Early Life

Steffon, Robert, Stannis, Renly, and Cassana.

Robert was the true steel. Stannis is pure iron, black and hard and strong, yes, but brittle, the way iron gets. He’ll break before he bends. And Renly, that one, he’s copper, bright and shiny, pretty to look at but not worth all that much at the end of the day.
~ Donal Noye to Jon Snow

Stannis was born in year 264 AC. He was the second born child of Lady Cassana Estermont and Lord Steffon Baratheon. He was unlike his gregarious older brother Robert, who was scarcely one year older than him. He was considered a dour and humourless child.

When Stannis was no more than four years old, Steffon Baratheon took him and Robert to court in King’s Landing. Stannis met Lord Tywin Lannister, who was serving as Hand of the King. Stannis was impressed by the dragon's skulls in the throne room as he was by Lord Tywin and mistook him for King Aerys II Targaryen, seeing him sitting on the Iron Throne. He and Robert agreed that Tywin looked noble. Tywin, Steffon, and Aerys were friends who fought side by side during the War of the Ninepenny Kings, the last Blackfyre rebellion, and years later, Steffon corrected Stannis and explained to him the king has cut himself on the Iron Throne was not present that day and it was Tywin who Stannis liked so much.

Stannis and Maester Cressen.

Stannis’ childhood was not a happy one. He lived in the shadow of Robert. Whatever Stannis did, Robert had done first and better. The two brothers were incompatible, and sometimes Robert mocked him. Stannis’ feelings towards Robert remained strained into adulthood. As a child, he was introverted, lonely, precociously mature, smarter than the average child, solemn, and joyless. Later, Lord Steffon’s youngest child, Renly, was born. A baby who would grow as a happy boy who loved games and bright colors, looking a lot like Robert. This alienated Stannis from his family even more, as he felt further overlooked. Maester Cressen, who had cared for the three brothers upon their parents' deaths, came to care deeply for Stannis, as he felt Stannis, being the Baratheon son who was the most overlooked, was the Baratheon son who needed him the most.

From an early age onwards, Robert has been fostered in the Eyrie by Lord Jon Arryn, together with Eddard Stark. The two became friends during this time, and Robert loved Ned as his true brother while he had no love for Stannis and Renly (the latter due to them being separated most of the time), and Jon Arryn as a second father. While he was fostered, Robert visited Storm’s End on multiple occasions, and at some point, he was knighted.

In 278 AC, Lord Steffon and Lady Cassana were sent on a mission by King Aerys II to Volantis to find a bride for Stannis's cousin, Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, but in this they failed. The two had found a slave fool in Volantis, and bought his freedom in order to bring him to Storm’s End, believing he would delight Robert, and might even teach Stannis how to laugh, in time. They wrote this to Maester Cressen and were both ready to return home. The day they were expected to return to Storm’s End, Robert and Stannis were on the parapets of Storm’s End, looking for the ship Windproud. When the ship came in sight, a sudden storm arrived, and the two brothers witnessed their parents' death, watching as the ship was destroyed at Shipbreaker Bay. Only the fool from Volantis mysteriously survived but had lost his wits. Maester Cressen objected the suggestion of killing the fool to put him out of his misery and let him live. The fool would be known as Patchface. Steffon and Cassana drowned and from that moment, Robert became Lord Paramount of the Stormlands. The same day of his parents’ death, the 13-year old Stannis lost his faith in the Seven, saying that gods who are so monstrous to take his parents’ lives in front of him would never have his worship. He stopped believing the existence of any god, and developed an indifferent disdainful perception of all religions.

After the death of their parents, the Baratheons were being watched by Cressen, while Robert continued to live in both Storm’s End and the Eyrie at the same time. Stannis found an injured goshawk, and nursed it back to health. He took it as his pet and named it Proudwing. Robert mocked Stannis for his bird, and called it Weakwing, because it was unable to fly higher than the treetops. Stannis’ s great-uncle, Ser Harbert, told him he was making a fool of himself and convinced him to abandon the bird, though Stannis never truly reveals if he actually abandoned Proudwing or just stubbornly kept her with him in secret. Growing up Stannis disliked being reminded he was not as strong as Robert. Later, in the year 282 AC, the same year Prince Aegon Targaryen was born, the supposed abduction of Lyanna Stark, the disappearance of Prince Rhaegar, the deaths of Rickard and Brandon Stark at the hands of King Aerys II, and his order to Jon Arryn to deliver him the heads of Eddard and Robert caused the war known as Robert’s Rebellion. Jon Arryn refused to obey the Crown and raised the banners of the Vale.

Robert’s Rebellion

Aerys? If you only knew ... that was a hard choosing. My blood or my

liege. My brother or my king.

~ Stannis to Davos Seaworth

Unlike Jon Arryn and Eddard Stark, Robert Baratheon had Targaryen blood in him, as his paternal grandmother was Rhaelle Targaryen. Because of this, he became the head of the revolt, later claiming the Iron Throne after the Battle of the Trident. After killing Marq Grafton, defeating the Targaryen loyalists, and taking Gulltown, the major port of the Vale, Robert could finally reach the Stormlands, and he arrived at Storm’s End meeting Cressen, Stannis, and Renly. 

According to Stannis, choosing between his family and his king was the hardest choice he ever made. In the end, he chooses his brother, as “the younger brother must bow to the elder” is a more ancient law. He still admits having chosen family over honor. Robert was gathering his banners at Storm’s End, separated from his allies and surrounded by the loyalists of the Reach, Dorne, and the Crownlands. Some of Robert’s bannermen remained loyal to the Crown and started gathering at Summerhall. However, Robert defeated them all at Summerhall, winning three battles in a day. Stannis was at Storm's End when Robert returned from the Battles of Summerhall with his prisoners, whom he kept at Storm's End, and eventually befriended. Stannis warned his brother that the men he had befriended, such as lords Grandison and Cafferen, were men who had wanted to deliver him to Aerys to be burned; while Stannis would have thrown them in a dungeon, Robert befriended them.

Robert started marching to the Reach with the storm lords, possibly to secure the Stormlands' western flank against the threat of the Tyrells. Later, he was defeated by Lord Randyll Tarly in the Battle of Ashford, and was forced to retreat when Lord Mace Tyrell arrived with his host in the late battle. Robert fled north, to the Riverlands to unite with the Arryns, Starks, and Tullys, while Mace Tyrell's host headed to Storm’s End. Before leaving, Robert told Stannis to held the castle, no matter the cost.

Stannis's stubbornness and determination are legendary and served him well during the rebellion. Mace Tyrell was besieging Storm’s End for a year, with all the power of the Reach, led by himself and his closest bannerman, Lord Paxter Redwyne. Mace surrounded the castle with his vast host, while Lord Redwyne took the Redwyne fleet of the Arbor and closed Shipbreaker Bay, making impossible for Storm’s End to receive any kind of supplies. Stannis was left with a small garrison of 500 men. He refused to give up, no matter what, and let himself and his men starve at Storm’s End. Renly was six years old during the war, and suffered starvation at Storm’s End too, witnessing the desperation of the garrison. While Robert, Ned Stark, Jon Arryn, and Hoster Tully were fighting the war against the Mad King, Stannis and his garrison had to eat their horses, cats, and dogs in order to survive. They were forgotten during the year, and desperate times required them to eat rats and boot leathers. Meanwhile, Mace Tyrell and his bannermen, such as Paxter Redwyne and Mathis Rowan, feasted within sight of the walls, earning permanent enmity from Stannis Baratheon.

The garrison had to face many problems, such as conflict and rage in Storm’s End, along with problems with discipline, such as the time were the master-at-arms, Ser Gawen Wylde and three knights tried to sneak out a postern gate and surrender. They were captured, and Stannis was going to hurl Ser Gawen out with a catapult. He was dissuaded by Maester Cressen and locked Gawen and the other traitors into a cell, where Wylde died later during the siege.

Stannis and Davos giving food to the garrison of Storm's End.

The siege was not going to end anytime soon, and Stannis remained stubborn. Renly recalls Stannis and Cressen talking about having to eat their own dead, but before that could happen a notorious smuggler named Davos of Flea Bottom had come to save the garrison of Storm’s End. Davos had been a smuggler since he was a young boy and worked with the most infamous bloodthirsty pirates in the world, he had his own crew. The smuggler sailed in many places, including the Wall, and had lived a life full of all kinds of experience at sea with different types of criminals, both good and bad. Davos had noticed that everyone had forgotten about the men defending the castle from the might of Reach, and those who remembered didn’t care. He knew the horrors of starvation from his childhood in poverty, so one night he took a risk that many would have considered madness. He slipped through the Redwyne fleet’s lines and entered Storm’s End with his ship full of onions and salt fish. Stannis refused to eat until every single man had eaten before him, and when he did, his portion was the same as everybody else’s. The food allowed Stannis and his garrison to survive longer until the arrival of Lord Eddard Stark after the Battle of the Trident and the Sack of King’s Landing. With King Aerys and his heir Prince Rhaegar both dead, Mace Tyrell dipped his banners when Eddard and the rebels appeared on the field. There was no battle that day.

Although only a boy in his late teens, Stannis Baratheon successfully held the seat of House Baratheon against all the power of the Reach, giving victory to the rebels against the Crown: the Reach and the Tyrell’s vast host could not join Rhaegar Targaryen’s army. This allowed Robert’s forces to win the rebellion thanks to the fact that Stannis had prevented the Reach and the powerful Redwyne fleet from destroying the rebels on the battlefield. After the siege ended, Stannis took Davos into his service as a landed knight with his own keep and allowed him to found his own house: House Seaworth. However, Davos had lived a life of smuggling and Stannis, in his iron sense of justice, demanded a payment from Davos for his past crimes as a smuggler, so he removed with a cleaver the first joint from each finger of Davos's left hand. Davos accepted the punishment, with Stannis carrying it out himself. In addition to his titles and keep, Davos was also given his own lands and his own war galley, Black Betha, and later two more galleys to be commanded by his eldest sons. Davos’ younger son Devan would be later taken as a squire by Lord Stannis. The majority of the Reach’s lords and knights were later pardoned by King Robert, much to Stannis’ resent, who would keep his enmity towards House Tyrell and House Redwyne until the current story. Stannis also disapproved of Robert pardoning Ser Jaime Lannister, who had killed his own king Aerys during the fall of the capital. Jon Arryn urged Robert to pardon Jaime, but Stannis and Eddard wanted at least Robert stripping the white cloak from Jaime and sending him to the Wall.

End of the Rebellion and Lord of Dragonstone

The dragons are done. The Targaryens tried to bring them back half a dozen times. And made fools of themselves, or corpses. Patchface is the only fool we need on this godsforsaken rock.
~ Stannis to Melisandre

King Robert I Baratheon was now Lord of the Seven Kingdoms. He charged his brother Lord Stannis with building a new royal fleet at Storm’s End, to seize Dragonstone, who was still loyal to House Targaryen. Aerys’wife and sister, Queen Rhaella Targaryen was hiding there with her son Prince Viserys. Queen Rhaella died nine months later, giving birth to Daenerys Targaryen while Stannis was building Robert’s fleet. A ferocious storm raged that night and destroyed the Targaryen fleet while it lay at anchor. Stannis took it as an opportunity to take the castle unopposed by the former royal fleet, now lying under the sea. The garrison at Dragonstone planned to sell Viserys and Daenerys to Lord Stannis, so he could either bring them to Robert or kill them. However, a loyal old knight and former master-at-arms of the Red Keep, Ser Willem Darry, several other retainers, and a wet nurse rescued the Targaryen children and smuggled them away. They went into exile, away from Westeros, and sailed to the Free City of Braavos. The children were smuggled away just before Stannis sailed.

Stannis successfully took Dragonstone from the Targaryens, conquering the island in the name of King Robert I Baratheon. House Targaryen lost every holding in the Seven Kingdoms. Robert granted Dragonstone to Stannis, making him Lord of Dragonstone. The island castle was traditionally the seat of the crown prince, the Prince of Dragonstone, so Robert honored Stannis by granting him the seat of the heir to the Iron Throne. However, Robert was also furious that the Targaryen children had escaped before Stannis arrived, and he granted the ancestral Baratheon seat of Storm's End to the youngest brother, Renly Baratheon, which Stannis resented as an intentional slight. Renly was named Lord Paramount of the Stormlands, upsetting Stannis, who felt that, as the elder of the two, Storm’s End was his by right. Although it was an injustice, Robert also needed a strong man to hold the island of Dragonstone, which was full of former supporters of the Targaryen at the time. Dragonstone had the advantage of taking Stannis away from the mainland, and Stannis became an effective and efficient administrator, head of the new cadet branch of House Baratheon: House Baratheon of Dragonstone. Maester Cressen followed Stannis to the ancient castle.

Stannis was appointed to Robert’s small council, as the master of ships, the commander of the royal fleet, and the King’s main general.

The wedding of Stannis and Selyse.

During year 286 AC, Prince Joffrey Baratheon was born, making him the new heir to the Iron Throne instead of Stannis. Robert would never give Dragonstone and Storm's End to Joffrey and Tommen, leaving the castles to his brothers (according to Martin, a careless generosity of Robert who genuinely never thought Stannis felt insulted for losing Storm's End). Around year 287 AC, Stannis married Lady Selyse Florent. During the wedding, King Robert deflowered Selyse’s cousin Delena Florent on the wedding bed made for Stannis and Selyse. Later Robert told Stannis that he never did it on purpose as he was too drunk to know whose bed it was, swearing to have entered in the wrong room, but Stannis never forgave him. Later, the pregnant Delena gave birth to a boy, Edric Storm, the only acknowledged bastard of the king. Robert also had a bastard daughter, Mya Stone, born in the Vale. Mya is Robert's first child who he visited frequently when she was small. Stannis insisted that Robert and Delena's illegitimate child Edric was a blight upon the honor of his wife's house and promptly shipped him off to his other uncle, Lord Renly, at Storm's End. Selyse thinks that because of this, she and Stannis were cursed and they had no sons.

Greyjoy's Rebellion

Robert would later boast of the battle's bloodiness and how he could have torn down the island into the waves if Lord Balon had not bent the knee. But if I had led the assault, Balon's neck would have bent... under a sword. Because I do not forget. I do not pardon. His time will come, all their times will come.
~ Stannis Baratheon in Histories and Lore

In the year 289 AC Lord Balon Greyjoy rejected his father’s wishes to strengthen the ties of the Iron Islands with the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, and declared the Iron Island independent. House Greyjoy remained neutral during most of Robert’s Rebellion and their Iron Fleet was still intact, the greatest fleet in Westeros, commanded by Balon and his brother Victarion. Balon declared himself King of the Iron Islands, thinking that Robert, who was still called “the usurper” by many, didn’t have the support of many lords like a Targaryen king and that he could defeat him at sea. While the houses were gathering under the orders of Robert, Balon and his fleet were already attacking and raiding the western coast and had been responsible for many strikes, such as the Raid on Lannisport, planned by Euron Greyjoy and commanded by Victarion Greyjoy. The anchored Lannister fleet was destroyed by Victarion.

Robert charged Stannis to succeed where Robert's father-in-law Tywin had failed. Stannis started to prepare the royal fleet, as well as Lord Redwyne with his Redwyne fleet. Meanwhile, the raids of the surrounding coasts of the Sunset Sea were going on, and Balon’s eldest son, Rodrik Greyjoy, was killed by Lord Jason Mallister at the Battle of Seagard. After that, Stannis Baratheon dealt with the Iron Fleet in the sea battle off Fair Isle. Stannis, the master of ships, commanded the force made of the royal fleet, and the warships from the Reach, the Arbor, and Oldtown. With him also Paxter Redwyne and other lords of the Reach. Stannis lured the ironborn into a trap in the Straits of Fair Isle, with the island of Westerlands to their west and the mainland of the Westerlands to their east. Stannis's ships trapped them from the north and the south, smashing Victarion's fleet off Fair Isle. In the battle Aeron Greyjoy’s ship, the Golden Storm, was destroyed by Stannis’s flagship, Fury. Lord Rodrik Harlaw lost his sons in this battle.

Stannis leading the assault of Great Wyk.

After defeating Victarion and making him flee, Robert was now free to attack the Iron Islands, as Stannis had destroyed the Iron Fleet and assured victory for the realm. The Iron Throne force was now able to bring its troops and siege weapons to the islands. Robert and Eddard led most of the royal army to subdue the island of Pyke, the main of the Iron Island. Meanwhile, Stannis subdued Great Wyk, the largest of the Iron Islands, while Ser Barristan Selmy, the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, took Old Wyk, and Lord Tywin invaded another island. Balon was outnumbered, so he lost the war, as well as his second son, Maron. Balon was forced to bend the knee to King Robert I and the Iron Throne. In return, he was forgiven for his treason to the Crown, and allowed to remain Lord of the Iron Islands, much to Stannis and Cersei Lannister’s disapproval. Stannis says if it was him ruling the realm, Balon would have been executed without a second thought, as he does not forgive or forget. Cersei thinks Robert should have destroyed all of the Iron Islands, and built them up again with new rulers.

Master of Ships

And Stannis has always felt he was cheated of Storm's End. The ancestral seat of House Baratheon, his by rights... if you knew how many times he came to Robert singing that same dull song in that gloomy aggrieved tone he has. When Robert gave the place to Renly, Stannis clenched his jaw so tight I thought his teeth would shatter.
~ Cersei Lannister to Tyrion Lannister

Lord Stannis serves King Robert I as the master of ships for years in King’s Landing, visiting Dragonstone a few times. His marriage with Lady Selyse was not a happy one and he was not very fond of her. There was no love between them, and Stannis was not a person to show affection. He seems to have a dislike her as well as a short patience for her; he treats her coldly and rarely sleeps with her. The two had hoped for years to have sons, but the sons they hoped for never came. Only a female child was born and managed to remain alive: Shireen Baratheon, born shortly before Greyjoy’s Rebellion. A lonely sad little girl, she’s considered by most a sweet child with a homely appearance. She inherited both of her mother and father’s physical traits. When Shireen was an infant, she suffered from greyscale, a mortal disease known to affect mostly children. It makes the skin hard, black and grey, stony to the touch. Greyscale had almost claimed Shireen’s life, but she survived and was rendered immune to every fatal form of greyscale. The disease left her disfigured. She was educated by Maester Cressen, and she was mostly seen in the company of the mad fool Patchface. Cressen feels sad for Shireen and considers her as one of his failures, because he failed to cure her greyscale in time. The fact that Shireen, a deformed ugly little girl, was the only child Selyse could give to Stannis, increased his bitterness. Stannis resents Selyse for not being able to give him a healthy strong male son, while Renly mocks both Selyse and Shireen, and wonders how Stannis ever fathered his daughter when he goes to his marriage bed like he is marching to a battlefield to do his duty. While Stannis lived at court in King’s Landing for many years, Ser Axell Florent, uncle of Selyse, controlled Dragonstone as its castellan. Stannis' letters had been few, his visits even fewer. He barely knows Shireen and ignores her most of the time, most likely due to his lack of social and parental skills as well as his inability to show feelings or affections. He still did his best to protect his daughter and kept her away from the capital.

