Sunday, 11 November 2018

A History of the Wheel of Time Part 6: After the Breaking

A map of the Ten Nations which endured between the Breaking of the World and the Trolloc Wars. Please click for a larger version.

After the Breaking
As the Breaking of the World entered its period of greatest intensity, many people living in the port cities fled on boats, planning to ride out the cataclysm entirely. Given the excellent construction and huge sizes of boats in the Age of Legends, and their relative lack of use in the War of the Shadow, they achieved this goal. Huge flotillas of ships gathered in the seas off the coasts, watching as the lands crumbled or new islands reared up from below. As the Breaking lessened and the storm clouds cleared, these people made landfall on the new islands that had appeared further south, on the equator. But, though they built cities here, their hearts had been lost to the sea, and it was to the sea that they returned. The great ships of the Age of Legends gradually fell apart, the secrets of their construction lost, and all eventually sank to the bottom of the ocean, but these island-dwellers built others made of wood, though smaller.

Thus began the civilisation of the Atha’an Miere, "The People of the Sea", more commonly called the Sea Folk. Theirs is the oldest civilisation in the whole world, forged during the Breaking itself. From their distant islands they spread to the ones nearer the continents, to the islands today called Qaim, Cindaking, Tremalking and the Aile Somera, Aile Jafar and Aile Dashar (though it seems that the Aile Dashar, lying to the west of the Blighted Lands, were later abandoned). The Sea Folk returned to the sea, trading with the mainland cities and exploring distant oceans, but some chose to remain on the islands, becoming known as the Amayar. A distinct race (usually shorter and fairer than the Sea Folk), the Amayar followed a semi-pacifistic code of honour known as the Water Way and came to believe that life was an illusion, a gateway to a higher plane. Despite their odd beliefs (to the Sea Folk), the Amayar also proved to be gifted craftspeople and made superb works of art out of porcelain, which they gave to the Sea Folk to trade.

On the mainland, the city of Tear grew in size and from it settlers emerged to found new towns and cities. Near the new west coast of the continent another great city was founded, Mainelle (now called Tanchico), which grew around three great peninsulas extending into the ocean.

As new cities and towns arose, the Da’shain Aiel made their way slowly eastwards. Within the first few decades After the Breaking (AB) they had reached a towering mountain range which the locals called the Spine of the World, or the Dragonwall. The locals gave the Aiel food, water and shelter, the first people in a long time not to curse them or spit on their name. The Aiel remembered their kindness, and vowed one day to repay it. The locals told them they planned to move further west, to the banks of a great river, and there found a city. This they did a few years later, forging the city of Al’cair’rahienallen. The Aiel, meanwhile, became divided as they crossed the mountains. One group, tired of the wandering, broke off and headed back into the new lands to the west. They remembered the One Song they had sung in the Age of Legends, and vowed to find it again. The other Da’shain disavowed them for breaking their oath to serve the Aes Sedai, and afterwards called them "The Lost". The exiles wandered back across the land, remaining true to the Way of the Leaf no matter what provocation was thrown at them. After a while they gained a new name, the Tuatha’an or "Travelling People". They travelled in multicoloured wagons and made a living fixing pots and pans for the villagers they visited. For this they gained the nickname "Tinkers".

As they travelled the Aiel began to become divided. Some forsook the Way of the Leaf and took up the spear to defend their people. To the east of the Dragonwall lay a vast, scorched land of burning heat and no rain. To survive in such a hard land, the Aiel had to become hard themselves. The Way of the Leaf had no purpose here. Soon those willing to wield the spear outnumbered those who remained faithful to the Way of the Leaf. These last remaining faithful Aiel became known as the Jenn Aiel, the True Aiel. The Aes Sedai travelling with them, the last Aes Sedai, it seems, alive from before the Breaking, despaired, but at last they reached what they judged to be a worthy location: a valley under a great mountain, which they called Chaendaer. In this valley they began building a huge city, Rhuidean, and within its walls they stored the ter’angreal they had brought with them from Paaran Disen, centuries ago. They also planted one of their chora cuttings, and the first chora tree since before the Breaking grew. They called it Avendesora, "The Tree of Life". In the Age of Legends chora trees lined every major avenue and street in every city in the world. Now only one was left, though many more seeds endured.

