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The Starscream / A Song of Ice and Fire

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Yes, this series has so many examples of this trope that we had to create a page just for it. As always, beware of spoilers.

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  • In A Song of Ice and Fire this is a problem all the great Lords have. However, it's shown that being a Starscream is dangerous, as then your allies can use the same methods and become the new Starscream. Not only that, but it can lead to other vassals of those you betrayed trying to betray you.
    • The Boltons have been the historical enemies of the Starks, who rule the North, rebelling against them on numerous occasions, though the last one was centuries before the books begin. The feud is re-invigorated when Lord Roose Bolton murders King Robb Stark at the Red Wedding, and the Boltons are rewarded with control of the North by the Lannisters. The Freys are this to the Tullys, who rule the Riverlands. Walder Frey is a notoriously untrustworthy and opportunistic man with no loyalty to anybody but his House. He ends up betraying the Tullys and Starks at the Red Wedding, breaking guest right in the process, and his second son Emmon Frey is made Lord of Riverrun, the Tully castle. Then deconstructed when it's shown that the Freys are despised by nearly everybody in the Seven Kingdoms for their treachery, many men and members of Noble Houses being murdered at the Red Wedding, and are gradually being murdered, the smallfolk and River Lords not willing to help them. Meanwhile in the North many of the Northern Houses hate the Boltons and are trying to restore the Starks.
    • The Florents to the Tyrells, who rule the Reach. The Tyrells were the Stewards of Highgarden and had even married Gardners 10 times. They opened the Gates to Aegon after the Gardners were wiped out in the Conquest and were given control of the Reach, though this seems to have been more opportunism than a genuine attempt to supplant them, considering Aegon had already burnt the castle of someone who defied him and wiped out their House. However, the Florents believe themselves to have better Gardner descent, joining Stannis, who is married to a Florent, in the hope of increasing their power. It backfires when Stannis loses the Battle of the Blackwater, the Florents losing control of Brightwater Keep to the Tyrells.
    • The Reynes of Castamere, the second wealthiest House in the Westerlands, and the Tarbecks, to the Lannisters of Casterly Rock. These Houses rebelled against the weak Lord Tytos Lannister, who had almost ruined House Lannister. However, Tytos's son Tywin Lannister wiped out the Tarbecks, then Reynes, establishing the power of the Lannisters. There is even a song about it, "The Rains of Castamere".
    • The Lannisters ended up being this to the Targaryens, along with the Arryns, Starks, Baratheons, and Tullys. Tywin was made Hand of the King by Aerys II, who ruled the Seven Kingdoms well for years. However, Aerys became jealous of Tywin and ended up hating him, always seeking to undermine him, even forcing their oldest son Jaime Lannister to join the Kingsguard, meaning they couldn't inherit Casterly Rock. Finally "The Mad King's" cruelty and insanity, culminating in him executing without trial a group of nobles, led to various Houses rebelling against him. When Robert's Rebellion began winning against Aerys II, Tywin Lannister sacked King's Landing, sent his Knights to murder Aerys' grandchildren. Played with on Ser Jaime Lannister, The Kingslayer. They murdered Aerys, however, this was because Aerys was about to set off wildfire caches, murdering everybody in the city. The end result was that Robert Baratheon became the new King, having a claim through his grandmother being a daughter of a Targaryen King.
    • Before this the Blackfyres were this to the Targaryens, beginning from Daemon Blackfyre, a legitimized bastard of Aegon IV Targaryen and his cousin Daena Targaryen. Aegon seems to have wanted Daemon to succeed instead of his only legitimate son Daeron II. Another of Aegon's bastards, Aegor "Bittersteel" Rivers, may have also played this role, apparently convincing Daemon to rebel. When Daemon died, Bittersteel continued trying to help Daemon's descendants in taking the Iron Throne, though the Blackfyres apparently became extinct 38 years before the series began.
