Dance of the Dragons
The Dance of the Dragons, also known as the Dying 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 George R. R. Martin announced that the anthology Dangerous Women, previously expected to include the fourth Dunk and Egg story, would instead include the novella The Princess and the Queen, which Martin described as "(...) the true (mostly) story of the origins of the Dance of the Dragons." 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 written in Fire & Blood.
- 1 Prelude
- 2 The Dance of the Dragons
- 2.1 The Small Council Meeting
- 2.2 Coronation of Aegon II
- 2.3 The Black Council and Coronation of Rhaenyra
- 2.4 Assault on Harrenhal
- 2.5 The Dance over Shipbreaker Bay
- 2.6 Blood and Cheese
- 2.7 Civil war in the Riverlands
- 2.8 The new green Hand
- 2.9 Duel of the Cargyll Twins
- 2.10 Duskendale and Rook's Rest
- 2.11 The Dragonseeds
- 2.12 Battle of the Gullet
- 2.13 Battle of the Honeywine
- 2.14 The Red Fork and the Fishfeed
- 2.15 Fall of King's Landing
- 2.16 The Red Kraken
- 2.17 Butcher's Ball
- 2.18 First Tumbleton
- 2.19 Fall of Dragonstone
- 2.20 Battle Above the Gods Eye
- 2.21 Storming of the Dragonpit
- 2.22 Second Tumbleton
- 2.23 Rhaenyra's Death
- 2.24 The Moon of the Three Kings
- 2.25 Battle of the Kingsroad
- 2.26 Aegon II's Death
- 3 Aftermath
- 4 Historical sources
- 5 Family Tree of House Targaryen during the Dance
- 6 References
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. Viserys's declaration disregarded precedents from 92 AC and 101 AC. 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.
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.
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.
The Dance of the Dragons
The Small Council Meeting
Upon the death of King Viserys I Targaryen, Queen Alicent and Ser Criston Cole sent 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 the Elder would be crowned, whilst Lord Lyman Beesbury, the master of coin, insisted Rhaenyra should be crowned as 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. Lord Jasper Wylde mentioned that the Old King Jaehaerys I 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 Hightower's 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 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 Rhaenyra 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, Ser 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.
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 hastily prepared. The Dragonpit was chosen as the site for its towering bronze doors, strong roof, and thick walls made it easily defensible. Ser Criston Cole crowned Aegon, while Alicent Hightower crowned Aegon's sister-wife, Helaena. The night before, however, the first defection had taken place. Ser Steffon Darklyn of the Kingsguard 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.
The Black Council and Coronation of Rhaenyra
Rhaenyra made her own council at Dragonstone, the black council. Participants were, amongst others, her uncle-husband Daemon, her three eldest sons Jacaerys, Lucerys and Joffrey, Lord Corlys Velaryon, and his wife, Princess Rhaenys.
During the council it was resolved that while Rhaenyra remained at Dragonstone to regain her health, Prince Daemon and Caraxes would travel to the riverlands, to make Harrenhal their base and rallying point for those loyal to Rhaenyra. House Velaryon would close off the Gullet blocking all shipping from Blackwater Bay. 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. Prince Daemon also was convinced that Lady Jeyne Arryn, the Maiden of the Vale, would bring her support to their side. Though they believed the north to be too remote to play an important part in the war, messages were to be sent to those lords nevertheless.
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 placed the crown on Rhaenyra's head himself and was named Protector of the Realm, and Jacaerys was officially named Prince of Dragonstone and heir to the Iron Throne. Declaring Ser 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. After being persuaded by his mother, Alicent and sister, Helaena, Aegon dispatched Grand Maester Orwyle to Dragonstone with a retinue under a peace banner, offering Rhaenyra generous terms, but was refused. Not long after but not before swearing on the Seven-Pointed Star to go only as messengers, not knights did Rhaenyra's sons depart. With the eldest Jacaerys visiting the Arryns of the Eyrie, the Manderlys of White Harbor, and the Starks of Winterfell. Rhaenyra's second son, Lucerys, traveled 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.
