Lys is a city across the Narrow Sea, usually famed for its whores and poisons.
Lys was founded as one of the Free Cities of the Freehold of Valyria. It originally served as a resort and retreat for the dragonlords. As the waters were silty and shallow around the archipelago, the city was originally raised on a chain of islands in the Bay of Lys, at the mouth of a river that ran down from the inland highlands where the Valyrians would keep their estates. Over time, the city grew and became one of the earliest Valyrian colonies to become a Free City.
Lys' climate and landscape made it a favoured destination for the Dragonlords, and soon for most of the world. It became a vibrant trading port, with the city eventually sprawling onto the mainland. Originally, the city was extremely beautiful, being centred around the vast Pleasure Gardens, however in recent times, overcrowding has made it squalid in some parts and ruined in others.
During the past two centuries, Lys' power had waned due in part to the growing in strength of Braavos. This along with an increasingly back-biting and incompetent nobility lead to much of the city falling into disrepair.
After taking part in the war in Westeros, Varyo Velaryon returned to Lys with the help of his wife. The city was in a terrible state due to mismanagement from the Magisters and general corruption. Lyaan and Varyo plotted to exacerbate the growing resentment against the new Braavosi Empire, eventually using it to take the city in a coup after he was elected to the military position of Gonfaloniere.
Under their rule, the city became increasingly militarised and a civic cult grew up around the new Prince.
Varyo led the armies of Lys to victory during the War of the New Princes. Lys' power continued to grow, with the navy taking up a permanent hold of Gallows Grey in the Stepstones and the formal annexation of large swaths of the Disputed Lands.
Unrest began amongst the newer upper class about Varyo's rule of the city. He provided some support for a Sept in the Rash, causing the Red Priests to raise concerns about his faith.
The Lysene Chamber, led by the Eunuch Seldys, begun a conspiracy to undermine the power of the monarchy. Following the death of Caerys Embaregos, Varyo confronted the conspirators and instituted a new Lysene government, giving permission for an elected Assembly and a City Council.
Tensions rose about the continued status of slavery in the Free City. In the aftermath of the Concert of the Daughters this even lead to the Assembly refusing to continue the Prince's military funding.
Tensions in Lys began to boil over, causing common riots and street fights. In the absence of funding new fleet was crewed by Tyroshi and Myrish outsiders. The tensions came to a peak when radicals in the Assembly and military elements began a coup, using the foreign sailors, who were in actuality sellswords. The Prince and his family were killed, with the exception of his daughter Rhaenys Velaryon
Lys descended into a violent civil war. Initially loyalists from the Velaryon regime had the upper hand, putting the city under siege, but they were beaten back following two battles and were shattered. Unrest and political chaos continued, with various differing claimants to Varyo having emerged. The new Magistracy began to rule only with the support of Myr and Tyrosh.
Districts and regions
The Old City
The oldest part of Lys, built over many of the islands and sandbanks of the bay. Most of the major landmarks such as the Pleasure Gardens, the Red Temple, the Tower of Tears, the Alchemists Guildhall and the Old Harbour are here, however it is only a third of the size of the New City. It is an overpopulated mess of half sinking islands, wharfs, brothels and manses gone to ruin. Under Varyo the City Palace has been renovated, the Tower of Tears has been given over to the Watch, and the House of Lohar has been expanded onto most of it's own island as a new Fortress.
Just north of the Old City, not strictly another district, in the same way as the New City, but counted as one due to the cultural differences as well as the administration. Built around the Summer Temple, it is mostly full of people descending from the Summer Isles. Under the Magisters, it faired quite well due to it's own administration. It is a common visiting point for exiles and travellers, and the flowers from it's floating gardens are highly prized. Caerys Embaregos was born in Summertown.
The New City
Lys' expansion on the mainland. It is much more ordered, but much less prestigious. Around the edges are the former manses of the richer Magisters, and the New Harbour is usually regarded as the dock for all non Lyseni ships. It's worst district is known as The Rash, due to it's colour. The former Great Slave Market (now head mustering ground of the army) is here, along with the Harbour Sept and the Haymarket.
