Valyrian

"Wielding these weapons, astride their dragons, the Valyrians conquered the surrounding lands and slowly expanded west."

    ―Viserys Targaryen                                   

The Valyrians are a people and culture native to the Valyrian Peninsula, on the continent of Essos. For thousands of years, their empire, known as the Valyrian Freehold, was the dominant civilization on the continent. Roughly four hundred years prior to the War of the Five Kings, a cataclysmic event known as "the Doom" shattered the Valyrians' capital city and all but obliterated them.

History

Originally a community of shepherds, the Valyrians rose to prominence after discovering dragons in a volcanic area of their home peninsula known as the Fourteen Fires. After taming the mighty beasts, they established the city of Valyria and became skilled in both magic and metallurgy. With these skills, they created a unique metallic compound later known as Valyrian steel, which could be fashioned into weapons far superior to those produced by other cultures.

With their dragons and weapons, the Valyrians conquered the surrounding lands and began their outward expansion. Early on, they came into conflict with the Ghiscari Empire to the east and the Rhoynar people to the north and west. The Ghiscari fought five wars against the Valyrian Freehold and were eventually defeated, their capital destroyed, and their people enslaved. The Rhoynar fought equally hard against the Valyrians until their cities were razed, many of their people also enslaved, and the survivors scattered.

For nearly five thousand years, Valyrian hegemony was uncontested, until "the Doom" destroyed the capital city and much of the Valyrian peninsula. Not only were most of the dragons wiped out, but the Valyrians' spells, knowledge, and recorded history were also lost.

The cause of the Doom remains unknown; some believe it was a massive volcanic eruption from the Fourteen Fires, while others think the Valyrians themselves caused it with their reckless use of magic. In any event, the power of the Valyrians was broken and the ruling dragonlords dead. Soon afterwards, the Freehold's colonies throughout Essos declared their independence and a period of constant warfare began: the Century of Blood.

Aftermath

Some traces of the Valyrian people and their culture survived the Doom. Their language, known as High Valyrian, gave birth to a number of dialects spoken in many of the Freehold's former colonies, such as the modern-day Free Cities. Valyrian bloodlines and practices also survived in the Free Cities, but to varying degrees: after four hundred years, the surviving Valyrian colonists in the Free Cities have intermingled with the local populations to such an extent that they no longer exist as a major, distinct group. A few aristocratic families in the Free Cities still retain classic Valyrian features – to greater or lesser extents – and possess light blonde hair and distinctive eyes. People with such features are said to have "the blood of Old Valyria" in their veins.

A few Valyrian noble families also survived on the island of Dragonstone. Located off the coast of Westeros, this island represented the extreme western edge of Valyrian expansion. The families were led by House Targaryen, who controlled the last surviving dragons. Some of their vassals, such as House Velaryon and House Celtigar, settled on neighboring islands. A few noble families were later founded by their servants, such as House Qoherys (which went extinct within three generations). On the whole, however, the Targaryens and their few followers had almost no impact upon the ethnic composition of Westeros – particularly because they continued the Valyrian custom of "keeping the bloodline pure" by engaging in incestuous marriages whenever possible, rather than intermingling with local noble families.

Features and Practices

The Valyrians are known for their great beauty and possessed physical features not seen among other peoples of the world (at least not commonly). Typically, they were very fair-skinned, with silver (i.e. platinum blonde) hair and violet or deep blue eyes.

To keep their bloodlines "pure" – by which they retained these features – Valyrian noble families often practiced heavily incestuous marriages, wedding brother to sister, cousin to cousin, uncle to niece, and aunt to nephew. Aegon the Conquerer took this a step further and married both of his sisters, Visenya and Rhaenys. The World of Ice & Fire sourcebook explained that although such a practice was not the norm among the Valyrians, it was not unheard of either, so polygamy must have existed in some form within the dragonlord families.

Bonus Trait

Century of Blood: You are proficient in History and one martial weapon of your choice.

Valyrian

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