The War of the Shadow was a conflict in the year 349AC, when Prince Baelon Targaryen tamed the last of Daenerys' dragons, Drogon, and led an ill-fated revolt against King Aemon Targaryen, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms.
Though the gulf in ages between the two sons of Aegon VI saw them raised separately in King's Landing, their differences and enmity were apparent from the start. While the second son of the Conqueror Reborn was trained for administration and the sword, Baelon's lot was far less regimented: the younger son free to travel and life as he wished while the elder languished beneath the burden of duty. It was there that the first inklings of resentment sprang up, slowly fanned over years by a series of slights and slanders.
Of these many minor and major disputes, two stand above the rest. The first came in the year 346AC, when Aemon granted his son Baelor leave and funds to rebuild the palace of Summerhall. Baelon had petitioned for years to begin the labour, only to be denied time and time again; upon hearing that Aemon had granted permissions to his son instead, Baelon confronted him in the halls of the Red Keep. The resulting row between the two was heard echoing through the halls of the Keep, years of resentment bubbling to the surface and culminating in King Aemon's words to his younger brother:
|“|| By the time you were born our father had spent all the greatness he had left in him to give - you're naught but the remnants, the dregs, better suited for a mummer's motley than a dragon's scales. Keep to your songs and travels, brother, and leave the ruling to worthier men. I'd sooner name you a jester than a lord.
Aemon Targaryen to his brother, Baelon
Baelon left King's Landing that day in a black fury, riding south along the Kingsroad with his wife, son, and retinue in tow. Some say he meant to head to Storm's End, others to Summerhall - but in the end history saw him take a different path. The party headed south toward Blackhaven, where Baelon left his family and guardsmen behind in the care of his close friend, Triston Dondarrion. Sources say that he disappeared into the night, and when asked of his intentions said only;
|“||We shall see who the true dragon is.||”|
He was gone a fortnight. Some thought him dead, others that he had taken ship to Essos to raise an army, crossing the Narrow Sea as his father had done. For a long while rumours were all there were, until dawn of the thirteenth day saw a pair of wings black out the sun, and the roaring of a dragon broke the heavens.
Baelon Targaryen had tamed Drogon, an act most had long thought impossible since the beast first flew into hiding nearly fifty years earlier. Gaunt and irritable, but still an impressive sight, from the moment Baelon first touched down outside of Blackhaven, the world changed. Word exploded across the continent, passing by raven and tongue and messenger faster than any message had ever before been carried. Baelon Targaryen was a dragonrider. The only one of his kind.
Suddenly the position of his rival, King Aemon, seemed far less stable.
Some thought that war would come immediately; that Baelon would send word declaring his kingship to every lord and lady in the Realm, like Aegon I, or that he would gather a secret council of rebels and conquerors, as was done during the Dance of Dragons. Indeed there were a few men at his side that urged Baelon to fly to King's Landing directly to confront King Aemon - but the prince declined. When word reached the king himself he was reportedly struck dumb: though soon after he was heard to curse Baelon and his seemingly unfailing luck.
After a time, tensions lessened - the King remained in King's Landing, while Baelon remained in the south. Tales of his deeds and prestige spread; and Aemon's resentment of his brother only grew. It finally came to a head in the year 349AC, when House Targaryen gathered to celebrate the reopening of Summerhall.
The precise circumstances of the event are not known - to this day maesters and historians debate the truth of the matter. All that that is certain is that some time during the festivities, assailants unknown snuck into the chambers of Baelon's son, Aemond Targaryen; and there attempted to steal the dragon egg he held in his possession, the get of Drogon and a gift from his father. In the resulting chaos the would-be thieves were killed - but a letter on one of their persons implicated, at least in the mind of Baelon, his elder brother Aemon Targaryen.
The attempted theft of so great a treasure and the danger it had placed his sole son in proved too much for the youngest of Aegon's children. At last those voices in his ear urging war prevailed, and ravens took flight toward the Marches, Stormlands, and Reach, with Drogon close behind.
