—Axiom of the Westlands, origin unknown
Tar Valon (pronounced: TAHR VAH-lon; /ˈtɑɹ vəˈlɒːn/) is a city located on an island on the River Erinin, within sight of Dragonmount. It is the center of Aes Sedai power and is also the second largest, most populous city in the Westlands. Tar Valon also controls a small amount of territory directly adjacent to it, although it does not have as much land as it did before the War of the Hundred Years. Tar Valon is ruled by the Amyrlin Seat, although the day-to-day bureaucracy is handled by a council of Aes Sedai sisters and civil administrators. The city is notable as the only place where Aes Sedai have wielded officialized administrative power since the War of the Hundred Years. The population of the city in 1000 NE is roughly 500,000. It has remained independent of outside control for its entire existence, although it has suffered several major sieges and even direct assaults.
Geography and significance
Tar Valon is a vital trade and transport link between the Borderlands and the more populous, richer southern kingdoms of Andor, Cairhien, Illian, and Tear. Multiple major roads meet at the city, directly linking it to the cities of Fal Moran, Shol Arbela, Chachin, Maradon, Cairhien, and Caemlyn, while the River Erinin links the city to Tear, along with many important ports and trading centers along the way (most notably Aringill).
The island of Tar Valon is eight miles long and more than two miles across at its widest point. The city fills the entire island, bar an Ogier grove, which is the only one within a major city still maintained and kept as a garden. The buildings of Tar Valon are noted for being graceful, tall, and sometimes linked together by unique 'skybridges'. The White Tower is, in fact, the tallest structure in the known world. The city doesn't just rely on its island location for defense, but also on its walls, which stretch along the full length of the banks of the island. The city is centered on the White Tower and its grounds.
The city is linked to the mainland by six bridges, each one of which is a mighty feat of engineering in its own right. Even the shortest bridge is still almost a mile long and gracefully arches from the island to the shore. It isn't said whether or not the Aes Sedai helped to build Tar Valon's magnificent buildings and bridges as they helped build the White Tower or the Stone of Tear, however much of Tar Valon was definitely built by Ogier stonemasons.
Taxation from all the trade means that the White Tower's coffers are extremely rich. Of the great cities of the land, Tar Valon is the greatest and most beautiful, with Caemlyn not far behind.
The Shining Walls
The walls surrounding Tar Valon are known as the Shining Walls, because they are so white they shine in the sunlight. The Shining Walls of Tar Valon are thought to be impregnable, and it is said that no army has ever breached them, though this is not true; according to the hidden thirteenth depository in the great library, the White Tower itself was partially destroyed in the Trolloc Wars.
Even discounting the difficulty of taking a city filled with Aes Sedai, only the Stone of Tear can make a similar claim.
Spanning two miles across, the Ogier Grove is the most beautiful in all the land, a distinction formerly applied to the Grove at Manetheren. It is surrounded by an endless series of spiraling stone arches, each five spans high and ten spans wide. It contains a vast array of trees, including oaks, elms, leatherleafs, firs, and Great Trees. Like most Ogier Groves, this one contains a Waygate, albeit one fenced off.
The White Tower
- Main article: White Tower
Southharbor is an Ogier-built basin surrounded by high walls of the same silver-streaked white stone that composes much of Tar Valon and located on the southern tip of the island. Recent events turned the harbor's chains to cuendillar and it almost stopped trade into the city during the siege.
Northharbor is the northern counterpart to Southharbor, and similar in description. While Southharbor's chains were turned to cuendillar, an attempt to do the same at Northarbor was only partially successful. It is nearly a mile across.
Many of the buildings in Tar Valon have been constructed by Ogier, and as such are some of the most striking in the land. Among the more notable are:
- The Blue Cat - Resembles a blue cat curled up to sleep.
- The Great Fish Market - The largest fish market in the city, it resembles a school of multicolored fish swimming.
- Kandori Merchants' Guild Hall - Resembles horses running out of the surf.
- Banking House - A three story tall building that resembles a flight of golden marble birds taking wing.
- Tamore Alkohima's dress shop - A building that seems to be all curves.
