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To celebrate these unions, and make certain her people could not again retreat to the sea, Nymeria burned the Rhoynish ships. “Our wanderings are at an end,” she declared. “We have found a new home, and here we shall live and die.” (Some of the Rhoynar mourned the loss of the ships, and rather than embracing their new land, they took to plying the waters of the Greenblood, finding it a pale shadow of Mother Rhoyne, whom they continued to worship. They still exist to this day, known as the orphans of the Greenblood).
The flames lit the coast for fifty leagues as hundreds of leaking, listing hulks were put to the torch and turned to ash; in the light of their burning, Princess Nymeria named Mors Martell the Prince of Dorne, in the Rhoynish style, asserting his dominion over “the red sands and the white, and all the lands and rivers from the mountains to the great salt sea.” Such supremacy was easier to declare than to achieve, however. Years of war followed, as the Martells and their Rhoynar partners met and subdued one petty king after another. No fewer than six conquered kings were sent to the Wall in golden fetters by Nymeria and her prince, until only the greatest of their foes remained: Yorick Yronwood, the Bloodroyal, Fifth of His Name, Lord of Yronwood, Warden of the Stone Way, Knight of the Wells, King of Redmarch, King of the Greenbelt, and King of the Dornish.
For nine years Mors Martell and his allies (amongst them House Fowler of Skyreach, House Toland of Ghost Hill, House Dayne of Starfall, and House Uller of the Hellholt) struggled against Yronwood and his bannermen (the Jordaynes of the Tor, the Wyls of the Stone Way, together with the Blackmonts, the Qorgyles, and many more), in battles too numerous to mention. When Mors Martell fell to Yorick Yronwood’s sword in the Third Battle of the Boneway, Princess Nymeria assumed sole command of his armies. Two more years of battle were required, but in the end it was Nymeria that Yorick Yronwood bent the knee to, and Nymeria who ruled thereafter from Sunspear.
Though she married twice more (first to the aged Lord Uller of Hellholt, and later to the dashing Ser Davos Dayne of Starfall, the Sword of the Morning), Nymeria herself remained the unquestioned ruler of Dorne for almost twenty-seven years, her husbands serving only as counselors and consorts.
She survived a dozen attempts upon her life, put down two rebellions, and threw back two invasions by the Storm King Durran the Third and one by King Greydon of the Reach.
When at last she died, it was the eldest of her four daughters by Mors Martell who succeeded her, not her son by Davos Dayne, for by then the Dornish had come to adopt many of the laws and customs of the Rhoynar, though the memories of Mother Rhoyne and the ten thousand ships were fading into legend.
D OOM OF V ALYRIATHE WITH THE DESTRUCTION of the Rhoynar, Valyria soon achieved complete domination of the western half of Essos, from the narrow sea to Slaver’s Bay, and from the Summer Sea to the Shivering Sea. Slaves poured into the Freehold and were quickly dispatched beneath the Fourteen Flames to mine the precious gold and silver the freeholders loved so well. Perhaps in preparation for their crossing of the narrow sea, the Valyrians also established their westernmost outpost on the isle that would come to be known as Dragonstone some two hundred years before the Doom. No king opposed them—and though the local lords of the narrow sea made some effort to resist it, the strength of Valyria was too great. With their arcane arts, the Valyrians raised the Citadel at Dragonstone.
Two centuries passed—centuries in which the coveted Valyrian steel began to trickle into the Seven Kingdoms more swiftly than before—though not swiftly enough for all the lords and kings who desired it. And although the sight of a dragonlord flying high above Blackwater Bay was not unknown, it occurred more frequently as time passed. Valyria felt its outpost was secured, and the dragonlords thus continued their schemes and intrigues on their native continent.
And then, unexpected to all (save perhaps Aenar Targaryen and his maiden daughter Daenys the Dreamer), the Doom came to Valyria.
To this day, no one knows what caused the Doom. Most say that it was a natural cataclysm—a catastrophic explosion caused by the eruption of all Fourteen Flames together. Some septons, less wise, claim that the Valyrians brought the disaster on themselves for their promiscuous belief in a hundred gods and more, and in their godlessness they delved too deep and unleashed the fires of the Seven hells on the Freehold. A handful of maesters, influenced by fragments of the work of Septon Barth, hold that Valyria had used spells to tame the Fourteen Flames for thousands of years, that their ceaseless hunger for slaves and wealth was as much to sustain these spells as to expand their power, and that when at last those spells faltered, the cataclysm became inevitable.
