Sunday, 16 December 2018

A History of the Wheel of Time Part 11: The New Era

The New Era

The War of the Hundred Years left the West in ruins, but twenty-four nations emerged from those ruins. Most of these nations endure today, whilst others have fallen.

The nations that emerged from the War of the Hundred Years were Arad Doman, Almoth and Tarabon along the west coast; Altara, Illian, Maredo and Tear along the south coast; Mar Haddon, Cairhien and Hardan along the Spine of the World; and Saldaea, Kandor, Arafel, Shienar and Malkier along the Blight. The nations of Amadicia, Ghealdan, Murandy, Andor, Caralain and Kintara all lay in the continental interior. The locations of Goaban, Irenvelle and Mosara have been lost to us, but they are speculated to have lain between Saldaea and western Andor; along the Shadow Coast; and east of the Black Hills. Naturally, the city-state of Tar Valon continued to survive, as did the city-state of Mayene, which had passed through the War of the Hundred Years all but unnoticed. The ruler of Mayene, now titled “The First” even made what most people took to be a poor claim, that he was descended from Artur Hawkwing himself. He claimed that Tyrn Paendrag Mashera, whom most people assumed killed along with his mother Laiwynde shortly before Hawkwing’s own death, had survived. He was raised in Mayene, but refused to let his name be known for fear of bringing war and destruction down on the city. Once his survival became common knowledge, the nobles of Mayene had made him the first First Lord of the city. When asked to show conclusive proof of this, the then-current First was unable to do so and thus their claims were ignored (though the Firsts maintain this claim even today).

The war had reduced the population of much of the Westlands and, though every part of the subcontinent was claimed by one nation or another, large areas of uninhabited wilderness existed. Even in Andor, the most populous of the nations, uninhabited areas appeared, such as the 500 miles or more of empty scrubland, forests and hills that stretch between Whitebridge and the town of Baerlon. The nations that disappeared the soonest, such as Caralain (on the vast grassplain of the same name), were the ones that were dominated by such empty lands.

It is impossible to discern why the population has never recovered. Certainly, the population was reduced to even below modern-day levels by the Trolloc Wars, yet it recovered stronger than ever before afterwards. Some believe that humanity has simply been worn out by warfare and that there is no impetus to recover. Others believe that the weakening Seals and the Dark One’s growing touch on the world are to blame. Where armies used to number in the hundreds of thousands in Hawkwing’s day, most national armies after the War of the Hundred Years were lucky to get into the tens of thousands. Even the numbers of Aes Sedai dropped. Before the Trolloc Wars there may have been as many as 3,000 Aes Sedai, yet by the present day there are barely 1,200. This latter has been partially explained by a White Ajah theory that the systematic gentling of every male channeller has “winnowed” the ability to channel out of the human race, although this is controversial.

As mentioned earlier, ten of the nations that survived the War of the Hundred Years vanished in the centuries afterwards. Almoth fell circa 600 NE, unable to support the population. Almoth Plain has been in contention between Arad Doman to the north and Tarabon to the south ever since. Hardan, which lay between the River Erinin, Kinslayer’s Dagger and the Spine of the World, gradually faded away, its capital city of Harad Dakar being finally abandoned in 700 NE. Maredo became almost a thorough-fare for armies from Tear and Illian as they attacked one another, and caught in the crossfire it too faded away, leaving behind only the great trading city of Far Madding. Kintara, a nation to the north of Maredo, was absorbed into Andor, which then proved unable to support its new lands and abandoned parts of them. Goaban, Mosara and Caralain were all abandoned because the people left, or died out. After 800 NE or so the only nations that existed were the fourteen that endure today, plus Malkier, the fall of which is related below.

During the New Era war became more commonplace. The trust and respect held for Aes Sedai now dwindled, since the smaller numbers of Aes Sedai meant they were seen less often. The Children of the Light, who thrived in these times of suspicion and fear, also contributed to this, spreading their lies about the Aes Sedai being Darkfriends and Warders their pet dogs. Some lands remained true to the Aes Sedai, mainly the Borderlands where their hatred of the Shadow earned them respect, and Andor, where their ancient alliance remained firm. Illian, Cairhien, Mayene, Murandy, Arad Doman, Tarabon and Ghealdan all had Aes Sedai advisors, though they were mainly kept in secret. In Tear and Amadicia Aes Sedai were not tolerated and girls able to channel were sent to the White Tower as soon as they were found. Tear was fearful of the coming of the Dragon Reborn (the Prophecies clearly stated that Tear would be one of the first nations to suffer from his coming, with the conquest of the Stone of Tear) and in turn feared the Aes Sedai.

It is less clear why Amadicia disliked Aes Sedai. Presumably there was a misunderstanding and the rulers of Amadicia took offence. This dislike reached new heights when, in 930 NE, the King of Amadicia invited the then-wandering Children of the Light to make a permanent base in his country. The Children gratefully accepted, founding the Fortress of the Light in the capital city of Amador itself. The King’s own Seranda Palace was moved brick-by-brick to a field two miles outside Amador to make room for it. Within a few years the King found he had very little power any more, for the Lord Captain Commander of the Children of the Light now ruled Amadicia from behind the scenes, using the King only for diplomatic functions.

The largest and most powerful nations of the New Era were - and to some extent still are - Andor and Cairhien. These nations clashed on many occasions for control of the River Erinin that was their common border. The two kingdoms even founded river-towns (Aringill and Maerone) opposite one another to keep an eye on what the other was up to. Cairhien sometimes exchanged raids with the Aiel clans nearest the Spine of the World, but these raids came to an abrupt end in 509 NE when a group of Aiel travelled all the way to the capital of Cairhien itself. These Aiel presented the King of Cairhien with a gift, Avendoraldera, a sapling of the Tree of Life itself. They also gave the Cairhienin the right of free trade across the Aiel Waste, allowing huge trade caravans to cross the Waste to distant Shara. Cairhien soon became immensely rich from this trade, though Andor almost matched this wealth thanks to the opening of very lucrative gold, silver and iron mines in the Mountains of Mist.

Around 500 NE Illian called the Great Hunt of the Horn again, asking adventurers to go on the quest to look for the Horn of Valere. Several previous Hunts had been called but none had turned up the Horn. Both had resulted in many adventures, however, and the great Hunt of the Hornbardic cycle had come into being. This Hunt was again unsuccessful, but new stories were added to the cycle.

Early in the New Era, Mayene had suddenly discovered vast shoals of oilfish off the south coast of the Termool or Waterless Sands, the desert to the south of the Aiel Waste. These oilfish provided oil that burned far brighter and far longer than the oil made in Tear or Illian, and could also be cooked to delicious standards. Mayene rapidly capitalised on these new industries. The High Lords of Tear suddenly and, they claim, coincidentally decided this was the right time to press their claim on the city which, after all, lay right on the eastern edge of Tear’s borders. The First of Mayene resisted efforts by Tear to take control of his city, using blackmail, bribery and on several occasions assassination to keep the Tairens at bay. Tear never invaded the city by military force, partially because of the severe difficulty of landing troops on the Mayener Peninsula (aside from Mayene itself there are no good harbours on the peninsula), the inaccessibility of the city by land (blocked off by the vast swamp known as the Drowned Lands to the north) and the fear that Illian might attack Tear from the west whilst its army was engaged in the east. We now know that Mayene has had strong ties with Tar Valon since perhaps the War of the Hundred Years, and it is possible that Tar Valon intervened with vague threats to dissuade Tear from attacking Mayene (just because Tairens hate Aes Sedai it does not mean they do not fear or even respect them). Whatever the case, Mayene has preserved its independence since this time and continues to do so today.