The Dance over Shipbreaker Bay
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.
Blood and Cheese
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.
Blood was seized at the Gate of the Gods, with the head of Prince Jaehaerys hidden in a saddle sack. Under torture, he confessed he was making for Harrenhal, to collect his reward from Prince Daemon. He also described the whore who had hired him and Cheese, Mysaria. The gold cloaks, led by Ser Luthor Largent, searched the Street of Silk from top to bottom but found no trace of Mysaria or Cheese. In his wroth, King Aegon II ordered all the ratcatchers in the city to be hanged. Afterward, Ser Otto Hightower brought a hundred cats to the Red Keep to take their place.
Queen Helaena sank into a deep depression, refusing to eat, bathe or leave her chambers and couldn't stand to be in the presence of Maelor, having named him to die. Thus, the king took Maelor from her and gave him to Queen Alicent to raise as if he were her own. Thereafter, king and queen slept separately. She fell deeper into madness, while Aegon fell into rage and drink.
Civil war in the Riverlands
After the deaths of both princes, both sides called for vengeance. Lords called their banners and marched their armies. The forces of House Blackwood, which had declared for Rhaenyra, invaded the lands of the green-aligned House Bracken, putting villages to the torch and despoiling septs. The Bracken forces were surprised by the Blackwoods while on the march and were ultimately defeated in the Battle of the Burning Mill. The survivors turned back to Stone Hedge, only to find it had been seized by the blacks in their absence. The Brackens yielded and thus King Aegon lost his last supporter in the Riverlands.
The new green Hand
Ser Otto Hightower, the Hand of the King, took to winning over lords, hiring sellswords, strengthening the defenses of King's Landing and seeking other alliances. He sent ravens to Winterfell, the Eyrie, Riverrun, White Harbor, Gulltown, Bitterbridge, Fair Isle and half a hundred other seats; he sent riders to the holdings closer to the capital, to summon their lords and ladies to court to do fealty to King Aegon. He also reached out to Dorne, which had fought against Daemon in the War for the Stepstones, but Prince Qoren Martell refused to take part.
The fall of Harrenhal and the defeats at the Burning Mill and Stone Hedge made Aegon II fearful. His fears deepened when ravens returned from the Reach, where the greens thought themselves strongest, as Lords Costayne, Mullendore, Tarly, Rowan and Grimm declared for Rhaenyra. Such division led the castellan, steward and mother of the young Lord Tyrell, in their role as regents, to refuse to take part. Ser Otto sent word to his nephew, Lord Ormund Hightower, to put down the rebellions in the Reach. More blows came to Aegon II in the form of rejections from the Vale and the North, and the constant complaints of merchants for the closing of Blackwater Bay by the Sea Snake's fleets.
With his overtures to Dalton Greyjoy ignored, Ser Otto sent envoys to the Kingdom of the Three Daughters, promising exclusive trading rights at King's Landing as well as ceding the Stepstones - even though the Iron Throne had never claimed them - if they would clear the Gullet of the Velaryon fleet. The Triarchy was slow to move, however, as all important decisions were left in the hands of a High Council. The delay did not sit well with Aegon II, who dismissed his grandfather as Hand of the King and turned to Ser Criston Cole.
Ser Criston's first advice to the king was to treat those who denied him fealty as traitors. Thus all the blacks imprisoned in the dungeons were dragged to the Red Keep's yard before the King's Justice and his axe. Each prisoner was given a last chance to swear fealty to King Aegon. Only Lords Butterwell, Stokeworth and Rosby bent the knee to Aegon II, while Lords Hayford, Merryweather, Harte, Buckler, Caswell and Lady Fell remained true to their vows to defend Rhaenyra's rights, and were beheaded along with eight landed knights and twoscore servants and retainers. Their heads were mounted on spikes above the gates of King's Landing.
Duel of the Cargyll Twins
Not even the Kingsguard were unaffected by the Dance. The seven sworn brothers split upon the death of King Viserys I. Ser Lorent Marbrand and Ser Erryk Cargyll were already at Dragonstone defending Rhaenyra and her blacks, later being joined by Ser Steffon Darklyn, the three forming the core of her new Queensguard. The other four - Ser Criston Cole, Ser Arryk Cargyll, Ser Rickard Thorne, and Ser Willis Fell - sided with Aegon II and his greens at King's Landing.
