Saturday, 17 November 2018

A History of the Wheel of Time Part 7: The Trolloc Wars

A map of the major engagements of the Trolloc Wars. Please click for a larger version.

The Trolloc Wars
Around 1000 AB, reports came from the far north of increasing Trolloc raids through the Mountains of Dhoom. The Ogier-built city of Barsine in Jaramide was besieged and destroyed by a vast horde of Shadowspawn, the first sign that what was happening was more than normal raiding and skirmishing.

Vast Trolloc hordes erupted from the Great Blight, invading through the narrow mountain passes and the wider pass of Tarwin's Gap, between the Spine of the World and the Mountains of Dhoom. Jaramide stood fast and drove back the assaults in the west, but Aramaelle suffered a massive invasion in the east. Despite heavy fighting, the capital city of Mafal Dadaranell came under attack and fell, the Shadowspawn burning the city to the ground and leaving no trace of it behind.

The Ten Nations rallied. Distant nations raised fresh armies and sent them into the fray, but the response was initially piecemeal and unfocused. The Shadowspawn were also accompanied by Dreadlords, Darkfriends who could channel the One Power. They could only be checked by Aes Sedai, and the Aes Sedai were not numerous enough or trained in combat (outside of the Green Ajah) to meet every threat.

Early fighting was centred in Aramaelle, as the Shadow poured fresh troops through Tarwin's Gap. The capital had fallen and its other cities came under heavy attack, but the nation was vast and help was arriving from other nations. Tar Valon was also close by, allowing the Aes Sedai to deploy channellers to act against the Shadow. Despite this, the Shadow's superior numbers won out. After some years into the conflict, Aramaelle collapsed and soon the Shadows armies were surging into Almoren in the south and Coremanda and Aridhol in the south-west. Tar Valon itself was directly attacked and had to pull its forces back to the island. It is likely that the first (of an eventual four) major offensives against Tar Valon was launched at this time but was defeated. Jaramide also came under concerted attack, but managed to stand fast.

Despite the sieges of Tar Valon and the fall of Aramaelle, the nations held their ground. Every city, town or village lost was only at a high cost in Trolloc blood, far higher than those of the defenders, whom the Trollocs frequently outnumbered by as much as twenty or thirty to one. But the Trollocs bred as fast as they died, and the Trollocs rallied under the sudden appearance of a new commander, a dark and evil figure they called "Heart of the Dark", Ba’alzamon in the Old Tongue. It was later confirmed that Ba’alzamon was in reality the Forsaken Ishamael. It seems that the precautions Ishamael took against being imprisoned in Shayol Ghul along with the rest of the Forsaken were working only sporadically, on a timescale of centuries or millennia. Ishamael seems to have managed to free himself from Shayol Ghul for a period of about forty years before being pulled back and imprisoned again, but during that time his leadership proved of critical assistance to the Shadowspawn armies.

By now, the surviving nations had refined their military arts. Rather than face Trolloc armies head-on, as had been done previously, they now used skirmish techniques, luring the Trollocs into an area where cavalry and archers could attack from the flanks or the rear. Immense traps were laid, and Aes Sedai wielding the One Power inflicted great damage upon the enemy.

The Fall of Aridhol
But despite this the Trollocs moved on. By 1150 AB their armies had crossed the River Haevin and were making inroads into Aridhol. The Aridholian army was doing its best to keep them at bay, but was too badly outnumbered for even the new tactics to have much effect. It was during this time that the beleaguered King Balwen Mayel accepted the advice of a new counsellor, Mordeth. Mordeth suggested using the tactics of the Shadow against it, destroying them with hatred. As a result Aridhol became hard and unyielding, cold and uncaring for its allies. By now all of the nations had learned that using mercy against Shadowspawn was useless, but Aridhol took its ruthlessness to new extremes, slaughtering everyone who surrendered to them. Harsh capital punishment was meted out in the cities for even the smallest infractions, making the people bitter and resentful.

