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Many and more great houses trace their roots back to this golden age of the First Men. Amongst these are the Hawthornes, the Footes, the Brooms, and the Plumms. On Fair Isle, the longships of the Farmans helped defend the western coast against ironborn reavers. The Greenfields raised a vast timber castle called the Bower (now simply Greenfield), built entirely of weirwood. The Reynes of Castamere made a rich system of mines, caves, and tunnels as their own subterranean seat, whilst the Westerlings built the Crag above the waves. Other houses sprang from the loins of legendary heroes, of whom tales are told to this very day: the Crakehalls from Crake the Boarkiller, the Baneforts from the Hooded Man, the Yews from the Blind Bowman Alan o’ the Oak, the Morelands from Pate the Plowman.
Each of these families became powers, and some in time took on the styles of lords and even kings.
Yet by far the greatest lords in the westerlands were the Casterlys of the Rock, who had their seat in a colossal stone that rose beside the Sunset Sea. Legend tells us the first Casterly lord was a huntsman, Corlos son of Caster, who lived in a village near to where Lannisport stands today. When a lion began preying upon the village’s sheep, Corlos tracked it back to its den, a cave in the base of the Rock. Armed only with a spear, he slew the lion and his mate but spared her newborn cubs—an act of mercy that so pleased the old gods (for this was long before the Seven came to Westeros) that they sent a sudden shaft of sunlight deep into the cave, and there in the stony walls, Corlos beheld the gleam of yellow gold, a vein as thick as a man’s waist.
The truth of that tale is lost in the mists of time, but we cannot doubt that Corlos, or some progenitor of what would become House Casterly, found gold inside the Rock and soon began to mine there. To defend his treasure against those who would make off with it, he moved inside the cave and fortified its entrance. As years and centuries passed, his descendants delved deeper and deeper into the earth, following the gold, whilst carving halls and galleries and stairways and tunnels into the Rock itself, transforming the gigantic stone into a mighty fastness that dwarfed every castle in Westeros.
Though never kings, the Casterlys became the richest lords in all of Westeros and the greatest power in the westerlands, and remained so for hundreds of years. By then the Dawn Age had given way to the Age of Heroes.
That was when the golden-haired rogue called Lann the Clever appeared from out of the east. Some say he was an Andal adventurer from across the narrow sea, though this was millennia before the coming of the Andals to Westeros. Regardless of his origins, the tales agree that somehow Lann the Clever winkled the Casterlys out of their Rock and took it for his own.
The precise method by which he accomplished this remains a matter of conjecture. In the most common version of the tale, Lann discovered a secret way inside the Rock, a cleft so narrow that he had to strip off his clothes and coat himself with butter in order to squeeze through. Once inside, however, he began to work his mischief, whispering threats in the ears of sleeping Casterlys, howling from the darkness like a demon, stealing treasures from one brother to plant in the bedchamber of another, rigging sundry snares and deadfalls. By such methods he set the Casterlys at odds with one another and convinced them that the Rock was haunted by some fell creature that would never let them live in peace.
Other tellers prefer other versions of the tale. In one, Lann uses the cleft to fill the Rock with mice, rats, and other vermin, thereby driving out the Casterlys. In another, he smuggles a pride of lions inside, and Lord Casterly and his sons are all devoured, after which Lann claims his lordship’s wife and daughters for himself. The bawdiest of the stories has Lann stealing in night after night to have his way with the Casterly maidens whilst they sleep. In nine months time, these maids all give birth to golden-haired children whilst still insisting they had never had carnal knowledge of a man.
The last tale, ribald as it is, has certain intriguing aspects that might hint at the truth of what occurred. It is Archmaester Perestan’s belief that Lann was a retainer of some sort in service to Lord Casterly (perhaps a household guard), who impregnated his lordship’s daughter (or daughters, though that seems less likely), and persuaded her father to give him the girl’s hand in marriage. If indeed this was what occurred, assuming (as we must) that Lord Casterly had no trueborn sons, then in the natural course of events the Rock would have passed to the daughter, and hence to Lann, upon the father’s death.
