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Visenya then challenged any who denied Maegor’s right to rule to prove themselves, and the captain of the Warrior’s Sons accepted the challenge. Ser Damon Morrigen, called Damon the Devout, agreed to a trial of seven after the ancient fashion: Ser Damon and six Warrior’s Sons against the king and his six champions. It was a contest in which the kingdom itself was at stake, and the accounts and tales are many—and often contradictory. What we do know is that King Maegor was the last man left standing, but that he took a grievous blow to the head at the very end and fell senseless to the ground just moments after the last of the Warrior’s Sons died.
For twenty-seven days, Maegor was dead to the world. On the twenty-eighth, Queen Alys arrived from Pentos (Maegor was still without issue), and with her came a Pentoshi beauty called Tyanna of the Tower. She had become Maegor’s lover during his exile, it was clear, and some whispered Queen Alys’s as well. The Dowager Queen, after meeting with Tyanna, gave the king over to her care alone—a fact that troubled Maegor’s supporters.
On the thirtieth day since the trial of seven, the king awoke with the sunrise and walked out onto the walls. Thousands cheered—though not at the Sept of Remembrance, where hundreds of the Warrior’s Sons had gathered for their morning prayers. Then Maegor mounted Balerion and flew from Aegon’s High Hill to the Hill of Rhaenys and, without warning, unleashed the Black Dread’s fire. As the Sept of Remembrance was set alight, some tried to flee, only to be cut down by the archers and spearmen that Maegor had made ready. The screams of the burning and dying men were said to echo throughout the city, and scholars claim that a pall hung over King’s Landing for seven days.
This was only the beginning of Maegor’s war against the Faith Militant, however. The High Septon remained staunchly opposed to his rule, and Maegor continued to gather more and more lords to his side. At the battle at Stonebridge, the Poor Fellows fell in droves and it is said that the Mander ran red with blood for twenty leagues. Afterward, the bridge and the castle that commanded it became known as Bitterbridge.
An even greater battle was joined at the Great Fork of the Blackwater, where thirteen thousand Poor Fellows—as well as hundreds of knights from the chapter of the Warrior’s Sons at Stoney Sept, and hundreds more besides from rebel lords of the riverlands and westerlands who joined them— fought against the king. It was a savage battle that lasted until nightfall, but it was a decisive victory for King Maegor. The king flew on Balerion’s back in the battle, and though rains dampened the Black Dread’s flames, the dragon still left death in its wake.
The Faith Militant remained Maegor’s bitterest enemy for all of his reign, and he remained theirs.
Even the mysterious death of the High Septon in 44 AC, followed by a High Septon far more genial and biddable who attempted to disband the Stars and Swords, did little to reduce the constant violence. Maegor’s wars against them were further compounded by his many marriages, as he strove to produce an heir. Yet no matter how many women he wedded—or bedded—he found himself childless. He made brides of women whom he had widowed—women of proved fertility—but the only children born of his seed proved monstrosities: misshapen, eyeless, limbless, or having the parts of man and woman both. His descent into true madness, some say, began with the first of these abominations.
Maegor does hold one distinction in his reign: the completion of the Red Keep in the year 45 AC. It was a project begun by King Aegon and continued by King Aenys, but it was Maegor who saw it finished. He went beyond the plans of both his father and brother, raising a moated castle within the larger castle, which in later days was known as Maegor’s Holdfast. More notably, he was the first to command that secret tunnels and passages be made. False walls were introduced, and trapdoors—and riddled throughout Aegon’s High Hill were more and more tunnels. Maegor’s lack of heirs seemed to matter little as he threw himself into overseeing the construction. He appointed his good-father, Lord Harroway, as his new Hand, and left him to govern the realm for a time while he saw the castle completed.
But, as was typical of Maegor’s reign, even this great achievement was turned to horror. When the keep was at last completed, the king threw a riotous feast for the masons and carvers and other craftsmen who had helped to construct the castle. But after three days of revelry at the king’s expense, they were all put to the sword so that the secrets of the Red Keep would be Maegor’s alone.
