After Arad Doman and the Borderlands, it is now time to turn our eyes to the South and to Perrin's, Mat's and the Seanchan's story lines.
The first article of this Altaran mini-series with focus on the Wolf King's crew, recapitulating elements from the 'Faile's rescue' story line that spanned from the the Path of Daggers to the end of Knife of Dreams, accompanied by a first map of the area of Altara and the surrounding nations, focussing on the north-west area.
A Who's Who of the "Wolf Pack" will follow this first article, before I give the same treatment to The Fox and the Red Hand, and conclude with the Ravens.
Prologue, chapter one and chapter two spoilers are as usual indicated and hidden. The map itself doesn't use information beyond Knife of Dreams.
The Wheel of Time Zoo mired in Altara part 1:
The Wolf King and the wolfpack
(and the odd hawk and falcon)
1. Basic information and a few geographical features:
Altara: Altara, a bit like Murandy, used to be more a cultural aggregate than a proper nation like Andor or the Borderlands. The territory is vast, but in effect the influence and authority of the ruler in Ebou Dar didn't extend beyond a hundred miles out of the capital. It is now, in effect a Seanchan province ruled by King Beslan Mitsobar (following his mother's murder, likely by a gholam), in the name of the new Empress Tuon Paendrag. The Seanchan are well on their way to bring the whole territory under the control of Ebou Dar, where the leaders of the Return under Tuon Athaem Kore Paendrag are temporarily based (Tuon intends to have Tar Valon as her capital one day).
The Forest of Shadow: Also known as the Great Darkwood, it stretches for an hundred miles or more south of the Manetherendrelle, east of the Mountains of Mist, without any road or village. It appears to be technically part of Ghealdan, though as it's non-inhabited, in practice it marks the real northern border. The Great Darkwood is said to be difficult to travel, making it impossible for an army not using Gateways, the Ways or to'raken to enter the Two Rivers. It is not featured on the map, but would be above the northwest corner.
Garen's Wall: the impassable massive cliff (of course, it is not so for to'raken or Travellers), no doubt originated in the Breaking, marking the north-east border of Ghealdan. In a Q&A, Robert Jordan revealed that the cliff is named after King Garen who in the days of Dhowlan (Free Years Era) fought many wars against Farashelle and used the cliff itself as a major asset in the defense of Dhowlan. Queen Alliandre has, for now secretly, resurrected the tradition of calling the army of Ghealdan the Legion of the Wall.
The Damona Mountains: the range in north-eastern Altara, cut by the Lugard Road in the Malvide Narrows. Beyond it is the Molvaine Gap. The Damonas are referred to as marking the effective north-east border of Altara, though it appears that villages in the Molvaine Gap like Remen (a town on the Manetherendrelle we visited with Perrin in The Dragon Reborn) are part of Altara as well. Given that the authority of the Throne of the Winds doesn't in effect extends farther than 100 miles from Ebou Dar, northern Altara is more a cultural and geographical denomination than a political one - in these regions, the local lords are for all effect sovereign on their domains like the Murandian lords and ladies, though the Seanchan conquest is beginning to change this and bring the territory under the rule of King Beslan in truth, now owing allegiance to Tuon.
The Malvide Narrows: a stretch five miles wide cutting the Damona Mountains chain in north-eastern Altara. The road from Ebou Dar to Lugard passes there. Beyond the mountains is the region known as the Molvaine Gap. A smaller pass used by smugglers used to exist south of the Narrows but it has been blocked by a landslide as the half of the Band of the Red Hand with Lord Talmanes passed it, leaving only the Narrows open to reach the Manetherendrelle and cross it into Murandy, the ridge county west of the the Damonas from which the Jehannah Road can be reached and the dangerous area south of the mountains, where many Seanchan armies are massed in prevision of an invasion of Illian as ways out of Northern and Central Altara.
The Molvaine Gap: the Gap is the area out of the Narrows and down the north-east side of the Damona Mountains. It leads to the Manetherendrelle (the town of Remen stands there, on the Altaran side) and further to the passes into Murandy. At the time of the year the timeline of The Gathering Storm begins, the trade ships from Illian would be travelling north again, to Whitebridge and Maradon in Saldaea.