Desiring revenge for the murder of his heir, Aegon meant to descend on Dragonstone atop Sunfyre to seize or slay his half-sister and her "bastard sons". The green council managed to dissuade him. Ser Criston, still Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, proposed using stealth and treachery as the "pretender princess" had done. Thus he tasked Ser Arryk with infiltrating Dragonstone in the guise of his twin, Ser Erryk. It is uncertain whether he was to kill Rhaenyra or her children, as accounts differ. According to Eustace, Ser Arryk visited the Red Keep's sept to pray forgiveness from the Mother Above. Munkun states the target was Rhaenyra, while Mushroom insists it was her sons Jacaerys and Joffrey "Strong". But the twins happened to come upon each other in one of the halls of the castle's citadel and fought to the death. According to songs, the brothers professed their love as their swords clashed, dying in one another's arms after fighting for an hour with duty in their hearts. However, the account of Mushroom, who claimed to have witnessed the duel, they condemned each other as traitors and were both mortally wounded within moments.
Duskendale and Rook's Rest
Harrenhal and the Burning Mill made the young king, Aegon II realize his situation was severe. While House Hightower of Oldtown and House Redwyne of 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 of Arryn, 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 quick 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 dispatched 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.
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 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 smallfolk 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 fed. With Aegon unable to rule, Aemond assumed the style of Protector of the Realm.
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 knighthood 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.
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. 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 leaped 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 being destroyed.
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 led to Ormund knighting Daeron, naming him Daeron the Daring.
The Red Fork and the Fishfeed
Meanwhile, Lord Walys Mooton retook Rook's Rest 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.
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 Ser Pate of Longleaf during the battle, however, and Ser Adrian Tarbeck was slain three days after the battle at Acorn Hall. Old Lord Humfrey Lefford took command of the Lannister host, 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 become 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
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.
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 Lord 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. While Ormund was leading the siege of Longtable, Prince Maelor Targaryen and his protector, Ser Rickard Thorne, were 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. A vengeful Daeron burned the town with the sack of Bitterbridge. Princess Jaehaera Targaryen safely arrived at Storm's End with Ser Willis Fell.
Ulf the White and Hugh Hammer flew to Tumbleton, but Rhaenyra's forces there were greatly outnumbered by the approaching Hightower army. Some refugees were secretly greens who 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 let loose their flames upon Tumbleton, which was savagely sacked.
Upon learning of Tumbleton, 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 only 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.
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.
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 Robert being slain by Ser Alfred Broome, who was angered at not being named castellan by Rhaenyra. 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.
Battle Above the Gods Eye
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.
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 Valyrian steel longsword 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.
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 betrayal 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.
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. Fearing the worst, Rhaenyra ordered her followers to go after him and bring him back. Seven men followed her command, remembered in history as the Seven Who Rode: Ser Medrick Manderly, Ser Loreth Lansdale, Ser Harrold Darke, Ser Harmon of the Reeds, Ser Gyles Yronwood, Ser Willam Royce, and Ser Glendon Goode. Rhaenyra'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.
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 leaders. Prince Daeron was next in line for the throne and there were some who wanted to name him Prince of Dragonstone, or even king. Lord Hugh Hammer wanted to be crowned king by right of conquest. He had the oldest and largest dragon alive, Vermithor, thrice as big as Daeron's Tessarion. Ulf the White helped plot Hugh's coronation. Lord Unwin Peake and Hobert summoned eleven other lords and landed knights, who became known as the Caltrops, to plot the deaths of the Two Betrayers with Daeron's consent.