In the end, it was a confluence of the Faith and his own family that proved Maegor’s undoing. In 43 AC, his nephew, Prince Aegon, attempted to win back the throne that by law should have been his, in what came to be known as the great Battle Beneath the Gods Eye. Aegon died in that battle, leaving behind his wife and sister Rhaena, and their two twin daughters; his dragon, Quicksilver, was lost as well.
Hardly had the last stone been set on the Red Keep than Maegor commanded that the ruins of the Sept of Remembrance be cleared from the top of Rhaenys’s Hill, and with them the bones and ashes of the Warrior’s Sons who had perished there. In their place, he decreed, a great stone “stable for dragons” would be erected, a lair worthy of Balerion, Vhagar, and their get. Thus commenced the building of the Dragonpit. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it proved difficult to find builders, stonemasons, and laborers to work on the project. So many men ran off that the king was finally forced to use prisoners from the city’s dungeons as his workforce, under the supervision of builders brought in from Myr and Volantis.
Then, late in 45 AC, King Maegor entered a new campaign against the rebellious Faith Militant, who had not put down their swords at the new High Septon’s behest. According to an inventory from that time, the next year the king brought back two thousand skulls as trophies from his campaign, which he claimed to be from outlawed Warrior’s Sons and Poor Fellows, though many thought they were more likely the heads of smallfolk who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Day by day, the realm turned against the king.
The death of the Dowager Queen Visenya in 44 AC was a notable event although Maegor seemed to take it in his stride. She had been his greatest ally and supporter from birth, seeking his advancement over his elder brother Aenys, and doing what she could to secure his legacy. In the confusion after her death, Aenys’s widow, Queen Alyssa, slipped away from Dragonstone with her children, as well as with Dark Sister, Visenya’s Valyrian steel sword. Alyssa and Aenys’s next eldest son after Aegon, Prince Viserys, had been kept at the Red Keep as the king’s squire, however, and he suffered for her flight. He died after nine days of questioning at the hands of Tyanna of the Tower.
The king left his body in the castle courtyard, like so much offal, for a fortnight, hoping that word of it would force Queen Alyssa to claim her son’s body, but she did not return. Viserys was fifteen at his death.
In 48 AC, Septon Moon and Ser Joffrey Doggett—also known as the Red Dog of the Hills—led the Poor Fellows against the king, and Riverrun stood with them. When Lord Daemon Velaryon, the admiral of the king’s fleets, turned against Maegor as well, many of the great houses joined with him.
Maegor’s tyrannical reign could no longer be borne, and the realm rose up to end it. Unifying them all was the claim put forward by the young Prince Jaehaerys—Aenys and Alyssa’s only remaining son, now all of fourteen years of age—and supported by the Lord of Storm’s End whom Jaehaerys had named as Protector of the Realm and Hand of the King. When Queen Rhaena—whom Maegor had married after Aegon’s death—learned of her brother’s proclamation, she fled on her dragon, Dreamfyre, stealing Blackfyre away as her king and husband slept. Even two of the Kingsguard abandoned Maegor, joining Jaehaerys instead.
Maegor’s response to this was slow and confused, and it seems that this series of betrayals—and perhaps even the loss of his mother’s guidance—had left him, in his own way, as broken as Aenys.
He called his loyal lords to King’s Landing, but all that came were minor lords of the crownlands, who had little to marshal against the king’s many enemies. It was late at night, during the hour of the wolf, when the remaining lords departed the council chamber, leaving Maegor to brood alone. Early the next morning, he was found dead on the throne, his robes sodden with blood, his arms slashed open by the barbs of the Iron Throne.
Thus ended Maegor the Cruel. How he came to die is a matter of much speculation. Though the singers would have us believe that the Iron Throne itself killed him, some suspect his Kingsguard, and others some mason whom the king had failed to kill and who knew the secrets of the Red Keep. But perhaps even likelier is the suggestion that the king killed himself rather than suffer defeat. Whatever the truth, it was a reign that ended in the only way it could after the six years of terror that Maegor had visited upon the realm. But his nephew’s reign would do much to mend the deep wounds he had made in the Seven Kingdoms.
