«illustration credit 1 illustration credit 2 The World of Ice & Fire is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the ...»
A ENYS I WHEN THE DRAGON passed at the age of four-and-sixty, his reign had been uncontested by all save the Dornishmen. He had ruled wisely: showing himself well during his royal progresses, displaying due deference to the High Septons, rewarding those who served well, and aiding those who required it. Yet beneath the surface of this largely peaceful rule was a roiling cauldron of dissent. In their hearts, many of his subjects still cherished the old days, when the great houses ruled their own domains with unquestioned sovereignty. Others wished vengeance, for loved ones killed in the wars. And still others saw the Targaryens as abominations: brothers wed to sisters, with their incestuous couplings producing misbegotten heirs. The strength of Aegon and his sisters—and their dragons—had been enough to subdue those who opposed them, but the same could not be said for their heirs.
It was Aenys, Aegon’s firstborn son by his beloved Rhaenys, who came to the throne in the year 37 AC at the age of thirty. He was crowned with great ceremony in the Red Keep in the midst of its construction, donning an ornate golden crown rather than his father’s circlet of Valyrian steel.
But though his father and brother, Maegor (who was Visenya’s child), were both warriors born, Aenys was made of different stuff. He had begun life as a weak and sickly infant and remained so throughout his earliest years. Rumors abounded that this could be no true son of Aegon the Conqueror, who had been a warrior without peer. In fact, it was well-known that Queen Rhaenys delighted in handsome singers and witty mummers; perhaps one of these might have fathered the child. But the rumors dampened and eventually died when the sickly child was given a young hatchling who was named Quicksilver. And as the dragon grew, so too did Aenys.
King Aenys I upon the Iron Throne. (illustration credit 39) Still, Aenys remained a dreamer, a dabbler in alchemy, a patron of singers and mummers and mimes. Moreover, he hungered too much for approval, and this led him to dither and hesitate over his decisions for fear of disappointing one side or another. It was this flaw that most marred his reign and brought him to an early and ignominious end.
After the Conqueror’s death, it did not take long before challenges to the Targaryen rule emerged.
The first of these was the bandit and outlaw named Harren the Red, who claimed to be a grandson of Harren the Black. With the help of a castle servant, Harren the Red seized both Harrenhal and its current ruler, the infamous Lord Gargon (remembered as Gargon the Guest for his custom of attending every wedding in his domain to exercise his right to First Night). Lord Gargon was gelded in the castle’s godswood and left to bleed to death while Red Harren proclaimed himself Lord of Harrenhal and King of the Rivers.
All this took place while the king guested at Riverrun, the seat of the Tullys. But by the time Aenys and Lord Tully moved to deal with this threat, they found Harrenhal empty, Gargon’s loyal men put to the sword, and Harren the Red and his followers returned to banditry.
More rebels soon appeared in the Vale and the Iron Islands, while a Dornishman naming himself the Vulture King gathered thousands of followers to stand against the Targaryens. Grand Maester Gawen wrote that the king was stunned by this news, for Aenys fancied himself beloved of the commons. And the king again acted indecisively: at first commanding that a host sail for the Vale to deal with the usurper Jonos Arryn, who had imprisoned his own brother Lord Ronnel, then suddenly recalling the order for fear that Harren the Red and his men might infiltrate King’s Landing. The king even determined to call a Great Council to discuss how to deal with these matters. Fortunately for the realm, others acted more swiftly.
Lord Royce of Runestone gathered forces that swept away the rebels under Jonos Arryn, penning him and his followers in the Eyrie—although this led directly to the murder of the imprisoned Lord Ronnel, when Jonos sent his brother flying out the Moon Door to his death. Yet the Eyrie proved no safe haven when Prince Maegor came calling on the back of Balerion, the Black Dread—the dragon that he had always desired and could finally claim following his father’s death. Jonos and his followers all died by the noose, at Maegor’s hand.
Meanwhile, in the Iron Islands, the man who claimed to be King Lodos reborn was swiftly dispatched by Lord Goren Greyjoy, who sent his pickled head to King Aenys. In return, Aenys granted Goren a boon—a boon that Lord Goren used to oust the Faith from the Iron Islands, to the dismay of the rest of the realm.
