Band of the Red Hand

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The band of the Red Hand is an army, under the command of Matrim Cauthon formed from men drawn to him because of his military prowess. Unlike most Westland armies, it is not comprised units whose size varies according to their commander, but is highly structured.

While it was at six thousand men in Maerone, it was split into around half mounted and half foot. The mounted units were split into two approximately equal units of fifteen hundred. This made three banners. Each mounted banner was divided into six squadrons of ten troops. The infantry was divided into twelve companies of five squads, mixing pikemen, billmen and crossbowmen (TWoRJTWoT, Ch. 26). Each unit is given a number for identification (LoC, Ch. 5). By the end of Knife of Dreams, it has grown in size to eight banners of horse and five of foot, not including four thousand mounted crossbowmen (KoD, Ch. 34).

Banner: A red hand on a square white background, fringed with red.

Motto: Dovie'andi'se tovya sagain; It's time to toss the dice.

The Historical Band

Shen an Calhar, the Band of the Red Hand, were a group of heroes during the Trolloc Wars. It is said they were the last to fall guarding Aemon when Manetheren died (TFoH, Ch. 51). They are almost legendary and those who join Mat's Band hope to match the original (LoC, Ch. 5).


The origins of the army are largely accidental. During the Shaido siege of Cairhien and the battle to drive them off, Mat tries to leave Rand, but Aiel are blocking each way he tries. While looking for a way through, he comes across a band of Tairens and Cairhienin, thinking that once they have passed, he will have a clear way out. From his position and using a looking glass he won off of Kin Tovere, he is able to see an ambush the Shaido have prepared. Although he originally thinks to himself that he will ignore it, he finds that he can’t do it, and goes to warn them (TFoH, Ch. 43).

The lead group are Tairens, led by Melanril, who has been given the command by Rand. Initially, he seems disinclined to listen, but changes his mind when Estean explains to him Mat's relationship to Rand. Mat learns here that they are not even where they have been ordered to be and instead are seeking glory. After learning Weiramon is not present, Mat tells them that the Aiel are waiting to ambush them, which, with the exception of Estean, who Mat feels has been in a real fight, pleases the lordlings. Their eagerness bothers him and he considers letting them go ahead, but worries that the Aiel might try and finish off the rest and that he might get caught up in it (TFoH, Ch. 43).

Instead, he plans his first real battle, telling the lordlings to go ahead and then form a square of pikemen and get inside. He gives Daerid, the leader of the pikemen, his instructions. Finally, he seeks out the mounted Cairhienin, led by Talmanes, who says he will follow Mat's plan, as long as Mat leads half the men. Riding off, he can't quite believe what he has gotten into. The two groups go to opposite sides of the hill, looking down on the Tairens and pikemen, and charge, pinning the Aiel (TFoH, Ch. 43).

The first encounter turns into a rout and though he continually looks for a way of avoiding trouble, several times more he is forced into action. One of the battles is a draw, another a victory after other Aiel run into the back of the Shaido. They suffer losses, though these are small and Mat manages to keep the number of survivors to around three thousand. Whilst trying to find a way clear, Talmanes, Nalesean, Estean and Daerid come to tell him a large band of Shaido, around five thousand with Couladin as one of their number, is heading towards them. For this battle, Mat decides to try and trick them by pretending to run and turn round when they have nowhere to run to. To keep them focused and prevent them from trying better tactics, he instructs the group to shout “protect the Lord Dragon”, with the intent of holding them until the mounted units arrive (TFoH, Ch. 44). During this skirmish, Mat kills Couladin (TFoH, Ch. 45).

Following the battle, when Cairhien is safe, they celebrate together, though Mat does not. The men are singing verses of “Jak o' the Shadows.” Mat wishes he had never taught them the song. By this time, the men are loyal to him, Talmanes and Daerid almost coming to blows over who should give him an honor guard. When Talmanes and Nalesean come to tell him he should have a place in Rand’s procession into Cairhien, they are shocked that he is not interested. “'You are our battle leader' Nalesean protested, 'our general.'” At this, Nalesean and Talmanes start competing over who will dress and attend Mat (TFoH, Ch. 45).

