A Brief History of Cairhien, Andor, and the Wars of Succession
The Wheel of Time is renowned for its world building, but much of the backstory is delivered in bits and pieces at different times in different places and it’s not always easy to put the pieces together.
This post will try to put some of those pieces together and explain how the history of Cairhien and Andor interact with the Aiel and the Dragon.
Shortly After the Breaking
In the glass columns at Rhuidean, Rand sees the history of the Aiel through his ancestor’s eyes. He sees the fall of the Age of Legends, watches the Aes Sedai charge the Aiel with protecting a cache of angreal, sa’angreal, and ter’angreal, and some cuttings from chora trees.
Angreal, sa’angreal, and ter’angreal are objects of the power, and thus of importance to anyone trying to rebuild society. Chora trees are constructs of the one power that exude a sense of peace and serenity. In a society destroyed by war, peace is invaluable.
In the glass columns, Rand sees a moment where the Aiel are given free access to water instead of being chased off as is usually the case. The people who did this were the predecessors to the Cairhienin, and the village they lived in became the city of Cairhien. In thanks for their generosity, the Aiel gave the Cairhienin a cutting from a chora tree and allowed them to travel across the waste to trade with Shara.
There are two chora trees known to exist in the Third Age. One is Avendesora, also known as the Tree of Life, in Rhuidean. The other was grown from the cutting given to the Cairhienin and is known as Avendoraldera.
Gitara Moroso was an Aes Sedai with the Talent of Foretelling. In separate foretellings, she saw that if Tigraine Mantear—the Daughter-Heir of Andor—and Luc Mantear, Tigraine’s brother didn’t take themselves off into the waste and the blight respectively, it would be disastrous for the light.
Luc heads off to the blight and becomes part of Slayer.
Tigraine heads to the waste, changes her name to Shaiel, and joins Far Dareis Mai, the Maidens of the Spear. She falls in love with an Aiel named Janduin and is pregnant at the time of the Aiel War.
She left behind a husband, Taringail Damodred, and a son, Galadried Damodred.
Somewhere around this time, an Accepted named Elaida do Avriny a’Roihan had a foretelling that the Royal house of Andor would be key to the Last Battle.
Shortly after Tigraine left for the waste, her mother Mordrellen Mantear, Queen of Andor, died. Legend has it, she died of a broken heart at the loss of her children.
As there was no heir available, there was a brief succession war, the third in Andor’s history. This was won by Morgase Trakand. Having been raised Aes Sedai, and concluding that Morgase was likely to win, Elaida attached herself to Morgase, becoming her Aes Sedai advisor. Shortly after her victory, she married Taringail Damodred to cement an alliance between Andor and Cairhien.
Laman Damodred was the King of Cairhien, full of himself, and not very bright. He cut down Avendoraldera, which was 500 years old, to make himself a new throne.
The Aiel were upset about this, and four clans poured over the Dragonwall in a police action to arrest and execute Laman for the crime. One of those clans was the Taardad, led by Janduin, and including a pregnant Maiden named Shaiel.
The Aiel War culminated in a battle called the Shining Walls by folks who weren’t there, and the Blood Snow by those who were. Laman is killed. Shaiel, pregnant, goes off and delivers her child on the slopes of Dragonmount before dying. That baby is rescued by Tam al’Thor, who took it home to the Two Rivers to raise as his own.
Laman’s death caused almost as many problems as his life did. His three brothers were all dead. His nephew Taringail was prohibited from taking the throne because he’d married into the royal house of Andor. That left three nieces, only one of whom would make an acceptable monarch.Taringail Damodred was prohibited from taking the throne because he had married into the royal house of Andor. That left three brothers and some nieces, only one of whom would be a suitable leader.
That one was Moiraine Damodred, then an Accepted at the White Tower who had just seen a Foretelling from the always troublesome Gitara Moroso to the effect that the Dragon had just been born on Dragonmount.
Shortly thereafter, Moiraine was raised Aes Sedai, and while the Tower wanted her to become Queen of Cairhien, she was having none of it and skipped town to look for the Dragon Reborn. It was on this trip that she met and bonded al’Lan Mandragoran.
With no suitable heir, and aware of how badly House Damodred had fucked over Cairhien, there was a brief, bloody succession war won by House Riatin, installing Galldrian.
House Damodred turned to a new High Seat: Barthanes.
The Thomdril Digression
Morgase Trakand’s marriage to Taringail Damodred was not a happy one. They had two children together, Daughter-Heir Elayne, and Gawyn, destined to become the First Prince of the Swords. Morgase also treated her stepson Galad as one of her own.
But Taringail was a Damodred, so he wanted the throne for himself, and plotted to have Morgase killed.
Good thing Morgase took a lover, right? His name was Thomdril Merrilin, and he had been her bard when she was High Seat, and became Court Bard when Morgase took the throne.
Thom Merrilin was an expert player of the Game of Houses. It’s assumed that he helped Morgase win the throne, but the details are murky. Regardless, as Court Bard and de facto head of intelligence, Merrilin learned of the plan to assassinate Morgase and pre-empted it by assassinating Taringail.
Elaida didn’t like the influence Thom had over Morgase, so she sought a distraction. She found it in Thom’s nephew Owyn, who could channel. She passed Owyn’s name to those of her sisters who were hunting down and stilling men who could channel without following the law. This was, in secret, a plot by the Black Ajah to eliminate the Dragon Reborn before the Last Battle.
Thom ran off to help Owyn, leaving Morgase in the lurch a bit during a sensitive time. When Thom returned, they had a blowout and Morgase exiled Thom from Andor.
And Finally we Reach the Events of the Books
It only took a thousand words.
Thom took his barding skills and became an itinerant Gleeman during his exile. That brought him to Emond’s Field just in time for Bel Tine. While there, he teamed up with the semi-adultish version of the baby Tigraine delivered on Dragonmount. At least in part, this was to protect him (and the others) from the machinations of Moiraine Damodred, Aes Sedai.
Thom was separated from Rand and Mat in Whitebridge, where Thom may have killed a Fade, and where the Fade definitely hurt Thom. Thom thought he was done with the boys and took up with a woman named Dena in Cairhien.
In the events of The Great Hunt, Rand and his party attend a shindig at Lord Barthanes’ new manor. While there, Rand learns Barthanes is a Darkfriend, and has a brief conversation with Thom where Thom reiterates that he’s done.
When Thom goes home to Dena, he finds her dead, and deduces she was killed by King Galldrian. He assassinates Galldrian on the same night Galldrian has Barthanes assassinated, instigating another succession war. This one was cut short when the Dragon Reborn captured the city. The next monarch to sit on the throne was Elayne Trakand.
Morgase Trakand took a lover named Lord Gaebril who was the Forsaken Rahvin in disguise. Rahvin used compulsion on Morgase to make her a puppet of a monarch. She escaped and abdicated the throne, throwing Andor into a succession war that was won by Elayne Trakand.