- Ilain Dormaile's banking house - A building in southern style with a white dome and narrow spires at the four corners.
The six bridges leading out of Tar Valon end at villages on both sides of the River Erinin. Darein, Jualde, and Alindaer lie on the west bank, and Lugagde, Daghain, and Osenrein sit on the east bank. One small hamlet further inland, Dorlan, is so small that it has no inn.
Tar Valon as a nation
Since the War of the Hundred Years Tar Valon has not claimed any more territory than that which immediately surrounds the White Tower, although the fact that none of the lands around the city have been claimed by another kingdom in over a thousand years means this is not a major issue. However, this was not always the case.
Tar Valon before the Trolloc Wars
Prior to the Trolloc Wars, Tar Valon controlled a significant amount of territory surrounding the city. This roughly diamond-shaped area extended as far west as halfway up the River Luan (in the foothills of the Black Hills), as far east as Kinslayer's Dagger, as far north as the confluence of the Erinin and River Antaeo, and as far south as the confluence of the Luan and Erinin. The kingdom of Aramaelle lay to the north and west, Almoren to the east, and Coremanda to the south.
At this time the Aes Sedai were immensely respected. No ruler held a throne without Aes Sedai permission and the Compact of the Ten Nations bound all the kingdoms in the Westlands to Tar Valon. This was an era of peace and prosperity.
Tar Valon during the Free Years
After the Trolloc Wars, Tar Valon's area of direct control expanded in size in the north and northeast. The River Erinin formed the northern border of its influence all the way east to the confluence of the Erinin with the River Mora. Tar Valon was now bordered by Roemalle to the west, Elsalam to the northwest, Rhamdashar to the north, Ileande to the east, and Tova, Shandalle, and Caembarin to the south.
At this time Tar Valon's power and prestige had faded a little, as Aes Sedai rulers of nations became less common (none are recorded after Queen Sulmara of Masenashar, who ruled circa FY 450 and may have been deposed by the Aes Sedai for putting her kingdom's concerns before theirs) and wars between the twenty-nine kingdoms of the day became more commonplace. However, they still remained a formidable influence on the world.
Tar Valon's territory was overrun and conquered by Artur Hawkwing in the spring and summer of FY 973, after which he besieged the city. Since that time, the city has made no claim to lands out of sight of the White Tower.
In the years following the Breaking of the World, various factions of female channelers formed, each claiming to be the "real" Aes Sedai. In 47 AB, a conference was called to unify the twelve largest such groups. Amongst the other matters discussed, they also decided to have built for them a permanent base of operations. The island of Tar Valon was chosen for its obvious defensive benefits, but also because the proximity of Dragonmount would remind the sisters that one day the Dragon would be reborn and they must prepare for that day.
Construction of the city began in 98 AB. In that year Elisane Tishar was chosen as the first Amyrlin Seat. The construction work was undertaken by Ogier stonemasons assisted by Aes Sedai sisters using the One Power to create buildings stronger and taller than otherwise would be possible. The city was completed in 202 AB after more than a century of continuous effort. By this time the power and prestige of the Aes Sedai had grown to impressive levels and one of their number, Queen Mabriam en Shereed of Aramaelle led the diplomacy that resulted in the signing of the Compact of the Ten Nations, binding all the Westlands together in mutual support and alliance.
In 335 AB, Tar Valon was attacked for the first time, when the followers of the false Dragon Raolin Darksbane attempted to free him after he had been captured and gentled by the Aes Sedai. The attack, although serious, was repulsed by the Tower Guard.
Tar Valon came under attack four times during the Trolloc Wars, although its mighty walls prevented the Shadowspawn from gaining access to the city itself during the first three battles. The fourth assault, in 1290 AB, was the most devastating. Shadowspawn forced their way into the city and only a strong defense led by the famous "Soldier Amyrlin," Rashima Kerenmosa, prevented its fall. The White Tower's library suffered some damage in this battle, and some important historical documents were lost. Eleven years later, Rashima led the forces of the Light to victory at the Battle of Maighande: although she was killed, the back of the Trolloc armies was broken and within fifty years all trace of them south of the Blight had been eradicated.
