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B AELOR I NEWS SOON REACHED King’s Landing of King Daeron’s death and the rout of his remaining forces. The outrage that followed was swiftly directed at the Dornish hostages. At the command of the King’s Hand, Prince Viserys, they were thrown into the dungeons to await hanging. The Hand’s eldest son, Prince Aegon, even delivered the Dornish girl he had made his paramour to his father to await execution.
The Young Dragon had never married, nor fathered children. Accordingly, upon his death, the Iron Throne passed to his brother Baelor, a youth of ten-and-seven. Baelor proved to be the most pious king in the Targaryen dynasty, and some say in the history of all the Seven Kingdoms. His first act as king was to grant pardon to the Dornish hostages. Many similar acts of piety and forgiveness followed throughout Baelor’s ten-year reign. Even as his lords and council cried for vengeance, Baelor publicly forgave his brother’s killers and declared that he meant to “bind up the wounds” of his brother’s war and make peace with Dorne. As an act of piety, he declared, he would go to Dorne “with neither sword nor army,” to return their hostages and sue for peace. And so he did, walking barefoot from King’s Landing to Sunspear, clad only in sackcloth, while the hostages rode fine horses behind him.
There are many songs of Baelor’s journey to Dorne that found their way out of septries and motherhouses to spill from the tongues of singers. Mounting the Stone Way, Baelor soon came to the place where the Wyls had imprisoned his cousin Prince Aemon. He found the Dragonknight naked in a cage. It is said that Baelor pleaded, but Lord Wyl refused to free Aemon, forcing His Grace instead to offer a prayer for his cousin and swear that he would return. Many generations since have wondered just what Prince Aemon must have thought of this, seeing his reedy-voiced, slender kinsman—haggard and with bare, bleeding feet—making this promise. And yet Baelor pressed on and survived the Boneway, which had proved the undoing for many thousands before him.
King Baelor I’s penance through the deserts of Dorne. (illustration credit 64)
The crossing of the desert between the northern foothills and the Scourge on foot, practically alone, nearly undid him. And yet he persevered. It was an arduous journey, but he survived to meet with the Prince of Dorne in what some consider to be the first miracle of Blessed Baelor’s reign. And the second miracle might well be that he succeeded in forging a peace with Dorne that lasted throughout his reign. As part of the terms of the agreement, Baelor agreed that his young cousin Daeron— grandson of his Hand, Viserys, and the son of Viserys’s eldest son Prince Aegon—should be betrothed to Princess Mariah, eldest child of the Prince of Dorne. Both were children at the time, so the marriage was to take place when they were of age.
After a sojourn in the Old Palace of Sunspear, the Prince of Dorne offered Baelor a galley to take him back to King’s Landing. However, the young king insisted that the Seven had commanded him to walk. Some in the Dornish court feared that Prince Viserys would take it as a new cause for war when (not if) Baelor died upon the road, so the prince made every effort to make certain that the Dornish lords along the route would be hospitable. When he mounted the Boneway, Baelor turned his attention to recovering Prince Aemon from his imprisonment. He had asked the Dornish prince to explicitly command the Dragonknight’s release, and this Lord Wyl accepted. Yet instead of freeing Aemon himself, he gave Baelor the key to Aemon’s cage, and an invitation to use it. But now, not only was Aemon naked in a cage, exposed to the hot sun by day and the cold wind by night, but also a pit had been dug beneath the cage, and within it were many vipers. The Dragonknight is said to have begged for the king to leave him, to go and seek aid in the Dornish Marches instead, but Baelor is said to have smiled and told him that the gods would protect him. Then he stepped into the pit.
Baelor braving the vipers to rescue Prince Aemon the Dragonknight. (illustration credit 65) Later, the singers claimed that the vipers bowed their heads to Baelor as he passed, but the truth is otherwise. Baelor was bitten half a dozen times while crossing to the cage, and though he opened it, he nearly collapsed before the Dragonknight was able to thrust open the door and pull his cousin from the pit. The Wyls are said to have laid wagers as Prince Aemon struggled to climb out of the cage with Baelor flung across his back, and perhaps it was their cruelty that spurred him to climb to the top of the cage and leap to safety.
