In the aftermath of the Trolloc Wars numerous new kingdoms arose to replace those that had fallen before. These countries were smaller than the Ten Nations which had fallen before them, but cumulatively were almost as populous, once the depredations of the Trolloc Wars had been recovered from. To celebrate the freedom from the Trolloc threat, Tiam of Gazar created a new calendar, celebrating the years as Free Years.

Westlands The Free Years

A map of the Westlands during the Free Years era. Please click for a larger version.

 

Twenty-nine new kingdoms arose after the wars. Unlike the relatively straightforward expansion of the Ten Nations, these new kingdoms arose out of border skirmishes and conflicts. Some large nations formed only to shatter apart into three or four lesser ones. But by FY 100 the twenty-nine nations had formed and remained relatively stable.

In the north Basharande, Elsalam and Rhamdashar bordered the Great Blight. During the Trolloc Wars the sickness and corruption of the Blight had extended southwards into and through the Mountains of Dhoom. A small strip of similarly corrupted land now ran along the southern feet of the mountains. This small area was simply called the Blight, and watchtowers were erected to watch over it for signs of Shadowspawn.

Along the west coast lay the nations of Abayan, Darmovan, Elan Dapor and Balasun, whilst bordering the south coast were Kharendor, Shiota, Fergansea and Moreina. In the east, along the Spine of the World, were Hamarea, Tova, Khodomar and Talmour. Along the Mountains of Mist lay the nations of Indrahar, Oman Dashar, Farashelle and Dhowlan.

Many more nations lay in the interior. Of these the most important and powerful were Aldeshar, north of Shiota and east of Farashelle and Dhowlan, and Caembarin, to the east of Aldeshar. Ileande lay in Kinslayer’s Dagger and the lands immediately north and south, squeezed between Hamarea, Rhamdashar, Tova and the territory held by Tar Valon. Shandalle lay south of Tar Valon, bordered by Tova in the east and Caembarin in the west. Esandara lay north of Fergansea, south of Shandalle, east of Shiota and west of Khodomar and Talmour. Nerevan lay south of Caembarin, north of Shiota, east of Aldeshar and west of Esandara. Dal Calain lay north of Aldeshar and west of Caembarin. Masenashar lay north of Dal Calain and east of Oman Dashar. Oburun lay south of Basharande, west of Elsalam, north of Masenashar and east of Indrahar. Finally, Roemalle lay west of Tar Valon, south of Elsalam, north of Caembarin and Dal Calain and east of Oburun and Masenashar.

Unlike the Ten Nations, these countries did little to distinguish themselves from one another and some of them are only known as names on maps and as minor references in ancient history books. We know that Darmovan was a powerful sea-faring nation, had almost open borders for trade and had a remarkably tolerant nobility. Shiota was a mighty military kingdom. Tova, interestingly, seems to have experimented with using a council, the Conclave, to rule the whole country rather than a king. Shandalle was a small nation with an enviable position, squeezed as it was between the profitable trade routes of the River Erinin and the River Alguenya, yet its skilled army held invaders at bay. Rhamdashar, and to a lesser extent Elsalam and Basharande, were obsessed with defending the nations from the Blight and had little interest in the affairs of the other countries (despite their watchfulness, the term “Borderlands” we currently use for the nations along the Blight did not come into use until the time of Artur Hawkwing). Aldeshar was a proud and just kingdom. Of all the nations Aldeshar appears to have been the one most closely allied with the Aes Sedai.

All of the nations built up huge armies to defend against the Trolloc threat, but a second Trolloc invasion never came. These huge armies came to be used against one another in constant border skirmishes. At separate times it seems that both Tova and Khodomar attempted to seize territory in the Aiel Waste, only to be soundly defeated by the Aiel.

The first major threat to arise in this era was that of yet another false Dragon, this time a man called Davian. He was captured in battle in FY 351 and taken to Tar Valon for gentling. This reinforced the prestige of the Aes Sedai. One thing that had been transferred intact from before the Trolloc Wars was a deep and profound respect for the Aes Sedai from the various nations. As in the years prior to the wars, some rulers were Aes Sedai, though this was less common than before. Interestingly, the strict discipline and hierarchy of the Aes Sedai was demonstrated fully in FY 450 when Princess Sulmara of Masenashar, not long raised to Aes Sedai, left the Tower without permission. She refused to let other Aes Sedai give her counsel and even, most shockingly, refused a direct summons from the Amyrlin Seat herself! The Aes Sedai declared her a renegade and less than a week after her coronation seized her by force and returned her to Tar Valon, where she spent the rest of her life mucking out the White Tower’s stables. This example of the Tower’s immense power made sure that the remaining nations continued to treat the Aes Sedai well. However, the Aes Sedai numbers were also starting a slow decline.

