I suggest reading my Valyria series as a precursor to this one if you haven’t.
The Iron Throne is the unequivocal symbol for everything Game of Thrones. For three hundred years it has been in King’s Landing being sat upon by Kings. Some worthy, others not so much. Wars have been fought over it. Men have been killed for it. And, unfortunately for Westeros, it is rare for someone to sit the Throne who knows what it truly means to do so. So what does it mean to sit the Iron Throne?
Images might come to your mind of potential rulers. Maybe you think of attributes. Ned Stark and his honor. Robert Baratheon and his strength. Tyrion Lannister and his wisdom. Daenerys Targaryen and her passion. We all have our favorites and we’ll tell ourselves what we want to hear in order to convince ourselves that they would make a good ruler. But maybe it’s time to think again. I always say it’s a healthy exercise to look at history to try and get a better understanding of the present. This event can help us understand past, present, and maybe even future. So when we talk about the Game of Thrones, who better to look at than the man who created the Iron Throne? With nothing but the will to do so. And dragons. Always dragons.
This is Aegon Targaryen
The first of his name. Aegon was born on Dragonstone, the Targaryen seat since the Doom of Valyria. Aegon had the classic Valyrian characteristics, purple eyes and silver hair. That sword you see him holding is, of course, Blackfyre. A Valyrian steel sword brought with the Targaryens to Dragonstone before the Doom. One of few actually. Blackfyre is the most notable of them, but also in their possession was Dark Sister.
Aegon was as much an enigma in his time as he is in current Westeros. Not many, or maybe even none, could say they truly understood Aegon. His motivations were sometimes head scratchers. A good example being when he helped end the Century of Blood in the east while he was still young. No one really knew why he did this or why he sided with those he did. We will never know, but he did have a hand in ending one of the bloodiest eras ever, possible even against self interests.
Aegon’s best and only friend was a man named Orys. And three hundred years before Robert Baratheon was carving through the land with Targaryen blood, wet on his hammer, Aegon was best friends with the first Baratheon.
A friendship might not be all that was shared between Orys Baratheon and Aegon. They might have also shared a father. Remember: Valyrian genes are recessive which is one of the reasons why they inbreed. Orys had black hair and eyes, probably given to him by whoever his mother was. Fascinating how ends seem to be the a result of their beginnings in this world. We see it again and again. A Targaryen brought the first Baratheon into this world and Orys was at Aegon’s side during the conquest. Three hundred years later, a Baratheon is the one to bring the time of the Targaryens in Westeros to an end.
Aegon’s dragon was Balerion the Black Dread, a well deserved name and title. Balerion was massive, the biggest of the Targayen’s dragons. Things tend to get exaggerated with time, but it was said that whole towns would fall under the shadow of Balerion’s wings. His teeth were longer than swords and his fire and scales were black as night. Exaggerated or not, Balerion was a living nightmare to anyone who wasn’t on his side.
Although Aegon was a good leader and charismatic, he was also solitary. He never participated in tourneys and he only confided in those absolutely closest to him. Which amounts to three people. Orys Baratheon and Aegon’s two sisters. The inner feminist in me doesn’t even like calling it Aegon’s Conquest, because there wouldn’t be a conquest without, what I like to call, the Targaryen Trinity. The dragon has three heads and Aegon was only one.
This is Visenya Targaryen
Aegon’s oldest sister and also his wife. That sword in her hand is Dark Sister. Visenya was a… complex woman. She makes me think of a two headed snake. For every one of her traits there was another, the exact opposite, waiting to strike. She was sensual but also stern. She was extremely passionate but also unforgiving. Harsh but beautiful. It kind of leaves your head spinning. What was Visenya really like? Was she more harsh or kind, or an equal balance of the two? I don’t have the answers, but Visenya was cloaked in just as much mystery as her brother, even being rumored to have stuck her toes into the world of sorcery.
Visenya was a warrior and would be like to call herself one as well. She rode the dragon, Vhagar. A much younger dragon than Balerion, born on Dragonstone from an egg. But let me just assure you that no one ever saw a dragon in the sky and thought “oh no, it’s Balerion!”. Then, as the dragon flew closer they realized “oh it’s only Vhagar, no worries.” Vhagar would still mess your day up, hell your whole week. Her (you automatically assumed it was a boy didn’t you?) fire was extremely hot and would melt both armor and the men inside it. Her roar could shake the strongest foundation and she was an extremely ferocious dragon.
This is Rhaenys Targaryen
The last head of the dragon. Youngest sister to Aegon and also… his wife. Yup. Aegon took both of his sisters as wives. You’ve never seen a love triangle like this one folks. The relationship was obviously a little complicated, let’s break it down. Aegon was extremely faithful to his sisterwives, never taking another bed. The same could most likely be said for Visenya, but not so much for Rhaenys, the flirt who was said to take other men into her bed while Aegon was with Visenya. That occasion was a rare one, however, as Aegon spent almost all of his time with Rhaenys.
“It was said that Aegon had married Visenya out of duty, and Rhaenys out of desire.”
