Politics of the Seven Kingdoms: the Stormlands (Part III)

(credit to ser other-in-law)

The Last Storm

Through a combination of inept diplomacy and his raging temper, Argilac Durrandon had turned an offer of alliance with into a war against House Targaryen. But to give the last of the Storm Kings credit, he put up a hell of a fight against Aegon the Conqueror, far better than his old rival Harren, or arguably even the Great Western Alliance.

“Lords Errol, Fell, and Buckler, bannermen to Storm’s End, surprised the advance elements of Orys Baratheon’s host as they were crossing the Wendwater, cutting down more than a thousand men before fading back into the trees…

South and east, the Storm King’s bannermen proved considerably more loyal than King Harren’s. Argilac the Arrogant gathered a great host about him at Storm’s End. The seat of the Durrandons was a mighty fastness, its great curtain wall even thicker than the walls of Harrenhal.” (WOIAF)

Engaging in irregular warfare in the Kingswoord provided several advantages: first, as seen at the Battle of the Wailing Willows and as we will see to devastating effect in the First Dornish War, the Targaryen’s armies historically proved vulnerable to guerrilla warfare, allowing the Stormlanders to inflict disproportionate casualties on their enemy. Second and more importantly, it allowed Argilac enough time to pull the rest of his forces together. Given that you don’t need a “great host” to garrison a castle against a siege, my guess is that Argilac wanted the Targaryens to exhaust themselves in assaults on the impregnable fortress and then sally forth to crush them between his army and the castle walls.[1]

Unfortunately for Argilac, as indeed was the case for almost all of Aegon’s rivals, seemingly no amount of preparation could overcome the sheer firepower of the dragons. The Stormlanders might be far better at irregular warfare in the forests, but “Lords Errol, Fell, and Buckler hid in their familiar forests until Queen Rhaenys unleashed Meraxes and a wall of fire swept through the woods, turning the trees to torches.” (Interestingly, the Conqueror and his sisters don’t seem to have remembered this lesson of coordination between their dragons and their armies when it came to the First Dornish War, which might have saved the Boneway column or Lord Harlan Tyrell’s doomed army.) Moreover, such preparations could do little to overcome the Stormlands’ geostrategic weaknesses, hence “…as Argilac the Arrogant gathered his swords at Storm’s End… Dornish raiding parties came boiling out of the Red Mountains to sweep across the marches.” (WOIAF) Even in the face of seemingly existential danger, the rules of the Great Game still held sway.

And so with Plan A in tatters, Argilac the Arrogant turned to Plan B: rather than wait until his position got even worse, he would go on the offensive and try to win a victory in the field:

“Word of King Harren’s end soon reached the ears of his old enemy King Argilac, however. Lords Fell and Buckler, falling back before the approaching host (Lord Errol had been killed), had sent him word of Queen Rhaenys and her dragon. The old warrior king roared that he did not intend to die as Harren had, cooked inside his own castle like a suckling pig with an apple in his mouth. No stranger to battle, he would decide his own fate, sword in hand. So Argilac the Arrogant rode forth from Storm’s End one last time, to meet his foes in the open field.” (WOIAF)

Even if Fire and Blood is ever published, I doubt we’ll ever find out whether Argilac the Arrogant genuinely believed that he could win the Battle of the Last Storm, or whether he preferred a glorious death on the battlefield than the humiliation of defeat (since I doubt Aegon would be magnanimous to the man who had mutilated his messengers). What’s surprising therefore, is how much of a close-run thing the Last Storm turned out to be, although that’s largely due to a combination of complicated factors of terrain, weather, and manpower:

“The Storm King’s approach was no surprise to Orys Baratheon and his men; Queen Rhaenys, flying Meraxes, had witnessed Argilac’s departure from Storm’s End and was able to give the Hand a full accounting of the enemy’s numbers and dispositions. Orys took up a strong position on the hills south of Bronzegate, and dug in there on the high ground to await the coming of the stormlanders.

As the armies came together, the stormlands proved true to their name. A steady rain began to fall that morning, and by midday had turned into a howling gale. King Argilac’s lords bannermen urged him to delay his attack until the next day, in hopes the rain would pass, but the Storm King outnumbered the conquerors almost two to one and had almost four times as many knights and heavy horse. The sight of the Targaryen banners flapping sodden above his own hills enraged him, and the battle-seasoned old warrior did not fail to note that the rain was blowing from the south, into the faces of the Targaryen men on their hills. So Argilac the Arrogant gave the command to attack, and the battle known to history as the Last Storm began.” (WOIAF)

On the Targaryen side, Orys Baratheon placed his trust in terrain, seizing the high ground in advance so as to gain the maximal defensive multiplier (which makes sense, given his lesser numbers) and letting the enemy come to him, while using Rhaenys and her dragon not merely as a blunt weapon but also a nigh-peerless source of aerial military intelligence. On the other side, Argilac Durrandon favored manpower – a 2:1 advantage in overall numbers and a 4:1 advantage in heavy cavalry could potentially allow him either to outflank his enemy in a battle of position, outlast him in a battle of attrition, or break him through a shock charge – and weather. While the rain would hinder the enemy infantry, far more consequential is that the storm would ground Meraxes, preventing the Targaryens from using their aerial superiority.