There is, to be sure, no more historical evidence for this than for any of the other versions. All that is known for certain is that sometime during the Age of Heroes, the Casterlys vanish from the chronicles, and the hitherto-unknown Lannisters appear in their place, ruling large portions of the westerlands from beneath Casterly Rock.
Lann the Clever supposedly lived to the age of 312, and sired a hundred bold sons and a hundred lissome daughters, all fair of face, clean of limb, and blessed with hair “as golden as the sun.” But such tales aside, the histories suggest that the early Lannisters were fertile as well as fair, for many names began to appear in the chronicles, and within a few generations Lann’s descendants had grown so numerous that even Casterly Rock could not contain all of them. Rather than tunnel out new passages in the stone, some sons and daughters from lesser branches of the house left to make their homes in a village a scant mile away. The land was fertile, the sea teemed with fish, and the site they
had chosen had an excellent natural harbor. Soon enough the village grew into a town, then a city:
By the time the Andals came, Lannisport had become the second biggest city in Westeros. Only Oldtown was larger and richer, and trading ships from every corner of the world were sailing up the western coasts to call upon the golden city on the Sunset Sea. Gold had made House Lannister rich;
trade made it even richer. The Lannisters of Lannisport prospered, built great walls around their city to defend it from those (chiefly ironborn) who sought to steal their wealth, and soon became kings.
Lann the Clever never called himself a king, as best we know, though some tales told centuries later have conferred that styling on him posthumously. The first true Lannister king we know of is Loreon Lannister, also known as Loreon the Lion (a number of Lannisters through the centuries have been dubbed “the Lion” or “the Golden,” for understandable reasons), who made the Reynes of Castamere his vassals by wedding a daughter of that house, and defeated the Hooded King, Morgon Banefort, and his thralls in a war that lasted twenty years. Loreon might have been the first Lannister to style himself King of the Rock, but it was a title his sons and grandsons and their successors continued to bear for thousands of years. However, the boundaries of their kingdom did not reach their full scope until the arrival of the Andal invaders. The Andals came late to the westerlands, long after they had taken the Vale and toppled the kingdoms of the First Men in the riverlands. The first Andal warlord to march an army through the hills met a bloody end at the hands of King Tybolt Lannister (called, unsurprisingly, the Thunderbolt). The second and third attacks were dealt with likewise, but as more and more Andals began moving west in bands large and small, King Tyrion III and his son Gerold II saw their doom ahead.
Rather than attempting to throw back the invaders, these sage kings arranged marriages for the more powerful of the Andal war chiefs with the daughters of the great houses of the west. Cautious men, and well aware of what had happened in the Vale, they took care to demand a price for this largesse;
the sons and daughters of the Andal lords so ennobled were taken as wards and fosterlings, to serve as squires and pages and cupbearers in Casterly Rock … and as hostages, should their fathers prove treacherous.
In time, Lannister kings wed their children to Andals as well; indeed, when Gerold III died without male issues, a council crowned his only daughter’s husband, Ser Joffery Lydden, who took the Lannister name and became the first Andal to rule the Rock. Other noble houses were also born in such unions—such as Jast, Lefford, Parren, Droxe, Marbrand, Braxe, Serrett, Sarsfield, and Kyndall.
And thus revitalized, the Kings of the Rock expanded their realm still farther.
Cerion Lannister extended his rule as far east as the Golden Tooth and its surrounding hills, defeating three lesser kings when they made an alliance against him. Tommen Lannister, the First of His Name, built a great fleet and brought Fair Isle into the realm, taking the daughter of the last Farman king to wife. Loreon II held the first tourney ever seen in the westerlands, defeating every knight who rode against him. The first Lancel Lannister (known, of course, as Lancel the Lion) rode to war against the Gardener kings of Highgarden and conquered the Reach as far south as Old Oak before being felled in battle. (His son, Loreon III, lost all his father had gained and earned the mocking name Loreon the Limp). King Gerold Lannister, known as Gerold the Great, sailed to the Iron Islands and returned with a hundred ironborn hostages, promising to hang one every time the ironmen dared raid his shores. (True to his word, Gerold hanged more than twenty of the hostages).
