HBO's House of the Dragon doesn't just delve into the history of the Targaryen dynasty; it also provides a look at the history of some parts of Westeros viewers never got to see in Game of Thrones. That includes the Stepstones, a chain of small islands between Westeros and Essos.
The Stepstones are strategically significant, as they are situated on a major trading route, and a major plot thread in the first few episodes of House of the Dragon revolved around the crown's dealings with an organization called the Triarchy, who controlled the region and had started to up the toll price.
You'd have been forgiven for thinking that the conflict in the Stepstones was finished when the Velaryon fleet wrought the islands back from the Triarchy and Daemon killed their leader, but as the Small Council meeting in the most recent episode revealed, the Triarchy is still out there causing trouble.
What is the Triarchy?
The Triarchy is an alliance between three of the Free Cities: Lys, Myr, and Tyrosh. It is also known as the Kingdom of the Three Daughters, because the Free Cities on the Western coast of Essos are sometimes referred to as the daughters of Old Valyria. The city of Tyrosh was initially established by the Freehold of Valyria as a means of controlling trade routes through the Stepstones. (The Triarchy's origins in Essos goes some way towards explaining how one of the masks worn by the Sons of the Harpy ended up in Westeros.)
The Triarchy was first formed after the Battle of the Borderland, when they drove Volantis out of the Disputed Lands. They then led an invasion of the Stepstones with the aim of policing the pirates who were operating in the islands, although Lys later began abducting women and children traveling through the region in order to sell them into slavery. Craghas Drahar, aka Crabfeeder, was the admiral prince of Myr, and while he was killed in episode three, the "eternal alliance" between the Myrish, Lysene and Tyroshi forces is still very much intact, and they have no intentions of relinquishing the Stepstones without a fight.
Spoiler warning for the books
In Fire & Blood, the fictitious history on which House of the Dragon is based, the Triarchy initially stayed out of the Targaryen war of succession known as the Dance of the Dragons. However, Otto Hightower knew them to be enemies of Daemon, who supported Rhaenyra's legitimacy as heir, and eventually persuaded them to ally themselves with Rhaenyra's half-brother Aegon.
The Triarchy dispatched a fleet of 90 ships to engage the Velaryon fleet in battle, and while they were victorious, only 28 ships survived. These huge losses began to spell the end of the Triarchy, which tore itself apart shortly after in the Daughters' War, and was officially ended by a rival Free City alliance between Pentos, Braavos and Lorath.
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