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Daenerys Targaryen: "I was born to rule the Seven Kingdoms, and I will."
Jon Snow: "You'll be ruling over a graveyard if we don't defeat the Night King."
Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow[src]

Daenerys Targaryen's invasion of Westeros is a military effort by Daenerys Targaryen to conquer the Seven Kingdoms and seize the Iron Throne of Westeros. Previously, House Targaryen ruled the Seven Kingdoms until they were overthrown during Robert's Rebellion two decades before Daenerys's invasion. Her father, Aerys II Targaryen, was the last Targaryen king to sit on the Iron Throne.

The rebellion resulted in the crowning of Robert Baratheon and the beginning of the Baratheon dynasty. Robert's reign was characterized by relative stability and strength, surviving through the Greyjoy Rebellion. However, Robert's death resulted in a massive civil war in the realm, the War of the Five Kings, which greatly weakened the dynasty and failed to end the growing friction between the noble houses of Westeros. Following the destruction of the Great Sept of Baelor, Cersei Lannister ascended to the Iron Throne, thus beginning the Lannister dynasty, though the Lannisters had truly ruled from the shadows since Robert's death.

After forming a pact with Yara Greyjoy and Theon Greyjoy, who oppose their uncle, Euron Greyjoy, King of the Iron Islands, and securing the allegiance of House Tyrell, the rulers of the Reach, and Dorne, the combined Targaryen fleet sails to Westeros to place Daenerys on the Iron Throne and restore the Targaryen dynasty.[1][2]

Prelude

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Robert's Rebellion brought an end to the Targaryen dynasty.

For nearly three centuries since the War of Conquest, the Targaryen dynasty ruled the unified Seven Kingdoms of Westeros from the Red Keep in King's Landing. However, the reign of King Aerys II Targaryen, nicknamed the Mad King for his insanity and cruelty, was challenged in the form of Robert's Rebellion by four Great Houses and their bannermen due to a confluence of events. The rebellion was ignited by the alleged kidnapping of Lyanna Stark, betrothed to Robert Baratheon, by Rhaegar Targaryen, heir to the Iron Throne, and the subsequent gruesome executions of Rickard Stark and his heir, Brandon Stark, with wildfire and torture by the Mad King's orders. Ultimately, the civil war saw a rebel victory with Prince Rhaegar's death at the Battle of the Trident and the Mad King's death during the Sack of King's Landing; only the young Prince Viserys Targaryen and newborn Princess Daenerys Targaryen survived due to their smuggling across the Narrow Sea to the Free Cities of Essos by loyalists. Robert was crowned king, beginning the Baratheon dynasty, and was married to Cersei Lannister to secure the backing of House Lannister, which had sacked King's Landing in Robert's name.

Robert's reign seemingly saw stability throughout the realm, though in actuality, tension had begun to stir among the noble houses, which had been seen in instances such as the Greyjoy Rebellion, where Balon Greyjoy had declared himself King of the Iron Islands. Furthermore, the crown spiraled into tremendous debt to the Lannister family, who in turn owed money to the Iron Bank of Braavos. Despite House Lannister's well known reputation of always paying their debts, the gold mines of Casterly Rock had at last run dry. The death of King Robert, which had secretly been orchestrated by Queen Cersei to place her son, Prince Joffrey Baratheon, on the throne, threw the realm into chaos as civil war erupted in the form of the massive War of the Five Kings. While Robert's two brothers, Stannis Baratheon and Renly Baratheon, laid claim to the Iron Throne on the basis that Cersei's children were bastards born of incest with her brother, Jaime Lannister, Robb Stark, who had been proclaimed the King in the North, led an independence movement for the North and the Riverlands and Balon Greyjoy once more led an independence movement for the Iron Islands, declaring himself the Iron King.

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The War of the Five Kings devastated Westeros both politically and literally, leaving it ripe for conquest.

Each king eventually fell from battle, massacre, or murder, though the Lannisters' faction achieved a hollow victory as Tommen Baratheon ascended to the Iron Throne and their new allies, House Bolton and House Frey, took control of the North and the Riverlands, respectively. House Lannister now controlled the throne in all but name. Nonetheless, House Tyrell, whom the Lannisters had allied with after Renly's death and were forced to rely upon for their military and monetary support, began vying for greater influence and control over the young king, much to the chagrin of the Lannisters, who had lost Tywin Lannister after he was murdered by the exiled Tyrion Lannister for false incrimination. Meanwhile, many of the smallfolk began resisting the nobility, with several joining a radical movement of the Faith of the Seven known as the Sparrows. The High Sparrow found great sway over King Tommen, imprisoning Margaery Tyrell, the wife of Tommen, her brother Loras Tyrell, and eventually Cersei herself, forcing them to atone for their sins and to undergo trials. On the day of Loras's and Cersei's trial, however, the Great Sept of Baelor was destroyed with wildfire in a plot orchestrated by Cersei to destroy all of her gathered enemies. However, the plot resulted in King Tommen's suicide, leaving the Baratheon dynasty destroyed. With all of her children dead, Myrcella Baratheon having been poisoned by the vengeful Sand Snakes in Dorne who sought vengeance for Elia Martell, who had been murdered by Lannister bannerman Gregor Clegane during Robert's Rebellion, and Oberyn Martell, Cersei ascended to the Iron Throne, beginning the Lannister dynasty.

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An alliance of supporters of the Targaryen resurgence - and opponents of the Lannister dynasty - is forged.

Having overthrown the complacent House Martell, Ellaria Sand brought Dorne into an alliance with the resurgent House Targaryen, now led by Daenerys, who had with her three dragons and a massive army built up during her Liberation of Slaver's Bay and conquest of the Dothraki. Olenna Tyrell joined this alliance, seeking justice for the deaths of her son, Mace Tyrell, and her grandchildren at Cersei's hand, pledging the Reach to House Targaryen. Yara Greyjoy and Theon Greyjoy, with 100 stolen ships of the Iron Fleet and their faction of loyal Ironborn, also formed a pact with Daenerys Targaryen to depose their uncle, Euron Greyjoy, who had seized the Salt Throne after murdering Balon and winning over the Ironborn lords at the subsequent Kingsmoot. Elsewhere in the North, the Battle of the Bastards saw the destruction of House Bolton and the restoration of House Stark to Winterfell, where Jon Snow, the alleged bastard son of Eddard Stark, was proclaimed the new King in the North by the lords of the North and the Vale. In actuality and unbeknownst to all but a few, however, Jon Snow is in fact the legitimate son of Eddard's sister, Lyanna Stark, and Rhaegar Targaryen, and thus is the nephew of Daenerys Targaryen. As he is the only legitimate son of Prince Rhaegar, who was the first in the succession line, Jon Snow is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.

