Game of Thrones: The Timeline Explained

Game of Thrones has a long and complicated history, with the variations between the books and the show complicating that even more. But throughout the story so far, a great deal of information about the long, bloody, and brutal history of not just Westeros and the Seven Kingdoms, but the whole known world has been retold. Here is our version of a (relatively) concise history of the Game of Thrones Timeline. It’s also worth noting that in Game of Thrones lore ‘BC’ stands for ‘Before Conquest’, referring to Aegon the Conqueror’s invasion and subsequent ‘conquering’ of Westeros which was around three hundred years before the events of the show, but a number of dates are relatively vague due to much of the early parts of history never being properly recorded.

The Dawn Age (12,000 Years Ago, and Before)

The earliest time period is known as ‘The Dawn Age’, which quite literally refers to the ‘dawn’ of everything, and spans from the beginning of time through to the ‘First Men’ arriving in Westeros, eventually ending with the White Walker invasion, and the ‘Long Night’. During the earliest parts of the Dawn Age only the Children of the Forest and Giants lived in Westeros. The Children worshipped the Old Gods (sometimes known as the Old Gods of the Forest), and thus viewed the forests and trees as sacred, in particular, those that they carved faces into, which they called ‘Heart Trees’.

The earliest (roughly) recorded date in Westerosi lore dates back to somewhere a little over twelve thousand years before the primary events of the books (and show) to when the ‘First Men’ arrived in Westeros. The First Men came from Essos, utilising a land bridge that once connected the aptly named western Westeros and eastern Essos. The war between The First Men and the Children of the Forest broke out almost as soon as the First Men arrived. Primarily due to the First Men’s destruction of the Children’s forests and trees.

The war between the two species went on for centuries, eventually leading to the Children of the Forest using the power of the sea to destroy the bridge between Essos and Westeros, but it was too late, with the First Men having gained a significant amount of land and resources in the south of Westeros (what would eventually be known as Dorne), and so destroying the bridge wasn’t enough to stop the First Men.

As the war waged on, the Children continued to use magic to help their efforts, experimenting with new ways to defend themselves. Eventually, they created the White Walkers – a race of undead, ice-powered, warriors that showed an incredible invulnerability as well as some sort of command over the weather, and the ability to reanimate dead bodies. The Walkers were captured human men who were transformed into undead creatures, with the Children looking to turn the First Men’s biggest advantage, their sheer numbers, against them. The White Walkers were at first under the Children’s control and only showed a weakness to weapons made of particular steel and Dragon Glass. But it appears that the Children didn’t actually use the Walkers in the war, presumably seeing them as last resort.

The Age of Heroes Begins (10,000 Years Ago)

After centuries of fighting peace between the First Men and the Children of the Forest was agreed around ten thousand years ago and brought with it a new age, ‘The Age of Heroes’. The lands of Westeros were divided between the two factions, with the Children returning to what was left of the forests, and the men taking everything else. The two cultures seemingly began to mix, at least a little, with the Children learning ‘the old tongue’ (the language of the First Men), and the First Men coming to worship the Old Gods of the Forest, just like the Children.

The First Men continue to spread throughout Westeros, with an almost completely separate subculture developing when a number of men depart the mainland to live on the Iron Islands. There the men began worshipping ‘the drowned god’ (rather than the Old Gods) and developed a very different society to that of the mainland.

The Long Night (8,000 Years Ago)

After two thousand years of peace, the Children of the Forest and the First Men were forced back into war, this time fighting on the same side, against the White Walkers. It’s unknown how they did it, but at some point, the Walkers managed to escape the Children’s control and began amassing an army set on destroying all life they could find.

After another long war, the Children and the Men managed to push the Walkers back into the deep regions of the North. With this early period of history primarily remembered through verbal accounts, with writing and records not coming to Westeros until much later, the exact details are unclear, for example Eastern stories of the Long Night claim the armies of Children and Men were led by heroes such as Azor Ahai, who wielded a sword of fire known as ‘Lightbringer’, whereas Azor is notably absent from Westerosi retellings of history. After two long and gruelling wars, the Children of the Forest began to disappear completely.

Another notable hero of the age was Brandon Stark, later known as Bran the Builder, who combined masonry work and magic to construct the Wall, ensuring that the White Walkers remained North of the Wall, and far away from the main part of Westeros, but also trapping a number of regular humans there as well, who would eventually develop their own society, and come to be known as the Wildlings. As well as building the wall Brandon Stark also established the Night’s Watch, started the Stark household, and built Winterfell. Some stories even cite Brandon Stark as the first ‘King in the North’.

The Age of Heroes Continues (8,000 to 6,000 Years Ago)

With the White Walkers defeated the Westeros of books and show begins to take shape, namely, the seven kingdoms are formed. In each region, one particular house emerges to take control, be that through war, marriage, or money. In the West ‘Lann the Clever’ takes Casterly Rock from house Casterly, in the North the Bolton’s establish themselves as the key rivals to the Stark’s, and the precursors to a number of other prominent houses like the Baratheons, Tarlys, Tyrells and Martells, take control of their respective regions.

