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The reign of this unworthy monarch came to an end in 184 AC, when King Aegon was nine-andforty years of age. He was grossly fat, barely able to walk, and some wondered how his last mistress —Serenei of Lys, the mother of Shiera Seastar—could ever have withstood his embraces. The king himself died a horrible death, his body so swollen and obese that he could no longer lift himself from his couch, his limbs rotting and crawling with fleshworms. The maesters claimed they had never seen its like, whilst septons declared it a judgment of the gods. Aegon was given milk of the poppy to dull his pain, but elsewise little could be done for him.
His last act before his death, all accounts agree, was to set out his will. And in it, he left the bitterest poison the realm ever knew: he legitimized all of his natural children, from the most baseborn to the Great Bastards—the sons and daughters born to him by women of noble birth. Scores of his natural children had never been acknowledged; Aegon’s dying declaration meant naught to them. For his acknowledged bastards, however, it meant a great deal. And for the realm, it meant blood and fire for five generations.
The knighting of Daemon Blackfyre by his father, King Aegon IV. (illustration credit 70) The nine mistresses of Aegon IV, the Unworthy
LADY FALENA STOKEWORTH
Children by Falena Stokeworth: None acknowledged.
MEGETTE (MERRY MEG) The young and buxom wife of a blacksmith While riding near Fairmarket in 155, Aegon’s horse threw a shoe, and when he sought out the local smith, he came to notice the man’s young wife. He went on to buy her for seven gold dragons (and the threat of Ser Joffrey Staunton of the Kingsguard). Megette was installed in a house in King’s Landing; she and Aegon were even “wed” in a secret ceremony conducted by a mummer playing a septon. Megette gave her prince four children in as many years. Prince Viserys put an end to it, returning Megette to her husband and placing the daughters with the Faith to be trained as septas.
Megette was beaten to death within a year by the blacksmith.
Children by Merry Meg: Alysanne, Lily, Willow, Rosey.
LADY CASSELLA VAITHDaughter of a Dornish lord After the Submission of Sunspear, Aegon escorted the hostages that the king had gathered from the lords of Dorne back to King’s Landing. Among them was Cassella Vaith, a willowy maid with green eyes and pale white-blond hair, whom Aegon ended up keeping “hostage” in his own chambers. When the Dornishmen revolted and murdered King Daeron, all the hostages were to be killed, and Aegon—by then bored of her—returned Cassella to her place with the other prisoners.
However, the new king, Baelor, pardoned all the hostages and personally took them back to Dorne.
Cassella never wed, and in her old age she was consumed by the delusion that she had been Aegon’s one true love and that he would soon send for her.
Children by Cassella Vaith: None.
BELLEGERE OTHERYS (THE BLACK PEARL OF BRAAVOS)Smuggler, trader, sometime pirate, captain of the Widow Wind, born of a union between a Braavosi merchant’s daughter and an envoy from the Summer Isles After Naerys fell pregnant and almost died in 161, King Baelor sent Aegon to Braavos on a diplomatic mission. Accounts of the time suggest it was an excuse to make certain Aegon left Naerys alone as she recovered from a failed childbirth. There he met Bellegere Otherys. His affair with the Black Pearl continued for ten years, though it was said that Bellegere had a husband in every port and that Aegon was but one of many. She gave birth to three children during the decade, two girls and a boy of doubtful paternity.
Children by the Black Pearl: Bellenora, Narha, Balerion.
With Baelor’s death in 171 and Viserys II’s ascension to the throne, the princesses were once again permitted male company. Aegon (now Prince of Dragonstone and heir apparent) became entranced with sixteen-year-old Barba. On his own ascent in 172, he named her father as his Hand and openly took her for his mistress. She bore him a bastard only a fortnight before another set of twins—a stillborn boy and a girl, Daenerys, who survived—were delivered by Queen Naerys. With the queen lingering near death, the Hand—Barba’s father—talked openly of wedding his daughter to the King. After the queen’s recovery, the scandal proved Barba’s undoing, as young Prince Daeron and his uncle, the Dragonknight, forced Aegon to send her and the bastard away. The boy, raised at Stone Hedge by the Brackens, was called Aegor Rivers, but in time became known as Bittersteel.
