Varys: The coin of Aerys, Second of His Name,
had landed on madness. But half the coins of the Targaryens had landed
so. Yet only Aerys would be known as the Mad King,
thanks, in no small part, to the Defiance of Duskendale. Duskendale was the greatest port on Blackwater
Bay until Aegon built King’s Landing. As the capital grew richer and more prosperous,
it sucked ships and gold away from Duskendale. To halt its long decline, the Lord of Duskendale,
Ser Denys Darklyn, petitioned King Aerys for a royal charter that would allow him to levy
his own port fees and taxes, which would obviously be lower than in King’s Landing. The Hand of the King, Tywin Lannister, refused. But knowing of the tension between the Hand
and its king, Ser Denys invited the king to Duskendale to evaluate his petition himself
rather than deferring to his Hand. When Tywin admonished the king to refuse,
as any sensible advisor would, a petulant and bristling Aerys instead accepted, traveling
to Duskendale with a small retinue and only one of his Kingsguard. As soon as Aerys stepped within the city,
Ser Denys seized him, killing the Kingsguard and the few others who dared to defend their
king. Aerys was hauled to the dungeons to have his
beard pulled and have other petty cruelties inflicted on his royal person. Lord Tywin immediately raised an army and
marched on Duskendale, but Ser Denys threatened to kill the king at the first signs of an
assault. If Ser Denys hoped to force Tywin to offer
terms, he didn’t know Lord Tywin, who refused to even parley until Ser Denys released the
king and surrendered. The royal army surrounded the city, and the
royal navy blockaded it. Ser Denys had clearly not anticipated such
obstinacy. Nor that the king’s Hand would be in no rush
to save the maddening king, when, as Lord Tywin himself pointed out, the realm had a
better option in the king’s much more stable son, Prince Rhaegar. After six months, Lord Tywin’s patience was
at an end. Or, at least, none could claim he acted recklessly
if he now stormed the city, and Ser Denys killed the king. But the dutiful and honorable Ser Barristan
the Bold volunteered to infiltrate the city and rescue his king single-handedly, as befit
his Kingsguard oath. Tywin couldn’t refuse such valor publicly
and so begrudged Ser Barristan one night. Then he would storm the city and put every
man, woman, and child to the sword. With only his hands, Ser Barristan climbed
the city walls in the dark of night and snuck through the city disguised as a beggar, evading
patrols and suspicious townspeople. When he reached the walls of the city keep,
the Dun Fort, he scaled those by hand as well, even dispatching the wall guard before he
could sound an alarm. With incredible bravery and luck, Ser Barristan
made his way to the dungeons and freed his king. Then Ser Barristan’s luck ran out. A cry went up through the castle. Someone had discovered the king was gone. With horns and trumpets blaring an alarm,
Ser Barristan cut their way to the stables, avenging his slain Kingsguard brother but
taking an arrow to his chest. Slipping through the castle gate just as it
closed, the wounded Ser Barristan and Aerys rode through the roused town, racing for the
city walls and, beyond it, the safety of the royal army. Lord Tywin’s archers raced forward to clear
the walls of defenders, and Ser Barristan the Bold earned immortality by delivering
King Aerys to the waiting, if not welcoming, arms of his Hand. Without his hostage, Ser Denys surrendered
and begged mercy from the same king he’d imprisoned. Most men would have had none. Aerys had less. He commanded Ser Denys be executed along with
man, woman, or child who bore his family name and anyone who once had. As for Ser Denys’s foreign wife, who had urged
his defiance, Aerys commanded that her tongue and womanly parts be torn out, and she be
burned alive. It was his first time passing such a sentence. It must have given him a taste for it. For the king rescued from Duskendale was not
the same king who’d entered it. Many men would crack after six months in a
dark cell, being mocked, prodded, and tweaked. Aerys had arrived cracked. Now he was shattered. For years, he would refuse to leave the Red
Keep. Encouraged no doubt by his worried advisors,
since he also refused to allow any blades near his person, even to shave his beard,
cut his hair, and trim his nails. He began to see enemies in every shadow, who
vanished only when the fires burned.

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