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There were other Dornish Wars, to be sure, and even during times of peace, raiders out of Dorne continued to descend from the Red Mountains in search of plunder in the richer, greener lands to the north and west.
Prince Qoren Martell did lead the Dornish to fight in support of the Triarchy when they warred with Prince Daemon Targaryen and the Sea Snake over the Stepstones. During the Dance of the Dragons, both sides courted the Dornishmen, but Prince Qoren refused to take part: “Dorne has danced with dragons before,” he was reported to have said in response to Ser Otto Hightower’s letter. “I would sooner sleep with scorpions.” It was not until the ascent of King Daeron I that the treaty of eternal peace proved to be less than eternal, and we know the cost of that. The Young Dragon’s conquest of Dorne was a glorious feat, rightly celebrated in song and story, but it lasted less than a summer and cost many thousands of lives, including that of the bold young king himself. It was left to Daeron’s brother and successor, King Baelor I the Blessed, to make the peace, and the cost of that was grievous as well.
The later attempt by King Aegon IV the Unworthy to invade Dorne with “dragons” of his own design is hardly worthy of discussion; it was a mad folly, start to finish, and ended in humiliation. It was Aegon’s son, King Daeron II the Good, who finally brought Dorne into the realm … not with iron and fire but with soft swords and smiles and a pair of well-considered marriages, and a solemn treaty that granted the Dornish princes their style and their privileges and guaranteed that their own laws and customs should always prevail in Dorne.
Aegon the Conqueror reading the Prince of Dorne’s missive. (illustration credit 156) Dorne continued to be closely allied with House Targaryen in the years that followed, with the Martells supporting the Targaryens against the Blackfyre Pretenders and sending spears to fight the Ninepenny Kings on the Stepstones. Their loyal service was rewarded when Rhaegar Targaryen, Prince of Dragonstone and heir to the Iron Throne, took to wife Princess Elia Martell of Sunspear, and sired two children by her. But for the madness of Rhaegar’s father, Aerys II, a prince of Dornish blood might very well have one day ruled the realm, but the upheavals of Robert’s Rebellion brought about the end of Prince Rhaegar, his wife, and his children.
Prince Qoren’s daughter would be of a different mind. Princess Aliandra came young to her seat and thought herself a new Nymeria. A fiery young woman, she encouraged her lords and knights to prove themselves worthy of her favors by raiding in the marches, but also showed great favor to Lord Alyn Velaryon when his first great journey took him to Sunspear, and again when he returned from the Sunset Sea.
Sunspear’s history is a curious one. Having been little more than the squat, ugly keep called the Sandship in early days under the Martells, beautiful towers bearing all the hallmarks of Rhoynish fashion would eventually spring up around it. It became known as Sunspear when the sun of the Rhoyne was wedded to the spear of the Martells. In time, the Tower of the Sun and the Spear Tower were both constructed—the great golden dome of the one, and the slender, high spire of the other becoming the first things that visitors beheld by land or by sea.
The castle sits on a spur of land, surrounded on three sides by water … and on the fourth side by the shadow city. Though the Dornish may call it a city, it remains no more than a town, and a queer, dusty, ugly town at that. The Dornish built up against the walls of the Sunspear, then built up against the walls of their neighbors’ homes, and so on out, until the shadow city took on its current form.
Today, it is a warren of narrow alleys, bazaars filled with the spices of Dorne and the east, and the homes of the Dornish built of mud brick that remains cool even in the height of the burning summer.
The Winding Walls were raised some seven hundred years ago, wrapping Sunspear and winding throughout the shadow city in a snaking, defensive curtain that would force even the boldest enemy to lose their way. Only the Threefold Gate provides a straight path to the castle, cutting through the Winding Walls, and these gates are heavily defended at need.
Sunspear. (illustration credit 158) The mist-enshrouded ruins of Chroyane, the festival city of the Rhoynar. (illustration credit 159) O THER L ANDS WESTEROS FORMS BUT one small part of our world, the far reaches of which yet remain unknown even to the wisest of men. Though our purpose here was to chronicle the history of the Seven Kingdoms, it would be remiss of us to ignore the other lands beyond the seas—at least in brief—for each has its own character and contributes its own colors and patterns to the vast tapestry that we call the known world.
