Westeros experienced a restoration of tranquility under Jaehaerys I following Maegor’s reign. This era of peace endured during the reign of his grandson, Viserys I, who succeeded him on the throne. However, Viserys I, who believed he ruled over a peaceful Westeros, inadvertently led the realm back to the days of Maegor’s reign, filled with terror. The very problems he chose to overlook laid the groundwork for a devastating civil war following his demise. As I expounded in my article concerning House Targaryen, Maegor wielded an iron fist in governing Westeros. Through the dragon fight, Maegor overthrew Aegon, marking the first instance of kin slaying among the Targaryens. The issues that Viserys I chose to ignore, which I shall elucidate in detail, would unravel this blood-stained history. However, this time, the ensuing conflict would not be as insignificant as the confrontation between Maegor and Aegon. This time, all Targaryens would engage in discord, and the dragonlords would lose their dragons entirely, the very creatures that had elevated them to god-like status in Westeros.
Viserys I, unlike Aegon or Maegor, did not possess a commanding or awe-inspiring presence. Nonetheless, the lords admired him for his politics of benevolence and harmony. In an effort to evade disputes and commotion, Viserys occasionally organized tournaments to amuse his lords and entertain all. However, Viserys faced a significant predicament. His wife, Aemma, was unable to bear him a son. Rhaenyra was the first surviving child, following several stillbirths. In light of King Viserys and Aemma’s inability to conceive a son, Viserys broke tradition and proclaimed his daughter as the future heir to the throne. Viserys had a brother named Daemon. Technically, Daemon had no legitimate claim to the throne, as the succession traditionally passed from father to son. The absence of a male heir increased Daemon’s prospects of ascending to the throne. As mentioned earlier, Maegor did not possess a legitimate claim to kingship. However, due to the rebellions that had erupted during that time, which had cast doubts on the Targaryen reign, the council and Visenya, the mother, selected Maegor, the brother of King Aenys, over the frail son Aegon. Daemon, well-versed in history, unabashedly asserted his right to the throne, as no one would desire a woman to sit on the Iron Throne. Nevertheless, plans took a drastic turn following the tragic death of Aemma Arryn during childbirth.
When King Viserys’ wife passed away, the council and numerous others urged him to remarry. The mere notion of Rhaenyra ascending the throne unsettled many. Although Viserys himself did not oppose the idea and was amenable to the circumstances, he could not refuse those who approached him, for he lacked a commanding presence. Consequently, Viserys chose Alicent Hightower as his new wife. This decision strained familial relations. Alicent happened to be the daughter of Otto Hightower, the Hand of the King. While Rhaenyra awaited her future with aspirations of becoming queen, she was suddenly confronted with the revelation that her dearest friend, Alicent, had wed her own father and that should Alicent bear him a son, Rhaenyra’s claim to the throne would be nullified. In due course, the dreaded news she had anticipated finally arrived: Alicent was with child.
Alicent Hightower bore Viserys four children: Aegon, Helaena, Aemond, and Daeron—three boys with potential claims to the throne. However, King Viserys made a decision that startled all, proclaiming that the true heir to the realm remained Rhaenyra. The marriage of her closest confidante to her father had already sowed seeds of discord between the two friends, but Rhaenyra’s retention of her position as the throne’s successor escalated their relationship into bitter enmity. The pair arrived at one of Westeros’ grand tournaments bedecked in divergent hues, symbolizing the criteria for their imminent parting. Clad entirely in black, Rhaenyra stood in stark contrast to Alicent, who donned garments of green, thereby inauspiciously commencing the unofficial conflict of the Blacks and the Greens.
Alicent firmly believed that the legitimate heir to the throne should be her son, Aegon, as tradition dictated. However, despite incessant disagreements with her husband, the king remained resolute in his choice of Rhaenyra as the designated heir. Consequently, Alicent embarked on a quest to besmirch the future queen’s reputation, a task that proved far simpler than anticipated. Rhaenyra had wed Laenor Velaryon in the year 114 after the Conquest, a union intended to unite two formidable dynasties. Yet, rumors began to haunt Rhaenyra’s footsteps. Whispers abounded, suggesting that although Laenor was wed to Rhaenyra, his affections were drawn to men.
Furthermore, speculation arose regarding Rhaenyra’s lack of maidenhood, insinuating that she had engaged in an affair with her uncle, Daemon Targaryen. Rumors also implicated her involvement with her champion, Criston Cole, followed by her subsequent dalliance with her fellow champion, Harwin Strong. The intense connection between Criston Cole and Rhaenyra did not escape notice to the extent that when Cole failed to obtain the object of his affection, he pledged his allegiance to Alicent, siding with the Greens.
