What are the Stepstones and the Free Cities in House of the Dragon?

What are the Stepstones and the Free Cities in House of the Dragon?

Trouble is definitely brewing around King’s Landing House of the Dragon, with a sequential plot looming almost as big as one of the dragons. But as we see in this week’s episode, there are other parts of the continent that Game of Thronesdanger is already looming for them. And the main story, which is mostly about shipping companies, is perhaps the most confusing as well.

[Ed. note: This story contains spoilers for House of the Dragon episode 2.]

Corlys Velaryon’s rant at the start of the episode causes his shipping issues, but it also features a series of proper names, enemies, allies, and cities that are all pretty easy to miss. The idea is that Corlys (along with many other merchants from Westeros) is losing ships to a pirate called the Crabfeeder who has his base on the Stepstones. But as Viserys makes clear, it’s all a lot more complicated than that.

To help you keep up with Westeros’ latest conflict, here’s an overview of Daemon and Corlys’ war and why it matters, even if Viserys can’t officially approve.

Where are the Stepstones and why are they important?

Photo: Ollie Upton/HBO

The Stepstones are a small rocky island chain south of King’s Landing between Westeros and Essos at Sunspear. By themselves, they essentially have no value at all. It cannot really be built upon, and there is no soil to cultivate and no minerals of any value. However, because the trade between Westeros and Essos is a crucial part of the economies of both continents, the Stepstones could provide a suitable base for any pirate looking to harass ships as they travel through the southern part of the Narrow Sea or charge excessive tolls for Safe passage. That’s exactly where the Crabfeeder comes into play.

Who is the Crab Feeder?

While the show doesn’t go into much detail, Fire & Blood (the novel that House of the Dragon is based) tells us that the Crabfeeder was actually a Myrian prince named Craghas Drahar. In the book, Drahar cleaned up the pirates of the Stepstones himself and then set up a toll system that charged ships for safe passage. While the merchants of Westeros accepted this for a while, they eventually got tired of the ever-rising prices.

However, it seems that this is all a little different in the show. For starters, it looks like the Crabfeeder isn’t so directly connected to the Triarchy in House of the Dragon, and is instead secretly supplied by the free cities. The Crabfeeder also apparently harass ships himself, acting a little more like a pirate than the greedy landowner he is in the book.

One thing that really brightens up the show (or down?) is the look of the Crabfeeder. We don’t get many details about what Drahar looks like Fire & Bloodbut in House of the Dragon It’s clear that his sea travels have left him with scars and burns and perhaps even a bit of Greyscale from quests in the ruins of Chroyane. Plus, he has a cool mask.

Who are the Triarchy and how are they connected to the Free Cities?

There are nine free city-states that make up the Free Cities of Essos: Braavos, Lorath, Lys, Myr, Norvos, Pentos, Qohor, Tyrosh, and Volantis. While these cities were constantly competing for supremacy, there was a brief period when an alliance was formed between Lys, Myr, and Tyrosh, who called themselves the Triarchy and became the preeminent power in the region.

Why can’t Westeros go to war with the Free Cities?

As often as the Free Cities bicker with each other, their combined power far exceeds just about anything Westeros could muster. In addition, the Free Cities are an important trading ally of the Seven Kingdoms, and the Iron Bank of Braavos is home to quite a bit of Westerosi wealth. In other words, there is really no advantage to fighting the Free Cities openly and there are many disadvantages.

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