Cairhien (/ˈkaɪ.ɹiˌɛn/) is a large country at the end of the Third Age in the east-central part of the Westlands. Cairhien's flag is a golden rising sun on a field of blue and the nation is renowned for exporting Daes Dae'mar, the politically intrigued Game of Houses. Cairhienin speak in a precise, clipped accent, enunciating every word.
Cairhien is a nation that borders the Spine of the World, north of Tear and south of the Borderlands. It stretches from Kinslayer's Dagger to the Maraside Mountains, and from the Spine to the River Erinin. Its capital city is also named Cairhien. It is famous for the Topless Towers of its eponymous capital city.
Pronounced "KEYE-ree-EHN", Cairhien's name comes the name of the capital city, also Cairhien, which comes from Al'cair'rahienallen. This is an Old Tongue word that means "Hill of the Golden Dawn." After the Trolloc Wars and the War of the Hundred Years, the original name was shortened to simply "Cairhien". Before then, the city had been the capital of the nation of Almoren, which later became Tova. After the War of the Hundred Years, the province of Cairhien rose up against their Tovan rulers and slaughtered the entire ruling line.
Appearance and custom
Cairhienin are usually short in stature and of rather pale complexion, usually with dark hair. They are also, outwardly at least, a very reserved people. Their love of order and control is best illustrated by the perfect grid of their capital's streets, ignoring even hills and, where possible, waterways. The map in Lord of Chaos is, accordingly, grossly inaccurate and misleading.
It is said that when Cairhienin reserve breaks, it can do so to a surprising degree. A good example is Cairhien during the Feast of Lights. During this two day celebration, all social barriers fall, and any man may kiss any woman, and any woman may kiss any man; nobles and commoners alike can be seen in the streets in various states of undress. After the two days are over, life proceeds as if nothing had occurred.
Cairhienin nobles tend to favor dark colors, particularly black, dark blue, or green. This upper-class wear clothing with narrow, horizontal slashes of color that indicate their House, the number of slashes across the chest and body reflecting the rank of the wearer. Servants also bear stripes of House colors corresponding to those they serve, but only on their sleeves and collar. The number of these stripes, too, are indicative of the rank, though only among liveried servants.
Lords and ladies are often seen with dark ivory lace adorning the collar and cuffs of the sleeves. Ladies pile their hair into elaborate styles that tower atop their heads. When dressing for a formal occasion, their skirts are made wide with supporting hoops. Men cover their long hair with hats, either flat or bell-shaped.
Military officers' dress is similar to that of nobles in that also dark with slashes of rank across their coats. Their hair is worn long in the back, but the front of their head is shaved and often dusted with white powder. Recently noblemen who were in positions of command during the Shaido War have adopted this hair style, though it was originally only worn by officers of common birth. High ranking officers wear large white plumes atop bell-shaped helmets, gilded decorative breastplates and ornate gauntlets. Soldiers' hair is short, cut in a bowl shape. Likewise, their armor is functional rather than ornate.
Commoners are much more flamboyant in the colors of their dress, commonly choosing clashing colors. More free of restraint than those involved in the Game of Houses, there is no particular "dress code" and there are a variety of styles worn in the city.
The lands that now form Cairhien were claimed by the nations of Tova and Shandalle before the time of Artur Hawkwing and Almoren during the time of the Ten Nations. After Hawkwing conquered Tova during the Consolidation, he united Tova with his own homeland of Shandalle to form the Imperial Province of Cairhien. Very shortly after Hawkwing's death, there was a coup in Cairhien and the Imperial governor was deposed by a group of nobles plotting to reestablish Tova. At a ball held to mark the occasion, these nobles were brutally murdered. Several months of fighting followed, after which Lord Matraine Colmcille emerged as the strongest leader. He was crowned the first King of Cairhien. Cairhien reached its current borders at the end of the War of the Hundred Years. Its attempt to extend north after the fall of Hardan and south after the fall of Mar Haddon did not last very long and its borders retreated to their current status again by around two hundred years ago.
Cairhien's fortunes originate in a random encounter; during the Breaking of the World, a tribe of people gave water and shelter to the Aiel who were guarding the treasures entrusted to them by the Aes Sedai. In a time when so much of civilization was reverting to barbarism, and the peaceful Aiel were preyed on more than most, this kindness stuck in their heads. Centuries later, they discovered that the people of that small village had later gone on to form the nation of Cairhien. In 566 NE the Aiel gifted the Cairhienin with Avendoraldera, a cutting from the great chora tree Avendesora, and right of passage through the Aiel Waste, so long as they carried a banner with the trefoil leaf of the tree. Thus was born the Silk Road.