But the journey had been too tiring. One by one the Aes Sedai dwindled and died. Soon only two were left. Whilst the Jenn laboured on their city, the other Aiel had spread out, forming septs and then clans. These clans fought one another even as they fought outlanders, people who came across the Dragonwall to explore, or to trade. Then the last Aes Sedai summoned the Aiel leaders to them. They told them that within Rhuidean they had prepared special ter’angreal which contained the complete history of the Aiel race, from before the drilling of the Bore to the present day. Aiel warriors wishing to become clan chiefs, or Aiel women wishing to wield to become Wise Ones (both Aiel channellers and women of wisdom), would go into Rhuidean and enter that ter’angreal. Only when they had faced the truth and survived it could they take up their assigned roles. Before they died, the Aes Sedai left a prophecy behind them. One day a man would come from Rhuidean with the dawn at his back. He would be the Car’a’carn, the Chief of Chiefs. He would take the Aiel back across the Dragonwall, where he would forge them anew into one people, the strongest nation in the world. But he would then destroy them, shattering them on the bedrock of history forever. Yet, only under his rule would a remnant of a remnant of the Aiel survive to see the dawn of a new Age. The Aiel would know the Car’a’carn when he came marked with two dragon-serpents on his arms.

The Aes Sedai perished and, within a few generations, so did the Jenn. Rhuidean was never completed and never occupied, becoming a testament to the history of the Jenn and the Da'shain Aiel. The Aiel splintered into twelve clans which battled amongst themselves, but always they sent clan chiefs and Wise Ones to Rhuidean, so the true history of the Aiel race would remain with them, and they would never forget the oaths they had broken (though only the Wise Ones and clan chiefs knew this history; they did not share it with their fellows).

Meanwhile, in the lands to the west of the Dragonwall things were settling down. Separated by the Breaking, those women able to channel the One Power came together again in a great conference to decide on their fate. Around sixteen major factions of these "Aes Sedai" had formed and countless dozens of smaller groups as well. This conference took place in 47 AB (the earliest known definitive date we have access to). By the end of the conference these factions had melded together to become the ancestors of the modern Aes Sedai. The founding factions maintained their individuality by forming ajah, groups dedicated to one particular ideal or purpose. In the Age of Legends ajah were temporary voting blocs, but these ajah quickly became rigid and unflinching in their outlook on life. The first vote they took was the decision to build a new base of operations. By now they knew that Dragonmount marked the last resting place of the Dragon and, to remind themselves that one day he would be Reborn, they decided to build their new city in sight of the mountain. They quickly found an ideal spot, a two-mile wide, eight-mile-long island in the midst of a great river, the Erinin. They sent representatives to distant parts of the subcontinent, seeking stonemasons and builders of great skill to forge their city for them.

During the Breaking most, if not all, of the Ogier fled their stedding as the chaos and destruction grew. The longer they stayed away from the stedding, the more they felt a desire to return. Eventually this desire, the Longing, as they called it, began to kill them if not satisfied. In the end, they did rediscover the stedding before too many died, but now the Longing came upon them again if they left for too long, killing them if they did not return. After the Breaking the Ogier discovered they could carve stone almost as well as they could sing seeds or transform wood with their voices alone. Thus, when the Aes Sedai looked for builders for their city, they looked for the Ogier.

