Sitting among the Hills of Norvos, Norvos, or as the people call it The Great Norvos, is one of the nine Free Cities located in Essos, between Pentos and Qonor. It is sitting among the eastern banks of the river Noyne and has limestone hills, dark forests of oak, beech, and pine around it. The city serves as a gateway for caravans and travelers who desire to go east-west on the ancient Valyrian roads where the ruins of Ghoyan Drohe are located. Norvos is surrounded by terraced farms, which sit between small walled villages that are used to support the larger parts of the city.
The Norvos territory sits all across the western bank of Darkwash up until the Upper Rhoyne to the west. Noyne is ruled by the Norvoshi river galleys that reach as far south as Ny Sar’s ruins where it joins Rhoyne. Although the city claims the rule over Axe upon the Shivering Sea the territory is disputed, often with blood, by the Ibbenese.
The climate seems to be quite harsh with hot summers and painful winters with fast and harsh cold winds as well as pale sun.
As much as we know about Norvos, the original settlers are shrouded in mysteries. From what the fans of the series were able to gather is that it was not Rhoynar. Some think that it may have been maze makers or Ibbenese, however, it is more widely accepted that the people that gave this place life are Andals. It is said that “hairy men” from the east drove the original villagers from these places and met their demise at the hand of Prince Garris of Ny Sar. The Rhoynar did not remain in this location as they preferred the warmer climate of Rhoyne.
Much like Qohor and Lorath, modern Norvos was founded due to the fact that Valyrian Freehold was extremely intolerable to different religions. Due to this, the sect of bearded priests, have traveled to this place and created Norvos as we know it – a place where “true faith” could be practiced without any further hindrance from people of another ilk.
In recent times Norvos comes into conflict with Lorath due to the expansionism practiced by Qarlon the Great who had a claim to become the King of all Andals. He expanded his domain towards Axe and the headwaters of upper Rhoyne and Noyne. As Norvoshi marched to close the river, Qarlon retaliated. After two lost battles by Norvos in the hills, Qarlon marched against the city. The Fires of the Freehold tell a story of hundred dragons from Valyrian Freehold being unleashed against Andals who were laying siege to Norvos. During the battle, Qarlon along with his whole army was burned to the crisp, and shortly after Lorath followed according to the Scouring of Lorath.
As the Century of Blood commenced after the Doom of Valyria, Norvos and Qohor allied together against the common enemy – Volantis. The two managed to overcome the Volantene fleet with fire galleys which were previously controlling the Rhoyne on Dagger Lake. Since these times the bearded priests of Norvos have regarded the Black Goat of Qohor as a demon. Although, the two have been allies far more times than enemies.
In more recent times prince Daemon Targaryen and Lady Laena Valeryon have visited Norvos and other Free Cities multiple times after their wedding.
Doran Martell, who was the prince of Dorne, has also visited the city as he is married to Lady Mellario of Norvos. Together they have had three children. Due to this, Doran was guarded by Areo Hotah, a Norvoshi warrior personally trained by the bearded priests. Prince Quentyn Martell of Yronwood was fostered by Doran, which angered Mellario who returned to Norvos after Doran decided to send princess Arianne Martell to Tyrosh.
Even more recently, Daenerys Targaryen passed Norvos during her journey with Khal Drogo’s khalasar from Pentos to Vaes Dothrak in Game of Thrones.
The economy of Norvos largely relies on its tapestries. It is involved in trade with Lorath and very rarely with Seven Kingdoms. Lots of revenue also comes from the caravans passing through the city due to its convenient location.
The city consists of two main parts that are connected with massive stone stairs called the Sinner’s Steps. One part is called the High City. This is where most of the nobility lives and is surrounded by huge stone walls. The high city is located on the tallest hill in the region. This is where the temple of bearded priests also stands.
The lower city is located three hundred feet under the hill where the high city stands. It is conveniently sitting next to the river and spreads out on the muddy shores. The defenses consist of moats, timber palisade, and ditches that are all overgrown with moss due to the swampy nature of the area. The riverfront is filled with beer halls, brothels, and wharves. Even though the high city represents a more rich society the lower one is where all of the action is.
Bells of Norvos
Norvos has three bells that govern all of the aspects of life in the city. The bells tell Norvoshi people when to sleep, get up, work, rest, or take arms as well as when to prey, and when to have carnal relations. Each of the three bells is unique due to their sounding respectively named Noom, Narrah, and Nyel. Noom has the deepest sound while Nyel is the highest-pitched one and Narrah with a strong sound.
These bells are all considered Wonders Made by Man by Lomas Longstrider.
People of Norvos
As it is already apparent due to its religious roots Norvos is a theocratic society. The state rulers or the council of magisters has its members chosen by the bearded priests who are responsible for speaking with their gods and hold the most power in the city. The magisters give out resources to passing Dothraki Khals so that they do not ravage the lands and the city. The Norvoshi people are not permitted to have beards unless they are holding the status of a priest. The priests are known to be wearing untanned hides and hair shirts. After the initiation, the candidate becomes a part of the religious institution and thus is forbidden to cut neither their hair nor their beard. The ritual of flagellation is practiced as a part of their worship. The name of the god is also only known by the initiates and priests.
The freeborn people of the city, does not matter high or lowborn, favor the long mustachios. Byan Votyris, for example, is known to dye his mustache blue and sweep it under his ears. Norvoshi women have to shave all their hair. Although the noblewomen wear wigs. This is especially true when in the presence of men from other cities and regions. Some women are also known to wear dresses with squirrel collars. The people of Norvos are not allowed to foster any children.
The slaves are also shaved bare. There are urban legends going around the city that under the torchlit cellars of the city slave women are forced to mate with wolves.