House Darklyn ruled the town of Duskendale and the surrounding lands in the Riverlands for centuries as kings until the eventual subjugation of the Riverlands by the many Kings of Westeros. The now rule themselves as Kings once more, taking control of the Claw and much of the Eastern Riverlands.
Shadow King Triston Darklyn
Conquest of the Claw
Triston Darklyn was the Lord of Duskendale after his father, Lord Jarmen, passed away. Having been raised a rather unambitious man, he aided his liege-lord, King Harren 'the Black' Hoare, in reigning in the rebellious Clawmen. The only exception to this was House Brune, who had sworn fealty to House Darklyn in exchange for protection for the tyrannical Iron King.
When he began his campaigns against the Clawmen, Lord Triston was considered one of the less militarily savvy lords at the Iron King's disposal, but he quickly silenced any doubts of his tactics as he learned and adapted, eventually becoming one the most brilliant military commanders in the realm.
Rise of the Shadow King
One after another, the Clawmen keeps quickly fell, solidifying what the Iron King thought was his grasp on his eastern borders. Unfortunately, Lord Triston and Lord Brune had other plans. At the recommendation of Lord Brune, Lord Triston brought up the idea of a "Shadow King" to King Harwyn 'the Downcast', King Harren's eldest son. The Shadow King would be a figurehead in the Riverlands, meant to pacify the ever rebellious Riverlords.
After much deliberation and due to his ever depressed nature, King Harwyn agreed, forming the Kingdom of the Dusklands and granting House Darklyn the tile of Shadow King of the Dusklands. This would be considered the greatest error King Harwyn would make before his demise, just a year later.
Steffon 'the Black Prince'
Shadow King Triston's eldest son, Prince Steffon, was nothing like his father had imagined his heir would turn out. While he was indeed a brave and zealous warrior, and had no issue commanding men, he was not kind nor just, as King Triston believed a good ruler should be. It was because of this that it was decided that Prince Steffon would be given a choice. To join either the Night's Watch or one of the Faith Militant or become a Maester of the Citadel. This would leave his only son, Damon, as the heir to the Dusklands.
Prince Steffon, infuriated by his father's wishes, fled to the North with his wife, Morra Stark, to seek refuge with his father-in-law, King Torrhen Stark. Unbeknownst to Prince Steffon, his father had already sent a raven to King Torrhen requesting that he imprison his rebellious son and banish him to the Wall before he could rally any of the honorable Northmen to what he considered his 'cause'.
King Torrhen, considering King Triston a good friend and an honorable ally, agreed. When Prince Steffon and Princess Morra arrived at the gates of Moat Cailin, King Torrhen was waiting there with a company of Northmen riders. Believing the Stark King was there to welcome him to the North with open arms, Prince Steffon foolishly showed himself, even after his wife warned him that her father was not there to aid them.
Almost immediately, King Torrhen placed Prince Steffon under arrest and charged him with high treason, banishing him to a lifetime service with the Night's Watch. Accepting his fate, he gave one last farewell to his wife and began the journey to the Wall. Along the way, the Stark men who had been escorting Prince Steffon began calling him 'the Black Prince'. This was less of a mocking name and more of a respectful moniker, as the Northmen believed that Prince Steffon had done no wrong and the Wall was no place for him.
The Black Prince's Betrayal
After spending a short time at the Wall with the Night's Watch, Prince Steffon quickly became the target of his 'brothers' hatred and animosity. This mostly came from his moniker of 'the Black Prince' as they felt neither he nor his father were any form of royalty and nothing more than upstarts. It also came from the fact that he was immediately made a Ranger due to his combat prowess. He could only put up with his mistreatment for so long, and decided that if not even the Night's Watch wanted him, he would abandon Westeros and flee to the one place he saw as free, beyond the Wall. Under the pretense of going on a Ranger expedition, Steffon went north with two other Black Brothers. He would kill his 'brothers' soon after and flee even farther north.
Upon arriving in Antler Vale, he would be captured by the Wildling Chief, Calon Boarhell. Before Chief Calon could execute who he thought was a stray Crow, Lenn 'Shieldbreaker', the King Beyond The Wall, would invade the Antler Vale and subjugate Chief Calon. Rather than kill Steffon, King Lenn decided to listen to his story before making any rash decisions. When Steffon was finished telling his tale, King Lenn offered him a place among his own and to make him one of his warlords. Not long after, King Lenn would die to an infected wound and his son, Orell, would inherit the title of King Beyond The Wall.
