The War of Conquest, also called the Targaryen Conquest, Aegon's Conquest, and rarely Aegon's Invasion, was the military conflict that united the Seven Kingdoms under the rule of House Targaryen. The war lasted for two years and saw the entire continent of Westeros (apart from Dorne) swear fealty to King Aegon I Targaryen, known as Aegon the Conqueror, the first King to sit on the Iron Throne.
House Targaryen had been a noble family of the Valyrian Freehold before relocating to the island of Dragonstone in the Narrow Sea. The move came because Lord Aenar Targaryen believed the prophetic visions of his daughter Daenys, which suggested that a great catrastrophe was coming to Valyria. A dozen years later this prophecy was proven correct, when Valyria was destroyed in a single night of fire and ash. The Targaryens were the only dragonlords to survive the Doom, although several smaller Valyrian families (such as the Celtigars and Velaryons) had accompanied the Targaryens and also survived.
The Targaryens had taken five dragons with them to Dragonstone, the most famous of whom was Balerion, the Black Dread. Two additional hatchlings, Vhagar and Meraxes, joined them but the other four dragons died in the succeeding century. This period, known as the Century of Blood, saw the Targaryens resist requests from Volantis to help them establish a new Valyrian empire in Essos. At one stage, the Targaryens even lent military aid to the forces of Braavos and Tyrosh against the armies of Volantis as they attempted to conquer the southern Free Cities.
Aegon Targaryen was born 27 years before the Conquest. He began planning for an invasion of Westeros whilst still young, commissioning the carving of the Painted Table and studying the kingdoms of Westeros, their politics and their military capabilities in detail. Aegon had worked with King Argilac Durrandon of the Stormlands during the Volantene campaign and knew that Argilac was nervous about the growing power of King Harren Hoare, King of the Iron Islands and Riverlands, whose great castle at Harrenhal was approaching completion and would provide a formidable base for any military campaigns southwards into Argilac's territory. Argilac and Aegon discussed an alliance to be sealed by marriage to Argilac's daughter, Argella, but Aegon turned down the offer himself. Instead he proposed that Argella marry his half-brother Orys Baratheon. Although a bastard, Orys was a great warrior and noted statesman who stood high in Aegon's counsels. Argilac took great insult at the offer. He cut off the hands of Aegon's emissary and sent them back to him, saying these were the only hands a bastard could expect from him. Aegon, angered in turn, began his preparations for war.
Aegon sailed from Dragonstone with only a handful of troops. They landed at the mouth of the Blackwater Rush and established a wooden redoubt upon the tallest hill overlooking the bay. This was to be their base of operations. From here Aegon sent messages to the rulers of each of the Seven Kingdoms, offering them the chance to swear fealty to him peacefully or resist and face destruction. Only two of the rulers responded: Queen Regent Shara Arryn offered an alliance, if Aegon would marry her and declare her son Ronal his heir; and Princess Mariya Martell of Dorne offered to take part in a joint military campaign against the Reach, but only as an alliance of convenience. Neither offer was satisfactory.
Aegon divided his forces into three. He sent his sister Rhaenys, riding the dragon Meraxes, south with Orys and a significant portion of his army. This force was to capture Storm's End and secure the Stormlands. His other sister Visenya, riding the dragon Vhagar, would accompany Aegon's fleet. This force was to capture Gulltown and secure the Vale of Arryn. Aegon himself, mounted on Balerion, led the remainder north and west to secure Harrenhal, which had been completed on the very day Aegon had set foot on the shore of Westeros.
Visenya's force moved on Gulltown, but faced a calamity when the naval forces of House Arryn sallied forth and engaged the Targaryen fleet in battle upon the Narrow Sea. The Targaryen fleet was destroyed, although Visenya, flying high above the fighting on her dragon, was able to inflict grievous casaulties upon the Arryn fleet. Unable to take Gulltown, Visenya flew west to rejoin her brother.
