The Geography of Game of Thrones: Part 11 – The Free Cities of Essos

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During the Game of Thrones series, Daenerys Targaryen practically 6 seasons on the immense landmass of Essos, that’s across the Narrow Sea from Westeros. On the west coast of this large continent are the Nine Free Cities which are powerful, independent city-states which engage in extensive trade and contact with the Seven Kingdoms. Like the regions of Westeros, each of the 9 free cities has its own unique history and culture. Yet, at one point, all but Braavos were once colonies of the Valyrian Freehold. When the Freehold and its dragonlords were destroyed during the Doom of Valyria, the empire fragmented in a chaotic period called the Century of Blood. Unlike Westeros, the Free Cities have a much more urbanized and mercantile culture.

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Location: These are 9 merchant city-states on the western side of Essos. Consist of Volantis, Braavos, Pentos, Qohor, Myr, Lys, Tyrosh, and Lorath.

Size: It’s of considerable size since each city controls a large swath of territory. Said to be equal to the entirety of Westeros south of the Neck.

Capital: N/A

Climate: Temperate in the north. Sub-tropical in the south.

Environment: Has hills and river valleys in the north. While the south is sub-tropical with coastal plains.

Resources: Some of these cities are known for a special article or product. Myr is famous for lenses and fine lace. Tyrosh specializes in color dyes. Qohor has blacksmiths who can reforge Valyrian steel while smiths and Volantis can reforge ice. Norvos produces axes. Tyrosh is known for extravagant clothes, fancy armor, and rich tastes. Volantis produces wine.

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Population: Volantis is the biggest in the lot. The city of Lys has almost every inhabitant sport the purple eyes and mystical white hair of Valyria. But they don’t possess the dragons, magic, or knowledge the Valyrian Dragon Lords once did. In fact, you’ll see plenty of Valyrian descendants in the Free Cities. Some towns can be bigger than Westerosi cities. You’ll also find plenty of descendants from Westerosi wars there, too, since the losers in them are known to flee for refuge and fortune.

Key Cities: Lys is often seen as this world’s equivalent to Las Vegas and enjoys a reputation for their prostitution scene. Pentos has a prince who rules in name only while the Magisters have all the power. Founded by escaped slaves, the abolitionist canal city of Braavos is guarded by the massive Titan statue. While it’s home to the Iron Bank which is perhaps the single largest economic force in the known world. Too bad the Iron Bank is essentially a loan shark that essentially owns several states and will work for one’s enemy faction if they default. Also has a band of super-assassins. Not to mention, has formidable swordsmen, shipbuilding, and religious tolerance. Volantis is the oldest and most populated of the Free Cities, which tried to conquer and reunify the others. But the other cities formed alliances against it and subdued it. It’s also the most corrupt as well as boasts a vast slave market. Norvos is a theocracy ruled by the Bearded Priests. Qohor retains a garrison of the Army of the Unsullied. Tyrosh is known for producing mercenaries.

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Culture: Slavery is widely practiced with the sole exception of Braavos, which doesn’t participate in the slave trade. Though just as class driven as Westeros, the Free Cities don’t put as much emphasis on bloodlines. Rather Braavos’ class system is based on wealth so it’s more mobile. Still, the general population seems completely unfazed with blind beggars getting beaten up, teenage girls parkouring through town in deadly hunts, girls limping around with heavy stab wounds, abject poverty, and urban segregation.

Religion: Many worship the Lord of Light with prominent Red Temples in Myr and Volantis. While Braavos is home to a band of super-assassins that operates like a Mystery Cult called the Faceless Men who live in the House of Black and White. There’s also a sizable population who worship the Faith of the Seven.

Great House: N/A

Vassal Houses: N/A

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History: In its heyday, Valyria was once the seat of the Dragon Lords and House Targaryen’s ancestral home. Once a tribe of shepherds, the Dragon Lords tamed and harnessed dragons, forged Valyrian steel, built an empire stretching from Essos and Westeros, and created wonders of architecture. At its height during as the Valyrian Empire capital, it was widely considered the greatest civilization to ever exist. Until a natural cosmic event destroyed the entire landmass to the point that it broke into several islands surrounded by a smoking ocean. This event was known as the Doom of Valyria and the islands became inhabited by victims of advanced Greyscale disease, called the Stone Men. Originally the Free Cities were colonies, offshoots, and outposts of the Valyrian Freehold. But after the doom of Valyria consumed the famous capital, these cities became the only remains of a great civilization. Since then, Valyria has been reduced to a diseased and smoking ruin while remaining uninhabited and abandoned. But the other cities continue to thrive.