The Andals Invade (6,000 Years Ago)

After another two thousand years of (relative) peace, Westeros is once again attacked, this time by ‘the Andals’. Coming from Essos, like the First Men before them, the Andals came from ‘Andalos’, and after first landing in the Vale went on to dominate most of Westeros, through war and marriage. The extent of the Andal’s influence grew so much that their language ‘the common tongue’, is, by the time fo the books, the main language in Westeros. Similarly, the Andals brought their worship of The Seven-faced God, or ‘the New Gods’, as well as steel weapons, proper armour, the concept of ‘knights’ and a societal structure that is still recognisable in Westeros.

The Andals managed to take over all of southern Westeros, and eventually the Iron Islands, although the Andals that joined the Ironborn eventually converted to worshipping the Drowned God, and fully ingratiated into the pre-existing Ironborn society. The only place the Andals never managed to conquer was the North, where even by the time of the books and show, the bloodlines of the First Men remains strong (although definitely diluted by thousands of years of Andal influence in the South).

The Andals also began real records, bringing not just the common tongue, but writing as well, allowing for proper historical records, and a much more accurate account of history from that point onwards.

The Rise and Fall of the Valaryian Empire (5000 to 400 Years Ago)

At some point, around five thousand years ago, the people of Valaryia (a city in Essos), who up until this point were a simple people comprised of mostly shepherds, discovered dragons in the Volcanoes surrounding Valaryia, which were known as ‘The Fourteen Fires’. The Valaryians managed to tame the dragons and then set out to conquer the known world, at which point they became known as the Valaryian Freehold.

The first real opposition the conquering Valaryians came across was the Ghiscari Empire, who ruled over most of Essos. After a number of battles, each of which the Valaryians won, they eventually marched on the Ghiscari capital, destroying it and further establishing their dominance. After all but destroying Ghiscari culture, the Valaryian’s dominance then swept over the known world, establishing a number of new cities, and exporting their language, customs and culture.

The next big opposition the Valaryian Empire faced was during the Rhyonish Wars around one thousand years before the Battle of the Five Kings. Just like they did with the Ghiscari before them, the Valayrian’s almost entirely destroyed the Rhyonar’s culture, cementing the Freehold even further. A number of Rhyonar refugees escaped to Westeros where, after landing in Dorne, they ingratiated themselves into the part First-Men, part Andals society.

Then after over four thousand years of dominance, ‘The Doom’ came. The volcanic cluster known as ‘The Fourteen Fires’, which surrounded the capital city of Valaryia, and is of course where the Valaryians found their original dragons, erupted. The eruption decimated Valaryia, destroying the entire Freeholds seat of power, and thus the empire. The resulting power vacuum meant a number of cities established themselves free from Valayrain control.

Bravos, a city established by slaves who managed to escape from the Freehold revealed itself for the first time, and other cultures such as the Dothraki were able to expand and conquer with no fear of punishment or retribution from the Valaryian empire.

The Targaryen Empire (400 Years Ago)

Around one hundred years after ‘The Doom’, and approximately three hundred years before the primary events of the books, one Valaryian house, who had previously been given control over the castle at Dragonstone (which was a trading outpost for relations between Westeros and the Valayrian Freehold), sought to establish their own empire.

Around three hundred years ago Aegon, later known as Aegon the Conqueror, took the last three dragons in the world and dominated Westeros. Unifying six of the Seven Kingdoms for the first time in Westerosi history. The past few centuries in Westeros had further established the divide between the Seven Kingdoms, in a period known as “The Age of the Hundred Kingdoms” which saw the rise and fall of many smaller kingdoms and houses. These various kingdoms eventually formed into the ‘Seven’ distinct ones, which Aegon sought to take for himself.

During Aegon’s invasion and resultant reign, much of Westeros started to properly take shape. He gave the Riverlands to House Tully (after burning its previous lords, House Black inside their own castle at Harrenhal), and insisted that the Iron Islands elected a new leader, which led to the Greyjoy’s taking control. Aegon’s half brother Orys conquered the Storm Lands, and as a reward was allowed to keep Storm’s End and establish his own house; the Baratheons. Houses Lannister, Stark, and Arryn all sought peace with Aegon after seeing how destructive his dragons could be and were allowed to continue ruling their respective regions, as a part of Aegon’s new empire. Not so lucky was House Gardener, who all died after teaming up with the Lannisters (before they sought peace) in the hopes of defeating Aegon. The Reach was then given to the Tyrells, who joined the other houses underneath Aegon.