Half a century passed between the unification of the Aes Sedai and the beginning of the construction of their new base. During this period they tracked down other, smaller groups claiming to be Aes Sedai and joined forces with them, forcibly at times. On a few unfortunate occasions the false Aes Sedai resisted, and some were killed or stilled. By 98 AB the Aes Sedai were whole. Also by this time the sixteen original ajah had coalesced into the seven Ajah of the present day, the Blue, Green, Yellow, Brown, Grey, White and the Red. Respectively these Ajah were concerned with politics and causes, battling Shadowspawn, recovering Healing and other lost Talents, seeking out knowledge and wisdom, mediating disputes, dealing with problems using pure logic and actively tracking down men who could channel and gentling them.

By around 90 AB the Aes Sedai organisation was taking shape. Elisane Tishar had been selected as the Aes Sedai supreme leader, the Amyrlin Seat. She had a council of seven advising her, one from each Ajah, and this council was called the Hall of the Tower, since it had already been decided that the actual centre of Aes Sedai power would be a huge tower at the heart of the city, which they had decided to call Tar Valon. As more and more women joined the Aes Sedai, so the Hall of the Tower expanded, eventually reaching its present size of twenty-one, with three Sitters from each of the Ajahs.

Construction of Tar Valon began in 98 AB, with the first buildings erected meant to house the Aes Sedai and the girls they were recruiting for training. Whilst the Ogier built most of the city, they could not do everything by themselves and normal human workers were brought in to build two immense harbours at the opposite ends of the island, Northharbour and Southharbour. Using the One Power, the Aes Sedai aided the Ogier in constructing the White Tower, their planned headquarters. The White Tower is the largest building on our continent, if not the world (although the Seanchan boast of larger buildings in Seandar), stretching some 600 feet into the sky and being more than 300 feet wide at the base, tapering to the 200-foot-wide top. Two additional wings were constructed to serve as additional living quarters, whilst a separate library was built at the rear, soon becoming the greatest repository of knowledge and wisdom in the known world. The Ajahs were based in the top half of the Tower, whilst the Amyrlin Seat’s offices lay about the midsection. The lower floors served as teaching rooms, kitchens and meeting places.

The White Tower was completed by around 195 AB and Tar Valon itself was finished in 202 AB. Though not the first city to be raised after the Breaking - Tear and maybe Mainelle (Tanchico) predate it - it was certainly the most glorious. No city would arise to challenge Tar Valon’s beauty until Londaren Cor was built (reportedly by the same Ogier stonemasons) some decades later and even that is heavily disputed (most impartial judges still cite Tar Valon as the more impressive). But no one city has ever gained the sheer prestige and power of being the home of the Aes Sedai.

A map of the White Tower in Tar Valon. Please click for a larger version.

The Founding of the Ten Nations
Whilst towns and villages had emerged even before the Breaking had fully subsided, and cities within a few decades after that, nations and countries did not begin appearing until a full century later. The Breaking depopulated the entire world, of course, and it would have been some time before population growth and expansion meant that it was necessary to create new kingdoms. But, by 209 AB at least, ten countries had emerged on the new continent.

This new land, born out of the Breaking, was - and still is - bordered by the Aryth Ocean to the west, the Sea of Storms to the south and the Spine of the World mountains to the east. More ominously, to the north lay a poisonous waste called the Great Blight. This was the successor to the Blighted Lands, the corrupted wastelands that formed around Shayol Ghul during the Age of Legends. Shayol Ghul itself had remained standing throughout the Breaking and now stood alone and threatening, several hundred miles north of the jagged peaks of the Mountains of Dhoom. Myrddraal, Darkhounds, Trollocs, Draghkar and even jumara (now called Worms and, fortunately, incapable of transforming out of the pupae stage) had survived the Breaking and dwelt in the Blight, sometimes launching raids into the lands immediately to the south. However, the Shadowspawn had suffered just as badly as humans and Ogier in the Breaking and lay quiet, only a minor threat, for many centuries.

