Friday, May 29, 2009

The Great Hunt Read-through #8 : A Map and Survey of Almoth Plain & Toman Head

A Map and Survey of Almoth Plain and Toman Head

By Dominic

History and Geography of Almoth and Toman Head

The Nation of Almoth arose with the collapse of the High Kingdom of Artur Hawkwing and the War of Hundred Years, but it faded away over 400 hundred years ago, at an unknown date. Its territory covered the regions of Almoth Plain and, seemingly, Toman Head. The banner of Almoth showed the Tree of Life on a blue-and-black field. By Verin's explanation in The Great Hunt,the symbolism was 'blue for the sky above, black for the earth below, with the Tree of Life to join them'.

Almoth claimed to have possessed at some point a branch or even a sappling of Avendesora, the Tree of Life. The neighbouring nation of Arad Doman claim to have descended from the makers of Avendesora in the Age of Legends (a garbled legend at best, since Avendesora wasn't unique nor even a proper name in the Age of Legends - the name is probably a deformation of aviende chora, ie: Chora Tree - which was an Aes Sedai bio-engineered construct), while the Taraboners to the South call themselves the Tree of Man and claim descent from nobles and rulers from the Age of Legends - another unlikely legend. The origin of the area's association to Chora Trees is unknown, but they may originate with the passage of Da'shain Aiel in this area at some point. In The Shadow Rising, we see the wandering Paraan Disen Dai'shain in the years shortly after the Breaking in a region with seas to the West and further to the South (they then followed the second coast east, all the way to the Spine of the World, where they lost the Doorway ter'angreal the Mayeners later found, and then travelled north up to the area of Cairhien and took the Jendai pass into the Waste). If the area is identified correctly, a great city of the AOL, Comelle, used to stand west of this region, before it seemingly sank into what is now the Aryth Ocean during the Breaking (a parallel to Atlantis?).

In the Second Covenant era, the territory of Almoth formed the larger part of the nation of Safer. The nation joined the Compact of the Ten Nations during the reign of King Eawynd. The capital of Safer, Iman, stood at the present location of the city of Katar. The city of Miereallen stood at the site of Falme. A third city, Shainrahien, was situated as an unknown location, though its Old Tongue name suggests it was in one of the hilly areas and the hills at the end of the bay below Toman Head is a possible location (there are other areas with large hills on the Plain, however). Another possible interpretation of the OT name (as we do not known enough about the order of words and the grammar to be sure) would link it not to hills but to the setting sun. These cities of Safer were all destroyed in the Trolloc Wars. The capital city of Iman was Ogier-built and had a Waygate still existing near Katar. Little of the History of Safer is known: before the Trolloc Wars, King Aedomon of Safer destroyed the forces of Buiryn of Manetheren at Midean's Ford (unknown location, possibly near the source of the river Eldar) in a series of wars between the two nations. According to Mat, years later Aedomon died at the hands of a young Manetheren boy with a spear.

During the Free Years, after the Trolloc Wars had ended, the northern area of the territory became the nation of Darmovan. Again, fairly little of its history is known, though it is famous as the nation in which Guaire Amalasan falsely proclaimed himself the Dragon Reborn in FY 939, as a black plague scourged the land from East to West. Within a year, he had proclaimed himself ruler of Darmovan and had seized the nation of Elan Dapor (southwestern Almoth Plain) and Balasun (Tarabon). By FY 941 as he advanced and conquered the southwest, every nation had sent armies and generals against Amalasan in what became known as the War of the Second Dragon, including the man that would eventually be his nemesis: Artur Paendrag Tanreall of Shandalle.

Little is known of the geography of present day Almoth Plain. It is bordered to the west by the Toman Head peninsula and the Aryth Ocean. To the east, it ends on the slopes of the Mountains of Mist. To the northeast is Lake Somal and the large forest known as The Paerish Swar ('The Darkwood'). Almoth Plain is bordered to the North by Arad Doman and to the South by Tarabon.

