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[ASOIAF][SI] No Promises

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Nugar, Jan 29, 2018.

  1. Threadmarks: Prologue: Be careful with that thing.

    Nugar Know what you're doing yet?

    Aug 20, 2015
    Likes Received:
    No Promises

    I killed for the second time when I was six years old.

    It took some begging, and some creative arguing, but a few fairly enthusiastic temper tantrums and a promise to be careful eventually convinced my father, the king, Robert Baratheon, to let me keep an unstrung heavy crossbow in my room to play with along with my wooden swords and the wooden toy warhammer I used to ingratiate myself into my father’s good graces.

    My dear mother Cersei wasn’t that enthusiastic about it, but when I told her it was so I could protect her and my unborn sibling, she softened and smiled indulgently. I was pretty diligent about making Robert proud of his son, but I always put the most effort into making sure Cersei loved me. I couldn’t rely on how much she doted on her children originally, not given the head full of dark, unquestionably Baratheon hair I sported.

    I had been born as the dark haired, originally stillborn first born child of Robert and Cersei, before she started having her brother’s kids. I don’t really remember it, but I do know that I was born pretty sickly, but got over it by the time I was a year old.

    They named me Eddard, after Robert’s best friend, much as Ned Stark’s firstborn son was Robb. At my tender age of six, I had one living sister, Myrcella of the golden hair, who I doted on as much as possible, and another sibling on the way. There had been a blond brother, Joffrey, who survived birth but died before he could leave his crib. Tragic, really.

    So I managed to get ahold of a crossbow. It was heavy as hell, but I was pretty big and strong for a six year old, since I had Robert’s warrior genes and had been effectively training since before I could walk. Most crossbows were just made of wood, with only a few nails and braces here and there to make them work, but this was a nice one. Mostly wood, of course, but with metal plates and action, and the winch used to cock it used iron gears.

    I had a few bolts I’d picked up here and there stashed in my room, and even a pair of strings from the armory. The problem, of course, was stringing it.

    The damned thing probably had a draw weight of two hundred pounds, maybe more. I have no idea exactly how the armsmen string them, but I’ve got ideas and I’m actually pretty familiar with crossbows. I simply used a length of good thin rope tied to the arms of the bow, then twisted with a short, sturdy stick to slowly draw them together. Once I got that as tight as I could, I hooked the cocking winch to it and had it restrung in less than ten minutes. Then, of course, I had to unstring it again, because I didn’t want it taken away from me too soon.

    I practiced quickly stringing and unstringing it whenever I could, mostly at night, after everyone else was asleep. I also spent some time lugging it around my rooms, practicing aiming with it and getting used to the weight. I ended up making a sling for it that let me carry it at my side, and would allow me to fire it from the hip. I feared my own inaccuracy, but there was no real way to actually practice shooting the thing. I’d just have to get close.

    Meanwhile, Cersei produced my little brother, Tommen, as expected.

    I must confess, I was not expecting him to have black hair.

    Tommen was the talk of King’s Landing, of course. A feast was planned, various letters of congratulations arrived, and there was a steady stream of important visitors to the family apartments. I guarded the inner door to the sitting chamber, greeting them all with my big fucking unstrung crossbow.

    Oh, there was laughter. Mixed in here and there was some admiration and praise, especially when I said I wasn’t going to let this brother die like my last one. Cersei got positively misty-eyed at that, and Robert, when he was around, seemed pretty happy at the sentiment, too.

    Of course, there were the occasional snide whispered comments about the silly boy with the unstrung crossbow, so all I could do was protest that no one would string it for me.

    And when I heard that the newly minted Master of Coin was coming to pay his respects, I slipped my string and tools out of my clothes and quickly had the crossbow strung. A bolt hidden in a big vase finished my preparations, and I was ready when Petyr Baelish showed up with some guy I didn’t know, escorted by Arys Oakheart, who had been waiting at the entrance to the apartments.

    “Halt! Who goes there?” I challenged in the deepest voice I could manage, which wasn’t very.

    Ser Oakheart, who had been tolerantly putting up with my shit since this began, smiled at me, not yet recognizing the threat. “Arys Oakheart, my Prince, escorting-“


    It was a good thing I had aimed for the chest, instead of the face as I’d actually been tempted, because the bolt went high and to the right, punching clear through Petyr Baelish right below the left clavicle. It missed the heart, but I think it hit the top of the aorta, because blood positively fountained out of him, his mouth gaping wide as he slowly sank to his knees and toppled backwards.


    When a man kills a man, that’s murder. But when a child does it, well…

    That’s an accident.

    So yeah, I got a pretty decent spanking. Worse, they took my crossbow away from me, and it was years before they’d let me touch one under anything less than direct supervision. Still, I think Robert was a bit proud when, after I asked him how old he’d been when he killed his first man, I solemnly informed him that I had beaten him.

    Don’t play games with a chess master. Kick over the board and shoot him.


    Note: The chapters below have been rewritten. Follow the threadmarks to get to the real chapter one.
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2018
  2. Threadmarks: Chapter 1: It's actually really easy to not be an asshole, why don't more people try it?

    Nugar Know what you're doing yet?

    Aug 20, 2015
    Likes Received:
    Note: The first chapter is now the prologue, this is now chapter one. This starts before the events of the old chapter two.

    Eight years and change later, I stared down at the smoldering ruins of one of my alcohol distilleries and pursed my lips. The stone walls of the small building still stood, but the wooden roof and all of the contents were so much charcoal and ash. Even the heavy oak doors that stood wide open were charred and sagging on their warped iron hinges. I could see the big iron retort inside, which might be salvageable, but the copper piping of the still, which spiraled up and over a stone wall to the condensing side, was a mangled mess.

    The jugs and pots the alcohol would have flowed into were a shattered, partially melted catastrophe. With so much alcohol as fuel, even the surface of the stone had cracked under the heat.

    Most infuriatingly, there was another, identically burned distillery right next door, thirty feet away. A distance I THOUGHT was far enough to keep fire from spreading.

    Irritated by the loss, I looked around. There were five more small distillery houses in this row alone, and five rows. I knew the volatility of grain alcohol vapor, but these also might distill anything ranging from wood alcohol to kerosene to ammonia, depending on the still. Fortunately, I’d had each one built using as much stone as possible, kept a distance from its neighbors to reduce the likelihood of fire spreading, and this was in a field outside King’s Landing that tended to have a breeze to disperse dangerous concentrations of fumes. I also had multiple people keeping an eye on them at all hours of the day, and three small water wagons, two wheeled hand carts, really, with basic hand pumps on standby in case of fires. Every previous time there had been a fire, it was put out with no issues.

    “What did this one make?” I asked my assistant slash secretary slash officially appointed spy, Cayla.

    Rusty, my big ass war dog, sat at my side, pushing his head under my hand for a quick ear scratch.

    She consulted her notes, then replied. “Whiskey, my Prince, the new Smyte recipe with apple mash. Both were loaded with first distillation product yesterday, totaling thirty six dragons, five stags, two pennies in value, each. A man named Seban was the tender for this area, Rody Lowfield the supervisor, and a woman named Jeyn the other tender on duty. There should also have been six guards. Would you like their names as well?”

    I make a motion of ‘wait on that’ and looked over where a series of singed, burnt smelling men all kneeled, heads down in shame. My personal bodyguard, Sandor Clegane, loomed ominously behind them, hand on the hilt of his sword.

    Not because he was preparing to kill one, or even really expecting this to lead to murder, he just liked to stand that way. Nice guy, kinda intimidating, a little too quiet.


    A man I kinda recognized and had met a few times before straightened up slightly. He was an older man, with a few streaks of grey in his hair, and a short, well-trimmed beard. “Yes, my Prince?”

    “Tell me what happened.”

    Hesitantly at first, but with growing surety, he launched into his tale. Apparently, since most of the retorts were being scrubbed and prepared for their next batches, they had only called in two tenders, himself and the widow Jeyn, for the night. He had three rows, with a total of five stills. Jeyn had two rows with seven, but they were all close together and easy to manage.

    The night had been going well, as usual, although for a change, there was no wind or breeze. When he saw a fire inside one of the distilleries. A bend of the copper pipe near the top had apparently started leaking and the alcohol had instantly caught on fire from the flame under the retort. He had called for the water wagons and tried to beat out the flame, but it was already too much to be put out by hand.

    Guards had brought the water wagons, and at first it looked like it was going to be put out, but the first wagon ran out of water, and when they switched to the second one, the pump wouldn’t work. The third one was low on water, having been used for retort rinsing earlier that day, and not refilled.

    I had to pinch my nose. Leaking copper tubing, plus lack of wind to keep the fumes dispersed, plus two failed water wagons. Seban started getting really nervous.

    I looked over at Cayla, her long blonde hair pulled back into a neat bun. “What’s Seban’s work history?”

    She didn’t even have to glance at her book. “Impeccable, my Prince. He was one of the first still tenders hired, and has multiple marks on record as being a hard worker, honest, diligent, and punctual. He’s received the max raise every year, and only one complaint has been filed against him, which turned out to be a lazy employee who resented Seban for criticizing the quality of his work.”

    I nodded. “Seban,” I announced, turning back to the man, who looked more sure of himself after Cayla’s report. “You have a reputation for good work and are a valuable employee. I judge you innocent of negligence. You may move to the side.”

    Flushed with relief, and maybe a little proud that he was considered valuable, Seban stood and moved to the side.

    “Jeyn,” I said, and the woman perked up, “you had no direct responsibility in this matter other than helping fight the fire, which I see you did. You may move to the side.”

    The singed middle aged woman murmured repeated thanks and removed herself from the group.

    “Rody Lowfield,” I intoned.

    A slightly chubby man with badly burned hands and arms already wrapped in lotion and bandages straightened. He was balding, though the hair around the sides of his head had burned away to the point it might be more accurate to call him bald, his clothes had holes burnt in them, and he trembled slightly with barely repressed pain.

    He would have been offered a dose of laudanum, which I’d made as a more effective, longer storing alternative to the ubiquitous ‘milk of the poppy’. Basically, it was the opioids of milk of the poppy, distilled out, then mixed with high proof grain alcohol. It’d put you on your ass and kill pain pretty effectively, but it also dulled the wits. This man wanted to be able to talk coherently more than he wanted to be free of pain. I wondered if that was a good or bad thing.

    “Yes, my Prince,” he said, bowing low and nearly toppling over.

    “Which guards were assigned to check the water wagons?”

    “Jeffary and Eman, my Prince,” he replied promptly.

    I glanced to the side at the various guards.

    Four of them looked mostly relieved that their names hadn’t been called. Two young men, however, also sporting minor burns, looked like they’d just been called to the chopping block.

    “I’m only going to ask once. Did you perform the beginning of shift inspection of the water wagons?”

    “We did, my-!”

    “We did not,” one of them said, talking over the other one and bowing his head like he merely hoped the blade would be swift.

    The other one looked at him in shock and betrayal. “N-no! Eman! We did! We did-”

    “Be quiet, Jeffary,” I ordered. “Eman?”

    He spoke quietly, almost morosely. “We did not, my lord. We were assisting the others with moving some gear at the beginning of the shift, and instead of going back to do our checks, we decided it was okay to skip it just once.”

    A small part of me wanted to ask if, in fact, it had been okay, but I decided against it. I raised an eyebrow at Jeffary.

    He sputtered, then sagged. Not agreeing, not denying. If he wasn’t still upright, I’d say he had fainted.

    “Rody, who is at fault here?” I asked.

    “I am, my Prince,” he admitted.

    “Did you make your own beginning of shift checks of the safety equipment?”

    He flushed. “No, my Prince.”

    “Why not?”

    “Laziness, my Prince,” he said, dropping into a bow again. “We spent the first portion of the night moving equipment, and I simply didn’t follow up. If I had, I would have found that Jeffary and Eman had skipped their duty, and they would not be in trouble. If I had, the fire would have been a small accident quickly put out. I accept full responsibility, and ask for leniency on behalf of Jeffary and Eman.”

    Well, he certainly had internalized the lingo I had built my subordinate management around. He’d also clearly fought like a demon to put the flames out by hand, though obviously that didn’t work.

    “Cayla?” I asked.

    “Rody Lowfield also has an impeccable record, at least until now, and was promoted to management two years ago on the strength of his work and his willingness to learn reading and writing and his numbers.”

    “Family? I asked.

    “Yes, Prince. A wife of fifteen years, and six children. Fifteen-boy, twelve-boy, eleven-girl, ten-girl, eight-girl, seven-boy.”

    I nodded. “Rody, you’re an idiot.”

    “Yes, my Prince,” he agreed in shame.

    “Not just because you didn’t do the checks, but because you clearly nearly killed yourself trying to fight the fire.”

    “It were my responsibility, my Prince,” he tried to explain, looking up slightly.

    “You’ve got a family, fool. Even if I dismissed you, you could still feed them if you worked somewhere else. You can’t do that if you’re dead.”

    He bowed even lower.

    “Alright. This little fuckup has cost several hundred dragons, and I’m not happy. Rody, you’re demoted to…” I glanced at Cayla, but didn’t give her time to speak, “whatever lower position we need more of. If, a year from now, there are no more problems, we can look at whether you’re worth keeping, or even promoting again.” I paused and frowned at him. “And make sure the clinic gets you healed up. It’d be a shame to lose a man because he lost use of his hands. Report to Marvion Fisher when you’re healed up enough to work.”

    I turned. “Eman. You fucked up pretty bad. But you were honest. You’re on half pay for two months. And I don’t think you’ll ever skip the equipment check again, will you?”

    “No, my Prince!” he gasped, like a drowning man who suddenly got a lifeline. “I’ll be the most diligent man in Westeros!”

    Heh, I bet he would be. That’s why I do things like this. I want a diligent, honest workforce that doesn’t take bribes to let product or secrets walk off into the night. So I put a little effort into it.

    Sometimes, though, you can’t forgive people.

    I shook my head. “Jeffary, you fucked up, and you lied. You know I hate being lied to, or if you didn’t, someone should have told you. You fuck up, you admit it, you might get a second chance. You lie, you get caught lying, it’s your ass.”

    I motioned at the other guardsmen. “He’s dismissed. Kick his ass out. Cayla? He’s blacklisted. Now let’s head back to my office. The morning is shot anyway, I might as well head back and work on something. Rusty, follow.”

    We turned and headed back to King’s Landing. I’d planned on a much more entertaining trip out on the river this morning, to see how my new model fishing rod would hold up, but nooo. Gotta deal with fuckups.

    You know, this is why I don’t actually want to be king?

    AN: I hope this works better. There's still a time skip, I don't particularly feel like writing a whole childhood, but this is intended to ease readers into the new King's Landing and daily life of Prince Eddard. Let me know what you think. Also, I set up a discord channel specifically for talking about this fic. If you want to say something personally, and have easier input to influencing the fic, come say hi. https://discord.gg/k7BPP2Y
  3. Threadmarks: Chapter 2: And I said, what about, breakfast with Varys?

    Nugar Know what you're doing yet?

    Aug 20, 2015
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    I spent most of my time walking back to King’s Landing squeezing a set of grip trainers I tend to carry around. Made of spring steel with leather grips, they were harder to make than you’d think, since spring steel isn’t easy to make at a blacksmith’s forge, but I considered them pretty essential for training on the go. One of the most important aspects of melee fighting is good forearm and wrist strength, and the grip trainers helped. I was too lanky to look like Popeye, but I was at least pretty strong for my age.

    Although, maybe that’s not that unusual given that I was already nearly six feet tall at fourteen years old. Robert Baratheon was a beast at six and a half feet tall, so I felt pretty confident in my growth. Just wish I could eat enough to pack on the muscles. By the Seven, I was always hungry.

    And, uh, there were some other consequences to going through puberty, too.

    Unconsciously, my eyes strayed to the shapely behind of my secretary. Cayla was hot. Long blonde hair, though often in a bun or ponytail, pretty but slightly severe face… basically, she shared a lot of traits with Cersei, without really looking just like Cersei. I suspect that was deliberate when Varys chose her and trained her and sent her to me.

    I said she was my officially designated spy, but she’s not spying for me. I know she reports to Varys. I mean, I’ve never seen any actual evidence of it but come on. It’s obvious. I suspect she occasionally sends reports to a few other people. Grandfather Tywin seems likely, maybe Cersei on occasion. Jon Arryn maybe? Not sure.

    That being said, she’s hot, she’s diligent, and she took to the ‘severe, slightly dominating’ secretary role with a will. I even checked her to see if she needed eyeglasses, because the role really does call for eyeglasses, but her vision was fine. I made her some neutral lenses anyway. Black rimmed wire frames with rectangular lenses, which she quickly learned to use to devastating effect as she stared down employees.

    If it’s wrong for the world’s best spymaster to use his powers to find me the perfect secretary, I don’t want to be right. It’s good to be the prince.

    We got back to my lab office in just under an hour. I loved my office. I spent more time there than in my rooms back in the keep.

    Rusty immediately padded to his blanket just inside the door and lay down. He’s a good dog, literally the most trustworthy companion I have. He might bite me one day, but it won’t be out of greed or malice. I named him Rusty because his fur is, of course, a kind of reddish brown rust color. It was kinda kinky and wiry, a bit like an airedale but shaggier, covering a two hundred pound body that looked like some kind of mastiff hound cross. He wasn’t the biggest dog westeros had, but he was bred for war, not pit fighting, and was a better runner than the pure pit fighting mastiff types.

    In an odd bit of symmetry, Sandor also went to his spot in a different corner, where a big, overstuffed leather arm chair waited beside a table. He still wasn’t big on reading, but part of being my bodyguard gave him a lot of sitting around time, and he’d pick up a book occasionally. He’d mellowed out a lot from the severe, bitter young man who’d been assigned to me. I think, seeing a member of the nobility that wasn’t a monster and who genuinely tried to take care of him back helped him deal with some of his childhood trauma. He still wouldn’t take a knighthood, though. I didn’t care enough to argue.

    “Get us some breakfast, Cayla. Simple is fine.” So saying, I went to my partially walled off desk in one corner of what I liked to call the tinkerlab. I had a little bit of privacy, but didn’t actually feel separated from the work others were doing. I liked being a part of a busy group. It made me feel productive and alert.

    My lab was just outside the Keep, on what had been a section of ground usually used for the small number of horses kept near the royal apartments. I had it built of stone and slate, so it was less likely to burn, and I didn’t do any really energetic processes there. My lab was broken up into four main rooms. A big kitchen, where I did food related research, a tinkerlab where I had my desk and where nonvolatile projects took place, and a hot room for two small forges, a vacuum chamber, and my efforts to produce steam power. There was also a chemistry lab on the far side of the building away from the kitchen, but it had its own separate entrance.

    Maester Carsen and Maester Keath both bid me good morning as I entered, with a more cursory greeting to Cayla, who immediately walked past toward the kitchen. Carsen was designing gear sets according to the formula I had ‘developed’, and overseeing a woodcarver, Bryer, as he made prototypes. Keath sat at his own desk and looked to be updating the books. Cayla was good with figures but she didn’t have time to do all of the accounting herself.

    The only other person in attendance was also the only other female, Ilina of Braavos, my most talented sculptor. Unlike the others, she did not greet me when I entered She was painstakingly reproducing an entire set of crow feathers in a black silver-copper-gold alloy the maesters found for me called hepatizon, apparently used in old Ghis. Her workbench was covered in bird drawings, a stuffed crow with wings outstretched, and the already articulated body of the whirligig automata she was working on. It was going to be a crow that flapped its wings and cawed once or twice every thousand turns of the small windmill that drove it. The wonder was a diplomatic gift for one of the noble houses that supported the Baratheons, House Morrigan.

    I liked Ilina. She was in her early thirties, actually needed glasses unlike Cayla, and was a little bit flabby, with limp, dark hair and grey eyes. I suspected she probably fell somewhere on the autism spectrum, since she was painfully awkward and shy, but also had tremendous artistic talent. She completely ignored me as I came in, being completely focused on her task. Of course, all of that could be a ruse, and she might really be a fiendishly clever spy, but much like Cayla, it’s just the price of doing business in King’s Landing. She was the bee’s knees at art, and absolutely loved my clockwork automatons, but she was pretty much a pig’s ear at everything else.

    The only other lab resident she got along with was my cat, Noric, named after a minorly famous blacksmith.

    I scratched behind the big sand colored tabby’s ears as I got to my desk and sat down. Noric promptly said ‘mrrp?’ and rolled over, exposing his flabby belly and purring loudly. I didn’t fall for that trap, though. That’s what got him banned from the keep despite his start as what was supposedly Myrcella’s pet kitten. Peasant or prince, cats don’t care.

    The heat was already building, since I had yet to ‘invent’ refrigeration, so the first thing I did when I sat down was turn to the side of the desk on my left. This side had a stone top, bare except for a single device I was both perversely pleased by and utterly disappointed by. It was my recreation of a tiny, one cubic inch displacement stirling cycle engine, much like the demonstrator toy I had once owned. It was an external combustion engine powered by a pressurized lantern fuel burner. I worked the little thumb pump up and down, which I had copied from the coleman series of camping gear, getting a good pressure in the round, shiny brass fuel tank. A turn of a knob adjusted a needle valve, starting the fuel flow, and a flick of my zippo lighter reproduction got the flame started and glowing a nice pale blue.

    Although simple enough to be made with the limited tools I had available, and actually very efficient in fuel, stirling cycle engines were a dead end as far as I was concerned. Their power to weight ratio sucked they tended to wear out the cylinder pretty fast. There were solutions to those problems, but I’d never learned them. Instead, I was trying unsuccessfully to replicate a decent steam engine, and my little ‘prince engines’ mostly ran the clockwork automata I made. The one on my desk actually powered a small fan, which kept the lab from being stifling. Some of the maesters were looking into making larger versions, but I was sure that steam was the way to go.

    On my desk, held down by a variety of pretty but meaningless paperweights, were stacks and stacks of papers. Drawings, reports, financial data... and most frightening, a sappy letter from Sansa Stark.

    I have only myself to blame. I’d been essentially betrothed to Sansa at birth, and I didn’t want to marry a girl I’d never met before, right? So I wrote her, and set us up as pen pals. I sent her gifts for her birthday and such. Wrote her a few letters. Unleashed the monster that is a preteen girl with a crush, a pen, and some paper.

    Oh my god. Gods. Seven, old gods, flaming gods, goat gods, whatever. Sansa was fairly cute. She’d sent me some drawings that had been made of her. And I knew she’d grow up and be pretty awesome. I’d always considered Arya to be more interesting, but it’s hard to deny that Sansa would be a better queen. That didn’t change the fact that I had been getting about three or four letters a month for years now. And I tried to be interested, I did. But it’s all ‘Arya got in trouble again’, ‘Robb is doing well in his training’, ‘the septas say I’m doing really well in my lessons’, ‘I’ve never met you personally but our souls are as two halves’.

    Meanwhile, I can’t tell her any of the really interesting stuff I’ve been up to. Dearest Sansa, ‘I’m going through puberty so I invented lingerie, not that I can tell you what that is’, ‘my incredibly hot secretary has been writing about half of my reply letters’, ‘I cured a man of greyscale but six more got worse and died and I don’t know why’, ‘I can’t sleep with my secretary because I’ll fall in love with her and pull a Tyrion, so I went to a whorehouse, got the clap, not that you know what that is, and invented penicillin, another thing you don’t know about, in five incredibly uncomfortable months and now I’m scared to touch whores’, ‘penicillin doesn’t work on greyscale’, ‘puberty is hitting like a freight train, not that you know what that is, so I’m about to invent the strip club, not that you know what that is, so whores can take off the lingerie I invented, which you still don’t know what is, and if I tell you your father and brothers and bannermen will want my balls on a stick’.

