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Though he had wed the Lady of Runestone in 97 AC, during the Old King’s reign, the marriage had not been a success. Prince Daemon found the Vale of Arryn boring (“In the Vale, the men fuck sheep,” he wrote. “You cannot fault them. Their sheep are prettier than their women.”), and soon developed a mislike of his lady wife, whom he called “my bronze bitch,” after the runic bronze armor worn by the lords of House Royce.
Daemon had been wed to Rhea Royce in 97 AC when she was heir to the ancient seat of Runestone in the Vale. It was a fine, rich match, but Daemon found the Vale little to his liking, and liked his wife even less, and they were soon estranged.
It had likewise proved a barren union, and though Viserys I refused his brother’s entreaties to set aside the marriage, he did recall him to court to take up the burden of rule. Daemon served first as master of coins, then master of law, but it was his chief rival, the Hand Ser Otto Hightower, who finally convinced Viserys to remove him from these offices. So in 104 AC, Viserys made his brother commander of the City Watch.
Prince Daemon improved the armaments and training of the watch and gave them the golden cloaks that led them to be known as the “gold cloaks” to this day. He often joined his men in patrolling the city, swiftly becoming known to both the meanest urchin and the wealthiest tradesman, and earned a certain dark reputation in the stews and brothels where he was wont to make free of the wares on offer. Crime fell sharply, though some said it was because Daemon delighted in meting out harsh punishments. Yet those who benefited from his rule loved him well, and Daemon soon became known as “Lord Flea Bottom.” Later still, after Viserys refused him the title of Prince of Dragonstone, he came to be called “the Prince of the City.” It was in the brothels of the city that he found a favorite, a paramour—a very pale Lysene dancer named Mysaria, whose looks and reputation led the prostitutes who knew her to call her Misery, the White Worm. Later, she became Daemon’s mistress of whisperers Some said that Daemon’s support for his brother in the Great Council was motivated by the belief he would be his brother’s heir. But in Viserys’s mind, he already had an heir: Rhaenyra, his sole daughter by his cousin, Queen Aemma of House Arryn. Rhaenyra was born in 97 AC, and as a child her father doted upon her, and took her everywhere with him—even to the council chamber, where he encouraged her to watch and listen intently. For these reasons, the court doted on her as well, and many paid homage to her. The singers dubbed her the Realm’s Delight, for she was bright and precocious—a beautiful child who was already a dragonrider at the age of seven as she flew on the back of her she-dragon Syrax, named for one of the old gods of Valyria.
In 105 AC, her mother finally delivered the son that the king and queen had both longed for, but the queen died in childbirth, and the boy—named Baelon—only survived her by a day. By this time, Viserys I was heartily sick of being hectored over the succession, and disregarding the precedents of 92 AC and the Great Council of 101 AC, he officially declared that Rhaenyra was Princess of Dragonstone and his heir. A grand ceremony was arranged in which hundreds of lords knelt to do homage to the princess while she sat at her father’s feet. Prince Daemon was not among them.
Daemon Targaryen, the Prince of the City, with his gold cloaks. (illustration credit 48) The year 105 AC holds one more event of note: the induction of Ser Criston Cole into the Kingsguard. Born in 82 AC, as the son of a steward in the service of the Dondarrions of Blackhaven, Criston had risen to the attention of the court at a tourney in Maidenpool to celebrate Viserys’s ascension to the throne, where he won the mêlée and was the last but one in the jousting.
Black-haired, green-eyed, and comely, he proved a delight to the ladies of the court—and to Princess Rhaenyra most of all. She took a childish fancy to him, naming him “my white knight” and begging her father to make him her sworn shield, which he did. After that, Cole was always by her side and carried her favor in the lists. It was said in later years that the princess only had eyes for Ser Criston, but there is reason to doubt that this was wholly true.
Matters became more complicated when, with Ser Otto Hightower’s encouragement, King Viserys announced his intention to wed the Lady Alicent, Ser Otto’s daughter and the Old King’s former nursemaid. For the most part, the realm celebrated this union. Rhaenyra, secure in her place as heir, welcomed her father’s new bride, for they had long known one another at court. Not all was so joyous in the Vale, however, where Prince Daemon was said to have whipped the servant who brought him tidings of the marriage, nor at Driftmark, where Lord Corlys and Princess Rhaenys had seen their daughter, Laena, rejected by the king as well.
