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Young Joffrey Velaryon, the Prince of Dragonstone, plummeted to his death when trying to ride his mother’s dragon, Syrax, to the Dragonpit in order to save his own dragon, Tyraxes. Neither dragon survived. Wild tales and rumors followed about the deaths of the dragons: that some were hewn down by men, others by the Shepherd, others by the Warrior himself. Whatever the truth, five dragons died that bloody night as the mobs broke into the huge dome and found the dragons chained, and people perished in droves. Half the dragons that began the Dance were already dead, and the war was not yet over. Rhaenyra fled the city shortly after.
An end did come at last, but it was not the deaths of dragons or of princes that brought it about, but instead the death of the queen and the king for whom they (and tens of thousands more) had perished.
Rhaenyra died first. When her husband Prince Daemon fell, House Velaryon turned against her. With her enemies once more in possession of King’s Landing, she fled practically penniless, and was forced to sell her crown to find passage to Dragonstone. But when she arrived, she found a freshly injured Aegon II there before her, with his dying dragon, Sunfyre.
The Storming of the Dragonpit. (illustration credit 56) Madness gripped the city after Rhaenyra fled, and it showed itself in many ways. Strangest of all was the rise of two pretender kings who reigned during the time remembered as the Moon of the Three Kings.
The first was Trystane Truefyre, a squire to a disreputable hedge knight named Ser Perkin the Flea, who Ser Perkin declared was the natural son of Viserys I. After the storming of the Dragonpit and Rhaenyra’s flight, the Shepherd and his mob ruled much of the city, but Ser Perkin installed Trystane in the abandoned Red Keep and began to issue edicts. When Aegon II eventually retook the city, Trystane begged the boon of knighthood before he was executed, and this he received.
The other king was curiouser still—a child who became known as Gaemon Palehair. The son of a whore, this four-year-old boy was claimed to be a bastard of Aegon II (which was not improbable, given the king’s bawdy ways in his youth). From his seat in the House of Kisses atop Visenya’s Hill, he gathered followers by the thousands and issued a series of edicts. His mother later was hanged, having confessed he was the son of a silver-haired oarsman from Lys, but Gaemon was spared and taken into the king’s household. In time he befriended Aegon III, becoming his constant companion and food taster for some years, before dying of poison that might have been intended for the king himself.
Munkun’s True Telling, based upon Orwyle’s account, reveals that when King’s Landing fell, Larys Strong saw to it that the king was spirited away to hide. Cunningly, Strong sent him to Dragonstone, rightly believing that Rhaenyra would never think to look for her brother at her own stronghold. For half a year he recovered from his wounds in a remote fishing village whilst Rhaenyra and much of her court were in King’s Landing, and during that time Sunfyre arrived from Crackclaw Point, despite the dragon’s crippled wing, which made it ungainly in the air. Thus hidden, they were able to recover their strength. (Sunfyre went on to kill the shy, wild dragon called the Grey Ghost, leading to confused reports claiming that it was the Cannibal that did it.)
Rhaenyra facing her death. (illustration credit 57)
King Aegon found many around Dragonstone who had grievances against Rhaenyra—for the loss of sons, husbands, and brothers in her war, or for slights they imagined—and with their aid he conquered Dragonstone. It took no more than an hour, largely unopposed as it was … except for Prince Daemon’s daughter, the fourteen-year-old Baela Targaryen and her young dragon, Moondancer. Baela had escaped the men who tried to seize her and had made her way to her dragon.
And as Aegon II sought to land in the courtyard of the castle on Sunfyre, thinking himself triumphant, the dragon and the princess rose to meet him.
Moondancer was much smaller than Sunfyre, but also much swifter and far more nimble, and neither the dragon nor the princess on her back lacked courage. The dragon swooped and clawed and snapped at Sunfyre, raking and tearing until at last a blast of flame blinded the beast. Tangled together, the two dragons fell, and their riders with them. Aegon II leapt at the last moment from Sunfyre’s back, both legs shattering, while Baela remained with Moondancer to the bitter end. When Alfred Broome drew his sword to kill her where she lay broken and unconscious, Ser Marston Waters tore the sword from his grasp and carried her to the maester, saving her life.
