A while back, JSLAL from Wars and Politics of ASOIAF got a really interesting question on Tumblr, asking him to come up with a character who could fill in some of the gaps in Westerosi history. I really liked his response, and so when I got the same question, I decided to see if I could do one better.
(Much thanks goes out to @hiddenhistoryofwesteros and @cynicalclassicist for their assistance in pre-reading and editing this document.)
Below the cut is part two of the life of the High Spider…
The Betrotheds’ War (1995-1992)
It is hard to distinguish any period of the Riverlands’ history by describing it as a time of civil war, or indeed as a time when it was unwillingly made the board for the Great Game. However, the early Second Millenia is distinctive for how general the conflict was, involving nearly every power in Westeros. To summarize the conflict briefly: House Vance were backed in their claim for the crown by the Kings of the Rock, and as a result House Teague became the proxy for the Kings of the Mountains and Vale. In between these two factions, the Brackens and Blackwoods were forced into an uneasy alliance with the support of the Mallisters and any other Riverlords who preferred to be ruled by an independent monarch rather than a puppet, while out to the east, the Durrandon kings claimed the title of “Protector of the Rush” and looked past the Rush with hungry eyes to the rich towns of Duskendale, Rosby, and even the oft-disputed territories of Crackclaw Point.
The catalyst for the Betrothed’s War was, as one might expect from the appellation, a series of marriage alliances that raised the stakes of the conflict between Riverlanders by bringing in foreign allies: the King of the Rock’s daughter Lenore Lannister was engaged to Benjicot Vance, while Chettward Teague’s daughter was given in marriage to the Crown Prince of the Vale; meanwhile the heirs of House Bracken and House Blackwood were betrothed to one another, confirming the union of the two houses in their hour of need, while the Storm King married Jonquil Mooton (being the last surviving heir of the unlucky Lord Florian, who lost three heirs in as many years) to consolidate the Durrandon claim to Maidenpool.
For some time the war had been a bloody and grinding stalemate, with the Lannisters and Vances unable to make a successful push into the east and the Arryns and the Teagues unable to force a crossing of the Trident. In the middle, the Brackens and Blackwoods were unable to equal the forces of the Vale and the Westerlands in open battle, but turned their skills of raiding and pillaging (heretofore used mainly against each other) against both their eastern and western foes, moving along the rivers and secret forest roads to strike in numbers before fading away like mist on the water. So long as they held the Red Fork and could be resupplied by Seagard, their territories could not be taken, but gradually the link between Raventree Hall and Stone Hedge (vital for the supply of their southern holdings) was squeezed in the middle from both sides.
According to Precocious, who claims to have seen receipts and letters from Casterly Rock, heavy infusions of Lannister gold into the coffers of the High Spider had been quid-pro-quo for the prelate’s influence in persuading Gwayne VII to abandon his father’s peace treaty with the Stormlands in favor of a “Holy League” with the Lannisters.
This, the High Spider promptly did, and in 1992 BC the hosts of House Gardener and the Faith Militant marched across the Rush to link up with their Lannister allies and break the stalemate. Pushing their way northwards, the combined forces of southern chivalry and piety swept aside the hastily-assembled levies of House Gracestone and stormed over the walls of Stony Sept, with Lord Commander Uther Flowers leading the charge. (The irony of the Faith Militant attacking a town best known as a center for pilgrims was not missed at the time, although more careful political observers noted that the Most Devout of Stony Sept voted for Volkmar in 2001 BC.) While the Sept itself was spared any damage by the High Spider, who commanded his personal guard to guard the doors and spare the civilians (and the many treasures of the Sept), the citadel of the castle was sacked and all members of House Gracestone were brutally slain. Despite the carnage, King Gwayne was greatly pleased that so great a prize had been won at such a cheap price, adding further glory to a warrior king who wished to be known to history as “the Unrelenting.”
How wrong he was.
The two armies of the West were due to link up outside the siege works of Stone Hedge, which had thrown back two successive assaults already. And so they did, but when the armies of the Reach and the Faith Militant shifted from marching order to battle lines, they fell upon the waiting Westermen. At the same time, the Tullys turned against their Vance overlords, opening up a hole in the hastily assembled shield wall that Lord Commander Uthor (known after this battle as Uthor Sevenflowers) and the Warrior’s Sons charged through, splitting the Westerlands army in half. Divided and pinned against their own trenches, the Westermen tried to flee back the way they had come, only to find that the Bracken forces had sallied forth from Stone Hedge to bar their passage to the west.
