Sunday, July 9, 2017

Why I Share the Dark Times

My blog has been dormant for a while. My most recent post was in August of last year. Ever since coming to Korea, I haven’t written much new.

I’ve had a lot going on for sure. Great things have been happening since I got on that Delta Flight from Little Rock last October.

The past nine months have been some of the best of my life. I’ve enjoyed a very good year teaching elementary students in Korea. I’ve gotten to travel around this new country I live in and have made great new relationships.

It’s sometimes hard for me to think of how life could get much better. Yet even in the midst of my great new year, my acid shadows have followed me. The depression and mental health issues I’ve always struggled with continue to walk beside me. They have been quieter these past couples of months than at any other time in my life. Still, they are there and I am very aware that their words could, at any random moment, puncture my mind and send me spiraling.

My life has been great. That doesn’t mean though that the past nine months have been struggle free. I’ve had plenty of moments where I was deeply unhappy with myself. Even with all the progress I’ve made with therapy and even with all I’ve been able to achieve here in Korea, I’m still just as vulnerable to my dark moods.

I’ve shared my darker and depressive episodes online (especially on Facebook). It’s not a secret anymore that I struggle with mental health. In the past I wrote freely on my blog about my depression. Those posts were and remain some of the most viewed. More recently though I’ve stuck to quick Facebook posts.

Recently, a friend asked me how I was so comfortable being open with sharing my depression online?

In truth, I’m not always comfortable. I still worry about how others perceive me sometimes. This fear was a big one when I was younger but it diminishes every year. Much of that has to do with those people (friends and strangers) who have reached out after a FB or blogpost and expressed their gratitude or sympathy. Some have shared their own struggles with mental health.

Yes, there have been a few times where I’ve got negative feedback on what I’ve put out into cyberspace. The first comment on my coming out with depression blogpost was an anonymous person who told me to kill myself. I can count those instances on one hand though. The overwhelming majority of feedback from my posts has been positive and empathetic.

Letting others know they are not alone and knowing that I myself am not alone despite what my shadows tell me. These are the reasons I share my struggles. Sharing inner turmoil can, I think be a positive thing.

The longer I walk with depression the more I believe Henry David Thoreau’s quote that most of us are living lives of quiet desperation. In this age, social media feeds our desperation.

In an age where there’s a ton of pressure on people to share their accomplishments online and broadcast a rosy image of themselves that ignores our darkest times, we all suffer unnecessarily.  

Whether we like it or not, we are influenced deeply by what we see in our newsfeeds. Whether we care to admit it or not, we all compare ourselves to our peers’ social media highlight reels. (Even though we know we shouldn’t).

What we see impacts us and what we share impacts others. Throwing a few hardships out among a sea of filtered selfies, out of context accomplishments and incomplete life stories, would, I think, go a long way to helping people feel much less like islands of desperation.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

What If Khal Drogo Had Lived?

For the first 'what if' scenario of August, I wanted to look at an alternate scenario for an essential character in the first book, Khal Drogo.

His marriage to Daenerys was a piece of a wider plan to restore House Targaryen to the Iron Throne. The brief time he and the 'Mother of Dragons' spent together helped mold her character and his death set her on a long and very difficult trek to power.

But what if Drogo had lived? How would this affect the efforts of the Targaryen Restoration? How would this change Daenery's return to Westeros? What kind of reception could she have expected from the people and nobility of the Seven Kingdoms if she had come as a Khaleesi?

Drogo wins his duel without receiving an injury.

Not a Scratch

So how could Drogo have lived? Like with so many of these theories, altering small decisions or tiny events has a huge impact. A character making a different choice or avoiding one particular event can drastically transform the entire course of their story and the wider plot of the books.

In 'A Game of Thrones' Drogo met his end because of a small flesh-wound he received in a fight with a rival Khal. Daenerys insists that a woman she rescued from the settlement her husband just sacked, Mirri Maz Duur, treat him. Unknown to Daenerys though, the maegi deliberately poisoned Drogo's injury resulting in his wound becoming infected. Daenerys saved her husband through blood magic but smothered Drogo in an act of mercy to stop him from living out his days as a human vegetable. Drogo's Khalasar (mostly) abandoned his Khaleesi who burned herself, Maz Duur and her dragon eggs on his funeral pyre. Daenerys emerged with her dragons and set off into the Red Waste to strart again.

