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The arms of House Tyrell (center) and some houses of note, past and present, (clockwise from top), Caswell, Florent, Fossoway, Gardener, Hightower, Merryweather, Mullendore, Oakheart, Redwyne, Rowan, Tarly, and Ashford. (illustration credit 138) Gareth Tyrell and his son Leo performed their duties so ably that the Gardeners made the office of High Steward hereditary. Through the centuries, many generations of Tyrells served in that capacity.
Many became close confidants and advisors to their kings; some also acted as castellans in times of war. At least one ruled the Reach as regent during the minority of King Garland VI. King Gyles III Gardener declared the Tyrells to be “my most leal servants,” and King Mern VI was so pleased with them that he gave Ser Robert Tyrell the hand of his youngest daughter in marriage (thereby allowing their sons, grandsons, and all the generations to follow to claim descent from Garth Greenhand). That was the first marriage between House Gardener and House Tyrell, but nine more unions between the two houses followed in the centuries to come.
It was not their royal blood that made Aegon Targaryen choose to name the Tyrells as Lords of Highgarden, Wardens of the South, and Lords Paramount of the Reach after King Mern IX, the last of the Gardener kings, died, along with all his sons, upon the Field of Fire. Those honors were won by the prudence of Harlan Tyrell, who opened the gates of Highgarden at Aegon’s approach and pledged himself and his family to House Targaryen.
Afterward, a number of the other great houses of the Reach complained bitterly about being made vassals of an “upjumped steward” and insisted that their own blood was far nobler than that of the Tyrells. It cannot be denied that the Oakhearts of Old Oak, the Florents of Brightwater Keep, the Rowans of Goldengrove, the Peakes of Starpike, and the Redwynes of the Arbor all had older and more distinguished lineages than the Tyrells, and closer blood ties to House Gardener as well. Their protests were of no avail, however … mayhaps in part because all these houses had taken up arms against Aegon and his sisters on the Field of Fire, whereas the Tyrells had not.
Aegon Targaryen’s judgment in this proved sound. Lord Harlan proved a capable steward for the Reach, though he only ruled until 5 AC, when he disappeared with his army in the deserts of Dorne during Aegon’s First Dornish War.
His son, Theo Tyrell, was understandably reluctant to become involved in any further attempts to conquer Dorne, but eventually became embroiled when the conflict spilled out beyond the Red Mountains. When the Targaryens at last made peace with Dorne, Lord Theo turned his attention to consolidating Tyrell power by arranging a council of septons and maesters to examine and finally dismiss some of the more persistent of the claims to Highgarden by those who insisted that the seat was theirs.
As Lords of Highgarden and Wardens of the South, the descendants of these “upjumped stewards” rank amongst the most powerful lords of the realm, and they have been called on to fight beneath the Targaryen banner on many occasions. For most of those occasions, they have come as called— though, wisely, they played no part in the Dance of the Dragons, as the young Lord Tyrell was at the time a babe in swaddling clothes, and his mother and castellan chose to keep Highgarden out of that dreadful, fratricidal bloodbath.
Later, when King Daeron I Targaryen (the Young Dragon) marched on Dorne, the Tyrells proved their valor by leading the main thrust over the Prince’s Pass. Having served faithfully, if perhaps too boldly, Lord Lyonel Tyrell was given charge of Dorne after the Young Dragon returned in triumph to King’s Landing. His lordship succeeded in keeping the Dornishmen pacified for a time, only to suffer a gruesome death in the infamous bed of scorpions. His murder ignited the rising that swept Dorne, eventually bringing about the death of the Young Dragon at the age of eight-and-ten.
Of the Tyrells who succeeded the ill-fated Lord Lyonel at Highgarden in the years since, the most notable is Lord Leo Tyrell, a tourney champion remembered to this day as Leo Longthorn. Many consider him the finest jouster ever to couch a lance. Lord Leo also won distinction during the First Blackfyre Rebellion, winning notable victories against Daemon Blackfyre’s adherents in the Reach, though his forces were unable to gather quickly enough to arrive in time for the Battle of the Redgrass Field.
