skills at healing and herblore.
Notes on the Maps
This was a straightforward translation from the book maps, with some changes to have the borders more closely follow the rivers and mountains. This area is heavily forested, so for clarity I have not included forests beyond those directly named in the books; otherwise it can be assumed that this region has significant tree cover.
Towns and villages were placed in accordance with the descriptions in the text (apart from a few, such as Soremaine, which have been placed somewhat arbitrarily). As noted previously, the villages visited by Rand al’Thor in The Dragon Reborn have been moved from their traditional placement in Ghealdan to Altara: Samaha, Tallan and Fyall are all within a day’s ride of each other, three days ride west of Remen, which puts them rather firmly in Altara.
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Nestled at the southern feet of the Mountains of Mist is the small but notable kingdom of Amadicia. A landlocked nation which thrives on trade running from the Aryth Ocean nations of Arad Doman and Tarabon eastwards to the rich kingdoms and cities of Tear and Illian, Amadicia should be a land of riches and plenty. Instead, it is a kingdom that exists under virtual occupation by the militant order known as the Children of the Light and where any infringement of their law may lead to someone being dubbed a Darkfriend and punished accordingly.
After the Breaking, the great kingdom of Aelgar arose in the south-west of the Westlands, bordered by Safer, Eharon and Manetheren. Aelgar survived the Trolloc Wars only to collapse in the aftermath. Kharendor was one of several kingdoms that arose its wake, controlling all the lands from the mouth of the Eldar to the Mountains of Mist.
Kharendor was conquered first by the false Dragon Guaire Amalasan and then by the High King, Artur Hawkwing, which dissolved the existing nations in favour of new provinces. After Hawkwing’s death and the beginning of the War of the Hundred Years, the region became embroiled in civil strife and violent conflict.
Modern Amadicia arose during the War of the Hundred Years, a powerful nobleman carving a strong territory out from around the capital at Amador and pushing the borders back to their present boundaries. It is known that by the end of the war (c. FY 1135), the kingdom’s current borders and name had been established.
The histories of Amadicia was relatively quiet for almost a thousand years, the kingdom thriving on passing trade. That changed approximately seventy years ago. The wandering ascetic order of militant soldiers known as the Children of the Light, who held that the One Power was evil and all who touched it were Darkfriends, established ties in Amadicia. By 940 NE they had established enough authority that the King of Amadicia granted them permanent residence in his nation and the right to build a new, permanent base of operations, known as the Fortress of the Light, in Amador. The Children effectively annexed Amadicia as their own fiefdom, leaving the king in place as an effective figurehead.
The Children’s rules of living and their code of conduct were harsh, and they imposed this rule on Amadicia with fanatical zeal. Ghealdan to the north, not known for its martial ability, became concerned that they would be next. Fortunately, the Children instead chose to invade Altara in 957 NE: Ghealdan’s resources were not worth the effort of invasion and, although relatively weak, the kingdom was united. Altara was a divided land, a far larger and richer one and, most importantly, one with a major port on the Sea of Storms and territorial links with Illian, Murandy and Andor.
The invasion proved a fiasco: Illian and Murandy rallied to Altara’s aid and, despite winning several major battles, the Whitecloaks realised it would not be possible to absorb a kingdom as large as Altara with relatively limited manpower. They sued for peace and withdrew beyond the borders of Amadicia. Since then, Amadicia has been viewed with much greater suspicion by the surrounding nations, which has effectively ended its military threat. Any attempt to invade one of its neighbours (Tarabon, Ghealdan and Altara) would invite retribution from the others.
In 978 NE Amadicia and the Children attempted to repair their reputation by sending troops to the so-called Grand Alliance, a coalition of nations assembling to meet the threat of the Aiel invasion. Amadicia sent 4,000 troops under Lord Aeman Senhold, whilst Lord Captain Commander Pedron Niall led 4,000 troops of the Children of the Light in person.
Since the Battle of the Shining Walls, Amadicia has continued to be a nation avoided by Aes Sedai and treated with caution by its neighbours.
Amadicia occupies a wide swathe of plains, low hills and lightly forested lands at the southern end of the Mountains of Mist. The kingdom stretches for about 550 miles from its far western border with Tarabon to its eastern border with Altara along the River Eldar, and for almost 400 miles from the River Sharia on the nation’s southern border to the River Eldar along the northern border.
Amadicia enjoys a temperate climate, the mountains of the Shadow Coast to the south breaking up the worst of the weather off the Sea of Storms before it strikes the kingdom. The summers are relatively cool and the winters mild, with snow almost unknown.
The capital city is Amador, located in the south-west of the kingdom about a hundred miles from the Tarabon border. Amador is a respectably-sized city, although a far cry from the great cities like Caemlyn, Illian and Tar Valon. It is, however, one of the largest cities not build by Ogier or on the site of a former Ogier-built city. Amador’s landscape is dominated by the Fortress of the Light, a massive castle that is the primary stronghold of the Children of the Light. The Serenda Palace, the residence of the King of Amadicia, used to lie on this site but it was dismantled brick-by-brick and moved two miles out of the city, where it was reassembled, leaving the king isolated from his capital and his people.
The known towns and settlements of Amadicia are Amador, Abila, Bellon, Jeramel, Mardecin and Sienda.
Amadicia is, in theory, ruled by the King who commands a bureaucracy with the support of the noble houses. In reality, Amadicia is controlled by the Children of the Light who effectively organise all aspects of the nation for their benefit. The King, currently Ailron, is a figurehead and liaison between the nobility and the Children. The true power in Amador is Pedron Niall, the shrewd Lord Captain Commander of the Children of the Light and leader of the Council of the Anointed. Niall himself rarely has to deal with the day-to-day ruling of Amadicia, which is left to under-functionaries answering to the Council.
The Hand of the Light, known as the Questioners (although not to their faces), effectively operates as Amadicia’s secret police and internal intelligence organisation.
Military and Population
Amadicia’s nominally independent armed forces are organised around the Guardians of the Gate, a formerly elite standing military force. Since the Children of the Light took power in Amadicia, the Guardians have become more of a ceremonial formation assigned to defend the King.
The Children, for all their other qualities, are a superbly-trained, tightly-disciplined military force. They are divided into several legions of 2,000 troops each, each commanded by a Lord Captain. The Children operate as mounted infantry, including crossbowmen, and so are capable of moving at great speed. The Children maintain high quality weapons and armour, often allowing them to stand against numerically superior opponents.
Amadicia sent 4,000 troops to the Shining Walls and the Children sent a force of equal number. Assuming both sent less than half of their available military forces, it might be that Amadicia and the Children combined can field some 20,000 troops in total without having to strain too hard. This suggests that the population of Amadicia may be around 2 million at the lower end, probably considerably more than that.
Amadicia maintains some mines in the Mountains of Mist but its main source of wealth comes from its location on the main trade route from the west coast to the south coast kingdoms, along with donations from well-wishers across the continent to the coffers of the Children of the Light.
Amadicians are, perhaps unsurprisingly, a relatively restrained, slightly suspicious people who measure their words carefully and proceed with caution. Their mode of clothing is conservative and they tend to pepper their speech with praise and blessings for the Light and the Creator.
Located north of Amadicia lies the kingdom of Ghealdan. Stretching from the Mountains of Mist to Garen’s Wall and from the Forest of Shadows to the River Eldar, Ghealdan is a relatively poor but also peaceful kingdom, seen by much of the outside world as a backwater.
Ghealdan thrives on trade and the quality of its crafted goods. Although not of exceptional quality, such goods are exported far and wide across the Westlands and are noted for their reliability and affordability.
In the aftermath of the Breaking of the World, the great kingdom of Manetheren took shape along the eastern flanks of the Mountains of Mist. The great Ogier-built city of Jara’copan was built to command the southern reaches of the kingdom, where its borders met those of Aelgar (to the south-west) and Eharon (to the south-east).
Manetheren was destroyed during the Trolloc Wars and several kingdoms took shape from its ashes. One of these was Dhowlan, which claimed all the lands from the Manetherendrelle to the Eldar. Dhowlan endured a thousand years until it was conquered by the false Dragon Guaire Amalasan and then liberated in turn by Artur Hawkwing to become part of his empire. The province endured until Hawkwing’s death and the start of the War of the Hundred Years.