In this scenario, Drogo avoids being cut by his opponent during this fateful duel and walks away from the fight without that scratch. The woman Dany rescues simply joins the rest of the Khalasar as they continue on their way. Swayed by the Khaleesi's kindness she takes no revenge and instead simply uses her magic for healing.


The quest for ships would continue.

Slaves for Ships

With Drogo alive and Daenerys still his queen, what happens next? Well, in the books prior to the pillaging of the Lhazareen, the assassination attempt on Dany's life in Vaes Dothrak makes Drogo fully committed to her cause. He becomes determined to take his Khaleesi and his unborn son across the Narrow Sea to invade Westeros and reclaim her throne. Alive and still in charge of his Khalasar, it's certain that Drogo and his Dothraki warriors would continue to raid and pillage towns and cities in Lhazar to gather slaves. In all likelihood, the captured Lhazareen would be sold to the Masters of Slaver's Bay (since the cities border Lhazar to the south) in exchange for ships.

Though Dany likely remains uncomfortable with the volume of people her husband enslaves, (perhaps continuing to claim some women and children as her personal property to save them) she continues to go along with this plan. Since the Dothraki warriors follow her husband, not her, it's unlikely that Daenerys would be in a position to fully abolish the practice of enslaving people.

So, Drogo's Khalasar acquires a large number of slaves by sacking the towns and cities of Lhazar. One or more of the cities of Slaver's Bay proves willing to trade ships for the slaves and Drogo and Daenerys are able to set sail for Westeros.

The fate of the Khalasar after setting sail for Westeros depends on two different factors.

First, the timing of the departure. Since Drogo's Khalasar numbers some 40,000 people and undoubtedly includes at least as many horses, acquiring enough food and other supplies to sustain this force for the voyage would take a few months.

Because the death of Khal Drogo occurs in late 298 AC in the cannon timeline, we can assume that in this scenario the Khalasar would probably set sail some time in 299 AC. Since the fleet would need to likely dock at least a few times at different cities to resupply, the best guess is that Drogo, Dany and their infant son Rhaego (born in 298) would reach the shores of Westeros in late 299 or early 300 AC.

This means that they would land in the Seven Kingdoms at the tail end of the War of the Five Kings perhaps just before or just after the poisoning of King Joffrey at the Purple Wedding. 


Aegon (Young Griff) a rival or a partner?

The Aegon Factor

The second important factor, is her relationship with other members of the Targaryen Loyalist camp. The biggest members of this camp are Illyrio Mopatis, Varys, Jon Connington and her nephew, Aegon. While it might seem like Dany and her husband would have no problem joining forces with these other players, the relationship between Dany and her nephew could just as easily turn frosty.

In the books, Illyrio arranged Dany's marriage to Drogo in order for her brother Visery's to gain 10,000 warriors. It was Viserys, not Dany, who Ilyrio and his co-conspirators wanted to place on the Iron Throne. With Viserys' death, Ilyrio and Varys invest their hopes for a Targaryen Restoration with Rhaegar's surviving son, Aegon.

Since Aegon's claim to the throne is stronger than his aunt's, Daenerys plan of using her husband to capture the Iron Throne for her and her son becomes complicated. She can either accept her nephew's claim as more legitimate and try to add Drogo's forces to Aegon's or she can continue to Westeros and attempt to reclaim the throne for herself on her own.

So what would her decision be?

While she might have some sense of familial affection for her nephew, Daenerys is a much stronger and independent person. She is used to being a Khaleesi and would likely not want to bow to her nephew and forsake the thing which she has been driven to want for most of her life, the Iron Throne. Additionally, Drogo (who never respected Viserys) would dislike the idea of submitting himself to another man.

Taking all this into consideration, this timeline sees Drogo and Daenerys rejecting Aegon's offer and continuing to Westeros alone. Aegon gathers his own supporters which includes the Golden Company and hires other mercenary companies to fight for him.

The Martells- Dany's best hope for a Westerosi ally.

The Sun, the Dragon and the Stallion

When Drogo and Dany arrive in Westeros they find the Seven Kingdoms torn to pieces by a vicious civil war. The death of Joffrey Baratheon, the new reaving campaign of the Ironborn under King Euron Greyjoy, unrest in the Bolton controlled North and the Faith Militant rising in King's Landing makes the realm's future uncertain and provides a window for Daenerys to emerge as an alternative to the Lannister controlled throne.