    I suck at writing letters.

    ‘PS: puberty is overriding my fear of whores. Send nudes.’

    Which obviously I can’t say. She’s way too young and my idea of a hot woman is pretty solidly stuck in the 20s and 30s range, which Cayla fits perfectly. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, I have the memories of Robb and Tyrion’s examples of why I don’t need to be risking actual attachment.

    I have to settle for writing sexy plays. When Tyrion returns next month, I’m going to surprise him with a sexy kancolle type reproduction of the Greyjoy rebellion in my theater slash strip club I secretly own and manage. It’s going to be great. All of the ironborn shipgirls will be played as vacuous tarts who lose their ship costumes when they sink, and only occasionally win through dumb luck, because fuck those dollar store vikings. If this seems like an abuse of the wealth and power I have as a prince, well… Maybe. But it’s equally possible that this is what cements my legacy as a genius. What’s the point in having a playhouse if you don’t use it to mock your enemies?

    We’ve already had classic burlesque shows, song and dance numbers, and some pretty hilarious short comedy bits based on my memories of the old Oglaf comics. My favorite is the one where a thinly disguised Loras expy tries to give a thinly disguised Renly advice on how to seduce a thinly disguised Margary, only for ‘Renly’ to fall for the declarations of love and end up sexing ‘Loras’ in the bushes while ‘Margary’ looks down from her tower window and fans herself.

    Among all of the other things I’ve invented, I also introduced the fujoshi to Westeros. I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds.

    Renly actually loved the play, because of course I checked with him first since I didn’t want him as an enemy. I also invented male lingerie so that might have helped, but he wasn’t terribly worried about people talking about his sexual preference. It was about as much of an open secret as the knowledge that Prince Eddard was secretly A.N. Onstead, the part owner and playwright of the Wayward Rose. The people that were ‘in the know’ knew, but they also didn’t say anything about it in public. And you had to be in the know to get an invite to the Wayward Rose, which of course made it the hottest entertainment spot in King’s Landing, selling my booze, unusual snack foods, and lingerie at literally obscene markups.

    My theory of business is basically, ‘Own the entire goddamn supply chain.’

    Breakfast arrived quickly, carried by a cook from the kitchen. Eggs over easy, lightly fried corn tortillas, beans, rice, tomato salsa, and for the huevos ranchero sauce, a failed effort to reproduce Worcestershire sauce. Sandor absolutely loved the stuff and used it basically every meal, so I named it Hound Sauce in his honor. Westeros bizarrely has an absolutely top notch food culture for its tech level, but I didn’t want to live in a world without tacos and burritos. They also didn’t use tomatoes, potatoes, and rice as much as I preferred, and I had yet to find soybeans, okra, or peanuts at all.

    Also, right behind the cook, Cayla reappeared.

    “Prince Eddard, the Master of Whispers is here to see you,” Cayla told me, letting the cook slide by her. “What shall I tell him?”

    “Varys? Sure, show him in. See if he wants breakfast, too. Are you going to eat with me?” She did sometimes, sometimes Sandor did, and sometimes we all ate together.

    “No, my Prince. I will let you and Varys discuss things in private. I will join Sandor in the atrium.”

    I nodded and sat back in the tiny breeze from the fan. A moment later, Cayla returned, escorting the softly chubby Master of Whispers.

    Now, I liked Varys. After killing Joffrey and Baelish, one might think that Varys was the natural next choice. The thing was, Varys never betrayed anyone who didn’t deserve it. I think he’s some sort of weird proto-nationalist, doing what he thinks is best for the stability and welfare of the realm itself. The other thing is, he’s really, really, really good at his job.

    Given how much of my resource gathering and trading took place in Essos, I needed someone who knew their stuff.

    Varys offered me a polite greeting as he entered, and I stood, but I’d stupidly stuffed a chunk of tortilla and egg in my mouth and all I could hear was my own crunching. I swallowed, looked around for a drink, and realized I’d forgot to order one.

    “Hey~aaak,” I said back, momentarily choking. “Hol’ on’.” I gasped and swallowed convulsively, lurching to my feet and all but shoving past the pudgy eunuch as I headed for the kitchen. “Tea! Brown!” I croaked, grabbing a jug of purified water and chugging. The water was lukewarm but had been standing long enough to not be flat, so I carried the whole jug, basically the size of a flower base, back to my desk.

    “I’ve got tea coming, would you like some?” I asked Varys. “Or wine? It’s a little early for whiskey, but I don’t judge,” I said, lying. I totally judge.

    “Tea would be lovely,” Varys replied. “Black, please.”

    “Hey, Tarla,” I called back to my chef. “Get some black tea for Varys, too.” Westeros didn’t drink a lot of tea, which baffled me. Both black and brown came from the hills of Norvos, but you could also get really expensive, exotic types from Qarth. I thought the qartheen teas were too floral, and it seemed Varys agreed with me.

    “What about breakfast? I’m afraid you caught me just beginning mine,” I offered.

    “Is that a new form of wrap?” he asked, referring to my term for both tacos and burritos.

    I waggled a hand in a so-so motion. “Sort of? It’s the same as a breakfast wrap, but with fried tortillas. Very crunchy.”

    “Ah. Sounds… messy.” He looked dubious.

    “Tarla could get you a regular wrap…?”


    Tea and a breakfast burrito were delivered, and we both dined companionably for a while. This wasn’t unusual. Keep your friends close, your enemies closer, and it’s probably best to sit on the people you aren’t sure about.

    “So, how’s things?” I asked, pressing a shard of tortilla into a bit of leftover egg yolk. The plate was all but scraped clean, and I eyed it with a mind to ordering another.

    “Shall I start with a personal note, then, Prince Eddard?” he asked with a wry note. “Before you get more breakfast, I should warn you that your Queen Mother is planning on inviting you to an afternoon luncheon. She’s ordered a number of crab dishes prepared. I also believe your uncle, Ser Lannister, will be there as well.”

    “Crab? Wonderful!” I replied, perking up immediately.

    “She may be wanting to discuss something, as I note that the Princess will be elsewhere,” he cautioned.

    I shrugged. “Whatever it is, it’ll be cheaper than Father.”

    “Quite likely,” he admitted. “In other news, I’ve just received word from my contacts in Myr that in exchange for the secrets of lens grinding, Myr will continue to sell you materials and not interfere if you hire any more glass blowers. I believe your uncle Tyrion was looking at a few families that had gotten rather deeply in debt. The raids on your soda ash suppliers have ceased, at least for the moment.”

    “They talked him up to the lens grinders, then. Perfect, that’s what I wanted them to have.” I tried for a Gendo pose but my plate was in the way.

    Varys looked doubtful. “Are you sure? Your field glasses sell for a thousand dragons each, and your spyglasses for twice as much. That seems like a very profitable market to share with the glass makers guild in Myr.”

    “We’ve already made around eight, almost nine hundred thousand dragons off our spyglasses and field glasses. Everyone with the money wants one, for forts, for ships, and for generals and scouts. The problem is, not that many people can afford them. We’ve already sold them to almost every noble house in westeros with the means, with the wealthier houses buying more than one. But that’s it. We’re seeing maybe ten orders a month now from the Seven Kingdoms. All of the orders are coming from Essos and Yunkai and such now. And by this time next year, I expect we’ll be seeing fewer orders from them, too. Market saturation, Varys.”

    “Saturation… as a rag soaks up water,” he said, considering the term. This is why I liked Varys. He was the smartest guy in the room, one of the few I could really talk to.

    “Once it’s full, there’s no more room. A few will probably be stolen, or broken, and need to be replaced, but by the time Myr has anything as good as ours? They’ll have a hard time finding anyone who doesn’t already have one.” I grinned.

    “Oh? And do you have a solution to this ‘market saturation’?” he asked.

    “Of course I do,” I replied, feigning offense. “To borrow your metaphor, you make the rag bigger.”

    “You intend to make people richer?” he asked.

    “Well, make more rich people, at any rate. Trade benefits everyone. But also, I can make each spyglass cheaper. It only costs about two hundred sixty dragons to make a spyglass, and a lot of that is because we reject the lenses that didn’t turn out right, and my artisans spend a lot of time engraving the barrel and making it pretty. We can make them cheaper, and we can sell them cheaper. That lets more people buy them, and we keep making money. We can trade the massive profits but low volume we currently have, for lower profits and higher volume. And with a larger volume, Myr’s competition shouldn’t matter nearly as much.”

    Varys nodded thoughtfully. “It’s too bad they’ve already stolen the formula for your silvered glass mirrors.”

    I shrugged. It irritated me but it wasn’t entirely unexpected. “Yeah, but too many people are involved in that. No real way to keep the secret from everyone without choking production. Silver, aqua fortis, ammonia, and sugar are just too common. Most of our sugar comes from Volantis sweet beets anyway. We’ve got our own crops growing in the North, but the secret is out.”

    He nodded. “Speaking of the north, I’m afraid I have some bad news.”

    Oh no, here we go. He spends some time buttering me up, then hits me with the whammy.

    “House Mormont has been caught breaking some very serious laws. Lord Jorah Mormont was caught selling captured poachers to slavers from Essos. Rather than answer the charges, he took his wife and all of the portable goods he could and fled, with the exception of his ancestral sword, Longclaw, which was sent to his father at the Wall.”

    “What.” I paused. “No, seriously. Why in the fuck would he do that? I’ve been shipping coin and resources to Bear Island for two and a half years. It was going to be the western trade hub of the north! There was more than enough money there for him to skim some off for himself!” I went with a slightly suboptimal plan to develop the northwest region specifically so I could keep Jorah fucking Mormont out of the business with the Targaryens!

    “Apparently, his wife has expensive tastes.” He gave a little shrug, as if to divorce himself from the vagaries of husband and wife relationships. “I believe she developed them when you had them come spend four months in King’s Landing on your coin.”

    “She already had expensive tastes! The point was to alleviate- ahhh dammit! You say he made off with the portable goods. You mean the spyglasses and field glasses I sent up there to guard against fucking ironborn raids, don’t you?”

    Varys nodded. “As well as the compasses and at least a few crates of steel tools which had not yet been shipped to the mountain clans.”

    I snapped a hand up in a ‘wait’ motion, closing my eyes and pinching the bridge of my nose. “Don’t tell me. I can already see it. He sold them to the fucking ironborn.”

    He made a ‘sort of’ gesture. “Not by choice, at least initially. Much of this appears to be the result of his efforts to avoid disappointing you, Prince Eddard. I believe his lady wife arranged for a few spyglasses to disappear from the signal towers. When he found out, rather than report the losses, he turned to slavery, apparently hoping to get enough money to replace the spyglasses without being caught. Of course, when he was caught selling slaves, he simply loaded a ship with his best and set sail. We don’t know if he’s sold anything else to the ironborn, or if he intends to make it to Essos before selling.”

    I nodded. “So your last word is of him fleeing Bear Island?”

    “Indeed, my Prince.”

    “Well. So despite my efforts to set things up where people will come to me with a mistake before they cut their own throat trying to cover it up, he does exactly that. And now the ironborn have spyglasses.”

    “Between two and ten, my Prince.”

    “That’s going to be a problem.”

    “Indeed, my Prince.”

    “Gods above, I hate the ironborn.”

    “Indeed, my Prince. I’ve noticed you’ve gone out of the way to invent protections against their reaving. I’ve always wondered, was it because they rebelled recently?” He looked curious.

    I blinked. “No. I mean, that doesn’t help, but why wouldn’t any right minded person hate the ironborn? They build nothing, they destroy everything they touch, they keep slaves by using another word for it, and they ruin lives simply by being who they are. They’re almost as bad as the fucking dothraki. I mean, did you know that the dothraki have actually killed cities and turned prosperous lands into empty wastes? The ironborn would do that if they could get their shit together long enough. They’re stupid and careless and every one that dies is another reason to smile. Fortunately, while dangerous as raiders, they’re pretty weak against prepared forces.”

    He nodded. My disdain of the dothraki, who had raided some of our trade convoys and resource expeditions in Essos, was pretty well established at this point. I take a pretty dim view of peoples who raid for resources and slaves instead of building cities and infrastructure. If they ever showed up on my shores, following a dragon or not, I was going to open Pandora’s Box all over their asses.

    “Do you have any orders regarding the ex-Lord Mormont?” Varys asked instead.

    “Ahh,” I said, hesitating. “I suppose I can kind of understand where he was coming from. But I already risk looking weak with how forgiving I am, and frankly, he has only himself to blame.” I paused. “And his wife. He definitely has his wife to blame. I guess if he sells the stuff he stole in Essos, he can just stay banished, and if he sold it to the ironborn… I may have to make a point. I mean, he’s going to have to live in exile with that bitch of a wife of his, and you know she’s going to spend all the money they have and then leave him for some rich asshole over there. Then she’ll be living the good life and Jorah will be the one fucked over again.”

    “A proposal, then?” Varys offered. “They may stay in exile untroubled, provided your condition that he didn’t sell any more spyglasses to the ironborn is met, but only if his wife remains faithful to him for the remainder of their lives. Should she cuckold him or leave him for, as you say, some rich asshole, a bounty shall be placed on her head.” He smiled slightly. “Should you choose, you could even forgive his exile should he bring her back for execution personally. Though I doubt Lord Stark would accept him returning to his ancestral seat, there are other places he could live out his days, as a living example of your forgiveness, and knack for creative punishment.”

    I nodded, impressed. “Daaaamn, that’s vicious.” I thought for a moment, then agreed. “Yeah, I do blame her the most, and having him deliver her for punishment would be satisfactory given the crimes he committed for her.” I smiled grimly. “You know, this is why I like you, Varys. You’re the only one around here with any balls.”

    “Of course, my Prince. I keep them in a little box on my desk,” he said genially, taking no apparent offense.

    I blinked, realizing my inadvertent insult to the eunuch.

    “Where they can’t influence my decisions.”

    Fucking Varys. A killer with the manners of a rabbit. The most dangerous kind.

    AN: Can't post this on SB yet because I'm waiting on word that some parts are too risque. So QQ gets it first! Oh my god did this see like eight fucking rewrites. I hope this reads well. Comments please!
  4. Threadmarks: Chapter 3: The King’s Solar

    Nugar Know what you're doing yet?

    Aug 20, 2015
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    xxxxxxxxx Interlude: The King’s Solar

    “It’s a fascinating city. After having been there for several months, I can say that it truly deserves the title of Queen of Cities more than Yunkai. They keep slaves, true, but it is a city of many interests rather than just a city of slavers. The red wastes hold many unusual ores, and it also sees trade from the lands beyond. I wanted to see Asshai as well, and perhaps even travel all the way to Yi Ti, but circumstances did not favor it.” Lord Alester Florent looked quite pleased with himself as he picked up his colorful glass goblet and took a sip.

    “Bah, trade is all anyone thinks about these days. When your son becomes King, are we to all become merchants?” Lord Gerrar Ashford grumbled, frowning at his own glass goblet, produced in Glasstown by the efforts of Prince Eddard.

    The two of them, plus Lord Lothar Mallery and Lord Myles Gaunt, had spent the morning together with the King and his Hand in the king’s solar. Robert was currently missing, having left to piss.

    “Ah, but it’s not just about trade! That’s the genius of the Prince,” Lord Florent countered. “I may have brought back some fine goods, but the thing of true value was the ability to produce them. Why should we have to send gold and goods away from our lands to buy the silks and cottons they make? Look at the carpet I brought,” he said, indicating his gift for the King, stretched out on the floor.

    “It is a fine gift,” Jon Arryn admitted.

    The carpet was as beautiful as any embroidered westeros tapestry, but was made so thick and heavy that walking on it was like stepping on a folded woolen blanket. Tapestries were heavy cloth, but meant to be hung on the wall, not walked over. Somehow elaborate geometric designs and fantastic beasts were picked out of the carpet in dense fluff. The Hand thought that he might well have to put some sort of order in place to keep muddy boots off it.

    The clomping steps from beyond the door announced Robert’s return, and all the men got to their feet.

    “Look who I found!” Robert boomed happily, ignoring the deference shown him. “I thought you were fishing, boy?”

    Prince Eddard was right behind the King, his lighter footsteps lost in the King’s own. The young prince was already as big as a man grown, though he was still a half head shorter than his father. His dark hair was pulled back and tied, showing off the green eyes of his Lannister mother, and perhaps a hint of her cheekbones. He dressed much as his father did, in muted colors and plain cloth, though at the moment his surcoat was missing, leaving him in just a light tunic and breeches. The rest of him was almost pure Baratheon, looking so much like Robert did when he was being fostered that Jon occasionally slipped up and called him Robert. Usually when he was being difficult, such as when he insisted he be allowed to clean out the Black Cells under the keep and use them for a room he called a ‘laboratory’. Or worse, more recently, when rumors of him being the secret owner of a brothel and mummery playhouse started going around.

    For someone who acted almost the polar opposite of Robert so much of the time, quiet, thoughtful, studious, and mostly obedient, his Baratheon blood picked some wild ways to express itself. Robert fucked any woman he could convince. Eddard didn’t even take advantage of the scullery maids or his pretty little assistant, but came up with clothing for women that could get a rise out of the dead. Robert loved whores more than most men and didn’t care who knew, but his son either didn’t often hire them or kept his actual liaisons exceptionally quiet… until he bought a brothel, which was something a prince just shouldn’t do. Robert drank like a fish, and on the other hand, Eddard could nurse a goblet of wine all evening. However, when he did turn his attention to drink…

    “Fishing didn’t work because some of my stills caught on fire last night and I had to go deal with that,” Prince Eddard explained, hefting the strap of a large leather satchel. “But none of you care about that. The important thing is, we cracked a barrel of the ’88 whiskey and bottled it. Perhaps some of you fine Sers would like to give it a try?”

    The Prince hadn’t created just one new kind of drink, he’d made an entire industry. Robert had, at one point, spent almost ten thousand dragons on dornish and arbor wines in a single year. Even most Lords Paramount didn’t spend that much in a lifetime. Eddard got paid for his, and it was now pulling in money faster than Robert could drink it away. Although, at least part of the reason why was that much of what Robert now spent on drink went to his son.

    “One of the Prince’s own? Sounds wonderful,” Lord Florent said enthusiastically. Because Lord Florent was an ambitious man who openly admired the Prince’s accomplishments.

    “Should we give you our purses now, or wait until after?” Lord Mallery asked with faux innocence.

    “It doesn’t matter, I’ll get them eventually,” Prince Eddard replied casually, pulling three strangely square bottles from the satchel and setting them on the table.

    Each bottle was three times as tall as it was wide, with square corners, a flared base, and sides that tapered out as it rose. Each also had a shiny brass topped cork.

    Robert picked one up, noticing that words and an image were somehow picked out in raised letters on one side of the bottle. A stag’s head, symbol of House Baratheon, but instead of the magnificent antlers of an adult stag, it had the short double spike of a yearling. Prince Spike, the young Stag. Probably the most polite of the titles given to the Prince.

    “Ours is the Fury. Ours is the Whiskey.” Robert traced his thumb over the smooth glass, then abruptly slapped the table and laughed.

    Eddard grinned proudly at his father, then pulled out some squat, strangely shaped drinking glasses. Square base, but twisted into a spiral as it rose to rounded rim tapered inward, all in perfectly clear glass. “I figure a new drink needs a new glass. I give you, the whiskey tumbler.” He gave the strangely shaped glass a small toss onto the table, where it rolled twice, bouncing on its corners, then stopped. “For when you get absolutely piss drunk, you won’t break the glass as easily.”

    “Magnificent, my Prince,” Lord Florent praised.

    Lord Ashford rolled his eyes, but Mallery was chuckling and shaking his head as he was the first to reach for one of the new ‘tumblers’. Sour faced Lord Gaunt kept his silence, as he often did.

    “Very pretty,” Jon Arryn admitted, turning one over in his hand. He’d gotten used to the things the Prince came up with, and was exceptionally hard to impress these days. “Is it blown?”

    “Pressure molded,” the Prince replied. “Same as the bottles. It’s faster and cheaper than hand blown, and sometimes prettier. I got plans for pressure molding.”

    Jon nodded. Of course he did.

    “Forget what they look like, what’s it taste like?” Robert grumbled, popping the cork out with ease and splashing the golden brown liquid into a glass.

    Everyone held their silence as Robert sipped a generous amount, then swirled it around in his mouth before swallowing. The King’s beard twitched with contemplation, his yellowing eyes closed as he rendered judgement.

    “Smooth. Still has a bite, but smoother. You’ve come a long way from that horse piss you got me to drink that first time.”

    “I think it could probably stand to be cooler, maybe watered down a touch. I’ll make some ice and have it sent up.” He took the bottle from his father and started pouring for the rest of the men.

    Lord Gaunt spoke up for the first time. “Excuse me, did you say you were going to ‘make’ ice?”

    Eddard nodded. “Yeah, it’s pretty cold down in the black cells, and there’s a crop fertilizer that if you mix with water, gets cold. Put them together and you’ve got ice. I need a better way of doing it, really, but don’t get me started.”

    “Wouldn’t it be better for you to be training, rather than ‘making ice’?” Lord Gaunt pressed. “You didn’t even ride in the lists on your nameday tourney.”

    “The lad got his arm broke in the melee,” King Robert warned. “And was doing well, at least until he tried that damned fool charge against the Hound.”

    “It was the one thing I’d never tried against him,” Eddard admitted quietly. “He’s my bodyguard, he’s just supposed to knock me on my ass, not break my fucking arm. I’ll ride in the next tourney.”

    “And I’m sure you’ll do well,” Lord Florent offered.

    “My thanks for the confidence,” Eddard replied, returning a cold look to Lord Gaunt. “I like hitting things as much as the next guy. Can’t be a prince without hitting things, right?”

    Jon decided to steer the conversation to less tense matters. “Lord Florent has just returned from Qarth.”

    Eddard perked up, dropping the matter of tourneys. “Qarth? I’m envious. I can’t even get permission to make a trip to Winterfell. Find anything interesting?”

    “Oh yes, Prince. I’ve been quite inspired by your efforts bringing glassmakers to the Seven Kingdoms, so I went looking for something similar. A trade of exotic, expensive goods that we spend gold on, that I might bring home and so enrich our lands.”

    Prince Eddard positively lit up at the idea, then glanced to the side at the lovely carpet. “Yours?”

    “I hired the family that made it, though that one was made in Qarth. Not just carpet makers, however. I hired a family that works in cotton, and two that work in silk. More importantly, I acquired something even more crucial than just the men that work them. It took some work, since they guard the source jealously, but I have my ways,” he bragged.

    Eddard’s mouth dropped, then closed as he put both hands on the table and leaned over it, staring Lord Florent in the eyes. “You fucking stole silkworms.”

    “I fucking stole silkworms.”

    “Hah-HAH! Now that’s what I’m fucking talking about!” Prince Eddard slapped his thigh with the same boisterous enthusiasm of his father. “How in the fuck did you do that? I’ve heard they kill people who even ask.”

    “Ah, but that’s the trick,” Lord Florent said with a grin, and took a small sip of his whiskey. Manfully gagging only a little, he continued. “I didn’t ask.”

    Robert made an impatient motion with his hand, indicating that he should get on with it, since the rest had already heard the story.

    Alester Florent hastened to comply. “In Volantis, I hired a modest number of mercenaries, Aghiq of New Ghis’s Talon company, and a ship to carry them. While I stopped and made deals in Qarth, including finding slaves from Yi Ti that knew how to farm silk, the Company of the Talon made a single raid against a village known to produce silk. They dug up as many plants as they could steal in a night and all of the worms they could get their hands on.” He made an expansive gesture. “Truthfully, I’d have been back a month ago, but it was not the time when the worms are eating leaves.”

