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Dance of the Dragons

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For the book, see A Dance with Dragons. For the song, see The Dance of the Dragons (song).
Dance of the Dragons
War of succession
Woodrow J. Hinton III The Dragon's Fire.png
The Dragon's Fire. © Fantasy Flight Games.

Date 129-131AC
Location Westeros
Result Deaths of both claimants, Aegon II and Rhaenyra
Aegon III's ascension to the throne
Marriage of Aegon III to Jaehaera Targaryen

House Targaryen (the blacks)
House Velaryon
House Arryn
House Stark
House Manderly
House Celtigar
House Dustin
House Darklyn
House Blackwood
House Frey
House Rowan
House Tarly
House Targaryen (the greens)
House Hightower
House Lannister
House Baratheon
House Reyne
House Strong
House Redwyne
House Lefford
House Crakehall
House Swyft
House Fossoway of Cider Hall
House Peake
Notable commanders
Queen Rhaenyra I
Prince Daemon Targaryen, Protector of the Realm
Prince Jacaerys Velaryon
Lord Corlys Velaryon, Hand of the Queen
Lord Roderick Dustin
King Aegon II
Queen Dowager Alicent Hightower
Ser Otto Hightower, Hand of the King
Lord Commander Criston Cole, Hand of the King
Prince Regent Aemond Targaryen, Protector of the Realm
Lord Ormund Hightower
Admiral Sharako Lohar of Lys

The Dance of the Dragons was a civil war during Targaryen rule. A war of succession between Aegon II and his half-sister Rhaenyra over their father Viserys I's throne, the war was fought from 129AC to 131AC. It saw the deaths of both rival monarchs, and the crowning of Rhaenyra's son, Aegon III.

In early 2013 it was announced that the anthology Dangerous Women, previously expected to include the fourth Dunk and Egg story, would instead include a novella by George R. R. Martin named The Princess and the Queen which he described as "(...) the true (mostly) story of the origins of the Dance of the Dragons."[1] The abridged version in The Princess and the Queen consists of 30,000 words, while the complete 80,000 word history of the civil war is planned for Fire and Blood.[2]



King Viserys I had three children by his first queen Aemma Arryn, but only one, Princess Rhaenyra, survived to adulthood. Lacking a son to succeed him, Viserys began to train Princess Rhaenyra to be his heir. Young Rhaenyra was included in discussions of the affairs of state, and was allowed to participate in meetings of the small council. Many of the nobles took note, and Rhaenyra soon acquired a clique of adherents and supporters. However, after his queen died, the king remarried in 106AC, this time to Alicent Hightower and had four more children, including three sons, the eldest son named Aegon. Nonetheless, Viserys I strengthened Rhaenyra's place in the succession; he married her to Ser Laenor Velaryon - who himself had Targaryen blood through his mother, Princess Rhaenys. Rhaenyra gave birth to three sons during her marriage, although there were rumours that the father of these boys was not Ser Laenor, but Ser Harwin Strong.[3]

When Laenor Velaryon passed away Rhaenyra married anew, this time her own uncle, Prince Daemon Targaryen, younger brother to Viserys I Targaryen. Her sons by him are the future Aegon III (called Aegon the Younger in his youth, to distinguish him from his uncle, Aegon II, who on occasion was called Aegon the Elder) and Viserys II. Her father's intention that she should follow him on the Iron Throne was confirmed by proclamation and the will of Viserys I Targaryen. In 105AC, hundreds of Lords and landed knights had done obeisance to the Princess Rhaenyra.[3]

In 111AC, a great tourney was held at King’s Landing on the fifth anniversary of the king’s marriage to Queen Alicent. At the opening feast, the queen wore a green gown, whilst the Princess Rhaenyra dressed dramatically in Targaryen red and black. Note was taken, and thereafter it became the custom to refer to “greens” and “blacks” when talking of the queen’s party and the party of the princess, respectively. In the tourney itself, the blacks had much the better of it when Ser Criston Cole, wearing Princess Rhaenyra’s favor, unhorsed all of the Queen’s champions, including two of her cousins and her youngest brother, Ser Gwayne Hightower.[1][3]

Rhaenyra and Alicents relationship had gone bad early in Alicent's marriage to Viserys, since both ladies had been trying to be the realm's first lady, and there could only be one. As a consequence of their bad relation, Alicent's sons did not take to Rhaenyra's sons. Ser Otto Hightower had also disliked Prince Daemon since the beginning of Viserys' reign, though the exact reasons are unknown.[3]

The Dance of the Dragons

The Small Council meeting

Upon the death of King Viserys I Targaryen, on the third day of the third month of 129AC, Queen Alicent and Ser Criston Cole send out the Kingsguard to summon the Small Council members. During the gathering, the conversation quickly stirred towards Rhaenyra’s coronation, but Ser Otto Hightower, the Hand of the King, told those who had gathered that it would be a new King who would be crowned, whilst Lord Lyman Beesbury, the Master of Coin, insisted Rhaenyra should be crowned a queen.

Lord Beesbury argued in favour of Rhaenyra, but several other council members countered him. Ser Tyland Lannister argued that the oaths made to Rhaenyra in 105AC had not been made by them, since it had been twenty-four years. Ironrod mentioned that the Old King twice chose a male heir over the female heir, and Ser Otto reminded them all that Rhaenyra was married to Daemon, who would become the true ruler, should Rhaenyra gain the crown. Both Hightowers argued that not only they, but also Alicent’s children would lose their lives should Rhaenyra become their Queen. It would later be said that Prince Aegon only reluctantly accepted the crown because his mother, brothers, sister and children would otherwise be killed by Rhaenyra.

