Free Cities (A Song of Ice and Fire)

Free Cities (A Song of Ice and Fire)

The Free Cities are a geographic and cultural region in George R. R. Martin's epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire.


The nine city-states composing the Free Cities lie across the narrow sea, east of Westeros, on the western side of a massive and unnamed continent, mostly on islands or along the coast. There are significant differences between the geography of the various cities, from the thick forests between Norvos and Qohor, to the rolling hills of Pentos, to the tiny islands of Braavos. Mountains to the east separate the coast from the plains of the Dothraki Sea, though gaps in the mountain range provide the Dothraki people some access to the Free Cities. To the north are the Shivering Sea and Ibben, an island inhabited by sealskin-clad whalers. To the south are Slaver's Bay and a series of straits leading to the Jade Sea in the far east.

The Nine Free Cities

Although the Free Cities are nine distinct states they share a common ancestry in being former Valyrian colonies (except for Braavos). Some, like Braavos, have unique and independent cultures, while others, like Pentos and Myr, share many cultural traits.


Pentos is a major trading port on a bay of the western coast. Dominated by an architecture of square brick towers it is headed by a Prince that is chosen by the "de facto" rulers of the city, known as Magisters. The city abuts the Dothraki Sea but is spared the raiding and invasions of its inhabitants by paying tribute to the heads of its warbands. Men from Pentos wear dyed and forked beards. As in many Free Cities, slavery is outlawed, but the wealthy and powerful members of the city have the ability to flout these laws by keeping servants collared in bronze.

Notable Pentoshi:
*Varys, a eunuch and spy master for several Westerosi Kings.
*Illyrio Mopatis, a powerful Magister.


Braavos covers a hundred small islands clustered around a lagoon. The city is dominated by a massive stone statue called the Titan of Braavos, similar to the Colossus of Rhodes, which serves as a lighted beacon, watchtower, and fortress. The Titan and a massive fleet defend the city in place of traditional city walls. The Sealord of Braavos rules the city and is served by a champion known as the First Sword.

Unlike the other Free Cities, Braavos was never a Valyrian colony, but was instead founded 800 years before the start of "A Game of Thrones" by refugees fleeing Valyrian expansion. For centuries it was called the Secret City and remained relatively unknown to the rest of the world. It became publicly revealed after the Doom of Valyria, roughly 400 years after its founding. The city is sometimes called the Bastard Son of Valyria. Braavos includes temples to all religions; even gods that don't have a single follower anymore are honored in a temple called the Warrens. The Moonsingers, who led the original Braavosi refugees to the islands, have the largest and most popular temple.

Braavos has a seafaring trade culture. Its merchant ships sail to many distant lands, and the Iron Bank of Braavos lends money to foreign nations, including the Seven Kingdoms. Braavosi culture has created a unique form of swordfighting, called Water Dancing, that is suitable for shipboard conflicts. The style is a refined form of fencing in which the practitioner stands sideways and wields a slender blade. Pugnacious "bravos" fill the city, frequently dueling to display their skill.

May be based upon the Italian city of Venice.

Notable Braavosi:
*Syrio Forel, a master Water Dancer, claimed to be a former First Sword of Braavos. Mentor in the art of swordmanship to Arya Stark.

The Guild of the Faceless Men

The Guild of the Faceless Men is a religious society that worships the Many-Faced God, a god of death. The Guild originated in the volcanic slave mines of Valyria. Their founder came to believe that Valyria's diverse slave population all prayed to the same god of death in many different incarnations. The Guild believes that the death gods of all religions are faces of a single, Many-Faced God. In the Guild's House of Black and White, followers wear black and white robes and perform religious duties for the community, such as tending to the dead. The House contains a public shrine with idols of many death gods, including the Stranger of the Seven, but there are no formal services. Some visiting worshipers drink from a black cup that provides a painless death. A phrase associated with the cult of the Many-Faced God is "valar morghulis"," translated from Valyrian as "all men must die"; a response to this is "valar dohaeris", "all men must serve" is most likely the translation. In Feast for Crows the Kindly Old man tells Arya: "All men must Serve beneath this roof. Valar Dohaeris is how we say it here."

Followers of Him of Many Faces consider death to be a merciful end to suffering. For a price, the Guild will agree to kill anyone in the world, considering this contract killing to be a sacrament of their god. An elite group of followers within the Guild, called the Faceless Men, are trained to perform this task. Despite their name, Faceless Men are occasionally women. They possess magical abilities that allow them to change their appearance at will. Part of their training includes discarding their true identity and thinking of themselves as "no one". They use a variety of methods to kill their targets, including a poison called "the strangler". The cost of their services depends on the importance and security of the target. The assassination of a king could cost much more than the hiring of an army.