No plan survives first contact with the enemy however, and the Last Storm was no exception, with each general making some major mistakes:

“The fighting lasted well into the night, a bloody business, and far less one-sided than Aegon’s conquest of Harrenhal. Thrice Argilac the Arrogant led his knights against the Baratheon positions, but the slopes were steep and the rains had turned the ground soft and muddy, so the warhorses struggled and foundered, and the charges lost all cohesion and momentum. The stormlanders fared better when they sent their spearmen up the hills on foot. Blinded by the rain, the invaders did not see them climbing until it was too late, and the wet bowstrings of the archers made their bows useless. One hill fell, then another, and the third and final charge of the Storm King and his knights broke through the Baratheon center …” (WOIAF)

Argilac clearly made one of the classic mistakes of cavalry commanders: forgetting that cavalry charges don’t work nearly as well uphill as they do on even ground, which is why if you have to fight cavalry as infantry you never abandon the high ground. Only when he sent in the infantry did his strength in numbers begin to tell, allowing Argilac to crush his enemy’s flanks and by the end of the day, it seemed like the Durrandons were on the verge of total victory, just like the Royces at the Battle of Seven Stars. By contrast, Orys Baratheon seems not to have had a plan for how to hold the high ground against a determined push by disciplined infantry. I say seems, because it’s possible that Orys’ unsuccessful defenses of the hills was part of a deliberate strategy to lure out Argilac himself for that last charge against the Targaryen center, so that he could bring to bear:

“…Queen Rhaenys and Meraxes. Even on the ground, the dragon proved formidable. Dickon Morrigen and the Bastard of Blackhaven, commanding the vanguard, were engulfed in dragonflame, along with the knights of King Argilac’s personal guard. The warhorses panicked and fled in terror, crashing into riders behind them and turning the charge into chaos. The Storm King himself was thrown from his saddle.

Yet still Argilac continued to battle. When Orys Baratheon came down the muddy hill with his own men, he found the old king holding off half a dozen men, with as many corpses at his feet.

“Stand aside,” Baratheon commanded. He dismounted, so as to meet the king on equal footing, and offered the Storm King one last chance to yield. Argilac cursed him instead. And so they fought, the old warrior king with his streaming white hair and Aegon’s fierce, black-bearded Hand. Each man took a wound from the other, it was said, but in the end the last of the Durrandon got his wish and died with a sword in his hand and a curse on his lips. The death of their king took all heart out of the stormlanders, and as the word spread that Argilac had fallen, his lords and knights threw down their swords and fled.”(WOIAF)

This was a huge risk: as we’ll see during the Dance, grounded dragons are far more vulnerable than on the wing, so it’s possible that even at a very high cost, the Storm Kings could have not only won the battle but extinguished one third of the Targaryen’s unique advantage. But luck was not on Argilac’s side that evening, and instead he found himself unhorsed, cut off from his men, and surrounded. But just to make Orys Baratheon’s difficult day that much more difficult, the stubborn Durrandon king insisted on inflicting one last wound before he went down to death, taking one of the most ancient dynasties in Westeros with him.

Orys and the Founding of House Baratheon 

The story of Orys’ wooing of Argella is perhaps better suited to a Mills & Boon novel than a historical chronicle, but one thing that was historically vital was his decision that he would take “the arms and words of the Durrandon for his own. The crowned stag became his sigil, Storm’s End became his seat, and Lady Argella his wife.” (WOIAF) For the existing Stormlander elite, one could almost pretend that the Durrandons were still there in all but name – especially since Orys Baratheon shared much of the Durrandon’s stubborn temper and much of their geopolitical rivalries (more on this in a second). As a result, the Baratheons would be much more stable in their Lord Paramouncy in the Stormlands than the Tullys would be in the Riverlands or the Tyrells in the Reach, the other two “new” Great Houses under the Targaryen regime.

It also likely helped that Orys Baratheon stood much closer to the Iron Throne than any other lord in Westeros as Aegon I’s only “close friend” and “my shield, my stalwart, my strong right hand.” Unfortunately, in Orys’ lifetime this meant being handed the toughest jobs that Aegon needed done: as we’ve seen, the Stormlands campaign was probably the hardest of the entire Conquest. Only a few years later, Orys would be given the even more onerous duty of leading one of the main columns during the First Dornish War (something else that probably wouldn’t hurt his reputation among the Stormlanders):

“During Aegon’s invasion of Dorne in 4 AC, however, Lord Orys was taken captive whilst attempting to bring his forces through the Boneway. His captor was the Wyl of Wyl, known as the Widow-lover, who struck off Orys’s sword hand.

Lord Orys Baratheon’s assault up the Boneway proved a disaster. The canny Dornishmen rained rocks and arrows and spears from the heights, murdered men in the night, and in the end blocked the Boneway both before and behind. Lord Orys was captured by Lord Wyl, and many of his bannermen and knights besides. They remained captive for years before finally being ransomed for their weight in gold in 7 AC. And even then, each and every one of them returned lacking a sword hand, so that they might never take up arms against Dorne again.” (WOIAF)

It would have been bad enough if Lord Baratheon’s army had been surrounded and captured, held in captivity for three years, and ransomed at extremely high cost. But to be mutilated in the bargain was likely one sacrifice too many for his half-brother’s sake; no wonder therefore that by “all accounts say that Lord Orys became crabbed and bitter,” and resigned the Handship. Even this, however, didn’t end the Stormlands’ losses during the First Dornish War, as the Dornish sent “a force to Cape Wrath in 8 AC that left half the rainwood ablaze and sacked half a dozen towns and villages…a year later …a host under Lord Fowler…seized and burned the great Marcher castle of Nightsong and carried off its lords and defenders as hostages.” (WOIAF) Sadly, this probably also helped the Baratheons cement their bonds with their new subjects – even if Orys had not been born a Stormlander, he had suffered at the hands of their enemies as they had, and few things unite people as an in-group than a shared hatred of a particular out-group.


(credit to Magali Villeneuve)

In his later life, Orys Baratheon took up the traditional cause of his new subjects, as he “turned his attention to Dorne, obsessed with the idea of revenge.” And is quite fitting given the running themes of his life, Orys got the chance to wreak his revenge when the weak King Aenys I turned to the former hand to deal with “a Dornishman naming himself the Vulture King [who had] gathered thousands of followers to stand against the Targaryens.” With the King stalled and the Marcher lords struggling to deal with a host “some thirty thousand strong,” Orys acted:

“It was only when [the Vulture King] split this great host—both for lack of supplies to feed them and his confidence that each could defeat any foe that went against them—that his troubles began. Now they could be defeated piecemeal by the former Hand Orys Baratheon and the might of the Marcher lords—especially Savage Sam Tarly, whose sword, Heartsbane, was said to be red from hilt to point after the dozens of Dornishmen he cut down in the course of the Vulture Hunt, as the chase after the Vulture King became known.

