Editor's Note: The following contains spoilers for Season 1 of House of the Dragon.
House of the Dragon's fanbase has seen quite a bit of Vhagar, the oldest and strongest dragon alive in the spin-off. She instills fear in her enemies and isn't above ignoring her rider when she sees fit. We've seen two riders join her in the skies so far, but Vhagar has had quite a tumultuous history well before the Dance of the Dragons. The old girl has earned her stripes and seen her share of warfare.
Vhagar's Birth and the War of Conquest
Vhagar hatched from her egg on Dragonstone 52 years before Aegon's Conquest. According to George R.R. Martin's novels, A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords, Vhagar was named after one of the gods of the Valyrian Freehold. Vhagar's early life was relatively uneventful, but a young Visenya Targaryen eventually claimed her as her mount. Visenya would go on to marry her brother Aegon Targaryen, who also married their sister Rhaenys. For years, House Targaryen was content to exist on Dragonstone. However, everything changed on the account of Storm King Argilac "the Arrogant" Durrandon.
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Argilac had sought to halt the advance of King Harren "the Black" Hoare, who was King of the Iron Islands and the Riverlands. Harren had nearly completed construction on the dreaded fortress Harrenhal, and King Argilac wanted to keep Harren from advancing into the Stormlands. Argilac sent the offer of an alliance to Aegon Targaryen. He offered his daughter Argella for Aegon to wed (Aegon had not yet married his sisters), but Aegon refused. Instead, Aegon asked that Argella marry his best friend (and allegedly his bastard brother) Orys Baratheon. When the emissary arrived in Storm's End, King Argilac had his hands cut off and sent back to Dragonstone, with a message stating "these are the only hands you will receive." Aegon called his banners and set his eyes on the Seven Kingdoms in response. He sent ravens to the rulers of Westeros, stating that he would unify the Seven Kingdoms under House Targaryen. He began the campaign to dominate the Seven Kingdoms with his wives, forever being symbolized in House Targaryen's three-headed sigil alongside their dragons: Aegon atop Balerion, Rhaenys atop Meraxes, and Visenya atop Vhagar.
When Aegon landed at the mouth of the Blackwater Rush (a place that would later give rise to the Aegonfort and ultimately King's Landing), Visenya spared no time and pressed the attack. She flew north to Castle Stokeworth, where the castle's soldiers and men-at-arms attempted to take down Vhagar with crossbow bolts. In response, Vhagar set the roof of Castle Stokeworth aflame, resulting in House Stokeworth's surrender. One by one, the lords of Westeros began to submit. Some resisted, while others laid down their arms and begged for mercy. After the fall of Houses Darklyn and Mooton, Aegon was coronated as King Aegon I Targaryen, First of His Name, King of All Westeros, and Shield of His People.
Visenya pressed onward and took Vhagar to accompany the Targaryen fleet to Gulltown. The fleet was attacked by House Arryn's fleet, where they successfully destroyed a third of House Targaryen's ships. Visenya counterattacked with Vhagar, torching the Arryn fleet in totality. Visenya then headed to Crackclaw Point to hear more pledges of loyalty before flying to Stoney Sept to regroup with Aegon and Rhaenys. They flew to the northern portions of the Reach, where the three dragonlords were met by Loren I Lannister, King of the Rock, and Mern IX Gardener, King of the Reach. The combined forces of Casterly Rock and Highgarden were five times as large as those of the Targaryens. Regardless, Balerion, Meraxes, and Vhagar took flight together and descended on the enemy troops. As men battled on foot, the dragons melted thousands in their own armor. The dry grass on the battlefield that day caught fire and spread quickly, killing House Lannister and Gardener's forces in droves. At the end of the battle that would be known as the "Field of Fire," House Gardener had been completely obliterated, thousands died from swords, arrows, and spears, while the dragons killed thousands more. Visenya herself took an arrow to the shoulder but would recover. Loren Lannister relinquished his crown the next day, earning the name "Loren the Last," but remaining Warden of the West. Aegon gave dominion over Highgarden and the Reach to Lord Harlen Tyrell, House Gardener's steward.
The war raged on, and Visenya and Vhagar would eventually fly to the Riverlands, expecting to face King Torrhen Stark and his army of battle-hardened northmen. The King in the North had heard the news of the Field of Fire and had decided that defeating the Targaryens wasn't achievable. The King in the North wisely sent his brother to negotiate. The young conqueror would allow Torrhen Stark to keep Winterfell and his lordship over the North, but he would be a king no longer. Torrhen bent the knee before Aegon, earning him the name "The King Who Knelt." Vhagar's subsequent action during the War of Conquest was to fly to the Vale, landing in the courtyard of the Eyrie. Queen Regent Sharra Arryn ran out into the courtyard to find her son, King Ronnel Arryn of Mountain and Vale, resting on Visenya's knee and admiring Vhagar. The boy king requested that his mother allow Visenya to give him a ride on Vhagar's back. The Queen Regent bent the knee, resigning House Arryn's kingship. After Ronnel Arryn rode with Visenya and Vhagar three times around the mountain known as the Giant's Lance, House Arryn pledged fealty as Wardens of the East.