    “And the slaves?” Prince Eddard asked.

    “Freed of course, slavery is an abomination in the eyes of the Seven. Of course, they took me up on the offer of land and jobs. They’ve already paid off, we’d have lost many of the bushes on the way back if not for them. I bought seeds in Qarth, since mulberry bushes are not guarded like the silkworms are, but all of the worms would die long before the seeds could produce new plants.”

    “That’s one for the history books, Lord Florent,” Eddard said with admiration.

    Robert his glass. “A toast, then, to Lord Florent and his silk.”

    Tumblers were raised, then drank, with only mild spluttering for those not expecting the strength of the whiskey. And if some of the tumblers weren’t raised as high as others, no official notice was made.

    “Not just the silk. I found weavers, both for silk and cotton. I also bought many sacks of cotton seeds.”

    “Fucking genius, Lord Florent. I don’t have any ideas for silk yet, but I do have some for cotton. Give me some time to work on it and we’ll be able to make cloth cheaper and finer than anyone else in the world. Also, you should see another invention of mine that will help.” The prince was talking faster and faster as he got excited. “I made a machine to be pulled by a horse or oxen, which will increase yield in a field without wasting seed. I call it the seed drill. It’s working great in the Lannister fields and they’re trying them in the Stormlands and the North, but no one else wants to try it. Farmers are a hidebound lot, scared of anything new. But since they’ll be starting fresh with new crops, you can probably get them to use it.”

    “Do you wish for a partnership, Prince Eddard?” Lord Florent asked.

    Eddard seemed taken aback, then thought about it. “Ehhh, if you want one? You’re going to be planting on your lands, right?”

    “Yes, Prince.”

    “Right. If you need a loan or something to get going, we can talk. I don’t imagine the mercenaries were cheap. Otherwise, I figure I’ll make some machines for processing and spinning and we’ll see what’s appropriate from there. I don’t want to take this away from you. You earned it all on your own. But I do think I can help.”

    “Are you saying that you know how to farm better than the farmers?” Lord Ashford asked incredulously. “And you think you can weave cotton and silk better than Qarth and Yi Ti?”

    Prince Eddard apparently didn’t notice the disbelief in Lord Ashford’s tone. “Enh, I mean, I couldn’t sit down and make cloth by hand like they do. I’ll make a machine. And yeah, our farmers aren’t actually that good at their jobs. I see a lot of ways it could be better, but they don’t want to try anything different. Also I’m still looking for some stuff and we’ll really see some improvements.”

    “Farming, brewing, ‘machines’, and glass. You should be training harder, not running about like a common laborer. It’s beneath you,” Lord Ashford chided. “It’s all fine and good to put some effort into getting good arms and armor, but you’re not supposed to work the forge yourself, boy!”

    Robert frowned, started to say something, but his son put his hand on his shoulder.

    “No, it’s not beneath me. If I’m going to rule this fucking place, I’m going to make damned sure we’re the richest, best fed, most powerful fucking realm in the world. My spyglasses and watchtowers mean there hasn’t been a successful ironborn raid in Lannister owned land in more than a year. My whiskey brings me money but also the chemicals I need to make medicines that can cure the worst infections. Maesters come to ME to learn new things.”

    “You make toys and money. Fine for a merchant, or a child, but not a nobleman. And what’s this rumor I hear of a whorehouse and mummery?” Lord Gaunt countered. “People believe almost anything anyone says about you because you’re too unpredictable. I’m half convinced you really do own a whorehouse!”

    Prince Eddard drew himself up, and started to reply, then paused. A certain gleam came into his eyes. “Actually, that reminds me. I’ve got a mummery play in mind for my whorehouse, and I’d like your opinion of it, Father.”

    Jon Arryn didn’t quite slap his hand over his face as gasps came from the other nobles in the room.

    Robert clearly wasn’t sure if he should be proud of his son, or embarrassed by his behavior. “Careful, boy,” he warned. “I let you take over that place as long as it was a secret.”

    “Oh, we’re all friends here, aren’t we? I’m sure these fine Sers know how to keep a… secret.” Unspoken, of course, was the dire threat implied if they failed to keep the secret.

    “That’s true, I suppose. I’m sure these Lords know that the goings on of the Royal Family are not meant for gossip.” Robert eyed the others, Gaunt and Ashford specifically.

    “Please, my Prince. Did you put dornish peppers in this whiskey? A mere sip and tempers are getting heated,” Jon Arryn said, trying to lighten the mood.

    “You see,” Eddard began, ignoring the Hand. “I’ve just found out that the Lady Mormont stole and sold some of the spyglasses I sent to Bear Island so she’d have more money. Jorah Mormont then sold some poachers to slavers trying to get the money to replace them, but got caught by Lord Stark’s men. Now the former Lord has grabbed everything he could of the supplies I sent up there and fled with his wife, presumably to Essos. Now, since his wife is a cunt and he’s lost his realm trying to keep her from being punished, I’ve said that I’ll forgive him if he brings her back for justice. Since she’s the kind of woman that will probably going to cuckold him with some Essos noble once the money runs out, if she does, I’m sending assassins. Now he can either bring her back, or live with the faithless cunt in poverty for the rest of his life.”

    Robert nodded. “What’s this about mummery, then?”

    “Mormonts are all hairy as bears, right? But it was the woman Jorah married that caused all the problems. Which is funnier? A play about Jorah Mormont marrying a bear, like an actual fucking bear, which tears up the place and shits everywhere but they treat it like a lady? Or a play where all of the Mormont men are dressed up in bearskin costumes to look like bears, and he marries a regular lady, but she turns out to be greedier and worse than the bears, and fucks everything up just like the actual bear would?”

    Robert snorted a brief bit of laughter.

    “Because the Mormonts, the bears, were doing just fine, until that cunt came in and wrecked everything,” Eddard finished his explanation.

    Robert chuckled again, this time more openly. “A spoiled noblewoman causing a mischief among the bears is pretty funny,” he admitted.

    “My Father, the King, quite enjoys my whorehouse mummery,” the prince said in a low voice. “He knows what’s funny. You should take the men later today, Father. My treat. Nachos, wings, and whiskey for everyone.”

    “So the Prince of This and That is to add the title of Prince of Mummery and Whorehouses as well?” Lord Ashford asked, his eyes flashing.

    “The Prince of This and That?” Eddard asked, his hand clenching. “I haven’t heard that one.”

    “Watch yourself, Lord Ashford,” Robert rumbled warningly.

    “Perhaps we should all take a break and cool off. There’s no point in getting riled up over a disagreement.” Inwardly, Jon was cursing, both the prince and the hidebound lords that were so offended they would unwisely insult the prince in front of his own father.

    “Mmm, yes. Probably best if we split up before someone wears out their welcome.” Prince Eddard started to walk away, only to whirl on the men once more. “Oh, and Lord Ashford? If you hear someone using that charming little title for me? Just pass on this message from me personally. I’m not the Prince of This and That.”

    “I’m the Prince of Everything.”

    He glared over the table, then caught Jon’s eye before he left. “Lord Arryn? Please, a word.”

    Mentally wincing at how much smoothing over he was going to have to do to keep a nasty grudge from forming, well, a nastier one at any rate, Jon rose, pardoned himself, and followed the angry exit of the Prince.

    “Yes, my Prince? Please, I hope you don’t plan to start a vendetta over this. Not everyone is going to approve of your actions, as you yourself once warned me. Lord Ashford will soon return to his holdings, and Lord Gaunt won’t want to insult you. His holdings are in the Crownlands.”

    Prince Eddard shook his head. “I don’t give a shit about those Lords. By the time I’m king, I’ll be able to buy as many lords as I need, so fuck ‘em.” He paused. “Well, make sure Lord Florent gets a chance to talk to me later. But that’s not important.” He grabbed Jon’s shoulder with one strong hand and leaned close. “Lord Arryn. Jon. Please. This is important.”

    Taken aback, the Hand nodded.

    “How long have Robert’s eyes been yellow?”

    AN: Hopefully that addresses some of the questions of how the realm sees Eddard. He's not actually that popular, though he is powerful and very, very rich. Although he hasn't been campaigning on behalf of smallfolk and trying to get nobles to stop being assholes, he bucks tradition simply by getting as involved in business as he is. The only proper ways for nobles to make money is through control of land. Taxing their people and tariffs on trade, with some exceptions for major resources owned directly by the Lord, such as mines or ships. Running around and making things, like some sort of craftsman, is for low born. It doesn't help that the stuff he's making is so new and unexpected that it freaks people out by itself. Westeros is not a place favored by Tzeentch. This is the kind of place where a new sail plan would be considered the act of a wide eyed radical.

    However, Robert likes him and so does Jon Arryn, though he does wish he'd make fewer, more manageable waves. And there are those Lords that see the wealth and ideas he brings as opportunity, if they're ambitious and clever enough.

    Oh, yeah, thanks to everyone in the discord chat for their help. https://discordapp.com/invite/k7BPP2Y You make things better! And thanks for the comments from everyone on the forums. You make things better, too.
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2018
  5. Threadmarks: Chapter 4: The first rule of medical club is 'do no harm'.

    Nugar Know what you're doing yet?

    Aug 20, 2015
    Likes Received:
    Took an extra week to get this one out.

    My mood was sour and my thoughts bleak as I walked through the Keep and down the narrow stairs to the former dungeons. It took some doing, but I had credibility by the time last year when I asked to take over the dungeons. A jail can be built anywhere, a place cold enough for penicillin vats is a rare and valuable thing.

    Robert is a terrible king. Not the worst, no, and Jon Arryn’s competence means he hasn’t ran the country into the ground, but he’s not a good king. From a purely outside perspective, I’d say he needed to die. Especially if it put someone competent in charge.

    But I didn’t have an outside perspective anymore. He was my damned father. Not my Daddy, that will forever be another man I loved without reservation, but he was a decent enough father to me. I pretended to be what he wanted, a brave, physical son with a warhammer, and he loved me. I simply didn’t bother him with the parts of me he wouldn’t care about, such as the sciences and the books and the studying. I had no particular need for reassurance, after all, and his approval only meant something as far as it made my life easier, much like Cersei.

    But you can’t just be a man’s son for nearly a decade and a half and feel nothing, especially when you realize that you’re about to be the cause of his death.

    I don’t even need to kill him. His worst aspects are pretty much mitigated at this point. He hasn’t touched Cersei for years, and they mostly avoid each other, so that works. I’ve got him covered in whores so he mostly leaves the noble girls alone. He’s still spending money faster than the kingdom brings in, but I’ll catch up eventually, and more of the money is on useful things rather than just tourney purses. I also don’t particularly want to be king. This arrangement has been working fine.

    The really fucked up thing is, I can’t even say I didn’t see this coming. Back when I was younger, and just getting my distilleries going, I actually thought, ‘Oh hey, this will probably shorten Robert’s reign, too. That’ll be useful.’ Then I forgot about it.

    I’m such a shit.

    He’s already got jaundice. Yellowing eyes is an indication of a buildup of buliruben- ah, billiruben? I forgot how to spell it. The liver is supposed to process it, and it takes a very small percentage of healthy liver tissue to keep up with the normal body processes. If someone has jaundice from cirrhosis of the liver, their time is extremely short.

    I’m killing my father with booze.

    Probably shouldn’t have said it exactly like that to Jon Arryn, but it’s true. I explained what was going on, and we’re going to have a meeting later tonight about what to do about it.

    The problem is, the only thing I think could make Robert stop drinking is by secretly feeding him antabuse, which makes people sick just at the very smell of alcohol. The problem is, I don’t know how to make antabuse. I never learned.

    Oh, I’m decent enough at chemistry, and biology and medicine. I did, after all, work in a chemical lab for years in my first job. A US Army chemical weapon lab, to be exact. I was a civilian contractor, but I’ve done the NBC training. My college major was actually biology, the first time, and when I left the chem lab job, I went back to school as premed. Ran out of money before I could actually make it to medical or even my fallback of nursing school, but I’ve got education and real world experience with a pretty broad selection of things.

    I paused in the second deepest level of the Keep, the ‘Black Cells’. They used to be classic ‘tiny stone room with iron bars’ dungeon cells. No sanitation, food and water when the guards felt like it, and cold enough that some prisoners simply died of hypothermia. I had the bars torn out, the stone scrubbed with successive treatments of boiling water and soap, pure grain alcohol, and bleaching powder I made from slaked lime. I didn’t want anything contaminating the mold cultures.

    Maesters already knew that moldy bread could cure certain infections, and they’d actually found a number of decent strains of the penicillium mold, which they called blue mold. They didn’t know why it didn’t always work, though. Well, I did.

    Penicillin doesn’t work on all bacteria, of course, but also, the mold only produces the antibiotic when stressed, such as by low temperatures. So even though the mold grows faster at higher temperatures, you’ve got to keep the stuff fairly cool. So here on the third level, I had filled the place up with big wooden vats, about five hundred gallons each, that were loaded with a mixture of mashed corn and rye. Penicillin girls, commoner women bundled against the chill, stirred each vat several times a day with paddles to keep it mixed and let the mold spread through the feedstock.

    The women all paused and paid their respects, but I waved them off before they could start talking to me. I wasn’t here to chat.

    Why was I here?

    Oh yeah, the ice.

    I turned and continued down the staircase.

    Penicillin wasn’t the only thing I was working on, of course. Streptomycin, made by a common strain of soil bacteria, is even more valuable. It works on everything from tuberculosis to rat bite fever to the goddamn plague. Other strains of bacteria found in soil can produce candicidin, which treats yeast infections, and neomycin, the active ingredient in the topical ointment neosporin, which is a great general purpose antibiotic. Even if I missed streptomycin, I might get tetracycline, which was just about as good, and there’s dozens more antibiotics and antifungals from closely related strains. It should be especially effective here in westeros, where antibiotic resistant bacteria haven’t been pressured to evolve.

    I also needed to get my vaccine on, but apparently smallpox doesn’t exist here. Instead, they had weird shit like greyscale, which may or may not be magical because it sure as fuck doesn’t seem to react like I’d expect. It’s not leprosy, I’ll tell you that. The Bloody Flux is probably cholera but one of the antibiotics will work on that. I have no idea what the Pale Mare is, except everyone is deathly afraid of it. I just needed to start testing.

    Not here, though. Most of the bacteria made antibiotics don’t need the cold, so I needed a proper lab. Hadn’t quite got around to getting it constructed, but it was rapidly climbing the list. I’d been trying for streptomycin in my regular lab, but I was having a hell of a time getting the cultures going. My efforts at making agar plates weren’t turning out too well, partially because I think I’m working with the wrong kinds of seaweed, and partially because they keep getting contaminated. King’s Landing is, after all, a backed up sewer pretending to be a city. Of course, even if I did get good cultures going, I wasn’t sure if the same extraction method I used for penicillin would work.

    Penicillin had to be chemically extracted from the mold juice. Chemical extractions involve taking one solution, in this case, the mold juice, and mixing it with another solution, in this case, amyl acetate, or banana oil. Penicillin, and unfortunately a few other compounds, will dissolve into the amyl acetate from the water, leaving most of the undesired compounds in the water. Amyl acetate is an oily liquid that doesn’t mix with water, so then you can physically separate it. Then you combine it with distilled water, and the penicillin goes into the distilled water. Then you can separate it from the undesirable compounds and concentrate it.

    Westeros has bananas, but amyl acetate is easier to make in bulk from reacting vinegar, acetic acid, with pentanol, which is a heavy alcohol. Acetic acid is the main component of vinegar, and can easily be distilled out. Pentanol isn’t easy to come by, but you do get a small amount in the fusil oils, which are the final product of grain alcohol production.

    The money is nice, but I started alcohol distillation because I needed the byproducts to fulfill my goal of bringing a few small slices of modern medicine to my people. A noble goal, tempered only slightly by pride and a desire to be remembered as someone that brought life, not death.

    Too bad my father was collateral damage.

    “Prince Eddard? Edd? Are you planning to redesign the water pump?” asked the voice behind me.

    “BWAH,” I replied cleverly, whirling and nearly catching Cayla with a flailing backhand as my heart leapt into my throat and proceeded to throttle me.

    Ducking my arm with long practice, Cayla put her hands on her hips, her ever-present notebook still in her left hand, and looked up at me in curiosity, and maybe a little concern. Her green eyes were just visible in the lamplight here on the lowest level of the dungeons.

    “Whu-what?” I asked, snatching my hands close to my body. “Sorry, sorry.”

    “I’m used to it, Edd.”

    I loved that I’d actually managed to get her to call me by name, at least when we were in private. I hated being called ‘prince’ ninety five thousand times a day. The occasional ‘grace’ was stupid as well. I was a lanky teenager. I had no grace.

    “You were staring at the pump as if you’d had a new idea. I was asking if you planned to rebuild it.”

    Here on the fourth level of the dungeons, there was a well and cistern with wonderfully cold and surprisingly pure water, especially since the dungeons above it were so incredibly nasty. I didn’t trust ‘surprisingly pure’, or open wells, so I had it capped off with a bronze cap and a rope pump. A rope pump used a long loop of rope studded with wooden balls every foot, which went over a pulley, down into the water, then up a pipe sticking into the water which was just big enough for the balls to fit through. Each ball, made of cypress heart which wouldn’t rot, dragged and pushed along about a pint of water by the time it reached the top. A geared hand crank ran the pump which exited into a gravity feed filter that used cloth, purified sand, and activated charcoal. It was the only well I’d drink unboiled water from.

    “Ah. Well, I do have some ideas for a better filter. I made pinkwater powder, and I think I can use that and something else to filter the water even more. I need to find some green sand.”

    Pinkwater powder was potassium permanganate, actually a black powder that turned water pink or purple when mixed. It mixed with greensand, manganese sand found in shallow ocean water or beaches, to remove most metals and many compounds from water, including arsenic, iron, and sulfides. Anyone who had their own well should be familiar with it. It also had other uses, which was why I had originally made it.

    “You’ve mentioned greensand before, I doubt you’re suddenly obsessed with it.” she replied, putting her hand on my arm and not quite accusing me of lying. “Was it the lords? I heard what Lord Ashford called you.” Her frown indicated she would not soon forget.

    “Ashford is a wore out leather boot. Fuck him,” I replied, running my fingers through my hair.

    “What is it then, that has you so upset?” she asked again. “Prince… Edd, you’re a terrible liar when you’re upset.”

    Yeah, I know. I can spin bullshit all day long, as long as I’m calm. Get me upset and all that goes right out the fucking window.

    I didn’t reply, instead picking up one of the clean glass demijohns, one gallon blown glass bottles wrapped in wicker to make them break less often, and put it under the spout. A few moments of enthusiastic spinning of the pump handle started the water going, and soon clean, filtered water started filling the bottle.

    Cayla waited patiently behind me, letting me get my thoughts in order.

    “Robert is killing himself by drinking too much of my booze,” I finally announced. There. Nice and neutral. Not claiming fault, like I did with Jon Arryn, but also not falsely implying I’m not responsible, either.

    “How do you know?”

    I briefly launched into an explanation of how I’d noticed his eyes turning yellow, and what that means. I didn’t try to pronounce ‘bilirubin’, I just said liver salts, but I gave her the run down. Livers are remarkably resilient organs capable of absorbing and excreting an astonishing amount of toxin, and alcohol is even good for the body in small amounts. Robert probably had another decade or two of drinking wine before having trouble, if indeed the fat alcoholic could be conquered by wine alone. Whiskey was a different story. Enough whiskey could kill anyone.

    Cayla nodded seriously after my explanation. The demijohn was full, so I picked it up and we trooped back upstairs to an out of the way corner of penicillin production. It might have technically been a degree or so colder in the lowest level, but the supplies were in the penicillin level. Technically, I didn’t have full dominion over the lowest level.

    My ice tray was made of tin, with a whole series of half spheres beaten into it. A sealed can of ammonium nitrate fertilizer was kept nearby, as the ‘fuel’ for the reaction. A generous scoop of ammonium nitrate was placed into the reaction tray, then topped off with water and briefly stirred. Then I filled the ice tray with water and set it in a holder that kept it in contact with the reaction liquid but not so deep it’d get contaminated. Given the temperature of our surroundings, the chill of the water, and the heavily endothermic reaction as ammonium nitrate dissolves in water, it’d probably take about fifteen minutes for the ice to finish forming.

    Cayla knew this, so as soon as I finished setting it up, she waved at one of the penicillin girls and told her to take over, and to deliver the ice to the King when it was finished. Then she grabbed my hand and practically dragged me upstairs. I think she was a little chilly. Neither of us were dressed for the cold, but it takes a while for chill to affect me.

    Bemused, I allowed her to direct me through the keep, all the way up to my bedroom. We saw Sandor along the way, but other than a nod he seemed to think I was well in hand.

    Once we hit my apartment, Old Gurnar, my manservant/butler/dogsbody, was waiting.

    “Crown Prince, your Queen Mother wishes for you to join her for lunch this afternoon,” he began.

    “I know, thanks Gurnar. Formal or semi-formal?”

    “The embroidered red silks should match your Queen Mother nicely,” he replied.

    Oh nice. That meant she’d be in that red silk cheongsam knockoff I had designed for her. She looks good in that. Admittedly, most women look good in that. I was going to have one made for Cayla one day.

    “I’ll handle getting him ready,” Cayla announced. “We have a planning meeting due anyway.”

    Old Gurnar nodded slowly. He didn’t entirely approve of Cayla, but respected her enough to let her do her job. He was an old man, at least in his seventies, and barely able to do his job, but he was also training a pair of young men whom he made do most of the physical work.

    Obstacles surmounted, Cayla dragged me into my bedroom, and immediately started stripping me of my clothing. Well, ordering me to take it off, mostly. I was too tall for her to really physically handle.

    Unbidden, fantasies of her bringing me here to fuck sense back into my head jumped to mind, and other body parts jumped as well.

    That wasn’t what was happening, though, obviously.

    I knew that, she knew that, and she politely ignored how part of me held out hope. I couldn’t ignore that part, but I did my best.

    Once I was down to boxer short underwear, another thing I’d introduced, she bid me lay face down on my bed.

    Oh. Oh nice.

    Erection still wouldn’t go away, but at least I knew what was going on now.

    Cayla hiked her skirt up a bit, then straddled my body, seating herself on my butt. Then, rather methodically, she began to scratch my back.

    Aww, yeah. It’s good to be the prince.

    She didn’t do this anywhere near often enough in my opinion, but part of the point of something like this is the unexpected aspect, so I couldn’t just order her to. I mean, I could, and she would, but that would defeat the point.

    My erection was basically a permanent feature at this point, and pressed down into my goose down mattress and occasionally rocked by her motions sitting on my hips and butt… Well. Just call me double-d.

    Still, I practically melted under her hands. She mixed a little massaging in, but mostly she ran her short, trimmed fingernails over every inch of my back, chasing the tension away. I groaned in pleasure.

    Very faintly, under her breath, I heard something about ‘years of… training, and he just wants his back scratched. Oh my prince.’

    I ignored that. Cayla didn’t like answering questions about her past, but from various hints I’m pretty sure Varys bought her from slavers in Lys before he trained her to be my secretary. I doubt it was a happy time for her.

    About the moment I was hitting that perfect moment of pure bliss, she lay down on top of my back, her lips close enough to whisper into my ear. I was hyper aware of two little erect nubs pressing into the newly sensitized skin of my back. It occurred to me to wonder if she ever got pent up, as well.

    “You made a mistake, and it’s hurting your father. Fix it.”

    I half started to rise up, and I could have, she wasn’t that heavy, but since she was trying to hold me down, I stayed face down on the bed. “It’s not that simple,” I replied. “My father would have to stop drinking. He’s an alcoholic, and he hasn’t been in real pain in ages. The withdrawal would be like torture, and I don’t think he could bring himself to stop. If he stops, he’ll get better, but as soon as he starts again, and he will start again if he does stop, it will kill him even faster.”

