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House Baratheon was born amidst the rain and mud of the battle known to history as the Last Storm, when Orys Baratheon thrice turned back the charge of the knights of Storm’s End and slew their king Argilac the Arrogant in single combat. Storm’s End, long thought to be impregnable, yielded to Orys without a battle (wisely, given the fate of Harrenhal). Afterward Orys took King Argilac’s daughter to wife and adopted the Durrandon arms and words as his own to honor Argilac’s valor.
The arms of House Baratheon (center) and some of its vassals (clockwise from top): Buckler, Caron, Connington, Dondarrion, Estermont, Penrose, Seaworth, Selmy, Staedmon, Swann, and Tarth. (illustration credit 144) The favor that Aegon the Conqueror showered upon Orys Baratheon made many credit the rumors that he was Aegon’s bastard half brother. Though never proved, that tale is widely believed to this very day. Others suggest that Orys rose so high because of his prowess at arms and his fierce loyalty to House Targaryen. Even before the Conquest, he served as Aegon’s champion and sworn shield, and his defeat of King Argilac only added further luster to his name. When King Aegon granted Storm’s End to House Baratheon in perpetuity, and named Orys Lord Paramount of the Stormlands and the Hand of the King, none dared suggest that he was unworthy of these honors.
During Aegon’s invasion of Dorne in 4 AC, however, Lord Orys was taken captive whilst attempting to bring his forces through the Boneway. His captor was the Wyl of Wyl, known as the Widow-lover, who struck off Orys’s sword hand.
Afterward, all accounts say that Lord Orys became crabbed and bitter. Resigning his office as King’s Hand, he turned his attention to Dorne, obsessed with the idea of revenge. His chance came during the reign of King Aenys I, when he shattered part of the Vulture King’s host and Lord Walter Wyl, the Widow-lover’s son, fell into his hands.
The Baratheons remained closely connected to House Targaryen and played a significant role in the troubled reigns of Aegon the Conqueror’s successors. Lord Orys Baratheon’s grandson, Lord Robar, was the first great lord to openly proclaim for Prince Jaehaerys against his uncle, Maegor the Cruel. For his loyalty and courage, he was named Protector of the Realm and Hand of the King following Maegor’s strange death upon the Iron Throne. During the remainder of King Jaehaerys’s minority, Lord Robar shared the rule of the realm with the king’s mother, the Dowager Queen Alyssa.
Half a year later the two wed.
From their union sprang the Lady Jocelyn, who married the eldest of the Old King’s sons and became mother to the Princess Rhaenys—“the Queen Who Never Was” as the glib jester Mushroom called her—and Boremund Baratheon, who succeeded his father as Lord of Storm’s End. At the Great Council of 101 AC, convened by King Jaehaerys I to debate the matter of succession, Lord Boremund was outspoken in supporting the claim of his niece, Princess Rhaenys, and her son, Prince Laenor of House Velaryon, but found himself on the losing side of the argument.
FROM THE HISTORY OF ARCHMAESTER GYLDAYN
Orys Baratheon, known now as Orys One-Hand, rode forth from Storm’s End one last time, to smash the Dornish beneath the walls of Stonehelm. When Walter Wyl was delivered into his hand, wounded but alive, Lord Orys said, “Your father took my hand. I claim yours as repayment.” So saying, he hacked off Lord Walter’s sword hand. Then he took his other hand, and both his feet as well, calling them his “usury.” Strange to say, Lord Baratheon died on the march back to Storm’s End, of the wounds he himself had taken during the battle, but his son Davos always said he died content, smiling at the rotting hands and feet that dangled in his tent like a string of onions.
The power of Storm’s End and its close proximity to King’s Landing and the Iron Throne made the Baratheons the first of the great houses of Westeros whose support was sought by Princess Rhaenyra and King Aegon II after the death of their father, King Viserys I Targaryen. By that time, however, Lord Boremund had passed and it was his son Borros who ruled, and Borros was a different kind of man entirely.
Where Lord Boremund had been staunch in support of Rhaenyra’s late husband Laenor, Lord Borros scented opportunity and proved reticent when courted by Lucerys Velaryon, Rhaenyra’s second son by Prince Laenor. When Lucerys flew his dragon to Storm’s End, seeking support, he found that his cousin Prince Aemond Targaryen had arrived before him and was busily arranging his marriage to one of Borros’s daughters.
Lord Borros was infuriated at the message Lucerys carried—wherein Princess Rhaenyra betrayed an unseemly arrogance in assuming Storm’s End would support her cause—and by Prince Lucerys’s refusal to take one of his lordship’s daughters for his bride (the prince was betrothed to another). He angrily ejected the young Velaryon from his hall and did nothing to prevent Prince Aemond from following him to take revenge for the eye he had lost to Lucerys years earlier, so long as said revenge was not enacted within the walls of Storm’s End.
Prince Lucerys tried to flee on his young dragon, Arrax, but Aemond pursued him upon his great dragon, Vhagar. Had a storm not been howling through Shipbreaker Bay, Lucerys might have escaped, but it was not to be; the boy and his dragon both died, tumbling into the sea within sight of Storm’s End as Vhagar roared triumphantly. It was the first royal bloodshed in the Dance of the Dragons, though much more was to follow.
In the early part of the war, Lord Borros proved reluctant to face the dragons personally. But toward the end of the Dance, he and his stormlanders seized King’s Landing during the Moon of the Three Kings, restoring the city to order and winning promises that his eldest daughter would become the new queen of the widowed King Aegon II. Then he boldly led the last of the royalist host against the approaching riverlanders, who were commanded by the young Lord Kermit Tully, the evenyounger Benjicot Blackwood, and Blackwood’s sister Alysanne. When the Lord of Storm’s End learned that the host was led by boys and women, he grew confident in his victory, but Bloody Ben Blackwood, as he was remembered after, broke his flank, while Black Aly Blackwood led the archers who brought down his knights. Lord Borros was defiant to the end, and the accounts claim he killed a dozen knights and slew Lords Darry and Mallister before he himself was slain by Kermit Tully.
With his death and the defeat of his stormlanders, the Dance of the Dragons was all but over.
House Baratheon had gambled greatly in supporting King Aegon II, and it was a choice that brought them nothing but ill during the reign of King Aegon III (the Dragonbane) and the regency preceding it.
As the years passed, and king followed king upon the Iron Throne, these old rifts were forgotten, and the Baratheons came to serve the crown faithfully once more … until the Targaryens themselves put that loyalty to the test. This occurred during the reign of King Aegon V Targaryen (known to history as Aegon the Unlikely), when the Lord of Storm’s End was Lyonel Baratheon, a swaggering giant of a man known as the Laughing Storm, one of the greatest fighters of his day.
Lord Lyonel had always been amongst King Aegon’s most leal supporters; so firm was their friendship that His Grace gladly agreed to betroth his eldest son and heir to Lord Lyonel’s daughter.
All was well until Prince Duncan met and became smitten with the mysterious woman known only as Jenny of Oldstones (a witch, some say), and took her for his wife in defiance of his father the king.
Lord Boremund was stone, hard and strong and unmoving. Lord Borros was the wind, which rages and howls and blows this way and that.
Ser Duncan the Tall of the Kingsguard facing Lord Lyonel Baratheon in single combat. (illustration credit 145) The love between Jenny of Oldstones (“with flowers in her hair”) and Duncan, Prince of Dragonflies, is beloved of singers, storytellers, and young maids even to this day, but it caused great grief to Lord Lyonel’s daughter and brought shame and dishonor to House Baratheon. So great was the wroth of the Laughing Storm that he swore a bloody oath of vengeance, renounced allegiance to the Iron Throne, and had himself crowned as a new Storm King. Peace was restored only after the Kingsguard knight Ser Duncan the Tall faced Lord Lyonel in a trial by battle, Prince Duncan renounced his claim to crown and throne, and King Aegon V agreed that his youngest daughter, the Princess Rhaelle, would wed Lord Lyonel’s heir.
As the Seven in their wisdom would have it, it was the match that King Aegon V agreed to in order to appease the Laughing Storm that ultimately led to the end of Targaryen rule in the Seven Kingdoms.
In 245 AC Princess Rhaelle fulfilled her father’s promise and wed Ormund Baratheon, young Lord of Storm’s End. The following year she gave him a son, Steffon, who served as a page and a squire at King’s Landing and became a close companion of Prince Aerys, eldest son of King Jaehaerys II and heir to the Iron Throne.
Sadly, Lord Steffon drowned in Shipbreaker Bay whilst returning from a mission to V olantis, where King Aerys II had sent him to seek a wife for his son Rhaegar … but Steffon’s own firstborn son, Robert, succeeded him as Lord of Storm’s End and grew to be one of the finest knights in the Seven Kingdoms—a warrior so strong and fearless that many hailed him as the Laughing Storm reborn.