King Thorin of Manetheren sent his son Prince Caar to win Aridhol back to the Light, but Mordeth whispered poison in King Balwen’s ear, and Caar and his men were arrested as Darkfriends and sentenced to death. They managed to escape, but all were killed except Caar, who lost a hand in the battle. He fled upriver and eventually came to Jaramide, where he met a woman named Rhea (it is not clear if she was a commoner or a lady or princess of that nation). They fell in love and wed, and had a son, Aemon.

In the meantime, believing his son dead, King Thorin led the army of Manetheren to destroy Aridhol in vengeance, but when they arrived they found the city dark and empty. The evil that Mordeth had unleashed in Aridhol had become manifest and consumed every living soul in the city. How he accomplished this, by an angreal or otherwise, is unclear (although some believe Mordeth may have visited the enigmatic Tower of Ghenjei, which lay within Aridhol's borders, and bartered with the mysterious denizens of the tower for power). What is known is that a dark, forbidding mist swirled through the ruins for over two thousand years, consuming all who come near it. This mist was called Mashadar. The Manetheren army departed and Aridhol became known as Shadar Logoth, "Where the Shadow Waits". When he returned home Thorin learned that Caar still lived, but he was content to live with Rhea in the town of Aleth-loriel, which later fell to the Trollocs, with Caar and Rhea both dying under mysterious circumstances, forming the basis for a great tragedy still told by gleemen and court bards today. His son, Aemon, came to Manetheren and his grandfather raised him as his heir.

The Fall of Manetheren
Several decades later, Prince Caar’s son Aemon became King of Manetheren. His wife was Eldrene ay Ellan ay Carlan, an Aes Sedai of exceptional strength and skill. They led their nation as a formidable team, Aemon as a general and soldier of renown and Eldrene as a statesman and ruler of the home front. The strategic position at this time (c. 1200 AB) was increasingly desperate: Aramaelle, Aridhol and possibly Almoren had fallen; Jaramide and Coremanda were under concerted attack; and Tar Valon had already faced several sieges. Despite this, news of a large Shadowspawn army moving south with its flank exposed to Manetheren was something Aemon could not ignore. He took the bulk of Manetheren’s army and destroyed the Shadowspawn force at the Battle of the Field of Bekkar, the Field of Blood.

But this battle was a feint. Word came from the north of a vast Shadowspawn horde, one of the largest seen in the war, moving south through fallen Aridhol towards Manetheren itself. King Aemon force-marched his army back home. He was unable to gain the Arinelle before the leading elements of the Shadow forces had already crossed the river and secured a bridgehead, so he fell back on the next defensive line: the River Tarendrelle. Two large bridges crossed the Tarendrelle and Aemon resolved to form a new defensive line there.

Word had been sent for aid, to Safer, Aelgar, Eharon and beyond, and even to Tar Valon where Eldrene’s girlhood acquaintance Tetsuan now ruled as Amyrlin Seat. Several of these kingdoms were close enough to send troops by land, and possibly even small forces and Aes Sedai reinforcements by the Ways (the “tunnels” through reality linking the Ogier Waygates together). But Tetsuan harboured a grudge against Eldrene for their childhood together in the White Tower. Eldrene had been accounted more beautiful and stronger in the Power. If she had remained in the Tower, she would probably have been elected Amyrlin instead of Tetsuan. Burning with jealousy, Tetsuan refused to send aid and encouraged several of Manetheren’s allies to also withhold their strength, warning the attack was a ruse designed to weaken their own borders.

Thus, Manetheren’s army faced the Shadow alone. The Battle of the Tarendrelle was a gruelling nine-day engagement where the Manetherenese threw back wave after wave of Shadowspawn as they tried to cross the river, until it ran red with their blood. Initially Manetheren held the east bank, which allowed them to directly fight the Shadow at full strength for nine days. They then fell back to the west bank, firing the bridges behind them, and used missile fire to slaughter Shadowspawn before they could cross. However, the nine-day action on the east bank, although logical given the expected reinforcements, proved to be a mistake. Too many troops had been lost to effectively hold the west bank despite the defensive benefits of the river.

The action gave time for the city of Manetheren to be evacuated. Civilians were sent south and west in great floods, to seek safety in the southern cities of Jara’copan and Shanaine and, when it became clear they would not hold, then Aelgar, Eharon, Safer and other parts of the Ten Nations.

