The Wheel of Time Atlas: Altara

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

A map of Altara. Please click for a larger version.

History

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.

 

Geography

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.

Ebou Dar

A map of Ebou Dar, the capital of Altara. Please click for a (much) larger version.

Government

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.

 

Economy

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.

 

Culture

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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