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Afterward, Ser Laenor departed for Driftmark, and some wondered if the marriage had even been consummated. Rhaenyra and her husband largely spent their time apart, she on Dragonstone and he on Driftmark. Yet if the realm worried about her heirs, they need not wait long. Near the end of 114 AC, Rhaenyra delivered a healthy boy whom she named Jacaerys (not Joffrey, as Ser Laenor had hoped), called Jace by friends and family. And yet … Rhaenyra was of the blood of the dragon, and Ser Laenor likewise had the aquiline nose, fine features, silver-white hair, and purple eyes that bespoke his own Valyrian heritage. Why, then, did Jacaerys have brown hair and eyes, and a pug nose? Many looked at them, and then at the hulking Ser Harwin Strong—now chief of the blacks, and Rhaenyra’s constant companion—and wondered.
Rhaenyra bore two more sons—Lucerys (called Luke) and Joffrey—during her marriage to Ser Laenor Velaryon, and each one was born healthy and strapping, with the brown hair and pug nose that neither Rhaenyra nor Laenor possessed. Among the greens, it was said that they were obviously the sons of Breakbones, and many doubted whether they could be dragonriders. But at Viserys’s command, each had a dragon’s egg placed in his cradle, and each egg hatched, producing the dragons Vermax, Arrax, and Tyraxes. The king, for his part, ignored the rumors, for he clearly meant to keep Rhaenyra as his heir.
Four tragedies in 120 AC caused it to be remembered as the Year of the Red Spring (not to be confused with the Red Spring of 236 AC), for it laid the foundation for the Dance of the Dragons. The first of these tragedies was the death of Laena Velaryon, Laenor’s sister. Once considered as a bride for Viserys, she had wed Prince Daemon in 115 AC after his wife, Lady Rhea, died while hunting in the Vale. (Daemon, meanwhile, had grown tired of the Stepstones and had given up his crown; five other men would follow him as Kings of the Narrow Sea, until that sellsword “kingdom” ended for good and all.) Laena gave Daemon two twin daughters, Baela and Rhaena. Though King Viserys had at first been angered by the marriage, which took place without his leave, he allowed Daemon to present his daughters at court in 117 AC, against the objections of his small council; he still loved his brother and perhaps thought that fatherhood would temper him. In 120 AC, Laena was brought to bed again with child, and delivered the son that Daemon had always desired. What was drawn from her womb was twisted and deformed, however, and died shortly after birth. Laena, too, soon expired.
But it was her parents, Lord Corlys and Princess Rhaenys, who had the greater cause to lament that year. They still mourned their daughter when their son was taken. All accounts agree that Laenor was attending a market fair at Spicetown when he was murdered. Eustace named his friend and companion (and lover, as some would have it) Ser Qarl Correy, saying they quarreled because Laenor meant to put him aside for a new favorite. Blades were drawn, and Laenor was killed. Ser Qarl fled, never to be seen again. Mushroom, however, suggests a blacker tale: that Prince Daemon had paid Correy to murder Laenor, to free Rhaenyra for himself.
The third tragedy was the ugly squabble between the sons of Alicent and the sons of Rhaenyra, caused when the dragonless Aemond Targaryen attempted to claim the late Laena’s dragon, Vhagar, for himself. Pushes and shoves were followed by fists after Aemond mocked Rhaenyra’s boys as the “Strongs”—until young Prince Lucerys took a knife and plunged it into Aemond’s eye. Afterward, Aemond was known as Aemond One-eye—though he did manage to win Vhagar. (He had opportunity to avenge the loss of his eye in the years to come, though the realm would bleed because of it.) Before her marriage to Daemon, Laena had been betrothed for almost a decade to the son of a former Sealord of Braavos, but the youth had squandered his father’s fortune and influence and had become nothing but a hanger-on at High Tide and an embarrassment to Lord Corlys. It was no great surprise when Daemon, paying a visit after his wife’s death, saw Laena (who was said to be surpassingly lovely) and spoke in private with the Sea Snake about a marriage. Soon after, Prince Daemon provoked her Braavosi betrothed so mercilessly that the youth challenged him to a single combat.
So ended the Sealord’s wastrel son.
