—Selected memories of King Aemon al Caar al Thorin as recalled by Matrim Cauthon
The Battle of the Tarendrelle River was a conflict that occurred in the middle years of the Trolloc Wars between the nation of Manetheren and a vast host of Shadowspawn. It resulted in a victory for the forces of Shadow and led to the subsequent invasion and destruction of Manetheren.
Two hundred years before the battle, Trolloc armies, led by a council of Dreadlords began to pour forth from the Great Blight triggering a series of conflicts now known as the Trolloc Wars. Two centuries of warfare saw many heated battles between the armies of shadow and the forces of Light. Foremost of the champions of the light was the nation of Manetheren, oft described as "A thorn to the Dark One's foot and a bramble to his hand".In the middle years of the Trolloc Wars, circa 1200 AB, Manetheren was ruled by King Aemon al Caar al Thorin and his Aes Sedai queen Eldrene ay Ellan ay Carlan with whom he shared the Bond of a Warder. King Aemon was regarded as brilliant military strategist, a powerful leader, and a shrewd gambler. For years he answered pleas for aid from allied nations under assault by Dreadlord armies, repeatedly turning the tides of war towards the Light. However, during this period of time, the most powerful of the imprisoned Forsaken, Ishamael, was temporarily woven out of the Dark One's prison by the Pattern. Ishamael assumed the name Ba'alzamon, reorganized the forces of the Shadow, and orchestrated a plan to destroy Manetheren.
King Aemon's final victory occurred many leagues from his national borders upon the Field of Bekkar, known forever afterward as the Field of Blood. Unfortunately, the battle at Bekkar had been the culmination of a strategic feint orchestrated by Ba'alzamon. Despite the one-sided slaughter that Aemon had visited upon the Trollocs, he had overextended his military forces, providing an opportunity for Shadowspawn armies to assault the very heartland of Manetheren.
Prelude to battleEdit
Aemon immediately saw the peril Manetheren faced when the Shadow's plans were made known to him. Without hesitation or thought for the distance they must travel, the king's army marched from Bekkar, still covered in dust and sweat and blood. Day and night they traveled and it is said that no man of them could sleep whilst danger threatened their homeland. Aemon sent forth his swiftest riders to plead for aid from those of the Ten Nations that remained, and sent a special plea to Tetsuan, the Amyrlin Seat herself. His messengers returned declaring that reinforcements would be dispatched from various allies but his army would have to resist the forces of shadow for three days before aid could arrive. After learning that his enemy planned to invade from the east, Aemon marched his army to the major east-west road leading into the heart of Manetheren and, on the east banks of the River Tarendrelle, arrayed his force to block their path and prevent the invaders from accessing two strategically important bridges.
Deployment and disposition of forcesEdit
Time has erased many of the facts concerning the sizes of the two armies, but some information remains to provide an educated guess regarding the tactical resources available to each military.
The forces of the ShadowEdit
Histories researched by Moiraine Damodred relate that the armies of shadow counted in the "tens of tens of thousands" and were surrounded by a sky "blackened with ravens". From this a gauge of strength estimates that the forces of the shadow fielded somewhere between 500,000 and 900,000 stock troops, with a likely average of three quarters of a million. These were nearly all Trollocs that had been organized into units called a Fist, with each fist consisting of 100 Trollocs commanded by a Myrddraal. Instructing the Myrddraal were an unknown number of Darkfriends who, in turn, received their orders from a council of Dreadlords. Historians recorded that "Dawn revealed the banner of Ba'alzamon at their head" and that present upon the battlefield was "some evil that made that light-destroying banner seem no more than right and sent a chill into the souls of the men who faced it". indicating the likely possibility that Ishamael himself was present and held the general command.
