This article covers the recent history of the Seven Kingdoms, beginning with a very brief mention of the Dance of the Dragons and the reign of Aegon III, which is followed by summaries of what has happened in Westeros since the game opened. For a detailed account of the Dance of the Dragons, the Regency and the reign of Aegon III, see The World of Ice and Fire.
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 surviving son, Aegon, and Aegon II’s only 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 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 Lyonel 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 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? News arrive that the Sealord has died under mysterious circumstances, and the alliance is soon forgotten as his successor distances 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 young cousin, 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.
And blood does spill, though not nearly as much as many feared. Prince Marence himself leads his forces, but Lady Yronwood outmaneuveres him at almost every turn thanks to the help of the Boneway’s most notorious bandits, Ser Rhys of the Scourge and Alyx Sand, the Witch. The prince himself wishes to avoid bloodshed to such cost that when he has the opportunity to meet and defeat the host Lady Yronwood and her allies had raised, he delays and repeatedly attempts to cajole them into peace. But he waits too long: a second enemy host appears, trapping the Martell forces in a pincer. Marence is forced to negotiate with Lady Linnet on her own terms, and she extracts many minor concessions and one not-so-minor: the betrothal of her heir to Prince Marence’s sister, Princess Ariana. Once all is agreed, it is revealed that the second army was more ruse than fact, men who slipped from the Yronwood encampment at night while tents and fires remained in place, and maneuvered through ravines known to the bandits to place themselves on the opposite side of the army. Many curse the ruse… but perhaps the loudest curses belong to Rhys and Alyx, whom Lady Linnet hands over to Marence’s justice. The robber-knight is sent into exile, while Alyx the Witch is given over the custody of her father whom had long served as Sunspear’s master at arms.
As King Baelor establishes his rule, piety is first and foremost in his thoughts. Visions the Seven send to him dictate some of his policies: placing his sisters in the keep now called the Maidenvault, to spare them from the inequities of sin; commanding the construction of an enormous sept the likes of which had never been seen in Westeros; banning whores from King’s Landing following the murderous spree of Ser Quenton Rosby which culminated in the deaths of the heir to Storm’s End and the lady wife of the heir to Casterly Rock. But piety also encourages peace, and King Baelor supports all overtures towards Dorne. Most notably, the Iron Throne and Sunspear agree to send embassies to one another’s courts. Yet the king’s piety has its consequences: a contingent of ironborn arrive at court, dispatched by Lord Greyjoy who has grown concerned both over the Young Dragon having left the ironborn out of the conquest of Dorne and Baelor’s devotion to the Seven.
Despite Baelor’s best efforts, not all is well in the realm: a fresh feud breaks out between the Blackwoods and Brackens, decades after Jaehaerys the Conciliator had put an end to the last such feud. It is finally put down by Lord Tully with the help of visiting knights and lords from the king’s court. And then, a tragedy: Princess Naerys, the king’s cousin, suffers a miscarriage. Baelor fasts and prays for thirty days and nights, believing his failure to bring all his subjects out of sin led to the displeasure of the Seven. The fast ends only because Baelor collapses, almost killing himself, and in the months that follow it is Prince Viserys, the Hand, who rules the realm as Baelor recovers.
A growing trade war between Pentos and Myr against Lys and Tyrosh tempts both the Iron Throne and Sunspear to take sides. Ser Conrad Arryn is dispatched to Braavos to attempt to have the Sealord assist in dealing with a consequence of the war—increasing piracy in the Stepstones—but the factions hoping to draw Braavos to join one side against another prevent his meeting the Sealord. Matters in Westeros take a turn for the worse when notorious pirates force Viserys to send fleets out to deal with them, only for the two fleets to be coordinated and working together under their captains Sullehman Saan and Vaario Quanis. Shortly after, the ancient castle of Stonedance is overrun by bandits led by the Dornish exile Red Rhys of the Scourge, who slaughters some of the Masseys, holds others hostage, and declares himself King of Massey’s Hook. Some say he’s mad, but it transpires that he has somehow gone from an exile to having the support of the pirates who have some bedeviled the narrow sea.
