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His Grace was full of grand schemes as well. Not long after his coronation, he announced his intent to conquer the Stepstones and make them a part of his realm for all time. In 264 AC, a visit to King’s Landing by Lord Rickard Stark of Winterfell awakened his interest in the North, and he hatched a plan to build a new Wall a hundred leagues north of the existing one and claim all the lands between. In 265 AC, offended by “the stink of King’s Landing,” he spoke of building a “white city” entirely of marble on the south bank of the Blackwater Rush. In 267 AC, after a dispute with the Iron Bank of Braavos regarding certain monies borrowed by his father, he announced that he would build the largest war fleet in the history of the world “to bring the Titan to his knees.” In 270 AC, during a visit to Sunspear, he told the Princess of Dorne that he would “make the Dornish deserts bloom” by digging a great underground canal beneath the mountains to bring water down from the rainwood.
King Aerys, the Second of His Name. (illustration credit 81)
None of these grandiose plans ever came to fruition; most, indeed, were forgotten within a moon’s turn, for Aerys II seemed to grow bored with his royal enthusiasms as quickly as he did his royal paramours. And yet the Seven Kingdoms prospered greatly during the first decade of his reign, for the King’s Hand was all that the king himself was not—diligent, decisive, tireless, fiercely intelligent, just, and stern. “The gods made and shaped this man to rule,” Grand Maester Pycelle wrote of Tywin Lannister in a letter to the Citadel after serving with him on the small council for two years.
And rule he did. As the king’s own behavior grew increasingly erratic, more and more the day-today running of the realm fell to his Hand. The realm prospered under Tywin Lannister’s stewardship —so much so that King Aerys’s endless caprices did not seem so portentous. Many Targaryens before him had exhibited similar behavior without great cause for concern. From Oldtown to the Wall, men began to say that Aerys might wear the crown, but it was Tywin Lannister who ruled the realm.
It was Tywin Lannister who settled the crown’s dispute with the Braavosi (though without “making the Titan kneel,” to the king’s displeasure), by repaying the monies lent to Jaehaerys II with gold from Casterly Rock, thereby taking the debts upon himself. Tywin won the approbation of many great lords by repealing what remained of the laws Aegon V had enacted to curb their powers. Tywin reduced tariffs and taxes on shipping going in and out of the cities of King’s Landing, Lannisport, and Oldtown, winning the support of many wealthy merchants. Tywin built new roads and repaired old ones, held many splendid tournaments about the realm to the delight of knights and commons both, cultivated trade with the Free Cities, and sternly punished bakers found guilty of adding sawdust to their bread and butchers selling horsemeat as beef. In all these efforts he was greatly aided by Grand Maester Pycelle, whose accounts of the reign of Aerys II give us our best portrait of these times.
Yet despite these accomplishments, Tywin Lannister was little loved. His rivals charged that he was humorless, unforgiving, unbending, proud, and cruel. His lords bannermen respected him and followed him loyally in war and peace, but none could truly be named his friends. Tywin despised his father, the weak-willed, fat, and ineffectual Lord Tytos Lannister, and his relations with his brothers Tygett and Gerion were notoriously stormy. He showed more regard for his brother Kevan, a close confidant and constant companion since childhood, and his sister Genna, but yet even in those cases, Tywin Lannister appeared more dutiful than affectionate.
In 263 AC, after a year as the King’s Hand, Ser Tywin married his beautiful young cousin Joanna Lannister, who had come to King’s Landing in 259 AC for the coronation of King Jaehaerys II and remained thereafter as a lady-in-waiting to Princess (later Queen) Rhaella. The bride and groom had known each other since they were children together at Casterly Rock. Though Tywin Lannister was not a man given to public display, it is said that his love for his lady wife was deep and long-abiding.
“Only Lady Joanna truly knows the man beneath the armor,” Grand Maester Pycelle wrote the Citadel, “and all his smiles belong to her and her alone. I do avow that I have even observed her make him laugh, not once, but upon three separate occasions!” Sadly, the marriage between Aerys II Targaryen and his sister, Rhaella, was not as happy; though she turned a blind eye to most of the king’s infidelities, the queen did not approve of his “turning my ladies into his whores.” (Joanna Lannister was not the first lady to be dismissed abruptly from Her Grace’s service, nor was she the last). Relations between the king and queen grew even more strained when Rhaella proved unable to give Aerys any further children. Miscarriages in 263 and 264 were followed by a stillborn daughter born in 267. Prince Daeron, born in 269, survived for only half a year. Then came another stillbirth in 270, another miscarriage in 271, and Prince Aegon, born two turns premature in 272, dead in 273.
