Courtesy HBO
Much blood was shed to win Robert that crown.

The Game of Thrones is now showing on HBO. The production and promotion of this series has been fantastic, but not everyone tuning in may be familiar with the series of books upon which it is based. A Song of Ice and Fire, currently spanning four expansive novels, introduced us to the world of Westeros and provides a plethora of extensive information. Presented here is a bit of that information to help newcomers to this lush and living world get and keep their bearings. All information is presented free of spoilers and describe the circumstances at the beginning of the series…

It was supposed to be a peaceful time. Brandon & Eddard Stark were young men, as was their friend Robert Baratheon. Robert was madly in love with the Starks’ sister, Lyanna, while Brandon was betrothed to Catelyn Tully. The peace was broken, however, when Lyanna disappeared one night with Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. At a tourney, Rhaegar had crowned Lyanna with winter flowers, naming her the Queen of Love and Beauty. Regardless of what their relationship actually was, Robert immediately called it an abduction.

Hoster Tully begged his future son-in-law to be patient, but Brandon rode for King’s Landing with his friends Jeffory Mallister, Kyle Royce, and Elbert Arryn, Elbert being nephew and heir to Jon Arryn of the Vale. When they arrived at the Red Keep, Brandon demanded the Prince come out and face him. Instead, he faced Aerys, Rhaegar’s father. Imprisoning the four would-be heroes, the Mad King first demanded Rickard Stark, Lord of Winterfell and father of Brandon, report to King’s Landing to represent his son in a trial by combat. When Rickard arrived, he and 200 of his best men were all killed, as was Brandon. Similar edicts were issued to the fathers of the other party members, they too were slain in turn. Aerys demanded that Robert and Eddard also be turned over for execution. In response, Jon Arryn raised his banners in revolt against the Iron Throne. Eddard and Jon married Catelyn and Lyssa Tully, respectively, to secure that House to their cause. Robert’s Rebellion had begun.

Battle of the Trident

After several battles at Summerhall, an indecisive conflict at Ashford and the rebels’ victory at the Battle of the Bells, it was the Battle of the Trident that proved to be the turning point of the rebellion. As the Targaryen loyalists clashed with the Tullys, Starks, Baratheons and Arryns, Robert and Rhaegar met in single combat. While Rhaegar was a more than capable swordsman and dealt Robert a grievous wound, the famous fury of House Baratheon won out. Robert smashed Rhaegar’s chest in with a blow from his warhammer so fierce it sent the rubies flying from the Crown Prince’s breastplate. Seeing their prince fall, the Targaryens broke and ran. Robert passed leadership of the army to Ned Stark, just in time for Tywin Lannister to side with the rebels.

The Sack of King’s Landing

Tywin did not make his defection known and went to King’s Landing, claiming loyalty to Aerys and asking to be allowed entry into the Red Keep. Aerys complied only to find the Lannisters sacking the city in Robert’s name. Enraged, Aerys commanded his pyromancers to let loose their caches of wildfire, intending to leave Robert a capitol burnt to cinders. He then ordered a member of his Kingsguard, Jaime Lannister, to kill his father. In response, Jaime killed the king. Tywin sent Gregor Clegane to deal with the rest of the royal family, and the Mountain did so with relish, dashing the infant prince Aegon’s brains out before raping his mother, Princess Elia, before murdering her as well. Eddard Stark arrived to find Jaime sitting on the Iron Throne and Tywin presenting the bodies of the children. Furious, Ned left to carry on the battles in the south.

The Siege of Storm’s End

Mace Tyrell spent most of the Rebellion camped outside of Storm’s End, keeping himself and Stannis Baratheon out of the war. He often held feasts within sight of the castle while Stannis and his men starved. The smuggler Davos Seaworth slipped around the back end of the castle, and with shipments of onions kept the Baratheon forces alive. Eddard Stark arrived after the sack of King’s Landing, and Mace Tyrell lowered his banners and retired from the field.

The Flight from Dragonstone

Now freed from the siege, Stannis commanded his fleets towards the final Targaryen stronghold of Dragonstone. Unfortunately, while they were able to take the castle, the prize had already fled. Queen Rhaella and Prince Viserys had retreated to Dragonstone when the war began, but Rhaella died there giving birth to Danaerys. Before Stannis could arrive, the Targaryen children were smuggled across the Narrow Sea, to Braavos and then to Pentos, beginning their life in exile.

Battle at the Tower of Joy

Absent from the battles and sieges of the war, three members of the Kingsguard were tasked with the protection of a tower in Dorne, southernmost of the Kingdoms. Eddard Stark learned his sister was being held there, and rode out to free her. Among Ned’s party was Howland Reed, Lord of Greywater Watch, and five others. Together they fought against Ser Oswell Whent, Lord Commander Gerold Hightower and Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning. Only Ned and Howland survived, and when they entered the Tower, they found Lyanna dying. Ned would return Arthur’s sword Dawn to his family in Dorne to help secure peace for his friend Robert, but before he left, Lyanna said something that haunted him long after Robert took the Iron Throne.

“Promise me, Ned.”

If you would like to know more, please consult the official HBO viewer’s guide or the Wiki of Ice and Fire (beware of spoilers). Also, if you find anything amiss or incorrect in these guides, please inform me.