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"You may burn us, my lady, but you will not bend us, break us or make us bow. This is Dorne, you are not wanted here. Return at your peril!"
Meria Martell[src]

The First Dornish War was the last phase of Aegon I Targaryen's Wars of Conquest.

With the peaceful surrender of House Stark and House Arryn, Dorne was the only part of Westeros that remained unconquered. Queen Rhaenys Targaryen flew her dragon Meraxes to Sunspear to demand Dorne's surrender. Princess Meria of House Martell refused, warning her to "return at her peril".

War

Confident she could subdue the Dornish with the same tactic they had used in the Field of Fire, the Targaryens returned to Dorne with their dragons. However, the Dornish refused to meet the Targaryens in the field, instead resorting to guerilla tactics. Rather than another swift conquest, it became a prolonged war with immense Targaryen casualties. Ser Joffrey Dayne invaded The Reach and led an army to Oldtown, the city where Aegon's crowning took place.[1] Both Rhaenys and her Meraxes died in the conflict after Meraxes was hit in the eye with a scorpion bolt. Aegon I eventually agreed to let Dorne remain independent, ending the Wars of Conquest.[2]

Aftermath

More than a century later, King Daeron I Targaryen tried to finish the work of his ancestors and initiated the Conquest of Dorne. Unlike Aegon I, he actually managed to occupy Dorne, but like his ancestor, he soon found himself facing a prolonged guerilla war. The four-year war cost the lives of 60,000 Iron Throne men, and eventually also Daeron I's life.[3] House Martell would remain the sovereign rulers of Dorne until it peacefully joined the fold through marriage.[4]

In the books

Later historians often speak of the "War of Conquest" as beginning with Aegon's Landing at the mouth of the Blackwater in 2 BAC and neatly ending with the Field of Fire and Aegon's subsequent crowning by the High Septon in Oldtown (which marked the first day of the year 1 AC under the new Targaryen calendar system). Considerable fighting continued with Dorne and the Iron Islands, however, leaving some to refer to this entire time period as the "Wars of Conquest".

While House Hoare and most of its armies were destroyed at the Burning of Harrenhal and subsequent revolt of the Riverlands, the Targaryens did not immediately conquer the Iron Islands themselves: with so many of their forces destroyed they were no longer an immediate threat to Aegon's campaigns on the mainland, so he focused on his remaining conquests leading up to the Field of Fire. Moreover, the ironborn had been left leaderless, and their meager remaining warriors actually started fighting themselves to try to seize power. It wasn't until 2 AC that the Targaryens invaded the Iron Islands in force, promptly winning due to their dragons.

Dorne, meanwhile, was an entirely different matter altogether, with its armies still intact and defiantly relying upon defensive warfare behind its mountains and deserts. Realizing how difficult this would be, the Targaryens didn't mount a full scale invasion of Dorne until 4 AC.

According to the maesters, the Dornish suffered great losses in the war despite avoiding larger battles. Every castle, holdfast, village and town except Sunspear was burnt. Queen Rhaenys and her dragon Meraxes led the invasion of Dorne, burning the Planky Town on the way to Sunspear while King Aegon and Lord Harlen Tyrell led an army through the Prince's Pass against the lords of the Red Mountains. However, the Dornish made hit and run attacks, disappearing before dragons could attack them. Many of the Targaryen troops died from the sun and thirst while marching on Hellholt, and upon arrival found that the Ullers had deserted the castle.