2. Rescuing Faile, the condensed (well, the somewhat shorter than the real deal) version:
On the 16th of Taisham 1000 NE (this corresponds to early January of the current year, for the WOT-calendar impaired ;), Rand and Perrin staged a quarrel (which nearly caused Perrin's death for real as a more and more insane Rand lost control) that resulted in Perrin's apparent banishment. Perrin, in truth, was embarking on a secret mission for Rand that would prove far more difficult than expected.
Two goals rolled into one: Bringing Masema secretly to Rand (he was presumably to return to his Dragonsworn, put an end to excesses and give them orders from Rand without the Shadow knowing, thus the whole secrecy) and reaching Queen Alliandre and get her to follow up on her letter to Rand by declaring herself openly for him, once she was no more under the thumb of the Prophet of the Lord Dragon (may his name be blessed by the Light).
Perrin set out the same day for Ghealdan using a Gateway, with a large party comprising two Asha'man from Rand's inner circle, his wife Faile and her group of young Aiel wannabes from Cairhien and Tear who all swore fealty to her and who grandly if secretly named themselves Cha Faile (The Falcon's Talon), six Aiel Wise Ones apprenticing two of Rand's sworn Aes Sedai - Masuri Sedai (Arafellin Brown) and Seonid Sedai (Cairhienin Green), Maidens of the Spear including Bain and Chiad, the WO's retinue of gai'shain, Perrin's Aiel friend Gaul - in total less than fifty Aiel; longbowmen from the Two Rivers who had accompanied Perrin to Caemlyn and who are all Dumai's Wells veterans, Cairhienin servants and craftsmen (smiths, wheelwrights, farriers and so on) loaned from the estates of Lord Dobraine Taborwyn (soon to be Steward of Cairhien by then), The First of Mayene Berelain Paeron sur Paendrag and her entourage of servants, thiefcatchers, her Aes Sedai advisor Annoura (Taraboner Gray) and 900 Winged Guards lead by the hot-headed Lord Gallene.
Nine days later, on the 25th of Taisham, Perrin located Alliandre touring southern Ghealdan and currently residing at a Lord's palace in the city of Bethal. Perrin's ta'veren pull worked overtime the next day.
Elyas Machera who had tracked down Perrin thanks to the wolves felt his need and joined his side, so far serving mostly as part-time scout and part-time marital advisor. Perrin rescued a group of stranded travellers who turned out to be Morgase Trakand (still known to him under the false identity of Maighdin Dorlan, lady's maid) with Lini Eltring, Tallanvor, Basel Gill, Dobraine's kin fallen on hard times Breane Taborwyn and Gill's strongman Lamgwyn and finally the late Pedron Niall's spy master Sebban Balwer. They all swore fealty to Faile and Perrin and joined their household as servants.
Berelain and Annoura then brought Alliandre out of Bethal and Perrin became her liege lord, continuing the trend started with Gaul (who has been spotted as the future Shaarad Clan Chief by the Wise One Bair), Faile and Berelain – and though he doesn't know it, Morgase - that Perrin attracts to him leaders, ex-rulers and heirs to thrones and positions, the same way Mat attracts all sort of heroes and heroes-to-be. With Alliandre came her own entourage of servants and about a thousand Lancers from the Legion of the Wall under First Captain Gerard Arganda – and the information of the location of the Prophet.
All in a day's work!
The party travelled by country roads forty leagues south of Bethal to the Amadician city Abila to meet Masema. They reached it 30 days later (establishing a sedate pace of 5.3 miles/day on average for Perrin's group at that point, but they had to contend with snow and scouting to avoid bad encounters).
And Abila turned out to be another grand ta'veren festival: Masema agreed to follow Perrin but dithered and finally brought not the honour guard Perrin had allowed him but up to 20,000 rabid fanatics who thus took the path of their necessary destruction. Faile, Alliandre, Maighdin Bain, Chiad and 2 women from Cha Faile got captured by Sevanna's Shaido - forcing Perrin's group to hold together to rescue them, eventually leading to the capture of most of the Shaido's channellers and the destruction of the evil and corrupted leader of the Shaido. The information also filtered to Perrin that Masema has met with Seanchan officials.
