Asshai is a port city located in the far south-east of Essos, where the Ash river meets the Jade Sea at its eastern exit, the Saffron Straits. Asshai is on the southernmost edge of a mountainous peninsula known as the Shadow Lands, thus the city is often called Asshai-by-the-Shadow, and to go to Asshai can be described as to "pass beneath the shadow". The area of the Shadow Lands and Asshai are sometimes referred to simply as "the Shadow".
The origins of Asshai are lost in history. Even the Asshai'i do not claim to know who built it, stating only a city stood there since the world began and will stand there until it ends.
The buildings of Asshai are made out of a black stone that can feel greasy to the touch. The stone seems to drink in light, dimming torches and hearth fires alike, causing the city to have a dark and gloomy appearance. Asshai sprawls for leagues across both sides of the Ash, and its great walls allegedly could contain Volantis, Qarth, King's Landing, and Oldtown combined. The population of Asshai, however, is no more than that of a good-sized market town. By night only one building in ten shows a light.
Asshai is a popular trading destination for ships, part of the traders' circle in the Jade Sea, and it exports goods such as amber and dragonglass. The city is usually traveled to by ship, but it can also be reached overland by caravans. Westerosi trading ships bound for Asshai go east through the Summer Sea and the Jade Sea, which are connected by the straits at Qarth, the Jade Gates. Gold and gems are also a common export, though some say the gold of the Shadow Lands is as unhealthy as the fruits that grow there.
Aside from merchant traders, few from Westeros visit Asshai and little is known about it. The famous scribe and traveler Lomas Longstrider never visited Asshai, though he did apparently hear from merchants in Yi Ti who did trade with Asshai that the vast gold of Casterly Rock was famous even there.
All foodstuff and freshwater is brought in by ship, as animals brought into the city soon die, and the waters of the Ash river glisten black beneath the noonday sun and glimmer with green phosphoresence by night. The only fish that dwell in its water are blind and deformed, with only fools and shadowbinders daring to eat of their flesh.
People of Asshai
Asshai and its few people have an ominous reputation in other lands. Asshai'i are described as having a dark and solemn appearance. The Dothraki believe that Asshai'i are "spawn of shadows" and hold them in contempt and fear.
There are no children in Asshai. All who dwell there wear masks or veils, and often walk alone or ride in palanquins of ebony and iron, hidden behind dark curtains and carried upon the backs of slaves. Only the shadowbinders of Asshai dare to travel upriver, and even they fear to tread before the doors of the Stygai, the corpse city.
The Asshai'i are well versed in witchcraft and wizardry, and have a language of their own, used in their spells. Mirri Maz Duur, who studied in Asshai, sang in a foreign tongue as a knife appeared in her hand, her voice described as "shrill" and "ululating". Furthermore, Melisandre has been noted to pray to R'hllor "once in the speech of Asshai, once in High Valyrian, and once in the Common Tongue," as well as sing in the tongue of Asshai.
Asshai holds a significant amount of arcane knowledge. Of any current location, it is the most likely to have dragonlore. Ancient books of Asshai also record the Azor Ahai prophecy followed by members of the R'hllor faith.
It is rumored that spellsingers, aeromancers, and warlocks practice their arts openly in Asshai. Asshai is open to all sorts of practitioners of the "higher mysteries", as well as torturers and poisoners, and even worshippers of the Black Goat and Bakkalon and the Lion of Night. No practice is forbidden in the city, however depraved.
A Game of Thrones
Once Ser Jorah Mormont realizes that Khal Drogo is going to die he suggests to Daenerys Targaryen that they leave. When she asks him where they should go, Jorah suggests Asshai. He tells her that men say it is a great port and they can find a ship there to take them back to Pentos.
During Tywin Lannister's council meeting, talk eventually turns to Stannis Baratheon. Among other reports he has received from Varys of Stannis's activities on Dragonstone, Tywin mentions that Stannis is bringing a shadowbinder from Asshai.
Before Khal Drogo's body is burnt on his funeral pyre Ser Jorah begs Daenerys to come east with him, to Yi Ti, Qarth, the Jade Sea and Assahi by the shadow, to see all the wonders yet unseen.  When Daenerys commands her handmaids to bring her three dragon eggs to place on Drogo's funeral pyre Ser Jorah tells her that it would be better to sell them in Asshai.
A Clash of Kings
Quaithe of the Shadow is one of the three representatives from Qarth who return to Vaes Tolorro with Jhogo in search of dragons. Later in Qarth, Quaithe urges Daenerys to leave the city as soon as possible. When Daenerys what she means, Quaithe gives a cryptic answer,
|“||To go north, you must journey south, to reach the west you must go east. To go forward you must go back, and to touch the light you must pass beneath the shadow.||”|
Daenerys takes the word "shadow" to be a reference to the Shadow Lands and, by implication, Asshai. Concluding that Quaithe wants her to head towards Asshai, she asks whether the Asshai'i would offer her an army, gold, or ships. She further asks what could be available for her in Asshai that is not in Qarth. Quaithe offers a laconic answer, "Truth." She then bows and fades back into the crowd.
A Storm of Swords
Quaithe again appears to Daenerys, and again tells her that to touch the light she must pass beneath the shadow.
A Feast for Crows
A Dance with Dragons
In Illyrio's manse in Pentos, Tyrion Lannister finds wines from Asshai in his stock. Illyrio Mopatis later assures Tyrion that the ship that delivered him to Pentos is on her way to Asshai. It will be two years before she returns, if the seas are kind.
At the Wall, Melisandre notes that she is stronger there, stronger even than in Asshai. She also recalls a lesson she had learned long before Asshai - the more effortless the sorcery appears, the more men fear the sorcerer.
Notable Characters from Asshai
- Quaithe of the Shadow, a shadowbinder who seeks out Daenerys Targaryen and counsels her to go to Asshai. She wears a red-lacquered mask, much like natives of the Shadow Lands.
Quotes about Asshai
|“||Crow's Eye, did you leave your wits at Asshai?||”|
References and Notes
- ↑ The Lands of Ice and Fire.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 The World of Ice and Fire, Asshai-by-the-Shadow.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 36, Daenerys IV.
- ↑ So Spake Martin: Trade with Asshai
- ↑ The World of Ice and Fire, The Westerlands.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 54, Daenerys VI.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 40, Daenerys III.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 8.2 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 72, Daenerys X.
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 12, Daenerys I.
- ↑ So Spake Martin: Dragon Lore. (May 19, 2000)
- ↑ A Clash of Kings, Chapter 10, Davos I.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 23, Daenerys III.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 11, Daenerys II.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 17, Bran III.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 61, Daenerys VII.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 64, Daenerys VIII.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 69, Tyrion IX.
- ↑ A Clash of Kings, Prologue.
- ↑ A Clash of Kings, Chapter 65, Sansa VIII.
- ↑ A Storm of Swords, Chapter 7, Jon I.
- ↑ A Storm of Swords, Chapter 27, Daenerys III.
- ↑ A Storm of Swords, Chapter 45, Catelyn V.
- ↑ A Feast for Crows, Chapter 18, The Iron Captain.
- ↑ A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 1, Tyrion I.
- ↑ A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 5, Tyrion II.
- ↑ A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 6, The Merchant's Man.
- ↑ A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 23, Daenerys IV.
- ↑ A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 31, Melisandre I.
- ↑ A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 11, Daenerys II.
- ↑ A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 71, Daenerys X.
- ↑ The World of Ice and Fire, The Bones and Beyond: Asshai-by-the-Shadow.
- ↑ A Feast for Crows, Chapter 19, The Drowned Man.
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