Loyalty Binds Us
War of the Usurper
The Targaryens had long been weakened by generations of inbreeding due to their tradition of marrying sister to brother. It was said in those days that half of all Targaryens were born mad, and in the end, it was this madness that destroyed them.
The rule of Aerys II began well enough with his ascension in the year 262 AL. Son of Jaehaerys II, Aerys was kind to his friends, enlightened in his rule, and frugal with the realm’s income—to the point the Seven Kingdoms’ coffers were overflowing with gold. He was given to fits of madness, however, and he was utterly brutal to his enemies, frequently immolating them in wildfire. Although the realm continued to prosper, and Aerys continued to take the wise advice of his council—especially that of his Hand, Tywin Lannister—his bouts with madness grew more and more frequent as he grew older until all were forced to acknowledge that the king teetered on the brink of utter insanity.
When the end came, it came quickly, though it was all started by
Aerys’s son Rhaegar. Long had Crown Prince Rhaegar been in love
with the beautiful Lyanna Stark, even though she was betrothed to
Lord Robert Baratheon. In 282 AL, Rhaegar vanished with Lyanna,
leading many, Robert chief among them, to accuse him of abducting her. Lyanna’s brother Brandon and several companions—his squire Ethan Glover, Jeffory Mallister, Kyle Royce, and Elbert Arryn, the nephew and heir of the Lord of the Eyrie—rode to King’s Landing to demand her return, but King Aerys’s madness got the better of him, and he ordered the young nobles seized and charged with treason. He then summoned the fathers of the prisoners, including Brandon’s father, Lord Rickard Stark.
Arriving at the Red Keep with the fathers of the other knights, Lord
Stark demanded trial by combat. His sanity utterly gone, King Aerys chose fire as his champion and had Lord Stark roasted in his armor as his son watched, helpless. Brandon Stark was placed in a strangulation device and died, his sword kept just out of his reach. Other prisoners were slain without trial. The Mad King then sent word to the Eyrie, demanding Lord Jon Arryn hand over the heads of Robert Baratheon and Eddard Stark. Instead of complying, the three houses called their banners and rose in revolt. War had once more come to the Seven Kingdoms, and this time, it would not end until the Dragonlords’ dynasty lay in ruins.
The war was swift and bloody, and its tragic conclusion was inevitable. Robert Baratheon first saw triumph at the Battle of Summerhall, but his offensive was later blunted by Mace Tyrell at Ashford a few weeks later. In a ferocious house-to-house fight known as the Battle of the Bells, Aerys’s forces were driven from the town of Stoney Sept by the combined forces of the three allied houses. After this battle, Aerys realized Robert Baratheon was no simple bandit chieftain or rebel but rather a serious threat to his realm. He began to set stockpiles of wildfire around King’s Landing, intending to burn the city and all its inhabitants rather than surrender it to the Usurper, and he dispatched Prince Rhaegar to bring the upstart lords to heel.
The armies met where the kingsroad crossed the Trident River. There, the fate of the Targaryens was decided when Robert Baratheon slew Prince Rhaegar in single combat. Driven by rage at the prince’s abduction and rape of his betrothed Lyanna, Robert shattered the prince’s ruby-studded breastplate with a single blow from his great warhammer, and soon afterward, the loyalist host fled in disorder. Today, the place is known as Ruby Ford, and it is said that rubies from the slain prince’s armor can still be found there.
Now at last, with Aerys’s forces in full retreat and doom nearing the
gates of the Red Keep, the Lannisters, who had until this time remained neutral, arrived at King’s Landing under the command of Lord Tywin Lannister. Once a fast friend of Aerys, Tywin had served as the King’s Hand until the king’s madness and bitter disagreements drove the two apart. Now it seemed Tywin had returned to save his old friend in his hour of need. Aerys opened the city gates at the advice of Grand Maester Pycelle and allowed the Lannister host entry. He was to learn of his mistake quickly, for the Lannisters turned on him and sacked the city.
Desperate, Aerys commanded his Hand, the pyromancer Lord Rossart, to ignite his wildfire caches and destroy the Lannisters, along with the entire city of King’s Landing. Further, he commanded the captain of his Kingsguard, Jaime Lannister, son of Tywin, to slay his father. Rather than obey, Jaime instead killed Rossart before he could set the town aflame and then slew King Aerys himself.
Tywin was not finished, however. He dispatched his knights Gregor
Clegane and Amory Lorch to slay the rest of Aerys’s family and exterminate the Targaryens once and for all. The ruthless Gregor slew the infant Prince Aegon, son of Rhaegar, and then raped and murdered Rhaegar’s wife Princess Elia of Dorne. Amory found Aegon’s daughter Princess Rhaenys cowering beneath her father’s bed, dragged her out, and put her to the sword.
So fell the house of Targaryen, but Tywin did not succeed entirely.
With the help of the still-loyal Ser Willem Darry, the Mad King’s
pregnant sister-wife Rhaella escaped to Dragonstone with their young son Viserys. The last Targaryen, Princess Daenerys, was born on Dragonstone a few months later. Her mother died in childbirth, and Ser Willem then took the two children to the Free Cities, where, upon reaching manhood, Viserys would plot to regain the throne. Dragonstone fell to Stannis Baratheon’s fleet—but too late to catch the last two Targaryens.
The war was done, and the Seven Kingdoms were changed forever.
The victory was a sorrowful one, for Lyanna Stark, whose supposed
abduction had started the war, died in the Tower of Joy. Sad and bitter, Robert Baratheon ascended to the Iron Throne and took Tywin’s daughter Cersei Lannister to wife. The other rebels all received their due rewards, and it seemed the Seven Kingdoms had finally found peace, rid forever of the scourge of the Dragonkings.