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Daenerys Targaryen: "I was born to rule the Seven Kingdoms, and I will."
Jon Snow: "You'll be ruling over a graveyard if we don't defeat the Night King."
Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow[src]

Daenerys Targaryen's war for Westeros was a military effort by Daenerys Targaryen to conquer the Seven Kingdoms and seize the Iron Throne of Westeros. Previously, House Targaryen ruled the Seven Kingdoms until they were overthrown during Robert's Rebellion two decades before Daenerys's invasion. Her father, Aerys II Targaryen, was the last Targaryen king to sit on the Iron Throne.

The rebellion resulted in the crowning of Robert Baratheon and the beginning of the Baratheon dynasty. Robert's reign was characterized by relative stability and strength, surviving through the Greyjoy Rebellion. However, Robert's death resulted in a massive civil war in the realm, the War of the Five Kings, which greatly weakened the dynasty and failed to end the growing friction between the noble houses of Westeros. Following the destruction of the Great Sept of Baelor, Cersei Lannister ascended to the Iron Throne, thus beginning the Lannister dynasty, though the Lannisters had truly ruled from the shadows since Robert's death.

After forming a pact with Yara Greyjoy and Theon Greyjoy, who oppose their uncle, Euron Greyjoy, King of the Iron Islands, and securing the allegiance of House Tyrell, the rulers of the Reach, and Dorne, the combined Targaryen fleet sails to Westeros to place Daenerys on the Iron Throne and restore the Targaryen dynasty.[1][2] Daenerys's campaign to take the Iron Throne is put on hold to aid Jon Snow, House Stark, and the North in the Great War against the White Walkers and their army of the dead, and the living ultimately prevail when the Night King is destroyed at the Battle of Winterfell at Winterfell.

The combined forces of the Unsullied, Dothraki, the North, and the Vale under the leadership of Daenerys Targaryen lay siege to King's Landing. The Battle culminates in a decisive victory for Daenerys Targaryen's forces, the eradication of the Lannister forces, the Golden Company, and subsequent conquest of the city, and the Iron Throne by Daenerys Targaryen. Much of the population and structures of King's Landing are destroyed in the battle. With King's Landing and the Iron throne conquered, and Cersei Lannister and her forces eliminated, the war for Westeros ends in victory for Daenerys Targaryen.[3]

Prelude

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Robert's Rebellion brought an end to the Targaryen dynasty.

For nearly three centuries since the War of Conquest, the Targaryen dynasty ruled the unified Seven Kingdoms of Westeros from the Red Keep in King's Landing. However, the reign of King Aerys II Targaryen, nicknamed the Mad King for his insanity and cruelty, was challenged in the form of Robert's Rebellion by four Great Houses and their bannermen due to a confluence of events. The rebellion was ignited by the alleged kidnapping of Lyanna Stark, betrothed to Robert Baratheon, by Rhaegar Targaryen, heir to the Iron Throne, and the subsequent gruesome executions of Rickard Stark and his heir, Brandon Stark, with wildfire and torture by the Mad King's orders. Ultimately, the civil war saw a rebel victory with Prince Rhaegar's death at the Battle of the Trident and the Mad King's death during the Sack of King's Landing; only the young Prince Viserys Targaryen and newborn Princess Daenerys Targaryen survived due to their smuggling across the Narrow Sea to the Free Cities of Essos by loyalists. Robert was crowned king, beginning the Baratheon dynasty, and was married to Cersei Lannister to secure the backing of House Lannister, which had sacked King's Landing in Robert's name.

Robert's reign seemingly saw stability throughout the realm, though in actuality, tension had begun to stir among the noble houses, which had been seen in instances such as the Greyjoy Rebellion, where Balon Greyjoy had declared himself King of the Iron Islands. Furthermore, the crown spiraled into tremendous debt to the Lannister family, who in turn owed money to the Iron Bank of Braavos. Despite House Lannister's well-known reputation of always paying their debts, the gold mines of Casterly Rock had at last run dry. The death of King Robert, which had secretly been orchestrated by Queen Cersei to place her son, Prince Joffrey Baratheon, on the throne, threw the realm into chaos as civil war erupted in the form of the massive War of the Five Kings. While Robert's two brothers, Stannis Baratheon and Renly Baratheon, laid claim to the Iron Throne on the basis that Cersei's children were bastards born of incest with her brother, Jaime Lannister, Robb Stark, who had been proclaimed the King in the North, led an independence movement for the North and the Riverlands and Balon Greyjoy once more led an independence movement for the Iron Islands, declaring himself the Iron King.

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The War of the Five Kings devastated Westeros both politically and literally, leaving it ripe for conquest.

Each king eventually fell from battle, massacre, or murder, though the Lannisters' faction achieved a hollow victory as Tommen Baratheon ascended to the Iron Throne and their new allies, House Bolton and House Frey, took control of the North and the Riverlands, respectively. House Lannister now controlled the throne in all but name. Nonetheless, House Tyrell, whom the Lannisters had allied with after Renly's death and were forced to rely upon for their military and monetary support, began vying for greater influence and control over the young king, much to the chagrin of the Lannisters, who had lost Tywin Lannister after he was murdered by the exiled Tyrion Lannister for false incrimination. Meanwhile, many of the smallfolk began resisting the nobility, with several joining a radical movement of the Faith of the Seven known as the Sparrows. The High Sparrow found great sway over King Tommen, imprisoning Margaery Tyrell, the wife of Tommen, her brother Loras Tyrell, and eventually Cersei herself, forcing them to atone for their sins and to undergo trials. On the day of Loras's and Cersei's trial, however, the Great Sept of Baelor was destroyed with wildfire in a plot orchestrated by Cersei to destroy all of her gathered enemies. However, the plot resulted in King Tommen's suicide, leaving the Baratheon dynasty destroyed. With all of her children dead, Myrcella Baratheon having been poisoned by the vengeful Sand Snakes in Dorne who sought vengeance for Elia Martell, who had been murdered by Lannister bannerman Gregor Clegane during Robert's Rebellion, and Oberyn Martell, Cersei ascended to the Iron Throne, beginning the Lannister dynasty.

The Winds of Winter 13

An alliance of supporters of the Targaryen resurgence - and opponents of the Lannister dynasty - is forged.

Having overthrown the complacent House Martell, Ellaria Sand brought Dorne into an alliance with the resurgent House Targaryen, now led by Daenerys, who had with her three dragons and a massive army built up during her Liberation of Slaver's Bay and conquest of the Dothraki. Olenna Tyrell joined this alliance, seeking justice for the deaths of her son, Mace Tyrell, and her grandchildren at Cersei's hand, pledging the Reach to House Targaryen. Yara Greyjoy and Theon Greyjoy, with 100 stolen ships of the Iron Fleet and their faction of loyal Ironborn, also formed a pact with Daenerys Targaryen to depose their uncle, Euron Greyjoy, who had seized the Salt Throne after murdering Balon and winning over the Ironborn lords at the subsequent Kingsmoot. Elsewhere in the North, the Battle of the Bastards saw the destruction of House Bolton and the restoration of House Stark to Winterfell, where Jon Snow, the alleged bastard son of Eddard Stark, was proclaimed the new King in the North by the lords of the North and the Vale. In actuality and unbeknownst to all but a few, however, Jon Snow is in actuality the legitimate son of Eddard's sister, Lyanna Stark, and Rhaegar Targaryen, and thus is the nephew of Daenerys Targaryen. As he is the only legitimate son of Prince Rhaegar, who was the first in the succession line, Jon Snow is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.

In the Riverlands, Arya Stark murdered Walder Frey and the rest of the Frey men, further avenging the Red Wedding and leaving House Lannister without any allies or vassals apart from their bannermen in the Westerlands and possibly the houses of the Crownlands.

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The mythical White Walkers have reawakened, leading an army of the dead.

While the struggle for the Iron Throne rages on in southern Westeros, the Northmen brace for the coming winter - the return of the Long Night - and the Great War against the reawakened White Walkers, led by the Night King, and their army of the dead, whom the southerners continue to remain unaware of. Because the White Walkers have been gone for thousands of years, most believed them to be either extinct or completely unreal in the first place, nothing more than creatures that were the subjects of scary stories for children.