Orys Baratheon, known now as Orys One-Hand, rode forth from Storm’s End one last time, to smash the Dornish beneath the walls of Stonehelm. When Walter Wyl was delivered into his hand, wounded but alive, Lord Orys said, “Your father took my hand. I claim yours as repayment.” So saying, he hacked off Lord Walter’s sword hand. Then he took his other hand, and both his feet as well, calling them his “usury.” Strange to say, Lord Baratheon died on the march back to Storm’s End, of the wounds he himself had taken during the battle, but his son Davos always said he died content, smiling at the rotting hands and feet that dangled in his tent like a string of onions.” (WOIAF)

And so in the end, Orys Baratheon gave the Stormlands the one thing that he was lacking – a successful campaign against the Stormlands’ traditional enemies, capped off by a brutal and disproportionate revenge-taking. Even the Marcher lords, steeped as they are in ancient vendettas and mountain warfare that knows no quarter, would have had to be impressed.

The Early Baratheons

And so House Baratheon began its trajectory under the Targaryen monarchy as one of the closet Houses to the Iron Throne, with a Handship already under its belt from the outset. Orys’ grandson, Lord Robar, would take the next step by making a canny choice to back the young Prince Jaehaerys against King Maegor; while Lord Lyman Lannister had sheltered Jaehaerys’ brother and sister  before Jaehaerys had declared himself, Robar cleverly outflanked him to become “the first great lord to openly proclaim for Prince Jaehaerys against his uncle.” In exchange for his support for the young prince, Robar found himself named both Hand and Protector of the Realm and “during the remainder of King Jaehaerys’s minority, Lord Robar shared the rule of the realm with the king’s mother, the Dowager Queen Alyssa. Half a year later the two wed.” (WOIAF) Three generations into the new monarchy, and the Baratheons were already ruling as regents, had gained their first Targaryen marriage – from now on, House Baratheon would carry legitimate royal blood in its veins.

From such lofty beginnings, no wonder then that the Baratheons waxed ambitious. Through the marriage of Lady Jocelyn Baratheon to Prince Aemon Targaryen, the House gained its candidate for the monarchy in the person of Princess Rhaenys. At the Great Council of 101 AC, Jocelyn’s brother Lord Boremund would be one of the major supporters of his niece, along with the Velaryons (Rhaenys’ in-laws), and the Starks and their bannermen (out of sheer spite). Boremund fell short, however, and saw House Arryn overtake him through Aemma Arryn’s marriage to now-Crown Prince Viserys. The dream of House Baratheon to take the Iron Throne through normal politics had seemingly hit a brick wall…until Prince Viserys’ marriage to Aemma ended with only a female child (Rhaenrya) and Viserys then remarried into House Hightower, producing a new dynastic line.

“Lord Boremund was stone, hard and strong and unmoving. Lord Borros was the wind, which rages and howls and blows this way and that.” (WOIAF)

Ascending to the Lordship of Storm’s End on the eve of the Dance of the Dragons, Borros sought to use the competition between the blacks and greens to achieve his family’s thwarted ambitions. Aemond Targaryen, representing the greens, was willing to marry a Baratheon daughter to secure Storm’s End support, while Lucerys’ demurral and the “unseemly arrogance” of Princess Rhaenrya’s letter commanding his support doomed the blacks’ petition. Where the narrative breaks down here is that despite marrying his house into the greens, the ambitious lord Borros then fails to seize the opportunity, even when Aegon II’s wounding at Rook’s Rest made his son-in-law the Protector of the Realm – most likely because GRRM needed King’s Landing to be empty of all but the gold cloaks in order to fall to Daemon and Rhaenrya. Most egregiously, we don’t see Borros taking action when the green army led by Ormund Hightower stalled at Tumbleton or when that army was attacked at Second Tumbleton, when that battle took place right on his own borders.


Instead, Borros waits to act until Aegon II kills Rhaenrya at Dragonstone – at which point he has no more dynastic link to the greens, Aemond having died at the Godseye – seizes King’s Landing from the various smallfolk pretender kings, gaining in the process “promises that his eldest daughter would become the new queen of the widowed King Aegon II.” Beyond this minor mopping up operation, Lord Borros’ only other contribution to the Dance of the Dragons is to engage in an egregious bit of jobbing. Despite having an entirely fresh army and the forces of the Riverlands having just fought a grueling series of battles (Burning Mill, Stone Hedge, the Red Fork, the Fishfeed, the Butcher’s Ball, Second Tumbleton), and thus having less than 4,000 men, the battle turned out to be the greatest disaster for the Baratheons since the First Dornish War:

“Lord Borros…boldly led the last of the royalist host against the approaching riverlanders, who were commanded by the young Lord Kermit Tully, the even younger Benjicot Blackwood, and Blackwood’s sister Alysanne. When the Lord of Storm’s End learned that the host was led by boys and women, he grew confident in his victory, but Bloody Ben Blackwood, as he was remembered after, broke his flank, while Black Aly Blackwood led the archers who brought down his knights. Lord Borros was defiant to the end, and the accounts claim he killed a dozen knights and slew Lords Darry and Mallister before he himself was slain by Kermit Tully.” (WOIAF)

However unconvincing it might be from a military or literary perspective, the “Muddy Mess” om the Kingsroad had clear political implications. As the WOIAF puts it, “House Baratheon had gambled greatly in supporting King Aegon II, and it was a choice that brought them nothing but ill during the reign of King Aegon III (the Dragonbane) and the regency preceding it.” (WOIAF) Thus, as a matter of periodization, we can say that the Dance of the Dragons ended the first period of Baratheon history by decisively ejecting the House from the inner circles of royal politics.