The War of the Shadow Edit
Lords of the Marches Edit
Baelon's stay in the Dornish Marches had won him friends among the lords of that region; the greatest of these being Alester 'Ashmaker' of Ashford and Triston 'the Thunderer' of Blackhaven. For years they had urged Baelon to press his claim upon the throne, and when the Prince finally agreed in the year 349AC, they immediately raised their banners.
Word was sent by horseback to near a half dozen nearby lords, including the Carons of Nightsong, the Selmys of Harvest Hall, and the Peakes of Starpike. Baelon also sent word to Storm's End via raven, and set off atop Drogon to head to Highgarden personally. Behind him he left Alester Ashford in charge of organizing his slowly collecting levies.
The fame of Baelon Targaryen was widely known across Westeros, and as word filtered into the Reach that he had begun raising banners, hedge knights and common men flocked to him from all corners. These swelled the ranks of Baelon's army, with one known as Lucias Blackflower soon growing to lead the ragtag force. They coalesced in Ashford, deemed the meeting place for the rebel army, and were soon joined by those lords who had answered Baelon's summons.
Troubles emerged almost immediately - Lucias Blackflower and the Ashmaker took an immediate dislike to one another, Blackflower boasting the larger army while the Ashford saw himself as superior. When Triston Dondarrion advocated that they set out immediately westward, either to join up with a friendly Tyrell army or place pressure upon them if they were not yet decided, Lucias agreed - causing Alester to decline. The three captains argued for days, their armies sitting outside of the castle even as word slowly filtered back to King's Landing.
Ravens and Refusals Edit
Baelon Targaryen landed outside the walls of Highgarden, seeking an audience with the Lord of the Reach. The dragonrider hoped to sway the sons of the Mander to his cause, netting his forces an enormous increase in number, supply, and power.
In the end, however, Highgarden declined. Baelon was turned away with nothing more than well-wishes and condolences, taking flight atop Drogon with the bitter taste of resentment in his mouth. The Prince then flew south, to Horn Hill, hoping to win the Tyrell bannermen directly - but Lord Tarly too declined, and Baelon was forced to return to Ashford empty handed.
Upon arriving he found the camp in a terrible state, divided and splintering before the war had even begun. He heard Lord Dondarrion's plans and dismissed them, informing the Lords of the Marches that the Reach would not be joining them. He asked then of Storm's End - and was met only with silence.
No reply had yet winged its way back from the seat of the Storm Lords, though it was long overdue. Their silence spoke volumes, several noblemen suddenly anxious about their position outside of their liege lord's graces. Baelon would have flown there directly, to meet with the Stags of the Storm - but time was no longer on his side.
The King Answers Edit
Word had reached King Aemon that his brother had begun raising an army - and the jealous dragon wasted little time in his answer. Immediately the summons went out, banners rising from Crackclaw Point to Shipbreaker's Bay, all converging on the capital. Word was sent to Dorne as well, and soon House Fowler, House Manwoody, and House Wyl had bared the passages with men of their own, sealing the rear of the rebels. Now the realm knew that war was no mere shadow upon a distant horizon - it was here, now, and it would be horrific. Aemon Targaryen, well into his fortieth years, sent his two eldest sons in his stead. Crown Prince Viserys Targaryen and his brother, Aegor Targaryen, would lead the royal forces in the war to put down their uncle.
With the Reach and the Stormlands both unwilling to join them, and Dorne sealed at their backs, Baelon and his men had but one recourse - northward. They set out for Longtable, the nearest royalist settlement, with nearly ten thousand men to their cause. Lord Dondarrion was sure that once the realm was reminded of the power dragons wielded, lords great and small would flock to their cause. All they needed to do was last.
