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Though she herself remained unwelcome at the Rock, Lady Ellyn had contrived to extract large sums of gold from House Lannister through her brothers, for Lord Tytos found it very hard to refuse the Red Lion. Those funds she had used to restore the crumbling ruin that was Tarbeck Hall, rebuilding its curtain wall, strengthening its towers, and furnishing its keep in splendor to rival any castle in the west.

In 255 AC, Lord Tytos celebrated the birth of his fourth son at Casterly Rock, but his joy soon turned to sorrow. His beloved wife, the Lady Jeyne, never recovered from her labor, and died within a moon’s turn of Gerion Lannister’s birth. Her loss was a shattering blow to his lordship. From that day forth, no one ever again called him the Laughing Lion.

The years that followed were as dismal as any in the long history of the westerlands. Conditions in the west grew so bad that the Iron Throne felt compelled to take a hand. Thrice King Aegon V sent forth his knights to restore order to the westerlands, but each time the conflicts flared up once again as soon as the king’s men had taken their leave. When His Grace perished in the tragedy at Summerhall in 259 AC, matters in the west deteriorated even further, for the new king, Jaehaerys II Targaryen, lacked his sire’s strength of will and was besides soon embroiled in the War of the Ninepenny Kings.

A thousand knights and ten thousand men-at-arms went forth from the westerlands at the king’s call, but Lord Tytos was not amongst them. His lordship’s brother was given command in his stead, but in 260 AC Ser Jason Lannister died on Bloodstone. After his death, Ser Roger Reyne seized command of the remaining westermen and led them to several notable victories.

Lord Tytos’s three eldest sons also acquitted themselves well upon the Stepstones. Knighted on the eve of the conflict, Ser Tywin Lannister fought in the retinue of the king’s young heir, Aerys, Prince of Dragonstone, and was given the honor of dubbing him a knight at war’s end. Kevan Lannister, squiring for the Red Lion, also won his spurs, and was knighted by Roger Reyne himself. Their brother Tygett was too young for knighthood, but his courage and skill at arms were remarked upon by all, for he slew a grown man in his first battle and three more in later fights, one of them a knight of the Golden Company. Yet whilst his cubs were fighting on the Stepstones, Tytos Lannister remained at Casterly Rock, in the company of a certain young woman of low birth who had caught his eye whilst serving as a wet nurse to his youngest son.

Lord Tytos Lannister and his heir, Ser Tywin. (illustration credit 128) The return of Lord Tytos’s sons from war finally heralded change. Hardened by battle, and all too aware of the low regard in which the other lords of the realm held his father, Ser Tywin Lannister set out at once to restore the pride and power of Casterly Rock. His sire protested but feebly, we are told, then retreated back to the arms of his wet nurse whilst his heir took command.

Ser Tywin began by demanding repayment of all the gold Lord Tytos had lent out. Those who could not pay were required to send hostages to Casterly Rock. Five hundred knights, blooded and seasoned veterans of the Stepstones, were formed into a new company under the command of Ser Tywin’s brother Ser Kevan, and charged with ridding the west of robber knights and outlaws.

Some hastened to obey. “The lion has awoken,” said Ser Harys Swyft, the Knight of Cornfield, when the collectors arrived at his castle gates. Unable to repay his debt, he turned his daughter over to Ser Kevan as a hostage instead. But elsewhere, the collectors were met with sullen resistance and open defiance. Lord Reyne reportedly laughed when his maester read him Ser Tywin’s edicts and counseled his friends and vassals to do nothing.

Lord Walderan Tarbeck unwisely chose a different course. He rode to Casterly Rock to protest, confident in his ability to cow Lord Tytos and force him to rescind his son’s edicts. But he found himself facing Ser Tywin instead, who had him consigned to a dungeon.

With Lord Walderan in chains, Tywin Lannister no doubt expected the Tarbecks to yield. But Lady Tarbeck was quick to disabuse him of that notion. Instead that redoubtable woman sent forth her own knights and captured three Lannisters. Two of the captives were Lannisters of Lannisport, distant kin to the Lannisters of Casterly Rock, but the third was a young squire, Stafford Lannister, the eldest son and heir of Lord Tytos’s late brother, Ser Jason.

The resulting crisis drew Lord Tytos away from his wet nurse long enough to overrule his strongwilled heir. His lordship not only commanded that Lord Tarbeck be released, unharmed, but also went so far as to apologize to him and forgive him his debts.

