Tag: Guides (page 1 of 2)

A Beginner’s Guide to Westeros: Noble Houses, Part 2

Courtesy HBO

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…

Westeros is a large expanse of land. Houses large and small make up the population of the Seven Kingdoms. There are a few that distinguish themselves amongst the nobility, and some even play major roles in the politics of King’s Landing or the goings-on across the Narrow Sea. Here, in brief, we shall discuss a few of them and their prominent members.

House Frey

Sigil: Two Towers with bridge between
Words: (House Frey has no words)

To quote the news-monster Morbo of Futurama, the Frey family is ‘belligerent and numerous’. Founded a mere 600 years ago and ceded the land on the Trident to realize the first Frey lord’s vision of a bridge between the banks of the mighty river. The bridge is capped with identical castles on either side, called The Twins. By completing the bridge rapidly and exerting tolls from all who cross, the Freys grew quickly in wealth and influence. This meteoric rise caused other houses of the Riverlands to look upon them as upstarts, and they have been treated with disdain ever since.

Currently in control of the Twins and Lord of the Crossing is Walder Frey, an aging but no less vivacious man who delights in his series of young wives and the control he holds over the bridge. He is ambitious and cruel, eager to take advantage of the Great House’s need for his bridge, and according to his overlord, Hoster Tully, is disinclined to take oaths seriously.

House Hightower

Sigil: Tower topped with Flame
Words: We Light The Way

Oldtown is perhaps the largest and most wealthy city in all of Westeros. While King’s Landing has become more prominent, Oldtown has maintained its grandeur and ships from all over the world still crowd its harbor. It is home to the maesters’ Citadel and until the construction of the Great Sept of Baelor in King’s Landing was the seat of the Faith of the Seven. The tallest structure in the Seven Kingdoms is the 800-foot-tall Hightower, from which the ruling House of Oldtown takes its name.

Lord Leyton Hightower has not left his namesake for over a decade. His uncle Gerold served as Lord Commander of Mad King Aerys’ Kingsguard. His son, Baelor, is perhaps the most prominent member of the family still seen, known as ‘Brightsmile’ for his handsome demeanor. Despite his reclusiveness, Leyton’s family remains influential in the Seven Kingdoms.

House Martell

Sigil: Sun and Spear
Words: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken

Very much a people apart from the other Kingdoms, the inhabitants of Dorne maintain their old traditions, born of the sands in which they grew strong. The Martells were not conquered by the Targaryens, but joined the Seven Kingdoms through marriage and diplomacy instead. Since then, the Martells have ruled Dorne on behalf of the King on the Iron Throne, but style their leaders Princes instead of Kings and value daughters as highly as sons.

Prince Doran Martell, aging badly and affected by gout, rules Dorne from Sunspear. His sister Elia was married to Rhaegar Targaryen and slain by Gregor Clegane, along with her small children, during the Sack of King’s Landing. While Prince Doran bides his time and nurses this deep wound, his hot-headed brother Oberyn has a lesser measure of patience.

House Tyrell

Sigil: Golden rose
Words: Growing Strong

When House Gardener fell to Aegon the Conqueror, the Tyrells surrendered Highgarden to their new lord. In return, they were named Lords of the Reach and Wardens of the South. As such, they were given fertile lands and oversight of Oldtown, but were also charged with defending their lands against Dorne, who occasionally skirmished with the people of the grasslands. Even in times of peace, the lord of Highgarden is often Defender of the Marches as well as Warden of the South.

Those titles are currently held by Mace Tyrell, a lord charitably described as ‘somewhat tedious’. Other members of his house are more exemplary of its virtues and the cause for the jealousy of others, from Loras Tyrell, the famous Knight of Flowers, to beautiful Margaery Tyrell, an intelligent and shrewd young lady betrothed to Renly Baratheon.

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.