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Current Status: Despite thriving, the Free Cities involve themselves in numerous petty wars with each other seeking to install a new hegemony to replace the Freehold. As for Valyria, it’s a burnt out, ruined world, that’s permanently gray and converted into a leper colony that’s scary enough to frighten away pirates.

Best Known for: Being former colonies of Valyria as well as engage in extensive trade and contact with the Seven Kingdoms.

Home of: Illyrio Mopatis, Clea, Talisa Magegyr, Syrio Forel, Thoros, Ternesio Terys, Lhara, Jaqen H’gar, Greyworm, Tycho Nestoris, and “The Waif”

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Landmarks: Braavos has the Titan Statue that can come alive. While its Iron Bank is a massive white building that looks straight out of the Renaissance, The Temple of the Moonsingers and the Sept Beyond the Sea also exist in the city. Volantis features the Long Bridge.

What to Avoid: Stay away from Valyria since it’s filled with advanced greyscale victims and is still a smoldering mess. Also, while in Braavos, keep away from the House of Black and White.

For Those Who Want to Visit: Aside from being the richest and most powerful Free City, Braavos is also seen as the most beautiful.

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The Geography of Game of Thrones: Part 10 – The Wall and Beyond

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Guarded by the Sworn Brothers of the Night’s Watch, the Wall is a giant ice barrier to protect the rest of Westeros from the White Walkers. Though until the Games of Thrones series started, they mostly fought skirmishes with Wildlings. Headquartered at Castle Black, they were once highly regarded but their reputation to that of a glorified penal colony and its numbers have plummeted to an all-time low. Just south of the Wall is the Gift meant to provide food and provisions for the Night’s Watch. Beyond the Wall, is outside the realm of the Seven Kingdoms. Mostly consisting of uncharted wilderness, it’s a frozen tundra with a Haunted Forest, Wildling settlements, giants, and the Children of the Forest.

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Location: The northernmost border of the Seven Kingdoms and the northernmost region of Westeros.

Size: It spans at least 500 miles.

Capital: Castle Black, headquarters of the Night’s Watch.

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Climate: It’s always winter here.

Environment: This is a very harsh snow-covered wilderness. Beyond the Wall, there is very little arable land or vegetation but a lot of dangerous animals, along with the Haunted Forest. Even further north is the Land of Always Winter where the White Walkers live. Also home of wights, giants, and the Children of the Forest.

Resources: There’s not much here since it’s always winter.

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Population: Mostly inhabited by the Night’s Watch and at least 90 tribes of Wildlings who regularly invade the Bay of Seals or Bay of Ice and sometimes climb over the Wall. Though some live in settled villages and town. There’s also a section of towns and farms known as the Gift, which mostly consists of peasants.

Key Cities: Though more of a township, the Gift is a stretch of land meant to help sustain the Night’s Watch. Beyond the Wall, there’s the Wildling port town of Hardhome and White Tree.

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Culture: The Wildlings have an egalitarian and libertarian view on leadership, though chieftains do exist. Wall administered by the Night’s Watch.

Religion: Most in the Night’s Watch worship the Faith of the Seven while everyone else the Old Gods of the Forest. As for the Wildings, who knows.

Great House: N/A

Vassal Houses: N/A

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History: Before the lands Beyond the Wall were reduced to a blasted tundra, it used to be lush and green. But the Children of Men performed some sort of ritual that turned a man into the Night King. Yet, whatever magic the Children of the Forest used to create the White Walkers also brought eternal snow to them (or the White Walkers brought it with them). In addition, creating the White Walkers was also what screwed up the seasons in Westeros.

Current Status: Since Jon Snow came back to life, the Night’s Watch doesn’t have much going for leadership save for Dolorous Edd.

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Best Known for: The place where they try to contain the White Walkers.

Home of: Ygritte, Mance Rayder, Tormund, Craster, Lord of Bones, Mag the Mighty, Gilly, Sam, Styr, Orell, Three-Eyed Raven, Leaf, Josera Snow, Elsera Snow, Karsi, Loboda, and the Night King.

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Landmarks: The Wall itself is at least 700 ft high and spans at least 500 miles from coast to coast.

