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". For the episode of the TV show, see "The Dance of Dragons".
Dance of the Dragons
War of succession
Deaths of Lucerys and Arrax.jpg
Prince Lucerys Velaryon and Arrax are killed by Prince Aemond Targaryen and Vhagar in one of the first confrontations of the Dance of Dragons
Art by Chase Stone, from The World of Ice and Fire

Date 129-131 AC
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 (Blacks)
House Arryn
House Bar Emmon
House Beesbury
House Blackwood
House Brune of Brownhollow
House Brune of the Dyre Den
House Celtigar
House Crabb
House Darklyn
House Dustin
House Greyjoy
House Manderly
House Rowan
House Stark
House Staunton
House Tarly
House Velaryon
House Targaryen (Greens)
House Baratheon
House Crakehall
House Fossoway of Cider Hall
House Hightower
House Lannister
House Lefford
House Mooton (originally black)
House Peake
House Redwyne
House Reyne
House Strong
House Swyft
House Wylde
The Triarchy
Notable commanders
Queen Rhaenyra I
Prince Daemon Targaryen
Prince Jacaerys Velaryon
Lord Corlys Velaryon
Lord Cregan Stark
Lord Roderick Dustin
Lord Dalton Greyjoy
Lord Kermit Tully
Lord Benjicot Blackwood
King Aegon II
Queen Dowager Alicent Hightower
Ser Otto Hightower
Lord Commander Criston Cole
Prince Regent Aemond Targaryen
Lord Ormund Hightower
Admiral Sharako Lohar of Lys
Ser Tyland Lannister
Lord Borros Baratheon
Lord Unwin Peake

The Dance of the Dragons was a civil war during Targaryen rule of the Seven Kingdoms. 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, 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 Targaryen 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 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. After the passing of Queen Aemma in 105 AC, Viserys named Rhaenyra his heir and hundreds of lords and landed knights paid obeisance to her.[3] Viserys's declaration disregarded precedents from 92 AC and 101 AC.[4] The king remarried in 106 AC, this time to Alicent Hightower, and had four more children: Aegon, Helaena, Aemond, and Daeron.

In 111 AC, a great tourney was held at King's Landing on the fifth anniversary of Viserys's marriage to Alicent. During the opening feast, Queen Alicent wore a green gown, while Princess Rhaenyra dressed in the red and black of House Targaryen. 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. Wearing Rhaenyra's favor, Ser Criston Cole unhorsed all of Alicent's champions in the tourney, including two of her cousins and her youngest brother, Ser Gwayne Hightower.[1][3]

Viserys I strengthened Rhaenyra's place in the succession by marrying her in 114 AC to Ser Laenor Velaryon - who himself had Targaryen blood through his mother, Princess Rhaenys. The marriage caused a falling out between Rhaenyra and Criston. Rhaenyra gave birth to three sons—Jacaerys, Lucerys, and Joffrey Velaryon—during her marriage, although there were rumors that the father of these princes was not Laenor, but Ser Harwin Strong.[3]

After Laenor was murdered in Spicetown in 120 AC, Rhaenyra married her uncle, Prince Daemon Targaryen, younger brother to Viserys I. Her sons by him were Aegon the Younger—called so to distinguish him from his uncle, Alicent's Aegon, who on occasion was called Aegon the Elder—and Viserys.

The relationship between Rhaenyra and Alicent declined 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. Alicent's father, Ser Otto Hightower, had also disliked Rhaenyra's second husband, Prince Daemon, since the beginning of Viserys's 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, 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 Prince Aegon would be crowned, whilst Lord Lyman Beesbury, the master of coin, insisted Rhaenyra should be crowned a queen.

Several other council members countered him. Ser Tyland Lannister argued that the oaths made to Rhaenyra in 105 AC had not been made by them, since it had been twenty-four years. Jasper Wylde mentioned that King Jaehaerys I Targaryen twice chose a male heir over the female heir and her descendants, and Ser Otto argued that Rhaenyra was married to Prince 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 die should Rhaenyra become their queen. It would later be said that Prince Aegon II only reluctantly accepted the crown because his mother, brothers, sister and children would otherwise be killed by Rhaenyra.[1]

Grand Maester Orwyle predicted a war, believing that Rhaenya would never be willing to give up her birthright, and had dragons at her disposal. When Lyman declared that he was not willing to listen to people plotting to steal her crown and attempted to leave, Criston killed him. 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 to Storm's End to betroth himself to one of Lord Borros Baratheon's daughters, so House Baratheon might fight for Aegon II. By the time he left, the smell coming from Viserys I's room was all over Maegor's Holdfast. Seven days after Viserys had died, his death was announced to King's Landing and the silent sisters were sent for.

