Eight of the Nine Free Cities are proud daughters of Valyria that was, still ruled by the descendants of the original colonists who established themselves there hundreds or thousands of years ago. In these cities, Valyrian blood is still greatly prized. The ninth stands as an exception, for Braavos of the Hundred Isles was founded by escaped slaves fleeing their Valyrian masters.
In Braavos men and women from far-flung corners of the world may sit together, as they have done for hundreds of years, eating and drinking and telling tales. All are welcome in the Secret City, it is said.
“Braavos is the strangest, a city erected not by the Freehold, but against it. A labyrinth of illusion and deceit to hide the refugees from Valyria’s slave-lords. After the Doom, the city emerged from the shadows to become of the greatest banking centers in the world” - Ser Jorah Mormont.
The youngest of the Nine Free Cities, Braavos is also the wealthiest, and in all likelihood the most powerful. Originally founded by escaped slaves, its humble beginnings were rooted in nothing more than a desire to be free.
However, it is clear that Braavos is unique among all the Free Cities, as it was founded not by the will of the Freehold, nor by its citizens, but instead by its slaves. According to the tales of the Braavosi, a huge slaver fleet that had been out collecting tributes in human flesh from the lands of the Summer and Jade Seas became victim to a slave uprising instead; the success of this uprising was doubtless dependent on the fact that the Valyrians were wont to use slaves as oarsmen and even sailors, and that these men then joined the uprising. Seizing control of the fleet but realizing there was no place nearby to hide from the Freehold, the slaves instead elected to seek out some land far from Valyria and its subjects, and founded their own city in hiding.