What to Avoid: You might want to stay away from the Night’s Watch. They were once highly regarded like the Order of Maesters and attracted the most elite of Westeros. But in recent centuries, the Wall has essentially become a dumping ground for bastard or unfit sons of Lords along with various criminals, rapists, and those who joined the wrong side of a war. With the latter joining to receive a full pardon. Actually don’t go near the Wall period since the Night’s Watch has become grievously undermanned, numbering less than a thousand which is an all-time low. Definitely watch out for White Walkers and don’t run into the Children of the Forest. Oh, and you might want to beware of the Wildlings, though they’re more of a nuisance south of the Wall than anything, especially in the Gift.

For Those Who Want to Visit: Just stay in the Gift at all times, even if it’s overrun by Wildlings. Actually, you might want to stay out of the region entirely.

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The Geography of Game of Thrones: Part 9 – Dorne

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Out of the constituent regions of Westeros, Dorne is kind of a wildcard area on Game of Thrones. Unlike the rest of Westeros, the Dornish are an ethnically distinct mix of Andal and First Men with a great degree of Rhoynar refugee. As a result, their customs and society are different. For one, their leaders are known as Princes and Princesses instead of Lords and Ladies. Second, rulership is passed from parent to oldest child regardless of gender in keeping with the region’s equal inheritance laws. Third, they have a more relaxed attitude toward sex and bastards. In addition unlike the other Westeros regions, Dorne never fell to Aegon the Conqueror’s invasion and instead joined the Seven Kingdoms through a marriage alliance. So it’s no wonder the that Dornish seem rather independently-minded and have a stronger sense of “national identity” than the rest of Westeros. Once ruled by House Martell at Sunspear, the death of Prince Oberyn at the hands of the Mountain has compelled Ellaria Sand and her Sand Snakes to commit revenge upon the ruling prince and his son by killing them.

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Location: South of the Stormlands and the Reach and is the southernmost region of Westeros.

Size: Well, it’s pretty extensive.

Capital: Sunspear, which has a 150ft shining steel pinnacle Spear Tower.

Climate: Temperate to arid.

Environment: The west consists of the Red Mountains and the Dornish Marches. Has rolling sand deserts in its midland. While the east is made up of semi-arid hills punctuated by river valleys.

Resources: Well, its river valleys provide substantial agriculture. Provides citrus fruits, spices, and Dornish wine.

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Population: The Dorne people have a mix of Andal and Rhoynar blood due to its establishment by Rhoynar refugees from Essos whose ancestral land burned under the Valyrian Freehold. Has the smallest overall population of Westeros since most of it is concentrated in the east.

Key Cities: There’s the port city of Planky Town at the mouth of the Greenblood. Only part of Westeros where citrus and spices grow. The region is also known for its wine.

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Culture: Noble bastards have the Sand surname and are treated better than those in the other kingdoms (though they can’t inherit anything). Considerably more liberal when it comes to sexuality and are more tolerant of same-sex relationships. Very independently minded and hot-blooded, the people have a greater sense of national identity than the other people of Westeros as well as taken a more isolationist path since the Sack of King’s Landing.

Religion: Worship the Faith of the Seven, but in their own variation.

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Great House: Formerly House Martell who practiced absolute primogeniture where the oldest child inherits regardless of gender. Unlike the other houses, all members are addressed as “Prince” or “Princess.” But since the recent-led Sand Snakes rebellion, all known legitimate members have been killed. So the region is under Ellaria Sand’s rule as of Season 7. But she’s in the Red Keep prison with one of the Sand Snakes after Euron Greyjoy attacked her and Yara’s fleet. So there’s a void in leadership.

Vassal Houses: House Blackmont, House Manwoody, House Jordayne, House Dayne, House Yronwood, House Qorgyle, House Allyrion, House Garglagen, House Uller, and House Dalt.

History: Founded by Rhoynar refugees who intermarried with the local population of Andals and First Men. A sovereign kingdom before the Targaryen conquest, Dorne weathered the attack to retain its independence. It joined the 7 Kingdoms through a peaceful marriage alliance 2 centuries later, which allowed the region to keep many of its local customs and laws.

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Current Status: Since Ellaria’s in prison, Dorne may be in a leaderless vacuum. Unless the remaining Sand Snakes take over.

Best Known for: The last of the 7 Kingdoms, Dorne was the only one to initially resist the first Targaryen conquest and remained independent until the Martell ruling family joined the Targaryens through marriage nearly a century before the War of the Five Kings. Because of this, the land remains considerably autonomous compared to the others.