Faceless Men:
*Jaqen H'ghar, posing as a Lorathi criminal claimed by the Night's Watch.
*'The Waif', a woman with the permanent appearance of a child in the House of Black and White
*'The Kindly Man', a teacher of novices of the Many-Faced God


Lys is another of the Free Cities that sits astride a series of islands. The Lysene have a tendency to be tall and fair of skin and eyes, like many inhabitants of Braavos and Tyrosh. Lys frequently fights over control of the Stepstones and the Disputed Lands. There appears to be a love goddess whose worship is peculiar to Lys.

Notable Lyseni:

*Sallador Saan, a flashy pirate and sellsail who befriended Davos Seaworth and fought for Stannis at the Battle of the Blackwater during the War of the Five Kings.

*Doreah, a handmaid to Daenerys Targaryen


The Free City of Qohor is situated on the main continent, in the vast Forest of Qohor. It is known for its fine tapestries and its smiths, who have the rare ability to reforge Valyrian Steel, even directly infusing the metal with a variety of different colors. The Black Goat is a prominent god in the city. Qohor's city guard has comprised solely of Unsullied eunuch slave soldiers ever since the Battle of the Three Thousand, when 3,000 Unsullied guardsmen successfully defended the city against over 25,000 Dothraki horsemen. Guardsmen tie braids of human hair to their spears to commemorate the Dothraki cutting their braids in salute to Qohor's defenders.

Notable Qohoriks:
*Vargo Hoat, called "the Goat" and "the Crippler", leader of the brutal mercenary company called the Brave Companions, known to their detractors as the Bloody Mummers.


Norvos sits on the main continent in two parts, one atop a high hill and the other beside a low river. The city has three large bells, each with its own name and distinctive voice, that are rung frequently. The surrounding area is a land of rolling hills, terraced farms, and white-stucco villages. The climate is fairly mild. Norvosi can be recognized by their dyed and upswept mustaches. The city is run by a council of magisters that are known to pay tribute to passing Dothraki khalasars. It is also home to a group of bearded priests that train elite guardsmen. These guardsmen swear oaths of duty and consider themselves wedded to their distinctive long axes.

Notable Norvosi:

*Areo Hotah, trained by the bearded priests of Norvos and Captain of Doran Martell's guard for several decades.
*Mellario, estranged wife of Doran Martell.


Myr is a coastal city renowned for their master lens crafters, intricate lace and fine carpets. The dark eyed and dark skinned Myrmen are similar to Norvos and Pentos in that they are ruled by magisters that are known to pay tribute to passing Dothraki khalasars. Myr is a hub of trade in both slaves and their signature green nectar wines. Myr frequently fights over control of the Disputed Lands.

Notable Myrmen:

*Taena Merryweather, a sultry beauty married to Lord Orton Merryweather. She claims to have powerful friends in the Free Cities and is a friend, confidant and lover to Cersei Lannister.
*Thoros of Myr, a priest of R'hllor and a founding member of the Brotherhood Without Banners.


A coastal city-state ruled by an Archon, Tyrosh is infamous for its avarice. Traders deal extensively in slaves and Tyroshi pear brandy. The city features an abundance of pleasure houses, but they are not as highly regarded as those in Lys. Tyroshi master armorsmiths make intricate armor in fantastic shapes. Tyrosh is a popular center for the hiring of sellswords. The city is often drawn into the ongoing conflicts over the Disputed Lands and the Stepstones. The Tyroshi often wear forked beards and pointed mustaches dyed in bright colors.

At the start of the War of the Ninepenny Kings, the Band of Nine conquered Tyrosh and put Alequo Adarys the Goldentongued into power. Six years after the Band was crushed at the Stepstones, Alequo was deposed.

Notable Tyroshi:
* Daario Naharis, flamboyant even by Tyroshi standards, one of three captains of the Stormcrows


The southernmost of the Free Cities, Volantis is situated nearest Slaver's Bay and does extensive trade in slaves, glassware and wines. Volantene sellswords are often recognizable by their tattooed faces. It is not uncommon for the Volantene to mark their slaves and servants with tattoos as well. Volantis is sometimes drawn into conflicts over the Disputed Lands.According to a sample chapter available on George Martin's website, in Volantis they use a coin with a crown on one face and a death's head on the other.


Lorath is a port city on a group of islands. Jaqen H'ghar posed as a Lorathi for a time, wearing long hair dyed red on one side and white on the other.

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