As usual, spoilers for those who are unfamiliar with the series.
The nations following the Trolloc Wars and before the rise of Artur Hawkwing.
The Aftermath of the Trolloc Wars
Humanity had proved victorious in the Trolloc Wars, destroying the armies of Shadowspawn and driving their shattered remnants back into the Great Blight. However, the chaos and devastation of the conflict proved too much for what was left of the Ten Nations. Half had fallen during the war and the other half followed soon after. In their wake, twenty-nine new nations arose. Despite the best efforts of the Aes Sedai to keep the peace, the new nations were fractious, more prone to waging war with one another over minor border disputes. No second Compact arose to replace that of the preceding millennium, with each nation choosing instead to maintain a substantial standing army to answer any future Trolloc threat.
The chaos of the Trolloc Wars was such that humanity had even lost track of what year it was, so in the aftermath of the conflict a new calendar was created by Tiam of Gazar, counting the number of Free Years since the war had ended.
This was a new era of small wars and conflicts, not helped by the Aes Sedai's numbers beginning a serious decline that inhibited them from as easily mediating conflicts and disputes as before. Still, Aes Sedai influence remained strong. In FY 450 the Aes Sedai forcibly apprehended Queen Sulmara of Masenashar and forced her to clean out the stables of the White Tower for the rest of her life. Her crime is not recorded, but the fact that the Aes Sedai could act so without reprisal is startling. The Aes Sedai's power was also strengthened in FY 351 when they apprehended and gentled the false Dragon Davian. Davian's activities, along with the occasional Shadowspawn raid into the northern-most kingdoms of Basharande, Elsalam and Rhamdashar, reminded the world that the Prophecies of the Dragon remained in force, and the threat of the Shadow was still a real one.
The War of the Second Dragon
In FY 939, in the aftermath of a devastating plague known as the Black Fever, a charismatic nobleman from the nation of Darmovan declared himself the Dragon Reborn. Guaire Amalasan was a skilled diplomat, a canny tactician and possessed the common touch, winning the love of the people for his charitable acts during the worst of the plague. Tens of thousands flocked to his banner and he conquered much of the southern half of the continent in a war lasting four years, the War of the Second Dragon. The Aes Sedai, distracted by the plague, were slow to reach and when they did send half a dozen sisters to apprehend Amalasan, he was able to defeat them handily.
Amalasan, as with every false Dragon before him, knew that taking the Stone of Tear was vital to prove his claim. His armies laid siege to the Stone (then located in the nation of Moreina), but were unable to take it due to it being defended by almost forty Aes Sedai. Amalasan left a force behind to maintain the siege before marching north, intent on completing the conquest of the continent. However, in the foothills of the Maraside Mountains (on the modern southern border of Cairhien, then the border between Talmour and Tova), his plans unravelled. His forces met an army out of Shandalle and Tova led by the young, brilliant general Artur Paendag Tanreall, King of Shandalle, known as 'Hawkwing' for the speed with which he could move his armies. Despite outnumbering Hawkwing by 2-1, Amalasan was defeated by a desperate tactical gambit and captured by Aes Sedai sisters accompanying Hawkwing.
Hawkwing bore his captive north to Tar Valon, hotly pursued by several of Amalasan's best generals. Amalasan's supporters assaulted Tar Valon itself in an attempt to rescue him, breaching the Shining Walls and fighting almost to the White Tower itself. Hawkwing's troops engaged them in bloody street-to-street fighting and ultimately checked and reversed their advance. Amalasan was tried, found guilty and gentled, cut off from the One Power forever. He died, several years later, from the same traumatic malady that ultimately affected everyone who was cut off from the Power.
In the aftermath of his victory, Artur Hawkwing returned home to Shandalle. Neither he nor his troops were thanked for their assistance by the fanatical Amyrlin Seat, Bonwhin Meraighdin, who resented the idea of the Aes Sedai needing help from any man. Bonwhin even punished those Aes Sedai who had captured Amalasan for allowing Hawkwing's army onto Tar Valon's territory. As the continent fell into chaos, with Amalasan's conquered nations descending into civil war and political strife after his death, Hawkwing's name had become famous and his name spoken as a potential successor to Amalasan. Citing this as 'proof' that Hawkwing was dangerous, Bonwhin manipulated several other nations into invading Shandalle.
The banner of Artur Hawkwing.
After returning home to Shandalle, Hawkwing planned to demobilise his armies and rebuild his nation from the tribulations it had suffered. Instead, within a few months of his victory at Tar Valon, he was forced back into the saddle. At Bonwhin's manipulation, the nations of Caembarin, Tova and Khodomar had declared war against Hawkwing. They cited him as a dangerous warmonger, noting that his name was now known across the continent and was particularly being spoken in those nations formerly held by Amalasan, which were now falling into chaos and civil war as different factions struggled for power. However, they did not pool their resources for the invasion, enabling Hawkwing to defeat each invading army in turn in a rapid war of movement. He launched counter-attacks and by early FY 944 had expanded Shandalle's influence into the neighbouring kingdoms. Other nations sent troops to subdue him, and again he prevailed.