Home of: Ellaria Sand, Oberyn Martell, Tyene Sand, Doran Martell, Trystane Martell, Obara Sand, and Nymeria Sand.

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Landmarks: The Martell retreat at Water Gardens is certainly worth seeing.

What to Avoid: Watch out for the Sand Snakes who are vengeful assassins. Look what happened to Hosue Martell after the Mountain smashed Oberyn’s head.

For Those Who Want to Visit: Travel through the desert is possible through overland caravan.

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The Geography of Game of Thrones: Part 8 – The Reach

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Known as the breadbasket of Westeros and is certainly the wealthiest region on the continent, the Reach is blest with vast blooming crop fields and flowers along with plenty of well-populated villages and towns. Once ruled by the Gardener Kings, House Tyrell ruled the area from the Targaryen Conquest to the Sack of Highgarden. Aside from being a major agricultural behemoth, it’s also a region of culture and recreation. Oldtown is perhaps the oldest city in Westeros as well as home to the Citadel where the Maesters train. The people also hold festivals and are obsessed with chivalric romance. Nonetheless, as of Season 7 of Game of Thrones, due to the Destruction of the Great Sept of Baelor and the Sack of Highgarden, House Tyrell is rendered extinct. And thanks to the Battle of Goldroad, it’s most likely under the dispute between the Lannisters and Daenerys Targaryen.

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Location: South of the Stormlands, Riverlands, and Crownlands. North of Dorne.

Size: The second most spacious region in the 7 Kingdoms after the North.

Capital: Highgarden, which is considered one of the most beautiful places in Westeros and provides leisurely entertainment such as a Grand Masquerade Ball on the night of the harvest moon and pleasure barges on the river Mander.

Climate:Temperate to Mediterranean.

Environment: Filled with rivers, forests, and fertile plains.

Resources: It’s the primary food provider for the 7 Kingdoms as its breadbasket.

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Population: Has largest population in Westeros that it can sustain a large army.

Key Cities: Oldtown is the oldest city of Westeros as well as the second largest. It’s also home to The Citadel is the seat of the Order of Maesters, home of learned men who serve as advisers to the continent’s Great Houses. Notable towns consist of Ashford and Tumbleton. Includes islands such as the Shield Islands, Redwyne Straits, and the Arbor.

Culture: Since it’s such a bountiful region, the Tyrells can throw a lot of food and money around on extravagances for their people to keep them satisfied. Under their rule, they and their vessels put in a lot of effort to making the Reach at least seem like a stereotypical Chivalric Romance setting. For chivalry is serious business there that their soldiers are called the “knights of summer.” Noble bastards take the surname of Flowers.

Religion: Worship the Faith of the Seven. Oldtown is home to the Starry Sept which was once the faith’s central cathedral before the Targaryen Conquest.

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Great House: Formerly House Tyrell who became Lords Paramount and Wardens of the South after surrendering to Aegon the Conqueror. In their time, they were perhaps the richest family in Westeros who sided with the Targaryens during Lord Robert’s Rebellion, even laying siege on the Stormlands with the Tarlys. That is, until the death of Prince Rhaegar at the Battle of the Trident, which compelled them to switch sides. While they saw an influx of political power with the marriage of Margery to claimant Renly, King Joffrey, and King Tommen. But with the deaths of several members during the destruction of the Great Sept of Baelor (save Lady Oleanna who was poisoned after the Lannisters took over Highgarden), the house is now extinct. Now the Tarlys would’ve taken over by Lord Randyll and his son Dickon were burned to death by dragon fire that the post of Lord Paramount is vacant. Still, the Tyrells and their vassals have always backed the winning side and will drop anyone at the drop of a hat if they become a liability. And if both sides are evenly matched, they will stay out of it.

Vassal Houses: House Florent, House Tarly, House Hightower, House Redwyne, House Fossaway, House Oakheart, House Beesbury, House Cuy, and House Bulwer.

History: Historically ruled by House Gardner, but the last ruler died to Aegon the Conqueror on the Field of Flames (guess why that field got its name). Faithful stewards House Tyrell then surrendered the Highgarden castle and became Lords Paramount and Wardenship of the South in return.

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Current Status: Since the fall of House Tyrell at the destruction of the Great Sept of Baelor and the Sack of Highgarden, its political situation is ambiguous. This is especially since Daenerys’ forces smashed the Lannisters in the Battle of Goldroad.

