Welcome to the fourth and final installment of Houses of Westeros. Previously, we have explored the North, the Riverlands, the Vale and the Iron Islands, and the Westerlands, Crownlands and the Reach. With this piece, we will delve into the southernmost landscapes of Westeros, The Stormlands and Dorne.
Words: “Ours is the Fury”
Seat: Storm’s End
Title: Lord of Storm’s End, Lord Paramount of the Stormlands
House Baratheon is one of the Great Houses of Westeros, ruling over the Stormlands from their seat at Storm’s End. Although recognized as a great and powerful house, the Baratheon lineage is actually quite short. Stemming from the days of Aegon the Conqueror, when Orys Baratheon was one of the fiercest Targaryen-sworn generals (and also rumoured to be Aegon’s bastard brother), the male line married into the female line of Durrendon, descendants of the formidable Storm Kings. This cemented Baratheon rule over the Stormlands, a harsh, mountainous region located south of King’s Landing. Up until recent times in the history of Westeros, House Baratheon remained loyal to House Targaryen, as they were bound by blood, both houses having intermarried numerous times.
The last Baratheon loyal to the Targaryen dynasty was Lord Steffon Baratheon. Lord Steffon and his wife, Cassana Estermont, had three sons; Robert, Stannis and Renly, each bearing the powerful build, black hair, blue eyes and strong jawline of House Baratheon. When Robert’s betrothed, Lyanna Stark, was kidnapped by Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, son and heir of the Mad King Aerys II Targaryen, a rebellion broke out. Led by Robert, his foster-brother Eddard Stark, and their foster-father, Jon Arryn, Robert’s Rebellion encompassed the realm. During the war, Robert proved himself to be a fearsome warrior, a towering mass of muscle wielding his giant warhammer. In Robert’s absence, Stannis (being second in line) garrisoned the Baratheon stronghold of Storm’s End, and held it against the long siege of the Tyrell forces. While Stannis held the Baratheon seat, Robert waged war in the Crownlands, personally taking part in the Battle of Summerhall, the Battle of Ashford, the Battle of the Bells, and the penultimate Battle of the Trident. It was during this climactic battle that Robert and Rhaegar faced each other in single combat, as the waters of the Trident rushed around them. Robert finally slew Rhaegar by caving in his breastplate, scattering the rubies on his armor into the river, resulting in the naming of the Ruby Ford. Since Robert had been wounded in the battle, he gave command of his forces to Eddard Stark, who rode to King’s Landing to witness the aftermath of the Sack, where Tywin Lannister, promising allegiance to the Mad King, had entered the capital with his host and slaughtered the remaining Targaryen forces. Upon Robert’s arrival to the capital and his ascension to the Iron Throne, the bodies of the royal Targaryen children were presented to him, having been brutally slaughtered by Lannister forces. The resulting argument between Robert and Eddard led to Stark riding out alone to liberate the almost forgotten Strom’s End.
Stannis had always done his duty by Robert, and was a firm believer in and practitioner of both duty and justice. As such, he relentlessly held Storm’s End for almost a year while war raged on throughout the Seven Kingdoms, and refused to yield. Storm’s End was completely surrounded, by Tyrell forces on land and Redwyne forces on sea. Forced to survive on the horses, dogs, cats and rats of Storm’s End, and almost resorting to cannibalism to survive, it seemed like the end for the garrisoned forces, until against all odds, a notorious smuggler by the name of Davos slipped through the Redwyne fleet with a boatful of onions and fish. Soon after, Eddard Stark arrived, and Mace Tyrell immediately yielded to him, swearing allegiance to the new king. Unintentionally, Stannis’ resilience had led to Robert’s victory at the Trident, as the Tyrell army was forced to remain outside Storm’s End, when otherwise they could have aided Prince Rhaegar and defeated Robert’s forces.
