First Dornish War

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First Dornish War
Part of Wars of Conquest
Dragon's Wroth.png
Dragon's Wroth, as depicted by Michael Komarck in The World of Ice and Fire

Date 4 AC13 AC
Location Dorne
Result House Targaryen withdrawal from Dorne
House TargaryenHouse Martell
Notable commanders
King Aegon I Targaryen
Queen Visenya Targaryen
Queen Rhaenys Targaryen
Lord Orys Baratheon
Lord Harlen Tyrell
Princess Meria Martell
Prince Nymor Martell
Princess Deria Martell
Forces of the Iron Throne.Dornish Houses
Queen Rhaenys Targaryen
Lord Harlen Tyrell
Lord Rosby
Massive losses in manpower
Every castle save Sunspear burnt
Every holdfast, village and town burnt

The First Dornish War was House Targaryen's attempt to conquer Dorne, the only one of the Seven Kingdoms that successfully resisted Aegon's Conquest.[1] It was part of the Wars of Conquest.[2]


Initial Invasion

Rhaenys Targaryen flew on Meraxes to Dorne during Aegon's Conquest, but the Dornishmen vacated their castles and Princess Meria Martell warned Rhaenys that Dorne would not submit to Aegon the Conqueror. Aegon was crowned in Oldtown and ruled on the Iron Throne in King's Landing.[3]

Since Dorne was the only one of the Seven Kingdoms not to have fallen to the Targaryens, Aegon launched an invasion hoping to complete the conquest of Westeros in 4 AC. According to the writings of the maesters, great was the Dornish valor against the forces of the Iron Throne and great was their loss and grief, for the price of freedom is steep.

The Dornishmen fought no great battles against the Targaryens nor did they shelters in their castles, as they remembered the lessons of the Field of Fire and Harrenhal. The Dornish simply vanished before the dragons rather than give battle.

Queen Rhaenys led the assault, burning the Planky Town with Meraxes on her way to Sunspear while King Aegon and Lord Harlen Tyrell led an army down the Prince's Pass against the lords of the Red Mountains. The Dornish defenders harried the Targaryen forces, performing hit and run raids and vanishing when they caught sight of the dragons. Many of the invading armies died from the sun and thirst as they marched on the Hellholt. Those who survived arrived to find the castle deserted, the Ullers all fled.

Aegon had more success, winning the castle of Yronwood after a brief siege, but the castle was only defended by old men, boys and women, so he took little glory from that siege. Skyreach, the stronghold of House Fowler, was abandoned. At Ghost Hill, House Toland sent a champion who challenged Aegon to single combat. The Conquerer easily slew the armored knight with Blackfyre, though after he removed the helm from the corpse Aegon realized it was Lord Toland's mad fool and the Tolands were gone from the castle. In later days House Toland changed its sigil to a a dragon biting its own tail and changed their house colors to gold and green in memory of the motley colors of their brave fool.

Lord Orys Baratheon's assault on the Boneway proved a disaster. The cunning Dornishmen launched a night raid, raining rocks, arrows and spears from above. The bodies of the invading army blocked the Boneway from both ends and Orys, along with many of his bannermen and knights were captured, by the Wyl of Wyl, the Lord Wyl also known as the Widow-lover.


Meraxes and Rhaenys Targaryen are killed during the First Dornish War, as depicted by Chase Stone in The World of Ice and Fire.

Still save for the assault on the Boneway, the Targaryens mainly came across abandoned castles and those that were not they found with only a small force who swiftly yielded rather then see their castles burned by dragonfire. Sunspear was found nearly abandoned, with the ruling Martells gone. Aegon and his sisters gathered what courtiers remained and declared themselves the victors, leaving Lord Rosby in charge of Sunspear and an army under command of Harlen Tyrell to put down rebellions.

No sooner had the Targaryens and their dragons returned to King's Landing then revolt broke out in Dorne with shocking speed, for this had been the Dornish plan the whole time. Garrisons of knights and soldiers were put to the sword. Lord Tyrell and his entire army vanished in the sands between the Hellholt and Vaith, while Lord Rosby was killed in the Defenestration of Sunspear.

The Targaryens received a ransom offer for Lord Orys along with all his knights and bannermen. Aegon eventually agreed to the demands and Orys and his men were ransomed in 7 AC for each man's weight in gold. Once the ransom was paid each man was freed, though only after having his sword hand chopped off so he would not use them again against Dorne. This was not part of the agreement of the terms and enraged Aegon, who was intent on revenge.

