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Next was Prince Jaehaerys, now Prince of Dragonstone. Though King Aegon had acquired a distaste for the Valyrian custom of incestuous marriage during his years amongst the smallfolk, Prince Jaehaerys was of a more traditional bent, for from a very early age he had loved his sister Shaera and dreamed of wedding her in the old Targaryen fashion. Once aware of his desires, King Aegon and Queen Betha had done their best to separate the two, yet somehow distance only seemed to inflame the mutual passion of this prince and princess.
Prince Jaehaerys was not as forceful as his brother, but when Duncan defied his father to follow his own heart, and the king and court yielded to his desire, the younger prince did not fail to take note.
In 240 AC, a year after Prince Duncan’s marriage, Prince Jaehaerys and Princess Shaera each eluded their guardians and were secretly married. Jaehaerys was fifteen and Shaera fourteen at the time of their wedding. By the time the king and queen learned what had happened, the marriage had already been consummated. Aegon felt he had no choice but to accept it. Once again the king had to deal with the wounded pride and anger of the noble houses thus affronted, for Jaehaerys had been betrothed to Celia Tully, daughter of the Lord of Riverrun, and Shaera to Luthor Tyrell, the heir to Highgarden.
Jaehaerys and Shaera would have two children, Aerys and Rhaella. On the word of Jenny of Oldstone’s woods witch, Prince Jaehaerys determined to wed Aerys to Rhaella, or so the accounts from his court tell us. King Aegon washed his hands of it in frustration, letting the prince have his way.
Corrupted by the example of his brothers, even King Aegon’s youngest son Prince Daeron vexed his father in like manner. Though betrothed to Lady Olenna Redwyne of the Arbor when both of them were nine, Prince Daeron repudiated the match in 246 AC, when he was eighteen … though in his case, there appears to have been no other woman, for Daeron remained unwed throughout the remainder of his short life. A born soldier who rejoiced in tournament and battle, he preferred the companionship of Ser Jeremy Norridge, a dashing young knight who had been with the prince since the two of them were squires together at Highgarden. Prince Daeron brought to his father, Aegon, an altogether deeper sort of grief when he was killed in battle in 251 AC, leading an army against the Rat, the Hawk, and the Pig. Ser Jeremy died at his side, but the rebellion was quashed, and the rebels slain or hanged.
In 258 AC on Essos, another challenge rose to Aegon’s reign, when nine outlaws, exiles, pirates, and sellsword captains met in the Disputed Lands beneath the Tree of Crowns to form an unholy alliance. The Band of Nine swore their oath of mutual aid and support in carving out kingdoms for each of their members. Amongst them was the last Blackfyre, Maelys the Monstrous, who had command of the Golden Company, and the kingdom they pledged to win for him was the Seven Kingdoms. Prince Duncan, when told of the pact, famously remarked that crowns were being sold nine a penny; thereafter the Band of Nine became known as the Ninepenny Kings in Westeros. It was thought at first that the Free Cities of Essos would surely bring their power against them and put an end to their pretensions, but nonetheless preparations were made, should Maelys and his allies turn on the Seven Kingdoms. But there was no great urgency to them, and King Aegon remained intent on his reign.
And intent on one more thing: dragons. As he grew older, Aegon V had come to dream of dragons flying once more above the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. In this, he was not unlike his predecessors, who brought septons to pray over the last eggs, mages to work spells over them, and maesters to pore over them. Though friends and counselors sought to dissuade him, King Aegon grew ever more convinced that only with dragons would he ever wield sufficient power to make the changes he wished to make in the realm and force the proud and stubborn lords of the Seven Kingdoms to accept his decrees.
The last years of Aegon’s reign were consumed by a search for ancient lore about the dragon breeding of Valyria, and it was said that Aegon commissioned journeys to places as far away as Asshai-by-the-Shadow with the hopes of finding texts and knowledge that had not been preserved in Westeros.
What became of the dream of dragons was a grievous tragedy born in a moment of joy. In the fateful year 259 AC, the king summoned many of those closest to him to Summerhall, his favorite castle, there to celebrate the impending birth of his first great-grandchild, a boy later named Rhaegar, to his grandson Aerys and granddaughter Rhaella, the children of Prince Jaehaerys.