Maegor I, dead upon the Iron Throne. (illustration credit 42) The Brides of Maegor the Cruel
CERYSE OF HOUSE HIGHTOWERCeryse was the daughter of Martyn Hightower, the Lord of Oldtown. She was advanced by her uncle, the High Septon, after he protested the betrothal of the thirteen-year-old Prince Maegor to Maegor’s newborn niece, Princess Rhaena. Ceryse and Maegor were married in 25 AC. The prince claimed to have consummated their marriage a dozen times on their wedding night, but no sons ever came of it. He soon grew tired of Ceryse’s failure to bear him an heir and began taking other brides. Ceryse died in 45 AC, taken by a sudden illness, though it is also rumored that she was killed at the king’s command.
ALYS OF HOUSE HARROWAYAlys was the daughter of Lucas Harroway, the new Lord of Harrenhal. A secret marriage took place in 39 AC, while Maegor was Hand, leading to Maegor’s exile to Pentos. Alys became queen after Maegor brought her back from Pentos. She was the first woman to become pregnant by the king in the year 48 AC, but she lost the babe soon after. What was expelled from her womb was a monstrosity, eyeless and twisted, and in his fury Maegor blamed and executed her midwives, septas, and the Grand Maester Desmond. Tyanna of the Tower convinced the king that the child was the product of Alys’s secret affairs, however, leading to the death of Queen Alys, her companions, her father and his Hand, the Lord Lucas, and every Harroway or Harroway kinsman King Maegor could discover between King’s Landing and Harrenhal. Lord Edwell Celtigar was named Hand afterward.
The brides of Maegor the Cruel (top to bottom: Ceryse Hightower, Tyanna of the Tower, Alys Harroway). (illustration credit 43)
TYANNA OF THE TOWERTyanna was the most feared of the brides of King Maegor. Rumored to have been the natural daughter of a Pentoshi magister, she had been a tavern dancer who rose up to become a courtesan.
She was said to practice sorcery and alchemy. She was wed to the king in 42 AC, but their marriage bed was as barren as the rest. Called the king’s raven by some, she was feared for her ability to ferret out secrets and served as his mistress of whisperers. She eventually confessed her responsibility for the abominations that were born of Maegor’s seed, claiming she had poisoned his other brides. She was killed by Maegor’s own hand in 48 AC, her heart cut out with Blackfyre and thrown to his dogs.
THE BLACK BRIDESIn 47 AC, Maegor took three women to wife in a single ceremony—all women of proven fertility,
and all widows who had lost their husbands to Maegor’s wars or at his command. They were:
ELINOR OF HOUSE COSTAYNEElinor was the youngest of the Black Brides, but though she was nine-and-ten at her marriage, she had already given her husband, Ser Theo Bolling, three children. Ser Theo was arrested by knights of the Kingsguard, accused of conspiring with Queen Alyssa to place her son, Prince Jaehaerys, on the throne, and was then executed—all on the same day. After seven days of mourning, Elinor was summoned to wed Maegor. She, too, became pregnant, and like Alys before her, she gave birth to a stillborn abomination said to have been born eyeless and with small wings. She survived that monstrous labor, however, and was one of the two wives who survived the king.
RHAENA OF HOUSE TARGARYENWhen Prince Aegon was killed by Maegor in the Battle Beneath the Gods Eye, Rhaena took refuge on Fair Isle under the protection of Lord Farman, who hid her and her twin daughters. Tyanna found the twin girls, however, and Rhaena was then forced to wed Maegor. Maegor named her daughter, Aerea, as his heir while disinheriting Queen Alyssa’s surviving son, Jaehaerys. Along with Elinor, Rhaena was the only other queen to survive Maegor.
JEYNE OF HOUSE WESTERLINGTall and slender, Lady Jeyne had been wed to Lord Alyn Tarbeck, who died with the rebels at the Battle Beneath the Gods Eye. Having given him a posthumous son, her fecundity was proven and she was being courted by the son of the Lord of Casterly Rock when the king sent for her. In 47 AC she was with child, but three moons before the child was due, her labor began, and from her womb came another stillborn monster. She did not survive the child for long.
The brides of Maegor the Cruel (top to bottom: Elinor Costayne, Jeyne Westerling, Rhaena Targaryen).
J AEHAERYS I JAEHAERYS CAME TO the throne in 48 AC, in a time when the realm had been torn asunder by the ambitions of rebellious lords, the fury of the High Septon, and the cruelty of his uncle, Maegor I.