Between FY 943 and FY 963, the entire continent (bar only Tar Valon and the surrounding territory) fell under Hawkwing's control. Most of that was achieved through military action, with only the nation of Moreina joining him through diplomacy (thus ensuring that the Prophecies of the Dragon would remain fulfilled: the Stone of Tear was transferred to Hawkwing's control, but did not fall in battle). As Hawkwing's victories mounted, so the Aes Sedai's belligerent stance changed. Bonwhin's personal hatred of Hawkwing did not wane, but the Hall of the Tower worked hard to place Aes Sedai advisors within his camp. It is also likely that they considered the benefits of having the entire continent already unified under one ruler when the Dragon Reborn finally rose and the Last Battle would be fought.
In FY 961, Hawkwing suffered a personal tragedy when his wife, Amaline, and three of his children were poisoned. Furious, Hawking blamed the last remaining free kingdom, Aldeshar. Hawkwing was normally honourable and magnanimous to his former enemies, sparing the lives of those who surrendered and finding places of authority and command for them in his empire (though never in those lands they had once ruled over). Aldeshar he treated harshly and brutally, executing King Joal Ramedar out of hand and scattering the nobility over much of the continent.
With the conclusion of the war in FY 963, Artur Hawking was proclaimed the High King of the Westlands, an empire stretching for more than three thousand miles and incorporating a population of millions. But with the deaths of his family, his victory felt hollow and he was soon planning for more wars.
The Reign of the High King
In FY 964 Artur Hawkwing led a massive army into the Aiel Waste, planning to conquer the Aiel clans and bring them into his empire. For the first time, Hawkwing faced total defeat. His army was unprepared for the harshness of the terrain and environment, and also for the fact that the Aiel would not stand and offer open battle. Instead they used their noted mobility to harry his flanks and pick off his troops a few at a time. Unable to secure either a decisive victory or hit upon a winning strategy, Hawkwing was forced to withdraw back to the westlands.
There, his 'black years' were brought to an end when he met a young woman named Tamika. History does not record her origin, but Tamika brought Hawkwing out of his time of anger and grief. They married and had several more children, and Hawkwing lost his appetite for war. Instead, he threw himself into administration and justice. He divided his empire into provinces in the hope of preventing feelings of nationalism reasserting and leading to rebellion. He forgave the nobility of Aldeshar for the crimes of their king and even made Ramedar's daughter, Endara Casalain, the governor of the Imperial Province of Andor, the largest and most populous of the provinces.
Hawkwing instituted revolutionary systems of law, justice and peacekeeping. He commanded that under his reign a woman should be able to walk alone from the Aryth Ocean to the Spine of the World and not suffer molestation, and appears to have, at the very least, reduced instances of banditry. He sponsored the building of new cities and new roads, and trade and the arts flourished.
Hawkwing was immensely popular with the common people, but not so much with the nobility, many of whom resented the fact that they were lords, ladies and governors when, without Hawkwing, they would have been kings and queens. Tiring of incessant plots against him, Hawkwing turned more and more to the Aes Sedai for advice. Noting their incorruptibility, Hawkwing even began to favour them as administrators and governors. By FY 973 more than one-third of the governors of the empire were Aes Sedai, giving the sisters more temporal power than they had possessed in two thousand years. Despite this, Bonwhin's rage and jealousy against Hawkwing continued to mount.
In late FY 973, a man named Jalwin Moerad appeared at Hawkwing's court. A canny politician, Moerad won Hawkwing's trust by smoking out several conspiracies against his rule. In FY 974, apparently due to intelligence provided by Moerad, Hawkwing came to suspect Aes Sedai involvement in the various attempts to unseat him and dismissed all members of the sisterhood from positions of power within his empire. In FY 975 this transformed into outright hostility, and at Hawkwing's command a large army laid siege to the city. The reason for this is unclear, although it has been proposed that Moerad brought Hawkwing evidence implicating Bonwhin's involvement in the murder of his first wife and three children. It is notable that Hawkwing did not mount an assault on the city, though he could have done so easily at a very high cost in lives, and in fact seems to have not particularly had any animosity for any Aes Sedai other than Bonwhin herself.
Ultimately the siege was not successful. Attempts to block the river failed due to Aes Sedai being able to remove obstructions with the Power, whilst sympathisers kept a constant stream of smuggled goods into the city to keep it fed. Although it soon became clear that Tar Valon could not be starved into surrender, Hawkwing refused to relent. The siege was maintained for the rest of his life.
Outside of the siege, life continued in the empire much as before. But in late FY 986 word came of Shadowspawn massing in huge numbers in the Blight. A vast army of Trollocs, Myrddraal and other creatures invaded the northern provinces, sweeping south at speed. Hawkwing, still hale and capable of moving with his customary speed, met them in battle on the field of Talidar early in FY 987. A second set of Trolloc Wars was prevented when Hawkwing, acting without Aes Sedai assistance, smashed the invading horde with such force that Shadowspawn activity along the Blightborder was reduced for the next several centuries.