The centuries passed and suddenly false Dragons began appearing with increasing regularity. None of these could channel, but their sudden appearance was disconcerting to the Aes Sedai. Some begun to wonder if the Last Battle was drawing nigh.

The Fall of Malkier
In 955 NE the Borderland kingdom of Malkier fell into chaos and ruin due to treachery most foul from its own nobility. The Fall of Malkier is now used as a warning to the other Borderlands to remain on their guard for the Shadow within as well as the Shadow without.

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 was presumed dead.

The Whitecloak War
Whilst Malkier fell into ruin to the north, another war erupted in the south. The Children of the Light believed the time had come to spread the Light from Amadicia into neighbouring countries. Immediately to the east lay Altara, a large nation made up almost entirely of feuding nobles, with little unity between them. The invasion of Altara began in 957 NE under the command of Lord Captain Pedron Niall, one of the youngest officers ever to be promoted to that exalted rank. The invasion was quite successful, overrunning the border towns of Mosra, Salidar and So Eban in a matter of weeks. Ebou Dar itself never came under direct threat, since to take the capital required a strong navy and an army far larger than that of the joint Whitecloak and Amadician force. However, there was a possibility that Altaran nobles opposed to the crown would join with the invaders to overthrow the government, in return for positions of power under the new regime. Murandy and Illian both watched the invasion with concern and the youthful King Mattin Stepaneos den Balgar of Illian came to the conclusion that once Altara was theirs, the Children would move on to Illian and Murandy. Even if they did not, Altara would no longer be a buffer between Amadicia and Illian. Stepaneos forged an alliance with Murandy and led a joint force into Altara.

The Whitecloak War, as it became known, raged for almost a year. During this year many battles were fought, though casualties were light in comparison to earlier conflicts. It was standard practice at this time for nobles and officers to be captured and ransomed back to their own side, rather than killed. At the Battle of Soremaine even King Mattin of Illian was captured and ransomed back to the Council of Nine in Illian for a princely sum. Lord Captain Niall won the great majority of the engagements (the most notable at Soremaine and Jhamara) and maybe could have forced Altara to surrender, but in the end came to the conclusion that the Children could not hold Altara and force Murandy and Illian out of the country. The best result that could be hoped for was the seizure of some parts of western Altara whilst the rest fell into the hands of Illian, hardly a desirable outcome. The Children withdrew from Altara and agreed to return to the pre-war borders on the condition that Murandy and Illian did as well. During the Whitecloak War a young Andoran soldier named Tam al’Thor fought on the side of Illian and began making a name for himself as a skilled swordsman and archer.

Conflict erupted in the wake of the Whitecloak War, though not to as great a scale. Arad Doman and Tarabon had quietly feuded over Almoth Plain for years. Whilst they still did not openly declare war, they sponsored raiding parties to fight one another on the Plain and Arad Doman began making overtures to Katar about absorbing that city. Only thinly-veiled threats from Tarabon prevented Arad Doman from accomplishing this (although more recently Arad Doman has succeeded in absorbing Katar). Cairhienin and Tairen trade ships battled one another on the Erinin during a minor dispute over trading rights up the river, but these disputes were resolved relatively quickly.

In 965 NE Laman Damodred became King of Cairhien. Irritated by Andor getting “first dibs” on trade up the Erinin from Tear (Aringill being a few hundred yards further downriver than Maerone), Laman moved to seize Aringill but was repulsed by the army of Andor. The dispute raged for three years, though there were no truly large battles, until it was solved by diplomacy. In 968 NE Queen Modrellein Mantear and King Laman agreed to wed their heirs, the Daughter-Heir Tigraine and Laman’s nephew Taringail. This united Cairhien and Andor in alliance and also saw the trade disagreements resolved: Andor giving Cairhien a small percentage of trade gained upriver from Tear and Cairhien doing the same to Andor for trade gained downriver from Tar Valon and the Borderlands.

So, the disputes between the nations continued. As the 970s began there was a brief hope for a lasting peace, but this hope soon disappeared.

Please note that Part 12 of this series are also available to read now on my Patreon page and my other blog, Atlas of Ice and Fire, is currently running a Wheel of Time Atlas series.

Thank you for reading The Wertzone. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content weeks before it goes live on my blogs. The History of The Wheel of Time, SF&F Questions and The Cities of Fantasy series are debuting on my Patreon feed and you can read them there one month before being published on the Wertzone.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

The SFF All-Time Sales List (revised)

It's that time of the decade again when we dust down the SFF All-Time Sales List, the probably-definitive and at-least-half-accurate guide to the sales figures of as many SF and Fantasy series I could find. We previously did this in 2008, 2013, 2015 and 2016, so welcome to the fifth outing for this list.

The usual caveats and rules: these figures came from a mixture of publishers, authors themselves, agents, Wikipedia articles and an awful lot of PR copy. In many cases they failed to distinguish between "in print" (including copies sitting on bookshelves or in a remaindered warehouse somewhere) and "actually sold", although as e-book sales take off this is becoming less of a problem. Some authors update their figures regularly and others do not, so some of these figures are cutting-edge and up to date, and others may be years out of date.

There are 367 authors on this list, 277 of whom have sold more than 1 million copies each. The lower reaches of the list is extremely incomplete (and for future lists I may drop authors under 1 million sales, as it's getting far too hard to cover them all).

This version of the list has benefited from studies of German sales via my colleagues at, as well as increased knowledge of sales in China.

1) J.K. Rowling (600 million)
J.K. Rowling may have completed Harry Potter, but the series is still selling phenomenally well. Coupled with the success of her adult novels and the Harry Potter stage play, her position at the top of the table is maintained and her lead increased.

2) Stephen King (c. 400 million) 
As said in The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1996), King's worldwide sales are totally incalculable and the above figure remains fairly conservative. King's Dark Tower series has also sold more than 30 million copies by itself.

3) J.R.R. Tolkien (c. 350 million) 
Tolkien's sales are likewise incalculable: 100,000 copies of a pirated version of The Lord of the Rings were sold in the United States alone in under a year, so the figures for unauthorised versions of the book in other countries are completely unguessable. What remains certain is that The Lord of the Rings is the biggest-selling single genre novel of all time, and possibly the best-selling single novel of all time. More than 50 million copies of the book have been sold since 2001 alone. The 100+ million sales of The Hobbit alone have also been bolstered significantly by the Peter Jackson movies. If anything, the above figure may well be the most conservative on the list and Tolkien's sales may be vastly more (and possibly more than King's).

4) Stephenie Meyer (250 million)
The Twilight series has sold a quarter of a billion copies in a decade on sale. An impressive and startling achievement.

[Dean Koontz (c. 200 million)]
Dean Koontz's official website claims sales of 450 million, which seem hard to credit for an author with a big profile, but nowhere near that of King or Rowling. Other figures suggest 200 million, which seems much more credible. However, Koontz's eligibility for the list is questionable given that he has written numerous non-SFF novels (though many of them still within the horror or suspense thriller genres). Thus his placement on the list is for those who consider him to be a genre author.

[Michael Crichton (c. 200 million)]
Michael Crichton published 27 novels during his lifetime, selling more than 200 million copies. Only eight of those novels are SF, but these include most of his best-known novels (including Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Sphere, Congo and The Andromeda Strain). His placement here is for comparative purposes and for those who consider him to be a genre author.

5) Anne Rice (136 million) 
Anne Rice's vampire books were a huge phenomenon through the 1980s and 1990s, bolstered by the Tom Cruise/Brad Pitt movie.

6) CS Lewis (120 million+) 
No change here, though Lewis's sales have likely increased somewhat due to the movies based on his books.

7) Edgar Rice Burroughs (100 million+) 
Edgar Rice Burroughs was a hugely prolific author. He has sold more than 100 million copies of his novels, including the SF Barsoom, Pellucidar, Venus, Caspak and Moon series and the non-SF Tarzan series.

8) Sir Arthur C. Clarke (100 million+) 
Sir Arthur C. Clarke gains the distinction of being the only author on the list to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and have an orbit named after him. Clarke was already a well-known, big-selling SF author when the film 2001: A Space Odyssey and his television coverage of the first moon landing catapulted him into becoming a household name. A steady stream of best-selling, high-profile and critically-acclaimed SF novels continued into the 1980s, when his profile was again boosted by his TV series, Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World. As well as his SF novels he also published a large number of non-fiction books and volumes of criticism on matters of science.

9) Suzanne Collins (100 million+)
Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games hadn't even been published when I created the very first list. The trilogy has been published in full, sold over 100 million copies (over 65 million in the USA alone) and generated four hit movies since then. Very impressive.

[Jin Yong (100 million+)]
The late Jin Yong has sold over 100 million copies of his wuxia novels in China, which cross the boundary between fantasy and historical fiction.

10) George R.R. Martin (91 million+)
A Song of Ice and Fire's sales have exploded in the last eight years. From circa 12 million books sold in 2011, the series sold more than 9 million copies in the remainder of that year alone. Though Martin's sales were starting to noticeably take off anyway in the mid-2000s, the main reason for the boost has been the remarkable success of the Game of Thrones TV series on HBO. Sales have now eclipsed 60 million in the United States alone and 90 million worldwide, and continuing to rise. He has also sold 1.2 million books in Spanish. He has also sold 1 million copies of The World of Ice and Fire.


Some cool art of the Seven Ajahs from THE WHEEL OF TIME

Artist Sofia Augusto has posted some excellent artwork depicting the Seven Ajahs of the Aes Sedai from Robert Jordan's fantasy series The Wheel of Time.

The artwork depicts, from left to right, Alviarin of the White Ajah (and Black); Yukiri of the Grey Ajah; Nynaeve of the Yellow Ajah; Cadsuane of the Green Ajah; Moiraine of the Blue Ajah; Verin of the Brown Ajah; and Elaida of the Red Ajah.

Friday, 14 December 2018

Two new TV series confirm the existence of a shared WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS universe

Cult 2014 movie What We Do in the Shadows, which brought the genius of Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi to a worldwide audience (leading to the latter's involving in directing Thor: Ragnarok and working on the new Star Wars TV show), has now spawned an entire related universe, with two TV shows already in production and a sequel movie in the planning stages.

First up is New Zealand-based Wellington Paranormal, which follows hapless cops Kyle Minogue and Officer O'Leary as they investigate weird goings-on in the Wellington area. Minogue and O'Leary appeared several times in the movie as the easily-hypnotised cops constantly getting involved in the vampires' misadventures. A first season of 13 episodes has already aired and a second season has been commissioned for 2019. So far an international distribution deal has not been signed, but I wouldn't be surprised to see this showing up on Netflix or Amazon before too long.

Next in rotation is a more direct TV version of the movie, also called What We Do in the Shadows. Production of Season 1 is already complete and this should air on FX in the States in early 2019, with Netflix or Channel 4 likely to pick up the UK transmission rights. What We Do in the Shadows is set in New York City and stars Kayvan Novak, Matt Berry, Nastasia Demetriou and Harvey Guillen. Despite early reports that the TV show will be a remake of the movie, it's actually an all-new story with a new cast of characters. The events of the TV show are set in motion when a minion of the old vampires of Europe arrives in the New World to see how the vampire conquest is going after 400 years, only to find they haven't managed to get off Staten Island. Shenanigans ensue.

Waititi and Clement are also developing a sequel to the movie. Called We're Wolves, the film will catch up on the wolf pack established in the first move and explore their lives in a similar mockumentary style.

Clement and Waititi have confirmed (albeit possibly with tongue firmly in cheek) that they see the movies and TV shows as all taking place in one big universe (possibly Waititi's exposure to the Marvel and Star Wars universes coming through there) and there's a chance characters from the original movie may show up in both TV shows in some capacity.

Season 1 of HIS DARK MATERIALS wraps shooting

Filming has been completed on Season 1 of His Dark Materials, the BBC/New Line co-production based on Philip Pullman's novels of the same name.

The new TV series, planned to span five eight-episode seasons, will adapt the three books of the trilogy (Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass) in full. It is the second attempted adaptation of the series, following on from the 2007 movie The Golden Compass. This new series is a total reboot with no relation to the movie version.

A second season has already been greenlit and will now enter pre-production. Season 1 will undergo a heavy period of post-production and will air on BBC-1 in the UK and HBO in the United States, most likely in the summer or autumn of 2019.

The series stars Dafne Keen (Logan) as Lyra, Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) as Lee Scoresby, James McAvoy (X-Men) as Lord Asriel and Ruth Wilson as Ms. Coulter.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Axis & Allies & Zombies

Axis & Allies & Zombies is a new variant of the classic WW2 strategy board game, which is rapidly approaching its 40th anniversary. As with most previous versions, the game pits the Axis (Germany and Japan) against the Allies (the United States, the Soviet Union and the British Empire) in a recreation of WW2, with both sides conquering territory to gain resources and using those resources to build more military units. A simple dice-rolling mechanic resolves combat and makes for a somewhat simple game, but where complex strategies can emerge.

As the name suggests, this game throws the classic paradigm into disarray by adding zombies. Rather than forming a third faction, the zombies emerge as more of an environmental hazard. Fresh zombies are generated by an outbreak card deck (vaguely reminiscent of Pandemic's outbreak cards) and arise in combat, with every killed infantry unit generating a new zombie unit. Massed battles with lots of infantry, particularly on the Eastern Front, can therefore become very unpredictable with tons of zombies arising mid-battle to attack both sides.

If this sounds gimmicky, well, it is. However, it is also entertaining and strategically intriguing, causing even seasoned multi-decade veterans of the game to switch to new tactics to deal with the new threat. The zombies can capture territory and, although they can't build anything, they can infect the civilian population as identified by a zombie marker on the IPC tracker. If they hit 25 IPCs, the zombie outrbreak has hit an exponential, unstoppable curve and the world ends in a zombie apocalypse. This means avoiding the zombie hordes is a bad idea as it can result in both player-controlled sides losing, but you also want to think hard about attacking them (especially with infantry). Canny players may also prefer to attack a territory, generate lots of zombies and then withdraw, leaving the defender with a huge problem to contend with. Whilst you do not need to attack zombies in your territory, any zombies in your territory get a free single attack every go they are present, forming a constant annoyance. They also block blitzkrieg moves by tanks, which especially on the Eastern Front can become a major headache as both sides try to rush reinforcements to the front lines.

