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This article is about Daenerys Targaryen's attack. For other battles taking place at King's Landing, see the Battle of King's Landing (disambiguation).
"I defended the city last time it was attacked; I know it better than anyone. The city will fall tomorrow."
Tyrion Lannister to Jaime Lannister[src]

The Battle of King's Landing was the final engagement of Daenerys Targaryen's war for Westeros, fought between the Lannister-led forces of Queen Cersei Lannister and the Stark, Arryn and Targaryen alliance force, led by Queen Daenerys Targaryen for control over King's Landing, the capital and largest city of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and seat of the Iron Throne.

History

Prelude

"Oh yes, you'll be queen...for a time. Then comes another, younger, more beautiful, to cast you down and take all you hold dear"
Maggy the Frog's prophecy about Cersei Lannister's downfall[src]
Daenerys resumed hostilities with Queen Cersei after the Great War was won and the White Walkers were destroyed.[1] Daenerys began her campaign to take the Iron Throne, the center of power from which her house ruled Westeros for 300 years before the Targaryen dynasty was overthrown by Robert Baratheon. After the War of the Five Kings, however, the Baratheon dynasty was also left in shambles, and Cersei of House Lannister seized the Iron Throne with none left to oppose her after destroying her gathered enemies in the Great Sept of Baelor using leftover wildfire.[2] Cersei had promised to send her armies north to fight alongside the Targaryen, House Stark, and House Arryn armies against the Army of the Dead. However, Cersei betrayed them and held back her forces, restrengthening her position by hiring the Golden Company, which was ferried to Westeros by her prospective consort and ally, Euron Greyjoy, the commander of the Iron Fleet.[3]

After the Battle of Winterfell, Daenerys and her forces sailed for Dragonstone but were ambushed by Euron and the Iron Fleet, using Qyburn's anti-dragon scorpions to kill one of her last dragons, Rhaegal and smash her fleet. The ironborn also took Missandei captive and delivered her to Cersei in King's Landing. Daenerys, Tyrion, and Grey Worm parleyed with Cersei outside the gates of King's Landing, but Cersei ultimately refused to surrender to Daenerys and ordered Ser Gregor Clegane to behead Missandei before them. Daenerys angrily walks away with her forces.[3]

Jon, having given up his crown as King in the North to Daenerys as queen when she vowed to fight the Army of the Dead alongside him,[4] is pledged to support Daenerys with The North's forces in her resumed campaign.[3]. He marches south on the Kingsroad with what remains of the Dothraki and the armies of the North and the Vale straight towards King's Landing. Under a new prince, Dorne has also declared for Daenerys Targaryen, but they do not send their forces to King's Landing. Yara Greyjoy, who retook the Iron Islands, too doesn't send any forces. Daenerys also restored House Baratheon by legitimizing Gendry, a bastard son of Robert Baratheon, but he is unable to rally the Stormlands in time to participate in the battle.[3] The Riverlands and the Reach also do not participate in the battle.[5]

Tyrion reveals to Daenerys that Varys has betrayed her, and as a result, Daenerys has him burnt alive by Drogon on the beaches of Dragonstone in front of Tyrion and Jon. Tyrion later convinces Daenerys to not attack the city if the bells are rung, signaling surrender. He frees his brother, who was captured by the Targaryen forces while trying to cross their lines, telling him to convince their sister to surrender and escape to Pentos using a boat provided by Ser Davos Seaworth. Meanwhile, in King's Landing, Cersei rounds up as many smallfolk as she can to create a human shield against Daenerys,[3] closing the gates to the Red Keep as it becomes filled up. The Hound and Arya Stark, having ridden south from Winterfell in hopes of killing Gregor and Cersei, make it through, but Jaime is unable to make it through and takes an alternate path to the Red Keep.[5]

The battle

"Dracarys!"
Missandei's last words[src]
Davos Jon & Tyrion S8 Ep5

Jon, Davos, Tyrion, and their armies face off the Golden Company.

Sailing from Dragonstone and marching from the Kingsroad, Jon, Davos, and Tyrion consolidate the Unsullied, Dothraki, and Northern-Vale forces outside the gates of King's Landing. Captain Harry Strickland leads the Golden Company outside the city walls to face off the combined Targaryen, Stark, and Arryn forces.

