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A Game of Thrones history lesson: Valyria part III



Welcome to the final part of the Valyrian history series. Let’s jump right in. In case you have missed the first 2 parts, you can read it over here: Part I, Part II.

The Valyrian Freehold is at the height of its power. They have become an unstoppable force of pure destruction. Their empire is built on a foundation of war, slavery, fire, and blood. Slaves continue to die agonizing deaths beneath the Fourteen Flames. They are forced to dig deeper and deeper as the need and greed of the Valyrian Freehold grows. Forty powerful Dragonlord families vie for power in an endless struggle, the Targaryens among them. The Valyrians establish Dragonstone as an outpost, probably in preparation of a westward conquest. Why stop at anything less than worldwide conquest if you are capable?

The Dream

“There have always been Targaryens who dreamed of things to come, since long before the Conquest.”

It’s 126 years before Aegon’s Conquest of Westeros. A maiden girl named Daenys Targaryen wakes in a cold sweat and jumps out of bed to tell her father of what she’s seen, of what she’s dreamed. In her dream Daenys saw Valyria. She watched as the very ground beneath it cracked open and bled liquid rock. She watched the air fill with ash and smoke and watched red clouds form over the great capitol and rain black blood down upon it. Daenys Targaryen saw the end.

Daenys was the daughter of Lord Aenar Targaryen. A Dragonlord who was far from the top of the Valyrian food chain. A cougar among lions. Keep in mind, he wasn’t weak. A cougar can still kill a hundred deer. A Dragonlord on the bottom of the chain is still more powerful than most anyone else in the world.

When Daenys came to him and told him of her dream, Aenar listened. There are quite a few moments in history where you can’t help but ask ‘what if?’. What if Aenar Targaryen had waved off Daenys as a silly girl? Ignored her and carried on as usual? But he didn’t. Aenar put great faith and trust in his daughter and he loaded up everything. His wives, his kids, his wealth, his dragons, his slaves, etc. He sold his holdings and fled to Dragonstone. With him was his five dragons including Balerion the Black Dread.

Twelve Years

When Aenar left Essos the other Dragonlords laughed and mocked him. They saw his flight as weakness. That he couldn’t compete with the other Dragonlords so he turned tail and ran.They thought Aenar was a coward. He took it in stride and made Dragonstone his home. It was a bit of a fixer upper but they managed.

“Dragonstone was grim beyond a doubt, a lonely citadel in the wet waste surrounded by storm and salt, with the smoking shadow of the mountain at its back.”

And it was here the Targaryens made their home. And it was there they waited. All because of Daenys and her dream.

Meanwhile in the world:

Valyrian Steel swords find their way to Westeros, some apparently paid for with a mountain of gold. Greyscale is a disease every sane man fears, supposedly the result of Garin’s Curse. The cities of Slaver’s Bay, Mereen being the greatest of them, cling like flies to the ways of Old Ghis despite it having fallen to the Valyrians thousands of years ago. They reluctantly bow to the power of the Freehold, lest they be destroyed, but they cling to the Ghiscari ways as much as possible. On the west side of Essos are the Free Cities, established by the Freehold (other than Braavos). They are Valyria’s daughters and loyal to their mother. On Westeros, the Andals have integrated with the locals, bringing many things including the Faith of the Seven. Down in Dorne, the Rhoynar have also successfully made Westeros their home.

And back on Dragonstone, the Targaryens patiently wait. A year passes and nothing happens. And another, and another, and still nothing. They live and wait on Dragonstone for twelve years. And after those twelve long years their patience is finally rewarded.

The Doom of Valyria

I’ve been waiting to type those words for a long time.

It’s 114 years before Aegon’s Conquest. A chance event launched the Valyrians into power with the discovery of dragons. One of the most singularly important events in history, so it’s only fitting that probably the one event more important than their beginning was their end. It’s poetry really. The Fourteen Flames served as their beginning and their end.

In 114 BC, all Fourteen Flames erupted simultaneously. Every hill for 500 miles burst open and bled molten rock, filling the air with suffocating ash and smoke. The earth itself split open in great rents swallowing whole towns. Bodies of water boiled away or turned to acid. The Fourteen Flames shot columns of fire hundreds of feet into the air, even destroying dragons flying high in the sky. Clouds of red rained dragonglass and black blood.

The earth collapsed in on itself and the sea rushed in to fill the empty space, boiling and smoking with the heat.It’s said cities even thousands of leagues away were affected by the Doom. A wall of water hundreds of feet tall was said to drown and wipe away the city named Velos completely. The red glow given off from the Doom could be seen leagues away.

The city of Valyria was gone in a second. The Valyrian peninsula was gone in an hour. The Freehold itself was gone in a day. It was a cataclysm the likes of which hadn’t ever been seen in the world. This is usually the place where I compare it to something in our world, but no comparison is good enough. Humans have never experienced an event this powerful. An event powerful enough to destroy an empire and tear apart a whole piece of land. An event which destroyed the Dragons and their Lords in an instant. The best comparison comes, not from reality, but from myth. The Doom is reminiscent of the lost civilization of Atlantis. A story with a lesson in morality through the destruction of an island. A cautionary tale about the consequences of greed and power.


There are a thousand and one reasons and theories cited as being the cause of the Doom. The most obvious being that it was just purely a natural disaster. A volcanic eruption of the Fourteen Flames that decimated the Valyrian peninsula. Theories go from plausible to far fetched but I’ll mention a couple, however I suggest looking it up if you want to read more about the theories.