To safeguard the exchange of hostages, Lord Tytos turned to Lady Tarbeck’s younger brother, Ser Reynard Reyne. The Red Lion’s formidable seat at Castamere was chosen to host the meet. Ser Tywin refused to attend, so it was Ser Kevan who returned Lord Walderan, whilst Lady Tarbeck herself delivered Stafford and his cousins. Lord Reyne feasted all the parties, and a great show of amity was staged, with Lannisters and Tarbecks toasting one another, exchanging gifts and kisses, and vowing to remain each other’s leal friends “through all eternity.” All eternity lasted not quite a year, Grand Maester Pycelle observed later. Tywin Lannister, who had not been present at the Red Lion’s feast, had never weakened in his resolve to bring these overmighty vassals to heel. Late in the year 261 AC, he sent ravens to Castamere and Tarbeck Hall, demanding that Roger and Reynard Reyne and Lord and Lady Tarbeck present themselves at Casterly Rock “to answer for your crimes.” The Reynes and Tarbecks chose defiance instead, as Ser Tywin surely knew they would. Both houses rose in open revolt, renouncing their fealty to Casterly Rock.

So Tywin Lannister called the banners. He did not seek his lord father’s leave, nor even inform him of his intent, but rode forth himself with five hundred knights and three thousand men-at-arms and crossbowmen behind him.

House Tarbeck was the first to feel Ser Tywin’s wroth. The Lannister host descended so quickly that Lord Walderan’s vassals and supporters had no time to gather. Foolishly his lordship rode forth to meet Ser Tywin’s host with only his household knights beside him. In a short, brutal battle, the Tarbecks were broken and butchered. Lord Walderan Tarbeck and his sons were beheaded, together with his nephews and cousins, his daughters’ husbands, and any man who displayed the seven-pointed blue-and-silver star upon his shield or surcoat to boast of Tarbeck blood. And when the Lannister host resumed its march to Tarbeck Hall, the heads of Lord Walderan and his sons went before them, impaled on spears.

At their approach, Lady Ellyn Tarbeck closed her gates and sent forth ravens to Castamere, summoning her brothers. Trusting in her walls, Lady Tarbeck no doubt anticipated a long siege, but siege engines were readied within a day, and those walls proved little help when one great stone flew over them and brought down the castle’s aged keep. Lady Ellyn and her son Tion the Red died in the keep’s sudden collapse. All resistance at Tarbeck Hall ended soon after, and the gates were thrown open to the Lannister host. Tywin Lannister then ordered Tarbeck Hall put to the torch. The castle burned for a day and a night, until naught remained but a blackened shell. The Red Lion arrived in time to see the flames. Two thousand men rode with him—all he had been able to gather in the short time available.

Tywin Lannister had three times his strength, most accounts agree; some insist the Lannisters outnumbered the Reynes five to one. Hoping that surprise might carry the day, Roger Reyne commanded his trumpets to sound the attack and charged headlong toward Ser Tywin’s camp. After the first shock, the Lannisters recovered quickly and their numbers soon began to tell. Lord Reyne had no choice but to wheel and flee, leaving near half his men dead upon the field. A rain of crossbow bolts chased his riders from the camp; one took Lord Reyne between the shoulders, punching through his backplate. The Red Lion rode on, only to fall from his horse less than a half a league farther on; he had to be carried back to Castamere.

The Lannister host arrived at Castamere three days later. Like Casterly Rock, the seat of House Reyne had begun as a mine. Rich veins of gold and silver had made the Reynes near as wealthy as the Lannisters during the Age of Heroes; to defend their riches, they had raised curtain walls about the entrance to their mine, closed it with an oak-and-iron gate, and flanked it with a pair of stout towers.

Keeps and halls had followed, but all the while the mineshafts had gone deeper and deeper, and when at last the gold gave out, they had been widened into halls and galleries and snug bedchambers, a warren of tunnels and a vast, echoing ballroom. To the ignorant eye, Castamere seemed a modest holding, a fit seat for a landed knight or small lord, but those who knew its secrets knew that ninetenths of the castle was beneath the ground.