Despite there being far more border wars and clashes than in the time of the Ten Nations, the Free Years were also relatively chaos-free. Trade which enriched all was the main concern of this time and continent-wide wars were avoided for a while.

But then, early in the 10th Century of the Free Years, something unusual happened. For the first time since the War of the Shadow, if not before, a ta’veren was born who would change the entire history of the world on its head.

Westlands War of the Second Dragon

A map showing territory changes during the War of the Second Dragon (FY 939-943), between the false Dragon Guaire Amalasan and various coalitions of opposing nations. He was defeated by Artur Hawkwing, King of Shandalle, at the Battle of Jolvaine Pass and then again at the Battle of Tar Valon. Please click for a larger version.

The War of the Second Dragon & the Rise of Artur Hawkwing

In FY 912 Prince Artur Paendrag Tanreall was born. His parents were Myrdin Paendrag Maregore and Mailinde Paendrag Lyndhal, the King and Queen of the small Kingdom of Shandalle. Shandalle lay between the River Erinin and the River Alguenya, two great trade routes in the east of the subcontinent, and as such was a wealthy land, living off taxes imposed on trade along the rivers. The histories are unclear and contradictory, but some believe that its capital city was Jennshain, originally the second city of Almoren before it was mostly razed in the Trolloc Wars.

Shandalle was surrounded by larger, more powerful nations. In particular Tova to the east desired a port on the River Erinin. Tova attempted to gain this portage by diplomacy and, when that failed, war. Shandalle resisted the invasion and threw back the Tovan forces across the border. Shandalle’s army was small, but trained to a very high and professional standard. By the age of sixteen Artur was already an accomplished swordsman and by twenty was a skilled leader of troops, impressing his father immensely.

Two years after Artur’s birth, Guaire Amalasan was born in Darmovan. He was the son of a noble family which claimed to trace its ancestry back to the rulers of Safer before the Trolloc Wars, but the family was now almost destitute, living only off its good name and the generosity of the other noble families. Guaire was a highly intelligent young man, with an immensely charismatic presence and keen mind. He was a canny student of human nature and once said that he could foresee how the masses would respond to any piece of news. As he grew older, he became more contemptuous of his supposed peers, the sons of other, richer noble families who were only interested in gambling and women. Guaire genuinely believed that he could rule his country a lot better than the King. With a keen grasp of politics and tactics, he would probably have succeeded in his goal anyway, apart from something that would ensure his success would be even greater: as he discovered at the age of twenty-three, he could channel the One Power.

The same year, in FY 937, the Black Fever suddenly erupted across the Westlands. Apparently, it began in Shara and was spread to our land by merchants. Certainly, the way it spread from east to west supports this supposition. It struck Shandalle early on, claiming the lives of both King Myrdin and Queen Mailinde. At the age of twenty-five Artur Paendrag Tanreall suddenly found himself King of Shandalle.

The Fever reached Darmovan two years later, in the early months of FY 939. Guaire Amalasan used his knowledge of human nature to win over the common people, using what little money he had to set up basic medical facilities and soup kitchens to feed the poor and the infected. He borrowed money from friends to continue his good works, and soon he was the talk of his home city. Then, in a startling move, he Healed someone close to death from the Black Fever. Those who witnessed the incident were awe-struck and declared him to be the Dragon Reborn.

Within six months Darmovan was his. The nation fell not by military might, though many soldiers flocked to his banner, but by political wrangling. Very few died as the power was transferred to his grasp. The only slightly sinister event in this time was the inexplicable disappearance of the King’s Aes Sedai advisor. With the country in his hands, Amalasan decided to spread his justice to other lands and bring all of the Westlands into the Light (under his leadership, of course). The small nation of Elan Dapor to the south was in all accounts in chaos due to the Fever. Amalasan led his troops in to restore order and peace. The capital city, Tanchico, apparently fell without a single death.

At the start of FY 940 the Aes Sedai denounced Guaire Amalasan as a false Dragon and demanded that the nations unite to bring him to heel, as they had done against Raolin Darksbane, Yurian Stonebow and Davian. But most nations were still suffering from the Black Fever epidemic, with as much as a fifth of the entire population of the subcontinent either dead or seriously ill. In cramped conditions, say in barracks, the Fever spread fastest and most virulently, so most countries’ armed forces were particularly badly hit.