As for the Vulture King, the Martells largely ignored this little insurrection within their own borders. Although Princess Deria assured Aenys that the Martells only desired peace and were doing what they could to put down the rebellion, it was left mostly to the Marcher lords to resolve it. And at first, the so-called Vulture King seemed more than their match. His early victories led to swelling support, until his followers numbered some thirty thousand strong. It was only when he split this great host—both for lack of supplies to feed them and his confidence that each could defeat any foe that went against them—that his troubles began. Now they could be defeated piecemeal by the former Hand Orys Baratheon and the might of the Marcher lords—especially Savage Sam Tarly, whose sword, Heartsbane, was said to be red from hilt to point after the dozens of Dornishmen he cut down in the course of the Vulture Hunt, as the chase after the Vulture King became known.
The first rebel was also the last. Harren the Red, who was still at large, was finally cornered by Aenys’s Hand, Lord Alyn Stokeworth. In the fighting that ensued, Harren killed Lord Alyn, only to be killed by the Hand’s squire in turn.
With peace reestablished, the king thanked the chief lords and champions who had put down these rebels and enemies of the throne—and the foremost reward went to his brother, Prince Maegor, whom Aenys named as the new Hand of the King. It seemed, at the time, the wisest choice. And yet, it sowed the seeds that sealed Aenys’s doom.
FROM THE HISTORY OF ARCHMAESTER GYLDAYN
The tradition amongst the Targaryens had always been to marry kin to kin. Wedding brother to sister was thought to be ideal. Failing that, a girl might wed an uncle, a cousin, or a nephew; a boy, a cousin, aunt, or niece. This practice went back to Old Valyria, where it was common amongst many of the ancient families, particularly those who bred and rode dragons. “The blood of the dragon must remain pure,” the wisdom went. Some of the sorcerer princes also took more than one wife when it pleased them, though this was less common than incestuous marriage. In Valryia before the Doom, wise men wrote, a thousand gods were honored, but none were feared, so few dared to speak against these customs.
This was not true in Westeros, where the power of the Faith went unquestioned. Incest was denounced as vile sin, whether between father and daughter, mother and son, or brother and sister, and the fruits of such unions were considered abominations in the sight of gods and men. With hindsight, it can be seen that conflict between the Faith and House Targaryen was inevitable.
It had long been the Valyrian custom to marry within the family, thus preserving the royal bloodlines. Yet this was not a custom native to Westeros, and was viewed as an abomination by the Faith. The Dragon and his sisters had been accepted without comment, and the issue had not arisen when Prince Aenys was wed in 22 AC to Alyssa Velaryon, the daughter of the king’s master of ships and lord admiral; though she was a Targaryen upon her mother’s side, this made her only a cousin.
But when the tradition looked to continue yet again, matters came to a sudden head.
Queen Visenya proposed that Maegor be wed to Aenys’s first child, Rhaena, but the High Septon mounted a vigorous protest, and Maegor was wed instead to the High Septon’s own niece, Lady Ceryse of House Hightower. But that proved a barren marriage, while Aenys’s bore more fruit, as Rhaena was followed by his son and heir, Aegon, and later Viserys, Jaehaerys, and Alysanne.
Perhaps envious, after two years as Hand—and the birth to his brother of yet another daughter, Vaella, who died as an infant—Maegor shocked the realm in 39 AC by announcing that he had taken a second wife—Alys of House Harroway—in secret. He had wed her in a Valyrian ceremony officiated by Queen Visenya for want of a septon willing to wed them. The public outcry was such that Aenys was finally forced to exile his brother.
Aenys seemed content to let the matter lie with Maegor’s exile, but the High Septon was still not satisfied. Not even the appointment of the reputed miracle-worker, Septon Murmison, as Aenys’s new Hand could wholly repair the breach with the Faith. And in 41 AC, Aenys made matters worse when he chose to wed his eldest daughter, Rhaena, to his son and heir, Aegon, whom he named Prince of Dragonstone in Maegor’s place. From the Starry Sept came a denunciation such as no king had ever received before, addressed to “King Abomination”—and suddenly pious lords and even the smallfolk who had once loved Aenys turned against him.
