Called the "Greyjoy Rebellion" in the rest of Westeros, which historians will record as beginning in 289 A.L., this is the campaign in which Balon Greyjoy named himself King of the Iron Islands, and declared a return to the old ways of reaving and conquest, uniting all seven Isles under his banner to launch a massive invasion of the mainland.
Until the Targaryen conquest, the Kings of the Iron Islands had ruled the Riverlands as far west as Harrenhal, the capital of Harren the Black, the last Ironborn King of the Islands and Rivers. With his death, and the establishment of the Tullys (Targaryen collaborators) as the Lords Paramount of the Riverlands in 1 A.L., the rule of Ironborn over the Riverlands was ended, and with the extinction of the royal House Hoare, House Greyjoy was installed as Lords Paramount of the Iron Islands, whose power waned steadily over subsequent centuries. Although a constant threat to coastal villages and cities from Bear Island to The Arbor, after the Conquest, The Greyjoys remained nominally loyal to the Crown, largely out of fear.
With the overthrow of the Targaryen Dynasty during Robert's Rebellion (a war in which the Iron Islands took no part), and the weakening of the Westerosi nobility, Balon Greyjoy- using his tremendous popularity among the noble houses of the Isles- named himself King of the Iron Islands, judging King Robert's rule too weak, too new, and too unpopular to offer united resistance to his declaration.
While ravens flew to King's Landing with word that Balon Greyjoy had named himself King, a period of six months of silence from the Ironfolk ended in a series of coordinated sneak attacks on the mainland coastal fortifications, as well as a brilliant ambush of the Lannister Golden Fleet while it sat at anchor in Lannisport. Over two hundred War Galleys- a force judged sufficient to destroy the Iron Islands five times over- were burned and sunk in a raid organized and led by Balon's brother Victarion and Eurion. The loss of the largest fleet in the Realm left the Iron Fleet with uncontested naval supremacy.
As the Iron Fleet ravaged the coast of the Westerlands and Reach, as far south as the Arbor (The Tyrell admiral Paxter Redwyne withdrew his ships, conceding the sea to the Ironborn, rather than face them in pitched battle), Balon's two sons, Rodrik and Maron, commanded an invasion of the Cape of Eagles, besieging Seagard and Four Eagles Tower, and sacking Terrick's Roost, along with the other settlements of the inland Cape as far east as Stonebridge.
Ironborn casualties in the initial assaults were minimal, with Maron Greyjoy famously claiming that he lost more warriors to knife fights over possession of comely thralls than he lost to enemy swords.
The Razing of the Oaks
While the richer prizes of the Cape of Eagles were allotted to the more prestigious houses of Old Wycke and Orkmont, House Blacktyde of Blacktyde was given the insulting charge of taking Tall Oaks (an insult aimed at the Blacktydes keeping the Faith of the Seven), the seat of the minor House Camden. Having had warning of the approaching raiders, the nobility and smallfolk of Tall Oaks sought shelter within Oak Hall, the Camden seat. After Baelor Blacktyde was shot dead by half a dozen arrows under a white flag while offering terms to the besieged Camdens, Lord Blacktyde swore vengeance.
His vengeance would be loosed when ten Camden riders sought to break through the encirclement, resulting in the storming of Oak Hall. Adding sacrilege to slaughter, the wierwood of the Tall Oaks Godswood was cut down and used as a battering ram to break open the gates. After the massacre of Tall Oaks' population had taken place, Lord Blacktyde ordered his son's body placed atop tinder within the hall, and burned the entire town as Baelor's pyre. The only known survivor of the Razing of the Oaks was Tiaryn Flint, who escaped, wounded, on horseback.
The Cape Campaign
Known in Seagard as "The Five Eagles War", due to the lands of Mallister and Terrick (whose arms combine to number five eagles) being the location of the heaviest fighting, this was the phase of the war in which the Ironborn occupied the Cape of Eagles, and sought to capture the two strongest coastal defenses of the Riverlands. With the element of surprise, the Sacking of Terrick's Roost by men of Orkmont and Old Wycke took place swiftly, but an effort by Ironborn spies to spike open the castle gates was prevented, resulting in the Siege of Four Eagles Tower.