It was to those deep chambers that the Reynes retreated now. Feverish and weak from loss of blood, the Red Lion was in no fit state to lead. Ser Reynard, his brother, assumed command in his stead. Less headstrong but more cunning than his brother, Reynard knew he did not have the men to defend the castle walls, so he abandoned the surface entirely to the foe and fell back beneath the earth. Once all his folk were safe inside the tunnels, Ser Reynard sent word to Ser Tywin above, offering terms. But Tywin Lannister did not honor Ser Reynard’s offer with a reply. Instead he commanded that the mines be sealed. With pick and axe and torch, his own miners brought down tons of stone and soil, burying the great gates to the mines until there was no way in and no way out. Once that was done, he turned his attention to the small, swift stream that fed the crystalline blue pool beside the castle from which Castamere took its name. It took less than a day to dam the stream and only two to divert it to the nearest mine entrance.

The earth and stone that sealed the mine had no gaps large enough to allow a squirrel to pass, let alone a man … but the water found its way down.

Ser Reynard had taken more than three hundred men, women, and children into the mines, it is said.

Not a one emerged. A few of the guards assigned to the smallest and most distant of the mine entrances reported hearing faint screams and shouts coming from beneath the earth one night, but by daybreak the stones had gone silent once again.

No one has ever reopened the mines of Castamere. The halls and keeps above them, put to the torch by Tywin Lannister, stand empty to this day, a mute testament to the fate that awaits those foolish enough to take up arms against the lions of the Rock.

In 262 AC, King Jaehaerys II died in King’s Landing, having sat the Iron Throne for only three years. His son Aerys, Prince of Dragonstone, succeeded him as King Aerys II. His first act as king— and his wisest, many say—was to summon his boyhood friend Tywin Lannister from Casterly Rock and name him the Hand of the King.

Ser Tywin was but twenty, the youngest man ever to serve as Hand, but the manner in which he had dealt with the rising of the Reynes and Tarbecks had made him well respected, even feared, throughout the Seven Kingdoms. His cousin Lady Joanna, the daughter of Lord Tytos’s late brother Ser Jason, was already in King’s Landing; she had been serving as a lady-in-waiting and companion to Rhaella since 259 AC. She and Ser Tywin were married a year after he became Hand of the King in a lavish ceremony at the Great Sept of Baelor, with King Aerys himself presiding over the wedding feast and bedding. In 266 AC, Lady Joanna gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl. Meanwhile, Ser Tywin’s brother Ser Kevan had also wed, taking to bride the daughter of Ser Harys Swyft of Cornfield, who had once been given to him as a hostage for her father’s debts.

In 267 AC, Lord Tytos Lannister’s heart burst as he was climbing a steep flight of steps to the bedchamber of his mistress (his lordship had finally put aside his wet nurse, only to become besotted with the charms of a candlemaker’s daughter). So at the age of five-and-twenty, Tywin Lannister became the Lord of Casterly Rock, Shield of Lannisport, and Warden of the West. With the Laughing Lion at last laid to rest, House Lannister had never been stronger nor more secure. The years that followed were golden ones, not only for the westerlands, but for all the Seven Kingdoms.

There was a worm inside the apple, though, for the growing madness of King Aerys II Targaryen soon imperiled all that Tywin Lannister sought to build. His lordship suffered great personal loss as well, for his beloved wife, Lady Joanna, died in 273 AC whilst giving birth to a hideously deformed child. With her death, Grand Maester Pycelle observes, the joy went out of Tywin Lannister, yet still he persisted in his duty.

Day by day and year by year, Aerys II turned ever more against his own Hand, the friend of his childhood, subjecting him to a succession of reproofs, reverses, and humiliations. All this Lord Tywin endured, but when the king made his son and heir, Ser Jaime, a knight of the Kingsguard, he could abide it no longer. Lord Tywin at last resigned the Handship in 281 AC.

Bereft of the counsel of the man he had relied upon so long, surrounded by lickspittles and schemers, King Aerys II was soon swallowed up entirely by his madness as the realm fell to pieces around him.

The events of Robert’s Rebellion are revealed elsewhere and need no retelling save to note that Lord Tywin led a great Lannister host out of the west to capture King’s Landing and the Red Keep for Robert Baratheon. Nigh unto three hundred years of Targaryen rule were brought to an end by the swords of Lord Tywin and his westermen. The following year, King Robert I Baratheon took Lord Tywin’s daughter, the Lady Cersei, to wife, joining two of the greatest and noblest houses in all Westeros.


Casterly Rock, the ancient seat of House Lannister, is no ordinary castle. Although crowned with towers and turrets and watchtowers, with stone walls and oaken gates and iron portcullises guarding its every means of egress, this ancient fortress is in truth a colossal rock beside the Sunset Sea, a rock that some say looks like a lion in repose when the sun sets and the shadows fall.

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