Longtable was a minor holding, held by minor lords of the Reach. It hardly seemed a second field of fire. Baelon needed to send a message to the lords of the Realm, and he needed a seat from which to base and anchor his revolt. He needed Summerhall, and on the fifth day out from Ashford he took flight, winging his way east as his armies marched on Longtable.
When the black wings of Drogon spread wide over Summerhall, all within knew what had come. Just as Harrenhal's legend had been birthed in dragonfire, so too would Summerhall's be, engulfed for the second time in a maelstrom of fire.
But before Baelon could give the word, he spied the form of his niece, the Princess Daena, standing out upon the battlements. The walls of the lightly fortified castle had all but been abandoned - they would do little against the Black Dread Reborn - but he could see her clearly from his great height, her pale hair thrashing in the wind. The last dragonrider descended upon the battlements where he and his niece/good-sister spoke for several long minutes, their words stolen from prying ears by the wind. When at last they had finished the two embraced - then Baelon mounted Drogon, and disappeared into the west.
The Siege of Longtable Edit
When the rebel army reached Longtable they set up camp on all three sides, hemming the fortification in against the river. Alester Ashford and his men re-won his moniker of the Ashmaker, his soldiers looting and burning for miles around. Triston the Thunderer proved far more prudent - for he knew that the King on the Iron Throne could not long suffer their depredations, and their long awaited letters of support had not yet come.
What did arrive, however, was Baelon Targaryen, winging his way back from the east where he was meant to gain Summerhall and gather more lords to their cause. When asked of what had occurred he said nothing - simply turning his beast toward the distant walls of Longtable.
Baelon gave Lord Merryweather one opportunity to dip his banners and bend the knee. The Reachlord refused - and so the last son of Aegon had Drogon give his reply, roaring fire and death upon the castle. Stone bubbled and ran like slabs of butter, rooftops and storehouses exploding into flame like so much kindling. Every beat of Drogon's mighty wings stoked the flames higher, his roar melding with the screams of burning men and twisting metal to produce a macabre melody. The glowing heat seemed like second sun against the horizon.
The March Edit
The remains of Longtable burned well into the next day, finally settling down to smoke and embers as dusk began to fall. The rebel army was forced to move upwind, by the river, for debris from the sacked castle clogged the river, and the smell of it it was thick upon the air. Longtable would be their example, writ in fire and blood, and as word spread of it the rebels were sure that others would join their cause.
In the mean time, there was a war to be fought. Word had come that the royal army was on the move, heading south along the kingsroad. Triston urged caution, advising that they fall back to await reinforcement - but Baelon would hear none of it. Longtable had been black work, not at all the sort of thing he enjoyed doing. Good, honest battle interested him far more than inflicting an airborne holocaust upon the Reach.
The rebels set out east along the southern shore of the Blue Byrn, moving as quickly as they could. The crown's forces were moving much slower, they knew, and thus if they timed it right the rebels could likely choose the field of battle. As they moved east the rebel army sacked Grassy Vale, taking much of it's food and wealth with them, though Drogon was not unleashed. Not too long afterward new word came of the Crown - they had skirted the Kingswood and slipped past Fawnton, setting them only a few days march away from where the rebels were standing.
Battle of the Byrn Edit
Baelon scouted the enemy position the day of the battle, flying high above their ranks atop Drogon. They were better armed and better organized than his own forces, but the days of Aegon the Conquer and his sisters proved that men and steel were little match for dragonfire.
He alighted down behind his ranks as the two forces converged on the plains just east of Grassy Vale, the Blue Byrn running along the lefthand side of the advancing rebel army. Tristan the Thunderer led the vanguard, while Ashmaker and Blackflower both took opposite flanks - Baelon waited in the wings, hoping to conserve Drogon's strength for one, true pass, breaking the Crown's forces with as few casualties as possible.