In the Riverlands, Arya Stark murdered Walder Frey and the rest of the Frey men, further avenging the Red Wedding and leaving House Lannister without any allies or vassals apart from their bannermen in the Westerlands and possibly the houses of the Crownlands.

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The mythical White Walkers have reawakened, leading an army of the dead.

While the struggle for the Iron Throne rages on in southern Westeros, the Northmen brace for the coming winter - the return of the Long Night - and the Great War against the reawakened White Walkers, led by the Night King, and their army of the dead, whom the southerners continue to remain unaware of. Because the White Walkers have been gone for thousands of years, most believed them to be either extinct or completely unreal in the first place, nothing more than creatures that were the subjects of scary stories for children.

Course of the conflict

New alliances

Queen Daenerys Targaryen, for the first time since her storm-ridden birth, sets foot on Westerosi ground on the beaches of Dragonstone, the ancestral castle-island of House Targaryen, and begins planning the invasion and reconquest of the Seven Kingdoms at the chamber of the Painted Table. In response to hearing of the Targaryen armada sailing to Westeros, with Tyrion Lannister himself as Hand of the Queen to Daenerys, Queen Cersei Lannister invites King Euron Greyjoy to King's Landing to propose an alliance with him. Euron had initially attempted to court Daenerys but was beaten by Theon and Yara Greyjoy, the children of Balon Greyjoy, Euron's older brother who was killed and usurped by Euron himself. Euron arrives in King's Landing and explains his story to Cersei, pressuring her to marry him to solidify a potential alliance between the Lannisters and the Greyjoys. Euron also repeatedly mocks Cersei's brother and lover, Ser Jaime Lannister. However, Cersei declines to marry him due to his past of betrayal, so Euron vows to make Cersei change her mind by bringing her a priceless gift, and leaves with the Iron Fleet to fulfill his promise.[3]

Cersei also summons the Great Lords of the Seven Kingdoms to King's Landing, to bend the knee and to fight for her against Daenerys. To gain their loyalty, Cersei insisted on the fact that her rival was the daughter of the Mad King, twisting some of her acts in the Bay of Dragons and using the fact that she was leading a foreign army of Dothraki and Unsuilled to frighten the Lords.[4]

Naval assault

702 Siege of the Targaryen Fleet

The Iron Fleet attacks the Targaryen-Greyjoy fleet.

At the gathered war council in the chamber of the Painted Table, Daenerys and her vassals and allies discuss strategies for their campaign. She sends Yara and Theon Greyjoy to Dorne with Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes so that they can consolidate the Dornish armies and gather the Dornish fleet to besiege King's Landing. In the meantime, she sends her own fleet and her Unsullieds led by Grey Worm to conquer Casterly Rock, the ancestral home of House Lannister.[4]

The Targaryen-Greyjoy fleet is ambushed on the way to Dorne by Euron Greyjoy and the Iron Fleet, which launches fireballs into Yara and Theon's stolen ships and cripple much of the Targaryen naval power. Euron's men board the stolen ships, slaughtering Yara and Theon's followers. Euron himself personally boards Yara's flagship, Black Wind, locking onto it with the Silence. During the battle, Euron kills Obara Sand and Nymeria Sand and his crew capture Ellaria and her daughter, Tyene Sand. Euron then bests his niece in a melee. When Euron confronts his nephew Theon, telling him to come and rescue his sister, Theon instead jumps overboard into Blackwater Bay. Euron and the Iron Fleet sail away to King's Landing as Theon watches on, his sister's fleet burning and sinking to the bottom of the Blackwater.[4]

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Euron parades his prisoners through King's Landing to the Red Keep.

Euron eventually returns to King's Landing, riding on his horse through the streets of the city and parading his prisoners: Yara, Ellaria, and Tyene. Smallfolk cheer him on as he rides towards the Red Keep with the City Watch clearing a path for him. He presents Ellaria and Tyene to Cersei as a gift, who declares to the gathered court that with Euron Greyjoy's fleet, they will be able to come together and defeat the daughter of the Mad King. Cersei later has the two confined in a cell beneath the Red Keep and poisons Tyene with the same poison that Ellaria used on Myrcella Baratheon: the Long Farewell. The two are gagged and chained on opposite sides of the cell so that Ellaria, who will be forcefully fed, is forced to watch her daughter succumb to the poison and her body rot.[5]

Fall of the Tyrells

While meeting with Jon Snow, the King in the North, to negotiate a non-aggressive pact, Varys informs Daenerys that Yara Greyjoy and the Sand Snakes have been captured with their fleet smashed, bar two or three ships. The whereabouts of Euron Greyjoy's Iron Fleet remains unknown to them. Nonetheless, Tyrion Lannister proceeds with his plan to take Casterly Rock from House Lannister: the Siege of Casterly Rock. While the Unsullied army lays siege to the castle, Grey Worm leads a smaller force of Unsullied through the sewers below, which Tyrion had previously been put in charge of by his father. Tyrion had created a secret entrance to his own chambers which he would use to sneak in prostitutes; Grey Worm and the Unsullied use this to their advantage, sneaking into the castle and taking out the Lannister guards posted near the gates before opening them and allowing the Unsullied to pour in. The Unsullied overpower the Lannister garrison, and the Rock, which has never fallen before, quickly falls to the Unsullied. However, Grey Worm notes that the garrison was unusually small and that the main Lannister army was mysteriously absent. He looks over the battlements to see the Iron Fleet attacking the Targaryen fleet in the Sunset Sea. Grey Worm grabs a dying Lannister soldier, frustratingly asking where the rest of the Lannisters are.[5]

703 Attacking Casterly Rock

The Unsullied attack Casterly Rock.