Although Rodrik Greyjoy's assault on Seagard wiped out the small Mallister fleet guarding the port, the citadel's gates and walls were secured, and no immediate effort was made to storm the walls. The sounding of Seagard's "Booming Tower" was heard for the first time in three centuries as far inland as Stonebridge.
Battle of Alderbrook
While the brutal occupation of the Cape of Eagles played out, the Riverlords began gathering armies to reclaim the Cape, with Houses Frey, Charlton, Erenford, and Haigh joining their allies of House Nayland at Stonebridge. Despite the scope of the Ironborn Invasion, the initial commitment of troops from these houses was underwhelming, which made a swift relief of Seagard impossible. While the full banners were called, and mass levies ordered, the Frey army (reinforced with near two hundred Northmen of House Flint) advanced against the scattered bands of Ironborn occupying the inland Cape.
Although several small skirmishes bled the Ironborn, the cautious pace of the Frey advance gave Maron Greyjoy's warriors time to mass and prepare a set piece defense of their position in Terrick's Roost, resulting in the Battle of Alderbrook. Under the joint command of Lord Rickart Nayland and Ser Stevron Frey, the Riverlord host smashed the Ironborn, inflicting heavy casualties on the raiders. It is estimated that less than half of Maron Greyjoy's seven hundred men made it back to their ships, setting Terrick's Roost to the torch in their withdrawal, with the decimated Riverlord host marching triumphantly into the Roost the following morning.
It is estimated that one quarter of the Roost's 2000 peasantry were killed or carried off by the occupying raiders, before the liberation.
The next step in the Cape campaign would be joining the Army of the Cape with the greater Riverlands Host mustering under the Tully banner at Stonebridge, for the relief of Jason Mallister at Seagard.
Siege of Seagard
Led personally by the Prince of Pyke, Rodrik Greyjoy, commanding the massed warriors of Harlaw Isle (including the Houses Harlaw, Kenning, Stonetree, Volmark, and Myre) the raiders swiftly overran the harbor, putting the Mallister fleet to the torch, before settling in for a siege of the walled port city. However, as Tully and Frey armies began to loom near, and the Battle of Alderbrook made overland support from his brother Maron impossible, the decision was made to attempt a storming of Seagard's walls.
Before dawn on the 21st of January, Harlaw warriors led by Ser Harras Harlaw rushed the walls with ram, ladders and grapnels, succeeding through the ferocity of their attack in gaining a foothold and forcing open the western gate of Seagard. With Ironborn warriors pouring into the city, a desperate fighting withdrawal was made by the Mallister men, abandoning the lower districts of of the citadel in order to mount a defense of Seagard castle.
Widespread panic set in amongst the citizenry as, with several regions of the waterfront aflame it appeared to the eyes of the smallfolk that the city had fallen. Prince Rodrik Greyjoy entered the city shortly after sunrise, and led the assault which drove the Mallisters into Seagard castle. Perhaps five hours after the western gates fell, as the fight around Seagard Castle was grinding on, the Army of the Cape under Sers Stevron Frey and Rickart Nayland arrived on the outskirts, having double-timed a march upon sighting the rising smoke. A two pronged assault was ordered, with the professional troops (cavalry, followed by Armsmen) attacking the Ironborn holding the gates, while the massed footmen stormed the broken ground of the Waterfront.
The Harlaw and Stonetree men holding the gates had prepared pitfalls to thwart a charge of cavalry, and 17 of the Riverlord warhorses fell into the trap suffering crippling injury. The heir of Seagard, Patrek Mallister (squired to Lord Ser Jerold Terrick) was among these, and a hotly contested struggle afoot followed as Stonetree men, led by their Lord, sought to dispatch the felled knights and squires. Along the docks, the narrow ground restricted the deployment of Riverlord footmen, and the weight of the initial charge fell upon the Nayland pikemen. In a chaotic melee with the warriors and Lord of House Volmark, half the pike line became disordered and broke formation. Although casualties were relatively light among the Riverlord levies, the ensuing chaos of the broken line prevented a rapid advance, and once the Volmark men had been driven from the first of Seagard's three docks, the advance foundered.
