Shienar is located in the far north-east of the Westlands, and famed as the most martial of the modern kingdoms. It is located on the very front line against the Shadow; whilst all of the Borderlands hold the line against the Blight, Shienar has to guard Tarwin’s Gap, the preferred invasion route for Shadowspawn armies into the Westlands since the Breaking of the World. Shienar has inherited this responsibility from Malkier, a great nation now fallen into ruin.
The history of Shienar is very similar to that of Saldaea and the other Borderland kingdoms.
In terms of recent history, Shienar has spent most of the time since the War of the Hundred Years acting in a rearguard position to Malkier to the north and Arafel to the east, sending troops to help both when needed. Over the course of the centuries, Shienar was fortified with the idea of becoming a fallback position should Malkier fall.
Alas, in 955 NE this came to pass.
Breyan Mandragoran was the wife of Lain, eldest brother of King al’Akir Mandragoran of Malkier. She was an extremely proud woman, proud of her husband and his skills at war. She was also jealous of al’Akir’s place on the throne, believing Lain to be more deserving of the crown. She was supported by Cowin Gemallen, one of the Great Lords of Malkier, who urged her to demonstrate Lain’s superior bravery and leadership skills.
Breyan took the suggestion and at her request Lain led a thousand lancers into the Great Blight. The plan was for them to travel to the Blasted Lands themselves and then return unharmed, having visited great ruin on the Shadow in the meantime. King al’Akir was furious, even ordering his brother not to go, but Lain disobeyed out of honour and a genuine love for his wife and for their son, the two-year-old Isam. Of course, he never returned. Breyan was grief-stricken and called al’Akir coward and traitor for not riding with his brother into the darkness. Al’Akir forgave his sister-in-law’s outburst as nothing more than a guilty conscience, but underestimated her duplicity. From that day forwards Breyan plotted to remove al’Akir from the throne and replace him with her son Isam. Of course, this meant that al’Akir and his own infant son, Lan, had to die.
Cowin Gemallen became Breyan’s confidant and agreed to support her plans for a coup. He convinced enough of his men to join the conspiracy and stripped the Blightborder fortress he commanded of men, sending them back to the Seven Towers to help in the attack. However, Gemallen was a black-hearted Darkfriend and stripped the fortress in order to allow Trollocs, Myrddraal and Draghkar invaders in. During the invasion Breyan was killed and her son Isam fell into the hands of the Myrddraal.
Gemallen thought that Malkier would surely fall, but al’Akir rallied his troops and held the enemy at bay. In a startling display of bravery and ingenuity, the king’s most trusted scout, Jain Charin, slipped through the Trolloc lines and took Gemallen prisoner in his own castle. He then dragged him back to the Seven Towers, where he faced al’Akir in single combat and perished.
Now the Trollocs moved again, laying waste to the country. Al’Akir abdicated his throne to his son, naming him al’Lan Mandragoran and granting him the title of a Diademed Battle Lord. They also gave into his care a blade forged in the War of the Shadow itself, a blade made with the One Power. Al’Lan, only eighteen months old, was sent south to Fal Dara in the care of Jain Charin and a dozen of Malkier’s finest warriors. Many died, but the survivors and Lan reached Shienar safely. In the meantime, al’Akir fought the last defence of the Seven Towers, but in the end, he fell and Malkier was destroyed. Within a mere two years the Blight had surged southwards, corrupting all the land that had been Malkier. The Seven Towers became toppled ruins and the Thousand Lakes became poisonous.
Lan was raised alternately on the new frontier in Fal Dara and at Shienar’s capital, Fal Moran. At the age of sixteen he declared war on the Blight, vowing never to rest until Malkier had been avenged. In 979 NE, after the Battle of the Shining Walls, he met an Aes Sedai of the Blue Ajah named Moiraine Damodred in Kandor. After learning of her mission, he agreed to become bonded as her Warder. He has only ever suspended his war with the Blight, however, never abandoning it.
Of the other Malkieri survivors, most died in battle but one went on to gain much fame across the world. Jain Charin, later called Jain Farstrider, became a legendary traveller. He explored all the nations of our land and also travelled extensively amongst the Sea Folk and the Aiel, even venturing as far afield as Shara. His legendary travelogue Travels is possibly the biggest-selling book written since the Breaking. Jain, more than sixty years old yet still hale, disappeared in the 990s NE whilst on one of his adventures and is presumed dead.
Shienar became the new Borderland on the front line, its great fortress-city of Fal Dara committed to defending Tarwin’s Gap. Lord Agelmar Jagad, believed by many to be the greatest living military mind, has been given command of the fortress with orders to throw back the Shadow should it seek to come south again.
Shienar extends from its south-western corner – an obscure and unimportant region known as the Field of Merrilor – to the north-eastern frontier in the Spine of the World for almost 700 miles, but on average is only a bit more than 200 miles wide. The borders are considered to be the River Mora to the west, the River Erinin to the south, the Spine of the World to the east and the Blight to the north.
Western Shienar, watered by two significant rivers and their tributaries, consists of wide open plains and fields, which provide the kingdom with its food. The east and north of the country is far more rugged and mountainous. The Spine of the World dominates the eastern part of the country, with the Niamh Passes linking Shienar to the northern Aiel Waste. This pass is sometimes used by the Aiel to raid into Shienar, resulting in Shienar building a fortress known as Ankor Dail to guard the frontier. Although the Shienarans respect the Aiel’s skill in battle, they consider the raids to be a dangerous distraction from the threat of the Shadow in the north.