Robert was the king, but he never bothered to rule the Seven Kingdoms. He passed the time drinking, hunting, and whoring, as Robert cared only about alcohol, killing and having sex. The Hand of the King, Lord Jon Arryn was the one who actually kept the King’s peace, along with Stannis, both making sure the realm was well fed. He also helped Jon to deal with the crime and corruption in the realm, and was notoriously without mercy and proud, to the point that the smallfolk and nobles of the realm disliked him so much to make him one of the most unpopular persons in Westeros. As commander of the royal fleet, Stannis had to deal with criminals and pirates at sea. He also once led a fleet to Sisterton, a town located on the island of Sweetsister, in the Vale, and suppressed smuggling from the Three Sisters. Stannis and Robert’s relationship remained cold during these years, Stannis was more serious and responsible than the elder brother, and Robert did his best to avoid giving him too much power. Stannis always resented Robert for the slights he suffered. He feels Robert has given him little in return for his loyal service, thanking Ned Stark for lifting the Siege of Storm’s End, rather than thanking him for holding the castle against the power of the Reach. Instead of thanking him for capturing Dragonstone from the Targaryens, Robert blamed him for the escape of Viserys and Daenerys, even though they left Dragonstone before Stannis had sailed with his fleet. Among Stannis’ household in King’s Landing there was Ser Davos Seaworth, who also lived in the capital, visiting Dragonstone with Stannis sometimes, as well as visiting his youngest sons and his wife in the Stormlands. During the years Lord Renly Baratheon grew up and was eventually given a place in the small council as master of laws. He left Storm’s End at command of Ser Cortnay Penrose, and arrived at King’s Landing with his household and his former squire and lover Ser Loras Tyrell.

At court Stannis had no love or trust for anyone: he saw immediately through people such the Queen, Grand Maester PycellePetyr “Littlefinger” BaelishVarysJanos Slynt, and his own brother Renly. None of them helped Jon Arryn to rule the Seven Kingdoms, as everyone only cared about their own personal desires and gain. He disapproved how Jon Arryn, who was a trusting man, allowed Lord Baelish to have a place in the small council, and how Robert let the city be full of Lannister men, even in the Kingsguard there were Cersei’s men. Ser Barristan Selmy, the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, told Stannis that the rot of the court started when Varys joined the small council. Stannis had a desire to get rid of most nobles in the capital and punish them all, but Robert cared little about justice, and Renly was even worse in that regard, as he never took things seriously and would laugh and jests about everything with Littlefinger. Jon Arryn found out that Janos Slynt, the commander of the City Watch of King’s Landing, was taking bribes and selling positions and promotions. Lord Arryn had two men, willing to testify against Janos, but were found dead a short time after. Robert let Janos maintain his position thanks to Littlefinger. Stannis stated that Baelish undoubtedly knew of Slynt's corruption and made sure the crown profited from it as much as Janos. He also swore that if he had been king, Slynt would have lost more than his office for such corruption. Renly recalls that once Stannis, who dislikes whores, proposed outlawing brothels, but Robert just laughed and asked him if he wanted to outlaw shitting, eating, and breathing as well.

Robert I had become a broken man as he aged, fat, unhealthy, and unhappy. He beggared the realm with the expense of his tournaments and feasts, despite the fact Aerys II had left treasure vaults overflowing with gold. While Robert bankrupt the realm, leading the Crown to be six million golden dragons in debt with the Iron Bank of Braavos, Tywin Lannister, Mace Tyrell, and even the Faith, Stannis helped Jon Arryn in ruling the kingdoms with an iron fist, avoiding the realm to revolt against the King, but Stannis received little or no acknowledgment or thanks from Robert. Stannis never complained publicly since service without expectation of reward was required of him in his positions, although he often did so privately to Robert and Cersei. According to Cersei, he would come very often asking Robert about his rights to have the castle of Storm’s End, and every time he was dismissed by Robert who had the same excuse. She agrees that Robert meant to insult his younger brother and had to regularly hear Stannis complaining about it with his usual gloomy tone. Cersei would see Stannis gritting his teeth every time he was done talking to his older brother, and would never stop complaining, clenching his jaw so tight she thought his teeth would shatter. Jaime thinks no one in the world can possibly stomach Stannis Baratheon, and even Robert’s children, Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen avoided him.

Some years before the events of the main series, a mysterious woman called Melisandre came to Westeros, after travelling from Asshai, from Far East Essos. A red priestess of a foreign religion, Melisandre met Selyse Florent and the latter brought the red woman to Dragonstone. Lord Varys informed the small council about Melisandre, but Stannis decided to simply ignore her, not taking seriously any kind of religion, and having a disregard for the Faith of the Seven. According to Stannis, the fat High Septon, leader of the Faith in the Seven Kingdoms, would prattle at him of how all justice and goodness flowed from the Seven, but all he ever saw of either was made by men. On the year 298 AC, Lord Stannis attended at the tourney on Prince’s Joffrey’s name day, along with him were present Robert, Renly, Jon Arryn, Tywin Lannister, Walder Frey, Yohn Royce, and Davos Seaworth.

Before A Game of Thrones

Just prior to the events of the first book, Stannis had suspicions about Robert’s children, thinking that Cersei’s sons and daughter were not actually Robert’s. However, Stannis never bring such suspicions to King Robert, as he knew Robert would not believe the charges coming from him, making him look self-serving because Robert had no love for Stannis, and he would be seen as making himself the heir of the Iron Throne. So Stannis confided his suspicions to Jon Arryn, because he felt Robert would listen if the charges came from the Hand of the King, whom Robert loved as a second father. Meanwhile, Stannis came to know that Renly and Loras Tyrell secretly plotted to have Robert spurn Cersei in favour of Loras’ 14 years old sister, Margaery. Renly was helping his lover to make House Tyrell the second most powerful family in Westeros, overthrowing the Lannisters. Renly also felt that he would have made a better king than the other members of the royal family, in line before him, including Stannis.

A Game of Thrones

His claim is the true one, he is known for his prowess as a battle commander, and he is utterly without mercy. There is no creature on earth half so terrifying as a truly just man.
~ Varys to Eddard Stark

Stannis and Jon investigated the case of Robert’s children together. They were often seen riding together in the city, and visited many places and houses, including brothels, much to the surprise of the people. They visited several of the king’s bastard children, and Stannis pointed out that all of them had black hair, and looked like Robert, while Joffrey, Tommen, and Myrcella looked more like Jaime and Cersei in their younger years. Robert's illegitimate children Mya Stone and Edric Storm had Robert’s traits, with both Edric and Gendry looking like a younger Robert and Renly. Stannis and Jon did not fear spies, therefore their visits didn’t go unnoticed by Cersei, the Spider, and Littlefinger. Jon Arryn went to Grand Maester Pycelle and consulted the book The Lineages and Histories of the Great Houses of the Seven Kingdoms.

After reading the book Jon Arryn had no doubts anymore: Cersei’s children were not actually Robert’s, instead, they are all products of incest between Cersei and her twin brother Jaime, thus Stannis Baratheon was Robert’s true legal hair of the Iron Throne. Jon meant to act and planned for his son Robert Arryn to be fostered with Stannis on Dragonstone. This was something that his paranoid wife Lysa did not approve at all. However, Jon’s life was now in danger because he was being watched by the Queen’s men, Littlefinger, and Pycelle, who was protecting the Lannisters. Varys came to Jon, warning him about his life being in danger, and begging him to use a taster for his drinks, but Jon refused to have others risking their lives for him. Shortly after that, in 298 AC, Jon Arryn died, poisoned by his own wife Lysa, who was instructed to do so by Petyr Baelish. While he was dying he kept saying “The seed is strong.” in front of Robert and Lysa. Pycelle sent Jon’s master, Colemon, away from the room. Maester Colemon was trying to save Jon’s life, and could have succeeded, but Pycelle wanted to protect House Lannister. Stannis immediately blamed Cersei for the death of Lord Arryn, and now his plan had failed. Robert wanted Robert Arryn to become a ward of Lord Tywin Lannister at Casterly Rock, as he feared that being raised by his mother would make his namesake weak. Lysa refused the suggestion brusquely and, against the wishes of the king, fled from King's Landing with her son, master Colemon, and her household back to the Vale of Arryn without bidding farewell. Only Jon’s squire Hugh, and some other remained in King’s Landing. Jon’s death is what will trigger many events who will lead to the War of the Five Kings.

With Jon Arryn dead, the King needed a new Hand. Robert started his journey to Winterfell, bringing with him a huge party. Stannis felt slighted again by his brother, because he believed that the position of Hand of the King was his by right. He always resented Ned Stark for being considered more by Robert. The Lord of Dragonstone would often remind everyone that he was not his friend. However, Stannis also understood that it was beyond Ned’s control that Robert liked him more than his brother and respected Ned as an honourable man. Tired of Robert’s constant slights, Stannis abandoned his duty for the first time of his life. He took with him his household, Ser Davos, and most of the royal fleet of King’s Landing, without the permission of the King, and fled to Dragonstone to gather his strength, preparing for a future war. In the old Targaryen fortress, Stannis begins to plan his next move.

Shortly before closing Dragonstone, a raven was sent to the Citadel, requesting a new maester to assist Cressen and replace him when he dies, so Pylos is sent to serve Dragonstone's castle.

Stannis flees to Dragonstone and isolates it from the world. He closes the port and its surrounding waters. As master of ships, he’s joined by most of the royal fleet, with only some ships remaining at King’s Landing. Robert and the small council are not worried about this, and officially declare that Lord Stannis has taken an indefinite leave of absence to visit Selyse and Shireen. Dragonstone is now hostile to everyone outside, with armed men, ready to receive any ship that approaches the island. No ship that has come within sight of Dragonstone has been allowed to leave.

With the threat of the possibility of Khal Drogo and the Targaryens leading a Dothraki horde across the Narrow Sea, Eddard Stark advise his friend King Robert to name Stannis Warden of the East. An uncomfortable Robert only replies with vague words and avoids talking about Stannis, giving the position of Warden of the East to Jaime. Ser Jorah Mormont thinks that the men Daenerys should be more worried about are Stannis, Tywin, and Eddard, also known by Viserys and Daenerys as "the Usurper's dogs".

During his investigation at King's Landing, Ned comes to learn that Jon Arryn and Stannis have spent a lot of time together, visiting brothels and meeting King Robert's bastards. Gendry recalls how cold and hard was Stannis's look on his face. Ned wonders if Lord Stannis is involved in the death of Lord Arryn and fled to Dragonstone for safety, though Ned finds difficult to imagine something that could scare Stannis.

Stannis is still missing for months. Ned had sent a polite letter to Lord Stannis requesting him to return to his seat, but he never received any response. Lord Varys tells Illyrio Mopatis that he lost Stannis and can't control his moves anymore. He's worried about the imminent war and tells Illyrio about rumors of Dragonstone amassing its force, gathering swords.

Eddard finally discovers the truth Jon Arryn died for and that Stannis Baratheon is Robert’s lawful heir to the Iron Throne, but he makes the serious mistake of warning Queen Cersei about it, telling her to flee with her children before Robert returns from his hunt. King Robert I Baratheon is mortally wounded by a boar, after drinking too much wine during his hunt in the kingswood; a strong wine that Cersei gave to her cousin Lancel, squire of the King, in order to have Robert drinking too much and slow him down, allowing the boar to gut him. While Robert is still dying, Lord Renly warns Ned that Cersei is surely preparing to secure the Iron Throne for her family, and offers him a plan to take the Red Keep, seize the royal children, and holding them as hostages to neutralize House Lannister from the Iron Throne. Eddard refuses the plan, as he doesn’t want to shed blood in the castle while Robert is still alive. Renly doesn’t know that Joffrey, Tommen, and Myrcella are all Jaime’s children, and he’s planning to become the new king, thinking that the line of succession doesn’t matter anymore since the Targaryens were overthrown and ignoring the fact that Stannis still has a better claim to the Iron Throne. Knowing that Joffrey is considered a “monster” by many, Renly believes that Stannis is not born to be a king, and takes advantage of the fact that Tommen is a child, and Myrcella a female with a lesser claim than a male.

Ned writes a letter to be delivered to Lord Stannis, only for Stannis to read. He offers the Iron Throne to him as the rightful heir of King Robert I. Petyr Baelish does not want Stannis on the throne, as he would punish him for his unloyalty and corruption. Stannis is not friendly with Ned or Baelish, and even his brothers can barely stomach him. Stannis will send Ned back to his beloved home Winterfell, appoint his own Hand and small council, and his ascension will mean war and dark times for the realm. Many see him as intimidating and Varys says, "There is no creature on earth half so terrifying as a truly just man." Stannis will seek the heads of Cersei, Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen to secure his position on the Iron Throne, an act that will incite Tywin Lannister and the houses sworn to Casterly Rock into an uprising. According to Littlefinger, anyone who stood by the Targaryens during Robert's Rebellion or rose with the Greyjoys will have cause to fear Stannis' ascent to the throne, because people believe that Stannis would have killed anyone who fought for his enemies.

After Robert’s death, Stannis immediately rallies his strength at Dragonstone, while the war is starting. He’s joined by the few houses sworn to Dragonstone: Bar Emmon, Celtigar, Sunglass, and Velaryon. They come to the island with their fleets, while Stannis starts to hire mercenaries and pirates of the Free Cities. As Lord of Dragonstone and master of ships, Stannis has a great amount of naval power, but the sparse population of the rocky, volcanic islands surrounding Dragonstone leave him without the strength to risk openly contesting the Lannisters. Stannis sends Ser Davos Seaworth as an envoy to the Lysene pirate Salladhor Saan, to recruit his fleet.

Stannis, Selyse, and Shireen are mentioned among the many nobles King Joffrey commands to do him fealty or be named traitors. Cersei Lannister, as Queen Regent, is seated in the small council in place of Stannis Baratheon. Varys reveals to Ned that Cersei would have killed Robert in any case if it had not been the boar. She needed Robert dead to deal with Stannis, who was already gathering his strength at Dragonstone before, and Renly, who was already plotting with Ser Loras. The paranoid queen is frightened by everybody, she fears Eddard, Hoster Tully and his river lords, Lysa Arryn, the Martells, who lust for vengeance for years, the Tyrells, Robb Stark with his forces of the North, and Renly Baratheon. However, the man who truly terrorizes Cersei is Stannis Baratheon, who has a true claim to the Baratheon regime, is a skilled military tactician, and is utterly without mercy. Cersei’s biggest fear is that while her father Tywin battles the Starks and their army, Stannis will descend on King’s Landing, kill her and her children, and proclaim himself king. She desperately needs the peace between her family and the North, so her father can serve her son as Hand of the King and prepare to fight Stannis. Ned refuses to give up his honor and betray Stannis, but Varys says that the realm needs peace, a peace that will never be with Stannis sitting on the Iron Throne. Varys wants Ned to admit his treason, command Robb to lay down his sword, denounce Stannis and Renly, and carry Cersei’s secret to the grave.

Right after the first battles between the Starks and the Lannisters, Eddard Stark confess his treason to the crown in front of the High Septon and the population of King’s Landing. However King Joffrey I has him executed, despite having promised to Sansa mercy for her father. Cersei fails to stop her son from doing the reckless act. Ned Stark loses his head. Ned Stark's head is put on a spike on the Red Keep and Joffrey keeps 3 other clean spikes meant for Stannis, Renly, and Robb.

Stannis sends Davos to a secret mission in the Stormlands, to rally the storm lords to Stannis’s cause. The mission results to be a complete failure, as Davos is either refused or ignored by the storm lords. They won’t raise. Not for Stannis. Instead, they choose to follow Renly, hoping to bring more glory to the Stormlands. Maester Cressen warned Stannis about this, as he knows that the nobles have no love for him. Soon Stannis receives news about King Renly Baratheon and that the Stormlands have decided to support him, although Stannis, as the eldest son of House Baratheon, should have held claim to the loyalty of his House's ancestral seat, Storm's End. Stannis is infuriated by this, and considers it blatant treason. The news about Renly shock everyone in the Seven Kingdoms, including Tywin and Robb, who had always expected it to be Stannis, instead he’s been missing for a year at this point, vanished between the walls of Dragonstone. Tywin is surprised that Stannis still has done nothing, and only knows that he’s been building another fleet during the year, hiring sellswords, and started seeking the counsel of a shadowbinder from Asshai. Tywin considers Stannis to be more dangerous than all the other enemies combined. He sends his son Tyrion to King’s Landing, to rule in his stead, preparing the city to defend against Renly and Stannis, and clean up the mess Cersei, Joffrey, and the small council has created.

A Clash of Kings

Kings have no friends, only subjects and enemies.
~ Stannis to Catelyn Stark

It’s now the year 299 AC. The 10 years long summer is finally over. It’s now autumn, and Stannis Baratheon now styles himself as King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, and Protector of the Realm, making Selyse Florent his queen and Shireen Baratheon his princess. Ser Davos Seaworth returns from his failed mission from the Stormlands, as an envoy of King Stannis I. The king is not happy to learn about it, as the other lords at Dragonstone want to sail and enter the War of the Five Kings. Stannis now finds himself with his back to the wall. His men are not enough to take King’s Landing, and Renly is now his enemy and a traitor. He finds himself having to listen to the red priestess Melisandre, talking about her god, R’hllor, and her visions in the flames. Queen Selyse has been entirely converted to the worship of R’hllor, the foreign god, she’s the most fervent supporter of Melisandre, followed by her uncle, Ser Axell. Believers of the Lord of Light in Dragonstone think that the red comet in the sky is an omen for Stannis’s victory and that he's meant to sail as Aegon I Targaryen did centuries ago from that island.