Aegon's coronation was prepared in short time. Ser Criston Cole crowned Aegon, while Alicent Hightower crowned Aegon's sister-sife, Helaena. The night before, however, the first defection had taken place. Ser Steffon Darklyn had left the city, with, amongst other things, the crown worn by Kings Jaehaerys I and Viserys I.

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

The Black Council

Rhaenyra made her own council at Dragonstone, the black council. Participants were, amongst others, her husband Daemon, her three eldest sons Jacaerys, Lucerys and Joffrey, Lord Corlys Velaryon, and his wife, Princess Rhaenys.

While Rhaenyra remained at Dragonstone to regain her health, Prince Daemon and Caraxes travelled to the riverlands, to make Harrenhal their base. House Velaryon closed off the Gullet.

Princess Rhaenys was convinced that Storm's End would declare for Rhaenyra, since Lord Boremund Baratheon, the deceased father of Lord Borros and Rhaenys's uncle, had always been a supporter of Rhaenys. Though they believed the north to be too remote to play an important part in the war, messages were send to those lords as well.

Rhaenyra was crowned 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 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 these developments, King Aegon II declared Rhaenyra and Daemon traitors as well.

Grand Maester Orwyle travelled to Dragonstone and spoke with Rhaenyra, offering generous terms, but he was refused. Not long after, Jacaerys visited Lady Jeyne Arryn, the Maiden of the Vale, the Starks of Winterfell, and the Manderlys of White Harbor. Lucerys, Rhaenyra's second son, travelled to Storm's End.

Assault on Harrenhal

Prince Daemon led the blacks' attack on Harrenhal, which was conquered without bloodshed in 129 AC. The castellan, Ser Simon Strong, yielded when Caraxes landed on Kingspyre Tower. This conquest led to victories of the blacks at the Burning Mill and Stone Hedge and allowed the river lords, such as House Blackwood, to gather at Harrenhal.[1][5]

In the meantime, Jacaerys gained Lady Arryn and the Lords Manderly, Borrell and Sunderland, and Cregan Stark to Rhaenyra's cause,[1] with Cregan allying through the Pact of Ice and Fire.[6]

The Dance over Shipbreaker Bay

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

Lucerys flew to Storm's End, arriving before a gathering storm. 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, sworn not to fight, refused him. He delivered his message to Lord Borros Baratheon, but was refused and told to leave.

Borros prevented Aemond from attacking his cousin in the castle, but did allow for the prince to follow him. Mounted on his dragon, Aemond caught up with Lucerys during a raging storm. 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 washed ashore three days later, along with the corpse of Lucerys.[1]

Blood and Cheese

Rhaenyra collapsed when learning of Lucerys's death. Prince Daemon, at Harrenhal, sent a raven to his wife, promising that her son's death would be avenged.

Using one of his friends from King's Landing, Daemon enlisted the help of a former serjeant in the City Watch, known now only as Blood, and a rat-catcher from the Red Keep, known now only as Cheese. The two sneaked into the Red Keep, using secret tunnels and hidden doors, which brought them into the Tower of the Hand. There, Queen Alicent was bound and gagged, and her bedmaid strangled. When Queen Helaena and her three children appeared, Blood and Cheese barred the doors and told Helaena to choose which of her sons would die. Helaena reluctantly chose Maelor, but Blood did the opposite and killed Prince Jaehaerys instead. The two fled with the prince's head, leaving the others unharmed.[1]

Duskendale and Rook's Rest

Harrenhal and the Burning Mill made the young King Aegon II realize his situation was severe. While House Hightower and the Arbor stood firmly behind Aegon, Lord Owen Costayne of Three Towers, Lord Mullendore of Uplands, Lord Alan Tarly of Horn Hill, Lord Thaddeus Rowan of Goldengrove and Lord Grimm of Greyshield declared for Rhaenyra, as did the Vale, White Harbor, Winterfell, the Blackwoods and other riverlords, who were assembling at Harrenhal.