Grand Maester Orwyle predicted a war, believing that Rhaenya would never be willing to give up her birth right, since she had dragons at her disposal. Lord Beesbury declared Rhaenyra had friends as well, and that he was not willing to sit there and listen to people plotting to steal Rhaenyra’s crown. He rose to leave, but Ser Criston Cole forced him back into his seat and opened his throat. This made Lord Beesbury the first casualty of the Dance of the Dragons.

After Beesbury’s death, the green council made their plans, vowing their loyalty to their new King, and arresting all those in King's Landing who could be loyal to Rhaenyra. To all those who might be loyal to Aegon, ravens were sent. Meanwhile, Rhaenyra remained on Dragonstone, unaware of what had happened.[1]

Coronation of Aegon II

Prince Aemond was sent out to Storm's End, to betroth himself to one of Lord Borros’ daughters, so he might fight for Aegon. By the time he left, the smell coming from Viserys’ room was all over Maegor's Holdfast, so seven days after Viserys had died, his death was announced to the city and the Silent Sisters were sent for.

Aegon’s coronation was prepared in short time. Ser Criston Cole placed the crown of Aegon the Conquerer on Aegon’s head, while Alicent Hightower placed a crown upon the head of Aegon’s Queen, his sister Helaena.

The night before Aegon’s coronation, however, the first defection had taken place. Ser Steffon Darklyn had left the city, with, amongst other things, the crown Kings Viserys I and Jaehaerys I had worn.

On Dragonstone, Rhaenyra had learned about the death of her father and the betrayal of her siblings. Anger had made her go into labour, which lasted for three days and brought forth a still born, deformed girl, whom Rhaenyra named Visenya. Rhaenyra, in answer to Aegon’s betrayel, swore revenge against the Greens.[1]

The Black Council

Rhaenyra made her own council, called the Black Council. Participants were, amongst others, Rhaenyra’s husband Daemon, her three eldest sons Jacaerys, Lucerys and Joffrey, Lord Corlys Velaryon, and his wife Princess Rhaenys.

Despite having more dragons, the Blacks knew that wouldn’t be an advantage, since the Greens possessed Vhagar, and from the nine dragons belonging to the Backs, only five were big enough for battle.

Believing to have allies in the Riverlands who were only waiting for a place to gather, Prince Daemon decided to conquer Harrenhal as a base, using his dragon Caraxes, while Rhaenyra would remain on Dragonstone to recover her strength. House Velaryon closed off the Gullet, and Princess Rhaenys expressed hope of goading Aegon the Elder into a rash attack, believing him to be a green boy.

Princess Rhaenys was convinced that Storm's End would declare for Rhaenyra, since Lord Boremund, the deceased father of Lord Borros, had always been a supporter of Rhaenys herself. Though they believed the North to be too remote to play an important part in the war, the Blacks decided to send messages to those lords as well. Jacaerys, Rhaenyra’s heir, would bring messages to the Maiden of the Vale, the Starks of Winterfell and the Manderly’s of White Harbor. Lucerys, Rhaenyra’s second son, would go to Storm's End, a safer, shorter journey, according to the Blacks.

After these decisions, Rhaenyra was crowned a Queen, using the crown her father and great-grandfather had worn, thanks to Ser Steffon Darklyn, who had arrived from King's Landing. Prince Daemon, Rhaenyra’s husband, was named Protector of the Realm, and Jacaerys was officially named Prince of Dragonstone, and heir to the Iron Throne. Declaring Otto Hightower and Queen Alicent traitors, Rhaenyra allowed for her half-siblings to be forgiven if they would bend the knee. Upon hearing about these developments, King Aegon II declared Rhaenyra and Daemon traitors as well.

Hoping for a peaceful end to the war, Grand Maester Orwyle was allowed to visit Dragonstone and speak with Rhaenyra. The terms he brought with him, allowed Rhaenyra and all their supporters generous terms. Rhaenyra refused. Soon after, Lord Corlys’ ships took sail to close off the Gullet, and Jace and Luke left on their dragons with their messages, and Daemon left on Caraxes to the Trident.

Harrenhal fell quickly to Daemon. Ser Simon Strong, the elderly castellan, was captured. Daemon had a dozen valuable hostages (including Ser Simon and his grandsons). In the mean time, Jace allied Lady Arryn, and the Lords Manderly, Borrell and Sunderland, and Cregan Stark to Rhaenyra’s cause.[1]

The Dance over Shipbreaker Bay

Arrax washes up beneath Storm's End by Ashley Hunter Rice

Lucerys had meanwhile flown to Storm's End, arriving before a gathering storm. When he arrived, however, he found Prince Aemond and his dragon Vhagar already present. Aemond tried to goad Lucerys into a fight, insulting him, calling him a Strong bastard, but Lucerys, having sworn to his mother not to fight, refused him, and instead delivered his message to Lord Borros. Lord Borros responded by asking which one of his daughters Luke would marry, should he do what Rhaenyra wanted him to do. Luke, already betrothed, told Lord Borros he could not marry any of the girls, upon which Lord Borros told Luke to leave.

Aemond drew his sword before Lucerys could go outside, and Lord Borros’ men had to hold him back.

