- "Lys is the... "easiest" of the Free Cities, full of pleasure houses catering to every taste, no matter how peculiar. Many men lose themselves in Lys and are never found... at least alive. When a man runs out of coin, the Lysenes may grant him their other specialty on the house: Poison."
- ―Ser Jorah Mormont
Lys is one of the Free Cities located off the coast of Essos. It lies south of Pentos, northwest of Volantis and north of the Summer Islands. The city stretches across several islands, which are separated from mainland Essos by narrow straits. Lys also has territorial possessions on the nearby regions of the mainland, east of Tyrosh and south of Myr.
The famous pleasure houses of Lys are known to train the finest bed-slaves and prostitutes in the world, and they form the basis of the city's thriving export industry. Lys is also famous for producing a rare and difficult to detect poison known as the tears of Lys.
People and things from Lys are known as Lysene.
- Varys, known as "the Spider", a former mummer and now Master of Whisperers on the Small Council of the Red Keep.
- Salladhor Saan, a pirate lord and commander of a fleet of mercenary warships.
- Doreah, a former bedslave made handmaiden to Daenerys Targaryen. Locked with Xaro Xhoan Daxos inside his vault for treachery.
- Irogenia of Lys, a famous courtesan from long ago in the city's history, whose beauty is legendary.
Like the other Free Cities, Lys was founded as a colony of the Valyrian Freehold. After the Freehold was destroyed in the Doom of Valyria Lys became an independent city-state during the ensuing Century of Blood.
Lys is a longtime rival of the Free City of Myr, located to the north (the two of them have been feuding for centuries).
Doreah tells Daenerys Targaryen how in Lys she was trained in the carnal arts. Her training started at nine, though she was not permitted to lie with a man until she was twelve, to Daenerys's bemusement. Doreah tells Daenerys of the famed Irogenia of Lys.
During the Tourney of the Hand, Lord Petyr Baelish wagered Renly Baratheon 100 Gold Dragons that Ser Gregor Clegane would win against Ser Loras Tyrell in the joust. Baelish mused that 100 Gold Dragons could buy a dozen barrels of expensive Dornish wine, or a very high-end prostitute from the pleasure-houses of Lys. Soon afterwards, Varys reveals to Hand of the King Eddard Stark that he suspects that Jon Arryn, his predecessor as Hand, was killed using the fast-acting and difficult to detect poison known as the Tears of Lys.
When the War of the Five Kings breaks out, King Robert Baratheon's younger brother Stannis proclaims himself as legal heir to the Iron Throne. Based at Dragonstone island, Stannis's trusted advisor and former smuggler Ser Davos Seaworth sets out to bolster his forces with sellsails, which he does by hiring an old friend from his smuggling days, the flashy Lysene pirate Salladhor Saan. Salladhor contributes his sellsail fleet of thirty ships.
Salladhor and his sellsail ships were in the rearguard of Stannis's fleet during the Battle of the Blackwater, and thus were not caught in the disastrous wildfire explosion that destroyed most of Stannis's fleet. After Stannis and his few remaining forces fled back to Dragonstone, Salladhor decided that Stannis would probably lose the war and never be able to pay him, so he stopped serving him.
Outside of Yunkai in Essos, Daenerys Targaryen meets with the captains of the sellsword company known as the Second Sons, in the hope of swaying them from her enemies' service to her own. The meeting does not go well, as their crass captain Mero makes lewd and insulting remarks to Daenerys, openly saying that he thinks he might have had sex with her once in a pleasure-house in Lys.
Prince Oberyn Martell notes that Varys speaks with a hint of a Lysene accent. Surprised, Varys admits he is originally from Lys but says he has worked very hard to lose his accent - Oberyn responds that he also has a good ear for people trying to suppress a Lysene accent.
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Lys - also known as Lys the Lovely - is one of the more powerful of the Free Cities, as well as the most beautiful: the land is covered with palm and fruit trees, the surrounding waters are abundant with fish, and sunsets in Lys are said to be the most beautiful in the world. The island chain known as the Stepstones lies to the northwest of the city and the Disputed Lands to the northeast. Lys frequently wars with the cities of Myr, Tyrosh, and Volantis over control of both these regions.