Ser Otto Hightower believed that Daemon was Rhaenyra's greatest weakness, and reached out to an old foe of Daemon's, the Kingdom of the Three Daughters across the narrow sea, hoping to use them against Corlys Velaryon. Aegon II was running out of patience, however, and removed Otto as Hand. Ser Criston Cole was named in his stead, and decided actions were necessary. Aegon acted by sacking Duskendale, and having Lord Darklyn beheaded for supporting Rhaenyra. Criston then turned his attention to Rook's Rest, for House Staunton had pledged their support to Rhaenyra as well.

Lord Staunton defied his attackers and send a raven to Dragonstone. Princess Rhaenys arrived on her dragon, Meleys, but Criston's men attacked the dragon with scorpions, longbows and crossbows in the battle at Rook's Rest in 129 AC.[1]

When Sunfyre and Vhagar also appeared, the dragons fought a thousand feet above the ground. Meleys's jaws closed around Sunfyre's neck, and Vhagar fell upon them, causing all three dragons to crash. 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. Rhaenys was found completely burned next to Meleys. After the battle, Prince Aemond and 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 and causing thousands to flee the capital until the gates were barred by Dowager Queen Alicent.

Aegon was brought back to King's Landing, where maesters attended his severe wounds while he slept under the influence of milk of the poppy. Sunfyre was too large to be moved and was unable to fly. The dragon remained at Rook's Rest, where guards were posted to keep him safe and feed him. With Aegon unable to rule, Aemond assumed the style of Protector of the Realm.[1]

The Dragonseeds

Netty and Sheepstealer by Ashley Rice

Lord Corlys Velaryon, upon learning of the death of his wife Rhaenys, threatened to leave Rhaenyra's cause, until Prince Jacaerys named him Hand of the Queen. They sent Prince Joffrey to the Vale of Arryn with Lady Rhaena and three dragon eggs and Joffrey's dragon Tyraxes. Prince Aegon the Younger and Prince Viserys were sent to Pentos on the Gay Abandon to be fostered with the Prince of Pentos, a friend of Daemon's, until Rhaenyra had secured the Iron Throne.

Jacaerys wanted to attack the capital with as many dragons as possible. With six riderless dragons present on Dragonstone, Jacaerys called out to dragonseeds, promising knightship and wealth to anyone who could master a dragon. Many were injured or died (amongst them Lord Commander Steffon Darklyn), though 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. Corlys asked Rhaenyra to remove the taint of bastardy from Addam and his brother Alyn, making them true Velaryons, and he named Addam heir to Driftmark.[1]

Battle of the Gullet

Meanwhile, ninety warships sailing from the Stepstones chanced upon the Gay Abandon carrying Prince Aegon the Younger and Prince Viserys in 129 AC.[5] The escorting ships were sunk or taken. Prince Aegon managed to escape by clinging to the neck of his dragon, Stormcloud, who was mortally wounded but delivered Aegon back to Dragonstone. Viserys, having only a dragon egg, was unable to escape, and was made a captive of Admiral Sharako Lohar of Lys.

Aegon managed to make it to Dragonstone, and Prince Jacaerys on Vermax flew to the Lysene galleys, quickly followed by the four dragonseeds. The warships tried to flee, but in the fighting Vermax flew too low and crashed into the sea. Jacaerys leapt free, but was pierced by quarrels.

The twenty-eight Lysene ships that survived sacked Spicetown on their way back, and butchered men, women and children. High Tide, containing all of Lord Corlys Velaryon's treasures, was consumed by fire, one-third of his fleet brought down.[1]

Battle of 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, but Prince Daeron and his dragon Tessarion joined the battle. Tom Flowers died, Lord Rowan fled, the Alans were captured, and Lord Costayne was mortally wounded. The victory in the Battle of the Honeywine in 129 AC[5] led to Ormund knighting Daeron, naming him Daeron the Daring.[1]

The Red Fork and the Fishfeed

Meanwhile, Lord Walys Mooton retook Rook's Rest and but died attempting to kill the wounded Sunfyre. When some of his men returned, Sunfyre had disappeared. They found no tracks, suggesting Sunfyre had taken wing again despite his wounds. The dragon would not be seen for another half year.

