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Yet some question the manner of her death. Was it truly by her own hand? Some whispered that she was murdered, and many suspects were named. Among them was Ser Mervyn Flowers of the Kingsguard, the bastard brother of Lord Unwin Peake, who had been at her door when she died. Yet even Mushroom thinks it unlikely that Flowers was the kind of man to push his charge—a child—to such an ugly death. He suggests a different possibility: that Flowers did not kill her but stepped aside to let someone else do the deed —someone like the unscrupulous Free Cities sellsword Tessario the Tiger, whom Lord Unwin had brought into his service.
Though we will never know the truth of the events that day, it now seems likely that Jaehaera’s death was somehow instigated by Lord Peake.
In all this, Aegon III—too young to rule—was but a pawn. He was a melancholy youth, and sullen, interested in very little. He always wore black, and might go for days without speaking a word to anyone. His only companion in these first years was Gaemon Palehair, the boy pretender, now his servant and friend. After Lord Peake came to power, Gaemon was given a new role as the king’s whipping boy, to suffer the punishments that could not be meted out against the royal person. Later Gaemon Palehair died in the attempted poisoning of the king and his young, beautiful queen Daenaera Velaryon.
Lady Daenaera was a cousin to Alyn Oakenfist, fathered by his cousin Daeron, who died fighting for him in the Stepstones. A surpassingly beautiful child, Daenaera was but six when the princesses Rhaena and Baela presented her to the king—the last of a thousand maids who had been presented him at the great ball of 133 AC. This ball had been declared by the Hand, Lord Peake, after the regents stopped his efforts to betroth his own daughter to the king—though he did not give up that aspiration and was greatly frustrated by the king’s ultimate choice.
His efforts to have the choice put aside were opposed by both Aegon and the other regents.
Outraged, Lord Unwin threatened to resign the Handship to bend the regents to his will, only to find the others delighted to oblige him. They appointed one of their number, Lord Thaddeus Rowan, to take his place as Hand.
Aegon had only one true joy during these years: the return of his younger brother, Prince Viserys.
The realm had thought Viserys slain at the Battle of the Gullet, and the king had never forgiven himself for abandoning his brother when he fled on the back of his dragon, Stormcloud. But Viserys was eventually recovered from Lys by Oakenfist, where he had been held in secret by merchant princes who thought to profit from his ransom or his death. The price that Lord Velaryon agreed to for his release was enormous, and soon proved a matter of contention. But his release—with his new Lyseni bride, the beautiful Larra Rogare, seven years his elder—was a joy regardless, and for the rest of his days he was the only person Aegon ever fully trusted.
In the end, it was Larra Rogare and her wealthy, ambitious family who helped break the power of the regents and, almost certainly, that of Lord Peake. It was an inadvertent role they played, however, caught up as they were in the Lyseni Spring. This was a time when the Rogare Bank waxed greater than the Iron Bank, and so fell prey to the plots to control the king; they were blamed for many more acts than they were actually guilty of. Lord Rowan, then the Hand and one of the last regents, was accused of being complicit in their crimes and was tortured for information. Ser Marston Waters, now somehow Hand of the King in his place (Munkun, the only regent at this time besides Rowan, is reticent to discuss this in the True Telling), dispatched men to seize Lady Larra after having arrested her brothers. But the king and his brother refused to give her up, and were besieged in Maegor’s Holdfast by Waters and his supporters for eighteen days. The conspiracy eventually unraveled as Ser Marston—perhaps recalling his duty—attempted to fulfill his king’s command to arrest those who had falsely implicated the Rogares and Lord Rowan. Waters himself was killed by his own sworn brother, Ser Mervyn Flowers, when he attempted to arrest him.
Order reestablished itself, with Munkun serving as Hand and regent for the rest of the remaining year until new regents were appointed and a new Hand was found. The time of the regency finally ended on the sixteenth nameday of the king, when he entered the small council chamber, dismissed his regents, and relieved his then-Hand, Lord Manderly, of his office.
It was a broken reign that followed, for Aegon himself was broken. He was melancholy to the end of his days, found pleasure in almost nothing, and locked himself in his chambers to brood for days on end. He likewise came to dislike being touched—even by the hand of his beautiful queen. Even after she had flowered, he was long in calling her to his bed … but ultimately their marriage was blessed with two sons and three daughters. The eldest, Daeron, was named the Prince of Dragonstone and heir apparent.