The sons of Princess Rhaenyra (l. to r.): Jacaerys, Joffrey, and Lucerys. (illustration credit 51) In the end, Viserys attempted to make peace, and he did so by proclaiming that any man or woman who questioned the paternity of Rhaenyra’s children would have his or her tongue torn out. He then commanded Alicent and his sons to return to King’s Landing, while Rhaenyra was to remain with her sons at Dragonstone, so that they might not quarrel again. Ser Erryk Cargyll remained at Dragonstone as Rhaenyra’s sworn shield, taking the place of Ser Harwin Strong, who returned to Harrenhal.
The last tragedy—and some might say the least—was the fire at Harrenhal that took the lives of Lord Lyonel and his son and heir, Ser Harwin. But those who speak so are ignorant. Viserys, now old and weary, and increasingly disinterested in the governance of the realm, was left without a Hand, while Rhaenyra was left without both a husband and, as some claimed, a paramour. Some accounts see it as an accident, no more. But others suggest more wicked possibilities. Some believe that Larys Clubfoot—one of the king’s inquisitors and Lord Lyonel’s youngest son—might have arranged it so that he might rule Harrenhal. Other histories even hint that Prince Daemon himself was behind it.
Rather than bring in a new Hand, the king recalled Ser Otto from Oldtown at Alicent’s urging and named him Hand again. And rather than mourn her late husband, Rhaenyra at last wed her uncle, Prince Daemon. In the last days of 120 AC, she even delivered to him his first son, whom she named Aegon, after the Conqueror. (When she learned of it, Queen Alicent was said to be enraged, for her own eldest son also bore the Conqueror’s name. The two Aegons came to be known as Aegon the Elder and Aegon the Younger.) The year 122 AC saw Rhaenyra and Daemon delivered of a second son, Viserys. Viserys was not so robust as Aegon the Younger or his Velaryon half siblings, but he proved precocious. Some took it as an omen, however, when the dragon egg placed in his cradle did not hatch.
And so matters progressed, until the fateful day in 129 AC when Viserys I at last died. His son, Aegon the Elder, had wed his daughter, Helaena, and Helaena had borne to Aegon the twins Jaehaerys and Jaehaera (the latter of whom was a strange child, slow to grow, never weeping or smiling as children do), and another son named Maelor in 127 AC. On Driftmark, the Sea Snake began to fail and took to his bed. Viserys, now in the winter of his years but still hearty, injured himself on the Iron Throne in 128 AC after rendering a judgment. The wound became dangerously infected, and in the end Maester Orwyle (who had succeeded Maester Mellos in the previous year) was forced to amputate two fingers. That measure was not stringent enough, however, and as 128 ended and 129 began, Viserys was growing increasingly ill.
On the third day of the third moon of 129 AC, while entertaining Jaehaerys and Jaehaera from his bed with a tale of their great-great-grandsire and his queen battling giants, mammoths, and wildlings beyond the Wall, the king grew tired. He sent his grandchildren away when the tale was done and fell into a sleep from which he never awoke. He had ruled for six-and-twenty years, reigning over the most prosperous era in the history of the Seven Kingdoms but seeding within it the disastrous decline of his house and the death of the last of the dragons.
The sons of King Viserys (l. to r.): Aegon, Daeron, and Aemond.
A EGON II NO WAR WAS ever bloodier or crueler than the Dance of the Dragons, as the singers and Munkun have chosen to name it. It was the worst kind of war—a war between siblings. Despite Viserys’s unwavering preference for Rhaenyra, Prince Aegon was convinced to take up his father’s crown, by his mother and the small council, before Viserys I’s corpse was cold. When Rhaenyra, the Princess of Dragonstone, learned of it, she fell into a rage. She was, at the time, in confinement at Dragonstone, awaiting the birth of her third child to Prince Daemon.
FROM THE HISTORY OF ARCHMAESTER GYLDAYN
On Dragonstone, no cheers were heard. Instead, screams echoed through the halls and stairwells of Sea Dragon Tower, and down from the queen’s apartments where Rhaenyra Targaryen strained and shuddered in her third day of labor. The child had not been due for another turn of the moon, but the tidings from King’s Landing had driven the princess into a black fury, and her rage seemed to bring on the birth, as if the babe inside her were angry too, and fighting to get out. The princess shrieked curses all through her labor, calling down the wroth of the gods upon her half brothers and their mother, the queen, and detailing the torments she would inflict upon them before she would let them die. She cursed the child inside her too, Mushroom tells us. “Get out,” she screamed, clawing at her swollen belly as her maester and her midwife tried to restrain her. “Monster, monster, get out, get out, GET OUT!” When the babe at last came forth, she proved indeed a monster: a stillborn girl, twisted and malformed, with a hole in her chest where her heart should have been, and a stubby, scaled tail. Or so Mushroom describes her. The dwarf tells us that it was he who carried the little thing to the yard for burning. The dead girl had been named Visenya, Princess Rhaenyra announced the next day, when milk of the poppy had blunted the edge of her pain.