Children by Barba Bracken: Aegor Rivers (Bittersteel).
LADY MELISSA (MISSY) BLACKWOODThe best loved of the king’s mistresses Both younger and prettier than Lady Barba (albeit far less buxom), as well as more modest, Missy had a kind heart and generous nature that led even Queen Naerys herself—as well as the Dragonknight and Prince Daeron—to befriend her. During the five years of her “reign,” Missy bore the king three bastards, most notably the boy Brynden Rivers (born 175), later called Bloodraven.
Children by Melissa Blackwood: Mya, Gwenys, Brynden (Bloodraven).
LADY BETHANY BRACKENLady Barba’s younger sister Bethany was groomed by her father and sister expressly to win the king’s favor and displace Missy Blackwood. In 177, she caught Aegon’s eye as he visited at Stone Hedge to see his bastard son, Aegor. By now, the king was fat and foul-tempered, but Bethany delighted him, and he took her back with him to King’s Landing. However, Bethany found his royal embraces distressing. For comfort, she turned to a knight of the Kingsguard, Ser Terrence Toyne. The pair was discovered abed by Aegon himself in 178. Ser Terrence was tortured to death and both Lady Bethany and her father were executed. When Ser Terrence’s brothers sought to avenge his death, Prince Aemon the Dragonknight was slain while defending his brother, King Aegon.
Children by Bethany Bracken: None.
LADY JEYNE LOTHSTONDaughter of Lady Falena, the king’s first mistress, by either Lord Lucas Lothston or the king himself Jeyne was brought to court by her mother in 178, when she was fourteen. Aegon made Lord Lothston his new Hand, and it was said (but never proved) that he enjoyed mother and daughter together in the same bed. He soon gave Jeyne a pox he’d caught from the whores he’d been seeing after Lady Bethany’s execution, and the Lothstons were then all sent from court again.
Children by Jeyne Lothston: None.
SERENEI OF LYS (SWEET SERENEI)A Lysene beauty from an ancient but impoverished line, brought to court by Lord Jon Hightower, the new Hand Serenei was the most beautiful of Aegon’s mistresses, but she was also reputed to be a sorceress.
She died giving birth to the last of the king’s bastard children, a girl called Shiera Seastar who became the greatest beauty in the Seven Kingdoms, beloved of both her half brothers, Bittersteel and Bloodraven, whose rivalry would ripen to hatred.
Children by Serenei: Shiera.
(l. to r.): Lady Bethany Bracken, Lady Barba Bracken, Megette (Merry Meg), Lady Cassella Vaith, Lady Jeyne Lothston (illustration credit 72) D AERON II IN THE 184TH year since Aegon’s Conquest, Aegon IV, the Unworthy, at last let go of life.
His son and heir, Prince Daeron, departed Dragonstone within the fortnight after learning of his father’s demise and was swiftly crowned by the High Septon in the Red Keep. He chose to be crowned with his father’s crown—a decision likely intended to quell any remaining doubts about his legitimacy. Daeron then acted swiftly to put right many of the things that Aegon had put wrong, beginning by removing all the members of the king’s small council and replacing them with men of his own choosing, most of whom proved wise and capable councillors. It was a year and more before the City Watch was similarly repaired, for King Aegon had often used promotion to the Watch as a way to shower largesse on those he most favored, and they in turn made sure that the brothels—and even the decent women of the city—were available for Aegon’s lusts.
Daeron did not stop there, however, in his efforts to improve those things that his father had corrupted or had left to rot through malign neglect. He was conscientious in his duties to the realm and sought to stabilize it in the wake of Aegon’s deathbed decree, which legitimized all his bastard half siblings. Although he could not—and would not—rescind his father’s last wishes, he did what he could to keep the Great Bastards close, treating them honorably and continuing the incomes that the king had bestowed on them. He paid the dowry that Aegon had promised to the Archon of Tyrosh, thereby seeing his half brother Daemon Blackfyre wed to Rohanne of Tyrosh as Aegon had desired, for all that Ser Daemon was only four-and-ten. On their wedding day, he granted Daemon a tract of land near the Blackwater, with the right to raise a castle. Some said he did such things to assert his rule and legitimacy over the Great Bastards, and others because he was kind and just. But whatever the truth, such efforts sadly proved in vain.