While the north assembled forces, Prince Aemond believed Daemon and his host at Harrenhal to be the real danger. Aemond and Ser Criston Cole rode from King's Landing with a host of four thousand and the dragon Vhagar into the riverlands. Daemon knew of their plans before Aemond had left the capital, however, and he hastened south on Caraxes, staying well away from Criston's line of march. Aemond and Criston found Harrenhal abandoned after a nineteen day march, believing themselves victorious.[1]

An army of greens from the westerlands defeated the western river lords in the Battle at the Red Fork early in 130 AC. Their leader, Lord Jason Lannister, was mortally wounded by Pate of Longleaf during the battle, however.[5] Ser Adrian Tarbeck and then old Lord Lefford took command of the Lannister host,[7] which marched east with the intention of joining Criston and Aemond.

At the western shores of the Gods Eye, the westermen came across Lord Roderick Dustin with his Winter Wolves, who had combined his forces with Lord Forrest Frey and Red Robb Rivers. From the south, Pate the Lionslayer and Lords Bigglestone, Chambers, and Perryn locked him in. Lords Garibald Grey, Jon Charlton and Benjicot Blackwood joined with the northmen and other rivermen the following day, while Lord Lefford's ravens were shot down. The day after, they began their battle, which would be called the bloodiest land battle of the Dance. Hundreds died that day in the Battle by the Lakeshore, also called the Fishfeed, which destroyed the Lannister host.

Fall of King's Landing

The death of Jacaerys Velaryon filled Rhaenyra with anger and hatred, and she decided to use her dragons.

With Criston Cole, Aemond Targaryen, and Vhagar away from King's Landing, Daemon Targaryen and Caraxes joined with Rhaenyra on Syrax above the capital, while Corlys Velaryon's ships sailed into Blackwater Bay. Grand Maester Orwyle, trying to dispatch ravens asking for help, was arrested before any letters could be sent. 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 Daemon, who had once commanded them. The city gates were opened for the men arriving with the Velaryon fleet. King's Landing fell in less than a day.[1]

Lord Larys Strong fled with King Aegon II, Princess Jaehaera, and Prince Maelor. Larys dispatched Jaehaera with Ser Willis Fell to Storm's End, and Maelor with Ser Rickard Thorne to Lord Ormund Hightower.

All from the green council remaining in King's Landing yielded, and Rhaenyra took her place on the Iron Throne. Dowager Queen Alicent was spared, but her father, Ser Otto was beheaded, as was Jasper Wylde. Ser Tyland Lannister was given to the torturers, in the hopes of regaining some of the gold he had hidden. Princes Joffrey and Aegon the Younger, Rhaenyra's remaining sons (Viserys was believed to be dead) were called to King's Landing.[1]

Aemond and Criston at Harrenhal could no longer agree on a plan of action. Criston wished to withdraw south to join with Lord Ormund Hightower and Prince Daeron Targaryen, while Aemond wished to attack the capital. Criston led the greens' army south, while Aemond remained to ravage the riverlands, hoping that Rhaenyra would send a dragon after him.[1]

The Red Kraken

At the beginning of the war, the office of master of ships had been offered to Dalton Greyjoy, Lord of the Iron Islands, by the greens. Rhaenyra's council offered Dalton something more to his liking, however, and so House Greyjoy declared for the blacks. With Lord Jason Lannister dying after the Red Fork, his Lannister army destroyed at the Fishfeed, and the green armies of the Reach marching east to Tumbleton, the coasts of the westerlands only had skeleton defenses. For several years, Dalton and his ironborn raided and pillaged the coasts of the westerlands and the Reach. Dalton captured Kayce and Fair Isle, and though the ironborn could not force entry into Casterly Rock after Jason's widow Johanna closed its gates, they sacked Lannisport.[8]

Butcher's Ball

Prince Aemond burned Darry, Lord Harroway's Town, Lord's Mill, Blackbuckle, Buckle, Claypool, Swynford and Spiderwood. Ser Criston Cole, 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. Seeing multiple “corpse feasts” during their march, Criston and his men grew accustomed to the sight. At Crossed Elms, however, the corpses were actually disguised blacks who attacked Criston and his men when they were riding past.[1]

Criston's greens were ambushed by river lords and Roderick Dustin between the Gods Eye and the Blackwater Rush. Criston challenged them to single combat, but was refused. The battle was the most decisive in the Dance, and after Criston died, his men were killed by the hundreds in the rout. The massacre became known as the Butcher's Ball, and it marked the high point of Rhaenyra's fortunes.[1]

Prince Daemon took residence at Maidenpool with Nettles, while Aemond terrorized the riverlands, striking at Stonyhead, the Mountains of the Moon, Sweetwillow and Sallydance, and many more. Each day Caraxes and Sheepstealer unsuccessfully searched for Vhagar from Maidenpool.