Best Known for: It’s the most fertile and populous region of Westeros. Said to have vast fields blooming fields of crops and flowers along with numerous and well-populated cities and towns.

Home of: Samwell Tarly, Mace Tyrell, Loras Tyrell, Margery Tyrell, Randal Tarley, and Olenna Tyrell.

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Landmarks: The Citadel in Old Town that’s home of the Maesters.

What to Avoid: Due to its lack of geographical defenses, you might want to avoid the Reach altogether when there’s a war going on there. Since it borders plenty of hostile enemies.

For Those Who Want to Visit: Out of all the 7 Kingdoms of Westeros, the Reach is perhaps one of the best tourist destinations on the continent. Also, no women allowed at the Citadel.

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The Geography of Game of Thrones: Part 7 – The Riverlands

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A fertile heartland region of Westeros, the Riverlands is a frequent scene in Game of Thrones. Mostly because it’s a frequent battle setting in the civil wars afflicting the Seven Kingdoms along with the wars that took place between old nations on the continent before the Targaryen Conquest. As a borderland region between the strong kingdoms, it was once ruled by the Ironborn House Hoare and the Storm Kings at one point. As of Season 7, the region is currently in anarchy after the Red Wedding and the Frey assassinations. During the War of the Five Kings, it pledged allegiance to Robb Stark as King of the North but Roose Bolton and Walder Frey betrayed him at the Red Wedding. Since Arya Stark assassinated the Freys, its political situation remains ambiguous.

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Location: Along the Trident River and borders every region of Westeros but Dorne. It’s close to the center of the continent.

Size: It’s of considerable size.

Capital: Riverrun (Though the Freys ran the Riverlands from the Twins).

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Climate: It’s a mostly temperate region with warm summers and moderately cold winters. Experiences moderate rainfall.

Environment: Dominated by the Trident River and its numerous tributaries, creating a major watershed in Westeros.

Resources: A bountiful region for agriculture. But with the War of the Five Kings and being a general battlefield venue, the landscape can descend into a desiccated wasteland. Though its vast size, significant population, and fertility has made it able to recover from all the wars fought there.

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Population: This is one of the most populous regions in Westeros.

Key Cities: Principal port cities are Seagard, Saltpans, and Maidenpool. Other notable towns include Stoney Sept, Penny Tree, Mummer’s Ford, Wendish Town, Fairmarket.
Culture: Noble bastards take the surname Rivers. Practice Viking funerals.
Religion: Worship the Faith of the Seven.

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Great House: Formerly House Tully, but their rule ended with the Red Wedding when Lord Edmure was taken prisoner after consummating his marriage while his sister Lady Catelyn and her family were killed by Walder Frey. Lord Edmure was later stripped of his land and titles. House Frey then took the region over until Arya Stark assassinated Lord Walder and the male members of his family in a plot of revenge. As of Season 7, the Lannisters have pretty much taken this place over.

Vassal Houses: House Frey (extinct), House Whent, House Mallister, House Bracken, House Mooton, House Blackwood, and House Smallwood.

History: Once known as the Kingdom of the Rivers and the Hills during the First Men, the Riverlands were conquered by the Stormlands who ruled for 200 years before the land was overrun by the Ironborn a century before Aegon the Conqueror’s invasion. Under the rule of House Tully, they assisted the first Targaryen king in a separate uprising.

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Current Status: As of Season 7, the Riverlands are currently in anarchy after Arya Stark assassinated the male Freys at the Twins over the Red Wedding. Though a Lannister host has been deployed to try to keep the peace after Ser Brynden “the Blackfish” Tully and many river lords managed to retake Riverrun. The Lannisters responded with a siege.
Best Known for: The Riverlands is the networking region connecting all the major kingdoms. So it’s common for travelers to have surprising chance random encounters. On the flip side, due to lack of natural geographical defenses and a center location, the Riverlands ends up involved in most Westerosi conflicts and are dragged into wars they don’t cause, resulting in their turf becoming a major battlefield. So House Tully had to broker marriage alliances to ensure peace with their rivals.

Home of: Pot Pie, Catelyn Tully, Lysa Tully, Walder Frey, Edmure Tully, Hoster Tully, Roslin Frey, Walder Rivers, Brynden “Blackfish” Tully, and Walda Frey.

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Landmarks: There’s the haunted castle remains of Harrenhal, but I’d advise against it.