During the war, the territory of Dhowlan was restored and the kingdom apparently enjoyed twenty years of relative stability before it collapsed upon the death of its ruler. Many years of strife followed until FY 1109, when the combatants Lord Kirin Almeyda, Lady Valera Prosnarin, Lord Cynric Talvaen and Lady Iona Ashmar agreed to stop fighting and restore stability. They renamed the kingdom Ghealdan and formed the Crown High Council. After some debate, they elected Lord Kirin Almeyda as the first King of Ghealdan.
Despite its small size, Ghealdan resolved to send 5,000 troops to support the Grand Coalition at the Battle of the Shining Walls in 978 NE, under Lord Aleshin Talvaen.
Things remained relatively quiet in Ghealdan until 997 NE, when a minor nobleman named Logan Ablar suddenly declared himself the Dragon Reborn. King Johanin of Ghealdan stripped him of land and titles, but Logain attracted a sizeable following and was threatening the capital when a coalition of nations led by the Aes Sedai engaged and defeated his forces. Logain was taken prisoner, restoring peace to Ghealdan.
Ghealdan is a temperate country with somewhat poor soil. The northern half of the country is heavily forested, giving way to somewhat more open country in the south.
Ghealdan’s borders are held to be: the Mountains of Mist to the west, Garen’s Wall (a massive ridgeline) to the east and the upper course of the River Eldar to the south. Its border in the far north, with Andor, is technically the River Manetherendrelle, but this lies beyond the thick, unruly region known as the Forest of Shadows (or Great Blackwood), which in practice acts as a buffer between northern Ghealdan and the remote western region of Andor known as the Two Rivers.
Ghealdan’s capital city, Jehannah, is located on the River Boern roughly in the centre of the kingdom. The King or Queen of Ghealdan rules the nation from the Jheda Palace.
Ghealdan is bordered by Andor to the north; Tarabon to the west, over the Misty Mountains; Amadicia to the south and Altara to the east. Approximately 400 miles separate the Manetherendrelle from the Eldar in the west. The kingdom is about 550 miles wide at its widest point from east to west.
One of the most famed of Ghealdan’s geographic wonders is Garen’s Wall, a massive ridgeline extending for 500 miles along Ghealdan’s north-eastern border with Altara. Named for General Garen of Dhowlan, who expertly used the ridgeline for military defence during the wars with Farashelle, Ghealdan likewise employ the ridge today for military defence and training.
The Ogier-built city of Jara’copan is said to still exist, located in the foothills of the Mountains of Mist some six days south of the old destroyed city of Manetheren itself. Attempts to find the ruins have been mounted by explorers, adventurers and even Hunters for the Horn, but they have not been located due to the difficult terrain.
The known towns and settlements of Ghealdan include Jehannah, Bethal, Boannda, Cosamelle, Jarra, Sidon and Samara.
Ghealdan’s nobles are represented by the Crown High Council, who in turn advise the king or queen. The throne is inherited, but if a king or queen should die with no issue, or prove incompetent, the Council can arrange for a new ruler to take the throne. The current King of Ghealdan is Johanin.
Military and Population
Ghealdan is not known as a major military power, but its main standing military formation, the Legion of the Wall, is respected and capable.
Ghealdan sent 5,000 troops to the Battle of the Shining Walls. Assuming it sent only a token of its strength, it is plausible that Ghealdan’s population is comparable to Amadicia’s, at around 2 million at the far lower end of likelihood.
Ghealdan maintains alum mines in the mountains which are moderately successful, as well as exporting various goods. Ghealdan’s craftsmen are noted for their skill, honesty and reliability.
Ghealdanin culture is restrained and modest, although also mostly friendly and certainly more welcoming than Amadicia to the south.
Notes on the Maps
Again, this was mostly a straightforward translation from the book maps. Some changes were made to have the borders more closely follow the rivers. This area of the Westlands is heavily forested, so for clarity, I only note specific, named forests on the maps. Otherwise it can be assumed most of this region has significant tree cover.
The towns and villages were placed mostly from clear indications to their location in the text. One major deviation was more closely studying the sequence in The Dragon Reborn were Moiraine leads a party to search for Rand al’Thor, passing through numerous villages on the way. Other maps tend to place the bulk of these villages in Ghealdan, but careful reading confirms that only Jarra and Sidon are in Ghealdan; Willar may be, but certainly the remaining villages (Samaha, Tallan and Fyall) are all in northern Altara instead.
Information on Jara’copan comes from The Prophecies of the Dragon (2002), the expansion to The Wheel of Time Roleplaying Game (2001). The canonical placement of the city is unconfirmed, but given it does not contradict established canon, it is included for the sake of completeness.
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Tarabon is a large and powerful nation located along the Aryth Ocean in the south-west of the Westlands. Extending inland to the Mountains of Mist and extending from Almoth Plain to the hills and mountains of the Shadow Coast, the nation is noted for its location on the major trade routes leading from Arad Doman and the western Sea Folk islands to the wealthier nations of the east, such as Illian and Tear. It is also known for its strategically precarious position, faced with opposition from both Arad Doman to the north (with whom it frequently skirmishes for control of Almoth Plain) and Amadicia to the east, which is eager for any sign of weakness allowing it to snatch up more of Tarabon’s territory.
Taraboners refer to themselves and their ancestors as being part of the “Tree of Man” and claim to have once held a sapling of Avendesora, the Tree of Life, although if true it has long since been lost. This is reflected by the Tarabon banner, showing a golden tree with spreading branches on a field vertically stripped red and white.
After the Breaking of the World, the southern half of the region currently controlled by Tarabon was claimed by Aelgar, one of the Ten Nations that signed the Covenant. Its capital was Ancohima (location unknown) and its other major cities included Mainelle (on the current site of Tanchico), Condaris and Shar Honelle. The northern half and more (including all of Almoth Plain and the southern half of Arad Doman) was claimed by Safer, whose capital of Iman was located on the site of modern Katar. Aelgar was bordered by Eharon to the east and Manetheren to the north-east. Aelgar was known for its military prowess and ambitions which sometimes defied the Covenant; King Maecine of Eharon defended his nation against Aelgar between the sixth and seventh centuries After the Breaking. It was also known for its beautiful cities (Ancohima and Condaris, at least, were Ogier-built and possessed Waygates) and its wealth, partially mined from the mountains of southern Amadicia. Aelgar survived the Trolloc Wars but collapsed almost immediately afterwards, breaking apart into the smaller nations of Balasun and Kharendor.
Both Balasun and Kharendor were conquered early in the War of the Second Dragon (FY 939-943) by the false Dragon Guaire Amalasan. With Amalasan’s gentling at the end of the war, both kingdoms descended into chaos before being saved by Artur Paendrag Tanreall, the Hawkwing, who unified the two nations into a single province.
In FY 1006, twelve years into the War of the Hundred Years that followed Hawkwing’s death, Lord Haren Maseed, Laddy Tazenia Nerenhald and Lord Boral Amadia seized control of Tanchico, fortifying it against attack and gradually expanding to conquer most of the province. Lord Boral was murdered, so Lord Haren was named King of Tarabon and Lady Tazenia became Panarch. The new government system was designed to give balance between the King, the Panarch and the Assembly of Lords.
Tarabon reached its current size, more or less, at the end of the War of the Hundred Years and has endured ever since. It has tried to remain aloof from the conflicts of other nations, not sending troops to the aid of the other nations at the Battle of the Shining Walls and not intervening in the Whitecloak War despite Amadicia apparently being left under-defended during the conflict.
Tarabon is located on the Aryth Ocean in the south-west of the Westlands. It extends inland to the Mountains of Mist, which forms most of its eastern border. However, the border extends south past the end of the mountains into open countryside. The border with Amadicia is located in this area and has moved back and forth over the centuries due to border skirmishes. The kingdom measures some 770 miles from west to east and 630 miles from north to south at its widest.
The capital city, Tanchico, is located on three peninsulas (the Calpene, Maseta and Verana) overlooking a wide bay at the mouth of the River Andahar, the longest and most impressive river in the kingdom. The Andahar flows out of Lake Somal some 900 miles to the north-east (formed in turn by meltwater from the Mountains of Mist) and is the primary river artery of the kingdom, with numerous towns and villages on its banks (including Alcruna near the northern border).
