This article covers the recent history of the Seven Kingdoms, from the Dance of the Dragons to the beginning of King Baelor’s reign.
From the 129th to the 131st year since the coronation of Aegon the Conqueror in Oldtown, the siblings Rhaenyra and Aegon II Targaryen war with one another over their father’s throne. The war, called the Dance of the Dragons, consumes them both, as well as most of the rest of the royal family and the majority of their remaining dragons. In the end, peace is made between the survivors of the war on each side through the marriage of Rhaenyra’s eldest son, Aegon, and Aegon II’s only surviving daughter. Aegon is crowned as Aegon, the Third of His Name. His cousin dies not long after their marriage, but in later years he marries the daughter of Lord Velaryon, who served as his Regent and first Hand of the King. The last dragons dies during his reign, malformed and misshapen, and it is whispered that the king—who had witnessed one of his uncle’s dragons eat his mother alive—had had them poisoned. He is remembered as Aegon Dragonbane because of this.
Aegon III’s death leaves his eldest son, Daeron I, to ascend to the throne. Through force of will and innate genius, the young king manages to keep his uncle Prince Viserys from assuming the regency, merely remaining as the king’s Hand. And then Daeron, who has always dreamed of doing great deeds of arms and winning renown through war, declares war on Dorne. There was no clear cut cause for the war, no more than there ever was: the Targaryen belief that they should rule all the land from the Wall in the North to the Summer Sea in the south. Ever since Aegon had landed, Dorne has been a small thorn in the side of the Targaryens. The few passes through the mountains guarding its northern border with the Dornish Marches, the deserts covering much of the interior, and fierceness of the Dornishmen who preferred ambushes rather than open battle proved more than the Targaryens could defeat. If Aegon the Conqueror could not take Dorne with his three great dragons, how could Daeron hope to do so?
But the young king prevails. His three-pronged attack, down the two passes and by sea, proves to be more than the Dornishmen can deal with. The Seven Kingdoms do not need dragons, when they had their Young Dragon. Dorne submits in a year, at the cost of some ten thousand of the king’s soldiers and knights; Daeron I Targaryen is only fourteen years old. The king has 49 hostages sent to King’s Landing, while he remains in Dorne to mop up the last recalitrant resistance. Eventually he departs when the outlaw lord, Caston Vaith, is killed. Leaving Dorne in the hands of his cousin, Ser Alyn Velaryon, called Oakenfist after smashing the Planky Town with the royal fleet and then driving up the Greenblood to split Dorne neatly in half, and in particular in the hands of Lord Garvys Tyrell, who had commanded the attack down the Prince’s Pass and across the western deserts.
The king returns in triumph and hosts a grand tourney where many famous deeds are done, but Dorne remains a difficulty, with Lords Blackmont and Manwoody still at large in the mountains with forces of rebels, with the robber knight Red Rhys of the Scourge and his lover Alyx Sand still assaulting supply trains in the Boneway, and other lords and ladies throughout Dorne still restive. Prince Marence holds Dorne as little more than a puppet, with most significant decisions requiring Tyrell’s approval as the Lord of the Reach travels from one castle to the next, trying to stamp out minor insurgencies and rebellions. Vaith has proved a hotbed of trouble, thanks in part to the actions of Beslon the Bad and the Bright Banners he commands, and in part out of a fierce loyalty to the dead rebel hero, Lord Serion.
When Prince Aegon takes a Dornish hostage as his mistress, this is allowed to stand, a year later it is discovered that all the while Aegon had another mistress hidden in the city whom he married in a mummer’s farce of a ceremony. Aegon takes it poorly when the king chastizes him, and nearly kills his brother, Prince Aemon the Dragonknight, when Aemon has words with him. Merry Meg, as the woman becomes known, is sent back to the blacksmith who is her true husband.
Other turmoil would rack the court, such as conflicts between Lannisters and Tyrells, and increasing tensions at court increase regarding the Dornishmen culminating in a full-scale riot. The Young Dragon has the rioters slaughtered in a bloody battle in Flea Bottom and the city grows more placid, and less certain of their handsome, victorious king. Some blame his counselors for such things, and at court there are those who secretly plot to encourage the king towards more rational policies against the violent Dornishmen.
Later, the notorious bandit called the Starveling and his band cause great mischief in the kingswood. The Warden of the Kingswood, Ser Sarmion Baratheon—an infamous knight whose brother is the great Lord of Storm’s End—leads an expedition against him. Many outlaws are killed or captured, but the Starveling still escapes with a good part of his company. Naturally, there are those who now circle around his office, whispering in the king’s ear that some other man might serve him better. The Sealord of Braavos arrives in the city shortly after, and after a month of rumors and negotiations, it is announced that he’s betrothed to one of the king’s sisters. Departing with the promise that the alliance will be most happy, the Sealord leaves many wondering just what such an alliance will entail when made between two men known for their most war-like valor.
Yet shortly after, Dorne rises in rebellion after Lord Tyrell is murdered at Sandstone. The fire of revolt sweeps through the deserts, and garrison after garrison is captured or destroyed. The king is sure his cousin Oakenfist will put matters to right… but Ser Alyn is captured at Sunspear, and though the Prince of Dorne releases him he eventually calls the spears to put his seal upon the rebellion. King Daeron learns all the dire news at the new year, and calls his banners to swiftly raise an army. From across the Narrow Sea, his new ally the Sealord sends more than a thousand crossbowmen. In the Marches, a second army gathers under the Baratheon banner, to assault the Boneway while the king sails to the Sea of Dorne to hazard a dangerous landing.