As it turns out, Ser Jaime Lannister led the Lannister army to the Reach with the backing of House Tarly, former bannermen to House Tyrell. The combined Lannister-Tarly host leads the Sack of Highgarden, and Highgarden falls quickly as the Tyrell garrison is smashed and the Lannisters and Tarlys occupy the castle. Ser Jaime confronts Lady Olenna Tyrell, informing her that he used a similar strategy to the one that Robb Stark had used during the War of the Five Kings at the Battle of the Whispering Wood, where Jaime's army had been defeated and scattered and Jaime himself captured by House Stark. Jaime offers poisoned wine to Olenna rather than facing a more gruesome execution at the hands of his sister. After drinking the poisoned wine, Olenna confesses to having murdered his and Cersei's son, Joffrey Baratheon, at the Purple Wedding.[5]

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The Lannister-Tarly army marches on Highgarden.

With this, the Unsullied army is currently trapped at Casterly Rock and Lannisport in the Westerlands with no food stores as Jaime had emptied the larders before he left, while any remaining loyalists to House Targaryen in the Reach and Dorne, the region just south to the Reach, are trapped south by the Lannister-Tarly army. Varys notes that Dorne may descend into chaos with Ellaria and the Sand Snakes dead or captured; House Martell had previously been extinguished. Thus, Daenerys has lost most of her allies in Westeros as well as a significant chunk of her fleet. Tyrion points out that they still have enough ships to bring the Dothraki to Westeros and lay siege to King's Landing, but Cersei has already stripped the Reach of much of its harvest, leaving her prepared to outlast her enemies in a siege. Enraged by the defeat, and out of patience for Tyrion's cautious plans, Daenerys decides to take matters into her own hands.[5]

Crossing the Goldroad

The combined Lannister-Tarly army under Jaime Lannister, Bronn, Randyll Tarly, and Dickon Tarly makes its' way back towards King's Landing, spreading thin along the Blackwater Rush and taking with them a massive supply convoy that includes much of the Reach's harvest. The gold reserves of Highgarden are successfully sent ahead to King's Landing in secret, as Cersei intends to use them to pay off her debts to the Iron Bank of Braavos, which will enable her to take another loan from them and hire the Golden Company (the largest sellsword company in Essos) to help enforce her authority.[6]

As the army briefly stops along the Goldroad near King's Landing however, it is ambushed by the united Dothraki khalasar. With Euron Greyjoy and the Iron Fleet busy tying down the Unsullied at Casterly Rock in the west, Daenerys has managed to land her Dothraki on the eastern coast of Westeros without interference. As Jaime Lannister and Randyll Tarly have the Westerosi forces assume shield-walls in an attempt to counter the cavalry charge, Daenerys herself appears overhead flying on Drogon. She uses his dragonfire to punch a huge hole in the Lannister line, allowing the Dothraki to swarm through. Archers fire on both sides, though as the Dothraki lack armor they take greater losses from this. While the armored and better-equipped Westerosi troops do inflict casualties on the Dothraki, they are greatly outnumbered, and repeated dive-bombing attacks by Daenerys and Drogon soon break their morale, causing many formations to break and flee. Daenerys then shifts her attacks to the supply convoy, having Drogon incinerate the wagons of grain one after another.

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The Dothraki charge at the Lannister-Tarly army.

Desperate, Jaime attempts to turn the tables by killing the enemy commander: with no Targaryen heir, if Daenerys is killed her invasion will fail no matter how many men the Lannisters lose. He rallies a formation of archers to target Daenerys when she and Drogon dive, but Drogon sees them and pulls up to protect his rider, the arrows glancing off his scales. Jaime then has Bronn use the "scorpion" crossbow to target Drogon instead. After an initial miss, Bronn manages to hit Drogon in the shoulder as he dives at the scorpion, but despite the wound Drogon manages to regain his balance just before he hits the ground; he angrily destroys the scorpion with his fire, narrowly missing Bronn.

By now, the Westerosi forces are in full rout, with the Dothraki pursuing and mercilessly slaughtering anyone they can catch. Unwilling to accept the terrible defeat, Jaime notices that Daenerys has dismounted on the riverbank and is trying to remove the scorpion bolt from Drogon's shoulder. Attempting to turn the tables one last time, he grabs a lance and makes a desperate charge directly at her. Just as he is about to reach Daenerys, Drogon sees him and shields Daenerys with his head, sending a blast of dragonfire at Jaime; however, Bronn tackles him out of the way and they both plunge into the Blackwater Rush.

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Jaime charges at Daenerys and Drogon.

The survivors of the battle, including Randyll and Dickon Tarly were captured and presented a choice by Daenerys; bend the knee or die. Randyll refused, echoing Cersei's propaganda and his son supported him, which resulted in both of them being burned alive by Drogon on Daenerys's orders. Upon their execution, any soldiers who hadn't been already cowed into submission by the dragon, immediately bent the knee in fear.[7]

The battle at the Goldroad undid nearly all the advantages Cersei gained from her previous victories; her armies have been severely reduced and much of the food supplies she needs for the siege have been destroyed, while her allied House Tarly has been effectively put out of the war. Daenerys finally has exhibited the power of her dragons in full force and gained a foothold on the Westeros mainland. Presumably, with the remains of Jaime's army having bent the knee, her Unsullied would be able to link up with the Dothraki and march on King's Landing.[6][7]

Unsteady armistice

Jaime, having been rescued from drowning in the Blackwater Rush by Bronn, manages to return to King's Landing and inform Cersei of the defeat. Shell-shocked by his encounter with Drogon and the Dothraki and fearful of provoking Daenerys to use her dragons again, he pleads for Cersei to negotiate, as he believes there is no way the Lannisters can win the war, even if she hires mercenaries. Cersei, however, believes she and Jaime will be killed either way and resolves to fight on.

Tyrion and Jaime Eastwatch

Tyrion and Jaime Lannister meet in King's Landing.