Since Dorne has (secretly) remained loyal to House Targaryen in the hopes of avenging Elia Martell, Daenerys and Drogo land at Sunspear.

While in the cannon timeline, Doran Martell seeks to wed his son Quentyn to the widowed Daenerys in Mereen this scenario  becomes unrealistic if Drogo is still alive.

However, the 'Dornish Master Plan' continues. Dany makes another pact with the Martells, perhaps marrying Arrianne Martell to one of Drogo's blood-riders to seal it. While Aegon might try to court Dornish favor as well, the widely believed account of his death as an infant during the sack of King's Landing makes the claim of his survival dubious. In a 'Winds of Winter' chapter for instance, Arianne journeyed to Aegon to try and ascertain the legitimacy of his bloodline. Additionally, Dany's 40,000 strong Khalasar is a far more formidable force than the 10,000 strong Golden Company.

With the Martells willing to support her, Drogo and Dany march their combine Dothraki/Dornish force north to make for King's Landing. In a move reminiscent of her ancestor Aegon Targaryen, she sends messages to all the lords of Westeros declaring her Queenship.

While some lords would undoubtedly declare for her, this does not likely boost her numbers. The War of the Five Kings has exhausted the fighting strength of many houses, meaning that the Khalasar and the Dornish would make up the bulk of Dany's strength.

With the Reach controlled by House Tyrell, the Dothraki/Dornish host marches through the desolated Stormlands crushing its war weary lords.

Any houses that do not declare for her are sacked and pillaged by the Dothraki. The token force of Tyrell soldiers, left to continue the siege of Baratheon loyalists in Storm's End, are easily overwhelmed. Though the Khaleesi succeeds in keeping her husband and his riders restrained in some instances, she's unable to stop the large Khalasar from periodically raiding and pillaging the small-folk of the Stormlands as they approach King's Landing.

Varys, a Targaryen Loyalist, sabatoges the Lannisters and Tyrells.

With Daenerys Drogo and the Martells at the gates, the Lannister/Tyrell alliance tries to mount a defense. Matters are complicated by Varys sabotaging the defenders efforts in the Red Keep. The death of Tywin at Tyrion's hands as well as the assassination of Kevan Lannister occur as in the books, orchestrated by the Master of Whispers to assist Daenerys. Assuming that these events ultimately result in the Lion and the Rose parting ways, the Tyrell's opt to join forces with Daenerys and King's Landing falls quickly.

However, what if the Tyrells and the Lannisters simply see the Dothraki/Dornish as a much more pressing threat and unite against them? With around 30,000 Tyrell men, a few hundred Lannister soldiers, and five thousand Goldcloaks of the City Watch the Tyrells/Lannisters can field only about half of numbers of the combined Dothraki/Dornish force (40,000 Dothraki/20,000 Dornish). If they march out to face Drogo and Dany in the field, this force is quickly slaughtered. While the more sound option is to hide behind the city walls and await reinforcements, its unlikely the siege would last long. Varys would to sabotage events in King's Landing for the defenders. Cersei and Mace Tyrell are likely unable to coordinate their forces well and the city falls in an assault.

The Dothraki, in all likelihood, would be let themselves loose on the realm.

Dothraki On the Loose

During the taking of King's Landing, Daenerys restrains her husband perhaps by sending the Dorthraki to go into the Riverlands to chase Jaime and the Lannister forces assisting with the Frey's siege of Riverrun. The assault and occupation of the city is left to the Dornish (in the hopes of preventing a whole-sale slaughter) who take the Red Keep. Since Dany is likely to remain merciful and tactful she refrains from killing Cersei, Tommen or any Tyrell hostages she manages to take. She instead uses them as leverage to try and secure the loyalty of the realm.

So, Daenerys has the throne and perhaps now receives the fealty of many great houses. Does she get a happily ever after?

No, not really. Even if she secures the Iron Throne she would still have to worry about securing her new kingdom. Dorne, the Stormlands, and the Vale would back her, while the Reach and the Westerlands would fall in line if presented with Lannister and Tyrell hostages. However, the Iron Islands under King Euron would continue to remain in rebellion while instability in the Riverlands and the North could lead to hostile forces emerging there.

The Dothraki, under her husband Drogo, would also continue to be a lethal force but one which would prove to eventually be an Achilles heel for her. 