Off the west coast lay three island chains belonging to the Sea Folk, the Aile Dashar, the Aile Somera and the Aile Jafar. At some point the Sea Folk abandoned the Aile Dashar, presumably due to its proximity to the Great Blight. Off the south-western coast lay the huge island of Tremalking, the largest isle belonging to the Sea Folk (but not their capital, as it is often mistakenly called). To the east of this island lay two others, Qaim and Cindaking. Beyond the Dragonwall lay a vast, inhospitable wasteland inhabited by a strange warrior-folk called the Aiel. Thus, it became known as the Aiel Waste. The Aiel were quite efficient in killing all outlanders who entered the Waste (apart from Tinkers, gleemen and merchants), so it was unclear what lay beyond it. Eventually the Sea Folk admitted the existence of another land, larger than the Westlands (as the people of the east refer to our subcontinent), variously called Kigali, Co’dansin, Shibouya and Shamara, among others. The most common name was and remains Shara. Shara had apparently been quite efficiently unified into one nation shortly after the end of the Breaking, but had no interest in conquering the Aiel Waste or our land. The Sea Folk undertook trade with them and, eventually, the Aiel agreed to let peddlers and small caravans cross the Waste to trade with the Sharans as well. The Sharans limited their "exposure" to our influences, insisting that the Sea Folk only call at five specially-built ports along their southern coast and the Aiel and westerners trade at six custom-built trade towns along the tops of the towering Cliffs of the Dawn.

What lay beyond the Aryth Ocean and the Sea of Storms? Only the Sea Folk in their great ships could traverse these huge seas, and many were lost. Eventually Sea Folk explorers returned home with reports of a land far to the south where primitive savages slaughtered one another with the One Power and with blades. These people were hostile, maddened and, it seems, completely uninterested in trade or even peaceful contact. Only recently have the Sea Folk revealed the existence of this continent to mainlanders. The Sea Folk dubbed this land "The Land of the Madmen" and refused to return there. A few ships which returned from the west claimed that only the "Isles of the Dead" lay there, lands of darkness and war where hideous monsters roamed and fought one another and the few humans who lived there.

So, within our land it came to pass that ten great nations arose. These nations were: Jaramide and Aramaelle in the north, along the Great Blight; Safer and Aelgar, on the Aryth Ocean; Eharonand Essenia in the south, on the Sea of Storms; Almoren in the east, along the Spine of the World; Manetheren and Aridhol, to the east of the Mountains of Mist; and Coremanda in the centre of the subcontinent.

All of these nations grew from city-states. Sometimes the cities allied for mutual benefit, other times they conquered one another and grew stronger, eventually becoming countries. Eventually their borders met those of the other nations. A few small wars broke out (the most brutal between Safer and Manetheren), but the rapidly-growing Aes Sedai mediated such disputes and settled their conflicts.

In 209 AB all of the rulers of these nations travelled to Tar Valon for a conference hosted by the Aes Sedai. With the world finally free of the Breaking, the Aes Sedai suggested that humankind should attempt to recover the lost glories of the Age of Legends. This they could do only by working together and living in peace (under the guidance, if not leadership, of the Aes Sedai, naturally). Thus was signed the Covenant of the Ten Nations, also called the Compact and the Second Covenant. This bound the Ten Nations together in peaceful alliance and mutual trade.

The Covenant of the Ten Nations lasted approximately 1,150 years and enriched all ten of the nations. Borders were open and taxes were light. Social graces and the arts flourished without the near-constant threat of the Breaking of the World and the War of the Shadow before it. Under these peaceful circumstances the Aes Sedai made significant strides in recovering many lost Talents and forms of the Power from before the Breaking. It was during this period that the Aes Sedai started bonding Warders, that is using the One Power to bond themselves to warriors who would serve as bodyguards. The rulers of the Ten Nations had initially been unsure how they could trust the Aes Sedai; in response the Aes Sedai swore the Three Oaths, using a ter’angreal known as the Oath Rod. The Three Oaths were bound into their souls and could not be broken any more than they could stop breathing. The Three Oaths were (and still are): to speak no word that is not true, to make no weapon with which one man may kill another, and not to use the One Power to do violence except against Shadowspawn, in the defence of one’s life, the life of a Warder or that of another Aes Sedai.