At the end of the first day of heavy fighting, the Mallisters controlled Seagard castle, and much of the citadel's northern quarter. The Ironborn controlled two of the port's three docks, and a large swathe of the city center and eastern walls, with siege lines facing the Mallister keep. The Army of the Cape had fought its way into the Low district, and occupied the westernmost of Seagard's three piers. Surrounding the city was the Riverlord host of the Tullys, Blackwoods, Brackens, Vances, Pipers and Freys, under the command of Lord Clement Piper.
Breaking the Siege
A week of scattered fighting within the occupied citadel bled the fighting men of both sides as Clement Piper's cautious strategy of encirclement played out. Minor gains were made by the Army of the Cape, and counter-raids by Ironborn (especially the Lord and men of Volmark) pushed back. At last, on the 28th of January, after a week of house-to-house fighting, the Ironborn prepared a push on Seagard Castle, in counter to which the Army of the Cape organized a thrust to break the Harlaw lines.
Having knowledge of the Ironborn strategy and deployments through spies, a diversion was prepared in which the Nayland pikes would commit to a frontal assault of the Ironborn barricades, to cover a breakthrough of massed heavy cavalry (followed by the hundred men of the Groves levy) through a narrow demolition of certain buildings within the siege lines. In a bloody engagement at the barricades, champions of House Kenning and Stonetree were cut down, and the defending raiders broke and fled when threatened with flanking by the Groves levy.
Meanwhile, the knights of the Army of the Cape had rapidly advanced on Seagard Castle, where a single combat was underway between Rodrik Greyjoy and Jason Mallister. Although Mallister took the upper hand, the badly wounded Greyjoy rallied, and — in a duel marked by great chivalry on both sides — defeated and killed the Lord of Seagard. The knights of the Cape Army promptly charged the Harlaw warriors, succeeding in driving them clear of the castle, thus preventing its capture, which spurred a general retreat of all Ironborn forces yet within Seagard.
In a gallant rear-guard action, the outnumbered Lord and warriors of House Volmark charged the Cape men-at-arms who threatened the waterfront, dying nearly to the last man in buying time for the remnant of the Ironborn host (including Prince Rodrik) to escape to their longships.
Several hundred Ironborn warriors were captured, many choosing to yield to the men of Clement Piper, rather than the men of the Cape. Many more fled to the countryside, and still others died trying to set the city to the torch when their defeat was clear.
The War at Sea
Since the complete destruction of the Golden Fleet at Lannisport, Ironborn longships had dominated the Westerosi coast, raiding as far north as Bear Isle, and south as far as the Arbor, besieging many of the coastal castles of the Westerlands and Reach. The Redwyne galleys had retreated, refusing battle with Victarion Greyjoy's Iron Fleet, until making contact with the Crown fleet under the king's brother, Admiral Stannis Baratheon. Using Paxter Redwyne's fleet as a lure, Baratheon drew Victarion Greyjoy into a trap in the straits of Fair Isle, and inflicted a crushing defeat on the Iron Fleet.
So few longships escaped the disaster that for the duration of the war, the ships of the Iron Islands were unable to offer any resistance at sea to the lords of Westeros. Word of the retreat spread quickly, and across the western coast, prompted a general retreat of the Ironborn to their home islands.
Within a fortnight of the Battle of Fair Isle, which coincided with the breaking of the Siege of Seagard, King Robert the First would arrive at Lannisport with the massed strength of the North, Vale, Stormlands and Crownlands, to prepare the counter-invasion of Balon Greyjoy's Iron Islands.
