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Seven Devils & “Blackwater”

The North. The Vale. The Reach. The Rock. The Islands. The Stormlands. Dorne.

Blackwater - StannisWhen Aegon the Conqueror flew from Dragonstone on the back of his dragon, these were the Seven Kingdoms that stood across the continent of Westeros.  Lands fertile, populous and wealthy in both resources and manufacturing.  Lands which had thousands of years of history of being under their particular sovereigns’ rule.  Lands well-defended by strong armies.  He, on the other hand, had a meager contingent of warriors, his two sisters and their three dragons.  Aegon landed at a place on the shores of Blackwater Bay, established a base of operations and began his War of Conquest.   Years later, when he had conquered the Seven Kingdoms, he returned to his base on Westeros and raised it to be his capital, which he called King’s Landing.  He took the hundreds of swords of the defeated kings and lords and knights he had taken and, using the fire of his dragon, forged for himself a seat of power – the Iron Throne – which centralized all power in one spot.

Three hundred years later, Stannis Baratheon reached the shores of Blackwater Bay with the ships and army he took from his brother with much of the same desire as Aegon Targaryen.  To be the Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, he needed to take the Iron Throne from the forces of Joffrey Baratheon and his Lannister elders.  To finally earn his right, he would need to sack King’s Landing.

The North. The Vale. The Reach. The Rock. The Islands. The Stormlands. Dorne.

When Robert Baratheon, Ned Stark and Jon Arryn rose up in rebellion against King Aerys the Mad, the Kingdoms were split nearly evenly between those who supported the rebel forces and those who remained loyal to the dragons.  The North, the Vale, the Stormlands and the Riverlands – which had been vassals to the Iron Islands – rose up in rebellion while the Reach and Dorne came to support the Iron Throne.  The Lannisters, lords of Casterly Rock, were the only major power to stay out of the war – until the rebel victory at the Battle of the Trident.  After that, Tywin Lannister led his army to King’s Landing.  When King Aerys saw his former Hand outside his gates, he thought his salvation had come and opened the gates.  Instead, he stared in shock as Lannister forces began the Sack of King’s Landing.Blackwater - Tyrion  This prompted Aerys to turn to the Alchemists and command them to burn the entire city with wildfire – which was stopped by Ser Jaime by killing the King he was sworn to protect.

Seventeen years later, it was Lannister forces who made the bulk of the defense of King’s Landing under the command of Tywin’s son, Tyrion.  It was they who needed rallying to face off the much larger opposition that was sailing up the Blackwater, to burn and loot and sack their homes.  In this instance, the battle turned when the forces of Highgarden under Ser Loras Tyrell and Casterly Rock under Lord Tywin arrived to overwhelm Stannis’ forces.

But the battle had several turns: the wildfire of the Alchemists helped derail Stannis’ plans for landing closer to the Mud Gate and robbed him of many of his forces, including Ser Davos Seaworth.  The pullback by Ser Sandor Clegane because of his fear of fire robbed the defenders of the initiative.  The map of King’s Landing that Tyrion obtained from Varys gave him knowledge of how to bring soldiers behind Stannis’ attackers and take them unawares.  (A nice way of giving Tyrion an edge, given they took away his chain from the book).  The rallying cry by Tyrion to the defenders upon seeing their spirit weaken due to Joffrey’s departure – and honestly, how pathetic of Joffrey and of Cersei to turn tail at the moment of greatest danger.

Blackwater - JoffreyCersei feared for her son.  A son, she knew, that had never seen battle and had no business being at the head of an army.  All her lessons to Joffrey from last season on how “a King can make the truth be whatever he wishes it to be” fail at this juncture because neither she nor he can give him valor or strength.  His bravado is nothing more than a child’s attempt at playing hero.  Eventually you are forced to face the truth of things.  His mother, desperately drowning her fears in wine, knew this and had Lancel bring the King back.  Joffrey the bully is no Robb Stark.  And Stannis and the men he led were not peasants he could insult or girls like Sansa he could abuse.   Meanwhile Cersei seems to have taken to the drink in a way that would make her late husband proud.

Still, Joffrey’s reign over the Seven Kingdoms is likely more assured now by the actions of his uncle, his grandfather and their new allies, the Tyrells.  Stannis has been beaten.  Renly is dead.  That now leaves Robb Stark and Balon Greyjoy to deal with – and they more than likely will have to face each other due to Theon’s antics at Winterfell.

So 300 years after the Conquest and 17 years after the Rebellion, the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros — The North, The Vale, The Reach, The Rock, The Islands, The Stormlands, Dorne – burn once again.  The quest for power by the Lannisters and the Tyrells is but the latest iteration in the long-running game of thrones between the powerful houses and their vassals.   In the War of the Five Kings, the Battle of Blackwater Bay is one of the major moments.  It will shape the way the war, and the story, play out for all involved.  The temptation to rule each of the Seven Kingdoms pulls harder and harder on each of these players; each kingdom becoming a devil that drives the would-be rulers to spill blood, forsake honor and abandon reason. 

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