So complete and so sudden was the defeat – carefully arranged over several months by secret letters between the High Spider, Lord Fionn Tully, and King Lothar Bracken which Precocius claims to have transcribed – that the chronicles of the time list only 700 casualties on both sides. For the first time in Westerosi history, the Lannister army surrendered in toto. Captured in his tent by the Warrior’s Sons, King Leon II was brought before the High Spider and made to kiss the hem of his robes. Raising the King of the Rock back to his feet, the High Septon made a public show of “forgiving” Leon II for his insult in a magnificent display of hypocrisy, saying “we must be friends, and kinsmen too.” The engagement between Prince Lancel and Florys Flowers (known as Sunflowers for the color of her hair and skin) was agreed to in a solemn contract.
Having little choice but to assent to dictated terms, the shaken Westermen were obliged to fight under the banner of the Greenhand and serve under Reacherman officers, one of the greatest disgraces of Westerlands arms in their entire history, and one which would inspire many generations of Lannisters to seek vengeance on the plains of the Northmarch. Passing through previously hostile Bracken territory with unexpected speed, the combined armies force-marched their way across the Riverlands.
The forces of the Falcon King and his Teague allies had drawn up at the end of the High Road – the future site of the Crossroads – when scouts informed King Osric X that a Gardener army led by Gwayne VII (clad in his distinctive plate armor enameled in green leaves) was attempting to cross the Trident. Hoping to strike a blow while the river still divided his enemy, Osric ordered his men forwards to near where Lord Harroway’s Town would stand, and ordered his spearmen to hold the ford at all cost while his archers poured a withering fire on the “Reachermen.” His scouts then informed him that a second army, also flying the Greenhand and also following Gwayne VII flying his personal banner, had crossed the Trident downstream and were advancing from the east. Bewildered by the appearance of this impossible army, King Osric ordered his army to refuse the line, pulling his left flank northwards to guard against this new threat. And this last order proved to be his fatal error, because the move left his right flank and rear open to the furious charge of the combined cavalry of two kingdoms and one Faith under the command of Uthor Sevenflowers.
Desperate as his right flank began to crumble, Osric called to his Teague allies (who had been carefully held in reserve) to advance and block the charge…but the Teagues refused to move off the hill where today the Inn of the Crossroads stands. Unbeknownst to the Falcon King, Chettward Teague had received a secret letter from the High Spider, threatening Teague that his entire House “root and branch” would be expelled from the Faith and condemned to the Stranger’s seventh hell if he continued to support “that most pernicious Exclusionist heresy.” And so the Teagues stood by and watched as the Arryn army was systematically dismantled.
After a long and bloody day that saw thousands dead on both sides (on the victor’s side, mostly on the part of Westermen who had literally been used as arrow fodder), the armies of the Vale (which had fought to the last dregs of daylight) finally surrendered, with Osric X personally handing his sword Sharptalon over to Gwayne VII. Having thus humbled two kings and with the whole of the Riverlands laid at his feet, it was to the great surprise of the Gardener King when, rather than continuing their campaign, his loyal High Septon announced a peace conference to settle the question of who was the true King of the Rivers and Hills.
The “Great Council of Eternal Peace” (1991-1990)
The “Great Council of Eternal Peace” is certainly one of the more singular events of the second millennium. Even as the armies of the Reach and the Faith Militant seized Stony Sept, a small army of artisans, artists, and laborers from Oldtown, Dorne, and even the Valyrian colonies had set up camp near the Godseye. In this field by the lake, a Crystal Palace was erected, with walls of stained glass and mirrors held together by hastily-constructed wooden frames and enough rigging to outfit an entire fleet, ceilings of painted silk stretched out over narrow beams, and floors of bare pine covered by Myrish carpets. In sum, the Crystal Palace appeared less as a true construction than the flimsy sets of Essosi mummers – thankfully for the participants, the Spring’s clement weather was to hold for an entire year.