    “So don’t just put it off. Fix it.”

    I huffed. “The only way to fix it would be to take the liver of someone else and put it in him. But there’s a lot of problems with that. They’ve got to have the same blood. Not necessarily family, although family is more likely to, but there’s a lot of problems involved.”

    “Do you know what the problems are?” she asked.

    “Yeah, mostly.”

    I loved that Cayla never really questioned how I figured stuff out, she just accepted it. I didn’t ask about her secrets, she didn’t ask about mine.

    “Then fix them.”

    “I can’t. I don’t know how to make the drugs he would need, even if I did find someone with the same blood. And I’d have to find someone dying, but not dead, to be able to do it.”

    She thought about that for a while. “You wouldn’t kill a man for his liver?”

    “No,” I replied firmly. “Not for a king. Not even for my father.” Not even a condemned man. That’s some evil shit I won’t be a part of. Looking at you, China.

    Cayla was silent for a moment, then continued. “Do the maesters know how to cure this liver disease?”

    “N-uuuhh probably not.”

    “But are you sure?”

    “No,” I admitted.

    “And much is said about foreign magicians. They say the warlocks of Qarth can keep a man’s mind going after his body stops. And there are many tales of the Red Priests of R’hllor bringing men back to life. Do you know how they do that?”

    “…No,” I admitted.

    “So, are you the man who only fixes what he knows how to fix? Have you forgotten how to learn?”

    I sighed. Her physical weight was a comfort. Her words bruised.

    “Go ahead and give yourself a raise. Whatever you want. We’re probably going to be busy for a while,” I said in defeat.

    “Yes, we will. I will search for new things for you to learn. You will get your father to stop drinking for a while, to buy us some time. You will also train harder. There is a tourney coming up in just over a month, in honor of your brother’s nameday. You will ride the lists this time.”

    Bleh. I’d rather prioritize the melee, since it was more likely to be of actual use in the future, but I can’t deny that the joust gives better rep.

    “For today, you will have lunch with your mother. This evening, you should train with Sandor, or your uncle, or both. Tomorrow, you will train for the lists while I begin research. We’ll start with the maesters.”

    “I have a meeting with Jon Arryn this evening,” I added. “About Father.”

    I felt Cayla nod, factoring that into her plans. “I will find out when he wishes to meet. It may be after dinner.” I felt her rise off me, leaving me face down on the bed. There was a brief rustling, and then a thin, but beautifully illustrated book dropped onto the bed in front of my face.

    The book had no title, but the embossed cover had a depiction of the Lysene goddess of Love. It was a pillowbook from Lys, an instructional manual and pornography both.

    My heart stopped for a moment. She wasn’t supposed to know where that was.

    “Be clear-headed when you speak to your mother. You are not immune to her charm,” Cayla warned. “I’ll be back in time to see you dressed.”

    I have no words.

    AN: Again, thanks to everyone who comments, especially those in the discord channel. You a writer? Want your own channel in my server? Just ask.
  6. Threadmarks: Chapter 5: Lots of Stuff and a Beautiful Woman

    Nugar Know what you're doing yet?

    Aug 20, 2015
    Likes Received:
    I sat on my bed, partially dressed in black pants and boots, and cracked my neck with a twist. No, I did not relieve any tension.

    Take that how you will.

    My bed was nice, at least for the technology level I lived in. The base was several layers of firm, coarsely woven reed mats stuffed with a variety of pest controlling bark and leaves, such as cedar heart, mint, lavender, thyme, catnip, and, amazingly enough, patchouli. The top layer was goose and duck down.

    Do you know how many ducks and geese it takes to fill a prince size mattress? I don’t. But it’s a lot. And it makes for a decently comfortable bed, laying there on the remnants of waterfowl massacre.

    I mean, it’s no tempurpedic. And I prefer cotton sheets, but even the finest imported sheets were kinda rough and scratchy compared to good machine woven, so I’d ended up going with silk. Still, it beats straw ticking. Or worse, nothing.

    Honesty, the three room complex that was my apartment were pretty nice. I mean, I pretty much split my indoors time between my room and my lab. The lab was for projects, tools, and things to tinker with. My rooms were where I kept my stuff. I was right next door to Cersei’s rooms, one of which was used as Myrcella’s bedroom. Tommen was off with Kevan Lannister in Summerhall. He was a little young to be away from both Robert and Cersei, but like me he was an independent sort, and he actively resisted Cersei’s attempts to mother him.

    Favored child status: maintained.

    I was a bit of a packrat and I had a lot of stuff. A copy of my stirling engine desk fan, because I like the white noise and breeze when I’m falling asleep. The six maester’s links I’d earned hung above my desk. Chunks of various kinds of ore and minerals sat on shelves. A few nice tapestries hung on my walls here and there, either house crests or various scenes of battle or hunting or in one case a Lysene party.

    And there ain’t no party like a Lysene party.

    One of these days, if all goes well, I will destroy Lys for being the slaver shits they are. But for the moment, I could appreciate the artistry of it. And by artistry I mean naked girls and boys. And by appreciate I mean in a purely clinical, intellectual fashion. Medically! Yes, it was all about the anatomy! I should have thought of that excuse before.

    I also had mirrors, of course. My biggest early profitable venture, though income had tapered off over the years. Mirrors are easy even at a home chemistry level. So naturally I had a couple of decent sized mirrors set up so you could see yourself from all angles. I also had trophies on the wall. Lifelike carved fish, based on ones I had caught or speared. A big, dried, incredibly brilliantly colored crab shell. Mother of pearl seashells. A giant, taxidermied boar head was in my ‘living room’ area, its enormous curved tusks stained red.

    That big boar had killed my first dog, Brut. Brut had been a big boy, even more muscular, more mastiff looking than Rusty. I loved that dog, but then, I love all my dogs. He died doing what he loved, and he absolutely loved hunting and fighting. I’m one hundred percent against making dogs fight each other. But hunting is different. Yeah, they die sometimes. But Brut died with the biggest doggy grin on his face. Going out on a big hunt with Robert and I was literally his favorite thing in the world. We were pack, and we fought beside him, and Brut died with no regrets other than not getting to do even more of the same. That had been four years ago.

    I’ll miss you, Brut. You were a good boy.

    On a more recent tragic note, I currently lacked a horse. I mean, I had horses I could go ride, but I didn’t have one that was mine the way Rusty was mine. My very first practice after my arm had healed from the last tourney, some random nobody hedge knight’s horse stumbles at the last second and the guy puts his lance through my horse’s eye.

    Rest in peace, Brucephallus. You were a good boy, too.

    I also had other trophies and curiosities. I had a small, as in about four foot long, partial dragon skeleton. Both legs were missing the femurs and the wing was missing the long bones, too, but the ribs, spine, and skull were all there. I was trying to get reproductions made of the missing bones but it was low priority. Also I kinda wanted to turn it into an automata, but wasn’t sure if that was a good idea.

    Lurking menacingly in a dark corner was a whole taxidermied basilisk, about six foot long. Fascinating creature, really. They weren’t particularly fast, but in a stand up fight they were nightmares, with six agile limbs and a powerful bite. They were really kinda similar to komodo dragons, but where komodos used their venom to inflict an inescapable death and then patiently followed, basilisk venom induced a mindless rage in its victims, causing them to immediately attack the closest thing, the basilisk, instead of running. And mindlessly attacking a basilisk is a terrible idea. Frankly, they belonged in Australia.

    Another creature that should be an Australian native was the manticore. Basically, an evil looking winged scorpion, horrifically venomous. Pretty, if you like evil little deadly things. I had a couple pinned to a display board under glass, alongside a host of other pretty or unusual bugs, all labeled. Similarly, I had a big display board on the wall with dried snake skins of a bunch of different types. Generally, I find it’s a good idea to memorize what’s venomous and what’s not.

    I had arms and armor scattered all over the place in my rooms, since most of it was personal and some of it was rare and expensive enough I didn’t want anyone else having access to it. Standing here and there were several armor stands laden with armor. One light armor set in chain and boiled leather, one set of mostly scale I had outgrown, and a newish set of heavy plate which had become my main armor. Good quality, but nothing special, merely enameled with my house colors and crest on the breastplate. I was growing too damned fast to put serious work into a fancy armor set I was going to have to replace in six months anyway. The only really noteworthy parts were the shield and great helm.

    The shield was pattern welded metal, swirls of mirror bright nickel steel stood out among loops and blotches of dark grey and light grey steel. It seemed a shame to cover up the face of the shield in paint or gilding, so I went with a brass inlaid gear behind the black Baratheon stag. The black stag itself was gilded in hepatizon, that same dark copper alloy Ilina was using for the crow feathers on the whirligig automata. The crown collar on the stag was gold. There was also one more difference in the design of the stag, and it was reflected in my helm.

    The great helm was just good steel, but taking inspiration from Robert’s ludicrous ceremonial helm with the stag antlers, I had my own set of antlers on it. The ‘stag’ of House Baratheon was no ordinary deer, and actually had antlers closer to that of a mule deer or elk. But I was the young stag, right? At least before I got more insulting titles such as the Toymaker Prince, or Prince of This and That.

    Young male deer get their first antlers at about one year old, and they’re small. Usually they’re just short spikes, each with one point, and maybe a tiny secondary point. Yearling bucks are often called spikes.

    One of my hunts with Robert, I killed a spike. His tiny, four inch antlers adorn my helmet, and the stag on my shield has similar endowments.

    Of course, I had weapons, too. My glaive, currently in two pieces for easy carrying. The pole unscrewed part of the way down, leaving the slightly swept, valyrian steel edged blade on a long handle. Its length was about like that of a great sword, but more of it was handle than blade. I also had a backsword, a single edged, slightly curved blade similar to a falchion, made the same way.

    I was fascinated with valyrian steel. Swords made of it were basically vorpal, impossible to break under any strain yet achieved, and sharper than a razor. Literally magic. It didn’t glow, it didn’t tickle the edges of my senses, but that shit was magic.

    Real magic.

    Hell yes I slightly obsessed over the stuff. I hadn’t managed to keep all that I found, but there was some in the castle that had been overlooked. Maesters used valyrian steel links to indicate their mastery of the study of magic. There was a royal physician’s kit that had some tools made of the stuff. Some sort of candlestick. A really big chunk I found when digging out the dragonpit that House Royce would literally murder me over if they found out I’d had it secretly chopped up into unrecognizable pieces instead of returning it to them. Sorry, folks, I needed dragonsteel more than I needed the gratitude of a single House.

    I also found the infamous catspaw dagger, though I’d kept it instead of breaking it down. Although, I did replace that stupid dragonbone hilt with one that didn’t want to slip out of my hand and also wasn’t a risk of accidentally stabbing myself in the gut. I went with a bowie knife style hilt and guard. It was currently locked up in a trunk with my backsword. Since I practiced more than I actually fought, I had a dulled copy of the backsword in regular steel for training. I also had a copy of the catspaw knife as the knife I usually carried on my belt. With the better handle and guard, it had become the fashionable new accessory for the well-heeled young noble.

    Tobho Mott knew how to rework valyrian steel. He split the Stark great sword, Ice, into two new swords in the original events. So I thought, if he can do that, why waste the super rare stuff on the parts of a sword that didn’t need to be magic? Like, oh, basically all of it that wasn’t the edge?

    So, we came up with a workable method for drawing the steel out into much smaller strips, with lesser steel wrapped around it. Like a taco with a razor blade sticking out the open side. Then welded and forged. There were issues, of course. You can’t actually weld valyrian steel. But we worked it out. That’s why my sword and glaive were single edged, to save on valyrian steel and make the project achievable.

    Sandor had one exactly like mine, for instance. And I’d made a few more things I’d used as gifts. The only double edged sword we’d made was Lion’s Pride. Tywin finally had a, partial, valyrian steel sword for his house.

    I called mine ‘Quill’, and my glaive ‘The Pointiest Stick’.

    I crack myself up sometimes.

    The rest of the valyrian steel I’d got had gone into other projects.

    Another magical material I had access to was dragonbone. Not as magical as dragonsteel, but apparently possessed of some properties often considered magic. When made into a bow, even at the same draw weight as a regular wooden bow, it shot further and more accurately. Now, part of that might be that dragonbone is lightweight and flexible, like bird bones, to allow for flight. But dragons were unquestionably magical, and nothing as big as Balerion has any goddamn business flying around under the laws of physics as I know them.

    I don’t understand magic. I’ve even got the green porcelain link that says I’ve successfully mastered wildfire. There are rituals. If you do them, it works, if you don’t, it doesn’t. But with dragonbone, there aren’t any rituals involved in working it. You just carve it. It’s hard as hell, but one of the uses I’d saved as much valyrian steel for was making a set of tools, so it’s easy enough for a master bowyer. And yet, the bow turns out not just better, but actually more accurate. Absolutely bizarre.

    I was fond of archery in my first life and that was the one martial hobby I had that translated perfectly into my life as a prince. I mean, I’d fenced with foil, saber, and epee, but only Braavosi water dancing even came close to those, and it was still radically different. But archery, there was something I had a leg up with, with experience with flat bows, longbows, recurve, compound bows, and several kinds of crossbows. From the murder of Baelish onward, I’d practiced various kinds of archery. To that end, I had a whole collection of bows from all across the world hanging on pegs, in stands, and in display cases.

    My favorite three were the ones made from dragonbone. I’m a good shot, but not a great shot, and that metaphorical, or not so metaphorical, magical plus 3 helps. I had a dothraki short recurve bow, ideal for firing from horseback. Just like the Mongols or the Parthians, they knew horse archery. I preferred traditional recurves, but there’s no point in having modern knowledge and not using it, so my primary hunting bow was a compound bow, a copy of one I had once owned.

    Compound bows use asymmetrical pulleys and a complicated string arrangement to reduce the amount of force needed to hold it at full draw, allowing for a longer, easier time in which to aim. Also, they were more efficient than other bows, with a smoother acceleration and far more force imparted to the arrow. This results in a faster arrow, which ignores wind a little bit more, has a flatter trajectory, more accuracy, and more range. The problem I ran into was that modern compound bows are made of fiberglass, aircraft aluminum, and sometimes carbon fiber. My first spring steel reproduction weighed almost eighty pounds.

    But then I remembered dragonbone. My compound bow had a draw weight of a hundred and twenty pounds and could fire an unaimed arrow just over a thousand yards. It had a realistic range against a man sized target of about three hundred yards. Not as good as ultramodern archery, but amazing for what I had to work with. Dragonbone is magic. And that’s just the regular bow. My crossbow used the same system of pulleys but had thicker limbs and a three hundred fifty pound draw and maximum distance of more than a mile. I made a scope for it out of one of my smaller, 6x magnification spyglasses. It could put an arrow lengthwise all the way through a bear at five hundred yards. Why make a rifle when I had a magic fucking bow?

    And lords are obsessed with skill at the joust, the crash test dummy of martial combat. God I hate these people sometimes.

    That was all the dragonbone of sufficient thickness I could get, though, unless I wanted to start carving up Balerion’s skull down in the dungeons. That seemed like a terrible thing to do to a skull that magnificent, so I didn’t do it.

    Yep. If you measured success in stuff, I was pretty successful. If you measured success in inventions, I was doing pretty good. If you measured success in improving the lives of people, I felt like I was alright.

    Why, then, do I feel empty? Like I’m in an endless holding pattern, a chick waiting on feathers to grow, a farm boy who’s made the decision to join the army but is still mucking the stable.

    Cayla picked that moment to burst through my door like fucking Kramer in an episode of Seinfeld, her skirts swirling. I got a glimpse of calf… and stocking. Huh. I didn’t know she was wearing stockings today. Nice.

    She saw me sitting on the bed, eyed me for a moment, then slumped just a little in disappointment.

    “What, thought you’d catch me doing something?” I asked ruefully.

    “You didn’t do anything,” she griped, striding over and glowering at me with her hands on her hips. “You sat in here and brooded.”

    I shrugged, not denying it. “I started getting dressed,” I offered.

    “Ugh. You picked the wrong clothes, too,” she said with a sniff, whirling and starting to open armoires and drawers.

    Heh, I don’t usually see her in a female snit. Of course, usually I listen to her, and for years she still had the whole subservient thing internalized. I liked her sassy. Too many doormat women around.

    I mean, not that I blame them, what with the whole beatings and rape thing being about as controversial here as shitting in the street. It’s uncouth and you don’t want to hang out with someone who does it a lot, but it’s generally ignored unless it offends a noble. Technically rape was illegal, but that was really more about rape of another man’s wife or daughter, or not paying a prostitute. It was seen as a property issue, like theft, not really a violation of the woman. And the laws of the kingdom were really mostly guidelines.

    I’d say Cayla knew my room almost as well as I do, but with the discovery that she knew where I hid that pillowbook, I’m going to give up and say she probably knows it even better. I listened to her when she dragged out clothes.

    Light cotton pants, dyed a deep blue, almost black. Why that was better than the all black pants I had originally grabbed, I couldn’t tell you. Soft black shoes, not boots. An almost white cotton shirt with mother of pearl buttons. A wide black silk belt with only my knife stuck in it. And the main event, something like a frock coat, thin enough to almost be a button-up long sleeve shirt, in dark crimson silk and elaborate gold embroidery, with red coral togs.

    I was honestly of mixed feelings about the silk coat. On one hand, I look pretty damned good in it, and by all reports it will complement my mother’s silk dress. On the other, I don’t want to get food stains on it.

    Then Cayla turned her attention to my hair. I had short black hair, so there wasn’t a lot that could be done with it, but she at least made sure it wasn’t tousled. I was too young to grow a beard or mustache, but old enough to have a few wispy strands. I mostly plucked them out with tweezers. There’s little more pathetic looking than a teenager with scraggly wisps.

    Finally satisfied with her work, Cayla stepped back and smiled at me. “You look good, Edd,” she said.

    “Hah!” I laughed. “That’s your work, not mine.”

    She adjusted her glasses. “I will never understand how a man who can design a dozen new types of smallclothes and dresses and costumes for women before his balls even drop can’t seem to understand how to properly match colors and set fashion for himself.”

    I was a little bit offended at that, but not much. “Hey, that’s two different things entirely!”

    Cayla raised one eyebrow. “Oh? Explain it to me, Prince of Maesters.”

    I huffed, turning and pointing at one of the big mirrors that showed both of us, and angles of the other mirrors in the room that showed our backs and sides. “It’s simple, my lovely assistant. Do you not see it?”

    We both stared at ourselves and each other. Me, resplendent in the dark red, thigh length silk coat. Thread of gold glittered with slight movements, and the partially open front showed the ivory cotton and flashes of mother of pearl buttons. The wide black belt kept the coat close at the waist, its polished silver buckle drawing the eye. I was as big as the average man, but my face was thin and youthful, my proportions lanky and unimpressive. I looked like a snotty rich kid.

    But Cayla. Oh Cayla. She wasn’t even in finery, merely a slightly floofy swirl of pleated rich dark green linen over an underskirt of fine amber cotton that came down to mid-calf. Black boots with heel added two inches to her height of just under five and a half feet tall, their tops disappearing under the skirt. A scoop necked white shirt displayed her neck and some of her décolletage, itself under more of the shimmery amber of the cotton. Hints of her bra were visible under the cloth, lifting and separating her breasts, and I knew she had on a garter belt and stockings since I’d gotten a peek earlier. I had no idea what panties she was wearing, but I’d introduced all the major cuts and any of them would stop my heart if I saw her in them. Her lovely face had a firm chin and elegant nose, with those intense green eyes staring back at me knowingly through the clear lenses of her glasses. She was, if she hadn’t lied, twenty years old, but she looked more like she was in her mid-twenties, the prime of her life, all woman and no girl. Her dark blonde hair was twisted up into a practical bun and pinned with a thick chinese style hair pin with an enameled unopened magnolia bulb at the end, its ivory white flower petals peeking out from within. The hairpin was actually a sheathed, extremely thin and sharp dirk, and I knew she had several other knives, as well as a few poisons, secreted on her body, just in case. I’d given them to her.

    I’d burn the iron throne to slowly disrobe her and find every hidden weapon, meticulously cataloging every nook and cranny she had…

    …I just wasn’t willing to see the death and destruction that would certainly happen if I did. The examples of Tyrion and Robb loomed large in my mind.

    She quirked her mouth and put her hands on her hips. “I give up. Please explain it to me.”

    Did she not understand? Did she understand, but just want to hear me say it? Ah, I may never know.

    “Ah, but it’s so obvious,” I said with a pompous air. “When I look at myself, I see a pretentious little shit, too rich and too spoiled to be worth notice. But when I look at a woman, I see beauty. I see art. I see the wonder that are and the wonders that could be, and all these images spring to my mind of how to bring it out. And more than just some ordinary woman, when I look at you...”

    She was fighting a smile, trying her best to keep it down to an innocently curious expression. “Oh, my Prince? What do you see, when you look at me?”

    “The most beautiful woman in the world,” I admitted quietly. That title supposedly went to my mother, and I was supposed to say it myself, but here, just the two of us, I could admit it.

    She hip bumped me sassily, kissed her finger, reached up, and pressed it to my nose. “Oh, don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re not bad either, for a spoiled, rich little shit.”

    I sighed.

    “Now, don’t be late. And try to get your mind on straight before your Queen Mother asks you to do something rash, like poison your father or something.”

    AN: Thought this chapter would have lunch with Cersei, but I had to rewrite a lot of stuff and it ran long. Next chapter: Did she say 'poison your father' or 'boiling in chowder'?
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2018
  7. Threadmarks: Chapter 6: Crabpocalypse and Family Planning

    Nugar Know what you're doing yet?

    Aug 20, 2015
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    Lunch was held in a lovely veranda kind of area near the royal apartments. I left Cayla and Sandor behind to fend for themselves, not that that was any kind of hardship when both of them had the standing to order anything they wanted from the kitchens.

    Idly, I wondered if they’d eat lunch together, like they did breakfast that morning.

    Huh. The two of them have always gotten along pretty well. I wonder if there’s anything there. Or if there could be anything there.

    That’d be a decent sort of deal after I’m married to Sansa. My right hand and my left hand getting married. Sandor is a noble but sort of despises nobility, so that’s probably not much of an obstacle.


    “Nephew! I haven’t seen you in a week,” Jamie greeted, meeting me as I was escorted in by one of the servants.

    I know that, as a modern sort of man who knows that nobility is bullshit and that I’m not actually any better than the servants except through luck, I’m supposed to be friendly to servants and take interest in their lives, at least to the point of knowing their names and such. But I can’t even keep track of all the nobles I’m supposed to, and servants come and go pretty often.

    “Hey, Uncle Jamie. You look… good.” What I started to say was ‘kinda peaked’, but I find it easiest to deal with uncomfortable things by ignoring them. We didn’t hug, but we did grab each other’s arms.

    Jamie wasn’t quite dressed in court finery, like I was, instead wearing the same type of clothes he usually wore. They were clean, and fairly fine, since his duties as one of the White Cloaks means he’s usually at least somewhat formal, but he hadn’t put effort into dressing up, either. Of course, he can get away with that. Cersei likes to dress up and positively pouts if I don’t join her. Jamie is better at denying her.

    “You look like something just pissed you off. Did a gear pop off your latest creation?” he snarked, turning with me as we went to the table.

    “I- Oh. No, just an uncomfortable thought. A complex puzzle with a simple solution that for some reason I don’t like.”

    He glanced at me. “People?”

    “People.” I turned and looked around. “So where’s Mother? And Celly?”

    He shrugged. “Myrcella is with her tutor and a couple of other girls. Cersei was still getting dressed, last I saw her.”