Following the battle for Cairhien, Mat retains the men and remains as their leader, giving them the name "The Band of the Red Hand", after Shen an Calhar, an elite unit from Manetheren. They have increased their size, the foot doubling and the mounted units having to turn people away. Rand calls for him after he has led three further victories against Andorans encroaching on Cairhienin territory, despite trying his hardest each time to avoid conflict. After sending everyone else away, Rand gives Mat his instructions for the Band, which are that he is to take them to Tear to lead the attack on Illian. (TFoH, Ch. 51).


Mat takes the growing Band, which has reached six thousand including Andorans once loyal to Morgase, to Maerone. He had re-organized the army into numbered squadrons and troops. The lordlings grumbled at that, but none left. At the time, Maerone is held by Andorans loyal to Gaebril who do not want to give up the town, but are forced to, fleeing across the Erinin after skirmishes with the Band. Here, they wait until the order to advance south is given. When he heads south, he tells them he hopes to make thirty-five miles a day, a very ambitious target (LoC, Ch. 5).

Eleven days after leaving Maerone, they have travelled halfway to Tear, a better pace than Mat had hoped for. On the way south, they see an overturned Tuatha'an wagon and the bodies of a band of Tinkers, with the words "TELL THE DRAGON REBORN" written on it by one of them. They make camp, but are attacked by Aiel in the night. Mat tells them that every time they camp, they are to have a ditch and palisade around the camp. While inspecting the site, he discovers Olver has followed them and is feeding horses for Burdin. Mat offers to have Olver carry messages for the Band. During the conversation, Nerim is sent by Talmanes to mend Mat (LoC, Ch. 22).

A few days out of Tear, Rand changes the plan, sending Mat and the Band to Salidar through a gateway to fetch Elayne. He promises to stay close to her until he has delivered her to the Royal Palace. They travel slowly, through wooded terrain, taking several days, until Vanin reports back that there are Warders in the woods and they have taken Mar and probably Ladwin. He tells Mat that there may be three or four hundred Aes Sedai in Salidar, with an army maybe twice the size of the Band. He orders them to prepare defences so that the Aes Sedai realize that they don't want to attack. Mat tells Talmanes that he is in command and takes Vanin and a couple of Bannermen into the town (LoC, Ch. 38).

After sending Vanin back to tell Talmanes to sit tight, Mat and the other four men take a loft to sleep in and Mat has them fix their banners outside it, where they are joined by Vanin and Olver. Egwene tells him that Elayne and Nynaeve are off to Ebou Dar and that if he wants to stay close to them, he must follow, to which he agrees. Egwene use the presence of the Band, and her knowledge of what Mat is likely to have ordered, to influence the Hall into voting for marching towards Tar Valon. Mat takes Nalesean as Nalesean has been to Ebou Dar. Talmanes insists that he takes Nerim when he learns of this. In addition to Nalesean, Lopin and Nerim, he takes a dozen soldiers who have served as Redarms, and Olver, with his horse Wind (LoC, Ch. 44).

Ebou Dar

Mat takes a small group with him to Ebou Dar when Elayne and Nynaeve Travel south. They emerge about a week from the city and ride south. On the way there, Elayne starts to give him instructions regarding his men, both things he intended to do and things they have kept secret from him. On arrival in Ebou Dar, they lodge at the Wandering Woman (LoC, Ch. 47).

With no soldiering or battles in the city, the group settles into a relaxed life, drinking, gambling, carousing and horse racing (ACoS, Ch. 14). During the time there, most of them manage to get into fights or duels, but none receive serious injuries (ACoS, Ch. 17). After Elayne and Nynaeve apologize to Mat for the incident in the Stone, the group moves into the Tarasin Palace. Here, Mat decides that Elayne and Nynaeve should have two of the Band as bodyguards each time they leave. He also uses them to watch the Kin's house (ACoS, Ch. 28). Two of them, Belvyn and Lawtin, are killed by Moghedien when she tries to balefire Nynaeve (ACoS, Ch. 31). The following day, the remainder set out to the Rahad to fetch the Bowl of the Winds. Nalesean is killed by the gholam and Corevin, Lawdrin, Tad, and Wat are killed in the fight (ACoS, Ch. 31). Mat takes on Lopin as a second manservant (ACoS, Ch. 39). Nerim, Lopin, Vanin and the surviving Redarms, Harnan, Fergin, Gorderan and Metwyn, remain in Ebou Dar when the Seanchan attack (ACoS, Ch. 39).