Of these, some argue that it was the curse of Garin the Great at last coming to fruition. Others speak of the priests of R’hllor calling down the fire of their god in queer rituals. Some, wedding the fanciful notion of Valyrian magic to the reality of the ambitious great houses of Valyria, have argued that it was the constant whirl of conflict and deception amongst the great houses that might have led to the assassinations of too many of the reputed mages who renewed and maintained the rituals that banked the fires of the Fourteen Flames.
The one thing that can be said for certain is that it was a cataclysm such as the world had never seen. The ancient, mighty Freehold—home to dragons and to sorcerers of unrivaled skill—was shattered and destroyed within hours. It was written that every hill for five hundred miles split asunder to fill the air with ash and smoke and fire so hot and hungry that even the dragons in the sky were engulfed and consumed. Great rents opened in the earth, swallowing palaces, temples, and entire towns. Lakes boiled or turned to acid, mountains burst, fiery fountains spewed molten rock a thousand feet into the air, and red clouds rained down dragonglass and the black blood of demons. To the north, the ground splintered and collapsed and fell in on itself, and an angry sea came boiling in.
The proudest city in all the world was gone in an instant, the fabled empire vanished in a day. The Lands of the Long Summer—once the most fertile in all the world—were scorched and drowned and blighted, and the toll in blood would not be fully realized for a century to come.
What followed in the sudden vacuum was chaos. The dragonlords had been gathered in Valyria as was their wont … except for Aenar Targaryen, his children, and his dragons, who had fled to Dragonstone and so escaped the Doom. Some accounts claim that a few others survived, too … for a time. It is said that some Valyrian dragonlords in Tyrosh and Lys were spared, but that in the immediate political upheaval following the Doom, they and their dragons were killed by the citizens of those Free Cities. The histories of Qohor likewise claim that a visiting dragonlord, Aurion, raised forces from the Qohorik colonists and proclaimed himself the first Emperor of Valyria. He flew away on the back of his great dragon, with thirty thousand men following behind afoot, to lay claim to what remained of Valyria and to reestablish the Freehold. But neither Emperor Aurion nor his host were ever seen again.
The time of the dragons in Essos was at an end.
Volantis, the mightiest of the Free Cities, quickly laid claim to Valyria’s mantle. Men and women of noble Valyrian blood, though not dragonlords, called for war upon the other cities. The tigers, as those who advocated conquest came to be known, led V olantis into a great conflict with the other Free Cities. They had great success at first, their fleets and armies controlling Lys and Myr and commanding the southern reaches of the Rhoyne. It was only when they overreached and attempted to seize Tyrosh, as well, that their burgeoning empire collapsed. Unnerved by the V olantene aggression, Pentos joined the Tyroshi in resistance, Myr and Lys rebelled, and the Sealord of Braavos provided a fleet of a hundred ships to aid Lys. Also, the Westerosi Storm King, Argilac the Arrogant, led a host into the Disputed Lands—in return for the promise of gold and glory—that defeated a V olantene host attempting to retake Myr.
In the wake of all the conflicts, and the struggles that continue to this day over the Disputed Lands, the plague of the Free Companies was born and took root. At first, these bands of sellswords merely fought for whoever paid them. But there are those who say that, whenever peace threatened, the captains of these Free Companies acted to instigate new wars to sustain themselves, and so grew fat on the spoils.
Near the end, even the future Conqueror, the still-young Aegon Targaryen, became involved in the struggle. His ancestors had long looked east, but his attention from an early age had been turned westward. Still, when Pentos and Tyrosh approached him, inviting him to join a grand alliance against Volantis, he listened. And for reasons unknown to this day, he chose to heed their call … to a point. Mounting the Black Dread, it is said that he flew to the east, meeting with the Prince of Pentos and the magisters of the Free City, and from there flew Balerion to Lys in time to set ablaze a Volantene fleet that was preparing to invade that Free City.
