We consider the making of the poison commonly called the Strangler to be a microcosm of a key feature of the world system, the manufacturing power of the Free Cities and the impact they have on societies to their East, South, and West. Revealed in the list of raw materials and an analysis of the final product are the mercantilist policies by which Free Cities siphon off resources and foreign exchange. An examination of the buyers in turn demonstrates the parity in social power that exists between various Essosi merchant aristocracies while also highlighting the disparity of power that exists between said merchant aristocracies and the less sophisticated nobility of Westeros. Westeros consequently is shown to benefit the least from the world system and suffers a great deal owing to its inferior position.
A description of the Strangler, its material components, manufacturing process, and use comes to us curtsey of Maester Cressen of Dragonstone:
It was made from a certain plant that grew only on the islands of the Jade Sea, half a world away. The leaves had to be aged, and soaked in a wash of limes and sugar water and certain rare spices from the Summer Isles. Afterward they could be discarded, but the potion must be thickened with ash and allowed to crystallize. The process was slow and difficult, the necessaries costly and hard to acquire. The alchemists of Lys knew the way of it, though, and the Faceless Men of Braavos… and the maesters of his order as well, though it was not something talked about beyond the walls of the Citadel. All the world knew that a maester forged his silver link when he learned the art of healing-but the world preferred to forget that men who knew how to heal also knew how to kill. Cressen no longer recalled the name the Asshaii gave the leaf, or the Lysene poisoners the crystal. In the Citadel, it was simply called the strangler. Dissolved in wine, it would make the muscles of a man’s throat clench tighter than any fist, shutting off his windpipe. They said a victim’s face turned as purple as the little crystal seed from which his death was grown, but so too did a man choking on a morsel of food. (CoK Prologue)