Monday, August 26, 2013

Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire: History of Westeros-Part 2: The Age of Heroes

The next era of Westerosi history I will be discussing is the Age of Heroes. This era gets it name due to the great amount of influential people who lived during it and the many accomplishments that were made during the years. The Age of Heroes began around -10,000 AL, when the children of the forest and the First Men signed the Pact. The Pact created 4000 years of peace and friendship between the two species, during which the Men adopted many customs and the culture of the children, including the worship of their gods (except for the worshippers of the Drowned God).

Many of the great houses of Westeros have their ancestral roots in the Age of Heroes. Brandon Stark lived during this time and is the supposed founder of House Stark. Brandon was very well known as Bran the Builder because during this era he built Winterfell and the Wall, as well as many other large structures, most notably Storm’s End. The Northmen today still have the blood of the First Men in them and uphold many of their traditions, such as the laws of hospitality and the need for the judge to also be the executioner. The barrows of the First Men can still be found around the North, including Bran the Builder’s. Bran is also credited with giving the Gift to the Night’s Watch, although the Maesters believe it was a different Brandon Stark.

Lann the Clever
Lann the Clever also lived during this time and is the founder of House Lannister. Lann is popular in songs and stories, most notably the story of how he brightened his hair by stealing gold from the sun and how he swindled Casterly Rock from the Casterlys using only his wits. It is said the Rock has never fallen, because Lann tricked the family out of the castle and claimed it as his own, while the Casterlys were wiped out and no longer exist.

Garth Greenhand was another legendary hero, as he was the first of the First Men to go to and rule in the Reach. His true name is Gardener, but he is called Greenhand because he wore a crown of vines and flowers and caused the land in the Reach to bloom. Many notable houses in the Reach can trace their roots back to Garth, including the Tyrells and Florents.

Storm's End
Durran Godsgrief was the first Storm King and the man who created Storm’s End. He was the founder of House Durrendon and his nickname comes from the legend of his love for Elenei. It is said that Elenei was the goddess of the wind and the daughter of the sea god and Durran won her love. Her parents forbade the romance, yet the couple wed anyway. During the wedding, the gods destroyed Durran’s castle and killed all of his family and guests. Durran continued to build castles to fight the gods and the gods destroyed each one. The castles kept getting stronger until finally, the seventh castle held and survived the storms off of Shipwrecker Bay. This castle held potentially due to the influence the children of the forest on the building or because a young man who grew to be Brandon Stark advised the building.

The Grey King of the Iron Islands is claimed as the founder of House Greyjoy. The Grey King fought Nagga, a sea dragon, and won with help from the Drowned God. He made his hall from her bones and heated it with her life fire. He reigned for a thousand years, married a mermaid, and went to war with the Storm God. His crown was made from Nagga’s teeth and his robes from seaweed. When the Grey King died, the Storm God put out Nagga’s fire and allowed the sea to wash away the King’s throne.

One of the most legendary knights, Symeon Star-Eyes, lived during this time. He lost both of his eyes and replaced them with sapphires. His weapon of choice was a staff with blades on both ends so he could kill two men at once by spinning it.

The Age of Heroes was filled with legendary figures, but while the peace and prosperity came to a sudden end around -8000 AL. A great winter fell upon Westeros around this time, a winter that lasted a generation and destroyed much of the land, causing famines and acts of terror. A darkness fell over the realm during this winter, causing it to be called The Long Night in legends. During this Long Night, demons from the Land of Always Winter traveled south, raising the dead bodies they found along the way to fight for them. The Long Night was the official arrival of the Others, the White Walkers, the demons from beyond the Wall. Despite their past differences, the children of the forest and the First Men created an alliance against this terrible threat and fought well for a group of mortals fighting dead men in the War for the Dawn. The Others pushed the Men and children south, but were able to make a push of their own when they discovered that weapons made from dragonglass (obsidian) were able to kill Others. The Men and children were led by a great hero, Azor Ahai, who wielded his flaming sword Lightbringer. Azor Ahai drove the Others back to where they came from, ending the war and the Long Night.

Azor Ahai is a prominent figure in Westerosi tales and legends. It is said that he was chosen to fight the Others, but needed to make a hero’s sword first. He worked for thirty days and nights to create the sword, but it broke when it was tempered in water. Azor Ahai then worked for fifty days and nights to create a second sword, but this one also broke when it was tempered, although he tried to temper it by killing a lion this time. The third sword was made in one hundred days and nights and Azor Ahai knew he had to temper it in a very special way. He brought it to his wife, Nissa Nissa, asked her to bare her breast, and drove the sword through her heart, combining her soul with the metal. He called this sword Lightbringer. He was known as the last hero, but a prophecy states that Azor Ahai would be reborn to fight another great threat out of Westeros.

To decrease the chances of another invasion of demons from the North, Bran the Builder raised the Wall with the help of giants, the First Men, and the children of the forest. The Wall is a structure made of ice and magic, stretching one hundred leagues across the land, from the Gorge in the west to the Shivering Sea in the east. The Wall cut the Land of Always Winter off from Westeros. The Night’s Watch was established at the Wall to keep watch over the Wall and make sure no threats pass through to the inhabited lands. The children of the forest provided the Night’s Watch with one hundred dragonglass daggers each year. Bran the Builder supposedly granted them the Gift, a tract of land slightly south of the Wall and nineteen castles stretching along the Wall, seventeen of which were manned during the Night’s Watch’s most powerful stretch. These castles are:
Shadow Tower

  • Westwatch-by-the-Bridge
  • Shadow Tower (still manned today)
  • Sentinel Stand
  • Greyguard
  • Stonedoor
  • Hoarfrost Hill
  • Icemark
  • Nightfort
  • Deep Lake
  • Eastwatch
  • Castle Black (most prominent, still manned today)
  • Oakenshield
  • Woodswatch-by-the-Pool
  • Sable Hall
  • Rimegate
  • Long Barrow
  • Torches
  • Greenguard
  • Eastwatch-by-the-Sea (still manned today)

The final act of the Age of Heroes was the attack by the Night’s King. The thirteenth Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch was a fearless, strong fighter. He guarded the Wall bravely, until he fell in love a woman who’s description matched that of the Others. It is said that when he gave her his seed, he also gave her his soul. The Lord Commander brought the woman back to the Nightfort and married her, breaking his vow to the Night’s Watch, which stated he would take no women and hold no lands. Upon his return to the Nightfort, the Lord Commander named himself the Night King and the woman his queen and ruled the Nightfort as his own castle for thirteen horrific years. The reign of the Night King brought many atrocities and terrible legends. It was only ended when the King in the North (who was his brother) and the King Beyond the Wall, Joramun (a wildling leader) joined forces to bring him down and free the Night’s Watch. The wildlings had been beginning their raids on the Wall at this time, but they knew they had a common enemy in the ice woman. The legends say that the Kings discovered that the Night King had been sacrificing men to the Others and all records of him were destroyed. It is now forbidden to even mention his name. The Age of Heroes ended with the destruction of this dangerous king and the forbidding of the Night’s Watch to build walls around their keeps, so they would still be accessible from the south.

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