What to Avoid: Stay out of ruined castle remains of Harrenhal. Though the largest castle of Westeros built by the Ironborn during their occupation, the Targaryens invaded the very day upon its completion and hosted a royal family barbecue inside (with dragon fire). Since then, any family who attempted to lay claim or quickly occupy it has quickly descended into ruin. Also, watch out for opposing militaries. Also stay out of the Twins since that’s the scene of the Red Wedding.

For Those Who Want to Visit: This is an easy place to stop by since it’s often frequented by travelers, especially at the Crossroads Inn. So feel free to spend some time within its many taverns along the roads that facilitate many chance encounters with your favorite characters. That is, if they didn’t die yet in the series. Oh, and if you save some inn employee or owner’s life, you may even get free food for life. Also, proceed with caution to the Hollow Hill which is the hideout for the Brotherhood Without Borders.

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The Geography of Game of Thrones: Part 6 – The Vale of Arryn

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Surrounded by the Mountains of the Moon, the Vale of Arryn is isolated from the rest of Westeros and is only accessible during the warmer seasons. Anyway, the Vale is where the Andals landed and spread out during their invasion. Ruled by House Arryn, it is currently ruled by a sheltered and creepy child as of Season 7. Since his father was assassinated at the beginning of Game of Thrones while Littlefinger put his mother through the Moon Gate after she caught him making advances on Sansa. Under Lysa’s regency after Jon Arryn’s death, the Vale followed a strict neutrality policy during the War of the Five Kings until the last stages. After he killed her, Littlefinger pretty much ran the place until Sansa and Arya executed him at Winterfell.

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Location: South of the North but north of the Riverlands.

Size: It’s fairly large if you look on the Westeros map.

Capital: The Eyrie, located beyond a long and treacherous road at a high mountain top. Has no regular executioner since it kills wrongdoers with the Moon Gate and sports open air prison cells with holes in the floors.

Climate: It’s quite temperate most of the time. Though the winters can be quite harsh.

Environment: The Vale is dominated and mostly covered by the Mountains of the Moon and its offshoot chains.

Resources: Well, the valleys are known to support agriculture. Other than that, there’s not much else.

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Population: Home to many barbaric hill tribes between the mountain fortresses and fertile river valleys, a problem that the Lords of the Vale haven’t really done much to combat it since they all have a seeming blindness to anything going on in the region and a very distinct sense of pride and honor regarding their mountains.

Key Cities: The port city of Gulltown. Towns include Wickendon and Sisterton.

Culture: Noble bastards have the surname of Stone.

Religion: Worship the Faith of the Seven.

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Great House: The House of Arryn, currently headed by a Lord Robin who’s only a kid. But the Vale Lords hold intense pride for their homeland has blinded them to any flaws within them. Whenever danger comes knocking at their door, they’re more than content to simply hole up in their mountains and ride it out relatively unscathed. In fact, their geographical defenses have kept the Vale Lords isolated from matters of real concern like making peace or destroying the Hill Tribes, feeding an unjustified sense of superiority and security. Lord Jon Arryn was the exception, however, since he took part in Lord Robert’s Rebellion and served as his Hand of the King. Until he got assassinated.

Vassal Houses: House Baelish (extinct), House Royce, and House Waynwood.

History: Once known as the Kingdom of Mountain and Vale before the Targaryen conquest, the Andals first landed in the region and spread out from there during their Westeros invasion. Though as settlement patterns became established, the Reach became the major Andal population and cultural center. Nonetheless, combined with the Vale’s isolated mountainous terrain, noble families from the area are said to have the purest Andal bloodlines within Westeros.

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Current Status: Aligned as part of the Kingdom of the North until Jon Snow bent the knee to Daenerys.

Best Known for: Being nigh impregnable compared to most of the rest of the kingdoms and mostly neutral on Westeros affairs.

Home of: Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, Jon Arryn, Robin Arryn, Hugh of the Vale, Yohn Royce, Vardis Egen, and Mord.

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Landmarks: Other than the Bloody Gate, I’m not sure.

What to Avoid: It’s best not to hike up the mountains since they’re home to hostile hill tribes.

For Those Who Want to Visit: The only way inside is The Bloody Gate, so named because during the Age of Heroes, 12 different armies beat themselves bloody against it trying to get in, all without success. Not to mention, the Vale is only accessible during the warmer months. Yet, once inside, watch out for the resident hill tribes who are dangerous to passing travelers. But their lack of organization and advanced weaponry means they pose no threat to the rest of the 7 Kingdoms.