He came an envoy. I want no blood shed beneath my roof.

…is what Lord Borros said, growing uneasy. At that, Lucerys went outside, mounted his dragon, and left. Lord Borros then told Aemond that he could not tell Aemond what not to do when Aemond was no longer beneath his roof, upon which Borros’ men moved aside and let Aemond out.

Outside the storm was raging. Though younger and faster, the storm was slowing Arrax down, leading to Vhagar catching up. The fight between the two dragons did not last long. Vhagar, being five times bigger, had the advantage, and Arrax fell broken. His head and neck would wash ashore three days later, along with the corpse of Prince Lucerys Velaryon.[1]

And with his death, the war of ravens and envoys and marriage pacts came to an end, and the war of fire and blood began in earnest.

Blood and Cheese

Rhaenyra collapsed when learning of Lucerys’ death. Prince Daemon, at Harrenhal, send a raven to his wife.

An eye for an eye, a son for a son. Lucerys shall be avenged.

Daemon Targaryen had friends in the low places of King's Landing and at court, and followers amongst the gold cloaks. One of his friends enlisted the help of a former serjeant in the City Watch, known to history as Blood, and a rat-catcher from the Red Keep, known to history only as Cheese.

Cheese sneaked Blood into the Red Keep, using secret tunnels and hidden doors, bringing them into the Tower of the Hand. Blood killed Queen Alicents bedmaid, whilst Cheese bound and gagged Alicent herself. Then they waited for Queen Helaena, who would visit her mother every evening with her three children. As Helaena and the children entered, Blood barred the door and killed the guardsmen accompanying Helaena. Cheese picked up Maelor.[1]

”Which one you want t’ lose, Your Grace?”

Calling themselves debt collectors, they gave Helaena the choice of chosing which of her two sons would die. Haelena offered herself instead, but they refused and stated if she didn't choose Blood would rape her daughter. In the end, Helaena reluctantly chose Maelor, but Blood did the opposite and killed Prince Jaehaerys, six year of age. True to their word, they did not hurt anyone else, but fled with Prince Jaehaerys’ head. After this event, Queen Helaena slowly went mad, staying in her chambers, no longer being able to look at her son Maelor, knowing she had named him to die. Dowager Queen Alicent took over the care of the remaining two children.[1]

The Battle of Rook's Rest

After the fall of Harrenhal, King Aegon II suffered defeats at the Burning Mill and Stone Hedge, making the young king realizing his situation was severe. Ravens returned from the Reach, and while House Hightower of Oldtown and the Arbor stood firmly behind Aegon, Lord Costayne of Three Towers, Lord Mullendore of Uplands, Lord Alan Tarly of Horn Hill, Lord Rowan of Goldengrove and Lord Grimm of Greyshield all declared for Rhaenyra, as did the Vale, White Harbor, Winterfell, the Blackwoods and other riverlords, who were assembling at Harrenhal.

This, and the closing of the Gullet that kept going, made Aegon angry at his Hand. Ser Otto believed that Daemon, Rhaenyra’s greatest pillar of support, was her greatest weakness. He reached out to one such foe, the Kingdom of the Three Daughters across the Narrow Sea, hoping to use them against the Sea Snake.

Aegon II was running out of patience, however, and fired Otto as Hand. Ser Criston was named in his stead, and decided actions were necessary.

It is not for you to plead for support from your lords, like a beggar pleading for alms. You are the lawful king of Westeros, and those who deny it are traitors. It is past time they learned the price of treason.

Larys Strong had a list of all those who had gathered on Dragonstone to attend Rhaenyra’s coronation. Those lords living on islands could not be touched, but those on the main land could. Duskendale fell easily, and Lord Darklyn was beheaded. Ser Criston then turned his attention to Rook's Rest.

Lord Staunton closed his gates and defied his attackers, but could not protect his small folk. His provisions running low, he send a raven to Dragonstone, asking for help. The help that arrived was Princess Rhaenys on dragon Meleys. Unbeknownst to the blacks, however, Ser Criston had been expecting a dragon to appear. His men attacked the dragon with scorpions, longbows and crossbows, it only served to anger Meleys.

Next, Sunfyre and Vhagar appeared. Meleys had no chance against Vhagar and Sunfyre combined. The dragons fought a thousand feet above the ground. Meleys’ jaws closed around Sunfyre’s neck, and Vahgar fell upon them, causing all three dragons to crash into the ground. From the ashes, only Vhagar rose again. Sunfyre had one wing half torn from his body, whilst his rider, King Aegon II, suffered from several broken bones and severe burns. Princess Rhaenys was found completely burned next to the dead body of Meleys. After the battle, Prince Aemond and Ser Criston took Rook's Rest and put the garrison to death. The head of Meleys was brought back to King's Landing, inspiring fear amongst the small folk, causing thousands to flee the capitol until the gates were barred by Dowager Queen Alicent.

King Aegon II was brought back to King's Landing, where maesters attended to his wounds. He was severely wounded, sleeping nine hours out of every ten, under the influence of milk of the poppy. Sunfyre was too large to be moved, and due to his injuries unable to fly. The dragon thus remained at Rook's Rest, where guards were posted to keep him safe and feed him. With Aegon unable to rule, Prince Aemond assumed the style of Protector of the Realm.[1]

You must rule the realm now, until your brother is strong enough to take the crown again.

