- "Gods, what a day that was!"
- ―Robert Baratheon
The Battle of the Bells was an important battle in Robert's Rebellion. Following his defeat against House Tyrell in the Battle of Ashford, Robert Baratheon fled north to the town of Stoney Sept, in the Riverlands, chased by forces loyal to King Aerys II Targaryen.
When the royalist army arrived, the bells of the local sept tolled, signaling the townsfolk to take refuge, and giving the battle its name. The loyalists ineffectively searched for Lord Robert from house to house until they were surprised and by the combined army of House Stark and House Tully. The rebels defeated the royalist force, which fled back to King's Landing.
In the books
After the defeat in the Battle of Ashford, on the Stormlands/Reach border, Robert Baratheon turned north. Most likely, he was trying to link up to his allies, the Starks, Tullys and Arryns. It is unknown what happened between Ashford and Stoney Sept, but during the journey Robert was wounded and he hid in the local Sept from pursuers just before the battle began.
When Lord Jon Connington, Hand of the King, and the royal army occupied the town, he ordered his soldiers to begin searching the houses for Robert Baratheon. Connington could have easily ended the rebellion by burning the whole town, thus killing Robert before the Starks and Tullys arrived, but could not bring himself to commit such massacre of innocent people. His soldiers had not found Robert when the combined Tully-Stark army reached Stoney Sept. The rebels attacked Connington's army who fought back fiercely. He wounded Hoster Tully and killed Jon Arryn's cousin and heir, Denys Arryn. At this point Robert came out of hiding (he claimed he was hiding in the Sept, while Jon Connington later claimed he was hiding in the town's brothel) and led the counterattack. Robert slew Rhaegar Targaryen's friend and former squire Myles Mooton. Although this seemed to have turned the tide of the battle, Robert himself later maintained that Eddard Stark won it for him. Jon Connington realized the battle was lost and was able to retreat in good order.
Even though Connington managed to retreat despite the odds, it did not impress King Aerys, who had Connington exiled and seized his lands for his failure to deal with rebels. However, this defeat forced King Aerys to realize that Robert was no mere outlaw lord to be crushed at whim, but the greatest threat House Targaryen had faced since Daemon Blackfyre.
After these events, Robert and the rebel army moved further north. King Aerys sent two of his Kingsguard, Ser Jonothor Darry and Ser Barristan Selmy, to Stoney Sept to rally what they could of the loyalist forces.