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The Geography of Game of Thrones: Part 5 – The Iron Islands

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Home of the maritime raiding Ironborn, the Iron Islands is among the smallest and least populous region of Westeros. Located off the continent’s west coast, these small, rocky, windswept islands don’t support a lot of resources. This explains why the Ironborn have resorted to raiding and pillaging as a way of life for much of their history until Aegon the Conqueror put a stop to it. Well, at least within Westeros. Nonetheless, they are exceptional sailors and would be a military force to be reckoned with if they had the numbers and discipline. But before the Targaryen Conquest, they once controlled the Riverlands under House Hoare for 3 generations, which they conquered from the Stormlands. And unlike most of Westeros, they worship the Drowned God.

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Location: A small collective of islands west of the Neck and northwest of the Riverlands.

Size: It’s the smallest of the 7 Kingdoms.

Capital: Castle Pyke on the island of Pyke.

Climate: Rain-lashed and cold with frequent storms.

Environment: The islands are small and rocky with poor soil and hardly any naturally resources.

Resources: Other than iron mines, there’s not much else. Hell, if there were a lot of natural resources, they wouldn’t be raiding.

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Population: Call themselves Ironborn. Despite their Golden Age being over, they still yearn for their pillaging ways. Have a reputation for being the most rebellious and troublesome people of Westeros. Still, it’s among the least populous regions of Westeros so there aren’t many of them.

Key Cities: Islands include Pyke, Great Wyk, Harlaw, Blacktyde, Orkmont, Old Wyk, Lonely Light, and Saltcliffe. Red Harbor is the region’s main port.

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Culture: Noble bastards take the surname Pyke. Take pride in the “iron price” as an echo for their pillaging ways the Targaryens forced them to give up. Or at least give up raiding around Westeros. Were also known to take captive slaves to work in their few agricultural fields since the Ironborn can’t afford draft animals. A youth isn’t considered a man until he kills his first enemy. Have open attitudes toward sexuality since they’re a maritime culture (though it might be more along the lines of “love the one you’re with.”) Also a very male-dominated society (though they may take exception to Yara).

Religion: Worship the Drowned God, which is in an eternal struggle with the Storm God and focuses on resurrection. Have a kind of baptism ceremony of initiation for infants and a similar ceremony to anoint kings. Priests are known as Drowned Men.

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Great House: House Greyjoy, who were appointed as rulers by the Ironborn under Aegon the Conqueror’s direction. As of Season 7, currently subject to a dynastic dispute between King Euron and Princess Yara.

Vassal Houses: House Botley, House Harlaw, and House Goodbrother.

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History: The Ironborn were once fierce pirates and plunderers who raided the mainland for gold, glory, and prisoners to work their fields and tend their docks. At one point, they were the most feared people of Westeros. Legend states that one of their ancient kings slew a sea dragon. Before the Targaryen Conquest, it was once known as the Kingdom of the Iron Isles, They once ruled the Riverlands, which entailed beating the shit out of the stormlords. They then successfully defeated and drove back the Andals, subsuming them into their society and not the other way around as in the rest of Westeros. Harren the Black once had his massive Harrenhal castle built as a monument to his subjugation of them. But Aegon the Conqueror landed and reduced the castle to smoking ruins thanks to dragons. He then pushed the Ironborn back to their islands and allowed them to appoint House Greyjoy as their new rulers. Though Balon Greyjoy tried to reverse this by rebellion but the Baratheons beat them into submission. While Ned Stark took in his son Theon as his ward and hostage. Balon also exiled his younger brother Euron who became the most feared pirate in Westeros, terrorizing the seas from Oldtown to Essos.

Current Status: As of Season 7, it’s in the middle of a dynastic dispute between King Euron and Princess Yara.

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Best Known for: The Ironborn are known to be fearsome warriors and are unparalleled in the seafaring arts. Individually, they can be the strongest warriors in Westeros. But they’re too individualistic to fight cohesively as a group. Also, cannot bear to admit defeat and insist on paying everything with the “iron price,” taking it by force or negotiating for what they need.

Home of: Theon Greyjoy, Yara Greyjoy, Euron Greyjoy, and Balon Greyjoy.

Landmarks: Not that I can name.

What to Avoid: Note there are frequent storms here and that the Ironborn are a hostile lot.

For Those Who Want to Visit: You might want to stay away from this place entirely.

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