I suppose you don't have many options when you live in the Riverlands.
Could've been worse. We could have been minnows. Or wheat (after all, we make a lot of it). Though a land does not get as fertile as ours just by water. The old River Kings, Storm Kings, and the Kings of the Rock spilled blood here for thousands of years, squabbling like children over a new toy. Until the ironborn came and spanked them with their axes.
If you're going to enslave and torture an entire people, you best have thick walls to hide behind.
But the very day the last stone was laid in Harrenhal, Aegon Targaryen landed in Westeros. As soon as he saw Aegon's host on the horizon, my ancestor Edmyn led the mass desertion of Riverlords to Aegon's side. I doubt Harren even noticed. The problem with huge castles is they blind you to what's outside, both by their size and the arrogance they inspire.
Not that the ironborn ever lacked for that. They take pride in their ignorance of every trapping of civilization. Though any baker could have told them that fire turns stone walls into an oven.
And so Harren the Black finally lived up to his name, and the Riverlords swept the ironborn back to the sea.
In return for Edmyn's service, House Tully was made Aegon's new Lord Paramount of the Trident, and all of the other lords had to swear us fealty. But old habits die hard. The Riverlands are and always have been the middle child of Westeros, caught up in every fart from one lord at another.
My ancestors knew that for the Tullys to survive, alliances must be made. Our trout has swum up so many rivers over the centuries and leapt onto so many plates that it's a wonder half of the realm's sigils do not have fins by now. Thus every Tully child is taught "Family, Duty, Honor," the Tully words. And pains in the Tully arse.
When I returned from the War of the Ninepenny Kings, people called me "Ser Brynden," but my older brother Hoster called me engaged. A great match with a very rich house to be sure, but I had just fought and killed a great deal of men and had no desire to be told when and whom to marry.
I broke ties with him, earning the name "Blackfish," along with my personal sigil, a much more intimidating black trout. I was too stubborn at the time to realize that while other houses fight with swords, House Tully fights with marriages.
If I had obeyed my older brother earlier, we'd have had the largest navy in Westeros with us as well, and our victory would have been swift. Of course, I never mentioned this fact to my brother. He'd have taken it as an apology.
We all know how this story ends. Maybe she'll be beautiful. Maybe she'll be rich. As long as she brings swords and men to House Tully, she could look like the fish we hang all over Riverrun. He'll honor his duty to family and swallow it. One Blackfish per family can be overlooked. Two, and we'd have to change all those pretty banners.
- The preceding Season 2 Histories & Lore featurette about Harrenhal vaguely implied that the River lords revolted against the ironborn and sided with the Targaryens only after the fall of Harrenhal and death of Harren Hoare. In this video, Brynden makes it clear that in the TV continuity (just as in the books), the River lords revolted before the fall of Harrenhal, seeing Aegon Targaryen as a chance to overthrow the yoke of brutal ironborn oppression. The armies of the River lords swelled Aegon's ranks: he landed at the mouth of the Blackwater with an army of only 3,000 men, which then split to advance on two objectives: one group with Aegon went to Harrenhal and another led by Orys and Rhaenys advanced to Storm's End. They may have also picked up some levies from the defeated lords near the landing site (such as Rosby, Duskendale, etc.). Aegon's western host therefore numbered perhaps less than 2,000 when he began, but with the addition of the armies of the Tullys and other River lords his numbers swelled to 8,000 by the time he arrived at Harrenhal.
- Ser Brynden Tully
- King Harren Hoare
- Lord Edmyn Tully
- Lord Hoster Tully
- Bethany Redwyne (not mentioned by name)
- Brandon Stark
- Lady Catelyn Tully
- Lady Lysa Tully (mentioned)
- Lord Jon Arryn (mentioned)
- Lord Edmure Tully
- House Tully
- House Targaryen
- House Greyjoy
- House Lannister
- House Hoare
- House Redwyne (not mentioned by name)
- House Stark