Prince Aemon carried Baelor halfway down the Boneway before a village septon in the Dornish mountains gave him clothing and an ass on which to carry the comatose king. Eventually Aemon reached the watchtowers of the Dondarrions, and then was conducted to Blackhaven, where the local maester cared for the king as best he could before sending them on to Storm’s End for further treatment. And all the while, it is said, Baelor was wasting away, still lost to the world.
He only regained consciousness on the way to Storm’s End, and then only to mutter prayers. It was half a year and more before he was well enough to travel on to King’s Landing; and in all that time, Prince Viserys managed the realm as King’s Hand, maintaining Baelor’s peace treaty with the Dornish.
The realm celebrated when Baelor at last regained the Iron Throne. Yet Baelor’s interests remained firmly on the Seven, and his first new edicts must have caused consternation among those who had been used to Aegon III’s sober rule, Daeron’s benign neglect, and Viserys’s shrewd stewardship. Having been wed in 160 AC to his sister Daena, the king proceeded to convince the High Septon to dissolve the marriage. It was contracted before he was king, he argued, and had never been consummated.
After the union was dissolved, Baelor went further by placing Daena and her younger sisters Rhaena and Elaena into their own “Court of Beauty” within the Red Keep, in what came to be called the Maidenvault. The king announced that he wished to preserve their innocence from the wickedness of the world and the lusts of impious men, but some wondered if he did not fear the temptation of their beauty on his own behalf.
Though Viserys, the princesses themselves, and other members of the court protested, the deed was done, and the princesses were cloistered away in the heart of the Red Keep, accompanied only by maidens that lords and knights sent to the Red Keep to curry favor with Baelor.
More protest came when Baelor went on to outlaw prostitution within King’s Landing, and no one could impress on him how much trouble that would cause. More than a thousand whores and their children, it is said, were rounded up and put out of the city. The unrest that followed was something that King Baelor chose not to acknowledge as he busied himself with his newest project: a great sept that would be built on top of Visenya’s Hill—a sept that he said he had seen in a vision. So was the Great Sept first envisioned, though it was not completed until many years after his death.
Ultimately, some have wondered if the king’s near death in Dorne did not affect his mind in some way, for as the years of his reign progressed, his decisions grew ever more zealous and erratic.
Though the smallfolk loved him—he emptied the treasury regularly to fund his charitable acts, including the year when he donated a loaf of bread daily to every man and woman in the city—the lords of the realm were beginning to grow uneasy. The king had not only ended his marriage to Daena, but he had made sure he would never wed again by taking a septon’s vows, aided and abetted by a High Septon who was becoming increasingly influential in the kingdom. The king’s edicts were becoming more concerned with spiritual matters at the expense of the material as well—including his effort to require the Citadel to use doves, not ravens, to carry their messages (a debacle discussed at length in Walgrave’s Black Wings, Swift Words), and his attempt to provide exemptions from taxation for those who ensured the virtue of their daughters through the judicious use of chastity belts.
The Great Sept of Baelor. (illustration credit 67) One unfortunate aspect of King Baelor’s zealotry was his insistence on burning books.
Though some books might hold little that is worth knowing, and some might even hold matter that is dangerous, destroying knowledge is a painful thing. That Baelor had the Testimony of Mushroom burned is no great surprise, given its ribald and scandalous content. But Septon Barth’s Unnatural History, however mistaken some of its proposals, was the work of one of the brightest minds in the Seven Kingdoms. Barth’s study and alleged practice of the higher arts proved enough to win Baelor’s enmity and the destruction of his work, even though Unnatural History contains much that is neither controversial nor wicked. It is only fortunate that fragments have survived, so that the lore within was not wholly lost.
Toward the end of the reign, Baelor began to spend more and more time fasting and praying, attempting to make up for all the sins and offenses he believed he and his subjects were committing against the Seven on a daily basis. When the High Septon died, Baelor informed the Most Devout that the gods had revealed the identity of the future High Septon to him, and they promptly elected Baelor’s choice to the office—a common man named Pate who was a gifted worker in stone, but without letters, simple-minded, and unable to recall even a simple prayer. It was a blessing, perhaps, that this lackwit High Septon only survived a year before a fever took him.