Course of the conflict

Opening moves

New alliances

Dragonstone-throne-room

Daenerys returns to Dragonstone.

Queen Daenerys Targaryen, for the first time since her storm-ridden birth, sets foot on Westerosi ground on the beaches of Dragonstone, the ancestral castle-island of House Targaryen, and begins planning the invasion and reconquest of the Seven Kingdoms at the chamber of the Painted Table. In response to hearing of the Targaryen armada sailing to Westeros, with Tyrion Lannister himself as Hand of the Queen to Daenerys, Queen Cersei Lannister invites King Euron Greyjoy to King's Landing to propose an alliance with him. Euron had initially attempted to court Daenerys but was beaten by Theon and Yara Greyjoy, the children of Balon Greyjoy, Euron's older brother who was killed and usurped by Euron himself. Euron arrives in King's Landing and explains his story to Cersei, pressuring her to marry him to solidify a potential alliance between the Lannisters and the Greyjoys. Euron also repeatedly mocks Cersei's brother and lover, Ser Jaime Lannister. However, Cersei declines to marry him due to his past of betrayal, so Euron vows to make Cersei change her mind by bringing her a priceless gift, and leaves with the Iron Fleet to fulfill his promise.[4]

Cersei also summons the lords of the Reach to King's Landing, to bend the knee and to fight for her against Daenerys. To gain their loyalty, Cersei insisted on the fact that her rival was the daughter of the Mad King, twisting some of her acts in the Bay of Dragons and using the fact that she was leading a foreign army of Dothraki and Unsullied to frighten the lords.[5]

Naval assault

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The Iron Fleet attacks the Targaryen-Greyjoy fleet.

At the gathered war council in the chamber of the Painted Table, Daenerys and her vassals and allies discuss strategies for their campaign. She sends Yara and Theon Greyjoy to Dorne with Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes so that they can consolidate the Dornish armies and gather the Dornish fleet to besiege King's Landing. In the meantime, she sends her own fleet and her Unsullied led by Grey Worm to conquer Casterly Rock, the ancestral home of House Lannister.[5]

The Targaryen-Greyjoy fleet is ambushed on the way to Dorne by Euron Greyjoy and the Iron Fleet, which launches fireballs into Yara and Theon's stolen ships and cripple much of the Targaryen naval power. Euron's men board the stolen ships, slaughtering Yara and Theon's followers. Euron himself personally boards Yara's flagship, Black Wind, locking onto it with the Silence. During the battle, Euron kills Obara Sand and Nymeria Sand and his crew capture Ellaria and her daughter, Tyene Sand. Euron then bests his niece in a melee. When Euron confronts his nephew Theon, telling him to come and rescue his sister, Theon instead jumps overboard into Blackwater Bay. Euron and the Iron Fleet sail away to King's Landing as Theon watches on, his sister's fleet burning and sinking to the bottom of the Blackwater.[5]

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Euron parades his prisoners through King's Landing to the Red Keep.

Euron eventually returns to King's Landing, riding on his horse through the streets of the city and parading his prisoners: Yara, Ellaria, and Tyene. Smallfolk cheer him on as he rides towards the Red Keep with the City Watch clearing a path for him. He presents Ellaria and Tyene to Cersei as a gift, who declares to the gathered court that with Euron Greyjoy's fleet, they will be able to come together and defeat the daughter of the Mad King. Cersei later has the two confined in a cell beneath the Red Keep and poisons Tyene with the same poison that Ellaria used on Myrcella Baratheon: the Long Farewell. The two are gagged and chained on opposite sides of the cell so that Ellaria, who will be forcefully fed, is forced to watch her daughter succumb to the poison and her body rot.[6]

Fall of the Tyrells

While meeting with Jon Snow, the King in the North, to negotiate a non-aggressive pact, Varys informs Daenerys that Yara Greyjoy and the Sand Snakes have been captured with their fleet smashed, bar two or three ships. The whereabouts of Euron Greyjoy's Iron Fleet remains unknown to them. Nonetheless, Tyrion Lannister proceeds with his plan to take Casterly Rock from House Lannister: the Fall of Casterly Rock. While the Unsullied army lays siege to the castle, Grey Worm leads a smaller force of Unsullied through the sewers below, which Tyrion had previously been put in charge of by his father. Tyrion had created a secret entrance to his own chambers which he would use to sneak in prostitutes; Grey Worm and the Unsullied use this to their advantage, sneaking into the castle and taking out the Lannister guards posted near the gates before opening them and allowing the Unsullied to pour in. The Unsullied overpower the Lannister garrison, and the Rock, which has never fallen before, quickly falls to the Unsullied. However, Grey Worm notes that the garrison was unusually small and that the main Lannister army was mysteriously absent. He looks over the battlements to see the Iron Fleet attacking the Targaryen fleet in the Sunset Sea. Grey Worm grabs a dying Lannister soldier, frustratingly asking where the rest of the Lannisters are.[6]

703 Attacking Casterly Rock

The Unsullied attack Casterly Rock.

As it turns out, Ser Jaime Lannister led the Lannister army to the Reach with the backing of House Tarly, former bannermen to House Tyrell. The combined Lannister-Tarly host leads the sack of Highgarden, and Highgarden falls quickly as the Tyrell garrison is smashed and the Lannisters and Tarlys occupy the castle. Ser Jaime confronts Lady Olenna Tyrell, informing her that he used a similar strategy to the one that Robb Stark had used during the War of the Five Kings at the Battle of the Whispering Wood, where Jaime's army had been defeated and scattered and Jaime himself captured by House Stark. Jaime offers poisoned wine to Olenna rather than facing a more gruesome execution at the hands of his sister. After drinking the poisoned wine, Olenna confesses to having murdered his and Cersei's son, Joffrey Baratheon, at the Purple Wedding.[6]

Lannister army reaches Highgarden s7

The Lannister-Tarly army marches on Highgarden.

With this, the Unsullied army is currently trapped at Casterly Rock and Lannisport in the Westerlands with no food stores as Jaime had emptied the larders before he left, while any remaining loyalists to House Targaryen in the Reach and Dorne, the region just south to the Reach, are trapped south by the Lannister-Tarly army. Varys notes that Dorne may descend into chaos with Ellaria and the Sand Snakes dead or captured; House Martell had previously been extinguished. Thus, Daenerys has lost most of her allies in Westeros as well as a significant chunk of her fleet. Tyrion points out that they still have enough ships to bring the Dothraki to Westeros and lay siege to King's Landing, but Cersei has already stripped the Reach of much of its harvest, leaving her prepared to outlast her enemies in a siege. Enraged by the defeat, and out of patience for Tyrion's cautious plans, Daenerys decides to take matters into her own hands.[6]

Crossing the Goldroad

The combined Lannister-Tarly army under Jaime Lannister, Bronn, Randyll Tarly, and Dickon Tarly makes its' way back towards King's Landing, spreading thin along the Blackwater Rush and taking with them a massive supply convoy that includes much of the Reach's harvest. The gold reserves of Highgarden are successfully sent ahead to King's Landing in secret, as Cersei intends to use them to pay off her debts to the Iron Bank of Braavos, which will enable her to take another loan from them and hire the Golden Company (the largest sellsword company in Essos) to help enforce her authority.[7]

As the army briefly stops along the Goldroad near King's Landing, it is ambushed by the united Dothraki khalasar. With Euron Greyjoy and the Iron Fleet busy tying down the Unsullied at Casterly Rock in the west, Daenerys has managed to land her Dothraki on the eastern coast of Westeros without interference. As Jaime Lannister and Randyll Tarly have the Westerosi forces assume shield-walls in an attempt to counter the cavalry charge, Daenerys herself appears overhead flying on Drogon. She uses his dragonfire to punch a huge hole in the Lannister line, allowing the Dothraki to swarm through. Archers fire on both sides, though as the Dothraki lack armor they take greater losses from this. While the armored and better-equipped Westerosi troops do inflict casualties on the Dothraki, they are greatly outnumbered, and repeated dive-bombing attacks by Daenerys and Drogon soon break their morale, causing many formations to break and flee. Daenerys then shifts her attacks to the supply convoy, having Drogon incinerate the wagons of grain one after another.