In Blackwater Bay, Daenerys ambushes the Iron Fleet on Drogon while the fleet was still preparing for attack. Nosediving towards the fleet with the sun at her back, the tactic prevents the Iron Fleet from initially spotting Drogon as he closes in for the attack. In addition, Drogon flying fast and low made it difficult for the ships to accurately target him. In the ensuing attack, the Iron Fleet is all but wiped out; the ironborn futilely fire their scorpions, but the mighty dragon is far too fast for them as he lays waste to dozens of ships with dragonfire. Euron himself barely survives the assault by managing to jump into the sea before his ship is destroyed. With the Iron Fleet all but destroyed, Daenerys and Drogon proceed towards the city proper, destroying the Lannister forces manning the Scorpions on the ramparts.

While the Targaryen, Stark, and Arryn forces have a standoff with the Golden Company outside the city walls, Daenerys directs Drogon to the front gates, catching the defenders completely by surprise, destroying the gate in a fiery blast that shatters the Golden Company's lines and creates a breach.

The Targaryen, Stark, and Arryn forces charge through. Harry Strickland recovers from the attack but is killed by Grey Worm as he tries to retreat into the city. The Dothraki are the first to enter the city, cutting through the still-recovering Lannister forces and preventing them from recovering fast enough to create a proper defense. The Northmen and Unsullied are close behind, mopping up the stunned Lannister forces and pouring into the city. Daenerys attacks the Golden Company directly, decimating their retreating forces as they try to flee.

Meanwhile, the Targaryen, Stark, and Arryn forces battle the Lannister forces while Daenerys and Drogon strafe the city walls, destroying the remaining scorpions. Watching from the Red Keep, Cersei is in denial of her dire situation, as Qyburn informs of the loss of the Iron Fleet and Golden Company, destruction of all the anti-dragon ballistae, and breaching of the city gates.

As the fighting continues, Jon, Davos, Grey Worm and the bulk of the forces march down the main street of King's Landing, cutting down attacks from Lannister soldiers along the way. They soon join up with a group of Northmen in a standoff with a large Lannister contingent. With the last of the scorpions destroyed, Daenerys lands Drogon on a nearby roof, intimidating the remaining Lannister soldiers and small folk.

STARKENTOURAGEBE;;S

Jon leads the Northmen and knights of the Vale into King's Landing.

Realizing that the war is lost, the Lannister soldiers drop their weapons and surrender, causing cries from the people to ring the bells. Jon and Tyrion are relieved at the surrender while Cersei watches in disappointment as both her soldiers and people turn on her, their cries to ring the bells echoing throughout the city. The bells soon begin ringing, signaling that the battle has come to an end with a relatively bloodless Targaryen victory.

TheBellsWFire

Wildfire caches erupt from the dragonfire.

Daenerys stares at the Red Keep, knowing that her hated enemy who killed her child and close friend still holds it. Seemingly unable to accept the surrender as is, in a terrifying turn of events, she becomes enraged and unleashes Drogon on a destructive rampage across the city, destroying countless buildings and incinerating thousands of smallfolk and surrendered Lannister soldiers with dragonfire as a horrified Tyrion watches from beyond the city's burnt walls. Following Daenerys's lead, Grey Worm rejects the surrender as well by hurling a spear at one of the Lannister soldiers, triggering the Targaryen, Stark, and Arryn forces to begin sacking the city. Jon orders his men to stop. However, the men of the North are consumed by hatred for the actions of House Lannister (the execution of Ned Stark, the War of the Five Kings, the Red Wedding, Roose and Ramsay Bolton's rule and Cersei's treachery in the fight against the dead) and refuse to show mercy. In the ensuing chaos, Jon and Davos are separated, and Jon is forced to kill one of his own men when the man attempts to rape a woman. Cersei watches the unfolding carnage in mute horror and shock. Despite the deteriorating situation, Cersei remains defiant until Qyburn convinces her the battle is lost and that the Red Keep is presently under siege, advising Cersei to retreat to the (relative) safety of Maegor's Holdfast.

Across King's Landing, the wildfire caches placed beneath the city by the Mad King, begin to ignite and explode, triggered by the dragonfire, while buildings crumble and burn, crushing countless civilians who are caught in the collapse. As Davos attempts to evacuate civilians, Jon - witnessing the ever-increasing danger and horrified by Daenerys's brutality - exchanges a look with Davos and Jon orders the Stark and Arryn forces to begin a retreat from the city.

Clegane Battle S8 Ep5

The Clegane brothers duel each other to the death.

