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The Riverlands is a central region of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, consisting of the rich, fertile, and populous areas around the three forks of the Trident and the northern Blackwater Rush. Because of their central position in Westeros and lack of natural boundaries, the riverlands have been a frequent battleground. The people of the riverlands are known as "rivermen" or occasionally "riverlanders", and they are a mixture of hardy warriors, peaceful fisherfolk and devout smallfolk. Their lords have a reputation for being notoriously quarrelsome, and are referred to as "river lords". Noble bastards born in the riverlands are given the surname Rivers.
The Riverlands are currently ruled from The Twins by House Frey, the Lords Paramount of the Trident. Notable houses in the region include: Blackwood, Bracken, Mallister, Mooton, Piper, Ryger, Tully, and Vance. The houses of Paege and Baelish have found themselves extinct or in exile since the Ascent of the Lion, the former being the former Lords Paramount.
Following the turmoil of the region that was the War of the Five Kings, the Riverlands found themselves under the control of a new Great House, House Baelish of Harrenhal. The Tullys were restored to their ancestral seat of Riverrun, ruling their lands and becoming vassals to the monstrous black castle. The Freys, who also held on to their weak claim at the title, did the same from the Crossing.
For the better part of the two centuries to follow, House Baelish maintained control over the lands through sly and deviant actions, until they trickled to hardly be in existence at all.
The Tourney at Harrenhal was hosted by Lord Paramount Emmon Baelish, the recently named Lord of Harrenhal. At the tourney, Lord James Arryn was poisoned and his death was discovered to be caused by Lord Emmon himself. Emmon was executed for the murder of both his father and brother by Nathaniel Arryn as well as the death of James Arryn.
Marq Baelish, his cousin and last remaining male kin was named the new Lord Paramount of the Trident in return for swearing his kingdom's fealty to Damon Lannister in the Ascent of the Lion. During the Battle of the Kingswood however, Marq failed to answer Damon's call to arms and instead remained at Harrenhal. This prompted him to be named a traitor to the realm by the new Lannister king.
For Marq Baelish's treason, King Damon sent his cousin, Aeron Greyjoy, to pillage the Riverlands once more. Marq still remained behind his walls causing him to not only lose the Iron Throne's support, but the backing of the river lords, who saw his act as cowardly as they recieved the majority of the Ironborn's wrath. Marq and his cousin, Alicent Baelish, escaped Harrenhal before it fell, living in secret whilst their house was forced into exile. Alicent's mother, Sansa Arryn escaped as well with her young sister Malissa, unbeknownst to the other Baelishs.
Lord Edwin Frey of the Crossing was named the new Lord Paramount of the Trident and Lord of Harrenhal. Soon the new Lord Paramount discovered Marq, for the river lords refused to assist him in hiding, and he was promptly executed by Edwin. Alicent however managed to remain hidden and fled to Lannisport to create a new life for herself.
The Spring Without Sun was devastating to the central region of Westeros. The bridge at Fairmarket was washed away in the flood waters, the Tumblestone and Red Fork formed a lake around Riverrun, nearly all the harvest were destroyed, and the bloody flux afflicted many smallfolk. Many refugees from the Riverlands, mostly smallfolk, made their way south in an attempt to escape the harsh rains.
During this time, House Frey began to be riddled with rifts between Lord Paramount Edwin and his nephew, Lord Brynden Frey of the Crossing. Brynden began meeeting with river lords, receiving their backing for him to take the Lord Paramountcy. The Third Era ended with Gylen Hightower declaring himself the new King of the Reach. Lord Brynden answered the Iron Throne's call to arms, not making the same mistake of former river lords.
Upon treating with King Damon and Queen Danae, Brynden Frey convince them to name him the rightful Lord Paramount of the Trident, presenting them with a petition signed by many river lords including Darry and Piper. Edwin Frey had begun receiving significant council from a Septon Terrence Fossoway in fear of his nephew's ambition, however, this was put to an end when the septon died from weakening health and Brynden provided the Faith with a more appealing offer than his uncle could match.
Denys Mallister named himself Lord of Seagard and declared himself independent from the Frey's rule. Lord Paramount Brynden quickly descended upon Seagard, putting an end to the rebellion and named the former Lord Tylor Mallister's son, Marq Mallister, the new Lord of Seagard, taking him on as a ward.
Alicent Baelish was discovered by the King and Queen whilst visiting Lannisport. She was promptly delivered to The Twins and forced into a marriage with Brynden Frey to secure his rule. Their marriage did little to quell the still Baelish-supporting Brackens. Walder Bracken, the heir to Stonehedge had previously been betrothed to Alicent prior to her disappearance.
The Westerman, Harlan Lannett, was named Castellan of Harrenhal during this time. He enjoyed to style himself Lord, however, in order to impress women. He was wed to Quen Danae's former handmaiden, Joanna Plumm.
Lord Brynden and Lady Alicent's marriage was far from happy, eventually resulting in infidelity. Alicent Baelish and Walder Bracken renewed their past relationship, and she continuously encouraged the river lord to rebel against House Frey and her husband.
Harlan Lannett of Harrenhal was made Lord of Nun's Deep at the end of the era, causing him to retire as Castellan and return to the Westerlands with his wife Joanna.
Sansa Arryn's death warranted for Lady Alicent to leave the Crossing and return to Harrenhal for her mother's funeral. There, Walder Bracken and his men murdered nearly all in attendance who backed House Frey, causing the event to be known as the 'Red Funeral'. This was the starting point for much civil unrest in the Riverlands, with House Bracken declaring Alicent Baelish the rightful Lady Paramount of the Trident, ruling from Harrenhal whilst her husband was still the active Lord Paramount ruling from the Twins.
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Brynden Frey received the backing of Houses Blackwood and Mallister following word spreading of Walder Bracken's rebellion. Other river lords such as Tully and Vance of Wayfarer's Rest were slow to join a side, weary from years of strife in the region and Winter in full swing.