After nine months of feverish construction, the Crystal Palace was ready for its intended inhabitants: every king south of the Neck, their immediate families, and their retinues of no more than seventy men each. Due to the peculiar outcome of the Betrotheds’ War – which saw the King of the Rock and the Young King Vance taken prisoner and the King of the Vale on parole, the Brackens and Blackwoods in uneasy truce with the Reachermen, and the Teagues politically isolated – the invitations were accepted, and so slowly the Great Council of Eternal Peace assembled.
According to the elaborate schedule of events, the “common peace of the realms of men” and the “universally acknowledged kingship of the Riverlands” was supposed to be discussed over seven days of open discussion in Council. However, for the first five days, the High Spider deliberately delayed such discussion in favor of an elaborate examination of the etiquette of preeminence and the roll of descent for each claimant to the crown of the Riverlands. This delay caused great consternation on all sides, with the Brackens and Blackwoods fearing that they had been betrayed, the Lannisters and Arryns dreading some further, more baroque humiliation, Durran XXX fretting over whether his title of “Protector of the Rush” would be acknowledged, and Gwayne VII growing ever more impatient to be named King of the Rivers and Hills by right of conquest.
Instead, the High Spider mounted a series of ostentatious entertainments and feasts, plying his guests with the finest food and drink the known world could provide. All the while, he conducted a furious series of private discussions as to the disposition of the Riverlands, claiming to each party that he was a true partisan of their claim, promising the same territories many times over, all in exchange for staggering bribes (for the High Spider had exhausted both his Lannister gold, which he was hardly likely ever to receive again, and his credit) and their support on “a minor and most unimportant matter of theological disputation.” It was a magnificent galliard of insincerity, double-dealing, and corruption that left every other participation in the dance completely befuddled as to what the priest in his robes of Dornish silk painted in the rainbow of the Seven was up to.
The trap was sprung on the sixth day, when the kings gathered to celebrate the wedding of Prince Lancel Lannister and Florys Sunflowers. The greatest of all the feasts was thrown that evening, at which the “wine flowed like water, which was nowhere to be found in the wine.” Precocious alleges that the High Spider laced his guests’ drink with a concoction of Shade of the Evening and milk of the poppy, and had to share the first cup with his daughter and good-son first before any would drink, and in this intoxicated state the ruling Houses of Westeros were seduced one-by-one. And while this claim is highly unlikely (the logistics alone boggle the mind), scholars have few other explanations for what transpired that evening, as the participants were unlikely to offer their own.
For in the morning, the Kings of the South woke up to find the marriage alliances that had fueled the war decisively broken, reshaping the political map of Westeros. Benjicot Vance’s hand in marriage was now given to Chettwina Teague (an alliance that distance and political isolation rendered completely useless), while the Crown Prince of the Vale found his hand given to Princess Lenore Lannister, ending the power struggle between the two kingdoms. But strangest and bloodiest of all was the fate that had befallen the Bracken/Blackwood alliance: in the night, King Lothar Bracken and Queen Rowena Blackwood had each committed adultery with the sibling of the other. King Lothar evidently preferred his queen’s younger sister Morgaine (rumored to be a woods-witch of some skill), while Queen Rowena chose her king’s younger brother, the dashing Ser Tristan (who had led the Bracken forces at the Battle of Stone Hedge). When this adultery was revealed by through secret letters alerting each monarch where they could hide themselves to witness the betrayal of their spouse, later that night King Lothar stabbed his wife to death, but not before she poisoned him with a fatal dose of manticore venom.
Hungover, heavy of conscience, and thoroughly suspicious, the Great Council assembled on the seventh day to hear the pronouncement of the High Septon. Producing a document he called “a treaty of universal and eternal peace,” the High Spider declared that all of the competing kings were henceforth recognized as “Kings in the Riverlands,” and enjoined from making war upon one another, as each king was bound by sacred oath to instantly declare war on whomever broke the peace first. One by one, the kings perused the long scroll and were shocked to find their seals and signatures at the bottom…which Precocious claims the High Spider had gathered over the past five days by artfully concealing from his besotted guests what the top of the scroll declared. (Here, Precocious’ claim is more likely to be true, as he was tasked with copying out the final draft of the document.)