Tanchico is a very large city (about six miles wide) and also a very old one, with some claiming that the Panarch’s Palace was built from stone blocks that somehow survived the Breaking of the World. Certainly some of the stones in the palace show friezes of scenes that appear to date from the Age of Legends. The city is also noted for its museum with artifacts from the Breaking and the Age of Legends (and some say, even before). This suggests that either Tanchico – or Mainelle as it was originally called – was built before the Breaking was even done, or fairly soon afterwards, possibly challenging Tear, Tar Valon and even Rhuidean’s claim to be the oldest city on the continent. However, others have suggested that Mainelle was built much later the artifacts from the Age of Legends were abandoned in the city by refugees and travellers. The truth remains unknown.
The coasts of Tarabon are mountainous, especially in the south where the border gives way to the more jumbled landscape of the Shadow Coast, with Tanchico the only good large harbour on the coast.
The interior is a mixture of flat, rolling countryside, rolling hills and taller highlands, some of them extensive. The northern border region gives way to the much flatter and more fertile landscape of Almoth Plain, whilst in the east the border regions with Amadicia are likewise flatter and fertile, with numerous smaller villages and towns located in this vicinity. Well-maintained trade roads link Tanchico with Bandar Eban and Falme to the north and Amador, Ebou Dar and other cities to the east.
The second city of Tarabon is Elmora, located roughly halfway from Tanchico to Amador. The city is a major site for trade between the two capitals.
The known cities and settlements of Tarabon are: Tanchico, Elmora, Alcruna, Maracru, Nassad and Serana.
Tarabon has an unusual tripartite governmental system. The country’s nobility is represented in the Assembly of Lords. The Lords elect a spokesperson and representative, the Panarch, who represents their views and provides a conduit to deal with the King. The Panarch is also responsible for collecting taxes, customs and duties. The King, who rules from the Throne of Light in the King’s Palace in Tanchico, is a hereditary position and determines how taxes are spent. The Panarch has authority over the Civil Watch and the Panarch’s Legion, whilst the King commands the Tarabon Army. The Panarch is also in charge of all the courts, apart from the High Court of the King.
Typically, the King is male and Panarch is female but on occasion the roles are reversed. The three-stage government provides a system of checks and balances that is meant to inspire consensus and compromise; more frequently it creates a logjam in government that prevents much from getting done. The current King is Andric and the current Panarch is Amathera Aelfdene Casmir Lounault.
Military and Population
Like most nations, Tarabon maintains several elite, professional and permanent military formations which form the core of a larger levy force when necessary. The most notable military forces in Tarabon are the King’s Life Guard, the Panarch’s Legion and the Civil Watch of Tanchico.
We have insufficient information to determine either the size of Tarabon’s military potential or its population. However, given that Tarabon is capable of both skirmishing with Arad Doman and holding off adventurers from Amadicia simultaneously, plus the fact that it is a (somewhat) larger country and appears to have more major settlements than Arad Doman, the population likely somewhat exceeds that of its northern rival, and may be in the region of 10-12 million.
Tarabon is a great trading nation which sees a huge amount of merchant traffic by both foot and sea. Taraboners occasionally learn the ways of the sea, but are more content to allow the Sea Folk to transport goods for them; this arrangement may be down the close proximity of the Sea Folk archipelago known as the Aile Jafar, which lies just 200 miles or so offshore, near Tanchico. Fringed rugs, olive oil, dyes and porcelain are among Tarabon’s primary exports.
Taraboners are a polite people but also a somewhat reticent one. They were veils over their faces which are kept on at all times unless eating or drinking. If discretion is to be emphasised, they put on a veil which masks the entire face. Taraboner men also tend to sport mustaches and dark cylindrical caps on their head. Men tend to wear baggy white trousers and coats, whilst women tend to wear clinging gowns which sometimes rival those of the Domani.
The Guild of Illuminators
Tarabon’s most interesting guild is that of the Illuminators. These are men and women who have discovered how to create illuminations in the sky, formed by exploding rockets. The makeup of these rockets and how they produce their effects are unknown. The Guild ruthlessly protects its secrets, even unto death. The Guild maintains two chapter houses at opposite ends of the continent, one in Tanchico and one in Cairhien. Attempts to found other houses have met with suspicion and reluctance, due to rumours that the Illuminators’ powders and devices can, in some circumstances, explode with tremendous force, injuring and killing bystanders.
The Shadow Coast
Lying to the south of both Tarabon and Amadicia is a vast area of unclaimed wilderness, a land of towering mountains, dreary hill chains and steep cliffs that plunge abruptly into the roaring morass of the ocean.
This stretch of land is known as the Shadow Coast and is vast, extending for almost exactly a thousand miles from the borders of Tarabon to those of Altara. The region is lightly inhabited and the reasons are clear: the land is rocky and hard to farm, and the coast is an absolute nightmare of jagged rocks and treacherous reefs that can tear out the bottom of even a large ship without warning. The most notable landmark on the coast is Windbiter’s Finger, a semi-submerged peninsula that extends out from the shore for around 250 miles. The Finger denotes the place where the Aryth Ocean meets the Sea of Storms.
The entire coast is given a wide berth by seafarers, with even the Sea Folk making sure their vessels stay far out at sea. The region also extends for around 350 miles inland, an area dominated by mountains and hills.
This area was once claimed by Aelgar and later Balasun and Kharendor, but today is unclaimed by any nation (although the occasional ruin from earlier eras can be found). Tarabon and Amadicia simply don’t have the manpower to try to claim this difficult landscape in the present day, especially as the mountains lacks mineral resources and there is no good harbour on the coast all the way from Tanchico in the north-west to Ebou Dar in the south-east.
The Shadow Coast isn’t entirely uninhabited. Occasional, hardy folk (who enjoy isolation and hard living) might be found dwelling here. There are also two Ogier stedding located in the wilderness: Shadoon and Mardoon. The River Sharia rises in the region before flowing east along the southern border of Amadicia to its confluence with the Eldar.
Notes on the Map
This map draws on the colour endpaper map from the novels used from Lord of Chaos onwards, which is generally accepted as the most accurate map created for the books during Robert Jordan’s lifetime.
There weren’t too many changes to the map, aside from the addition to the map of the Taraboner and Amadician towns and villages mentioned in the book. Such settlements have only been added where clear geographic indications are given to their location.
Located along the west coast of the continent, Almoth Plain and Toman Head are two large geographic regions that are not controlled by any central authority, despite the claims of Arad Doman to the north and Tarabon to the south. Caught between these two giants, the people of the region are fiercely independent and resilient.
The history of the Almoth region is interesting, as a series of legends tie it to Avendesora, the Tree of Life. There are indications that the Da’shain Aiel may have migrated through this region, complete with the Tree of Life, and left a sapling with the people of Almoth. If this is true, it means that the ruins of the great Age of Legends city of Comelle may lie in the Aryth Ocean, some distance to the west of Toman Head. However, records of this time are highly garbled.
The nation of Safer arose in this region shortly after the Breaking and fought a series of early border wars with Manetheren to the east. The signing of the Compact of the Ten Nations ended these conflicts and Safer endured in peace until the Trolloc Wars erupted in 1000 NE. During this time Safer gave rise to three great cities: its capital, Iman (located on the site of Katar); Miereallen (Falme); and Shainrahien (site unknown). Safer survived the Trolloc Wars but collapsed almost immediately afterwards.
The nation of Darmovan arose in its wake, controlling most of modern Almoth Plain and Toman Head. This nation’s history may have been unremarkable were it not for its most notorious son: Guaire Amalasan. A false Dragon, Amalasan declared himself the Dragon Reborn in FY 939. Taking advantage of the chaos resulting from the Black Fever, which had wiped out about a tenth of the population of the continent, and expertly reading The Prophecies of the Dragon, Amalasan amassed vast popular support and in an impressive military campaign conquered almost half the Westlands in just four years. However, in FY 943 Amalasan’s advance was halted in its tracks when he was defeated in the Battle of the Jolvaine Pass by the young king of Shandalle, Artur Paendrag Tanreall, already nicknamed Hawkwing. Amalasan was captured, shielded by the Aes Sedai accompanying Hawkwing’s army, taken back to Tar Valon and gentled, despite a massive assault on the city by his forces in an attempt to free him (a battle again won by Hawkwing, to the fury of the Amyrlin Seat).