    I’m sure she was. No one actually says anything about it but I still find it mystifying that half of King’s Landing doesn’t know he’s fucking her. They are not subtle, especially with comments like that.

    Of course, they both know I know, so maybe they’re more circumspect with outsiders. I don’t know.

    I looked around. The table was set with a decorative centerpiece of bright red coral, mother of pearl shells, and a riot of flowers that bloom around sand dunes and beaches. Flickers of colored light spun slowly through the room, reflected from and through a small windmill with a rainbow of stained glass blades set up on the edge of the veranda. Above us a large ceiling fan with ornately carved blades also spun slowly, powered by a larger, more functional windmill I’d set up out of sight above us. That same windmill also ran a tiny pump that kept water flowing through a miniature waterfall and river over to the side. The river had a clear glass wall on our side, letting us see the flickers of small colorful fish going through it. Tiny bonsai trees and to scale golden lions and bronze deer decorated the ‘land’ around the river. Basically, I’d copied the kind of fountain you see at bigger Asian restaurants sometimes.

    The marble floor was polished smooth and lustrous, the stonework of the veranda railing was masterful, and even the chairs were made of a rich, dark wood carved with ornate designs and family crests. Flowered vines crawled up trellises and along the edge of the roof, while planters and pots with even more flowers lurked in corners and against the columns holding up the roof.

    This was Cersei’s favorite place to host. Everything, from the flowers to the stained glass windmill, was a power play. Wealth, power, taste. I had contributed to it, naturally, but that didn’t make the decision to have lunch here any less of a ploy. Instead of intimidating me, it was a welcome.

    ‘Look what we can do together, as family.’

    Yup. Just family. The son, the mother, and the stepfather-uncle. Family looks after family, gotta keep it in the family.

    I sneer, but the truth is I’m actually pretty invested in these people. Jamie is pretty sharp with his tongue, but actually pretty fun to be around. Cersei is, at this point, my mother. Not my Momma, but definitely my mother. She’s always been the one to react with pride and delight whenever I present her with some new accomplishment or thing. She always uses her influence to help me make deals or go around obstacles. Frankly, other than being a huge bitch to everyone who isn’t family, she’s actually a pretty good mother. I hate to admit it, but I love her.

    And the incest? Who gives a shit? I don’t, at any rate. It’s bad genetically speaking and it’s definitely a sign of some major dysfunction, but other than the consequences of being caught I don’t really see where it’s a problem at this point. They’re consenting adults. Now, the consequences of being caught are pretty goddamn bad, and stupid to risk, but that’s out of my hands. I don’t mind her cheating on Robert at all, especially given how he fucks anything that moves. I do my best not to judge.

    Then Cersei struts in like she’s some sort of queen.


    You know.

    And man, does she look good in that brilliant red silk cheongsam. For a moment, both Jamie and I just watch her walk towards us. If you like arrogance and power in your beautiful women, Cersei is pretty much top tier. Like, give her a wand and some black robes, boom, classic Sorceress. A business suit and she’s a CEO. A hand axe and some fur lined leather, barbarian queen. Her features are slightly severe but well formed, and there’s no shy tittering or girlish coquettishness. Cersei is a woman.

    She’s also my mother, so I recovered first and nudged Jamie, then strode forward and gave her a hug. I’ve never considered myself particularly affectionate, but apparently I’m pretty touchy feely by local standards. Cersei hugs me back, because that’s what we do.

    “If you wanted to see me, you didn’t have to go through a big production. You could have just said so,” I chided her gently, placing a chaste kiss on the top of her head, then letting her go.

    “It’s fun on occasion. We have all this, so why not use it?” she replied with a smile.

    I’ve only seen four people in the world get a real smile from her, and I’m one of them.

    I escorted her the last few feet to the table and pulled her chair out for her, allowing her to seat herself primly. Jamie sat to her right and I to her left.

    A watching servant took that as the signal to begin, and three servants immediately came out with our first course.

    Three large, clear glass goblets with a reddish mush in the bottom and three large fried prawns hanging from the rim.


    “What’s this?” I asked, indicating the dish. I know what it looked like. I hadn’t introduced it.

    “Fried prawn tails with a tomato-lemon salsa,” one of the servants replied, a guy. “The chef has not named it yet, I hope it meets with your approval.”

    “It’s good,” Cersei assured me, daintily dipping one of the prawns in the sauce. Because of course they’d let her try it first, you don’t surprise Cersei if you know what’s good for you. She’s kinda controlling.

    Huh. The chef has invented the shrimp cocktail. Convergent evolution is an amazing thing. I mean, I absolutely detest cocktail sauce, but this wasn’t exactly the same. Surely it was better.

    I obediently lifted one of the prawn by the tail and dipped it in the salsa before taking a bite.

    Immediately, my mouth started burning. Not with spice, oh no, though there were hints of dornish peppers in it. No, the problem is, everyone else here has an unhealthy obsession with vinegar. And I hate vinegar. And this ‘tomato lemon salsa’ had to be at least 50% brown vinegar by volume.

    My eyes watered just a little, and I had to overcome some gag reflex, but I still swallowed. Jamie and Cersei showed every evidence of actually enjoying the horrific fake salsa, ‘falsa’. I simply ate the fried prawns and avoided the stuff.

    We made small talk. Not inconsequential, exactly. I reported the fire, that Tyrion is doing well, Lord Ashford’s nascent silk empire, and my new unflattering nickname. Jamie caught me up with the doings of some of the knights, and we discussed training. Cersei told me a few new things about fashion, a more detailed report on what Tommen and Kevan Lannister were up to in Summerhall, and how well Myrcella was doing in her various studies. We spent the most time discussing Myrcella’s standing among the various noble daughters that were her playmates. As a princess, her standing was the highest, but there’s more to being the leader of any given group than just social standing. Myrcella didn’t just have friends, she had lessons.

    Then came the next course, and the next, and the next. Buttered bread piled high with tiny shrimp, creamy seafood soup, crab pie, and literal piles of thick, delicious crab legs. I love crab. No, I mean, I LOVE crab. I make sure people know I love crab, and know that they can bribe me to do things by giving me crab. This encourages people to give me crab.

    Cersei knows I love crab. Now, she dotes on me enough that not every crab dinner is accompanied by a request, but it’s more than average.

    So it wasn’t a surprise when we reached the final course, our drinks refilled, food set out, and the servants sent away to give us privacy. Candied fruits and whipped cream for Cersei, and the aforementioned piles of crab legs for Jamie and I. Sweet flaky crab meat is all the dessert I need. Of course, this is also the point my inner glutton comes out, and I will eat crab until I enter a food coma. So that means this is serious discussion time, punctuated by cracking exoskeleton.

    “So, my son. I have some important news for you.”

    “Bad news?” I asked, pausing in the middle of breaking a leg off. Because it’s never good news.

    “Well, it’s good news, it’s just… complicated.” She looked a little discomfited.

    I gestured with the now dismembered leg. “Okay. What’s happening?”

    “I’m pregnant.”

    I stabbed myself with a claw, drawing a spot of blood. “Fuck!” I hissed, wiping at the spot with a napkin.

    “Or I believe I am. I’ve missed a monthly, and there has been plenty of chances,” she said, glancing at Jamie, who held her hand.

    “When was the last time Robert approached you?” I asked, my concern instant.

    She winced. “There is the complication. It’s been more than a year. Closer to two. So I need your help.”

    So, there are things a son never wants to know about his mother. But there’s things you need to know as a medical professional. Now, I’m not a medical professional, but I try. And when I was younger, and Robert was still fucking Cersei on the regular, it was pretty clear she hated it and it hurt. So I worked on solutions. Glycerol based personal lubricant, to help with her complete lack of arousal and Robert’s battering ram approach. White petroleum jelly to help with chafes and scrapes. Salicylic acid concentrate for the occasional wart. Cranberry juice for UTIs. A complete moratorium on weird ass maester prescribed douches. Chastising Robert. Distracting him with whores or hunting.

    Basically, I did what I could, short of murdering Robert, to keep Cersei safe and healthy and comfortable.

    So there’s a certain amount of trust, here. Part of that trust is not asking her if the kid is Jamie’s in front of Jamie. I don’t know if he knows she cheats on him with other men. I am going to have to ask, because it could be really important. The issue of parentage with her is actually one I’ve already looked into.

    Back in my earlier days of learning medicine with the maesters, I introduced blood transfusions. Now, as most people know, you have to have compatible blood before you can donate to someone. So you have to know people’s type. Typing blood without a kit is slower and you usually need to use a magnifier, but it’s doable. Typing blood without any known starting values just means you can mix up ‘A’ and ‘B’. AB and O are pretty obvious, as is Rh factor.

    And, if you know blood type of parents and child, you can sometimes determine if a child is by a different father. You can’t prove a positive, but you can sometimes prove a negative. And also, I had suspicions of why I was born so sickly, and Robert and Cersei never produced another child together.

    So I ran typing. As an arbitrary choice between A or B, I am A+. Robert is A+. Cersei is O-. Jamie is O-. Myrcella is O-. Tommen, my youngest brother, who had been born with dark hair in this world?

    Fucking B-.

    What the fuck, Cersei.

    Everyone gets two genes for blood type and two for Rh factor, one from the mother and one from the father on each. Both ‘O’ and ‘negative’ are recessive traits. The only way to be either is if both parents have those traits, though someone could be an A or B and have a hidden O or negative or both gene. Myrcella actually could be Robert’s daughter, because Robert could be A+/O-, and passed on that O- to Myrcella. Like I said, you can only sometimes prove a negative. I am A+, which I probably got from Robert. There is no way, at least by the genetics I know, for either an A+ or a O- father to sire a B- child.

    And, there’s a fairly high chance, especially with Rh+ children being born to a Rh- mother, compounded with a lower possibility of non O children born to an O mother, of the mother’s body producing antigens that cross the placenta and attack the blood antibodies of the child. Given the primitive state of neonatal care in this world, Robert and Cersei were highly unlikely to produce many children. At least half their children would be Rh+, and that’s if Robert did have a hidden O-. If he didn’t, they’d be lucky to have any. Without modern care, the infant will often die either before or just after birth.

    Incidentally, Sandor is AB-. I don’t think he’s Tommen’s father, but who the fuck knows?

    Blond hair versus black hair is a non-issue. I’ve got black hair, Tommen has black hair. Even if another blond kid pops out, that’s not exactly the kind of thing to make people suspicious. Even if Jon Arryn or Stannis get a wild hair about ‘The seed is stronk! The seed lifts! The seed never skips leg day!’ I can destroy that argument no problem.

    Especially since I very quietly seeded a false report of a Baratheon-Lannister marriage resulting in a blonde girl from some minor house members in a couple of old history books kept in both the Lannister and Baratheon personal libraries. And I did it six years ago, so the entry has had time to age and look especially authentic.

    Unfortunately, any pseudoscience ‘no, it’s your kid, really!’ trickery at least relies on the precept of the two of them having sex. And I’ve managed to get Robert to leave her alone. So gonna have to solve that part of the problem.

    But first, we need to know if she’s actually pregnant. If she’s just randomly late, or skipping a month, or some sort of really early onset menopause, or hormone problem, whatever, I need to know that as well.

    Cersei and Jamie held each other’s hands as they sat there, letting me work through my thoughts.

    Ugh. This crab has turned to ash in my mouth. This was a significantly bigger request than what I was expecting.

    “So,” I began. “First thing, we need to see if you’re actually pregnant. I’m going to need barley seeds, wheat seeds, and some frogs.”

    They nodded seriously, if uncomprehendingly.

    “And if you are pregnant, it’s still pretty early. One solution would be if you just go ahead and fuck Robert. Another possibility is that we get him blackout drunk, and then make it look like he fucked you.”

    I paused, and ate some more crab in contemplation. I’ll eat crab ash, I don’t care.

    “Because,” I added after I swallowed, “I’m assuming you don’t want to just drink moon tea and be done with it.”

    Moon tea was brewed from a plant that, oddly enough, produced compounds similar enough to human hormones to trigger menstruation. Taken once a month in a proper dose, it would trigger menstruation on schedule and prevent any eggs from implanting. Taken early in a pregnancy at a stronger dose, and it’d work as an abortifactant, triggering the same shedding of the uterine lining and detaching the embryo and placenta. Take too strong of a dose or too late in the pregnancy, or both, and you had the same problem as Jon Arryn's wife Lysa. Ruined fertility and horrible cramps and spotting the rest of your life. The Greeks and Romans used to have a plant, silphium, said to have functioned similarly, but it went extinct, probably from overharvesting.

    Cersei shook her head. “No, I want to keep the baby. It’s family.”

    Jamie squeezed her hand.

    I suddenly had a massive wave of deja vu, as I was reminded of trips to a fertility doctor with my late wife in my first life. Only here I’m the doctor, and the patients are my mom and her brother-lover. This may actually be the most surreal experience I’ve ever had, topping my initial realization I was in Westeros by about an order of magnitude. If I suddenly taste key lime pie I’ll at least know I’m having a stroke.

    “And we’ll protect it like family. I’ll see about getting the seeds and frogs for tomorrow. I think getting Robert blackout drunk is the best solution. He can wake up in your bed, covered in gunk, you can wear long sleeves and walk funny for a while, I’ll yell at the old man. We’ll make sure he knows he was rough. He should feel guilty about it enough not to question it overmuch when you become pregnant. We’ll say the baby came early if you give birth on time. There might be some subterfuge we can do there.”

    Cersei nodded, then reached over and grabbed my slimy, crab juice covered hand and squeezed it, hard. She didn’t say anything. I could read her emotions in her eyes.

    Yeah. This was a problem. A solvable problem. Worst comes to worst, Robert won’t see the birth.

    Huh. I probably shouldn’t tell Cayla that my mother came to me with a problem most easily solved by poisoning Robert.

    We finished up lunch with few spoken words, and nothing of consequence. A bell summoned the servants to clean up, and Jamie and Cersei left. I waddled back to my rooms, meeting Cayla there.

    “What did you do, roll in the crab?” she asked, exasperated, picking at the front of my-

    -oh fuck I forgot-

    -hilariously expensive silk jacket. That I had completely forgotten about in the wake of those fateful words, ‘I’m pregnant.’

    When in doubt, attack.

    “In order to truly appreciate crab, you have to understand the crab. Taste the crab. Smell the crab. Love the crab. Be the crab,” I said loftily.

    “Well, you’re also wearing the crab,” she fussed. “I don’t think those stains will ever come out.” She plucked a bit of shell off, then licked a finger and rubbed it on a spot. “And that’s a really nice coat. What a shame. A six hundred gold coat sacrificed to crabs.” She helped me shuck it off.

    “Pft, every coat should love to be so honored,” I said, spinning with her as she helped me get undressed. “It’s not like I need this jacket. It’s not a necessity,” I argued.

    “And what will you do when your mother wears that dress again?”

    “Black silk. Or wool. You know, if we’re doing crab again, maybe I’ll just go naked. I don’t need clothes. I got all I need right here in my bare hands,” I said, playfully grabbing at her face with my still grungy hands. A napkin only goes so far, I was going to have to do some serious scrubbing.

    “Bear hands is right,” she snarked, batting furiously at my hands and ducking to the side. “And you’re hairy enough you’re never really naked. I think you’d have fit better if you were born into the Mormonts. You’re much more bear than stag in your behavior.”

    “Ugh. The Mormonts.” An idea was tickling the back of my head. “If I’d have been a Mormont, I’d definitely have put a stop to the whole slaving thing. Jorah should have married a woman who didn’t want so much more than he had.”

    “He had little you didn’t give to him,” Cayla reminded me, moving behind me to help me remove my shirt.

    “Yeah, but you don’t need all that. All you need is the-

    Bear necessities! With ’em a bear can rest at ease! The simple bear necessities of life!”

    Cayla stared at me as I burst into song. Really bad, really off key song. Music is not one of my talents. In fact, other than remembering some of my favorite lyrics, you could almost call me anti-musical.

    She stared as I continued singing, even working a little bare bear boogie into it as my pants slid down my legs.

    “The~ beaaar necessities! Your asses are my recipies! The simple bear necessities of death!”

    I can’t dance either.

    “Are you drunk?” she asked incredulously.

    Shit. “Maybe a little?” I admitted sheepishly, calming down. I don’t even remember drinking during lunch. But I had wine and I had a nasty surprise and it’s entirely possible I put back a few glasses. Or more than a few. I wasn’t drunk drunk. But I might be tipsy.

    “Just wash the crab off your bear hands,” she ordered, pushing me towards a basin and some soap.

    “Take me down to the bearadise city where the girls are bears and they bare bear titties!” I sang again as I washed up. “Hey, these are pretty good. We should use them in the Mormont play.”

    “As you say, my Prince.”

    Heh, she says that when she’s tired of my shit.

    “Oh yeah, I need some wheat seeds, barley seeds, and a dozen or so frogs and toads,” I added as an afterthought, wiping myself down with a towel.

    “…Okay?” she replied. “What project do you have in mind now?”

    “I’m gonna make Cersei pee on them,” I said proudly. I can still remember my first childhood, reading Robert Heinlein books, and seeing multiple references to ‘the mouse test’ in reference to pregnancy. Being the curious sort, I looked it up. And you know, it turns out it works even better and faster with frogs or toads! The seeds was from a thing I read about ancient Egyptians. Not as reliable, supposedly, but try everything!

    “As you say, my Prince.”

    “You know,” I mused, spinning around, now clean, and seizing Cayla by the shoulders, “I really think everything is going to work out for the best.”

    She started to reply, then stopped, then smiled warmly. “As you say, my Prince.”

    Cayla left. I laid down and took a siesta. There’s nothing quite like a crab induced food coma nap for making the world seem brighter.

    I was woken up from my nap by shrill screaming and roars of human rage coming from Cersei’s rooms next door.

    AN: Now, this is a story all about how
    My life got flipped-turned upside down
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2018
  8. Threadmarks: Chapter 7: A Simple Misunderstanding.

    Nugar Know what you're doing yet?

    Aug 20, 2015
    Likes Received:
    I rolled out of bed instantly and sprinted to the door, misjudging my steps in my grogginess and nearly sending myself sprawling as I hit the door frame with my shoulder, but managing to continue on.

    “SAAANDOOOOR!” I screamed, calling for help.

    I’m pretty good at instantly waking up to deal with emergencies. I’m not so good at actually thinking when I first wake up, even if I can move and react, so at no point did it occur to me to grab my glaive, my hammer, or even my shield.

    That nearly cost me my goddamn life.

    I was right next door to the rooms Cersei used, and slightly down the hall in the other direction was a much smaller room I had managed to get Sandor installed in. Keep your bodyguard close, and all, especially since I didn’t actually trust any of the other guards to have my back. Jaime wouldn’t necessarily fuck me over but his first priority would always be Cersei. Selmy was honorable, but his priority is Robert. So I kept Sandor close, Cersei slept with Jaime, and Robert did whatever.

    In this case, it meant that as soon as I stepped into the hall, the screaming got louder.

    It was one of Cersei’s handmaidens, collapsed against the wall, her arm a mangled ruin of blood and protruding bone.

    Oh shit!

    I ran past her, ignoring her plight for the moment as I ran into the receiving area of Cersei’s rooms.

    Bodies. At least four bodies.

    And Robert, swinging his big fucking hammer in big overhand swings, pulping the absolute shit out of someone already so ruined I couldn’t tell who it was, or even the gender. He was puffing with exertion, his face a bright red, and weird animalistic grunts came with each thunderous swing. The hammer had already smashed the corpse and was now shattering stone beneath it, and still he swung.

    And then he turned and looked at me, rage in his eyes, both red from burst blood vessels.

    “YOU!” he said with a roar, immediately turning to charge.

    Fortunately for my entirely squishy ass, he was standing in a pile of gore, and he slipped and went to one knee with the motion, propping himself up with his hammer. Any other big fat guy would have probably been disabled then, his knee hitting the floor with an audible thunk, but not Robert. He surged to his feet.

    I probably should have fled, but instead I ran left, angling behind him, forcing him to turn further as he got up. My target was a decorative sword and shield bearing the Lannister crest, one of Jaime’s old sets from back when he was a young up and comer.

    I didn’t make it. Robert had finally got himself oriented and charged at me like a football player hell bent on a sack. His hammer came up from his lower right just as he was about to intercept me and I bent back and planted my bare feet in a slide as I desperately tried to stop short.

    Did I mention I was only wearing my boxers? You go to war with the armor you have, not the armor you want.

    Robert was big, but mad fast. I, on the other hand, was just quick enough. I fell on my ass as I bent backwards and my father charged directly into the fucking wall. It’d be funny if he wasn’t trying to murder me.

    I flipped over and scrambled back to my feet as Robert recoiled, actually staying upright but staggering several steps back. His arm had been crossed in front of him from the swing so he didn’t smash his face, but I could tell he was winded. If I could just last long enough, eventually his lack of conditioning would wear him down.

    But at the moment, berserker rage was still fueling him, and he quickly screamed bloody murder and went for me again, his hammer swishing through the air like he was anticipating the hit. I sprinted to the other side of the room and dove across a big sofa/lounge thing Cersei had, keeping my hand on the back to pivot me back to my feet.

    Robert strode forward and gave the thing a kick so hard it slammed into me and we both skidded several feet backwards, stopping as its corner caught a table.

    For a moment we both froze. I had my hands on the back of the couch, bracing it, prepared to dart away no matter what direction Robert chose to take. Robert, weirdly, also hesitated. Could this be him coming to his senses? Or was he just getting tired? His breath was loud and raspy, and his eyes wide and crazed. In any other situation, I’d have said he was in danger of having a stroke or heart attack.

    “King Robert! Hold your anger!” Sandor yelled, bursting in from the entrance, properly holding a shield and his sword.

    Robert’s head twisted around to fixate on Sandor and he instantly changed targets to the new threat, growling something incomprehensible as he prepared to charge my bodyguard.

    That’s when I got my hand under the back of the couch, the other on top, heaved it up, and fucking charged that fat fuck.

    Robert was probably four, maybe four and a half times my weight. But now I had a couch, and for a change I had momentum on my side. I was also well and truly scared shitless, and the same chemicals that give us berserk rage give us berserk panic.

    “AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!” I screamed my battle cry, my teenage voice cracking as I heaved and pushed with literally all of my might. Something went thunk and the couch lurched in my hands but it didn’t matter because I slammed Robert all the way across the room and into the goddamn wall with that couch. Then I pulled it back about five feet and ran at him again.

    Robert wasn’t out of the fight yet, but all I could hear was incoherent gasps as he shoved me back, and for a moment we were in a standoff, the couch between us. Berserk rage, strength and size, minus health, versus a smaller, weaker, less winded opponent. I was healthy, true, but Robert, no matter how fat and lazy he’d gotten, still had some of that old demigod of battle in him. I was going to lose.

    And then Sandor’s shoulder hit the couch, delivering all the impact seven feet of muscle on a full charge across the room could deliver.

    The wooden frame of the couch splintered under stresses it had never been meant to take, but the stuffing and fabric kept it together as Robert was literally blown off his feet and slammed upper body first back into the wall. I stumbled from the sudden lack of resistance, unable to keep up with the suddenly flying couch, and had to pick myself up off the floor.

    Sandor stepped back, breathing deep but not fast, his sword and shield at the ready.

    The remains of the shattered sofa draped limply over Robert, hiding him from view. He didn’t move.

    “Thanks, Sandor,” I gasped, shaking with reaction. I’ve been in fights. I’ve even fought a couple of bandits to the death, that being the kind of hunting Robert liked to get involved with on occasion. But nothing really prepares you for a sudden life or death battle in your fucking home.

    “…What the fuck happened here?” he asked, looking around at the room.

