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.

No comments: