History of Waterdeep Castle, Through the Ages

The Black Brother

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The original fort

As one of the seven brothers the origin of castle Waterdeep stretches far back into the distant past, to the time of the Andal invasion and arrival of the faith of the seven to Westeros. One of the seven brothers travelled far up the Cockleswent and planted his tree upon the natural island that had formed where the river meet the Bywater pond, the Blacktor. He was the second brother in age, yet the lesser in honour, for he was but the bastard brother of the other six who took the name Bywater after the little town near the pond. Besides his tree he built a keep, bridged the span of the Cockleswent and rose a solid stockage to defend his holdings, the first incarnation of the castle which thereafter, until this very day, has always remained in the hands of a lord Bywater. Over the years the castle Waterdeep grew greatly in size and splendour, especially the stories say under Baelish Bywater, yet at its heart remained the solitary tree besides the great keep as it does even today.

In its long history the castle has remained one of the most impregnable fortresses in the Reach itself with few strong or foolish enough to attempt an attack and fewer still with the skill and luck to succeed. Old nannies across the Cocklesvale and beyond still tell the Tale of a Thousand which recounts a supposed storming attempt by the first men of the mountain. According to the tale a host a thousand strong charged up the hill towards the newly raised wall led by the monstrous Elan Red-Eyes who was near two meter fifty and had eyes as red as dried blood. In the tales he duels on the walls with ser Meeren the Faithfull who rallied the soldiers in their lord’s absence and the battle was won by the men of Bywater town rising up and attacking from behind, driving the thousand stormlanders into the foaming cleft that men still call the “Screaming Cleft”. Another old tale of the castle is the story of the Winter Prince who rose an army of wraiths from the Stag-Moor and, as the Cockleswent and Pond froze in winter, laid siege to the castle on all sides, demanding the hand of Alysanna Bywater. It is said the siege lasted for fourteen years of winter before the sun came and the Army of Winter melted away like morning mist in spring.

Though the Maesters certainly have their misgivings about these more fanciful tales none dispute that the castle has seen its fair share of historical sieges. Twice it was besieged by forces of house Dannett, once during the War of the Wives and once during the Manderly Feuds. It was attempted starved for nearly a year by house Holden before they were driven off in the Battle by the Water. And while the castle was never besieged in the Dornish Wars this stands more as a testimony to its reputation and strength, the castle serving as the backbone of the defence of the Cocklesreach and as a staging point for the wars against the Storm Kings. Indeed it is thought to only have fallen four times during the time prior to the coming of the dragons. Three times it has been starved into submission, the defenders surrendering rather than facing death by hunger and disease, once during the Conquest of the Gardners, once to the Mersteds during the Mersted Inheritance and once to the Storm King himself. It fell to force but one time in this long period by the hands of Jon “the Black Heron” of house Heron. It is said he was a brilliant leader of men who, while the main host of house Heron besieged Bywater town, led a small force of men across the old Stonebridge from the eastern bank, storming the far weaker defences there and taking the keep in the small hours before dawn. It was after this that the stone bridge was destroyed and a rope bridge built in its place.

The Griffon’s Ascent

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Ser Vermillion Bywater, “The Silent Knight”

When the Dragons came to Westeros the castle changed hands as the last Andal Bywater, Malcolm the Accursed, was deposed by the “Black Griff”. Bards throughout the Cocklesvale still favours “the Griffon’s Ascent” or “The Song from Waters Deep” as it is also known, telling the story of how Aeron liberated the daughter of Lord Malcolm from his cruel grip by climbing the Blacktor itself, the only man known to have accomplished this feat. The tales claims he spent an entire night making the ascent, dragging himself up the share face of rock until at last he reached the inner castle. There he infiltrated the old Raven’s Tower and freed the young lady, escaping across the East Crossing. During the reign of the Valyrians the castle was enlarged and several towers added, completing the structures still seen today. During this time, nearly three hundred years, the castle has mostly been at peace with two noticeable exceptions, the Dornish wars of 175-176 AC and the First Blackfyre Rebellion. During the Dornish Wars the town and castle was besieged by a sizable Dornish host for two weeks before the returning army of Lord Maelys Bywater drove the attackers away.
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Defence of Bywater Castle

The Blackfyre Rebellion however saw the castle sacked and devastated to a degree not experienced in all its long history. As war raged across the Reach proper the Cockleswent and Ashford regions also erupted into bitter warfare between various houses, the rebellion fuelled further by a host from house Peake and their vassals invading the area led by the legendary Gormon Peake. Ashford town was sacked and the castle besieged before the rebel army moved on, pursuing the king’s men as they withdrew up the Cocklesvale. House Redvers, the mightiest house in the Lower Cocklesvale joined the rebels and lord Redver’s eldest, Harland Redvers, took command of the army that pushed north and east, joined by the houses Holden and Rushen. The army of the rebels, after winning the Battle of Cocklescross, eventually laid siege to both Queensburry and Waterdeep, concentrating their forces on the latter. The sizable garrison held for four months after the town had fallen, slowly being pushed back from bulwark to bulwark, bleeding the attackers at every step. It is reckoned the bloodiest siege in the Blackfyre Rebellion and certainly the bloodiest in the history of the Cocklesvale, claiming lives both large and small as blood bathed the black rocks. Ser Arland Peake, second son of lord Peake, was thrown from the walls into the “Cut” as did hundreds of lesser men. Ser Vermillion Bywater held the gatehouse of the Griffon Gate for two full days after the outer wall fell before he died at the blade of Morton Holden who found his death at the base of the inner wall, a stone smashing his skull to pieces. Lord Redding fell to an arrow, his two sons cut down by Errek “Dragonfire” Draken, Captain of the Griffons, who died later on the steps of the Great Hall. The pregnant lady Daena Bywater died from a wasting sickness in the third month of the siege, her weakened constitution giving in as the rations grew meagre. Some say it was the death of his youngest daughter which drove the “Old Lord” Maelys Bywater to challenge Harland Redvers to single combat as the main drum tower was stormed. The “Old Lord” died in that fight in his 66th reigning year, aged 68, a sad end for a great lord the bards claim. The inner wall fell less than two weeks later, but not before the remaining family Bywater and most of the Griffons had been smuggled out and down the river to safety at castle Preston. The keep held two more days before Errek fell and his men surrounded, leaving only the inner castle defended by ser Clarence Caswell of the Griffons. Clarence and his men held the Raven’s Tower until the siege was broken by a host from the Stormlands. Since the “long siege” as the Bywater men calls it the castle has known peace, slowly rebuilding what was destroyed though still it remains a shadow of its former glory.

From “Through the Ages, History of House Bywater of Waterdeep” by Maester Haldham

History of Waterdeep Castle, Through the Ages

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