Even though I found the Dance of the Dragons to be a senseless war, there were quite a few epic battles and intriguing cutthroat politics. My favorite battle from the war that did not include a dragon would be the Battle of the Kingsroad. It was the very last battle of the Dance of the Dragons and ultimately decided the fate of the Targaryen Dynasty. After Rhaenyra Targaryen died, Lord Borros Baratheon of Storm’s End finally emerged with his army to support King Aegon II. Even though Lord Baratheon sided with Aegon II, he stayed out of most of the war in order to avoid the dragons. With Rhaenyra dead and most of the dragons gone, Lord Borros saw this as his chance to support his king. By the time he reached King’s Landing, word reached the Red Keep that one of Rhaenyra’s last supporters, Kermit Tully of Riverrun, was leading an army of riverlords towards the capital in the name of Rhaenyra’s last son, Aegon the Younger. Aegon II sent Borros Baratheon to defuse this threat and bolstered Borros’s army until it was between seven to eight thousand strong. As he marched, Lord Baratheon had six hundred knights and four thousand infantry from the Stormlands and soldiers from the Crownlands. Lord Baratheon met the Tully host along the Kingsroad between a hill on one side and a forest on the other. After learning that the Tully army was being led by two boys and a woman, Lord Baratheon was arrogantly confident that he would win. However, because Borros and his men stayed out of the war, they did not participate in a single battle, which left them green, undisciplined, and inexperienced. Even though Borros was older than the Tullys and outnumbered their army two to one, Kermit Tully and his men were far more battle-hardened. One could argue that Kermit Tully was the Tully version of Robb Stark, a young man who was a natural as both a warrior and military commander. In the middle of the Kingsroad, Kermit Tully assembled an impregnable shield wall while his archers were perched on top of the hill. Lord Baratheon led his knights and infantry in a brute force attack against the shield wall, but the archers under the command of Alysanne Blackwood killed the Baratheon horses, collapsing the Baratheon vanguard as it struck the shield wall. Once the shield wall held the Stormlanders in place, Alysanne’s young nephew Benjicot “Bloody Ben” Blackwood emerged from the forest and outflanked the Baratheon soldiers with his own men. When the Crownland levies saw the battle was lost, they either fled or defected to the Tullys and attacked the Baratheons from behind. With Borros and his men trapped in a pincer movement, the battle quickly turned into a one-sided massacre. Even after losing his horse, Borros Baratheon refused to yield and kept fighting until he was confronted by the teenage Kermit Tully himself. Kermit gave Borros one final chance to yield, but Borros cursed him instead. In response, Kermit Tully caved in Borros’s skull with his morningstar. With Borros dead, the remainder of King Aegon II’s army fled and King’s Landing was wide open to attack from Kermit Tully’s battle-hardened riverlords. Even with the last of his armies defeated and the armies of the North, Riverlands, and Vale closing in, Aegon II refused to surrender, which led to his poisoning by his own courtiers. The Battle of the Kingsroad led to the end of Aegon II’s reign and paved the way to the reign of Aegon III AKA the Dragonbane.
Like many early Targaryens, Jaehaerys the Conciliator was a dragonrider with his own dragon. His dragon was named Vermithor AKA the Bronze Fury. Vermithor had magnificent bronze scales, tan wings, and he was the third largest dragon after Balerion and Vhagar. We have all seen Targaryens threatening their enemies with their dragons, but Jaehaerys did it in a smart way. Instead of openly threatening unruly vassals and describing what his dragon will do to them, Jaehaerys simply showed them his dragon. He made no mention of threatening them with his dragon, but the veiled threat was in plain sight. He was nonverbally saying, “Obey me or I will unleash HIM on you!” The very sight of the growing dragon was more than enough to frighten his enemies into submission. When showing the dragon was not enough, Jaehaerys rode Vermithor and took flight to put down the conflict personally. On one occasion, Jaehaerys took his sons Aemon and Baelon on their dragons with him to defeat an attempted invasion from Dorne. Jaehaerys and his sons used their dragons to burn the Dornish fleet into the sea and the royal army did not suffer a single casualty and this war with Dorne ended in a single day. Both with his sword and with his dragon, Jaehaerys knew how to fight and win his battles quickly and decisively. Jaehaerys demonstrated how you should rule the Seven Kingdoms with dragons.
