The Fourteen Fires was a chain of volcanoes located in the Valyrian Peninsula, in the continent of Essos. It was in this location where Valyrians, then a community of shepherds, first discovered dragons.
The Fourteen Fires exploded four hundred years ago in a massive volcanic eruption, a cataclysmic event known as the Doom of Valyria, which destroyed the Valyrian civilization and shattered the Valyrian peninsula. The capital city was destroyed in a single day, and subsequently is often referred to as Old Valyria. The entire region was consumed by the oceans, creating the Smoking Sea.
In the booksEdit
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, the Fourteen Fires are alternatively called the Fourteen Flames.
The volcanoes remain quite active and have never entirely stopped erupting since the Doom, though they are of course not nearly as active as that first massive explosion which shattered the entire Valyrian peninsula. Some of them may have sunk beneath the waves, but even those under water continue to belch forth fire and smoke visible on the surface. Sailors fear to even pass within sight of Valyria's ruins, and the glow of the Fourteen Fires can be seen on the distant horizon by passing ships.
The Valyrians first discovered dragons nesting in the warmth of the Fourteen Fires, though no one knows exactly where the species originated - whether they were native to Valyria, or if they originated somewhere else and later established nests there. Ancient tales say dragons once flew the skies all over the known world from Westeros to Yi Ti in the Dawn Age before the Long Night, and even a few ancient dragon skeletons have been found in such scattered locations. They might not have originated in any currently explored region of the known world. Other than Valyria, the only other potential origin site for dragons within known lands is Asshai and the surrounding Shadow Lands: dragon skeletons and petrified dragon eggs are frequently found there, and the inhabitants claim that dragons existed there since before Valyria was founded (Asshai also claims to be the oldest city in the world, but no one can confirm or deny this). Either way, the people of Asshai never succeeded in riding dragons and using them as beasts of war like the Valyrians did.
The volcanic mountains of the Fourteen Fires contained vast mineral wealth, from gold and other precious metals to iron - dragons were used to forge iron into Valyrian steel in mass quantities, to make not only weapons but gigantic building projects. Slaves were brought in by the tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands to labor and die in the mines, brought in from hundreds of nations stretching from the Narrow Sea to Yi Ti. Life in the mines was dangerous, brutal, and very short, but the Valyrians' demand for ores was insatiable. Some suspect that the disaster of the Doom was actually caused by over-mining under the volcanoes - possibly even intentionally caused by the slaves using magic as revenge against their masters (though still others say the Valyrians themselves caused the explosion in an attempt to harness some sort of magical power through a spell gone wrong).
The death-worshiping cult of the Faceless Men actually originated in the slave mines under the Fourteen Fires. 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 - 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. 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, after Valyria was destroyed, the surviving Faceless Men relocated to Braavos, which was founded by ex-slaves who had escaped from Valyria. The Braavosi welcomed them because they had both formed in opposition to the Valyrians, and in Braavos the Faceless Men established a firm headquarters where they continued to operate for the next four centuries.
See also Edit