The First Dornish War and the Death of Queen Visenya
At the end of the initial war, six of the Seven Kingdoms had pledged fealty to House Targaryen. Balerion's dragonfire forged the Iron Throne, and Aegon and his queens ruled from King's Landing. Unfortunately, Rhaenys and Meraxes died during the subsequent invasion of Dorne, with defenders killing Meraxes with a scorpion bolt to the eye. The dragon's crash to earth was horrific, and Rhaenys' body was never recovered. Aegon and Visenya responded to the death of their sister by glassing the majority of Dorne. During two years that would be known as the "Dragon's Wroth," Aegon and Visenya scoured all of Dorne, burning countless castles to the ground. Only Sunspear was spared from dragonfire, though it's unclear as to why this happened. Some Dornishmen rumored that Princess Meria Martell had bought a device that could slay the dragons, but Archmaester Timotty of The Citadel surmised that Aegon and Visenya wanted to force the Dornish houses into an uprising against House Martell. Despite the acts of Aegon and Visenya, Dorne remained defiant of the crown for many years.
King Aegon ruled Westeros until 37 years after the conquest when he died from a stroke at age 64. He was cremated on Dragonstone, with Vhagar supplying the fire. Aegon's son Aenys became king and angered Visenya by naming his son (also named Aegon) the heir to the Iron Throne. The Faith of the Seven soon rose against Aenys due to House Targaryen's practice of incestuous marriage. When King Aenys died, Visenya flew to Pentos to retrieve her son Maegor from exile. Atop Balerion and Vhagar, the two returned to King's Landing, which broke out in riots as they approached. Maegor killed the young Aegon and usurped his position as king before setting Balerion loose on the Faith Militant. Visenya also took Vhagar across Westeros to put down any rebellion, and Vhagar burned down the strongholds of five houses in the Riverlands in a single night.
Maegor's reign of cruelty would continue, but Visenya would die in 44 AC (After Conquest), leaving Vhagar without a rider.
Baelon the Brave and the Events of 'House of the Dragon'
Maegor the Cruel died unexpectedly atop the Iron Throne in 48 AC, leaving his nephew Jaehaerys I Targaryen as the heir to the Iron Throne. The young king would go on to be known as "The Conciliator" and ushered in the longest period of prosperity in the history of Targaryen rule. After 29 years, Vhagar was claimed by Jaehaerys's son, Prince Baelon "the Brave" Targaryen, who had earned his name from whacking Balerion on the snout as a child. Baelon would ride Vhagar during the Fourth Dornish War, where Baelon, his brother Aemon, and King Jaehaerys annihilated a Dornish fleet aiming to attack the Stormlands. Balerion the Black Dread would die of old age in 94 AC, leaving Vhagar as the lone surviving dragon who had participated in the War of Conquest. Unfortunately for her, Prince Baelon would soon die in 101 AC of Appendicitis, leaving her riderless again.
During the reign of Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine), Lady Laena Velaryon of Driftmark (Savannah Steyn/Nanna Blondell) would become a dragonrider and claim Vhagar. House of the Dragon sees Laena taking on Vhagar sometime after her marriage to Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith), many years after she claimed Vhagar in Fire & Blood. She absolutely adored Vhagar, and she and Daemon toured the Free Cities together, putting on spectacles on dragonback. Laena was pregnant with her third child, and she had dreamed of returning home to Driftmark to give birth. However, Laena went into labor in Pentos. After several excruciating hours, Laena and Daemon's child would not arrive, and Daemon was faced with a choice: Perform a dangerous procedure to save the child, or lose both Laena and the baby.
Before Daemon made a decision, Laena rose from her birthing bed and made her way down to a nearby shore where Vhagar rested. She cried out in pain, begging Vhagar to kill her. Though she was initially reticent, Vhagar finally obeyed and burned Lady Laena alive in full sight of Prince Daemon. During Laena's funeral on Driftmark, Prince Aemond Targaryen (Leo Ashton) ran out to Vhagar and climbed onto her back in the dead of night. After taking to the skies, Aemond returned to the castle and was confronted by Laena's daughters Baela (Shani Smethurst) and Rhaena (Eva Ossei-Gerning). A scuffle broke out, and Prince Lucerys "Luke" Velaryon (Harvey Sadler) sliced Aemond's eye with a knife. Aemond remarked that he was okay with being partially blinded, as he "lost an eye, but gained a dragon."
After the death of King Viserys, a Targaryen conflict begins brewing. Queen Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) and her father Ser Otto (Rhys Ifans), the Hand of the King, have seated Viserys' son Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney) on the Iron Throne. This flies in the face of Viserys naming his daughter Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy) as his heir. Rhaenyra and Alicent both attempt to resolve things amicably, but Rhaenyra nonetheless sends her sons to treat with the Great Houses. Luke is tasked with riding his dragon Arrax to Storm's End to receive the support of Lord Borros Baratheon. As he touches down in the courtyard, Luke notices Vhagar in the distance, knowing Aemond must have beaten him to Storm's End. Upon meeting Lord Borros, the Storm Lord spurns his request for assistance, stating that the boy showed up empty-handed. Aemond taunts Luke, wanting revenge for the loss of his eye, but Luke is protected by Guest Right and returns to the courtyard to ride Arrax back to Dragonstone.
Flying over the waters of Shipbreaker Bay, Luke spots Aemond chasing after him on Vhagar. As Aemond taunts him, Luke and Arrax attempt to escape by flying through crags in the sea where Vhagar is too large to follow. Unfortunately, Luke's inexperience causes Arrax to disregard his commands, and he emerges in the clouds to blast fire in Vhagar's face. Aemond, who wants to break off the chase before any harm occurs, commands Vhagar to fall back. However, Vhagar doesn't listen and soars upwards through the storm-ridden clouds to bite Arrax, leaving the few remaining bits of him and Prince Luke falling into the sea. Aemond stares on in horror, as he knows this act has just pushed the rising inter-family conflict well past any hope of negotiation.