Darmovan collapsed into chaos and civil war over the succession, but it was saved by Hawkwing himself, who conquered the nation along with the rest of the Westlands in the Consolidation. Subsequently the kingdom was reorganised as the Almoth Province of the Hawkwing Empire. In FY 989 the elderly Hawkwing, apparently re-energised by the massive Battle of Talidar two years earlier, when his armies utterly smashed a Trolloc invasion that some say was on a par with the Trolloc Wars themselves, began massive planning. He expanded port facilities all down the west coast and ordered the construction of a massive fleet of at least 2,000 warships and transports and the assembly of an army and colonisation force exceeding 300,000 people. The farms of Almoth Plain helped feed this vast force, whilst ports such as Bandar Eban, Falme and Tanchico built the fleet. In FY 992 this fleet sailed west to conquer a continent that Hawkwing believed lay on the far side of the Aryth Ocean. That they found something is clear, as a few messages came back via the Watchers Over the Waves, a society in Falme, but beyond a few garbled reports of “Armies of Night,” little other news made it back to the Westlands.
The War of the Hundred Years destroyed Hawkwing’s Empire and saw new kingdoms emerge, including Arad Doman, Almoth and Tarabon along the west coast. These three kingdoms seem to have endured in relative stability until c. 600 NE, when Almoth collapsed due to a declining population. Arad Doman and Tarabon both tried to seize Almoth Plain, but were unable to bring the necessary military force to bear. The two nations both continue to claim the plain and occasionally try to move their borders further into its territories, but have so far failed to annex the region.
The region containing Toman Head and Almoth Plain is located on the far west coast of the Westlands, between the nations of Arad Doman and Tarabon. The region is bordered by the Mountains of Mist in the east, beyond which lies the nations of Andor and Ghealdan. The Almoth Plain region measures approximately 490 miles from north to south by approximately 430 miles, whilst Toman Head extends a further 370 miles or so into the Aryth Ocean to the west. The peninsula of Toman Head averages at around 130 miles or so in width for most of its length.
The region consists mostly of sparsely-settled plains, hills and low mountains, dotted with the occasional small village. The only large settlement of note is Falme, a seaport located at the western tip of Toman Head, with a population of a few thousand. The other major settlement of note nearby is Katar, a much larger city which occasionally makes bids for independence, but technically is part of the kingdom of Arad Doman to the north.
Also of note in this region is the Paerish Swar, the Darkwood, a vast forest stretching for some 300 miles from north to south. The Darkwood is a tangled old woodland which dominates the eastern-most stretch of Almoth Plain. Some believe the forest was once much larger but was deforested for homebuilding and shipbuilding, but, as usual, the histories are unclear. The forest makes an excellent hiding place for bandits and miscreants.
Beyond the Darkwood lies Lake Somal. The largest inland body of water in all of the Westlands, Lake Somal extends for over 150 miles from north to south and is over 90 miles wide. Despite its sheer size, fed by meltwater from the Mountains of Mist, the lake is relatively obscure given its distance from centres of habitation; Arad Doman has some holdings on the far north-western shores, but other than that the lake is mostly unsettled.
The River Andahar is fed by Lake Somal and drains south and west until it meets the Aryth Ocean at the port of Tanchico in Tarabon, some 900 miles away. Although many small rivers and streams extend through the region, the Andahar is by far the largest river on the plain.
According to rumour, there are small goat trails and difficult-to-find passes leading from the far eastern edge of Almoth Plain, along the shores of Lake Somal, into the Two Rivers district of Andor. If so, these have not been found in living memory. A better-known, but still remote, pass leads from the south-eastern corner of the plain into north-western Ghealdan.
Toman Head is similar to the plain, also somewhat rockier and less fertile, and obviously more prone to storms and winds raging in off the Aryth Ocean. There is only one good harbour on the peninsula, at the very western tip where it curls around a north-south bay, with tall cliffs on either side protecting ships at rest from storms. The town or small, unwalled city of Falme is located on this bay. A watchtower looks over the harbour from the cliffs. This is the headquarters of the Watchers Over the Waves (Do Miere A’vron), an organisation founded by Artur Hawkwing before his death to maintain a line of communication over the Aryth Ocean to the invasion forces in Seanchan commanded by his son. With the outbreak of the War of the Hundred Years, the immense resources necessary to send ships many thousands of miles across the ocean were lost. Today the Watchers operate a series of watchtowers all along the coast and help guide ships into Falme Harbour. By tradition, the Watchers believe that one day the armies sent to Seanchan, or their descendants, will return.
Almoth Plain has no unified government. Each settlement is ruled by a Village Council. The precise makeup of each town council varies, with some towns having Mayors and Wisdoms (or Wise Women) similar to western Andor, and others adopting a different system altogether. Some settlements may have some form of militia, especially in areas near the borders of the surrounding nations, but there is no standing military in the region.
The people of this region are somewhat independently-minded, proud and enjoy their freedom from central authority. Other cultural traits tend to vary widely, but the people tend towards conservative dress, with long vests, baggy trousers and long skirts. Those living in remote areas of the plain are suspicious of outlanders, but those living closer to the main trade route from Tarabon to Arad Doman (and down Toman Head) are more welcoming and interested in trade.
Notes on the Map
This map draws on the colour endpaper map from the novels used from Lord of Chaos onwards, which is generally accepted as the most accurate map created for the books during Robert Jordan’s lifetime.
The Thirteenth Depository’s map of Toman Head and Almoth Plain was useful for this article.
The villages of Aturo’s Orchard and Tobin’s Hollow were introduced in The Prophecies of the Dragon (2002), an expansion to The Wheel of Time Roleplaying Game (2001). Unlike the core rulebook, which was approved by Robert Jordan and explicitly given new canon material by him, it is unclear to what extent Jordan was involved with the expansion. However, since the presence of these villages does not contradict any other information, I have included them for the sake of completeness.
Arad Doman is a proud nation stretching from the Aryth Ocean to the Mountains of Mist, north of Almoth Plain. Occupying a wide stretch of pleasant countryside and blessed with mineral wealth from the mountains and good fishing from the ocean, the kingdom is populous and strong. It is also notably free from immediate threats: its nearest neighbour to the north, Saldaea, is both distant (most than 400 miles separate their borders) and on friendly trading terms, whilst the wide Almoth Plain separates Arad Doman from its rival to the south, Tarabon. The only nation Arad Doman shares a direct border with is Andor to the east, but the border is located high in the mountains and travel between the two nations is difficult and often cut off by weather.
The people of Arad Doman are well-known for their martial prowess, their mercantile skills and their dress sense, which some of the other nations consider scandalous. However, the nation is also somewhat remote, its distance from the more populous south-eastern part of the continent meaning that it has limited contact and influence with other nations.
After the Breaking of the World, the territory currently occupied by Arad Doman was claimed by Jaramide, one of the Ten Nations of the Covenant. Jaramide established a huge port city, Allorallen, at the mouth of the River Dhagon and linked it by rode to the capital city of Deranbar (modern Maradon, in Saldaea), approximately 1,600 miles away. Allorallen grew rich, benefiting from the fact that there was no good harbour on the coast of the continent further north and closer to the capital.
Circa 1,000 AB, the northern Jaramidian fortress-city of Barsine, located in the Mountains of Dhoom, was attacked and destroyed by a vast Trolloc host, heralding the onset of the Trolloc Wars. Deranbar withstood multiple sieges as the Trolloc hordes outflanked it to strike further south. Allorallen was destroyed after a ferocious battle. Jaramide just about managed to survive the Trolloc Wars, but collapsed in their immediate aftermath.