Aegon had more success, taking the castle of Yronwood after a brief siege, though there was little glory in this victory, since the castle was mostly manned by old men, boys and women. Skyreach, the seat of House Fowler, was abandoned, while House Toland at Ghost Hill sent a champion to challenge Aegon. Wielding Blackfyre, Aegon easily killed the champion, but upon removing his foe's helmet, he discovered that Lord Toland's mad fool, the Tolands themselves having fled. Lord Orys Baratheon made a disastrous attack on the Boneway, in which the Dornish ambushed them at night, raining arrows, rocks and spears from above. The bodies piled on both ends of Orys' host, and Orys, along with many of his bannermen and knights, was captured by the Wyl of Wyl. Other than the assault on the Boneway, the Targaryens mostly came across abandoned castles or ones with small forces that swiftly surrendered. Sunspear was nearly abandoned, and the Martells were nowhere to be found. Aegon and his sisters gathered the few remaining courtiers and declared themselves victors, leaving Lord Rosby in charge of Sunspear and an army under Harlen Tyrell to put down rebellions.

Once the Targaryens and their dragons left, the Dornish immediately revolted, as planned, with garrisons of knights and soldiers being put to the sword. Lord Tyrell and his whole army disappeared in the deserts between Hellholt and Vaith, while Lord Rosby was captured and thrown to his death from the Spear Tower of Sunspear by Princess Meria herself. Lord Orys and all of his knights and bannermen were ransomed to Aegon, but the sword hand of each hostage was cut off upon release, something that was not a part of the terms and infuriated Aegon, now intent on revenge. The Targaryens and their dragons burned several castles, upon which the Dornish attacked the Rainwood on Cape Wrath. When the dragons struck again, Lord Fowler attacked Nightsong and Ser Joffrey Dayne led an army that threatened Oldtown. Starfall, Skyreach and Hellholt were burned to the ground by dragonfire, but a lucky shot with a scorpion bolt at Hellholt struck Meraxes in the eye, killing the dragon and presumably Rhaenys as well.

The following two years became known as the Dragon's Wroth, as the grieving Aegon had every castle stronghold except Sunspear burned at least once. It was said in Dorne that Princess Meria had purchased cunning means of slaying dragons from Lys, though Archmaester Timotty suggests that Aegon had hoped for the Dornish to turn against the Martells. However, the Dornish lords and smallfolk remained loyal, even though letters were sent from the Dornish Marches to the Dornish houses, claiming that the Martells had bought themselves safety from the dragons. Aegon and Visenya placed bounties on Dornish lords, leading the Dornish to put bounties on the Targaryens and their allies. Aegon and Visenya were assaulted on the streets of King's Landing, and would have been killed if not for Visenya and Dark Sister, leading to the forming of the Kingsguard. Lord Fell was murdered while the Wyl of Wyl committed atrocities, particularly in Fawnton and Old Oak.

Upon Princess Meria's death, her son and successor Prince Nymor sent his daughter Deria with an escort, the skull of Meraxes and a letter to King's Landing to sue for peace. The skull angered several at court, including Lord Orys and Queen Visenya. Deria claimed that Dorne wanted peace, but a peace between two sovereign kingdoms. As Aegon was about to refuse, she placed the letter in his hand. The contents of the letter remain unknown, although it is said that Aegon rose from the Iron Throne clutching the letter, blood running from his hand. Some maesters and historians believe that Rhaenys had survived but was wounded and a hostage of the Dornish, who would end her suffering if Aegon ended the war. Others speculate that the Dornish had paid an enormous sum of money to the Faceless Men to assassinate Prince Aenys, Aegon's heir and only son by Rhaenys, a contract bound to be fulfilled unless Aegon backed down. It could have been both, or neither, but Aegon accepted the peace terms and removed his troops, never speaking of the letter again.

Several minor wars between the Iron Throne and Dorne would occur later in the reigns of Aegon and his sons. After Aegon's death, the outlaw known as the Vulture King amassed an army in the tens of thousands which raided into the Reach and the Stormlands. It was widely believed that the Martells secretly funded him, making the following Vulture Hunt a proxy war between the Targaryens and the Martells, although their involvement was never proven, and King Aenys didn't want to escalate the war further. Orys avenged himself on the Wyl of Wyl, capturing his son Walter and cutting off his sword hand, then his other hand and both feet, claiming it as "usury". Though Orys died of his wounds in the campaign, he died happy.

See also

References