    • The new Baratheon regime has various Starscreams. The Lannisters, the House of Robert's Queen Cersei, become this, as Cersei's children were really fathered by her brother Jaime, and Cersei arranges for Robert's death in a Hunting "Accident". Stannis Baratheon, Robert's oldest brother, is believed to be this, in reality he is, by Westerosi law, Robert's heir, and doesn't want to be King, but believes it's his duty. Renly Baratheon is this as well, on Robert's death he tries to usurp the Iron Throne with the assistance of the Tyrells, largely due to being an arrogant and greedy guy, and because the Tyrells don't care who's King just so long as Margaery Tyrell can be Queen. Renly is even willing to murder his brother Stannis, despite them offering to make him heir.
    • The Tyrells are first helping Renly, after his death they join the Lannister regime so Margaery can marry Joffrey, and are becoming this to the Lannisters, poisoning Joffrey so his younger and more easily-controlled brother Tommen can become King. Cersei sees Margaery as this, believing she is manipulating Tommen and plotting against her, though it is unclear how much is Cersei's paranoia. Cersei believes the Tyrells were working with Tyrion and her uncle Ser Kevan Lannister in plotting to remove her from power, though it's clear this is from her paranoia and Kevan's main priority is to try and stabilise the regime, helping to remove Cersei due to her instability.
    • Tyrion Lannister is widely believed to be this to House Baratheon of King's Landing, he is found guilty of poisoning his nephew Joffrey and is accused of wanting to seize the Iron Throne himself. In reality, he was instrumental in keeping Joffrey on the Iron Throne, despite knowing they didn't really have a claim to it. He seems to have decided to become this to the Lannisters due to his ill-treatment, murdering his father Tywin, and intending to join the Targaryens as revenge against his family.
    • Eddard Stark is officially being thought of as this to the Baratheons of King's Landing, as after Robert's death he tried to make Stannis King, having found out about Joffrey's illegitimacy. However, he is forced to confess he was planning to usurp the Iron Throne himself as his daughter is being held hostage by the Lannisters. Despite this Joffrey has him executed. However, many people in King's Landing and the North don't believe this.
    • Varys is arguably this to everybody he's served, having been in court during the reign of the Mad King, and remaining throughout the other regimes. At the end of "A Dance with Dragons" he murders Ser Kevan Lannister, Cersei's uncle and a stabilizing influence on the Lannister-Tyrell regime, telling them this is so "Aegon Targaryen" can invade. It is theorised Varys is really a Blackfyre supporter, and helped feed Aerys's paraonia and destabilize his regime in preparation for a Blackfyre invasion. It is even claimed that "Aegon" is really of Blackfyre descent in the female line.
    • Grand Maester Pycelle is obviously a Lannister lackey. When he served Aerys he greatly admired Tywin Lannister's rule as Hand, and when Tywin came to King's Landing convinced Aerys to open the gates, hoping Tywin would become King. He remains loyal to the Lannisters throughout Robert's reign, knowing about Joffrey's illegitimacy but doing nothing to help Ned. However his loyalty to the Lannisters means that Varys ends up murdering him to destabilize the regime.
    • Lord Petyr Baelish "Littlefinger" is a Social Climber who has no loyalty to any save himself. He engineered the death of his liege lord Jon Arryn by persuading Jon's wife Lysa Arryn to poison Jon, as she was in love with him. Later he helps the Lannisters usurp the Iron Throne, while before that pretending to help Ned Stark, and is possibly responsible for getting him executed. He is rewarded for his services to the Lannister regime with the lordship of Harrenhal and Lord Paramountship of the Riverlands. However with the Tyrells he engineers Joffrey's poisoning, then marries Lysa Arryn, who is currently ruling for her young son Robert Arryn. Shortly after that he murders Lysa, enabling him to become Lord Protector of the Vale. And he is still plotting against the regime in King's Landing, hoping to use Sansa Stark to gain control of the North, intending to wed her to a cousin of Robert Arryn, who will inherit rule of the Vale if the weak and continually ill Robert dies.