A Beginner’s Guide to Westeros: The Kingsguard

Courtesy HBO

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…

In the wake of his conquest of the Seven Kingdoms, Aegon Targaryen established a personal guard for himself and those of his royal bloodline. He chose seven sworn knights and called upon them to swear additional oaths to distinguish them from the rank and file. These brave men wore all white capes, carried plain white shields and eschewed excessive ornamentation or sigils on their armor. In this manner, they were not only plainly adorned but also plainly meant to be seen and not heard. As they accompany royalty at all hours and in all situations, they are aware of all manner of courtly intrigue, and thus expected to be just as adept with discretion and wisdom as they are with sword and horse. They are the Kingsguard.

Like the Night’s Watch far to the north, the Kingsguard take oaths that forsake their claims to such things as lands and titles. They forswear family, children, marriage and any allegiance to nobility save for their sovereign. They also swear to serve for life. Even if crippling wounds, wasting illness or old age would prevent them from serving in the field of other lords, a brother of the Kingsguard must maintain their duty until their very last breath is drawn.

The most senior, most experienced or most favored member of the Kingsguard is named Lord Commander, and charged with coordinating the activities of his sworn brothers as well as maintaining the ongoing history of the order, which has existed uninterrupted since the Conquest. The records of the Kingsguard’s names, deeds and noble deaths are recorded in the Book of Brothers, also known as White Book. Some famous Lord Commanders of the White Cloaks:

Ser Duncan the Tall was not only a member of the Kingsguard but a close personal friend of King Aegon V during the king’s childhood. Together, “Dunk and Egg” went on many adventures throughout the Seven Kingdoms.

Ser Gerold Hightower was the Lord Commander under the Mad King Aerys. During Robert’s Rebellion he and two of his sworn brothers were charged with the protection of the Tower of Joy. He fell in single combat to Eddard Stark.

Courtesy HBO

Ser Barristan Selmy, aka Barristan the Bold war pardoned for serving under Aerys and selected as Lord Commander under Robert Baratheon. A cautious and respectful knight, he is exemplary of the virtues to which members of the Kingsguard should aspire. He was, however, the oldest member of the order at the time of King Robert’s untimely death. Even before the fateful boar hunt, Joffrey Baratheon had taken to calling him ‘Barristan the Old’. His dismissal from the Kingsguard is the first in the history of the Seven Kingdoms, as members of the Kingsguard are sworn to serve for the rest of their lives.

Courtesy HBO

Ser Jaime Lannister is a member of the Kingsguard whose history belies his spotless white cloak. It was Jaime, after all, who stabbed Mad King Aerys in the back during the sack of King’s Landing. Eddard Stark found the Kingslayer upon the Iron Throne while the city burned. Afterward, Robert Baratheon allowed Jaime to remain in the Kingsguard, a move partially motivated by the debt owed by Robert to Jaime’s father, Tywin Lannister. In the wake of Robert’s death and the subsequent shifting of power, Jaime has been named Lord Commander of the Kingsguard.

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.

A Beginner’s Guide to Westeros: The Night’s Watch

Courtesy HBO

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…

The Wall was built some 8000 years ago, at the end of the Long Night when the Others and wildlings menaced the land of Westeros. Brandon the Builder laid the foundations along the heights anywhere he could. The result was a wall 800 leagues in length. Over the years it’s grown to 300 feet in height and enough width for several mounted knights to ride abreast in comfort. The men responsible for its growth are the same men tasked with guarding it and the realms to the south of it: the men of the Night’s Watch.

Courtesy HBO
Two of the newest Brothers of the Night’s Watch – Jon Snow & Samwell Tarly

There was a time when the entire realm considered membership in the Night’s Watch a high honor, and accorded any Brother wearing the black every courtesy and comfort. However, times have changed. Now, taking the black is an alternative to punitive punishment for any number of crimes, as well as a means for those facing the machinations of cannier or more ruthless family members to escape and live just a little bit longer. What was once an elite brotherhood of dedicated, noble defenders is now largely composed of thieves, rapists, murders, cravens and ill-tongued schemers nearly hung by their own ropes.

