“The sky was the same, and the sea. The same salt smell was in the air, and the water chuckling against the hull was just as he remembered it. A thousand flickering campfires burned around the castle, as the fires of the Tyrells and Redwynes had sixteen years before.” – A Clash of Kings
The Stormlands is one of the constituent regions of the Seven Kingdoms. It was a kingdom in its own right under the same name until Aegon’s Conquest. It is ruled from the castle of Storm’s End by House Baratheon. Bastards born in the Stormlands are given the surname Storm.
South of The Crownlands, east of The Reach, and north of Dorne stretch the verdant forests and windswept shore of The Stormlands. Once home to the violent and tempestuous Storm Kings, it is now the demesne of House Baratheon, with all banners sworn to Lord Renly Baratheon at Storm’s End. Men of The Stormlands trace their lineage back to a king willing to fight the gods, and willful enough to win doing so. It has hillsides dotted with storm-tossed castles, shorelines filled with ship-breaking rock, and forests thick with wild animals. It was the first line of defense against the Dornishmen for centuries of fighting and its Marcher Lords still settle more arguments with sharp swords than flowery debate. It is a hard land, from which come hard people.
The Stormlands are located south of King’s Landing and the Sea of Dorne, bordered on the west by the lands of The Reach and on the east by the expanse of the narrow sea. It is a land of harsh mountains, verdant forests, stony shores, and the Dornish Marches. The Marches were a regular battleground between The Stormlands, The Reach and Dorne for centuries, changing hands more than once until Dorne became part of the Seven Kingdoms. A few islands, including Tarth and Estermont, are also considered part of The Stormlands, though any isles further east are counted as part of the chain of islands known as The Stepstones. Most people of Westeros think primarily of the imposing Storm’s End and the dangerous Shipbreaker Bay when they hear of The Stormlands, but the area is significantly larger and more varied than one castle.
All the shores from King’s Landing to Wyl are rough and unwelcoming, lined with jagged rocks and sharp outcroppings. They are passable in clear weather, but they become deadly during the many incidents of rough winds. A ship can break up on the rocks within sight of a safe harbor or even be smashed while at dock. Ships coming across the narrow sea avoid much of The Stormland’s coastlines, though Massey’s Hook can serve as a shelter for ships heading to King’s Landing. When not chained by squalls, the seas along The Stormlands can be amazingly clear and blue. The waters around Tarth are particularly famed for their clear blue color, earning Tarth the name “Sapphire Island.”
There are no major cities in The Stormlands. This is largely a cultural phenomenon, as many of the regions (the rainwood and kingswood in particular) are certainly fertile enough to support larger populations. However, the long martial traditions of The Stormlands discourage the building of large, undefended cities, places that would be easy targets for invaders. A large castle such as Bronzegate is a good example of the settlement development of The Stormlands. Several small towns lie within a few days travel, supporting the fortress. In times of war the smallfolk of these smaller settlements can retreat to Bronzegate, finding safety within its walls. Even if a lord lacks room for all his people, a series of small towns make a much more difficult target for an attacker to fully conquer, especially as any assault against one town may result in the castle’s forces sallying out to strike at an invader in a different location.
The majority of The Stormlands is rough wilderness, even within just a few days travel of “civilization”. The people of this land are avid huntsmen as a result. Despite this familiarity with wilderness survival, banditry is no more common here than in any other land; the brigands have fewer places to settle in to escape bad weather, and there are fewer caravans passing through offering fat pickings.
The Dornish Marches are less rough, with no real shores to speak of and few mountains, and the Marches experience fewer storms than lands to their east. However, regular warfare over centuries gives the people of these lands a similar character to their mountain – and forest – dwelling brethren, and they remain less densely populated than many lands further north.
Also within The Stormlands lie the ruins of Summerhall, a Targaryen stronghold destroyed by fire in 259 AC, the same night Prince Rhaegar Targaryen was born. Built near the borders of The Stormlands, The Reach and Dorne, the castle was a major retreat for the Targaryen kings. While the direct heir was titled “Prince of Dragonstone,” a younger son could be named “Prince of Summerhall.”
King Durran I, also known as Durran Godsgrief, founded the kingdom of the Storm Kings. A legendary figure from the Age of Heroes, King Durran supposedly won the love of Elenei, daughter to the god of the sea and the goddess of the wind. Her divine parents forbade their love, but Durran and Elenei wed despite them. The gods’ wrath was terrible to behold, destroying Durran’s keep on his wedding night, killing all his family and guests. Enraged, Durran declared war on the gods, who replied by hammering his kingdom with massive storms. Each time King Durran built a castle to face the sea the gods destroyed it.
Fighting the gods was considered folly, and Duran’s lords and small-folk counseled him to build further from the sea. King Durran refused and demanded that larger and more powerful fortifications be built to replace each stronghold lost. Durran’s priests begged him to send Elenei back into the sea, to lessen the gods’ rage, but Durran refused and built seven castles, one after another, daring the elements to strike them down. Though six were lost to wave and thundercloud, the seventh stood fast in even the mightiest of storms.
Legends disagree on exactly how Durran discovered the secret of engineering an indestructible fortress. Some claim he recruited the aid of the children of the forest. Others believe he was aided by a young boy wise beyond all builders – the boy who would grow up to become Brandon the Builder. All agree once Durran proved he could raise a castle the gods of sea and wind couldn’t bring low, the war was ended. Though massive storms and foul weather remained common throughout The Stormlands, none were again as terrible as the early years of Durran’s reign. Having overcome the fury of weather itself, King Durran was named the first Storm King, a title carried on for centuries through his family line.
When Aegon the Conqueror set his sights on The Stormlands, he left its acquisition to Orys Baratheon, one of his most accomplished generals as well as his bastard half-brother. Argilac the Arrogant, last of the Storm Kings, left the impregnable Storm’s End to face Orys’ forces in open battle and was defeated. Orys was given control of The Stormlands by Aegon and chose to marry Argilac’s daughter to legitimize his control of the region. Though retaining the Baratheon name, Orys adopted the sigil and motto of his wife’s Storm King ancestry.
The Baratheon family remained close to the conquering Targaryens for several generations, often producing royal bastards (given the surname Storm) and occasionally intermarrying as well. Rhaelle, the daughter of Aegon the Unlikely, married into the Baratheon line, thus giving them a weak link to The Iron Throne. When Robert Baratheon led a successful rebellion against the Mad King, this tenuous claim was held up as legal vindication of Robert’s ascension to the throne. He handed Storm’s End to his youngest brother, Renly, and Dragonstone to their middle sibling, Stannis.