The present Lord of Highgarden, Mace Tyrell, fought loyally for House Targaryen during Robert’s Rebellion, defeating Robert Baratheon himself at the Battle of Ashford and later besieging his brother Stannis in Storm’s End for the better part of a year. With the death of the Mad King Aerys II and his son Prince Rhaegar, however, Lord Mace laid down his sword, and is today once again Warden of the South and a leal servant of King Robert and the Iron Throne.
HIGHGARDEN The great castle of Highgarden, the ancient seat of the Tyrell lords and the Gardener kings before them, sits atop a verdant hill overlooking the broad and tranquil waters of the Mander. Seen from afar, the castle “looks so much a part of the land one could think that it had grown there, rather than being built.” Many consider Highgarden to be the most beautiful castle in all the Seven Kingdoms, a claim that only the men of the Vale see fit to dispute. (They prefer their own Eyrie).
The hill from which Highgarden rises is neither steep nor stony but broad in extent, with gentle slopes and a pleasing symmetry. From the castle’s walls and towers, a man can see for leagues in all directions, across orchards and meadows and fields of flowers, including the golden roses of the Reach that have long been the sigil of House Tyrell.
Highgarden is girded by three concentric rings of crenellated curtain walls, made of finely dressed white stone and protected by towers as slender and graceful as maidens. Each wall is higher and thicker than the one below it. Between the outermost wall that girdles the foot of the hill and the middle wall above it can be found Highgarden’s famed briar maze, a vast and complicated labyrinth of thorns and hedges maintained for centuries for the pleasure and delight of the castle’s occupants and guests … and for defensive purposes, for intruders unfamiliar with the maze cannot easily find their way through its traps and dead ends to the castle gates.
Within the castle walls, greenery abounds, and the keeps are surrounded by gardens, arbors, pools, fountains, courtyards, and man-made waterfalls. Ivy covers the older buildings, and grapes and climbing roses snake up the sides of statuary, walls, and towers. Flowers bloom everywhere. The keep is a palace like few others, filled with statues, colonnades, and fountains. Highgarden’s tallest towers, round and slender, look down upon neighbors far more ancient, square and grim in appearance, the oldest of them dating from the Age of Heroes. The rest of the castle is of more recent construction, much of it built by King Mern VI after the destruction of the original structures by the Dornish during the reign of Garth Greybeard.
The gods, both old and new, are well served in Highgarden. The splendor of the castle sept, with its rows of stained-glass windows celebrating the Seven and the ubiquitous Garth Greenhand, is rivaled only by that of the Great Sept of Baelor in King’s Landing and the Starry Sept of Oldtown.
And Highgarden’s lush green godswood is almost as renowned, for in the place of a single heart tree it boasts three towering, graceful, ancient weirwoods whose limbs have grown so entangled over the centuries that they appear to be almost a single tree with three trunks, reaching for each other above a tranquil pool. Legend has it these trees, known in the Reach as the Three Singers, were planted by Garth Greenhand himself.
No seat in the Seven Kingdoms has been more celebrated in song than Highgarden, and small wonder, for the Tyrells and the Gardeners before them have made their court a place of culture and music and high art. In the days before the Conquest, the Kings of the Reach and their queens presided over tourneys of love and beauty, where the greatest knights of the Reach competed for the love of the fairest maids not only with feats of arms, but with song, poetry, and demonstrations of virtue, piety, and chaste devotion. The greatest champions, men as pure and honorable and virtuous as they were skilled at arms, were honored with invitations to join the Order of the Green Hand.
Though the last members of that noble order perished beside their king on the Field of Fire (save in White Harbor, where the knights of House Manderly still profess membership), their traditions are still remembered in the Reach, where the Tyrells continue to uphold all that is best in knighthood and chivalry. Their Tourney of the Field of Roses in the reign of Jaehaerys I, the Old King, was famed far and wide as the greatest tourney in a generation, and many other great tourneys have been held in the Reach in more recent days.
Highgarden. (illustration credit 139) illustration credit 140 S TORMLANDS THE THE STORMS THAT blow up the narrow sea are infamous throughout the Seven Kingdoms, and in the Nine Free Cities as well. Though they may arise in any season, seafarers say that the worst of them come each autumn, forming in the warm waters of the Summer Sea south of the Stepstones, then roaring north across those bleak and stony islands. More than half continue north by northwest, according to the archives at the Citadel, sweeping over Cape Wrath and the rainwood, gathering strength (and moisture) as they cross the waters of Shipbreaker Bay before slamming into Storm’s End on Durran’s Point.