With passage through the Aiel Waste came access to the remote land of Shara, whose silks and other rare goods had previously only been available through trade with the Sea Folk. Despite the Sharan reputation for being fierce and unscrupulous hagglers, Cairhienin fortunes prospered and the nation grew rich and prominent in the following centuries.
Laman Damodred took the Sun Throne of Cairhien in 965 NE, and nearly immediately began an on-again, off-again war with Andor. The political marriage of his nephew Taringail to Andor's Daughter-Heir failed to bring an end to the bloodshed, as it became apparent that House Damodred sought to rule both nations. King Laman began to face stiff opposition at home to the ongoing war, and cut down Avendoraldera to make a throne for himself that would be unmatched across the known world. This simple action triggered what would become the Aiel War.
When the Aiel clans learned of Laman's actions, they were outraged. Janduin, the charismatic clan chief for the Taardad, led four clans across the Spine of the World and began to hunt Laman "Treekiller" down. Cairhien was put to the torch and the spear, and Laman fled for his life, perhaps finally realizing what he had done. Fear of the "Aiel savages" looting and pillaging their lands galvanized the nations to unite in the Great Alliance. They fought the Aiel all the way to Tar Valon, where the Battle of the Blood Snow appeared to finally turn the tide. In truth, the Aiel had finally succeeded in executing Laman; with justice having been served in their eyes, they turned immediately to return to their Three-Fold Land. Harrying parties tried to engage the "retreating" Aiel, but did not pursue them across the Spine.
After the war, of course, the Silk Road was closed to the Cairhienin (now called "oathbreakers" or "treekillers" by the Aiel), and the country's fortunes dried up almost immediately. Fear of an Aiel return kept eastern lands uninhabited, and the fertile grain harvest became a near-famine. It is possible that the Hall of the White Tower planned to put Moiraine Damodred in the Sun Throne once she was raised Aes Sedai, but it was Galldrian of House Riatin who succeeded Laman on the throne, and set about rebuilding the city, and its topless towers. Loss of revenue kept him from being able to pay the Ogier and human masons what they required, however, and eventually work ground to a halt.
King Galldrian's rivalry with House Damodred never cooled, however, with the latter constantly scheming to regain their former place of privilege. This set in motion events that led, in the way that only Daes Dae'mar can, to Galldrian's death and the destruction of the Foregate which surrounds the city proper. It is suspected by some that Thom Merrilin may have killed King Galldrian out of revenge for Dena, Thom's lover, who was killed by two of Galldrian's henchmen. The death of another king triggered a civil war which pushed the nation even further into privation, and it remained in that state until the Shaido Aiel crossed the Dragonwall ahead of the Dragon Reborn and the Aiel loyal to him. To the Cairhienin, it must have seemed like the end of all existence; another Aiel War and the destruction of all they knew.
In fact, the Shaido were defeated within a few days, and Rand al'Thor took control of the city and country, providing grain from Tear so that the people would not starve. He intended the Sun Throne for Elayne Trakand, by virtue of her right through her father Taringail Damodred. After taking Caemlyn, Rand placed Cairhien under the joint administration of Berelain sur Paendrag Paeron, the First of Mayene, and Rhuarc, clan chief of the Taardad Aiel. Berelain's stewardship is undermined by Colavaere Saighan's attempt at seizing the throne during Rand's absence in early 999 NE. When Rand returns, however, he strips her of her land and titles, leading Colavaere to commit suicide.
A quarter of the Sun Palace is destroyed during an assassination attempt on Rand, led by Corlan Dashiva, Manel Rochaid, and Charl Gedwyn, causing Rand to go into hiding. In his absence, he names Dobraine Taborwin as Steward of Cairhien. After Dobraine is sent to Arad Doman, two Aes Sedai allied to the Dragon, Sashalle and Samitsu, take the stewardship of the Kingdom.
After Elayne solidifies her rule in Andor, she begins making plans to claim the Sun Throne. She courts the support of Bertome Saighan and Lostrum Aesnan, two of the most powerful neutral lords in Cairhien (neither openly supporting Rand nor explicitly plotting against him), as well as Ailil Riatin, Alaine and Doressin Chuliandred, Amondrid and Belevaere Osiellin, Lord and Lady Hamarashle, and Lord Mavabwin. Offering them estates in Andor, she gains the support of both Bertome and Lostrum, who openly endorse her claim and escort her to the Sun Palace, where she claims the Sun Throne and commands the Cairhienin to prepare to march for the Field of Merrilor.
Modern associations and references
Cairhien is thought by many to be based in part on France during the reign of Louis XIV, as well as Japan. Their bell-shaped helmets are similar to open-faced bascinets worn in the mid 14th-century. The city of Cairhien may be based on Caerleon, an important city in Arthurian lore.
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