The one kingdom Aegon didn’t manage to conquer, was Dorne. After seeing how devastating Aegon’s dragons could be, the Dorish retreated into the mountains, never openly engaging Aegon, eventually tiring each other out, and leading to Aegon settling for six of the seven kingdoms. After the war, Aegon returned to Blackwater Bay, where he first ‘landed’ in Westeros and established King’s Landing as the new capital of the freshly unified realms. There he began construction of the Red Keep, and had the swords of his defeated enemies collected, and forged them into the Iron Throne. After Aegon dies, a long line of Targaryen rule begins, with lots of inbreeding, infighting, rebellions and civil wars.

‘The Dance of Dragons’ is perhaps the most prominent of these civil wars and saw Rhaenyra Targaryen (Aegon’s grandson’s grandson’s daughter) the firstborn child of Viserys I, fighting against her half brother Aegon II. The war divided Westeros with the Hightowers, Baratheons, and a number of the more wealthy cities like King’s Landing and Oldtown on Aegon II’s side, whereas the Starks, Arryns, Tullys, and Greyjoys sided with Rhaenyra. The war was perhaps the only one in history to have dragons fighting for each side, the strain of which led to the dragons completely dying out.

A number of other civil wars occurred manly thanks to an offshoot family starting with a Targaryen bastard, called the Blackfyres (named after Aegon the Conqueror’s Valaryian steel sword). The Blackfyres made five attempts at overthrowing the throne, being defeated each time. The first of the Blackfyre rebellions is also what finally brings Dorne into the fold, with Dorne coming to the rescue of the crown. Afterwards, a Dornish Prince is married to the kings’ sister Daenerys and Dorne becomes the seventh Kingdom in the Targaryen empire, nearly two hundred years after Aegon’s conquest.

The Mad King’s Reign

Generations of Targaryen’s eventually led to King Aerys II, later known throughout the Seven Kingdoms as ‘the Mad King’. Aerys II’s reign started out relatively well as he replaced a number of the previous king’s advisors with fresh faces, and hired Tywin Lannister as the Hand of the King.

Tywin, fresh from the latest (and last) Blackfyre rebellion, known as the War of the Ninepenny Kings, had proven himself as a capable hero and commander. And after returning to the Westerlands and Casterly Rock killed all of House Reyne, the Lannister’s key rivals in the Westerlands, who has started a rebellion against Tywin’s father Tytos. After quelling the rebellion King Aerys was particularly impressed by Tywin and recruited him as his key advisor and Hand of the King.

Before long, however, Aerys’ sanity started to fade, only made worse by increasing rumours of Tywin being the real ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. As he became increasingly unstable, unpredictable, and murderous Aerys surprisingly showed up at ‘The Great Tourney at Harrenhal’, after not leaving the Red Keep for years. The Tourney later became an infamous occasion that set a number of events in motion. The Mad King himself took the opportunity to knight Jamie Lannister as a member of the Kingsguard, and in so doing infuriated Tywin by taking away his true heir.

The Tourney was one of the first public displays of how mad Aerys really was, switching between moods on the spot, and making erratic decisions based on nothing but paranoia. But perhaps the most notable event of the Tourney is that Crown Prince Rhaegar, who was loved by the people and a gifted warrior, went on to win the Tourney (after defeating the head of the Kingsguard Ser Barristan Selmy), but instead of gifting the victory wreath to his own wife, Elia Martell, Rhaegar instead gave the wreath to Lyanna Stark, publicly crowing her as the ‘Queen of Love and Beauty’, to the shock of the crowd, and other Lords of Westeros.

Rhaegar’s marriage to Elia was in itself relatively complex and had angered Tywin Lannister early on, after King Aerys had refused to marry Prince Rhaegar to Tywin’s daughter Cersei, instead choosing a Princess form Dorne for his son. Rhaegar and Elia had two children, Rhaenys and Aegon. Although Rhaeger giving the wreath to Lyanna was later viewed as the beginning of an unreciprocated interest from Rhaegar to Lyanna, others such as the Martell’s of Dorne thought there was more to it.

Roughly one year after the Tourney, Rhaegar seemingly abducted Lyanna, setting in motion the events that led to Robert’s Rebellion. In reality, however, Lyanna went willingly with Rhaegar, who had his marriage to Elia annulled and then remarried Lyanna in secret. The two were in love despite Rhaegar’s marriage to Elia and Lyanna’s betrothal to Robert Baratheon.

Robert’s Rebellion

Under the impression that Lyanna had been kidnapped, and in an effort to retrieve his daughter from Rhaegar, Brandon Stark, the eldest son of Rickard Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North, rode to King’s Landing to demand his sisters freedom. Instead, the Mad King kidnaps Brandon. And orders his father Rickard comes to King’s Landing and bend the knee. When Rickard arrives, however, Aerys kills them both, and Robert’s Rebellion truly begins.