One theory goes like this: The Fourteen Flames were always relatively unstable. The Dragonlords used their mages to keep them in check with magic. The Dragonlords were always fighting for power and these people were no Arthur Dayne. They didn’t have limits or honor or chivalry. They were backstabbers who would do just about anything for personal gain. That’s why, to weaken the other Dragonlords, they would have each others mages assassinated. The theory goes that this got out of hand at one point and there weren’t enough mages around to keep the Fourteen Flames in check and….BOOM.

That’s just one and I assure you there are many. A few others I will just mention quickly: The Faceless Men caused the Doom. A prophecy that gold from the west would be the end of the Valyrians came true after the purchase of a Valyrian steel sword possibly by the Lannisters with gold from Casterly Rock. Targaryens caused the Doom so they could be the only Dragonlords. Garin’s Curse cased the Doom.

My personal belief is that the Valyrians were just too greedy for the gold beneath the Fourteen Flames. They forced the slaves to dig too deep and it caused unsolvable problems resulting in a natural disaster. Just what I believe, Occam’s razor and all that. Anyways…

The Dragonlords are dead. Valyria is gone. The Freehold is fallen, all with the Doom, but the story of the Valyrians doesn’t quite end here. Not yet.

Century of Blood

When the Doom came, the Dragonlords were gathered in Valyria and were destroyed, save for Aenar Targaryen and his family hiding away on Dragonstone. But some say a few other Dragonlords survived the Doom as well. What was left after the cataclysm was an empty throne. A mantle waiting to be taken up by those quick enough to grab it. A massive power vacuum had been left in Essos. If there’s an empty throne it doesn’t take long for someone to take a seat. A couple Dragonlords, supposedly said to be in the Free Cities during the Doom, were promptly killed by citizens in the political upheaval. Whatever loyalty, faith, and trust there had been were thrown up in the air and what replaced them was chaos and anarchy.

Another Dragonlord said to survive raised a host 30,000 strong and flew to Valyria to claim what remained as his. He and his army were never seen again. What Dragonlords did survive, we can be sure, promptly fell following the Doom. The Targaryens became the only surviving Dragonlords.

“The time of the Dragons in Essos was at an end”

But their children remained. Two parties came to rise in the Free City of Volantis. The Tigers, who supported a conquest to establish themselves as the rulers, and the Elephants who wanted peace. The Tigers led Volantis on, deaf to the cries of the Elephants. They were descended from noble Valyrian blood, so they thought they basically had the right of succession. Volantis brought war on the other Free Cities to great success at first. They gained control of Lys and Myr, and controlled the southern portion of the Rhoyne. Another empire was getting a foothold in Essos. The Ghiscari, then the Freehold, and now the rising Volantene. Their success quickly turned around though when they overreached and were pushed back.

This became a time known as the Century of Blood. It was caused purely because of the sudden absence of power left behind after the Doom. All of the Free Cities played a part in the fighting and it went back and forth constantly. The Targaryens stayed on Dragonstone but kept their eyes on Essos, probably waiting for an opportune moment.

The slavery of the Freehold was at an end, but the cities of Slaver’s Bay quickly took up that mantle. They were probably the happiest with the Doom. They returned to the ways of the Ghiscari, at least the ways that weren’t lost in time. They became the major hub of the slave trade, an evil practice that just seems to never end. When one practitioner falls another rises to take up their slave trade place.

Some sellsword companies rose to prominence during this time, selling their swords to the highest bidder. Years passed like this. Volantis fighting other Free Cities. The slave trade starting to boom. The Dothraki wreaking havoc and destroying whole cities. There’s a reason it’s called the Century of Blood. Basically all of Essos was fighting and even parts of the west were involved in it.

A New Chapter

The Century of Blood had been ongoing for quite some time. In the year 27 BC a babe named Aegon Targaryen is born. The most badass individual to ever live in my humble opinion. The Targaryens had long kept their eyes on Essos as the Century of Blood raged on.

Volantis was on the decline. Their struggle to establish a new Freehold was failing as they received push back from all over, including Braavos. For unknown reason, when Aegon was still young, he mounted Balerion the Black Dread and rode to help end the conflict once and for all. He helped fight Volantis and the Century of Blood, finally, came to an end. The Elephants took power from the Tigers and peace was finally established in the Free Cities once again.

The smoking remnants of Valyria are still around to this day. To sail the smoking sea and through Valyria would be madness. A few have set out to try and never been seen again. The temptation is always there though. Who knows what is still lying there waiting for the taking? Dragon horns, glass candles, Valyrian steel swords, maybe even dragon eggs…

I think the morality lessons have stood out loud and clear in these posts, so I won’t harp on it again. Now that we’ve gone on this journey, let’s recap some of the things that would be either vastly different or wouldn’t even exist without the Valyrians.

Valyrian steel, dragonriding, Andals in Westeros, Rhoynar in Westeros, Dragonstone, Braavos, Faceless Men, Free Cities, a common language, Greyscale and of course the Seven Kingdoms and the Iron Throne itself, because a young man of pure Valyrian descent looked, not east like his ancestors before him, but west. It was time for a new chapter in the world. The time of the dragons in Essos had come to an end, but the time of the dragons in Westeros hadn’t even begun.

“An empire built on blood and fire. The Valyrians reaped the seed they had sown”

And thus concludes the Valyrian history series. As always thank you for reading. ALL INFORMATION COMES FROM THE WORLD OF ICE AND FIRE AND THE A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE SERIES.

This article was originally published on Game of Thrones History Blog.

Art Citations:

#1: Art by Denkata5698

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#3: Art by Philip Straub

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#5: From a DVD extra on GoT Season 1

#6: From a DVD extra on GoT Season 1

#7: Art by Vajrasimha

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Founder at Wiki of Thrones and a full-time Game of Thrones fan who does other work when he has finished reading and writing about Game of Thrones and also dreams about playing a role in the show.