The Dragonseeds

Netty and Sheepstealer by Ashley Rice
It should have been you.

Lord Corlys, upon learning of the death of his wife, threatened to leave Rhaenyra’s side, until Prince Jacaerys named him Hand of the Queen. Together, grandfather and grandson planned an assault on King's Landing, sent Prince Joffrey to the Vale with Lady Rhaena and three dragons eggs and Joffrey’s dragon Tyraxes. Prince Aegon the Younger and Prince Viserys were sent to Pentos by ship, to be fostered with the Prince of Pentos, a friend of Prince Daemons, until Rhaenyra had secured the throne.

With only Vhagar left to defend the city (Dreamfyre was at King's Landing as well, but could not fight due to her rider being unable), Jacaerys wanted to attack the capitol with as many dragons as possible. With six riderless dragons present on Dragonstone, Jacaerys called out to the dragonseeds, vowing that any man who could master one of the dragons would be raised to knightship and gain wealth. Many men tried, and some women as well. Sixteen men died, amongst them Lord Commander Steffon Darklyn, and forty-eight were burned or maimed. Four people eventually succeeded: Vermithor was claimed by Hugh Hammer, Silverwing by Ulf the White, Seasmoke by Addam of Hull, and Sheepstealer by a girl named Nettles. Lord Corlys asked Rhaenyra to remove the taint of bastardy from Addam and his brother Alyn, making them true Velaryons, and named Addam heir to Driftmark.[1]

Battle in the Gullet

Meanwhile, ninety warships were sailing from the Stepstones chanced upon the Gay Abandon, carrying Prince Aegon the Younger and Prince Viserys. The escorting ships were sunk or taken, and Prince Aegon managed to escape by clinging to the neck of his dragon, Stormcloud. During the flight, Stormcloud was injured terribly. Prince Viserys, having only a dragon egg, had no such option, and was made a captive of admiral Sharako Lohar of Lys.

Prince Aegon’s arrival on Dragonstone, with Stormcloud, spread the tale, and so Prince Jacaerys mounted Vermax and flew to the Lysene galleys, quickly followed by the four dragonseeds. The warships tried to flee, and all seemed lost for the Lyseni, until Vermax flew too low and crashed into the sea. Jacaerys leapt free, and managed to hold on to a piece of wreckage, until he was pierced by quarrels. The prince was swallowed by the sea.

The lysine ships, who had set sail originally with ninety, sailed back with only twenty-eight ships. They passed Dragonstone, but believed the island too strong to take. Instead, they sacked Spicetown and butchered men, women and children. High Tide, containing all the Sea Snakes treasures, was consumed by fire, one third of his fleet brought down.[1]

The Battle on the Honeywine

A fortnight later, Lord Ormund Hightower found himself stuck between two armies: Lord Thaddeus Rowan and Tom Flowers, from Goldengrove and Bitterbridge, came down on him from the northeast, while Ser Alan Beesbury, Lord Alan Tarly and Lord Owen Costayne were cutting off the retreat route back to Oldtown. They closed around him, when Prince Daeron on his dragon joined the battle. Tom Flowers died, Lord Rowan fled, the Alans were captured, and Lord Costayne was dying. The victory lead to Lord Hightower knighting Prince Daeron, naming him Daeron the Daring.[1]

Fall of King's Landing

Tide turned for the blacks. Jace’s death seemd to give Rhaenyra strength. Filled with anger and hatred, she resolved to use her dragons.

Meanwhile Lord Mooton retook Rook's Rest, and attempted to kill Sunfyre, who still remained there, wounded. The dragon fought back, and burned three score men before the others fled. Lord Mooton himself died as well. When the survivors dared to return to the field again, the dead were still there, but Sunfyre had disappeared. There were no tracks, suggesting Sunfyre had taken wing again despite his wounds.

With the North assembling forces, Ser Criston saw danger, should these troops join up with Daemon at Harrenhal.[1]

The whore on Dragonstone is not the threat. No more than Rowan and these traitors in the Reach. The danger is my uncle. Once Daemon is dead, all these fools flying our sister’s banners will run back to their castles and trouble us no more.

The host Prince Daemon had gathered at Harrenhal was still growing, and Prince Aemond believed him to be the real danger, not Rhaenyra. Aemond and Ser Criston rode forth from King's Landing with a host of four thousand and the dragon Vhagar. Daemon knew of their plans even before Aemond had left the capitol. He hastened south on Caraxes, staying well away from Criston’s line of march.

When told that Aemond and Ser Criston Cole had left King's Landing, it is said that Prince Daemon laughed and said, “Past time,” for he had long anticipated this moment. A murder of ravens took flight from the twisted towers of Harrenhal.

Expecting to find Daemon, instead Aemond and Criston would find Harrenhal abandoned after a nineteen day march, and would believe themselves victorious. The truth was very different. With Vhagar away from King’s Landing, only Dreamfyre remained, and Helaena was in no condition to fly. Daemon and Caraxes had not fled, but joined up with Rhaenyra and Syrax above King's Landing, leaving the small folk below in terror. The Sea Snakes ships sailed into Blackwater Bay, and the only one left to defend the city was Dowager Queen Alicent. Grand Maester Orwyle, trying to dispatch ravens asking for help, was arrested before a single letter could be send. The riders bearing messages were arrested at the city gates, and the seven captains commanding the gates we killed or arrested, all by those gold cloaks still loyal to Prince Daemon. The city gates were opened for the men arriving with the Velaryon fleet.