News of King Aegon II's children reached King's Landing as well. While Princess Jaehaera Targaryen safely arrived at Storm's End, Prince Maelor was discovered by a mob of Rhaenyra's supporters at Bitterbridge. Men and women clamored over the three-year old boy, each trying to claim him, until the boy was torn to pieces. When the Hightower army worked its way up the Roseroad to Bitterbridge some time later, it razed the castle to the ground in revenge.[5]

First Tumbleton

The army of Lord Ormund Hightower, accompanied by Prince Daeron and his dragon Tessarion, slowly advanced on King's Landing, defeating Rhaenyra's loyalists wherever they went, as her armies fled before the dragon. To defeat them, Ulf the White and Hugh Hammer flew to Tumbleton.

Rhaenyra's forces at Tumbleton greatly outnumbered the Hightower army. Some people fleeing into the city for safety from Lord Hightower's army were secretly greens, however, and infiltrated the ranks of the blacks' defenders. In addition, Ulf and Hugh, since then known as the Two Betrayers, changed their allegiance to the greens. Though Ormund and his cousin Ser Bryndon died in the First Battle of Tumbleton, killed by Roddy the Ruin, who himself was mortally injured, the Hightower army kept the advantage. The dragons Vermithor, Silverwing and Tessarion loosened their flames upon Tumbleton, which was savagely sacked.

Upon learning of Tumbleton, Queen Rhaenyra ordered the gates of King's Landing closed and barred. The Two Betrayers made the black council question the loyalty of the other dragonseeds, Ser Addam Velaryon and Nettles. Despite Lord Corlys Velaryon speaking in their defense, Rhaenyra ordered Addam and Nettles arrested. Addam, who had been guarding the dragons at the Dragonpit, was warned by Corlys and escaped on Seasmoke, causing Corlys's arrest.

There was chaos in both King's Landing and Tumbleton. Ser Hobert Hightower presumed to take command of the leaderless green army. Prince Daeron commanded him to stop the sacking, but Hobert was ineffective. Ulf the White, dreaming of Highgarden, became angry upon being granted Bitterbridge. Hugh Hammer began to dream of a crown of his own. With the Hightower army leaderless, desertions caused the army to shrink every day.[1]

Fall of Dragonstone

Around the time of First Tumbleton, the merchant cog Nessaria made a stop at Dragonstone for repairs and provisions, having been driven off course by a storm. They spotted two fighting dragons while passing the Dragonmont. Inspired by the story from those of Volantis, local fishermen took their boats for a look the next morning, and they reported the burned and broken remains of the Grey Ghost. Ser Robert Quince, Dragonstone's castellan, named the Cannibal as the killer.[1]

Lord Larys Strong had disguised King Aegon II during the fall of King's Landing and smuggled him to Dragonstone, where Aegon was later found by Sunfyre. It had been Aegon's dragon who had actually killed the Grey Ghost, not the Cannibal. Rider and dragon went out flying again, regaining strength, while Aegon's supporters found locals willing to betray Rhaenyra, due to mislike for her.

Poorly-defended Dragonstone fell easily, with Ser Alfred Broome slaying Robert. Lady Baela, Prince Daemon's daughter, escaped her attackers on her dragon, Moondancer. Sunfyre blinded Moondancer with fire, however, and eventually killed the younger dragon after they crashed to the ground. The burned and battered Baela was taken captive, and King Aegon the Elder now held Dragonstone, although he broke his legs in the fighting.[1]

Battle Above the Gods Eye

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

Rhaenyra ordered Lord Manfryd Mooton of Maidenpool to send her the head of Nettles. According to Rhaenyra, Nettles had become the lover of her husband, Prince Daemon, and was thus guilty of high treason. Nettles was a guest beneath his roof, and killing her would mean breaking guest right and facing Daemon's wroth. Refusing Rhaenyra, however, would mean being attainted a traitor. Maester Norren suggested that they had never read the letter, and later that night informed Daemon of Rhaenyra's command.