The card mechanic also adds a wonderful random element to the game. Those small British forces in Africa can suddenly get bogged down in fighting zombies instead of mobilising to meet the Desert Rats, and the normally-unreachable US mainland can suddenly see heavy fighting as zombie hordes surge up from South America. New technologies also allow for one (or both) sides to manipulate the zombies into fighting for them, or generate new weapons more capable of defeating the zombies en masse (like chainsaw tanks) or stopping fallen soldiers rising to join their ranks.

The result of this is a fresh spin on an older, fun but, it has to be said, somewhat predictable game. Furthermore, the game package also allows for a few other options. First, you can completely ignore the zombies and play this as an introductory game of Axis & Allies. The map is much smaller, with fewer territories (although not quite as few as 1941, which streamlined things a bit too much) and more simplistic strategies. The game plays faster (without the zombies; with them it lasts about as long as a standard A&A game, 3-5 hours depending on dice rolls) and also drops units such as AA Guns and Cruisers whilst also ignoring rules such as air drops and building new factories (veteran AA players can, of course, reinstate these if they wish). In short A&A&Z has enough in the box to play as both the zombie game and Axis & Allies 1941.

Secondly, the game has a second deck of cards which can be used (in conjunction with the zombie pieces) with Axis & Allies 1942 to play the zombie game on a larger scale, which should also be enjoyable for those who want to make their standard base games more unpredictable and complex. There aren't any rules for adding the zombies to A&A Anniversary Edition or the 1940 Europe/Pacific/Global games, but I daresay fan-made variations will emerge in time.

Thirdly, the game reintroduces paper money to the mix, which was missing from both the 1941 and 1942 editions of the game and, of course, can be used with those games without any problem.

Minuses are somewhat limited. If you hate zombies and find the idea gimmicky, you'll already have moved on. The game is a bit stingy with pieces and the poker chips (to represent multiple units), but not as much as the WW1 and 1941 versions of the game. On the reverse side, this keeps costs down, resulting in, by far, the best value-for-money Axis & Allies game to date.

In summary Axis & Allies & Zombies (****) is a fun, fresh and a great way of introducing new players (who might otherwise be put off by the serious theme and perceived complexity) to the game, and creates new tactical situations which veterans may find interesting to deal with. The game is available now in the UK and USA.

Revisiting the Wasteland: Modding FALLOUT 3

Since 2002 Bethesda Softworks have been making 3D roleplaying games set in large, open worlds which encourage exploration. Despite vast improvements in graphics technology, these games are notable for using the same basic game engine, GameBryo, throughout. In 2011 Bethesda renamed this engine "Creation" in an attempt to make it appear they were using newer technology, but it was in fact the same engine with different rendering and lighting modules. In one form or another, this engine has now powered seven games: Morrowind (2002), Oblivion (2006), Fallout 3 (2008), Fallout: New Vegas (2010), Skyrim (2011), Fallout 4 (2015) and Fallout 76 (2018), and will apparently still be powering their next two games, Starfield and The Elder Scrolls VI.

Despite the weaknesses of using the same basic codebase for twenty years (to the point where code referencing Morrowind can still be found in the files for Fallout 4 and 76), it does provide a very stable platform for modders, fans who use the engine's open nature to tinker with the makeup of the game. By adjusting files, modders can add new quests, weapons and locations, adjust the world map, fix bugs (especially useful for Bethesda games, where Bethesda are notorious for fixing just a few game-breaking bugs in an early patch and then leaving myriad minor problems unfixed, sometimes ones that recur from game to game) and - most importantly - improve the graphics of the games to keep them relevant later on.

My recent and ongoing playthrough of Fallout 3 - a game more than a decade old which frankly already looked a bit dated on release - would not have been as pleasant an experience without the presence of mods to help fix up the game. These mods do everything from dramatically improving the game's textures to reworking blades of grass so they feel more realistic and making the characters look more like people and less disconcertingly like drunk mannequins. There are limits on what can be done - no amount of modding can totally remove the slightly stodgy movement, clumsy jumping or imprecise shooting outside of VATS mode, or alleviate the vast number of identikit ruined buildings in DC - but it is the difference between the game being a cluster of microfrustrations and something that is much more enjoyable to play by 2018 standards.

Modding Fallout 3 is, fortunately, not a ruinously complicated procedure. Most of the modding process is automated these days and it's relatively simple to do or abandon and revert to the base game if you feel like playing the game in its old-skool incarnation.

In order to mod Fallout 3 you need to do the following:

1. Have a PC (modding to this scale is not available for the PS3 or X-Box 360 versions of the game).

2. Secure a copy of Fallout 3 Game of the Year edition from You can mod an original 2008 boxed version of the game or a Steam version of the game, but it's far, far more work and it will be constantly challenged by the original version of the game's use of Games for Windows Live and the Steam version's flakiness when played on Windows 8 or 10, and will probably crash a lot more. The GoG version of the game also comes pre-modded to remove the GFWL launcher and also adds the LAA (Large Address Aware) Patch, which allows the game to make use of more of your PC's RAM (the 2008 version was hardcoded to use 2GB of RAM only for the game, which was ridiculous). Fortunately Fallout 3 is ten years old and quite cheap (especially if you wait for the next GoG sale around Christmas). It's probably a good idea to grab a copy of New Vegas as well from them for the same reason.

3. Bookmark the Fallout 3 page on the Nexus Mods web page. You're going to be spending a lot of time here.

4. Download the Nexus Mod Manager. This will make the process of downloading and installing mods far easier than it will be otherwise.

5. Watch this video (the same as embedded above). There are many, many videos on modding Fallout 3 out there, but this one is notable for being concise and focused solely on stabilising and improving Fallout 3, not adding loads of fan content or doing whacky stuff with the graphics that move the game away from Bethesda's original intentions.

Once you've done that your're set to go. The video (by "Some Kind of Elephant") is pretty good and will take you through the basis of modding the game. The Nexus Mod page contains most of the mods you need to use. It should be noted that some of the links in the YouTube video have expired, so to find the mods just type the name into the search function on the Nexus Mod page. I'd also advise not using the DLC retexture pack addresses in the main description, as they lead to sites which triggered my antivirus software. Instead get those files from here:

One mod not mentioned in the video but which - frankly - is essential is SpeedMod v2. This mod can be used to improve your character's base walking and running speed by one of several presets, which is essential because the base speed in Fallout 3 is insanely slow. Adding this mod will prevent you from hurling something through the screen in horror at how slowly you (and everyone else) moves. The game does increase everyone's movement speed, so monsters and other characters in the game will also get a speed boost (so it won't let you "cheat" by running much faster than anyone else).

It's worth noting that the UI mod (which makes the on-screen information like health and ammunition) is only desirable if you are playing the game on a monitor which you're sitting right next to. If you're outputting the game to a TV and you're playing from the couch, you may want to leave the UI as it is for clarity.

Once that's all done, launch the game via the Nexus Mod Manager programme using the "Launch FOSE" option and you should be all set to go.