King's Landing fell in less than a day.[1]

Then she bid her stepmother choose: yield, or burn.

All those from the green council who had been in King's Landing when the attacks began were arrested, safe for Lord Larys Strong, who had disappeared, taking with him King Aegon II, Princess Jaehaera, Prince Maelor, and Ser Willis Fell and Rickard Thorne of the Kingsguard. The other green council members yielded, and Rhaenyra took her place on the Iron Throne.

Dowager Queen Alicent would be spared, but her father, Ser Otto was beheaded, as was Ironrod. Ser Tyland Lannister would be given to the torturers, in the hopes of regaining some of the gold he had hidden.

While Rhaenyra’s return to King's Landing was cheered and celebrated at first, the amount of heads on spikes and increasing taxes made the small folk dub her “King Maegor with teats”. Despite this, Princes Joffrey and Aegon the Younger were called to King’s Landing.[1]

And for a hundred years thereafter “Maegor’s Teats” was a common curse amongst kingslanders.

Battle by the Lakeshore/The Fishfeed

Best make an end to these lions before the dragons come.

While the news of the fall of King's Landing reached Prince Aemond, fighting in the Riverlands continued. A Lannister host was on the move, lead by the old Lord Lefford. At the western shores of the Gods Eye, they came across Roddy the Ruin with his Winter Wolves, who had combined his forces with Lord Forrest Frey and Red Robb Rivers. From the south, Longleaf the Lionslayer, Lords Bigglestone, Chambers and Perryn locked him in. Lords Garibald Grey, Jon Charlton and Benjicot Blackwood joined up with the army from the north and riverlands the following day, whilst Lord Leffords ravens were all shot down. The day after, they began their battle, which would be called the bloodiest land battle of the Dance. Hundreds died that day.

Prince Aemond and Ser Criston Cole at Harrenhal could no longer agree on a plan of action. They were running short of food. Criston wished to withdraw to the south, to join strength with Lord Hightower and Prince Daeron, while Aemond, enraged by losing King's Landing and the outcome of the Battle by the Lakeshore, wished to attack the capitol. And so they parted ways, with Criston taking the army south, whilst Prince Aemond remained to ravage the Riverlands, waiting until such a time when Rhaenyra would send out “a dragon or two” to stop him, so Vhagar could destroy them.[1]

The Feasting Corpses/The Battle at the stony ridge

Aemond burned Darry, Lord Harroway's Town, Lord's Mill, Blackbuckle, Buckle, Claypool, Swynford and Spiderwood. Ser Criston, going south, found everything in front of him dead: forests, villages, horses, men. His scouts found scenes where armored corpses sat beneath the trees, rotting away, a mockery of the fallen throwing a feast. Four days out of Harrenhal, attacks made Criston lose a few men every single time. Seeing multiple “corpse feasts” Criston and his men grew accustomed to the sight. At Crossed Elms, however, the corpses were no true corpses at all, and attacked Criston and his men when they were riding past. In his flight, Criston fell upon the Lords of the Trident, with Roderick Dustin leading. Criston died and his army broke and ran.

Living in fear of Vhagar, Lord Mooton had meanwhile invited Daemon and Nettles to take Maidenpool as their base. Aemond still terrorized the Riverlands, stricking at Stonyhead, the Mountains of the Moon, Sweetwillow and Sallydance, and many more. Each day Caraxes and Sheepstealer would take wing from Maidenpool, and each day they would return, with Vhagar unfound.

The First Battle of Tumbleton

Aemond still remained a threat in the Riverlands, stricking unexpectedly. Yet the real threat was Prince Daeron and the great army of Lord Ormund Hightower. Slowly advancing on King's Landing, they were defeating the Queens loyalists wherever they went, as Rhaenyra’s armies fled before Tessarion. To defeat Aemond and Vhagar, Prince Daemon and Caraxes had left for the Riverlands with the girl Nettles and her dragon Sheepstealer. To defeat Daeron and Tessarion, Ulf the White and Hugh Hammer flew to Tumbleton.

Rhaenyra´s forces at Tumbleton greatly outnumbered the Hightower army. People fleeing into the city for safety from Lord Hightowers army, were secretly part of the army, and infiltrated the ranks of defenders. In addition, Ser Ulf the White and Ser Hugh Hammer, since then known as the Two Betrayers, changed their allegiance. Though Lord Ormund and his cousin Ser Bryndon died in the battle, killed by Roddy the Ruin as he himself was mortally injured, the Hightower army kept the advantage, as Vermithor and Silverwing joined Tessarion in the air, and loosened their flames upon Tumbleton unexpectedly. A savage sack followed.

Upon learning of the betrayels, Queen Rhaenyra ordered the city gates closed and barred. The Betrayels at Tumbleton made the Black Council question the loyalty of the other dragonseeds, Addam Velaryon and Nettles. Most of the Black Council urged Rhaenyra to arrest both, and only Lord Corlys spoke in their defense, declaring Addam and his brother Alyn true Velaryons. His protests, though passionate, were in vain. Rhaenyra, already suspicious, ordered the arrest of Nettles, at Maidenpool with Prince Daemon, and Addam, currently guarding the dragons in the Dragonpit. Ser Luthor Largent went to arrest Addam, but upon his arrival at Rhaenys's Hill, saw Seasmoke take wing, with Ser Addam on his back. Ser Luthor arrested Lord Corlys instead, since the old man did not deny helping his heir escape. Slowly, chaos started to arise again in King's Landing.

