Battle by the Lakeshore
|Battle by the Lakeshore/
|Dance of the Dragons
|Western Gods Eye, the riverlands
|Victory for the blacks
The Battle by the Lakeshore, called the Fishfeed by its participants, was a major battle along the shores of the Gods Eye in the riverlands during the Dance of the Dragons. It was the bloodiest land battle of the entire war.
During the Dance of the Dragons, House Lannister of the westerlands supported the greens, while House Stark of the north and most of the disorganized lords of the riverlands supported the blacks. Lord Jason Lannister led an army eastward in support of Aegon II Targaryen, but Jason was killed by Pate of Longleaf in the Battle at the Red Fork and Ser Adrian Tarbeck was later slain by Ser Harry Penny. The Lannister army continued slowly because of the age and infirmity of its wounded new commander, Lord Humfrey Lefford.
When the westermen reached the western shore of the Gods Eye, Lord Lefford discovered he was opposed by Lord Roderick Dustin with two thousand Winter Wolves (all of them mounted), Lord Forrest Frey with two hundred knights and six hundred infantrymen, and Robb Rivers with three hundred archers from Raventree Hall. The westermen were quickly faced with another threat from the south, when Ser Pate of Longleaf arrived with survivors from previous battles in the war (possibly from the Pipers and Vances),[N 1] as well as Lords Bigglestone, Chambers, and Perryn. The cautious Humfrey did not rush to face either enemy force, and thus be caught out of position in the field, but took up a defensive position with his back to the lakeshore. Humfrey then sent ravens to nearby Harrenhal to seek assistance from Prince Aemond Targaryen, but Red Robb shot down the dozen ravens. The blacks received further reinforcement with the arrival of more riverlords the following day, including Ser Garibald Grey, Lord Jon Charlton, and young Lord Benjicot Blackwood.
Despite cornering the Lannister army, the black commanders now faced a difficult decision: the Lannisters had pulled back into a defensive position behind columns of disciplined pikemen, so a direct assault would still result in heavy losses. Nonetheless, they could not simply wait to starve out the Lannister army, because Aemond's host would eventually realize that communications had ceased, and rush to the aid of the Lannisters - bringing Aemond's dragon Vhagar. Lord Dustin and the other black commanders therefore chose to rush the Lannister position while they still could.
The army of westermen were attacked at dawn the next morning. The Winter Wolves led the attack, their cavalry charging the Lannister spearmen five times, but suffering grievous losses in the attempts. Attacked by the blacks from three sides, the Lannister soldiers were gradually forced back into the Gods Eye. Hundreds died fighting amongst the lake's reeds, and hundreds of others drowned while trying to escape.
The battle degenerated into carnage, and was ultimately the bloodiest land battle of the entire war; the high number of casualties led to it being called the "Fishfeed" by its participants. The blacks lost Lords Frey, Bigglestone, and Charlton, and two-thirds of the northern soldiers were killed or wounded. The greens lost their commander, Lord Lefford, as well as Lords Swyft and Reyne and the knights Clarent Crakehall and Emory Hill. Young Lord Blackwood wept when he saw all of the dead.
The Lannisters' main army was totally destroyed in the battle, the flower of knighthood from all the westerlands cut down in a single day. With only skeleton forces left to defend their home territory, Dalton Greyjoy opportunistically allied with Rhaenyra so the ironborn could plunder the coasts of the westerlands, sacking Lannisport but failing to take Casterly Rock itself. Despite their disproportionate victory, the black armies in the riverlands were also badly mauled in the bloodbath.
In response to the greens' crushing defeat, Prince Aemond and Ser Criston Cole abandoned Harrenhal. Aemond waged a guerilla war atop Vhagar, and Criston headed south to find Lord Ormund Hightower. The victorious rivermen avoided facing Criston's host directly, but wore him down with ambushes and scorched earth tactics, which included arranging the bodies of fallen soldiers from the Fishfeed in gruesome displays to frighten Criston's host (causing many to desert). The rivermen (and few surviving Winter Wolves) eventually cornered Criston's depleted army in the Butcher's Ball.
The description of the numbers on both sides during the battle is oddly worded in the text: when the westermen host set out into the riverlands, it says that Lord Jason Lannister brought a formidable host of "a thousand armored knights, and seven times as many archers and men-at-arms" - thus, at least 8,000. Other green armies, however, are consistently described as having core "regular" armies of knights/archers/men-at-arms, but then supplemented by three times as many sellswords, freeriders, camp followers, and feudal levies: the Hightower army is described as having 1,000 knights, 1,000 archers, and 5,000 men-at-arms... but also "thousands" of sellswords and rabble, and later is described as having 20,000 men in total. Aegon II's army in the Battle at Rook's Rest is described with the same ratio: 600 knights and men-at-arms, but also "thrice as many" sellswords and levies. Thus it is possible that at the beginning of their campaign, the host from the westerlands had an additional 24,000 sellswords and freeriders, for about 30-32,000 men in all.
Conversely, this might mean that the number of soldiers on the blacks' side was also four times higher, because the text glosses over sellswords and levies. Then again, the greens absconded with the old royal treasury and controlled wealthy port cities, so it's possible that the greens were able to hire far more sellswords than the blacks.
Even assuming the Lannister host only consisted of 8,000 men, the description of losses at the Fishfeed doesn't match up well: "By nightfall two thousand men were dead, amongst them many notables, including Lord Frey, Lord Lefford..." (listing lords from both sides). It then goes on to say that two thirds of the Winter Wolves died - a force that itself consisted of 2,000 men. This would mean that about 1,300 Winter Wolves died, then barely 700 men from both sides would have died in the entire battle. While the Lannister host took some losses in the riverlands campaign by that point, it couldn't possibly have been whittled down from 8,000 to less than 700. Thus it seems that this line is in error, and that the blacks lost 2,000 men in total, while the Lannister host of around seven to eight thousand men was completely destroyed.
When asked about this, Elio Garcia agreed that the "2,000" figure apparently refers to losses on the blacks' side, not both the blacks and greens.
- While not directly stated, given that Pate of Longleaf fought at the Battle of the Red Fork with the forces of House Piper and House Vance of Wayfarer's Rest, and was knighted by Lord Petyr Piper after that battle, it seems probable that these "survivors of earlier battles" included the Pipers and Vances.