The Black Years are a period in the rule of the High King, Artur Hawkwing, spanning the latter part of the Consolidation and the early part of the organization of his Empire. They are generally held to have begun in FY 961 and ended in FY 965. They are also called the "Years of Silent Rage."
In FY 959, Hawkwing's son, Modair, was killed in battle. Although Hawkwing grieved, such things are to be expected in war. However, two years later Hawkwing's queen, Amaline Paendrag Tagora was poisoned, along with Modair's twin sister Amira and Hawkwing's younger two children.
Hawkwing flew in a rage and prosecuted his war against the last surviving free kingdom, Aldeshar, with unusual and cruel savagery. He held King Joal Ramedar as being responsible for the deaths of his family, despite Ramedar's protestations to the contrary. Hawkwing refused to accept the surrender of several Aldeshari generals after defeating them, instead massacring them and their entire armies. Hawkwing's Aes Sedai adviser, Chowin Tsao, left his service in protest over this butchery. When the kingdom finally surrendered in FY 963, Hawkwing treated the kingdom harshly. Ramedar was executed, instead of being made an Imperial Governor as other former rulers had. The nobility was disenfranchised, its lands seized, and the nobles exiled and scattered to the far corners of the Empire.
The following year Hawkwing launched an ill-considered and poorly-planned invasion of the Aiel Waste. The Aiel proved unwilling to meet Hawkwing in open battle, instead harrying his flanks and supply lines. Hawkwing was forced to retreat after several months, the first and greatest defeat of his military career.
Hawkwing emerged from the Black Years when he met and fell in love with the lady Tamika. A woman thirty years his junior, Tamika brought him out of his depression and made him laugh once more. They married in FY 965 within a year of meeting one another, and in FY 967 she gave birth to their first son, Luthair Paendrag Mondwin. Several more children followed. At Tamika's urging, Hawkwing accepted a new Aes Sedai adviser in FY 967, repairing (temporarily) the rift with Tar Valon the Black Years had opened. Hawkwing also restored the nobility and merchant classes of Aldeshar to their homeland, which was now the Imperial Province of Andor, and even appointed King Ramedar's daughter Endara Casalain as Imperial Governor of the province.
Whilst Hawkwing did not fully fall into the Black Years once more, a similar rage, but this time highly directed and applied only to the Aes Sedai, appeared in FY 974, when he dismissed all Aes Sedai from all posts throughout the Empire and the following year he laid siege to Tar Valon. The cause of this rage is unknown, but it has been suggested that Hawkwing's new counselor, Jalwin Moerad, had brought evidence that it was in fact the Aes Sedai who had poisoned Amaline and their children. However, this remains speculation at best.