Before the Caltrops could strike, Tumbleton woke at night to find themselves under attack by Addam Velaryon, his dragon Seasmoke, and an army of four thousand blacks loyal to Rhaenyra. The great green host encamped at Tumbleton outnumbered their attackers, but had grown lax due to their long stay. Ulf slept through the Second Battle of Tumbleton. Hard Hugh was killed by one of the Caltrops, Lord Jon Roxton, who was then killed by Hugh's men in revenge. Daeron is said to have been killed by Black Trombo or an unknown man-at-arms, or thirdly died from a burning pavilion.
Addam and Seasmoke battled the riderless Tessarion and Vermithor, 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. Lord Benjicot Blackwood had Billy Burley end her suffering. Addam also died during the fighting.
Though having won the battle, the rivermen had not been able to take the town. Tumbleton's gates were closed, and without a dragon or equipment, they could not start a siege, so the rivermen took all they found useful and left. Only one dragon remained at the town, Silverwing.
In order to rid the surviving greens of Ulf the White, Hobert drank poisoned Arbor gold with him to their mutual deaths. Without a leader or a rider for Silverwing, Lord Peake led the green army in retreat. King's Landing had been saved.
Rhaenyra Targaryen was 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 the Younger, and without ships, Rhaenyra sold her crown to buy passage on a Braavosi ship. She returned to Dragonstone, hoping to hatch a new dragon from the island's dragon eggs.
Ser Alfred Broome and his garrison killed Rhaenyra's remaining men and captured the queen, her ladies, and Aegon the Younger. Once inside the gates, Rhaenyra faced Aegon II Targaryen and the wounded Sunfyre. Aegon the Elder fed Rhaenyra to his dragon while 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 last another half of a year.
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.
Lord Borros Baratheon seized King's Landing for Aegon. Gaemon was arrested and Trystane was executed after being granted the boon of knighthood. Lord Corlys Velaryon, who had been left in the dungeons when Rhaenyra fled the city, was freed and named to Aegon's small council. As Aegon II's only remaining heir was his daughter Jaehaera, the widowed king agreed to marry the eldest daughter of Borros.
Battle of the Kingsroad
With King's Landing secured for King Aegon II Targaryen, Lord Borros Baratheon led his armies against the rivermen who were approaching the city on the kingsroad. These Lads were led by Lord Kermit Tully, Lord Benjicot Blackwood, and Ben's aunt, Alysanne Blackwood. Bloody Ben Blackwood broke the flank of the confident Borros, and "Black Aly" led the archers that brought down Borros's knights. Lord Baratheon killed Lords Darry and Mallister, before he himself was killed by Lord Tully.
This left King's Landing with only meager defenses, with the Lads only a short distance away. Lord Cregan Stark and his forces marched south to reinforce them.
Aegon II's Death
When the black army of the Lads was a day's march outside of King's Landing, there were no significant green forces to stop them. Lord Cregan Stark was coming south, and other armies were coming from the Vale of Arryn as well. King Aegon II Targaryen refused to surrender, even when Lord Corlys Velaryon, now master of ships on Aegon's small council, advised him that the only remaining option was to surrender and join the Night's Watch. Instead, Aegon gave orders to have an ear cut off his nephew, Aegon the Younger, and have it sent to the Lads as a warning—if his bloodline died, so would Rhaenyra's. Aegon II was shortly found dead after, with blood on his lips from poisoned wine. Who poisoned the king remains unknown, though twenty-two men would be arrested.
The False Dawn
With King Aegon II Targaryen dead, Aegon the Younger was crowned as King Aegon III Targaryen. Although Aegon II's host had been defeated and the Velaryon fleet once more served the Iron Throne, the period that followed was named the False Dawn.
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 Dalton Greyjoy—who had only nominally sided with the blacks as a pretext to attack wealthy green kingdoms—now refused to acknowledge the boy-king Aegon III's commands to stop raiding.
Lord Cregan Stark and his northern army of childless, homeless, and younger men had marched to King's Landing with hopes of adventure. The sudden death of King Aegon II had robbed them of that chance, leaving Cregan furious. He had wanted to punish Storm's End, Casterly Rock, and Oldtown for having supported Aegon II over Rhaenyra, but upon his arrival, Lord Corlys Velaryon had already sent out ravens, suing for peace.