When Amalasan rolled across the border into Balasun, he met some resistance but overcame it easily to conquer the entire kingdom. Kharendor and Dhowlan fell almost as easily. But when he reached Shiota he found himself facing a better prepared enemy.

Shiota was one of the most powerful nations of this era. In addition, the capital city of Ebou Dar was home to the Kin, the most skilled group of healers outside of Tar Valon. Its army, which was primarily located in barracks and fortresses around the capital, had lost very few to the Fever, which by now had burned itself out in Shiota. The rulers of Shiota were canny and well-organised, and the war against Amalasan lasted months.

During this bitter war the Black Fever finally died out in the rest of the continent and fresh levies were raised and trained. Aes Sedai arrived in eastern Shiota, bolstered by troops from Nerevan, Esandara and Fergansea. The largest and most powerful nations in the land – Basharande, Elsalam, Rhamdashar, Hamarea, Caembarin and Aldeshar – united their armies in Aldeshar and headed south to confront Amalasan. Yet, despite all of this, Amalasan won the day. Shiota’s armies were shattered and Ebou Dar fell into his hands. The rest of the nation fell just as quickly. Six Aes Sedai tried to subdue Amalasan, but he killed one and stilled two more. Then he took his enlarged force north and defeated the allied forces brought against him. Within weeks he had crossed the border into Nerevan and within a few months more had seized that nation and Esandara.

It was at this point – mid to late FY 941 – that Artur Paendrag Tanreall began to note Amalasan’s progress and realised that Shandalle itself could be threatened within a year. He arranged a temporary alliance with Shandalle’s old adversary, Tova, and along with troops from Ileande, Khodomar and Talmour, formed an expeditionary force. This force met Amalasan in Esandara, before he could invade Fergansea. For well over a year Amalasan was kept on his toes, with the expeditionary force from the eastern nations almost dancing rings around his troops. The other generals gladly surrendered command to Artur Paendrag Tanreall, who by now had gained the nickname “Hawkwing” for the sheer speed with which he could move his troops. But eventually they became tired and had to retreat for reinforcements and resupply. Amalasan, free to move at last, took both Fergansea and most of Moreina in short order.

This was the situation as FY 943 dawned. Moreina was in a state of chaos. Amalasan had taken all of the country bar the capital, Tear. Tear took months to fall and, when it did, the nobles and the army retreated into the Stone of Tear. Curiously, it seems that as many as thirty Aes Sedai were also in the Stone, making it impossible for Amalasan capture. Amalasan became bitterly frustrated, because his claim to be the Dragon Reborn hinged on him taking the Stone and claiming Callandor, thus fulfilling the Prophecies.

Meanwhile, though the Stone had not yet fallen, most thought it a matter of time and rebellions had begun in Masenashar, Dal Calain and even parts of Aldeshar as people swore loyalty to “the Second Dragon”. Amalasan realised that if he kept the pressure up, the rest of the subcontinent could fall to him with only a few more nations taken. He led his army north into Talmour, leaving a force to continue besieging the Stone.

Hawkwing, meanwhile, had mustered a new army. Before he left Shandalle, a complement of Aes Sedai arrived from Tar Valon. Hawkwing marched south from Shandalle, through Tova, towards Amalasan’s line of advance.

Amalasan continued his invasion of Talmour but, one night, his army suddenly vanished. The Talmouran government were mystified, though relieved. What had happened was that, in the dead of night, Amalasan’s forces crossed the Erinin into Esandara. Linking up with reinforcements, Amalasan marched north, crossed the Erinin again, and attacked Khodomar. Also, without completing the conquest of that land, Amalasan then marched north on the border with Tova. Amalasan apparently believed that if Tova fell, Khodomar and Talmour, suddenly outflanked, would surrender without any more need for fighting, and he was probably right.

Along the border between Tova and Khodomar, and the current southern border of Cairhien as well, stretches a line of peaks known as the Maraside Mountains, a spur of the Spine of the World. The only major pass through this range is the Jolvaine, the southern end of which was located close to the town of Endersole (believed destroyed in the later War of the Hundred Years). Artur Hawkwing’s army crossed the mountains by this pass, emerging no more than twenty miles due north of Guaire Amalasan’s advancing forces. Hawkwing’s scouts and skirmishers quickly came into contact with Amalasan’s, and both found themselves readying for battle much sooner than either had anticipated.