With Dothraki society entirely centered around raiding and pillaging, it would be unrealistic to expect her husband's Khalasar to remain passive for very long even if Drogo tried to reign them in. If the Khalasar continued to pillage large parts of Westeros, even those areas that did declare for Daenerys, it could alienate from the Westerosi. It would be increasingly hard for Dany to be both queen and Khaleesi since her subjects in the Seven Kingdoms would view her Dothraki Khalasar as an occupying foreign force and the Khalasar would be itching to return to its nomadic, rampaging way of life.

It's probable that the Dothraki would split from Daenerys and her husband, with Drogo's strength being called into question as he restrained his people too often and denied them their 'right' to plunder and enslave as they wished. In a best case scenario, the Khalasar splits with some Dothraki following Drogo and others breaking off into one or more smaller Khalasars. In the worst case scenario (the more likely one) Drogo is challenged and killed by a rival who then turns the Dothraki loose on the Seven Kingdoms.

While this Khalasar would eventually be defeated by a combined force of Westerosi lords, Daenerys would perhaps lose her strongest backer and her throne all together.

With her Khalasar turned loose, Daenerys also comes into conflict with her greatest rival for the throne; her nephew Aegon. If Young Griff decides to return from exile and press his claim, especially in the aftermath of Drogo's death, it would present the lords of Westeros with another alternative to Daenerys.

While it's possible that Aegon could simply join forces with his aunt (perhaps marrying her in the case of Drogo's death). It's also just as plausible to see a Targaryen civil war developing between the two family members with Daenerys being increasingly isolated as lords defected to Aegon.

Sorry people, it's ASOIAF. No one really gets a happy ending.

Monday, July 25, 2016

What If Aegon Never Conquered Westeros?

First, many thanks to those who read my previous two entries in this series. The Stannis and Rhaegar  'what if?' pieces received a lot of views and positive feedback. I'm so happy about that. I've decided to run with this alternate ASOIAF timeline series for a while (though I'll also continue writing other posts). 


For the third 'what if?' timeline I thought it would be interesting to go way, way back in the ASOIAF universe. What I want to look at, is a timeline in which Aegon's Conquest never happened. What would the continent of Westeros and the Seven Kingdoms would look like if the Targaryen Dynasty had never risen? Which lands and Great Houses would be the most and least affected in such a scenario? Which power if any could conceivably rise to bind the Seven Kingdoms together?

No Dragons, No Fire and Blood

Along with the invasions of the First Men and the Andals, the arrival of Targaryens was an event that changed Westeros forever. Aegon, his sister-wives and their dragons were the first to bind all of the continent's warring kingdoms (save Dorne) together. During Aegon's Conquest, old royal houses were destroyed, others brought to their knees, other houses were raised up and territories shifted ownership. A new city, King's Landing, was built and a throne made from the fused swords of Aegon's fallen enemies became the symbol of power for a new political order.

The Targaryens meet their end in the Doom of Valyria.

In this alternate timeline, though, Aegon, Visenya Rhaenys and their dragons never exist. Their ancestors who, in the cannon-history, settled Dragonstone twelve years before Valyria's destruction never leave the doomed continent. Instead, Aenar Targaryen ignores his daughter's prophetic warnings about the Doom and remains in his homeland. His entire line his wiped-out and Dargonstone, which had been a Valryian outpost, becomes the home of another house.

Dragons cease to exist and fade in to legend and myth along with Valyria itself. However, like in the cannon-timeline, Volantis and other Valyrian outposts do endure and preserve some aspects of their now deceased motherland's culture.

The Seven Kingdoms Remain...Seven Kingdoms

Since the Targaryens and their dragons are no longer on the scene, where does this leave the Seven Kingdoms that they conquered?


In the short term, pretty much where they were. With no Aegon the Conqueror, the Seven Kingdoms (shown below) remain independent realms. The long term futures of these different kingdoms are impossible to really predict and could go a number of different directions. To cover all of those possible outcomes would require more than one entry. However, based on what we know of the state of these kingdoms at the time of the Conquest (from The World of Ice and Fire and the main series) it's possible to make a few solid predictions.

The Seven Kingdoms at the time of Aegon's Conquest

Gardeners, Durrandons, Hoares and the Rest

Some houses and lands are more affected than others by Aegon's absence. The Reach, the Stormlands, the Iron Islands and the Riverlands were changed far more deeply by the Conquest than other parts of Westeros. The royal houses that ruled these lands were extinguished. With no Field of Fire, no Siege of Storm's End and no Burning of Harrenhal, houses Gardener, Durrandon and Hoare endure.