The scurrilous rumor that Joanna Lannister gave up her maidenhead to Prince Aerys the night of his father’s coronation and enjoyed a brief reign as his paramour after he ascended the Iron Throne can safely be discounted. As Pycelle insists in his letters, Tywin Lannister would scarce have taken his cousin to wife if that had been true, “for he was ever a proud man and not one accustomed to feasting upon another man’s leavings.” It has been reliably reported, however, that King Aerys took unwonted liberties with Lady Joanna’s person during her bedding ceremony, to Tywin’s displeasure. Not long thereafter, Queen Rhaella dismissed Joanna Lannister from her service. No reason for this was ever given, but Lady Joanna departed at once for Casterly Rock and seldom visited King’s Landing thereafter.
At first His Grace comforted Rhaella in her grief, but over time his compassion turned to suspicion. By 270 AC, he had decided that the queen was being unfaithful to him. “The gods will not suffer a bastard to sit the Iron Throne,” he told his small council; none of Rhaella’s stillbirths, miscarriages, or dead princes had been his, the king proclaimed. Thereafter, he forbade the queen to leave the confines of Maegor’s Holdfast and decreed that two septas would henceforth share her bed every night, “to see that she remains true to her vows.” What Tywin Lannister made of this is not recorded, but in 266 AC, at Casterly Rock, Lady Joanna gave birth to a pair of twins, a girl and a boy, “healthy and beautiful, with hair like beaten gold.” This birth only exacerbated the tension between Aerys II Targaryen and his Hand. “I appear to have married the wrong woman,” His Grace was reported to have said, when informed of the happy event.
Nonetheless, he sent each child its weight in gold as a nameday gift and commanded Tywin to bring them to court when they were old enough to travel. “And bring their mother, too, for it has been too long since I gazed upon that fair face,” he insisted.
The following year, 267 AC, saw the death of Lord Tytos Lannister at the age of six-and-forty.
Reportedly, his lordship’s heart burst as he was climbing a steep turnpike stair to the bedchambers of his mistress. With his passing, Ser Tywin Lannister became the Lord of Casterly Rock and Warden of the West. When he returned to the west to attend his father’s funeral and set the westerlands in order, King Aerys decided to accompany him. Though His Grace left the queen behind in King’s Landing (Her Grace was pregnant with the child who proved to be the stillborn Princess Shaena), he took their eight-year-old son Rhaegar, Prince of Dragonstone, and more than half the court. For the better part of the next year, the Seven Kingdoms were ruled from Lannisport and Casterly Rock, where both the king and his Hand were in residence.
The court returned to King’s Landing in 268 AC, and governance resumed as before … but it was plain to all that the friendship between the king and his Hand was fraying. Where previously Aerys had sided with Tywin Lannister on most matters of substance, now the two men began to disagree.
During a trade war between the Free Cities of Myr and Tyrosh on the one hand and V olantis on the other, Lord Tywin advocated a policy of neutrality; King Aerys saw more advantage in providing gold and arms to the V olantenes. When Lord Tywin adjudicated a border dispute between House Blackwood and House Bracken in favor of the Blackwoods, His Grace overruled him and gave the disputed mill to Lord Bracken.
Over his Hand’s strenuous objections, the king doubled the port fees at King’s Landing and Oldtown, and tripled them for Lannisport and the realm’s other ports and harbors. When a delegation of small lords and rich merchants came before the Iron Throne to complain, however, Aerys blamed the Hand for the exactions, saying, “Lord Tywin shits gold, but of late he has been constipated and had to find some other way to fill our coffers.” Whereupon His Grace restored port fees and tariffs to their previous levels, earning much acclaim for himself and leaving Tywin Lannister the opprobrium.