Nettles and her dragon, Sheepstealer, departed Maidenpool for parts unknown the next morning. Daemon and Nettles spoke no word of farewell, but when Sheepstealer climbed the sky, Caraxes gave a scream. Daemon told Manfryd to spread the word that he would fly for Harrenhal, so Aemond could face him alone. Once Daemon was gone, Lord Mooton took down Rhaenyra's banners and raised the golden dragons of King Aegon II.[1]

Daemon took Harrenhal from the few who still remained there, and waited for thirteen days. On the fourteenth day, Vhagar appeared with Aemond and his bedmaid, the pregnant seer Alys Rivers. With Alys on the ground, the dragonriders fought in the sky above the Gods Eye. Their fight ended as the dragons, locked together, tumbled towards the lake. According to tales, Daemon leapt from Caraxes to Vhagar and drove the sword Dark Sister through Aemond's blind eye. The dragons struck the lake half a heartbeat later.

Caraxes crawled beneath the walls of Harrenhal, where he died. Vhagar died in the water, and was found some years later with Aemond's bones still chained to the saddle and with Dark Sister in his rider's eye-socket. Daemon's remains, however, were never found, causing singers to claim he survived to spend his last days with Nettles. It was the twenty-second day of the fifth moon of the year 130 AC.[1]

Storming of the Dragonpit

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

That same day, Queen Helaena threw herself from Maegor's Holdfast and died on the moat's spikes below. Smallfolk believed she had been murdered by Ser Luthor Largent of the gold cloaks, however. Her dragon, Dreamfyre, rose with a roar, snapping two of her chains in the Dragonpit.

That night a riot rose in King's Landing. Luthor and five hundred gold cloaks went to Cobbler's Square to disperse it, but Luthor and many of his men were killed by ten thousand rioters. A hedge knight, Ser Perkin the Flea, crowned his squire, Trystane Truefyre, declaring him to be King Viserys I Targaryen's bastard. Perkin bestowed knighthood on all who would support Trystane, so many fled to their cause. The next day, some order was restored to parts of King's Landing, but chaos remained in the rest of the city.

Having learned about Maidenpool's betrayel and the escape of Nettles, Rhaenyra sent ravens to Winterfell and the Eyrie, pleading for more aid. Perkin and Trystane gained strength the next night. 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 Perkin holding the River Gate, three out of seven gates were now open to enemies.

Hobb The Hewer by Ashley Hunter Rice

The people of King's Landing no longer believed Rhaenyra could protect them. A crazed prophet known as the Shepherd led an even larger mob to the Hill of Rhaenys to kill the dragons. Joffrey mounted Syrax to fly to the Dragonpit, Rhaenya's she-dragon was unaccustomed to the boy and he died after being thrown from her back.

Meanwhile, the rioters attacked the Dragonpit. Shrykos was slain by the woodsman Hobb the Hewer, while Morghul was killed by the Burning Knight. Tyraxes went into his lair and roasted many before dying. Dreamfyre slew more than the other three dragons combined, until a crossbow blinded one of her eyes. When Dreamfyre tried to leap free, the weakened dome crashed on both dragon and dragonslayers. Syrax descended on the survivors. Rhaenyra, watching from atop Maegor's Holdfast, held her remaining son, Aegon the Younger, until she saw Syrax fall.

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

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 Hightower doubted, and the Two Betrayers refused to join unless their demands were met.

With Aemond slain and Aegon II 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, Vermithor, thrice 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 Hard Hugh Hammer's coronation, and indeed Hugh later wore a crown of black iron. When insulted, Hard Hugh’s men came to blows with loyalists, and Lord Unwin 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 Daeron's 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 Second Battle of Tumbleton. 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 Hammer's men in revenge. Prince Daeron died in the battle as well, though no one knows exactly how. Three different accounts exist on his death.

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 Benjicot Blackwood ordered her killed to end her suffering.

Though having won the battle, the rivermen had not been able to take the town. Tumbleton's 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 Unwin 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 drink 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. 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 her son 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, Robert Quince, slain. As Ser Alfred Broome, angered when he had not been named castellan, showed Robert's 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 the Elder 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.

And so it was that Rhaenyra found her brother in her own seat. Aegon II 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 son's name, Aegon the Younger became a hostage. It was the twenty-second day of the tenth month of 130 AC.

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 II would sit the throne again, but it would only lest another half of a year.[1]

The Moon of the Three Kings

After Rhaenyra's forces abandoned King's Landing, chaos took control of the city for several weeks, a period known as the Moon of the Three Kings.