Convinced by Jon Snow of the existence and threat posed by the White Walkers in the far north, Queen Daenerys secretly allows Tyrion to meet with Jaime in King's Landing. At their secret meeting beneath the Red Keep, Tyrion asks his brother to relay his and Daenerys's offer to their sister: to treat with Daenerys in a parley in order to prove the existence and return of the White Walkers and to negotiate a truce in order to deal with the threat in the North. While skeptical, Cersei accepts to meet with Daenerys in order to gain time after her recent losses. As she is pregnant with yet another child by Jaime, this gives her added motivation to gain time to secure her position at any cost. As the two embrace, Cersei warns Jaime not to "betray" her again.[7]

Per Tyrion's advice to bring a wight to the Parley in King's Landing as proof of the return of the White Walkers, Jon Snow ventures beyond the Wall for the Wight Hunt with Ser Jorah Mormont of Daenerys's Queensguard, Robert Baratheon's last bastard son Gendry, wildling chieftain Tormund, several members of the Brotherhood Without Banners, including Lord Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr, and Sandor Clegane, and several wildlings, while Ser Davos Seaworth stays behind at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea with the Night's Watch. They capture a wight but are nearly overcome by the army of the dead on a frozen lake when Daenerys arrives with her three dragons, who had previously received a raven from Gendry and Davos at Eastwatch asking for her aid. Though they all escape, Jon later atop his uncle Benjen Stark's horse after he sacrifices himself, the Night King is able to kill Viserion and later secretly reanimate the fallen dragon as a wight. Meanwhile, on a Targaryen ship en route to King's Landing for the parley, Jon secretly pledges fealty to Daenerys, declaring her his queen.[8]

Dragonpit gathering

"There's only one war that matters - the Great War - and it is here."
Jon Snow at the Parley in King's Landing[src]

The Parley in King's Landing is held at the Dragonpit. Ser Jaime Lannister and Ser Bronn oversee siege preparations on the battlements of the city walls with the Lannister forces and City Watch while the forces of House Targaryen - the Unsullied and the Dothraki - line up in formation outside the city gates, commanded by Grey Worm. The small Targaryen fleet sails into Blackwater Bay, where Euron Greyjoy's Iron Fleet protects the harbor, the Silence in front of the Ironborn ships. In her chambers, Cersei Lannister is informed by Jaime that Daenerys Targaryen has not been spotted with her retinue. Cersei tells Ser Gregor Clegane that should things turn sour to kill Daenerys, Tyrion Lannister, and Jon Snow in that order then deal with the rest however he please before departing from the Red Keep to the Dragonpit with Jaime, Gregor, Euron, and Qyburn.

Ser Bronn escorts Jon, Tyrion and their retinue to the Dragonpit. Brienne of Tarth and Podrick Payne are already among them, having been sent by Sansa Stark from Winterfell to represent her interests at the gathering. Podrick and Tyrion are glad to see each other again, and Tyrion questions Bronn over his allegiances and remind him that he could double the price his sister pays. Bronn says he's doing just fine in his position, but admits he is glad to see Tyrion again and alive. Sandor Clegane and Brienne also make peace with one another and talk about Arya Stark.

In the Dragonpit, Jon Snow, Davos Seaworth, and Brienne take their seats at the Stark tent while Tyrion, Missandei, Varys, Theon Greyjoy, and their Dothraki guardsmen, including Qhono, walk towards the Targaryen tent. Bronn and Pod, with Brienne's permission, leave together to grab a drink in the city and let the "fancy folk" talk.Cersei shows up moments later with her retinue, including her entire Queensguard taking the Lannister tent at the center. She grows impatient with Daenerys's absence, but Daenerys shows up moments later atop Drogon with Rhaegal flying by his brother. Drogon lands in the Dragonpit, allowing Daenerys to enter the summit before the dragon takes flight.

Tyrion begins the discussion by mentioning larger concerns, but Euron mocks him and instead implores that Theon submit to him to save Yara. Cersei and Jaime have him take his seat, and Tyrion resumes his talking point: they may never live in harmony again, but they have a common enemy that they must face, requiring a truce. Jon then has the Hound bring the crate he's been carrying to the pit and open it. The chained captured wight lunges at Cersei but is held back by its chain. The Hound chops it into pieces, the wight showing no pain. Jon demonstrates that wights can be harmed with fire - burning its hand, causing the wight to show pain - and also destroyed with dragonglass, stabbing the wight with a dagger. Euron asks if the wights can swim; Jon tells him no, and Euron declares his intentions to return with the Iron Fleet to the Iron Islands, advising Daenerys to do the same. Realizing that the White Walkers are real, Cersei agrees to a truce with Daenerys but says to Jon that he must agree to remain neutral when the war to come is won. Jon, bound to the code of honor among Northmen, openly confesses to the audience that he has already pledged fealty to Daenerys and can only serve her as his queen. Cersei declares the meeting over and leaves. Brienne tries to convince Jaime to talk sense into her, but Jaime is reluctant to do so. Tyrion then declares that he will try and go reason with his sister, and that he must do it alone.

Escorted by Ser Gregor, Tyrion meets with Jaime one last time, the two bonding over their shared "idiocy," before walking into the lion's den. Cersei is disgusted by Tyrion, accusing him of wanting to destroy their family. Tyrion tries to convince her otherwise, but when she refuses to hear it, he begins to provoke her, admitting he has thought of ways to see her dead more than any other person. He implores Cersei to have Ser Gregor kill him, but the twitching Cersei is able to hold back. Cersei holds her stomach, and Tyrion deduces that she is pregnant once more.

As Jon and Daenerys discuss the old Targaryen dragons, Tyrion returns with Cersei and her retinue. Cersei agrees to make peace with the Targaryens and the Starks and will send the Lannister armies north. She hopes that they will remember this deed after the war to come is won. Secretly, however, Cersei conspires with Euron to abandon her new allies in the north and instead focus on reconquering Westeros while her enemies to the north slaughter each other, a decision that leads to Jaime abandoning his sister.[9]

With this, Daenerys Targaryen's military campaign to seize the Iron Throne and restore her family dynasty is ended, or at least put to a halt, as all efforts are focused towards the Great War.

