Artwork by Mark Simonetti
Hello again readers. Today I present you with my penultimate entry in the Three Heads of the Dragon series, Aegor ‘Bittersteel’ Rivers. Though not a pretender to the throne, Bittersteel played a central role in the Blackfyre Rebellions that plagued Westeros for decades. He was the left hand of Daemon Blackfyre, and he and his Golden Company would become the sword, armor, and shield of Daemon’s offspring. While the Blackfyre name might be on the name of the war, in many ways it was Bittersteel’s war to wage, and no examination of Targaryen royal pretenders would be complete without the man who drove them.
Aegor Rivers was a bastard born of the adulterous union of King Aegon IV ‘The Unworthy’ Targaryen and Lady Barba Bracken of the Riverlands. Though she was favoured by Aegon IV’s palette for a while, this would not be enough for Barba. When Queen Naerys was rendered infirm after a difficult pregnancy, Barba openly boasted of her desire to replace the Unworthy’s loathed sister-queen. Yet when Naerys recovered her health, Aegon’s favor was insufficient to protect Barba, for soon enough she would find herself exiled from Aegon’s court at the behest of Queen Naerys’s greatest two champions; Crown Prince Daeron II Targaryen and Aemon the Dragonknight. So it would be that the young Aegor would be raised away from the capitol and his father, and grew up in Stone Hedge, the seat of House Bracken.
Not only was he cast out and away from the delights of courtly life and his father’s company, Aegor would have to deal with a dishonour to his mother and her house when Aegon IV replaced Barba Bracken with Melissa Blackwood, a daughter of a house with whom the Bracken’s had been feuding with since time immemorial. Melissa would then go onto give birth to another bastard of Aegon’s, the albino Brynden ‘Bloodraven’ Rivers as well as two other bastard children.
To add more to Aegor’s already-impressive feelings of resentment and anger was the fact that though Aegon IV’s appetites would lead to him continually throwing away mistresses, Brynden Rivers and Melissa Blackwood would still be allowed to remain at court in spite of this, largely due to the popularity of Melissa Blackwood at court.
This is where the young Aegor’s rage and bitterness would begin to form. He was exiled, his mother was dishonoured, he was replaced by what he saw as a lesser freak, and neither his replacement nor his replacement’s mother were cast out by Prince Daeron and Prince Aemon like Aegor and his mother were. Aegor seethed at the perceived unfairness, at his exile for something he didn’t do. Making matters worse, when Aegor was but six, King Aegon found his new lover, Aegor’s aunt Bethany, abed with Terrence Toyne of the Kingsguard, and had both Bethany and her father executed, killing any chance of Aegor being welcomed back at court. Herself having lost a father and sister as well as royal favor, Barba Bracken would no doubt do little to curb her son’s rage during his youth at Stone Hedge.
Thus, in a bed of adultery, betrayal, and bloodshed, the start of Aegor’s lifelong vendetta against both the Targaryens and Bloodraven would begin and Bittersteel would carry that bile with him almost from the cradle to the grave.