Almoth Plain has had no formal government since Almoth collapsed. There is an unknown number of self-ruled communities and towns on the Plain, but no known city. The closest known city is the Domani city of Katar. Katar is ruled by a group of Lords. Recently, during the war for control of Almoth Plain with Tarabon (ongoing since sometime in 998 NE) that degenerated into civil wars in both nations after the events with Rand at Falme, the great Domani general Rodel Itulrade had a major victory at Katar, managing as a result to force the Lords of Katar to stop trading with the Dragonsworn (likely for weapons, giving their local speciality). Itulrade also claims a military triumph at Lake Somal, making it likely there's one or more unknown cities or towns down the road near the Lake area (unless there were just major Dragonsworn camps hidden there). Others cities mentioned as the sites of recent battles by Lord Ituralde were Solanje, Maseen and Kandelmar. It is unknown whether these cities are located on Almoth Plain or within the borders of Arad Doman itself, but as Itulrade mentionned them in the context of the civil war, they are more likely to be beyond the Domani border. There is an abandoned stedding near The Paerish Swar, where many suspect Ituralde plans to set an ambush for the Seanchan (he may be very disappointed if they have Ogier Gardeners with them - they may sense the Stedding ahead and give warning). There are several other stedding in the Mountains of Mist, including Chinden, Jinsiun, Madan, Shangloon, Tsofan, Yandar.

The Domani city of Katar probably controls the nearby passes through the mountains of Mist, that leads to Baerlon and into Andor. Those passes are snowed in in winter and do not open until late spring. The economy of Katar seems very similar to that of Baerlon, its connected mines and Ironworks on the other side of the mountains. A minor geographic mystery concerning this area is posed by the itinerary of Verin, Hurin, Mat and Egwene, Elayne, Nynaeve in The Dragon Reborn. We know they traveled back from Falme to Tar Valon through Almoth Plain and the Caralain Grass, and Egwene mentions only going through small isolated communities. They must have went through the mountain passes past Katar, but it is quite unknown how they reached the Caralain from there. According to information in The Eye of the World, there is no way to cross the River Arinelle South of Maradon in Saldaea before Whitebridge. They possibly only veered north after taking the Caemlyn road to Whitebridge, but Egwene rather mentions they've travelled from Almoth through the Caralain Grass. Possibly Verin knew of a village or town on the Arinelle with a ferry service. With Jim Rigney's passing, this is a small mystery most likely to remain one forever.

The peninsula of Toman Head is a hilly and sparsely wooded area, with villages and small towns and coastal fishing communities, all in the western area. Toward the eastern end of the peninsula a Portal Stone can be found. The small city of Falme is situated at the westernmost coastal point of the peninsula. We also know of the small village of Atuan's Mill, situated a day or two west of the Portal Stone. Falme is a trade center for Toman Head and Almoth Plain, notably with the Sea Folk. It was also home to an esoteric community known as the Watchers over the Waves, who believed in the return of the Armies of Hawkwing sent oversea.

The group of Sea Folk Islands known as the Aile Somera and the harbour of Cantorin are located ca. 150 Leagues due west of Toman Head. These islands were eventually seized by the Seanchan - before or after the events of Falme. They established their secret naval base of operations at Cantorin, seizing the Sea Folk ships and no doubt sinking or seizing those that showed up there later on. So far, it appears the Sea Folk have not discovered that the Seanchan have seized control of the Aile Somera - but Rand in KOD has sent their biggest and fastest ships to the West Coast, and Zaida intended to send fast ships to all the Islands to deal with the Amayar tragedy. The disappearance of the ships sent to Cantorin may finally attract attention.

For the last three hundred years, the nations of Tarabon and Arad Doman have laid rival claims to the territory, resources and populations of Almoth Plain and Toman Head. The diplomatic struggle lead to five Treaties of Falme, the last of which was negotiated and signed in 961 NE under the guidance of the Grey Sister Merana Ambrey, but it has failed almost immediately. It is unknown why control of Almoth Plain is so important to both nations. The nations of the Westlands are under populated and not lacking room. It may have to do with the resources of the Mountains of Mist. Faile will get reports of gold, silver and iron found by surveying the mountains beyond Emond's Field. It may also have to do with trade routes: Arad Doman is not a seafaring nation, yet like Tarabon it specializes in trade and both are major centres of Sea Folk trade. Almoth would give Arad Doman or Tarabon better access to the central and northern heartland, and let them control taxes on goods exported through the passes.

In 998 NE, the conflict finally led for the first time to open war between Arad Doman and Tarabon, in the midst of which the Seanchan Forerunners landed on Toman Head and along the coastline, seizing Falme and killing harshly one by one the members of the Watchers Over The Waves for obscure reasons related to 'not having watched for the right thing'. Though the details were never explained, it seems likely the Watchers failed to recognized the Seanchan as Hawkwing's returning armies, perhaps refused to swear the Oaths or accused them of being impostors.