Combatants

The Mother of Dragons

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Daenerys Targaryen at Dragonstone

Daenerys Targaryen claims the Iron Throne on the basis that she is the head of House Targaryen and the rightful heir to the throne, which was initially forged by Aegon the Conqueror some three hundred years ago. Along with her brother Viserys Targaryen, Daenerys was smuggled across the Narrow Sea to the Free Cities of Essos after Robert's Rebellion. Viserys was eventually killed by a Dothraki khal, Drogo, thus leading to Daenerys to claim the Iron Throne for herself. Rather than immediately divert her attention to Westeros, however, Daenerys instead first launched a campaign to liberate the enslaved populace of Slaver's Bay from the slave masters. Her war to free the slaves ultimately concludes in a victory, and slavery is abolished across the region and its three cities. Leaving the newly-named Bay of Dragons under the guard of her sellsword company, the Second Sons, Daenerys then forges an alliance with House Tyrell, Dorne, and part of House Greyjoy. With the ships of the Reach, Dorne, part of the Iron Fleet, and the former slave masters making up the new Targaryen royal fleet, as well as their armies plus the Unsullied and the Dothraki behind her, Daenerys sails to Westeros intent on taking back the Iron Throne and reestablishing the Targaryen dynasty with herself as its Queen.

Daenerys personally commands a legion of Unsullied heavy infantry (just under 8,000 strong) and hordes of Dothraki light cavalry (just under 100,000), giving her easily the largest army in the entire conflict. House Tyrell and the Dornish, who act in alliance with her and her advisers directly, can field further ground troops (from both the Tyrell army and the Dornish militias) and provide naval support (in the form of the Tyrell-aligned Redwyne Fleet). Her greatest military asset is her three dragons, making Daenerys the only person in the entire known world capable of launching an aerial assault on her enemies. However, Daenerys has suffered a series of defeats, between the Assault on the Targaryen Fleet, the Siege of Casterly Rock and the Sack of Highgarden. She has essentially lost all of her Westerosi allies, as well as the detachment of her fleet that transported her Unsullied troops to Casterly Rock, who have taken moderate casualties and are stranded at Casterly Rock. Impatient with the cautious plans that Tyrion had advised her to follow, but still unwilling to harm civilians by burning cities, she formed a plan of her own and won a decisive field victory at the Battle of the Goldroad; following the battle, the surviving Westerosi soldiers bend the knee to her, increasing her forces. In the aftermath, she reluctantly agreed to negotiate an armistice with House Lannister, in order to keep her gains while dealing with the oncoming threat of the Army of the Dead. Most recently, she has formed an alliance with the King in the North, Jon Snow, with whom she shares a mutual attraction that eventually culminated in a sexual encounter during their journey to Winterfell; by extension, she is also allied with the Vale of Arryn, which has pledged to support the Starks in the Great War.

The Queen of the Iron Islands

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Yara Greyjoy on the Iron Islands

Yara Greyjoy claims the Salt Throne on the basis that she claims to be the head of House Greyjoy and that her father, Balon Greyjoy, the King of the Iron Islands, wanted her to rule. Her claim to the Salt Throne is supported by her younger brother Prince Theon Greyjoy, but their uncle Euron Greyjoy sits the Salt Throne of the Kingdom of the Iron Islands after winning over the Ironborn lords and captains at a kingsmoot and killing her father and his brother, Balon Greyjoy. Yara currently seeks to avenge her father's death at the hands of Euron and to retake the Salt Throne. Yara, Theon, and their portion of the Iron Fleet sails to the Bay of Dragons to seek an alliance with Daenerys Targaryen. As per the terms of their alliance, Yara will be recognized as queen of a sovereign Kingdom of the Iron Islands should Daenerys Stormborn successfully become Queen of the Andals and the First Men, provided the Ironborn agree to live peacefully with Daenerys's realms and give up all raping, reaving and pillaging.

Being a queen herself, Yara is the highest ranking of Daenerys's allies. She commands a major portion of the Iron Fleet, which serves as the backbone of the Targaryen allied navy which itself consists of the Redwyne Fleet, a Dornish fleet, and the Targaryen Royal Fleet. However, with her capture at Euron's hand and the almost complete annihilation of her fleet during the Assault on the Targaryen Fleet, it is likely that the majority of her faction has been wiped out, save for her brother, Theon Greyjoy, who managed to escape along with two or three ships.

The Queen of the Andals and the First Men

Queen Cersei Main The winds of Winter

Cersei Lannister at her coronation in the Red Keep

Cersei Lannister claims the Iron Throne by the right of conquest, and is also the current occupant of the throne. The Iron Throne was previously usurped by House Baratheon from House Targaryen during Robert's Rebellion, and the Baratheon dynasty continued to rule for the next two decades, even surviving the War of the Five Kings when it was divided between House Baratheon of King's Landing, House Baratheon of Dragonstone, and its main branch, House Baratheon of Storm's End. However, the dynasty finally collapsed upon the suicide of King Tommen I Baratheon, whose death also led to the extinction of House Baratheon as a whole. With no one to oppose her, Cersei ascended to the Iron Throne, beginning a new House Lannister dynasty. The Lannisters had already amassed great power and influence over the Iron Throne during the Baratheon dynasty, and had sat it in all but name, as House Baratheon of King's Landing was really a puppet of House Lannister after King Robert I Baratheon's death, as King Joffrey I, Princess Myrcella Baratheon, and King Tommen I were actually born of incest between Cersei and her brother Ser Jaime, and not between Cersei and Robert I. Cersei now seeks to preserve the Lannister dynasty and continue to sit atop the Iron Throne.

Cersei's military forces consist mostly of the well-equipped armies of House Lannister, reinforced constantly with fresh recruits from the Westerlands. Originally 60,000 men strong at the start of the War of the Five Kings, this army has been severely reduced by the war and post-war conflicts, and received heavy casualties by Daenery's crushing victory at the Battle of the Goldroad. This leaves Cersei with only the City Watch of King's Landing, the remains of the Lannister Army, and what surviving troops she can conscript from the depleted Westerlands and its vassals. House Frey, the Lannisters' most loyal ally since the Red Wedding, has been all but eliminated by Arya Stark, with apparent the death of all Frey heirs, leaving House Frey powerless, and a power vacuum in the Riverlands. The Wardens of the North, House Bolton has gone extinct after the Battle of the Bastards, although ties between House Bolton and House Lannister were seemingly fractured when Ramsay Bolton married Sansa Stark, undermining the plans of the Lannisters in the region. House Arryn, rulers of the Vale and who remained neutral during the War of the Five Kings pledged to the cause of Jon Snow and the united northern houses, and have provided their intact army to the northern cause. While House Tarly briefly alligned with Cersei, Lord Randyll Tarly, his son and heir, Dickon, and the majority of the Tarly army were killed after the Battle of the Goldroad, and his surviving bannermen (as well as some Lannister bannermen) bent the knee to Daenerys.

