Sometimes it so happens that you assess your own worth through the caliber of your arch-nemesis. Sometimes your biggest adversary becomes somebody whom you kind of look up to and despise at the same time. It is a very weird and blurry space that we are talking about, where two people recognize the conflict that exists between them but also start extracting pleasure and a sense of contentment out of it. We perceived Daemon and Aemond’s relationship to be something like that in “House of the Dragon” Episode 8. Aemond had grown up to become an extremely nefarious and spiteful man. He was always searching for ways to demean and look down upon his nephews. It felt like he triggered people on purpose so that he could pick up a fight. He feared absolutely nothing. He had no reverence for anything in life. It felt like he just wanted to see the world burn. His motivations and intentions were so evil that they could send shivers down the spine of a reasonable person. But nobody is born like this. There were things that happened in his childhood that shaped his personality. He was no longer the same person. The hardships of his life had changed him from his core, and it was just a matter of time before this loose cannon caused irreparable damage.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Aemond was the only one among younger generation of Targaryens who didn’t have a dragon. The other kids, in their naivety and innocence, teased him. It was all just light-hearted fun until one day when unknowingly, Aegon, Jacaerys, and Lucerys crossed the line. They told Aemond that because he was the only one without a dragon, they had decided to find one for him. They brought a pig for him. Aemond felt insulted. There was a fire that was kindled inside him that day. He felt an incessant need to get a dragon, but he couldn’t. Alicent reassured him that one day he would get his dragon, but that didn’t do much to calm him down. He had been laughed at. His dwindling self-confidence had reached a new low. His ego had been severely bruised. Days passed, but the desire for a dragon remained unchanged. In the 7th episode of “House of the Dragon,” the whole family had gathered in Driftmark after the death of Laena Velaryon. Her dragon, Vhagar, was unclaimed at that point in time. Aemond saw this as an opportunity. He stood in front of the colossal beast. For a moment, a petrified yet determined Aemond saw directly into its eyes. Something changed inside the wild beast, and Aemond knew that he had become a Dragon Rider.
Aemond’s progression was pretty similar to that of Daemon. Daemon always aspired to be the Hand of the King. He also considered himself the heir to the Iron Throne. In the end, he was banished from the kingdom by his own brother and didn’t get anything that he had aspired for. In a fit of rage and to prove a point, Daemon went to fight the Battle of the Stepstones. He single-handedly defeated the Crabfeeder and the Triarchy. Both Aemond and Daemon had earned whatever they had gotten in their lives. Yes, they had royal names, but they were not privileged enough to get things handed over to them. They had made their own way. They both had seen horrible days. They had been treated very badly by their own kin. Maybe that’s why both of them had become quite ruthless in their approach. They didn’t care about the world any longer. That very night, when Aemond had claimed Laena’s dragon, he entered into a skirmish with Lucerys and Jacaerys Velaryon. That was the day he lost one eye and got his nickname, “Aemond The One-eye.” After that day, it had become his mission in life to not let Rhaenyra’s son sit on the Iron Throne and ruin their lives. Maybe this was one of the most crucial points that established a stark difference between Daemon and Aemond. Daemon was driven by love, and Aemond was driven by pure vengeance. Aemond didn’t have anybody like Rhaenyra in his life, with whom he had madly fallen in love. Maybe the boy didn’t know how to love. He was oblivious to the mere concept of loving another person. The two Targaryen princes might have had similar barbaric tendencies, but their motives were very different.
Aemond was enamored with Daemon. We say it because of the way he looked at him in the 8th episode of “House of the Dragon” when Daemon severed the head of Ser Vaemond Velaryon. It was evident that he idolized him. Maybe he aspired to be like him one day. There was awe, appreciation, and a feeling that seemed a bit more personal. Viserys wanted to have a supper with his whole family. A full family dinner would have been incomplete without the patented Targaryen palace politics. Aemond once again got irked when roasted pork meat was served on the table, and Lucerys Velaryon couldn’t stop laughing, remembering their childhood prank. Aemond was reminded of an old wound that had still not healed. He sarcastically made a comment about Rhaenyra’s sons and questioned their legitimacy. He entered into a brawl with Lucerys and Jacaerys, and Aegon rendered his support to his younger brother. Daemon intervened in between and asked Rhaenyra’s sons to stop. He, then stared at Aemond. The young Targaryen prince knew that he had to submit to the authority of his idol. He exited the scene, but the fire of vengeance was still burning inside him.
According to the works of George R.R. Martin, “Fire and Blood,” this was not the end of this peculiar relationship. Daemon and Aemond will come face-to-face once again. A battle was yet to be fought. In the upcoming civil war, which was called the “Dance of the Dragons,” the two indomitable forces will once again meet on the battlefield. The two antagonists will ride their dragons and try to get the better of each other. It was said that Daemon challenged his arch-nemesis to combat. He waited patiently for 13 days for him to arrive and then stabbed him with his sword, the Dark Sister. Aemond died fighting on the battlefield. Though Daemon’s body was never found, people believed that he had succumbed to his injuries. It is very easy to choose between right and wrong, but when you have to make a choice between two wrongs, that is when the problem arises. The irony was that in this story, both the forces were corrupted. We don’t know who fought for the right cause between Daemon and Aemond. We don’t know who was righteous and who was immoral. But they fought, and they fought with all their might. It was never about winning or losing, but rather the pleasure they derived from merely facing each other. Both of them were never able to sit on the Iron Throne, but their rivalry became their legacy. They were the ultimate villains who charted their own course. They lived life on their terms. They didn’t get intimidated by death but met their fate with their heads held high, like true Targaryens.