The Wheel Turns...
The Aiel (pronounced: eye-EEL) are a race of people who live between the “wetlanders” in the Westlands and the Sharans in the east, in a desert which the Aiel call the Three-fold Land and which everyone else calls the Aiel Waste. They have earned a reputation as skilled warriors; little else is known about them in the wider world. Physically, Aiel can be recognized through their unusual height, characteristic pale eyes and light-colored hair, as well as their distinctive clothing.
Not much is known about the Aiel by the outside world. Any wetlanders (as they call those who live to the west) are killed on sight; only peddlers, gleemen and Aes Sedai are given free passage. Tinkers can also move freely in the Waste if they so choose, as no Aiel will go near them. Aiel have a reputation for being vicious fighters, and “black-veiled Aiel” is a common epithet for belligerence.
The Aiel once allowed a fifth class of wetlander to traverse their lands: the citizens of Cairhien, in honor of the help they had given the Aiel during their wandering. The Cairhienin were allowed to travel through the Waste to Shara, where the Cairhienin were able to obtain precious silks, spices and other luxury goods. The Aiel also gave Cairhien a small tree: Avendoraldera, a cutting of Avendesora, the Tree of Life. Unfortunately, several centuries later, a Cairhienin king with more ambition than sense, Laman Damodred, cut down Avendoraldera to make himself a throne. Four clans of outraged Aiel boiled out of the Waste to bring back Laman’s head. Led by a charismatic Tardaad clan chief named Janduin, the assassination was complicated when several “wetlander” armies mistook the Aiel for an invasion force and started fighting back. The Aiel cut them to ribbons, chasing King Laman across the nations, and by 978 NE they had pursued him all the way to Tar Valon. The Battle of the Blood Snow, as it was later called, saw the Aiel finally succeed in killing King Laman; the next day, they went home. Wetlanders call this the Aiel War; the Aiel called it justice. Since then, however, the Aiel have been even more hostile to the Cairhienin than to other wetlanders, calling them “treekillers” and “oathbreakers.”