The Later Baratheons

After the Dance, we get another peculiar gap in the history of the Stormlands. Despite the fact that Daeron I marched his armies down through the Dornish Marches into the Boneway, we hear nothing about the political involvement of the Marcher Lords or the Stormlands more generally, when one would think that the Baratheons would have jumped at the chance to redeem themselves through leal military service against the hated Dornish. We know that the Stormlands’ major port was where Daeron’s body passed, but we don’t know about how many or which Stormlanders died with Daeron; we know that Baelor I stayed at Storm’s End for a half-year, but little enough about what the Baratheons thought of their royal charge. We might guess that the Baratheons would be bitterly disappointed when the Targaryens reached down past them to make marriage alliances with the Penroses and Dondarrions, to say nothing of the Martells, but there’s no textual basis for our surmises.

The next time when the Stormlands comes up is during the reigns of Aegon IV and Daeron II, which I’ll mostly discuss in the Internal Divisions section. I will say, however, that it’s remarkably strange that the Baratheons aren’t mentioned as part of Aegon IV’s anti-Dornish faction, or their reaction to the disaster of Aegon IV’s wooden dragons that burnt a quarter of the Kingswood. All of this leads up to a significant mystery that I’ve talked about before: why House Baratheon, which had seemingly little to gain from an alliance with Daeron II and much to gain from Daemon I, ultimately decided to follow Baelor Breakspear at the Battle of Redgrass Field, even when that meant fighting side-by-side against their hereditary enemies. Perhaps the Lord Paramount of the Stormlands balked the idea of backing another usurper after what had happened last time, or perhaps (as I’ll talk about later) he feared that the Marcher Lords who supported Daemon had designs on Storm’s End.

Whoever this nameless Lord Baratheon was, he did accomplish one thing, siring the famous Lyonel Baratheon. It is fitting that a tourney was held to celebrate his birth, as for most of his life “the Laughing Storm” was chiefly famous as a tourney knight, where a chance encounter at the Tourney of Ashford Meadow made him one of “King Aegon’s most leal supporters.” This unexpected friendship with the most unlikely of Targaryen monarchs (and I would be greatly surprised if Lyonel hadn’t been one of the loudest voices for Aegon at the Great Council of 233) restored House Baratheon to royal favor: “so firm was their friendship that His Grace gladly agreed to betroth his eldest son and heir to Lord Lyonel’s daughter.” (WOIAF)

Once again, House Baratheon saw its old dream within arm’s reach – Prince Duncan being the Crown Prince, his heir would be half a Baratheon and all the kings to follow. Unfortunately, tragic love suddenly changed the course of history:

“The love between Jenny of Oldstones (“with flowers in her hair”) and Duncan, Prince of Dragonflies, is beloved of singers, storytellers, and young maids even to this day, but it caused great grief to Lord Lyonel’s daughter and brought shame and dishonor to House Baratheon. So great was the wroth of the Laughing Storm that he swore a bloody oath of vengeance, renounced allegiance to the Iron Throne, and had himself crowned as a new Storm King. Peace was restored only after the Kingsguard knight Ser Duncan the Tall faced Lord Lyonel in a trial by battle, Prince Duncan renounced his claim to crown and throne, and King Aegon V agreed that his youngest daughter, the Princess Rhaelle, would wed Lord Lyonel’s heir.” (WOIAF)

This new betrothal, which must have seemed something more akin to an exchange of hostages, with “Princess Rhaelle…sent to Storm’s End to serve as Lord Lyonel’s cupbearer and companion to his lady wife” and Steffon Baratheon later sent to King’s Landing as a page, nevertheless made a vitally important dynastic change. Instead of having Baratheon blood introduced into the royal bloodline, instead it was now the Baratheons who were the next in line dynastically should the male line of House Targaryen fail. From the union of Rhaelle and Ormund Baratheon came Steffon Baratheon, who would in turn sire Robert Baratheon.

This is not to say that the revolt of the Laughing Storm made Robert’s Rebellion an inevitability or whether one could even count it as a cause of the Rebellion. What is indisputable is that, without Lyonel’s wrathful actions, the rebel alliance would not have much reason to turn to Robert Baratheon as their choice for a new king in 283 AC. And with that, the history of the Stormlands throughout the course of ASOIAF would be entirely different.


Internal Divisions:

In part because of the dismemberment of the Stormlands after the Conquest, a lot of the historical rivalries of the Stormlands – the oft-rebellious Houses Massey and Bar Emmon, for example – are no longer an internal issue, since the internal rivals were transferred out of the kingdom. As a result, we don’t get a good sense of the agency, character, and local rivalries of the lesser Houses of the Stormlands – compared to say the Boltons and the Manderlys in the North, the Brackens and Blackwoods in the Riverlands, or the Reynes and the Tarbecks in the Westerlands.

This omission is slightly strange, because we’re told that in general, “the people of the stormlands are like unto their weather, it has oft been said: tumultuous, violent, implacable.” (WOIAF) You would expect, for example, that the history of the proud and independent Marcher Lords would be riven with rivalries, feuds, and vendettas – I’d be very surprised if the Swanns have much patience for the lofty claims to preeminence of the Carons, for example.

Instead, most of the internal divisions of the Stormlands since the coming of the Targaryens have had to do with national politics.

For example, we know that in the lead-up to the First Blackfyre Rebellion that the Stormlanders were part of the anti-Dornish party of Aegon IV, as “Aegon turned his attention to Dorne, using the hatred for the Dornishmen that still burned in the marches, the stormlands,” and that “Knights and lords of the Dornish Marches came to mistrust Daeron, and Baelor as well,” and some of the warmest admirers of Daemon Blackfyre. But when the war came, the Marches saw the Carons declaring for the blacks and the Dondarrions for the reds, while the Penroses sallied forth to fight the Fireball’s armies while their liege lords the Baratheons stayed at home until Baelor Breaksprear came to fetch them.

Likewise, during Robert’s Rebellion, the Cafferens, Fells, Grandisons, and Conningtons all took up arms against their liege lord, although many were won over after the Battle of Summerhall. Lingering Targaryen loyalties might yet explain why so many Stormlords sat out the War of Five Kings, and perhaps might swell the ranks of Aegon VI Targaryen now that he has landed on Cape Wrath.