Volantis suffered further defeats—at Dagger Lake, where the fire galleys of Qohor and Norvos destroyed much of the V olantene fleet that controlled the Rhoyne; and in the east when the Dothraki began to swarm out of the Dothraki sea, leaving ruined towns and cities in their wake as they fell on the weakened V olantis. At last, the elephants—the V olantene faction who favored peace, and who were largely drawn from the wealthy tradesmen and merchants who suffered most in the war—took power from the tigers, who favored conquest, and put an end to the fighting.
As for Aegon Targaryen, shortly after his role in defeating V olantis it is written that he lost all interest in the affairs of the east. Believing Volantis’s rule at an end, he flew back to Dragonstone.
And now, no longer distracted by the wars of Essos, he turned his gaze west.
The Freehold of Valyria and its empire were destroyed by the Doom, but the shattered peninsula remains. Strange tales are told of it today, and of the demons that haunt the Smoking Sea where the Fourteen Flames once stood. In fact, the road that joins V olantis to Slaver’s Bay has become known as the “demon road,” and is best avoided by all sensible travelers. And men who have dared the Smoking Sea do not return, as V olantis learned during the Century of Blood when a fleet it sent to claim the peninsula vanished. There are queer rumors of men living still among the ruins of Valyria and its neighboring cities of Oros and Tyria. Yet others dispute this, saying that the Doom still holds Valyria in its grip.
A few of the cities away from the heart of Valyria remain inhabited, however—places founded by the Freehold or subject to it. The most sinister of these is Mantarys, a place where the men are said to be born twisted and monstrous; some attribute this to the city’s presence on the demon road. The reputations of Tolos, where the finest slingers in the world can be found, and of the city of Elyria on its isle, are less sinister, and less noteworthy as well, for they have made ties to the Ghiscari cities on Slaver’s Bay and otherwise avoid involvement in any efforts to reclaim the burning heart of Valyria.
Aegon the Conqueror upon Balerion, the Black Dread. (illustration credit 25) Dragonstone. (illustration credit 26) HERE FOLLOWS AN account of the reign of House Targaryen, from Aegon the Conqueror to Aerys the Mad King. Many are the maesters who have written on these matters, and the knowledge they have fashioned informs much of what will follow. But in one thing, I have taken a liberty: the account of Aegon’s Conquest is not my own work but something lately discovered in the archives of the Citadel, forgotten since the sad end of Aegon, the Fifth of His Name. This fragment—part of a greater work that seemed intended as a history of the Targaryen kings—was found gathering dust among papers belonging to the Archmaester Gerold, the historian whose writings on the history of Oldtown were well regarded in his day. But it was not written by him. The style alone gives it away, but certain notes found with these papers indicate they were written by Archmaester Gyldayn, the last maester to serve at Summerhall before its destruction in the reign of Aegon the Fortunate, the Fifth of his Name, who may have sent them to Gerold for his commentary and approval.
The history of the Conquest is as complete as any, and that is why I have placed it here, so that—at last—more eyes than mine and the late Archmaester Gerold’s may appreciate and learn from it. There are other manuscripts by this same hand that I have discovered, but many pages have been misplaced or destroyed, and still others have been damaged by neglect and by fire. It may be that one day, more will be found, and this lost masterwork will be fit to be copied and bound, for what I have found has stirred great excitement in the Citadel.
Until then, however, its fragments serve as one among many sources for the reigns of the Targaryen kings, from the Conqueror to the late Aerys II—the last Targaryen king to sit the Iron Throne.
The Conquest The maesters of the Citadel who keep the histories of Westeros have used Aegon’s Conquest as their touchstone for the past three hundred years. Births, deaths, battles, and other events are dated either AC (After the Conquest) or BC (Before the Conquest).
True scholars know that such dating is far from precise. Aegon Targaryen’s conquest of the Seven Kingdoms did not take place in a single day. More than two years passed between Aegon’s landing and his Oldtown coronation … and even then the Conquest remained incomplete since Dorne remained unsubdued. Sporadic attempts to bring the Dornishmen into the realm continued all through King Aegon’s reign and well into the reigns of his sons, making it impossible to fix a precise end date for the Wars of Conquest.