On the eleventh day of combat, the Shadow gained the southern bank of the Tarendrelle. With reinforcements pouring across, King Aemon gave the order to retreat. A running battle lasted for several days, until his surviving forces reached a crossroads to the east of the city of Manetheren. There he made his final stand, holding the Shadow at bay through another full day of battle before he was finally overwhelmed and slain in what became known as the Battle of Aemon’s Field.

At the moment of his death, his wife Eldrene channelled far more of the One Power than was safe or advisable. The torrent of Power obliterated the Shadowspawn army that stood victorious on Aemon’s Field, killing the Dreadlords and Myrddraal accompanying it. The torrent of Power went on and on, consuming not just the Shadowspawn but also the entire city of Manetheren. Eldrene herself was destroyed by the force she had unleashed, but leaving behind no trace of Shadowspawn south of the Tarendrelle. It would be many, many years before the Shadow dared to venture south again, to begin the invasion of Eharon.

For her part in delaying the relief of Manetheren and for sacrificing hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of lives to her own vanity, Tetsuan was deposed from the Amyrlin Seat. She was stilled and put to work as a scullery maid. She died three years later.

So fell Manetheren, most valiant of the Ten Nations. Yet its destruction was not in vain, for the entire civilian population of the city and most of the villages and towns had escaped alive. Later they crept back, finding only scorched ruins where Manetheren City had once lain. On the site of the great battle they founded a new settlement, which they named Aemon’s Field, but Manetheren had been depopulated by the battle and the war, and it never became more than a large village or small town.

The Invasion of Eharon
By the end of the second century of the war Manetheren, Aridhol, Coremanda, Aramaelle and Almoren had all fallen to the Shadow. Tar Valon had been besieged twice and Trolloc armies were rampaging from the Mountains of Mist to the Spine of the World. Yet the new tactics that had been developed slowly began to take effect. Ba'alzamon's disappearance had deprived the Shadow of superior leadership, but many Dreadlords and all the Shadowspawn remained, and it was enough to cause chaos and misery for some time yet.

With Manetheren and Coremanda fallen, the Trolloc hordes could now press south into Eharon, located on the south coast of the continent. The Shadow armies planned to reach the coast of the Sea of the Storms and thus split the continent in two, allowing their armies to isolate and destroy the remaining kingdoms. The offensive was highly successful, with at first the capital as Londaren Cor falling and then Barashta, the kingdom's major port at the mouth of the Eldar, being razed. But, remarkably, Eharon survived. Its leaders managed to evacuate to Dorelle Caromon, the great city at the mouth of the Manetherendrelle, and continue the fight.

The Shadow armies had also overextended themselves in their mad dash southwards, allowing them to be outflanked by other armies and then driven back from Eharon with heavy losses. By this time, the Ten Nation's tactics for dealing with Shadowspawn had become quite efficient and allowed them to defeat Trolloc armies many times their own size.

The Soldier Amyrlin
The Trollocs were thrown back from Eharon and Essenia, and from the fallen lands they had taken, but then a stalemate developed which lasted until around 1251 AB. In this year Rashima Kerenmosa was raised to the Amyrlin Seat from the Green Ajah. Often referred to as the "Soldier Amyrlin", Rashima was extraordinarily strong in the One Power and also possessed a gifted military mind. She personally led the Tower armies into battle, her charisma and charm winning over the surviving nations, which had begun to despair of ever fully defeating the Shadow. Under her leadership the Nations slowly pushed the Trolloc armies back, out of Almoren and Coremanda and further north. It took forty years for the Trollocs to be pushed as far north as Tar Valon, but eventually it was done. In 1290 AB the Trollocs mounted their fourth attack on Tar Valon, bringing almost their entire remaining strength against the island city. Tar Valon very nearly fell, betrayed from within as well as attacked from without, with fierce fighting even within the Tower itself.