This victory re-energised Hawkwing. He began mobilising fresh armies, ordering the assembly of vast fleets along both the west and southern coasts. He also planned to build a new capital at the exact mid-way point of his empire, on the plain of Caralain Grass, but ultimately did not live to see this accomplished (a great statue to him was raised there, but it was later destroyed by nobles jealous of Hawkwing's accomplishments).
The Fall of the High King
In FY 992 Artur Hawkwing launched the first of his two great fleets. Two thousand ships carrying more than 300,000 soldiers and settlers sailed west into the Aryth Ocean, seeking fresh lands beyond the sea. They were commanded by Hawkwing's eldest surviving son, Luthair Paendrag Mondair. It seems highly improbable that Hawkwing would send so many people into the unknown unprepared, but history does not record the existence of an earlier scouting expedition that may have found evidence of another continent in the far west. What is known is that Hawkwing founded a society known as the Watchers Over the Waves at the port of Falme to relay any messages that came back from the fleet. It appears that some garbled communications did make it back, making reference to the 'Armies of the Night', but nothing more than that.
A year later, the second fleet and army (reputedly of the same size as the first) was completed. This force sailed east along the coast of the Sea of Storms, south of the Aiel Waste, and landed on the south-western coast of the subcontinent of Shara. Under the command of one of Hawkwing's daughters, this force secured several cities along the coast and struck inland. However, it appears that Hawkwing underestimated the military and naval prowess of the Sharans. According to the Sea Folk (who did not join in either operation), his fleet was later sighted burning in the harbours of the cities that had been captured. It is presumed that his army was slaughtered or taken captive, never to return home.
The lack of news from either expedition seemed to put Hawkwing into a decline. He fell into a fever and suffered hallucinations of people long dead and battles long ago fought. He maintained enough sanity to order his general, Souran Maravaile, to continue the siege of Tar Valon and refused an offer of Aes Sedai Healing that could have saved him. Even the news that Bonwhin Meraighdin had been stripped of the Amyrlin Seat and stilled for her attempts to manipulate him did not make much of an impression on him. Eventually, Artur Paendrag Tanreall died at the age of eighty-two in FY 994.
When Hawkwing died, he left behind no heirs. Luthair was lost beyond the Aryth Ocean, another daughter in Shara. His only surviving child, Laiwynde, had died in murky substances and his grandson, Tyrn sur Paendrag Mashera, had apparently died with her (a man claiming to be Tyrn was later made First Lord of the city-state of Mayene, but this claim was ignored by everyone outside of Mayene). Inevitably, the death of Hawkwing would lead to a fracturing of his empire, but at the time no-one had any idea of how devastating this would be.
The banner of the Children of the Light, an independent military order that rose to prominence during the latter part of the War of the Hundred Years.
The War of the Hundred Years
Upon Hawkwing's death, the Aes Sedai acted quickly. The newly-raised Amrylin Seat, Deane Aryman, mediated with Souran Maravaile, commanding the siege of the city. She urged him to abandon the siege as it no longer had any point to it, but he refused to disobey the last command of his king. Deane enlisted the aid of Ishara Casalain, the daughter of the governor of Andor and also Souran's lover. With the seeds of civil war being laid, they convinced him that his large army could be used for a positive purpose. He agreed. Ishara Caslain convinced her mother to resign as governor and then proclaimed herself Queen of the Kingdom of Andor, with its capital at the city of Caemlyn. Maravaile's army secured the city and the surrounding countryside and Tar Valon made a formal alliance with the new nation.
This act sent shockwaves across the continent. Hawkwing's empire shattered into a thousand pieces, dozens of nobles proclaiming themselves kings and queens. Several of Hawkwing's senior governors and generals made attempts to claim the High Kingship of the entire continent, but this proved futile. Instead, a series of overlapping wars began which lasted no less than one hundred and twenty-three years.
In FY 1021, a peaceful man named Lothair Mantelar wrote a book called The Way of the Light, in which he preached strict obedience to the will of the Creator. The book was critical of the Aes Sedai for daring to wield the One Power, which was the responsibility of the Creator alone. An organisation dedicated to furthering Lothair's ideals was formed, the Children of the Light. Originally a pacifistic organisation, the Children soon took to arming themselves to surviving in the chaos of the war and by FY 1111 had become a fully military organisation.
By FY 1117 the last vestiges of Hawkwing's empire had been swept away. Twenty-four new nations arose in its place. The continent had been devastated by the War of the Hundred Years and population levels dropped dramatically, never to recover. Ten of the new nations (including Almoth, Hardan and Maredo) failed within a few centuries, leaving vast stretches of mostly-uninhabited wilderness where once great cities and nations existed. A new calendar, that of the New Era (NE) was adopted circa FY 1135 due to confusions over dates arising from the chaos of the civil war.
Next time: events across the Aryth Ocean, the fall of Malkier and the Whitecloak and Aiel wars.