Thank you for reading The Wertzone. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content weeks before it goes live on my blogs. A History of the Wheel of Time, SF&F Questions and The Cities of Fantasy series are debuting on my Patreon feed and you can read them there one month before being published on the Wertzone.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Happy 15th Anniversary to BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (2.0)

On 8 December 2003, the Sci-Fi Channel aired a two-part TV movie based on Glen A. Larson's 1978 space opera, Battlestar Galactica. This new show had been preceded by very low expectations: none of the cast or crew of the original show was involved, and two previous reboot pitches which had been direct sequels to the original show had been cancelled in favour of a total remake. Redesigns of iconic ships and vehicles had annoyed the original fanbase, as had the "gender-swapping" of established characters like Starbuck and Boomer. However, early critical reviews were positive and some of the casting for the show, such as Edward James Olmos as the new version of Commander Adama (in the role played by Lorne Green in the original) and Mary McDonnell as the new President of the Colonies, seemed promising.

A promotional image for Battlestar Galactica's third season (2006-07).

The road to relaunching Battlestar Galactica had been a long one. ABC had commissioned Glen A. Larson to create the original show back in 1977, keen to launch on the bandwagon of space opera and impressive visual effects generated by the release of the original Star Wars movie. They even brought in John Dykstra, who had created Star Wars's special effects, to work on the show. Borrowing heavily from Egyptian mythology and Mormon theology, the show told the story of the annihilation of the Twelve Colonies of Man at the hands of a hostile alien race, the Cylons, consisting of cyborg leaders and fully-robotic soldiers. The last surviving human warship, the battlestar Galactica, leads a "ragtag fugitive fleet" in search of the mythical Thirteenth Colony, also known as Earth. Despite schmaltzy acting, the presence of cute kid and animal actors (including the still-bizarre decision to have a chimp playing a robot dog) and whiplash-inducing shifts in tone, the show built up a strong following for its impressive effects and its emphasis on family.

The show launched to enormous ratings, but these fell drastically over the course of the first season. Combined with the show's eye-watering cost, ABC decided to cancel it and resurrect it two years later as Galactica 1980, a much lower-budged show meant more to appeal to kids. Galactica 1980 holds a strong claim to be the worst TV show ever made (with the solitary exception of a flashback episode set during the original series) and was quickly put out of its misery.

The original Battlestar Galactica had spectacular visual effects for 1978 but less impressive scripts.

Larson moved on to other projects, but always felt there was more mileage in the Battlestar concept. Richard Hatch, who'd played Captain Apollo on the original series, agreed, and with Larson's blessing undertook various attempts to relaunch the show. Successful novel and comic series followed through the 1980s and 1990s and in 1998 Hatch produced a proof-of-concept video dubbed Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming. Ignoring Galactica 1980, this would have been a "next generation" concept picking up on the story twenty years later with the Galactica crew still searching for Earth with a whole new generation growing up in the fleet. Despite being popular at fan conventions, the idea did not find fertile ground with a studio. A year later Glen A. Larson started developing a movie concept which would have followed up on the fate of the battlestar Pegasus from the original series, but again this didn't get very far.

A much more serious attempt followed in 2000. Producers Bryan Singer and Tom DeSanto were the hot flavour of the month in Hollywood for the success of their movie X-Men and Singer, a huge fan of the original Battlestar Galactica, was determined to get the show launched again. His concept was similar to Hatch's and would have been a next generation reboot. Fox TV signed on, but were somewhat sceptical that BSG's relatively small fanbase could help propel the show to a larger audience, especially as it was a continuation. Nevertheless, the project moved to within a few weeks production starting (including some early set construction and lots of concept art being produced) when Fox put all new projects on hold in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Fox were slow to get the show moving again, so when Singer and DeSanto left the project to focus on the next X-Men movie, Fox let the idea lapse.

Promotional artwork for Bryan Singer and Tom DeSanto's planned Battlestar reboot (2001).

Universal Pictures, who held the rights to the original BSG, decided to push forwards with a new version of the show themselves. Whilst 9/11 had disrupted Fox's plans, Universal saw it as an opportunity to tell a very different kind of story. Critics of the original BSG - and even some fans - had felt that the original series had massively undersold the darkness and trauma that would have resulted from the destruction of twelve planets and billions of human beings on the survivors. Universal asked producer David Eick to work on ideas for the new series, but the first directive was that this was going to be a page one rewrite and remake set in a new continuity. Eick decided he needed to bring on board someone who really understood science fiction and in particular space opera and brought on board a writer named Ronald D. Moore.

Moore had cut his teeth as a very young writer on Star Trek: The Next Generation, which he'd joined in 1989 in its third season. He was just about the only staff writer to survive the chaotic third season into the fourth, and became a key creative lead on the show in its latter five seasons. When the show wrapped, he co-wrote the movies Generations and First Contact as well as moving over to Deep Space Nine for its third season, again playing a key creative role on that show. When Deep Space Nine wrapped in 1999, he moved over to Star Trek: Voyager but immediately found a much more restrictive creative environment. Moore was in particular frustrated by the fact that the starship Voyager was still clean and pristine despite being trapped on the other side of the galaxy with very limited chances for resupply. His feeling was that the show should have been darker, more challenging and engaged in more morally murky discussions about the morality of the Federation when a ship was put in a difficult position. The producers disagreed, feeling that cookie-cutter philosophising and constantly hitting a big red reset button at the end of every episode was the way forwards instead. Moore duly quit, going to work first on Roswell at the WB and then Carnivale at HBO.

Executive producer and showrunner Ronald D. Moore on the hanger set of Battlestar Galactica.

He was still working on Carnivale when Eick called. Moore had watched Battlestar when it first aired and seen great promise in it, but had also disliked the campy and sillier elements of the show (such as the cute kids, robots and the "casino planet" in the pilot). He rewatched the pilot movie and realised there was a lot of strength in the basic premise and agreed that it could be reworked in a post-9/11 environment for greater emotional impact. He agreed to write a new pilot for Universal's subsidiary, the Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy). This ballooned into a (relatively) high-budget three-hour mini-series which could also work as a backdoor pilot for a full series.

Moore penned the pilot and oversaw some elements of production, including exercising his desire for a slightly darker aesthetic than Star Trek and to have a completely new (for SF) way of shooting the action with handheld cameras, even the space scenes. Director Michael Rymer immediately locked into what Moore was thinking of and his directorial style immediately became a hallmark of the show. Moore also wanted a more understated and less symphonic way of doing music for a space series and lucked out when Richard Gibbs also picked up that idea and ran with it. A young composer named Bear McCreary also assisted Gibbs on the pilot.

Edward James Olmos as Commander William Adama and Mary McDonnell as President Laura Roslin.

Casting proved interesting but controversial. Moore wanted distinct actors with gravitas and experience, but was aware that it was very unusual for producers to get their first choices. In this case, he wanted Edward James Olmos for Adama and Mary McDonnell for Roslin and was flabbergasted when both said yes, sold on the quality of the scripts. The casting department also scored a steady series of successes when they found a lot of fresh young talent for the series, from Jamie Bamber for Apollo to James Callis for Baltar and, most iconically, Katee Sackhoff as Starbuck and former model Tricia Helfer as Caprica Six. Established fans of the show were furious to learn that both Starbuck and Boomer (to be played by Grace Park) had been changed from male characters to a female one for the show and some of the original castmembers agreed with them: Dirk Benedict (who played Starbuck in the original show) scathingly referred to the new character as "Stardoe".

For visual effects, the team at Zoic were called in to produce the huge amount of CGI needed for the mini-series. Zoic had just come off the back of Joss Whedon's newly-cancelled Firefly so the commission was good news for them. The CG team included many veterans of both Babylon 5 and Deep Space Nine, who relished on rendering effects on a new, more powerful hardware and having the ability to design lots of new ships, although honouring the designs laid down in the original show.

