Guest Post at Tower of the Hand: The Blacks and Reds, Part II

Part II in my series on the Blackfyre Rebellions is up on Tower of the Hand. In this part, I try to reconstruct the course of the First Rebellion, explain Daemon I’s reign from a single coin, and try to explain what happened at Redgrass Field.




71 thoughts on “Guest Post at Tower of the Hand: The Blacks and Reds, Part II

  1. artihcus022 says:

    This was the most fun thing I read for a while. I never cared much for the Blackfyre part of the Lore (I like Bloodraven and the Dunk and Egg stories but none of the others on either side) but this made me appreciate how interesting it can be. Daemon Blackfyre is the ur-Robert Baratheon and Robb Stark, one successful and another failed, and like Robb Stark defeated by a hail of arrows, betrayals and bad luck. But it certainly makes me remember the emotions with which Eustace Osgrey described the Battle in The Sworn Sword, the romance of the “lost cause”. It would be so much more interesting if Daemon Blackfyre was indeed the brother that Bloodraven had loved (which is another inverse of Jon Snow and Robb Stark and echo of Theon/Robb, only Bloodraven actually did kill his half-brother’s kids).

  2. Winnie says:

    Thank you Steve for delivering such a great essay on what would otherwise have been a very dull day!

    I like your theory that the Reyne’s were the ones bankrolling Daemon.

    And I always love hearing about Bloodraven.

  3. Space Oddity says:

    I do think you make one mistake… the maesters’ insistence that Bloodraven had men inside Daemon’s circle is another of their blinders causing them to miss… another way he could have pulled it off.

    • Winnie says:

      Oooh, good catch!

    • Sure, magic’s there too. However, it’s not like Bloodraven doesn’t also use spies. As we see in Mystery Knight, he’s very much a belt-and-braces kind of spymaster.

      • artihcus022 says:

        Well in The Mystery Knight, its implied that Maynard Plumm is Bloodraven wearing a glamour, palling up with Dunk to see what his deal is. I am curious if there’s going to be a later story of the time he was escorted to the Night’s Watch while sharing a boat with Ser Duncan and Maester Aemon. That would have been a cruise.

        • He absolutely is. But Plumm also has the dwarfs working as his agents, as well as that Vypren guy.

          • artihcus022 says:

            Of course, you are right. It’s mentioned that Bloodraven had his private elite force called Raven’s Teeth (who joined him in exile) and built a police state, so that’s interesting. Is there any historical basis to Bloodraven (I read about John of Bohemia, a one-eyed archer who fought for the French in the 100 Years War but maybe he’s too obscure)? Also isn’t the Blackfyre Rebellion and its exile a reference to the Jacobites?

          • I’ll get into the Jacobite thing next time.

            Haven’t particularly found a Bloodraven equivalent.

            And the 1000 eyes part would suggest a force of 500 men, no?

          • Amestria says:

            “And the 1000 eyes part would suggest a force of 500 men, no?”

            I suppose it depends if whether he was metaphorical or literal with the counting. Is each man an Eye (similar to how Varys spies are “mice” and “little birds”) or does each man contribute two eyes?

          • David Hunt says:


            I’ve always considered the “1000 eyes and one” to be not taken literally, but to be way of saying, “He’s got spies everywhere. Even though he’s only got one real eye, he still ‘sees’ everything.” I wouldn’t take that saying to be a indicator of how many men were formally in the Raven’s Teeth.

          • Well, we know he has 300+ Raven’s Teeth, so I would assume it’s at least than many.

          • Crystal says:

            I agree w/David above that the number is a figure of speech – “a thousand eyes and one” sounds catchy, and is a metaphor for Bloodraven having spies everywhere. Just like Bonifer Hasty had “The Holy Hundred” even though they were down to eighty-six after the Battle of Blackwater. Maybe if we had Jaime Lannister there to count archers and crack jokes, we’d know exactly how many Raven’s Teeth and assorted Bloodraven-paid spies there were; as it is I’d conclude “quite a few.”

  4. “Daemon understood both of these things more than any other royal pretender of A Song of Ice and Fire – more than Renly (who understood symbolism but not institutions), more than Robb (who at least tried, but never followed through), and certainly more than Joffrey, let alone Balon.”

    I see what you did there!