This “nationalization” of internal politics is quite unusual in Westeros: while certainly previous civil wars have divided kingdoms, we usually see the pre-existing divisions within the kingdom expressed in those civil wars: hence the Boltons siding with the Lannisters against the Starks and the Manderlys intriguing against them in the name of the Starks, or the Brackens and Blackwoods on opposite sides of any number of civil wars.

Whether this just comes down to a lack of world-building on the level of the lesser Hosues or has some more concrete cause will unfortunately remain a mystery.

Strengths and Weaknesses:

As to the strengths and weaknesses of the Stormlands, they are essentially one and the same – stubborn defiance. At various times, they have inspired the people of their kingdom to defy the odds and hold off invasions by much larger and more powerful kingdoms, or to build a mighty empire spanning the width of the continent. Yet at the same time, there is a persistence sense that the same quality has led the Stormlands to fight among themselves rather than compromise and cooperate, or to keep throwing good money after bad rather than admit they’ve made a mistake.


[1] One interesting open question in the world of ASOIAF is that we don’t have any indications as to whether Storm’s End’s magical protections would have protected the castle against dragonfire in the same way as Casterly Rock’s sheer geological bulk – potentially allowing Argilac to have held out for longer against the Targaryens a la the Martells – or whether it would have suffered the same fate as Harrenhal if Argilac had maintained his original plans.


41 thoughts on “Politics of the Seven Kingdoms: the Stormlands (Part III)

  1. Steven Xue says:

    Say what you will about Argilac but he was a true badass. Its a good thing he had no sons (legitimate or bastards) as that might have really ruined things for Orys and his descendants. Then again who knows, the surviving Durrandons and their power struggle with their upstart Baratheon kin over control of the Stormlands might have been a interesting read.

    What I have noticed about Argilac is how much in common he has with his great descendant Stannis. Its just that like Argilac, Stannis is the last remaining legitimate male head of his house and he too only has a daughter for an heir and no sons. And right now him marching into battle in bad weather seems like a repetition of the Last Storm. Hopefully history doesn’t repeat itself in this instance although assuming Stannis dies the Baratheon name is also doomed to fade away although in this case I’m not certain if Shireen will live to continue the line.

    • Andrew says:

      Good catch on the parallel between Stannis and Argilac. However, I think he, like his forebear, will die in battle against a Targaryen with three dragons, and Storm’s End will go to a bastard (one of Robert’s obviously).

      • Steven Xue says:

        Yeah I always suspected one of Robert’s bastards will inherit the Baratheon mantle. I know some people think its going to be Gendry but I really believe Edric is the more likely candidate. He’s the only one of Robert’s bastards who is acknowledged by their father and isn’t baseborn, plus he was raised at Storm’s End and is well known by the Stormlords. And if Stannis has no other option he might just legitimize Edric if say Shireen dies or marry him to Shireen.

    • Does seem to happen often in the Stormlands, doesn’t it?

  2. Sean C. says:

    Regarding Orys and Argella, It seems like the Durrandon bannermen must have really hated her, considering how they treated her. I mean, not wanting to die pointlessly and so forcing a surrender makes sense; I’d have done the same. But parading her around naked seems like something that would only come from a deep seated desire to humiliate somebody the garrison was never that fond of.

    • Andrew says:

      Well, she was Argilac’s only child, so like plenty of only children, especially a Crown Princess, she may have been spoiled like Rhaenyra. That attitude can turn people off.

    • Grant says:

      It may have been more fearful attempts to appease Orys (and Aegon) by giving him a prize. Argillac had cut off an envoy’s hands and insisted on fighting, they would have had reason to fear what their fate would be.

      Of course I suspect there’s a bit of dubious ‘romantic’ or whatever you may call it writing in that as well.

      • Steven Xue says:

        Its my opinion that Argella is very much similar to Elizabeth of York. If you think about it, Elizabeth was married to Henry Tudor pretty much by force after Henry deposed her uncle in an epic battle for the throne of England. And the reason Henry married her was because even though he was the Lancastrian heir, his claim to the throne was pretty shaky and he therefore needed to marry the daughter of his late predecessor to cement his rule.

        • EB says:

          I’d always heard that Elizabeth of York was betrothed to Henry Tudor a few years before Henry’s 1483 rebellion (and many years before the 1485 rebellion.) At least, that’s what Michael Jones writes.

        • EB says:

          So I just reread my comment, and boy-howdy do I sound like a know-it-all troll. I meant to as an honest question, as in “Have I had it wrong the whole time?” I apologize if I sounded like a troll.

        • Grant says:

          I don’t believe Elizabeth was handed over to him tied up and naked without even assurance there was going to be a political marriage, just sending her off to him. That sounds like in-universe panic and out-of-universe Martin going for an image.

    • I mean, I think they were literally offering her up on a plate: let us live, do what you want to her.

  3. Andrew says:

    1. “I doubt we’ll ever find out whether Argilac the Arrogant genuinely believed that he could win the Battle of the Last Storm, or whether he preferred a glorious death on the battlefield than the humiliation of defeat ”

    I think it may have been the latter. He had fought alongside Aegon in the Volantene wars, and had offered his daughter’s hand as well as some of Harren’s lands as a buffer to him, which would suggest Argilac had a good idea of the military capabilities of Aegon and his dragons. Also, add that the Dornish were attacking from the south, and he likely knew his situation was hopeless. If he is as stubborn as his descendants then he would rather die than surrender.

    2. It’s not just the Baratheons, nearly every attempt by one of the Great Houses to marry into the IT ends up badly: the Martells (2nd time around), the Lannisters and coming soon, the Tyrells.

    3. Steffon would have been the third Baratheon Hand were it not for a twist of fate. Would the Baratheon brothers have turned out differently were it not for that? Would Robert have indulged in wine and women (at the rate he did)? Would Aerys have called for Robert’s head?