The Island Campaign
In which the massed forces of the Crownlands, Stormlands, Reach, West, Vale, North, and Riverlands invaded the Iron Isles to put a final end to the Greyjoy Rebellion. Assaults were first made on the Isles surrounding Pyke, to deprive the Greyjoys of their bannermen, before storming Castle Pyke. Given the overwhelming numerical superiority of the Westerosi, and the naval dominance resulting from the Battle of Fair Isle, the Ironborn's only hope lay in outlasting their foes.
The Lesser Isles
Saltcliffe lowered its banners without a fight at the approach of the royal fleet under Admiral Baratheon. Many ships and men of Saltcliffe had been lost at the Battle of Fair Isle, and no heart remained to endure a siege against such overwhelming force. Blacktyde Isle, the least populous of the Iron Isles, endured a blockade without battle, lowering their banners only at Rebellion's end.
Most powerful of the Iron Isles, subjugation of this island was entrusted to the 6,000 Riverlords under the command of Lord Tytos Blackwood. the crossing of the fleet to Harlaw was contested by fireships, although some stories still endure of sea dragons rising up from the deep to consume the invaders. Losses to the fleet in these attacks were significant, but not crippling, and had the greatest effect of scattering the invaders. Upon landing, the Riverlords were isolated, coming under immediate attack by Ironborn warriors and peasantry.
The torching of a fishing village provided the beacon that drew the Riverland host together again, and an advance on Grey Garden followed. Judged to be too well defended for storming, the Army of the Cape under Martyn Mallister was left behind to carry on the siege, while other lords divided the host to besiege the other fortresses of Harlaw. Within two weeks, the fortresses of Houses Kenning, Volmark, Myre, Stonetree, and Harlaw had yielded, and- leaving behind garrisons- the Riverlords rejoined the royal army at Pyke.
Greatly celebrated, due to the gallant nature of its conquest, Old Wycke was taken by Crownlands forces commanded by Ser Barristan Selmy of the Kingsguard. Although the fighting was brief and one sided- the Drumms had suffered heavy losses at Alderbrook- this Isle was the first after Saltcliffe to wholly lower its banners.
The most populous Isle, after Harlaw, the taking of Great Wycke was entrusted to Stannis Baratheon and the men of the Stormlands and Vale. In a methodical campaign of siege and supply, the fortresses of Great Wycke were taken one at a time, over the course of three weeks.
Unable to land directly at Castle Pyke, the best mooring on Pyke Isle was at Lordsport, the redoubt of House Botley. The fight for Lordsport took place over three days, before the soldiers of the West and Reach succeeded in carrying the fortified down, burning much of the wattle-and-daub town. With Lordsport taken, the overland route to Castle Pyke was opened.
Besieging the Greyjoy stronghold by both land and sea, the Westerosi awaited the full gathering of King Robert's armies, all the while battering Pyke's walls with artillery fire. Once a breach had been opened, a general assault was ordered, with a foreigner, Thoros of Myr, the first man through the smashed walls. Although the breached curtain wall held through two assaults, a third, led by Robert himself, carried the walls and drove the Ironborn into the Great Keep.
An Ironborn sortie led by Harras Harlaw briefly succeeded in retaking the bailey and gatehouse, but the Westerosi soon recaptured it, at the cost of many Greyjoy and Harlaw warriors.
Several days later, a coordinated assault succeeded in taking three of the remaining four Pyke Towers, culminating in the death in battle of Rodrik Greyjoy, followed soon after by his brother Maron. With the Bloody Keep fallen, and the rope bridges cut by the defenders, the Siege of Pyke was effectively decided. Although Balon Greyjoy did not surrender for another two days, no further fighting marked the Rebellion.
The western coast of the continent was left devastated, but by far the largest measure of death and destruction fell upon the Iron Isles. It is estimated that one Ironborn warrior in three died during the war, and the subsequent loss of ships and payment of tributes would cripple the nobility of those isles for many years to follow. However, despite a public vow to the contrary, King Robert's mercy was extended to the defeated Greyjoys and Balon was permitted to recover Overlordship of the Iron Isles after swearing a fresh oath to King Robert, personally.
Famine would threaten both the Iron Isles, and the devastated areas of Westeros for the next two years.