Stannis is unable to win the war, and frustrated by this, starts ranting and calls Renly a thieving child  who has never done anything to deserve the throne, jested with Littlefinger during his job and allowed better men to unhorse him in tourneys, while he (Stannis) was helping Jon Arryn to keep peace in the realm. Stannis wonders why the gods inflicted him with brothers, and doesn’t know what to tell to his bannermen. Cressen and Davos tried to make suggestions to their king, but each one has made him angry. Cressen immediately yielded when Stannis refused to join with Renly to defeat the Lannister, or a partnership with Robb Stark, now King in the North and the Trident, commanding the power of the North and the Riverlands. Stannis declares he won’t make peace with Renly, not until he calls himself king, and calls Rob a green boy and another false king that seeks to steal half of his kingdom. When Cressen mentions helping Robb to avenge Eddard’s death, he provokes Stannis’ easy anger again. He rants again that Ned was nothing to him, how much he had to hear from Robert that Ned was a brother to him, and how the position of Hand of the King was his by right. He sees Joffrey, Renly, and Robb as nothing but thieves, and he will destroy them.

Cressen proposes a marriage pact between Shireen and Robert Arryn, but Stannis don’t see how they could bring the boy to Dragonstone when the paranoid Lysa hides him in the Eyrie. Then he considers the idea of sending Shireen to the Eyrie with the fool, Patchface. Selyse, however, objects this, saying that Stannis should not treat or beg for what is his by right. He’s the one true king and they all owe their allegiance to him. Selyse tells Stannis that her family, House Florent, can provide him 2,000 men. However, the Florents are too close to Highgarden, and they are supporting Renly, but Selyse thinks that R’hllor will provide Stannis all the might of the Reach and the Stormlands. Selyse then suggests her husband that if Renly should die, his army would join Stannis. She says that Melisandre has seen into the flames a vision of Renly dead. Much to Cressen’s horror, Stannis listen to Selyse and the two have a talk that might imply the planning of the murder of Renly Baratheon.

The thought of Stannis committing fratricide horrifies the old master Cressen, since he raised the Baratheon brothers after Lord Steffon died. He decides that Melisandre is trouble and her religion is evil. He wants to end it before the red priestess can convert Stannis to her evil schemes and spread her religion beyond Dragonstone. In the Great Hall of Dragonstone, Cressen joins Stannis’s feast and its lords, captains, knights, and sellswords. King Stannis is sitting at the main table with Queen Selyse, Lady Melisandre, Ser Axell Florent, Lord Ardrian Celtigar, Lord Monford Velaryon, Lord Duram Bar Emmon, Lord Guncer Sunglass, Ser Davos Seaworth, and Maester Pylos. Stannis didn't send anyone to wake Cressen to join the feast, in fact, he also declares that from that day, Pylos will take the duties as maester of Dragonstone, and Cressen is heavily hurt by this. Stannis is trying to keep Cressen away from Melisandre and troubles, hoping the old man would be content to spend his remaining years resting, yet Cressen insists and joins Stannis's table. Without any alternative, Stannis keeps pressing his claim, refusing to give up, and all they can do now is talking about the Red God and listen Queen Selyse talking about how Melisandre has seen Stannis’s victory in the flames, refusing any kind of alliance with anyone who doesn’t show absolute obedience to King Stannis. House Baratheon of Dragonstone makes common cause with no one in the realm. Stannis is visibly uncomfortable seeing Cressen being humiliated by Selyse and Melisandre for speaking against R'hllor, and only allows them to make him wear Patchface's hat before stopping the mockery at once. Horrified by what he’s going to do, Cressen tries to poison Melisandre with the Strangler. The woman and his friend Davos try to stop the old master, but he insists he is doing what he must for the sake of the realm and his lord’s soul. Thanks to her magical ruby at her throat, Melisandre survives, while Cressen dies after drinking the poison himself. Stannis is upset about Cressen's death: his advice had only infuriated him and was a reminder of his weakness when compared to his two popular brothers, but he never wanted the old man dead, since he respected him since he was a child. Stannis tried to keep Cressen away from his council and Melisandre, replacing him with Maester Pylos and letting him live his last years in rest, with the company of Shireen, instead Cressen forced himself to remain close to Stannis and tried to get rid of Melisandre. Master Cressen's death is what starts to convince Stannis about considering Melisandre's power.

Later Salladhor Saan informs King Stannis that his brother Renly has left Highgarden with his army and his queen, Margaery, to march on King’s Landing. The biggest army of the War of the Five Kings, with all the power of Storm's End and Highgarden. Meanwhile, Mace Tyrell is preparing another huge host at Highgarden. Renly also thinks that Stannis will join him with his fleet and his 5,000 men, and accept him as king, as well as Prince Doran Martell with the power of Dorne. He’s spending a lot of time in the Reach, marching incredibly slowly, camping and feasting at every castle and village on the way, hosting tourneys and melees, while blocking the roseroad and starving King's Landing, waiting for the right moment to attack the capital while the Starks and the Lannisters are fighting until they're tired.

Since the poor lands of Dragonstone don’t help him much to support his claim, Stannis focus on Melisandre’s magic and religion. He allows Selyse to destroy the sept of Dragonstone, where Aegon I Targaryen knelt to pray before his conquest. Selyse’s men, all converted by the faith of R’hllor, overturn the altars, pull down the statues, and smash the stained glass. The septon of Dragonstone, Barre tries to protest and curse them. Ser Hubard Rambton and his three sons try to defend the sept and kill four of the Queen’s men, but eventually, Ser Hubard and one of his sons are defeated and killed by the soldiers. Lord Guncer Sunglass is a pious man, devoted to the Seven, who annoyed often Stannis about his devotion. After the sept of Dragonstone is burned by Melisandre and Selyse, he learns that King Stannis allowed it and he’s not going to punish anyone for this. Sunglass approaches Stannis and withdraws his support for him. Stannis has him promptly thrown into the cells, alongside Septon Barre and the two surviving sons of Hubard Rambton. The other lords immediately get Stannis' message and don't dare to speak against him anymore, they are also afraid to speak Melisandre's name.  Davos is both surprised and disappointed that Stannis allowed this heresy to happen, he strongly dislikes Stannis’s conversion to the Lord of Light. In fact, the King has now officially denied the Faith of the Seven and embraced R’hllor as the official religion of House Baratheon of Dragonstone. He changes the original crowned Baratheon stag and takes his own personal banner: a crowned stag within a red heart surrounded by a blaze of orange fire on a field of sun yellow. Stannis however, only seeks the power that Melisandre promises him. He doesn’t really care which god his followers want to serve, as long as they serve their king.

Stannis with the red sword Lightbringer.

That day, hundreds of men watch Lady Melisandre burning the old statues of the Seven as an offer to R’hllor. The statues were originally carved from the masts of the ships that carried the first Targaryens from Valyria, but that did not save them from Stannis’s indifference. Davos watches with his two eldest sons, Allard and Dale, while feeling ill for the heresy that Stannis and Selyse are committing. The lords are wordless, while Lord Velaryon keeps looking at Stannis. The King of Dragonstone watches impassively as the statues are burned. Melisandre recounts an ancient prophecy that at the end of a long summer, when the stars bleed and darkness falls over the world, Azor Ahai will be reborn and draw the burning sword Lightbringer from the fire and destroy the darkness. The Red Woman proclaims Stannis to be the prophet and savior Azor Ahai come again to save the world from darkness and the dead, who will rise again. Stannis tries to take the mantle of Azor Ahai by plunging a sword into the pyre of the burning relics of the Seven. He marches forward to take his sword, Lightbringer, and when he pulls the sword out, it glows with a magical light, but it's not actually hot, and the sword of Azor Ahai should both be shiny and radiate heat.

R'hllor's religion has divided Stannis's army: the men who still maintain the Faith of the Seven are called "king's men", while the men who now follow R'hllor are the "queen's men".

Later Salladhor Saan brings more news for Stannis; Tyrion Lannister now controls the capital as Hand of the King and Janos Slynt has been driven out, sent to the Wall. The city is only mainly defended by the few inexperienced gold cloaks of the City Watch. Stannis agreed to pay Salladhor with gold, but the pirate also wants the Queen to warm his bed for at least one night. Lord Salladhor urges a surprise attack on King’s Landing, but both Stannis and Davos know that they couldn’t hold it for long, alone against both Tywin Lannister and Renly Baratheon. The King refuses to sail until his god shows the right moment.

Finally, Stannis Baratheon officially declares to the world that he’s the rightful king and that King Joffrey, Tommen, and Myrcella are the product of incest between Cersei and Jaime Lannister. He has hundreds of letters distributed throughout all the Seven Kingdoms, from the north to all the south. Stannis wants all of their 117 ravens to carry the letters across the realm, knowing that most of the letters will just be burnt by those who support other kings. Stannis has Davos carry the message to Gulltown, the Fingers, the Three Sisters, and White Harbor, while Dale Seaworth has to carry the message past Cape Wrath and the Broken Arm, all along the coast of Dorne as far as the Arbor. Stannis also plans to send Allard Seaworth to carry his claim to the Free Cities, so all the world will know about his claim. However, Davos reminds that they have no proof. All of Robert’s known bastards in King's Landing are now dead, thanks to Cersei, and nobody knows how many of his bastards in the realm might be alive. Stannis says there’s a proof at Storm’s End, and it’s Edric Storm, who’s the very image of a young Robert Baratheon, while Joffrey and Tommen look nothing like him.

Davos tries to warn Stannis about his new religion. Burning statues of the Seven and destroy septs won’t help his cause. People will never accept Stannis if he takes away their gods in favour of a foreign one. Stannis doesn’t care, stating that people have never loved him anyway. Stannis is not devout to any god, all he knows is that Melisandre has power and he means to use it. There will be no more begging or laughing. The throne is his, and Stannis knows that half of his men are afraid of Melisandre. He wants to find out what she can do and give to him.

Stannis’s message becomes known to everyone in the realm. Every castle, port, town, and village receives it, like Bran Stark at Winterfell, his brother Robb at Riverrun, Tywin Lannister at Harrenhal, Balon Greyjoy at Pyke, and Renly in the roseroad. Letters arrive in the Crownlands, and this infuriates Queen Cersei, who demands the letters to be destroyed. She rages about being accused of incest, adultery, and treason, all of the accusations being all true. Tyrion decides to use the Lord of Light and Melisandre as propaganda against Stannis, and says that they must do nothing about Stannis’s letters, avoiding to show that they fear the truth. They let people talk about what they want until they will grow bored. As a response to Stannis’s message as well as a way to discredit him, the small council, with the Lannisters and Lord Baelish, spread a false rumor that Stannis’s daughter, Shireen, is a bastard of Queen Selyse and the fool Patchface. With this rumor, lack of proof, and having no support nor love of nobles and smallfolk, Stannis’s proclamation ends as little more than tavern gossip, made up to excuse the rebellion of a jealous uncle. When Lord Bran receives the letter in which Stannis proclaims himself King of Westeros, he declares that his brother Robb will defeat Stannis.

With Tywin Lannister and Robb Stark fighting in the Riverlands and the Westerlands, King's Landing is still defended by a small force and full of angry people who accuse the nobility and the Faith of being the cause of the wrath of the gods. The city is ruled by the Hand of the King, Lord Tyrion Lannister and the Queen Regent, Cersei. Renly is still marching slowly from Highgarden. Only House Redwyne is not supporting him, thanks to the fact that Horas and Hobber Redwyne are not allowed to leave the Red Keep. Cersei fears the imminent attack of Renly's army, but Renly Baratheon does not frighten Tyrion half so much as his brother Stannis does. Renly is beloved of the commons, but he has never before led men in war. Stannis is otherwise: hard, cold, inexorable. Worst of it is that the small council is unable to know what's happening on Dragonstone. All of Varys' spies in Stannis' household and Tyrion's paid fishermen spies in the island have gone missing. All of them are ominously silent, though Lysene war galleys have been spotted and Varys reports sellsail captains taking service with Dragonstone. If Stannis and Renly attack together by sea, Joffrey's head will be soon mounted on a spike along the ones of Cersei, Tyrion, Tommen, and Myrcella. Tyrion plans to send Myrcella in Dorne for her safety, by betrothing with Prince Doran Martell's youngest son, Trystane.

Stannis listening to Melisandre's advice.

Still at Dragonstone Stannis and Melisandre talk about Renly. Melisandre has seen two futures in her flames: one in which Stannis is defeated in King’s Landing by Renly, and one in which he sails to Storm’s End, where his brother shall die, and his men to flock to Stannis. Finally the king makes a decision, while he and Melisandre start to get closer. Stannis sails for Storm’s End, leaving Selyse and Axell to control Dragonstone.

Stannis arrives in the Stormlands and besieges Storm’s End, unwilling to let the storm lords and Renly’s treason go unnoticed. A village near the place is deserted and its inhabitants flee with all their things. Stannis encircles the castle with his small host and blocks it from the sea with his superior naval force. Ser Cortnay Penrose, castellan of Storm’s End, holds the Baratheon fortress and sends a message to seek help. King Renly was hosting Lady Catelyn Stark and her party when a messenger arrives at Bitterbridge with news that Lord Stannis is at the gates of Storm’s End and calls himself King Stannis. Renly’s original war plan changes, and he rides with his stormlords and a few Reach lords, leaving at Bitterbridge most of his force from Highgarden. Soon King’s Landing receive the news as well, making Cersei and Tyrion happy. The two celebrate the fact that Stannis and Renly are most likely going to battle, so whoever loses it’s a victory for them. Tywin is also made aware of this at Harrenhal.

Stannis meets Renly and Catelyn in the lands outside Storm's End.

Stannis meets his brother Renly and Catelyn Stark outside Storm’s End. His men already started to build more siege weapons. Ser Wendel Manderly insisted that this wasn't their war and they had to return to Riverrun, but Catelyn felt it was her duty towards her son to reconcile the Baratheons and prevent them from destroying each other and leave Robb alone. Catelyn sees how insignificant Stannis’s army his, 5,000 men against Renly’s 20,000 men and the garrison of the castle. At the parley, Stannis brings Melisandre and he’s surprised to find Catelyn in the Stormlands. He promises justice for Ned Stark’s death and that he will find her daughters Sansa and Arya in King’s Landing, alive or dead. Stannis demands loyalty and obedience from Renly, as the latter owes it to him as the elder brother and rightful king. He also despises the fact that Robb and Catelyn are siding with Renly, when Eddard Stark died for Stannis’s claim. Catelyn tries to tell that Robb is King in the North by the lords and people, and can be a friend and ally to both Stannis and Renly. Stannis coldly replies that kings have no friends, only subjects and enemies, showing that he has no desire to have friends or be loved, but only wants absolute obedience. Then her tells to Catelyn the true story of his investigation in King's Landing with Jon Arryn and the truth about Joffrey's parentage. Catelyn finds out that her husband and Lord Arryn died for finding out the truth. Stannis demands Renly to bend the knee to him and he will name him his heir until Selyse gives him a son, let him remain Lord of Storm's End, and take back his old seat in the small council as master of laws. Renly wants Stannis to bend the knee and he will allow him to become Lord of Storm's End. Renly's arrogance only infuriates Stannis, who didn't even want to treat with Renly to begin with. Renly offers Stannis a peach, but Stannis refuses and Renly tells him that he should never refuse to taste a peach for he may never get the chance again. The parley between the brothers doesn't go anywhere and fails to reconcile them. The two only insult and mock each other until Renly goes too far by insulting Selyse and Shireen. Stannis draws Lightbringer against him. Brienne prepares to fight Stannis, but Stannis claims to not be without mercy, despite being notoriously without it. Stannis wants Renly to reconsider everything and put aside his crown, then Stannis would pardon his treason and let him remain Lord of Storm's End as well as giving him back his old seat as master of laws in the small council. Renly would also be Stannis's heir unless Selyse would finally have a male child. The two brothers agree to start the battle at dawn. As a mother, Catelyn is grieved to see two brothers so willing to kill each other. Catelyn considered to ride to Stannis's camp and speak with him about a friendship alliance, hoping that Robb might renounce his crown, but Renly forces her to stay with him.

The shadow with the shape of Stannis appears behind Renly (TV series version).

That night Melisandre gives birth to a shadow creature known as “shadow assassin”, or just “shadow”. The creature is Stannis’s “son”, as it’s born from a sexual intercourse between him and Melisandre. The shadow appears in Renly’s tent at dawn, Catelyn Stark and Brienne of Tarth with him at the moment. At the same time, Stannis had gone to sleep. A breeze seems to fling open the tent flap and suddenly Catelyn sees the shadow being that cuts Renly’s throat in front of her and Brienne. At the very same time, Stannis witness the event as well through a dream, and he perceives the assassination of Renly as his own action, seeing himself opening Renly’s throat while Brienne screams. The shadow disappears. Stannis is awakened by Devan Seaworth and finds himself to have been fallen from the bed, sweating, while his army was waiting for him and preparing for a battle that will never take place. Brienne is publicly blamed for Renly’s murder, along with rumors about sorcery, and Catelyn thinks how all of Renly’s power will now belong to Stannis, won in a single evil stroke; a chill goes through her as she recalls Stannis's threat that Robb's time will come. The lords present have no choice but to side with the last Baratheon.