Sadly, the Citadel’s knowledge grows thinner the farther we travel from the lands that the men of the east call the Sunset Kingdoms, for congress with the more distant realms of Essos has ever been sparse. We know even less about the southern reaches of Sothoryos and far Ulthos, and nothing at all about whatever lands may lie beyond the Last Light and across the Sunset Sea.
And the same strictures, of course, apply to time as well as distance. As we have shown with Westeros itself, the more ancient the civilization, the less that can truly be known of it. Thus, I will neglect entirely the vanished civilizations of Valyria and Old Ghis and whatever remnants of those cultures remain—whose known particulars I have already touched upon elsewhere in this volume.
otar’s Jade While as for mysterious Qarth, I can point to no better source than Colloquo V Compendium, the foremost work on the lands around the Jade Sea.
Yet still there are kernels of knowledge to impart, even from the most exotic of locales … though much and more of what we know of these far places derives from travelers’ tales and legends and should be viewed as such.
For now, let us begin with our closest and best-known neighbors, the Free Cities. Their histories are known to us from the records their own scholars and magisters have made over centuries, reaching to the earliest times of their establishment as freeholds. It is thanks to these same records that something of the histories of the peoples who preceded the Valyrians are known to us.
ESSOS, THE V AST continent across the narrow sea, teems with strange, exotic, and ancient civilizations, some still extant and striving, others long fallen and lost to legend. Most of these are far too distant to be of any concern to the people of the Seven Kingdoms, save mayhaps for those seafarers bold enough to sail strange waters in search of gold and glory.
The Nine Free Cities, however, are our closest neighbors and chief partners in trade, and their histories are much entwined with our own. For centuries, trading galleys have sailed up and down the narrow sea, delivering fine tapestries, polished lenses, delicate lace, exotic fruits, strange spices, and myriad other goods, in return for gold and wool and other such products. In Oldtown, King’s Landing, Lannisport, and every port from Eastwatch to the Planky Town, sailors, bankers, and merchants from the Free Cities can be found, buying and selling and telling their tales.
Each of the Free Cities has its own history and character, and each has come to have its own tongue. These are all corruptions of the original, pure form of High Valyrian, dialects that drift further from their origin with each new century since the Doom befell the Freehold.
Eight of the Nine Free Cities are proud daughters of Valyria that was, still ruled by the descendants of the original colonists who established themselves there hundreds or thousands of years ago. In these cities, Valyrian blood is still greatly prized. The ninth stands as an exception, for Braavos of the Hundred Isles was founded by escaped slaves fleeing their Valyrian masters. Those first Braavosi came from every land beneath the sun, it is said, but as centuries passed, they bred with one another regardless of race or creed or language to form a new mongrel people.
We speak of Nine Free Cities, though across the width of Essos one may find many other Valyrian towns, settlements, and outposts, some larger and more populous than Gulltown, White Harbor, or even Lannisport. The distinction that sets the Nine apart is not their size but their origins. At their height before the Doom, other cities, such as Mantarys, V olon Therys, Oros, Tyria, Draconys, Elyria, Mhysa Faer, Rhyos, and Aquos Dhaen were grand and glorious and rich, yet for all their pride and power, none ever ruled itself. They were governed by men and women sent out from Valyria to govern in the name of the Freehold.
Such was never true of V olantis and the rest of the Nine. Though born of Valyria, each was independent of its mother from birth. All but Braavos were dutiful daughters, neither making war upon Valyria nor defying the dragon lords in any matter of significance; they remained willing allies and trading partners of their mother and looked to the Lands of the Long Summer for leadership in times of crisis. In lesser matters, however, the Nine Free Cities went their own ways, under the rule of their own priests and princes and archons and triarchs.