In Tumbleton, meanwhile, chaos reigned. Lord Hightowers army remained there. Ormunds sons remained in Oldtown and were still green boys. Though Prince Daeron had been knighted, he was still a boy, used to following commands. Ser Hobert, another Hightower cousin, presumed to take command. Prince Daeron commanded Ser Hobert to stop the savage sacking, but Hightower proved to be very ineffective. Ser Ulf and Hugh were worse. Ser Ulf drank heavy and fed women to his dragon, and became angry when he was named Lord of Bitterbridge, dreaming of Highgarden instead. Ser Hugh was worse, dreaming of a crown of his own.

In the Hightower army, no decision of a course of action could be made, and the army became smaller every day due to desertions.[1]

Dancing dragons at Dragonstone

Around the time of the First Battle of Tumbleton, the merchant cog Nessaria made a stop at Dragonstone for repairs and provisions, having been driven off course by a storm. They had passed the Dragonmont before arriving at Dragonstone´s port, and there they had spotted two fighting dragons.

Inspired by the story from those of Volantis, local fisherman took their boats out for a look the next morning, and they reported having seen the burned and broken remains of a dead dragon. From the color of its scales and wings, they concluded the dead dragon was Grey Ghost, completely torn apart. Ser Robert Quince, Dragonstones castellan, named the Cannibal as the killer. Only later in the war would the truth surface.[1]

Fall of Dragonstone

Having smuggled Aegon, Jaehaera and Maelor out of King's Landing, Lord Larys dispatched Jaehaera and a Kingsguard to Lord Hightower, and Maelor and another Kingsguard to Storm's End, while he disguised King Aegon and smuggled him to Dragonstone, Rhaenyra’s seat, the last place anyone would look for him. Aegon was kept hidden in disguise, and would have remained such, as Sunfyre had not found them. Unbeknownst to those in the castle, it had been Sunfyre who had fought and killed Grey Ghost, and not the Cannibal.

Rider and dragon went out flying again, regaining strength, while Aegons loyal men had found people enough who were willing to betray Rhaenyra, due to mislike for her. Dragonstone had not been well defended, and it had fallen easily. There had only been one problem. Lady Baela, Prince Daemon’s daughter, had managed to escape her attackers and mount her dragon. She met Aegon II and Sunfyre in the sky, unexpectedly, where the two dragons fought. Sunfyre blinded Moondancer with fire, but the younger dragon fought on. The dragons eventually fell on the earth. On the ground, Sunfyre won the battle. King Aegon had jumped off Sunfyre’s back before the dragon hit the ground, but had broken both his legs. Baela had stayed strapped on Moondancer, and was burned and battered. She was taken captive, and King Aegon the Elder now held Dragonstone.[1]

The Dance over Harrenhal

Daemon and Aemond, fighting on top of Caraxes and Chagar, with Dark Sister in Daemons hand.

Lord Manfryd Mooton found himself in a difficult situation, when the message from Rhaenyra arrived from King's Landing, telling Mooton to send her the head of Nettles. Nettles, during her time with Prince Daemon, was said to have become his lover, according to Rhaenyra, and was thus guilty of high treason. Prince Daemon was to not be harmed. The decision Lord Mooton had to make was a difficult one, for Nettles was a guest beneath his roof, and killing her would mean breaking the guest right, and facing Prince Daemons wroth. Refusing Rhaenyra, however, would mean being attainted a traitor. The maester suggested that they had never read the letter, and later that night, went to inform Daemon of Rhaenyra´s command.

The Old King would never have asked this, of any man of honor.

The next day, Nettles mounted her dragon Sheepstealer, with tears on her cheeks. Daemon and Nettles spoke no word of farewell, but when Sheepstealer climbed the sky, Caraxes gave a scream. Nettles and her dragon disappeared that day, and were never seen again.

Prince Daemon told Lord Mooton to spread the word that he would fly for Harrenhal, so Aemond could come face him, alone. Once Daemon was gone, Lord Mooton took down Rhaenyra’s banners, and raised the golden dragons of King Aegon II.[1]

”You were a fool to come alone.”
“Were I not alone, you would not have come.”

Prince Daemon took Harrenhal from the few who still remained there, and waited for thirteen days. On the fourteenth day, Vhagar appeared in the sky, and on her back rode Prince Aemond and his bedmaid, the pregnant seer Alys Rivers. Dropping Alys on the ground, Daemon and Aemond had one last conversation before both Targaryens mounted their dragons and climbed into the sky. Caraxes fell down upon Vhagar, starting the fight. Their fight ended as the two dragons, locked together, tumbled down towards the lake. According to the tales, this was when Prince Daemon leapt from one dragon to the other, Dark Sister in his hand. Aemond looked up in terror, but was chained to his saddle, and could not do anything when Daemon ripped off Aemonds helm and drove the sword through Aemonds blind eye. The dragons struck the lake half a heartbeat later.

Caraxes lived long enough to crawl back onto the land, beneath the walls of Harrenhal, where he died. Vhagar died in the water, and was found some years later, when the Dance was over, with Aemond’s armored bones still chained to the saddle, and with Dark Sister still in his eye-socket.