  4. KrimzonStriker says:

    Glad we wrapped this up and can’t wait to see your take on Dorne. Two questions though, first wasn’t Borros purposefully delaying any confrontation because of an aversion to having to face the dragons himself? Second does Alyssa count as a Targaryean marriage given she was born a Velaryion?

  5. Grant says:

    Would they really have chosen someone other than Robert as king if not for his ancestry? With a rebellion that opposed both Aerys II and Rhaegar, it would sound like any Targaryen, even a kid like Viserys, would be risky from what they might do in the future.

    In contrast Robert’s not of Targaryen blood for this, but he was charming, a proven warrior, known for his virility and his worst flaws weren’t apparent yet.

  6. For all the excitement of logistics sometimes we can have battles done in an Iliad style, with a battle between two great commanders. It was close-run. Argilac if he’d been a bit stronger and a bit luckier could have won the day. But a lot of battles are close-fought and it feels more realistic if sometimes Aegon’s forces faced problems, and both sides seem to make mistakes.
    And here we see another weakness of the Durrandons, they were dynastically lacking at this point. A son or brother of Argilac could have rallied support, but the death of Argilac leads to a quick victory, and marrying his daughter enables Orys to claim to be the legitimate ruler.
    Also Orys’ son Davos and the reference to onions. Heh.
    I agree it is rather odd that Borros’ army was beaten, we don’t hear of any divisions in the SL even though there must have been. Were some Lords Black and Borros was delayed fighting them? Was he deliberately being slow? In a succession dispute I’m writing a Lord married to one of the disputed King’s daughters might have delayed so he could advance his family, sitting out much of the war besieging the castle of his sister’s husband, though it is suspected he arranged this with them so he had an excuse not to take part in the fighting, considering after various royals died his brother-in-law quickly joined him. Was something like this happening? I suppose we might not hear much of the SL after that as Borros’ son might have been young and couldn’t do much for some time.
    Hopefully Fire and Blood will fill in a bit about Royce Caron, the Stormlander influence on the Regency. On that subject where was it said the Carons supported the Blackfyres?
    As for the Blackfyre Rebellions I agree the Baratheons might have been a little wary, and could have acted in a Tyrell or Stanley-like way. Though as for why they didn’t get a marriage mayhaps there wasn’t an available one at the time. Or there might have been other links, like mayhaps a Baratheon was married to a Dondarrion or Penrose, hence the marriages Daeron arranged would still ensure a link to House Baratheon. Anyway people like Nina Friel have written very well on the marriages Daeron arranged. Though the Stormlanders might have generally not liked Aegon IV for the dragons burning down their Kingswood. I imagine jests comparing him to his namesake who also burned down Stormwoods.
    I really hope we get more of a sense of the SL in TWOW. We do hear of people joining up to Aegon’s cause. And I wish we could have got more of an idea of what the SL thought of the treacherous Renly’s naked power grab. Were some thinking of going with Joffrey or Stannis? How essential to Renly’s campaign was the greed of Mace Tyrell?
    And what is the current feeling in the SL? I would imagine Aegon’s ranks will be bolstered by many who hate the current regime, probably having lost relatives at the Blackwater, seeing Tommen as not a true Baratheon, and despising the Tyrells for supporting Renly, then joining the Lannisters and gaining enormous favor. They might think there isn’t much hope for Stannis, who is in the North, and so see Aegon as their chance to get vengeance on the Lion and the Rose.
    And I do wonder what is happening in the Marches, with Blackhaven and Nightsong. We don’t hear of Blackhaven being given to anyone else, so is a brother or cousin of Beric running it now? And Foote hasn’t taken Nightsong yet. I would like something set in the Marches rather like the Telltale Games, a window into the opinions of the Stormlanders. But I hold out hope Rolland Storm, a man very loyal to Stannis, will take his House’ castle from the man who killed his brother (huh, Jon Snow foil).
    I agree the Stormlanders is sort of the odd Kingdom out, we don’t get enough of a sense of them, it’s more by implication, such as the marriages arranged by Daeron II. There isn’t really a sense of an ambitious House. The Conningtons might have supported Rhaegar but JonCon doesn’t seem to have acted out of an old enmity to the Baratheons. It’s annoying we don’t have the same worldbuilding, as my fave character is Stormlander. And he does seem similar to Argilac, marching off to battle leaving his daughter. Though I think the Baratheon line will continue through Edric Storm, another bastard getting Storm’s End, though Stannis will probably legitimize this handover of power. Who I imagine would be happy to grant Nightsong to Rolland, if Davos is regent (no-one better http://poorquentyn.tumblr.com/post/148184902898/what-do-u-think-will-be-the-last-words-exchanged) he would likely encourage it.
    So overall your essay was a joy to read. I believe Dorne is next?

    • Anas Abusalih says:

      Dorne is the only kingdom he hasn’t done yet and like the Stormlands it has some huge gaps in its chronology so it will probably be short.
      Anyway, if you’re interested, I posted a rewrite of the Stormlands campaign during the Dance on my tumblr.

    • All good points.

      Dorne is indeed next.

  7. Murc says:

    For the existing Stormlander elite, one could almost pretend that the Durrandons were still there in all but name

    Pretend, nothing. This was actually the case. Argilac’s grandson and great-grandson and so forth ruled the Stormlands from Storm’s End, under the stag banner, using the words that had been the motto and signifier of House Durrandon probably since they were being spoken in the old tongue. That sounds like them literally still being there in all but name.

    Something I’ve long wondered is what antecedents Orys had. People tend to focus on his Targaryen connection, that he was probably Aegon’s brother. But Orys had a family name. A very Westerosi family name, in fact; “Baratheon” sounds very Blackwater Bay to me. That means he must have come from, if not noble stock, at least from a family that was well-heeled enough to have an actual family name. From whence did they hail? Was Orys publicly known as a bastard or did he have a non-Targaryen “father” from whom he nominally got the name, as seems likely since he was “Orys Baratheon” and not “Orys Storm” or “Orys Waters.” Were they from Duskendale? Dragonstone? Driftmark? Did he have siblings, cousins, etc?