As mentioned earlier, renegade Aes Sedai had joined the Shadow to become its new Dreadlords. But it also seems that many Darkfriend Aes Sedai remained secretly hidden within the White Tower, spying and passing their knowledge to the Shadow. This secret sect was referred to as "the Black Ajah" and few Aes Sedai believed in its existence. During the Trolloc attack they emerged to plunge the Tower into chaos, assassinating numerous Aes Sedai and opening one of the gates to the city. The Trollocs poured into the city, burning and looting their way to the White Tower itself. They were delayed by pre-planned defences that turned many of the streets into killing zones, whilst the civilians were able to shelter in fortified basements. Taking the lead, Rashima Kerenmosa slew some of the Black Ajah in combat and rallied the Aes Sedai, unleashing the One Power in vast quantities, bolstered by angreal and sa’angreal from the Tower stores. The Trollocs eventually broke and ran, fearful of being trapped in the city by the advancing armies of the five surviving nations. But the steps of the White Tower ran red with Trolloc, Myrddraal, Aes Sedai and Warder blood, the Tower Library was partially gutted and thousands of civilians lay dead.

Rashima again took to the saddle, leading the forces of the Light northwards. The Trollocs were defeated time and time again, at Kaisin Pass, the Sorelle Step, Larapelle and Tel Norwin, before they came to the field at Maighande.

The histories are in disagreement on the precise location of Maighande, whether it was just a field or a ruined city. It is known that it was the site of the largest battle fought since the War of the Shadow. All of the surviving armies of both the Light and the Shadow gathered at Maighande in 1301 AB. Both sides suffered hundreds of thousands of casualties but, at last, the Trollocs fled, defeated and dejected. Searching the ruins afterwards, a group of Aes Sedai found Rashima Kerenmosa’s body, surrounded by the bodies of her five Warders, a vast wall of Trolloc and Myrddraal bodies and no less than nine Dreadlord corpses.

The Battle of Maighande certainly did not destroy the Trolloc hordes, but it reduced them in number significantly. More importantly, the battle seems to have wiped out almost all of the surviving Dreadlords; certainly the term is never used again after the battle to refer to Shadow forces. Without channelling support, the Shadowspawn became easier prey for any enemy force that attacked with Aes Sedai assistance, greatly simplifying the task of destroying them.

A False Dragon
Perhaps the war would have ended there, had not a new distraction come from the south. Once again, even as the armies massed for battle, the standard of the Dragon Reborn had been raised. Yurian Stonebow was this claimant’s name and, like Raolin Darksbane a millennia earlier, he lay siege to the Stone of Tear in Essenia. Armies rallied and drove Stonebow from the region. Military forces were diverted and sent to capture or kill him.

It took eight years to finally capture Yurian Stonebow. His armies were defeated early on, but he managed to flee. Sometimes he lay low, hiding in barnlofts and haystacks whilst Aes Sedai searched the countryside around him, whilst other times he managed to raise small forces from local towns and farms. He was eventually taken when he attacked a group of Aes Sedai passing through the town he was hiding in, killing three and taking three prisoner. When he was gentled, it seemed he had already started to go mad.

The End of the Ten Nations
This distraction came at a hard price. The Trollocs rallied, though they were so decimated they couldn’t do much more than raid. The war degenerated into a hard slog of guerrilla warfare, removing Shadowspawn and Darkfriends from the countryside one band at a time.

The Trolloc Wars finally ended in 1350 AB. The Ten Nations were exhausted and broken, their armies smashed and their resolve weakened. Some were even unsure what year it was. Cities and towns, no longer defended by their own government, broke away to form smaller kingdoms so they might protect themselves better. The rulers of the surviving countries of Jaramide, Safer, Aelgar, Eharon and Essenia could do nothing to stop them. The war had been won by the Light, but at a very steep price.

The glory of the Ten Nations was lost, soon to become a fading memory. New kingdoms would arise, but they would not be bound as closely as those that came before them. Border wars and larger conflicts would become more frequent. The chances of reaching the heights of the Age of Legends again would fade.

Please note that Parts 8-10 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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Manethern510 said...

Offtopic: You know if the 15 books of the series use the same main world map, or they have some changes between them? Thanks!

Adam Whitehead said...

In the current editions, I'm not sure. In the original paperbacks, the maps changed several tmes: Book 1 has its own map, Books 2-5 have another design and 6-14 another. Many of the books also have their own exclusive mini-maps.