With Renly’s death, all of the storm lords are now terrified of Stannis’s revenge, and immediately go over to the merciless king. The first one to do so is Lord Alester Florent, the uncle of Queen Selyse and head of the Florents. Nearly all of the Stormlands and several lords of the Reach join with King Stannis. Blinded by grief and rage, Ser Loras wants to fight Stannis and avenge the death of his lover, but Stannis’s host is now huge, so he flees back to Bitterbridge with a fifth of the cavalry and some nobles, with them Mathis Rowan, Randyll Tarly, and Arwyn Oakheart, not wanting to serve Stannis Baratheon. With the support of House Florent, Selyse’s influence on Stannis becomes greater. The King sends two knights, Ser Parmen Crane and his brother-in-law Ser Erren Florent, to Bitterbridge to recruit the Reach and Stormlands infantry still camped at Bitterbridge, the better part of Renly’s army. Stannis commands Ser Cortnay Penrose to yield Storm’s End, but the castellan doesn’t believe Renly’s death and demands they show his body to him, but Renly’s corpse has gone missing. Old Penrose decides to resist out of fear of what Stannis might do to Robert’s bastard, Edric Storm, as Cortnay sees him as a son. Stannis refuses to leave Storm’s End to sail for King’s Landing, because Melisandre’s flames show him taking Storm’s End and the bastard. He keeps besieging Storm’s End both via land and sea with his host and fleet, losing patience every day as he wants to take the Iron Throne soon. Cortnay sends his ravens while Stannis offers the men garrisoned at Storm's End the chance to return to their homes safely or enter in his service. He starts having terrible nightmares every time, and dreams again about killing Renly. Only Melisandre can soothe him to sleep, and Stannis finds himself to having sex regularly with Melisandre in his tent.

Meanwhile, the Greyjoys officially enter the war and invade the North, raiding the coast, pillaging, and raping. With this rebellion, King Balon Greyjoy provokes Stannis Baratheon, who was already planning to deal with the Iron Islands, by invading the North and weakening Robb Stark’s power. Stannis makes himself an enemy to almost all of the Seven Kingdoms and now, out of the Five Kings, he’s the one who leads the biggest army.

While Stannis keeps besieging Storm’s End, Lord Tywin leaves Harrenhal with his host, meaning to attack Robb Stark. Brienne tries to return to Storm's End to kill Stannis, but Catelyn takes her to her own service to prevent the maid of Tarth to do something stupid and suicidal. Brienne thinks that Robert, Stannis, and Renly had all the same claim and right to rule, unlike the Targaryens, which Catelyn disagrees since she thinks Stannis has the right to sit on the Iron Throne. People of Riverrun ask Catelyn if there’s hope of aid from the south, but Catelyn doesn’t know what to say about Stannis, as he declared himself as an enemy. She simply states that Stannis has made a common cause with a power greater and darker. Ser Edmure Tully receives a letter from the castellan Ser Cortnay Penrose, who fears for Edric’s life and asks for help against Stannis. There's been no news from Bitterbridge and Catelyn did not dare to return there, as she doesn't know what kind of welcome she would receive after Renly's death. Catelyn wants to warn Robb, who’s in the Westerlands, about Stannis being hostile to them.

Meanwhile King’s Landing falls into chaos as a result of Renly and Robb’s actions, that led the capital to starve. There’s hatred against King Joffrey, the Lannisters, and the High Septon, the latter is killed during a furious riot that occurs right after Princess Myrcella and Ser Arys Oakheart leave the city for Dorne. The people blame mostly Tyrion and Cersei for their grievances and starvation. King’s Landing is now full of conspirators who plan to have the population and the sellswords fighting for Stannis Baratheon, when the time comes.

These pardoned lords would do well to reflect on that. Good men and true will fight for Joffrey, wrongly believing him the true king. A northman might even say the same of Robb Stark. But these lords who flocked to my brother's banners knew him for a usurper. They turned their backs on their rightful king for no better reason than dreams of power and glory, and I have marked them for what they are. Pardoned them, yes. Forgiven. But not forgotten.
~ Stannis to Davos Seaworth

Stannis, Davos, and the army in the Stormlands.

Ser Davos Seaworth arrives in the Stormlands, having delivered his message throughout the realm. The siege of Storm’s End keeps going on until Stannis runs out of patience and meets Cortnay Penrose for a parley. Stannis makes him notice that no one will come to help him, and orders him to surrender the castle and kneel to him. Penrose, who’s also angry at Melisandre and the lords who supported Renly, refuses and challenges Stannis to a single combat. Stannis rejects him and replies that he will take the castle if he must. The king however respects his loyalty, unlike the other lords in his army, especially Lord Alester Florent, now a queen's man who changed not only sides, but gods too, being now a follower of R’hllor. Stannis’s new bannermen, such as Lord Florent, Lord Bryce Caron, Ser Ronnet Connington, Ser Eldon Estermont, Ser Guyard Morrigen, Ser Jon Fossoway, Lord Sebastian Errol and Lord Steffon Varner try to make themselves look good in front of him, and offer several ideas, like offering themselves to duel against Penrose, leaving a force to storm the castle, or threaten to kill Cortnay’s old father, Lord Penrose. Annoyed by the false courtesies of Renly’s former supporters, Stannis doesn't fall for them and they soon discover that he's not Renly and dismisses them for Davos. The king wishes he could hang them all, thinking how he killed better men for lesser crimes in the past, but he needs the support of his lords.

King's Landing is in riot and many started support Stannis and Robb. Despite Davos and Salladhor Saan urging their king to attack the capital at once, Stannis refuses to leave Storm’s End until he takes it, otherwise, the lords will consider him defeated there. He needs to do it quickly as Prince Doran Martell is rallying his forces to the Dornish Marches in the Stormlands and Tywin's host is marching to the Westerlands. He wants the boy Edric, as Melisandre saw Cortnay’s death and Stannis’s victory in the flames. Stannis promises he will avenge the deaths of Jon Arryn, Robert Baratheon, and Eddard Stark by killing Cersei and her children. After that, he plans to execute almost every noble in King's Landing, which Davos considers a merciless thing to do.

When Renly died he was unprotected in his camp, but the walls of Storm's End are protected by ancient magic, built by the children of the forest they say, and that's why it never collapsed in the stormy and dangerous area during all these decades. Stannis orders Davos to smuggle Melisandre beneath Storm's End, as its walls are warded against magic. In a cavern that leads to the castle, the same passage used by Davos to bring food to Stannis's garrison in the past, Melisandre gives birth to another shadow assassin, kills Cortnay, making him fall from a wall. Davos is saddened and disappointed that Stannis is using blood magic. Lord Elwood Meadows, surrenders the castle.

Stannis leaves Ser Gilbert Farring as his castellan, with Elwood as his second and 200 men and Maester Jurne at his command. He burns the godswood of Storm's End as an offering to R'hllor. Suspecting that Parmen Crane and Erren Floren failed to recruit the rest of Renly's army and were captured by the Tyrells, Stannis marches north towards King's Landing as his fleet prepares to join him in an amphibious assault. To avoid people think that he won the throne via sorcery, Stannis sends Melisandre back to Dragonstone, with her the bastard Edric Storm. Lord Bryce Caron and the other king's men approve, while the queen's men don't like this, but don't dare to protest it with Stannis.

Stannis splits his force into two armies: his host, led by Ser Guyard Morrigen, marching inland to King's Landing; his fleet, sailing to the capital. The journey at land is easy, while the journey from the sea is hard since the first day from Storm's End.

At King's Landing Tyrion and Cersei strengthen the defense of the city. The city watch is tripled in size, hundreds of sellswords are hired, Rosby and Stokeworth send contingents of soldiers, and over thirteen thousand jars of wildfire are found or manufactured and then loaded on to ships. Hundreds of scorpions, spitfires, and catapults are constructed and placed on the walls to support the gold cloaks, many of whom are acting as crossbowmen. Most importantly, the manufacture of chainmail, axes, daggers, and swords for the new recruits, to bring them up to par with the other 2,000 equipment-wise, is put on hold before the project is complete. Instead, Tyrion orders the blacksmiths to devote all their time and steel to constructing a massive chain which would allow the defenders to close off the Blackwater Rush. The new High Septon warns the population about Stannis being a heretic who means to burn the Great Sept of Baelor. Tyrion sends out his remaining 150 Vale mountain clansmen to harass Stannis's flanks and kill his scouts in the kingswood. A group of rebels of the rich merchants called Antler Men, among them the smith Salloreon, is arrested for plotting to get the people to fight for King Stannis. Joffrey has executed many of them.

Thanks to Edmure Tully, Tywin Lannister is made aware of Stannis' fleet sailing for the capital, and marches with his host to engage him. The army of the Westerlands joins later with Lord Randyll Tarly and Mace Tyrell's army from Bitterbridge and Highgarden.

Stannis's host and his vanguard, led by Ser Guyard Morrigen, arrives early from the kingsroad, and Joffrey's war galleys are dispatched to exchange arrows with his forces. Ser Guyard's force remains in the kingswood, waiting for Stannis' fleet to arrive. Sansa Stark hears the fightings near the capital and some of the people cause problems.

Treacherous waters and inclement weather delay Stannis's fleet on its northward journey from Storm's End. About a dozen ships are lost on the journey to Blackwater Bay and the troops on land suffer days of harassment from Tyrion's clansmen and skirmishers in the kingswood, despite burning swaths of the forest trying to ferret them out. Stannis' fleet regroups along Massey's Hook after being scattered across the narrow sea by a storm. The fleet come across a fishing village of the Crownlands; the villagers try to flee, but they are taken captives and questioned about the defenses of King's Landing by Imry.

Stannis gives command of the fleet to his brother-in-law, Ser Imry Florent, who commands from Stannis' galley, the Fury. Stannis himself is on the south side of the Blackwater with his host, making them create arrows and rafts. He waits impatiently for the fleet's arrival, wondering what Ser Imry is doing, but the journey from sea is longer than his army's ride from land.

While Stannis is fighting his war, at Dragonstone Melisandre and Selyse start to burn prisoners alive at the stake, as an offer to the Lord of Light. Queen Selyse has Lord Guncer Sunglass burned alive while Stannis is at Blackwater Bay. It is unknown if Septon Barre and the surviving sons of Lord Rambton are among the burned prisoners.

Stannis' fleet sails up the Blackwater Rush with almost all their strength, made of 200 ships. The commander of the fleet, Ser Imry Florent, ignores Ser Davos' advice, and refuses to send scouts to see the defences of the garrison of King's Landing and leaves behind, at Blackwater Bay, Salladhor Saan and his 30 Lysene ships as rearguard. The pirate is unhappy about it and Davos thinks the bloodthirsty pirates are wasted, but Imry doesn't trust them, thanks to Salladhor constant demands and complains about his gold, the only thing he cares about. Ser Imry and the other men are all impatient like Stannis, wanting to sack King's Landing from days and the reason Imry doesn't bother to look at the enemy's defences is because of the long hard journey from the Stormlands, and now he trusts the superior force of their fleet and army against Joffrey's. They only need to destroy the boy king's ships so they can land with their siege machines and destroy the city walls. While the bells of the capital ring and Stannis's drums keep the lines of ships in order, thousands of citizens gather with the High Septon in the Great Sept of Baelor to pray, while the nobility prays in the Red Keep. The commoners of King's Landing are not happy under Tyrion and Joffrey's rule, yet they are terrified and unhappy about Stannis's invasion. Unlike Robert, Stannis is known for his lack of mercy and Davos thinks that they should have used the original Baratheon yellow crowned stag for the attack; Stannis's banner with the stag and the fiery heart of the Lord of Light don't help his cause. The people see nothing but a foreigner came to burn their city and destroy the sept.

Wildfire's explosion in the river.

At Blackwater Rush they have a bloody naval battle with Joffrey's fleet. They find the bay open, with Joffrey's fleet waiting for them and arches from the towers of the bay. Stannis watches behind with his lords and army from the land, with archers ready to fire arrows against the enemies. They are baited by Joffrey's fleet and as soon as they enter Blackwater Rush, Tyrion's chain traps them on the river. The battle begins; the first ships are sunk, while Kingsguard Sandor Clegane leads Joffrey's army against Stannis's fleet and army on the shore, riding on horse against their enemies. At the city walls, the Lannisters wait for Stannis's army; they burned every house and market at the riverfront and pulled back within the River Gate, better known as the "Mud Gate". The battles rages at the Blackwater and the figthing armies have sword fights on the ships, while the catapults fire their rocks everywhere. The river is burning and men are drowning, while riders are being killed on land. In the red chaos of fire, arrows, flying rocks, close-fights, and tangled ships, a green substance emerges from the water and everyone realizes that some of Joffrey's ships had jars of wildifre in them. Not even Joffrey's men fighting on their ships know this and everyone panics and screams, but no one can leave Blackwater Rush.

After facing the river-spanning chain and many other defenses, the naval battle ends with the wildfire explosion. Stannis destroyed many of Joffrey's ships, but also loses most of his own ships thanks to the wildifre and Tyrion's chain. The chain, raised between two winch towers at the mouth of the river, pulls the burning ships towards the mouth and against the chain, which results in the destruction of much of Stannis' fleet and the entire destruction of Joffrey's fleet. The explosion causes a large amount of destruction and a very large amount of dead. Ser Imry Florent and thousands of men die in the explosion. In the green inferno, the men surviving ships keep fighting each other. Eventually, the surviving men serving Joffrey yield and despite the wildfire destruction, Stannis is still winning the Ser Davos is lost and considered dead in the fight. His sons Dale, Allard, Matthos, and Maric lost their lives in the explosion. The mouth of the Blackwater Rush turns into hell.

Stannis' burning fleet trapped by Tyrion's chain

Stannis and Imry were expecting wildfire, but Imry thought that the pyromancers had not that much to use against their fleet. Stannis has a good advantage, so he refuses to give up and attacks the city, while his other army attacks from the kingswood. The Blackwater now belongs to the Baratheons of Dragonstone. Eight ships manage to land troops on the northern bank, and forty or so galleys remain ready to row Stannis's main force across the river. Many of the Myrish galleys also manage to land their men on the south bank, using a bridge of burning ships. Lord Tyrion leads the defense of the capital with its outnumbered force made of the gold cloaks, knights, squires, mercenaries, and men-at-arms from the Crownlands. Joffrey goes to defend the Mud Gate with Ser Meryn Trant and Ser Osmund Kettleblack. Kingsguards Sandor Clegane and Ser Balon Swann lead the forces against Stannis armies, but they suffer too many casualties.

Stannis leading his men in the Blackwater.

Stannis is winning the battle and his men attack two gates, the King's Gate and the Mud Gate, at King's Landing, while many other men and sellswords start to land from the Blackwater. Men and horses are fighting and burning on both sides of the river, now controlled by Stannis's forces. The wildfire is raging across the river and Sandor Clegane loses his courage and after leading his men to ride outside 3 times, he refuses to face the fire again. The Kingslanders rally to clear the riverbank one last time, until Cersei has her son Joffrey retire from the battlefield and return to the Red Keep. This causes the men's morale to break and they begin throwing down their spears and flee by the hundreds, leaving the walls and killing their officers, including Ser Jacelyn Bywater, the commander of the City Watch, in the process. Tyrion Lannister leads the rest of the Iron Throne's forces in battle, humiliating Sandor and making him desert the Iron Throne. Tyrion and his men manage to disperse Stannis's men at the King's Gate, but before they can to reach the Mud Gate they are attacked by a large group of Stannis' soldiers and horses, arriving from the bridge of ships at the Blackwater. They have a bloody fight on the burning river, while Stannis is successfully invading the city. Tyrion is seriously wounded and Kingsguard Ser Mandon Moore dies. The bridge of burning ships collapses and Tyrion's army is forced to retreat back to the city walls. The people of King's Landing is unable to remain calm and the City Watch is unable to keep order anymore: riots explode everywhere in the city, drunken men kill each other at Flea Bottom, and many others want to support Stannis. However, some of the storm lords and knights in Stannis's service start fighting each other.

In fact, banners of the Reach are joining the battle while Stannis still keeps fighting and almost winning the war. The battle seems to be lost for the Lannister until the surprise relief force arrives from the kingswood, commanded by Tywin Lannister, and with him Mace Tyrell, Garlan Tyrell, Randyll Tarly, and Kevan Lannister. Tyrion's wildlings in the kingswood created a blind spot for Stannis by killing his outriders and scouts, and allowed the Tyrell vanguard to take Stannis's smaller and partially crossed host unaware from the side. Lord Tywin leads the right, on the north side of the river, Mace Tyrell the left, and Randyll Tarly the center, but much of the fighting is done by the vanguard, led by Ser Garlan Tyrell.

Ser Garlan is dressed in Renly Baratheon's armor and causes panic and confusion amongst Stannis's ranks, terrified by "Renly's ghost". Garlan personally kills Guyard Morrigen and fights Stannis's vanguard. Many storm lords and Stannis's main commanders are killed. Divided and surprised, Stannis's host breaks, with many of his lords' bannermen switching allegiance mid-battle. Stannis watches as his own men kill each other while the rest flee from Renly's ghost. Stannis is furious and insists to fight, but he's dragged away by his men and persuaded to retreat by Ser Justin Massey and Ser Richard Horpe. Ser Rolland Storm leads a rearguard action involving thousands of men that allows some Stannis loyalists, chiefly Florents, to escape, along with Stannis himself on the Lysene galleys left in Blackwater Bay while the rest of the fleet burned. They also take Devan Seaworth, one of the 3 remaining sons of Davos, and bring him back to Dragonstone. Due to the lack of space, many are left behind and keep fighting. The battle is lost. Many men loyal to Stannis are dead, among them his brother-in-law Imry Florent, Monford Velaryon, Guyard Morrigen, Bryce Caron, and four sons of Ser Davos: Dale, Allard, Matthos, and Maric. With this defeat, the hopes of House Florent are shattered.

Stannis survives, but the battle is a heavy defeat for House Baratheon of Dragonstone and his claim. He finds himself back at Dragonstone, cut off from the war and forced to hide. Most of the captured storm lords and men of the Reach bend the knee to King Joffrey, including Ardrian Celtigar, Alesander Staedmon, Eldon Estermont, Mark Mullendore, the Fossoways, Ronnet Connington, Bonifer Hasty, and Aurane Waters. The captives that remain loyal to Stannis and refuses to kneel to Joffrey are executed. The Battle of the Blackwater is the largest battle of the War of the Five Kings and Stannis's defeat signs the end of the first phase of the war, the Lannister-Tyrell alliance, and the failure of Robb Stark's cause, who was counting on Stannis to defeat the Lannisters, leading to the imminent defeat of the northmen. The Florents are stripped of their lands, titles, and their seat, Brightwater Keep, for supporting Stannis, however the family keeps holding the fortress in the Reach.