    • Anas Abusalih says:

      That’s a really good question!
      My personal headcanon is that Baratheon is one of two things:
      A. The family name of Orys’s mother
      Or B. The family name of Orys’s mother’s husband (who accepted Orys as his son rather than let it be known that he had been horned)
      As for where Baratheon comes from I think it is either a Valyrian expatriate a la Qoherys or a preexisting noble family living on Dragonstone that surrendered peacefully when the Valyrians made the island their outpost shortly before the Doom.
      Actually, that might be something for me to explore when I get to my Hidden History of the Crownlands in September…Hmm….

      • Murc says:

        I thought about A for awhile myself, but that would be highly unusual in the cultural context of Westeros, which is very, very big on “bastards don’t get family names, from the man or the woman.”

        Edric Storm, for example, is not Edric Baratheon but he also isn’t Edric Florent. So I think B is far more likely.

        I don’t think the Baratheons are Valyrian exiles. The name doesn’t sound Valyrian to me, it sounds Westerosi. That’s pure conjecture, tho.

        • Anas Abusalih says:

          Regarding Baratheon not sounding Valyrian: Neither does Celtigar to me honestly. Also, a lot of Free Cities names don’t sound Valyrian to me either. In fact, off the top of my head only Volantis has Targaryen-sounding names.

          Regarding Baratheon being the mother’s side of the family: B is more likely I agree but I could see how a respected but minor noblewoman on Dragonstone who slept with a dragonlord would give her bastard son her name, particularly if she had no other kin who could complain about it.
          Another possibility is that Baratheon is a smallfolk surname and because Aerion Targaryen never formally acknowledged Orys as his own offspring Orys would have been given the surname of his lowborn mother rather than something like Waters, which would have required him to have been acknowledged as a lord’s bastard beforehand.

          • Steven Xue says:

            Its very possible that Orys came up with it himself or maybe before the Conquest he might have been married to someone who’s last name was Baratheon, and since he didn’t have a surname of his own decided to take his wife’s name.

          • Anas Abusalih says:

            I never thought of that idea! Good

          • Anas Abusalih says:


    • Yeah, I wish we knew more from his mother’s side.

  8. Anas Abusalih says:

    The Baratheons are by far the most egregious example of the Dance’s bad plotting re the Greens IMO.
    Hopefully, Fire & Blood Volume 1 will make this and other issues related to the Dance less glaring but I’m keeping my expectations low honestly.
    In the meantime though I will cherish my Dance Rewrite for the Stormlands.

    • Abbey Battle says:

      In all honesty Lord Borros’ actions during the Dance of the Dragons make perfect sense given what we know of him and his situation: he is explicitly described as a man who blows Hot + Cold by turns, so it makes perfect sense that he would procrastinate while the more decisive took action, especially given that for much of the Dance he was “Under the Gun” as it were (especially after the Black Occupation brought a whole battery of “spitfires” within spitting distance of Lord Borros).

      One would also bet money that Prince Aemond’s failure to marry Lord Borros’ daughter almost immediately rankled with that temperamental Lord, which may have influenced his tendency towards inaction (particularly after the former took office as Protector of the Realm, but ESPECIALLY after he preferred to shack up with some bastard-born hedge witch).

      Why did the Greens tolerate such behaviour? Well if nothing else leaving Storm-Land forces in place allows them to act as insurance against a Black landing at some safe distance from Kings Landing … and after the Blacks were able to launch a successful coup de main against the City itself the Greens were in no real position to demand ANYTHING of the Storm-Lords.

      I would also like to argue that Lord Borros’ demise DOES make literary sense from a certain point of view: an indecisive man getting himself killed trying to prove how Decisive he could be would seem to have at least SOME storytelling potential.

      Think about it – Lord Borros’ resolve has finally become Fixed, the Undecided is on the brink of playing the most Decisive role in the Green Triumph, a rag-tag of rebels whose queen has been summarily dispatched offer themselves as a convenient warm-up to the Last Battle … only for Lord Borros’ Fixed Resolve to drive him into launching a cavalry charge across terrain better suited to mud wrestling than Knightly Combat (leaving his hopes, dream and ambitions* to bleed out into the Muddy Mess with all the rest of him).

      *of becoming not only Kingmaker but Grandfather of the Kings that were to come.

      • Anas Abusalih says:

        Still, Borros being defeated by a much smaller and tired army in the ONLY known battle the Stormlands fight to me reads like bad storytelling 101, especially when taken in conjunction with the rest of the Greens bizarre incompetence.
        Hence why in my rewrite I tried to give both sides victories and losses based around each faction seizing upon the mistakes and personal weaknesses of the other while still maintaining GRRM’s canonical ending
        Also, for the record, Borros isn’t described as being an indecisive person
        He’s described as being indecisive in his loyalties in contrast to his father Boremund

        • Abbey Battle says:

          I would argue that “Lord Boremund was stone … Lord Borros was the wind” etc can be read as a more general observation about the respective characters of these two Lords of Storms End, rather than something that applies only to their political loyalties – if only because it helps make sense of the latter’s behaviour during the Dance (if he blows now this way, now that then his failure to make any firm commitment until sheer weight of personal advantage makes it impossible for him NOT to move makes Perfect sense).

          I am also only partly in agreement with the Greens being bizarrely stupid: I would argue that while the Blacks are undoubtedly the more militarily-savvy the Greens are by far the more politically adept and that these respective strengths to some degree cancel out each other (consider the Occupation of Kings Landing – a marvellous achievement in strategy gone thoroughly to waste because the Black Queen lacks the political sensitivity to make Good Use of it).

          One must admit that I’m not the most critical of readers, but I do often think that the problems with “The Blacks and the Greens” are a trifle over-emphasised (nevertheless I have followed your elaborations on Mr Martin’s work with considerable Interest and appreciation – please accept my compliments!).