Aegon's forces approached Harrenhal. When Harren the Black called his banners, he faced a revolt from the lords of the Riverlands, led by Lord Edmyn Tully of Riverrun. Rather than fighting for their conquerors, they instead joined Aegon's forces. The ironborn took refuge inside Harrenhal. Despite this defection, Aegon's forces only numbered four thousand when they reached the walls of the castle. Harren and Aegon parleyed, with Aegon offering to name Harren the Lord of the Iron Islands but no more than that. Harren refused, stating his walls would resist even Aegon's dragon. Furious at his intransigence, Aegon told him that at sunset his line would end.
As promised, Aegon took Balerion high over the walls of Harrenhal and used his dragonbreath to ignite each of the five great towers of the castle in turn. Harren died screaming inside the tallest, later known as Kingspyre Tower. Balerion's fire burned so hot that the stone itself melted.
The ironborn surrendered. Aegon demanded from them a representative and they settled on Lord Vickon Greyjoy of Pyke, whom Aegon named as Lord of the Iron Islands. Aegon then named Edmyn Tully as Lord of the Riverlands.
The Last StormEdit
Rhaenys and Orys led their forces on Storm's End, regarded as one of the most formidable castles in Westeros. It was thousands of years old and had never fallen in battle. However, Argilac mustered his army and marched forth rather than stand siege (possibly one of the reasongs for his nickname, "Argilac the Arrogant"). Battle was joined on the night of a ferocious storm, which severely limited Rhaenys and Meraxes's ability to fly and dominate the battle from overhead. Despite being outnumbered and lacking his dragon's firepower, Orys was able to win the battle conventionally and personally slew Argilac. He marched on Storm's End, where Argella had declared herself the Storm Queen and demanded that her bannermen fight on. Instead, they imprisoned her in chains and handed her over naked to Orys before surrendering. Orys, angered at this lack of chivalry, treated Argella with respect. After securing the allegiance of the Stormlands, he married Argella and took the sigil and words of House Durrandon as his own, marking the founding of House Baratheon.
Aegon led his victorious army south to the headwaters of the Blackwater Rush, near the town of Stoney Sept. There, he was rejoined by Visenya and Rhaenys, and Orys's armies. His combined force, only 10,000 strong, mostly recently conquered troops of few reliance, marched south into the Reach.
Hearing of the downfall of Argillac and Harren, King Loren Lannister of the Westerlands and King Mern IX Gardener of the Reach made alliance and decided to bring overwhelming forces to bear against Aegon. Their two lands were the most populous and militarily powerful in all of Westeros, and their combined army of 55,000 (including 600 lords and 5,500 knights) dwarfed that of Aegon.
Their armies met north of Highgarden on a dry field. Visenya and Rhaenys used their dragons to set fires behind and upwind of the Lannister and Gardener armies, blinding them with smoke and limiting their use of archers (the biggest danger to the dragons). Aegon and Balerion then attacked the army directly, breathing fire onto the massed ranks of enemy troops. More than 4,000 died in the resulting firestorm. Aegon's army then attacked the confused enemy, slaughtering another thousand.
In the maelstrom, King Mern and his sons were killed. King Loren surrendered and Mern's steward, Harlen Tyrell, bent the knee on behalf of the Reach. Aegon accepted their surrender, named Harlen Lord of the Reach, Warden of the South and Lord of Highgarden (to the anguish of House Florent, which had a superior claim to Highgarden).
The North bends the kneeEdit
Aegon had little time to enjoy his victory, as word came that King Torrhen Stark was leading an army of 30,000 from the North. Aegon took 45,000 men with him to confront the northern host on the banks of the Red Fork of the Trident. Torrhen saw Aegon's army and his dragons and realised the chances of victory were remote, so he sent his bastard half-brother Brandon Snow and three maesters to treat with Aegon. Brandon suggested poisoning the dragons or killing them by stealth, but Torrhen decided this was too dangerous and instead agreed to bend the knee. In return, he was named Lord of the North and Aegon was able to turn his attention eastwards.