Faile has been captured while hawking 10 miles south-east of Perrin's camp near Abila. From that point, Perrin started sending fast and experienced scouts (usually Maidens, Elyas, the Warders and his best woodsman from the Two Rivers) ahead trailing the Shaido, leaving at dawn and returning at sunset. Perrin's group would then Travel to the farthest point the scouts had reached.
Rushing too much at first, Perrin went too far south for days, looking for signs of the Shaido's trail they had lost. He finally had to retrace his steps north to find the trail, losing many days and finally returning at the location he was at two days beyond the first Travelling jump, where the Shaido trail was picked up again, heading east toward the Eldar but zigzagging in many directions as they found more of the scattered Shaido septs. Soon, the Shaido crossed the Eldar river into Altara to head north and east, and Perrin finally started catching up and reducing the distance between his group and his prey.
On the 22th day of Sabban, yet another great ta'veren pull day, as Rand set out to cleansed saidin at Shadar Logoth Perrin's camp was circled by darkhounds, Berelain brought him Perrin a writ from Suroth given to Masema that her thiefcatchers stole and that would prove the key to complete the "Blacksmith Puzzle", and Elyas and the scouts returned, having found the city of Malden and around it the Shaido encampment. Upon further inspection, it turned out the Shaido were now far more numerous than even in their worst nightmares, and had over 400 Wise One channellers, the whole clan's.
Perrin began his war preparations, first seeing to resupply in So Habor, where the Dead already walked - a prophesized sign of the imminence of Tarmon Gai'don. Balwer caught up there with Tallanvor, who had fled the party to follow the Shaido trail alone and from whom came the beginning of the solution: a large Seanchan army was coming from the south to deal with the Shaido. That evening, another prophecy marking the imminence of Tarmon Gai'don came true as Perrin Aybara, soon to be revealed by the Seanchan to be featured as the Wolf King in the Karaethon Cycle, abandoned for good his war axe in revulsion over the fact he had not hated torturing Shaido warriors. And thus the Wolf King finally carried his blacksmith hammer.
Perrin's people captured Galina Casban, the black sister who had lead Rand's kidnapping and got captured by the Shaido and made gai'shain. Using the alias "Alyse" she made a deal with Perrin to help rescue (which couldn't be further from the truth; Galina had been forced to openly lie to Faile and had decided Faile and her friends had to die not to leave behind people who could eventually expose her as Black Ajah).
On the 19th of Aine, nearly a month after he located the Shaido at Malden, Perrin and the Seanchan Banner-General Tylee Khirgan met and concluded a surprising alliance to destroy the Shaido together. Preparation began for the Battle of Malden. Three days later, Perrin and Tylee Travelled to southwest Amadicia to a Seanchan supply outpost and, using Masema's writ from Suroth were able to secure a map, a few rakens and fliers to scout and most importantly virtually all the reserves of prepared forkroot the Seanchan had in stock. Perrin faced a failed assassination attempt, very likely from Darkfriends sent by a Forsaken who tracked him down, somehow, following Moridin's recent orders to have both Perrin and Mat killed.
On Aine the 25th, Perrin tainted the aqueduct of Malden with great quantities of forkroot to neutralize the Wise Ones.
On the morning of the 26th, Perrin had the ridges on both sides of Malden surrounded in fog to hide the troops and the wolves to howl by day (a signal meant for Faile who was supposed to escape with the group of rescuers sent by Perrin through the aqueduct, a plan that came to nothing because of Galina's betrayal of Faile) and several thousands longbowmen came with Tam al'Thor to lead them via Gateway; Tam that Perrin now names officially his First Captain. Tylee and Perrin launched their attacks on the Shaido, capturing about half (200 hundred) of the Shaido Wise Ones who could channel, destroying or forcing into surrender most of the Shaido Spears (who were disarmed) but a few hundreds who escaped with Therava, carrying many of the Wise Ones incapacitated by forkroot.
The losses were few, Tylee estimated them as no more than 100 men on the Seanchan's or Perrin's sides, altogether. They included Aram, long time a danger in the making to Perrin (as Dreamed by Egwene)
whom Masema convinced to murder Perrin during the battle. TGS (prologue) spoiler - click to expand
Let us now hope that so many corrupted and dangerous people, Shaido dead warriors and Masema's rabid followers recalling more and more the attitude of Aridhollins that lead to Shadar Logoth, won't be raised from the dead to terrorize northern Altara or haunt Malden, making the terror at So Habor look as pleasant as an evening with a gleeman at an inn.