Sigil of House Gardener, the Kings of the Reach

In the Reach, House Gardner, which like the Lannisters and the Starks can trace its ancestry to the Age of Heroes, continues to rule from High Garden. Mern IX (the last Gardener King in the cannon who is killed along with all of his sons and male relatives) continues his reign and is succeeded by his son Edmund. The Tyrells remain the Gardener King's high stewards and continue to serve as trusted advisors and (perhaps at times) the power behind the Oakenseat.

Sigil of the Storm Kings of House Durrandon (adopted by the Baratheons)

In the Stormlands, the ruling house of Durrandon does not become extinct either (at least not at Aegon's hands). Since the founder of House Baratheon, Orys, was a bastard brother of Aegon, Storm's End remains the seat of Argilac Durrandon (the Arrogant). He marries his daughter Argella to another suitor and perhaps lives long enough to sire a male heir. Like in the cannon, Argilac also tries to seek out allies to counter the presence of the Ironborn in the Riverlands. Instead of sending offers of alliance to Aegon, however, he likely tries to build bridges with one of the other kingdoms surrounding the Riverlands such as the Vale or the Westerlands.

Sigil of House Hoare, rulers of the Ironborn and the Riverlands

This brings us to the Iron Islands and the Riverlands, the two regions that were arguably changed the most by the Targaryens. When Aegon arrived in Westeros, the Ironborn had carved an empire out of the Riverlands and what would become the Crownlands. Their royal house, Hoare, ruled as Kings of the Isles and the Rivers. Under kings Harwyn, Halleck and Harren the Ironborn successfully retained controlled of their conquest by fighting off the Arryns, Lannisters, Gardeners and Durrandons. The Storm Kings were the Hoares' strongest rivals for the Riverlands, since the Durrandons had ruled the territory prior to having it taken away by Harwyn. Arguably, the Kingdom of the Isles and Rivers was the most powerful by the time of the Conquest.

In this timeline, King Harren the Black still completes his monstrous castle of Harrenhal making it his seat of power. Though the Hoare line is not extinguished by dragon flame, the Kings of the Isles and the Rivers are likely unable to maintain their great castle or their empire in the long term. Like in the cannon, the construction of Harrenhal drains material and human resources from the Riverlands and the Iron Islands. While the castle is impressive and perhaps impregnable to a direct assault the project ultimately leaves the Ironborn severely weakened. Maintaining the massive castles towers, hearths, kitchens, stables and barracks only puts further strain on the already depleted lands under Harren's rule.

The construction of Harrenhal depletes resources and leaves House Hoare vulnerable

While Harren likely lives out the rest of his reign, the enemies of the Ironborn sense the weakness of his realm. Whether through invasion by one or more of the surrounding kingdoms, a rebellion on the Iron Islands or in the Riverlands or a combination of these events, it seems likely that the construction of Harrenhal would eventually lead to the Riverlands being wrested from the Hoares and given to another kingdom. Harrenhal falls largely into ruin like in the books and house Hoare is eventually driven out of power and destroyed, with the Ironborn withdrawing to their islands. Another Ironborn family, perhaps the Greyjoys, succeeds them.


The houses least affected by the Conquest, the Starks, Martells, Arryns and Lannisters endure as well. They remain the leaders of their peoples and continue the wars that they have always engaged in.

No Iron Throne to Bend To...Not Ever

Not surprisingly, conflicts continue between the various kingdoms. As time passes, their lands expand and contract with each new war. However, in the absence of a Targaryen Conquest is there another scenario in which all Seven Kingdoms could be brought together under a single ruler?


Not very likely.


Aegon's Conquest succeeded due to one factor and one factor alone: his three dragons. Without them, the Targaryens' three thousand man army would have been unable to conquer anything beyond a few smaller territories in what we know as the Crownlands. In battle after battle, Balerion, Vhagar and Meraxes decided the outcome and their mere existence and presence was enough to convince even powerful rulers like Torrhen Stark and Sharra Arryn to bend the knee.

Dragons ensured Aegon's victory over his enemies.

In a ASOIAF universe without Aegon's dragons, there's only one other way to conquer all of Westeros- with an army.