When the madness of King Aerys II became too much to be borne, it was to Lord Robert that the lords of the realm turned. In 282 AC, at the ford of the Trident, Robert Baratheon slew Rhaegar Targaryen, Prince of Dragonstone, and shattered his host, effectively ending three centuries of rule by the House of the Dragon. Soon thereafter he ascended the Iron Throne himself as Robert I Baratheon, the progenitor of a glorious new dynasty.
Baratheon men-at-arms at Dragonstone. (illustration credit 146)
Many other Baratheons have won renown over the centuries, following in the footsteps of Orys One-Hand and the Storm Kings before him. Ser Raymont Baratheon, a younger son of Lord Baratheon, served in the Kingsguard when Aenys I was forced to war against the Faith, and saved the life of his king when the Poor Fellows attempted to murder him in his bed. Knights such as the Stormbreaker and the Laughing Storm brought glory onto the house, whilst Lord Ormund Baratheon fought and died beneath the Targaryen banner on the Stepstones during the War of the Ninepenny Kings.
THE MEN OF THE STORMLANDS
As King Robert proved upon the Trident—and as the lords and kings before him showed likewise —the men of the stormlands are as hardy and fierce and skilled in war as any in the Seven Kingdoms.
The longbows of the Marchers are especially famed, and many of the most famous bowmen of song and history are said to hail from the Dornish Marches. Fletcher Dick, the notorious outlaw of the Kingswood Brotherhood, was born in a village near the Marcher castle of Stonehelm, and is held by many to be the finest archer who ever drew bow.
The stormlands have also produced their share of great seamen and sailors. Storm’s End itself, looming over the great cliffs of Durran’s Point and the treacherous rocks of Shipbreaker Bay, offers no safe anchorage for either warship or merchant craft, but in the time of the Storm Kings, war fleets were oft maintained on Massey’s Hook, Estermont, and in the towns and fishing villages along the Sea of Dorne. Later, other monarchs preferred to dock their fleets on the western shore of Tarth, where that great island’s mountains helped to shelter them from the storms that often raged through the narrow sea. The Sapphire Isle, as some call it, is ruled by House Tarth of Evenfall Hall—an old family of Andal descent that boasts of ties to the Durrandons, the Baratheons, and more recently to House Targaryen. Once kings in their own right, the Lords of Tarth still style themselves “the Evenstar,” a title that they claim goes back unto the dawn of days.
Many of the folk of Tarth, highborn and low alike, claim descent from a legendary hero, Ser Galladon of Morne, who was said to wield a sword called the Just Maid given to him by the Seven themselves. Given the role that the Just Maid plays in Ser Galladon’s tale, Maester Hubert, in his Kin of the Stag, has suggested that Galladon of Morne was no rude warrior of the Age of Heroes turned into a knight by singers a thousand years later, but an actual historic figure of more recent times. Hubert also notes that Morne was a royal seat of petty kings on the eastern coast of Tarth until the Storm Kings made them submit, but that its ruins indicate that the site was made by Andals, not First Men.
The fiercest fighters in the stormlands, and perhaps in all of Westeros, are undoubtedly the men of the marches, who are said to be born with sword in hand and oft boast of learning to fight even before they learn to walk. Theirs is the task of protecting the realm of the Storm Kings from the ancient enemies to the west and, especially, the south.
The castles of the Dornish Marches are among the strongest of the realm, and for good reason, for seldom has a generation passed when they have not faced some new attack. They were established to create a bulwark against incursions from the Dornish and the Kings of the Reach. The Marcher lords are duly proud of their history as key defenders of the realm of the Storm Kings, and many are the ballads and tales of their valor.
Among the sternest of the Marcher seats are Stonehelm, the ancient seat of House Swann, with its watchtowers of black and white stone, which stands above the waters of the river Slayne with its rapids, pools, and waterfalls; Blackhaven, home to House Dondarrion, with its forbidding black basalt walls and bottomless dry moat; and Nightsong of the Singing Towers, where House Caron has held sway for many centuries. Though styled as lords of the marches, the Carons hold no dominion over the other Marcher lords; they count themselves the oldest of the Marcher houses, however (a claim the Swanns dispute), and have always been prominent in leading the defense of the stormlands.