Stannis was then charged with the task of securing the Targaryen island stronghold of Dragonstone, where the pregnant Queen Rhaella had fled with Prince Viserys. Before Stannis and his fleet arrived, the Red Keep’s former Master-at-Arms Ser Willem Darry smuggled Viserys and the newborn girl Daenerys across the Narrow Sea to safety. Stannis seized Dragonstone without a fight. Robert proceeded to name Stannis Lord of Dragonstone and Renly Lord of Storm’s End. Stannis took this as an affront, as by birth he was Renly’s older brother, and thus heir to Storm’s End, not to mention that Stannis had held out admirably during the war, while Renly was little more than a boy. However, Robert saw this as a twofold advantage; Stannis was well-suited to holding what had previously been a gathering point for the Mad King’s loyalists, and it kept Stannis and his prickly demeanor away from mainland Westeros.
After the rebellion, Robert was married to Cersei Lannister, and together they had three children, Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen (it has since been revealed that the royal children are in fact bastards of Cersei and Jaime Lannister). Stannis and Renly were both appointed to Robert’s Small Council, Stannis as Master of Ships, and Renly as Master of Laws. As such, Stannis had control of the royal fleet, which became loyal to him. When Jon Arryn, King Robert’s Hand and foster-father, was murdered after he and Stannis had investigated rumors surrounding King Robert’s children, Stannis fled to Dragonstone with the royal fleet in tow. He and his wife were subsequently converted to the faith of R’hlorr, the Lord of Light, by the red priestess Melisandre of Asshai. Soon after, King Robert and his new Hand, Lord Eddard Stark, lay dead, and the War of the Five Kings broke out. Upon receiving confirmation of the bastard status of the new King Joffrey from Eddard Stark, Stannis had the letter copied and sent all over the Seven Kingdoms. Proclaiming himself rightful king of Westeros, he deemed that anyone who opposed him was his foe. Among those also vying for kingship were Joffrey and Renly, while Balon Greyjoy and Robb Stark attempted to secede themselves from the Iron Throne, claiming Kingship over the Iron Islands and the North respectively.
Traditionally, the Baratheon sigil had been a black stag on a yellow field. When Robert ascended to the throne, the sigil became a crowned stag on a yellow field. Similarly, Stannis and Renly both changed their personal sigils upon the outbreak of the War of the Five Kings. Stannis’ sigil is the crowned Baratheon stag encased in the fiery heart of the Lord of Light, while Renly’s is a crowned golden stag on a field of green, mirroring his powerful alliance with House Tyrell.
Renly had ever been loved at court, and maintained a healthy relationship with his vassals. As such, most of the houses sworn to House Baratheon allied with Renly during the war rather than Stannis. Renly also wasted no time in sealing an alliance with the rich and powerful House Tyrell of the Reach, through his marriage to Margaery, the sister of his real lover, Ser Loras. Upon failing to negotiate a suitable settlement with Stannis, Renly was assassinated by a shadow demon summoned by Melisandre, with the help of a desperate Stannis. The majority of Renly’s forces then swore allegiance to Stannis, who begrudgingly pardoned them, while the Tyrells fled for the capital in an effort to swiftly ally themselves with House Lannister. Stannis launched a naval assault on King’s Landing via Blackwater Bay, but despite victory seeming imminent, his forces were decimated and forced to retreat by the cavalry charge of the combined Lannister and Tyrell forces, under the command of Lord Tywin. Stannis currently broods back on Dragonstone, a broken man, taking counsel from Melisandre as he attempts to formulate a new plan.
Title: Lord of Blackhaven
One stormy night, as a messenger of the Storm King was riding to his destination, he was ambushed by two Dornishmen. Outnumbered and outmatched, his horse slain by an arrow and his sword shattered where he had fallen, the messenger prepared for death. All of a sudden, a bright two-pronged bolt of lightning struck the two Dornishmen, killing them instantly. After successfully delivering his message, the messenger was raised to lordship by the Storm King and given the seat of Blackhaven, and thus House Dondarrion was born.
