Rhaenys led her army into Dorne. However, the Dornish refused to give battle, instead melting away into the mountains and deserts, returning only to launch guerrilla raids on the army. Rhaenys captured holdfasts to no avail, as their people (learning of what happened to Harrenhal) had already fled, leaving only the elderly and infirm. Frustrated, Rhaenys flew directly to Sunspear to demand Princess Mariya’s surrender. Mariya instead informed her that, “This is Dorne. You are not wanted here, return at your peril.” Rhaenys replied that she would return with “Fire and blood”, but Mariya simply replied, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”. The Targaryen army withdrew from Dorne, leaving the country untaken.
Ser Barristan Selmy claimed that in her youth Rhaella was in love with Ser Bonifer Hasty, who wore her favor and won a tournament where he named Rhaella queen of love and beauty. The pair had a passionate but ultimately doomed relationship, as Bonifer was of too low birth to be seriously considered as a suitor for a Targaryen princess. In later years, as Aerys’s insanity began to set in, he grew sexually abusive toward Rhaella. He developed a sexual fetish for fire and death, only sleeping with Rhaella after he had executed someone by burning. The final time, just before the queen was sent to Dragonstone to escape the coming siege of King’s Landing by rebels during the War of the Usurper, Ser Jaime Lannister of the Kingsguard recalls listening to Rhaella cry as the king raped her; when Jaime protested that the Kingsguard were sworn to defend the queen as well, Ser Jon Darry replied, “We are, but not from him”. In the morning, the queen’s maids reported seeing scratches, bruises and bite marks all over her body. According to Ser Barristan Selmy, Rhaella did her best to protect her younger son, Viserys, from the worst of Aerys’s excesses, keeping her child oblivious to the fact his father was sliding deeper into madness.
She loved music and poetry, played the harp very well and enjoyed sewing and embroidering. She was also devout in her faith, and often found solace in the pages of the Seven-Pointed Star. She would have become a septa, had her father allowed it.