Among the other clauses of the treaty were yet more surprises. For betraying the Vances, the Tullys were rewarded with the “confluence of the Red Fork and the Tumblestone” being removed from the territories of House Vance (which freed House Tully from vassalage), although the Tullys were bitterly disappointed when the treaty named them only as “lords freehold” rather than as kings in their own right. The Durrandons were recognized as “Protectors of the Rush,” at which point Durran XXX was recorded to have laughed at Gwayne VII, saying “I have wagered nothing and won all, and what have ye gained for all your blood and treasure?” When the High Spider allowed in a messenger bearing word that Duskendale and Rosby had rebelled, leaving his army on Crackclaw Point isolated and cut off from supply, Durran XXX was apoplectic and had to be physically restrained from drawing his sword. And most shocking of all, Stony Sept and all its lands were declared an independent “protectorate of the Faith” owing allegiance to no-one but the High Septon himself and serving as a permanent base for the Faith Militant in the Riverlands. At this point, Gwayne VII, who had been relishing the humiliation of the Storm King, was so dumbfounded that he actually fainted from choler.
Moving briskly from the secular to the sacred, the High Spider proceeded to the bottom of the scroll, the “minor and most unimportant matter of theological disputation” which so many kings had signed in their drunken haste. As if to punctuate his victory, he had Most Devout Volkmar summoned to hear the document read out loud:
“Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad for the middle wall of partition has been taken away, and grief has been silenced, and all kind of difference of opinion has been removed; the Father Above having seen fit to restore peace to his septs, through this gathering of most devout and Faithful of kings, who are the best imitators of the piety of their ancestors in keeping the right faith in their souls firm and immovable, by giving their minds to the affairs of the Faith of the Seven so that we might heal our divisions, remove the offences scattered between us, and thus crown this gathering with harmony and peace.
Here in this Great Council, we affirm and declare that we worship One-in-Seven and Seven-in-One. This truth is proven in three cases:
First, from our faith. The Father does not contend with the Mother, nor the Warrior with the Smith, nor the Maid with the Crone. In all matters at all times, the Seven act as one entity with one will. Together, they set their heavens above and their hells below. Together, they anointed Hugor of the Hill and gave him and his people a promised land. We worship not in separate temples but in one sept where all are honored together, we do not tear out the chapters of the Seven Pointed Star, but read from one common text.
Second, from nature. The sacred crystals that adorn our altars and our persons hath seven sides and seven facets, yet the sides and the facets are but parts of the whole. The pure light of the one sun in the one sky shines through them, and we see seven colors of light as the sign and seal of the One-in-Seven, yet all are part of the same pure light. Being mortal, the pure light of heaven dazzles our eyes so that we cannot part the mystery unaided. Being all-wise and all-compassionate, the Seven-in-One confirm their work in the rainbows that they set in the heavens to inspire and encourage the Faithful – seven arches making one great bridge.
Third, from interest. In human affairs, it is far better to be unified than divided. When the Andals first came to Westeros, they were united in their faith, and conquered whole kingdoms. When they divided each for their own gain, they were defeated and made to bend the knee to the kings of the West. Today, when the kings of Westeros quarrel among themselves, the land bleeds and the people suffer. When we come together as one, as we have today, peace and good government reigns. If it is good for us to be united, then as the Divine is greater and wiser than mere mortals, surely it is even better for the Divine to be as one.
Thus, we declare that the heresy known as Exclusionism is anathema, and from this day, we cast forth from our midst any who cling to it.”
With all of the kings of the South having bound themselves to this declaration, the Arryns found it impossible to maintain their support for the Black Sept’s now completely isolated position. Most Devout Volkmar was sent to a septry high in the mountains of the Vale, where a vow of silence put an end to his preaching. The High Spider even commanded Osric Arryn to remove the marble facings from the Black Sept and ship them to Oldtown, where they were used to adorn the Starry Sept, trophies of a theological triumph.
In that moment, the High Spider reached his height of mastery over the Great Game. His kin stood to inherit the thrones of two kingdoms, and his Faith Militant held a third in all but name. He had conned and connived his way into weakening every single power in the Seven Kingdoms, reshaping the diplomatic map of Westeros and garnering unprecedented power for the Faith. That Faith he had recast in his own image, ending the Heptarian Controversy with ruthless precision.