One of the nations that arose from the ruins of the conflict was Abayan, which claimed all the lands north and west of the River Dhagon as far as the sea. Abayan does not appear to have been a major player in this period, as the false Dragon Guaire Amalasan, whose homeland and first conquest of Darmovan was located just to the south, did not even bother conquering or attacking the kingdom during the War of the Second Dragon. Another nation, Oman Dashar, was founded to the south, located within the triangle formed by the River Dhagon, River Akuum and Mountains of Mist. As with the rest of the Westlands, all three kingdoms were conquered by Artur Hawkwing during the Consolidation (FY 943-963).
It is believed that the modern city of Bandar Eban had been founded (on the site of Allorallen) by at least the end of Hawkwing’s reign, as one of the locations that the immense fleet was constructed for the invasion of Seanchan. Some records suggest that the site may have been occupied in the interim, but these are confused and doubtful.
Modern Arad Doman arose out of the chaos of the War of the Hundred Years. By the conclusion of the conflict the nation had established borders with Saldaea to the north-east, Almoth to the south and Andor through the mountains. Declining population levels have seen the north-eastern border pull back considerably and Almoth collapse some 400 years ago. An attempt to by Arad Doman to annex Almoth Plain was thwarted by Tarabon, and the two nations have remained at loggerheads over the plain ever since.
Arad Doman’s recent history has been unremarkable. During the Aiel War, the kingdom was unable to muster its army in time to march to the aid of Tar Valon. Instead, the famed captain Rodel Ituralde led a small volunteer force which could move quickly and took part in the Battle of the Shining Walls.
Arad Doman is located on the Aryth Ocean on the north-western coast of the Westlands. It extends inland to the Mountains of Mist, which form its eastern border, and Lake Somal and the Paerish Swar forest, which form its south-eastern border. Its southern border is located on the northern Almoth Plain. This border is somewhat fluid, extending north and south as the strength of the kingdom waxes and wanes. The kingdom measures approximately 750 miles from west to east and approximately 400 miles from north to south at its widest extent.
The capital city, Bandar Eban, is located on a peninsula extending into the Aryth Ocean in the west of the kingdom. The capital lies south of the mouth of the Dhagon; the river’s estuary forms a wide marsh extending to the north and west of the city. Bandar Eban is a very large city, one of the few in the west rivalling the great cities of the south and east, and a centre for trade and commerce.
The western and northern coasts are mountainous, dotted with valleys and dales. The interior is flatter and fertile, dotted with towns, holdfasts, villages, farms and small cities, such as Darluna (located close to the southern border). These lands are watered by the Dhagon and its major tributary, the Akuum. Both rivers are fed by numerous smaller streams rising in the mountains.
The Mountains of Mist form the eastern border of Arad Doman and are the location of impressive mines. Silver and gold are mined in the mountains. Clay pits can also be found in Arad Doman, giving rise to a thriving local pottery industry. The foothills of the mountains are a popular spot for nobles to have their mansions and hunting lodges.
Lake Somal is the largest inland lake on the continent, but it is remote and little-known, cut off from the south and west by the immense Paerish Swar, the Darkwood. Arad Doman controls the northern shore of the lake, but this control is somewhat tenuous due to the distance from the capital (about 740 miles).
The second city of Arad Doman is Katar, located almost 100 miles north-west of the lake and a clear 650 miles from Bandar Eban. Katar has a troubled relationship with the capital, which it may predate. Katar was originally Iman, the glorious capital of Safer, one of the Ten Nations. With Jaramide to the north taking the brunt of the Shadowspawn offensive in the west, Safer survived the Trolloc Wars but collapsed in its aftermath, with the nation of Darmovan arising in its wake. Based on its location, Katar would have likely been a major city of Darmovan as well. With the lake providing good fishing and the town controlling numerous mines in the nearby Mountains of Mist, Katar is self-sufficient and has more than once tried to break away from Arad Doman to become an independent city, free to trade with Andor over the nearby passes. However, Arad Doman always reasserts its control in the end.
There are small, narrow passes through the Mountains of Mist, leading from east of Katar to Andor, west of Baerlon. These passes are not conducive to large caravans, so are relatively-little known and are easily cut off during winter. Even rougher passes and tracks are said to lead from the south-eastern shores of Lake Somal to the vicinity of the Two Rivers district in Andor, but again these passes are little-known and very rarely used.
The known cities and settlements of Arad Doman are: Bandar Eban, Coron Ford, Darluna, Kandelmar, Katar, Maseen and Solanje.
Arad Doman is ruled by the Council of Merchants, the body which controls trade, mercantile interests and the economy of Arad Doman. The Council, and indeed Arad Doman’s entire economic sector, is dominated by women, who traditionally enter commerce as a vocation.
The Council elects a non-hereditary ruler from the High Seats of the noble houses, who is granted the title “King.” The King wields supreme authority, but he can be deposed by a 75% majority vote in the Council. Interestingly, this ruler is always male. As of 998 NE, the ruler of Arad Doman is King Alsalam Saeed Almadar.
Military and Population
Traditionally, Arad Doman has not been one of the Westlands’ primary military powerhouses. However, the constant skirmishing with Tarabon to the south and the need to occasionally reassert control over Katar have required Arad Doman to maintain a professional military force. This has been bolstered by the emergence of Rodel Ituralde as general of the nation’s armies. Ituralde has a formidable reputation for military skill, innovation, battlefield command and supplying misinformation to the enemy. He is known as one of the “Five Great Captains” of the modern era (along with Pedron Niall of the Children of the Light, Agelmar Jagad of Shienar, Gareth Bryne of Andor and Davram Bashere of Saldaea).
Arad Doman has no naval forces to speak of, perhaps due to the coastlines which, apart from Bandar Eban, are not good for naval landings or invasions.
Arad Doman can call upon around 100,000 men in times of urgent need, suggesting that the nation’s total population may approach 10 million.
Domani cuisine is dominated by spiced meat dishes and vegetables in a variety of creative sauces. The Domani employ two sticks, known as sursa, to eat their food, deftly working them in a manner outlanders often find baffling.
Arad Doman is noted for its division of roles by gender, although this is not absolute. The overwhelming majority of merchants, traders and shopkeepers are women, famed for their financial acumen and ruthless bargaining streak. Men mostly serve instead as soldiers, farmers and sailors. Domani men are said to have a temper, which some hold is a result of being forced to eat with the sursa. Domani men favour long, thin moustaches whilst Domani women favour clothes that cling to the frame and leave little to the imagination whilst still leaving them fully covered.
Domani can usually be identified by their copper skin, although some Domani are fairer-skinned. Hairstyles and colours change regularly, however, as both men and women in Arad Doman are obsessed with fashion and decoration and make liberal use of hair dyes. Barbers are respected in the kingdom, especially those who create striking new styles.
The Domani have a reputation for self-indulgence and hedonism: they enjoy falconry, hot baths, gambling, sports and mock (and real) combat. However, they also work extremely hard and are known for their tenaciousness and political skills. Oddly for a nation that is enriched by its ocean trade, the Domani are not comfortable sailors and prefer to leave that side of things to the Sea Folk.
Note on the Map
This map draws on the colour endpaper map from the novels used from Lord of Chaos onwards, which is generally accepted as the most accurate map created for the books during Robert Jordan’s lifetime. The main change is the shifting of the border to include Katar.
Another moderate change was also made to the shape of the coast around Bandar Eban. The map in The Gathering Storm suggests that the the city takes up the entire peninsular as shown in the large maps, but the scale makes this improbable (as it would require the city to be dozens of miles across, at least). Resolving this required the addition of an additional “notch” on the edge of the peninsula for the city itself.
The Thirteenth Depository’s map of Arad Doman was useful for this article, although it is now slightly outdated (since it was published prior to The Gathering Storm).
Between the Aryth Ocean and the Spine of the World mountain range, and between the Sea of Storms and the Great Blight, lies a large landmass. Home to fourteen nations, three major independent city-states and tens of millions of people, this is the homeland of the Aes Sedai and Tuatha’an, the Children of the Light and the Ogier (at least, some of them). It is a chaotic land, lacking the single imperial rule of Seanchan, the apparently looser but still culturally-unified rule of Shara, the authoritative control of the Sea Folk or the fierce martial discipline of the Aiel clans. It has no regularly-used name, with the term “Westlands” apparently used in Shara (as a geographic shorthand) and “wetlands” by the Aiel (referring to the subcontinent’s relative fertility). It is a land of merchants, mercenaries, travelling gleemen and bickering nobles. It is also the land where, according to legend, the Dragon shall be Reborn.