While Stannis and his remaining force return to Dragonstone, Salladhor Saan and his Lysene pirates stay behind at Blackwater Bay to search for survivors and rescue them. Some ships of Stannis that survived the wildfire explosion where trapped by Tyrion's chain, so they have been sunk by Stannis's sailors instead of leaving them to the Lannisters.

A Storm of Swords

I never asked for this crown. Gold is cold and heavy on the head, but so long as I am the king, I have a duty … If I must sacrifice one child to the flames to save a million from the dark … Sacrifice … is never easy, Davos. Or it is no true sacrifice.
~ Stannis to Davos Seaworth

Stannis and Melisandre watching visions in the flames.

Stannis is at Dragonstone, furious, with his host broken. He shuts himself away in the Stone Drum and becomes depressed, completely withdrawn and refuses to see anyone, not even his wife and daughter. The court is unable to see the King, as Stannis refuses to speak to anybody in his self-imposed silence. The guards keep away Selyse and Shireen from Stannis and food is left untouched outside his rooms. Only Lady Melisandre is allowed to enter his rooms and she visits him everyday, until he asks to stay alone again. He has mainly the Florents, while most of the Stormlands are under control of Joffrey Baratheon. Stannis doesn't eat anymore, leaving his food untouched outside his door. Dragonstone and its court are now ruled by Queen Selyse and Lord Alester Florent, now the Hand of the King. Both of them control Stannis's small, poor, unhappy kingdom made of islands and 2 strong castles. The streets of Dragonstone, once full of animals smallfolk and naked children, are now deserted and no one leaves their homes, in fear of the queen's men and Selyse's burning pyres, many of them mourning for men of their families who died at the Blackwater. They still pray the Seven and are afraid of the Dragonstone castle, thinking that Stannis is ensorcered and Melisandre and her god failed him, the latter being a just a demon. Some knights and lordlings start to believe that as well and are drifting back to the Seven. Shireen passes her time playing with her cousin Edric Storm and the fool Patchface, as she barely knows her father and has a cold relationship with her mother. Stannis sees only Melisandre and spends a lot of private time with her. There are rumors about them using secret stairs from the castle that bring them down into the heart of the Dragonmont, the vulcano of the island, where they remain there for a long time in those burning places.

Davos is found still alive on a rock at Blackwater Bay, starving and suffering from fever. He's rescued by one of Salladhor Saan's ships, and brought back to Dragonstone. The old pirate did not receive any riches and glory since Stannis lost the battle, so to make up to this Lord Florent signed a parchment in which he names Salladhor the Lord of Blackwater Bay. Saan and his pirates control the entire bay, so any ship that is found by his Lyseni pirates is taken as payment (basically Saan engaging in pirateship and taking ships for himself). Saan, also self-styled Prince of the Narrow Sea, hosts Ser Davos in a ship formerly own by Magister Illyrio Mopatis, where he tells him what's going on at Dragonstone and who else died at the Blackwater and King's Landing. After meeting Edric playing with his new friend Shireen and Patchface, Davos starts plotting to murder Melisandre, blaming her for the deaths of his sons and Stannis's defeat at King's Landing. He believes that Melisandre sent the fires from the Blackwater to punish King Stannis for setting her aside and that the Mother has sent Salladhor's ship so he could avenge his sons, Cressen, Renly, Penrose, and the other men who died by killing her. Melisandre sees this in her flames, and has Ser Axell Florent arresting him and throwing him into the dungeons. Stannis is not ruling at all at the moment, so he doesn't stop this, since what Davos did is considered treason.

The realm, under the power of houses Lannister and Tyrell, is now ruled by Hand of the King, Lord Tywin Lannister, who is unable to attack Dragonstone and kill Stannis without a new fleet. Tywin knows that the war will go on until Stannis lives but, at the moment, he must focus on House Stark and House Tully. Also, the wildlings threaten to invade the North, still occupied by the ironborn rebels. Robb Stark was counting on Stannis to defeat the Lannisters and now his war in the south is lost, so he's forced to retreat back to Riverrun, having lost his hopes for Stannis winning and ending the War of the Five Kings and meaning to march back to the North to retake it from the ironborn.

Melisandre never truly cared about the Iron Throne or Stannis's war. She realizes that Stannis never truly cared for the war between the two only gods the Red Priests believes exist: R'hllor the Lord of Light and the Great Other the Lord of Darkness. The Red Woman believes that Stannis had proven himself to be too vain and thanks to the unbelievers who surround him, he cast her aside when he needed her the most. She realized that his pride was stronger than his faith, and thus the Lord of Light punished him and gave him a lesson by having most of his fleet destroyed by wildfire and himself failing to conquer King's Landing. From this "punishment" Stannis returned almost broken and this allowed Melisandre to strengthen his faith for R'hllor and learn to avoid the advice of the king's men, Davos among them. She tries to explain to Stannis that his war doesn't really matter, and that instead, he is Azor Ahai reborn and that he doesn't need the iron chair, but only to unite all the living races as their king before winter comes. The only war that matters is not the one between the great houses, but the one for life and death. The Long Night That Never Ends will devour everyone, she says, and Stannis is the one who will defeat the Others and save the world from darkness. Melisandre honestly believes herself to be in the right and a good person who will not harm someone unless they are "servants of darkness" and "enemies of the light". She thinks that Stannis has learned from his mistakes, though in reality Stannis still has his own reservation about Melisandre.

Stannis is still brooding at Dragonstone. Melisandre tells he's too weak now, and the creation of another shadow would draw too much life-energy from him, killing him in the process. Melisandre keeps preaching her religion, she talks about the Great Other, the god of darkness, cold, and death, eternal enemy of the Lord of Light, and how the white walkers are all his servants, but Stannis remains stubborn and indifferent, not blindly trusting Melisandre's visions anymore after his recent failure, and wants to meditate and reflect more. Meanwhile, Melisandre visits Davos to convince him that they're both allies. She states that Maester Cressen saw only a man when he looked at Stannis, while Davos sees a king. But when she looks at him she sees the Lord's Chosen. She trusts her vision in the flames: she saw Stannis leading the fight against the darkness, as the ancient prophecy says.  She's sure Davos will keep serving R'hllor, and plans to give dragons to Stannis by awakening the stone dragons, the many dragon statues that make the castle. The entire castle is built in the form of huge and small dragons, inside it many other dragons with statues of gargoyles, demons, griffins, wyvems, manticores, minotaurs, basilisks, hellhounds, cockatrices, and many others.

The Hand of the King, Alester Florent, realizes that Stannis's cause is now hopeless, and he secretly attempts to make peace with the Lannisters, hoping of having back Brightwater Keep. He secretly offers Princess Shireen as a hostage to the Lannisters and betroths her to her legal cousin, Prince Tommen Baratheon. Alester asks the Lannisters to let Stannis remain Lord of Dragonstone and Storm's End, provided he accepts Joffrey as his true king. While Alester thinks it's the best thing left for Stannis, this would be an advantage for Tywin as having Shireen as a hostage would likely prevent Stannis from rebelling against Joffrey again and eventually Dragonstone and Storm's End would go under the Lannisters' control through Tommen and Shireen's child, since Tommen is not a true Baratheon. However, Alester's plan fails when he's discovered by his brother, Ser Axell, who denounces him as a traitor. Stannis has his former Hand imprisoned with Davos. Alester thinks his intentions were for the best of his own family and Stannis, but Davos says that Stannis would die before he bends.

Tywin Lannister knows that Stannis will never sail to Storm's End, as the rest of the small council suggest. In fact Stannis knows that returning in the Stormlands and try to rally the banners again will only mean his final defeat: the forces of the storm houses are tired and weak after the Blackwater, and the region is now divided between supporters of King Stannis and King Joffrey. Many of the men of the Stormlands still loyal to Stannis are currently at Storm's End, in Dragonstone, or in their castle seats. Stannis is still stuck with no alternative. He has only his ships and the support of the houses of the Narrow Sea, Bar Emmon, Sunglass, Velaryon, and the remaining Celtigar men. His few houses from the Crownlands are Massey, Farring, Follard, and Chyttering. Most of his remaining men of the Stormlands are from the houses Seaworth, Horpe, Peasebury, Fell, Musgood, Wylde, Grandison, Morrigen, Caron, and Wensigton. Houses Florent and Meadows are the only two notable houses from the Reach who are still loyal to Stannis. The Florent family is still holding their castle, Brightawater Keep, under command of Colin Florent while Alester's heir, Alekyne, flees to Oldtown and Garlan Tyrell plans to start besieging the castle after Joffrey's wedding. In total Stannis has 13,000 men at Dragonstone, 300 at Storm's End, and a few lords at their castle seats. He has an uneasy alliance with Salladhor Saan, who has the only fleet left to him. He's weak and unable to fight any other battle.

While things are changing in the weakened realm and the last fights occur in the Riverlands and the North, at Dragonstone life remained slow: the men of the castle and the commoners of the villages believe that Stannis is defeated and spend their time by drinking and gambling. Stannis is always seen with Melisandre, but he has finally decided to show in public again, and Selyse, Ser Axell, and Salladhor Saan urge him to resume the war before his remaining men try to leave him, among them Saan who wants to sail back to Myr and resume piracy.

A lot of time has passed and now King Stannis looks like a shadow of his former self: his hair is almost completely gray and his eyes are like dark blue bruises in the hollows of his face. Davos is shocked by his old appearance and notices how much weight he has lost; Stannis was always a bit thin, but now he became skinny, his bones highly visible and the shape of his skull can be seen beneath his face. Now looking like an old man, Stannis finally means to resume his war and rebuild his strength. He now styles himself as King of Westeros, having decided that the talk of "Seven Kingdoms" is foolish and that the whole continent of Westeros belongs to him: from Dorne to the Land of Always Winter. His enemies, the other three kings are still alive. Balon Greyjoy's ironborn are still invading the North, blocking the kingsroad from Moat Cailin, and invading lands and occupying a few castles and towns; Robb Stark is negotiating with the Freys and marches to the Twins for a wedding, meaning to return in the North after that and retake it from the ironmen, in order to give back hope to his bannermen and restore his kingdom. Meanwhile, the westermen prepare to descend on Riverrun and Harrenhal and restore the Lannister rule in the Riverlands.

Stannis has Davos to be finally released from his longtime imprisonment, while Lord Alester is sentenced to die. The king is angered that most of his lords defected him for Joffrey when Robert inspired true loyalty to his men. He is no glad that he has to kill Lord Florent and even Ser Davos feel sorry for the man, who's still rotting in the dungeons of the castle, but Alester is still a traitor and has to die. Stannis is filled with anger and complains how he, unlike Robert, inspires only betrayal and hatred: from Renly, his grandfather, cousins, and uncles.

Ser Axell Florent plans with Lord Salladhor Saan to attack Claw Isle as a reprisal against Lord Ardrian Celtigar, former bannerman to Stannis who has submitted to Joffrey after he got captured at the Blackwater. Lord Celtigar is still in King's Landing to avoid Stannis's wrath, as well as many other Storm and Reach lords and knights who fought for him. Axell urges his king to use Saan's fleet to attack the island, burn the castle and put everyone to the sword, leaving no survivor and burn everything until it's only ashes and bones. The fruits of the plunder would also help to keep Salladhor loyal for a time. Stannis is considering this, but Davos advises him to not attack Claw Isle, calling the plan evil because is held only held by women, children, and old men because the warriors of the island were killed fighting for Stannis on the Blackwater. He also defends Lord Celtigar, reminding Stannis that he is a done old man who only wants to die peacefully with his riches and that he was one of the original supporters who followed Stannis since the very beginning before the Blackwater. He also defends the Celtigar men who bent the knee to Joffrey, unlike the ones who refused and were executed for it. Stannis does not understand weakness and thinks that men should follow their king before their lords, but when Davos confronts him about the hard truth of siding with Robert instead of King Aerys, Stannis only warns him that he could cut his tongue but does not argue about it anymore and even admits that he had chosen family over honor. A raging Axell is sent out of the room and Davos's level of bravery to always speak the truth amazes Stannis so much that he finally decides that his counsel will always be superior and honest from that of Ser Axell or any other lord.

Stannis explains how he never liked the Iron Throne, who had hurt King Aerys many times and even murdered King Maegor the Cruel. He makes it clear that the only reason he’s after the Iron Throne is due to his duty as the last trueborn Baratheon. He fights for his duty to Shireen, to clean the name of his family from Joffrey’s deeds and Cersei’s lies, and liberating the realm from all those usurpers and traitor that made his kingdom bleed. Stannis refuses to forgive and forget and means to punish the court of the capital and avenge the deaths or Jon Arryn, King Robert, and Ned Stark.

Stannis defends Melisandre and confronts Davos about his failed attempt murder. He says that Melisandre is a faithful servant and that those fires from the Blackwater were not her work. Instead, he blames Tyrion Lannister, the pyromancers, Imry Florent, and himself for the destruction of his fleet. He admits that it was Melisandre who wanted Stannis to give another chance to Renly and have Axell free Davos from the dungeon. The King who wants to scour the realm from corruption agrees with Davos about attacking Claw Isle: it is only a cruel evil thing that would only give him naught and make him look no better than Tywin and Joffrey. He names Davos Lord of the Rainwood, Admiral of the Narrow Sea, and his new Hand of the King, since Davos is one of the few men who have the courage to tell his king the truth, even when he knows the truth will not be well-received.

Edric Storm is sick and Maester Pylos takes care of him. The boy is leeched to remove the bad blood from him and Melisandre that there's power in king's blood. Stannis has noticed how everyone falls from Edric's charm, taken from Robert and Renly, and explains that Melisandre had seen Davos taking a liking for Edric, like Cortnay Penrose and everyone at Storm's End did. Even Shireen has fallen for the boy's charm and grew fond of him, since she never played with other kids before. Stannis refused to hurt or kill Edric, so Melisandre has to find another way to show her king that there's really power in king's blood. Stannis allows her to take leeches with Edric's blood.

Stannis throws the leeches in the fire.

Stannis and Melisandre tell about Stannis's vision in the flame, a "great battle in the snow". According to Melisandre, this is the future War of for the Dawn, a prophesied conflict that might see the end of the world. Melisandre thinks that King Stannis will lead humanity, with old races like giants and children of the forest, against the Others. Right after the Battle of the Blackwater, when Stannis had just returned at Dragonstone, he had also seen a vision in the flames, of men in black with torches on a high hill in the forest during snow, while all around them shapes were moving. This was the Fight at the Fist of the First Men, happened shortly after Stannis's defeat, where the Night's Watch fought the walking dead raised up by the Others. Stannis recalls that he felt the cold of the white walkers in his own skin and found it so terrible that he shivered. Melisandre believes that Westeros must unite under King Stannis, the prince that was promised, before winter. Stannis, however, is anything but pleased by this and grimly claims that R'hllor chooses poorly, because Robert and Renly were better candidates in being the Lord's Chosen, but Melisandre reminds him that he is a righteous man.

Stannis still denies Melisandre the permit to sacrifice Edric Storm to the flames, and takes three leeches filled with blood of the bastard child, and tosses them into a fire brazier, naming a false king for each one: the usurper Joffrey Baratheon, the usurper Balon Greyjoy, and the usurper Robb Stark.

Balon Greyjoy dies in a fall while crossing a bridge of Pyke during a storm. His death seems to be masterminded by his exiled brother, Euron, who timely returns to the Iron Islands and claims the Seastone Chair, proclaiming himself the new King of the Isles and the North. The Drowned Men and the lords of the Iron Islands are preparing a kingsmoot to proclaim Balon's successor.

Robb Stark is betrayed by his bannermen at the Twins in the massacre known as the Red Wedding. Robb, his mother Catelyn, and most of his companions from the North and the Riverlands are killed by the Freys, the Boltons, the Karstarks, and the sellswords. The survivors are captured and imprisoned. Robb's death was orchestrated by Tywin Lannister, Walder Frey, Roose Bolton, Lothar Frey, and Ser Rolph Spicer, uncle of Robb's wife.

Two kings are now dead. In King's Landing's port, Salladhor Saan learns from the feasting Lannister men about the Red Wedding. He returns to Dragonstone to deliver the news to King Stannis, who shows no emotion when he hears it. Selyse and Axell are satisfied with the deaths of 2 kings and declare it was R'hllor who killed the usurpers. Stannis remains unmoved, saying it was Walder Frey, but Melisandre explains that Walder was nothing but R'hllor's tool. With no male heir for the Starks and too many for the Greyjoys, Stannis makes a decision that infuriates him: offer a pardon for every northmen and ironmen who bends the knee to him. He angrily grits his teeth as he says that. But Melisandre warns that new kings will pick up where the old ones died, infuriating Stannis. Queen Selyse urges her husband to listen to the Red Priestess and agrees that pardons and leeches are a waste of time. She insists that Stannis is R'hllor's chosen, meant to take over Westeros as Aegon the Conqueror once did. Stannis had the red comet, she thinks; he has Lightbringer and now he only has to "pay the price".

Only death can pay for life. Melisandre needs a sacrifice of someone close to Stannis's family to liberate the power of R'hllor, awake the great stone dragon, and save thousands of lives; Selyse begs her husband to kill Edric Storm, with her uncle Axell supporting her, but Stannis won't hear any of it. Selyse reminds Stannis that Robert "cursed" them when he defiled their marriage bed with Selyse's cousin, Delena Florent. She thinks the curse will die with Edric if Stannis burns him, allowing Selyse to finally give her husband strong male heirs. Stannis is visibly uncomfortable with his wife, while he lets the full-bodied Melisandre touch him and get close to him. She explains that R'hllor cherishes the innocent, and that's why killing innocents are more effective than killing criminals because the innocents are proof of true sacrifice. Unlike Axell and Selyse, she has Stannis's attention and the king admits that he would love to have a fearsome dragon to burn his enemies, thinking how he would ride it himself. As he finds himself distracted by ideas of himself riding a dragon, his Hand Davos intervenes, much to Stannis's annoyance, and reminds him of the gods' taboo of kinslaying. But Stannis does not believe in religions and Melisandre simply states that small men curse what they cannot understand and a great gift requires great sacrifices. Davos reminds Stannis that while Balon Greyjoy and Robb Stark died, there's still Joffrey Baratheon. Melisandre says that should Joffrey die in the capital, surrounded by his Kingsguard and armies, it would really show god's power. Stannis agrees with Davos and refuses to sacrifice Edric until all of the three kings are dead. Selyse and Axell are confident that Joffrey will die soon.