Just before noon battle was met, the Crown's heavy horse splintering off in a sweeping turn, riding southward and then up into the side of the hostile rebel forces. Horses screamed and lances shattered, the air filled with the sound of battle and glory. The young Prince Aegor Targaryen himself led the charge, the banner of House Targaryen flying in the wind. Viserys, the Crown Prince, led the main assault, his heavy foot and archers marching into the teeth of the dragon rider's forces.
As the fighting went on, fierce and without mercy, a certain third party appeared at the battle. Thousands of Dornishmen, bearing the banners of House Martell, emerged from the Red Mountains without previous notice. At its head was Prince Mors Martell, who was rumored to watch the battle with a cup of Dornish Red in hand, while his army waited patiently. Moments of uncertainty transpired in both sides as the Dornish host kept watching carefully.
It was known that House Targaryen and the Martells had tensions as of late, with the loss of Morgan Martell's arm by the hands of Viserys, the Crown Prince in his wedding to Ashara Martell years prior, and the death of Ashara in Dragonstone. As the war loomed in and out of Dorne, the fierce Mors Martell seemed unlikely to participate before, yet now he did.
Before long, few words were uttered by the Prince of Dorne: "All Dragons must die."
The fighting was hot and bitter, the rebels sorely outnumbered due to the addition of the Dornish forces while the Crown kept their eyes ever upward, waiting for the true threat to take to the skies. Baelon held all the same, unwilling to waste his advantage too early - when a great cry went up from the southern flank, where the tattered banner of the Blackflower tumbled to the ground. Lucias had been slain, it seemed - killed by Prince Aegor himself. His men, hedgeknights and vagabonds all, began to waver, all cohesion lost in the face of the death of their commander.
Baelon, sensing that the line would soon break, mounted quickly. He cast his eyes downward to his sole son who served as his squire, and urged him to take horse and run. With that he took to the sky, the heavy beating of wings drowned out by Drogon's roar.
Horns sounded as the last dragon took to the air, and as one the Crown's archers raised their bows to the skies. A hail of arrows rose to meet the beast, thick and black as a stormcloud - only to be burned away in the heat of his flame, as the Winged Shadow plunged toward the ranks. Fire raked the ground as he flew past, banners shaking and splintering beneath the force of his wings. Baelon held his sword aloft to the cheers of his men, and the Crown's assault wavered before him.
Arrows continued to fill the air, and on Viserys' command scorpions and catapults were brought forward to bring down Baelon and his beast. While some had spoken of capturing the rebel alive, and somehow preserving the last living dragon - in the heat of battle such fancies were swiftly forgotten. Drogon needed to fall.
As Drogon was brought by Baelon down and forward, plenty of bolts shot and were reflected by the mighty dragon's scale. It seemed as if the Crown's cause was lost against the Dragon... until a strange event transpired in the battle.
As the dragonrider lashed out at the opposing army, one man managed to jump on the black monster and lodge his sword within its scales. No one ever knew how he reached the black threat’s scales, but he did. It was Prince Mors himself, never lacking for courage. As the man met the dragonrider, he was resolute. The pretender and the dragon had to die. This madness had to end. Mors dislodged his sword and managed to hold himself upon the hurt beast for a few moments. Seconds later, he jumped to the beast’s head to finish it and the war... And his sword managed to damage the beast. Mors hung by his sword from Drogon’s head for a few long moments… Only it wasn’t good enough. Drogon turned and unleashed a torrent of flame at the Dornishman, sending him to his doom.
A burned and broken man, with a flaming sword in hand, Prince Mors Martell fell all the way to the ground beneath… And survived long enough to return to Sunspear. Men who lived to tell the tale were heard saying that for a few moments, it seemed as if Mors Martell, the Son of the Sun, had his own fiery wings.
Bolts filled the sky, gashes appearing in the membranes of Drogon's wings. Still Baelon brought him down and forward, striking where he could and beating back where the projectiles flew too thickly. Time and time again he came down, flame pouring from the maw of the Winged Shadow - until at last a bolt found its mark, its hard steel tip driving deep into the joint of Drogon's right forelimb.