    I hadn’t really noticed on my way in, but the room was trashed. Tables and chairs overturned, stuff broken here and there, dead bodies.

    One was clearly a maid. Despite the blood, the clothes were at least recognizable. Looked like she’d been hit from her shoulder down to somewhere in her ribs. There was splatty mchamburger. I don’t have time for a jigsaw puzzle of meat.

    Jaime lay face up just on the other side of a doorway, his tunic soaked with blood and his chest caved in. I did not see a sword anywhere near him as I stepped over him and looked into the room.

    Cersei was lying face down near the wall.

    “Momma!” I cried. Generally, I make a distinction between ‘mother’ and my first life’s ‘momma’, but at the time I was pretty upset. I ran to her side, only my first aid training stopping me from instantly shaking her and flipping her over.

    “SANDOR!” I screamed. “GET MY FUCKING PACK NOW!” My camping pack. I say camping, really I carried it all kinds of places. Even had it ready for the aborted fishing trip this morning. It does have some camping gear, but mostly it has my medical kit.

    I practically danced in frustrated need to do something.

    Wait. Had to wait. Had to calm the fuck down before I fucked up.

    I clenched my fists and tried to remember the steps. Nothing was coming to mind in my panic.


    Try harder.

    Response! That’s it.

    I knelt beside her and put my hands on her shoulders.

    She twitched. I think I heard a faint groan.

    “Momma? Momma can you hear me?” I said, giving her a gentle shake. I didn’t get an answer, but I could feel her breathing. The whole area smelled like blood, so that didn’t give me anything.

    Oh god, oh god.

    Check the spine. I ran my hand up her spine from her butt to her head. Nothing was immediately obvious. Okay, she was probably hit. Ribs, head… Her arm looked okay. I patted down the one I could reach. The other was under her.

    Okay. Slowly, support the head, turn her over. Spine injuries come second to gushing blood or flail chest.

    Blood. There was blood on her face. Blood on the floor.

    But not much. Not a lot of blood. I didn’t see anything huge. I could hear Sandor’s heavy, running footsteps.

    “Sandoooor!” I yelled.

    “I’m here!” he called back, coming into the room a few moments later.

    “Grab some pillows, we have to support her neck!”

    Sandor dropped the pack on a chair and disappeared again, coming back a few moments later with pillows, perhaps from the bedroom, or maybe throw pillows from the couch or something.

    Gingerly, we put them under Cersei’s head and back. I turned her over enough to have access to her front, while still keeping her in the recovery position.

    “Mother?” I asked, over and over as I checked her for wounds. I got a few groans, but no words. So she was responsive to pain but not alert. Not great but not the worst.

    She was breathing. I didn’t feel any obviously broken ribs. Her other arm seemed fine, I guess, unlike the poor servant girl outside, she hadn’t managed to put up an arm to defend herself. The only thing I saw was the blood on her face. Sandor ripped up some things for rags, and I carefully checked her face. Nose was unbroken. Eyes were unfocused but intact. She had some bleeding from her mouth, and her cheek was split open.

    I got my first major response when I was checking her cheekbone. Just touching it gently made her spasm and flinch and her groan elongated into almost a scream. So. Cracked or broken. Split skin. Probably the inside of her cheek was split as well.

    That didn’t match a hammer blow. Maybe a punch, a backhand, impact with the wall, or some sort of really soft backswing or something.

    Did Robert really pull his punches with her? Or did she just get lucky? Have to ask him later.

    Airway is clear. No blood in her nose. The cut on her cheek is small, less than an inch long and shallow. To stitch or not to stitch? It’s already clotting… Probably best to not stitch. Ideally, a few butterfly stickers would be great, but making the appropriate glue for them is a little difficult and I don’t remember all the steps off hand. I remember most of the chemicals and I know you have to use a nitrogen atmosphere in the retort to make super glue, but it was low priority and I’ve never bothered to sit down and try and figure it out again. Kinda regretting it now. There are local glues but most of them irritate the skin.

    Not much I could do but gently clean it with tincture of iodine and coat the area in morphine infused petroleum jelly. Milk of the poppy was common enough but it really did work better if you separated its opioids out. The alcohol and iodine would keep the wound disinfected, vaseline would keep the wound moist and work as a barrier to infection, and the morphine would be a topical anesthetic, because that cheekbone was going to hurt. I also swabbed some of the anesthetic cream on the inside of her cheek.

    Then we moved her to the bed. I sent Sandor to check on the maid, and to get a maester. I also wanted some guards, because this started off bad and could get worse depending on who knew what.

    Honestly, Cersei got off incredibly lightly for Robert catching her with Jaime. If it was Robert walking in at the wrong moment, maybe I could salvage this. He was my father, and I did kind of love him, but like fuck was I letting him kill my mother. I’d fight to stop her from killing him, and it looked like I had successfully derailed that. That or she was waiting on me to get older. But now, he was the aggressor, so I had to defend her.

    Not like poor Jaime himself. I checked on him next, and yeah, he was pretty dead. Hammer strike to the chest. From his location relative to Cersei’s… He was protecting her. No sword in his hands, no armor…

    I quickly took a look around. Bloody steps from Robert, going towards the bedroom? Did he walk that way earlier? Ah. There was Jaime’s armor and sword, stored neatly in another room on a stand. Out of reach and useless. Which means, uh…

    Robert comes in. Jaime comes out of the bedroom? Looks that way. But was that blood tracked that way? There’s blood spray over there? Shit, this is a confused mess. Did Robert kill a servant before Jaime? Why the fuck was he killing servants anyway? I know he does the berserker rage thing but goddamn, there’s at least usually some sense to it. The servants wouldn’t have fought him. That maid was hit from behind, so she was obviously running… Seriously, what in the fuck, Robert.

    Sandor came back then, with my compound crossbow already cocked and locked, with a bolt ready to fire. He also dropped off my hammer and shield. I waved at him and nodded. I still needed to get dressed but I needed to know what happened more.

    So Jaime comes out of the bedroom Cersei was in, takes a hammer to the chest. Protecting Cersei. No doubt there. Jaime loved his family. Goddamn it, I liked Jaime. Fucking Robert, I swear to god.

    I had to stop and wipe some tears from my eyes. It was getting hard to see.

    Jaime protects Cersei. Cersei loves Jaime, runs forward to save him… gets backhanded. Spins and slams into the wall. Yes, that makes sense. Then Robert… turns on the spot and murders chunky?

    I check the savaged corpse. Yes, that’s the only other male besides Jaime. I don’t recognize the guy but those aren’t noble clothes, so he was probably a servant. He distracted Robert right after Cersei got hit? And then Robert took his anger out on him until I got here?

    But what about the maid in the hallway, with the broken arm?

    I was going to have to do some CSI shit here, probably writing everything down.

    Who are we missing?

    Oh fuck, Myrcella!

    With that sudden sickening thought, I ran to the door that lead to Myrcella’s bedroom and flung it open.

    She wasn’t in there. All her stuff was, various dolls and stuffed animals, the music box I had given her sitting on her desk…

    Wait, I’m an idiot. What was the thing I always stressed she should do if she heard fighting?

    “Myrcella! It’s me, Eddard! Celly! Come out, it’s safe! Mother is okay!” I called, looking underneath the bed.

    Almost immediately I heard a sob and one of the wardrobe cabinets opened, revealing my frightened sister, who ran at me with open arms and tears streaming down her face.

    She immediately tried to tell me what had happened, but she hiccupped a lot and was still crying. I stroked her hair and rubbed her back and just held her close.

    The gist of it was, she was playing with her dolls when she heard the door slam and someone scream in rage. Then there were screams of fear and sounds of fighting and she remembered what I told her and hid. The idea was to hide until guards could come and someone she trusted started looking for her. Not ideal, but it was what we had to work with in her bedroom.

    I covered her eyes when I brought her to Cersei’s bedroom and put her on the bed beside her mom and told her she needed to hug her mother for a while so I could take care of some other things.

    Because Sandor had been gone long enough that Whitecloaks should be streaming in, and no one had showed up yet.

    AN: Thank god for the 4 day weekend I had, otherwise I'd never have gotten this out more or less on time. Far Cry 5 released last Tues, but my AMD phenom II didn't support it's drm, so I had to buy the parts and build a new computer, with all the hassle of moving machines. Then I played FC 5 for two days straight. Fortunately, I also had part of the chapter already done, so I was able to finish it today. Well, actually, it ran long, and I split it up because there's a lot going on, but here it is. RIP in piece Jamie. You deserved better, but you did go out as a hero to your family.

    Edit: Fixed some things about the fight to better indicate how Robert chose targets
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2018
  9. Threadmarks: Chapter 8: Sure to be cleared up in no time.

    Nugar Know what you're doing yet?

    Aug 20, 2015
    Likes Received:
    xxxxxxxxx Chapter 8: Sure to be cleared up in no time.

    Robert. My father. It’s weird, the whole second life thing. I mean, reincarnation is cool and all, but definitely not something I was prepared for. And my first father was basically perfect. I mean, words almost can’t express how well we synched, even though he was significantly more outgoing than I am.

    Robert, though, had this weird sort of role where he was there but not all the way there. I’d have been out of luck if I needed him to connect to me as a child, but fortunately I wasn’t really a child mentally, so that part worked out well enough. But you’re also supposed to respect your father, or at least I was originally raised to.

    Plenty of fathers don’t deserve respect, but that’s not something I had run into. Robert, though… As a warrior, he deserved respect. The man was a born leader and made to kill. Even as fat as he got, sparring against him was like trying to fight a bear. He was the superior fighter in literally all aspects. But on the other hand, watching him treat Cersei like a particularly annoying problem he could stick in a closet and ignore, that wasn’t cool. The cheating, the alcoholism, the, let’s be honest here, rampant assholitry, those I did not respect. The way he spent money like water.

    I mean, I thought Baelish was the source of most of the kingdom’s money woes, and he basically was, but even with him not around, Robert still managed to blow money like crazy. I didn’t even have much success getting him to spend it on useful things. I convinced him to fix the existing sewer system in King’s Landing, but not to expand and improve it to the level it actually needed. He liked some of my ‘inventions’ for the common soldier and guard, and I got a better, more centralized equipment issue set up… which quickly turned into a rats nest of corruption and thievery. Frustratingly enough, by the time that rolled around, it was mostly my own money I was pouring into those projects.

    And I wouldn’t even mind it as much, if he was spending stuff on the kingdom itself. Even castles and statues and such had their uses. No, the guy spent literally hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dragons on fucking tournaments and parties. Those have their uses, too, but no knight deserves fifty fucking thousand gold dragons for poking people with a stick. And I was completely unable to get him to stop. He’d do these tournaments like, at minimum, three times a year. That’s a stupid ridiculous amount of money.

    Robert, by his goddamn self, is responsible for more hedge knights suddenly becoming landed nobles than any other king in Westeros history.

    But, I will admit. Every one of those knights loved him. They’d march to war for him at a single word. The throne itself had many enemies, within and without, but for the most part, that was all weird old allegiances and grudges. As if the Targaryens actually deserved to be kings. Listen, incestuous dragon riding foreigners demanding crowns is no way to build a government. Robert, honestly, didn’t have what it takes to be a good king, either. But he did inspire his men. And up till now, he’d done decent enough by me.

    I don’t know if I was going to be able to forgive trying to kill me and my mother.

    All this went through my head as I knelt by Robert’s side. I had moved the ruined couch off him, hidden the warhammer, and also used some twisted cloth to tie his feet and hands. He was still breathing, which was good, but it was kind of fast and shallow, which wasn’t. His pulse must have been in the two hundreds, it was literally faster than I could count. His eyes were dilated, and little tremors ran through his muscles. He also had a lump forming on the back of his head, apparently from where he’d gotten knocked out.

    So. I can’t say he was healthy. He was a fat man who’d overexerted himself and gotten knocked the fuck out. I almost wanted to say he looked like he’d overdosed on some kind of stimulant, but I hesitated to say that because Robert’s rages were literally legendary. Songs and everything. Was this normal for him after a berserking? I’ve never read any medical literature on berserk warriors. I mean, the human body is capable of some weird shit, Baratheons are known for their ‘furies’, and Robert was particularly notorious for his. Also, there’s magic. The twitches were particularly worrying, but was that adrenaline, a drug, or just a normal seizure from head trauma? None of those are good options.

    I have no idea what I’m doing.

    So I did what I’d do in any other OD situation. Laid him on his side, propped against the wall, made sure he was breathing and his airways were clear, and if he throws up he won’t drown in his own vomit.

    I have a bottle of laudanum in my medical supplies. Opioids and alcohol will slow his heart rate, but also potentially thin his blood. If he’s having a heart attack, that could be good. If he’s having a stroke, that’s bad. Given the bump on the head could cause bleeding in his brain on its own, I’m leaning no. Given I have no idea what kind of interactions it might have with ‘the fury’ I’m really leaning no. And he’s been drinking all morning, and doesn’t need any more depressants in his system, that’s three nos. If I had thorazine I’d give it to him in a heartbeat, but I don’t even remember the chemical formula for that.

    Well, he’s just going to have to take that bump on the head like a man and sleep off the fury. I’m so going to kick his ass for this. Tywin is going to try to kill him, which is going to put me in conflict with fucking Grandfather Tywin, and all things considered that’s not where I want to be. And that’s assuming he wakes up sane. Look, finding out your wife cheated on you with her brother is upsetting, but don’t take it out on your son! I’m so Baratheon I shit warhammers, don’t fucking tell me you think I’m Jamie’s kid.

    “And where the fuck are the Whitecloaks?!” I yell in frustration.

    No one answers, though I do hear a noise from the room with Myrcella and Cersei.

    Shit, what if this is a coup? Like, I don’t know how it could be one, but something’s going on. I grabbed my crossbow. Still in my underwear, though. Do I risk going to my room and leaving the girls undefended?

    No, no I do not.

    But at the same time, I don’t have anyone to fight right now either. So, feeling kinda silly, I put the crossbow down, but close at hand.

    Hmm, Jamie should be covered.

    I grab a large drop curtain thing from one of the rooms. I forget what it’s called, it’s not covered in pictures like a tapestry, but it’s also not covering a window. It’s big and its heavy and its cloth, and I drape it over my late uncle.

    “Edd! Mother’s waking up!” Myrcella called.

    I grabbed my weapons and shield and hurried in there.

    Cersei was still moaning and groaning a bit, but she had lifted her arms and was rubbing her temples gently. Myrcella was kneeling by her side, worriedly watching.

    “Don’t touch your cheek, it’s going to hurt like a bitch,” I warned.

    “Mm’cheek’s num’,” she said thickly, immediately doing what I told her not to do and touching it.

    Huh, I guess the morphine cream was working better than I-

    “NNNNNNNNNN!” Cersei moaned, pressing just a little too hard.

    -nevermind. I’ve never had any cracks in any of my skull bones but I’ve been informed it’s basically agony dialed up to 11 if you touch it. One of these days, it’s going to happen to me, and I already know I’m going to touch it. It’s just what you do.

    “Mother! Don’t touch it! Do what Brother tells you, please!”

    “Thank you, Myrcella,” I praised. “You took a nasty hit, Mother. Please, stay with us. I’ve got something for the pain but I need to ask you some questions.” I can fake calm under pressure, but my heartrate is probably the same as Robert’s. It’s a good thing she didn’t need stitches, I’d probably sew my own hand to her face with these trembling fingers. Only in my head do I have control, and even there I’m babbling a bit.

    “J’me… Jaime!” she gasped and tried to sit up, only for me to hold her back, both arms around her. “Jaime, where’s Jaime?!”

    With Myrcella desperately hugging her from the other side, I tried to be as gentle as I could. “Mother… Jaime… he didn’t make it.”

    “No! NO!” she cried, bursting into tears.

    I found myself crying as well, and Myrcella bawled into Cersei as she sobbed into my arms.


    Just. Goddamnit.

    I don’t know how long we were like that. Myrcella cried herself out pretty quickly. Cersei was still sobbing, but starting to get herself together. She loved her brother, no question. And this wasn’t the Cersei that had buried almost all of her loved ones; this was the first time she had lost family since her mother. She was only 35, younger than I was when I had died or whatever. She was family and I loved her and it hurt, it hurt bad to see her hurting.

    She suddenly flinched back, then cried more, louder as she accidentally pressed her cheek into me. I pulled away.

    “Hold on, Mother. I’ve got something that will help with the pain.” It took some effort to disentangle myself from her, but by substituting Celly in, I got them holding onto each other so I could get in my medical bag.

    The laudanum bottle was squareish and made of tin, with a top that doubled as a measuring cup. I poured her a standard dose, which should be enough to kill the pain and leave her a bit groggy but not actually incoherent or unconscious. Frankly, it was more than she needed, but I wanted her to stop hurting and it was what I had. I had a bottle of raw ether, too, but that was for actual surgery. Or bat country, whichever.

    “Drink this, Mother. It’s nasty and bitter, but it’ll stop most of the pain.” I held the little tin cup up with the cloudy liquid inside.

    She trusted me, and even though she grimaced at the taste, she obediently tossed back the half shot of painkiller.

    Then I repacked my medical bag and put it back in my travel pack. Not really because, at that point, I believed I was about to go anywhere, but just because I needed something to do.

    Cersei still sniffled a bit, but about two shots of vodka’s worth of alcohol and a good dose of opioids will kick in fast, and she slowly settled down onto the bed, seeming to almost merge with the comforters.

    “Eddard?! Prince Eddard?!” I heard call from the other room. Cayla’s voice.

    “Prince, I couldn’t find the Whitecloaks,” Sandor’s voice called immediately after.

    “I’m coming!” I yelled back.

    “Stay here, Celly,” I ordered, grabbing the loaded crossbow and stepping carefully to the door and peeking. “Stay there,” I ordered my two friends.

    Both halted. Partially because of the order, partially because I had a loaded crossbow pointed in their general direction.

    Because I had a nasty thought.

    “Sandor, I gotta check. I… uhhhh… Shit.” Shit. You get bored and paranoid and you prepare for situations like these, but then the event actually happens and you completely forget all your preparations. “Uh… uh, fat bottom girls!”

    Sandor hesitated a moment, and the crossbow turned and pointed at him. He sighed, then thrust his right hand in the air and tilted his head back and to the left while his left hand grabbed at something invisible in front of his chest. “You make the rocking world go around,” he said in a quiet, almost embarrassed voice.

    Hah! I forgot I’d made him learn the movements, too.

    “Cayla,” I said, switching to her. “Get back to twerk.”

    “What? Work?”

    “No,” I corrected. “Twerk. ‘T’ –werk.”

    Her eyes got about as big around as saucers. “My Prince, is this really the time?”

    “Sorry, Cayla, you know the Faceless men exist. I made you learn those things for a reason, I know you remember me showing you that. I want to trust you, but I have to know that it’s you.” I was also pointing my crossbow at her. If anyone had been replaced, it was probably the normal sized Cayla rather than hulking seven foot Sandor. I don’t know the limits on magical disguise but there’s got to be one.

    She gasped, and then her expression hardened and grew serious. “That is a good point, my Prince.” She turned around, cocked her hips a bit, and gave a pretty enthusiastic booty shake. It wasn’t a great twerk, but the movements were there. I doubt she’d ever practiced it, so the only time she’d ever actually seen a twerk was my hilariously bad effort to reproduce it. Also her skirts covered her booty a bit too much. But the important thing was, she was Cayla, or someone able to read minds, or Cayla had told someone. And if it was the second two, I was already fucked, so best to assume it’s her.

    “Alright, sorry about that,” I said, pointing the crossbow at the ceiling. “New rule though, as long as this shit is going on, check with people if you aren’t sure. I don’t think this is some Faceless man thing, but we ain’t gonna fuck around and get killed if it is one, okay?”

    Both nodded.

    “So what the fuck is going on?” I asked.

    “I found a dead Whitecloak, Ser Meryn Trant, killed by hammer blows in the Hall of Crests,” he reported, referring to a linking hallway close to the royal suites. “The servants have mostly fled, but there were two dead outside the King’s solar. I found two servants who didn’t know what was going on and another who was in the process of leaving, having heard rumors of a coup. There were no other King’s Guard in the Keep.”

    “It’s the Baratheon armsmen!” Cayla added. “I heard that the Queen had made an attempt on the King’s life and was going to have Lannister armsmen take over the Keep, but when I talked some Lannister and Florent men who had been drinking together they only reported that Baratheon men had suddenly started attacking Lannister barracks and had no idea why. They were gathering for defense but more and more armsmen from other houses were joining the Baratheon men.”


    Here’s the thing. There’s not really anything like fully discrete groups of armsmen in the city, unless it’s visiting nobles. Instead, given that Robert is king and Cersei is queen, they simply form the second and third largest sub groups of the common guards. And since the royal family is a Baratheon-Lannister union, they’re fairly closely allied, but general in-group pressures mean that, for the most part, guards from Lannister owned lands tend to have their own barracks, while Stormlanders have separate facilities. The largest group is actually just local Crownlanders with no particular house allegiances other than what they form based on the friends they drink with, so they form the matrix that keeps otherwise fairly insular groups working together. It’s actually a great metaphor for how the kingdom works in general.

    Of course, it all breaks down when what is increasingly looking like some sort of FUCKING CIVIL WAR breaks out.

    “Until Sandor told me of Robert’s attempt on the Queen’s life, I had no idea what was really happening.”

    “I was there and I still have no idea what the fuck is going on,” I growled. “Who told Baratheon men to attack the Lannisters?”

    “I’m not sure about the guardsmen, but the Baratheon bannermen got orders from Lord Bryce Caron.”

    “Ohhh yeahhhhh, I’d forgotten about Renly’s men,” I admitted. “Stannis isn’t in town, thank god. We don’t particularly like each other, so I doubt he’d be helpful. I’ve always gotten along with Renly, though. Can we get his gay ass up here so he and I can order the fighting to stop? Cersei is still alive and won’t gainsay me, and that leaves Ser Ilyn Payne as the highest ranking man loyal to the Lannisters, and he sure as hell won’t say anything to counter my orders. He doesn’t have a tongue.”

    Mute jokes, hahah. Never a wrong time for them. I mean, what are they going to do, complain?

    I also have a terrible mental condition where I suddenly become the funniest motherfucker in the world and make jokes when I’m feeling really upset or uncomfortable. You should have heard the one I told when I was in the hospital after the accident that took my wife. But I digress. My mind and mouth wandering when I’m really upset is what I do. And I’m really, really, really fucking upset. I’m not actually trying to be funny, I’m trying to keep a handle on myself.

    Cayla was looking at me really worriedly. Sandor had this expression like, ‘look what I put up with’. From a man with half his face covered in burn scars, that’s a pretty intimidating expression.

    “I don’t know if we can do it safely,” Sandor admitted. “If I could find the King’s Guard and some bannermen I trusted to guard you, maybe. But we’d have to send a messenger to him and we have no idea where he is.”

    “Where in the fuck ARE the Whitecloaks?” I demanded. “Their whole fucking job is to stop shit like this happening to the royal family. For that matter, where is the Small Council? Pycelle I could see fleeing, but keeping shit like this from happening is exactly what Jon Arryn does. For that matter, does anyone know where Varys got to?”

    “I don’t think that this is the Master of Whispers handiwork,” Cayla offered.

    “I didn’t say it was, but he’s also not up here explaining how he missed it getting started nor who’s behind it all. He’s supposed to be better than this.” I ran my fingers through my hair and paced back and forth a bit.

    “Why don’t you let Sandor guard you while you get dressed?”

    I hesitated, the nodded. “Yeah, yeah, that’s a good idea.”

    I poked my head back in where Cersei was lying, though she was looking in my direction and apparently alert. Myrcella was gently stroking her hair. Both looked at me.