There’s no doubt that Prince Daemon died that day, as he could not possibly have survived the impact. His remains, however, were never found, causing singers to tell that he survived to spend his last days with Nettles. It was the twenty-second day of the fifth moon of the year 130AC.[1]

The Riots at King's Landing

In King's Landing, the Velaryon fleet, counting more than half the army that had sailed from Dragonstone, had abandoned Rhaenyra when they learned Lord Corlys was in the Black Cells. Those who remained could no longer be trusted.

That same day, Queen Helaena threw herself from her window in Maegor's Holdfast and died impaled upon the iron spikes that lined the dry moat below. The stories told of Helaena’s death on the streets and in inns, by nightfall, were much darker. The people believed she had been murdered, as her sons before her. The rumours were believed very quickly. Tales tell that at the moment of Helaena’s death, her dragon Dreamfyre rose with a roar, snapping two of her chains.

That night a riot rose in King's Landing. The chaos was big, and neither noble nor lowborn was spared. Sailors unable to return to their ships attacked the River Gate. Ser Luthor and his Gold Cloaks went to Cobbler's Square, to disperse the rioters, but after the first had fled, there were ten thousand more, and they believed Luthor to have killed Helaena: the mere sight of him angered them even more. The rioters were ten thousands where the gold cloaks were only five hundred, and so the Gold Cloaks were slaughtered, Ser Luthor amongst them.

A hedge knight, Ser Perkin the Flea, crowned his squire Trystane, declaring him to be King Viserys’ bastard. Ser Perkin then began dubbing all those who would support Trystane knights, and so many fled to their cause.

The next day, some order was restored to parts of King's Landing again, but in the rest of the city, chaos remained.

That night Rhaenyra learned about Maidenpools betrayel, and Nettles escape. Rhaenyra send ravens to Winterfell and the Eyrie, pleading for more aid, and named a new Lord Commander to her Queensguard, Ser Glendon Goode. Prince Joffrey donned his armor and begged to fight, but he was forbidden.

The night came once more, and Ser Perkin and “King” Trystane were gaining strength. The King's Gate and the Lion Gate were opened by rioters, the Gold Cloaks at the King's Gate having fled, and those guarding the Lion Gate having joined the rioters. With Ser Perkin holding the River Gate, three out of seven gates were now open to enemies.

Bring him back, bring him back, he does not know. My son, my sweet, my son …

The people of King's Landing no longer believed Rhaenyra could protect them and a mob twice as big as the one of the night before formed in the city. A crazed prophet made the mob turn their attention to the Dragon Pit and the entire mob moved towards Rhaenys's Hill to kill the dragons. By the time they reached the hill, their numbers had doubled. Rhaenyra was watching all this unfold from Maegor's Holdfast. Prince Joffrey pleaded, fearing Tyraxes, his own dragon, would be killed, but Rhaenyra would not listen, insisting the mob would burn. Joffrey, dissatisfied, went outside and mounted Syrax, Rhaenyra’s she-dragon, the dragon that was not his own, to fly to the Pit. All attempts to get him back failed, as Syrax threw Joffrey off her back as arrows and spears flew up from below. Joffrey, not having used a saddle, fell from Syrax’ back and crashed into the ground.

Seldom have so many men rushed so eagerly onto their funeral pyres, but a madness was upon them.

The battle in the Dragonpit began. Four dragons there were: Shrykos, who died first, slain by a woodsman who slamed his axe into her skull. Morghul was killed by the Burning Knight. Tyraxes went into his lair and roasted many before finally dying. And last Dreamfyre, who broke free of her remaining bonds, plunging into the mob with fire, tooth and claw. Dreamfyre slew more than the other three dragons combined, until a crossbow blinded one of her eyes. Dreamfyre then tried to leap free, and the weakened dome cracked under her force, only to crash down on both dragon and dragonslayers.

Syrax was still alive and free in the air, and descended on the survivors. Rhaenyra, watching from atop Maegor's Holdfast, would not dare let go of her last remaining son, Aegon the Younger… until she saw Syrax fall.

Rhaenyra’s councilers agreed that the city was lost. Rhaenyra was persuaded to leave the next day, slipping through the Dragon Gate, starting the journey to Duskendale.[1]

The Second Battle of Tumbleton

News of unrest in King's Landing reached Tumbleton, making the Hightower army believe they should advance upon the city, but Ser Hobert doubted, and the Two Betrayers refused to join unless their demands were met.

With Aemond slain and Aegon still missing, the Greens found themselves without a leader and a king. Prince Daeron was now next in line for the throne and there were some who wanted to name him Prince of Dragonstone, or even King, but the Two Betrayers did not agree. Lord Hugh Hammer wanted to be crowned king, by the rights of conquest. He had the oldest and largest dragon alive, trice as big as Tessarion, Daeron’s dragon.

Offended by the arrogance of the Betrayers, the lords and knights of the Reach, and Prince Daeron, grew wroth. The Two Betrayers plotted together Hammers coronation, and indeed Hard Hugh later wore a crown of black iron. When insulted, Hard Hugh’s men came to blows with loyalists, and Lord Peake and Ser Hobert summoned eleven other lords and landed knights, who together became known as the Caltrops, as to discuss what to do about the dragonseeds. They agreed that disposing of Ulf the White would be easy, but that Hammer was dangerous, surrounded by men and women day and night. They decided Hammer had to die first.