The Targaryens' dragons burned several castles, whereupon the Dornishmen retaliated by attacking the rainwood on Cape Wrath. The dragons struck again, which led Lord Fowler to attack Nightsong and Ser Joffrey Dayne to threaten Oldtown. The castles of Starfall, Skyreach, and Hellholt were then consumed by dragonfire. A lucky shot from a scorpion at the Hellholt sent a bolt through the eye of Meraxes in 10 AC, however, killing the dragon and causing her to crash from the sky along with her rider, Rhaenys Targaryen.

The Dragon's Wroth

Aegon's grief at the passing of Rhaenys was great; the following two years were known as the Dragon's Wroth. The Targaryens burned every Dornish stronghold at least once, with the exception of Sunspear. In Dorne it was said that the Targaryens feared that Princess Meria had cunning means of slaying dragons purchased from Lys, but Archmaester Timotty in his Conjectures suggests that Aegon hoped that the Dornish would turn against the Martells. However, the Dornish lords and smallfolk remained loyal, despite the letters dispatched from the Dornish Marches to the Dornish houses claiming the Martells had bought their safety from the dragons.

Aegon and his remaining sister-queen, Visenya, placed bounties on the heads of Dornish lords and in turn the Dornish put bounties on the price of the Targaryens and their allies. Aegon and Visenya were assaulted on the streets of King's Landing and, if not for Visenya and Dark Sister, they would have been killed. This attack led to the forming of the elite royal bodyguard known as the Kingsguard in 10 AC. Visenya personally chose the men herself.[4] Lord Fell was murdered and the Wyl of Wyl committed atrocities, particularly in Fawnton and Old Oak.


When Princess Meria Martell passed away in 13 AC, her elderly son, Nymor, became ruling Prince of Sunspear. Having enough of war he sent his daughter, Princess Deria Martell, to King's Landing with an escort as an peace envoy. She carried the skull of Rhaenys's dragon Meraxes as well as a letter. The delegation's arrival with the sight of the skull angered several in the court, such as Orys and Visenya. Deria delivered her father's terms, stating Dorne wanted peace, but the peace of two sovereign kingdoms. Aegon was about to refuse this offer until Deria placed her father's letter in the Conqueror's hand.

Atop the Iron Throne, Aegon read a message delivered from a Prince of Dorne. No one knows what was in that letter, as Aegon never spoke of it thereafter. Some say he rose from the throne clutching the letter, blood trickling from his hand. Some maesters and historians speculated that the Dornish held Rhaenys as an injured hostage and the Dornish would agree to end her suffering if Aegon ended the war; others speculate that it revealed the Dornish were willing to pay a massively expensive contract with the Faceless Men to assassinate Aegon's son and heir Aenys (his only child by Rhaenys), guaranteed to succeed, which would only be called off if he agreed to peace; it may have been both, or neither.

Whatever was in that letter moved the Conqueror to agree to peace terms and withdraw his forces from Dorne.


The attempted conquest of Dorne ended in 13 AC. It was followed by other Dornish wars, and there were sporadic attempts to invade Dorne again later in the reigns of Aegon I, as well as both his sons. After Aegon I himself died, an outlaw leader known as the Vulture King rose in the Red Mountains, amassing an army in the tens of thousands which raided into the Reach and the stormlands. The Vulture Hunt which followed was essentially a proxy war between the Targaryens and Martells: it was widely believed that the Martells were funding the Vulture King's activities with donations of gold, though this was never proven, and Aenys didn't want to escalate into another full-scale war. During the Vulture Hunt, Orys Baratheon avenged himself by capturing Walter Wyl, son of the Wyl of Wyl, and cutting off his sword hand - and then his other hand and both his feet, which Orys claimed as his "usury". Orys died of wounds he took in the campaign, but he died happy.[5]

Generations later, these other Dornish wars were followed by Daeron I Targaryen's conquest of Dorne, which succeeded where even Aegon I had failed - only to collapse again after only four years due to a protracted Dornish insurgency.[1]

References and Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 The World of Ice & Fire, Dorne Against the Dragons.
  2. The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aegon I.
  3. The World of Ice & Fire, The Conquest.
  4. The World of Ice & Fire, Aegon I.
  5. The World of Ice & Fire, The Stormlands: House Baratheon.

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