It is unfortunate that the tragedy that transpired at Summerhall left very few witnesses alive, and those who survived would not speak of it. A tantalizing page of Gyldayn’s history—surely one of the very last written before his own death—hints at much, but the ink that was spilled over it in some mishap blotted out too much.
SAMARRO SAAN, THE LAST VALYRIAN: A notorious pirate from a notorious family of pirates from Lys, with the blood of Valyria in his veins.
XHOBAR QHOQUA, THE EBON PRINCE: An exile prince from the Summer Isle, he had found his fortunes in the Disputed Lands and led a sellsword company.
LIOMOND LASHARE, THE LORD OF BATTLES: A famed sellsword captain.
MAELYS BLACKFYRE, THE MONSTROUS: Captain of the Golden Company, named for his grotesquely huge torso and arms, fearsome strength, and savage nature. A second head grew from his neck, no bigger than a fist. He won command of the Golden Company by fighting his cousin, Daemon Blackfyre, for it, killing his cousin’s destrier with a single punch and then twisting Daemon’s head until it was torn from his shoulders.
Jaehaerys had known that the Band of Nine meant to win the Seven Kingdoms for Maelys the Monstrous, who had declared himself King Maelys I Blackfyre, but like his father, Aegon, Jaehaerys had hoped the alliance of rogues would founder in Essos, or fall at the hands of some alliance amongst the Free Cities. Now the moment was at hand, and King Aegon V was gone, as was the Prince of Dragonflies. Prince Daeron, that splendid knight, had died years before, leaving only Jaehaerys, the least martial of Aegon’s three sons.
The new king was four-and-thirty years of age as he ascended the Iron Throne. No one would have called him formidable. Unlike his brothers, Jaehaerys II Targaryen was thin and scrawny, and had battled various ailments all his life. Yet he did not lack for courage, or intelligence. Drawing on his father’s plans, His Grace put aside his grief, called his lords bannermen, and resolved to meet the Ninepenny Kings upon the Stepstones, choosing to take the war to them rather than awaiting their landing on the shores of the Seven Kingdoms.
King Jaehaerys had intended to lead the attack upon the Ninepenny Kings himself, but his Hand, Lord Ormund Baratheon, persuaded him that would be unwise. The king was unused to the rigors of campaign and not skilled in arms, the Hand pointed out, and it would be folly to risk losing him in battle so soon after the tragedy of Summerhall. Jaehaerys finally allowed himself to be persuaded to remain at King’s Landing with his queen. Command of the host was given to Lord Ormund, as King’s Hand.
In 260 AC, his lordship landed Targaryen armies upon three of the Stepstones, and the War of the Ninepenny Kings turned bloody. Battle raged across the islands and the channels between for most of that year. Maester Eon’s Account of the War of the Ninepenny Kings, one of the finest works of its kind, is a splendid source for the details of the fighting, with its many battles on land and sea and notable feats of arms. Lord Ormund Baratheon, the Westerosi commander, was amongst the first to perish. Cut down by the hand of Maelys the Monstrous, he died in the arms of his son and heir, Steffon Baratheon.
Command of the Targaryen host passed to the new young Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Ser Gerold Hightower, the White Bull. Hightower and his men were hard-pressed for a time, but as the war hung in the balance, a young knight named Ser Barristan Selmy slew Maelys in single combat, winning undying renown and deciding the issue in a stroke, for the remainder of the Ninepenny Kings had little or no interest in Westeros and soon fell back to their own domains. Maelys the Monstrous was the fifth and last of the Blackfyre Pretenders; with his death, the curse that Aegon the Unworthy had inflicted on the Seven Kingdoms by giving his sword to his bastard son was finally ended.
Half a year of hard fighting remained before the Stepstones and the Disputed Lands were freed from the remaining Band of Nine, and it would be six years before Alequo Adarys, the Tyrant of Tyrosh, was poisoned by his queen and the Archon of Tyrosh was restored. For the Seven Kingdoms, it had been a grand victory, though not without cost in lives or suffering.