One the rare occasion that he did spend the night with Visenya, it was most likely because of that sense of duty. All three siblings were dragonriders, but while Aegon and Visenya also wielded a sword as well, Rhaenys did not. She rode the dragon Meraxes. And boy did she ride. She rode more than her two siblings combined. Meraxes was still smaller than Belerion, but she was larger than Vhagar. Her scales were silver and her eyes golden. She was said to be able to swallow a horse whole.
The Seven Kingdoms
Were just that before Aegon came. Seven separate kingdoms who ruled themselves. Rob wasn’t the first King in the North. He was just the first in three hundred years. Every kingdom had a King, although it was different from the Westeros of today. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but the keen observers who can count past five will notice the above map has nine separate regions. Well, erase the Targaryen section, that doesn’t exist yet. We’re down to eight. Now combine the Iron Islands with the Riverlands (fish), they were one Kingdom back in the day. I know, tedious geography. I’m sorry. So to explain it really simply, these Kingdoms were ruled by old houses. Some lived through this conquest, others got the boot. Prime example is, of course, the Starks who made it through. Opposite side of the coin are the Hoares. Heard of them? No? There’s a good reason, but all in due time.
OK. So the scene is set. Aegon and his sisterwives are living on Dragonstone. They’ve been riding dragons all their lives. The Targaryens have been looking east for a century to maybe secure some power over the remnants of the Freehold, but Aegon doesn’t. He looks at Westeros. They have limited manpower, but they have the only nukes in the world. Aegon understands the power of dragons. There’s a fire burning in Aegon’s veins and it’s always been there. His ancestors might have said it would be his destiny to remake the Valyrian Freehold with the Targaryens as the ultimate power, and Aegon had a chance at just that, but not only did he decide against it, he helped defeat the people trying to rebuild the Freehold and returned Essos to a semi peaceful place. And just like that he reforged the Targaryen vision.
Why? Good question. Essos was war torn so maybe Aegon wanted the more prosperous Westeros to be his. Or maybe he visited a few cities such as Oldtown or Lannisport and fell in love with the land? Maybe just because he could? Or maybe because he wanted to unite the Seven Kingdoms against a common enemy rumored to come from the north. The fact is we don’t know. But he set his mind to it. For years he planned.
Aegon had the painted table built. A table built to be a detailed map of Westeros, which still sits on Dragonstone to this day. His map lacked any borders, a visualization of his dream. One land united under a single ruler. Aegon and his sisters were a team in the truest sense of the word. He had great faith in them and they were key in the whole operation in many ways.
Let’s talk politics for a second. More specifically a dude named Harren Hoare, the King of the Isles and Rivers. AKA the Iron Islands and the Riverlands. This guy was building a castle. A big castle. The biggest castle ever in monument to himself. Harren was an asshole. Everyone hated him and that’s basically all you need to know about him. His castle was so big that construction had been going on for a good forty years. It would be called Harrenhal.
The King of the Stormlands, Argilac, didn’t like this one bit. He feared the completion of Harrenhal and Harren himself so much that he proposed a deal with Aegon to create a buffer zone between himself and Harren, with Aegon right in the middle. In return he promised Aegon the hand of his daughter and promised him lands (lands that, by the way, belonged to Harren. He promised Aegon land that he didn’t even own.) Aegon already had a wife, two in fact, so he sent an envoy offering the hand of his best mate, Orys Baratheon, instead.
Argilac was not happy. He took this as a huge insult and he even cut the hands off of the poor envoy Aegon had sent. Aegon received the hands in a box with a note:
“These are the only hands your bastard shall have of me”
This timing seemed to work really well. Aegon called his bannermen and met with them and his sisters. Seven days later, ravens burst from Dragonstone to each kingdom informing them there was only one king of Westeros now. He promised that if they bent the knee they could keep their lands and titles.Anyone who didn’t would be destroyed.
In 2 BC, Aegon and his sisters landed on the east coast of Westeros with anywhere from a few thousand men to a few hundred. They wisely chose an undefended spot just out of Harren and Argilac’s reach. Aegon began building a fort there. If you want a reference for where exactly Aegon landed and built his fort, take a look at a map of Westeros. Look on the east coast and I think you’ll figure it our real quick if you haven’t already.
The same day Aegon landed on Westeros, Harren moved into a finally completed Harrenhal. Forty years of hard work had finally paid off and he did have one magnificent castle.
There was a long road ahead, but the plan was underway. The first step was done, they were on Westeros. Aegon had Visenya, Rhaenys, and Orys at his side to help him. And dragons. Always dragons…
As always thanks for reading! Part II will be coming next Wednesday and we can really jump right into the meat of the Conquest. I know this part was mostly just setting everything up, but the payoff will be worth it.
All information comes from The World of Ice and Fire and the A Song of Ice and Fire series.
#1: From the GoT TV Series
#2: Art by Amok
#3: Art by Douglas Wheatley
#4: Art by Amok
#5: Art by Amok
#6: Art by unknown
#7: From the GoT TV Series
#8: Art by Ted Nasmith