From these historical accounts, an educated estimate of the forces of shadow are as follows:
- 600,000 Trolloc infantry troops
- 100,000 Trolloc archers
- 7,000 Myrddraal fist commanders
- 700 Human Darkfriend company commanders
- Between 10-15 Dreadlords each with the ability to channel
- In high likelihood - the Forsaken Ishamael
- Thousands of ravens serving as reconnaissance spies
The forces of the LightEdit
Historians assert that the armies of Manetheren were outnumbered ten to one on the first day of battle, indicating a total force of approximately 75,000 troops. The army consisted of many thousand well-disciplined and battle-hardened infantry veterans with a smaller contingent of expert archers. Additionally, a force of about 5000 well armored and expertly trained cavalry riders known as the Heart Guard were ready in reserve. Even more impressively, the king himself was present on the battlefield surrounded by his personal unit of ultra-elite warriors known as the Band of the Red Hand. Finally, common civilians from the heartland of Manetheren began to arrive ten days after the battle commenced, further swelling its ranks and providing additional manpower as soldiers and archers fell. It is unknown exactly how many common folk joined their brethren in battle. What is known is that they ranged from shepherds with bows, to farmers with pitchforks, to woodsmen with axes. It is even said that women came to the battlefield to fight and die alongside their husbands. Given the population of the Manetheren homeland, it is reasonable to guess that perhaps 50,000 additional troops were added in this way.
From these historical accounts, a best estimate of the forces of light are as follows:
- 60,000 veteran infantry
- 10,000 Archers
- 5,000 Calvary troops represented by the Heart Guard
- 500 Elite troops represented by the Band of the Red Hand
- King Aemon al'Caar al'Thorin
- 50,000 late-arriving civilians with minimal combat training
At first glance, an untrained eye might assume that the forces of the Shadow would quickly win the engagement by application of overwhelming force. However, even though they were outnumbered ten to one, the forces of the Light had seven distinct advantages:
- They were fighting on home soil
- They knew the terrain and controlled an egress across the river
- Soldiers of Manetheren possessed greater battlefield discipline and skill
- The arrival of civilians provided additional manpower and helped boost morale
- King Aemon was a master strategist
- King Aemon was present on the battlefield in full view of his troops
- In the event of a retreat, Aemon could remove his troops across the bridges, destroy them, and re-establish a defensive position on superior ground whilst his enemy was required to attempt an amphibious assault under fire from his archers.
Though the Manetheren troops were in an advantageous position, it must be noted that the forces of shadow possessed their own unique advantages:
- They could exercise the application of overwhelming force
- The army could afford to use Trollocs as canon fodder
- Dreadlords could Channel
- Ravens provided excellent battlefield reconnaissance
- Ishamael (if present) had knowledge of how warfare was waged during the War of Power
To the anger and frustration of the Dreadlords, King Aemon arrived at the east banks of the Tarendrelle at night mere hours before the forces of Shadow would have arrived to cross. He arranged his troops in a defensive position blocking the bridges. The battle began that morning.
Days one to threeEdit
Historical accounts of the battle relate that both armies felt at first that the forces of shadow would overwhelm the army of Manetheren. But the knowledge that they were fighting on home soil coupled with a belief that aid was coming gave the Manetheren soldiers strength of body and will to persevere. Hour by hour, they held their ground against waves of Trollocs that should have destroyed them. For three days the men fought, and though the fields east of the Tarendrelle became a butcher's yard, no crossing of the river did they yield.
Days four to nineEdit
By the fourth day of battle Aemon began to suspect that no aid was coming. Unbeknownst to the king, Manetheren had been betrayed by Tetsuan who, it has been said, harbored an old adolescent jealousy of Eldrene and so intervened to misdirect or delay the responses of allied nations. But even so, the men of Manetheren fought on. Four days became six, and six became eight, and by the end of the ninth day King Aemon knew he had been betrayed. His forces were diminished and he knew he could hold the eastern riverbanks no longer. Thus Aemon sent forth riders with orders to evacuate civilians from his nation's heartland, and he ordered a retreat across the bridges.
