- This article is about the special feature. For the Free City, see: Volantis
Varys: Valyria was young, and as the young do, it sought to spread its seed. Its first daughter was Volantis, an outpost on the mighty Rhoyne River at the frontier of the empire.
There, the Dragonlords raised the famous Black Walls; seamless, fused dragon stone two hundred feet tall and so thick that six four-horse chariots can race along the battlement side by side, as they do each year to celebrate the founding of the city.
To this day, only those who can trace their ancestry back to Old Valyria are allowed to dwell within the Black Walls. None are even permitted to set foot inside without an express invitation of a scion of the Old Blood, meaning, of course, the ancient and noble blood of foot soldiers.
For the city's first hundred years, its only inhabitants were its garrison. But where soldiers go, vice follows. Taverns and brothels began to sprout up outside the Black Walls, and merchant ships began to call as well, bearing the favored trade of the Summer Sea. Slaves.
The east bank filled with homes, shops, and society. And so, the taverns and brothels moved to the west bank, where foreigners, sellswords, and pirates erected their own shadow city of fornication, drunkenness, and murder.
In time, the west bank became such a cesspit of crime and depravity that the Volantines had no choice but to send their slave soldiers across the Rhoyne to restore order and some semblance of decency.
Like all such missions, they succeeded, they left, then they failed.
When the Volantines grew weary of shipping their soldiers across the Rhoyne every year, they built the famous Long Bridge of Volantis, strong enough to support the weight of one thousand elephants, and many more soldiers.
The Long Bridge of Volantis stands today as the longest bridge in all the known world. The Volantine rulers intended the bridge to spread the civilization of the east bank to the west.
Instead, the depravity of the west bank spread east. Shops, temples, taverns, inns, and brothels line the bridge, most three or four stories tall, with each floor overhanging the one beneath it.
One can buy anything on the Long Bridge, or steal it if one's hands are quick enough. But if they're not...
Though, at least half the decor committed no greater crime than displeasing a master. For in Volantis, there are five slaves for every free man, a proportion matched only by the cities of Slaver's Bay.
The Volantine masters mark their property with facial tattoos, permanent and scarring, which denote the vocation of the slave.
Slave soldiers wear green tiger stripes upon their faces. Slave whores are marked by tears beneath one eye. The slaves that collect the dung of horses and elephants are marked with flies. The drivers of the hathays, the carts pulled by the small elephants of Volantis, are marked with wheels, and so on.
A master may give his slave freedom, but no man can give a new face. Is it any wonder, then, that the slaves and freedmen have turned, in such great numbers, to the priests who preach of a cleansing fire?
The temple of the Lord of Light in Volantis is said to be the greatest in all the world, larger even than the Great Sept of Baelor. All who serve within this mighty temple are slaves, bought as children and trained to become priests, temple prostitutes, or warriors.
And one could argue its adherents outside the temple are slaves, as well, in mind, if not in body.
Magic frees nobody except its practitioner, to do what he will with those who can't, just as the Black Walls free the Old Blood to see what they will without those they don't.
But one must wonder how much longer such freedoms will endure, when across Essos, one hears the sound of chains breaking, of slaves rising, of dragons roaring. Volantis may call itself the first daughter of Valyria, but it is not the last.
- Summer Sea (mentioned)