The Battlestar Galactica mini-series was critically acclaimed on its release. The reviews were excellent across the board, with a lot praise for the actors, direction and acting, and the ratings were very high, setting new records for SyFy. It was an easy choice to commission a full first season, especially once Ron Moore confirmed he would drop Carnivale (which was being torn apart by corporate politics and would be cancelled after its second season) to move over as full-time showrunner. When the first season proper debuted a year later, with 33 (the episode that won the show a Hugo Award), it was even better.

Of course, the show could not quite sustain that early acclaim and eventually went off the rails, but that's another story. Battlestar Galactica did for space-set science fiction what Game of Thrones later did for epic fantasy, making it grittier, more real and more resonant with a wider audience previously dismissive of the art form. It's a shame we haven't seen more shows come along in its wake, but finally, with shows like The Expanse, it seems that promise has come good. Battlestar Galactica remains, despite its declining quality later on, one of the strongest SF TV shows ever made, and essential viewing for any fan of the genre.

Get COMPANY OF HEROES 2 free until tomorrow

Relic are giving away their 2013 real-time strategy game Company of Heroes 2 free for the rest of the weekend.

Set in World War II, Company of Heroes 2 focuses on the confrontation between Germany and the Soviet Union on the Eastern Front. Although not quite as accomplished as the original Company of Heroes (2006), Company of Heroes 2 features superior graphics and new gameplay features such as simulating freezing cold weather and the impact of that on troops and vehicles.

Relic have also bundled Company of Heroes 2's numerous expansions and DLC into a single bundle for less than £5, including the very large, game-sized Ardennes Assault expanson which adds a persistent campaign map mode.

You can get Company of Heroes 2 here and the DLC here.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Art & Arcana: A Visual History of Dungeons and Dragons by Michael Witwer

In 1974 Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson created a different type of tabletop game. Dungeons and Dragons became the world's first and most popular roleplaying game. For thirty-four years it ruled supreme and unchallenged, until a problematic fourth edition and the rise of the rival Pathfinder game knocked it off its perch. However, with its fifth edition the game has regained its crown. A key ingredient to the game's success has been the phenomenal roster of artists who have worked on the game for almost forty-five years.

Art & Arcana is a visual history of the Dungeons and Dragons game, taking in every edition and campaign setting the game has produced, as well as many of its novels, calendars and video games. Artwork from the very first prototypes right through the latest 5th Edition expansions and modules is featured, along with lengthy histories and interviews with key personnel.

Arts & Arcana is massive: more than 440 pages in length, it features over 700 separate pieces of artwork along with a significant amount of text detailing the history of the game in some depth. It starts with Gygax and Arneson playing miniatures wargames in Wisconsin in the late 1960s and rapidly hitting on the idea of moving from large armies of lots of figures to small parties of just a few figures exploring dungeons, and later wilderness and towns. Dungeons and Dragons was born, with Gygax and Arneson founding the company TSR to sell it all over the world.

This is where the fun began.

From there the game exploded, selling millions of copies and inspiring spin-off novels, board games and a TV show. Several times the management of the game became fraught and complicated, with Gygax forced out in a corporate takeover and TSR later collapsing before being rescued by Wizards of the Coast. The game's struggles in the face of competition from video games and card games such as Magic: The Gathering are also documented, not to mention the attacks on the game in the press by fundamentalist Christians in the 1980s. The book brushes over arguably the game's nadir, the problematic 4th Edition (2008-13) and the rise of rival products to challenge the game's supremacy, but it does end strongly with the game's return to recent prominence in a new era of podcasts, YouTube videos and Twitch streams.

The one constant throughout the book is artwork. The initial artwork for the game was simplistic, sourced for very little money from whatever artists were on hand. As the game boomed in sales, so the quality of the artwork increased dramatically, with iconic artists like Larry Elmore, Clyde Caldwell and Keith Parkinson joining the company. Later on younger artists arrived with radically different styles, ready to reassess the game for its later editions. As well as artwork for the core game, they also produced art for tie-in novels and video games.

The githyanki, created by future-bestselling SF author Charles Stross, using a name he borrowed from future fantasy megastar George R.R. Martin.

The result is a splendid coffee table book and the perfect gift for a fan of Dungeons and Dragons specifically or fantasy artwork in general. In fact, it's a tribute to the artistic strength of Dungeons and Dragons that so many brilliant pieces of artwork aren't even in the book, as there wasn't enough room.

In fact, that's probably the book's biggest weakness (along with the somewhat dry and mostly controversy-ducking text): the sheer amount of material produced for D&D over the past forty-five years means that some elements get fairly short shrift in this book. Ravenloft feels a bit hard-done by in particular. There's also, somewhat bemusingly given their prevalence in and for the game, very little material on maps, although perhaps there's enough material there for a completely separate book later on.

If you can accept the fact that the book isn't exhaustively complete (and isn't meant to be, and would be far too unwieldy even if it was), there's still a huge amount to enjoy here, and the book forms probably the best and most concise history of the D&D game to date for the beginner. Art & Arcana (****½) is available now in the UK and USA.

A History of the Wheel of Time Part 10: The Conquest of Seanchan and the War of the Hundred Years

The Conquest of Seanchan
Early in FY 993, fishermen who worked the Aryth Ocean off the eastern coast of Northern Seanchan were stunned to see a group of huge white-sailed ships appear out of the rising sun. These ships bore two banners. One was of three golden hawks in flight, formerly the Royal Flag of Shandalle and now the Imperial Flag of the Hawkwing Empire. The second was of a golden hawk clutching three lightning bolts in its talons, the personal sigil of Luthair Paendrag Mondair, eldest son and heir apparent to Artur Hawkwing, the High King of the Westlands.

Hundreds of ships arrived. Warships, cargo carriers and troop transports, more than two thousand vessels bearing over three hundred thousand settlers and soldiers to a new world. This vast fleet made landfall off the coast hundreds of men waded ashore to secure the boats and begin the weeks-long task of establishing a foothold on the continent.

Luthair sent out scouts to examine this new land in more detail. Mountains rose to the south and west, but this coastal area was relatively flat and sparsely populated. Only when the scouts ranged further afield did they run into trouble.

This continent was known as Seanchan to its inhabitants. Two and a half thousand years earlier, at the end of the Breaking, Seanchan had been overrun by Shadowspawn. The Aes Sedai who found themselves trapped here after the Breaking did battle with them, founding kingdoms and training thousands of troops to fight them. Even then they might have been defeated had not the Aes Sedai discovered several Portal Stones in this land. Travelling to the other dimensions beyond, weavings of the Wheel that had been abandoned, they found numerous exotic and savage beasts which they could tame and train. These creatures proved the equal of Shadowspawn in battle and with their aid the Aes Sedai annihilated them almost entirely, rendering Trollocs and Myrddraal extinct on the continent. The continued to serve in Seanchan armies, where Luthair’s forces mistook these creatures for Shadowspawn and thus named them "the Armies of Night."

Luthair learned that the Aes Sedai could not agree amongst themselves on how to organise and began fighting wars and skirmishes with one another. At the time Luthair arrived almost every single nation on the continent was engulfed in warfare, a shifting quilt of borders, names and dynasties. Virtually all of these nations were ruled by the self-proclaimed "Aes Sedai."