Hour of the Wolf
Lord Cregan Stark could not be dissuaded from punishing the betrayers and prisoners of King Aegon II Targaryen. He found the poisoning foul murder, and had twenty-two men arrested in the name of young Aegon III Targaryen, including Lords Larys Strong and Corlys Velaryon. He then made Aegon name him Hand of the King.
Cregan reigned as Hand during a day filled with trials and executions. Most of those accused chose to take the black—chief among them Ser Perkin the Flea—but Ser Gyles Belgrave of the Kingsguard and Larys chose death. Corlys was spared a trial thanks to the intervention of Baela and Rhaena Targaryen. The day after the executions, Cregan resigned as Hand and returned to the north, leaving many of his northmen behind in the south.
The Regency of Aegon III
With the war over, a council of seven regents was established for the young Aegon III Targaryen. 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.
Changed views on inheritance
The Dance of the Dragons further had influences upon the future Targaryen succession. Upon the death of King Baelor I Targaryen in 171 AC, the succession of the throne was unclear. Since Baelor had no children and 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. By choosing Viserys over Daena, a precedent was set for women coming after all men in Targaryen succession since the Dance. During the reign of King Aerys I Targaryen, his niece, Princess Aelora Targaryen, was made Princess of Dragonstone even while her uncle and male cousins still lived, though her own suicide prevented her accession to the throne. Following her death, Prince Maekar Targaryen was made heir over Aelora's younger sister, Princess Daenora.
There are several main sources for historical information on the Dance of the Dragons, which are frequently at odds with each other. The first was written by Grand Maester Orwyle, who had served King Aegon II Targaryen on his council and was arrested by the forces of Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen when she took the city. Orwyle wrote his account while locked away in the black cells. Uncertain about whether or not he would survive the war, he attempted to paint himself in the best light possible.
The next major source was written by Septon Eustace, who served at the Red Keep at the time of Viserys I's death. Eustace wrote The Reign of King Viserys after the war had concluded. His account is biased, favoring Aegon II over Rhaenyra.
The fourth major source is the account of the dwarf Mushroom, the court fool at the Red Keep during the reign of King Viserys I Targaryen, who was with Rhaenyra on Dragonstone when the war broke out. Mushroom was believed to be a lackwit by the court, and thus people often spoke freely around him. His account, The Testimony of Mushroom, contains detailed descriptions of plots, murders, trysts, debaucheries, and more. Although Mushroom's account often differs significantly from Septon Eustace's account, there are some surprising points of agreement. During his reign, King Baelor I Targaryen had Mushroom's book burned on account of its ribald and scandalous content.
Archmaester Gyldayn wrote his work, The Princess and the Queen, or, the Blacks and the Greens, about a century after the war, making use of the accounts that were written down before him, comparing them where needed.
Family Tree of House Targaryen during the Dance
|Viserys II||Visenya||Aegon III||Jaehaera||Jaehaerys||Maelor|
- The Princess and the Queen.
- Not A Blog: The Princess and the Queen
- The Rogue Prince.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Viserys I.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aegon II.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The North: The Lords of Winterfell.
- Fire & Blood, The Dying of the Dragons - A Son for a Son.
- Fire & Blood, The Dying of the Dragons - The Red Dragon and the Gold.
- Fire & Blood, The Dying of the Dragons - Rhaenyra Triumphant.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Westerlands: House Lannister Under the Dragons.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Iron Islands: The Red Kraken.
- Fire & Blood, The Dying of the Dragons - The Short, Sad Reign of Aegon II.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aegon III.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Stormlands: House Baratheon.
- Clarification: Question regarding Black Alys's relation to Benjicot and the clarifying answer
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Riverlands: House Tully.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Viserys II.
- So Spake Martin: Comic Con San Diego (July 20-23, 2006)
- asoiaf.westeros.org: R+L=J v. 164 – Comment by Ran (December 12, 2017)
- Stockholm and Archipelacon Report
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 8, Tyrion III.
- [Spoilers] The Princess and the Queen, complete spoilers discussion: Ran on Septon Eustace (November 28, 2013)
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Baelor I.