However, defeating and subduing an entire continent filled with diverse peoples, harsh and varied climates and powerful kingdoms who would fight tooth and nail to hold their lands, would require an enormous number of soldiers. At a minimum, this army would have to be several hundred thousand strong if it was to have any hope of overwhelming any of the other kingdoms' forces.  


While its hard to confirm the exact size of the armies that each of the Seven Kingdoms can raise, none of the numbers in the books (or from other estimates online) come even close to matching the army size required. Most great houses such as the Starks and the Arryns seem only able to muster between twenty to thirty thousand men. Even the wealthiest and most powerful kingdoms, the Reach and the Westerlands, can only field a little over fifty thousand men each.

No Iron Throne...or one quite like it.

Barring the emergence of some magical super-weapon (such as dragons) or the complete absorption of one of the kingdoms by another (also not likely given the pattern of warfare) its not feasible that any sort of High King would ever be able to rise in Westeros and subdue all the lands from the North to Dorne.


Before the conquest, the Seven Kingdoms were just that. They were seven independent territories ruled by a royal house. In this timeline, Westeros' kingdoms remain sovereign with their royals houses continuing to rule and go to war with one another in pursuit of territory.


Wars continue and the power of various kingdoms wax and wane with time.



Friday, July 8, 2016

What If Rhaegar Killed Robert?




In the ASOIAF series Robert's Rebellion is arguably the most important event prior to the first book. The civil war which brought down the 300 year old Targaryen Dynasty laid the foundation for the entire book series and show. Without this successful insurrection, nearly every character in the series would be in a different place. 


But what if the rebellion's climactic battle, The Trident, had gone a different route? What if in their duel in the waters, Robert was slain by Rhaegar and the rebel forces suffered a shattering defeat? How would the Seven Kingdoms be different? 



The Trident

There are a myriad of ways that the Rebellion could have ended with a Targaryen victory. For my purposes I'll be looking at a different outcome for the Battle of Trident with all other events leading up to that point unchanged. 


A different man comes back from the Trident


In this new scenario, Rhaegar leads the loyalist army into battle and confronts Robert one on one in the waters of the river. This time though, Robert misses his swing and Rhaegar dodges the fatal blow of the Usurper's warhammer. Rhaegar rebounds and puts his sword through Robert's antler helm killing him instantly. 


Upon seeing their leader fall, the rebel army reacts in the same way that the loyalist army did in the cannon history at the death of Rhaegar. The Baratheon, Stark, Tully and Arryn forces scatter and their enemies are victorious. 



Immediate Aftermath

A victory for the Targaryens at the Trident has very deep changes for the Kingdoms and for the characters of the series. 


First, with the rebels clearly on the backfoot the loyalists are free to press their advantage and continue to march into the Riverlands. Neutral houses, seeing which way the wind is turning, declare for the Targaryens. The Freys, who in the cannon waited to send troops to the Trident after the battle is decided, join the Royal Army along with other Riverlords.

House Lannister, declares for the crown and sends their armies into the Riverlands to assist. 


Meanwhile, in Storm's End the siege continues and the Tyrells eventually starve the garrison led by Stannis. The elder of Robert's two brothers is killed or captured while the youngest brother Renly is (for sure) taken hostage to ensure the loyalty of the Stormlands. With Robert gone, the Stormland forces in the Riverlands disintegrate leaving the Arryns, Starks and Tullys to try and mount a new defense. 


The Mad King Falls

As revealed by Jaime in A Feast for Crows, Rhaegar stated before leaving for the Trident that he wanted to call a council after the battle was over. In his own words:


'When the battle's done I mean to call a council. Changes will be made. I meant to do it long ago, but ... well, it does no good to speak of roads not taken. We shall talk when I return.' 


The council Rhaegar referred to is likely a council to remove his father, Mad King Aerys, from power. POV chapters from other characters in the books indicate that Rhaegar was disturbed by his father's madness and wanted to depose him in order to preserve the Kingdoms. The tourney at Harrenhal (where Rhaegar met Lyanna Stark) was believed by some in the books to have been a cover for a meeting between Rhaegar and supporters to plot Aery's overthrow. Aerys was tipped off, however, by his spymaster Varys. He attended the tournament and, as the story goes, the plot never hatched.