  9. Abbey Battle says:

    Allow me to offer my Compliments once more Maester Steven – you have done a very credible job of making the most out of a fairly modest reserve of Hard Facts (hopefully one that will be expanded upon in future publications!) and one must express a certain amusement at your being able to somehow produce three articles on the section of TWoIF that you felt was the most meagre!

  10. Abbey Battle says:

    Another point one would like to address is that, while I agree it is a pity we know so little about what the Lords of Storms End achieved during the Young Dragon’s Conquest of Dorne (though we might infer that the Black Stag cantered under the Dragon’s direct command at least), we do have sufficient information to suggest that the Baratheon Lords might well have Good Reason to favour King Daeron the First over Sir Daemon the Pretender.

    Firstly, consider that it was the Lord Lyonel of the Reach who was made Governor of Dorne and NOT a Storm Lord: no matter his achievements this must have been an appointment that rankled amongst the Sons of the Storm, considering that the Lords of the Golden Rose were already Wardens of the South while the Baratheon Lords held no equivalent office (one might also suggest that the degree to which Sir Daemon’s cause was associated with The Reach might well have done him little good in the Storm Lands, where Grudges against the heirs & vassals of the Green Kings doubtless lingered even after The Conquest).

    Secondly we cannot dismiss the impact likely made by Baelor the Blessed: he made his way into Dorne through the Storm-Lands, he spent half a year at Storms End and Kings Landing was right on the door-step of the old Kingdom of the Storm, so it may well be that his sheer force of Personal Conviction made more of an impact there than elsewhere – especially in the Halls of the Baratheons (a Lord of Storms End who was at an impressionable age when Baelor the Blessed was recuperating there might well favour King Daeron the Good and Peace over the Black Dragon).

    Given this close proximity to Kings Landing, it is also far from impossible that inhabitants of the Stormlands got such an eyeful of King Aegon’s corruption that it tainted Sir Daemon by association (souring the Storm Lords willingness to accept him as candidate for the Throne).

    Thirdly, we must note that King Daeron the First appears to have made very serious efforts to strengthen his hold over the loyalties of the Storm Lords – the construction of Summerhall would seem to indicate that he himself spent considerable time in the Marches, which means he would have had to make repeated Royal Progresses through the old Kingdom of the Storm in order to get there from Kings Landing (with all the attendant opportunities to “press the flesh” and otherwise win the loyalty of his vassals there): while the marriage of Prince Baelor to a Dondarrion might well have been seen as “going over the head” of House Baratheon, it is equally possible that the latter had no daughters of marriageable age available when the Prince was looking for a bride (which removes any possibility of their being offended).

    It is also by no means impossible that the daughter of House Dondarrion whom Prince Baelor married was in fact half a Baratheon: it would not surprise me if this were, in fact, the case (although this is by no means certain) and a similar scenario may well apply to the wedding of Princess Elaena. One might also suggest that the honour given the Storm Lords when one of their own was raised to the Small Council (no small compliment, even if his wife did all the Heavy Thinking) might outweigh any displeasure from House Baratheon.

    Fourthly, I would like to point out that during the First Blackfyre Rebellion King Daeron may simply have been willing to offer the Storm Lords a better deal than Sir Daemon: given that the latter had already secured backing from most of The Reach and more than a little from the Westerland and The Trident, the addition of House Baratheon’s strength to his own might have seemed merely the icing on a very tasty cake – whereas the support of Storms End would have utterly crucial to the Reds, who would have needed the strength of the Black Stag to stand any chance of outfighting the Power of the Black Dragon (not least because the strength of Dorne would have been quite unable to come North).

    Under those circumstances I can imagine King Daeron making a more than acceptable offer to the Storm Lords … and with Prince Baelor Breakspear as his intermediary, this offer would stand a most excellent chance of being accepted.

    Finally I would like to point out that in at least one Historic case the Storm Lords made common cause with the Lords of the Southern Principality against the over-mighty Reach (during what I think of as the Great Southern War, when Kings Gyles the Third Gardener first shot his bolt then shat himself to death): given these Historic precedents it is by no means impossible that the Storm Lords put aside their grievances with their enemy to the South in favour of pursuing their grudges against their Historic rival to the West.

    With all these points in mind it makes reasonable sense that the Storm Lords favoured the Red Dragon over the Black during the First Rebellion, at least to my mind (although I suspect disagreement might be forthcoming – debate, after all, being the spice of an Academic life!).

    • Space Oddity says:

      There’s also the fact that the Blackfyres were allied with the Yronwoods and the Wyls. I suspect “We hate the Dornish–but not the worst of the Dornish who are your particular enemies!” probably doesn’t work very well as a selling point among the Stormland Marcher Lords.

    • The problem with this is that the only mentions we have in the text about what the Stormlands thought after Daeron I was that they were pro-Aegon IV.

      • Abbey Battle says:

        Having looked up the precise reference, it says that Aegon the Fourth used “the hatred for the Dornishmen that still burned in the marches, the storm lands and the Reach to suborn SOME of Daeron’s allies” (emphasis mine) which can be read as implying that the future Good King Daeron had some base of support in the old Kingdom of the Storm even after his Lord Father did his best to “flip” them (also that Prince Daeron had supporters throughout these areas to start with).

        If nothing else, we also have at least some grounds to question whether support for Aegon the Fourth’s aggressive Dornish Policy would have survived the catastrophic failure of his manoeuvres against the Principality – given that an Almighty Storm played a major role in cheating Hopes of a second Conquest, it is by no means impossible that the Storm Lords might have seriously reconsidered their attitudes to the Peace Policy inherited from King Baelor as advocated by the Prince of Dragonstone (given the Kingdom of the Storm has a very long History of seeing the Hand of God working through the most Turbulent Weather).

        In truth one must agree that we lack hard evidence on the feelings of the various Storm Lords, but I would still like to point out that what evidence we have CAN be read as inferring that King Daeron the Second stood a very strong chance of attracting support from this particular Kingdom – certainly a far better chance than he would enjoy in The Reach – especially given the work of a most Persuasive advocate (a description that sums of Prince Baelor quite perfectly).

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