The current lord of Blackhaven is Beric Dondarrion. Upon receiving word of Gregor Clegane ravaging the Riverlands, the Hand of the King, Lord Eddard Stark gave Lord Beric the task of bringing Clegane to justice in King Robert’s name. Rallying a sizable force, Dondarrion set out from the capital to execute Clegane. However, upon the secession of Joffrey Baratheon to the throne, the roles of Dondarrion and Clegane were reversed. Clegane now acted within the law, and Dondarrion and his sworn swords were declared outlaws. Naming themselves the Brotherhood Without Banners, they set themselves the task of protecting the common people of Westeros from those who would harm them, in the name of the deceased Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon. Engaging in skirmishes and guerrilla warfare, the Brotherhood has so far avoided being crushed by the forces of Gregor Clegane, who actively hunts for them, but differing rumors of Dondarrion’s death have begun to spread…
Seat: Evenfall Hall
Title: Lord of Evenfall Hall; The Evenstar
House Tarth is a small but noble house that rules the island of Tarth from the seat of Evenfall Hall. The island of Tarth is located east of Storm’s End, and as such, House Tarth is sworn to House Baratheon. The island is renowned for its beauty, being home to mountains, waterfalls, meadows and vales, and most notably the deep blue waters surrounding it. It is from the mesmerizing waters that Tarth gained its name; the Sapphire Isle.
Upon the outbreak of the War of the Five Kings, Lord Selwyn Tarth swore himself to Renly. His only living child, Brienne, was not a comely girl, and as such faced constant abuse as a child. As such, she rejected her inherited status as a lady, and instead focused her efforts on becoming skilled with weaponry. Although not eligible for knighthood, or indeed recognition of any kind for her real talents, she gained personal prowess in swordplay, winning the melee arranged in honor of Renly. As her reward, she requested acceptance into Renly’s Kingsguard, having fallen in love with him as a child. Upon Renly’s assassination, she swore herself to Catelyn Stark, having seen woman’s courage in her which she admired and strove for. Brienne was tasked with escorting Ser Jaime Lannister to King’s Landing at the request of Lady Catelyn (against the wishes of King Robb), in a last-ditch attempt to exchange him for the Stark daughters, Sansa and Arya. Despite the abuse consistently hurled her way, Brienne strives to live up to the ideal of a true knight, with no exceptions.
Seat: Cape Wrath
In the midst of Robert’s Rebellion, surrounded by Tyrell forces and the Redwyne fleet, starving, and on the verge of death, Lord Stannis Baratheon resolved to hold Storm’s End indefinitely, as duty demanded it. However, upon a bold smuggler from Flea Bottom breaking through the Redwyne cordon one night, the bold defenders of the Baratheon seat were saved. The smuggler, named Davos, had slipped past the fleet in a small, black-sailed boat full of onions and salted fish. His heroic act proved crucial in Stannis’ effort to hold the stronghold until Eddard Stark arrived to liberate them. As a result of his actions, Davos was awarded the seat of Cape Wrath as his own, raised to knighthood, and dubbed “Seaworth” by Stannis. However, Stannis, being an upholder of justice in its purest form, felt it his duty to also punish Davos or his lifetime of smuggling, for ‘a good act does not wash out the bad, nor a bad act the good.’ The punishment in this case was that Davos should lose the first joint of each finger on his left hand. Davos agreed, as long as it was Stannis himself who carried out the sentence.
Since then, Davos has been Stannis’ most trusted adviser and confidante, and the closest thing to a friend Stannis has. Davos is married to Marya, the daughter of a carpenter, and together (in the show), they have a son, Matthos. Matthos, became a zealous believer in R’hlorr, the Lord of Light, upon Lady Melisandre’s arrival on Dragonstone. Ser Davos, or the “Onion Knight” as he is mockingly called by others, was given command of Stannis’ fleet for their assault on King’s Landing. He led the massive fleet into Blackwater Bay aboard his old smuggling ship, the Black Betha. However, before tasting battle, Davos’ son Matthos was consumed by wildfire, ignited in the bay at the behest of Tyrion Lannister. Davos was flung from the Betha into the fiery depths of the Blackwater, and presumed dead.
