The Battle of the Shining Walls was the final and decisive battle of the Aiel War, fought in the final month of 978 NE outside the Shining Walls of Tar Valon, between four clans of the Aiel and armies from ten of the fourteen kingdoms of the Westlands, who had been unified as the grandiosely-titled Grand Alliance.
The battle is also called the Blood Snow, as it was fought in freezing winter conditions, and the loss of life in the battle was tremendous.
By this time, the Aiel War had already been raging for two years. The Aiel had learned that King Laman Damodred of Cairhien had destroyed Avendoraldera, a sapling of the Tree of Life they had given to the Cairhienin in gratitude for their help in ensuring their survival during the Breaking of the World (this event having occurred 3,000 years earlier, the Cairhienin had no knowledge of it). Outraged, the Aiel sent four clans across the Spine of the World to gain revenge upon the 'Treekillers'. Cairhien had been defeated and devastated, its frontier fortresses destroyed and the capital city put to the torch. The shattered remnants of the Cairhienin army had fled south, gaining support from Tear along the way, and then west across the River Erinin, where they gained more troops from Andor.
Thanks to Aes Sedai negotiation, many of the other nations had assembled their armies at Tar Valon to face the Aiel threat. By the final month of 978 NE, the so-called Grand Alliance had assembled to meet the enemy in battle.
Composition of forcesEdit
The Grand Alliance mustered approximately 170,000 troops, consisting of the following contingents:
- 29,000 from Shienar under Lord Agelmar Jagad.
- 28,000 from Andor under Lord Aranvor Naldwinn.
- 26,000 from Illian under King Mattin Stepaneos den Balgar.
- 24,000 from Tear under the High Lord Astoril Damara.
- 21,000 from Arafel under Lord Hirare Nachiman.
- 12,000 from Tar Valon under Captain Azil Mareed.
- c. 7,000 from Cairhien under King Laman Damodred.
- 5,000 from Ghealdan under Lord Aleshin Talvaen.
- 4,000 from Amadicia under Lord Aeman Senhold.
- 4,000 of the Children of the Light under Lord Captain Commander Pedron Niall.
- c. 4,000 from Murandy under a rotating council of nobles.
- 3,500 from Altara under a rotating council of nobles.
- an unknown number of mercenaries, irregulars and minor forces from other countries, including a small force from Arad Doman under General Rodel Ituralde, a detachment of the Winged Guards of Mayene and even some surviving veterans of Malkier under al'Lan Mandragoran.
In addition, mercenaries and irregulars from the remaining nations and city-states also fought. Armies from Saldaea and Kandor had set out to join the Alliance, but been recalled to deal with a fresh incursion of Shadowspawn out of the Blight.
In contrast, the Aiel only numbered between 70,000 and 80,000 warriors of the Taardad, Reyn, Nakai and Shaarad clans, including a significant number of Aiel Maidens of the Spear. The presence of the Maidens surprised many of the Western troops, who had never faced women in battle before.
The Grand Alliance had initially compromised on Lord Agelmar Jagad of Fal Dara as their field commander, based on his sterling reputation in battle, Shienar's success in raising and sending the largest possible army and the Borderlands' aloofness from the political intrigue in the southern kingdoms which made other choices unacceptable to certain participants. However, King Laman of Cairhien was vehement that he should command, as Cairhien had suffered the most from the depredations of the Aiel invasion. After some extremely unbecoming bickering, it was decided to rotate command between the commanders of the different armies as a compromise measure.
In contrast, the four Aiel clans had submitted themselves to the military authority of Janduin, clan chief of the Taardad Aiel and the architect of the invasion. The Aiel's much simpler command structure may have contributed to them holding their own against considerably larger numbers.
The first two days of the battle saw heavy fighting around the banks of the River Erinin. Although the Alliance mustered many more men, they were deployed to prevent an Aiel attack from any direction, and due to its unwieldy size was unable to bring overwhelming force to bear at any one point. Also, whilst the Alliance was simultaneously trying to both defend the largest city on the continent from attack and rout the large attacking force, the Aiel had the much simpler task of identifying the location of the Cairhienin force. Nevertheless, the Alliance commanders on the first two days, Lord Agelmar Jagad and Lord Captain Commander Pedron Niall of the Children of the Light, inflicted significant losses on the Aiel, although suffering much greater ones themselves.