The proliferation of rumors was primarily fueled by the conspicuous absence of Velaryon features among Rhaenyra’s children. Neither Jacaerys, Lucerys, nor Joffrey possessed the telltale silver hair or purple eyes associated with House Velaryon. Instead, they all exhibited brown hair and brown eyes. As the rumors continued to gain momentum, Rhaenyra made the decision to relocate with her family to Dragonstone. Yet, even with this change of residence, the whispers persisted. Faced with an unrelenting wave of gossip, King Viserys took the extraordinary step of publicly declaring to the entire realm that if the murmurs concerning his daughter and her offspring did not cease, severe consequences would befall the tongues of those who uttered such falsehoods. Adding to the intrigue, he dispatched Harwin Strong to his ancestral seat, Harrenhal. Curiously, Harwin met an untimely demise in a mysterious fire later in time. Amid these events, Laenor met his end at the hands of a male lover.
Having endured the loss of her potential love and husband, Rhaenyra found solace in marriage to Daemon Targaryen, a figure who had long held her fascination since childhood. Daemon possessed a reputation that veered between commendable and questionable. During Rhaenyra’s youth, he engaged in an affair with Mysaria, a woman he encountered within the confines of a King’s Landing brothel. Despite his Targaryen lineage, he exhibited an attraction to the women of the brothel and formed relationships with them. Furthermore, in Rhaenyra’s formative years, Daemon valiantly fought alongside Corlys Velaryon in a joint effort against the pirate Craghas Drahar and his fleet, who had seized control of the Stepstones. In the ensuing one-on-one duel, Daemon emerged victorious, earning the epithet of the “King of the Seas” bestowed upon him by Corlys.
The union of Rhaenyra and Daemon ignited the black and green animosities to unprecedented levels. However, it was an event in 129 after the Conquest that shattered the delicate balance. With the sudden passing of King Viserys in his slumber at the age of 52, Queen Alicent Hightower swiftly convened the council in a state of urgency. Despite Viserys having designated Rhaenyra as his chosen successor, Alicent asserted that her son, Aegon, should ascend the throne. Fearing that Rhaenyra would unleash destruction upon all who stood in her path to power, the council unanimously endorsed Aegon’s claim, with the exception of one dissenter. Lord Beesbury, entrusted with financial matters, dared to challenge the usurpation of Rhaenyra’s crown. In response to his objection, Ser Criston Cole coldly slit Lord Beesbury’s throat in full view, thus marking the first casualty of the impending civil war.
For ten days, the council concealed the demise of King Viserys while meticulously eliminating any potential opposition. Simultaneously, they sought allies to bolster their forces for the imminent conflict. However, the populace began to inquire about the whereabouts of the king, and an unpleasant stench permeated the corridors. They were compelled to hasten the announcement of the king’s demise. In a hurried ceremony, Aegon, bearing the secondary name in the line of succession, was anointed the king of Westeros by Ser Criston Cole, who was subsequently elevated to the esteemed rank of the Kingsguard.
Yet, deep down, Aegon harbored reservations regarding his newfound role as monarch. Much like Lord Beesbury, he believed that Rhaenyra’s rightful crown had been pilfered. Through persuasive discourse with Ser Criston Cole, Aegon was convinced to assume the mantle of kingship. Cole presented a compelling argument, emphasizing that Rhaenyra’s ascension would spell doom for his entire family. Convinced of the impending danger, Aegon saw no alternative but to seize the throne.
During this tumultuous period, Rhaenyra resided in Dragonstone, where she found herself in the throes of a delicate pregnancy, carrying her sixth child. Upon receiving the grievous news of her father’s demise and the usurpation of her rightful claim, Rhaenyra was overcome by premature labor. Tragically, her child perished upon birth, and in the anguish of her loss, she placed blame upon Aegon and Alicent. Swiftly springing into action, Rhaenyra dispatched a resolute message to all her allies, unequivocally declaring herself as the legitimate ruler of Westeros. Daemon Targaryen, along with their children and the Velaryon family, were among the first to pledge their support. Steffon Darklyn, a member of the Kingsguard, indignant at the perceived theft of Rhaenyra’s rights, ventured into the royal castle and clandestinely absconded with the crown previously worn by Viserys I and Jaehaerys I during their reigns, delivering them to Rhaenyra on Dragonstone for her to wear.
Rhaenyra and the clandestine assembly of loyalists, known as the black council, swiftly engage in their diplomatic endeavors. Jacaerys, mounted upon the mighty dragon Vermax, embarks on a voyage to the Vale and the North, while Lucerys takes to the skies astride Arrax, venturing towards the Stormlands. Their mother, however, imparts a stern warning: to avoid engaging in conflicts by any means necessary. Nonetheless, no such admonition is extended to Daemon, who sets his sights on the Riverlands. Riding his formidable dragon Caraxes, Daemon directs his course towards Harrenhal. House Strong, recognizing the futility of resistance, promptly surrenders the imposing fortress. With the backing of the Blackwoods, the blacks emerge triumphant in the Battle of the Burning Mill and the Battle of Stone Hedge, vanquishing House Bracken, the staunchest supporter of the Greens.