A former farming town now absorbed into the city limits. Many regard Numysi as uneducated hicks, with most still keeping to the Valyrian household gods. Varyo's mother is buried here, and the Red Priests hold a fair on the plains during the Festival of the Lady
Outside the city
Outside of the limits of the city proper, there are a number of townships and estates that make up the rest of Lys' territory. The largest portion of the islands is given over to agriculture, to feed the almost two million mouths of the Free City. In the highlands in the center of Great Lys, there are a number of estates and manses made for dragonlords, many are hard to approach on foot. At least two still have small dragonpits within their walls.
Lentorys is situated on the island just to the west of the Old City, usually regarded as a harder place than the rest of Lys. It has a great number of fortified estates and the second largest concentration of population after Lys itself. Lentorys has attempted to be incorporated as a city in it's own right a number of times, but to do so would be contravening Lys' original charter from the Freehold. Many have called for it to be waived, as Valyria is long dead, but for simple political convenience, the question has been passed over by the Free City, causing the Lentori to hold some level of disatisfaction with those from the rest of the isles.
During the civil war, Lentorys became a hiding place for many figures of the underground.
The wharf of Lentorys is the Stone Harbour due to the quarries.
Government and Politics
Under the control of Varyo Velaryon and his wife Lyaan, Lys was a monarchy, but based on earlier Lysene law. There was a large and well organized bureaucracy named the City Stewards who maintained the taxation and funding of the various arms of the state.
The judicial system, in contrast to Westeros, is based around Justices who are given their authority by the City Watch and oversee any trials. However, provided one is land owning, a trial before peers may be requested in the Temple of Trade.
Lys is now governed by Magisters, lead by a First Magister elected from an Assembly, drawn from the city's Freeholders. There are ninety members of this lower house and a fluctuating number of Magisters. The Magisters also sit on a City Council that manages the executive side of power. Additionally there is an elected military position of Gonfaloniere, which was where the Prince derived his authority from initially, the position of Prince being a combination of the powers of First Magister and Gonfaloniere.
The official seat of power is the City Palace, beside the Temple of Trade. It was the meeting place of the Magistracy until the coup. It now houses the Council Chambers, magisterial apartments and the Assembly Hall. The House of Lohar, previously the home of the monarchy, serves as a centre of power for the military and a prison for political, or otherwise important detainees.
The major factions within the Assembly are loosely gathered into several galleries, referring to the painted corridor they use to enter the hall. The most powerful during the Velaryon regime were the Legends Gallery, led by Seldys. They favoured business and status quo, with a few of the more conservative being staunchly in support of slavery. Opposite them were the Green Gallery, who were made up of the younger and more radical of the hall, who looked to outlaw slavery and reduce the power of the remaining older families. There had also been the smaller Heroes Gallery who were in support of the Prince and the military regime, but most have either recanted their loyalties, left the city, or been purged.
After the fall of the Prince, the Greens came into power, as many moderate Legends were killed along with their leader during the coup. Soon after, the former hardline slavers and Magisters betrayed the Greens and suppressed the faction.
Outside of the Assembly, most political talk occurs in the famed teahouses, where writers and philosophers meet to discuss ideas. The recent upheavals have led to many both condemning and finding justifications for the new regime. The biggest schools of thought currently are the traditional and reformist Valyrian thinkers, who base their propositions on lost and recovered Valyrian texts, who are opposed by the rabble rousing New Lys movement, or the New Thought that believed the Prince's rise had corresponded with a rise in the 'Lyseni spirt.'
New Thought has become politically difficult, as praising Varyo can now come with the threat of imprisonment or worse. New Thinkers have begun to instead use 'the good Prince' as a rhetorical figure in their dialogues, cloaking the overt subversiveness of their work.
Additionally, many of the less philosophically inclined have become fond of writings purporting to be from the dead Prince. These 'recovered works' are often used as political manifestos or pamphlets, although almost all have no real proven content written by Varyo.
The New Lys thinkers are heavily involved with the Seahorses, who agree with their thoughts, especially those parts about ridding the city of 'detrimental spirits,' now in the name of their fallen Prince or other claimants.
Culture and Religion
Much of the city's culture revolves around the great Pleasure Gardens. Nightly festivities are held there, along with theatrical performances and displays from the city's courtesans.