The beast roared, its gout of flame tapering off, and began careening for the ground. Men scattered as Drogon attempted to right itself, limping through the air before landing heavily on the far side of the Crown's army, black blood trailing from it's wound. Both sides of the force fell silent, though Drogon still bellowed in fury - and all at once the battle was renewed, Tristion the Thunderer leading the charge into the royalist's ranks as he tried to carve a path to the downed beast.
Baelon did his best to coax Drogon back into the skies, but the beast was wild with anger and fury, two score other, minor wounds exacerbated by this latest one. Viserys, spying his uncle's descent, immediately called forth an armed party, and led the charge on the downed dragon's position. Three Kingsguard accompanied him, including the Lord Commander Rolly Duckfield.
Spying the approaching host, Baelon Targaryen threw off the chains that bound him to his beast and slid to the ground. Steam rose from Drogon's mouth, the large beast snapping at the wound it could not reach. Viserys and his party slowly came up the shallow hill, stopping a ways back from the pair of dragons.
"Give up, Uncle!" Viserys shouted. "You're finished."
"We shall see," Baelon is said to have replied, placing a hand upon Drogon's long, black neck. The beast turned malevolent eyes upon the prince and his party, lips drawn into a snarl.
"Dracarys." the Last Dragonrider said. A great rumble emanated from the black beast, and his enormous jaws opened wide - flame sprung forth as if the earth itself had cracked open, deep scarlet run through with black. It swept toward the party with the sound of a rushing wind - the air crackling with energy and heat.
Only the quick actions of the Lord Commander saved the life of the young Crown Prince, Ser Duckfield thrusting the young Targaryen back and down the hillside before the first tongues of flame emerged. The prince stumbled and fell, the Lord Commander then placing his body between the Heir and the Dragon - just as the flame swept over them all.
Viserys rolled down the slope, and though the heat of the inferno washed over him he escaped the hard heart of it's wrath. The rest of the party did not fare so well - flesh and bone and steel melted as one, the lives of two score men ending in fire, accented by the sounds of their screams.
As the flames died down Baelon sprang forward, his sword drawn and ready. Quickly he crossed the distance between Drogon and the remains of Viserys' party - hoping to take the young Crown Prince captive.
But Viserys was the faster: rolling to his feet he raised his hand, calling out for his archers - and a hundred black shafts took wing.
So ended Baelon Targaryen, and the dragon Drogon. With their deaths the armies of the rebels faltered and broke, those that did not flee or perish taken captive by the forces of the Crown.
Though the army of the rebels had been thrown down and defeated, it was the deaths of Baelon and Drogon that were the true end of the revolt. Many saw Baelon's war as provoked, the actions of a desperate man, and all knew that the realm had escaped lightly with only the burning of Longtable.
Following the war King Aemon sought to punish those lords that had rebelled, but his Small Council prevailed upon him to show mercy. Those men that had served as ringleaders were indeed sent to the Wall, while wards were taken from others and handed off to nearby loyalists. Drogon's body was disposed of, his skull taken to King's Landing to join the ranks of his forebears, while Baelon himself was entombed in Summerhall, due to the pleading of his sisters.
Drogon's egg, the inciting event for the rebellion as a whole, remained in possession of his son, Aemond Targaryen.
Prince Mors Martell managed to survive the burns and fall he had experienced due to his battle against the mighty Drogon and Baelon the Last Dragonrider. It wasn't for long, however, and the time left in him was most painful. A month after returning to Sunspear, Prince Mors Martell the Brave died of his burns and shattered bones. Only legends were left behind as he traversed to the world of the dead, and Dorne began plunging into chaos and weakness beneath his sons' rule. The name of Prince Mors is still uttered by men all across the Dorne, as he is revered as the fearless hero who ascended a dragon and almost slain him by himself.