Of this great battle, Rhaenyra knew nothing, but it did not matter. Aegon II, ever spiteful of his sister and enraged at the agony of his shattered legs and the impending death of his dragon, fed Rhaeynra to Sunfyre before the eyes of her sole surviving son (so far as any man or woman in the Seven Kingdoms knew), Aegon the Younger. So passed the Realm’s Delight, the Half-Year Queen, on the twenty-second day of the tenth moon of 130 AC.
Her half-brother did not long survive her. Though Rhaenyra was dead and Aegon the Younger was in his hands, Aegon II still had many enemies who continued to fight against him. They fought as much out of fear of his reprisals as they did for Rhaenyra, but they fought, and they proved the greater foe.
When Lord Borros Baratheon at last stirred with his strength, marching against what remained of Rhaenyra’s forces, there might have been a chance to turn the tide. But Lord Borros fell at the Battle of the Kingsroad, his host shattered. And the young riverlords known as the Lads, whose host had defeated him, were within a stone’s throw of the city—while Lord Stark was coming down the kingsroad with a host of his own.
It was at this time that Lord Corlys Velaryon—freed from the dungeons and pardoned, and now serving on the king’s small council—advised Aegon to surrender and take the black. The king refused, however, and planned to give orders to have his young nephew’s ear removed as a warning to Aegon the Younger’s supporters. He climbed into his litter to be carried to his apartments, and was given a cup of wine on the way.
When his escort arrived with the litter and lifted the curtain, they found the king dead with blood on his lips. And so ended King Aegon II, poisoned by the men who served him—for they had seen the end even if he had not.
The broken, shattered realm suffered for a while yet, but the Dance of the Dragons was done. Now what awaited the realm was the False Dawn, the Hour of the Wolf, the rule of the regents, and the Broken King.
SUNFYRE (King Aegon): Splendid but young, crippled for much of the war after Rook’s Rest, then slain in battle with the dragon Moondancer at Dragonstone.
VHAGAR (Prince Aemond One-eye): The last of Aegon the Conqueror’s three dragons, old but huge and powerful, killed in battle with Caraxes above the Gods Eye.
DREAMFYRE (Queen Helaena): Once the dragon of Jaehaerys I’s sister Rhaena, crushed beneath the collapsing dome at the Storming of the Dragonpit.
TESSARION (Prince Daeron): The Blue Queen, the youngest of the dragons of fighting weight belonging to Aegon’s supporters, killed at Second Tumbleton.
THE CANNIBAL: A wild dragon, a scavenger and killer illustration credit 58 of hatchlings, never tamed and vanished at war’s end.
MORNING (Lady Rhaena): Too young for war, survived the Dance.
A EGON III WHEN AEGON THE Younger came to the Iron Throne in 131 AC as Aegon III, after the death of his uncle Aegon II, the realm may well have thought that its troubles were done. Aegon III’s supporters had defeated the last of Aegon II’s host at the Battle of the Kingsroad and had full control of King’s Landing. The Velaryon fleet once more served the Iron Throne, and the Sea Snake would surely help to guide the young king. But these hopes were built on sand, and this period was soon known as the False Dawn. Aegon II had sent men across the narrow sea in search of sellswords, and none knew when or if those would return to avenge their king. In the west, the Red Kraken and his reavers ravished Fair Isle and the western coast. And a terrible, hard winter—first declared by the Conclave in Oldtown in 130 AC, on Maiden’s Day—had taken a firm grip on the realm, and would last for six cruel years.
Young King Aegon III. (illustration credit 59) Nowhere in the Seven Kingdoms did the winter matter more than in the North—and the fear of such a winter had driven the Winter Wolves to gather beneath the banner of Lord Roderick Dustin and die fighting for queen Rhaenyra. But behind them came a greater army of childless and homeless men, unwed men, old men, and younger sons, under the banner of Lord Cregan Stark. They had come for a war, for adventure and plunder, and for a glorious death to spare their kin beyond the Neck one more mouth to feed.
The poisoning of King Aegon II had denied them that chance. Lord Stark still marched his army into King’s Landing, but to a much different outcome. He had planned to punish Storm’s End, Oldtown, and Casterly Rock for having supported the king. But Lord Corlys had already sent envoys to the Rock and Storm’s End and Oldtown, suing for peace. For six days, while the court waited for news of Lord Corlys’s success or failure and the realm trembled at the thought of more war, Lord Cregan Stark held sway at court. This came to be known as the Hour of the Wolf.