Among the fruits of King Viserys’s marriage to Alicent was the alliance between Prince Daemon and the Sea Snake. Tired of waiting for a crown that seemed increasingly more distant, Daemon was determined to carve out his own kingdom. In this, he and Corlys Velaryon could make common cause, thanks to the predations of the Kingdom of the Three Daughters—or the Triarchy, as it was sometimes called—which was the union between Lys, Myr, and Tyrosh that had been born out of a successful alliance against V olantis. At first, this alliance was applauded in the Seven Kingdoms, but soon they grew worse than the pirates and corsairs they had defeated.
The fighting began in 106 AC, with the Sea Snake providing the fleet and Daemon providing Caraxes and his skill in commanding men to lead the second sons and landless knights who flocked to Daemon’s banner. King Viserys contributed to their war, sending gold for the hire of men and supplies.
They won many victories over the next two years, culminating in Prince Daemon killing the Myrish prince—Admiral Craghas Drahar, called Crabfeeder—in single combat. (When he learned that Daemon had declared himself King of the Narrow Sea in 109 AC, King Viserys was heard to say that his brother could keep his crown if it “kept him out of trouble”.) It proved a premature claim to victory, however. The Triarchy dispatched a new fleet and army the following year, and Dorne joined the Triarchy in the war against Daemon’s fledgling, petty kingdom.
In 107 AC, Alicent bore Viserys the boy Aegon, and the king finally had a son. Aegon was followed by a sister, Helaena, his future bride, and by another son named Aemond. But the birth of a son meant that the succession was once more called into question—and not least by the queen herself, as well as her father the Hand, who were anxious to see their blood set over Aemma’s. Ser Otto overstepped himself, however, and in 109 AC he was replaced by Lord Lyonel Strong, who had served ably as master of laws. For King Viserys, the matter was long settled; Rhaenyra was his heir, and he did not wish to hear arguments otherwise—despite the decrees of the Great Council of 101, which always placed a man above a woman.
The accounts and letters preserved from this time begin to speak of a “queen’s party” and the “party of the princess.” Thanks to the tourney of 111 AC, they were soon known by simpler names:
the greens and the blacks. At this tourney, we are told, Queen Alicent was beautifully clad in a gown of green, while Rhaenyra left no one in doubt of her inheritance by wearing black embellished with red, for the banners of House Targaryen. This same tourney saw the return of Daemon Targaryen, King of the Narrow Sea, from his wars. He wore his crown when Caraxes alighted, but he knelt before his brother and removed the crown, offering it up in a token of fealty. Viserys raised him back up, returned the crown, and kissed him upon both cheeks; for all the turmoil between them, Viserys truly loved his brother. Those at the tourney cheered—but none more loudly than Rhaenyra, who loved her dashing uncle well. More than well, perhaps … though our sources are contradictory.
It was only a few moons later that Daemon was exiled. As for the reason? Our sources differ greatly. Some, such as Runciter and Munkun, suggest that King Viserys and King Daemon quarreled (for brotherly love rarely stands in the way of disagreements), and that is why Daemon left. Others say that it was Alicent (at Ser Otto’s prompting, possibly) who convinced Viserys that Daemon must leave. But two speak more fully on the matter.
Septon Eustace’s The Reign of King Viserys, First of His Name, and the Dance of the Dragons That Came After was written by the septon after the war came to its end. Though dry and ponderous in his writing, Eustace was clearly a confidant of the Targaryens, and speaks accurately of many things. Mushroom’s The Testimony of Mushroom is another matter, however. A dwarf three feet tall, with an enormous head (and an enormous member to go with it, if he is to be believed), Mushroom was the court jester, and was thought to be a lackwit. Therefore, the worthies of the court spoke freely around him. His Testimony alleges to be his account of the events of the years when he was at court, set down by a scribe whose name we do not know, and it is filled with Mushroom’s tales of plots, murders, trysts, debaucheries, and more—and all in the most explicit detail. Septon Eustace’s and Mushroom’s accounts are often at odds with one another, but at times there are some surprising areas of agreement between them.