3. Locating Malden, Altara:
Robet Jordan left us several clues to approximate the location of Malden.
TGS (prologue) spoiler - click to expand
Finally, Perrin was aware that the south, the west and the east were unsafe, with two large Shaido groups to reach Malden from the south-east and south-west within hours.
TGS (prologue) spoiler - click to expand
In conclusion, the location I have picked for Malden is very approximate. Drawing a perimeter of 10 leagues, perhaps 15 or 20 even around my chosen location would be safer. We will no doubt get a few more clues from events and chronology in TGS or ToM to further narrow it down. There is a road oriented South-North just West of Malden, below the next western ridge (this is a country road, and not knowing its path or extent further South and North, I decided not to show it on the map). There is no doubt a network of country roads in this area, a few leading east either to the Lugard road or to the Molvide Narrows, and west toward the Eldar and the villages or towns with ferries. Evidence of this comes notably from Mat, who talks of how the Seanchan armies use such country roads to come north from Ebou Dar, rejoining the Lugard Road to reach the Narrows only once in central Altara (the Seanchan move their troops through mountains and forest to disguise their movements, a practice of relative help when the enemy has Asha'man as scouts, but no doubt a force of habit in Seanchan Generals used to face foes scouting with raken). Most roads would go North or South in the northwest, again because of the ridges.
4. Locating So Habor, Perrin's and Tylee's camps:
Locating So Harbor and the camps in relation to Malden is easier. For the absolute locations, the problems are the same as with Malden itself.
Perrin's group Travelled one day farther north-east from the small village of Brytan (around 40 miles/10 leagues NE) and it's from that location that his scouts returned at sunset with the news the Shaido were settled at Malden. This places Brytan perhaps up to 80 miles south-west of Malden, perhaps less depending on the success of the scouts the previous day.
From that Travelling spot 40 miles NE of Brytan, Masema told Perrin that the town of So Habor was "about a day south and west" (without Travelling, but with carts etc.). That's the only clue we have, as Perrin chose to Travel to So Habor. This places So Habor not far from Brytan, and in the same general direction. It is indeed well located to sell its grain to Ghealdan and Amadicia, apparently no longer in the area with ridges. There is a river west of it, but as we don't know its course or extent it's not represented on the map.
Perrin's "permanent camp", from where he planned the Battle of Malden, was just outside Brytan (the small village's few hovels were all so full of vermin they were unusable by Perrin). Perrin completely abandoned this camp on the day of the Battle. The non-combatants (essentially everyone's servants) Travelled with him to his position on the ridge west of Malden.
Banner-General Tylee's camp was "a few leagues west" of Perrin's. As we know.
5. Locating Lord Captain-Commander Damodred:
About 20 days before the Battle of Malden, Galad Damodred killed Eamon Valda in a duel under the Light, became the new Lord Captain-Commander of the 7000 remaining Children of the Light (the Questioners escaped toward Nassad and the Seanchan in the aftermath). The events took place as the Children were about to meet up with the Seanchan they had concluded an alliance with in Nassad. Galad made clear to his men his intention to escape the Seanchan-conquered lands to find allies to fight back, and to fight Tarmon Gai'don. Where did this take place?
It took place at a manor of Ailron's given to the Children by the Seanchan, located very close to the southern border of Amadica, with the mountains below it just a few miles south. It may not be altogether distant from Almizar, where Tylee and Perrin went for forkroot and raken. Galad also made an historical reference that helps a lot: he stood on the ruins of a paved road that predated Amadica and Tarabon, a great trade route before trade moved much further north (a reference to the Amador/Elmora road). This internal evidence, plus the name of the city, confirms that Nassad, just the other side of the border, is in Tarabon and not in Altara as some had concluded.
