Tag Archives: Blood of the Conqueror

Blood of the Conqueror, Bonus Essay: The Turncloak

Editor’s Note: This was originally going to be one of the featured essays from the series, but I ended up scrapping the idea as the series grew from a 5-part series to a 12-part series. However, after finishing a first draft of my own manuscript for my own book, I thought I might now publish this essay as a bonus to the main series. I hope you enjoy! 

Introduction

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Artwork by Romik Safarian

“So I am a coin in the hands of some god, is that what you are saying, ser?”

“No,” Ser Barristan replied. “You are the trueborn heir of Westeros. To the end of my days I shall remain your faithful knight, should you find me worthy to bear a sword again. If not, I am content to serve Strong Belwas as his squire.” (ASOS, Daenerys VI)

Of all the knights of Westeros, none seem quite so true as Barristan the Bold. From figures as far apart as Stannis and Renly Baratheon, Tywin Lannister, Ned Stark, Daenerys Targaryen,  Tyrion Lannister and even Varys the Spider, Selmy’s reputation as a true knight shines bright. More than that, Barristan’s renown and honor lends significant political advantage to whatever king he serves.

However, does Barristan’s reputation gel with the reality? More importantly, does Barristan’s past actions provide a pathway for how his story will play out in The Winds of Winter and beyond? In this essay, I’d like to tackle these issues in the context of what I see as Barristan’s coming Winds of Winter arc.

Though many fans believe that Barristan will die during the Battle of Fire, I think that GRRM has something much more narratively fulfilling in mind for Barristan than a death on Meereenese battlefield: namely, a massive conflict over his loyalties spurred forward by his guilt over his service to a bad king, his nostalgia for a “good” Targaryen prince and the changing character dynamics of the queen he serves and a boy binding up the wounds of bleeding Westeros.

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Blood of the Conqueror, Conclusion: A Last Mad Act

Editor’s Note: I want to thank everyone for reading this series and for being loyal readers to this blog for so many years. For over 3 years now, I’ve dedicated most of my creative energy and thought to GRRM’s world, and I thank him for creating a world that I’ve gotten to play in. However, it’s time for me to refocus my energy on my own works of fiction that I’ve put on hold. As a result, this will be the last A Song of Ice and Fire essay that I’ll write before George RR Martin announces the completion of The Winds of Winter.  Once again, thank you so much for reading my essays, and please stick around the blog as our other writers: SomethingLikeaLawyer, Militant_Penguin, MattEiffel and MasterRooseman have lots of great stuff coming your way in the coming months! All the best – Jeff (BryndenBFish)

Spoiler Warning: This essay contains spoilers for The Winds of Winter

Introduction

tomasz_jedruszek_kings_landing

Artwork by Tomasz Jedruszek

Aerys Targaryen must have thought that his gods had answered his prayers when Lord Tywin Lannister appeared before the gates of King’s Landing with an army twelve thousand strong, professing loyalty. So the mad king had ordered his last mad act. He had opened his city to the lions at the gate. (AGOT, Eddard II)

At long last, Aegon’s Crusade for the Iron Throne would come to King’s Landing at the close of The Winds of Winter. With victories at Storm’s End and against the Tyrells at Westerosi Agincourt and new friends in Dorne, the Reach and the High Sparrow, Aegon would turn towards the great city. The city, though, won’t be easy to take. Even if Aegon showed up to the city with the full strength of the Golden Company, Dorne and the Golden Company’s friends in the Reach, King’s Landing would be nigh impregnable. Behind the strong walls of King’s Landing, Cersei Lannister and her loyalists could withstand a conventional siege or storming of the walls. And though taking King’s Landing was of tantamount importance to the young dragon, his parallel goal was to continue his campaign for legitimacy by enshrining himself in good optics.

In a certain light, Aegon’s coming struggle to take King’s Landing and the Iron Throne finds a strange parallel to that of the victorious rebels of the rebellion which brought down the young dragon’s alleged father and grandfather. Robert’s Rebellion saw many battles fought across Westeros, but to achieve ultimate success, Robert had take King’s Landing and then unite a fractured realm. The former was achieved when Tywin Lannister treacherously sacked the city. The latter was accomplished by Robert’s personality and his marriage to the beautiful Cersei Lannister.

If Aegon’s invasion of Westeros is a pale imitation of Robert’s Rebellion, we’re likely to see something of a mirroring effect of victory after victory in the field for the Young Dragon in The Winds of Winter. But like Robert Baratheon, Aegon would need more than victory on the field to secure his throne. And if Aegon were to take the Iron Throne, he would need to then quickly pacify the realm with good governance and a marriage.

So, towards the end of The Winds of Winter, I expect the young dragon will turn at last to the great city, and it’s here that we’ll see the conflagration of several major point of view characters from A Song of Ice and Fire and the culmination of Aegon’s crusade for the Iron Throne.