    I was disappointed that you didn’t have an historical parallel section this time round. I feel like your discussion on Daemon’s counter-government would have a range of great real world examples. In particular ones from the modern era. The American Continental Congress, the Confederate States, the “Two Chinas” of the twentieth century, just off the top of my head.

  5. Sean C. says:

    The mention of Fireball’s cutting down “the sons of Lady Penrose”, incidentally, is one bit from the earlier stories that is very hard to reconcile with TWOIAF, since “Lady Penrose” seems to have been Princess Elaena. But Elaena had only three sons, only one by Lord Penrose, and we know Viserys Plumm was still alive in the reign of King Aerys I.

    • That’s a good point. However, if we look at the timeline, Elaena was 46 at the time of Redgrass Field – I think Lord Ronnel Penrose was already dead, and the “sons of Lady Penrose” were the sons of her son Lord Robin Penrose.

    • Crystal says:

      I was going to say that it’s possible there was another Lady Penrose, but that exact title would go to either the ruling lady or wife of the ruling lord. It’s *possible* that the Lady Penrose mentioned was Elaena’s mother-in-law and the sons mentioned were Ronnel Penrose’s younger brothers.

      Elaena, incidentally, was Daemon Blackfyre’s aunt, but there seems to have been no question of her loyalty to Daeron. I don’t doubt that Daeron took good care to keep her sweet (making her the de facto Master of Coin, for instance) but Elaena herself seems to have been a smart woman who knew on which side her bread was buttered. (Elaena is one of my favorite minor characters in the ASOIAF-verse. She certainly seems to have got most of the brains in that sibling set.)

      • Sean C. says:

        Elaena was only three years older than Daeron, so they may have been childhood companions, at least until her sojourn in the Vault — which she would have emerged from to find him an adult man with a wife and child; surely a bit of a shock.

  6. KrimzonStriker says:

    Great essay as always and one largely fitting my own thinking of the Blackfyre Rebellions military maneuvers. Don’t have too much to comment on this time around but I would like some clarification.

    1. Where exactly is Raventree Hall, cause I’ve seen some conflicting maps that put it north of the Red Fork and South of the Blue, thus allowing them to cut off half of the western Riverlands. That’d have huge strategic implications as the Arryns could have helped deal with the northern rebel Riverlords like the Grey’s while Daemon was containing the Tully’s in the south before both sides met up at Redgrass as they raced to King’ s Landing.

    2. I’m inclined to go with the Golden Road approach to King’ s Landing by Daemon, it’d add more weight to Lothson’ s betrayal while also explaining how the Arryns managed to intercept him when Harrenhal would have provided the perfect screen against their approach, the Lothson in the Golden Company might have functioned as a line stemming from the Olyvar Frey version to Daemon. Plus there would be little point in marching on the Storm lands now, Baelor would have broken any of the rebel lords there by then so Daemon wouldn’t have been able to count on internal divisions paving the way for him like before. By Redgrass it seems like both sides had pretty much settled into their geographic sides of west versus east, so the quickest route would have been King’ s Landing and forcing the capiliation of Dorne, the Vale, and the storm lands all in one go.

    • Thanks!

      1. The precise location is a bit unclear. The Lands of Ice and Fire put it really far north and west by Oldstones – which seems too far away from the Red Fork to conflict with the Brackens, who are definitely south of the Red Fork. And to complicate matters worse, it doesn’t show up on the WOIAF map. However, I don’t think the Blackwoods could restrict much in the way of traffic, since they couldn’t stop people going down the Blue or Green Fork and concentrating near Harrenhal.

      2. Fair enough.

      • KrimzonStriker says:

        I think it’s at least north of Stone Hedge given Jamie’s route/approach of reaching Riverrun first before going to Raventree Hall in the last two books, though that’s really only a guess The Red is cut by them and Riverrun at least, and they can hamper traffic along the Blue provided the rebels don’t cross from the Red or rebels from the north past the Blue, though I see your point about the Green with the Freys controlling their end on the Twins, at least until the Arryns come storming in from the East.

        • How can they hamper traffic along the Blue, exactly? I don’t think their lands extend to Oldstones or Fairmarket.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            Do we have a definite indication those territories joined the rebellion? If nothing else they’d be trapped between the red and Blue fork and exposed to the Blackwoods, Fair market especially since they’re on the south bank of the Blue I believe. That would the one of the first places I’d secure to hamper any attempt at a crossing and carving out a loyalist enclave in the territories between the red and Blue fork, ensuring a least one side where Riverrun can be supplied from and blunting any advance north by Daemon through the western Riverlands.

