Dance of the Dragons

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For the book, see A Dance with Dragons
Dance of the Dragons
War of succession
Date 129131 AC
Location Westeros
Result Aegon III's ascension to the throne.
House Targaryen (The Blacks).House Targaryen (The Greens).
Notable commanders
Queen Rhaenyra King Aegon II
  • Queen Dowager Alicent Hightower
  • Lord Commander Criston Cole, Hand of the King
  • Prince Aemond Targaryen
  • Lord Ormund Hightower
  • 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 129 AC to 131 AC. 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, will instead include a novella by George 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]


    King Viserys I had three children by his first queen of House 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 106 AC, this time to Alicent Hightower and had four more children, including three sons, the eldest son named Aegon. Nonetheless, Rhaenyra's strengthened her place in the succession; she married Ser Laenor Velaryon - who himself had Targaryen blood - in her first marriage. She gave birth to three sons during her marriage, although there are rumours that the father of these boys was not Ser Laenor, but Rhaenyra's lover Ser Harwin Strong.

    When Laenor Velaryon passed away Rhaenyra married anew, this time her own uncle, Prince Daemon Targaryen, younger brother to Viserys I. Her sons by him are the future Aegon III (called Aegon the Younger in his youth) 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. In 105 AC, hundreds of Lords and landed knights had done obeisance to the Princess Rhaenyra.

    In 111 AL, 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. [2]

    Preliminary activities

    Upon Viserys' death in 129 AC, the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Ser Criston Cole, later called "the Kingmaker", defied the king's will, and crowned Prince Aegon as Aegon II. Ser Criston's motivations for doing so are unclear, but it was reputed that he and Rhaenyra were lovers, and their affair ended badly, adding a personal dimension to the conflict. He may simply have wished to uphold Andal tradition. In any event, many of the lords of the realm were aware of Viserys' wish to have Rhaenyra succeed him as Westeros's first queen regnant, and threw their support behind the Princess. Doubtless, many of them were also the same supporters who has spent years currying favor with the presumptive future queen. Among Rhaenyra's staunchest supporters were her first husband's family, House Velaryon of Driftmark. Rhaenyra disputed Aegon's claim, resulting in a bloody civil war. The realm was split in half. Even the Kingsguard chose sides, exemplified when the brothers Ser Arryk and Ser Erryk killed each other.[3] [4] Targaryen fought Targaryen and dragon fought dragon, with many lesser branches of House Targaryen and most of the Targaryen dragons being killed in the war, among them Rhaenyra's three eldest sons, who all died fighting.[5]

    In the war, armies marched and met in savage battle, much of the slaughter took place on water, and in the air, as dragon fought dragon with tooth and claw and flame. It was also marked by stealth, murder, and betrayal.[6]

    Master of Coin Lyman Beesbury was noted as the first casualty of the war. He was killed by Criston after speaking for Rhaenyra at the small council meeting discussing succession after King Viserys I's death.[7]

    Aegon II sent Grand Maester Orwyle to plead for peace with generous terms, which Rhaenyra refused.

    Daemon Targaryen took Harrenhal as a toehold in the mainland while the rest of the Blacks held Dragonstone. House Velaryon's fleet, commanded by The Sea Snake, blocked off Blackwater Bay.


    Dance over Shipbreaker Bay
    Lucerys Velaryon and his dragon Arrax were killed at Storm's End by Aemond Targaryen and Vhagar. In retribution, Daemon sent two thugs named Blood and Cheese to kill Prince Jaehaerys Targaryen. The war turned bloody from this point onward.

    Battle of Rook's Rest
    Aegon named the Commander of his Kingsguard as his new Hand because of Otto Hightower's delays. They sacked Duskendale and set a trap at Rook's Rest. Cole fought against Rhaenys Targaryen and her dragon until Aegon's dragons arrived. Rhaenys and her dragon were slain. Aegon was severely wounded and Prince Aemond took over as Regent while he recovered for the year.

    The Search for Dragonseed
    When planning the attack on King's Landing, Prince Jacaerys Velaryon decided that they would need more dragons and so the search for new riders began.

    Battle in the Gullet
    Jacaerys Velaryon gathered four dragonriders from the seeds on Dragonstone. An alliance set up by Aegon II's first Hand became cemented. The Triarch formed of 3 cities in Essos. Their admiral Sharako Lohar of Lys took a combined fleet of ninety warships from the Stepstones. Jace met them with his dragons.

    The result was the bloodiest sea battles in history. The Blacks' blockade was broken, but only twenty-eight Triarchy ships survived. The Velaryon fleet lost almost a third of its strength. Jaecarys and his dragon were slain. Driftmark was burned. Jace marked the second son of Queen Rhaenyra after Luke to die in the Dance.

    Battle on the Honeywine
    Ormund Hightower was flanked and outnumbered in the Reach. Ormund's squire, Daeron Targaryen, arrived on his dragon and won the battle. Ormund knighted Daeron for saving him. This was a bitter defeat for The Blacks.

    Conquest of the Capital
    Aemond and Cole gathered their forces to march on Harrenhal, which left the capital largely defenseless. Seeing the open he had been waiting for, Daemon took flight to King's Landing along with his wife. The Queen Dowager tried to send riders to bring back Aemond and ravens to leal lords, but her efforts were quickly stopped. The City Watch was loyal to Daemon, who had once been their leader, and opened the gates to The Black forces who arrived by ships. The city was firmly in Rhaenyra's hands, but Aegon II had escaped.

