Prologue & Preamble: how things differ
So, before beginning our story proper, it is only appropriate that I offer some insight to the many tragic events (and few heroic) that brought us here to this alternate present. Our story began its departure from the history with which you are doubtless familiar during the War of the Ninepenny Kings with a slave revolt in Tyrosh, where with the aid of Westerosi adventurers the denizens of that broken city rose up and bloodily slaughtered their masters and the puppet Tyrant installed by the Band of Nine. Now this might have made little difference in history's unfolding had the Lords of ship-breaker bay not thrown their support behind one of the former slaves; a cunning and charismatic Westerosi by the name of Harlan Longwaters. More on him later. With Harlan as 'Lord' in the Bleeding Tower, Tyrosh became a staging post for war in the Stepstones, and island after island fell to the crusading host of mercenaries, former slaves, adventurers and second sons.
However, this conquest might not have been so easy, were it not for the horrors taking place in Dorne, for it is there that Maelys and his ill-companions made landfall reeking ruin on the populous. Sunspear was not spared when it fell, and became a stage for the most grusom chapter of the conflict. The youngest Martell, Elia, was hung from the top of the tower along with much of the court whilst her brother the valiant young heir Doran was was hung, drawn and quartered in the courtyard below by Tom the Butcher. Though Princess Obera and her remaining son Oberyn would live to see the invaders thrown back to into the sea, neither would fully recover from the trauma that had befallen them. Obera would die some years later of the stress, leaving the young Oberyn to become a cruel and venal husk of the man he might have been; forever haunted and finding solace only in copious quantities of food and drink, Oberyn lived out his life in seclusion at the water gardens. Siring no children, he died of a heart attack aged thirty six.
Maelys himself was killed in battle by the young Ser George Martin*, and the remaining members of the Band of Nine either fled, turned on each other or were hunted down. The last of them, Xhobar the Ebon Price, was beheaded by our Lord Harlan; for which he was officially raised by King Aerys, second of his name, to Lord Paramount of the Stepstones, expanding the realm and establishing a bulwark against the remaining free cities and their incessant plotting.
The realm since then has remained in relative peace, with the only rupture of note arising in the Westerlands, with the fall of Tywin Lannister. Following the death of good King Jaehaerys II, King Aerys brought his closest friend Tywin, the Lord of Casterly Rock, to court and appointed him his Hand, but it did not take long for things to turn ill. Aerys came to covet Tywins wife (as he would come to covet the wives and daughters of many lords), bringing the King and his Hand into bitter enmity. Unable to 'woo' lady Joanna, Aerys vented his frustration and vindictiveness in heaping petty humiliations upon his former friend. All expected Tywin to snap, even to raise arms against his king, but none foresaw what came to pass. Tywin began to keep the company of a Red priest, becoming ever more reclusive to the point that the administration of the ream came to almost a complete halt, until one night without warning or ceremony The Hand of the King and all his household left Kings Landing.
None know but the man himself of what the priest had shown The Lord of the Westerlands in his fires, but I became clear that R'hllor's flame now burned in Tywin's breast. A minor controversy at first, overshadowed by The Hand abandoning and disobeying his king, but that was until news of the burning broke. Merchants brought news that pyres could be seen burning day and nigh within Casterly Rock; that petty offences which would have merited no more than the loss of an ear or time in the pillory, all instead consigned the guilty to the flames. Gerion, Tywin's youngest brother bore witness to this before the court and warned that Tywin was mustering men to bring his fire to his banner men. Gerion went into lurid detail as to how Tywin sought to purge his people, as well as his own flesh to satiated his cruel god, and had become a harrowing, monstrous figure to behold. Pleading for the crown to intervene, Lord Harlan Longwaters, once Master of Ships but now Hand of the King lead a fleet to besiege The Rock and face the monster therein.
After a yearlong siege by sea and land Casterly Rock at last fell by both cunning and strength of arms, whilst it's Lord lay in siege of Castamere with his host of new zealots and misguided loyal men-at-arms. Hearing of the Rock's fall, Tywin marched south to his defeat at the battle of Sarsfield. Following which Gerrion was made Lord Paramont ahead of his elder brother Kevan who had remained (albeit begrudgingly) loyal to Tywin throughout the conflict. Tywin himself however escaped and continues to elude the crown, being sheltered by covens of converts to the dread Red God. He now lives as a black legend, like Dannel Lothston, and rumour has it he now leads a band of red cloaked marauders dispensing fiery vigilante 'justice' across the Westerlands.