A detailed history of the Westlands is beyond the scope of a single article. Instead, a historical series of maps will follow later in the series. For now, a briefer summary of the history of the Westlands will suffice.
The Westlands emerged from the chaos of the Breaking of the World. The first decades after the Breaking were spent in tribal struggles for power, with both kingdoms and organisations coming together slowly. One of the first organisations to cohere after the Breaking was the Aes Sedai, who by 96 AB (After the Breaking) had formed the foundations of the modern-day organisation. The city of Tar Valon was complete by 202 AB. In 209 AB the Compact of the Ten Nations was signed between the nations of Safer, Jaramide, Aramaelle, Aridhol, Manetheren, Coremanda, Almoren, Aelgar, Eharon and Essenia. A lengthy era of peace followed, broken only by the emergence of several false Dragons (men who claimed to be the Dragon Reborn, but in reality were frauds).
In 1000 AB a massive Shadowspawn invasion of the Ten Nations began. The resulting Trolloc Wars lasted for over three centuries before the Shadowspawn were defeated at the Battle of Maighande. The resulting chaos from the wars saw all of the Ten Nations collapse by 1350 AB, followed by the emergence of twenty-nine new kingdoms and the adoption a new calendar, naming the years as Free Years.
This period was marked by increased border skirmishing, a slight reduction in Aes Sedai power and even occasional wars between nations. In FY 943 the most infamous and powerful false Dragon emerged, Guaire Amalasan. He plunged the continent into chaos before being defeated by Artur Paendrag Tanreall – the infamous “Hawkwing” – at the Battle of Jolvaine Pass. Artur Hawkwing subsequently conquered the entire subcontinent in a twenty-year campaign. As High King of all the Westlands, Hawkwing ushered in a new era of unity, peace and freedom. However, a violent disagreement between him and the Amyrlin Seat saw him outlaw Aes Sedai from his empire and lay siege to Tar Valon, beginning in FY 975. In FY 987 Hawkwing defeated a massive Trolloc invasion. Five years later he sent a massive fleet and army across the Aryth Ocean to secure the newly-discovered continent there, and in FY 993 he second a second army to attack Shara, although this was defeated. Hawkwing himself took ill and died in FY 994; his empire promptly collapsed, beginning the desperate, multi-sided and chaotic conflict known as the War of the Hundred Years.
At the conclusion of the war, the nations of the modern age arose. The influence and numbers of the Aes Sedai reduced significantly over the next nine centuries, and more border wars and conflicts were fought. These included several wars between Illian and Tear and several border clashes between Andor and Cairhien. In 955 NE the northern kingdom of Malkier was overrun and destroyed by Shadowspawn; two years later the Whitecloak War raged between Amadicia, Altara, Murandy and Illian, which ended in the Whitecloaks’ defeat. In 976 NE the Aiel War began when King Laman Damodred of Cairhien cut down Avendoraldera, a gift from the Aiel, to make a throne beyond compare. In vengeance, four clans of the Aiel invaded Cairhien, chased Laman across the Westlands and finally killed him at the Battle of the Shining Walls outside Tar Valon itself.
Recent years have been blighted by the rise of false Dragons, increased political instability in Cairhien and tension between Illian and Tear and between Arad Doman and Tarabon.
The borders of the Westlands are held to be the Aryth Ocean to the west, the Sea of Storms to the south, the Spine of the World mountain range to the east and the Blight to the north. The subcontinent measures approximately 3,300 miles from the western tip of Toman Head to the Spine, and 2,700 miles from the southern tip of Illian to the city of Chachin, not far south of the Blightborder. The area of the Westlands appears to be between 7.5 and 8 million square miles.
The Westlands are mostly temperate, shading towards subtropical along the southern coast. The interior of the continent is watered by two massive river networks: the Arinelle-Manetherendrelle system in the west and the Erinin and its numerous tributaries in the east. These enormous rivers help speed north-south trade but also help cool the continental interior. Hills and mountain chains are numerous, such as the Mountains of the Mist in the west (which separate the Arad Doman, Almoth and Tarabon coastal plains from the interior) and the Venir Mountains along Arran Head, which help shield Altara from the worst of the tempestuous storms known as the ceranos.
There are currently fourteen sovereign nation-states in the Westlands: these are Altara, Amadicia, Andor, Arad Doman, Arafel, Cairhien, Ghealdan, Illian, Kandor, Murandy, Saldaea, Shienar, Taraborn and Tear. There are also three major independent city-states: Far Madding, Mayene and Tar Valon. There are also numerous independent towns and villages, the best known of which is probably Falme on Toman Head.
The population of the Westlands is unknown, but may approach 100 million. Although an impressive figure, it is a markedly smaller figure than in previous eras, when every corner of the Westlands was claimed by one nation or another. Today, several large regions of the subcontinent (most notably the immense Caralain Grass and the vast, heavily-forested regions to the west of the Black Hills, south of Saldaea) are unclaimed by any kingdom, the result of a decline in the population, a symptom, some say, of the increased touch of the Dark One on the world.
As well as the mainland itself, the “Westlands” are held to encompass several offshore islands. These include three archipelagos – the Aile Dashar, Aile Jafar and Aile Somera – and the large islands of Tremalking, Qaim and Cindaking. These islands are all controlled by the Sea Folk and their island-bound allies, the Amayar.
In our next article we will start looking at each kingdom and region of the Westlands in-depth.
For most inhabitants of the Westlands, the towering mountain range known as the Spine of the World marks the end of civilisation. Beyond that colossal mountain chain lies only savages and desolate wilderness. Those who venture through the passes, however, know this is untrue, although at first glance this may not be immediately obvious. Beyond the Spine lies the warrior clanholds of the Aiel, a fierce and proud warrior people who discipline and honour (if of a rough and unusual sort) is impressive. They are a hard people surviving in a hard land.
The Aiel (“Dedicated” in the Old Tongue) were originally a race of pacifists known as the Da’shain Aiel (“People to Peace Dedicated”), in the Age of Legends. Eschewing violence and following the Way of the Leaf, an ideology of pure service and generosity, they served the Aes Sedai as helpers, mediators and advisors. They also worked closely with the Ogier and Nym in seed-singing, improving the efficiency of crop yields.
The Da’shain’s pacifism and idealism was held in high esteem during the Age of Legends, but as the War of the Shadow unfolded it was seen as a liability. The fact that some of the Da’shain had served those Aes Sedai who went over to the Shadow, becoming the Dreadlords and Forsaken, was also controversial, with them being called traitors or collaborators. The fact that the Da’shain had also been nicknamed the “People of the Dragon” for their service in Lews Therin Telamon’s bureaucracy also made them unpopular, as Lews Therin’s precipitous attack on Shayol Ghul was blamed by many for the Breaking. By the end of the war and the beginning of the Breaking of the World, the Da’shain had come to be held in contempt by many.
Early in the Breaking, many of the surviving Da’shain gathered in a vast caravan dedicated to preserving a cache of Aes Sedai artefacts from the chaos, looting and destruction consuming the world. The Da’shain escorted several Aes Sedai many thousands of miles, from a falling city (possibly Paaran Disen itself) through lands sinking into the ocean, onto lands newly-arisen from the depths of the sea, and beyond, through mountains and across plains. Many Da’shain died, but others remained steadfast. Some, however, began to question the Way of the Leaf. One Da’shain, Lewin, killed an attacker in self-defence. He took up the spear permanently, and many Da’shain followed him. They became known just as Aiel, whilst those who remained committed to the Way of the Leaf became known as the Jenn Aiel (“True Aiel”). Another group of Aiel, disillusioned with their mission but holding to the Way of the Leaf, split off in search of their long-lost ancestral Song, becoming the Tuatha’an or Travelling People (popularly called Tinkers today).
The Aiel continued escorting their Aes Sedai charges and their stash of angreal and ter’angreal. They faced hostility wherever they travelled, with the Aiel fighting off their attackers with growing ferocity. Eventually they reached the Spine of the World and were given shade and water by townsfolk who, some years later, would found the nation of Almoren (later Tova and, eventually, modern Cairhien). After this unexpected generosity – which the Aiel finally repaid to the Cairhienin some 3,000 years later – they crossed the Jangai Pass into the wastelands.
