While fans anxiously await the arrival of The Winds of Winter, author George R.R. Martin has written a new book to sate their desire for all things Westeros. The World of Ice and Fire, produced in collaboration with superfans Elio Garcia and Linda Antonsson, is a massive compendium of the thousand-year history of Martin’s fantasy world, all told from the perspective of one Maester Yandel. In an exclusive excerpt from the book, Yandel writes the history of Robert’s Rebellion in terms that will certainly flatter the winning side.
What followed Prince Rhaegar’s infamous abduction of Lyanna Stark was the ruin of House Targaryen. The full depth of King Aerys’s madness was subsequently revealed in his depraved actions against Lord Stark, his heir, and their supporters after they demanded redress for Rhaegar’s wrongs. Instead of granting them fair hearing, King Aerys had them brutally slain, then followed these murders by demanding that Lord Jon Arryn execute his former wards, Robert Baratheon and Eddard Stark. Many now agree that the true start of Robert’s Rebellion began with Lord Arryn’s refusal and his courageous calling of his banners in the defense of justice. Yet not all the lords of the Vale agreed with Lord Jon’s decision, and soon fighting broke out as loyalists to the crown attempted to bring Lord Arryn down.
The fighting then spread across the Seven Kingdoms like wildfire, as lords and knights took sides. Many alive today fought in these battles, and so can speak with greater knowledge of them than I, who was not there. I therefore leave it to such men to write the true and detailed history of Robert’s Rebellion; far be it for me to offend those who yet live by presenting an imperfect summary of events, or mistakenly praising those who have since proved unworthy. So instead, I will look only to the lord and knight who ascended the Iron Throne at the end, repairing a realm nearly destroyed by madness.
Robert Baratheon proved himself a fearless, indomitable warrior as more and more men flocked to his banner. Robert was the first over the walls at Gulltown, when Lord Grafton raised his banner for Targaryens, and from there he sailed to Storm’s End — risking capture by the royal fleet — to call his banners. Not all came willing: Aerys’s Hand, Lord Merryweather, encouraged certain stormlords to rise up against Lord Robert. Yet it was an effort that proved fruitless following Lord Robert’s victories at Summerhall, where he won three battles in a single day. His hastily gathered forces defeated Lords Grandison and Cafferen in turn, and Robert went on to kill Lord Fell in single combat before taking his famous son Silveraxe captive.
More victories were to come for Lord Robert and the stormlords as they marched to join forces with Lord Arryn and the Northmen who supported their cause. Rightly famed is Robert’s grand victory at Stoney Sept, also called the Battle of the Bells, where he slew the famous Ser Myles Mooton — once Prince Rhaegar’s squire — and five men besides, and might well have killed the new Hand, Lord Connington, had the battle brought them together. The victory sealed the entry of the riverlands into the conflict, following the marriage of Lord Tully’s daughters to Lords Arryn and Stark.
The royalist forces were left reeling and scattered by such victories though they did their best to rally. The Kingsguard were dispatched to recover the remnant of Lord Connington’s force, and Prince Rhaegar returned from the south to take command of the new levies being raised in the crownlands. And after a partial victory at Ashford, which led to Robert’s withdrawal, the Stormlands were left open to Lord Tyrell. Bringing the might of the Reach to bear, the reachlords swept away all resistance and settled in to besiege Storm’s End. Shortly afterward, the host was joined by Lord Paxter Redwyne’s mighty fleet from the Arbor, completing the siege by land and sea. That siege wore on until the conclusion of the war.
From Dorne, in defense of Princess Elia, ten thousand spears came over the Boneway and marched to King’s Landing to bolster the host that Rhaegar was raising. Those who were there at court during this time have recounted that Aerys’s behavior was erratic. He was untrusting of any save his Kingsguard — and then only imperfectly, for he kept Ser Jaime Lannister close at all hours to serve as a hostage against his father.
When Prince Rhaegar at last marched up the kingsroad to the Trident, with him were all but one of the Kingsguard who had remained in King’s Landing: Ser Barristan the Bold, Ser Jonothor Darry, and Prince Lewyn of Dorne. Prince Lewyn took command of the Dornish troop sent by his nephew, the Prince Doran, but it is said that he did so only after threats from the Mad King, who feared that the Dornishmen looked to betray him. Only the young Ser Jaime Lannister remained in King’s Landing.