Malicious rumors that followed in the wake of Viserys’s ascension—begun, some say, by the pen of the Lady Maia of House Stokeworth—suggested that Viserys poisoned the king in order to finally gain the throne after a decade and more of waiting. Others have suggested that Viserys poisoned Baelor for the good of the realm, since the septon-king had come to believe that the Seven called on him to convert all the unbelievers in his realm. This would have led to a war with the North and the Iron Islands that would have caused great turmoil.
Or perhaps not, for Baelor had by then become convinced that the gods had given an eight-year-old boy—a street urchin, some later claimed, but more likely a draper’s son—the power to perform miracles. Baelor claimed to have seen the boy speaking with doves that answered him in the voice of men and women—the voices of the Seven, according to Baelor. This, he declared, should be the next High Septon. Again the Most Devout did as the king desired, and so the youngest High Septon to ever wear the crystal crown was chosen.
The eventual birth of Daemon Waters, the natural child of Daena Targaryen by a father she refused to name (but whom the realm later learned was none other than her cousin, Aegon, while he was still a prince), led to another fit of fasting by the king. He had already nearly killed himself some years before, when he fasted for a moon’s turn following the deaths of his cousin Princess Naerys’s twins shortly after their delivery. This time Baelor took it yet further, refusing anything but water and taking only enough bread to still the cries of his stomach. For forty days he kept his regimen. On the fortyfirst day, he was found collapsed before the altar of the Mother.
Grand Maester Munkun did what he could to heal the king. So, too, did the boy High Septon, but his miracles were at an end. The king joined the Seven in the tenth year of his reign, in 171 AC.
The Sisters of Baelor I Daena is the most famed of the three sisters, and was the most loved—for her beauty as much as her fierce courage. She was known as a skilled horsewoman, a fearsome archer with the Dornish bow her brother Daeron had brought back from his conquests, and she was practiced at riding at rings (though she was never allowed to ride in a tourney, despite her efforts to the contrary). Daena quickly became known as the Defiant, for she was the most restless of the three sisters in her imprisonment, and on three separate occasions escaped disguised as a servant or one of the smallfolk. She even contrived, toward the end of Baelor’s reign, to get herself with child—though some might say it would have been better had she been less defiant, for all the trouble that son brought to the realm.
Of Baelor’s other sisters, Rhaena was almost as pious as her brother, and in time became a septa. Elaena, the youngest, was more willful than Rhaena, but not as beautiful as either of her sisters. While in the Maidenvault, it is said she cut her “crowning glory”—her long hair, platinumpale with a streak of gold running through it—and sent it to her brother, pleading for her freedom with the promise that, shorn as she was, she would now be too ugly to tempt any man. Her pleas fell on deaf ears, however.
Elaena outlived her siblings and led a tumultuous life once freed from the Maidenvault.
Following in Daena’s footsteps, she bore the bastard twins Jon and Jeyne Waters to Alyn Velaryon, Lord Oakenfist. She hoped to wed him, it is written, but a year after his disappearance at sea, she gave up hope and agreed to marry elsewhere.
She was thrice wed. Her first marriage was in 176 AC, to the wealthy but aged Ossifer Plumm, who is said to have died while consummating the marriage. She conceived, however, for Lord Plumm did his duty before he died. Later, scurrilous rumors came to suggest that Lord Plumm, in fact, died at the sight of his new bride in her nakedness (this rumor was put in the lewdest terms— terms which might have amused Mushroom but which we need not repeat), and that the child she conceived that night was by her cousin Aegon—he who later became King Aegon the Unworthy.
Her second marriage was at the behest of Aegon the Unworthy’s successor, King Daeron the Good. Daeron wed her to his master of coin, and this union led to four more children … and to Elaena becoming known to be the true master of coin, for her husband was said to be a good and noble lord but one without a great facility for numbers. She swiftly grew influential, and was trusted by King Daeron in all things as she labored on his behalf and on that of the realm.