The bearded priests are religious leaders in the Free City of Norvos and the true rulers of the theocratic city, for it is they who choose the members of its council of magisters through divine inspiration. The bearded priests control a fortress-temple in the upper city.
The bearded priests are a sect so secretive that even the name of their god is revealed only to initiates. They wear hair shirts and untanned hides and practice ritual flagellation. Once initiated they are forbidden to shave or cut their hair. They are the only Norvoshi permitted to have beards. The bearded priests regard the Black Goat of Qohor as a demon.
Archmaester Perestan considers that the importance the Norvoshi give to the axe as a symbol of power and might is proof that the Andals were the first to settle Norvos, and suggests the bearded priests took the emblem from ruins they found as they established the city.
Like in the rest of the Free Cities, unwanted boys can be sold by Norvoshi families to the bearded priests.. This holy guard of slave soldiers enforce obedience and keep the peace of Norvos, and are trained in the use of longaxes. By sixteen, those trained by the bearded priests "wed their axes", swearing vows which are said to be simple for the simple men who swear them: "Serve. Obey. Protect." They are branded across their chest with an axe shape to remind them to keep their longaxes sharp.
Men trained by the bearded priests might wear heavy horsehair capes and studded leather tunics, along with iron halfhelms crested by iron spikes.
Areo Hotah was trained by bearded priests and guarded Mellario. He accompanied her from Norvos to Sunspear when she wed Doran Martell, and Areo now serves as captain of the guards to the Prince of Dorne.