The Wheel Turns...
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.
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 procedes 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.
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. Soldiers’ hair is short, cut in a bowl shape. Likewise, their armor is functional rather than ornate.
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.
The lands that now form Cairhen 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 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. Galldrian of House Riatin 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.
- Cairhien (Capital)