The group remains with Mat in Ebou Dar while he recuperates from the injuries he received during the Seanchan attack. He tells them that they should go on ahead without him, but they refuse (WH, Ch. 17). When Mat decides to leave, he sends all apart from Vanin and Harnan ahead, who he keeps around to try and avert suspicion (WH, Ch. 30). Along with Mat, they travel with Valan Luca (WH, Ch. 15; CoT, Ch. 2) when he leaves Ebou Dar with Tuon. When Renna tries to kill Egeanin and escape, Mat and the Redarms chase her down and kill her. On the way north, Mat talks with Aludra and her plans to make cannons, which she calls dragons (WH, Ch. 15; KoD, Ch. 8).


While Mat is in Ebou Dar, Talmanes takes over, with instructions to stay close to Egwene should she choose to flee (LoC, Ch. 44). While traveling through Murandy, Bryne establishes communications with Talmanes. When he tells Egwene of this, he also tells her that their number has risen to ten thousand and that both groups gather recruits, though Bryne gathers more, as some have deserted thinking that the Band's luck is tied up with Mat. Egwene tells Bryne not to meet with Talmanes anymore, primarily as she doesn't want him to realize she is not going to seek sanctuary with him. (ACoS, Ch. 12).

Talmanes attends, with around one hundred of the Band, when Egwene and the Sitters go to met the Murandian and Andoran nobles (TPoD, Ch. 17). She manages to talk to him after telling the nobles of her plans and he tells her that she has changed the border between Andor and Murandy. He asks where Mat is and she tells him that he was in Ebou Dar, but must be heading towards them by now. To her surprise, he tells her he can feel Mat pulling on him, the call of ta'veren, and that he has realized she doesn’t need rescuing. He tells her Roedran has approached him, asking him to hang around and look threatening, in the hopes that an army on Murandian soil will help him to unite the nation. Talmanes is considering it, both for the money, and so that they can be there when Mat arrives. She makes him promise that other than defending themselves, they will not get drawn into a war (TPoD, Ch. 19). This plan works and Roedran gathers the nobles of Murandy behind him (WH, Ch. 9).

Together again

After leaving Luca in Maderin, Mat and his Band head east through the forests towards the Damona Mountains on the border with Murandy. Before they reach there, Vanin returns from scouting, accompanied by Talmanes. He tells Mat that he brought three banners of horse and four thousand mounted crossbowmen, but left three banners of horse and five of foot in Murandy, with the Mason's banner, and orders for them to move north into Andor. He also says that he made a deal with Roedran, which is over now, but gave him enough money for a year and a half's pay for the Band. He tells Mat that a landslide has blocked the pass through the mountains he was hoping to use and that they'll need to find another way (KoD, Ch. 25).

They ride towards the Band, and Talmanes explains that he left Estean in charge because he wanted to bring Edorion with him and because unlike Reimon and Carlomin, Estean will listen to Daerid. Mat tells Talmanes that he has allowed nobles to go there own way for too long and that he is instituting new ranks, banner generals for those who command banners and Lieutenant generals for Talmanes and Daerid as they command five banners each. He then tells Mat of a new crossbow they have, which can fire off seven or eight quarrels in a minute, which is more than in any of Mat's memories (KoD, Ch. 26).

When they arrive in the camp, the men cheer to see Mat and start singing "Jak o' the Shadows" until he quiets them by raising his spear. Talmanes tells him that he has half the scouts with him and knows the position of all the Seanchan in the vicinity, and that they have a mapmaker, Master Roidelle. Mat has Roidelle mark the Seanchan positions on one of the maps and begins his planning to get them out of Altara and away from the Seanchan (KoD, Ch. 26).

The Band sets about raiding supply camps and other groups, slipping in and out before the Seanchan can react and leaving no trace, intending that they will send soldiers through the Molvaine Gap, leaving the way clear for the Band. They hide in the trees, dull green armor having replaced bright breastplates and gilding so as to be harder to see, and wait for a band of Seanchan that is approaching. They catch it, comprised mostly of Altaran recruits and numbering around four thousand lancers compared to Mat's two thousand, unawares. With the new crossbows however, they are able to quickly kill or maim all of them and ride on, without offering the customary aid (KoD, Ch. 27).