This division initially failed to work in Luthair’s favour, since even the small kingdoms to the west of his landing point had dozens of channellers of the One Power amongst their ranks whilst Luthair, thanks to his father's persecution of Aes Sedai and siege of Tar Valon, had none. The early victories that gave Luthair control of a small region along the north-eastern coast and won him the city of Imfaral and its great fortress, the Towers of Midnight, came only at the cost of thousands of his irreplaceable troops.

Luthair may have despaired and considered withdrawing from the continent, but he was then approached by a renegade Aes Sedai named Deain. Deain claimed to have invented a device which could control Aes Sedai, a device she called an a’dam. When attached to the neck of a female channeller it rendered her unable to channel (and if she tried to remove the device she suffered intolerable pain). Even better, when placed around the wrist of a woman who could learn to channel (but did not have inborn ability), it enabled her to control the Leashed One, or damane. The Leash-Holder or sul’dam, of course, did not need to be aware that she could learn to channel.

Luthair was pleased with the offer and, after some negotiation, gained the secrets of a’dam manufacture from her. Working with Deain and using the a’dam, Luthair seized all the lands north of the immense waterway that cleaved the northern part of the continent in two, extending north to the Mountains of Dhoom (a westward extension of the same mountain range in the Westlands) and the Aldael Mountains. Thanking Deain for her assistance, Luthair then placed an a’dam on her and locked her in a cell in the Towers of Midnight.

Luthair's armies invaded the southern landmass, seizing the huge northern peninsula and its greatest city, Seandar. From Seander Luthair could strike at any one of a dozen small countries to the south, but he lacked the necessary manpower, so had to recruit from the locals and their armies of exotic beasts. Backed up by damane, Luthair's army became an unstoppable force. The other nations of Seanchan failed to unite against him, their divisions being too strong.

Luthair continued the War of Conquest for the rest of his life. He died decades later in the Imperial Palace of Seandar (which would later be renamed the Court of Nine Moons). Before his death he claimed the title of Emperor of Seanchan and committed his heir and their heirs to the Corenne, "The Return", a return to the home continent to see if the Hawkwing Empire still existed. If it did, trade relations were to be opened. If not, then the Seanchan would rebuild it in the name of the High King, Artur Paendrag Tanreall and his son, Emperor Luthair Paendrag Mondair. Luthair was succeeded by his son, who in turn was succeeded by his daughter.

The War of Conquest lasted a long time. It took three hundred years before the Seanchan Empire was able to lay claim with confidence to the entire continent, and an additional two hundred years to crush the last major resistance to its rule. However, no empire rests ever easy and occasional rebellions continued to take place; the latest, on the island of Marendalar, took place less than a generation ago and saw 30,000 people killed and 1.5 million enslaved.

Several decades ago, the Seanchan Empress Radhanan (only known as "The Empress" due to custom) concluded that the Empire was stable enough to support the long-prophesied Corenne. The construction of immense fleets was ordered all along the eastern coast of Seanchan, thousands of ships taking shape in dozens of ports. The Corenne fleet itself would be the equal of the fleet Luthair led across the Aryth Ocean almost eleven centuries earlier, and would be heralded by the Hailene or "Forerunners", a reconnaissance-in-force of the Westlands consisting of 500 ships, tens of thousands of soldiers and dozens or hundreds of damane. The command of the Hailene was given to the noble Lord Turak of House Aladon, one of the most respected military commanders on the continent. The command of the Corenne would be given to the Empress’ chosen heir, the then-unborn Tuon Athaem Kore Paendrag.

Decades in the building and planning, the Hailene fleet was dispatched eastwards in 997 NE. Its destination: Falme, on Toman Head.

The War of the Hundred Years & Founding of the Modern Nations
Meanwhile, whilst Seanchan was falling to Luthair’s armies, his own homeland was in utter turmoil.

Hawkwing’s death had left a void. All his children were dead or presumed lost beyond the seas. His one surviving grandson, Tyrn, was missing, presumed dead. Hawkwing had no brothers or sisters and hence no nephews or nieces. All his uncles and aunts were long dead and most, if not all, of his cousins perished of old age or in his campaigns.

Some thought that Endara Casalain, as ruler of the largest province of the Empire, Andor, should become High Queen, but she refused. It seems that Endara was a capable administrator but a rather timid woman of limited ambition. She certainly didn’t want the throne. Attention shifted to Marithelle Camaelaine, one of Hawkwing's most senior administrators. Marithelle’s claim was strengthened by the endorsement of Jalwin Moerad, the High King’s closest advisor upon his death. However, she was strongly opposed by Norodim Nosokawa and Elfraed Guitama. Their arguments in the Imperial Court became infamous and in the end they could no longer remain in the same room. They left within hours of one another to return to their home provinces and begin raising armies.

Endara's fiery-tempered and ambitious daughter Ishara responded to the crisis with more alacrity then her mother. Ishara was a passionate, ambitious woman who believed absolutely in the integrity of the Empire. She was also a realist and could see that without a clear line of succession the Empire was doomed. To save the Province of Andor she needed an army and, fortunately, one was relatively close at hand.

Upon the death of Hawkwing Deane Aryman, Amyrlin Seat of the Aes Sedai, parleyed with General Souran Maravaile, commanding the Siege of Tar Valon in Hawkwing's name. Aryman convinced Maravaile that with Hawkwing dead the siege no longer served any useful purpose. Maravaile agreed, but he had his orders and a personal promise made to Hawkwing upon his death-bed. Thus, the siege continued.

Ishara Casalain arrived to talk with Souran Maravaile. Some parts of the besieging army had already broken away to follow the standards of Marithelle Camaelaine, Norodim Nosokawa or Elfraed Guitama, whilst others had simply returned home. Souran agreed with Ishara’s assessment that the army would simply disintegrate if he sat there and did nothing. With great sorrow at breaking his oath to Hawkwing, he gathered together all the elements of the army that he could and headed for Caemlyn. With the general and the greater part of their forces gone, the rest scattered to the winds. After nineteen years the Siege of Tar Valon was at last over. Within days Aes Sedai and their Warders would be riding to the courts of each of the provinces to retake their positions as advisors and to try to avert the catastrophe they could already see looming.

Some say that had Maravaile lifted the siege after Hawkwing’s death, Aes Sedai mediation may have prevented what was to follow. This is possible, though unlikely. Upon her return home Ishara, regretfully, announced that Andor was now a sovereign nation with its capital at Caemlyn. She raised her own personal flag, the White Lion, as the Royal Banner of the Kingdom of Andor and declared the Empire of the Hawkwing to be at an end.

Within weeks other provinces-turned-nations had followed suit, whilst Marithelle Camaelaine declared herself the High Queen and seized control of the Imperial Capital and much of the surrounding territory. The War of the Hundred Years had begun.

The first battles erupted along Andor’s borders as armies loyal to the memory of Hawkwing attempted to unseat Ishara as a usurper. Under Maravaile’s inspiring leadership the newly-formed Royal Army resisted these attacks. Ishara, however, commanded him not to try and hold all of Andor, just Caemlyn and the surrounding territory. As anarchy erupted in all parts of the land, she knew it would be wiser to hold what she already had and spread out from there rather than try to seize everything at once. It is known that before long Souran and Ishara married, though all historical records agree it was a love-match as well as a politically expedient wedding.

