As High As Honour
House Arryn rules the Vale that shares its name, a fertile land nestled within the great range of the Mountains of the Moon. In their idyllic domain, the Arryns have often found themselves isolated from the greater events of the realm. This ended nearly fifteen years ago, though, as Lord Jon Arryn’s devotion to his former wards, Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon, drew House Arryn directly into the events that ended the Mad King’s reign. With Jon Arryn’s recent and sudden death, rule over the Vale falls to his widow and their sickly son, Robert, the last of the Arryn line. Lady Lysa has fled to the seclusion of the Eyrie, a virtually impregnable stronghold high in the mountains and the seat of House Arryn, and threatens to shut the Bloody Gate to the rest of the Seven Kingdoms at a time when the knights of the Vale may make all the difference.
The Arryn name goes back some 6,000 years to the Kings of Mountain and Vale, one of the oldest and purest lines of Andal nobility. Wars were common in those ancient days, but like the Kingdom of the North, the Vale was sheltered from external threats by its geography.
Following the Targaryen conquest, the Kings of Mountain and Vale bent their knees and kings became the Lords of the Vale, Defenders of the Eyrie, and Wardens of the East. Aerys II then repaid centuries of loyal service with the murder of Lord Jon’s nephew and heir, Elbert Arryn, for accompanying Brandon Stark as he sought to challenge Prince Rhaegar. When King Aerys then demanded the heads of Lord Arryn’s former wards, Jon raised the banners of rebellion. Lord Jon became Eddard’s good-brother by taking Lysa Tully to wife, securing Lord Tully’s aid. At the war’s conclusion, Robert Baratheon rewarded Lord Jon for his support by making him his Hand.
The Arryns have often been men and women of true worth, both wise and honest. The house has given birth to gallant knights and beautiful women, all of whom could be relied upon to take their responsibilities to the Vale very seriously. Duty and loyalty are among the watchwords for the children of this house. Unlike many other nobles south of the Neck, the Arryns carry themselves with little ostentation. They prefer good, plain armour to silvered, bejewelled plate, and the Eyrie’s sparse beauty is an exemplar of their preferred aesthetics.
The Eyrie is a small, beautiful castle, widely considered one of the most formidable strongholds in the Seven Kingdoms. The approach is by a difficult path up the face of the Giant’s Lance, guarded by a series of defences: a stout castle named the Gates of the Moon, commanded by the High Steward of the Vale, along with three waycastles called Stone, Snow, and Sky.
Beyond these castles, the Arryns name a Knight of the Gate to act as castellan of the twin watchtowers that guard the Bloody Gate, the door to the Vale itself, against which a dozen armies smashed themselves in the Age of Heroes. The armies of the Vale are a match in size for those of the North or Dorne. They are an untapped source of military strength in the chaos following King Robert’s death.
As Hand to the King, Lord Jon spoke with King Robert’s voice. This authority gave House Arryn more influence than it had ever had. Unfortunately, Lord Jon’s sudden death following his investigations into the parentage of Robert’s children reverses the house’s fortunes significantly and leaves the Vale without a strong ruler.
One cause of this turmoil is the loss of the Warden of the East position. King Robert is loath to bestow the title on a child, and so he takes the position away from House Arryn — the traditional holders of the title — and bestows it on Ser Jaime Lannister. This act angers Lady Lysa so greatly that she insists that her subjects call her son, Robert, the True Warden of the East.
Since Jon Arryn’s death, his wife Lysa rules in her son’s name as Lady of the Eyrie. She withdraws from the outside world in an attempt to protect her son and stays apart from the conflict that troubles the realm. She undermines this effort, however, by accusing the Lannisters of murdering her husband, then denying aid to her father against them. Lady Lysa’s chief concern is the safety of herself and her son, and she is willing to sacrifice the honour of the Vale and the lives of everyone else to that end.
ALLIED HOUSES: Stark, Tully
ENEMY HOUSES: Lannister
Ruling in name if not in fact, Lord Robert is a sickly child, given to tantrums, weeping, and shaking fits when overexcited. His mother is no help, protective to the point of hysteria. Though Lady Lysa was once full of hope, her unhappy marriage has left her a shadow of her former self. She guards her son jealously, suspicious of anyone who might try to take young Robert from her. Lysa spends most of her time doting on her son, enjoying the attentions of the suitors who seek her hand, and ignoring the pleas of Tullys and Starks to join the war against the Lannisters.
The lords of the Vale — at least those not pursuing Lady Lysa’s hand — are restive under her rule. Bronze Yohn Royce, the greatest of the Arryn bannermen, is outspoken in his desire to join the war against the Lannisters. Other great lords echo him, shamed by continued inaction. One source of dismay is Lady Lysa’s refusal to lend her uncle, Ser Brynden Tully, even a single sword to bring to Riverrun’s aid. Consequently, the Blackfish gives up his office as the Knight of the Gate and departs the Vale with his niece, Lady Catelyn Stark, to join Robb Stark’s host.
Lord Jon Arryn, Hand of the King, ruled the Vale until his death. Lady Lysa, his wife, now rules in his place as regent for her son. Lord Robert Arryn, a boy of six, is the last of his line.