In this new scenario, Rhaegar takes advantage of his victory and finally calls the long delayed council. He gathers his strongest supporters and his father's closest enemies. This includes Aery's former estranged Hand and friend Tywin Lannister. In the cannon timeline, Tywin's friendship with Aerys was ruined by the Mad King's jealously and paranoia, with Tywin resigning his post. It's also recorded that during the defiance of Duskendale, Tywin openly talked about replacing Aerys with Rhaegar. 

At Rhaegar's council, Tywin becomes a crucial player.

At the council, most likely held in the Riverlands (perhaps Harrenhal), Tywin and Rhaegar's allies back his coup against his father to spare the realm even more bloodshed.

Rhaegar leaves Barristan Selmy or another lord to lead part of the Royal Army in the Riverlands and continue the right against any remaining rebel forces. He and Tywin though take the lion's share of the army to King's Landing.

While Rhaegar may try to disguise this move, Aerys's paranoia, perhaps coupled with information from Varys, prevents him from accepting his son back into the capital. He keeps the gates of King's Landing shut and threatens to kill Rhaegar's wife and children (who are still in the Red Keep). The Mad King also has the caches of wildfire scattered around the city which he plans to use in this timeline as well.

Though the standoff continues for some time, the outcome probably remains very much the same as in the cannon-timeline.

Jaime Lannister remains the only Kingsguard in the Red Keep, since he was left behind before the battle. Though he is a Kingsguard, it's also established in the books that he had a close relationship with Rhaegar and that he is not above breaking vows for what he perceives as a greater good.

With that mind, it's possible that Jaime would, eventually see the writing on the wall and take it upon himself to spare the city and his father's forces.

The Mad King falls, most likely stabbed once more by Jaime. 



King's Landing is spared being sacked or burned and Rhaegar becomes king.



The Peace

With Rhaegar now King and his father gone, the new Targaryen monarch begins the process of bringing all seven kingdoms under his control.

With the Stormlands all but secured by the Tyrells, the Riverlands, the Vale and the North are the only three territories left uncontrolled by the new Dragon King. 


House Arryn, House Stark and House Tully form the backbone of the rebels


Rhaegar would no doubt hear a number of different opinions from his small council on how to deal with these rebellious territories. While an all out military invasion of these lands would be possible, especially with the Royal Army intact, continuing the war would be problematic. Apart from the Riverlands, which have few natural barriers, the North and the Vale would prove difficult to invade and conquer by force.

The Vale is extremely mountainous while the North is huge (as large as all the other kingdoms combined). Though the forces of the Great Houses backing Rhaegar could mount invasions of these two kingdoms, the campaigns would cost a number of lives and could ultimately result in a war of attrition that might cause the loyalists to suffer burnout.

Therefore, Rhaegar's best course of action would be to negotiate the reentry of the North and the Vale into the Seven Kingdoms.

This might seem like an impossible task at first, especially when it comes to making amends with House Stark. After all, Rhaegar's absconding with Lyanna Stark was the flash that ignited the rebellion in the first place. How could Ned Stark (assuming he escaped the defeat at the Trident) or his brother Benjen (who would have become lord of Winterfell had Ned fallen) possibly make peace with the man who 'abducted' their sister? How could Ned, if he survived, have forgiven the man who in this alternate timeline, killed his best friend?

Well a negotiated peace, is actually not as crazy an outcome as you might think. In this alternate timeline, Rhaegar has two aces in his already stacked deck.

First, there's the fact that Rhaegar's dalliance with Lyanna, wasn't really what started the rebellion.

Sure, taking off with Robert's fiance was a dumb move. Whether you like the abduction narrative or the star crossed lover story, there's no doubt Rhaegar made a mistake when he rode away to Dorne with Lyanna. Yet it was the actions of Rhaegar's father, the Mad King, that actually set off the war. 


The Mad King burns Rickard Stark


Brandon Stark, the heir to Winterfell, and Rickard Stark, (the Stark patriarch) were both executed when they approached Aerys seeking justice for what they saw as a slight on their family's honor. It's their deaths at the hands of Aerys, and his subsequent order for Jon Arryn to send him the heads of Ned and Robert, that kicked off the rebellion. Though negligent, Rhaegar had no direct responsibility for the war.

With his father now dead, in this alternate timeline, Rhaegar can argue that he actually avenged the Stark family by deposing his father and bringing the man responsible for Brandon and Rickard's deaths to justice. With the Mad King gone, the rebels no longer have a hated figure to rally against. Though Rhaegar is his father's son he's also well loved.

