In warfare, battles occur where the losses are so great that it sounds the death knell of whole empires. Like Waterloo or Hastings, battles can change the course of history.
After Stony Sept, a battle like this occurred, and it changed the course of the seven kingdoms.
The Mad King Aerys had finally realized that Robert and his Rebellion were a major threat. With his forces combined at Stony Sept, Robert had at his hand the united host of the Stormlands, The Vale, The Riverlands, and the North. Now assembled they were within striking distance of King’s Landing. A total of 35,000 battle hardened veterans took south to cross the trident at the Green Fork.
It was here that the battle for the crown of Westeros would take place. Meeting the rebel forces at the Trident would be a loyalist host of 40,000 troops led by the Crown Prince Rhaegar. Rhaegar had recently reappeared after his abduction of Lyanna at the start of the war. His army was represented by not only his troops from the Crownlands but the remaining troops of Connington’s failed assault at Stony Sept whom Ser Barristan Selmy and Ser Jonothon Darry rallied. Also representing a quarter of the force was 10,000 Dornish levies under the command of Lewyn Martel of the Kingsguard. After the loss of the Crown, it became a common thought that Dorne was only loyal because of the princess Elia being held hostage by the crown, however it is worth noting that the crown had an arrangement with Dorne regarding the queen ship of the Martels.
Absent from the fighting were the forces of the Reach under Mace Tyrell. Those forces were laying siege to Storm’s End at the time.
During the battle the Donishmen moved against the left flank of Robert’s army. Ser Lyn Corbray of The Vale, led a countercharge. Using his wounded father’s sword Corbray defeated Prince Lewyn in single combat, slaying him and effectively breaking the Dornish flank. It is worth noting that Lewyn was already wounded in prior fighting.
Though the fighting was intense on both sides, what destroyed the loyalist moral and won the day for the rebels was when Robert met Rhaegar in single combat. Though there is not much factual detail of the two’s actual combat, several things are true. Much in the fashion of his prior battles, Robert wielded his two-handed warhammer. Rhaegar wore his armor encrusted with rubies. Though it is unknown if they were mounted or on foot, Robert wielded his hammer and smashed Rhaegar’s armor with such force that it shattered his armor scattering the rubies across the Green Fork. Later the battle site would be known as The Ruby Ford. Unknown if it was that blow or another, but Rhaegar was killed by Robert during their combat. With Rhaegar dead, the Loyalist army broke and scattered. The Targaryen reign over Westeros was finished.
With Rhaegar’s host scattered the road to King’s Landing was unobstructed. However King Aerys prepared for this eventuality by lining the capitol city with wildfire caches ready to explode and burn the city to ground at his command. Luckily two things prevented this. The first was the ultimate appearance of Tywin Lannister and the Lannister forces who approached the city in the name of friendship. Varys, Aerys master of spies, warned against letting in the formerly neutral force, but Aerys opened the gates on advice from Grand Maester Pycelle. The 12,000 man army sacked the city. During the sack of the city Aerys ordered his new Hand, The Pyromancer Rossart to ignite the wildfire. Luckily before he could give the order, Rossart was killed by Jaime Lannister who in his role as kingsguard was stationed in King’s Landing. Jaime the turned his blade on Aerys earning him the title “Kingslayer”.
As the city was assaulted, Gregor Clegane and Amory Lorch scaled Maegor’s Holdfast and murdered the rest of the royal family. Princess Elia herself was raped and murdered by Clegane. By the time Ned Stark arrived from the Trident, he discovered Jaime Lannister seated on the Iron Throne. Robert was presented with the murdered bodies of the Targaryens wrapped in red cloaks as a sign of fealty to the new king. This drew a rift between Ned and Robert, as Ned saw the slaughter as unnecessarily brutal. He left by himself to lift the siege at Storm’s End and find Lyanna. The city had been secured, and Robert sat on the Iron Throne.
Though the Iron Throne had been secured by Robert, The war was not completely over. Loyalist strongholds at Dragonstone remained, along with Stannis still being under siege at Storm’s End.
Mace Tyrell and Randyl Tarly sat outside Storm’s End with the army of the Reach, and Lord Paxter Redwyne blockaded Shipbreaker Bay to all trade. The siege continued for a year, with the besieged having to eat their horses, their dogs and cats, and were pushed to eat their own dead. Luckily for Stannis, Davos Seaworth, a smuggler, slipped through the blockade. he managed to enter Storm’s End with a ship loaded with onions and salt fish for the starving garrison. Davos’ cargo allowed the garrison to survive long enough for Ned Stark to arrive and lift the siege. There was no battle as soon as Stark arrived, Tyrell surrendered.
Freed from the siege, Stannis was able to take command of the fleet and take Dragonstone, the last Targaryen stronghold. The majority of the Reach’s lords and knights were later pardoned by Robert for their part in the , and the Redwine fleet set sail for Dragonstone. There was to be no battle there since the entire fleet of Targaryen ships anchored there had been destroyed by a massive storm. Queen Rhaella, who was pregnant, and Prince Viserys had been sent to the island with Ser Willem Darry. Rhaella died giving birth to her last child Daenerys, named Stormborn.
Sensing the oncoming host, Ser Willem and a handful of men smuggled Viserys, Daenerys, and her wet nurse from the nursery and sailed for Braavos, evading the wrath of Robert Baratheon.
Meanwhile after freeing Storm’s End, Ned Stark went to the Tower of Joy, the place where his sister lay dying. Located in the Prince’s Path in the mountains of Dorne, it was a hideout of Prince Rhaegar. At the end of the War, Eddard Stark found his sister there, dying. He and six of his companions (Howland Reed, Lord Willam Dustin, Ethan Glover, Martyn Cassel, Theo Wull, and Ser Mark Ryswell) approached the tower, and found it guarded by three members of the Kingsguard: Ser Arthur Dayne, Ser Oswell Whent, and Lord Commander Gerold Hightower. The battle was epic as the three Kingsguard protected Lyanna from the seven.
In the end only Ned and Howland Reed survived. Lyanna had died, and Eddard pulled stones from the tower to make cairns for the dead. He took his sister’s body back North with him so she could be buried with her brother Brandon and her father Rickard whose death started the Rebellion. It was Lyanna’s death which reunited Ned and Robert over their shared grief. Robert was quickly married to Cersei Lannister to secure their support in his new regime.
Now Westeros was whole again united under the banner of the crowned stag of Baratheon. Most of the loyalist houses were pardoned, and few of them were diminished or outright exterminated. Westeros had not changed nearly as much as such a change would have suggested. However there were still clear and present dangers to the new crown including many secret loyalists, other houses vying for power, and of course two remaining Targaryens in Braavos.
Previously on Game of Thrones
Read Joe’s other articles:
Game of Thrones: Casting Roundup 1 and 2, Game of Thrones Primer II, Game of Thrones Primer I, Inn at the Crossroads Interview, Season 1 recap, The Greyjoy Rebellion, Robert’s Rebellion Pt.1, Robert’s Rebellion Pt.2