Every day Edric asks to see his uncle, but Stannis refuses to visit him. Stannis does not want to hear Edric's name anymore, but Lord Davos has noticed that Stannis is actually considering burning the child so he refuses to give up and confronts Stannis over this. He reminds his king that Shireen is fond of Edric, that she takes lessons with him and plays with him every day. His death would break her heart, but Stannis refuses to listen. He shows his conflict with his growing anger and starts raising his voice against Davos, telling him that he does not matter how much of a great boy Edric is. His duty to the realm comes before everything and if he has to kill the child he will do it. Stannis reminds Davos about all the other children in the world and states that the darkness will devour them all in the Long Night that Never Ends, as Melisandre told him. The Red Woman swears that she saw him facing the dark with Lightbringer. Stannis never asked for this but great or small everyone must do their duty. He reveals to have seen many other things in the flames, one of this being a king with a crown of fire on his brows, burning. His own crown consumed his flesh and turned him into ash. Stannis believes it's his death and asks Davos what's the life of a bastard boy against a kingdom. When Davos replies:"Everything.", Stannis is furious and clenching his jaw. He commands Davos to leave at once before he throws him into the dungeon again.

Salladhor Saan is leaving again to return to sea and he's against Edric's sacrifice. He fears that the castle will crash down if the dragons come to life, for the entire fortress is nothing but stone dragons. The pirate still resents Davos for turning Stannis away from the plan to raid Claw Isle and steal its riches. There's still tension between the queen's men and Davos and Ser Axell is styling himself as "Hand of the Queen". The queen's men mean to bring down Davos and are afraid he might do something against the sacrifice of Edric Storm. At the same time, many king's men believe R'hllor is a feeble god, or demon, for letting them lose to a dwarf and a dead man, "Renly's ghost". The Onion Knight forms his own group of allies to act in case Melisandre convinces Stannis to do something terrible. Among these king's men are Stannis's cousin and former squire Ser Andrew Estermont, Ser Gerald Gower, and Ser Rolland Storm. Davos still thinks that Stannis won't kill his own blood, but Salladhor reminds him that the king had no problem killing Renly, to which Davos replies that Renly was a traitor and Stannis is a just man, not a child killer.

Maester Pylos is teaching Davos and his 11 years old son Devan to read. As the Onion Lord takes part in one of Pylos's lessons with Shireen, Edric, and Devan, he refuses to say them anything about Stannis's troubles. Pylos shows Davos the letter from the Night's Watch sent by Bowen Marsh and Maester Aemon to Lord Florent. The letter tells about Jeor Mormont's possible death and Maester Aemon's desperate call for help against Mance Rayder's army of wildlings, who have invaded the entire Wall and places in the Gift in groups. Like Alester, Davos does not want to show the letter to Stannis, fearing he might be angered by the request, as the Northerners never acknowledged him as their king. He starts getting tormented by thoughts about Stannis and Melisandre talking about visions of the Others and wildlings, great battles in the snow, the long night, and Salladhor telling him about the legend of Azor Ahai who sacrifices his wife Nissa Nissa to save the world.

The first day of the new year 300 AC, Joffrey dies during his royal wedding feast in the Red Keep, after drinking poisoned wine. Tyrion Lannister is arrested for regicide by the Queen, while his young wife Sansa Stark flees the capital. Joffrey's assassination was orchestrated by Olenna Tyrell and Petyr Baelish.

Salladhor's pirates bring Davos news from King's Landing. With Joffrey dead, Davos knows that Edric's hours are numbered and means to act before Melisandre can, and before Stannis learns about Joffrey's death. Stannis and Selyse are with Shireen during a daily nightfire ceremony conducted by Melisandre in the castle's courtyard, where the queen's men pray and chant, thanking R'hllor for the day, the light, the sun, and for giving them King Stannis. Devan Seaworth is among them, being a follower of R'hllor unlike his father. Instead, Edric refuses to pray the Lord of Light and follows the Warrior like his father Robert did. Stannis does not join with the other believers in their chanting and looks visibly bored and annoyed with the event, having to stay for an hour or more. Inside the castle, Davos acts as Stannis and the others are busy with the prayers. He's assisted by a group of loyal king's men: Ser Rolland Storm, Ser Gerald Gower, Ser Andrew Estermont, Lewys the Fishwife, Ser Triston of Tally Hill, and Omer Blackberry, risking their lives to save the boy in the night. Davos had warned them that Melisandre might have seen about their plan in her flames, like she did when Davos was arrested and when Maester Cressen tried to poison her. Edric is with Maester Pylos and Davos's group guards the stairs of the maester's cellar in case the queen's men come. Edric is confused by the arrival of Davos and his cousin Andrew, but Pylos tells him to run with them. Pylos covers Edric's face with a hooded cloak to cover his face from the queen's men and helps Davos and his men to get him out of the cellar. Confused, Edric remains stubborn and does not understand why Stannis would want him to leave Dragonstone. When he learns that Shireen is not coming with him, he asks to see her before leaving, but since she's with her parents, Davos promises the boy that he will tell her everything and that Edric will be able write to her. Edric remains upset and demands to see his uncle Stannis but Davos eventually scares him when he uses his maimed hand to warn Edric about what happens when you make Stannis angry (a lie to calm Edric, as Stannis wasn't angry when he did that). At the postern gate, the group binds two guards and bring Edric to the beach, where they row him on a boat to secretly ship him away to the Free Cities, aboard a ship of Salladhor Saan. The hesitant and sad Edric sails to the Narrow Sea with his guardians Andrew, Gerald, Triston, Lewys, and Omer, to avoid being burned alive by Stannis and Melisandre. Rolland stays at Dragonstone, as well as Davos, being Hand of the King, the latter soon having to meet Stannis's judgement.

At the room of the Painted Table in the Stone Drum, Lord Davos faces Stannis and Melisandre, the latter having learned about Joffrey's death in her flames and hearing Cersei's wail. Davos confirms Joffrey's death to Stannis, who doesn't mourn the boy, reminding during his days in King's Landing how cruel Joffrey was. Ever since Tyrion destroyed his fleet with wildfire at the Blackwater, Stannis came to think of the dwarf as a dangerous man, yet he's really the one who killed Joffrey. Stannis is now the last and only surviving king out of the original five. However, there are new kings who still challenge his claim: Tommen Baratheon and Euron Greyjoy. Stannis knows Tommen as a nice boy, yet he thinks of him as another monster born of incest, along with Myrcella, who is likewise a sweet-natured child. He thinks Westeros needs a man, not a child to rule. In a cold fury, he finally agrees to kill Edric Storm, stating it's his duty to the realm and that if he must kill a child to save it, he will do it, regardless if the child is related to his family or not. He promises that he'll kill Melisandre in a painful way if she's wrong. The Red Woman insists that Stannis is the one who will stand against the Great Other and reminds him of the red comet. If he fails, the world fails with him.  Davos however, tells Stannis and Melisandre that Edric is gone. Melisandre's pale and shocked face reveals that she cannot read everything she wants in the flames, despite her omniscient attitude, thus she can't also know that Rolland Storm helped Davos. Stannis thinks it was Saan, to sell the boy, but Davos confirms his guilt and that Edric is already far at sea. Disappointed, Stannis feels betrayed and Melisandre is angry.  The Hand tells Stannis that he has sworn to protect the king's people, Edric being of them. Stannis perceived it to be a sacrifice, as when Azor Ahai killed his wife to save the world. Melisandre tells Davos that Edric will die anyway, along with everybody else in darkness and cold during winter. Davos reminds Stannis that a king must protect his people or he is no king at all. When Stannis draws Lightbringer to personally behead Davos, the Onion Knight shows him the letter from the Night's Watch and reads it.

Stannis realizes he was only thinking about his rights when he was supposed to protect his kingdom from his enemies before everything else. The Wall, especially the garrison of Castle Black, is suffering several attacks from the wildlings and no other king or lord in the realm has sent any kind of support. Stannis decides to take his remaining forces north to defend the Wall from the wildlings. The king had formerly refused to ask the Iron Bank of Braavos for support, stating that he will not beg for money. He allows Melisandre to burn alive Lord Alester Florent in order to obtain favorable winds for their journey to the Wall. Stannis sails to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea with a host of over 1,000 mounted soldiers. He also brings with him Selyse, Melisandre, Lord Davos, Axell, Shireen, and Salladhor Saan, the latter owning all the ships that Stannis is using. Ser Rolland Storm is made castellan of Dragonstone and holds the fortress with Maester Pylos and a very small garrison.

Stannis defeating the wildlings and saving the garrison of Castle Black.

Stannis arrives at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea where he leaves Selyse and Shireen with his fleet. Accompanied by his host of 1,500 knights, the commander of Eastwatch, Cotter Pyke, and the rangers from Eastwatch, they travel along ranger roads beyond the Wall. They take Mance Rayder's host, in the flank as it besieges Castle Black. Mance's host is made of almost 30,000 fighters and more than 100 mammoths. The scouts warn Mance of the approaching ranger, unaware that they are just scouts sent as bait to draw the wildlings out of the woods. Melisandre burns Orell's eagle and Stannis's forces arrive in time to crush Mance Rayder's army at the Battle of Castle Black. Three groups of riders emerge to smash the wildling groups, the giants, and the mammoths, while other men burn the wildling camps. Ser Godry Farring slays a giant and Ser Godry Farring slays a giant and Ser Richard Horpe kills Tormund's son, Dormund. Harma Dogshead is killed in battle as well, while Mance's wife, Dalla, dies of childbirth during the battle against Stannis. Mance Rayder, his newborn child, and many of his wildlings are captured, while many other wildlings and giants die or flee. After the battle, some wildling women are raped by Stannis's men. He has them castrated for their crimes.

Lord Seaworth is a man of humble birth, but he reminded me of my duty, when all I could think of was my rights. I had the cart before the horse, Davos said. I was trying to win the throne to save the kingdom, when I should have been trying to save the kingdom to win the throne.
~ Stannis to Jon Snow

With King Stannis at the Wall, Mance in irons and the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, along with most of the senior brothers killed at the Fist or the Gorge, the Night's Watch is left in a precarious position of having to not only elect a new Lord Commander but also to preserve their political neutrality. The Night's Watch is wary of Stannis and his army at Castle Black. The election of the new Lord Commander begins.

Angered by the fact that the Night's Watch is taking too long to select a new Lord Commander, Stannis occupies the King's Tower of Castle Black and starts making plans for the wildlings and Jon Snow, the 16-year old illegitimate son of Ned Stark. He asks Jon if there is honor in Mance Rayder and the wildlings, and the young man replies that there is. The King speaks of the war that Melisandre has seen in her flames, and confides that Jon may have a big role in the upcoming battle against the Others. Stannis also intends to let the wildlings through the Wall, and settle them in the Gift, should they pledge fealty and accept the Lord of Light as their god. When Stannis tells Jon that he needs him to win the North, Jon clarifies that it was his late brother Robb who was the King in the North. Jon's sympathy for Stannis's plight is blown away when Stannis criticizes Robb and his kingship, Jon responding that he loves his brother. Stannis agrees, confiding that he loved his own brother Robert as well, but they made choices resulting in a premature death and he needs Jon, Ned Stark's blood, to win the North. In an effort to gain a Stark ally via Jon, Stannis offers to legitimize Jon and name him Lord of Winterfell, a goal he considers especially important due to all the strife occurring in the North. He also presumes to marry his loyal Lord of Winterfell to the wildling princess Val in the belief that this will earn the loyalty of the wildlings. This stuns Jon, who is overcome with grief for his lost half-siblings and shame. However, this offer means Jon would also have to adopt Stannis' faith and burn the sacred godswood of Winterfell, a prospect Jon also loathes as it would mean turning against his father's gods and the Northern faith, the Old Gods.

King Stannis is planning to let the wildlings through the Wall and when he learns the Night's Watch still doesn't have a Lord Commander, he becomes impatient. Stannis brings several black brothers before him to make known his anger about them taking too long to select a new leader. The Lord Steward Bowen Marsh attempts to sway both the Watch and Stannis of Janos's worth, saying that a man who led the Gold Cloaks of King's Landing is the best option for leading the Watch. However, Stannis sees through the treacherous Janos Slynt’s fawning, having known the man as a bribe-taker in King's Landing and advises the Night's Watch against electing him as Lord Commander. Stannis sarcastically remarks that even the cook Hobb would make a better leader than Janos Slynt. The king makes it clear that after they finally vote in a new Lord Commander, he plans to take all the castles along the Wall for himself, except for the three currently occupied by the Watch, to garrison his forces. He also plans to either take or be granted the Gift, stating that he intends to help the Watch guard the Wall. He commands Othell Yarwyck and his builders to deliver reports on the conditions of the abandoned castles, and informs the men gathered that nightfires will be lit before the gates of all the castles.

The more we bleed each other, the weaker we shall all be when the real enemy falls upon us.
~ Stannis to Jon Snow

King Stannis wants more information about the enemy he thinks he's meant to fight, the Others. He has abandoned his campaign to take the Iron Throne and choose to protect the Wall against the greater threat, making him the only king in Westeros to acknowledge the danger imposed by the White Walkers. Maester Aemon warns Samwell Tarly that Melisandre must be informed that Stannis is not the true Azor Ahai and that following him as a false prophet might bring them all to darkness. Sam tells King Stannis about dragonglass and how killed an Other. Stannis sends a message to Rolland Storm, to begin mining obsidian at Dragonstone and has Sam showing him the tunnel of the Nightfort that leads beyond the Wall.

Jon Snow refuses Stannis's offer of legitimacy to Stannis's disappointment and annoyance, and is elected the 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. In gratitude for Stannis's assistance against the wildlings, Jon allows Stannis and his forces to occupy the Nightfort, the former seat of the Night's King. Additionally, Jon recognizes that Stannis is the only king who acknowledges the threat of the Others and means to fight them and defend the Wall. However, there is still chaos south of the Wall and the North is ruled by the cruelty of the traitorous House Bolton. To avoid an attack on the Wall from the south, Stannis wants to retake Winterfell, give it back to House Stark, and have one of his bannermen marry Val and rule Winterfell to control the North for him. He also plans to take the North back from the Boltons, as the first step to take the Iron Throne, since many think the Seven Kingdoms need to be united under King Stannis I to fight the threat of the Others. 

A Feast for Crows

Stannis shows Jon the refusal of House Mormont.

Let him come. I will smash him, just as Father did, and this time he will die.
~ Thoughts about Stannis from a worried Cersei Lannister

King Stannis sends ravens to all the northern houses demanding them to bend the knee and declare for him. However he receives silence or refusal from the nobles, the only one who sends back a response is Lyanna Mormont, her letter being a refusal and a declaration of loyalty to House Stark as ruling family of the north. Only House Karstark declares for him, but in reality, Arnolf Karstark has made a deal with Roose Bolton to betray Stannis.

After the sparrows force the Faith to appoint their leader as the new High Septon of the Seven, the Dowager Queen Cersei Lannister helps the Faith to restore the Faith Militant, thinking it's a perfect idea to damage the heretic Stannis by putting the entire smallfolk against him.

A Dance with Dragons

His eyes were sunk in deep pits, his close-cropped beard no more than a shadow across his hollow cheeks and bony jawbone. Yet there was power in his stare, an iron ferocity that told Asha this man would never, ever turn back from his course.
~ Asha Greyjoy about Stannis

The new High Septon of the Faith declares that Stannis has turned from the truth of the Faith of the Seven to worship a red demon, and his false faith has no place in the Seven Kingdoms.

While Stannis is working on an alliance with the Night Watch's Lord Commander Jon Snow and the wildlings, the Others have begun to attack wildling settlements beyond the Wall. Tormund leads 4,000 wildlings in the lands beyond the Wall. They are constantly watched by the Others and attacked by wights. The Weeper gathered his warriors and possibly starts a new plan to take the Shadow Tower. A wildling leader and woods witch known as Mother Mole leads thousands of Free Folk to the abandoned ruined village of Hardhome, once the greatest wildling village. Mother Mole claims to have a vision of a fleet of ships coming to carry the wildlings away to safety across the narrow sea. Thousands of those who fled the battle are desperate enough to believe Mother Mole and follow her. She becomes a spiritual leader of these wildlings and they start to pray for salvation from the Others.

Davos Seaworth and Salladhor Saan are sent by Stannis on a secret mission to White Harbor to treat with Lord Wyman Manderly. At Castle Black, Stannis has taken residence in the King's Tower while Jon chooses to reside in Donal Noye's old quarters. Stannis sent his men to scout the Wall for him. After personally inspecting the Nightfort, he later inspects the ruined castles of Oakenshield and Queensgate. Stannis has forced his authority over the entire Wall territory, the Gift, the wildlings, and the Night's Watch, with the red witch Melisandre as support. Stannis is known in the south as the King at the Wall. He fails to gain support from the northern houses when he sent ravens carrying messages with demands to bend the knee to their true king and support him militarily.