It takes reinforcements for the fleet to recover from the defeat at sea, and forces led by Prince Aemon the Dragonknight fighting their way through the foothills toward Stonedance, for the tide to turn. Even then, there are costs: Ser Ammon Massey, the Blackhand, is killed by Sullahmen Saan, and not long after his aged father Lord Allard is hanged from the walls of his own castle by Vaario Quanis. A parley is offered where Red Rhys refuses to give up his seat, but the Dragonknight offers the chance of clemency to those who threw down their weapons, leadingthe bandits to argue among themselves when the Targaryen forces storm the castle. Sarmion Baratheon kills the erstwhile-king, Red Rhys, on his stolen throne, while Dagur Saltcliffe slays Sullehman Saan and avenges the Blackhand. Though some, such as Vaario Quanis, escape, Stonedance is restored to the decimated Masseys.
With the pirate fleet of Sullehman Saan shattered, the Stepstones are for a time swept almost clean of corsairs and raiders, leading to general prosperity. But the trade war between Pentos and Lys enters a new phase, as both look to fill the vacuum on the Stepstones. In light of this, it is no surprise they resume their search for allies, and two royal princes—Aegon Targaryen on the one hand, and Rhodry Nymeros Martell on the other—are sent by their kinsmen to Braavos whose mighty fleet and Iron Bank could tip the balance in one direction or the other. It is said that Prince Viserys, still ruling for the ailing King Baelor, has been moved to dissuade Braavos from taking sides in hopes of limiting the damage of such a conflict, but Prince Aegon and his Dornish counterpart are both quite whole-heartedly focused on joining the fray with Braavos as their ally.
Matters in Braavos grow complicated between the two embassies, to the point that Prince Aegon’s host, a scion of a powerful magister of Lys, is assassinated during the Braavosi carnival festivities. In the end the Dornish leave empty-handed, the Targaryens seeming ascendant… but ultimately the Sealord opts to stay well away from the matter. All Prince Aegon has to show for it is another infamous mistress, the notorious Black Pearl, a reputed smuggler and pirate who is considered one of the great beauties of the Free City.
Though the war between Pentos and Lys continues unabated despite Myr and Tyrosh having withdrawn to fight between themselves over the Disputed Lands, at least the Seven Kingdoms and Dorne are not directly impacted or drawn into the conflict after Braavos chose to take no sides. Instead, for the Iron Throne, it is a time of revitalization as King Baelor recovers his strength. Moved yet by holy visions, he continues his efforts to spread his zeal to the rest of the realm. He arranges an unlikely marriage between a Dornishman and a woman of the North, and rumors have it that he intends to make many more so that the faithful could be fruitful and mutliply as the gods willed it. To that end, he offers a gift of gold to any marriages that take place within the city despite the objections of the master of coin.
There are changes at court as well, as the king and the small council made changes to numerous offices, most notably naming Sarmion Baratheon as commander of the Sea Watch despite the Tullys and Lord Serry having had an interest in that same posting. The changes at court culminate not long after the Citadel’s white ravens mark the end of Autumn: the king declares that the Seven have told him he is to take a septon’s vows, which he does with the blessing of the High Septon.
A roiling feud between the Dalts of Lemonwood and the Gargalens of Salt Shore, over control of disputed wells, takes a turn that unsettles Dorne when the heir to Lemonwood is killed in a skirmish. Though Prince Marence forces the sides to put down their arms and exiles the famous Wild Wil Gargalen for the killing of Blaise Dalt, this only serves to bury the animosity. Matters become far worse, however, following a feast to attempt to reconcile the sides: Prince Marence seems to go mad, screaming in the night of a fire that was not there and even attempting to leap from the Tower of the Sun to escape the unseen flames.
The court is in turmoil, and matters are not helped when Ser Dinias Dalt—father of the late heir to Lemonwood—return from King’s Landing, vengeance in his heart. As the feud seems ready to begin again, and Prince Marence apparently driven mad by what maesters claimed was a poison, half the court is occupied with discovering who the would-be assassin had been, and the other half is occupied with how to resolve the rule of the realm with the Prince of Dorne incapable. A council is called of the Keepers and the Prince’s brothers to determine how to manage the business of the court, but fault lines appear as the princes Cadan and Rhodry are sharply at odds concerning how to deal with the impending feud. The arguments grow loud and heated. The subject of a regency is broached, and not long after both brothers claim a right to it even as the Keepers attempt to maintain order.