          • Well, here are the Riverlords we know joined the Blackfyres: the Freys, the Brackens, the Greys, the Heddles, the Naylands, the Paeges, the Shawneys, and elements of the Lothstons and Butterwells.

            – the Freys aren’t trapped, because they just march down the Kingsroad or boat down the Green Fork. Ditto their bannermen the Naylands.
            – the Brackens aren’t trapped, because they’re on the south side of the Red Fork and can link up directly. Ditto for the Lothstons and Butterwells. Probably also true for the Greys, since they seem to come from the Godseye region, and the Heddles as Butterwell bannermen.
            – We don’t know where the Paeges live, so possible either way. Ditto House Shawney, although from their coat of arms I think they come from the region where the Red, Blue, and Green Forks merge into the Trident, so they’re not trapped if that’s the case.

            Really, only houses between Riverrun and Raventree Hall on the north bank of the Red Fork could be stopped, and they were probably loyalists anyway.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            Which is really my point, that effectively the Tullys would have to concede three fourths of the Riverlands, I’m mostly speaking of defensive moves they and the Blackwoods would be able to pull after conceding everything south of the red fork while using the blue fork as a screen against the Freys coming from the north, but your right in that control of the Green Fork allows Daemon uninterupted acess between him and the northern rebel riverlords.

          • Ok, sure, defensively they might have been able to hold their own castles. More than that, I don’t think so.

  7. Amestria says:

    What’s your moral take on the Blackfyre Rebellions?

    • In what sense? Was it a just war, that kind of thing?

      • Amestria says:

        I suppose what you just said and your thoughts on what would have been the ideal outcome.

        I’m also curious what you think would have happened if the Blacks had won. Would it have been destructive to the realm in the long run, with numerous legitimist uprisings led by Bloodraven, or would the Reds have faded away?

        • Winnie says:

          Ooooh…good question. Personally, I think the fighting would have continued anyway.

          One major difference though, might have been to the metaphysical plot. AA was destined to be born to the same bloodline as Aerys/Rhaella. If the Blacks had won would any of that have happened?

          Especially since it now seems likely that at least one dragon rider-possibly even AA himself *had* to be of Stark blood as well as Targaryen.

          • The most interesting What If that occurred to me reading Part II was the idea of an extended conflict.

            Imagine it like this: The sides line up the same as OTL, Daemon sets up his counter-government as Steven describes. However there isn’t a decisive battle in that first year. Over time the Blacks are able to increasingly entrench themselves in the Reach. Perhaps the Tyrells decide to gamble their direction. Daemon is able to pull a few more hungry lords from neighboring territories into his coalition. They aren’t strong enough to march on KL, but neither are they weak enough for Daeron & company to march on them. We still don’t know where the Iron Islands stood at this time, and the North never had an immediate need to weigh in. What happens when the Rebellion becomes less about One Big Victory and more about creating a large enough alliance in Westeros and in the Narrow Sea to overwhelm your opponent?

        • Well, by the normal terms of just war, it’s really not.

          If the Blacks had won, it depends on what happens to the Reds. Does Bloodraven die at Redgrass Field? Do Baelor and his army escape to Essos?

      • Amestria says:

        Also, would the King Who Bore the Sword have made a good king? And what would the success of this sort of Arthurian ideal have meant?

        • I think he probably would have. Different from Daeron, certainly, but much better than Aerys I – more on that next time.

          • Amestria says:

            Maybe we should think out comparable misfortunes rather then assume rosey health. What if the spring sickness killed everyone Bloodraven killed at Redgrass and the realm was left with the Brown Dragon? 😛

  8. Amestria says:

    So Part III is going to be on the Golden Company?

  9. Grant says:

    The coinage makes me wonder how quickly Daemon could have had it set up. This would have taken place in less than a year, wouldn’t it?

    • Yeah. But this had been planned for a long time, so a lot of this could have been done pre-196.

      • Grant says:

        Would be easy evidence of treason if Bloodraven’s network was far enough by that point to obtain a few, and might be what Daeron was going to arrest Daemon over. Of course that’s speculation, but for this one we’re forced to rely on that.