Galad was in a great hurry. With Asunawa escaping toward Nassad, he would soon have had the Seanchan on his trail as the Whitecloaks became deserters to hunt down. He has to have made as much speed to the east as he could manage. The Children are fast riders, and often have remounts (and in Amadicia, could easily bully people for more... well, perhaps not anymore with Mr. Do-Right in charge...). They are not burdened by any camp followers either. Galad would have had to turn north at some point, not to come too close to Ebou Dar, but probably trying to avoid the zones to the north-east controlled by the Prophet. He would have had to be careful in Altara as well, not knowing where the Seanchan outposts could be located, which made heading for the Malvide Narrows very risky. Galad seems to have crossed the Eldar at a village with a ferry, and followed the Eldar north, with the intent to reach the Jehannah road. This is interesting, because Tylee's scouts reported his exact direction: north, not north-east. This means he had most likely not reached yet the longitude of the south-east border of Altara and Ghealdan. It doesn't make sense for Galad to enter Ghealdan, under the control of Masema as far as he knows, and that is the opposite direction he intends to take. This is an additonal clue that confirms the longitude range Malden can be situated at, and it works well with the other clues. Galad's army was seen three days before Malden. This put him not far too far south of Malden three days later, but unless he found a road or gaps in the ridges to make his way north-east (he will have to, eventually), he's probably a day or two west of Perrin, and in theory should move much faster. The meeting of the two groups, or at least the Children taking notice that Perrin's group is nearby, is probably not that far off in the timeline. It may even have happened as The Gathering Storm begins, and depending what Galad makes of this huge group afoot, it might explain him slowing down to investigate. He may mistake them for refugees from the Seanchan he should help, or for Masema's mob if rumours have reached him that he has vanished from Amadicia and Ghealdan.
6. After Malden:
In the aftermath of Malden, Perrin and Banner-General Tylee went their own ways. From the fact Perrin and Tylee said their goodbyes, it's implied that Perrin and his army didn't remain to deal with the two large groups of Shaido that were about to reach Malden. However, Tylee herself spoke of having enough time left before the Shaido arrived to "make our deployements", which likely indicates her army dealt with the two Shaido groups, as would be logical. Having dealt with the Wise Ones who could channel and having damane, her own army was more than enough for this task
The two Asha'man with Perrin were very tired before the Battle - not only from the last days' preparations and the battle itself but from accumulated fatigue (they took to sleeping whenever they could), so Perrin could not Travel afterward - he pointed this out himself. Pursuing the Shaido, making those large gateways for so many people day in day out has taken its toll on the Asha'man, and they needed to rest, especially now that Perrin's group is a really big town on the move, passing from several thousands (Masema alone had 20 thousands) to 100,000 refuges and an army nearly matching Galad's 7000, now that Tam came with thousands of longbowmen (Perrin has three to four thousands Two Rivers people with him now).
Hours before the Battle of Malden ended, Perrin had sent his servants to the north. Not knowing if he would succeed or fail at Malden, prepared to rescue Faile or die there, he ordered his shambayan Basil Gill to lead the servants north all the way to the mountains, to follow them until they reached the Jehannah road. This means they were asked to go north until they were out of the ridge country (where it's more difficult to travel east or west), then follow the mountains west to the Jehannah Road. Perrin hoped everything went well and he could catch up to them before they reached the Mountains. If not, they were to send Alliandre's servants west toward Jehannah, and themselves to take the road eastward, reaching the passes and entering Murandy (it might be useful to point out here that Perrin had a good Seanchan map of the area, and he's travelled this stretch of the Jehannah road before, in The Dragon Reborn.)
This may very well tell us less than we think about Perrin's intentions, though. It sounds like Perrin's instructions concerning the Jehannah Road were a plan B for the non-combatants, in case Malden turned to disaster and he could not catch up to them. After the battle, Perrin and Faile began to send the refugees north as well, to be gone before the Shaido groups arrived. Right after Malden, Perrin's group was scattered, the vanguard of servants on horses and carts already hours (many miles) to the north, the refugees hours behind them, and finally Perrin's army in the rear guard. The Asha'man were exhausted and could not have been used to Travel and start regrouping everyone. Anxious to know if Morgase had been rescued, the servants lead by Basel Gill are not likely to have made too much speed, however. In a matter of days at most, Perrin's group was probably regrouped.
From this point on, I'm using material from What the Storm Means, so I'll put the whole section under the spoiler tag.
TGS (prologue) spoiler - click to expand
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