Hawkwing’s forces were numbered at 23,000 infantry and 12,000 cavalry, with several Aes Sedai in support (some reports suggest as many as twenty). Amalasan possessed 41,000 foot and 26,000 horse, and of course himself, the most powerful male channeller of the One Power the Aes Sedai had faced in centuries, if not ever. The countryside they fought in was forested and hilly, with steep rises and unexpected river-valleys. Cavalry found it very difficult to fight effectively and it seems that both sides unseated most of their riders, using them as footmen instead.

Battle was met and proceeded pretty much as you might expect. Outnumbered two-to-one, with his back to mountains, Hawkwing found himself swiftly outflanked. He redeployed his troops to great effect and by nightfall his army was still intact, though badly blooded. Basic military doctrine would have told Hawkwing to retreat to the pass and initially it looked like he did this. Amalasan’s scouts reported Hawkwing’s retreat and Amalasan was satisfied. He was reluctant to pursue, however, because Hawkwing now had the higher ground and even outnumbered he had still inflicted great losses on Amalasan’s force. Amalasan’s instinct was to wait for reinforcements from Esandara, or until Hawkwing had cleared the pass, so he did not pursue. Also, he wished to rest his troops after the battle.

But Hawkwing did not retreat through the pass. He fell back just far enough to make Amalasan think he was on the run, but then halted. Daringly, stupidly as some of his junior officers muttered, he divided his already decimated force in four, sending two mixed forces of infantry and cavalry to the east and west and the bulk of his cavalry in a huge loop all the way round to the rear of Amalasan’s force, a night-time ride of fifty miles. Morning came, but even before Amalasan could strike camp Hawkwing struck, his army assaulting Amalasan’s force from all sides.

Panic gripped Amalasan’s army and it nearly broke, but he held it together. He even managed to regain some semblance of order and may, eventually, have turned the battle round. But Hawkwing gave him no time. Whilst the flanks and rear reeled from the attack, Hawkwing dove for the centre. He cut his way through the thinly-stretched front lines and surrounded Amalasan with his troops and also with his Aes Sedai. They shielded Amalasan from the Power and imprisoned him. Then, his prize taken, Hawkwing retreated from the battlefield. Deprived of their leader, Amalasan’s force broke and scattered. Hawkwing regrouped at the mouth of the Jolvaine Pass and then headed north as fast as possible across Tova.

Amalasan’s officers managed to partially regroup and word was sent to Amalasan’s two senior commanders. Elinde Motheneos, a famed siege commander, was campaigning against rebels across the river in Esandara and immediately rendezvoused with the remnants of Amalasan’s force, bolstering them with around 60,000 of her own troops. She regrouped Amalasan’s forces and began a desperate pursuit of Hawkwing’s troops. Sawyn Maculhene, a skilled cavalry leader, was just a day behind her, leading 50,000 troops from Khodomar.

Hawkwing’s smaller force was considerably more mobile, however, and rapidly crossed Tova, where some reports suggest he gained fresh troops. He came to Tar Valon a mere twenty-five days after taking Amalasan, a journey most would be hard pressed to make in thirty-five. At this time the Amyrlin Seat was Bonwhin Meraighdin, raised from the Red Ajah and possessing a hatred of men far exceeding that of even a normal Red. Tower law held that an army could only enter Tar Valon’s territory only at the direct invitation of the White Tower. Whether or not the Aes Sedai who accompanied Hawkwing and held Amalasan prisoner had actually made that invitation is unclear, though Hawkwing later insisted they had. Interestingly, after being given a heroes’ welcome, those Aes Sedai sisters suddenly vanished from public office and found themselves working on a penance farm twenty miles outside the city for a period of several years. Whatever the truth of the matter, Bonwhin gave Hawkwing just five days to rest his army before leaving.

Hawkwing’s army, around 40,000 strong at this point (presumably reinforced from Tova and Shandalle to more than make up for his losses at the Battle of the Jolvaine Pass), camped not far from the banks of the Osendrelle Erinin (the northern arm of the river as it curves around the island of Tar Valon), certainly within sight of the Shining Walls. Hawkwing could have left immediately, but it seems he was determined to see Amalasan neutralised once and for all. Whilst Hawkwing was not invited to the ceremony, Amalasan was tried, found guilty, and gentled, cut off from the One Power forever. He was to spend the rest of his life (only a few years before he committed suicide) in the custody of the Aes Sedai.