The growing rift between the king and the King’s Hand was also apparent in the matter of appointments. Whereas previously His Grace had always heeded his Hand’s counsel, bestowing offices, honors, and inheritances as Lord Tywin recommended, after 270 AC he began to disregard the men put forward by his lordship in favor of his own choices. Many westermen found themselves dismissed from the king’s service for no better cause than the suspicion that they might be “Hand’s men.” In their places, King Aerys appointed his own favorites … but the king’s favor had become a chancy thing, his mistrust easy to awaken. Even the Hand’s own kin were not exempt from royal displeasure. When Lord Tywin wished to name his brother Ser Tygett Lannister as the Red Keep’s master-at-arms, King Aerys gave the post to Ser Willem Darry instead.
Lord Tywin Lannister, Hand of the King. (illustration credit 82) By this time, King Aerys had become aware of the widespread belief that he himself was but a hollow figurehead and Tywin Lannister the true master of the Seven Kingdoms. These sentiments greatly angered the king, and His Grace became determined to disprove them and to humble his “overmighty servant” and “put him back into his place.” At the great Anniversary Tourney of 272 AC, held to commemorate Aerys’s tenth year upon the Iron Throne, Joanna Lannister brought her six-year-old twins Jaime and Cersei from Casterly Rock to present before the court. The king (very much in his cups) asked her if giving suck to them had “ruined your breasts, which were so high and proud.” The question greatly amused Lord Tywin’s rivals, who were always pleased to see the Hand slighted or made mock of, but Lady Joanna was humiliated.
Tywin Lannister attempted to return his chain of office the next morning, but the king refused to accept his resignation.
Aerys II could, of course, have dismissed Tywin Lannister at any time and named his own man as Hand of the King, but instead, for whatever reason, the king chose to keep his boyhood friend close by him, laboring on his behalf, even as he began to undermine him in ways both great and small.
Slights and gibes became ever more numerous; courtiers hoping for advancement soon learned that the quickest way to catch the king’s eye was by making mock of his solemn, humorless Hand. Yet through all this, Tywin Lannister suffered in silence.
In 273 AC, however, Lady Joanna was taken to childbed once again at Casterly Rock, where she died delivering Lord Tywin’s second son. Tyrion, as the babe was named, was a malformed, dwarfish babe born with stunted legs, an oversized head, and mismatched, demonic eyes (some reports also suggested he had a tail, which was lopped off at his lord father’s command). Lord Tywin’s Doom, the smallfolk called this ill-made creature, and Lord Tywin’s Bane. Upon hearing of his birth, King Aerys infamously said, “The gods cannot abide such arrogance. They have plucked a fair flower from his hand and given him a monster in her place, to teach him some humility at last.” It was not long before reports of the king’s remarks reached Lord Tywin as he grieved at Casterly Rock. Thereafter, no shred of the old affection between the two men endured. Never a man to make a show of his emotion, Lord Tywin continued on as Hand of the King, dealing with the daily tedium of the Seven Kingdoms, while the king grew ever more erratic, violent, and suspicious. Aerys began to surround himself with informers, paying handsome rewards to men of dubious repute for whispers, lies, and tales of treasons, real and imagined. When one such reported that the captain of the Hand’s personal guard, a knight named Ser Ilyn Payne, had been heard boasting it was Lord Tywin who truly ruled the Seven Kingdoms, His Grace sent the Kingsguard to arrest the man and had his tongue ripped out with red-hot pincers.
The march of the king’s madness seemed to abate for a time in 274 AC, when Queen Rhaella gave birth to a son. So profound was His Grace’s joy that it seemed to restore him to his old self once again … but Prince Jaehaerys died later that same year, plunging Aerys into despair. In his black rage, he decided the babe’s wet nurse was to blame and had the woman beheaded. Not long after, in a change of heart, Aerys announced that Jaehaerys had been poisoned by his own mistress, the pretty young daughter of one of his household knights. The king had the girl and all her kin tortured to death.
During the course of their torment, it is recorded, all confessed to the murder, though the details of their confessions were greatly at odds.
Afterward, King Aerys fasted for a fortnight and made a walk of repentance across the city to the Great Sept, to pray with the High Septon. On his return, His Grace announced that henceforth he would sleep only with his lawful wife, Queen Rhaella. If the chronicles can be believed, Aerys remained true to this vow, losing all interest in the charms of women from that day in 275 AC.