A Song of Ice and Fire: Iron Bank of Braavos

Centuries before the Targaryen Conquest of
Westeros, when the valryian freehold ruled much of Western Essos, the city of Braavos
was founded in a northern lagoon by runaway slaves, fleeing their Valyrian Masters. Fearing reprisal from the dragonlords, the
former slaves kept the existence of their city hidden for over a century, giving them
time to properly establish their settlement. A group of these settlers, specifically 16
men and 7 women, discovered an iron mine, using it to conceal their riches from pirates
and thieves. Over time, the amount of treasure they collected
became sufficient enough for some of them to start lending the money out to other Braavosi. From there the Iron Bank of Braavos took root,
led in part by 23 keyholders, who were the descendants of the original founders of the
bank, and who continue to hold the keys to the subterranean vaults which hold their wealth. Keyholders are held in high regard within
Braavosi society, known to wear their keys on chain around their necks during ceremonies
and celebrations. However they are not alone in the management
of the Iron bank, with many other nobles and rich merchants owning shares in the organization
allowing them to attend secret meetings and have a voice in choosing the leadership. Although Braavos itself is led by the Sealord
of Braavos, Bank officials have a great deal of influence. After a century hidden from the world, Sealord
Uthero Zalyne prepared to end the secrecy. In order to pre-emtively make peace with the
Valyrian Freehold, he sent envoys from the Iron Bank to make contact. Learning that the Valyrians cared little for
a faraway city founded by fugitive slaves a century earlier, and they were further placated
when the Iron Bank paid a generous sum to the descendants of the slave owners who’s
ships had been seized and stolen. The representatives of Braavos did not however,
offer any compensation for the slaves themselves. With the issue settled the Sealord of Braavos
sent ships to every corner of the world, revealing the existence of Braavos in what came to be
known as the Unmasking of Uthero. Over the centuries, the Iron Bank grew into
the richest and largest bank of the Free cities, lending money to many triarchs, princes, noble
lords and even kings, becoming a source of financing for the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. Yet part of the reason for their success came
from the reputation they earned in dealing with those who refused to pay their debts. The Bank became infamous for toppling delinquent
Lords and Princes, by financing their rivals, who in turn agreed to pay back the full debt
of the previous ruler, In addition to what they borrowed to overthrow their predecessor. In cases where this strategy failed, assassins
were sent to eliminate the guilty parties. The Bank’s longstanding relationship with
Westeros served them well for many years, like during the during the Dance of the Dragons
civil war, when Ser Tyland Lannister of the Greens faction following Aegon II, sent one
quarter of the crown’s gold from the royal treasury to the Iron Bank for safekeeping. A few years later, Iron Bank declined in power
with the Rogare Bank of Lys rising to prominence, seeing the head of the Banks daughter Larra
Rogare marrying Prince Viserys of Westeros, who went on to become King Viserys II. However after the death of Larra’s father
Lysandro the Magnificent the bank started to decline and the Iron Bank once again returned
to prominance. In 267 AC, the Mad King Aerys II was at odds
with the bank over debts accrued by his father Jaehaerys II, and so he foolishly claimed
he would build a mighty flight to bring the titan of braavos to its knees. Yet this was just another of the King’s
many declarations that led to nothing. After the fall of House Targaryen, King Robert
Baratheon ruled for many years, accruing debt through his reckless spending with Lord Petyr
Baelish, Master of Coin, responsible for securing the funds. With Robert’s untimely death, the Kingdom’s
debts fell to the heir King Joffrey Baratheon and King Tommen Baratheon after that. However, with the War of the Five Kings raging
across the continent, Queen Regent Cersei Lannister, who ruled in the name of her young
son, felt she needed to prioritize military spending over debt, and declared they would
differ payments to the Faith of the Seven and the Iron bank of Braavos until the war
was over. With the funds they will save, she ordered
the construction of a naval fleet, to be led by the Bastard of Driftmark Aurane Waters. Grand Maester Pycelle proved the only member
of the small council to object to the plan, reminding the Queen of the famous saying,
“The Iron Bank will have its due.” And explaining that this will have drastic
repercussions, but his pleas are ignored. And so when Noho Dimittis was sent by the
Iron Bank to King’s Landing, Cersei informed him of the decision and sent him away. In response, the Bank started calling in all
outstanding debts from the Lords of Westeros and stopped giving out any new loans, leading
to economic chaos throughout the continent. In addition, they sent Tycho Nestoris north
to the wall in search of King Stannis Baratheon. At the wall he met with jon Snow, and agreed
to lend the Night’s Watch coin to help them survive the winter. Tycho was then escorted south to Deepwood
Motte where he paid the ransom for a number of Ironborn captives, so they might escort
him safely to find Stannis near Winterfell. Instead they found Stannis in a small village. Tycho Nestoris then negotiated a contract
to financially support Stannis Baratheon for the Iron Throne, in exchange for the repayment
of all previous debts once in power. Stannis agreed and demonstrated his commitment,
by signing the agreement in his own blood. Back in King’s Landing, Cersei’s schemes
at last became her undoing, when she was arrested by the faith militants and stripped of her
power. Ser Kevan Lannister was then named Regent,
and did his best to reverse some of the damage already done. He attempted to secure new loans from the
banks of Pentos and Myr, but was unable to secure financing. He then suggested that Ser Harys Swyft, Master
of Coin go to Braavos so he might speak with them directly and re-establish their relationship.

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