Words: “First in Battle”
Seat: Horn Hill
Title: Lord of Horn Hill
Ancestral Weapon: Heartsbane
House Tarly is a noble house of the Reach, sworn to House Tyrell. Their seat of Horn Hill and extended lands are located right on the border with Dorne, in the foothills of the Red Mountains. Historically, House Tarly has always been a proud and steadfast house, ever loyal to House Tyrell. Their proud, warrior-like nature is reflected in their words and sigil, being “First in Battle”, and a red huntsman on a green field respectively.
Lord Randyll is currently the head of House Tarly, and considered one of the best soldiers and military commanders in Westeros. It was he who inflicted the only defeat on Robert Baratheon’s forces during Robert’s Rebellion, at the Battle of Ashford. Wielding Heartsbane, the ancestral Valyrian steel greatsword of the Tarlys, he strikes a formidable figure in battle.
Lord Randyll is married to Melessa Florent, and they have two sons, Samwell and Dickon. From an early age, Samwell was a constant disappointment to Randyll, as he was a studious, timid and gentle boy. After several attempts at engaging Sam in manly, martial pursuits, Randyll attempted to force Sam into changing his nature. This included being forced to dress in his mother’s clothes, and to sleep in chainmail. Upon the failure of these extreme attempts, Lord Randyll deemed that Sam was not a worthy heir to the Tarly name. As such, when Dickon was born and proved to be the son Lord Randyll had always wanted, he rejoiced and left Sam to his own devices. As such, neglected by both father and brother, Sam grew very close to his mother, and enjoyed reading to her and other such activities. The possibility of Sam journeying to Oldtown to become a maester was raised, but Randyll quickly quashed that notion, thoroughly disgusted by the idea.
Upon reaching maturity, Samwell was informed by his father that he was not worthy of inheriting the Tarly lands and titles, let alone Hearstbane. He was commanded to join the Night’s Watch and surrender his claim to Horn Hill, in order to enable Dickon to inherit Lord Randyll’s legacy. If Samwell refused, Lord Randyll promised that he would accompany him on a hunt the next day and murder him on a pretext. Sam took the black, and endured a horrible initiation into the Night’s Watch, but was soon befriended by Jon Snow, a relationship which offered him protection and happiness. After swearing his vows, Sam was appointed as Maester Aemon’s personal steward, and as such tends to the ravens of the Night’s Watch. As it stands, Samwell is stranded beyond the Wall, after an attack by White Walkers on Lord Commander Mormont’s Great Ranging left the Night’s Watch in tatters.
Words: “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”
Title: Prince of Dorne, Lord of Sunspear
Not much is known about the actual founding of House Martell, except that they had been one of the ancient ruling houses of Dorne. When Nymeria, warrior queen of the Rhoynar of Essos, came to Dorne, she took King Mors Martell as her husband. Thus, House Nymeros Martell was established (House Martell for short), and they have ruled the region ever since.
Dorne, very much like the North, has an extreme climate and geography, and is therefore nigh on impossible for outsiders to rule. As such, and given the fact that they adopted Rhoynar rather than Andal culture, the Dornishmen traditionally take some liberties in their titles and customs. They name their rulers “princes” rather than kings or lords, and their lands and titles are inherited by the eldest child, regardless of gender. It is also interesting to note that bastards are not looked down upon in Dorne, and are held in much higher regard than their Westerosi counterparts. Dorne is the hottest region in Westeros, from which it is separated by the Red Mountains. It is a rocky, mountainous, dry landscape, featuring the only desert on mainland Westeros. It has few rivers, and inland sources of water are points of contention; extremely valuable, and heavily guarded.
