Of Knights and Knaves
Maesters of the Citadel
The maesters of the Citadel of Oldtown are scholars, wise men, ambassadors, and councilors. The Citadel is the highest center of learning in Westeros, and it is famed throughout the world. It is the only formal school of its kind and is the home of the maesters. Not everyone who studies at the Citadel must become a maester. Some simply attend to better their education and have no aspirations to serve as a maester. The Citadel will accept anyone, regardless of social class, though it does not accept women.
The Citadel is run by the archmaesters, who meet regularly in a Conclave to discuss matters pertinent to the realm. The archmaesters announce when the seasons are turning and choose the Grand Maester who sits on the king’s small council. Their decisions are supposedly objective, but politics and personal agendas can obviously influence them.
Students who wish to become maesters study various subjects—the Citadel has teachers for numerous topics, including accounting, anatomy, architecture, astronomy, dragonlore, forensics, healing, herblore, higher mysteries, history, mathematics, navigation, raven lore and training, warcraft, and so forth. When a student believes he has mastered a subject, he is tested by the archmaester of that field. If he proves himself, he earns a link in his chain; each link is a particular metal that represents that subject, so a student who proves himself at sums and numbers will earn a gold link, while proving he knows his ravenry will earn him black iron. A student with no links is a novice. A novice who acquires his first link becomes an acolyte. As the acolyte earns more links it is said that he “forges” them to make his maester’s chain, symbolizing his knowledge and his willingness to serve the realm.
An acolyte with enough links to fashion a collar around his neck, essentially having finished his subjects, is allowed to say his vows and become a maester. Once said, his chain is donned and never removed, though he may continue to add to it as he continues his studies. Most students say their vows by 25, though both younger and older maesters are not uncommon (more the latter, admittedly). Their vows include celibacy, as well as setting aside their family name, and any lands or wealth.
Maesters are sent as secular advisors to the lords of the Seven Kingdoms. Because they are sworn to the Citadel and have given up any family affiliations, they are expected to be neutral and provide good advice and counsel wisdom no matter where they are sent. If a lord is overthrown, the maester is expected to serve his new lord as willingly as his old, and he may only leave his post with his lord’s—or the Citadel’s—instruction.
Maesters generally provide the most skilled medical treatment available in Westeros, with a broad knowledge of anatomy, herbs, and proper care, including treatments like boiling wine to clean wounds and how to perform proper amputation of gangrenous limbs.
There is some degree of rivalry between the secular maesters and the religious hierarchies of Westeros, particular the Faith of the Seven. Maesters of the Citadel have a quiet disdain for “superstition,” being men of learning and reason. This includes religious taboos and, of course, magic. Thus maesters sometimes come into disagreement with godsworn religious advisors or other courtiers like soothsayers or mystics.
Maesters may be cast out of the order for oathbreaking or for the pursuit of forbidden sciences and arts, such as necromancy.