Lancel IV is said to have beheaded the ironborn king Harrald Halfdrowned and his heir with a single stroke of the Valyrian steel greatsword Brightroar at the Battle of Lann’s Point; he later died in battle at Red Lake whilst attempting to invade the Reach.
Brightroar, the lost Valyrian steel sword of the Lannisters. (illustration credit 125) Some of the Lannister kings were famed for their wisdom, some for their valor, all for their openhandedness … save perhaps for King Norwin Lannister, better known as Norwin the Niggardly. Yet Casterly Rock also housed many a weak, cruel, and feeble king. Loreon IV was better known as Loreon the Lackwit, and his grandson Loreon V was dubbed Queen Lorea, for he was fond of dressing in his wife’s clothing and wandering the docks of Lannisport in the guise of a common prostitute. (After their reigns, the name Loreon became notably less common amongst Lannister princes.) A later monarch, Tyrion II, was known as the Tormentor. Though a strong king, famed for prowess with his battle-axe, his true delight was torture, and it was whispered of him that he desired no woman unless he first made her bleed.
The sword Brightroar came into the possession of the Lannister kings in the century before the Doom, and it is said that the weight of gold they paid for it would have been enough to raise an army. But it was lost little more than a century later, when Tommen II carried it with him when he sailed with his great fleet to ruined Valyria, with the intention of plundering the wealth and sorcery he was sure still remained. The fleet never returned, nor Tommen, nor Brightroar.
olantene chronicle called The Glory of Volantis.
The last report of them is found in a V There it stated that a “golden fleet” bearing the “Lion King” had stayed there for supplies, and that the triarchs lavished him with gifts. The chronicle claims that he swore that half of all he found would be given to the triarchs in return for their generosity—and a promise to send their fleet to his aid when he requested it. After that, he sailed away. The year after, the chronicle claims that the Triarch Marqelo Tagaros dispatched a squadron of ships toward Valyria to see if any sign of the golden fleet could be found, but they returned empty-handed.
Ultimately the Lannister domains extended from the western shore to the headwaters of the Red Fork and Tumblestone, marked by the pass beneath the Golden Tooth, and from the southern shore of Ironman’s Bay to the borders of the Reach. The boundaries of the westerlands today follow those of the Kingdom of the Rock as it was before the Field of Fire, when King Loren Lannister (Loren the Last) knelt as a king and rose as a lord. But in bygone days, the boundaries were more fluid, particularly to the south, where the Lannisters oft contended against the Gardeners in the Reach, and to the east, where they warred against the many kings of the Trident.
In addition, the Lannister coastline lay closer to the Iron Islands than did any other kingdom, and the wealth of Lannisport and its trade was a constant temptation to the reavers of those benighted isles. Wars between the westermen and the ironborn erupted every generation or so; even during periods of peace, the ironmen came raiding after wealth and salt wives. Fair Isle did help shield the coast farther south; for this reason the Farmans have become famous for their hatred of the ironborn.
The great wealth of the westerlands, of course, stems primarily from their gold and silver mines.
The veins of ore run wide and deep, and there are mines, even now, that have been delved for a thousand years and more and are yet to be emptied. Lomas Longstrider reports that, even in far Asshai-by-the-Shadow, there were merchants who asked him if it was true that the “Lion Lord” lived in a palace of solid gold and that crofters collected a wealth of gold simply by plowing their fields.
The gold of the west has traveled far, and the maesters know there are no mines in all the world as rich as those of Casterly Rock.
Th e wealth of the westerlands was matched, in ancient times, with the hunger of the Freehold of Valyria for precious metals, yet there seems no evidence that the dragonlords ever made contact with the lords of the Rock, Casterly or Lannister. Septon Barth speculated on the matter, referring to a Valyrian text that has since been lost, suggesting that the Freehold’s sorcerers foretold that the gold of Casterly Rock would destroy them.
Archmaester Perestan has put forward a different, more plausible speculation, suggesting that the Valyrians had in ancient days reached as far as Oldtown but suffered some great reverse or tragedy there that caused them to shun all of Westeros thereafter.
HOUSE LANNISTER UNDER THE DRAGONS