Welcome, welcome. When we last left our dashing heroes the conquest was well under way. Rhaenys had taken the Stormlands with Orys, who got married. Visenya had failed to take the Vale, and Aegon had brought an end to Harren Hoare. Actually all of the Hoares. Yeah, they were gone. No more. Aegon gave the Riverlands to the Tullys who had been the first family to drop Harren like a bad habit. The Ironborn were still free, probably just doing what Ironborn do best: being stupid. Let’s dig in then. Get your popcorn, get your drinks, and tell your boss you’re busy for awhile.
A Most Serious Threat
Remember when we talked about this needing to be a swift war? Well the reason was that if Aegon twiddled his thumbs then the Seven Kingdoms would temporarily unite and drive him out. Knowing that, he not only didn’t waste any time, but he split his forces in three separate ways to prevent that. And it was successful. Just like that, two of the strongest Kingdoms were gone.
The other Kings of Westeros weren’t so keen on meeting the same fate. There were still the Starks in the north and the Martells in the south, but it was the two Kings of the west who united. The Kings of the Reach and the Rock.
Before the Tyrells were getting roasted like a nice Sunday rotisserie, the Gardeners ruled the Reach. The current King was Mern Gardener. The familiar Lannisters of Casterly Rock ruled the Rock. The current King was Loren Lannister.
The two Kings united and formed the greatest host Westeros had ever seen. An army with only one purpose. Drive Aegon Targaryen and his sisters into the ground.
55,000 Good Men
The two Kings marched their army north. A game of chess began between Aegon and the western Kings. Except they were playing with blindfolds on. They marched north through fields of wheat and tall grasses. They knew where Aegon had been, but not really where he was going to be. There were no drones to watch their enemies movements or tactics, it was guesswork. Positioning was important and it was inevitable that the two forces would meet, but under what circumstances were critical.
Orys had taken the Stormlands because he’d had the high ground and the mud had slowed Argilac’s mounted knights and made them useless. Orys had won simply because he had positioned himself better due to intelligence gathered by Rhaenys. Of course Meraxes helped, but they would have been crushed if Orys had met Argilac on even ground, even with a dragon on their side.
The two Kings came upon Aegon and his forces much sooner than they had expected to. Aegon had moved quickly with his small force compared to the slow crawl of Loren, Mern, and 55,000 men. But the Kings still rejoiced when their scouts brought them the reports. The Targaryens were outnumbered 5 to 1. They were on even ground and there was no mud to slow the horses, there had been no rain at all in fact. The flat fields of grass and wheat were exactly what the western Kings needed to crush Aegon. The two Kings sounded the horns and the battle began. Aegon and his sisters weren’t on the ground fighting though. In fact they were no where in sight.
Do I even need to say it, ladies and gentlemen?
The Field of Fire
For the first time, and the last, Aegon, Visenya, and Rhaenys descended from the sky upon their dragons together. It was the only time during the Conquest that they fought as three which is a testament to the threat Mern Gardener and Loren Lannister had presented them. But you know what wasn’t a testament to them? The Field of Fire.
Would you rather be fighting at the Last Storm or at the Field of Fire? The Last Storm is the correct answer. Even though that battle took place somewhere between Westeros and hell, it was still preferable to this nightmare.
Grass and wheat burn. Dry grass and wheat burn even better. The fields surrounding the two Kings went up in no time at all. Smoke blew into their faces and blinded them. Balerion, Vhagar, and Meraxes just went on a loop of swooping down, sweeping the field and men with fire, and repeating.
Oh yes. Grass and wheat burn. You know what else burns? Gardeners. The Gardeners shared the same fate the Hoares had earlier in the Conquest. Their line was ended at the Field of Fire. As were the Lannisters. Both houses went into extinction… Ha. Just making sure you’re paying attention. No, Loren Lannister survived and fled when he realized the battle was lost.
The Targaryens lost under a hundred men that day. The Kings lost more than 5,000 and the Gardeners ceased to exist. Aegon had the burnt swords of the fallen gathered and sent you know where.
Loren was captured the next day, he didn’t get very far, and he bent the knee to Aegon. Who, in turn, instantly raised him up and confirmed Loren in his lands and titles and named him his Warden of the west and Lord of Casterly Rock. He did this even though Loren had just led an army against Aegon the day before.
We talked at the beginning of this series about what it means to sit the Iron Throne and how we all have our favorites. Ask yourself right now what your favorite would do if they had someone at their feet who had just attempted to kill them the day before. Not just that, but had led a massive army against them. Would there be swift justice, mercy, or maybe even forgiveness? Is there even a right answer?
Aegon went to Highgarden before a new power could claim the Reach as their own, but when he got there the steward, Harlan Tyrell, handed him the keys to the castle without a fight. Aegon handed them back and gave Harlan Highgarden and named him Warden of the south. And thus the Tyrells came to power in the Reach and two more Kingdoms were conquered. Three remained (and the Iron Islands). Aegon intended to go south at this point to conquer Oldtown and Dorne, a very real menace, but a new threat had come from the north.
Torrhen Stark with 30,000 men had crossed the Neck and entered the Riverlands, which was now Aegon’s land. Aegon immediately flew north and called his forces to meet him. I sometimes wonder if Aegon, later in life, regretted this move. Maybe he should have went and conquered Dorne first.
The two forces met at the Trident, one on each side. Torrhen had twice as many men than Aegon, but all three dragons circled the sky ready to swoop down. They had passed Harrenhal on their way down, Torrhen had seen the ruins and the melted stone as if it were a soft candle. Reports of the Field of Fire had been coming in. Some northmen urged Torrhen to attack. Some urged him to make their last stand at Moat Cailin. His bastard brother, Brandon, offered to slay the dragons in the night while they were sleeping.