The Vale submitsEdit
The army of the Vale had assembled at the Bloody Gate, where it could grievously blunt any invasion of the Vale through the Mountains of the Moon. Choosing a different tactic, Aegon sent Visenya on her dragon over the mountains. She flew Vhagar straight to the Eyrie and landed in the castle's courtyard, where King Ronal Arryn - a young boy - was playing. When the Queen Regent Shara emerged, she found that Ronal had already promised to swear fealty to Aegon in return for a ride on the dragon's back. Shara was forced to agree to these terms and the Vale peacefully swore to Aegon, and Ronal got his dragon ride.
Aegon is crownedEdit
Aegon's path eventually led him to Oldtown, the oldest city on the continent and the seat of both the Faith of the Seven and the Citadel. The High Septon prayed to the Seven for guidance, fasting for seven days and seven nights in the Starry Sept. He was finally rewarded with a vision showing that Oldtown would be destroyed and the Faith annihilated if it opposed Aegon. The High Septon convinced Lord Hightower to open the gates to Aegon and welcome him with all pomp and ceremony. Aegon's reign was dated to the day he passed through the city gates. Aegon was crowned the King of the Seven Kingdoms by the High Septon, but he chose not to make his capital at Oldtown. Instead, he announced he would found a new capital on the site where his forces first landed on the shores of Westeros.
Dorne is defiantEdit
Whilst Aegon was crowned, his sister Rhaenys led his forces in a large-scale invasion of Dorne, the last part of Westeros to hold out. Rather than give open battle, the Dornish armies melted away into the mountains and the desert. They instead chose the way of guerrilla warfare, striking at the army's supply lines and carrying out rapid harrying attacks, not gathering in numbers where they could be destroyed by Rhaenys's dragon. As the losses mounted, Rhaenys grew frustrated and flew her dragon all the way to Sunspear to demand the surrender of Princess Mariya Martell. Mariya was eighty years old, blind and almost bald, known as the "Yellow Toad of Dorne" to her foes. She told Rhaenys that Dorne would never submit and never surrender. When Rhaenys told her that she would return with, "Fire and Blood," Mariya replied that Dorne would forever be "Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken." Rhaenys left and, facing unacceptable losses, was forced to withdraw her forces from Dorne, leaving it independent.
Following his victory, Aegon began construction of the city of King's Landing on the site where he first landed on Westeros. The Targaryen castle, the Red Keep, would be located on the site of his old wooden fort, whilst another nearby hill would serve as a hatchery and home to his dragons. Aegon took the hundreds of swords from the kings, lords and knights he had defeated and forged them into a mighty chair, the Iron Throne, which he fused whole in the breath of his dragon Balerion. Aegon named his half-brother Orys to the office of King's Hand, to attend to the day-to-day running of the realm. Aegon also founded the Kingsguard, a order of seven knights who would forsake family ties in order to serve the king as bodyguards. Aegon also continued to respect the institutions of the Night's Watch, continuing the practice of sending criminals to the Wall to help reinforce the defences there. King Harren Hoare's younger brother was Lord Commander of the Night's Watch with almost ten thousand men under his command, yet had remained true to his obligations to the Watch rather than try to avenge his brother.
Aegon ruled for another thirty-seven years before dying at the age of sixty-four. Upon his death the Iron Throne passed to his son Aenys. However, the Faith of the Seven declared that Aenys, as a man born of incest, could not rule over the Seven Kingdoms and launched a bloody rebellion that lasted for eleven years. After the brutal repressions of King Maegor I saw tens of thousands slaughtered, King Jaehaerys I successfully forged a peace on the understanding that the militant orders of the Faith would disband. Jaehaerys would restore the good name of the Targaryens and continue Aegon I's good works, including building the Kingsroad and ending some of the more dubious traditions of the kingdoms (such as the practice of first night).
Aegon's dynasty would last for another two hundred and eighty years, until was brought low by the dishonorable activities of the Mad King, Aerys II Targaryen. Aerys would be deposed by Robert Baratheon, the descendant of Aegon's own half-brother, Orys.