    “Hey, Sandor is going to guard you while I get dressed. Cayla is here with me. We don’t know what’s going on yet, but Trant is dead by Robert’s hand and the rest of the King’s Guard is missing.” I pulled back before they could react.

    “Alright, guard this door,” I ordered. “We don’t want some clever fuck coming in over the balcony while you’re in the hall.”

    Sandor hesitated. “And you?”

    “Cayla can guard me,” I replied. “I’ll give her the crossbow.”

    He nodded. Cayla looked resolute.

    The two of us hurried to my room. Cayla immediately started flinging open chests and cabinets, but I had to stop her.

    “No, I’ll get dressed myself. You guard the door, remember?”

    She stopped and swallowed nervously, then firmed up again, taking the dragon bone compound crossbow with its mechanical broadhead bolt and taking up guard at the door frame. She only had one shot if someone came running, but that bolt would go through three of them at once if they lined up.

    Of course, this would also be the prime time for her to assassinate me if she was so inclined. But if Cayla wanted me dead, she could have killed me a thousand times today alone. I’m paranoid but sometimes you just have to trust people, and I’m pretty sure she didn’t even tell Varys about twerking.

    Varys. This doesn’t seem like his handiwork at all. I mean, this is a mess, and importantly, other than Jamie, the whole royal family is still alive. It doesn’t make any goddamn sense. But that’s also the problem.

    It doesn’t make any goddamn sense.

    I have no idea where to go from here.

    So I got dressed. Not in my tournament plate, not the armor I wore while jousting. That’s heavy as hell, awkward to move in, and incredibly difficult to put on by yourself. I put on the regular plate I used for training in melee. It’s nowhere near as ornate; in fact, mine was pretty much covered in scratches and dings. Since a lot of my practice is either with hammers or against people with hammers, dents are a common theme, and I use cheaper, less elaborate armor because of it. Most of me ended up being covered by good metal plates, proof against most of what the world had to offer, and the gaps and joints were covered by overlapping scales attached to chain mail.

    It’s still heavier than what I wear for, say, hunting boar, and I wouldn’t want to ride to war in it, but I would want it in my baggage train for the actual battle. The only thing I left off was the helm, which I secured with a strap to my side.

    Dressed and armored, I strapped my backsword, the valyrian steel edged one, to my waist, alongside my warhammer. The catspaw dagger went into an upside down sheathe on my right chest, positioned so that I could draw it in secret behind my shield with the shield hand. I put a quiver of arrows, mechanical broadheads all, on my back and covered it with my shield.

    I also gave a quiver of bolts for the crossbow to Cayla. I wasn’t sure if she was strong enough to cock it using the foot cock method like Sandor and I used, but hell, she might. Ah, it was adjustable, a feature of modern compound bows I’d copied. Two bolts could be turned to change the preload on the limbs and reduce the draw weight. I’d do that when we made it back to the others.

    For myself, I grabbed my glaive in one hand, still in its sheathe, and my compound bow in the other.

    Of course, all of this took forever. At least thirty minutes, not that I’ve bothered to keep a personal clock in my room. Pressing an elbow against the wall trying to get at a strap, getting a buckle upside down, that kind of thing. I usually have at least Cayla or Sandor for this. When it came to some straps, I actually had to just give up and ask Cayla to put down the crossbow and help. Also, it’s fairly heavy stuff, all total probably sixty pounds of weapons and armor. I still left my helmet off, though. Vision and hearing seemed more important to me right then than protection. Also, I hate hats. I hate having anything on my head heavier than a bandanna or sunglasses.

    Once we got back to Cersei’s rooms, I put my glaive and shield to the side, in case I needed them. But mainly, I was relying on my bow. Mechanical broadheads were another ‘invention’ I’d introduced, though they were expensive and difficult to make, so only the few archery inclined lords bothered to get any.

    Amazingly, hammers tended to be better at killing people in plate than swords. Thanks to my efforts to emulate Robert, I was also actually better with a hammer than I was with my sword. Now, the sharpness and durability of valyrian steel is well known, and my sword did have the edge, but even valyrian steel swords needed a mighty blow in just the right spot to do more than leave scratches. Polearms worked pretty well, though. You build up a hell of a lot of momentum with a long pole. My glaive, with its valyrian steel edge, was a decent performer against plate. Unfortunately, in the cramped conditions of the stone rooms and hallways, it would be my last choice.

    My first choice was my crossbow, but Cayla had that. This left my second choice, my compound bow. Historically, plate armor didn’t really start falling out of style until firearms became a thing. Yes, the English with their longbow using armies won a lot of battles with French knights, but it turns out even the power of longbows usually did little to penetrate good plate, and often failed against even the much lighter chain mail. Light crossbows were popular because they were easy to learn how to use, not because they were particularly deadly. Even heavy crossbows or arbalests were like every other ranged weapon of the period, bouncing off plate like a wren hitting a patio door. Sometimes they’d get lucky and hit a weak spot or a gap and cause some damage, but for the most part, if you were in plate with a shield, bows and crossbows were not your problem.

    Modern compound bows, on the other hand, produce around 250% the speed of longbows or light crossbows, and even outperform arbalests. Only ballistae, what the locals called ‘scorpions’, could match the power of my dragonbone compound bows. Modern arrows and bolts are far lighter than their historical ancestors, but the total impact force of modern equipment is still more than 150% of historical on the low end.

    Additionally, there was the question of the arrowhead.

    Westeros archers had a choice between broadheads or bodkin points, both commonly made of soft, spongy iron. Broadheads had large, sharp blades at the tip designed to cut about an inch and a half swath of blood vessels and flesh, but were tip heavy and tended to catch the wind and go off course. They were murder on animals or unarmored targets at close range, but inaccurate at long ranges and the tip just crumpled on impact with armor. It’d usually still penetrate a little into mail, but not particularly deeply once the sharp iron blades were turned into a dull shapeless mass. Bodkin points weren’t generally any bigger around than the shaft of the arrow, making them more aerodynamic, and were also thicker and edgeless, with all their mass focused behind a point designed to penetrate armor. They were more accurate and punched through light armor pretty well, but also tended to just make a hole. If they only hit muscle, they didn’t even cause much bleeding.

    The modern day solution for penetration was a hybrid. A steel point head much like a bodkin, but with three or so thin grooves running along it that steel razor blades hid in. There were various blade shapes designed for specific penetration depths, but all had a blunt flange of some sort that stuck out of the groove. In flight, the tiny blunt flange wouldn’t affect the accuracy, but upon striking something firm, like flesh, would be caught and force the blade to fold open on hinges until it locked open. Thus, you had the performance and penetration of a single strong point, but the internal cutting diameter of a broadhead. And all this was made with much stronger, sharper steel. Complicated steel arrowheads were incredibly expensive, so only some archery inclined nobles had been interested, but I had plenty for my own uses.

    In the case of mine, they would penetrate three inches, enough to get past armor, padded gambeson, and rib cage, then bloom into a razor blade flower three and a half inches across as it reached the organs and major blood vessels. Now, admittedly, the blades would usually snap off as the arrow hit the ribs or armor on the back, but then it was just a bodkin point as it kept going. They were hilariously lethal, almost actually unfair. They did not give a shit about any sort of mail, and only bounced off or shattered on scale and lamellar one time in ten or twenty.

    This was an exceptionally good thing to have on my side, because only a few minutes after I rejoined Sandor, Ser Barristan The-Fucking-Bold Selmy, the greatest swordsman in Westeros, came in with blade drawn and duty in his eye.

    He visibly started when he saw Robert lying on his side against the wall, but took in the rest of the corpses with a cool, calm demeanor.

    “What,” he said with terrifying finality, “is going on here?”

    This was the King’s Guard of King’s Guards. The only man I’ve ever heard that was better than him was Ser Arthur Dayne, and that’s insane to even imagine. Selmy didn’t give a shit about anything but his duty, which, above all else, was the protection of the King.

    And here we were, rumors of Cersei trying to kill Robert floating around the city, dead people everywhere, and Robert’s fat ass lying against the wall like a dead man.

    I don’t think I’ve ever drawn a bow and aimed so fast, in this life or the last.

    Selmy just looked calmly at me, at Cayla, who also had her crossbow pointed at him, and at Sandor, who was out of my vision and I didn’t dare look away.

    “I’m here to find out what’s going on, and I want answers,” he said calmly. “Now put that fucking bow down, boy, before I take it away from you and spank you with it.”

    I put the fucking bow down.

    I may be the Prince of This and That, but I ain’t the Prince of Stupidity.

    Old AN: Would you trust a man who got the nickname 'The Bold' to stop and listen to explainations when it looks like you killed the King? Sometimes you need to make a man sit down, and a magic bow with hi-tech murder arrows is a fairly convincing argument.

    New AN: Would you defy a man who got the nickname 'The Bold' and is widely regarded as the best swordsman in in the world when he tells you to settle the fuck down? Especially as it turns out, modern arrows don't punch straight through plate like they do mail. Whoops. Also, it's fucking Selmy, he can probably just cut the arrow out of the air with his sword like some old bastard in an anime. I had always planned on his response being a warning to stop aiming at him or else, but it was originally going to be the start of the next chapter. Given responses, probably best to use it here.

    I am, however, very glad that, while opinions are divided on whether or not aiming at Selmy was a good idea, it was at least considered a reasonable decision to made on the part of Eddard, and not just stupidity.
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2018
  10. Threadmarks: Chapter 9: We're all going to look back on this and laugh.

    Nugar Know what you're doing yet?

    Aug 20, 2015
    Likes Received:
    ********* Chapter nine. We’re all going to look back on this and laugh.

    I kept the bow drawn, but lowered it to point at the floor.

    “Ser Selmy,” I began, “given the fact that we know Faceless men assassins to be a very real thing, we’ve already been attacked by people we thought we could trust, and apparently you have been fucking around elsewhere instead of keeping tabs on my fucking father, maybe you could prove you’re who you look like?”

    He gave me a cold, measuring look. “You say Faceless men did this?”

    “No, I don’t know what got this clusterfuck going. But right now the only people I trust are the ones on my side. Just tell me something only you and I would know.” I pulled the bow back up, not quite aiming it back at my father’s guard.

    We eyed each other for a moment. I’d never spent a whole lot of personal time with the man, though of course we’d seen each other plenty, when he followed Robert around. He guarded Cersei on occasion, though of course she preferred Jaime.

    “I once told you that it was a good thing you had a knack for the bow, because you’d never make a decent swordsman. Or a hammerer, for that matter.”

    “Pffssh, anyone could guess that,” I replied. “What else you got?”

    He breathed out through his nose, giving me The Look. “I once told your father that you were probably going to accidentally kill him one day, but you’d probably find a way to bring him back to life long enough to apologize. But I don’t think you were there for that.”

    I lowered the bow again, releasing the draw. “Yeah, okay, that’s fair.” I turned and gestured at Robert. “The long and short of it is, my father killed Jaime, tried to kill Mom, killed a shitload of servants and apparently Ser Trant, and tried to kill me when I ran in after hearing screams. Sandor and I hit him with that couch. He’s still alive, just unconscious.” I paused, eyeing the fat man carefully. Fortunately, his chest was still rising and falling. “See? Still breathing. Now. That’s what happened here. Now, what the fuuuuck is going on out there?”

    Ser Selmy relaxed a bit when I pointed out Robert was still alive, returning his sword to its sheathe. Behind me, Sandor put his hand on Cayla’s shoulder, and I heard the soft clack of the crossbow safety engaging.

    “Word is the Queen tried to have your father killed,” he said, kneeling by Robert and touching him briefly.

    “Whose word? I just had lunch with her and Uncle Jaime. We killed a bunch of crabs and at least a couple of bottles of wine.” I was honestly a bit indignant. I put a lot of goddamn work into making sure Cersei didn’t try to have Robert murdered.

    “Assassins are usually arranged ahead of time,” he noted. “But that was what I heard, so I ran back here. Your father sent me away himself, when word of Westermen and Stormlanders fighting in the streets reached His Grace.”

    I blinked, and then frowned hard.

    “As it happens, I saw the remains of Ser Trant, and I believe you. Those were hammer blows. Something must have truly enraged your father. Only in his greatest furies has he ever forgot who was friend or foe.”

    I shook my head. “Go back, go back. Start over from the beginning, when you were with Father. Who all was there, who came in?

    “I was getting to that,” he replied. “Your father had just finished a midday meal with Ser Trant as his guard. Lord Arryn was present, and I was having my own meal outside the kitchens. One of the Goldcloaks came in, I know not who, and announced that there was a brawl in the streets between Stormlanders and Westermen, with several dead already. His Grace wanted to go intervene, but being rather drunk, was persuaded to stay with Ser Trant as his guard. I was sent to accompany Lord Arryn to break up the fighting.”

    I nodded. The timeline didn’t line up, but I didn’t doubt his words.

    “The Goldcloak wasn’t lying, there were brawls breaking out across the city. We broke up one, and Lord Arryn demanded answers. The Westermen were all common guards and Goldcloaks, where the Stormlanders were a mix of guards and those sworn to House Baratheon. In every case, the Stormlanders were said to attack first, although they claimed the Westermen were involved in a plot to take over King’s Landing.” He paused. “A few even claimed that they were under orders to stop the plot, orders from one of the Baratheon bannermen, Ser Donnel Swann.”

    “So where is Lord Arryn? And when did you hear about this supposed assassination attempt?”

    “Lord Arryn left orders to the Goldcloaks to break up the fighting, and I stayed to enforce the orders. He went to find your uncle Renly to get some orders from the top. However, not long after he left, a runner from the Keep found me and told me that I was needed back immediately, the Queen had attempted to murder the King.”

    “How the hell would he have known that?” I blurted. “Unless my mother was either dumb as a post, which she’s not, or you could call trying to claw my father’s eyes out a murder attempt, no one is going to know what happened, at least at first. That’s stupid and it doesn’t make any sense.”

    “I heard from one of the Baratheon men that they originally got their orders from Lord Bryce Caron, and that the attempt on King Robert was what started the fighting. But that was before the King killed Ser Jaime!” Cayla exclaimed.

    Ser Barristan inhaled sharply. “Lord Caron should not be in the city. He left for his home yesterday, after receiving a raven.”

    “The time of events don’t match,” I muttered. “Someone is fucking with us. Fucking Faceless men.”

    “The Faceless men need the faces of dead men to take on their guise. Also, they actually kill their targets. No, this is not their work, but there are other magics in the world.”

    “Huh.” I’d actually forgotten that bit about the faces. And that’s a really good point about them actually killing their targets. This clusterfuck is someone a great deal less professional than that, which is also why I don’t think Varys is behind it.

    “It’s not the regular swordsman the master fears,” Sandor rumbled quietly. “It’s the amateur that does what you would never expect.”

    Ser Selmy nodded seriously at that, like it was a profound wisdom.

    Which it probably was. Words cannot express how much of a comfort Sandor is by my side. If there was any actual merit to the idea that anyone could deserve to be a prince, Sandor would be next in line for the crown.

    “So we’re looking for an idiot with magic?”

    “Or perhaps Lord Caron changed his mind and returned to the city?” Cayla offered. “Didn’t you say the simplest solutions were the ones most likely to be correct?” she asked me.

    “That…! Is actually a good point. Well. We know someone is fucking with us, but we don’t know how or who.” I frowned. “Dammit.” You know nothing, Jon Snow. But you’re a fucking scholar compared to me right now.

    “That’s two Baratheon bannermen said to have been giving orders,” Ser Barristan noted.

    “Yes, but why would my father suddenly go berserk? And where the fuck is Pycelle?”

    “You don’t think Grand Maester Pycelle is…?” Cayla asked.

    “No, but that old lech has a hell of a nose for trouble and has probably fled this mess. Frankly, that’s what worries me. He should be up here pledging his loyalty, and checking my father for poisons. Unless he’s got a damned good reason to not be here, he’s risking his head.” And I mean that literally. I will actually kill him.

    “Big Brother?” Myrcella’s timid voice came from behind us.

    I turned to see her, her big green eyes wide at the sight of all the blood, as she partially hid behind the door frame.

    “Yes, Celly?” I asked, turning to her.

    “Someone’s knocking on the other side of the wall in here. That knock you always use.” She rapped out shave and a haircut, two bits on the doorframe.

    “What.” Other side of the wall? Sandor and I personally sealed the passages that let Varys little birds spy on the royal apartments. I also let him know that I didn’t much like the idea of children having their tongues cut out. We came to an agreement.

    Or at least, I thought we had.

    “Show me,” I ordered, striding forward.

    Myrcella lead me to the far wall, where the headboard of the bed met it. I crept up slowly and pressed my ear to the wall.

    After a moment, I heard it. Tap tap ta taptap, tap tap. Silence, then repeating.

    I pulled out my hammer and rapped it sharply against the stone during one of the gaps. Then I reversed the sequence and tapped it back.

    It came back again, faster. Then silence.

    “It’s too far away, we’ll have to follow the sound,” I announced. I then set up a slow, steady series of taps, then waited. Then I did it again, no pattern, just steady taps.

    After another short wait, I heard the other end start that same slow, steady series of taps.

    “Spread out, listen for the taps. There’s a secret passage somewhere. Selmy, check the balcony. Cayla, I think my room is over there, try there. Sandor and I will go up and down the hall. Sound travels pretty far through stone.”

    No one argued. Ser Barristan reported negative from the balcony, so they weren’t outside. The sound was lighter towards the stairs but louder the other way, but no louder than in Cersei’s bedroom in my actual rooms. Eventually, by listening along the walls, we found a place where it sounded loud and clear, just on the other side of a wall. A wall that shouldn’t have anything on the other side of it, but frankly the surprise of yet another secret tunnel wasn’t much of a surprise. It was just turning out to be that kind of day.

    When we found the spot closest to it, I yelled that we were going to break down the wall, to stand back. Then I told Sandor to break down the wall. I mean, I helped, but there’s a big difference between my hammer swings and Sandor’s. I know who does the real work. Pretty quickly, fairly thin stone blocks were shattered and a hole was opened.

    Flickering light came from within, illuminating a pale young face. A teenage girl, my age or plus a bit. She opened her mouth and made a groaning sound, showing her lack of tongue, then she held out a scroll, tied with string and showing a cracked wax seal. She mimed opening it, and then handed it to me.

    Then, before I could do more than gape, she fled back down the narrow passage.

    “I think Varys is resigning his post,” Sandor said quietly.

    I ignored him and unrolled the parchment. It was stained with blood and some other fluid, with ink splotches and shaky handwriting.

    Prince Eddard,

    Evil magics are at work in King’s Landing. Thoros of Myr had visions of danger in the flames, and was found torn to pieces this morning. Lord Arryn was killed in the streets by forces unknown. Three servants are missing. Another reports that your father was poisoned through his wine. May your reign be long and successful. An attempt was made on my life by magical means not an hour ago. I am injured but alive for now. I should never have told you I was so close to retirement. My only clue is a stain of shade of the evening found on a rag that had been thrown out, found by one of my little birds. My Prince, my deepest apologies for failing my task. It would have been an honor to serve you. If I survive, I will seek you out. Enemies have already infiltrated the city through means I cannot counter. You should flee King’s Landing with the crown. Flee and survive, return with an army. Use that mind of yours as your greatest weapon and avenge your father.


    Sorceries can compel minds. Trust no one.

    Rule well.
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2018
  11. Threadmarks: Chapter 10: Nope!

    Nugar Know what you're doing yet?

    Aug 20, 2015
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    xxxxxxxxx Chapter 10: Nope!

    Nope. Nope nope nooope.

    I shoved the letter into Sandor’s hands and headed for Cersei’s rooms.

    “Grab your shit, Sandor. We’re getting the fuck out of here.”

    Cayla practically danced with anticipation as Sandor briefly read the letter, then he passed it to her and headed for his room.

    “What? Why? What does the letter say?” Ser Barristan demanded.

    “Bad things,” I replied, still walking. He was torn between following me, or staying for his turn at the letter.

    In the end, he stayed, as Cayla was apparently frozen in shock.

    I ignored him for the moment, headed for Myrcella’s bedroom. If memory serves me right she’s got a… ah hah! One child sized backpack, fine leather with embroidery, just big enough for the possessions a child might want to carry. Cersei thought it was beneath a princess to carry her own things, but big brother doesn’t think that way. I put it on her bed.

    Cayla caught up to me a moment later, eyes wide. “You’re going to leave?” she asked, voice high.

    “Mmm hmm.”

    “But what if it’s a trap? Or a trick? Maybe that’s what they want you to do?” She didn’t sound like she was trying to convince me to stay, just trying to see my reasoning. Part of Cayla’s job was picking holes in my ideas.

    “I’m sure Varys isn’t behind it, and I have ways out of the city only he knows about. I might even have one he doesn’t know about. We’ll be safer from a magical assassin on the move than in a known location. We should be able to outrun large groups of armsmen or outfight small groups. Also, they might not even attack us, I am still the Prince.”

    “Glasstown?” she asked, referring to the semi-city a few miles upriver that was the main industrial center for most of my businesses.

    “It’s tempting. We’ve got a lot of allies in Glasstown, but they’re workers, not soldiers. No, it’s probably better to keep going. I need to get Mom and Celly to Casterly Rock where they’ll be safe. Either from this plot, or the King himself. I can come back later to straighten things out.”

    “But that will leave King’s Landing open for the taking,” she pointed out.

    “The King still lives,” I pointed out. “And he,” I said, pointed at the newly arrived Ser Selmy, “is going to make sure it stays that way.”

    “What’s this mean?” he demanded, shaking the letter. “Varys wasn’t going to retire, was he?”

    I shook my head. “No, that’s a secret code for me. It proves that it’s him who wrote it.”

    “Ah, I see.” The old Kingsguard was well familiar with codes and pass phrases. “Do you believe him? About Jon Arryn.”

    “I don’t see why he’d lie. If this is a coup, killing Varys and Lord Arryn would be higher on my list than the King. You and I both know that Jon Arryn runs the Seven Kingdoms more than my father does. Even if you failed to kill the King, you’d either be in position to put your own Hand in place, or just wait for him to inevitably fail trying to manage it on his own. And Varys… Yeah, if I was going to run a coup, I’d kill the shit out of Varys.”

    He gave me a look, but nodded slightly.

    “It’s interesting that he thinks my father is dead from poison. We know he’s still alive, but attacked Mother. Some sort of spell to control him seems more likely than poison.” I frowned. “Or he found out about the poison before he drank it and decided that Mother was the one behind it.” I frowned harder, looking down. “Actually, that’d explain a lot of things.”

    “That the Queen did try to kill the King?” Selmy asked.

    I held up a finger to dispute, then lowered it. “Actually, that would, too.”

    “Eddard!” Cayla gasped.

    “No, I mean, yeah. If someone tried to poison my father, but he blamed it on my mother, that’s what I was thinking. That still assumes an external enemy behind everything. But if the person calling the shots was Mom… Jon Arryn is no friend of the Lannisters. And neither is Varys.”

    She did, after all, try to kill Robert in the original timeline. I’ve been assuming I had her under control, but that may be arrogant of me. I have outside context knowledge, who the fuck else was out to destabilize the realm? Baelish, but I killed his ass literally the first second I saw him. Varys, but even discarding the slight amount of trust I have for him, this would be incompetent as fuck for him.

    “Mom has the motive…” I admitted, then shook my head. “Not the means, though. Qartheen warlocks aren’t grown in the West. She’d have had to send people to go hire them. Varys would have noticed.”

    “You mean like your trade expeditions to Essos?” Cayla asked.

    Because pointing out the obvious was also her job, even if she clearly didn’t think I should be seriously considering my mother’s potential guilt in front of a man who wouldn’t hesitate to chop her head off and who I couldn’t actually stop if he decided to. But I was thinking, so I didn’t stop.