The Free City of Lorath stands upon the western end of the largest in a cluster of low, stony islands in the Shivering Sea north of Essos, near the mouth of Lorath Bay. The city’s domains include the three principal islands of the archipelago, a score of smaller isles and outcrops (almost all uninhabited save for seals and seabirds), and a thickly forested peninsula south of the isles. The Lorathi also claim dominion over the waters of Lorath Bay, but fishing fleets from Braavos and whalers and sealers out of Ib often venture into the bay, for Lorath does not have sufficient strength to make good its claim.
In former days Lorath’s rule extended as far east as the Axe, but the city’s power has dwindled over the centuries, and today the Lorathi exercise effective control over only the southern and eastern shores of Lorath Bay; the western shore of the bay is part of the domains of Braavos.
Lorath is the smallest, poorest, and least populous of the Nine Free Cities. Save for Braavos, it is also the northernmost. Its location, far from the trade routes, has helped to make it the most isolated of the “daughters of Valyria that was.” Though the Lorathi isles themselves are bleak and stony, the surrounding waters teem with shoals of cod, whales, and grey leviathans that gather and breed in the bay, and the outlying rocks and sea stacks are home to great colonies of walrus and seal. Salt cod, walrus tusks, sealskins, and whale oil form the greater part of the city’s trade.
In ancient days, the isles were home to the mysterious race of men known as the mazemakers, who vanished long before the dawn of true history, leaving no trace of themselves save for their bones and the mazes they built.
Others followed the mazemakers on Lorath in the centuries that followed. For a time the isles were home to a small, dark, hairy people, akin to the men of Ib. Fisherfolk, they lived along the coasts and shunned the great mazes of their predecessors. They in turn were displaced by Andals, pushing north from Andalos to the shores of Lorath Bay and across the bay in longships. Clad in mail and wielding iron swords and axes, the Andals swept across the islands, slaughtering the hairy men in the name of their seven-faced god and taking their women and children as slaves.
Sprawling constructs of bewildering complexity, made from blocks of hewn stone, the mazemakers’ constructions are scattered across the isles—and one, badly overgrown and sunk deep into the earth, has been found on Essos proper, on the peninsula south of Lorath.
Lorassyon, the second largest of the Lorath isles, is home to a vast maze that fills more than three-quarters of the surface area of the island and includes four levels beneath the ground, with some passages descending five hundred feet.
Scholars still debate the purpose of these mazes. Were they fortifications, temples, towns? Or did they serve some other, stranger purpose? The mazemakers left no written records, so we shall never know. Their bones tell us that they were massively built and larger than men, though not so large as giants. Some have suggested that mayhaps the mazemakers were born of interbreeding between human men and giant women. We do not known why they disappeared, though Lorathi legend suggests they were destroyed by an enemy from the sea: merlings in some versions of the tale, selkies and walrus-men in others.
The priests of the Blind God among the mazes of Lorath. (illustration credit 161) Soon each island had its own king, whilst the largest boasted four. Ever a quarrelsome people, the Andals spent the next thousand years warring one upon the other, but at last a warrior styling himself Qarlon the Great brought all the islands under his sway. The histories, such as they are, claim he raised a great wooden keep at the center of Lorassyon’s vast, haunted maze and decorated his halls with the heads of his slain foes.
It was Qarlon’s dream to make himself King of All Andals, and to that end he went forth time and time again against the petty kings of Andalos. After twenty years and as many wars, the writ of Qarlon the Great extended from the lagoon where Braavos would one day rise all the way east to the Axe, and as far south as the headwaters of the Upper Rhoyne and Noyne.
But his southward expansion brought him into conflict not only with other Andal kings but also the Free City of Norvos on the Noyne. When the Norvoshi closed the river against him, he left his hall in the maze to lead the attack against them, defeating them in two pitched battles in the hills. Unwisely, he took these victories too much to heart and marched against Norvos itself. The Norvoshi sent to Valyria for help, and the Freehold rose to the defense of its distant daughter, though all the lands of the Andals and the Rhoynar lay between them.