As I mentioned in my previous post, Jaehaerys I ruled the Iron Throne longer than anyone before or after him. He was widely known as a good king, but you do not have a reign as long as his just from being good. Just because he was a good king, Jaehaerys was by no means a weakling like his father Aenys I. During the first two years of his reign, Jaehaerys trained every morning with his master-at-arms and Kingsguard so that he would not be weak like his father and no one would doubt his courage. Based on the reigns of his grandfather, father, and uncle, Jaehaerys knew there would be challenges for him throughout his reign and he wanted to be ready when those challenges came. There were times when Jaehaerys had to put down a rebellion or fight his own battles. One time, a knight from the Reach seduced and violated one of his daughters and Jaehaerys brought the knight before him. When the knight asked for a trial-by-combat, Jaehaerys personally fought him instead of sending one of his Kingsguard. During the duel, Jaehaerys remained on the defensive and waited for the younger man to tire himself out. When that happened, Jaehaerys went on the offensive and drove his sword through the knight’s skull. Most kings we have seen in Game of Thrones were either warriors or politicians, but Jaehaerys was a healthy balance between warrior and politician.
Easily my all-time favorite Targaryen king would be Jaehaerys the First of His Name AKA The Conciliator. He was easily the greatest king House Targaryen ever produced and many historians believed he was the greatest king Westeros has ever known. He ruled the Iron Throne for fifty-five years, which is longer than any living soul before or after him. He was crowned when he was just a fourteen-year-old kid, but he proved wise, charismatic, and just beyond his years. Like Robb Stark, Jaehaerys married for love instead of political gain, but unlike Robb Stark, Jaehaerys was able to get away with it because of the power and authority he wielded. His true love was his sister Alysanne, who was a wise and capable politician in her own right. He always listened to his queen and many of his decisions were influenced by her. They had thirteen children, but only nine of them grew into adulthood and four had children and grandchildren of their own. Later in his reign, Jaehaerys had one succession crisis after another as several of his children died from wars, diseases, and accidents. Eventually, Jaehaerys held a Great Council where the lords of Westeros decided who would succeed him, which turned out to be his grandson who would reign as Viserys I. After his queen died, Jaehaerys became a broken shadow of his former self and old age made his mind fade. He died peacefully in his bed, which is EXTREMELY rare in the Game of Thrones universe. He was sixty-nine years old and his death was felt across the Seven Kingdoms. Even Dorne, who were part-time enemies of the Targaryens at the time, mourned Jaehaerys’s death. You know someone was a truly great king if even his enemies mourned him. His reign was a time of unprecedented peace, prosperity, and justice that Westeros would never see again. Thanks to Jaehaerys’s efforts, his grandson inherited a secure throne, an overflowing treasury, and a legacy of goodwill from the people. No other king since has been on Jaehaerys’s level and he was one of the rare few who were truly worthy to rule the Iron Throne.
In the book Fire and Blood, I received a revelation about Old Valyria that was horrifying beyond belief! During the reign of Jaehaerys I, Princess Aerea Targaryen flew off with Balerion the Black Dread and did not return for some time. When they returned, Aerea Targaryen was dying an indescribable death. At first, it was thought she had a common fever, but after the Grand Maester and Septon Barth took a look at her, her condition was infinitely worse than they thought. Aerea was being cooked from the inside out with smoke slithering out of her mouth, nose, and private parts. Eventually, she became so hot that her eyeballs exploded in their sockets and Aerea was begging for death to end her living damnation. In a last ditch effort to cool her down, the Grand Maester and Septon Barth placed her in a tub full of ice . . . THAT was when the worst of the ordeal happened. A swarm of worm/eel creatures with hands and faces burst out of Aerea’s flesh, making unholy noises as they squirmed in the tub. After a while, the worms died along with Princess Aerea. The whole ordeal was so nightmarish that even a holy man like Septon Barth question his faith.
These creatures reminded me of botfly larva, but far worse. The botfly impregnate their larva into the flesh of animals and humans alike. The larva grows under the skin before eating their way out and flying away. I recall one instance in which a man was bitten behind the ear and kept awake at night by the sound of botfly larva eating the flesh inside his head. As for the appearances of the creatures that afflicted Aerea, I pictured them looking like a mixture between eels and salamanders, but more demonic.
