Butcher's Ball

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Butcher's Ball
Butcher's Ball.png
The death of Criston Cole, as depicted in The Dance of Dragons
Conflict Dance of the Dragons
Date 130 AC
Place south of Gods Eye, riverlands
Result decisive victory for the blacks
Aegon II Targaryen.svg Greens Rhaenyra Targaryen.svg Blacks
Kingsguard.svg Ser Criston Cole House Dustin.svg Lord Roderick Dustin
Ser Garibald Grey
Ser Pate of Longleaf
less than 3,600 300 mounted knights
300 longbowmen
3,000 archers
3,000 spearmen
hundreds of Winter Wolves
Ser Criston Cole

The Butcher's Ball was a battle fought south of the Gods Eye during the Dance of the Dragons.[1]


After the Battle at Rook's Rest, Aegon II was badly injured and his brother Aemond was given command of the greens' forces in King's Landing, as regent for his brother until he recovered. An aggressive young man, Aemond decided to attack the blacks' forces gathering at Harrenhal under his uncle Daemon, before they had sufficient force to strike at the capital. Aemond devised a plan to catch the river lords on two fronts, by having the Lannister army invade the riverlands from the west while he led their forces from King's Landing to attack from the east.

Aemond led a force of 4,000 men in total out of King's Landing, also led by Ser Criston Cole of the Kingsguard, now Hand of the King. Aegon II, Aemond, and Criston had previously led an army of slightly less than 3,000 to the Battle at Rook's Rest, where they lost some 800 men. While in King's Landing Aemond reconstituted his forces and sent forth all their remaining strength for the advance on Harrenhal.

This was exactly what Daemon had hoped for, however, to lure Aemond away from King's Landing - leaving only a skeleton defense force behind, enough that a smaller force from Dragonstone and Driftmark could quickly seize the capital using dragons and the Velaryon fleet. Combined with the betrayal of the city watch, who were still loyal to Daemon, the city fell within a single day with little fighting.

Meanwhile, the main black land army at Harrenhal did not simply wait to be caught in a pincer, but abandoned Harrenhal to attack the Lannister army in the west. They succeeded in annihilating the entire Lannister host in the Battle by the Lakeshore, though with heavy losses. It was now Aemond and Criston's host who were trapped between two fronts at Harrenhal: though they still had more men as well as the great dragon Vhagar, they were caught out of position in hostile territory, and with the river lords using scorched earth tactics to deny them new provisions.

Unaware of these developments, Aemond and Criston's host advanced northwest to Harrenhal. They faced little opposition, only to find the castle abandoned. Red Robb Rivers shot down messenger-ravens from the Lannister army to the west warning of their imminent destruction, so news of the twin disasters only arrived at Harrenhal after it was already too late.

Criston and Aemond disagreed on how respond. With their supplies running low, Criston decided to march south from Harrenhal though the riverlands to join the army of Ormund Hightower, Lord of the Hightower, and Prince Daeron Targaryen, which was marching through the Reach. Rather than accompany Criston, Aemond One-Eye flew into a rage and decided to burn the riverlands with his dragon, Vhagar.[1]

Criston marched out of Harrenhal with 3,600 men - having lost about 400 due to enemy raids, disease, and desertion. They traveled south along the western shore of the Gods Eye lake, but their riverlord enemies practiced scorched earth tactics, burning their own forests and villages. The blacks used guerrilla warfare against the greens, and by the day more of Criston's host deserted or joined the blacks. On one occasion the greens came across a grisly display of feasting corpses, the bodies of men who had fallen at the Fishfeed. Later at the village of Crossed Elms, Criston's forces were attacked by blacks disguised as corpses, losing twelve men before realizing Black Trombo's ruse.[1]


While heading toward the Blackwater Rush, Ser Criston Cole led his weakened greens into an ambush at a stony ridge south of the Gods Eye. The greens were outnumbered two to one by the forces of the riverlands and the north.[1]

Criston held a parley with Ser Garibald Grey, Ser Pate of Longleaf, and Roderick Dustin, Lord of Barrowton. Criston offered to surrender, but was refused by the three blacks. Criston, a famed knight who was also the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard for Aegon II in addition to being the King's Hand, prepared to fight all three of his counterparts at once. Before he could do so, however, the Kingmaker was struck down by arrows fired by Red Robb Rivers and two of his longbowmen.[1]

With Criston dead, Lord Dustin sounded the charge of the blacks' vanguard, which consisted of his Winter Wolves and the river knights. The greens quickly collapsed, with hundreds of them killed while trying to flee the ridge.[1]


After the battle, Ser Garibald Grey remarked, "Today was butchery, not battle." Upon hearing Garibald's observation, Mushroom began calling the slaughter the Butcher's Ball.[1]

Ser Criston Cole's death in the Butcher's Ball marked the high point of Rhaenyra Targaryen's fortunes. However, Prince Aemond Targaryen and King Aegon II Targaryen still remained to carry on the greens' cause.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Fire & Blood, The Dying of the Dragons - Rhaenyra Triumphant.