Over the course of a week, there are four large engagements and around sixty skirmishes, ambushes and raids, spread over three hundred miles. They have not claimed a single prisoner and it is said among the Seanchan that the Band do not leave their dead behind (KoD, Ch. 34), though in truth, the Band loses around a thousand men (KoD, Ch. 37). One of the encounters takes out four Seanchan banners of horse and five of foot, comprised mostly of Taraboners and Amadicians. The Seanchan believe that there must be six to eight sizeable armies with Asha'man, as the damane have noted explosions not caused by saidar and that to put out the volume of crossbows they have, they would need in the order of twenty thousand men. Every Seanchan commander to come up against them has been completely outmanoeuvred. The plan however, works, and General Chisen is called to bring his army out of the Malvide Narrows (KoD, Ch. 34).

Mat comes to realize that the Seanchan are searching for Tuon and that they don't mean her well. The Band regroups into a camp of seven to eight thousand men. Karede arrives in the camp and tells him that Chisen has realized what is happening and that there are one hundred thousand men heading their way. However, he also claims he has ten thousand, though Mat says it is no more than one hundred and twenty Gardeners. Mat also does not believe that Chisen has realized what is happening, or that he can return in less than five days. Instead, he asks Karede if he can get Tuon back to the Tarasin Palace and he agrees. Vanin returns to tell them there are around ten thousand soldiers around five miles away and that there is a rumour that whoever kills Tuon gets a hundred thousand gold crowns. Mat begins to plan again. Karede leaves with Tuon, leaving a small number of Deathwatch Guards and Gardeners to act as a diversion (KoD, Ch. 36).

Mat sets the men to building a wall, but leaves it unfinished, to trick the Seanchan into thinking they were taken by surprise. The Band lines up, ready for the approaching lancers. Aludra distracts them with a firework and Talmanes uses the opportunity to bring out his three banners of horse behind the Seanchan. While they are getting closer, the crossbowmen fire, three ranks of around a thousand each, in quick succession, knocking the Seanchan from their horses. While this goes on, Talmanes gets closer and his men fire from behind, causing confusion in the Seanchan ranks. The third set of the forces then come into play, using explosives made from gunpowder as shrapnel weapons, delivered by sling men. Some of the Seanchan have survived enough to be engaging directly with the Band and others are close enough that the Aes Sedai with him feel enough in danger that they can use the Power, throwing rapid fireballs. Bloodlust has overtaken the Seanchan by now, and they don't take the opportunity of retreating through a gap Mat has left for them, instead heading towards him. The Band's organisation remains strong and the Seanchan soldiers are all killed or maimed. The Deathwatch Guard that are with Mat leave (KoD, Ch. 37).


On the way to Maerone, Mat asks his commanders for the names of men suspected of being horse thieves, but for whom there is no proof. Nalesean, Talmanes and Daerid name seven men. He asks the same question of those seven, and they name eleven more, who have escaped the notice of the commanders. He repeats this procedure until there are forty-seven and no more names are given, the last person, Chel Vanin, being noticed by only three others. To each of these, Mat offers the opportunity of being a scout, with pardons, extra pay and no work duties other than scouting. Plus a hanging for the first lie (LoC, Ch. 22).


Redarms are the peacekeeping faction of the Band. As the soldiers tended to fight, especially when drunk or of different nations, men were chosen to prevent this. They took their name from red armbands, stretching from wrist to elbow, and will quell fights before they get out of hand. Each unit takes turns providing Redarms, different men each day who have to pay for any damage done while they are on duty, ensuring they do not slack in their task (LoC, Ch. 5).


