End of Empire
The Founding of Valyria
The story of Valyria is the story of a mine. They say it was Therys of the gray eyes who found the first traces of the iridescent ore, deep in the caves to which she’d retreated to meditate. Therys, mother of peace, saw that the new metal could create a world of prosperity, of unimagined luxury for mankind. But the ore needed to be mined and smelted, forged and transformed into the bridges and ploughs, the spires and the swords of her imagining. Therys was no miner. She was a leader, a visionary, and where she showed the way, others followed, stumbling after themselves to work her will. So she traveled, out of the caves and across the low, fertile hills of the peninsula to gather the great sorcerers required to make her dream a reality.
First, she walked to the edge of the sea, and whispered in the ears of sailors and merchants until word finally crossed the wide blue to where the sea-witch Seharia sailed. Alone, Seharia might have walked the waves, untouched, or ridden the backs of those monsters that haunted deep places. Seharia the Fearless took tribute from creatures of the sea and those who lived beside them, and when she sailed it was on a ship with black sails, pulled betimes by a giant kraken. Aboard, she allowed only her lover, himself a great sorcerer – Volos the Artist, Volos the Maker, whose brush-strokes carried enchantments of every imaginable sort. He could mark your brow with a smudge of ink, and you might become a shining beauty, or a meal-worm. He could paint a fresco and the landscape would breathe, and if you were bold you might step through to see it, transported to a faraway place or trapped in a false vision forever. Together, Volos and Seharia rode the seas and took what they needed. Few but Therys could draw them to shore, and fewer still would desire to do so. Only Therys could make their hearts long for a home away from the sea, a stable, settled life. She showed them what could be built, the artifacts that could be wrought of the powerful metal inscribed with Volos’ art. She showed them how far Seharia’s sea-stride could carry their influence. And they came.
Next, she scaled the heights of Mount Trempis, to the roost of the great phoenix. Once, the phoenix’s rising had meant the destruction of towns and villages that dared build too near the mountain’s base. The land had been scarred and ashen. But two singer-sorcerers had climbed the mountain, daring and bright-eyed and desiring to be heroes. They bartered their time and their songs for the phoenix’s fire, for its eternal rebirth. Orys sang a clear tenor, and in his song was flame and ash, magma bubbling up under volcanoes and the flare of the summer sun. Mantar had a warm baritone, and in his voice was comfort and homecoming, and to hear it was to be healed. They spoke in turns to Therys, the other singing to the great firebird, sustaining its sleep. She promised them freedom from their unending task, time between the verses of the songs they had sworn to sing, forever – but they needed Orys’ fire, to smelt the ore and forge it properly. So they came down from the mountain in turns.
The last of the sorcerers were the most difficult to compel. Therys came last to the city of Arcorpa, where the magician Velar ruled. When she arrived the wizard’s tower burned, and above the city a fell dragon flew, black-winged and large enough to block out the sun when it wheeled through the sky. The wizard shouted words of power into the air, boulders and bits of masonry careening towards the beast, and the dragon swooped down to blast an angry gout of flame over the wizard. His shields crackled, flared. The dragon soared skyward again, but Therys had seen the beast’s rider. Tyria was fair and slight, clinging to the back of a creature many times her own size – but Therys could see that it was Tyria’s will that moved the creature, not the other way around.
She sighed, and bid them cease their battle. She reminded them that it would come to nothing, that they were matched and would remain locked in struggle until their deaths if they did not make a choice, now, to cease it. She told them of her vision, of the power already recruited to mine the depths beneath her caves and transform the world. She needed Velar to move the stone, to extract the ore. She needed Tyria’s dragons to carry the ore to the smelting furnaces that Orys would build, for dragons could thrive in heat that humans could not. She needed Tyria’s dragons to carry the sons of the Phoenix up and down their mountain, until they could be freed of their terrible burden. The wizard and the dragonrider heard Therys, but when the wizard said yes, Tyria said no.
Whatever Therys and Valar promised Tyria to change her mind, none of them spoke of it, and it was never written. But in the end, Therys had her dragons. Seven sorcerers gathered in the mouth of a cave, some thousand years ago, and vowed to throw in together, to build a world of wonders unimaginable. And they did.
The city of Valyria grew up between and beneath the hills that hid the powerful ore those sorcerers had sought. They and their descendants ruled, forming a Council of the Blessed until the city grew too large to be governed by the consensus of seven men and women. Thus did institutions develop with the growth of the city itself – trade and the laws to govern it, armies to wield the Valyrian steel that was forged from the mines and to defend the treasure still waiting to be drawn out of the earth. Councils, guilds, neighborhood watches. The city sprawled, overgrown, prosperous. Its magic wrought impossible, beautiful things. Therys’ vision was made manifest.