On the same day Amalasan was gentled, the army led by Maculhene and Motheneos launched its attack. Over 130,000 troops strong and attacking by night, with almost no warning, this force shattered all three of the gates on the Alindrelle Erinin (the southern arm) side of the city, invading the city itself. The Aes Sedai held them at bay for a time, along with the Tower Guard, but Amalasan’s army massively outnumbered the defenders. Hawkwing observed the assault and led his troops into Tar Valon, engaging in bloody hand-to-hand street-fighting not seen since the fourth attack on Tar Valon during the Trolloc Wars. Amalasan’s would-be rescuers reached the White Tower itself before being turned back. They found that, once again, Hawkwing had divided his troops, sending a large number across the Erinin south of the city to burn the supply lines and siege engines and cut off the retreat. Maculhene died in combat and Motheneos surrendered to Hawkwing (this in particular enraged Bonwhin; the surrender of someone who had dared strike at Tar Valon should have been given to her as the Amyrlin Seat). She was tried and executed some days later. The bulk of Amalasan’s relief army was allowed to slip away unmolested.

No thanks or sign of appreciation was given to Hawkwing. He was simply told to leave. This he did, angered by the lack of recognition but not totally surprised. He returned to Shandalle to rule in peace, but the thought of the chaos now spreading in the leaderless west and the south did trouble him.

With Amalasan gone, his surviving generals attempted to wrest control of the nations they had taken, whilst loyalists of the former rulers attempted to return control to the rightful leaders. Within weeks of Amalasan’s death, Darmovan, Elan Dapor, Balasun, Kharendor, Shiota, Dhowlan, Nerevan, Esandara and Fergansea were in states of civil war. Moreina, Talmour and Khodomar, which had not completely fallen, managed to return to their former states of order. Aes Sedai mediators attempted to quell the chaos, but now they found an unusual new factor had entered the equation. Whereas before the name of Amalasan was cried in adoration, now the name of Hawkwing was similarly being cried. He had beaten their leader, and thus had to be an even greater man, a man even worthier of being their king. Even in lands completely untouched by Amalasan, people suggested that Hawkwing might make a great ruler.

Bonwhin’s hatred of Hawkwing now reached even deadlier levels. At her instigation (as revealed many decades later), Tova, Caembarin and Khodomar sent armies against Shandalle in an attempt to slay Hawkwing. Hawkwing, who had already begun disbanding his army, defeated all three of them, despite being outnumbered and pressed from three different sides. Enraged, he struck back and by the beginning of winter in FY 943 he held the western half of Tova (including the capital at Cairhien), parts of northern Khodomar and the entire west bank of the Erinin in Caembarin. Thousands from all three nations flocked to his banner. The following year Ileande, Talmour and Aldeshar entered the war, sending reinforcements to the three beleaguered nations. But, by the end of FY 944, Hawkwing had seized the rest of Tova, Khodomar and Caembarin and forged them into one whole with Shandalle.

Bonwhin could only watch, amazed, as she forced more nations into warfare against Hawkwing and then saw them crumble before him. Sometimes a year to fourteen months would pass without any fighting, then two or three nations would attack Hawkwing, but he would always defeat them and, afterwards, add them to his growing empire. Only one nation, Moreina (where the governor of the Stone of Tear surrendered the fortress to him with no demands being made), joined him voluntarily. The rest had to be forced into submission.

One summer morning in FY 963 King Joal Ramedar of Aldeshar surrendered to Artur Paendrag Tanreall, the Hawkwing. Twenty years of warfare, the Consolidation Wars, had delivered the subcontinent of the Westlands to him. The whole land, from the Aryth Ocean to the Spine of the World and from the Mountains of Dhoom to the Sea of Storms, bar only the city-state of Tar Valon, was his. Not once in that time had he lost a single battle. He was the High King, the ruler of one land at peace, and he was not yet fifty-one years old.

Some might say that was enough. He was the ruler of millions of square miles of territory and the High King of over a hundred million souls. He led over a million men under arms. He had the love of the common people and the respect of most of the nobles. He even intimidated the Aes Sedai. He had enough for one man.

But he had barely begun his accomplishments. Before he was done his name would be hated and loved in equal measure, and known in every part of the world.

 

Notes on the Map

The map is based on the map of the Free Years 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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