  • The First Squadron; Edorion's Hammers
  • The Fourth Squadron; Carlomin's Leopards
  • The Fifth Squadron; Reimon's Eagles
  • The first banner of horse; Talmanes Thunderbolts

Officers and Commanders

  • Lieutenant General Talmanes Delovinde
  • Lieutenant General Daerid Ondin
  • Banner General Reimon
  • Banner General Carlomin
  • Banner General Estean Andiama
  • Banner General Edorion Selorna
  • Captain Mandevwin
  • File Leader Harnan

Condensed Timeline

  • c1000 AB-c1300 AB Shen an Calhar, the Band of the Red Hand, are a group of heroes during the Trolloc Wars. It is said they were the last to fall guarding Aemon when Manetheren died (TFoH, Ch. 51).
  • During the battle to drive the Shaido away from Cairhien, Mat takes control of a disorganized and disparate group of Cairhienin and Tairens and leads them to several successes (TFoH, Ch. 43; Ch. 45).
  • Following the battle, Mat leads three small battles against Andoran troops, winning decisive victories in each of them. (LoC, Ch. 5).
  • On the way to Maerone, Mat obtains the service of forty-seven scouts, who are good at avoiding notice (LoC, Ch. 22).
  • They are sent south from Maerone to lead the assault on Illian (LoC, Ch. 22).
  • Close to Tear, they are sent to Salidar by Rand (LoC, Ch. 38).
  • Most of the band follow the Salidar Aes Sedai to the border between Andor and Murandy and stay in Murandy when the Aes Sedai move on (TPoD, Ch. 19).
  • Roedran is able to gather nobles to him using the threat that the Band poses in Murandy (WH, Ch. 9).
  • In Ebou Dar, Mat sets two of the men to accompany Elayne and Nynaeve at all times (ACoS, Ch. 28).
  • Mat, Nalesean and the Redarms accompany Elayne and Nynaeve to fetch the Bowl of the Winds. Six of them are killed by the gholam and the Darkfriends (ACoS, Ch. 37).
  • The survivors stay in Ebou Dar with Mat until he escapes (WH, Ch. 30).
  • The join up with Talmanes, who has brought part of the band into Altara, leaving the rest in Murandy (KoD, Ch. 25).
  • They split into smaller groups and raid the Seanchan camps, winning many clear victories with few losses (KoD, Ch. 26; Ch. 27; Ch. 34).
  • Karede arrives and takes Tuon (KoD, Ch. 36).
  • The Band fights an army of ten thousand trying to capture Tuon and slaughters them (KoD, Ch. 37).


Jak o' the Shadows

“Jak o' the Shadows” refers to death and is the unofficial song of the Band. Mat notes that once people realize “Jak o' the Shadows” is death, they are very keen to sign up (LoC, Ch. 5).

We sing all night and drink all day
and on the girls we'll spend our pay
and when it's gone then we'll away
to dance with Jak o' the Shadows
(TFoH, Ch. 45)

There're some delight in ale and wine
and some in girls with ankles fine
but my delight, yes always mine
is to dance with Jak o' the Shadows
(TFoH, Ch. 45, KoD, Ch. 26)

We'll toss the dice however they fall
and snuggle the girls be they short or tall
then follow young Mat wherever he calls
to dance with Jak o' the Shadows
(TFoH, Ch. 45; KoD, Ch. 26)

We'll drink all night and dance all day
and on the girls we'll spend our pay
and when it's gone then we'll away
to dance with Jak o' the Shadows
(LoC, Ch. 5)

If you go to be a soldier

A song sung by members of the Band. Mat notes that the worse the verses are, the more people clamour to join in.

You'll feed on beans and on rotten hay,
and a horse's hoof come your naming day.
You'll sweat and bleed to you grow old,
and your only gold will be dreams of gold,
if you go to be a soldier
If you go to be a soldier

Your girl will marry another man.
A muddy grave will be all your land.
food for the worms and none to mourn.
You'll curse the day you were ever born,
if you go to be a soldier.
If you go to be a soldier.
(Reference: Lord of Chaos, Chapter 5)


  • Many of the Band take Mat's luck as a talisman (LoC, Ch. 5).
  • The men riding behind he banner expect to end up in legends to match those of the original Band (LoC, Ch. 5).


"Some fool got the name from somewhere, and they all started using it" (Mat about the name "Band of the Red Hand", The Fires of Heaven, Chapter 51)

"It seems the Band has a certain reputation from the fighting in Cairhien. The tale is Shen an Calhar never loses, whatever the odds" (Bryne, A Crown of Swords, Chapter 12)