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Friday, 29 April 2016

A History of Ice and Fire: Aegon's Conquest
War has ravaged the lands of Westeros over the last few years. The War of the Five Kings had caused a wave of destruction and a countless loss of life from Winterfell to Dorne. To the north of the Wall Wildlings have made bloody battle against the Night's Watch and, apparently, there are rumors that the dead has started to walk the land. Meanwhile in Slaver's Bay Daenerys Targaryen has caused a war in her attempt to free the slaves that they hold. However, centuries ago war ravaged Westeros and a kingdom was forged through blood, steel and dragon flame. This was the kingdom of Aegon Targaryen, (the ancestor of Daenerys Targaryen), and this is how he conquered Westeros with two sisters and three dragons.

Before the Conquest
Centuries ago the Valyrians held a great empire which encompassed much of Essos and even stretched as far as Dragonstone, an island only a few miles off the coast of Westeros. It was an empire forged with dragon fire and the will of their Valyrian masters. However, this all changed during the Doom of Valyria where a great cataclysm, still unknown to this day, destroyed Valyria. Valyrian colonies across Essos became free cities, the dragons were almost wiped out and the last Valyrian noble family, Targaryen, remained on Dragonstone. Around 112 years later Aegon Targaryen, Rhaenys Targaryen and Visenya Targaryen were tied between heading east to reconquer and reunify the former Valyrian cities or head west and begin the difficult task of conquering Westeros. Although they had a small navy and army they had the advantage of three fully grown dragons: Vhagar, Meraxes and the largest of the three Balerion the Black Dread. In preparation Aegon had a painted table made of Westeros showing no borders, this was an indication that he wished to conquer all of Westeros. The king of the Stormlands, Argilic the Arrogant, offered to marry his daughter to Aegon but Aegon refused deciding to carry on the Valyrian tradition of marrying siblings, to keep the bloodline 'pure', and married both Visenya and Rhaenys. He did offer the hand of his close friend, and possible brother, Orys Baratheon but an enraged Argilac cut the hands off of Aegon's messenger saying 'These are the only hands you will receive'. Aegon sent ravens to each kingdom calling them to yield to him. None did. Thus Aegon, Rhaenys and Visenya in 2 BC (Before Conquest) landed on Westeros.

The Landing
It was likely that Aegon had been to Westeros before despite what maesters used to claim. With fewer than 1,600 men the king and queens started the construction of Aegonfort where they would plan their future conquests. House Velaryon, (who were also Valyrian), aided them and soon houses Celtigar and Massey joined the Targaryens. Rhaenys quickly subdued House Rosby while Visenya subdued House Stokeworth. Lord Darklyn of Duskendale and Lord Mooton though gave the Targaryens their first challenge when they pulled resources and marched south. Orys Baratheon led a land assault against them while Aegon rising Balerion set upon them from above. both lords perished in dragon fire and their heirs quickly surrendered to Aegon. However, the Targaryens saw a setback when the navy under Daemon Velaryon was destroyed, (and Daemon killed), by a hastily assembled Arryn of the Vale fleet. Visenya riding Vhagar quickly burned the Arryn fleet which caused the Three Sisters (three islands off the coast of the Vale) to declare independence.

Burning of Harrenhal's_Conquest
It would be Harren Hoare, the King of the Isles and the Rivers, that would give the Targaryens their first major conquest. Harren Hoare controlled vast amounts of land and ruled over a large chunk of Westeros. His expansionism had caused Argilac the Arrogant to offer Aegon the hand of his daughter as a defensive maneuver. The brutality of Harren Hoare was well renowned for his brutality and he had forsaken the modest home of his father for a much grander home. By the time of Aegon's conquest it had been completed: Harrenhal. It was a virtually impenetrable castle. Harrenhal was built close to the Gods Eye which served Hoare well, House Hoare could utilize their impressive longboats this way. Although initially defeated at the Battle of the Reeds they dealt extensive damage to Aegon's troops at the Wailing Willows. Two of Harren's sons using muffled oars had managed to sneak up to Aegon's troops and then a massacre started. However, Balerion soon burnt the longboats and Harren lost his two sons. Following this Harren summoned the River lords to defend him but under Edmyn Tully of Riverrun they refused to do so and joined Aegon. Afraid Harren held up in Harrenhal. When Aegon arrived Harren refused to exit saying that 'Stone does not burn'. Harren underestimated the power of dragonflame. Stone may not burn but it did crumble under the intense heat of Balerion's breath. Flammable materials like straw took alight and soon the line of Harren Hoare was disintegrated. Today Harrenhal is supposedly the most haunted castle in Westeros and rumors say that it is still possible to hear the screams of Harren and his sons as they burnt to death. For his loyalty Edmyn Tully was made Lord Paramount of the Trident. Aegon would later invade the Iron Islands (the Islands in Harren Hoare's title) and make the ironborn bend the knee. Lord Vickon Greyjoy was then made Lord of the Iron Islands and a vassel to the Targaryens.