On the third day the Aiel scored a notable success by killing Lord Captain Aranvor Naldwinn, commander of the Andoran contingent, which plunged the Alliance into some confusion as a replacement commander was identified. The Aiel finally identified Laman's standard and attacked it. Laman was beheaded, his Power-wrought sword was taken as a trophy of victory, and the Aiel executed a surprisingly well-organized withdrawal over the river by night and began a rapid retreat to the Aiel Waste. This move took the Alliance completely by surprise, since neither side had achieved a decisive victory so far, and they mounted a pursuit as quickly as possible.
Believing they had the Aiel on the run, the Alliance armies "drove" the Aiel south and east towards Kinslayer's Dagger. The Aiel fought several rearguard actions involving thousands of troops which succeeded in preventing the Alliance forces from catching up with the Aiel. Lord Hirare Nachiman, commander of Arafel's troop detachment, was killed during one of these engagements.
Twenty days after Laman's death, the Aiel melted away into the mountains, and thence back into the Aiel Waste.
Both sides declared victory. Believing that the Aiel had crossed the Dragonwall to lay waste to the Westlands, the Alliance believed they had shown the Aiel their mettle on the battlefield and forced them to rout. However, it did not take long before the relationship between the timing of Laman's death and the Aiel's abrupt departure to be realized. While the popular image of a great victory over the Aiel lived on, some in the West seemed to realize that all the Aiel had wanted was Laman's death, and they simply left once that was achieved.
The Aiel declared that their objectives had been fulfilled and revenge had been satisfied, but they did not seem to take great pleasure in the carnage they had unleashed. Janduin, in particular, was heartbroken as his pregnant lover, Shaiel had vanished in the battle and been presumed dead.
Other events during the battleEdit
During the third day of the battle, a detachment of the Illianer Companions, the elite formation of the Illianer army, engaged a force of Aiel Maidens of the Spear who had been cut off from their main force. The Aiel Maidens made their stand on the slopes of Dragonmount itself and were cut down, although not before inflicting some losses on the Illianer forces. Whilst examining the dead women, Second Captain Tam al'Thor, an Andoran from the Two Rivers, found that one of them had died giving birth. The child survived. Tam decided to take the child as his own, naming him Rand, eventually taking him home to the Two Rivers.
At the moment Rand was born on the slope of Dragonmount, where Lews Therin Telamon had died more than three thousand years earlier, the Aes Sedai Keeper of the Chronicles uttered a Foretelling that the Dragon had been Reborn and dropped dead on the instance. The only witnesses were the Amyrlin Seat, Tamra Ospenya, and two of the Accepted, Moiraine Damodred and Siuan Sanche. These two women would dedicate the next twenty years to finding the Dragon Reborn before the forces of the Shadow did.
After the battle, the Grand Alliance failed to become a permanent organization and disintegrated, its armies returning to their homeland.
With the knowledge that Laman had unleashed the devastation of their nation, the Cairhienin noble houses deposed House Damodred from the Sun Throne. In the Fourth War of Cairhienin Succession, Lord Galldrian Riatin gained the upper hand and ascended the throne. Cairhien spent much of the next two decades recovering from the war and rebuilding its cities, economy and army.
Shortly after the battle, the leader of the Black Ajah, Jarna Malari kidnapped and tortured Tamra Ospenya before killing her. The Black Ajah learned that the Dragon had been Reborn, but not that he was a newborn. As a result, they spent the next half-decade desperately searching for young men or boys rather than an infant, allowing Rand al'Thor to escape detection. However, scores of innocent children, including Prince Diryk of Kandor, died in the process.
However, it was the rebirth of the Dragon that proved the enduring legacy of the battle. Rand al'Thor began his ascension to rule the Westlands in 998 NE, so the countdown to the Last Battle began with the Battle of the Shining Walls.