The Grand Alliance is an extremely grandiose title coined for the unified armies of ten of the fourteen kingdoms of the Westlands, which allied together to fight the Aiel outside the walls of Tar Valon during the Aiel War.
In 976 NE the position of Laman Damodred, the King of Cairhien, was becoming untenable. His nephew Taringail had been apparently widowed by the disappearance of his wife Tigraine Mantear, the Daughter-Heir of Andor, in 972 NE. Although Taringail wedded the new Queen, Morgase Trakand, in her stead, Morgase proved to have a much stronger personality and reduced Taringail to nothing more than her consort, with no influence at court. Laman's dream of a Damodred child ruling both the Lion Throne of Andor and the Sun Throne of Cairhien appeared ruined, and rival families, most notably House Riatin, began maneuvering to seize the throne.
As a minor part of his schemes to retain the throne, Laman cut down Avendoraldera, a sapling of the Tree of Life, to make a throne that could never be matched. Unfortunately, Laman was unaware that the sapling had been given to the Cairhienin as a gift by the Aiel five centuries earlier in gratitude for the ancestors of the Cairhienin providing refuge and supplies during their original flight to the Aiel Waste after the Breaking of the World. When they learned of Laman's act, the Aiel became furious, and four clans launched a devastating invasion of Cairhien in late 976 NE, beginning the Aiel War.
Formation of the Alliance
The motives of the Aiel invasion were not generally known outside Cairhien. Many of the western kingdoms assumed the Aiel were launching a general campaign against all of the Westlands, and a unified response would be required to turn back their huge numbers. Laman was defeated at the First Battle of Cairhien and his capital was put to the torch. He retreated to Tear and then Andor. Both nations contributed troops to the war, but the Aiel continued their pursuit of Laman's army.
Eventually, the Aes Sedai convinced the rulers of the nations to send troops to Tar Valon. Some of the contributors called this alliance the "Third Covenant" (as the "Second Covenant" had been that which led to the forming of the Ten Nations; the nature of the "First Covenant" remains unknown) and believed it would lead to a new golden age, although this proved not to be the case.
The presence of substantial forces of Tairens and Amadicians at the battle, and most notably the Children of the Light, was surprising due to the antipathy or outright hatred held by these individuals towards the Aes Sedai. It is hypothesised that Tear had contributed substantial troops to Laman in return for him leading the Aiel away from Tear's borders, but the presence of the others is harder to explain. It is believed that other notables, such as King Mattin Stepaneos den Balgar of Illian, had convinced them of the need to fight the Aiel hordes on the possible basis they were Darkfriends. At no time during the Alliance's existence did the Amadician or Children contingents accept any kind of authority or orders from the Aes Sedai.
Composition of the Alliance
The Alliance took shape through the latter part of 978 NE outside the city of Tar Valon and consisted of the following troop levels from each country.
- 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.
- Marya Somares, from the Grey Ajah, held the White Tower's seat in the decision-making council for the Grand Alliance. She was advised by Azil Mareed, the Domani commander of the Tower Guard (due the opposition from the Children of the Light, she was the only member of the council to be excluded from the rotating field command of the armies of the Alliance).
- 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.
Whilst individual Domani troops fought at the battle, Arad Doman and Tarabon were too far to send large armies before the battle took place. Saldaea and Kandor had despatched armies, but been forced to recall them due to growing Shadowspawn activity along the Blight that year.
In all, the Alliance fielded 170,000 troops, making this easily the largest army assembled in the West since the War of the Hundred Years.
In contrast, the Aiel forces who opposed them numbered less than 80,000 troops.
Fate of the Alliance
The Alliance fought in the Battle of the Shining Walls and apparently turned back the Aiel, although with grievous losses. King Laman Damodred, Lord Hirare Nachiman of Arafel and Lord Aranvor Naldwinn of Andor were all killed, along with thousands of their troops. Aiel losses were also signficant, but no reliable estimate of their casualties has ever been given.
With the Aiel apparently defeated and driven from the Westlands, the Grand Alliance fell apart, despite some attempts to hold it together. The divisions and hatreds between the nations and factions were simply too great to be overcome in the long term.