In outrage at both the kidnap of Lyanna and the murder of Rickard and Brandon, the now eldest remaining Stark male, Eddard ‘Ned’ Stark, his best friend Robert Baratheon (who was betrothed to Lyanna Stark), and Lord of the Vale Jon Arryn, who had fostered and raised both Ned and Robert, all joined forces in rebellion against the crown.

The rebellion raged on, eventually culminating in the Battle of the Trident, the final showdown between the two sides and specifically Rhaegar Targaryen and Robert Baratheon. Robert killed Rhaegar, and all but won the war at the Trident. Finally deciding to join the war the Lannister’s gathered their forces and marched on King’s Landing. Tywin, who had at this point stepped down as Hand of the King, convinced Aerys that he was there to help defend the capital, and was allowed into the city. Once granted entry Tywin begins sacking the city, showing that he has actually joined the Baretehons, notably after they were clearly going to win.

As the Mad King demands his Kingsguard Jaime Lannister bring him the head of his father Tywin, he realises that the city is lost and commands that it be burned using a series of Wildfire caches he had previously placed under various important buildings throughout the city. Instead of going after his father Jame breaks his Oath as a Kingsguard and kills the Mad King, later earning him the names ‘Oathbreaker’, and ‘King Slayer’. After King’s Landing was sacked, Robert took the throne and became the King of the Seven Kingdoms.

During the sacking of King’s Landing Ser Gregor Clegane, ‘the Mountain’, rapes and murders Elia Martell on Tywin’s orders, as well as murdering Rhaegar and Elia’s children, aiming to extinguish the Targaryen line. Aerys’ pregnant wife, Rhaella, did manage to escape the capital with her son Viserys, getting to Dragonstone and giving birth to Daenerys. Rhaella died shortly afterwards but Lord Varys, a Targaryen loyalist, managed to take both Viserys and the baby Daenerys across the Narrow Sea to Essos.

Following the end of the war, Ned Stark, led a group of his bannermen to the Tower of Joy, in Dorne, to retrieve his sister Lyanna. There he confronted Aerys Kingsguard commander Gerold Hightower, and Ser Arthur Dayne, infamously the greatest swordsman in Westeros – both of them having been mysteriously absent from the battle at the Trident. The Northmen defeated the two knights, and Ned raced into the Tower after hearing his sisters screams. He unexpectedly finds his sister having just given birth, and finds out the truth, that Lyanna ran away willingly. Lyanna makes Ned swear to protect her newborn son from the wrath of Robert and dies soon after. Ned decides to pass the baby off as his own bastard, Jon Snow, rather than Aegon Targaryen, the true heir to the Iron Throne.

Robert’s Reign

The first few years of Robert’s reign see most things return to normal, with Jon Arryn appointed hand of the king and most houses allowed to keep their land and titles, after bending the knee to Robert. The early years of Robert’s reign also see the numerous Stark and Baratheon/Lannister children born.

After only a few years of peace, Lord of the Iron Island Balon Greyjoy attempts a rebellion, looking to assert the Iron Islands independence. King Robert’s armies, including Ned Stark and Jamie Lannister, manage to defeat the Ironborn, forcing Balon to surrender. Balon’s only living son, Theon, is taken to Winterfell to be Ned Stark’s ward/hostage. Robert proves to be a better warrior than a king, delegating almost all of his responsibilities to his small council, and forcing the country into unprecedented debt.

Game of Thrones

Following Balon Greyjoy’s attempt at rebellion, the Seven Kingdoms saw years of relative peace, or at least peace by Game of Thrones standards, that was until Hand of the King Jon Arryn began to suspect that the Crown Prince Joffrey Baratheon along with his younger brother Tommen, and sister Marcella weren’t actually the children of Robert and Cersei, but in fact Cersei and her brother Jamie Lannister.

His investigations led him to not only confirming his suspicions but also finding a number of Robert Baratheon’s bastards throughout King’s Landing, the eldest of whom could potentially have a more legitimate claim to the throne than any of Cersei and Jamie’s children. Thanks to Peytr Baelish, also known as Littlefinger, and his manipulations Lyssa Arryn is convinced to poison her husband Jon, increasing Littlefinger’s favour with the Lannisters, furthering his own schemes, and forcing Robert to find a new Hand of the King, for which he heads north.

The King heads North to Winterfell, where he asks (or better put, commands) Ned Stark to be the new Hand of the King. Ned reluctantly agrees, leaving Winterfell with his daughters Arya and Sansa, who is now betrothed to Joffrey and will one day become the Queen. Whilst the Royal Family are in Winterfell, Bran Stark finds Jamie and Cersei having sex, and Jamie pushes him from the tower, paralysing him. As Ned leaves Winterfell under the charge of his eldest son Robb, Jon Snow, still believing he is the bastard son of Ned and an unknown woman, decides to join the Night’s Watch, leaving Winterfell at the same time as Ned.