Simultaneously, Daemon skillfully garners support within the Riverlands, employing his powers of persuasion, while Jacaerys adroitly assumes the guise of a diplomat, securing the allegiance of the North by offering a matrimonial alliance between fire and ice. However, their journey to the southern realms, where unwavering support and effortless negotiations were anticipated, culminates in resounding failure. Lucerys, hopeful that the Baratheons would align with their cause, discovers upon his arrival at Storm’s End that Aemond is in the midst of brokering a pact with Borros Baratheon. In his pursuit of securing an advantageous marriage arrangement, Aemond extends similar promises to the Baratheons. Although harboring a deep-seated animosity towards Lucerys due to his lost eye, Aemond is dissuaded from initiating violence by Borros, who refuses to spill blood within his domain. Nevertheless, Aemond remains consumed by his vengeful desires. Relentlessly chasing after Lucerys, who departs on his dragon, Aemond launches a devastating assault upon Arrax and Lucerys, employing his fearsome dragon Vhagar, leading to the tragic demise of both individuals.
Upon receiving the heartbreaking news of her deceased child, Rhaenyra, consumed by grief and fury, turns to Daemon Targaryen, pledging to exact vengeance. He taps into the shadowy network he had once been acquainted with in King’s Landing. Blood and Cheese, formidable knights with nefarious intent, clandestinely infiltrate the royal fortress via covert passageways hidden beneath its foundations. Their insidious mission: to apprehend Jaehaera, Jaeharys, and Maelor, the offspring of Alicent’s daughter Helaena, thereby presenting the queen with a harrowing ultimatum. Given the choice of which child to sacrifice, Helaena finds herself agonizingly cornered by the murderers’ sinister threats of rape and slaughter should she refuse to comply. Faced with an unbearable dilemma, Helaena, bereft of options, succumbs to their malevolent demands. Tragically, Blood and Cheese execute the eldest boy, Jaehaerys, while Helaena, in her anguish, selects Maelor, as he is the youngest and least aware of the dire circumstances. Blood’s attempt to escape the city ends in his capture, whereas Cheese eludes capture with the aid of Mysaria.
The nightmarish ordeal irreversibly shatters Helaena’s psyche; the anguish of choosing her own son’s demise forever mars her soul. She finds solace neither in her union with her husband Aegon, nor in their shared chambers, as they now seek refuge in separate beds. Aegon, consumed by a burning desire for retribution against the perpetrators of this heinous act, implores Criston Cole to dispatch Arryk Cargyll to Dragonstone with the covert mission of assassinating the instigators.
However, upon Arryk’s arrival at Dragonstone, an unexpected encounter ensues as he comes face to face with his brother Erryk. It is whispered that the two brothers, entangled in a fateful duel, tragically meet their demise in each other’s hands, forever locked in a tragic embrace of death.
The forces aligned with the Blacks enjoyed considerable support from prominent houses throughout Westeros. However, the Greens encountered difficulties in garnering allies. Despite Otto Hightower’s intense negotiations, Dorne declared its intent to remain neutral, while the Ironborn and the Reach expressed their reluctance to offer their backing. Only House Hightower and House Redwyne stood firmly behind Aegon, while the Blacks secured the allegiance of several influential families such as Costayne, Mullendore, Tarly, Rowan, and Grimm. Faced with this dearth of support, Otto Hightower embarked on a diplomatic venture to the Three Daughters, traditional adversaries of the Velaryons, in Essos.
However, the Essosi navy, previously vanquished by the combined might of the Velaryons and Daemon Targaryen, posed no significant threat. As the fortunes of the Greens began to wane, King Aegon, perceiving the need for a change, relieved Otto Hightower of his duties as Hand of the King and appointed Criston Cole in his place. Unlike Otto, Criston was not a seasoned statesman; rather, he possessed an aggressive disposition. Swift to assert his authority, Criston ordered the execution of all Black prisoners unless they swore fealty to Aegon. With Criston Cole’s ascension, the Westerlands and the Stormlands pledged their support to Aegon. Eager to escalate the conflict, Cole initiated an assault on the Crownlands, the region known for its proximity to Rhaenyra, and executed the Lord of Duskendale. Continuing his march toward Rook’s Rest, Cole encountered Rhaenys and her dragon, Meleys. King Aegon, mounted on Sunfyre, and Aemond, astride Vhagar, swiftly came to Cole’s aid as they jointly engaged Meleys in fierce combat.
The clash of the three dragons unfolded in a deadly spectacle, culminating in a catastrophic collision that sent them hurtling toward the ground. Rhaenys and Meleys perished in the ensuing fall, while both Sunfyre and King Aegon sustained alive. Aemond and Vhagar emerged unscathed from the calamity. But Aegon’s wounds were so grave that he was confined to his bed for months, his pain alleviated only by the consumption of the soothing Milk of the Poppy. With the king incapacitated, Aemond was appointed the Protector of Westeros and assumed the throne. Recognizing Sunfyre’s vulnerability, the army of Maidenpool launched an assault on the location where the wounded dragon was being safeguarded. Although the assailants attempted to slay Sunfyre, the dragon managed to regain enough strength to take flight, thereby narrowly evading death’s clutches.