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The Dothraki charge at the Lannister-Tarly army.

Desperate, Jaime attempts to turn the tables by killing the enemy commander: with no Targaryen heir, if Daenerys is killed her invasion will fail no matter how many men the Lannisters lose. He rallies a formation of archers to target Daenerys when she and Drogon dive, but Drogon sees them and pulls up to protect his rider, the arrows glancing off his scales. Jaime then has Bronn use the "scorpion" crossbow to target Drogon instead. After an initial miss, Bronn manages to hit Drogon in the shoulder as he dives at the scorpion, but despite the wound, Drogon manages to regain his balance just before he hits the ground; he angrily destroys the scorpion with his fire, narrowly missing Bronn.

By now, the Westerosi forces are in full rout, with the Dothraki pursuing and mercilessly slaughtering anyone they can catch. Unwilling to accept the terrible defeat, Jaime notices that Daenerys has dismounted on the riverbank and is trying to remove the scorpion bolt from Drogon's shoulder. Attempting to turn the tables one last time, he grabs a lance and makes a desperate charge directly at her. Just as he is about to reach Daenerys, Drogon sees him and shields Daenerys with his head, sending a blast of dragonfire at Jaime; however, Bronn tackles him out of the way and they both plunge into the Blackwater Rush.

704 Battle of Tumbleton 15

Jaime charges at Daenerys and Drogon.

The survivors of the battle, including Randyll and his son, Dickon Tarly, are captured and presented a choice by Daenerys. They can bend the knee and join her in building a better world or die. Randyll refuses to bend the knee to Daenerys and chooses death. Dickon agrees with his father's choice and opts for the same. Daenerys accepts their choice and has Drogon execute them via dragonfire. Upon their execution, any soldiers who hadn't already been cowed into submission by the dragon, immediately bend the knee in fear.[8]

The battle at the Goldroad undid nearly all the advantages Cersei gained from her previous victories; her armies have been severely reduced and much of the food supplies she needs for the siege have been destroyed, while her allied House Tarly has been effectively put out of the war. Daenerys finally has exhibited the power of her dragons in full force and gained a foothold on the Westeros mainland. Presumably, with the remains of Jaime's army having bent the knee, her Unsullied would be able to link up with the Dothraki and march on King's Landing.[7][8]

The White Walkers

Unsteady armistice

Jaime, having been rescued from drowning in the Blackwater Rush by Bronn, manages to return to King's Landing and inform Cersei of the defeat. Shell-shocked by his encounter with Drogon and the Dothraki and fearful of provoking Daenerys to use her dragons again, he pleads for Cersei to negotiate, as he believes there is no way the Lannisters can win the war, even if she hires mercenaries. Cersei, however, believes she and Jaime will be killed either way and resolves to fight on.

Tyrion and Jaime Eastwatch

Tyrion and Jaime Lannister meet in King's Landing.

When Jon Snow receives a message from Bran Stark that the Night King and his Army of the Dead are marching toward Eastwatch, he says he must return North to prepare their defenses and asks again for Daenerys's help. However, Daenerys is worried that Cersei will take advantage and march back in while they deal with the Army of the Dead. Tyrion proposes a plan that they provide Cersei with proof that the Army of the Dead is real by showing her a wight as evidence. Daenerys allows Tyrion to meet with Jaime in King's Landing in secret to get an audience with Cersei. At their secret meeting beneath the Red Keep, Tyrion asks his brother to relay his and Daenerys's offer to their sister: to treat with Daenerys in a parley in order to prove the existence and return of the White Walkers and to negotiate a truce in order to deal with the threat in the North. While skeptical, Cersei accepts to meet with Daenerys in order to gain time after her recent losses. As she is pregnant with yet another child by Jaime, this gives her added motivation to gain time to secure her position at any cost. As the two embrace, Cersei warns Jaime not to "betray" her again.[8]

To secure a wight to bring to the summit per Tyrion's plan to convince Cersei, Jon Snow ventures beyond the Wall for the Wight Hunt with Ser Jorah Mormont of Daenerys's Queensguard, Robert Baratheon's last bastard son Gendry, wildling chieftain Tormund, several members of the Brotherhood Without Banners, including Lord Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr, and Sandor Clegane, and several wildlings, while Ser Davos Seaworth stays behind at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea with the Night's Watch. They capture a wight but are nearly overcome by the army of the dead on a frozen lake when Daenerys arrives with her three dragons, who had previously received a raven from Gendry and Davos at Eastwatch asking for her aid. Though they all escape, Jon later atop his uncle Benjen Stark's horse after he sacrifices himself, the Night King is able to kill Viserion and later reanimates the fallen dragon as a wight. Meanwhile, on a Targaryen ship en route to King's Landing for the parley, Jon pledges fealty to Daenerys, declaring her his queen.[9]

Dragonpit Summit

"There's only one war that matters - the Great War - and it is here."
Jon Snow at the Dragonpit Summit[src]
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The Targaryen and Stark leaders arrive to parley with the Lannisters in the Dragonpit Summit.

The summit is held at the Dragonpit in King's Landing. Ser Jaime Lannister and Ser Bronn oversee siege preparations on the battlements of the city walls with the Lannister forces and City Watch while the forces of House Targaryen - the Unsullied and the Dothraki - line up in formation outside the city gates, commanded by Grey Worm. The small Targaryen fleet sails into Blackwater Bay, where Euron Greyjoy's Iron Fleet protects the harbor, the Silence in front of the Ironborn ships. In her chambers, Cersei Lannister is informed by Jaime that Daenerys Targaryen has not been spotted with her retinue. Cersei tells Ser Gregor Clegane that should things turn sour to kill Daenerys, Tyrion Lannister, and Jon Snow in that order then deal with the rest however he please before departing from the Red Keep to the Dragonpit with Jaime, Gregor, Euron, and Qyburn.

Ser Bronn escorts Jon, Tyrion and their retinue to the Dragonpit. Brienne of Tarth and Podrick Payne are already among them, having been sent by Sansa Stark from Winterfell to represent her interests at the gathering. Podrick and Tyrion are glad to see each other again, and Tyrion questions Bronn over his allegiances and remind him that he could double the price his sister pays. Bronn says he's doing just fine in his position, but admits he is glad to see Tyrion again and alive. Sandor Clegane and Brienne also make peace with one another and talk about Arya Stark.

In the Dragonpit, Jon Snow, Davos Seaworth, and Brienne take their seats at the Stark tent while Tyrion, Missandei, Varys, Theon Greyjoy, and their Dothraki guardsmen, including Qhono, walk towards the Targaryen tent. Bronn and Pod, with Brienne's permission, leave together to grab a drink in the city and let the "fancy folk" talk. Cersei shows up moments later with her retinue, including her entire Queensguard taking the Lannister tent at the center. She grows impatient with Daenerys's absence, but Daenerys shows up moments later atop Drogon with Rhaegal flying by his brother. Drogon lands in the Dragonpit, allowing Daenerys to dismount and join the summit before the dragon takes flight.

Tyrion begins the discussion by mentioning larger concerns, but Euron mocks him and tells Theon to submit to him to save Yara. Cersei and Jaime have him take his seat, and Tyrion resumes his talking point: they may never live in harmony again, but they have a common enemy that they must face, requiring a truce. Jon then has the Hound bring the crate he's been carrying to the pit and open it. The chained captured wight lunges at Cersei but is held back by its chain. The Hound chops it into pieces, the wight showing no pain and its severed limbs continuing to move. Jon demonstrates that wights can be destroyed by fire, setting fire to a piece of the wight, and with dragonglass, stabbing the wight with a dragonglass dagger. Euron asks if the wights can swim. Jon responds they can't and Euron declares his intentions to return with the Iron Fleet to the Iron Islands, advising Daenerys to do the same. Realizing that the White Walkers are real, Cersei agrees to a truce with Daenerys but says to Jon that he must agree to remain neutral when the war to come is won. Jon, bound to the code of honor among Northmen, informs the summit that he has already pledged fealty to Daenerys and can only serve her as his queen. Cersei declares the meeting over and leaves. Brienne tries to convince Jaime to talk sense into Cersei, but Jaime is reluctant to do so. Tyrion then declares that he will try and go reason with his sister, and that he must do it alone.