After several devastating strafe runs across the city, Daenerys directs Drogon to attack the Red Keep itself, partially destroying the Great Hall and several of the castle's towers. Meanwhile, Arya and the Hound infiltrate the Red Keep, but Sandor convinces Arya to turn back, warning her that if she goes further down her path for murder and vengeance, she'll end up like him. Arya and Sandor bid farewell and Arya rushes out of the Red Keep. As she tries to save fleeing civilians she encounters, Sandor confronts Cersei, Qyburn, and her Queensguard, among them his brother, Ser Gregor. Sandor's taunting of Gregor breaks Cersei and Qyburn's hold over him; the Mountain smashes Qyburn's skull while Cersei flees. Sandor kills the remaining Queensguard that survived from the falling stones and duels his brother, knocking off his armor and revealing his undead appearance. The Mountain is able to survive the Hound's attacks and pushes him against a wall, attempting to crush his eyes, but the Hound repels him and tackles him through a wall, and the two brothers fall hundreds of feet to their deaths into the flames below.

The Bells

Jaime reunites with Cersei.

Jaime goes around the Red Keep using a secret passage, but is confronted by Euron, having swam ashore after the destruction of his fleet. The two proceed to engage in a brutal melee. At the climax of their duel, Euron fatally stabs Jaime multiple times, but Jaime ultimately overpowers Euron and runs him through with his sword, killing him. Jaime then rushes to his sister, finding her in Maegor's Holdfast as the Red Keep begins crumbling around them. Comforting her, the two rush down to the crypts beneath the Red Keep where the dragon skulls are kept to make their escape. As the make their way through the crypts, the duo find that their exit to the boat has been blocked off by debris. Realizing the futility of their escape, Cersei desperately pleads with her brother to save her and their child. Jaime instead embraces her as the devastated Red Keep collapses on top of them.

Aftermath

Arya Burned Bodies S8 Ep5

Arya Stark awakens in the carnage of the dead city.

An indeterminate amount of time after the conclusion of the battle, a stirring Arya wakes up in rubble, covered in ash, blood, and debris, having been unable to save anyone despite her many attempts. As she observes her surroundings, she sees an apocalyptic scene: burnt out or collapsed buildings lining streets filled with countless bodies of people turned to ash where they were. Out of the lifeless ruins that was once King's Landing, she finds an unexpected survivor, Harry Strickland's horse, which she uses to ride out of the ruined city.[5] Daenerys later orders Grey Worm and the Unsullied to begin executing everyone who followed Cersei, including surrendered Lannister soldiers.[6]

The casualties during the battle have been immense. Including Lannister soldiers and innocent civilians, the death toll likely reached tens, if not hundreds of thousands, making the battle one of the deadliest in Westerosi history.

Catastrophic damage has been rendered to large sections of King's Landing due to Drogon's multiple dragonfire strafe runs. Combined with the ignited caches of wildfire, it is likely huge swaths of the city have been destroyed in the resulting firestorm. The degree of destruction has been so intense, that ash precipitates onto the city in significant quantities (enough to partially bury a sleeping Drogon) in the hours and days following the battle.

Ironically, Daenerys did to the city, under the Lannisters' rule, the same thing that the Lannisters had done to the city under the Targaryens' during the Sack of King's Landing, albeit in a disproportionately more violent and destructive.

S8 E6 Daenerys

Daenerys stands over the ruins of King's Landing.

In the aftermath of the battle, Daenerys seizes control over what little remains of King's Landing, occupying the city with her armies. She then has both the Unsullied and the Dothraki assemble in the courtyard of the Red Keep before arriving at the ruin castle to address them both. As Jon and Tyrion look on solemnly behind her, Daenerys delivers a victory speech to the remaining Dothraki and Unsullied, declaring the sack of King's Landing a success. She congratulates the Dothraki on delivering her the Seven Kingdoms. She then praises the Unsullied and calls her forces 'liberators' for 'freeing' the people of King's Landing. Daenerys then promotes Grey Worm as the Commander of all her forces and her Master of War. Continuing on, Daenerys declares her intent of continuing to break the wheel, enlisting her army to embark on a conquest of not only the rest of Westeros, but all of the known world, to the shock and horror of both Jon and Tyrion.

Red keep

The remains of the Red Keep following the battle.

In the books

In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, an equivalent event has not occurred. The TV show has surpassed the timeline of the books, two of which are yet to be published, so it is unclear if such an event will occur.

In "A Storm of Swords", Qyburn tells Jaime how Tyrion set the Blackwater on fire. That reminds Jaime of a dream he had about "green flames reaching up into the sky higher than the tallest towers, as burning men screamed in the streets". Perhaps this is a foreshadowing of the battle, if it ever occurs in the novels.

References

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