They found the Waste to be harsh, unforgiving, hostile and unpleasant. Water was hard to find, reduced to rare, tiny pools and rocky streams. Only within shaded valleys and inside large rock formations could water be found in enough quantities to sustain life. The Aiel continued to follow the Aes Sedai and the few remaining Jenn Aiel until they found a sheltered valley. There they built a city, Rhuidean, where their One Power artefacts could be protected and sustained. They also planted here a chora seed, the last one in the world, giving rise to Avendesora, the Tree of Life. Before they died, the Aes Sedai created powerful ter’angreal which contained the true history of the Aiel people, so they might never forget their past.
The Aiel slowly scattered across the Waste, seeking new homes within the rock formations they came to call holds. They became divided into twelve clans (thirteen including the Jenn) and continued to fight outlanders and, with increasing frequency, one another. All of their knowledge of the Way of the Leaf was lost, except for a refusal to wield swords and a disdain for the Tuatha’an. Only the Aiel clan chiefs and Wise Ones – channellers of the One Power- came to know the truth by visiting the ter’angreal in Rhuidean upon taking up their responsibilities.
During the Trolloc Wars (c. 1000-1350 AB) a large Shadowspawn army invaded the Waste but was defeated and driven back by the Aiel, acting in rare, unified concert. In FY 964 the High King, Artur Hawking, invaded the Aiel Waste in his most poorly-planned and under-resourced military adventure, the result of the murder of his wife and three of his children three years earlier driving Hawkwing into a period of bleakness and rage known as the Black Years. The Aiel showed wisdom in not meeting Hawkwing’s huge army in open battle, instead harrying his flanks and cutting his precarious supply lines across the Spine of the World. Unable to maintain his fighting force without an intimate knowledge of the landscape, Hawking retreated, his greatest personal military defeat.
In 509 NE the Aiel identified the Cairhienin as the descendants of the people who had given them water and shade on their way into the Aiel Waste. They gifted the Cairhienin with a sapling of Avendesora, the Tree of Life, and granted them the Gift of Passage across the Aiel Waste, allowing the Cairhienin to trade with Shara directly. Cairhien became immensely wealthy as a result of this trade, but in 976 NE King Laman Damodred decided to cut down Avendoraldera, the sapling of the Tree of Life, to create a throne of such beauty it could never be equalled. The Aiel responded in fury: four full clans made alliance and crossed the Dragonwall (as they called the Spine), bringing almost 80,000 troops into battle. Cairhien was ravaged, the capital city burned. Laman and his army managed to flee southwards into Tear, then west across the Erinin and north into Andor before, two years later, they finally made their stand outside Tar Valon. Laman convinced the other nations that the Aiel were mounting a general invasion, not seeking to punish him specifically. Aes Sedai mediators helped convince other rulers of the threat and the so-called Grand Alliance was called, 170,000 troops from eleven nations meeting the Aiel in the Battle of the Shining Walls. During the battle Laman was found and executed. Their job done, the Aiel withdrew back to the Waste.
Since the end of the Aiel War, the Aiel have closed the Silk Road to the Cairhienin, cutting off a lynchpin of the economy and throwing the nation into political uncertainty and chaos. The Aiel have continued to permit merchants and gleemen from other lands to enter the Waste, but seem much warier of outlanders than previously.
The Aiel Waste is located to the east of the Spine of the World, which the Aiel call the “Dragonwall”. Its northern borders are formed by the Mountains of Dhoom and in the west it is bordered by the Cliffs of the Dawn and the Great Rift, which separate it from the enigmatic lands of Shara to the east.
The Waste measures approximately 2,800 miles from the south coast to the Mountains of Dhoom and approximately 1,800 miles across from west to east at its widest extent in the north and south. However, the Waste narrows quite a lot in the central region, where only around 1,100 miles separate the Cairhienin border town of Taien from the Cliffs of the Dawn. The Silk Road, the only highway in the Waste (although it’s more of a firm track, laid down by the passage of thousands of wagons along the route across millennia), is located in this relatively narrow area.
Most of the territory of the Aiel Waste is made up of badlands, arid plains and desolate wastelands, often interrupted by spectacular rock formations. Water is rare, consisting of mostly-dry river beds and the occasional dank pond or puddle. At night it can get quite cold. Moisture is trapped inside rock formations known as holds, which are the main type of habitation for the Aiel. A well-organised hold can sustain hundreds of people with supplies of water that first appear meagre. Food is also grown in terraces inside the holds.
The reasons for the Aiel Waste’s aridness are disputed, but a quirk of the Breaking means that all of the Spine of the World’s glaciers and snowcaps feed into valleys leading exclusively westwards rather than east. The Spine itself, which towers tens of thousands of feet into the sky, also forms an effective rain shadow, breaking up moisture-holding clouds off the Aryth Ocean and Sea of Storms before they can reach the Waste. Geography, in the form of the Cliffs and the Rift, also prevent any rivers entering the Waste from the east. Finally, the currents and prevailing winds in the Sea of Storms encourage storms to strike the land much further to the west, over Kabal Deep and Altara, rather than over the Waste.
Due to the aforementioned reasons and with a lack of the rock formations and valleys found further north, the south coast of the Aiel Waste is particularly dry, with no rain and no moisture at all falling on this region. This has led to the creation of the world’s only known true desert, a huge area measuring 1,200 miles from east to west by 600 miles north to south.
The Termool (“Waterless Sands”) is one of the most hostile places on Earth. The desert is made up of a vast sea of constantly shifting sands where the footing is treacherous. Dunes up to 300 feet can form and collapse in a day. There is no plant or animal life in the Termool, and no water (not even an isolated oasis) either. Although it is accounted as part of the Waste on maps, the Aiel do not travel or live within its confines, although they do skirt its north-western border when they travel to Stedding Shangtai to deal with the Ogier. The Termool and the Great Rift to the east effectively blocks all overland travel routes from Mayene to Shara, and has also discouraged the settling of any port or permanent settlement on the coast.
There is only one known city in the Aiel Waste: Rhuidean. Founded during the Breaking of the World, or almost immediately afterwards, the city predates even Tar Valon and may be the oldest city in the world. It is located in a valley south or south-east of the Jangai Pass. Tall mountains surround the valley and the solitary peak that rises in its midst, known as Chaendaer. Rhuidean is located in the shadow of the mountain, next to a depression which may be an ancient, dried-up lakebed. Although large, the city is smaller than the largest cities of the Westlands, including Tar Valon, Caemlyn and Tear.
When viewed from the surrounding mountainsides, the city is shrouded in a permanent, thick fog. The fog makes channelling difficult and prohibits entry to the city to anyone who has visited it before. Those entering the city are would-be Aiel Wise Ones and clan chiefs. Physically, the city consists of numerous large buildings and palaces surrounding plazas. Many of the buildings are unfinished and incomplete, and none are permanently inhabited. At the centre of the city is the largest plaza, at the centre of which grows Avendesora, the Tree of Life, the last surviving chora tree from the Age of Legends. Around the plaza are scattered dozens or hundreds of items from the Age of Legends, many of them angreal or ter’angreal. The most notable of these are a group of glass columns. Those who pass within the columns relive the history of the Aiel in detail, learning of their origins in the Age of Legends and the Way of the Leaf.
A day from Rhuidean to the north-east lies the small settlement of Imre Stand, where Aiel of the Taardad clan (who control the lands bordering Rhuidean) maintain a watering hole for those set on travelling to the city.
The Clans and Clanholds
There are twelve Aiel clans: the Chareen, Codarra, Daryne, Goshien, Miagoma, Nakai, Reyn, Shaarad, Shaido, Shiande, Taardad and Tomanelle. The Aiel occasionally mention the Jenn Aiel, the “clan that is not”, confusingly referring to them as if they are still extant. In reality, the Jenn Aiel were the last of the “true Aiel” who did not abandon the Way of the Leaf. They died out many centuries or even millennia ago.