Shortly afterwards an assassin tries to kill Bran Stark in his bed. Littlefinger tells Catelyn Stark that the weapon he tried to do it with is a knife belonging to Tyrion Lannister, further manipulating the growing tension between the Stark and Lannister households.

Before long Ned begins an investigation into the mysterious death of Jon Arryn, which in turn leads him into the realisation of who Cersei’s children really are, thus putting himself and his own children in danger. Ned makes the mistake of warning Cersei to leave before he tells Robert the truth, but Robert dies before he has a chance. Seemingly injured whilst drunk on a hunting trip, but actually poisoned on Cersei’s orders by Lancel Lannister (her cousin). After Robert dies Ned writes to Robert’s brother Stannis, explaining that he is the next rightful King, as Joffrey and Tommen aren’t actually Roberts children.

After crossing paths on the road Catelyn Stark, along with Rickard Cassel, and a number of local bannermen kidnap Tyrion Lannister and take him to the Vale, where Catelyn’s sister Lyssa rules, along with her son Robin, in the wake of Jon Arryn’s death.

Ned trusts Littlefinger to help him arrest Joffrey and Cersei, but Littlefinger turns on him. Joffrey has Ned arrested instead, and all of his men killed, Arya escapes, but Sansa is held as a hostage, seeing no choice but to pretend she still loves Joffrey. Joffrey then executes Ned Stark (against the protest of his mother), and beings the War of the Five Kings.

Meanwhile, the now-grown children of the Mad King, Viserys and Daenerys plot their return to Westeros, from Essos. Viserys, with the help of Illyrio Mopatis – a Targaryen loyalist, arranges the marriage of Daenerys to a Dothraki Khal, known as Drogo, in exchange for the Dothraki, an infamous race of fierce warriors, helping Viserys take the Iron Throne. He eventually begins to resent the fact that Drogo cares much more for his own people and for Daenerys than getting him the Iron Throne, and is murdered by Khal Drogo after insulting him, Daenerys, and the Dothraki. This leaves Daenerys to believe she is now the rightful ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, not knowing about her nephew Jon Snow/Aegon Targaryen.

Shortly after Khal Drogo dies from an infected wound, and Daenerys’ unborn child dies prematurely, leaving Daenerys on her own with only a few followers to support her. She burns Drogo’s body along with the witch who promised to save him but instead turned him into a mindless husk. Daenerys steps into the fire herself, intending to die, along with the last three known dragon eggs, which she was given as a wedding gift. The next day Daenerys emerges from the fire completely unharmed, showing a trait only some Targaryen’s possess, and with three baby dragons, the first seen in hundreds of years.

After being attacked by a White Walker, and saved by Jon Snow, Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch Jeor Mormont leads the bulk of the Night’s Watch, around three hundred men, North to take on the threat of the White Walkers and Mance Raider, a former Night’s Watch brother now known as the King beyond the wall.

The War of the Five Kings

As Stannis Baratheon prepares for an attack on King’s Landing, to take the Iron Throne for himself, his younger brother Renley also puts a claim to the throne, marrying Margery Tyrell, the sister of his lover Loras Tyrell, gaining a sizeable army in the process. Robb Stark is then named King in the North, and the whole Northern region rebels against the crown for killing Ned Stark. The final king to enter the war is Balon Greyjoy, who uses the absence of most of the North’s soldiers to mount his own invasion.

Robb makes a number of impressive early victories, establishing a reputation as a keen, and fierce leader, who manages to outsmart the Lannister army on a number of occasions. Soon enough Tywin Lannister is forced to retreat to the ruins of Harrenhal, and Jamie Lannister is captured.

Stannis Baratheon, seduced by visions of the Fire God, a religion perpetuated by the Red Priests and Priestesses of R’hllor, namely the Red Priestess Mellisandre, impregnates her and she eventually gives birth to a shadow creature that hunts down and kills Stannis’ brother Renley Baratheon, taking the first of the five kings out of the war. Renley’s bannermen rally to Stannis’ cause, but the Tyrell’s flee.

Bolstered by his new allies Stannis mounts an attack on King’s Landing via the sea, heading for Black Water Bay, his attack is held off by Tyrion Lannister, the temporary Hand of the King in whilst Tywin fights against Robb Stark. Through the use of Wildfire and strategy, Tyrion’s defence holds out until Tywin Lannister’s reinforcements arrive with the help of Loras Tyrell and the Tyrell army.

Meanwhile, Daenerys arrives at the City of Qarth and is invited into the city as guests of one of the thirteen lords of Qarth, Xaro Xhoan Daxos (against the protests of the other twelve). Although her time there is brief Daenerys quickly realises that even Xaro is no real friend, and wants her simply for her power and dragons. Xaro and Pyat Pree, another of the thirteen lords, then stage a coup usurping the other eleven lords, killing a number of Daenerys’ men, and kidnaping her dragons. Daenerys burns down the magical ‘house of the undying’ and retrieves her dragons, locking Xaro in his vault and looting his house to fund her journey to Astapor.