In the dark of morning on the tenth day the Army of Manetheren completed its retreat across the bridges before destroying them. Aemon then arranged his remaining troops on the west bank in a fashion where his flanks were defended by floodplain geography. For a day he rained arrows down upon the Shadowspawn attempting to cross and though many were killed, his army could not halt the ultimate advance of the enemy.
Days eleven - conclusionEdit
—Translated from the Old Tongue as Forward the Heart Guard! Forward! For the Honor of the Red Eagle!
Historians are unsure as to how many more days King Aemon's army held at the west bank of the Tarendrelle. History records that civilians - who had ignored their king's order to flee - began to arrive on the battlefield. First in a trickle, and then in a flood thousands of people came to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the infantry and pay the price of their homeland with their blood. Eventually the Dreadlords were forced to order the wholesale slaughter of their own troops via missile fire in an effort to kill the swelling ranks of Manetheren infantry. By this time Aemon had recalled his remaining archers to safety and attempted one final gambit. He ordered the assemblage of the Heart Guard and with infantry ranks opened, he led a full cavalry charge into the heart of the Trolloc horde. Though Aemon would not fall in battle during that final desperate gamble, his army was weakened to the point of failure and he was forced to abandon the battlefield lest he risk annihilation. The Battle of the Tarendrelle River ended with the retreat of the Manetheren army and the Dreadlords achieved victory.
After the battle concluded, the surviving elements of the Army of Manetheren were forced into a fighting retreat through the heart of their homeland. The retreat moved west across dry land that would one day be known as the Waterwood and finally ended at the intersection of roads now called the North Road, the Old Road, and the Quarry Road. It was at a field near these crossroads that Aemon led a final stand. After a day of battle the king and his elite guard, the Band of the Red Hand, fell to overwhelming forces in a struggle that came to be known as the Battle of Aemon's Field. However, the result was a Pyrrhic Victory for the forces of shadow, for when Queen Eldrene felt her husband perish via the bond they shared she became overwhelmed with grief and unleashed a cataclysmic force of the One Power upon the remaining Shadowspawn. In a display reminiscent of the Breaking of the World, Eldrene destroyed the majority of the shadow's remaining army and the capital of Manetheren was annihilated as well. Legend holds that after the shadowspawn were scattered, a spring burst forth upon the location where King Aemon and the Band of the Red Hand perished. It is said that the aquifer has flowed unceasingly since that day; forever marking their heroic sacrifice.
—descendants of Manetheren fighting at the banks of the River Mora during Tarmon Gai'don
The Battle of the Tarendrelle River left a lasting impression upon those who would later return to populate Manetheren. The currents of the Tarendrelle have long since washed away the ruins of the bridges and the road leading from the battlefield to Aemon's Field (now called Emond's Field) is gone, erased by the bewildering tangles of the Waterwood. The people of the Two Rivers, as the area has come to be called, are known for an intense streak of stubbornness, a legacy of the hardships created by the Trolloc Wars and their fierce Manetheren blood. Outsiders to the region often remark that Two Rivers folk can "give mules lessons and teach stones". When the Dragon Reborn raised his banner 2000 years later, the legacy of the ancient battle continued to resonate. The Band of the Red Hand reformed in greater numbers around Matrim Cauthon, a man who could call forth King Aemon's personal experiences from a vast mental library of battlefield memories. Inhabitants of the Two Rivers were eventually united by Perrin Aybara and Faile Bashere in a cultural turning-point that came to be known as the Battle of Emond's Field where the people invoked their Manetheren heritage and rallied to the ancient Red Eagle Banner. Many would continue to follow Perrin and would ultimately fight in the Last Battle where they - like King Aemon before them - sought to bar the advance of Shadowspawn at the banks of a river. As time marches on it appears that King Aemon's legacy will not be forgotten and that the astonishing sacrifices of the Manetheren Army at the banks of the Tarendrelle River did not pass in vain.