The nine city-states composing the Free Cities lie Across the Narrow Sea, east of Westeros, on the western side of the eastern continent, mostly on islands or along the coast. There are significant differences between the geography of the various cities, from the thick forests around Qohor, to the rolling hills of Norvos, 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 distinct states they share a common ancestry in being former Valyrian colonies (except for Braavos, founded by refugees). Some, like Braavos, have unique and independent cultures, while others, like Pentos and Myr, share many cultural traits. Though all nine Free Cities speak Valyrian, their dialects have changed the language so much that it is almost like nine different languages.
What made a Valyrian colony a "Free City" was that it had officially obtained a charter from the Freehold granting it self-rule. They had semi-independent status, largely left to their own devises to govern local affairs, though they looked to the Freehold in times of crisis, which broadly set their foreign policy (such as conflict with the Rhoynar). In contrast, direct colonies such as Mantarys, Tolos, and Elyria were never "Free Cities", and were instead ruled directly by governors sent from Valyria. Because the Free Cities already had some semblance of local government they tended to whether the loss of central Valyrian control during the Doom much better than direct colonies, such as Draconys, Mhysa Faer, Rhyos, and Aquos Dhaen.
Tywin Lannister always held the Free Cities in contempt, saying that they fight with coins instead of swords adding that gold has its uses, but wars are won with iron.
A common custom among the rich parents of the cities is to keep a "whipping boy", a lowborn youth who receives corporal punishment in lieu of the parents' own child.
- Main article: Pentos
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. Khalasars occasionally make their way this far from the Dothraki Sea, but the Pentoshi are spared much of the raiding and invasions by paying tribute to their khals. 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.
- Illyrio Mopatis, a powerful Magister.
- The Tattered Prince, commander of the mercenary company The Windblown.
- Main article: Braavos
Unique among the Free Cities in that Braavos was not a Valyrian colony, but a secret refuge from Valyrian expansion. A seafaring city composed of many tiny islands, Braavos is known for its swashbuckling bravos and its Guild of assassins, the Faceless Men. It is also famed for the Titan of Braavos, which is a fortified statue and lighthouse that straddles the entrance channel to the city.
- Syrio Forel, former First Sword of Braavos and later fencing instructor to Arya Stark.
- Tycho Nestoris, an agent of the Iron Bank of Braavos offering financing to Stannis Baratheon.
- Main article: Lys
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, unlike most inhabitants of the Free Cities. Lys is well known for its pleasure houses, training slaves in the arts of love and selling them as concubines and bed-slaves. Lys also frequently fights over control of the Stepstones and the Disputed Lands. There appears to be a love goddess whose worship is peculiar to Lys.
- Salladhor Saan, a flashy pirate and sellsail who befriended Davos Seaworth and fought for Stannis Baratheon at the Battle of the Blackwater during the War of the Five Kings.
- Main article: Qohor
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 been comprised solely of Unsullied eunuch slave soldiers ever since the Battle of the Three Thousand, when 3,000 Unsullied soldiers 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.
- 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.
- Main article: Norvos
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.
- Areo Hotah, trained by the bearded priests of Norvos and Captain of Doran Martell's guard for several decades.
- Mellario of Norvos, estranged wife of Doran Martell.
- Main article: Myr
Myr is a coastal city renowned for their master glasscrafters, intricate lace, and fine carpets. The dark eyed and dark skinned Myrmen are similar to Norvosi and Pentoshi 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.
- Taena Merryweather, a sultry beauty married to Lord Orton Merryweather. She claims to have powerful friends in the Free Cities and is a friend and confidante to Cersei Lannister.
- Thoros of Myr, a priest of R'hllor and a founding member of the Brotherhood Without Banners.
- Serala of Myr, also known as the Lace Serpent, once wife of Lord Denys Darklyn of Duskendale.
- Main article: Tyrosh
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.
- Main article: Volantis
The southernmost of the Free Cities, Volantis is situated nearest Slaver's Bay and does extensive trade in slaves, glassware and wines. They are ruled by an elected triarchy. 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.
- Main article: Lorath
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.
|“||“They fight with coins instead of swords”. ||”|
|“||“The spice lords and the cheese kings”. ||”|
|“||Lord Tywin had always held the Free Cities in contempt. ||”|