The squire Trystane Truefyre, said to be a bastard of the late King Viserys I, was installed by Perkin the Flea in the Red Keep. Meanwhile, a second pretender king was the four-year-old Gaemon Palehair, who was claimed to be a son of King Aegon II Targaryen and was established atop Visenya's Hill, at the House of Kisses.[5]

Lord Borros Baratheon seized King's Landing for Aegon. Gaemon was arrested and Trystane was executed after being knighted. Lord Corlys Velaryon, who had been left in the dungeons when Rhaenyra fled the city, was freed and named to Aegon's small council.[9]

As Aegon II's only remaining heir was his daughter Jaehaera, the widowed king agreed to marry the eldest daughter of Borros.[9]

The Battle of the Kingsroad/The Muddy Mess

With King's Landing secured for King Aegon II, Lord Borros led his armies against the riverlanders who were approaching the city. These Lads were led by Lord Kermit Tully, Lord Benjicot Blackwood,[5][10] and Ben's aunt, Alysanne Blackwood.[10][11]

Lord Borros, upon learning this, grew more confident in his victory, but it was Ben Blackwood, thereafter known as Bloody Ben Blackwood, who broke his flank, and "Black Aly" who led the archers that brought down Borros's knights. Lord Borros fought on, and killed Lords Darry and Mallister, before he himself was killed by Kermit Tully.[10][12]

This left King's Landing with only meager defenses, with the Lads only a short distance away, while Lord Cregan Stark and his forces were marching south as well to reinforce them.

The End of the Dance

The black army of the Lads was now a day's march outside of King's Landing, and there were no significant green forces to stop them. Lord Cregan Stark was coming south, and other armies were coming from the Vale as well. Yet King Aegon II refused to surrender, even when Lord Corlys Velaryon, now master of ships on Aegon II's small council, advised him that the only remaining option was to surrender and join the Night's Watch. Instead, King Aegon II gave orders to have cut off the ear of his nephew, Aegon the Younger, and have it sent to the Lads as a warning - if his bloodline died, so would Rhaenyra's. Aegon climbed back into his litter, to be carried to his chamber, and was given a cup of wine along the way to ease his pain. When his escort arrived at his private chamber and lifted the litter's curtains, Aegon II was dead, with blood on his lips.[5] Who exactly poisoned the king remains unknown to history, though twenty-two men would later be arrested for this crime.[9]


The False Dawn

With King Aegon II dead, Aegon the Younger was crowned as King Aegon III Targaryen. Despite the hopes that the troubles were done - Aegon II's host had been defeated, the Velaryon fleet once more served the Iron Throne - the period that followed the war immediately was named "the False Dawn".[9]

The realm faced numerous problems. The cruel winter that had begun the year before on Maiden's Day of 130 AC would last until 135 AC. Much of the realm had been burned out by dragonfire - in particular, Aemond Targaryen's one-man war riding Vhagar, which had burned out most of the riverlands. Broken men and outlaws roamed the countryside in the hundreds and thousands, and public order had collapsed in many places. The ironborn, under the command of the Red Kraken - who had only nominally sided with the blacks as a pretext to attack wealthy green kingdoms - now refused to acknowledge the boy-king's commands to stop raiding.[9]

Lord Cregan Stark and his army of childless and homeless men, unwed men, and younger sons, had marched to King's Landing with the hopes of war, adventure and plunder, and for a glorious death. The sudden death of King Aegon II had robbed them of that chance, leaving Lord Cregan furious. He had wanted to punish Storm's End, Casterly Rock and Oldtown for having supported Aegon over Rhaenyra, but upon his arrival, Lord Corlys Velaryon had already send out ravens, suing for peace.[9]

Hour of the Wolf

Lord Cregan could not be dissuaded in punishing the betrayers and poisoners of King Aegon II. He found the poisoning foul murder, and had twenty-two men arrested in the name of Aegon III - Lords Larys Strong and Corlys Velaryon amongst them. He then made the young King Aegon III name him Hand of the King.[9]

Lord Cregan reigned as Hand of the King for only a day, a day filled with trials and executions. Most of those accused chose to take the black - chief amongst them was Ser Perkin the Flea - yet two chose death (Ser Gyles Belgrave of the Kingsguard and Larys Strong the Clubfoot. Only Lord Corlys was spared the trial thanks to the intervention of Baela and Rhaena Targaryen. The day after the executions, Lord Cregan resigned as Hand, and returned to the north, leaving many of his northmen behind in the south.[9]

The Regency

With the war over, a council of seven regents was established for the young Aegon III. They would continue to reign until 136 AC, the day when King Aegon III came of age. This regency period was filled with many troubles as the realm struggled to rebuild from the war. Out of the seven original regents, only Grand Maester Munkun would serve the full term. The first seven regents were Lord Corlys Velaryon, Lady Jeyne Arryn, Lord Royce Caron, Ser Torrhen Manderly, Lord Manfryd Mooton, Grand Maester Munkun, and Lord Roland Westerling.[9]

In 135 AC the harsh winter finally ended, and in 136 AC, when he came of age, King Aegon III dismissed his final regents and Hand.[9]

Historical sources

There are three main sources for historical information on the Dance of the Dragons, which are frequently at odds with each other. Grand Maester Munkun's The Dance of the Dragons, A True Telling is perhaps the most famous, but it was based on the prison-cell account of his predecessor Grand Maester Orwyle (who was in office at the time of Viserys I's death), which was biased in favor of Rhaenyra. Munkun himself also introduced several inaccuracies.

The next major source was written by Eustace, the septon attached to the Red Keep at the time of Viserys I's death, titled The Reign of King Viserys, first of His Name, and the Dance of the Dragons That Came After. Eustace's account was biased in favor of Aegon II and against Rhaenyra.

The third major source are the accounts of the dwarf Mushroom, the court fool at the Red Keep during the reign of Viserys I and through the reign of Aegon II. Mushroom's accounts were ribald, lurid, and thoroughly debauched - yet he personally knew many of the major figures during the Dance and was present during several major events, and was thus privy to information that neither Orwyle nor Eustace had access to. While many of his tales were the height of slanderous gossip, a few seem plausible enough that they cannot be easily dismissed out of hand. Mushroom's accounts were later copied down (by an unknown writer) in The Testimony of Mushroom.

The massive and authoritative history of Maester Gyldayn, written about a century later, compared all three accounts and cross-referenced them with other reports. There are points when Gyldayn was not certain of what happened, so he listed what the different accounts said, then commented on which he found most likely to be true.[13]

Consequences of the Dance

In 171 AC, after the death of King Baelor I Targaryen, the succession of the throne was not clear. Since Baelor had not appointed an heir, there were some lords and smallfolk who felt the Iron Throne should pass to the eldest of his sisters, Princess Daena Targaryen. However, other recalled the troubled time when Rhaenyra Targaryen sat the Iron Throne. The Dance was part of the reason why Prince Viserys Targaryen, Baelor's uncle, was chosen to ascend the throne over the wild Daena.[14] By choosing Viserys over Daena, women have came after all men in Targaryen succession since the Dance.[15]

The war is the subject of the song "The Dance of the Dragons", as well as The Dance of the Dragons, A True Telling, a somewhat inaccurate history by Grand Maester Munkun. Archmaester Gyldayn wrote a history of the war, The Princess and The Queen, or, The Blacks and The Greens.[1] Maester Yandel also discusses the Dance in The World of Ice and Fire.[5]

Family Tree of House Targaryen during the Dance

Viserys I
[Note 1]
[Note 1]
[Note 1]
Aegon II
Viserys II
Aegon III
  1. 1.0 1.1 Prince Daemon Targaryen was married to Lady Rhea Royce from 97 AC to 115 AC, Lady Laena Velaryon from 115 AC to 120 AC, and to Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen from 120 AC to 130 AC.

References and Notes

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 1.23 1.24 1.25 1.26 1.27 1.28 The Princess and the Queen.
  2. Not A Blog: The Princess and the Queen
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 The Rogue Prince.
  4. The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Viserys I.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aegon II.
  6. The World of Ice & Fire, The North: The Lords of Winterfell.
  7. The World of Ice & Fire, The Westerlands: House Lannister Under the Dragons.
  8. The World of Ice & Fire, The Iron Islands: The Red Kraken.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 9.8 9.9 The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aegon III.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 The World of Ice & Fire, The Stormlands: House Baratheon.
  11. Clarification: Question regarding Black Aly's relation to Benjicot and the clarifying answer
  12. The World of Ice & Fire, The Riverlands: House Tully.
  13. So Spake Martin: Stockholm and Archipelacon report, June 28, 2015
  14. The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Viserys II.
  15. So Spake Martin: Comic Con San Diego, July 20-23, 2006,