The realm thereafter returned to peace. Though never strong, Jaehaerys II proved to be a capable king, restoring order to the Seven Kingdoms and reconciling many of the great houses who had grown unhappy with the Iron Throne because of King Aegon V’s attempted reforms. But his reign proved to be a short one. In 262 AC, King Jaehaerys II sickened and died abed after a short illness, complaining of a sudden shortness of breath. He was but thirty-seven years of age at his passing, and had sat the Iron Throne for scarce three years.
Ser Barristan Selmy and Maelys the Monstrous locked in combat. (illustration credit 80) A ERYS II AERYS TARGARYEN, the Second of His Name, was but eighteen years of age when he ascended the Iron Throne in 262 AC, upon the death of his father, Jaehaerys, after little more than three years of rule. A handsome youth, Aerys had fought gallantly in the Stepstones during the War of the Ninepenny Kings. Though not the most diligent of princes, nor the most intelligent, he had an undeniable charm that won him many friends. He was also vain, proud, and changeable, traits that made him easy prey for flatterers and lickspittles, but these flaws were not immediately apparent to most at the time of his ascension.
Not even the wisest could have known that Aerys II would in time be known as the Mad King, nor that his reign would ultimately put an end to near three centuries of Targaryen rule in Westeros. Yet even as Aerys donned his crown, in that fateful year of 262 AC, a lusty black-haired son named Robert had just been born to his cousin Steffon Baratheon and his lady wife at Storm’s End, whilst far to the north at Winterfell, Lord Rickard Stark celebrated the birth of his own son, Brandon. Another Stark, Eddard, followed within a year. All three of these infants, would, in the fullness of time, play crucial roles in the downfall of the dragons.
The new king had already provided the realm with an heir in the person of his son Rhaegar, born amongst the flames of Summerhall. Aerys and his queen, his sister Rhaella, were young, and it was anticipated that they would have many more children. This was a vital question at the time, for the tragedies of Aegon the Unlikely’s reign had trimmed the noble tree of House Targaryen down to just a pair of lonely branches.
Aerys II did not lack for ambition. Upon his coronation, he declared that it was his wish to be the greatest king in the history of the Seven Kingdoms, a conceit certain of his friends encouraged by suggesting that one day he might be remembered as Aerys the Wise or even Aerys the Great.
His father’s court had been made up largely of older, seasoned men, many of whom had also served during the reign of King Aegon V Aerys II dismissed them one and all, replacing them with.
lords of his own generation. Most notably, he retired the aged and exceedingly cautious Hand, Edgar Sloane, and named in his place Ser Tywin Lannister, the heir to Casterly Rock. At twenty years of age, Ser Tywin thus became the youngest Hand in the history of the Seven Kingdoms. Many maesters to this day insist that his appointment was the wisest thing that “Aerys the Wise” ever did.
Aerys and Tywin had known each other since childhood. As a boy, Tywin Lannister had served as a royal page at King’s Landing. He and Prince Aerys, together with a younger page, the prince’s cousin Steffon Baratheon of Storm’s End, had become inseparable. During the War of the Ninepenny Kings, the three friends had fought together, Tywin as a new-made knight, Steffon and Prince Aerys as squires. When Prince Aerys won his spurs at six-and-ten, it was to Ser Tywin he granted the signal honor of dubbing him a knight. In 261 AC, Tywin Lannister had proved his prowess as a commander when he put down an uprising by two of his father’s most powerful vassals, the Lords Tarbeck and Reyne, extinguishing both of their ancient houses in the process. Though the brutality of his methods drew censure from some, none could dispute that Ser Tywin restored order to the westerlands after the chaos and conflict of his father’s rule.
Aerys Targaryen and Tywin Lannister made for an unlikely partnership, it must be said. The young king was lively and active in the early years of his reign. He loved music, dancing, and masked balls, and was exceedingly fond of young women, filling his court with fair maidens from every corner of the realm. Some say he had as many mistresses as his ancestor Aegon the Unworthy (a most unlikely assertion given all we know of that monarch). Unlike Aegon IV however, Aerys II always seemed to, lose interest in his lovers quickly. Many lasted no longer than a fortnight and few as long as half a year.