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Blood of the Conqueror, Part 11: An Alliance With God

Introduction

https://i2.wp.com/awoiaf.westeros.org/images/2/2e/Marc_Fishman_High_Sparrow.jpg

Artwork by Marc Fishman

From Visenya’s Hill, the call went out to the faithful that Maegor’s Laws were undone; the Faith of the Militant had been reborn. Granted extraordinary powers by the crown, knights flocked the banner of the Warrior’s Sons while smallfolk men and women gathered under the Poor Fellows. Meanwhile on Aegon’s High Hill, Cersei Lannister began her preparations to undercut the growing power of Highgarden and bring about the downfall of Margaery Tyrell. None of these parallel political movements and conspiracies accounted for the wildcard of Aegon’s coming.

Across the Narrow Sea, Prince Aegon and his party made their final preparations for their invasion of Westeros. Prince Aegon had a strong force in the Golden Company, but he also had another weapon in his arsenal: ideology. Aegon had been shaped for rule since his youth, and part of his royal instruction included a strong religious education. When the young dragon landed in Westeros, he would bring his army of sellswords to bear against the might of Highgarden and Casterly Rock, but he would also present a striking ideological alternative to the ruling elite of King’s Landing. To the High Sparrow, this would present a difficult choice on whether to back Aegon, but to the young dragon, if he were to stand a chance at taking King’s Landing, he would need the support of the High Sparrow.

Meanwhile, with the Tyrells and Lannisters in near open conflict with each other, the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant were quickly becoming power players in Westeros, and their growing power in the capital itself made the them the most powerful political actors within the city itself in advance of Aegon’s final approach to the city.

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Blood of the Conqueror, Part 10: A Plague of Sparrows

Introduction

Artwork by Nicole Cardiff

The Seven Gods who made us all, are listening if we should call. So close your eyes, you shall not fall, they see you, little children. (ASOS, Samwell III)

Opposite the Red Keep stands Baelor’s Sept. Within the walls of this massive cathedral lay the beating heart of Westerosi religion: the Faith of the Seven. Governing the form and functions of millions of adherents, the Faith of the Seven was one of the few Westerosi institutions whose reach extended from Dorne to White Harbor. At the pinnacle of this continent-spanning religion was a man known as the High Septon. Serving as Westeros’ version of a medieval pope, the High Septon was a powerful leader of this religion and was seen as the literal avatar of the gods themselves. However theoretically powerful this man was in though, he had practical limits imposed on him by Westeros’ history. A bloody war and the reforms of a Targaryen king had restrained the High Septon and curbed the power that the Faith of the Seven once held. By the start of A Game of Thrones, the Faith of the Seven had morphed into a placid, peaceful religion with a fat, corrupt religious elite presiding over the faithful, but this was about to change.

Within the span of two years, the country had seen its relative stability and peace evaporate into chaotic warfare. The War of the Five Kings had devastated the country, and it was not the warfighters who suffered. The smallfolk had borne the brunt of this war, and the brutalities inflicted on them upended the social fabric of Westeros. One of the chief victims of this upending of the social fabric of Westeros was the Faith of the Seven

Where once the Faith of the Seven had been a conservative, milquetoast part of society, the War of the Five Kings radicalized the religion. Standing atop this new movement was a man who would become known as the High Sparrow. And he was looking at the historical structure of the Faith of the Seven and seeing the power that the Faith once wielded.  

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Blood of the Conqueror, Part 8: To The Spears

This essay contains minor spoilers for The Winds of Winter

Introduction

House Martell

Artwork by Narwen Illustrations

“It is an easy thing for a prince to call the spears, but in the end the children pay the price. For their sake, the wise prince will wage no war without good cause, nor any war he cannot hope to win.” (ADWD, The Watcher)

From his vantage point overlooking the Water Gardens, Doran Martell looked at the children at play in the pool below. To his side lay a letter from King’s Landing informing the Prince of Dorne that his brother was dead at the hands of Gregor Clegane. All around him, overripe blood oranges ominously fell from trees, giving off a sickly-sweet odor as they split open upon impact. While Doran watched, Dorne was angry — angry at the recent death of Oberyn Martell, angry at the murders of Elia Martell and her children at the end of Robert’s RebellionDoran Martell knew all this, and yet from all appearances, he did nothing. 

The reality, though, could not have been more different. Doran Martell was doing something to avenge his lost loved ones, but the prince could not seek the immediate vengeance that his family and countrymen wanted. The Prince knew that if Dorne went to war against the Iron Throne, they would lose, and if they lost, it would be the children who would suffer.

However, events had finally shaped up to the point where Doran Martell felt that he had his chance to truly strike a blow for vengeance all the while avoiding deaths like those of his sister and her children so many years before.