Conquest of the Stormlands
Next to fall would be the Storm King Argilac the Arrogant. As Aegon was battling House Hoare his sister Rhaenys riding Meraxes and Orys Baratheon went to conquer the Stormlands. So eager was Argilac to defend himself from the Targaryens that he had all his vassels meet him at Storm's End while allowing pirates and the Dornish to raid part of his land. While the Targaryens crossed the Wendwater a bannerman of Argilac, Lord Errol, set upon them and managed to kill a thousand Targaryen soldiers. However, Rhaenys retaliated by having Meraxes burn the forests where the attackers were hiding in resulting in Errol burning to death. Eager not to result in more loss of life the Targaryen forces bunkered down at Bronzegate to wait for Argilac who had left his castle after hearing what happened to Harren Hoare. The next battle was named the Last Storm. Argilac's forces crashed against the Targaryens. Argilac thought he had victory when he managed to break through Orys's center until he came face to face with Rhaenys rising Meraxes. His personal guard perished in dragonfire and he was thrown from the saddle. He refused to yield and in single combat Orys killed Argilac. They then went to Storm's End. Argilac's daughter, Argella, sealed the gate and was willing to share the same fate as Harren Hoare. Her soldiers were not and handed her over to the Rhaenys and Orys. Orys ended up marrying her and he adopted her family's motto (Ours is the fury) and sigil (a stag on a yellow background) for House Baratheon. Orys was soon made Lord Paramount of the Stormlands. Meanwhile at Crackclaw Point Visenya subdued the local lords with no fight who became direct vassels of the king.

The Field of Fire
Seeing two of the major kingdoms conquered, arguably, two most powerful kings, King Mern IX Gardener of the Reach and King Loren Lannister of he Rock, made common cause. They assembled an army of 55,000, where 5000 were knights, and marched to defeat the dragon king and queens. Aegon, Rhaenys and Visenya met up from their various conquests and went to battle against the two kingdoms. Mern Gardener led the center of the giant army while his vassel House Oakheart led the left while Loren Lannister led the right. At first it seemed the Targaryens would lose the battle. They were heavily outnumbered and the knights had penetrated the Targaryen army. This all changed when the Targaryens riding their three dragons descended onto the field. Spewing fire they cooked the opposing army. It was a massacre. In the end five thousand were burned alive and a further ten thousand were injured it what has been called the Field of Fire. Among the dead were Mern Gardener and all of his kin. The Gardeners had perished in dragonfire. Loren Lannister yielded the next day and Aegon allowed him to become Warden of the West. The Gardener steward, Harlen Tyrell, surrendered the capital castle of Highgardern and was made Lord Paramount of the Mander, a position that the Tyrells have today. However, they could not celebrate. The North had joined the war.

The North, Vale and Dorne's_Conquest
Aegon was initially to conquer the south but the King of the North Torrhen Stark had crossed the Neck with an army of 30,000. Aegon summoned all of those who had yielded and by the time Torrhen Stark had reached the Trident Aegon had an army consisting of men from the Reach, westerlands, riverlands and stormlands and, the army was twice the size of Stark's. Naturally Stark was not eager to replicated the Field of Fire with his northmen. Some lords suggested he retreat to Moat Cailin and fortify it while his illegitimate half-brother, Brandon Snow, offered a more secretive and daring plan. Brandon wanted to sneak into the Targaryen camp during the night and slay the dragons. However, Torrhen knew that the plan would fail and chose to negotiate a surrender. Earning him centuries later the mocking title the King-Who-Knelt Torrhen Stark became Warden of the North. However, doing this spared the lives, and the power, of the North. While this was happening Sharra Arryn, Queen regent of the Vale, fortified her cities and held herself up in the mountain fortress of the Eyrie with her son. For an invading army to conquer the Eyrie it would mean battling through three heavily fortified gates, up a mountain and brave high winds while being fired upon. Arryn felt safe that the Targaryens could not get her. That is until Visenya landed in the courtyard with her dragon. She let the young king Ronnel Arryn fly on the dragon as Visenya and Sharra discussed the Vale's surrender. By the time he landed he was no longer King of the Vale. Rhaenys had less look subjugating Dorne. She flew castle to castle on her dragon only to find them empty. She could not be secure conquering Dorne if no one surrendered to her. Finally at the capital of Sunspear she met the Princess of Dorne, the aging Meria Martell. Much of the Dornish nobility are descended from Princess Nymeria from Rhoynar so they use the Rhoynish terminology of 'Prince' and 'Princess' over the Westerosi 'King' and 'Queen'. Princess Meria Martell simply told Rhaenys that Dorne had no king and that '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.' She did that and Dorne remained independent.

The Last Conquests
Only Oldtown and the Iron Islands remained. Oldtown was important as it was where the maesters were trained and where the High Septon, the leader of the Faith of the Seven, sat. Capturing it would remove the last obstacle to Aegon's unchallenged rule. The High Septon prayed for seven days and nights until supposedly he was visited by the Crone who told him to surrender. The High Septon told the leader of Gulltown, Lord Manfred Hightower, he decided not to follow his master King Mern Gardener into battle. Lord Hightower immediately welcomed Aegon to Oldtown when he arrived and the High Septon crowned him Aegon of House Targaryen, First of His Name, King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm. Although this was inaccurate as Dorne was still free and the Iron Islands were still free but in disarray. A year after he was crowned he invaded the Iron Islands (explained above). His kingdom was complete.

During his reign Aegon would create a more centralized kingdom but he would crave Dorne. From 4 to 13 AC (After Conquest) he would lead an invasion of Dorne and true to her words Meria Martell remain Unbowed, Unbent and Unbroken. Rhaenys and her dragon Meraxes were both killed in the war which resulted in Aegon going into a stupor for years. Dorne would not be permanently incorporated into the kingdom until 187 AC via marriage and not conquest. Dorne remains out of all the kingdoms to have the most sovereignty, other than possibly the North. Aegonfort was eventually expanded to become an actual keep and is now known as the Red Fort surrounded by Westeros's capital King's Landing. Aegon knew though that a monarch could not be complacent. He had the swords of all those he surrendered gathered together and forged together to form a throne. That throne is the same throne that has been contested by so many over the years: the Iron Throne.

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