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In a recent episode of Game of Thrones, Littlefinger is walking through the Vale with Sansa and telling her about the value of its natural defences. He mentions that the narrow passes force men to walk through the Bloody Gate in single-file, and that they made the Vale impregnable by land.

That gave me pause, however. The Eyrie sits on top of a mountain, exposed on nearly all sides to the sky. If Harrenhal is any indication, this would be a death trap for anyone fighting dragons. So how was the Vale captured during the first Targaryen invasion?

Did the lords there surrender once they realized it was impossible to defend themselves against dragons? I have a feeling Littlefinger's use of the Vale's defences are going to become an important plot point later in the books and show, but I'm wondering how it will work against Dany's dragons.

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I don't recall the books going into it, but from Sansa's impression of the castle being comparatively tiny to Winterfell, so probably unable to host much of a garrison, and Balerion's description: "Balerion was the largest of all the Targaryen dragons, his teeth were as long as swords and his jaws big enough to swallow a mammoth whole. His fire was as black as his scales, his wingspan so vast that entire towns would fall under his shadow when he passed overhead." .....I'd imagine just the sight would be enough to earn a quick truce. – coburne May 14 '14 at 17:30
Maybe they invaded in the winter. – Kevin May 14 '14 at 17:46
Not saying this is what happened, but an unassailable fortress can be defeated by siege warfare. You cut off their supply lines, and as long as you command the surrounding terrain, you don't even need dragons to win. We know the Westerosi know about siege warfare because Mace Tyrell employed it against Storm's End. – Andres F. May 15 '14 at 2:35
up vote 23 down vote accepted

According to a reading from The World of Ice and Fire:

The Arryns (also at this time ruled by a young boy and his regent mother) sent a massive army to the Bloody Gate and then high-tailed it into the Eyrie. But Visenya Targaryen simply rode her dragon up into the courtyard of the Eyrie and the regent rushed outside to see the young king seated on the dragon and begging her for a ride. The Arryns surrendered and the king had his ride.

See also Conquest of the Vale

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That would make such a lovely short story. I'm hoping GRRM writes it someday now that he's directly chronicling the Targaryen years. – System Down May 14 '14 at 18:19
Ah, so I guess they didn't touch upon it in the main books much at all! Good to know I'm not overlooking any details! – YonkeyDonk64 May 14 '14 at 18:40
"Sure we could fight a bloody and prolonged battle of attrition that would no doubt cause both sides countless lives and leave the area an inhospitable wasteland for could go for a ride with me on my dragon..." – Monty129 May 14 '14 at 20:01

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