Tar Valon was not threatened again until the War of the Second Dragon a thousand years later in FY 943. The false Dragon Guaire Amalasan had been captured by a contingent of Aes Sedai allied to King Artur Paendrag Tanreall, the Hawkwing, and brought back to Tar Valon for trial. A large army of his followers, exceeding 100,000 in number, launched an attack on the city, seizing two of the bridges and fighting their way into the city. Hawkwing led his own army into the city and in pitched street fighting that reached the Tower grounds, Amalasan's supporters were finally defeated and driven from the city.
Relations between the Aes Sedai and Hawkwing were cool, due to Hawkwing bringing his army onto Tar Valon's territory without prior permission, but a personal grudge held by the then-Amyrlin Bonwhin Meraighdin resulted in her manipulating other nations into going to war against Hawkwing. After twenty years of warfare, Hawkwing had seized the entire continent bar only Tar Valon. Relations improved, with Aes Sedai serving at all levels of Hawkwing's bureaucracy, until FY 975, when Hawkwing abruptly turned on the sisterhood, dismissing all Aes Sedai from posts in the Empire and then besieging the city. The siege, the longest of the city, lasted the remainder of Hawkwing's life. In FY 992, Bonwhin was deposed and stilled for crimes of manipulation and endangering the White Tower through her petty jealousy. Her successor, Deane Aryman, was unable to convince Hawkwing to lift the siege. Upon Hawkwing's death two years later, the siege was lifted as the troops left to return to their homelands as the Empire began to disintegrate, and also after the commander of the siege, Souran Maravaile, was convinced to do so by his lover, Ishara Casalain, who went on to become the first Queen of Andor. The city did not sustain damage during the lengthy siege. In thanks for Ishara's intervention, Tar Valon and Andor forged a powerful alliance that would last for more than eleven centuries.
Tar Valon was the site of the Battle of the Shining Walls, the decisive engagement of the Aiel War, in 978 NE. However, the city itself was not attacked or threatened during the battle. The Aiel clans were after the head of King Laman Damodred of Cairhien in vengeance for destroying Avendoraldera, a sapling of the Tree of Life itself, and Laman and his allies just happened to make their stand outside the city. Once Laman had been executed, the Aiel turned and left.
In 999 NE, Tar Valon suffered some minor damage in a civil conflict that erupted amongst the Aes Sedai themselves, between those who supported the deposing and stilling of Siuan Sanche and those who opposed it. Several months later, the rebel Aes Sedai laid siege to Tar Valon in an effort to reunite the sisterhood before the Last Battle. The siege was resolved when the Seanchan mounted a raid on the city, capturing the White Tower's Amyrlin, Elaida do Avriny a'Roihan. Due to a stalwart defense of the Tower led by the rebel Amyrlin Egwene al'Vere, she was appointed Amyrlin of the Tower as well, ending the Aes Sedai civil conflict and leaving the Tower unified once more.
Tar Valon is similar to the Avalon of Arthurian legend. There are many parallels between the two:
- It is the place where Excalibur (a parallel of Callandor) was forged.
- It is the home of Morgan le Fey, a legendary enchantress and her nine sisters.
- It is on an island.
- Inhabitants of Avalon have very long lives.
- Avalon is where King Arthur went to die; Artur Hawkwing died while his armies were sieging Tar Valon.
- It is linked very strongly with the legend of the rebirth or return of King Arthur.
According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Avalon is the place where King Arthur was taken after fighting Mordred at the Battle of Camlann to recover from his wounds. This may be a reference to Rand's future death and his body being taken to Tar Valon.
Tar Valon is also strongly paralleled with the Vatican City, and additionally bears a physical resemblance to Manhattan given the shape of the island, its location in the middle of a river, and a park (the grounds of the white tower) at its center.
Finally, its center is known as the White Tower, as is Minas Tirith in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Both cities are described as the largest and finest in the world, though previously this had not been the case (in LotR, Osgiliath was originally the capital of Gondor before it was destroyed). It should also be noted that Minas Tirith did not originally contain a tower, but it was built by the stewards. In The Wheel of Time, some said Manetheren (or, alternatively, Londaren Cor from LotR) was finer than Tar Valon.
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