Unlike his father, King Orell had no love for the Black Prince and quickly made an attempt on his life. While King Orell would fail, the Black Prince would suffer a severe wound and be forced to flee south of the Wall as the Free Folk now deemed him an enemy. As Steffon ventured farther and farther south, he learned of the happenings of Westeros. His father, Shadow King Triston, had risen in rebellion against the daughter of King Harwyn 'the Downcast' following his early death.
He also learned that King Torrhen Stark had raised the entirety of his army to march south to aid his father. Seeing this as an opportunity to slip past any Stark, Hoare, and Darklyn bannermen, he made his journey as far south as he could go; Dorne. He only stopped once on his journey south, to visit his love, Morra Stark. After spending a night in the town outside of Winterfell, he continued his journey south.
Princess Deria of Dorne, being the ever elusive ruler, learned of the Black Prince's return to Westeros and sought him out as a possible tool to expand into the Riverlands after she had dealt with the Stormlords. After meeting with a Dornish envoy, the Black Prince agreed to aid Princess Deria in return for his rightful throne.
This would never come to fruition, however. As the Black Prince was making his way through the Riverlands, Stark bannermen would come across him and arrest him. Being brought back to their camp, where both King Torrhen and Shadow King Triston were located, he would be put to death by King Torrhen as a traitor and deserter to the Night's Watch.
Striking From The Shadows
Not long after the death of Iron King Harwyn 'the Downcast' Hoare, the Ironborn had decided to elect a new Iron King. While King Harwyn's only daughter Unella, a girl of the age of two, kept the title as Queen of the Riverlands, his younger brother Ygon was elected as the new Iron King of the Iron Isles. This was seen as the golden opportunity that the Shadow King and Lord Brune had been waiting for.
The Shadow King's vie for freedom would have been much longer had it not been for his faithful friend and ally, King Torrhen Stark, invading the Riverlands under the pretense of conquering the Freylands. This was, however, a ploy to indirectly aid the Darklyn cause. This sudden attack by the North prompted the Kings of the Rock, Vale, and the Stormlands to also stake their claims in the Riverlands.
Having the armies of the Kings of Westeros descend on her land, Queen Unella's regent decided to make peace with the North and the Darklyns, deciding it was better the focus on the more immediate threats. This only came to be after a series of skirmishes between Hoare and Darklyn hosts all throughout the banks of the Trident. While the Shadow King won every battle that he engaged the Hoare army in, the most critical would be the Battle of Poolguard, outside of Maidenpool, where the massive Darklyn host of 12,000 bannermen miraculously stumbled upon a Riverlord host of 6,000, led by Ser Creighton Keath, on it's way to meet with the remainder of the Hoare forces.
This battle, which would completely annihilate the entirety of the Riverlord loyalist army, would mark the end of not only Hoare supremacy in the Riverlands, but also the birth of a new free Riverlands under the name of the Kingdom of the Dusklands.
It would be there that the newly adopted words of House Darklyn would be uttered. As the Darklyn forces began their charge to initiate the Battle of Poolguard, many of the men took to their king, Triston Darklyn, as he ordered his men: "Strike these false Rivermen down, men! Strike from the shadows!" After the battle was over, the entire army burst into a cheer, yelling "Strike From The Shadows" at the top of their lungs. The Shadow King honored his men, both the living and the dead, by adopting the saying as the words for House Darklyn.
The Bloody End
Following the Shadow King's victory over the tyrannical Hoares, the Dusklands experienced a time of peace that would help solidify it as the major power in the eastern Riverlands and the Claw. Triston Darklyn, now commonly called Triston 'the Bloody' for the several wars caused by the Darklyn uprising, had grown old and spent his last years raising his grandson, Damon, to be a proper ruler, unlike his father the Black Prince.
While lacking the same tactical prowess of himself, Triston managed to teach Damon to be a strong, honorable fighter, while also teaching him that action spoke louder than words. After his heir was of age, Triston focused on building the military might of the Dusklands with the son of his age old ally, Godry Brune, the new lord of Crackclaw Point, Perkin 'the Paw Knight'. Together they created a military force nearly 20,000 strong for the Dusklands.
The Dusklands army was comprised of the personal forces of the Shadow King, the knights of House Darklyn of Duskendale; The knights of House Brune of Crackclaw Point; the old sworn bannermen of House Darklyn, Houses Harte, Buckwell, Byrch, and Hollard; and lastly the newly established House Darklyn of Rosby, led by the Shadow King's youngest son, Alvyn Darklyn.
It was after the stabilization of the Dusklands power in the east that the Shadow King began to show signs of stress and, in extreme circumstances, lunacy. This was often credited to his only other son, Waltyr, attempting to murder the young prince Damon in order to inherit. Just as had happened with the Black Prince, the Shadow King called upon the King of the North, now Torrhen's eldest son, Brandon Stark, to send the would-be kinslayer to the Wall, just as his father had done to the Black Prince.