Having accepted a marriage agreement from Euron Greyjoy, Cersei now has over 1,000 Greyjoy ships to serve as her royal fleet. Using the gold plundered from Highgarden, and immediately after making an armistice with Daenerys, Cersei secretly orders Euron Greyjoy to sail to Essos and ferry over the Golden Company, putting 20,000 mercenary infantry, cavalry, and war elephants at her disposal. While she is still badly outnumbered, Cersei intends to use the Golden Company to mop up the remains of whoever wins the Great War – either Daenerys and Jon Snow with House Targaryen and House Stark, or the Army of the Dead – and finally reign unopposed. This devious move, however, has cost her her greatest supporter, as her brother and lover Jaime, unwilling to surrender what's left of his honor after working for years to reclaim it, leaves King's Landing to honor his oath to fight the Army of the Dead. Currently, although none of the southern kingdoms has the strength to fight her (except the Vale of Arryn and possibly Dorne), she only occupies the Crownlands, the Westerlands, and fragments of the Riverlands and Stormlands.

The King of the Iron Islands

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Euron Greyjoy on the Iron Islands

Euron Greyjoy sits the Salt Throne of the Kingdom of the Iron Islands after winning over the Ironborn lords and captains at a kingsmoot. The Iron Islands are a chain of islands in Ironman's Bay and are one of the nine constituent regions of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. The fiercely independent Ironborn are a distinctively different culture from the rest of Westeros, which is dominated by descendants of the First Men with some Andal blood. Euron's brother, Balon Greyjoy, twice proclaimed himself King of the Iron Islands in an attempt to make the Iron Islands an independent kingdom once more, though both times he failed. Euron eventually returned to the Iron Islands after years of sailing the world, where he murdered his brother Balon. Though Balon had designated his daughter Yara Greyjoy to succeed him, a kingsmoot was held instead, and it was at that kingsmoot that Euron won the Salt Throne after promising to conquer all of Westeros for the Ironborn with the dragons of Daenerys Targaryen. Knowing Euron to be a dangerous man, Yara and her brother, Theon Greyjoy, lead an active resistance faction against him, seeking to install Yara on the Salt Throne as Queen of the Iron Islands. Yara and Theon beat their uncle Euron to Meereen, where they formed a pact with the Dragon Queen, who agreed to help them defeat Euron and take back the Iron Islands. Euron seeks the deaths of his niece and nephew so that they cannot challenge his reign.

Euron commands the freshly rebuilt Iron Fleet, crewed by Houses loyal to him. The new fleet is visually impressive and apparently more than a match for any other fleet in the world – though time will tell if this is true. However, he proves his prowess when he strikes a first blow against the Targaryen Alliance with the Assault on the Targaryen Fleet, where he destroys the majority of his niece's fleet and captures Yara, as well as Elliara and Tyene Sand, essentially stripping Daenerys of two of her Westerosi allies. He then ambushes the remainder of the Targaryen fleet at the Siege of Casterly Rock, destroying the armada and stranding the Unsullied.

Other factions

The King in the North

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Jon Snow in the crypts beneath Winterfell

Though not a formal combatant, the coronation of Jon Snow as King in the North will likely interfere with Daenerys Targaryen's military campaign given that she seeks the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms, and the North and the Vale were both under the dominion of the Iron Throne, being two of the seven kingdoms. The Knights of the Vale, led by House Arryn, previously came to aid the Stark-Free Folk army during the Battle of the Bastards. With the deaths of Eddard, Robb and Rickon Stark, as well as the believed death of Bran Stark, the Northern lords named Jon Snow, the bastard of Eddard Stark, their king following his victory against Ramsay Bolton in reclaiming Winterfell and the North from House Bolton. The North, along with the Riverlands ruled by House Tully, decided to secede from the Seven Kingdoms with Robb as their king in response to Eddard's unjust execution in King's Landing at the orders of Joffrey Baratheon, which was to stop Eddard from revealing the illegitimacy of Cersei's three children with King Robert Baratheon, who were actually the products of Cersei's incestuous relationship with her twin brother, Jaime Lannister. Though Robb was betrayed and murdered by his former bannerman Roose Bolton at the Red Wedding, who was subsequently named Warden of the North by Tywin Lannister, the Starks have eradicated House Bolton and reclaimed Winterfell under the leadership of Jon Snow, who has now been named the new King in the North in defiance of the Iron Throne.

Unbeknownst to all, including Jon himself, however, is the truth of Jon's parentage: he is actually the legitimate son of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, King Aerys II Targaryen's eldest son who was slain by Robert Baratheon at the Battle of the Trident during his rebellion, with Eddard's sister, Princess Lyanna Stark, who died giving birth to Jon at the Tower of Joy in Dorne, thus making him Daenerys's nephew by blood and giving him a stronger claim to the Iron Throne than Daenerys. Being unaware of both his origins Jon is much more concerned with preparing his followers for the impending Great War against the White Walkers than taking part in any of the strife still gripping the South.

Shortly after her arrival, Daenerys is informed of Jon and his status as King in the North by Melisandre. Though intrigued by Jon's efforts and achievements, she summons Jon to Dragonstone to meet her and "bend the knee", clearly not intending to allow the North to remain independent from her rule. Jon accepts her invitation, but refuses to bend the knee, instead asking for Daenerys's help against the Night King, and her permission to mine the dragonglass underneath Dragonstone. Daenerys declares Jon to be in open rebellion against her and holds him prisoner on Dragonstone, but after hearing of her army's casualties at the hands of Euron Greyjoy, Jaime Lannister, and Randyll Tarly, she acknowledges that she may need Jon's help after all, and allows him to mine the dragonglass as a good faith gesture. In the process, Jon discovers cave paintings left behind by the Children of the Forest and the First Men, who fought alongside each other against the White Walkers despite their differences, and implores Daenerys to do the same lest they all die. Daenerys acknowledges the threat and promises to fight for the North if Jon bends the knee, which Jon remains reluctant to do. Around the same time, an attraction appears to be growing between Jon and Daenerys, which Davos Seaworth notes; this eventually culminates in a sexual encounter during their journey to Winterfell.