Of the famous battle on the Trident, much has been written and said. But all know that the two armies clashed at the crossing that would ever after be called the Ruby Ford for the scattered rubies on Prince Rhaegar’s armor. The opponents were well matched. Rhaegar’s forces numbered some forty thousand, a tenth part of which were anointed knights, while the rebels had somewhat fewer men, but those they possessed were tested in battle, while much of Rhaegar’s force was raw and new.
The battle at the ford was fierce, and many lives were lost in the fray. Ser Jonothor Darry was cut down in the midst of the conflict, as was Prince Lewyn of Dorne. But the most important death was yet to come.
The battle screamed about Lord Robert and Prince Rhaegar both, and by the will of the gods, or by chance — or perhaps by design — they met amidst the shallows of the ford. The two knights fought valiantly upon their destriers, according to all accounts. For despite his crimes, Prince Rhaegar was no coward. Lord Robert was wounded by the dragon prince in the combat, yet in the end, Baratheon’s ferocious strength and his thirst to avenge the shame brought upon his stolen betrothed proved the greater. His warhammer found its mark, and Robert drove the spike through Rhaegar’s chest, scattering the costly rubies that blazed upon the prince’s breastplate.
Some men on both sides stopped fighting at once, leaping instead into the river to recover the precious stones. And a general rout quickly began as the royalists started fleeing the field.
Lord Robert’s wounds prevented him from taking up the pursuit, so he gave that into the hands of Lord Eddard Stark. But Robert proved his chivalry when he refused to allow the gravely wounded Ser Barristan to be killed. Instead, he sent his own maester to tend the great knight. In such fashion did the future king win the fierce devotion of his friends and allies — for few men were ever so open-handed and merciful as Robert Baratheon.
Birds flew and couriers raced to bear word of the victory at the Ruby Ford. When the news reached the Red Keep, it was said that Aerys cursed the Dornish, certain that Lewyn had betrayed Rhaegar. He sent his pregnant queen, Rhaella, and his younger son and new heir, Viserys, away to Dragonstone, but Princess Elia was forced to remain in King’s Landing with Rhaegar’s children as a hostage against Dorne. Having burned his previous Hand, Lord Chelsted, alive for bad counsel during the war, Aerys now appointed another to the position: the alchemist Rossart — a man of low birth, with little to recommend him but his flames and trickery.
Ser Jaime Lannister was meanwhile left in charge of the Red Keep’s defenses. The walls were manned by knights and watchmen, awaiting the enemy. When the first army that arrived flew the lion of Casterly Rock, with Lord Tywin at its head, King Aerys anxiously ordered the gates to be opened, thinking that at last his old friend and former Hand had come to his rescue, as he had done at the Defiance of Duskendale. But Lord Tywin had not come to save the Mad King.
This time, Lord Tywin’s cause was that of the realm’s, and he was determined to bring an end to the reign that madness had brought low. Once within the walls of the city, his soldiers assaulted the defenders of King’s Landing, and blood ran red in the streets. A handpicked cadre of men raced to the Red Keep to storm its walls and seek out King Aerys, so that justice might be done.
The Red Keep was soon breached, but in the chaos, misfortune soon fell upon Elia of Dorne and her children, Rhaenys and Aegon. It is tragic that the blood spilled in war may as readily be innocent as it is guilty, and that those who ravished and murdered Princess Elia escaped justice. It is not known who murdered Princess Rhaenys in her bed, or smashed the infant Prince Aegon’s head against a wall. Some whisper it was done at Aerys’s own command when he learned that Lord Lannister had taken up Robert’s cause, while others suggest that Elia did it herself for fear of what would happen to her children in the hands of her dead husband’s enemies.
Aerys’s Hand, Rossart, was killed at a postern gate after cravenly attempting to flee the castle. And last of all to die was King Aerys himself, at the hand of his remaining Kingsguard knight, Ser Jaime Lannister. Like his father, Ser Jaime did as he thought best for the realm, bringing an end to the Mad King.
And so ended both the reign of House Targaryen and Robert’s Rebellion — the war that put an end to nearly three hundred years of Targaryen rule and ushered in a new golden era under the auspices of House Baratheon.
Excerpted from THE WORLD OF ICE & FIRE: The Untold Story of Westeros and the Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, Elio Garcia, and Linda Antonsson. Copyright © 2014 by George R.R. Martin. Excerpted by permission of Bantam Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.