Ruling from the stronghold of Sunspear, Prince Doran Martell currently rules Dorne. He is a wise man, but suffers from an extreme case of gout, inhibiting him. With his estranged wife Mellario of Norvos, he has three children, Arianne, Quentyn and Trystane. Ever since Doran’s sister Elia (wife of Rhaegar Targaryen) was raped and murdered by The Mountain during the Sack of King’s Landing, House Martell has harbored a bitter resentment for House Lannister and the Crown. This hatred is most obviously evident in Prince Doran’s younger brother, Oberyn, the famed Red Viper of Dorne. Since the Sack, He and Doran have been plotting the downfall of House Lannister, and Oberyn even went so far as to travel to Braavos and visit the young Viserys Targaryen and his sister Daenerys, swearing the allegiance of Dorne in a secret pact. Oberyn is very hot-headed and a skilled warrior. He has eight bastard daughters from various mothers, who are known throughout Dorne as the Sand Snakes. Similarly to Eddard Stark, he took great responsibility in raising his bastard children, giving them a lot of independence, educating them and training them in arms. Like their father, the Sand Snakes are renowned in Dorne and fierce in combat.
House Martell has yet to make an appearance in Game of Thrones, but their importance and power is crucial. However, we should be seeing them come the confirmed season 4.
Title: Lord of Starfall
Ancestral Weapon: Dawn
House Dayne of Starfall is a noble Dornish house sworn to House Martell. Their ancestral sword, Dawn, is perhaps the most famous blade in all of Westeros, so much so that House Dayne is structured around the blade itself. The weapon is so renowned that its wielder has to be proven worthy of it, and is given the title, “Sword of the Morning”. Dawn is as pale as milkglass, and is said to have been forged from the heart of a falling star. It is interesting to note that despite its fame, Dawn is not made of Valyrian steel, although it is just as sharp and emits a pale, otherworldly glow. The wielder of Dawn is not necessarily the lord of House Dayne, but the knight considered most worthy to wield it. The criteria for said knight remains a mystery to all but the members of House Dayne themselves. Their sigil is a sword and a falling star on a lavender background, symbolizing Dawn.
The last known Sword of the Morning was Ser Arthur Dayne, one of the greatest warriors in Westerosi history. Ser Arthur was a member of the Mad King Aerys II Targaryen’s Kingsguard, and Prince Rhaegar’s closest friend. He was slain at the Tower of Joy by Lord Eddard Stark and Howland Reed. He is fondly remembered not only as a great fighter but as a valiant, chivalrous and true knight. He is remembered with nothing but absolute respect, praise and adoration by Eddard Stark, Jaime Lannister and Barristan Selmy. Upon Ser Arthur’s death, Dawn was returned to Starfall by Eddard, who never recovered from what he experienced on that fateful day at the Tower of Joy. Ser Arthur’s nephew Edric is currently Lord of Starfall, and Dawn lies dormant, awaiting its worthy wielder.
That’s it for these expansive pieces on the noble Houses of Westeros. If you haven’t read the previous installments yet, check out the full series here:
- The North
- The Riverlands, The Vale & The Iron Islands
- The Westerlands, The Crownlands & The Reach
- The Stormlands & Dorne
I’d like to thank my colleague and fellow writer Charlie Harwood for the amazing work he did on the graphical front with these pieces; the images really bring the houses to life, and the pieces really wouldn’t be the same without his help.
So, what do you think? Do you have any questions or comments on any of the Westerosi Houses? If so, don’t hesitate to drop us a comment and one of us will be delighted to respond and discuss the issue. Until then, don’t forget to tune into Game of Thrones every Sunday at 9.
Cian is a student of Theology and History. He frequently confuses the real world with Westeros, and if he’s not talking about A Song of Ice and Fire…he’s talking about Game of Thrones. Mainly interested in old HBO classics such as Rome, Deadwood and The Wire, he currently maintains a vested interest in Treme and Game of Thrones. He also runs a personal blog detailing his writing endeavors.