With the exception of Braavos, the Nine Free Cities are all colonies founded by the Valyrian Freehold for various reasons. Because they are "daughters of Valyria", all speak different dialects of the Valyrian language. The Free Cities are all self-governed, though during the time of the Valyrian Freehold, they would look to their "mother" for aid in times of crisis.
After the Doom Edit
When Valyria fell, the Free Cities were forced to look inward for guidance and leadership. Most fell under the rule of the Magisters; wealthy landholders that governed their cities in councils and conclaves only the richest and noblest could join.
Volantis, however, sought to fill the void Valyria left, and during the Century of Doom launched a war that spread her dominion to the coasts of the Narrow Sea. Lys and Myr both fell to the Volantenes; though when they sought to swallow Tyrosh, an alliance of neighbouring realms saw their ambitions dashed against the shore. Myr and Lys were freed, liberated by the victors - only to turn once more to infighting once the fervor of triumph had passed.
Braavos, however, followed a much different path - founded by escaped slaves in the marshes and archipelagos of what had once been northern Andalos. The settlement remained a secret for decades, until it was at last unmasked in an event often called the Uncloaking of Uthero. Braavos is now the wealthiest and likely the most powerful of the Free Cities, and is strictly against the practice of slavery.
Recent Years Edit
After the fall of the Triarchy (also known as the Kingdom of the Three Daughters) in 131AC, the Free Cities have largely gone back to their old ways of constant wars and conflicts. The Fourth Braavos-Pentos War in 183AC, the Myrish-Pentos War which ended in 196AC, and of course the Tyrosh-Lys War of 196-199AC. All brought violence and bloodshed to the Free Cities, funded by the constant flow of gold, greed, and sellswords. Though a brief peace has settled over the region temporarily, tensions between Myr and Pentos remain high, and the increased aggression of Stepstones pirates has won the attention of many an admiral. Despite these threats, there are rumours in many ports and cities that the Triarchy of old may soon forge itself anew.
The Nine Free Cities Edit
The City of Sorcerers, Qohor is considered the most exotic of the Free Cities, at least in Westeros, and is located the furthest east. It sits on the edge of the mighty Forest of Qohor, where strange and wonderful creatures, plants, and resources are often found.
The City of Great Norvos is set upon a hill, deep within the central heart of western Essos. The river Noyne flows past its mighty walls, a daughter of the mighty Rhoyne, and upon it Norvoshi galleys often sail and ply their trade. Here the will of the gods are paramount; most specifically, the Bearded Priests. All power in the city flows through them, and their will is both iron, and divine.
The Venerable City of Lorath is set upon a group of islands in the Shivering Sea. Mysterious and foreign, the people of Lorath are set apart by more than just their island. The three princes that rule them are oft ceremonial, and the soft velvet they craft is oft traded for sharp steel. Despite a history of strife and bloodshed, they often keep their own affairs - rarely participating in the many conflicts that rage across the coasts of the mainland.
The Secret City of Braavos has a history far different from the others. One wreathed in secrecy and defiance, mystery and bravery - it holds to these ideals even today, boasting a people unlike any other. Swaggering bravos walk the streets, and elegant courtesans sail the canals; here a man can make something of himself out of nothing, should he wish, so long as he has the coin or skill at arms to do it.
The Preeminent City of Pentos is the most populous of the Free Cities, and often the most battered. The Prince of Pentos is a ceremonial figure, slain when the tides of fortune weigh against his home city, while the magisters rule upon their council, and vie against one another. Recent wars with Braavos have forced the city to nominally abandon slavery, though various kinds of indentured servants still live within the walls. .
The Magnanimous City of Myr is the most advanced of all the Free Cities, and prizes knowledge above all things. All things save gold, of course; even here, the power of the magisters is decided by their wealth. Though Myr has warred with its neighbours to both north and south, it still remains firm in its unshakeable beliefs. That all men were made for a purpose - and for Myrmen, that purpose is rule.
The Glorious City of Tyrosh sits upon an island north of the Stepstones, just off the coast of the Disputed lands. Here the Archon reigns supreme, though a conclave of magisters works beneath him to extend the city's rule. Protected by high walls and a powerful fleet, this once-military outpost has flourished into a wealthy trading hub with a dangerous dark side.
The Fair City of Lys is another island city, though not so isolated as Lorath, or bellicose as Tyrosh. Lys is known as the Perfumed Sister, once home to the second greatest bank in all of Essos, the city also boasts some of the best courtesans in all the known world. Fertile, fair, and freely open to all - here, wealth rules more than blood.
The August City of Volantis is the oldest and proudest of the Free Cities, as well as self-named inheritor of the Valyrian empire. Once the most populous, and one of the wealthiest and most powerful, Volantis dominates the southern coast and passage past the ruins of Valyria. In Volantis there are five slaves for every freeman, the trade of these poor folk bringing gold and visitors alike. But no matter their status, freed or bound, no man is as powerful as the Triarchs.