Each clan is divided into many septs. The name suggests that perhaps each clan originally had seven sub-divisions, but the expanding Aiel population means that more have had to have been created. The Taardad have at least ten septs, for example. Each sept is centred on a hold, a secure stronghold where water and food can be found. The “capital” of each clan is known as the clanhold. Cold Rocks Hold, for example, is the hold of both the Nine Valleys sept and the clanhold of the Taardad Aiel as a whole. Septs jostle for primacy within a clan, but apparently through peaceful means. Clans struggle against one another through ritualised combat and less-ritualised open warfare, when clans are involved in blood feuds.
The Aiel do not hold to using maps (although they are familiar with them) to delineate their territories, instead nominating landscape features such as dry riverbeds, mountains or even small lakes (large, dank ponds by Westland standards) as borders. As such, a territorial map of the Aiel Waste is impossible to create (the map above has very, very loose borders for the clans). What is known is that the Taardad control the lands to the north and east of Rhuidean, with the Shaido and their clanhold (Comarda Hold) located further away in the same direction. The Chareen are also located close to Rhuidean but in a different direction, presumably to the south. The Goshien are located beyond Chareen territory. The Shaarad are located relatively close by, as they hold blood feud with the Goshien resulting from territorial clashes. The Nakai are located further away from Rhuidean still. The remaining clans, presumably are located further to the north.
Midway between the territory of many of the clans is the neutral meeting ground of Alcair Dal, the Golden Bowl. Shaped like a near-perfectly round bowl with excellent acoustics, it means that people standing on a certain protrusion of the bowl rim can be heard right around its edge. The Aiel clans often assemble here to debate matters of import that impact on all of the Aiel. The valley and the surrounding territory is designated neutral territory. Combat is not permitted in its environs.
The valley is located three to four days north of Alcair Dal, about two weeks travel from Rhuidean.
Source Note: This instalment of the Atlas was inspired by the Thirteenth Depository’s very fine blog entry and map from 2009 on the same subject.
Shara is the name given to the mysterious land beyond the Aiel Waste, far to the east of the Spine of the World and the Sea of Storms. Very little is known about it, thanks to a combination of geographical barriers and the people of that land’s own concerns with privacy and security.
Very little is known about Shara’s history. Traders and merchants have managed to engage Sharans in discussions about their land’s history, but comparing notes they have found many flat-out contradictions, apparent lies and propaganda.
What is known is that the Sharan subcontinent was apparently unified into a single culture within a few centuries of the end of the Breaking. It appears that several nations may have once existed in Shara, but by the present day these have merged into one kingdom or empire. This may explain the different names given for the landmass: Shara is the most common, but others include Co’dansin, Shamara, Tomaka, Kigali and Shibouya. Others have speculated that these may be the major cities of Shara instead.
Some Sharans have confirmed that Shadowspawn plague the Blightborder in Shara as they do in the Westlands, but are rarely a problem. Some Sharans also confirm that an attempted invasion took place during the Trolloc Wars, but this invasion was easily defeated. Other Sharans deny that such an invasion took place.
In FY 993, the High King Artur Hawking sent a fleet of 2,000 ships and 300,000 troops to invade Shara, almost rivalling the fleet he’d sent across the Aryth Ocean the preceding year. This force, commanded by one of his daughters, successfully landed on Shara’s south-western coast. However, Sea Folk ships later report that the invasion had been beaten back and defeated, with the fleet burned at rest. The fate of the army and its commanders is unknown. Again, most Sharan contacts simply deny all knowledge of the invasion.
In 506 NE the Aiel gave the nation of Cairhien the right to trade across the Aiel Waste, thus opening the Silk Road, linking the Jangai Pass with the Sharan trade towns atop the Cliffs of the Dawn. Cairhienin merchants thus began the thousand-mile journey across the harsh climate of the Waste to trade with the Sharans. Some 470 years of continuous trade and enrichment followed, until Cairhien triggered the Aiel War and was soundly defeated. The Aiel closed the Silk Road to the Cairhienin, but have allowed independent traders and gleemen to continue using the route.
Shara is considerably larger than the Westlands, but significantly smaller than Seanchan. It measures well over 3,500 miles from east to west at its widest extent, but in the south narrows considerably. It measures approximately 5,300 miles from the south coast, along the Sea of Storms, to the Mountains of Dhoom in the north.
Its border in the east is the Morenal Ocean, part of which is known as the Sea of Omerna. Its border in the west consists of the Cliffs of the Dawn and the Great Rift, which separate it from the Aiel Waste, and the Sea of Storms in the south-west. The western border regions are mountainous, with extensive chains longer than the Spine of the World running down the eastern edges of the Great Rift and the coast. Narrow, twisting passes link these borderlands to Shara proper. Each pass terminates at a walled, fortified town overlooking the Cliffs of the Dawn. These six towns are the only permitted trading posts between Shara and the lands to the west.
The Cliffs of the Dawn and the Trade Towns
The Cliffs of the Dawn are one of the world’s most stunning natural sights, a huge, sheer cliff-face stretching south-west from the Mountains of Dhoom for over twelve hundred miles, forming an impressive natural barrier between the northern Aiel Waste and Shara. The cliffs vary in height, sometimes dropping to just above 100 feet but sometimes exceeding 500 feet in height.
Six towns are located along the Cliffs of the Dawn, each one at the top of a winding pass that allows the cliffs to be scaled. The towns block the top of the paths; the only way in or out of Shara is through these towns.
Each town is surrounded by massive walls which block all views into the Sharan interior. Outlanders are welcome to trade in these towns for goods such as silk and ivory, which can only be found in abundance in Shara (although ivory also exists in Seanchan). However, the Sharans are noted for untrustworthiness in negotiations, sometimes fulfilling the letter of deals but not their spirit, ruthlessly exploiting loopholes and poor wording to their advantage. Trading with the Sharans can be expensive, laborious and stressful, but the sheer wealth awaiting those who successfully strike a good bargain makes it worthwhile.
Those Aiel or Westlanders who have somehow managed to get past the gates into Shara proper are never seen again.
The Great Rift
Just south of where the Silk Road reaches the Sharan trade towns, the landscape suddenly and dramatically changes. From the heights of the Cliffs of the Dawn, the land gives way into a colossal chasm known as the Great Rift.
Possibly the most dramatic landscape feature on the planet, the Great Rift is colossal, a great gash in the world’s surface, formed by the Breaking of the World. It is between one and three miles deep (extending from 5,280 to 15,840 feet) and over 100 miles across at its widest point, so wide it is almost impossible to see the far side of the rift in places. The Rift extends for almost 2,400 miles from north to south, forming an absolutely uncrossable barrier between the southern Aiel Waste and Shara. Massive mountains lie along the eastern side of the Rift, further inhibiting travel that way, and the extremely hostile desert known as the Termool, the Waterless Sands, border the Rift in the south.
South of the Termool and Aiel Waste, the Rift continues just inland. In some places only a dozen miles or so separate the Rift from the Sea of Storms.
The Rift appears to be lifeless and barren, even more low-lying, humid and unpleasant than the Aiel Waste. Apart from the impressive scenery, there is no reason to travel here.
The Trade Ports
Located along the south-western and south coasts of Shara are five large port cities. These ports are also located at geographically favourable locations, with their backs to hill chains and mountains that prevent easy access to the Sharan interior. The ports share the massive walls of the trade towns, sometimes with the wall extending right across the port (it is believed to block access to rivers leading into the interior).
Although all outlanders are welcome to trade with the Sharans in these towns, in practice almost all such trade is carried out by the Sea Folk. One of the main Sea Folk island groupings is located just 1,300 miles or so from the the trade ports, allowing for relatively swift travel. The Sea Folk are much harder negotiators than most, so have been able to strike better trade deals with the Sharans which sees a lot of other ivory, silk and other trade goods flowing west via the Sea Folk islands into the Westlands via south coast port cities such as Mayene, Tear and Ebou Dar.
The Sea Folk have also proven to be far better than Westlanders and Aiel in slipping past Sharan defences. At some risk they have made charts of the far east coast of the subcontinent, from the south coast to the Mountains of Dhoom in the north. Aside from a few mountain and hill chains within sight of the coast, and a few islands of note, they have not been able to report much else of interest.
Shara remains an enigma.