Then things got even more frightening when it was revealed that Balerion the Black Dread, the largest and mightiest of the Targaryen dragons, was also injured with a nine foot long cut that was still bleeding. What in the known world could injure a dragon of Balerion’s caliber? These wounds were physical evidence that there was something more powerful and dangerous than the Black Dread!
It was eventually concluded that Balerion took Princess Aerea to the ruins of Old Valyria. Game of Thrones fans have always know that the Valyrians were not just dragonlords but sorcerers as well. However, we never truly got a real glimpse of just how strong their magic was . . . until now! It became clear that the Valyrians used blood magic and dark alchemy to create chimeras and other unnatural monstrosities. This incident with Aerea and Balerion is proof that even though Valyria’s people and dragons are long gone, the Frankenstein monsters that the Valyrians created still linger among its ruins. Up until now, I thought only the Stone Men dwelled in the ruins of Old Valyria, but this shows me that there are far worse things than Stone Men lurking in Valyria’s shadows.
As much as this incident and revelations disgusts and horrifies me, I am VERY curious about what Valyria was like when it was at the zenith of its power. I hope one day we will get to see Valyria in all its glory before the Doom.
I have been thinking a lot about House Targaryen ever since I bought the new book Fire and Blood, which provides a deeper look at the Targaryen Dynasty. The Targaryen I am thinking of now is Viserys the First of His Name. During his first marriage to his cousin Aemma Arryn, Viserys had a daughter that he declared his heir. However, tensions began to grow when Viserys remarried Alicent Hightower, who gave birth to multiple sons. This weakened the claim Viserys’s daughter had to the Iron Throne, but Viserys would not budge in his decision to make his daughter his heir. When he died, Alicent Hightower, her sons, and allies staged a coup, violating Viserys’s deathbed wish gave seized the Iron Throne for his firstborn son, Aegon II. This action resulted in the most destructive civil war Westeros has ever known, The Dance of the Dragons. Before the war, House Targaryen had twenty dragons and at the end of the war they had two and just as few Targaryens. The Dance of the Dragons ultimately stripped the Targaryens of their most powerful weapon, their dragons. Without their dragons, House Targaryen was just like any other noble House and could be overthrown like any other noble House, which came to pass during Robert’s Rebellion. All of this could have been avoided if Alicent Hightower respected her late husband’s wishes and let his daughter take the Iron Throne. On the other hand, the situation could have been avoided altogether if Viserys never remarried. That way, he would not have any extra heirs who would undermine his daughter’s claim. If the Dance of the Dragons was avoided, the Targaryens would still have their dragons and the Iron Throne. This would be a scenario I would like to see.
One of the most significant battles in Game of Thrones lore would be the Battle of Redgrass Field, which was the deciding battle of the first Blackfyre Rebellion. Daemon Blackfyre, the First of His Name, and his two eldest sons were slain in this battle while his surviving children and some of his followers fled into exile. Daemon’s surviving supporters who could not escape into exile lost lands, titles, and had to surrender hostages to the Iron Throne to guarantee their future loyalty. Even though Daemon was dead, his descendants still fought for the Iron Throne in four more rebellions until the last of his male descendants, Maelys the Monstrous, was slain. The fate of Daemon’s descendants from the female bloodline is unknown.
However, even though the story of Game of Thrones went the way it went, I am always curious of how the story would have turned out if Daemon Blackfyre won the Redgrass Field and overthrew the Targaryen Dynasty. What kind of world would Westeros be if it was ruled by a Blackfyre Dynasty instead of a Targaryen one. One of Daemon’s supporters made multiple notes of how the battle could have turned out differently. If Daemon left Gwayne Corbray to his fate after defeating him instead of trying to rescue him, if Fireball was not slain on the eve of battle, if Lord Bracken was not stalled by storms while transporting Myrish crossbowmen from Essos, and so forth.
If House Blackfyre ruled the Iron Throne, the alliance that Baelor the Blessed and Daeron the Good tried to forge with Dorne would have been destroyed. One of the reasons so many sided with Daemon was because they were unhappy with the peace Daeron the Good was promoting and they wanted a warrior like Daemon as their king. With the Blackfyres in charge, the Iron Throne would be waging never-ending wars against Dorne that would cause more loss of life like when Daeron the First tried to conquer Dorne. With these events happening, I think the story of Game of Thrones would become less like the War of the Roses and more like the War of Scottish Independence. Overall, I think a Blackfyre Dynasty would be an interesting alternate reality of the Game of Thrones universe that is worth exploring.