Despite being on the losing end of the war in the cannon-timeline, Rhaeagr is still widely praised even in death for his honor and noble character. Apart from Robert, everyone else who knew the prince personally remarks on how good a person he was and laments that he never got a chance to be King. Even Ned speaks well of him, despite having no apparent reason to.

Second, and maybe most importantly, Rhaegar has a Stark in his care. I don't mean Lyanna. Just like in the books, Lyanna dies at the Tower of Joy in her bed of blood. And she also gives birth to the boy we all know as Jon Snow. (Yes, there may be a half percentage chance that R + L does not equal J but at this point the show has almost certainly confirmed it). 


Unfortunately, Lyanna Stark still dies in childbirth.



In this alternate version though, Jon is given a Targaryen name (I'll use the popular fan name Jaehaerys) and is taken back to his father by the three Kingsguards left to protect him and his mother in Dorne. 


It's the revelation of this little boy's existence, more than anything else, that convinces either Ned or Benjen to submit to Rhaegar's rule. While the Starks may nurse strong grudges against Rhaegar for the rest of his life, they would still feel a strong devotion to Lyanna's son. Ned's code of honor and his dedication to family, would ultimately bring him to the table and back to submission to the Targaryens. While Benjen is not quite as honor bound as Ned is, we can safely assume that he would also submit.

Assuming the North is brought back to the fold the Vale and the Riverlands would then follow suit, seeing no purpose to continuing the fight. The Arryns remain in charge of the Vale and the Tullys, the Riverlands. Rhaegar lacks his father's penchant for cruelty and would most likely not seek any vengeance. 


The Rule of Rhaegar

With the Kingdoms at peace, the reign of King Rhaegar truly begins. Though the rebellious lands are pacified, bitterness over the events of the rebellion would no doubt remain. Though their houses remain intact, the Baratheons and the Starks would have grudges against the throne. They, the Arryns and Tullys, as well as other large houses that supported Robert, would need to be kept in check. Children from those houses would stay in King's Landing, Dragonstone or in loyalist Great Houses, as hostages. The best candidates would be the heirs of these houses such as Robb, Renly, Robert Arryn and Edmure Tully. Renly, as the heir of Storm's End, would be an especially valuable captive to the new Targaryen king.


Prince Jaehaerys Targaryen


Jaehaerys (Jon Snow) also serves as a sort of hostage against any future Stark rebellions. Though regarded as a bastard, Rhaegar legitimizes his son through Lyanna Stark (as King he has that power). This is done out of a sense of honor but also as a way to empower House Stark, who would have a blood relative as a Prince. Additionally, legitimizing Jaehaerys and making him a Targaryen prince would allow Rhaegar to add another head to the dragon as part of his plans to fulfill the Prince Who Was Promised prophecy.

Despite his legitimization, Jaehaerys would still probably be considered a bastard by many in the Court. He would also not be his father's heir since Rhaegar's children through Elia Martell would still be alive. The eldest son through Elia, Aegon, would still be first in line for the throne.

While it's not clear how well Elia would have accepted her husband's love child, we can assume that she would have certainly been uneasy and most likely wouldn't regard him with the same affection as her own children. She might even come to see him as a threat to her own son's succession.

The Mad King's wife, Rhaella, survives only long enough to die giving birth to Daenerys. In this world, the Mother of Dragons, never crosses the narrow sea and does not become the BA heroine we know in the books and show. Instead, she grows up a princess and is most likely wed to one of her male relatives as per Targaryen tradition. While her brother Viserys or her cousin are prime candidates, she may also be married off to loyalist house as a reward for their support during the war. 

Rhaegar reigns well, and the Targaryen Dynasty endures. House Baratheon is left extremely weakened, but intact, while Houses Martell, and Tyrell are empowered for their loyalty. The Lannisters, due to Tywin's support for Rhaegar's council, are also close to power. Though Tywin does not initially have the same leverage over the throne as in the canon story, he is rewarded with a seat on the small council. Likely Rhaegar's first hand is his close friend Jon Connington, who he brings back from exile.

Cersei marries someone else while Jaime remains in King's Landing as a Kingsguard for Rhaegar. Likely they never have children.

Ned remains Lord of Wintefell and has his family with Catelyn. He is kept far away from King's Landing however with his daughter's likely married. The war continues to haunt him, much like it does in the books.