Stannis is angered by Lyanna Mormont's response to his call, who tells Stannis that she will only swear fealty to a member of House Stark, and curses the girl, as well as dismissing her name as a poor attempt by her mother to win Ned Stark's favor. Stannis tries to legitimize Jon Snow again in order to gain a Stark ally, but Jon again refuses, telling Stannis that Winterfell belongs to his sister Sansa Stark. Stannis dismisses Sansa as a claimant to Winterfell because she has been married to Tyrion Lannister. Although he's refused by most of the northern lords, Stannis wins the support of House Karstark and a portion of House Umber led by Mors Umber, under the conditions of killing Mance Rayder and pardoning Hother Umber, who fights for the Boltons. While the wights start to attack many places beyond the Wall, Stannis demands the Gift and the castles of the Night's Watch, but Jon Snow has already given the Gift to the wildlings and refuses to give Stannis more castles besides the Nightfort because they are intended to be garrisoned by the Watch. Angry, Stannis threatens to behead Jon while Melisandre tries to warn him about his enemies at Castle Black. There's a little tension between Stannis and Jon, the former keeps threatening to kill him and replace him with another man, but Jon refuses to be intimidated until Stannis simply lets it go. Melisandre says to Jon that, in reality, the king is growing fond of him, much to Jon's skepticism.

Stannis plans to have Mance burned alive and force the wildlings to bend the knee to him. He personally speaks with Mance about the Free Folk bending the knee. Jon fears for the life of Mance's son as Maester Aemon Targaryen has warned Jon that Melisandre is looking to burn somebody with king's blood. To save Mance's son, Jon forces Gilly to take Mance's son away with her to Oldtown in the Reach disguised as her own. Jon promises Gilly that her own son will be safe because her child has no king's blood and Stannis would never needlessly harm an innocent child. Jon has Gilly's son raised under his protection and tended to by wet nurses. He sends his best friend Samwell Tarly with Gilly, as well as Aemon Targaryen, who he fears Melisandre will burn alive as well for his king's blood. Stannis dismisses Gilly as a whore and is pleased about the girl and her baby leaving the Wall, disgusted by her forced relations with her father Craster and stating he will not suffer "abominations" of incest and that they are well rid of the wildling girl.

There's tension with Stannis's men at Castle Black, especially the Queen's Men. Two of them, Ser Richard Horpe and Ser Justin Massey, are seen riding south. When Janos Slynt refuses Jon's orders and continues to do so, despite multiple chances, the Lord Commander executes him by beheading him in the courtyard in the manner of his late father. This earns Stannis's respect. Stannis meets Jon's eyes for a moment and shows his approval, as Stannis thinks that a leader who shows too much leniency won't be respected.

However, Stannis has Mance Rayder burned alive, despite Jon's pleas to spare Mance. Jon warns against Stannis forcing the wildlings to give up their religion and tells Stannis the wildlings will love him better if they are allowed to keep their pride. However, Stannis argues he does not need the love of the wildlings, but their fighting forces. Mance is burned in a cage made out of wood from the haunted forest. At the sight of the cage, Mance's courage fails and he goes to his death begging for mercy, denying his kingship and his name and shrieking of witchcraft. Jon has Mance put out of his misery by having his archers shoot Mance to give him a quick death. Melisandre burns the Horn of Joramun as well, so that the Wall can never fall. Melisandre proclaims to the assembled wildlings that Stannis is their true King, Azor Ahai reborn. Stannis draws Lightbringer which is blindingly bright, and promises all who serve him food, land and justice. He then offers the remaining free folk a choice - bend the knee or go back to the wilds beyond the Wall. Given the severe threat posed by the Others in the wild, nine of every ten wildlings bend the knee. The gates of the Wall are opened and most of the captive wildlings enter to kneel before Stannis, feeding the fire with fragments of weirwood, pieces of the old gods to feed R'hllor's fires.

Unbeknownst to Stannis, however, Mance was saved by Melisandre. The burned Mance is actually a glamoured Rattleshirt. No one but Mance and Melisandre knows the truth of the deception. Melisandre keeps the secret from Stannis due to Stannis's strict code of following the law.

Tension keeps growing between the Night's Watch, the wildlings, and Stannis's men. The Queen's Men start provoking and challenging Jon Snow while the Night's Watch is bothered by the presence of the other factions. In the south, Queen Cersei plots to have Lord Commander Snow murdered, fearing he's supporting Stannis as his father did, in order to avenge his family. Many of the men of the Night's Watch are muttering against the perception that Jon has taken Stannis' side but Jon responds he has taken no side, telling them the Watch owes Stannis a debt. Marsh argues that Stannis is a rebel and his cause is doomed but Jon responds that the outcome of the struggle is unclear following the death of Tywin Lannister. There is also not enough to feed the Night's Watch, the wildlings, and Stannis' men through the winter, so Jon grimly orders a cut in rations.

Jon advises Stannis on some ways to win the support of the North. The aggressive Queen's Men, including Lord Sweet, keep taunting Jon and are annoyed by Stannis listening to his council. Stannis initially plans to take the Dreadfort from Roose Bolton's bastard son Ramsay Bolton; a trap set up by Arnolf Karstark in which the Bolton soldiers wait for Stannis to arrive when Ramsay will start marching south to take Moat Cailin. Thanks to Jon however, Arnolf's plan is thwarted as Stannis discards the plan. Since the northern houses hate them, Stannis decides to leave the wildlings with Jon at the Wall, and allows him to let them occupy the abandoned castles at the Wall, except the Nightfort. Jon provides some crucial advice on Stannis's martial strategy, advising Stannis to get the support of the Northern Mountain Clans and liberate the places which are still held by the ironborn, like Deepwood Motte, so he can get the support of the North to rebel against the Boltons. Jon also advises Stannis to leave Melisandre at Castle Black, as her presence might bother the northmen since Stannis and his official religion are known by bad reputation by everyone.

Factions of Night's Watch, such as Bowen Marsh, are worried by the reaction of the Lannisters on the Iron Throne. In truth, Stannis's priority is free the North from the Boltons so they can avoid attacks from the south and secure the support of the North for Stannis against the Others and provide more food for Stannis' men, the wildlings, and the support the Watch. Stannis has ordered his garrison at Dragonstone to mine the dragonglass to bring it to the Wall and does not plan to march south after defeating the Boltons, promising instead to return to defend the Wall when Winterfell is liberated. 

Stannis leaves Castle Black.

Stannis leaves Castle Black and marches to win the support of the northern mountain clans. With him, Stannis has a small army consisting of House Florent, House Velaryon, House Bar Emmon, and his remaining men from the Stormlands, the Crownlands, and the Reach. He leaves Melisandre at the Wall with some of the Queen's Men and Devan Seaworth. Castle Black goes quiet after Stannis's departure. Queen Selyse and their daughter Princess Shireen remain at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea with Stannis's force garrisoned there and his fleet.

Stannis wins the support of many northern mountain clan chiefs, who are deeply loyal to the memory of Eddard Stark and take pride in receiving King Stannis. He wins mainly the support of House Wull, Flint, Norrey, Liddle, Harclay, Burley, and Knott adding 3,000 men to his small army.

At Castle Black, Melisandre feels lonely since Stannis is no more to share the bed with her, so she barely uses it to sleep only one hour a day. She thinks about Jon and Stannis, and how about the two have more in common than either one would ever be willing to admit. Stannis had been a younger son living in the shadow of his elder brother, just as Jon Snow, an illegitimate son, had been eclipsed by the reputation of his late brother Robb, the fallen King in the North and who men had called the Young Wolf. Melisandre believes both Stannis and Jon are unbelievers by nature, mistrustful, suspicious. The only gods they truly worshipped were honor and duty. Melisandre tries to get a glimpse of King Stannis in her flames, but the only thing she sees is Snow.

After Moat Cailin falls to the Boltons, Stannis attacks Deepwood Motte with the help of Alysane Mormont. Princess Asha Greyjoy, who had previously left the Iron Islands after her uncle Euron was made king, fights in the woods against the northern force and Stannis' army. She's defeated and taken captive, as well as several other surviving ironborn. Stannis frees Lady Sybelle Glover and returns Deepwood Motte to House Glover. The liberation of Deepwood Motte wins Stannis much popular support in the North, with House Glover and its vassal houses. House Mormont declares for Stannis afterward. Asha Greyjoy is forced to bend the knee to King Stannis, hoping he will spare the lives of her ironborn companions, which he does, throwing them into the dungeons of Deepwood Motte.

Meanwhile, Salladhor Saan left Stannis, tired of losing ships and not being paid. Davos is imprisoned at White Harbor. The small council orders Wyman Manderly and the Freys at White Harbor to execute the Hand of the King, Davos. A prisoner disguised as Davos is killed to deceive Queen Cersei, and the Freys Rhaegar, Jared, and Symond, while Lord Manderly sends Davos to find Rickon Stark in the island of Skagos.

After remaining at Deepwood Motte for a short time, Stannis starts marching to Winterfell. During the march, he gains the support of survivors of the Battle of Winterfell, the previous battle that saw the Boltons betraying Bran Stark and Ramsay capturing Theon Greyjoy.

Stannis learns that Ramsay Bolton is going to marry Jon's little sister Arya Stark. He sends a letter to Jon Snow, informing him about his progress and promising to save Arya if he can. Jon prays for Stannis to save Arya. At Castle Black, Melisandre tells Jon that she can save his sister and Mance reveals himself to Jon. They give Jon the chance to save Arya, which Jon takes, and Melisandre sends Mance and six wildling spearwives to rescue Arya. The girl with Ramsay is not Arya Stark, but a northern girl named Jeyne Poole, posing as Arya Stark. Stannis marches from Deepwood Motte with the captive Asha Greyjoy chained and guarded by Alysane Mormont. He plans to show off Balon's daughter as a sign of his strength.

Roose Bolton and his son Ramsay arrive at Winterfell with Arya Stark. Many northern lords and their force of the Iron Throne made of houses Bolton, Frey, Karstark, Ryswell, Dustin, Umber, Hornwood, Cerwyn, Manderly, and Locke. Winterfell is suffering from both a hard white frost and the looming menace of the coming of Stannis Baratheon's troops.

"She dreamt of red hearts burning, and a black stag in a golden wood with flame streaming from his antlers.

Asha Greyjoy and her surviving companions were allowed to live by Stannis, yet Asha sensed no true mercy from him. She is extremely wary and disturbed by Stannis's most aggressive and hostile men, known as Queen's men, especially Ser Clayton Suggs, who hates her. She wants to be free, but Stannis is unapproachable and anti-social. He leaves Alysane Mormont and Ser Justin Massey to guard Asha. During the march on Winterfell, Asha can finally speak with Stannis and tries to treat with him, only to find out that it is impossible to please this man with words, especially when he tends to take anything as an insult. Asha acts pleasant and nice, thinking to offer her young body to Stannis, but then dismisses the idea when she remembers that Stannis is married as well as herself with Erik Ironmaker, by Euron's doing. But Asha keeps trying to bargain her freedom: she offers Stannis help to liberate Torrhen's Square from Dagmer Cleftjaw's garrison, however, Stannis replies that Torrhen's Square is not worth anything to him and that he wants only Winterfell. Asha says good words about his older brother, King Robert, recalling how good he was in turning his foes into friends, and then asking Stannis to do the same by making her "his man". Stannis dismisses her again, asking how could he and Asha soon learns that talking about Robert or Renly only fills Stannis with anger. Then Stannis sends her away to resume her imprisonment.

Stannis's march is long and slow, delayed by a sudden hard snowstorm. According to Roose, the northern gods are against Stannis: in fact the northerners believe that these sudden huge storms of cold and snow throughout the north are Stannis's fault, due to his dark religion and the Old Gods sending any bad luck against to stop him - even the northmen in Stannis's army believe that R'hllor will doom them all. Many men and horses die of starvation or to the cold. Lord Harwood Fell tries to save three teamsters and four horses that fall through a hidden pond's ice, falling through himself. His knights save him from drowning, but he dies of a fever soon after. Only the northmen, used to the weather, proceed quickly. The queen's men try to convince Stannis to burn some people alive as a sacrifice to the Lord of Light to improve the weather, but the king refuses, as he refuses pleads to make camp and wait for the snow storm to end. The march continues with an angry and stressed out Stannis giving sharp orders to his men. After fifteen days, the estimated time of arrival, they have only made half the distance through nine days of the storm. The march is desperate and hard, with conflicts between the northmen and the queen's men, especially religious ones. Some of them are upset that Stannis insists they keep marching only just because he wants to save Arya Stark. After thirty days, they have yet to reach Winterfell.

Stannis's army reaches a crofter's village, three days west of Winterfell, where they make camp and try to catch some fish from the lake. They are encamped and locked in by snow, unable to move, with almost no provisions, and starving. The camp is in a strategic position, chosen purposely by Stannis. The place is dark and with the furious snow blizzard, it's almost impossible to see the camp from distance. However, no one can see a possible attack from the Boltons as well. Roose sends his scout to find Stannis's host, but none of them return, most likely being found and killed by Stannis's men. The King refuses to abandon the march, as he knows that winter is coming and that they need to liberate and unite the North before the Others attack the Wall. He's worried that it might be the start of winter and there is a chance that they may starve at Castle Black while the Others and their undead army march south.

Stannis is eventually joined by the forces of Arnolf Karstark and Mors Umber.

Queen Selyse arrives at Castle Black with Shireen, Ser Axell, Patchface, and many of her knights from Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, meaning to occupy the Nightfort. They are accompanied by Tycho Nestoris, an emissary from the Iron Bank of Braavos. After Tywin's death, the Iron Throne refused to pay all of the debts owed to the Iron Bank, leading the bank to support Stannis. Queen Selyse takes up residence at Castle Black in Stannis's stead and she demands to be allowed to move into the Nightfort when Othell Yarwyck is done repairing it. Meanwhile, she occupies the royal chamber in the King's Tower of Castle Black, where she sleeps alone. Alys Karstark flees from a forced marriage to her uncle Arnolf Karstark to seek the aid of Jon Snow. Jon helps Alys and learns from her about Arnolf Karstark being in league with Roose. Alys tells Jon about Arnolf's plan to betray Stannis at Winterfell in order to become Lord of Karhold, while the Lannisters kill Harrion Karstark, Rickard's heir. Jon shelters Alys at Castle Black under his protection, and writes a letter to Stannis to warn him about Arnolf. Cregan Karstark arrives at the Wall with his men to forcibly take Alys away against her will and they are all imprisoned. Jon offers Cregan a choice to take the black or wait until Stannis returns to decide his fate.

Winterfell is overcrowded with forces, low on supplies, and on edge due to a series of murders with no confirmed suspects. Suddenly, Mors Umber and his vanguard arrive at Winterfell before Stannis. Using the snowstorm as cover, Mors has his lads dig pit traps near several of the Winterfell gates. The heavy blizzard allows Mors's boys to do this without the castle sentries seeing them. Mors then has his men sound horns hoping to draw out several of the castle forces in the traps, but the castle garrison is put on alert and mans the walls of Winterfell. However, after the death of Little Walder Frey and a violent conflict between the Freys and the Manderlys, Roose sends out Aenys Frey and Hosteen Frey with 2,000 Frey and Manderly soldiers to engage Stannis's host. With the fight between the northern nobles and the Freys, Mance Rayder uses the confusion to help Theon Greyjoy and the false Arya Stark to escape Winterfell. Their escape forces Ramsay to remain at Winterfell. He captures Mance Rayder and flays his six spearwives, who had been already killed by the guards of Winterfell.

Aenys Frey is killed by one of Mors Umber's traps. The command of the vanguard passes to Hosteen Frey.

The queen's men sacrifice four cannibals.

Stannis and his host are still stuck in a crofter's village. The storm continues to rage and the snows have kept the army stranded for nineteen days. Stannis's squire, Bryen Farring, died and four men from House Peasebury were caught eating parts of a dead man from House Fell. Stannis allows them to be burned alive as a sacrifice to improve the weather. There are growing tensions between the queen's men that Stannis brought with him from Dragonstone and the other people present, both local northerners and the king's men that Stannis brought from Dragonstone and the Stormlands with him. The cannibals are burned alive by queen's men Ser Godry Farring, Ser Corliss Penny, and Ser Clayton Suggs, a cruel man who used to torture people in the cells of Dragonstone. The northmen, like Artos Flint and Hugo Wull, watch in disapproval the sacrifice.

During all these days Stannis remained isolated in his tower, while Asha Greyjoy stays close with Queen's Man Ser Justin Massey. Stannis arrives with the main general of his army, Ser Richard Horpe, and Arnolf Karstark to watch the sacrifice until its end. The men are no in conditions to fight the Bolton forces and many think they are likely to die soon, but Stannis remains stubborn and refuses to retreat again like he did at King's Landing. Tension, frustration, and disagreements increase while Asha is bullied by the sadist Ser Clayton Suggs, when the army is surprised by the sudden arrival of riders.

Tycho Nestoris arrives in the camp with his group made of two men of the Night's Watch and seven ironmen ransomed from Deepwood Motte, friends of Asha, including Tristifer Botley and Qarl the Maid. They were found by Mors "Crowfood" Umber outside Winterfell, and brought with them Theon and Jeyne, who were escaped from Winterfell with the help of a singer named Abel. Shocked, Asha almost fails to recognize her white-haired and mutilated brother, Theon.

At Castle Black, Jon had previously opened the gates to let thousands of wildlings and giants south of the Wall to save them from the Others. Queen Selyse is excited by this and tells that her husband will be proud, but all the wildlings have to do is swear fealty to the king and convert to R'hllor. However, Jon tells her that this was not part of the bargain and refuses to force the wildlings to give up their religion. Val adds that the free folk do not kneel, causing the queen to become upset. Some of Stannis' men help the Night's Watch to guard the castles at the Wall.

