- ""Valar Dohaeris". All men must serve. Faceless Men most of all."
- ―"Jaqen H'ghar"
The Faceless Men are a guild of assassins based in the Free City of Braavos, though their members range far and wide across both Essos and Westeros. They command exorbitant fees, but have a reputation for success that is unparalleled by any comparable organization.
They consider themselves servants of the Many-Faced God, a god of death who is unknowingly worshipped by all religions in the world, in the form of one god or another. The weirwood Face for the Old Gods of the Forest and the Stranger of the Faith of the Seven are two such deities. Faceless Men are trained to relinquish their former identities and become "no one", which allows them to become entirely different people, all in service to the Many-Faced God. They also believe that, as servants of death, they must serve above all else and that they must deliver upon certain people the "gift" of death.
The Faceless Men possess the ability to physically change their faces, shapeshifting so that they appear as an entirely new person.
Their headquarters are located in the House of Black and White, a temple dedicated to the Many-Faced God.
The Faceless Men are a cult of religious assassins that worship the Many-Faced God, and they believe that death is a merciful end to suffering. For a price, they will grant the "gift" of death to anyone in the world, considering the assassination a sacrament to their god. In their temple - the House of Black and White - those who seek an end to suffering may drink poisoned water which grants a painless death.
Killing for personal gain or out of anger or hate are forbidden to Faceless Men.
As the Faceless Men forsake their identities in the service of the Many-Faced God, they only assassinate targets they have been hired to kill and may not choose who is worthy of the 'gift' by themselves.
- "I've seen a man who could change his face, the way that other men change their clothes."
- "Jaqen H'ghar", a Faceless Man that took the identity of a Lorathi criminal.
- "The Waif", a Faceless Man that appears as a young woman.
- Arya Stark, (formerly) an acolyte in early training. Completed her training after killing the Waif, but quickly abandoned the guild for two reasons: Jaqen had ordered the Waif to kill her, and she was unwilling to surrender her identity. She still applies the idea of using many faces.
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, the Faceless Men are based at the House of Black and White, a temple in Braavos dedicated to the "Many-Faced God" that everyone will face, a reference to death. While they are indeed a guild of assassins, they have philosophical and religious motivations that will lead them to rejecting commissions that clash with those motivations.
The Faceless Men are a fairly old organization, predating even the Doom of Valyria. Their founders were slaves who worked in the mines under the Fourteen Fires, the great volcanic mountain chain whose eruption destroyed the Valyrian Freehold four centuries ago. The thousands of slaves from a hundred different lands faced death on a daily basis, and over time, the belief developed among some of them that while they came from many different lands and followed many different religions, all of these religions were fundamentally the same, because they all worshiped death in some fashion. They were either polytheistic religions that had a god devoted to death, or monotheistic religions with a deity that had dominion over death. In time this turned into a syncretic belief system worshiping the Many-Faced God of Death: holding that Death has appeared to humans under many different faces as many different gods, but they are all fundamentally one god.
The organization actually predates Braavos itself. They started out by giving the "gift" of death to slaves who were suffering particularly horribly in the mines, to ease their pain and in time, they learned to surreptitiously give the "gift" to some of their Valyrian masters as well, becoming skilled assassins. Many centuries later, the surviving Faceless Men relocated to Braavos, which was founded by ex-slaves who had escaped from Valyria (though whether this was after or slightly before the Doom is unclear).
The Faceless Men charge exorbitant fees, but their reputation for success is unmatched. The cost increases relative to the importance of the target and the difficulty of the objective. In the first book it is said that hiring a Faceless Man to kill Daenerys Targaryen would cost more than it would to hire an entire army. Further, the Faceless Men will reject a contract if killing the target clashes with their strange, and at times inscrutable, religious beliefs. Conversely, sometimes they choose bizarre "payments" according to what they feel is due. Sometimes, if a powerful lord asks them to kill the child of one of his enemies, the Faceless Men give as their "price" that in return they will kill the lord's own child (the lord can reject this, but it also means rejecting the entire contract).
Their fee is for a precise assassination, and the death of anyone other than the intended target is avoided whenever possible. They usually go so far as to try to make their assassinations look like accidents, adding to the mystery surrounding their order. For example, in the TV series, Jaqen kills the Tickler by sneaking up, snapping his neck, and then throwing him off a castle wall and then slipping away, leaving witnesses unsure if he was actually murdered. Jaqen did kill Amory Lorch with a poison dart, but only because he was pressed for time to kill him immediately.
Faceless Men aren't complete shapeshifters, i.e. they can't violate the law of conservation of mass and suddenly grow drastically taller or shorter, though they can dramatically change their appearance within these parameters. Either men or women can become "Faceless Men". The abilities of Faceless Men are not genetic or limited to a specific race: anyone can become a Faceless Man with the proper training in the arcane knowledge of their order. It is debatable whether the abilities of the Faceless Men could be considered "magic": They use a variety of tools, potions, and special training to shapeshift, rather than outright incantations and spells.
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