Little did he know that his works would not outlive him…
 Even the Starks, who traditionally eschewed the Great Game, advanced their armies down to the headwaters of the Blue Fork in anticipation of an attack on Moat Cailin.
 While most of the Reach answered their royal liege’s call, not all did so eagerly. Lord Alton Manderly had been an ardent proponent of the peace treaty between Garland VII and Durran XXX, his father Gunthor (formerly the ambassador at the Durrandon court) having helped to negotiate said treaty. Following the setting aside of Queen Shiraz, Alton arranged for the double marriage of his brother and heir, Ser Mychel, to Madeira Redwyne and his sister Julia to Ser Merlot Redwyne (heir to the Arbor), in what was deemed the best-catered wedding in the Seven Kingdoms.
When Gwayne VII called the banners, the Redwynes and Manderlys sent only a token force, with the Redwynes claiming that the threat of Ironborn raiders required they keep the bulk of their manpower at sea and the Manderlys pledging to defend the Shield Islands in the event of a hypothetical attack. According to Precocious, the High Spider offered many bribes to Lord Alton to gain his support, including “a most epicene chorister for his personal chapel,” but to no avail, leading the prelate to complain “the man claims to be a gourmand, but likes neither fish nor fowl. How can one deal with such a fleshless fellow?”
 Benjicot’s father Hubert Vance is said to have been slain personally by Lord Tully’s good-father Cedric Paege. Another story claims Rodrik Redshield was responsible. The Young King Benjicot himself was captured by Gwayne VII while protecting his father’s body, which the Gardener King graciously allowed to be buried in the traditional riverine fashion.
 While the overall casualties of the Battle of Stone Hedge were remarkably low, one particular tragedy is worth noting. As noted before, the High Spider’s mother Fuchsia Peake had married after her affair with Lymond Hightower, and gave birth to a son (Harlon Roxton, who would become Master-at-arms at Holyhall) and two daughters, Elinor and Talla. When Most Devout Lewys made his arrangement with the Lannisters, he found the time to betrothe his half-sisters to the heirs of House Crakehall and House Plumm (in exchange for cancelling their debts to the Faith). Their sons both served in the Lannister army at Stone Hedge, and (their surcoats being obscured by the mud of the siegeworks) were mistakenly slain by Ser Harlon Roxton. While the High Spider offered to intercede with the gods on behalf of his half-brother for the sin of kinslaying, Ser Harlon was so overcome by his actions that he took the black on the spot.
 To perform this minor miracle of logistics, the High Spider turned to Septon Mulciber, formerly a younger son of House Dryland, who had been recommended to him by Septa Sibyl during the renovations of the Starry Sept. Despite his high birth, Septon Mulciber was clearly blessed by the Smith, for he was the first man from Westeros to penetrate the mysteries of Valyrian construction during his youthful sojourns to Volantis, and was responsible for the awe-inspiring seven flying buttresses of the Starry Sept (which according to some Exclusionists were held up by blood magic) – construction of which was interrupted by the Crystal Palace. According to his diaries, Septon Mulciber considered the task a minor annoyance beneath a man of his talents.
 Although Archmaester Pedantus insists in his Observations that technically the Palace was a series of pavilions rather than a palace proper.
 Archmaester Pedantus notes in his Observations that the various Kings of Dorne did not attend. While it is true that the feuding kings of Dorne were not physically present, they did send representatives in the form of Herbert Fremen, a prominent caravan-merchant and cartographer, Maester Narcissus a well-known (if highly romantic) scholar of Dornish history, and Septon Mulciber (who, according to his diary, spent the whole time sketching plans for a “magnificently terrifying” castle that supposedly came to him in a dream, and paid no attention to the political goings on, much to the frustration of future scholars). Thus, all the Kings below the Neck were represented at the Great Council.
 While there was some suggestion in the aftermath to betroth Tristan Bracken to Morgaine Blackwood, the sting of the recent murders (and the mutual suspicion that a pact once broken would be broken again) made any extension of the Bracken-Blackwood alliance an impossibility, and instead the two houses fell to blood feud once again, each side insisting that the other had struck first while they themselves had merely been avenging themselves.