Escorted by Ser Gregor, Tyrion meets with Jaime one last time, the two bonding over their shared "idiocy," before walking into the lion's den. Cersei is disgusted by Tyrion, accusing him of wanting to destroy their family. Tyrion tries to convince her otherwise, but when she refuses to hear it, he begins to provoke her, admitting he has thought of ways to see her dead more than any other person. He implores Cersei to have Ser Gregor kill him, but the twitching Cersei is able to hold back. Cersei holds her stomach, and Tyrion deduces that she is pregnant once more.

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After Cersei reveals her plot to betray the truce, Jaime abandons his sister and rides north.

As Jon and Daenerys discuss the old Targaryen dragons, Tyrion returns with Cersei and her retinue. Cersei agrees to the truce with the Targaryen and Stark alliance and will send the Lannister armies north to help fight the Great War. She hopes that they will remember this deed after the war to come is won. Secretly, however, Cersei conspires with Euron to abandon her new allies in the north and instead focus on reconquering Westeros while her enemies to the north slaughter each other, a decision that leads to Jaime abandoning his sister.[10]

With this, Daenerys Targaryen's military campaign to seize the Iron Throne and restore her family dynasty are put temporarily on hold until the Army of the Dead are defeated in the Great War.[10]

Rescue of Yara Greyjoy

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Yara is rescued by her brother Theon.

While Euron Greyjoy is in the Red Keep with Cersei Lannister, Theon Greyjoy sneaks aboard the Silence docked in Blackwater Bay outside King's Landing with his men. They take out some of Euron's men as they make their way to where Yara is being held captive, tied to a post. Theon cuts her free, and Yara beats him to the ground, likely for abandoning her before, but helps him back up for rescuing her as she tried to rescue him before. Together with their men, they escape the Silence. Yara decides to sail to the Iron Islands with her three remaining ships to take them back in Daenerys's name while Theon leads a group of ironborn to Winterfell to fight for the Starks in the Great War.[11]

Hostilities resume

"We have won the Great War. Now we will win the last war."
Daenerys Targaryen[src]
GoT S08E03 AKNK

The destruction of the Night King secured a victory for the living in the Great War.

Despite Cersei holding back the royal Lannister armies, the Great War is won by the alliance of living armies led by the Great Houses of Stark, Targaryen, and Arryn at the Battle of Winterfell, where the Night King is destroyed, consequentially destroying the remaining White Walkers and wights under his command. After a massive funeral is held outside Winterfell, Daenerys declares their victory over the dead to the surviving lords and knights and proclaims that they will now focus on the "last war," taking the Iron Throne from Cersei Lannister.[12][13]

The Iron Throne

Conflict escalates

Strategy S8 ep4

Daenerys's war council plans the future of the war.

Daenerys, Jon Snow, Tyrion, Varys, Grey Worm, Missandei, Sansa Stark, Arya Stark, and other officers attend a war council at Winterfell to plan the taking of King's Landing. Tyrion reiterates that their strategy is not to kill thousands of innocent smallfolk and prevent as much slaughter as possible. Varys informs the group that Yara Greyjoy has succeeded in taking back the Iron Islands and that the new Prince of Dorne has pledged his support to Daenerys. Daenerys plans to sail back to Dragonstone from White Harbor with Tyrion, Varys, Missandei, Grey Worm, and the Unsullied, which have been reduced to half their number, while Jon will march south down the Kingsroad with the remaining Dothraki and the armies of the North and the Vale, which Sansa Stark begrudgingly accepts.

Upon docking at Dragonstone, Daenerys and the small Targaryen fleet are suddenly ambushed by Euron Greyjoy and the Iron Fleet. The ironborn succeed in taking down Rhaegal with anti-dragon scorpions and target the Targaryen ships after Daenerys retreats on Drogon. The survivors swim ashore to Dragonstone, but Missandei is captured by the ironborn and delivered to Cersei in King's Landing.

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Euron's fleet surprise attacks Daenerys.

Daenerys and Tyrion parley with Cersei and Qyburn outside the gates of King's Landing, but neither side agree to surrender to the other. Tyrion's attempts to appeal to Cersei and Qyburn's humanity fail, and Cersei has Ser Gregor Clegane behead Missandei in front of Daenerys, Tyrion, Grey Worm, Varys, Drogon, and the Unsullied. Angrily and distraught, Daenerys returns to Dragonstone with her advisers and forces.[13][3]

Taking the capital

The battle of King's Landing begins shortly thereafter. On Dragonstone, Daenerys has Varys executed for treason on Dragonstone. Tyrion urges Daenerys to allow the citizens of King's Landing to surrender and that if the bells are rung, to stop the attack. Later, Jon, Davos, and Tyrion lead the Unsullied, Dothraki, and Northern-Vale armies outside the gates of the capital, where Tyrion informs Jon that if the bells are rung, to call off his men. Their combined forces face the Golden Company led by Captain Harry Strickland. Daenerys arrives on Drogon, burning the Iron Fleet, the city's gate, and the Golden Company, allowing the Targaryen, Stark, and Arryn forces to charge through and into the city. When the Lannister soldiers meet them, they surrender to Daenerys's forces, dropping their weapons, followed by the citizens calling to ring the bells. The bells are rung but, despite this, Daenerys instead burns the city and her ground forces follow her lead, attacking both the Lannister soldiers and the smallfolk as Tyrion watches on from outside the burnt walls. Jon and Davos try to order their men to stop and hold back but fail. They are forced to deflect attacks as chaos overwhelms the streets.[3]

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The Northmen fight the Lannister soldiers.

Cersei remains in the Red Keep with Qyburn, Ser Gregor Clegane, and the rest of her Queensguard, and abandons her watch on Qyburn's imploring. Cersei and her entourage are confronted by a vengeful Sandor Clegane. Gregor breaks through Cersei and Qyburn's hold, killing Qyburn. Sandor wipes out Cersei's remaining Queensguard that survived the falling debris, and duels his elder, undead brother while Cersei slips by; the two Clegane brothers die while Cersei reunites with Jaime, who previously killed Euron in a brutal melee. Jaime, who arranged with Tyrion and Davos to be smuggled out of the city to Pentos, tries to reach a rowboat with Cersei, but the two are trapped beneath the Red Keep with the dragon skulls and are crushed by the falling debris.[3]

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Daenerys burns King's Landing on Drogon.

Most of King's Landing is left in ruins from the dragonfire and exploding wildfire, leaving thousands of smallfolk and soldiers dead. Arya Stark, who rode south with Sandor Clegane on their mission for vengeance, but escaped last minute on Sandor's urging, rides out of the ruined city atop a horse.[3]

A new era

Daenerys Targaryen delivers a speech to her Dothraki and Unsullied forces among the ruins of the Red Keep, where she thanks them for honoring their promises to give her the Seven Kingdoms, names Grey Worm her Master of War, and says they "liberated" King's Landing. Daenerys declares that their war is not over and that they will "liberate" the entire world from tyrants. Her speech is witnessed by Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, and Arya Stark. Tyrion approaches Daenerys, who tells Tyrion that she knows he freed his brother. Tyrion grabs his Hand pin and defiantly throws it down the steps in anger, disgusted by Daenerys's actions. Daenerys has Grey Worm and a pair of Unsullied seize Tyrion. Arya warns Jon that Daenerys is a killer and she fears for Jon's life given that he is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.

Jon visits Tyrion, who tells Jon that action must be taken against Daenerys to prevent her from "liberating" the world if it means more carnage, destruction, and death. Jon struggles with what Daenerys has become and Tyrion tells him, "I know you love her. I love her too, but not as successfully as you. But I believed in her with all my heart. Love is more powerful than reason." Jon remembers what Maester Aemon told him and says aloud, "Love is the death of duty." Tyrion further says that duty is the death of love. He realizes he's asking Jon to do a terrible thing, but tells him it is also the right thing to save the people Jon has worked all this time to protect. Jon is reluctant to do so because she is his queen and because he loves her. Tyrion reiterates Arya's warning over Jon being the true heir to the throne, which he says Daenerys will view as a threat. Jon is still hesitant to commit to this plot, however. Finally, Tyrion reminds Jon of his sisters, Arya and Sansa Stark, expressing his belief that they will not bend the knee to Daenerys.

