“Sansa, would you like to visit Highgarden? All the autumn flowers are in bloom just now, and there are groves and fountains, shady courtyards, marble colonnades. My lord father always keeps singers at court…and pipers and fiddlers and harpers as well. We have the best horses, and pleasure boats to sail along the Mander.” – Margaery Tyrell.
The Reach is one of the seven constituent regions of Westeros, formerly known as The Kingdom of the Reach before Aegon’s Conquest. It is ruled from the castle of Highgarden, the seat of House Tyrell. Bastards born in The Reach are given the surname Flowers.
The Westerlands may be flowing with gold, King’s Landing may house the Iron Throne and the Iron Islands may be home to the realms largest fleet, but The Reach contains the most fertile lands in all of Westeros – and is the most densely populated region as a result.
The area is well known throughout Westeros for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is considered to be the home of chivalry in Westeros, the place where Knighthood is looked upon with the greatest reverence – an attitude fostered by House Tyrell. Secondly, The Arbor is famed both on the continent and across the Narrow Sea for the excellence of its wines. Thirdly, Oldtown is the oldest and one of the largest cities on the entire continent and home to The Citadel, where Maesters are trained to earn their chains.
Most of The Reach is composed of flat, picturesque land that regularly yields a bountiful harvest; there are the famed vintages that originate from The Arbor, succulent fruits from the lowlands surrounding the Honeywine River, and the varied palette of flowers that surround Highgarden.
Two main waterways run through the region, both of them flowing westwards. The longer and larger of the two rivers is the Mander, which has its origins south west of King’s Landing. The Mander traces a southwest passage through the land and makes its way past Bitterbridge, Longtable and Cider Hall. Both the Blueburn and Cockleswent rivers join the Mander as it flows down to Highgarden. Eventually The Mander runs into the Sunset Sea, past the four Shield Islands used to stop invaders sailing up its mouth. Also preventing incursions into the region is the relative depth of the river – it is impossible to travel any further north than Highgarden without a flat bottomed craft.
The Honeywine, by contrast, runs a much shorter route than The Mander, but it is just as responsible for the wealth of sustenance the Reach provides. The two main branches of the Honeywine begin to the southwest and southeast of Brightwater Keep, and it flows primarily south until it passes Oldtown and from there, into Whispering Sound.
Much like the two main waterways in The Reach, two major roads cross the province. The Roseroad is the lengthier of the two and runs all the way from King’s Landing, past Bitterbridge and Highgarden before terminating at Oldtown. The other main passage is the Sea Road, which, true to its name, hugs the coast of the Sunset Sea as it travels south from Crakehall in The Westerlands before bending southeast at Old Oak and finding its end at Highgarden.
The beginnings of The Reach can be traced back to Garth Gardener, one of the First Men, more commonly known as Garth Greenhand. It is said that Garth’s crown was fashioned of flowers and vine and it is whispered that he fathered so many children that his hand was not the only green thing about him. Indeed, many of the current houses in the region can claim a bloodline back to Garth, including House Tyrell. This bloodlink has led to no small amount of grumbling amongst the houses of The Reach, for some believe the Tyrells were placed above more deserving families with stronger ties to the Gardener Kings. Of course, the houses of The Reach were in no position to make demands when the Tyrells were raised from among them.
When Aegon I led his host into The Reach he met the combined forces of two Kings. King Loren Lannister and King Mern Gardener. Although Mern’s and Loren’s troops outnumbered the Targaryen army by almost five to one, Aegon and his sisters had the power of three Dragons at their command. When the full fury of the three beasts was unleashed, the battlefield was transformed into the legendary Field of Fire, burning out the last of the Gardener line in the process. When Aegon then marched his army to Highgarden, its steward, Harlen Tyrell, surrendered the castle rather than see it and its inhabitants burned. For this, the Tyrells were given dominion over The Reach.
After the submission of Highgarden, Aegon took his host further south to Oldtown, which was still the largest city on the continent at that time. The Hightower who reigned in Oldtown opened the gates of the city on the advice of the High Septon, who perhaps noted the wisdom of the tactic after hearing of Aegon’s mercy at Highgarden. Aegon entered the city unopposed and was acknowledged as the rightful King of Westeros by the High Septon, thereby legitimizing his reign. Aegon began numbering the years of his reign from the surrender of Oldtown, a system eventually adopted across the continent.
The lands and houses of The Reach also played a key part in the War of the Usurper, during which House Tyrell remained loyal to Aerys II, the Mad King. Lord Randyll Tarly, one of Tyrell’s prominent bannermen, won an indecisive victory at the Battle of Ashford when he smashed his vanguard into Robert Baratheon’s forces before the majority of the Tyrell forces could take the field. While some of the Tyrell host stayed with King Aerys during the rest of the war, most of their forces, led by Mace Tyrell, instead laid siege to Stannis Baratheon at Storm’s End, an effort that lasted the majority of the war to negligible effect. Through the timely assistance of Davos Seaworth, Stannis was able to outlast the siege, unintentionally ensuring one of the largest loyalist forces would never take the field. Mace Tyrell lifted the siege and surrendered his forces once Eddard Stark came south after the sack of King’s Landing.
Far bloodier has been The Reach’s history with Dorne and House Martell, with whom they have been feuding for over a thousand years. While outright war is rare, skirmishes between the two lands are frequent, especially around the area of the Dornish Marches. When Daeron I was able to conquer Dorne, he charged a member of House Tyrell with the task of ensuring their continued loyalty. The Tyrell lord moved from one Dornish castle to the next, taking advantage of the various Lords and abusing their hospitality until one night he pulled the sash next to his bed to summon a Dornish wench and discovered the canopy had been rigged to spill a hundred scorpions on his head. He was promptly stung to death and Dorne rose in revolt soon after.
Although the two regions are ostensibly at peace, conflicts do occur sporadically and relations continue to be strained. The most recent incident of note was an injury sustained by [Willas Tyrell]] during a tourney joust against Oberyn Martell that left the heir to Highgarden with a ruined leg and his hopes of becoming a Knight forever dashed. The Martells protested that the injury was an unfortunate accident, but the Tyrells – with the exception of Willas himself – believe the wounding was intentional.
Highgarden – The seat of House Tyrell, Lords of The Reach.
Oldtown – The oldest city in Westeros.
Ashford – A market town.
The Arbor – An island famous for its wine.
The Shield Islands – An island grouping where the Mander reaches the Sunset Sea.