It was shortly after this that Triston Darklyn died in his bed, at the age of 67. The realm mourned the man who brought them freedom from their Ironborn oppressors, and united to witness the first true coronation of a Shadow King, the now grown Damon Darklyn.
Shadow King Damon 'the Lionslayer' Darklyn
The First of His Name
Following the death of his father, Damon Darklyn ascended the throne as the new Shadow King of the Dusklands. It
was at his coronation that Damon issued his first decree; Every Shadow King would hold a military coronation inside of the Dun Fort. This would include a melee tourney, joust, and mock battle to test the military prowess of their new ruler.
Damon Darklyn, widely considered a remarkable warrior, would set this tradition so that no Darklyn that followed him would ever have an excuse to be anything but the best warrior they could be. This would not only instill a deep military tradition in the Darklyn family, but would spawn the strict, harsh, and demanding culture that would be the Darklyn way of life.
The Reaver, the Lion, and the Shadow
Not long after Shadow King Damon Darklyn inherited the throne, tensions in the Hoare controlled Riverlands were at an all time high. King Lyman, ironically called 'the Just', declared war upon the Queen Munda Hoare. This was done under the false pretenses of a cleansing of the Ironborn heathens. This would be called into question when the Reach, under orders of the High Septon, did not join the Westerland war when they were called to raise their arms.
Despite this, King Lyman would continue his war and began marching his armies towards Stoney Sept. It was at this point that King Lyman received a raven from Shadow King Damon which read simply: "Set foot into the Riverlands and you will suffer my wrath." Regardless of the warning, King Lyman marched onward and laid siege to Stoney Sept.
Not two days later, Westeros as a whole would see a sight it would have thought impossible. As the Lannisters and Hoares clashed at both Pinkmaiden and Stoney Sept, a force of 20,000 men, led by the Shadow King, would charge across the Blackwater Rush and aid the Ironborn army in crushing the Lannister host. Shadow King Damon would immediately march his army to Pinkmaiden, to meet King Lyman's host in battle.
What followed was a battle Westeros had not seen since the Duskland's war for independence. The Battle of Pinkmaiden would last three days, and was on the dawn of it's fourth when the Shadow King decided enough was enough. He led a small group of his finest knights and smashed past the enemy's front line to meet King Lyman face to face.
King Lyman, knowing his men grew tired and restless from the fight, saw this as not only a chance to crush the temporary Hoare-Darklyn alliance, but to crush what he saw as a house of upstarts. King Lyman would challenge the Shadow King to single combat, to put an end to the battle in the most honorable of ways. Shadow King Damon had no choice but to accept, at least in his own mind, and ordered his men to stand down.
Thus the Lion would pounce and the Shadow would strike, over and over again for what seemed like an eternity. As both armies watched their Kings fight, they could only watch in both awe and horror as they traded blow after blow. Finally the Lion's claw would miss and the Shadow would take the chance and strike him down, yet not fatally. As the wounded King Lyman lay at the Shadow King's feet, Damon would offer him the chance to surrender and live, to which King Lyman would refuse.
With a heavy sigh, Damon would strike the final blow, giving King Lyman a warrior's death. While the Darklyn force
cheered the words of House Darklyn, Strike From The Shadows, the Lannister host would weep for their fallen King. Shadow King Damon would allow his enemies to take the remains of his honorable foe and return them to Casterly Rock for a proper burial. With that the armies of the Kraken, the Lion, and the Shadow would begin their journeys home.
As the Darklyn host marched through the Riverlands, the smallfolk would give them cheer and praise, as word had quickly spread of the Shadow King riding to their rescue. They would call him the 'Savior of the Trident' and Damon 'the Lionslayer'. The Shadow King's men would take a heavy liking to the latter and so he would take on the moniker of 'the Lionslayer' to serve as a reminder to those who would attempt to oppress his people. It would also be a reminder for his people, that House Darklyn would someday come to their rescue and free them from the oppression of the Ironborn.
The Lionslayer and the Little Sun
Following the war to defend the Riverlands from the Westerland invasion, Shadow King Damon would return home and rest while the Dusklands would experience it's second long period of peace and stability. It was at this time that Shadow King Damon would take on the young Myriah Martell, his granddaughter and Princess of Dorne, as his ward.
The Shadow King would form a special bond with his young ward, as she would follow Damon wherever he went. As time went on, Damon would take to calling Princess Myriah his "Little Sun", much to the Princess' approval. In turn, Princess Myriah would take take to a large rat she found in the many tunnels and walkways of the Dun Fort, calling him Damon the Rat.