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The Iron Throne is melted by Drogon.

Jon visits Daenerys as she reaches out for the Iron Throne in the ruins of the throne room of the Red Keep, which is being guarded by Drogon. He confronts her over burning down King's Landing, killing thousands of men, women, and children, and executing surrendered Lannister prisoners. Daenerys defends that these actions were necessary and Cersei mistakenly thought mercy was her weakness. Jon pleads with Daenerys to forgive Tyrion and all of the people of King's Landing, to make them see they are mistaken about her. Daenerys defends her actions and explains she can't hide behind small mercies, "The world we need won't be built by men loyal to the world we have." Jon says they need a world of mercy but Daenerys believes her actions are the way they build a good world. Distressed, Jon asks Daenerys how she knows it's good and questions, "What about everybody else? All the people who think they know what's good?" Daenerys simply responds, "They don't get to choose." Embracing Jon, Daenerys asks him to be by her side and to build her new world together. As the two kiss, an anguished Jon tells Daenerys that she will be his queen forever before he stabs her in her heart with his dagger, catching her as she falls. Weeping, Jon holds Daenerys in his arms as she dies. Drogon arrives and as he approaches, Jon lays Daenerys's body on the ground. Drogon nudges Daenerys's body and when she does not wake, he faces Jon. As Jon prepares to face his death, Drogon roars in anger and grief and unleashes his fire across the throne room, melting the Iron Throne. He picks up Daenerys's corpse and flies away, as a grieved Jon watches.

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The Great Council of 305 AC declares an elective monarchy.

Some weeks later, the high lords and ladies of Westeros gather in the Dragonpit of King's Landing, among them Sansa, Arya, and Bran Stark. Grey Worm brings Tyrion out to them to determine his and Jon's fates, but Tyrion proposes that the gathered nobles choose a king to decide their fates, formally beginning the Great Council of 305 AC. On Tyrion's prompting, Bran Stark is chosen as the new King of the Andals and the First Men. Tyrion declares that Great Councils will now permanently choose their monarchs rather than having the crown be inherited, thus partially "breaking the wheel." Bran allows Sansa to rule the North independently as Queen in the North, however, turning the Seven Kingdoms into the Six Kingdoms. Bran names Tyrion his Hand of the King to rectify his past mistakes. In order to compromise with the Unsullied and the Stark sisters, Bran decides to exile Jon into the Night's Watch. Jon's identity as a Targaryen is kept secret.[14]

Aftermath

Jon Snow meets with Sansa, Arya, and Bran Stark one last time, bidding them farewell on a dock in Blackwater Bay. Sansa begs Jon's forgiveness for allowing him to be exiled, telling him it was the only way to prevent civil war with Daenerys's remaining forces. Jon thanks her for freeing the North and they hug. Arya tells Jon and her family that she intends to sail west of Westeros to discover what lies beyond the charted maps, before she and Jon share a good-bye hug as well. Jon bends the knee to Bran and apologizes for not being by his side when he needed him, but Bran coolly responds that Jon was exactly where he needed to be. Jon then boards the ship sailing to Castle Black.

Grey Worm and the Unsullied board another fleet, leaving Westeros and sailing for the Isle of Naath, fulfilling Grey Worm's promise to his late lover Missandei to protect her people from slavers and other threats.

As Hand of the King once more, Tyrion Lannister reforms the small council. Lord Bronn of his own house, who was elevated to Lord of Highgarden and Lord Paramount of the Reach, is named Master of Coin, Lord Davos Seaworth is named Master of Ships, and Samwell is named Grand Maester. Ser Brienne of Tarth also sits on the council as Lord Commander of Bran's Kingsguard. After writing of the heroic deeds of Ser Jaime Lannister in The Book of Brothers, she and Ser Podrick Payne escort Bran into the Tower of the Hand for the small council meeting. Tyrion informs Bran that they are still looking for a Master of Whisperers, Master of Laws, and a Master of War. When Bran asks on any updates on the whereabouts of Drogon, Samwell informs him that Drogon was last seen flying east. Bran says that he will perhaps look for the last dragon. The councilors pledge their allegiance to King Bran before he is escorted out by Ser Podrick, and the small council begins discussing rebuilding.

Jon Snow, the last Targaryen, reaches the Wall, a brother of the Night's Watch once again. There, he reunites with his other brothers as well as Tormund and his direwolf Ghost. Jon, Tormund, and Ghost lead the Free Folk beyond the Wall to resettle the snowy lands, which have begun melting.[14]

Legacy

Daenerys Targaryen's war for Westeros left much of the Seven Kingdoms devastated. Dorne and the Reach descended into chaos for a brief period of time while thousands were killed by Daenerys's dragons, including Lannister and Tarly soldiers at the Battle of the Goldroad and innocent civilians at the Battle of King's Landing. This wide scale death and destruction led to Daenerys's assassination and the legal extinction of House Targaryen, though the Targaryen bloodline continues to live on in Jon Snow as the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark.

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Sansa Stark is crowned the Queen in the North.

While the war destabilized and weakened the realm, the fallout from the conflict allowed the remaining leaders of Westeros to peacefully negotiate a resolution, preventing any further civil war for the time being. Daenerys's followers left Westeros without any further bloodshed while the North at last negotiated independence from the southern kingdoms, thus reorganizing the Seven Kingdoms into the Six Kingdoms. The Iron Throne was permanently destroyed, and Tyrion Lannister declared that the King of the Andals and the First Men was to be chosen from Great Councils rather than through bloodline and inheritance. This smooth transition of power allows the Westerosi to rebuild their country and homes and introduces the idea of election based on merit at a larger scale in Westeros, thus, in some ways, fulfilling the legacies of Daenerys, Tyrion, Jon, and Varys with her desires to "break the wheel" that allowed the few, powerful noblemen to prey on the many smallfolk.[14]

Combatants

The Dragon Queen

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Daenerys Targaryen at Dragonstone

Daenerys Targaryen claims the Iron Throne on the basis that she is the head of House Targaryen and the rightful heir to the throne, which was initially forged by her ancestor Aegon the Conqueror some three hundred years ago. Along with her brother Viserys Targaryen, Daenerys was smuggled across the Narrow Sea to the Free Cities of Essos after Robert's Rebellion. Viserys was eventually killed by a Dothraki khal, Drogo, thus leading to Daenerys to claim the Iron Throne for herself. Rather than immediately divert her attention to Westeros, however, Daenerys instead first launched a campaign to liberate the enslaved populace of Slaver's Bay from the slave masters. Her war to free the slaves ultimately concludes in a victory, and slavery is abolished across the region and its three cities. Leaving the newly-named Bay of Dragons under the guard of her sellsword company, the Second Sons, Daenerys then forges an alliance with House Tyrell, Dorne, and part of House Greyjoy. With the ships of the Reach, Dorne, part of the Iron Fleet, and the former slave masters making up the new Targaryen royal fleet, as well as their armies plus the Unsullied and the Dothraki behind her, Daenerys sails to Westeros intent on taking back the Iron Throne and reestablishing the Targaryen dynasty with herself as its Queen.

Daenerys personally commands a legion of Unsullied heavy infantry (just under 8,000 strong) and hordes of Dothraki light cavalry (just under 100,000), giving her easily the largest army in the entire conflict. House Tyrell and the Dornish, who act in alliance with her and her advisers directly, can field further ground troops (from both the Tyrell army and the Dornish militias) and provide naval support (in the form of the Tyrell-aligned Redwyne Fleet). Her greatest military asset is her three dragons, making Daenerys the only person in the entire known world capable of launching an aerial assault on her enemies. However, Daenerys has suffered a series of defeats, between the assault on the Targaryen Fleet, the fall of Casterly Rock and the sack of Highgarden. She has essentially lost all of her Westerosi allies, as well as the detachment of her fleet that transported her Unsullied troops to Casterly Rock, who have taken moderate casualties and are stranded at Casterly Rock. Impatient with the cautious plans that Tyrion had advised her to follow, but still unwilling to harm civilians by burning cities, she formed a plan of her own and won a decisive field victory at the battle of the Goldroad; following the battle, the surviving Westerosi soldiers bend the knee to her, increasing her forces. In the aftermath, she reluctantly agreed to negotiate an armistice with House Lannister, in order to keep her gains while dealing with the oncoming threat of the army of the dead. Most recently, she has formed an alliance with the King in the North, Jon Snow, with whom she shares a mutual attraction that eventually culminated in a sexual encounter during their journey to Winterfell; by extension, she is also allied with the Vale of Arryn, which has pledged to support the Starks in the Great War.