        • David Hunt says:

          It would be cool if the coin that Bloodraven brought to Daeron’s attention was the very coin that Dunk examines in TMK. Utterly, literally, incredible, but it would be cool

        • It doesn’t seem like that was what it was. Bloodraven’s intel seems to have been about a planned announcement.

          • David Hunt says:

            I totally agree that it was the news that Daemon was going to declare himself king that got Daeron to order his arrest. Even if someone was already minting coins with Daemon’s face on them, I don’t Bloodraven or Daeron got hold of any prior to ordering Deamon’s arrest. If they had, I’d think orders to detain Daemon would have been given immediately. Like I said, the scenario is not credible in any sense..but it would have neat.

  10. What is ‘the eventual Fire and Blood?’ You mention that along with TWOW and future Dunk and Egg novels. I assume it’s something Martin has planned to release after TWOW sometime.

  11. KrimzonStriker says:

    Been thinking more about the fighting in the Vale a bit, and while the Sunderlands would have been annoying since they possess the only other navy amongst the Vale vassals other then Gulltown, there’s no real way they would have been counted on to keep the Arryns delayed for long no matter how annoying they might be in raiding areas like the fingers. So what’s the bet the Rhoyce’s were in on this as well? They check all the boxes of an overmightly vassal who competed with the LP of their region for dominance and are strategically placed to knock out Gulltown. The only sea route I can picture the Blackfyres would be able to import their Myrish crossbowman from, especially if it was Bracken getting them, would be through the Bay of Crabs via Maidenpool and that’d run the risk of getting intercepted by Gulltowns fleet unless the Sunderlands required a lot more forces to deal with then I think they did.

    • Abbey Battle says:

      If I had to guess I would say that the Shetts are a likely explanation for the distraction of The Vale; considering that History tells us their near-neighbours the Graftons effectively conned them out of Gulltown, it seems not unlikely that there would be a historical grudge between them of the sort that might keep a lot of the men that should be manning the Arryn fleet close to him – allowing the Sistermen to launch stinging raids that would be difficult to counter with the major regional naval force distracted by troubles ashore.

      I suspect that the Royces remained loyal to the Red Dragon during The Blackfyre Rebellion if for no other reason than I find it hard to imagine how The Loyalists could have fought the Redgrass Field if one of the major vassals in the Vale had called its banners against King Daeron – and I think we can safely deduce that a solid majority of the Loyalist force at The Redgrass Field was from out of the Vale, given that Lord Arryn was granted the honour of the van and that all the other Loyalists were either distant or divided or already beaten.

      I also tend to agree with the idea that The Redgrass Field must lie somewhere along the line of the Golden Road; if Harrenhal has closed its gates against you and the Vale is your enemy it seems hideously risky to lead an army south along the eastern shore of the Gods Eye Lake down the Kingsroad – quite frankly you have nowhere to retreat if you encounter defeat or even mere strategic reverse along the way.

      With the Blackwater Rush on one flank, Blackwater Bay on the other (with ever-loyal Crackclaw Point as an additional complication) and the Trident behind you you’re boxed in; a bold and resourceful individual might make an escape from the ports on the Narrow Sea but an army stands no chance.

      Whereas if Ser Daemon approaches from the West he can anchor his lines of communication along the Goldenroad and use the Blackwater Rush to shield his Northern Flank from Loyalist Attacks while keeping his heartlands in the Reach to the South (with all the advantages inherent).

      Admittedly this belief is also grounded in what I consider to be the likelihood that Lord Lothstone’s treachery might well have extended to letting Lord Arryn march past his defences without raising a finger to stop him, but I still believe the theory to be sound.

      • Well, keep in mind that a year passes between outbreak and Redgrass, that’s plenty of time.

        Golden Road makes sense, but it depends on when the Lothstons betrayed Daemon. Although good point about the Arryns, although they could have boated down to King’s Landing.

        • KrimzonStriker says:

          which is why I tend to look at the Royces or some other House being in position to take Gulltown which in combination to the Sunderlands marauding their coast would have cut the Arryns off from the sea. This would have played into another shaping operation on Daemon’s part in using the Green Fork with the Freys on one end and counting on Lothson to hold the other, boxing the Arryns out from supporting the capital as they had the with the Yronwoods against Dorne.