The Dornish fight bravely in the mountains, but fail to stop the king’s landing, and his painstaking advance, inch-by-inch. Great heroes fall and many bold, young knights fall with them. It is a bloody affair, but the king wins through to the great castle of the Yronwoods, where his garrison still held… or so he thought. When he arrives, he discovers Yronwood had recently fallen to forces raised by the Ullers and Qorgyles, under the command of the notorious Ser Mavros. Though a setback, the king responded with his usual bonus: he had his force build a rampart and dike encircling the castle, and left a part of them to hold a siege while he marched into the heart of Dorne. Every contact with the enemy was a victory—sometimes a costly one, but a victory none the less—as he battled to Godsgrace.
The Battle of Godsgrace proves another victory thanks to the timely arrival of Oakenfist after he had seized half the Planky Town despite resistance from sellswords hired by Pentos to fight on Dorne’s behalf, that Free City’s response to the king’s alliance with the war-like Sealord. The king besiges the town which is the lynchpin of Dorne’s defenses, repelling a night attack which endes with word that the Prince of Dorne’s youngest brother, Rhodry, has been killed. The siege continues apace, holes forming in the walls, and in the end the Dornish come to surrender. Or so the king, in his youth and confidence, thinks. In truth, it is a lie: he is murdered, as are three of his Kingsguard. The fourth, Prince Aemon the Dragonknight, is captured. Prince Rhodry himself—alive, after all—kills the king by his own hand, as he lies trapped beneath his dead destrier. So ends Daeron the First of His Name, the Young Dragon.
The next morning, the Dornish return while the army is in confusion, as Mad Meros Tyrell attempts to force the rest of the lords and captains to elect him their leader, seizing the baggage train to do so. Their attack is a surprise, and does great harm, with Tyrell being the chief victim. In the end, the army is scattered: Ser Sarmion Baratheon leads the stormlords to the Tor, to storm it and hope there’d be ships to take them to safety; Ser Ardon Tyrell leads the reachlords and riverlords west and south to Salt Shore, which Oakenfist still holds; and Ser William Waxley, the king’s steward, leads the kingslanders north to join the siege at Yronwood, and perhaps to take the Boneway to safety.
Many more men die in those hard marches to the Tor and Salt Shore, yet by the grace of the gods they succeeded, and ships are there to carry them home. The Planky Town is lost when Prince Marence throws five hundred spears into the battle, but Salt Shore’s garrison—under siege now by two Dornish armies—is strengthend, and Wyl remains in the king’s hands. The new king, that is, Daeron’s brother Baelor, the most pious prince the Seven Kingdoms has ever seen according to some. And away in Braavos? New arrived that the Sealord has died under mysterious circumstances, and the alliance was soon forgotten as his successor distanced himself from the Lion of Braavos’s warlike policies.
The newly-crowned King Baelor forgives his brother’s killers, and immediately sets out to win peace with Dorne. Taking the forty-nine hostages with him, he walks to Dorne, barefoot, in an act of penitence. The court in King’s Landing is left in his uncle’s hand, and Prince Viserys continues to rule the realm for all the months of Baelor’s journey. In Dorne, matters are different, as Prince Marence struggles to repair what Daeron left damaged—including ties between House Martell and several houses, especially in the Boneway, who hold little regard for Marence and his policies during King Daeron’s conquest. The eventual peace forged between them leaves the opposition to such a peace disquieted—not least when the prince agrees to betroth his daughter to Baelor’s nephew, the boy Prince Daeron—but on the whole, it is mollified. And then Baelor departs, insisting on walking barefoot once more, a last pious act just as the gods desire.
His journey is a success, to a point: the hostages are safely returned and a peace is concluded in Sunspear. But the gods move Baelor to retrace his steps to the Boneway, to where his cousin the Dragonknight has languished. Baelor is allowed by Lord Wyl to free the Dragonknight from his cage above a pit of vipers… but only if he does so himself. Armored in his faith, Baelor walks into the pit—and sustains half a dozen bites. He frees his cousin, and swoons, and the Dragonknight is left to carry the comatose king on foot for a time. Eventually, through the grace of the Seven, the Dragonknight reaches Blackhaven where the gravely weakened king is tended. Prince Viserys rules for many months, dealing with the problems of lords great and small, seeing to it that efforts are made to restore law and order to Crackclaw Point and the kingswood and Blackwater Bay as the king’s recovery is very slow.
In the wake of Baelor’s indisposition and the peace between the Iron Throne and Sunspear, trouble stirs in Dorne. The Wyls and Yronwoods will not swallow the peace Prince Marence forged, and stir rebellion in the mountains. Marence entertains the Wyl heir, and rumor has it that he has offered his own sister as a bride, but the Wyls seem reluctant. So it goes, as Marence makes all efforts to quietly subdue the mountain houses, to ease their anger. Bandits run lawless in the Boneway, unchecked by the rebellious lords, and when at last Marence determines to send an envoy, that envoy is seized by Lady Yronwood who accuses him of having attempted to suborn her own bannermen against her. And so the spears are called in the Boneway, and the spears are called in Sunspear, and it seems blood will spill again in Dorne.