After the wight hunt, Jon finally unbends his pride and acknowledges Daenerys as his Queen, assuring her his people will accept her once they see her personality. Daenerys, in turn, promises to help Jon defeat the Night King. Following his public abdication during the Parley with Cersei, Jon Snow began to sign his letters as Warden of the North.[10]

Jon has the re-conscripted forces of the North at his disposal as well as the armies of the Vale of Arryn, which have been left intact during the War of the Five Kings. He is also in alliance with the Free Folk better known throughout the Seven Kingdoms as "Wildlings", who currently occupy the Wall alongside what remains of the Night's Watch.

In the books

In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, the plot is far behind the point the show has reached; the battles of Meereen and Winterfell have not begun yet; many characters, who were killed off in the show, are still alive and active (Stannis, the Tyrells, Ser Barristan Selmy, etc.); the show has greatly strayed from the novels, especially in respect of the Dornish plotline, thus it is difficult to predict how the various plotlines progress and combine in the novels, and how the various parties regard Daenerys - if they will choose to ally with or oppose her.

Morever, a new contender has recently appeared in the last novel (that character has not appeared yet on the show, perhaps totally omitted) with significant force that can seriously affect the balance of forces in Westeros.

Daenerys hasn't attempted to return to Westeros as of the fifth and most recent novel (corresponding to the end of Season 5 of the TV series for her storyline). She is far away from Meereen and her troops, and has just encountered Khal Jhaqo. It is strongly implied that she will win over the Dothraki at some point as she did in Season 6.

In the North

By the point the fifth novel ends, Stannis's host camps three days away from Winterfell. The battle between him and the Boltons has not begun yet. Stannis's position is by no means as hopeless as in the finale of season 5: he has gained the support of northern houses and the mountain clans; the traitor in his host is exposed, thanks to Alys Karstark; soon he will be reinforced by the White Harbor men; in the sample chapter of the sixth novel it is implied he intends to set a trap to his enemies (perhaps drown them at the frozen lake near the village).

In view of how far the show has strayed from the novels, it is not impossible Stannis wins after all, depsite the contents of the Bastard Letter. Since he consistently insists that he is the only rightful king of Westeros, it can assumed he will oppose Daenerys rather than ally with her.

In Dorne

Doran Martell is still alive in the books (his murder by Ellaria Sand in the TV series was a drastic condensation, rather, invention, of the TV series with no basis in the novels). Doran explains to his daughter Arianne that he intends to ally with Daenerys - thus she doesn't even need to conquer a beachhead, as the instant she arrives in Westeros Dorne will revolt against the Lannisters and join her other armies. Doran even sends his elder son Quentyn as an envoy to try to broker a formal alliance, based on the secret pact he signed many years before with Willem Darry (though he is later killed surreptitiously trying to steal one of her dragons).

Quentyn's death, however, may cause a rift between Daenerys and the Martells: although it was not her fault, the Martells may become upset at her for rejecting Quentyn's proposal (though she did it very gently). The Martells may decide to support another contender, who has not appeared yet on the show; in fact, Doran sent his daughter to meet that person.

The Ironborn

Asha Greyjoy (called Yara in the show) doesn't go to Meereen in the novels: instead she flees the Kingsmoot back to her captured holdings in the North - but her army camp is soon attacked by Stannis Baratheon in the Second Battle of Deepwood Motte, who kills most of her remaining men and takes her prisoner. She and Theon are currently imprisoned at Stannis's camp. Instead, it is her uncle Victarion Greyjoy (cut from the TV series) who takes the Iron Fleet east to Meereen - but he plans to betray Euron by making a marriage-alliance with Daenerys himself (possibly by force).

In the TV version Yara takes Victarion's role, and instead of secretly planning to turn against Euron, openly does so.

The books make explicitly clear that the Iron Fleet isn't the only fleet in the Iron Islands, just their "national fleet" of sorts - the best ships and crews, under direct command of their king. Each of the local Houses and isles have their own fleets. Thus in both versions, even though Victarion/Yara took their "best ships", Euron would still have a considerable fleet left at his command (even without needing to build new ones to replace his losses).

In the fourth book, Euron launches a military campaign against the Reach. He has already captured the Shield Islands and the Arbor, and is currently sailing south and east towards Oldtown, on the verge of a massive naval engagement with the Redwyne Fleet (the last major fleet remaining around Westeros after the old Royal Fleet got destroyed at the Battle of the Blackwater). Euron captured his brother Aeron the priest, and is holding him in harsh imprisonment in the bowels of his ship for unknown purpose.

At present Euron is far away from the Slaver's Bay, yet he is expected to intervene with Daenerys's plotline, based on the prophecies of the Red Priests Benerro and Moqorro about an enemy of Daenerys, described as "a tall and twisted thing with one black eye and ten long arms, sailing on a sea of blood". The earlier novels contained more subtle hints and foreshadowings that Euron was eventually going to be a major antagonist in the war, on the scale of Tywin, Joffrey, Roose & Ramsay. It is implied that Euron may actually try to ally with Cersei in the future: given that her actions have totally alienated the Starks to the north and the Tyrells/Martells to the south, Euron is really the only other extant faction she hasn't gravely offended so much that they would never work together. In a preview chapter from the next novel, Euron forces Aeron to drink shade of the evening to give him psychedelic visions, one of which is of Euron seated on the Iron Throne, with a mysterious woman next to him in the shadows, with fire coming from her hands (i.e. how Cersei will use wildfire to destroy the Great Sept). It is also somewhat hinted that Euron has truly gone insane and is in service to some sort of dark demonic powers (either the White Walkers or those beneath the depths), and is a "dark messiah" of sorts for them, intentionally trying to bring about an apocalyptic event.

At King's Landing

The Lannisters, meanwhile, are already half-exhausted and bankrupt. Robb Stark might have been killed and his army massacred at the Red Wedding, but he inflicted significant losses on the Lannister's main armies before that (at the Battle of the Whispering Wood, Battle of Oxcross, and overall attrition in the protracted Riverlands campaign). Around half of the Lannisters armies' were slaughtered by Robb's forces and they cannot simply replace men as they can swords or ships - their strength has been hobbled for years to come. The Iron Throne is in astronomical debt and the Iron Bank of Braavos has lost faith in them. The TV version claimed this is because their gold mines ran dry - which is a gross exaggeration and physically impossible. In the books, spending simply outpaced the rate of production (just because they have gold mines doesn't mean they produce infinite amounts of gold). In comparison, the TV series addresses the fact that Cersei's regime is bankrupt in Season 7 - by requisitioning the Tyrell fortune to pay her debts and reintroducing Tycho Nestoris of the Iron Bank.