The Borderland Provinces broke away within months of the start of the war. From west to east these provinces were Saldaea, Kandor, Arafel, Shienar and Malkier. After some border clashes, these five nations were distracted by a series of Trolloc raids out of the Blight. Realising that the Shadow might take advantage of the chaos of the civil war to the south, these five nations formed the Compact of the Borderlands and agreed to defend the Westlands from Trolloc incursions for all eternity, if necessary. The architects of the Compact of the Borderlands were Lady Mahira Svetanya, Lord Rylen t’Boriden Rashad, Lord Jarel Soukovini, Lady Merean Tihomar and Lord Shevan Jamelle, respectively the first rulers of Arafel, Saldaea, Kandor, Shienar and Malkier.

Marithelle Camaelaine was assassinated several years into the war. Jalwin Moerad shifted his allegiance to Norodim Nosokawa. Norodim perished several years later and the lands he had seized fragmented and fell apart. After several years of warfare the nation that Norodim had tried to forge had fractured into several constituent parts, all at war with one another.

After this point it becomes meaningless, if not impossible, to chart the course of the War of the Hundred Years. Nations would form and disappear again in a matter of months. Battles would be fought with tens of thousands of casualties, yet these would barely be footnotes. Whilst well into the millions of soldiers died during the one hundred and twenty-three years of warfare, far more civilians perished as they were caught in the crossfire. Even spread across a century and a quarter, the population of the Westlands was significantly reduced during the conflict.

During the war the nations of the modern era, plus ten additional ones, came into being. Andor was initially held as only being the area around Caemlyn, but by FY 999 it had expanded to the River Erinin in the east and the River Cary in the West. It held at these borders for some time, until four rulers brought armies against Andor in FY 1063 and were defeated by Queen Maragaine’s forces at the Battle of the Four Kings. Afterwards a town, also called Four Kings, grew up on the site of battle and Andor’s border began moving further west at higher and higher speeds. By FY 1100 or thereabouts Andor had reached its modern-day borders.

During the early part of the war all of Souran and Ishara’s sons died and, after Souran’s death in FY 1017 and Ishara’s in 1020, it was left to their eldest daughter, Alesinde, to become Queen. By the end of the war it had become traditional for only Queens to sit on the Lion Throne of Andor. Sons became First Princes of the Sword, army commanders and bodyguards to their sisters, but none were permitted to take the throne. Part of Andor’s success at survival came from having the approval of the Aes Sedai. As well as relieving the siege, Ishara promised to send her daughters to Tar Valon to be trained in the arts of politics by the Aes Sedai, and for her sons to be trained in the military arts by the Warders. Thus was forged the long-standing alliance between Andor and Tar Valon, an alliance that was to endure a thousand years.

After Norodim Nosokawa’s death Jalwin Moerad attached himself to Elfraed Guitama and advised him until FY 1013, when Moerad suddenly vanished without a trace forty years to the day after first appearing in the Imperial Court. Without Moerad’s advice, Elfraed’s war effort faltered and he was slain.

Several of the modern nations came into existence relatively early in the conflict. Lord Istaban Novares and Lady Yseidre Tirado of the Province of Moreina declared the existence of the sovereign nation of Tear within months of Hawkwing’s death. Initially holding just the Stone of Tear, they seized the rest of the city within a few months and most of the rest of the nation within a decade. The political cooperation between the Tairen Great Houses which made this possible saw them band together as the Council of High Lords, but as the threat of war receded from their borders the political in-fighting which would characterise Tear for a millennia got underway. Similarly within a few months of Hawkwing’s death a group of nobles in Cairhien Province seized control of the city of Cairhien and declared the re-founding of the nation of Tova. However, another group of nobles opposed to the plan had all the surviving descendants of the Tovan Counsellors murdered at a dinner held to inaugurate the new nation and declared the founding of the Kingdom of Cairhien under King Matraine Colmcille.

Some other nations took longer to form: Tarabon, for example, was not founded until FY 1006 by Queen Tazenia Nerenhald and Panarch Haren Maseed (ranks inherited from the former kingdom of Balasun). In FY 1109, Lord Kirin Almeyda was declared King of Ghealdan, with the support of Lady Valera Prosnarin, Lord Cynric Talvaen and Lady Iona Ashmar. King Maddin founded the nation of Altara at an unknown point during the war.

One of the most infamous legacies of the war is the military organisation known as the Children of the Light. This group was initially founded in FY 1021 by Lothair Mantelar as a semi-religious group dedicated to sniffing out Darkfriends and proclaiming subservience to the Light, but as the war spread the Children found themselves fighting just to survive. By FY 1111 or thereabouts the Children had become a fully military organisation. Mantelar was convinced that Aes Sedai were Darkfriends, since they had caused the Breaking of the World and dabbled with the One Power, which was the province of the Creator alone. These beliefs were passed onto the rest of the Children, who began hunting down Aes Sedai and Warders as vigorously as any genuine claims of Darkfriend activity. The Aes Sedai, in response, mocked the Children’s fanatical ways and their white uniforms, insultingly calling them "Whitecloaks." However, after the Children actually managed to kill an Amyrlin Seat (whose identity has never been confirmed) the Aes Sedai never made the mistake of underestimating them again.

The war waxed and waned, but after the first fifteen to twenty years or so most rulers admitted that there was no hope of seizing all of what had been the Empire. In anger, they tore down all the monuments they could find to Hawkwing, hoping people would forget that there had been a time of peace and prosperity under the rule of one man. Of course, the people did not. In the end a jealous ruler even destroyed the great monument at Talidar, even though Hawkwing’s name was not even mentioned on it (though his symbol was inscribed at the summit).

There were three major attempts later in the war to restore the Empire. The one that came closest to success was from the Aes Sedai. In FY 1084 Deane Aryman was on the verge of convincing the twelve most powerful rulers in the land of accepting Aes Sedai leadership as a means of restoring unity when she suddenly fell from her horse and broke her neck. The subsequent Amyrlin, Selame Necoin (Green Ajah), failed to capitalise on this near-success and the opportunity for peace was lost.

The warrior-queen Esmara Getare conquered all of what is now Illian and the Plains of Maredo before attempting to invade Andor circa FY 1090. She failed and spent the last twelve years of her life as the "guest" of Queen Telaisien. The nation she forged broke apart and Lord Nicoli Merseneos assumed control of Illian, becoming its first king.

Around FY 1110 Narasim Bhuran, who had conquered much of what would later be Altara and Murandy, attempted to take Illian and was crushed, his head ending up on a pike. This was the last major attempt by any one ruler to conquer his neighbours. After this point most rulers concentrated on holding onto the land they already had seized and quelling internal dissent. The War of the Hundred Years finally petered out in FY 1117.

As with the Trolloc Wars, the War of the Hundred Years had depopulated most of the subcontinent and seen many cities and records burned. So great was the destruction that it wasn’t entirely clear what year it actually was. The confusion became so great that the Gazaran Calendar was abandoned circa FY 1135 and replaced by the Farede Calendar, which counted the years as being part of the New Era (NE).

The end of the War of the Hundred Years brought great relief and celebrations to the continent, but also dismay. The unity and focus of the years of Hawkwing had ended, replaced by bitter divisiveness. The Aes Sedai were less than they had been, unable to command the respect and authority they once had and now challenged by the proselytising of the Children of the Light. The death toll had been so great that even the population level of the continent had dropped precipitously, and would continue to fall over the next thousand years.

Please note that Parts 11-12 of this series are also available to read now on my Patreon page and my other blog, Atlas of Ice and Fire, is currently running a Wheel of Time Atlas series.

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