With Prince Daerons consent, the Caltrops carried out their plans. But the day the Caltrops planned to strike, the people at Tumbleton woke at night to find themselves under attack. The dragon attacking was Seasmoke, with Addam Velaryon on his back, and with an army of four thousand loyal to Rhaenyra behind them. The great host encamped at Tumbleton outnumbered their attackers, but due to their long stay, they had grown lax.

Ulf was asleep inside Tumbleton, his dragon outside the town. They tried to wake him, but he slept through the entire battle. Hard Hugh did respond, and rushed to the yard, screaming for a horse so he could go and mount his dragon, when Lord Jon Roxton, one of the Caltrops, met up with him. He offered Hammer his condolences, and when asked why, he told the new made King he had died in battle, before killing Hammer. He was shortly after killed himself by Hammers men in revenge. Prince Daeron died in the battle as well, though no one knows exactly how. Three different accounts exist on his death.

Lord Hammer, my condolences.
For what?
You died in the battle.

The three dragons encamped at Tumbleton were unchained, however, and all had been roused by the battle. Addam turned Seasmoke to meet Tessarion, and the two dragons danced around each other in the sky. Vermithor eventually rose into the sky as well, attacking everything he came across. And thus Addam turned Seasmoke towards him, to protect those men who were helping them, although he must have known Seasmoke could not beat Vermithor. The dragons were so locked together, neither could get free. Tessarion joined the fight, which ended with Vermithor ripping off the head of Seasmoke. Vermithor, due to his wounds, died next. Tessarion, after trice trying to fly, remained in pain, until Lord Blackwood ordered her killed to end her suffering.

Though having won the battle, the Rivermen had not been able to take the town. Tumbletons walls were closed, and without a dragon or equipment, they could not start a siege, so the rivermen took all that they found useful and left. Only one dragon now remained at the city: Silverwing.

Eight of the thirteen Caltrops had died in the battle, and one would die the next day. Ser Hobert and Lord Peake remained, and both found Ulf the White, the last dragonrider, proclaiming himself their last hope. White now proposed to take the throne for him, since Prince Daeron was dead. And so Ser Hobert visited him the next day with two casks of wine, one red for himself, one golden arbor for White. Ulf, however, became suspicious of Ser Hobert, and insisted they drank the arbor gold together.

And so Ser Hobert drank deep, and asked for more. Having seen this, Ulf drank three cups, and died shortly after due to the poison mixed in the wine. Ser Hobert tried to retch, but for him it was too late as well, and he died within the hour.

Without a leader, and without a rider for Silverwing, the army started to fall apart. And so Lord Peake called defeat, and retreated. King's Landing had been saved.[1]

Rhaenyra’s retreat to Dragonstone

Yet Rhaenyra did not know about this. She had been refused entry at Rosby and was allowed to stay only one night at Stokeworth, half her Gold Cloaks deserted on the road, and attackers killed several of her knights. At Duskendale they were admitted, but not allowed to stay long. Refusing to part from Aegon, and without ships, Rhaenyra sold her crown to buy passage on a Braavosi ship. And so she returned to Dragonstone, where she knew were more dragon eggs, for she needed a new dragon.

At Dragonstone, Rhaenyra found her castellan slain. As Ser Alfred, angered when he had not been named castellan, showed Ser Roberts burned body, his men killed all of Rhaenyra’s men, and imprisoned Rhaenyra, her ladies, and Aegon the Younger. Once inside the gates of the castle, Rhaenyra stood face to face with Aegon II and Sunfyre.

Not long after Dragonstone had secretly fallen to Aegon II, ravens had arrived telling him about Rhaenyra’s return to Dragonstone. This had given Aegon the opportunity to prepare for the arrival of his half-sister.

Mother, flee!

And so it was the Queen found her brother in her own seat. Aegon wasted no time, and had Rhaenyra fed to his dragon, whilst Aegon the Younger looked on. With the chance that Rhaenyra’s loyalists would continue the fight in her sons name, Aegon the Younger became a hostage. It was the twenty-second day of the tenth month of 130AC.

On the ninth day of the twelfth month, Sunfyre the Golden died on Dragonstone. After this, Aegon started planning his return to King's Landing. Though Rhaenyra had died, her cause lived on. Aegon would sit the throne again, but it would only lest another half of a year.[1]

The time for hiding is done,” King Aegon II declared. “Let the ravens fly that the realm may know the pretender is dead, and their true king is coming home to reclaim his father’s throne.


The Dance ended with the death of Aegon II, and the ascension of Aegon III. The two lines of House Targaryen were brought together by wedding King Aegon III to Princess Jaehaera, the only surviving child of Aegon II and Helaena. Their marriage would end childless.[1]

Due to his young age when coming into his crown, Aegon III had an unknown number of regents during the early years of his reign. Eventually, possibly after reaching manhood, he named his brother, Prince Viserys, as his Hand for the remainder of his reign.[4]

The Dance of the Dragons would also be the last time the dragons lived in health. With so many dragons having died in the war, only a handful remained. The reign of King Aegon III would become known as the time the last dragon was born, lived and died, a stunted thing.[5]

Since the Dance, House Targaryen has practiced a highly modified version of agnatic primogeniture[6], placing female claimants in the line of succession behind all possible male ones, even collateral relations.

The war is the subject of the song "The Dance of the Dragons", as well as a somewhat inaccurate history by Grand Maester Munkun. Archmaester Gyldayn wrote a history of it called The Princess and the Queen or the Blacks and the Greens.[1]

Books and Scrolls about the Dance of the Dragons

References and Notes

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