While Stannis prepares for the first attack by the Frey-Manderly cavalry, Selyse arranges a marriage between Gerrick Kingsblood's three wildling daughters and her Hand of the Queen, Ser Axell, and her knights, Ser Brus Buckler and Ser Malegorn of Redpool. Though wildlings do not follow the custom of blood inheritance, Selyse claims that Gerrick is the true King of the Wildlings, descended in an unbroken male line from their great king Raymun Redbeard. However, Gerrick is descended from Raymun Redbeard's younger brother, not the king, and the kingship among the free folk is not hereditary. She also wants Val to marry Ser Patrek of King's Mountain, but is rebuffed. Jon is now preparing for an impending ranging to Hardhome to rescue the thousands of wildlings there and save Cotter Pyke with his men from the Others. However, Jon receives a surprise letter signed with Ramsay Bolton's name. The letter claims that King Stannis is dead after a seven-day battle, that he captured Mance Rayder and flayed his spearwives, and that he wants Arya Stark back, along with Theon, Melisandre, Val, Mance's presumed son, and Queen Selyse and her daughter Shireen. Tormund and Jon discuss what to do for two hours following Jon receiving the letter. Meanwhile, Ser Axell goes to show the message to Selyse. It is decided Tormund will head the ranging to Hardhome while Jon will march south to confront Ramsay Bolton. Jon announces these decisions and many wildlings volunteer to accompany him. However, Jon hears a scream of agony and rushes to its source, finding the mangled body of Ser Patrek hanging from a frightened Wun Wun's fist. Ser Patrek had tried to take Val, who was being protected by Wun Wun, and Wun Wun attacked Ser Patrek. While Jon tries to prevent more loss of life and talk to the giant, he is stabbed in the mutiny at Castle Black by the First Steward Bowen Marsh and his group of mutineers.

While marching on Winterfell, Stannis lost Dragonstone to the Iron Throne at the end of a siege led by Paxter Redwyne and Kingsguard Loras Tyrell, the latter now most likely deadly wounded fighting the garrison. Rolland Storm surrendered the island to the Iron Throne. At the same time Storm's End is besieged by the Iron Throne's forces led by Mathis Rowan, after Mace Tyrell left the siege to return to King's Landing. The Golden Company, led by "Aegon VI Targaryen" and Lord Jon Connington have invaded the Stormlands and taking every castle, town, and land with their split forces. They are marching to Storm's End, planning to take the castle and meet there Princess Arianne Martell. Before marching on Storm's End, Aegon suggested making an alliance with Stannis. Lord Connington dismissed the suggestion, stating that Stannis is a contender for the Iron Throne and an unpopular man with too few allies who will likely soon perish in the North. Meanwhile, a former supporter of Stannis, Aurane Waters, betrayed the Iron Throne and took the new royal fleet of Cersei for himself, and headed to the Stormlands. Mace Tyrell says at court that the Boltons will defeat Stannis, thus they don't have to worry about him anymore, while Lord Regent Kevan Lannister believes the Golden Company has been hired by the Baratheon king. It's implied that Storm's End might fall in the upcoming sixth book, making the Nightfort the new seat of Stannis.

The Winds of Winter

I defeated your uncle Victarion and his Iron Fleet off Fair Isle, the first time your father crowned himself. I held Storm's End against the power of the Reach for a year, and took Dragonstone from the Targaryens. I smashed Mance Rayder at the Wall, though he had twenty times my numbers. Tell me, turncloak, what battles has the Bastard of Bolton ever won that I should fear him?
~ Stannis to Theon Greyjoy

Stannis is still alive, efficiently preparing for the looming battle against the Boltons. His campaign for the Iron Throne is not going well, but Stannis is focusing on his duty to man the Wall and its castles. Because the Seven Kingdoms are in complete chaos and the people are unhappy with Cersei's rule, Stannis' knights and lords suggest to retreat, flee from Westeros and go to exile, wait in the Free Cities for the right moment, then return some years later with actual support from the people. Stannis immediately rejects such idea: it never worked and it would never work. Others before him tried that, like Viserys Targaryen. They hoped that people would eventually rise for their true king. Stannis knows that the more a claimant disappears, the more their claim goes forgotten, they become seen as foreign invaders and cowards. Stannis angrily says that he will not end up like Viserys, a beggar that eventually died far away killed in a mocking fashion by savages.

At the crofters' village, Stannis receives the Braavosi banker Tycho Nestoris and the two sign a contract. Stannis plans to send the banker back to the Wall so he does not get caught up in the fighting. Theon Greyjoy is now his captive and chained, desperate to have escaped Ramsay only to end up with Stannis.

Stannis is made aware of Arnolf Karstark's planned treachery due to the message Jon Snow gave the banker. Stannis has Arnolf, his son Arthor and three grandsons arrested and plans to execute them, though whether their death will be quick beheadings or by fire depends on their willingness to confess. Stannis prepares his position to battle the coming vanguard of Lord Roose Bolton's army led by Ser Hosteen Frey. He's pleased that Ser Hosteen is the one who leads the van now, since he's known as a short-tempered idiot. Stannis sends Alysane Mormont to escort "Arya Stark" back to the Wall to reunite the girl with her half-brother, Jon Snow, in gratitude for Jon warning him to amass the northern mountain clans rather than march straight into the Karstarks' plans.

Stannis orders Justin Massey to go with Tycho Nestoris to Braavos, where Justin will use the money given to him by the Iron Bank of Braavos to hire sellsword companies till he has a force no less than twenty thousand strong and then sail back to Westeros. Stannis has a secret plan to deal with the Frey and Manderly vanguard. He doesn't want to march against it. Instead, he says they are going to wait for the van to arrive at crofter's village. It's believed that he might be planning to fake his death, so the world will believe him defeated and gone permanently, giving him time to prepare a surprise attack against the Boltons and the Iron Throne.

Stannis' last known words are part of an order that if he is slain in the coming battle, Ser Justin is still to do as instructed, with the intention of using the army to place his daughter, Shireen Baratheon, on the Iron Throne.

Stannis plans to have Theon Greyjoy executed, hoping to gain favor with his northern allies by exacting justice for the murders of Bran and Rickon Stark. To spare her brother more pain, Asha convinces Stannis to not burn him alive, but instead behead him at the weirwood tree on the small lake island at crofter's village, to please the northmen.

As of now, Westeros is in deep crisis, Stannis' army is unprepared for winter and the realm is facing a war between 4 monarchs: Euron, Tommen, "Aegon" and Stannis himself.

Game of Thrones

If I do not press my claim, my claim will be forgotten. I will not become a page in someone else's history book.
~ Stannis to Davos

During season 2, Stannis meets Renly in the Baratheon lands surrounding Storm's End, however, the castle is never seen in this version, and the siege of Storm's End is removed. Stannis gets back Storm's End after the death of his brother Renly, whose death has been merged with Ser Cortnay Penrose's death. Starting from season 3, Stannis began burning people alive, first criminals, then unbelievers. It's said that Stannis started the burnings of prisoners shortly after his return to Dragonstone. In the books, Selyse is responsible for burnings, while Stannis is fighting the war. Stannis stops the burnings when he returns to the island. In the show, Ser Axell Florent does not support R'hllor like his book counterpart. Instead, he's the one who's burned in place of Lord Alester Florent, for refusing to burn idols of the Seven, instead of treason. Also in the show, Ser Axell is one of Selyse's brothers instead of one of her uncles.

Davos Seaworth is never made a lord after season 2, as he is in the books. Instead of going to White Harbor to convince Wyman Manderly to join with Stannis, Davos marches with Stannis to Winterfell, and he's sent back to Castle Black at the end of season 5, to avoid his certain execution, since he would have attempted to save Shireen and attacked Melisandre.

Robert's acknowledged illegitimate son Edric Storm is cut from the show. Gendry, who's also in the books, absorbs some of Edric's storylines in the books. Melisandre finds Gendry in the Riverlands and buys him from Lord Beric Dondarrion, while in the books, Gendry stays with the Brotherhood without Banners, and stays with the Brotherhood after Beric's death. He now follows Lady Stoneheart. In the books, Gendry has converted to R'hllor and doesn't pray to the Seven anymore. In the show, Melisandre also learns about [w:c:protagonist:Thoros of Myr|Thoros of Myr]]'s mysterious ability to resurrect Beric multiple times, though Thoros claims that he just prays for R'hllor's favor and he listens.

When it comes to the god R'hllor, Stannis has the same indifferent attitude but he follows Melisandre's power with more impulsiveness and trust. Although he's not devout to R'hllor, Stannis believes R'hllor exists and considers himself a servant who must do his duty and follows his god's will, no matter what. In the books, Stannis' feelings about the R'hllor faith aren't as strong, and he's still a bit confused about it. He seems to be convinced that he's the hero who will unite and lead the races of the world against the Others. Stannis is strongly annoyed by his new official religion and he doesn't care what god his men have. His actual army is made by believers of R'hllor, the Seven, and the Old Gods, with also those who don't really pray at all. In both the books and show, Stannis does not seem to enjoy the R'hllor faith.

Stannis, even before his show sacrifice of Shireen, is portrayed in a markedly less sympathetic light in the TV series. He attempts to strangle Melisandre to death in the Season 2 finale, an event that does not take place in the books. His most pivotal character development in the original series, where he realizes that the fight against the Others and Wights is currently more important than the war for the Iron Throne, is seemingly cut. His dialogue with Jon on top of the Wall that indicates this was excised, and he is portrayed as wishing to march south to King's Landing after he takes Winterfell, whereas in the novels, he pledges to return to Castle Black afterward.

In the books, Stannis goes to the Wall with his remaining forces and he's later supported by the Iron Bank of Braavos, while marching to Winterfell. In the show, Stannis swallows his pride and goes to Braavos to ask the Iron bank for money and makes a bargain with Tycho Nestoris before sailing for Eastwatch.

Stannis brings Selyse and Shireen at Castle Black, while in the books they stay at Eastwatch with Davos Seaworth, Salladhor Saan, Axell Florent and their retainers and fleet. Davos and Salladhor go to White Harbor, and later Selyse, Shireen, and Axell arrive at Castle Black while Stannis is marching to Winterfell, to occupy the Nightfort, Stannis' new seat.

It is actually Mance Rayder who is burned in the show while in the books, Mance is saved by Melisandre, who puts a glamour on Rattleshirt to make him look like Mance and take his place on the pyre. The wildlings don't bend the knee to Stannis like they do in the books. In the books, Stannis leaves them at the Wall, because he doesn't want to anger the northmen.

Stannis's march on Winterfell was changed in the TV series. His fight at Deepwood Motte and him winning the support of the North are cut, while his sellswords replace the northmen. He brings with him Selyse, Melisandre, and Shireen instead of leaving them in the shelter of Castle Black. Like in the novels, he has trouble with the snow. His host suffers a surprise attack by Ramsay's men and all the siege weapons are destroyed and all the food supplies burned. This raid doesn't happen in the books.

Stannis and Selyse watch the burning of Shireen.

In season 5 Stannis sacrifices his daughter Shireen to the Lord of Light, burning her alive on the pyre, crossing the Moral Event Horizon, and doing something that even someone like Cersei would not. After this act, many fans of the show rejected Stannis, even if his action was intended to be for the greater good.

In the novels, Stannis doesn't burn Shireen, and it seems unlikely he will do it. It's also physically impossible for him to personally burn his daughter, as he's already fighting the Boltons while Shireen is at the Castle Black with Selyse and Melisandre.

After Shireen's death, he's deserted by nearly half of his army and loses all the horses. His wife Selyse takes her own life and is found hanging from a tree. Realizing that Stannis's cause is lost and that he's not Azor Ahai, Melisandre flees back to the Wall to avoid Stannis's wrath.

Stannis outside Winterfell, outnumbered by the Bolton forces.

Stannis dies early in the show and is cut from season 6: broken by the pointless death of his daughter, he insists to march on Winterfell with 1,300 men, without horses, siege weapons, or any plan. He's attacked by a large Bolton cavalry made of 2,000 men, while many of his men flee in panic. He loses his battle at Winterfell, his leg injured, and he's killed by Brienne of Tarth, who desired to avenge Renly. In the books, Brienne is nowhere near the North.

With Stannis and Shireen dead, House Baratheon is now technically extinct and only officially lives by Tommen Baratheon's name, the boy king unknowingly being an illegitimate Lannister son (though Robert's bastard son Gendry is still alive, it's yet to be seen if he will inherit the name Baratheon or not, as bastard-born individuals do not inherit their father's name unless they're legitimized by a king). The Iron Throne is unchallenged and can deal with the ironborn and the Faith. Stannis' arrival at Winterfell manages to give enough time to Theon and Sansa to escape Winterfell.

Though gone, Stannis' failed attack on Winterfell ultimately leads to House Bolton's downfall, having enabled Sansa to escape, reach Jon and for the two of them to rally an army to liberate the castle and return it to House Stark, signifying that Stannis' death was ultimately not in vain.

In the TV series, there is a second battle for Winterfell during the sixth season. Jon Snow and his sister Sansa Stark attempt to rally the Northern houses and the wildlings to liberate Winterfell from the Boltons. They are only able to gain the support of the smaller House Mormont, Hornwood, and Mazin. In the fifth book, during the first battle for Winterfell, Stannis has far more success in rallying the Northern houses and leads an army of northmen, along with his own army, against the Boltons, and has a strategical plan to defeat the Boltons and the Freys. It's theorized that he will win before returning to the Wall and sacrifice Shireen like he does in the show, but under different circumstances. At the time, the situation with the Others might be worse. It's possible that in the books, if Jon has died as a result of the mutiny, Jon's resurrection might happen while Stannis is fighting, or Jon might remain dead until Stannis returns to Castle Black, and then get resurrected. In the novels, George R. R. Martin has stated that the Battle of Ice will be soon resolved and not done twice. In the show, there are two battles for Winterfell, first with Stannis trying to liberate Winterfell from the Boltons during the fifth season and then with Jon and Sansa fighting to liberate Winterfell from the Boltons in the sixth season.

At the beginning of season 6, it's confirmed that Ramsay has found Stannis' body and reports it to his father. Roose wanted to reward the man who did it. Since it was Brienne and none of the Boltons, Roose is unable to do it.

Melisandre remains depressed at Castle Black, as Stannis was never the true Azor Ahai reborn and the other person she saw in the flames, Jon Snow, is dead as well. The "great battle in the snow" seen by Stannis and Melisandre at Dragonstone is considered a lie, as Melisandre confesses to Ser Davos. She keeps avoiding telling Davos about Shireen's fate and Stannis' possible death. News about the defeat of Stannis and House Baratheon of Dragonstone has spread throughout Westeros and all of the five kings Stannis, Joffrey, Robb, Balon, and Renly are now dead.

Very shortly after his death, Jon Snow is brought back to life by Melisandre through magic and she believes he is the "prince that was promised" who will lead the war against the White Walkers. Davos and Melisandre help Jon, while the remaining knights of Stannis and Salladhor Saan are likely either still at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea with Stannis's fleet, or returned to their homes in the south. Any possible survivors of the Battle of Winterfell may return home and it's unknown if Dragonstone and Storm's End have bent the knee to King Tommen I. Stannis was the first and only king who acknowledged the threat of the White Walkers and meant to fight them. As of the Stannis' death in season 5, the only living kings are Tommen and Euron. Aegon is cut from the TV series.

Brienne and Podrick Payne arrive at Castle Black, escorting Sansa Stark, who comes to Castle Black reunite with her now-resurrected brother Jon Snow. While Sansa reunites with Jon, Davos still feels without a purpose and is confused about Melisandre serving Jon Snow and calling him the "Prince that was Promised", instead of serving Stannis the "Warrior of Light". He tries again to ask Melisandre for details about Stannis' march on Winterfell but Melisandre remains unsettled and silent. He demands to know about Princess Shireen's fate, but before Melisandre can reply, Brienne tells them that she killed Stannis after finding him wounded and defeated by the Boltons in the battlefield (she considers it an execution, though knights have no legal right to kill high lords and kings of Great Houses unless it's during a fight). Melisandre walks away before Davos can learn about Shireen's death.

With Stannis dead, there's no one else left to free the North from the Boltons and protect the Walls and the Night's Watch from attacks from the south, so Jon and Sansa plan to unite the Northerners against Ramsay, while Lord Baelish and Lord Royce lead the army of the Vale to the North. When Brienne must head back to the Riverlands and request the help of Sansa's uncle Ser Brynden Tully at Sansa's request, she's not happy about leaving her in the company Davos and Melisandre, as they helped Stannis to kill his brother Renly. Sansa replies she is safe because she is with Jon. Jon passes on command to Dolorous Edd after Ser Alliser Thorne, Bowen Marsh, and Othell Yarwyck are executed for treason and murder of their Lord Commander. Denys Mallister and Cotter Pyke remain in command of the garrisons of the other two castles at the Wall.

The High Priestess of Volantis, Kinvara, arrives at Meereen to serve Daenerys Targaryen and convert the people of Slaver's Bay to the faith of R'hllor. She thinks Daenerys is Azor Ahai come again and Varys, who dislikes Red Priests for their unpredictable powers, tells her about Melisandre calling Stannis Azor Ahai come again, but he was defeated at King's Landing, even if he was supposed to take the Iron Throne, and later defeated again and killed at Winterfell, even if he was supposed to lead the war against the White Walkers in the North. In the book, the High Priest of Volantis is Benerro and he sent the Red Priest Moqorro to serve Daenerys as Azor Ahai.

Jon Snow, Sansa Stark, and Davos Seaworth lead their small army made of the Free Folk, and the houses Mormont, Hornwood, and Mazin to Stannis' old camp. Because Stannis was put at a great disadvantage by snowstorms, Jon wants to strike before the impending snowstorm and Ramsay is able to get more men. Later, Davos finds the pyre where Stannis and Melisandre sacrificed Princess Shireen. After retaking Winterfell and the Bolton forces are defeated, Jon learns that Melisandre, Stannis, and Selyse burned Shireen at the stake. He banishes Melisandre from Winterfell, stating that if she ever returns he will execute her. Davos declares that he will be the one who will kill Melisandre personally if she returns.

A man with a long dark beard can be seen fighting in Jon's army in the North, and the same man was sitting in Stannis' camp in season 5, suffering from the cold: apparently, he is a survivor from Stannis' army who joined with the northern army, like Davos. The man survives the Battle of the Bastards as well and he is seen sitting in Winterfell with the northmen and Valemen. It is possible that Jon's army includes other survivors from Stannis's army besides Davos, Melisandre, and the bearded man.

In season 7, Samwell Tarly mentions that Stannis talked about an underground mountain of dragonglass underneath Dragonstone during his stay at Castle Black.

Daenerys Targaryen and her army and fleet occupy the island of Dragonstone. When they arrived, they found the island and castle completely deserted for some reason. Melisandre, who had taken residence back there, revealed herself to Daenerys, who listened to the Red Priestess despite Varys pointing out that she served Stannis, who met his end at her advice.

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