King Areys' reign proved to be peaceful, even prosperous thanks to the small council, though his lustful depravity jeopardised this stability, culminating in his revival of the practice of the 'first night', and the farcical 'Pants law' decree (whereby braies and hose were to be banned). Fortunately, Areys died before the council was forced to take drastic action, and Rhaegar, first of his name, ascended the Iron Throne and reigned justly and prudently for near twenty years, with the aid of his friend and father in law Lord Harlan.
Before concluding this potted history and bringing us to our tales true beginning, we should acquaint ourselves with Lord Harlan Longwaters and his family; we have already seen how this former slave born of a bastard house has impacted the world's stage, but matters domestic my come to matter more in the story to come. For those unfamiliar, the Longwaters descend from bastard offspring of Alyn the Oakenfist, the famous admiral of the Royal fleet, and Elaena Targaryen, one of the 'maids' of the Maiden Vault who would go on to become mistress of coin. The Longwaters, despite this heritage were poorly regarded by their Velaryon cousins, and were it not for Harlan might have faded into obscurity serving as gaolers of the Red Keep. The Longwaters' now sit somewhat comfortably as overlords of the Stepstones, with each isle now being held by loyal vassals drawn from the most prominent of those adventures who battled the Band of Nine. Tyrosh itself is almost unrecognisable from the city it was; having been depopulated following Maelys sack, Harlans insurrection and the ensuing years of war, Tyrosh was open to settlement by Westerosi, many of whom being veterans of the war. Though by far it remains a city of confluence, heavily accented by its Valerian heritage, the common tong is spoken in all quarters, and the bells of new Septs wring out across the city.
The Longwaters have come enjoy close relations with the Targaryens since Harlan's first born, Rhaenyra, married the then prince Rhaegar. Later, Rhaegar's sister Daenerys would marry Harlan's second son, his heir, Joffrey. Harlan himself enjoyed a somewhat more modest marriage, with a fellow former slave; a Qartheen by the name of Mera, who bore him five children. Following Mera's death however he did enter a second marriage matrilineally, with Maege Stark giving her two daughters. Harlan was truly a man blessed to have wed twice for love, and to have auspiciously sired seven children.
Now to bring us, at last, to our present: King Rhaegar, with his conviction that he would sire 'The prince that was promise', indulged his children; giving them the last of the long dead dragons eggs he encouraged them to it find ways of hatching them. Such eccentricity was welcomed as harmless by the court at large when compared to the madness and vice of his father. In fact it became the focus of great pageantry, where the King could display his wealth and power, and the court might find opportunity to curry favour by lavishing gifts upon the royal children. So it took all by surprise when the brooding prince Aerys emerged from the vaults beneath the Red Keep, cradling a small, silent, but most certainly living dragon.Over the next four years, two more dragons would hatch; one to the young prince Baelor, and the other to Rhaegar's sister Daenerys.
The reality of this has yet to sink in to many; following such a lasting peace many of the common folk tout the news as evidence of the Gods' favour (in their loose understanding of both history and theology), and attitudes amongst the nobility range from rapturous romanticism to outright divisiveness. But some, more prudent minds have fresh cause to meditate on the Targaryen words:
“Fire and Blood”
Today, at the opening of the 299th year since Aegon's Landing, the realm morns the untimely accidental death of King Rhaegar. At age eighteen King Aerys third of his name, styling himself 'the Promised', now sits upon the Iron Throne.
Boy what a lot of preamble, and that's the short version! More can (and will) be said about the Longwaters family, but as they shall be our protagonists I shall try to convey it through the 'chapters' of the story proper, wherein I will try to ape the style of GRRM whilst including illustrative screenshots. Speaking of GRRM, it was only in writing this that I discovered that he -Ser George of the Dragon Gate- took assumed Ser Barristan's role in slaying Mealys the Monsterous. It is such mad little details that I hope bode well for the unfolding of this ARR.
Some practical notes: I will be using console commands every so often, but only to keep things tidy and maintain narrative cohesion. Otherwise I shall take my lead from the game, and do my best to explain its madness.
Feel free to ask for any overviews of any specific houses, realms, the small council and so on, should you want look at the big picture.
Chapter one coming soon!