The Queen of the Iron Islands

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Yara Greyjoy on the Iron Islands

Yara Greyjoy claims the Salt Throne on the basis that she claims to be the head of House Greyjoy and that her father, Balon Greyjoy, the King of the Iron Islands, wanted her to rule. Her claim to the Salt Throne is supported by her younger brother Prince Theon Greyjoy, but their uncle Euron Greyjoy sits the Salt Throne of the Kingdom of the Iron Islands after winning over the ironborn lords and captains at a kingsmoot and killing her father and his brother, Balon Greyjoy. Yara currently seeks to avenge her father's death at the hands of Euron and to retake the Salt Throne. Yara, Theon, and their portion of the Iron Fleet sails to the Bay of Dragons to seek an alliance with Daenerys Targaryen. As per the terms of their alliance, Yara will be recognized as queen of a sovereign Kingdom of the Iron Islands should Daenerys Stormborn successfully become Queen of the Andals and the First Men, provided the Ironborn agree to live peacefully with Daenerys's realms and give up all raping, reaving and pillaging.

Being a queen herself, Yara is the highest ranking of Daenerys's allies. She commands a major portion of the Iron Fleet, which serves as the backbone of the Targaryen allied navy which itself consists of the Redwyne Fleet, a Dornish fleet, and the Targaryen Royal Fleet. However, with her capture at Euron's hand and the almost complete annihilation of her fleet during the Assault on the Targaryen Fleet, it is likely that the majority of her faction has been wiped out, save for her brother, Theon Greyjoy, who managed to escape along with two or three ships.

The Queen on the Iron Throne

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Cersei Lannister at her coronation in the Red Keep.

Cersei Lannister claims the Iron Throne as successor to her son Tommen I, and is also the current occupant of the throne. The Iron Throne was previously usurped by House Baratheon from House Targaryen during Robert's Rebellion, and the Baratheon dynasty continued to rule for the next two decades, even surviving the War of the Five Kings when it was divided between House Baratheon of King's Landing, House Baratheon of Dragonstone, and its main branch, House Baratheon of Storm's End. However, the dynasty finally collapsed upon the suicide of King Tommen I Baratheon, whose death also led to the extinction of House Baratheon as a whole. With no one to oppose her, Cersei ascended to the Iron Throne, beginning a new House Lannister dynasty. The Lannisters had already amassed great power and influence over the Iron Throne during the Baratheon dynasty, and had sat it in all but name, as House Baratheon of King's Landing was really a puppet of House Lannister after King Robert I Baratheon's death, as King Joffrey I, Princess Myrcella Baratheon, and King Tommen I were actually born of incest between Cersei and her brother Ser Jaime, and not between Cersei and Robert I. Cersei now seeks to preserve the Lannister dynasty and continue to sit atop the Iron Throne.

Cersei's military forces consist mostly of the well-equipped armies of House Lannister, reinforced constantly with fresh recruits from the Westerlands. Originally 60,000 men strong at the start of the War of the Five Kings, this army has been severely reduced by the war and post-war conflicts, leaving her with only around 10,000 men at the start of the invasion, much of which was then decimated by Daenerys's crushing victory at the Battle of the Goldroad. This leaves Cersei with only the City Watch of King's Landing, the remains of the Lannister Army, and what surviving troops she can conscript from the depleted Westerlands and its vassals. House Frey, the Lannisters' most loyal ally since the Red Wedding, has been all but eliminated by Arya Stark, with apparent the death of all Frey heirs, leaving House Frey powerless, and a power vacuum in the Riverlands. The Wardens of the North, House Bolton has gone extinct after the Battle of the Bastards, although ties between House Bolton and House Lannister were seemingly fractured when Ramsay Bolton married Sansa Stark, undermining the plans of the Lannisters in the region. House Arryn, rulers of the Vale and who remained neutral during the War of the Five Kings pledged to the cause of Jon Snow and the united northern houses, and have provided their intact army to the northern cause. While House Tarly briefly aligned with Cersei, Lord Randyll Tarly, his son and heir, Dickon, and the majority of the Tarly army were killed after the Battle of the Goldroad, and his surviving bannermen (as well as some Lannister bannermen) bent the knee to Daenerys.

Having accepted a marriage agreement from Euron Greyjoy, Cersei now has over 1,000 Greyjoy ships to serve as her royal fleet. This marriage alliance, however, will likely be jeopardized if Euron becomes aware that Cersei is pregnant by her brother Jaime. Using the gold plundered from Highgarden, and immediately after making an armistice with Daenerys, Cersei secretly orders Euron Greyjoy to sail to Essos and ferry over the Golden Company, putting 18,000 mercenary infantry and 2,000 cavalry, at her disposal. While she is still badly outnumbered, Cersei intends to use the Golden Company to mop up the remains of whoever wins the Great War – either Daenerys and Jon Snow with House Targaryen and House Stark, or the army of the dead – and finally reign unopposed. This devious move, however, has cost her her greatest supporter and commander of her forces, as her brother and lover Jaime, unwilling to surrender what's left of his honor after working for years to reclaim it, leaves King's Landing to honor his oath to fight the army of the dead. Currently, although none of the southern kingdoms has the strength to fight her (except the Vale of Arryn and possibly Dorne), she only occupies the Crownlands, the Westerlands, and fragments of the Riverlands and Stormlands. However, with the conclusion of the Great War resulting in a victory for the living, Cersei is in a much better position, as not only has the entire Army of the Dead been eradicated, but the forces of House Targaryen and Stark have suffered severe losses as a result.

The King of the Iron Islands

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Euron Greyjoy on the Iron Islands.

Euron Greyjoy sits the Salt Throne of the Kingdom of the Iron Islands after winning over the ironborn lords and captains at a kingsmoot. The Iron Islands are a chain of islands in Ironman's Bay and are one of the nine constituent regions of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. The fiercely independent Ironborn are a distinctively different culture from the rest of Westeros, which is dominated by descendants of the First Men with some Andal blood. Euron's brother, Balon Greyjoy, twice proclaimed himself King of the Iron Islands in an attempt to make the Iron Islands an independent kingdom once more, though both times he failed. Euron eventually returned to the Iron Islands after years of sailing the world, where he murdered his brother Balon. Though Balon had designated his daughter Yara Greyjoy to succeed him, a kingsmoot was held instead, and it was at that kingsmoot that Euron won the Salt Throne after promising to conquer all of Westeros for the Ironborn with the dragons of Daenerys Targaryen. Knowing Euron to be a dangerous man, Yara and her brother, Theon Greyjoy, lead an active resistance faction against him, seeking to install Yara on the Salt Throne as Queen of the Iron Islands. Yara and Theon beat their uncle Euron to Meereen, where they formed a pact with the Dragon Queen, who agreed to help them defeat Euron and take back the Iron Islands. Euron seeks the deaths of his niece and nephew so that they cannot challenge his reign.

Euron commands the freshly rebuilt Iron Fleet, crewed by Houses loyal to him. The new fleet is visually impressive and apparently more than a match for any other fleet in the world – though time will tell if this is true. However, he proves his prowess when he strikes a first blow against the Targaryen Alliance with the Assault on the Targaryen Fleet, where he destroys the majority of his niece's fleet and captures Yara, as well as Ellaria and Tyene Sand, essentially stripping Daenerys of two of her Westerosi allies. He then ambushes the remainder of the Targaryen fleet at the Fall of Casterly Rock, destroying the armada and stranding the Unsullied.

However, Euron's position has been substantially weakened with Theon's liberation of Yara, who has sailed back to the undefended Iron Islands with her remaining men to take them back from Euron, thus possibly costing Euron his seat. However, he still has a numerical superiority over Yara's remaining forces, and with Theon's death in the Great War, now has one less threat to his rule.

Other factions

The King in the North

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Jon Snow in the crypts beneath Winterfell

Though not a formal combatant, the coronation of Jon Snow as King in the North will likely interfere with Daenerys Targaryen's military campaign given that she seeks the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms, and the North and the Vale were both under the dominion of the Iron Throne, being two of the seven kingdoms. The Knights of the Vale, led by House Arryn, previously came to aid the Stark-Free Folk army during the Battle of the Bastards. With the deaths of Eddard, Robb and Rickon Stark, as well as the believed death of Bran Stark, the Northern lords named Jon Snow, the bastard of Eddard Stark, their king following his victory against Ramsay Bolton in reclaiming Winterfell and the North from House Bolton. The North, along with the Riverlands ruled by House Tully, decided to secede from the Seven Kingdoms with Robb as their king in response to Eddard's unjust execution in King's Landing at the orders of Joffrey Baratheon, which was to stop Eddard from revealing the illegitimacy of Cersei's three children with King Robert Baratheon, who were actually the products of Cersei's incestuous relationship with her twin brother, Jaime Lannister. Though Robb was betrayed and murdered by his former bannerman Roose Bolton at the Red Wedding, who was subsequently named Warden of the North by Tywin Lannister, the Starks have eradicated House Bolton and reclaimed Winterfell under the leadership of Jon Snow, who has now been named the new King in the North in defiance of the Iron Throne.

Unbeknownst to all, including Jon himself, however, is the truth of Jon's parentage: he is actually the legitimate son of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, King Aerys II Targaryen's eldest son who was slain by Robert Baratheon at the Battle of the Trident during his rebellion, with Eddard's sister, Princess Lyanna Stark, who died giving birth to Jon at the Tower of Joy in Dorne, thus making him Daenerys's nephew by blood and giving him a stronger claim to the Iron Throne than Daenerys. Being unaware of both his origins Jon is much more concerned with preparing his followers for the impending Great War against the White Walkers than taking part in any of the strife still gripping the South.

Shortly after her arrival, Daenerys is informed of Jon and his status as King in the North by Melisandre. Though intrigued by Jon's efforts and achievements, she summons Jon to Dragonstone to meet her and "bend the knee", clearly not intending to allow the North to remain independent from her rule. Jon accepts her invitation, but refuses to bend the knee, instead asking for Daenerys's help against the Night King, and her permission to mine the dragonglass underneath Dragonstone. Daenerys declares Jon to be in open rebellion against her and holds him prisoner on Dragonstone, but after hearing of her army's casualties at the hands of Euron Greyjoy, Jaime Lannister, and Randyll Tarly, she acknowledges that she may need Jon's help after all, and allows him to mine the dragonglass as a good faith gesture. In the process, Jon discovers cave paintings left behind by the Children of the Forest and the First Men, who fought alongside each other against the White Walkers despite their differences, and implores Daenerys to do the same lest they all die. Daenerys acknowledges the threat and promises to fight for the North if Jon bends the knee, which Jon remains reluctant to do. Around the same time, an attraction appears to be growing between Jon and Daenerys, which Davos Seaworth notes; this eventually culminates in a sexual encounter during their journey to Winterfell.

After the wight hunt, Jon finally unbends his pride and acknowledges Daenerys as his Queen, assuring her his people will accept her once they see her personality. Daenerys, in turn, promises to help Jon defeat the Night King. Following his public abdication during the Parley with Cersei, Jon Snow began to sign his letters as Warden of the North.[15]

Jon has the re-conscripted forces of the North at his disposal as well as the armies of the Vale of Arryn, which have been left intact during the War of the Five Kings. He is also in alliance with the Free Folk better known throughout the Seven Kingdoms as "Wildlings", who currently occupy the Wall alongside what remains of the Night's Watch.

In the books

In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, the plot is far behind the point the show has reached: the battles of Meereen and Winterfell have not begun yet; many characters, who were killed off in the show, are still alive and active (Stannis, the Tyrells, Ser Barristan Selmy, etc.); the show has greatly strayed from the novels, especially in respect of the Dornish plotline, thus it is difficult to predict how the various plotlines progress and combine in the novels, and how the various parties regard Daenerys - if they will choose to ally with or oppose her.

Moreover, a new contender has recently appeared in the last novel - Daenerys's presumed-dead nephew Aegon Targaryen (son of Rhaegar and Elia), with a significant military force (the Golden Company) that can seriously affect the balance of forces in Westeros. He has recently arrived at Westeros and started taking actions to conquer the realm.

Daenerys hasn't attempted to return to Westeros as of the fifth and most recent novel (corresponding to the end of Season 5 of the TV series for her storyline). She is far away from Meereen and her troops, and has just encountered Khal Jhaqo. It is unknown whether she will win over the Dothraki at some point as she did in Season 6.

In the North

By the point the fifth novel ends, Stannis's host camps three days away from Winterfell. The battle between him and the Boltons has not begun yet. Stannis's position is by no means as hopeless as in the finale of season 5: he has gained the support of northern houses and the mountain clans; the traitor in his host is exposed, thanks to Alys Karstark; soon he will be reinforced by the White Harbor men; in the sample chapter of the sixth novel it is implied he intends to set a trap to his enemies (perhaps drown them at the frozen lake near the village).

In view of how far the show has strayed from the novels, it is not impossible Stannis wins after all, despite the contents of the Bastard Letter. Since he consistently insists that he is the only rightful king of Westeros, it can assumed he will oppose Daenerys rather than ally with her.

In Dorne

Doran Martell is still alive in the books (his murder by Ellaria Sand in the TV series was a drastic condensation, rather, invention, of the TV series with no basis in the novels). Doran explains to his daughter Arianne that he intends to ally with Daenerys - thus she doesn't even need to conquer a beachhead, as the instant she arrives in Westeros Dorne will revolt against the Lannisters and join her other armies. Doran even sends his elder son Quentyn as an envoy to try to broker a formal alliance, based on the secret pact he signed many years before with Willem Darry (though he is later killed during an attempt to steal one of Daenerys's dragons).

Quentyn's death, however, may cause a rift between Daenerys and the Martells: although it was not her fault, the Martells may become upset at her for rejecting Quentyn's proposal (though she did it very gently). The Martells may decide to support her nephew instead; Doran sent his daughter to meet him, in order to form an alliance against the Lannisters.

The Ironborn

Asha Greyjoy (called Yara in the show) doesn't go to Meereen in the novels: instead she flees the Kingsmoot back to her captured holdings in the North, with 4 ships and 200 men only; her army camp is soon attacked by Stannis Baratheon in the Second Battle of Deepwood Motte, who kills most of her remaining men and takes her prisoner. She and Theon are currently imprisoned at Stannis's camp. Instead, it is her uncle Victarion Greyjoy (cut from the TV series) who takes the Iron Fleet east to Meereen. He has not stolen the fleet, but acted at Euron's command; he plans, though, to betray Euron by making a marriage-alliance with Daenerys himself (possibly by force).

In the TV version Yara takes Victarion's role, and instead of secretly planning to turn against Euron, openly does so.

The books make explicitly clear that the Iron Fleet isn't the only fleet in the Iron Islands, just their "national fleet" of sorts - the best ships and crews, under direct command of their king. Each of the local Houses and isles have their own fleets. Thus in both versions, even though Victarion/Yara took their "best ships", Euron would still have several hundreds of ships left at his command, thus he does not need to build even one ship (let alone 1,000).

In the fourth book, Euron launches a military campaign against the Reach. He has already captured the Shield Islands and the Arbor, and is currently sailing south and east towards Oldtown, on the verge of a massive naval engagement with the Redwyne Fleet (the last major fleet remaining around Westeros after the old Royal Fleet got destroyed at the Battle of the Blackwater). Euron captured his brother Aeron the priest, and is holding him in harsh imprisonment in the bowels of his ship for unknown purpose.