      • KrimzonStriker says:

        I’m gonna use both your point and Steven’s on why I think the Rhoyces would be the culprits on this one. If the Rhoyces are loyal then I don’t see how any other rebel vassal would have the strength to beat them and Gulltown together. Second you hu have Steven’s point about it being a year before the Arryns arrive to face Daemon’s main host, that means any rebels in the Vale need to be strong enough to keep the Arryns occupied for a good chunk of that. I also think it almost a given Gulltown falls as the last time the Sunderlands rebelled they waited until Vhagar had burned the Vale fleet into the ground.

    • The Royces would be a good bet as an alternative Lord Paramount House and historic rival to the Arryns.

  12. Abbey Battle says:

    By the way Maester Steven, I heartily agree with and admire the conclusions you have drawn in this article; I particularly agree with the idea that Ser Daemon must either have been rather clever in his own right or simply clever enough to surround himself with intelligent advisors.

    Although I’m not entirely sure about your reconstruction of Redgrass Field; my instinct would be that Weeping Ridge played a more central role in the Battle than you allow it – given that the Loyalists began the battle divided and very probably outnumbered, it would make more sense if they used Weeping Ridge as the centrepiece of a defensive line, rather than as the anchor of their battle-line (especially after their Vanguard was broken).

    I’d also like to suggest that Ser Daemon may have paused his attack as much to rest his forces engaged after an hour of battle with the Loyalist Vanguard as much as anything, possibly while bringing up fresh reserves.

    Stay Well!

    • Thanks!

      That can’t be the case, because Weeping Ridge is uniformly described as being perpendicular to the main line of battle and Bloodraven’s forces as separate from the Arryn van.

  13. JT says:

    How come the Tullys never built defensive fortifications on the Riverland side at the Golden Tooth, Moat Cailin, and the high road into the Vale?

    The West/North/Vale have good ways to stop invasions via the Riverlands, but the Riverlands have very little in return. Also, those are good chokepoints that would likely require only fortress per.

    To block Dornish invasions, the Stormlands built a series of castles across the Dornish marches.

    It seems like with a little building, the Riverlands could be much more secure.

    • The Tullys do have a strong defensive fortification – Riverrun – and a number of good defensive positions at the crossing of the Red Fork and the Tumblestone. When they get their act together – i.e, Battle of the Fords – they can successfully hold off larger armies without much difficulty.

      In terms of missing fortifications, the main thing seems to be a major castle on the north bank of the Trident by the crossroads – roughly where Lord Harroway’s Town is – and something in the Stony Sept area to protect that wide open southern flank between the Blackwater and the Godseye.

  14. Ethan Cohen says:

    First of all, thank you for this series. Even where I disagree, it has been enormously helpful in clarifying a time period with frustratingly little canonical detail.
    That said, I think that you are wrong to treat the Blackfyre forces as a single unified host throughout the rebellion. As you note, Daemon or someone close to him clearly had a good sense of the value of symbolism and institutional legitimacy. Had he left his rival capital and base of support in the Reach to march north into the Westerlands, every investment could have rapidly become a symbolic and material loss had the loyalist forces in the Crownlands, Stormlands, and Dorne acted aggressively. Further, Daemon himself is not mentioned in the Westerland battles, where Ser Ball seems to have been in command. Thus, I imagine that the bulk of the rebel army remained in the Reach under Daemon’s personal command, menacing King’s Landing and thus preventing a Royal relief force to stop the Fireball from taking the Westerlands, protecting his position in the Reach, and hampering Breakspear’s efforts to get the Dornishmen through the Red Mountains. Meanwhile, I suspect Bittersteel would be in the Riverlands, Blackfyre’s other main base of support, keeping the loyalists there and in the Vale too busy to interfere. Once Quentyn takes the Westerlands, he sweeps up the River Road, as you wrote, meeting up with Bittersteel and driving the Tully’s from the field. However, he then needs to meet up with Daemon for the march on King’s Landing, so he goes south, putting the crossing of the Mander at Bitterbridge just before Redgrass field, which would then be somewhere along the Rose Road near Tumbleton. That would explain Prince Baelor coming from the rear with Dornishmen and Stormlanders, which is difficult if the Blackfyre host is already united in the Riverlands and marching on KL from the north.

  15. Ethan Cohen says:

    Also, would you put the Blackfyre capital at Oldtown? It seems like the only real contender, but we are told that the Hightowers offered half-hearted support at best. Is this somewhere to be skeptical of the account we are given, and suspect that the Hightowers were much more deeply involved, but used their influence with the Citadel to downplay that fact in the aftermath?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: