Aemond's march on Harrenhal
|Aemond's march on Harrenhal
|Dance of the Dragons
|east of Gods Eye, riverlands
|strategic victory for the blacks
Aemond's march on Harrenhal was a campaign during the Dance of the Dragons, as Prince Aemond Targaryen and Ser Criston Cole marched the main army of the greens from King's Landing north to Harrenhal.
During the battle at Rook's Rest, King Aegon II Targaryen was badly injured. His brother Aemond was given command of the greens' forces in King's Landing, as regent for his brother until he recovered. An aggressive young man, Aemond decided to attack the blacks' forces gathering at Harrenhal under his uncle Daemon, before they had sufficient force to strike at the capital. Aemond devised a plan to catch the riverlords on two fronts, by having the Lannister army invade the riverlands from the west, while he led their forces from King's Landing to attack from the east.
Aemond led a force of 4,000 men in total out of King's Landing, also led by Ser Criston Cole of the Kingsguard, the Hand of the King. Aegon II, Aemond, and Criston had previously led an army of slightly less than 3,000 men to the Battle at Rook's Rest, where they lost some 800 men. While in King's Landing, Aemond reconstituted his forces, and sent forth all their remaining strength for the advance on Harrenhal. Aemond and Criston finally led a force of 4,000 men, mostly infantry, north up the kingsroad, expecting to reach Harrenhal after a sixteen day march.
Muddy roads and rainstorms slightly slowed the advance of the Criston's army, as it was mostly made up of foot soldiers and had a large baggage train. Rather than quickly fly ahead, Prince Aemond kept his dragon Vhagar with the main column throughout the march, thinking that his uncle Daemon would attempt to attack it with his dragon Caraxes.
Criston's vanguard fought and won a short, sharp battle against Ser Oswald Wode, Lord Darry, and Lord Roote on the shore of the Gods Eye, but met no other opposition. This was apparently a feint meant to lure them closer to Harrenhal and away from King's Landing. On the nineteenth day of their march, they reached Harrenhal, only to find it abandoned.
Daemon had anticipated Aemond's reckless course of action, and his spies in the city confirmed it (apparently organized by Mysaria). As soon as word reached him that Aemond's army was on the march, he mounted Caraxes and flew southwest of the Gods Eye to avoid his nephew's line of advance. He then looped back around to join Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen's dragonriders and the Velaryon fleet for a strike at King's Landing, which Aemond had left with only a skeleton defense force and no war-capable dragons. Worse, the City Watch were still loyal to Daemon, and threw all but one of the city gates to the blacks as they arrived, thus the city fell in a single day with relatively little fighting.
On hearing of the fall of King's Landing during their march away from the city, Aemond was consumed by fury, and turned it on House Strong of Harrenhal. Though they were allied with the greens, Aemond already loathed House Strong in general due to the rumors that Ser Harwin Strong had been the true father of Rhaenyra's elder Velaryon sons, who Aemond had a grudge against due to losing an eye in a childhood fight with them. He also never fully trusted Lord Larys Strong, the greens' spymaster. Aemond became convinced that House Strong must have collaborated with the blacks. Indeed, Larys had not been apprehended when the blacks took King's Landing, but simply disappeared. Furthermore, his granduncle Ser Simon Strong, the castellan of Harrenhal, had surrendered the castle to Daemon without a fight. Though Simon protested his innocence, insisting that he could not possibly have held a siege against Caraxes, Aemond commanded that Simon be given a sword in a trial by combat. Aemond had been well-trained by Criston Cole himself, while Simon was an old man; the resulting duel was utterly one-sided. Aemond cut Simon to pieces, then fed his corpse to Vhagar.
Aemond then proceeded to massacre every male of House Strong, down to the last little grandson. The heap made of their severed heads ultimately stood three feet tall. No man or boy was spared, not even bastards - except only one woman, Alys Rivers, whom Aemond took as a bed-mate, ignoring all other women. Men claimed that she was a sorceress who had bewitched him.
Not long afterward, the Lannister host approaching from the west was outmaneuvered and destroyed in the massive Battle by the Lakeshore, on the west coast of the Gods Eye. When news finally reached Aemond and Criston at Harrenhal, they realized they could not hold it, and chose to abandon it themselves. Aemond began a one-dragon campaign of revenge on the riverlands using Vhagar, while Criston led their host south to try to link up with the main Hightower army advancing north through the Reach. Criston lost hundreds of men from harassment attacks, disease, and desertion, but before he could pass out of the riverlands, his army was intercepted at the Butcher's Ball.
[Aemond] reached Harrenhal a day after Cole, and that night celebrated a great victory; Daemon and "his river scum" had fled rather than face his wroth, Aemond proclaimed. Small wonder then that when word of the fall of King's Landing reached him, the prince felt thrice the fool. His fury was fearsome to behold.—writings of Gyldayn
- Fire & Blood, The Dying of the Dragons - Rhaenyra Triumphant.