In the central-northern part of the country lies Fal Moran, the capital city. A heavily-fortified settlement, it is the seat of the royal family and is the centre of the nation’s economy and culture.
To the north lies the Blightborder. Just fifty years ago, this border ran much further north on the far side of Malkier, but the collapse of that nation has brought the Blight to Shienar’s front door. Shienar maintains a series of fortresses along this frontier, designed for mutual defence and support. The largest and most notable of these is Fal Dara, built on the ruins on the ancient Ogier-built city of Mafal Dadaranelle. Fal Dara is the mustering point for the northern armies and the closest stronghold to Tarwin’s Gap. The fortresses of Fal Sion, Camron Caan and Mos Shirare lie on the frontier as well, but further away.
North and east of Fal Dara lies Tarwin’s Gap, the great pass that separates the Mountains of Dhoom from the Spine of the World. More than 350 miles long, the pass leads from the Shienaran frontier directly into the Great Blight itself, giving Shadowspawn armies an easy route of access into the Westlands.
Directly north of Fal Dara lies the fallen kingdom of Malkier.
Malkier was located north of Shienar and Arafel, on both sides of the jagged Mountains of Dhoom. The mountainous kingdom was built around defence, with numerous fortresses and outposts guarding multiple passes leading north into the Great Blight. Measuring 700 miles from east to west and around 200 miles across, it matched Shienar in size but exceeded it in defensive capability. Its capital was also called Malkier, although it was much more commonly called the Seven Towers, for the seven great towers rising above its walls, towering above the surrounding lakes. More than a thousand lakes (according to legend) ringed the nation, providing additional defensive options against an attacking enemy. The Seven Towers were located in the south of the country, fairly close to Fal Dara across the border.
After the fall of Malkier, the Blight overran its territory. Many of the lakes dried up, the crops died and the sickening malaise of the Blight infested everything. The Blightborder moved some 200 miles south from its former location to the northern frontier of Shienar.
250 miles north-west of the Malkieri frontier, across a wide swathe of the Great Blight, lies the forbidding mountain of Shayol Ghul. Ringed by the Blasted Lands, a land of scorched earth where nothing can grow, Shayol Ghul is a towering volcanic mountain, rivalling or exceeding storied Dragonmount in size. According to myth, Shayol Ghul is the location of the Dark One’s prison, although this is not quite accurate; the Dark One’s prison is located outside of the Pattern altogether. Shayol Ghul or, more accurately, the Pit of Doom at its heart is the location where the Pattern has thinned enough so it is possible to directly communicate with the Dark One, should one be so insanely inclined.
Like its neighbours, Shienar is a hereditary monarchy advised by noble houses. The respected King Easar Togita is the current ruler of Shienar. Much authority falls on the commander of his armies, currently Agelmar Jagad, Lord of Fal Dara and Defender of Tarwin’s Gap. Lord Agelmar is an acknowledged military genius, a master tactician who has orchestrated major victories against invading Shadowspawn armies with superior numbers on dozens of occasions.
Shienar enjoys an extremely close alliance with Arafel to the west and with Tar Valon as well.
Military and Population
Like its neighbours, Shienar is a nation on a permanent war footing. The entire kingdom is arranged around a defence in depth and also in preventing the Shadow from striking behind the lines: every street and alley of every town and city is lit at night to prevent Myrddraal from gaining access. Every settlement, no matter how small, is defended by stout walls. Every man, woman and child is taught how to fight, forage and, if necessary, flee.
This makes assessing its population and military strength difficult, especially as the line between civilian and soldier in Shienar is more blurred than in any other nation (even the other Borderlands). However, it is known that the four Borderland nations combined can muster about 400,000 troops, suggesting that their combined population is around 40 million. Shienar sent 29,000 troops to the Battle of the Shining Walls, more than any other nation, and still had more than enough to defend the Blightborder, suggesting that Shienar’s total military potential is greater than any other Borderland nation bar the considerably larger Saldaea.
Shienar specialises in the art of heavy cavalry, of using massed, heavily-armoured cavalry formations to break open Trolloc ranks and inflict colossal damage with heavy lances. Shienaran military tactics combine overwhelming strength with surprising elegance and tactical flexibility.
Shienar is a heavily militarised nation, but it does engage in trade along the Erinin with Tar Valon, Cairhien, Andor and distant Tear, some 2,500 miles to the south. It also trades with the other Borderland nations. Its militarised nature means that it produces enormous quantities of armour, weapons and missile projectiles, most of which it keeps for itself but it does assist the other Borderlands with supplying their forces where necessary.
The Shienarans are, understandably, a somewhat grim-faced people who maintain a state of constant vigilance against the Shadow, even moreso than the other three Borderlands. The Shienarans know that it was relaxing their guard and engaging in political games which doomed Malkier, and they will not suffer the same fate.
That said, the Shienarans are not a completely humourless people. The lesson of Aridhol from the Trolloc Wars, which tried to defeat the Shadow by becoming more ruthless still, has also been learned. Shienarans know how to celebrate life and have time for songs, laughter, family and friends…as long as they do not weaken their watch on the Blight.
Shienaran dress is relatively modest. The closest thing to a national dress or custom is that Shienaran men often shave their faces and sometimes their head, apart from a topknot.
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