Daeron II and Prince Maron Martell at the monument to King Baelor.(illustration credit 73) Yet his realm was not marked solely by the question of the Great Bastards, or even Aegon’s misrule. His marriage to Mariah of Dorne—now Queen of the Seven Kingdoms—had been happy and fruitful, and one of his earliest significant acts after assuming the throne was to begin negotiations with his good-brother, Prince Maron, to unify Dorne under Targaryen rule. Two years of negotiation later, an agreement was reached in which Prince Maron agreed to be betrothed to Daeron’s sister, Daenerys, once she was of age. They were wed the following year, and with that marriage, Prince Maron knelt and swore his oaths of fealty before the Iron Throne.
King Daeron raised up the Dornish prince to great acclaim, and together they departed the Red Keep and rode to the Great Sept to lay a golden wreath at the foot of the statue of Baelor the Blessed while proclaiming, “Baelor, your work is done.” It was a great moment, at last unifying the realm from the Wall to the Summer Sea as Aegon the Conqueror had once dreamed—and doing so without the terrible cost of life that Daeron II’s namesake, the Young Dragon, had paid.
In the following year, Daeron raised a great seat in the Dornish Marches, near to where the boundaries of the Reach, the stormlands, and Dorne met. Calling it Summerhall to mark the peace he had created, it was more palace than castle and lightly fortified at best; in the years to come, many sons of House Targaryen would hold the seat as Prince of Summerhall.
However, Prince Maron had won a few concessions in the accord, and the lords of Dorne held significant rights and privileges that the other great houses did not—the right to keep their royal title first among them, but also the autonomy to maintain their own laws, the right to assess and gather the taxes due to the Iron Throne with only irregular oversight from the Red Keep, and other such matters.
Dissatisfaction at these concessions was one of the seeds from which the first Blackfyre Rebellion sprang, as was the belief that Dorne held too much influence over the king—for Daeron II brought many Dornishmen to his court, some of whom were granted offices of note.
It has been said in the years after Daemon Blackfyre proved a traitor that his hatred of Daeron began to grow early. It was Aegon’s desire—not Daemon’s—that he be wed to Rohanne of Tyrosh. Instead, Daemon had developed a passion for Daeron’s sister, young Princess Daenerys. Only two years younger than Daemon, the princess supposedly loved the bastard prince in turn, if the singers can be believed, but neither Aegon IV nor Daeron II were willing to let such feelings rule in matters of state. Aegon saw more profit in a tie to Tyrosh, perhaps because its fleet would be of use if he made another attempt to conquer Dorne.
This seems plausible enough, but a different tale claims that Daemon was not so much opposed to wedding Rohanne of Tyrosh as he was convinced that he could follow in the footsteps of Aegon the Conqueror and Maegor the Cruel and have more than one bride.
Aegon might even have promised to indulge him in this (some of Blackfyre’s partisans later claimed this was the case) but Daeron was of a different mind entirely. Not only did Daeron refuse to permit his brother more than one wife, but he also gave Daenerys’s hand to Maron Martell, as part of the bargain to finally unite the Seven Kingdoms with Dorne.
Whether Daenerys loved Daemon, as those who rose for the Black Dragon later claimed, who could say? In the years afterward, Daenerys was never aught but a loyal wife to Prince Maron, and if she mourned Daemon Blackfyre, she left no record of it.
Still, Daeron’s reign quickly stabilized the realm, and he soon came to be called Daeron the Good by the smallfolk and noble lords alike. He was widely seen as just and good-hearted, even if some questioned the influence of his Dornish wife. And though he was no warrior—descriptions of the era note that he was small of frame, with thin arms, round shoulders, and a scholarly disposition—two of his four sons seemed all that could be wished in a knight, lord, or heir. The eldest, Prince Baelor, won the name Breakspear at the age of seventeen, following his famous victory at Princess Daenerys’s wedding tourney; he defeated Daemon Blackfyre in the final tilt. And his youngest son, Prince Maekar, seemed like to show a similar prowess.