Xaro Xhoan Daxos:Qarth has always and only belonged to the Qartheen. We were never part of Valyria's empire, nor have we ever fallen to a Dothraki horde. Our walls and the Red Waste outside them guard us from such annoyance. Many call the approach to our city the "Garden of Bones" - it needs little tending to grow.
Our city, however, would be quite a prize for any empire. Qarth straddles two worlds: a greedy and curious west and a rich and mysterious east. The marvels of Yi Ti and Asshai pass through our markets, and share berths with the riches of the Free Cities and Westeros.
Our ports have fulfilled many a trader's dreams - almost as many as they have broken. We call Qarth "the greatest city that ever was or will be"; an easy claim to make if one knows only the docks and customs houses of other cities, and easy lie to swallow if the people see only the gold and jewels of their rulers, which we, The Thirteen who govern the city, are careful to ensure.
The proud Qartheen shook off the yolk of unjust kings long ago, or so they are told at festivals by the Pureborn, the kings' direct descendants who have controlled the Thirteen ever since. Only now, instead of scepters, they use ships. A merchant only remains on the Thirteen until the others are no longer afraid to deny him, or too afraid to deny his replacement.
Except for the Warlocks, they alone hold a hereditary seat, a relic from when they had powers, or the world was younger, and more easily duped. Over the years we have developed an "understanding" with them: They shall always be welcome on our councils and at affairs of state, provided they never come. Rare is the civic problem that can be solved by cryptic nonsense and shade of the evening. Thankfully, they need little encouragement to confine themselves to their House of the Undying.
Yet perhaps we Qartheen are too confined themselves. We feel safe beyond our walls and our laws, which no visitors can hope to follow, and by which any citizen who vouches for a guest always pays with his life. But like a ship in the Summer Seas, a city becomes becalmed without fresh wind. "The greatest city that ever was or will be"? - an epitaph. I would would prefer: "The greatest city that is".