As with most of the Free Cities, Lys was founded as a colony of the Valyrian Freehold. Due to the area's natural beauty and mild climate, the Valyrians established Lys as a retreat/resort. Since it was founded from scratch by the Freehold rather than being a conquered territory, Lys retains stronger Valyrian bloodlines than any of the other Free Cities. Even the smallfolk often possess Valyrian features, including light-colored hair, skin, and eyes. The Valyrians themselves had platinum-blonde to silvery-white hair and purple eyes (as exemplified by the Targaryens), though in the present-day common features associated with the Lysene are blonde hair and either blue, green or violet eyes. In contrast to Lys, the inhabitants of the city's great rival Myr tend to have dark hair, dark eyes and olive skin. Even the Targaryen rulers of Westeros sometimes looked towards Lys in search of wives and lovers, as much for their Valyrian blood as their beauty: Prince Daemon Targaryen, brother to King Viserys I, had a paramour from Lys, a dancer named Mysaria. King Viserys II had been married to Lady Larra Rogare from Lys in his youth, and had three children by her, including the later King Aegon IV, and the famous Prince Aemon the Dragonknight. King Aegon IV's last mistress, Serenei, came from Lys as well, and bore him a daughter named Shiera, whilst dying in childbirth.
Slavery is legal in Lys and the city has a fairly large slave population, outnumbering freeborn citizens three to one. The pillow-houses of the city are far-famed, and they are known for producing the finest bed-slaves and prostitutes in the world. Beauty and blood purity are highly valued by the Lysene, who deliberately breed attractive slaves together in the hope that their offspring will be even more lovely and refined. Besides its bed-slaves and prostitutes, Lys is known for its production of tapestries, perfumes, and sweet wines. The alchemists of the city also produce two rare and deadly poisons; the tears of Lys and the strangler.
Lys is home to a native love goddess (whose image graces the city's coinage), but temples to many deities can be found within its walls, including a temple to R'hllor, the Lord of Light. Another of these deities the Weeping Woman or the Weeping Lady of Lys, whose statue can also be seen in the House of Black and White in Braavos. So far, it is not clear in-universe if the Weeping Woman and the love goddess are the same figure or if they belong to separate traditions.
While the Lysene are noted for their love of the sensual arts, they are also formidable sailors. Lys's navy is one of the most powerful on the Summer and Narrow seas, aside from that of Braavos, and Lysene freesails can be found in many of the ports of the world.
When Valyria was destroyed in the Doom, Lys became an independent state. It was then conquered by Volantis, which was trying to reforge the Freehold. Lys and Myr remained subservient to Volantis until the city overreached and launched an attack on Tyrosh. Myr rose in rebellion and an exiled Lysene lord liberated the city with the help of 100 warships loaned to him by Braavos. Additional forces from Pentos and the Westerosi Storm King helped defeat Volantis and destroyed its armies in what are now the Disputed Lands.
Lys regained its independence following the war, but the alliances soon fell apart, so that Myr and Lys have been perpetually warring with each other for the better part of the past three hundred years. The great rivalry of Myr and Lys is usually played out in the Disputed Lands between them, so-called because they are constantly changing hands between the two. Volantis and Tyrosh sometimes get dragged into these wars on one side or the other, as the alliances shift around.
When Lord Eddard Stark came to arrest Ser Jorah Mormont, Lord of Bear Island, for selling poachers to slavers, Jorah and his wife Lynesse fled to Lys where Jorah attempted to make his living as a sellsword, but he was unable to provide an income acceptable to Lynesse and she ran out on him to become a concubine to the Lysenes merchant Lord Tregar Ormollen.
According to the TV series official pronunciation guide developed for the cast and crew, "Lys" is pronounced "LEESE", as opposed to "Liss", "Lice", etc.
- ↑ HBO viewers guide, season 2 map, Lys entry
- ↑ Poisons (Histories & Lore)
- ↑ Cogman, Bryan (2011). "The Kingsroad" synopsis. HBO episode guide.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 "The Laws of Gods and Men"
- ↑ HBO viewers guide, season 4: episode 6 people, Salladhor Saanentry
- ↑ "Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things"
- ↑ "Valar Morghulis"
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 8.2 "The Kingsroad"
- ↑ "The Wolf and the Lion"
- ↑ "The Night Lands"
- ↑ "Valar Dohaeris"
- ↑ "Second Sons (episode)"
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