Through their years together, Shadow King Damon would teach the young Princess in the ways of war, since in his experience, war was an inevitability. She would object at first, but quickly took a liking to the art of warfare and would grow into a respected and able commander.
This merry tale of a Princess and her knightly grandfather would not last long, however. Shadow King Damon had suffered the stress and fatigue of countless marches, battles, and campaigns. All his soldiering and gallivanting across the Riverlands had finally caught up with the beast of a man. The Shadow King would become severely weak and would remain bedridden until his death a few short months later, leaving his granddaughter with nothing more than the crown his grandfather, Triston 'the Bloody', had forged at the birth of the Dusklands.
Shadow King Steffon 'the Just' Darklyn
The First Fall
Unlike his predecessors, Shadow King Steffon, already known as 'the Just' for his time as his father's castellan, inherited the throne of the Dusklands well into his adulthood, quickly nearing the age of 50. It was because of this that King Steffon's time as a warrior had already waned. Regardless, he held the traditional coronation tourney and competed in every event, as was his requirement. Even after his defeat at the hands of a knight of House Darke, the newly established cadet dynasty created by Damon 'the Lionslayer', he was cheered for and revered due to the love his vassals and smallfolk alike had for him.
His reign would not go without suffering scrutiny due to this. Some of the members of House Darke and House Blackclaw, the cadet dynasty of the ever loyal House Brune, had ideas to overthrow the Darklyn line of Shadow Kings. Their major point was that not only was King Steffon the first of the Shadow Kings to be bested in their coronation tourney, but was defeated by another son of Damon 'the Lionslayer'. Through the combined efforts of the loyal Lords Brune, Darke, and Darklyn of Rosby, these ideas of a new line of Shadow Kings were put down before the fires of civil war ignited.
The Lionslayer's Legacy
One of Shadow King Steffon's major contributions to House Darklyn was reforging the armor that Damon 'the Lionslayer' wore during his many battles and campaigns into a set of armor that would be passed down from one Shadow King to the next. The original set of armor was a simple set of plate armor with the banner of House Darklyn on it's pauldrons. King Steffon would take the armor and reforge it into a set of pitch black plate armor adorned with silver-grey gilding, meant to signify the Stark blood that still ran through the veins of every living Darklyn, and a red cloak embroidered with the seven black shields of House Darklyn, meant to signify the knights of House Darklyn who gave their lives in defense of the realms of men against the Others.
With it a steel shield would be forged, depicting a golden lion being pierced by a black bastard sword, surrounded by seven black shields. Many of the knights sworn to House Darklyn were present to witness Damon 'the Lionslayer and saw this as a just way to remember their late great Shadow King.
Others, including many of the knights of House Darke and House Darklyn of Rosby, saw this as a stain upon the glory that was the duel between the Shadow and the Lion. Regardless, the shield stayed as did the set of armor. Some years later, after being tried and tested on the field of battle, it would be dubbed 'the Nightmare's Shroud', or more simply 'Nightmare', as every time war broke out in the Riverlands men would be kept awake at night by dread, seeing the pitch black plate in their dreams.
The Reign of Peace
Shadow King Steffon did very to expand his lands. He did not liberate any lands from the Ironborn and did not bring the Riverlords under his rule. What he did do was more than any other Darklyn king before him had; He made peace, he made allies, and he commanded the respect of the other kings of Westeros. He made slight amends with the Lannisters, giving recompense for their past hostilities. He established trade with the Storm Kings, selling the newly conquered Dragonstone to the Storm Lords for a hundred pounds of gold, and thus established the port from which traders and merchants from the city of Duskendale could make safe passage to the Stormlands capital, Storm's End.
Even farther south, he made a non-aggression pact with the Gardener kings of the Reach, making it abundantly clear that war with the Reach would result in the end of House Darklyn and all it had built. With it, Shadow King Steffon offerred a gift, a Darklyn princess. His granddaughter would marry the crown prince of the Reach, linking their houses and mixing their blood, as the Shadow Kings before him had done with the Starks, Durrandons, and Martells.
The only great house of Westeros that Shadow King Steffon decided to hold off making peace with were his age old enemies; the Ironborn. House Hoare still ruled a portion of the Riverlands from their keep, Harrenhal, and Steffon was assured by his son and heir that he would put an end to the Hoare rule on the mainland. He also remembered what had set off the blood feud between their houses very clearly; He had been kidnapped in his youth while traveling to the North by one of the Hoare's bannermen.