    “Okay, but who would she send that she could be sure wouldn’t give up the secret. Tyrion likes me better than her, nobody else on those trips has any-motherfucking Lancel.”

    I never did get a chance to find out what blood type he was. And Cersei’s default solution to any problem starts with ‘fuck a family member’. To head that off, I’d gotten him removed from his position as Robert’s wine carrier and sent him as far away from Cersei as possible.

    To Essos. Because it seemed like a great idea at the time. But it’s not like I can ban him from the city, just make sure he has plenty to do elsewhere.


    This could actually be Cersei.

    Both Cayla and Selmy could see my conflict in my eyes. I looked squarely at Selmy.

    “I’m taking my mother and sister away from King’s Landing,” I announced.

    “You think she did it,” Selmy replied, almost casual in his tone.

    “No,” I said honestly. “I don’t believe she would go around me like that. She loves me and trusts me and I think she would have asked for my help to kill my father. I believe that someone else is trying to set us at odds with one another, Baratheon versus Lannister. And they’re doing a good job.”

    “But she could have done it.”

    “But she could have,” I agreed. “Is that a problem?”

    Are you going to kill your Prince today?

    Ser Selmy very slowly shook his head, knowing that to kill Cersei, he’d have to kill me first. “I suppose… given how tense the situation is… separating everyone and giving us time to figure out who is truly behind it is a good idea.” He paused and gave me a steely look. “But if she is behind it all…”

    “We’ll cross that bridge if we come to it. Given how stupid this whole mess is…” I shrugged. Truthfully, I don’t know what I’d do if Cersei was behind all this. Leave her Tears of Lys and hope the matter resolves itself, I guess.

    But she’s not behind it, I’m sure of it. The whole thing with the pregnancy wouldn’t make any sense if she was just planning to kill Robert.

    Unless that was a ploy to convince me…

    No, that way lies madness.

    “Cayla, do you know where your towel is?” I asked.

    She nodded without hesitation. “My pack is in my room. Should I go get it now?”

    Of course she does. She’s the definition of a hoopy frood.

    “No, we’ll stick together. Put together a pack for my mom and Celly. Keep it light, Sandor and I have the gear covered. Just make sure the girl stuff is handled.”

    She nodded and hurried into the bedroom.

    “Ser Selmy, I’m going to check my father again.” At his nod, I knelt down beside Robert and felt his pulse. Still really high, too high to count accurately or identify any arrhythmias, but it was still beating and he was still breathing. His eyes were still dilated and bloodshot, so no real change. I reported it as such to his bodyguard.

    He nodded solemnly. “Do you believe he’s been poisoned?”

    I nodded, watching as Cayla bustled through and into Myrcella’s bedroom with a bag, my sister following behind. “I’ve never seen him in a full Fury, but I find it hard to believe it could keep him like that even after he’s unconscious. I’m betting some sort of poison, though perhaps not a full dose. Pycelle could tell us more, don’t let the old pervert lie to you, he’s actually an expert on poisons. Fascinated by them, really. If he says otherwise, string him up by his balls.”

    “And you’re not an expert in poisons?” Selmy’s tone betrayed his doubt.

    I shrugged ruefully. “I know some, yeah, but only the ones that directly relate to my research. I haven’t had time to look at them all. Pycelle has probably been studying poisons for sixty years or better. I’m fourteen years old, period. A tortoise in Glasstown will win a race to the Lion’s Gate against a rabbit, no matter how fast the rabbit is, if the rabbit starts in Casterly Rock.”

    He allowed the point. I had a reputation for genius, but despite how useful unquestioning trust in my ideas would be, I fuck up waaaaay too much for that. I try to make sure people don’t overestimate me.

    “So you’re going to Casterly Rock?”

    “Maybe. Eventually. Actually, since our mysterious enemy has been setting up ambushes all over the place, I might just do something unexpected. I’m thinking of taking a ship south, and going the long way around. The Martells owe me a favor. Actually, they owe me a shitload of favors, but given how much they started off hating me I’m probably only going to see one or two repaid.” Fucking Dornish.

    Sandor came back in, wearing his travel pack. Despite his enormous size and strength, his pack was actually lighter than mine, if admittedly a bit bulkier. More of our bulky comfort items were in there, like blankets and sleeping bags. He’s stronger than me, but his main job is fighter. In a pinch, either of us can carry the other’s pack as well, though in my case I’m useless for literally anything else. The encumbrance struggle is real, but the thing about my skills is that most of them are useless without tools and supplies.

    “Cayla? You about done in there?” I called.

    “Just about, Prince! Princess Myrcella wants to bring her music box.”

    “Let her put it in her backpack. But she has to carry it herself.”

    “I will!” Celly’s high voice insisted.

    I poked my head into my sister’s bedroom. “Okay, sounds good. I’m counting on you, Celly.” I gave her a double thumbs up, which she returned.

    Then I headed to my mother’s room.

    “Mother? Are you still awake?” I asked.

    “Mmmmgh,” she replied, stirring slightly.

    “Mother, we’ve got to leave. We need to see if you can walk. It’s going to be tough but we’ve got to get you and Celly somewhere safe.”

    “S’fe? Whurr is safe?” she asked, her eyes widening in alarm that cut through the fog.

    “Casterly Rock.”


    And so, the adventuring party sallied forth. Their first mission: Escape King’s Landing.

    Despite his obvious usefulness, Ser Selmy had to stay behind and guard the King. Sandor lead the party, his armored bulk, shield, and sword prepared to deal with opposition. Cayla, still carrying the crossbow, supported my mother in the middle. Cersei was doing a better job of walking on her own than I feared, and Myrcella stayed glued to her side. I brought up the rear. I had my big pack. I had my mother’s little pack of just the essentials for her and my sister. I also had Jamie’s corpse, wrapped up in a rug that probably cost a thousand dragons. I was perversely grateful that, in obliterating my Uncle’s chest, Robert had inadvertently drained much of his heavy, heavy blood. He was still a bulky ass dead body, though.

    I would have left the body behind, but Cersei wouldn’t have it. ‘He needs to be with me! He needs to go home!’ Okay. We don’t have time to argue. But if we run into trouble, I was going to ditch him. I couldn’t fight like that. I could barely walk like that.

    First we had to leave the keep and grounds, grabbing Cayla’s pack on the way.

    I actually had a fairly secret way out that I’m pretty sure even Varys didn’t know about, involving rappelling down the seaside wall and cliff onto an inflatable, low profile raft made of cow skins and dead branches. The idea was actually to hold onto the raft from below, disguised as a tangle of floating limbs getting washed out to sea, and make my way to a deserted area of coastline. Sadly, that wasn’t feasible with the girls.

    I had plans for a sliding rope, disguised as a stay for a crow’s nest style watchtower. But for various reasons it had never been implemented.

    The backup method was to walk out the front gate. Uncomplicated. Elegant. Stupid. The front gate has guards, and if you were securing the castle, it’s the first place to secure.

    So naturally it went perfectly. Next was to get to Cayla’s house and the Royal Stables to get our horses.

    That was where things went wrong.

    AN: Sorry for the delay, and the short chapter. I'm having some issues with insomnia, and when I do sleep, it's crappy sleep where I wake up every hour or so, so I'm basically a zombie. Got an appointment with a sleep specialist this Tuesday. Also, one of the reasons I originally went for an in media res opening with them already outside the castle was because I knew realistic logistics for actually fleeing a hostile city were going to tie my brain in knots, and lookie here. I was right. It's like that goddamn puzzle with the rowboat, the fox, the hen, and the corn. Or the better rowboat puzzle with the wife, the hooker, and the bag of money.
  12. Threadmarks: Chapter 11: The Prince Has Left the Building

    Nugar Know what you're doing yet?

    Aug 20, 2015
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    Summoned by foul magics from the pages of the infamous Iconomicon, the book of books, I bid this dead thread ARISE.

    Pay no attention to the last twoish years. They mostly sucked anyway. Got more stuff coming for this and a couple other projects as well.

    “What do Lannisters always do?” I asked.

    The three, eh, lets charitably call them men instead of ‘ruffians’, grinned black toothed smiles at that. “They pay their debts, Prince.”

    “Yes. They fucking do.” I indicated the carpet bound corpse of my second favorite uncle, which was currently laying against the wall. Rusty, my dog, who we’d picked up from the kennel just outside the keep, sat beside it looking somber. He’d known and liked Jamie. “And if you can pack this body in salt and deliver it to Lord Tywin Lannister, he’s going to owe you a debt. And I’m going to owe you a debt. And how much money does the Lord that shits gold and the Prince that makes gold have?”

    “Fucking lots of it, Prince Eddard,” came the low, excited reply.

    “Yes, we fucking do.” I tossed a small pouch of gold at the leader. “Get the biggest motherfucker you can find. Someone who could pass for the Hound. And get others that look like the rest of us. A pretty woman, a pretty girlchild, and a young man. A dog, if you can,” I said, indicating Rusty. “And I mean people you can trust not to fuck up, don’t just snatch someone. There’ll be plenty of gold to go around.” I paused. “And be gentle with them, like you’re protecting the Queen and Princess.”

    They gave me knowing nods. These were men one of my contacts in King’s Landing had given me. Hard, but competent. Varys was the one to originally set me up with the contact, but it’s not like I had a lot of options he wouldn’t know about. It’s an acceptable risk, especially since Varys didn’t seem to be my enemy.

    “I know a whore, Prince. Got a girl about that age. She’ll do it.”

    I nodded. “It may not be the easiest gold you ever made, but by the Seven it’ll be the biggest pile you’ve ever seen.”

    We finished up. Cayla wrote out a brief letter explaining the situation, and I signed it and sealed it with some wax and my signet ring. She’d been writing as fast as she could getting letters out to various Lords which were to be sent out to various Maesters and a few to be transported by hand. We were going to have to rely on people supplied here, which gave a single point of failure, but didn’t have time for anything else.

    Three separate copies were sent to Tywin through different routes. Two copies were sent to Kevan and Tommen. Others were sent to the Lords Paramount. The last was to be left here, to be delivered to Tyrion when he got back from overseas. We didn’t have time for any more, even that was pushing it. I’m sure some Lords would feel slighted, but frankly, I didn’t trust the Tyrells not to ambush us on the way to the Westerlands.

    My relationship with them might have been fine until now, but that didn’t mean a damned thing now that I was having some trouble.

    Once Jamie’s body was dealt with, and we had the letters ready, we had to finish sneaking out of the city. Cayla needed to go by her house, if possible, to get her stuff, but that was in one of the nicer areas of the city. I was pretty mad that I hadn’t insisted on getting her a room in the Keep, but it hadn’t seemed like a big deal at the time.

    Not having her pack was hardly a deal breaker, but like Sandor’s and my own, it had the best travel supplies I could get, and all three of them had been packed with the idea we would travel together. I tried to avoid single point of failure situations, but there were things I had put in hers that we didn’t have.

    Mostly feminine specific medical supplies, really. Given it would probably take a month to get to Casterly Rock, I wanted those available for Mom. The extra money and her camping supplies would also help.

    We snuck around through back alleys until we got to a multi-story building that, from the roof, could watch the road Cayla’s house was on. It had an outside stair case that went up to the top floor, but was also tucked between two buildings. Sandor stopped at the top landing with the girls and Rusty, but boosted me up to the roof.

    From that lofty height, I had a good view of King’s Landing, and it didn’t look great. There was no evidence of wildfire or mass fighting in the streets, but that didn’t mean there was NO fire, or no fighting. At least three separate fires burned in areas that I remembered had guard houses and barracks, and there was the occasional shout of pain or anger mixed in with this kind of eerie susurrus of fear and discontent. Made my hair stand on end.

    Definitely not the kind of shit you want to hear in a city you’re currently stuck in. Seriously, that combination of smoke and yelling woke up some sort of ‘fear the mob’ part of my monkey brain. This was gonna stick with me, I could tell.

    Cayla would have to cross a major road that had armsmen on it, and we couldn’t risk everyone being seen, so she’d have to do it alone. Cayla by herself, though, had a pretty good chance of making it I thought. She’s just one girl. Plus, I had my crossbow and its magnifying scope, to provide overwatch.

    Apparently, I thought wrong.

    She had thrown on a commoner’s dress back at the first house so that she didn’t stand out as a person of interest. All she did was cross the road and walk down the street! Why the fuuuuck did they stop her?

    Four common guardsmen had caught up to her right before she made it to the door of her house, and had surrounded her.

    “Regular people should be hiding in their houses, Prince,” Sandor said from below me. “She shouldn’t be walking around.”

    I hadn’t realized I had said that last bit out loud.

    “Shit! Why did we send her over, then? Shouldn’t you have stopped me when I told her to go?” I asked, kind of peeved.

    Sandor just shrugged.

    “Fuck. FUCK.” I cursed really emphatically when a commander was summoned. I watched through the scope of the crossbow to get better details, and though I couldn’t hear what they were saying, it definitely looked like she had been recognized.

    Because she’s very pretty and she’s been my secretary for years so she’s been all over the place speaking in my name and or being my shadow. Fuck. Fuck. FUCK.

    The commander had her by the arm and was shaking her. She made some sort of denial motions.

    He backhanded her and she stumbled back against the wall of her house. Then he turned to his men, and started making fairly excited gestures.

    Lots of badness here. Cayla’s been caught, and while Sandor and I would have a pretty decent chance of taking on that squad of guardsmen if it was just them, it’s never just one set of guardsmen.

    And in addition to torture being a perfectly acceptable thing here, they had a magic user of some sort. And Cayla knew our plans.

    I groaned in brief indecision, then started lining up the shot. Guessing at the distance, based on the size of the men in the scope, I figured it was somewhere around 430 yards or so. At that distance, I would need to use the second to last tick in the scope. Wind was light, not much of a factor between buildings but it had to cross a street and I was on a roof…

    The bolt slammed into the wall less than six inches from Cayla’s torso, because while I am nowhere near as good of a shot as I wish I was, and that was not where I had aimed, I am at least owed some luck today.

    Cayla’s shriek of fear carried pretty far. Also, the men scattered commendably fast. I’m pretty sure even I would have stared in shock for a few seconds. Nice reflexes.

    Cayla had just managed to disappear into the door to her own house when I dropped the crossbow onto the roof and slid off into Sandor’s hands. I left the crossbow because, one, it’s kinda big and bulky, and two, they were going to be looking for someone with a crossbow. I hope whoever finds it realizes I’d pay a large fortune to get it back.

    “We gotta go,” I said breathlessly. “They don’t have Cayla for the moment but they know we’re out here somewhere.”

    “West gate? Or north?”

    “Fucking guards everywhere, I don’t fucking know. North,” I said, picking arbitrarily. “They’ll expect us to go for the west gate, because Glasstown is that way.” I’m ashamed to admit, this was justifying a snap decision, not real reasoning.

    North also paralleled the road Cayla had crossed and been noticed on. West was the direction the bolt had come from, so it wasn’t entirely a shitty idea.

    It worked, which meant it was a great idea. I mean, there were some really tense moments where I used the catspaw dagger to slice through the lock of a building and we went inside, but things looked up when they opened the wall gate just up the road to let a shitload of Baratheon men in headed back into the city center.

    They closed the gate behind them, but they only left a single squad of what actually appeared to be goldcloaks guarding the gate.

    Goldcloaks that, in general, got paid in my name, and certainly enjoyed a number of things like better equipment and healthcare since I had made it a project.

    He who dares and all that. I scribbled four quick letters with a charcoal stick and got ready.

    We exited the building and got closer, and again, Sandor guarded the girls while I strode boldly forward, Rusty at my side looking fairly intimidating in his leather and mail dog barding.

    “Men!” I said, walking forward.

    They straightened at my approach, looking at each other warily.

    “It’s good to see such honest, loyal goldcloaks doing their duty in this time of troubles,” I waxed poetically. “Such diligence should be rewarded!”

    “My prince?” one said warily. “I’ve heard some rumors that people are looking for you.”

    “Bah, you shouldn’t pay attention to rumors. Or say anything about who you’re about to open the gate for.” I grinned at them, slightly maniacally, and produced the four letters, one for each of them. “You soon to be wealthy men should each take one of these letters. Then you should open the gates for a small group of people who are definitely not important enough to be mentioned to anyone. Then you should hang around for a few days, keeping your mouths shut. But when you get the chance, quit your jobs and head north to Winterfell, then present these letters as proof. And then, when you’ve been given more money than you know what to do with, do whatever the fuck you want.”

    Two of them nodded. One said, “Huh?”

    “Let me by, say nothing, take this letter to Winterfell, and I’ll give you a shitload of gold.”

    “Uh, we might get money if we capture him, though?” the impassive guard said. “And Winterfell is a long fucking way away.”

    “Sandor is back there in the alley with my bow. You’ll die before you can draw steel.”

    He nodded, like he’d just solved the equation. “Probably get more this way,” he admitted.

    I handed the letters over. “Lots. LOTS. Of gold. But if we get caught, you don’t get shit.”

    “Didn’t see nothin’,” one of the nodding guards said.

    “Good. Keep it that way.” I motioned back to the others, and we slipped out the crack as soon as the gate was ajar.


    Sandor negotiated for more horses from the four men manning the stable, while Rusty, my dog, skulked out of sight behind them. The two of them seemed to have it under control, so I took a chance to look back over my shoulder.

    Smoke was rising over King’s Landing, the early evening sun lighting it up with a baleful glow. We had maybe four, five hours before dark, and for all we knew, men were already chasing us.

    Cersei had stopped crying, and was currently just standing behind me, her arms around my armored middle. Myrcella held onto her leg. I had my bow in my left hand with an arrow knocked but not drawn, and four more dangling from between the fingers of my right hand, just in case.

    My shield was hung over Cersei’s back, a cloak draped over it to hide its fairly distinctive crest and colors, and my hammer and sword hung at my side. Sandor and I had set our packs down on the ground to free up our arms.

    A good thing, too. I heard a sharp cry of pain from one of the men, then the sounds of multiple swords clearing sheathes ahead of me. I turned back in time to see Sandor’s valerian steel edged backsword split a man from shoulder to opposite hip, and Rusty dragging a screaming flailing man along the ground by his calf.

    I instantly drew, sighted, and fired on one of the men. Maybe the power of my dragonbone compound bow and razor edged mechanical broadhead would have failed against Ser Barristan’s skill or his plate armor.

    This guy wasn’t Ser Barristan, and was just wearing a light leather jerkin. The arrow went all the way through him and slammed into one of the walls of a barn behind him.

    Fortunately, that was all I had to do as Sandor quickly clashed with the other man, who was armed with little more than a whacking stick, laying his neck open with a gurgle before sending him sprawling with a mighty shove. From there it was little more than a simple reverse and stab to kill the man on the ground, making it Sandor 3 to my 1, which I was perfectly happy with. Rusty, being well trained, immediately backed off and looked around for more fun, panting happily.

    “What the fuck, Sandor?” I asked. “You were armed with a bag full of gold and the promises of the richest man in Westeros.”

    “Two of ‘em had Stormlander accents. Couldn’t risk it,” he replied, giving mercy to the choking man he’d laid out, then wiping blood off his blade.

    “Ah.” I paused. Would I have made that call? Probably not. But that’s what Sandor is for. I didn’t contest it. “Good call.” With everyone in the immediate vicinity, I didn’t need to be on immediate guard, and we needed to gather supplies. “Let’s get some horses.”

    Cersei kept Myrcella close as we busied ourselves looting the place. It was a modest pasture and corral, holding about twenty horses, with an associated barn, used to supply the armsmen who patrolled the surroundings of King’s Landing. We picked it because it would have everything a small group of riders would need for a long distance trip, and almost all of the men had apparently been summoned to King’s Landing.

    Armsmens' gear wasn’t as good as what we usually used, but at least we had our personal travel packs. Mainly, we were picking up consumables. Tins of dried food, tubes of eggs packed in wool, bags of somewhat fresh corn tortillas, plus the traditional westerosi trail foods like jerky, cheese, and sausage. Bedrolls plus spares, oilcloth tarps, plenty of waterskins and some water barrels for the horses. Bags of oats and grain, and even a few hay bales because why not. The horses were going to be the big limiting factor of our journey. I also added a couple of crossbows, since I was missing mine, and quivers of bolts and arrows. Lastly, I packed on what I remembered as standard adventuring gear. Rope. Shitloads of rope. Torch makings. Candles. Spare flint and steel, with packets of charcloth tinder. And finally, two carboys of lantern fuel, which we packed on the very last horses in our pack train, because they’re made of amber blown glass from my glassworks. Although protected by sturdy wicker woven tightly around the bottle, they still get broken sometimes and no one wants to ride a burning horse no matter how cool Ghost Rider was.

    Although annoying that we couldn’t have the stablemen do it, Sandor and I were probably just about as fast. I briefly wondered if I should feel bad about killing the men, but frankly I was already hyped up on adrenaline and as such it barely affected me.

    We grabbed the best two horses for us to ride now, plus six more horses, with enough supplies we should be able to avoid people for at least two weeks, a month or more if we slow down to forage.

    Cersei was too out of it to ride by herself, and Myrcella was too scared to leave her big brother, so once again I left most of my gear on another horse. Sandor was just too big to make someone ride with him as well, though I suppose Myrcella could occasionally. The fact was, the two girls and myself were still lighter than Sandor’s giant ass. I also got Rusty on top of one of the pack horses as well. He slobbered dog drool and armsman blood on my face when he was up there, a big doggy grin on his face, and obediently hunkered down. This wasn’t his first ride.

    I spat and wiped my face as best as I could.

    My other ‘hound’ helped me get situated with my passengers, then mounted up as well. Both of us led three horses, all saddled as well in case we had to change.

    We were traveling west, into the setting sun, so both of us pulled out protective cases that contained the finest achievement my glassworks had yet produced.

    Mirrored wraparound sunglasses.

    Do you have any idea how hard it is to make one way mirror shades starting with medieval technology? And I had done it! Yes, they often got broke, scratched easily, and despite my best efforts, tended to be a little bit warped. They still fetched a tiny fortune apiece, with backorders for years.

    Goddamn it, I was leaving it all behind. My glassworks, my steelworks, my damn laboratory, my distillery, even my god damned theater! I personally turned King’s Landing into the industrial center of the seven kingdoms! I’m why we’re only a million dragons in debt and most of that is to me and Tywin fucking Lannister!

    And FUCKING ROBERT BARATHEON has to go all OURS IS THE FURY and try to kill everyone he fucking sees! Either because he caught Cersei fucking Jaimie or maybe because some quartheen fucking sorcerer got all up in our shit! We’re just lucky Tommen is at Summerhall with Kevin Lannister and Tyrion is over in Myr chasing more glassmakers for me!

    I swear to fuck, when I find out who’s behind this, I’m going to SKIN THEM and pickle them in salt!


    “Prince Eddard?” Sandor asked carefully, rousing me from my brief, let’s be honest here, blackout impotent rage. “Are you ready?”

    There was a lot of meaning packed into the way he addressed me just then. A lot of caution. Although I never called him the Hound, it was a pretty good nickname for him. He was loyal and uncomplicated, but he was also just like an abused dog, always knowing that, when things got bad, the boot could be coming.

    I don’t abuse dogs. I had to calm down.

    I shook my head, kissed Celly on the top of her cloaked head, and put my glaive in its upright socket.

    “It’s 600 miles to Deep Den. We’ve got fresh horses, a burning city behind us, a few hours before dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses.”

    Sandor grunted, relieved I had perked back up. Absolutely great bodyguard he was, he was terrible at banter.

    Suppressing my flash of disappointment, we rode for Deep Den.

    AN: So this took a while. Hope you enjoy and comment. Got another thing to post tonight, unrelated.