At present Euron is far away from the Slaver's Bay, yet he is expected to intervene with Daenerys's plotline, based on the prophecies of the Red Priests Benerro and Moqorro about an enemy of Daenerys, described as "a tall and twisted thing with one black eye and ten long arms, sailing on a sea of blood". The earlier novels contained more subtle hints and foreshadowings that Euron was eventually going to be a major antagonist in the war, on the scale of Tywin, Joffrey, Roose & Ramsay. It is implied that Euron may actually try to ally with Cersei in the future: given that her actions have totally alienated the Starks to the north and the Tyrells/Martells to the south, Euron is really the only other extant faction she hasn't gravely offended so much that they would never work together. In a preview chapter from the next novel, Euron forces Aeron to drink shade of the evening to give him psychedelic visions, one of which is of Euron seated on the Iron Throne, with a mysterious woman next to him in the shadows, with fire coming from her hands (i.e. how Cersei will use wildfire to destroy the Great Sept). It is also somewhat hinted that Euron has truly gone insane and is in service to some sort of dark demonic powers (either the White Walkers or those beneath the depths), and is a "dark messiah" of sorts for them, intentionally trying to bring about an apocalyptic event.

At King's Landing

The Lannisters, meanwhile, are already half-exhausted and bankrupt. Robb Stark might have been killed and his army massacred at the Red Wedding, but he inflicted significant losses on the Lannister's main armies before that (at the Battle of the Whispering Wood, Battle of Oxcross, and overall attrition in the protracted Riverlands campaign). Around half of the Lannisters armies' were slaughtered by Robb's forces and they cannot simply replace men as they can swords or ships - their strength has been hobbled for years to come. The Iron Throne is in astronomical debt and the Iron Bank of Braavos has lost faith in them. The TV version claimed this is because their gold mines ran dry - which is a gross exaggeration and physically impossible. In the books, spending simply outpaced the rate of production (just because they have gold mines doesn't mean they produce infinite amounts of gold). In comparison, the TV series addresses the fact that Cersei's regime is bankrupt in Season 7 - by requisitioning the Tyrell fortune to pay her debts and reintroducing Tycho Nestoris of the Iron Bank.

By the end of the fifth novel, the current state of affairs in King's Landing is definitely in favor of the Tyrells, all of whom are still alive. They have greatly increased their political power at the expense of the Lannisters:

  • The Tyrells have three of the seats in the Small Council.
  • A hundred Highgarden men have been added to the gold cloaks.
  • Mace Tyrell and Randyll Tarly have both brought armies to King's Landing, while most of the Lannister troops are away in the Riverlands.
  • The High Sparrow agreed to release Margaery (and her cousins) to the custody of Randyll, since the case against them is so weak. Margaery has not been declared innocent yet, but her position is far better than Cersei's.
  • Cersei has been stripped of all powers and authorities; all her henchmen have been either deposed, imprisoned or fled away, and some of them (Lancel and Pycelle) even turned against her; she is confined to her rooms, guarded all the time, and is not allowed to walk freely around with her new bodyguard and intimidate people; whatever schemes she has in mind, she cannot realize them (the TV version had her under "house arrest" within the Red Keep, but not her specific chamber). Qyburn is the only one who remains loyal to her.
  • Jaime is away from King's Landing, concluding the Second Siege of Riverrun. Having already learned that Cersei has been unfaithful to him, he then receives news that she has nearly destroyed the vital Lannister-Tyrell alliance that they desperately need to survive. In the books, she did this by having Margaery arrested, and sending Loras Tyrell on a suicide mission to force a quick end to the siege of Dragonstone (in which he was burned alive with boiling oil and was left clinging to life). On hearing just how far gone Cersei is, Jaime decides not to intervene, burns the distress letter Cersei sent him, and apparently intends to simply let his uncle Kevan assume control over Tommen's regency.
  • Varys, shortly after killing Pycelle and before ordering his helpers to finish Kevan off, explains that he expects Kevan's death to create a chaos which will be used by the Targaryens to conquer the kingdom.

In view of the above factors, the Tyrells, given their military power and Margaery's popularity, can take advantage of Kevan's death and Cersei's downfall, and seize King's Landing; they cannot hope, though, to rule the entire kingdom without any allies and being surrounded by enemies: in the north - Stannis, in the west - ironborn, in the south - sellswords. They may decide to ally with the Targaryens, and they did during Robert's Rebellion.

The Destruction of the Great Sept of Baelor has not yet occurred in the current novels, though it is foreshadowed - Cersei takes great delight in burning down the Tower of the Hand with wildfire (but no one is killed). If an event analogous to this occurs in the novels, it cannot possibly kill all of the Tyrells - that is, their many younger cousins and cadet branches, not to mention that Mace has two older sons (Willas and Garlan) cut from the TV series. Thus even if Mace, Margaery, and Loras are killed, the fate of House Tyrell's leadership is unclear. Similarly, the Faith Militant has spread throughout all of southern Westeros, and even a decapitation strike against their core leadership in King's Landing will not eliminate their presence entirely.

In the Vale

Littlefinger's plans have also been drastically altered in the TV series. Littlefinger reveals to Sansa that he plans to wed her to Harrold Hardyng, Robin Arryn's cousin and closest living relative, after Robin dies (he will probably not live to adulthood in view of his poor health - and Littlefinger's actions imply he may have him poisoned). When all the pieces are in place, Sansa will reveal her true identity, and call upon the lords of the Vale to remember their old loyalty to her father Ned. Every knight in the Vale will pledge his sword to win her back her birthright, and she will have it all - Harrold, the Eyrie and Winterfell. In the process, Littlefinger will vicariously control two of the Seven Kingdoms. He was the true instigator of the entire war, explicitly to dupe the Starks and Lannisters into fighting each other to the point of exhaustion, while keeping the Vale's army out of the war and at full strength to finish off any survivors.

Littlefinger says that he originally thought it would take four to five years for his plans to come to fruition. However, while he always expected Cersei's weak regency over Tommen to crumble from within, he says he didn't anticipate how rapidly Cersei would spiral into self-destruction: arming the Faith Militant, utterly mishandling the debt crisis with the Iron Bank, needlessly antagonizing the Tyrells. This has forced him to speed up his timetable, though he sees this as an opportunity.

Littlefinger cryptically says that whatever peace was left in Westeros after the War of the Five Kings will not long survive the "Three Queens". Sansa is puzzled and doesn't understand what he means: she assumes he is referring to Cersei and Margaery, but doesn't understand who the third queen is (possibly Daenerys, though it's possible he's referring to other women entirely).

Littlefinger hasn't mentioned Stannis in his plans yet, or how his sudden appearance in the North may alter any of his plans. Stannis loathes Littlefinger, and accurately suspected for years during Robert's reign that Littlefinger was a traitor, so Stannis would probably kill Littlefinger if they ever came into contact again rather than ally with him.

For the moment, Littlefinger is strengthening his grip over the lords of the Vale, bribing off old aristocratic families who are deeply in debt (apparently with massive amounts of money he embezzled from the Iron Throne). His entry into the war still seems some way off, so he is focusing on the first step in his plan: his alleged bastard daughter "Alayne" (Sansa) winning over and betrothing Harold Hardyng.

Name

As this conflict has not yet occurred in the novels, it has yet to have an official name. The following names are unsuitable for different reasons:

  • "Targaryen Restoration": such a name assumes that either Jon or Daenerys will succeed and sit on the Iron Throne, when it is perfectly possible that they will be killed by the White Walkers during the Great War.
  • "Second War of Conquest": as the War of Conquest consisted of Aegon Targaryen invading and unifying the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros into one Realm (even though Dorne joined two centuries later), this name assumes that it will happen again, while the Seven Kingdoms are still essentially the same Realm that Aegon created, and most factions follow the monarch who will sit on the Iron Throne, except the North and the Vale, who follow the King in the North. This name would only be applicable if Daenerys wins and unifies all Seven Kingdoms under the Iron Throne again.

Therefore, the conflict, and this article, will be named Daenerys Targaryen's war for Westeros, for the time being.

See also

References

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