Though he strove to give the realm peace and plenty in the wake of the Dance, Aegon III proved unwilling to court his own people, or his lords. His might have been a very different reign were it not for that one flaw in him—his coldness when it came to those he ruled. His brother, Prince Viserys— who in his last years served as his Hand—had the gift of charm, but he himself grew stern after his wife abandoned him and their children for her native Lys.
Yet together, Aegon and Viserys ably dealt with the remaining turmoil in the realm. One such incident was the troublesome appearance of several pretenders claiming to be Prince Daeron the Daring—the youngest brother of Aegon II who was killed at Second Tumbleton but whose body was never identified—leaving the door open for unscrupulous men to make their false claims. (But those feigned princes have since been conclusively shown to be imposters.) They even attempted to restore the Targaryen dragons, despite Aegon’s fears—for which none could blame him after witnessing his mother being eaten alive. He dreaded the sight of dragons—and had even less desire to ride upon one —but he was convinced that they would cow those who sought to oppose him. At Viserys’s suggestion, he sent away for nine mages from Essos, attempting to use their arts to kindle a clutch of eggs. This proved both a debacle and a failure.
Aegon III’s dismissal of both the regents and the Hand, Lord Manderly. (illustration credit 60)
I mean to give the smallfolk peace and food and justice. If that will not suffice to win their love, let Mushroom make a progress. Or perhaps we might send a dancing bear. Someone once told me that the commons love nothing half so much as dancing bears. You may call a halt to this feast tonight as well. Send the lords home to their own keeps and give the food to the hungry. Full bellies and dancing bears shall be my policy.
There were four dragons still living at the start of his reign—Silverwing, Morning, Sheepstealer, and the Cannibal. Yet Aegon III will always be remembered as the Dragonbane, for the last Targaryen dragon died during his reign in the year 153 AC.
The reign of the Broken King—also known as Aegon the Unlucky—ended with the king’s death at thirty-six years of age, from consumption. Many of his subjects thought him far older, for his boyhood was cut too short. The melancholy king is not remembered fondly, and his legacy would pale before that of his sons.
All that remains of the Targaryen dragons today: the skull of Balerion the Black Dread. (illustration credit 61) D AERON I WHEN AEGON III died in the twenty-sixth year of his reign, 157 years after the Conqueror was crowned, he left behind two sons and three daughters. The eldest of his sons, Daeron, was a mere boy of fourteen years when he assumed the throne. Perhaps because of Daeron’s charm and genius, or perhaps because of his memory of what transpired during the regency of Daeron’s father, Prince Viserys chose not to insist on a regency while the young king was in his minority. Instead, Viserys continued to serve as Hand while King Daeron ruled ably and capably.
Few foresaw that Daeron, the First of His Name, would cover himself in glory as did his ancestor Aegon the Conqueror, whose crown he wore. (His father had preferred a simple circlet.) Yet that glory turned to ashes almost as swiftly. A youth of rare brilliance and forcefulness, Daeron at first met resistance from his uncle, his councillors, and many great lords when he first proposed to “complete the Conquest” by bringing Dorne into the realm at last. His lords reminded him that, unlike the Conqueror and his sisters, he had no more dragons fit for war. To this Daeron famously responded: “You have a dragon. He stands before you.” In the end, the king could not be gainsaid, and when he revealed his plans—plans formulated, it is said, with the help and advice of Alyn Velaryon, the Oakenfist—some began to think it could indeed be done, for the proposed campaign improved upon that of Aegon’s own.
Daeron I amply proved his prowess on the field of Dorne, which for hundreds of years had defied the Reach, the stormlords, and even the dragons of House Targaryen. Daeron divided his host into three forces: one led by Lord Tyrell, who came down the Prince’s Pass at the western end of the Red Mountains of Dorne; one led by the king’s cousin and master of ships, Alyn Velaryon, traveling by sea; and one led by the king himself, marching down the treacherous pass called the Boneway, where he made use of goat tracks that others considered too dangerous, to go around the Dornish watchtowers and avoid the same traps that had caught Orys Baratheon. The young king then swept away every force that sought to stop him. The Prince’s Pass was won, and, most importantly, the royal fleet broke the Planky Town and then was able to drive upriver.