It is from these great gales that the stormlands take their name.
The heart of this ancient kingdom was Storm’s End, the last and greatest of the castles raised by the hero king Durran Godsgrief in the Age of Heroes, which stands immense and immovable atop the towering cliffs of Durran’s Point. South, beyond Shipbreaker Bay with its wild waters and treacherous rocks, lies Cape Wrath. The moist green tangle of the rainwood dominates the northern two-thirds of the cape. Farther south a broad plain opens up, rolling gently down to the Sea of Dorne, where numerous small fishing villages dot the shoreline. A thriving port and market, the Weeping Town (as it came to be known because it was where the body of the slain hero King Daeron I Targaryen returned to his kingdom after his murder in Dorne), stands here, and much of the region’s trade passes through its harbor.
The great island of Tarth, with its waterfalls and lakes and soaring mountains, is considered part of the stormlands as well, as are Estermont and the myriad lesser isles found off Cape Wrath and the Weeping Town.
To the west the hills rise hard and wild, pushing against the sky until they give way to the Red Mountains, the border between the stormlands and Dorne. Deep dry valleys and great sandstone cliffs dominate the landscape here, and it is true that sometimes at sunset the peaks gleam scarlet and crimson against the clouds … yet there are those who say these mountains were named not for the color of their stone but for all the blood that has soaked into the ground.
Farther inland, beyond the foothills, lie the marches—a vast expanse of grasslands, moors, and windswept plains stretching westward and northward for hundreds of leagues. There in the sight of the Red Mountains, the great castles of the Marcher lords stand, built to guard the borders of the stormlands against Dornish incursions from the south and the steel-clad minions of the Kings of the Reach from the west. The greatest of the Marcher lords are the Swanns of Stonehelm, the Dondarrions of Blackhaven, the Selmys of Harvest Hall, and the Carons of Nightsong, whose Singing Towers marked the westernmost extent of the realm of the Storm Kings. All these remain sworn to Storm’s End to this day, as they have been from time immemorial.
North of Storm’s End, however, the borders of the kingdom have fluctuated greatly over the centuries, as Storm Kings strong and weak gained and lost lands in a succession of wars both great and small. Today, the writ of House Baratheon runs to the south bank of the Wendwater and lower reaches of the kingswood, and along the stony shores of the narrow sea up to the base of Massey’s Hook … but before Aegon’s Conquest, before even the coming of the Andals, the warrior kings of House Durrandon pushed their borders considerably farther.
Massey’s Hook was part of their realm then, and all the kingswood as far as the Blackwater Rush.
In certain epochs, the Storm Kings even ruled beyond the Blackwater. Towns as far-flung as Duskendale and Maidenpool once paid homage to Storm’s End, and under the redoubtable warrior king Arlan III Durrandon, the stormlanders took dominion over the entire riverlands. They held them for more than three centuries.
Yet even at their greatest extent, the realms of the Durrandons and their successors have always been thinly peopled when compared to the Reach, the riverlands, and the west, and thus the might of the lords of Storm’s End was diminished. Those who do choose to make their homes in the stormlands—whether along the stony shores of the narrow sea, amidst the dripping green forests of the rainwood, or on the windswept marches—are a special breed, however. The people of the stormlands are like unto their weather, it has oft been said: tumultuous, violent, implacable, unpredictable.
THE COMING OF THE FIRST MEN
The history of the stormlands stretches back to the Dawn Age. Long before the coming of the First Men, all Westeros belonged to the elder races—the children of the forest and the giants (and, some say, the Others, the terrifying “white walkers” of the Long Night).
The children made their homes in the vast primeval forest that once stretched from Cape Wrath to Cape Kraken, north of the Iron Islands (today all that remains of this great wood are the kingswood and the rainwood), and the giants in the foothills of the Red Mountains and along the rugged stony spine of Massey’s Hook. Unlike the later Andals, who came to Westeros by sea, the First Men made their way from Essos across the great land bridge we now call the Broken Arm of Dorne, so Dorne itself and the stormlands to the north were the first parts of Westeros to know the steps of man.