Whilst north of the Wall Jon Snow is captured by the Wildlings, and taken to meet their King Mance Raider. Jon manages to convince Mance that he has betrayed the Night’s Watch as well, and earns his trust. While with the WIldlings Jon meets Ygritte, and a Wildling clan leader named Tormund. Mance Raider sends Tormund, Ygritte, Jon, a warg named Orell (who can go into the mind of animals, specifically a large eagle), along with a larger group of wildings to scale the Wall and attack Castle Black from the southern side when Mance Raider attacks it from the North.

As the War of the Five Kings rages on Robb starts to lose the loyalty of his men, primarily after meeting and marrying Talisa, going against a vow he made to Walder Frey to marry one of his daughters, in exchange for Robb’s men being allowed to use the crossing bridge Walder controls. Robb loses even more men after executing Lord Rickard Karstark, who disobeyed Robb’s orders and killed two Lannister boys Robb was keeping as prisoners.

Daenerys arrives in Astapor, where she finds a slave army of eight thousand men, agreeing to buy the army in exchange for one of her dragons. Kraznys mo Nakloz, the head slave master of the city agrees, but after the deal is complete and Daenerys has control of the army she sets them loose upon the city and has Kraznys burned by her dragon Drogon. Daenerys decides that before she heads to Westeros she intends to liberate the slave cities of ‘Slavers Bay’, starting with Astapor, heading for Yunkai after that.

After reaching Yunkai and meeting with one of the ‘wise masters’, the ruling class of the city, Daenerys refuses his gifts and offer to leave the city, and instead decides to take the city and battle the army it has hired, the mercenary group known as the Second Sons. After meeting with the three leaders of the Second Sons, Daario Naharis, the youngest of the three turns on the other two and pledges himself to Daenerys. With Daario’s help, Daenerys’ army takes the city and she liberates her second slaver city.

Whilst pretending to be a Night’s Watch traitor Jon scales the Wall with Tormund, Ygritte, and Orell. Jon breaks his vow, sleeps with, and then falls in love with Ygritte. Jon’s cover is eventually blown however and he kills some of the Wildlings before making his escape. Ygritte eventually tracks him down and shoots him with a number of arrows, but loving him herself she doesn’t kill him. Around the same time a number of the Night’s Watch mutiny against Lord Commander Mormont, taking a Wildling known as Caster’s keep, and daughter/wives, for themselves. Sam, one of Jon’s few real friends in the Night’s Watch escapes the mutiny with one of Caster’s daughters known as Gilly, and her newborn baby son, before long the two encounter a White Walker, which Sam stabs and kills with some ‘Dragonglass’.

After the success of his shadow/demon child, Stannis looks to harness the power of King’s Blood again, but Mellisandre argues that he is too depleted. Instead, she looks to use the blood of Gendry, Robert Baratheon’s eldest bastard, who had narrowly escaped Joffrey’s earlier massacre of Robert’s bastards and had since joined up with the ‘Brotherhood without Banners, a group looking to fight off Lannister influence and perpetuate the worship of the Lord of Light. Stannis uses a small amount of Gendry’s blood (taken via leeches) and as he throws them into the fire wishes for the death of Robb Stark, Joffrey Baratheon, and Balon Greyjoy.

In a last ditch effort to use what men he still has and make back some of the headway he has lost Robb decides to attack the Lannister’s seat of power, Casterly Rock. But to get there he and his men need to go back on themselves and cross Walder Frey’s bridge again. Robb takes his mother, wife, and a number of his most loyal bannermen to apologise to Walder, for not marrying his daughter as he promised. He instead offers his uncle, Lord Edmure Tully, to which Walder agrees. During the wedding feast, after most guests are gone, the band begins playing the Lannisters song ‘The Rains of Castamere’, and ‘The Red Wedding’ begins. Walder Frey, along with Roose Bolton (the head of the Stark’s key rivals in the North), had colluded with Tywin Lannister and proceed to murder Robb, his new wife (and unborn child), as well as Catelyn, and most of the Stark’s army, and with that ending the open warfare of the War of the Five Kings.

A little over three years after Jon Arryn’s death King Joffrey Baratheon and Margery Tyrell are married, uniting the two richest and most powerful houses in the Seven Kingdoms. But Margery’s grandmother Olenna, and Littlefinger conspire against the throne, poisoning and murdering the King during the celebrations. Tyrion, the Kings uncle, is inadvertently framed for Joffrey’s murder and immediately arrested.