    Battle by the Lakeshore/The Fishfeed
    Lannister forces marched to back up The Greens, but had slowed due to the infirmity of Lord Lefford. They were surrounded by Northmen and Rivermen from three sides and forced into the waters of the God's Eye. The Fishfeed was technically a loss for The Greens as the Lannister forces were slaughtered, but the casualties were high on The Black side as well. 2000 died. The purpose of the bloody battle seemed to do nothing but feed the fishes of the lake.

    Fall of Dragonstone
    Disguised as one of the smallfolk Aegon II hid on Dragonstone after Rhaenyra initially took the capital for several months. Aegon was able to take the island in less than an hour by turning several embittered men over to his side. Moondancer died during the Fall and Baela Targaryen was injured and burned.

    Battle of Crossed Elms
    Guerrilla tactics harried the Kingmaker's march from Harrenhal towards King's Landing. By the time they reached the village of Crossed Elms their numbers and morale was low. When they reached a stony ridge outside the village they were met with nearly 7000 Blacks. Cole only had 3600 men and no dragons (Aemond had left on Vhagar to burn the Riverlands). Cole was slain early in the battle, and his men fled quickly.

    The Treasons of Tumbleton/First Battle of Tumbleton
    Queen Rhaenyra had 9000 men defending the town of Tumbleton in the northeast of the Reach. Silverwing and Vermithor arrived to relieve them. Together they faced a larger army lead by Ormund Hightower and his scout Daeron on the Blue Queen. Hightower's army infiltrated the city disguised as refugees.

    Hightower was killed and his army seemed defeated. The dragonseed, Hugh Hammer and Ulf White, switched sides from Blacks to Greens and set Tumbleton to the flames. No quarter was given, even when Lord Footly's men surrendered. They became known as The Two Betrayers.

    With the Two Betrayers on their minds, many voices in the black council questioned Ser Addam’s loyalty. Only Lord Corlys spoke in defence of the dragonseed remarking that Ser Addam and his brother Alyn were “true heirs” and worthy of Driftmark.

    The Hand’s impassioned protests were in vain and Queen Rhaenyra, suspecting a turncloak, commanded Ser Luthor Largent to arrest Addam Velaryon in the Dragonpit. Ser Addam, who had been forewarned, managed to make his escape flying away with Seasmoke, fleeing before he could be put to the question. By ordering the arrest of Addam, the queen lost not only a dragon but her Queen’s Hand as well. Corlys was beaten and imprisoned for warning Addam.

    When it became known that Lord Corlys was languishing in a dungeon under the Red Keep, the army that had sailed from Dragonstone to seize the Iron Throne began to abandon Rhaenyra’s cause by the hundreds. The ones that remained could not be trusted. Rhaenyra had lost her fleet.

    Dance over Harrenhal
    Daemon challenged Aemond Targaryen, waiting for 13 days at Harrenhal until Aemond stopped burning the Riverlands to come face him. The fight ended in the death of both riders and both dragons over the God's Eye.

    Riots at King's Landing
    Unable to leave the capital, the smallfolk of King's Landing panicked at the impending threat of dragon fire burning the city. With no other means of escape, they turned to the taverns. When Helaena died, rumors that she'd been murdered spread. That was the spark to ignite the riots. 500 Gold Cloaks faced 10,000 smallfolk. The riot roamed across Cobbler's Square and Flea Bottom, claiming many lives of both the Watch and smallfolk, including Luthor Largent and Lorent Marbrand. It lasted for a full night and half a day and left many areas of the city in control of peasant-kings and knights. But the next night the riots began again in larger numbers. They opened the gates of the city.

    Storming of the Dragonpit
    As the riots continued, a crazed prophet called The Shepherd convinced the mobs that all dragons should die. Rhaenyra did not believe the mobs presented a threat to the dragons, but her son Joffrey thought otherwise and died trying to save them. The dragons Shrykos, Morghul, Tyraxes, and Dreamfyre were killed by the mob, unable to fly away from their chains or the barred bronze gates of the pit. Dreamfyre's final escape attempt collapsed the building. Syrax, who was kept near the Keep, fought the mob but fell too.

    Second Battle of Tumbleton
    Addam rode Seasmoke to Tumbleton with a host of 4000 men in order to prove bastards are not turncloaks by nature. He fought against the Two Betrayers and the Hightower army, who had been taken by surprise in the night. Hard Hugh was betrayed and slain by Bold Jon because Hugh aimed to take the crown for himself. Jon was killed in turn by Hugh's men. Daeron died when his tent was set on fire. Seasmoke, Addam, Tessarion, and Vermithor died in the battle. The Green army was defeated and their prince killed along with three dragons, but the castle remained.

    After the battle Hobert Hightower and Ulf White drank poisoned wine and died.

    Rhaenyra escaped to Dragonstone where she thought it was safe. Unbeknownst to her, however, the island had fallen to King Aegon II. She was captured andw put to death as a traitor. Aegon had her eaten by his dragon Sunfyre as her son Aegon watched. However her followers carried on under the banner of her son, calling him Aegon III. The bloody conflict ended half a year later in 131 AC with the death of Aegon II and the ascension of his nephew Aegon III to the throne, presumably because he had no children of his own and/or some compromise between the supporters of the two factions.


    Since the Dance, House Targaryen has practiced a highly modified version of agnatic primogeniture, placing female claimants in the line of succession behind all possible male ones, even collateral relations. (See also Daena Targaryen, Daeron II). 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.

    Books and Scrolls about the Dance of the Dragons

    References and Notes