    • The Greyjoys, who became the new ruling House after House Hoare went extinct, have had this problem from the Volmarks, as they are descended from a sister of Harwyn "Hardhand" Hoare, Harren's grandfather and believe they should have ruled the Iron Islands. However, the attempts they made at taking control were all defeated. It is mentioned at the Kingsmoot that Lord Maron Volmark might put forward a claim to the Seastone Chair. He doesn't, though the fact Euron Greyjoy gives him the lordship of the newly conquered Greenshield shows he could still be a threat. To Balon Greyjoy, his oldest surviving brother Euron "Crow's Eye" Greyjoy. He was exiled from the Iron Islands but returns two years later the day after Balon suddenly dies falling from a bridge during a storm. It is suspected Euron hired a Faceless Man to do the deed. Euron then declares himself King of the Isles, despite Balon wanting his daughter Asha to succeed. Balon's youngest brother Aeron Greyjoy calls a Kingsmoot so another of Balon's brothers, Victarion, can succeed, as Aeron thinks Victarion is too lawful to be The Starscream to be an older brother. Euron is able to get himself elected and sends Victarion to Essos to recover Daenerys. However, Victarion seems to be planning to be The Starscream for Euron, deciding he'll marry Daenerys himself.
  • Is always a problem with sellswords, who are notoriously unreliable and basically just in it for the money.
    • Daario, commander of the Stormcrows, begins supporting Yunkai against Daenerys, however, he then murders the other commanders, brings their heads to Daenerys, and helps defeat the other sellswords, the Second Sons.
    • Brown Ben Plumm, the new commander of the Second Sons, supports Daenerys, yet when events start turning against her he joins the Yunkai'i. However in "The Winds of Winter" he turns his cloak again, claiming this was his long-term plan.
    • The Brave Companions, a particularly nasty sellsword company known as "The Bloody Mummers" by many, begins the War of the Five Kings supporting Tywin Lannister. Later their leader Vargo Hoat turns against the Lannisters and they help take Harrenhal for Roose Bolton. Backfires against them when Roose Bolton becomes The Starscream for his King Robb Stark, joining the Lannisters.

    Historical Examples 
  • There have been numerous historical instances. When Aegon the Conqueror began his conquest of Westeros, Houses Massey and Bar Emmon, though sworn to House Durrandon, joined him.
  • One of the Kings Aegon was up against was "Black" Harren Hoare, who ruled the Iron Islands and Riverlands. However many of the River Lords declared for Aegon instead. After wiping out Harren's line in the burning of Harrenhal, Aegon made the first of the River Lords who had declared for him, Edmyn Tully, the new ruler of the Riverlands. Slightly more justified here, as Harren was a cruel tyrant who had beggared his Kingdom and killed thousands in building Harrenhal, the biggest castle in Westeros, and his grandfather had led the Ironmen in taking the Riverlands from its previous rulers, the Durrandons.
  • When Andals began crossing the Narrow Sea to the Vale, Dywen Shell and Jon Brightstone, who each claimed to be King of the Fingers, invited Andals to use against their rivals. The Andals betrayed them both, Corwyn Corbray deciding to take the Fingers for himself.
  • House Grafton gained control of Gulltown this way. King Osgood III Shett hired an Andal Knight, Gerold Grafton, to help against King Yorwyck VI Royce. He and his son married Gerold's daughters and Gerold married his daughter. Although Yorwyck was defeated, Osgood died in the battle (some say at Gerold's hand). Gerold usurped the rule of Gulltown and imprisoned Osgood's son till they had impregnated his daughter, after which no more is heard of them.
  • The infamous two betrayers during the Dance of the Dragons, Hugh Hammer and Ulf the White, "dragonseeds" (bastards of House Targaryen or Velaryon, or descendants of these bastards) who became dragonriders for the Blacks, then betrayed them during the First Battle of Tumbleton. However as Aegon II was too wounded to rule and had disappeared, his children were too young to rule, his eldest brother Aemond was dead, and his remaining brother Daeron was 13, Hugh decided he should be King, on the grounds he had a dragon, Ulf wanting Highgarden. They were murdered by a conspiracy of Lords, Hugh was murdered during the Second Battle by Ser John Roxton, who was then slain by Hugh's men. Ulf slept through it, then put forward his own claim, but was poisoned by Ser Hobert Hightower, even though Hobert had to drink the wine to prove it was safe.

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