They call the entrance to their lands the Bloody Gate because, during the Age of Heroes, a dozen armies supposedly smashed themselves against it. Even if they'd gotten through, the roads of the Vale are narrow, steep, and treacherous. Half the men would have slipped to their deaths, or frozen in the mountain snow, or so the common wisdom goes.
Except the Vale has been conquered. Those vaunted mountains didn't stop the Andals who came by the eastern sea. The people of the Vale say that Ser Artys Arryn, the Andal general, flew on the back of a giant falcon and slew the Griffin King on top of the tallest mountain.
During Aegon's conquest, one of his sisters did the same, flying a dragon over the Bloody Gate and up to the Eyrie, the Arryn stronghold. And the Arryn boy king yielded the Vale in return for a ride on the beast.
Do you sense the theme here? The rationalizing of defeats with mythical beasts and the whims of children, instead of acknowledging the root cause – the arrogance of isolation.
The men of the Vale are so proud of their mountains they can't abide any flaw in them. As with the mountains, so too with their blood. The first Andals landed in the Vale, as its most powerful lords (the Arryns, the Waynwoods, the Corbrays) like to brag. Through their veins runs the blood of the oldest Andal nobility in Westeros.
But through their brains runs an even older folly – that blood matters.
If it did, those pureborn lords should have been able to exterminate the hill tribes centuries ago. But those primitive raiders whose tribes more resemble kennels than families, continue to plague the Vale, even kidnapping an Arryn once.
Until Tyrion Lannister, an outsider. No Vale lord ever thought to turn the tribes to the Vale's advantage. That a desperate warlike people could be useful, not to mention inexpensive.
But perhaps the Vale lords consider such thoughts beneath them. After all, the Vale's isolation does breed an abundance of honor and pious bleating, which governs their decisions instead of foresight.
Like a blind man who can only guess where his horse is taking him, I doubt Jon Arryn had even prepared for civil war when he raised his banners instead of handing over his young wards, Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon, to the Mad King. Honor demanded, and Lord Arryn obeyed. He'd have done the same if the boys hadn't been the lords of two great houses, who could field mighty armies of their own.
But perhaps I give him too little credit. After all, if the war went against them, only Lord Arryn had a nice impregnable castle to retreat into; and he was wise enough to take poor Lysa Tully into his bed to win the Riverlands as allies. Jon Arryn won, then Jon Arryn died.
Wisely, the Vale stayed out of all the ensuing chaos. Its crops did not burn or wither in the fields from lack of men to tend them. Its strength was not drained by forced marches to futile skirmishes.
In the Vale, life proceeds as it always has. Calm, proud. A world of high honor undisturbed by armies and men of low birth with high ambition. Impregnable.
- Ser Artys Arryn
- The Griffin King
- King Aegon I Targaryen, the "Conqueror" (mentioned)
- Queen Visenya Targaryen (mentioned)
- Vhagar (not mentioned by name)
- King Ronnel Arryn (not mentioned by name)
- Queen Sharra Arryn (not mentioned by name)
- Tyrion Lannister (mentioned)
- Lord Jon Arryn
- Lord Eddard Stark
- Lord Robert Baratheon
- King Aerys II Targaryen, the "Mad King" (mentioned)
- Lady Lysa Arryn