In the early winter 999 NE, following the events of Falme concluding The Great Hunt and that proclaimed Rand al'Thor as the Dragon Reborn and pushed back the Seanchan to the sea and forced them to regroup and consolidate their forces at Cantorin, groups of scattered Dragonsworn sprouted all along the West Coast and on Almoth Plain - people of Almoth, Domani, Taraboners. The situation rapidly degenerated into chaos during the winter, leading to civil wars in both Arad Doman and Tarabon. It is still unknown what role if any Graendal, who placed herself in a country palace of Arad Doman as 'Lady Basene' - and Moghedien who went to Tanchico, played early on in the Dragonsworn crisis. According to a comment by Asmodean, Graendal was around before the situation degenerated - Asmodean even foolishly believed Graendal cared too much for her comforts and would have left the area. It is also quite possible Ishamael played a role, creating or infiltrating groups of Dragonsworn to lure Rand out of his hiding place and kill him - as Moiraine pointed out in The Dragon Reborn, young men vaguely matching his description were murdered on the Plain. Whatever her speculative early role, it is known that Graendal has since worsened the conflict badly, kidnapping several members of the Domani nobility including members of the Domani royal line and making King Alsalam 'vanish', compelling numerous leaders of the Dragonsworn and Domani Lords and giving conflicting orders. Despite this, Lord Ituralde has managed already mentioned military triumphs at Katar, Lake Somal, Solanje, Maseen and Kandelmar.

As the war erupted between Tarabon and Arad Doman, Lord Commander Pedron Niall of the Children of the Light conceived a plan to secure Almoth Plain and resurrect the sovereign nation of Almoth as a puppet state under the control of the Children of the Light, a first step in creating an empire for the Children in the West. His plans, put in the hands of the Inquisitor of the Hand of the Light Jaichim Carridin came to naught: a darkfriend, Carridin had conflicting orders from Ba'alzamon, including keeping the landing of the Seanchan secret from Amador. Lord Commander Geofram Bornhald who brought his legion to the plain, was appalled by the methods and actions of the Questioners and, intercepting rumors of the Seanchan, he managed to fool Carridin and bring a large group of soldiers all the way over Toman Head to Falme, where he launched a suicidal attack against the Seanchan and perished with his troops in the Battle of Falme. After the failure, Niall ordered Carridin to keep Rand and the Dragonsworn crisis alive on Almoth Plain, in an effort to paint the Children as the only saviours and unite the area behind his leadership. Carridin had conflicting orders to find and kill Rand from the Shadow. These plans of Niall also came to naught, and he then turned his eyes and his spreading of chaos using proxies and provocateurs to the East (in methods reminiscent of Demandred, which seems to have fooled Sammael into thinking his rival was the one coming for him, weakening Altara and western Illian using fake Dragonsworn).

In 1000 NE, Rodel Ituralde managed to vanish after receiving orders from the King to attack the Seanchan (actually coming from Graendal). Ituralde managed to get a truce between some of the important Dragonsworn, Domani Lords and Taraboners and conceived a plan to attack the Seanchan's bases in Tarabon to force them north in pursuit. This part of the plan worked and Ituralde and his forces are currently pursued over Almoth Plain by a large Seanchan army. His exact intentions, though obviously a trap or ambush of some kind, are still unknown, as is the possible role Rand's forces - that recently seized Bandar Eban - may play to help or hinder these plans.

About the map:

The map started from a scanned charcoal base scanned in the computer and completed in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.

It is based on the layout of two maps by Ellisa Mitchell, the colour "big map" and the black-and-white versions.

The Aile Somera and Jafar are positioned according to canonical information in the books. The island and harbour of Cantorin are an educated guess. The harbour is described as a vast lopsided bowl and I put it at the location most closely matching this description.

The locations of the Portal Stone, Atuan's Mill and the villages are guesses based on the partial information in The Great Hunt. We know from Verin in the text the Portal Stone is in the east, and the towns and villages all to the West. Placing it more to the north would have placed Falme too sharply to the southwest for Verin to say this. The locations have been estimated by following the travel information from Steven Cooper's excellent Chronology and allowing for 10 to 12 leagues of Travel per day at most.

The scale was established by a transposition of the scale of the World Map found in Robert Jordan's The World of the Wheel of Time to my map of the Westlands. Thanks to Weird Harold for the help with this. This scale is forcibly approximate.

The decorations are inspired by the banner of Almoth and the trefoil leaf of Avendesora. The further decorative elements are inspired and reworked from elements found in 18th century Dutch Atlases and in a 17th century Spanish atlas.

The cities icons are only decorative and do not attempt to accurately show the size of the cities in the books (information is lacking for most, and they would be too small to be visible enough anyway).


- You're welcome to leave comments about this post below, or to use The Great Hunt Round-Table open thread to leave a commentary of your own about any aspect of the book.

- Got any nagging question about a topic from The Great Hunt? Send them to 'Ask Zemaille' and the librarians will do their best to answer it.

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