Still, the core of the Night’s Watch remains noble and steadfast. Men of the North still hold the Watch in high regard, with lesser sons of noble houses taking the black out of obligation, duty or a sense of honor rather than as an alternative to losing body parts. A wise Lord Commander looks to these noble Brothers to assist in training new recruits and impressing upon them the nature of the oaths they will take, oaths that will change and ultimately end their lives.

The Night’s Watch is divided into three distinct paths. Rangers scout north of the Wall and are the martial arm of the Watch. Builders maintain the Wall and its various strongholds, from the Shadow Tower to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. Stewards tend to the menial tasks of the Watch to keep it running and serve Brothers of higher rank when asked. All of them are necessary for the Watch to be maintained, especially as its numbers dwindle.

The oath that every Brother takes, from the basest criminal to the most noble sworn knight, is as follows:

Courtesy HBO
Lord Commander Jeor Mormont, “The Old Bear”.

Night gathers, and now my watch begins.
It shall not end until my death.

I shall take no wife,
hold no lands,
father no children.

I shall wear no crowns
and win no glory.

I shall live and die at my post.

I am the sword in the darkness.
I am the watcher on the walls.

I am the fire that burns against cold,
the light that brings the dawn,
the horn that wakes the sleepers,
the shield that guards the realms of men.

I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch,
for this night and all the nights to come.

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.

A Beginner’s Guide to Westeros: Across the Narrow Sea

Courtesy HBO
Magister Illyrio Mopatis presents Danaerys Targaryen in Pentos.

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…

Westeros is not alone. Across the Narrow Sea from the Seven Kingdoms is the continent of Essos, with city-states of exotic men and women, noble savages and smiling assassins. It was from here that Aegon Targaryen, First of his Name, called Aegon the Conqueror came to bring the Seven Kingdoms under his rule. The Valyrian Freehold once covered Essos and was the dominant power in the world, before its Doom 100 years before Aegon departed Essos with his dragons and his bannermen. But that is a story for another time…

The Free Cities – Valyria’s Legacy

Eight of the nine Free Cities were once colonies of the Valyrian Freehold. Since the Doom of Valyria they have found their own way to grow and distinguish themselves. Some share common aspects of their ancestry, such as speaking a dialect of Valyrian, while some also have become quite unique. From the Unsullied eunuch warriors of Qohor to the pleasure houses of Lys, the Free Cities attract all sorts of attention.

Pentos is one of the largest ports of the Free Cities, and it was to here that Viserys and Danaerys Targaryen were taken, and where Viserys arranged with Magister Illyrio Mopatis to marry Danaerys to Khal Drogo of the Dothraki.

Braavos – Bastard Son of Valyria

The grandest of all the Free Cities was not a Valyrian colony. It was, in fact, a refuge for those getting out of the way of rampant Freehold expansion. After the Doom, the Titan of Braavos rose as a beacon to the other Free Cities. Situated on a series of islands in a brackish lagoon, the city holds temples to many gods, including R’hllor, the Father of Waters and the Many-Faced God, whose followers claim bears different names all over the world, including the Stranger amongst the gods of Westeros.

Braavos is also famous for its flamboyant, deft and deadly swordfighters, called bravos, including Syrio Forel, Arya’s swo- “dance instructor.”

The Dothraki Sea

Beyond the Free Cities is a vast savannah of hundreds of different grasses. When the wind blows, the grass flows and ebbs like waves of water. This is the Dothraki Sea, the only one those men of the horse trust. The Dothraki are highly suspicious of any water their horses cannot drink.

They rove across this sea of grass in the hundreds of thousands, organized in khalasar armies and raiding parties. A Dothraki man only ever cuts his hair when he is defeated his battle. Khal Drogo, who took Danaerys Targaryen as his Khaleesi, has never cut his hair.

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.

A Beginner’s Guide to Westeros: Robert’s Rebellion

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.

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