By the end of the fifth novel, the current state of affairs in King's Landing is definitely in favor of the Tyrells, all of whom are still alive. They have greatly increased their political power on the expense of the Lannisters:

  • The Tyrells have three of the seats in the Small Council.
  • A hundred Highgarden men have been added to the gold cloaks.
  • Mace Tyrell and Randyll Tarly have both brought armies to King's Landing, while most of the Lannister troops are away in the Riverlands.
  • The High Sparrow agreed to release Margaery (and her cousins) to the custody of Randyll, since the case against them is so weak. Margaery has not been declared innocent yet, but her position is far better than Cersei's.
  • Cersei has been stripped of all powers and authorities; all her henchmen have been either deposed, imprisoned or fled away, and some of them (Lancel and Pycelle) even turned against her; she is confined to her rooms, guarded all the time, and is not allowed to walk freely around with her new bodyguard and intimidate people; whatever schemes she has in mind, she cannot realize them (the TV version had her under "house arrest" within the Red Keep, but not her specific chamber). Qyburn is the only one who remains loyal to her.
  • Jaime is away from King's Landing, concluding the Second Siege of Riverrun. Having already learned that Cersei has been unfaithful to him, he then receives news that she has nearly destroyed the vital Lannister-Tyrell alliance that they desperately need to survive. In the books, she did this by having Margaery arrested, and sending Loras Tyrell on a suicide mission to force a quick end to the siege of Dragonstone (in which he was burned alive with boiling oil and was left clinging to life). On hearing just how far gone Cersei is, Jaime decides not to intervene, burns the distress letter Cersei sent him, and apparently intends to simply let his uncle Kevan assume control over Tommen's regency.
  • Varys, shortly after killing Pycelle and before ordering his helpers to finish Kevan off, explains that he expects Kevan's death to creat a chaos which will be used by the Targaryens to conquer the kingdom.
  • The Tyrells, given their military power and Margaery's popularity, can take advantage of Kevan's death and Cersei's downfall, and seize King's Landing; they cannot hope, though, to rule the entire kingdom without any allies and with enemies around them: in the north - Stannis, in the west - ironborn, in the south - sellswords. They may decide to ally with the Targaryens, and they did during Robert's Rebellion.

The Destruction of the Great Sept of Baelor has not yet occurred in the current novels, though it is foreshadowed - Cersei takes great delight in burning down the Tower of the Hand with Wildfire (but no one is killed). If an event analogous to this occurs in the novels, it cannot possibly kill all of the Tyrells - that is, their many younger cousins and cadet branches, not to mention that Mace has two older sons (Willas and Garlan) cut from the TV series. Thus even if Mace, Margaery, and Loras are killed, the fate of House Tyrell's leadership is unclear. Similarly, the Faith Militant has spread throughout all of southern Westeros, and even a decapitation strike against their core leadership in King's Landing will not eliminate their presence entirely.

In the Vale

Littlefinger's plans have also been drastically altered in the TV series. Littlefinger reveals to Sansa that he plans to wed her to Harrold Hardyng, Robin Arryn's cousin and closest living relative, after Robin dies (he will probably not live to adulthood in view of his poor health - and Littlefinger implies he may have him poisoned). When all the pieces are in place, Sansa will reveal her true identity, and call upon the lords of the Vale to remember their old loyalty to her father Ned. Every knight in the Vale will pledge his sword to win her back her birthright, and she will have it all - Harrold, the Eyrie and Winterfell. In the process, Littlefinger will vicariously control two of the Seven Kingdoms. He was the true instigator of the entire war, explicitly to dupe the Starks and Lannisters into fighting each other to the point of exhaustion, while keeping the Vale's army out of the war and at full strength to finish off any survivors.  

Littlefinger says that he originally thought it would take four to five years for his plans to come to fruition. However, while he always expected Cersei's weak regency over Tommen to crumble from within, he says he didn't anticipate how rapidly Cersei would spiral into self-destruction: arming the Faith Militant, utterly mishandling the debt crisis with the Iron Bank, needlessly antagonizing the Tyrells. This has forced him to speed up his timetable, though he sees this as an opportunity.

Littlefinger cryptically says that whatever peace was left in Westeros after the War of the Five Kings will not long survive the "Three Queens". Sansa is puzzled and doesn't understand what he means: she assumes he is referring to Cersei and Margaery, but doesn't understand who the third queen is (possibly Daenerys, though it's possible he's referring to other women entirely).

Littlefinger hasn't mentioned Stannis in his plans yet, or how his sudden appearance in the North may alter any of his plans. Stannis loathes Littlefinger, and accurately suspected for years during Robert's reign that Littlefinger was a traitor, so Stannis would probably kill Littlefinger if they ever came into contact again rather than ally with him.

For the moment, Littlefinger is strengthening his grip over the lords of the Vale, bribing off old aristocratic families who are deeply in debt (apparently with massive amounts of money he embezzled from the Iron Throne). His entry into the war still seems some way off, so he is focusing on the first step in his plan: his alleged bastard daughter "Alayne" (Sansa) winning over and betrothing Harold Hardyng.

Name

As this conflict has not yet occurred in the novels, it has yet to have an official name. The following names are unsuitable for different reasons:

  • "Targaryen Restoration": such a name assumes that either Jon or Daenerys will succeed and sit on the Iron Throne, when it is perfectly possible that they will be killed by the White Walkers during the Great War.
  • "Second War of Conquest": as the War of Conquest consisted of Aegon Targaryen invading and unifying the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros into one Realm (even though Dorne joined two centuries later), this name assumes that it will happen again, while the Seven Kingdoms are still essentially the same Realm that Aegon created, and most factions follow the monarch who will sit on the Iron Throne, except the North and the Vale, who follow the King in the North. This name would only be applicable if Daenerys wins and unifies all Seven Kingdoms under the Iron Throne again.

Therefore, the conflict, and this article, will be named Daenerys Targaryen's invasion of Westeros, for the time being.

See also

References