“She was my only daughter, and they killed her. They stole my crown and murdered my daughter, and they shall answer for it.” Once past the birth, Rhaenyra prepared for war. Both she and Alicent had their supporters among their kin—and among the great lords of the realm. And each side had dragons. It was a recipe for disaster, and so it proved. The realm bled as it never had before, and it would be years before all the scars were healed.
Mushroom’s claim that Queen Alicent had hurried her husband’s demise with a “pinch of poison” in his wine we may, perhaps, dismiss. But none can doubt that the first blood to be spilled in the Dance was that of the aged master of coin, Lord Beesbury, when he insisted that Viserys’s true heir was Rhaenyra, and that she must be crowned. The accounts differ as to how this dissenter was removed. Some say he died of a chill after being thrown into the black cells, and some that Ser Criston Cole—the Lord Commander who would soon be called the Kingmaker—opened his throat with his dagger there at the table. Mushroom disagrees, suggesting Cole threw Beesbury out a window—though it should be remembered that Mushroom was on Dragonstone at this time, with Rhaenyra. But that was far from the last murder in the early days of the Dance. However, the most lamentable were the murders of the young princes Lucerys Velaryon, the son of Rhaenyra, and Jaehaerys, the son and heir of Aegon.
Luke Velaryon’s death was witnessed by many eyes at the court of Storm’s End, and the accounts largely agree. Dispatched by his mother to Storm’s End to enlist Lord Borros’s support, he arrived to find Prince Aemond Targaryen there before him. Aemond was older, stronger, and crueler than Lucerys—and he hated Lucerys with a passion, for it was Lucerys who had cost him his eye nine years earlier. Lord Borros denied Aemond his desire for revenge inside his hall—but stated that he had no care whatever for what happened without. So Prince Aemond, upon Vhagar, chased down the fleeing Lucerys and his young dragon Arrax. The prince and his dragon—hampered by the storm raging outside the castle walls—both died within sight of Storm’s End, plummeting into the sea.
Rhaenyra, the accounts all say, collapsed at the news. Not so, Lucerys’s stepfather, Prince Daemon Targaryen. The words Prince Daemon sent to Dragonstone after having learned the news of Lucerys’s death were, “An eye for an eye, a son for a son. Lucerys shall be avenged.” He was the Prince of the City, and he still had many friends in the stews and brothels of King’s Landing. Chief of them was his once-paramour, Mysaria, the White Worm. She arranged his vengeance, hiring a brute and a ratcatcher known to history as Blood and Cheese. Thanks to his profession, the rat-catcher knew all the secrets of Maegor’s tunnels. Slipping into the Red Keep, Blood and Cheese seized hold of Queen Helaena and her children … and then offered Aegon II’s wife a brutal choice: which of her sons would die? She wept and pled and offered her own life to no avail. In the end, she named Maelor— the youngest, and deemed too young to understand. Blood and Cheese killed Prince Jaehaerys instead, as his mother screamed her horror. Then Blood and Cheese fled with the prince’s head; true to their word that they were only after one of Aegon’s sons.
The deaths of Prince Lucerys and his dragon, Arrax. (illustration credit 52) At the outset of the war, Aegon II’s chief supporters were Lord Hightower, Lord Lannister, and eventually Lord Baratheon. Lord Tully desired to fight for the king, but was old and bedridden, and his grandson defied him. Rhaenyra’s chief supporters were her good-father Lord Velaryon, her cousin Lady Jeyne Arryn, and Lord Stark (though his help was slow in coming, as he kept every man to harvest what they could before winter fell on the North).
Lord Greyjoy attacked the westerlands in her name, as well, to the shock of King Aegon, who had courted his support. The Tullys eventually joined Rhaenyra’s cause, in defiance of the late Lord Tully’s wishes. The Tyrells, however, remained uninvolved in the war, as did the Dornishmen.