Sansa Stark, who had recently been forced into marrying Tyrion is assumed to be part of the conspiracy (given Joffrey ’s abusive treatment of her), and is led out of King’s Landing to Littlefinger himself, who takes her to her aunt Lyssa Arryn, with whom Lord Baelish is to marry. Shortly after they are married Baelish kills Lyssa and confesses his love for Sansa. As Lyssa’s son Robin is still not of age Littlefinger becomes Lord protector of the Vale.

Joffrey’s younger brother, Tommen Baratheon is named King of Westeros and Tyrion’s trial is all but fixed and he is set to be executed, but instead demands a trial by combat, for which Oberyn Martell agrees to fight for him. Oberyn, the brother of Elia Martell, the former Crown Prince Rhaegar’s first wife, explains to Tyrion that he is in King’s Landing to make the Mountain confess to killing and raping his sister. During Tyrion’s trial, Oberyn all but wins, but insists on hearing the Mountain confess before he dies, removing his spear from the Mountain’s chest. Soon after, the Mountain knocks Oberyn to the ground and murders him, sealing Tyrion’s fate in the process.

But Jamie Lannister decides to free his brother, knowing that he wasn’t responsible for killing Joffrey. Instead of fleeing immediately, Tyrion takes a detour and murders his father Tywin, unsettling the Lannister’s primary source of power. After killing his father he leaves on a ship set for Pentos, with Lord Varys, the Targaryen sympathiser who ensured Viserys and Daenerys escaped Westeros years earlier and has since been working to get the Targaryen’s back on the throne ever since.

Daenerys reaches Meereen, and takes it, with an uneasy peace forming between it’s now freed slaves and the former masters. As she tries to keep the peace and rule Meereen, the slave masters retake both Yunkai and Astapor. Daenerys learns of Jorah Mormont spying on Daenerys when he first met her (something he had stopped doing years ago) and banishes him. Daenerys’ bad luck continues as she begins to lose control of her dragons, completely losing Drogon, and deciding to chain the other two up in an underground temple in Meereen.

In Westeros, Mance Raider’s Wildling army attack the Wall. Although the Night’s Watch manages to hold the attack back for a night, they don’t have the manpower to hold the castle indefinitely. Ygritte dies in front of Jon, and he decides that to end the war he has to return to Mance Raider and attempt to make peace. Before he can, Stannis Baratheon arrives, and slaughters most of the Wildling’s forces, helping the Night’s Watch and moving his forces to Castle Black, preparing for an assault on the North.

Margery Tyrell marries Tommen Baratheon, with Tommen as a much easier target to manipulate than Joffrey (for both Cersei and Margery). In an effort to further consolidate her power, Cersei allows a group of religious fanatics known as The Sparrows to arrest Loras Tyrell for being gay. They also arrest Margery for lying about it.

Jamie Lannister travels to Dorne to retrieve his daughter, Marcella, with Ellaria Sand threatening to kill her, as retaliation for the murder of her lover Oberyn Martell. Jamie makes peace with Dorne and agrees to take Marcella and her husband to be Trystane Martell back to King’s Landing, but Ellaria poisons Marcella and stages a coup in which she kills Doran Martell (Oberyn’s older brother), the ruling prince of Dorne.

In the North of Westeros, Stannis Baratheon mounts an attack on Winterfell and burns his daughter alive as a sacrifice, after which most of his men abandon him, along with the Red Priestess. His attack fails, with the Bolton’s retaining hold of the North, further bolstered by Ramsay Bolton, the recently legitimised bastard son of Lord Roose Bolton, marrying Sansa Stark, in another of Littlefinger’s schemes.

In Essos, Tyrion is kidnapped by Jorah Mormont, who sees the Lannister as a way back into Daenerys’ life, they are quickly caught and sold as slaves, however. Daenerys sees them during their first fight and agrees to speak to them both, agreeing to take Tyrion on as an advisor (both of them wanting to see the Lannisters usurped), but on Tyrion’s advice, Daenerys banishes Jorah (again).

At the Wall, Jon Snow is voted in as the New Lord Commander of the Night’s watch, but after heading North to save thousands of Wildlings from the looming White Walkers a number of the watch turn against him, in their second mutiny in nearly as many years. He is lured outside and stabbed to death.

Shortly after his death, Jon Snow is resurrected by the Red Priestess Melisandre, and executes his murders for treason against the Night’s Watch, but leaves the order shortly afterwards, citing that he vowed to give his life to the cause, and he did so. Before he leaves Castle Black Sansa (whom he believes is his half-sister, rather than cousin) arrives having escaped from the Bolton’s and Winterfell, thanks to the help of Theon Greyjoy, another prisoner of Ramsay Bolton (at this point known as ‘Reek’). Soon afterwards Roose Bolton’s second son is born, and Ramsay kills his father, his mother-in-law Walda Frey, and his newborn baby brother, thus becoming the Lord of Winterfell.