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Blood of the Conqueror, Part 7: Agincourt

This essay contains spoilers for The Winds of Winter

Introduction

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Artwork by Donato Giancola

In little room confining mighty men,

Mangling by starts the full course of their glory.

Small time, but in that small most greatly lived

This star of England: Fortune made his sword;

By which the world’s best garden be achieved,

And of it left his son imperial lord. (Henry V, Act V)

Much as the Battle of the Trident decided Robert’s Rebellion and the Battle of Redgrass Field decided the First Blackfyre Rebellion, so too will a titanic battle in the Stormlands determine the fate of the young dragon’s crusade for the Iron Throne. The original plan had been to gain a foothold along the coast of Westeros and await Daenerys Targaryen, her army and her dragons to arrive, but to the men of the Golden Company, this was no time for caution. They had won battle after battle and likely gained a powerful ally in Mathis Rowan. Momentum was on their side, and there existed the possibility of winning the Iron Throne outright without the help of the dragon queen. But the young dragon would need to prove his mettle against a real foe. Fortunately, he would have that opportunity.

The men of the Reach had finally awoken to the threat of Aegon. Mace Tyrell and the cream of Westerosi chivalry was marching on the young dragon at Storm’s End. They had numbers, advanced armament and training on their side. Even with the numbers that Mathis Rowan would likely add to the young dragon’s cause, Aegon and the Golden Company were outnumbered. However, they had a plan to confront the chivalry of the Reach. It wasn’t an honorable plan, but it was a plan that would assure the destruction of the Tyrell army and an open road to King’s Landing. In a similar way, this battle would resemble one of Europe’s most famous battles.

In 1415 CE, Western European chivalry died an ignoble death on a muddy field in Northern France. Heavy cavalry and its associated knightly virtue had long dominated Western European warfare, but they met a brutal end against the English Army at Agincourt. There, skilled English archers with their deadly longbows and bodkin arrows decimated the ranks of ineptly-led French heavy cavalry and changed the face of warfare forever.

The Battle of Agincourt has yet to see a parallel in A Song of Ice and Fire, but I believe that the Westerosi version of this battle is coming in The Winds of Winter. Jon Connington and Aegon had won early victories, but they would need to confront the flower of chivalry on the field, and they would have to fight dirty to win.

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Blood of the Conqueror, Part 6: Friends in the Reach

This essay contains spoilers for The Winds of Winter

Introduction

Tarly

Storm’s End had fallen to Aegon, and with that “impregnable” coastal fortress, the young dragon now held the most strategically and symbolically important foothold in the south of Westeros. However great this victory was though, Aegon’s situation was tenuous. The Golden Company was scattered across the Stormlands, Narrow Sea and Stepstones, and a Tyrell army was descending on Storm’s End. Though secure for the moment behind the massive curtain walls of Storm’s End, Aegon, Jon Connington and the Golden Company’s hope for long-term success did not reside at Storm’s End. Their only shot at victory lay in defeating the Tyrells marching for them and developing alliances and local support in Westeros. The bitter history of the Blackfyre Rebellions had proved as much.

The Blackfyre pretenders’ inability to garner widespread support after the First Blackfyre Rebellion had led to their repeated failures. In that first rebellion, Daemon I Blackfyre and Aegor “Bittersteel” Rivers leveraged the grievances and ambitions of secondary noble houses into a broad political and military coalition. In particular, Daemon and Bittersteel brought disaffected nobles from the Reach, Dorne and Westerlands under the black dragon banner against their regional and royal overlords. Though the First Blackfyre Rebellion was ultimately unsuccessful, the coalition that the first Blackfyre pretenders assembled was instrumental to their near-success. Failed subsequent Blackfyre rebellions, like the Fourth (which had barely stumbled past its landing at Massey’s Hook) and the Fifth (which had never even reached mainland Westeros) had proved to the Golden Company that without widespread organic support, Westeros could – and would – cast them off.

The Westeros upon which Aegon and his company landed, though, was much more favorably inclined to the young dragon’s particular foreign invasion than that of his Blackfyre forebears. The mood in Westeros had turned hostile towards the ruling class long before Aegon and his band of sellsword adventurers arrived; the Lannister-Tyrell alliance, which had been Westeros’ dominant political and military power since the Battle of the Blackwater, was crumbling. Better still for the would-be king, internal dissent against Lord Mace Tyrell was growing among some of his lords bannermen.

The taking of  Storm’s End had provided a foundation for Westerosi nobles to take notice of the young dragon, but Aegon desperately needed their homage and swords along with their notice. If it were to press Aegon’s claim to the Iron Throne, the Golden Company would have to do more than win the allegiance of its surviving Blackfyre allies. The Reach had proved fertile ground for Daemon I Blackfyre and Bittersteel when they rose against the Iron Throne. The Blackfyres’ ideological (and biological) successors would now turn to the Reach once again.

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