In the end, both brothers agree to work together in leading a force to intercede before the Dalts and Gargalens escalate their conflict, and the feuding sides agree to lay down their arms, swearing renewed oaths of loyalty. But the question of the regency remains… until Prince Marence recovers his senses and, recognizing how far away he is from full health, summons his father Ser Quinlan Qorgyle to become Lord Protector while making arrangements to convalesce at Starfall, far away from court.. This sends a shockwave through the court, as Ser Quinlan’s rise leads to the departure of Ser Mavros Uller as Keeper of the Tower of the Sun, the influential office he has held ever since helping Dorne rid itself of the Targaryens.
Pentos, having driven Lys away, begins to excerpt untoward control of the Stepstones, demanding high tariffs for those passing through and impressing sailors into their service. Pentos shows its aim to control the Stepstones for good by placing sellsword companies on the larger isles, and maintaing an active fleet. The impact on trade leads to an unusual approach from the new Lord Protector of Dorne to the Iron Throne: an alliance to drive Pentos away, Targaryen ships bearing Dornishmen to land on the isles and fight if needs be.
This is eventually agreed, with Lord Velaryon leading a royal fleet to Sunspear with many great knights and lords in his following. In Dorne, the Keeper of the Sandship and Prince Rhodry lead the thousands of Dornish spears aboard, although there are clear tensions thanks to bad blood from Daeron Targaryen’s conquest of Dorne and the subsequent rebellion; many fear what might happen if the wild prince and Ser Sarmion Baratheon, the Stormbreaker, were to spend any substantial time in one another’s presence.
Velaryon’s fleet has initial success with small elements of Pentoshi and sellsails vessels, but at Grey Gallows they discover that Pentos has a substantial force of Unsullied supplementing their sellswords, and the Unsullied prove ferocious in their loyalty to the magisters. When a sellsword captain agrees to turn his cloak for gold and give up a garrison, the Unsullied left under his command slay him and his followers, and then proceeded to fight to the last man while causing the deaths of scores of Dornishmen. The Pentoshi fleet gathers to strike, leading Velaryon to abandon Grey Gallows and reform his forces in readiness. The subsequent battle at sea proves a victory for Oakenfist, but the war councils concerning how to proceed are fractious as the Dornish are confident they can carry the day by invading Bloodstone where the bulk of Pentoshi forces are located, while Velaryon and his captains prefer the careful approach of seizing the smaller islands one by one.
In the end, a compromise is agreed to: a few of the lesser islands are seized before Bloodstone is attacked from multiple directions. The Dornish forces win victories, but every time they face the Unsullied the cost in lives and blood is substantial. Still, they persevere until it becomes clear that all the Unsullied are the contribution of a single, ambitious magister who controls the slave-soldiers for his own benefit. Another magister reveals in secret that not all the Pentoshi believe in the conflict, and suggest that the Unsullied themselves could be removed from the field if the allies desired it. What follows is an extensive war council as it is proposed that the magister himself be a target. Proposals and counter-proposals are made: assassination attempts involving infiltrating his camp, or finding some way to poison him, and so on, when at last a plan is concocted to lure him and a substantial force into a trap.
With a sellsword company bribed by the Dornishmen, the way is opened for the forces to pounce on the Unsullied on the march. But the Dornishmen act to occupy and distract the Unsullied while a force of men under Sarmion Baratheon, the Stormbreaker, surge from the hills in a wedge with the huge knight at its point, their sole goal to break the Unsullied line and find their way to their master. This is done, and Baratheon himself strikes the blow that slays the magister. Though bleeding from half-a-dozen wounds, the famed knight survives the battle, and the hope of the allies are proved reality: the Unsullied merely reform their lines defensively, do not pursue when the allies retreat, and over the next day do nothing but stay in place after establishing a camp. The magister had allowed no others to command the slave-soldiers, and it seems that until his heirs finish disputing their inheritances the Unsullied will never accept a command from the Pentoshi leaders.
Pentos sues for peace, agreeing to break up the Unsullied forces and sell them piecemeal rather than permit the magister’s heirs to maintain them. They agree as well to withdraw their claim to the Stepstones. With victory achieved, the fleet sets sail for Dorne to deliver the victors, and then onward to King’s Landing to great acclaim.