It is expected for free courtesans to have at least three attending maids to differentiate them from the bedslaves and common whores. Likewise, any member of Lys' high society will be expected to visit throughout the year.
Painting and the other arts are treasured highly. Before Varyo's coup, the form in fashion was known as the Magister Style, and utilised very stylised form along with garish expensive pigments and inlay with precious stones and metals to show the wealth of it's patrons.
After the establishment of the monarchy, Lyaan mandated the renovations of the regimes buildings, forming a new Academy of the Arts in the Old City. The style there is less stylised in form, and uses pastel tones and fresco, with subject matter of heroes and war, fixating on the human form.
Lately, a new style has come into vogue, from the group called the Summertown Circle. It focuses on naturalistic form, with warm tones, mostly focusing on highly decorative scenes of nature with an emphasis on symbolism. Lys' new upper class are the prime patrons for this style.
The majority faith in Lys and its territories is in theory the worship of Rh'illor. However, most Lysenes still venerate some Valyrian folk deities, prime amongst these is the Weeping Lady of Lys, who is considered to be the city's patron god. These aside, shrines from most religions can be found in the city, with the Summer Gods having a large following, and a growing - albeit highly unorthodox - interest in the Seven.
Most recently, a variety of extremist cults have risen to prominence amongst the poorer parts of the city. It is now a common sight to see believers scarify themselves with flames to show their devotion. The extremists have found common cause with the radicals of the Green Gallery of the Assembly, as they too oppose the institution of slavery, and together have been putting pressure on Lys' High Priestess who is known to support the practice.
Lys' cuisine is highly varied and very prone to fads. A meal will usually consist of flatbreads though, which are a staple amongst the citizenry. Another staple is a thick porridge made with either chestnuts or chickpeas that can be baked or fried into fillets and either sweetened or spiced to taste. Pancakes thickened with blood and smoked fish are also very popular. Street food includes Parklonys, which is meat cooked on spits that has been soaked in a very hot sauce that can be made from any spices which merchants have been forced to unload.
The local wines are usually made into the so called 'Whorehouse Red,' a strongwine with honey and herbs to cover up its strength. Brandies and a sweet ginger wine are also made on the islands.
Lys has always been one of the great slave cities, and much of the city's population are either currently in bondage or formerly. Varyo and Lyaan made great strides towards emancipation. This ultimately lead to their downfall, with the struggle over slavery leading directly to their deaths and the civil war.
Now the institution has returned in force although many factions outside the Assembly are heavily against slavery.
The most common coins on Lys are copper, and are usually called pennies, although some call them waves for the designs etched on them. Higher than these are silver tears (with a picture of a teardrop on one side, the Prince's sigil on the other and were given to those employed by the state, being a days wage for a common labourer and worth twenty four pennies) and ladies (oval coins worth three tears.)
Above these, trade is usually done in foreign coins such as honors, however the monarchy minted rectangular blocks of gold with two crowns on one side and Varyo's monogram on the other. These crowns are indented and the coins can be clipped in half to make half crowns which are also tradable. A full crown is worth 180 tears, or 60 ladies.
Places of Interest
The City Palace
The Prince's Square is the heart of the Old City, enclosing the Temple of Trade, the Silver Exchange and the City Palace. It is a low Valyrian building of fused stone, with white marble and palestone detailing. Within, it has been restored in the new Academy Style, with frescos and reliefs detailing battles and myths, and statues of heroes and legends. The Assembly Hall is in the center building under a beautiful dom, with the Council Chambers in the western wing. The square outside is a common haunt of bravos, and many can be found fighting some duel or other.
The Pleasure Gardens
The Pleasure Gardens are situated on the biggest island of the Old City. It is three miles long, enclosing the vast open spaces in the filled with pavilions, walled gardens, small manses and conservatories. Its entrance is the Glass Bridge, a metal walkway made by the Freehold lined with dragonglass that seems to shine a hundred colours in the sunlight.
Many manses are kept around the gardens by the upper class, and those not able to afford one are sometimes able to build smaller lodges.
"Lys is indeed much sweeter than other places. Although the people can be sour, and a sweet taste can hide a deadly poison." - Aedan Ormollen