Daemon Targaryen offers up his crown to Viserys I. (illustration credit 49) Eustace claims that Daemon and Princess Rhaenyra were caught abed together by Ser Arryk Cargyll, and it was this that made Viserys exile his brother from the court. Mushroom tells a different tale, however: that Rhaenyra had eyes only for Ser Criston Cole, but that the knight had declined her overtures. It was then that her uncle offered to school her in the arts of love, so that she might move the virtuous Ser Criston to break his vows. But when she finally thought herself ready to approach him, the knight—whom Mushroom swears was as chaste and virtuous as an aged septa—reacted in horror and disgust. Viserys soon heard of it. And whatever version of the tale was true, we do know that Daemon asked for Rhaenyra’s hand, if only Viserys would set aside his marriage to Lady Rhea.
Viserys refused, and instead exiled Daemon from the Seven Kingdoms, never to return upon pain of death. Daemon departed, returning to the Stepstones to continue with his war.
Princess Rhaenyra, the Realm’s Delight. (illustration credit 50) In 112 AC, Ser Harrold Westerling passed away and Ser Criston Cole was made the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard in his place. And in 113 AC, Princess Rhaenyra came of age. In the years before this, many men had paid court to her (among them the heir to Harrenhal, Ser Harwin Strong, who was called Breakbones and was accounted the strongest knight in the realm), showering her with gifts (as the twins Ser Jason and Ser Tyland Lannister did at Casterly Rock), composing songs to her beauty, and even fighting duels for her favor (as sons of Lord Blackwood and Lord Bracken had done). There was even talk of wedding her to the Prince of Dorne, to unite the two realms at last. Queen Alicent (and Ser Otto, her father) naturally advanced the suit of her son Prince Aegon, though he was much younger. But the two siblings had never gotten along, and Viserys knew his queen desired the match more out of ambition for her son than out of Aegon’s love for Rhaenyra.
Ignoring all of these suits, Viserys turned instead to the Sea Snake and Princess Rhaenys, whose son Laenor had once been his rival at the Great Council of 101. Laenor had the blood of the dragon on both sides, and even a dragon of his own—the splendid grey-and-white dragon he called Seasmoke.
Better, the match would unite the two factions that had once stood opposed at the Great Council of
101. Yet there was one problem: at the age of nine-and-ten, Laenor preferred the company of squires of his own age, and was said never to have known a woman intimately, nor to have any bastards. But to this, Grand Maester Mellos was said to have remarked, “What of it? I am not fond of fish, but when fish is served, I eat it.” Rhaenyra was of a different mind entirely. Perhaps she harbored hopes of wedding Prince Daemon, as Eustace claims, or of seducing Criston Cole to her bed, as Mushroom cheerfully suggests. But Viserys would hear none of it, and against all her objections he needed only to note that, if she refused the marriage, he would reconsider the succession. And then came the final break between Ser Criston Cole and Rhaenyra, though to this day we do not know if it was instigated by Ser Criston or Rhaenyra. Did she try to seduce him once more? Did he finally admit his love, now that it seemed she’d be wed, and tried to persuade her to run away with him?
We cannot say. Nor can we say if there is any truth to the claim that, after Cole left her, she instead gave up her maidenhood (if, indeed, she still had it) to Ser Harwin Strong—a much less scrupulous sort of knight. Mushroom claims that he himself found them abed, but half of what he says cannot be trusted—and the other half one sometimes wishes not to trust. What we can say for certain is that in 114 AC, Princess Rhaenyra and the newly knighted Ser Laenor were wed and, as is the custom, a tourney was held in celebration. At this tourney, Rhaenyra had a new champion in Breakbones, while Ser Criston for the first time wore the favor of Queen Alicent. Accounts of the tourney all agree that Cole fought in a black fury and defeated all challengers. He shattered Breakbone’s collarbone and elbow, leading Mushroom to dub him Brokenbones, but the worst injuries he meted out were to Laenor’s favorite, the handsome knight Ser Joffrey Lonmouth, who was called the Knight of Kisses.
Ser Joffrey was borne from the field senseless and bloody, and lingered for six days before dying, leaving Laenor to weep bitter tears of grief.