Relations between the nations and Tar Valon were excellent. All rulers had several Aes Sedai advisors and on several occasions Aes Sedai actually ruled nations. Queen Mabriam en Shareed of Aramaelle, who signed the Covenant for her country and was apparently instrumental in convincing the other rulers to sign, was Aes Sedai of the Green Ajah. Several other Aes Sedai also ruled countries between the signing and the end of the Covenant. Other kings married their Aes Sedai advisors. Yet Tar Valon was careful not to be seen treating these women with any favouritism, or manipulating them in any way.

Due to the Tower’s friendly relations with all the nations, they saw that all were made aware of the Prophecies of the Dragon. These prophecies, collected in a book known as The Karaethon Cycle, foretold the return of the Dark One and the Rebirth of the Dragon to fight against it. These prophecies were taken mainly from Aes Sedai Foretellings, but some also came from Dreamings, from Aes Sedai who could walk in Tel’aran’rhiod, the World of Dreams, and see hints of the future. All rulers were made aware - sometimes forcibly - of these prophecies. Many nations, fearful of panic should this news leak out, banned or proscribed the book, but all rulers had to read it and be aware of the signs of the Dragon Reborn’s coming. These signs included the fall of the Stone of Tear to him and "The People of the Dragon," his seizure of a crown made of swords, his branding with the signs of two herons and two dragons, and his mending of "the forgotten sign." Most of these prophecies were vague and could be interpreted in many ways, but one thing was clear. Without the Dragon Reborn, the world would fall into Shadow. With him, it would be destroyed again in a new Breaking, but a few at least would survive.

Despite this unease, these centuries were mostly peaceful, but exceptions occurred. The northern nations of Aramaelle and Jaramide often fought skirmishes and suffered raids from Shadowspawn erupting out of the Great Blight, whilst on occasion the eastern nations of Aramaelle, Almoren and Essenia found themselves exchanging raids and counter-raids with the Aiel clans whose lands bordered the Spine of the World. But the first major conflict did not take place until 335 AB. In this year a man named Raolin Darksbane discovered he could channel the One Power. Unable to accept the fact that he was doomed to go mad and die pointlessly, he proclaimed himself the Dragon Reborn and won many followers to his side. He led an army to Essenia, planning to seize the Stone of Tear, but despite a lengthy siege he never did. The Aes Sedai realised he was an impostor and denounced him as a false Dragon. The Ten Nations rallied against him and he was captured, taken to Tar Valon and gentled. His followers attacked the White Tower itself in an attempt to free him, but failed.

Sometime during this period the first legends of the Horn of Valere appeared. The Horn of Valere baffles both Aes Sedai and historians. It is clearly closely tied to the Wheel of Time and possibly Tel’aran’rhiod as well, but it is not, as far as can be determined, an angreal of any sort. The Horn also does not appear in any records of the Age of Legends, suggesting it was made during the Breaking of the World or not long after. The Horn, it is said, can summon the dead heroes of the Ages back to the corporeal world for a while, to fight or to talk to the living. The Prophecies of the Dragon state that the Horn of Valere will be used at the Last Battle against the Dark One, though it is unclear whether the Dragon Reborn will be the one to sound it. The Horn loomed large in the legends of the city of Dorelle Caromon (which is now Illian). Rulers of the city, in Eharon and later Safer and now Illian, would periodically call "Great Hunts" to search for the Horn. These hunts would result in many legends and adventures taking place, but the Horn was never found. The last Great Hunt took place circa 600 NE.

The nations were at peace with themselves and one another and, for a while at least, it seemed that the glory and peace of the Age of Legends might be reclaimed. Alas, it was not to be.

Please note that Parts 7-8 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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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Would you be willing to put all the parts of the wheel of time history together as one and autograph for a Christmas gift?