House Greyjoy, the new kings of salt and stone, were not contacted, mostly due to the fact that Steffon saw no reason to fear someone on the other side of the continent.
Shadow King Steffon would pass away at the age of 53, leaving his son and heir Prince Damon, as the new Shadow King. What Steffon would never learn was the chaos and strife that would follow a decade later.
Shadow King Damon II 'the Black' Darklyn
The Great and Mighty
Shadow King Damon Darklyn, named after his grandfather Damon 'the Lionslayer', inherited his throne well into adulthood much like his father. Damon, however, was still a skilled warrior well into his adult life, being widely considered one of the greatest warriors in Westeros. Immediately following his ascent to the throne, Shadow King Damon held a coronation tourney, which he had coined 'The Black Tourney', wherein he quickly and soundly defeated every knight, lord, or otherwise who faced him in the joust, melee, and mock skirmish.
By the time the tourney had ended, Damon Darklyn was considered the greatest warrior-king that House Darklyn had ever seen. This would only be proven in his later years, in his war with the Ironborn.
The Kraken and the Shadow
Some time after his coronation, Shadow King Damon received a raven from Pyke, the seat of House Greyjoy. It read as follows:
"To the Riverlord upstarts of House Darklyn,
I, Tristifer Greyjoy, King of Salt and Stone, command you to rid yourself of your pitiful crown and bend the knee to the Iron Isles, as your lands are rightful Ironborn territory. Refuse and I shall burn your lands, slaughter your people, and tear your keep stone by stone. I will offer you and your sons and your brothers to the mighty Drowned God, rape your daughters, and give them to my men as saltwives. The choice is yours, so called Shadow King.
Iron King Tristifer Greyjoy, King of Salt and Stone"
Outraged, Shadow King Damon called his bannermen, Houses Brune, Darklyn of Rosby, Darke, Harte, Byrch, Hollard, and Buckwell to meet for a war council in preperation for an invasion of the Iron Isles. While the consensus was that the Ironborn would pay for their threat, there was no way to land an army on the Iron Isles as the Dusklands had no major fleet. The Shadow King would send his bannermen home to raise their armies to prepare for a defensive war.
Several days later, a Bravosi armada would arrive in the Blackwater Bay, with an invasion force prepared to land on the shores outside of the Dun Fort. By this time, Shadow King Damon had already raised an army of 18,000 men but when the army of Bravos landed it was clear who would be victorious. A force of nearly 30,000 Bravosi warriors landed and engaged the Dusklands army. The battle would only last a day until the Shadow King would call for a parlay with the Sea Lord of Bravos.
When the two leaders met, it was the Ironborn had made a military alliance pact with the Bravosi and had agreed to assist them in their invasion. After much negotiation, Shadow King Damon convinced the Sea Lord to retreat his armies until he could gather his forces for a fair and honorable battle. Surprisingly the Sea Lord agreed and his armies reembarked their ships and sailed away, promising to return within the week.
When the Shadow King took count of his troops, he realized what had seemed like a skirmish had dwindled his army from 18,000 to just over 10,000. With the impending threat of the Bravosi force of 30,000 and the tens of thousands that the Ironborn would bring, it seemed to many of the lords of the Dusklands that their time had come to an end.
What they had forgotten were the actions of Steffon 'the Just', who had made alliances with the Gardeners, Durrandons, Arryns, Martells, and Starks. When the ravens flew north and south, they armies of Westeros mobilized to aid the Dusklands.
Only a single battle was fought before the Ironborn realized they had no chance for victory and submitted. Shadow King Damon demanded that the Ironborn never set foot in Westeros again, lest he bring down the armies of his allies onto the Iron Isles.
The War of the Five Kings and the birth of Black Death
One thing that Shadow King Damon had always striven for was something that many of the other great houses of Westeros had already possessed for hundreds of years, a Valyrian steel sword. Taking a trip to the Citadel, Damon searched it's many texts and documents in search of any possible location of a Valyrian steel sword. It is then he was told by one of the Archmaesters that the Doom had swallowed countless Valyrian steel swords and it may be possible to find one in the ruins of Old Valyria.
The Shadow King set out with a handful of his household guard on a ship from the Duskendale fleet. He would sail for Old Valyria, leaving his wife as regent to watch over their lands and children.
While no one knows what the Shadow King saw or experienced in his 5 months away from his lands, all that is know is he came back a changed man, with none of the men he had set out with and a Valyrian steel sword at his hip. He had it reforged in Volantis, making it a pure black bastard sword with a grey cross-guard and a black gemstone in the shape of a shield at the pommel. When presented to his family, the Shadow King would reveal it's name; Black Death.