Septon Murmison was expelled from the Faith for performing the ceremony, and zealous Poor Fellows took up arms, hacking Murmison to pieces a fortnight later as he was carried by litter across the city. The Warrior’s Sons began to fortify the Hill of Rhaenys, making the Sept of Remembrance into a citadel that could stand against the king. In addition, some Poor Fellows attempted to murder the king and his family in the castle itself, scaling its walls and slipping into the royal apartments. It was only thanks to a knight of the Kingsguard that the royal family survived.
In the face of all this, Aenys abandoned the city with his family and fled to the safety of Dragonstone. There, Visenya counseled him to take his dragons and bring fire and blood to both the Starry Sept and the Sept of Remembrance. Instead, the king, who was incapable of making a firm decision, fell ill, with painful cramps wracking his stomach and loose bowels. By the end of 41 AC, most of the realm had turned against him. Thousands of Poor Fellows prowled the roads, threatening the king’s supporters, and dozens of lords took up arms against the Iron Throne. Though Aenys was only five-and-thirty, it was said that he looked more like a man of sixty, and Grand Maester Gawen despaired of improving his condition.
The dowager Queen Visenya took over his care, and for a time he improved. And then, quite suddenly, he suffered a collapse when he learned that his son and daughter were besieged in Crakehall Castle, where they had taken refuge when their yearly progress was interrupted by the uprising against the throne. He died three days later, and like his father before him, was burned on Dragonstone, after the fashion of the Valyrians of old.
In later days, after Visenya’s death, it was suggested that King Aenys’s sudden demise was Visenya’s doing, and some spoke of her as a kinslayer and kingslayer. Did she not prefer Maegor over Aenys in all things? Did she not have the ambition that her son should rule? Why, then, did she tend to her stepson and nephew when she seemed disgusted with him? Visenya was many things, but a woman capable of pity never seemed to be one of them. It is a question that cannot be readily dismissed … nor readily answered.
The burning of the Sept of Remembrance. (illustration credit 40) M AEGOR I MAEGOR, THE FIRST of His Name, came to the throne after the sudden death of his brother, King Aenys, in the year 42 AC. He is better remembered as Maegor the Cruel, and it was a well-earned sobriquet, for no crueler king ever sat the Iron Throne. His reign began with blood and ended in blood as well. The histories tell us he enjoyed war and battle, but it is clear that it was violence he most craved—violence and death and absolute mastery over all he deemed his. What demon possessed him none could say. Even today, some give thanks that his tyranny was a short one, for who knows how many noble houses might have vanished forever simply to sate his desire?
It was said Aenys was an adequate sword and lance—capable enough not to disgrace himself, but little more. Maegor, on the other hand, was defeating hardened knights in the mêlée when he was all of three-and-ten, and quickly won renown in the royal tourney of 28 AC when he defeated three knights of the Kingsguard in succession in the lists, and went on to win the mêlée. He was knighted by King Aegon at six-and-ten, the youngest knight in the realm at that time.
No sooner had Aenys been buried than Visenya mounted Vhagar and flew east to Pentos, to recall her son Maegor to the Seven Kingdoms following his exile. Maegor flew back across the narrow sea with Balerion, staying at Dragonstone for long enough to be crowned with his father’s Valyrian steel crown instead of his brother’s more ornate one.
Grand Maester Gawen protested, noting that, by the laws of inheritance, Prince Aegon, Aenys’s eldest son, should be king. Maegor’s response was to declare the maester a traitor, sentence him to death, and take his head with a single swing of Blackfyre. After that, few others dared to support Aegon’s claim. Ravens flew, declaring that a new king had been crowned—one who would treat his loyal supporters justly and bring a traitor’s death to those who opposed him.
Chief among Maegor’s foes were the Faith Militant—the orders of the Warrior’s Son and the Poor Fellows—and his war against them provided a constant backdrop to his reign. In King’s Landing, the militant orders had seized hold of the Sept of Remembrance and the half-built Red Keep. But Maegor flew straight into the city, fearless upon Balerion, and raised the red dragon of House Targaryen on Visenya’s Hill to rally men to him. Thousands joined him.