With Dorne effectively divided in half by Lord Alyn’s control of the Greenblood, the Dornish forces in the east and west could not aid one another directly. And from this stemmed a series of bold battles that would take a volume entire to relate in full. Many accounts of this war can be found, but the best of them is The Conquest of Dorne, King Daeron’s own account of his campaign, which is rightly considered a marvel of elegant simplicity in both its prose and its strategies.
King Daeron I, the Young Dragon. (illustration credit 62) Within a year, the invaders were at the gates of Sunspear and battling their way through the socalled shadow city. In 158 AC, the Prince of Dorne and twoscore of the most powerful Dornish lords bent their knees to Daeron at the Submission of Sunspear. The Young Dragon had accomplished what Aegon the Conqueror never had. There were rebels still in the deserts and mountains—men swiftly branded as outlaws—but they were few in number to begin with.
The king quickly consolidated his control of Dorne, dealing with these rebels when he found them … though not without difficulty. In one infamous episode, a poisoned arrow meant for the king was taken instead by his cousin Prince Aemon (the younger son of Prince Viserys), who had to be sent home by ship to recover. Yet by 159 AC the hinterlands were pacified, and the Young Dragon was free to return in triumph to King’s Landing, leaving Lord Tyrell in Dorne to keep the peace. As assurance for Dorne’s future loyalty and good behavior, fourteen highborn hostages were carried back with him to King’s Landing, the sons and daughters of almost all the great houses of Dorne.
Dornish letters recorded in Maester Gareth’s Red Sands suggest that Lord Qorgyle, the Lord of Sandstone, himself arranged for Lord Tyrell’s murder. However, his motives were the subject of speculation in later years. Some say he grew angry that his early show of loyalty—by putting an end to the rabble-rousing of one of the more notorious rebel lords— was given such little consideration by Lord Tyrell, whilst others claim that his initial aid was all part of a treacherous plan he made with his castellan to lull the king and Lord Tyrell into trusting him.
This tactic proved less effective than Daeron might have hoped, however. Whilst the hostages helped ensure the continued loyalty of their own blood, the king had not anticipated the tenacity of Dorne’s smallfolk, over whom he had no hold. Ten thousand men, it is said, died in the battle for Dorne; forty thousand more died over the course of the following three years, as common Dornishmen fought on stubbornly against the king’s men.
Skulls of the dead in Dorne. (illustration credit 63) Lord Tyrell, whom Daeron had left in charge of Dorne, valiantly attempted to quell the fires of rebellion, traveling from castle to castle with each turn of the moon—punishing any supporters of the rebels with the noose, burning down the villages that harbored the outlaws, and so on. But the smallfolk struck back, and each new day found supplies stolen or destroyed, camps burned, horses killed, and slowly the count of dead soldiers and men-at-arms rose—killed in the alleyways of the shadow city, ambushed amidst the dunes, murdered in their camps.
But the true rebellion began when Lord Tyrell and his train traveled to Sandstone, where his lordship was murdered in a bed of scorpions. As word spread of his demise, open rebellion swept Dorne from one end to the other.
In 160 AC the Young Dragon himself was forced to return to Dorne to put down the rebels. He won several small victories as he fought through the Boneway while Lord Alyn Oakenfist descended once again upon the Planky Town and the Greenblood. Apparently broken, in 161 AC the Dornishmen agreed to meet to renew their fealty and discuss terms … but it was treachery and murder they plotted, not peace. In a bloody betrayal, the Dornish attacked the Young Dragon and his retinue beneath the peace banner. Three knights of the Kingsguard were slain attempting to protect the king (a fourth, to his eternal shame, threw down his sword and yielded). Prince Aemon the Dragonknight was wounded and captured, but not before cutting down two of the betrayers. The Young Dragon himself died with Blackfyre in his hand, surrounded by a dozen enemies.
King Daeron I’s reign was thus four short years in length; his ambition had proved too great. Glory may be everlasting, yet it is fleeting as well—soon forgotten in the aftermath of even the most famous of victories if they lead to greater disasters.