Yet in one thing, Lord Stark would not be dissuaded: the betrayers and poisoners of King Aegon II must pay the price. To kill a cruel and unjust king in lawful battle was one thing. But foul murder, and the use of poison, was a betrayal against the very gods who had anointed him. Cregan had twenty-two men arrested in Aegon III’s name—among them Larys Clubfoot and Corlys Velaryon. Cowed, the young Aegon III—who was eleven at the time—agreed to make Lord Stark his Hand.
Cregan Stark served in that office for a single day, presiding over the trials and executions. Most of the accused took the black (led by the cunning Ser Perkin the Flea). Two alone chose death—Ser Gyles Belgrave of the Kingsguard, who did not wish to outlive his king, and Larys the Clubfoot, the last of the ancient line of House Strong.
Lord Corlys was spared a trial by the machinations of Baela and Rhaena Targaryen, who convinced Aegon to issue an edict restoring to him his offices and honors, then by Black Aly Blackwood when she gave Lord Stark her hand in marriage in return for the boon of allowing Aegon’s edict to stand.
The day after the executions, Lord Stark resigned as Hand. No man ever held the office so briefly, and few left it as gladly. He returned to the North, leaving many of his fierce Northmen behind in the south. Some wed widows in the riverlands, others sold their swords or swore them in service, and a few turned to banditry. But the Hour of the Wolf was done, and it was time for the regents.
The period of Aegon’s regency—which stretched from 131 AC, when he inherited the throne, to 136 AC when he came of age—was presided over by a council of seven. Only one of those regents— Grand Maester Munkun—lasted for the whole of the term; the others died and resigned and were replaced as needed. Of these, the greatest was the Sea Snake, who passed from this veil of tears in 132 AC at the age of seventy-nine; for seven days his body lay in state beneath the Iron Throne, and the realm wept.
SER CORWYN CORBRAY Husband to Rhaena Targaryen, replaced Lord Mooton in 134 AC, and killed by a crossbowman at Runestone that same year.
The years of Aegon’s regency were marked by turmoil. Ser Tyland Lannister—one of the men who had returned empty-handed from the Free Cities (for the free companies were richly paid during the wars that followed the collapse of the Kingdom of the Three Daughters)—served ably as Hand of the King, despite the blinding and mutilations he suffered at the hands of Queen Rhaenyra’s torturers when he refused to divulge where he had hidden much of Aegon II’s royal treasury. But the Winter Fever took him in 133.
Matters deteriorated further when Unwin Peake, Lord of Starpike, Dunstonbury, and Whitegrove, became first a regent, then the Hand. He had played a significant role at First and Second Tumbleton, and had felt slighted when he was not chosen to be among the first regents. But he soon made up for that, acquiring more and more power. He saw his kin hold many high offices, attempted to wed his own daughter to King Aegon III following the apparent suicide of Queen Jaehaera, and endeavored to weaken his rivals by any means at hand.
Lord Alyn, the Sea Snake’s grandson, was chief among the Hand’s rivals. He was refused his father’s place as a regent, then was made to sail against the Stepstones. There he won the name of Oakenfist following a great victory at sea, but his newborn fame proved divisive when he returned to King’s Landing. The Hand had intended to seize control of the Stepstones and put an end to the pirate kingdom of Racallio Ryndoon, but Velaryon’s swift action meant that the greater part of the fleet could not land the forces needed to accomplish this. Oakenfist’s fame and reputation only increased in the wake of his victory, winning him honors and rewards from the regents despite Lord Peake’s protests. In the end, the Hand convinced the regents to dispatch Oakenfist to the westerlands to deal with the Red Kraken’s longships when Lord Dalton Greyjoy refused to give up his prizes and cease his reaving. This was a perilous journey, intended almost certainly to result in Lord Alyn’s defeat or death. Instead, Oakenfist turned it into the first of his six great voyages.
The last living offspring of Aegon II, Jaehaera Targaryen was eight when she wed her cousin Aegon III, and ten when she threw herself from Maegor’s Holdfast to the spikes of the dry moat below. She lived on for half an hour, in agony, before she died.