But Torrhen sent Brandon, not with a knife, but with a message. Messages were carried back and forth across the river all night until morning when Torrhen himself crossed the river.
The King Who Knelt
Torrhen laid his crown at Aegon’s feet and bent the knee. Aegon raised him up and confirmed him as Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the north, but King no longer. They called him The King Who Knelt. A good or bad title? Up to each individual person to decide, but one thing is certain. Not a single sword Aegon collected that day was burnt or twisted. Two Kingdoms to go.
Aegon turned back south and marched toward Oldtown. Rhaenys was sent to Dorne and Visenya went for try number two at the Vale. The path was clear to them this time though, in more ways than one.
Visenya flew straight to the Eyrie where Sharra Arryn had made her defense. But people on the ground could not stop a dragon, or even see it high in the sky. Instead of fighting, Visenya just flew over everyone’s head and landed right there in the courtyard of the Eyrie, one of the most fortified structures in Westeros. Sharra ran out with her guard, but was stopped in her tracks.
On Visenya’s knee was her son, Ronnel the boy King. When Sharra appeared the boy simply asked:
“Mother, can I go flying with the lady?”
And with that, Visenya took the Vale. The crown was laid at her feet and as promised, Visenya took Ronnel flying on Vhagar. He did not care in the slightest that he had gone from a little King to a little Lord. Sharra and Visenya even shared a smile that day. One Kingdom to go.
When Rhaenys flew into Dorne, she found it…empty. She found kids, woman, and old men, but no warriors. Every castle she came upon was empty. Even Sunspear lay empty save for Meria Martell, Princess of Dorne sitting upon her throne.
“I will not fight you, nor will I kneel to you. Dorne has no king. Tell your brother that.”
” I shall, but we will come again, Princess, and next time we shall come with fire and blood.”
“Your words, Ours are Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken. You may burn us, my lady, but you will not bend us, break us, or make us bow. This is Dorne. You are not wanted here. Return at your peril.“
And so Rhaenys flew away from Dorne, very much intending to return.
Oldtown was a simple affair. Long story short, they knew that if they fought Aegon they would unleash a can of whoop ass and Oldtown would burn, so they helped him instead of fighting him. And as the holy people of Westeros, they even gave him his own official coronation under the recognition of the Seven. A much nicer one than his first. And this day became the official start of Aegon’s reign and even split time into BC and AC. Before Conquest, after Conquest. Tens of thousands cheered him as he rode through the streets after the coronation. He had won not just the land, but the people’s hearts as well.
Aegon decided to make the place he had first set foot on Westeros his royal seat. They decided to call it King’s Landing. Aegon gave the Iron Islands the freedom to choose who their Lord would be and they chose Vickon Greyjoy.
The Iron Throne
Aegon made his seat out of the twisted and burnt swords of his fallen foes. The throne was uncomfortable and dangerous. It was all too easy to cut yourself on it, and many Kings would find themselves drawing blood often. Aegon knew no King should sit easy. Pillows, luxury, and comfort were things a King must not have while upon that seat. It served as a constant reminder of where you were and what it meant to sit there.
“Have you ever seen the Iron Throne? The barbs along the back, the ribbons of twisted steel, the jagged ends of swords and knives all tangled up and melted? It is not a comfortable seat, ser. Aerys cut himself so often men took to calling him King Scab, and Maegor the Cruel was murdered in that chair. By that chair, to hear some tell it. It is not a seat where a man can rest at ease. Ofttimes I wonder why my brothers wanted it so desperately.” – Stannis
Aegon knew what it meant better than anyone. Aegon was a Conqueror, but there came a point when it was time to put the sword down and rule. Aegon knew what he was and he knew his strengths which is why he left most matters to his sisters and small council. Not out of laziness, he would always do his duty when it was needed of him, but the Kingdom was better off in their hands on the day to day operations. Aegon was strong enough to know that.
“I swear to you, sitting a throne is a thousand times harder than winning one.” – Robert
And back to the underlining question. What makes a good ruler? Tywin Lannister will tell you it’s wisdom. Holiness, strength, justice, what makes a good king? Why not all of the above? If you are only wise, then you may not have enough strength to defeat your enemies. If you are all strength then you won’t have the wisdom to rule once you do defeat your enemies. Aegon was all of the above. He was wise to leave things in others care because he knew his own shortcomings were other people’s strengths. He was strong enough to defeat his enemies and just enough to punish those who opposed him. But he was also merciful and forgiving even to those who despised him. Tywin Lannister comes directly from a man named Loren who had tried to destroy Aegon. He lost and fled and was forced to bend the knee or die, but when he did bend the knee Aegon forgave and rewarded him. He even let the Lannisters keep Casterly Rock. Aegon destroyed his foes, rewarded his friends, and forgave old enemies. Aegon had a mix of all the qualities. That’s what makes a good King. But when-
“Whoa whoa whoa! You’re getting ahead of yourself, Dorne is still sitting down there. Aegon only has six of the Seven Kingdoms!” – You (probably)
Oh ya. I’m sorry about that. Aegon’s Conquest might have been officially over, but his job wasn’t quite done, was it? Aegon had a dream of conquering all Seven Kingdoms, and I assure you, he didn’t just forget about Dorne. So let me tell you what happened.
Just when Dorne began to think Aegon had forgotten, he assured them he hadn’t. He mounted Balerion and-
As always thank you for reading! All information comes from The World of Ice and Fire and the A Song of Ice and Fire series.
#1: Art by Zippo514
#2: From a GoT DVD extra
#3: Art by ElegantWaster
#4: Art by unknown
#5: From a GoT DVD extra
#6: Art by Chase Stone
#7: Art by Andrew Ryan
#8: Art by Magali Villeneuve
#9: Art by Unknown
#10: Art by Marc Simonetti