Euron Greyjoy returns to the Iron Islands and kills his brother Balon, marking the defeat of all five kings involved in the war that broke out after Robert Baratheon’s death. Euron succeeds in the Kingsmoot and becomes King of the Iron Islands, usurping his niece Yara, forcing Yara and Theon to flee.

Bran Stark, who fled from Winterfell shortly after Theon Greyjoy and the Ironbron captured it during Belon’s earlier attack on the North (later losing it to the Boltons), meets the Three-Eyed Raven, who teaches him to use his powers and look into the past. Bran, who can seemingly see any point in time, as well as warg into animals, learns about the creation of the White Walkers, as well as Jon Snow, being his cousin rather than half brother. The cave of the Three-Eyed Raven is attacked by White Walkers and the last remaining Children of the Forest die fighting them off. The Raven dies and Bran becomes the latest Three-Eyed Raven.

Ayra Stark, who escaped from King’s Landing after her fathers’ execution, and has since travelled across Westeros, trains to be a Faceless Man, a line of assassins who can magically wear other peoples faces, in the Free City of Bravos, but eventually decides to return to Westeros.

In Essos, Daenerys is kidnapped by a Dothraki Horde and burns their leaders alive in order to escape, gaining the loyalty of the entire Dothraki horde in the process. In her absence, Tyrion Lannister seeks peace with the Slave Masters of Yunkhai, Astapor, and Volantis. Although they agree to his peace terms, they soon attack Meereen, hoping to return the city to one of slavery. Daenerys arrives with her dragons and decidedly wins the battle. With the ships from the attacking slavers combined with the ships Yara and Theon delivered (who made a deal to exchange the use of their fleet, for the Iron Islands retaining their independence when Daenerys takes the Iron Throne). Daenerys then heads to Westeros, for the first time since her birth, with thousands of Dothraki and Unsullied soldiers.

Cersei Lannister’s plan for the Sparrows backfires, as she is arrested herself, thanks to her own long list of crimes. Tommen proves too weak and indecisive to help either his mother or wife and eventually, following her release, Cersei destroys the Great Sept of Baelor by blowing it up with one of the Mad King’s wildfire caches – inadvertently causing her last son Tommen to kill himself at the loss of his wife. Cersei is then crowned Queen.

After rallying a number of bannermen to take back Winterfell, Jon Snow leads an attack to oust the Bolton’s with a number of Northern men and some loyal Wildlings that he helped rescue from North of the Wall. In ‘The Battle of the Bastards’, Ramsay Bolton murders Rickon Stark, the youngest Stark child, but Jon’s side still wins thanks to a late intervention from Sansa and Peytr Baelish, along with the Knights of the Vale. The Starks take back Winterfell, and Jon is proclaimed by the Northern men as the latest King in the North.

Daenerys arrives at Dragonstone, the place of her birth, and begins her plan of attack on Westeros, whilst Euron Greyjoy makes a deal with Cersei Lannister, hoping to marry her. Tyrion, now Hand of the Queen to Daenerys, counsels restraint, advising Daenerys not to outright attack Westeros or King’s Landing if she wants to keep the people on her side.

Daenerys invites Jon Snow to Dragonstone so that he can bend the knee to her and they can join forces against the Lannisters. Jon refuses at first, but after finding out that Dragostone holds a massive cache of Dragonglass, one of the few substances known to kill White Walkers, he decides to accept Daenerys’ invitation.

Jamie Lannister leads Lannister forces to Highgarden, killing Olenna Tyrell and taking the Tyrell fortune to pay back the Crown’s debt to the Iron Bank of Bravos (which has only worsened thanks to the wars since Robert’s death). On their way back to King’s Landing, Daenerys attacks, showing the power of the Dragons and her Dothraki army.

Jon convinces Daenerys that the real fight is to the North, and against the White Walkers, rather than to the south against Cersei Lannister. After mining the Dragon Glass Jon returns to the North to capture a White Walker so that he can also convince Cersei Lannister of the real threat as well. He does so, but the group he takes north are nearly killed and only survive thanks to Daenerys’ and her dragon’s intervention. One of the dragons, Viserion, is killed by the Night King, the original White Walker, and later resurrected as a White Walker Dragon.

The group escapes with a Walker and heads to King’s Landing. Cersei agrees to help the fight against the White Walker’s after being convinced by Tyrion, but after Jon and Daenerys leave she explains to her brother Jamie that she has no intention of helping. Jamie leaves in outrage and heads North to help ‘the living’. Bran returns to Winterfell, and with the help of Jon’s friend Samwell Tarly uses his powers to discover Jon’s true parentage, and more specifically that Rhaegar and Lyanna were married, making Jon Snow actually Aegon Targaryen, the legitimate heir to the Iron Throne – and the nephew of his now lover, Daenerys Targaryen. The White Walkers, bolstered with even larger numbers, and a dragon, attack the Wall at East Watch by the Sea, and break it, gaining access to Westeros for the first time in thousands of years.